Chapter 1: 'Open up your heart and let the sun shine in'
The lamb was tattered, with only patches of wool remaining. The rest exposed the scratchy fabric skin, an ugly beige like off porridge. The joints were fixed by large black buttons, fairly loose so the legs would swing with excessive movement. The eyes were two beads and after a month the left eye fell off and he never found it. The threadbare fabric matched a great deal of Haurno's scant belongings; from his blanket to his oversized clothing, they were all worn and littered with loose threads, washed out and drab. They were things his mother brought at a nearby Op shop with barely any thought.
His mother was different; she always wore bright clothes, fresh and clean while tailored to her body. Her long auburn hair was always immaculate, shiny and with barely a hair out of place via a plethora of expensive treatments. He just had his hair hacked off with a pair of scissors when it got too long, with her just shoving a bowl on his head to make it straight. She didn't bother about being careful around his ears, either. At least the glossiness was something that couldn't be shoved away, even if he only had lukewarm water and odd-smelling soap for his hair. His mother made it very clear she wasn't going to 'baby' him so he learned how to clean himself quickly enough otherwise he'd be left for hours in cold water, shivering and wrinkle skinned.
But the clothes were still warm if he wore enough, even if they swamped his small, underfed body. The lamb was as much a comfort as his blanket especially when it was far more common for his mother to stay out all night than it was for her to be home. Sometimes she'd sleep until noon afterwards before leaving again when evening was approaching. Other times she'd go out and come home with a plethora of shopping bags, usually of expensive designer clothing for herself and lavish jewelry even if she always favoured her heavy golden earrings. He had overheard her once saying they were her mother's but she wore them better so they were hers now. She'd always be bragging on the phone to her friends or gossiping with them in the living room on the rare times they would come over. Haruno was never allowed to meet those friends and the one time his mother caught him trying to peek into the lounge she dragged him by the arm back to his room and locked him inside, long nails leaving bloodied furrows on the skin. She then locked him in his room whenever she brought friends over and hissed at him to 'be quiet or else' before meeting them. He could still hear her voice, bright and cheery, and her occasional laugh. He didn't understand why she never spoke like that to him.
Then that man started to become more and more prominent in her life. Haruno never liked him but he never liked any man his mother brought home but they would usually change weekly. This one though seemed to stick around, just after Haruno turned two before he became a stable fixture in the house.
Even while so young he knew enough. Quickly learned to keep himself as quiet as possible. Half the time it didn't even matter as the man- who insisted Haruno call him 'sir' -seemed to find issue with anything Haruno did. A man who quickly became his stepfather but Haruno still didn't like him. If he clicked the spoon on the side of the bowl too loudly he'd get shouted at. If he shut a door too hard he'd get belted across his hands, leaving ugly red welts on his pale skin. If he had 'that look on his face' he'd get a smack around the head. Haruno never really understood that last one, as he was just sitting there with a neutral face. But he didn't like that man and hated it when he moved in.
Especially since his mother didn't care about it. She would even blatantly ignore it or, if he started crying, screamed at him to stop being annoying.
It made him think about that photograph his mother kept hidden in one of the jeweler boxes in her room. She had shown that to him once, while in one of her better moods, with a picture dark but still showing a man with golden hair and a star shaped mark on his shoulder. It matched the one on Haruno's thin shoulder, a dark blotch of skin that stood out stark against the pale flesh. She said it was his father and she always spoke often of him but when that man moved in she stopped. He decided to steal the photo when he was older.
The library was a place Haruno spent a great deal of his spare time. It was mainly because his mother refused to pay for any type of daycare until he was old enough for public school and she would find any way to get rid of him during the day as she would always hiss he got underfoot. She used to lock him in the backyard until one of the neighbours noticed and spoke to her over it even if they spoke in concern his mother blamed him, convinced he'd spoken to the old man and he got slapped over it. He never did, since he didn't mind the garden even when it got so cold his fingers got numb but after that she kept him locked inside his room for days on end. He missed the garden after that and it missed him. It would bloom regardless of weather under his fussing and after he got barred indoors the flowers wilted and the oak tree didn't blossom with thick fluffy bloom anymore. He never realized oak trees weren't supposed to blossom.
He didn't mind the library however, the librarian ladies there were always kind to him and it was quiet. He liked the quiet as it was better than his mother's screaming or stepfather's shouting. Sometimes he'd be left there until it was closing and one of the women would have to call his mother repeatedly or get a patrol officer to drop him off in a common cycle. He also wondered about that, as the television always said police would help but they never seemed to do anything with him or his mother; whenever one, usually a new one, tried to speak to his mother she'd act all strange and touch their arms and flutter her long eyelashes. Sometimes he'd be sent outside to be dragged back in hours later with the police gone. He learned fairly early he couldn't trust them which was strange to know they were liars. He thought they weren't allowed to do that.
But as far as places went the library was nice even if it felt isolated. Haruno read a great deal, usually picture books or watching the television in the playroom. In particular he enjoyed reading ones about fairy tales, magical creatures and monsters. There was also folklore which was more dark but he felt it was more real. Eventually he began to learn how to read short stories, getting some comments about being 'advanced' for his age but Haruno had learned quickly that reading was a good way to stay still and silent, so there was less chance of being screamed at or hit if he remained unobtrusive. Sometimes it wouldn't work but it did enough he tried it whenever he was home. Slipping books into his backpack was a way he took them home even if he learned to be sneaky after being scolded the first time by one of the librarians. Still, he liked them. Their soft scoldings were far better than his mother's screaming.
Sometimes the women would bring him drinks or some of the snacks from the staff room, since it wasn't uncommon for his mother to drop him off early in the morning and not appear again until it was dark. One in particular would try and gently broach the issue about his 'home life' and ask him if he ever felt unsafe- but he remembered the police and how they were liars so he said nothing, only shrugging. Eventually she stopped asking but would bring lunches she made at home for him. He always liked that, since he was fairly used to being hungry, sometimes for days on end, and didn't like the feeling. It made him feel sick.
However as soon as he turned four he was sent to the local public preschool. At first his mother dropped him off but after the first week decided the ten blocks to the preschool was close enough for him to walk to each morning and back in the afternoon. Sometimes it was raining and it would leave his black hair sodden and nose icy. He would use plastic wrap to protect the books inside his school bag when it was raining.
Even in school with other children he was unable to relate to them or find friends; most of the other children through he was creepy or too quiet. Haruno meanwhile liked quiet and the loud, boisterous behaviour of many of the others unsettled him. He was also 'advanced' for his age something the teacher, a kind faced woman with immensely curly hair and a wide crooked smile, praised him about. That put another barrier between him and the other children however considering how easily he figured out the basic questions they were asked or the tests they were given. He was confused moreso as to why the even found such things difficult; he could easily count into the thousands while others struggled to even reach a hundred, he could write all letters of the alphabet in both upper case and lower case, and even understood basic math. For other students they struggled with such things and Haruno wondered why. He didn't exactly realize his solitude in the library and isolation at home fueled a large portion of his already established Independence and advancement, allowing him to comprehend things his peers puzzled over.
Other lessons he enjoyed more, such as when his teacher led them through several classes about identifying living and non living things. She would go through a list, pointing out how things alive differed from objects and how to separate them. He did ask if water was dead since he'd read about how water was needed for life. When the teacher asked him he truthfully said he'd read in it a book which stated if there was no water on Earth there would be no life.
'That's why Mars is dead. They have no sea.' he told her with all the chronic seriousness of a four year old.
They weren't allowed to talk a lot about that since a lot of the other children didn't believe Haruno when he said that. One even started to mock him in the playground during recess when Haruno was sitting at the roots of one of the trees. Haruno just twisted around and bit the other boy's arm, making him cry and run away. He just wanted to be left alone, he liked the tree more than his classmates. He had always liked plants and trees were just very large ones.
But he remained friendless and lonely, sometimes wondering what it would be like to have friends. However he just couldn't understand them and vice versa. It was strange as sometimes when he was in the preschool library another of the children would be quiet, not loud, so he wanted to talk to them. Or even in group projects as the teachers quickly noticed he worked far better with less energetic ones and those that tried to push him around quickly became disturbed by his behaviour or scared of him. But with the ones who liked to read, like himself, he still couldn't befriend them. It was like some mental block that held him back even if he looked enviously on the gaggles of friends. He wanted one but it was harder than he thought to actually make one. They never felt right so he had no friends.
There was also the other parents who would pick up their children after school ended. Some offered him rides home when it was raining; he'd read about not to talk to strangers but a part of him felt even if they did take him away and hurt him it would be less than what his own mother and stepfather did. He wasn't even allowed to refer to his stepfather as such, only 'sir'. To do otherwise would get him smacked by the belt even if the man made sure to not hit him on the face. He stopped hitting Haruno's hands after too many questions and would either smack him around the head, where his thick black hair would hide the bruises, or along his back, forearms and legs where his clothing would cover the red welts. His mother just kept to her screaming even if she still occasionally scratched and clawed him if he didn't get out of the way fast enough or she was trying to drag him somewhere. Or sometimes she was just angry.
He never understood what he'd done wrong to make them hate him but already knew better than to ask.
Bang bang bang
The sharp noise made Haruno tense from where he was settled in a corner of the kitchen, half hidden behind the table. His mother paused in the middle of her phone conversation, painted lips pursed as she glared over to the hallway, aggravated her conversation had been interrupted.
It was one of the rare weekends all three of them were at home, Haruno forgotten and his mother and stepfather preparing to leave for the night. It was barely the afternoon but it usually took his mother an hour before she settled on her desired look, usually swapping out of several outfits. As it was she was in her favoured amethyst coloured dress, with nails the same shade but that would probably change. Of her husband he was upstairs but Haruno could hear the heavy foot falls of him coming down the stairs to answer whoever was banging on the front door. He pressed his face closer to the tattered lamb, a small book clutched in his hands. He hoped whoever at the door had good news as otherwise it would be his fault somehow.
"Is this the Shiobana residence?" a deep voice asked when the door was finally answered.
"It's Giovanna." Haruno's stepfather snapped back.
Haruno wanted to go to the kitchen doorway, so he could look down the hall and see whoever the visitor was and the conversation happening between them. However it was sounded irritated but frightfully cold while Haruno could hear his stepfather's voice raising steadily in anger before it was abruptly choked off with a sharp wheezing noise.
His mother jumped back with a shriek as a huge man suddenly appeared in the doorway, hefting Haruno's stepfather up by a single hand wrapped around his throat. The stranger said something, voice sharp, before twisting his hand. A dull cracking noise sounded and abruptly Haruno's stepfather went limp. The stranger dropped him before turning and saying something to Haruno's mother who was near hysterics but Haruno was transfixed on his stepfather's eyes, empty and staring at nothing. Haruno suddenly knew without a doubt he was dead before his eyes slid up to the man who was speaking to his mother, who was cowering against the kitchen bench.
The man was dark skinned with pale hair of a shade of lilac. He was also the most bizarrely dressed man Haruno had ever seen, making him almost think he was a circus performer; a black leotard, short cape and numerous purple heart accessorizes on his clothes and lopsided golden band across his forehead. Despite his handsome face he had such a cold look in his eyes Haruno thought anyone who made fun of him would end up dead just like Haruno's stepfather. He tugged his lamb and book tight against his chest, knees pulled up against him and eyes focused on the man unblinkingly.
As if feeling Haruno's stare the man turned, looking directly at him. The gaze was cold, calculating, before the man pivoted and walked towards him, easily tossing the table aside with one hand where it broke against the wall before approaching him. Haruno already knew better than to try and run so he just sat there, watching the man carefully; his eyes were pink, almost purple. They were also severely intense and unyielding, as if the man was less a man and more of a machine with no emotion bothering him.
The man crouched in such a swift action it made Haruno flinch but there was none of the fury that would show on his mother or stepfather. Even when the man reached out for him there was no hostile emotion. Then the man carefully hooked his fingers underneath the collar of Haruno's oversized shirt, pulling it down to bare his shoulder. His five pointed star birthmark stood out starkly on the skin and some of the severity vanished from the huge man's face. Haruno just stared at him, still unsure if the man was going to harm him.
His mother chose that moment to try and bolt for the front door but the man intervened so quickly Haruno could barely follow it, getting a handful of her long hair and stopping her mid-stride. She screeched and flailed, trying to dig her nails into his wrist but the man just glared down at her.
"Be quiet," he snapped as if she was an unruly child, ignoring her screaming, "You and your son shall be accompanying me now."
The man cared nothing for their belongings and just dragged Haruno's mother out to an awaiting car by her hair. For Haruno he was treated far more gently, instead carefully lifted up into the crook of the man's arm and carried out. He had dropped his book but kept his tattered lamb close even when they were put in the car, Haruno in the passengers and his mother in the back. It was dark, with tinted windows and black leather seats that smelled wonderful. The man got into the drivers seat and quickly drove off, leaving Haruno's home behind.
Haruno was confused but something deep inside told him it would be stupid to try and run so he didn't. Even after the man killed his stepfather Haruno wasn't afraid of him; he had gotten good at reading people and the man just acted as if it was a job. Also a part of Haruno was glad his stepfather was dead. He couldn't hit him anymore.
His mother was different, near in hysterics. Her mascara was running in black streaks down her cheekbones and she started flailing at the car door, trying fruitlessly to open it while crying and cursing under her breath.
A giant translucent arm suddenly appeared from the man, skin white with long black nails like some kind of malevolent spirit. Haruno stared as the hand reached back and grabbed his mother's shoulder, claws digging into the exposed skin before roughly flinging her back against the opposite side of the back seat where she collided with the door.
"Stop being a nuisance," the man intoned.
It was strange for Haruno to see his mother curled up on the backseat, sniffling and bloodied. Usually that was him. He had never seen her like that and even watching the blood roll from her nose and staining her lips redder he didn't even feel sad. He didn't know if that was normal.
He looked back at the large man driving, staring at his features and the various golden hearts he wore. Haruno guessed the man liked hearts and wondered if he liked Valentines day. He probably did.
"I'm Haruno," Haruno said politely after nearly a minute of silent driving. His teachers always said politeness was a virtue and manners cost nothing.
For a long moment the man didn't respond and Haruno thought he was being ignored before the man abruptly answered, "I am Vanilla Ice."
"Where are you taking us?"
"To see a great man. He has demanded your presence."
"Let me out, you fucking asshole!"
"Be quiet, woman."
They were taken to the airport and Haruno was still quiet and confused. He wasn't sure who this 'great man' Vanilla Ice spoke of was and wondered who it could be. He must've been rich though since they were taken onto a private jet- Haruno carried, his mother bodily dragged -before he was set on one of the luxuriously plush seats. Vanilla Ice was fairly unconcerned about Haruno's mother, instead spending the majority of the trip keeping a very close eye on him. Haruno was confused about it as the man's focus wasn't angry but it was intense enough to make him nervous.
However the stewardess- whose name tag called her Bette -fussed relentlessly over Haruno, offering him food and drinks while, like Vanilla Ice, ignoring his mother completely.
The stewardess was pretty with thick blonde hair coiled up in an elaborate bun, a carefully arranged fringe and wide white teeth. Despite her friendliness Haruno felt like that was something wrong with her, just the way she moved and how her eyes remained as dead as his deceased stepfather's. When she bent down to put a glass of orange juice on his tray he caught a glimpse of some weird growth behind her bangs, like an infected pimple.
He had read it was rude to talk about a girl's looks so he decided not to say anything. She also kept on giving him food and Haruno, being very hungry, happily ate whatever she put in front of him. He liked the beef wellingtons even if he didn't know what a wellington was. It sounded like a town instead of a food.
The flight was long though and he grew sleepy. Bette instantly started fluttering over him, lowering the chair and draping a very fluffy blanket around him and even fetched an extra one for his lamb. He ended up sleeping most of the flight and only woke up when it started to land. Bette fussed over him once again, helping him up and dabbing at his face with a warm towel and cooing. She even did the same for his lamb even though Haruno didn't know why; his lamb wasn't alive but it seemed to make her happy.
As before Vanilla Ice watched him like a hawk- Haruno wasn't even sure if the man had changed positions since Haruno fell asleep -and carried him down the plane steps when it stopped, Haruno's mother following behind sullenly. It was nearing sunset but Haruno still couldn't recognize anything, as even the airport was giant and strange to the point he couldn't help asking the man where they were when he helped Haruno into a sleek black car waiting for them.
"This is Cairo," Vanilla Ice told him.
"That's far." Haruno had only looked at a globe a few times and the world map on the wall of the preschool but he thought Cairo was very far away from where he lived.
"Yes. You should be honoured."
Haruno didn't know he should but he nodded. This time his mother got in the car rather than be thrown in but she looked furious enough Haruno was glad he was sitting up front. She's usually pinch or scratch or scream at him when she looked like that, even if he had nothing to do with what she was angry about. She seemed too scared of Vanilla Ice to do anything about it. Haruno wondered if anyone had found his stepfather's body yet.
The drive was quiet but Haruno liked peering through the tinted window at the foreign infrastructure and people. There were so many people he was fascinated and many of the buildings looked like the ones he'd seen in fantasy books, like curved castles. Behind him his mother tried the doors briefly before throwing up her hands with a curse. Vanilla Ice gave her a sharp look in the rear view mirror but otherwise didn't comment.
When they finally stopped it was night but the sky was clear without a wisp of cloud so he could see so many stars and the sickle of the moon. He nearly forgot where he was until Vanilla Ice took a hold of Haruno's small hand in a careful grip. Haruno's mother attempted to bolt as soon as she was let out and again the strange ghost arm grabbed her, dragging the screeching woman back until Vanilla seized her wrist in a harsh grip and bodily dragged her after him with Haruno being led along obediently into the building they had stopped in front of.
It was a mansion, carved from ancient rock and surrounded by a tall spiked fence. They were walked through a lavish garden, flowers asleep in the moonlight before being escorted through the front door and through numerous winding halls and staircases where the light was the occasional cluster of candles. The only sounds were his mother's cursing and her attempts to claw off Vanilla's iron grip on her, the man not even reacting to the bloody furrows her nails gouged into his dark skin.
The building felt watchful despite them not passing anyone else and Haruno kept casting furtive glances around, expecting to see the shine of monster eyes and teeth in the deep shadows, drawn by the scrabbling noises yet none appeared. They were led up a stairwell lined with tapestries, which Haruno struggled with his short legs, before stopping in front of a huge set of double doors carved from dark wood.
Vanilla Ice knocked once, twice, before a deep voice spoke, "Enter."
The room was dark yet lavish, lit by dozens of candles in golden holders along with various treasures and rugs and elaborate paintings. The air was cold, even with the lone window being drawn shut but the glass still let in the moonlight unopposed. He hugged his lamb tight, nervous and frightened of the stranger sitting cross legged on a large ornate chair at the back of the room. He could barely see the man's features beyond the glint of golden hair, the rest bathed in shadow.
There were two other people in the room, one a bent over wrinkled woman with sagging skin and long white hair. The other was a short blond man, leaning against a vanity and looking a mixture of bored and irritated. The most striking thing about him was the long lizard-like tail coiled around his leg, layered with feathers of blue and greens with a yellow underside. Haruno wondered if it was some kind of costume, as the rest of the man was normal.
"Lord Dio," the lilac haired man bowed low, "I have brought the child as you requested."
Haruno's mother gave a squeal of excitement, all spite and violence vanishing the instant she realized who they were brought before. She immediately reached out to the man seated with imploring arms but he didn't even deigned to look at her, simply waving a hand dismissively in her general direction. Vanilla Ice grabbed her, bodily dragging her from the room while she screamed obscenities at him, trying fruitlessly to claw her way free to reach the man who was solely focused on Haruno. The door slammed shut and his mother's shrieking slowly faded, leaving them in silence.
Despite Vanilla Ice's cold and fairly hostile demeanor Haruno felt panicked at his sudden disappearance. Despite that he couldn't muster up the energy to run and instead frozen, half hiding his face behind the tattered head of his lamb. Neither of the three adults in the room spoke, instead just stared at him. The tailed man was glaring, nostrils flaring as his head bobbed up and down in an oddly animalistic gesture. The old woman who looked like the evil witch from one of Haruno's story books was scratching at her wrinkled jowls, head titled to the side. Of the heavily muscled man hidden in the shadows he made no movement, to the point Haruno wondered if he was even alive.
Then abruptly the man, Dio Vanilla Ice had called him, rose to his feet in such a sharp movement Haruno twitched; he knew better than to flinch or made noise, as it only called attention to himself, even when the man approached him. He was huge, even taller than Vanilla Ice and wearing trousers with bells attached to long ribbons which jingled with each stride. Otherwise he was bare. Haruno remained quiet, still and compliant as the man reached him, the adult having to stoop down to study his features.
Despite the sharp black fingernails of his hand, the man's movements were gentle and controlled when he tipped up Haruno's head. Haruno kept himself silent despite how his heart beat like a panicked hummingbird in his breast, knowing there was something wrong with the towering stranger but unable to figure out what. It could be that his fingers were room temperature, no self heat whatsoever or the unnatural golden gleam to his iris which flashed in the candle light when he bent his head down to stare intently at Haruno's face. Carefully he titled Haruno's head from side to side, points of his nails brushing against the delicate skin of the underside of Haruno's throat and he clutched the tattered lamb plushie against his chest until his fingers ached.
"...You have his eyes." Dio finally said after a long moment of contemplative silence. He sounded oddly wistful.
"Care to explain?" the man with the long tail said suddenly from where he was leaning against the vanity, "Why is this child even here? Is he another Stand user that Enya rounded up? You usually don't bother with this ceremony."
"He is your nephew," straightening up the golden-eyed man looked at other blond. Haruno was confused but they had a matching lilt to their voice and blond hair that made him think they were family. He wondered what their accent was.
The other man said nothing but Haruno noticed with fascination at how his tail flexed and coiled, as if it were alive. He'd read stories about werewolves, shape shifters, spirits and fairies, and sometimes in the dead of night after being punched by his stepfather or screamed at by his mother he'd wish a fae would steal him away to their magical courts to stay there forever. Was that man one?
When the short man moved forward to jab at Dio's chest Haruno became more certain that the man was indeed a fae, having long teeth and sharp claws with golden scaled hands like a fish. Or is he a kitsune? He had read of the trickster spirits, taking the forms of humans but if were startled would show glimpses of their fox forms. He thought foxes had tails like paintbrushes but maybe the books were wrong about that part.
"My nephew," the man sneered, "Really? I guess he's one of the spawn you decided to fuck in one of those bileful screeching women you favoured for years. You said it yourself you didn't care about them, you didn't care if the women aborted them or what-have-you. So why is he even here?"
"Obviously for you."
The words clearly weren't what the short man was expected and Haruno shyed away from the sudden rage that stiffened the blond's frame, pressing his face into the scratchy fabric of his lamb. Even if the man was small Haruno had seen the long sharp nails on his hands like some kind of beast.
"Are you- are you fucking kidding me?" the short man finally managed to say, his mouth splitting even further.
"No. You made your quarrel abundantly clear and I, Dio, am rectifying that."
"So you what, figured giving me a four year old would fix everything? Do I sound like some lonely suburban housewife who has a hole that needs to be filled with children that magically makes everything better? Are you serious? When the fuck have I given the impression I ever want a child-"
Dio simply looked at the man coolly, "You were blatant in your desire for family, Diego, and he is your nephew by blood through myself and Jojo."
The small man, Diego, looked stricken at that comment. His long tail coiled at his back like a feathered snake even as his clawed hands curled into fists as his voice suddenly became eerily calm and soft "Is that seriously what you thought?"
"You were clearly vexed with the lack thereof of family, so here is one," Dio gestured towards Haruno, who dug his nails into the scratchy fabric of his lamb.
"How...how did you even find him?" Diego seemed to twitch between hurt and absolute fury.
"Technology now days makes it far harder to hide," the man said in his deep voice, "Job applications, loans, child support, police charges, arrests; so much easier to track down someone especially if they aren't making any effort to hide themselves. As such I simply needed to tell Vanilla where I last met the woman and her name. I had indeed thought it would take him longer to locate one of my offspring, as I had intended for him to go through the list of all women whom I could remember the names of and who were still living, then he would locate them, check to see if they had children who carried mine and Jonathan's blood. But as luck would have it the very first one had my child."
Haruno was confused by the whole conversation. He was fairly sure the tall man before him was his father, and the blond hair matched the photograph his mother hid in her room, but he was frightened and unsure so he stayed silent.
"Fuck you," the short man abruptly said, harsh and cold. He turned around and jumped through the window, completely uncaring it was shut and sending glass crashing onto the floor in such a burst of noise Haruno flinched.
There was a fairly long silence but the tall man, Dio, seemed very unconcerned with Diego's violent exit. Haruno looked at the glass shards all over the floor; they looked sharp. Someone could cut themselves.
The old woman cleared her throat, an ugly sound akin to scraping sandpaper, before she rasped, "Lord Dio...Your brother is getting more willful and spiteful. Perhaps it would be best if you fle-"
"Do not finish that sentence if you value your life," Dio said. His tone was mild but Haruno flinched all the same.
Nodding quickly the woman bowed, muttering apologies under her breath. Haruno just stood there awkwardly, uncomfortable and still very confused. He knew better than to say anything or cry so he remained mute when the tall man looked him up and down. Haruno had never seen anyone with gold eyes before.
The lilac haired man appeared in the doorway at the soft summon, hand across his sternum and features stern.
"Yes, Lord Dio?"
"Take him back to the bedroom, with his mother. He must be...tired, after such a long trip. Take care that he is to remained unharmed," Dio said before turning and walking back across the room without a backwards glance.
"As you command, Lord Dio," Vanilla Ice bowed low before taking Haruno's diminutive hand that wasn't clutching the lamb and leading him out the room. Haruno tossed a quick look at the man's retreating back, eyes widening when he caught a glimpse of the dark splotch of skin on the man's shoulder in the shape of a star which matched his own before the door shut behind them.
The walk down the hallway was slow due to Haruno's short legs but he kept a tight grip on Vanilla's hand. It was so dark he felt like he would get lost if he let go. He also didn't get the impression the man would hurt him and he bowed to Dio; it made Haruno think of reading books where there were knights who fought dragons and noblemen who slayed witches and wondered if that was who Dio was. Vanilla and the old woman bowed and obeyed Dio as if he was.
"You will be behaved," Vanilla Ice told him sternly, leading him up a flight of stairs, "You will stay in this mansion and will not attempt to leave. Do you understand?"
"Lord Dio has also ordered you to be unharmed. You must show him appropriate respect if he blesses you with his presence again. Do you understand?"
The man seemed satisfied with that and Haruno wanted him to ask where his pants were. He figured that might be rude though so he didn't. Same with wanting to ask about the man's strange ghost demon friend.
When Vanilla open a door to a bedroom- more richly lavished to the point Haruno thought it was one of those museum exhibits -his mother was already there. slumped in a chair. She jumped up when the door opened, only to have her pretty face twist up into something ugly when she realized who it was.
"You will stay here," Vanilla Ice told him. Then he fixed his glare on Haruno's mother, "You will not attempt to escape."
She flipped him off, to which he just stared levelly at her until she sullenly sat down. Her face was still bloodied.
"Act as befitting of your blood," Vanilla Ice said to Haruno. He nodded, even though he was confused by the words.
The man seemed satisfied however and picked Haruno up and placed him on the edge of the bed. Briefly the glowing eyed spirit rose from the man's back, peering around the room even as Vanilla checked the windows which seemed to be bolted shut. Vanilla also said something in low tones to Haruno's mother which made her flinch but he couldn't overhear it.
Then the ghost vanished and Vanilla Ice left, shutting the door quietly behind him but it had the finality of a slam.
When Haruno woke up it was dusk.
Blearily he squinted out the window, confused as to how it was so late. It had been dark when Vanilla Ice had taken him to his room so he wasn't sure why the sky was all gold and reds again since he had just slept.
Either way he was now awake and very hungry, slowly uncurling from the ball he'd been sleeping in and wincing at the cramped muscles of his back. He tugged at the frayed hem of his clothes, fingers icy and blue. He was used to sleeping in the cold, with scratchy old blankets so it wasn't too much of a discomfort even if he didn't enjoy it. He would've crawled under the thick duvet of the bed but wasn't sure if he was allowed and would get kicked out. As it was his mother had spent some time trying to pry open the window before beating at the locked door before falling into a shallow sleep on one side of the bed. It was a king, so he could've snuck in as well but he didn't want to get too close to his mother while she was so angry. She'd usually shout or claw at him.
On that train of though Haruno looked around the room, wondering where his mother was. Maybe that strange man Dio wanted to talk to her. Slowly he tried to get off the bed, only to misjudge the distance and land painfully on his hip. He stifled his yelp of pain into a grunt, clutching his lamb tight as he lay on the floor. The rug was comfortable at least.
Then a door at the side of the room open and his mother walked out, flapping her hands to dry the coat of nail polish. She looked far removed from the bloodied crying mess she'd been when Haruno fell asleep, instead her makeup was reapplied, her dress clean of blood and dirt and freshly showered with her hair dried and well brushed. When she noticed him awake she barely gave him a look before going over to the door to the hall. This time when she tried to open it, it swung open without hesitation and she carefully pushed it open fully while looking like she expected someone to be right outside. Haruno thought Vanilla Ice would be there but no one showed up.
She went to leave but stopped with one foot out the door before quickly turning and hurrying back to where Haruno was still lying on the floor. She yanked him up, shoving him roughly onto the bed and nearly knocking his lamb loose.
"You behave, you understand me?" she snarled. He nodded.
Instantly her face relaxed into a smile, painted lips curving up prettily as her hazel eyes crinkled at the corners before she patted him on the head like a dog, "Good boy. This is Dio. He brought me back here, so clearly he still feels something for me. I don't want you fucking it up by being a stupid little brat, okay?" at the end her hand became claws, nails digging into his scalp and smile now just bared teeth.
Haruno swallowed a whine of pain as her nails dug into his scalp, nodding again as best he could while she gripped his hair. Her face softened again and she let go of him, patting him on the shoulder before she turned and flounced out of the room with a noticeable spring in her step.
He watched her leave, eyes wet with unshed tears. He thought she'd be upset since her husband had been killed but she was instead very happy to see that Dio man again. She must love him a great deal.
Gingerly he touched his scalp, digging through his thick black hair. When he pulled back his hand there was small smears of blood on his finger tips. From memory he knew the scratches wouldn't bleed much and his hair would absorb most of it.
This time when he got off the bed he did it more slowly, landing awkwardly on his feet but not falling over. While the opened door beckoned he ignored it in favour of exploring the room; it was far larger than his room back home and there was also random heaps of gold, several large paintings propped up against the walls and a large golden statue covered in jewels. The gold matched the accents on the mats and blankets, and even the curtains had delicately embroidered hems of gold. There were four lavish chairs set up around the room and a huge book case covering one of the walls. There was also a small round table with a delicate vase balanced upon it. Haruno briefly thought about reading some books before he noticed the dried blood on his hands.
He shuffled into the attached bathroom, the air still warm and moist from the shower his mother had taken. Everything was white porcelain and marble but he ignored that as he dragged over the stool by the bathtub so he could reach the sink. Putting his lamb on the lip of the tub Haruno washed his face and hands, making use of the small stack of face cloths by the sink before he leaned over on his tiptoes and rubbed at the steamed up mirror until he could see his reflection.
Overly large eyes sunken into his thin pale face, accented by dark circles under them. His black hair was messy from his sleep and cut slightly jagged. His lip had a cut in the corner from where his stepfather had knocked him into a door frame the previous week. Haruno stared at himself for a long moment before scrubbing at his hair with the damp face cloth before grabbing the hair brush on the cabinet, not even twitching when the bristles scraped against the scratches on his scalp.
When he left the bathroom the bedroom was still empty. Haruno wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now. He guessed he could go back to sleep since it was nighttime and that was when people were supposed to go to bed but he had just woken up and was very hungry. His stomach was making irritated noises and he could feel nausea building from lack of food. He wondered if he was allowed to ask Vanilla Ice for food. The man said he was to be well behaved and Haruno didn't think asking for food was rude.
Though sometimes his mother or stepfather would get angry when he asked for food so he wasn't sure.
Hesitantly he poked his head around the doorway, peering down either side of the corridor. Like before it was dark and oddly misty as if the clouds had seeped inside the building. Haruno tightened his grip on his lamb, the scratchy fabric irritating the thin skin of his wrists before he carefully stepped out and picked a random direction to go to. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do and a part of him was deathly afraid of being caught and punished, but Vanilla Ice said he wasn't allowed to escape. Not that he wasn't allowed to walk around inside. His mother had also left and no one had tried to stop her. But maybe the rules were different for him. He knew he often got punished for things his mother and stepfather did.
Then he reminded himself his stepfather was dead, remembering his glassy eyes as he lay in a heap on the floor. His stepfather wouldn't be able to hit him anymore.
With that in mind Haruno stopped at the top of a flight of stairs before carefully making his way down, passing several wide windows that showed the sunset as the sky deepened into reds and darkness. He wasn't sure what the weather was supposed to be in Cairo but he thought it must be hot since it was so cold at night. He was fairly sure he read that somewhere. He could be wrong.
He was also getting fairly sure he was lost, as he'd been walking around the mansion long enough his legs ached and feet hurt in his thin-soled shoes. The strange mist seemed almost alive and Haruno wondered if the mansion was haunted. Vanilla Ice had a spirit friend so maybe the mansion was actually for witches. He remembered that old lady and the man with the tail. Not to mention his father with his golden eyes.
Haruno wasn't sure what to think about his father either. The man scared him. It wasn't like the fear he felt towards his stepfather's temper but something else that made his hands clammy and pulse quicken. It made Haruno fairly sure the man was a fae, as they were said to be strange and mischievous, confusing and compelling. That man, Dio, seemed to be like that. Haruno wondered if that had something to do with the scar he had on his neck. It looked like it hurt.
He wandered around another corner to see yet another set of hallways that looked so much like the many other he had walked down. He sniffed into his lamb, blinking rapidly against the onset of tears. Briefly he thought about asking if Vanilla Ice was somewhere so he could take him back to his room, but felt that maybe Vanilla would get mad with Haruno's wandering so he bit down on his lip. Instead he shuffled over to a nearby pillar and sat down against it, the coldness of the stone seeping through the back of his ragged shirt while pressing his face into his lamb.
For minutes- or hours -he sat there until he heard a faint click click click and he drowsily raised his head. The noise sounded like his mother's pointy shoes and while he didn't want to anger her by being a nuisance he hated the mazelike mansion and wanted to go back to the room that was at least slightly familar.
Instead the person approaching wasn't his mother; It was a woman, young with pale skin and an outfit that didn't suit the coldness of the mansion. The outfit reminded him of how he'd watch the movies in the library, when he had watched latest Disney movie The Little Mermaid and how Ariel had those two starfish clapped against her chest which made up her top. She was wearing a long golden skirt which showed the sides of her thighs, a ribbony shawl holding back her long pink hair and heels tall enough Haruno wondered how she didn't fall over with each step. She must have liked the sea, he thought, as her earrings were in the shapes of sea shells and her shawl was decorated with starfish pins.
The woman didn't seem to notice him until she was only a few feet away and she stopped mid stride. Something seemed to jump from her back, splattering onto the stones behind her before writhing through the rock and vanishing from sight in the time it took for him to blink.
"Who are you?" she abruptly said to him, a frown on her face.
He was silent before she put her hands on her hips, eyes narrowing and body language becoming tense. He recognized the tension, the same as his mother before she'd fly into a rage, so he quietly said, "I'm Haruno."
"That's a...Wait, you're Lord Dio's son, aren't you?" Instantly the scowl on her face vanished, to be replaced with a delightful, eager smile, "Telence told me about you."
Haruno nodded cautiously but the woman approached him, stooping down when she got close and offering him a delicate hand, "I'm Midler. Why are you out here? It's so cold. You'll get sick."
Tentatively he studied her face, slightly obscured by the sheer veil covering the lower portion of her face. Despite her mood swing he didn't feel like she would hurt him and belatedly he remembered Dio ordering Vanilla Ice to keep him away from harm; if his father was a lord then maybe he had all the people who came into his mansion swear fealty, like knights would do. Midler didn't look like a knight but maybe she was a sorceress and she had called his father 'Lord' Dio.
With that in mind he took her hand, which was warm and soft. Her smile widened as she tugged him to his feet, saying, "So why are you sleeping here?"
"I wanted some food," he said, voice nearly inaudible.
"Don't worry I'll take you to the kitchens. This whole maze is Kenny G's useless ability. I don't know why Lord Dio bothers, there are so many better servants for him out there like me." her voice ended in the same gushy tone his mother would use. Haruno didn't know what to say or what she was talking about so he nodded as she led him down the hallways.
She seemed to know where she was going, moving quickly on her towering wedge heels but her grip on his hand was delicate as she tugged him along beside her. She talked to him extensively about Dio, speaking about his looks, how wonderful he was and how she adored and respected him, to the point Haruno wondered if she was his wife. If that was the case then maybe she was his stepmother. He didn't know how to ask without being rude.
Then the weird labyrinth of corridors and pillars gave way to a normal door and when Midler opened it inside was a fairly extensive kitchen that Haruno thought belonged in one of those fancy magazines. She quickly picked him up and put him on the stool by the marble bench before she went around the other side and started to pull out various cookware. She looked out of the place in the kitchen with her outfit but she displayed no hesitance in rummaging through the fridge while keeping up a running commentary of what she was doing.
"Fish is easy, I travel often and while I certainly adore lavish hotels and room service sometimes I'm tracking people for weeks or even months before I get them and have to make do," she said, even as she dipped a fish fillet in flour mixed with pepper and and salt before whisking a egg and slavering the fillet in it.
Haruno nodded along with her enthused chatting even if he didn't understand what she was doing as a job and how she started talking about various places she'd been to before inevitably talking about Dio again. He wondered if she was treasure hunter or a detector like Inspector Gadget. Or maybe she was a fancy spy or worked in theater. He didn't get a chance to ask before Midler slid a plate of the crumbed fish in front of him, handing him a knife and fork.
"Do you like it?" Midler asked the same second he put the forkful into his mouth.
He knew better than to spit out any food, so he kept his head downcast and chewed. He only answered after he swallowed it down, "It's very nice, thank you," he said politely and truthfully. He was very hungry.
Midler looked happy with his words, hands clasped together as she watched him eat. He found it a bit uncomfortable with her staring but was hungry enough to ignore it. It only took him a few minutes to eat everything and as soon as he put the fork down Midler snatched the plate and tossed it into the sink with a loud crashing noise.
He flinched out of reflex but Midler didn't notice, saying, "That fool Telence will clean it up. It's what he's supposed to do, being the butler and all. Now, where do you want to go?"
Haruno swallowed nervously, "I think I should go back to my room. Vanilla Ice took me there."
She frowned, "Oh him. Alright, I'll take you back. It takes some getting used to, this mist." She walked around and lifted him off the stool and put him back on the floor before taking his hand again. He grabbed onto his lamb with his other hand, tucking it up into his elbow to keep it safe.
As before she talked to him intensely the entire walk back to his room, not overly concerned about Haruno's tentative and sometimes nonverbal responses to her conversation. The mansion was still covered in the lively mist and he clenched his small fingers around Midler's hand, worried that if she let go he'd be lost forever to walk around. Unlike the long time Haruno spent trying to find anyone Midler found his room in only a few minutes and he felt relaxed almost at the familiar door even if he'd only been there for a single night. Waling up the stairs and passing the windows revealed it was, indeed, night and Haruno wondered how long he had been lost.
"This is your room, isn't it? It's the guest one." Midler said as they rounded a corner, pointing to the door ahead.
"Yes, Vanilla Ice put me and my mother here."
The woman's grip tightened on Haruno's hand, even as she smiled at him from behind her veil as she said, "You'll tell Lord Dio I took good care of you, won't you? You'll let him know I looked after you, just like he said."
Haruno didn't know why Dio would care for his opinion but nonetheless nodded, suddenly wary of the woman and the odd gleam in her eyes. She seemed satisfied with his nodding however and she patted his thick hair, far more gentle than his mother's earlier clawing.
"If you ever need more help don't you hesitate to ask me, alright? And remember to tell Lord Dio I took care of you."
She smiled at him before opening the door and gently pushing him inside. She did briefly pause to glare at Haruno's mother, who was already back in the room, before leaving with a swirl of skirts and shutting the door loudly behind her.
His mother glared at Haruno and on reflex he dropped his gaze to the floor, already wishing he could call Midler back. It also didn't help that his mother had been crying and she would no doubt turn her rage on him like she'd done countless times before. Trying to ignore it he shuffled over to the plump chair next to the door and did his best to be quiet and unobtrusive. It didn't work. With a growl his mother got off the bed, expression furious as she stalked towards him while drawing breath.
"And where were you?" she snapped.
He swallowed, throat dry before quietly saying, "I went to get some food."
"Really? Dio refused to speak to me, instead that hideous man servant of his told me to go away and sent me back here!" she spat out, "You did something, didn't you! You said something stupid or broke something or got that snide, smug look on your face and pissed him off."
He shook his head in denial but his mother ignored him as she started to rant, at one point grabbing a heavy novel from the bookcase and hurling it across the room in a fit. Haruno did his best to ignore her, face pressed into the scratchy fabric of his lamb and keeping his breathing calm and even until she abruptly took umbridge with that.
"You stupid little bastard," his mother snarled, rounding on him with her face twisted, "This is all your fault!"
Haruno wasn't sure how it was but knew well enough to stay quiet and hope she would ignore him. She clearly didn't like that response however, ripping the lamb from his arms and throwing it violently across the room where it collided with a vase on the round table. He hunched in on himself, fingers trembling as his mother began to shriek at him before covering his face with his small hands. She yelled something even as his fingers dug into his skin and, unbeknownst to him, delicate sprouts began to form from the frayed ends of his sleeves.
"Don't fucking ignore me!" she suddenly grabbed one of his arms, yanking it away from his face while swinging back her other hand to slap him.
Vanilla Ice seemed to materialize out of thin air, seizing Haruno's mother's wrist in a vice-like grip and making her cry out in pain. He yanked her away from Haruno, her nails leaving bloody lines on the four year old's arm before Vanilla Ice threw her against the nearby round table and sending them both crashing onto the ground.
"Lord Dio was clear," the man rumbled, staring down coldly at her sobbing form, "He is not to be harmed. Not even by his own mother. Do not raise your hand to him again or you will lose it."
Haruno blinked up at him in shock; he'd never had anyone defend him against his mother before and had no idea how to react or feel about it.
Vanilla Ice turned to him, expression still severe as he said, "Lord Dio has demanded your presence."
Chapter 3: 'Good day sunshine'
I found this nifty Stardust Crusaders timeline chart from here. To put it in context, it's just before the gang fight Forever and after Dark Blue Moon so Haruno was found and taken to Dio shortly before Kakyoin was defeated and before the gang left on Dragon's ship. There's about 44 days before the gang confront Dio. Diego pretty much refused to deal with his brother after yelling him at the end of Submit to Freedom and thus doesn't know they're hunting Dio. He'll figure it out soon enough.
The room Haruno was led to was cloaked in an almost oppressive darkness, the only illumination being from the three tall, green flamed candles held within an elegant golden candelabra. There was another set of stairs leading up to the next level of the mansion, carved from old wood that looked black in the scant light. The same dense wood was built into the vast book case that took up the entirety of one wall. The only furniture was a high backed chair and a round table, upon which was a squat crystal ball. A floor length mirror was fixed to one of the walls, where Dio was admiring his own reflection. He didn't bother to turn around when they entered.
Vanilla Ice led Haruno to the middle of the room before dropping into a low bow, "Lord Dio, I have retrieved the boy as you requested."
Dio just let out a low hum, lazily waving his hand in Vanilla Ice's direction. The man bowed even lower before straightening up and leaving the room without a backwards glance. Haruno wasn't sure what he was supposed to, especially since he hadn't had time to pick up his lamb before Vanilla had taken him away. After a moment of dithering Haruno linked his fingers together, peering around the room timidly while his father, Dio, seemed more than content to simply stare at himself in the mirror.
This time he could clearly see the birthmark on Dio's shoulder, the five pointed star in the colour of a bruise. It matched his own and Haruno was curious. That was the one part of him his mother never criticized and he still remembered seeing the photo of his birth father and how she had gushed over him. Haruno always wondered about the star birthmark and why it was even shaped like that. It didn't seem like a normal birthmark and even one of the librarian ladies had asked him if it was a tattoo in a disturbed tone.
Haruno clenched his fingers together tight, gaze downcast on the stone floor. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do but guessed if Dio was a lord then maybe he wasn't suppose to speak unless spoken to. He didn't know much about those manners or maybe it was different, like a fae court. From reading he knew people had to be very careful with their words when talking to faeries and make sure they told the truth or they would be cursed. Maybe the star was a mark for that, like how noble houses would have banners with their picture. Haruno thought it was called a house crest but wasn't completely sure.
"Hm...there is something I would like to ask you." Dio suddenly spoke, his voice deep and slow, "What does it mean to live?"
Haruno was deeply confused about the abrupt question until something shifted in the shadows to his left. He squinted into the darkness before realizing it was the old woman with white hair, the one who looked like a witch from his story books. She was hunched over, thick russet robes covering most of her, even while her sunken eyes remained locked on Haruno even as she answered Dio.
She said, "To obtain what one desires. To put is simply that is what it means to live. People want money, people want fame, they want food, they want love, they want a lover..." she trailed off at the end before chuckling under her breath.
"But when they attempt to gain what they desire there is always a battle, is there not Enya?"
"Indeed." Her voice sounded guarded as her gaze shifted to Dio. Haruno resumed staring at the floor.
"If they lose the battle and fail to obtain what they desire they feel frustration and a sense of failure. They are hurt. And they feel fear when faced with the next battle. I believe that conquering that fear is what it means to live. The one who will stand at the top of the world is the one who feels no fear whatsoever. Do you understand?"
"I was the one who told you about the existence of your Stand and how to use it. And you have an immortal body. Is there anything you fear?"
"What concerns you?"
"The Joestar bloodline."
The old woman looked at Haruno sharply, who had been doing his best to be still and quiet while the two adults talked. The sudden attention caused him to flush red out of self consciousness, fingers tightened around each other, before the old woman looked back towards Dio.
She cleared her throat before scoffing, waving a hand dismissively, "Joestar? Those two? They are mere trash. They are no match for your Stand."
"Yes...but when the lives of trash are so deeply entangled within my own I cannot help but feel as if it were destiny. To be more specific, it is not the Joestars that I fear it is the fact I cannot underestimate the Joestar bloodline. I feel I must get rid of the Joestars from my wheel of fortune." Haruno was young but he had learned quickly how to read people and their intent; for all of Dio's casual posture there was an ugly undercurrent of violence to his words. Haruno knew Dio was talking about killing, the same type that left his stepfather lying on the floor with glassy sightless eyes. He wondered what those 'Joestar' people had done to make Dio so mad.
"You fought to eliminate them yourself simply because you feel they cannot be underestimated?"
"Foolish!" the sudden bark from the woman, Enya, caused Haruno to jump, "You should never engage in such foolishness! We already have seven Stand users, the Empress, Hanged Man, Strength, Wheel of Fortune, Temperance, the Emperor and the Devil already on the move. You need not worry about taking action yourself Lord Dio," the old woman started laughing again, dry and hacking.
"Perhaps." Dio turned around and Haruno remained in place while the tall man approached him.
He stopped barely arms length from the four year old and slowly Haruno looked up at Dio. The majority of the man's upper body was obscured by shadows but nonetheless Haruno could see the vibrant glint of his unnaturally golden irises as the man loomed over him.
"What of you, child? What do you think it means to live?"
Haruno stared at the man, who stared right back. Off to the side Enya remained settled in the dark, wrinkles deep and skin sagging, but her eyes were bright and alert as they darted from father to son.
Dio seemed more than willing to continue the staring contest until Haruno responded so he pondered upon the question for a long minute before tentatively saying, "I think it's what you want. I don't know much else."
"So you think the meaning to living is dependent upon your own thoughts?"
He thought about it for another moment, "Um. I think everyone is. They're all different. Some people like strawberry ice cream and other people like chocolate pudding like me. I guess people don't think the same about what it means to um, live. Or their goals or what they want to be when they grow up." He remembered doing a school exercise about that. The teacher had everyone write down what they wanted to do when they grew up and become adults. Some people wanted to be princesses. Others wanted to be astronauts, or doctors or own lots of dogs. So Haruno knew people didn't want the same things. Most time they didn't even want the same foods so he reasoned the answer to Dio's question was the same.
At least the man seemed amused by Haruno's response, or at the very least wasn't angered by it. He chuckled lowly to himself before asking Haruno, "And what if your goals interfere with someones else's? What if they try to stop your goals?"
"I guess I'd ask them to go away." Haruno frowned before adding, "Or I'd bite them."
Enya gave him a funny look but didn't say anything while Dio hummed thoughtfully. The man's body was unnaturally still, even just standing there, even while speaking, and Haruno wasn't sure if he was even breathing. Even the bells at the end of the ribbons upon his belt didn't swing, he was so motionless. Maybe he's a doll that's alive from magic so he doesn't need to breath.
"Do you know what a vampire is?" Dio asked him. Or that.
"Yes," Haruno said, even if he was confused by the topic. He had watched the Muppets before with Count Von Count. It was always easy to follow the vampire's counting and math questions and he liked solving the problems. However he didn't know if his father knew who the Count was so he didn't explain further.
There was a very long pause before Haruno added, "Are you one?" He didn't know if it was rude to ask a vampire that. He also thought vampires wore capes and had bats as pets but maybe that was something they could choose to do.
Dio's lip curled, and Haruno blinked at the elongated eye teeth that poked over his bottom lip, "Indeed I am. But what a curious question to ask, child. What made you think such a thing?"
Haruno fiddled with his hands hard enough his finger hurt. Whenever he had tried to explain how he noticed things in the past it would result in either his mother yelling that he was creepy or his stepfather belting him for staring too much. Dio didn't yell or shriek like either of them but Haruno already knew the man was far more dangerous then them. He didn't like being hit and shouted at.
"You can speak freely with me," Dio waved a hand, sensing his reluctance, "I, Dio, will not harm you."
"You..." Haruno swallowed thickly before hesitatingly saying, "You don't breathe."
"And that told you enough?"
"Living things breathe. Even plants do. People don't think they do but they do. But you don't breathe. So um, I think you must be dead then. But you're not. And I got told vampires are undead. So they're dead but move but aren't living." Haruno paused, "Also you aren't warm. With your hands. They were...like the coldness of the room. Not like people who are...they're um, mam-mals. So they're always warm." He had liked that class.
Dio laughed softly, deep and calm before he reached up with a hand and ran his thumb across his throat. Haruno watched the gesture, belatedly noticing the wound around Dio's neck. It looked like it hurt so Haruno wasn't sure why he hadn't gone to the hospital.
"At least you are more intelligent than most children your age. Speaking of which, child, what is your name?"
"Haruno...that is Japanese, isn't it? Your mother's choice."
He didn't say anything. He didn't like talking about his mother or remembering all her ugly words and clawing nails. Dio dropped his hand from his throat, gaze sharpening as he took note of Haurno's shift in mood.
"Your mother is not overly fond of you, is she? Vanilla Ice certainly told me enough to paint the level of disdain she holds towards you." Dio hummed, "That was one of the reasons I chose her. Perhaps there was a chance she would change; humans are certainly fond of that foolish notion that parenthood changes someone. Yet if they carry the ugliness in their soul than having a child would hardly change it and she proved that right. As it is, I only ordered Vanilla to retrieve her as a boon towards you. Children love their parents despite their actions, don't they?"
Haruno continued to say nothing until Dio asked, tone far more demanding, "Do you love your mother?"
He looked away, ears burning and struggling to hold back tears. Haruno couldn't even say I don't know to DIo's question because then he would be lying and he thought vampires could tell if people lied. Father or not he guess Dio wouldn't like being lied to.
"Would you want your mother to protect you?" the man's voice was soft, questioning, "It would be easy for I, Dio, to make it so."
Breath uneven Haruno tentatively peeked up under his uneven bangs, tears vanishing as he watched, rapt, as Dio's long hair began to thicken rapidly. The golden hair seemed to fuse together into various tendrils, becoming drastically longer and fleshy like scaleless snakes that began to coil and writhe about his head.
One of the long tendrils of hair slithered through the air until it was only an inch from Haruno's nose, the boy nearly going cross eyed. The tip of the tendril had a blunted shard of bone growing from it, with a foul smelling viscous fluid that reeked like rotting flowers oozing from it.
"She would become the perfect mother, would die for you and do anything for you. Would kill anyone who tried to harm you. Would you like that, compared to the current mother you have?" Dio's voice was a near whisper. Enya watched silently from the shadows.
Haruno clenched his fingernails into the back of his hand hard enough it broke the skin. The tendril pulled away from him and Haruno watched as Dio's hair shifted back to normal as if it never happened.
The man huffed a laugh before he abruptly turned and walked towards the high backed chair, settling down and picking up a book on the small table and opening it even as he said, "Enya, take him to the library and speak to him there about what we discussed earlier. And send in Vanilla Ice when you leave, that brother of mine has been wayward long enough."
"Of course, Lord Dio," the old woman rasped, getting up to her feet with a rustle of her robes. She shuffled over to Haruno, tapping his shoulder with a mismatched hand and saying, "Follow me, boy."
He sniffed, rubbing at his eyes with his sleeve and sucking in a shaky breath before following the old woman as she began to descend down the stairs. When Haruno snuck a look at his father he briefly caught an odd shimmering in the air next to Dio, as if there was a mirage or unnatural heat next to him. He then nearly tripped on the first step because he was so busy staring, and Enya grabbed his elbow and scolded him before firmly steering him downwards.
Is this place haunted?
The library was huge to the point Haruno wondered if every book in the world was housed there; the shelves were so tall there were countless ladders attached to them and seemed to stretch up into the darkness of the ceiling. Even just standing in the doorway next to the bent old woman Haurno could see dozens of corridors of books when he looked left and right. It was even larger than the library at home, dark and cold. There were numerous planeless windows on the far stone wall, letting in the chilly night breeze unopposed. Like Dio's room the only light was given by the numerous candles fixed to the holders on the walls and candelabras dotted about the room, dripping wax sliding down into puddles on the stone floor.
Enya looked very much at home as she shuffled down the library towards the rear where various chairs, tables and couches were set up. Haurno followed at her heels, easily able to keep pace with the small woman even if he kept slowing down to stare up at the towering shelves stuffed with books. He wondered if they all belonged to his father or maybe he found the library when he moved into the mansion. Or maybe he always lived in the mansion, vampires were supposed to do that Haruno was fairly sure.
The chair Enya settled herself in was low, with red velvet cushions. Haruno tentatively sat opposite to her, a small round table between them. Though the chairs were fairly short both Enya and Haruno's feet didn't reach the floor. He didn't mind, as at least he could rest his arms on the tabletop. Usually he was too small to do so and he started to trace the delicate vine carvings on the lip of the table.
For a long while Enya just stared at him, her gnarled fingers linked with her chin resting on top of them. He felt awkward under her stare and wondered if he was allowed to go and read some of the books. He doubted his father would have picture books but he was grown up enough to be able to read ones with all the text. The air was so cold he looked out a nearby window, wondering if it was going to snow.
Then Enya cleared her throat, a guttural and rough sound that made him jump in his chair guiltily, quickly focusing his attention back on her. Her face was wrinkled, sagging, hair white but her stare was so sharp he struggled to not squirm under it. Instead he tried to keep himself still even if his fingers twitched on the tabletop, nail digging into the curve of a vine.
Enya grinned toothlessly, "What do you think I am, boy?"
He barely needed to think before answering, "You're a witch."
"Hah, got more brains in that head of yours than most. Many here just call me a 'hag', fools that they are," she ended with a huffing laugh but with a nasty glint in her eye that betrayed how unamused she was with the nickname.
Haruno watched her careful, unsure of the old woman's intentions. He wasn't sure if she would harm him since she kept calling his father 'Lord' so Haruno thought she was like Midler and Vanilla Ice; that was, in service for his father. Dio had said he was to be unharmed so Haruno hoped that meant he was safe. Vanilla Ice certainly hadn't hesitated in defending him against his mother, something Haruno was still unsure about.
"What do you know of witches?" Enya asked him after another bout of staring.
He thought about that for a moment, remembering all the stories he'd read and the movies and shows he'd watched. Witches were a fairly large part of them and the most recent he remembered was Ursula. He liked her tentacles which were like an octopus. They had eight limbs and he knew octo meant eight like an octagon. But he had already about other witches, like the ones in the books Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.
"You can curse people," Haruno decided, "And you can make deals. And um, you can see things in the future sometimes. Like after you kill a goat or chicken."
Enya snorted, "I don't need to kill animals for that. Using cards and seeing with simple things like tea leaves does it easily enough. But if you want to kill a goat then it's another way to read, messy though. Heh, guess Justice can fit the curses but that's a conversation for another time," she started cackling to some type of personal joke, even as she reached into the voluminous sleeve of her robes and pulled out a deck of cards. Still chuckling she began to shuffle them, long nails nimble. Her deformed hand fascinated Haruno, who struggled not to stare at it.
Trying to push that from his mind Haruno wondered if she wanted to play cards with him. He knew how to play Snap and Uno but wasn't sure if she wanted to play those ones. Besides, the cards she were shuffling had elaborate pictures on both sides which he felt weren't normal.
"You're a curiosity to me, boy. So we'll be a slight more in depth with you. We'll start off with the major arcana cards first. Do you know them?" she asked, gaze on him.
Haruno shook his head so Enya continued to shuffle the cards while she explained, "The major arcana cards are the main or trump cards, numbering in twenty two within the seventy eight typical deck. They are considered the foundation for any deck, so I will use these twenty two cards for your first reading and then the other fifty six. Quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the Star picks you- it has already chosen two of your family."
"My family?" Haruno frowned. He didn't know any family besides his mother and his father and he had only just met Dio. His mother had no siblings and only had a mother who she barely visited. Haruno had never met his grandmother.
"Lord Dio doesn't seem concerned and it is up to his choice if he wishes to tell you of that issue. Here, pull three cards from here," she offered him the fanned out cards and he obeyed. They felt weathered, well used in his hands as he studied the bland backs of the cards. She put the rest of the cards in a deck to the side before mutely holding out her hand and Haruno passed the three cards back over. She spread them across the tabletop before using her sharp nails to flip them over.
The first card was of a woman wearing a white robe with a wreath of flowers tangled in her blonde hair and an infinity symbol above her head, stark against the golden sky. Her hands were gently clasping the jaw and skull of a lion standing next to her. More flowers were tangled around her waist, hanging down towards the green grass they were standing upon. The second was a man bracketed by stars and a shirt emblazoned with alchemist symbols while wearing a laurel and golden crown. Two sphinxes, one black and one white, sat at his heels while he held a wand in one hand. The third and final card was a woman surrounded by thick greenery that were tied with red ribbons and a lion, bull, cherub and eagle were in each corner. Unlike the other two that last one was turned around.
"Hm, you have Strength, Chariot and the World. The World is reversed though, which is interesting." Enya frowned.
"Is that bad?"
Enya shrugged, "The cards show potential mostly, of what someone is or will become. They show a route many can take or their current nature. For your age I would bet upon the former since you still have a great deal of growing up to do. The Stand users loyal to Lord Dio are named for the major arcana but that is very loose for them all. Bah, they're irrelevant besides Lord Dio and The World."
Haruno nodded along even if he didn't understand what Enya was talking about during the last part of her words. He didn't know what a Stand was or who all the other people were. Which reminded him, he had forgotten to tell Dio Midler had taken care of him. Instead he twiddled his thumbs, watching as she studied the three cards intently.
"At least your combination is relatively well received," she said, picking up the card with the woman with a wreath of flowers and then the one with the man and the sphinxes, "Both these cards are similar with the other- Strength is associated with the power of the spirit, with inner strength. Of endurance, confidence, patience and calm. Upright also suggests compassion and great influence. The lion shows the wild, bestial nature within you that is tamed by your self control," her eyes sharped at the end of it, fixed upon Haruno with extreme intensity as she finished, "Strength and courage."
He felt his face burn, gaze dropping down to the table top. He didn't think he was strong or courageous. He couldn't even stop his own mother from hating him.
Ignoring his embarrassment she tapped a sharp nail on the other card, "The Chariot is about outer strength, about conquest and overcoming opposition. You must learn to use this, especially with the combination of Strength, to overcome your obstacles. It also suggests using opposing forces to your own advantage, to use them for yourself. The struggle will make you stronger, to have faith in yourself and to come to terms your aggressive nature and impulses. To accept your violence rather than suppress it. The two cards are extremely complimentary."
Haruno nodded, pale face still flushed red before he pointed at the last card in the middle, "What about that one?"
"Eh, the World being reversed just says you are not taking the steps necessary to complete your goals." Enya said, putting down the Chariot and Strength cards, "Or imply that the desired change is delayed due to lack of energy and time, stifled and trapped. As I said and is obvious, you are a child so you have quite a lot of growth. Yet it is the trump card of all the trump cards and fitting considering who your father is. You will grow into someone strong, worthy to serve your father and aid his quest."
He wasn't sure about that, instead nervously toying with the hem of his sleeves. The texture felt strange and when he looked down he was surprised to see tiny vines and closed flower buds entwined within the frayed fabric. Confused he tugged the tiny plants free before flicking them to the floor, unsure of where they had even come from. He snuck a look at Enya. sure she would notice but she was busy with the other deck of cards, more voluminous than the previous.
"Same thing take three," the old woman rasped, offering the flared cards.
As before he took three before belatedly noticing one was hidden under another, giving him four instead of the three requested. He hunched his shoulders as he passed them back over, sure she was going to shout at him for disobeying her, but Enya just spread the cards on the table top in front of her before flipping them over with practiced movements.
The first was a man seated on a throne and wearing a golden crown and flowing cape, a long staff blooming with sprouts held in one hand. The next was of a man lying face down before the sea, ten swords impaling his back. The next was a chalice held upon a hand made of clouds with five streams overflowing from it and a white dove flying above with a white disk held within its beak. The final, the one which he hadn't intended to pick, was of a woman sitting on a throne carved with the images of fruit trees, goats and angels while the lush ground the throne was resting upon was thick with flowers and in her hand she held a large golden circle with a pentagram drawn inside.
"King of Wands, a reversed Ten of Swords, Ace of Cups and the Queen of Pentacles. Interesting."
Haruno stared at the cards as if they were about to explode before tentatively asking, "Are they bad?"
"No, the King of Wands is fitting. Considering your birth you are associated with fire and its symbol Aries, along with your blood being from Lord Dio. It means to take charge, to seize control and be the leader. Vision and long term goals. A determining factor in the situation. Someone people will gravitate towards. It also suggests someone who will overcome challenges not just for himself but for others," Enya gave Haruno a significant look which went completely over his head, even as he nodded along. It was difficult to remember everything she was saying and while he didn't understand it all he made care to remember. He always had a good memory so he took careful note of all her words even if some were confusing.
After a bout of narrow-eyed staring Enya finally continued with the card of the man impaled, "The Ten of Swords is reversed. So it represents a painful end rather than a betrayal. Beyond a traumatic conclusion it shows the start for a new beginning you must suffer through before you can reach it."
Haruno said nothing but inwardly felt that maybe the card was talking about his mother and stepfather. It was always painful being around them and he didn't like suffering. He hoped it was over, especially since Vanilla Ice scolded Haruno's mother when she tried to slap him previously. He wanted it to be.
"The Ace of Cups is for emotional and spiritual fulfillment, along with the beginning of deep love, compassion and happiness of a new relationship. It can also mean birth though in your case it is no doubt the birth of a new idea, aspiration and of your creativity."
That was strange for him even if he liked the idea of being creative. It made him think of how he would care for the garden back home, how he liked having the flowers grow in interesting shapes or took care of the blossoming oak. He wouldn't mind have a big garden with everything he could think to grow. As for love, Haruno wondered if his father loved him even though they were both strangers to each other. It made him happy that he might be.
"This last one is a bit odd, the Queen of Pentacles. However I have little doubt it means for an influence in your life."
"What's a pentacle?"
"A talisman, an amulet. Can be used as a symbol of protection. For tarot it moreso means as a symbol of coins, usually associated with wealth. Broad enough," Enya shrugged, "Don't take all these literally, they are guides mostly."
He nodded, "Okay. What does the Queen mean? Is she important?"
She squinted at the final card before slowly saying, "It represents a mother figure in your life- a parent who provides you with deep loving support, someone who will nurture and protect you. For security and prosperity. It can also apply to yourself, to being nurturing and compassionate. Ah, and to be versatile." Enya glared at the card again, as if suspicious of its intentions.
"Okay." he wanted to write that all down but figured leaving would be rude, so he just sat there patiently as Enya tucked the cards back inside her sleeves.
"You have an interesting future ahead of you, boy, if you live that long and go down the right path. If Lord Dio is there you shall be a great investment for him depending. Hm, I should broach the arrow with him..." she tapped her lower lip with a jagged nail before she asked, "Have you ever been ill?"
The suddenly switch in conversation confused him greatly, "Ill?"
"Yes, sick. Have you been taken to the hospital before? With an extreme fever or weakness?"
"No." As far as he knew he had only ever been physically injured. But his stepfather had never struck him so hard he needed the hospital, just left bruises and ugly red welts.
She stared at him again until his ears burned before she laughed, sliding off the chair and onto the floor, "Well regardless, we shall know soon, shan't we? As soon as that annoying brat is found anyway. Feel free to stay in the library, until then. Unless you want to go back to your mother?"
He shook his head and she accepted it easily enough, giving him a final lingering glance until she shuffled down the long stretch towards the exit, the huge doors slamming shut behind her without her touching them. Haruno remained seated, unsure of what to do now until he very carefully decided to approach one of the shelves.
The books were in such variety Haruno wasn't too sure where to start, especially since he still felt very nervous and confused over his talk with Enya. The cards didn't make much sense to him as he still felt scared and tired. At least he didn't have to go back to his mother even if he felt like he should have felt like he should have wanted to.
Wary of trying to reach the higher shelves and potentially hurting himself, Haurno wandered along and studied the spines of the books on the lowest shelves.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
When he pulled the book free the abstract cover reminded him of Enya's cards, heavily stylized and interesting with sharp angles and curves. He flipped it over, reading the small blurb on the back in looping text; While traveling, Santiago begins listening to the desert and discovering the Soul of the World.
Haruno didn't know what an alchemist was but he knew Enya had spoken about the World in her deck, how it was the most important card and it was somehow associated with his father. He was also fairly sure a soul was like a person, what made them what they were. Maybe that would also answer the question his father asked him about what it means to live since Haruno was still unsure about the answer for it. Maybe the book would help.
With that in mind he carefully held the book in his small hands as he trotted back to the back of the library, settling up on the couch and leaning against the arm of it with his legs tucked up under him. When he gently opened the book the delicate smell of a well-kept book curled up into his nostrils and he relaxed as he started to read the small delicate script.
The boy's name was Santiago. Dusk was falling as the boy arrived with his herd at the abandoned church. The roof had fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood.
And that was how he ended up falling asleep, slumped against the arm of the couch with the book half read in his lap.
The sky was gold and the grass was blue. Tangled among the puffy green clouds where the cards he had picked, oozing into the golden sky like running water colours.
Haruno sat on the grass, toying with a long silver vine which was growing from the ground while small butterflies fluttered around him with a few getting tangled in his dark hair. Behind him was the sea, in front of him was a giant cliff falling down to a lake filled with stars. Even as he touched the vine several of the buds bloomed into vibrant pink flowers with swirling petals. As he watched, the petals fell free of the vine to be picked up by the wind and carried out to the lake. As soon as they touched the surface they turned stark white, shining with a light that hurt his eyes.
He looked back at the vine, which had turned into a sleek scaled snake with bright blue scales. He patted its head, watching as its forked tongue flicked delicately out of its mouth before it slithered up his arm and draping itself around his neck like a scarf. With a huff he lay back on the grass, the snake wrapped around his throat as he watched the clouds and melting cards drift by. Strange looking birds fluttered across the sky before hitting the sea where they burst into puffs of smoke.
Out of the corner of his eye he was aware of something sitting next to him, something white and grey and dying. Despite all his effort he couldn't turn his head. The thing didn't seem angry or mad, as it reached out a hand so the butterflies could settle on its overly long fingers. As soon as they touched it, their wings shrived up into ashes and they felt dead to the ground. The sea and lake of stars began to inch closer and closer to them.
"What a shame," it said. It seemed to have too many eyes and mouths for Haruno to know what it even was and when he tried to look at it properly it was if its face was melting. He actually wasn't sure if it even had a face. He still couldn't turn his face to it fully but he still wasn't scared.
It brushed off the dead butterflies before standing up, the sound of clattering hooves ringing out despite Haruno not seeing a horse. The thing turned, even as the lake of stars reached its feet and the colours rapidly changed its body from white to black while sparkling and pulsating with the lights of stars. Its eyes melted out of its sockets, sliding down its cheeks in thick streams even as it offered a hand to where Haruno was lying on the ground; the snake snapped at its hand but it didn't care.
"Do you want to leave?"
Above a dove flew overhead with a sheet of bloodied parchment held in its beak.
Haruno wasn't sure how long he slept but when he woke up the first thing he noticed as that he was warm. Stirring slightly from his deep slumber he realized someone had draped a large quilted blanket over him, tucking it against his small body so he was comfortably lying on the plush cushions of the couch. The air was far less frigid when he slowly poked his head out from under the blanket; he could see thick rays of sunlight streaming through the windows dotted about the library. The candles themselves were completely gutted, puddles of wax underneath the holders, and he wondered how long he had been asleep and how long he had been reading before that.
Sitting upright he yawned widely, rubbing at his eyes with a small fist before he belatedly remembered his book- the librarian ladies had always stressed to take care of books and he always had. Worried he'd dropped it, he peered over the side of the couch before realizing it was now on the low table. He didn't remember putting it there. He also didn't remember where the blanket come from.
Then he realized there was a man sitting at the opposite end of the couch Haruno had been sleeping on and he blinked owlishly at him; the man was dressed in purple and gold, with dark skin and white hair while reading a thick leather backed book that was stamped with a delicate golden cross. When he sensed Haruno staring at him he lowered his book before shifting to face Haruno with a smile.
"Hello," the man said, voice warm, "My name is Enrico Pucci. I presume you are Dio's son, Haruno?"
Shyly Haruno dropped his gaze, small hands twisting at the hem of the blanket even as he nodded. The man, Enrico, hummed in acknowledgement even as Haruno kept his attention on the blanket; it was made from soft wool and dyed with elaborate patterns of deep green and blue.
Enrico uncrossed his legs, closing shut his own book and resting it on his lap. He leaned across and picked up the book Haruno had been reading, while saying, "This is an interesting choice of reading material for a boy your age."
"...I'm advanced," Haruno finally said, face flushed. It was something his teachers had always praised him about. He never had issues with reading text books even if he had fallen asleep half way through The Alchemist.
"Did you enjoy it?"
"Um, I only got to the part where he was asking for a witch doctor at an oasis. Then I got tired."
"Ah yes, I bookmarked that for you- page fifty one, wasn't it?" Enrico said, even as he flipped open the book, sliding free a slip of delicate paper before looking over the pages with a sharp gaze.
"The language that everyone on Earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, older than the desert." Enrico's dark eyes narrowed slightly in curious contemplation, his eyes skimming down the page of text before softly reading another sentence, "Without such love, one's dream would have no meaning. What a charming book you chose. Any reason for it, Haruno?"
He hesitated, nails digging into the warmly weaved wool as he thought it over; he wasn't sure if his father or the old witch wanted him to talk about things with a stranger. The conversation he'd had seemed strangely intense for some reason even if Haruno worried he'd answered wrong to his father.
Enrico peered over at him, saying gently, "You can speak freely with me- I consider Dio a dear friend of mine and mean no harm towards his son. Besides, he has told me you're an intelligent little boy so please feel free to speak whatever is on your mind."
"Oh, he did?" He blushed harder, squirming in place. He wasn't used to praise, especially from a parent. He thought Dio was some kind of otherworldly vampire lord but now the man had said to one of his closest friends that Haruno was smart.
"Yes. I admit, I was very interested in meeting you when Dio told me his son was here. It's why I sought you out but you were asleep by then. So I was content to simply wait for you to wake up and here we are. But now that you're awake, I would very much like to talk to you."
"Well um..." He looked at the cover of the book, at the abstract design and muted colours before he hesitantly said, "D- Father asked me about what it means to live. I don't think I answered right and the book back said something about a soul of the World. And I think a soul is what makes a person a um, a person. So maybe it has a better answer."
"That's certainly a good reason to read. There is so much knowledge in books many forgo."
"Are you old?" Haruno blurted out. It had been bothering him since he had woken up even if Enrico didn't look old but he nearly bit his tongue after snapping his mouth shut so quickly. He shouldn't say those things, it would get him yelled at-
However all the man did was blink, "Why do you say that?"
"Your hair is white." Haruno said tentatively, "Isn't that what happens to old people?"
Enrico laughed softly, "No, I'm not even twenty years old. Still quite some time left to go before I am considered old."
"Oh..." Haruno thought about that for a moment, thinking about the lantern-eyed ghost he had seen next to Vanilla Ice and the fuzzy golden mirage by his father, before asking, "Did you see a ghost?"
"No. Why would I have seen one?"
"I heard that if you see a ghost it scares you so much your hair turns white," Haruno said.
This time the man's laugh was a fairly inelegant snort, to which he covered his mouth with his hand before smiling widely, "No, no. I haven't seen a ghost. Perhaps they are out there somewhere, but I have never met one yet."
"So did you dye it?"
"No, my hair has always been white. Even when I was a baby."
"My hair has always been black," Haruno said, tugging at his uneven fringe in example.
"It is a fairly common colour but there's no shame in it. But regardless Haruno, I would like to get to know you better."
"Me?" Haruno was confused. He wasn't anything special.
"Yes. I was planning on speaking to you along with Dio, but considering the time he will be asleep. But I wouldn't mind getting to know you with just the two of us. I have been very curious ever since I spoke to Dio earlier."
"I'm not that interesting," he mumbled.
"Hm. Well anyway, how about we get you some new clothes?" Enrico said, leaning out and plucking at the frayed hem of Haruno's shirt, "Have you seen much of Cairo?"
"No. Vanilla Ice said I needed to stay inside here." Haruno looked down at his clothes, frowning slightly. He was never allowed new clothes. They were all second hand, his mother never wanted to spend more on him than what was absolutely necessary.
"Cairo is a wonderful city, the largest in the Middle East. Egypt itself is an old country with a great deal of history of humanity behind it. Do you know anything about Egypt?"
"Um...they have pyramids," Haruno said, raking his brain for anything he knew, "And a pyramid is a polyhedron, in geometry."
Enrico smiled brightly, "Yes, indeed. The pyramids the Egyptians built are one of the seven wonders of the worlds and is the oldest. The pyramid of Giza is actually very close to Cairo, just across the Nile river."
"Do you live here?"
"No, I'm Italian," Enrico told him, "I grew up in Venice. It's a very beautiful country, very beautiful city."
"Stepfather wanted mum to move to Italy. I think they were going to move soon but I was taken here first," Haruno said.
"Ah, your mother got married, didn't she? What was your new last name?"
"Giovanna." Haruno frowned, "But I don't know...I didn't use it much. I kept on saying my name was Shiobana."
"It can be difficult, to have those types of changes in your childhood. But Italy is a very wonderful place, perhaps you will be able to see it sometime."
"Did all your family live there?"
Enrico's face remained kind but Haruno noticed a slight tightening of the skin around his eyes, "Yes, my family had lived there for many generations. We were especially involved with the church, to the point one of my ancestors was the pope. Because of this I always wanted to join the church and due to my family's history and influence within it, I quickly rose through the ranks which is why I am ordained at such a young age."
"Do you like the church? It's where that Jesus man lives." Haruno had never been in the church that had been on one of the blocks on his way to school; the windows were pretty and the outside carvings fascinating but had never gone inside. But he knew that Jesus person lived in the church as people kept saying it and his name was on signs outside.
Enrico laughed again, "Well I guess that is one way to view the church as in a way Jesus does live within all places of worship."
"But why are you here if your family is back home? Are you on a trip?" Haruno asked. He felt like he could trust Enrico. He had always been good at reading people and felt assured the man wouldn't harm him. Besides he had noticed Enrico didn't call Dio 'Lord' so he must be close with his father, and his father had ordered no one to harm him.
"I am here to converse with Dio about something important, important enough I come here personally." A terse note entered Enrico's voice, just as quickly leaving when the man said, "Yet enough of that, let us see some of the sights of Cario shall we? It will do you no good being cooped up here all day."
He placed both books on the low table, brushing off his dark purple trousers as he stood up before offering a hand to Haruno. The four year old stared at it for a long moment, biting his lip slightly; he didn't want to disobey Vanilla Ice but if Enrico was a close friend of Dio then it should be alright to go with him. Besides, Haruno hadn't seen anything beyond the brief walk the night he got brought to the foreign country and he was tentatively, deeply curious about it.
So he accepted Enrico's hand, saying a soft, "Okay."
Cairo was hot.
Haruno shyed away from the heat radiating from the vibrant sun streaming down from above. Enrico didn't seem to mind, leading Haruno to the stretching shadows of canopies of buildings and the countless trees. He still felt like his skin was burning if he strayed into the sun for too long, even as Enrico told him it was actually in one of the coldest seasons for Cairo. It certainly didn't feel like it. When he wasn't squinting in the sun he was peering around the buildings in great interest, at the huge sandy coloured towers, at the countless people moving about their business, the numerous cars driving in bustling, rumbling lines on the roads, of the foreign birds circling over head in the clear blue sky with shrill cries.
He also liked Enrico as the man would speak to him rather than at him like Midler had done. Even Enya made Haruno uneasy and he was still unsure as to how to feel about his father, Dio. But Enrico's grip on his hand was firm but gentle, making sure he didn't get lost in the crowd or stray into a stranger's path. The white haired man told Haruno a great deal about the sprawling city and its history before he led Haurno into the blessed darkness of a clothing shop.
Haruno stood quietly as Enrico conversed with the shopkeeper, unsure as to the language they were speaking in but knowing to be silent while the two adults spoke. Then the shopkeeper woman rounded on Haruno with a bright smile as she began to bring out clothes after clothes for him to try on.
"It's better to have many loose layers in a hot country like this," Enrico explained while the women tugged Haruno's arms into a airy jacket, "And breathable, light coloured clothing works best."
He had never been allowed to just get whatever clothes he wanted to, his mother never let him. Enrico however told him it was perfectly fine and someone would be sent afterwards to pick up any clothing in excess for him later. Haruno didn't really know anything about clothes so he just went along with what the smiling shopkeeper lady said. He figured she knew what she was doing, it was her job after all. She was also very nice even if she could only speak broken English, but Enrico was there to be an interpreter.
After nearly an hour they had brought nearly a dozen articles of clothing, Haruno wearing new trousers, shirt and shoes while his old tattered ones were thrown out. It was a novelty to be wearing all new clothes, especially the shoes. He never had ones that had fit before. They would always be too large so Haruno would grow into them even if it let his stride awkward and soles sore.
Enrico didn't seem to mind the wait, assuring Haruno Dio wouldn't mind about the cost. Haruno was pleased enough he didn't protest and happily went along with it. The man was nice.
Once that was done, Enrico took Haruno's hand in his own and let him from the shop saying "Now, you've been on your feet for a while so let's get some food. I in particular enjoy the mahshi. Do you know what that is?"
Haruno did not, but as Enrico explained it was well liked food in the Mediterranean, consisting of grape leaves stuffed with spiced rice. He was curious so when Enrico stopped at one of the street food vendors Haruno tentatively ate one and then asked, shyly, if he could have some more. He hadn't realized how hungry he really was until there was the aroma of food thick in his nostrils, sitting on a bench next to Enrico while he munched on the tangy rods of leaves.
"I think one of the best things about visiting another country is to experience their food. Everyone does it differently." Enrico said. The shade of the tall tree behind the bench cast their skin in dappled shadows and Haruno could hear the twitter of birds flitting about the branches.
"Have you been to lots of places?" Haruno asked after swallowing down a mouthful of food.
"...I've traveled quite extensively, after an incident back at home and I felt the need to see other places. I left to find Dio and then while we kept in contact I've been traveling here and there."
"I've only been here and home. I would walk to school though." Haruno said.
"Well education is very important. Did you enjoy school?"
"I like learning."
"A good trait as well. There is so much out there and we should always strive to know more, humans are delightfully varied and there is still so much unknown out there."
"Like how Father is a vampire?"
"Yes. You already refer to him as such?"
"No, as your father."
Haruno thought about that for a moment, "Um, I think that's how I should talk about him. Dad is too uh..." he wasn't sure how to finish it.
"Impolite?" Enrico said.
"Yes. I don't want to be rude." Also 'Father' seemed the only appropriate term for Dio even if Haruno still wasn't too sure about him. Dio seemed scary but not scary to him.
Enrico hummed and Haruno took that as a go-ahead to eat the other mahshi while watching the numerous people walk by. They were very different from the ones he was used to- everything was different than he was used to and while Haruno was fairly worried about it and the lack of normalcy he also enjoyed it. He never really liked his life back home even if now he was nervous and unsure. It was still better than being screamed at and hit, even if he felt like the shoe was about to drop.
"I was always curious about fate. Do you know what fate is?" Enrico suddenly asked him when Haruno swallowed down his last mouthful.
"Um...it something you're supposed to do?" Haruno guessed, taking the first explanation that popped into his head. It was an odd question, much like the one Dio asked him.
Enrico laughed lightly, "Well that is one way to see it. Some people believe fate leads us down certain paths, decisions, things we cannot change."
"I don't like that. I want to do what I want."
"Hm. Anyway who have you met thus far? I know Vanilla Ice has been keeping a close eye on you and Dio and Enya have spoken to you," Enrico said.
"Um, I talked to Midler, the pretty lady with pink hair. She was nice. And there was the little man with the long tail."
"Ah, that must be Diego," Enrico said with a sigh, "He is Dio's younger brother, so I believe he is your uncle."
"He is?" Haruno thought they had said as much, the first night he arrived in Cairo but he had a lot more family than he thought. And now that he remembered it, he recalled Enya saying the Star card picked two members of his family so he also wondered who those two were. Maybe he could ask Enrico about it.
Before he could the man said, "Diego is a...difficult man. Did he say anything to you?"
"No, he seemed really mad at Father. He used bad words and jumped out the window."
"Hm. I've spoken to him before and he's very furious over past events- furious at Dio in particular."
"Did they fight?"
"Yes. Diego refuses to move on from his past, to look towards what we can do for the future. Dio taught me that, that while it is important to remember the past to let it fester makes you stagnant for what is important. Diego is like that, he is angry and violent. Spiteful in a way."
"Will he hurt me?"
"...I am quite unsure. His Stand is feral so to speak, from what Dio has told me of it. It reacts with his emotions, involuntarily if they are strong enough, and he is a fairly standoffish man so he could do so unintentionally. I've attempted to speak to him before and he has certainly not been receptive of me. Hardly accepting of his brother either."
"Oh...he had a tail," Haruno said. He had no idea what a Stand was but he was still so fascinated by the short blond man's tail. It was like a lizard but was all covered in colourful feathers like an exotic bird.
"His abilities are quite interesting," Enrico said, "As is his history with Dio. But he's too stubborn and angry to look forward to anything beyond his grievances. As is Dio hasn't seen him since you arrived but I'm sure he'll show up soon enough, hopefully with forgiveness for Dio."
"Is that why they're fighting? Me?"
He frowned, the smooth brown skin of his forehead furrowing, "In a way. Diego is angry over something Dio did decades ago, refusing to accept Dio's new path and reason for being here and the fate around it. I have tried to offer my advice but I fear he is too mired in his emotions to see what potential there is. Yet you are not to blame. Diego is simply fixated upon his issue with Dio and not the future before us."
Haruno looked curiously at the man's face, at how his dark eyes seemed to glisten like stars, "What is that?"
"A discussion for another time." Enrico said, standing to his feet and offering his hand to Haruno, "Now, let us head back. Sunset is only a few hours away and the heat here is enough to give one sunstroke if they are not careful. Besides, you deserve something for yourself and I know just the thing."
The mansion his father lived in differed greatly during the daylight; it seemed less menacing somehow, with the sandy walls smooth and towers looking majestic rather than ominous. The garden was also beautiful, with all the countless flowers open to the sun. He wanted to stop and maybe smell and touch the flora but Enrico led him back inside and up a flight of stairs until they entered a room Haruno had not yet seen before.
It was a large square room but half of it was completely filled with countless treasure like a pirate cove. Heaping piles of bulky coins, old wooden chests with elaborate designs, countless portraits of varying size, vases and goblets and statues and plates and others Haruno couldn't even recognize.
He looked up at Enrico in confusion who nodded towards the treasure, "It's alright," Enrico said, "Why don't you pick one you like?"
Haruno looked at the heaping piles of gold before back up at Enrico's face. He smiled gently, gesturing towards the room in an open gesture. Toying nervously with his sleeve, now trim and straight unlike the frayed edges he was used to, Haruno walked further into the room. It was lit by the sunlight streaming through the vast window on one side and on the window sill was rows of cups dotted with rubies and sapphires and several golden bowls and some odd egg statue. He looked them over before walking over to the pile, picking up one of the coins which were oddly lumpy and not perfectly round. Another was silver with an image of a woman and the words 'liberty' and '1804' stamped upon while on the opposite side was an eagle with a coat of arms. Another coin was edged, with a cross shape and golden centre of a bird flying in the rays of the sun. Another coin was bigger than his head, shimmering and golden with an old woman carved onto one side.
Looking over the coins he moved onto the paintings with many of the pictures have golden frames of elaborate design or studded with countless glittering stones. One portrait confused him, as it was just three thick bars of orange, pink and blue and he could've made that in his finger painting class. Another was very detailed, with countless people dressed in finery seemingly dancing in a park with smiles and gentle brush strokes. He liked that painting but moved to the next, which was of a blonde woman leaning back against a crimson chair, hands on her lap and face oddly split with thick outlines.
Curious he peered up at the painting, nose nearly touching the canvas of the sleeping woman. Despite her split face she seemed happy, content in her slumber.
"Do you like this one?" Enrico said from where he was waiting patiently.
"She looks happy," Haruno replied.
"This one if called 'The Dream' by Picasso, if I recall correctly. Dio has a great fondness for art and you certainly seem to have inherited his eye."
Haruno nodded before moving on; he liked that painting but had nowhere to hang it so decided not to pick it for his own. Instead he picked his way through the room, occasionally looking back at Enrico to see if the man was getting annoyed with how long he was taking. Instead the man would simply smile, stance easy and unhurried which reassured Haruno immensely. He liked to take his time with things and was happy he could do it in such an interesting room. Occasionally he would ask Enrico about a certain object- a chipped golden chalice, a skull made of thousands of tiny diamonds and human teeth, a disembodied arm carved from a deep black material, a statue of a woman standing with a stag -until he found himself back at the window sill and curiously inspecting the goblets and bowls. There was also a different type of object there, crimson and glittering in the sunlight streaming through the window.
It was a ruby-red egg dotted with many glittery rocks, held up by four delicately carved golden legs of its stand. Haruno carefully took the egg of the stand, running his finger tip along the gold markings along the red shell and the four small doors on its sides with a silver number etched over each. When he pulled open the little door labeled with '1' there was a tiny portrait of a landscape inside, painted with excruciating detail. Each door had a different delicate portrait within and Haruno thought the paintbrush used for the art must've been very tiny.
But there was something alluring about the small egg, of the deep crimson combined with the silver and gold, of the tiny landscapes hidden behind the small numbered doors.
"What is this?" Haruno asked, tearing his gaze away from the egg to look over at Enrico with curious blue eyes.
"It's a Fabergé egg. Notably the one named 'Caucasus'."
"Did the Easter Bunny make it for Father?"
"Ah, no. It was actually gifted to the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia by her husband back in eighteen ninety seven."
"That was a long time ago," Haruno said. He also was relatively sure that Russia was far away from where they currently were.
Enrico smiled, "Yes, though it is relative. Do you like this one?"
"Yes. I like the little pictures and its red is so bright."
"Well why don't you keep it then? I'm sure Dio won't mind."
Haruno frowned slightly at that, still holding the egg carefully in both hands. He wasn't really sure but he knew Enrico was a good friend of his father so maybe he was right. Besides, he really liked the egg. It was so red and the portraits were so pretty.
Enrico beckoned him over to a couch pressed against the wall on the small part of the room which wasn't covered with valuables. Haruno trotted over, keeping a firm grip on the egg before he climbed up onto the couch next to Enrico, taking care not to jostle the egg too much.
"What are these?" Haruno touched one of the white beads, fixed to the top and bottom of the tiny rods framing each of the four doors on the egg. He thought they might be beads like were used for sewing but wasn't sure. They seemed too shiny.
"There are pearls," Enrico said, "Do you know what a pearl is?"
Haruno shook his head so Enrico explained, "They're considered gemstones but they're actually made by living creatures. In the ocean there are animals called mollusks, such as oysters or mussels. Now days people can create pearls without the use of these but the most rare and valuable ones are those formed in the wild. It's rather amazing, isn't it? Something considered as useless as an oyster, only really seen as a food source, can make something so beautiful and rare."
"Why do oysters make pearls? Do they like shiny things?"
"They are accidents, pearls," Enrico told him, "It's thought that when an oyster has an irritation inside its mouth it will form a specific material to cover the irritant. It's such as when you bite the inside of your cheek- have you done that before?" Haruno nodded and Enrico smiled faintly, "So think that if that happened, you could create your own band aid in your mouth for the injury so it wouldn't hurt anymore. Oysters do this and then they do it over and over, which builds up the layers to make the pearl. And then after a few years the pearl will be complete. However the oyster's true worth is never know until someone pries open its shell and then it dies."
Haruno frowned at the tiny pearls on the egg, thinking that was rather unfair to the oyster.
"It's a pity, isn't it?" Enrico said, "That they have to die for their true worth to be seen. But the same could be said of Picasso, who's painting you admired. He only became famous, his art work so valuable, after he died."
Enrico looked over at the window before pushing up his sleeve to check his watch. After a moment he turned to Haruno with a smile saying, "Would you like to speak to your father now?"
"Um, you said he was sleeping." Haruno said, hunching around the egg as he rubbed his thumb over the red shell in an anxious gesture. He knew not to wake up adults, his mother would always shout and throw something at him if he tried to wake her up in the morning before she was ready so he quickly learned not to. He doubted Dio was different.
"Nonsense, he won't mind if we wake him up a few hours early before sunset. Besides I have quite a lot I wish to speak to you about along with Dio."
"But he..." Haruno's protest dried up in his throat as Enrico stood up, gently nudging Haruno's shoulder until he slid off the couch next to the man.
"There is no need to worry, Haruno. You are Dio's son and you can always trust your father. He will not harm you."
Haruno looked up at Enrico's face, at his strangely bright eyes and gentle smile and thus took Enrico's hand while keeping the egg tight in his other; he felt like he could trust Enrico, the man was so nice and was Dio's friend which must make him special.
"Now Haruno," Enrico said as he led Haruno from the room and towards a twisting staircase, "Do you know anything about heaven?"
Also I googled a lot of the things in Dio's room of treasures as 'Most expensive _' and like who the hell would pay 10 million dollars for a single coin or 50 million for a painting of three strips of colour good lord
Haruno thought over that, trying to place where he'd heard Heaven from. It was a place, he was fairly sure, since he remembered occasionally seeing signs outside the church on his way to school that said something about it. Enrico had said he was from another country so perhaps that was the same. Maybe it was a place he wanted to visit some day.
"Is it a country?" Haruno finally asked, looking up an Enrico.
The man shook his head, but was still smiling, "No, heaven is considered by many to be an afterlife. Somewhere we go when we pass away."
"You mean die?"
"Yes. Have you seen something die?"
"Vanilla Ice killed my stepfather," Haruno said. He still remembered his stepfather's eyes and how they turned unseeing and glassy, lying on the kitchen floor in a heap while his mother screamed.
"I....see." Enrico looked troubled, "One so young shouldn't be exposed to death in such a way. It is not always so violent. Death is inevitable but still so many fear it, especially if exposed in such a way you have."
"Inevitable. It means it will happen. Such as fate. All living things die eventually," Enrico said to him, voice soft and calm.
"We did a class on that," Haruno told him, "About living and non living things."
"Either way, you shouldn't have been introduced to it in such a violent manner. Maybe people I've met through the church have an expressed fear of death or belief they will never reach heaven."
"There are stipulations- or basic conditions. Such as when you need to answer enough questions correctly on a test to pass it."
"So if you want to go to heaven you have to do some um, right things?"
"In a manner of speaking. Many people think there are different things you need to do, or not do in order to go there."
"What's in heaven?"
"Lord Dio's son is not to be taken from this mansion," Vanilla Ice's voice suddenly said.
Haruno jumped in shock, not even hearing Vanilla Ice's arrival. It was as if he had appeared out of thin air only a few steps behind them. Enrico turned around and Haruno remained close to his side, feeling guilty at disobeying Vanilla Ice's orders to him and half wanted to hide behind Enrico's leg.
"It's quite alright," Enrico said, voice overly calm even as his fingers clenched around Haruno's briefly, "He was with me."
"Regardless, Lord Dio's orders are not to be brandied about so carelessly," Vanilla Ice intoned.
Though the two didn't raise their voices Haruno shrunk in on himself; it was very obvious the two men did not like one another, the cold air between them bristling with tension.
"Well I'm sure when I bring it up to Dio he will be willing to forgive me," Enrico said, a smile on his face that didn't reach his eyes.
"He is not to be disturbed."
"I am going to his rooms right now," came the just as calm response, "And he has already stated I am free to do so."
The silence got more pronounced until Haruno could hear his heartbeat fluttering in his ears, unsure if the two would fight. Vanilla Ice's expression remained as blank as when he'd first appeared even if Enrico had an almost serene look on his own face that looked almost painfully fake. Haruno swallowed nervously, his breath coming in short huffs.
Then Enrico turned, gently tugging on Haruno's hand to urge him along next to him. Haruno was deeply uneasy at being led away in the midst of a quarrel between two adults but as it was Vanilla Ice made no further attempts to stop them even if when Haruno looked back over his shoulder he could see the lilac haired man was still staring after them, with the lantern eyed ghost hunkered over him like an ominous shadow until they rounded the corner and he was lost from sight.
"Is he mad?" Haruno asked Enrico in a small voice as they walked.
"Do not worry about it," the man said lightly, "Vanilla can be...overzealous in his duties. But don't worry overly about him."
The room Enrico lead Haruno to was large, with an entire wall a swathe of windows were Haruno could see the tops of other buildings along the stretch of Cairo and the orange sky outside. One part of the room was covered in sunlight while the rest was dark, almost subdued. It was a strange juxtaposition and Haruno wondered if the room had been made like that specifically because of Dio being a vampire. He was fairly sure vampires got hurt in sunlight so it would make sense Dio would prefer to be in the shade.
The rest of the room was more plain, a long couch and red velvet backed chair seated around a long table that had the landscape of the sea populated with ships and framed by small grassy peninsulas. Haruno peered at the tabletop in interest even as Enrico led him to the couch, easily lifting the four year old onto and then settling down next to him. The sunlight warmed their backs but didn't reach the top of the table or the chair opposite.
"This is usually where your father and I converse," Enrico told him, "It's less formal that most other parts of the mansion here. Do you like this place so far?"
"It's...pretty dark," Haruno said after a beat of silence. Even with the windows he had noticed it was dark. This room was currently the brightest he'd found but with evening approaching the shadows were inching their way across the floor. It reminded him of how lost he'd gotten when he first wandered around the mansion on his own before Midler found him.
"Honestly I think Dio forgets that non-vampires do not have perfect night vision," Enrico said with a fond smile, "I certainly wasted a large portion of my time the first time I visited just wandering around lost due to how dark everything was."
Haruno nodded shyly, shifting in place on the couch as he got more comfortable. He had the jeweled egg held secured in the crook of his elbow and carefully he maneuvered it until he was holding it in his palms, the gold glittering in the evening sun.
"Do you like Caucasus?" Enrico asked him.
Haruno smiled down at the crimson shell of the egg, rubbing his thumb on the surface, "Yes."
"Once a Russian man brought nine Fabergé eggs from Forbes family. It is said he paid over a hundred million dollars for those nine eggs. Why do you think they're that valuable? You can't eat this egg- it is simply a fancy ornament. So why do you think someone would pay so much for it?"
He thought that over for a moment, rotating the egg in his hands and how the gold and silver shimmered in the sunlight streaming through the windows. The pearls were milky yet he could see wisps of rainbows across the smooth shells as he turned the egg around. The egg was shiny and sparkly but Haruno was sure that wasn't unusual; after all, a lot of things in his father's treasure room had been sparkly. He felt there was something more to the question than the obvious, just the leading way Enrico said it. He didn't want to disappoint the man so he mulled over the question carefully as he studied the egg in his hand before coming to a tentative conclusion.
"People pay a lot because they want it."
Enrico smiled, "Indeed. Some may try a more complex argument but that's what it boils down to, doesn't it? Even something as useless as this egg- you cannot eat it, it cannot keep you warm or clothed. It is a pretty ornament and that's all it is. Same with the pearls, just because they're hard to find doesn't mean they are in anyway useful. As do the diamonds and gold. True gold is too soft to be used in any practical way, diamonds are shiny rocks far more numerous than thought of."
"Oh..." Haruno frowned down at the egg, wondering if Enrico was scolding him for choosing it.
The man quickly picked up on Haruno's unease, lightly placing a warm hand on his shoulder. The four year old tensed before realizing Enrico wasn't harming him, even as the man spoke, "It's not an issue, Haruno. After all you didn't spend an exorbitant amount on Caucasus so it's yours to keep. It is simply something to keep in mind."
"Um...what does exorbitant mean?"
"Ah, it means 'a great deal' or 'very high'."
Haruno nodded before asking, "Does this have to do with your heaven?"
"What do you mean?"
"Um..." Haruno bit his lip, "You said a lot of people want to go to heaven, but you also said it isn't a place here. If heaven isn't...um, isn't here then why do people want it?"
There was a long silence after that as Enrico looked rather thoughtful before saying, "Many people have different visions of heaven- God created such a place. It is our will and fate to do our best to try and achieve entry. In a way we are all slaves to our fate and many of the misery brought about by humanity is because of people refusing to accept their destinies."
"But what's in heaven? Is it where God lives?" Haruno didn't know who God was but he sounded important. Maybe he was also friends with Haruno's father. Maybe heaven was God's house.
"Yes, He made it and we should strive to achieve entry. However humans are a fickle, sinful species so we lose our way from time to time. That is why God sends people such as your father, to help us realize what our true fate is and achieve the way to ascend to heaven."
"...If I go to heaven will I have friends?"
Enrico blinked, "Excuse me?"
"Friends. I don't have any. I want some though." Haruno frowned at the egg in his lap, "All the other kids in my school said I was creepy. Or weird or stupid and made fun of me. Some were nice but they..." He wasn't sure how to explain it, how he just didn't fit with any of the other children despite being lonely. He wanted a friend, especially since he read so many books or watched movies where the heroes had best friends and the closeness was something he wanted.
"Well, when I was your age my only friend was my. Was my sister." Enrico said, a odd hesitance in his voice before he continued, "However I did not know what a 'true' friend was until I met your father and that was many years of service in the church and living in my hometown. Your dearest friend will no doubt be someone you will meet some day. Just because you have no luck yet does not mean you will never meet someone you can trust implicitly. Sometimes, unfortunately, it can take some searching and hardships to find them."
Thinking it over, Haruno nodded. He wondered who his own best friend would be and when he'd meet them. He hoped it was soon.
"Ah, but we've dallied enough. I shall go fetch your father and we can discuss something important with you." Enrico said, after letting Haruno think for near a minute. Haruno blinked, not sure what could be important with him but after a moment look up at Enrico. The man patted him on the head, a short affectionate gesture, before smoothly raising to his feet and leaving the room through a side door.
Haruno waited as patiently as he could, sitting on the couch with the egg in his lap. He wanted to look closely at the tabletop but the ships set up on the painted water looked fragile, delicate. He didn't want to break them. While Enrico had been nice Haruno had made sure to be on his best behaviour. The man might yell and hit if Haruno broke something and he didn't like that. It would also probably cause Vanilla Ice to fight him and Haruno didn't know how Enrico could fight that giant ghost that followed the lilac haired man around. Even though Enrico had been nice. Haruno hoped that was because he really was just nice. His comments about Haruno finding a dear friend was a comfort but also made Haruno think about how the old witch Enya had read her cards to him. About the last, with the Queen of Pentacles.
A parent who provides you with deep loving support, someone who will nurture and protect you.
He had only spoken to Dio twice and for short time but wondered if that was who the card was talking about. Haruno didn't think his mother would be the one, not unless she changed a lot suddenly. Or maybe one of the ghosts would find her and it would change her- he knew some people could get taken over by ghosts and then Dio had also shown him the strange tentacles his hair turned into. Maybe it was part of it, some way to change.
Either way a desperate, clenched part of Haruno deeply wished that maybe Dio would turn out to be that kind of father. He had always seen so much exalting parents but in his home life his mother and stepfather treated him with contempt. He would remember seeing parents picking up their children from school while Haruno had to walk back regardless of the weather, of the countless bruises and claw marks from sharp painted nails. There were so many books he'd seen about families but was never really part of one so maybe even while his father was a vampire, which meant Haruno was fairly sure he ate people, Haruno still hoped Dio would like him. At least Enrico seemed to like him, so maybe he would urge Dio to be nice as well.
A low scratching caused him to break from his thoughts, the hair on the nape of his neck standing on end as he felt a stare settle on the back of his head. Slowly Haruno looked over the back of the couch, seeing someone lurking on the windowsill. Most of their features were in dark shadows from the evening sun hitting their back but nonetheless Haruno knew who he was by the long feathered tail coiling back and forth behind him.
But the short man- Diego -was different from when Haruno had last seen him, with his feet were that of a bird with golden scales and large black talons. Last time Haruno had seen him, his feet had been normal but now they were scaled and clawed.
He tilted his head to the side, staring at Haruno with electric blue eyes even as his slit pupils grew to large black oblongs. With a slow movement he slid off the windowsill onto the floor, his claws clicking slightly against the wood before he straightened back up.
"Huh. Dio certainly wasn't mistaken when he said you have his eyes." the man eventually said after staring at Haruno unblinkingly for nearly half a minute.
Haruno had no idea as to who Diego was referring to so he decided to keep himself as quiet and still as possible, averting his gaze. The tone in the man's voice was eerily calm and Haruno couldn't tell if he was angry. Instead he looked down at the landscape on the table in front of him, at the delicately painted waves with brushes of white to show the crest of waves. Diego was inhuman, that was obvious, and Haruno had read a lot of stories about monsters which ate children. He wasn't sure if Diego was one of those types though.
"Has he told you about that? Who it is? I doubt it, Dio is craven with his secrets." Diego continued to talk, seemingly unconcerned by Haruno's lack of participation. The man started to casually walk about the room, steps languid and slow even if Haruno could hear the faint swish of his tail waving back and forth.
He wanted to curl up into himself but fought the impulse as he'd most likely get yelled at for putting his feet on the couch so instead he leaned forward slightly, nose nearly touching the miniature lighthouse on the tabletop.
"Better than the rest of those dullards who infest this place I supposed. Just a bunch of irritating yes men if you ask me. I have no idea what they even see in Dio," Diego continued, picking something up from one of the shelves before nonchalantly tossing it through the open window.
Haruno said nothing, just remaining seated while nervously rubbing the shell of the crimson egg. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Diego's long feather tail coiling and flexing as the man walked past the couch, the golden pattern of Dio etched along the deep blue feathers with a pale yellow underside. They looked soft and Haruno wondered if the man groomed himself like birds would. His feet had also changed back to boots, rather than scaly hooked claws.
"Hm. Not especially chatty, are you? Odd considering Dio is your father. Goodness knows he can never learn to shut up." Diego said, seemingly unperturbed by Haruno's prolonged silence. The tip of his tail waved slowly from side to side, the fan of feathers flaring out slightly with the repetitious movement like someone clenching and relaxing their fingers.
Haruno's eyes darted towards the door Enrico had gone through and Diego huffed impatiently as he walked by the table on the opposite side to Haruno, sucking in a thick inhale of air through his nostrils and abruptly stiffened. Then he was crouched on the couch next to Haruno, having moved so quickly the four year old couldn't follow it. He barely had time to stiffen in panic when Diego had already rolled up his left sleeve to the shoulder; the imprints of his stepfather's fingers stood out stark on his pale skin, the bruises a deep plum from being yanked roughly nearly a week ago. The scratches on his forearm, just after his wrist from his mother where only faint red lines. The lines of Diego's face hardened, cracks appearing along the corners of his lips like dried earth.
"Did Vanilla Ice do this to you?" Diego asked. His voice was flat but there was an undercurrent of rage to it that frightened Haruno and he shook his head quickly, resisting the urge to yank his arm out of Diego's clawed grip.
The man didn't let him go, even if Haruno could felt the tip of his long talons digging into the skin of his arm but not breaking through. Slowly Diego leaned forward, head twisted at an unnatural angle which his golden fringe falling across his brow and eyes but Haruno could still see the vivid blue of his iris staring at him through the blond bangs. Haruno flushed heavily, guilty and unsure as to the scrutiny.
Then after a moment of long staring Diego let go of his arm with a huff, "I'm not going to eat you, boy. Stop acting like it."
Haruno didn't exactly trust that comment, considering the long jagged fangs he could see through the man's slightly parted lips. Instead he pulled down the sleeve of his new shirt and shifting the egg in the crook of his elbow. The pain from his healing bruises throbbed slightly but Haruno was very used to the feeling especially since the man's grip hadn't been overly tight.
With a grunt Diego hopped up onto the back of the couch, tail straight as he maintained his balance before looking towards the door with an expression of distaste. With a brisk motion he nimbly leapt onto the windowsill, Haruno tensing at the quick movement and cautiously peeking over the couch spine to see the man and his long tail flicking from side to side like an uncertain cat with his back to him.
Outside a bird called out, low and menacing, before Diego looked over his shoulder at Haruno before his cracked lips curled up into a smirk, "Seems your father is awake. Try not to let him and his little pet priest bore you to death with talk of that heaven nonsense they will no doubt inundate you with."
With a mocking snap of his fingers Diego jumped out the window, Haruno staring after him. What is he?
The short man wasn't a vampire like his father, Haruno was sure. He had too many teeth and a tail, with changing feet and weird cracking face. Haurno thought maybe he really was a shape shifter like a werewolf but he wasn't sure what it really was the man turned into since he had feathers and bird feet. Maybe a griffin?
Quickly he peeked towards the other door leading to Dio's room but couldn't hear anything of what Diego had been shooed off by. He waited for a minute, trying not to fidget and running his index finger across the smooth curve of a pearl before leaning forward to peer at the tabletop again and the tiny landscape and delicate ships placed on top. He wondered how long it took for someone to put the ship together, especially the largest which had countless wooden boards and small fabric sails. Even the water had been painted with numerous shades of blue with tiny brush strokes and Haruno looked over at the side table laden with dozens of paint brushes and paint pottles of various sizes. It seemed whoever made the landscape liked the ocean. Haruno had never seen the sea, and would like to one day. Whales lived there and they were the largest species on earth. He would like to meet one some day.
Slowly, very slowly, he leaned forward, trying to see if there was anything inside the ship before looking at the lighthouse at the end of the tabletop. He shuffled down the couch, careful not the jostle the egg as he leaned forward on the edge of the seat before reaching out and tentatively touching the painted grass of the miniature knoll. It didn't feel at all like real grass, instead all stiff and cold against his fingertip. He preferred the living version, especially when it was dotted with countless wild flowers he could touch the delicate petals of.
He was lost in remembering the lush garden back home when the door suddenly swung open, following by Enrico's calm voice along with a far deeper baritone Haruno instantly knew was his father's.
Haruno's fingers dug into the painted grass of the landscape as a surge of panic roiled through his small body, making his heartbeat jump as sweat flushed his frame. He recoiled guilty against the couch, tugging the egg hard against his sternum as he struggled to shift his features back into neutrality. While there had been no outward orders he knew touching something as delicate and fragile as the figurines and miniature landscape was certainly not encouraged but he knew his body language was riddled with guilt as he looked up at Enrico who smiled at him as he walked into the room.
"Haruno, I'm sorry to keep you waiting but-" Enrico promptly cut off, expression turning into one of fascination and unabashed delight with Dio's golden eyes narrowing from where he was looking over the man's shoulder.
"Um..." Haruno's face burned, unsure as to why the man looked so caught off guard before slowly looking downward, to where Enrico's stare was focused.
In his arms where he had been cradling the crimson egg of Caucasus was now a bloodred chrysanthemum flower in full bloom.
Haruno stared at the flower, at the thickly petaled head various shades of scarlet. After a moment of confusion Haruno tugged the flower up, peering around for where the Caucasus egg had gone- it must have rolled onto the couch somewhere. He hoped it hadn't fallen onto the ground, he didn't know if Caucasus would break easily or if the adults would get mad at him for breaking or losing it. Enrico approached him while Dio slid off to the shady side of the room, avoiding the slithers of sunlight stretching across the floor in the evening sun.
He shrank back on himself even while Enrico crouched down on the floor next to the couch, resting an arm on the cushion while looking up at Haruno.
"Haruno, are you even aware of what you've done?"
Enrico didn't sound mad but Haruno still had to fight back tears. The flower stem bent slightly in his grip and carefully Enrico reached out and extracted it from Haruno's grip. The flower even had a spiderweb of roots partially grown. Haruno cross his thin arms across his chest, fingers digging into his upper arms nervously.
"Interesting..." Enrico studied the flower intently, even if Haruno didn't know why he liked it so much. Haruno liked flowers but Enrico never showed interest in them when they were outside previously, "How did you make this?" Enrico asked him. Dio just continued to watch from the opposite side of the room like a golden-eyed hawk.
The question confused Haruno greatly, rubbing at his eyes with the heel of his palm as he said, "I-I don't know. I didn't take it from the garden. I think the egg fell-"
"No, you turned the egg into this flower."
"An egg isn't a flower," Haruno frowned. The egg wasn't alive. It was a pretty thing but he knew it wasn't alive. Not like a flower was.
"It is now."
Haruno just stared at him, confused. It didn't make sense.
Enrico smiled faintly, "However it at the very least answers something Dio and myself have discussed. Enya also mentioned you answered negatively to becoming stricken with Stand fever so even at such a young age so you're strong. Then again, living as you have it is a given. But that is besides the point at hand, from this I am positive you posses a Stand."
"A Stand?" He didn't think Enrico was talking about a hat stand. He wasn't sure. Maybe.
"Stands are...manifestations of your own energy. In a way they are you," Enrico explained patiently, "They also possess powers. I have one, Dio has one. And you managed to turn the egg into a flower. So you also have that power."
"Well yes, I suppose. Here." Enrico offered the flower back to Haruno who took it in confusion.
Magic did this? He thought curiously. A part of him shivered in excitement, about magic. He always liked those stories and picture books. But still wasn't sure why he got a flower from the egg. Maybe his powers were not normal.
"Have you seen anything unusual here? Not the people specifically," Enrico said, dragging Haruno's thoughts back to the present.
Biting his lip, Haruno thought it over a few seconds before saying hesitantly, "Um, I think Vanilla Ice has a ghost? I've seen it sometimes."
"A ghost? Can you describe it for me?"
"It's uh, it's big. With big teeth," Haruno tried to remember as much as he could about the giant ghost which sometimes appeared by the tall man, "And is pale with claws. With glowing eyes. Like those lights that they put outside a witch's house."
"Ah, so you can see Cream. Which makes it certain you have a Stand."
"I don't know what a Stand is," Haruno said.
Enrico shifted so he was sitting up on the couch next to Haruno, voice calm as he asked, "Do you have an imaginary friend? Perhaps someone or something no one else could see? Or hear?"
"...No, I have no friends."
"Hm. Perhaps the spirit has not yet manifested. Either way you have the abilities."
Haruno nodded even if he didn't even really understand what was going on. Somehow Enrico thought he had magical powers which made the egg turn into a flower. Vanilla Ice seemed to have powers as well which had something to do with his ghost friend. Haruno wondered who that friend was.
"Ah...perhaps The World would be more agreeable?" Enrico suggested suddenly, turning to look at Dio, "At least less so than Whitesnake."
Dio said nothing even as a glittering shimmer rippled through his body. A second later an enormous person- ghost -pulled itself away from Dio's body, heavily muscled body gleaming like living gold. Haruno stared at it, it was so much brighter than Vanilla Ice's ghost. The humanoid face was also very different even if Haruno didn't know what kind of strange clothes it was wearing. Could ghosts even change clothes? He wasn't sure.
"This is a Stand spirit," Enrico explained gently at Haruno's side, "This one is called 'The World' and is your father's. Stands are a manifestation of our will."
Haruno didn't understand that last part, too fascinated by the golden ghost to really pay attention to what the man was saying. Silently The World moved forward, not walking but instead hovering a few inches off the ground. Haruno wondered if the ghost liked all the gold but it had a severe face- like the head librarian would get back home if she caught someone making too much noise. But The World was also semi translucent like a ghost. Or Stand. Spirit. All those words for the same thing was confusing.
The World extended a muscular arm towards Haruno with Enrico being silent next to him. Haruno squinted at the back of its hand; there was some elaborate clock on it and Haruno wondered if it always knew the time. Seemed helpful to Haruno, so The World wouldn't be late for things.
After a moment of hesitance he reached out to The World, briefly able to see his father's golden eyes through the shimmering body of the spirit before he tentatively touched it. Haruno could barely curl his fingers around The World's thumb, the flesh smooth and cool.
Touching The World felt strange. There was a lurch in Haruno's stomach, something that his skin tingle weirdly. Considering how big The World was Haruno thought maybe it stayed inside his father's body since otherwise it would be hard to move around since it was so large. Or maybe it could just float through walls, Haruno was fairly sure ghosts could do that.
Spirits. Stands. They all sounded like the same thing. The World was so sparkly though. Even more sparkly than Caucasus.
That just reminded him that he had lost the egg- or that he did something so the flower was it? He was still confused. Dropping his hand Haruno looked down at the crimson flower held in his other hand, tentatively sniffing at the countless petals making up the head. The flower did smell nice.
The World faded back into nothing even as Dio leaned back against the opposite wall like a watcher, all golden eyes and sharp features. Haruno couldn't read anything in his face but at least he didn't look mad. A soft touch on Haruno's shoulder made him look to Enrico whose smile was warm.
"Now, how about you try and turn the flower back?"
"Yes, back into the egg. Can you do that?"
Haruno looked down at the flower, "I don't know how. I don't know why its a flower."
"We also do not know the nuances of his Stand ability," Dio suddenly said, voice calm and deep, "Perhaps it is a replacement. A simple change into flora is not particularly harsh."
"Don't you remember that discussion we had, Dio? It all depends upon how its user wields it. You said as much."
Dio hummed lowly, "There's no concept for weak and strong. Indeed, until we know the details at best we are speculating. Best to go about quickly enough. The boy is intelligent enough for it."
"One thing at a time, Dio. Now is for more patience, as you stated many times previously. No good will come from rushing, especially with Haruno being so new to this. Stand power manifesting is still quite unknown to us," Enrico said, "When...Whitesnake first manifested, when he first appeared, it was during a time of deep emotional duress. Meaning I was upset." Enrico amended, directing his attention to Haruno, "That seems to be a motivator for many Stand's appearing, unruly emotions. When we startled you it seemed to have inadvertently caused this," he brushed a finger against the petals of the flower.
Haruno frowned, struggling to understand what the man was saying. It was very confusing for him and was unsure of what to do, so he cast Enrico a look of mute appeal.
"We simply wish for you to try," Enrico said soothingly, voice shifting to warmth, "It does not matter if you fail. You are still very young and children gaining a Stand at such an age through the arrow is...quite unknown in terms of how to learn. The fact you bear one with no ill is remarkable enough."
He thought it over for a moment before straightening up with childish determination, "Okay. I can try it. I don't know what it is but I'll try."
"Very good! As yet your Stand could simply swapped the egg and flower, or perhaps it is an illusion. Or perhaps the flower is truly the egg now. But what I want you to focus on now changing it back. Will it, as you would waking up in the morning. Or would lift a cup. Remember, it is all about intention."
"Yes. To will it. What you want to do."
Haruno nodded, listening intently before picking up the flower in both hands. Despite all the handling it remained strong and vibrant and Haruno tried to think over Enrico's words. If the flower was the egg all he needed to do was make it go back to normal. He didn't want to disappoint Enrico or Dio, who was still watching him in the shadows as evening dropped down to night.
He liked living in Cairo. He didn't want to go back home to live with his mother and all the yelling and clawing. Besides, he wanted to keep Enrico liking him and Haruno guessed the best way to do that now was listen and try to do as he asked and that was to turn the flower back into the pretty crimson egg. He did like that egg a lot, even if the flower smelled nice. There was also Dio and Haruno didn't want to disappoint him.
Shaking that off he stared intently at the flower, large blue eyes narrowed in concentration as he tried to figure out how to change it. He had been startled before and had done it by accident apparently but Enrico was convinced he could do it on purpose.
Don't be living. He thought. That class still was stamped in his mind, even if it only happened in one lesson. What made something living and not. At the moment the egg was living. He had to make it not. To make it back into a shiny sparkly trinket. Not alive.
The flower steam suddenly swelled in an unnaturally smooth movement as it bulged out even as the petals sunk down in a ripple, shifting to golden swirls and glistening pearls. In not even a second Caucasus was sitting back in his palms, as unliving as it was when he picked it.
For a moment Haruno thought he was just seeing things before Enrico's nimble fingers gently plucked up Caucasus, holding it up in the dying light outside and making the gold sparkle.
"And so it worked!" Enrico said, smiling broadly, "At least now we know it was a true transformation. A Stand which can create life, what a marvelous ability!"
Haruno blushed heavily under the praise, squirming in place as Enrico started a rapid fire conversation with Dio. The vampire responded but kept his gaze fixed on Haruno, who tried to still himself before he got reprimanded. Caucasus being pushed back into his hands sufficiently distracted him even as Enrico placed a warm hand on Haruno's shoulder, still smiling.
"Now then Haruno, let's talk about Stands shall we?"
It was a confusing conversation that Haruno was deeply fascinated by; Haruno had magical powers and a ghost, a Stand, who he would be able to summon one day. It would be like The World but maybe it would talk. Enrico told him about many other magical people, including his own ghost who briefly appeared looking creepy like a drowned king. After dismissing his ghost Enrico told him about all the many powers people with those Stands had, which deeply intrigued Haruno. He was always so drawn to stories and picture books about magical powers, magical creatures and places, and now he was magical as well. His father was also a vampire on that line of thought and Haruno wondered if maybe when he got older he'd turn into a vampire too. He didn't know people could be magical and vampires. He thought it was like how you weren't supposed to mix water and fire; things couldn't match. But now they could and Haruno was so curious about what it meant.
He ended up listening to Enrico for nearly two hours, until the room was dark and cold. Dio spent the majority of it simply watching the two but Enrico was delighted by how curious Haruno was, answering all his questions honestly. Some were secrets, like how he wasn't allowed to know what his father's powers were but Haruno guessed that was fair. If he was a lord then he most likely had lots of bad people wanting his mansion and sparkly ghost. The World was very sparkly. Haruno liked it and hoped his ghost friend would be sparkly and gold as well.
However he ended up falling asleep against the arm of the couch, struggling to keep awake while Enrico told him a Stand power that had the ability to invade the dreams of people and how it different from others in lacking a spirit. He didn't mean to fall asleep but had been dipping his head, eyes fluttering shut, only to jerk back up with a snort at the motion before eventually loosing the battle.
So when Haurno woke up, he was back in his room and tucked securely under the plush blankets, it confused him. He blinked blearily before realizing his lamb pressed against his chest. Sniffing at the rough fabric he grumbled faintly, still in the throes of sleepiness. It was warm and snug but it wasn't until he woke up more did he realize someone must have carried him to the bed.
Usually when he fell asleep somewhere other than his bed his mother would just leave him there. 'It's your own fault' she'd snap whenever she found him sleeping on the floors or in corners- usually after being locked out of his room, since the handle had always been too high for him to reach on his own. It was strange but nice to realize someone had carried him to the bed and tucked him in. Something that had never happened to him before and Haruno buried his face into his lamb. Something taunt and warm bloomed in his chest, blue eyes blinking open as he thought it over; it was nice. He never realized how starved he'd been for basic affection, or decency, and while the ghosts and vampires and everything was scary he was willing to stay around it since the adults were nice to him. Especially Enrico, Haruno decided he liked the man a lot. His father was also nice. Scary but not scary to him. Maybe it was because he was a vampire so was scary just normal for him towards not-vampires.
Slowly Haruno poked his head out further from the thick blankets, dark hair a bedraggled mess. It was early morning outside already with the air crisp and cool. Haruno shook it off, trying to sit upright. However the blankets had been tucked so securely around him it was quite a challenge and he wiggled for a good moment before catching a glint of red only a few feet from him.
The egg of Caucasus was resting on the bedside table, gently cradled in its delicate golden stand. He stared at the crimson shell and shimmering dots of pearl before slowly squirming out from under the covers with small grunts of effort. When he reached out with a small hand and brushed it with his fingertip, the egg was cool and solid. Not at all like a flower.
A part of him still didn't believe Enrico's words, about Haruno being special. Even after seeing it first hand. Haruno wasn't special, he was always told by his mother that he was stupid or creepy or useless or a bastard. She didn't think he was special and had no hesitance to say such a thing.
He peaked a tentative look across the room; His mother was sitting on the chair by the far wall. She was still wearing her purple dress but it was heavily wrinkled and stained as if she hadn't bothered to change. Her makeup was smeared over her face but it didn't distract from the heavy circles under her eyes. She was staring at her hands, clasped together with knuckles pressed white against the skin from the strain. He was wary as he slid out of the bed, tucking his lamb back under the covers before going over to the neat pile of clothes on the wall table- all the new clothes Enrico had brought him. Taking a selection to change into Haruno crept across the room towards the bathroom door.
There was an odd cold look in his mother's eyes as she continued to stare at her hands but she didn't even look at him when he hesitantly greeted her. Upset but not surprised Haruno took his bundle of fresh clothes and carefully shuffled over to the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
The room inside was clean and white, with perfectly arranged tiles and gold edged frames on the broad mirror above the gleaming porcelain sink. There was also a strange portrait on the wall above the bath, which Haruno couldn't make heads or tails of. If he looked at it straight on it looked like a horse but if he looked at it sideways it was like some weird bird. He wasn't sure if that's what the artist wanted though.
The bathtub was huge with clawed feet and gleaming white porcelain. Haruno peeked over the rim before taking the small footstool tucked into one of the corners, using it to climb into the tub to fit in the plug. Then he turned on the hot water, quickly squirming out again to avoid getting wet. While waiting for it to fill he ended up rummaging through the sink cabinet, finding many bottles with most labels written in a language he didn't recognize. He sniffed all of them though and picked the ones which smelled nicest and also figured the one with bubbles was for the bath. Made sense. He wondered who it belonged to or if it came with the mansion. He couldn't really see his father having a bubble bath. Or maybe he did. Bubbles were fun. He didn't know if they had an age limit or were only fun for normal humans. Maybe vampires like them too.
Regardless he poured most of the bottle into the bath as the steaming water steadily rose. It was probably too much considering how many bubbles starting forming and by the time he managed to lean over and turn off the tap they were oozing over the rim of the bath and onto the white tiles below in bubbly puddles. A few drifted upwards before popping. They smelled like bubblegum.
Haruno was used to taking care of himself, even while so young. His mother had no interest in it and would scold him into learning basic necessities. Either way the bath was big enough it was like some swimming pool and he had to make sure to not drown. But it was fun to play with the bubbles. Made him think that maybe there was a 'Stand' for bubbles. He thought maybe, since he didn't know them much and his one made flowers.
A soft thud from the direction of the bedroom made him pause in the middle of scrubbing his hair but after a moment of following silence he went back to grooming, figuring it wasn't his problem. The heat of Cairo made him sweaty and flustered when he went outside with Enrico previously and he wondered if it always was that hot. He wasn't even sure if it snowed here. Maybe there was magical ghosts which could make it snow.
He still didn't really understand the whole Stand thing Enrico told him about. The World was pretty and sparkly, which was maybe why his father liked treasures so much. But The World was strange and it didn't look like his father. Haruno thought ghosts were from dead people but Enrico was alive. So was Vanilla Ice and they also had ghosts. And there was also the scaled, tailed man Diego. He was some kind of werebeast.
However there was still the fact for his own powers- abilities as Enrico called them -and Haruno wasn't sure what he could do. Turning the pretty red egg into a pretty red flower wasn't something Haruno remembered doing. He remembered turning the egg back but not before. It was still very confusing as Haruno wasn't sure how an egg was like a flower or how one turned into the other in the first place.
At least the flower smelled nice. Enrico had been very happy over it as well and even his father seemed pleased. Haruno wasn't sure why since his father had The World which Haruno bet could do a lot more than turn an egg into a flower and back again but Enrico had said it took time to use a power properly.
'Remember, it is all about intention.' Enrico's smooth, supportive voice ran through Haruno's thoughts again.
Fluffing up the bubbles Haruno sunk his hands into the foamy surface. Then he tried to lock his fingers into a circle, so the glistening water was clinging between them. It took him several attempts before he managed to blow a bubble that didn't immediately burst. He watched as it floated a few inches above the bath surface before reaching out with a fingertip while frowning intently.
The bubble burst into a small shower of petals and Haruno jolted in shock, sending small waves of bathwater sloshing over the side. He watched as the petals fluttered down to float on the steaming water before he started giggling, eventually laughing brightly in delight.
Magic! He thought giddily, clapping his hands together and grinning. He always wished for it, ever since he read about it in books. All the fantasy and folklore, all about the fae and witches and curses and magic. He dragged his hand through the water, watching as the purple petals swirling around the bubbles and giggling again.
Eventually he had to get out of the tub by the time his fingers were all wrinkly. It took a lot of fumbling to pull the plug and not fall over onto the tiles when he got out. The towels were very fluffy and white and afterwards he found a hairdryer in the sink cabinet. He'd seen his mother use one enough times and remembered to keep it well away from the water on the floor; at least the towels soaked up most of it but he was still careful. By the time he finished drying his hair and combing it, the black locks were glossy and smelled like roses. He was tempted to douse some of the shampoo on his clean clothes but thought better of it.
Still, he was jittering with excitement about learning more about his abilities. He wondered who his spirit friend would and he really wanted to meet them, so they could be friends. That and he could learn more about making things like the flower. Maybe he could even make animals, and have a familiar animal friend like a witch. He wouldn't mind a pet, maybe a cat or even a dog. Perhaps he could ask Enrico if he could get one or try making one himself. Haruno wasn't sure if he could only make flowers but making animals would be fun as he'd always liked them.
Then Haruno went back into the bedroom, only to find his mother's motionless body dangling from a rope of knotted sheets from the ceiling.
Haruno stared up at her, confused and tense. Her neck was twisted at an odd angle around the make-shift rope, lips blue and pale skin riddled with raised veins. The small round table was on its side below her, which probably had been the noise Haruno had heard before.
Eventually he crept forward before grabbing onto one of her ankles, trying to pull her down to no avail. All he succeeded in doing was pulling her shoe off, making her still form swing back and forth as he fell over. Sniffling he settled on his knees, the shoe clutched in his small hands.
He blinked up at her, trying to figure out how to move her. Eventually he decided he couldn't do it himself. He needed help. Maybe Vanilla Ice was somewhere or Enrico could help him. Haruno couldn't do it himself and the adults in the mansion had been nice to him. Even Midler and the really old lady would help him. Haruno didn't want to ask his father, though. He was a vampire lord and would be doing important things so he probably wouldn't like being woken up.
Shakily putting down the shoe Haruno made up his mind; crossing over to the door he pushed it open before creeping into the hallway. Despite it being morning it was the typical quiet of the mansion with only ambient noises.
It lacked the confusing fog from before but Haruno still wasn't sure where he was going. Last time he had the adults guiding him through the mansion and the one time he left on his own was when he got lost until Midler found him.
Each time he passed a door he hesitantly knocked on it, to no answer. He was too short to reach the doorknobs so he couldn't check inside the locked ones but some were ajar or the doors swung wide open. Haruno didn't know there were so many rooms since he was so used to the small home they used to live in. Now there were many rooms and Haruno wasn't sure what to call them since not all were bedrooms or bathrooms. One of the open doors led to a darkly lit room with a tall marble counter and a back wall covered from top to bottom in glass bottles. Haruno remembered his stepfather used to drink from bottles like that and the liquid always smelled really bad and made his nose and eyes upset.
The third time he failed to find someone in a room he was tempted to start yelling. But Haruno never liked loud noises or shouting and if his father slept during the day then he'd probably get mad if Haruno started making lots of noise so he swallowed the impulse.
He ended up climbing a stairwell to find it a dead end hallway with a single heavy oak door at the rear. Haruno tensed, getting a strange menacing vibe from the room that made him shy back. He wasn't sure why, as he couldn't hear or see anything; if anything, the stairwell was even brighter than the landing his room was on, with all the windows carved from the heavy stone allowing rays of sunlight to stream through. The tapestries hanging on the wall were woven with golden threads that shimmered prettily in the light. If anything it was one of the nicer hallways Haruno had seen but something made him nervous but he had to check in case someone was in there.
Silently he walked down to the end of the hall, looking up at the door. It was shut but nonetheless he pressed against it as he strained to reach the doorknob. As he stretched up on his tiptoes, unbeknownst to him one of the thick golden engravings on the door transformed into a serpentine vine which seeped into the keyhole and unlocked the door, making it slide ajar with a click.
Haruno hesitated before tentatively pushed on the door to open it further. Inside the room was dark, heavy drapes drawn but he caught a glimpse of a massive animal-like shape resting on top of the bed. Before he could venture further in the shape suddenly moved, bounding off the bed and landing right in the doorway in a sharp, fluid motion. As it did it suddenly shifted back into the familiar shape of a small man with his back bowed as he glared down at Haruno, long tail flicking back and forth behind him.
"Beat it, brat," Diego snapped at him, pupils slits and teeth fangs.
Haruno flinched back at the sudden movement and sharp reprimand, stumbling backwards before falling heavily onto his backside. Scaled hands grasped his arms, pulling him into a sitting position. Diego still looked deeply annoyed even if his hands were gentle in righting up Haruno.
"Look kid, I'm not good with children so you might as well-"
"I can't get her down," Haruno said hoarsely, staring blankly at Diego's feet. He didn't want the adult angry but he didn't know what else to do.
Diego frowned, "You can't get who down?"
"Mother. She's hanging from the ceiling and I can't get her down."
There was a very long silence before abruptly Haruno was quickly picked up, making him cringe at the motion. However all Diego did was heft him up against his chest before nimbly running down the hall and leaping down the stairs in a blur, making Haruno grab onto the man's shoulders in panic at the speed they were moving. In only a few seconds they were back in front of Haruno's room, with Diego kicking the door in with a loud crack and sending wood chips flying. Then he stopped, head cocked to the side as he eyed the woman hanging from the ceiling, even as Haruno kept his face pressed against his sternum.
"For fuck's sake," Diego suddenly snarled, tail lashing back and forth angrily. Roughly he shoved Haruno into a nearby chair before storming out of the room and shouting something down the hallway. Haruno curled in on himself, shaky and frightened. Sitting on the chair he could see part of his mother's blue-tinted face and her glassy bulging eyes.
Then Haruno was yanked back up by an angry looking Diego, the man's jawline cracking like broken glass, which made him lose focus on his dead mother.
"Take him!" Haruno felt himself thrust towards a man with tall greenish hair and silvery blue facial tattoos who'd barely put a foot past the door frame. His broad hands quickly gripped Haruno underneath his armpits, where he hung limply in the man's grip.
"What do you wish, Master Diego?" the strange man said, giving Haruno a confused look.
"Oh for- just get him out of here while I deal with that," Diego's voice was furious, with a multi-toned snarl underneath it. Rather than argue the man with the tattoos dipped his head slightly and gathered Haruno more comfortably against his broad chest and quickly leaving the room. Haruno got a final glimpse of his mother still dangling motionless from the ceiling before the broken door was slammed shut hard enough it cracked the door frame.
"I can take you to my games room, if you are amendable," the man said to Haruno, drawing his attention.
Haruno nodded even if he didn't really know why the man was asking him permission. As soon as Haruno nodded the ground beneath them warped and shifted into a swirling purple vortex even as the man's spirit ghost appeared at his back, crimson eyes blank as large curls of steam snorted out of the vents at the side of its featureless face. They sunk into the vortex and Haruno felt his stomach lurch violently along with a whirling sense of vertigo.
For a moment all Haruno could see was darkness only broken by long coils of smoke before the sun suddenly breached the horizon. The shadows vanished as the darkness was replaced by a vibrant pink sky and golden sea. They were standing on a small island with lush grass and small beach ringing it, where Haruno could see several crabs scuttling across the sand before the lapping waves swept a few out to sea. On the island was a circular tables ringed with four chairs in front of four consoles, a towering palm tree surrounded by a burst of flora, a tall wooden cabinet and a door. Other than that, when Haruno peered around curiosity they were surrounded by the golden sea with a few spiky rocks poking out.
The man put Haruno down and the four year old immediately began to investigate his surroundings, trotting over to the door and peering around it. It led nowhere and Haruno wondered if the man kept the door there simply because he found it strange. Whatever it was, Haruno found the door that led nowhere funny. Then he remembered the tattooed man, who was standing patiently next to a small circular table holding two wine bottles. Haruno wandered back over to him, looking up at the man curiously; he had on an undershirt emblazoned with a large purple heart and Haruno wondered if he chose the attire to be like Vanilla Ice. Maybe it was a uniform.
"I am Haruno," he said politely, "Who might you be?"
The man looked surprised before a charming smile crossed his face- though to Haruno it looked fake -and crossed a forearm across his chest and bowed deeply, saying, "I am Telence T. D'Arby. I am the butler of this mansion."
Haruno nodded. He knew royalty had lots of servants who did things in their fancy mansions because the lords had lots of things to do. Maybe there was also a cook somewhere. He was hungry.
"Are you a...butler somewhere?" Haruno asked, raking his mind for particulars of the language, "Like...say hello at the front door?"
Telence's lips twitched slightly, "Vanilla Ice lacks the composure for my job, which yes is that of a doorman in particular. Did your- did Master Diego tell you that?" Telence's smile was wooden and Haruno got the impression he didn't like Diego. Haruno wondered if it was because his uncle had shouted at Telence previously or some other instance. Maybe Diego beat him up. He seemed the sort.
"No." Haruno didn't really talk to Diego. He seemed angry all the time.
"I see. So you know I am a Stand user?"
"I think everyone here is. And I saw your ghost. It didn't have a face and had the letters T and D on it."
"Ah, so you are a Stand user?"
Haruno didn't reply and Telence didn't push further. Despite him not knowing anything about the man or his Stand abilities Haruno wasn't afraid; none of his father's servants would dare harm him. It was strange, such a level of protectiveness after growing up in a situation where his caregivers would strike him at the slightest provocation, but Haruno enjoyed it. Vanilla Ice certainly jumped in to protect Haruno when needed.
"Is your Stand making this?" Haruno asked, after looking around the area. He could smell the saltiness of the sea and a faint breeze ruffled his dark glossy hair. He was sure they were still inside so maybe it was more magic. Maybe magic from his spirit friend Stand.
"It can do other things, can't it?" He heard all about magic powers. Enrico liked talking about them.
Telence smiled, genuine this time, "You are a smart boy. But yes, this isn't the extent of my abilities- it's more of a...byproduct."
With a blurring of air Telence's Stand appeared next to him, steam coiling from the vents. It was slender, almost fragile compared with The World, but then Haruno hadn't seen a Stand that rivaled his father's in term of physical and spiritual presence. Like its user, the Stand had heart motifs scattered across its frame, running down its legs, patterned across its shoulder pads and on its chest. Its lack of face fascinated Haruno and he wondered why it didn't have one. Even its eyes resembled more like the lenses of a camera, red and unseeing.
"Does it have a name?"
"Yes, my Stand is named after Atum."
The name sounded important but he wasn't sure why. Haruno peered up at the Stand, which did nothing to dissuade him, before he said to Telence, "Does it fight?"
"It is not. I myself prefer challenges of skill, rather than brute strength."
He made a soft humming noise. He could understand that even if due to him being a child it was really the only course of action to him. Not really anymore considering he was fairly sure his father or uncle would intervene but the apprehension was still there. Haruno disliked pain anyway.
"I believe you've been told about the usage of Stands, have you not?" At Haruno's nod, Telence continued, "At least that means you're familiar with the variety of types there are. Are there any, besides Lord Dio's obviously, that you favour?"
"Um. But I like Vanilla Ice's ghost, Cream. It's pretty," Haruno said truthfully. He still remembered seeing Cream, with its large protruding fangs and glowing yellow eyes. It looked more like a monster than a soul, compared with all other Stands he'd seen even if at the moment it was limited to two. Even his father's Stand, The World, still resembled its user in terms of facial features even if its expression was always extremely severe and emotionless in a way his father's never was.
Telence frowned faintly, "Interesting. Then again, you are our Lord Dio's son and deserve the respect that entails. Vanilla Ice is, at least, loyal."
Haruno said nothing. Telence watched him for another moment before turning and walking towards the table with the televisions, Atum vanishing into nothingness as he moved away.
"Do you like video games?"
"I don't like them," Haruno said. It was a lie, in a way; he didn't like the games Telence seemed to be fond of. They were too noisy and frantic.
Telence eyeing the boy before glancing over at the large cabinet, "Well, then perhaps you'll like to see my collection? I do enjoy showing it to others but I do not often get guests."
Watching the tall man Haruno frowned slightly; he'd noticed a strange energy coming from the wooden cabinet but the entire area they were in was strange so he didn't think much of it. When Telence opened the cabinet, Haruno could see an assortment of dolls with each having its own distinct appearance and even their own little accessories. That wasn't too strange.
"Here," Telence offered him one of the dolls which Haruno took, holding it carefully in both hands.
It was the doll of a woman, wearing numerous clothes of purple with a ankle-length dress cinched at the throat with a pink bow, violet coloured overcoat edged with white ruffles and short lilac coloured hair with a decorative pink flower. Tiny magenta earrings were attached to her ears and her small lips were carefully painted in pale pink that matched the bow and flower. Her eyes in contrast were a bright shade of turquoise. Despite her wooden limbs, the material was the same hue as skin and had been painstakingly crafted to be close to the proportions of a human body.
"My hobby is to make dolls," Telence said, watching as Haruno held the doll in small hands, "And I've had real souls inhabit these dolls. It is my Stand's power."
As if on cue, the doll in Haruno's hands squirmed slightly before her eyes rolled around in their sockets and she stared directly at him. The rest of her body started twitching with limited movements, pink lips twisting into a horrid grimace. Haruno watched the movements in fascination, noting at the same time the doll was warm much like a living person.
"My favourite is Sonia," Telence was saying, "She's so beautiful. However I do not allow her to be handled by anyone but myself."
Haruno nodded faintly, even if he was only partly listening as the doll squirmed in his grip. When tears began to slowly well up in her eyes then slide down her cheeks Haruno trotted over to the small table holding the bottles of wine and pulled off one of the serviettes and dabbed gently at her face.
Telence looked exceptionally pleased with Haruno's behaviour and that's how he ended up sitting in the lush grass, brushing the doll's lilac hair with a small hairbrush Telence had given him along with an assortment of accessories while the man himself played a game on one of the consoles. When Haruno had finished brushing her hair free of tangles he gently clipped the flower back into her hair. Then he wiped away a tear with his thumb before picking up a small wet wipe and cleaning her face. Once that was done he picked up the tube of pastel pink lipstick and carefully started to paint her lips. It was sometimes difficult due to the doll's squirming and crying, and Haruno was working off the memories he had watching his mother put on her lipstick so occasionally he messed up.
He'd almost forgotten she'd died. Haruno was young but he knew, somehow, she was dead the moment he found her dangling from that ceiling beam. He had still tried to drag her down despite it, despite the fact he'd never really felt that she cared but he still held a child's love for a mother despite it all. But now he felt nothing. First he wanted help because he couldn't move her but then he wasn't sure how to feel. Maybe he had to wait a while to be sure.
So to distract himself he brushed out the doll's hair and started to practice braiding it and making different hairstyles. He continued to do that for sometime, too absorbed to notice when Telence eventually stopped playing his games to briefly leave the room before returning. It was only when Telence crouched down next to him and tapped him on the shoulder did Haruno jolt out of the trace like state he'd dipped into. On his lap the doll was still twitching and mumbling, but she'd stopped crying a while ago. Her hair was halfway up in a bun with the flower threaded in.
At Telence's mute gesture Haruno handed the doll over, watching as the adult returned her to the cabinet. When he shut it the feeling of energy lessened but didn't completely disappear, just seemed to lurk in the background. Then Telence returned to him.
"It is time for you to return."
Haruno was taken to a different room, which was just as rich and lavish as the previous. It still had an attached bathroom and most furniture but honestly Haruno was barely paying attention to it as Telence set him down on the large bed. The shift though the portal was strange but Haruno was still distracted enough by his thoughts he didn't feel too shaky by it. Telence didn't seem overly talkative, instead simply placing down Haruno, giving another bow, before he turned and left the room. Haruno wasn't sure what he was supposed to do but quickly noticed someone had left a tray of food and drink on the bedside table.
He ate his way through the meal, which was some type of meat and vegetables but he barely tasted it. Even the juice, which was some mango milkshake, tasted like nothing but at least it dismissed the budding gnawing in his gut. Then he was jolted from his brooding by the door opening only this time it was the sympathetic face of Enrico.
"Such a tragedy," he said in lieu of a greeting. Haruno didn't say anything, instead drawing his thin legs up against his chest.
"Are you alright?" The man asked, sitting next to him on the bed.
"I don't know," Haruno said honestly.
"Sometimes grief can be difficult- however we must soon learn we cannot be responsible for how others behave. They choose to do what they wish and while we can offer guidance ultimately far too many humans choose their own actions, despite how...bad said actions can be. What happened with your mother was not your doing."
"Oh." Haruno didn't understand. He always thought he was the problem. His stepfather and mother certainly blamed him for everything. He figured her dying was also his fault.
Enrico continued, "We can try to steer them towards their fate but humans are a cowardly lot and many refuse or act spiteful. It can be difficult to see how others harm themselves."
He blinked slowly, "Why would they hurt themselves?" He never liked pain.
"For many, they refuse to accept any other reality. Their entire motivation, their...purpose, as you can say, is simply to serve their own selfishness. I..." Enrico sighed, "I had hoped, perhaps, your mother would choose to remake herself. Sometimes in situations of great upheaval we can find our inner strength, to learn suffering is a catalyst for change. Unfortunately it seemed she chose death over dealing with herself. A pity for such a selfish woman and to do so in such a manner you saw what happened."
Haruno didn't respond, not really understanding Enrico's words but kept staring blankly at his hands. He still felt nothing.
A warm palm gently rested on Haruno's shoulder as Enrico spoke, "It is unfortunate Haruno, but many are too weak to understand our purpose on this world. To reach Heaven should be all our goals yet many serve only their self interest. It is..." His voice wavered slightly and Haruno finally looked up at him to see Enrico's lips drawn into a frown, before he continued, "It is a pity you never knew the true love of a mother, as it can be a blessed thing."
"Did your mother love you?"
"Yes, she did. Does, I should say even if at her current stage in life that is eclipsed by grief. I grew up in a very loving family and it is always saddening to see others miss out on it." Enrico's expression shifted back to fondness.
"I don't think mine loved me," Haruno muttered. It hurt, horribly so, to admit it. Still he couldn't feel tears.
The hand on his shoulder squeezed gently, "It is a hard lesson to learn, much so at your tender age Haruno. But do not worry, if you feel alone myself or Dio will be here even if events are proceeding rather quickly. Though I daresay Dio is not especially adept at such emotional issues nonetheless he will understand."
Haruno nodded, though he was still fairly unsure about Dio. Dio was a vampire and interesting but as a father Haruno was unsure. Though he hadn't hit Haruno so that made him better than Haruno's stepfather.
"Do you want to be alone?"
Haruno nodded again and the hand left his shoulder after another encouraging squeeze. Brushing off his pant legs Enrico stood up, looking at Haruno with a smile as he said, "Remember, there always must be sacrifices but Heaven will make it entirely worth all pain we suffer through in this life. Please think upon that," and then he was gone.
Haruno stayed in his room for the rest of the day, sitting in a pile of plush pillows as he thought. He still couldn't muster up any emotion over what happened and even though his rooms had been changed he still kept looking at the roof as if expecting to see her dangling there. The sparkly red egg had also relocated there but Haruno just spent the majority of his time staring at the wall while thinking intently.
Why couldn't she be happy? Haruno didn't understand it. Everything was better here in Cairo and when they first arrived she'd been excited to see Dio. Then he remembered her screaming at him about Dio refusing to speak to her; maybe that upset her so bad she wanted to die. He didn't understand. Enrico called her selfish. Maybe that was part of it. He didn't know either.
For how long he was in his trance like state he wasn't sure but a passing shriek of a bird outside jolted him violently from his musings. He cast a look out the window to see the shadowy shape of a bird flying past in the orange sky of sunset before he hugged his lamb to his chest. The plushie felt weird, almost, and he pulled it away with a frown.
The lamb's stitching had turned into dozens of tiny daisies, the little white petals framing the yellow centre. Haruno watched the little flowers before running his hand over them, frowning in concentration as he forced them back into stitches. He still felt oddly numb, like his mind didn't know what to do and was just still. Even his magic didn't cheer him up.
He didn't want to be alone though.
Sliding off the bed Haruno shuffled across the room and into the hallway, making his way to the stairs. At least his new room was the same level of his previous one so he had a rough idea of where he was. Without really thinking about it his feet took him to Diego's room on the upper floor, Haruno clutching his lamb anxiously at sudden misgivings. The man had been nice in a way even if he'd gotten all monstrous but he'd dealt with Haruno's mother and moved him away from it. And he was Haruno's uncle and Enrico seemed to be pressing the family thing, and Enrico was smart and friendly and trustworthy. Maybe he wouldn't mind if Haruno went to see him. If he was wrong then Haruno guessed Diego would just tell Telence or Vanilla Ice to take him away.
This time Haruno was able to get into the room easily enough and Diego was on his bed as he'd been previously. He still looked all beast like but Haruno couldn't see the details really except the long body, angular skull and bright blue eyes due to the covered window and deep shadows. A large book was propped up on the pillows in front of him, which he'd evidently been reading before Haruno trespassed in his room, as his head swung up to look at him.
Haruno lingered in the doorway and Diego didn't yell at him to leave, so Haruno decided it would be okay to go in further. He couldn't understand just what Diego was but guessed maybe he was full werecreature. Maybe he liked to sleep like that, Haruno didn't know. However with the lack of aggressive response Haruno inched closer, crossing the room with his eyes lowered.
As he did he absentmindedly took note of Diego's room and how it was cluttered with huge stacks of books and electronics. There was some gold and statues but it was mostly books and technology, including several televisions, many of which were partially dismantled.
There was also some heavy plush chairs but instead he curled up onto the edge of the blankets which had spilled over the side of the bed from the heaping pile and onto the floor. Tucking his face into his lamb Haruno tried to relax, the blankets thick enough they protected him from the chill of the floor. Above he heard a deep, animalistic grunt before the sound of a page turning and an odd swishing noise.
Haruno wasn't too sure how long he lay there in the dark, trying to calm down, but slowly a heavy ball of emotional distress began to form in his stomach. He was familiar enough through his stepfather's rages and mother's tantrums to realize what was happening and curled himself over tighter, digging his nails into his wrist to try and stave off his tears. He failed and quickly tears began to slide down his face as his small body started shaking.
He tried to keep himself as quiet as possible, pressing a small fist against his mouth as he tried to stifle his sobs. His breathing rapidly became shaky and wheezing as he failed to control himself and began crying in earnest.
Then a loud sigh came from Diego before something slid down and wrapped around Haruno's waist like a snake. He barely had time to realize it was a large feathery tail before it easily pulled him up off the ground and dropped him on top of the bed in the heaped up nest of blankets.
Haruno was jostled right up against Diego, blinking through his tears as he rested a small palm against Diego's feathery side. He was a great deal bigger up close in his weird beast form, easily the size of a large horse and twice as long. Diego's long tail unraveled around his wrist, resting back on the bed in a fluid motion and Haruno stared at the limb in fascination even as tears continued to roll down his cheeks. Sniffling he rubbed his face roughly against his plushie lamb before daring to look at Diego.
A single bright blue eye stared at him before Diego shifted his attention back to his book, long neck flexing as he turned around. His scaled hands were folded neatly on the plush blankets, long black talons longer than Haruno's fingers.
With the dismissive motion Haruno just pressed his face back into his lamb and continued to cry into it. He ended up leaning against Diego's warm side, the shifter not reacting to the proximity. Haruno settled onto his knees, head resting against Diego's rib cage where Haruno could feel the rise and fall of his breath and hear the steady thump of his heart. Haruno focused on the noise and movement as he kept crying quietly until his eyes were puffy, nose clogged and chest ached.
Through it all Diego ignored him, occasionally using a claw to delicately turn the page of his book. However even if he didn't look back at Haruno, at one point his long tail shifted around so it was resting against Haruno's leg. Haruno barely noticed, small body exhausted and mind just as much.
Haruno ended up falling asleep like that, forehead pressed against the back of Diego's feathered forearm, with a tail draped across his lap and the steady sound of Diego's heartbeat in his ears.
The raptor narrowed its eyes, scaly lips curling up to show long hooked fangs. The vampire stared back with no small amount of amusement before abruptly he disappeared from the room. Flicking the tip of its long tail, the raptor shifted its attention back to the book in front of it, countless others stacked on the thick blankets.
Haruno was tucked up against Diego's warm side, hands buried in thick feathers and legs wedged between Diego's forearm and chest. His bout of crying had left him exhausted, having slept deeply and dreamlessly, and when he woke up he was too confused over the enveloping warmth to panic. He couldn't remember the last time he'd gone to sleep next to someone; his mother had left him alone in the cold crib before he was even one year old to go live her social life and they'd never had pets.
Sleepily Haruno pulled his face out of the dense feathers, disorientated and yawning. He ended up falling onto his back by accident which jerked him awake with a startled yelp. The raptor huffed, looking at the boy who was carefully sitting back up and scrubbing at his eyes before yawning again. His brain was still half in sleep mode so it took him a few seconds to realize the room was now bright and sunny, letting him fully see the large creature sprawled within the nest of blankets they were both sitting in.
For a long moment he stared at the feathers before carefully putting a small hand against Diego's broad ribcage.
The feathers were very soft and warm, something Haruno didn't expect. He thought they'd be sharp and cold like the knives Haruno wasn't allowed to touch in the kitchen. In the sun they even seemed all shimmery like a pretty bird. He wasn't sure if Diego was a bird beast though,Haruno wasn't sure what type of creature Diego could transform into, he'd never seen a creature like one before even in all his books. He knew werewolves looked like big dogs, some that could stand but others didn't, but he wasn't sure what other kinds of werebeasts out there. He knew magic was everywhere now but Haruno still knew very little about it.
His father Dio looked like a vampire- Haruno had seen his fangs. He wasn't sure if Dio could turn into bats or burned from holy water but felt it would be rude to ask. Dio seemed nice enough, showing his sparkly golden spirit ghost which had also been nice if rather scary.
However with Diego still reading his book Haruno shyly began to look over his uncle's odd form, now able to see him clearly in the thick sunlight filling the room. He was very big to the point he covered most of the King sized bed with his long sinuous tail being half of his length. His body was sleek but muscular, with large hind legs tucked against his sides and forearms crossed on the sheets from where he was lying on his stomach. Haruno looked to Diego's feet, seeing how they had golden scales and talons; one of the talons was as thick as his fist and looked very sharp. Haruno wondered if his claws would scratch up the ground in the mansion and if Dio got mad over it. Or maybe he had a scratching post somewhere like cats.
Diego's hands were still humanish, to Haruno's surprise. He still had four fingers and a thumb, but all scaly and clawed and Haruno watched as he extended a long talon to flick over the page of his book. It was different from the one Diego was reading last night, Haruno was sure, with long dense lines of text in a language he couldn't read. So Diego could read in that form, even with his big bright blue eyes and his pupils that were all long and pointed. His face was long and broad, but wasn't as feathery as the rest of him with countless pebbled blue scales around his lips and snout. Haruno wondered if he still brushed his teeth while looking all beastly.
Sensing Haruno's staring, Diego let out a huff of breath before turning his long neck around so he was looking sideways at Haruno. His fingers dug into the feathers of his uncle's side before quickly snatching his hand away. Then a split second later a blond man was sitting next to Haruno, with only his long serpentine tail remaining.
"Finally woken up have you? I forgotten how much you humans need to sleep," Diego said. His voice was calm and Haruno couldn't tell what he was thinking. He didn't sound mad, in any case.
"Um...what are you reading?" Haruno asked.
"This? It's called The Book of The Dead. Or Book of Coming Forth by Day. Another translation is Book of Emerging Forth into the Light. Regardless, the Egyptians were very fond of death and their afterlife. At least their Gods are interesting. I'm reading one of the more recent interpretations, hence the language."
"Do um you know these lan-guage?" Haruno asked, frowning slightly. He was quite sure language was how people talked and wrote words. He was always good in that class, with upper and lower case and he knew all the alphabet. But not that one his uncle was reading.
"Egypt is one of the oldest human civilizations still standing," Diego told him, "China is older still but we aren't in China. Anyway, I taught myself how to read and speak Arabic- both versions, so it's easier to read. Hieroglyphs as well, but they aren't as common but I can read that as well. Somewhat. There is quite a lack of ancient Egyptian translators."
In response Diego leaned over and picked up one of the other books before showing an open page to Haruno; on it was numerous pictures like birds, snakes, eyes and beetles. There were even little drawings of humans and so many others.
"Is this um, is this Egypt art?"
"No, it's the language of the ancient Egyptians. They wrote using these pictures. Hieroglyphs."
"A language? They wrote with pictures?"
"Oh. They're pretty pictures."
"Hm. Maybe you will go see the pyramids or sphinx some day then. They made more...'pretty' things." Diego said, putting the books back down with the others.
Haruno nodded, even if he wasn't too sure about those two things but they sounded interesting. Maybe he could ask Enrico to take him later.
"Urgh, either way I am starving. Where is that useless man servant? At least that's one benefit of being in this ridiculous cult mansion," Diego suddenly said, tone quickly swerving into irritation. Haruno watched as his uncle stood up in a fluid movement, long tail flexing before jumping off the bed and then marched out the door.
Haruno was caught off guard by his uncle's abrupt disappearance and just sat on the bed for a long moment in confusion. Then he realized he didn't know where his lamb was, and spent several seconds rummaging around the thick nest of blankets before finding it half smothered among the duvet. He checked the tattered plushie over but there were no little flowers this time. Haruno wondered if the mansion had a garden somewhere.
As he smoothed his hand over the rough fabric of the lamb's head he started thinking about his mother again. She was dead.
He knew that, from when he saw her face with those eyes. All glassy like a doll. Haruno remembered seeing it in his stepfather's face as the man lay on the floor. It seemed so long ago. Before he knew magic or his real father.
A tear landing on his hand jolted him out of his thoughts, and was distressed to see he was crying. Haruno rubbed his cheek against the lamb, unsure and worried. Diego didn't care he'd been crying before but that was at night and in the dark where he could be ignored. He also wasn't sure why he was crying again. He didn't feel sad. Not in the proper way. Haruno didn't understand it, emotions were confusing.
Diego's reappearance was quiet enough but his annoyed voice made Haruno jump, "Can you imagine, what kind of mansion doesn't have a buffet? At least there is enough edibles but really what is with all the bloody wine? He can't even get drunk." Diego paused before saying, "Hm probably should've feed you as well. Oh, and you're crying again."
Quickly Haruno scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, trying and failing to hide the fact he was crying even though he'd already been noticed. Diego let out a loud sniff but didn't shout or throw anything like Haruno was used to.
"No use crying over some who doesn't deserve it," Diego finally said with a dismissive wave of his hand. Haruno said nothing as he rubbed at his face which was now blotchy and red.
An annoyed grunt, then Haruno was picked up by Diego and carried into the bathroom. He was then sat on top of the toilet lid before Diego turned to the sink, picking up a facecloth and grumbling under his breath. Diego ran the facecloth under the tap until it was soaked, then rung out the water before turning to Haruno. He flinched back out of reflex, used to getting smacked around the head whenever he was caught crying.
Diego sighed, "I'm not going to eat you, kid. Calm down."
His voice was gruff but Haruno noticed his talons shrink back into blunt human nails and the cracks in his lips had vanished. Haruno swallowed nervously, still unsure but lowering his hands to rub at the patches of wool on his lamb.
Carefully Diego began to scrub at his face, wiping it clean of tears and snot. Haruno sniffled, unsure as to why Diego was being so nice; considering his furrowed brow and lips being pressed into a thin, unimpressed line, Haruno guessed he didn't actually like helping him but for some reason the adult still was. Haruno shifted his gaze away from the man's irritated face, not wanting to anger him and instead started looking at his ever-present blue and yellow tail. The man always seemed to have a tail, all long and feathery. The golden words Dio were patterned through the dark blue feathers and Haruno wondered if Diego grew them like that as a sign for Dio. Haruno wasn't sure. Diego didn't seem happy last time Haruno'd seen the two talk to each other, using bad words and smashing a window in a rage.
Maybe he got the words before they had a fight. Haruno felt it would be rude to ask. Besides he knew what adults did wasn't his business.
It was better to think about that however than crying. Diego didn't seem to like it but at least he wasn't mean about it. Haruno guessed he was nice as well. Though Diego's face was annoyed his movements were careful as he scrubbed down Haruno's face and sore eyes before drawing back and eyeing the boy critically.
"You should watch it, you'll dehydrate yourself in this weather," Diego told him as he tossed the facecloth back into the sink.
Haruno didn't know what 'dehydrate' was but nodded along with his uncle's words. Looking satisfied Diego picked him back up and carried him through the room before putting him down in the hallway, pausing a moment to flick some stray threads from Haruno's glossy dark hair.
"Now, run off and eat mud or whatever it is you children do in your spare time," Diego told him, "I have adult things to deal with."
He wanted to ask if he could see Diego later, maybe his uncle would show him more of that book with the pretty animal picture-words, but the man was busy so instead he just said, "Okay."
Haruno was left alone after that but he felt a lot better. It was strange, he thought he'd be more upset after his mother, but now he was able to put Diego into the 'nice' category along with his father and Enrico. And maybe Vanilla Ice, the man was nice enough even if he looked very stern all the time.
He made sure to drop his lamb off in his room. He liked his lamb but figured maybe he shouldn't have it because not everyone would like it. Haruno wasn't sure if there were pets around here, if everyone had a special ghost Stand. He also checked up on his sparkly red egg which was still nice and pretty before deciding to explore. Maybe he could find the library again and read more books. Or find that witch or Midler. There was also Telence.
Telence was nice but he was a fake nice. Haruno got that idea when the man let him see his living dolls, he only seemed to actually be pleased at one time but otherwise he was smiling but still didn't mean it. Haruno realized that as a certainty when the man managed to track him down while he was wandering around the mansion on his own. Haruno didn't really know how the man found him but maybe his ghost friend did- Vanilla Ice certainly showed up quickly when Haruno's mother tried hitting him before so maybe the ghosts could see through walls.
The tattooed man intercepted Haruno when he was looking curiously around a room that had a giant golden lion statue crushing half the furniture and dozens of odd looking paintings, waiting patiently outside the room and scaring Haruno. Telence was apologetic at the fright but then took Haruno the kitchen to feed him so he quickly forgot about it. The food was nice even if most of it Haruno had no idea what it was. While walking there they did pass some women Haruno didn't know and he wondered if they were neighbours or more of his father's friends. Either way Telence treated them with his fake-nice voice but did speak sharply to one who tried to smile and talk to Haruno which made her flinch away. Haruno didn't really know why Telence was annoyed but it was a different language so he wasn't sure what it had been about.
Then he forgot because food and Telence stood there like a sentry even though Haruno thought maybe he had adult things to do. Like his uncle. Diego was nice.
Once he was finished, Telence asked Haruno if he would like to be taken anyway.
Haruno was used to being left alone but he liked company and maybe finding a friend. Telence was fake nice which Haruno didn't like, however, so he said he would be fine and the man left him alone with a final smile and bow.
That was how he ended up finding the garden, opening a heavy wooden door only to stumble outside to bright sun and colourful flora.
It was the back garden of the mansion, looking like a miniature oasis with its own small pond surrounded by lush plants and several tall palm trees. A white stone path ran from the back door to the pond but otherwise there was thick green grass and brightly coloured flowerbeds contained with a tall sandstone fence. Haruno watched a few bumblebees swarming around a bushel of delicate petaled flowers before walking down the path towards the pond. He knelt down on the tiles, looking down at the clear water where small fish were darting about. Lightly touching the surface with a fingertip, one of the fish veered up and nipped at it with a tiny mouth.
Haruno giggled, swishing his hand backwards and forth in the water and watching the fish flit to and fro within the pond. For nearly five minutes he played with the fish, a few nibbling at his fingertips in hopes of food but many darting just out of his reach. He wondered who they belonged to and wondered if Vanilla Ice or Telence fed them or if the pond was there forever or maybe they were even magic fish.
The weather was hot, the Cairo sun shining down unopposed due to the lack of clouds in the blue sky but the palm trees provided spiky-shaped shade that fended off the scalding heat. Haruno's new clothes were also helpful, fabric light and roomy to not overheat him but the water was still nice and cool.
He did get distracted by the fish when he heard a bird screech, looking up to see the angular shape pass overhead in a blur before veering in a sharp curve to circle the garden. Haruno watching the bird for a long moment before getting up to his feet, shaking the water droplets from his fingers and then walking over to the lush flowerbeds. Many of the flora were ones he'd never seen, with spiky purple petals, others with delicate pinks, some with bright yellow and blues, others with a multitude of hues and oddly shaped petals. Carefully he began to pluck the flowers free from their beds, tucking them into the crook of his elbow.
A few bees flew past in honey-coloured blurs, some even landing on the flowers he was gathering to rummage for nectar. He always liked bees, they liked flowers like he did and when he was locked in his yard back home they would keep him company if it was warm enough. When he'd plucked a fair amount of flowers- their mixing scents tingling his nose -he awkwardly stood up, taking care not to drop any of the flowers. He figured he needed to find a vase inside to put them all in and then thought maybe he could have the vase grow with them as well. He wasn't sure the rules with his magic were and should maybe write down things if he was allowed.
Then he heard an odd swooping noise and looked up to see a large grey and white bird fly down over the garden. The bird landed down onto the point of the small decorative pillar in the courtyard garden, hooked talons digging into the carved stone as it settled down to watch him shrewdly. Haruno stared at the animal in fascination, noting with curiosity that it had a large pink scarf wrapped around its neck and a small link of chain dangling from the fabric and down its feathery chest. An elaborate silver falconry hood edged in gold protected its head, a large feather the same colour as its scarf decorated the top. It was the first time Haruno had ever seen a bird in an outfit.
Distracted by the bird Haruno bumped the toe of his shoe on a stone, dropping his armful of flowers. With a huff he bent down and started to pick them back up and, unknowing to himself, the oversized collar of his shirt dipped down with the movement and momentarily revealed the points of his star shaped birthmark imprinted on his shoulder. The falcon's blue eyes focused on the spot with unerringly intensity before its aggressive stance relaxed, the tendrils of ice which had been steadily creeping across the ground towards the four-year-old quickly dissipating back into nothing.
Once he'd gathered back up his flowers he approached the bird, wondering if it was a pet. The fact it was wearing clothes made him relatively certain that it was, along with the almost knowing manner it was regarding him. Even when he stood in front of the small pillar is was perched on the falcon didn't fly away, simply lowering its head slightly to look at him more closely. Its beak looked very sharp and yellow.
Haruno slowly reached out with a hand and touched the bird's breast, feeling the smooth, warm feathers. The bird's breath was calm but he could feel its heartbeat underneath his palm. The chain hanging down from its scarf brushed against his wrist, the metal cold in contrast to the falcon's chest. The feathers felt like his uncle's, and Haruno wondered maybe it was some werebirdbeast creature he turned into. The bird's scaly feet even seemed the same.
The bird continued to stare at him unblinkingly, its curved yellow beak only a few inches from Haruno's face. Haruno wished he could talk to animals, like Snow White and Aurora. He bet the bird had a lot to talk about. Maybe it even other animal friends around the city it liked to visit.
"Hello," Haruno decided to say to the bird, smiling at it. He liked animals. He always wanted a pet and he didn't know people could have those big birds as pets, he thought only zoos could and everyone else had to have the little ones in cages. This bird was big, even sitting there calm and placid beyond ruffling its wings at Haruno's greeting. Its eyes were very blue.
Then the bird jerked its head up, the feather on its hood bobbing with the movement as it looked at something. Haruno looked over his shoulder, seeing Diego standing in the doorway with an expression of amusement on his face as he regarded them both.
With a screech the bird took off, launching off into the sky with a beat of its wings and rapidly spiraling up into the sky until it was up so high Haruno could barely see it. He looked at the small pillar the bird had been standing on, could see the scratches its talons had made in the stone.
"Pet Shop dislikes people in general," his uncle said, walking down the path and shoes clicking on the cobblestones, "But of course you needn't fear him."
Haruno looked up in the sky again but had no idea where the bird had flown off to. He wouldn't mind be able to fly. He wasn't sure who his uncle was talking about, but maybe he was going to buy a pet from the shop later. Diego stopped next to him, looking down at him with a indescribable expression on his face and tail flicking back and forth and Haruno wanted to ask but Diego beat him to the punch.
"Now then, since that earlier drama is dealt with how about we go somewhere?" His uncle said, tilting his head to the side in a gesture eerily like the bird had done before.
"Um, but the flowers..." He looked down at his armful of flowers, quite a few squashed in the crook of his elbow.
"Oh they'll be fine. I figured it's time for a family reunion, do you want to see your father?"
Haruno was confused, "But its sunny. Don't vampires sleep then?"
"Not Dio. Your other father."
Now he was even more confused. But Diego remained standing there, watching him expectantly with his arms crossed so after a few seconds of thinking it over Haruno knelt down and put his flowers onto the ground, willing them to grow roots into the grass to which they obeyed and became a mix matched patch. With that finished he stood up, brushing off his pants and then looked up at Diego who grinned toothily at him and extended a hand to which Haruno took.
"Now, you're not scared of heights are you?"
"I don't know, I'm short," Haruno said. He never had to deal with heights before. Once he'd climbed a tree but it wasn't scary.
"Easiest way into the princess castle is through the window," Diego said, pointing towards the lone tower of the mansion; there was a solitary window carved from the stone but it was up very high. Higher than most trees Haruno had seen.
"There's a princess?"
"No, I'm being an arse. Though I suppose you are nobility, such as myself and Dio."
Haruno perked up at that, "Really?"
"They really told you nothing?" Diego's laugh as short and cold, "No issues, brat, I'll fill in the history gaps perhaps later. Now then, let's give dear old daddy a visit."
He transformed in such a fluid motion Haruno couldn't follow it; it was if there was a human standing there and then an instant later it was the tall feathered werebeast. In the daylight his feathers were so sparkly and shiny, making Haruno wonder if he groomed himself or used special shampoo like a show dog. Diego was also a lot bigger standing up and in the daylight, to the point the top of Haruno's head wouldn't have come up to his yellow underside.
Haruno really should ask his uncle what he turned into. Maybe it would be rude to ask, though.
Diego shook himself, making his blue feathers shimmer in a roiling motion like flighty waves before he settled down next to Haruno with a huff and made a swinging motion with his head towards his back.
Haruno was confused as he was what to do, especially as even sitting down Diego was taller then him, but then Diego gave an irritated grunt and wrapped his long tail around Haruno's waist before flicking him up onto his broad back. Haruno gave a yelp of surprise, instinctively grabbing fistfuls of feathers and in the same instant Diego was up and moving.
Diego leapt up the ragged sides and walls of the mansion with ease, muscles moving fluidly beneath his leathery skin and feathers. Haruno was too busy panicking to appreciate the heightened view of Cairo as Diego scaled the walls like a demented lizard, claws cutting out delicate lines in the old stone as he quickly climbed up towards the tower. Haruno's hands were locked in a white knuckle grip on Diego's neck and knees clamped on his shoulders, almost certain he was going to fall right off Diego's back as the werebeast ran up near vertically on the walls before the sun and wind was gone as Diego slipped through the arching window of the tower, snout pushing apart the heavy drawn curtains.
Haruno fell off Diego as the beast landed heavily on the ground inside the tower, dizzy and flustered, but the man transformed back into his humanoid self and grabbed Haruno before he could hit the floor.
"And not even a scream, at least you have composure," Diego said in amusement as he righted up the four year old. Haruno nodded, not really understanding, even as his face was flushed and breath quick while his heart felt as it was about to burst out of his chest. Diego patted his head before turning away further into the room.
When Haruno managed to regain some of his composure he realized they were in his father's room; it was dark and cold, even with the window open it was positioned in a way only a chuck lit up the floor and didn't touch the wide coffin in the centre. There were countless book cases and gutted candle holders around the room as well but otherwise everything was very quiet and thick with shadows.
Haruno couldn't help the nervous glance he gave to the ornate coffin in the middle of the room. His mother always got really mad if Haruno was noisy and woke her up in the morning. He wasn't sure if Dio was the same.
"Don't worry, he's dead to the world." Diego gave a short bark of laughter, picking up on Haruno's unease, "In all manner of the word. I sometimes read on top of his coffin and he doesn't care."
"Oh." Haruno inched towards the coffin, even if it was too dark from him to see it properly. It was very big though. Which did make sense since Dio was very tall. Haruno wondered how tall Dio was but it was hard to measure without a ruler. There was also pretty golden shapes on the front and Haruno wondered who made it. One of his servants? Or maybe he ordered it in the mail and it was delivered.
"But we're not here to harangue Dio, as entertaining as that may be. Instead we're here for someone else. Do you know the name Jonathan?"
"No. I don't know anyone with that name," Haruno said, "Is he my other father?"
"Does he live here as well?"
"He died. Let me guess, dear Dio and his pet priest hadn't bothered to explain that oh-so torrid part of history to you?"
Haruno shook his head, still confused about the thing. He didn't know how someone could have two fathers- he knew a stepfather was different from a father but Diego wasn't talking about it like that. He knew about evil stepmothers like Cinderalla's mother but that wasn't the same as two parents of the same.
"You know how Dio has the star on his shoulder?" Diego suddenly asked him, tilting his head to the side. His blue eyes seemed to glow in the darkness, a bright burning blue.
Haruno nodded, unsure as to the tone in his uncle's voice. But he remembered Dio's star, had seen it in the photo his mother kept and then on the vampire briefly when Haruno met him. It matched Haruno's own star, printed on his left shoulder. A birthmark, he knew it was called. Made him special, like his father.
Diego crouched down then, his mouth close to Haruno's ear even if his gaze never left Haruno's face, "I'll tell you a little secret about it- Dio stole his."
"He did?" Haruno was surprised. He wondered how Dio did that.
Diego leaned back, grinning toothily, "He stole it from your other father. That's why you have the star. It's from him, from Jojo, not Dio. But Dio stole it so it's his now. But it wasn't always."
"Oh. Was he mad? The one who had it first?" Haruno meant the other father but wasn't sure how to say that without using the word.
"He's over here, come see." Diego straightened up and walked across the room to the door which led to a lavish bedroom, all darkness and deep reds with thick gold embroiled drapes drawn. The candles were gutted and dead, with pools of wax lying underneath, and there was more gold, paintings and statues along with large bookcases filled with countless thick leather books.
Haruno looked around for his other father but couldn't see anyone else in the room. Diego ignored him, instead walking towards the countless heaps of treasure towards a small marble pillar with elaborate carvings. For a long moment he stared at whatever was on it, tail flicking from side to side before he making a come here motion with his hand. Haruno hurried across the room, taking care not to stumble over the piles of coins on the ground until he was next to his uncle to see what he was looking at.
It was a skull. Haruno had seen the skeleton in the office at his preschool and there was another in the library. They were all frail looking and rattled around on their straps and bolts. The skull resting on top of the pillar was large and in the shadows the eye sockets looked like black holes. It seemed more dense, somehow, compared with the ones he saw before.
Carefully Diego picked up the skull, his talons seeping back into blunt nails to avoid scratching it, before offering it to Haruno. For a long moment he stared at the skull, with the angles and sunken eye sockets and straight teeth, before taking it. The skull was big enough Haruno had to cradle it against his chest with both hands, his fingers digging into the curve of bone as Diego lifted Haruno up against his chest with an arm hooked under his knees and bracing his back.
Haruno clung to the skull, keeping it in a vice-like grip as Diego bounded across the room with him and then leapt through the window. He squeaked, pressing his face against the slope of the skull as the air whipped past and sent his hair and clothes flapping. Then a second later Diego landed on the roof, legs digitigrade and feet scaled, and ran across the old stone before springing off again to land in the middle of the back garden. Through it all his grip on Haruno was firm but not enough to hurt.
For a long moment he was held in place before Diego straightened up with a grunt and carefully put Haruno down. He felt dizzy, thick black hair a mess and face flushed. The skull was still held tight against his chest.
"There, better than being stuffed inside that dank horrid room for weeks on end wouldn't you say?" Diego said even as he settled down on the grass, long tail curling around him.
The clump of flowers Haruno had plucked before were still in their mix matched heap a few feet away. Haruno relaxed his grip on the skull somewhat, still rather woozy but feeling immensely better with his feet on the firm ground and back in the garden. The light was also a lot better than how dark it was in his father's room. He guessed vampires could see in the dark like cats. It made sense.
After a moment of dithering Haruno sat down crosslegged next to his uncle, within the curve of Diego's long feathery tail as his breath evened out. The skull he put on the grass between his legs, partly resting on his shins and then Haruno started running his hands over the smooth bone. It felt so smooth. Haruno didn't know it would be so smooth, like a rock he would find in a pond or how he thought a turtle's shell would feel like.
"So, what do you think of your other father?" Diego asked him after a beat of silence, watching as Haruno patted the bone.
"Should um, should he be out here?" Haruno asked hesitantly, looking up from the skull to Diego. If he was in Dio's room then surely he was important and he should stay there.
"The sunlight will do him some good. Either way Pet Shop doesn't care enough to rat us out. At least not right now." Diego said, gesturing upwards towards the clear blue sky. When Haruno followed it he could see the silhouette of the bird with the fancy hood circling around the garden before letting out a shrill cry and swooping upwards and around the mansion to be lost from sight.
The bird? Haruno was confused but maybe vampires could talk to those birds. Maybe that was a vampire power. Haruno wasn't sure, he only met one vampire and his father didn't tell him much about it. He wondered if the bird picked his own name or someone else did or even if he picked his own clothes.
But as for the skull Haruno struggled to understand it belonged to someone. Someone who had been alive. He wasn't sure how it belonged to his other father. 'Father'.
"Should..." Haruno paused, looking down at the skull. He didn't think he should call this other man, 'Jonathan', Father. Dio was his father. The word fit for him, since Haruno knew it was how to not be impolite. Not rude. Haruno also thought it would be rude to call Dio dad or something like that. The word didn't fit him anyway. He was nice but scary. Not scary to Haruno like someone yelling but someone still scary.
Diego said nothing next to him, leaning back on his hands as the tip of his tail flicked up and down like a makeshift fan. The shade was dabbled from the crossing leaves of the various palm trees grouped in the garden as the sun streamed through, making the air warm and inviting. A few bees flittered about his fathered tail before realizing it wasn't a colourful flower and moved on to the rest of the garden.
Haruno frowned at the skull, still not sure what to call his other father. Jonathan. He couldn't have two, it would be confusing to both call them that so he needed to think of something else to call him.
"Papa, then. That's good," Haruno decided. It wasn't like dad and wasn't like father. It would fit, he felt. He felt like Jonathan wouldn't mind being called that.
"Huh. Guess Jojo wouldn't care being called that. If anything he'd be delighted to have a kid," Diego murmured, still leaning back with his eyes closed.
Haruno wondered if that was true. Probably was as Diego was his papa's brother. Wasn't he?
"Um. Is he...If he's Papa, then is he your brother? Since you're 'Uncle'." Haruno thought that was how families worked. Pretty sure.
"Yes. He was myself and Dio's brother. I was the youngest of the three. We're quite old, however. Over a century- a hundred years."
"Oh. Are you a vampire too?"
"No. Just old."
"But either way, they had a fight a century ago," Diego said, eyes still closed with his face tilted up to the sky, "Jojo- that is Jonathan, was killed. When he died, Dio stole his body."
"He did?" Haruno didn't know bodies could work like that. Then again some witches could did it, Haruno read. Or 'demons' who could use someones body like a car. Just climb up and then run off. He wasn't sure how vampires could do it.
"Yes. He cut off Jojo's head, sewed his own head onto Jojo's body."
"Like...swapping a Barbie's head?" Haruno had done that before, with the toys at the library. He got told off for doing it even if he put them back on the right bodies when he was to go home.
Diego laughed. It wasn't a very nice laugh. "I suppose that's one way to explain it. But that's how you have two fathers. Since Dio has his head yet the rest if Jojo. His- our -last name is Joestar."
"Joestar..." Haruno looked at the skull and then thought about the star birthmark on his father's shoulder and on his own. "Is it a name for their star?"
"I never asked, thought I wouldn't believe otherwise. Why else be 'Joestar' if not for the star? But regardless, you are both Dio's and Jojo's son. You have two fathers."
Haruno nodded slowly before he asked, "If Father is so old, does he have a lot of family?"
"What do you mean?" Diego's eye opened up a slit, so he was peering sideways at Haruno.
"Um...If there that, do I have brothers and sisters?" Haruno asked. He felt that was what the word mean, maybe. He wasn't quite sure. But he thought that people who shared parents were called that even if one was a vampire.
"Probably," Diego said as he straightened up, "After all, you father is a right slut." He paused before adding, "You can tell him I said that."
"Oh..." That fascinated Haruno deeply to know he most likely had lots more family out there somewhere. He wondered if he would meet them. He wondered if any of them would be his special friend. He didn't know what a 'slut' was though. It sounded strange. Haruno wondered if it was a swear word or another title he didn't know about yet.
"If you're brothers why did Father and Papa fight so bad?"
Diego leaned forward, pulling one leg up to rest an arm on it as he regarded Haruno seriously, "Sometimes people want things so much they'll kill someone else to get it."
"Did...did you fight as well?" Haruno felt rather unhappy his fathers had fought as well. He'd been hoping some families wouldn't fight and attack each other. He'd hoped his mother and stepfather with their treatment of him, screaming and hitting, was something rare.
His uncle was silent long enough Haruno was worried he said the wrong thing, but when Diego answered his words were calm, almost scarily so, "No. I stayed out of it. Which I guess was just as useless. But that's neither here nor there."
"So they wanted something the same and had a fight?" Haruno asked. He'd seen that happen a few times in preschool. Someone wanted the same toy so they would fight until a teacher stopped them.
"No, Dio wanted everything. Jojo took umbridge with it. They fought, Jojo lost. It is what it is." Diego's tone brooked no argument and Haruno quickly averted his gaze back to the skull.
Jojo. Haruno wondered how they fought. Was Jojo a vampire as well? Haruno didn't know but Diego didn't seem to like talking about the fighting between his brothers. Haruno could understand, he never liked talking about when his mother screamed or his stepfather hit. So he decided to not ask those questions anymore, he wanted Diego to stay nice and not become mean.
For nearly a minute neither spoke, Haruno occasionally patting the skull or touching the angles of bone with a fingertip while Diego sat silently to the side. Even in the garden Haruno could hear the low drone of traffic and voices off in the distance of the city life and wondered if he would be allowed to go outside the walls again. Vanilla Ice said not to but Enrico took him once and Haruno liked it. Haruno wondered where Enrico was now, if he was still in Cairo or if he was back to visit his parents. Haruno wasn't sure. The man must be busy though, since all adults were.
Then Diego reached inside his suit vest, pulling out a small leather wallet. He flicked it open, pulling a loose piece of newspaper away before handing Haruno the wallet without comment. He was confused but accepted it all the same, pulling open the smooth dark leather. Inside were two black and white pictures, one was of a boy with a large horse which was lipping at his hair playfully. The boy had a bright smile on his face, caught mid laughter. The other was more formal, with four people; two sitting down with the other two standing. One was an older man with a mustache and broad frame, the other was the boy from the horse picture but far more calm and collected. The two others were teenagers, one with light hair and sharp features and the other with dark hair and kind smile.
Diego leaned over and tapped a finger on the boy with light hair then the dark haired one, "That's your father Dio and that other one is Jojo, when they were teenagers. It's a family picture we took over a century ago."
"Oh." It was strange seeing the boy. Haruno never saw any pictures of his mother as a child so it was a novelty to see his papa as a teenager. He looked very young. They both did. He found it hard to think of his father, Dio, as the small, slender boy in the photo with the tall scary vampire he'd met. Then there was Jojo, with his skull sitting on Haruno's lap. Is he in God's house, heaven, now?
"Who's that other man?" Haruno asked, pointing at the adult.
"That's George Joestar. Your grandfather."
Haruno never met any of his grandparents. "Is he here as well?"
"No, he died. Dio killed him."
"Did they fight as well?"
"Well, more of Dio fighting. Tantrum throwing more like." There seeped in a large amount of bitterness and Haruno looked up at his uncle's face, worried he'd said the wrong thing. Instead Diego was scowling at the picture before his expression smoothed out and he plucked the wallet from Haruno's hands, replacing it with the folded up piece of newspaper which Haruno took.
It was two people, looking off to the left, and coloured in black and white much like the other photos. They were wearing fancy clothes, the tall muscular man in a suit with ruffles and bowtie, while the light haired woman was wearing a big fluffy white dress with a large pretty bunch of flowers in one hand. She looked like a princess; she even had a tiara on her head like one.
"And that is Jojo on his wedding day." Diego said, watching Haruno carefully.
"Who's is that lady?"
"Oh her. Erina, her name was. Not especially important," Diego sniffed.
"Her dress looks very fluffy." As if someone made it out of whipped cream.
"Could've fed a household for five years if you were frugal with its cost, I'd wager."
Haruno didn't know people could eat dresses but guessed it must be a lot bigger than he thought it was if people could eat it for that long. But still, it was strange seeing his papa as he'd been while alive while his skull was in Haruno's lap.
It made him feel...strange. Haruno wasn't sure if it was bad. He handed the paper back over to Diego who folded it back within the wallet and tucking it back into his vest. The man's expression remained calm but Haruno felt that he was upset. Haruno didn't like that, he didn't want his uncle to be upset. He also didn't want his papa to be upset and even if he was a skull now if he was Diego's brother then Haruno felt that Jojo wouldn't want Diego to be unhappy.
"I have magic," Haruno said, fingers resting on the smooth slope of the skull.
Diego looked at him, blue eyes half lidded and pupils slits, "Really."
"Yes. I made an egg turn into a flower."
"What?" Diego seemed more entertained than anything and Haruno flushed slightly.
"I made that pretty red jeweled egg turn into a flower. Enrico said it was my powers. Like Father's The World."
"You mean a 'Stand'? I hate that name but it is as it is. I already told that old woman how ridiculous it was." Diego tilted his head to the side, "I should have guessed; Dio would've been punctured by the arrow when you were already born. And considering you aren't dead, you survived the Stand fever. It...allows you to transform things?"
"Um, I don't have a ghost friend," Haruno twisted his fingers together, "But I can make magical flowers. Or grow them. Um. Turn things into them."
"So you haven't manifested a spirit? That seems to be common for children who aren't born Stand users, you'll most likely manifest it when you're older."
"So I'll have a ghost friend some day?"
"Probably. I don't have one of these 'Stand spirits'," Diego said, briefly making air quotes, "So who even knows if I really am a Stand user? Didn't get one in a conventional way or however that old witch describes it."
Haruno wasn't really sure what was Diego was talking about but figured it was more magic things he hadn't been told about yet. Maybe he should try asking Enrico, since that man seemed to know a lot about it and had taught him a lot about Stands when Haruno first showed him and his father his magic. However the man's mood had shifted so Haruno felt better. Still, he wanted to show off his magic to his uncle. He felt maybe it would work with the skull, his magic, but didn't want to hurt it so he carefully got to his feet and put the skull aside.
Haruno looked around before getting up and grabbing a rock half buried in one of the flowerbeds. It fit neatly in his palm and he briefly washed off the dirt in the fish pond, the fish darting about in mild panic at the disturbance. Then he settled back in his spot next to his uncle, the skull in his lap yet again as he held the plain grey stone in his palm.
Then Haruno hesitated, thinking about the pet bird with its clothes and the colourful fish. He'd made his sparkly egg transform into a flower. Nonliving into living. Haruno wasn't sure what was really the different between a plant and animal but both were alive, just in different ways.
Maybe... Carefully he covered the rock with his other hand, feeling the clinging droplets of water and smoothness of the stone against his palm. He wanted to impress his uncle, who could turn into the big feathery beast so easily. Wanted his uncle to know he was special as well. Enrico had seen it, so had his father. But Diego hadn't and he'd told Haruno about lots of things Haruno didn't know about. So he wanted to impress him with his magic. Make his uncle happy.
He knew he could make flowers, which were pretty and smelled nice, but since he made them which were alive maybe he could make other things which were alive- like animals. Next to him Diego was watching him curiously, obviously noticing how intensely Haruno was focusing on the stone.
Instead of a rock there was an oddly slimy sphere sitting in the palm of his hand, a clear outside film covering a dark bumpy core. As they watched the dark shape moved, the gelatinous covering shivering as the form inside flexed and grew. The slimy sphere seeped across Haruno's palm and he moved quickly to cup it in both hands, the slime sliding through his fingers onto the grass as the small creature squirmed free with flailing limbs much to Haruno's shock and growing elation.
It was a frog with verdant green skin and beige underside, delicate skin shiny with moisture and body cool. Small webbed gripped onto Haruno's skin as the frog peered up at him with bright black eyes. Then the delicate skin on the underside of its throat swelled in a bulge and it let out a high-pitched ribbit.
Diego grinned at Haruno, "Magic indeed."
As the hour passed Haruno made nearly two dozen more frogs of numerous sizes from the stones he found in the garden. The amphibious were noisy and bouncy, jumping around the grass and a few even made their way into the small pond to flail about in. Diego fully transformed by then, stretching out on the ground with his head resting in the grass while the frogs croaked and hopped around him. Haruno was busy with another stone he found when Pet Shop appeared, gliding down until the bird landed on Diego's broad back. He didn't seem overly concerned about Pet Shop's long talons digging into his spine and the bird gave Haruno a strange look before bending down and proceeding to preen Diego's feathers. Haruno decided to let the bird do what he wanted- Maybe he was his uncle's bird? -before focusing on the big stone had just dug out of the ground.
A few seconds later the stone seemed to split open like a packet of ribbons and Haruno was deeply confused until the animal slid around his fingers and he realized it was a snake. It had dark brown scales with rows of fat black stripes and a pale yellow belly. Haruno was enchanted by the reptile as it coiled around his wrist to peer at his face, little forked tongue flicking from its mouth. He'd never seen a snake up close but its scales were all smooth; he expected them to be prickly like a cactus.
Diego briefly raised his head to watch the snake before going back to his nap. Pet Shop also seemed to balance his curiosity with his almost intense grooming of Diego's feathery back. Haruno wondered if the bird was hungry and could he eat a snake? Haruno wasn't sure but watching the snake as it stretched from his wrist to curl around his shoulders made him want to keep it as a pet. Maybe he could make one of those really big banana ones some day.
For quite some hours Haruno spent exploring his magic, making animals or flowers. There were a lot of frogs and several more small snakes, along with bunches of flowers he didn't know the name of. He knew his magic could make plants healthy again which he tried on the palm trees; one grew covered in strange fluffy leaves. Haruno wasn't sure what it was doing but he sensed it was happy and healthy. The frogs were clinging to him by then, sitting on his head or hanging onto his shirt while the brown snake remained coiled around his neck. Diego didn't seem to care either way, even when three of the frogs hopped up onto his head. Pet Shop glared at one frog which got too close to his scaled feet before going back to his preening.
When the air started to cool Haruno wondered if he should go inside. Diego must of thought so too, as he roused him and stood up. Pet Shop spread his wings and flew off, circling high above before ducking through the tower window they'd crawled into hours ago. Diego shook himself off, sending a few stray feathers fluttering around the garden, before he shifted back into his human self. Then he patted Haruno on the head before turning to the wall and leaping over it in a single bound.
Haruno watched the wall for a long moment, arm full of frogs and a snake still draped around his neck before he reached out and snatched up one of the feathers. It shimmered with numerous shades of blues as he rotated it and, when he tried turning it into something, the feather stubbornly refused to change. He decided to think that his uncle being a werebeast meant he was immune to Haruno's magic, even he trotted back down to Jojo's skull and settled down next to it.
Then he went about making a chain of flowers, willing the little buds to bloom into sweet smelling flowers until he made a loop and then placed it on Jojo's skull like a crown. Haruno thought maybe his Papa would like flowers. He paused at that, small fingers rubbing at the eye sockets even as a frog dropped from the hem of his shirt onto the grass. He wondered what Jojo had been like as a person. His uncle said Jojo would have liked him and Haruno hoped it was true; it also made him think of the witch and how she read those strange cards for him, especially the Queen of Pentacles. He always thought queens were supposed to be ladies but then he could be wrong with that.
That also made Haruno think of Erina, Jojo's wife. She looked pretty like a princess in the wedding photo and Haruno wondered if she was still living somewhere especially if Dio was a vampire. Maybe she lived somewhere and he could ask Diego if he could go visit sometime. Let Jojo visit his wife as well.
"Would you like that?" Haruno asked the skull. It didn't reply but Haruno felt it looked better with flowers, even in the dying sun.
The snake slid down his arm and Haruno shifted his attention to it. It's small tongue flicked out at him and carefully Haruno picked it up with both hands. It coiled up in his palms, docile and calm, before he frowned slightly and tried to will it back into a rock.
A few seconds later, a rock was sitting in his palms. Gingerly Haruno shook the rock but it did nothing. He even raised it to his ear but couldn't hear anything. Though he knew it was magic but it still so strange to be holding a rock that just used to be a snake.
Then Vanilla Ice came into the garden.. The man almost looked out of place among the lush grass and colourful flowers with his cold expression. He didn't say anything at the countless frogs hopping around Haruno, instead walking towards the four year old and saying, "Lord Dio will see you."
Haruno immediately got a tight grip on the skull, not wanting to drop it as Vanilla Ice picked him up easily. He cast a mute glance back to the garden as Vanilla Ice took him back into the mansion, the sky deepening with shadows as night took over the land and the frogs croaking lowly, before the door shut behind them.
He shifted once to move Jojo's skull more securely in his grip but otherwise kept himself docile in Vanilla Ice's grip. The man's arms were strong but he held Haruno gingerly as if worried he would break, and Haruno had to remember this man was his father's servant, who was a lord. He hoped Dio wasn't angry Diego had taken Jojo's skull. From what Diego had told him, they'd been fighting lots but if Dio kept Jojo's skull then surely he wanted to remember Jojo but then he could be upset at the skull being taken.
But Diego is both their brother, so it should be okay, Haruno reasoned with himself, hunching slightly so he nose as pressed against the smoothness of the skull while the scent of flowers filled his nose.
Vanilla Ice took him up the winding flights of stairs and on the way they passed Midler, who was wearing her sparkly skirt and veil again. She shot a nasty look at Vanilla Ice who ignored her, but smiled warmly at Haruno as they passed each other. He wasn't sure if he should smile or wave back before she vanished down the staircase to be swallowed by the darkness. The mansion always got so dark as soon as night fell and Haruno wished he could see in the dark.
He recognized Dio's room with the coffin when Vanilla Ice opened the door, but this time the candles were burning steadily. Night had already fallen outside but he could still hear random snatches of far off noise from the city. Before he could think on it further, Vanilla Ice silently sat Haruno down on top of the coffin and left without a word.
Haruno was entirely unsure what to do, clutching the skull tighter as he shifted uneasily. He had a strong feeling Dio wasn't in the coffin but still felt nervous about sitting on it even if Vanilla Ice put him there.
For a long time Haruno remained sitting on the coffin, long enough the deep chill settled across his skin. He curled around the skull. resting his cheek against the smooth surface of bone as he thought about everything; about his mother, his magic, his uncle, his Papa and Father. He hoped the frogs were doing okay out in the garden, or would they turn back into rocks? Eventually his body started to relax somewhat as time passed, his fingers rubbing against the line of teeth on the skull before absentmindedly touching the petals of the crown.
Then Pet Shop flew through the open window, landing silently on the opposite end of the coffin. Haruno only noticed the bird when he clacked his beak loudly and he was startled so much he nearly fell off the coffin. Pet Shop looked at him blandly before the bird flexed his wings and glided to the bedroom door on the side of the room. He stood to the side like a small feathered sentry before snapping his beak with an impatient gesture and Haruno slid off the coffin- with a vicelike grip on the skull -before trotting over to the door.
The door handle was up too high for him to reach and Haruno started to think maybe he should try knocking, with the air next to Pet Shop began to mist and slowly consolidated into a skeletal form.
The ghost looked metallic, with too many clawed hands and a sharp beaked face with large red eyes. The air temperature dropped even further as the robotic looking ghost let out a rattly exhale. Then he moved its highest arm, gripping the door handle and opening it before disappearing.
Haruno didn't know ghosts could open doors. He looked at Pet Shop who just stared back at him. After a long moment he carefully walked over the threshold into the room and instantly noticing Dio was there, reclining on the four poster bed and reading a thick leather book. The door shut behind Haruno with a sharp bang, making him jump and fingers dig into bone.
Dio made no movement, still enough he could have passed for a statue if not for him occasionally turning a page. Unsure, Haruno lingered near the door with Jojo's skull pressed tight against his sternum. It was still cold in the room, even with the candles giving off flicking light that made the shadows long and twisted. He did however notice another bed, set up on the ground and covered in red silk blankets in one of the corners and was surprised to realize there was some women asleep there. Haruno wondered if his father had slumber parties but thought it was something only children did, but then maybe vampire's did as well.
With a shimmer of gold The World appeared, standing by the bed next to Dio even if the vampire himself didn't so much as twitch. Haruno obligatorily crossed the room to the golden ghost spirit when it drifted forward slightly even as it continued to regard him with a cold, emotionless face. Silently it picked up Haruno as soon as he got within arms reach and put him on the foot of the bed. Then The World took Jojo's skull from Haruno, placing it back on the plinth among the piles of coins before vanishing from view.
"Flowers. How fitting," Dio said, not looking up from his book. He didn't sound mad or happy. Just neutral.
Haruno settled cross legged on the foot of the bed, toying with the hem of his shirt. Dio remained reading, not acknowledging Haruno baring his first comments. For his part, Haruno tried to keep himself as still and quiet as possible. He knew being noisy or squirmy made it harder to focus on reading and he didn't want to make Dio mad. Dio had been nice so far but not warm nice like Enrico or kinda-rude-but-still-nice like Diego.
It was warmer in Dio's bedroom just by virtue of having no apparent windows open to the outside but Haruno still wished they had a heater or fire somewhere but knew better than to say anything. At least his new bed was always warm. He was rather sleepy but maybe it was just because it was dark.
"So, your Stand has the ability to imbue life within an object." Dio suddenly said, making Haruno twitch.
"Yes." Haruno said when he finally regained his voice.
"Interesting, considering. Yet you can also create animals."
Haruno wasn't surprised Dio already knew that, figuring it was just a vampire thing as he said, "Yes."
Dio got to his feet in a single sinuous movement, the book placed aside as he walked towards Jojo's skull. With an affectionate gesture he ran a hand over the smooth bone before plucking one of the small flowers free from the loop of greenery. It looked so fragile, being held in between Dio's fingertips, before the petals seemed to shrivel in on themselves and Dio let it fall to the floor among the golden coins.
Then Dio turned, making a beckoning gesture with his hand.
Haruno was confused as it what he was going until he caught movement from across the room as one of the women got to her feet, swaying slightly before tottering towards Dio. Haruno wondered how the woman wasn't cold, considering she wasn't wearing any clothes but she didn't seem bothered by it as she stumbled towards Dio. As soon as she got close she began to eagerly rub her face against Dio's hand like a cat and Haruno watched as Dio lightly trailed his fingers down the woman's jaw before sliding down to her throat.
Then Dio thrust his fingers into the woman's neck, a soft wet noise following the action. The woman's face twisted up as vine-like veins bulged underneath her skin, centred on her throat as spasms roiled through her frame. Dio's arm pulsating grotesquely through it all before he eventually yanked his bloody fingers from her neck.
Her body hit the ground with a dull thud. Her eyes were still open but glassy and sightless. Haruno wondered if that was a thing for all people who died. It seemed to be like that even if they died in different ways. His fingers dug into his wrists. Dio's fingers must be very sharp to go into someone's neck like that.
After a moment Dio raised his hand to his mouth, licking the blood from his fingers before turning to face Haruno. His eyes were all shiny and golden like a cat's, even if it lacked the slit pupil, though the rest of his face was still shadowed.
"There, try to use your abilities upon her," Dio gestured towards the woman's body, his voice calm and deep.
Haruno didn't really know why Dio wanted him to use his magic on the lady since he just killed her but Haruno wasn't going to tell Dio 'No'. So instead he slid off the bed, half hanging off the duvet at some point before sliding down the rest of the way awkwardly. Quietly he padded across the room, resisting the urge to twist at his fingers or toy with his shirt hem. He tried to ignore Dio's unblinking stare from where the man was looming above the still body of the woman, stopping a foot from her.
She was pretty, Haruno thought, with dark shiny hair splayed across the ground beneath her. Her lashes were long and her skin was still smooth; not like his mother's, which had been bloated and blue. The wounds in her neck showed an ugly mushy redness but she didn't bleed. Haruno thought wounds like that would bleed but guessed Dio ate her all blood. He hadn't know vampires could do that with their hands, he thought they had to use their teeth.
"Try it." Dio's voice sounded like a hiss and Haruno hastened to obey.
He didn't want to touch the wound on her neck so instead he put his hand tentatively on her bare shoulder, kneeling on the floor next to her. Her skin was still warm but something lurched uncomfortably within him as he touched her, like something instinctive was rebelling against the action. Ignoring it, and wanting to please his father, Haruno took in a shaky breath before thinking as to how he changed the rocks- make something alive.
For nearly a minute he tried to force the impression through but nothing happened to his confusing and rising panic. Maybe his magic was gone? Could that happen?
Dio stood next to him, deep in shadows so the only thing Haruno could really see where his boots and cat-like eyes. Then The World appeared next to the vampire with a flurry of sparkling motes, deftly plucking one of the small golden bells from the ribbons hanging from Dio's belt and giving it to Haruno who nearly dropped it.
"Your Stand," Dio's voice was calmer this time but Haruno still was nervous.
To his almost tearful relief as soon as he focused his attention on the bell it transformed, flexing until it turned into the form of a small brown mouse. He watched it sniff at his palm before he turned it back into a bell and then using his spare hand to touch the lady's shoulder and trying to do the same. It should work, his magic wasn't gone.
Haruno frowned, growing upset. With his magic he just wanted things to be alive enough they turned alive. But for some reason the woman wasn't moving or turning into anything. She just remained there on the ground, getting colder and colder. The rocks worked, the bell worked, why wouldn't the lady change?
He tried again, pressing his small palm against her forehead and willing her to change like he'd done with the rocks to make frogs and snakes and the bell to make the mouse but she didn't so much as twitch.
"So, bringing the dead back to life is not one of your gifts," Dio finally said, after watching Haruno try to force his magic through for nearly a minute. There was a strange finality to his words and Haruno felt ashamed.
Dio didn't seem overly concerned despite his words but Haruno left the room shortly after. His hands felt weird after touching that dead woman and he wanted to wash them. He hadn't touched a dead person before- with his mother her shoes and socks had gotten in the way when he tried to pull her down but that strange lady on the ground was different. He could feel the ebb of her body heat and something was twisted up unhappily in his stomach.
As it was the vampire just waved Haruno away, not seeming too concerned by Haruno's failure. The four year old made his way down the stairs uneasy and feeling on the verge of tears for some reason. He was confused and pensive enough when he got to one of the floor landings, which opened to a hall looking towards the stairwell, he wandered into the corner and sat down on the random assortment of cushions to think. The bell was still in his grip, something he'd forgotten, and after a moment he tucked it into his pocket before settling back among the cushions.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, staring at his hands and internally struggling before a long tail nudged his arms. Haruno jumped, not even noticing his uncle next to him. The man probably jumped in through one of the countless windows along the walls or maybe he was just sneaky.
"Sheesh, settle down brat," Diego frowned at him, long tail flicking back and forth.
"Oh. I'm sorry," Haruno said, abashed.
"That's not a good look. Let me guess, Dio was pushing his heaven delusions again?"
"No," Haruno said, unsure but figured since Diego was Dio's brother they wouldn't mind knowing what each other did so he continued with, "Father killed a lady and wanted me to use my magic on her. But it didn't work."
Diego titled his head to the side, nostrils flaring slightly as he stared at Haruno. He thought he'd said something wrong, and maybe shouldn't have said anything, but then Diego said, "So what, he turned her into a ghoul?"
Haruno didn't know what a ghoul was, "Um, he stuck his fingers in her neck and she fell over and died."
"Well I suppose the less undead the better."
"I couldn't make the dead lady come back to life," Haruno said, upset. Dio hadn't seemed mad but Haruno was still unhappy couldn't do what was asked.
Diego frowned, scratching at the underside of his throat before he said , "Well, maybe your Stand can only affect material objects, it can't affect organic material. Though...You made those flowers grow, so maybe the living thing needs to be alive before it can be affected. If it's dead your powers will not work. Or perhaps you simply did it wrong. No matter. You're still young."
"Have you seen lots of dead people?" Haruno asked. Maybe Diego could explain that to Dio then.
"A fair few. Obviously when I became a Joestar that changed but I saw my share while living back in London," Diego said, "Some had been killed but many others were people who died from starvation of disease."
"Don't worry," Diego rolled his eyes, "Dio isn't going to throw a tantrum over you not being able to resurrect people. He was simply being nosy."
"I..." Haruno wasn't sure what to believe. When he made mistakes back home his mother would scream or his stepfather would hit. Knowing Dio was disappointed but not angry was something Haruno struggled to understand. He spent some time dithering before remember how easily Father killed that strange woman; if he wanted to hurt Haruno then surely he would have done so? And Dio's best friend Enrico liked Haruno and he guessed maybe that meant Dio liked him more as well.
A poke in the shoulder, "Look, if Dio is pissed off at you you'd notice, trust me on that," Diego grinned at him then, all sharp teeth, "He's probably just mad he didn't connect the fact you could make plants and thus animals sooner. He prides himself on knowing all about Stands but bah, that Enya witch taught him everything. Anyway kid, don't loose sleep over Dio being nosy and annoying." With that and another pat on the head, Diego left.
Haruno remained sitting in the corner of the large hall of the second floor, a few feet in front of the open window. There were countless plush cushions piled up on the corner and Haruno liked them. Many of them had pretty patterns or gold and silver embellishments that were so shiny in the moonlight streaming through the window behind him. He was reading the rest of The Alchemist, using the moon as a reading light. Behind him his uncle had pretend and was in his giant werebeast form, nearly indistinct from the wall and cushions, and sprawled out in a sinuous heap.
Haruno had been sitting on the cushions just watching people walking about the mansion- his father had many servants who looked very interesting, Haruno found out -when his uncle returned, handed him the book without a word before shifting fully and settling down behind him. Haruno had been meaning to finish the book but he got distracted by other things so he forgot. But he remembered he wanted to know what his father meant, especially when he now saw his golden ghost-friend The World. Enrico also spoke of fate and destiny and Haruno thought maybe the book would help with that. He was briefly distracted when Enya shuffled up the stairs, pausing to glare at the two before continuing up to Dio's tower, before he returned to his book.
"Well, why did you say that I don't know about love?" the sun asked the boy.
"Because it's not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it's not love to see everything from a distance, like you do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. When I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are."
So maybe that's what Enrico meant about heaven. Or maybe that God person was like that as well, had their own things to do. Haruno frowned, not too sure. Enrico did seem very close to Dio, maybe he loved him. He knew friends and family did. Maybe one day Haruno would have a friend who loved him. He wanted a good friend. His uncle was nice though, even if he still didn't really talk to Haruno that often, he just seemed to linger but Haruno felt that was nice.
For all Haruno knew love was needed to reach heaven. He thought the church place said that, something around Christmas when Santa Claus and the Jesus man were friends and shared the holiday. But God was about 'forgiveness' or something, Haruno was sure, so maybe that was another rule to get into his house.
'Depending on whether we become better or worse' Haruno wasn't sure what the weather had to do with it, but he was unsure if he was better or worse. Maybe he should wait until he was older and then figure that out. Haruno wasn't sure if there was an age limit, like there was for swimming in the pool alone or driving.
He rubbed his hand across the pages, that felt thicker and rougher than the ones he remembered back in the library at home. The mansion library looked better though, like something from a story book. Haruno guessed maybe he was in a story book now, since his father was a vampire lord, his uncle was a werebeast and Haruno had magic. He just wished his ghost Stand friend would show up soon.
The sound of clicking spurs caused Haruno to look up from his book towards the stairwell, to see an approaching figure.
It was a cowboy.
He was tall, broad shouldered and dirty blond hair. His trousers and shirt were thick with dust and dirt, while his wide brimmed hat had a few nicks taken from the brim. The sour smell of smoke curled around his face from the cigarette hanging loosely between his lips. He stopped at the top of the landing, spotting Haruno sitting in the corner with his book and cushions.
"Hello," Haruno said, after staring at the man for nearly a minute. He'd never seen a cowboy before. He thought they only lived in the Wild West and didn't leave. Maybe the cowboy took his horse. Haruno wouldn't mind seeing a horse.
The man looked fairly disturbed for some reason and Haruno wondered if he was afraid of the dark. It was very dark even if Haruno was making sure the slice of moonlight was landing on his book so he could see it better. Behind him Haruno heard the soft swish noise of his uncle's tail moving lazily to the side, curling around the cushions like a snake, before he hissed.
"Ah, don't mind me," the man said then, raising his hands in a disarming gesture, "Just here to talk to uh, Dio and that old lady."
Haruno stared at him some more, at least now knowing the cowboy was another one of his father's servants. He wasn't sure what a vampire Lord would need with a cowboy but then if Haruno lived in a mansion maybe he'd want a cowboy.
"I'll just...head up there," the cowboy said after a long beat of silence, pointing up the next flight of stairs before leaving in that direction with fairly brisk footsteps.
To Haruno's disappointment he didn't see any ghost lingering around the man and guessed maybe he wasn't magic like the other people. Or maybe his ghost was shy and Haruno should ask later. Behind him Diego arched his back, yawning widely to show rows of long lightly hooked fangs before he settled back down with lazy motions and a huff of breath. Haruno peered at the stairwell where the cowboy had gone up but he'd been swallowed up by the shadows. Maybe he could ask father or Enrico later.
With that in mind Haruno turned his attention back to the book, wanting to finish it before he went to bed.
"Haruno, do you know what Christmas is?"
"The birth of Santa?"
"Well...I suppose in some ways it could be considered such. But no, do you know who else is born on that day?"
"Um, that Jesus man who lives in those big pointy buildings with bells. I would hear them ring sometimes walking to school."
"Yes, in a church. True, the month and date Jesus Christ was born is not know to us but December twenty fifth was chosen as a day to celebrate him and his sacrifice to us."
"Does the Jesus man live in heaven?"
"He died for the sins of humanity and to show us to know our fates. Resisting it only leads to sorrow and pain. That is why God sends someone to help us realize the means to reach heaven."
"You mean Father?"
They were in the garden, only an hour past dawn. Haruno found himself greatly liking the little oasis within the mansion walls, he liked it far better than how dark the mansion would get at night. It would always remind him of how cold and silent his home used to be when his mother left him for nights on end. But the grass in the garden was soft and he could make little animal friends. He didn't know where Diego had gone, the man leaving after taking him back to his rooms the previous night and it took some trial and error for Haruno to remember his way back to the garden the following morning.
Enrico had found him shortly after and Haruno wondered if the man was staying somewhere nearby or if was having sleepovers with Father like those random ladies.
One of the frog's Haruno had made was sitting on the man's knee, little webbed feet clinging to the purple fabric of his pants. Enrico wasn't concerned, a knapsack filled with books and scrolls on the grass next to him. He'd been very pleased with Haruno's animal friends as well. It made Haruno feel a lot better, especially since a part of him still felt guilty for not making that dead lady from last night be alive even if Dio didn't seem to overly care.
As it was, Enrico had been kind when Haruno told him about the incident stating that creating life was not the same as restoring life. Haruno wondered if someone out there did have the ability to bring the dead back to life. Maybe his special friend was someone who could do that. He patted the head of the long green snake coiled around his neck, which he'd made from his scarf. It was a heavy, comforting weight and the scales were smooth and pretty.
"Does your ghost friend have magical powers?" Haruno suddenly asked. He'd seen Enrico's special ghost friend, with its melting crown and strange eyes, but he didn't know if it had special powers as well.
Enrico was silent for a long moment, the only noise being the rustling leaves of the trees in the faint breeze combined soft huffs and croaking of the animals, before he leaned over to rummage through his knapsack and pulled out a shiny round disc. Without comment he offered the disc to Haruno who took it in confusion. There was an odd heft to the disc, making it heavier than it appeared.
Rotating the disc made its smooth shiny surface shimmer with all the colours of the rainbow, as if it were iridescent. Haruno gazed at the blank smooth surface before a figure formed across it; It was a ghost spirit, humanoid except for the series of spikes jutting from its skull with skin as white and smooth as snow. Numerous fluffy clouds clung to its body, some of them seeping into the ghost as if it actually were made of clouds.
"There's a ghost in the disc," Haruno said, surprised.
"Yes." Was all Enrico said, watching him unblinkingly.
Haruno held the disc closer to his face, until his nose was nearly touching the cloud ghost image on the smooth shiny surface. The disc, along with being heavy, felt warm in his hands. As if...
"It's alive," Haruno looked over to Enrico.
"Why do you say that?"
Biting his lip, he looked back at the disc, "Um, sometimes I can tell if people are around. Like if they're around a corner I can't see or even if mum was home when I finished school. I could just...tell if they were there."
"You can sense life?" Enrico titled his head to the side, "That would make sense, considering your abilities. To answer your question; yes, the disc is alive. In a way. It is a Stand turned into a disc. It is...one of my abilities."
Haruno gazed at the disc and the cloud ghost with renewed interest, knowing it was someone's special ghost friend but stuck there. But if it were there, then where was its human?
He asked Enrico as much and his expression tightened, "He is somewhere...Somewhere safe."
"Won't he miss his ghost friend?"
"My other ability is to take memories," Enrico told him, "You cannot miss what you cannot remember. So he cannot."
"Do you wish you can forget things?" Haruno asked.
"When tragic events occur, at the time I wished for the pain to leave me." Enrico said solemnly, "To forget my mistakes which lead to such a thing. But then I understood they were necessities, I have to go through that pain to learn more about myself and what it means for us human beings. To learn of the pain and loss which occurs when we lose our way. Many humans cannot bear such a burden, however, yet I can preserve them even so."
Haruno was about to ask who the cloudy ghost belonged to when Diego landed with a soft huff a few feet away. Both Enrico and Haruno looked over as the short man straightened up, long feathered tail flicking behind him. The snake around Haruno's neck shifted, scales sliding across his skin.
"Ah there you are Pucci, don't you have my brother's bed to go fall into?" Diego said snarkily.
Enrico frowned, obviously not appreciate Diego's words. Haruno hugged the snake closer, wondering if the two would start yelling at each other. He hated yelling.
"You should mind your tongue."
"The boy is fine enough, he isn't a moron," Diego said, not even looking at Haruno, "If you're old enough around death then I doubt anything else will shock him."
"Surprisingly enough, it may be so. Regardless, I have dallied here enough," with a disapproving look at Diego Enrico took the disc from Haruno and gathered up his things. The snake hissed faintly at the moment, even as Enrico gently brushed off the frog clinging to his leg before he placed a hand on Haruno's head.
"You are a very special boy, Haruno," Enrico said gently. Then he left the garden without a backwards glance, ignoring Diego's frosty stare.
Haruno looked down at his lap even as one of the frog crawled up onto his shin while the snake slid lazily around his throat. He wondered who the fluffy cloud ghost belonged to and what Enrico said caused him so much pain with but he knew enough not to pry despite his curiosity. But Enrico was so nice so maybe he wouldn't mind. Haruno decided he'd ask him later if Enrico was still in a good mood.
By the time Haruno looked back up, Diego was gone.
Haruno spent the rest of the day on his own, finding his way to the library and trying to read. He always liked the smell of books even if many of the books in the mansion were a lot bigger and longer than he was used to. He had a few naps in between as well, sleeping on the couch whenever he got tired. A lot of the books were strange and Haruno couldn't read some of the languages but it did make him think about that language that used pretty pictures as their words. Even with the words he could read some confused him but he tried to pay attention to the words he didn't yet know and think about what they meant. It was difficult but Haruno didn't have to go to school in Cairo so he had a lot of spare time. He was sure if he went looking he could maybe find Vanilla Ice or even Telence since Enrico had things to do and Haruno couldn't climb up walls so he had no idea where his uncle was. Maybe he was in the city somewhere. Haruno wouldn't mind seeing more of the city.
But as it was he was left alone for some days, usually only being taken around the mansion if he was hungry but otherwise Haruno was left to his own devices. He was fairly isolated growing up anyway so loneliness wasn't unknown to him but a part of him was still upset at being left alone. He knew better than to actually say as much even if he hadn't been hurt so far in Cairo or even really yelled at.
Haruno also guessed maybe he should be more sad his mother was dead but after crying those first times while with Diego he just didn't feel sad anymore. It was just something that happened. Haruno wondered if that meant there was something wrong with him. Considering his father was a vampire, he had to think he was part vampire as well. He wasn't sure how it actually worked, since he could go outside in the sun without bursting into flames. He was pretty sure that was what happened to vampires if they went outside. He could be wrong.
However as it was Haruno was alone for a large portion and he did some more experimenting with his magic but he wanted to show people. However Haruno had always been good at reading people and even if Dio had ordered him to not be harmed some of the people he saw in the mansion were strange and not in an interesting way. In more of a scary way. It made him glad he had magic, he could turn one of his books into a snake or something and it could bite them. He'd seen a pretty lady with a dark red dress but something felt very wrong with her, just something weird and gross that made him uneasy. She had only looked at him before continuing down the hall but he still didn't like it.
There was also a small man with a squat face who seemed to like clinging to ceilings all the time. Haruno knew he was a vampire because he had sharp teeth like one but the one time the vampire had seen him, he started yelling about Haruno sneaking in. Vanilla Ice intervened then, calling the man an idiot and back handing him into a wall. Haruno thought vampires were supposed to be strong but Vanilla Ice was a human and just hit the vampire without issue. Maybe it was because he had a ghost. Either way the little vampire left Haruno alone after that, deliberately avoiding him whenever Haruno noticed him. Once the vampire even jumped out the window to avoid passing him when he was going to bed one night.
Besides from that he was left more or less alone. He tried to tell himself it was better than being yelled at but he still missed company. His magic animals only did so much, even his sparkly red egg which he still liked. He did occasionally think of finding Dio again since he knew the vampire lived up in his tower but figured he had important things to do. Or Dio could still be annoyed Haruno couldn't make that dead lady be alive again. He wasn't sure.
That time when he was walking slowly back to his room- he was getting a lot better at finding his way through the mansion, even at night -when he saw Diego sitting on a windowsill, back resting on the arch and a foot resting on the sill, knee nearly against his chest. His long tail was curled around his leg but Haruno couldn't see most of his features because it was so dark outside. Diego never seemed to be cold even if he only wore thin dress shirts. Haruno would wear his thicker shirts and scarfs when it was night, still liking his new clothes.
"Hello," Haruno said politely when he got close, smiling at his uncle.
Diego looked at him, Haruno at least able to see his bright blue eyes even if it was night, "What do you want, brat?"
He faltered, "Um, to say hello?"
The man laughed, teeth all sharp and pointy, "So polite. Besides, you're faring well enough without someone hovering over you."
Haruno was worried Diego might fall out the window but despite his precarious position he remained in place. Haruno wondered if maybe when he was an adult he'd have good balance or Diego's tail helped with it. He always seemed to have his tail around and Haruno guessed he just liked his tail. Maybe if Haruno grew a tail he'd like it as well. Haruno wasn't very adept at knowing such things but he did like how Diego's blond hair seemed to be all silver from the night behind him so he decided to say as much.
"Night is so sparkly here and it makes your hair all shiny," Haruno said to Diego, "I sometimes got locked outside but it's nicer here."
His uncle shrugged, "I guess. If that's one thing I understood early on is the stars don't care. I remembered when I returned to England, to the ruins of the Joestar estate, and the stars were the same."
"Do you think people live up there?"
"Urgh, you mean that heaven tripe?" Diego rolled his eyes so hard it looked like it hurt.
Haruno thought about that for a moment, "Maybe? I don't know, I still don't really know if its a house in the sky or something. But space is big, isn't it? I read about Mars. It's like Earth but has no water. That's why its dead."
"Yes." Haruno would like to think there were aliens. Maybe one would be his friend.
"Well considering what I read about space everyone agrees it is very large if not infinite. So it's highly likely there's aliens out there though I'd be more likely to believe in that then that heaven nonsense and whatnot." Diego leaned forward until his forehead was resting against his knee, an uncomfortable looking position.
Haruno wanted to ask why Diego was so angry about that topic, he obviously didn't like Enrico at all despite Enrico being very nice. Haruno wanted to ask but figured it would just make Diego angry at him so he decided to not do so. But still, aliens. He wondered if they looked like people but different like She-Ra or even look like the Transformers he remembered watching television shows of. Or maybe heaven was up in space. Haruno hoped maybe it was, space was very pretty with all the twinkly stars.
Then someone screamed.
The scream was loud enough it jolted Haruno out his thinking and for Diego to lift his head up with a snort. Haruno frowned, feeling the hairs on his arms stand up as the shriek slowly faded away. What was that?
Then he was picked up by Diego and whisked away out the window, fast enough the wind stung his eyes. He thought maybe Diego was going to see Father but instead his uncle jumped up on top of the surrounding walls, balancing on it with a clawed limb with Haruno hefted under one arm. Instead of the tower they were looking down at the open courtyard as Enya ran past below, sobbing and shrieking as she charged through the massive gates and took off. A bleeding cat also sped by, jumping over the wall with its white coat bloody as it ran off in the opposite direction.
"Hm, well there goes Enya," Diego said, watching as the howling witch was rapidly lost from sight even as the dull boom of the gates shutting echoed through the air, "What on Earth was she screaming about?"
"I don't know. She sounded very upset," Haruno frowned. He hoped the cat was alright. Enya was an adult and a witch so she could take care of herself but the cat was all red and in pain.
Pet Shop soared past them, flaring his wings as he landed on the gates and looking in the direction Enya had fled. Then the bird looked back at them and shrugged in such a human gesture Haruno giggled.
"Well as far as I know Enya currently has two obsessions; Dio and her son. Considering Dio is still up there-" he flicked the tip of his tail over his shoulder towards the tower, "I would say she got some fairly bad news about that kid."
"Oh." Haruno didn't even know Enya was a mother. She looked too old. Maybe it was a witch thing.
"No point crying, even if Jei is dead I'd guess it was deserved considering his hobby," Diego sniffed, shifting his grip on Haruno so the four year was tugged against his chest, "Though woe to any caught by Enya. She seems the kind to enjoy playing with her food."
Haruno woke up in bed with his face streaked in tears.
Confused he sat up, his lamb held tight in the crook of an elbow as he scrubbed at his face with his hand. He wasn't sure why he was crying and didn't even know if he'd had a sad dream. Sometimes that'd happened to Haruno but since he'd been in Egypt he hadn't had any bad dreams oddly enough. Egypt wasn't as scary as he'd thought when he first arrived and all the really nice thick blankets on his bed meant even with the window open he could just burrow in for warmth.
He cleaned up in the bathroom, scrubbing at his small face with a damp hand towel and also changed into more of his new clothes. He liked the pretty winding patterns on the hem and how airy everything felt. By the time he was done the sky was heated with the blazing sun, only a few wisps of clouds discolouring the bright blue. The cold air of the great mansion slowly shifted into a welcoming warmth as Haruno patted his pretty crimson egg and left to do more wandering.
As usual there was the urge to go to the garden and make all his stones become alive little animals again- and his scarf, he think he left one by accident down there which he made that snake friend -but instead he decided to look around more of the mansion. And maybe if he found Enrico he could ask if they could go out into the city again. Haruno only saw a really small amount of it when he was led out previous and wouldn't mind seeing more. Especially those pyramids his uncle mentioned. He wondered if they really were that big.
Quite a few corridors were ones he knew now, having gotten lost quite a few times. He remembered one room which had an entire wall of bottles filled with smelly liquid that made his nose burn and also found the library. How, when it was supposed to be on a different floor, Haruno wasn't sure but he got the suspicion that weird trickster fog was making his brain all confused again.
He did wander by Vanilla Ice at one point, nearly missing the tall, heavily built man from where he was lurking in the shadows. Vanilla Ice said nothing, just watched Haruno with his intense stare as he walked by. Haruno wondered how he never got cold since the man never wore pants. It would be rude to ask, though, so Haruno just waved at the man and carried on down the corridor. When he snuck a glance over his shoulder when he reached the end Vanilla Ice was gone.
He must have lots of things to do, Haruno thought. He guessed Vanilla Ice was a butler person like Telence. The mansion was quite large and there would probably be a lot to do. It also made him think of Midler, with her sparkly skirt and thick pink hair, and then about Enya and the old witch's screaming. Diego had taken Haruno to his room after that, telling him to not be bothered overly by Enya's shrieking before his uncle left. Haruno had done as he'd been told and went to sleep but even now he wasn't sure why Enya was so upset. Maybe her son really had been hurt. Haruno's mother hadn't care when he'd been hurt though and Enya seemed stranger than his own mother.
Haruno wasn't really sure and the witch wasn't around for him to ask. Maybe she'd be back in a few days.
His exploring led him down to the ground floor where he found another room filled with lots of bottles. He also found some strange women lying in front of an elaborate table in one of the ballrooms, where the heavy drapes had been drawn with only a scattering of candles proving dim light. They were sleeping on top of silk sheets laid on the ground, with the table before them covered in sparkly gold cups and paintings and coins like a buffet. He still thought his egg was better. The whole room also smelled weird, with a smell that made his nose wrinkle but he ignored it to sneak about inside.
He tried shaking one of the ladies awake, but her body was all stiff and cold so Haruno thought she was in a really deep sleep. The other women seemed to be the same but Haruno wasn't sure why they had those weird, five lumpy marks around on their necks. They looked painful like big black bruises in the dim flickering light but none of the ladies were awake so Haruno guessed it wasn't that bad so he left them to sleep.
The next room he checked looked like another spare bedroom, with a plush bed and expensive rug splayed across the stone floor. The window was open and free air and sunlight was streaming through, dust motes floating about. And on the old chest resting against the wall just below the window was a long dark object.
It was a sword.
Haruno had never seen a real life sword before. He'd seen them in books and stuff but never just lying there like that. He thought knights and magical people who fought dragons were the ones allowed to have swords but now he guessed vampire lords with magical ghost friend Stands also owned swords.
The pommel and sheath were made from a gleaming black material and thickly embellished with gold. The material shimmered as Haruno approached it, the sun casting brilliant flickers across the gold and small rubies along the hilt. An oval red stone was set in the middle of the cross guard, a bright gleam seeming to roll through it when Haruno reached out a hand to touch it; trying to tug on the pommel was useless, as it seemed stuck as if fused with glue, so he started running his palm down the smooth sleek sheath.
The sword felt warm when he touched it, alive in a way that reminded him of the disc Enrico had handed him. He ran his small hands down the shiny black material, before trailing the wavy curves of the thick golden cross guard. The stone gleamed again and Haruno felt a weird shift along the weapon as if it had shivered. This time when he tugged at the pommel the sword slipped free of the sheath with ease, the shimmering, razor-sharp blade gleaming with a glossy light in the sun.
Haruno felt more than the heard the strange humming emanating from the blade, that seemed to reverberate through his fingers, up to his arm to bounce about in his skull. He couldn't tear his gaze away from the sharp length, the blade almost looking wet.
Ahaha! So you- A rough voice suddenly spoke next to Haruno, making him jump, but just as quickly the voice fell silent with a sound akin to a book slamming shut.
Haruno looked over his shoulder, clutching the sword protectively to his chest as he tried to locate the newcomer but the room was empty. He thought maybe it was another magical ghost but they all had human friends they followed around, like Whitesnake and Enrico and The World and Father.
"Hello?" Haruno asked, wondering if maybe a ghost lived in the room and was made Haruno had been rude via not knocking.
A long pronounced silence followed that, only interrupted with a fluttering brown butterfly came through the open window. Haruno watched as it flew around the room before suddenly swooping to land on the sword's gleaming blade. Its wings promptly shriveled and it fell to the ground, dead. Alarmed, Haruno leaned down to look more closely at the dead insect, not noting how the sword blade shimmered in purple to phase through his shoulder and arm to avoid lethally cutting him.
Don't hold me like that, fool! the stranger's voice was angry now, a weird snarling at the end of their sentence and something flashed at the edge of his vision.
Haruno grabbed at the sword with both hands, unable to curl his fingers fully around the hilt while he made the mistake of grabbing the blade with his other hand in his confusion. The blade passed harmlessly through his palm and Haruno jumped back, managing to get both hands around the pommel. The blade fell down in front of him, stopping to wedge into the plush rug with a sharp snick. The sword shuddered in his hands and Haruno would've dropped it if not for the fear of breaking it.
For a long moment he stayed in that position, awkwardly gripping the sword hilt with the tip stabbed into the rug. The sword was longer than he was tall so it was straining to hold it up with his small arms. The shape at the edge of his vision was back but this time it seemed to be making a weird flailing gesture before stopping. Haruno's sweaty fingers tightened around the sword, breath coming in short huffs.
"Is someone there?" Haruno finally asked.
No. There was a brief pause before the voice snapped, And put me down. Back in the sheath.
"Um, the what?"
Oh for- the sheath! The thing you pulled me out of! Put me back in there before you cut off your fingers or something! You're lucky I recognized you before I chopped off your whole arm.
"You're..." Haruno looked at the glistering sword, the hilt warm and alive around his hands, "You're the sword?"
An annoyed huff, I am Anubis, a Stand bound to the sword forged by a man long dead. I have-
"Anubis?" Haruno's eyes went wide, "You're the dog god?" He was pretty sure that was right, reading those books with the Egyptian Gods. He didn't understand a lot of it, since they seemed to fight a lot, but he knew they were part animals and one was called Anubis who looked after all the dead people. Or something, Haruno also thought he ate hearts but maybe that was wrong and he just liked to be a sword sometimes.
No. I am Anubis. That's enough, The haughty voice said even as the shape at the corner of his eye became more detailed and close, I am the Stand bound to that sword.
"Um, do you know me?" Haruno asked even as his arms began to tremble.
I know of you. Lucky, considering if I hadn't then you'd be dead and Lord Dio would be...displeased with me. The shape shifted forward and Haruno could see a long dark snout and glowing yellow eyes looking at him.
"You work for my father?" Haruno didn't even know why he was surprised. His arms hurt now with tingly pain so he carefully lowered the sword onto the ground, nearly bumping into the chest.
Yes. He is the one who found me.
A soft growl, I was stored within a museum storehouse for years before Lord Dio found me. It was incredibly boring.
"Oh. Do you want me to take you outside?"
"You said its boring," Haruno explained, "So maybe you want to go outside? Um, it's sunny and there's Pet Shop."
The shape next to him consolidated into a recognizable form, humanoid except for the head of a large, savage looking dog of a dark shade that matched the sword sheath and hilt. Its muzzle was curled up slightly to show rows of long teeth. Haruno thought Anubis was another ghost but he looked at the sword on the ground and wasn't sure. Anubis just seemed too different.
I seek to bathe in the blood of my enemies, not to frolic about gardens, Anubis eventually said, yellow eyes narrowed, I will be used to kill those accused Joestars who hunt Lord Dio!
"Joestars?" Haruno frowned at that, worried. He didn't want Dio to be hurt. Dio was nice. Scary but still nice. But anyway, that didn't make sense- Diego told him Papa had been a Joestar but he was dead. Haruno remembered patting his skull which was so smooth and giving it flowers. Maybe Anubis would like some flowers.
I um. You know what, never mind, Anubis said hastily, waving its humanesque hands in a nervous gesture, I'm just uh, I sleep a lot I guess? I don't really know what plans Lord Dio has or who even is hunting who. Hmm, well uh, just look at the sun, I must be getting back to sleep. Go away.
"I see you've found Anubis," Diego's voice came from the doorway, forestalling Haruno's pestering.
He jumped and Anubis gave a grunt. Diego looked amused more than anything, tail flicking from side to side before pushing himself off and approaching them.
"Odd thing, isn't it? Knowing that a soul can still be bound even after the original is long dead," Diego said, with an odd sing-song note in his voice.
Haruno looked to where Anubis had been but the dog-headed spirit was gone, making him frown. Diego bent down to pick up the sword, easily holding the long blade before slipping it back into its sheath and then putting Anubis back on the chest.
"Oh, he was interesting and wanted to go outside..." Haruno bit his lip as he stared at the magic sword which was now inert and silent.
With a huff Diego waved that off, "It doesn't have needs like you and I. The lack of body no doubt changed it beyond its original self from when it was affixed to a person. Either way its a slight shade more interesting that most of these dullards. But regardless it doesn't need this conversation unless its fighting. It is not a human with such needs anymore."
"I...Okay." He looked at the cut rug where the sword had punctured into before gnawing on his lip when a tail poked him in the arm.
Diego grinned at him, all cracked skin and long teeth, "Come on brat, time to see the sights of Egypt."
Cairo was still busy and warm, just like the time Haruno had been taken through the city by Enrico. Diego was just as chatty, though he seemed more mean about it compared with Enrico. Haruno wondered if it was because they grew up in different places; Enrico was Italian but Haruno wasn't really sure about Diego since he was a lot older than the rest of them. Apparently older people were supposed to be mean and yell at children or something. Haruno wasn't sure since Diego didn't yell.
Either way he liked being outside, the sun was so nice even if he had to wear a hat because otherwise he'd get sunburnt. Diego didn't care and told him that he didn't have such 'mundane problems' anymore. Haruno didn't know what mundane meant but knew problems weren't good so was happy for his uncle to not have any.
"Well we could visit the pyramids and Sphinx," Diego was saying, "I haven't actually visited them before and am curious. One in particular is the oldest among the seven wonders of the ancient world and the only intact. Goodness knows Jojo enjoyed blathering about such things."
Haruno didn't know Jojo liked such things, and wondered if Papa was ever allowed outside of the mansion for trips. He hoped he still had the flowers Haruno had made him. It also made him wonder what Father did for a job- was being a lord a job? Haruno wasn't sure even if in his stories lords and ladies were doing lots of stuff like magic and fighting dragons. He hadn't met any dragons yet even if Diego's beast form reminded him of a dragon, with its claws and teeth and tail. It made him wonder if any of his father's servants had the power to be a dragon. Maybe Haruno could make one. He made a mental note for that.
As they wound their way through the city Haruno kept on being distracted by all the people and things going on. Diego was leading the way, chattering about the pyramids, the city, about dead people. Haruno found it difficult to keep up with the man's rapid talking, Diego seemingly moreso speaking to himself, but Haruno didn't really mind even if he kept on being worried that he'd be carried away with the throng of people streaming past on all sides.
Haruno stuck close to Diego's side, nearly bumping into the man's leg as they walked now the stone streets. There was a fairly persistent stream of people going to and fro, the low drone of city noise bouncing through the streets and the smell of people, food and car fumes wafting alongside the steady bustle.
He felt nervous in the crowd, just because of how many people there were. It made him worried that he'd get swept away with the sea of humanity. Last time he'd been out was with Enrico the man had made sure to hold Haruno's hand so he wouldn't get lost. Diego wasn't holding Haruno's hand even if he wasn't telling off Haruno for bumping into him but maybe he just forgot? Diego did complain sometimes about forgetting stuff or being annoyed with how 'quickly things change' as he was currently complaining about planes for some reason as they rounded a corner, nearly bumping into a gaggle of brightly dressed women.
Haruno almost tripped as he dodged them but Diego caught him and rightened him before he could fall, which didn't even interrupt the man's monologue about the airport and city 'economical growth' or something Haruno didn't really understand as he let go of Haruno's shoulders. But it made him think of how Enrico had held his hand so he wouldn't get lost in the city so when he and Diego resumed walking down the path he tried to grab Diego's hand.
The third time he managed to get a firm grip of Diego's fingers only for the man to quickly yank his hand out of Haruno's in a deliberate gesture. Diego didn't stop to glare or reprimand Haruno but he still looked down at the ground, feeling hurt and rejected.
He lagged back, wringing his fingers together nervously but Diego just slowed down his stride. Regardless of the flood of people he kept track of Haruno, as sometimes he'd look up and be unable to spot Diego only for the man to suddenly appear right next to him. Though Diego still didn't hold Haruno's hand and Haruno didn't try to grab it again, instead retreating in on himself somewhat. However he quickly found the sheer confusion distracted him from his hurt, the relentless rush of people getting thicker as they made their way through a marketplace. Haruno's unhappiness got sidetracked by all the stalls and shiny wares out on display, even if Diego loudly complained about the people. Most didn't seem to understand him though he occasionally got a dirty look while Haruno peered up at countless colourful scarves decorating a stall like rainbow snakes.
The stone buildings hugging the street were lined with lanterns, bags, wind chimes, golden plates and countless glass ornaments as the stalls spread down the block and seemed to grow up the infrastructure like vines. Haruno kept bumping into people and sometimes Diego, as he kept on being distracted by all the shiny things on display. At one point they seemed to cross an invisible line as the stalls shifted from merchandise to food. Diego snapped down several things before hauling Haruno out of the throng of people.
Feeling disorientated- like breaking free of the surface of a warm bath -Haruno allowed Diego to partially carry him until they had escaped the market and were near the streets. The rumble of traffic and the sour smell of fumes scratched at his senses as Haruno blinked, shaking his head as Diego set him back down.
"Honestly as if I'm going to trek the whole way to those accursed triangles through those ingrates," Diego snorted as he flagged down a passing taxi at Haruno's confused stare.
He was then all but tossed in as Diego spoke to the driver in a language Haruno didn't know. Haruno remained blinking and wide eyed, the change between the roar of noise and humanity suddenly snapped away in the air conditioned car. Diego just bared sharp teeth at him in a grin to which Haruno wasn't sure if he should return.
Instead he tentatively asked, "Can't we walk there?"
"Your legs are short and you're still just a brat," Diego said, making Haruno look away even if the man's voice held no bite, "Besides, these vehicles make everything easier. Goodness knows I can hardly be bothered to deal with the hysteria if I were...my usual self to reach it. Hm, perhaps though at night..." He trailed off, lips pursed as he fell into thought.
Haruno nodded, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. It had gotten very confusing in the market even if everything was so pretty. Not as pretty as his red egg, but still pretty and sparkling. There was also all the people, and Haruno hadn't really met a lot of people before. Not when he'd been back home or even at his father's mansion with all the servants; he'd seen some people around but not lots and lots like at the market. But maybe the pyramids were just as pretty as well. He hoped so.
The pyramids were, as Haruno quickly found out, very big. As Diego was telling him they were essentially giant tombs. Haruno had seen a cemetery but the headstones had been a lot smaller. Not like the pyramids which were huge even if they were really old. Haruno trotted obediently next to Diego after he paid the taxi driver, walking along the dusty earth towards the towering stone sculpture. There was also the sphinx reclining in the distance and Haruno wondered if it had been a real creature that got tired one day and fell asleep and turned to stone because it was so tired.
"It's really called Khufu's Horizon," Diego was telling him, "The oldest and tallest of the pyramids."
"Why are people going inside?" Haruno asked, watching the distant group milling around in front of where they were headed.
"If there's one thing humanity tends to always find interesting, its with the dead. Little wonder we enjoy invading tombs and ransacking burial grounds."
"But won't the tomb person get mad because they're sleeping?" He thought they were like Father, who slept through the day. After all the pyramids were very big and fancy like the mansion so maybe that was it.
Diego shrugged, "Eh, I think they're beyond caring at this point. Regardless, if they were lingering as...ghouls or ghosts or something, then they probably would've killed everyone by now."
"Maybe they're a vampire, like Father, and just sleep a lot."
"People had a habit of eating the mummified remains," Diego said, "Thought it would heal them or some such nonsense."
"Father eats people." Haruno paused, wrinkling his nose, "I think. Does it work too?"
"Well he moreso drinks people but yes, you're correct at least in terms of vampires. Though he doesn't eat the dead. Who would even want to eat spoilt rotten meat?"
Haruno wasn't really sure about eating people but then they got closer to the pyramids and he could see it was made up of countless thick blocks of stone and quickly forgot what they were talking about. Sometimes it would take him a lot to just build a small house out of blocks but the pyramid was so much bigger and the blocks were even bigger than he was. It must've taken a really long time for them to make it as Haruno wasn't sure if they had cars and stuff to move the blocks around back when the pyramid was made. It was old.
He also saw a really deranged looking horse with a bendy neck and knobbly legs walk by. A 'camel', Diego called it. Haruno thought it looked pretty funny actually and was making weird noises as its rider urged it along past them. It smelled really bad as well, which made Haruno giggle and hold his nose. Diego just huffed next to him as the horse thing ambled by, which made a coughing noise while its rider remained perched precariously on its lumpy back.
There wasn't any ghosts inside the pyramid, much to Haruno's disappointment. It did remind him of Father's mansion though, all cold and dark. He sometimes felt like something was watching him but that was probably just the other tourists wandering around. He wondered if there were things like Anubis, though. While the sword said he wasn't the real Anubis maybe the real one lived somewhere else. Haruno wondered if he would be nice or really ate hearts. They might taste weird or maybe Anubis would like steak.
"Do you like dead things?" Haruno asked Diego, who was sniffling at one of the stone walls in the gut of the pyramid.
"No. Jojo was the one always more interested in archeology. Was his chosen course before everything went...bad," Diego finished carefully, looking around the chamber with slightly narrowed eyes.
"Study of ancient civilizations, that kind of thing. Hm, wondered what he would've thought of that temple in Mexico...This one doesn't smell the same, though...."
Haruno really didn't get it, but he liked listening to his uncle over the tour guide. Apparently a lot of the pyramids had been rigged with traps to deter thieves and Haruno wasn't sure if they would walk into one by accident. Diego didn't seem overly concerned, even if Haruno thought maybe the traps were something he could sense though Haruno hadn't seen Diego's tail for a while. Maybe he only uses it back at the mansion, Haruno thought. It made sense thought had had thought Dio was a lord so everyone around would know but maybe he was a secret lord. Haruno was unsure.
Either way he found out it was quite chilly in the guts of the pyramids even if they smelled interesting and the stone felt nice underneath his fingertips. A part of him wanted to use his magic on the stone, see if he could make animal friends, but thinking about how Diego didn't have his beast parts made him think he should keep it a secret as well so he resisted the urge.
Diego did like talking about the history of the pyramids as they wandered about, eventually going back outside in the sun and going to the sphinx. Haruno asked if Diego wanted to learn archeology as well but Diego had scoffed at the notion. Haruno then maybe thought Diego was thinking about all that stuff because he missed Jojo, since while Haruno had met Papa as a skull he didn't really do much. It also made him think that Diego missed Papa which made sense when he thought that- they had been brothers, after all, even if they'd been mad at one another. Haruno hoped Diego wasn't too sad over it, since he still had Papa's skull to keep him company.
Still, the sphinx was fascinating even if there was chunks of it missing. Haruno wondered why it hadn't been fixed but maybe they just didn't have the parts. It was really old as well. Older than him, anyway. At least he rapidly warmed up in the sun as they walked by the sphinx, Diego loudly complaining about the people crowding the place. Diego didn't seem to like people that much and Haruno was curious if the man had a special friend- or would he care about that stuff? Haruno did but maybe Diego didn't.
"At least we're away from that stuffy mansion," Diego said irritably as he leaned against the railing beyond the sphinx.
"Oh, are we not allowed out here?" Haruno said. He didn't want to upset Father. He remembered Vanilla Ice saying he wasn't allowed to leave but Enrico and Diego got special treatment.
Diego huffed, "We're still being watched, never you mind."
At Haruno's questioning look Diego pointed up, Haruno following it to see a tiny shadow circling high above, occasionally dipping past the occasion puffy cloud that drifted by.
Pet Shop? Haruno hadn't even noticed and wouldn't have if Diego hadn't pointed out the falcon.
"I'm starving," Diego declared, pulling Haruno around so suddenly he nearly fell over, "Why not have a bite to eat? Goodness knows I haven't eaten for hours and as fun as Jojo would've found it, staring at giant rocks all day loses it luster after the third hour."
Haruno was more used to Diego manhandling him via picking him up like a doll or tugging him around, even if the man steadfastly refused to hold hands with him. Haruno gave no complaints however as he was very hungry so being taken back to the hub of the city meant food. Through the travel back the dark speck of Pet Shop remained high above and that made Haruno feel happy; if the falcon had been sent then surely Father wasn't mad they weren't in the mansion. Pet Shop was his father's bird, after all. Haruno wondered if Dio had any other pets.
They wound up at a lavish restaurant, Diego snagging a table outside the main doors but within the shade. Haruno clambered up into the seat opposite, watching the nearby street before the waitress seemed to materialized out of thin air next to him.
Diego seemed to order the majority of things from the menu, such as hamam, koshary, shawarma and countless others Haruno hadn't heard of. Then he looked expectantly at Haruno, who flushed as the waitress also looked at him, as he read the menu. A lot of the words he didn't understand but he did recognize mahshi, being the thing Enrico had brought him from the stall the other day and it had been nice so he decided to pick that.
"Already a fan of Egyptian food, eh?" Diego asked as he leaned back in his chair, sounding amused.
"Um, Enrico brought me some of that and it was nice," Haruno said.
Diego's expression darkened at the man's name and Haruno wondered if they two had had a fight again. Enrico seemed to think Diego would be mean but Haruno wasn't sure. Either way Diego didn't elaborate and even shifted his gaze to the bustle of people moving by the small restaurant. Haruno was fascinated by the variety of people, having lived in a small town, but how there were just so many. There were also lots of cars and trucks and buses but no one was getting run over despite the flood of humanity. He also spotted Pet Shop, who had descended from the sky and was now perched on the top of a large pillar of marble in a small square across the street. Even so far away he could see the glint of the falcon's metal cap and flowing scarf, and he thought about inviting the bird to lunch when the waitress returned with the first dishes.
She also came back with quite a lot more for Diego who immediately began to eat once the first dish was laid down. One in particular looked like two roasted chickens laid on a bed of rice which Haruno squinted at.
"It's pigeon," Diego said before grabbing one of them in his hands and stuffing the entire thing in his mouth., jaw stretched open to a bizarre edge.
Haruno stared as Diego swallowed the thing whole, neck bulging as he sucked it down his gullet. Licking his fingers, Diego did the same for the other grilled pigeon. Haruno had no idea how Diego could eat it like that without choking or dying. They would get told off by the teachers if any of them ate that fast. Diego obviously didn't have that problem, Haruno nibbling on his mashi. He remembered them being stuffed grape leaves with...spiced rice? He wasn't too sure but they were hot and tasty so he began to slowly eat through his plate, pausing to take a few sips of water.
Diego could eat a lot, as by the time it took Haruno to eat three of his mashi Diego managed to devour over half of his assorted dishes which had taken up most of the table. The man ate quickly but besides his 'eating a whole grilled pigeon' he actually chewed and tasted the dish; he just ate fast and a lot. Haruno was equal parts fascinated and confused before deciding to focus on his own meal because he was quite hungry. Anyway it was rude to stare.
Haruno chewed at his food, relishing the taste but despite being happy to be outside and spending time with his uncle the magical ghost sword's words to him began to nibble at his thoughts. Haruno never really thought a lot about having family back when he lived at home; he knew his mother had a grandmother but Haruno never remembered her and his stepfather didn't have any family. He now had Father and Papa and his uncle which was good but Anubis, the dog sword, said something about other Joestars. Papa was a Joestar, so was Uncle. So who were the others?
"Um...Uncle..." Haruno began hesitantly before remembering how annoyed Diego got when he told him before about some parts of Papa's life. Maybe he'd get angry if he asked about the other family, or the pretty lady Erina or those other Joestars. Diego stuck another
Diego's gaze darted to him, even if the rest of him remained lax in the middle of chewing on a kebab skewered with roasted meat. After moment Diego had a 'go on' motion with his hand even as he swallowed down another cube of juicy beef.
"Anubis said something to me before," Haruno said slowly. Diego continued to look at him, not seemingly overly concerned so Haruno rushed out with, "About how um, he was going to be used to kill the 'Joestars' who are hunting Father. Who are they? Are they um, Joestars like Papa?" Or maybe they just had the same last name. Some other kids in his old school had the same last name but weren't related.
With a splintering noise Diego broke the kebab skewer between his teeth, swallowing it and the rest of the meat down his throat. Then he gulped down several mouthfuls of water from his glass, wiping at his mouth as he put it back down on the table. Throughout it all he didn't take his gaze off Haruno, making him want to fidget. Instead Haruno kept his hands on the edge of the table, nibbling at his lip but still curious about the magical sword's words to him and hoping Diego would tell him.
"Well to explain a few things I'm going to have to bore you with some family history first," Diego finally said after another bout of silent staring.
"I don't mind," Haruno said because he didn't. He was curious about the notion of more family, for good or ill. Maybe they would be his friends.
Diego drummed his nails on the tabletop, watching Haruno with partially shut eyes like a cat. Then he proceeded ate another dish laid out before him, which looked like rice and diced meat, chomping it down with a series of sharp snaps. Haruno watched his uncle eat the dish before chewing on another one of his rolls, patiently waiting for Diego to finish even as he thought, Would the other Joestars be nice?
Under a minute Diego polished off the other dish, licking his lips and showing a flash of long fangs. He drew out the action of licking his fingers clean, giving Haruno enough time to swallow down the last of his own meal, the leaves chewy and sweet in his mouth. A few feet away the street rumbled with passing vehicles and foot trafficking, the dull hum of the populace a rumble in his ears. The Cairo heat coiled against his small body, even underneath the shade of the restaurant front and occasionally the sunlight would flash across the top of a passing bus in a sharp glare. Across in the square, Pet Shop remained a small hunched shape at the peak.
Then Diego shifted, but rather than launching into a story he reached into an inner pocket of his shirt and pulling out the browned leather wallet. Haruno remembered it was the one that had the pictures of his uncle, Papa and Father, along with Papa's wedding photo. This time he slipped something out, leaning across the table to offer it to Haruno.
"Here," Diego said with an unreadable expression, handing him a sleek polaroid photo.
It showed two people sitting in chairs next to one another other, the one near the back wearing a heavy jacket with a golden chain, and black cap with golden embellishments while the other was old, with a thick grey beard and leaning back in his chair with his hat covering most of his face.
Haruno squinted down at the photo, taking care not to smudge it with his fingers as he asked, "Who are they?"
"Relatives of yours," Diego said, staring at him unblinkingly.
"Yes. That young one in the back is called Jotaro and the old one is Joseph. Joseph's my great nephew."
"Oh so is he..." Haruno frowned at the bearded man, struggling to remember the words and what Diego had explained to him, "He's, he is Erina's and Jojo's...Um."
"Where's his dad?"
"Dead. Killed during the war from all accounts. I visited his grave while in England along with Jojo's and your grandfather's. Said as much"
"Can I see it one day?" Haruno asked. He wanted to see more of Jojo. The man seemed very nice even if he was dead and maybe Haruno would like England since its where both his fathers were born.
A shadow passed over Diego's face, so quickly Haruno thought maybe it never happened, "Perhaps. However at the moment those two have less than favourable impulses; they are traveling here, to kill Dio in some foolish heroic endeavor."
"Are they mad at Father?"
"Your father is a very dislikable person," Diego snorted.
"Is he?" Haruno was surprised. Dio always had lots of friends and people who liked him, spoke highly of him. Enrico liked him a lot. Haruno did as well. Diego seemed to be the only one mad at him but Haruno knew that's how siblings were. At least the shows said. Though maybe Haruno was wrong though and Dio had fought with those other two like he'd done with Papa. Maybe they were mad over Father and Papa fighting even if to Haruno it seemed a very very long time ago. But that man had a grey beard, which Haruno knew meant he was old.
"Well he loathed Jojo and Jojo is the most likelable person I've ever met. That says quite a lot about Dio's personality type. But those two fools probably feel like they should be 'responsible' for Dio, since their 'ancestor' Jojo died fighting him," An ugly note was in Diego's voice and Haruno felt he should stop asking about that so he decided to change the subject.
"With uh this Joseph man, if he's Papa's grandson then he'd be my um..." Haruno tried to think of the words. nose scrunching up.
"Joseph is your nephew," Diego explained, picking up another kebab that dripped juices onto its plate, "And that Jotaro boy is your...great grand nephew, since he's Jojo's great great grandson. You're Joseph's uncle."
"Aren't uncles supposed to be old? You're older than me. I'm little and that man is old."
"Well, thank Dio for messing up the family tree," Diego said before biting off a piece of skewered meat.
"Is ah, Joseph, is he an explorer? He looks like one, he even has the hat."
Diego shrugged, chewing and swallowing before he said, "Eh, was told about him by that old witch Enya. Joseph is some real estate fool, in New York. Retired now. As for Jotaro he's a mediocre college student with shoddy attendance. Half Japanese like you, though. Through his father instead of his mother."
Haruno perked up at that, "He's half Japanese?"
"Yes. His father is Japanese. His mother is American. Name like a plant I think, Rose or something along those lines. Don't care enough to remember."
Haruno nodded, even if inside he wondered if people were mean to that Jotaro boy with being half Japanese. Haruno may not have understood the insults but he understood the tone about people, mostly parents of his classmates when they picked up their children, calling him half breed or mongrel in low voices they thought he couldn't hear. He thought they were talking about a dog at first but would look subtly at him when saying it. Haruno knew it was rude just from their voices. It would be like how his mother would sometimes hiss at him, when she wasn't screaming. Mean things even if he wasn't sure what they meant.
"Japan is where mum was from," Haruno said. "I think I want to go there one day. They have mini trees and ones with fluffy pink flowers."
"Good thing is that being less law inclined makes it so much easier to be rich, so it wouldn't be too difficult to travel there some day," Diego said, tone neutral, "So perhaps one day you can travel the world. It was harder and and far slower during my time. We did not have planes such as there is now, far easier to travel. Of course that depends upon those fools hunting Dio."
"Will they hurt me?" Haruno asked.
"Why'd you say that?"
Haruno looked down at the photo with a frown, "Father told me about dying, how people die. He killed that lady too and I can't stop them from dying. If they're coming here to hurt Father then..." He rubbed his thumbs on the side of the glossy photo before looking back up to his uncle, "If they come here, will they hurt me too? Kill me?"
Diego was silent for a long while before saying slowly, "I honestly can't say. If they acted anything like Jojo then I would say most certainly no, but they don't. I know Jojo would never injure a woman in such a way those two did to Enya or Nena, much less kill one. So for all I know they would kill you because you are Dio's son."
"Oh." Haruno felt unsure- unhappy, maybe? He couldn't figure out the emotion lodging a ball in his throat. He thought more family was good; he'd been happy, or at the very least less sad and afraid, after being brought to Dio and he also liked his uncle very much. His life had been so much better since he'd been taken to Egypt so Haruno didn't know why these other family members would want to harm him, harm Father.
"Don't worry, I'll rip their guts out before that happens," Diego waved a clawed hand, seemingly unconcerned before he picked up a steaming shawerma and stuffed the meat-filled pastry in his mouth.
"Are they magic too?"
"Yes, or at least Stands anyway. We're...well, we know enough that the old man, Joseph, has an ability nigh identical for the off-cut Stand Dio possesses. That is, remote observation."
"He can spy on someone anywhere," Diego said, picking up another shawerma, "If he uses his powers on a camera."
"Can he see me?" Haruno looked over his shoulder, half expecting a disembodied eye to be watching him.
"You'd know it if he did. Dio always was aware of when that ridiculous old fool used his powers though it's vice versa. Then again they were hunting Dio by then so it was no great surprise. But as is, I doubt they're aware of your existence."
"Oh..." Haruno wasn't sure how to feel about that. He had more family but they might be cruel and nasty like his mother or stepfather had been. He'd hoped they would be nice like Papa and Father or even Uncle despite how cranky the small blond man sometimes would get. Diego went back to his food after that while Haruno gazed at the photo in his hands, unsure of what to think. Then he remembered Diego mentioning Enya, but last time Haruno had seen her she'd been crying and running from the mansion and that had been days ago.
"What happened to Enya?" Haruno asked after another beat of silence.
Diego answered his readily enough, "She was killed. Assassinated, more like. I don't know why he did it, that old witch would die before betraying Dio to the men who killed her son."
"Eh, means to kill someone quietly. Be sneaky."
"Oh. What about Midler?"
"What about her?"
"Did she go too? Does she have magic? And I thought maybe she was Father's wife? But I haven't seen her in a bit."
Diego laughed at that, nearly dropping his forkful of roasted liver. "Oh no, she wasn't his wife. One of his little dalliances if anything. At least she has more brains than the rest of those ridiculous harlots at the very least."
"She was nice and had such pretty hair," Haruno said. It had been really thick and shiny and pink.
"Yes well, who knows how pretty she'll be in a while," Diego huffed, chomping on the liver. Haruno was confused so after Diego swallowed he explained, "She was sent to kill those Joestar idiots. Considering they've been chewing their way through the Stand users sent after them thus far who knows how successful she'll be."
"Oh, they eat people too?" Haruno looked down at the photo; he thought vampires couldn't show up in pictures.
Diego laughed, "No, not like that. I mean in terms of beating them. They're probably break her neck and leave her lifeless body in a ditch somewhere. Who knows with that lot."
He didn't like that. Midler had been nice and thinking about her being hurt didn't make him feel good. Another part hoped maybe she'd kill the Joestars so Father would be safe. Father was a lord and vampire and had the pretty sparkly World but he didn't want him hurt. Father looked after him, made sure no one would hurt him. But those other Joestars were on a quest and Haruno knew from all his stories people did that for reasons.
"Why are they so mad with Father?" Haruno asked.
"Well back in England over a hundred years ago, we grew up as Joestars," Diego told him, "But then Dio decided to poison the lord because he's a selfish wanker, killing him slowly with poison in some ridiculous poetic repeater. Jojo found out and they fought. Dio lost the first time, including having his head struck off. I told you how his star was stolen, didn't I?" At Haruno's nod Diego made a grim smile, "Yes, that's because Dio attacked Jojo again, this time killing him. When Jojo was dead, Dio pried off his head and stole his body for his own. That is why he has the star and the scar, along with Jojo being only a skull. I'm guessing that moron grandson probably has delusions of revenge, considering he was raised by Erina. Who knows what nonsense she filled his rock head with."
"Oh. But isn't that fight between Father and Papa?"
"You'd think, but these morons can't leave well enough alone especially with that stupid woman dying because she's so pathetic-" Diego's claws went right through the plate, breaking it and sinking into the tabletop. He looked at it before sighing and pulling his hand free. After a moment he plucked up the chunk of lamb lying on the broken plate and snapped it up, chasing it down with a swallow of water.
"As I said," Diego restarted in a far calmer tone while Haruno stared, "They are gallant. That means they will stick their noses into others business because 'ah no the innocence' or some such rubbish, while ignoring they're just as terrible and ridiculous. Hypocrites, the whole lot of them."
Haruno didn't know what a lot of that meant but Diego was clearly restraining his tone despite his controlled anger. The blond shoved aside the broken plate, pulling a new one heaped with fried pieces of falafel in front of him.
Plucking up one he inspected it idly before popping it into his mouth, words thick as he chewed around them, "I mean no use crying over split milk. At the rate they're going they won't reach Cairo within the end of this year- probably around next month. At least we'll reach Christmas which is in a few days, that'll get Enrico's jollies off. Crazy religious type that he is. The lack of snow is disconcerting, though. We always had heavy winters back in London. I hate snow."
Unsure Haruno ran his fingers across the photo again, still deeply curious but feeling that he'd already pushed Diego enough. Diego at least didn't scream or yell or hit, but he just got a nasty tone or would leave. Haruno didn't really want to be left alone in the city. There were a lot of people in Cairo and he didn't speak the language so he couldn't even look at signs.
But he was still confused about everything yet also a lot less enthused. Especially if Jotaro and Joseph were coming to Cairo to kill his father, then it meant they'd probably also want to kill his uncle and himself. Haruno didn't really want that, he didn't want to die or have his father and uncle die. He liked living in Cairo, liked living in the mansion even if it was sometimes really cold and there were dead people left on the floor. Haruno still wasn't sure about that part but didn't want to leave eitherway.
"This whole subject is depressing," Diego tossed down his napkin, plates clean in front of him, before getting to his feet, "Anyway why don't we pay for this and then go hunting along the Nile."
"Hunting?" Haruno blinked up at his uncle, clutching the photo to his chest and thrown at the sudden change in pace and conversation.
Diego grinned at him, all fangs and slit pupils, "Yes, I am still quite curious as to what my powers would do to a hippopotamus."
Chapter 16: 'I was born under a wandering star'
The creature was huge, skin a dark grey colour which slowly changed into a pale yellow underside. Large oar like flippers tread the water and its body was muscular and thick. A strong neck lifted its head out of the water, jaws long and eyes beady with teeth the same length as Haruno's forearm. It looked like some kind of magical sea dragon Haruno would expect to see in a fantasy movie.
"I think this is called a 'mosasaurus'," Diego said, chin in his hand as he eyed the giant creature circling deep in the belly of the Nile river, "Figures a hippopotamus would transform into something so large. Interestingly enough they are classified as marine reptiles."
Haruno was at the edge of the river bank, watching the mosa as it idly swam in circles before it poked its head out of the water a few feet from him. Carefully he reached out, the mosa's snout long enough it was able to drift forward until he could nearly touch it. Then Diego hefted him up, leaping off the bank and landing on the mosa's broad back. It was bigger than some of the boats Haruno had seen while traveling with his uncle down the dusty road next to the Nile, until the bustle of the city and civilization was far behind them. Haruno had been picked up and hefted onto Diego's back, small arms around his throat with Diego gripping his knees. Diego's speed was far greater than any person and Haruno wondered if it was because of magic as Haruno's legs got tired if he walked too long.
Either way Diego took them down really far down the Nile, the movement of his running combined with the sun making Haruno dozing until the man woke him up via putting him down. He wasn't sure where he was but he couldn't see the city and could only see the points of the pyramids really far away even though they were really big.
Then he spotted the cow thing having a nap in the sun down the bank next to the Nile and been distracted by that.
A 'hippopotamus', his uncle called it. The hippo was big, bigger than the biggest cow Haruno had seen, with pink skin and a giant mouth with large nostrils and flappy ears. Diego had set Haruno down before patting his head while telling him to stay put before walking down the back towards the big water cow. It had stood up at his approach, opening its mouth to show gigantic teeth taller than Haruno. Diego ignored it, instead moving so quickly the hippo didn't have time to snap at him before he raked a burning line across its bulbous nose.
Also immediately the hippo relaxed, its jaw shutting and regarded Diego without any real venom. Haruno watched from the dirt road, unsure as to what Diego was doing, as the hippo turned and walked down into the river, little legs pumping as it swam. As soon as it got to the middle of the river its entire body began to shift as warp, Haruno watching with immense glee as the hippo transformed into the massive form of the mosa until it filled so much of the deep water.
It's like my magic! Haruno clasped his hands together, jumping up and down in place before Diego turned and gestured for him to come down the bank and he nearly stumbled in his haste.
It's like my magic, my uncle has magic like me, his thoughts were giddy. He knew Diego could turn into a big feathery beast but he didn't know his uncle could make other things turn into beasts. It was like how Haruno could make non-living things turn into animal friends or pretty flowers. It made him happy knowing family had more powers like him. Sure, Father's pretty sparkly golden ghosts was very pretty but Haruno wasn't allowed to know its special magic ability. But Diego showed him his special powers, not just his werebeast ones but that he could do that for other creatures and make them all beastly as well.
Now they were both seated on the mosa's massive back, the curve of its spine above the river but Haruno could see its flippers swaying as it tread the water. Diego settled down as if they were back in the mansion garden but Haruno rubbed his hands on the mosa's back, feeling its bumpy skin. High above them Pet Shop dove down, landing on Diego's feathery tail which had reappeared and became an impromptu perch. The falcon folded his wings, looking as judgemental as any bird of prey could be.
That reminded Haruno that they were out in the open on the back of a magic monster. Haruno hadn't been specifically told not to do magic around people but figured that he wasn't supposed to especially if bad people wanted to kill Father. There were some boats far off down the river, far enough they couldn't see the mosa but there was a dirt road just further up.
"Um, should we be doing magic like this?" Haruno asked tentatively, looking at his uncle.
Diego snorted, "What're they gonna do, report me to the police? Have a bunch of ridiculous Stand users show up and murder me? I would like to see them try. They're already doing that with Dio and those morons can't even reach Egypt in a timely fashion."
"Also in case you haven't noticed there isn't a lot of people around here," Diego said, "They'd probably just pass us off as a couple of daft tourists trying to drown in the Nile if they look too hard."
Haruno nodded, figuring Diego knew stuff like that since he was an adult. After all Haruno hadn't seen anyone for a bit, every since Diego spotted the hippo and then turned it into the big 'mosa' beast.
"About those people coming to kill Father..."
Diego groaned, tipping his head back while Pet Shop shuffled his wings. The falcon kept his blue stared focused on Haruno but he didn't care. Diego rubbed at his temple before eyeing him, "What about them?"
"How many of them are there? It is just um. Those Joestars? Do they have horses?"
"Why would they- urgh, I guess there is technically a little group. Two former brainwashed servants of Dio are part, I told him it was a stupid idea to keep them but what would I know? Should've eaten them and be done with it."
Haruno didn't know what Diego would know but nodded along. He wondered who those other people in the group would be, since they were on some type of special quest. Maybe some were old, like Father. If that was the case maybe they knew Papa back when he wasn't dead. It also made him think of Papa's flower crown and he hoped the flowers still smelled nice and were pretty. Maybe he should make another one for Papa, as a present.
"Are they close now?" Haruno wondered why it was taking them so long. If they wanted to kill Father really badly he thought they should be quick. Like when doing a drawing assignment they were supposed to be quick but instead they were being slow. Maybe they were distracted by the places? Haruno knew the pyramids were really nice so maybe they saw some cool stuff and decided to take their time.
"I think they're at Saudi Arabia?" Diego said, tapping a long talon on his teeth, "Or they left there. Not too sure which it is. But hey, means it's Christmas tomorrow so that's a treat. Not that it's that 'big' over here as it is in that cesspool America."
"Enrico said Christmas is special."
"Ugh, of course he would. Damn priest. Anyway I'm used to the Christmases back in London, at the Joestar estate. Always with picturesque snow. I hate snow." Diego sniffed. His tail was less flicky than it usually was, which Haruno guessed was because Pet Shop was using it was a perch. As it was the falcon was mostly still, his scarf swaying in the breeze as the mosa bobbed up and down.
Haruno then spotted a ground of women walking down the path adjacent to the Nile, chattering to each other until one pointed down to where Haruno and Diego were sitting on the back of the mosa in the middle of the river. The group stopped, with some excitable gesturing happening as their voices rose in a babble. Pet Shop flared his wings in preparation to take off but Diego raised his hand, making a clicking noise in the back of his throat. After a moment the falcon snapped his beak and settled back down while looking very grumpy.
"Um, should we go?" Haruno asked, especially as the ladies started to move further off the road and down towards the bank, as if they wanted to see more of the mosa's massive form.
The sharp retort made him look down at his hands, wringing his fingers. He felt unsure. Wasn't their magic supposed to be sneaky?
After a moment Diego sighed heavily before saying, "Oh alright, since you're so fussy. Pet Shop, you go...deal with that. As for you Haruno, let's try something out I am quite curious about as well."
With a swirl of air Pet Shop took off, spiraling up into the sky before angling towards the group. Haruno got distracted from watching the falcon's flight when Diego plucked off the top button of his dress shirt. He mutely held it out to Haruno who, after some confused staring, took it. The button was a shiny black but was just a button.
"Go on, make an animal." Diego urged him softly, pupils slits in the bright sun.
Frowning at the button Haruno pushed his magic forward, willing the button to become living instead of just a button. After a moment the button swelled, becoming a scaly sphere before turning into the dark shape of the toad with bumpy skin the colour of damp earth. It let out a tiny croak as it settled in the palm of his hand, feet tickling his skin. Below the mosa poked its nose above the water, exhaling noisily.
Behind him was a few distant shrieks that got cut off by a loud crashing noise, like glass breaking. He turned to look only for the feathery tip of Diego's tail to flick his nose, making him giggle as he swatted it away before smiling at his uncle. With an amused huff Diego reached out as his blunt tails turned into sharp talons, tapping it on the frog's back to make a scratch invisible to Haruno's eye.
He wasn't sure what Diego was trying to do but after a moment the toad's body began warp and flex. Haruno, startled, quickly cupped the toad in both hands as a scaly tail grew and its body lengthened until it was the size of a small cat with short forearms and long hind legs. A long set of fins jutted from the base of its head, wide mouth transforming into a hooked beak. Carefully Haruno moved until he was sitting cross legged with the strange scaly beast held carefully in his lap. It looked up at him, eyes shiny and dark just like the toad's and Haruno could still feel it, like he could with the snakes and frogs he'd made before.
After a moment of staring he carefully patted the scaly beast and it leaned into his touch like a puppy.
Diego waggled his scaly claws at Haruno, his teeth like shards of glass, "Well then, I guess my magic can mix with yours."
Haruno wasn't allowed to keep the hippo, much to his disappointment.
The little scaly beast Haruno kept hugging against his chest stayed with him, even as Diego transformed the mosa back into a hippo and used it as an impromptu steed for the four year old. Diego just shrugged, explaining he couldn't be bothered carrying Haruno back to Cairo but seemed to have no issue with walking next to the hippo. Haruno liked the animal, even when it wasn't a giant sea monster, sitting on its shoulder with the small scaly animal settled on his legs. Its sharp beaked mouth reminded him of Pet Shop even if it wasn't feathery and warm like the falcon. The hippo also felt strange, Haruno didn't know they were so fleshy.
Diego also told him hippos killed more people than lions which fascinated Haruno. He thought lions were really big hungry cats with huge teeth and claws who were King of the Jungle but the slimy river cow killed more people than a giant cat. Haruno wondered why, since he thought cows ate grass. Maybe they stood on people.
As it was the hippo had a fairly easy pace with its stubby legs, Haruno swaying from side to side with its ponderous walking. Diego seemed fairly unbothered walking next to him, his boots crunching on the dirt earth of the path back to the city beside the Nile. The few people they passed either stopped to stare or skirted around the hippo at a generous distance. The small beast on his lap flicked its tail, crest butting against Haruno's arm and he resumed patting it.
Pet Shop reappeared then, soaring down to land on Diego's shoulder with his sharp talons sinking into the fabric of Diego's shirt. The falcon settled down with a ruffle of wings, his sharp blue eyes peering about keenly from his human perch.
Haruno's lizard didn't seem as smart as the pretty bird and wasn't covered in soft feathers but Haruno still liked it even if he didn't really know how his uncle made it. Haruno had only made snakes and frogs and other small animals but the giant mosa in the river was huge enough it could be easily used as a raft. The toad had been hand sized but after Diego used his magic it was now like a cat. He ran his hand over its crest and then down its back, the caramel coloured scales feeling like smooth pebbles under his palm. The creature huffed, clicking its hooked beak before resting its head on his forearm.
"Those people who want to kill Father, do you know what magic they have?" Haruno suddenly asked. He remembered his uncle saying one of his 'Joestar' relatives could take pictures but he forgot if he'd been told anything else.
Diego glanced over at him before looking back forward with a huff, "Two were past slaves to Dio so we know those abilities. One has a Stand which is basically just a sword. Completely useless if you ask me. The other is...I don't know, some daft octopus thing. Tentacles and can chuck gems at people. I guess they'd hurt a bit if you manage to strike someone in the head hard enough but you could just use a rock you'd find on the roadside for that. Then there's that magician Dio menaced a while back who can create and control fire. Those two moron descendants...That old man Joseph seems to have one of the off-cut Stands Dio has. Hilarious in a way but it seems massively weak in comparison with the others, though I would expect he'll use Hamon to fight Dio."
"Used to fight vampires, apparently. Essentially using the sun's energy to fight. Like...uh, lightning."
Haruno looked up at the clear blue sky and the sun, which was bathing everything in a solid heat. Even in his fairly airy clothes and hat it was hot, the damp skin of the hippo under him doing barely anything against the warmth. He guessed maybe it was another fire thing. The sun was hot even though it was really far away and he noticed that sometimes the stones in the mansion garden would nearly burn his hand if he touched them when it was really hot.
"What about that other one? My um..." Haruno frowned, nose scrunching up as he tried to remember, "My great grand nephew." The one who was half Japanese, like Haruno. He wondered if he got called mean things over it as well.
"It just punches things. So very eloquent." Diego's voice was nearly blistering in its sarcasm.
Nodding slowly Haruno patted the scaly animal some more, unsure if he should ask more questions since Diego seemed to be fairly angry about the topic. Maybe he just didn't like talking about the Joestars? Papa used to be his brother so maybe Diego was angry about that still even if it happened a long time ago. Haruno wasn't sure.
"Will...Uh, will they fight in the mansion?" Haruno asked. They weren't allowed to fight in classrooms back in kindergarten. The teacher would always scold them. Same for libraries.
Diego gave him an odd look, "If they make it that far. Who knows, they've been chewing their way through most Stand users sent after them. Apparently one died but who knows with how incompetent Dio's minions are. Half a mind to go out there and deal with it myself. See what all the fuss is and why they fail so badly."
Haruno didn't want his uncle going out where fighting was, since he could get hurt and maybe Haruno would have to leave. His mother always threatened that, saying if Haruno was too much of a nuisance or if anything happened to her Haruno would be forced into foster care. She told him some of things that would happen to him and it gave Haruno nightmares. Even the hits and screaming didn't seem so bad compared to the things she'd hissed to him after shoving him into bed, sharp nails leaving bloodied dents in his wrist. He hunched his shoulders, rubbing at the scaly spine of the beast on his lap with nervous movements.
"Does everyone in the mansion have powers? Are they guards?" Haruno decided that was a safer topic.
"Well Telence- or Terrence, I have no idea which since his accent is so atrocious -anyway, he is apparently one of the 'first' protections for Dio. Ridiculous if you ask me, considering his Stand. What's to stop someone from cutting his head off in an instant? I keep on telling Dio to knock off that monologuing garbage, just kill the person and be done with it."
Haruno didn't know what a log had to do with anything but he nodded anyway. He remembered that man, with the really tall hair and strange silvery tattoos and cupboard full of talking dolls on the strange little beach. Brushing the doll's hair had been soothing and he liked taking care of it. Maybe he could see them again. Still, it made him curious about what Telence actually could do with his cupboard. Maybe he could lock people inside it and it took them a really long time to get out like in that book with the talking lion. Or that faceless ghost that was his spirit, with the pipes in its face and shiny round red eyes.
"He's got a ghost friend," Haruno said wistfully. He wondered when his ghost friend was going to show up. He hoped they'd like him.
"Yes. They all do." On Diego's shoulder Pet Shop fluffed his wings, "How they manifest and the powers associated with the Stands different but they...usually have a spectral form."
"Do you have a ghost friend?"
"No. I have me."
Haruno nodded even if he didn't really understand the answer. Diego fell silent next to him, occasionally reaching up to stroke Pet Shop's feathery breast. The falcon nipped at his fingers but otherwise didn't react, his scarf fluttering with the faint wind that did little to fight the heat. Slowly they passed the nearly deserted outskirts into the more populous beginnings of the city, Haruno being more than content to sit on his hippo with his scaly cat friend thing despite the confused and frightened people they would cross paths with.
"Can I keep the hippo?"
"Aw. Why not?"
"It's too big and smells disgusting."
"I don't think it smells."
"Lucky you. But we are not bringing that slovenly thing back with us."
Haruno pouted but otherwise didn't argue, even if his uncle seemed far more tolerant to arguments than Haruno's deceased mother or stepfather. Diego was a lot nicer and Haruno liked him a lot, he decided. Even if the man used bad words which would get Haruno scolded if he ever used them but then it was an adult thing as well and Haruno was still little. Perhaps he could use them when he was grown up.
"Oh for- fools working themselves into a right fuss," Diego suddenly scoffed, lip curling to show sharpened teeth after nearly being accosted by a panicked woman who was yelling and gesturing at the hippo, "Who knew they were frightened of such a thing."
Pet Shop spread his wings and took to the air even as Diego reached out and plucked Haruno off the hippo, making him hug the scaly beast tight to his chest as his uncle easily flipped him up onto his shoulders. Then Diego swatted the hippo on its side, sending it running at the nearest crowd clustered on the riverbank which scattered with a lot of screaming before carrying on with Haruno sitting on his shoulders, his uncle lightly gripping his ankles. The beast hopped up on Haruno's own shoulders, draped across it like a small scaly scarf.
High above in the blue sky Pet Shop let out a shrill cry, a single stray feather fluttering down to be swept away in the flowing currents of the Nile.
Christmas wasn't, to Haruno's disappointment, covered in snow. It was still cold that night but there was no white blanket covering the buildings and streets of Cairo's city when he woke up the next morning. There wasn't any of the big bristly trees or shiny wrapping paper which made Haruno think Santa didn't visit Cairo. He thought reindeer could fly anywhere in the world but maybe it was too hot for them in Cairo since he knew reindeer were furry.
At least his lizard pet wasn't bothered by the heat, even if Haruno didn't really know what to do with it. When Diego dragged him down to the kitchen for breakfast, he told Haruno he was unable to control the lizard and Haruno couldn't make it do things either. Not that he really wanted to control his animal friends. Still, it had remained a lizard for the night it stayed in Haruno's room while sleeping at the foot of his bed like a cat and then Haruno carried it to the kitchen.
Diego ended up making him breakfast while Haruno watched, even if he was fairly taken aback with how much food Diego made or yanked out of the fridge. He patted the scaly animal on his lap, eyeing the pans and foodstuff piling up on the cool marble counter. He'd hardly ever been made breakfast back home, instead his mother would ever give him a piece of toast or forget about it so when Diego put a plate completely filled with food in front of him Haruno was unsure how to react or even begin to eat it. It felt different somehow, from when Dio's servants made him food or even when Enrico took him out for lunch. Maybe because it was his uncle doing it. Either way it made Haruno smile, squirming happily in place.
"It's egg, bacon, mushroom, black pudding and roasted tomato. Eat it." Diego told him curtly before directing his attention to his own breakfast, which was twice as much as Haruno's. He even put a cup next to Haruno's overloaded plate filled with dark brown liquid that had a very pleasant smell.
"That's a lot." Haruno picked up his fork, looking over the place carefully, "Are you um a chief?"
"Do you mean chef?"
"Is that the one who cooks stuff?"
"Then that one."
"I can cook but most certainly do not make a profession of it," Diego rolled his eyes, "And this is hardly difficult. How people are too stupid to make such a thing is beyond me, this century is far better to prepare food with ones self. Good grief, I could remember how long it would take the servants back in the Joestar mansion to make each meal. Even bread was ridiculous. Now they have machines that can make it, hands free and ovenless."
"Servants? Like Father has?"
Diego made a face, swallowing a roasted tomato whole before saying, "Not like this bunch, brain dead morons. I didn't particular mind the kitchen staff back then however, especially after my...transformation." He waggled his clawed fingers, before snapping up several strips of bacon with a flash of his sharp teeth, "Due to the wealth and amount of staff there was always ample enough to eat."
Haruno was fascinated by that, knowing his uncle was really old and actually hearing him talk about it was fairly different. He still didn't really get how old his uncle really was but he liked hearing about his life. Haruno wondered if that meant his uncle liked him, since he was telling him about his past when the man hadn't wanted anything to do with him at the start. He wouldn't mind having Diego like him.
"Did you like them?" Haruno tentatively pushed.
"They were tolerable," Diego allowed, "Well there was Maud, the head cook who was the most entertaining and quite frankly would've fit into the slums easily enough with her short temper. She was the only servant to dare curse at me which was its own event of hilarity I suppose. Eat your food."
Haruno quickly speared a strip of bacon with his fork, tentatively nibbling on the hot meat which quickly spread grease across his lips. Diego meanwhile managed to eat his entire portion of blood pudding, sausages and eggs in the span it took for Haruno to eat his piece of bacon. How the man managed to devour the hot food so quickly Haruno had no idea but maybe his sharp teeth had something to do with it.
Diego tapped his sharp nails on the marble counter, leaning against it while using his other hand to shovel food into his mouth. Sometimes he used a fork but other times he'd just use his long hooked claws. Haruno looked at his own blunt nails, wondering why they were so harmless; Father had long black nails, but they weren't as solid looking as Diego's. Maybe he had to wait until he was older, like how he'd have to for his spirit ghost friend to show up.
"What's this?" Haruno swallowed down the last of the bacon before pointing at the cup next to his plate.
His uncle barely looked up from his food, "Coffee."
"It smells nice."
And so Haruno did, the dark brown liquid smelling very nice but having a strange sharpness in its taste. He wasn't sure if he actually liked it but it was hot so he kept sipping on it periodically while attempting to eat his immense breakfast. By the time he managed to eat only a quarter Diego had devoured his entire portion and started filching bits from Haruno's plate while drinking several more cups of coffee. How the man ate so much and so quickly Haruno didn't know but it was fascinating to watch especially since Diego so fairly small for an adult.
After downing another mug Diego reached across the table and picked up the scaly lizard from where it was sniffing at Haruno's plate, easily holding it in the palm of his hand under its belly. Its hooked mouth snapped but it didn't trying clawing at him.
Haruno ate a mouthful of mushrooms, watching even as Diego set the animal on the table before its body rippled and shrunk. Within seconds a fat toad was sitting on the bench, bulbous eyes swiveling around in its deep sockets.
"Hm. I can't control this thing beyond its transformation. Can sense it but cannot make it do what I want," Diego squinted at the toad. Haruno half expected him to try eating it.
After a moment of dithering Haruno reached out and tentatively touched the toad's bumpy back with a fingertip, willing his magic into it to make it become unliving. In the span of a few seconds a plain button was sitting on the marble counter. Diego picked it up between his thumb and finger, eyeing it for a few moments before nonchalantly flicking it off somewhere in the kitchen. Haruno pouted but didn't say anything. He liked having a pet, his lamb didn't really do much and he'd left it back in his bedroom with his pretty egg anyway.
He took another sip of his coffee, liking the smell a lot more than the actual taste before asking, "Did you see Santa?" Haruno hadn't nor seen any presents or pointy trees but he slept soundly that night so maybe he missed it or Santa would come by later.
Diego gave him a funny look, "What?"
"Today's Christmas. Santa should be here but I didn't see him," Haruno explained, "Would he know Father? Did they meet through Enrico and Jesus?"
For a long beat Diego just started at him, blue eyes fixed unblinkingly on Haruno's face before his body started shaking. It started as a strange, high pitched wheeze before Diego burst out into loud hearty laughter, laughing so hard he actually had to lean against the counter with a hand pressed against his face. Haruno watched him in confusion and curiosity as the man continued to laugh so much he started to wheeze, tears beading at the corner of his eyes. Eventually he settled down, shoulders shaking with ebbing mirth as he wiped at his eyes while grinning brightly at a Haruno.
"Oh good Gods kid, you're hilarious." The blond managed to rasp, mouth open in a lupine grin as his tail flicked to and fro.
His laughter ebbed into low chuckles, Diego rounded the table to ruffle Haruno's dark hair before leaving the room without a backwards glance.
Haruno stared at the door Diego left before turning back to his breakfast, smiling at being able to make his uncle laugh even if Haruno didn't know what was so funny.
Strangely enough, Haruno didn't see Enrico in the week following Christmas even after the New Year of 1989. He did watch the fireworks displays throughout the city from his window however, sitting on the chest underneath it and resting his chin on his folded hands. The looming pyramids seemed to be the centre of the display, bright lights and colour blooms exploding above their pointed tips. The sharp pops of the fireworks were little more than popcorn noises form him, watching the bright display avidly while Pet Shop hunkered on the wall edge below. The falcon seemed immune to the prettiness of the fireworks, and had ignored Haruno when the child had asked him if the bird was cold and did he was to sleep inside?
It seemed Pet Shop only liked his uncle but then again he knew Diego had magic that allowed him to talk to magical animals. Haruno couldn't, which disappointed him. He would like to be able to talk to animals, even if they were just normal ones.
He ended up falling asleep, head pillowed on his arms where he'd been watching the fireworks. Despite that he woke up on New Years day in his bed, unsure who had put him in there. But despite that he was mostly left to himself, as usual. Occasionally he'd see others- mostly his uncle, who seemed to be in a bad mood for some reason -but he also saw Vanilla Ice, Telence and Pet Shop but they were always busy. Seemed the mansion had lots of visitors but not a lot of guests but he barely ever saw Father. There was one time when Dio just patted him on the head as if he was a lapdog when he'd been wandering up the really big staircases to look at the pretty tapestries and Haruno hadn't even know his father was there until he patted him. It wasn't like when Diego ruffled his hair, maybe because Dio's hand always felt too cold. But Haruno didn't mind, he liked the fact his father liked him.
However at the end of another day, which Haruno had lost count of since he was taken to Egypt, Haruno was sitting on his bed and reading a book. It was one about plants and Haruno liked it because there were lots of colourful pictures for each flower. He was curious to know if he could make certain flowers if he willed it or if they would change automatically. Haruno still didn't know too much about his magic or magic in general, especially since Enya wasn't around anymore to ask. He thought a witch whould know.
Haruno had been jolted out of his reading when his uncle pried open the window and perched on the sil, long feathery tail flicking back and forth behind him.
"Looks like we're moving real estate," Diego said briskly in lieu of a greeting.
Haruno blinked up owlishly at his uncle who was easily perched on his open windowsill. The air was chilly and in the thick of night, the moonlight painting Diego's feathers in a silver edge. Red stained his clawed fingers, rolling down the curved talons to drip onto the stone windowsill.
"What's real estate?" Haruno asked, closing his book.
Diego flicked his claws, red splattering across the stone wall before hopping into the room, "Houses. Either way we found some nosy little mice creeping around here. N'Doul killed most of them but a few stragglers need to be...cleaned up."
"Oh yet another one of Dio's groupies. But whatever, got anything you cannot bear to part with? Would do no good to tarry."
All Haruno really had was his lamb and pretty red egg. He took both, when Diego hoisted him up onto his back and jumped across the rooftops of Cairo, to take him to another ancient building which was to be their new 'lair' as Diego called it. Haruno didn't mind as he was put in a room that looked much like his old one, all dense furniture and old stone. It was cold like the other, but Haruno thought that was just because Father was a vampire so he was always cold.
But either way his uncle and father liked him enough to take him to a new house and he got to keep his egg and lamb so Haruno had nothing to complain about.
With flowing movements the iron poker twisted, the dull grey metal turning into a healthy green stem even as the curved tip swelled into a multitude to sharp purple petals. The flowers, once fully formed, Haruno tucked into a elaborately painted vase in one of the upper hallways. Next to his feet was an assortment of items, mostly pokers he'd taken from the ancient fireplace in the living room down the hall. He picked up another poker, holding the heavy iron in his small hands before pushing in his magic to make it alive.
Another flower with pointed purple petals sprouted into being, the sweet scent curling up his nostrils. He touched the soft petals with the tip of his fingers before stretching up onto tip-toes and tucking it in the vase along side the several other flowers. He thought the mansion needed more flowers and though there was the nice front garden there wasn't a lot of plants inside. Haruno decided he was going to fix that while at the same time trying to teach himself how to make certain flowers. He wasn't always correct but he liked his flowers.
He paused in the middle of picking up a small ash shovel, the soft noise echoing down the wide hallway. It was the rhythmic noise of something clicking on the old stone flooring, steady and smooth. Still, it wasn't the first time Haruno had heard weird noises in the new mansion, which was just as large and echoy as the last, but Haruno would usually just ignore the noises even if some sounded like screaming. His uncle told him so.
The soft tap-tap-tap noise was getting louder, Haruno slipping the last of the flowers in the vase as a man stepped around the corner, a long cane held firmly in one hand.
Haruno shuffled against the wall, to avoid having the cane hit him as the man walked towards him. He'd seen people with canes before and knew it was polite to not be in their way, and Haruno liked being polite. He was small and quiet enough most people wouldn't have noticed him, especially with the very deep shadows of the corridors of the new mansion but the man stopped when he drew level with Haruno, the soft tapping of his cane ceasing and his body becoming still.
"Hello," Haruno said to the man, after it became apparent the stranger wasn't going to continue walking. Maybe Haruno had been loud?
The man was tall and muscular, with thick black hair and a worn brown drape covering most of his body. The cane he was holding had a gleaming silver handle inlaid with three large rubies. However the thing Haruno found most curious was the man's eyes, which were completely white and pupilless. Despite that he turned his head with unerring accuracy to where Haruno was standing, the boy unsure if he had actually bothered the stranger.
"Ah. You must be Lord Dio's son." The man's voice was calm and cold.
He nodded, until realizing the man couldn't see it so he said, "Yes."
"I see. I am N'Doul."
"Oh, Uncle said something about you," Haruno brightened, knowing if Diego knew the man then he must be alright, "There were bad people."
"Yes, in the sense they opposed Lord Dio," N'Doul dipped his head, long bangs falling across his face.
"Okay." He accepted that easily enough, already knowing about the Joestars who wanted to harm Father. Diego certainly didn't seem to like them and Haruno knew his uncle was smart.
"You would do well to listen to your lord," N'Doul's voice got scolding, like a teacher, "He is exemplary."
Haruno had no idea what that word meant but it sounded important so he nodded along before remembering again that N'Doul was blind so he said, "Yes."
It reminded him of his discussions with Vanilla Ice, when he first arrived. The man hadn't seem fit to scold him so Haruno thought he'd been following the orders well enough but maybe N'Doul was new and thought Haruno was bad. He hadn't seen the blind man before, even with all the rotating guests that would visit his father. There had been new ones, even in the new mansion, but Haruno was disappointed he hadn't found that magical talking sword again. He should probably ask his uncle where it was.
N'Doul just continued to look in Haruno's general direction with his stark white eyes before nodding again, the soft tap-tap-tap of his cane resuming its rhythm on the stone floor as he resumed his walking. Haruno felt the urge to call the blind man to stop, wanting to know what his friend ghost magic was- everyone had magic, those who knew his father. Maybe being a vampire lord Father only wanted fellow magic people around, Haruno was fairly sure. He wouldn't mind having a friend who had a magic ghost and could do magic things. Haruno wouldn't mind a friend in general.
He watched N'Doul walk down the hall to be swallowed up by the darkness, the soft noise of his cane slowly ebbing as well. With a final glance at the flowers he'd left in the vase Haruno walked down the nearby staircase taking care so he didn't slip and fall.
Haruno was unbothered by the dark, which was even more encasing then the original mansion he'd stayed in. The new one was a lot more spider webby, Haruno had noticed, something Diego snarked about in his bad mood, at how Dio was 'too cheap and foolish' just to use one of his 'wasteful groupie morons when they could clean this horrible drab place' and other bad words. Haruno knew there were a lot of ladies in the mansion, but most were sleeping on the ground and were really cold and stiff if he tried prodding them to move. Some also had the bit sores on their neck, which might have made them so sleepy. Sometimes he saw Vanilla Ice or Telence moving the sleeping ladies but sometimes they'd just lie there.
He did see another woman, shortly after their move. She'd been wearing a red hood with a skirt that had pretty jeweled threads hanging from it. He'd told her they were pretty, and she'd given him a cat-like smile as she walked past to go see his father. He wondered where Midler was.
Making his way down to the bottom floor Haruno decided he was going to find the kitchen and have some food. The persistent dark of the mansion always left him confused if he stayed in the library too long, as sometimes he didn't know if it was day or night. Haruno was fairly sure it was day, but didn't know if it was morning still or afternoon. Either way he was hungry and hadn't seen his uncle for some time and Diego seemed to feed him without complaint. He also liked the fact he could now eat whenever he wanted. Usually his mother barely remembered but now he could just eat if he was hungry.
However as he stopped at the bottom step and trotted down the hall with its thick open windows he realized there was someone sitting on the ground in one of the alcoves, hidden in the shadows not touched by the slabs of sunlight streaming through the windows. All thoughts of hunger fled his mind as he noticed who it was.
It was a boy.
Haruno felt a thrill of excitement shoot up his spine as he stopped mid stride; he knew the only people allowed in Father's mansion were either those ladies who slept or people with magic and he knew right away this other boy had magic. How, he didn't really know or care, just feeling tingly with anticipation and his complete certainty. He was the only other child Haruno had seen before, everyone else in the mansion had been adults or even older like Enya.
Maybe he's supposed to my friend? Enrico was always telling him fate was important, that it ruled humans no matter how much they might try to fight it. Even though he hadn't seen Enrico since before Christmas the man was obviously very important to Father, his dear friend, so his words meant a lot. So maybe that was the fate thing working right now, leaving Haruno jittery with excitement. He'd never had a friend before.
The boy was older than Haruno but still fairly small, hunched over slightly from where he was sitting and wide purple eyes darting about nervously. His skin was brown and his hair was dark, piled high in thick curls barely pulled back from his face with a topless cap. A large purple book was hugged tight against his chest, his short nails digging into it as he twitched in place while staring anxiously at the door at the end of the hallway.
Haruno pressed against one of the pillars, fingers clinging harshly against the cool smooth stone. He felt nervous but sure, the stone beneath his hands growing patches of thick green moss and tiny flowers before he pulled away and hesitantly approached the strange boy.
"Hi," he said.
The strange boy's breathing stopped, his body going ridged as his fingers tightened on his book until it creaked. Wide purple eyes flicked up to stare at Haruno, the strange boy's mouth pressed into a thin line while beads of sweat shone on the dark skin of his forehead. The odd pull of magic was stronger that Haruno was closer and he had to wonder if the other boy knew he was magical as well.
Haruno hovered a few feet from the boy nervously, wringing his fingers as butterflies fluttered in his stomach before he tried again, "My name's Haruno. Hello."
Again there was no response and Haruno wondered if maybe the boy was shy or maybe he couldn't talk, like Ariel after she got her legs. But for some reason he looked scared which Haruno didn't understand and made him peer about nervously to see if there was something scary lurking around; Haruno did spot something long and beastial curled upon the protruding, elaborate archway of the door leading towards the hall far across from them, long tail occasionally flicking into the sunlight streaming through the window next to the doorway to show a flash of shimmering blue and yellow feathers. He immediately recognized the general large shape and familiar blue eyes watching them like a hawk. The mansion was always dark, just like the last one, despite the occasional beam of sunlight coming through the windows and countless candles they never seemed enough to actually light up the place. Haruno didn't mind though and he waved at his uncle who flicked his tail in return along with a flash of long teeth.
Haruno turned back to the strange boy, who had started breathing again but in sharp nervous huffs and Haruno asked, "Is it my uncle? He's nice. Sometimes he says mean things but he's nice and I like him. He doesn't scream or hit. He's nice."
A loud snort behind him but Haruno just smiled at the boy. His uncle was sometimes funny-mean but was still nice.
The boy made a choking-like noise, like the breath was getting tangled in his throat and Haruno sat down next to him in concern, small hands touching the boy's sleeve, "Are you okay?"
"Um, I'm ah f-fine," the boy said, so softly Haruno wouldn't have heard if he wasn't sitting so close.
"My uncle isn't scary. He's nice." Haruno said, still thinking the boy was scared of his uncle. Which was silly since Diego was nice. Maybe Father was scary, just in a general way, but Diego was nice and would look after Haruno and feed him and never yelled and liked his magical animal friends that Haruno made.
The boy shook his head, thick curls bouncing before clutching his thick purple book closer to his chest which made Haruno frown. He remembered being scared when he first showed up in the new place, but it was a lot less scary than his home used to be with all the yelling and hits. Maybe the boy was worried about that? Either way, Haruno wanted to have a friend or at the least least make the strange boy stop looking so scared.
"I'm Haruno," he tried again, "Do you have a name?"
For a moment Haruno thought the boy wouldn't answer or say he didn't have a name but then in a strained, stuttery voice he finally whispered, "B-Boingo."
"Boingo? That's a nice name," Haruno said brightly, still clinging to the boy's sleeve. It did sound nice, sounded bouncy like one of those blow up castles you could jump about in.
The boy, Boingo, finally looked at Haruno then. His eyes were purple, the same colour as his book. Swallowing nervously Boingo tried once, twice, before he managed to speak, "Um, d-do you want something?"
"You're magic, like me," Haruno's fingers dug into Boingo's sleeve, the threads shifting into a patch of tiny green vines. Boingo stared at the small plants and Haruno quickly pushed the vines back into being threads before pulling his hands away, "You are."
Boingo nodded before slowly, hesitantly, pulling his book away from his chest so it was resting on his lap. Haruno could see the cover clearly now, a black outline bracketing the odd purple material of the book.
Oingo Boingo Brothers Adventure was scrawled across the upper cover in thick lettering with two cartoon people drawn underneath in a heavily abstract style. It reminded him of that big painting of the sleeping lady Haruno had seen in the room with all the treasure, where he got his pretty red egg. Like someone was drawing a person but wanted it to look all weird. The book also felt alive, like the same way Anubis did and Haruno reached out to touch it only for Boingo to quickly tug it back to his chest.
A low hiss from Diego's direction slithered through the air, making Boingo tense but Haruno ignored it as he settled on the floor next to Boingo, saying happily, "I'm magic too. Everyone here is magic too. Like Father. Did Vanilla Ice bring you? He brought me. He's got long hair and likes hearts."
Boingo shook his head, "N-no. I uh, I came here with my brother- Oingo. He's talking to the- the scary man for when we, we'll leave soon to fight." His wide mouth pressed into a frown, "We're the best, Oingo says so. We'll beat them."
"You have a brother? Is he magic too?"
"Yes. He's uh, he's got Khnum! It's unbeatable with my Tohth."
Haruno had no idea what those words meant, maybe they were their magic? He wasn't sure so he asked, "What's you're both magic? Is it a um, family thing? I can make plants and animal friends. But some here have ghost friends."
"My Stand Tohth's predictions are always right!" Boingo said, the sudden jump in his volume making Haruno start, "O-once a prediction is written, it cannot be changed."
"Y-yes. It tells the future. It c-can't see far but its always right."
Haruno blinked, remembering all the times Enrico would tell him about humanity and being bound by fate, their inlaid future that they could never fight against and to do so would bring misery, "Like fate?"
A derisive snort from Diego's direction but Haruno was fascinated. Maybe Boingo was one of those God people? Enrico was and really liked talking about fate and 'predetermined' things. Maybe Boingo knew him even if Haruno had never seen him around the mansion and he hadn't seen Enrico since before Christmas.
"Um. Yes?" Boingo looked over at Haruno but his eyes skittered past to focus on the stone wall behind him, "Uh, it's written in Tohth, if its written then it will happen." His gaze finally locked with Haruno's, eyes burning and certain. Haruno nodded along, fascinated with the magic. It made him think of Enya and her magic cards.
After a minute of neither of them doing anything- Haruno was fine with just sitting there watching Boingo, not being aware his silent staring was fairly disconcerting -before Boingo tentatively settled the purple book back on his lap and opened it. The pages were blank, stark white but even as Haruno watched the surface rippled as the blocks of a comic began to stretch across the blankness as if scribbled in with a lightning-fast hand.
Haruno leaned against Boingo's side, blue eyes wide with fascination as he watched the comic spread across the page. The style was like the one on the cover, distorted faces and twisted body shapes with too many lines and curves. Tentatively he touched a fingertip against the purple cover, eyeing the page as colour flooded into the lines like water.
"See?" Boingo said, his nervousness ebbing away as he spoke about his book, "It s-says my brother is coming back, and we're going to have to travel to Aswan! But we have to make sure we don't go near any-"
A door slammed open nearby, making Haruno jump violently at the noise. Boingo also jolted, hands flying up so his book smacked him square in the face. Haruno tensed, fingers digging into the stone beneath him but quickly calmed down as he caught sight of his uncle's feathered tail flicking back and forth and quickly relaxed even as quick foot falls approached them. A man ducked through the nearby doorway, tall and muscular with enough familiarity to Boingo Haruno knew it was his brother.
"O-oh! Brother, we have to go to Aswan and-" Boingo surged up to his feet and then tripped over the sleeve of the jacket tied around his waist and fell over, his book preventing him from smashing his face on the stone floor.
Haruno scuttled back at the movement, biting his lip as he toyed with the hem of his shirt. The other brother had magic, Khnum Boingo called it, but maybe he had a magical thing like his brother did. The book he touched had felt weird, alive like the disc Enrico had shown him, so maybe Boingo's older brother had magic just the same.
Oingo strode forward and easily hefted his sibling up off the floor, tossing him up onto his broad shoulder. Boingo looked slightly dazed from the fall but quickly settled on his brother, purple book shut and now clenched firmly against his chest. Oingo was very tall.
"You have a very tall hat," Haruno said to the older brother. It was very tall and made him seem bigger.
Both of the brother's looked down at him and Haruno smiled toothy. They way Boingo was perched up on his brother reminded Haruno of how Diego would pick him up and carry him around though he'd be all beasty.
Oingo made a scary face, but otherwise didn't insult or yell at Haruno. He had the same unruly dark hair as his brother as well as the same coloured eyes.
"Purple is the colour of royalty," Haruno said to them, "Because it was hard to get the pig-meats for dyes and only rich people could."
Boingo blinked before his wide mouth opened in a lolling laugh while Oingo just stared at Haruno as if he was some kind of weird bug, the skin on his cheekbones flexing oddly.
"Isn't it time to run off and claim victory for the darling Lord Dio?" Diego asked sarcastically as he stepped from the shadows. Haruno had noticed the bestial form drop down from his perch while Oingo was picking up his sibling but the two brother's clearly didn't by the way they jolted, Oingo quickly pivoting to face the now-human blond with a hand bracing his sibling. Haruno didn't get that reaction, Diego was nice.
Oingo's face contorted into a sneer as he said shortly, "Won't have to wait long," before turning on his heel and leaving for the entry gate, Boingo now clinging to his shoulder.
Haruno's face fell, waving morosely at Boingo's retreating form as his brother carried him from the room and got a wave in return before the two brothers disappeared.
"Oh come now brat, you should have higher standards. At the very least they should have useful powers." Diego crossed his arms, tail flicking as he frowned at him.
Haruno blinked at his uncle, unsure of the derision in the blond's voice. Diego's lip was curled, all jagged teeth and snide insinuation. Haruno didn't understand why he seemed annoyed. Oingo seemed loud but Boingo was nice.
"What's wrong with his magic? It's a uh..." Haruno scrunched up his nose, searching his mind before brightly saying, "It's a tome. A magical Seer tome. Seers can see the future, like the ones from all those Greek books and stuff."
"That 'abilities' of the other brat is worse than useless. Predicting the future? What if I ripped his head off, would his fancy little book help defend him then? And how does he plan to kill the Joestars via beating their heads in with his book? As entertaining as that would be."
"Maybe he will. Maybe they'll beat them and Boingo can stay here and be my friend."
Diego scoffed, "They'll get killed. I mean perhaps that idiot book could do something but honestly Khnum's power? He can change his features? That's useless."
"Why?" Haruno asked, even as Diego wrapped his long tail around Haruno's torso and hefted him up and started to carry him back to his rooms.
"It changes his face, nothing else," Diego snorted, "It's useless. We already had a shape shifter with Yellow Temperance and his one was far more versatile as it could mimic body shapes and clothing along with being able to eat enemies who touched it."
"It ate people?" Haruno asked, dangling in Diego's tail as the man climbed the stairs. The stale smell of incense and dust curled in his nostrils and he sneezed, a set of candles flicking as they passed.
"It could. Obviously didn't do much as he got his face smashed in- not so pretty after that -and failed just like basically everyone else. It's ridiculous. Then again, it took a few times for Dio-" Diego angrily snapped his jaw shut on the the end of the sentence, his tail shifting restlessly around Haruno's torso but not squeezing him.
He patted the shimmering blue and gold feathers before asking, "But you don't like the tome?"
"No. It's ridiculous, having such passive and mundane abilities. I mean really, what can-" he started ranting in earnest.
His uncle, Haruno decided, really did not like Boingo's magic book which Haruno thought was a little mean. Seeing the future seemed fairly handy and Boingo didn't need a crystal ball to see it. Boingo hadn't seemed to mind Haruno talking to him, once he actually started talking back. His brother was tall and Haruno didn't know much but he obeyed Father so Haruno didn't need to fear him.
He was broken out of his thoughts when Diego unceremoniously dumped Haruno on his bed, the child letting out a huff as he bounced on the duvet while Diego sat down with his ankles crossed. After a moment Haruno sat up, fussing with his fringe with was getting longer and poking at his eyes before he crawled to the edge of the bed and sat next to his uncle. Diego's tail tip flicked at his arm as the blond rested a hand on his chin.
"So you don't like him?" Haruno asked unhappily. He wanted his uncle to like his friends. Maybe Boingo would be his friend.
"He's weak, his powers are weak. You are not."
"The weak are just meat to be eaten by the rest," Diego's lip curled, showing jagged fangs as he sneered, "The meek inherit nothing in this world beyond the cruelty given to them and the sooner you learn this, the better."
"Why can't they be looked after?" He thought it would be easier if everyone was friends.
"Why should they?" Diego retorted, "If they want to lie down and die because they're too useless to defend themselves than they can die like the lowling cattle that they are. You shouldn't stoop to such a level."
Haruno had a feeling Diego was talking about something a lot different than Haruno maybe finding a friend. But Diego seemed upset, or at least annoyed and that upset Haruno because he didn't want to make his uncle feel like that.
"Take your stepfather and mother. You're a great deal happier with them dead, aren't you?"
"Yes." Haruno didn't need to think much about that. He was a lot happier in Cairo, even with the heat. He was happier with Father and Papa and Uncle. He was happier with the gardens and all his animal friends and even Pet Shop.
"And you're happy Vanilla Ice killed your stepfather, aren't you?"
"I..." Haruno frowned, remembering how his stepfather's eyes had been all glassy on the floor after Vanilla Ice killed him. How he'd laid there while Mother screamed hysterically in the kitchen. After a bit of thought he nodded, "Yes. I'm here now."
"And if you continued to do nothing, if Dio hadn't sent for you, it would've been the same with those two and how they treated you. They were meek- they weren't strong. They were able to abuse a useless child but when it came to dealing with someone their own age they died as uselessly as they lived," Diego said viciously, "Including your coward of a mother."
Haruno nodded. He knew they would have kept hurting him and yelling so he was glad to live in Egypt. It was a lot better than home even if the mansion was darker and had a lot more spiders. Even in the mansion his mother had tried to hit him but Vanilla Ice had stopped her. She hadn't screamed and tried to hit him, she'd just cried on the ground. Haruno had just thought he was the problem but Diego said it was because Haruno was a child. It confused him.
Biting his lip Haruno traced the pattern in the duvet, unsure of what to say. His uncle seemed mad but it seemed more like he was mad Haruno was hurt. It made the emotions clog in his chest, all warm and swirly and making his slightly light headed.
"Do you think I'm strong?" Haruno finally asked, looking up at his uncle.
Diego stared at him, pupils large ovals in the light of the room. His head titled to the side as he thought over Haruno's question before he reached out and poked Haruno's nose with the tip of a sharp claw, "You're stronger than many of the fools I've met in this mansion, let's leave it at that."
Haruno flushed, happy his uncle thought he was strong. Haruno wasn't really sure what that meant, as sometimes the heavy books were hard for him to move around but he guessed he meant magic. He liked his magic but also really liked his uncle's which could make giant, fearsome beasts while Haruno could only make pretty plants and little frog friends.
"I think you're strong too," Haruno finally said.
His uncle's laugh was more of a huff of air, "Oh brat, you have no idea. But that's something you're also going to have to understand eventually- the meek inherit nothing and if you're strong you have to take what you want without compromising it for others. Take what you want to get happiness and hang everyone else."
Haruno was confused by that, "But you're not happy."
Diego stared at him for a long frozen minute, blue eyes sharp and pupils slit. Haruno wanted to fidget or squirm at his uncle's stare but found himself unable to look away, transfixed by the snake-like eyes. Haruno had just blurted that out but he knew it was true as soon as he said it. His uncle, for all his snappiness and niceties to Haruno, had always just seemed bitter in a way he was unsure about. As if he was constantly irritated with something at large.
He still remembered first meeting his uncle in that room, where he used bad words against Father that sounded so rage filled before smashing a window open. And now talking he seemed still so angry.
Diego wasn't happy and Haruno suddenly felt upset and unsure.
Then once the minute ended, stiffly, finally, Diego said through gritted teeth, "Perhaps."
His long tail twitch restlessly even as Haruno finally managed to look away, biting at his lip. For all his sarcasm Diego had always been nice to Haruno and he felt silly to not have noticed his uncle was unhappy. It was like how Diego had acted when he introduced Haruno to Papa, smiles that didn't reach his eyes and too much teeth showing. As it was Diego wasn't smiling now, his expression stiff and body language angry.
After a moment of indecision Haruno shuffled across the bed, reaching out with thin arms to hug his uncle.
He barely managed to touch the man's shirt when Diego stood, the abrupt movement knocking Haruno back on the bed. Without a backwards glance Diego stalked from the room, slamming the door behind him and making Haruno flinch as the window rattled.
Haruno lay curled on his side, clutching at the collar of his shirt before he began to cry.
When Haruno woke up his eyes felt gritty and sore and hair mussed. He winced, unfolding himself from the tight ball he'd curled into on top of the plush duvet. It was barely sunrise outside, the sky coloured purple and orange with long snakes of cloud along with a lingering sheen of raindrops dotting the window plane.
Rubbing at his stuffy nose Haruno slid off the bed and made his way to the bathroom, having to spend an awkward five minutes of clambering over the tub to turn on the taps before fetching the red glossy egg Caucasus. Sitting down on the thick mat, Haruno entertained himself with admiring the egg, opening the tiny doors to show the miniature portraits inside. By the time the tub was filled enough the mirror had become fogged and the air humid. Haruno spent some time just sitting in the warm water, thin arms wrapped around himself and watching the water ripple around him even as his fingers pruned. He'd gained weight since coming to Cairo, the consistent meals giving him muscle and fat per a normal four year old should possess, along with clearing his pallid skin and giving a shine to his dark hair. His short hair was also growing, tips curling as the ends edged towards his chin while his fringe now brushed his brow.
Haruno stayed in the bath until the water become lukewarm and cloudy, cleaning the remaining suds from his hair before carefully clambering out. The white fluffy towel completely smothered him as he settled down on the bathroom mat, drying himself off as best he was able before dressing himself. It was slow but Haruno at least knew no one was going to yell at him for taking too long.
That just made him think of his uncle and how mad the man had gotten previous night. He bit his lip, tears stinging his eyes as he put the towel up on the basin before going back to his room with his egg. He wasn't really sure what to do about it or how he could make Diego not be mad at him anymore. He climbed up on the storage chest shoved beneath the window so he could peer outside, resting his arms on the windowsill with the jeweled egg resting next to him. The sky had cleared and he could hear the muffled noise of crowds and traffic in the distance even at the early hour. He even spotted Pet Shop swooping past in a speedy blur as the falcon circled the mansion. He wondered if Pet Shop ever had days off or went and talked to other birds.
He dozed on and off in his room, still feeling lonely and tired. A part of him wanted to find his uncle and...do something, Haruno was unsure what, but he didn't want his uncle to be angry at him. He was sure Diego was mad even if the man hadn't hit or screamed at him. Just slammed the door as he left, so Haruno knew he was mad. Maybe he just didn't liked being touched, Haruno thought. Diego had also refused to hold Haruno's hand when they were outside seeing the giant pointy rocks but he hadn't gotten mad unlike last night. But it still confused Haruno that even Diego was angry he hadn't punished Haruno over it.
Though after some thought Haruno decided it made sense since his uncle was nice even if he got angry. Haruno just guessed maybe his uncle didn't liked being touched, even if he had no qualms about manhandling Haruno around. He didn't know and just got confused and distressed if he thought about it too much. He just hoped his uncle didn't stop talking to him, he was the only one who spent a lot of time around Haruno.
To distract himself Haruno took his lamb, tucking the tattered soft toy into the crook of his elbow before leaving the room. He never really knew what time it was in the mansion, since he couldn't find any clocks so he wasn't sure unless it was sunrise or sunset. But he was hungry so that was enough for him. The fact he could eat whenever he liked was something he enjoyed now.
It was always dark in the mansion despite the windows, shadowed corners that could have monsters and so many candles. Still, he wasn't scared as he knew Father was a monster, a vampire, and he never hurt Haruno. True, Haruno wished that Father would want to spend more time with him but he knew lords were important so Dio probably had lots of things to do. Father did have a lot of guests wandering around the mansion who had things to do with him, something Haruno remembered when he came across people when he descended the stairs and froze at seeing the two strangers walk across the landing from a room opposite.
One was a lithe woman with a dark maroon jacket, black skirt and tights. Pale grey hair bracketed her pretty face, skin dark and eyes gold. Pretty jewels hung from thin ropes attached to her skirt, shimmering faintly as she pivoted neatly to face him. The man was bulky but short with hair that stuck out stiffly to the side with half a dozen bells dangling from the tangled brown locks. A pair of curved, gold-tinted sunglasses rested along his nose, eyes half lidded as he stared down at Haruno.
The four year old stared at the two, who'd stopped talking when they both spotted Haruno. The woman's eyebrows rose while her painted lips pursed around the cigarette in her mouth. The man just cocked his head to the side, making the bells threaded into his hair chime. The noise seemed overly loud in the still mansion air.
Then the woman exhaled a plume of smoke, the cigarette now held delicately between her gloved fingers, before she smiled at Haruno, "Enjoying the sights, little boy?"
Haruno didn't really know what sights the lady was talking about since the mansion looked like it always had since they'd arrived some days ago but Haruno nonetheless smiled back at her and nodded, hugging his lamb against himself. Her eyes were pretty and gold, like Father's. She was magic, Haruno could tell, just like the short man but he didn't know if she was a vampire. Maybe only vampires had golden eyes? But she didn't have fangs unlike Father.
"Such a sorry state, one so young left alone," the man said in a sing-song tone, his voice making Haruno frown though he couldn't pinpoint why.
"Oh just leave it Alessi," the woman rolled her eyes, popping her cigarette back in her mouth, "We have to set off quickly to complete Lord Dio's request."
"And what kind of person would I be if we left a child all alone?" The man's voice didn't loose its overly-sweet tone even if his lips peeled back to show too many teeth.
"Your funeral," the woman scoffed before neatly stepping around Haruno and making her way downstairs, leaving the two alone and the lingering stale smell of cigarette smoke.
Something twitched in the back of Haruno's mind at being left alone with the stout man, like how it used to do back at home when he'd hear a door be shut too loudly or a cup placed on the bench too harshly. Something that warned him to be quiet and careful and to stay out of the way. But Haruno thought that just ignoring the man would be rude and people shouldn't be rude. It said so on the signs at the library he used to stay at for hours, all that time ago back home.
Even so the man's smile seemed too wide as he took a step closer to Haruno, who tensed even as the man spoke in a honeyed tone, "Who might you be?"
"...I'm Haruno," he said quietly. He didn't like the man. At all. He seemed fake-nice, like Telence, but somehow in a nastier way.
"Really?" the man said in the same overly sweet tone, leaning down towards Haruno with his hands on his thighs, "And how old are you, hmm?"
Haruno stared at the man for a long moment, his lamb held tight against his chest, before saying, "I'm four."
"Four years old. You seem so smart for a four year old. But shouldn't someone be keeping an eye on you?" Alessi asked, tilting his head to the side so the bells in her hair chimed softly.
"I can walk around here," Haruno frowned. Father never told him off for walking around the mansion without having someone with him. Sometimes it was Enrico but he hadn't seen the man since before Christmas and Diego he hadn't seen him for a few days. He hadn't seen Vanilla Ice in a while but the man had just said Haruno wasn't allowed outside. He could leave if he was with Enrico or Diego but they were special to Father, he knew that much.
"Still, seems so foolish. Child are so very fragile," the man stroked his chin, looking thoughtful even if his smile was still too wide and sharp.
Haruno wasn't sure if it was the candlelight but it seemed as if the man's very shadow was shifting and sliding across the ground unnaturally while an oddly shiny glint began to rise from it. He didn't want it to touch him, his fingers tightening around around the fabric of his lamb as he frowned at the warping dark shape.
Then a clawed hand seized the back of Alessi's head, roughly grabbing the hair in an iron grip. With a snarl Diego lifted and heaved, bodily throwing the man right over the handrail plunging down the stairs to land with a loud crash below. Haruno flinched at the sudden violent movement and noise, vines and flowers crawling across the lamb's tattered fabric as he stumbled backwards and fell over onto his backside. Diego meanwhile righted himself up, rubbing off his hands with a disgusted expression as if he'd touched something foul.
Ignoring Haruno Diego walked to the railing, leaning over it to say, "Stupid bastard, go catch up with Mariah and do your bloody job before I break both of your hands."
There a brief moment of silence before the slightly muffled noises of movement below which quickly faded as the man with strange hair limped away. Haruno's heart still pounded in his chest, caught off guard by the suddenness of things. Diego just huffed, tail flexing angrily as he ran a clawed hand through his fringe as Haruno got to his feet.
"Are...you mad?" Haruno tentatively asked. He was glad the creepy man was gone but Diego had thrown him away. Maybe he'd do that to Haruno if he was still mad. He was unsure.
"Bah, his de-aging shit wouldn't work quickly enough on me anyway; benefit of being over a hundred years old. What are you doing, anyway?" Diego asked as he turned to Haruno, hands on hips.
"...I was hungry."
"Fair enough. Gods know I certainly eat far more than usual either. Must be a family thing." Then he sniffed, nostrils flaring before fixing his sharp gaze on Haruno, "Did that idiot harm you?"
"Really? Because you smell particularly stressed."
"Oh." Haruno looked away, smoothing his hands over the vines wrapped thick around the lamb until it turned back into fabric. He bit his lip before saying quietly, "You were mad at me."
Diego sighed, "I'm not angry with you. I'm angry with other people. Angry about many things, in actuality. Don't fuss all over it."
"Oh." That calmed Haruno, looking back up at his uncle who looked uncomfortable.
Then with a long inhale his uncle waved a clawed hand in a dismissive action, his expression quickly smoothing over, "Whatever. I'll take you to the kitchen and you can eat whatever- honestly I've half a mind to throttle that idiot Kenny, I have no idea what even is the point of making this ugly place an absolute maze beyond being annoying. You would figure he would do so when those dullards arrive."
Haruno nodded along, even as Diego picked him up in his tail like he'd done the night before. He kept his lamb held tight against his collarbone, the muscular tail wrapped firmly around his midriff as his uncle walked through the mansion. Diego was entirely unbothered by the walls, which to Haruno seemed all the same now with a strange thin mist weaving through everything and dense shadows. Haruno guessed maybe it was the maze Diego spoke, since he knew a maze was like a puzzle but one you had to walk through and to win you had to find an exit. He just got really confused because everything looked the same but somehow Diego found the kitchen, though it was different from the one at the old mansion.
Diego's long tail unwrapped itself from Haruno, carefully dropping the child on the ground. Haruno wobbled slightly, nearly falling over before regaining his balance. Diego gave him a quick glance before leaning against the wall next to the open window, the sunlight the only source of light in the large room. It still seemed so dark but Haruno was used to it.
Since his uncle made no movement to help him Haruno instead wandered over to the cupboards and, after a quick glance, began to rummage through them until he found a sack of apples in the pantry. They were the only food he recognized- there was some weird spiky fruit and some melon thing along with more bottles of dark red fluid -so he decided to take one and sat on the ground, munching on it. It tasted nice, crunchy instead of the nasty almost soggy ones he'd had before. Diego just watched from where he was leaning against the wall, his expression blank.
By the time he finished the apple Haruno was fully calm, the lamb on his lap as he wiped his mouth clean of the juice. After a moment he put the apple core on the ground next to him, wondering if maybe he could bury it somewhere outside. Trees grew from seeds, he knew. But he was also happy that his uncle wasn't mad anymore.
"What are you doing today?" Haruno asked, curious. Diego always seemed to come and go as he pleased. Haruno wished he was jumpy as Diego, able to run up walls and jump over really high fences like he could.
"Me?" Diego seemed to mull that over, studying the glossy curves of his long talons before stretching with his long tail curling and clicking of bones, "I think I shall go outside for the rest of the evening. There are some things I wish to do."
"Oh. Can I come?"
"Why?" Haruno instantly regretted that when he pushed, rather unsure as to Diego's mood. But he liked going outside with his uncle, he knew that much. He like seeing the strange giant beasts his uncle could make with his magic.
However all his uncle did was flick his tail, making a face before answering, "Because I don't wish to play nursemaid today. I doubt you'll die of loneliness without me."
Haruno didn't know what a nursemaid was but nodded while trying to not let his hurt show. Sometimes Haruno wanted to be left alone if there was yelling. Maybe he and Father had a fight so his uncle wanted alone time as well. Or maybe he needed to do adult things and because Haruno wasn't an adult he wasn't allowed around.
Squeezing the lamb plushie Haruno looked up at his uncle, biting his lip. Haruno was worried though and couldn't help but say, "But aren't the bad people coming here? The Joestars. That means they might find you if you go outside."
"You think I fear them?" Diego asked.
"But they killed so many..." Haruno looked down at the button eyes of his lamb. He knew these Joestars were dangerous. That's why Enya and Midler never came back, because the Joestars killed them. He knew that was right, because otherwise they would be at the mansion but they weren't anymore.
Diego made a derisive noise, "Oh please. If these idiotic 'Joestars' want to fight with me, all they have to do is track me down to the markets and start some shit with me so then we'll be in a bloody fight. Though I'll certainly be less of a spineless imbecile like the rest of those boorish fools sent before."
"Um...but you'll be careful, right?"
"Stop fussing." A feathery tail tip flicked at his nose, the suddenness making Haruno jolt back against the pantry and rub at his face even as Diego continued with, "You'll give yourself wrinkles."
Haruno wasn't sure what wrinkles were or how they could be given to him but he nonetheless smiled at his uncle, who returned the gesture with a great deal more teeth before he turned and nimbly jumped out the window. Shifting his grip on the lamb Haruno got to his feet wandered over to the window and peered outside; his uncle was gone, showing only the front yard of the mansion and not a feather to show where Diego had left for.
His disappointment quickly vanished as he realized the front yard was a garden, like the back of the last mansion; he hadn't seen it before because his room was in the wrong place but now he could see all the plants and grass and trees, along with a big fountain which Pet Shop was perched on top of to eye the massive wooden entry gate. He could make frogs for the fountain and there was lots of empty space in the grass for another tree.
Maybe I can make some frog friends until uncle gets back? Haruno thought brightly as he left the kitchen with the apple core and lamb in his arms. It might take him a bit to find the front door with the magical maze since he couldn't jump outside like his uncle, but Haruno was smart- advanced, his teachers used to say -so he would do it and then tell his uncle about it when he got back. Yes, Haruno would do that and make lots of little animal friends to keep him company and see if he could use magic on the apple seeds, so his uncle could see that when he returned. He didn't have to worry since his uncle wasn't angry with him and still looked after him. Those Joestars wouldn't matter.
Besides, Haruno really did want to know if he could make a tree grow from a seed.
The apple core was planted in a shallow hole in the front garden.
Small hands patted the earth back over top of the hole, dirt quickly staining Haruno's blunt nails as he smoothed down the dried earth. It was hard to rip up the grass, despite how lush the small garden was compared with the general arid feel of the mansion and surrounding area. The garden was green, but most of the trees were really fat and stout, with angry looking thorns or spiky green skin. Haruno was fairly sure they were something called a 'cactus' but wasn't sure if they were the local kind of trees as there were few normal trees with brown bark and leafy green growth and that just confused Haruno if he thought about it really hard.
The fountain burbled happily next to him, the noise blending in with the soft rustling of the trees. Outside he could hear the passing hum of traffic and distant voices but the high walls and massive wooden front gates kept most of it muffled. Every so often he'd see Pet Shop gliding past though occasionally the falcon would settle on top of the fountain or the small pillar near the doorway to watch Haruno with keen blue eyes but otherwise the bird kept to himself. Haruno would always wistfully think about his uncle's ability to speak to Pet Shop and how much he wished he could. Haruno guessed he could kind of talk to plants since he made them grow and the animal friends he made liked him but he couldn't actually talk to them like people.
Haruno was also disappointed there wasn't a pond with fish like at the last mansion and he was too short to climb up the fountain to see if there were fish living in there. It was pretty noisy for the fountain, with the constant rush of water so maybe they wouldn't want to live in such a place anyway.
Thinking about that he settled down next to his small patch of earth, digging dirty fingers into the upset soil as he bit his lower lip. Pushing his magic through the earth was harder than he was used to, as he was always holding the thing he was growing or changing but now he was focused on a general area compared with a specific item. Grass sprouted across the upturned soil, lush and green to quickly rise past his wrist and towards his elbows. However quickly following the grass was a narrow shoot, quickly stretching up a delicate trunk with bumpy brown bark and green leaves which twisted and unfurled as the apple tree grew.
What Haruno didn't expect was the sudden head rush as the apple tree stretched past his head with branches twisting out and enveloping him in shade as the trunk quickly thickened, his vision blurring slightly even as the ground underneath his churned and twisted as the roots flexed through the earth and upset the other plants and caused ripples to bulge the stone path. Haruno was knocked backwards from the rapidly swelling trunk of the apple tree and lost concentration as he slumped over, a four metre diameter of grass around the apple tree now ten times its original height.
Coldness dragged at his limbs and Haruno was suddenly so tired. It was nice and soft on the tall grass and the shade from the fully grown apple tree shielded him from the heat so after some thought he went to sleep.
When Haruno awoke later he was curled up in a patch of grass, the apple tree's roots snaking over him in raised coils. Pet Shop was perched in the branches high above, his eyes flickering between the child and the surrounding streets as he kept vigilant watch.
The sun was closer to the horizon at this point, Haruno unsure of how long he'd slept as he settled up onto his rump while yawning loudly. He peered up at the apple tree, staring up at it as the leaves swayed in the breeze. Pet Shop, assured he was fine, spread his wings and flew off in a blur of feathers.
The tree was huge, trunk twice as thick as Haruno was wide and with bright green leaves and numerous ripe crimson apples dangling from the branches. The roots closest to him were pulled up partially, as if the tree was ready to tug itself free of the earth. It had made a nice enough hollow for Haruno curl up in even as he stood up tentatively with a hand resting on the nearest root, the surrounding tall grass tickling his chin as he moved. He still felt tired even after his long nap and hunger nibbled at his gut.
It meant making great big trees was really hard and Haruno didn't like how cold and limp he'd felt before going to sleep. The tree was a lot bigger than anything he'd tried before so maybe his magic had limits. He thought making something go from nonliving to living would be really hard but making a tree be really big was so much harder. It made him think of his uncle and how he made that gigantic sea monster with barely a flick of his fingers. Haruno wondered if he'd ever be that strong.
It also made him wonder where his uncle currently was. He knew Diego was strong, had really interesting magic and all werebeast but those Joestars had killed people already and were in Cairo to try and kill Father. Haruno wasn't sure what he'd do it he met them. Maybe try to have his plants strangle them. His frog friends probably wouldn't be much help in a fight even if they were cute and nice.
Slowly he shuffled back into the mansion, movements a lot more careful than usual with how tired he felt. He wanted another nap but at the same time felt too tired to sleep again. It was a weird feeling to Haruno just decided to walk about the mansion for a bit. He still wasn't completely familiar with the new place even if he occasionally had caught glimpses of Telence and Vanilla Ice around the place along with the brief strangers who never stayed long.
As he walked the warmth crept back into his limps, skin still pale but not as clammy as it was before. He found a room filled with bottles of red liquid, sending crimson dots dancing across the stone floor from the sun stretching through the windows. It was pretty but when Haruno tugged free one of the bottles closest to the ground he couldn't pry off the cork and was wary to use his magic from how tired he was so after some ineffective tugging he left the bottle on the floor and kept exploring.
This time he didn't find anyone, despite wandering around for so long his feet started to hurt. The entire mansion was oddly empty, except for the occasional sleeping woman sprawled on the floor. Some had their eyes open, staring blankly at nothing and Haruno would use dirty fingers to slide their eyelids shut. Sometimes it took him some tries, as many were all stiff like dolls. They looked like they were sleeping with their eyes shut though, so Haruno could just ignore the strange angles some of their necks were or the round bloodless wounds on their throats.
They were so cold, even worse than his hands. It made Haruno wish he had some gloves. Maybe he'd ask Enrico next time he saw the man, though he hadn't seen him since Christmas. He hoped Enrico was okay. Maybe he's visiting his family.
Haruno tugged at the cuffs of his shirt as he walked down another long dark hallway. A few candles dripped puddles of wax on the stone, the smell oddly sweet like a cut orange. He paused at an archway, the dark pit of room yawning towards him like some hungry beast. He wasn't afraid of the dark though, as the people he'd always associated with harm like his mother or stepfather would usually hurt him when it was sunny and dark meant he could hide away. He could hide in the dark even if he wished it was warmer. That was something he noticed in the new country, it was a lot colder at night or in darkness.
Tentatively Haruno poked his head past the archway to peer about the strange room. Like the rest of the mansion the room was dark though this one was lacked any type of window compared with many of the others. Several candles and small round lights were affixed to six tall pillars within the room that cast a sickly, faint illumination across the stone flooring which seemed oddly misty as if he were in a dream. Lining the walls were tall shelves crammed with thick dusty books while in the centre of the room was a chair and sitting next to it was small table which had a lit candelabra resting on it. On the far wall was a long couch of plush red velvet.
All over the room were thick spiderwebs, shining like spun silver in the flickering light. As Haruno eyed the nearest one the long spindly legs of the weaver picked its way carefully across the webbing, tiny claws on its haired feet making the walk silent and barely shaking the web. It was a really big spider, biggest Haruno had ever seen. It looked really furry though, like a mutated weird dog in a way. Haruno wondered if he could pat it or if maybe spiders could be trained to walk on leashes. Dogs could and he was fairly sure cats could, so maybe spiders could as well.
Haruno crept around the room, eyes watching the spider as it settled in the middle of its web in wait. Tearing his gaze from the furry creature he walked over to the bookcases, running small fingertips across the heavy spines. None of them seemed to be in a language Haruno could read and the first one he pulled out was just confusing. The second one however had lots of pictures of strange plants even if he couldn't read the densely packed text on each page. He liked the colourful pictures though, so he hugged the heavy book to his chest and wandered across the room to the couch shoved against the far wall. He didn't want to sit in the chair, he liked couches a lot more because he could lie down and maybe have a nap.
It took a few tries to climb up onto the couch, struggling to dig his short nails into the fabric before he eventually succeeded in dragging himself up onto the cushions with a grunt. For a moment he just lay there, stroking the velvet before pushing himself up and opening the book on his lap.
The plants were pretty, colourful and sharp. There were also little pictures showing the insides of the plant or their flowers and Haruno wondered if he'd be able to make them. He didn't really decide what plants or animals he wanted to make, they just showed up when they wanted. He frowned at the page before looking up, jumping violently when he realized Dio was standing a few feet in front of him, gleaming golden eyes affixed to his small form.
At least Haruno had the sense of mind not to clench his fist; otherwise he would've crinkled the book's page and Dio probably wouldn't like that.
Instead Haruno said hesitantly, "Hi."
His father just laughed, lips curving into a smile that Haruno could barely see in the dim lightning. Dio was wearing the pants with the long ribbons dangling from the belt, bells chiming as the man crouched down in front of him.
Even crouched Dio was taller than Haruno, from where he was sitting down. His eyes slid up to Dio's hair, remembering when it turned into those nasty smelling tentacle things but all he could see was thick blond locks. Maybe his hair was part of vampire magic. That would make sense to Haruno. Would also explain why Dio wasn't bothered by the cold as well, as he wasn't wearing a shirt.
Instead of replying Dio tilted back his head, the light of the candles flickering across the raw wound circling his neck even if the majority of his face was obscured in shadow. With a careless motion he traced the jagged line with a fingertip, golden eyes fixed upon Haruno as he asked, "Do you know why I have this?"
"Did you get cut?" Haruno asked.
"No. Try again."
Haruno frowned, thinking it over as he stared at the wound while his father stared at him. Father was asking him seriously, so Haruno thought about the question very carefully before taking another attempt.
"Did...someone cut you?"
His father's lip curled in a smile, elongated eye teeth pressing against his lower lip, "Closer."
"Did you do it?" Haruno asked, bewildered at the idea. He disliked pain, all the times he'd been slapped or kicked by his stepfather or when his mother had twisted his arm or clawed his skin. He never liked it.
"Yes. It shows how Jonathan's body still resists me, even after all these long years. I do have a notion that consuming someone of Joestar blood will finally make Jonthan's body accept that it is mine," Dio's voice lowered to a sibilant hiss, reaching out a large hand to brush against Haruno's jaw before sliding down to his thin neck.
Dio's hand was so big it easily encircled Haruno's throat, thumb and forefinger touching. His skin was cold, like the motionless women lying throughout the mansion. This close it was so very obvious Dio did not breathe; if not for the occasional blink of his golden eyes the man would be entirely motionless like a statue. Haruno didn't know how Father could not breathe for so long, Haruno's chest always got tight and stuffy if he didn't. Maybe it was because Father was a lord and a vampire. Haruno wasn't quite sure which powers came from which.
"I saw Papa," Haruno decided to say even though Dio already knew that. After all, Father was talking about Papa so maybe he missed him as well. Haruno decided he'd ask Uncle next time he saw him if Haruno could visit Papa again. He'd need to make more flowers for him.
Dio laughed softly, "Hm, yes. Your...'Papa'. Jojo would certainly adore you, sentimental fool he was. Though it seems to have worked on Diego as well."
Haruno smiled at that, which seemed to amuse Dio further as his large hand tightened slightly around Haruno's neck. Then Dio released him, large hand sliding up Haruno's face before brushing his dark bangs from his eyes and then ruffling his hair. Dio's skin was cold, almost icily so in the chilly room but Haruno didn't mind. Dio was usually busy with lord things or other important stuff so he liked being acknowledged and knowing that Papa and Uncle liked him as well. Father liked him and that made Haruno happy.
Dio just looked even more entertained before he rose back to his feet in a smooth movement, pulling away his hand and leaving Haruno on the couch as he went to one of the bookcases.
Haruno meanwhile squirmed on the couch still smiling to himself as he looked back down to the book on the lap, before gently turning to the next page.
"Did you want something?"
His father's deep voice stirred Haruno's slumber, the four year old groggily opening his eyes from where he'd fallen asleep on the couch. His neck ached unhappily as he straightened up from his slumped posture, fingers stiff around his book. Yawning silently Haruno tugged his book back to safety on his lap, blinking as he realized the strange cowboy man he'd seen back at the first mansion was now in the room and that was who Father was speaking to. The stranger's back was to Haruno, the long haired man tense as he watched Dio slide a book back into the case. Haruno didn't know why the man looked so scared and sweaty, Father wasn't mean. Or maybe the cowboy had done something bad.
He hadn't meant to fall asleep but Dio had been very quiet and Haruno had been tired so eventually his eyelids had gotten so heavy and he'd just slumped over. Now he shifted against the cushions, checking the book to make sure he hadn't damaged it before looking back over to the strange cowboy man who was still standing tense and uneasy.
The cowboy huffed in a few short breaths, stammering out something Haruno couldn't hear. The man's cigarette smelled sour and gross, making Haruno wrinkle his nose as he tucked his feet underneath himself, small fingers gripping the thick book tight as he quietly closed it.
"I asked what you're doing here, Hol Horse." Dio's voice was cold.
Haruno bit his lip against a giggle, wondering why the cowboy was called 'Horse'. Maybe he liked horses? Cowboys were supposed to have one. He wished his uncle was with him, he'd know and Diego used to have a horse.
Clearing his throat, Hol Horse said with a thick accent Haruno couldn't place, "I uh, I came to give you my report. It appears the fifth and sixth of the Nine Gods, Mariah and Alessi, have been defeated."
"And?" Dio didn't even turn around, just plucking a book from the shelf and blowing off a cloud of dust. Haruno nestled against the cushions, watching the two adults curiously.
"Um. That was my report. Joestar and the others will arrive in Cairo tomorrow. Only three of the nine Gods remain."
"When I said 'And?' I was talking about you Hol Horse."
The cowboy stammered even as Dio continued, "When are you going to fight them for me, Hol Horse? You swore loyalty to me yet you haven't really fought at all. Anyone can give me reports. You've failed me twice and came running back here." Dio's voice was still mild but it reminded Haruno of how his mother used to sound before she flew into a rage. Just an edge that made Haruno's hackles rise.
Haruno didn't understand what his father was talking about, other than the fact the cowboy had done some bad things and made Father unhappy. He didn't know who those Gods were but he knew the Joestars were bad people and wanted to hurt Father and Uncle and himself. Haruno's fingernails dug into the heavy book on his lap, pulling it tight against his chest so it was trapped between his torso and drawn up legs. Dio meanwhile sidled closer to Hol Horse, talking to the man lowly enough Haruno couldn't hear the conversation from his position on the couch.
Hol Horse's body tensed up each further, muscle seizing up like bands of iron as sweat dripped down to the floor. Dio reached out towards Hol Horse, plucking the cigarette from the cowboy before pressing the burning tip against his index fingers. Haruno cringed, though he couldn't hear the now so-quiet conversation from the couch and Dio seemed entirely unconcerned from his self-inflicted burns as he continued to speak to Hol Horse in low tones.
Tiny blossoms slithered through the stitching of the red velvet cushions at Haruno's back and rump but otherwise everything in the room seemed eerily still.
Then Dio nonchalantly moved forward, passing the cowboy to sit down on the chair in the middle of the room. Smoothly he crossed his legs, the small bells dangling from his belt chiming softly as he settled down and opened up a book while he said, in a far more kind tone, "I expect you to kill Joestar and the others for me this time. Otherwise, I'll kill you."
The cowboy stood in place, shaking slightly even as Haruno relaxed his grip on his book somewhat. He'd been worried his father was going to hurt himself more or yell or something like that. Haruno didn't like yelling at all. Letting out the air tangled in his lungs Haruno relaxed further, moving until he was sitting crosslegged on the couch with the book on his lap. Up in the near corner the spider scuttled back into its dark hollow, web bouncing slightly with its movement.
Then Hol Horse moved, pivoting sharply on his heel to creep up behind Dio who continued reading his book. With a slow movement the cowboy reached up and a heavy-bodied gun suddenly appeared in his hand. Haruno tensed as the gun appeared, now pointing directly at the back of Father's head. Magic!
In his lap the book warped violently and transformed into a large cobra, sleek black scales sliding around Haruno's torso with head slipping around his neck like an angry scarf. Its forked tongue flicked out before hissing near silently to show curved fangs. Haruno didn't know what to do, should he stop the cowboy? Father was a lord, a vampire and magic besides but that was a gun and guns were loud and could kill things Haruno knew, not to mention it was a magical gun so even if Dio was a vampire maybe it could hurt him really bad. Haruno's hands clutched at the snake even as it tightened its grip around his chest and reared up its neck.
Then Dio vanished, the book he was holding falling to the ground with a soft thump, much to the surprise of both Haruno and Hol Horse.
Where is he? Haruno peered around the dark room, squinting through the shadows and the sickly lighting. Around him the cobra shifted, silver-banded coils smooth against the pale skin of of his throat. Dio was just gone.
"I like you."
Both Hol Horse and Haruno jumped at Dio's sudden words, the cobra hissing even as Haruno's gaze locked onto his father who was now standing behind the cowboy.
Haruno relaxed, realizing his father was fine and had just moved away so the cowboy couldn't shoot him. Despite that blood still pounded in his ears, unable to hear Dio as he said something else to Hol Horse, Haruno's fingers trembling as he patted the snake's tail in a nervous self-soothing gesture. Father must've used his magic, or maybe he was just really fast because he was a vampire. But at least Haruno was reassured that even though Dio had that scar around his neck he was still powerful compared to magical people.
Gnawing on his lower lip Haruno watched as Dio turned and left the room without a backwards glance, apparently done with Hol Horse. Haruno didn't really know why Father didn't punish the cowboy for trying to shoot him, since Haruno figured that was really bad to do but Dio obviously wasn't worried. Haruno settled back against the cushions, lowering a hand to brush against the velvet and will away the tiny flowers and tendrils back into stitching.
The cowboy stood there for a long moment, his breath heaving in fast pants as sweat rolled down his face and dripped down to the stone floor below. His limbs were trembling like a newborn foal's, the gun disappearing with a quiet shimmer but Haruno was still angry at him. The man had wanted to shoot Dio and Haruno didn't like him at all now. He didn't care if the man even had a horse anymore. Haruno didn't really know why his father liked the man. Haruno certainly didn't. The cobra meanwhile sensed Haruno's mood, thick coils shifting around his torso and neck as the serpent reacted violently to Haruno's still roiling emotions.
By the time Hol Horse managed to straighten up Haruno was still glaring at him. Maybe he should tell Diego when his uncle got back that the cowboy had tried to shoot Father. Haruno thought that something should be done, that maybe Dio should have yelled at the man.
Then Hol Horse turned and looked directly at Haruno, jolting as he realized that Haruno was in the room with him.
The large cobra slithered around Haruno defensively under the man's stare, puffing out its hood as it hissed viciously. Hol Horse, if anything, looked even more disturbed than when Father had vanished, his face twisting into an ugly expression as he backed away from Haruno to stumble into the bookcase. Several books fell to the ground and the cobra hissed again, venom spitting from its long curved fangs to splatter across the floor. The cowboy jolted to the side, cigarette dropping from his mouth before he fled the room.
Haruno stared at the doorway where the man had left, blue eyes narrowed as Hol Horse's footsteps faded before he slumped back against the cushions. The tip of the discarded cigarette burned in a crimson dot on the cold stone even as the cobra relaxed, wrapping itself around Haruno in a comforting gesture as it rested its angular snout against his throat.
He didn't like that man, Haruno decided. Not at all.
When Haruno didn't see Pet Shop for the whole day following he felt worried. He was used to Pet Shop swooping around, ever vigilant or watching him from the trees in the front yard but Haruno couldn't find the falcon anywhere.
He did find a big red stain out on the cobblestones by the large wooden gates. Haruno worried that the person who spilled all that paint would get in trouble for not cleaning it up properly. While outside he did play about on the apple tree he'd grown, liking the feel of the rough bark beneath his hands and sitting on the thick, exposed roots like a makeshift chair. Above dangling from the coiling branches and between the green leaves were dozens of gleaming crimson apples.
Haruno wished there was a television somewhere in the mansion so he could watch Snow White. He remembered watching the movie and there were apples but they were used as poison. He knew poison was something animals could do but only if they were eaten, like what Snow White did with the apple and then she slept for a long time on a glass bed. Then Haruno was sure someone woke her up but he was too busy watching the apples to think about it too much. Even as he watched one dropped down to the path below, making a wet thunk.
The apple looked sad just lying there and he felt sad over not having Pet Shop or his uncle around so he went back inside. He wanted to show someone the tree he'd made since Father was busy doing lord things and he didn't know where his uncle was.
He was lonely, used to the coming and going of people in the mansion and having attention that wasn't from anger. Now however there was a strange tense air that he didn't like; such as when his mother was about to scream about something. A horrible tension that sent him scuttling back up to his room rather than wander the empty halls. It left him nervous and fidgety, small fingers twisting against one another.
The mist thickened and warped as he escaped up the stairs, Haruno knowing the strange maze he'd gotten trapped in before Midler rescued him had returned to the ground floor. He thought about Midler, with her pretty outfit with seashells and starfish, the gauzy veil covering her face and curling pink hair. She'd been nice to him and he wondered what her ghost magic had been. Maybe he could ask her if she ever came back- he'd have to ask Enrico. That then made Haruno wonder when Enrico would come back, he hadn't seen the man in quite some time. Enrico was nice, but smiley nice. Not nice like Diego, who was still rather prickly but Haruno liked him lots anyway.
By the time he reached the upper floor the muscles in his legs were burning, Haruno's movements slow and careful as he shuffled down the dark corridor until he reached his room.
It looked as large and open as usual. Nothing out of sorts and Haruno struggled to shut the door, trying to get rid of the horrid tense air. Luckily enough being in his room seemed to help, even if Haruno kept giving the bedroom corners furtive glances as if he was waiting for a monster to appear out of the shadows.
He remained alone.
To occupy himself, Haruno played about with some of the books on the shelf, written in a language that was pretty but he couldn't read. Using his magic to make several snakes and the rug into a grassy slab was rather fun, as the snakes were so shiny and pretty with their neat scales and patterned coils. Eventually he got bored with that as the sun inched its way across the floor, turning the snakes back into books as he decided to use the connecting bathroom. He did like the big bathtub and all the nice smelling bubbles he could put in the water, even if he was so short it was hard to grip the taps to fill up the tub.
Playing in the tub helped take his mind off the strangely empty mansion, pulling his thoughts away from where everyone was or why the air felt tense. He did think about Pet Shop, wondering what it was birds did in their spare time. Maybe he was with Diego, Pet Shop did seem to like his uncle. Haruno hoped he'd be able to get a pet when he was older- a real one, not like his magic friends. They were nice but he would like a pet like a dog. Dogs were nice. He could ask Father, when he wasn't busy.
After his fingers got wrinkly and he washed the bubbles out his dark hair, Haruno clambered out of the tub while narrowly missing banging his temple on the porcelain lip. At least the towels were nice and fluffy, Haruno thinking they were was comfortable as the duvets on the posh beds. Haruno thought they could have been made by magic, since he could make living things so maybe someone could make unliving things like chairs and towels. By the time Haruno was dried and dressed he felt better, less skittish and uneasy. He still wasn't sure what he was supposed to do since he knew Dio was important so Haruno probably wouldn't be allowed to go and disturb him. Father didn't mind if Haruno was just there but Haruno hadn't been knocking on doors or anything.
Still, that made him think of the cowboy who Haruno didn't like at all. Then Telence and Vanilla Ice. He hadn't seen those last two in quite some time and once again he wondered where everyone was. The mansion was so quiet right now even though it was deep in the afternoon.
Haruno settled up on the chest shoved underneath the windowsill with his gold and crimson egg resting on the ledge. Haruno trailing a fingertip across the curve of one of the iridescent pearls, smooth like marbles. There was almost a pink sheen to the small sphere. Crossing his arms on the ledge, Haruno rested his cheek against his forearm, gazing out the window idly as the evening sun slowly dried his hair. He should probably open the window but the sun was nice and he could easily have a nap so he did.
While he dozed in the sun Haruno thought maybe he heard distant shouting but there was always lots of traffic and crowd noise outside in Cairo so Haruno didn't think much of it.
Then the building rumbled, swaying slightly from side to side and making Haruno jolt awake. A few puffs of dust dislodged from the ceiling even as hairline cracks crawled up the wall. Haruno tensed, thinking maybe it was one of those earthquakes. They apparently made everything wobbly and could knock down buildings. Haruno grabbed Caucasus to hug it tight against his chest even as another rumble shook the building with several books falling from shelves and a lamp breaking with a sharp noise.
Through the window he could see the broad side wall of the mansion where he knew the big empty ball room was that abruptly had massive holes appearing in the side. It was like a cookie cutter, perfect circles puncturing through the solid rock wall of the mansion in rapid succession.
Confused as to what he was seeing, Haruno shifted up into a crouch and was about to push open the window when someone suddenly landed right outside said window, gleaming cat-like eyes staring at him and making Haruno scream and fall backwards onto the plush carpet.
"Uncle?" Haruno scrambled to his feet, egg clutched to his chest as panic quickly slipped away at Diego's familiar features.
With a harsh yank Diego pried open the window with a creak of ancient wood, slipping inside the room with serpentine ease. Diego was partially transformed, long feathered tail with scaled hands and feet with a mouth curling half way up towards ears while filled with fangs. He also looked oddly worried, an emotion completely foreign on his face while his scaled fingers flexed at his side.
"What's happening?" Haruno asked, wanting to comfort his uncle because of how unhappy the man looked but unsure how, "Is it the shaking? Maybe we should sit under the table."
Diego's lips curled, showing jagged teeth as he said, "It isn't an earthquake. Those idiot relatives have finally arrived and are currently fighting Dio's servants before they will attempt to go after him since they already killed Pet Shop and Telence. If they survive chewing through Vanilla Ice which considering the blood downstairs he'd dealt with a few."
"Where's Father?" Haruno's grip tightened on his egg, a lurch of nausea and panic bringing bile up his throat.
"Somewhere," Diego looked out the window as another crashing noise echoed through the air, the golden dusk of the sky at odds with the sound of violence, "I doubt he'll do anything until necessary. He does like drawing things out. Believes it makes him important- I think it simply makes him look late."
"But they'll kill him," Haruno's voice hitched, feeling a burning in his eyes. If the Joestars made it this far then it meant they were strong and magic and could kill Vanilla Ice and Telence and everyone else in the mansion. He thought it was quiet because they were out shopping but maybe the Joestars had killed them and Haruno never noticed. Maybe they'd killed Enrico as well and Haruno didn't notice that either.
"Dio will want this to be as dramatic as he can make it, so he'll most likely retreat up to his tower and attack them there. It's where his coffin is, after all. Poetic and all that." Despite Diego's nonchalance Haruno could tell he was nervous from how much his tail was twisting about.
"Is he going to be okay?" Haruno asked. He suddenly had a deep horrendous fear the Joestars would succeed and kill Father- and if they could kill Dio then it meant they could kill Uncle and probably him. Diego did say he was unsure if the Joestars would kill Haruno but they killed Pet Shop who was a bird and let Haruno pet him and now he was dead.
Diego cocked his head to the side, staring at the wall absently as he listened; the noises outside had stopped, instead a heavy silence filling the air. Haruno couldn't even hear cars in the distance, hunching his shoulders as he gave a panicked look over his shoulder and half expecting the Joestars to kick the door in and break his neck.
"Alright. I rather wouldn't do this but needs must," Diego stepped back, clawed foot digging into the wood of the chest as he said, "Just remain here, alright? I'll-"
"Don't die," Haruno burst out, even as tears started to roll down his cheeks.
Diego stopped talking at that, staring at Haruno before crouching down in front of him with his long feathered tail twitching as he squinted at Haruno. Haruno tried to control his crying, sniffling heavily and small chest heaving as he struggled against his roiling emotions but it hurt too much. He cringed at Diego's proximity, half convinced the man would strike him like Mother or his step-father would when he started crying but the horrible icy fear was too strong; he didn't want to go back to how things used to be, in a cold horrible house with people who hated him and never gave him food or just screamed at him. He liked it in Cairo, Haruno liked Father and Uncle and he didn't want to see them have dead eyes like his step-father had when he'd been lying on the floor so long ago.
"Why would you say that?"
"You said they want to hurt Father, they have magic too, they might kill you both," Haruno's face scrunched up even as hot tears slid down his face. He scrubbed at his face with a sleeve, eyes burning and limbs trembling.
"Why do you care?" Diego sounded genuinely curious.
"I don't want to be alone again." Haruno managed to say, face twisted up as his small hands gripping Caucasus tightly. His breath came in hiccuping sobs as he started crying in earnest, slumping back onto the ground as tears dripped off his chin to the carpet below.
A series of conflicting emotions flitted across Diego's face, all unnoticed by the crying child. Diego rose back to his feet and made an aborted gesture towards the window, looking back at Haruno who continued to sob. Diego's sharp teeth sank into his lip, bloodying it as he backed off. Again he made a motion as if to jump out the window only to look back at Haruno's small crying form before a quick movement and yelling from outside caught his attention; In the quickly fading sunlight Diego saw a group of people fall- jump? -out of the tall tower adjacent to the room. The Stands of the users he could see, glittering green and shimmering purple vines to which Diego bared his teeth. Sunset and the little wounded group were fleeing, having lost the advantage of the sun. Dio would pursue them but he would play with his food first. Then a particular loud sob brought his attention back to the bawling four year old, who was crying hard enough Diego was actually worried he might choke.
Haruno missed all that due to all his energy being devoted to his sobbing, just as he missed Diego's nervous gesture to touch the ring dangling from the golden chain around his neck as something shifted in his reptilian eyes.
The man's face twisted up in rage as he abruptly snarled, "God fucking damnit," before stalking forward and swiftly kneeling in front of Haruno.
Haruno couldn't help the small cry he gave as Diego grabbed his wrists, pulling Haruno's arms from his face while his tail easily caught Caucasus before it hit the ground. He chirped at Haruno, a sharp animal noise that sent something freezing in Haruno's brain and making his sobs stop in his throat, red-rimmed eyes wide as he stared at his uncle with slightly glassy eyes and he found himself relaxing in Diego's grip.
Diego eyed him carefully "Now quit that noise, I'm not leaving you."
It took a few seconds for the words to sink into Haruno's foggy head, with him saying weakly, "You're not? But the Joestars-"
"I'll kill them myself if it comes to that," Diego snapped, "No, you're coming with me. Get on my back, we'll go to Dio's room," Diego's body fully changed into his beast self at the end of the sentence, settling down on his stomach so Haruno could grab a fistful of feathers along his spine with a tail helping to push him up fully.
Haruno's brain still felt oddly stiff and his limbs wooden as he obediently followed his uncle's urging, Haruno grabbing his crimson egg from Diego's tail tip to turn it into a flower which he then tucked into his shirt. Diego cast a sharp look over his shoulder to make sure Haruno was clinging to him securely before surging up to his full height and, in a single bound, launched himself out of the window with Haruno clinging to his back like a burr.
Inside Dio's tower the ornate coffin was open, Haruno peering over from his position on Diego's back; inside the coffin was the odd runty vampire he'd seen a few times around the mansion. Though said vampire had his jaw broken and half his face torn off. Haruno dug his fingers into Diego's glossy feathers even as his uncle hopped down from the windowsill into the room. Using his long tail he plucked Haruno from his back, putting the child on the floor before partially transforming back into a human.
Haruno hugged his flower tight, the crimson petals brushing against his jaw as Diego talked towards the coffin where the tiny vampire was making pitiful whining noises. Haruno watched as his uncle reached into the coffin, scales and talons rippling across his hands and up his forearms. He was too short to see what Diego did to the vampire but there was a sharp crunch followed by a splattering noise and when Diego pulled his hands back into view they were soaked in blood. Ignoring Haruno Diego stepped away, crossing the room to one of the tables where a basin of water was resting on to wash his hands.
Tentatively Haruno crept across the room while his uncle grumbled to himself as he washed his hands, and Haruno stood on tiptoes to try and look inside the coffin only to huff when he realized he was still too short. He could see blood, so dark it looked black, dripping down the side of the coffin though. Haruno frowned, burying his nose into the sweet-smelling petals as he backed away. He couldn't see Father anywhere and said as much to Diego.
"He just left," Diego said, pulling his now clean hands from the basin and flicking water from his curved talons, "In pursuit of those moron do-gooders."
"But the man in the coffin..." Haruno bit his lip, giving said coffin an uncertain look.
"He's weak, even by vampire standards," Diego said dismissively, "I'd say he's more akin to a ghoul than a vampire, just without a lot of rot. He won't heal before sunrise which is around five at this time of year here in Cairo so he'll die. The less witnesses the better."
"Won't the bad people come back?"
"I figure they have their hands full with Dio, who followed them. We'll see who'll win. From what I understand this new little group is woefully inadequate but Dio is weak. Serves him right for being stupid enough to steal a body infused with Hamon when he's a bloody vampire." Diego crossed the room, opening the door to Dio's room and stepping inside, with an unsure Haruno following him.
The odd stilted haziness that'd covered his brain had largely dissipated but Haruno still felt on edge. Though he felt happy to know his uncle wasn't going to leave, he didn't want to be alone anymore. And now he wasn't but he thought it would be better if Father was there too, away from the people who wanted to hurt him.
Inside Dio's room Diego had leapt up onto the wall, talons digging into the stone with a horrible noise as he plucked an ornate golden arrow off the wall. He landed as nimbly as a cat before twisting around to place the arrow along the length of his tail. With an odd rippling motion the arrow absorbed itself into his tail, the feathers flaring with a brief prismatic light even as the feathered fan at the end transformed into the shape of an arrow head. Diego flexed his tail a few times before turning back to Haruno who was watching him anxiously.
"Just to make sure that ridiculous foundation don't get this," Diego said, "They'll be like vultures plucking at carrion. Useless scavengers."
"Shouldn't we find Father?"
"At their core human beings are no different than a flock of pigeons. If one bird flies right then they all go right. Every last one of don't try to see anything but their own gain and their own hubris. They're just an assembly of pretenders." Diego looked directly at Haruno then, his slit pupils now long dark oblongs in his glowing blue eyes, "These fools who've traveled half way across the globe to fight Dio or die trying and dying they seem to be. All to save a single pathetic life which has less will power than a bird. How disgusting."
Haruno said nothing, just watching his uncle curiously. A line of golden feathers were running down the top of his tail, glowing with a strange sheen like fireflies. The repeated words DIO along the muscular appendage were wavering back and forth in an entirely unnatural movement, as if being seen through a pool of water.
"So they're following Father?" Haruno asked, tearing his attention away from Diego's tail back to his face.
Diego rolled his eyes, "No, they're being pursued. Hunted. They're idiotic as they had no real plan beyond 'let's eventually show up'. Fools. But to answer your previous question yes, we will go find Dio and see what ridiculous act he's caught up in. That moron brother of mine always had a habit of playing with his food. He just needs to kill them, not stand around talking about it. Let's go."
"But what about Papa?"
Haruno pointed to Jojo's skull, which was on its customary table next to the bed. The skull was bleach white among the dark interior but there was still the flower crown Haruno had made resting on the smooth cranium. Even if the flowers were wilted and petals dried.
Diego sighed, "I suppose we can't leave him here."
Feeling better- because he didn't think Papa would want to be in a dark room forever -Haruno watched as Diego ransacked the room until he found a leather backpack in one of the cupboards. Emptying it of the thick cluster of diamonds inside Diego then carefully put the skull inside before shrugging it onto his shoulders. Then he hefted up Haruno under one arm and, instead of jumping out the window, went back through the mansion and down the winding staircase.
"Oh, someone made a mess," Haruno said as they walked past a massive hole in the wall. There were also blood stains on the drapery which Haruno disapproved of. It was pretty, people shouldn't put stains on it. They should get a stern talking to, Haruno decided.
Diego sniffed, nostrils flaring as he inhaled deeply before growling, "As I said, dead fools."
"Is someone dead?"
"Yes. All of Dio's servants in here, anyway."
Haruno didn't like that. Vanilla Ice was nice even if he never smiled and Telence let him play with his moving dolls before. And gave him food, he liked having enough food. Diego didn't seem bothered, instead sniffing like a bloodhound as he made his way through the dark, silent mansion with ease even as Haruno hung in his grip. The flower was clenched in Haruno's fist, the petals tickling at his throat and the sweet scent comforting him among the smell of dust and copper. Diego then veered through into the hall, and Haruno realized it'd been where the big circles had been made. All along the walls, like a perfect cookie cutter. There were also massive grooves along the ground and sand all over the place which crunched under Diego's boots.
The place was a really big mess and Haruno wondered who'd smashed up all the pretty pictures and ornaments in the hall. That was rude, in his option. People shouldn't break other peoples things. He did spot a black and white lump partially buried in the sand off to the side and it took him a few seconds to realize it was a small dog. It was slumped over the churned stone and scattered sand and had a little bandage around one of its forelegs so Haruno squirmed in his uncle's grip to point it out to Diego.
"The dog is hurt," Haruno said, "Should we give it a blankie?"
"It's just sleeping," Diego waved a hand dismissively, carrying on through the hall to hop onto one of the curved holes on the wall to look outside. Above, night had truly fallen with the darkness speckled with stars.
Haruno frowned as the sleeping dog got lost from view; he liked dogs, he wouldn't mind having one for a pet and maybe when they see if Father was okay they could come back and see if the dog would be his friend. That made him think of Pet Shop and he hoped the falcon would come back soon.
"So, Vanilla Ice is dead and so is that fortune teller and little illusionist. Good," Diego hopped out the hole to drop down into the garden below, Haruno gripping his shirt like a limpet.
"Is it?" Haruno didn't think Vanilla Ice being dead was very good, frowning up at Diego's face as he squirmed.
"The mansion is currently deserted, except for that pathetic excuse of a vampire upstairs who'll die when the sunrises if his injuries don't get him first," Diego told him as he set Haruno down, "Cleaning up loose ends. I have the scent of those fools and it seems they're on the move further into the city. Now, get on and we'll track them down and see what moron plan is currently in action."
With a flexing motion Diego transformed into his beast form, it seemingly different from what Haruno was used to, more shimmery, big and pointy but it was dark so maybe he was wrong. Either way Haruno clambered up onto his back, fascinated at how the bag containing Papa's skull had also disappeared into feathers and muscle. Tucking the stem of his flower down his shirt Haruno grabbed two handfuls of feathers even as Diego straightened up before leaping up on top of the massive concrete perimeter fence. The skyline of Cairo was alive with lights and noise and Haruno couldn't help the breathless laugh that escaped him as Diego launched off the fence onto the roof of a nearby building before proceeding to sprint across the city like a wild cat.
Fast and nimble Diego bounced up tiles and leapt off chimneys with barely a disturbance, the chilly wind whipping through Haruno's hair and making his cheeks apple red. Below cars sped down streets and the murmur of humanity blended with the rumble of engines. At one point they disturbed a cap napping on the edge of a building, making the cat yowl in shock as Diego leapt right over it. Haruno didn't notice, clinging to Diego's feathers as the city moved beneath them.
He was so distracted by the blurring lights and feeling of motion that when Diego stopped he nearly went flipping up over his uncle's serpentine neck. Only Diego rearing up stopped that, Haruno getting the breath pushed from his lungs as he hit the feathery shoulder blades.
Perched on the edge of the tall building Diego transformed, not back into a recognizable human but enough he could speak- even if his voice was slurred due to a mouthful of fangs and a pointed snout, "Look over there. Seems we've found one of the failure heroes."
Looking in the direction of a sharp claw Haruno could see a water tower, where someone had been smashed into it hard enough they'd dented the metal. The person was in green with red hair and pale skin, and blood was splattered all across his front from a gaping wound punched into his gut to show purple slicked organs and the barest hint of white bone. Diego trotted across the building ledge, leaping across the roof before landing nimbly in front of the tower with all the grace of a panther. A deep puddle of water, stained heavily with red, was flooding the roof underneath the broken tower.
"Is he sleeping?" Haruno asked, fingers digging into Diego's shoulders. The wound looked bad but maybe that man in green was magic and was just sleeping until the hole went away.
"No, he's dead. Ah, such a silly rabbit." Diego said in a mocking tone to the dead man, lips curling into a sneer, "Die so young. Oh well, a good life lesson isn't it Haruno?"
Haruno didn't really know what life lesson the dead person was supposed to be showing to him, what with being stuck up there like a wayward kite in a tree, so he didn't say anything even as Diego transformed fully back into his beast form. He squinted at the dead, still man slumped in the tower, noting with curiosity his earrings with cherries. Haruno knew cherries were fruit and grew on trees, and he thought about the apple tree he'd made even as Diego took off at a steady lope again. He'd forgotten to show his uncle that tree and he wondered if when they found Dio he could tell them both about his tree.
And maybe Enrico, if he decided to visit again. Haruno liked his company, the white-haired man was kind to him.
At least one of the bad men who wanted to hurt them was dead, though. Haruno looked over his shoulder, bangs fluttering in front of his eyes even as the broken water tower faded from view as Diego continued his trek across the roof tops. Hopefully the others would be dead then as well and things can go back to normal because Haruno was happy like that. He liked his garden and frog friends and his father and uncle.
Their next stop was at a deserted storefront, Diego leaping off a chimney to go plummeting down to land as softly as a cat in front of cluster of bodies and broken tables. The street had upturned vehicles and blood splatter across the empty street like paint. Haruno clung tight as Diego stepped along the cobblestone path to the intersection where a man was sprawled on his back on the stone, a gleaming silver knife jutting out of his throat.
Partially transforming Diego crouched down in front of the dead man, lower half still all beast and Haruno clinging to his partially feathered shoulders. He pointed a long hooked talon at the old man, looking back at Haruno from the corner of his eye as he said plainly, "That is your nephew. Joseph Joestar."
Haruno peered down at the dead man, with his thick beard and wide brimmed hat, before he remembered Diego showing him that photo before. Of those two men who looked like they were sleeping, one in black and the other being the old man lying before him. It seemed so long ago. It was strange to see the man all pale and dead on the ground. He looked a lot better in the photo.
"Can I touch him?"
"If you want."
Carefully Haruno climbed down Diego's shoulders, a long tail stopping him from falling over before he straightened up. The flower's petal brushed against his face with the movement but Haruno ignored it as he shuffled forward to peer down at his nephew.
His nephew was very big, bulky and tall like Vanilla Ice and Father. But his skin was pale and eyes were open and glassy. Like his stepfather's had been when the man had died on that kitchen floor. His mother dangling from the ceiling. Those women who slept on the floor. Empty and looking at nothing.
Carefully Haruno reached out, touching a small finger to the man- his nephew's -delicate eyelids. His eyes were green but not like grass, not like leaves, almost as if they'd been mixed with some blue but still green. Not like Haruno's which matched the bright blue sky during a clear noon. Carefully Haruno pulled down one eyelid and then the next, hiding those lifeless eyes from view.
The man's skin was as cold as stone and Haruno couldn't help but touch the rest of his face; it was thick with wrinkles and his beard was scraggly, itching Haruno's palm as he patted it. He seemed so old to be Haruno's nephew which he still found confusing. The knife jammed in his throat was a silvery steel, bright against the skin.
Haruno, after a moment of staring, reached out and tried to yank the blade out with little success. After a few tries with the blade not budging- and making more blood ooze down the man's neck as the blade's movement made the wound lengthen -Haruno used his magic to turn the blade into a crimson rose with a thorn-filled stem. Satisfied he lay the rose to the side and peered curiously at the open wound in the man's throat; inside the torn crimson flesh he could see the odd rubbery tube of the man's throat.
Next to him Diego sniffed, "This is what remains of one of Jojo's two descendants? What a massive disappointment he turned out to be. An old man who put up as much fight as a lame horse to be put down."
Pouting slightly Haruno settled back on his heels, looking his nephew up and down. The man's arms were very muscular, a thick bicep nearly the same width had Haruno's entire waist. He touched the cold skin curiously before trailing small hands down to the white gloves. The glove felt oddly dense so Haruno tugged at the white fabric, expression becoming awed when he realized instead of skin beneath the glove there was instead smooth sleek metal for a left hand. Pulling the glove off completely, Haruno curiously touched the metallic fingers, cold and dark yet moved easily with Haruno's probing.
"He's got a robot hand," Haruno said, delighted. It was like one of the Transformers toy which he remembered playing with at the library, what seemed so long ago. Haruno was glad his bad nephew couldn't hurt him anymore but was sad he couldn't ask that 'Joseph' about his robot hand. Haruno found it so interesting.
"Technology is certainly interesting in this age," Diego agreed, crouching down next to him. He reached out and touched the artificial hand before he abruptly yanked it out of its socket, sparks splattering across the stone as Haruno jumped backwards.
Standing up Diego hurled the metal hand through the window of the restaurant, shattering the glass with a horrible noise and making Haruno cringe. For a long moment there was silence, broken by the distant hum of traffic and Haruno frowned.
"Alright enough gawking at a pathetic old dead man, let's go," Diego said sharply.
Haruno didn't argue as he was once again tossed up onto Diego's back as the man transformed again, bounding off across the street to leap onto one of the traffic lights and launching himself back up onto the roof tops. Haruno managed to give a single brief look over his shoulder to where his nephew's still body was lying before it was lost from view as Diego continued his trek through the city.
Where ever the fight had, it must have been fairly spread out. Haruno knew his uncle mentioned there had only been a few of those people who wanted to kill them but they must be running around the city with Father chasing them. Diego keep inhaling, shifting direction with his sniffing as he tracked down the other bad men in the city. Haruno didn't know how his uncle did that, Haruno was confused and in awe of how massive the city was and how pretty it looked in the dark of night with so many twinkling lights. High above he could spot a few stars but most were chased away by the brightness across the skyline. In the distance the pyramids were lit up like fireworks, so easy to see even so far away.
A leap across a busy intersection where the people below were none the wiser, a bound up a slated rooftop, claws digging into windowsills and a tail sweeping past clotheslines. Occasionally someone would notice a shadow, a whisper of sound, to look in the vague direction but the dark shape of a large beast leaping across the rooftops of Cairo were dismissed just as quickly as brief paranoia or flickering shadows.
Occasionally they passed by damage- a blood, broken windows, smashed vehicles, but it wasn't until they reached a cul-de-sac was there such blatant evidence of a recent fight, Diego dropping down to bounce off a wall before landing to a skidding halt to the footpath below. Diego deftly plucked Haruno off his shoulders, leaving the four year old as he went to investigate a nearby blood splatter.
The road was in ruins, with several storefronts having smashed glass and cracks lined the stone paths. There were two dead police officers sprawled on the ground, bodies sagging as if they were deflated balloons and blood was splattered all over the place, across the ground and splashed across the surrounding walls and steps. There were numerous knives around the area, most plunged into the ground with enough force to cut through stone. A discarded stop sign was resting against some nearby steps, metal bent and twisted.
Slumped a partially crumbled wall off to the side was a man, tall and muscular but bloodied and unconscious. As Diego crouched down to sniff at a wet bloody stain Haruno toddled over to the man; unlike the police officers the man was breathing though it was shallow and oddly wet. Haruno climbed up onto a chunk of rubble next to the stranger, gazing at him in open curiosity. The man was so interesting, with a stiff pillar of silver hair that was blood splattered and an earring in the shape of a broken heart. When Haruno put a small hand on the man's muscular bicep his skin was sticky with sweat. Even as Haruno watched the man's eyelids twitched before sucking in a rattling breath, red staining his lips as he struggled to breathe.
"Should we get someone?" Haruno asked.
Diego frowned, looking up from his sniffing, "Why?"
"But the man is hurt," Haruno said, "We should get help. The um. You call a number. They said so on TV. Get the doctor people."
"Who cares about him? Let him die," Diego said as he walked over, glaring at the unconscious man.
"Oh. Is he bad?"
"He's part of the group who wants to kill Dio- considering I can smell his blood, they must have attacked him in this square and injured him fairly badly," Diego stepped over to the downed man, reaching out and resting a foot on the man's shin. With a deliberate movement he forced his foot down, breaking the man's shin with a dry snapping noise.
Haruno flinched, something in him cringing at the horrible sound. The silver hair man didn't wake up, even from having his bone broken. Instead he just made a gagging noise as blood stained his chin to drip down his neck, yet remained slumped and unresponsive. The redness was stark against his pale skin and hair.
"Weak," Diego hissed at the unconscious man, tail lashing angrily.
Haruno gnawed on his lip, fingers tangling into flower petals before tentatively asking, "Is Father okay?"
"He's still alive and I think the little 'Joestar' group are now down to one- the fortune teller and the dog died back at the mansion, there's this useless knight, the dead student in the tower and Joseph back down the street. That leaves the youngest, your great grand nephew. Hm, one on one with Dio. And Dio killed those police officers so he's no doubt healed from the injuries they inflicted. The blood is still wet so I guess we only missed them by a few minutes."
"My nephew," Haruno tried the word, thinking about it before saying to Diego, "You're my uncle."
"But I'm not old." He already knew this but it still felt so strange to him. Even after seeing his nephew, Joseph, who was a really old man it still left Haruno so curious and confused.
Diego laughed, which at least got rid of his scowl, "Yes well, I'm over a hundred years old but you wouldn't think it. The ages in this family are a tangled thing. Now get on my back, I'd wager we're only a few blocks away from where this entire mess is now. The time stops are quite frankly getting ridiculous."
The blond man shifted, form now lean and feathered to crouch down next to Haruno. The four year old checked his egg-turned-flower from where it was tucked down the front of his shirt before clambering up onto Diego's muscular back before they were back to running, Diego scuttling up the side of a nearby building before continuing their trek along the rooftops of Cairo.