Venture Out of Boredom (Chapter 5)

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Venture Out Of Boredom
Chapter 5

There is something about watching a group of very powerful people emerge from the shadows like they’re posing for a photoshoot of doom that makes one’s problems feel very, very insignificant. Hyacinthe feels crushing fear for all of thirty seconds before his brain gives up on trying to feed him such intense levels of emotion and settles on blank, with side bad.

Still, Varia makes for a sight, lined up on the roof opposite them. Hyacinthe has perhaps not appreciated this enough in the years he’s been slithering in and out of their house in Italy. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen all of them in one place at the same time—Mammon’s told him that’s when disasters happen—and what he’s seen of them, he’s seen lounging around in pajamas or coming back home covered in blood, drunk, or tired. Sometimes all three at once. And who’s the giant robot anyway?

Ah, there’s Mammon, Hyacinthe thinks, eyeing them tiredly.

Mammon seems to be sticking their entire back against the stone chimney behind them. It’s a good thing Reborn is here to kick Hyacinthe in the heel when he tries to wave at them in his state of non-emotion and remind him that, oh, right. They’re all about to die.

This isn’t how he was planning on spending the evening. Not that he had anything more in mind than chain-smoking his way through the frustration of his last conversation with Mammon, but still. Mass murder seems rude.

“Calm down,” Reborn says lowly. “I told you. Xanxus will want to make a spectacle out of it.”

Indeed, Xanxus starts yelling at the poor, shrunken silhouette of Tsuna at the front. Duel-this ring-that. Two girls with pink hair and brown skin appear by his sides halfway through, give orders that have nothing to do with Hyacinthe at all and which Hyacinthe decides he’s not going to think about again. He’s too busy trying to catch Mammon’s eyes and communicate to them, somehow, the need to talk.

Maybe he should just risk taking out his phone and texting them outright.

He can’t, though, because Reborn’s playing with it lazily, twirling it between his fingers. Like he can actually read thoughts and predict the future.

The power to play with fate should’ve gone to him, Hyacinthe thinks in what he recognizes is the beginning of hysteria.

Watching Tsuna break down in terror and his friends—kids—surround him to protect and fight is heartbreaking. Hyacinthe snaps his fingers behind his back and feels fire flicker between them, artificial relaxation spreads through his shoulders and neck and almost makes him pass out. He stops caring about everything after that. Reborn gives him a thoughtful glance before looking ahead again.

“Can’t we do anything to stop them?” This is Fon’s voice. Hyacinthe forgot he was standing on his other side. When he looks at him, Fon is glancing up toward the roof—watching Mammon. “We could try talking to Viper.”

“No,” Reborn answers quietly. “Viper is Vongola. You’re not. This is a Vongola issue, no one but the Guardian candidates are allowed to interfere.”

“Who’s Viper?” Hyacinthe asks.

The way Reborn smiles at him is frightening. “Oh, I apologize,” he murmurs insincerely. “You know him as Mammon, I think.”

What, Hyacinthe doesn’t say.

“Mammon,” Fon repeats, pensive.

They both look like they’re sharing a secret, and Hyacinthe feels a little irritated at that in spite of everything. “I don’t give a damn about Guardians,” he declares. “I’m talking to Mammon when this shitshow’s over.”

It makes Fon glance at him in surprise, but Reborn chuckles before the other can say anything.

“My intelligence did say that you two are close,” he comments.

Fon looks as close to frozen in place as he can be. “Close?

“Yes, we are,” and Hyacinthe feels a rush of misplaced pride as he says it, because the look Fon gives him is a deeply offended one. He has no idea what’s happening, but he’s a bit tired of Reborn and his pals looking like they’re understanding things he doesn’t, especially when it involves the only person here he gives a damn about. “So I’m talking to them. I’m not scared of Xanxus.”

Xanxus chooses this moment to make the ground in front of Tsuna’s feet explode in a rush of heat and Flame.

“So maybe I am a little scared of Xanxus,” Hyacinthe admits, heart racing in his throat.

The shitshow in question seems to be coming to an end, at least. Xanxus gives a parting spat in Japanese that Hyacinthe doesn’t try to decipher, and then turns around, coat billowing behind him as if caught by inexistent wind. He jumps off the other side of the roof—or disappears, or teleports for all Hyacinthe knows—and the others start going after him.

Hyacinthe takes a deep breath and bellows, “Don’t you even think about it, Mammon!”

Mammon stills in their step. They’re half-turned away, and their coat isn’t billowing despite how dramatic they like to appear, which is worrying in its own right. Their eyes finally meet Hyacinthe’s.

“Fuck,” they say.

“Damn right,” Hyacinthe replies. “We need to talk.”

“Are you stupid?” Mammon’s voice drawls. They gesture to the pathetic display they all make, with the kids half-terrified to death and the adults just standing behind because apparently there’s nothing to be done. Everyone’s looking between them and Hyacinthe now. “I’m here to kill all of you.”

“Don’t be so morbid.”

“What exactly did you not get about battle to the death?”

Mammon bickers as they always do, but they look tense. They don’t like being the center of attention, and if Hyacinthe is aware of the looks Reborn and Fon are giving him, then Mammon must be excruciatingly conscious of Belphegor and Squalo by their side, who seem greatly amused by the situation.

“It’s the Archivist,” Bel laughs sweetly. “Mammon’s stupid friend.”

“Why the hell are you here?” Squalo screams in Hyacinthe’s direction.

“Did you only just notice him?”

I’ll kill you.”

“See,” Mammon says in a dead voice while Bel and Squalo explode into an argument behind them. “Can’t talk. We’re enemies.”

Hyacinthe crosses his arms across his chest and stares. Mammon fidgets. Hyacinthe stares harder.

“Stop looking at me like that,” they mutter eventually.

“Are you going to stop acting like a baby?” Hyacinthe replies.

“Oh, fuck you, Cen.”

They do come down, though, floating gracefully to the ground and making Tsuna yelp and crawl backward in fear. Gokudera and Yamamoto have their arms raised around him, and Haru stands at the back with a pale face and trembling hands. Sawada (father) looks at them in virulent hatred as they walk past, which Mammon gives back tenfold even with cloth covering half their face.

Viper,” Colonello laughs in delight. “It’s been a long time, man.”

Mammon levels a stare with the man’s raised arm that says touch me and die more clearly than words would. Colonello drops it slowly.

“I’m not talking to you in front of these buffoons,” they tell Hyacinthe once they’re within touching distance. They look even tenser now, and their body has shifted toward Hyacinthe and Reborn and away from Fon.

“No can do,” Reborn says. He’s taken out his gun and has started polishing it in a way that makes Hyacinthe wish he were polishing something else instead. “Hyacinthe Faure is suspicious enough as it is. Fraternizing with the enemy and all. You’ll need to be chaperoned.”

Chaperoned,” Mammon mutters.

“Only if you join in,” Hyacinthe replies.

Mammon gags.

Reborn slides a slow smile in Hyacinthe’s direction. “Not me. I was thinking Fon could do it. He’s a neutral party, after all.”

The silence that follows is crushing.

And, yeah, Hyacinthe is a bit stupid, socially speaking. He’s fine being referred to as Mammon’s stupid friend. He doesn’t care about anyone here enough to feel offended. But he’s not that stupid that he wouldn’t notice the breath Mammon draws in or the amused tilt of Fon’s lips as he glances toward them—or remember what Colonello said about Viper and him with teasing suggestion on his voice, or the way Fon talked about illusionists with want-laced admiration.

Great. Just great.

“Fine,” he says, because Mammon and Fon are obviously not going to. “We’re off, then.”

Squalo smirks when they walk away, shoves a friendly, “Don’t kill them early, Mammon,” that makes Mammon’s teeth clench further and Hyacinthe’s stomach churn. Then he and Bel disappear, too.

Hyacinthe has, quite frankly, no idea what he’s doing.

His feet take him on the path toward the nearest convenience store because it’s where he always goes to buy his cigarettes, and he figures it’s as good a place as any to try and have one goddamn talk with his best friend. Even if they have to be watched by someone who obviously has some sort of a crush on them. At least Mammon walks by him right off the bat, falling in stride with him and brushing close enough that when Fantasma’s head peeks out of their sleeve, the first thing he does is climb up Hyacinthe’s arm. Fon walks behind them without saying a word.

“You should’ve gone back,” Mammon mutters once they reach the store. Their nostrils flare when Hyacinthe takes the chance to buy more cigarettes and sticks one between his lips immediately. They lift an arm, inviting Fantasma back to them so he doesn’t have to breathe in the smoke.

Hyacinthe takes his time to answer. He leans against the store, regrets for a moment not taking warmer clothes with him and then decides that he doesn’t care. “You should’ve found a way to avoid this mess,” he replies. “Or at least warned me, asshole. You knew I was coming here.”

“I didn’t know you would stay.”

“What can I say?” Hyacinthe takes a long drag and exhales it with his next words, smiling like a man heading for his death. “Reborn compelled me.”

“Your tastes suck so much.”

“Like you can talk.”

Hyacinthe flicks a joking glance toward where Fon stands, some feet away from them, and he expects Mammon to huff, or smack him across the head lightly, but instead Mammon’s face turns entirely crimson.

Hyacinthe lowers the cigarette. “Mammon?” he asks carefully.

Mammon’s hand comes up to rub their face, and they whisper, “Please stop talking.”

“Oh my God.” Hyacinthe points at Fon. “This guy? Really?”

Fon looks entirely too amused with the outburst, and he folds his arms across his chest with a smile. His eyes are on Mammon when he declares, “If it’s any reassurance, it was only the once.”

Hyacinthe splutters.

Mammon turns their back to them both, shoulders shaking in embarrassment or anger, Hyacinthe’s not sure, and their voice is filled with venom when they ask, “Why are you even here?”

“Who, me?” Fon takes a step toward them. The fact that Mammon addressed a word to him at all seems to have loosened what little restraint he knows. “I just wanted to see how you were doing since the curse broke, Mammon.”

“You slept with this guy,” Hyacinthe says in a faint voice. He feels like he’s been doused in cold water.

“Oh, yes,” Fon answers, eyes flashing. “And what a night it was—”

He steps aside in that same fluid way Hyacinthe’s always seen him move, right in time to avoid the pit of lava that has appeared where he stood.

“So help me, Fon,” Mammon says in a terrifying whisper, “if you came here just to fuck with me…”

They fall silent once their eyes meet Fon’s. Hyacinthe feels extremely out of place.

“We’re not here to fix your past mistakes,” he decides out loud. Mammon snorts, and they turn away from Fon to look at him instead. “No matter how big they are.”

“Your opinion is unneeded,” Fon tells him.

“His opinion is worth more than that price on your head,” Mammon tells Fon. “Was it dead or alive? I forgot.” Their hands crackle with electricity.

Fon, somewhat reasonably, falls silent.

“Glad we cleared that up,” Hyacinthe says. It’s a little rude to laugh in the face of a rejected guy, but it’s also rude to gloat about sleeping with someone, so Hyacinthe settles for giving Fon a very brief, satisfied smile. “Now let’s focus on how not to get those kids murdered.”


“You’re not being very bright and positive today, Mammon.”

Mammon doesn’t smile. Their voice is as monotonous and serious as it always is when discussing business. “Xanxus will have all of their heads. The only way to stop him would be for the kids to be stronger than us, which…” He doesn’t bother ending that thought.

“Okay,” Hyacinthe lets out. He flicks the ashes off his cigarette and takes another drag. It calms nothing in him, not even the most superfluous of nerves, just burns going down his throat. “Can you try to convince him?”

“Why would I?” Mammon asks.

It is no coincidence that their hood rises from some wind Hyacinthe doesn’t feel, and that their green eyes pour contempt and pity in Hyacinthe’s direction. Hyacinthe clenches the fist he has in his pocket and wills himself not to get angry.

“They’re children,” he says. “They’re just… kids. They didn’t ask for this.”

“Would you feel better if they were adults?”

Mammon is trying to destabilize him, he knows, but Hyacinthe isn’t a moral enough person for that to affect him. “Yes. I would.” When Mammon doesn’t reply, he exhales harshly and runs a hand through his hair. “Look, I know you don’t care, and I don’t usually care that you don’t care—I don’t… I know how you are.” He knows enough of what Mammon’s done in their life not to be surprised that they’d kill children in cold blood. “Just, find an excuse. I don’t know. Tell Xanxus you’ll enslave them as retribution or something.”

“You talk as if I have power over him that the others don’t.”

“Because you do. You’ve been with him the longest, and he trusts you.”

Mammon is silent for a long time. Fantasma coils himself around their neck like a weird, wiggling scarf, and his clever eyes meet Hyacinthe’s from the hollow of Mammon’s throat.

“He’s going to kill you, you know,” they say. “For being here. Standing with the enemy. He didn’t say anything, but I know he recognized you.”

“I knew that,” Hyacinthe replies warily.

Mammon’s lips thin before they speak again. “I don’t think I can negotiate for more than one life, Cen.”

It makes Hyacinthe’s chest clench on understanding, but he still says, “Then negotiate for the kids.”

He doesn’t think he imagines the shudder that shakes them. The night is cold, too cold for any of them to be wearing so little, but there’s a steady beat of energy running through Hyacinthe and keeping his body warm. He doesn’t understand it until he sees cogs appear above Mammon’s head.

The Key is fire-hot against his chest.

“Xanxus will not settle for anything less than Sawada Tsunayoshi’s death,” Mammon says, oblivious to the mechanics Hyacinthe has put at play, and Hyacinthe doesn’t have time to say anything before they add, “I’ll try talking to the others.”

Hyacinthe holds his breath. The cogs don’t move.

“Okay,” he says, trying very hard not to hyperventilate. “That’s good.”

“What will you do if that doesn’t work?” Mammon asks him.

A golden string appears between them and turns both of them gold. Links them heart-to-heart.

Fuck, Hyacinthe thinks.

For the first time, he wishes Reborn were here.

“I,” he stutters. “I don’t know. Something. I’ll improvise.”

Mammon clicks their tongue. “Just don’t put your life on the line like an idiot.”

And, God, this is it, isn’t it. Pressure grows in Hyacinthe’s body, the cogs turning before he can voice anything, and when he says, “I won’t,” he and Destiny both know he’s lying. The gold disappears from his skin and Mammon’s, the string vanishes, and Hyacinthe now knows with absolute certainty that he will, eventually, put his life on the line like an idiot.

Exhaustion crashes onto him so swiftly that it’s a miracle he stays standing at all. He thanks the wall he’s leaning on and the fact that it has rained earlier in the day. He can blame the way his feet slip on the pavement on that.

“Why would I do that?” he adds weakly. “You know I’m no hero.”

“You’re suicidal is what you are,” Mammon huffs.

It’s a lot truer than they know.

This fate business doesn’t feel like anything Hyacinthe has control over. The knowledge sits tight in him, pulses like a wound in his belly, like crushed ribs and a twisted spine after a car crash. He swallows. Fon is looking at him intently.

“Okay,” he says, as evenly as he can. “Then let’s just… let’s just leave it at that for now. We have a week, right? Maybe they’ll be strong enough to beat you in a week.”

“Fucking delusional,” Mammon mutters. They do approach, though, and tap Hyacinthe’s shoulder lightly with their fingers, mouth twisted into a smile.

Hyacinthe feels too tired to stand but he does it anyway, and the hug Mammon gives him feels like a shot of caffeine. His lips break into a chuckle as he squeezes their shoulders one-handed. He crushes the last of his cigarette with his free hand.

“I missed you,” Hyacinthe says pathetically. His mouth is by Mammon’s temple, against the cold fabric of their hood. It feels like coming home.

Mammon snorts. Their words come out muffled against Hyacinthe’s shoulder. “Don’t get your stupid face all beat up.”

“You like my face.”

“It’s the least disagreeable part of you.”

Hyacinthe punches them lightly in the back, and Mammon pushes themself off of him with a sneer. “I need to go back and convince my boss not to kill the people he’s been plotting to kill for a year,” they declare. “You get some rest. Don’t sleep with Reborn or I’ll kill you myself.”

“You’ve lost any right you ever had to criticize my hook-ups.” Hyacinthe smirks.

Mammon flushes again, sends a venomous glance where Fon is still standing, and vanishes.

Hyacinthe lets himself fall against the wall with a deep sigh. His knees are starting to shake and he knows he’ll collapse in bed as soon as he gets home and probably not wake up for fifteen hours. He’s supposed to take his next shot of T tomorrow, too.

“That was enlightening,” Fon says slowly.

Hyacinthe looks at him sideways. Fon’s expression is non-threatening but not very friendly either. “Sorry for laughing at you,” he says, feeling not sorry at all. “I just really thought better of them, you know.”

Fon doesn’t rise up to the taunt. He steps toward Hyacinthe in a way that makes Hyacinthe’s shoulders tense reflexively; he’s barely standing, he doesn’t know how to fight on a good day and certainly doesn’t know how to defend himself with Flame-exhaustion crushing his energy to smithereens.

But all Fon does is look at him in askance for a moment before grabbing his arm and wrapping it over his own shoulder. He picks Hyacinthe off the wall with the same show of casual strength he demonstrated the day before.

Maybe Hyacinthe gets what Mammon saw in him. Maybe.

“You’re really pathetically weak,” Fon says.

Maybe not, Hyacinthe thinks, teeth clenched. “I don’t need your fucking help.”

He tries to take back his arm, but Fon’s grip tightens like a vice. “I don’t know what you did,” he replies—Hyacinthe feels himself freeze, feels anxiety catch in his throat—”but you’re gonna have to be tougher than this if you want to keep doing it.“

“I didn’t do anything.”

Fon doesn’t acknowledge him at all. He just keeps walking them back toward the house as he speaks. “It’s the second time I see you crash like this. Whatever it is obviously takes a toll on you, and considering the state your body’s in, you’ll end up doing yourself serious damage.”

It hurts to hear. It’ll always hurt to hear. Hyacinthe knows he’s big in a way people don’t like, he knows he does nothing to change it and probably never will. He can’t conform to any sort of standard of fitness or beauty even if he tried. It’s one thing to see it in the looks people give him and another to hear it said so easily by a person he can’t physically escape.

“Fuck you,” he whispers.

Fon pauses for a second before answering. “My apologies,” he says lowly—sincerely. “I meant the fact that you’ve suffered serious injuries in the past.”

Hyacinthe looks at him. “What?”

“I’m not going to ask, if that’s what you’re worried about. It’s just visible if you know what to look for.” He tugs Hyacinthe’s arm down harshly, and Hyacinthe’s lower back flares with pain, making him groan. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. Your posture is terrible, your back is already weakened, and yet you keep doing things that will only make it worse—”

“Okay, all right, I get it!” Fon releases the pressure, and Hyacinthe’s breath comes out of him at once. “You are such an asshole,” he complains.

Fon smiles, weirdly enough. “I’m just assessing you, Hyacinthe Faure. I’m curious what kind of man won over Viper—Mammon’s affection so easily.”

This sounds wrong in so many ways, but Hyacinthe doesn’t really know how to start untangling the reasons why. “Why don’t you try not being a dick if you want them to like you so bad?” he asks tiredly.

“It seems to work for you.”

“Jokingly. I’m jokingly a dick to them.”

“Yes,” Fon says. The house is in sight now, Colonello’s pet eagle standing over the roof, its shadow the shape of a mythological monster of some kind. It caws loudly at the sight of them.

Fon’s words sound like a challenge.

“I do wonder about you, Faure.”

Hyacinthe gets about zero hours of sleep.

It’s mostly because of Sawada (father), who jumps him the moment he sets foot into the living-room to interrogate him mafia-style, gun in hand and drunken swears slurring over his tongue. He does it all in Italian, which means that Nana watches them patiently from her side of the room thinking this is all just a game. Or a rehearsal for a play. Or something.

How does she not notice the gun is real? Reborn isn’t even here either, the useless bastard.

“No, I’m not conspiring with the enemy, I was chatting with a friend,” Hyacinthe says for the tenth time. He’s running solely on the coffee Nana provided him and which Sawada allowed him. His hands are tied too tightly, the plastic burning painfully against his wrists. He knows the Mist Guardian taught him how to get out of those bonds, once, but he can’t seem to remember the way.

Frankly, his head feels abuzz with exhaustion. He’s been seeing bugs and shifting shadows since he used the Key earlier. He just wants to pass out.

“Are you sleeping with Mammon?” Sawada asks, serious as the dead.

“Are you sleeping with your wife or is she tired of you yet?” Hyacinthe snaps back.

It makes Sawada’s face burn an ugly crimson but doesn’t really better Hyacinthe’s situation.

He just lets Sawada rage on for a while after that, mind caught on nonsensical things such as having the power to change fate, Mammon’s warm and ever-so-rare embrace, and how Fon managed to guess that Hyacinthe has broken his back in the past.

It’s past two in the morning when he finds his way back to his guest room, and by then he’s jittery with the damn coffee, and all he does is turn around in the sheets, too tired to sleep at all.

He’s understandably cranky when someone knocks on his door at seven o’clock.

“What?” he croaks, opening it.

Reborn stands in the hallway, looking deliciously disheveled in the sweatpants and loose T-shirt he’s wearing. The collar is wide enough that Hyacinthe can see his collarbones and the tight muscles of his shoulders.

“I do appreciate a morning gâterie,” he says. “If that’s why you’re here.”

“You and Tsuna will be training with me,” Reborn answers.

Hyacinthe closes the door on him.

It’s useless, of course, because Reborn has somehow slipped into the room in the half-a-second Hyacinthe looked at the handle of the door. He takes a seat on the unmade bed and pats the mattress by his side indulgently.

“You’re lucky you’re so hot,” Hyacinthe says, falling down next to him.

He’s not surprised when Reborn opens the bedside table and pulls out the necessary items for the shot Hyacinthe is supposed to take today. Hyacinthe grunts in vague thanks.

He’s so tired that he doesn’t even feel weird about Reborn watching him take his testosterone. He doesn’t feel anxious about stabbing himself with a needle either, which is good. The injection zone aches a bit once he’s done, and he knows he’ll have a bruise to show for it for a few days, but at least he didn’t forget this time.

And if Reborn can get something out of the show that can eventually help Tsuna, well, it’s just as well.

“Training?” Hyacinthe asks hopelessly once his pant leg has been rolled down to his ankle once more.

“I’ve taken the liberty of getting you appropriate clothes,” Reborn answers mildly. “Be ready in twenty minutes.”


Hyacinthe gets another coffee, a ten-minute shower, and a few recommendations from Nana for the best barber in town, and then they’re off.

To a fucking jungle.

Hyacinthe feels both terrible and immensely relieved to learn that he doesn’t, actually, have to cross the jungle himself. He and Reborn abandon Tsuna at the mouth of it to be devoured by man-eating tigers and such while they take a shortcut that drives them up a mountain instead. The décor is lunar, rock deserts whose only greenery comes in the shape of yellow and sweet-smelling flowers; it reminds Hyacinthe of a holiday trip he took to Belle-Île when he was young, except that it lacks fresh sea-wind and the bliss of flat pathways. That’s the thing with mountain treks. You’re either going up or down.

He’s panting five minutes into climbing. Reborn makes no comment, but his disdain is rather clear. He hands Hyacinthe some water when they reach the top and lets him crash onto a spot of grass. There’s a wide stream on one side of them and a sharp cliff on the other.

“I hate walking,” Hyacinthe wheezes. “Useless piece of shit goddamn use of legs.”

Reborn doesn’t grace him with an answer.

They’re joined about ten minutes later by a boy Hyacinthe recognizes as Sawada (father)’s apprentice, Basil, and Ylva Byquist, of all people.

“Why am I here,” Ylva whimpers.

“There’s no reason you can’t both train body and mind,” Reborn says. He’s lying down next to Hyacinthe with his hat on his face as protection from the sun. There’s a sportswear logo on the brim of the fedora, and Leon is sunbathing on top of it. “You’ll continue your lessons with Hyacinthe Faure while he trains, Ylva Byquist.”

Ylva just looks more terrified than before.

It takes another hour for Tsuna to join them. Basil has set up a proper camping site in the meantime, is now in the process of brewing coffee and cooking appetizing sausages atop a campfire, like this is just something he does every day as a child-soldier of the mafia.

Tsuna is drenched in sweat and obviously exhausted. He’s bruised up, bleeding from his nose, and still bearing the fatigue of having fought the Varia days before.

“You should at least praise him or something,” Hyacinthe tells Reborn once Reborn is done ordering the boy to, apparently, climb the cliff without climbing gear.

“Praise him yourself,” Reborn replies.

Hyacinthe looks at Tsuna. Tsuna looks back in despair.

“You’re… a good kid,” Hyacinthe says.

Reborn translates, and Tsuna pales considerably.

“That’s not what Mr Faure said at all!” Ylva shrieks.

It turns out that Tsuna is not as helpless as he looks. The same Flame that Hyacinthe observed on him a while ago sprouts proudly from his forehead, making him scream with all of his tiny lungs’ capacity and shredding his clothes on the way. He starts climbing in a fury of yells and frail limbs right after.

Hyacinthe averts his eyes. “Can’t you stop that?” he asks Reborn. “The clothes thing.”

“Tsuna is on hormone blockers.”

It doesn’t really make it right. Hyacinthe knows a thing or two about dysphoria, though he didn’t have the luck of hormone blockers himself. He doubts Tsuna is as comfortable with being bare-chested as Reborn thinks he is.

He’s not here to teach Transgender 101, however. He made that clear early on.

Tsuna falls. Cries. When Reborn shoots him with the Dying Will bullet again, he falls asleep with the Flame burning over his head.

“This is so fucked up,” Hyacinthe tells Ylva eagerly.

“Now,” Reborn declares. He stands up—the way the track pants hug his ass is positively mouth-watering—and lands a dark, amused glance toward Hyacinthe. “On to you.”

“I’m not training,” Hyacinthe replies, though he’s wearing the clothes Reborn gave him. There’s a lovely little golden rose embroidered at each ankle.

“You need to if you wish to use your gift properly.” Reborn switches to Italian, then, probably so Ylva doesn’t understand. Basil is away on berry-collecting duty because Reborn told him Leon wants cake. “Fon informed me that you used it again last night.”

“Fon is a dirty little snitch.”

“Be that as it may,” Reborn croons, “he had some interesting pointers to share. How did you like meeting him?”

“How did I—” Hyacinthe pauses, bewildered. “He’s rude. Condescending. A prick. Is that what you want to hear?”

“It’s important to know your competition.”

“My competition for what?”

Reborn just looks at him the way he’d look at a dead rat on the side of the road.

“Whatever,” Hyacinthe says, rolling his eyes. “I can’t control that—that fate thing. So far it’s controlled me every time.”


“It’s just…” Hyacinthe gestures with his hands vaguely. “I’m not the one making the choices. It makes them for me every time. Like I’m just a vessel for it or something.”

“It might just be a question of having enough physical power to fight for control,” Reborn says slowly. “Which you can train. With me.”

“I’m only interested in one kind of physical activity involving you.”

“Walking up to this place and then back to Namimori every day will be enough cardio for now,” Reborn continues, ignoring him. Hyacinthe scowls. “I’ll set you up on different kinds of Flame exercises while you’re here. Show me what you can do right now.”

Hyacinthe sighs. He takes a cigarette from the box hidden in his back pocket, sticks it between his lips, and snaps his fingers in front of his chin. A blue flame licks up warmly between his thumb and index and catches the tobacco and paper on fire. The first drag of smoke is heavenly.

“A blue Flame,” Reborn comments thoughtfully. “Like Basil. Interesting.”

“Does it make a difference?” Hyacinthe asks drowsily. “Blue or orange? Or is it just fancy magic aesthetics?”

“You seem pretty relaxed.”

Hyacinthe chuckles. “Yeah,” he drawls, shifting to rest his weight on one hand behind himself, legs spread in front of him on the grass. “This shit is better than weed. It’s too bad I pass out if I use it for more than a minute.”

“Your physical shape is abysmal.”

Hyacinthe flips him off.

Reborn spends another minute looking silently at Leon perched on his wrist, like they’re having a conversation. He raises a hand to tug the sports-fedora’s brim over his eyes.

“All right,” he says, conversational. “Use it again, and keep it up for as long as you can.”

“Didn’t you hear me?” Hyacinthe mumbles around his next lungful of smoke. “I’ll pass out.”

“Then pass out.”

He glares at Reborn. Reborn looks back impassively and takes a yellow page out of his sleeve that’s painted over with the sketch of a ferocious-looking whale.

Hyacinthe channels the warm energy he’s learned to associate with his Flame to the tip of his middle finger and raises it in Reborn’s direction again, blazing a bright blue.

Reborn smiles slowly, satisfied. “Very good,” he purrs, making heat gather low in Hyacinthe’s belly and the fingers of his free hand clench in the grass. His sight is starting to waver already. “When you wake up, try to do the V sign version.”

The last thing Hyacinthe hears is Ylva’s worried call of his name.

For all that Mammon swears by Xanxus’s brute strength and capacity for cruelty and violence, they’re not really scared of the man.

Xanxus belongs to a time long gone. He’s the sort of man Mammon would have met during their youth almost a century ago, the sort of man that still populated the underworld before communication and money took such a leap forward. He swears by blood bonds, literal blood bonds, ones made in the midst of fierce battle, much thicker than the water of the covenant. If he weren’t so messed up by whatever childhood atrocities made him the way he is, Mammon is sure Xanxus would be one of the most loyal people alive.

Xanxus hasn’t been the same since the Ninth raised a hand on him eight years ago. Squalo may not realize it—or, if he does, he’s more subtle about it than Mammon has ever given him credit for—but it’s easy enough for someone who deals in imagination and scheming to see the signs.

They’re not scared of Xanxus hurting them physically. Xanxus hasn’t hurt Mammon physically before, ever. It’s not fear of death that keeps them still and silent even after being allowed entry into their boss’s bedroom.

At least not fear for their own death.

“What d’you want?” Xanxus mutters.

The whole room smells like wine, as if every drop spilled on the floor has vaporized and is now rushing into Mammon’s lungs through their nostrils. They have to resist the urge to cough.

“I was thinking, boss,” they say. “About whether it’s wise to kill those kids.”

Xanxus frowns at them.

The fact that he doesn’t erupt into rage is encouraging. Mammon has already mostly convinced Squalo that the baseball kid is better off alive than dead—Squalo has taken to the idea of keeping him as a training dummy so well, he’s basically making plans to train the kid right now. Bel won’t see reason until he spills blood, but Bel is the weakest of them, so Smoking Bomb Hayato-whatever stands an actual chance. Levi can be convinced by being told, repeatedly, about how absolutely fucking ridiculous it is for him to go full-out against a little girl. Lussuria…

Mammon prefers not to think about Lussuria too much.

“You already have a foolproof plan,” Mammon continues softly. “The rings are yours. The duels are just for show.”

“They need to be taught a fucking lesson,” Xanxus replies.

“Of course. But wouldn’t it be better to try and really drive the point home? Keep them alive. They’d make good hostages in case we face a resisting faction of the Family.”

They can see their words work through Xanxus’s mind. He’s mellowed out by the wine and, no doubt, the head rush of having terrorized innocents.

“You can just ask me if you want me to keep your friend alive, Mammon,” Xanxus says roughly. Mammon knows he can’t see through the hood, but it doesn’t stop them from shivering when meeting his red eyes. “That’s what you’re really here for, right?”

Mammon swallows. “I would like that, yes.”

Xanxus snarls. It’s what he does when confronted with things like friendship and loyalty. “Pathetic,” he lets out, spit flying out of his mouth with the consonants, “you’ve become pathetic.”

“I’ve never failed you.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re not trash.” Xanxus leans back into the pillows at his back and eyes him with contempt. “You’re playing a dangerous game, Arcobaleno.”

Mammon hates that word.

It drags in their ears like chalk on a blackboard, like nails on sandpaper, like metal rubbing on metal. Their teeth ache with it and their stomach fills with nausea from the strength of their disgust, and it’s like being caught in the monstrous body of a child again. Like their limbs are stubs and their skin hurts when touched by air. Like waking up on that mountaintop all over again, naked, terrified, surrounded by the deformed cries of the six other strongest people in the world.

“I’m loyal only to you,” they say between their teeth. “Not anyone else. Not even Vongola.”

“Good,” Xanxus replies, “because I’m only willing to give you one life. It’s more than you deserve for that shit you’re pulling.” He hunches forward, one knee raised toward himself so he can put his arm on it. He’s smiling. “It’s either the brat or your friend. Make your choice.”

It’s no choice at all.

“Cen,” Mammon answers. “Spare him.”

Hyacinthe Faure is not someone Mammon is willing to part with. No matter what Hyacinthe himself has to say about it.

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