Chapter 1: Luce
Luce sucks in a sharp gasp and whips around, turning to run back out of the office she just stepped into. The Italian standing beside the door, completely missed by the Giglio Nero boss when she walked in, calmly shuts the door firmly and locks it.
"It's pleasure to finally meet you," Reborn says with a voice like honey, slowly advancing on the woman.
Luce staggers back until her knees hit the couch and she drops into the seat. She has no idea how the hitman managed to get past all of her security, but at least he isn't holding a gun right now.
"I was offered a contract a week ago," Reborn explains, casually taking a seat opposite Luce on another couch. "It's a good price, so now I'm doing some research on the target."
"And… and have you decided whether to accept the offer?" Luce asks hesitantly, knowing that she's the 'target'.
"Not yet," Reborn admits easily. "But you're pretty boring so I might."
Luce just blinks, not really sure how to deal with this situation. She most certainly did not see this in her visions, but she manages to calm herself because she knows Reborn even when he doesn't know her.
Reborn won't hurt Luce.
Luce purses her lips. "Mr Reborn, I'm sure we can sort out something so there doesn't need to be any killing."
Reborn hums, leaning forward with dark eyes. "I'm afraid we might have a problem with that route, Don Giglio Nero, because I happen to like killing things."
Luce is thrown off. This isn't her Reborn, not yet. Plus, the large part of Reborn's protectiveness for her is when Luce eventually gets pregnant in the future. "What's your price?" she asks slowly.
"Maybe you're not understanding me," Reborn muses, sitting back and crossing his legs at the knee. "I don't want money. I want you to explain to me why I shouldn't kill you. Why are you important enough to keep alive?"
Luce lets out a humourless laugh, because if only he knew. She shakes her head. "Mr Reborn, you're asking the wrong question."
Reborn raises an eyebrow.
"It should be 'why are you important enough to kill?' because you shouldn't just waste your talent on people who don't deserve to see it," Luce explains.
Reborn blinks, startled, and then smirks. "I'm sure that trick works on others, so don't feel too bad that I'm not suddenly reformed into a member of polite society who shies away from killing."
Luce frowns. "That wasn't my intention-"
"Don't lie," Reborn interrupts. "I can see your thoughts clearly. Admittedly, I don't understand why you believe whole-heartedly that I'm a good person, but I can read the manipulations very easily."
Luce stays silent.
"Are you giving up then, so quickly?" Reborn asks with a mocking edge. "I'm not asking for an essay, Don Giglio Nero, just a reason to let you live."
"No," Luce finally says. "I refuse."
He tilts his head. "I promise I'm a gentleman. I'll keep my word, if that's what you're worried about."
Luce scans the hitman's face and makes a decision. "Stay for dinner."
"So you can poison me?"
"So I can cure your boredom," Luce says with a small smile.
Chapter 2: Verde
The target is easy to find, even through the tear gas and flashbangs.
The science convention (mafia specific) went for five days every three years, situated in a huge building with lecture halls and buffets and the brightest minds mingling together to create something even more horrific than what the mafia already has.
Storm flames were a big topic this year, with how they could dissolve the very atoms of whatever target they were pointed at. The other big interest seemed to be space travel, which was quite fascinating to the hitman, not that anyone would know he was a hitman.
It wouldn't have been a problem if Reborn came without a disguise, in fact most of the more famous scientists or famiglia-aligned ones had bodyguards. A couple of regular Mafiosi were hanging around as well, to absorb as much information as they could before the scientists disappeared again.
However, Reborn was here as an invited guest, not as a low intellect second-class mafioso who had to pay to get inside the building. Wearing his fedora and suit would have given a bad impression since Reborn the hitman wasn't well known in the academic community.
He was scheduled to present two lectures with his mathematician persona, not as a hired killer, and so he came as a badly dressed recluse to blend in. He technically didn't have to lecture or even show up, but he took a certain delight in creating and solving equations that teach people how to kill quicker and more efficiently.
Reborn wasn't normally one to join these conventions, because the scientists tended to be introverted geniuses who didn't know how to communicate outside of their chosen field, or worse, arrogant pricks.
He attended this year, partly due to the hit, but it was mostly because Reborn just finished a twenty-page calculation on the differences between 'fire sniping' with various flame types, and he really wanted to brag about it.
He had spent the first day of the convention roving the city since he didn't want to socialise and the second day he had the first presentation. After he was done he wandered around and found himself stumbling into a heated argument between a chemistry based biomolecular scientist and a biology based biochemist.
He paused to watch the entertainment, only really understanding half the dispute. A scoff of derision made Reborn turn, and he found a man with a shock of green hair, glasses, and a pristine lab coat. Reborn was going to wait until the last few days to track down his target but apparently the universe loved him.
The hitman decided to keep the scientist close and slid towards the man, opening conversation with an insult towards the two fighting academics. Verde practically lunged at Reborn, desperate for anything else except the boring academics around him.
The argument heated up with the addition of a pharmacologist, and Reborn just spent the whole time mocking them quietly with Verde.
Reborn had then followed the green haired man to his lecture and sat for three hours as Verde went over a sixty-three-step synthesis of a chemical that could suppress brain cancer cells. Then it took another ten minutes for Verde to outline a three-step synthesis that could create brain cancer.
The scientist got a standing ovation for the latter.
Reborn ended up spending the rest of the convention with Verde at his side, making fun of the others and maybe spiking a few drinks as well.
Reborn had been wavering before, because the scientist was actually quite interesting, and finally decided to just call the hit off around the time Verde chucked his shoe at a presenter and called them 'as useless as thionyl chloride for a halohydrin product'.
And now here Reborn is, on the last day, ducking out of sight from the SWAT team currently raiding the building.
Reborn adjusts his ponytail, his hair lengthened to help with his disguise, and fits the gas mask better over his face. It's an old model, actually stolen from one of the demonstration booths, so the hitman looks quite terrifying with his face entirely covered.
He snaps his wrist to signal and Leon drops out of his sleeve and into his hand, already set into knife mode. The hitman slices off a good chunk of his lengthened hair, the black locks then spiking up in his usual style.
Reborn strips the loose hoodie off him and smooths down the button-up shirt and black vest that's hidden underneath. He's not satisfied with the cheap black slacks, nor the scuffed lace-up boots, but he isn't exactly prepared for a wardrobe change.
The hitman moves swiftly through the building, climbing a floor and then pacing across the large cafeteria, taking out any armour-clad men and women he sees. The tear gas appears to be mixed with something else because the panicking scientists start going down, only unconscious.
Reborn rounds a large table, quite a few people face down in their food, and finds Verde slumped against the wall, the scientist's eyes half closed.
The hitman walks over and drops to sit back on his calves, balanced on the balls of his feet with his elbows braced on his thighs. He smirks at Verde through the gas mask even though the man can't see.
"Here to kill me?" Verde slurs from the gas, only seeing curly sideburns and the iconic Leon gun.
"Worse," Reborn chuckles. "I'm here to save you."
Chapter 3: Lal & Colonnello
His target is a high-tier COMSUBIN member, a woman by the name of Lal Mirch. She looks dangerous, so Reborn just assumes that she got in the way of someone who now wants revenge.
Reborn doesn't tend to ask why he's been hired because either they think he'll be soft and therefore they lie about the target, or they'll tell the truth and Reborn gets angry enough that he makes the target's end a slow one.
There's no halfway with Reborn, it seems. The hits are either saints or sinners, no middle ground. So, he doesn't think about it.
There is a fun fact about Lal; she's always followed by this big blonde puppy-dog of a man, who Reborn kind of wants to pet because the blonde is so adorable when he's excited.
Maybe Reborn will keep the blonde after he kills Lal. You know, get another Shamal who's hopefully less of a pervert.
Reborn smirks when he spies the pair through his sniper scope. They're laying down their guns and knives at the edge of a COMSUBIN field and then walking to the centre, ready to spar. They're now in the open, no cover for meters, without weapons, and there's no wind at all.
Reborn can't miss even if he tried.
Reborn shifts and gets comfortable in his position atop the highest building in the military compound, rather amused at the regular guard patrols and the cameras that rim the heavy-duty fence.
He watches the fight for a while, in no rush, but soon grows bored. They're not bad or anything, it's just that they stick to the regular punches and kicks and throws that they've been taught. Reborn follows the fight, already predicting seven moves ahead of them, and hopes that they'll be more fun with their preferred weapons.
So, instead of picking off the two, he litters the ground around them with bullets. The dirt kicks up and the bullets land with a quiet 'pft', over and over rapidly so it combines to make a low hiss.
The two make a run for it and Reborn eases off the trigger, wanting them to know he's playing, wanting them to know he's asking for a challenge.
The puppy flips the finger in Reborn's general direction and the hitman laughs, already on his feet and moving since the trajectory can be traced back to his rooftop. Leon obligingly shifts back into a chameleon now, but takes the time to give Reborn a flat look, berating him.
"What?" Reborn asks innocently, placing Leon on his hat and pulling out one of his new guns, a really shiny toy that makes him happy just to hold. "Really, I'm giving them the best chance. I could have taken them out easily."
Reborn dodges the other COMSUBIN members while tracking the two through the compound. He waits until they stop, thinking they're safe, and then he pops off a bullet right beside their heads, close enough to let them hear the air scream as the projectile cuts through.
They fight back, of course, and they're both very good at determining where he's shooting from. Lal's shotgun has incredible accuracy, almost clipping Reborn a few times, while Colonnello's anti-tank rifle is ridiculously overpowered and doing a lot of structural damage.
The entire compound is in a state of panic because they know someone's here, someone's targeting their leader, but the attacker can't be found.
Reborn hunts them all the way to the compound's storage warehouse, filled with tanks and shipping crates so there's plenty of cover to hide from him. However, it also gives Reborn cover. He slinks along the narrow walkways and moves silently over the metal crates until he's just around the corner from them.
Colonnello sighs and turns to face Lal, about to ask why someone is shooting at her. Technically, they could be after Colonnello, but Lal is leader of COMSUBIN and rather antagonistic.
Reborn steps forward and glides up to Colonnello in a blur, before sending a quick jab to the ulnar nerve on each arm. The shock bursts through the blonde's arms and he drops the large gun he's carrying.
Lal reacts fast, but Reborn has the surprise advantage and he's already kicking out Colonnello's knee to get him off balance before pulling the man into a choke-hold, held up like a shield against Lal's bullets.
Lal doesn't hesitate, not a moment, but she has to aim with pinpoint precision to hit Reborn and not Colonnello. That adjustment costs her barely a millisecond, but Reborn is already squeezing the trigger-
"Wait!" Colonnello screams, flailing his arms and twisting to get in the way of Reborn's aim and Lal's. "Holy shit, you have a Malvagio."
Lal chokes on air, incredulous. "Bullshit, they only made three sets. There's no way!"
Reborn scoffs in annoyance at the thought that he would have fakes and shoves Colonnello away from him, flipping the weapon so they could both see the sleek gun with the Malvagio name printed on its side. "I got a full set, and I assure you, they're genuine."
"One of those things goes for over half a million," Colonnello whispers in awe, reaching out.
Reborn twists away teasingly. "No, no, kids don't get to touch."
Lal licks her dry lips and tries for a smile that isn't half manic. "Hey, uh, you wouldn't happen to have the shotgun model with you…?"
Lal sighs in bliss as the shotgun barely kicks in her hands but absolutely wrecks the firing range's target. The Ombra modifications and the Feroce grip just make it unholy and Lal is overwhelmed with joy.
Colonnello hums in happiness, sitting at a table off to the side and watching Lal with hearts in his eyes even as he gently takes apart and puts together every gun in the set. "A beautiful woman and a beautiful gun. Is there really anything else you would need in life?"
Reborn, currently perched on the edge of Colonnello's table and fiddling with the blonde's anti-tank rifle, shrugs his shoulders. "Espresso. Perhaps a Ferrari."
The two men glance at each other and snicker like children. Lal rolls her eyes.
Chapter 4: Skull
Reborn sends a charming smile to the waitress when she places the espresso on the table in front of him. She flushes and quickly stumbles away.
He takes a sip and glances across the almost empty café to find his newest target. Reborn is being a bit lazy for this one, but it's not exactly high-tier despite what the payment says. Apparently, some boss gambled on a car race -or maybe a motorbike one, whatever- and when the guy's bet didn't pan out, he hired Reborn to kill the actual winner.
Said winner is clad in black and purple leather with multiple piercings and heavy clown make-up. The man calls himself Skull De Mort and proclaims that he's immortal.
Reborn is going to take great pleasure in proving him wrong.
Either way, the hitman is just going to wait until the stuntman leaves the café and then follow him to an isolated area. No need to waste time on presentation or creativity, just take out the guy and move on to something more interesting.
Reborn sort of splurged on his guns and now he's running a bit low on cash. He doesn't regret it, because despite it being an impulsive buy, he loves the firearms.
So, Reborn is sitting in the café, sipping his espresso and having fun flustering the waitress, when there's a drive by shooting.
It's not even for him, which is what really annoys Reborn. It's for some twitchy guy outside who looks homeless but certainly has enough money to piss off a bunch of drug dealers judging by the needle tracks on his arms.
Reborn manages to grab the waitress and pull her under the table, his gun already out and his eyes looking for anyone else caught in the crossfire. The cook in the sealed off kitchen is screaming in fear but not pain. The only other customers are a mother and small child, plus the target.
Reborn finds them huddled near a wall, the man curled over the family as much as he can. Reborn clicks his tongue in annoyance when a few stray shots find the stuntman, because he is Reborn's kill. Though it truly is a pity. There's not enough people willing to protect in this world.
So Reborn abruptly decides to keep the stuntman alive.
The gunfire dies down for barely a second and Reborn is up and moving with Leon in his hand, calmly striding across the cafe now riddled with bullets, his own gun cracking loudly with every pull of the trigger.
When he reaches the injured man, all the low class thugs outside are now very much dead. The hitman drops to a knee and shifts the shuddering man off the sobbing mother and frozen child.
They immediately take off, followed by the waitress and the still screaming cook. It's better for Reborn to work without distractions, and the attackers are a non-issue, so he lets them run.
Reborn carefully adjusts the target on the floor so he lies on his back, and then leans forward to place a hand over the man's chest. He sends Sun flames in to assess the damage and it does not look good at all, though a flicker of rather strong Cloud flames tries to knit everything back together.
Reborn sits back, irritated now, because he has made a decision to save the target and so he has to go through with it.
"Is fin'," Skull slurs, eyes unfocused. "'m immortal."
"Sure," Reborn says, humouring the dying man.
The man is a civilian, of course he wouldn't understand that Cloud flames are the only thing keeping him alive right now - shot straight through the heart and fading fast. The hitman places the barrel of his gun against the man's forehead and violently introduces a hyper concentrated burst of Sun that targets the other man's Cloud flames.
Skull sucks in a gasp and jerks, violet flames exploding from his forehead and engulfing his entire body. "What the fuck, I'm on fire!" he shrieks and start flopping around like a fish in air.
Reborn stands and takes a few steps back. He didn't expect this kind of power, especially in an untrained civilian. The man has probably been subconsciously using his flames for years already and Reborn unlocked that final barrier that kept it from manifesting consciously.
The fire lessens and flickers out. Then Skull is bouncing up, eyes wide from the sudden energy spike that's still coursing through him. "What was that?!" he cries with lots of arm flailing. "You shot me, after I took like seven of the bloody things! And was that a magic fire? It didn't burn and - and - what is happening?!"
Reborn leaves now that the stuntman won't be dying, only taking a moment to throw a wave over his shoulder. He needs to get away quickly because not only did he kill several people in broad daylight in front of witnesses, but he also revealed flames to a civilian and he's already on the Vindice's shit list after what he did last time.
The hitman doesn't expect the civilian to follow but Skull chases him for three blocks demanding answers, because apparently the idiot has no concept of danger, and Reborn has to climb onto a damn roof to escape.
Reborn regrets not killing him.
Chapter 5: Viper
Reborn is sitting on a park bench, a lovely a breeze wafting by as he sips an espresso, his free arm slung over the back of the seat. He tilts his head up when someone comes to a stop in front of him, their shadow falling over the hitman and blocking out the nice sun.
"Why were you following me again?" Viper snaps, their hands balled up into fists and Mist flames visibly leaking.
Reborn huffs out an approximation of a laugh. "Why do you think? Stop blackmailing people for money and we won't have to do this."
Viper scowls. "You're low on cash, aren't you?"
Reborn smiles, nodding in excitement. "I bought the entire range of Malvagio guns and they handle so nicely, just pure perfection." He sighs, genuinely and hopelessly in love. "And oh, with an Ombra model silencer they whisper sweet nothings to me."
Viper makes a sound close to a pained groan. "You have that lizard, don't you? Why bother buying an actual gun?"
Reborn shakes his head sadly, clearly mocking the other. "You wouldn't understand."
"I hope I never do," Viper retorts sharply. "Now how much did they pay you to kill me?"
"No, no," Reborn says. He raises the hand holding his espresso and points a finger for emphasis. "Torture, get back the money you stole, and then kill. I've been told I should keep you for four days, minimum."
Viper grits their teeth in anger. "How much?"
"Four million, seven hundred thousand," Reborn gives up sweetly with a purr to his voice.
The Mist slams their hands onto the hitman's shoulders, startling a few birds nearby from the sudden motion but not caring. "Are you fucking with me?! What, were you sucking their dick when you negotiated the amount? That's ridiculous!"
Reborn shrugs off the grip on his shoulders. "I don't see why you're so shocked, you took nearly three times that amount from them." He blinks in an approximation of innocence. "Plus, if they wanted a blowjob, then that costs extra."
"No," Viper states, still angry at the sheer injustice. "You are going to go back and demand a reasonable price. I had to jump through hoops covered in flaming shit to steal that money. I am not giving you that much of my hard earned cash because you gave bedroom eyes to some poor man."
Reborn raises an eyebrow. "You're supposed to be bribing me to walk away. Maybe don't insult the hitman, Viper, because I can simply kill you and take your money."
Viper sighs and crosses their arms. "Fine. I'll give you an even six mil."
"Only seven digits?" Reborn asks in over-dramatised shock. He sweeps his arm down from the back of the bench and places a hand over his heart as if he felt a twinge of pain. "Viper, I'm supposed to be torturing you. We can do better than seven digits."
Viper says nothing for a long moment. "One day, Reborn, you're going to meet your match."
The hitman's smirk widens to a wicked grin. "Today is not that day."
Reborn ducks a high kick and twists away from an elbow to his ribs, firing off a round of bullets to make the other hired killer stay away. Reborn just needs to keep out of arm's length, just a little while, just enough to finally land a bullet in the man.
It's probably deliberate that they both got the same contract for a drug cartel leader and several key members. There's a practice in the mafia that's grown in recent years, which basically amounts to hiring more than one assassin for the same job and then watching them fight it out during the mission.
Reborn had worked his way through the building and was holding the boss at gun point when he looked up to find a Chinese man standing in the doorway. He raised his gun and then Fon was a red blur, attacking with an animalistic glee.
The martial artist is young, not yet the calm man that he grows into, but his fighting skills are polished to a hard shine and sharp edge.
An empty clip is thrown to the floor but before Reborn can reload, the other man slides in close before knocking the gun from Reborn's hand with a jarring punch to the hitman's forearm. Things would be so much easier if he had Leon, but the chameleon is sick back at the hotel room.
They both see the drug boss scramble to his feet and run, but they hold each other's attention.
Reborn redirects three punches and slips away from a kick, throwing his own knee into the man's side. Fon takes the hit with a grunt of pain and catches the leg, keeping it hiked up against his hip so the slippery Italian can't doge the next palm strike to the sternum.
The breath escapes Reborn, forcefully shoved out, and he teeters back, off balance since his leg is still being held. He grabs the other man's shoulders and boosts up, about to slam his other knee into Fon's stomach.
Fon catches the knee and forces the hitman off him and into a backflip. Reborn whips around from the throw, tumbling through the air and only just managing to get his feet under him before he lands. Then Reborn is lunging for his dropped gun, not willing to be in close quarters with the martial artist, especially not without his favoured weapon.
Unfortunately, the gun is closer to Fon than Reborn and the hitman is actually throwing himself into the martial artist's reach.
His fingers brush cool metal but hands are gripping his clothes and the world spins as Reborn is lifted and tossed against the office desk, his abdomen hitting the edge and his hands slapping loudly against the wood to keep his head from being damaged. His hat drops off and rolls to an edge.
Fon darts in before the hitman can recover and grabs a handful of the suit jacket, shoving Reborn further up the desk until the edge digs into the man's hips. Reborn grits his teeth in annoyance as the other man pins him, and throws an elbow back, aiming for ribs.
Fon catches the arm and twists until something gives and it clicks. He then uses a hand to push even harder on the hitman's shoulders, and leans forward to press with his whole body and better hold down the Italian.
Reborn knows what's coming because the Triads tend to have a certain modus operandi regarding making examples of rivals so he brings up his free hand and bites down on the cuff of his sleeve, tensing.
Fon lets go of the broken arm and slams his fist down onto the spine below him, his knuckles pressing right into bone, and Reborn jerks with a muffled curse as pain flares to life all along his body for a brief moment.
When it disappears, he can't feel his legs - or anything from the waist down for that matter. He knows it's a temporary shutdown of his nerves, but it still sends panic shooting through him before he can curb that unnecessary reaction.
Fon pulls away and adjusts his grip on Reborn's jacket, tossing the man off the desk and into the middle of the office. Reborn's back hits the floor after the sudden flurry of attacks and he doesn't even bother trying to sit up. His legs are gone and he only has one working arm.
Reborn is just not having a good day.
Fon rolls his shoulders and steps forward, dropping over Reborn so one knee is planted in between the hitman's unresponsive legs. The Italian strikes out but Fon catches the hand, their fingers laced together, and shoves it back onto the ground.
They spend a moment staring at each other; Reborn in silence while Fon looks almost entranced. The martial artist slowly reaches out with his free hand and tucks his thumb under Reborn's chin, the rest of his fingers curling around to cover the hitman's mouth. Reborn tenses, but the other man just pushes the Italian's head back instead of snapping it violently.
Fon stares down at the throat of a predator and decides that it would be a pity if no one knew who finally took down the world's greatest hitman.
Fon doesn't advocate Fire Tagging. Some of the nastier assassins use it as a way to claim someone or to prove who's stronger. It's simply adding a certain signature to the victim's flames that maybe lasts for a month.
It doesn't hurt and it doesn't affect the tagged person in anyway, but it's become quite the insult. So, no, Fon doesn't advocate such a practice… but surely the Italian would understand the want Fon has to tell people – to show people just how powerful he is.
Reborn's eyes widen when he sees Fon duck down and then the hitman feels lips at his neck, teeth scraping his Adam's apple. Fon presses his tongue against the cartilage that bobs in a swallow under his lips, then he's lighting Storm flames against the Italian's skin, burning his name in.
Reborn had been trying to be a gentleman in the spirit of them both being rather well known killers, but Fire Tagging is way out of line. Yes, it's not uncommon, but it's still incredibly rude.
Reborn hates rude people.
Fon rears back, gagging, and lurches to his feet so he's away from Reborn when he finally vomits up blood. The red is mixed with light flickers of Sun flames and more yellow is rushing through Fon, flicking various parts and biological coding on and off rapidly enough to send someone into sever shock that can deteriorate quickly into death.
The hitman sighs, relieved, because he honestly thought he was going to die then. Reborn wasn't going to use flames unless the other man did (his pride emerges at the worst times) therefore he's so glad the Chinese assassin is a posturing dumbass.
Yellow Sun flames burst from the base of his spine to curve up and around his hips before spiralling down his temporarily paralysed legs. He reaches over with his good hand and snaps his broken arm into place.
By the time Fon is a shuddering, blank eyed mess on the ground, Reborn is standing again and perfectly uninjured. The hitman calmly walks over to the desk, pausing to flick up the forgotten gun with his foot and catch it. He lifts his hat as well and sets it firmly back on his head as he wanders over to the window.
It takes a second to find the fleeing cartel leader and another few to line up the shot. The leader goes down almost too easily and it sends a pang of disappointment through Reborn, especially after that struggle with the other hired killer. Reborn tucks the gun into his jacket and cuts off his flames.
Fon sucks in a startled gasp as his body comes back under his control and he looks up to find Reborn staring back. The hitman very deliberately slides a hand across his neck, a flicker of yellow vanishing the beginnings of a burn mark and leaving smooth skin.
"Maybe next time," Reborn murmurs with a smirk before sauntering away.
I imagine young Fon as a more competitive Kyouya; all the terrifying intensity, none of the aloofness, and so much more violent. (And lol he tried to bite Reborn 'to death'.)
Also, so you know, this is going to be entirely plotless. Just pure Arcobaleno fluff.
Chapter 7: Meeting
Reborn steps through the doorway and pauses when he sees the people gathered around a circular table.
Skull points an accusing finger at the hitman. “You!”
Lal cautiously pulls her shotgun into her lap. Fon tucks his sleeves back, enough to free his hands. Viper sighs heavily, close to a groan. Verde straightens up, focus off his notebook for the first time since arriving.
“Chaos," Reborn offers up, still wondering if this is just a really bad ambush, or if it's the universe saying he should take the chance to finish those abandoned hits from before.
Luce pokes her head through another door then and smiles. “Oh, Reborn, there you are. Come sit down, meet the others. I’ll be out in just a bit with the snacks.” She steps out fully with a tray balanced in her hands.
Reborn takes a seat between Verde and Fon. There’s a long, awkward pause as Luce walks around, offering them drinks or snacks. Most reject her offer, since it’s too easy to poison such things. Reborn does accept a coffee, because Luce looks sad that she can’t mother these people.
“So,” Reborn begins in the silence after Luce leaves again. “Lal, how’s your puppy?”
Lal just glares at him.
“Who cares about her dog?” Skull dismisses. “It’s called Dying Will flames, right? Right?!”
Viper frowns at Reborn. “You told a civilian.”
Reborn waves a hand at them. “It’s complicated, I was – never mind. Fon, how have you been?”
The martial artist smiles but he can’t quite get the serene expression perfect – still too intense. “I have been well. In fact, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the… incident. I was under the impression you were there specifically to cause trouble for me and so I acted a bit…” Fon looks away.
Verde raises an eyebrow. “Let me guess, you met on a hit?”
“Yes,” Reborn admits easily. “Except he was the one trying to kill me that time, which was a fun little change.”
“Who won?” Lal demands.
“Who do you think?” Reborn fires back.
“Perhaps you should explain the story from the start,” Fon cuts in, annoyed. “I distinctly remember a moment there when-“
“Verde, what are working on?” Reborn asks loudly.
“I want to know the story,” the scientist replies, tucking away his notebook.
Viper smirks. “Don’t leave anything out.”
Chapter 8: Mission
Reborn knows an invisible Viper is following him closely, probably because wherever the hitman is, the safer. Reborn has the hard drive in his jacket pocket, so at this point they can just leave, mission over.
They round a corner in the underground labyrinth that Checker Face gave the address for and Reborn comes to a stop, raising an eyebrow.
The corridor he's in leads to a huge room, mostly filled with bodies. In the middle is a very bloody Cloud with a distressed Rain hovering and trying to take the pain away. A Lightning holds up a translucent green shield of flames while a Storm whirls around outside and takes down the enemies streaming in from multiple tunnels that stack along the walls like a beehive.
The bodies littering the cavern have blunt force trauma injuries or look like they're sleeping, clearly Fon's doing, plus horrific bullet wounds seem to be in fashion from Lal's shotgun. Quite a few have chemical burns or blackened skin or even dissolved flesh, curtesy of Verde and his rather terrifying vials.
Spikes and barriers have been risen from the concrete ground to create cover and to injure more attackers. They could have been inbuilt, but Reborn can see splotches of blood, most likely Skull's deliberate work since flames need a vessel when outside the body and blood is a very good conductor.
Lal glances up and catches sight of the hitman. "Reborn, what are you doing? Get over here!"
The hitman almost turns around and leaves, just because of that order. He does not respond well to authority and Lal is a COMSUBIN leader who's used to soldiers following her every word.
Reborn does end up walking over to them, because he's kind of curious about these people. Sure, he's met them before, but only for a few moments when he's been trying to kill them and he didn't keep contact after that. The one he's known for the longest amount of time is Viper, simply due to Reborn getting so many hits on the Mist.
Verde drops the Lightning barrier when Reborn gets close, but the scientist is used to working with machines and chemicals, not flames, so he has to take down the entire structure instead of a small portion.
Lal is shot in the back and drops to the floor beside Skull.
A laugh is startled out of Reborn and he saunters up to stand over the Rain as Verde scrambles to pull up the barrier again.
"Well," Reborn murmurs, peering down at the woman choking on her own blood. "You all just very clearly proved why I don't work with others."
Fon darts through the Lightning barrier, red fire licking at his skin to dissolve the shield for a moment. "Why aren't you healing them?"
Reborn blinks at the accusation. "I'm not a doctor. I thought that was Verde's job."
Verde looks over in shock. "I'm not a medical doctor either. You have Sun flames."
"I also kill people for a living," Reborn drawls.
A dark look comes over Fon's face as Reborn starts to leave and the Storm lunges forward and grabs onto the hitman's collar, yanking the man closer and ignoring the gun that presses into his ribs.
"I am not failing the first mission," Fon hisses. "Not because they die and certainly not because you're being a whiny little bitch."
Reborn smirks and leans forward until they're sharing breath. "Then you heal them - oh wait, I forgot; Storm flames are useless for everything except looking pretty."
Fon snarls and bares his teeth like a wild animal.
"Go ahead," Reborn whispers like they're sharing a childish secret. "I want to see if you can actually challenge me. We both know I was holding back last time."
"Luce is here," Verde interrupts.
Reborn and Fon jerk back from each other, whipping their heads around to find the pregnant woman peering into the room from the same tunnel Reborn came through. Said room, which is once more being filled with enemies, except smarter ones, who toss down tear gas and flash bangs and grenades before sniping from a distance.
Reborn scowls and moves before Luce gets the stupid idea to actually walk into the room. "Verde, get her back to the car."
The Lightning frowns at the order but moves off.
Reborn turns to the martial artist next. "Fon, make yourself useful and go kill things." He ignores the glare sent his way because Fon does move off, and instead the hitman takes his wallet out.
Viper appears out of thin air when Reborn holds up three hundred, but the hitman pulls the money away when the Mist reaches for it.
"Hide us," Reborn demands and only after he feels a heavy coating of Mist flames across the entire room does he hand over the money.
It would be so much easier if Mist flames could become real. Just place on an illusion of the body working fine, and it's done. Too bad that technology is at least a decade off if Verde's rambling is to go on.
Reborn turns to the two on the floor, dropping to kneel between them. Lal's wound is easy, just a fishhook bullet that scrapes through the victim and tears everything up with its small spikes that can get stuck and snap off from the main bullet, staying in the wound.
Reborn is obviously being sarcastic here.
It hit her right shoulder blade and shattered the bone, continuing on to wreak havoc with her muscles and getting stopped about halfway through a lung. Reborn sighs in annoyance but takes off his suit jacket and rolls up his sleeves.
He takes out a lock pick set from his jacket and bends the metal into the shapes he needs before digging into her. The lock picks are clean, but it's hardly sanitary enough for field surgery. Reborn keeps going anyway, pouring Sun flames into the wound to learn which parts are damaged.
Reborn has no idea what he's doing because he honestly doesn't know how to heal with Sun flames. Usually, a flame user can simply push the Dying Will flame into a body and the patient's own cells respond and heal automatically.
Reborn doesn't have that luxury. For him, that uncontrolled, ignorant use is more like closing his eyes and stepping off a cliff, so he actually has to know what he's doing, down to which layer of muscle he should force healing on next.
Now, killing with Sun flames is a lot easier.
He pulls back when he gets the last hook out of Lal's shoulder and then proceeds to cheat by activating Skull's Cloud flames and then transporting them over to Lal. The violet fire sinks into the COMSUBIN leader and she goes limp when the pain finally leaves and the injury is fixed.
Reborn keeps the Cloud flames going, just to propagate some macrophages in her lungs to clear the blood still there. She doesn't wake up, because that would be too easy for Reborn, but the hitman just leaves her face down on the floor and leans over Skull.
Reborn left the stuntman for last because his wound is much lower down, on his abdomen, and Lal had been suffocating. Skull's wound is actually worse, a large hole cut into the left side of his abdomen and there's a lot of blood pooling in the wound, to the point of it over filling and the blood pouring onto the floor like a waterfall.
Definitely nicked the abdominal aorta or, most probably, sliced clean through the entire thing. The only reason Skull hasn't bled out is because of his Cloud flames, which are automatically trying to fix things. Reborn frowns because he can't do anything if he can't see what's damaged.
Reborn rolls the man over, away from the hitman, and waits until most of the blood drains out to lie Skull down again. Not the most dignified of techniques but it works. Reborn sighs when he sees the damage.
Below the stomach and all of the major digestive organs -thank you, whatever sadistic God that's watching- but a lot of intestines got mashed up and the major artery and vein have been compromised.
Skull's flames have been propagating the intestines as well as the blood, so the digestive organ is now several times longer than what it should be and some parts are thicker than others or only have one particular layer of the intestinal wall.
Skull seems to favour the mucosa, the inside layer, so most of his intestines now look like they're made of tiny pink hairs of villi and it's just really furry and creepy looking.
But honestly, Reborn has been through worse.
The hitman doesn't bother with his lock picks because this job is far bigger, and simply reaches inside the gaping injury. He takes out the cut of pieces of intestines, almost dropping several parts because it's so slippery, and puts them to the side with a splat.
He also rips off the ruined sections that the Cloud flames messed up, which is very hard to do because he does not have a good grip of the slimy organs and his nails aren't very long so they don't cut properly.
Then he activates the Cloud flames with his Sun again and coaxes the fire along the intestine. Most of the jejunum is fine, the top part of the small intestine, but Reborn has to make most of the ileum, the lower portion.
He also has to fix the descending colon and the sigmoid flexure, but then he's finally done. With the organs. He also has the peritoneum, which is basically a large covering over most of the abdominal organs. After than he can finally work on muscles and then skin.
Reborn amasses a macrophage army to kill the spilled blood still in the injured area and then sits back with an exhausted sigh after the last injury seals over.
"Holy shit," Lal murmurs in awe.
Reborn glances up, only to find Fon has taken care of the enemies -either chased off or dead, Reborn doesn't care- and Lal is awake, plus Viper decided not to disappear again. They're all standing around and staring at him like idiots.
"Okay," Reborn begins, standing and shaking his hands a bit to try and get most of the blood off his hands. "There is a definite need for a medic."
"You're the medic," all three deadpan.
Reborn pretends he hasn't heard them and moves back to his discarded jacket, gingerly shuffling it around to get to the handkerchief in one pocket. It's not going to do much because he has blood up to his elbows, but Reborn is feeling optimistic after saving two lives by pretty much closing his eyes and poking things.
However, not optimistic enough to lie to himself. He can't handle caring for these people and then watching them die. It's too late to be apathetic towards Luce, she's just too sweet, but Reborn needs to stop now because these people are fun to be around and they're interesting and it's not good for the hitman.
Chapter 9: Checker Face
The apartment is quiet and cosy, Reborn sitting at a table in the kitchen with several folders spread out in front of him. His hat is off to the side with Leon snoozing on top and his suit jacket is hung neatly over the back of his chair. A row of guns and an all-purpose set of holsters sit on the kitchen bench, cleaned and undamaged in any way.
Reborn scans the papers lazily, wondering which job he'll take. Most folders have notes inside with his own handwriting because research is often necessary when the client doesn't give enough information. Either because they don't know themselves or they don't want Reborn to know.
He crosses his legs at the knee and brushes off some invisible lint from his pants with one hand. With the other he flips a page lazily to find the picture of his target. The woman is staring off to the side, clearly unknowing of the photo being taken.
Reborn blinks, slowly. "Chaos, Checker Face."
A presence fades into existence behind Reborn and Checker Face circles the hitman, taking a seat opposite at the table.
"Did you not get my message?" Reborn murmurs, still focused on the information in front of him.
"I did," Checker Face says. "I believe your words were; 'you can go and fuck yourself'."
"And yet here we are," Reborn says, flipping a page. "How odd."
The other stays quiet for a long moment. "Is this what you want to do?" He gestures at the folders. "Doesn't this get boring after a while, Reborn?"
"Yes, it does," the hitman drawls mockingly. "I'm clearly trying to indicate that you're unwanted and still you keep talking."
Checker Face leans forward, eyes narrowed in annoyance. "You know as well as I do that half of these hits are traps and the other half make you sick to your stomach, don't they?"
"Do you hear something, Leon?" Reborn asks lightly, uncaring that the lizard is still asleep. "Because I certainly don't."
Checker Face frowns. "You're so much better than what you're doing now. I'm trying to help people – the missions that I give to you help people."
Reborn reads the false statement in Checker Face's eyes, but he's not sure if it refers to Reborn being better than this, or to the other man's intent to help people.
"The information I asked you to get is about a smuggling ring," Checker Face explains. "They transport sex slaves-"
"I don't care," Reborn lies. "I said no. I'm not joining your little group, so you'll have to find someone else to run around and do your leg work."
Checker Face shakes his head and stands. The chair scraping along the ground wakes Leon and the lizard pouts, dissapearing into Reborn's shirt pocket.
Checker Face moves around the table and gently takes the hitman's hand, pressing a USB into the palm before curling Reborn's fingers over it and into a fist. "At least know what you're giving up."
"And then will you leave me alone?" Reborn demands.
"If you still say no, then I won't bother you again," Checker Face swears, his hold tightening on Reborn's hand. "But you need to read the information on this. Promise me that, please."
Reborn nods despite the lies and pulls his arm away from the other man.
Checker Face steps back as well but doesn't leave yet. "If you decide to show up, the next job entails hunting down anyone connected to the ring and sending a… message to the other smugglers." He smiles darkly. "You'll enjoy it, Reborn."
And then Checker Face is gone.
Reborn waits for a long moment, making sure he can't sense the other man. Then he looks at the USB in his hand before tossing over his shoulder into the bin. A second after it lands, the hitman flinches minutely at a sharp pain in his chest and he glances down at two big eyes that blink up at him from his shirt pocket.
"Did you just bite me?" Reborn blurts out.
"I'm not going back," Reborn snaps at the chameleon. "He's probably feeding me false information anyway. He was lying through his teeth half the time."
Leon glares harder.
Reborn glares as well. "There's no need to research it myself. I'm not a team player, Leon, and I'm certainly not the hero. The hookers can deal with it themselves."
Leon doesn't do anything for a long moment and then climbs out of the pocket and down Reborn's torso.
"Wait, wait," the hitman says quickly, backtracking as he scoops up the animal and holds it up to his face. "That was out of line, I'm sorry. But I don't need to go because the others are there. I trust Lal, at least, to do everything she can."
Leon only stares.
"And Luce," Reborn insists. "She's won't stop until everyone is safe. Skull will try and Viper is going to do everything to get the money." Reborn pauses. "Verde… maybe. I don't know about Fon."
The lizard waits patiently.
"But Luce is pregnant," Reborn murmurs, his eyebrows drawing together in worry. "And Viper cuts corners, and Skull can't fight or aim… and Lal is only one person…"
Leon curls up around Reborn's hands, pressing light kisses against his cold skin.
Reborn sighs, melting the rest of the way. "You're the reason people think I'm soft."
Leon rolls his eyes.
Chapter 10: Kidnapping
Reborn is in the middle of a hit when he hears something clatter behind him. He twists around quickly because he's pretty sure he killed everyone in the secret guild except the last assassin he's now hunting down and so the unexpected noise is definitely something to be concerned about.
He blinks at an innocent looking grenade that rolls to a stop at his foot, the pin pulled out. Reborn sighs in annoyance and picks it up, tossing it out of the window where it explodes into pink glitter.
The hitman raises an eyebrow because glitter is never a good sign. It's either a friendly who's messing with him or an incredibly unstable enemy who wants to play. Reborn would rather have the enemy because all of his friends are far more dangerous.
That's when a second explosion, much bigger and very much made of fire, comes ripping down the hallway towards Reborn. It fills the air and gushes like liquid and damn it because Reborn knows it's a trap.
He can't make it to the end of the corridor before it catches up so he has to follow the lead of whoever set this up and instead jumps out of the window. He angles himself to land on the sidewalk, quite a few people screaming when they see him falling three storeys with a fire ball chasing him.
Unfortunately, as Reborn gets closer to the ground, a strange vehicle pulls up right below him onto the pathway, the sun roof open. Reborn drops straight through into the vehicle and lands on his feet easily but then the van/limo thing lurches forward and Reborn topples backwards into a seat where Luce reaches over and buckles him in, Verde sitting across.
The others all stare, though two seem to be missing and Skull has to look through the rear-view mirror since he's currently escaping a police car who saw the illegal move. Fon twists around in the passenger seat at the front and smiles serenely.
This is why Reborn hates glitter.
"I really don't think this is necessary," Reborn begins.
The vehicle comes to a screeching stop and the sliding door is hauled open to admit Lal and Viper, clearly the ones who set the explosions to go off.
"No, honestly, I'm in the middle of something," Reborn tries, starting to unbuckle himself.
Lal shuts the door after the two get inside and Skull takes off again. Luce reaches over once more with a fond smile and clamps a hand over Reborn's leg threateningly.
"It's been nice seeing you all again," the hitman says politely, patting Luce's surprisingly strong hand. "And I've actually been meaning to tell you-"
Then they all simultaneously pull out gas masks and strap themselves into the clear-screen protective gear, most probably Verde's design. Lal plucks Leon off Reborn's hat and tucks the lizard into her mask.
Reborn purses his lips and makes a subtle gesture with his fingers for Leon to not attack. "Let's not be hasty here because I am in fact going to join the little tea party we've got going."
"We know, Checker Face explained," Verde says. "But you're taking too long and we got impatient."
A quiet hissing fills the vehicle and an odourless, colourless gas starts filling the air.
"If you know, then what is this for?" Reborn wonders, a bit confused at this point even as he signs again for a narrow-eyed Leon to not take out the threats. The lizard might want Reborn to make more friends, but he does not tolerate harm towards his human.
"Isn't it obvious?" Viper asks and then gestures to the gas permeating the air. "This is revenge for everything you've done to us."
Reborn turns to the Giglio Nero boss with a question on his tongue. His mind is already a bit muffled from the chemicals he's breathing in, so when the illusion dissolves to show Fon and the fake martial artist construct in the front seat disappears, Reborn still needs a moment to understand that Luce isn't present and they just used her image so he wouldn't struggle too much.
The hitman sighs and slumps down in his own seat, ready to pass out in a dignified manner. "If anyone takes my hat, I'm going to be very annoyed."
Skull might have said something but Reborn is already drifting.
The hitman wakes up slowly, feeling a soft hand run through his hair soothingly.
He opens his eyes and soon realises he's on a three-seater couch, his head pillowed on Luce's lap with his hat on his abdomen and Leon curled up in the hollow of his throat.
The interior decorations seem like the Giglio Nero mansion instead of the hidden house that they use as a sort of home base. The others are all crowded around a corner of the room, looking rather contrite (although the intensity varies) as they carry out the naughty corner punishment.
"Ah, you're awake," Luce hums with a sweet smile, her hand pausing in his hair. "Are you hungry at all? Can I get you anything?"
"Tiramisu," Reborn asks with an extra innocent blink of his eyes.
The rest groan, particularly Lal, because Luce makes the best deserts and the Tiramisu is something to kill over.
Reborn sits up, Leon sliding down his torso and into a pocket, before placing his hat on his head and throwing a flat look to the grown children in the corner. "When you get kidnapped, then you get desert."
Viper points a threatening finger at the hitman.
"That was like for an hour a few years ago," Reborn scoffs. "It doesn't count."
"This is why you got knocked out," Viper deadpans. "This is why, Reborn."
Verde jolts and curses as he fumbles the vial and it drops, shattering on the table and splashing Lal's arm. The COMSUBIN leader looks worried, which quickly turns to straight up horror when Verde -Verde- winces.
"We…" the scientist trails off. "We might need to get Reborn."
"Not the medic," comes a faint voice from outside the room.
"The fuck you aren't," Lal snaps. "Get your ass in here."
Fon looks sheepish as he walks up to Reborn and holds out his hand which looks a bit… dented.
Reborn sighs. "No, Fon. Especially no, because you did that to yourself."
"What is this?" Reborn asks in honest confusion, holding up a kidney in one of his gloved hands.
"Kidney," Skull states simply, his hands tucked behind his head as he watches the hitman go through his torso. A specialised mix of drugs are running through him, numbing everything but somehow leaving him perfectly capable of movement and consciousness.
Verde blinks and pushes away from the machines hooked up to the Cloud. He walks across the semi-wet chemistry lab that's been converted for surgery and leans over the current patient. "Yeah, that's a kidney."
"I'm very aware of what it is," Reborn says with an eye roll, dropping the organ into a metal tray off to the side. "I mean why does he have three of them?"
"Cloud flames," Skull chimes in again.
"That's why we're here, doing surgery on him, remember?" Verde adds on.
"No, I'm here because I was guilt-tripped," Reborn contests. "Skull is here because he's insane and trusts me more than an actual surgeon, and you're here because you want to see if you can use Skull as a constant supply of organs."
"Wait, what?" Skull asks in a high-pitched voice, arms coming up to try and shield his open torso.
"You're not using them," Verde coaxes. "Plus, you just grow them naturally, it would be a waste to throw them out."
"No," Skull says with a stern frown, even as he drags the tray of organs closer towards him and away from the mad scientist. "No, bad Verde."
"Shut up," Reborn grumbles, slicing further up Skull's chest. "I'm trying to-" He pauses and sighs heavily. "Your heart has six chambers."
"How many am I supposed to have?" Skull hedges.
Reborn ignores the stuntman's question. "Doesn't it make more sense to have you be the medic if you can do this?"
"I don't have any training," Skull reminds the hitman.
"Neither do I," Reborn admits. "This is legitimately from what I've learned killing people. A little from Shamal's mutterings, but yeah, generally just murdering things."
"I'm not your medic."
"But it stings," Viper says, as if that should make Reborn immediately put down his newspaper and rush to help the Mist.
"Man up, Viper," Lal mutters, only half listening. Then she pauses, eyebrows drawing together in consideration. "Or woman up…? I'm not sure what you are so 'suck it up', I guess, would be the best choice in this situation."
Viper gives no reply, but does hold up their finger in front of Reborn's face.
The hitman slaps it away and frowns. "It's a paper cut, just put a band-aid on it."
"You need to kiss it better," Viper insists.
Reborn drops the newspaper on the table and lurches to his feet, managing to get a step towards the quickly retreating Mist before the others rush to restrain him.
Reborn is holding hands with Luce as they rest on the couch, his Sun flames kind of flowing with her cells instead of pushing or pulling at anything. He mostly directs them to her stomach where the baby is.
The TV says something about something, Reborn doesn't really care, but Luce seems absorbed in the painfully boring antique show that she conned the hitman into staying for.
"I'm going to teach her how to shoot," Reborn says.
Luce blinks and takes a moment to tear her eyes away from the screen. "Sorry, what did you say?"
Reborn leans over to pat her small bump. "Can I name her?"
"No," Luce says.
"I'll call you Reborn Junior," Reborn tells the stomach.
"I'm not naming my baby that."
Reborn shrugs. "That's fine. I can forge birth certificates."
Luce just shakes her head slowly, unable to stop the smile from crawling across her face.
"The little one agrees," Reborn continues to argue. "Definitely a Reborn. Trust me, Luce, I'm a doctor."
"I thought you weren't a medic," the Giglio Nero boss giggles.
"I can't exactly say 'trust me, I get paid to be a serial killer', can I?" Reborn murmurs.
Which segment do you like best?
(I'm partial to Viper's XD)
Chapter 12: Intervention
Fon has a really bad habit of grabbing Reborn and physically moving the hitman around. He does it to the others as well, but rarely.
It started deliberately, as a show of pure strength, as a threat. Fon was very clearly stating 'this is how much more powerful I am than you, go ahead, try to get away from me'. Reborn thought it was kind of funny at first so he didn't try to resist and just went along with it, but now it seems to have become an ingrained habit in Fon.
Fon is actually a rather tactile person, touching and testing and cataloguing the strength of people and objects around him so he can adjust his own power level to not damage anything he doesn't want to. Sometimes he isn't paying enough attention and his control slips, which is what seems to be happening now.
The martial artist doesn't notice when he does it anymore, and in fact looks sheepish when someone calls him out on trying to drag them. Lal in particular is never amused and is not afraid to use her shotgun, either as a gun or as a baseball bat.
Reborn believed it was fine to leave alone, it's just a quirk like Viper's money counting or Luce's insistence on feeding them all. However, Reborn is getting bruises from the tight grip. Fon starts gentle, his baseline setting when not meaning to hurt at all, but as soon as Reborn doesn't move as fast as he 'should be' or he deliberately tries to deviate or even stay still, Fon clamps down hard.
It damn well hurts.
This isn't Skull tugging on Reborn's arm and bouncing up and down in excitement at something. This is a fully trained and very deadly martial artist who is (just a tiny little bit) physically stronger than the hitman. Fon can squish a solid block of pure iron in his hand, Reborn has seen it, so the martial artist can definitely squish Reborn.
"This needs to stop," Reborn says, planting his feet and hiding a wince at how tight Fon's grip becomes.
The others pause and glance over, having been moving outside to go and get some lunch.
Fon blinks and then glances down at the hold he has on Reborn's wrist. He lets go slowly, acting casual as he tucks his hands into his sleeves. "What needs to stop?"
"The you grabbing me thing," Reborn explains despite everyone in the room knowing. "I get bruises."
"Bruises?" Fon echoes sceptically. Not at the thought that he's been bruising Reborn, because he knows how hard he's been holding the hitman, but at the thought that Reborn can't handle such a small injury.
"Yes," the hitman deadpans. "They're annoying. Try to control yourself."
Fon narrows his eyes and brings out the serene smile that he's been practicing. "I assure you, Reborn, I have complete control."
The hitman gives Fon a flat look and then pushes up his sleeve slightly until the yellowing marks on his wrist are visible.
Fon's smile cracks a little at seeing the finger shaped marks. "You don't know that was me."
Reborn snatches the martial artist's wrist and holds his hand up against the marks, Fon's fingers covering the bruises perfectly.
The Chinese man hesitates. "I… I will work on it."
"Thanks," Reborn drawls sarcastically and drops Fon's wrist, fixing his clothes until they're perfect again. "And while we're on the topic of bad habits; Verde, you need to stop putting weird chemicals in our drinks."
Verde splutters and holds a hand up to his chest. "It's nothing fatal."
"That doesn't make it better," Lal chimes in.
The scientist scowls. "At least I don't drain money from everyone's bank accounts."
Viper flinches. "Only a little bit!"
"That doesn't make it better," Lal hisses again.
"Now, now," Luce begins. "There's no need to fight-"
"Please stop making cookies," Skull blurts out. "Everything is else is fine, but your cookies are disgusting."
Luce's eyes go wide and then narrow dangerously. "Only if you stop stealing our cars and taking joyrides."
"That was like twice," Skull cries. "It's better than Lal sending her COMSUBIN recruits to try and kill us!"
"It's for their training," Lal defends.
"That doesn't make it better," everyone says in sync.
Reborn smirks. It's a bad move, because they all turn to him with irritation.
"You're the one who needs the most help here," Fon murmurs.
"Don't get me started on you," Verde snaps.
"You're the worst," Viper hisses.
"You really can't talk," Luce frowns.
"There's a kilometre-long list of your bullshit," Skull huffs.
"Seriously, Reborn?" Lal deadpans.
"Hey, calm down," Reborn says soothingly, holding up his hands in surrender. "There's no need to exaggerate. I'll have you know, I am the perfect gentleman."
And then, ignoring all of their arguments and evidence, he slips outside.
Chapter 13: Back Up
Reborn follows the Mist at a slow saunter.
Viper sighs in irritation and sends back an illusion of the floor rocking up at Reborn's heels in effort to make the hitman move forward faster. It doesn't work. The Mist stops walking and waits until Reborn has caught up to them before grabbing the hitman's hand and dragging him across the lobby of the hotel they're currently in.
"Why am I even here?" Reborn complains half-heartedly. "You promised to show me something interesting."
"Just act like a hitman and I'll compensate you for your trouble later," Viper mutters in a low voice as they reach the large marble bench where the staff members sit behind, ready to greet guests.
"Act like a hitman," Reborn echoes in amusement. "How does someone act like a hitman? Should I drag a corpse around behind me – wait, am I here to kill someone for you?"
Viper says nothing and turns to the waiting desk clerk.
The staff member glances at the Mist, scans Reborn, and then narrows in on the hand-holding. "Enjoy your stay," the receptionist says before opening a drawer and unlocking a small safe to reveal a black keycard.
Viper snatches the card before once again dragging Reborn across the lobby, past the normal sliver elevators until they reach a set of black doors. Unfortunately, the hitman spies something to the left and starts dragging his feet.
"Is that..?" Reborn begins in curiosity, staring across the room at a man sitting on one of the expensive couches in a corner. "I think that is. I'll meet you later, Viper. I need to say hello to my… friend over there."
"What?" Viper begins in annoyance. "No, wait–"
The Mafiosi are looking warily between Viper and the hitman standing behind the Mist, just off to the side almost protectively.
This is difficult territory, because Viper is a con artist. It's not a bad thing -far from it- but when entering a deal of this calibre, they need to know if Reborn is here because of money or because Viper is truly his ally or if he is even present in the room. Never the less, it's worth the risk since the Mist is the quickest way to get an audience with the World's Greatest Hitman.
"Forgive me for my presumption," the leader of the small group begins. "But, Reborn, it would greatly assure me if you could name the assignment from my boss that you accepted last year."
The hitman is silent for a moment. "Do you not trust me?"
"I do not trust the Mist," the leader replies.
Viper deliberates and eventually speaks up. "Reborn is here, he just so happens to not be in this room."
The leader lets out a sigh as the construct of the hitman vanishes. "You said you would bring Reborn to look at the prototype gun."
"He is here," Viper repeats. "And while we wait, I'll check the money-" They reach for the silver briefcase sitting on the table but everyone in the room pulls a gun on the Mist user and Viper freezes.
The briefcase was first negotiated to be Viper's 'finder fee', but it's common knowledge that the middle man gets cut out in a deal. The group has no intention of ever giving money to the illusionist, and they're watching closely to see how the Mist will react.
The case is here now as a bribe for Reborn to advocate the prototype's worth. The only reason the Malvagio brand name is so high class is due to the hitman using it as a weapon. Sure, the guns are exquisite, but the ridiculous price and prestige came from Reborn. Therefore, if they manage to get the hitman to like the prototype gun, they'll make millions within days.
Viper is prepared to cast an illusion of Reborn stepping through the door to get out of the situation, but then the actual Reborn enters the penthouse meeting room.
The hitman's pitch black eyes sweep over the occupants and land on the guns being pointed at Viper. "Oh my, that is interesting," he murmurs in amusement. "Those are quite unfortunate pieces of… well."
"Reborn," the leader greets with a neutral tone. "It seems the Mist was speaking the truth about your relationship."
Reborn just tilts his head, still focused on the firearms. "I mean at least it looks kind of like a gun, but so many things seem to have gone wrong."
One of the men at the back of the room puffs up in outrage. "Excuse me, hitman, but I made these."
"Were you having an epileptic fit?" Reborn asks, honestly confused as to how such a travesty could occur.
The gun-maker splutters and then snarls in anger, changing aim from Viper to Reborn and firing off a warning shot.
Reborn doesn't even bother to move since the bullet curves away from the skewed angle of the barrel. The hitman turns and blinks in shock because the projectile has embedded itself into the wall instead of going straight through the insulation and wood. He turns back to the gun-maker and just kind of stares for a while.
"Wh-what?" the poor man stutters.
"To be entirely honest," Reborn begins. "I've sat on dicks with more firepower than that."
Viper absolutely was not expecting that comment and just breaks down in laughter as the gun-maker spits out a curse in outrage and actually starts shooting to kill. It prompts the rest of the group to start as well because they're all going to die anyway, so they might as well try to injure the hitman.
Reborn rolls his eyes and fires off a Chaos Shot, most of his Sun powered projectiles actually knocking the normal bullets of the enemies' aside. The rest tear away flesh and blood, only to scatter the pieces across the walls like some Rorschach's blot in bright red.
Reborn and Viper leave the building with a bloodied briefcase.
No one stops them.
Reborn wanders around the movie set currently propped up around a heritage listed building with gorgeous gothic architecture.
The two main actors are set up on the wide balcony with lush vines crawling along the railing, preparing for the heartbreaking scene where the male lead will get shot right after confessing his love to the female lead.
Reborn steps over a large mass of cables and immediately gets accosted by the male lead's doppelganger, who grabs his arm and drags him behind an unoccupied van.
"Could you please not kill anyone while I'm working?" the copy hisses quietly.
Reborn raises an eyebrow. "I can't quite tell who you are under the heavy makeup and wig."
The copy blinks and then sighs. "I'm Skull."
Reborn scans him from head to toe, rather thrown off by the jeans, normal T-shirt and absence of clown make-up, but it's the blond hair and brown eyes that make Reborn the most confused. "You look odd without all the… daddy issues on display."
Skull takes a moment to contemplate if it would be worth it to insult Reborn back, but wisely decides against it. "Yeah, well, I can't exactly be a stunt double if I don't look like the actor." Skull shrugs. "Anyway, back to murder; I get paid in like a week so just hold off until then-"
"Does all of the racing and stunt driving not pay enough?" Reborn wonders.
"What?" Skull asks in confusion but then realisation hits. "No, I just do all these jobs for the adrenalin," he admits. "So about the killing-"
Reborn rolls his eyes. "They're using one of my houses right now so I'm just visiting out of curiosity."
But now that Skull is here, Reborn wants to play a little.
"Can you not drive straight?" Lal barks from the passenger seat, one hand braced on the dashboard in front and the other clinging to the door of the stolen car.
"Would you like me to slow down and get us killed?" Skull replies back, a grin on his face, his hands spinning the wheel rapidly and swinging the car around the corner almost violently enough to roll it over.
Verde winces when his head knocks against the window but he can't brace himself considering he's trying to hold onto a bleeding and unconscious Fon in his lap, the martial artist spread across the backseat. "At least try to not swerve like a madman," the inventor snaps.
Skull frowns because clearly no one is appreciating these slick moves. "I'm in a shitty little twenty-year-old Nissan that isn't even roadworthy, and none of you are trying to get rid of the mass of cars firing at us. I have not let a single shot touch the car, so cut me some slack here."
Reborn chuckles in amusement, currently digging into Fon's thigh to find a poisoned bullet. "Did someone have a bad day?"
"Well!" Skull chirps, bright but fake. "Funny you should say that because right after you left the set, I had my scene – except someone tampered with the safety equipment and I fell three storeys onto concrete. So, you know, I'm not at a hundred percent right now."
The hitman hums, mocking. "Calm down, Skull, no need to give excuses for your bad driving."
Skull whips around, bracing one hand on Lal's headrest to be able to glare at Reborn.
"Watch the fucking road!" Lal roars.
The car drifts around another corner with tires burning as they scrape against the tarmac, then swerves violently enough to send a pursuing car into a building, before calmly straightening out.
Reborn raises an eyebrow at the glaring Cloud and flicks a bloodied bullet out of the rolled down window.
"Do you have a problem with my driving?" Skull asks in a low voice.
"No," Verde hisses. "Not all. Turn the fuck around."
Reborn smirks. "Of course I don't, Skull," he drawls, clearly lying and very much amused.
Lal blurts out a very bad curse word when Skull crosses into the wrong lane and speeds up, right into heavy traffic of an intersection. "Reborn, I swear to God, if he kills us-"
"He won't," the hitman dismisses her concern easily, sealing over Fon's leg. He makes sure to send a bit to the liver to help break down the toxins.
"So you admit my driving is excellent?" Skull demands, easily passing through the rush of cars and slipping back into the correct lane, still without looking.
"No," Reborn scoffs. "I mean that even if you crash, we're more than good enough to bail out of the car."
Skull says nothing as he turns around in his seat and grips the wheel tighter. Verde groans and tightens his hold on Fon, trying to brace himself. Lal just sighs.
Reborn's lips curl up into a wicked grin.
Skull slams on the brakes and Cloud saturated spikes of metal shoot out from the front of the car's chassis, planting in the ground and causing the back of the car to rock up from momentum, almost flipping over.
Two pursuing cars shoot past and slam through the brick wall not two meters in front of the Nissan. One swerves away and rolls before smashing through a store's window. The last stops, right underneath the still tipped Nissan, which then drops down on top of the enemy car and crushes the roof in.
"It took you that long to get rid of them?" Reborn says derisively.
Skull sucks in a sharp breath.
I think the only thing that would honestly make Skull angry is if someone insults his driving. This is why Reborn takes every chance to do exactly that.
Chapter 15: Puppy
"Puppy!" Reborn calls out, waving at the approaching man but not bothering to push off the wall he's leaning against. "I haven't seen you in so long."
Colonnello grins but quickly fakes a scowl as he comes to a stop in front of Reborn. "My name is not Puppy." The COMSUBIN soldier crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow. "I thought you got over that nickname while you were stroking the shaft of my rifle."
Reborn huffs in amusement at the crude insinuation, his hands back in his pockets. "Do you really want to start this with me?" he challenges.
Colonnello glances around the COMUBIN building's empty hallway and peeks at the closed door next to Reborn that leads to Lal's office (where she seems to be verbally tearing down a few recruits). Colonnello turns back to Reborn with a grin. "Do your worst."
Reborn does the perimeter check as well and then smirks. "Your gun was nice, but I've seen bigger."
"Yeah?" Colonnello scoffs. "I highly doubt that." He leans forward and stage whispers, "I'm the one with the anti-tank rifle. The one you can barely wrap your hands around."
Reborn shrugs dismissively. "I see so many these days they tend to blur together - well, everything apart from my gun," he admits, his voice dropping low. "I can't help playing with that one whenever I get the chance, and it just feels so nice when I grip it tight."
Colonnello chokes a bit on a startled snicker and has to clear his throat a few times, all of his will power focused on keeping a straight face.
"Do you need a time out?" Reborn asks innocently.
"No, no, I'm fine," Colonnello says quickly and straightens up again, his expression neutral. "I assure you, Reborn, my… gun would definitely satisfy you. Just try a round at the firing range."
"I don't think it would be appropriate to do that kind of thing in public," Reborn says coyly.
"No one would say anything," Colonnello coaxes. "It'll be fun."
"Two meters of fun," the soldier whispers like a secret.
Reborn takes a deep breath to stop the laughter that wants to come out, his imagination conjuring up something that's two meters long. "Effective firing range?" he asks after he gets himself under control, a lustful undercurrent to his voice.
"How rude," Colonnello says in mock hurt, taking a step closer to Reborn. "Why don't you ask for the maximum range instead?"
"Don't get ahead of yourself," the hitman warns. "I've seen your shooting; you can't max out." He glances up and down the soldier's body. "Bit of an early trigger finger."
"Ouch," Colonnello winces, a hand coming up to clutch at his chest as he staggers back dramatically.
"And you're hauling around quite a bit of weight," Reborn continues.
"What's wrong?" the soldier drawls. "Can't handle a big gun?"
The hitman shrugs carelessly. "It looks cumbersome to carry around everywhere; I just can't seem to wrap my mouth around that." Reborn blinks. "I mean, my mind around that." He smirks. "Sorry, slip of the tongue."
"I bet it was," Colonnello agrees sarcastically.
"What do you bet?" Reborn shoots back. "Because I assure you, I'm a gentleman; I don't lie."
Lal's office door is wrenched open and a crowd of shaking recruits rush out and sprint down the hallway. The leader herself exits then, brandishing her shotgun and a glare more potent than Death Heater poison.
She frowns in annoyance and then turns to Reborn. "Sorry about that, I can't leave these idiots alone for a minute." Lal then glares at the other soldier. "And speaking of idiots… what are you doing here, Colonnello?"
"Discussing guns," the soldier blurts out quickly. "Right, Reborn?"
Reborn takes on a smug expression and turns to Lal. "He's definitely over you now. I mean you should have heard him flirting – he's desperate for me."
Colonnello splutters. "Wait, Lal, he's lying to you!"
The COMSUBIN leader crosses her arms and scowls. "Is he really? You mean you didn't stop your practice to come and flirt with him?"
The soldier makes a distressed noise in the back of his throat. "Technically he's telling the truth – but you're the only one for me! I stopped practice to come and flirt with you!"
Lal only frowns harder. "I don't think you understand what you did wrong here. Perhaps some remedial training will help you keep your mind off useless things."
"No!" Colonnello wails and drops to his knees, hands together as he begs. "Please, Lal, he started it. I made one innuendo and then he challenged me and I couldn't stop myself from accepting!"
Lal jabs a finger down the hallway. "A thousand suicide runs, soldier, now."
Colonnello groans in misery but gets to his feet. He mumbles a soft 'I love you, Lal' as he slinks away like a kicked puppy.
Lal turns back to Reborn after the soldier disappears around a corner, and her stern countenance falls away to reveal amusement. "Is this rivalry going to be a thing with you two?" Lal asks, wandering back into her office.
"It was just once," Reborn dismisses, following her inside. "Fon or Verde; those are the only two I would accept as arch nemeses."
"Neither of them are stupid enough to fall for your little tricks," Lal reminds him, searching through the files on her desk until she finds the right one to give Reborn.
"Not stupid enough, any more," Reborn corrects as he takes the hit request from her. He flips it open and scans the information. "So what did this poor guy do to earn your hatred?"
"Tried to take my job from me," Lal says, not at all ashamed at asking Reborn to kill a fellow COMSUBIN soldier. "How much is this going to be?"
Reborn just blinks, still focused on the first half of her words. "You… are not a good person."
"I never said I was," Lal replies with a terrifying smile.
Reborn chuckles. "You know what? I'll do this free of charge. Consider it an early birthday present."
Verde slides into the car after Reborn and they spend a moment in silence. The scientist pulls off his glasses and cleans them on his shirt before sliding them back on again. The hitman stares out of the window, not really seeing.
They both glance over at each other at the same time, green eyes locking onto black, and then burst into uncontrollable laughter – to the point where they start crying and wheeze from not enough air.
"You-" Verde gets cut off from his own cackles and has to try again. "You made them cry."
Reborn tries to say that the pathetic Bovino scientists should not have called Verde stupid. He tries to explain that the green haired man is reinventing the Da Vinci Code while the cows are messing around with Pigpen cipher. Unfortunately, instead of anything vaguely like Italian, all Reborn can do is take huge gasping breaths that just end up leaving him as more laughter.
They slump in the car seats and end up leaning over the centre console to rest against each other's shoulder, heads pressed together, eyes watering.
"They ann- announced Blood Feud," Verde chokes out.
That sets Reborn off again, because just the thought of a low-class famiglia like the Bovino trying to kill the World's Greatest Hitman is so ridiculous. Reborn is almost certain they'll take it back and cower quietly in fear of his retaliation, but he's also calculated the sheer stupidity that is prevalent in the bovine famiglia.
He won't be surprised if he ends up eating steak for dinner tonight.
"Verde," Reborn whispers, barely audible.
The other man glances over, away from the rather odd image of Skull chatting with his fans only a few meters away. The usual Checker Face group is clustered around a few tables outside a café and had been talking before a mass of purple leather swarmed Skull and dragged him away for pictures.
The stuntman is now happily talking to a mass of people - also with piercing and tattoos and ripped clothes, plus an unholy amount of 'slang' that sounds like someone is trying to talk while simultaneously vomiting up their breakfast. It's like they created an entirely different dialect of Italian just to sound as stupid as they can.
Most of their clothes are brown, black or a bright and shiny purple, so they blend like a herd of zebra; only useful in a group, and as if they're trying to confuse predators by wearing the strangest colours. (Reborn is actually very confused, so technically it's working.)
"What?" Verde mutters back to Reborn.
The hitman takes a deep breath and then whispers, "Someone should have added more sodium bisulfite."
Verde immediately clamps a hand over his mouth, his eyes squeezing shut. He makes a strange hiccuping sound and shakes his head, but does manage to lower his hand. "Can we just put them back in the hot water bath?" he murmurs.
Reborn lets out a shaky exhale and continues at a low volume. "Actually, better question; who let those rats out of the lab in the first place?"
Skull looks up from signing autographs when he can clearly hear Reborn and Verde laughing hysterically. They're definitely laughing at him.
"Can you not?" Lal snaps, glaring at Reborn and Verde who are huddled together and giggling.
"Wha-what?" Verde coughs out, pasting on his usual apathetic face. "We're just talking over here."
"No, you're smack talking us," Colonnello chimes in. "When you two go off together and giggle, it's always a bunch of insults."
"Not always," Reborn denies, but there's a smirk on his face. "Just most of the time."
"Get a room already," Viper calls over. "We don't want to listen to your weird science dirty talk."
"Leave them be," Luce says in good humour to the rest. "I think it's cute."
Lal turns to stare at the Sky. "You do know they talk about viruses, right? And chemical warfare, and dissecting us?"
"Everyone needs a hobby," Luce giggles.
"Just keep using iodomethane and then silver oxide," Reborn suggests, leaning over the synthesis that Verde is angrily scribbling down. "The last steps is to go from an amine to an alkene, so just make it Hofmann. Simple."
"It can't be simple," Verde mutters in annoyance. "I want them to end up with the correct product, but I want them to suffer the whole way there. I want them to use thousands of euro in equipment, and I want them to fuck it up the first hundred times so they have to redo it until they want to kill themselves."
Colonnello peers over Reborn's shoulder. "Why not use some neon and radiate it?"
The two slowly turn to stare at the man.
"I'm sorry," Verde begins, incredulous. "Are you just… saying words right now?"
The blond kind of shrugs. Then the rest of them pile over, leaning on Verde and Reborn and taking seats at the table. They immediately start pointing at random parts of the sequence and literally just say whatever comes to mind first, their babbling filling the room.
Fon nods and proclaims, "Winding Fist of the River would fix this issue over here."
Lal chimes in with, "Just add in a little Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr."
"Ford GT40 is definitely the way to go," Skull chirps. "Stay classic, it'll be easy."
Viper appears over the table, and says solemnly, "Wingardium Leviosa."
They all nod seriously, like that's the answer to world hunger. Verde just sighs heavily and Reborn rubs a hand across his mouth to hide the smile there.
The time period they're in is actually before the Harry Potter books have been published. Take that however you want.
"How long are you going to be pregnant for, exactly?"
Luce glances up from her paperwork to find Reborn suddenly lounging across one of her office's couches, all sleek grace and dark, dark eyes. Luce blinks.
"The whole Checker Face Tea Party started a while ago," Reborn explains, casually standing and wandering over before taking a seat on the edge of her desk. "And yet, here you are, just as pregnant."
"It takes nine months," Luce begins hesitantly, unsure what the hitman's question is.
"I get that," Reborn reassures. "But you're constantly the same size. Surely something should change, right? Have you been seeing a doctor about it?"
Luce is not sure how to reply.
"Maybe you're like an elephant and it takes two years," Reborn muses, leaning forward and poking her stomach.
"What are you doing here?" Luce finally asks. "I mean, I love every moment in your company," she says genuinely. "But I'm not sure if you're here to visit, or if there's an emergency and you're simply stalling so someone can suffer." She reaches out and pats his leg. "No offence, but it's become a knee-jerk reaction to panic whenever I see you."
"Most people have that reaction," Reborn says smugly, like he's won a prize.
"Reborn, did you kick Skull down a well again?" Luce asks with a frown. "It wasn't funny the first time, nor the three other times you did it - and please stop calling Colonnello 'Lassie'."
Reborn says nothing for a moment. "So a couple of us stole a safe. That's all fine, we have it and it's split evenly…. Except I told Viper that all the smart people hide the priciest things in the walls of the vault."
"So what's the problem?" Luce wonders. "People do hide it in the walls, right?"
Reborn hums. "Yes, but I'm not sure how to tell Viper that the person we stole it from isn't smart."
Luce sighs, feeling guilty. "Oh no, they'll be so disappointed."
"The word 'disappointed' doesn't really cover the whole scope of emotions," Reborn lectures. "Think more like 'wrathful' and 'cannibalistic'."
Luce just stares for a long moment.
"So anyway," Reborn says lightly. "If you could make some of those strawberry tarts that Viper likes, it would be wonderful."
Luce pauses from where she's munching on a pickle, pineapple and mayonnaise tart, then glares at the others, who seem to be staring at her in mild fear. "Don't judge me, I'm pregnant."
They quickly look away, back to their own treats. Everyone is currently scattered around the table where they first came together as a group. The large dish of tarts in the middle is still miraculously half full, but that won't last for long.
"Speaking of your baby… we've agreed on a few trials," Lal admits, picking at the crust on her blueberry tart. "Just telling you now, so it's not a shock later."
Luce narrows her eyes. "What trials? For who?"
Verde clears his throat. "All of her suitors must first pass a challenge from each of us. They need to answer three of my questions, out race Skull, win a fight with Fon-"
"Beat me in a gun range," Colonnello pitches in. "Plus win a bet against Viper, survive a whole hour with Reborn after them... and you don't want to know what Lal is going to do."
Skull nods along, cheeks puffed out with the chocolate tart he just shoved into his mouth. He quickly swallows and states, "No one is going to touch our baby."
"No," Luce cuts into the conversation then, because she should probably fix this before it becomes a reoccurring theme. "She's not our baby, she's my baby."
"I don't see the difference," Fon admits.
Luce looks down at her stomach and lays a hand on the large bump. "I'm so sorry," she stage whispers to her daughter, only half joking.
"Can we name it Kyouya?" Fon continues, blatantly ignoring Luce's snark. He brushes green tea tart crumbs from his hands onto his plate. "I really like that name."
"Hold on," Reborn interrupts quickly, lowering his coffee tart from where he was about to take a bite. "Luce and I have already agreed on Reborn Junior."
"How about Bones?" Skull chimes in, excited. "So when I hold her we can be Skull and Bones!"
"No way," Colonnello cries. "We're calling her Nellie!"
"Lulu," Lal corrects.
"Lulu," Colonnello changes to.
"That's stupid," Verde scoffs. "Name it what it really is." He raises his glass of water as if toasting. "Extreme STD."
Most of them look horrified but Reborn smirks. "Extreme STD is a lovely name, but you know what would be better? Foetus In Fetu."
Verde gags a little in disgust.
Luce clears her throat. "Please don't besmirch my baby's existence with your biology talk." She then adds on, "And no hitman talk until she's ten."
"Ten?" Reborn echoes with a joking frown. "That's forever from now. With the way you're going, the baby is going to take fifty years to come out in the first place."
"Well you're just going to have to wait," Luce says with a little 'hmpf' at the end.
"I know what you can call the baby," Viper speaks up then, strawberry tarts stacked up in front of them like a house of cards. "How about the name Aria? For 'arian't we all sick of Reborn's bullshit by now?'"
It takes approximately twenty minutes for everyone to calm down and stop laughing. By that time, Reborn had long since left the room in order to attach car bombs to the underside of all their vehicles.
Yes, I am very proud of that Aria pun. What do you mean it wasn't funny? Well I don't like your face, so there.
"Chaos," Reborn calls out as the black SUV rolls to a stop beside the COMSUBIN soldier on an empty road. The hitman throws open the door and coaxes the blond inside with a wave of his hand.
"Get in," Lal demands, peering over Reborn's shoulder.
"We have candy," Viper adds on. The car suddenly fills with lollies and they half spill out of the opened door. Everyone ignores Fon, who sighs in resignation when his pants fill up with illusionary chocolate pieces.
Colonnello blinks in confusion but then slips inside, ignoring the candy wrappers that rustle as he sits on them. It might just be the worst decision he's made, but Colonnello is not one to hesitate. "What are we doing?" he wonders, pulling the door shut behind him.
"Reborn is refusing to use anything except a handgun today," Verde answers. "So we're taking another sharpshooter since we need Lal as front line commander."
"Technically you're not allowed on an actual mission, so don't get too smug," Skull says with a great deal of superiority as he pulls away from the curb.
Luce turns around in the front passenger's seat, lollies falling off her lap from the movement, and pats Colonnello on the knee. "However, it's completely out of our control if you just happen to be in the area and decide to join in."
Fon smiles calmly from the back. "Don't worry," is all he says.
At those words, Colonnello turns from eager at the thought of finally being let on a mission, to wary. "Don't worry about what?" he asks. He still wants to join these people for whatever they're doing, but also Lal might be upset if Colonnello gets himself killed.
Reborn smirks at the blond's expression. "Remember to duck," he offers up. "Just follow that advice and you'll survive."
Skull sails through the air, kicked by Reborn, and slams into Colonnello. They're both thrown to the floor and end up in a heap.
Skull pushes himself off the soldier's chest and smiles sheepishly down at the dazed blond. "You learn to duck," Skull reassures him.
Fon whips around, his loose clothes billowing out from the sudden turn. Everyone crouches low to avoid the braid of hair that snaps out in an arc around the martial artist. Colonnello sees it but moves too late and gets slapped across the face. He splutters and staggers back, honestly winded by the hit.
Fon comes to an abrupt halt, eyes going wide and sleeve coming up to hide the lower half of his face. "I'm sorry, are you okay?"
The soldier clutches his cheek and winces at the sting there.
"You really should have ducked," Fon suggests.
The wind blows fiercely on the rooftop they stand on and Luce quickly gathers her dress up in her hands, not wanting to flash anyone if the material gets lifted. She forgets to hold down her hat like Reborn is doing and the puffy mushroom is yanked off her head. Colonnello gets a face full of white material and trips backwards, landing hard on the ground.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Luce says in regret. "People normally duck, so I didn't think to warn you."
A shoe speeds through the air like a bullet, narrowly missing Lal who dodges, and collides with the poor man behind her. It not only breaks Colonnello's nose, but it also knocks him out cold.
The soldier comes back to consciousness with Verde standing over him. The scientist peers down in confusion. "Why didn't you duck?"
"Incoming!" Skull calls out and the rest immediately take cover.
Colonnello looks around, trying to find some kind of threat, but even when he doesn't find anything he still responds to the sheer panic that suddenly encompasses the atmosphere. He takes a step towards Viper, who seems frozen, intending on grabbing the Mist and getting away from the open cover in the middle of the room.
Dead silence spreads over the room as they all look towards the blond, horrified. Colonnello lets out a whimper, eyes squeezed shut, his entire face plus shoulders and hair completely covered in snot.
Viper sniffles a bit. "You had ample warning to duck out of my radius."
Reborn peeks at the snot patterns. "Did you try to track anyone?"
"Santa Clause," Viper admits. "I could set up an elf sweatshop."
Colonnello shudders and staggers to the bathroom to wash it all off.
Lal's punch skims his ear as Colonnello drops low.
He abruptly bursts into gleeful laughter and bounces back up, stopping the spar. "Did you see that?" he cries, throwing out his arms, a wide grin on his face. "I ducked! It was an awesome duck! Go tell the others that I ducked!"
She frowns. "I don't think I have to say this, but it's not actually something to be praised if you should already be at this level."
Colonnello doesn't listen, turning to the small group of soldiers a few meters away. "Hey! Hey, I ducked!"
The soldiers come to a stop instead of walking past and cheer loudly, clapping and whistling enthusiastically. They don't know what's happening, but everyone likes the friendly blond, so why not?
Lal rolls her eyes.
Colonnello is currently kneeling after he quickly dropped to the floor. He's still clutching at his temple where a line of blood is draw across from just the air speed around the fired bullet - a deliberate miss.
Reborn smirks down at the blond soldier. "Well you've learned to duck, but you have to do it much faster if you want to keep up with me."
Luce is probably my favourite snippet in this chapter because I imagine her hat has previously wiped out a few people - it's a surprisingly dangerous weapon. Which segment do you prefer?
Chapter 19: Break Down
It's really hot.
Like… like really, really hot.
"How can you stand wearing that?" Lal mutters, down to a light singlet and shorts.
Reborn throws a half-hearted wave over his shoulder, still completely and perfectly dressed in his three-piece suit. He doesn't want to explain that it's a pride thing keeping him from shedding clothes like everyone else. He's Reborn the hitman right now so he has to dress like Reborn the hitman.
They decided to take a modified jeep that Skull had in one of his many garages. An aircraft, no matter how small, could be seen far too easily here and thus shot out of the sky. There tends to be quite a few ground-to-air rocket launchers around these parts.
The car was also easy to find in the flat planes of sand and rocks and sad shrubbery, but it was camouflaged with paint and tricked out with Verde's technology that could cover any heat based searches.
They were casually driving along, then Skull drove over a still active landmine. They weren't prepared since the information they have said the landmines didn't start for at least a few hours' drive more.
Verde reacted almost instantaneously (far to used to Reborn's surprise bullets) and hardened the chassis of the vehicle. The mine still hit the engine hard but everyone inside was uninjured. Skull pulled over and they piled out, groaning and complaining because…
It's really, honestly, ridiculously hot.
Luce is still inside the car, at the front where a small battery powered fan has been set up to try and help cool her down. She's typing away at a laptop, receiving and distributing information to her famiglia who are tracking their boss through hacked satellites and radios.
This isn't actually a mission from Checker Face, this a Giglio Nero request from Luce herself since one of her infiltration specialists lost contact a few days ago right after sending a distress signal.
The hood of the jeep is propped up against the windshield and Verde is perched at the edge, sitting on the vehicle because it's too tall for even a giant like him to comfortably reach everything from the ground. The scientist is stripped down to a half-undone button-up shirt and his pants. His shoes are also kicked off and sit beside a car wheel.
Skull has completely discarded his leather biker suit, only clad in loose shorts plus boots and many, many tattoos that interlink deliberately with his scars. A blanket has been laid out under the car so Skull can comfortably lie down and work on the engine without burning himself on the hot sand.
Viper is splayed over the backseats with a wash of indigo flames around them, so Reborn is pretty sure the Mist is only pretending to be fully dressed. Viper also has several ice cubes tucked into a plastic bag and they're using it as relief from the burning sun.
Fon is fiddling around with the trunk at the back of the vehicle. The segment splits into half horizontally across the middle so Fon was able to push the bottom half down for more room to place things and flip up the top half to try and protect him from the sun.
Fon is also missing his shirt and baring a very detailed Chinese dragon winding up his arm. The martial artist and Skull spent a brief moment at the start to commiserate on how the sun fades tattoos. They only shut up when Colonnello hurled a tube of sunscreen at them.
The soldier is currently lying on his stomach on top of the jeep's roof, a sniper rifle set up in front of him. He's topless with his normal shirt underneath him as a barrier to block the hot metal of the car. His boots have been discarded as well and he's rolled up his pants legs. Colonnello pops off a shot and far, far away they can hear a mine going off.
Lal is currently pacing around the car with her shotgun strapped to her back, partly to check for threats but also because she hates being still, which is rather odd for a soldier. Then again, COMSUBIN is unconventional in many ways.
She doesn't seem to mind the sweat sliding down her skin or the damp patches on her clothes, but everyone else has that same issue so it's probably been deemed an unavoidable annoyance.
Well, everyone does except Reborn, who is currently stalking Leon.
The lizard is meandering around the sandy area with that funny chameleon-swagger. Reborn follows behind with slow, lazy steps, languid as if he's as cold blooded as Leon and the sun is lulling him into relaxation.
It's not. Reborn feels like he's dying.
But image is everything and he's not going to take off his clothes damn it. The sun will not defeat him. Reborn is the sun. He burns hotter than the gas ball in the sky and glows brighter than a solar flare.
The sun can fuck right off.
"Reborn," Luce calls, looking away from the laptop with concern. "Maybe you should take off some clothes. I don't want you getting sunstroke."
Reborn almost declares himself Ra in human form, and that's when he knows he should sit in the shade for a while.
"Everyone can take a break now," Fon adds on, gesturing to the containers and drinks that he unpacked and cooked on the small camping stove. "The food is ready."
The rest stumble over, covered in sweat and sand (and grease in the case of Verde and Skull). Reborn crouches briefly to lift Leon and place the chameleon on his hat, then he makes his way over to the rest of them.
"Seriously, are you not hot?" Skull wonders, munching on the food in his specially prepared container because the stuntman is a pescatarian and Reborn should kill him just for that.
"Perfectly fine," Reborn drawls, taking a bottle out of the ice filled box, most of which has melted to cool water. He takes a few swallows of the drink and then sets it back inside the box to keep it cold.
"I don't think it's healthy to wear that much when it's this hot," Verde argues.
"It's not that hot." Reborn has decided that he'll kill the inventor with one of the man's own machines. Maybe just put a really heavy one on top of Verde and watch the scientist slowly get crushed to death.
"How are you not sweating?" Lal mutters.
"Yeah, your body temperature must be ridiculously high," Colonnello adds on.
Reborn thinks it would funny to shoot Lal in the face – no, wait, he'll shoot the blond puppy in the face and then when Lal is too busy being horrified Reborn will murder her with the shotgun she loves so much.
"Maybe he is cold-blooded," Viper adds on.
"How did you know my deepest, darkest secret?" Reborn deadpans. He thinks the Mist would look nice after a little gasoline and a match. A proper witch burning.
"That's enough," Luce begins kindly. "Let's not get riled up."
Too late, is what Reborn thinks.
Luce turns to the hitman with wide eyes. "Please can you at least take off the jacket? I know you can handle yourself but I'm worried."
One portion of Reborn is pointing at the staring watchers and declaring that stripping now would be a sign of weakness. Another part gestures at Luce and asks if they want to keep worrying the lady. The biggest chunk of him wants to kill everyone slowly.
Reborn has gotten used to smothering the largest part, has no doubt that any weakness is firmly covered up by his gun prowess, and while right now the guilt trip isn't working he knows he'll regret it later.
So he does take off his jacket, but he keeps the black vest underneath because it hides both his gun holsters and the strip of ammo around his waist.
"Are we all happy now?" Reborn sighs, tossing the jacket into the jeep and rolling up his sleeves. It does help, actually, he can feel the homicidal thoughts draining away.
"Is that ammo?" Fon wonders, squinting at Reborn's torso.
Or maybe not. "No," Reborn says calmly, because he is calm. Calmly thinking about strangling Fon with the man's own hair.
"Is that where you keep your guns then?" Verde asks, genuinely curious because the vest fits well to Reborn's torso so the tailor must be magical since the scientist can't see a single handgun shape even though he knows Reborn carries at least the Malvagio.
Skull reaches out but Reborn smacks his hand away.
"Don't touch me with your filthy hands," the hitman drawls, snatching up a food container and a spork.
Skull opens his mouth to throw an insult back and then closes it when he realises that his hands actually are filthy with grease and sand. "Well, okay, fine. But how do you carry handguns?"
"Thigh holsters," Reborn says just to hopefully make these people stop talking. He's not technically lying since he does sometimes switch around his holsters. A few sets of pants have slits cut into them so he can easily grab a gun.
Viper reaches out to his leg and Reborn smacks their hand away.
"Are you all serious?" Reborn sighs. "I need to keep some secrets, you know, so let's leave the hitman alone."
"But why?" Colonnello chimes in now. "You know all of ours, even before we met properly."
"I'm actually a very boring person when you get to know me," Reborn says jokingly.
"Yeah, boring like that England mission," Verde mutters sarcastically. "And all the stupid costumes."
Several of them shudder in horror. Reborn isn't sure if it's in response to the mission or his disguises, but it makes him smirk nonetheless.
Chapter 20: Tutor
Warning: My sense of humour, which includes but is not limited to; suicide, recreational drug use, an unsafe amount of alcohol, swearing, abortion, improper use of cleaning products, and much more.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lal falls into a chair beside Reborn with a heavy sigh. "One of these days I'm going to give up training my dumbass soldiers and just retire far, far away."
"Can't be that hard to train people," Reborn scoffs.
Lal's head snaps around and she glares. "You want to try, hitman? Because be my guest."
Reborn rolls his eyes at her dramatics and does agree. He would be an awesome tutor.
Except he forgets how high his standards are with regards to handling firearms. In literally any other subject he would perfectly fine guiding a complete novice through, but if someone is going to handle a gun then Reborn demands nothing lower than absolute expert level prowess.
To be fair, Lal's soldiers aren't actually that bad. She was initially complaining about how they would never put back their equipment properly. The COMSUBIN recruits are all pretty good shots, but Reborn demands perfection so the entire teaching experience quickly goes downhill.
"It does not take fifty years to put a gun together. What, are you blind or just a moron?"
"It's really sweet how you're stroking your gun but I think you've graduated from foreplay by now, so for the love of God pull the trigger before I make you."
"Wow," Reborn deadpans. "Wow! Five meters closer and you might have been able to hit the broad side of a barn. It's not seventy light years away, how are you missing the target?"
"What are you even attempting to do anymore? Jesus fucking Christ."
"Instead of standing here and dying through exposure to your sheer incompetence, it would be more dignified if I just contracted AIDS and died slowly that way. It would be more peaceful as well."
He sucks in a lungful of the opium smoke and lets it out with a relieved sigh. "This is just as much for you as it is for me."
"It would be cleaner to go out with the barrel to your temple," Reborn explains calmly, still rather high. "You do not want to try and shove a gun down your throat like you're giving the most pathetic blow job of your life." Reborn shrugs. "When I inevitably snap and try to kill you all, remember that bit of advice when you decide to… take fate into your own hands."
"Are you mentally retarded? No, it's a serious question. You aren't? Well why are you so confused by the simple concept of recoil?"
"I saw that. Come over here – what is that look for; do you think you can outrun me? Come the fuck over and maybe I'll make it a quick death."
"Everything is going wonderfully, Lal," Reborn says, a Leon-phone held up to one ear. "Screaming? No, I don't hear any screaming."
"What's your name? No, shut up, I don't actually care. Do that again and I'll show you what happens when someone gets pistol-whipped with an Uzi."
Reborn stares them down with narrowed eyes, finger laced on top of his hat. "Do you know why I'm standing like this? My hands are on my head, because if they weren't, they'd be around a gun and I'd be emptying all of my ammo into your face."
"People like you are the reason I'm pro-choice."
"I don't consider myself suicidal," Reborn says conversationally, looking down at his whisky bottle and wishing it was something stronger – like a hospital grade sedative. "It would technically be classified as a mercy killing at this point."
"For every shot you miss, I'll buy you a puppy. Then I'll kill the puppy in front of you. And I'll fucking enjoy it."
"Why are you still fumbling with the ammo clip? Don't finger it open - it's not a delicate virgin. Just slam it into the gun."
"I either need more drugs or more alcohol but I'm not sure which - you know what, just pour me a shot of bleach and end my suffering."
Reborn spends the last few minutes of his scheduled torture simply leaning against the wall and rhythmically banging his head against the bricks in effort to give himself enough brain trauma to forget this entire experience.
Leon bites him on the collar bone when the second hand on his watch ticks over and Reborn is finally free. He straightens up, brushes down his suit jacket and turns to his 'students'.
"If I see any of you again, that'll be the last mistake you ever make."
Lal has the biggest, smuggest smile on her face that Reborn has ever seen. "So," she begins. "I'm quite honestly surprised everyone is alive."
Reborn plays it cool and just shrugs. "It was touch and go for a bit there. How's Jackson doing?"
"Finally out of intensive care," Lal answers easily. "Where did you put Alex? We still can't find him."
"...Don't remember an Alex," Reborn hums. "But -and I'm just saying like in general- if someone were to forget one of the springs when they rebuild a gun, then I would maybe bury them alive." He pauses. "Hypothetically."
"Well you better hypothetically go get that person," Lal orders. "COMSUBIN is paying for their psychological counselling and if they don't show up then it's money wasted for nothing."
Now imagine Reborn trying to coach Tsuna through gun handling.
Chapter 21: Civillian
Reborn doesn't even bother to point out anymore that Skull deserves every bit of retaliation that the hitman gives - and perhaps more. Skull is always the aggressor in the situation because the stuntman takes great pleasure in cheating death, and Reborn is the closest thing to suicide that Skull can get without actually dying.
When Reborn tries to defend himself everyone always says something along the lines of 'you should tone down the fights, he's just a civilian weakling, leave him alone'. Skull doesn't even count as a civilian anymore, damn it.
Skull is the antagonist here - he always starts it, so Reborn is just finishing it.
Lal sighs and looks up from her newspaper to where Skull is lying on the ground, on his stomach but raised up with elbows in order to keep colouring in with his crayons. Lal isn't sure where Skull found the crayons, but she doesn't care enough to ask.
"Can you do that any louder?" she complains.
"Almost done," Skull tosses back. He throws down the bright green crayon and snatches up the scissors before going to town on the piece of paper.
Apparently, there's a damn arts and crafts store in the building somewhere because Skull also throws on some glitter glue and tape. Lal rolls her eyes and goes back to reading, but gets side-tracked again when Skull crows in victory and scrambles to his feet while brandishing his creation.
The paper has been coloured in a bright green and cut out in the shape of a spiral with a long straight end that has a piece of tape attached to it. It kind of looks like the tail of Reborn's cartoon Leons that he scribbles when he's bored.
"No," Lal says even though she's not entirely certain where this is going.
"No worries, I'm a professional," Skull dismisses arrogantly. Although, at this point, he probably is well versed in dealing with Reborn and the consequences that follow.
Skull bounces out of the room and into the kitchen with a wide grin and the paper hidden behind his back.
Reborn is leaning over the counter, facing away from Skull with the espresso machine next to him whirring away and a file open that he's writing on in his usual neat calligraphy. Leon is hooked over his ears and around the back of his head, a muffled song from a radio station playing through the lizard.
Skull passes by and slaps Reborn as hard as he can on the ass, sticking the green tail to the hitman in the process, before the stuntman then sprints the fuck away with an insane cackle.
Reborn jolts and whips around, immediately snatching up Leon and firing at the man. Skull dives out of the window in effort to escape but Reborn just switches to flame bullets that can curve and gives chase. Unfortunately, Luce catches them before he puts Skull in the hospital.
'Pin the Tail on the Hitman' becomes a regular game the others play when they feel particularly suicidal.
Reborn waits at the side of an almost empty street, already regretting this. He prefers walking anyway so why he agreed to let Skull pick him up is clearly an act of madness.
He hears Skull long before he sees the other so Reborn isn't blindsided by the flashy violet sports car set so low to the ground he could probably just step onto its hood like climbing stairs. The roar of the definitely (illegally) modified engine is barely heard over the bubbly pop music that's blaring from the speakers.
Skull doesn't slow down at all so Reborn is forced to step out onto the road and jump into the convertible while it's still going something like ninety kilometres an hour. He drops into the nice leather seats and the sudden change in momentum almost gives him whiplash.
Reborn takes his hat off before the wind can steal it away and shoves it under one leg before clinging tightly to the door and dashboard. A seat belt isn't going to do anything except tie Reborn down to this death machine so he ignores it. Leon is enjoying the rush of air, sitting up on the hitman's head.
In the driver's seat is Skull, who's head banging vigorously to some cutesy K-pop band and belting out the bubbly lyrics like he's in a mosh pit at a scremo concert and the ecstasy is finally kicking in.
Reborn doesn't admit this easily, but he has made a mistake.
Skull shrieks out the lyrics at a truly astonishing frequency, his voice rising to a screech before dropping into demon mode. He's clearly been possessed by the entirety of a death metal band.
Reborn immediately looks around to find a safe place to bail out, but Skull is drifting corners fast enough that they nearly roll every time and the streets of Italy are not the softest place to land. Plus Skull is swerving around cars going at a normal speed so Reborn could potentially get run over if he times it wrong.
"Stop the car," the hitman finally calls out. His voice is lost under the music but Skull must have seen his lips move.
"What was that?" Skull screams back.
Reborn turns off the radio and the silence is almost louder than the God-awful music. "You're embarrassing," Reborn deadpans. "I don't want to be seen with you."
"Don't be ridiculous," Skull scoffs. "We're going too fast for anyone to see us. Now hold on, we're about to get some airtime."
Reborn sees the speed-bump in front of them and can't stop a groan. Skull speeds up so the car hits it going one-ten and the bottom is ripped to shreds as they take off, clearing a good two meters in height before slamming back down.
Reborn is still recovering from the near-death experience when the radio gets turned on again and Skull starts dancing. Maybe. To Reborn it looks more like he's having a seizure.
The hitman hopes to whatever God listening that Skull got a concussion from the head banging earlier and is now having a seizure from the brain trauma, because anything else just makes Reborn sink into that place where he whole heartedly believes the human race is something to be hunted for entertainment.
Reborn shoots the damn radio (barely stops himself from taking out Skull as well) and now that he isn't distracted by his ear drums being destroyed, he can focus back on getting out of here.
"Seriously?!" Skull complains. "That's brand new!"
"Stop the car or I'll throw myself out," Reborn promises.
"Calm down and just enjoy the ride," Skull fires back, reaching over to pat him on the thigh. "We're almost there anyway."
"If I have to spend one more minute in here, I'm going to make you eat yourself."
"What parts?" Skull laughs like Reborn is being anything except completely serious.
"Everything. Have you seen an ouroboros? It's going to be like that, but with a lot more bodily fluids."
Chapter 22: Live Specimen
"Reborn," Verde greets when he steps up behind the hitman in the living room. "Do you smell some kind of gas?"
Reborn pulls away from the table where his guns are spread out, taken apart and ready to be cleaned (and therefore not a threat any longer). He starts to take a deep breath to try and scent the air. Verde darts forward and clamps a wet cloth over the hitman's face, making sure to cover the nose and mouth. His other arm wraps around Reborn's waist to keep him upright.
Reborn jerks back as soon as he sees the cloth, but he's already breathed it in and the substance is potent. His grip on Verde's forearm slackens and he slumps completely into the scientist's chest within less than a second.
"It should have the faint scent of chloroform," Verde continues casually, keeping the cloth over the hitman's face just in case he's faking. "It's actually an original of mine, so I added a mix of esters to make it smell more like espresso for you… you're welcome."
Reborn doesn't reply because he's unconscious.
Verde shoves the cloth into the ziplock plastic bag hanging off his belt. He closes the bag to keep the chemical scent inside and shifts Reborn until the hitman is hanging off Verde's shoulder. He may not be the strongest but he's taller than Reborn and it makes things easier.
The scientist then strips off his gloves and disposable mask, tossing all of the used equipment into his briefcase on the ground nearby. He picks that up and then backtracks into the last room he was in where an unconscious Leon sits in a glass jar.
Verde picks that up as well because Reborn is going to need incentive to play along.
Reborn wakes up tied to a metal table most often seen in a morgue, with the taste of something powdery on his tongue.
He blinks up at bright lights and turns his head to see a blank room surrounding him, the sparse equipment inside all bolted down so he can't use them as weapons. Verde's alligator is in the corner, curled up around a jar with a sleeping Leon inside.
Reborn lifts his head and finds himself dressed only in light blue pants like hospital scrubs. His bare chest is wrapped in some kind of skin tight plastic film that works as an X-ray, allowing Reborn to see his own heart beat away and watch his lungs inflate. He swallows and his oesophagus ripples.
Metal cuffs encircle one wrist and ankle, different from the restraints that look like canvas but feel as strong as diamond. The wrist displays his pulse and oxygen levels and a few other numbers that Reborn doesn't care about but the ankle cuff just shows three green dots of light.
Reborn guesses that it's the reason he can't access his flames right now, which is unfortunate because he has no way of finding out what Verde has already done to him. The scientist himself is standing over Reborn, scrawling something down on a clipboard.
Reborn sighs and lets his head fall back down. "Verde, I like you so I'm going to give you one chance," he allows. "Let me go and I won't burn down all of your labs."
"You've taken well to the injections," the scientist begins, ignoring the threat. "So now I need a few samples that require you to be consciously working your Sun flames, just to make sure the virus is doing its job, then I'll untie you."
"Virus?" Reborn echoes in annoyance.
The scientist pushes up his glasses. "Every time you use Sun flames, you wear down your telomeres since it's essentially normal healing but sped up."
Telomeres are kind of like bottle caps on the ends of DNA, and every time the DNA replicates (in this case for healing) the caps twist off a little more each time. This is generally why Reborn tries to use Cloud flames for large issues, because it's never a good thing to spill your drink.
The scientist shuffles around the papers on his clipboard and then holds it up so Reborn can see. "I fixed it with a modified virus that entirely replaces your original telomeres," Verde deadpans. "You're welcome."
"Oh," Reborn says, a bit stunned and kind of touched that Verde did all of that. He sits up and swings so his legs are hanging over the edge of the metal table. "That's really sweet - although maybe you should ask next time."
Verde blinks and looks down to the bindings that have been pick locked. Even the flame suppressor has been discarded. "How did you…?"
Reborn only smirks and decides to not tell Verde that the scientist could have been killed twenty times over by now. He does end up going through the lab, destroying all of the data and samples Verde collected when Reborn was out of it (both regarding the virus and for other -far less innocent- projects Verde had been working on).
The hitman cuts out three tracking chips when he gets home, but leaves the one in his thigh because he does like Verde.
A bit too much, if he's being honest.
Chapter 23: Shamal
You're picking me up, right?
Because judging by the flight last time, I get slightly murderous around the ten-hour mark. If I had to train it home as well, I would end up pushing several people onto the tracks.
It wouldn't be the first time you've done that, Reborn.
Shamal, you haven't seen anything yet. Bring espresso.
Shamal fully acknowledges that he dislikes the people who claim to be Reborn's friends.
That Chinese man and the stuntman and those COMSUBIN soldiers and far too many others. Even when Shamal has the hitman's attention, it's always 'Verde is so interesting, Luce is so sweet, Viper is so funny'.
They act too relaxed, too friendly, take too many liberties. He doesn't care what kind of missions they go on, Reborn's time is far better spent studying with Shamal. Medical school isn't something he can just cram for.
The doctor jolts back to the present and finds himself leaning against a wall in the bedroom, arms crossed. Reborn is standing in front of him, finally out of the bathroom, with an eyebrow raised.
"Where did you go in that head of yours?" Reborn asks in amusement. "What's the weather like over there?"
"Sunny," Shamal deadpans.
The hitman chuckles. "Lost in fantasies of me, huh?" Without waiting for a reply, Reborn turns and waves a hand over his shoulder at the teenager - though being nineteen, Shamal insists on being called a man. "Zip me up."
Shamal's sigh is more like a groan of pain but he does reach out and zip up the slutty nurse dress that Reborn is currently parading around in. "Why did you pick this as your Halloween costume?"
"Because you can either be scary or slutty. I'm scary three hundred and sixty-four other days of the year, so I thought I'd change it up." Reborn spins in a circle after Shamal is done and strikes a pose with one hand on his hip and one in the Sun flame lengthened hair. The tiny nurse hat tilts precariously on Reborn's head and his suddenly curvy body easily pulls off the short white uniform. "How do I look?"
Shamal is too busy staring down Reborn's cleavage to reply. The teenager has no idea how Reborn does the fake breasts but they look magnificent.
"Shamal?" Reborn asks in a high, breathy voice, something distinctly feminine. He leans forward to give the other an even better view down the opened buttons on his dress.
Shamal mumbles something intelligible and leans forward as well.
Reborn tilts his head and pouts with full lips coloured bright red. "Poor thing, you're so confused."
Shamal makes a distressed noise in the back of his throat as Reborn steps forward and folds him into a hug. His face goes straight into the boobs and they're so soft but firm and oh god this is a man – why is Shamal enjoying this?
"Embrace it," Reborn chuckles in his usual manly voice.
Shamal splutters and jerks back, out of the hold, slapping away Reborn's arms. "You're the reason I have so many issues! I mean you killed my parents-"
"You hired me to," Reborn scoffs. "And you were a creepy little pervert before I even found you. Now come on, put on your cute doctor's coat and we'll go trick or treating."
"I think you mean we'll go breaking into famiglias and making them shit themselves in fright," Shamal mutters, stomping over to the bed and pulling on the lab coat before swinging the stethoscope around his neck. "And why do we have to wear couple's costumes?"
"Because my adorable little Shamal just got into med school, and we need to celebrate~" Reborn sings, gracefully sashaying out of the room despite the six-inch killer heels on his feet. He really doesn't need the extra height, but you can't be a sexy nurse without sexy heels and those things make his legs go for miles.
Shamal is hypnotised for a moment as he watches Reborn's hips sway from side to side, the costume stretched tight over his ass. Shamal follows the hitman, still partly in a trance. "I haven't gotten the results back yet."
The hitman throws a look over his shoulder as he lifts a giant needle into his arms, the glass tube containing candy like Shamal proposed instead of blood like Reborn had originally wanted. "Trust me, you got in."
"Did you threaten anyone?"
"Didn't need to," Reborn promises, walking over and wrapping an arm around the teen's shoulders to guide him out the front door. "I've seen how hard you studied for it, and you're a natural regardless."
Shamal leans into the hold, resting his hand on a perfectly shaped hip and mushing the side of his face against Reborn's boobs. If he could only forget that it's actually a hitman, he would be having the time of his life. A sexy woman all to himself, those heels and that dress and that stupid smirk – damn it, Reborn.
"If we do a really good run tonight, I'll even let you touch my butt."
Shamal considers it seriously for a moment. "You have to use the other voice, though."
Reborn rolls his eyes. "I was joking, perv. No wonder you can't get a girlfriend."
"Whose idea was this?" Verde asks, barely heard over the bass-heavy music of a supposedly high-end club.
The scientist has no idea why people pay to be in a sweaty and painfully loud place like this, but he swears that next time he'll say no. It was the high of a successful and (for once) uncomplicated mission that made him accept the invitation, that's all.
In fact, it was only uncomplicated because Reborn wasn't there with his usual brand of chaos. The hitman was lucky he escaped this place to 'play with his Shamal', whatever that means.
"It was Colonnello's," Fon responds, slumped back into his chair, still tired from the fight less than half an hour ago but polite enough to say yes to the offer. "Apparently he wanted to celebrate Halloween by getting drunk."
Skull bounces up to the corner table, pushed out of the way and yet still able to see the entire room. He drops three drinks onto the table with a wide grin. "Isn't this place amazing?"
"No," both Verde and Fon say in synchronicity.
When the blond put out the suggestion, Luce bowed out, citing the pregnancy as a reason. Viper accepted but vanished to the pool tables as soon as they stepped foot through the bouncer guarded door. Lal is currently with the blond soldier, probably scouting the place or something else equally army like.
"What do you think Reborn is doing?" Fon asks for something to say, lazily scanning the Halloween costumes that range from bad to worse.
Verde just shakes his head and takes a long drink of whatever alcohol Skull placed in front of him. It's not actually that bad, though Verde isn't sure if it's the quality of drinks in this place or Skull's decision making skills.
Skull does take the offer of conversation, and grins widely. "I heard from Luce that Reborn was going trick or treating with some kid he has."
"I wish the child luck in the endeavour," Verde drawls. "That man has no shame – I don't want to imagine what costume he put on."
Fon raises his glass in toast to that comment and sips lightly, mostly using the glass as a cold pack and pressing it to his cheek in hopes that it'll cool him down.
Clubs, no matter how high end, always seem to heat up uncomfortably from a combination of body heat and alcohol. Most of the women seem to have done the smart thing, wearing barely anything at all. Fon debates if taking his shirt off would be rude. A couple men don't have theirs, but then again, quite a few have lost their pants as well.
Verde seems to have the same overheating problem despite his lab coat being over the back of his chair and his sleeves rolled up. He's lost his tie plus his first few buttons are undone. Skull has his bike suit unzipped and the top half is off with the sleeves tied around his waist.
Just as Fon begins to feel his will power bend, a hand is placed on his shoulder and a frankly gorgeous woman steps into view, clad in a tiny nurse costume that emphases her body in the best way. Verde blinks in shock and Skull leans forward as she pulls out a chair and gracefully falls into it.
"Hey," she murmurs in a husky voice and fiddles with the small nurse hat that tries to fall off.
She twists slightly so she's sitting sideways and crosses her long legs, right beside Fon who can't seem to look away. Dangerously high heels barely held on with thin black straps lead up to perfectly shapely legs that only disappear under the dress at the last possible moment.
Fon really wants to touch.
Skull, on the other hand, involuntarily traces the hips up to a thick belt, which makes the waist seem even smaller, and flares into large breasts pushing against the material of the tight white dress. His eyes come to a stop at the plunging neckline, hoping that he can catch just a glimpse.
The woman uses a hand to toss back her mane of black curls and then reaches for the closest drink, red lined lips kissing the edge of Verde's glass as she takes a sip. Verde mentally lists all the amino acids in the proteins that code for dark, dark eyes like the sultry ones the woman stares at him with.
She places the glass down and sits back with a relieved sigh. "It's too hot and these heels are passive-aggressive in their murder attempts."
"Do you want a drink?" Verde blurts out before he can stop himself.
"I could take the shoes off for you," Skull offers slyly.
Fon just makes a choked noise. The poor man has been too occupied with martial arts to learn how to talk with beautiful women.
The woman smirks in amusement, a seductive quirk of her lips. "How sweet. But no, what I really want is a change of clothes. This dress makes me look like I'd suck someone off for ten euros or a cigarette."
Then the three men are falling over themselves to reassure her that she looks beautiful, gorgeous, prefect, heavenly, like a goddess. But they're also thinking about her sucking on... things.
The woman parts her lips to speak up, but Viper swirls into existence near the table and interrupts.
"Careful what you say," the Mist deadpans. "She looks like a honey trap."
"In what way?" the woman asks, looking at the Mist with a raised eyebrow.
Viper scoffs. "You walk up to a table with these three and do your damnedest to seduce them."
"I happen to like these gentlemen," the woman argues before casting a smile full of dirty promises at the men.
Viper frowns a little. What kind of person under seventy says 'gentlemen' unironically – oh, holy shit. No. No way – not with that figure – not without a heavy dose of Mist flames. Viper narrows their eyes but no matter how hard they look, it's just a beautiful stranger sitting there. The Mist gets desperate and snatches up a bit of cold pepperoni from the empty pizza plate near Skull and dangles it over the woman's head.
Leon pokes his head out from between the perfectly shaped breasts and shoots out his long tongue, only to retract it a millisecond later with his prize. He swallows the food in one bite before diving back into the cleavage.
Fon stands up sharply enough to throw the chair to the floor and then just walks away as fast as he can. Skull sucks in a sharp breath and forcefully drops his head onto the table as punishment because he should have seen that one coming.
"Oh my," Reborn says in an exaggeratedly ditzy voice. "How did that lizard get down there?"
Verde sighs as he takes off his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to get the fantasies out of his head, because now the woman has shifted to a suited man with a fedora and a wicked smirk.
"Wait!" Skull cries, head snapping up from the table. "Colonnello!"
Verde places his glasses back on. "You get Fon, I'll find Colonnello." If Verde had to go through that, then the blond does as well.
"This is wonderful," Colonnello sighs blissfully as he watches Lal dance with the black-haired woman in a nurse outfit. And it's club dancing, pressed tight together with hands wandering, so the blond is really enjoying the show. "So. Wonderful."
Skull chimes in, standing together with the others next to the soldier. "I thought Lal was the only woman for you."
The blond waves a dismissive hand and explains. "Lal is my soul mate, but there's nothing wrong with … you know, topping up a bit." He grins. "It's not cheating if it's a threesome."
Verde clears his throat because he wants the delivery to be perfect. "What do you think Reborn is doing right now?" he asks casually.
It takes a moment, but Colonnello's grin eventually slips off his face. The others wait patiently as the blond struggles to pull denial over his head, but the realisation hits hard and suddenly his expression turns to horror as he watches Reborn roll his body into Lal's.
"No," the soldier whispers. "No, I don't care what kind of padding is available, there's no way a whipcord thin man like him can turn into an hourglass full of dirty dreams like that."
Fon hums neutrally.
Colonnello spins around, eyes wild. "You need to tell me, right fucking now, if you're messing with me."
Viper shrugs carelessly. "I mean, maybe we're seeing things. Maybe the bit of green sticking out of the hat isn't Leon's tail."
The soldier turns again and locks onto the swaying green tail poking out of the nurse's hat, the lizard dancing along to Reborn's rhythm. The hitman chooses that moment to slide a glance over and smirk right at Colonnello as he pulls Lal closer.
Verde isn't expecting Reborn to willingly take the punch from the blond, but the hitman does look like a defenceless woman when he falls to the floor. This means that Colonnello immediately gets an entire hoard of pissed off people after him, and the blond soon gets dragged down into a mass of swinging fists. It doesn't matter that it's mostly civilians; they're drunk enough to not feel pain and there's a lot of them.
"Are we bad people?" Skull wonders idly, watching one of his friends get the shit beaten out of him.
"Nah," Viper drawls.
I'm such trash – these last two chapter are literally just fanservice. I promise I'll stop.
It was the bad start to what he presumed to be a very bad day.
He's cold when he wakes up, the coffee tastes just a bit off but he doesn't know why, a tiny stich in the hem of his pants has come undone, he steps in gum, he misses the train, and when he gets to the house no one opens the door so he slithers through the kitchen window.
Skull's ungodly music is reverberating through the walls, Fon's hair is everywhere, Verde storms past covered in goo and they brush sleeves so Reborn has to immediately wash his suit jacket, Colonnello has taken over his hammock, Lal tells him off for being late like he hasn't been in the house for an hour now, Leon disappears to bother Viper, and Luce reveals their mission will be delayed by three hours.
Reborn hides in his secret room until they start banging on random walls and calling for him to get in the car.
It's a quick mission, get in and grab something, then leave without anyone noticing. Reborn knows it's a Rembrandt painting they're going to take, though he doesn't know which famiglia. So when they get there, Reborn only now realises that it's the same famiglia he's been contracted to do a job on.
Reborn's been dressed as a lowly recruit for about a month now, listening to politics within the famiglia because he's supposed to kill the next successor (before it's publicly announced, so the hit will be a pointed statement).
However, the stupid Don can't decide between his sons so Reborn has had to put up with being bossed around and hazed like an actual new recruit and he can't just murder them all since that's a pretty big give away that he's not some average man from an average mafia life.
Reborn can't just speak up now and tell everyone they're wasting time with a fake because 'oh, that nice landscape painting we're about to steal? Yeah, it looks really nice up on my living room wall'. So now Reborn is going to have to switch them without anyone knowing but the apartment with the painting is over in Sweden which just complicates things even more.
They pile out of the van and Reborn's earpiece doesn't work but they shrug it off as a non-issue. Except it quickly becomes an issue when Reborn is crawling through the air ducts and no one is able to tell him about the upgrade in security, so he has to do some pretty impressive contortions to avoid the spinning razor blades that shoot through the vents along barely discernible tracks in the flooring.
He drops out into a bathroom and discovers a cut in the sole of his left shoe when he steps in a puddle of water from the shower and his sock gets instantly soaked through.
He gets two steps down the hallway and a whole mass of the famiglia's men appear around the corner so Reborn has to duck into a supply closet, which should theoretically be empty of people, but there are two women inside trying their hardest to have sex with their clothes on so Reborn has to knock them out before they alert anyone - and he absolutely despises attacking women.
He then reaches the office, steals the damn fake painting, replaces it with another fake, gets it to a disguised Viper a floor below and climbs back into the vents - only to climb back out of the vents because Colonnello got caught when he was transporting the painting from Viper into a crate. Reborn helps incapacitate the people because not only did Luce insist on no killing, but everyone else decided it was too overt for a stealth mission.
He says fuck it to the vents and just plain walks out the front door (while still avoiding people and cameras) and takes a seat in the van. He waits with Luce, Lal and Verde as the second vehicle with the painting leaves and only once they're sure it's clear do they pull away.
It's over now – it can't possibly get worse if Reborn just hides in his house with Leon.
They're all back an hour later because it wasn't the actual painting, it was the message inside the painting's canvas backing that they needed to get. Since the one they stole didn't have it (because the real one is overlooking a gorgeous river in Sweden) they have to go back and search even though it's bloody Checker Face's failure to not tell them properly the first time.
Reborn is in too deep now, he can't just say 'lol guyz i hve the pic lets get smashd insted' so he crawls back into those motherfucking vents with the motherfucking razors out of a shitty spy movie and searches for the motherfucking message that isn't even in the building while listening to those motherfuckers complain about the mission because oh look, now his motherfucking earpiece is working.
They emerge four hours later with nothing to show for it (Reborn did actually steal another painting, currently rolled up tight and tucked into his pants leg) and when he gets outside, the car is gone because apparently they got hungry and couldn't wait three more minutes for Reborn to join them before they went for a Macca's run.
Reborn is so close to losing it that when they pull up and actually get spotted by the famiglia, Reborn is actually relieved as he takes out his gun. I mean fucking finally - how incompetent do you have to be to not notice eight bloody people crawling around your base for five hours? (Skull took a shit in the Don's en suit while the fucking idiot was sleeping in the bed.)
"Don't," Luce says, reaching out and grabbing his arm. The rest are divided between staying in the car and standing outside to defend. "Don't kill them."
And because she words it like that - like Reborn is being given an order, the hitman finally decides to stop caring. Something like a laugh escapes him and they tense, heads snapping around to watch him warily because the Reborn they know doesn't make that noise - that half hollow, manic sound.
Reborn sighs and looks fondly at Luce. "I really, truly enjoy playing the tame hitman with you; pretending I have friends who I actually trust, pretending that I'm not knee deep in blood every other weekend and pretending I'm a good person deep down inside and the only problem I have is too much attitude."
Reborn leans forward, a charming smile on his face that's entirely fake. "But Luce, sweet heart, at the end of the day, I'm still the hitman that people have nightmares about. So I'm going to go into that mansion and slaughter everyone there, room by room, floor by floor, and I'm going to do it because I can, because I want to, because I need to, because you told me that I couldn't."
Reborn straightens up and ever so gently brushes a lock of Luce's hair behind her ear. "And then I'm going to meet you back at the house, our cute little home, with all my sharp edged tucked back into a pristine three-piece suit and we can play pretend again, okay?"
Luce says nothing.
Reborn laughs that same jagged laugh because now she's wary of him, they all are, looking at him like he's a stranger, barely any attention on the charging famiglia just a couple dozen meters away.
"Don't wait up for me," he murmurs with a smirk. "I'm going to take my time here."
Reborn acts particularly domestic for the next week, curling up on the couch with his head on Luce's lap and forcing himself to look relaxed and not like he's one hundred percent concentrated on where she's touching and how much damage she could do if she feels the sudden need to backstab him.
He lets Fon on his hammock without fuss and even fakes a few naps with the martial artist like Reborn would actually fall asleep with people around. He drinks espresso, plays with Leon, snarks at them, acts as predictable as possible.
And still it takes over a month for them to stop looking at him with a little bit of confusion, for them to stop asking if he trusts them, and if he really feels he's pretending around them.
"Of course not," Reborn scoffs. "I was having a bad day and I wanted to put you all off."
Of course he doesn't fucking trust them. Of course he's pretending to be tame. Do they really think the world's best hitman cares whatsoever about healing their injuries? About avoiding killing on missions? About fucking friendship rubbish?
If they see the soft side they can ignore the rough edges, so Reborn pours on the fluff, fusses over Verde's twisted ankle, takes extra care to help Luce when she wants to cook. He picks up the mask and glues the cracks before putting it on, then suddenly he becomes Reborn the friend.
Lal drops by to ask if he'd like to go to the nearby shooting range with her and Colonnello. He says yes because he likes spending time with them. He's really so lucky to have found such amazing friends, he'd trust them with his life.
A small part of Reborn starts laughing, but he fits the mask on tighter until it's hard to breathe and that part goes quiet.
The inspiration for this chapter:
I keep my writing on a USB because I've had laptops break before without any warning. I've also had glitches where my cloud account suddenly deleted my things, so I don't trust that either.
I just lost my USB. It's not that bad, since I backed up to a larger external drive just a week ago, but I was in the zone last weekend and wrote maybe six chapters for Beginnings and one each for Collector, Gamer and Death. Perhaps 11k words, a conservative estimate.
You know what the worst part is? I know exactly what happened. My table tends to generate a lot of rubbish because I don't have a bin in the vicinity, and every once in a while it gets bad enough that I clean it.
My USB is a miniscule thing, and I know -I damn well know- that I must have picked it up with the tissues and scrap paper and threw it in the bin myself because God damn in a past life I must have burned a fucking orphanage full of retarded children where the caretakers were crippled nuns.
Karma, you sick cunt, if my USB doesn't magically turn up in the next few days, I'll burn down another motherfucking one and pass a pet store on my way to a nursing home. Then I'll find you, you bitch, and rip out your lungs through your urethra.
See if I fucking don't.
Fon walks into the living room of their shared house and pauses. None of them live here, in the house they first met up at, but sometimes you can find Skull in the garage or Colonnello in the backyard and several others scattered about at odd times of the day.
The couches in the living room are set up in a rectangle formation with a coffee table in the middle, and there's a creepy rocking chair off to one side that Viper conjured out of nowhere one day.
Fon looks to the corner where a rather nice hammock is swaying gently, a dark green with black swirls. There are three hooks set into the wall beside it; one holding a suit jacket and the other a vest with the last having a fedora. On the floor is an expensive set of leather shoes.
The house is big enough for all of them to have their own bedroom, but since Reborn is arboreal he sneers at them anytime they mention sleeping in an actual bed.
Fon walks forward and Reborn rolls over a bit to make room. Fon toes off his shoes and climbs on, shoving Reborn over some more. Leon blinks at him in annoyance at being disturbed, peering out from his nest inside Reborn's hair, and Fon murmurs an apology as he settles down behind the hitman.
The hammock sways gently from the previous movements of both occupants and Fon presses his nose into the back of Reborn's neck just to feel the hitman tense the smallest amount before forcefully relaxing his muscles.
Before, Fon thought it was fine to leave alone. He shouldn't expect Reborn to be instantly okay with having people invade his personal space, especially since Reborn isn't a very tactile person unless he's annoying you. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just how Reborn has been built.
However, considering the hitman massacred a small famiglia a while ago due to sheer annoyance and is now definitely trying his best to be soft and predictable and basically everything that Reborn isn't, just to make them not look too hard, Fon feels like he should say something.
"We should talk," the martial artist murmurs.
"Are you breaking up with me?" Reborn jokes.
Fon frowns a bit and deliberates on his wording. "Do you know why I insist on sleeping with you whenever I nap?"
"Because I'm particularly cuddly."
"You're taller than I'd prefer," Fon admits and then gets back on track to what he's actually trying to say. "I mean, if I'm going to be unconscious in a room full of people I met not too long ago, I simply feel safer if the biggest threat is lying with me, because if you go for a gun then I'll instantly wake up."
Reborn rolls over and they have to shift around a bit until they're facing each other, the hitman with concern in his eyes. "You don't trust me?" Reborn asks with a betrayed tremor hidden in his voice.
"I know you," Fon explains, not even bothering to point out that the other is faking. "If you can't reach your gun then you also can't reach a pen to draw on my face, and you certainly can't move whatever I'm napping on and toss it out of a nearby window."
"Skull deserved that," Reborn protests. "Did you not see him try to hotwire my Cadillac? What kind of monster does that to such a beautiful car?"
Fon rolls his eyes. "My main point is that it's okay to not be one hundred percent confident in us. I still have my reservations as well, and I'm sure it's the same for Viper at the very least."
Reborn chuckles. "I suppose it's strange that I trust Viper then, isn't it?"
Fon smiles at him fondly. "You never do things the easy way." He then smiles wider with teeth. "And that was a neat little segue into how difficult you can be, so now would be a good time to explain where the actual message from the mission went."
Reborn really doesn't want to tell anyone about the awful hit that lead to him stealing the painting. "I have no idea what you're talking about and - oh, look at the time, I think I'm late for a thing." He tries to sit up.
They wrestle until the hammock flips over in protest and they flop onto the carpet of the living room. Fon takes a knee to the liver and headbutts Reborn in reply.
Verde stops by the doorway and watches the entertainment for a few minutes before continuing down the hall. He returns with Colonnello, Viper and Skull, who watch with him as Reborn manages to wrap an arm around Fon's neck to strangle him, but the martial artist plays dirty and digs his nails into the soft part of the hitman's inner thigh.
Lal is technically the winner because she shows up with Fon's tea leaves and Reborn's espresso beans and threatens to mix them together to ruin the crisp flavour of both.
It's no wonder Reborn doesn't trust these people if they take his coffee hostage.
I may have gone a bit overboard last chapter, so now I'm trying to calm it all down again into the crack induced friendship I normally write for Beginnings.
Colonnello's throw goes wide and the grape skims the brim of Reborn fedora before flying over the back of the couch. Leon's tongue snaps out anyway and reels the food back in before it lands on the floor of the living room.
"Weak," Skull declares and tosses his own grape, but it's too low and Reborn snatches it out of the air before it hits him in the eye. The hitman tosses it back and Skull's teeth snap shut around it.
Viper scoffs and takes their turn. It spins through the air and lands perfectly in Leon's open mouth. "Yes!" the Mist cries. "Suck my theoretical dick, you losers!"
The television in the background is then ignored as everyone takes a moment to assimilate that comment.
"Theoretical as in you don't have one?" Skull wonders in confusion. "Is that implying a female set?"
Fon tils his head, running the words over in his mind. "I think they mean theoretical because we don't know."
"Schrödinger's dick…" Verde muses.
"I think they're male, since they used that reference in the first place," Colonnello offers up.
"It's a common phrase," Lal argues. "I've used it before."
"I'm going female," Skull puts out there.
"Neither," Reborn guesses.
"We can do none?" Colonnello asks. "Well in that case; both."
"Top half female," Lal tries. "Bottom half male."
"This is getting complicated," Fon murmurs.
"I've got it," Verde declares. "Two Y chromosomes, and one X."
Viper rolls their eyes.
Lal sighs and fiddles with the fancy grey dress she has on. "Why can't Reborn just dress up?"
Verde shrugs. "He says he's not 'feeling it', whatever that means."
Colonnello, who has not once looked away from Lal, offers up a smile. "But you look much better than Reborn ever would."
"Debateable," Verde mutters.
Fon rolls his eyes where he's kneeling by Lal's feet to buckle up the heels. "Reborn thinks he would be lowering himself to be at the party, and that's the only reason he hasn't stolen your clothes."
Reborn steps into the room then, followed by Skull who's carrying a bag of make-up. The hitman ducks in front of Lal and hums. "I think we'll go with blue accents to match your hair."
Lal frowns at him. "You're the kind of person who plays with Barbies, aren't you?"
"No need," Reborn dismisses. "I have a perfectly willing victim right in front of me."
Skull laughs. "You know, Lal, you could just let the mole poison the guy. You don't technically need to be there in person."
"Of course I do," the soldier argues. "We bribed a maid – and I don't care what kind of profile Viper made, I'm not trusting the staff to drug their employer just because Reborn sweet talked them."
"Um," the hitman begins in annoyance at the thought of his abilities being questioned.
Viper cuts in over him, because Lal also blatantly spat on their information gathering. Viper scans Lal, unimpressed. "We're going to need to pad your bra, your breasts are even smaller than my theoretical ones."
Instead of being insulted, Lal just looks confused. "What does that even mean?"
Verde sighs. "Are we starting this again?"
Colonnello actually manages to turn away from Lal and stares at Viper's chest. It looks flat, but there's also a lot of layers to their cloak and they could just be binding it. "I honestly can't tell if you have anything."
"Okay," Skull begins. "How much money for-"
"More than you have," Viper deadpans.
Viper stands from the café table and excuses themself.
Everyone plays casual, continues their conversation about their weekend, but they all go dead silent and turn to stare when Viper gets closer to the café's bathrooms.
Viper heads for the two doors, one with a picture of a man and one with a woman, about a meter apart. Everyone sitting at the table leans forward, wary of any disappearing tricks with Mist flames.
Viper walks straight through the wall in between each door.
"Oh, come on!" Skull cries.
"I'm checking the men's," Colonnello declares, standing up and striding for the bathroom.
"Go," Verde says and nudges Lal's arm.
She swats him away. "Even if I go into the women's, I can't see through their flames."
"But you need to at least try," Fon urges.
Reborn stares at the blank wall between doors like maybe if he focuses hard enough, he can see through the plaster.
I like to think Viper is null, but what's your headcanon about their gender?
"Skull de Mort is my real name," Skull protests, dramatically slamming his hands down on the dining table and rattling his plate. "And why are you picking on me with this – the name Reborn is even stranger!"
"Excuse you," Reborn huffs, slowly twirling his fork in the carbonara. "'Reborn' is a family tradition. My father is called Reincarnation and my older brother is Rebirth."
Luce giggles. "That's so cute."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Verde says sceptically.
"It's best if you don't meet," Reborn admits. "Dad is the head of INTERPOL."
Colonnello can't decide whether to be terrified at the 'INTERPOL' thing, or the 'Reborn's father' thing, so he ends up just nodding. "Okay, but let's pretend he's dead."
Lal drops her fork onto her plate and leans forward. "Wait, INTERPOL? Does he know what you do?"
Reborn looks up when the door is kicked in and smiles when he sees his dad leading the charge. The man comes to a shaky halt when he finds his ten year old son sitting at the dinner table of a well-known thief.
The man INTERPOL is actually here for is slumped down in the chair beside Reborn, head lolling back with a bullet hole right between the eyes. The rest of the officers pour into the room, rushing through the house to try and find the killer.
"Dad," Reborn cries happily, hopping out of his seat and darting up to his father for a hug.
The man immediately scoops up his son onto his hip and holds on tight even as his eyes continually scan his surroundings. "Are you okay, little prince? How did you get here?"
"You haven't been home," Reborn mutters in annoyance, pulling the fedora from his father's head onto his own. The small green chameleon on the brim comes with it.
"I'm sorry, little prince, but I have work," the man murmurs distractedly, cautiously moving out of the house so he could tuck his son into the safety of his car. "Who took you, Reborn? How did you get here?" he repeats.
"You don't have to chase the criminal anymore," Reborn points out as he's gently dropped off inside the car. "He's the reason you haven't been home, but now he's dead."
The INTERPOL officer pauses where he's about to buckle the seat belt around Reborn. "What?"
Reborn pulls out his dad's spare gun from under his shirt.
"Bullshit," Verde deadpans. "That is not your origin story. Even at ten, you would have known to not be so obvious about murdering someone."
"Ah, you caught me," Reborn drawls. "What a pity - I mean I was trying so hard to fool you."
Colonnello rolls his eyes. "Okay, and what's the real story?"
"And who are you supposed to be?"
Reborn whirls around, ready to make an excuse for why a fifteen year old broke into a mafia famiglia's storage facility. Despite the fact that it's filled with mostly weapons, Reborn just wants the really nice suits (because he has a problem but they don't make rehab facilities for fashion addicts).
The person who accused him is a ragged looking man, hovering partially behind the cover of several stacked wooden boxes. There's a machine gun in the man's tight grip and his eyes are flickering around the corners and shadows like something is about to jump out at him.
The man's gaze snaps to Reborn and he scoffs loudly. "Are you the hitman they sent to kill me? What a fucking joke. You look like some mafia bitch." He tightens his hold on the gun.
Reborn dives to the side, narrowly escaping a hail of bullets, and grabs a loaded gun out of an already opened crate. The first shot goes wide, skimming the man's shoulder. The second buries itself into the left eye.
The body drops with a meaty 'thud' onto the concrete floor and Reborn peers down at the gun in his hand.
That felt good.
"Just tell us," Lal complains. "Why is everything so difficult with you?"
"What's wrong with that story?" Reborn protests. "It had humour and there was genuine risk involved instead of me just wiping out everyone, plus the creep factor at the end there-"
Viper cuts in over him. "I actually believe you about the suits, but I don't care how inexperienced you are, as if you didn't hear him sneaking up on you."
"Your INTERPOL father would not have allowed you to go wandering around, stealing things," Fon says. "Unless you lied about him as well, which I'm considering…"
Reborn huffs and begins again.
So Leon needs to eat souls-
"You're not even trying anymore!" Skull cries in outrage, interrupting story time.
"Fuck off," Colonnello groans. "That wasn't even close to being believable."
"Fine, fine," Reborn sighs dramatically. "There was actually a brunet man who appeared out of nowhere, bought me an espresso and asked if I was a hitman yet." He shrugs. "I got curious. That's all."
There's a pause.
"What, did you run out of ideas?" Viper snarks. "At least the other stories were interesting."
Everyone else nods along with the Mist user, looking disappointed in Reborn's imagination.
Reborn flips them off.
How do you think he got into the hitman lifestyle?
Chapter 29: Annoying
Reborn hums, musing to himself. "If I believed in Gods I would say they sculpted me with perfection in mind. There is no part of me that is in anyway deficient-"
"Personality," Viper deadpans. "Everything about your personality."
"Your espresso addiction," Lal says.
Skull gestures vaguely. "That thing you do where you go around killing people."
"You insult someone whenever you open your mouth," Colonnello pipes up.
Fon smiles to try and soften the blow. "Your frankly concerning co-dependency with Leon."
Reborn scoffs dismissively. "None of those things are bad."
"You're also delusional," Verde finishes up.
Reborn stops fiddling with his umbrella handle and glances up when the three fleeing men careen around the corner of the alleyway, chased by the rest. He can't help but smirk when the three line up perfectly. One bullet and they all crumple to the muddy ground.
The others stagger to a stop after a good half an hour of chasing the targets through the rain and Reborn blinks at them.
"What?" Verde grits out, panting.
"Say it," Lal orders. "Just say it, Reborn."
"Let's get this over with," Skull sighs, leaning against the wall to rest.
It would be rude of him if Reborn didn't give them what they wanted.
"I know it wasn't a competition or anything, but I still think I win," he says casually, turning to survey his handiwork. "I mean, I'm not trying to purposely make any of you feel inferior, but it's natural if you do have that little ball of shame in your chest right now. I am so much better than everyone, after all."
They all try to stifle the immediate reaction, because they should be used to this by now, but instinct urges them to move forward.
A ring of floating spikes appears around Reborn's neck, hovering just before the skin and threatening to puncture. Lal's shotgun comes to rest right at the back of Reborn's head and Colonnello's gun presses into the hitman's spine.
Verde clutches a needle and stares intently at Reborn's inner elbow while Fon lightly rests his hand against the man's chest, palm flat. Skull presses his fingers against the hitman's lower ribs, intent on using his Cloud flames like Reborn himself showed the stuntman.
"Oh, stop it," Reborn says coyly, reaching out to shoo them away. "We're in public - what will everyone think?" he purrs with a flirtatious smirk as if they weren't threatening to kill him in various, excruciating ways.
Lal cocks her shotgun loudly in warning.
Reborn moves to leave the room when the rest of them do, except he's sitting on the table so when he stands he's actually still on the dinner table. "It's too high," Reborn says with a smirk. "Someone has to catch me when I jump down."
Lal rolls her eyes and shoves Skull towards him. The Cloud grumbles but does walk up to the table and opens his arms. Reborn reaches out and steps off, dropping into a bear hug.
He honestly doesn't know why these people are humouring him, but he's not going to complain. Maybe they've finally lost all hope in defying Reborn's wishes and figure that the sooner they cater to him, the less the hitman will torment them.
Instead of putting him down, Skull turns and heads towards the others, waddling a bit awkwardly because Reborn is taller than him. The others are staring at the two in concern. Reborn isn't sure what the issue is because this isn't anywhere close to the strangest thing they've done.
"You can put me down," Reborn says to Skull.
"I could," Skull agrees. "But I wouldn't want you to break a nail getting out the door."
Reborn headbutts him and the stunt driver drops him with a curse. Skull reminds himself to start wearing his helmet more.
Leon often distracts Reborn when the hitman gets bored, usually by way of shifting forms and pouncing on the man's fingers. This is a very necessary game they play because if Reborn isn't occupied then his mind tends to wander and his body follows.
It's unfortunate that today is too cold for Leon to come out, so he stays wrapped around Reborn's upper thigh under the hitman's black slacks.
"My finger slipped," Reborn promises. "That's all."
Colonnello, despite trying to staunch his bleeding leg, is still able to flip Reborn off.
Reborn continues to be a nuisance that day by tripping Skull out of a window, pouring ice water onto Verde's lap, knocking Fon's plate out of his hands, and he also won't stop pawing at Luce's puffy hat like a particularly large and very bored cat.
It only comes to a stop when he targets Lal. The hitman reaches out, takes her shotgun, and in half a second the weapon is taken apart and dropped piece by piece onto the ground between them.
Reborn smiles charmingly. "No offence."
"What?!" Lal finally screams. "What is your damage, Reborn?"
The hitman's shoulders slump and even his curls seem to droop sadly on either side of his jaw. "It's too cold so Leon won't play with me," Reborn admits.
Verde immediately leaves, returns with Keiman, and then throws the alligator at Reborn. The two end up in one of Reborn's hidden passageways, rolled up in a warm blanket and napping.
This method only works with reptiles or Shamal. Don't ask about that last part, it's not good for anyone's sanity.
Reborn walks around a corner and almost bumps into Skull but flinches away, fingers twitching for a gun. "Stop that, you terrifying sad clown," Reborn snaps, a little off balance from the jump scare.
"…What?" Skull asks in bemusement.
"That is the third time this week," Reborn grumbles, pushing past into the hallway. "One day I'm just going to shoot you."
"I don't do it on purpose," Skull defends, following along. "And why am I terrifying?"
"Do you not own a mirror?" Reborn scoffs. "The piercings, the crazy make-up, the hyena laugh. You look like your arch nemesis is Batman. You look like you'd stab someone and then eat their liver in broad daylight, on a crowded street, in front of a police building."
Skull starts laughing and realises that he does actually sound like a hyena. He's more than okay with that.
Lal storms into the room with an amused Reborn slinking along behind her. She spots Luce on the couch and makes her way over before crouching down and pressing an ear to Luce's stomach. "Yeah, Aria says Reborn is being rude as well."
Reborn throws up his hands out of annoyance. Really? They're seriously using Viper's stupid name as an insult?
"Thank you for not swearing," Luce tells the soldier.
"No worries," Lal says, straightening up. "I'm swearing in my head."
Colonnello accidentally bumps into Skull when they stop outside of a café. The stuntman staggers and frowns at the blond who shrugs, uncaring.
Reborn shoves the soldier with his hip and Colonnello trips, barely catching himself on a wall before he slams his face into it. Reborn smirks.
Fon proceeds to walk into Reborn's back, carrying about the same force as a small train, and the hitman is sent tumbling to the ground, his body jarring when he lands on his hands and knees.
The three snicker, right until Reborn stands up and they realise that not only did he skim his hands and knees open on the pavement, but he also landed in a fine sprinkling of glass shards, presumably from the broken off beer bottle that's lying a meter away.
They don't stop looking guilty all the way home and Skull seems like he's about to tear up when Reborn starts pulling the dozens of glass shards out of his flesh with tweezers. Fon is off mopping up the blood that Reborn accidentally dripped everywhere on his way in and Colonnello is awkwardly fluttering around.
Neither of the three know how to respond when they've genuinely injured a friend. Especially because it can't be fixed in seconds with a quick flare of Sun flames.
The wound isn't that bad, Reborn just has to take out the glass and clean it before he seals everything up. He's really more annoyed with how the three are hovering around and staring at him so pathetically.
"There's no real difference between the guns except for useless cosmetics," Lal argues. "It's like potato/potatoh," she points out, gesturing vaguely at her plate with a fork.
Reborn takes a deep breath. "I'll get back to how wrong you are about the gun in a second, but first I just need to point out that no one has ever said 'potatoh'-"
"Hey!" Colonnello calls out across the table. "Can you pass me the potatohs?"
"These potatohs?" Vipers asks loudly and hands the bowl over.
"Keep them on that side of the table," Skull says, equally as loud as the other two. "I've had too much mashed potatohs already."
Reborn seems to be struggling to keep his hands on the table so they don't automatically grab a gun and take care of the annoyances.
"Aria is kicking," Luce says happily.
"What have I done this time?!" Reborn cries from across the room, sitting up in his hammock.
"No, sorry!" Luce blurts out quickly. "Not 'Aria' as in you've done something bad. I've just been saying the name so much that I'm used to it now."
"Our plan is working," Colonnello says loudly to the rest.
Reborn clicks his tongue at them.
Skull knocks over Reborn's espresso.
Reborn starts with some creative yet physically impossible threats before moving onto an essay of Skull's shortcomings; starting with appearance, then personality, followed by intelligence. He also adds on a neat little anecdote about Skull's mother having relations with a warthog, two frogs and a tree, the result of which culminated in Skull's birth.
Reborn finally ends with stating that if Skull rides his motorbike like he does dick, then it's no wonder the stuntman never gets laid.
Fon tries to trap a cockroach with a tissue, but it runs up his sleeve.
Reborn watches as Fon flips his shit, rips off his sleeve, and punches the cockroach to death.
Reborn is still laughing hysterically by the time Fon comes back from disposing of the corpse and washing his hands. The martial artist gently lowers the hitman to the ground, Reborn greatly weakened from not being able to see past his tears and suffocating from the laughter.
Fon then lies on top of Reborn and keeps him pinned for four entire hours until Reborn squashes his pride enough to admit that he's not getting out on his own and he finally apologises to Fon for laughing.
"To be honest," Reborn begins after Fon has let him up and he's retreated a safe distance away. "Most of the time I'm attracted to you, but sometimes you do things like this. Then I look at Skull and think 'wow, he's not so bad after all'-"
Reborn doges a grasping hand and ducks into a secret passageway, laughing, before Fon can get him into a hold again.
Fon implements the hug attack whenever Reborn is being especially annoying and this continues long into the future. Viper has multiple blackmail pictures of the two (violently) snuggling.
What was your favourite snippet?
"Excuse me, sir?"
Skull blinks and looks up from the magazine on his lap, finding an airplane host standing over him. The other passengers are peering at the host in curiosity, taking in the pressed black slacks and pure white shirt. The lean man is looking at Skull in polite patience, his fringe swept to the side but long enough that it shadows his eyes.
"Um," Skull says, realising that the man has been waiting for a response. "Sorry? Is everything okay?"
The man smiles kindly, his eyes carrying warmth and his charisma practically doubling. Some poor passengers are angled well enough to catch the smile and they stare dumbly.
"Nothing too bad," the host reassures Skull. "Just a small error on the company's part with regards to your booking information. Would it be okay if you came with me to clear it up?"
"Yeah," Skull says instantly because the poor man looks honestly apologetic. "Of course, just lead the way."
The handsome man smiles again, so genuine and happy. Skull fumbles a bit with the seat belt but clambers to his feet with all the grace he can muster since the man is still watching. When Skull is up, the man turns and heads back towards the front of the plane.
Skull follows along blindly, and it honestly doesn't occur to him that this is totally suspicious. So when the man opens the door to the cockpit just a bit and slips inside, Skull has no qualms about following him in.
The poor stuntman immediately catches sight of the two pilots, still buckled into their seats, slumped back with their throats slashed open.
The reinforced cockpit door clicks shut and Skull whirls around to find the man locking it. His kind exterior falls away and Skull finds himself face to face with a killer.
Skull tries to scream for help but the man darts forward and clamps a hand over Skull's mouth, swinging around the struggling Cloud and slamming him up against the wall.
"Shut up, idiot lackey," the host snaps.
Skull makes a choked sound and manages to flail an arm enough that the man has to jerk his head to the side to avoid being hit. The sudden motion makes two black locks of hair spring out from their place tucked behind the man's ears. Nothing else changes, but the man's entire body shifts form in Skull's eyes.
Reborn stares back with an irritated downward turn of his mouth.
Skull flails some more until Reborn lets go, and then the stuntman looks between the two dead people and the hitman a few times. "Did Leon teach you that chameleon black magic bullshit– no, never mind. Did you kill them?"
Reborn says nothing for a long moment, clearly considering his words. He runs a hand through his hair and combs it back into the usual style; slicked back with an upward flick at the end. Like the Godfather, but as a twenty-something year old model.
"No, not really," Reborn says.
"Wow, thanks," Skull deadpans. "That makes everything so much clearer, I finally understand my place in this universe just a bit better now-"
"Try me," Reborn dares and raises a hand like he's about to pimp slap Skull across the face.
"Yes please," Skull says immediately. "I am so into that. Can you pull my hair as well - just really try and rip it out?"
Reborn backs down immediately, a disgusted look on his face, which is good because Skull was bluffing so hard he almost pulled something.
The Cloud flails once more. "Okay, okay. Are you saying that there is a murderer on this plane? Apart from you I mean."
"Well these two weren't dead on takeoff," Reborn replies, reaching over and unbuckling a pilot to then haul them out of the chair and into a corner.
Skull frowns in concern. "Is it a rival of yours? Why did they steal your kill?"
Reborn shakes his head as he drops the pilot. A leg is sticking out into the main walkway so he kicks it back into the corner. "No, I'm here to actually travel. Da - uh, INTERPOL is cracking down and I'm on the 'no fly' list so I tend to dress as staff."
Skull nods, finding himself interested about hitman things despite the situation. He quickly dismisses those thoughts. "Alright, so just bring in the other assassin and kill them."
"Lackey, I'm the hitman here. Don't tell me what to do," Reborn says in reprimand. "That was the plan anyway and I'm working on it, but there's another problem."
Skull sighs. "Is there more than one person? Am I bait? I don't want to be bait."
"First guess was correct," Reborn admits. "But no, I've got that covered. The problem is that… the pilots are dead."
"Well, yes," Skull deadpans. "But more bodies are coming in anyway, and I honestly don't know why you're using me as a sounding board to get rid of the corpses. I mean if you're really out of ideas you could flush them down the toilet-"
"I can't fly a commercial airplane," Reborn finally just says to shut up Skull.
The stuntman blinks. "Could you repeat that?"
"I can't fly this plane," Reborn sighs. "I can do helicopters and light aircraft but this is too big. For now the plane is on auto, but landings are up to the pilots."
"Um… so I'm hearing strange things," Skull laughs nervously. "Must be the altitude - is it a bit hot in here?" He pulls at his riding suit's collar to try and get more fresh air.
Reborn lays a hand on Skull's shoulder in reassurance. "You'll figure it out." Then he turns and begins to unlock the door again.
"Waitwaitwait!" Skull shrieks.
Reborn quickly twists around and starts to try and cover the stuntman's mouth again because he is being far too loud.
"I don't know how to fly a commercial plane either!" Skull panics.
"Well that's not my problem," Reborn drawls. "I could just jump out with a parachute. The only reason I got you is because you might want to save about… what, five hundred people? Yeah, save about five hundred people from almost certain death."
Skull just gapes at Reborn.
The hitman sighs. "Look, I maybe… believeinyousodoyourbestokaybye," he says quickly, words rushing together before he slips out of the cockpit.
Skull feels oddly touched at the words, but then sheer panic overwhelms him again. He hesitantly steps closer to the thousands of buttons and switches and dials; covering the dashboard area, plus the side walls, plus the ceiling.
He takes a deep breath and hesitantly sits down in the empty seat.
"That went surprisingly well," Reborn says.
Skull sits silently, still gripping the wheel after landing a commercial plane with five hundred people on it. His eyes are wide and his heart is pumping from the adrenalin. There are also seven corpses stacked up carelessly to the side.
"Wasn't this a fun bonding exercise?" Reborn continues teasingly. "I feel like our friendship is a bit stronger now, runs a bit deeper down."
Skull inhales shakily. "I'm telling Lal. Everything."
"Alright, solid plan," Reborn accepts easily. "But, hey, counter argument; you take this to your grave." The hitman turns to Skull and smiles with a whole lot of teeth. "Whether you abruptly encounter a grave in the next five minutes or not is your choice entirely. So what will it be, Skull?"
Just to clarify the chapter inconsistency with FFN and AO3;
A guest over at FFN pointed out that they noticed differing chapters between FFN and AO3. I post at FFN first so when I repost here I go over the chapter again and decide whether to keep it or not.
It makes the story at this site more polished but some content is lost, or alternatively I've added some scenes or lines that make it better. Sometimes whole chapters are taken out, like how there's 'Meeting' here but no 'Christmas'. However, most things stay the same so there's no need to read both sites.
The Vendicare jail is silent except for the faint rustle of his cloak dragging on the concrete floor. The feather lining presses against his cheek when he turns his head to look down the left hallway. He frowns a bit behind bandages and then goes right instead.
He walks for a few more minutes, his stride confident and unhurried. Rushing things would just call attention to himself. He comes to a stop in front of a jail cell and peers out from under the brim of his top hat, the weight far heavier than a fedora.
The man inside, dressed in a ragged prisoner's uniform, looks up from the clenched hands in his lap. He's a smart one, and so he took precautions for his last job because of the heavy risks involved; if the Vindice got him then it would be better to just die a quick death instead.
The prisoner slowly stands and moves to the middle of the cell. "Is it you?"
"Who else could it be?" the Vindice murmurs. "Last chance, my friend. I can get you out."
The prisoner lets out a humourless laugh. "If I escape, do you think they won't just hunt me down again?"
"There's always another option," the Vindice insists. "Take some time and think things through."
"I have been," the other man snaps. "I knew the risks when I started this, and quite frankly I'd rather take this route than run for the rest of my life." He sighs. "Just do it. As a last wish."
"You're an idiot," the Vindice says, voice hard. He throws back one side of the cloak so his arm is free and lifts a gun until his aim is locked onto the prisoner. "Your death is for nothing."
"Not nothing," the prisoner denies with a smirk. "I finished the job, after all. I have bragging rights for eternity."
"Like I said, absolutely nothing."
That gets a laugh. "I'll see you down in hell, sunshine. We'll fuck some shit up over there as well."
"I'll find you," Reborn promises. "Wait for me."
The gun is strangely heavy but the bullet doesn't miss.
Bermuda's head snaps up, his instincts telling him that something is wrong. He leaps up from his desk and drops onto Jager's shoulder instead.
They warp in the next second, Bermuda following his gut feeling for the destination, somewhere in the far left of the compound with the high flight risk but low threat level prisoners. The portal opens in one of the hallways and Jager takes half a step out, still mostly in the darkness of Night flames.
A hand grips Jager's cloak and throws the Vindice out while the intruder leap into the portal instead, seconds before the vortex snaps shut. Bermuda scowls and warps again even before Jager gets his balance back.
They appear in the office just in time to catch sight of what looks to be a normal Vindice officer throwing open the window.
Bermuda darts back from Jager and the adult sized Vindice engages the intruder.
The enemy skips back from Jager's grab and takes off their top hat, snapping the entire thing down into a disc before tossing it at Jager like a frisbe. The top hat explodes into a blast of shrapnel, scarring the walls and furniture while making Jager and Bermuda warp away for a second to avoid it.
When they return the intruder is already dropping out of the window onto the snow outside. The other Vindice swarm them, called by the Night flames flaring up with the strange series of warps.
The intruder throws off their cloak and the bandages covering their face, revealing a man dressed in white snow gear. He starts running from them though there's nowhere he could possibly go on a snow covered mountain like this. He ducks and twists away from Vindice chains while his knives flash out in quicksilver arcs, dyeing the snow red.
Every time someone warps too close, the intruder will whip around them and dive back through the closing portal, using the teleportation to skip around, always getting out of trouble at the last second.
Bermuda doesn't recognise the intruder. He's tall and has bulky shoulders, brunet with brown eyes, small nose and large chin. Bermuda should know of someone capable of breaking into his Vendicare, capable of utilising the warps as easily as one of Bermuda's own, but the man's face makes him draw a blank.
The intruder breaks away and takes a small device out of his pocket. A push of the button summons a huge explosion further up the mountain, shaking the ground and making the snow shift.
Bermuda first thinks that one of his Vindice noticed the bombs and transferred them out of the building. Then he realises that while the explosions have died down, the snow is still trembling, sliding down the mountain towards Vendicare and building momentum as it collects more snow along the way.
The motherfucker caused an avalanche.
"Lock the prison down!" Bermuda orders.
Most of them warp back into the building, throwing up the defences meant for combating an angry famiglia instead of nature. Several still try to take on the intruder but the avalanche is seconds away and the building is still open so they have to portal away as well.
Bermuda warps in between the wall of snow and Vendicare, summoning the largest portal he can make to try and redirect as much as possible.
He braces for impact.
Reborn hums a song softly to himself as he slides down the mountain on his snowboard, squinting a bit from the bright sun despite the snow goggles over his eyes.
Leon wriggles around, annoyed at the cold, currently covering the lower half of the hitman's face to change the bone structure. Leon shifts back into the form of a lizard and slips down under Reborn's shirt to curl up around the man's neck, protected by the jacket's high collar.
Reborn unzips his snow jacket a bit, trying to ignore how the wind cuts straight through him, and pulls out the scarf he used as make-shift padding to make his shoulders look bulkier. He wraps the scarf comfortably around his neck to keep Leon extra warm and and then pulls part of it further up, over his nose to hide his face in the unlikely event that the Vindice catch up to him.
He zips up his jacket again, tucks his hands into his pockets, and continues his easy trail down the mountain.
Reborn lied to Skull in the last chapter. He wasn't in disguise because of INTERPOL, he just couldn't be seen anywhere near the country because the Vindice would immediately hunt him (and anyone else audacious and skilled enough to mess with them) down. He also used knives because a gun would be pushing it.
Also, I'm trying to link these few chapters together. No actual plot in sight yet but I'm making an attempt.
P.S. I have no idea who that man is, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Fon startles when he sees Reborn lounging across his living room couch, playing with the tiny snub-nosed monkey that occasionally breaks into Fon's house and steals lichee.
"How long have you been here?" Fon asks. This is in China as well, not Italy.
"I've always been here," Reborn retorts mildly. "Don't you remember? You wanted me to demonstrate a few things to the Sun users in the Triads so I followed you to China."
Fon takes a moment to think this over, because it would be foolish to immediately accept Reborn's bribe. The hitman is clearly looking for an alibi, probably for something really bad that he did, and Fon doesn't want to get mixed in with that unless he has to.
However, Reborn is offering to train the Sun cultivators, and who knows how far Fon can push him with this. Suns are for healing, and that's all they know because that's all everyone thinks they can learn. If it's so important that Reborn has this alibi then Fon could even ask the hitman to share his offensive abilities.
Fon had no idea Sun flames could be used to attack before he met Reborn, it just never occurred to the martial artist. He explained the fight to the head of the Sun cultivators, but the woman couldn't mimic Reborn's attack with only a vague description to go on.
Reborn doesn't just influence other people's bodies either. Fon has seen him enhance his own body to move faster than Fon has ever been able to go, and that was just so Reborn could shove Colonnello away and take the car's front passenger seat.
Fon raises a sleeve to hide a smile. "Speaking of demonstrations, the Sun dojo is practicing right now."
Reborn looks like he's regretting his decision but he forces a smile anyway. "Then what are we waiting for?"
The Sun dojo is filled when Reborn and Fon finally escape the welcoming party and step into the building. It's smaller than the other dojos, with Storm and Cloud both being the largest.
Asia tends to put out the highest proportion of the two flame types with Europe and Africa having Rain and Sun, then the Americas leading Lightning and Mist. Sky is incredibly rare but strangely enough Australia has the highest amount despite also having the highest percentage of flameless – which are people who haven't activated their flames.
The incidence rate between continents is a major reason why people argue flames are based on genetic factors, but it's still up in the air right now since there's not enough collaborative research. The Italian mafia especially clings to secrets, keeping everything inside the famiglia.
The heavy double doors swing shut with a daunting thud and Reborn takes in the dojo. The walls are lined with three neat rows of Sun users - called 'cultivators' in China. The front row is sitting, middle kneeling and back standing so everyone can easily see without craning their necks to peer over each other's heads.
Three particular students stand in the middle of the room, dressed in the traditional Gi uniform of martial arts students. They have dark yellow tops with black pants and all of them are barefoot, standing on the dark blue mats.
"Well," Reborn murmurs. "Let's get started."
Fon follows the hitman closely, hands tucked into the opposite sleeves, a blank smile on his face despite his sharp eyes. Fon is already reporting to the higher ups about the others. He's not guilty about it – he knows Lal feeds COMSUBIN the same information and Viper sells files to the highest bidder.
However, there's still a possibility Reborn won't be allowed to leave if he proves too useful, so Fon needs to be on guard. Whether he'll help Reborn escape, or try to contain the hitman, Fon isn't sure yet.
Reborn takes in the three students and wonders what he's going to do with them. It makes sense that they picked the three best instead of splitting his time over dozens of students.
Reborn arbitrarily picks the middle student, an old man with a head of white hair. "You'll be offense." Mainly how to cause migraines and strokes, large scale things that don't need a lot of finesse but are still debilitating.
Next is a young woman on the left, maybe a few years older than Reborn. "You can be augmentation." Boosting your own strength and speed through targeted flames.
The last is another woman, seemingly even older than the man. "You can learn some miscellaneous tricks." Numbing pain receptors, flaring bright enough to blind an enemy, powering the body mainly through flames so you can hold your breath for hours or go weeks without food.
Reborn won't teach them how to make a Chaos Shot or how to steal flames though. Those two techniques give him the biggest advantage over everyone else and he can't afford to lose them, not when he's gotten this far in his career.
Reborn smirks. "Who's going to volunteer as the first victim?"
"I don't mind it," Reborn admits, flopping onto Fon's couch and stretching out. "Teaching, I mean."
Fon sighs and lifts Reborn's feet before sitting down. "You put twenty-eight people in the hospital. Is it teaching or is it just sadistic torture at this point?"
"Who else were they going to practice on?" Reborn argues, pushing his toes into Fon's thigh. "I wasn't that bad."
"I'm pretty sure that woman won't ever wake up again."
"So dramatic," Reborn scoffs, reaching down and scooping up the tiny monkey as it darts by.
Fon peers at the monkey and the lichee it's hoarding in its arms. "Lichi," he abruptly decides.
Reborn hums. "Is that its name?"
He gives the small head a scratch and Lichi instantly falls in love with the human.
I wasn't sure if anyone wanted really in depth flame mechanics since I know it can get boring pretty fast for most people, so I just summarised everything. I'll probably break it all down scientifically in other chapters since I try to be as realistic as possible... even while working with magical mafia flames.
Also, Dino and Tsuna should be so thankful that Reborn is getting all this teaching practice because by the time he gets to them, he knows when to stop before they break irreparably.
A cold wind blows over the rooftop and Reborn huddles deeper into his blanket nest. He's the only one with something under him while the rest are all lying on the cold concrete - except for Skull, who has conquered a corner of the nest and is slowly creeping even closer.
"Hurry up," Viper mutters in annoyance, shivering lightly.
This is actually a mission from Viper, given to Colonnello (because he's stupid enough to do it for free). The man they're watching was blackmailed into coercing a fellow business partner to invest in a mock opportunity, so Viper can take the money and run.
The meeting was supposed to start twenty minutes ago, but Viper can't exactly complain directly because they're watching to see if the man will turn traitor. If he knew they were here he'd just play along and then backstab Viper later, when the Mist doesn't have a blond sniper.
Luce isn't here because she goes out like a light when it hits nine pm, and Lal is off somewhere, probably terrifying people into being her minions. Everyone else followed along because at this point a job is just how they spend time together.
"It does not take this long to sight someone, you knob jockey," Reborn mutters in annoyance, splayed out on his stomach to watch through Leon binoculars.
"I'm getting to it so shut your face, dick monger," Colonnello snaps back, adjusting the gun a bit more, the crosshairs skimming over the head of the target in the building across.
"Both of you need to shut up," Viper hisses. "One more word out of either of you and I'll punch a hippopotamus."
Fon spends a long moment trying to decipher the conversation that just happened. He knows that generally they were insulting each other, and he understands the separate words, but the actual meaning just went straight over his head.
"Um," Fon begins, fingers laced across his chest as he stares up at the night sky. "I'm sorry, apparently my Italian isn't very good. What just happened?"
Verde rolls his eyes. "Reborn implied that Colonnello races door knobs for a living, and Colonnello stated that Reborn mutilates people and sells the disfigured parts. Then Viper threatened to assault a large-"
"Hold on," Colonnello interrupts. "I know you're being sarcastic, but I just want everyone to know that I have actually seen Reborn shoot someone's dick off."
"I think I heard that wrong," Fon admits.
Reborn frowns. "Leave me alone, I'm innocent in this."
Fon scoffs loudly. "I definitely heard that one wrong."
"I didn't cut anything off," Reborn quickly explains. "It was just there, and far be it for me to ignore an opportunity to hit someone in the face with it. It was hilarious, by the way."
Skull rolls over and onto Reborn's back, finally achieving blanket territory in one courageous attack. "Does that technically count as sexual harassment?"
"It's assault at that point since there was physical contact," Verde argues.
"It sounds so much worse when you put it like that," Reborn complains as he elbows Skull off him and then kicks until the stuntman is banished from blanket land.
Colonnello pulls away from the gun and turns to stare at Reborn. "You took someone's amputated dick and then hit someone else in the face with said dismembered dick. I don't think it gets much worse."
"Excuse me," Viper interrupts, snapping their fingers to get the blond's attention. "Back to the job now."
The silence last two minutes.
"Did you slap them with it?" Verde asks. "Or did you just throw it?"
"Kicked it," Reborn admits. "Didn't quite have the same flare as if I'd full on whipped them, but I didn't want to touch it."
Skull pounces on Reborn and they struggle for the crown of the blanket kingdom. Fon becomes emperor when he rolls onto both of them and they're squished under the weight of his ridiculous muscles.
"Oh shit," Colonnello blurts out. "Guys, oh my God, it's Lal."
They snap to attention immediately. Verde reaches over Colonnello and grabs Leon in binocular form. Viper grabs one half and Leon obligingly stretches so the two can both peer at Lal.
"What's happening?" Skull asks.
"She's talking to Viper's target," Colonnello murmurs.
"I can read lips," Reborn says and wriggles until Fon and Skull roll off him.
Verde passes over his half of Leon and Reborn watches closely.
"Told you not to enter – uh, I mean interfere," Reborn repeats as he sees her lips move. "COMSUBIN? Yeah, COMSUBIN is not a pelican – uh, political… play…ground. Won't tolerate… um, last warming – warning."
"I thought you said you could read lips," Viper complains. "That's so bad."
Reborn scowls. "She's facing away from me! I'm using a damn reflective photo frame, okay?"
"What's she saying?" Colonnello insists, blindly reaching out to pat Reborn's back. He hits Skull instead as the stuntman slinks over Reborn's legs.
Reborn sighs. "Um, clean ours – I mean house. Join your friends. Eat – eat? I think she just threatened to eat him."
"I can imagine that," Skull admits.
"Lal threatening cannibalism?" Fon clarifies.
"The actual act of devouring people," Skull says. "I bet she gets stronger with every innocent's heart."
"Watch out, Colonnello," Verde mutters.
"It's far too late for him," Viper retorts.
Reborn jokingly crosses himself in prayer, which is probably some form of blasphemy, especially considering he's close enough to being the anti-christ that someone is sent from the Vatican at least once a month to try and kill him.
Colonnello frowns. "Ah, shit, I think he pushed a silent alarm."
The door to the office slams open and several large security guards step in.
"Unfortunate," Reborn echoes Lal. "Let me intro-introduce… my boys… they've been… waiting to say… hello."
Lal turns away from Viper's target, but she doesn't even acknowledge the guards. Instead, she spins on a heel and stares straight out of the large window.
Directly at them.
"She's hijacking my job!" Viper cries in outrage.
"Sorry, Viper," Colonnello chuckles, shifting his aim. "The boss gets what the boss wants."
If Lal brought a mass of very easily identifiable men (plus a Viper) then she would be held accountable, no questions asked. This way, she avoids the cameras, trusts Viper to keep her boys concealed, and everything comes out clean.
Lal gestures to security using sign language that COMSUBIN teaches. The window shatters and five bodies hit the ground. Lal then turns back to Viper's target, leans over the desk, and says something Reborn can't catch. Then she straightens up and gestures again, a different hand sign than before.
Colonnello tucks the bullet through the broken window and the wood of the desk, right into the man's knee. Lal leaves the room while Viper's victim squirms on the floor.
"I thought you were army, not a hitman!" Viper complains.
"Mafia army," the blond clarifies. It explains everything. "But I think I have quite the future as a hitman," he smirks as he pulls away from the rifle. "What do you think, Reborn?"
Reborn is too busy wincing in second-hand embarrassment to pay attention to Colonnello. "Ugh, look at that grouping, you swung wide enough to clip an ear on one of them. That window is tempered and reinforced, it would not have shattered if you grouped correctly."
"You triggered him," Fon sighs.
"Reborn-" Colonnello tries.
"And that blood splatter range is not professional at all-"
"-I can barely look at you-"
"-without feeling ashamed that I know you-"
"-and people can clearly trace the angle back to this rooftop-"
"Babe, I don't care," Colonnello says stresses. "I made a few... mistakes, but it got done."
"What part of this is fine?" Reborn scoffs. He lowers binoculars!Leon, finally unable to stand the sight of Colonnello's disaster. "You missed the kneecap. Maybe in your cute little 'mafia army' a shattered tibia is something to be praised, but in my world you would be lined up against a wall and shot execution style because mistakes gets aborted."
Verde can't quite muffle the laugh fast enough.
Colonnello rolls his eyes. "Alright, fine. How about you go and stand over there and I'll try again with that splatter."
"You could try a hundred times and still make me want to gag," Reborn deadpans. "Who taught you to snipe? Was it the same person who taught Skull to drive?"
As a reply, Skull leans forward and deliberately breathes hot, moist air into Reborn's ear.
Reborn flinches away with a disgusted shiver. They go rolling off the blanket and bump into Fon. The distraction leaves the blanket empire open to attack and Verde hops over Colonnello to claim it in one fell swoop.
"I hate all of you," Viper grumbles. All they want is some money. Is that really so difficult? What happened to the good old days where they could plan a neat operation and actually have it come through smelling like daisies?
Oh, that's right, Viper now has friends.
Not worth it.
Poor Lal and Viper are trying to get things done but the boys are more concerned with who gets to snuggle in the blanket.
"Why are we watching this?" Colonnello asks, splayed out on the ground in front of the TV, his head propped up on a fluffy pillow.
"It's a classic," Viper explains, curled up at one arm of the couch, intently watching the movie.
Lal turns to the Mist beside her. "You don't seem like the kind of person to enjoy The Little Mermaid."
Viper smiles, wide and manic. "Do you know how much money this movie has made? And the merchandise sales!" They start to giggle disturbingly.
Verde makes an understanding sound from the other side of Lal and Fon chuckles where he's lying next to Colonnello. Skull doesn't seem to be listening though. He's intently watching the TV from a beanbag about a meter away from the screen.
"I would fuck Ursula," Skull admits.
"What?" Skull asks. "Look at her! She's a beast! Reborn agrees with me, right?"
Reborn, off to the side in his hammock, rolls his eyes. "I'm not into tentacle porn, thanks."
As everyone starts debating what constitutes as bestiality, Reborn rolls off his hammock with the intent to get himself an espresso. When he crosses between the couch and the TV they boo him and hurl popcorn for blocking the screen, even though Skull is really the only one who's watching the movie.
Viper kicks out a leg so Reborn stumbles over it and he loses balance, dropping down onto the blond soldier that he was in the process of stepping over.
Colonnello makes a choked sound, body jerking up and half curling when Reborn lands. His hands grab onto the hitman, fingers scrambling at Reborn's hips. "Fuck," he gasps. "You sat right on my-" He runs out of words and just makes a high-pitched whine.
Verde adjusts his glasses higher with a smirk. "Reborn's aim is unparalleled."
The hitman throws the scientist a glare. "Hilarious," he deadpans and stands up from the soldier.
The blond wheezes, rolling to the side as his hands cup his injury.
Lal peers down, lips pursed in effort to not laugh. "You okay, Colonnello?"
Reborn brushes himself off neatly, ignoring the man he just mortally wounded, and continues. "I was actually aiming for Fon and Colonnello got in the way."
"Please don't," Fon quickly says, hands coming up to protect his lap.
Skull barks out a laugh. "Yeah, I wouldn't risk it. I think Colonnello's grandchildren felt that one."
Colonnello whimpers and rolls over again onto his back to give his injury some room. "Jesus," he gasps. "Can you fuckwits shut up for once and get me some bloody ice?" He defensively draws his knees up in case Reborn decides to torture him some more and just tries to breathe.
Viper waves dismissively. "You don't need ice. Reborn has Sun flames so just stick it back in and you'll be fine."
Colonnello isn't listening at this point. "I think it's broken," he groans. "Oh God, what if it's like bent in half?"
Skull shrugs. "Just reset it as if it's a bone." He grins. "Get it? A boner."
"Fuck you all," the blond sighs. He then shoves his hand down his pants because he needs to check if there's a dent in his penis.
Lal splutters. "What are you doing?!"
Fon leans forward. "Is it bleeding?"
The soldier whimpers. "Oh shit, it hurts."
"Then why are you groping yourself?" Verde shoots back.
Reborn sighs heavily. "People call us the Seven Strongest, you know. The mafia actually considers us a threat." He shakes his head. "And yet this happens."
Viper scoffs. "You can't complain. It's your ass that did this."
"Reborn's ass is too powerful," Skull says seriously.
Colonnello whimpers pathetically.
I was stepping over my friend and he decided it was a good idea to jab me in the back of the knees, so he kind of deserved it.
"I'm bored," Skull grumbles. He looks away from the synthetic biology documentary on the TV and flops sideways on the couch, head landing on Verde's lap. "Hey, wanna make a blimp with me? Like the Hindenburg but no one dies in a fiery crash."
Verde looks considering. Upgrading the Batmobile with Skull is fun, so at least Verde knows the stuntman is competent with vehicles. However, let's not talk about the A.I. controlled monster trucks.
"But then what's the point of making a dirigible if no one dies?" Reborn asks.
Skull sits up and looks over with Verde to the adjoined kitchen area, just in time to see Reborn pour himself from an overhead cupboard and then slither down the fridge.
"Why?" is all Skull can ask.
"Because death is comforting," Reborn explains earnestly.
"No, I mean why the fuck-"
"Don't," Verde interrupts. "He probably doesn't even know why himself."
Skull jabs a finger at Reborn. "You're not allowed to call me a freak anymore since you have an entire network of tunnels running through this house."
"At least I don't wear eyeliner," Reborn scoffs.
Verde raises an eyebrow. "Yes you do. All the time."
"I don't wear purple eyeliner," Reborn corrects because he has been dressing as a woman more often lately.
"What's the difference?" Skull splutters.
"Only freaks wear purple," Reborn proclaims. "Case in point; you."
"That- that's not an argument." Skull cries. He turns to Verde. "That's not an argument."
"I'm pretty convinced," Verde murmurs with a smirk.
Skull grabs a throw pillow and charges at a smug looking Reborn. Verde lets the experiment subjects play and turns back to his documentary. Just as they're talking about biobricks, something whooshes through the air towards him.
Verde immediately has to duck a couch pillow. He doesn't quite manage, and it mushes itself against the side of his face, knocking his glasses off.
"Skull!" Reborn cries. "Look at what you've done! You've hit poor Verde!"
"You're the one who chucked the pillow!" Skull denies.
Verde snatches up the pillow and pegs it back at the two, not caring who he hits. The throw carries all the force of his usual shoe attack and when Skull gets clipped on the shoulder the stuntman topples to the ground.
Skull groans in pain on the floor, clutching his wounded shoulder. "What the hell, did you harden that with Lightning flames?"
Verde leans down again to pick up his glasses but Reborn slides in and snatches them away first.
"Are you near sighted?" Reborn wonders, skipping back when Verde reaches for his glasses again.
"Give them back," Verde orders.
"I'm not going to break them, don't worry," Reborn dismisses. He slips the glasses on and blinks in shock.
The view is perfectly clear, not blurry at all, so these aren't prescription. However, Reborn's peripheral vision is shot to hell because a dozen small screens are constantly scrolling along the edges of the glasses. Reborn glances up at one near the top and it expands to show some programming language that Reborn can't read.
Verde steps forward again so Reborn turns away and half curls up to block him out, hands coming up to hold the glasses on his face. He still hasn't seen all the screens yet and he's curious.
Skull sits up and watches in bemusement as Verde flops over Reborn's back and tries to unfurl the hitman to reach the glasses. Reborn decides to go full five year old and drops to the ground, sitting on his calves and hunched over. Verde, not to be outdone, drops as well to squish Reborn underneath him, the hitman completely disappearing under the scientist's lab coat.
"Um," Skull says.
"Is this GSP one pointing to the glasses or to my tracker?" Reborn asks, voice heavily muffled.
"Give it," Verde snaps, trying to dig his hands into the small gap between Reborn's neck and shoulders. "That is sensitive information, you shouldn't even be able to see it. It only responds to my iris."
"Stop," Reborn laughs, hunching up even further to block out Verde's hands. "I'm ticklish."
"I have a blank iris," Verde continues, mildly exasperated with Reborn stealing his things but whole heartedly pissed off about his glasses failing him. "I had it specifically lasered, the glasses should not have registered you."
"I wear contacts." Reborn squirms and finally just rolls, throwing Verde off and escaping to the other side of the couch as a shield.
"Contacts?" Verde repeats, voice flat. "My cutting-edge software, decades ahead of its time, is rerouted by contacts?!"
Skull tilts his head. "Wait, do you have vision problems then?" he asks Reborn.
"No, just…" Reborn trails off. He pulls off the glasses and tosses them back to Verde. He then reaches up and smoothly removes the large contact from his left eye.
The hitman's eye is pitch black, but not just the pupil and iris, everything. His entire eyeball is black like there's an empty socket, like he's a demon in more than just name, like they're staring into an abyss.
"Oh," Skull says quietly.
"Yeah," Reborn deadpans. "So… contacts."
"But you would be so much more terrifying with those eyes," Skull says, slowly growing more gleeful. "Everyone would be scared shitless."
"They're already scared shitless," Reborn says slowly. "I. Kill. People. How do you not know this by now?"
"Contacts," Verde repeats. "Contacts. Mother-fucking-contacts!"
Colonnello sticks his head into the room. "Why are you screami-" He sees Reborn's eyes. "No. Nope. Nuh-uh, I'm good." The blond quickly retreats back outside.
Reborn is the only one with weird eyes as a baby. I think he fakes the cutesy voice, but the eyes I need an explanation for.
Also, the shoe attack makes its reappearance.
Skull grumbles into Reborn's neck and flails an arm around until he can grab Reborn's knee. The man's legs are too damn long and this hammock is too damn small.
Skull huffs as he squirms, nudging Reborn's legs open so he can comfortably lie between them. He half turns on his side and hikes one of the hitman's legs up on his hip.
"Stop," Reborn slurs, eyes still closed but managing to land an accurate stab into Skull's ribs with his thumb.
Skull grunts from the hit. "S'fine, fine," he slurs back. "M'done. Good."
"No," Reborn whines. "I'm uncomfortable now."
Skull shushes Reborn gently.
Reborn brings an elbow down on the back of Skull's neck. By the time Skull regains consciousness Reborn is long gone and so is the hammock.
Verde strains as he lifts the large duffel bag out of the trunk. What the hell is in here? It's supposed to just be tools for the modified jeep they all use, but even a couple of car-jacks aren't this heavy. Did Lal just shove her extra ammunition in here again?
Verde gets three steps towards the garage but it's too heavy for him and he has to lower it to the ground.
The canvas bag makes a sound.
He stares some more as the zipper opens from the inside and a heap of fabric emerges, trips out, and staggers towards the house.
"Good morning, Reborn." Verde deadpans.
The fabric that Verde now recognises as Reborn's hammock comes to a halt and then gets torn off and dropped carelessly onto the dirt driveway. Reborn squints at Verde, clearly not happy at the bright sun, and then drops as well to curl up on the bundle of fabric.
Well it's not Verde's problem.
Colonnello does a double take when he sees a huge patch of overgrown grass near the jeep. When he gets closer he realises that it's a mound of green leaves dotted with bright flowers.
He vaguely remembers Luce planting some seeds here yesterday, and because he has had no contact with anything even vaguely garden related, this all seems normal to him.
There are some nice roses mixed in (Colonnello can recognise that plant at least) so maybe he should grab some for Lal when she gets here later.
The blond perks up and trots over. There's a huge red one in arm's reach, but Lal's favourite colour is actually blue so Colonnello goes for the one at the back. He cautiously steps onto the mound of greenery and his foot sinks in a bit, but it seems to hold his weight.
He reaches out, and just as his hand brushes the thorns, the entire mound explodes.
Colonnello staggers back and immediately ducks reflectively because that lesson has been carved into him through trauma.
"Why?" the plant monster complains. Vines and leaves are ripped off and tossed away. "Stupid Sun. Who even wants Sun flames? A hitman with fucking healing powers, fuck me, I wanted Mist!"
Sun flames accelerates biological matter, whether that be healing a cut or growing plants. Reborn isn't allowed to sit on the ground for too long unless he wants a cocoon of daisies.
Reborn finally rips off the last few vines clinging to him and steps out from the decimated pile of greenery before smoothing out his rumpled button up and slacks. He's not even wearing shoes.
Colonnello purses his lips. "Why were you sleeping in the garden?"
"I was in the driveway," Reborn grumbles as he moves towards Colonnello. "Verde must have moved me into the shade."
"What…" Colonnello trails off. "Uh, what are you – okay? Okay, this is happening."
Reborn doesn't give a single fuck as he scales Colonnello's body and then drapes himself over the blond's shoulders like a scarf. He pats Colonnello's chest. "Go walk around for a bit and drop me off when I fall asleep."
Colonnello sighs. "I can't believe I was ever afraid of you."
Fon glances at Reborn who was sprawled over the couch back. It's three in the afternoon, what is he still doing asleep? Fon steps over and pats Reborn gently on the back.
Reborn reaches out, and after several attempts, he grabs Fon's tunic. He eventually gets the martial artist (who is clearly humouring him) lying on the couch.
Reborn then rolls off the backrest, flops onto Fon, and they're both asleep in minutes.
Lal opens the cupboard and just barely manages to catch the hitman that falls out from the top shelf. Reborn shifts around in Lal's arms to make himself more comfortable and that's all. Doesn't even open his eyes.
Lal glances over her shoulder into the connected living room. Verde is in the hammock while Skull and Colonnello are on the floor and Fon is sitting on the couch. They all look up but no one helps her.
"Thanks," she deadpans.
"You're welcome," Skull chirps.
Lal looks back up to the cupboard's top shelf but she's too to short reach normally, much less tuck away a man taller than herself.
Lal moves to the other side of the kitchen and hooks her socked toes into a handle before dragging out the large drawer that sits under the oven. She kicks out the large pot that lives there and dumps Reborn inside.
The hitman organises himself neatly and Lal shoves the drawer back in. She drops off the pot under the sink instead and then heads back to the couch after grabbing a protein bar from the cupboard.
Luce pulls open the drawer under the oven and stares.
"Are you looking for the pot?" Fon asks. The knife thunks rhythmically against the counter top.
"Fon!" Luce cries. "Use a wooden board! These are marble counters!"
Fon pauses and smiles in a ditzy, innocent manner as he drags over a cutting board. "I think Lal put the pot under the sink," Fon says to try and distract her.
Luce huffs and closes the drawer automatically as she hunts for the pot. "Do you cut on your counters at home?"
"Yes," Fon admits. "My home in China is almost completely metal. I used to have a problem controlling my strength when I was younger."
Skull laughs from where he's setting the dinner table. "The humble brag in action."
Fon slants a wide smile at him. "I used to shatter people's bones when I shook their hand."
"Well," Skull scoffs. "I'm sure if people actually wanted to shake my hand then… you know, they'd feel my strength too."
"Give up," Colonnello suggests. "You've already lost."
"Rude," Skull mumbles.
"Reborn isn't here so I have to pick up the slack," Colonnello laughs.
Luce gasps. "Oh my God, Reborn is in the drawer!" She whips around and quickly hurries over.
Mist coalesces into a cloaked form and Viper peers out from under their hood.
Reborn is tucked into the mostly unused bedroom upstairs. Lal and Verde each stole another bedroom as their firearms storage and study respectively.
Viper floats over and pulls off the quilt. The illusion drops and a thick leather belt on Reborn's thigh appears. Viper unbuckles it and checks the large, flat black metal box attached. They flip the lid off and a gush of Sun flames escapes the storage pack inside.
Viper snaps it shut quickly. No need to check, it's definitely full.
They drag the quilt up and tuck Reborn in again.
"Holy shit, you're alive," Colonnello says as the first person to notice the hitman.
Reborn is decked out in his usual pristine three-piece suit instead of his rumpled clothes from yesterday. "What year is it," he jokes back as he takes a seat at the dining table. "And what are you playing?"
Skull passes over a character card and a little figurine. "Start in the square with Verde and Lal, you'll learn the rules as we go."
Reborn blinks at the mess of cards and tokens scattered everywhere. "I'll sit out this game."
"It's a ten hour game," Luce says.
"Don't be ridiculous," Skull says. "Six hours at most."
"You know what?" Reborn stands up again. "I need to go kill some people, so you have fun here and I'll just…" he backs away.
"I'll come with you," Fon cuts in. He knocks over his figurine. "Pretend I'm dead. Reborn killed me."
"It's not that bad," Skull tries. "We've only just started."
"It's been three hours," Lal says flatly. "What do you mean 'we've only just started'?"
Verde drops his cards. "Let's go murder things."
"None of you appreciate art," Skull whines.
Reborn scoffs. "I have an original Rembrandt painting-" Reborn catches Fon's intense stare. "Uh, sculpture. This mess is not what anyone would call art."
"Oi," Viper calls out. "Before we go." They reach under the table and pull out a large briefcase. "This is your cut. Three-four-six-seven."
Reborn scrolls the lock to match Viper's password and opens the case. "This is… nice. Quick question; what did I do to earn this much money?"
"It was your winning personality," Viper says earnestly.
Reborn frowns at them, a sudden realisation hitting. "I was losing flames far too quickly yesterday for having just slept in the garden for a few hours."
"Don't be a baby," Viper mocks. "I pulled barely three billion fiamma volts from you." Viper waves away the fact that normal flame users can only give around ten thousand - and then they die.
Verde leans forward, immediately interested. "You can power Italy for over two years on three billion."
"Or a small island for a decade," Viper adds.
"Mafia Land?" Lal guesses.
Skull's eyes are so wide they're about to pop out of his head. "Mafia Land? Like a theme park for mafia?"
"It's pretty nice," Colonnello admits. "Do you want to go later? Lal and I have a break next week."
"Hold on," Reborn interrupts loudly. "Can we go back to what Viper did to me?"
"You wandered around sleepily and bounced back in a day," Fon summarises. "It wasn't that bad."
"Yes, but it hurt my feelings," Reborn announces dramatically.
"Next Wednesday?" Luce plans. "We could do a picnic thing on the beach there."
I hope you're all ready for the obligatory beach episode.
Skull rocks up the harbour in thongs, bright purple board shorts, thick white sunscreen smeared over just his nose, and literally nothing else.
Everyone else is wearing their usual clothes because they still have the ferry ride over plus the walk across Mafia Land to the actual beach. They've loaded up Fon with the bags that hold their swimming clothes and the stuff Luce brought along for the picnic.
"You're all weak," Skull scoffs. "Down in 'Straya, if you go to the beach, then you damn well go to the beach. You need to commit-"
"Boat is here," Reborn interrupts.
If they let Skull keep going then he'll start some bullshit story about Australian culture. His last one was about feeding protein powder to kookaburras and making them fight after they beef up. Reborn is eighty-six percent sure that Skull is making it up, but Australia is pretty weird, so he won't discount it.
Reborn heads straight for the bridge to the ferry, the mass of people parting around him because they're all mafia here and you don't ever get in the way of a hitman. He gets on first and heads up to the third level front deck to get the best view.
Colonnello lunges forward and ploughs into Reborn's back, arms squeezing Reborn's waist to pick him up and carry him over to the very end of the ferry.
All this, just so the blond can whisper creepily, "I'm flying, Jack."
Reborn slams his head back and almost breaks the moron's cheek bone.
"Do you all have your passports?" Luce asks, rummaging through her huge bag.
"Yes," they all chime, already bored with her going through a checklist. She's taking her mothering duties too seriously.
Mafia Land is in international waters, where authorities don't have the jurisdiction to do anything. The man-made island also travels around constantly during the year, cloaked with the power of several hundred Mist users, so only this one specific ferry can get across, and you can only board with an invitation.
It's also counted as its own (albeit unrecognised) country, so a passport is needed. Not a real one of course, this is the mafia.
Reborn leans over Fon and searches around in Skull's pocket to grab his passport, interested in what kind of forgery the civilian could manage.
"Oh," Reborn muses, impressed despite himself. "It is a fake."
"Uh," Skull begins. "Was it supposed to be fake?"
Reborn scoffs. "Are you telling me that you're actually twenty-three?"
Skull stares. "How old do you think I am?"
Reborn stares back. The hitman is one month older than Skull. He mentally breathes a sigh of relief at narrowly missing that cut off.
"W-wait," Colonnello stutters. "I'm twenty."
Skulls eyes go wide then they curve up in glee as his lips pull into quite frankly the most terrifying expression any of them have seen. "Call me senpai," Skull hisses.
Reborn flips Skull over the railing but the stuntman unfortunately sticks the landing on the floor below.
Lal ignores everything that's happening and instead raises an eyebrow at the bond. "I thought you were in SEALs for a few years before you came to COMSUBIN."
Colonnello gives a thumbs up. "Dropped out of high school."
Colonnello realise what trap he's fallen into and tries to recover. "How old are you then?"
"Same!" Luce says happily.
Fon has puffed up a little because he's twenty-five. This means he has a responsibility over the younger ones, but he also has right to all of their things.
Verde blinks. He always thought he was the oldest at twenty-seven.
"Don't worry," Reborn tells Verde, reading something like disappointed confusion in his expression and then guessing the inventor's thoughts from there. "You're perfect just the way you are." He reaches out and pats Verde's belly. "I especially love how you're adorably pudgy."
If Verde actually cared about his appearance, he'd smack Reborn for that comment. As it is, he still wants to smack Reborn for that irritating expression on the man's face.
"Say it!" Skull shrieks, bounding up the steps. "I'm your senpai!"
He crash tackles Colonnello to the floor, wiping out Viper as well since the Mist was unfortunately too close.
They get off the ferry and steal a car to hunt for a private beach. It doesn't take long since the entire rim of Mafia Land is sand for a couple meters before a drop off into the actual ocean. Skull is plastered to the window the entire time as Lal takes the scenic route through the island. They pass the theme park and a couple black markets but avoid the BDSM clubs and snuff film sets.
Reborn chases off a couple Bovinos who were tanning on the private beach, and by the time he gets bored of terrorising them, the others have changed and wandered off to the rock pools. Reborn changes quickly, rubs a little bit of sunscreen on Leon, and then follows after.
Most of them immediately walk to the edge to swim around near the drop off point where it's just kilometres of open ocean that leeches into pitch black. Skull got distracted by the little sea creatures stuck in the rock pools though, and Reborn wanders up to him.
"Hey, watch this," Reborn says to Skull with a smirk. He crouches down near a large tide pool, holds out his fists, and then quickly spreads his fingers in an exploding motion.
Fish dart away, a crab flips a pebble in rage, and a bright purple octopus flails all eight legs and runs into a rock like dumbass.
Reborn laughs like a cliché bully who just tossed a victim's backpack into a bin. The laugh is surprisingly cute, which just makes it worse.
"Guess who the fuckwit octopus is," Reborn demands and turns to stare at Skull.
The stuntman scowls. "A giant alien just tried to kill it, of course it's scared."
"It would be dead if I wanted it dead," Reborn scoffs. "Look, this is what a dead octopus looks like."
"No!" Skull shrieks. "Leave my spirit animal alone!"
He lunges forward but Reborn snatches the animal out of the water.
"So you admit you're a mass of noodles?" Reborn presses, already gripping one tentacle in each hand, prepared to rip it apart slowly to let the insides dribble out in the most aesthetic was possible.
"Yes," Skull says quickly. "Yes, I'm a noodle."
"And a fuckwit?"
"And a fuckwit."
"And your face is ugly?"
"And your face is ugly."
Reborn scowls and starts pulling.
"No!" Skull wails. "I'm sorry, I'm ugly, don't hurt my little hentai soul!"
"Too late," Reborn says and adds a little evil villain laugh as he tugs at it. He's not actually going to because Skull might get legitimately upset, but it's fun to squish the octopus around.
Skull screams in horror and charges the last few steps to grab the octopus and try to get it away from Reborn. His hands are already coated in Cloud flames because Reborn is totally the kind of person who would torture an animal for fun, so of course he needs to heal it immediately.
As soon as Skull touches the octopus it grows twenty times its size.
Reborn drops it and tackles Skull away into the water right before the octopus is about to crush them. The poor thing flails and wriggles around a bit until it can roll its heavy mass into the ocean. It sinks like a boulder and passes the two humans on the way down.
Skull and Reborn break the surface and clamber onto the rocks again.
"Nice one, loser."
"This is your fault," Skull protests. He looks into the water, worried. "Is it going to be okay?"
"Probably not," Reborn says. "It looked pretty pathetic on the way down."
Violet fumes rise from the waves and then a regular sized octopus drags itself onto the rocks, trembling and looking like it's about to cry.
Reborn kicks it back into the ocean.
"Stop!" Skull cries. "Why are you such a bad person?!" He dives into the water to rescue the animal.
Reborn watches him go with a raised eyebrow. An octopus that absorbs flames on Mafia Land? Yeah, definitely an escaped experiment. It'll probably eat Skull or something.
Reborn wonders if he cares enough to explain, but then just goes to hunt down the others. He wants to see how many times he can drown Colonnello before either the blond escapes or Lal notices.
This is nowhere near the end of the beach episode, we have like three more chapters of this, and Reborn is going to be an asshole for every single one.
(Skip below if you don't care about how I came up with their ages.)
I already said Colonnello was just a recruit in this, so he has to be young. I couldn't make Skull any younger because for his fame to be at the level I imagine it's at, he'd have to be doing stuntwork for a long time - and they don't let minors do that shit. Reborn is this age cuz I thought it be funny if he just narrowly escapes that 'call me senpai' threat.
Luce is much older due to her being pregnant and Lal is the same age because she's got COMSUBIN firmly under her rule, which would have taken her some time. I wanted Fon older but also young enough that he's still able to work on his body without hitting his limit. Verde is just Verde -I picked randomly- and who knows what the hell Viper is.
Also, fun fact; the average age of mothers during first childbirth (i.e. Aria) in Italy is around thirty. Yuni is eight at the time she first shows up in present khr. This means the Arcobaleno had a whole four decades spent as babies.
Chapter 39: Noon - Competition
The private beach is a small stretch of white sand blockaded by trees on one end and a cliff with rock pools on the other.
Luce is kicked back in a chair, a flowing white dress on and a beach umbrella keeping her shaded, while the rest stand around a volleyball net the Bovinos left behind. Lal is in a bikini top, plus board shorts like the rest of them. Verde has a shirt on because he burns easily and Viper is in a slightly less thick version of their usual outfit.
Skull grins widely as he spins the white volleyball on his finger. "We'll be Team Brawn."
"Hold on," Reborn interrupts. "I never agreed to the teams."
It's currently four on Reborn's three, and the groups aren't exactly even considering Fon, Colonnello and Lal are on one team, all three of them being at peak fitness. Skull might not be insanely toned like his team mates, but stunts with a motorbike take a lot of practice and strength, so his physique reflects that.
Reborn was expecting it, but it's still annoying because the stuntman is definitely better than Reborn's forced team mates. Viper is the furthest thing from an athlete and Verde is a shut-in. This would be a lot more different if flames were allowed, but unfortunately this a purely physical game. Viper isn't even allowed to use their ESP power to float.
"What's wrong, Reborn?" Colonnello asks with a mockingly concerned voice. "Do you want to give up now and just admit your loss?"
The hitman rolls his eyes. "I never said that, but I'd rather have Skull's weird octopus than Viper."
Viper hisses at him but the octopus perks up from where it's soaking in the sea water-filled cooler beside Luce.
"Let's just see how we go first," Fon recommends with a smile. "If the scores are too uneven then we can swap around."
Reborn sighs. "Fine. We'll be Team Brains."
Team Brawn grins wickedly and takes up their places on the court. Reborn drags his reluctant players over and makes a quick plan since clearly they're not going to win this through actual skill.
Viper falls back to the base line and Verde slides up front while Reborn takes the large centre since he can handle more ground than the other two.
It goes as well it can considering that two members of Team Brains don't even want to play. Team Brawn aren't exactly going full throttle either because it's kind of mean to just crush their opponents in the first five minutes.
Now, to clarify; Reborn is not a limp noodle like the other two – he's successfully taking on the powerhouses of Fon and Lal. Not easily, but the hitman is very good at predicting their aim and he's very fast.
However, they've taken to hitting the volleyball at the very edges of the large sand court and they've also resorted to faked shots to try and trick him into moving for the wrong direction.
Lal spikes the ball and Verde just gives up on blocking the hit before he even moves. Reborn is forced to dive for the volleyball but misses by a hair, grumbling as he then hauls himself to his feet.
"Did you want to shuffle players?" Fon calls from the other side of the net.
Reborn waves a dismissive hand and grips both Verde and Viper by the back of their clothes to drag them away for a team meeting. Then he shoves them into the ground to prove a point.
"It's sand," Reborn deadpans. "It won't hurt you if you dive. Can I get a little more enthusiasm here?"
He gets flat stares in reply as they get to their feet and brush themselves off.
The hitman grabs their shoulders and pulls them close, lowering his voice so the other team can't hear. "Look, it's insulting to lose to people who don't even know what the Goldbach Conjecture is. We are not going to be those stereotypical nerds who just lie down and give up because someone else has muscle."
"First of all, what the fuck is a Goldbach Conjecture?" Viper mutters in annoyance. "Secondly, that's easy for you to say, you can actually run a hundred meters without collapsing from exhaustion."
"And I can see your muscles very clearly," Verde grumbles, poking Reborn in the stomach. "Don't play the 'we're in this together' manipulation on us."
Reborn smacks Verde's hand away and pauses, trying to figure out the correct wording to make these two do what he needs. "We at least need to try because they're not going to let us live this down either way."
The two appear contemplative.
"Exactly," Reborn says. "They're acting nice, but as soon as we lose for good, they'll start shoving our faces in it and they won't stop. You know they won't. Colonnello still hasn't shut up about that rock paper scissor game for the last muffin - that he won over a week ago."
Viper shakes their head. "They're already eight points ahead and we can't match in overall strength or speed. What could we even do at this point?"
Reborn purses his lips. "We cheat. We cheat so hard."
Verde and Viper share a glance but it's not like they have the morals to disagree.
Team Brawn look a little bit wary as the three others saunter back, a new energy bursting to life inside them.
Viper bitches enough that the others are distracted with throwing back insults instead of realising the Mist is warping the sand, ever so slightly but enough to create pits and hills that make the others stumble.
Verde seems to be intently calculating the best possible chance for the volleyball to hit the sand every time he spikes it, and he maybe adds a little Lighting flames to harden the ball and make it hurt when the others try to knock it back.
Reborn just watches with a smug expression as the points rise. Really, that was too easy.
Except Lal catches on after a particularly harsh pitfall that makes her faceplant into the sand, the ball spiked just beside her head curtesy of Reborn.
She staggers up and scowls. "Viper, we said no flames."
"Just because you tripped-" Viper starts.
"Actually," Colonnello starts, puffing up because his mentor is upset. "Why am I getting little static shocks when I touch the ball?"
Verde pushes up his glasses. "Sand is conductive, dumbass. Don't get pissed because you're losing."
"We're not losing," Fon immediately cuts in. "We're two points ahead - and you're cheating, so we get another point on top."
"When did we agree to that?" Viper cries.
"Stop cheating, Fon," Reborn sneers. "You know what? Maybe we should get a point."
"Don't start," Lal says warningly.
"No, Fon started. I'm finishing it."
"It was a joke," Fon back peddles.
"Like Lal and Colonnello's little remarks about us cheating were jokes?"
"You are cheating!" Colonnello cries.
"You know what's cheating?" Reborn asks rhetorically. "Four people against two and a Viper."
"I'm not that bad," Viper tries.
"We asked if you wanted to shift players," Lal points out.
"Oh, did you?" Reborn muses. "Because I heard mocking, not a genuine offer."
Skull realises that this will go on for a while so he staggers tiredly to his octopus and Luce. Verde joins him because he doesn't care enough about this.
Reborn huffs. "If you're this scared, just admit that we're better and we'll let you go without completely crushing you."
"No, no," Fon laughs, eyes narrowed and smile wide. "We were winning, you were cheating and now you're also trying to weasel your way out of it like you always do-"
"Do you have a problem with me, Fon?" Reborn huffs.
Shit, the backup plan is failing. Has Reborn done this too many times?
"How many arguments have you started to distract us just because you aren't getting your way?" Fon points out.
Yeah, Reborn has done this too many times.
Reborn smiles back at Fon. "I cut a centimetre off your braid once when you pulled on my curls."
Fon takes a deep breath and then throws Reborn into the ocean.
Reborn didn't lose the volleyball match, and that's the main point here.
Chapter 40: Afternoon - Tentacles
Warning: Um, gore? Dead bodies in a decomposing stage. Maggots.
After lunch, they start building sandcastles. Well, Reborn kicks back with Lal under the wide beach umbrella, Skull starts digging a large hole because there's something wrong with that man, and everyone else builds a giant sandcastle together.
Right up until Reborn gets bored and tosses the volleyball at it.
Colonnello drags him into the water and leaves him a good few meters from the shore before heading back to try and salvage the castle. Reborn goes along with it, full of good food and lazy from the warm sun. Unfortunately for everyone else, he starts getting a bit twitchy for some nice chaos.
Reborn emerges from the water clutching the squishy, clear head of a jellyfish. He swirls the creature around, the thin and very poisonous tentacles getting tangled together from the motion, collecting into one long whip.
They have their backs to him with the intention of blocking out the bright sunlight, especially because the water reflects it at the perfect angle to somehow simultaneously piss off all of them. Lal is facing the water, but she's got her eyes closed and appears to be napping.
"Mother of-" Skull blurts out, arching his back with a groan, shoulders trying to curl together as a stark red line blooms across his upper back.
Fon turns and starts to lurch to his feet, right in time to get the whip across his stomach. The tail end of that attack catches Verde's shoulder but he's already cloaked in Lightning flames so it does nothing.
Skull tumbles forward to get away, Viper vanishes, Verde rolls his eyes and Colonnello ducks the next attack. Fon charges, exploding in Storm flames that burn the whip when it makes contact with his skin.
Reborn drops the poor jellyfish and sprints for it because he's awakened the beast. Fon gives chase with Colonnello and Skull not far behind and their feet kick up sand as they pelt across the beach.
Fon gets too close for comfort, so Reborn pushes Sun flames into his muscles for an extra speed boost, but runs out of beach after ten minutes. He doubles back, ducking low and narrowly missing getting Fon's arm to the throat, then ends up running back for the rest of them, hoping to use Luce as a meat shield.
Reborn doesn't even consider why Luce is standing up, waiting for him just behind one of the picnic blankets that's spread out on the sand.
He knows it's not Mist flames, so why would he be suspicious? Sure, Verde is standing next to Luce, but even if the inventor guided her there, what trap could they possibly spring? Reborn smirks, thinking he'll scoop Luce up and no one would dare try anything because she might get caught in the cross fire.
Reborn takes a step onto the picnic blanket and falls straight down that stupid fucking hole Skull was digging.
To be fair, Skull got pretty far in the two hours that they spent playing in the sand. The stuntman was using the octopus though (at ten times the size it should be) to dig, so it doesn't really count as his own achievements.
Reborn drops maybe seven meters down through a hole a meter in diameter and lands with an awkward squat in stomach-high water. He bursts up through the surface of the water and curses, grabbing his left leg and making sure it's just jarred and not broken.
Lal quickly grabs the picnic blanket before it drops with Reborn. Verde and Viper peer down through the hole, trying to see if Reborn managed to brace for the landing, as the three chasing after Reborn skid to a halt beside them.
"Are you okay?" Colonnello calls down, still panting hard from the sprint because he doesn't have Sun flames to cheat with.
Reborn sighs, slumping back against the wet and cold wall of sand. "I'm fine," he reassures, voice echoing strangely in his little grave.
"Ah," Luce muses, staring off into the distance. "I can't see them anymore. Did they go through the trees?"
Reborn peers up at them. "Did you put an illusion on Luce?"
"We tried to convince her at first, but she disagreed," Viper admits. "Thought it was bullying you."
"I do feel very bullied," Reborn chuckles. "Hurry and get me out of here before I cry."
"Oh no," Lal deadpans. "Your actions have consequences. Who knew?"
"To be fair, I have no authority figure in my life," Reborn calls up. "I'm not a bad person, I've just been raised wrong."
"How about; you've been raised wrong and you're a bad person?" Skull suggests, breathing heavily and hunched over with hands braced on his knees.
"I'll concede to that," Reborn says easily, then raises his arms and makes a grabbing motion. "Now get me up from here."
They make humming and 'ah'-ing sounds, playing with him a bit, but eventually they pull him out - or at least that's what they would do if they were kind people.
Instead, because they're all dickheads, they blow him kisses or say goodnight as Viper pulls the thick picnic blanket over the hole. Reborn waits in the pitch dark for someone to come back, but their voices get further away so that's probably not going to happen.
He pats around his thighs for Leon automatically but then remembers he gave the lizard to Verde so the scientist could measure the support structures for the castle.
Reborn sighs and starts trying to climb out. It doesn't work since the walls are made of wet sand and crumble as soon as pressure is applied. Plus he can't jump the distance, it's almost four times his height. If he had a gun, he could fly with Sun flames, but trying that without a conductor would just mean third-degree burns.
Reborn starts poking the walls, wondering if he pulled down enough sand to then get a step up… It might cause seven meters of sand to fall on him though and suffocating would be awful.
Reborn still attempts it because he's not sure when the others will come back and he's sure as shit not calling for help either.
He gets enough sand down from the walls that the water drops to hip height on him. His next blind clawing encounters a plastic-like material. Kind of like a picnic blanket's underside or thick plastic bags for shopping.
Reborn tugs at it. How deep is the sand on Mafia Land? Is Reborn at the bottom and they've layered it with this plastic to stop it from getting washed away in the tide?
He pulls harder, digging in his nails to rip the plastic apart. A wave of stench like something is rotting hits him as clumps of sand bursts from the plastic and tumbles over his hands. Fuck, is it sewage pipe liner or something?
Reborn tries to shake off the clinging clumps of sand but it sticks.
And then starts wriggling around.
"What the-" Reborn blurts out, shaking his hands frantically until it's all gone. "Fuck me, all I did was whip a couple of them, this is ridiculous."
He grimaces, the smell really getting to him. It's familiar but only vaguely, like if he visits the Cleaners and they're prepping the corpses for transport. Wait, is it a body? Mafia Land has a no kill policy though...
Wait, then what was wriggling? Was it not a crab?
"Leon!" Reborn screams. "Leon, get me out!"
The picnic blanket is thrown off in an instant and a thin green rope rappels down. Reborn is too busy staring at the grinning skull with flaking off flesh covered in maggots, half it's head sticking out of the ripped-up body bag. It must not have been buried here for very long if the maggots are still alive.
A chunk of maggots falls out of the eye socket and plops into the water.
Reborn looks down at the writhing mass of off-white clumps floating in the water around him.
Chapter 41: Late Afternoon - Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Warning: Cannibalism and torture.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Leon," Reborn whines, rubbing his shoulders with his hands. "I feel them."
The lizard rolls his eyes. He's done four circuits of Reborn's entire body, the hitman had two showers, then Leon did another six turns.
If there is somehow a maggot left then it's a Mist user.
"You're not taking me seriously," Reborn complains.
It's a bit difficult to when the hitman is rolling around on the hotel's bed and throwing a tantrum. If literally anyone was here then he'd take it like a gentleman, but because it's only Leon, Reborn is acting childishly.
Leon walks over Reborn's leg and sits up on the human's chest. The lizard stares.
"Rude," Reborn pouts. "That's nothing like my corpses. I'm neat and there's no way I'd let maggots get to it."
Leon lies down.
"There's a no kill policy, there shouldn't have even been a dead body," Reborn argues. "Was I not supposed to poke around and just wait for rescue?"
Leon rolls over and peers at Reborn upside down.
"You aren't a rescue, you're an extra limb. It's like if I climbed out myself."
Leon stares harder.
"Fine, I'll stop," Reborn grumbles. "But who else do I complain to if not you?" He blinks and lurches up, sending Leon toppling head over tail to flop onto Reborn's thigh. "I should complain to management," is Reborn's brilliant idea.
Verde wanders back down the beach to where Reborn's pit is, far away from Luce so she can't hear if Reborn starts cussing them out.
Reborn isn't in there when Verde moves the picnic blanket, but a half-eaten corpse is. Even Verde grimaces at the maggot water and then has to step back a few paces at the stench.
Verde looks around and sets off, following whispers of fear and squeals of fanatic delight to track Reborn through the man-made island. He ends up at a hotel after twenty minutes and the reception immediately hands over a keycard to Reborn's suite, trembling.
Verde knocks on the door. "Are you decent?" he calls out.
"I stabbed a man in the face not ten minutes ago," is Reborn's reply. "I don't know what kind of morals you think I have, but I'm a mass murderer with a pay check. You should lower your expectations."
"Not morally decent," Verde deadpans. "Do you have pants on or not?"
"I could take them off if you wanted."
Verde just uses the keycard and steps into the penthouse suite, immediately coming face to face with Reborn's version of the mad hatter's tea party.
He finds six men sitting around the dining table, Reborn at the head. There's duct tape wrapped around different parts of the men's bodies and the clothes near the tape are soaked in blood.
The table is set out neatly, and everyone is halfway through their food. Glasses are set off to the side filled to the brim with dark red blood. On the plates are pieces of what looks to be organs, half eaten.
Verde takes a breath. "Reborn."
Reborn smiles pleasantly. "I was talking to these kind gentlemen about the way this island is run since, quite frankly, I have an issue with their lax security policy. I thought it would only be polite to offer them a meal as well."
Verde frowns and his eyes land on the trembling men. "You can leave," he says. "Go – just go to a hospital. He won't track you down later, I promise."
They shake some more but when one rises the rest scramble up and they cluster together in fright as they head for the doorway. The men make a break for it once they're out of the room, staggering from blood loss and heavy injuries.
Reborn put a heavy anaesthetic in the organs on their plates, so as soon as they stop eating, the excruciating pain from being disemboweled will hit. It's a neat way to make them willingly, desperately 'hungry'. Verde letting them go just means they'll make it ten minutes before the pain drives them insane, if not outright kills them.
Reborn starts laughing.
"Stop it," Verde says in annoyance. "That's so unhygienic. Why did you do it?"
"I'm mostly just bored," Reborn admits. "There's one in the bathtub as well, he was bleeding too much to sit at the table without making a mess."
Verde strides for the bathroom with Reborn sauntering after him and sees a middle-aged balding man weakly breathing in the white clawfoot tub. This must be the man Reborn stabbed in the face judging by the heavy bleeding from the torn open cheek. He's got a white, fluffy towel from the hotel pressed to the wound to stop the bleeding, only partially successful.
Reborn tried to take out a part of the face and leave a cool looking gap where rows of slightly crooked teeth could be seen, but unfortunately had to abandon that idea. Plus it actually turned out kind of stupid because the tongue lolls out a lot.
Reborn looks to Verde but the inventor doesn't say anything. He objected to Reborn's ridiculous tea party -that's why he sent the others out- not the actual torture. Reborn unholsters his Malvagio and presses a kiss to it before lining up a shot.
The man stays still, hoping for a swift death. There is nothing more to fear, he has already seen hell.
"Any last words?" Reborn asks, curious.
The man gazes at Reborn with hollow eyes. "Make your final moments last," he rasps. "The Vindice are hunting, even now."
He's clean, he didn't leave any evidence, they – no, calm down, Mafia Land is a hub for gossip. It's all guesswork from rumours, pasted together with the idea that the World's Greatest title means Reborn has something to do with it. This man is just trying to get some semblance of control, even now. Reborn forcibly calms himself, ignoring Verde's narrowed eyes.
Reborn smirks. "They can try."
Reborn shoots him in the neck, off-centre because this man has earned Reborn's attention.
This man has earned a slow, torturous death, drowning in his own blood.
Try to remember; Reborn is a hitman. He gives approximately zero shits about human rights.
Reborn calls it 'Vongola Style Defenestration'.
Whenever he gets bored, he goes to visit the famiglia and and pretty much just tries to throw as many people out of the windows as possible.
Reborn was a bit drunk the first time he decided to do this and only properly registered it a day later when the entire mafia was in a state of tense caution, holding their breath to see how others would react.
It was a really big thing back then because Reborn had no contacts related to the Vongola or any famiglia and he constantly proved that he held no allegiance to anyone. He took hits from people who paid the most or had the more interesting requests; he was practically the definition of a loose cannon.
Obviously it scared a lot of people because Reborn had just waltzed up to the largest famiglia, the most powerful, and tossed them around like toys. The worst injury was a sprained ankle and that just made things worse because it proved that Reborn didn't need to incapacitate or kill people - they couldn't stop him anyway.
As Reborn was waking up in the bed of a large Russian woman, the Vongola was desperately pulling themselves together, locking down defences, wary of the other famiglias striking at a supposed weakness.
After the hitman escaped from Valentyna's loving clutches he went back to business as normal because he remembers about a quarter of that entire night. The Vongola didn't retaliate either.
People calmed down, but there was a flood of requests for Reborn and murmurs about the Vongola being weak, though they struck down everyone who tried to capitalise on that.
It happened again a while later. Reborn was just passing by and the impulse hit him. The Vongola was a lot more angry than scared this time, and the next rendition made them exasperated which just grew every time Reborn played the game.
They implemented the 'Solar Flare Protocol' which basically means that Reborn is visiting and everyone should open the windows if they don't want to be chucked through the glass. It has also become a training simulation for the newer recruits, who are sent out as a first wave of meat shields against the hitman.
Not that it stops Reborn.
"Wait!" the Lightning Guardian blurts out. "Timoteo is in his office!" The man points down the corridor behind the hitman, clearly hoping Reborn will just leave him alone.
Reborn smirks and advances on the other man. "Did you just sell out your Don? You're a horrible Guardian."
"I'm eating," the Lightning whines, gesturing at the door on his left which he came out of. "Come on, Reborn, there are plenty of other people."
"Sorry," the hitman drawls, clearly not sorry. "I'm trying to break my record."
The Guardian sighs heavily and doesn't bother to struggle as Reborn grabs the back of his collar and drags him to the nearest window. The Lightning topples out, joining a mass of irritated people who are staying outside because they don't want to deal with Reborn again.
The hitman tips his hat down at them and gets a lot of middle fingers in reply. He then wanders through the mostly empty building, encountering a few other Vongola along the way who react with varying levels of enthusiasm.
Reborn particularly likes the Mist Guardian, who decides to climb out of a window as soon as he sees Reborn.
The hitman eventually reaches the main office and calmly pushes open the door.
"Why?" Timoteo deadpans, standing in front of his dark wood desk with his arms crossed, having been waiting for the hitman. "What do you get out of this?"
"Chaos, Timmy," Reborn says pleasantly to the older man, both as a greeting and as an answer. He slides past the Don and perches at the edge of the desk.
"It's Timoteo," the boss sighs, turning to keep the hitman in sight. "I'm getting too old for this."
"You make me old, Reborn. No, get off my desk - don't touch that."
Reborn lifts a file and flips it open, twisting away when the Vongola Ninth tries to snatch it back.
"That is a Vongola matter," Timoteo tries, reaching again. "You aren't even aligned with me, damn it! You don't do this to the Giglio Nero."
Reborn frowns at the file and lets Timoteo take it away. "Has someone been bullying you?"
"Yes," the Don cries. "You! You have been bullying me. And yet somehow people think I've got you collared, and I keep trying to explain to the Cavallone-"
"Do I need to have a talk with that Don?" Reborn continues, looking pointedly at the file in Timoteo clutches.
The Vongola leader blinks, startled. "I have the strongest famiglia in the mafia and you think that I need help?"
Reborn pointedly glances to the window where loud, discontent grumbling can be heard.
Timoteo frowns. "No, I can handle it."
"I'm going to do it anyway," Reborn admits.
"Don't worry," Reborn says sweetly, hopping off the table and placing a reassuring hand on Timoteo's shoulder. "I take care of my things."
"Do you not have anything better to do?"
The Arcobaleno aren't talking to him because they know he did something bad in Mafia Land. They don't know what he did, because everyone is too scared of him to say anything, but they're still punishing him for it.
Reborn can't control his bullets after they leave the gun, unlike most would believe. Flames work with conductors, and sometimes you can 'throw' a bit further than your skin like electricity jumping between metal that's close enough, but mostly you need something that the flames can flow inside.
If you know the right people you might be able to find a weapon that's been made specifically for flames. Reborn has a few guns that are modified for flame bullets, which are nice and all, but because of limitations in flame physics the user can only manage a few things. He can speed up the bullet by pushing however much flames he needs into the gun, and maybe if he's feeling a little sadistic he'll 'code' the flames and shoot his target in the leg. Then he'll sit back and watch the activated osteoclasts dissolve the bone.
Normal guns kill people, but these guns can carry flame properties over hundreds of meters and are more than terrifying in the right hands. However, they do have a significant setback in how long it takes to infuse the bullets with flames, which is why Reborn will always prefer Leon over anything he's ever seen.
The lizard cuts down the lag time to less than pulling the trigger, so Reborn can easily fire without a pause. Another good thing is that Leon doesn't even need bullets, since Reborn can compress his flames down to whatever caliber the gun!Leon takes and thus create as many projectiles as he wants. This is the basis for the Chaos Shot that he loves scaring people with.
It's difficult to do (and since Reborn admits it, normal people would find it near to impossible). Reborn has to form however many bullets he needs, and because flames disperse off the bullets every millisecond they're not in contact with a conductor, it means he has to pack them very densely so they don't die as soon as they leave the gun.
Then he has to code each one if he wants them to do more than just fly straight forward like a normal shot. So when he summons a dozen and makes them chase Skull around the room, he has to have calculated every turn and what speed they need to fly at, on top of predicting Skull's movements and anyone else that might interfere.
Reborn doesn't just shove some flames into Leon and pull the trigger - it takes precision and a lot of brain power. Very rarely does he miscalculate, but it has happened (not that anyone alive can tell the tale).
The point is… Reborn is a genius, but that doesn't mean he's perfect.
Reborn looks away and pretends he doesn't see the man on the opposite footpath. There are cars speeding by between them and the paths are pretty crowded so maybe he can get by. He hasn't really encountered the rest outside of scheduled meet ups and he hopes it stays that way because he wants to keep business and personal life separate.
Technically he just finished other business a few blocks away, but-
"Hey!" Skull screams out, waving both his arms around wildly and almost slapping some poor old lady trying to get past. "Reborn, I know you saw me! Everyone sees me - I'm wearing purple leather!"
Reborn starts laughing so Skull is pretty damn sure the hitman caught sight of him and then tried to escape. Hell no, Reborn is not getting away.
The stuntman runs across three lanes of traffic and darts down a road that Reborn disappears into. He's not really sure why he's so intent on following the hitman, but he wants Senpai to notice him. Skull chases Reborn seven blocks, across another four lanes of traffic, and into a park.
Eventually the hitman just stops and lets Skull catch up because the stuntman won't stop screaming and flailing everywhere and people are starting to give Reborn pitying looks. They end up near a small ice cream truck and there's always time for ice cream.
"It's dripping," Reborn points out in amusement.
Skull quickly turns his ice cream cone around, trying to look for it. He licks the side that was melting and looks smug for not being messy. Reborn rolls his eyes and goes back to his own cone.
"You're just jealous because I got the last Flake," Skull accuses, waving the ice cream in Reborn's face to further attract attention to the stick of chocolate half poking out.
"Skull," Reborn sighs. "The very second I find myself becoming jealous of you, I will eat my hat - is that Fon?"
Skull turns to look over his shoulder but he can't find any hint of red. "Where did you see - oh my God, what an asshole!"
Reborn can't say anything because his cheeks are puffed out. He does not look anything close to guilty even though there's even a bit of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. Skull can only stare at his mutilated treat with horror.
Reborn munches happily, making loud and exaggerated moaning sounds like this is what chaos would taste like if it was food.
Skull stares dispassionately. "I feel so much hatred for you right now."
Reborn gulps and licks his lips. "And what are you going to do about it?"
Skull scoffs. He opens his mouth but the words fall off his tongue when a little green dot slides over Reborn's chest. It wavers and trails up and up and-
"Sniper!" Skull screams, lunging at Reborn.
The hitman reacts faster, pulling out a gun and reeling back, but the angle just means the laser drops back down to his chest. He spots the most logical position in a tall hotel but he can't pinpoint the window.
A fireball explodes from Reborn's gun because he doesn't know where the bullet is coming from, but if he fills the range with Sun bullets then at least one will block it.
Reborn sees it at the last possible moment but he can't change the direction of his bullets mid-flight. There's no time to fire another shot.
The sliver of metal slips past the explosion of Sun flames and punctures a neat little hole straight through Reborn's chest.
Seconds before Skull lunges into the line of sight.
Seconds before Leon expands to cover Reborn's torso.
Seconds before the sky fills with hellfire in a boiling, molten gold.
It's a star going supernova.
It's the death of a sun.
Later -much later- Skull will look up and realise that the entire top half of the building where the bullet came from has been obliterated until nothing but burning cinders and twisted, melted metal is left.
But right now, Skull just stares at the still man in his arms, waiting for Reborn to wake up and trying to not cry.
We all scream.
Chapter 44: Flames
The Vindice know. They understand what the Strongest Seven means so they don't confront the hitman directly for his audacity. Instead, they delegate.
So when the hitman dies, the others won't come for Vendicare – they'll simply chase after puppets on strings. And there are more than enough toy soldiers willing to march into battle once they see the hitman has fallen.
Fon flows smoothly, weaving within the hail of gun fire and flurry of attacks, twisting and stepping gracefully. He's unhurried and yet no one can touch him, always just missing the martial artist. Fon is gentle with them but still leaves a wide path of destruction.
Fon slides a glance to the end of the field and smiles. No one sees him move - he just vanishes and reappears in the deep centre of the attacking force. A shockwave ripples out, bright red like blood, and disintegrates anything inside Fon's radius. He straightens, hiding his hands in his billowing sleeves, and then once more continues his wandering path.
The car pulls over to the shoulder of the road when it finally splutters out completely. The driver shoves the door open and stomps around to the front to check on the engine. It smells like…burning sugar? The driver is hunched over so he doesn't see the crowbar that comes down once, twice, three times.
Skull haphazardly throws the body and the weapon into the trunk before climbing back into his own car.
Verde fiddles with the remote in his hand, waiting a bit impatiently for them to approach his hidden lab. They're cautious but not cautious enough, and they stumble right into Verde's playground.
The Lightning presses a button on the remote. The two dozen creeping forward look up in horror at being discovered, expecting machines and chemical warfare, but the secret hatches in the branches above them just release dandelions.
The plants fall slowly, releasing so many seeds it gives the appearance of snow. Each one is dipped in a special substance to better conduct, and something that small, that thin, it's like a razor...
The first tiny white seed lands on a head, and glows green with Lightning flames, hardening and cutting straight through the scalp and skull and brain and no one even has a chance to scream.
The hollow bullets crack open against each other, right over a bomb shelter that five people retreated into, and Rain flames fall in a thick coat. Modified bullets keep coming, drenching the area, soaking the ground outside and seeping into the small shack.
People slowly slump into chairs or splay out on the floor, sluggish and tired. They close their eyes and go to sleep, their hearts coming to an unhurried stop. Lal and Colonnello are already packing away their guns.
The dealer scratches his wrist, then his knee, then his head. Then he scratches his eyeball.
He keeps digging. And digging. And digging, until he can't reach any deeper.
Viper stands from their seat at the café table, ignoring the shrieking public and the ambulance siren in the distance. They step over the puddle of blood that's forming under the corpse. No one so much as glances their way.
Luce reaches out to the struggling woman being held by Giglio Nero subordinates. The Don touches her fingers lightly to the other woman's head and sends a pulse of Sky flames inside. Luce blocks the dying will flames from manifesting and then goes deeper and turns it off at the source.
The other woman's eyes roll back, and as the last few wisps of flame vanish, she's snuffed out like a candle. Luce lifts her fingers from the corpse's head and turns away, heading back to her knitting.
Reborn looks up from his book as they all step into the Mafia-based hospital room. Most of them flop over his legs on the cot but Luce and Lal take the seats provided.
"You don't have to keep coming," the hitman sighs. "I'm fine, I could leave now if I wanted."
Reborn collapsed from a mix between the shock of trauma to his body and the sudden burst of Sun flames that left him near empty. The bullet went clean through a lung and out the other side, no pieces breaking off thankfully. He was healing sluggishly, if a lot slower than normal, but all he needed was a couple of blood transfusions and some assistance with the whole choking-on-blood thing because his body could seal itself up in maybe twenty minutes even with him unconscious.
Unfortunately, Skull was there, and decided to just overload Reborn's body with Cloud flames because it works for the stuntman, right? True, Reborn desperately needed the extra blood and faster healing, so Skull saved him, but...
What Reborn did not need was a second layer to his diaphragm. The tiny rib cage of armour around the lung that got shot through was also not required, though it did look cool on the x-ray, and about two litres of blood had to be drained from the space between his organs. Reborn also got a vague, half faded tattoo on the side of his torso because the Cloud flames are so used to Skull's body that they copy-pasted to decorate Reborn so he feels more like home. Not to mention all the little bits of overgrowth everywhere else that had to be…trimmed.
The injury from the gunshot was completely healed in two hours. He has been in hospital for a week and a half to fix everything else - and that's with flame-specialised doctors working on him day and night.
Reborn took that gunshot like a man but lost to an enthusiastic Skull.
No one has told Skull what his Cloud flames did to Reborn, past saving his life, because the stuntman has been acting strangely since the incident and they're trying to be careful with the civilian who thought his friend died right in front of him. Skull will never know.
"What's wrong?" Colonnello smirks, lying across Reborn's feet. "You don't like our pretty faces?"
Reborn rolls his eyes and glances at Viper, sitting at the end of the bed. "Have you found them yet?"
"It's been taken care of," the Mist replies.
Reborn raises an eyebrow in question. "So you have found the people behind the shooting?"
Luce reaches over and pats him on the arm. "Taken care of," she repeats Viper's words firmly.
And it is done, because all the prisoners in Vendicare drop dead within the next day.
No one escapes their wrath.
Chapter 45: Leon
Skull's flames have been keeping Reborn awake lately. They shift around, swarming energetically at random times during the day. It freaks Reborn out because it feels like something crawling around inside him.
Plus, tattoos keep showing up, and it's a little disconcerting to see the marks bloom over his skin. He's been fading them with Sun flames but they keep coming back, stronger and darker, no longer just half faded.
He knows what's happening here. That's why he can't tell anyone. Reborn is genuinely scared to check if his flames have Skull's purple tinge to them.
Reborn was unconscious, okay? It doesn't really count. He wasn't expecting to be flame tagged by the civilian lackey. (See: First meeting with Fon. Actually, never mind that, let's forget.)
No one will ever know. It'll go away if Reborn ignores it.
So instead, as Reborn wastes time at home, he distracts himself with Leon.
Reborn hums along to the radio as he cooks dinner. He stirs the pan one last time and then leaves it on the stove for a moment, turning around to grab some basil off the bench behind him.
Leon is perched near the spice rack, his back now to Reborn as the lizard dances around in a circle. Leon's head is bobbing and his tail flicking as he shakes his little green butt to the rhythm.
"Pfft-" Reborn claps a hand over his mouth to stifle any sound but it's too late.
Leon freezes and whips around to stare up at Reborn with a deer-in-headlights expression. The chameleon then narrows his eyes, daring Reborn to say anything.
Reborn holds out his hands in surrender but then bursts into laughter. Leon grows into a tripod mounted handgun and spits out a rubber bullet, hitting Reborn directly in the forehead because the man is laughing so hard he can't dodge.
"Ouch!" Reborn complains, hand coming up to rub at the red mark. "Wait, Leon! I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at your dancing."
Leon does not take kindly to the insinuation that his dance moves are anything but majestic, and dinner ends up burning because Reborn is taking refuge behind the couch.
Reborn wakes up to loud screeching with the horrified realisation that past!Reborn set the alarm clock for some ungodly hour because he's an asshole even to himself. Reborn squints across the king-sized bed to where the alarm clock is, entirely out of his reach right now.
"Leon," he slurs into the pillow.
Leon curls up tighter on Reborn's back.
Reborn reaches back and strains to grabs the lizard, but Leon -having learned from all the times Reborn has thrown him at the alarm clock before- is in a small ball right at the point where it's awkward to reach.
The alarm continues to screech like a terrified goat because Viper gifted it and Viper is a bad person.
"Listen," Reborn sighs, arm dropping down. "If I move, then you move anyway, so you might as well just turn it off for me-"
Leon bites him because it is too early for this and Reborn obligingly pulls out a gun from the compartment in the wooden headboard and just shoots the damn clock.
Reborn is going on seven days without sleep because he is currently building Leon a lizard-sized mansion out of popsicle sticks and glue.
Well, okay, it started as one mansion but now it's spread out into a complex set of interweaved buildings with proper architecture throughout Reborn's entire house. Some small towers stretch from floor to ceiling, and tiny hallways lead from the living room to the kitchen to the bedroom. There's even an underwater house in the bathtub which took some more work but it was worth it.
Leon is a king, and he will have his kingdom.
Despite the intense sleep deprivation, Reborn regrets nothing because Leon is so adorable when he explores the buildings. Not like an 'oh, that's cute' adorable, but like the kind that makes Reborn's chest hurt and forces him to take short breaks where he screams into a pillow to get all of the feelings out and damn it, he is a hitman, he is better than this.
Leon clambers out of the cathedral precariously build on the back of two chairs and over onto Reborn's leg. The hitman immediately drops the glue gun and lifts the chameleon. Unfortunately, Leon does not want cuddles, and turns into a phone instead.
Reborn lifts it to his ear. "Chaos?"
"Why are you calling me at two a.m.?" Fon asks sleepily.
"Misdial," Reborn lies. "Go back to sleep, it's fine."
"…Reborn, what are you doing right now?"
Reborn hangs up. Fon is wasting his time, and he really needs to finish the train tracks because a little conductor!Leon would be so cute. He tucks the lizard into his shirt pocket and picks up the glue gun again.
It takes twenty minutes for Fon to kick down his door and then another five to pin the exhausted hitman down long enough to knock him out.
Reborn watches as Leon clambers onto the rim of the half empty mug. The lizard perches perilously on the edge and then leans down until his head can finally reach the espresso to drink, his body almost completely upside down.
Reborn takes a moment to consider things, but he's never been afraid of death.
Reborn flicks Leon's butt and the lizard splashes head first into the remaining espresso.
A brief moment later, the lizard slams into Reborn's face, still dripping wet. The hitman is knocked backwards from the tackle, falling to the floor along with his chair.
Reborn is splayed out on his long couch, head on one armrest and his feet kicked up on the other. The hitman is currently staring up at Leon in his hands, the lizard staring right back.
He squishes Leon.
The tongue shoots out and sticks to Reborn's cheek.
They stay like that for a long moment.
Reborn lightly pinches the long tongue and detaches it from his face, then tries to put it back into Leon's mouth.
It just grows longer.
Reborn sighs because now they've reached this level of boredom. "I think we need to kill someone soon."
The funny thing about a person as impossibly strong as Reborn is that once people see them down, injured, they're no longer invincible. They become just a normal person. A person who can be injured again, maybe even killed.
There's a sudden rush of information that reaches Viper. People looking into the Strongest Seven, asking around for where they live, who they talk to.
The others don't seem so worried when Viper tells them. Instead, they go on tangents, chatting about names of all things.
Most of them think 'Strongest Seven' isn't catchy enough and joke about a new name. Luce is the one who brings up stories about the Arcobaleno – terrifyingly strong people that pop up briefly during large conflicts. She explains that it's different groups that take on the name - and it would be fitting, wouldn't it?
No one takes her seriously. Lal says they don't need to be copies. Fon protests having a name in the first place because he's freelance but he's still Triads and it'll look like he's switching sides. Colonnello likes being called a rainbow. Verde doesn't care.
Reborn wants to be called 'Reborn and the others' but Skull jokes that the hitman is weak so he doesn't get a choice in the name. The conversation putters out when Reborn straddles Skull and shoves a gun in his mouth.
Viper lets them play, but the others don't understand just how many people are looking into them. It's not a handful of groups, it's hundreds – certainly not restricted to just the Italian Mafia. Viper has Russian mobs trying to pay them off to set up an ambush.
Viper would do it, that's good money, and it's not the first time Viper has done this but…the idiots aren't taking it seriously. If the others do get caught up, they might not react in time or with the appropriate level of violence – Lal always starts off non-fatal and Colonnello copies her.
Plus, Reborn…might not be as healed as he insists. Sometimes he looks uncomfortable or winces and Viper hasn't seen him use his flames yet. Not that he was flinging them around before but he's extra argumentative when someone needs to use him as a healer for something petty. The sniper incident might have cost him more power than he can build back up so soon.
So Viper shuts it down. They take no requests, deny everyone, tell their plants to keep mouths shut. Viper waits and watches for the fools suicidal enough to try and attack first – the ones most desperate for information, the ones who don't take a firm no as an answer.
Unfortunately, there's a little problem with that plan; not every information broker is playing along. Most are, because Viper is not someone to mess with, but several deliberately go against the grain and start looking into things.
Viper doesn't control every informant, not even close, but they do keep tabs on what most of them sell. One particular rat has been exclusively trading information about Viper's things – at a cheap price even. Disgusting.
If this rat wants to die then who is Viper to deny them?
Viper calls out Reborn, because the hitman needs to show himself more. Reborn needs people aware that he's still the strongest.
Things would be simpler if the others didn't brush this off like a joke, but that's fine, Viper is more than enough to keep them protected.
No, Viper doesn't care about those idiots, shut up.
"I'll only be a moment," Viper mutters and follows the other informant's assistant into one of the backrooms.
Reborn is left in the waiting area, a scattering of couches around him. He takes a seat, not sure how long the other is going to take, and looks around. He's rather curious about how normal information networks do business.
Reborn mostly does his own, or he simply hunts someone down and demands the knowledge he needs - none of this 'politely waiting' stuff that most seem to like.
The hitman always has Viper to fall back on as well, if he's really desperate and willing to pay an incredibly high price. Not because the information costs that much, even for Viper, but because the Mist has some crazy idea that they deserve revenge against Reborn. The hitman has no clue where they got that thought from; it seems to have just come out of nowhere.
Reborn presses the back of his hand to his mouth to hide the smirk that he can't supress.
So he's here now, waiting for Viper to come out so they can go and get lunch in that illusion covered place that people can't find unless a suitably strong Mist is with them. He lifts Leon from his hat and drops the reptile on his lap before poking the lizard. Leon shifts into a miniature T-rex and snaps at Reborn's fingers.
The hitman occupies himself with the shapeshifter, but he still notices the three men who enter the room. He vaguely knows of them; a team of high-tier hitmen who specialise in taking out other assassins, arrogant and smug – but then again, most hitmen are. It's almost a prerequisite.
They swagger into the room and immediately smirk when they see Reborn. One nudges another and they make their way over to stand in front of him, spreading out slightly to block him in.
"Nice to see you again," the black haired one says.
Reborn looks up from a tiny green bear!Leon and honestly tries his best to remember the man's name. "Brad…?" he tries.
"Okay, so maybe I don't know who you are," Reborn admits. "But at least one of your names start with a 'B'."
"Luca, Angelo and Marco," the blond deadpans.
"I was half right," Reborn argues.
The brunet grits his teeth. "You think you're so good, Reborn-"
"I know I am," the hitman interrupts. "In fact, everyone knows I am. That's why they call me the World's Greatest." He smirks. "And what do they call you… Marco?"
"I'm Angelo," the brunet snaps. "And everyone knows me as-"
"Don't care," Reborn interrupts yet again. "It was a rhetorical question, which means I said it to make a point and you're not supposed to answer me."
"I know what a fucking rhetorical question is," brunet Angelo barks out.
"Then why did you reply?" Reborn drawls, then adds on, "That's also rhetorical, by the way."
"Shut your fucking mouth for one god damned second," the blond snarls, grabbing Reborn's upper arm and tightening his hold to try and make it painful.
Reborn flickers his eyes to the hand and then stares at the blond. "This suit costs more than your life, Luca."
"My name is Marco!" the blond screams in rage.
"And how was I supposed to know that!?" Reborn scoffs. "You gave me a list of names and I'm working my way down. Why are you so upset with me?"
The black haired one (evidently Luca, by value of elimination) opens his mouth.
"Rhetorical," Reborn quickly slides in there, just so there's no confusion.
"Mother fucker!" Angelo roars, finally sick of Reborn's shit, and unsheathes the scimitar at his hip.
"If she looks like you, I don't want her," the hitman snarks.
Reborn stays calm despite Luca and Marco also pulling out weapons, a bo staff and two butterfly knives respectively. Leon curls into Reborn's hand and turns into a gun, but the hitman doesn't exactly feel very threatened despite the weapons and the three men towering over him because he's still seated on a couch.
A door clicks open and they all turn to see Viper step out with the assistant beside her. The poor staff member looks worriedly at the group of hitmen, but Viper waves them off and the assistant scampers back to safety, shutting the door firmly behind them.
"Come on," Viper calls out to Reborn, gesturing him over. "I'm done here."
Reborn stands and he's already passed the three before they even notice he moved. Angelo and Marco take a step forward, intent on chasing down Reborn and showing him who's better.
Luca smiles instead, a twisted amusement. "I didn't know you were collared, Reborn."
Reborn is about make a BDSM joke, but Mist coalesces around him and Viper gets a chance to take out their irritation on the three unsuspecting hitmen. Viper knows them, the three hitmen are high tier and flashy, and people like that are the easiest to mine information from. Viper already has everything they need, gathered a while ago just to hoard.
Mist!Reborn immediately comes to a halt halfway across the room while a hidden Reborn walks a few more steps to the door. Mist!Reborn turns to face them, the illusion's expression calm. "Collars? That reminds me, how is darling Anna?"
Angelo and Marco flinch while Luca looks first shocked and then murderous.
Mist!Reborn smirks, more amused than cruel – though perhaps that's worse. "Oh, of course, I almost forgot. My condolences for her passing."
It takes a moment because the three certainly didn't know about that last part, but Luca reacts first. Kudos to him because he gets three steps before Reborn plugs a bullet into his knee. Reborn takes out the other two in much the same way, catches the thrown knife and tosses it back into a pancreas.
Viper knows Reborn well enough that the Mist version, a couple steps further from the door, still reacts smoothly when Reborn moves. The hitmen are deep enough in the illusion that they don't question why the bullets and boomerang knife come from a slightly off angle.
Viper knows leaving people alive has a much better effect on the rumour mill than straight up killing them, and Reborn thinks it would be rude to dump corpses here since he doesn't feel like cleaning up after himself, so they leave before the three can do much more. A rage filled scream follows them outside.
Regardless, Viper considers telling the three as a good deed, since they were probably at the informant's searching for poor Anna (who bit off more than she could chew and tried to scam the Carcassa).
Outside, the Mist construct merges into the illusion around Viper's hitman before both disperse. The real Reborn becomes visible again, already with a raised eyebrow aimed at Viper.
The Mist gives him shrug. "I can be altruistic sometimes. I didn't even make them pay for that information."
"You're practically a saint."
What is this? I'm connecting the chapters? *gasp*
Chapter 47: Poking The Tiger
Despite Viper doing their best to supress it, people whisper.
The fear of the strongest gathering is now wearing off and some power-hungry idiot's think that if they kill even one of them then they'll write their name in the history books. They'll be revered as a God for taking down even one of the strongest.
Very few are stupid enough to attack them head on at the shared base, but plenty offer up ambushes at their homes or when they go on missions, either together or apart. Whoever is free drags Skull around so he doesn't die even though Reborn is targeted the most - which is strange for the hitman since people are generally smarter than this, but he can handle it.
The rest are a little concerned so to be safe, instead of sending Reborn to the front lines (probably shouldn't have been doing that with a long-distance fighter anyway), they crowd him into the middle and throw Fon at anyone who comes too close.
Fon is very good at beating the shit out of people, and the angrier he gets, the faster it is.
Thus, as good friends should, everyone has joined together to piss off Fon as much as possible. This then bleeds into daily life.
Fon dodges back but a grasping hand clings to his wide sleeve. The fighting is too tight together because there are too many close combat specialists. He kicks her off and leaps back, taking a moment to fling off his tunic for better mobility.
Up on the roof of the restaurant, Colonnello wolf whistles loud enough that Fon down below startles, but the martial artist still manages to duck a high kick.
"Take off your pants as well!" Skull hollers, leaning out over the railing far enough that he looks like he's about to plummet three storeys.
Reborn smirks. "Well hello there, libido."
Viper fakes a dramatic swoon into Verde's arms, hand to their forehead as an illusionary folding fan appears out of nowhere and brushes cold air over them.
Lal clicks her tongue but joins in anyway. "I bet I could grate cheese on those abs."
Fon is blushing fiercely and starts to curl in on himself, hunching his shoulders and turning away self-consciously before snatching up his shirt again and tugging it on quickly as he slips around and between fighters.
The next person to attack gets a backhand across the face -Fon's strength practically tripled out of sheer embarrassment- and the fight is quickly over.
"It's huge," Skull says earnestly. "Like as big as my dick. Humongous. Is that a word? Like this big, okay?"
Skull flings out his arms and slaps a passing Fon. Viper snickers and Reborn rolls his eyes because he saw that coming. Fon pins Skull with a stare.
Skull starts backing away slowly. "Okay, so you walked into my range of motion. Technically that means you hit my hand with your face and therefore you should apologise."
Fon does not look anything close to amused.
"Alright, alright," Skull chatters, getting closer to the window to escape. "Here's my proposal. You're obviously very upset right now so how about you sit down for a while and drink some tea, maybe meditate for a bit, and we'll restart this later. By the way, how's that anger management going?"
Fon doesn't want to get blood on his clothes so he starts unbuttoning his tunic's collar.
"Why are you taking off the shirt?" Skull squeaks in panic.
Reborn chuckles. "I think you're giving mixed signals, Fon. Are you still trying to kill Skull or seduce him? Is it both?"
Fon frowns. "I'm not in the mood anymore," he grumbles as he fixes his clothes back because clearly he's just playing right into Reborn's hands.
"No, don't put on the shirt," Reborn says in what sounds like genuine distress. "What do you want? Do you want to hit someone? I'll let you punch me. Once. Lightly. Not the face. More of a smack than a punch."
Viper starts slow clapping sarcastically. "I applaud your bravery, Reborn. No wonder they call you the world's greatest."
Skull has one leg out of the window but he also wants to see how this ends so he gives up the head start that he could get and also joins in with the applause.
"Thank you, thank you," Reborn calls out, waving them down. "But please, step back for your own safety while you watch me tame this ferocious beast. Underneath that serene smile hides a hunter-"
Fon lunges and Reborn just barely reacts in time to scramble away. They ring around Viper a few times and then Reborn shoves Skull out of the window and follows swiftly. Fon gives chase but has to give up when Reborn squirms into a secret tunnel in the roof.
Fon is fighting another martial artist, an assassin from Korea who broke in and attacked. Fon weaves around a fast strike and hits with the flat of his palm in an altered form of the one-inch punch, barely brushing the other since Fon doesn't need any strength for this particular technique.
The attack leaves the outside of the torso perfectly fine but creates significant damage to the inside. His own strikes are circling the other man's chest in a spiral, slowly moving inwards while the other man has yet to land a single hit on Fon.
The others watch in interest from the couches, the movie paused but they're still munching on popcorn. To be fair to the assassin, only Skull was meant to be in the house tonight.
"Hey, Fon," Viper calls out in amusement. "I know I'm not a martial artist or anything but maybe you should throw a punch instead of gently slapping him occasionally."
Fon twitches a little and then lashes out again, straight over opponent's heart, the final strike to start the cascade of everything shutting down. The other drops abruptly, all of the intensity and fierceness gone in an instant as he crumples to the ground and stays still, eyes open and glazed over as blood starts streaming from his nose and mouth.
"I thought you were going to leave him alive," Verde berates. "Perhaps you should practice more."
Fon is across the room in half a second and he's striking out with the exact same attack he used on the Korean, his palm aimed for Verde's chest.
"Up top!" Reborn cries as he leans across and does actually high five Fon with a loud clap.
The opposing force easily cancels out Fon's since the man is using a 'gentle' technique instead of his full strength, but shockwaves travel through both of their arms. Reborn shakes his hand to get rid of the lingering numbness, but there isn't any damage.
It does snap Fon out of the wash of irritation he was feeling and he straightens up, taking a deep breath and letting it out again, along with all of the bad emotions.
Colonnello holds up an arm and waits for his high five.
Fon flips the entire three-seater couch the blond is sitting on, along with Lal and Viper.
"Excuse me," Reborn says to Verde as soon as he steps into the room. "That is mine, hands off."
Verde frowns and doesn't let go of Fon's arm. "This is mine too."
"I've licked him, therefore I have more of a claim."
Colonnello turns to watch from in front of the stove and Lal rolls her eyes before snatching away the wooden spoon from the blond to finish cooking dinner.
"You've licked him, have you?" Verde mocks. "Fon, has he licked you?"
Fon gives Verde a flat look because Reborn's new favourite pastime is making outrageous claims just to see who will believe him. Yesterday, Reborn insisted that his limp was from Lal being too rough, not because he tripped over Oodako in the shower and banged his knee on the tiles.
"Don't answer that, Fon," Reborn cuts in. "Verde, you cheater. Fon is shy, he'll say I haven't."
"I'm sure," Verde drawls but does drop Fon's arm – he already catalogued the flexibility while Reborn was arguing.
"Every centimetre of those abs and more," Reborn proclaims. "And by more I mean I swallowed his di-"
Fon slaps a hand over Reborn's mouth, a little dishevelled from lunging clear across the room as soon as he heard Reborn start to make that interesting statement. Fon is smiling serenely. It is not a nice smile.
When dinner is ready, Colonnello has to go retrieve Reborn from where he's been stuffed into the trunk of Skull's car.
Fon accidentally spills tea on himself during a picnic and it just sets everyone off.
"You're drunk, Fon," Colonnello crows.
Skull barks out a laugh. "Go home, you're so munted."
Viper turns to yell over their shoulder at the rest of the park; "Taxi!"
Verde clears his throat pointedly. "Addiction is a serious matter, let's not laugh at him."
Luce blinks in confusion. "Is...that alcoholic?"
Lal pats Luce on the shoulder. "He has a problem, but it's fine, we're helping him through it."
Fon sighs. "Very funny." He grabs a napkin from the picnic basket to blot at the wet patch. "I miss China."
"No you don't," Reborn cuts in, pushing his hat off his eyes and sitting up on the grass. "You'd be so bored without us."
"Bored maybe but a lot more peaceful," Fon mutters.
"If it makes you feel any better…" Reborn reaches out and slaps the bottom of Viper's cup as the Mist tries to drink so water splatters all over them and they splutter.
Fon quirks a smile. "Yes, that does make me feel better."
Viper let's out a war cry and grabs Verde's drink to throw at Reborn. The hitman ducks and Colonnello is soaked instead, which means this quickly descends into chaos.
Reborn and Fon team up to shove everyone but Luce into the shallow pond. Fon then turns traitor and tackles Reborn in with the rest.
Chapter 48: Bath Time
TW: Mentions of suicide. And death. And Reborn being Reborn.
Reborn gets a call when he’s having his breakfast. More specifically, he’s trying to block Leon from drinking his espresso when the lizard starts vibrating with the incoming call and then transforms.
Reborn picks him up and holds him to an ear, his other hand occupied with swatting away the thin cords of green that grow from the phone and still try to go for the coffee.
“Go check on Skull,” Luce says quickly. “I don’t know… I can’t see but there’s something wrong.”
“There are many things wrong with Skull,” Reborn drawls, giving up on defying Leon and taking a bite of his toast instead. “You’re going to have to specify.”
Leon starts shaking again with another call and Fon’s voice cuts in, panicked, with the sound of rushing wind in the background. He’s either up high or running somewhere.
“Skull just called me, someone broke into his house,” the martial artist says urgently. “Do you have the address?”
“Why are people calling me for this?” Reborn muses.
“You’re the closest,” Luce insists. “Please, Reborn, as fast as you can.”
Reborn sighs exaggeratedly. “Skull would be dead by now if he couldn’t hold his own. How about I check later, after I’m done with breakfast?”
“Please,” Luce begs, sounding like she’s about to cry.
Even Leon starts poking him. Reborn gives in and promises to check immediately despite his delicious, just made breakfast (which he emphasises several times). Luce and Fon hang up on him.
“People these days,” Reborn mutters lowly and places Leon back down. He gets through half a sip of espresso and then Leon whips him across the wrist with a suddenly spiky tail.
Reborn doesn’t stop complaining all the way to Skull’s house.
The door shows no signs of forceful entry, in fact the front and back doors are locked but Reborn gets in with a Leon key. Reborn enters with Leon in gun form clutched in a hand, but the place is silent so the perpetrators are either gone or incapacitated.
The living room furniture has been moved, but more liked nudged and deliberately turned over in a very obvious path from the door into the house like someone was setting up a scene. There are no bullet holes or damage from a weapon or hint of Cloud flame use but there is a dropped phone near a couch. Reborn frowns and keeps searching. Skull called Fon, so obviously he knew an enemy was after him, but Reborn can’t find any sign of a fight.
He pauses in the hallway further in and sniffs a bit. The overpowering scent of rust. Blood.
Reborn moves quicker, taking a left and finding a huge pool of blood still seeping out from under a closed door, the deep red soaking the carpet of the hallway and spreading further even as Reborn watches.
The door is locked so he kicks it open and steps inside, shoes splashing in the flooded room. It’s a bathroom, standard toilet plus sink and shower coupled with a separate bathtub. The drain in the middle of the room is working over time, but there’s so much blood, too much.
Skull is lying in the bathtub, head lolling back against the edge with one bare arm hanging over the side. Everything else is hidden because the tub is overflowing with dark red, Skull’s Cloud flames working overtime to keep him alive but not sealing the long cut down the inside of his forearm.
Reborn tucks Leon away because he finally realises what’s happening.
No sign of a struggle and the cut not healing. Skull is apparently trying to kill himself, or at least that’s how the scene is set up, but the Cloud got a phone call in so whoever did this had to scramble and arrange the furniture.
Maybe set up a storyline; Skull doesn’t want anyone to know so he faked a breaking and entering by some faceless enemy to make sure no one feels bad about not seeing the signs and failing to help him.
Sometimes Reborn gets requests like this; to make a hit look like an accident or a suicide, but he finds it too annoying to plan. If he kills someone, he wants people to see it was his work. He does know a few groups that specialise in such scenes however.
The people who did this rushed it. They’re supposed to make the target look appropriately suicidal for a while before the hit so it doesn’t look suspicious. True, the stuntman doesn’t seem to care when he injures himself but that’s a result of having Cloud flames that auto-heal plus a Sun user to beg flames off of. It’s not self-harm, it’s carelessness, which the intruders obviously didn't pick up on before they decided to just go ahead with the hit.
Reborn contemplates just fixing this and going back to his (now cold) breakfast, but also Skull is alive and there’s no immediate danger present so Reborn is going to have fun with this.
He steps closer, seeing the needle mark just under the jawline because he’s now looking for it. Paralysis so he’s conscious and suffering but he can’t move? Skull is definitely conscious judging by his flames flaring up and trying to get Reborn’s attention. Thankfully, the Cloud flames inside Reborn have finally flickered out or else that would have made him twitch. Reborn still has that stupid tattoo on his ribs though.
There’s a knife lying on the floor, just under Skull’s dangling hand, the blade smeared in a dark green gel and most likely the reason Skull’s wounds aren’t healing. There might be more injuries hidden from Reborn under the blood but the people who did this obviously went for a suicide approach so the other arm is most likely sliced up as well but not much else. They didn’t plan for a Cloud of Skull’s strength.
“Oh, Skull,” Reborn sighs in disappointment. “You can’t even do something like this properly.”
He crouches low beside the bathtub and gingerly picks up the blood covered knife, making sure it scrapes along the tiled floor loud enough for Skull to hear. Cloud flames start flickering in an attempt at Morse code.
SOS SOS SOSOSOSOSOSOSOS-
Reborn smirks but doesn’t let it show in his voice, keeping that same disappointed tone. “Luce will cry, but if this is what you really want… then I’ll help.” Reborn bites down on his lip so he doesn’t start laughing.
Reborn reaches for Skull’s arm, the one with a long, deep cut down his forearm. The moment he touches it, the smile on his face disappears as the Cloud flames surge up and push past his natural barrier of Sun to dig inside and twist.
Reborn releases Skull’s arm with a scream as pain sears through his whole body. He throws himself back into a wall to get away and ends up sitting in the shallow pool of blood on the floor beside the dropped knife, dazed and still shivering from the aftershock.
The Cloud flames drop in intensity since there isn’t skin contact but Reborn is now soaked in the perfect conductor for Skull’s Cloud flames, which seem to be trying to soothe him apologetically for that earlier attack.
“I’m joking,” Reborn hisses, hauling himself to his feet with help from the sink, body still aching and clothes now soaked. “When the hell did you learn that?”
Oh, wait, Reborn was the one who taught him how to propagate action potentials through all the pain receptors in a human body at once because the hitman thought it would be funny to have a reason to torture Skull during ‘lessons’.
What a stupid idea that was.
Skull doesn’t try to hit him again but Reborn keeps up a thick barrier across his skin nonetheless. Reborn hesitantly approaches the still form and takes out the knife sheathed along the strap of his holster.
“I’m cutting away the poison so I can seal the cuts shut,” Reborn explains with a scowl. “Do that to me again, and I’ll block your flames so you actually bleed out.”
Skull’s flames retreat a bit sheepishly. Reborn gouges out large parts around the cuts of both arms and helps the Cloud flames to work. He then floods Skull with his Sun flames until the drug is sped up through the stuntman’s system and gets flushed out.
“Hmurblemehnahhh,” says Skull.
Reborn waits until the other man has basic motor control before shoving him under the surface of the blood and stomping away. There’s a lot of splashing and coughing behind him but he doesn’t care because his suit is completely soaked in blood and he never got to finish breakfast damn it.
Reborn uses the second shower in the ensuite then changes into the least offensive clothing Skull has which is just plain black jeans and a purple t-shirt, both too small. He feels dirty. Like some kind of peasant.
After he’s done -and Skull has managed to weakly crawl out into the hallway- he decides that he’s still pissed off enough that he needs to kill someone.
He stalks out of the apartment and into the jewellery store two doors down where he then easily takes control of the CCTV because people don't argue with a gun. He starts watching a couple minutes before the time when Skull must have called Fon and eventually pauses when a group of four stroll down the street.
He recognises them clearly since he’s met them before. From France, specialised in scene hits like he guessed, and only four of them involved so it’s easy. Reborn calls a friend, maybe threatens something like murdering children, and soon kicks down a hotel door.
He resourcefully uses ripped up bedsheets as nooses to hang them from the window but Reborn does then genuinely apologise to the hotel staff for the mess when he passes by the lobby on his way out.
Then Reborn stomps back to Skull’s house where everyone seems to have gathered and demands someone make him breakfast because he’s hungry damn it.
They look at him instead, disappointed and upset.
“I was playing,” Reborn defends. “Skull was fine.”
Lal glares at him. “Someone tried to kill him-”
“Someone is always trying to kill us these days,” Reborn dismisses. “It hasn't been problematic before. You're overreacting.”
“Before, no one ever got hurt,” Lal snaps. “This time, Skull was bleeding out and your first reaction is to joke about helping him kill himself?”
Skull tugs on the back of Lal's shirt, squished between Fon and Colonnello on the couch. “It's fine,” he hisses quietly.
“It's not,” Lal huffs and rubs a hand over her eyes. “I thought you were doing better, Reborn. After that incident with the painting you were open, you were perfect. I...thought you cared.”
“I do,” Reborn insists. Sometimes. Clearly not as much as they'd like. “But Skull really wasn't in any danger, he has the control now. If he wasn't caught up with morals he could have easily taken care of the people who attacked.”
“But he didn't,” Fon says. “And he was injured, drugged, his flames weren't working, and you just left him there-”
“I fixed him!”
“When I got in he still couldn't stand.”
Reborn looks between them all. Why don't they just drop it? He gets it, fine, now stop. “I judged that I had things under control -which they evidently were since he's not dead- but you're saying that apparently I should have stayed to cuddle with him and make sure his feeling weren't hurt-”
“Are you serious?” Colonnello asks, shocked. “Yes. Yes, Reborn, that's what we're talking about. You dealt with the situation, good, but you did it like it was a chore. He's your friend, don't treat him like trash.”
“I wasn't!” Reborn laughs, incredulous. “That's how I've always treated him - that's how you treat him. That's how he treats us!”
“Not when it's serious,” Colonnello argues. “You don't play when it's serious, Reborn. Would you have liked it if he just watched you get shot and then-”
Reborn steps forward and they react, shifting back defensively like he's going to attack them. It's probably because of the killing intent.
Reborn doesn't regret what he did so he doesn't need to say sorry because he’d do it all over again even if he got a second chance. They just want him to pander to their hurt feelings even though this is the Mafia and they're grown adults. This is exactly like the painting thing except they keep pushing him - so he has to push back.
“Funny you should bring that up,” Reborn snaps. “Because I actually would have preferred anything else over him helping. His help fucked me up far more than that bullet ever did.”
“Reborn,” Fon warns.
Skull is confused. “What do you mean? Fon, what does he mean?”
Colonnello scrapes a hand down his face and sighs tiredly. “Come on, Reborn.”
“I'm sorry!” Reborn finally blurts out. “Okay? Is that better? Does that help somehow even though you know I don’t mean a god damn word?” Reborn tugs his hat down to shade his eyes because it's humiliating. “This is ridiculous,” he grits out to try and save some dignity. “I'm hungry, so if you'll excuse me.”
Reborn storms out and doesn't look back. He expects someone to follow, reassure him it's fine like Fon did once, soothe his ego, but…
Shamal wakes up when someone crawls into his bed but doesn't bother moving. "I'm gonna be real disappointed if you don't have boobs," he mumbles, slightly slurring because half his face is smushed into a pillow.
"Am I a bad person?"
Shamal's eyes snap open and he rolls onto his back. "What? Of course you're a bad person, you kill people. You know this, I know this."
"But," Reborn tries, sitting at the edge of Shamal's bed. "Is that…a bad thing?"
Shamal blinks. "What happened? Why do you care about this all of a sudden?"
"Skull got hurt," Reborn admits. "I wasn't nice enough so they got mad at me."
Shamal sighs and closes his eyes again. "Sleep it off. They told you to be one thing and you're not – they've confused you. You're not a good person and you don't want to be a good person, Reborn, you never have. Get some rest, you'll feel better after."
"It's already lunch time."
"And I'm a sleep-deprived medical student – get in the fucking bed, Reborn."
There's the sound of shuffling and Reborn with less clothes slips into the bed with him. Shamal rolls over so they're facing each other and slings an arm over Reborn's waist while the hitman does the same with Shamal's shoulder.
"Shamal? Would you like me better if I was a good person?"
Shamal huffs in lazy amusement, slowly slipping back into sleep. "I'd be dead."
"Why would you be dead?"
"Because I wouldn't have you anymore. Not if you were a good person."
Reborn is better after the nap. Shamal was right; he was confused.
Reborn got caught up in it all and he forgot that the others aren't so good either. Reborn is just more honest about it. This is a good reminder to not get so close that he only focuses on the things he sees and not the things he knows.
Reborn knows that they're friends, but only in the sense that they won't stab him in the back as long as they don't have a reason to.
Lal reports back to COMSUBIN – tells them all about Reborn and the rest; where they go, what weapons and fighting styles they use. Colonnello doesn't know, but he has loyalty and he would if Lal asked him to. He does it unknowingly, even now. Asks Reborn things that Lal comments about and chats with her when he has the answers, feeding information Reborn is too wary to tell Lal.
Fon does the same, except with his contacts back in the Triads. Fon tests Reborn sometimes – pushes a little to see how hard Reborn pushes back. Can Fon win a fight like this? How fast can Reborn draw a gun? Where would Reborn run if Fon chased him?
Viper sells the information instead, to the highest bidder. Viper also sets up ambushes for people – less now but it's still a predictable stream of requests for the informant. Sometimes Reborn goes back to his latest secret apartment and has to move again because the place has been torn apart by someone Viper pointed in is direction, someone looking for his secrets or rare weapons to take.
Verde doesn't sell anyone out because he uses them instead. For experiments or just to observe to gather data. The gel that cut Skull and stopped him from healing? From Verde, put out on the black market for anyone interested in slicing up a Cloud. He's still working on one that stops a Sun.
Skull is not harmless either. The stuntman might not have a reason yet but -and here's the best advice that life has taught Reborn- if you leave it long enough, anyone can find a reason to betray you.
Luce isn't different. She uses their strength for jobs when it suits her but stays apart from them when it doesn't. She's also the only one who receives jobs from, and speaks with, the ever enigmatic Checker Face - and Reborn is not going into that clusterfuck blind, that's for sure.
Reborn isn't upset about this, far from it. He expects it, as people should when they reach his notoriety in the Mafia. People have different loyalties and priorities and why should Reborn childishly demand to be put above everything else?
It isn't personal, he knows, just business. He knows and that's the reason he's a hitman, a freelance killer, instead of an assassin attached to a famiglia. Because he used to be an assassin when he was younger but things change…and so he put a bullet in someone's head before they did it to him.
It's only betrayal if you don't expect it.
So Reborn just needs to be smarter. Reborn does have a real home. He keeps the important things there, fills it with whatever he feels like because he can and no one will take it away, because no one else apart from him and Leon know about it.
He can't go back too often or people will catch on though. Is it a home if he can't live in it? Is it a home if he fills it with pretty guns and that Rembrandt painting still overlooking a river, hoarding things because maybe he'll live there one day? Is it a home if he can't do anything but dream about it?
Maybe he'll take someone there. Maybe one day, when he finds someone he can trust.
Reborn does trust his friends of course. He trusts that they'll hurt him if given enough time. Not their fault, it's just how life goes. Reborn is no different. Give anyone enough time and they'll find a reason - an excuse.
Perhaps not everyone. Not Leon, Leon is part of him. Not Shamal, not any time soon at least because Reborn is Shamal's number one priority, so nothing can tempt him away.
Not any time soon at least.
When Shamal becomes a doctor, and he starts meeting new people, maybe even finds a famiglia and Reborn stops being the one and only…it's going to be difficult pulling away from the boy.
Reborn blinks at Shamal's call and realises he's burning the eggs. He flips the omelette into the waiting plate and turns off the stove. He takes the plate and the mug of espresso to the table where Shamal is already digging into his own meal, one arm blocking his plate from the lizard eyeing it hungrily.
Leon perks up when Reborn gets close and before he even sets the plate down the lizard launches and dives head first into the breakfast – because this is technically Shamal's breakfast and Reborn never got his, so there.
"Leon," Reborn sighs as he sits down. "Did you wash yourself before you did that? You've been crawling around while we slept."
"I washed him," Shamal mumbles around bacon. "A bit. I mean he jumped under the tap when I was washing my face."
Reborn hums and sits back, letting Leon eat as much as he wants first.
"You went quiet," Shamal asks after a sip of coffee. Then, because he spends too much time with Reborn, he asks; "Where did you go to in that head of yours? What's the weather like?"
"To a lovely place," Reborn says lazily. "Blue skies, overlooking a clear river. Bit cold but that makes the blankets feel so much better."
"Any place I'd know?"
Reborn smiles. "Maybe I'll take you there one day."
I want to write so much more about the history and interactions between these two. They're so cute together XD.
About a week later, Skull is considering deliberately getting injured again.
The others have taken turns keeping him company throughout the entire week, dragging him around during the day and staying over at the shared house like a fun sleepover at night. They think he'll be scared if they leave him alone, which is super cute. Skull definitely won't say no to spending time with friends, so he hasn't made a fuss about it either.
Unfortunately, it's been a week and they've started to loosen up more. They know Skull is fine and they also know they can't watch him constantly for the rest of his life. So Skull, now used to being together with at least one other person, gets lonely easily.
"I'm still free," Skull admits as the others slowly start to disperse from the backyard of the house. Several planks of wood and concrete bricks shattered to dust lay around the place.
"Can't," Viper says. "I have money to make."
"I need to find where Colonnello ran off to," Lal explains next.
"Isn't it his day off?" Fon wonders.
Lal looks away. "Well...yes. Technically."
Skull wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Oh? Are you upset he didn't want to trail you around like normal?"
"No!" Lal snaps. "I'm just - he needs extra training. And I'm taking time out of my busy schedule-"
"Busy?" Viper echoes. "We just spent the morning watching Fon try to make a shockwave with his punches."
"I did not try," Fon cuts. "I succeeded."
"It was still a waste of time," Viper mutters.
"You didn't have to stay," Fon retorts.
"Enough," Lal interrupts. "I'm leaving." She stands abruptly from her seat on a fallen tree trunk and then just walks out.
Verde watches her go with a keen eye. "She's been getting progressively twitchier the whole morning. There are definitely some emotions happening."
"They're in love, dumbass," Viper deadpans.
"I'm still free!" Skull says, louder this time.
Viper just straight up disappears, Fon admits he still wants to perfect the shockwave and Verde cites experiments as his excuse.
Skull pouts a bit but wanders off to his car. There's always someone else Skull can hang out with…but Reborn might be avoiding everyone. Then again, Skull usually doesn't see Reborn for long stretches of time when the man has an important hit, so the hitman could just be too busy to drop by.
Or maybe Reborn hates him for tattling. Not that Skull was, just that everyone asked him what happened, and he told them, of course he did. It was fine though, Reborn has always been a bit…off. No one should have been surprised by what happened.
Reborn has probably bounced back, easy, he's just lazily hanging out with Leon or something.
Reborn opens the door to find Skull peering up at him. "Are you allowed to be here?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Skull asks in confusion.
"Did they not tell you to stay away from me?" Reborn mocks. "I play too rough."
"They overreacted," Skull dismisses. "I'm immortal – even if you shot me I'd be fine."
"Look," Skull begins. "I don't know why they acted like that –and they still won't tell me what my flames did to you- but I'm guessing they just freaked out because of the whole 'everyone's out to get us' thing that's happening right now. Lal is hunting down Colonnello just because he isn't spending his day off with her."
"That is kind of weird though."
Skull frowns a bit. "Yeah, but he's big, right? If someone tried to grab him there'd be a mess."
"He has an anti-tank rifle; there'd be more than just a mess."
Skull blinks innocently. "So, wanna hang out?"
"I can't. Mafia things to do."
"Can I come?" Skull begs, making his eyes big and pouting.
"If you stop making that face I'll consider it," Reborn deadpans. "You won't like it though, it's...not the fun kind of Mafia. Everyone will get upset at me again."
"I won't tell them," Skull promises, then hesitates a bit. "Dead bodies?"
"Dead bodies of bad people?"
"Maybe," Reborn offers. "It's a demonstration of new weapons and a lot of the time the people that are used to demonstrate things are just unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Oh," Skull murmurs. "I can take it though; I'll be really good and stay quiet!"
"I would...rather not," Reborn admits. "It won't be good for you."
"I'll leave if it really upsets me," Skull promises. "I wanna see more Mafia stuff."
Reborn frowns a bit. "Do not tell the others, okay?"
Skull follows Reborn into the seedy, almost empty bar and down the narrow, steep stairs to a basement. They open the heavy door and then push through thick curtains only to emerge in a relatively small, dark amphitheatre style room.
There are maybe twenty seats all up with only half filled, arranged in several rows in a semi-circle around a large glass window - tinted strangely because it's only one way. Reborn leads Skull to a seat near the entrance so they can leave quickly if Skull gets upset.
Skull is already upset.
In the demonstration room, everything is bright white and smooth like concrete, presumably to easily wash. There's a man in a pinstripe suit, maybe late fifties, holding a gun at one end, aiming for the other side where bodies hang.
A large bar stretches across the ceiling at that end and the people are suspended by their wrists, off the ground. They're naked only so the wounds can show properly and there are black cloth bags over the people's heads so their ugly crying expressions don't detract from the demonstration of the weapon.
The man places down the gun on a table beside him, the surface slanted to the window to better show viewers the collection, and picks up another. He shows how to load and then gives a test shot, blood exploding from the back of the second target and splattering over the wall behind. The woman stops moving. The demonstrator then fires in quick succession to show rounds per second and how it damages other areas of her body.
Skull is shrinking down in his seat. Reborn let's out a quiet sigh and places a hand over the idiot's eyes before moving to stand up and take the other away.
A movement catches his eyes since he's turned side on to the window to gather up his Cloud. There's a man in the back row, just behind Skull, with a nasty smile on his face. The look is smoothed away when he sees Reborn glance at him but there's something like surprise and glee still hovering in the man's eyes.
At first, Reborn thinks that expression is because of Skull, but the Cloud was very quiet the whole time and he was so low in his seat the stranger behind couldn't have seen him. It's not homicidal pleasure at seeing the targets die either, this is too focused on Reborn.
Reborn turns back to the demonstration room.
There's five people hung up, the first three dead. The last two are men, one with red body hair and then one with blond. The redhead is short but the blond is quite tall, perhaps taller than even Reborn - which is quite rare. The blond also has a significant amount of muscles, so he trains daily, plus he's definitely using those muscles to try and get out of the bindings. Most people give up by now, the redhead certainly has.
Reborn remembers that body. When he was at the beach in Mafia Land, when it's too hot and the man strips off his shirt or wears shorts.
A hole is torn through the redhead's stomach.
Reborn grabs the stranger's head and smashes it into the back of Skull's seat twice, making the Cloud jump up and jolting the other viewers. Reborn drags the stunned stranger over the backrest and onto the floor at his feet before stomping on him until Reborn hears ribs breaking.
"Watch him," Reborn barks out and leaves the man to Skull because Reborn wants answers for this so he can't kill his best lead - not yet.
The hitman steps back onto his seat then strides forward, walking along the seatbacks. He catches a flash of metal and puts a bullet in a woman's head before she can draw fully out of a holster, then snuffs out another man who reaches for his leg when he moves past.
Reborn tucks a hand into his jacket and pulls out a cartridge in silver, popping out his normal bullet magazine into his palm and slamming in the new set.
He places all the way down the amphitheatre as he empties the round into the supposedly bullet proof glass, cracks eventually spiderwebbing out from the diamond tipped rounds. He discharges the empty cartridge, loads the normal round and then hits the glass feet first.
It shatters and he rolls when he hits the floor, firing to kill the demonstrator before Reborn even rises back to his feet. He twists, shooting the rope stringing the blond's wrists to the bar and the man collapses, unable to get his feet under him fast enough.
Reborn strides to the backroom's door even as he pulls a knife from the holster at his lower back, flinging it across the room to sink it almost hilt deep into the other ropes binding the man's wrists together.
The man jerks his hands apart and then tears off the bag over his head plus the gag in his mouth.
"Fuck everything," Colonnello raps out, gripping the knife as he pushes himself up into a sitting position.
Reborn's jacket lands before the blond before Leon follows, dropping onto the fabric with a puff sound. Reborn doesn't know if Colonnello is damaged or drugged or what so he's going a little bit overboard by giving the soldier Leon but who's going to question the hitman when he's like this?
No one that's going to walk out of this, that's who.
Reborn has already kicked open the backroom's door as soon as Leon leaves his hand and he swiftly paces through the prep room, gaze sweeping over tables with a variety of weapons laid out, then across the large rack where more people are hanging up - no bags over their heads so he can definitely say they're no one Reborn knows.
The staff members -seven- are already panicked from the sound of gunshots so they're standing and holding weapons. Reborn debates killing them all and feels like that would be a lot more satisfying personally because someone decided to fuck with Reborn's things today and Reborn does not share well with others.
Yes, okay, these particular workers have no idea what's happening otherwise they would have ran or started shooting by now. The two viewers Reborn killed earlier and maybe even the demonstrator might not understand either.
Does Reborn care?
Their problem for trying to get in his way.
They should have looked a bit harder in the dark amphitheatre and realised who they were up against. The workers definitely saw Colonnello's face and they should know who has Reborn's protection - ignorance is not a good excuse as far as Reborn is concerned.
The real perpetrators -all except the fuckwit who wanted to watch probably so he could jerk off to it later- have most likely long since run away, leaving these scapegoats here.
Reborn accepts the sacrificial offerings but he's still going to be hungry later so those fuckers better run fast.
"Hey, Reborn?" Skull calls out, voice a little quiet because he's still in the amphitheatre.
"What?" Reborn snaps.
That sets off the workers and Reborn now has an excuse to kill everyone. Three go down and Reborn reloads as he sprints for the large crates storing further ammo.
"Um," Skull begins but then tries again louder to be heard over the gunshots. "So, totally not my fault, but the guy you told me to watch-"
"Be concise," Reborn calls back before diving out, taking down two more, then kicking up one of the metal tables to hide behind.
"The chair grew another arm," Skull admits. "But the guy got in the way so they're … really intimate right now."
Reborn calls Skull a bad name. The stuntman really should have better control than this by now – flaring because he panicked or something, really? "Nello, watch the idiot for another Cloud burst, make sure he doesn't die!"
The table Reborn is behind should block most of the gunfire but he swiftly rolls out and executes the person with the higher-powered gun to be on the safe side before slipping behind another table.
The rack of people are behind him now and all five are already dead or dying from the bullets that miss Reborn's table. Three more staff members enter the room from another doorway, but that's perfectly fine, Reborn is just getting started.
Colonnello has successfully gotten to his feet, Reborn's jacket tied around his hips, twisted to the side so it covers everything except for one leg. "C'mere, Skull," Colonnello orders, one hand clutching the knife, the other holding handgun!Leon as he peers out into the darkness of the amphitheatre. "And the rest of you," the soldier grits. "Get lost before I call the hitman back in here."
Most people have swiftly escaped to not get in the way of Reborn's rage but some have frozen to not look like a guilty party fleeing the scene. Colonnello isn't comfortable with leaving Skull surrounded by strangers, regardless of the number. Not right now. Colonnello just wants his friends where he can see them so he knows they're okay. His finger on the gun twitches slightly as he flicks a glance to the backroom where he can still hear random bursts of gunfire.
As the rest of the room empties exceedingly quickly, Skull clambers through the glass, not worried because he's wearing the usual protective gear, and his thick boots crunch in a scattering of broken shards when he lands in the demonstration room.
Colonnello shoves the knife at stuntman and grabs Skull by the back of the neck as the Cloud fumbles the blade.
"Where are the others?" Colonnello snaps, dragging Skull towards the prep room door, keeping near the concrete wall so even if a stray bullet flies out they won't get hit. "When did you see them last?"
"Twenty minute drive to Reborn's then half an hour to here," Skull estimates. "I left them maybe an hour ago? We had no idea you were even grabbed, Lal thought you were at the COMSUBIN base."
Colonnello lets out a shaky breath out of relief. The others are far away - they're safe.
Colonnello was just maybe losing his mind because he's been here for hours and the people who grabbed him just kept repeating that they have everyone. That Viper was strung up right next to Colonnello, that Verde was already up for target practice, that Lal was taken somewhere where a woman could be more entertaining and Fon was killed because he fought back too hard when they tried to grab the martial artist.
Colonnello didn't believe them, okay? He didn't. But it's been hours and there was this fucking Mist user who knew everyone's voices and Colonnello could hear Reborn threatening and then coaxing and then begging someone to let the others go - at least Colonnello, he's so young, just let him leave.
Colonnello tries to calm down because the hint of hysteria running through him, making his movements jerky and shaking Skull, well that would mean he's more effected by this than he should be and he's fine, no one even beat him up, he's fine.
"Hey, Reborn?" Skull says but he's watching Colonnello. "How long you gonna be over there?"
"I will stop when I'm good and ready to stop," the hitman argues back.
"I don't want to tell you how to do your job," Skull sasses. "But you're kind of taking a long time?"
The bursts of gunfire cut off abruptly and then Reborn is stepping through the doorway a couple of moments after. "Am I not allowed to enjoy myself?"
Skull frowns. "I think I get why everyone was pissed off at you before."
"What? Why? I'm dealing with the situation!"
Colonnello drops Leon on Reborn's hat and grabs a fistful of the hitman's tie, dragging him closer. "You took your time getting here."
"Be grateful I recognised you at all," Reborn scoffs, wrapping an arm around Colonnello's waist because the blond doesn't look very stable. Sun flames flood the soldier.
Colonnello lets out a laugh that doesn't sound like he's having fun. "I need to start flashing everyone so you recognise me faster next-"
"There won't be a next time," Reborn dismisses. "Skull, did you actually kill the man I gave you?"
"No!" Skull protests. "It's just that the chair is occupying the same space as him. It's not my fault, it's physics."
Reborn closes his eyes. "Lord, give me strength."
"You're atheist," Skull complains.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Reborn mutters. "Come on, let's get out to the car."
Reborn has to use a fireman's lift to get the taller Colonnello past the broken glass and through the window since the soldier doesn't have shoes. Reborn checks on the stranger as they pass and he's actually still alive, albeit unconscious from blood loss. However, that metal spike coming from the chair and puncturing the man's stomach missed everything vital, plus it's far too neat and symmetrical to be an accidental flare of Cloud flames.
Skull looks very ditzy and clueless when Reborn slides a glance at him, like a dopey little wombat in purple.
Skull propagates the stranger's blood so he doesn't die and Reborn then yanks him off the spike, causing the passed out man to wake up and scream from the pain of a giant hole torn through him. Reborn knocks him out again in annoyance and drags the stranger up to the car with them.
Lal will be pleased with her early birthday present.
50 chapters. This has 50 chapters.
Lal and Viper pile into the car and just sit there for a while, on the curb outside the funeral home that doubles as a body disposal for the Mafia. The car, even though it's a sedan, smells heavily of blood, and Lal is still frustrated even after taking out her anger on the man they just dropped off.
"It's too much," Lal finally says. "The attempts are getting too close together, people just aren't stopping." She sighs. "Maybe we should head out of Italy for a while. Take a job, stay somewhere else."
Viper purses their lips. "And Reborn?"
"Reborn is strong," Lal murmurs.
Viper stays silent.
"I don't know," Lal snaps. "Would he want to come with us? He...reacted badly with Skull. And then he dumps Colonnello, Skull and that man on us before immediately leaving. Didn't even say anything - hasn't contacted us since."
Viper rolls their shoulder and makes an irritated noise. "Pay me later," they grumble. "Look, Reborn is...strong. And a lot of people want that, whether it be to hold or destroy. In the time that I've known him, he has killed a lot of his friends."
"Reassuring," Lal sneers.
"They betrayed him," Viper snaps. "They sold him out or tried to kill him themselves. He slowly got used to it. He expects it now, that's why he hasn't made a fuss when you do it."
"I don't-" Lal cuts herself off. "It's not to hurt him. Or any of you."
"You still do it," Viper argues. "So do I. All I'm saying is don't be so shocked when he doesn't offer you his gun before he gives you his back. He jokes about it with me sometimes; about who can get the knife in deep enough to finally end him."
"I wouldn't," Lal snaps. "None of us would."
"He wouldn't be upset," Viper murmurs. "He'd understand if COMSUBIN sent down an order. He knows loyalty. Doesn't have any but he knows it."
"I wouldn't," Lal repeats, quieter this time.
Viper smirks. "He'd thank you for being his friend -for lasting so long- before he put a hole through your head."
Lal sighs in frustration. "Enough, Viper."
"I'm just saying," Viper hums. "Best to leave him here. Better for everyone if we're not in the blast radius when he dies."
"And why would he die?"
Viper shrugs. "I heard the Vongola are getting involved."
And everyone knows just how much the Vongola despise Reborn.
Lal lets her head fall back to stare at the car's roof. "Fuck."
Lal kicks down Reborn's door. "We're going to Russia!"
A naked Reborn jolts up from the couch and an equally naked woman falls off him and onto the floor. The woman doesn't care, she goes back to sleep with the half of the blanket that fell with her.
Lal frowns in disapproval. "Don't you have Verde? And probably Fon now that I think about it."
"What?" Reborn asks, blinking blearily at her as he clutches his half of the blanket over his lap. "Lal, what are you doing? What time is it?"
"Two a.m. and we have a job," Lal says simply. "Pack for a while though, it'll be a long one."
"That's sounds awful," Reborn sighs and flops back down. "You go, I'll meet you there."
Lal glances over her shoulder at the full car and gestures. Verde steps out because nothing says wake up like several hundred volts of Lightning flames.
They troop into the cabin, kicking snow off their thick boots. Verde gravitates towards the heater control on the dining table of the kitchen while Fon goes for the wood fire in the attached living room.
Viper spreads out face down on the bear skin rug in front of the fireplace and Reborn wanders off down the hallway to find a room first.
The others start the walk from the cars to gather up the bags and dump them inside. Verde and Fon both have their respective sources of warmth going so people start shedding layers and dogpiling Viper.
Reborn reappears in the hallway, back down to his suit again, and goes to sit down at the table. It takes a while but eventually the others join him once they warm up, with Fon moving to the kitchen bench nearby to make hot chocolate for everyone.
"So," Lal begins, leaning back with her arms crossed. "The group who took Colonnello is Russian. They're certainly not pushing the most to ruin us but they'll be a good example for the others."
"Does Luce know?" Reborn asks. He's been deliberately out of communication so he isn't sure of a few details. They did tell him on the way over here what Lal managed to get out of the man Reborn caught.
"I told her," Lal reports. "Now we can do this a few ways. One would be to stay nice, kill the ones directly involved only. But we need to be firm about this, show that we can't be touched, so a more complete attack would be best."
Viper raises an eyebrow. "What did Luce say when you told her that?"
"I haven't made my opinion known," Lal responds, which is a nice way of saying Luce is too soft to agree. "Either way, she'll come tomorrow. We'd waste time if we just sat around doing nothing. Let's at least have a vague plan."
Skull tilts his head. "But what if Luce has a plan? She does have a whole famiglia. She'd have the knowledge on how to-"
Lal slams her hands down on the table.
She takes a deep breath in the silence. "I am more than enough to keep you safe," Lal says in a low voice. "And I have more than enough experience at warfare - and that's exactly what this is."
If they need to go in and attend a party, which unfortunately happens quite often, then they'll defer to Luce because she usually knows how to navigate things politically because of her famiglia. Lal is the only other one who has prior experience in coordinating groups, but that's with warfare and can't be used if they're not absolutely obliterating everything in their way, so she doesn't often step in. This time it's in Lal's hands and Luce is no longer needed here.
"Lal?" Fon's eyebrows are furrowed in concern. "Where is this coming from?"
"She hasn't been here," Lal insists, the anger finally spilling over completely as she scowls. "When Skull – when Colonnello…. She hasn't even tried to see if you're okay past a phone call with some shallow niceties. I try to keep you safe and – you don't need her because I'm here for you!"
There's a beat and Lal stands to leave, flushed bright red.
"I like Luce because the interactions are shallow," Verde cuts in. "You see too much and you're not shy about bringing it up either. I'd like you more if you'd mind your own damn business."
Lal rears back. "You were slowly poisoning Skull!"
Verde scoffs, dismissing her. "Oh, we've all done it at one point or another."
"No," Colonnello deadpans. "No, we haven't. It's just you."
Viper hums. "And while we're on the topic; you can't contain Reborn like she can. Maybe if you disciplined him more I'd like you better."
Reborn raises an eyebrow. "Oh, I'm sorry, am I too much for you to handle?"
Viper leans across the table. "I know where you sleep."
"In Verde's bed?" Reborn leers. "That's okay, you can join us."
"Lal," Fon calls out to the woman who still seems undecided on whether she wants to run or not. "Please don't leave me to deal with them alone."
Skull makes an offended noise. "Excuse you, I'm a fucking angel."
Lal sighs and sits back down. "Okay," she begins. "Let's pretend I said nothing. We need to outline a plan."
"Hold on," Reborn interrupts. "I'm negotiating a three-way. Or four? Lal, you up for it?"
Lal stares at him and Reborn settles back into his chair.
Viper chuckles. "I stand corrected."
Lal turns the look on Viper and the Mist also goes quiet.
"I propose a heavy offence," Lal explains. "If we let something slide then they'll see weakness and they'll just keep coming back. If someone attacks us, we deal it back ten fold. We wipe them out - all of them. We're the strongest so we should show them exactly what that means."
There's no set leader. Depending on what area they're in (technology, infiltration, etc) different people will take over completely.