Venture Out of Boredom (Chapter 3)

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Venture Out Of Boredom
Chapter 3

Are you still in Japan?

This is the first message Hyacinthe has gotten from Mammon in almost a week, now. It’s what greets him when he opens his eyes to one of the Sawada household’s many guest rooms this morning. For a couple minutes he blinks tiredly at the screen of his phone and regrets that he stopped wearing glasses when he was fourteen.

He knows Mammon is bad at texting. Hyacinthe himself is terrible about remembering to stay in contact with people he cares about, and though years of being close to Mammon prevent him from falling into the usual cycle of delusions about them hating him, he still hasn’t made much of an effort. It’s not the first time they stay days without keeping in touch at all. Mammon is an assassin. The job occasionally requires that they not contact anyone they know for weeks at a time. Hyacinthe himself is firmly turned off the concept of constant communication with anyone anyway. The last person he dated was like this, and he doesn’t think he can live through that twice.

He thinks he and Mammon had been going somewhere different before he left, though. That they had reached a sort of comfort zone together, a rhythm, a pattern. That they had both been more open and relaxed than ever before together. It’s perhaps his one regret. He still only has two pages out of the two hundred and thirty-four that the manuscript he’s seeking comprises; he’s nowhere closer to getting it back than he was when he arrived.

He shouldn’t have stayed.

Yeah, he texts back hesitantly. I’m sorry this is taking so long. And, though this isn’t something that they do, he adds: I miss you.

He waits for a few minutes, heart beating fast in his chest. There is no answer.

Hyacinthe knows himself enough to realize he’s being affected by more than just a fleeting bad mood. He fights the hole inside his guts enough to sit up and then stand; he puts on clean clothes and, in the empty bathroom, splashes cold water over his face. When he looks into the mirror he looks paler than usual, and his hair is black, no red in sight.

He resists the urge to punch the glass.

Nice,” Bianchi says when he gets downstairs; she’s looking at the foxglove-printed leggings he’s wearing with a glint in her eyes that doesn’t bode anything good for the rest of the day.

Hyacinthe peeks into the coffee pot carefully. Reborn, seated at the end of the table, pours himself a new cup and drinks it smugly; Hyacinthe knows better than to think the man isn’t immune to everything in Bianchi’s possession, though.

“Good morning,” Reborn says.

“You look better without the suit jacket,” Hyacinthe replies.

The man smiles mysteriously.

He does look suspiciously smartly-dressed. He has on the same sort of suit that he did when they met and he swept Hyacinthe’s heavy body into his arms like it weighed nothing; his hat is off, nothing masks how horrid his hair looks without anything covering it. He’s still the sexiest man Hyacinthe has ever laid eyes on.

Hyacinthe clenches his fists as he sits down in front of Reborn, and he takes a large gulp of his coffee before realizing that he forgot to check if anything was in it.

There’s no reaction from Reborn except for that same all-knowing stare he gives everything and everyone impartially. Hyacinthe has yet to meet anyone he doesn’t look at like this. He says he and Bianchi have been coworkers before and that he has great respect for her—but his eyes are thankfully as devoid of meaning when he looks at Gokudera’s sister as they are when turned to Hyacinthe himself, or Tsuna. The way he glances at Nana is perhaps a little less terrible. Hyacinthe doesn’t feel too jealous of this fact, because he can relate.

“We’ll be going out today,” Reborn announces after putting his cup back onto the table. Nana saunters in from the kitchen with a smile and a hum; it’s not until Bianchi snaps her fingers in Hyacinthe’s face that he realizes he’s staring at her.

“Right,” he says dumbly.

Bianchi smiles. It makes uneasy shivers run up his spine.

You have an appointment with Ylva Byquist today,” Reborn continues.


“Hayato’s English teacher,” Bianchi replies. Her voice is almost as low as Hyacinthe’s.

“Oh.” Hyacinthe recalls the strawy person he saw on the day the monster-kid beat half of this house’s inhabitants to death. “Right.”

Then he bites the inside of his cheek, because Reborn takes a piece of paper out of his sleeve where it’s apparently been rolled carefully this entire time; it could’ve gotten stained by coffee or sweat or torn

Hyacinthe makes a grab at it and finds himself upended on the floor.

He didn’t even see Reborn move, let alone trip him and his chair alike.

“I’ll be testing your abilities tonight,” Reborn says above him, waving the page into his face. “Tsuna and the others are already out for school and will later join with their friends Kyoko and Haru.”

These names are new. “How many friends does Tsuna have?” Hyacinthe asks tiredly.

Reborn smiles unpleasantly. “As many as needed.”

The problem that follows is a predictable one. Hyacinthe has only gone the way to Tsuna’s school accompanied, once, almost a week ago; he has no idea where to go now. The map he got on his first day has been mysteriously destroyed, leaving only singed remains behind; the reception of his phone turns exceptionally bad as soon as he leaves the house, which makes him suspect foul play, as this is a Vongola phone, supposed to work in nuclear wastelands.

“Whatever,” he mutters. The day is cloudy and smells like rain. He doesn’t have an umbrella with him. He’s too pissed to come back to the house and subject Nana to his temper—or worse, to Reborn’s—and he doesn’t want to be here anymore when Shamal or whoever else he hasn’t met yet arrives.

He doesn’t think Reborn can pull anyone worse than Shamal out of his endless pockets, but he’s not willing to put his theory to the test either.

Hyacinthe sticks a cigarette between his teeth and holds up his thumb and index to its extremity; a tiny lick of blue burns bright for a moment, catching the end of the paper and tobacco on fire; at the same time, a wave of calm crashes over him and soothes every muscle in his back.

He takes a deep breath of the smoke. It crawls into his lungs, warm and familiar, and as it comes back out of his lips he feels his brain turn off and buzz pleasantly.

He feels tired as soon as the blue flame flickers out of existence, but it’s worth it, even if Sawada Iemitsu’s unpleasant voice is ringing in his ear disapprovingly: “Your Flame isn’t a damn zoloft pill, Faure.”

Sawada can fuck right off.

Hyacinthe doesn’t remember which way to go. All the streets of this residential area look the same to him. At one point he walks past a school that isn’t the one he’s looking for—it’s smaller for once, with big grey walls surrounding it, and the one student he can see at the entrance looks better dressed than Tsuna and his classmates.

“Excuse me,” he says in Japanese, trying to get close to the girl.

All she does is scream and throw the cardboard cutout thing she was holding at his face. “Ow,” he yells when it shoves itself into his eyes; he starts tearing up from the pain immediately and suffers a brief incandescent bout of crushing fear that he’s lost his eye altogether.

“Oh no!” the girl says, in English but still at screaming volume. “Oh no, I’m so sorry!”

Hyacinthe is bowing forward now, holding his eye with both hands. His half-smoked cigarette is still stuck between his fingers.

“God damn it,” he swears lowly, and the hesitant steps he heard approaching falter a little; when he blinks his uninjured wet eye open he can see the blur of the girl’s silhouette cut out against the wall of her school.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeats. “I thought a monster was attacking me.”

By this point Hyacinthe is too angry to get any angrier. He resists the urge to insult her or kick the wall she’s leaning on as hard as he can and draws in a large breath. “It’s nothing.”

“I may have pierced you eyeball!” she screams.

It makes his heart beat faster with the fear of it, but he clenches down on the terror and cuts in, “Calm down. I’m okay.”

“Really?” she asks shakily.

Slowly, he takes his hand back and wipes the tears from his right eye. There’s no trace of blood on his fingers, and the pain is already receding. He carefully opens his eye and looks toward her.

“See?” he says.

Now that he has both eyes at his disposal again, and the ability to blink restored, he can see that she’s on the verge of crying herself. There’s a faint shiny spot under her nostrils and she’s completely red with shame.

It makes his anger recede. She’s just a kid. “I’m all good,” he says, and he tries to smile reassuringly.

All it does is make a sob rip out of her throat and tears flow down her face, and she starts wailing right where she is.

A bell rings from her school but she doesn’t move. Hyacinthe is stuck in place, his eye still hurting from the blow even though he can see mostly fine. He brings his now unlit cigarette back to his lips and rummages through his pockets for a lighter.

It’s snatched out of his fingers before he can do anything with it.

“Smoking is bad!” the girl says. Her eyes are dry now.

“O-kay,” Hyacinthe replies. He thinks about dropping his cigarette but reconsiders, because the girl is holding his wrist tighter and tighter by the second. Hyacinthe doesn’t like being held like this at all; he picks his pack from out of his jeans and puts the cold stick back in, grimacing at the thought of how bad it’ll smell later.

The girl releases him immediately. “I’m very sorry for hurting you, Ma’am,” she says.

Hyacinthe doesn’t correct her because he doesn’t think he can bear seeing her have another meltdown. “Uh, it’s okay. No harm done.”

She bows even lower, and she yells at the ground, “Please let me help you in any way I can!”

“It’s alright.” He’s getting tired now. He only wanted to ask for directions. “Um… do you know where Namimori Middle School is?”

She straightens up and eyes him, suspicious once more. “What do you want with Nami Middle?”

“I’ve got an appointment there,” he grunts out. “Look, I’m already late and I got lost, I really just wanted to—”

“I’ll take you there!” she exclaims.

She has her fist raised to the sky and everything. Hyacinthe has never met anyone who switches moods as fast as she does, and he’s somewhat of an expert in the matter himself. “There’s really no need for that,” he says wearily.

“The walk will be good for me!”

“Don’t you have school?”

“Self-study day!”

He eyes the cardboard thing she threw at him. Now he can see that she was painting it—half of a monster-looking thing has been colored in with explosive blues and yellows and reds. “Are you making the décor for a play?”

“No?” she replies, and she looks at him like he’s lost his mind.

Hyacinthe keeps his mouth shut after that.

The girl doesn’t stop talking the entire way to the school, however. If anything his silence seems to spur her on to mention every single shop she knows and everything she’s doing at the moment. Hyacinthe eventually starts recognizing the streets they’re going through and tries to tell her that she can go back to her own school now—but her lips tighten into a white, worried line, and she says in a low voice: “I’m here on a reconnaissance mission, truly.”

He’s so, so tired. “A what?” he asks.

The girl looks to her left and right dramatically. “The man I intend to marry goes to this school… I want to see if he’s okay. We haven’t talked in more than a week and he was very injured when—”

Oh, no, Hyacinthe thinks. He can feel his attention wavering as she speaks like it’s been trying to for at least ten minutes; his eyesight glazes over and he feels how tense his shoulders are, almost aching, and how much he craves the last half of the cigarette he never finished.

The sky opens above them and rain starts pouring down.

“Fucking hell,” he cries out. The girl yelps, and he’s not in a much better position himself. It’s icy, he gets drenched within thirty seconds of standing in it, and there’s nothing to do but run toward the entrance of the school.

Hyacinthe hates running.

He does it anyway. He drags his body toward the hall he can see in the distance, the girl already way ahead of him. His breaths come out sounding like whistles, and there’s pain in his side, because he never exercises his body in any way.

Eventually he does reach the entrance and slides onto the wet floor there; the girl is barely wheezing, her face flushed healthily where his must be beet red. He leans against a row of lockers and tries to regulate his heartbeat.

A towel is thrown at his face. He chokes a little and almost falls to the floor, only managing to stay upright because his shoes are expensive and not too prone to sliding on anything. He’s fully ready to scream by the time he takes the offending thing out of his face.

“Hibari-san,” the girl says happily, and Hyacinthe stares into the grey eyes of the boy-monster who knocked out three other boys, two of which were taller than him.

It’s not just childish amazement that makes him falter. There’s an aura to this kid that makes him feel the way he does around Belphegor whenever the mad prince waltzes into Mammon’s suite at the Varia estate. Like bloodlust is hanging onto every breath he takes in his presence.

The boy says something to him, and a shiver runs along his body. The girl next to Hyacinthe nods and translates, “He says someone’s waiting for you. I didn’t catch the name.”

“Ylva something,” Hyacinthe replies softly.

The boy—Hibari—looks at him with disdain for a second longer. Then he turns on his heels and lets his jacket billow dramatically behind him as he walks away. Another boy is waiting for him at the end of the hallway, and he follows into Hibari’s steps like Hibari is a figure of supreme authority. Despite being half as tall.

For a moment there’s only silence. The girl looks at him with a kind of curiosity that wasn’t there before and which reminds Hyacinthe, a little strikingly, of Tsuna’s.

Hyacinthe takes a breath. He pushes himself upright and drags the towel down his face before he speaks. “Thank you for taking me here.”

“It’s no problem,” she chirps, still in that careful voice.

Well. She knows Hibari. Which makes it very likely that she is connected to the mess he is in, somehow.

Though he can feel himself regretting it already, he asks: “What’s your name?”

She looks stricken with guilt at his words. “I completely forgot! I’m Haru Miura.”

Hyacinthe looks up at the ceiling. He has no doubt that Reborn could’ve planned for this meeting to happen the way that it did, but also, he would really like to know why the man bothered at all.

Hyacinthe doesn’t plan on becoming a fixed thing here. He misses home.

He misses Mammon.

With his throat weirdly knotted, he smiles, and extends his hand: “I’m Hyacinthe Faure. Just call me Cen.” She shakes his hand enthusiastically before peeking at the corridors they can see from where they are, and he remembers in a flash that she’s basically admitted to being a stalker.


“I don’t think you should be staying here,” he says worriedly. “You should go back to your school.”

“Excuse me—”

“But I wanna see Tsuna-san,” she pouts, and he feels his heart sink. “If you know Hibari-san then you must know him, right? He practically told us we could, there’s no need to hurry out—”

“I don’t want to stay here a minute longer than I fu—”

Excuse me,” someone practically screams, and something hits Hyacinthe’s back hard enough to make him topple forward.

And truly, he’s been holding back for a long while now, so he turns around and snarls, “Fucking watch it, dude.”

In front of him stands the tiny teacher he’s supposed to be meeting. He’d feel worse about yelling if he wasn’t dripping wet and cold and nicotine-deprived and probably in the middle of a bout of acute depression, but even so, the sight the person makes is enough to make a tiny hint of pity prick at his conscience.

Hyacinthe is tall compared to most people. He’s tall compared to this person too, and they’re thinner than he can ever remember being—skinnier than Mammon, even. Their hair is probably dyed but it might as well have greyed naturally for the sheer panic on the other’s face.

Still, he doesn’t apologize.

“You’re… Mr Faure, right?” they ask. Their voice sounds terrified, but most of all their English is weird—Hyacinthe doesn’t think he’s ever heard this sort of accent before.

“Right,” he replies. “You’re that English teacher. Ylva—something.”

“Byquist,” Ylva Byquist says helpfully.

“Okay.” He’s never going to remember it. “Can I call you Ylva?”

The other’s eyes widen ever-so-slightly. Next to Hyacinthe Miura Haru is hunching forward with curiosity on her face, and when Ylva takes a look at her theirs grows even paler. They look ready to just fade out altogether.

They swallow. “I suppose that’s okay.”

“Great,” and Hyacinthe makes himself smile and his shoulders slouch. His voice is sweeter when it comes out. “I’m sorry for being late. I got lost.”

“That’s quite alright,” the other murmurs.

They’re still looking at Haru like they can wish her into non-existence just by staring. She doesn’t seem to catch their intent at all, because she says, “I’ll wait for you here, Mr Faure,” with a winning smile on her face.

Please go away, he doesn’t say. “Ts—Everyone’s probably in class.”

She’s not listening. She’s already taking off her shoes and shoving them into the first free locker she finds. Then she’s simply gone, leaving only a dark laugh behind.

“I hope she doesn’t get killed,” Ylva says in an even voice, and Hyacinthe decides that he’s just going to ignore everything for the day. He’s not staying in this school longer than he absolutely has to.

“Reborn told you what he wants from us?” He asks them.

They nod. “For me to teach you Japanese. I’m not sure what your level is, though…”

“I watched a lot of anime as a kid,” Hyacinthe says, hopeful.

Ylva’s mouth becomes weirdly pinched at the corners.

It turns out that the teacher has their own office somewhere on the third floor. Hyacinthe and Ylva walk there in uncomfortable silence, and Hyacinthe uses this time to towel off the worst of the wet. He rids himself of his black sweater and ends up wearing only his leggings and a tank top. “Sorry,” he says when he bumps into them accidentally as they walk—Ylva doesn’t reply, simply looks at him a little despairingly.

Their office is tiny. Just enough to host a table, shelves and drawers, and two chairs. The second chair looks like it probably had to be squeezed in. Even so, Hyacinthe sits down and stretches until his back cracks satisfyingly.

Ylva is still looking at him like they want to tell him he’s doing something extremely inappropriate. It makes him feel self-conscious, which makes him feel irritated.

“Do I have something on my face, Ylva?” he asks evenly.

“No,” Ylva says. They look like they’d welcome death with open arms. “Uh, it’s nothing. Sorry.”

For what? he thinks. He cracks a knuckle one-handed under the table to let out the tension he’s feeling, but it doesn’t help much. He wishes he could spark another lick of blue Flame between his fingers without risking a fainting spell.

Ylva makes a show of rummaging through their drawers, but it’s useless; with the space the second chair takes they had to pull back their desk, therefore making opening most of its storage space impossible.

In the end, they rest their trembling fingers atop the desk itself and ask, monotonous: “You’re not… like Reborn, are you?”

“I wish he’d take my name, or I his,” Hyacinthe replies. “But other than that, I have nothing to do with his admittedly gorgeous ass.”

They make a soft, squeaking sound, that after a second Hyacinthe realizes is terror.

He frowns. “Is there something wrong?”

“Look,” they say lowly. Their lips are barely moving but their eyes are darting around like they’re expecting the walls to open up around them. “I never asked for any of this. If my mom back home knew I was getting involved with assassins and—and kids who act like criminals—”

“Is Hibari that bad?”

“Hibari-kun is wonderful,” Ylva replies with pride in their voice. “He’s just… a little rough at the edges.”

“He’s strong enough that Reborn wants to make him into a full-blown mafioso,” Hyacinthe says dryly.

He realizes too late that he probably shouldn’t have said the m word without making sure Ylva was in the know. But all Ylva does is look more distressed than they did earlier and keep speaking in the same distressingly even wheeze of a voice.

“All I’m saying,” they murmur, “is that I don’t want to get in trouble with Reborn. So I’ll teach you Japanese. But please stop hitting on me.”

“Please stop—” Hyacinthe chokes a little. He coughs. “I’m not hitting on you!

Ylva covers their ears with the palms of their hands dramatically. “I don’t want Reborn to come after me and my family because he thinks you and I are having an affair! Don’t involve me in your relationship with him!”

“Oh my God,” Hyacinthe snarls, face burning red with embarrassment. He resists the urge to physically hide like a child and instead takes hold of Ylva’s wrists firmly, trying to make the other lift their head and look at him. “I’m not in any sort of relationship with Reborn,” he hisses.

“I’m not judging,” Ylva says, the skin of their face turning almost translucent, “I just don’t want anything to do with—”

Hyacinthe’s heart is beating against his palate and his entire head feels hot with the blood rushing there. Even his neck is throbbing. He tugs on Ylva’s forearms, making them lean forward over the tabletop. “I’m not,” he repeats.

“Um,” Ylva squeaks, looking somewhere into Hyacinthe’s neckline.

“I would—no,” Hyacinthe cuts himself off, and he accidentally spits out the word as he does. “Look. Reborn doesn’t care about me. I don’t care about him more than superficially. It’s all good.”

Ylva drags their eyes up slowly. “I just wanted to have a good, stable job,” they plead.

And Hyacinthe would like to be able to answer in kind, but the truth is, he always knew he was getting into the sort of mess you don’t get out of. “I understand. I swear you’re not in any danger.” Nothing more dangerous than Hibari, at least.

“He just sounded so authoritative,” Ylva says with a deep exhale. “So emotional. Like he really really needed you to be here. He’s never been this desperate before. Not even about Hibari-kun.”

Hyacinthe distracts himself from the thought of hearing Reborn speak to him in all sorts of authoritative ways by staring fixedly at the hint of light brown hair growing out of Ylva’s scalp. He catches himself before letting his fingers touch the crown of the other’s hair by automatism. “Right.”

Slowly, he releases Ylva. Ylva leans back into their chair until their stomach is no longer being stabbed by the corner of the table.

After a long moment of silence, they say, “I’m sorry,” a little mortified.

Hyacinthe’s face is still hot with shame. “It’s fine,” he replies.

Ylva doesn’t say anything when he lights a cigarette indoors. Not even when he uses his Flame again to light it and almost loses consciousness to the feeling of soothing warmth spreading through his limbs and numbing every emotion he’s feeling all at once.

He’s groggy all through Ylva’s lesson, when the teacher eventually manages to reign in their fear and embarrassment enough to actually teach him. At least Hyacinthe is a quick learn. He takes to languages naturally by virtue of already being fluent in three; the writing and reading is going to be tougher to master, but he’s confident that he can learn to communicate verbally rather easily within a couple months of daily lessons. It helps that Ylva is also a good teacher, when they’re not too busy looking tiredly into empty space as if waiting for certain death.

The aching fatigue in his limbs doesn’t alleviate on his way back to Nana’s house. The atmosphere is still heavy with rain, though it’s not pouring anymore. There’s not drizzle but the air is so wet he feels like every breath is drowning his lungs in icy water. Miura Haru went off with his lighter earlier and he hasn’t seen her since coming back out of Ylva’s office. The only person he has crossed paths with was Hibari, who was perched on top of a flight of stairs right outside the door. The boy looked at Hyacinthe with squinty eyes until he was gone. Thankfully, he made no move to attack him.

Ylva seems to like the boy well enough. Hyacinthe can’t relate, but then, Hyacinthe doesn’t really like children at more than surface level. Just enough not to wish them harm. It comes with an unbalanced childhood, he learned once; and then he disregarded the info and decided that he didn’t need a troubled past to dislike anyone. He could do that all on his own.

Mammon was there for that conversation, and he can still hear the way they laughed when he said it.

There’s been no reply to his text from this morning. Maybe it’s the cold weather, clinging damp and heavy on Hyacinthe’s sleek black coat and to the salmon-pink silk scarf wrapped around his neck, but he feels like something terrible is looming overhead. He stops by a convenience store to get a new lighter and smokes as he walks, with his head lost in the clouds and dread filling his guts with every step he takes.

Two street corners away from Nana’s house he sees someone he recognizes and looks down to avoid their eyes automatically—and then he raises them again and gasps.

There’s no one. Hyacinthe is frozen with one foot behind, as if someone’s hit pause on his walking cycle; when he takes the cigarette back from between his lips he does so slowly, thoughtlessly, and still staring as if he can make Dino Cavallone’s silhouette materialize like he thought it did a second ago.

Why would Cavallone be here?

It takes a moment before Hyacinthe can make himself walk the rest of the way to Tsuna’s house. The limo parked in front of it is already a bad sign as far as he’s concerned, but it’s the eagle perched atop the fence outside that truly gives him the chills.

Its little eyes are fixed onto Hyacinthe and glinting the way Fantasma’s do. The way Leon’s do. Clever and human-like.

Hyacinthe crosses the threshold of the gates with careful steps. The bird doesn’t move, doesn’t caw, doesn’t attack; it just lets him through and follows him with its eyes until he reaches the door.

“Sure you want to get in?” says Reborn’s voice behind him.

Hyacinthe’s hand pauses on the handle.

He feels Reborn approach. In the corner of his eyes he can see that he’s put a ridiculous transparent rain cape over his expensive black suit and that his awful hair is covered by a hat once more. For once the seriousness on his face seems real rather than faked.

“I’m staying here, aren’t I?” Hyacinthe says lowly.

Reborn leans against the door and looks at him. Hyacinthe ignores the warmth that floods him at their proximity.

“You’re an interesting one, Hyacinthe Faure,” Reborn says in Italian. He sounds infinitely more like an asshole in his mother tongue. “If you’d come here a few weeks earlier I would’ve made a grand old time of you for Tsuna’s sake.”

Hyacinthe releases the handle and clenches his fist. “So you’re really only keeping me here so I can be the convenient—” he can’t say it. He hates saying it. There’s anger boiling inside him that is born out of nothing more than the feeling of being used.

It’s the feeling Hyacinthe hates the most in the world.

When Reborn speaks again he doesn’t even deign answer. “Your presence is good but your timing is inconvenient. I have to admit,” he tugs the hem of his fedora over his eyes to spread the shadow of it across his face, “I only borrowed this book because it contained many interesting spots of wildlife, filled with many interesting creatures. I thought I could use it for Tsuna’s training.”

“You had no right to—”

“I had no idea you’d be interesting,” Reborn cuts him off. “That was my mistake. Timoteo must’ve been very careful with hiding you.”

Hyacinthe blinks, mouth still open. He has no idea what Reborn is talking about. The Ninth has never hidden him from anyone. He isn’t anything special. He hadn’t even been a mafioso before he let his temper run wild in front of one who was looking to hire. He doesn’t know how to express all of this, so he says: “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I ultimately don’t care whether you live or die, though, or whether you have a lasting impact here,” Reborn continues aloofly, as if Hyacinthe hasn’t spoken. “But as a thank you for the fun I’ve had in the last few days, I’m going to offer you a choice.”

He marks a pause here for effect, head bowed, hat shadowing his eyes.

“I am,” Hyacinthe grits out, “this close to physically attempting to unhinge your jaw. And not in the sexy way either.”

Reborn smiles at him, feral.

He touches Hyacinthe for the first time without attempting to play a trick on him; his hand rests on Hyacinthe’s left shoulder patronizingly, and Hyacinthe feels the dread travel up from his stomach to the hollow of his neck.

“As of today the statu quo of Tsuna’s life has changed,” Reborn says without a hint of humor in him. “If you come inside and decide to stay, there won’t be any going back for you. If you learn of what is happening tonight you’ll be involved in the innermost secrets of the Family… you’ll lose something. There’s no guarantee that you’ll gain anything in return.”

You’re scaring me, Hyacinthe thinks. It takes a second for the realization to come into full bloom.

It takes less than that for the irritation to take over.

“Fuck off,” he says, knocking Reborn’s hand off his shoulder. “I’m already part of the Family. I’m the Archivist of Vongola. I’m here on duty.”

“Very well,” Reborn says. “Maybe you should’ve thought on these words and their meaning a little longer, though.”

“What do you—”

Reborn steps back suddenly; and the door Hyacinthe is halfway leaning on opens to the inside, making a strangled noise fall out of his mouth and his own body fall on top of someone else’s.

“Pathetic, Colonello,” Reborn scorns above them.

“Shut up!” the man under Hyacinthe roars. “Damn idiot. Are you okay?”

Hyacinthe turns his head backward to look at who he’s sitting on. Blond hair and blue eyes and freckles. “Um,” is all he says.

“Oh,” says another voice.

Hyacinthe and the man he is considering staying on top of turn their heads to the newcomer; and it is yet another distressingly attractive man—who also looks distressingly like Hibari—standing in the corner of the hallway and observing them with a not very kind sort of laughter in his eyes.

“How many of you are there?” Hyacinthe wonders out loud.

“Who’s this?” yet another voice comes, and it’s one Hyacinthe recognizes this time, even before Sawada Iemitsu had time to walk into his line of sight and gawk at him. “Faure?

“Advisor,” Hyacinthe replies.

They stare at each other with equal parts surprise and antipathy.

The blond man starts squirming, eventually. Hyacinthe feels his face flare with heat and pushes himself off the other’s stomach—he ignores the hand that the man in red who looks like Hibari extended in his direction.

Not-Hibari smiles at him darkly as he draws his hand back.

“Sorry,” Hyacinthe says to the blond man.

“No problem,” blond man growls.

Then he strides past him and Reborn and all the way to the giant bird keeping watch over the entrance like some sort of ancient spirit—the bird rises into the air majestically, and his sharp talons wrap themselves around the blond man’s shoulder, as if it has done this all its life.

Hyacinthe wonders what it says about him that he doesn’t know whether to keep staring at the bird or at the man’s backside. He’s always had a thing for army gear.

“What are you doing here, Faure?” Sawada Iemitsu says. His breath stinks with alcohol from where Hyacinthe is standing, but that’s something Hyacinthe has come to expect from his few contacts with the man. “No one’s supposed to be here.”

“It sure raises some worrying questions,” not-Hibari says. “Though I’m certain it’s nice to meet you.”

“Really?” Hyacinthe replies. “Because you don’t sound certain at all.”

“How did you find this house,” Sawada keeps going. The look on his face is clearing out of drunk-out buzzed, and he’s stepping forward, making Hyacinthe go back—until his back meets with Reborn’s front and he looks up, only to see the hitman smirk down at him.

Sawada’s hand flees to the lapels of his jacket where Hyacinthe knows he keeps his gun; and with growing anxiety he realizes that this time it won’t be Dying Will Bullets flying out of it.

“Is that guy—uhh,” the blond man says, peeking above Reborn’s shoulder. “Sorry. Is that person the one who sold you out, then, Reborn?”

“I knew we shouldn’t have let Croquant just hire whatever freak he wanted for that job—”

“Okay,” Hyacinthe cuts in coldly. “Advisor, shut the fuck up.”

Sawada splutters indignantly.

Hyacinthe rummages through the pockets inside his coat with trembling fingers. He doesn’t remember when the last time he has touched the letter is but he thinks he’s put it in this coat and not taken it out since—he almost cries in relief when the pad of his index hits soft, velvety quill paper. It’s warm like a living thing from Nono’s Flame seal on it.

Hyacinthe throws the slightly crumpled letter in Sawada’s direction. “Read this.”

The man still has his gun in hand. The barrel is out of sight but the handle is glinting in the evening light like an omen; still, he pauses, and takes the time to skim the letter. Nono’s seal flares beautifully when Sawada brushes his own fingers against it.

“All right,” he says, and spends another second putting the gun back inside its holster.

Hyacinthe breathes slowly. His heart is practically ripping itself out of his chest. “Now if someone wants to explain to me who these two—” he points at the blond man with one hand and not-Hibari with the other “—are, and what the head of CEDEF is doing here?”

“This is my house,” Sawada says.

Hyacinthe stares at him. “Are you fucking with m—”

“Faure,” Reborn says, low enough that only Hyacinthe can hear him.

Hyacinthe closes his mouth, and his teeth click together loudly. “Okay. Fine. Who are you, then?” he looks to the blond man.

“Name’s Colonello,” the guy answers with a smile. He looks like he’s just come out of a toothpaste commercial, one that is weirdly geared toward Hyacinthe’s tastes in boyhood crushes.

“Hyacinthe Faure,” Hyacinthe replies, charmed despite himself. “Call me Cen.”

“Haha. I’m never gonna do that.”

“I’m Fon,” not-Hibari says.

Hyacinthe waits, but the man doesn’t add anything else. “So,” he continues. “Anyone wanna fill me in on what happened? And tell me if any more surprises are waiting inside?”

“Dino Cavallone is here too,” Sawada mutters.

“Great,” Hyacinthe laments.

“As for why we’re all here,” Reborn says, “I think it’d be best to keep this conversation going inside.”

Hyacinthe forgot they were still standing in the hallway, and himself pressed against Reborn’s front. Heat floods his head even as he brusquely detaches himself, and he pretends not to feel the contempt Reborn directs at him from behind.

The living-room is a welcome sight. Nana is overjoyed, cooking a practical feast, with Lambo running around her legs. I-Pin dashes toward Fon as soon as he steps into the room and latches herself onto his thigh. It makes him smile in a painfully tender way. Hyacinthe looks away.

Tsuna is nowhere in sight. Neither are Gokudera and Yamamoto. Even Bianchi is gone.

“Nana,” Sawada calls loudly. She yelps happily before turning to him, and then Hyacinthe doesn’t try to follow a word that is exchanged between them in Japanese. Eventually he must’ve asked her to leave them all alone, because she walks into the kitchen and closes the door behind herself.

Hyacinthe sits at the table and waits until everyone else does before asking: “What the hell is happening?”

“Tsuna’s recovering in his bedroom,” Sawada says tightly.

“He got attacked,” Reborn adds. A cup of coffee has just miraculously appeared between his hands, which Hyacinthe doesn’t question.

“By whom?”

And the dread that has been building up starts tasting like bile on the back of Hyacinthe’s tongue; because Sawada Iemitsu looks at him with open hostility in his eyes—the way he looks at enemies.

Reborn’s cup makes a tidy little porcelainy sound as it hits the table. “Squalo of the Varia.”

In the second that follows Hyacinthe feels several things at once again; reassurance first, automatic and overwhelming, because everywhere Varia goes Mammon goes as well; then incredulity and fear; and then the golden key around his neck warms up like a flame on his skin, chain tightening tightening like a thin brand over his throat, and through the white haze that covers his vision he sees, with eyes he didn’t know he possessed, Destiny move ahead with a click of its ivory wheels.

He doesn’t even have time to panic about the fact that he can see those wheels appear. Or the fact that every man at the table looks like he’s been dipped in gold. He hears a voice that doesn’t belong to any of them whisper into his ear, weighed by centuries:

“Remember. And commit to memory.”

Mammon knows they’ve been staring at their phone for too long to be inconspicuous. They know not everyone on the team is dumb enough to believe their silence is the usual kind, not when it’s accompanied by sullen inactivity and refusal to engage in any sort of gambling.

They don’t feel like placing bets over who’s going to be killing whom. The growing feeling of doom they’ve felt since Cen announced that he had to go to Japan—only days after Xanxus explained his plan—has been replaced by the sort of bone-deep terror they haven’t felt since the day the curse took them and turned their body into a stump of itself.

“This is going to be a fucking piece of cake,” Squalo roars behind them for the upteenth time. Xanxus is long gone from his gloating position on the throne at the end of the table. Probably passed out drunk in his room. Squalo isn’t much better, though half of it is probably due to the concussion he received when the rings turned out to be fake. “Kids. Just kids.”

“The prince is disappointed,” Bel whines from his corner. “The prince wanted blood from warriors.”

“The boy is of Vongola blood,” Levi grumbles tiredly. “Noble blood.”

He’s lucky Xanxus can’t hear him.

Mammon wants to tell them to shut up. The temptation of the bottle open on the table has never been as strong as it is now, but they don’t give into it. They renounced alcohol and other mind-altering substances when they chose the path of illusions.

They can’t stop seeing it, though. Reborn’s face this afternoon, drenched in the rain, cold and calculating. And with it the knowledge that indeed, this is where Cen has come. Right into the battlefield.

It’s truly irony that though Mammon has dreaded meeting any of the others for decades now, they’re only feeling like this because of someone who doesn’t even know anything about the curse. Someone who doesn’t have an inkling of how long Mammon has been alive or how special he is to them.

They’re tired. They haven’t slept in forty-eight hours. It’s the only explanation as to why Cen’s I miss you makes them feel anything more than cold amusement, they tell themself—the only reason why, even though it’s too late into the night and too late since Cen has messaged them, they write back: Go back home immediately. Please.

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