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Ventus

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Rin looked down at the #259 badge the strange bean man had gave him. I can’t believe I actually managed to get here, he thought, gripping it tightly in his hand as if someone was going to try and steal it from him . His dream of becoming a Botanical Hunter was that much closer to coming true, and it left him with a jittery feeling in his chest.

The corners of his lips twitched up into a small smile for just a moment at the thought, before it faded as he glanced around and took in the rest of the packed room. Seems I’m not out of the woods yet. The whole place was filled with barely contained tension and unease, and it sent a shiver of apprehension down his spine at the thought of having to compete with these people. He knew there was going to be plenty of strong people that would also be taking the exam, but he didn’t expect them all to be so bloodthirsty. Almost every single one of them were eyeing each other, fully prepared to kill whoever was standing next to them if necessary. There were only a handful of others who clearly did not belong and would most likely be the first ones to go; they were the ones who were puffing out their chests in obvious bravado, but anyone who had even a hint of experience in fighting could tell they had no skills to back it up, the ones who were slightly hunched in on themselves and were glancing around nervously, as if waiting for someone to either attack or help them. And however much he sympathized with them there was no way he was sticking his neck out to offer help; it would just paint an unnecessary target onto his back, one that he didn’t need or could afford to have.

Before he could think more on the subject, the elevator let out the same obnoxious ding it did everytime the doors creaked open with its new cargo. And just like every other time, everyone in the tunnel turned over to see who would step off. This time it was three people: a man in a suit who was holding a briefcase over his shoulder, a teenager in white pants with a blue shawl, and a young boy decked out in green with what looked like a fishing rod sticking out of his backpack.

Rin watched as the bean man went over to give them their badges with numbers. The quiet clicking of their shoes was the only sound that filled the room as they walked closer to the wall where a man was sitting on a pipe— Tonpa, I think his name was.

Rin was sitting against said wall a little ways down from them, so their voices travelled easily to him in the enclosed space.

“Haven’t seen you guys around before,” Tonpa yelled. He waited until they had looked up at him before raising a hand in greeting. “Yo,” he called down, a large grin spreading across his face.

The boy in green looked confused. “You can tell we’re new?”

Tonpa nodded as he answered, “More or less.” Then proceeded to jump off the pipe. “After all, this will be my thirty fifth attempt.”

Rin sweatdropped. That’s not really something to be proud of...

“Thirty five times?!” exclaimed the man and the boy. Their voices echoed loudly throughout the room.

Rin winced, hoping they didn’t end up annoying someone enough that a fight broke out.

However, the outburst didn’t even seem to impact Tonpa, and he just let the grin sit comfortably on his face with an ease that spoke of a surprisingly large amount of patience. “Well, you could say I’m an exam veteran,” he happily said.

The guy in the suit leaned over to the teenager and attempted to whisper, though he failed horrendously, “That isn’t something to brag about.”

“Indeed,” the teenager mumbled.

A snort escaped Rin’s throat before he could stop it, and he quickly covered it up, eyeing them nervously in case they heard. It seems we share the same opinion.

“If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.” Tonpa just carried on as if they never said anything.

The little boy smiled. “Thank you.”

The overweight man raised a hand. “My name is Tonpa.” Yes, I remembered right!

“I’m Gon.” The boy shook his hand. He turned to the two behind him. “These are Kurapika and Leorio.” At least I know their names now. Gon turned back around to Tonpa, his head tilting to side and his eyes wide with curiosity. “Hey, are there others who have taken the exam a bunch of times like you?”

“Well, I have the most experience here, but there are a few others.” Tonpa looked around the room as he talked. “For instance, there’s him…” He pointed to another overweight man who was sitting on the ground, eating, and had the #255 badge pinned to his chest. “Todo, the wrestler. He’s unmatched in strength. And he’s smarter than he looks. On the other side, we have number 103.” This time Tonpa pointed at an older gentleman with a scarf and a head covering. “Bourbon, the snake charmer. He tends to hold grudges, so you don’t want to end up on his bad side. And then...number 191, Bodoro, the kung fu master.” It was an even older man that had his grey hair in a ponytail. “He’s getting old, but there still isn’t a better martial artist around.”

Rin started to zone out after Tonpa had mentioned Bourbon. This is interesting and all, but I don’t think my brain can handle all this information right now. A slight shiver went through him, this time from the temperature of the cement he was sitting on. It was cold, which was understandable considering they were underground, so Rin was glad that he had decided to go with sweatpants and a black tank top under a tan sweater. The only problem was that being warm and just sitting there doing nothing was not helping Rin stay awake in the slightest. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open, and the heavy weight of his eyelids was starting to get to him, but his head whipped up when a scream suddenly echoed throughout the tunnel. His eyes widened when he finally found the source of the chilling sound and came face-to-face with a sight he would have preferred never to have seen.

There, standing a few feet away from him, was a man whose arms were slowly disintegrating into little, red flowers. This is…

“Oh, how peculiar. His arms seem to have become flower petals.”

Rin slowly looked over to the man talking.

A clown.

There was no simpler explanation for his appearance. He had a teardrop on his left cheek and a star on the other, and he wearing a pink and white outfit that was reminiscent of a jester.

The man raised both of his hands into the air, a smirk crawling onto his face the more he spoke. “No smoke and mirrors here. Do take care. When you bump into someone, you really should apologize.”

The tension that had already been billowing around the room skyrocketed as everyone mumbled to each other in discomfort.

Rin sat completely still as every muscle in his body stiffened from the sheer amount of power pouring off of him. He could practically taste the bloodlust saturating every ounce of the man’s nen, and every instinct was telling him to run now, get away!

“That psychopath is back again.” The sound of Tonpa’s voice jolted him out of his thoughts, thankfully before he did something stupid, and he turned back to face the group that had captured his attention.

Gon was staring at Tonpa with wide eyes and asked, “Again?”

The teena- oops, Kurapika asked, “Does that mean he took last year’s exam?”

“Number 44. Hisoka, the magician. Last year, he was a virtual lock to pass the test, until he all but killed an examiner he didn’t like.” For once, Tonpa had no smile as he spoke.

Rin glanced at the magician, before quickly turning away in case he accidentally grabbed the other’s attention. I am definitely avoiding this guy.

“A-And they’re still allowing him to retake the exam this year?” Leorio stuttered out, his arms shaking as he stared at the back of the magician walking away.

“Of course,” he stated as if it was obvious. “Every year, the examiners and test content change, and the examiners are the ones who choose the new content. The devil himself could pass if that were the examiner's determination. That’s just how the Hunter Exam works. Anyway, no one likes him,” Tonpa added. “You should stay away, too.”

Rin barely managed to stop his eye from twitching at that. Well, I can see why, and isn’t that...common sense. Afterall, the guy did just cut off two limbs. Anyone with a single grain of common sense would know not to mess with him.

“He looks dangerous, that much is sure,” Leorio confirmed, nodding as if everyone else hadn’t already seen that clearly..

“Oh, right…” Tonpa’s mouth opened in a silent ‘o’, as if he suddenly remembered something. He reached into his bag and pulled out some juice, then held it out to them in offering. “A little something to mark our acquaintance. How about it?”

Leorio immediately brightened up. “Oh, appreciated. As it happened, I was thirsty.”

“Thanks,” Gon exclaimed, grabbing the drink with an enthusiasm only seen in children.

Kurapika answered more calmly and graciously took the can, “Thank you.”

Strangely enough, Rin could hear people chuckling to themselves while the exchange happened. The people nearest them were all hiding smirks behind their hands or looking away, but all of them seemed satisfied to some extent. It was only when he heard someone spitting out something that he looked back over.

“Tonpa-san, this juice must have expired. It tastes funny,” Gon admitted with a sick expression.

Eh, seriously? I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t drink mine yet, Rin thought as he peered down at the innocent looking can sitting next to him.

Leorio then proceeded to do a spit take just as he was about to take a sip. “Seriously?! That was close!” He raised a hand to frantically scrub away the leftover drink that dripped down his chin.

Tonpa was starting to look a little panicked. “H-Huh? That’s strange…” He rubbed the back of his head, guilt flashing across his face as he apologized, “I’m very sorry! I didn’t realize the juice had gone bad.”

Rin’s attention was diverted when a ringing and squeaking sound went off, and he jerked back in surprise when the wall at the end of the tunnel started to lift up.

A tall, thin man was revealed standing on the other side. “I apologize for the wait. The entry for Hunter applicants has ended. The Hunter Exam will now begin! A final caution. If you are short on luck or ability, you could very well end up seriously injured or even dead. Those who accept those risks, please follow me. Otherwise, please exit via the elevator behind you.” Despite this warning, no one moved a muscle. “Very well. All 404 applicants will participate in Phase One.” The man then proceed to walk— like a robot? What the heck is he? —away from the group.

Rin jumped to his feet at that. Oh god, I’m getting nervous again. However, despite that, he joined the crowd as everyone followed behind the man who would be their examiner for an indefinite amount of time. He frantically shook his head, trying to shake away any negativity that clung to him like a stubborn burr. I can totally do this.


 

I can’t do this. The people in the front had started running and were slowly getting faster and faster. No, stop thinking like that. Rin shook his head again to try and clear his mind, though the only thing he really succeeded in doing was make himself feel light headed.

A boy with white hair, who was skating next to him, gave Rin a strange look. Rin tried giving him a smile, but the boy only rolled his eyes and sped up. Great, now he thinks I’m crazy.

“I neglected to introduce myself,” echoed from the front of the group. “I am Satotz, the Phase One examiner. I shall lead you to the exam’s Second Phase.”

“Second Phase? What about Phase One?” the ninja guy asked.

“It has already commenced.” Well, that explains the running. Satotz glanced over his shoulder. “You must follow me to Phase Two. This is the exam’s First Phase.”

Rin was a little relieved, to be honest, that the first phase was just this. He had been worried that he would immediately have to fight someone, which had not appealed to him. It wasn’t that he was particularly weak or anything, though he also knew for certain that he wasn’t the strongest either, he just preferred not fighting if given the choice.

This though, this was something he could do all day. There was something calming about the rhythmic pounding of feet against the ground, the slight burn in a person’s lungs. It made him feel alive in ways that he hadn’t felt in a long time. The longer he ran the more he felt any tension remaining in his body melt away, including the cloud of doubt that had hovered over him like an incessant bee ever since he decided to sign up for the exam.

Hmm, if the task is to follow him, then I should probably go closer to the front. Rin picked up his pace from where he had been lagging slightly behind the pack so that he was closer to the front and could keep Satotz’s back in sight. However, a shout from behind made Rin look back for a split second, one that actually saved him because he suddenly had to jump to the side to avoid Leorio running toward him like a madman. He’s screaming like one, too , Rin thought with a chuckle.

He made the mistake, however, of not watching where he was going, and as he jumped he accidentally bumped into someone next to him. He turned to them with an apology on his lips, only to choke on it as he saw exactly who it was that he had bumped into.

Hisoka peered down at him with narrowed, gold eyes, never once faltering in his smooth, graceful pace.

The only thing that kept him from booking it right then and there was the tiny voice in his head whispering about what had happened to the other man earlier.

“S-Sorry,” he managed to squeak out, before following Leorio’s example and taking off like the devil was on his heels, because in this case it wasn’t that far from the truth.

He tried to ignore the feeling that he had just barely managed to scrape by death.


 

Why? Everything was going just fine, so why? Why must there be stairs?! Rin couldn’t help but glare at every step he went up. Ahhh, I hate stairs so much, and there’s so many of them. Looking up at the never ending staircase did nothing but drain his spirit, hence the glaring. It didn’t help that after they hit the stairs, the pace really started to pick up. I don’t understand how he can run like that on flat ground, let alone going up stairs! Rin refused to think about it anymore or else his head would probably explode.

Running on flat ground was one thing. Running up a death contraption meant to trip and injure any who dared to cross it was another.

Rin’s mouth fell open when he saw Gon and the white haired kid dart pass, laughing all the way up. How are they enjoying themselves?! By then, he was panting and sweat was dripping down his face. Stamina was not one of his strong suits by a long shot, especially when faced with his mortal enemy.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, they arrived at the exit.

Fresh air! He took a huge breath and slowly let it out, enjoying the coolness of the breeze against his heated face.

“The Numere Wetlands, also known as Swindlers Swamp. We must cross these wetlands to reach Phase Two of the exam. This place is home to many bizarre animals, many of them being cunning, insatiable creatures who deceive humans and prey upon them.” Satotz’s voice dropped a little toward the end, giving it a more ominous feeling to it. “Be very careful. If you let them fool you...you’re dead.” Nice to know… He stated it like their lives were a small, unimportant fact.

A shutter closed over the exit, cutting off a guy from coming out. And us going back .

“These wetland creatures will use every trick in the book to fool their prey. An ecosystem in which creatures obtain food through deceit…” He paused and gestured behind him with both arms, the sight of the swamp serving as an unnerving backdrop. “Hence the name Swindlers Swamp. Stay very close to me so you won’t be deceived.” So...it’s basically what we just did, they just added in some creatures who can easily kill us. Perfect.

“Don’t let them fool you! D-Don’t fall for it…” a voice suddenly yelled.

Uneasy rumbling flowed through the group of people as they all looked around for the origin of the warning.

A man limped out from around the corner of the entrance. His entire body was covered in dirt and wounds, and he was staring at them in horror. “He’s lying to you! He’s an impostor! He isn’t an examiner...I’m the real examiner.” This declaration caused even more murmurs to break out. “Look at this...It’s a Man-Faced Ape, one of the creatures that dwell in the Numere Wetlands!” He held out a limp creature by the arm, one that kind of resembled a monkey; it’s body was covered in brown hair, but it’s head had purple. It...does kind of look like him, and if it’s true that would also explain his creepy style of running.

Rin ended up accidentally zoning the rest of the conversation out, as he was too focused on staring between the ape and Satotz. Only when there were loud gasps, did he focus on what was happening again. However, by then the man was already laying on the ground with a playing card sticking out of his forehead. The sound of cards being shuffled drew everyone’s attention to the culprit, who, not surprisingly, was the clown.

He chuckled. “I see, I see.That settles it. You’re the real one.” He smirked at Satotz, who threw down the card held between his fingers.

While everyone was preoccupied, the ape chose that moment to scream and run back into the safety of the swamp, and, to Rin’s utter embarrassment, it made a squeak escape his throat. Thankfully, no one seemed to have heard it.

“Examiners are Hunters selected by the committee to perform this duty without pay. Any Hunter, bearing the title we seek, would have been able to block that attack,” Hisoka reasoned, sounding amused.

Satotz nodded. “I shall take that as a compliment. However, should you attack me again, for any reason, I will report you for turning on an examiner. And you will be immediately disqualified. Are we clear?” The stoic expression that had been on Satotz’s face since the beginning melted away into a glare.

“Sure.” Hisoka’s voice was carefree, like he honestly didn’t care about the threat.

No, that’s not quite right, Rin thought, his eyes narrowing on the pink and white clothed back. His nen is excited. The back shifted slightly, and he jerked his head away before he was discovered.

All the more reason to avoid him, he decided.


 

And more running. Rin sighed. This was going to be a long day . It didn’t help that the fog was giving him a bad feeling, and the screams in the distance were not helping either. Thankfully, the group he had ended up with had yet to encounter any of the creatures inhabiting the swamp, and he hoped that didn’t change any time soon.

He decided to chance a glance at those around him, trying to see what the others thought of their current situation. It seems I’m not the only one getting tired, he realized. They were all panting by this point and struggling to keep Satotz in sight.

Rin was just about to sigh again when he felt bloodlust fill the air, a familiar feeling bloodlust. This is...the same feeling as before. Who would be dumb enough to mess with Hisoka? He shook his head. Well, whoever they are I want nothing to do with it.

However, he couldn’t help but glance over to where the feeling was coming from. Maybe I could... He shook his head even more vigorously. No! I need to focus on finishing!

It was when he finally paid attention to running again that he noticed people suddenly giving him a wide berth and eyeing him strangely. He sweatdropped. They all think I’m crazy now.


 

Rin had never been so glad to be able to sit down than after all that running, and it was so nice to finally be able to catch his breath. Luckily, he had only ran into a couple of smaller creatures, but they were easy to avoid so he didn’t even have to fight them.

Still, it’s not over yet. He peered up at the enormous gate looming over them. It was easily two stories tall and was a deep grey color that had splashes of green in places where moss had grown. It was the place where phase two was most likely going to take place, and it made him slightly worried about what was to come.

A couple more people stumbled into the small clearing, gasping for air. It left him wondering who all had made it, so Rin glanced around, only for his face to fall into a frown. I don’t see those guys from before. Ah, wait. His eyes widened when he saw Hisoka casually walk past the trees and lean an unconscious Leorio against a tree. He was about to go over to check on him—after Hisoka left, of course—when Gon and Kurapika came running over.

“Excellent work, everyone,” Satotz called everyone’s attention. “Phase Two of the exam will occur here, in the Biska Forest Park. So, I shall take my leave. Best of luck to all of you.” He then slinked off back into the forest in the same direction they had come.

All comments were put on hold when the gate slowly started to creak open.

“Will all applicants who passed the First Phase please enter?” It was a woman with green hair put up in five ponytails and a huge guy sitting behind her. “Welcome. I’m Menchi, the Second Phase examiner.”

“And I’m Buhara, the other examiner.”

The two examiners then explained what the task was: each contestant needed to make a dish using the required ingredients, which would then be judged by the two of them. Only if both approved of it would the person be allowed to progress.

Pork, huh. Easy enough to prepare, but it’s not the cooking part I’m worried about. All the examinees filed back out into the forest to search for the target, but Rin decided to follow the group he had been keeping an eye on and ended up walking right next to Leorio.

When Gon noticed him trailing behind he turned to look at him with wide eyes. “Who are you?”

Rin gave a polite nod and answered, “My name is Rin.”

Gon beamed, and Rin had to squint his eyes slightly at the sheer brightness of the smile. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Gon. And this is Kurapika, Leorio, and Killua.” He pointed at each person as he said their name.

“It’s nice to meet you, too.” Rin gave them all a small smile.

“Why the heck are you following us, anyway?” Leorio questioned, stepping closer until their faces were inches apart; his face was pulled into a deep scowl.

Rin blinked at the sudden intrusion. “Um, I saw you were passed out earlier, and I wanted to see if you were okay.” Not exactly a lie, but also not the entire truth. “Besides, it’s not like I had anywhere else to go. We’re all looking for the same thing in this phase, so I thought it would be okay, but I’ll leave if I’m bothering you,” he rambled, peering up at Leorio through black bangs. However, he was unaware that he was unconsciously giving them the puppy-dog eyes.

Leorio jerked his head back and gaped at him, causing Rin to frown. Was it something I said? And why is he blushing?

Kurapika quickly came to Leorio’s rescue. “It’s fine. He’s just being overly suspicious.”

“If you say so,” Rin said unsurely.

“Hmph.” Leorio cleared his throat, apparently having decided to just ignore the incident. “Catch a pig and cook it. This is way easier than the First Phase.”

“I hope it will be that simple.” Kurapika admitted, sounding strangely resigned.

They eventually ended up at the top of a steep hill, and before anyone could say anything, Gon swiftly jumped and started sliding down the hill. Rin peered down at the bottom with a healthy amount of skepticism, not quite wanting to risk anything but also not wanting to fall behind the others. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to make a choice because Leorio grabbed his arm and dragged him along with him. His startled yelp was cut off abruptly when he came to a sudden halt as he ran into Killua’s back, who grunted at the weight pressing against him. Rin twisted his back so he could glare at Leorio once the man joined them in their strange line but noticed that he was staring at something else.

“What was that about, Gon?” Killua exclaimed. He was staring heatedly at the back of Gon’s head, but the boy didn’t seem to notice.

“Found them,” Gon stated nonchalantly. He raised a hand to point at the pigs grazing a few feet away from them.

Killua slowly blinked and said, “Huh?”

“Pig!” Leorio yelled happily, expression brightening up now that they had found their targets.

I don’t want to go near them! Those aren’t pigs; those are monsters! Rin cringed and hid his face in Killua’s back, much to the boy’s apparent annoyance, and was just barely peeking out to look at them. And they truly were monstrous. All of them were easily three times the size of any grown man, and they all had wicked tusks poking out from beside their mouths and had what looked like...blood...on them.

“Uh…” Leorio said very slowly. “They’re chewing on bones.”

Kurapika stared in horror. “Don’t tell me...they’re carnivores?”

One of the pigs finally noticed them and suddenly squealed at the top of its lungs, which caused all the others to squeal and start running toward them at full speed.

Rin felt his heart drop into his stomach at the absolutely terrifying sight, and he scrambled to get up before he was trampled. They all dashed away from the charging pigs as fast as they could, and Rin could feel tears start to trail down his face. This is not how I want to die!

The pigs just kept running, not caring who or what they went through, and a bunch guys were sent into the air by the charging creatures.

“These pigs are crazy!” Leorio shouted as they ran.

Rin didn’t bother answering, just trying to focus on not dying. However, he did happen to look over right as Gon smashed a pig on the top of it’s head, which actually seemed to cause it pain despite everything else people had tried.

Killua smirked in realization. “Could their foreheads be their weak point?”

“So, the pigs evolves large, strong noses in order to protect their soft foreheads,” Kurapika reasoned, a wicked grin spreading across his face.

He spared a quick look at Kurapika and smoothly sidestepped another pig. Makes sense. Now it’s just a matter of hitting it. Rin jumped in the air just as another one ran by and landed lightly on its head. Wind billowed around him as he focused most of his nen into his fist, and he sent a silent apology to it before ramming his hand into the pig’s forehead.


 

Everyone was already cooking their pigs by the time Rin came back. Well, that’s not entirely true. He had dropped off his pig then headed back into the forest, much to the confusion of everyone else.

“Rin!” Gon spotted him and started waving his hands in the air. “Over here!”

Rin smiled at them. “Hello.”

“What took you so long?” Leorio demanded. He seemed to be trying to cover up the worry shining in his eyes.

“I went to get some things.”

Kurapika looked at him, confused. “What things?” he asked.

Rin raised a finger to his lips. “It’s a surprise.” He knew he was being slightly unfair, but he couldn’t help the teasing smile that grew because of their expressions.

He put the finishing touches on his dish right as Menchi failed Todo, so he carefully place the meat that had been cut into steaks onto the plate and brought it up to the examiners. After placing it down, Rin rung his hands together and waited for the verdict.

Buhara ate it in one bite as usual and held up his pass sign. “You should try it; it’s really good, Menchi,” Buhara rumbled. He patted his stomach and gave Rin a considering look, one that made him even more nervous.

“Hmm.” She glanced at the plate. “At least you did something besides just cooking it whole.” Menchi slowly cut a piece, ever second it took seemed to cut down his life span a little more, and ate it.

Rin felt his blood freeze when she stopped and her eyes widened.

“You…” She suddenly jumped from her seat and stalked toward him.

Rin cringed into himself more and more the closer she got. Did she not like? Is she going to hit me because it was that bad?!

He had almost accepted his fate when he felt her hands on his shoulders. “Become a Gourmet Hunter!” she yelled.

“Eh.” That was not what he was expecting.

“It was cooked and seasoned to perfection!” she exclaimed, pulling him even closer to her as she talked. “I can’t let talent like this be wasted without doing anything. So, what do you say? Oh, and I never asked your name.” Menchi looked at him expectantly.

Rin shifted uncomfortably, because of both the tight hold and the intense gaze focused solely on him. “Um. My name is Rin.” He gave a deep bow, or as deep of one as he could without accidentally headbutting her in the boob. “I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your offer. I want to be a Botanical Hunter.”

She stared at him in shock for a few seconds, before shaking him as she shouted, “EHHH! No way!”

“I’m sorry.” He squeaked out. Rin peeked up at her timidly, wanting to know if he passed but also not wanting to incur her wrath now that he had denied her request. “Does this mean I don’t pass?” he asked quietly.

“Of course you pass! That steak was delicious!”

All the tension that had been building up was finally released, and he breathed out a deep sigh. He hadn’t noticed how quiet everyone else was until he turned around and saw them gaping at him. Thankfully, the others waited until he had walked over before they pounced.

Leorio grabbed his shoulders, shaking him much like Menchi had done. “What the heck was that?”

“What do you mean?” Rin asked, not understanding why he was angry.

“She actually liked yours. What did you do?” He started to shake Rin even harder, making his mind spin in dizzying circles.

“Does this have anything to do with your surprise?” Kurapika asked. When it became apparent that Rin couldn’t answer, he glowered at Leorio. “Stop shaking him before you break his neck.”

Leorio stopped abruptly. “Haha, oops. Sorry about that.” He scratched the back of his head, face bright red in embarrassment.

Rin was swaying on the spot, trying to gain his bearings as his head spun.

“Neh, neh.” Gon leapt forward and wrapped his arms around Rin’s waist to help steady him. “What was the surprise?”

“Hmm?” He glanced down at Gon once his head cleared. “Oh, I just added some rosemary, garlic, and ginger.”

They all stared at him blankly.

“That’s it?” Leorio asked, voice sounding so skeptical it was almost insulting.

“Yeah. I found some in the forest. That’s why it took me so long to come back.”

Kurapika brought one hand up to his chin. “I don’t think that alone would impress her. It would have needed to be done correctly.” He looked over at Rin and asked, “Do you cook often?”

Rin nodded. “I live alone, so I had to teach myself to cook.”

“That explains it.” Kurapika seemed satisfied at his answer.

Leorio, Gon, and Killua continued to stare blankly.

Killua was the one who finally broke the silence. “How does this help us pass?”

“This phase of the exam is a cooking test, but they’re judging us on originality and power of observation. We just need to be more creative with our dishes,” Kurapika stated.

A huge grin spread across Leorio’s face. “I see...I can do that.” And before anyone could stop him he marched up the steps to place his pig in front of Menchi and Buhara. The only difference was the tiny, little flag on top.

Rin felt like facepalming. How is that creative, Leorio?!

“How do you like my cooking?” He grinned proudly, gesturing with both hands to the pig on the table.

Mench reacted like Rin expected she would: she threw it in the air.

Gon was the next to try, but his was just as worse. Adding flowers does nothing, Gon! Rin could feel his hope of them passing slowly crumble after each attempt.

“I am next! Please judge my creation,” Kurapika stated calmly, sounding confident that he had succeeded where his friends had failed.

Menchi stared in doubt. “Finally, something besides Rin’s that resembles an actual dish.” She carefully cut and chewed on a slice, but Rin could see the exact moment that her taste buds caught up with her brain when she yelled, “Yuck!”

“Eh.” Kurapika looked surprised.

Menchi scowled and pointed a threatening finger at him. “Appearance is important, but only if it also tastes good. You’re no better than #403!”

Leorio smiled smugly. “Too bad!” he snickered, as Kurapika dejectedly made his way back to his station.

“No better than #403…” Kurapika muttered under his breath.

Buhara smacked his stomach and laughed. “That was so much food, I’m stuffed!”

“Yeah, I’m stuffed, too,” Menchi added. Oh, no. This doesn’t look good. “Therefore, only Rin passes. We’re finished here!”

Everyone started to express their dissatisfaction toward this announcement, and Rin glanced around and saw that everyone was starting to get riled up. If she’s not careful, there could be a fight.

A crash drew all eyes to Todo, who had smashed the grill he was standing behind. “I won’t accept it! I absolutely refuse to accept this!” he hollered.

“In the end, you’ve still failed,” Menchi said with a sneer, looking down at him condescendingly.

Todo’s eye twitched. “Stop screwing around! You asked for pork, so we risked our lives to-”

Menchi cut him off. “I said prepare the pork in a manner we both found delicious. None of you, except Rin, made anything remotely delicious. You all did almost the same thing. There was no effort made, and just when I thought someone else actually tried, they only changed the appearance. No one else attempted to emphasize the flavor. I’m positive that none of you took cooking seriously!” she berated, glowering down at all of them.

I wasn’t expecting to be lectured during the exam, Rin thought as he glanced over at the others. Gon was the only one who looked dejected. Killua just looked bored, Leorio was still staring in shock, and Kurapika had his eyes closed. When Rin focused back on the crowd, it became apparent that a revolt was starting to develop.

“That said…” a voice called down from the... sky? “It would be excessive to fail all but one applicant.” They all looked up to see a hot air balloon floating across the sky above them.

Can this day get any weirder? Yes, yes it could, because someone decided that jumping out of said hot air balloon was a good idea.

Rin threw an arm in front of his face to protect against the dirt that lifted during the impact, and he could just make out the figure of an old man walking toward them through the cloud of dust.

Menchi stepped forward to meet the person. “The Chairman of the Selection Committee. He’s in charge of the Hunter Exam, Chairman Netero.”

“Well, I work behind the scenes. I only take action when there’s an issue, like now,” the Chairman said. “So, Menchi-kun…”

“Yes, sir,” she answered. Her back straightening to her full height.

He stared at her with a seemingly kind smile and asked, “You failed them because you disapproved of their reluctance to try new things?”

Menchi was starting to look slightly uncomfortable. “No, sir. I lost my cool when one of the candidates insulted Gourmet Hunters, and I made the exam harder than necessary.”

“In other words, you’re aware that this exam was unacceptable.”

“Yes, sir. When cooking is involved, I lose control. I’m unqualified to be an examiner. I will resign as examiner, so please redo the Second Phase!” she pleaded.

The Chairman’s smile only grew larger, and he raised a hand to run along his beard as he regarded them all.

Why do I have a feeling it’s not going to be that simple?


 

How did we go from cooking pigs to jumping down a ravine for eggs?

After Chairman Netero decided to give Menchi another chance, they all traveled to Mt. Split-in-Half via the hot air balloon.

Rin was luckily able to bypass the new event since Menchi had already passed him in the previous one, so he was left to watch anxiously as the others leaped down into the hole and hung on by just a thread— literally. It was only when they were safely back on land that Rin let out the breath he was holding.

Leorio noticed, and he stepped forward so he could sling an arm around Rin’s shoulders. “What? Were you worried?” he asked with a smirk.

“A little,” he admitted sheepishly. After pulling the offending arm off, Rin turned to Gon. “That’s some instincts you have there.”

Gon beamed and raised an arm in the air “Thanks!”

Killua stepped closer to Rin so that he could say, “He was able to track Leorio during the First Phase with just his nose. He’s like some kind of wild animal.”

“I agree. Though, his instincts have saved us again. Without them we would all be dead,” Kurapika added.

Leorio groaned and ran a hand down his face. “Don’t remind me.”

They were interrupted when Menchi yelled that the eggs were done, and Rin watched in amusement as everyone ran forward in order to grab theirs. He hung back, since he didn’t have one that he needed to go get, and was able to just observe those around him. There were even fewer people than what had originally gotten onto the hot air balloon, and the few that were left were either by themselves or huddled in small groups like the one he had eventually become a part of. He was honestly surprised that he had made it this far. Don’t get him wrong, becoming a hunter had been his dream ever since he was a little kid, but actually going out and doing it had always been something that he put off.

His father would have been proud of him.

Rin could feel his brows slowly furrow into a frown, but he made himself put on a brighter expression when he saw the others walking back toward him. They all stopped once they had reached their little self-designated spot of dirt, but Rin noticed that Gon wasn’t with them. He looked around the area worriedly, wondering where the boy could have gone.

He soon spotted him walking in the opposite direction toward one of the lone people still standing nearing the edge. Rin watched as Gon shared some of his egg with Todo and couldn’t help but think that the boy was so adorable. However, he was quickly pulled out of his thoughts when something was suddenly shoved in his face. He tilted his head back so that he could see what the offending object was: it was an egg. Rin followed the arm holding it up to Leorio.

Leorio looked away with a slight blush. “You didn’t get to try some, so here.”

“Thank you.” He gently took it from him and took a small bite. He felt his eyes widen. “It’s really good.” A large smile spread over his face as he gazed up at Leorio.

Leorio spluttered unintelligibly in response. “H-Hmph.”

“What’s this?” Kurapika smirked, leaning closer to Leorio.

“Sh-shut up!” Leorio shouted, shaking his fist at him.

Rin looked back and forth between the two, confused on why they were fighting all of a sudden. He looked helplessly over at Killua, who simply shrugged and carried on eating.

Gon was running over to them when the Chairman’s voice rang out. “Alright. Everyone who has passed this phase will now board the airship. Those who have not will remain with Menchi and Buhara, who will escort you back safely.” He turned and walked up the ramp, only pausing to peer over his shoulder for a brief second. “Any who are too slow to board will be left behind.”

Rin chuckled when he heard Kurapika sigh in annoyance as people rushed forward, including Gon, Killua, and Leorio. The two left behind glanced at each other. Rin gave the other a smile which seemed to help ease the small frown adorning Kurapika’s face, and they both calmly walked over to the ramp.


 

Once onboard, they were all shown to a large room located toward the middle on the airship, where they would all be staying for the duration of the trip. The room was bare except for a couple of carts that had blankets and small pillows they could use if they wanted to get some rest, which was something Rin was in desperate need of, and it was what he would be doing if someone hadn’t decided that now was a good time to bug him.

Rin tried to ignore the hand shaking him and even tried to swat at it. “Go away,” he groaned and sighed in relief when it seemed that they finally gave up. Now I can go back to sleep. Snuggling down into the blanket he had grabbed, Rin had almost fell back asleep when he was suddenly yanked into the air. A high pitched squeak left him as he was jerked roughly out of what remained of his slumber. His eyes took a little time to adjust before they were finally able to focus on the enemy.

“What was that for?!” he yelled from where he was slung across Leorio’s shoulder.

“You wouldn’t wake up.” Leorio laughed. “And we’re already at the next phase.”

Rin just sighed and glared half-heartedly at both Leorio and Kurapika, then he went completely limp in the hold. Oh, well. At least this is easier than walking. Leorio didn’t put him down until they had exited the airship.

The breeze ruffled his already messy hair even more, causing black strands to whip painfully against his face.

“Oi! Over here!” Gon waved his arms.

“There you two are. Where did you guys go?” Kurapika asked once they reached Gon and Killua.

Gon just beamed happily. “We played a game with the Chairman,” he said, then glanced over at Rin, who was finally set down. “Are you alright, Rin?”

Rin just nodded sleepily. “They woke me up.”

“You’re not much of a morning person, are you?” Killua asked, one delicate looking eyebrow raising in amusement.

A headshake was all Rin managed before they were called to attention by the bean man that had given them their name tags at the beginning of the exam.

“Ahem. Everyone, the exam’s Third Phase will begin here, at the top of Trick Tower,” he informed, gazing around to look at all of them.

A random guy raised a hand and asked, “Trick Tower?”

“To pass this phase, you must reach the tower’s base alive. The time limit is seventy two hours. With that, we will now begin the Third Phase. I will pray for your success.” The bean man turned back to the airship and left.

Leorio hugged his briefcase to his chest tightly. “Are we supposed to climb down?”

“That would be suicide,” Kurapika observed.

Rin peered down at the endless drop and had to agree. “Well, it was nice knowing you guys.”

“It may be suicide for a normal person,” someone said, and they all glanced behind them at the random dude who had spoken, “But a top-class rock climber can handle this no problem.” He started to climb down the side.

Wing flaps could be heard in the distance, along with strange calls, but it wasn’t until the bird-like monsters were already upon the man that they finally noticed them. However, by that time he was already taken.

“G-Guess we can’t climb down the side,” Leorio stuttered.

“Yeah.” Even Kurapika sounded surprised. “We should probably split up. We’ll able to cover more ground that way, and maybe one of us will be able to find an entrance.”

They all agreed and headed in separate directions.

So far I don’t see anything that looks like an entrance. I wonder if the others have found anything yet. Rin paused in his searching and looked for them on the rooftop, but he didn’t see them anywhere. Eh? Did they already leave? In his panic, Rin had rushed forward, head looking back and forth along the expanse of the roof. However, just as he was stepping forward, the tile his foot was on gave under his weight. All he managed was a strangled yelp before he was free falling into blackness. Don’t panic, concentrate! His nen flared around him as he used it to decrease his speed so he could land lightly on the floor, unharmed. After landing, he looked up at the ceiling, but the tile had closed back up. Where am I now?

As Rin turned to look around the room, he felt all the blood drain from his face. Standing a few feet in front of him, leaning casually against the wall, was Hisoka.

Chapter Text

 

Rin froze like a statue, his mind slowly being consumed with a panic that clawed desperately at his chest. No. No way. Why is Hisoka here?

Gold eyes slowly cracked open to regard Rin’s crouched figure as lips pulled up at the edges. Hisoka’s voice filled the room, a deep, chilling sound that seemed to drip down Rin’s spine. “Hmm~ It seems there was another nen user hidden among us.”

Rin opened his mouth to ask why he was here or what was going on, but it snapped shut when the man spoke. This is bad. The last thing I needed to do was gain this psycho’s attention. His head whipped around, trying to find an exit so he could get away , but the room was bare; the metal, grey walls were completely void of anything that could help him in any way.

The panic was starting to get even worse when he saw movement from the corner of his eyes, and it was only his quick reflexes that saved him from having the object thrown hit his head. He winced at the stinging pain in his hand and glanced down at what he had caught: a metal bracelet. Rin stared at it and felt his eyebrows furrow in confusion.

“It appears we are stuck with each other,” Hisoka drawled. A single, sharpened nail pointed at a sign on the wall next to him.

Rin took a small step closer, nervously glancing to make sure the other man didn’t make a move—the motion only seemed to amuse him—and squinted at it.

Keep your partner alive.

Both contestants must reach the bottom alive or neither passes.

The bracelets will keep track of your heart rates, so keep them on at all times.

You have got to be kidding me, Rin thought as he stared in disbelief at the words. The only bright side was the fact that Hisoka couldn’t kill him now. However, the fact that it didn’t say anything against injuring one another made him slightly concerned.

He risked a glance at Hisoka and jolted slightly when their eyes met. Hisoka was still leaning against the wall, seemingly without a care in the world. His body was relaxed—or as relaxed as Rin had ever seen in the short time he had known him—with his arms crossed in front of his chest. However, it was his eyes that made Rin’s heart start pounding in his chest like it was about to burst out at any second. They were burning pools of molten gold, practically brimming with bloodlust. The rule against killing only seemed to excite Hisoka more, which did not fare well for Rin.

But he knew that unless they cooperated they wouldn’t get anywhere, so with a sigh Rin snapped the bracelet on his wrist and heard it latch with a quiet click that seemed ominous in the otherwise silent room.

There was a loud beep, and a hidden door opened in the wall.

“Why don't you go first?” Hisoka offered, gesturing to the opening with a manicured hand. The look was still burning in his eyes, so it made the move more ominous than it had any right to be.

Rin frantically shook his head—just the thought of him exposing his back to this psycho almost made his heart stop right then and there. He had a feeling that if something like that happened the man would find a way to bring him back just so he could kill Rin himself.

Hisoka’s lips pulled into a slight pout, but Rin could still see the amusement swirling in his eyes. “What? Don't you trust me?” he asked, voice slightly higher pitched in a teasing tone.

“No,” Rin blurted out before he could stop himself. His hands flew up to his mouth, and he prayed he hadn't just signed his death wish, trial or not.

The pout disappeared as a smirk replaced it. “Hmm~ So you can speak. I was beginning to wonder.” He turned without another word and walked out the door. Well, more like swaggered . No one should have the right to look that graceful and threatening at the same time.

Rin looked between the now empty room and the doorway with writhing shadows beckoning him to follow. What have I signed myself up for?


 

Walking, that was what he had apparently signed himself up for. They had been walking in a fairly slow pace ever since leaving the comfort of the room, and so far they hadn’t encountered anything that could serve as a challenge.

Rin stuck with his plan of hanging back and was staring intently at Hisoka’s back. The entire time Hisoka walked as if he was just taking a casual stroll, all loose-limbed and carefree. He never once looked at Rin, despite the fact that he was leaving his back wide open. It’s obvious he doesn’t think I’m a threat at all, and I can’t say I blame him. There’s no way I could ever win against him. Despite how true that fact was, it still made him frown.

He jumped when Hisoka suddenly spoke up. “I’ll leave you behind if you don’t catch up.” The man looked over his shoulder and let out a small flare of bloodlust that caused Rin to stumble slightly. “Oh, and I would stop glaring at me like that. You’re making me excited.” His eyes burned with the same heat as before, and his tongue darted out in a brief flash of pink to lick his lips.

Rin’s eyes widened and he sped up until he was walking almost right next to other man. The sudden closeness made his paranoia skyrocket, and he kept glancing over at Hisoka in case the other decided to attack. This is not good for my nerves. My whole body is shaking.

Rin’s eyebrows furrowed at the thought. Wait, that’s not me shaking. He glanced down at the ground and noticed that the few pebbles littering the cement floor were bouncing up and down in excitement. Now that he was focusing, he could hear a slight rumble coming from behind them, as well.

With a dread-filled heart, Rin slowly turned to look back down the hallway and felt a weight drop in his stomach at the sight greeting him.

A boulder, one easily the size of the entire hallway, was rolling toward them with increasing speed.

Hisoka had also noticed and was staring at the rock with fascination as it got closer and closer. “This looks like fun,” he said, voice light in a way that didn’t fit with their situation in the least.

Rin stared at Hisoka with wide eyes, who simply returned the look with a wicked smirk, before they both started running once the boulder was almost upon them.

However, it soon became apparent that Rin had a disadvantage because of how much shorter his legs were compared to Hisoka’s, and the only reason he managed as well as he did was because Hisoka looked like he was entirely too bored with trying to stay alive .

Rin grit his teeth in frustration and felt a swell of anger rush through him at the thought of the insufferable man, causing his nen to flicker to life. His body was suddenly much lighter than before, so he was able to gain some speed, and he eventually starting to pull ahead of Hisoka.

Hisoka, of course, noticed and just sped up as well until they were running side-by-side.

“Hmm~ Interesting,” he said, voice almost covered up by the sound of the rolling death ball, and he smirked over at Rin, who was trying his best to just ignore the other man’s entire existence.

After what felt like an eternity, they found a small pathway off to the side, which they jumped into right as the boulder rolled past.

Rin stood there catching his breath as he stared at the suddenly innocent looking hallway that had almost killed them both—not that he really thought something like that would be enough to kill someone like Hisoka.

The familiar sound of heels clacking against the ground started up again, and when Rin turned to look he noticed that Hisoka was already quite a ways down the hallway. Guess we’re going this way now. He ran to catch up and took his place to the left and slightly behind the other. Hopefully this one won’t have another boulder.

He wasn’t counting on it.


 

His eye twitched. It’s a curse. There’s no other reason for why the hell I am literally falling for every. Single. Trap.

As if to spite him, he heard the same click that would soon haunt his nightmares as his foot landed on yet another switch. A panel opened up in the walls on either side of them, revealing holes that suddenly had arrows shooting out, and it was only a tug on the back of his shirt that kept him from becoming a human pin cushion.

He just barely caught himself before he fell backwards and glared over at Hisoka when he heard the man chuckle, though all it did was make the smirk grow sharper.

“It's not funny,” Rin mumbled under his breath, too annoyed to even care about upsetting the man anymore. It had easily been a few hours already, and the man hadn’t done anything besides look intimidating, so Rin let himself relax just a bit.

“Oh~ What was that? I didn't quite hear you,” Hisoka asked, leaning until he was looming over Rin with a deadly grin that could make even corpses cry.

He did what any sane person would do: he immediately backtracked. “Nevermind.”

“Is that so? Than how about you tell me about your nen instead~”

The change in topic took Rin off guard. Neither one of them had tried talking to each other up until then, so the sudden intrusion was unsettling. The subject certainly didn’t make it any better, either.

“There’s not much to tell,” he rambled off quickly and sped up his pace a little so he could overtake the man, trying to put some type of space between them. I do not want to have this conversation, especially with him of all people.

Hisoka wasn’t discouraged by this, however, and he took a threatening step closer. “I disagree. I want to hear all about it,” he drawled, voice coming out sickly sweet.

Rin was saved from answering—thankfully—when he saw a metal door come into view. In his excitement to finally get away from Hisoka, Rin ran forward and burst through the door without actually thinking of what could be on the other side. He came to a screeching halt in the doorway when all he saw was pitch blackness, but he felt a rough push from behind and was forced to step fully into the room, just barely managing to catch himself before he fell. It was quickly becoming a routine that he already hated.

Rin turned and scowled at Hisoka, who simply smirked in reply. “You were in the way,” he said simply, like that was all the reason he needed. It probably was.

As soon as Hisoka stepped into the room, the door closed on its own and candles that were lining the walls lit up with green fire to reveal a man sitting on the floor across from them. If creepy and unnerving was what the stranger was going for he definitely succeeded. The green of the fire casted him in deep shadows and made it look like he was about to keel over at any second, regardless of what they did.

The uneasy silence was broken as the man slowly got up and said, “I’ve been waiting for you, Hisoka.”

The man tilted his head up, and Rin was finally able to catch a glimpse of his face. There were scars littered all along one cheek and over the man’s nose. Some were criss-crossing others, and they almost seemed to move in the flickering candle light, dancing to some unheard song.

The man’s voice rang out clearly in the room, bouncing off the enclosing walls and giving it more strength. “I’m not an examiner this year. I’m here for revenge,” he said, slowly brandishing a curved sword at his side. “Since last year’s exam, all I’ve focused on was killing you. Today, I’ll get payback for my scars!” The more he talked the louder his voice became until it was almost deafening.

Rin sucked in a sharp breath as the man’s words registered. So this is the man Hisoka almost killed.

“Hmph.” Hisoka chuckled darkly, shifting his feet so he was leaning most of his weight on one leg and rested a hand on his hip. “Those scars show that you were an incompetent examiner. You’re blaming me for you own inadequacies.”

“Keep yapping! Prepare to die,” the man yelled, and Rin could tell that he was loosing what little composure he had from the beginning of the confrontation. I really hope he can back up his confidence.

Hisoka only started to look a little intrigued when the man pulled out a second sword. “Dual wielding?” he questioned, though there was an almost false quality to his voice, like he was just humoring the man by pretending to be surprised. Hisoka blinked when the man suddenly threw them up in the air and pulled out another set from a sheath otherwise hidden behind his back.

A smirk grew on the man’s face as he shouted, “Infinite quad wielding. Take this!” He threw the weapons at Hisoka.

Rin jumped to the side in order to avoid the projectiles, but the man wasn’t aiming at him.

The blades curved in the air with a kind of grace, the steel glinting like stars in the light from the fire. The man was obviously familiar with them, as he, too, held the grace of a person who poured sweat and blood into practicing. All for the purpose of revenge.

The sight of someone so desperate for vengeance was as beautiful as it was sad.

Should I interfere? As much as Rin disagreed with a person seeking revenge, even if it was well founded, he also didn’t want to see the man needlessly killed. And Hisoka would kill him, that much was certain. He could already feel the rising of Hisoka’s nen before the first blades had even reached him, still filled to the brim with barely contained bloodlust that was just waiting to be let out. However, Hisoka was already moving before he could even complete the thought. He slammed a hand on the ground and twisted mid air to avoid the blades, and he kept dodging the weapons even after the man charged at him.

At some point, Hisoka managed to get cut on the shoulder and side, both tainting the otherwise white fabric with red.

The small win seemed to encourage the man, and he jumped forward again with renewed vigor. “It’s not over yet!” he yelled.

Hisoka was not deterred, though, and he kept swaying and jumping into seemingly impossible positions.

The longer Rin watched the more his mind could only focus on the fact that it looked like Hisoka was dancing, and as much as Rin didn’t want to be, he was mesmerized by the fight. There was just something so beautiful about how the red haired man moved to his own tempo, like nothing could stop him. Even his nen was swaying as if pushed by some unseen breeze, and it filled the room with its heavy weight.

It felt like Rin was drowning in it.

Rin was dragged out of his thoughts by the other man shouting, “Up, down, left, right, front, and back. You have nowhere to run! You’ll be cut from every angle by my endless stream of blades. Dodging my infinite attack wave is impossible! I’ll have you writhe in pain until you die, Hisoka!”

Hisoka merely scoffed at the man and stood in place as two of the blades came barreling toward him. Rin felt his heart stop when the blades hit him.

“Hisoka!” he yelled, taking a jerky step forward as if he could actually do anything to help, but before he could reach the man his feet ground to a halt as all he could do was stare in shock at the scene before him, though he wasn’t exactly sure why he was so surprised.

Hisoka was still standing, completely unharmed except for a few nicks here and there, and in his hands were the two blades the man had thrown at him.

“It would indeed be difficult to dodge your attacks,” Hisoka purred, raising the blades so he could draw his tongue across the sharpened edge. He stalked toward the man like a hunter on the prowl. “Thus, I should simply stop the blades.”

The man was frozen in shock and didn’t move until Hisoka was right in front of him.

Hisoka twirled the knives with ease. “Oh, it was easier than anticipated, but I appreciate your futile efforts.” He smirked, lips pulling into a cruel smile. His voice had slowly grown darker the longer he talked, and it almost seemed to make the surrounding shadows grow an even deeper black than they already were.

He’s a monster, Rin thought in horror as he watched with wide eyes as the man was effortlessly beheaded. The body dropped to the ground with a dull thump that echoed throughout the room. When Hisoka turned to face him, he tried to get his limbs to move, but they wouldn't listen . Golden eyes pinned Rin to the spot, daring him to try and escape. Once Hisoka was close enough, he stopped and leered down at Rin while his bloodlust curled around them both in a mocking imitation of a blanket.

He’s going to kill me, he realized. His heart was beating inside his chest like it was about to burst out at any moment, and the pounding increased until the steady thump, thump, thump was all that he could hear. When one of Hisoka’s arm started to lift from its place at his side, he flinched, eyes closing so that the last thing he ever saw wasn’t this man with splashes of red on white.

But the blow never came.

Hesitantly, he slowly cracked open his eyes to peer up at the man— killer, his mind whispered—but he was just staring down at Rin, expression torn between amusement and frustration.

Rin stared back at him, too afraid that if he looked away the other would follow through with his decision. However, after a little while, Hisoka finally seemed to make up his mind because he dropped both swords to the ground with a loud clang.

“I wouldn’t be able to pass if I killed you,” Hisoka answered, clearly reading the unspoken question in Rin’s eyes. He seemed a little annoyed by that fact. “Though, I wonder what will happen after the phase is over.” He smirked, then walked over to the staircase and started climbing up.

Rin raised a shaky hand to his chest and tried to calm his racing heart by taking deep breaths. This man is going to be the death of me, either by killing me himself or giving me a heart attack.

Once he had his breathing under control, he ran to catch up to the other man, but instead of walking beside him, Rin took his original spot a few feet behind Hisoka. I’m not taking any chances of him suddenly changing his mind.

“Hisoka, applicant #44, is the first to pass the Third Phase. Total time, six hours and seventeen minutes,” an electronic voice called down from the ceiling. “Rin, applicant #259, is the second to pass the Third Phase. Total time, six hours and eighteen minutes.”

Rin let out a huge sigh of relief. Thank god, it’s finally done. He stepped fully into the room so the door could close behind him and looked over at where Hisoka had already settled against the wall not far from where they had entered.

His lips pulled into a frown as he thought of everything that had happened. I should stay away from him until the end of the exam, especially after his little comment from before.

Rin took in the otherwise barren room and picked a spot that was on the complete opposite side from where Hisoka was and sat down. He shuffled around slightly until he got somewhat comfortable—or as comfortable as he could on cement—and settled so that he could try and rest before more people came.

And now, we wait.


 

Rin was woken from his nap when he heard shuffling somewhere to his right. Why do people keep waking me up, he thought, blearily looking around for the source of the noise. When he finally found it, any hint of sleep vanished, and he bolted into a sitting position. At some point while Rin was sleeping, Hisoka had moved closer. Now, he was sitting only a few inches away and was shuffling a deck of cards between two slim hands. The sight made Rin nervous, considering he had seen those very cards kill a person earlier that same day.

“Ah, you’re finally awake,” Hisoka said, talking as if he hadn’t creepily crept closer while Rin was sleeping.

“What are y-” Rin started.

Hisoka cut him off, leaning slightly away from the wall so he could bring his face closer to Rin. His eyes were bright with mischief and what appeared to be boredom. “Let’s play a game.”

Rin looked at him with a heavy amount of suspicion. Nothing good ever seemed to come from associating with this man, so he was reasonably doubtful. “Why?” he asked.

“It’s not like we don’t have plenty of time to kill.” At the word kill, his smirk widened, and he made a point of shifting the deck of cards still in his hands with a loud swish.

Rin was not convinced in the least. “What type of game?” he questioned, eyeing the hands that were toying with deadly weapons, ones that were way too close for comfort. The man himself could almost be considered a weapon all on his own, and Rin would feel much better once they were apart. Preferably on different continents.

“Hmm~ How about poker?” The fact that he seemed so excited about the idea only succeeded in making Rin even more wary.

“What’s the catch?” Because knowing him, there would be one.

Hisoka held up both hands innocently—it would have worked better if Rin hadn’t just seen him kill another man just a few hours ago—and said, “No catch. We don’t even have to make any bets.”

Rin contemplated his options. If he said no, there was the possibility that the man would get angry and kill him. However, if he said yes…there was still the possibility of the man killing him just because he could, but the chances didn’t seem as strong as the other. There was no one else in the room yet, and any chances of falling back to sleep had vanished with Hisoka moving closer—he had a feeling that even if he tried moving away again the other man would simply follow.

He sighed in defeat and finally said, “Fine.”

If Hisoka noticed the strain in his voice, he ignored it and started to deal out the cards. As he watched the cards get passed out, Rin decided that a game shouldn’t feel that foreboding.


 

He’s cheating, Rin thought, eye twitching slightly as he lost for the twentieth time. I don’t know how, but he must be cheating. After his tenth loss he started to pay closer attention to the man’s hands, but he still couldn’t figure out how Hisoka kept winning. Rin ran his hands through his hair in frustration. I haven’t won even once, and he just keeps looking at me with that insufferable smirk. However, no amount of glowering got him any closer to victory, despite his best efforts.

“Another round?” Hisoka asked, smug amusement painted across his face like a mask.

Rin huffed and looked away with scowl. “You’re just going to win again, but fine.”

Hisoka had just started passing out the cards again when a door screeched open to Rin’s left.

“Gittarackur, applicant #301, is the third to pass. Total time, twelve hours and two minutes.”

Gittarackur walked in and slowly turned to examine the room before facing them with a creepy clatter—it was how Rin imagained a skeleton would sound if one ever tried to walk. “I figured you would already have crossed the finish line,” he said, voice sounding as dead as he looked, and once he noticed that there was, in fact, another person in the room his head creaked so he could peer over at Rin. “And it would appear you aren't alone.”

“All right!” Another voice interrupted any response Hisoka may have had.

The electronic voice called down again, “Hanco, applicant #294, is the fourth to pass.”

“I’m the first to finish!” The ninja from before threw his hands in the air in celebration. That is, until he noticed them. “Huh?” He slowly blinked in confusion before a dawning realization seemed to hit him. “No! I don’t believe this... I came in fourth,” he yelled, dropping his hands dejectedly as his body practically drooped in defeat.

Rin sweatdropped. Is he okay, he wondered, before shrugging and deciding it wasn’t any of his business.

“Do you want to join?” Hisoka asked as he looked at Gittarackur from the corner of his eyes.

Gittarackur leaned against the wall close to them and said, “Why bother asking? You would kill me if I said yes.”

“Hmm~” Hisoka chuckled, not even bothering to deny the claim.

Rin’s eyes widened as he stared at the two men in shock. “Eh?!” You mean there was a  higher chance of him killing me by saying yes?!

The exclamation drew Gittarackur’s attention back to him, unfortunately. The man stared blankly at him, and Rin could feel his eyes scrutinizing him—it was like ants were suddenly crawling all over his body.

“Oh? He can use nen?” he asked. He directed the question towards Hisoka even though Rin was sitting right there.

Rin felt his eye twitch, but he continued to be ignored, and honestly, he was starting to wish they had just ignored him entirely from the start.

“It would seem so.” Hisoka’s voice held a hint of excitement and a smirk curled his lips into an imitation of a proud smile. If anything, it seemed to grow even larger when he noticed Rin’s annoyance. “His nen ability in particular intrigues me.”

“U-Um, aren’t we going to continue?” Rin asked quickly, before the conversation could continue any further. His voice shook only slightly, but he knew the two men had caught it.

Not good. That would explain why he hasn’t tried kill me yet, but I don’t want to see what happens when he gets bored or decides that he’d rather get a firsthand experience of my nen.

Just the thought itself made his heart thump like a rabbit being stalked by a fox in the underbrush, and going off the grin on Hisoka’s face, he knew it too.


 

Where are they? More and more people had joined them in their solitude, but Rin had yet to see Gon and the others. Are the okay? Did they get hurt? They’re not dead are they?! Each new thought made Rin panic more and more, and he brought up both hands to ruffle his already messy hair in agitation. It was a nervous habit he had had ever since childhood, one he had never been able to quit. It was something that his father had found hilarious, as it always left his hair looking like he had just been through a hurricane.

Rin pointedly ignored how Hisoka was staring at him blankly during all this and kept doing periodic checks around the room to make sure he didn’t accidentally miss them. They had long since stopped playing as they became increasingly aware of Rin’s growing distraction, and he was about five seconds away from getting up in order to start pacing to try and relieve some of the building anxiety when in stepped the very people he was worried about.

“Kurapika, applicant #404, is the twenty first to pass. Killua, applicant #99, is the twenty second to pass. Gon, applicant #405, is the twenty third to pass. Total time, seventy-one hours and fifty-nine minutes,” the examiner rattled off, “Thirty seconds remain.” He paused briefly, then continued when two more people stepped in. “Leorio, applicant #403, is the twenty fourth to pass. Tonpa, applicant #16, is the twenty fifth to pass. Total time, seventy-one hours and fifty-nine minutes. The Third Phase of the exam is over. Twenty-six applicants have passed. One has died.”

Rin jumped up from his spot, almost falling over in the process because his legs had fallen asleep, and ran over to them. “Are you guys okay?” he asked frantically, eyes roving over their dusty figures in a desperate search for injuries.

“Ah. Rin!” Gon beamed up at him once Rin had gotten closer.

“We’re fine,” Kurapika hurriedly assured, a calm smile overtaking his face at Rin’s concern. “Just a little bruised.”

“Thank god.” Rin sighed in relief, his shoulders slumping as all the worry left.

Leorio laughed, grin bright despite the filth covering the rest of his face. “It’s nice to see that you passed too.”

Killua perked up in interest and finally spoke for the first time since Rin had come over. “What was your trial, Rin?” he asked, eyes shining with curiosity.

Rin tensed and averted his eyes in discomfort. “I was, um, partnered with someone. We had to keep each other alive in order to pass.”

“That sounds similar to ours. Though we had to complete tasks with a majority vote,” Kurapika informed.

Rin latched onto that piece of information with all the grace of a dying man. “Oh, that sounds interesting. What kinds of things did you need to decide on?” He was rambling, but he hoped they wouldn’t ask anymore questions.

But of course, Gon didn’t seem to notice Rin’s attempt at changing the subject and asked, “Who were you with?”

Rin shuffled his feet, making sure to avoid all eye contact, and mumbled out an answer.

“Huh? What did you say?” Leorio asked, raising a hand to his ear as if doing that would allow him to hear better.

“I was with…” Rin paused. “Hisoka.”

The group was silent for only a few, precious seconds before they exploded.

Leorio grabbed his shoulders and yelled, “What?!” His voice coming out unnecessarily loud in the enclosed space.

Honestly, Rin was just happy that he wasn’t shaking him like before.

“How the heck are you still alive?” Killua demanded, staring at him like he was trying to dissect Rin with just his eyes.

“It’s not like he could kill me or anything. The whole point of the trial was to keep each other alive,” Rin reminded them.

“I’m just glad you’re okay, Rin,” Gon said with a smile.

Rin looked at him meekly, unable to handle the adorableness that was Gon. “Thanks.”

Kurapika frowned, body practically radiating concern. “It would probably be best if you avoided him, Rin. You don’t want him to get interested in you, nothing good will become of it.”

Rin laughed nervously before saying sheepishly, “That may already be too late.”

When they demanded that he explain, he told them what had happened since they had separated, though he veered around the part about mentioning his nen.

Killua’s eye was twitching by the end of it. “You idiot!” he yelled and managed to punch Rin’s head despite the height difference.

Rin pouted and asked, “What was I supposed to do? The whole goal was to survive the phase, so we needed to interact. And by the time we finished, we still had a lot of time left and it was just the two of us. I didn't think it would be a big deal, and it's not like he tried anything, though I do think he cheated,” Rin grumbled. He might have still been a little bitter about that.

“We understand that, but I’m concerned on what he plans to do next,” Kurapika explained, trying to calm them all down.

Gon put a finger to his lips. “In the Numere Wetlands, he told me to become a fine hunter, so I don’t think he’ll do anything right now, at least not until the exam is over.”

“Hopefully you’re right,” Kurapika said quietly.

They all looked at each other in silence.


 

The examiner for the Third Phase turned out be a short man with a purple mohawk. He had them all gather outside near a cliff and was staring at them with a knowing grin.

“Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on having escaped Trick Tower. Only the Fourth Phase and Final Phase remain,” he said, then pointed to an island sitting in the distance behind him. “The Fourth Phase will take place over there on Zevil Island,” he explained. “Let us proceed.” He snapped his fingers and a box was rolled out to him. “I will need you to draw lots.”

Confusion washed over the group, and one person eventually asked, “For what?”

The examiner grinned. “To determine who will hunt and who will be hunted. In here are twenty-five numbered cards. In other words, your ID numbers are on the cards. Now, I need you each to draw a card in the order by which you exited the tower. Will the first person come forward?” he answered and gestured to the box.

Rin waited until Hisoka had stepped forward and took a card before he went. He stared at the box for a second, then reached his hand in, grabbing the first card he touched.

Once everyone had gone, the examiner asked, “Everyone’s taken a card?” When no one objected, he continued. “Then, remove the seal from your card.”

The sound of tearing was loud, even outside. Rin carefully pulled the seal off his card and saw that it had an 89 on it. He looked around at everyone’s ID tags until he found the right number. It belonged to a tall man with shoulder length black hair. I think his name was Shishito, if I remember correctly.

“The card indicates your target,” he said, causing everyone to automatically cover up their tag. “This box has recorded which card each of you drew. This means that you’re free to dispose of the cards if you wish. The objective is to steal your target’s ID tag. Naturally, you’re free to use any method you choose to steal the ID tags, including killing your target and taking the tag off the corpse.” The examiner raised one of his hands and continued, “Listen carefully! Your target’s ID tag is worth three points. Your own tag is also worth three points. All other ID tags are worth one point. You need six points to advance to the Final Phase. So while on Zevil Island, you must gather enough ID tags to total six points. That is the condition for clearing the Hunter Exam’s Fourth Phase.”

There was complete silence after he finished explaining everything. Everyone was looking wearily at each other, trying to figure out who was their target and who was their enemy. It was reminiscent of how they acted at the very start of the exam.

The examiner showed them to where a boat was docked, and they all got aboard. The tension that had been increasing and decreasing all day was at an all time high, filling the air like static even though the phase hadn’t even started yet.

I feel bad for the announcer, Rin thought, feeling sympathetic as he watched from his spot next to Gon as she eventually stopped talking because absolutely no one was listening.

Killua walked over and plopped down on the other side of Gon. “What number did you draw?” he asked, sounding uncharacteristically sullen.

Gon turned to him, the serious expression unusual on his face. “How about you?”

“Secret,” Killua stated bluntly.

Rin glanced between the two of them. I hope they didn’t get into a fight. However, his concern proved unwarranted when both turned back around and started laughing.

“Don’t worry, you two aren’t my target.” Killua grinned.

Gon smiled happily. “And my target isn’t either of you.”

Killua leaned his chin on his fist and looked over in a surprisingly timid manner. “Show each other our numbers at the same time?” he offered.

“Okay!”

Killua counted down and then they all held out their cards. Killua had number 199 and Gon had... 44...

“Seriously?” Killua asked in disbelief. “You have really bad luck.”

Gon blushed sheepishly. “You think so?”

“Ah! I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Rin said reassuringly, waving his hands in the air before he paused for a second. “Probably…” he ended weakly.

Gon smiled, though it was unconvincing. “Thanks, Rin.” He peered down at Killua’s card again and asked, “Who’s #199?”

“You don’t know, either?” Killua asked, glaring down at his card as if it had personally done something to him.

Gon nodded, looking apologetic. “Uh-uh.”

“I didn’t bother to memorize everyone’s numbers, and after the initial explanation, I started checking tags, but everyone had already removed them.” Killua scowled. “That’s so lame…” He stopped when he saw Gon shaking.

Killua glanced briefly at him, but all Rin could do was shrug helplessly. Rin was really starting to worry about the boy.

“Gon…”

“What?” Gon looked at him confused, not seeming to understand why they looked concerned.

Killua smirked as if he suddenly realized something. “Are you happy? Or scared.”

Gon looked down at his hands in thought before he eventually said, “Both, I guess. In a straight up fight, I wouldn’t stand a chance. But if I only need to steal his ID tag, then I have a real shot.”

“Yeah,” Killua agreed.

“Right now, I might actually have a chance. That scares me a little...but I think it’s worth it.”

Rin smiled warmly. “I may not have known you for very long, Gon, but if anyone could do it it would be you.”

“I hope so too,” Gon admitted, rubbing the back of his head.

Killua suddenly looked like he remembered something, and he turned to give Rin a scrutinizing look. “While we’re on the topic. Rin, do you know who you got?”

“Hmm? Ah, yeah. I managed to find him before he took off his tag.”

“That's good. Well, let’s do our best then,” Killua said as he got up to stretch. “Make sure you stay alive, Gon, Rin.”

“Uh-huh! You too.” Gon gave him a thumbs up, while Rin just nodded.

Killua ambled off, leaving just Gon and Rin sitting on the deck of the boat against the railing. Rin leaned his head back and listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the boat and Gon chatter a mile a minute.

I hope everything goes well.


 

The only sounds that could be heard was the slight rustling of the trees and the faint call of animals in the distance. As soon as he set foot on the island, Rin tried to get as far away from the boat as possible. I need to find shelter first before I start thinking of finding my target. He was using zetsu in case any of the other applicants had managed to catch up already. Hopefully the others will be able to get their targets without any major trouble, especially Gon. Rin frowned harder the longer he thought about it. Ugh, this is not what I need to worried about right now!

A crunch of leaves nearby had Rin ducking behind a tree for cover. Who is it? He carefully peered around in order to catch a glimpse of the person. It was a man with bushy eyebrows, a large crooked nose, and gray hair. He was carrying a long sword at his side. The man was fairly close, but he didn’t seem to notice Rin and kept walking. If he keeps making all that noise he’s going to be found rather easily. Rin glanced around to see if there anymore surprises before he began moving again. I should leave the area in case there are more people around. His stomach choose that moment to growl, and Rin placed a hand on it dejectedly. First, I need to find some food. Thankfully, Rin had grew up near the woods, and it was were he always played. His father had even encouraged it by buying him his first books on plants, and it was what sparked his thirst for knowledge on the subject, and ever since, Rin had made it a matter of priority to learn all that he could, something that he was definitely grateful for now since it let him know exactly where to find wild asparagus and clover that was native to the area.

Rin climbed up a tree, carefully holding onto his precious bundle, until he found a decent size branch that would support his weight. He settled down to happily munch on his prize. While he was searching, he had also found a small stream nearby so water wasn’t a concern anymore, either.

He paused in eating. “Maybe I should go look for the others,” he wondered out loud, but then shook his head. “No, they can take care of themselves. I would just make it harder for them.”

The sun was already setting, so he shifted to find a more comfortable spot and drifted off to sleep.


 

It’s already been three days, Rin realized as he gazed up at the calm sky, completely relaxed against the tree trunk. Hmm, I’m so comfortable. I don’t want to move. However, he knew he needed to hunt down his target before the week ended, so he slapped both hands on his cheeks in order to wake himself up. Okay! Let’s do this! Rin paused for a moment and then chuckled. I’m starting to sound like Gon.

Rin had a plan to find his target: wander around until he found him. There wasn’t much else he could do on an island this big. Though, I guess I could use that , but I would rather not have to resort to it unless absolutely necessary, especially since there are other nen users nearby.

Rin wandering around did not mean, however, that he was careless. He kept his zetsu constantly up as he went, and he had just walked past some trees when he spotted someone he definitely wanted to avoid at all costs: Hisoka.

The man was walking slowly through the forest, completely silent despite all the leaves littering the ground, but the longer he watched the more uneasy Rin felt. Something’s not right. The little hairs on the back of his neck rose as he felt a shiver rack through his body. Why the hell is he walking like a zombie? Hisoka was bent at the waist so that his arms were dangling out in front of him, making them sway slightly with ever step the man took, and that wasn’t even mentioning Hisoka’s nen. It was lashing through the air around him like a caged beast, overflowing with bloodlust, though it seemed different from what Rin had felt before.

Hisoka paused suddenly, his foot freezing in midair, so Rin did the only thing he could think of at the moment: he ran.

I am not dealing with him again, especially not when he looks ready to kill the first thing that moves!


 

Rin gazed down at the number #89 tag in his hand in surprise. Maybe running away was actually a good thing. After Rin bolted away from Hisoka, he ran into his target— literally . Both had been equally shocked by the collision, but Rin had reacted just a tad bit faster and knocked him out with a swift hit to the back of the neck.

Now, all I have to do is keep both the tags until the end. Shouldn’t be too hard. Rin began to slowly make his way back in the direction of the ship. He figured that if he needed to go there anyway, he might as well get a head start. Thankfully, he didn’t have anymore run-ins with people while making his way through the forest, so he was able to make it there in one piece.

During the rest of the week, Rin mostly lounged around in the trees and avoided all contact with people. He didn’t want to take the chance of someone surprising him and stealing the tags, which would be just his luck. Everytime Rin needed to restock on food, he would bring back plenty to last him for a while so he didn’t need to keep making the trip. The vast size and overall good health of the forest meant that there was always plenty of food to spare.

There were a couple times when other examinees wandered under his tree. They snuck through the tall grass, their heads tilting this way and that, most likely looking for easy prey, though why they thought the people who were strong enough to get their tags would be good targets, he didn’t know.

“Will the applicants please return to the starting point at once?” A female voice resounded through the forest. It sounds like the boat attendant. “You will be given one hour of extra time. If you do not return during this time, you will fail the exam. Furthermore, you are not allowed to exchange tags after reaching the starting point. Anyone caught swapping tags will be disqualified.” There was a click as the sound turned off, and the forest was once again filled with nature.

That’s good news. This means I can come out of hiding and not be attacked. Once the announcement had been made, Rin jumped down from the branch and walked out into the clearing. A few people were already there, including Killua, all of whom probably had the same idea as him.

“The others aren’t here yet?” Rin questioned when he walked over.

Killua shook his head. “Doesn’t seem like it,” he said.

Their conversation was interrupted when the board leading to the ship was lowered down and the attendant stepped off. She glanced around at those already gathered and said, “Then we will now check the tags of everyone here.”

All the people gathered raised up their tags in the air as the lady called out each applicant who passed.

“So six applicants have passed?” She started to lower the clipboard but paused when they all heard rustling. “Oh?” the attendant called out in surprise as Gon, Kurapika, and Leorio came stumbling out of the woods, all three looking worse for wear.

“Gon,” Killua called with a grin. He raised a hand to get their attention.

Rin let out a sigh. Why do they always make such close calls , he thought, though he was just glad that they had made it at all.

“Ah, three more arrive at the last second, and now for the last few members…” She waited as they showed her their tags. “These ten applicants have passed the Fourth Phase of the exam!”

Rin and Killua ran over to them. “I thought you guys weren’t going to make it,” Killua complained, punching Gon lightly on the arm.

“Haha, we almost didn’t.” Gon laughed cheerfully, despite fact that they had just barely managed to pass by the skin of their teeth.

It wasn’t until they had gotten closer that Rin noticed the black and blue bruise painting Gon’s face, and he hurriedly stepped closer so he could reach out and turn the boy’s head so he could see the damage better. “You’re hurt!” Rin said. Turning it more toward the light only made the bruises look worse, making him wince at how much pain the boy must be in. “Did Hisoka do this to you?”

Gon shook his head. “No, it was Bourbon. We got caught in his trap,” he explained.

“Wasn’t he the snake charmer? That’s even worse!” Rin exclaimed. “Did any of them bite you?” He turned Gon’s face in different directions, trying to examine all of him at once in order to look for anymore possible injuries.

Leorio laughed and smacked Rin’s back heartedly. “You’re like a mother hen!”

Kurapika sighed, everything about him just screaming that he was done. “You’re not helping, Leorio,” he said slowly, then turned to face Rin with a warm smile. “We’re fine. He had the antidote with him.”

Rin let out a small noise of doubt. Even with an antidote he knew that the venom could have devastating consequences. He had studied up on dangerous creatures as well, since if a person was going to go traversing in a forest it was more than likely that they would encounter said animals.

“Don’t worry so much,” Killua order with a slight scowl, placing his hands on his hips.

Gon nodded and smiled widely, even though Rin knew the movement had to have hurt. “It’s nice that you’re worried about us, but Killua’s right. Everything turned out just fine.” When Rin just continued to frown, Gon darted forward and wrapped his arms around his waist. “Is this better?” he asked, peering up with large, brown eyes.

Rin felt a small blush wash across his face at the sight of the all too adorable boy. What little self restraint he had shattered at that exact moment, so he bent down and hugged him back tightly. It appears his plan worked. I do feel calmer now, he thought with a chuckle. Unfortunately, the wonderful hug could not last forever.

The attendant raised a hand to her mouth and yelled, “Alright! Time for everyone to board the airship. It’ll take you guys to the Final Phase.”

Killua smirked, glancing over at them with barely concealed excitement. “You guys ready?”

Leorio raised a fist. “Of course!”

The end of the exam was near, and Rin could feel excitement bubble up inside him as they all took a step forward. Still...why do I also feel so anxious all of a sudden.

Chapter Text

 

The final phase turned out to be located in a large hotel. It was a massive building, stretching up to the sky with an almost dizzying height with its dark blue exterior standing out against the pale blue and white of the sky and clouds. The few lights seen in some of the windows gave it the appearance of a night sky with stars twinkling within its depths.

Once inside, they were quickly escorted to several rooms where they could rest and told that the Chairman would be conducting individual interviews with each examinee before the final phase would take place. They were to use the time to get ready, though none of them knew what the final phase would actually be

Instead of splitting up, the five of them squeezed into a single room so they could talk, and when it was Rin’s turn to go, he practically leapt from his seat on the bed, much to the others’ amusement.

A man wearing an oddly out of place suit gestured for him to follow and quietly led him down hallway after hallway until they eventually stopped in front of a plain, metal door. The man then left without a word, leaving Rin to stand there awkwardly. When nothing else happened, he raised a fist to knock hesitantly on the door.

He vaguely heard a voice inside telling him to come in, so he opened the surprisingly heavy door.

The Chairman was sitting in front of a small, wooden table, and when it became apparent that Rin could very happily remain standing if given the choice, he gestured to the pillow across from him. “Well, have a seat,” he said.

Rin walked forward and slowly sat down. He began wringing his hands in his lap, making sure to keep them out of sight so the man couldn’t see the very obvious sign of his nervousness—though he failed miserably.

“No need to be nervous. I’ll just be asking a few questions to satisfy my curiosity,” the Chairman stated, eyes warm as he regarded Rin. “First, why do you want to become a Hunter?” he asked.

Rin sighed in relief. That was an easy question. “My foster father was a Hunter, but he didn’t let that get in the way of him raising me. If anything, the fact that he tried made me respect him even more. He always encouraged me to pursue whatever I wanted, and he’s the only reason I’m not living on the streets after my parents died, so I want to become a Hunter that helps people, just like he did,” he said, voice growing more and more calm the longer he talked. By the end of it, his eyes were glowing with pride and love. If there was one thing Rin wasn’t embarrassed to talk about, it was his father.

The entire time, the Chairman’s expression didn’t shift from the warm look he had adopted—almost one of fondness—and he nodded at the end. “I see. Then I’ll move on to the next question. Which of the other nine applicants are you keeping an eye on?”

Rin hummed in thought before answering. “Probably #405, #403, #404, and #99. They seem like really nice people,” he stated, smiling fondly at the thought of the people he had grown to care about despite the short time they had known each other.

“One last question. Which of the other eight applicants would you least want to fight?”

“#44,” Rin stated immediately, then blushed in embarrassment at having said it without thinking.

The Chairman looked interested. “Hmm, and why is that?” he asked, raising a long, white eyebrow.

The look in Hisoka’s eyes was burned into his memory, and he shivered as the image crept into his mind. “He would kill me without a second thought.”

“Yep, nice job. You’re excused,” the Chairman said absentmindedly, rubbing his forehead in concentration and waving a hand in a shooing motion.

“Oh, um, okay. Goodbye.” Rin bowed slightly, then got up and left the room. Once the door was closed, he sighed and leaned his weight against it. I don’t want to mess with him either...


 

After all of the interviews had been completed, they were moved to a slightly larger room where they all stood in a half circle in front of the Chairman as he gave his speech.

“Well, gentlemen. Did you get plenty of rest? This hotel is owned by the Hunter Exam Selection Committee. The place is all yours until the battles have concluded. For the Final Phase, we will be holding a one-on-one tournament,” Chairman Netero explained as he pulled off a sheet to reveal a white board.

“So only the last person standing passes?” Leorio questioned, face dropping into one of horror.

The Chairman smiled at them knowingly and shook his head. “No,” he said and held up a single finger. “One win is all you need to pass.”

“One win?” Gon asked in surprise.

Leorio was also shocked, his eyes wide as he stared. “Then, in this tournament…”

“The winners are removed from the competition, while the losers continue up the bracket. In other words, the person who finishes at the top will not pass,” the Chairman informed. “Does everyone understand now?”

Hanzo was the next to speak, and he looked at the Chairman with narrowed eyes. “So you’re saying that only one person will fail.”

“Exactly.” This is strange. I wonder why he would make a tournament like this the Final Phase. “And here is the bracket.” He pulled off the strip of paper at the bottom of the board.

Rin twitched in surprise. My first fight is with...Leorio. Rin took a quick glance over at him and found him looking right back. Their eyes connected and Rin saw the conviction burning in them. I won’t hold back, they promised. Rin gave him a slight smile and nodded. I wouldn’t want you to.

The Chairman sounded proud, and he rubbed his white beard as he gazed at them. “Impressive, right? After all, everyone has at least two chances to win.”

Pokkle asked the question everyone was thinking, “But some people, like #294 and #405, get five chances.”

“Why didn’t you use a balanced bracket?” Bodoro demanded.

“A question that must be on everyone’s mind,” Chairman Netero said slowly. “This bracket was assembled based on your performances throughout the entire exam. Those who performed better received more chances.” If that’s the case, then shouldn’t I have done worse?

Killua seemed to agree with his silent thought. “That doesn’t sound right. Can you explain how you scored our performances?”

The Chairman seemed to think about it for a second before he shouted, “No!”

Rin yelped, not having expected the sudden explosion, and on his right, he heard Leorio chuckle a little. The glare he sent over seemed to shut him up pretty fast, though.

“Why not?” Killua demanded, hair puffed up like a threatened cat trying to make itself look bigger.

Chairman Netero laughed away all the question. “Your scores are classified information, so I can’t tell you everything, but I can explain our methods.” He leaned forward slightly. “First, we consider three major criteria: physical strength, mental strength, and overall impression. For physical strength, we use an aggregate of agility, flexibility, endurance, and perception. For mental strength, we use an aggregate of resilience, adaptability, judgement, and creativity. However, this information is only used as a reference point. After all, you were strong enough to advance to the Final Phase. However, we are most concerned with your overall impression. This refers to any intangible factors not previously mentioned.” He chuckled in amusement. “You could consider this an evaluation of your potential as a Hunter, and we also incorporate the opinions of your peers. That was our process,” he explained.

Rin noticed, though, that this answer only seemed to aggravate Killua even more. Should I say something , he wondered, looking at how the white haired boy was gritting his teeth painfully, expression slowly turning murderous the longer the Chairman talked.

However, the Chairman just continued despite the growing unrest. “The battle rules are quite simple. Weapons are allowed. No cheating. If your opponent admits defeat, you win. However! If you kill your opponent, you will be immediately disqualified. All remaining applicants will pass, and the exam will end. Are we clear?” No one said anything.

A man in a black suit stepped forward and said, “Then, we shall begin the exam’s Final Phase.”


 

They all shuffled to the side on the room to watch the proceeding matches without getting in the way.

Rin shifted from foot to foot as he watched Gon step into the middle, and he only stopped when a hand was laid on his shoulder. He shot a brief glance over at the person and saw Kurapika give him a smile, squeezing his shoulder slightly once he had Rin’s attention. Rin sent a small smile back and forced his tense shoulders to ease from their uncomfortable position, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves.

Another man in a black suit called out, “The first match is Hanzo versus Gon. Please step forward.” Gon and Hanzo walked closer until they were only a foot away from each other. “I will serve as the referee. My name is Masta. Best of luck.”

“Hey, good to see you again,” Hanzo said, giving the referee a carefree grin, which seemed to surprise the man. “You were the one tailing me during the Fourth Phase.”

“You noticed?”

“Naturally…” Hanzo smiled. “I’m assuming that each applicant was assigned an examiner for the Fourth Phase. Well, I’m sure everyone else noticed.” Eh?! I thought I sensed something close by, but I just assumed it was an animal!

“I thought it wasn’t worth mentioning,” Kurapika said slowly and glanced over at Leorio and Rin.

“Y-Yeah…” Leorio stuttered, his eyebrow twitching.

Rin gave him a silent thumbs up in his mind. We’re in this together, Leorio.

Hanzo crossed his arms, “You have my thanks. My rank was higher because your report on me was accurate, though the outcome was never in doubt!” He put both hands on his hips and started laughing loudly. This guy...is starting to annoy me.


 

Forget annoy, he’s pissing me off. Rin was a few seconds away from growling at the ninja, though his face was kept carefully blank. His right hand kept twitching, and it took all his self control not to dart out and kick him away from Gon right then and there. It had already been three hours, and with every minute that trickled by, Rin could feel his already tiny thread of restraint break even more. Bloodlust was slowly starting to spill out around him, causing the people nearby to eye him warily and lean away. Even Leorio was at the end of his rope and was calling out threats to the ninja.

This must have worried the referee because he turned to them with a warning glare and said, “No one may interfere in a one-on-one match. If you step in, Gon will be the one disqualified.”

“It’s okay…” a voice called out weakly. “Leorio. This is...nothing…” Gon struggled to stand and looked over at them. “I-I can still fight…”

Hanzo choose that moment to kick Gon’s legs out from under him. Rin was just barely hanging onto a sliver of willpower at this point, and he could feel his nen bubbling under the surface, demanding to be let out and protect what was his. The loud crack as Gon’s arm was snapped in half was the final straw.

Rin’s vision turned black and he felt his hearing go completely mute as he became focused only on Gon— hurt, protect —and the enemy. His nen burst forward, making a breeze start to billow around the room, and was just about to attack when he felt a pull from behind and was jerked to a sudden stop. He quickly turned to snarl at the intruder— who dared to stop him —and moved to attack them. However, he didn’t get a chance to. The intruder slammed him against the wall, knocking the breath out of him, and wrapped a tight hand around his throat. He tried to pull the offending hand off and even kicked at them, but it only caused the hand to squeeze tighter and left Rin gasping for air.

“If you don’t stop, you’ll make me want to fight back,” a deep voice whispered next to his ear, filled with dark promises of what was to come if he didn’t obey.

The warm breath close to his ear, and more importantly his neck, jolted him from the absolute anger consuming him. Rin slowed in his attempts to escape and instead tried to focus on his surroundings. Once he caught sight of the person holding him captive, he felt all the resistance leave him as his body went limp in the hold.

The hand eased up a little until he could finally breathe again. “Good boy,” Hisoka hummed, voice lilting with teasing praise and amusement.

His body was still shaking from the adrenaline, and he could hear the pounding of his heart in his ears. When Rin slowly looked around the room, everyone was staring at the two of them in caution, though Leorio looked ready to jump between Hisoka and Rin at any second. Rin closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall as he tried to focus on catching his breath, which was kind of difficult since Hisoka had yet to let go of his neck. It wasn’t the harsh grip as before, but it still made breathing slightly harder. He could already feel his neck throbbing in pain and knew it would definitely be bruised tomorrow.

“Rin?” Kurapika called out hesitantly.

Rin looked over at him—well, as far as the hand would allow—and tried to smile convincingly, though it came out as more of a grimace. “Sorry, I’m fine now,” he tried to reassure, but it didn’t look like he succeeded because Kurapika only frowned harder.

The removal of the hand around his neck made him look back over at Hisoka. The man turned and leaned against the wall to Rin’s left, their arms brushing one another from the close proximity. Rin stared at him, a question in his eyes, but Hisoka merely smirked and looked back toward the middle of the room.

The referee watched them for a few more seconds before saying, “We will now resume the fight.”

Rin couldn’t find the energy to pay attention to the rest of the fight, and it was only after the ninja declared his loss that he zoned back in. However, Gon refusing to accept it and demanding they find a different way to fight managed to bring a small smile to Rin’s face. I’m glad he seems okay , he thought, though he frowned when he took in all Gon’s injuries. For the most part.


 

“Are you going to be okay for your fight, Rin?” Kurapika asked. He was scrutinizing Rin’s face carefully, though Rin’s not exactly sure what he was looking for.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine,” Rin said softly.

“Hmph,” Leorio mumbled. “Don’t expect me to go easy on you.” Even as he said this, Rin could see the concern swirling in his eyes.

“Same to you,” he said, smiling in an effort to show them both that he was, in fact, okay.

Killua just simply stared at them, not saying a word. He had been in a foul mood ever since the Chairman had explained the rules, and Rin was almost afraid to say anything to him because of the ‘do-not-talk-to-me’ aura practically rushing off him in waves.

The referee gestured for the two of them to come into the middle. “The fourth match is Leorio versus Rin!” he called out. “Will both applicants please step forward.”

Right before walking out, Rin felt his eyes drawn to where Hisoka was still standing—almost hovering—nearby. The magician’s face had drifted back into the half-blank, half-amused expression that seemed to be his default. There was only a brief flash of anticipation in those golden eyes when they met his before it was hidden behind the mask once again. Rin shook the image away as he tried to mentally prepare himself for the oncoming fight.

He took a deep breath. “No hard feelings?” he asked Leorio quietly.

Leorio grinned. “Of course not.”

The referee glanced between them, and once he saw they were ready he threw his hand in the air. “Begin!”

Neither of them moved. They were both carefully watching for any openings the opponent had. Rin could still feel his nen hissing in dissatisfaction and had to remind himself that this was Leorio, not Hanzo. He needed to make sure he didn’t accidentally hurt Leorio because he was upset over something that didn’t even involve him. If something like that happened again he wouldn’t-

Leorio shifted his weight slightly to his right, leaving his left side wide open, so Rin took the chance to dart forward with a small boost from his nen. He ducked under Leorio’s briefcase as it was swung at him and slammed the palm of his hand onto the man’s chest, releasing the nen surrounding it as he did. The impact sent Leorio skidding back, but he managed to stay on his feet. Crap, I held back too much. Rin gave himself a mental shake and ran forward again, not giving Leorio a chance to gain his bearings. He twisted his nen so that it was as thin as a thread and used it to cut the top of Leorio’s hand, forcing him to drop the suitcase. Rin could see his surprise and knew the other wouldn’t be able to react in time when he landed a kick to his side—if someone had looked closely they would have been able to see wind billowing around Rin’s leg. This time Leorio was sent flying to the side and when his back hit the wall it formed a small indent behind him. Rin watched as Leorio stumbled away from the damage, all the while struggling to stay standing, and contemplated what to do next. However, it seemed he wouldn’t have to make that choice because Leorio lifted a hand in the air.

“I forfeit,” he said, expression turning into a grimace as he clutched the side that had been kicked.

Rin blinked in surprise at the sudden development.

The referee nodded and threw his hand back into the air, calling out, “Rin is the winner.”

Rin hurried over to Leorio. “Are you okay? I didn’t hurt you too badly, did I?” he asked, his hands hovering over the other, not quite sure where to touch.

“And the mother hen makes another appearance.” Leorio chuckled, before wincing slightly. “I’m good, but, man, you sure pack a wallop.”

“Sorry.” Rin winced.

However, Leorio just waved off his concern, and they made their way slowly back over to where Kurapika was waiting anxiously for them, with Leorio leaning most of his weight against Rin during it.

Hisoka had remained in the exact same place as Rin had left him, only instead of the relaxed posture he had seemed to have mastered, Hisoka’s body was wound up tight as a wire. There was no hiding the excitement in his eyes anymore; in fact, he seemed to have given up on it entirely. It was the same heated gaze Rin had felt locked onto him the entire fight, and it was probably part of the reason his nen had been so uneasy.

He hesitated for only a brief moment before he calmly took his place against the wall next to the magician. He pointedly ignored the shocked expressions of those around them and kept his gaze facing forward. Rin knew it was crazy, remaining near the man, especially when he was riled up like this, but there was something...strangely magnetic about Hisoka. Call him crazy, but he was curious enough to try and find out why.


 

The rest of the fights went by in a flash. That is, until the incident with Killua happened. Rin was still surprised by it, but unfortunately had not broken from his daze in time to stop the boy from running out the doors. Kurapika was the only thing that had stopped him from running after him anyway, and he suggested that they give Killua some time alone. That had been a while ago and the fact that Killua still hadn’t returned made him anxious.

They were sitting in an auditorium-esk room and listening to an orientation speech when the doors suddenly flung open, revealing a heavily bandaged Gon. He had his arm in a sling and a bandage on his forehead. However, he didn’t acknowledge them and walked past, only stopping when he was next to Illumi.

“Apologize to Killua!” he demanded. His face was curled into a serious expression, one that didn’t fit on his face in the least.

Illumi looked at him blankly. “Apologize? For what?”

“You don’t know what you did wrong?” Gon asked in disbelief.

“Nope.”

Rin could see Gon’s shaking form even from where he was sitting. “You don’t have the right to be his brother,” he growled.

Illumi looked away, clearly dismissing the boy. “Must I earn the right to be his brother?”

Gon grabbed his arm and yanked him from his seat. “He doesn’t need to earn the right to be my friend!” His grip tightened on Illumi’s arm, and it was only then that the man finally looked startled. “Don’t bother apologizing,” Gon gritted out. “Just take me to see Killua.”

Rin tensed in his seat, becoming slightly worried that the man would attack Gon. Illumi didn’t look like he would at the moment, but Rin had seen how fast a person’s mind could change in an instant—as shown by one murderous clown.

“What will you do then?”

“That should be obvious…” Gon stated simply, almost like Illumi was an idiot for even asking. “I’m gonna rescue Killua!”

Rin wasn’t sure if he should be thankful or not that Illumi just looked amused by the whole conversation, rather than annoyed.

“You make it sound as though I kidnapped him. He walked away on his own,” Illumi reminded. His voice was still the emotionless tone of a puppet, but at least he wasn’t creaking like one anymore.

“But it wasn’t by choice,” Gon argued immediately. “He was being manipulated by you people. It’s the same thing as kidnapping!”

The Chairman suddenly stepped down from the podium with his arms crossed behind his back. “We happened to be discussing this very subject, Gon. Kurapika, Leorio, and Rin have lodged complaints. The committee has been discussing the fairness of Killua’s disqualification.”

Kurapika stood up. “Killua had been behaving in a strange manner during and since his battle with the man who called himself Gittarackur. I believe that he was hypnotized into committing murder. Under normal circumstances, it would be impossible to use hypnosis to induce a person to kill. However, as Killua was raised in a family of assassins, murder was a part of his daily life, so it’s natural that he would lack the ethical restraint of most,” he said strongly.

Leorio also stood up and added, “I want to mention that the attack happened during the match between Bodoro and me. It’s possible that he was trying to help me. Given that, the one who should be disqualified is me.”

“Leorio,” Rin whispered, eyes wide.

“In any case, Killua was not in control of his own actions,” Kurapika reasoned. “Thus, he should not have been disqualified.”

“That is mere speculation. There is no proof. There were no clear signs of manipulation,” the Chairman denied calmly. “In fact, I would question the claim that he was hypnotized. I agree that the incident occurred after the battle between Leorio and Bodoro had begun. At that point, both fighters were evenly matched. Bodoro had more experience, but in terms of raw combat ability, Leorio was the stronger. There was no need for Killua to interfere.”

Kurapika frowned, and more people began to voice their opinion, each growing more annoyed than the next until the Chairman eventually got everyone to calm down. After that, he gave the bean man a chance to explain about the Hunter license.

“Then, we now declare the eight members here to be new Hunters!”

Rin expected to feel happier. He had finally accomplished his dream, but it all felt so...hollow.


 

Rin wandered away from the group in order to clear his head from all the tension. He was still a little wound up from the incident with Hanzo and the whole problem with Killua, so his nerves were completely wiped.

Turning around the corner, he passed Gittarackur—no wait, Illumi— but the man paid him no mind and kept walking. He stared after him, but then decided it was better to just keep walking. It wasn’t until farther down the hallway that Rin ground to a halt.

Hisoka was leaning casually against a pillar just ahead of him. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, and he had his head dipped forward slightly with his eyes closed. Any sign of blood had been cleaned, leaving only pristin white and pale pink in its place. Rin debated the merits of just turning around and going back the way he came from, but the only problem was that the others were in the very direction he didn’t want to travel. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then resumed his walk— was it sad that part of him considered using zetsu? Though, he doubted he would actually be able to hide from Hisoka, but it didn’t stop him from hoping.

Please ignore me, please ignore me , he fervently wished. However, it seemed the world was against him.

“Hmm~ If it isn’t the little kitten~”

Rin froze as he felt his face heat up with a blush. “K-Kitten?!” he spluttered.

“It seems you do have claws,” Hisoka stated and nonchalantly held up a hand that had scratches all over it.

Rin grimaced, realizing that he must have done that when he was struggling to get away. Speaking of which… “Why did you stop me? You could have just sat back and watched as I was disqualified,” Rin questioned, examining Hisoka’s expression carefully, trying to figure out what the man was thinking.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Hisoka drawled, a smirk crawling onto his lips. “There’s no point if I can’t see the fruit ripen.”

Rin stared at him blankly. “Fruit?” He’s not going to try and...eat me, is he?

“Hmm~ I do hope you’ll be able to keep me entertained,” he mumbled, though it sounded like it was more to himself than to Rin.

Rin just stared at the man. He was beginning to see just how crazy Hisoka actually was. He caught a glimpse of a sly smile being shot his way and saw Hisoka throw something at him. He reflexively reached out and caught it, which, thinking back, was probably a bad idea considering the man’s choice of weapons . It turned out to be a Joker playing card, thankfully not sharpened by nen. Rin glanced between the card and the man, but Hisoka just pushed off the pillar and started walking away.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Rin looked up just in time to see Hisoka pause and glance over his shoulder. “I’ll be taking that back next time I see you, so if you don’t have it…” A grin slowly overtook his face, eyes lighting up with a bloodlust that always seemed to lie just beneath the surface. “Then I’ll have to punish you.”

All the blood immediately drained from Rin’s face.


 

“Rin.” Leorio grabbed both shoulders, expression serious. “Not matter what, keep that card with you.”

Kurapika pinched his nose, “That’s pretty obvious, Leorio.”

“And I thought I had bad luck.” Gon sweatdropped, then he shook his head as if to clear away a thought. “Rin, is your neck okay? You have a big bruise.”

Rin lightly touched his neck and winced. “I’m fine. Besides, I should be asking you that. You’re hurt worse than I am.”

Gon laughed and rubbed his head. “I guess you’re right.”

“So, what are we going to do now?” Kurapika questioned.

“It was called Kukuroo Mountain, right? Never heard of it before,” Leorio muttered thoughtfully, raising a fist to his mouth. “Kurapika, do you know where it is?” he asked.

“No, I don’t,” Kurapika admitted. “But we can look it up online.”

The sound of footsteps coming closer interrupted them, and they all looked up to see who it was.

Rin bristled as soon as he saw exactly who dared to approach them.

“Yo!” Hanzo raised a hand in greeting, grinning happily as if he hadn’t nearly beaten Gon to death not that long ago.

“Oh, Hanzo-san!” Gon said, waving excitedly back at him.

Rin’s eyes narrowed into slits and took a protective step closer to Gon so that he was standing slightly in front of him.

Hanzo walked closer to them, not appearing to notice—or not caring about—the looks he was receiving. “I’m going back to my country. It was a short, yet seemingly long acquaintance, but I had fun.”

Gon beamed at him. “So did I.”

“If you ever visit my country, let me know. I can show you the best tourist spots!” he said and handed a piece of paper to Kurapika. However, when he moved to take a step, he finally seemed to notice Rin’s constant glaring. He paused, staring at Rin in consideration, and eventually asked, “No hard feelings?”

Rin regarded him carefully, and when finding nothing harsh in the ninja’s eyes, slowly nodded.

“Great!” He reached out and ruffled Rin’s hair, much to his annoyance. “See ya!”

“Bye!” Gon yelled happily.

Kurapika let out a tiny gasp in surprise, which caused all of them to look over to see what was wrong. In his hand were four tickets that said, Cloud-Hidden Ninja Hanzo.

“A shinobi who tried to leave an impression…” Kurapika stated in disbelief.

Rin felt his eye twitch. He really is an idiot.

“Hey,” another voice called out. We seem rather popular today… “Sorry about getting so excited back there.” It was a man wearing a white shirt and a red vest, with a purple turban partly covering medium-length, ginger hair.

Rin searched through his mind until the name Pokkle popped up.

Kurapika smiled apologetically and said, “No, I also lost control. Forgive me.”

“No, I only got mad because you were right. I was using you take out my frustration for winning by default,” Pokkle admitted reluctantly. “But I’m over that now. Since I passed, I’m going to make the best of it!” He kept walking until he reached their little group. “The question is what to do next.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Kurapika agreed.

“I’m going to travel the world, gathering information and discovering new species as an Exotic Game Hunter,” Pokkle informed. His chest seemed to puff up unconsciously as his eyes lit with passion.

Kurapika gave an impressed hum in appreciation. “An Exotic Game Hunter…”

Gon jumped from around Rin and went closer to Pokkle. “Hey, what’s that?” Gon asked, pointing at the black rectangular object Pokkle was holding.

“Oh, this?” He held it out to show them. “You can use this to obtain all kinds of information. Is there anything you’d like to know? I can look it up on the spot,” he offered.

“Oh…” Gon raised a hand to his chin. “Can you look up a Hunter named Ging? Ging Freecss.”

Pokkle opened it up with one hand. “Sure, hold on…” After a while, he stopped typing and stared down in astonishment. “Hey, who is this Ging guy?”

“Huh?” Gon asked.

Pokkle looked up at them with wide eyes. “All information related to him is behind a tight security system that requires a bunch of different accesses. He has some serious influence, even at the national level.”

“Huh? Really?” Gon gasped, staring back with huge, brown eyes, though they dimmed once he realized he wouldn’t be able to find out anything. “Forget it, then…” he trailed off, seeming to be a combination of both sullen and slightly embarrassed.

“Okay, let me know if anything comes up. This is my email address,” he said, hurriedly writing on a slip of paper and handing it to Kurapika. “Bye.” He raised a hand in farewell and ran off, his arrows clinking around in his quiver with every step.

“Oh!” Leorio exclaimed once he was gone, smacking his head. “We should have asked him to look up Kukuroo Mountain.”

Rin face-palmed, then regretted it when it jarred his neck, making the throbbing come back with a vengeance. We’re so stupid!

“You’re right…” Gon said, voice coming out dejected.

“It’s okay,” Kurapika said, trying to placate them. “As Chairman Netero was saying, we’re all Hunters now. It’s a bad idea to let other Hunters know what you’re doing. We can look it up ourselves.”

That makes sense, but it still would have been easier to just ask.


 

They did eventually find out where Kukuroo Mountain was, and the gate guarding the property made the one from the second phase seem small in comparison. The two men who were stationed at the entrance had them complete a training regime since the only way inside—that wouldn’t immediately get them killed—was to open the gate on their own, which was what eventually led to them being discovered by a butler, who then brought them to one of the buildings. The room they ended up in had cream walls with wooden panels and quite a few butlers lined up against the wall. All except for one.

He was an older man with glasses and pitch black hair, and when they stepped into the room he waved for them to sit on the couch across from him. “Please forgive the rude reception. The lady of the house has asked us to treat you as official guests,” he stated, appearance otherwise calm except for an unnervingly blank stare. One that left Rin feeling as if he would rather be doing anything else but dealing with them.

Rin glanced at him briefly, but immediately went back to scrutinizing how another butler was patching up Gon’s injuries.

“Is that better?” the butler asked.

Gon smiled cheerfully and nodded at him. “Thanks.”

Rin watched in amusement as Gon held up a mirror and stuck out his tongue at himself, and when Gon noticed him watching, he grinned and held it up to Rin’s face instead.

“Then, this is not the primary residence?” Kurapika asked in astonishment, ignoring their childish antics.

“No, this place is for the butlers,” Canary informed them from behind.

“Well, please make yourselves at home.”

“I appreciate the hospitality, but we’ve come to see Killua. Can you take us to him at once?” Leorio asked politely.

The butler smiled, though there was something about it that sent warnings off inside Rin’s head. “That won’t be necessary. Killua-sama is on his way here,” he informed.

Rin tried to stamp down the relief he felt, knowing that it couldn’t be that simple.

“Now, then…” The butler slowly said. He pushed up his glasses with his index finger, making them glint harshly in the light. “To simply sit and wait would be dull. How about a game to pass the time?”

Oh, I don’t like where this is going , Rin thought. The last time he had played a game was with Hisoka, and he still had nightmares about cards and stupid smirks.

Kurapika seemed to sense that something was amiss as well, because his voice came out unsurely. “A game?” he asked.

The man flicked a coin into the air and grabbed it with one hand. “Which hand holds the coin?”

“The left hand.” They all answered simultaneously.

He chuckled. “Correct, so I’ll move more quickly this time.” He threw it into the air again. “Well? Which hand?”

Gon smiled and pointed at one hand. “Left again.”

“Marvelous,” he praised as the other butlers around them applauded. “Then I shall try harder this time.” This time when he flipped the coin, his hand shot out much faster than before. “Well? Which hand?”

“I’m not positive, but I’d guess the right,” Leorio muttered.

“You see…” His voice suddenly dropped, making him sound angry. “I have known Killua-sama his entire life. I dare say that I care for him as though he were my own. In all honesty, I must despise you for trying to take him away.” He gripped both hands tightly, and a vein appeared on his forehead. Rin could even sense killing intent start to emanate from the man before them. This guy is definitely angry. “Well? Which hand? Answer.”

“The left hand,” Kurapika said uncertainly.

“His lady mother could barely speak.” he said, bowing his head slightly. “She must be heartbroken, having to watch him leave. I cannot forgive it. By the time Killua-sama arrives, a decision will be reached. I shall test you in my own way.” The butlers around them drew out swords, one even went as far as to put a blade against Canary’s throat. “You have no choice. This is her punishment for having brought you here, against her orders. I shall explain the rules. If one of you answers incorrectly, that person is out of the game. Should you all be disqualified, I shall tell Killua-sama that you left and that he will never see you again.”

“Killua-” Gon tried.

“Silence!” the man shouted. “Your lives hang by a thread. Answer my question.” He threw the coin in the air again. When he finally grabbed it, both his hands were steaming. “Which hand? Don’t take too long. You have three seconds to answer.” He jerked his head at the butler behind Canary. “Hey... After three seconds have passed, slit her throat.”

“Wait! Left hand!” Leorio called out desperately.

“I pick the right hand!” Gon decided.

“Me, too.”

“Same,” Rin agreed nervously. I’m not good under pressure!

He opened his right hand. “One disqualified.” Again, he threw the coin up. Only this time he clapped both his hands before he started. “Which hand?”

Kurapika glanced over at Gon before he gave his answer. “I choose the right hand.”

“I pick the left,” Gon stated, eyes never once leaving the man’s hands.

Rin decided to go with Kurapika and said, “Right.”

“It was in my left hand. Only one remains now.”

He was about to toss it into the air when Gon suddenly yelled out, “One second!”

The man caught the coin and glowered at him. “What is it? If you’re trying to buy time, I’ll kill one of your friends.”

“Leorio, lend me your knife,” Gon asked, and when they all went to protest he said, “Don’t worry. I won’t use it for anything stupid.” After Leorio handed over the knife, Gon raised it to his face and cut just above his eye. That’s what I would call stupid, Gon!

He yanked the blade out of Gon’s hand. “What are you doing?” Rin scolded. He put strips of bandages that Leorio quickly handed him around Gon’s eye to try and stop the bleeding.

Gon smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. It was the only thing I could think of,” he admitted. Once Rin was done tying them, Gon turned back to the butler. “Okay! Now I can see. Give me your best!”

The man chuckled humorlessly before he tossed the coin. “Which hand?”

“Left hand,” Gon said, sounding absolutely sure.

“Not bad,” the man offered. “In that case…” He stood up, and this time when he threw the coin two other butlers jerked their hands around as well. “Who now holds the coin?”

Gon grinned and pointed a thumb at the butler behind the couch. “The person right behind me.”

“Brilliant,” he praised as they all clapped.

Rin sighed, glad that the game was finally over. I’m going to get grey hair if I keep hanging around them. And, of course, Killua chose that moment to walk though the door nonchalantly, as if he hadn’t suddenly disappeared.

“Gotoh, is Gon here yet?” he asked, but he trailed off once he caught sight of them.

Gon jumped up from the couch and ran over to him. “Killua!” he exclaimed.

Killua grinned, his whole face lighting up. “Oh! You’re here, Gon! Along with…Kurapika?”

“I’m just an afterthought?” Kurapika sounded insulted, though there was an underlying tone of relief.

He pointed over at Leorio. “Liorio!” Killua said, sounding so sure of himself it was almost sad.

Leoro glared at him and yelled, “Leorio!” Then he huffed and cross his arms in irritation, mumbling about ‘ungrateful brats’ under his breath.

Rin flinched a little when Killua suddenly focused on him. “Rin!” Thank god, he got my name right. “It’s been a while. I can’t believe you came.” Killua gave Gon a sly grin and jabbed a finger in the air toward Gon’s face. “What happened? Your face is a wreck!”

“Yours isn’t any better!” Gon said with a wide smile.

Killua then glared at the butler. “Hey, Gotoh. I told you to let me know as soon as they arrived. What were you doing?”

“Forgive me,” he said and gave a deep bow. “I had them participate in a little game.”

“A game?” Killua asked.

“It was nothing more than a poor joke. I apologize for any aggravation.” Gotoh straightened up and looked at them. “Did you enjoy yourselves?” he asked.

Leorio rubbed the back his head with a hand. “That was really good acting…”

“What? Did they try something?” Killua turned to Gon.

Gon just smiled sheepishly. “No, they were entertaining us,” he said.

Killua seemed to believe him because all he said was, “Really? Well, whatever. Anyway, let’s go somewhere else. Anywhere else, right now. If we stay here, my mother will give us an earful!”


 

I’m so glad to finally get away from that place , Rin thought as he felt his body relax into the comfortable seats on the train. If he had known how nice the seats were he would have travelled a lot more than he had years ago. They were like fluffy, red clouds of heaven, and it didn’t help that the small cabin they were in was kept at the perfect temperature—and that’s not even including the two human furnaces on either side of him— making his already drowsy state even worse. However, he snapped out of his relaxation when Killua shouted.

“You’re here on a tourist visa?” Killua cried out. “Didn’t you pass the Hunter Exam? You could’ve just used your Hunter License. It lets you stay in other countries for as long you want.”

“That’s what we said,” Leorio grumbled.

“I already decided. I’m not using the license until I’ve finished what I need to do.”

Rin perked up at that. What is he talking about?

Killua leaned forward in his seat. “What do you have to do?”

Gon shuffled around in his pocket.“The tag that Hisoka gave me!” He held up the #44 ID tag. “I’ll return it to Hisoka when I punch him in the face! Until I do that, I won’t use my Hunter License. I can’t go back to Whale Island, either,” Gon declared, though his voice dropped a little toward the end.

Oh, I hope it doesn’t turn out badly. Just the thought of Gon getting near that man had his nen flickering in worry.

“Hmm…So, where’s Hisoka?” Killua asked.

Gon jerked back and looked to the side, laughing awkwardly. “Uh…”

Leorio sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Thought so…”

Kurapika closed his eyes and sighed. “I know where he is, Gon,” he finally admitted after a few moments of Killua looking like he wanted to strangle Gon.

“Huh? Really?” Gon yelled, jerking forward in his seat. He almost slid right off, but Rin quickly put a hand on his chest and pushed him back.

Leorio looked at him, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “How?”

“He told me,” Kurapika said reluctantly. Not that Rin could blame him, the others were acting as if he had committed some grave sin, like consorting with the enemy.

“So that’s what he said…” Leorio realized. It must have been during the fight.

Kurapika shook his head. “No, this was after the orientation.”

“But it’s still related, right?” Leorio inquired.

Kurapika answered, face pinching slightly. “I suppose so.” He shifted slightly in his seat, probably uncomfortable because the whole thing was starting to sound like an interrogation.

“I’ve been itching to ask…” Leorio began, eyes still locked squarely on Kurapika. “What did Hisoka say to you?”

“He told me…” Kurapika trailed off. When he looked up his eyes were glass shards. “That he had some information regarding the spider.”

The look sent a shiver down Rin’s spine. It was the look of a predator lying in wait, one that Hisoka always seemed to embody, so seeing it on Kurapika was...alarming.

Leorio was startled, his body giving a small jolt as his eyes widened. “The Phantom Troupe?” The what?

Rin’s confusion must have shown on his face because Kurapika turned to him with a sigh. “The Phantom Troupe is a group of bandits. They murdered my clan in order to take our red eyes.” Rin sucked in a sharp breath at that. “I do not recall mentioning the Phantom Troupe to Hisoka,” he said, face pulling into a harsh frown. “So either he overheard our conversation during the first stage, or he heard it from another. The spider is the Phantom Troupe’s symbol, so those familiar with the organization refer to the Troupe as such. I was interested in his information.” He had a small glare directed at them, just daring them to judge what he did.

“I see…” Leorio said after a little while.

Kurapika continued, “After the orientation, I asked him about it. He said he would wait for me in Yorknew City, on September 1st.”

“September 1st?” Leorio asked.

“Then you’ve still got over half a year.” Gon realized, eyes lighting up in excitement. “What’s going to happen in Yorknew City?”

Leorio let out a gasp and snapped his fingers. “They’ll hold the world’s largest auction,” he said. Gon’s energy must have been contagious because Leorio’s voice was growing excited, as well.

“Correct. From September 1st through September 10th, there will be an auction for unusual items, rare goods, and national treasures from around the world. The event attracts all manner of nasty folk who come looking to satisfy their greed. It’s the biggest gathering of money in the world.” Kurapika explained, seeming to have already put it together.

“So the Troupe will be there?” Leorio guessed.

“They’re a group of bandits. They would not let this chance escape,” Kurapika agreed, then he turned to focus on Gon. “So on that day, Hisoka will be somewhere in Yorknew City.”

“Okay. September 1st. Got it. Thanks.” Gon smiled, body practically vibrating with renewed energy.

Hmm, this doesn’t sound good. This group already seems to attract enough trouble as it is, and now we’re going to go look for it.

Rin felt his mouth open in a silent ‘o’ as he suddenly remembered something he needed to do. He raised up from his slumped position and turned to look at the boy sitting in front of him. “Killua.”

“Hmm?” Killua looked over at him. “What is it?”

Rin kept his face blank as he reached over, grabbed both of Killua’s cheeks, and pulled.

Killua hurriedly smacked Rin’s hands away. “Ow! What the hell was that for?” he exclaimed, scowling darkly at Rin.

“That was for worrying us so much,” Rin stated simply.

He ignored Leorio cackling beside him. Killua, however, didn’t and he sent a swift kick to the man’s shin, making the laughter turn into a shout.

“Tch. Idiot.” Killua turned his face away quickly, but not before Rin caught the hint of a small smile tugging at his lips.

He felt an answering one form on his own face. Rin hadn’t felt this content in a long time.


 

The train groaned its complaints as it slowled to a stop at the station, and the conductor yelled for anyone getting off to do so now so that the people waiting could board. They all quickly gathered their things and walked down the steps. Well, more like hopped off in Gon’s case.

“Then I shall depart now,” Kurapika said, once they had gotten out of the way of the crowd.

“Huh?” Gon gasped, his whole body seeming to droop in disappointment.

Kurapika sent the boy a warm smile. “We managed to see Killua again, so I’m finished here. I’ll need money to participate in the auction, so I shall search for a patron to employ me as a Hunter,” he explained.

“Really…”Leorio smiled. He tilted his head up to gaze at the sky. “I guess I should go home, then.”

That just made Gon look even sadder. “You, too?” he said.

“I haven’t given up my dream of becoming a doctor. If I’m accepted into medical school, I can use this to pay the ridiculous fee,” Leorio said. He smirked and held up his Hunter’s License. “I’ll have to go back and start cramming.”

Gon nodded vigorously, still looking sad but seeming to want to encourage his friends’ dreams more. “Good luck!”

“And stay safe,” Rin added with a slight frown. At least in a group they had been able to look out for one another.

“Hehe, we’ll be just fine.” Leorio grinned and pushed down on Rin’s head with a hand. “So don’t be a mother hen, you got that.”

“Shut up.” Rin glared, which didn’t really work because he was smiling.

“Until we meet again,” Leorio started, glancing over at Kurapika.

Kurapika nodded with a smile and continued, “Yes, that will be…”

“September 1st, in Yorknew City,” they all stated together.

“See ya.” Leorio waved, as both he and Kurapika left.

“Hey, Rin?”

Rin forced his eyes away from Kurapika’s and Leorio’s back to look at Gon. “Yeah?”

Gon looked at him with big, brown eyes. “What are you planning on doing?”

“Oh, that.” Rin shuffled his feet and peeked up at them under his lashes. “I don’t really have anywhere to go, so I was hoping I could stay with you two.”

Gon beamed, eyes burning with delighted happiness. “Sure! Is that okay with you, Killua?”

“I don’t mind,” Killua said, glancing at Rin from the corner of his eyes.

More people started crowding the already packed station, so they grabbed their stuff and exited. They were just walking into an empty park—one that didn’t appear to be well taken care of because there was not even a hint of grass anywhere—when Gon ran a little ways ahead and turned around to face them.

Gon’s body did a little hop as he smiled. “Hey, what do you guys want to do now?”

“You have to ask? We train, obviously,” Killua stated, as if Gon was dumb for even asking.

“Huh? Train for what?” Gon questioned, head tilting to the side innocently. “Shouldn’t we have some fun?”

Rin could almost hear something snapped inside Killua.

He got right up in Gon’s face, a vein twitching on his cheek. “Do you remember what you just said? Think you can punch Hisoka in the face without training? You couldn’t land a punch in ten years, let alone six months!” Killua yelled, making Gon eyes go all watery.

“Okay,” Gon said meekly.

It was the most subdued Rin had ever seen him.

Killua bent down and picked up a stick, using it to draw a line on the ground. “Here, I’ll make it easy to understand. This is Hisoka. This is Hanzo.” He drew two heads on the ground a few inches apart.

Rin almost snorted when he saw Hisoka’s, though. Why the hell is he bald?

“If this is the gap between Hisoka and Hanzo, in terms of strength, the gap between Hisoka and you…” He then proceeded to draw the line all the way across the courtyard. “Is this far! And I’m being generous.”

Rin saw Gon twitch in anger. “Then where are you?” Gon yelled.

“Me?” Killua looked down at the line in thought. “Well, probably around here.”

“Oh, Hanzo is stronger?” Gon mumbled.

“What is it?” Killua frowned at him, probably thinking that Gon was making fun of him.

But Gon was apparently very good at surprising people, it seemed, because he yelled, “You really are amazing!”

Killua’s hair puffed up in surprise at the compliment and blushed. “Cut that out...It’s embarrassing.”

Rin slowly brought a hand up to his mouth, but a tiny chuckle managed to escape before he could stop it. He saw both of them glance over: Gon with curious eyes and Killua with a slight blush still painting his face. This, however, just made the laughter come gushing out, and the air was suddenly filled with the sound of pealing laughter. Rin clutched desperately at his stomach as he gasped for breath, trying to stop.

“Why the hell are you laughing?!” Killua yelled, jabbing a finger at Rin.

“Sorry,” Rin giggled, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. “It’s just...You guys were being so cute.” Rin quickly raised both hands in surrender when Killua took a threatening step closer. “I’m just glad to see nothing has changed between you two despite everything that happened,” he hurriedly said. Especially because of everything that happened.

Killua growled, eyes flashing with the threat of pain. “Who are you calling cute?!”

“Sorry,” Rin squeaked, trying to hide his smile so he didn’t antagonize the boy even more.

“Hmph.” Killua crossed his arms and scowled. “Call me cute again and I’ll punch you. And stop apologizing already.”

“Sor-” Rin clamped his mouth shut at Killua’s glare. If looks could kill...

“I think that was the first time I’ve ever heard you laugh, Rin,” Gon said, smiling.

Rin stared at him with wide eyes as he thought about it. “Oh, I guess you’re right.”

“I think you should laugh more often,” Gon said, looking at him innocently with little sparkles behind him.

“A-Ah,” Rin stuttered, averting his eyes quickly.

Killua nudged him in the side with a pointed elbow. “Hmm~ What’s this?” He smirked.

Rin rolled his eyes with a deep sigh. I’m never going to live this down, am I?

“But still. I don’t know how to tell the difference in strength between my opponent and myself,” Gon admitted.

“Stupid. It doesn’t matter. I’m only estimating.” Killua started to walk away, making Gon and Rin have to walk faster in order to catch up or be left behind. Not that Rin really thought he would leave them. The boy put on a good front, but Rin knew he was happy to have people who wanted to be around him, especially when it came to Gon. “You probably have a general idea. Once you have enough experience, your guess will become more accurate. Besides, the stronger someone is, the better they are at hiding that strength, so you shouldn’t rely on this method.” Killua turned back to give Gon a warning look.

Or they’re so strong that they don’t bother trying to hide it at all , Rin thought, and the image a certain clown invaded his mind with all the grace of a wrecking ball. He scowled, as even just the memory of that stupid smirk annoyed him.

“Oh…” Gon mumbled thoughtfully, which was good because it meant he was actually listening for once.

“Well, in any case, Hisoka is strong,” Killua said and eventually stopped in front of a door.

Gon’s face fell and he nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed softly.

“You won’t land a blow on him in six months through normal means,” Killua bluntly replied. “Gon, do you have any money?” he asked.

“Actually, I’m running out.” Gon said with a sheepish smile.

When Killua looked at him, Rin said, “I have a little.”

“I don’t have much, either,” Killua admitted, but the smirk adorning his face said he had an idea. “But there’s somewhere we can train and earn money at the same time.”

“Train and earn money?” Gon perked up, looking far more interested in the idea than Rin would have liked. I don’t like where this is going...

Killua raised a finger and pointed to the building behind him, the one he had apparently been leading them to without them even realizing. “The Heavens Arena.”

This is not going to end well.

Chapter Text

 

“There’s a really long line. Is everyone going to Heavens Arena?” Gon asked, gazing at all the people waiting with wide eyes.

There really were a lot, too. People were coming out of the doors and were lined up against the entire length of the wall outside.

Killua grinned at Gon’s reaction and nodded enthusiastically before he said, “There aren’t any conditions here, like there were for the Hunter Exam. You just have to defeat your opponent.” He sounded oddly gleeful, which did not bode well for them.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Rin asked, tilting his head back so he could look all the way up the enormous tower. No conditions meant more of a chance of getting a serious injury.

“Stop worrying so much.” Killua glared. He was already walking toward the end of line. “The higher you go, the more prize money you earn. This is as good as it gets for those looking to make a living with their fists.”

Rin sighed, knowing that nothing he said would change either of their minds. “If you say so.”

They took their place at the back of the line among people who had rather unique choices in style. One guy even had a bright green mohawk and looked more like some type of rockstar rather than a fighter. Thankfully, everyone kept to themselves, so after a couple hours of waiting they finally made it inside the building without any problems.

When they stepped up to the window, a lady greeted them with a smile. She had a strange pink hat with a fist printed on the front, and the color made her blue hair stand out even more because of it. “Welcome to Heavens Arena. Please fill out this form,” she said and gave them two pieces of paper. She tried handing one to Rin, but he just shook his head.

“Rin, you’re not going to fight?” Gon asked. He was clutching at the paper with both hands, leaving indents on the edges—as if afraid someone was going to take away his chance to fight—and looked as if he couldn’t believe Rin would voluntarily pass up an opportunity like this.

“Ah, no. I don’t really like fighting,” Rin explained, at the same time wondering how he managed to get surrounded by so many battle addicts.

“Eh! Are you serious?!” Killua yelled. The look on his face clearly said that he thought Rin was an idiot; Rin almost felt insulted. “I saw the way you fought against Leorio.”

Rin shifted his feet uneasily at the ball of irritation that was Killua. “I know how to fight. I just don’t like to.”

“Now, now.” Gon stepped in between them with both hands raised. Once he made sure that Killua wasn’t about to jump at Rin, he turned to give him a smile. “You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to, Rin.”

Rin nodded in thanks, but noticed that Gon’s smile started twitching when Killua simply turned away with a huff.

The receptionist seemed used to hearing arguments because she ignored them with a skill that could only come from practice and typed the data into the computer. “Killua Zoldyck-sama, you are #2054. Gon Freecss-sama, you are #2055. They’ll call your number on the first floor of the arena, so make sure you remember it,” she explained, and when both boys nodded their understanding she pointed in the direction they needed to go. “Then please go ahead.”

There are a lot of people , Rin thought, as he gazed with wide eyes at all the people in the audience. Rows upon rows of people were packed into the stands. There hadn’t been nearly as many people during the Hunter exam, and each one was chattering with the person next to them, making the sound that filled the room verge on becoming almost deafening. Rin was so much more used to the familiar calls of nature, since that’s what he grew up with. The town he lived in wasn’t the largest, so he wasn’t used to being surrounded by so many people.

A hand wrapped around his own, tugging slightly to get his attention. Rin slowly turned to look down at Gon, who simply smiled at him and squeezed his hand reassuringly. He was not above admitting how he clung onto the boy’s hand, the grip helping ground him as he tried to readjust.

Killua briefly glanced back at them and sat down on the first empty bench he found. “It’s been a while, but the place hasn’t changed.”

“Huh?” Gon looked over at Killua in surprise. “You’ve been here before?” he asked, sitting down with a thump and dragging Rin with him.

“Yeah, when I was six. My dad left me here without a penny. He said I should reach floor 200 before coming home. It took two years.” Parenting issues aside, just how strong is Killua? “If you want to fight people of Hisoka’s level, you’ll need to go higher. Let’s hurry,” Killua said. There was excitement peeking through, breaking the boy’s calm mask that he usually kept firmly planted on his face.

“Okay.” Gon agreed. The boy had only grown more and more energetic since they had entered the building, and him seeing Killua actually looking forward to something just seemed to make it even worse.

I’m definitely keeping sugar away from these two. If they’re this energic without it, I definitely don’t want to see them during a sugar rush , Rin thought amusedly. Gon caught him eyeing them and sent him a curious look, but Rin simply shook his head with a smile, which just seemed to confuse the boy even more.

An announcement came over the speakers, “#1973. #2055. Please enter ring E.”

Gon shot up from his seat, jolting Rin as well since the boy had yet to let go of his hand. “#2055! That’s me!” Gon released his grip and shrugged off his backpack with a frown. “I’m getting nervous now.”

“Gon, you got through the Testing Gate, right? In that case...” Killua started, lips pulling into a mischievous smile. “All you have to do is push hard.”

Rin gave him a thumbs up and said, “Don’t worry, Gon. I’m sure you’ll do just fine, and we’ll be cheering for you up here.”

“Okay! See ya!” He waved a hand and darted back up the steps and out the door.

Rin’s hand tingled as he slowly lowered it to rest on his lap. He already missed the soothing warmth that Gon just seemed to radiate. The boy was a force of nature, that much was true, but he was one of the kindest people Rin had ever met. He was never one for praying, but Rin couldn’t help but find himself hoping to whatever deity might be up there to protect the boy.

However, the second Gon stepped onto the ring, people all around started yelling insults at him. Even from the stands, Rin could see how Gon’s posture slumped in on itself, and he scowled. I bet none of them could win against Gon , Rin thought, his eyebrows furrowing in annoyance.

He felt a nudge in the side and turned to Killua. “You’re not going to turn into a protective mother bear again, are you?” the boy teased, smirking as blue eyes flashed with amusement.

Rin blushed. “W-What?! No!” he stammered out. Mentally, he was scowling at Leorio for starting the ridiculous nickname in the first place.

“Just making sure.” Killua chuckled.

Rin sighed and glared at him weakly. “It was one time, okay.”

“Whatever you say.” Killua shrugged and grinned at him from the corner of his eyes.

Rin huffed and pointedly turned back to the fight, ignoring him, though he could still hear the boy chuckling quietly to himself occasionally. He focused in right as Gon’s opponent tried to punch him, but Gon was too fast and ducked under the fist, using his smaller size to his advantage. The boy slammed his hands into the man’s chest—in a manner similar to how Rin had hit Leorio—and sent him flying across the room with a loud crash. The audience couldn’t even see where the man landed because a cloud of dust rose up as soon as his back impacted with the wall. That’s one way to do it...Gon . Rin sweatdropped and took in the man sized hole left in the wall once the dust had cleared. Maybe a little overkill, though.

The rest of their matches were blown past with an ease that had all the other contestants and the audience shocked. Rin might have been just a tad smug about them all being proven wrong.

“The first 200 floors of Heavens Arena are divided into classes, each comprised of ten floors,” a lady in the elevator informed them as they travelled back down to the main floor so Gon and Killua could claim their prize money. “So after someone defeats an opponent in the 50s, they advance to the 60s. If they lose, then they’d drop back to the 40s.”

“Oh, so that’s how it works.” Gon mumbled quietly to himself. He was slightly distracted, head tilting this way and that as he took in the state-of-the-art elevator they were riding. Rin quickly put a hand on his shoulder when he caught the boy eyeing the buttons with an intensity he had only witnessed when Gon was fighting. Gon turned and gave him a sheepish smile, looking as if he had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“Plus-” Killua started, but was interrupted by a voice suddenly coming from behind them.

“I’ve heard that after you pass the 100th floor, you get your own room!” Rin jumped in surprise when the only other person in the elevator spoke. He had completely forgotten the boy was even there he had so little presence. “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. Osu! My name is Zushi! What about you guys?” He was holding his arms out stiffly to the side as if in some type of stance, which was probably accurate considering he was wearing a martial arts uniform. The boy appeared to be a few years younger than Killua and Gon and had short, reddish-brown hair.

“I’m Killua.”

“I’m Gon, and that’s Rin,” Gon said as he gestured to Rin, who simply gave a small wave. “Nice to meet you.”

The elevator dinged as they reached their floor, and all of them got off, including Zushi, who trailed behind them.

“I saw your fight earlier. That was really amazing, yo!” It looks like you guys have a fan.

“What are you talking about?” Killua slid his hands into pocket, trying to appear nonchalant, but Rin could see a calculating gleam flicker in his eyes. “You made it up here with one match, too.”

Gon nodded. He was the complete opposite of Killua; his eyes lit up in a fire of excitement at the possibility of finding another boy around his age who could keep up with them. “That’s right.”

“No, I still have a long way to go,” Zushi admitted. Then he stared at Killua and Gon with curiosity. “By the way, which martial arts discipline do you practice? I study the Shingen-ryu fighting technique.”

Killua just looked at him blankly. “School? We don’t have one, right?” he asked, glancing over at Gon as if there was the possibility they had been studying in one without his knowledge.

“No,” Gon said slowly. The fact that he actually took the time to think about it almost had Rin laughing for the second time that day, but he held it in so he wouldn’t incur Killua’s wrath.

Zush’s mouth dropped open, and he yelled, “What? You’re that strong with no training? I’m kind of shocked...I still have so far to go!” He sighed, his body slumping at the thought of even more training.

Clapping suddenly rang out from behind them. “Zushi, you did well.”

Zushi spun around with a happy grin. “Master!” he exclaimed.

A tall man with glasses and a pink shirt walked closer to them. “You adhered to my teachings,” he praised, giving Zushi a closed-eye smile.

“Osu! I am honored!” Zushi crossed his arms and thrust them to the side enthusiastically. “Master, your shirt is untucked again,” the boy added as an afterthought. The conversation almost seemed like a common thing between them, and Rin wasn’t exactly sure what that said about their relationship.

“Oh, sorry about that…” The man tucked his shirt back in with a sheepish look, then he turned to face the other three people standing there awkwardly during the exchange. “Who are they?” he asked.

Zushi turned to them, pointing at each one as he said their name. “Oh, these are Killua-san, Gon-san, and Rin-san.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Wing.” The man gave a small bow.

“Yo!” Gon and Killua did the same gesture as Zushi. Not them too…

Rin gave a small nod in greeting but nothing else. The lack of a smile seemed to throw Gon and Killua because they both turned to him with questioning looks, and he saw Killua’s eyes sharpened as he regarded the man in a new light, probably figuring that Rin noticed something that he didn’t.

And he did.

The man was not as harmless as he appeared. Rin could sense a small amount of nen coming off of him, not enough to worry about an attack, but enough to let him know the man was a skilled user. Once a person had enough experience and practice, they could decrease the amount of nen they naturally let off. It would never be on the same level as it was before they unlocked it, but most times it was enough to cause a person to simply overlook them. It was how Rin managed to avoid detection at the start of the Hunter exam. It was only when he actually used it that Hisoka fully noticed, something that Rin was oddly proud of.

The man caught Rin’s sharp look, but he simply smiled. “I didn’t expect to meet other children. Why are you here?”

Rin felt his eye twitch. I know I’m kind of short, but do I really look that young?

“Uh…” Killua started uncertainly. “Well, we want to become stronger, but we’re also broke, so we’re making money simultaneously,” he stated bluntly.

“Killua’s a veteran here,” Gon added helpfully.

“Oh?” Wing said, eyeing them consideringly. “If you’re up here, you must be fairly skilled, but you should pay strict attention to your opponent’s body, as well as your own.”

“Osu.” Please tell me this won’t be a continuous thing.

They eventually made it back to the receptionist desk, only this time their group had increased by two members, and it made Rin miss Kurapika and Leorio.

“Killua-sama, Gon-sama, and Zushi-sama? Please hand me your tickets,” the receptionist asked politely. Once she had them, she handed back three envelopes. “Here is your prize money.”

Gon dumped the contents out into his hand. “One hundred, fifty-two jenny…”

Killua went over to a vending machine. “On the 1st floor, win or lose, your reward covers a canned drink, but beyond that, a loss gets you nothing. A win over an opponent in the 50s nets you fifty thousand,” he explained.

“Fifty thousand…” Gon said, perking up immediately at the thought of the reward.

Zushi’s jaw dropped. “That’s a lot.”

Killua looked at them in amusement. “ What are you talking about? In the 100s, I think wins are worth a million.”

Rin almost choked on his spit. Seriously?!

“What?” Gon and Zushi exclaimed at the same time.

“Once you’re past the 150th floor, you get ten million a pop,” Killua said, ignoring their surprise.

“Ten million?” Gon said slowly, almost as if he couldn’t believe it. “Didn’t you make it to the 200th floor when you were here before? How much do you get for winning on there?”

Killua shrugged his shoulders while chugging his drink. He wiped his mouth of with the back of his hand before he answered. “Well...I don’t really know, because I quit once I reached 200. But when I was winning in the 190s, I had around two hundred million, total.”

“T-Two hundred million…” Zushi whispered, dumbfounded. He looked as if he couldn’t decide whether to cry or laugh.

“Where’s that money now?” Gon asked, probably wondering why Killua was broke if he made that much money.

“That was four years ago. Of course it’s gone now. Spent it all on snacks!” Killua laughed and raised his hands in a what-can-you-do gesture.

Rin’s eye twitched, actually tempted to try and shake some sense into the boy. “I don’t know what to be more impressed by. The fact that you had all that money or that you managed to spend it all on snacks. Or maybe the fact that you managed to eat it all.”

“You’re just jealous.” Killua smirked playfully. His eyes were just daring Rin to try anything. “Hey, let’s head to the waiting room. We didn’t take any damage in the last fight, so they’ll probably assign us another match today.”

The fact that he paused mid sentence to give Rin a sharp, questioning look made a warmth rush through his chest. He nodded, giving Killua a fond look that he hoped conveyed to the boy that he didn’t need to worry about him. “I’ll go find a seat in the stands, then. Good luck, you guys.” Rin smiled and waved as they disappeared in the distance.

“Bye-bye,” Gon shouted, waving back. The sheer volume of his voice caused a few people near him to glower, and Rin saw KIllua punch him on the head. He just barely heard the resounding yelp that followed.

I hope they never change , Rin thought fondly. He waited until they were completely out of sight before he glanced back over at the man still standing next to him. Wing was staring in the same direction the boys had went with an unreadable expression on his face, but when Rin’s clothes rustled as he shifted the man’s eyes jerked around to meet his. They stared at each other in silence, both trying to figure out what the other was thinking.

Wing spoke first. “I know you’re wondering who I am, but I cannot reveal anything to you right now. Just trust me when I say that I mean no harm to those boys,” he said. His face had both an openness to it and was somewhat guarded at the same time, but his eyes were practically begging Rin to listen to him.

Rin felt he was a rather good judge of character, not nearly as good as Gon, but enough to be able to tell when a person was lying. He sighed, a deep sound that seemed to radiate from his chest. “Alright. I’ll trust you for the moment.”

Wing’s entire posture relaxed at the promise. His face even lost some of its guardedness. “Thank you,” he said. He sounded sincere, and Rin could only hope he didn’t come to regret it.

He was not entirely sure why Wing was thanking him, since the man didn’t really gain anything from his trust. Sure, it meant that Rin wouldn’t constantly be watching him whenever he appeared, but Killua and Gon were their own people—even with their ages—and could make their own decisions on who to trust.

Rin nodded, suddenly feeling as if he hadn’t slept in days, and walked away. He wandered throughout the lobby without a real goal in mind, trying to figure out why Wing was interested in Killua and Gon. Did the man somehow know they were Hunters? Did he recognize Killua because of his family? Did it have something to do with Gon’s father? There were so many question and not enough answers—no answers, actually.

When he heard a call for Killua’s number he made his way back into the stadium. Now, where to sit , he wondered. There was quite a few people in the stadium already as the few people who had left just like he did were slowly trickling back in for the upcoming fights. Only this time, Rin didn’t have the comforting presence of Gon and Killua next to him.

“Rin, wasn’t it?” a voice called out to his left.

Rin whipped his head around in the direction of the voice. Wing was sitting a few feet away from him and gestured for him to come closer. “Ah, yes, that’s right.”

“Hmm.” Wing smiled at him as he sat down. “I didn’t see you in the crowd, so I wondered where you had went to. It’s nice to see those boys have a friend to cheer them on.”

Rin gave him a tiny nod. The conversation they just had was still floating in his mind, so he wasn’t exactly sure what to say. “I could say the same about Zushi. You seem to really care about him.”

Wing chuckled. The fond look on his face was the complete opposite of the serious one he had shown earlier, but it made Rin feel like he had made the right choice. “Of course. It’s a teacher’s duty to take care of their student.”

Before they could continue their conversation, the announcer came over the loudspeaker with an excited yell, causing all the conversations to slowly die off. “Okay, everyone! The event you’ve all been waiting for! We have a unique match-up for you! Two young boys, fighting it out! However, you don’t want to underestimate them! Both had strong showings in their first rounds and advanced directly to the 50s!”

Rin jumped in his seat, eyes wide. I didn’t actually hear who Killua was fighting!

“Calm down. They’ll be fine.” Wing laughed. “If anything, this should be a rather interesting fight.”

This, however, did nothing to ease Rin’s concern. I’m more worried for Zushi at this point, especially since everyone apparently bet in his favor.

“This match will consist of three, three-minutes each, decided by the points and knockout system!” The referee glanced between the two contestants, and when neither boy objected, he threw his hand in the air. “Begin!” he yelled.

Rin observed the two people in the ring carefully. Zushi had taken up a fighting stance while Killua just continued to stand there with his hands in his pockets. The relaxed—almost mocking—posture was reminiscent of Hisoka’s slouch, and Rin made a mental note to keep those two far, far away from one another.

Zushi tried punching him, but Killua easily dodged and karate chopped the back of his neck. The referee called out a clean hit when Zushi collapsed to the ground. However, Rin could see Killua’s surprised expression even from the stands when Zushi managed to stand up. He peeked over at Wing, but the man just looked proud. Killua walked forward again, and even though Zushi met him with a flurry of punches, he gracefully stepped around and hit the boy’s neck in the same exact place.

Don’t overdo it, Killua , Rin thought in worry. It was obvious, both from what he had seen and what the boy had said, that he was still rather new at fighting. Training was one thing, but actually having an opponent coming at you with the serious intent to harm was entirely different.

However, Zushi just stood up again before Killua could gain the point. This isn’t good. Killua’s starting to get frustrated. When Zushi took up a different stance, Rin could only stare in confusion, then felt his eyes widen as a flicker of nen came to life around the boy. Even Killua must have sensed the change—despite having no knowledge that nen even existed—because he retreated to the end of the ring in a flash.

Wing suddenly stood up and yelled at the top of lungs, “Zushi!” Once the boy turned to look at him, he sat back down with his arms crossed and a harsh frown on his face.

Rin stared at the man with wide eyes. “Wing-san…”

Wing glanced over at him, and his eyes softened a little. “I’m his teacher,” he explained, as if that answered everything.

It didn’t, not really, but Rin took it to mean that Zushi was his student in not just martial arts.

Killua eventually won the match by getting ten points, but he didn’t appear happy about it as he stalked away from the ring. Afterward, Rin went running out of the stadium and tried to catch up with him.

“Killua!” Rin called once Killua were in sight. He was only mildly surprised that Gon was already there when he finally reached the boy.

“Rin,” Gon greeted with a smile.

Rin nodded in acknowledgement at Gon, but quickly turned his attention to Killua. “Are you okay?” he asked. The boy was doing a good job of hiding it, but there was a tenseness to his shoulders that hadn’t been there before the fight.

“Yeah,” Killua stated simply as he shoved his hands back into his pockets.

Gon looked between the two worriedly. “Did something happen?”

“I ran into a little trouble,” Killua explained, then turned abruptly and started walking away.

Gon stared after him, confused, before running to catch up. “Then Zushi was pretty strong,” he asked.

“No, not at all,” Killua denied immediately. “He has potential. One day, he’ll be strong, but right now, he’s just target practice for me. His punches were weak...I was completely able to knock him around.” Rin winced at his bluntness. He knew Killua was just venting his frustration, but he wasn’t used to hearing the boy talk so...coldly. “But I couldn’t defeat him,” he growled, face twisting into one of the fiercest looks Rin had ever seen on him.

“Huh?” Gon looked shocked that someone as strong as Killua couldn’t defeat Zushi.

“I received the TKO from points, but I couldn’t knock him out. Further,” Killua narrowed his eyes, “When he changed his stance, his aura reminded me of my brother’s. I don’t know what it was, but it felt dangerous. It must be some kind of technique. I overheard him and his master talking after the match. His master called it ‘ren’. Apparently he wasn’t supposed to use it yet.” So much for keeping it a secret, Wing...

“So he isn’t supposed to use ‘ren’ until he reaches the top floor?” Gon guessed. “The strongest fighters are at the top, right?”

Killua glowered at the ground in thought. “Gon, change in plans. I’m aiming to reach the top floor!” he declared, giving Gon a determined look, one which Gon returned enthusiastically.

“Uh-huh!” Gon grinned, raising a hand so the two could fist-bump.

I feel like everything is going to go downhill from here.


 

They’re both show offs , Rin thought. He couldn’t help but smile fondly at them as they continued to blaze through their fights with the same ease they had started out with. They even managed to reach the 100s within three days, which meant they also got what came with it.

“Yay! A private room!” Gon raced over and jumped onto the bed. He bounced in place a little and seemed in awe at how comfortable it was. The sight was a reminder of exactly how young Gon and Killua actually were, though Killua could act surprisingly mature when he wasn’t pouting or throwing a fit. “We won’t have to worry about money and lodging anymore.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Killua denied calmly. He walked over and sat on a chair that was beside the bed. “If you drop below the 100s, you have to check out of this room. A world of difference separates making it to the 100s and staying in the 100s. The 100th floor is like a ceiling.”

“A ceiling?” Gon asked, pausing long enough in his bouncing so he could look at Killua, much to Rin’s relief, and he took the chance to sit down next to him.

Killua stared at Gon, appearing to think about it carefully before he answered. “Once you pass it, you get special treatment. So everyone focuses on holding their spot. Some people will do anything it takes to stay in the 100s. You can waste a lot of time on them, so be careful, Gon.”

“Yeah.” Gon nodded, though the fact that he went right back to jumping didn’t make it seem like he was actually taking it seriously. It also just made Rin even more resolved in his decision to keep any manner of sugar away from the boy.

Killua raised a hand to his mouth as he yawned, and Rin finally noticed just how exhausted the boy actually looked. “Well, I’m tired, so I think I’ll head off to bed.” He turned to the door but paused with his hand on the handle when he caught sight of Rin sitting next to Gon, finally remembering that there was another person in the room. Rin felt slightly disappointed that he was so easily forgettable. “What are you going to do?” he asked.

Rin tilted his head to the side as he considered the question. “I was going to find a cheap hotel, since I didn’t actually fight,” he finally admitted. He was originally planning on keeping it a secret since he didn’t want the boys to worry, and they both did worry, despite how much Killua tried to pretend otherwise. The questioning look in the lobby was a prime example of it.

“Eh,” Gon exclaimed, stopping once again so he could lean closer to Rin. “You can just stay here. The bed is big enough for the both of us.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, both Killua’s and Rin’s faces went entirely red. “Gon, do you even realize what you’re saying?!” Killua immediately yelled. It was a good thing the rooms were soundproof—as assured by the receptionist on the floor—otherwise they would have plenty of angry neighbors pounding on the door at any second.

Gon looked at them with a slight pout, seemingly put off by their doubt in his plan. “What’s the big deal? We’re both boys, and he’s only a little older than us.”

“Um, Gon.” Rin slowly raised a hand with a slightly embarrassed look. “I’m actually nineteen…” Ah, I can hear crickets, Rin thought when neither one said anything at first. He was starting to come to terms with the fact that he would always appear younger than he actually was—and be treated as such.

“What?! But you’re so short!” Killua shouted, pointing a finger at Rin’s chest.

“That’s not my fault,” Rin argued.

Gon’s pout became even more pronounced, and he glared. “Either way, it doesn’t matter,” he said, just daring them to continue arguing over the matter.

Killua threw his hands in the air with a loud sigh. “Whatever. I give up,” he said and stalked out of the room.

Rin glanced at Gon. “Are you s-” He cut himself off when Gon’s eyes narrowed even more. “L-Let’s go to bed,” he said. His lips twitched up into an awkward smile. Remind me to never mess with Gon when he’s made up his mind...


 

The morning was a little...awkward. Rin had forgotten to mention that he was a hugger. Gon hadn’t seemed to mind—“You kept me warm”—but now Killua kept sending him smirks every few seconds, to his complete mortification. The fact that he was the one who woke them up only made it worse. In an effort to get away from all the teasing, Rin went and sat on a bench with his head in his hands while they went to get their prize money. Like he didn’t tease me enough already.

“Rin, we’re leaving,” Gon called out to him, standing a few feet away with Killua.

Rin jumped up from his seat and ran over to them. “Ah, wait up.”

When he got to them, Gon was staring down at a slip of paper in his hand. “You were right. I’ve never seen so many zeros before,” he said in awe, holding the paper over his head with both hands as if that would help him look at it better. “And just a week ago, I was totally broke.”

Killua had already started to walk away with both hands behind his head and said, “I’m a little annoyed.”

“Huh?” Gon lowered the paper and looked over at him.

Killua closed his eyes, and his face scrunched up into a frown. “My first time here, it took me two months to reach floor 150. Meanwhile, you’re breezing through.” His tone of voice caught Rin’s attention. He almost sounded...jealous.

“But you were only six back then,” Gon tried to reason.

“Well, that’s true…” Killua finally relented, though he still didn’t sound completely convinced.

Gon slapped a hand in his palm as he suddenly remembered something. “Oh, that’s right. I saw Zushi on TV earlier.”

“So did I. He’s still in the 50s,” Killua said. He didn’t sound pleased with that, so at least he wasn’t holding a grudge, though he didn’t exactly sound displeased with it, either.

“I wonder what that ‘ren’ you sensed could have been,” Gon wondered, and Rin flinched at the all too innocent question.

Maybe I should just tell them...but I don’t want to say anything until Wing explains what’s going on. Plus, if he taught them nen, it would only paint an even larger target on their backs than they already had. Rin having nen was what made Hisoka interested in him in the first place, and the magician was already much more interested in the two boys than Rin was comfortable with. He refused to be the one who added on to that.

“Maybe if we fight opponents higher up…” Killua began.

Gon shook his head. “Wouldn’t it be faster to just ask Zushi?”

Killua suddenly grabbed Gon’s hand and started laughing hysterically, which just made Rin eye him in concern.

Decision made, they took the elevator back down to floor 50 and walked around in order to search for Zushi. Rin honestly thought it would take longer to find him, but Gon spotted him almost immediately. The younger boy was walking away from them, so Gon called out to him which made him stop and look back.

His face positively lit up when he saw exactly who was walking toward him. “Gon-san, Killua-san, Rin-san, what brings you guys down here?” he asked.

“We have a question for you,” Gon admitted. He seemed to feel a little guilty that they had an ulterior motive for trying to find the other boy. “Can you tell us what ‘ren’ is?”

Zushi looked startled by the question, but he answered, “‘Ren’ is one of the four major principles for disciplining your mind and body. It’s fundamental to every martial art!” he declared, and Rin could feel a sweatdrop forming the longer he spoke. I think he needs to explain it a little more for them. “You must know ‘ten,’ learn ‘zetsu,’ achieve ‘ren’, and reach ‘hatsu’! This is all part of ‘nen’ training! That covers everything!”

Killua’s face had grown more and more blank as the conversation went on, and finally, he snapped, “I have no idea what you just said!”

Rin couldn’t exactly blame Killua, since even he had trouble following the explanation and he actually knew about nen.

“Zushi…” a stern voice called out from their right, startling all of them. “Are you sufficiently educated that you can teach others?” Wing scolded as he stepped to join their group. “Gon-kun, Killua-kun, Rin-kun. There’s an old saying that if you learn something piecemeal, you’ll end up knowing less than when you started.”

“So a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?” Killua asked and looked down in consideration, before scowling. “But I want to know right now because it’s related to the secret behind my brother’s power.”

Wing’s glasses flashed in the light. “Then, your brother is able to use nen?” he asked slowly.

“I need to know what ‘nen’ and ‘ren’ even mean!” Killua exclaimed. It seemed his patience had finally reached its limit. “I’ll agree to the full learning process rather than a quick explanation! And if you’re willing to teach me, I won’t try to figure it out myself.”

Just the thought of them trying to use nen on their own almost sent him into hysterics. As if I would let you do that!

Wing stared at Killua intently before finally bowing his head. “I understand. Come with me to my residence.”


 

The lesson had been...insightful, both about nen and Wing’s character.

“Huh? Rin, aren’t you coming?” Gon asked as he looked back at where Rin hadn’t moved an inch from his spot in front of the white board.

Rin smiled at them and calmly said, “I’ll meet you guys there. I just want to ask Wing something.”

“Oh, okay,” Gon agreed uncertainly, and the boy shared a brief glance with Killua before he stepped toward the door.

Rin ignored the same sharp look Killua gave him as before—it was kind of ironic that both times involved Wing—and waited for them to leave the room. The second the door closed, Rin jerked his head back to Wing with a glare. “Why did you lie to them?” he demanded calmly. The only hint of the anger boiling inside him was the threatening curl of his nen slowly filling the room. In the corner of his eye, he could see Zushi looking between them nervously, and he felt slightly guilty for scaring the boy—only slightly because Gon and Killua had priority.

Wing just stared back at him, completely relaxed. “Lie?” he asked.

Rin felt his nen hiss beneath the surface. “Do not mess with me,” he growled. “Now tell me why you lied to them .”

“I didn’t lie,” he said and went over to start erasing the writing on the board. “Nen is an important method for training your soul. However, it’s true that I can’t teach nen to someone who is not a student, so I used the other nen as a hint to help them along. If nen is used the wrong way, as I’m sure you know, it can become a terrible weapon.” He gently placed the eraser back down once he was done and smiled at Rin. “Tell me, who taught you nen?”

Rin bristled, and his glare deepened. “My father.”

“I see.” Wing sat down on the only chair in the room with a small sigh. “Don’t worry. I will teach them eventually. I just want to see what they think of nen first,” he explained.

Rin studied Wing’s expression, looking for any hint of a lie. When none was found, his tension eased up a fraction, though he didn’t pull back his nen. “Fine.” he reluctantly said, before fixing Wing with a warning glare. “However, if something happens to them, you’ll have me to deal with,” he promised, then left the room.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else.” Rin heard right before he shut the door with a quiet click.


 

The walk back to the Heavens Arena was quiet. There were only a few people here and there, most likely because the sky was a deep, grey color that promised rain—most people had opted to stay inside where it was nice and dry. Although there were no raindrops yet, the clouds seemed to wash out any color that was in the city, leaving it all the same gloomy grey. Even the people seemed deprived of life, all of them wearing varying shades of black and grey, making them blend in with the rest of their surroundings.

Wing lived about ten minutes away, so it didn’t take long before he got back. He was kind of surprised to find that he was actually glad to see the tower, the lights on in its windows serving as a beacon of light against the grey backdrop. However, he jerked slightly when he heard someone yell his name as soon as he stepped into the lobby and turned to see Gon and Killua waiting for him next to the elevators.

“What are you guys doing? You could have just went up to the rooms.”

“Killua said that we should wait for you,” Gon informed and sent a teasing grin to the other boy.

Killua just scowled at Gon and looked away, though Rin could see a tint of red on his cheeks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, idiot.”

Gon glowered at him, stepping forward until he was in Killua’s space. “Who are you calling an idiot, idiot?!”

“The idiot I’m looking at!” Killua yelled. They were only inches apart now, and Rin could almost swear he saw actual sparks shoot from their eyes.

“Please don’t fight, you guys,” Rin pleaded, though what he really wanted to do was laugh at their childish insults.

They pulled away with a huff, each facing in the opposite direction as the other with their arms crossed.

“So, what did you need to ask him?” Killua finally asked, looking at him with poorly concealed curiosity.

Rin hummed and tried to think about how to word it. “I just wanted him to clarify something.”

The answer didn’t seem to appease Killua, but he left it be with a shrug.


 

After Gon and Killua won their fights and were promoted to the 200th floor, they demanded that they go check it out immediately, which is what led to their current situation. They stepped onto the elevator—with both boys making sure Rin was between them, much to his amusement—and told the lady which floor to push. Gon had won the rock-paper-scissors battle of who got to tell her, which was why the two of them were using Rin as a sort of buffer between them.

“What’s the 200th floor like?” Gon asked, seeming to forget that they were fighting in his excitement of finally reaching the floor they’d been aiming for.

“Beats me,” Killua responded half-heartedly. “I’ve never been up here before.”

As soon as the doors dinged open, Gon was jumping out of the elevator and yelling for them to, “Hurry up,” as Killua and Rin just slowly walked out.

“Wow!” Gon exclaimed, taking in the burnt-orange color painted on the walls with wooden accents. “The 200th floor is so fancy!”

Killua looked around, though he didn’t seem nearly as impressed. “Where’s the receptionist?” he asked, before spotting a sign on the wall with an arrow. “This way?”

Gon was brimming with happiness, and he was practically skipping as they made their way down the hallway. “We finally made it.”

“Yeah.” Killua smiled. He may have been more reserved, but he did genuinely seem happy about it.

“And here you were nervous at first, Gon,” Rin teased.

Gon spun around so that he was walking backwards and stuck his tongue at him in retaliation.

They turned around another corner and jolted to a stop. Rin could sense bloodlust creeping down from just ahead. It made the hallway look darker than it actually was, and suddenly the burnt-orange looked more like blood.. All three of them glanced at each and then back down the hall warily.

“Let’s go,” Killua snarled determinedly. “We can do this!”

Their footsteps were almost silent—or completely silent in Killua’s case—as they slowly walked down the hallway. Every step made the feeling grow worse, and his nen rolled nervously against his tight grip on it. Rin made sure to keep right between Gon and Killua, just in case he suddenly needed to grab either of them and pull them away from whatever was causing the feeling.

“This is murderous intent, aimed at us,” Gon realized. He glanced at them with wide eyes, probably wondering who would be targeting them.

He saw Killua open his mouth, but before Rin could stop him, he yelled, “Hey! Who’s there?! Show yourself!” I don’t think yelling at them is a good idea, Killua!

There was a quiet rustle, and they all tensed. That is, until one of the receptionist’s stepped out from around the corner. “Killua-sama and Gon-sama, correct? The receptionist’s desk is over here, so please register for a 200s match today. You won’t be able to register after midnight, so please be careful,” she said, voice utterly monotone.

Gon leaned over and whispered, “Was she the source of all that?”

“I can’t tell,” Killua admitted quietly. He was staring at her intently, but her face gave nothing away.

“I don’t think it was her,” Rin informed. He had a sinking feeling he had felt that bloodlust before.

Gon and Killua glanced over at him in surprise, but the lady just continued before they could say anything, “By the way, there are currently one hundred, seventy-three contestants in the 200s class, and starting from the 200s, all weapons are allowed in matches, so please use whatever you have. Also, you will no longer receive prize money in the 200s class. You will fight only for glory, so please understand that if you’re going to participate-” She suddenly stopped talking when there was movement right next to her ear.

There was a whistling sound as something came zooming toward them—well, more specifically, at him . Rin just barely managed to jerk his head to the side in time to avoid the projectile. However, he felt a sting on his right cheek and knew he hadn’t completely missed it. Oh god, please tell me I’m hallucinating. Standing right behind the receptionist, with his hands on his hips, was Hisoka. He had his back to them, but Rin would recognize that blood-red hair anywhere. He slowly turned to face them as Rin gazed in absolute horror.

“H-Hisoka…” Killua stuttered out, his face rapidly paling. “Why are you here?”

Hisoka raised a hand to his head. “It’s hardly that strange. I love to fight, and this is a temple to fighting. Why are you here?” he asked, but his lips pulled into a smirk as he continued. “Just kidding…This is no coincidence. I’ve been waiting for you. Remember how you ordered airship tickets over the cybernet? With a little effort, it’s possible to determine where and when someone will arrive.” He sounds just like a stalker! He’s taking creepiness to a whole new level! “Well, I knew you would come here eventually, and so, as a veteran, I have a warning for you. It’s still too early for you boys to step on this floor. It might be possible for Rin, but since he’s not fighting…” he trailed off. He sent a quick burst of nen at them, one completely full of bloodlust. “How early depends on your efforts. Leave for now. It’s too early for you,” he warned and walked away from them to settle against the wall like some kind of terrifying sentry.

“That’s stupid! We just got up here!” Killua shouted. He took a step forward, which proved to be a mistake.

Hisoka flared his nen again as he regarded them with narrowed, gold eyes, “I won’t let you pass, not that you could, anyway.” His eyes took on a more mischievous gleam, and Rin felt the man’s nen spike up suddenly.

The second Hisoka’s nen fully hit them, Rin realized that Gon and Killua were vulnerable. They hadn’t unlocked their nen yet, so they weren’t used to the impact it had. His body reacted before his mind could even finish the thought, and he quickly grabbed both of their hands closest to him and transferred his nen to cover them fully in a thick layer of ten. However, this meant that he took the full brunt of the attack with no ten of his own to act as a buffer, and Rin could feel his body jerk from the all consuming pain that followed . His nen flickered and tried to come back to him, but he gritted his teeth and forced it to stay put . In the back of his mind, Rin could hear a voice screaming at him that something was wrong, and he could feel something slowly drip down his chin— blood, the voice whispered—but he ignored it. He had to protect Gon and Killua.

Then, just as suddenly as it began, the attack stopped. He could vaguely hear a conversation going on around him, but the sound was muffled as if cotton was stuffed in his ears. Rin tried shaking his head to clear it, but that only succeeded in making it even worse. Some part of his brain recognized that his body was swaying on the spot, and it took all his strength just to keep standing. There was the sound of shuffling in front of him, and he just barely managed to lift his head when his vision was suddenly blocked by something white and pink. He faintly felt his body being slung over someone’s shoulder and heard more shouting, before he faded gratefully into blackness.


 

Rin groaned as he came to. The first thing his body made him aware of was the pounding in his head. It felt like someone had taken a hammer and accidentally mistaken his brain for a nail. He gripped his head tightly to try and relieve the pain in his skull, but simply moving, even just his arms, only seemed to make it worse.

“Hmm~ You’re finally awake,” a voice purred right next to his ear.

Rin yelped and swiftly looked to the side, which, thinking back, was stupid of him. He almost passed out again from the pain that suddenly reached nearly unbearable levels. Through the tears quickly filling his eyes, he managed to make out the blurry picture of Hisoka lounging on his side next to him with his head propped up on one arm. The man was gazing over at him in amusement, lips pulled up into the smirk Rin was coming to despise.

Slowly this time, Rin turned his head to observe the rest of the room. It was bold of him to take his eyes off Hisoka, but considering the man hadn’t done anything while he was unconscious he figured it was safe for the time being. It looked faintly like the one Gon and Killua had gotten once they reached the 100th floor, but bigger. He felt dread at the thought as he took in the fact that he was on a bed and that Hisoka appeared so relaxed within the enclosed walls. Oh god, I’m in his room , Rin realized. The thought motivated Rin enough to try and leap out of the bed, despite the pain it caused him. However, the sudden movement made the entire room sway even more than he had anticipated, so all it took was a small yank on the back of his shirt for him to fall right back down. He squeezed his eyes closed and tried to will away the dizziness.

“Where do you think you’re going?” The voice was right above him now.

Rin slowly opened his eyes and saw Hisoka’s face hovering only inches above his own. Too close… “You...What happened?” he managed to gasp out. There, that’s a safe enough question.

“You don’t remember?” Hisoka asked. His eyes were golden pools, and Rin was slowly drowning in them.

His eyebrows furrowed in concentration. I remember a lot of pain. Hisoka had attacked us with his nen. Us? Rin’s eyes widened in realization. Gon! Killua! He quickly sat up, which was a horrible idea because, in his panic, he forgot how close they were, and the unexpected movement caused their foreheads to connect with a solid thump. He clutched his head again as the painful thumping started anew.

Wait a minute...I just accidentally hit Hisoka. The thought had Rin freezing, and he slowly peeked up at Hisoka with watery eyes—partly because of the pain, but mostly because he was about to die . The man’s expression was otherwise blank except for the glare that was digging into him like knives. They continued their staring contest—Rin was too scared to look away—and he watched as Hisoka slowly lifted up an arm and twirled a playing card between his fingers. Rin was certain that this was the moment he was going to die. That is, until he actually noticed exactly what card it was.

“Oh,” he whispered, and his hand unconsciously dropped to the pocket he usually kept the joker card hidden in.

Hisoka’s smirk widened when he caught sight of the fear, and he gently ran the side of the card against Rin’s face. “It’s too bad~ I was looking forward to punishing you,” he admitted, giving a dramatic sigh.

Rin felt like his face was on fire. “W-What?!”

“Oh? You’re blushing~ What are you thinking of?” Hisoka leered down at him, but Rin could see the mischief dancing in his eyes.

“N-Nothing.” Rin scooted as far away from him as he could, which was difficult since he was essentially cage in: one side by Hisoka’s body, and the other by a single, pale arm pressing down into the bed next to his head. “Why did you bring me here?” he asked instead.

Hisoka paused for a second and appeared to actually consider the question. “Who knows?” he drawled, voice as light as a feather. A feather that was probably sharpened by nen and could kill anyone as easily as slicing through butter.

Rin sat up slightly, forcing Hisoka to lean back a little—more like prompting, nothing could ever force the magician to something he didn’t want to do—and frowned at him. “The others will be worried about me, so I should probably go,” he tried to explain and made to move off the bed again.

Obviously, Hisoka had other plans because he knocked Rin’s arms right out from under him, making him flop back onto the bed. He groaned again as his head was jostled from the bouncing. I am getting sick and tired of being pulled back onto this bed!

Hisoka glared down at him, eyes sharp as flint. “You are not leaving this room until you are fully healed.” Is he...worried about me? “After all, I would hate to give someone else the chance to break you before I can.” Figures.

Rin was scowling at him when Hisoka seemed to perk up. He looked in the direction of the door with an intensity that made Rin glad it wasn’t directed at him.

“Hmm~ It would seem that your little friends are back. Allow me to go greet them,” he purred as he slithered off the bed and strode toward the door.

“Ah! Wait!” Rin reached out a hand toward him in panic.

Hisoka glanced briefly over his shoulder at him, giving Rin a look that sent shivers down his spine. “I’ll deal with you once I come back.”

The door shut behind him with a solid click.


 

Did he honestly expect me to just sit there and wait? Rin thought with a growl. I probably shouldn’t be walking right now, but there’s no way I’m staying in the same room as that psycho! I’ll crawl if I have to! It almost came to that, too. Rin was leaning all of his weight against the wall and was slowly shuffling his way down the hallway. It was slow, but it was progress.

Okay, based on what Hisoka said, he’ll probably confront them at the same place as before, so I just have to make my way there. Rin looked around the hallway for any clues that could point him in the right direction, but it was just the same burnt orange as all the others. There were no helpful signs this time around.

I guess I’ll just have to use my nen. He wasn’t particularly keen on the idea, since it also meant risking the chance of Hisoka sensing him and realizing that Rin wasn’t in the room anymore way sooner than he wanted, but he couldn’t think of anything faster. He sent out a small flare around him to try and pinpoint their location, and he had just barely managed to find them before his nen came rushing back like a rubber band that had been stretched too far. He let out a gasp, legs almost giving out because of the stabbing pain that coursed through his body. No using nen at the moment, good to know. He took deeps breaths and waited until it faded enough that he could resume walking— staggering —again . He sighed. This is going to take forever.

Chapter Text

 

“...which day your match is.” Rin vaguely heard a voice float down the hallway. I think I’m getting close!

“Thanks!” He heard someone else reply. That’s Gon! Thank god, I made it. I thought I was going to pass out on the floor.

Rin sped up his pace as much as he dared and hurriedly went around the corner. He had never been so glad to see Gon and Killua walking toward him than in that moment.

Gon spotted him first, and his whole body seemed to perk up. The boy darted forward so suddenly that he almost crashed right into him and only managed to stop seconds before impact.

He was glad Gon didn’t. Rin wasn’t too sure his head could take another hit.

“Rin! Are you okay? We were so worried when you got taken by Hisoka,” he asked frantically. His arms were doing a strange waving motion, seeming to want to touch him to make sure Rin was okay, but also seeming to want to physically show the full amount of his concern.

“I could be better, but it’s not anything too bad,” Rin admitted. There was no point in trying to lie by saying he was alright, not when anyone with eyes could see exactly how far from the truth it was.

“You sure about that? You look like you’re about to keel over and die any second.” Killua bluntly said, eyeing him as if waiting for that very moment. Thanks...Killua.

“How did you get away?” Gon asked. He appeared to have finally lost some of his boundless energy, enough that he was standing still as he regarded Rin with wide eyes.

Rin smiled sheepishly. “I snuck out when he left.” It sounded even lamer after he said it, but he was mostly just happy to have made it out alive.

Killua snorted. “That’s so lame.” Oh, wow. It’s like he’s in my head. Maybe I have been spending too much time around them.

“What else could I have done? There’s no way I could have fought him off.” Rin argued. He didn’t stand a chance against Hisoka even when he was completely fine, let alone when he could barely walk.

Gon was starting to look between them uneasily. “How about we head to our rooms before we talk?” he offered.

“Fine.” Killua huffed and turned his head away before he started stalking down the hallway.

Gon gave a him a small smile and held out his hand to Rin, which he took gladly. He still made sure to lean most of his weight against the wall—Gon was strong, that he knew, but he still didn’t want to depend solely on him—and together they hobbled down the hallway, slightly faster than when it was just Rin, though that didn’t stop Killua from occasionally sending scowls back at them. If the boy wanted to pretend that it wasn’t him checking to make sure they were still there then Rin wouldn’t say anything, but he knew for a fact that Killua had slowed his pace down.

Once they finally reached the room, Gon flung open the door in excitement. “Wow! This room is huge!” He sent a brief glance at Rin, and when he just nodded his head the boy ran off to check out the other rooms.

It was a good thing that the two boys hadn’t made it to their new rooms yet, otherwise Rin would have had absolutely no chance of finding them. He only had his previous glimpse of their location to go off since there was no way he could have used his nen again, so if they weren’t there he would have been screwed. It would have made him a sitting duck, and the thought terrified him because it meant that Hisoka would have eventually found him. It would only have been a matter of time.

Rin jumped when Killua suddenly spun to face him. “You. Bed. Now.” He japped a finger at Rin’s chest then pointed down the hallway.

‘Bu-” Rin tried to argue. He wasn’t even sure why he bothered trying.

Killua simply glared at him and aggressively pointed down the hallway again. I’m getting bossed around by a twelve-year-old, Rin thought, even as he walked down the hallway obediently. He slowly climbed onto the bed, but before he could turn around his arms gave out from under him, making him to faceplant in the out-of-place yellow comforter. The bright, cheerful yellow didn’t really fit with a place made for fighting. I think I’ll just stay like this, he thought with a sigh and shifted slightly to get more comfortable.

“Maybe we should call Wing-san?” He heard Gon mutter quietly from the direction he was pretty sure the door was. “He might know what’s wrong.”

Killua’s answer was almost too quiet for Rin to hear. “Probably,” he mumbled.

Before any of them could do anything else, the TV let out a loud ring.

“What? Tomorrow?!” Killua exclaimed. “That’s fast.”

Rin jerked slightly when he felt a flicker of nen come from Gon. He almost jumped right out of the bed, having grown used to feeling protective of them whenever they were within the same vicinity as the feeling of nen. It would take some time to get used to them being able to use it without him immediately assuming the worst. At least it let him know that Wing held up on his end of the deal.

“I probably won’t be able to win tomorrow, but that’s okay. I need the experience, and I need to discover what I can do with this power,” Gon said, not letting the nervousness Rin was sure the boy must be feeling get to him.

“Ah, I almost forgot.” The sound of Killua’s voice seemed to get closer and Rin felt the bed move as something jumped onto it. “Why didn’t you tell us about nen, or that you had it?”

Rin winced against the bed before tilting his head so he could look over at Killua, “It’s not really something you go around telling people. I’m sure Wing-san told you how dangerous it can be.”

“You must have thought it was funny, watching us flounder around.” Killua glared and jabbed two bony fingers into the back of Rin’s shoulder. Rin was too tired to even attempt to retaliate.

Thankfully, Gon interrupted before anything else could happen. “Rin, I’m going to call Wing-san and see if he can come and make sure you’re okay,” he stated. He was already moving to the phone before he had even finished speaking and before Rin could protest.

“Ah, you don’t need to trouble him. I should be fine after a little rest,” Rin explained in the hope that the boy would listen for once and not call.

“Nuh-huh. Not going to happen,” Killua said as he crossed his arms and grinned. “He’s coming whether you like it or not.” He seemed to take pleasure in messing with Rin as much as possible.

Rin sighed and plopped his head back down in defeat.


 

Wing took one look at him still laying on the bed and reached out with his nen to touch Rin’s own. “It seems to be a backlash of sorts. You won’t be able to use your nen for a while until your body heals,” Wing observed. “You mostly need time and lots of rest.”

Rin pouted and mumbled under his breath, “That’s what I tried to tell them.”

It wasn’t quiet enough, it seemed, because Wing glared at him. “I’m still glad they called me, though. What you did was dangerous. There could have been all kinds of repercussions, including death,” Wing scolded. His voice wasn’t in any way harsh, but it still made Rin immediately feel guilty. The man must have had a lot of practice in order to perfect it.

Rin flinched, drawing back against the bed. “My body is more adjusted to nen than theirs, so I thought it would be better if I took the attack. I honestly didn’t expect it to impact me this much,” he tried to explain.

Wing sighed and pushed up his glasses, eyes softening as he did. “I understand, but please be more careful next time.” He reached out and gently ruffled Rin’s hair. The gesture was so reminiscent to what his father used to do that he had to duck his head before the other man could see his eyes glisten.

“I will. This is definitely something I don’t want to experience again,” Rin admitted.

“Good.” Wing looked over at the closed door. “I should probably go reassure them that everything is fine,” he said and glanced down at Rin. “They were beside themselves when you got taken. I just barely managed to stop Killua from leaving to go hunt down Hisoka.”

“I can see him doing that.” Rin chuckled and gave a small, fond smile.

Wing started to walk to the door, pausing right before he turned the handle. “Earlier, I told you it was nice to see that those boys had someone to cheer for them,” he said, turning his head slightly so he could gaze at Rin from across the room. “I think it’s also nice to see that they have someone they care so much about.”

He opened the door and stepped to the side right just as Gon and Killua came tumbling in through the sudden opening.

Gon chuckled sheepishly from under Killua. “Uh...we can explain,” he said slowly.

Rin hid the smile that spread across his face behind his hand as he watched Wing chastise them for listening in on conversations—“It’s rude!” I’m glad I met them. Even with all the craziness they drag me into.


 

Rin shifted the pillow behind his back a little as he settled down to watch Gon’s match on the TV. He had wanted to actually go see the match in person, but Killua’s death glare was more than enough incentive to stay put.

Most of the TV was covered with a live-feed of the ring from a slightly angled view, but in the top-right corner there was a small image of the announcer beaming into the camera. “Okay, we have a thrilling match for you today. First, we have Gon, who managed to zip straight to this class! His opponent will be Gido, who currently holds a respectable 4-1 record,” the announcer shouted as both contestants were slowly raised up to the ring on platforms. The sight made Rin sweatdrop. This place sure loves it’s drama.

The referee gave the go ahead and the match started.

Rin could see Gon’s nen burn around him immediately as he activated his ten. At the same time, Gido put a bunch of tops on the length of his cane. Rin had never seen someone use a common children’s toy as a weapon before, but the choice almost made it even more sinister. Afterall, he also knew someone who used playing cards and had seen said cards impale more people than he wished to remember.

The announcer screamed excitedly at the sight even though the man hadn’t done anything yet. “There they are, Gido’s Dancing Tops! He uses numerous tops to attack his opponent!”

Gido threw the tops, and they instantly surrounded Gon, spinning around him in a wide circle. They suddenly started bouncing off each other, and they kept getting faster and faster as they spun. Rin could tell that Gon was trying to keep them all within his sights, but there were too many. Eventually one broke away from the pack and slammed right into Gon, knocking him back slightly. This doesn’t look good. He shouldn’t take too much damage with his ten in place, but he’s not used to using nen, so it’s only a matter of time before it slips. And going off how far it made the boy slide back, they each packed quite the hit despite their small size. It was odd, so Rin turned gyo covered eyes on the tops and noticed tiny threads all leading back to Gido. Of course he can use nen, too. It was no wonder they were stronger than ordinary tops. Gido was probably using his nen to harden their exterior in order to make them even more deadly.

“Oh,” the announcer exclaimed, practically jumping from her seat. The action caused the top of her head to be slightly cut off screen. “Gon gives up a clean hit and one point, right off the bat! He’s off to a rough start, folks.”

Gon seemed to be slowly getting used to their speed and was able to avoid some of them, but Rin knew it would only be a matter of time before he got tired. Even with his monstrous stamina, Gon would be the first one to fade. Afterall, inanimate objects couldn’t get tired. The only thing the boy could try and count on was Gido possibly depleting his nen and being unable to control the tops. Rin knew how unlikely that was, but he couldn’t help but hope. You can do this, Gon! he thought, clenching his fists on the sheets of the bed.

The announcer gasped suddenly. “He’s been hit from behind by another top! Gon is in big trouble after having been surrounded by Dancing Tops!”

The tops were somehow getting even faster than they already had been, and this time when Gon was hit he got knocked over. He got up again almost immediately, but it was clear to everyone watching that not only had they gotten faster they had also gotten stronger.

“Gido has already earned four points!” the announcer stated. She’s making me even more nervous.

Gon paused in the ring, and Rin could only stare in horror as the boy’s ten started to fade away. What are you doing?! he wanted to shout. His hands were shaking from how tight his grip on the blankets was—in the back of his mind, a voice whispered that he was about to tear them. A top was suddenly careening toward Gon’s exposed stomach, and the boy just barely managed to put it back up in time to block the hit. Despite that, the sheer force of it sent Gon flying out of the ring where he landed with a thump that even Rin could hear through the TV.

“Another direct hit! Gon is completely helpless! He’s been knocked out of the ring!” the announcer shouted excitedly. She didn’t look concerned in the slightest for the wellbeing of Gon as she continued, “The score is now 6-0! He’s dug himself a big hole!”

The camera zoomed in slightly when Gon stood up, shaking the dirt from his hair and clothes. He didn’t look worse-for-wear, thankfully, as he started to run and jumped into the air. Gon twisted mid-air and brought his foot down on Gido, but right before his leg connected, the man starting spinning in place.

The announcer jumped in her seat again with a happy cry. “There is it! Gido’s special technique, combining offense and defense!” she exclaimed as Gon was sent flying back again. “He lands a strong counter on Gon! Three points! The judge has awarded a critical hit and knockdown! Gido has nine points! Gon is on the verge of losing!”

Rin’s heart was pounding in his chest, and he could only imagine the frustration Killua must also be feeling. Neither one could do anything to help their friend. They could only sit back and watch. However, Killua was watching it all happen in person, so it must have been even worse for him. The dread pooling inside Rin’s chest was only made worse when Gon released his ten fully...and didn’t put it back up.

That idiot! What the hell is he thinking?! Rin was tempted to just jump out of bed and run to the stadium. His head was starting to throb again as all the blood rushed to it, so it he took a deep breath and slowly let it out. A single hit, a single hit was all it would take to end the fight without ten to protect his body. However, Gon always seemed to defy logic, and he started calmly swaying out of the tops’ way. Everything was finally starting to look up, when it all fell to pieces.


 

“Your right radius and ulna were both broken. Fractured humerus. Three broken ribs. Two other minor fractures. Four months before you’re completely healed,” Killua listed off, voice calm despite the rage burning in his eyes. “You moron!” he yelled, raising a hand as if to smack Gon before slowly lowering it back to his side.

“Sorry,” Gon whispered. He was staring down at the sheets. Not once had he met either of their eyes since he came into the room and was quickly ushered to the bed. The sight of the usually chipper boy suddenly acting so subdued was unnerving.

Killua must have thought so as well because he started jabbing Gon in the forehead, the only place left untouched by the bandages. “An apology won’t help! Do you have any brains in there?! Didn’t you see what happened to those who’d suffered the traditional nen greeting?! One wrong move and you could end up like them! You’re lucky not to be hurt any worse! Man, why do you think Four-Eyes was training us?! Now you’re stuck in bed like this idiot!” he growled and pointed at Rin.

“Hey! Why are you bringing me into this?” Rin demanded, eyeing the finger aimed at him in case it decided he was a prime target.

Killua turned the full force of his glare on Rin. “You got hurt because you weren’t thinking straight! We can protect ourselves just fine if you haven’t already noticed!”

“Still…” Gon mumbled quietly. Even feeling as dejected as the boy did, he was still trying to calm their arguments down. “I had a feeling I’d be okay.” Rin moved away slightly when he saw Killua’s face go eerily blank. “I took a few hits, but I wasn’t in mortal danger. As long as he missed my vital spots-” Gon froze suddenly when Killua nudged his broken arm with his foot.

“Killua! There’s no need for you to hurt him even more,” Rin scolded.

Killua opened to his mouth to retort but got interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come in,” the boy called out angrily. When no one opened the door, Killua stalked out of the room. Rin could hear a loud slam, probably from the door hitting the wall, then he heard Killua shout, “Four-eyes!”

The next thing he knew, Wing was stalking into the room, and Rin tensed up when he saw the man’s expression. Angry didn’t even begin to describe it.

Gon seemed to notice as well, and he tried to hurriedly apologize. “Uh, sorry-”

Wing slapped him.

Rin stared in shock for all of a few seconds before letting out a deep growl. He grabbed Gon’s good arm and pulled him closer to his side, nen flaring out weakly to cover them both in a protective cocoon. He ignored the painful twinges it brought as he glowered at the man.

“An apology won’t help! What were you thinking?! Didn’t you see those who’d suffered the traditional nen greeting?! You could have ended up just like them!” Wing yelled. He was looming over the bed, not seeming to notice—or ignoring—the wide-eyed look Gon was giving him. The fact that Gon was shrinking into Rin’s side only made him angrier, and grey eyes narrowed dangerously at the man.

Killua took the chance to step forward with his arms crossed behind his head and said casually, “Oh, that’s what I just told him.” The small step placed the white-haired boy slightly between Wing and the bed.

Wing reached out a hand to grab Gon’s shoulder, but Rin pulled him even closer and snarled at the man. Wing hesitated only briefly before his eyes lit up in determination, and he followed through with the movement. “Honestly, I’m glad you weren’t injured any worse.”

Rin’s body unwound a little at his words, and he slowly let go of Gon, though neither pulled away. However, he still kept an eye on the man warily. I may have started to like him, but I won’t hesitate to attack if he tries anything else, he thought, and his nen rolled lazily around the room in a false pretense of calm. He vaguely saw Wing flinch but quickly cover it up.

Gon looked up at the man, face drawn into one of guilt. “Wing-san, I really am sorry.”

Wing’s face softened for a second before he glared again, though it wasn’t as harsh as before. “No, I won’t let this one slide. Killua-kun, do you know when Gon-kun will have recovered completely?”

“The doctor said it would take two months,” Killua lied, eyes twinkling mischievously.

“I understand.” Wing straightened up, put his arms behind his back, and declared, “In that case, I won’t allow you to participate in any matches for two months! I won’t allow you to train in, or study about, nen. That includes any advice Rin may try to give you. If you don’t abide by these rules, I will never teach you again.” He paused to give Gon time to digest his instructions, then stared at the boy expectantly, “Well?”

“I understand. I’ll do as you say,” Gon agreed sullenly. His whole face seemed to wilt, almost as if he had just signed away his life.

Wing nodded. “Good, now give me your left hand.” He grabbed it lightly and tied a teal thread around Gon’s pinky finger. “This is a promise thread. It will be a visual reminder of your promise,” he explained, then turned to Killua. “Killua-kun, a moment, please.” Wing tilted his head toward the bedroom door. Killua looked confused but followed the man out anyway.

Rin waited until they had left the room before finally addressing Gon. “Are you okay?” he asked. He gently tilted the boy’s head to the side so he could see the cheek that was already bright red.

Gon smiled up at him. “I’m okay,” he said, then he chuckled quietly under his breath. “Leorio was right. You are like a mother hen.”

“Is that going to be a continuous joke?” Rin complained and glared weakly at him.

“Hmm, who knows?” Gon beamed playfully.

The topic was annoying, but if it got him looking like himself again then Rin would put up with any amount of teasing. Rin ruffled the spiky, black hair, laughing when the boy sent him a scowl and tried to tame the already messy strands.

It was when Rin moved to get off the bed that Gon looked at him in confusion. “Huh? Where are you going?” he asked.

“I’m just going to take a little walk to the lobby. I need to stretch my legs,” Rin assured. He didn’t mention the adrenaline coursing through his veins at the moment. The slap had made him antsy, and he needed to do something to get rid of the excess energy.

“Wing-san isn’t going to like that. He told you to rest,” Gon reminded. His forehead was creased in worry as he stared up with big, brown eyes.

Rin held up a finger to his lips and gave a warm smile that he hoped would quell the boy’s concern. “It’ll be our secret. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen.”


 

I jinxed myself. That was the only thought running through his mind as he frantically stabbed at the close-door button in the elevator. Everything had been going perfectly fine. He managed to get down to the lobby okay and wandered around for a little bit to stretch his legs just like told Gon he was going to do. The problem came when he was just about to step onto the elevator to go back up. He saw a flash of red in the corner of his eyes and, just like the idiot that he was, he turned his head to look.

He immediately wished he hadn’t.

Why does the world hate me?! He tried to turn and pretend he hadn’t seen anything, but right before he could, he made eye contact with the person—because that was the kind of luck he had. Even in the distance, Rin could see the smirk start to curl on Hisoka’s face as the man started to walk toward him.

The elevator opening with a ding was the most beautiful sound Rin had ever heard, and he darted inside and stabbed at the close-door button. However, just before it could fully close, a pale hand shot out. They slowly slid right back open, and Rin stared in horror as Hisoka came into view and casually stepped onto the elevator.

“Hmm~” Hisoka peered down at him in surprise, as if the magician hadn’t just spotted Rin across the room and decided that now would be a good time to stalk him. The absolutely gleeful look in his eyes just made it worse. Gleeful and Hisoka should not go together. “Well, look what we have here~ I seem to have found a lost, little kitten~” Hisoka drawled. He appeared calm, but Rin could see the anger, mixed with excitement, slowly overtake any other emotion in his eyes. “Someone doesn’t listen very well. I thought I told you not to leave the room.” He prowled closer in the already cramped space, forcing Rin to back up into the corner.

The man didn’t stop until they were inches apart, and Rin could feel his chest press against Hisoka’s with every ragged breath he drew. He stared up at him with wide eyes as it grew harder and harder to breath. I think I’m about to have a panic attack. His body was starting to shake, and he pressed as far as he could against the cold, steel wall—more like a cage—when Hisoka leaned even closer.

“It seems that I’m going to have to punish you after all,” he purred, and Rin shivered when the warm air brushed against his ear. Deceptively fragile fingers shifted the collar of Rin’s shirt and pushed it down a little.

“Wh-” Rin attempted to ask.

However, he cut himself off when a whimper was forced out of his throat. His head was yanked to the side, and he felt a stabbing pain where his neck connected with his shoulder. He put his hands on Hisoka’s chest and tried to push him away, but Hisoka didn’t budge an inch, no matter how much strength he used. Rin flared his nen in warning, fully prepare to use it even with the painful twinges still coursing through his body, but Hisoka’s nen burst out and hovered over him, occasionally brushing against his skin and leaving goosebumps in its wake. It was filled with a combination of bloodlust and excitement, and Rin knew that any more attempts at using his own nen would only end badly for him, even more than it already was.

After what felt like hours—but was probably only a few minutes—he could feel the teeth pull out of his neck with a sickening, wet sound. Rin’s hand immediately shot up to where his neck was throbbing in pain as Hisoka stepped back to admire his work. There was blood slowly dripping down the magician’s chin, but Rin saw a brief flash of pink as his tongue quickly darted out to catch the liquid. The same liquid that was slowly soaking through Rin’s fingers and his shirt.

He bit me…

“Hmm~ Delicious~” Hisoka’s voice was sinful as his eyes lit up with an emotion Rin desperately wanted to ignore: lust.

The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors opened, giving its same happy tune as when it arrived. Hisoka spared a quick look at the opening before turning back to him. “Saved by the bell, as the saying goes, though it didn’t save you fast enough,” he said with a chuckle, reaching out and tugging on a piece of Rin’s hair gently. He trailed one hand down the length of Rin’s arm, only stopping to wrap his hand around one of Rin’s and then tugged him off the elevator. It just so happened to be the arm connected to the same shoulder that someone had decided to take a bite out of, and the sudden movement caused him to gasp out in pain, a sound which Hisoka completely ignored. Turning Rin so that he was facing the hallway where Gon and Killua’s rooms were—which was another problem altogether, because how the hell did he know where they were— Hisoka pushed him in that direction. “Now run along, little kitten~ If you stay any longer, I may just finish where I left off~”

Rin needed no other warning and bolted as fast as his legs would carry him. He could hear laughter trail after him like a ghost, but it only made him go even faster.


 

Rin stared in a daze at the door before taking a shuddering breath and finally opening it. He walked in right as Killua was walking out of the bedroom, and it was silent for a brief moment before Killua’s face twisted into a glower.

Killua darted forward and shouted, “There you are, you idiot! Why the hell did you-” Rin heard him slowly stop, but he continued to look down at the floor. Feet were suddenly filling his vision, and hands grabbed onto his arms, giving him a small shake. “What happened?! You’re covered in blood!” Killua yanked him down so he could see the wound. It obviously wasn’t pretty, considering Killua’s only reaction was to hiss and then drag him to the bathroom.

“Sit down and take off your shirt while I go get the first-aid kit,” Killua ordered hurriedly, already partially out the door as he said it.

His shirt came off with a loud squelching sound, and he flinched when it pulled on his wound. Rin had just placed his shirt on the ground when Killua came racing back in with the first-aid kit tucked under his arm. Killua set it down next to him and reach over to turn on the shower head and quickly sprayed off all of the blood. Rin watched in a sort of trance as it slid down the drain.

Killua peered down at the wound once the water was turned off. “Is that a bite mark?” he asked. His tone was even, but there was something odd about it.

Rin only nodded silently and held back a wince once Killua started scrubbing it roughly with one of the washcloths. It was white, so Rin felt slightly guilty at how much of a pain it was going to be getting the stain out. Then again, it was a building made for fighting, so the maids were probably used to it by now.

“Who the hell bit you? They could have all kinds of diseases,” Killua demanded. There was a tinge of panic in his voice now.

Rin tried to picture Hisoka’s reaction to getting a rabies shot and started laughing. He felt Killua pause in his movements when the laughter turned slightly more hysterical. Something wet slid down his cheeks, and Rin realized he was crying.

“Sorry,” he choked out, trying to rub away the tears with his palms. “Um, it was…”

Killua’s voice came out surprisingly gentle as he said, “It’s okay. I can pretty much figure it out. Now stop rubbing your face, you’ll make it sore.” With that quiet reprimand, his hands resumed their previous movement. This time significantly softer than before. After Killua had deemed it clean enough, he placed a bandage over it. Then he brought over a large, fluffy towel that Rin hadn’t even noticed before and used it to dry his chest and back. He also dabbed at Rin’s face, even though it almost immediately became wet again. “Stay here,” he said and went running out once again.

Rin slouched down and sighed. I’m pathetic, having a little kid take care of me as I sit and cry. He hadn’t cried since that night...

Killua came back into the room before he could fall further down that rabbit hole with one of Rin’s shirts in his hand. “Here.” He held it out in offering.

“Thanks,” Rin mumbled and took the shirt from him. He flinched when he had to lift his arm to get it into the sleeve but eventually managed it.

Rin had just barely pulled it down when Killua suddenly grabbed both his cheeks and yanked on them. “Ow! What was that for?” he exclaimed, leaning back and clutching at his suddenly sore cheeks.

“That was for worrying us so much,” Killua said with a smirk and a triumphant glimmer in his eyes, then he grabbed Rin’s hand again and dragged him all the way to the bedroom where Gon was.

“Are you okay? Killua wouldn’t tell me anything other than that you got hurt again,” Gon asked as soon as they entered. He was fidgeting in his spot on the bed, and the sheets were scrunched up as if he had been gripping them. “I told you it was a bad idea to leave,” he added, giving the most disappointed look Rin had ever seen on a twelve-year-old.

Rin smiled weakly at him. “I guess you were right.”

Killua nudged him toward the unoccupied side of the bed. “Get in, shut up, and sleep,” he ordered with a glare.

Rin was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

Chapter Text

 

It’s only been a month, and yet... Rin stared blankly from his spot on the bed as Gon did one handed push-ups...using his previously broken arm. His healing factor sure is amazing. My neck still isn’t even completely healed.

When Gon had first tried to take off the cast—using a pair of scissors that probably would have done more harm than good—Rin had panicked and smacked the boy’s hand away, asking, “What the hell he thought he was doing,” but Gon had merely stared up at him with that all too innocent expression he had mastered and told Rin that he was fine already. All it took was a pleading look from those doe-eyes and Rin felt any resistance fade away, so he grabbed the sharp pocket knife that he always carried around in his bag—a person can never be sure when they might need it—and carefully cut the cast off. The whole time he felt as if he was making a huge mistake, only to yelp when as soon as it was off, Gon started doing jumping-jacks and push-ups.

Killua chose that exact moment to poke his head into the room. “Gon, I got something good…” His voice trailed off, staring at where Gon was gazing back at him from upside down.

“Oh, Killua, I was about to go looking for you,” Gon said casually with a big grin on his face.

“Uh…” Killua slowly closed the door behind him. “Are you really healed?”

“I thought the same thing. He almost gave me a heart attack when he tried to cut the cast off,” Rin said offhandedly, not once taking his eyes off Gon in case there was any sign of pain.

“Yeah!” Gon walked on his hands toward Killua, then flipped back onto his feet. He threw his hands in the air and said, “See? I’m perfectly fine!”

Killua was eyeing Gon as if he was some strange, mythical creature—which was kind of amusing considering the animals they had to deal with during the exam. “Okay, I get it. Man, what is your body made of?” he asked.

“How to answer that…” Gon started, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.

“You’re weird.” Killua immediately deadpanned.

Rin raised an eyebrow at Killua. “Like you’re one to talk,” he said, and it was totally worth the glare it earned him.

Killua scowled and opened his mouth, but Gon interrupted him. “Well? Weren’t you about to say something?” he asked.

“Oh, here.” Killua reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of paper, handing them over to Gon and Rin.

“Tickets?” Gon questioned, brows furrowed in a frown as he stared at the piece of paper in his hand.

Killua smirked and held up another ticket in the air. “These aren’t just tickets. They’re for Hisoka’s fight.”

Rin straightened at that. The only time he had really seen Hisoka fight was during the third phase of the Hunter exam, and it was clear that the man was holding back even then. Rin raised a hand to grip tightly onto his shirt as his heart pounded—he wasn’t sure if it was because of fear or excitement. At least this time I won’t be right beside him , he tried to console himself, if only so he didn’t lose what little remained of his sanity. Then again, this was the man who bit him like some rapid animal, so maybe Rin shouldn’t want to watch him fight. Killua and Gon really were rubbing off on him.

Killua was about to continue, but Gon’s stomach choose that moment to protest.

The white haired boy sighed. “We can finish this later. Let’s go grab some food.”

The tower didn’t have a cafeteria—strangely enough—so they had to leave in order to search for food. Thankfully, the receptionist in the lobby pointed them in the direction of plenty of restaurants to dine at. It was a nice day out, so none of them really minded walking. Though, by time they made it to the buildings, Gon’s stomach had rumbled four more times, and Rin could see Killua’s eye twitching, the look he kept sending Gon getting more annoyed by the minute.

Rin hurriedly pointed at the first restaurant they found—which just so happened to be a cafe—before Killua had the chance to snap. The last thing he wanted was for the two of them to start bickering again. Gon could get quite temperamental when he was hungry, and Rin knew the fight would only escalate as Killua fed off the other boy’s anger.

They sat down at one of the only empty tables and ordered their food, and Rin pretended he didn’t hear the ridiculously long list of food both boys asked for. He honestly wasn’t sure how they were even able to eat that much and not explode.

When the food arrived, Gon practically lit up like the sun, and Rin had to squint his eyes slightly. The waitress even had to have one of her coworkers pull out a collapsable table just so all the food would fit, and Rin desperately tried to ignore it for the sake of his sanity—he seemed to be doing that a lot, now that he thought about it—and took a bite of his cheesecake. Oh, this is heavenly. Rin sighed in bliss and practically melted in his seat, which earned him a rather strange look from Killua that he, again, ignored. Gon didn’t even notice since he was busy stuffing his face with food.

He hadn’t had cheesecake in a long time, so he was going to enjoy it while it he could, regardless of what Killua thought. Rin sent him a challenging look, to which Killua just rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Gon.

“As a 200s fighter, I got dibs on tickets. The tickets to Hisoka’s match are a really hot item. There are even scalpers hawking them,” Killua explained. He was twirling a spoon between two fingers and had his head resting on the other hand.

“Oh…” Gon mumbled, cheeks puffed up like a chipmunks.

Rin twitched in his seat at the sight. “Don’t talk with your mouth full, Gon,” he scolded, sending the boy a small glare.

Gon made a show of swallowing and gave him an apologetic smile as Killua continued. “So I’ve been gathering information. It turns out that Hisoka’s the real deal. He has an 8-3 record, with 6 KO’s. Each KO has led to death.”

Rin blinked slowly. The rules really were different from the exam. It’s no wonder Hisoka likes it here, he thought bitterly.

“But he’s lost three matches,” Gon pointed out.

“His three losses were due to forfeits,” Killua informed. He set the spoon down and leaned his chair back so it was balancing on two legs.

Gon just looked confused and tilted his head to the side. “Forfeits?” he asked.

“He reached the registration deadline, so he signed up for a fight, but didn’t show,” Killua explained, looking slightly amused. That seems like something he would do...

Gon frowned thoughtfully down at the table. “Which means…”

Killua leaned forward and let the two legs meet the ground with a loud thump. His expression was serious as he said, “If Hisoka actually fights, he doesn’t lose.”

Gon nodded. “Yeah.”

Killua held up four fingers. “And he’s only given up a total of four points. One knockdown, three clean hits. He’s as strong as a Floor Master,” he explained, voice growing more excited as he spoke.

“So he was basically just playing around with them.” Rin guessed.

“Yeah,” Killua agreed.

Gon clenched his hands together on top of the table. “I’m in trouble…” You don’t look like it. You’re smiling, Gon… The boy’s eyes were burning flames, lit by the excitement of facing off against the monster that was Hisoka.

Rin was seriously starting to question Gon’s common sense.

They made it through the meal without any fights—thank god—and as they were making their way back to Heavens Arena, Killua gave more information about the fight. “So, his opponent is some guy named Kastro. Two years ago, he claimed the sole knockdown against Hisoka. And of the four points scored against Hisoka, he’s responsible for three,” Killua informed.

“He scored three points against Hisoka…” Gon said slowly, eyes wide. He almost stopped walking altogether, but Rin put a hand on his lower back and nudged him along.

“You could say they have a history. Apparently, they both registered for the same day so they could fight each other. You should have the chance to analyze Hisoka’s fighting style. Maybe we’ll get to see Hisoka go all-out,” Killua said excitedly, and there was a cheerful bounce in his step that wasn’t there a moment before.

Forget Gon, Killua was the one with no common sense. Rin shivered at even the thought of being in the same room as Hisoka if the man decided to go all out. He had a feeling no one would make it out of the room alive if something like that ever happened.

It was already starting to heat up outside, so the cool air felt wonderful as they walked back into lobby. The receptionist smiled at them as they walked past, looking slightly curious at Killua and Gon when they didn’t even look up from their excited ramblings. Rin met her eyes, gave her a small smile in return, and shrugged.

It appeared Killua was definitely telling the truth when he said Hisoka’s fights were popular because the lobby itself was packed with more people than usual. Everyone seemed to be clustered around the TVs, chattering loudly to one another as they waited for the fight to begin.

“But is this okay? I promised Wing-san…” Gon started hesitantly, face set into a deep frown.

Killua jumped onto the first step of the escalator and turned to face Gon. “Of course it’s okay! You’ll just be watching a match.”

Rin paused in his people watching to look at where he was stepping so he didn’t accidentally bump into someone or trip, then he looked up and froze. “Um, guys. He’s right-” Rin tried to warn, but they were too focused on their argument to notice, and by the time they fully reached the top it was too late.

Both boys jumped in surprise at the sight of Wing standing at the top of the escalator, glaring down at them with his arms crossed.

Rin couldn’t help but stare at the tick mark on Wing’s forehead. Oh, wow, he’s really angry.

“It is not okay! Viewing a match counts as learning about nen,” he said, voice the same angry-disappointed tone that he had used when Gon first got injured.

“W-Wing-san-” Gon started.

“Don’t scare us,” Killua finished, trying to look like he wasn’t affected, but Rin could see his hands twitch slightly before he shoved them in his pockets.

Wing ignored Killua and stared at Gon in surprise as he took in the boy’s bandage free appearance. “Gon-kun, has your arm healed?”

“Y-Yes! It’s fine now,” Gon answered hastily, raising his arm and moving it around in a circle.

Killua latched onto the change in subject. “Since he’s recovered, he can watch the match, right?”

“No, I told Gon-kun to wait two months,” Wing denied immediately, though he still appeared shaken by Gon’s full recovery. He seemed to give himself a full-body shake before straightening, fixing them with a stern stare. “Gon-kun, you should spend one more month practicing ten and recovering from your injuries.”

“Oh,” Gon mumbled quietly, looking disappointed. “Okay, I understand.”

“Well, then it’s fine.” Wing started to walk away before he paused and looked over his shoulder. “Rin-kun, what’s this I hear about you leaving and getting attacked by Hisoka again. I thought I told you to rest,” Wing asked calmly, though his glasses glinted ominously in the light.

Rin flinched from where he was trying to subtly hide behind Gon in the hope that he wouldn’t be noticed. “I thought I could use some fresh air, but it’s fine now! I’m all healed,” he hurriedly said and smiled. He was thanking the stars he had taken off the bandage that morning, otherwise it would have been rather noticeable.

The look Wing sent Rin said exactly how much he believed that. “Hmm. Next time listen to me, all right?”

“Sorry,” Rin apologized, cringing slightly.

Zushi took the chance to speak up, stepping forward and giving them a slightly strained smile. He was probably trying to lessen the tension, though it didn’t work. “Osu! Take care!” He bowed, then turned to run and catch up with his master.

“Oh, well,” Killua said slowly, letting out a deep breath. He turned to Gon with a small scowl, though it was obvious that it wasn’t directed at the other boy. “You’ll have to watch a recording, so I’ll go and see it in person.” The boy suddenly turned to look over at him. “Rin, you wanna come with?” he asked, one thin eyebrow raising in a questioning manner.

Rin blinked, shocked that Killua had even bothered to ask him. “Sure, I don’t mind.”

Gon’s shoulders slumped a fraction. “Guess I’ll see you guys later,” he mumbled as he turned to head toward the elevator.

Rin watched him leave with a frown, taking in the depressed cloud that seemed to hang over the boy. “I feel bad that Gon has to stay in the room all alone.”

“He’ll be fine. He can practice his ten until we get back.” Killua’s voice sounded odd, and when Rin turned to look the boy was munching on some chips that had appeared out of nowhere.

“Where did you...nevermind, I don’t want to know.”

Killua sent him a smirk and shoved another handful into his mouth, much to Rin’s disgust and amusement.

The TV’s near them flashed a bright red all of a sudden before the image of the announder popped on. She waved to the camera excitedly. “Hello! I’m your announcer, Cocco! Today in Heavens Arena, we have Kastro versus Hisoka, the match you’ve all been waiting for! Just look at this crowd!” The camera panned over the crowd already in the stadium, and when the people noticed, everyone started waving and screaming.

They glanced at each other. Killua rolled his eyes and stepped closer to the TV nearest to them.

“The match doesn’t start for another hour, but the arena is already packed! Two years ago, Hisoka was the winner of their match. The audience is fired up to watch this match of destiny, as Kastro looks for revenge! Sporting an 8-3 record, with all three losses being forfeits due to absence, we have the deadly magician with the tendency toward absence, Hisoka! And opposing him, boasting a 9-1 record, one win away from the Floor Masters after nine straight wins since his loss to Hisoka, we have the martial artist, Kastro!” she listed off with a yell and leaned closer to the camera, clenching her fist in the air. “Will he avenge his earlier loss, as he’s predicted? Get ready to find out as we watch a battle between the two fighters nearest to reaching the Floor Masters!” The announcer sat back down and picked up a piece of paper. “Next up, we have an interview with Kastro from a few days ago.”

A picture of Kastro suddenly popped up onto the screen. He’s definitely not what I was expecting. The man almost had a fragile air about him with his long white hair—it wasn’t as pure a white as Killua’s, though—and green eyes. He was almost doll-like, so it was kind of surprising that this was the person who managed to hit Hisoka. Although, Rin was coming to learn that appearances could be very misleading, and he spared a quick glance over at Killua, who was staring intently at the interview.

Kastro smiled kindly at the person interviewing him.“I wouldn’t fight if I didn’t expect to win. You’ll see that I’m not the same person I was two years ago.”

Rin found a small part of himself rooting for the man but couldn’t help but still think that Hisoka was going to eat him alive, figuratively and possibly literally. Rin scrunched up his nose. He still wasn’t exactly sure how to take the whole ‘fruit’ comment, especially since the man had already taken a bite out of him.

Killua glanced at Rin. “Hey, go find a seat for us. There’s something I want to do,” he said, already walking toward the elevators.

“Okay.” Rin blinked in surprise. “What is it?” he asked.

Killua look over his shoulder, eyes dancing with excitement and mischief—a combination that made Rin feel sorry for whoever it was directed at. “I’ll tell you later,” he answered, waving a hand in Rin’s direction as he walked away.

Strange, Rin thought, but shrugged and went to the stadium anyway. As Killua had pointed out multiple times, he could take care of himself, so Rin was going to trust him.

There was already a small crowd waiting outside the doors leading into the stadium, so Rin took his place at the end and tried not to get jostled around by all the shoving elbows. As soon as he stepped inside, the sheer sound of all of the people packed into the one room slammed into him, and it nearly made Rin stumble back. However, the ever moving flow of people kept him from backtracking, forcing him to walk even further in.

Oh god. Where the hell am I supposed to find seats?! Rin walked down the aisle and tried to spot any open seats in the sea of people, growing more panicked when all he found he were bodies. There were even more people filling the room than Rin had seen during any of the other matches, and his heart sank more and more the longer it took to search, so it was understandable that once he spotted two open seats in the middle of one row that he practically lunged toward them. The people around him gave him odd looks—which he was sadly growing used to—so he gave them a sheepish look and tried to merge with the chair. It was fairly close to the front, shockingly enough, though it made him wonder if Killua would be able to find him.

He sighed. Time to wait.


 

The person next to him shifted and accidentally bumped Rin with his elbow, so Rin sent him a small smile. The man simply glared at him. Well, okay then, Rin thought as he shrunk into himself slightly. He jumped when someone plopped into the seat next to him and turned to them, an apology that the seat was already taken on his lips until he noticed who it was.

“There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere, but it took forever to find you,” Killua complained. He had another bag of chips in his hand, and he ripped them open as he took in the view. “Hmm, nice spot.”

Rin felt a weight lift off his chest as he sighed in relief. “What were you even doing? The match is about to start.”

Killua’s expression turned playful as he popped some chips into his mouth. “I went to spy on Kastro.”

“Eh.” Rin stared in shock, tilting his head to the side. “Why?”

“I was curious. It’s not everyday you get to meet someone who managed to injure Hisoka. I decided to see what was so special about the guy.” Killua grabbed another handful, brows starting to furrow as he chewed. “He caught me, even though I was concealing my presence. He got behind me without me even noticing him leaving the room.” His hand tightened around the bag, and Rin could hear the crunches of the chips being squished.

Rin hummed. “It’s no wonder, then, that he managed to hit Hisoka.”

Killua frowned harder but didn’t have time to reply as the lights turned off. Rin could hear everyone in the audience mumble nervously to one another, and to his right, he heard Killua say, “What the hell,” under his breath.

“Ladies and gentlemen. It’s finally time…” The familiar voice of the announcer filled the darkened room. “The long-awaited rematch between Hisoka and Kastro!” The lights flashed on, blinding everyone momentarily. When Rin’s eyes adjusted to the brightness, he slowly cracked open his eyes and could see Kastro and Hisoka standing in the ring. The air was suddenly filled with cheers as the two fighters stared each other down, though not really in Hisoka’s case. The man was in that same relaxed posture he was in during the fight with the ex-examiner. Rin even saw him raise a hand to his mouth as he yawned, which only seemed to annoy Kastro as the man practically glared daggers at the magician.

“Ready?” Neither contestant moved, so the referee threw his hand down and yelled, “Begin!”

Kastro immediately charged forward and jumped into the air. He tried to hit Hisoka, but the magician dodged. At least, that’s what it looked like. Hisoka’s head suddenly jerked to the side when a hit slammed into his cheek, one that should have passed over him harmlessly. Rin frowned and leaned forward slightly. What’s going on?

The announcer exclaimed excitedly, “A clean hit! Kastro has landed the first strike! Hisoka has surrendered the first point after failing to evade Kastro’s swift chop!”

“You saw that too, right?” Rin asked slowly and forced his eyes away from the ring to peer over at Killua, who was also frowning down at the ring below them.

Killua nodded. “Yeah. He definitely dodged that.”

Rin turned his attention back on the fight in time to see Hisoka casually wipe the blood from his mouth. The man stared down at the red mark on his finger, and the expression that spread across his face was enough to send a shudder down Rin’s spine. It was the same excitement he had shown during the Hunter exam, only tenfold.

Kastro raced forward again, unaware of the beast he had just awakened, and swung his hand. Hisoka, once again, managed to dodge the attack, only to be hit in the face again. There was a brief moment of surprise on Hisoka’s face, but he quickly pushed off the ground and flipped back to his feet, just in time to avoid another attack. He kept dodging until Kastro tried to kick him, but when Hisoka caught the offending leg he was suddenly kicked from behind.

Rin could only stare in shock. What on earth is happening?

“Clean hit! And knockdown!” the referee declared as he raised a hand in the air.

“What an amazing start! Kastro has been knocking his opponent around! The score is now 4-0. However, are my eyes deceiving me?” the announcer shouted. Her excitement was feeding the rest of the crowd as they shouted and yelled.

Hisoka got up and brushed himself off nonchalantly. He smirked and said something to Kastro, but Rin couldn’t hear what they were saying . He fidgeted in his seat anxiously when Kastro went into a different pose than the one he had been using. The man had one hand raised and the other dropped below his waist, making it look almost like a mouth. The crowd got even more riled up than they already were, some were even jumping up from their seats and throwing their arms in the air.

“He’s going to use his Tiger Bite Fist!” one person shouted in excitement.

Another one exclaimed, “Kastro’s getting serious!”

“What are they talking about?” Rin asked Killua in confusion.

“Tiger Bite Fist?” Killua mumbled to himself before his eyes widened. “That technique can split a tree in two, when used by a master,” Killua answered. That definitely doesn’t sound good. How’s Hisoka going to get out of this one?

Kastro rushed Hisoka again but paused for a split second when all Hisoka did was extend an arm out, then he disappeared and was suddenly right behind the magician. There was an awful squelching sound, and Rin froze as his eyes slowly widened in horror. A splash of red danced through the air—looking so reminiscent of red flower petals—as Hisoka’s arm landed on the ground with a dull thump.

All the air seemed to leave his lungs, and the only thing Rin could think was no.

“Hisoka’s right arm has been severed!” the announcer exclaimed. Her face was pulled into one of shock as well, but she appeared more exhilarated than anything else.

Why is he so calm?! Rin watched as Hisoka was knocked across the stage once again but stayed on his feet. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned about his missing arm.

“Have we ever seen Hisoka in such a perilous situation?” the announcer questioned. “He’s taken considerable damage!”

Hisoka just stood there and used his foot to toss his arm into the air, catching it as though it was just a common object. He seemed to be getting more and more amused as the match went on, which only succeeded in making Kastro glare at him even more. Then, much to the audience's surprise, Kastro suddenly split in two.

“Then it wasn’t an illusion!” Killua realized. “When Kastro attacked, there really were two of him.”

Rin glanced over at him in silence, lips pursed, before turning back to the fight.

Even the announcer was shocked, “What is going on here? Kastro has split into two? Cloned himself? Instead of disappearing, he’s multiplying! Does he actually have a twin?!”

Hisoka didn’t seem shocked in the least. He even used his severed hand to scratch his shoulder. You’re even crazier than I thought…

Kastro took up the same stance again.

The announcer finally got over her shock, “Incredible! We have an upset in the making! Hisoka, the winner two years ago, is in deep trouble! Will Kastro be able to avenge his previous defeat?”

No... Rin could feel his heart pounding in his chest, though his mind was oddly clear. Why do I get the feeling that it’s the opposite?

Hisoka placed his severed arm under his other and reach into his pocket. He pulled out a cloth and draped it over his severed arm, then he tossed it into the air, where it turned into cards. Is he seriously doing a magic trick right now?! And with his arm no less! He called out an equation for the crowd to solve and then reached his hand into the gaping wound that made up the rest of his arm. He smirked at the horrified gasps of the audience and pulled out a bloody playing card. Hisoka flung it playfully at Kastro, but the other man simply knocked the card away.

Something’s not right. Why would he throw the card at Kastro without his using his nen to sharpen it...Wait, nen. I haven’t seen him use nen this entire fight. At this sudden realization, Rin used ‘gyo’ to look down at the arena. What is that? Rin could see pink threads coming from Hisoka to the cloth on the floor and one leading straight into the air. There were even more threads on the cards, but instead of coming from Hisoka they were attached to various places on Kastro’s body. Rin followed the one thread with his eyes up to the ceiling...where Hisoka’s arm appeared to be attached What on earth? Rin dragged his eyes back to the fight when Hisoka raised out his other arm invitingly and saw a thread fling itself from Hisoka’s finger to latch onto Kastro’s chin. However, the other man didn’t notice and foolishly took the bait, charging forward.

Rin felt his heart clench with an unknown emotion as Hisoka’s other arm was cut off too. It was flung outside of the ring and flopped to the ground with another dull thump that would probably haunt Rin’s nightmares. Hisoka then casually brought his arm out from behind his back and reattached his hand.

His nen pulled it to him and reconnected it. But how? What exactly is that pink stuff? Is it his nen ability? Rin sighed in frustration and felt his hands twitch with the urge to run them through his hair. The longer I know this guy, the more questions I end up with.

Hisoka chuckled and started walking toward Kastro, who stupidly did not run while he still had the chance . Whatever Hisoka said to the man must have caused what little amount of patience Kastro still had to finally break because he rushed forward with an outraged roar. Kastro jumped at Hisoka and split into two again, but Hisoka merely glared over at one of them, and Rin could see fear take over Kastro’s face for the first time since the fight had started. Hisoka easily dodged the second one’s attacks and turned his body so that it was angled toward the Kastro that was hanging back slightly. Hisoka’s bloodlust was rising even as a rather familiar smirk crawled onto those lips. However, Kastro didn’t seem to notice as he darted toward the magician again, all composure lost. Out of the corner of his eye, Rin saw one of the pink threads jerk as Hisoka’s other arm came shooting through the air and right into Kastro’s face. It was enough to make the man freeze just as the other threads flared up, and the cards were suddenly flying toward Kastro.

Kastro stood no chance.

HIs eyes were wide as each card sent his body jerking in different directions, making him look like he was...dancing. In a sick and twisted way. The stadium was completely silent when Kastro finally hit the floor, and Rin slowly turned to look at where Hisoka was already making his way toward the tunnel. Right before he entered, Hisoka glanced over his shoulder, and Rin jumped when their eyes met, feeling his widen, but the man had already disappeared into the darkness before he could do anything.

“Rin.” Killua tugged on his sleeve, breaking him from his trance. “Let’s go.”

“A-Ah.” Rin got up and followed him. He distantly noted that his legs felt strangely weak, so he paid extra attention to make that he didn’t fall.

The elevator ride up to the 200th floor was silent, and Rin knew that Killua was staring at him from the corner of his eyes, even though the boy was trying hard not to be obvious. When the doors dinged open, Rin stepped off but then stopped. Killus didn’t even seem to notice that he was alone until he had already walked about a foot away. Only then did he pause to look back at where Rin hadn’t moved away from the elevator.

“You coming?” he asked. Even from where he was standing Rin could see the small amount of worry hidden in those blue eyes.

Rin shook his head and gave his best apologetic smile. “There’s something I need to do first.”

Killua stared at him, eyebrows furrowing. “You’re not going to do something stupid, are you?”

“Probably,” Rin admitted sheepishly.

“Ah, ah.” Killua sighed in frustration and ran a hand through his hair, then he let his hand flop back to his side, giving Rin an annoyed look. “Just don’t get yourself killed. Gon would be devastated.”

Rin tilted his head to the side. “Only Gon?” he teased.

“Tch. Fine, I would probably be sad, too...maybe,” Killua finally mumbled, and it sounded like it practically killed the boy to admit it, too, going off of the glare aimed at him.

Rin chuckled as Killua jerked around and marched down the hall, probably trying to cover up his embarrassment at having admitted that he actually had feelings. I’ll come back, I promise.


 

This was a horrible idea, Rin thought as he stood in the hallway, glaring at the door in front of him. The door that suddenly looked a lot more menacing then any door should be allowed to look. It would be so easy to just turn around and go back to the room-

No, I came here for a reason! I can’t back out now! Rin slapped his cheeks, then winced as he accidentally hit them harder than he meant to. He took a deep breath and lifted his hand to knock just as the door opened up.

Rin jerked his hand back before he could accidentally hit whoever opened the door and ended up staring blankly at the pink haired lady standing on the other side with his hand still hanging awkwardly in the air. “Oops! Sorry, wrong door!” he squeaked out and was in the middle of turning so he could run away when a voice emerged from within the room.

“Well, well~ If it isn’t the little kitten,” the voice drawled. “What brings you here?”

The lady opened the door a little bit wider and peered over her shoulder at whoever was still inside. Rin took a small step forward and carefully peeked around her. Sure enough, there was Hisoka lounging in a chair in the middle of the room. Gold eyes regarded him lazily, practically staking him to the spot, and any hope Rin had of getting out of it flew out the window.

“You know him?” the lady asked blandly.

“Hmm~” Hisoka simply smirked and nodded, not once taking his eyes off Rin. “You can let him in.”

She shrugged and opened the door even wider. “Whatever.”

Rin hesitantly stepped around her and into the room. He tensed when she moved closer, but she simply walked past him and closed the door, cutting off his only escape route as she did. Rin could almost physically feel the tension in the air, so in order to avoid looking at the only other person in the room, Rin took the chance to look around. I didn’t really pay attention to it the last time I was here since I was so bent on getting out as fast as possible. It was similar to the one Gon and Killua had, only this one had a wall made entirely out of glass. The lights of the city looked like the fireflies that would dance in the field behind Rin’s house. It was a strangely calming sight, and Rin could feel his shoulders slightly relax.

Hisoka’s voice eventually broke the silence, and Rin cursed himself for forgetting that the other man was still there. “You never answered my question.”

Rin racked his brain, desperately trying to remember what Hisoka had asked. He came away blank, so he finally turned to look hesitantly at Hisoka but paused when his eyes caught sight of something. He darted forward without thinking until he was standing right next to Hisoka. His arms have been reattached... Glancing over at Hisoka to make sure the movement wouldn’t get him killed, Rin slowly reached out a hand to touch the arm closest to him. Hisoka made no move to stop him, so he gently ran his fingers along the part where his arm should have ended.

Rin’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, and he sent a small tendril of nen to brush where his fingers were touching. This doesn’t feel like skin, and I can sense nen underneath, but it doesn’t feel like Hisoka’s. Rin raised his eyes up to the man in question, who had been oddly silent throughout this whole exchange. HIsoka’s gaze was piercing as his eyes took in every little movement Rin made.

“How...I saw…” Rin stumbled. “I know you used nen to put your arm back on during the match, but this feels completely different. I can feel your nen on the surface and another’s beneath that.” He caressed said arm without thinking, his eyes never leaving Hisoka’s.

Something flashed through Hisoka’s eyes, but it was gone before Rin could figure out what it was. “Is that so? Honestly, I would be disappointed if you didn’t notice. It seems you keep exceeding my expectations~”

Rin felt a blush rise at the praise before he could stop it. “Stop teasing me,” he said and jerked his hand back so that it hung limply by his side.

“Hmm~ Call it what you will,” Hisoka said, lips curling up slightly before his attention seemed to be drawn elsewhere.

Rin shivered as he felt the man’s stare travel from his face down to his neck, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake. Hisoka slowly raised the arm Rin had touched and laid it against his neck, right where the scar was hidden beneath his shirt. The uncharacteristically gentle touch made Rin twitch, but he didn’t move away. Hisoka shifted the fabric slightly so he could rub his thumb against the sensitive skin, and his smirk morphed into something darker...almost possessive.

“It wouldn’t stop bleeding.” Rin scowled and hoped the other man didn’t notice the way his voice shook.

Hisoka pressed slightly harder against the scar as his eyes lit with something close to anger. “Then you shouldn’t have disobeyed me,” he stated simply, as if he was just stating a fact about the weather.

“I don’t take orders from you,” Rin said bluntly, his scowl turning into a glare. If there was one thing Rin hated more than anything, it was people ordering him around.

Hisoka stared at him, expression blank enough that it was starting to creep Rin out, then he leaned forward as something wicked entered those gold eyes. “I can change that,” he purred, chest rumbling in a way that should be illegal .

Rin gulped slightly, ignoring how those same eyes tracked the movement, and tried to glare at him defiantly. “What makes you think I’ll listen?” he asked.

“Is that a challenge?” Hisoka’s eyes lit up with excitement.

At that point, a small part of his brain was yelling abort, abort!

“No,” he said quickly. He was starting to think that maybe his brain was right, so Rin turned his body in the direction of the door and was about to try and make an escape. However, before he could even move an inch, Hisoka’s fingers shifted so that they were directly over Rin’s throat.

He gave a tiny squeeze that made Rin’s body freeze in place. “What’s the real reason you came? I doubt it was just curiosity.”

Now it was Rin’s turn to carefully observe Hisoka. “Do your arms hurt?” he asked in a weak attempt to redirect the conversation.

Hisoka actually appeared surprised by the question because he just kind of stared at him with an inscrutable expression. “No,” he eventually said.

Rin nodded and didn’t move to say anything more, even as Hisoka continued to stare intently at him.

“Oh~” Hisoka smirked deviously, and Rin wished he had suddenly gained the ability to teleport as Hisoka leaned closer. “Could it be that you were worried, little kitten?”

Rin stared determinedly at the door, refusing to look back. Forget teleport, at this point I just want to sink into the floor. Rin would rather die than turn back to Hisoka since he could feel his face absolutely burning with the blush he knew was there. However, he stupidly forgot that ignoring the magician would only annoy him even more, so Rin ended up yelping as he was yanked forward by the hand on his throat. Right before he could collide with the arm of the chair, Hisoka somehow managed to flip Rin midair so that he landed with his face turned toward the ceiling. He let out a squeak and tried to move away, but an arm snaked around his waist and kept him from getting off.

I’m sitting in Hisoka’s lap...I’m sitting in... Rin felt his brain short circuit. If he thought his face was burning before, it was on fire now.

“W-What do you think you’re doing?!” Rin cried out as he struggled to move the arm.

Hisoka titled his head innocently. “What are you talking about? I’m just trying to have a conversation.”

Rin growled and yanked on the arm again. However, no amount of wiggling seemed to loosen the other’s hold.

Rin could feel Hisoka shift under him but ignored it. That is, until he felt a rush of air against his ear as the man exhaled. Rin’s entire body froze as the man let out a soft groan. “If you keep moving like that, I won’t be held accountable for my actions,” he purred, and his voice came out as a rasp.

This cannot be happening... Something hot and wet touched Rin’s ear, causing him to jerk as far away as he could. He covered it with his hand as if that would protect him if Hisoka was determined enough.

“I’m not food.” Rin glowered with as much anger as he could muster. He had a feeling it wasn’t much, given how shakey his voice sounded as it came out.

Hisoka gazed back at him with an emotion that could only be described as hunger . “But you taste just as good~”

The blush came back tenfold. “You pervert!” Rin shouted and pushed the other’s face away with a hand, which was a really bad idea because Hisoka nipped at his fingers, eventually grabbing one with his teeth. Rin yanked his hand back with a scandalized look, clutching the abendage to his chest.

Rin opened his mouth to demand to be let go, but all thought immediately came to a crashing halt as he could only sit there in shock.

Hisoka was kissing him.

Hisoka. Was. Kissing. Him.

His first reaction was to pull away, but Hisoka’s other arm came up to hold Rin’s head in place, preventing him from moving. Teeth nibbled at his bottom lip, demanding entrance, so he stubbornly kept his mouth tightly sealed. There was no way he was just going to give in, not even at the threat of Hisoka getting angry.

Even through the daze, Rin was mildly surprised by the fact that Hisoka’s lips were soft, softer than he would have expected. Unsurprisingly, was the way they moved against his in the same teasing manner as everything else the man did, and it only got worse when Rin jumped as Hisoka’s tongue swept across his lip. He tried to pull back again, but the arm around his waist drew him even closer, and at some point, Rin realized he had closed his eyes, but they flew open with a gasp when Hisoka tugged sharply on his hair, something that Hisoka immediately took advantage of as he slipped his tongue into Rin’s mouth. Rin tried to push the offending appendage out using his tongue, but it only seemed to encourage the magician even more as Hisoka continued to explore his mouth and twirl with his tongue in an unfamiliar dance. The hand holding his head tugged on his hair again, and Rin jerked in surprise at the groan it pulled from his throat.

His chest burned with the need for air, and the heat seemed to be spreading throughout his body as Rin raised both hands to clutch helplessly at Hisoka’s shirt. At that point, he wasn’t sure if it was to push him away or pull him even closer because all thoughts of pulling away flew from Rin’s mind as he could only focus on the way their tongues moved against one another. He hesitantly pressed his lips back against Hisoka’s, unsure of what to do, but it seemed to please him because he felt Hisoka grin against his lips. When Hisoka eventually pulled back, Rin let out a small whine in disappointment even as he gasped for breath.

Hisoka smirked down at Rin and leaned forward until his lips were lightly brushing against Rin’s ear. “You’re mine,” Hisoka purred.

Rin opened and closed his mouth, trying to form a coherent thought, “You....kiss…” Rin barely managed to stutter out.

“Oh? That didn’t happen to be your first, did it?” Hisoka asked slowly. There was a teasing glint that Rin wished he could smack right off that smug face.

The blush that bloomed across Rin’s face was answer enough, and he coughed awkwardly. “U-um, you can let go of me now,” he said and tugged lightly on the arm still wrapped around him.

Hisoka appeared to think about his request, but Rin could see the mirth still dancing in his eyes and knew the other was only humoring him. “Hmm~ I don’t feel like it.” If anything, Hisoka pulled him even closer.

Rin sighed and tried to make himself relax, knowing it would probably be awhile before he was released. “Why me?” he asked honestly.

“Who knows?” Hisoka chuckled, leaning back so that his head was against the chair.

“I should probably go. Killua and Gon must be worried.” Even as Rin said this, he didn’t try to get up. For once in the entire time he had known Hisoka, Rin was content to be in the other man’s presence.

He looked at the arm that Hisoka had laid across his legs and remembered the reason he even came there, so he reached down to pull it closer to him. He carefully turned the arm in different directions as he slowly made his way up to Hisoka’s hand, paying extra attention to the spot that was covered in the not-skin. Rin played with the limp fingers, glancing up at Hisoka’s face frequently for any sign of pain. However, Hisoka only closed his eyes in what Rin thought—and hoped—was contentment.

“Can I ask you something?” Rin asked shyly, not wanting to ruin the good mood the man seemed to be in but also wanting answers.

“Sure~ Although, that doesn’t mean I’ll answer,” he stated without opening his eyes.

Rin gave the hand a small squeeze. “Your nen ability, it seems you can attach it to certain objects and then be able to pull them to you but that wouldn’t explain how your arm stuck to you, or this strange texture.” He touched the part in question for emphasis.

“Bungee Gum and Texture Surprise,” Hisoka said suddenly.

“What?” Rin looked at him, tilting his head to the side as his eyebrows furrowed slightly.

Hisoka’s lips slowly curled into a smirk, and Rin had to jerk his gaze away from them as he blushed. “That’s what I call them. For Bungee Gum, my aura forms a substance with the properties of rubber and gum. By the way, I call this Bungee Gum because when I was a child, that was the name of my favorite chewing gum.”

“What’s with your naming sense?” Rin deadpanned, then cringed as he internally hoped it wouldn’t anger him.

“You’re no fun~” Hisoka pouted and flicked his forehead without even looking. “What you’re feeling is a piece of cloth. My Texture Surprise uses my aura and imagination to reproduce the appearance of skin. The name comes from the stickers that were included with a popular snack a while back.”

Rin stared blankly at the man. He’s strangely talkative all of a sudden. “Should you be telling me all this?” he asked.

“Knowing this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to defeat me.” His smirk widened, and Rin could feel his nen take on a small hint of that deadly bloodlust.

“That’s not what I-” Rin cut himself off. He sighed and stared down at his hands in thought, then clenched them as he got up his nerve. “I’m sure you already know this, but my nen is slightly different than normal. I can release it into the air around me almost like branches, I guess would the easiest way to explain it, instead of the usual aura. This means I can infuse the air with my nen, so I can send bursts of wind at people. In that way, I guess I’m kind of like a Manipulator, though I’ve been told that I’m actually a Specialist.” Rin knew he was rambling and not really making much sense at that point, but he couldn’t stop.

Hisoka cracked open one eye. “Should you be telling me this?”

“It’s only fair. You told me about your abilities, even though you didn’t have to.” He fidgeted slightly before remembering where that had gotten him and stopped.

Hisoka’s golden eye gazed at him in consideration before he eventually closed it again. Rin continued to watch him, though, hoping he had made the right choice, but the man just relaxed even further. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him relaxed before. Rin gave a small grin as he got an idea, one that would probably end with him being injured, but the small burst of confidence he had gotten after getting away with everything so far was still flowing through him, so he decided to chance it.

He gently placed the arm in his lap and reached one hand up to poke Hisoka’s pale cheek. His first thought was that it was softer than he had expected—he was almost tempted to just abandon his plan and run his fingers along the skin, instead. His second was that he was slightly annoyed that the man didn’t so much as twitch. A pout began to form when more poking did nothing. Okay, change in tactics then. He reached up with both hands to grab Hisoka’s cheeks and pulled. This finally got a reaction.

Hisoka slowly opened his eyes and glared down at him.

Killua and Gon really must have been rubbing off on him because the glare didn’t even faze him.

“Don’t tell me you have more questions,” Hisoka drawled slowly.

Rin shook his head. “It’s getting late, so I think it’s about time I leave.”

“Hmm~” Hisoka hummed and looked out the window.

Rin was starting to think that Hisoka would refuse to let him go when he finally felt the arm release him. He immediately jumped to his feet before the other man could change his mind. It feels so nice to stretch, he thought as he raised his arms straight into the air.

Shuffling behind him alerted Rin to the fact that Hisoka had stood up as well, and he glanced back curiously to see what the man was doing.

“I’m going to take a shower. You’re free to join me if you want~” he offered, leering down at Rin with a look that brought the blush come rushing right back.

Rin glared at him. “I-In your dreams!” he said, inwardly cursing his stutter.

Hisoka smirked. “Don’t tempt me~”

Rin huffed and stepped in the direction of the door but paused when he heard Hisoka speak.

“What? No goodnight kiss,” he asked. There was a pout adorning Hisoka’s face, but Rin knew that he was just teasing him. Still...

Rin stared at him seriously for a moment, absently biting at his bottom lip. I know he’s just messing with me, but... Rin stood on his tiptoes and placed a small peck on Hisoka’s lips, then darted away before Hisoka could grab him. He looked back right before closing the door and caught a glimpse of Hisoka’s slightly shocked and amused expression.

I’m probably going to regret that later.


 

Rin managed to avoid all questions about what he had to do when he got back to the room. It wasn’t easy. Both boys were relentless and would randomly ask whenever Rin let his guard down. Killua already seemed to have a guess, but he stated that he liked to see Rin struggle, and it just cemented Rin’s resolve to keep Hisoka and Killua far, far away from each other. Thankfully, they finally let it go after the second month was up, probably too excited to be practicing nen again.

They had just left Wing’s house after one said practice and were making their way back to the room. On the elevator ride up, Rin had to try and stifle a yawn with his hand. All he wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep, but they still had to walk all the way down the hallway. He was leaning against the wall and had already started to nod off when he sensed a flare of nen. He jerked so that he was standing up straight, his own nen flaring up briefly before settling, and glanced at the others. They were already tensed up and staring at the elevator doors intently. They’re getting better at sensing nen, at least.

“Killua...Zushi...Rin…” Gon warned.

“Osu,” Zushi whispered.

Killua glanced at Gon, then back to the doors. “We have company.”

As soon as they stepped off the elevator they were greeted to the sight of three men standing in front of them. To make matters worse, one of them was Gido.

Rin could already feel a growl building inside his chest at the sight of him. I swear, if he came to cause trouble he has another thing coming.

Killua gave an exasperated sigh. “You guys don’t know when to quit. That’s why no one likes you.”

Well, it seems like Killua and Gon know the other two, which probably isn’t a good thing since they’re hanging out with a guy like Gido.

A man with grey hair and slanted eyes remarked, “Oh, don’t be so harsh. Tell me when you’re going to fight, because I’d love to be your opponent.”

Killua looked over at Gon, irritation brimming in his eyes, “I guess they specialize in hunting newbies. They want to rack up wins by beating us up.”

“We’re getting desperate,” the man admitted, “Because our deadline is nearing. Come on, let’s fight. I’ll even demonstrate my power right now,” he offered, letting his nen flow out threateningly.

These men sound pathetic, Rin thought as his eyes narrowed. He could feel the sickening feeling of the other man’s nen touch him and felt his own nen burn in answer. He shoved it away from him, and the man gasped in shock at having his nen forcefully subdued. Rin was honestly surprised by how easy it was. These men combined were nothing compared to the sheer weight of Hisoka’s nen, so he curled it around them in warning before letting it settle back. Zushi gazed up at him in surprise, and Rin spared him a small smile in reassurance. The other two men were now looking at him warily, but before they could do anything, Gon interrupted.

Gon stepped forward slightly so that he was standing in front of their small group, something that tugged at all of Rin’s protective instincts since it would be harder to pull the boy back to safety. “I’m fighting on June 10th.”

Rin gaped at him. Don’t tell them that!

“Hey, Gon!” Killua growled.

The man lowered his gaze to the ground. “That won’t work. My deadline is May 29th. Fight on that day,” he demanded.

Killua glared daggers at him. “Who cares about your deadline, moron?” He turned to them. “Let’s go,” Killua said and took one step forward.

“Gon-chan,” the man called out. “You and I will fight. I guarantee it.”

“Gon, ignore him,” Killua said without looking back. The white haired boy was getting good at reading Gon because Rin could see the same burning desire to fight that the boy got before every challenge.

Rin tugged on Gon’s sleeve. “Come on.”

He made sure to keep a strong grip on it in case Gon decided to try anything stupid, and it was only when they were safely back in their room that Rin started to question them.

“How do you know those guys? They gave me all kinds of creeps,” Rin asked. He was seriously starting to grow concerned over all the weirdos they kept running into.

Gon looked over at him with furrowed brows. “After we registered for our first match on this floor, they tried to attack us with nen as an initiation.” He raised a hand to his chin as he said, “You already know Gido, and I think the other two were named Sadaso and Riehlvelt.”

“Tch. Enough about them. Let’s practice our nen,” he said, then he pointed at Rin with a glare. “And you! Go sleep if you’re tired. All your yawning is making me tired.”

“Sorry,” Rin said timidly.

He moved to the bed and laid down but had his head at the foot of the bed so he could still watch them practice. They were definitely getting better at using their nen, but it would still be a while before they perfected it.

I think Zushi might be a little jealous, Rin thought and stared in amusement as the younger boy demanded that they stop for the day. It was understandable really. Zushi had been training for longer and yet both Killua and Gon were already getting ahead of him. Rin made a mental note to say something to Wing the next time he saw the man. It would be bad if Zushi became dejected over training.

Since training was no longer an option, Killua and Zushi eventually left the room—Killua, unsurprisingly, saying something about food as he closed the door. Now that Rin had nothing to do, he shifted so that he could burrow under the blanket, sinking into the fluffy warmth with a contented sigh, one that turned into a grunt as a weight landed on top of him.

“What do you want to do now?” Gon asked curiously, and Rin could feel him trying to tug the blanket away from his face.

Rin held on stubbornly and mumbled into the bed, “How about a nap?”

Gon laughed and rolled off so that he laying right next to Rin. “That’s all you ever want to do.”

An insistent ringing broke the playful atmosphere, and they peered over at the phone.

“I’ll get it.” Gon volunteered, getting up to go answer it. Rin could hear his happy, “Hello?” even from his blanket cocoon.

Rin’s confusion turned into concern when Gon said nothing else. Sitting up, he saw Gon standing in the open doorway clutching at something in his hand and wearing the coldest expression he had ever seen on Gon’s face. It was enough to make him immediately jump out of bed.

“What happened?” Rin asked as he ran over, eyes roving over the boy to make sure he wasn’t hurt anywhere.

“They took Zushi,” Gon said very slowly, hand clutched around the phone in a death grip. “They’re threatening to hurt him unless I fight them.”

Rin felt rage flash through him but then forced himself to take a deep breath before he did something drastic.

“Before we do anything, we should go to Wing-san and let him know. Okay?” Rin tried to smile soothingly.

“Okay.” Gon sighed and gradually loosened his hold on the phone enough so that Rin could gently take it from him.


 

During the walk to Wing’s apartment, Rin noticed that Gon’s fists were clenched so tight that his knuckles were white. So much so that he was worried Gon’s palm would start bleeding if he kept it up any longer, so he reached out and wrapped his hand around the tight fist. Gon briefly glanced over at him before turning his gaze straight forward again, but the fist had loosened, fingers moving to clutch at Rin’s instead. The grip was almost painful, but he didn’t let it show. He’d rather be the one getting hurt, instead of Gon.

Once the building was in sight, Gon picked up his pace, tugging Rin along with him. The boy all but burst into the apartment before Rin could stop him, then stopped right in the doorway. Rin only just barely managed to avoid running into him, and he looked up to see what had made Gon stop so suddenly, only to be greeted with the sight of Wing standing right next to the boy they had been worried about.

“Zushi?! You’re okay!” Gon let go of Rin’s hand and ran toward the now startled boy.

Zushi just looked confused. “Osu! Why wouldn’t I be?”

Gon shot Rin a confused look, then turned back to the younger boy. Rin took the chance to meet Wing’s eyes and tried to silently ask what had happened, to which the man only smiled. It was not a comforting smile in the slightest.

“It appears Zushi wasn’t feeling well and passed out. Thankfully, Killua happened to be passing by and brought him here,” Wing said, and Rin could feel exactly how angry the man was as his nen fluttered to life for a brief second.

“But that’s not-”

“I’m glad that Killua was nearby. Are you sure you’re feeling better, Zushi?” Rin asked, cutting off Gon. When he was sure that Zushi wouldn’t see, Rin met Gon’s eyes and gave a small shake of his head. If Wing wanted his disciple to know about what happened, then he would tell him. It wasn’t their place to.

Gon didn’t appear happy about it, but he didn’t try and say anything else.

Zushi, on the other hand, looked embarrassed. “Yeah, I feel fine now.”

Rin smiled, finally feeling the tension leave his body. “I’m glad,” he said.

Gon fidgeted in his spot and turned to Wing. “Can I try that video thing again, Wing-san?”

The man appeared startled by the sudden request but smiled. “Alright.”

Rin hung back as Wing set up the video again, watching as both Gon and Zushi tried to guess how many threads were used. They eventually gave up, and Wing shut the video off right as the door flew open again.

Killua looked as startled to see them as they were to see him.

“Huh? Killua?” Gon asked in surprise.

Killua looked over at the boy in surprise. “Gon, you were here?”

“Y-Yeah…” Gon said uneasily.

Wing looked between the two boys and finally stepped forward. “Killua-kun, I believe you helped Zushi last night. Thank you.”

Killua nodded at the man, then turned his attention to Zushi. “You feeling all right?” he asked in an uncharacteristically soft voice.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Rin just asked me the same thing. I was probably just tired. Sorry to worry you!” Zushi bowed in thanks.

“Oh, Wing-san.” Killua turned back to the older man. “Can we watch that video again? I’ve learned how to use gyo.”

Gon beamed at this proclamation, but Zushi just looked on in dread. I definitely need to say something to Wing-san about Zushi.

The video turned back on, and Killua raised a finger in concentration. “Fifteen threads, right? Thirteen for the cards, one for the scarf, and a well hidden one that leads to the arm he tossed,” he listed. “Continue,” he added, still staring intently at the screen. “Hisoka is...Hisoka’s aura appears to expand and contract. Or does it attract certain objects, similar to a magnet? Why else would his arm reattach? Or fly into his opponent’s chin? It’s probably the former. His aura is elastic, like rubber. That would explain most of his tricks,” he deduced, looking oddly proud of himself.

“He calls it Bungee Gum,” Rin informed helpfully.

Killua whirled to face him and japped a finger in his direction. “How the hell would you know that?!”

Rin smiled sheepishly. “He told me.”

“Very good.” Wing smartly interjected before a fight could break out. “You pass, but I am surprised. I didn’t expect you both to learn gyo overnight.”

Killua blinked at Gon in surprise. “Gon?” he asked.

“Uh-huh, but I still couldn’t figure out Hisoka’s power,” Gon admitted with a smile.

“So, Killua-kun, since you finished your assignment, I assume you want to fight, yes?” Wing questioned.

Killua turned back to Gon in disbelief.

“O-Oh, I wasn’t trying to beat you to the punch. I just got an itch to fight.” Gon tried to explain.

“Yeah, I get it.” Killua smiled. “Actually, I’ve already chosen my day to fight: May 29th.”

Gon raised a hand and grinned. “Mine’s May 30th.”

Wing gave a deep sigh, but there was a fondness lingering in his eyes that had Rin hiding a smile behind his hand. “That’s fine. I underestimated how fast you would learn. Spend the remaining days practicing ten and ren. Be sure you get plenty of practice, rest, and sleep.” Here he shot them all a warning look. “And no more injuries, understood?”

Rin gulped when the look was aimed at him. It wasn’t my fault...


 

Rin was a nervous ball of energy. They were sitting in almost the same exact spot they were in during Hisoka’s fight, and the memory was not helping his peace of mind. There was still a bit of time before Gon’s match was supposed to start, and Rin was starting to work himself up into panic attack.

“Would you stop all that fidgeting?!” Killua glowered at him.

Rin winced and tried to make himself sit still. “Sorry, it’s just...What if he gets hurt really bad? Or worse, what if he-” he cut himself off. Just the thought made Rin even more anxious than he already was.

He let out a yelp when Killua jabbed him in the side. “He’ll be fine. What do you think he’s been training this whole time for?”

“I know, but-” Rin bit his bottom lip.

Right before Killua could scold him again, the announcer spoke up, “Gon is the first to arrive! After four fights, he has a 3-1 record. He’s on a roll!” In great contrast from Gon’s first match, the crowd actually cheered for him as he stepped onto the ring. “And next, with a fiery display...Hisoka appears! His lethal battle with Kastro is still fresh in everyone’s minds. His record is 9-3. If he wins, he can challenge a Floor Master. If he loses, he falls all the way down. However, he has yet to lose when he steps into the ring! Will his undefeated record continue?”

I don’t know if my heart can handle this. Every instinct inside Rin was telling him to grab Gon and leave. I swear if Hisoka hurts him, I don’t care how great of a kisser he is, he’ll have to deal with me. Hisoka must have felt Rin’s glare because he spared a quick glance in his direction but then turned back. Rin narrowed his eyes. Hisoka’s smirk was definitely tinged with amusement now, much to his annoyance.

Immediately after the match started, Gon darted forward with a quick step, but Hisoka merely moved to the side and karate chopped the boy’s back. This didn’t deter Gon, though, because he came back with a flurry of kicks and punches, but Hisoka dodged them all easily. Hisoka even threw in a couple of attacks here and there, and eventually managed to land a kick that sent Gon flying across the ring. Gon ran around to try and attack him from behind, but Hisoka anticipated this and landed a blow on his stomach. None of Gon’s attacks so far had managed to make contact, and another rough blow to Gon’s face had Rin cringing internally. If this keeps up, Gon’s going to be in real trouble…

When the referee called out a clean hit, Gon changed tactics. He lifted up one of the tiles and threw it at Hisoka, then he kicked it to break the tile into smaller pieces. It actually worked, too, because Gon jumped out of the rubble and managed to punch Hisoka’s face, much to the rest of the audience’s surprise and excitement.

Rin could only cringe because as soon as the hit landed Hisoka’s nen flared to life with zealous. Now he definitely wanted to just run down and grab Gon.

Hisoka raised a hand to his face and started to walk toward Gon, who did the same. Once Gon got to him, the boy pulled out the badge and held it out to Hisoka. Hisoka just appeared amused by the whole thing but took it anyway. Gon appeared to say something to him, and Rin leaned forward, curious to hear what it was and hoping it wasn’t anything provoking. Knowing Gon, it was probably was.

After the exchange was done, both fighters jumped away from each other. It seemed that whatever conversation they had made Hisoka decide to fight seriously, much to Rin’s horror and probably Gon’s joy. The magician darted forward suddenly, taking on a burst of speed that he didn’t have at the beginning of the fight, and elbowed Gon in the face, then he ran behind Gon and hit his back. At one point, Gon managed to dodge an attack, and Rin stared with wide eyes as Hisoka kicked a tile across the room.

I’m surrounded by monsters... The same thing was that Rin was starting to include both Killua and Gon in that list.

A game of cat and mouse started, with Hisoka never far behind. All Gon could do was block whenever possible and try to keep out of reach. It was when Hisoka landed a particularly awful blow to Gon’s back that things really started to look bad.

Gon’s not going to last long at this pace. Rin was clenching his fists so hard that his nails  had broken the skin. A glance to the side showed that Killua was becoming just as agitated as he was. Turning back to the fight, Rin noticed that Hisoka had started to lift up a hand and felt his eyes widen in horror. No...He’s going to use…

A simple jerk of his finger had Gon flying toward his waiting fist. Even from where he was sitting, Rin could the hear the loud ‘smack’ as it connected. Gon did eventually get back up, but it was clear to everyone watching that Gon had taken considerable damage from that one blow as he wavered on the spot.

Don’t over do it, Gon.

Probably knowing that he could do nothing else, Gon rushed forward and made a desperate flurry of punches. The fact that these punches landed without Hisoka trying to dodge at all made Rin stare in confusion and suspicion. Why isn’t he trying to stop them? Wait... Rin focused on the feel of Hisoka’s nen that was still swirling through the air. He’s actually enjoying it...Why the hell do I like this creep?! That made Rin stiffen in surprise, then he shook his head to try and rid himself of the thought.

The match finally ended when Hisoka played a dirty trick. He attached the thread on Gon’s cheek to a rock and tricked him into looking in the other direction, making him get a face full of rock.

He better hope he doesn’t see me anytime soon.


 

“Well, you finally accomplished your objective, right?” Killua said with a smile.

Gon beamed, looking almost comically happy for someone so beat up. “Uh-huh.”

“Then we don’t have any more business here. Gon, what are you going to do?” Killua asked.

Gon answered immediately, beaming with pride, “Go back to Whale Island.”

Killua looked over at him in surprise. “Whale Island?”

“Uh-huh. I was able to return the favor to Hisoka, so I want to go back to the island and show Mito-san my license.” Gon paused for a second and a slightly guilty expression took over.  “It’s been over half a year since I left…”

“I guess I’ll come with you,” Killua decided, shoving his hands in his pockets as he stared straight ahead.

Gon turned to him. “Huh?”

Rin didn’t know why Gon looked so shocked. Did he honestly think they would just ditch him after all that?

“Besides, I’d like to meet Mito-san,” Killua added playfully. His eyes were twinkling mischievously, and Rin figured he was probably thinking of all the ways he could embarrass Gon.

“Really?” Gon asked, eyes lighting up in excitement. “Then let’s go together.”

“Yeah, I’ll tag along.” Killua glanced over at Rin with a smirk. “And I’m guessing you’re coming too?” he asked.

“Only if Gon doesn’t mind.” Rin peered over at him, trying to hide the hope in his eyes.

Gon smiled at him and nodded happily. “Sure! The more the merrier. Besides, I wanted to introduce both of you to Mito-san, anyway.”

Rin slowed his pace down until he was behind them and watched fondly as Gon told Killua all about his home. The white haired boy was scowling slightly, but it was clear that he was interested, no matter how much he tried to pretend otherwise. Always trying to act all tough, Rin thought, and he had to stop himself from snorting. He must have still made some kind of sound because Killua shot him a suspicious look, to which he just sent an innocent one back. The boy studied him with narrowed eyes for a few more seconds before turning back to his companion.

I wish it would stay like this forever. However, his peace of mind was broken when Hisoka’s smirking face flashed across his mind. He narrowed his eyes. I’ll protect them with everything I’ve got. Even from you.

Chapter Text

 

So, this is where Gon grew up. It’s so beautiful.

The boat ride there had pulled at every string of patience Rin had. He had never quite liked boats, even when he was younger. It wasn’t that he got sea sick or anything. There was just something that screamed wrong at him about not being on land. It made travelling with his father slightly more difficult in the past, but they made due.

It also didn’t help that Killua and Gon got bored halfway through the trip and took to bickering even more than they usually did. Rin had just barely managed to stop an all out food-fight from happening while on board, so he was glad to finally be back on solid ground.

The peer itself was bustling with sailors and fishermen, making it very noisy as they all yelled one thing or another. Rin flinched slightly as, once again, a person almost ran right into him. Gon must have noticed his discomfort because he reached back and grabbed his hand, and Rin ignored Killua’s teasing look and focused on not freaking out. There was a certain grace to how Gon dodged people and items as they made their through the crowd, one that suited the boy just as well as simply dashing headfirst into danger. Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before they made it out, and the peer was soon replaced with a dirt path leading further into the island.

Now that he could breath more easily, Rin took the chance to look around, taking in the sheer height of the trees surrounding them. He was absolutely itching to go exploring to find all the different kinds of plants that could be growing nearby, and it was only the hold Gon still had on his hand that prevented him from doing just that. Gon had told him the island had a lot of undeveloped parts where only plants and animals ruled, but Rin didn’t think it would be so different from what he was used to. The trees here dwarfed the ones around his house, and it made his eyes light up with an excitement he hadn’t felt in a long time.

The longer they walked the more energy Gon seemed to have, until he was practically vibrating by the time a house came into view. Gon immediately went racing off ahead, yelling out a greeting at the top of his lungs.

“Mito-san!” Gon waved his hand excitedly in the air as he ran.

By the time Rin and Killua caught up with him, Gon was already hugging a lady with orange, shoulder-length hair and a red, long-sleeved blouse over a long, cream-colored dress. She pulled back enough so that she could cradle Gon’s face, turning it this way and that.

Killua and Rin stopped when they were a foot away, both not wanting to intrude on the moment. When Rin spared a brief glance over at the boy still standing next to him, he could tell that Killua was slightly nervous. He had his hands shoved in his pockets like he usually did, but he was fidgeting, shifting from foot to foot so minutely that if Rin was looking for it, he would have missed it. It had Rin’s lips quirking up into a smile, one that he quickly hid when Killua shot him a look.

When Mito had finished checking over Gon, she looked up at them. There was a short moment of surprise before a smile overtook her face. “You must be Killua and Rin, right?”

It was their turn to be surprised as Rin and Killua shared a glance.

“You know about us?” Killua asked slowly.

Mito nodded, gazing at them warmly. “Yes, Gon told me all about you two in his letters.” She gestured to the house. “Oh, let’s head inside so I can get you something to eat. You must be hungry after all that traveling.”

Mito ushered them inside and made them sit at a long, wooden table as she bustled around the house.

Mito picked up some folded cloth that had been laying on the table and tucked it away in a drawer, sending Gon a glare as she did. “Sheesh, you should have let me know you were coming home. I didn’t have time to clean or prepare anything,” she scolded.

Gon shook his head. The same smile of contentment he had had since they arrived still sitting comfortably on his face. “It’s not a big deal, whatever is fine.”

Mito froze in her tidying, and Rin blanched at the dark aura that suddenly poured out of her. It reminded Rin of the ladies in town who would always get after their husbands and children for not doing what they’re told.

Mito slowly put her hands on her hips and glowered at Gon. “What are you saying? Your friends came all the way out here to visit.”

“No, it’s okay,” Killua tried. His face was pale as he raised a hand in a placating manner.

If what Rin had learned about Killua’s mother in the few times he had mentioned her, then it was that women should definitely not be messed with. A lesson Killua probably knew first hand.

Mito ignored him and continued to mumble angrily, “Honestly, you should have said something first.”

Rin made to get up from his seat, hoping to ease her anger. “Um, do you want any help?” he offered.

“You sit right back down, mister,” Mito ordered and pointed a plate at him threateningly. “You are the guest.”

What was with people using otherwise harmless objects as weapons?

“But...I wouldn’t feel right staying here and not doing anything to help,” Rin tried to explain.

Gon’s great grandma finally spoke up before Mito could respond. “Oh, let the boy help if he wants. It’s nice to see someone with manners these days.” She placed her cup on the table and aimed a playful grin at Gon, who sheepishly rubbed his head.

“Rin’s a really good cook. He could help make dinner,” Killua added, eyes glittering as he smirked at Rin.

Mito scrutinized him, making Rin shift uncomfortably. He wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but apparently she found it because she said, “Fine. You can help me.” She gave him a soft smile before turning back to Gon and putting a hand on her hip again. “Oh, that’s right. Take a bath while we make something to eat, and put out your dirty clothes. I’ll be doing laundry.”

Gon nodded. “Okay, later,” he said.

“Now! You have ten seconds!” she demanded and started counting down.

It appeared to be something that happened often because Gon suddenly looked scared and started running back and forth, hurriedly taking off clothes as he went. The boy wasn’t even paying attention to where they landed, so Rin had to duck down right before a shirt smacked him in the face. Instead, it bounced off the cabinet to his right.

Killua stared at Gon like he had grown a second head. “Is she always like this?”

“Pretty much,” Gon said calmly, then proceeded to rip off Killua’s shirt, much to the boy’s embarrassment. “Let’s move fast!” Gon yelled and dragged Killua up the stairs just as Mito got to zero.

Rin sweatdropped, watching as they disappeared upstairs in amusement, though some part of him wished they hadn’t left him to the wolves. The feeling only increased when Mito suddenly turned to face him, making him sitting up straighter in his seat. He did not want her to turn her wrath to him if that was the reaction she got from Gon of all people.

She pointed at him, this time without a plate. “Don’t think that just because you’re technically an adult that the same won’t be happening to you. Now, go wash your hands so we can start cooking,” Mito ordered with a stern look that rivalled even Hisoka’s glare.

“Yes, ma’am,” Rin said as he hurriedly got up and went to the sink. Women are scary…

Rin had just dried off his hands when Mito came in, rolling up her sleeves as she went.

“Can you start on the salad? I’ll work on the meatballs,” Mito asked.

Rin nodded and gave tiny salute. “Sure thing.”

“Mah, it seems you’ve been hanging around Gon too much.” Mito laughed, and it made her whole face light up.

Rin blinked slowly before giving himself a small shake. So that’s where Gon got it from.

Rin smiled fondly. “You’re probably right.”

A warm atmosphere filled the room as the two worked side by side in silence. They would occasionally discuss what seasonings would be best to use, or what different combinations of herbs would get what kind of taste. It was fun. He could already feel his chest bursting with warmth. The last time he had someone to cook with was when his father was still alive, so he was going to soak it in as much as he could while he still had the chance, which is why he jerked back when Mito suddenly yelled.

“Oh no!” Mito exclaimed, rushing over and grabbing his hand in order to hold a towel to it. He twitched slightly in surprise until he noticed blood dripping from his finger. “Grandma, can you get the first aid kit?”

“You don’t have to-” Rin started, but stopped abruptly when she levelled a glare at him.

Mito stared him down with all the strength of a mother bear, daring him to object. “It’s no trouble at all.”

Gon’s great grandma chose that moment to come back with the first aid kit in her hand. The kit was organized, and Mito apparently knew where everything was, so it didn’t take long before Rin’s finger was cleaned and wrapped.

“There, all done.” Mito examined the bandaged finger with pride. “You’re lucky that it wasn’t that deep. You should be more careful.”

Rin felt his cheeks heat up and ducked his head down in embarrassment. “Sorry, I was just thinking about something.”

Mito stared at him curiously, tilting her head slightly to one side. Again, it was a look that Rin had seen on Gon’s face more than once. “What were you thinking about?”

He was reaching over to resume cutting up the lettuce, but his hand stilled at her question. “I was just wondering,” he paused, shuffling his feet nervously before he continued, “If this is what having a mother is like. My biological parents died in a car accident when I was young, so I can’t really remember them,” he finally admitted and waited, but when he still did not hear any sound from her Rin gathered enough courage to glance over. The sight of tears streaming down her face had his head jerking around fully. “Ah, it’s fine! My foster father was very kind, and he did everything he could to raise me. And I think I turned out decent enough, so, um, please don’t cry,” Rin rambled, raising his hands helplessly as she continued to do just that.

Mito shook her head, tears still running down her face, and flung herself at him. All Rin could do was stand in shock as she pulled him against her. He could faintly hear her heart thumping from where his face was pressed against her chest, and the warmth radiating from her sent a jolt of pain through his chest. His eyesight started to waver, and he slowly raised his arms up to hug her back. Her arms merely tightened around him, and that was when the dam finally broke. Quiet sobs racked through his body as he buried his face in her shirt, clinging to her as he did to his foster father when he was wondering why Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t wake up.

Fingers started combing through his black hair, and he could faintly hear a soothing hum next to his ear. Mito didn’t stop until the sobs had almost completely calmed. Only then did she pull back slightly to look down at him. The sight of her concerned face had Rin blushing lightly in shame, and he raised a hand to wipe away the remaining tears.

Mito tapped his hand before he could. “Ah, ah. If you rub it, you’re just going to make your face red.” She turned and grabbed a clean towel, running water over it, then she gently grabbed his chin with one hand and dabbed at the tear marks. “There. Good as new,” she said and stepped back to admire her work, then she wiped her own face as well. “This can be our little secret.”

“Okay.” Rin smiled tiredly, feeling as if a weight he wasn’t even aware he had been carrying had been lifted off his shoulders.


 

The rest of the cooking went by smoothly, and they managed to place all the food on the table by the time Killua and Gon came tumbling down the stair with clean clothes and wet hair.

“Okay, let’s eat,” Mito said happily, though she was eyeing their still slightly dripping hair with annoyance.

Killua’s eyes widened as he took in the large amount of food on the table. “Wow! This looks delicious,” he exclaimed, grinning widely. He looked a few seconds away from drooling.

Mito smiled warmly at them and gestured to the dishes. “All right! Let’s dig in. Please help yourself, Killua, Rin.”

Killua nodded and said, “Right.”

“Thank you,” Rin said.

He smiled in amusement as Gon and Killua immediately started pilling food onto their plates, sometimes simply shoveling it into their mouths instead, and decided to just wait until they had calmed down slightly before trying to grab anything. They acted like they were starved, which made him slightly miffed since Rin had made sure that they ate three meals everyday while on the boat. He met Mito’s exasperated gaze from across the table and smiled when she mouthed ‘boys’ and rolled her eyes.

Gon’s voice suddenly drew his attention back to the black haired boy. “Hmm? Rin, why is your face red?” Gon asked and tilted his head slightly to the side. Yup, he definitely got that from Mito-san.

Rin’s hand twitched from where he was reaching over to grab some lettuce. Crap, of course he would notice. What the hell do I say, he thought, trying to come up with a good excuse. Thankfully, like the godsend that Rin was starting to realize that she was, Mito came to his rescue.

She put a hand on her cheek innocently, and Rin slowly blinked when there even appeared to be flowers floating behind her head. “He got a little overheated in the kitchen, but he’ll be fine in a little while.”

“Is that so?” Killua asked. He didn’t look like he believed it because he turned to give Rin a grin.

Rin glared at him weakly. “W-What?” he demanded, then scowled internally. One of these days he definitely needed to work on his stutter.

Killua turned his head away with a shrug. “Nothing,” he drawled. There was a teasing lilt to his voice, and Rin groaned, knowing he just gave the boy more ammunition to use to mess with him. One thing that Killua was, was observant.

After they focused back on their food, Rin stole another glance over at Mito, who simply winked at him with a smile. I really don’t want to ever mess with Mito-san, Rin thought, even as he felt a smile spread across his face, so he looked back down at his plate to try and hide it.

“Oh, right. Mito-san,” Gon began excitedly, shoving his hand into his pocket and pulling out his license, “Look! This is a Hunter License.” He was beaming as he held it out to her.

“Hmm…” She took it delicately from him and stared down at it in thought. “It looks pretty normal.” Rin watched warily as he saw a glint of mischief enter her eyes, then she bent it. “There.”

Gon jumped up from his seat in panic and grabbed the card out of her hands. “Hey, what are you doing?!”

Mito laughed and waved a hand through the air. “Just kidding. I would never do anything like that.”

“Man, what if it doesn’t work anymore?” Gon grumbled under his breath. He turned the card over in his hands, checking to make sure it wasn’t broken.

Rin turned to Killua and took in the content smile that had overtaken the boy’s face as he watched them bicker. However, as soon as Killua noticed that Rin was watching him, he turned away with a huff, making Rin chuckle.


 

Gon came running out of the house and only stopped when he had reached them. “Mito-san, I’m going to show Killua around the island,” he said. He was practically bouncing with energy, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he tried to stand still.

Killua followed behind him in a more sedate pace, but Rin could still see the excitement lingering in his eyes.

Mito paused in where she was about to hang up another sheet on the clothesline. “Won’t that take a while? Want me to pack some food for you?” she asked, concern filling her face as her eyebrows furrowed slightly.

Gon had already started to walk away when he answered. “That’s okay! We’ll find something to eat in the forest,” he called back over his shoulder.

Mito looked over at Rin and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you want to go with them?”

Rin watched as the two boys sped out of sight and shook his head. “No, I think they’ll have more fun with it just being the two of them,” he admitted and leaned back against the house, using it to block out the sun. It was fairly hot outside, so the shade was a nice reprieve.

When he first came outside, Rin had offered to help hang up the laundry, but Mito hadn’t let him. She insisted that he take the time to relax, and after some prompting, he listened.

“You’ve already helped cook. Besides, I’ve been doing this for longer than you have. I’ll be fine,” she had said.

Now, she was staring at him with an unreadable expression. That is, right before she bent down and flicked his nose. “I’m sure they would have fun with you being there, too.”

Rin pouted and rubbed at his abused nose. “That was mean.”

Mito put a hand on her hip with a smirk. “I’m sure you’ll live,” she said and turned back to the laundry.

Rin huffed and eyed her warily. “Women are terrifying,” he mumbled under his breath.

“What was that?” Mito loudly asked. She gave a closed eye smile, practically radiating bloodlust.

Rin paled. “N-Nothing!”

“That’s what I thought,” she sung and turned to pull out another sheet from the basket.

No wonder Gon is so respectful to women if this is who raised him. He could almost imagine Mito scolding Gon for saying something blunt to a lady, and the image almost made him laugh, especially when he pictured the kicked-puppy look Gon would probably give her afterward.

“So, who's the lucky lady?”

The sudden question almost had him choking on his spit. “W-What? What are you talking about?” Rin asked. He tried to ignore the way his cheeks grew hotter as his mind immediately went to a certain clown.

Mito didn’t, and she gave him a teasing smile. “Oh, don’t even try that. I recognize that glint in your eyes anywhere.”

“We’re not- He’s not-” Rin slammed his mouth shut with a wince. He refused to meet her eyes and stared at the ground, waiting for her reaction to his slip up.

She just carried on without a pause. “And why not? It’s obvious you like him.”

Rin relaxed slightly and peeked over at her for a split second, then frowned down at the ground. “I don’t think it would work out. He’s not exactly…dating material.”

“Why?” Mito asked. She had given up on the laundry altogether and came to sit on the ground next to him.

“He’s a crazy, cold-blooded killer,” Rin blurted out. “I never know what he’s thinking, and he’s always messing with me.”

“And?” Mito prompted.

Rin paused for a long second, then continued more quietly. “He can be surprisingly gentle sometimes, and it’s nice to be around him when he’s not trying to kill or injure me.” Here, he paused again and thought about that night in Heavens Arena. “And I felt...happy that he could feel relaxed around me.”

“It sounds like you’re absolutely smitten with him,” Mito said, nudging him playfully with her elbow.

Rin covered his face with both hands and groaned. His face was completely red by that point. “What do I do?! I’ve never liked someone before!”

She shrugged. “Listen to your heart.”

“That doesn’t help me at all.” Rin deadpanned.

A tick mark appeared on her forehead, and she flicked his forehead. “Don’t talk back to your elders,” she scolded.

“Sorry.” Rin ducked his head in case she decided to flick anything else. “It’s just...I don’t know what to do now.”

Mito got up, dusted off her dress, and walked over to the clothesline. She glanced over at him from the corner of her eyes as she said, “I think you’ll know when the time comes.”

What is that even supposed to mean?! Rin slumped over in defeat and laid on his back, staring up at the sky. The clouds continued to float on by without a care in the world.


 

The rest of the day went by in a sort of haze. All he could think about was the realization that he might possibly, most likely, maybe like Hisoka of all people. It didn’t help that at random times Hisoka’s face would pop up out of nowhere, lips curled up in that stupid, irritating smirk. He was mocking Rin even in his own mind, and Rin just wanted to bang his head against the wall. Eventually, it got to the point where Rin just collapsed onto the folded up futons as he contemplated his life. How did I go from having a fairly normal life to being surrounded by a bunch of crazy people?!

Rin groaned in complaint when Killua nudged him in the side with his foot. “Get up. I need to set up the futons.”

“Just let me die here in peace,” Rin mumbled into the fabric.

“Okay,” Killua agreed immediately, then went oddly silent.

A part of Rin that had grown more accustomed to Killua’s mischievous ways perked up in suspicion. That was too easy, he thought. He was about to raise his head when something jumped on top of him, knocking all the breath out of him. “Get off. You’re heavy,” he complained and tried to push Killua off his back.

“Feel like getting up now?” Killua asked slyly. If possible, he put even more weight on him.

Rin huffed. “Yes, yes. Now get up.” When the weight finally lifted, Rin sat up and glared at him. For someone so small, Killua sure weighed a lot. “You’re evil,” he said.

“You just figured that out?” Killua smirked. Blue eyes roved over Rin’s face, and he tilted his head to the side. “So? What’s got you in such a grumpy mood?”

Rin sighed and bent down to straighten up the futon. “Just a talk I had with Mito-san. She made me finally realize something.”

“What?” Killua asked. He was trying to keep the curiosity from showing on his face, but, like always, his eyes gave him away.

“That I like Hisoka.” Rin stated offhandedly. It showed how out of it he was that he didn’t even realize what he said.

Rin heard a rustle and saw that Killua had dropped his end of the futon. He was staring at Rin with his mouth hanging open. “You...you don’t mean that kind of like, do you?”

Crap, Rin panicked and tried to mentally will down the blush that threatened to overtake his face. “Um...maybe.” There was no point in trying to lie at that point, so he simply shrunk himself as small as he could while he waited for the inevitable reaction.

Killua ducked his head so that his hair covered his eyes, and Rin watched warily as Killua started to shake, growing slightly more concerned the longer the boy remained silent.

“Um-” Rin tried.

Killua’s head shot up as he finally exploded. “You idiot! What the heck are you thinking?!” he shouted and slammed a fist down on Rin’s head.

“I’m sorry!” Rin squeaked out, cradling his head from the pain. “It’s not like it’s something I can control. It just sort of happened. I didn’t even realize it till Mito-san told me I had something in my eyes that apparently said I liked someone. What does that even look like?!”

Killua must have seen the growing panic in Rin’s eyes because he visibly forced himself to calm down. “Fine, I get it.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “So? What are you planning on doing?”

“That’s the problem. I don’t know,” Rin admitted with a frown and combed a hand through his hair.

Killua shrugged carefreely and raised his hands in the air with a grin. “Well, looks like you’re screwed.”

“You’re not helping,” Rin cried out. Smothering himself in the futon was starting to look like a brilliant idea right about now.

Killua perked up as the curiosity came back full force, and he leaned closer. “Any chance that he likes you back?” he asked.

Rin groaned in frustration, hands twitching with the urge to tug at his hair again. “I don’t know. The only thing I can think of would be that time when he-” He couldn’t even finish the sentence without blushing.

Killua narrowed his eyes and leaned even closer. “When he what?”

“When he, um,” Rin coughed and shifted nervously, “Kissed me.” The last part came out barely louder than a whisper.

“Y-You...he...k-kiss…” Killua spluttered. Steam was practically coming from his head his face was so red.

“C-Calm down,” Rin said, trying calm him. The last thing he needed was for Killua to pass out, then Rin really would die of embarrassment.

Killua shook his head like a dog, face no longer red, but there was still a haunted look in his eyes. “Out of all the people you could have-” He sighed. “Just be careful, Rin,” he said, voice oddly seriously, and there was the concern that always seemed to be lingering deep within his eyes.

Warmth shot through Rin’s chest at the sight. “I will,” he promised.

Killua scowled and jabbed his chest with a finger, a sharp glare set on his face. “You better!” He huffed and turned to look at the door. “Hmm. I wonder what’s taking Gon so long to come back,” he wondered, frowning.

Rin glanced at the door and tilted his head. “It’s been awhile since he came home, maybe he’s talking to Mito-san?” he guessed.

“Probably.” Killua trailed off, then grinned mischievously. “I’m going to take a nap,” he said, then hopped onto Gon’s bed.

Rin only stared at him fondly and sighed when he realized he would have to finish setting up the futons alone.

Well, that could have gone worse.


 

When Gon eventually did come back upstairs, it was with a deep frown as he stared at a box in his hand. Rin asked if he was okay, and Gon told Rin exactly what Mito had told him. They both decided to wait for Killua to wake up before doing anything with it. Gon wanted to wait until the boy woke up on his own, but Rin, feeling slightly vindictive, japped Killua in the side and smiled at him when the boy sat up with a yelp.

Revenge is sweet, he thought and plastered an innocent looking expression on his face when Killua glanced over for the third time to glare at him.

“Oh?” Killua said. “I see, so this is the box.” He was holding the black box that Gon had brought up, turning it in different directions. “Huh? How do you open it?”

“Yeah. I tried a bunch of methods, but it wouldn’t open,” Gon informed, body wilting sadly.

“Mind if I use force?” Killua asked. He looked more excited about the idea than Rin would prefer.

Gon shook his head and leaned forward. “Go ahead.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Rin warned. The white haired boy might get on his nerves sometimes, but he still didn’t want him to get hurt.

“Okay…” Killua adjusted his grip and tried twisting with all his might, but the box didn’t budge. “It’s no use. This is no ordinary box. I should be able to twist open an ordinary steel box, and since we don’t know what’s inside, we can’t break the box,” Killua complained and tried shaking the box. “It’s not making a sound either. Your dad said to give this to you once you become a Hunter, right?”

Gon nodded. He was still wearing a frown, and it made Rin’s heart twinge painfully to see the otherwise cheerful boy so upset. “Yeah, that’s what I heard.”

“Once you become a Hunter…” Killua mused and tossed the box in the air, then he jolted. “I get it! I figured it out! Gon, there’s one thing we haven’t tried yet!” he yelled excitedly.

“Huh?” Gon asked, confused.

“Something you have as a Hunter that you didn’t have before,” Killua added with a grin.

Rin felt his eyes widen. “Oh!”

“Oh, I know!” Gon smacked his hand in his fist and said, “My Hunter License! But, there isn’t an opening for the card...”

Killua smacked his forehead. “No, that isn’t it. I meant nen.”

Gon blushed. “Oh…” he mumbled sheepishly, then grabbed the box and concentrated his nen.

Rin flinched back when the box started glowing brightly but leaned forward after the light had dissipated. There were pieces of metal littering the ground in front of Gon now.

“There’s another box inside.” Gon realized, staring at the newly revealed box sitting in his hand.

Killua poked at one of the metal plates on the floor before he picked it up. “These are just steel plates. It appears nothing was connecting them,” he observed, brows furrowing in confusion. He flipped the plate over, and his eyes widened.

“What’s wrong?” Gon asked in concern.

Killua tossed the plate to Gon. “Doesn’t that design look familiar?” he asked.

Rin leaned over and gazed down at the plate over Gon’s shoulder.

“This is...I know!” Gon snapped his fingers, face lighting up. “This is like the pattern on the promise thread Wing-san gave me.”

“Wasn’t that designed to snap if nen was used?” Killua asked, raising a hand up to his chin. “I bet this pattern holds a power similar to nen.”

Gon tilted his head. “Maybe we’re supposed to put the card in here now,” he pondered, then put his Hunter License in the open slot in the box. There was a small click before the box opened, and Gon looked up at them in surprise. “It worked!”

“Bingo!” Killua exclaimed, then smiled over at Gon.

Rin and Killua scooted closer so that they could all peer down at the box.

“A ring and a cassette tape…” Gon listed off.

Killua stared and added, “And a memory card? Look. That pattern is on the back of this ring. You should take care before you put it on,” he warned.

Gon looked at him questioningly. “Really? You think that Ging might try to hurt me?” He sounded shocked that Killua would even suggest such a thing, but Rin could see where the other boy was coming from.

“Just to be safe,” Killua insisted.

“Well, we can start by listening to the tape,” Gon suggested, getting up and going over to his closet.

Killua shrugged and said, “I guess.” He paused for a moment before he added, “Oh, can you copy it?”

“Sure, why?” Gon asked.

“Just to be safe,” Killua said again.

Gon came back over with a bulky cassette player in his arms and an extra tape. He struggled to put it all down without dropping anything, so Rin reached over to take it from him. Gon shot him a smile and leaned over to plug the player in.

Once Gon had settled down again, he put the tape in. His finger hesitated over the play button for a split second before finally pressing down. “Yo, Gon…” A deep voice suddenly filled the room, and Rin could hear Gon suck in a sharp breath, so he gently bumped him with his shoulder. Gon glanced at him, eyes wide, to which he just gave a small, reassuring smile back. It seemed to work because Rin could see Gon’s shoulders relax slightly, and he leaned back against Rin’s arm. “So you became a Hunter, too. Anyway, I have a question for you. Do you want to see me?” Rin felt his eye twitch. Why else would he go through all this trouble? “If you do, keep on listening. If you don’t, press the stop button.” Rin glanced down at Gon, but the boy didn’t move an inch. “I’m guessing that’s a ‘yes’. Then, I’ll ask you once more. Are you prepared? Hunters are selfish creatures. They’re willing to sacrifice anything to get what they want. If you’re only slightly interested in seeing me, you should stop the tape now. I’ll give you a minute to consider it.”

Killua turned to face Gon. “Well?” he asked, then smiled and didn’t say anything more when he saw Gon’s happy expression.

On the recording, Ging sighed. “I guess you really do want to see me, but I don’t want to see you. I don’t know how I could face you now. After all, I chose my own desires over my parental duty.”

That’s no excuse, Rin wanted to growl. His nen was absolutely seething, and some of Rin’s aura must have escaped because Killua leaned back so he could look at him.

“Down boy,” Killua said with a smirk.

Rin glared half-heartedly at him and then forced his aura back down without a word.

Ging continued, “I’m a bad person. I’m guessing that by the time you hear this tape, at least ten years will have passed, but one thing still hasn’t changed. I’m still me. As you listen to this tape, I’m off doing reckless things. If you want to see me, find me. But as I said before, I don’t want to see you. If I sense you nearby, I’ll make myself scarce. Catch me if you can. You are a Hunter, aren’t you?”

Killua grinned. “Your dad isn’t going to be easy to track,” he said, then he reached over to turn off the tape.

“Oh, wait,” Gon said, holding out a hand to stop Killua. “Ging’s still there.”

“Oh, I forgot to mention something...It’s about your mother. If you want to know more, keep listening. If you’re not interested-”

Gon hit the stop button, cutting him off.

“Are you sure?” Killua asked softly.

Gon nodded happily. “Yeah,” he said, and his eyes were warm pools as he smiled.

Killua stared at him with wide eyes, confused. “But he might have left you a clue.”

“I doubt it,” Gon denied, shaking his head. “That’s what my gut tells me. Besides, I already told you. My mom is Mito-san.” He beamed.

Killua still looked slightly startled, but his eyes softened. “I see,” he eventually said.

Rin couldn’t help himself. He wrapped his arms around Gon and pulled him into a tight hug. “You’re so sweet.”

“Hahaha. Thanks, Rin.” Gon laughed cheerfully and hugged him back immediately.

Killua growled, face taking on a slightly red tint. “Oi!”

They ignored him, and Rin only let Gon go when the boy tapped on his arm.

“Are you hungry? I’ll go grab something,” Gon asked them as he stood up.

Killua nodded and leaned back on his hands. “Yeah.”

However, right before Gon could leave the room the cassette player started glowing.

“Hey, Gon!” Killua shouted, eyeing the cassette as if it was about to explode any second. “The tape started moving all by itself!”

“What?!” Gon came running back over and didn’t stop until he was standing right over the player. “There’s aura around the tape player!”

Rin slowly got to his feet, never once letting his eyes leave the player. Mito and Gon’s great grandma were downstairs, so they would be fine if anything happened, but Gon and Killua were standing far too close to the player for Rin’s comfort.

Killua jumped to his feet. “It’s nen...nen is rewinding the cassette!” he exclaimed.

“Nen?” Gon asked. He looked at Killua, then looked at the window. “Is he nearby?”

Killua shook his head and took a step closer, and Rin wanted to growl at him to get away from it. “No, he infused this player with nen over ten years ago! So it would start rewinding once it was stopped!”

“Why?” Gon asked in confusion.

Killua shrugged, a frown forming on his face. “Beats me.” The tape stopped rewinding, but then a different button pushed down. “Now it’s recording! I get it! He’s erasing his message!”

“What?” Gon crouched down and tried to press the stop button. He looked up at them with wide eyes. “It’s not working! I can’t stop it! Damn!” He ran over to the wall and unplugged it.

Killua stared in shock. “It still won’t stop!”

“I pulled the plug!” Gon said, panic entering his voice.

Desperate times, calls for desperate measures. Rin darted forward and placed a hand on the cassette player. After closing his eyes to help him focus, he pulled at his nen to try and cancel Ging’s. It felt odd, the nen having an old feeling to it, so he pushed his own even harder against it. He could feel the other nen start to retreat and let out a sigh, thinking he had managed to stop it, but then it came rushing right back and knocked his hand away.

Rin hissed and cradled his hand to his chest.

Gon came closer until he was hovering over him, hands hanging in the air. “Rin, are you okay?!”

Rin nodded at the same time Killua said, “Sorry, Gon. I’ll have to break it!” He punched it across the room, and it landed with a loud crash, but there wasn’t even a scratch on it. “Damn! No good! There’s nen protecting the player!” Switching tactics, Killua tried stomping on the cassette player.

The player clicking to a stop sounded ominous in the quiet room. “It’s finished.” Gon stated slowly.

Rin didn’t know what to say.


 

“Oh, Rin. Just a moment.”

Rin stopped walking up the ramp to turn back to Mito. She had insisted on walking them all down to the peer so she could wave them off, something that had even Killua blushing, even if he tried to deny it.

“What is it?” he asked and tilted his head slightly, not understanding why she stopped him. The few people waiting behind him let out annoyed grumbles, so he gave them an apologetic smile and moved out of the way.

A huge grin swept across Mito’s face as she grabbed him in a tight hug, and Rin felt his eyes widen in surprise.

“You’re welcome back anytime,” she said softly.

Rin smiled and leaned into her, soaking in the warmth she radiated just like a certain boy he knew. “Thank you,” he said quietly.

She smile at him again and then ruffled his hair. “Make sure to go and catch your man before someone else does.”

Rin choked, his face heating up. “M-Mito-san,” he stuttered.

Mito spun him around and pushed him toward the boat, still grinning. “Run along now.”

Rin gave one last glance at her before running up the ramp. The ship was already starting to pull away by the time Rin went to stand next to Gon and Killua at the railing.

“Mito-san!” Gon called down. “I’m going to find Ging! After I’ve met Ging, I’ll return to the island. Take care of yourself until then!”

They couldn’t hear her reply as the boat’s horn rang through the air, but they saw her wave at them as they got further away.

The three of them watched as Whale Island got smaller and smaller, and Rin glanced down at Gon in worry, but the large grin on his face had yet to diminish at all.

Killua soon complained about being hungry—surprise, surprise—so both him and Gon went below deck to find something to eat. Rin decided to stay up on the deck, wanting to enjoy the breeze and watch as the island disappeared in the distance. However, it wasn’t until the island was a small speck that he realized something.

He smacked himself. I never did go exploring!

Rin then later made the mistake of saying as much to Gon and Killua, and the white haired boy wouldn’t stop reminding him of it during the rest of the boat ride.


 

If Rin thought Heavens Arena had a lot of people, it was nothing compared to Yorknew City. There was easily twice the number of people on the single street they were standing in. They were all gathered around the stands that cluttered both sides of the streets, looking at the variety of objects each one carried, and that wasn’t even mentioning the noise. Rin just wanted to turn around and go back to Whale Island. He’d take the bustling of the peer over this any day.

“Wow, there are so many people!” Gon exclaimed, eyes wide as he tried to take in everything at once.

Killua just looked amused. “This market’s purpose is to swindle people who have come for the auction,” he informed.

Gon turned to him, eyes growing impossibly wider. “What? This isn’t the auction venue?”

Killua snorted and rolled his eyes as he said, “Obviously. Yorknew’s dream auction is held once a year in the world’s largest auction house. They say that just during the ten days of official bidding, tens of trillions of Jenny exchange hands.”

“Tens of trillions?” Gon whispered in awe.

“Yeah, an item sold for ten thousand can be turned around for a hundred million the next day. You can make a fortune instantly. It’s where dreams come true,” Killua rambled on excitedly. Rin could practically see the dollar signs flashing in the boy’s eyes.

Rin stared at him. “How do you know all this?”

“Because I’m awesome,” Killua answered instantly, then continued from where he left off. “Well, that’s why a lot of underworld auctioning happens at the same time.”

“That’s awesome…” Gon trailed off. Now he was the one staring at Killua, though this time it was with awe.

Killua coughed and turned his face away from the suddenly sparkling boy, and Rin chuckled quietly under his breath. I’m not the only one affected, it seems.

Killua seemed to shake himself out of it as he asked, “Anyway, do you think Kurapika and Leorio will show up?”

“They promised to meet us here,” Gon answered immediately. “I‘m sure they’ll come.” There wasn’t even a hint of doubt in his voice as he said it.

“Yeah,” Killua agreed. “They might try to contact us.” He pulled out his phone and then paused for a second. He whipped around to face Gon. “Hey, you have to buy a phone! It’s standard Hunter gear,” Killua demanded.

Gon blushed. “Ah, that’s true,” he said sheepishly, rubbing his neck.

Rin flinched when Killua turned his glare on him. “What about you? Do you have a phone?” he asked.

“I have a phone…” Rin started, his eyebrow twitching slightly. “The problem is that I always forget to charge it.”

Killua threw his hands in the air with a loud sigh. “You two are hopeless,” he complained. “Come on, there’s bound to be something here.” He stalked off without even waiting for an answer.

Gon and Rin shared an amused smile and trailed after the still grumbling Killua. The crowd jostled them around as they tried to make their way through, but they eventually managed to find what they were looking for. Rin was honestly surprised by how quickly they did. If he was on his own, Rin knew it would have probably taken him at least an hour to even work up the nerve to venture into the market in the first place, let alone find a phone booth.

“Hey! Welcome!” The owner of the phone booth greeted cheerfully. “This one’s great, it’s the hottest current model! Super-thin and no bigger than a credit card. It has GPS, which comes in handy for meeting with people.”

“Don’t bother,” a voice behind them interrupted.

Rin jumped and twirled around, his nen already rising to attack...only to see Leorio standing calmly behind them. He looked like he did when they split up, but Rin could see small bags under his eyes and his posture was more slouched than it used to be. It was enough to make Rin’s brows furrow slightly, and he made a mental note to bring it up later when they were in a less crowded area.

Leorio gave them a grin and continued where he left off. “That feature doesn’t work in many countries, and it isn’t even waterproof. That model is for people who only make calls.”

“Leorio!” Gon beamed.

“Yo!” He gave a two finger salute. “I would recommend...this Beetle 07. It’s a little heavy and pricey, but it includes a translator for the two hundred languages used worldwide.” He tapped on a black phone that was, of course, shaped like a giant beetle.

“What? Seriously?” Killua exclaimed. He turned to Gon and pointed at the phone. “Go with this one. I’ll buy one, too!”

Gon nodded happily. “Yeah!”

“Two, please.” Leorio told the attendant.

The man stared at them blankly. “Two will cost four hundred thousand.”

Leorio took a step back, a hand raised to his chest, and shouted, “Four hundred thousand? That’s expensive, pops! Urg, fine! Here!” He shoved the money at the owner, and it looked like it physically pained him to let go of it.

“Thanks, Leorio!” Gon thanked the man and gazed at the box with all the childish glee of a child opening presents on their birthday.

“But, damn, 110,580 Jenny apiece, huh?” Leorio grumbled, then sighed. “It’s a new model, so that’s a fair price in this market.”

“Still,” Killua argued, “Talk about overkill. I’ve never seen a cell phone purchase greeted with applause before.”

“But you really saved us,” Gon added. Ah, and there’s the sparkles.

Leorio grinned and placed his hands on his hips, chest jutting out slightly. “Just so you know, that was nothing. The serious dealing only starts when the seller tells you to leave.” He swiped a finger across his nose and laughed loudly, then he looked down at Rin. “You sure you don’t want anything, Rin?”

“Uh-huh. I’m just happy that you’re here,” Rin said and smiled up at him.

“O-Oh,” Leorio stuttered, turning his face in the opposite direction.

Rin tilted his head when the man refused to meet his eyes. Was it something I said?

Killua chuckled. “He’s blushing.”

Leorio growled at the boy, shooting Rin a panicked look that left him feeling even more confused. “No, I’m not!”

Gon sweatdropped and leaned closer to Killua, but Rin was close enough that he could still hear. “He’s the last person you would find at an auction,” he whispered.

“No kidding.” Killua deadpanned.

Leorio coughed loudly into his fist, face still slightly red. Rin was starting to worry that the man was getting sick. It would definitely explain the bags under his eyes.

“So, how are you guys doing?” Leorio finally asked.

Gon glanced back at him. “What do you mean?”

Leorio rephrased his question. “You’ve trained and gotten stronger, right?”

Rin could only smile at Leorio’s confused expression when Killua’s answer was to start laughing.


 

Leorio jumped up from his seat, “What?! You returned the tag to Hisoka at Heavens Arena? And you have to be pretty good to make it to the 200s.” He slumped back down in his seat. “How strong have you gotten now?” he moaned.

Rin took a small sip of his hot chocolate, pretending not to see the little crisis Leorio seemed to be going through. He had suggested that they find somewhere more quiet before they explained everything that had happened since they last saw Leorio, though he may or may not have left out the part of Hisoka biting him, and he ignored the sharp look Killua sent him because of it. Rin had a feeling that the man would definitely not take well to the information, so he felt it best not to say anything. Besides, it wasn’t like there was anything Leorio could do about it at that point, so why bring it up.

Gon also ignored the man’s outburst and asked, “Hey, did you learn nen, Leorio?” The question came out a little mumbled because his mouth was stuffed full of food.

Rin sent him a look. “Gon,” he chided.

Gon gave an apologetic smile and made a show of swallowing, making Rin roll his eyes.

Leorio smirked and adjusted his glasses. “Yeah, you bet I did.”

“Awesome!” Gon exclaimed.

Killua, on the other hand, was looking at him doubtfully. “Really?” he asked slowly. There was skepticism layered in his voice, though Rin was pretty sure that Leorio didn’t catch it, considering the way the man preened.

Leorio tugged on his coat and proudly said, “Why would I lie to you? It’s the ability to build up a shroud or aura, one’s own life force.”

Rin wanted to facepalm. Oh dear.

Even Gon was staring at him in slight pity. “That’s ten, one of the four major principles for learning nen.”

“Eh? There’s more to it?” Leorio jerked forward, eyes widening in disbelief.

“Figured as much. I mean, it was hard enough to believe that he already knew nen,” Killua stated bluntly, jabbing a finger in Rin’s direction.

Rin frowned at him. “Now that was uncalled for.”

Leorio’s hands shot out and grabbed his shoulders. “You know nen, too?” he demanded.

Rin jumped slightly and leaned back as far the chair would allow. “Um, yeah. I learned it when I was younger,” he eventually said, warily eyeing the hands still gripping his shoulders. I swear, if he starts shaking me...

Leorio, thankfully, let go, and instead, gripped his head in despair as he yelled, “Nooooo!”

Rin stared at him, partly concerned and partly annoyed. He was leaning more toward annoyed. Is it that hard to believe?!

Chapter Text

 

So I just have to look for items with aura on them? Shouldn’t be too hard. At least, that was what he thought.

They had decided to split up in order have a better chance of finding anything with nen that they could sell. When the plan was first brought up, Rin had nervously thought of all the people he would have to be around but agreed to it anyway. He didn’t need to give Killua even more reasons to tease him.

So that was how Rin found himself wandering around the market with gyo activated and trying not to bump into anybody. Keeping an eye out for people and nen covered items at the same time was surprisingly more tiring than he had originally thought it would be. It also didn’t help that he hadn’t spotted a single object with any amount of nen since he first started almost a hour and a half ago, so he was slowly losing hope that he even would.

There’s nothing here. I hope Gon and Killua are having better luck than I am, he thought and went over to one of the stands, kneeling down to get a closer look at the merchandise in a vain hope that one of them would have some type of an aura. Nothing. Rin sighed and started to stand up...right as he felt a rush of air blow into his ear. Letting out a yelp, he clutched at it and whipped around to look for the culprit.

The culprit whose face was only a few inches away.

“Are you following me?” Hisoka drawled. He was kneeling down next to Rin, face propped up on his hand, and the usual smirk filled with amusement and mischief.

Once he got over his shock, Rin opened his mouth to deny it, but then remembered that they had come to Yorknew City with the knowledge that Hisoka would be there, so in a way…

“I didn’t actually expect to run into you,” Rin finally admitted. It wasn’t exactly a lie , he tried to tell himself.

Hisoka was still staring intently at him, his face carefully blank—excluding the smirk. “Hmm~ Is that so? Guess I’ll have to take advantage of that.”

Uh-oh . The remark sent warning signals blaring through Rin’s mind, and he watched the man warily. “What are you planning?” he asked carefully, inching back slightly to put some distance between them.

Hisoka ignored the question, causing Rin’s brow to twitch in irritation. It didn’t help that he caught those lips twitching up even higher. Instead, he reached over to grab Rin’s wrist and stood up, tugging him along. Nothing else was said as he made his way through the growing crowd of the market with Rin an unwilling companion. Rin yanked on his wrist to see if he could slip out of it, but the hand was like an iron shackle, and he reluctantly accepted that he would have to go along with the other man’s whims. The thought of using nen crossed his mind, but it was quickly snuffed out when Hisoka glanced back at him with eagerness, almost as if he had read his mind. Some part of Rin worried that he could.

I won’t give him the satisfaction, Rin thought defiantly, glaring at him with as much strength as he could muster. He ignored the larger part that was silently glad to have someone near to buffer the bustling of the crowd.

Rin wasn’t exactly sure how long they walked, but he eventually ended up running right into Hisoka’s back when the man suddenly stopped in his tracks with absolutely no warning. He rubbed at his forehead and threw a small scowl at him, though this only seemed to entertain Hisoka even more. Glancing up to see what had caused the sudden halt, his face went blank.

It was an ordinary looking building nestled between two others with light blue trimming the otherwise white walls. There was sign on the front that read “The Lazy Paw” in cursive letters, and it had a picture of a cat mid-stretch. However, Rin didn’t get any more time to examine the place before he was, once again, being dragged. A bell ringing signaled their entrance, making the employees shout out greetings. Hisoka paid them no mind and immediately went to the table in the corner, choosing the seat that was facing the door. Rin stared at him for a few seconds before slowly sitting in the seat across from him.

“Why are we in a cafe?” Rin asked in confusion, watching as Hisoka put both elbows on the table and leaned on them.

Hisoka tilted his head innocently. Yeah, right. Rin wanted to roll his eyes.

“Why not?”

Rin gave a pointed look around the cafe, taking in the peaceful atmosphere and smiling people. “It doesn’t seem like the type of place you would go to.”

“I thought it would be interesting.” Hisoka moved his head off his hands and then lifted up a menu that was placed in the middle of the table. “Pick whatever you want, it’s my treat.”

“No, thank you,” Rin said bluntly, then he backtracked when he realized it sounded rude. He needed to stop forgetting exactly who he was talking to. “I mean, um, you don’t have to. I can pay for myself.”

Hisoka leaned forward, and Rin’s eyes flitted to smirking lips before he forced himself to look away as his cheeks heated. “How about this? I pay for you,” Rin opened his mouth to complain that it was the same as before, but the man continued, “But in return, I get to pay you back for that teasing little kiss.” That made his mouth click shut.

Rin tried to hide the blush that spread across his face but ultimately failed. “You’re the one who asked for it in the first place,” he complained quietly.

Hisoka ignored Rin’s mumbled statement. “Do we have a deal?” he asked. His voice was even and void of any threat, but Rin had a feeling it would be a bad idea to say no.

It’s like I’m making a deal with the devil, he thought, but weighed his current options. He could say no and risk whatever reaction Hisoka would have, or he could say just yes...and it wasn’t like Rin was... completely against the idea.

Rin sighed and nodded, his face still burning, both from the memory of what happened and the promise he just made.

The absolutely devious smirk that formed on Hisoka’s face made Rin think he had just made a colossal mistake. “I recommend the strawberry sundae. It’s delicious.” A pink tongue darted out, and no, Rin did not stare at it.

After the waitress took their orders and left, Rin realized that he was still staring at those stupid lips and ripped his eyes away so he could look at him suspiciously. “Does that have anything to do with the fruit analogy you always use?”

Hisoka leered at him. “That’s for you to decide.”

“That does not make me feel better,” Rin muttered quietly under his breath.

“You’ve gotten sassy since the last time I saw you,” Hisoka said and reached over to poke Rin on the forehead, pushing his head back slightly as he did.

I blame Killua , Rin thought, feeling more amused than annoyed.

The waitress choose that moment to come back and set down the food. “Here you go. I hope you enjoy.” She smiled kindly at Rin but paled when she looked over at Hisoka, probably because he was glaring at her.

Was he jealous that she smiled at me? No, it can’t be. Still, the thought gave him a little hope—unlikely or not. He hid the growing smile by taking a bite of his sundae, and as soon as the flavor hit his tongue, he felt his eyes widened before he closed them in bliss, letting out a happy hum. It was only when he felt a burning stare on his face that he opened his eyes and found Hisoka staring attentively at him, or rather his lips. That made the blush come rushing right back. When he noticed Rin looking back at him, he raised his eyes, and silver clashed with gold.

A grin spread across his face. “I take it that you like it.”

Rin gave a small nod, suddenly feeling shy despite knowing that he shouldn’t be. “It’s really good.” And because his father had grilled manners into him, he couldn’t help but ask, “Do you like yours?”

Hisoka had ordered cotton candy flavored ice cream, which had made Rin snort internally. He matches his ice cream.

“Hmm~ It’s one of my favorites,” he said, and something sparked in his eyes that had Rin immediately raising his guard again. “Try some.” Hisoka scooped up some of the icy treat and held it out.

Rin examined it closely, making sure it wouldn’t explode or something—knowing the magician, he couldn’t be too sure. He debated his options. I am curious about what it tastes like, but if I try it then...it would be indirect kissing. Rin shook away the blush that threatened to overtake his face. What am I thinking? We’ve already kissed before. With his mind made up, Rin leaned forward to take the spoon in his mouth. However, before he could, the spoon was pulled back slightly. He looked up at Hisoka in confusion.

Hisoka simply smirked. “Say ‘Ah’~” He waggled the spoon teasingly.

Rin gave him a pout, but said unsurely, “A-Ah.” The reddening of his face did not help Rin’s racing heart.

“Good boy,” Hisoka praised tauntingly.

Rin’s eye twitched in irritation, but the spoon went into his mouth before he could react to the teasing. Deciding to just enjoy the ice cream, he closed his lips around it and savored the wonderful taste. It was better than he was expecting, and he could kind of understand why it was one of Hisoka’s favorites, but that didn’t make it any less funny, though. Hisoka pulled the spoon back slowly and seemingly waited for the verdict, an expectant look on his face.

Rin felt his lips twitch. “I really liked it,” he finally admitted. “Though, I think I like the strawberry a little better,” he added as an afterthought.

“Seems like someone has a sweet tooth.” Hisoka grinned in amusement. He was leaning on one of his hands again and was staring at Rin when his eyes lit up mischievously. “Well, at least now I know how to bribe you.”

Rin pointedly ignored him, instead focusing on finishing his sundae before it melted entirely.

It was basically how they spent the rest of the time there. Rin eating his sundae, and Hisoka taking occasional bites of his but mostly just watching Rin. He thought he would be more creeped out by it but found that he was oddly relaxed.

After they were finished eating, Rin followed Hisoka out the door. This time making sure to stop when the other man did, not wanting another meeting with his back. His rather firm back , his mind whispered, but Rin smothered that thought before it could fully form.

“I guess I should probably go. I’m already late,” Hisoka admitted, though he looked a little too pleased with this. “Now, about our deal.”

“Eh? Right here?” Rin glanced around nervously at the all the people walking by.

Hisoka stood over him, aura turning slightly more menacingly as his eyes darkened. “Thinking of backing out? I wouldn’t recommend it~”

Rin flinched at the threat, for some reason also feeling insulted. He met Hisoka’s gaze with a glare and tilted his head daringly. “Well? I’m waiting,” he said with more confidence than he felt. His hands were shaking slightly, though he tried to hide it by clenching them into fists.

Humor flitted through Hisoka’s eyes as he leaned down, bringing his face closer to Rin’s. When he made no other move, Rin twitched slightly in discomfort. He turned his head in a different direction so he wouldn’t have to keep making eye contact, but a flare of killing intent had him whipping back around. Appearing to finally be done with his teasing, Hisoka let out a satisfied hum and pressed his lips against Rin’s, whose muscles relaxed a little at the same time as his body started to heat up. Their surrounding started to bleed away as Rin focused only on the lips moving against his.

One of Hisoka’s hands snuck up to grab his head, pulling him even closer, and a groan slipped out when Hisoka nipped his bottom lip, demanding entrance that was given eagerly. His head started spinning from lack of oxygen, so Rin reached up with both hands to grabbed Hisoka’s shirt lightly, trying to find anything to help ground himself. The action caused Hisoka to chuckle into the kiss, and he pulled Rin’s bottom lip between his and sucked . The new sensation made a strange combination of a whine and a groan leave Rin’s throat, and if he was able to think clearly, Rin knew he would be absolutely horrified by the sounds he was making. In comparison, the sound seemed to spur Hisoka on—if the deep growl he let out was anything to go by. Rin was starting to feel light headed, almost like he was about to pass out, so he tried to push the other man away. However, it took some time before the man even noticed, which caused Rin to pout. I’m not that weak . When Hisoka finally pulled away, it was to peer down at his work with an oddly proud expression on his face. At this rate, my face is going to be permanently red.

Rin focused on trying to slow his breathing and calm his rapidly beating heart, but he was curious to see the other man’s reaction, so Rin looked up at him through his lashes. The lust that could clearly be seen burning in the other’s eyes was enough to make Rin shudder.

Hisoka tugged on a strand of hair that had fallen in Rin’s face. “I should leave before I decide to finish eating you,” he purred, and if possible, his eyes seemed to burn even brighter.

However, Hisoka turned and walked away before Rin could even respond, and he was left standing there with his face completely red and his hair messed up. Rin stared at the other’s back until it was out of sight, then he sighed. I should probably go find the others, he thought, then slapped himself at a sudden realization. Shoot, I didn’t find anything. Man, Killua is going to yell at me. His shoulders slumped at that realization.

Looking around, Rin realized that there were multiple people gaping at him in disbelief, and he felt his eyes widen as he ducked his head in embarrassment. This is why I didn’t want to do it in public, Hisoka!


 

I knew it was a bad idea, but does anyone ever listen to me? No.

“I don’t like this. They should be back by now.” Rin said, pacing back and forth in front of the window. It gave him the perfect view of the street, so he would hopefully be able to see Killua and Gon when they eventually— possibly, a traitorous part of his mind whispered—came back.

Leorio laughed carefreely from his spot on the floor, gesturing wildly with a bottle of beer. “Calm down...hic...I’m sure they’re fine,” he reasoned, then turned to Zepile. “Yeah, I’m getting into this! How about another?”

Rin hadn’t been entirely sure about Zepile when he first met him, but Leorio took to him like a fish to water so he couldn’t be that bad—though Rin was starting to think that he shouldn’t put too much faith in Leorio’s sense of judgement.

Rin sighed at their stupidity and stepped over their legs so he could head toward the door. His plan was to go search for Gon and Killua, but this flew out the window when both came walking into the room.

“There you guys are! What took you so long? Did something happen?” Rin demanded, flitting around them and trying to spot injuries. “Ah! You’re hand is hurt, Gon.”

Gon lifted it up and shook it, smiling bashfully the entire time. “I’m fine. It barely even hurts anymore,” he tried to reassure, but it might as well have flown over Rin’s head.

The conversation drew the other two men’s attention to them.

“Oh, you’re back?” Leorio exclaimed loudly and waved a hand for them to come closer. “Come and drink with us!”

Killua put his hands on his hips and scowled. “Are you an idiot? We’re underage! And aren’t you underage too?”

“What’s your point?” Leorio asked mischievously. “In my country, you can drink once you’re sixteen.”

“Wait, what?! You’re underage?!” Rin exclaimed.

Gon chuckled nervously. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t know.”

Rin rushed over and grabbed the drink from Leorio. “Stop drinking, you idiot!” he scolded.

“Hey!” Leorio glowered at him and tried to snatch the drink back. “What’s the big deal? Besides, why should I listen to a kid like you,” Leorio demanded, irritated at being interrupted.

Killua smirked and slid closer, leaning over to whisper dramatically. “He’s nineteen.”

Leorio froze, then he shouted. “What?! Impossible!” He tipped over slightly and was pointing a shaking finger in Rin’s direction.

Rin’s brow twitched. Can I punch him? Why does everyone have the same reaction?!

Killua deadpanned. “Like you’re one to talk.”

“Calm down, guys,” Gon said with his hands raised in the air, trying to keep the peace.

“Seriously, though.” Killua sighed. “I can’t believe you guys were drinking while we were captured.”

“Eh?” Rin, Leorio, and Zepile asked at the same time.

It took Killua sicking Gon on him before Rin calmed down enough for them to explain what had happened, and he twitched slightly when they mentioned Hisoka, because of course he would be there.

“Really…” Leorio started, appearing to be deep in thought—something that had Killua snickering and Rin japping the boy in the side before another fight could break out. “I had no idea that happened. I’m amazed you escaped alive.”

Zepile bent his head, seeming to finally realize the full extent of the situation. “The Phantom Troupe is that dangerous?”

“Back there, one of the tricks you taught us came in handy.” Gon said, attempting to cheer him up.

Zepile relaxed slightly, but there was still a worried glint in his eyes. “I get it. I’m glad I was able to help in some way.” He took a puff from his cigarette and said, “Experience can sometimes blind you. A con artist’s knowledge might come in handy against the Troupe.”

“Exactly! There’s more to being a con artist than you’d think,” Leorio said excitedly. “I haven’t just been drinking myself senseless here, I’ve been learning a lot from Zepile,” he declared and thumped a fist to his chest proudly. “And tomorrow morning, we’ll hit the auction. You guys are coming, right?”

Gon glanced at Killua before he answered. “I’d like to, but I have to find Kurapika and learn about nen from him.”

“Kurapika? You got through to him?” Leorio asked, leaning forward so suddenly that he almost face planted into the floor.

Gon nodded. “Yep, but we’re waiting for him to call us back.”

“Hold on.” Leorio narrowed his eyes. “Did you say you need to learn about nen from him?”

“I did,” Gon admitted.

Leorio tilted his head and slowly asked, “Why? He just learned about nen recently himself, right?”

Rin also felt his curiosity rising for the reason, though he was slightly disappointed that no one had thought to ask him.

“But Kurapika managed to defeat a member of the Phantom Troupe,” Gon informed casually.

“Seriously?” Leorio asked in disbelief.

Killua paused from eating—a miracle upon miracles—and added, “Yeah. He must know some secret about nen. Some strength that doesn’t require experience or power.”

Rin frowned. He wouldn’t try that, would he? Surely his teacher would have warned him about how dangerous it was. However, when he thought back to Kurapika’s determined face, Rin realized he already knew the answer.


 

Kurapika did get a hold of them the next morning, and they agreed to meet up in the park later that day. Leorio and Zepile decided to opt out of it in order to try and find more information, but Rin had a feeling they just wanted to keep drinking. Before they left, Rin managed to pull Leorio aside to ask if he was okay, and the man laughed before admitting that he had simply been studying too much. Rin made him promise to take better care of himself before finally letting him leave. He didn’t think Leorio was lying, but he was still worried, especially since the man’s face was red again. He vowed to keep a closer eye on him just in case.

All morning, Killua kept complaining about being hungry, and Rin tried his best to pretend that he didn’t notice the pointed looks the boy kept sending him, but he eventually gave in when Gon joined. He ended up making enough food to feed an army but refused to let them have any of it until they got to the park, much to the two boys displeasure. He even had to smack some wandering hands while cooking, and Killua almost had a permanent glower on his face because of it.

It was what led to Rin sitting on a blanket and staring in amazement as Gon and Killua devoured all the food in front of them as if it would disappear at any second.

“If you don’t slow down-” Rin started, raising a hand.

Gon looked up and shouted, “Kurapika!” In the process, he spit food all over Killua’s face.

“...you’re going to choke,” he finished lamely.

Gon didn’t even seem to notice what he had done as he jumped up and ran over to the blonde haired boy. “This is great.” He beamed.

“Huh?” Kurapika breathed, seeming a little out of it.

Gon didn’t appear affected and continued happily, “The spiders are dead, so you can finally focus on your main goal. You have to find the eyes of your people.”

“Gon…” Kurapika stared at him blankly.

“Yep.” Gon nodded excessively—enough that Rin was worried about his neck—and said, “If there’s anything we can do to help-” He was interrupted when Killua snuck up behind him and shoved a pie in his face.

“Hey!” Gon turned and started chasing the other boy. He even threw a pie at the fleeing Killua.

Killua smirked and dodged the food projectile easily. “You did it first. I was just getting revenge!”

“But I didn’t do it on purpose,” Gon denied helplessly.

“You did it deliberately!” Killua accused.

Rin got up when the two boys started to get closer to where he was sitting and went to stand by Kurapika in order to watch them fight. He saw Kurapika take a half step forward, concern written on his face, when Killua jumped over Gon and slammed another pie in his face. Rin smiled when he saw him finally relax and start to laugh.

“Quite the handful, aren’t they?” Rin faced the boys, but watched Kurapika from the corner of his eyes, smiling in amusement.

Kurapika nodded, still chuckling. “I can imagine. I’m surprised you lasted this long.”

“Gon’s not too bad. It’s Killua you have to watch out for,” Rin stated wisely.

This advice was ruined when a pie suddenly shot through the air, hitting Rin right in the face. The force was enough to knock him to the ground.

Rin lifted it off his face so he could see and glared at Killua. “Oi!”

Killua stuck his tongue out at him, but let out a yelp when he was tackled to the ground by Gon. Kurapika’s laughter could be heard ringing throughout the park, and Rin smiled at them sadly. Why can’t it stay like this?


 

Rin put a hand on Gon’s shoulder as he fidgeted for the fourth time in a row, almost elbowing Rin in the ribs again.

“Sorry,” Gon apologized meekly, though his eyes were still burning with excitement and concern.

Rin couldn’t blame him. They had all thought they were finally done with the Phantom Troupe, only to find out that they were, in fact, still alive. It was why they had piled into the car as they tried to follow the Troupe. Even from the back, Rin could see Kurapika’s shoulders shaking with barely contained tension, but he knew there was nothing he could do to ease it.

Suddenly, Kurapika jerked forward in his seat. “They’re running toward the hotel. They’re fast!”

“Can we get there faster by car?” Gon asked hurriedly.

Leorio looked out the window, clenching his teeth. “It’s rush hour. They might be faster on foot.”

Rin heard the door open. “Kurapika!” he called worriedly.

“Wait here until I contact you,” Kurapika shouted back over his shoulder, not once slowing down.

Gon jumped out of the car as well and took off after him, yelling, “Wait, Kurapika, I have a good idea. Kurapika!”

“Stay here. I’ll go after them.” Rin told Leorio before he took off in pursuit.

Despite the rain that was slightly blinding him, Rin managed to catch up with them, only to have Kurapika suddenly grab his hand and yank him into an alley. Rin looked at him and opened his mouth to ask, but he fell silent when Kurapika raised a finger to his lips and pointed toward the opening.

Over the pounding of the rain around them, he could vaguely hear someone say, “I couldn’t see their faces, but two of them are in the alley.”

Then another piped up, “Another is behind the dumpster.”

Kurapika turned toward the entrance and raised a hand, his nen flaring to life on the chains. Bad idea! Rin thought and was about to reach forward to try and stop him when he sensed movement behind him. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed Killua sneaking up. Killua made eye contact with him and nodded. Rin sighed, realizing what they needed to do and not looking forward to it in the slightest. He turned back just in time to see Gon jump out from his hiding spot.

Gon raised his hands innocently, a sheepish expression painted across his features. “Sorry! I’ll stop following, so can you let me go?” he asked.

“Him again?” Rin heard a faintly familiar voice say in exasperation.

“This is the boy he mentioned?” a male voice asked.

The same woman sighed. “The other one’s here, too, and it looks like they brought a friend. Show yourself!”

Killua stepped out, and Rin followed right behind him.

There were three people standing in front of them, one of whom Rin recognized as the same person he had saw leaving Hisoka’s room, and it made him worry that she would recognize him. The other two were another female with black hair, who appeared to be carrying a vacuum of all things, and a man with his hair slicked back with his hands in his pockets. The posture immediately reminded Rin of Hisoka’s relaxed slouch, and he knew that this man was the one he needed to keep an eye on the most. It also didn’t help that he was standing rather close to Gon, and it was enough to make Rin’s nen seeth .

“What do you want?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow as she regarded them carefully. “The Mafia who put a reward on us are gone.”

“W-What? Really? Why?” Killua asked in surprise. If Rin didn’t know it was fake, he would almost believe it.

The lady who had been speaking looked over at the man. “What do we do, boss?” Eh? This is Chrollo?

The newly named Chrollo studied them thoughtfully, and Rin forced himself not to flinch when dull eyes landed on him. “Tie them up,” he said, then turned and pulled out a phone.

The same lady came over and pulled out some thread made of nen, then proceeded to tie their wrists behind their backs. Unable to withhold his curiosity, Rin brushed his aura against the thread and felt his eyes widen. Oh! This is the nen I sensed in Hisoka’s arms. That makes sense, she must have used it to sew them back on.

“Shouldn’t we just kill them?” she asked bluntly.

This made Rin tense up, so he shuffled a little closer to Gon and Killua. If I really need to, I can probably buy them a few seconds to escape. He flexed his wrist, staring intently at the boss.

“No, I trust your instincts,” he said easily. “If they’re connected to the chain user somehow, we should keep them alive.”

“I wouldn’t trust my instincts…” she muttered.

“I have a question for you.” Gon suddenly asked. “How can you kill people who have nothing to do with you?”

If he could, Rin would have facepalmed. Now is not the time for this, Gon. Rin looked between the two of them warily, growing even more worried when Chrollo began to radiate killing intent.

Chrollo took a small step closer and peered down at Gon, face partly covered in shadow. “You look pretty hostile considering that you just surrendered.” He raised his face to the sky, letting rain drip down his face. “Why, indeed? Because they have nothing to do with us? No. On second thought, it isn’t that simple. How to verbally express our motives…I’m not fond of it. But oddly enough...Or perhaps it’s not that odd. Is that the key to understanding myself?”

Rin blinked, growing more nervous and tenser the longer he talked. I don’t even think he’s talking to us anymore.

Chrollo seemed to shake himself out it and started to walk away. “Head to the hotel and wait for Phinks and the others. If they try to escape, kill them,” he ordered.

Machi nodded. “Understood,” she said, then nudged them forward.

It took a shorter amount of time to reach the hotel than Rin wished it would, and it stood towering over them menacingly, standing as a beacon of light against the dark sky. There was a sinking feeling his stomach, and he knew this wasn’t going to end well.

A shove from behind got him moving again from where he had paused. When they entered the lobby, Rin glanced over to where he sensed a familiar aura. Even with the newspaper blocking his face, he could easily recognize Leorio. However, he turned away before any attention could be drawn toward him, not wanting to give him away.

Chrollo stopped next to one of the pillars. “Wait here.”

“Hey!” Leorio’s voice drifted to them. “Do you realize what time it is?!” he shouted and threw the newspaper onto the table. “Idiot! It’s Hotel Beitacle! How many times do I have to repeat myself?” he yelled into the phone, pausing for a moment to glare over at them. “What are you looking at, eh?”

The lady with glasses looked over at Chrollo. “Should I get rid of him?” she asked quietly.

“Ignore him.” Chrollo turned his head away. “Don’t look at him.”

Leorio glared at the other people around him before going to back to the phone. “Eh? This ain’t no show! Damn, my future’s dark because of the failures working for me! Listen up! This once, I’ll close my eyes like nothing happened. One more mistake, and you’ll get it good! Now listen. Seven on the dot. You’ll best be at the hotel by then!” He sighed and leaned back into the couch, picking up the paper again.

Good job, Leorio! Rin wanted to hug the man but settled for giving him a mental pat on the back until he could do so later. Now, it was just a matter of time before they could finally get away from these guys. However, it was just their luck that when there was only three minutes left, more of the spiders came.

“Paku and the others are here,” the vacuum lady said.

“Oh? What’s this? You got caught again? I get it…” A guy with a tall ponytail smiled at them. “You changed your minds and decided to join, right?”

Killua scowled. “We didn’t know that the reward for you guys was rescinded,” he stated bluntly.

“So you screwed up again while stalking us? Didn’t learn your lesson, huh? But this must be fate at work.” He leaned forward with a huge grin and said, “Well, let’s be friends.”

“No way. We were only following you for the reward. I wouldn’t even want to look at your faces,” Killua simply said, turning his head away and shutting his eyes.

Gon nodded. “I agree.” He turned away and closed his eyes, too.

“Hmm. Then about your friend here?” The sword guy— Nobunaga? —took a step closer to Rin. “Well? What do you say?”

Rin decided for a polite denial. “Um, no, thank you. I’m not interested.”

The man just took it in stride. “Well, boss? They’ve got guts, right? Their sass reminds me of Uvo.”

“That’s probably because they’re kids. They know no fear,” The pink haired woman—Rin was pretty sure her name was Machi—said without remorse. “Anyway, describe the chain user for us.” She looked at a lady with short blonde hair.

However, before this new person could answer, Chrollo interrupted her. “First things first, Paku. Check these kids again, and while we’re at it, check the other one, too.”

Paku placed a hand on her hip, a bored expression on her face as she asked, “Okay, what do you want to know?”

“What are they hiding?” he asked. His gaze was burning as he stared intently at them.

Rin hid the concern clouding his eyes as Paku reached out a hand to touch Killua. Thankfully, the boy started talking, making her pause.

“It’s no use. Your power lets you draw out memories from those you touch, right? We aren’t hiding anything, and we know no-” He was forcefully shut up when she grabbed his mouth tightly.

She glared down at him, eyes cold. “I’ll know the truth soon enough. Shut up.”

“Even if we did know something, we could think about something else and hide it from you!” Gon tried but was given the same treatment as Killua.

Rin’s hand twitched in it’s confinement. The low growl, however, came out before he could stop it, but none of them seemed to pay him any mind. Big mistake.

Killua’s eyebrows quivered in irritation. “Yep, there you go,” he managed to mumble.

“You seem to be confused,” Paku said slowly. “I draw out the purest essence of human memory. I’m not browsing through the images in your mind. My question will stimulate your memory, stirring up the dirt collected in its depths like throwing a stone into a pond. The dirt represents your pure, unaltered memories, and I simply scoop them up. It’s impossible to deceive me. Now, it’s time to ask my question. What are you hiding?”

The lights went out, sending the place into complete darkness. Rin immediately sent a sliver of wind infused with nen to cut through the thread tied around his wrists. Despite also being made of nen, it came apart easily, and he darted forward to help the other two just as he sensed someone let their nen loose...someone who was right next to Gon.

Not on my watch! Pulling back a hand and concentrating his nen there, Rin ran in the direction he sensed it coming from and stopped right as he felt a small brush of the other’s aura against his when he got close. However, before the man could react, Rin threw his hand forward, sending out a strong blast of wind that sent him flying back. A thump signaled that Gon was safely back onto the ground, so he turned to help Killua, but a shout stopped him in his tracks.

“Move and I kill the brat!” From the sound of the voice, it was Machi.

Before he could decide what to do next, he briefly felt a presence behind him, but couldn’t send his nen at them in time. The last thing he felt was a sharp jap at the back of his neck.


 

Rin woke with a groan, shifting uncomfortably against the hard object japping him in the back.

“Ah! Rin, are you okay?” Gon’s voice helped clear away some of the cloud still covering his mind, and he turned his head faintly in the direction he was pretty sure Gon was in.

”Hmm.” Rin hummed, desperately trying to ignore the throbbing pain coursing through his skull.

He cracked open his eyes, glad that it was still dark. He probably really would die if there were bright lights stabbing him in the eyes on top of his headache. They were in what looked to be an abandoned building. There were holes in the ceiling and debris scattered around where they were sitting in the middle of the room. Killua was sitting to his left with Gon next to him. Gon was peering over at him with concern, and even Killua shot him a quick look, though it was mostly disguised as mild annoyance.

The spiders were standing in a semi-circle around them.

“What happened?” Rin asked quietly, hopefully masking the pain in his voice. He tried moving his arms, but a rattling sound had him looking down to see chains wrapped around them.

Gon leaned as close as he could. “Nobunaga knocked you out.”

“Kurapika made a deal with Paku. If they release us, then he’ll let Chrollo go,” Killua added softly, not once moving his watchful eyes from the rest of the room.

Movement to his right had Rin looking over to see Nobunaga kneeling down near him.

“You’re not bad, kid. Been awhile since anybody has landed a hit on me.” He looked at Rin in consideration, then grinned. “Your nen’s pretty interesting too.”

Rin blinked at him, not quite sure how to respond. “Thank you...I think.”

“Oh.” Both men looked over at Machi when she spoke up. “Now, I remember you.” Crap.

“You know him?” Nobunaga asked, looking between the two of them with barely contained curiosity.

She shook her head. “Not really, but I know someone who does,” Machi turned her body in Hisoka’s direction, who just smiled with his eyes closed. “Well?”

“Hmm~” He looked up, eyes opening to show the mirth twinkling within. “He’s my pet.”

“Excuse me.” Rin demanded, narrowing his eyes with indignation.

Hisoka shrugged in a ‘what-can-you-do’ manner and said, “His nen intrigued me, so I decided to keep him around until he got stronger.”

“Enough about that,” Phinks interrupted and whirled to face Paku. “Does he really expect us to accept those conditions? Tell us where he is, Pakunoda. We’ll kill the kids, then deal with the chain user.”

Machi honestly just looked amazed at his gall. “You’re insisting?” she asked.

“I insist. If you don’t tell us, I won’t let you leave,” Phinks stated bluntly, growling toward the end in anger.

Paku answered calmly, “I refuse to tell you where he is, and I am taking the kids alone. Don’t interfere.”

“Interfere? Who’s the one interfering with our plans?!” he shouted, taking a threatening step closer. His nen was starting to fill the room, and it made Rin grow even tenser than he already was.

Machi’s face scrunched up into a frown, and she took a step to the side so that she was partially blocking the other woman from sight. “Go, Pakunoda. We’ll stop them.”

“Stop us?” Feitan finally spoke, releasing his aura as well in preparation to attack. “Are you trying to insult us?”

“You’re serious? I don’t get it. Have you lost your minds?” Phinks tried to reason.

“I bet they were defeated by the chain user before we arrived. They’re probably under his control. This is a waste of time. I’ll make them talk,” Feitan said blandly.

“Is it really so hard to understand?” Gon growled out, and Rin wished he could cover the boy’s mouth before he said anything else. “You don’t understand why Pakunoda wants to leave without a word? You don’t understand why Machi is stopping you? You honestly think they’re being controlled? They want to rescue your boss! Is it so hard to understand the desire to save a friend?”

Don’t make them any angrier, Gon. They’re about to attack each other , they won’t hesitate to kill us. Rin tried to keep a careful eye on everyone in the room. He didn’t want to be startled if anyone actually decided to leap at them.

“Shut up, kid!” Phinks roared, taking a hostile step forward. “Are you that desperate to be spared?”

Gon glared at him and threw his arms out, easily breaking the chains. He stood up and clenched his fists at his side angrily. “I’m not doing this for my sake. Take back those words!”

“Good grief.” Killua sighed in exasperation and also broke the restraints, though he stayed crouched.

Well, in that case. Rin flared his nen and sliced through the chain. He moved to stand next to Gon in case he really needed to make good on his threat.

“I refuse. If you have a problem, come here.” He gestured for Gon to come closer. “The second you take a step, I’ll rip your head off.”

“Then I won’t budge an inch!” Gon declared childishly and stuck out his tongue. “Kurapika isn’t like you. No matter how much he hates someone, he wouldn’t lose control and kill them without mercy. If he makes a promise, he will definitely keep his word!” he said with conviction. “After meeting him in person, Pakunoda knows this. If you follow his conditions, he’ll return your boss!”

“That’s enough, kid,” Phinks warned, his nen growing even heavier in the air. “Don’t think you can say anything you want!”

Franklin interrupted, “That’s enough. Let Pakunoda go.”

The room went silent before Phinks whirled on him. “You’re siding with them?” he demanded harshly. The man was practically spitting at this point.

Franklin ignored him completely. “Shal, right now what would our worst-case scenario be?”

Shalnark hummed in thought before answering. “The boss is already dead, Pakunoda and the others are being controlled, we can’t find the chain user, and the three kids escape…”

“Then you’ve got it wrong,” Franklin denied. “The worst-case scenario would be that we all die and the spider perishes. By comparison, your scenario would be quite pleasant. Am I wrong?” he reasoned out.

“N-No, you’re right.” Shalnark blinked in surprise.

Franklin glared at everyone in the room. “I don’t care about your reasons. You’re being too reliant on the boss. If the Troupe falls apart as a result, that’s the greatest betrayal you could make toward the boss. If we keep bickering, that could well happen. Cool off. Let them have their way. Pakunoda can take the kids. If the boss doesn’t return, we kill the members being controlled, and start to rebuild the spider. It’s extremely simple.”

“I’m fine with that, if that’s what it takes to satisfy you,” Machi acquiesced, but she added, “Well, I’m not being controlled, and it won’t be easy to kill me.”

Phinks tched, but before he could say anything in return, his phone rang. “Hello?” he answered, then scowled and tossed the phone to Gon.

Shalnark hissed. “Don’t break it!”

Gon kept a watchful eye on Phinks as he talked on the phone. “Yeah, they’re all here,” he said.

Rin stared curiously as Gon threw the phone back after that one sentence. He spared a glance at Shalnark, who was seemed to be seething over the treatment of his phone.

“We’re following your orders,” Phinks growled into the phone.

Pakunoda nodded and gestured for them to follow her. “Come on.”

Before they left, Rin spared a small glance over his shoulder at Hisoka, who simply gave him a roguish smirk and wink. Rin stared at him for a moment, slightly dumbfounded at his nerve, and then faced forward again, not wanting to give Hisoka the satisfaction of seeing him react.


 

Of course he would be here. Rin deadpanned, staring at the magician who just casually showed up as if he belonged there.

“Why are you here?!” Pakunoda asked in a panic.

Rin figured she was probably worried that Kurapika would count it as bringing another member, but at that point, he hoped that the blonde haired boy knew that Hisoka did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, regardless of what everyone else wanted.

Hisoka ignored them and continued to talk on the phone. As he got closer, Rin could finally hear his side of the conversation.

“Allow me on the airship with them. If you refuse, I’ll kill Gon and Killua,” he promised, grinning wickedly. Gold eyes locked onto him as he said it, and Rin bristled. “My target is the boss. Once he’s released, I’ll get off the airship. I want to fight him. That’s all I want.”

Kurapika must have agreed because he hung up with a satisfied smirk, looking like the cat who got the cream.

Hisoka placed a hand on his hip. “Looks like you got another passenger,” he said, and the look he gave just dared them to object.

Hisoka was the first one to board the airship, with the trio coming next, and Pakunoda bringing up in the rear. Killua and Gon stepped around Hisoka, who had decided to stand in the middle of the floor, and settled down against the farthest wall. Rin was about to do the same, but someone apparently had other plans. Hisoka blocked his path and smirked down at him, then he gestured with his head toward a metal box off to the side. Rin glowered at him, still angry over the pet remark—even though he knew the man had only said it to save his cover. At least, I hope that’s the only reason...

Rin pivoted on his foot and made his way over to the box, plopping down with a huff once he reached it. Hisoka strode over and sat with far more grace, chuckling under his breath. He twisted his body so that his knees bumped into Rin’s, and at the same time, pulled out a deck of cards and began shuffling. Weirdly enough, the sight of the man’s preferred weapon didn’t even bother him. Rin wasn’t sure what that said about him.

“Care for a game?” Hisoka asked playfully.

Rin shook his head and refused to speak, stubbornly keeping his head facing the wall in front of him. I have to get my revenge somehow. However, even in his irritated state, he felt a little amused. Only Hisoka would ignore the tension in the room and ask if he wanted to play a card game.

Though...I have a feeling the silent treatment won’t work for long.

He was right. If there was one thing the man excelled at, it was getting under people’s skin.

Rin watched warily from the corner of his eyes as the man set down the cards and leaned back a little since he didn’t know what to expect. Hisoka’s smirk widening was the only warning he got before both his cheeks were being pinched.

“Ow, ow, ow! Let go!” Rin grabbed Hisoka’s wrists and tried to pull them away. However, all that did was tug on his own cheeks.

Hisoka leaned closer so that his face was only a hair’s breadth away and gave another small yank. “Oh? For a second, I thought you couldn’t speak anymore. You weren’t ignoring me, were you?” He emphasized his question by giving several more painful tugs, but then finally let go.

Rin immediately covered his irritated cheeks in an attempt to soothe them and glared at Hisoka with annoyance. “What’s with you always yanking on my cheeks or hair?”

“Hmm~ Would you rather I do something like this again?” Hisoka pressed his thumb into the scar on Rin’s neck.

The touch made his skin tingle pleasantly, and he leaned into the hand with a sigh, his body almost automatically relaxing. Rin vaguely wondered if he should feel worried that this was the reaction he had, but at the time he couldn’t be bothered, not when he felt the delicious warmth seeping into his neck.

The moment was ruined, however, when someone let out a cough. Rin looked up and made eye contact with Killua and Gon. Killua was staring at them in amusement, and Gon had a slight blush on his cheeks. Rin let out a small squeak and flushed to his roots.

“Get a room,” Killua called out teasingly.

“K-Killua!” he exclaimed, absolutely horrified. Ah, man, he’s definitely never going to let me live this down.

Still, even with the teasing jabs, Rin never pulled away, and Hisoka never removed his hand.

Chapter Text

 

Rin was curled up in a ball on one of the cushions of the couch and had his head buried in his arms to try and sleep, but one person was making it very hard. When he suddenly felt the negative energy in the room spike once again, he slowly cracked open one eye to peer at the source.

Gon was standing in the middle of the room, hands shaking at his side from how hard he was clenching them. “I’m so mad! I can’t believe how he spouted off! Damn it!” he screamed in outrage, his nen bursting out around him.

Killua, on the other hand, was sitting on the couch to his left, calmly eating candy as if his friend wasn’t screaming at the top of his lungs. “Still, he’s right,” the white haired boy said.

That...was not the right thing to say, Killua. You’re going to make it worse.

Rin jumped slightly when Gon whipped around to face them. “What do you mean?” he practically growled.

“Chill out a little.” Killua stood up and raised a hand placatingly. “We should start thinking about taking this to the next level,” he said as he wandered over to look out the window.

“Next level?” Gon questioned, finally relaxing enough to ease his aura away.

Rin laid his head back on the armrest of the couch but had his head turned so he could see both of them.

Killua turned and looked at Gon over his shoulder with a smile. “Hatsu. You know, our special abilities.” He leaned against the window sill before continuing, “Kurapika started learning nen when we did, but he was able to fight the Troupe because of his special abilities.”

At the mention of Kurapika, Rin felt a twinge of sadness. I hope his fever has gone down. He wasn’t looking too good the last time we saw him. The blonde haired boy hadn’t woken since that night on the airship, and it had all of them worried sick. Leorio was looking after him the best he could, but there wasn’t much else they could do beside wait for Kurapika to wake up on his own, at that point.

Gon nodded in agreement. “Yeah, Kurapika obtained powers that make him basically invincible against the Troupe by placing his life on the line.”

Which was stupid and irresponsible of him, Rin thought angrily. He had wanted to scold Kurapika, but the blonde haired boy had looked at him with tired, tired eyes, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“We can’t follow his example. We need abilities without too much or too little risk, which still fit out specialties. Something practical and effective…That’s what we have to come up with,” Killua summarized helpfully.

As if I’d let you guys do something that dangerous even if you wanted to.

“Hmm.” Gon hummed in thought and raised a hand to his chin.

Rin could practically hear the gears in Gon’s head grind to a halt and blinked when he saw steam come out of his ears. Should I be worried about that?

Killua shook his head and crouched down. “Let’s take this one step at a time. First, what kind of abilities do you want?”

“What kind of abilities do I want?” Gon repeated. The gears started turning before steam once again started to come out of his ears.

Killua’s hair puffed up in aggravation, making him look like an angry kitten as he shouted, “Hey! You must have at least a vague idea.”

“Uh, a really strong power!” Gon eventually said.

“That’s too vague!” Killua immediately yelled. “Start by thinking within your own category. You’re an Enhancer, so think of a power that strengthens something.” When Gon nodded, Killua continued, “Then we ask, what part of you do you want to strengthen, and how?” When just more smoke came out, Killua punched the side of his head.

“That hurt!” Gon looked at him with tears in his eyes, and Rin twitched from his spot on the couch, trying to fight the urge to console the boy. “What about you, then?” he asked with a whine.

Killua closed his eyes in annoyance and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I already know what I want. That’s why I’m helping you.”

“Really?” Gon asked in disbelief. He leaned forward slightly, curiosity clearly shining in his eyes. “What do you want?” he asked.

“It’s a secret.” Came the immediate and slightly mumbled response since he was eating candy again. Killua got up and stepped around Gon, heading for the door.

Gon looked at him in shock. “Huh?”

“If anything, you should ask that guy,” Killua remarked and jabbed a finger in Rin’s direction. “He already seems to have a nen ability.”

“Eh!” Gon exclaimed, turning to Rin with wide eyes. “You do?!”

Rin blinked at the sudden attention and raised his head. “Ah, yeah, I do.”

Killua paused from where his hand was reaching for the doorknob and looked up at the ceiling in thought. “Speaking of which, what category are you?”

Rin glanced over at him and said, “I’m a specialist.”

“That’s so cool!” Gon shouted with stars glistening in his eyes. “What’s your Hatsu?”

Rin smiled sheepishly. “I can control wind.”

Killua jerked around to face them with an outraged look on his face. “Seriously?! You had something that strong?!” he yelled. He looked a few seconds away from storming over and punching Rin in the head.

“It’s not as strong as you think it is. I can’t blow down a building or anything, and it takes a lot of energy to actually use it,” Rin quickly explained, raising both of his hands up to try and keep him calm.

Gon tilted his head to the side in confusion. “Why is that?” he asked.

Rin frowned slightly and tried to think of the best way to explain it without confusing Gon. “In order to use it, I have to release my nen into the environment around me. Then, by controlling the nen I’ve just released, I can cause the air to move. Because of the nen that’s in it, I can either have it become a blast that sends something flying away from me or make it thin enough to cut. It’s how I cut Leorio’s hand and got him to drop his briefcase during the Final Phase of the Hunter Exam.” There were a couple other uses, but he kept those to himself—one because it cost him so much energy that he usually passed out afterward and the other...he’d rather not talk about.

Killua hummed. “And because of all the extra nen you have to release, you get tired faster.”

“Yeah.”

“Rin, why did you choose that ability?” Gon questioned.

Rin hummed and leaned further back into the couch as he considered the question. “Probably because I love the wind. I love standing outside and feeling it blow against my face,” he admitted with a smile.

Killua raised an eyebrow. “That’s it? You choose it because of that?”

“Yup.” Rin’s smile widened in amusement, knowing that it would annoy the boy even more.

“I’m surrounded by idiots,” Killua mumbled as he facepalmed.

Gon jumped up in anger. “Hey!”

“Anyway, I’m going to go start practicing my special ability. Gon, you keep thinking about it. Though, it’s possible that I’m the only one who’ll pass the screening, Rin included.” Killua smirked and closed the door before either of them could say anything.

Rin sighed in annoyance and slight amusement. Blunt as always. He glanced over and saw that Gon was once again staring at the floor dejectedly.

“Gon?” Rin asked in worry, sitting up more so he could get a better look at him.

“What should I do, Rin?” Gon looked up at him with big, watery eyes.

Rin twitched at the sad puppy dog look aimed at him. I’ve always been weak to that...something Daisuke always took advantage of. He contemplated the boy in front of him for a moment, then tilted his head to the side. “What is your goal?”

Gon frowned slightly. “What do you mean?”

Rin tried a different approach. “What are you trying to accomplish?” he asked instead.

“I want to find Ging,” Gon answered, still confused.

Rin stared at him. “Is that all?”

“...No” Gon frowned harder. “I want to get stronger.”

“Think about the things that already make you strong right now. That should help you decide what you want to do.” Rin smiled softly.

“If you say so,” Gon mumbled uncertainly.

Rin offered to stay and watch, answering anymore question the boy had when he could. More than once, he had to cover his laugh with a cough when more steam came out of Gon’s ears and knew it was going to be a long night.


 

Honestly, those men made the test sound like it was going to be harder than it actually was. All they needed to do was show that they had nen and knew how to use it. For Rin, all it took was spinning wind around him as they shielded their eyes from the blast.

Afterward, they had everyone who passed board a train and then led them to a huge mansion that probably cost more than Rin had ever seen in his life. It was rather intimidating, and Rin was afraid to touch anything inside in case he accidentally broke it. That is, until they started to lead them down some slightly creepy stairs to an even creepier basement.

Even as he warily looked around at the grey walls surrounding them, Rin couldn’t but raise a hand in order to cover up a yawn as they descended the steps.

At the sound, Killua turned back to scowl at him. “Why are you tired?! You slept the entire train ride here!” he shouted, staring at him in disbelief.

“But I’m not fully awake yet,” he mumbled sleepily. “Besides, you two fell asleep just like me.”

Killua threw his hands up in the air, almost smacking Gon’s face in the process. “Exactly! But you don’t see us walking around half dead!”

Rin pouted and was about reply when Gon stepped between them. “Now, now. Why don’t we just calm down?”

Killua snapped his head to the side with a loud, “Tch.”

Rin didn’t even bother saying anything, just focused on keeping his eyes open. He blearily looked up when the man leading them stopped inside of a room and started talking.

“Now, then…” He paused as all the contestants took in the sheer amount of computers in the room.

At least this room isn’t as creepy, Rin thought.

“Before we begin, let me explain a few things. The individual game copies are not independent. It doesn’t matter which console you start from. You will all arrive at the same place. Consider it a virtual area accessible from any spot on this planet. I will now hand out memory cards. You will head immediately into the game. But first, we must decide the order.”

“Order?” someone in the group asked.

The man held up a finger. “Only one may enter the game area at a time. We will decide the order now, to forestall bickering inside the game.”

Gon and Killua glanced at him, so he gave them a shrug. Best to just go along with it.


 

Just my luck. Last place. How can I be so bad at rock-paper-scissors? This is like that poker game all over again. The sudden thought of Hisoka brought a warm, tingling feeling to Rin’s chest. Although, he couldn’t decide whether it was from happiness or annoyance—probably both.

Rin found a wall void of any people to lean against and watched as everyone else went into the game. He figured it would be as good a time as any to observe their rivals. None of them looked particularly strong, but even a cat could be dangerous when backed into a corner, so they should still be careful.

An image of Killua as a cat popped into his mind, and he almost snorted.

Some of them were even glancing at him from the corner of their eyes, so he figured they were doing the same thing he was. Making sure to not look obvious, he gave another yawn and blinked away the tears that automatically filled his eyes. He saw most of them either relax or grin, and it had him smirking internally. It wasn’t his problem if they thought he was weaker than he actually was.

The anxiety inside him, however, was real, and he kept shifting from foot to foot as the time seemed to just keep dragging on. Finally, when it was his turn, he hurried on through, worried about all the trouble the two of them could get into in that amount of time.

“Rin!”

He focused on the voice and let out a breath of relief. Gon and Killua were leaning against a pillar a little ways down, and he let out a quiet chuckle because Gon was waving his hands like crazy while Killua was just scowling at him.

“Finally! We’ve been waiting forever,” Killua grumbled and put his hands on his hips, the scowl on his face deepening.

Rin shrunk into himself and laughed sheepishly. “Sorry.”

Killua sighed, then looked around. “Anyway, where should we go first? I don’t see any nearby towns.”

“Oh, you’re right.” Rin took in the large, open field surrounding the small building they were standing under. It was a refreshing sight after being surrounded by buildings for the past couple of weeks.

“Yeah, but everyone headed in the same directions,” Gon informed.

Killua hummed in thought, then pointed his hand in two different directions. “They either went this way or that way, right?”

“Huh?” Gon jumped and leaned forward, eyes widening. “How did you know?”

“Because that’s where we’re being watched from.” Killua put his hands back in his pockets and shrugged. “But we still don’t know why they’re watching us.”

Gon gave a small nod. “True.”

“Then we should probably be careful,” Rin said with a frown. The thought of being watched was raising the hair on the back of his neck.

“Un!” Gon agreed. He was still beaming, so Rin wondered how seriously he was actually taking it.

He almost smiled. Knowing him, probably not much.


 

So much for being careful. Rin stared blankly at the guy who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He was seriously starting to curse their luck. It always seemed to attract the strangest people to them.

The man had purple dreadlocks and tattoos on both shoulders. He straightened out of a crouch and smiled at them. “This must be your first time playing this game,” he said.

“I wonder if you’re right,” Killua replied, smirking at him. There was a sharp, calculating look in his eyes as he regarded the man before them. “Since you’re carrying a book, you must be a player.” He gestured with one hand to the floating book in front of the guy.

“Well, sure,” the man agreed easily. He tapped something in his book and hummed thoughtfully, a smirk slowly creeping onto his face. “Killua-kun, Gon-kun, and Rin-kun, huh?”

Gon’s eyes narrowed into a glare, his nen flaring up briefly. “How do you know our names?” he demanded.

“How indeed?” The man laughed.

This guy is really starting to annoy me, and I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this whole thing.

Rin took a small step forward and smiled kindly at the man. “There’s actually something we need to do, so if you don’t mind, we’ll be leaving now.” He turned to face the two beside him. “Come on. We should go.”

However, before either boy could reply, the man suddenly lifted a card in the air and yelled, “Trace on! Attack, Killua!”

The card in his hand turned into a glowing light and shot toward Killua, who jerked to the side and started running.

The man laughed loudly. “You can’t run from spells in this game!” he shouted gleefully.

“Killua!” Rin yelled out in concern when he saw the light envelop the boy.

“Killua, are you okay?” Gon shouted.

“Hahaha! My attack worked!”

Why you... Rin glared at the man, his nen bubbling beneath his skin and begging to be let out, but he froze when the air suddenly became filled with bloodlust. He slowly turned to face Killua and felt his eyes widen at the black aura surrounding him.

“What did you just do to me?” Killua asked quietly. His eyes were completely blank as he took a small step toward the man.

The man stared at Killua in complete horror and yelled in a panic, “Return on! Take me to Masadora!” And just as quickly as the man appeared, he left.

All three of them stared at the spot the man had been a second ago, but when nothing else happened, Rin shook himself to get rid of the shock and ran over to Killua.

“Are you okay?” Rin asked and hovered close to him, hands raised in case the boy collapsed. He was glad to see the light return to his eyes, overtaking the hollow look that had transformed the boy’s face just moments before. It reminded him of the time with Illumi, and that was something Rin never wanted to experience again.

Killua waved him off with a huff. “Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry your head off.”

Gon came over as well and peered off into the distance. “I wonder what that light was.”

“Probably the power of some type of card.” Killua frowned. “If anything, this just shows that we need to be more wary of anyone that approaches us with their book out. Come on, let’s head to one of the towns so we can get more information.”

Killua turned toward the direction they were headed in originally but stopped right before he could run into Rin’s chest. Rin just barely saw his eye twitch before he felt a sharp jab to his side. He let out a loud yelp and shifted his side away from the offending limb.

“Stop hovering already!”


 

Rin ended up using Gon as a shield the rest of the trip, and he made a mental note of the fact that Gon’s smiles seemed to counteract Killua’s glares, rendering them harmless. It was definitely something he would be keeping in mind in the near future.

They did eventually make it to town in one piece, thankfully without being attacked and without anymore bodily harm to Rin. It would be just their luck to run into some crazy, murderous person as soon as they stepped foot in town, but for once, nothing happened.

Yet... he thought grimly. That chance was slowly rising the longer he listened to the clerk.

“The mountain is crawling with bandits, and once you pass the mountain, you’ll encounter hordes of monsters.”

The more the man talked, the paler Rin’s face became. Oh no, if he says that then they will…

“Bandits?” Killua asked excitedly, a huge smile breaking across his face.

“Monsters?” Gon leaned closer with eagerness.

They turned to each and beamed. “Now it sounds more like an RPG!” Killua said enthusiastically.

Gon raised his fists in the air. “I wanna see these monsters! Let’s hurry up!”

...do that. Rin slumped his head in defeat. Thanks a lot, Rin thought as he glowered at the man behind the counter. The man only smiled in apology, causing the glare to melt into a pout. Rin turned and followed them out of the shop with a sigh.

Killua glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “What? Are you afraid of going into the mountain?” he teased.

“No, I just think we should avoid fighting,” Rin admitted with a frown, hoping they would change their minds, even though he had already accepted that they would go, whether he liked it or not.

“Hmm.” Killua stared at him.

Rin narrowed his eyes as the grin turned even more sly. I don’t like where this is going.

“Hey, Gon.” Killua gestured for Gon to come closer, then slowly leaned over to whisper something into Gon’s ear, who smiled and nodded.

Rin made sure to keep his guard up when Gon suddenly inched closer with his head down and tugged on the end of his sleeve. It was only when Gon raised his head to peer up at him that Rin involuntarily took a step back. The boy had somehow made his eyes grow impossibly wider, which in turn caused them to water, and had pushed out his bottom lip into a pout.

“Neh, neh. Can we please go?” he asked. His bottom lip started to tremble.

Rin froze and could only stare at him helplessly. He fought to keep the blush down that threatened to overwhelm his face but could feel his restraint fraying at the edges. This should be cheating, he wanted to whine. They stayed like this for a few seconds before…

He threw his hands in the air. “Fine! I give up!”

“All right!” Gon threw a fist in the air. “Off we go!” he shouted and pointed a finger in the direction of the woods.

Rin turned and glared over at Killua dejectedly, who gave him a smirk in return. Why do I put myself through this?

He sighed and followed after them.


 

This...looks like a death trap. Rin stared out at the vast canyon spread before them with a heavy amount of caution. Large mounds were littered around, creating a giant maze. A maze that someone could easily get lost in. Someone like us, Rin thought and glanced over at the two beside him. At least we have Gon. If anyone could find their way out, it’d be him.

“This area is rocky…” Gon trailed off.

Killua and Gon turned to each other, and the smirk they exchanged was the only warning Rin got.

Rin’s eyes widened, and he reached out to try and stop them. “Wait-”

“Let’s go!” Killua shouted as they both jumped over the ledge.

He grabbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. They’re going to kill themselves doing something stupid like this one of these days.

Just when Rin was debating whether or not to go check on them, he heard a slight rustle from behind him and whirled around in alarm, only to let out a breath of relief when it turned out to be the girl who had been following them. He watched in curiosity as she wandered closer.

Once she hit the edge, she scrutinized the area below with a serious expression that was vastly different from the innocent one Rin had only seen on her face so far. “Hmm. They’re moving around too much, but they’re doing reasonably well,” she said, then grinned over at Rin. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Eh?” Rin blinked in surprise at the sudden question and tilted his head. She was definitely acting different from how she was before, and it was making Rin suspicious. “Um, excuse me, but who exactly ar-” However, he was cut off when she grabbed his arm and yanked him forward.

“Come on. Let’s get a closer view.” She then proceeded to jump off the cliff.

Rin’s yelp was cut off as he started free-falling, and he honestly didn’t know why he was shocked anymore since he should have accepted the fact that he was surrounded by crazy people a long time ago.


 

The days passed by in whirlwind of activity, starting from the man with scissors attacking Gon and Killua, to learning that Bisky was there to help teach them and that she was actually the one who taught Wing everything he knew about nen, to the fact that she was actually old enough to be Rin’s grandmother despite looking even younger than Gon.

She knew what she was doing, though, Rin would give her that much. Plus, her nen was almost as heavy as a certain clown’s, just less bloodthirsty. He didn’t really think there was anyone more bloodthirsty than Hisoka. If, by some awful miracle, there was, then Rin hoped he never met them.

Bisky’s voice suddenly interrupted his mounting horror. “Now, it’s your turn,” she said.

He turned away from watching the boys dig to look at the gir- woman standing next to him. He tilted his head in a silent question.

“Wing told me a little bit about your nen,” Bisky explained and placed a hand on her chin as she examined Rin from head to toe, “And it was fairly easy to figure out your weakness, so that is what we’ll be focusing on.”

Rin flushed in embarrassment at the straightforward answer. “Wh-What do you want me to do?” he asked.

He turned white at the downright evil grin she leveled on him. “Why, practice of course. The only way you’ll be able to overcome your weakness is if you build up some stamina and get your body used to expending large amounts of nen at one time, so you are going to do just that.” She gestured to the ground. “Now, sit down and use your hatsu for as long as you can.”

Slowly sitting down so as not to incite her wrath, he waited until she eventually went back over to where Gon and Killua were and let out a long sigh to release all the tension in his body, raising his face up to the sky. Today is going to be a long day.

“Hey! I don’t sense you using nen! Get to it!”

Rin flinched. “Y-Yes, ma’am!”

A long day, indeed.


 

Rin was a second away from growling. Why do people like poking me when I’m trying to sleep?! He groaned and tried to swat at the hand.

“Hmm, so you are still alive.” Came Killua’s amused voice from somewhere above him.

“Go away,” Rin moaned pitifully. He hoped that, for once, the boy would actually listen. Rin didn’t think he could move even if he wanted to, not after using his hatsu for an entire day. He had barely made it back to their campsite before collapsing on the ground in a heap, and his nen was twinging in a way similar to how it was at Heavens Arena.

However, it seemed his wish would not be granted because just when he thought Killua had given up, he felt a jab in the exact same spot as before.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Rin frowned sulkily up at him.

Killua simply shrugged. “Nothing better to do.”

Rin closed his eyes. “I’m glad I can be a source of entertainment,” he sarcastically said and vaguely heard Killua snort.

“What’s going on?” The sound of footsteps could be heard getting closer.

“Nothing much, just Rin being a grump over here.”

Giving up on sleeping anytime soon, Rin sat up and stared at Gon and Killua with a blank expression. “I’m only ever grumpy when someone wakes me up.”

Killua grinned innocently. “Then you must always be grumpy because you’re always trying to sleep.” His raised his arms in a ‘what-can-you-do’ gesture, shaking his head. “The only way for you to get anywhere is for someone to wake you up.”

Gon laughed and peered down at Rin with a slightly mischievous look. “He’s kind of right, you know. You do sleep a lot.”

“You’re ganging up on me.” Rin glanced between them with wide eyes before focusing on Gon with a pout. “Gon, you’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Too bad.” Gon and Killua drawled together.

It was dead silent for all of two seconds before they started laughing. Gon flopped down and started rolling around in the dirt while Killua just clutched at his sides. Rin covered his mouth with a hand to try and stifle the laughter, but it escaped anyway. Once he managed to finally catch his breath, he turned to the two of them with a mixture of amusement and affection. The rest of the quiet night was filled with the sound of crickets and the occasional snicker. At least, until Bisky yelled at them to shut up and punched them.


 

He’s staring. Rin glanced out of the corner of his eye to look at Killua, who was sitting in the seat across from him. Ever since they had gotten on the boat, Killua had been watching Rin like a hawk. I still don’t understand why Bisky insisted on me coming with him. He’s only going to retake the Hunter Exam. Not that he was complaining. Rin did feel better knowing that he would be able to keep an eye on the white haired boy, and at the same time, know that Gon had someone looking out for him, as well.

Both boys were improving by leaps and bounds, but it was still reassuring to know that they would have someone with them just in case.

Rin peeked over again. Yup, still staring.

“What?” Rin finally asked.

Killua silently gazed at him a second longer before turning to look out the window with a smirk. “Nothing.”

“It’s obviously something. You were staring.”

“Just thinking,” he said slowly.

Rin felt his eye twitch when the time ticked by and Killua didn’t say anything more. “About what?” he prompted.

Killua hummed. “About how you and that clown were acting on the blimp,” he stated casually.

Rin choked. Out of everything he had expected to come out of Killua’s mouth, it was definitely not that. “Wh-what?! Why?!” he spluttered.

Killua shrugged and glanced over at him again. Finally, after a moment, he admitted, “I think part of me thought you were joking when you said you liked him.” He paused. “Well, that was until I saw you guys act like that.”

“I didn’t mean to...he just…” Rin gave up and just groaned into his hands, hiding the blush that was slowly but surely spreading across his cheeks. “Can we please talk about something else?” he pleaded.

Killua hummed thoughtfully. “I can never tell what he’s thinking. It’s so hard to get any kind of read on what he’s feeling.”

“How is this helping?” Rin whined.

But,” Killua interrupted, shooting a glower his way, “I think he does like you.” Here, he frowned. “In his own psychopathic way, I mean.”

Rin could only stare at him, completely speechless. Apparently, Killua didn’t like being gaped at because after he had finished talking he immediately faced back toward the window, but not before Rin caught a small glimpse of pink on his face.

Rin’s eyes softened. “Thanks.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Gon, Killua, Bisky, a man named Goreinu, and Rin were all gathered in a small huddle as they tried to figure out who to ask to be on their team in order to defeat the pirates. Because pirates? Seriously? Only they would have to deal with bloody pirates of all things, even in a game. Rin was seriously considering the possibility that there was some deity out there that he didn’t know about that was out to get them. He couldn’t think of any other reason they would have to deal with such weird situations— and people, his mind helpfully reminded him.

Gon hummed and eventually pointed at a name. “Looking at the names on my list, Chrollo’s probably the strongest,” he said and shifted the book so they could all peered over his shoulder to look at it.

“But Kurapika said he’s definitely a fake,” Killua immediately pointed out, frowning as he read the list of names.

Gon looked over at him with his brows furrowed. “Who is it, then?” he asked.

“Probably someone we don’t want to deal with,” Rin stated immediately, hoping that just this once, they wouldn’t want to run straight toward danger. Anyone who knew that name was definitely someone Rin wanted to avoid at all costs.

Killua raised a hand to his chin. “Well, it’s probably a member of the Troupe,” he said slowly.

“Exactly, so maybe we shouldn’t-” Rin tried again.

Gon tilted his head slightly. “Why would a member of the Troupe be here?”

Killua just shrugged. “Maybe to beat the game?” he guessed.

Rin felt his shoulders slump in defeat. I’m being ignored . He saw Bisky glance over at him with a slightly amused glance, which he pouted at. Times like this made Rin feel like he was the only sane person in the group.

He probably was, and wasn’t that a scary thought.

“But wouldn’t they have used their own names?” Gon asked, confusion written on his face.

“That’s true,” Killua eventually said and then closed his eyes.

“We can use Sight Vision,” Goreinu suddenly offered with a smile.

Rin turned to stare at him blankly. “Huh?” he said, then shot the others an amused look when they all had the same reaction as him.

Goreinu straightened to his full height and raised a finger in the air. “If this person isn’t here to beat the game, they won’t bother to collect cards,” he reasoned.

Gon blinked, then beamed at the man—sparkles, flowers, and all. “Oh, that’s right.”

Rin gave Goreinu a comforting pat on the shoulder when the man looked visibly taken aback by the force of nature that was Gon.

After pulling it up, Rin gazed at the information with amusement. Why is this guy even here, he wondered.

“This guy’s not even trying.” Killua glowered down at the book with a scowl. Rin knew that Killua was a big fan of games, so it probably irked the boy that this person wasn’t even trying to win. If anything, it seemed like they were just messing around.

“His only cards are for food and water,” Gon said. He seemed slightly amazement by it.

Goreinu frowned thoughtfully. “That makes it easier to invite them.”

Gon turned to him and nodded. “But if it really is a member of the Troupe, we won’t invite them. We’ll just ask a few questions.”

“Then there’s no point in bothering,” Killua argued, causing Gon to turn back to him with a huff. “Since it’s definitely one of them.”

Oh no, Rin thought with dread. He knew a mounting fight when he heard one. He raised a hand, opening his mouth in the hopes of nipping it in the bud, but he was too late.

Gon scowled, hands clenched at his side as he yelled, “Finding out who they are is important, but I’d rather learn why they’re here!”

Rin saw the exact moment Killua finally snapped and knew that any hope he had of stopping it was gone.

“Are you an idiot?! You’re gonna ask them why they’re here? They aren’t gonna tell you!” Killua yelled back, taking a step forward as he did.

Gon followed his example. “Yeah, I’m an idiot! I’m an idiot, so I’m still gonna ask!” he shouted. Their faces were inches apart, and Rin could definitely see sparks flying between their eyes.

Killua jerked back and turned away from him, growling, “Then go right ahead!”

Gon crossed his arms. “I sure will!” he shouted.

Even though he knew it was hopeless, Rin still raised a hand in the air and asked, “Did either of you consider the possibility that they’ll just attack us before we can do anything ?”

Both boys jerked around to glare at him. “Who asked you?!” they shouted in perfect unison.

The hand wilted. “Ah...nevermind.”

Goreinu sweatdropped at the heated exchange and glanced over at Bisky and Rin. “Will they be okay?” he asked in concern.

“This is perfectly normal for them,” Bisky said cheerfully, beaming at the man.

Rin gave him a tense smile, listening to how the boys were still snarling at each other in the background. “Despite how much I want to disagree...she’s right”

Gon suddenly huffed in anger, drawing their attention back to the squabbling boys. “I’m off, then!”

“Knock yourself out.” Killua scowled, arms crossed behind his head.

Both growled at each for another moment before Gon finally threw his hand in the air and yelled, “Accompany on! Chrollo Lucilfer.”

When the light dispersed, Rin glanced around but could only see fog surrounding them. There was the slight sound of water nearby, but Rin couldn’t pinpoint it. Where the heck did it take us?

Once his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he squinted and could just barely make out a figure standing not too far away from them.

Killua leaned forward slightly. “No way…” he mumbled. There was a quiet sort of horror mixed into his voice.

“Hisoka!” Gon called in disbelief.

At the sound of their voices, the figure slowly turned to face them, and Rin could only stare with wide eyes. Is he... He choked.

“Well, well...It seems I have some unexpected visitors,” he drawled. At this point, Hisoka was fully facing them. “It’s been a while.”

Rin could feel his mind grind to a painful halt when it fully took in the fact that Hisoka. Was. Naked .

Rin could feel his face slowly go blank as Hisoka wagged his finger at them and said, “As I thought. You’ve matured quite a lot.” His nen flared dangerously, making the water ripple around him. “It appears that you found an excellent teacher. As I anticipated, you grow more appetizing with every day,” he purred. He was definitely leering at them as golden eyes raked over them.

“Wh-Who is this pervy freak?” It was Goreinu’s voice that finally woke Rin from his state of shock.

The unfamiliar voice immediately caught the magician’s attention, and Hisoka turned to him with cold eyes. “Are you their teacher?” he questioned.

However, he seemed to answer his own question because Hisoka didn’t even wait for Goreinu to answer before he turned to look at Bisky—who was openly ogling him!

When she realized she had been caught, she turned away with a blush, squealing in a high pitched voice. “Stop it!”

Rin’s hand was twitching at his side as he forced his eyes to only look at Hisoka’s face, even as he felt heat creeping up his neck. How is he not embarrassed?!

Hisoka raised a hand to his hip, and Rin’s eyes unconsciously followed the movement before he jerked them back up again. His face was on fire, and Rin was desperately trying to ignore the heat pooling in his stomach.

He made the mistake of meeting Hisoka’s eyes, and they enveloped him in golden fire. “Like what you see~” he purred, and oh god, that deep voice should definitely be illegal .

The only sound that escaped his throat was a strange mix of a choke and a squeak.

Killua must have decided to take pity on him, for once, because he suddenly yelled, “Put some clothes on already!”

Hisoka pouted, which only made Rin want to stare at his lips instead, and that was definitely not helping. “Hmm~ You’re no fun~” he complained.

Hisoka started to walk to the water’s edge, body moving with all the grace of a predator, and for once, there was nothing covering the muscles as they rippled with every movement. Rin felt like he was slowly losing his mind.

His eyes grew even wider and he took a small step back when the magician started heading his way. The action only caused that stupid, familiar smirk to crawl onto his lips. Hisoka didn’t stop until they were inches apart, and even then, he leaned forward so that their breaths were mingling.

Gold eyes locked with his, looking like they wanted to devour him, and at that point, part of Rin wanted him to. “Hello~”

Rin opened his mouth, but the only thing that came out was another squeak. If possible, his face grew even hotter than it already was.

Rin vaguely heard Killua yell, “Hisoka!”

The pout was back, though his eyes still danced deviously, and as he pulled back, something shot through Rin’s chest that felt like both relief and disappointment. Hisoka stepped around him, arm brushing against Rin’s as he did, and walked toward a pile of clothes that none of them had noticed before.

Rin clutched at the arm that was still tingling and refused to turn around, only listening to the sound of rustling clothes.

“So what do you want with me...No, with Chrollo?” Hisoka asked after he had finally put some clothes on like any sane person. Rin paused. Or as sane as he usually was, anyway.

I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack. He had moved to the treeline so he could lean back against the bark and clutch at his chest, where Rin could still feel the rapid pounding of his heart.

“I have a question.” Gon finally said. “Why are you here?”

Hisoka ran a hand through his hair. “I’m looking for Chrollo. There’s actually a way to remove Kurapika’s nen from him.”

The movement of his hair drew Rin’s attention, and he stared at it thoughtfully, knowing that there was something different. He let out a quiet “oh”. That’s what it was. I’ve never seen him with his hair down before or without his makeup. It looks...nice. The sudden embarrassing thought made Rin slowly turn and smash his head against the tree in the hope of forgetting it ever existed in the first place. He was finally starting to calm down, and thoughts like that were only making the heat come rushing right back. A small portion of his concentration—that wasn’t going toward hitting his head—found it amusing that everyone in the clearing was ignoring the fact that Rin was trying to give himself amnesia.

When Rin zoned back into the conversation, Hisoka had just put another hand on his hip. “Now, it’s my turn for a question. You didn’t come here just to ask that, did you?”

“No, I did,” Gon stated easily.

Killua’s head fell forward, and Rin almost snorted when even Hisoka seemed shocked by the casual response.

“Um…” Bisky called out. “Actually, we’re looking for people who are really strong. Won’t you please join us?”

Either I’m hallucinating because my head’s spinning, or there are sparkles around her…

Hisoka hummed, then eventually shrugged. “Sure. Why are you looking for strong people?”

However, before she could answer the others formed a semi-circle around her.

“Wait, h-hold on...I’m against this. It’s too dangerous!” Goreinu immediately denied.

“Yeah, you don’t know who this guy is, Bisky!” Killua attempted to explain.

Rin wanted to facepalm. They do realize he can hear them, right? If anything, the man was watching them as if they were some sort of entertainment.

Biksy tilted her head cutely. “Oh? That’s not true. I can sense that he’s a kindred spirit.”

Rin leaned forward slightly from his position by the tree when he saw Bisky raise her hands. The words, “He’s lying,” were formed in the air with nen. Well, yeah. Why would he tell us the truth?

Not knowing what just happened—or pretending not to—Hisoka raised both of his arms. “We should head to the City of Love, Aiai, just ahead. It’s a great place for new meetings. Perhaps you can find strong people there.”

Rin glanced back over to the group and made eye contact with Bisky, who nodded at him.

Killua made the final decision. “Alright, we’ll go,” he said.

“Excellent~” Hisoka’s grin widened, and there was a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Hisoka ran his fingers through his hair, somehow making it stand up in his usual hairstyle. A quick use of gyo revealed Bungee Gum holding it up, and Rin couldn’t help the slight frown that formed. He should have kept it down.

The small glance and smirk his way from Hisoka just added on to Rin’s theory that he could somehow read minds.


 

Bisky, Gon, and Killua were walking at the front of the group with Goreinu trailing just behind them. Somehow it had been decided that Rin would walk next to Hisoka at the rear of the group.

“He might actually listen to you,” Killua had insisted.

Not likely, he had wanted to argue, but then Gon had looked him with those eyes, and he had stood no chance.

The worried looks Goreinu kept shooting him were not helping, and he tried his best to send reassuring smiles back.

Despite Rin’s best efforts to hide it, it was obvious that he was avoiding looking in Hisoka’s direction entirely, and the last time he had openly ignored the magician...had not gone well—at least for his cheeks. The man hadn’t tried to start a conversation yet, but Rin knew it was only a matter of time until he either got bored or annoyed.

Though, it appeared that he didn’t have anything to worry about at the moment because something else clearly had the man’s attention. Rin couldn’t help the curiosity, so he glanced over at Hisoka from the corner of his eyes and followed his line of sight to see where he was looking, feeling his eyes widen as he did.

However, before he could say anything, Rin saw Killua and Gon suddenly shudder. They both immediately knew who the culprit was and turned to glare at the man.

“Hey, Hisoka! You walk in front!” Killua yelled, then he turned and jabbed a finger at Rin. “You were supposed to keep him out of trouble!”

“Ma, ma~” Hisoka chuckled slightly even as he moved up to the front.

Rin could only sulk dejectedly as he followed, and Goreinu sped up as well so he was still between Hisoka and the others.

“Hmm~ It seems you failed your job~” Hisoka teased, smirking over at him.

Rin turned to look at the passing trees and muttered, “Like I could have stopped you anyway.”

“Oh~ What’s this?” Rin twitched slightly as he could practically feel Hisoka lean closer. “Is someone jealous?”

“No.” Though, the fact that Rin refused to look at him really wasn’t helping his case.

Rin briefly caught a pale flash in the corner of his eye before something grabbed his chin. Knowing that trying to fight it was futile, he let it happen and just settled for glowering at him in annoyance.

Gold eyes were filled to the brim with amusement. “It’s rude not to look at someone when they’re talking,” Hisoka informed innocently.

“It’s also rude to grab someone’s face,” Rin countered.

Hisoka leaned even closer, now just a hair’s breadth away. “Didn’t I tell you before? You are mine.”

He heard a choke come from somewhere behind him, though he couldn’t tell who it was. Probably Goreinu, he thought absently.

A small blush colored Rin’s face when he felt the warm air brush over his lips, but he refused to back down from the impromptu staring contest they had entered. It was a similar position to before, and the sudden image of a naked Hisoka flashing across his mind...did not really help, either.

Something flickered across Hisoka’s face, and he leaned back a little.

“Such an interesting little kitten~” he purred and lifted the hand not still holding Rin’s chin to tug on a strand of black hair, then he released him and turned to look casually over his shoulder at their audience. “We need nine more members, correct?”

Goreinu looked at Hisoka uncertainly, though there was a slight redness to his cheeks, and the man refused to meet Rin’s eyes. “Yeah...We hope to find others like you who aren’t interested in cards.”

“Isn’t everyone else here to beat the game?” Hisoka questioned with mirth. “I can’t imagine there are too many eccentrics like myself. By the way, did you use someone’s power to warp to me?”

Rin turned to stare blankly at him. Did you seriously come into the game without knowing anything about how to play it? Knowing Hisoka, he most likely did.

Goreinu shook his head. “That was one of the spells in this game,” he explained.

Hisoka hummed. “Oh, so that’s what it was. You need to buy spells from stores, right?”

“That’s right,” Gon added helpfully.

“Hmm~” Hisoka didn’t say anything else and just continued walking.

The rest of the way was travelled in silence, but for some reason, the tension in Rin’s shoulders had eased slightly.


 

After awhile, Rin happened to look up and deadpanned at the sight before him.

“Uh, guys. I think I see it.” The huge, pink heart floating in the sky was a dead giveaway.

Rin shot Hisoka a look that the magician completely ignored. Of course this was the city he would recommend. It was like the cafe all over again.

The closer they got, the more pink Rin could see, and it had him sweatdropping. Just as they entered the city, a girl tripped and fell in front of them.

She had a green dress, and her long brown hair was pulled up into a ponytail. “Where are my glasses?” she asked and felt around the ground frantically.

Hisoka turned to Gon and gestured to her. “Why not give them to her? You might become friends.”

However, before any of them could react, another girl suddenly bumped into Goreinu.

“Hey!” She had a pink dress and a spotted vest, and she was currently scowling at them. “Watch where you’re going! Be more careful.”

Goreinu scratch the back of his head sheepishly and said, “S-Sorry…”

“Ah! I’m gonna be late!” she yelled, then got up and ran.

“You weren’t supposed to apologize,” Hisoka scolded. “You should have told her to watch where she was going and started a fight.”

Rin slowly blinked. Just what is this place? And why does he know all of this?

He faintly heard a shout to the left and was about to turn to it, but felt a small tug on his sleeve. He glanced down and saw a young girl clutching at his arm.

She peered up at him with wide, blue eyes. “Excuse me, can you-”

Whatever she was about to say was cut off by Rin being jerked back into someone’s chest. However, before he could object to the rough treatment, he felt his mouth click shut, both from the pressure on top of his head and the nen curling around him.

A voice purred above him. “Sorry, but this kitten already has an owner~” A brief flare of bloodlust had the girl immediately scampering away, her eyes wide with fear.

Rin shivered slightly when he felt the vibrations from the chest behind him as the other talked. He tried to look up at Hisoka to gauge the other’s expression, but the chin pressing down on his head prevented it.

He huffed and settled for staring forward. “Was that really necessary?” Rin asked with a frown, ignoring the pleased feeling that shot through him.

The chest rumbled again. “Hmm~ I don’t share.” Hisoka’s voice was light, but Rin could hear a small amount of anger tainting it, and the arms wrapped around him tightened ever so slightly.

He scowled. “I’m not an object.” However, despite the grumbling, Rin leaned back into the warmth. He felt bad for the girl, but Rin couldn’t help the part of him that was almost gleeful to see Hisoka feeling jealous, even if it was more Hisoka protecting something he claimed as his.

He didn’t know how long they stood there, but it was long enough that Rin was beginning to contemplate the chances of being able to take a nap while standing up—if Rin thought Gon was a furnace, he was nothing compared to Hisoka—when Killua’s voice came from behind them.

“Hisoka, let’s head somewhere else.”

The weight lifted. “Oh? But we won’t be bored here.”

Despite saying that, Hisoka turned to saunter back out the entrance, dragging Rin along with a firm grip on his wrist. It reminded Rin of that day in Yorknew City, and once again, he found himself going along with the other man’s whims.


 

These people are going to give me grey hairs, Rin thought, watching as everyone celebrated their win against Razor. The match itself had tested every hint of self control that he had, and there were multiple times that Rin had almost darted back onto the court. Although, each time he had made to step forward, Gon would shoot him a determined look, and he would freeze.

I still can’t believe I was the first one knocked out, he grumbled internally. He might have been... holding a slight grudge.

“Yes! We got Patch of Shore!” Gon yelled and threw a fist in the air.

Killua grinned in excitement and darted closer to Gon. “Let’s use Clone to make two copies,” he said, pulling out said card.

Rin smiled fondly at them but looked over at the sound of footsteps growing farther away, eyes just barely catching sight of red hair as it disappeared from view.

Gon noticed, too, because he ran over to the steps with Rin trailing slightly behind him. “Hisoka, you really don’t want anything?”

Hisoka paused on the steps and looked back over his shoulder at them. “No, it was quite fun~”

Killua walked forward so that he was standing on the other side of Gon. “Why don’t you join us?” he offered.

“I’m not interested in collecting cards. Should anything else come up, use Contact to reach me. I’ll use Accompany or Magnetic Force to come at once,” Hisoka said, meeting Rin’s eyes before turning back around and continuing down the steps.

How did he…

Rin stared after him for a few seconds before he said, “I’ll be right back.” He gave them a small smile and didn’t wait for their reply as he ran to catch up.

By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, Hisoka was already leaning against one of the windowsills with his eyes closed. It almost annoyed him that the man automatically assumed that Rin would come after him. Not that he was wrong, but still.

Rin didn’t stop until he was standing right next to Hisoka. Once there, he slowly reached out and brushed his fingers softly against the back of Hisoka’s hand, then paused to wait for a protest. When none was given, he gently grabbed the hand, turning it slightly to get a better look at the swollen fingers. They looked even worse than he thought now that he could see them more clearly.

Rin turned worried eyes to him, cradling the hand gently between his. “Do they hurt?” he asked.

Hisoka simply grinned, flexing the fingers still in Rin’s grasp. “No.”

Doubting that the man would be truthful, Rin carefully examined his face for any sign of discomfort, and his frown deepened even after finding none.

He slowly let go with one hand and reached into his pocket to pull out a roll of bandages. It had been a while since he had to bandage anything, so Rin was a little out of practice. However, once he began, his fingers started moving on their own as muscle memory took over. His father had taught him the best way to wrap fingers so that they were supported but the person could still use them normally.

Rin tied off the bandage and realized that he should probably let go of Hisoka’s hand, but he found he didn’t really want to. He peeked up at Hisoka, only to find the man watching him with an odd expression. It was almost...fond, in a weird Hisoka sort of way, and it made Rin’s chest grow warm.

“You carry bandages?” he asked, and he seemed honestly curious about the answer.

Rin nodded and sheepishly said, “I tend to be accident prone, so I got into the habit.”

Hisoka hummed and flexed his fingers, testing to make sure the bandages would stay in place, and Rin saw the smirk right before he felt a pat on his head.

Rin scowled as the hand ruffled his hair, and he could already tell that it made it even messier than it already was before. “I’m not a dog, either,” he grumbled and attempted to glare but knew that it came out half-hearted, especially when he saw Hisoka’s smirk widen even more.

“Of course not~” Hisoka drawled. He let his hand linger before finally pulling it back. “Anyway, shouldn’t you be taking care of your kits?”

The image of two kittens hissing at each other flashed across his mind, and Rin had to use his free hand to cover his mouth, trying to stifle the laughter that was threatening to break free. “Don’t let Killua hear you say that. He’ll have a fit.”

Rin looked up at Hisoka, eyes shining brightly with laughter, and took the chance to study the man. He still had that oddly warm expression on his face, one that both suited the magician and didn’t at the same time. It didn’t change, even as silver eyes trailed along Hisoka’s face, committing it to memory. If anything, it grew warmer as something sparked in the eyes that Rin was beginning to love have focused solely on him. He let his eyes linger on lips that were still curled upward, and his tongue darted out to lick his lips subconscious. The heated gaze followed the movement, causing Rin to shiver as a new emotion began to take over.

Feeling a rush of confidence, Rin tilted his head to the side, exposing the part of his neck where he could practically feel the scar burning beneath his shirt. Hisoka’s lips pulled up even more and then he was leaning forward, eyes locking Rin in place. Not that he would, or could, have pulled away at this point.

As soon as their lips met, Rin almost melted into the kiss with a sigh. This one was nothing like the ones before. This one was Hisoka slowly, almost agonizingly slowly, taking time to map out Rin’s entire mouth, their tongues dancing around each other as he did, and Rin was simply there to enjoy the ride.

Rin raised his hands automatically and weakly held onto Hisoka’s shirt as he tried to follow as best he could, but it was still crystal clear who had more experience, though his lack of experience didn’t seem to deter Hisoka in the least. If anything, it felt like Rin was about to be completely devoured at any second, and given who he was kissing, that wouldn’t be very surprising. Just the thought itself nearly made his knees buckle as a small whine escaped his throat, and the chuckle Hisoka let out sent pleasant shivers down his spine. In revenge, Rin nipped at Hisoka’s bottom lip, gently tugging on it with his teeth and growing more confident as Hisoka growled. Hands came up to grip at him tightly, one on his lower back, tugging him closer, and the other resting against his neck. A finger slipped under his shirt, and the touch had him arching his back into the hard chest in front of him with a moan. Even through the clothes separating them, Rin could still feel the tantalizing warmth that seemed to seep from Hisoka’s very being, and it had him pressing even closer, wanting to feel as much of it as he could.

The small part of him that was still coherent was thankful that no one else was around.

When his lungs insisted that they get air, Rin leaned his head back, panting. His face was absolutely burning, and there was a pooling heat in his stomach that was refusing to be ignored. A quick peek revealed that Hisoka’s eyes were swirling with barely contained lust, and he had to bite his lip to keep himself from groaning as the heat spiked almost painfully.

Hisoka stared at him for what felt like an eternity, then gave one final pat on his head before he pushed off from the window and walked away, a hand waving casually behind him as he left.


 

Rin listened to the waves crashing against the sand nearby, the birds chirping nearby . He could taste salt in the back of his throat, and the wind blowing through his hair was cool compared to the heat of the sun. It was peaceful. He glanced between Bisky and Bara. Well, except for the two people standing off in a dual. Why Bisky chose the beach, Rin didn’t know. The only reason he was even there at all was because Bisky had told him to stand to the side and watch.

“I don’t get it…” Bara put his hands on his hips and glanced around. Ah, I’m not the only one confused. “Why would you two go to all this trouble to be alone with me?”

Bisky slowly tilted her head, a wide smile on her face. The sight sent shivers down Rin’s spine.

“One reason.” Bisky’s voice started out cheerful before turning into something far more menacing. “Because I didn’t want to let you cry for help.”

Rin took a small step away from her. I almost feel sorry for him.

The man only stared in confusion. “Huh? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You’re such a fool. I’m telling you that I’m stronger.” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared and reappeared behind him, kicking him in the head. She followed that up with a solid punch to the back, and the impact created a large crater in the sand.

When the sand eventually cleared, Rin could see the man trying to stand up, his body wavering. “Damned brat!”

Rin winced as Bara was met with another flurry of punches.

Bara grinned, even as blood dripped down his chin, staining the yellow sand beneath him. “Your attacks are too weak! You can’t defeat me!”

Bicky charged at him anyway, but this time he managed to backhand her.

Bara brushed some hair out of his face. “I won’t hold back, so don’t blame me. And once I’m done with you, I’ll go after him.” He jerked his head in Rin’s direction.

Bisky laughed, and Rin blinked when her form almost seemed to ripple. “That’s what I was going to say. I was being nice, so I let you hit me once because I can’t restrain myself when I revert.” Her voice slowly changed as she grew in size. “And I end up killing my opponents!” she yelled and quickly ended the fight by punching Bara so hard he went flying.

Vaguely, Rin recognized that he was shaking as he felt all the blood drain out of his face at the sheer force of the nen pouring off her. This was the person who taught Wing, the one who had earned her right to become a Hunter, the one who’s eye had the same gleam that his father’s had.

The crunch of sand had Rin focusing back in to where Bisky was slowly walking over to Bara, who was groaning weakly. “Oh, you’re alive? I’m impressed.”

“Why would you,” he barely managed to gasp out, “hide your power”

“Two reasons...The ace up your sleeve should remain hidden, and more than anything, I hate the way I look. Too macho! Don’t you agree?” She paused, then reached down and picked Bara up. “He can’t hear me anymore? Oh, well.” Bisky dropped him and turned so abruptly to face Rin that he jumped.

He shrunk back in fear at the sudden scrutiny, wanting nothing more than to become invisible as Bisky stalked over, only stopping when she was looming over him.

“Do you know why I allowed you to see this form?”

He shook his head, and as time went by, he slowly relaxed when it became apparent that she wasn’t about to maim him.

“I knew your foster father. He was a dear friend of mine.” She frowned, and he saw pain bleed into her eyes. “I was devastated when I heard he had-” She cut herself off. “I’m sorry you had to go through that again.”

Rin felt his gaze grow sadder as he met hers, the ever constant ache in his chest throbbing painfully for a brief moment. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Hmph. If I could trust anyone with this form, it would be the son that man was always bragging about.”

Rin was honestly surprised when he felt the corners of his lips twitch up into a small smile. He didn’t think he would be able to smile, not in that moment, not when the memories were creeping to the front of his mind, tearing open old scars. “That sounds just like him.”

“Now that that’s out of the way.” Bisky slammed both hands on his shoulders, making him jump. “Tell anyone about this, and I’ll give you an experience worse than death.” She tilted her head to the side with a bright smile.

“A-Ah.” Rin squeaked and stared at her with wide eyes.


 

Rin drew a sharp breath the second he laid eyes on Gon.

“Oh my god. What happened to your arm?!” Rin’s hands could only hover over Gon because there wasn’t a single place that wasn’t injured. It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone , repeated like a mantra inside his head. When I get my hands on who did this... His nen flared dangerously, wanting to attack the man responsible but at the same time, wanting to envelop Gon in a protective cocoon.

Gon winced as he croaked out, “Genthru used his ability to blow it up.”

Rin was so tempted to try and shake some sense into him. “Why did you let him get that close?! He could have killed you!” He was mentally counting the number of ways he could kill that man.

Gon hung his head and whispered, “Sorry.”

Rin sighed and tried to rain in his bloodlust. He gave a strained smile. “Just, please be more careful. Okay?”

“Okay,” Gon agreed, still looking slightly glum.

Nothing else could be said, however, because Genthru— the man responsible for hurting Gon, the one who better pray that I never see him again —shifted slightly.

“Are you awake?” Killua stepped closer to where the three men were tied up. “Summon your binder,” he ordered.

“We want to return the cards you stole from the people you backstabbed,” Bisky added, placing her hands on her hips as she glowered down at them.

“On one condition,” Genthru rasped. “Use Archangel to heal Bara. We have a Clone card.”

Rin felt his glare lessen ever so slightly. At least the man isn’t completely heartless, but I will still never forgive him.

“Don’t worry,” Killua said and glared down at him. “That was always part of the plan.”

“We brought six copies of Clone,” Bisky informed.

The man’s eye widened in surprise, then he closed them in defeat and said, “Book…”

Bisky went over and took the cards they were looking for, then she walked a few feet from them and yelled, “Gain!”

There was a bright light before a beautiful woman appeared. She was glowing softly, and she slowly turned kind eyes on them. “What is your wish?” she asked quietly.

Killua pointed over at Gon. “We need you to heal his hands and throat. Actually, can you just heal all his injuries?”

“Easily done. Then, I shall heal his body.” She blew out aquamarine colored smoke onto Gon.

Rin couldn’t help but twitch with the urge to blow it away, but the wariness turned to awe as Gon glowed, his injuries healing right before Rin’s eyes.

Gon beamed and threw his hands in the air. “I’m healed! All right!” he exclaimed, jumping up and down in joy.

Rin smiled and waited until the boy had calmed down before he called out, “Gon.”

Gon turned to him, a huge smile still painted across his face as he tilted his head. “Yeah?”

Rin’s hands flew forward and yanked harshly on his cheeks.

Gon yelped. “Ow, ow, ow! Rin! Let go!” He waved his hands frantically in the air.

Rin could hear Killua snickering in the background but ignored him.

“Now you know what it feels like,” Killua muttered quietly, which earned him an annoyed glance from Gon.

Rin released his grip, cutting off any more protests with a stern look. “Be grateful that’s all I’m doing. Imagine if Mito-san was here.”

Gon’s rapidly paling face was answer enough, and he jumped forward to hug Rin, begging him not to say anything to her. He let the boy wallow in it for a few more seconds before hugging him back and promising to get keep it a secret.

Over spiky, black hair, he met Bisky’s amused stare and rolled his eyes.


 

“Eh! What do you mean you’re not coming?!” Gon and Killua shouted at the same time.

Rin winced, knowing that he probably should have said something sooner, but he knew that this was the reaction both boys would have.

Rin raised both hands placatingly. “I figured it was time I go back home. At least for a little bit.”

This did nothing to appease them as Gon’s shoulders somehow slumped down even further and Killua just continued to scowl.

Rin smiled at them in exasperation, though there was no hiding the fondness lingering in his eyes. “You both have my number, so if you need anything you can just call me. I’ll even make sure to keep it charged.”

“Tch. You better!” Killua japped him in the side angrily.

Rin rubbed at it helplessly, trying to ease away the pain, and scowled. “It’s always the same spot too,” he mumbled quietly.

“As amusing as this is, I should probably stop you two before anything else happens.” Bisky grinned at them.

Gon laughed nervously, eyeing the two of them. He looked a second away from jumping between them. “Yeah…”

“Well, then. This is it.” Bisky eventually said, her warm gaze taking them all in one at a time.

Rin leapt forward, wrapping his arms tightly around Gon and somehow managing to snag Killua in the embrace, as well. He had a feeling the white haired boy let himself get caught. “Good luck, Gon, Killua,” Rin said, trying to put as much emotion as he could into that one, little sentence.

Gon squeezed him back just as tightly, if not more. “Thanks!”

Killua merely grunted, but Rin definitely felt thin arms wrap around him for a second before letting go. Rin pulled back unwillingly, ruffling Gon’s hair as he did. The boy scowled playfully at him and batted at his hand.

Gon backed away and held up the card, smiling as he yelled, “Accompany on!” A flash of light, then they were gone.

Rin stared at where they had just been standing for a few seconds before Bisky broke the silence.

“So, where exactly are you headed?” she asked quietly. She didn’t seem to want to break the calm atmosphere just as much as Rin didn’t.

Rin turned and looked up at the sky. It was slowly turning orange as the sun set, casting the ground below in a sea of fire. He turned to her and gave a smile. “Forwen City,” he said out loud.

Home, his mind whispered.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rin let out a long, tired sigh as he relaxed against the cushioned seat. The train wasn’t set to leave for another 10 minutes, so he settled for trying to get as comfortable as he could in the meantime. It would take about an hour and a half to get to Forwen City, and the thought of finally going home after so long sent a jolt of excitement through Rin. I wonder how everyone is doing? He’d probably be scolded for all but disappearing out of nowhere, once he got there, but it would be worth it.

He spent the remaining minutes looking out the window. People were rushing back and forth without a care in the world, and two young boys ran past, laughing in glee as they chased each other. Rin felt a small tinge of sadness. I hope those two will be okay. Just thinking about all the trouble they can get into makes me want to cringe. He shook his head and brought up his hands to pat his cheeks. Worrying about them now will do me no good.

The sound of the door pulling open broke Rin out of his thoughts, and he lifted his gaze to the opening, only to freeze. There stood a man leaning casually against the doorway as if he owned the place, one who had an amused grin stretched across his face.

“Hmm~ I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” Hisoka leered, eyes narrowing slightly, though Rin could see the playful gleam in them. “Unless you really are following me~”

Rin spluttered, face turning red despite his best efforts. “I’m not- I was in here first! If anything, I should be asking you that!”

Hisoka raised his hands with a shrug. “For all you know, I got on first.”

Rin felt his eye twitch at the man’s logic and jerked to face the window with a huff.

Hisoka must have taken it as an invitation for some reason because he closed the door behind him and gracefully sat down on the seat across from Rin, stretching his legs out so they were on either side of Rin’s thighs, effectively boxing him in. Hisoka was slumped in the seat in a way that reminded Rin of that night in Heavens Arena, all relaxed with loose limbs and a calm aura.

A loud whistle travelled through the air, and the train suddenly jerked forward. As Rin watched the station move past, he came to terms with the fact that it looked like he would have to share the compartment with the other, whether he liked it or not. He was leaning more toward like, not that he would ever admit it to the magician.

The silence was broken by Hisoka speaking. “I’m surprised you’re alone.”

“We’re not attached at the hip you know.” Rin gazed at the man from the corner of his eyes. He propped an elbow against the window seal and leaned his chin on it, watching as the scenery flew by. His voice lowered slightly as he added, “Besides, I was feeling a little homesick.”

“Oh?” Hisoka perked up, curiosity in his voice. “And where is home?”

Rin dragged his gaze away the window to look at him, though staring revealed nothing about what the man was thinking. He narrowed his eyes slightly, not believing in the all too innocent tone one bit. “Forwen City.”

“Hmm~”

This time it was Hisoka who looked away. He pulled out a deck of cards and started shuffling them with all the skills of a professional.

Rin let his eyes linger on Hisoka’s fingers before dragging them away. He’s up to something, and knowing him, I won’t find out until he wants me to. Rin leaned his head back against the soft cushion with a sigh. There’s not much else I can do at the moment. Guess I’ll take a nap.


 

So much for my nap, Rin thought dejectedly. A large jerk of the train had caused Rin’s head to slide off the seat and have a painful greeting with the window. Now he had an actual headache to deal with on top of the one sitting in front of him. As he rubbed the side of his head, he glanced over to see what Hisoka was doing. Maybe he didn’t notice...nevermind. Hisoka had paused mid shuffle, hands still hanging in the air, to watch the entertainment happening right in front of him. The ever present smirk was on his face, and it was filled with more amusement than Rin felt was strictly necessary.

Hisoka tilted his head and grinned. “Have a nice nap?”

Rin scowled. “It’s not funny,” he grumbled angrily.

Hisoka chuckled quietly to himself as Rin turned to look out the window again, trying to gauge how much farther they had.

“It’s still about thirty minutes away,” Hisoka informed, ever so helpful.

Rin would have thanked him if the other’s eyes weren’t filled to the brim with suppressed laughter.

A small movement of Hisoka’s hand drew Rin’s attention to them. “Want to play a game?” He wiggled the deck teasingly, though it could have also been considered threatening since it was his weapon of choice.

“Are you going to cheat again?” Rin demanded, carefully observing the magician’s reaction.

Hisoka raised a hand to his chest, pouting as he said, “I’m hurt. You think I cheated?”

Rin nodded and immediately said, “Yes.”

Hisoka frowned playfully, sighing in the most overly dramatic way Rin had ever heard. “I guess you’re too scared of losing to play, then.”

Rin twitched in his seat. Oh, so that’s how you want to be. “Fine, I’ll play.”

Challenge accepted, Hisoka.


 

Rin stared down at the cards in disbelief. Any second now they would start unloading passengers and not once had Rin beat Hisoka.

Not. Once.

“Giving up?” Bright, golden eyes were peering at him in amusement. It was quickly becoming Hisoka’s default when around him, and Rin wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

Rin slowly looked up with wide eyes. “How?” No matter what he did, he couldn’t beat Hisoka, or even figure out how he was cheating in the first place. It was driving him crazy.

“It’s a secret~” Came the sing-songed reply.

A pout pulled at Rin’s lips as he handed the cards back so Hisoka could gather them all up. One of these days, I will win, he vowed.

One of the employee’s voice could be heard shouting for people to get off, so Rin stood up and stretched his arms in the air, ignoring the eyes he knew were watching him. He took a small step forward but had to stop because of the legs blocking his way. When they didn’t move, Rin sighed and stepped over them, almost tripping along the way, much to Rin’s embarrassment. Right before he stepped out the door, he glanced over his shoulder at where Hisoka was still lounging.

“Um, I’ll...see you around?” Rin said unsurely, though it came out as more of a question.

Hisoka hummed. “I wonder~” he purred, lips pulling up into a secretive smile, almost like he was in on a joke that Rin wasn’t even aware of.

Rin tilted his head slightly to the side in confusion before he gave a mental shrug and left.

As soon as he stepped off the train, he took in a deep breath. The air smelled of smoke from the train, but below that was the scent of grass and rain. It smelled like home . Rin felt a smile grow on his face, and he paused only long enough to see the train speed away again. With renewed energy in his step, he turned to walked out of the station, only to come to an abrupt halt when he ran into someone. More specifically, someone’s chest. A very familiar chest.

The chest rumbled. “Miss me already~”

“What are you- I thought- Why did you get off?!” Rin spluttered.

“I was curious.” Was all Hisoka offered.

Rin stared in complete shock at the other man, then squeezed the bridge of his nose with a sigh.

A finger poked his forehead, tilting his head back. “If you keep sighing, people will think you’re an old man.”

What kind of logic is that?

“And whose fault is it that I keep sighing,” Rin snapped.

Hisoka leaned closer, eyes glinting as he asked, “What was that?”

Rin felt the urge to sigh again but shoved it back with more force than probably necessary. “Just- Nevermind. Do what you want. I’m leaving.” Rin stepped around him, slightly surprised when Hisoka didn’t move to stop him, and resumed walking.

There was no sound of anyone following, but a quick glance back showed a stone-faced Hisoka trailing right behind him. The farther they walked, the more Hisoka inched closer, until he was walking right beside Rin, their hands brushing with every step. Just being outside helped clear what little irritation Rin still had, and he perked up when he spotted the first house in the distance, followed by another. He sped up his pace, his silent ghost trailing along with him.

Forwen City was more like a town than a city. It was basically made up of a cluster of houses surrounding the nice sized shopping district they had. There was a forest that stretched for miles and eventually connected with the Visca Forest Reserve, which was where part of Phase Two took place. Not that anyone really went in there, what with all the monsters and all. Rin’s house was unique in that it was located deeper in the forest than the others.

However, before they fully entered the town, Rin stopped in place and whipped around to face Hisoka. “I want you to promise me something.”

Hisoka raised a single, elegant brow. “And what would that be?”

“That you won’t kill anyone while you’re here.” Hisoka opened his mouth, but Rin cut him off before he could say anything. “No matter how annoying they are.”

Hisoka stared down at him, gaze teetering on the edge of becoming a glare. His nen flickered, coated with bloodlust and raising the hair along Rin’s arms as it brushed against his.

Rin shifted uncomfortably but held his place, refusing to back down. He couldn’t back down, not from something as important as this. These people helped raised him, helped take care of him whenever Daisuke was on assignment, so he would do anything to protect them.

“Please.”

Whatever Hisoka saw in Rin’s face must have convinced him because he grinned. “I promise~”

Tension that Rin didn’t even know he had drained away. “Thanks,” he said quietly.

What has my life become that I feel grateful when someone promises not to kill anyone? His lips twitched. Oh, well. Too late to do anything about it now.

It was the middle of the afternoon, so the shopping district was buzzing with people. They hadn’t even made it halfway through before there was a voice calling to him.

“Oh my! If it isn’t Rin!”

Rin turned in the direction the voice had come from but didn’t get a chance to see who it was before he was being smothered. All he could smell was the scent of cookies and coffee, and he smiled into the fabric, leaning into the embrace.

“I was wondering when you would come visit. It’s about time.” The arms pulled away, and Rin sucked in some much needed air.

Rin smiled sheepishly, almost tempted to run a hand through his hair if he didn’t already know it would earn said appendage a smack. “I’m sorry, Gram.”

Gram—it was what she insisted everyone call her, regardless if they were related or not—had white hair pulled up into a loose bun, a few loose strands hanging down and brushing against her cheeks. Anytime anyone saw her, she always had the same sky blue apron on—a gift from her late husband that she could never bring herself to part with—and a bright smile. Only, right now she was frowning with her hands on her hips, and Rin could only shrink into himself under the look as guilt burned through him.

Apparently feeling that he had been punished enough, Gram’s expression lightened as she smiled. “I made some pie earlier today. I’ll stop by and bring you some.” Here, she paused and tilted her head, a small frown coming onto her face. “You are staying for awhile, right?”

The hope in her voice brought the stinging guilt right back, and he cursed himself for not keeping in touch with her while he was gone. “That’s the plan,” Rin said. He gave her a reassuring smile and felt relieved when the tight look around her eyes eased.

“Good,” she said.

Only then did Gram seem to finally noticed Hisoka standing beside Rin, though how anyone didn’t notice him immediately, Rin didn’t know. The man’s very presence drew people’s attention to him, not to mention his sense of fashion.

Gram raised a hand to her cheek, and Rin stared in slight horror as a small blush appeared. “And who’s this?”

Rin opened his mouth to answer but was cut off by an arm being placed on top of his head. It was times like this that Rin really hated being short, and he briefly thought of elbowing Hisoka in the rips—he would deserve it—but thought better of it. He didn’t want to risk it, especially not with Gram standing so close.

Hisoka leaned even more weight on Rin’s head, making him scowl. “His partner~” he practically purred.

The scowl immediately disappeared as Rin’s face burst into flames.

Gram put a hand to her mouth in surprise. “Oh, you’re finally at that age, Rin. I’m so proud.” Then, to his even greater horror, she gave him a wink.

Rin wanted to die right then and there.

“Ah! I-It’s been a long day, and we’re tired so we’re going to go,” Rin rambled, then grabbed Hisoka’s hand and ran for it.


 

I can never show my face in front of Gram ever again. Rin hung his head against the tree trunk, his shoulders slumping in utter defeat.

“Where is your house?” Hisoka asked calmly, as if he hadn’t said anything embarrassing at all.

Rin glared at him with watery eyes. Can’t you see I’m having a crisis?!

Then, his words finally sunk in, and Rin felt his eyes widen as he stared at Hisoka in horror. “Wait...you’re not...planning on staying with me, are you?”

“That’s the plan,” Hisoka teased, throwing his words right back at him.

Rin felt his face go blank. “You know what? Fine. I just want to sleep.” What Rin really wanted was for this emotionally draining day to finally be over. “We’re almost there anyway,” he added.

Another five minutes of walking was all it took before a small white house came into view, not that you could actually see the color. It was practically covered in vines from the roof to the ground. Only the windows and door were clear of any greenery.

Rin ran his hand gently along the wooden door before unlocking it. The place was completely clean, courtesy of Gram offering to clean the place while he was gone. He zoned out Hisoka’s presence as memories assaulted him: Daisuke and Rin reading while curled up together on the coach, watering the various plants littering the room, laughing when they made a mess in the kitchen. He wasn’t even aware of the tears slowly dripping down his face until a finger wiped one away.

He jumped and found Hisoka staring down at him with an unreadable expression.

“S-Sorry.” Rin used the sleeve of his sweater to dry up the rest. “I’m fine,” he said and tried to give his most convincing smile.

Hisoka gave a non-committal hum, then looked around the room, pausing when he took in the sheer amount of plants.

Nothing else could be said, however, before Rin’s stomach gave a quiet groan of protest.

He blushed in embarrassment. “Are you hungry? I can make us something to eat?” Rin offered hesitantly.

“Sure~” Hisoka leaned closer, eyes lighting up mischievously. “Though I’d much rather eat-”

Rin pushed his face away. “No.”

No one got in the way of Rin and food.

Rin blinked, then paled when what he just did finally caught up to him. If he ended up walking a little faster than normal to the kitchen, no one needed to know.


 

At some point while Rin was cooking, Hisoka had disappeared to who knows where. Probably to snoop around, Rin thought in amusement, though the image of Hisoka peering into drawers almost brought a smile to his lips.

The sound of sizzling was a calming, familiar sound, and it eased away all his worries. He was so completely focused on what was in front of him that he jumped when arms wrapped around him.

Rin softly tapped one of the hands resting on his stomach. “It’s hard to cook like this.”

“Too bad~” As if to emphasize this, the arms tightened.

Rin sighed but slowly relaxed back into them. It was peaceful like this, being surrounded by warmth and the crackling of food, the faint sound of crickets chirping drifting in from outside. It made him feel more content than he had in a while, and part of him wished he could just freeze the moment and keep it forever.

Once the food was done, Rin had to forcefully drag along the dead weight hanging onto him to get to the cabinets that had the plates. He probably thinks it’s amusing to watch me struggle.

They sat down at the table that only ever had two chairs, and the entire time Rin couldn’t help but watch Hisoka’s expression, trying to tell if he actually liked the meal or not. And, as if just to spite him, Hisoka kept his face completely void of any emotion as he ate.

Rin narrowed his eyes. Don’t think I didn’t just see your lips twitch .


 

Water splashed onto the front of his shirt.

“You could help you know,” Rin stated from where he was standing at the sink, elbow deep in soap and water.

“No thanks~” Hisoka purred sultrily. “I’m quite enjoying the view from here~”

He could practically feel the burning gaze trail lower than was decent, leaving goosebumps in its wake, and Rin contemplated the merits of throwing the plate he was currently washing at Hisoka’s head. So far, the pros outweighed the cons.

Rin turned and pointed a soapy finger at him in warning. “Behave.”

He froze when he could feel the air shift as Hisoka leaned forward slightly, eyes never once leaving Rin’s face as they tried to drill holes into him. “Is that an order?” Hisoka’s voice took on a dangerous edge as his nen flared.

Rin lowered the hand and stared at the other thoughtfully. It seemed Hisoka hated taking orders as much as he did, and the thought had him tilting his head as he continued to regard the man.

“A request,” he finally said.

The answer seemed to appease him because Hisoka’s nen settled, and he leaned back in the chair. “Hmm~ I’ll think about it.”

Probably the best I’m going to get from him.

Rin sighed, grabbing a towel so he could dry his hands off. “I’ll show you to the guest room.” he said, anything to get rid of the lingering tension in the air.

The magician said nothing as he got up and followed Rin out of the room, and he was almost hyper aware of exactly how close Hisoka was standing behind him.

Rin tried to keep his hand from shaking as he pointed to the first door on the right. “That’s my room. The one right next door is the one you can use. The bathroom is right across the hallway.”

Hisoka hummed, then sashayed over to the door Rin had indicated as the guest room, pausing before he opened the door and turning to look expectantly at Rin as if waiting for something. Rin could only stare in confusion before a sudden thought popped into his head. He’s not wanting me to...kiss him goodnight, is he?

The smirk came back full force the moment Rin thought this. Although, it probably had less to do with the man’s uncanny ability to read minds and more to do with the fact that Rin’s face was making a wonderful impersonation of a tomato.

“Goodnight!” Rin yelled, then ran to the safety of his room.

He leaned back against the door as soon as it was shut and listened for the clicking to indicate that Hisoka had finally went inside as well. When he heard it, he relaxed and gripped his shirt with one hand, mentally willing his heart to stop racing.


 

Rin scrunched up his nose in displeasure. He must have forgotten to close the blinds in his haste to go to bed because there was a stubborn beam of light shining right onto his face. A small groan left his throat, and he tried to turn over to avoid it, but something stopped him. Rin frowned, thinking that maybe he had gotten tangled in the sheets, so he started to squirm a little to try and untangle himself, but all that accomplished was making the hold somehow growing tighter.

He cracked open his eyes then slammed them shut again, hissing in annoyance at the light. He tried again, this time letting his eyes get adjusted before looking around. He didn’t have to look far as his eyes immediately found the problem. A breath of air gently caressed his face, and Rin stared in sleepy bewilderment as his brain tried to comprehend the fact that there was a face inches away from his. His eyes travelled down until they reach the arm holding him in place. The arm that was preventing him from rolling away from the light, which also meant it was keeping him from sleep. Rin gave an experimental tug on the appendage, but it refused to budge. He wiggled his arm around until he was able to poke Hisoka on the cheek, and one gold eye slowly opened to a slit. Rin simply gave another insistent tug on the arm and tried to turn again. Hisoka let out a quiet growl and heaved himself up. Rin brightened because he thought he would finally be able to escape that blasted light, only to have his hope crushed—along with his body. He let out a wheeze as Hisoka laid half his body on top of him, and Rin was torn between trying to get away from the weight that was slowly taking all his breath away and moving closer to the sheer warmth radiating from the other.

The warmth won.

Rin buried his face into Hisoka’s neck—if he had been anymore awake, he would have died from humiliation—finally blocking out the beam of death. The sweet call of sleep was slowly pulling him back under its spell when a loud knock echoed throughout the house.

A loud groan of frustration escaped his mouth.

“Rin! I brought over some food for you two!” Gram’s voice called from the direction of the door.

The body on top of him started radiating bloodlust instead of the soothing warmth, and Rin knew that at any second Hisoka could snap and attack, promise or not. Panicked, Rin threw his arms around Hisoka’s back, even though he knew that if Hisoka really wanted to get up he could easily break free. The chest pressed against him rumbled with a deep growl, and his arms twitched as if reaching for his cards, so Rin did the only thing he could think of that could serve as a distraction.

He tugged on Hisoka’s face and kissed him.

The lips didn’t respond at first, so he tried coaxing them, gently running his tongue across Hisoka’s bottom lip in invitation. The growl turned into something rougher, and the pressure was returned as Hisoka’s tongue met his in the intimate dance, Hisoka easily overpowering him and taking over, not that he was complaining. Rin moved his hands from where they were clutching at the sheets beneath him to Hisoka’s hair, which was down for once, much to his pleasure. He ran his fingers through the surprisingly silky hair, accidentally yanking on it when Hisoka’s sucked on Rin’s bottom lip, earning him a sharper growl. A hand then reached up and tugged on a strand of ebony hair in retaliation, making Rin mewl and arch up into the body over him. However, as much as he was enjoying the kiss, his chest was starting to ache from the lack of air, so he reluctantly pulled away, or as far away as he could, what with Hisoka still pushing him into the mattress and all.

Gasping for air, Rin shyly glanced up at the expression on Hisoka’s face. He looked rather satisfied with himself and definitely less like he was about to go murder someone.

“Hmm~ That’s one way to wake someone up~” Hisoka purred, leering down at him.

Rin covered his face with both hands to try and save what little dignity he had left, but he squeaked when something nipped at his fingers.

“Don’t hide your face from me,” Hisoka admonished.

Reluctantly, Rin uncovered his face and attempted to glower at the man still hovering over him. Attempt is the key word.

Hisoka tugged on a piece of hair again in approval. “Better~”

Rin let out a breathy, “Hmm,” as Hisoka leaned forward and started kissing along his neck. He tilted his head to the side to give him better access, eyes closing until they were just barely cracked open. When Hisoka eventually got to the scar that was still prominent against Rin’s pale skin, Rin paused.

“Wait...” Rin tried, his mind starting to go cloudy again but knowing there was something else he needed to do right now.

Hisoka didn’t seem to be on board with the idea because instead of stopping, he bit down harshly on the same spot, sucking on it for a moment before swiping his tongue along the skin.

The sudden pain made Rin moan, and he writhed beneath the heavy weight caging him in, so tempted to just let him continue.

Rin shook his head to try and clear it, pushing on the chest above him. “Get up. I need to go see if she’s still there,” Rin demanded weakly.

The mouth stopped, resting against the skin of Rin’s neck for a second—almost making Rin beg for him to continue, but he slammed that thought down before it could slip between his lips—before pulling away. With all the grace of a predator, Hisoka stood up and placed a hand on his hip, staring down at Rin with a look so possessive it sent excited tingles all down his spine.

He stood up stiffly, and as Rin walked to the front door, he could feel the heated presence right behind him, making all the hair on the back of his neck raise. When he opened the door and looked around, no one was there. Nothing except a pie sitting innocently on the front step.


 

Rin curled up on one side of the coach with a book. He had his most comfortable sweatpants and sweater on and had no plans whatsoever to move anytime soon. He glanced over at where the clock read twelve p.m. At this point, Gram has probably gossiped about us all over town, so I am definitely not leaving the house today.

Rin lifted his head when he heard a slight shuffle to his left and found Hisoka crouched not too far away, staring in open amusement at a plant. Rin leaned forward to try and see exactly which plant it was and almost snorted. Oh, of course it’s that one.

It was a Tryphyn. They were semi-sentient plants that looked similar to a venus fly trap. In the wild, they were known to be able to grow up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It was why they were so dangerous because when they got that big they were able to easily devour an entire man by excreting an extremely volatile acid inside their mouth, which was then used to break up their unlucky victim. It was not a pleasant way to go.

However, the one that Rin had was only about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. It wasn’t big enough to eat you entirely, but you still needed to be careful with your arms, something Hisoka was completely disregarding.

Rin watched as Hisoka held out his hand near its mouth and then jerked it back when the plant lunged.

“Please stop teasing my plant.” Rin tried to sound stern, but the effect was ruined when his lips twitched into a smile.

Hisoka looked over his shoulder. “Would you rather I tease you?”

Rin rolled his eyes and went back to reading. “Haven’t you done enough teasing today?”

A rustle of fabric was heard, but Rin didn’t look up. “Oh? You didn’t seem so against it this morning~”

Rin’s head snapped up as he spluttered unintelligibly. Thankfully, he was saved from having to try and articulate himself when Hisoka plopped down on the coach, laying down so that his legs were hanging off one end and his head was on the other, using Rin’s thigh as a makeshift pillow. It was enough to make him stare down at Hisoka in surprise.

If Killua saw us now, he’d never let me live it down.

After a moment of contemplation, Rin set his book on the armrest and ran a hand through the crimson hair. It was just as soft as he remembered it being when he had first felt it earlier that morning. At the time, he didn’t get to fully appreciate it since he had been...otherwise distracted.

Rin was aware of the all too sharp eyes watching him carefully before he eventually felt Hisoka relax against him, gold eyes slowly sliding close as Rin continued to card his fingers through the other’s hair. After a while, Rin started to let his thoughts wander in the silence, and he glanced thoughtfully back over at the plant.

Rin bit his lip, hand stilling for a second before resuming its movement. “My foster father gave me that plant for my sixth birthday.”

Hisoka opened his eyes briefly to let him know that he was listening before closing them again.

“I couldn’t pronounce the name at the time, so I always just called it Ty.” He chuckled at the memory. “He was a Botanical Hunter, and he would always be so happy when I asked him about different types of plants. We could spend entire days just sitting outside,” Rin recalled fondly and could hear the wistfulness in his voice. “He wanted to help people by looking for undiscovered species that could be used as medicine, but of course, there are always people who are greedy.” His hand tightened unconsciously. When he noticed, he immediately loosened the grip and smoothed the hair back out.

“What happened?” Hisoka asked, sounding uncharacteristically serious.

“He was gathering plants near the Visca Forest Reserve when he ran into some poachers. Since the creatures there are so hard to find, let alone kill, they sell for a lot of money. Daisuke was the type of person that refused to just sit back and watch people commit crimes, and he managed to take down half of the group before one of them got in a lucky shot.” Rin gave a choked laugh, his lip quivering slightly. “My parents, Daisuke...Tokito.” Even just saying the name left Rin feeling as if knives were stabbing him in the chest, and he smiled wryly. “It seems everytime I care about someone they leave me,” he admitted, biting his lip so hard he could taste blood.

Hisoka turned his head so he could look at him better. A finger came up, gently rubbing over Rin’s lips and coming away with red. “So that’s why you’re so protective of your kits.”

Rin’s eyes narrowed, and his nen flared to life. “If you hadn’t stopped me during the exam, I would have killed that stupid ninja.”

“Hmm~ Maybe I should have let you~” Hisoka’s gaze turned heated at the thought and the slight bloodlust coming from Rin, his nen twisting in anticipation and yearning.

“I will protect them, even from you,” Rin warned.

Hisoka groaned and turned to push his face into Rin’s stomach. “Such a sweet temptation~”

Rin frowned at him. “Hisoka.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll let you have your little reunion before I try anything,” he said, but the menacing grin did not help ease Rin’s concern.

What have I gotten myself into?


 

Rin stared in dread at the door. I don’t want to go out there! Unfortunately, there wasn’t much food in the house to begin with since he hadn’t let Gram know that he was coming back, so they needed to go to the market eventually. It wasn’t actually going outside that was the problem. It was the fact that everyone in town probably knew about Hisoka by now. Rin paled even more at the thought and turned to make his way back over to the coach, accepting the fact that he would just starve. The only problem was that his...partner apparently had other ideas.

Hisoka grinning was the only warning he got before a hand latched around his wrist and proceeded to forcefully drag Rin out the door. Once they had left his little safe haven, Rin gave up and stopped trying to resist, just waiting for the inevitable to happen.

Called it. As soon as they stepped foot in plain view of the market, catcalls were flying through the air. The fact that Hisoka had yet to let go of Rin’s wrist was not helping matters. Hisoka probably realized that the minute he let go, Rin would bolt. He would be right.

People even kept coming up to them. Some called them adorable. Others asked how the hell Rin managed to snag him. Rin was starting to believe that his face would remain a permanent red after this little trip was over. It didn’t help that the whole time Hisoka had a smirk that was half amused and half ‘I’ll-kill-you-if-you-step-any-closer’.

Rin glowered at him. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Only a few people seemed to understand the underlying threat to their lives and backed off. The people who didn’t...well, let’s just say that Rin had to convince them to leave the pair alone before they became pincushions.

All in all, the excursion didn’t go terribly bad. They managed to buy groceries, and Rin managed to prevent anyone from dying. This time at least.


 

Rin gazed up at the sky through the canopy of leaves. He had used zetsu to sneak out of the house, though Rin knew it was only a matter of time before he was found. This was his favorite spot to come to for some quiet, and after the market fiasco, he definitely needed it. A large oak tree covered most of the surrounding area. It had large, winding branches that made perfect perches, which was where he was currently sitting. He closed his eyes and listened to the wind rustling through the leaves. It was a melody that never failed to calm him. Rin released some of his nen into the air around him, blending it with the wind that already existed. The rustling increased until it was even drowning out the screeching of the cicadas, and he let out a deep sigh, his body going lax.

Questions ran through his mind: Why was Hisoka here? How long until Rin was left alone again? Would Hisoka eventually grow tired of him? The longer he was with the man the more questions he had.

He felt a familiar presence grow closer and jumped down from the tree, and by the time he looked up, Hisoka was already standing near the edge of the clearing. He looked vaguely annoyed at his disappearance, and Rin couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of glee at that.

Revenge is sweet.

Chapter Text

 

The first thought he had was, he’s in my bed again, as Rin stared blankly at the sleeping face in front of him, not quite sure how to react to the intruder. The only reason he didn’t do anything about it the day before was because he had been...a little distracted. Rin firmly pushed the memory away before he ended up a blushing mess. Instead, he took the time to study the relaxed expression of the person laying next to him and realized that this was the first time he had seen Hisoka sleep, actually sleep, not just close his eyes and pretend. Every other time, Hisoka had woken up before him, and part of him found it funny that even despite being asleep and supposedly at his most vulnerable, Hisoka still looked dangerous—not that Rin thought anyone could really win against Hisoka, at this point. The only difference was that the edges almost seemed...softer in a way.

However, unlike the last time Rin woke up next to him, the arms wrapped his waist were loose, though Rin could already tell that the second he tried to pull away they would tighten. The thought made him realize something, and he frowned. It was almost always Hisoka that initiated any type of contact, whether it was simply an arm around him or something much more intimate, and that was...not what Rin wanted.

The frown eased as his eyes lit with determination. He shuffled closer until their chests were pressed together, and when no movement came, he slowly wrapped his arms around Hisoka and hugged the man to him. Leaning until his head was resting just under Hisoka’s chin, he breathed in the scent of peppermint and something that was simply Hisoka and gave a content sigh.

He felt his hair billow from an exhale as the arms grew tighter.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Rin apologized meekly. He shyly tilted his head so he could meet the other’s eyes.

Hisoka’s eyes were half-lidded as he studied Rin’s face with an amused expression. “You’re being rather affectionate today~”

He gave a small smile, hoping that the other couldn’t feel his racing heart. “Is that a bad thing?”

The magician hummed and moved his legs so that they were tangled together with Rin’s, making him sigh and practically melt in the other’s arms.

Rin didn’t know how long they stayed like that, just basking in each others warmth, but the sunlight streaming in let him know that it was inching towards the afternoon. We should probably get up...eventually. He tucked his head back underneath Hisoka’s chin, content with simply going back to sleep.

Or he would have been if Hisoka hadn’t decided to poke his cheek.

“Didn’t you say you needed to water the plants today?”

Rin pushed the hand away. “Later. I don’t want to move,” he grumbled. It’s so comfortable.

“Such a lazy, little kitten I have~” Hisoka chuckled, though he also made no move to get up.

Rin thought that was the end of it and started drifting off again. It was when the arms pushed him away that he gave a soft whine of protest, only for it to turn into a yelp as his body was yanked into the air.

His eyes flew open. “W-What are you doing?!” he yelled, clutching at Hisoka’s shirt.

Hisoka chuckled and proceeded to carry Rin bridal-style out the door. When no amount of pushing against the chest helped, Rin slumped in the hold, pouting silently, and let himself be manhandled.

He didn’t set Rin down until they were in the middle of the kitchen, and even then, he stood close enough so that they were touching.

“You know... if you were hungry, you could have just asked.” Rin tried to pretend that he wasn’t as flustered as they both knew he was and crossed his arms over his chest, frowning up at Hisoka.

Hisoka leaned forward, eyes glinting mischievously as he said, “Where’s the fun in that~”

Rin felt like facepalming.

Instead, he sighed and turned to the stove. “Do you want anything specific?”

“I don’t care~” He heard from behind him, the legs of a chair making a small screeching sound as it was pulled out.

“Way to make this easy on me,” Rin mumbled quietly under his breath.

“Hmm? What was that?”

He waved a hand absently in the direction of the table. “Nothing. Just ignore me.”

If there was a response, Rin certainly didn’t hear it.

Rin opened the refrigerator door and hummed as he took in all the ingredients. An omelet would probably be the easiest thing to make with what I have. Rin thought about asking Hisoka if that okay, then shrugged. He had his chance, so omelet it is.

An omelet also had the added benefit of being fast to make, as well, so it didn’t take long before they were finished, something Rin was glad for since he had a feeling that if he took too long Hisoka might just decide to eat him instead.

Breakfast was an otherwise silent affair, only being broken by the sounds of silverware clanking against the plates.

Rin paused mid bite and stared down at his food with furrowed brows when one of the many questions he had came to mind, and he glanced across the table, his curiosity eventually getting the better of him.

“Why are you here?” Rin blurted, then slapped a hand over his mouth.

Hisoka looked up from his food and tilted his head to the side with a frown, the expression all but screaming fake . “Do you not want me here?” he asked, and there was a teasing lilt in his voice.

Rin shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. You were on that train for a reason, right? Is it really okay for you to be here when you were heading somewhere else?”

“Oh, that~” Hisoka twirled his fork playfully, and Rin couldn’t help but stare at it cautiously.

He can kill people with playing cards. I don’t want to know what he can do with that.

Hisoka propped an elbow on the table and leaned his chin on it. “I wasn’t actually going anywhere specific. I’m looking for someone.”

It was Rin’s turn to tilt his head. “Who?”

There was the familiar grin as he said, “Chrollo.”

That made Rin pause, his mind slowly taking in this new tidbit of information as his eyes narrowed slightly. “To release his nen from Kurapika’s?” he guessed. Hisoka had said as much on Greed Island, that there was a way to break Chrollo free of it.

Hisoka grinned viciously, his nen bubbling just beneath the surface as if begging to come out. “To fight him.”

That sounds more like him.

“Do you even know where he is or how to find him?”

“No, but that’s what makes the hunt so exciting~” The fork Hisoka still had in his grip was starting to make an ominous creaking noise, and Rin wondered if it was worth the risk trying to get it from him.

“So you’ll be leaving soon?” Rin asked and tried not to show how much the thought disheartened him.

“Yes~” Hisoka smirked, catching the disappointment that flashed across Rin’s face despite his best efforts. “Don’t worry, you’re coming with me. After all, what kind of owner would I be if I left my poor, helpless kitten all alone~”

Rin blinked in stunned silence for a moment, then flushed, a mixture between embarrassment from being called his, which seemed like the closest thing to a confession he would ever get, and anger. I am not a pet!

He pinched the bridge of his nose. I give up. There’s no point in arguing with him when he does whatever he wants, no matter what I say.

The grin Hisoka sent him made Rin twitch. This is going to be a long trip…


 

Rin ducked his head down when people smirked over at him as he walked by, though, thankfully, there were no more catcalls since Hisoka wasn’t with him this time—something the man had complained about, glaring at Rin when he had first brought up going out alone.

He was slowly making his way through the market in order to get to the other side of the city. Rin knew that if he disappeared again without saying anything to Gram that she would personally go after him and drag him back, so he decided to use the day before they planned on leaving to go visit her.

Soon, the bustling of the market turned to quiet houses, and Rin smiled when he spotted the familiar dark blue house up ahead. Even from down the road, Rin could already smell all the delicious baked goods Gram was always making. She was actually the one who got him addicted to sweets, much to Daisuke’s mild annoyance.

He didn’t even pause as he opened the front door and walked in, already hearing her shuffling around in the kitchen. Rin only came to a stop when he was standing in the doorway, leaning back against the frame in order to just soak in the image. Gram’s arms were covered in flour, and she was kneading at a ball of dough, which—Rin squinted—he was pretty sure was sourdough.

She didn’t even look up as she said, “You’re leaving.”

Rin found himself flinching even though there was no accusation in her voice, only sadness—which was much worse in his opinion.

He took that final step into the kitchen. “Yeah,” he whispered, almost like if he said it quietly enough then it wouldn’t hurt her. It did anyway, and he hated himself for it. There was no point in lying to her—even if could have brought himself to do it in the first place—not when he owed her the truth.

She finally turned to met his eyes. “I always knew the day would come for you to leave the nest, as much as I didn’t want you to. Daisuke could never sit still, always wanting to travel, to see the world, discover new life. You take after him in so many ways.” She lifted her arms, and Rin darted forward to envelope her in a hug. “He’d be so proud of you, Rin,” she breathed, voice shaking.

Rin felt his throat close up and knew he wouldn’t be able to say anything without breaking down, so he just tightened his arms. She felt so fragile in his arms, like a single touch would send her blowing away, and he regretted causing her so much worry.

She pulled back, grabbing his hand and tugging him toward the ball of dough. “Come now, let’s not spend the rest of this time stuck in old memories.” She pointed at the ball. “You finish kneading, and I’ll start on the gingerbread cookies,” she ordered.

Rin smiled and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

He washed his hands, then started where she left off.

At some point, they ended up starting a food fight with leftover dough, and soon they both had had pieces of it stuck in their hair and on their faces. Rin’s stomach hurt from laughing by the time the bread was done cooking, and he was glad to see the haunted look retreat in her eyes.

As he was getting ready to leave, hand on the door, she shoved the wrapped loaf of bread into his arms.

When he looked questioningly at her, she smiled knowingly. “You’ll need something to feed that man of yours while you’re travelling.”

Rin blushed but smiled back at her. “Really? I think this is your devious plan to get him addicted to your baking so we come back more often.”

She raised her hands to her face, gasping. “Oh, no, you’re on to me.”

They stared at each, then started giggling like five year olds. When they both finally caught their breath for what felt like the thousandth time that day, they gazed at each other fondly.

She reached out and cupped his face, thumb gently rubbing along his cheek as a serious expression took over. “Rin, you need to let go of the past.”

Rin jerked back, almost making her hands slid from his face. “I’m fin-”

“Don’t,” she said sternly. “Don’t try to tell me you’re fine when I know you’re still in pain, both from losing Daisuke and…” She sighed. “You need to let it go. That day was not your fault, Rin.” She was staring at him earnestly, eyes begging him to listen. “You were both boys. No one could have known that would happen. Please, I can’t stand seeing you beat yourself up over it.”

Rin took a shaking breath, voice coming out in a whisper as he said, “I’ll try.”

She hugged him again. “That’s all I can ask for.”

The stood like that for a long time before Gram finally pulled back, pulling a piece of him with her.

She smiled tearfully at him. “Well, you’d better get going. I’m sure he’s probably worried about you by now.”

Rin almost snorted. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same person, Gram.”

He yelped when she smacked his arm, fixing him with a flinty stare.

“Which one of us has more experience with romance,” she asked as she raised an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips. “I may not know him, but I saw you two together. He may not show it, but that man definitely cares for you.” She moved her arms so that they were crossed in front of her chest. “Though, if he ever does anything to hurt you, then he’ll have to deal with me.”

The thought of Gram picking a fight with Hisoka almost made him start laughing hysterically. She’d probably throw a pie at him or something, and he could almost imagine the priceless look on Hisoka’s face as this tiny, old lady threatened him.

Then again, it probably wouldn’t be good for Rin’s heart since he would have to make sure that Hisoka didn’t retaliate.

The laughter bubbled up in his throat again when he made it home and saw Hisoka looming near the door like an irritated gargoyle as soon as he stepped inside. He shook his head helplessly as small chuckles escaped, which were only made worse as Hisoka stared at him like he was crazy, like Rin was the crazy one.

Hisoka eventually just rolled his eyes when he realized he wasn’t going to get anything from him and herded him toward the couch, where he then manhandled Rin into laying down before soon joining him, scooting him over so that Rin was pressed between the couch and a solid chest. Rin never did take Hisoka for a cuddler, but maybe there was something in what Gram said since the hand pressing against his lower back was nothing else but possessive.

He was still feeling slightly giddy as he asked, “Did you miss me that much?”

His only answer was a growl above his head and the hand pressing him impossibly closer.

I’ll take that as a yes.


 

A tear filled hug from Gram the next day—he pretended not to see the sharp look she gave Hisoka—and they were setting off to the closest town.

On foot.

Because Hisoka apparently liked to torture him.

There wasn’t even a trail to follow because normal people took the train. The fact that Rin wasn’t even in that ‘normal’ category anymore made him cry inside. Well, on the bright side, at least he would be able to enjoy the fresh air for a change. It was a nice relief after being in cities with huge populations and pollution.

Rin covered his mouth as he coughed before speeding up, trying to catch up with Hisoka’s ridiculously long legs—one stride of Hisoka’s was two of Rin’s. From this angle, he could vaguely see the corners of Hisoka’s lips curl in amusement, and Rin narrowed his eyes. You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?!

Thankfully, even on foot, it would only take about half a day to get there. That is, if they didn’t run into any trouble.


 

I jinxed us.

Rin jumped back, just barely avoiding the spiked vine that slammed into the ground exactly where he had been standing moments before.

A card sliced through the air, cutting it easily in half, and Rin looked over at where Hisoka was nimbly dodging the vines. The expression on his face saying that he was enjoying himself more than he should in this type of situation. Then again...this was Hisoka he was talking about.

Hisoka’s eyes narrowed even more as he seemed to zero in on something. “Bingo~” He threw more cards at what appeared to be a bare spot of earth.

Only for the earth to erupt as the main body of the plant emerged with a shrill shriek.

Rin’s mind buzzed with information as he shifted through all the different types of plants he knew of before finally settling on one. Got it! It’s a Grughen!

They were a type of plant that looked like a giant rosebud. Although they typically lived underground, they would emerge every night to feed on moonlight before going back under. The species was usually non-aggressive and only attacked when startled, so they must have accidentally scared it when they were walking past.

Good thing I know something that should work, but first I need to stop Hisoka from killing it.

He looked back over just in time to see Hisoka raise a hand, a card between his fingers glowing with nen.

“Wait!” Rin yelled, trying to dig around in his bag and dodge at the same time.

From the corner of his eyes he saw Hisoka pause and give him an annoyed look but decided to ignore it.

Found it! He got as close as he could without being skewered and threw the vial at the plant. The glass shattered on impact, covering the plant in the liquid, and the effect was immediate. It seemed to sink slightly to the ground, pulling it’s vines toward itself to rub at the spot the liquid had touched.

Hisoka suddenly appeared by his side, still looking slightly annoyed at not being able to kill anything. “What was in that?”

Rin grinned brightly. “Rosemary. They find the scent soothing,” he explained, taking in the sight of the plant practically melting in happiness. “Not many people walk through here, so we probably just spooked it.”

Hisoka hummed and stared down at him thoughtfully.

Rin blushed slightly under the scrutiny. “What?”

Hisoka turned away with a smirk. “Nothing~ Let’s go~”

Rin stared after him in confusion. I will never understand him.

He gave one last look at the Grughen before following the magician.


 

We finally made it. Rin sighed in relief at the sight of the town stretching before him. Despite living so close, he had never actually ventured over to Harven Town. All he knew about it was that they were famous for their delicious food. And it seems that rumor was true. The entire place was covered in all kinds of mouth watering scents.

Rin was trying to take it all in but snapped out of his daze when he saw that Hisoka was already disappearing into the crowd. He ran to catch up, apologizing profusely whenever he accidentally bumped into people. Hisoka glanced back at him then veered to the left, approaching a building with “The Drowsy Otter” written across the front.

Guess we’re staying for a couple of days.

The inn, which also appeared to function as a small diner, felt homely. The walls were painted a warm tan, and there was a fireplace crackling in one wall. It also seemed like they made it just in time for dinner because the whole place was packed.

Rin stepped up beside Hisoka just as the receptionist asked how many rooms they needed.

“Just one~”

She typed on the computer, then frowned. “It seems we only have rooms with a single bed open,” she explained, giving them an apologetic look.

Hisoka grinned. “We’ll take it~”

Rin felt his cheeks heat up at the same time as the receptionist’s eyes widened.

“A-Ah. Um, alright. Your room is 215. Here’s the key.” She gave them a small smile, probably trying to cover up the fact that she was also blushing.

Hisoka grabbed the key and walked away without saying anything else.

Rin sent a panicked glance at the receding back and bowed awkwardly to the receptionist. “T-Thank you.”

By the time Rin caught up, Hisoka had already found the correct door and unlocked it.

He held out his hand for Rin to go in first, smirking the whole time. “After you~”

Rin gave him an unimpressed look but went in anyway.

He walked over to the only bed in the room and face planted on it with a happy sigh. It was almost as comfortable as the beds in Heavens Arena.

Rin heard a chuckle and shifted his head just in time to see Hisoka sit at a small table that he hadn’t even noticed. He pulled out his deck and started building a house of cards with an ease that only came from plenty of practice.

It wasn’t until he was already halfway done that Hisoka finally looked over at Rin. “Want to try?” He gestured to the stack, grinning in amusement all the while.

Rin shook his head, secretly enjoying just watching the magician’s elegant fingers carefully placing one card on top of another. Besides, knowing the magician, he’d probably just find some way to mess with him.

If Hisoka noticed him staring, he didn’t say anything.

For once.


 

Rin gave an annoyed groan at being woken up. His throat was aching, and he tried to ignore it, but the ache was persistent enough that he eventually sighed and got up to try and find a glass of water.

The clock next to the bed blinked three a.m. at him mockingly as Rin shuffled through the room, trying to be as quiet as possible as he made his way to the door. He had to slam his eyes shut the moment the door was open because the sudden change from pitch black to the lights in the hallway was enough to temporarily blind him. He waited until it didn’t feel like daggers japping through his eyelids before slowly cracking them open again. What a great way to start this little adventure. He was already halfway down the hallway when he realized there was another problem.

I don’t know where the kitchen is…

Glancing over his shoulder, he debated just going back. However, his throat chose that moment to happily remind him why he even got up in the first place.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and find it on my own.

Rin made sure to keep his steps light, not wanting to disturb the other guests who were actually asleep at this time of night like any sane person. When he did eventually make it to the part used as a diner, he looked around, hoping to find anything that could help. In a far corner, Rin spotted a large, clear cooler on a stand and practically ran over, immediately filling one of the plastic cups sitting next to it.

The second the liquid touched his throat, he gave a content hum. It’s nice and cold. He refilled it once more before deciding it was probably time to head back.

The trip back was basically the same as leaving. When he finally stood in front of their door, Rin slowly turned the handle and poked his head in. Once his eyes got adjusted to the darkness again Rin was able to make out the still form laying on the bed. The only thing that let him know that Hisoka was, in fact, not sleeping were the two gold eyes reflecting the light from the doorway.

Was he waiting for me to come back? He shook the thought out of his head and tiredly made his way back over to the bed, crawling under the deliciously warm sheets. Hisoka waited until he was fully under before dragging him close, and Rin pressed his ear against the chest in front of him, listening to the faint heartbeat as it lulled him back to sleep.


 

Rin stared in awe at all the shops around him. Every single one of them sold some type of food, even if that wasn’t their main function. He was particularly drawn to the bookstore that also had a vast array of cheesecake, and Rin stared through the window for a second before finally shrugging and entering the store. I’m by myself, so what’s the harm.

Hisoka had left early in the morning to hunt down any leads the town had on Chrollo, so Rin was left to do whatever he pleased in the meantime.

His legs immediately carried him to the section about plants, and he was absolutely delighted to see that they had a fairly large selection on the subject. He bit his lip, knowing that he should only get one or two at the most since anymore would be a pain to have to lug around, but he was having a hard time deciding which ones.

He coughed into his sleeve and absently rubbed at his throat as one book caught his eye.

This one looks interesting. It was a book about the few known species of plants on the Dark Continent.

Decision made, he went to buy the book and then hurried on out, completely forgetting about the dessert in his excitement to read. For once, he was blind to the odd stares he got as he practically ran back to the inn, and as soon as he was their room, he climbed onto the bed and wrapped some of the blankets around him before opening the book.

Rin was so absorbed in it that he didn’t even notice when the door opened and closed quietly. At one point, whether it was because of some instinct or something else, he just happened to glance up and came face to face with Hisoka. Rin jumped away with a squeak. However, his legs got tangled in the blankets, and he went tumbling to the ground in a painful heap.

Hisoka chuckled as he walked around the bed to stand over Rin. “Your reactions are always so entertaining~”

Rin glared at him, struggling to untangle the blankets. “That was mean.”

Hisoka’s grin widened even as he narrowed his eyes. “Then you shouldn’t have ignored me~”

“It’s not like I did it on purpose,” Rin grumbled in protest.

Hisoka reached down to pick him up, then flung him onto the bed, where Rin landed with a quiet, “Oof,” and scowled at him.

“You made it worse,” he complained as he yanked at the blankets still wrapped around his legs.

Hisoka raised his hands with a shrug. “Oh well~”

Rin was about to retort but was cut off when coughs raked through his throat. I should make some herbal tea to help, he thought with a grimace and rubbed at where his chest ached.

When he looked back up, Hisoka was staring down at him blankly, eyes glinting with an unknown emotion. However, before Rin could say anything, the look shifted back into his usual mask of indifference and amusement.

He stared after Hisoka in slight concern. What was that about? When no answer came, he shrugged and accepted the fact that he was probably going to be stuck in the blanket cocoon for the time being.


 

Rin had woken up to the feeling of being too hot, a rare occurrence since he usually soaked in whatever heat was around and then some. He kicked off the blankets, which gave him a spit second of relief before the feeling was back. It probably wasn’t helping that Hisoka’s body was pressed alongside his, so he tried to push the man away to no avail. Rin propped himself up on an elbow so he could see the clock on the nightstand and blinked when the numbers blurred for a second. He shook his head, squinting as he read eight twelve a.m. All the shops opened at eight a.m, according to the owner of the inn, and he was already planning on exploring them that day, so he figured he might as well get up since going back to sleep didn’t seem possible at that point.

Now, the problem was actually getting up.

Rin wiggled one arm free and poked Hisoka’s cheek, pausing to see if he woke up.

Hisoka didn’t move.

Okay, so either he’s really asleep or he’s faking.

Well, Rin was nothing if not persistent.

He was about six pokes in when his finger was suddenly caught between soft lips, making him squeak. He felt something wet wrap around it, and he raised his eyes to meet half-lidded gold eyes gazing at him.

The mouth released him, and he jerked his hand back, cradling the abendage protectively against his chest.

Hisoka’s voice was husky from sleep as he asked, “What?”

“I want to get up,” he hastily explained, hoping that the man didn’t notice the shiver that racked through him at the sound.

The eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“I’m hot,” Rin whined. “And I want to go exploring.”

Hisoka hummed non-committedly, and for a moment, Rin thought that he would refuse, but then he finally felt the arm loosen around him.

Rin jumped up, and the rush of cool air against the side that had been pressed against Hisoka made him sigh in relief. The heat wasn’t as bad now, but it was still slightly uncomfortable, so he flitted around the room and grabbed his stuff in order to take a nice, cold shower. When he came back out of the bathroom, rubbing his hair dry, he noticed that Hisoka was still lounging on the bed, not having moved except to turn onto his back.

He bent down and grabbed his bag, sparing a brief glance over his shoulder as he walked toward the door. “I’ll see you later.”

There was no answer from the bed, so Rin eased the door open and slid into the hallway. It was early, so there were only a couple of other people in the diner area, and he gave a small smile to the receptionist as he walked past.

Once he was outside, he stretched his arms in the air then glanced back when he heard the doors open again, jumping when he noticed Hisoka standing next to him.

“Why are you following me?”

Hisoka’s lips pulled into a grin. “Hmm~ I’m taking a break~”

“We just got here two days ago.”

“Your point?”

Rin stared blankly at the carefree expression on Hisoka’s face and slowly asked, “Shouldn’t you be asking people about Chrollo?”

Hisoka chuckled and waved a hand through the air. “That can wait~”

“That’s the only reason we even came here!” Rin argued, despite knowing he was fighting a losing battle. Why do I even try...

Hisoka leaned over. “Don’t pretend that you don’t want to try the food~” he teased, eyes just daring him to deny it.

Rin opened his mouth to reply, then slowly closed it because as much as he hated to admit it, the man was right.

Hisoka must have seen the defeat written across Rin’s face because he chuckled and pulled him through the crowded street, occasionally stopping when something caught either of their attention.

“Hey, you!”

Rin jumped slightly and whipped around until his eyes met with one of the vendors. The young man smiled and waved him over.

“Haven’t seen you here before,” he stated casually once Rin had stepped closer.

Rin smiled shyly at him. “Ah, yeah. My, um, friend and I are just stopping through.”

At the friend part, Rin saw the vendor peer over his head to look at where Hisoka was still standing in the middle of the street. He wasn’t sure what the man saw, but it made him flinch back as all the color drained from his face. However, by the time Rin looked over, Hisoka was grinning like usual.

When their eyes met, the other man gave him an all too innocent expression, and Rin narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

“Oh, um.” The man coughing nervously drew Rin’s attention back to him. There was sweat beading on his forehead. “Quite the friend you have there.”

“Y-Yeah.” Rin laughed awkwardly, rubbing a hand behind his head. “Sorry about him.”

The vendor gave a strained smile. “Here.” He thrust a fresh roll of bread at Rin. “I just wanted to give this to you. On the house.”

Rin beamed up at him. “Oh, thank you, but are you sure?”

“Y-Yeah.” The man seemed to be steadily growing more nervous about something, eyes darting everywhere but Rin. “Um, have a nice day.”

“You too.” Rin smiled and made his way back over to Hisoka, who was still blocking the road. Not that it really matters. Everyone’s giving him a wide berth.

Rin felt his lips twitch slightly. Not that I blame them.

He unwrapped the bread and just as he was taking a bite, Hisoka chose that moment to sling an arm around his waist.

Hisoka propped his chin on Rin’s shoulder. “Is it good?” he asked, lips brushing against Rin’s ear.

Rin blushed and took a sharp inhale in surprise, almost choking on the bread. Once he could actually breath again, he gave a small nod.

Hisoka hummed and grabbed a hold of Rin’s wrist, bringing it up until he could take a bite from the bread. The whole time he was glaring in one direction.

Rin followed his gaze and saw the vendor gapping at them with a flush.

He frowned. “Why are you glaring at him?”

For the first time since Rin had met him, Hisoka gazed down at him in puzzlement. Not that the look lasted long because in the next second it was replaced with... understanding?

Hisoka chuckled. “Hmm~ Just teaching him not to touch what doesn’t belong to him~”

“What?” Rin looked confusedly between the vendor, who now refused to even look in their direction, and Hisoka.

The question was ignored, and the lips brushed Rin’s ear again, this time staying pressed against it. “You really didn’t notice?”

“Notice what?” Rin asked in aggravation, trying to ignore the growing heat on his face.

Hisoka grinned, as if to a joke only he knew about. “Nevermind~”

Rin could only stare in bewilderment.


 

It was already getting dark by the time Rin returned to the room the next day. He had spent most of it curled up in one of the bean bags in the bookstore, taking turns between reading and eating cheesecake.

For once, Hisoka was lounging on the bed with his head propped on his arms and legs crossed at the ankles instead of sitting at the table. He didn’t even bother opening his eyes when Rin entered. Probably sensed my nen the second I stepped foot in the building.

It wasn’t until Rin was sitting on the edge of the bed that Hisoka spoke.

“We’re leaving tomorrow~” he informed suddenly.

Rin tilted his head. “Does that mean you found something?” he asked curiously.

Hisoka grinned. “Hmm~ A merchant said he saw a man with Chrollo’s description in Krekkle City.”

Rin furrowed his brows, trying to remember the geography of the area. “Isn’t that on the other side of Mt. Hilm?”

“Yes~” He finally opened his eyes, but, to Rin’s annoyance, it was only to smirk at him in amusement. “What? You’re not scared of a little hiking, are you~”

“I’m not a big fan of it, no,” Rin stated calmly, absolutely refusing to take the bait, and if he felt a kind of vindictive pleasure in making the other pout slightly, well, no one needed to know.

Not one to be put off so easily, the other man said teasingly, “I can always carry you~”

Rin flushed slightly and mumbled, “Only if you keep your hands to yourself.”

“Would you want me to~” he purred, voice rumbling through the air.

Rin very deliberately ignored the heated stare that was directed at him, not wanting to acknowledge the emotion he knew was swirling in the gold eyes—only because he knew that if he did, if he accepted the fact that the other wanted him, then that moment would turn into something else entirely, and he wouldn’t be opposed to it.

The thought sent both a thrill of excitement and fear through him.


 

I hate the cold!

The higher they went the worse his shivering became. At this point, Rin was bundled up in his favorite sweater and coat, while Hisoka just carried on in his usual outfit.

He eyed the man. He’s not human. That’s the only explanation.

Painful coughs wracked through his body, and he took a rattling breath, grimacing when every inhale felt like needles stabbing his throat. The cold air was definitely not helping, either.

He stumbled over a rock and just barely managed to catch himself before he fell. He was straightening back up when something cold landed on his nose, and he squinted up at the sky. Oh, great, like this day couldn’t get any worse. Now, it’s snowing. The white flecks were really not helping with his already blurry vision, and Rin swayed slightly to the side but gave his body a small shake and righted himself. A gust of wind blew by, making the little pieces of ice smack painfully into his face, and the amount of snow falling was steadily growing the longer they walked. This is bad. I think it’s turning into a storm.

After the fifth time, Rin became so focused on not tripping on anymore rocks that he didn’t even notice Hisoka had stopped until he ran right into his back. He looked up at him blearily, the man’s face wavering as if being viewed while under water.

Hisoka gestured in the direction of a rock outcropping. “There’s a cave over there that we can use to wait out the storm.”

Rin nodded in agreement, then immediately regretted it when it made the swaying worse.

The cave was just as cold as outside, but at least it got them out of the wind.

“Stay. I’ll try to find some wood we can burn.” The serious tone had Rin obeying immediately.

He sat on the cold, hard ground and drew his knees up to his chest, trying to quiet his shivering. He must have drifted off at some point because when he focused in on his surroundings again, Hisoka was already back and laying down a pile of wood. The pieces must have been shielded from the snow somehow because they were completely dry, and pretty soon they had a decent fire going.

The hissing and crackling of the fire had Rin scooting closer, desperate for any type of warmth.

Hisoka crouched down next to him and laid a pale hand against his forehead, and the sudden coldness had Rin flinching back unconsciously, the movement making more coughs tear from his throat.

“It seems you have a fever,” Hisoka scolded. He made it sound as if Rin got sick on purpose .

Rin didn’t bother saying anything, too focused on breathing, and what little breath he did manage to get was pushed out from surprise when the coldness of the ground was abruptly replaced by something warm. It took his sluggish brain longer than normal to understand that he was on Hisoka’s lap—not that he had any mental capacity to protest at the moment, nor would he even want to anyway—and he laid his forehead in the crook of Hisoka’s neck with a sigh.

It may have just been his fever riddled mind, but he could have sworn he felt fingers run through his hair as he drifted off.


 

The loud whistling of the wind just outside the cave jolted him awake, and he opened his eyes a crack. When he saw nothing of importance, he started to close them again. That is, until a knuckle rapped him softly on the forehead.

“You can sleep in a minute. Tell me, is there anything in your little bag of tricks that could be helpful?” Hisoka’s voice was right beside his ear.

“Hmm…Elderberry…” Rin mumbled quietly. “Um...ginger root…and,” Rin frowned, “I-I think...there’s cinnamon?”

Hisoka shifted so that he was holding onto him with one arm, the other rummaging around in Rin’s bag.

He closed his eyes fully and tried to zone everything out, body drooping in exhaustion. Rin didn’t know how long he stayed in that half-awake, half-asleep state, but he was snapped out of it by another tap against his forehead. He gave a quiet whine of annoyance and tried to ignore it, but then the hand pinched his cheek. Rin tried to open his eyes, but all they did was flutter and then close again.

Something pushed against his lips. “Drink,” Hisoka ordered.

He opened his mouth and felt warm liquid flow in. He managed to swallow a mouthful before he had to turn his head away to cough at the bitterness.

“I will force you to drink it~” Hisoka threatened, pressing the cup insistently back against his mouth.

With a grimace, Rin drank the rest. He was seriously starting to regret telling Hisoka about the herbs.

A hand patted his head. “Good boy~”

The only response Rin gave was a quiet, “Hmm,” before falling asleep once more.

 

Chapter Text

 

Rin blearily blinked up at the ceiling and frowned in confusion when he saw tile instead of the rock he was expecting. He was warm, and there was a heavy weight on his chest, so he looked down to see that he was buried under a mountain of blankets.

“Oh, you’re awake!”

He jolted and jerked his head in the direction the sound came from. There was a woman standing in the doorway with a tray—from the smell coming from it, he guessed it was food.

She walked over and set the tray down on a small end table. “You gave us all a fright. We didn’t know what to think when your friend brought you in with a fever. No one is brave enough to cross over that mountain this time of year.” She gave him a smile. “Well, almost everyone it seems.”

When his only response was a blank stare, her eyes widened. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You must be really confused. My name is Jade. My husband and I run the inn here.”

“Wher-” Rin tried to ask, but a cough racked through him, cutting him off harshly.

“Here.” Jade handed him a glass of water. “If you’re asking about your companion, he’s downstairs. I told him to stay away because you needed your rest, and it wouldn’t be good to have another person get sick.”

Rin couldn’t help but stare at her in awe. She actually got him to listen to her…

She must have read it on his expression because she smirked. “I know how to deal with unruly children.”

He choked on a laugh at the thought of Hisoka being an ‘unruly child’. I definitely don’t want to see his reaction to being called that.

“Your fever has gone down, but you still need to take it easy. I made you some soup, so it shouldn’t bother your stomach. Once you’re finished with that, I left you some medicine.” Jade gave him a look . “I expect it to be gone by the time I come back.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he croaked out weakly.

With a satisfied nod, she left as quickly as she came.

She kind of reminds me of Bisky... The thought sent a shiver down his spine. Oh god, I better not get on her bad side.

Rin slowly sat up with a grunt and reached over to pick up the bowl. He sighed in pleasure as the heat from it warmed his fingers. His hand was shaking slightly as he brought the spoon up to his lips to blow on it before putting it in his mouth, and he blinked as the flavors hit his tongue. It’s good.

After he ate as much as he could, he carefully set the bowl back down on the tray, then glanced warily at the two pills sitting next to it. Rin scrunched up his nose in distaste. He was never a fan of taking medicine, he’d rather just wait until whatever he had went away on its own. However, then he remembered Jade’s threat, and an image of Jade and Bisky popped into his mind, both of them scowling with their arms crossed in front of their chests. It was enough to make him hurriedly grab the pills, almost knocking them off the tray in the process, and swallow them with a gulp of water.

Now that Rin had nothing else to do, he took in the room he was in. It was a decent size for an inn, covered in a soothing, pastel green wallpaper that reminded Rin of new buds during the spring. There was rather large window on the wall to Rin’s right, and he could see buildings through it. He assumed he was on the second floor because he could vaguely hear people through the glass pane but couldn’t see them.

Eventually, his eyes started drooping, so he burrowed his way back down under the blankets when the door opened a second time. Although, this time it wasn’t Jade.

Hisoka walked in, not a hair out of place and wearing his usual smirk, but Rin could see the annoyance in his eyes as they roved over his form.

I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t tried to kill her, yet.

Rin shuffled as far as he could to one side of the bed, and Hisoka took it for what it was, an invitation.

It took some maneuvering before they were both able to fit comfortably on the bed, which was even smaller than the last one and clearly only meant for one person. Rin was practically laying on top of Hisoka by the end of it, not that he was complaining. The other man was like a space heater.

Hisoka seemed particularly clingy as one of his hands gripped the back of Rin’s shirt tightly. The hold was verging on the border of being painful, but he just buried his face in Hisoka’s chest, hands coming to rest on either side of Hisoka.

Rin’s eyes grew heavier, and he didn’t say anything when he felt fingers brush against his slightly heated forehead.


 

Rin shifted slightly to get more comfortable, his eyes only half open at this point, and gave a yawn.

The sudden sight of Jade opening the door startled him so much that he jumped and almost rolled off Hisoka. Thankfully, the hand pressing against his lower back prevented him from having a painful meeting with the ground.

The fact that she just blinked at them—taking in how Rin was still laying on top of Hisoka—and then calmly walked over to the table to pick up the tray said a lot about her.

Jade paused just as she was about to leave, her hand on the doorknob, then turned to glare at Hisoka. “He needs rest, so you two better behave.” Her eyes flicked to Rin in warning, then she turned and continued on her way.

The door closed with a click, cutting off Rin’s spluttering and Hisoka’s chuckles.

Rin groaned and shoved his heated face against the chest. “I blame you.”

The chest shook in silent laughter. “Whose laying on who~”

Rin raised his head to glare at the man. However, the only thing that accomplished was giving Hisoka the chance to yank on one of his cheeks, and he squeaked in pain, trying to pry the fingers off. Once his cheek was free, he rubbed at it with a frown— definitely not a pout—and kept a hold of the hand in case the other tried to do it again.

He scowled at Hisoka and decided to finally ask the question that had been plaguing him since he woke up. “What happened?”

“You’ll have to be more specific~”

Rin pouted, knowing the man was teasing him. “What happened after we got to the cave?”

“Oh, that~” Hisoka purred, lips curling up in delight. “I had to carry you the rest of the way~”

Rin flushed because the expression was anything but decent.

“You looked so helpless~ I could just barely control myself~” The blush grew darker when the man let out a low moan.

His breath hitched at the feeling of nen suddenly brushing against his skin, and his own automatically rose in response.

Hisoka chuckled, trailing a sharpened nail along Rin’s cheek, making it sting but not actually bleed. “Don’t worry~ There’s no point in fighting a weakened opponent~”

Rin knew he was playing with fire when he quietly asked, “And if I wasn’t sick?”

The heated look and bloodlust rolling off the man was all the answer he needed.


 

Deciding not to acknowledge the fact that he could have very easily been killed while unconscious—who was he kidding, he didn’t stand a chance even while conscious—he shyly played with the fingers he was still holding, something that he already knew wouldn’t get him killed. Rin figured it was a good idea to keep track of at least one of the appendages in case the magician tried anything.

It wasn’t until he felt Hisoka’s nen settle down that Rin was finally able to relax again, and since the man didn’t seem a hair's breadth away from attacking him anymore, Rin figured it would be as good a time as any to continue where they had left off.

“How long have I been asleep?” he asked curiously. He made a point of not meeting the other’s eyes, not wanting to provoke the other so soon after he finally calmed down.

Hisoka didn’t answer right away, and the fingers twitched slightly in Rin’s grasp. “Three days,” he stated, and Rin could hear a hint of annoyance in his voice.

The answer made him finally look up with wide-eyes. I...was not expecting that.

“Sorry.” The apology came forward immediately, though he wasn’t entirely sure what he was apologizing for.

“Hmm~” Hisoka smirked. It wasn’t his usual smirk. It was still too tense, too filled with barely contained bloodlust just waiting to take over. “Just don’t do it again or I’ll have to punish you~” His voice was teasing, but there was a real warning in there as a finger softly traced along the scar on Rin’s neck.

Rin glowered even as his body shivered from the touch. The fact that the other man could feel it just made it even worse.

Rin stayed there for a few more seconds, breath hitching once again as the finger slowly trailed over to rest above adam’s apple, and he knew Hisoka noticed his pulse start to race as he did. Rin’s body was heating up again, and this time he knew it had nothing to do with his fever, so he moved to stand up, to get away before he did something he would regret. However, the hand still pressed against his back refused to move.

Rin hardened his gaze as he stared down at the other and said very slowly, “I have apparently been laying on this bed for three days. I would very much like to stand up.” It was a weak excuse, one that Hisoka saw through immediately, but Rin remained stubborn.

They gazed at each other for a long time—one defiant, the other calculating—when the hand finally lifted. Rin got up carefully, knowing that his balance was probably still out of whack, and stretched his arms above his head with a satisfied groan. His legs were tingling uncomfortably as blood rushed to them, but he ignored it because of how good it felt to actually be standing.

There was movement in the corner of his eyes, and when he glanced back, Rin noticed that Hisoka had turned to lay on his side, head propped up by his arm. When the magician noticed him looking, he grinned and made a show of trailing his eyes along Rin’s frame, even going as far as to lick his lips. Rin rolled his eyes and turned away again before Hisoka noticed the slight redness dusting his cheeks. No need to encourage him.

Instead, he went over to the window and pulled back the blinds. Vendors were lined up on both sides of the road, and all of them appeared to be selling some type of metal work.

Air ghosted over his neck. “Krekkle City, also known as the City of Metal~”

Rin yelped and flinched closer to the window, hand automatically raising to cover the spot. “Please don’t do that!” he scolded.

This only seemed to amuse Hisoka even more. “I got lonely~” he whined, pouting playfully.

“I don’t care.” Rin scowled, though his lips did try to twitch into a smile, not that he would ever admit it. “At least make noise when you move.”

A finger pushed on his forehead. “You’re no fun~”

Rin moved the hand away from his head and went back to looking out the window.

However, the silence was interrupted by a knock on the door, and they both looked over just as it was opening. Uh, oh...

The moment Jade spotted them, she glared. “What do you think you’re doing? I told you to rest. Now get back in bed this instant.”

Rin blinked at her with wide-eyes and then hurried to get back under the covers.

The proceeding lecture had him cringing into himself with guilt before it soon became panic when she turned her rage on to Hisoka. It was only after Rin frantically apologized and the women left that the bloodlust that had steadily been rising dissipated.

That could have been really bad...


 

Hisoka left early the next morning in order to ask around about the rumor, so Rin was alone in the room. Not that it was bad thing since it gave him time to read his book. Though, why he didn’t do it while Rin was unconscious, Rin didn’t know

It was just as he was turning to the next page that he heard a ring.

He frowned and glanced around, but it wasn’t until his eyes landed on his bag sitting next to the bed that he realized what it was. Oh, it’s my phone. He scrambled to grab the device and then quickly answered it, not thinking to check the number.

“Hello?” he breathed out.

“About time you answered!”

An ache he didn’t even know he had eased off his chest at the sound of Killua’s voice.

“Is everything okay? Have you guys been eating alright? Has something bad ha-” Rin rambled, but was interrupted.

“Everything’s fine! Stop worrying so much!” Killua said, annoyance practically dripping from his tone.

Rin paused. “Oh...that’s good.”

“And what about you? You have some explaining to do!” Rin could almost feel the death glare through the phone.

“What do you mean?” he asked, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“We tried calling you two days ago!”

Rin tilted his head to the side. Two days ago...oh.

“Why the hell did that creep answer your phone?!” Killua shouted. “All he said was that you were sick and then hung up!”

Rin pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course he did. “We’re, um, traveling together,” he answered, then pulled the phone away from his ear and waited for the explosion he knew was coming.

And explode Killua did. “ What?! I thought you said you were going home?! Why would you go anywhere with him?!

Rin winced. Jade could probably hear all the way the downstairs with how loud Killua was being.

“I did go home!” Rin protested. “It’s not my fault he decided to follow me.”

Killua let out a long sigh. “Jeez, and I thought Gon had bad luck.”

Rin heard a loud, “Hey!” in the background. There was the sound of a scuffle and then a new voice came on.

“Rin!” Gon exclaimed happily.

Rin couldn’t help the fond smile that stretched across his face. “Hey, Gon.”

“Are you feeling better now?” he asked, and the concern was clear in his voice.

The image of Gon looking up at him with his large, doe eyes flashed through his mind.

“Yeah,” he soothed, not wanting to make him worry anymore than he already was. “It’s nothing a little sleep can’t cure.”

“That’s good!” Gon said, then gasped. “Oh! Guess who we met! His name is Kite! He was one of my dad’s students.”

Rin blinked. “Does that mean you got to meet your dad?” he asked.

The voice wilted. “No, not yet, but it’s fine. Kite is taking us to the NGL to look for a new type of animal species.”

Rin frowned, not wanting to think of all the trouble they could get into, especially in a different country. “Please be careful.”

He ignored the, “Mother hen,” Killua mumbled.

“So where are you now?” Gon asked curiously.

“Krekkle City.”

If Rin was there, he knew Gon would be tilting his head to the side. “Why are you there?”

“We’re looking for-” he started, then coughed and cut himself off. “Someone…” he finished lamely.

“Who?” It was an innocent enough question, but it had him panicking inside.

Rin knew he sounded suspicious, but there was no way he was telling them exactly who they were looking for. “No one important. Now, why don’t you tell me about Kite?”

“Okay!”

Rin leaned back against the headboard with a smile as he listened to Gon ramble on about everything that had happened since they split up, with the occasional input from Killua. In turn, Rin told them a little about his own adventure, making sure to leave out any details pertaining to their search. Gon was amazed when Rin told him about the food in Harven Town, so Rin promised to take him there at some point.

“Has he tried anything, yet?” Killua was back on. He must have managed to snatch the phone back, going off Gon’s whines in the background.

Rin thought of everything that had happened so far and decided that ‘no’ would probably be the safest answer, especially for his sanity. “He hasn’t.”

“Hmm.” Rin could tell that Killua didn’t believe him in the slightest, but the boy didn’t call him out on it. “If he does, then call us.”

Rin felt his smile grow wider. “Alright.”

“I mean it,” Killua warned.

“I know.”


 

Hisoka took one look at him as he stepped into the room, then raised an eyebrow. “You’re in a good mood~”

“Hmm.” Rin couldn’t hide the content grin that refused to leave. “Killua and Gon called.”

“Oh?” Hisoka moved to sit on one side of the bed, then leaned back until he was laying on top of Rin’s legs, his own legs still dangling off the edge.

Rin shifted them until he found a more comfortable position. “Speaking of which, why didn’t you tell me they called earlier?” he asked as he frowned down at the other.

Hisoka closed his eyes with a grin. “I forgot~”

Rin snorted. Yeah, right.

Figuring that the man wouldn’t say anything more, he changed the subject. “How’s the search going?”

The grin turned into a scowl. “Nobody knows anything.”

“But the merchant-” Rin started.

“Was wrong.” Hisoka growled. He turned his head so he could meet Rin’s eyes, and the smirk came back full force, this time with a deadly edge as sharp as any of his cards. “He’s lucky to be in a different city~”

Rin sighed. “Like that would stop you.” If someone was dumb enough to knowingly lie to Hisoka’s face, Rin wouldn’t be surprised if the magician hunted them down no matter where they were.

The other’s nen was agitated, so he reached over to pick up the arm closest to him and gently massaged the tense muscles until he felt them relax slightly.

Rin glanced at the other. “So what now?”

Hisoka shrugged, or as best he could while laying down. “We move onto the next town.” Gold eyes locked with grey as they narrowed into a glare. “Though, we can’t do that until you can actually make the trip,” he said, then chuckled as his expression turned teasing. “Or I can always carry you again~” he offered.

“No way,” Rin denied immediately and unconsciously squeezed the arm in warning, which...did not help matters considering the man was already riled up.

“Oh~” Hisoka’s eyes lit up at the—accidental—threat.

Rin loosened his grip but did not break eye contact. “I don’t want to be a burden.”

The blank stare Hisoka gave him made Rin shift uncomfortably, though he refused to back down, especially for something like this.

After what seemed like an eternity, Hisoka hummed noncommittally and closed his eyes.

Rin let out a shaky breath and laid his head back against the wall. I’m definitely going to get grey hairs at this rate.


 

They had been in Krekkle City for six days—though Rin had been asleep for three of them—before Jade finally let him leave the inn. Being stuck in that room had made him antsy, and all the pacing must have worn on her patience because she practically threw him outside with the order not to come back until after a few hours.

Hisoka had been no help at all, either, just sitting back and chuckling. He was now following slightly behind, watching as Rin went between each vendor to look at their merchandise.

The nickname City of Metal definitely suited the place. Even with an untrained eye, it was easy to tell that each piece had been crafted with utmost care.

After growing up surrounded only by greenery, the change was slightly jarring to Rin, but he still couldn’t help but fawn over them.

He looked over at where Hisoka had last been standing in order to show him a beautiful sculpture of a cat, only to stop short when the man was nowhere in sight. He walked back over to the spot and looked around. How hard is it to find a man wearing pink and white?!

Apparently, very hard. He had almost decided to just leave without him—he knew the other could find him with no problems—when Rin saw him calmly walking back over. Rin cautiously watched as Hisoka approached him because the absolutely pleased look on his face sent all kinds of warnings through his mind.

Rin regarded the other, keeping his expression guarded. “Where did you go?”

“Somewhere~” Hisoka patted his head, grinning the whole time. “Don’t worry about it~”

That does not make me feel better in the least. The only consolation he had was that there was no one screaming bloody murder, so whatever Hisoka did couldn’t have been that bad.

Rin blinked at the thought and then smacked his face. I’m slowly losing my mind if that’s how I rate things now.

The fact that Hisoka gave him a smirk tinged slightly with confusion all but confirmed it.


 

“Close your eyes~” Was the first thing said when they made it back to their room.

Rin glanced curiously at the other but followed the order anyway. Part of him wanted to smack himself for not being more cautious around the other, but the more content part silenced the urge.

The feeling of something being wrapping around his neck had him flinching a little, and he had to force himself not to leap away from the hands.

There was the sound of a satisfied hum as the hands retreated, though the weight stayed. “There~”

Rin opened his eyes and saw Hisoka observing him with both hands on his hips. He lifted a hand to gently touch at the object and made his way over to the small mirror hanging on the wall. Almost immediately, he felt his brain grind to a halt.

Hanging from his neck was a simple black choker with a small pendant that was shaped like a teardrop. A teardrop that looked almost identical to the one painted on Hisoka’s left cheek.

Why do I get the feeling...that this is like a wolf marking its territory? He pinched the bridge of his nose, desperately trying to ignore the small flutter in his stomach. That explains his expression from before...

He slowly looked over at the wolf in question. Hisoka’s eyes were glinting in amusement as he took in Rin’s reaction.

Rin opened his mouth, then closed it. I don’t even know where to begin… Glancing back at the mirror, he sighed. It is a rather beautiful necklace, and he did buy it for me...

Reluctantly turning back to Hisoka, Rin smiled. “Thank you...for the gift.” The smile quivered slightly, and his tone made it very clear how much it pained him to say it.

The grin widening made his arm twitch, and for a split second, he considered doing something very stupid.

He didn’t. That would be giving in to the narrowed eyes that were daring him to try.


 

After Jade finally decided he was well enough to travel a week later, they made their way to Dasson City. It was a good thing, too, because Hisoka had looked to be a moment away from finally giving in to the urge to kill her.

The only problem was...that neither of them knew exactly how to get there. Not that Hisoka said as much, but Rin definitely remembered passing that specific tree before.

Rin squinted up at the sky. “The sun’s almost down. Shouldn’t we stop for the day?”

“Hmm~” Hisoka paused and then veered to the right. He didn’t stop until they had found an area that wasn’t completed overridden with shrubs.

Good thing it’s still warm out, Rin thought with a sigh, already accepting the fact that they would be sleeping outside for the night . He sat down on a spot that didn’t have a bunch of rocks poking through the ground and leaned back on his hands so he could gaze through the canopy of leaves at the stars.

Krekkle City was nice, but he had missed being surrounded by nature.

The longer Rin sat the more he felt his energy drain away, and he finally realized just how tired he was. Guess I’m still not completely better yet.

Tilting his head to the side revealed Hisoka shuffling his deck, and he rolled his eyes with a smile. Of course.

Rin watched him for a little while longer before gathering some leaves into a makeshift pillow.

He fell asleep to the rustling sound of leaves and cards.


 

They finally made it to a town, but Rin was pretty sure it wasn’t Dasson City. All of the buildings were falling apart at the seams, and there was not a single person in sight. If it wasn’t for the fact that he could sense people nearby, he would have thought it was a ghost town.

They walked over to the only building that had lights on, which appeared to be a bar. The moment they stepped in, all eyes were turning to them.

“We don’t get many visitors around here,” a man spoke. It was who Rin assumed was the barista since he was behind the counter. He was a scruffy, old man with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, and he was currently looking at them in a way that sent all of Rin’s instincts into a frenzy.

When Hisoka made no move to speak, Rin stepped forward with a sheepish smile. “We’re looking for Dasson City.”

The man exhaled a big cloud of smoke. “You two must be really lost, then. Dasson City is in the other direction. This is Tulic Town.”

Rin gave an internal groan of frustration. We walked all this way for nothing. “Um, then could you point us in the direction of the nearest inn?”

The man gestured around him. “This it is.”

Rin blinked, then looked over at Hisoka, who had remained completely silent throughout the whole conversation. Cold eyes were slowly taking in everyone nearby, and it eased Rin to know that he wasn’t the only one sensing something off.

As if feeling his stare, they flicked down to him, and Rin wondered if he imagined them softening as they landed on him. Hisoka stared, then gave a small shrug and a sharp smirk, one that promised death to anyone who dared to mess with them.

It shouldn’t have made Rin feel as relieved as it did.

They quickly paid for a room, and for once, he was glad they were sharing. The uneasy feeling was only growing stronger as they walked to their room, and it wasn’t until the door had closed firmly behind him that Rin slumped in relief.

“I don’t like this place. There’s something...off about it.”

Hisoka moved so that he was standing over by the window. “It’s a dying town, known for its flowers, but over-planting caused the soil to become infertile.” He looked over his shoulder with a smirk. He was definitely enjoying himself. “Now, it’s become a popular spot for gangs.”

Rin hummed. “That explains why everyone’s too afraid to leave their house.”

Hisoka turned and walked past him so he could head back toward the door. “We may as well ask around while we’re here~” He stopped in the doorway and fixed Rin with a glare. “Don’t leave the room.”

The door shut behind him.

You don’t have to tell me that. There’s no way I’m going anywhere.


 

Being confined to the room left Rin with little to no options of things to do, so it wasn’t long before he fell asleep on the rather beaten up looking bed. With how much the thing squeaked with every single movement, Rin was surprised he even to sleep at all, especially considering how he was practically jumping at every little noise.

It was one said noise that finally roused him, and Rin rubbed at his eyes and looked around to see what had woken him. He glanced over at the beaten up clock hanging on the wall and saw that it was around seven. I’m surprised he’s not back yet.

There was another knock on the door, this time louder.

Rin stared at it, then got up and slowly crept toward the door, letting his hand hover over the knob. He bit his lip anxiously but turned it.

He peeked his head around the door as he opened it. “Hello-”

He managed to catch a glimpse of a man before there was a searing pain, then everything faded to black.


 

Rin came to with a quiet groan. His head was absolutely throbbing in pain, and the hard surface he was laying on was not helping. He felt something wet slowly slid down the side of his face and reached up to touch it, only to frown in confusion when he couldn’t. There was something wrapped around both of his wrists, and when Rin brushed his fingers against it, he realized it was rope. A quick check revealed that his ankles were in a similar state.

Oh god, I’ve been kidnapped…

Rin forced down the rising panic that was threatening to overwhelm him. Panicking was the last thing he could afford to do. As much as Daisuke promised to protect him, the man knew there was always the possibility of something like this happening, so he made sure Rin knew what to do in a situation like this.

After taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, he carefully cracked open his eyes. The room was dark, though there was a light coming from underneath one the doors. The only thing in the room, besides him, appeared to be a couple of empty boxes in one corner. There was nothing to indicate exactly what type of building he was in. He bit his lip, trying to think of a plan, only to suck in a sharp breath when he heard something.

It was the sound of voices coming closer, and the door creaked open as if in slow motion, allowing Rin to see three people silhouetted by the light shining in.

The first figure stopped when he noticed Rin staring at him. “I’m surprised you’re awake already.”

Once Rin’s eyes adjusted, he noticed three men standing in the doorway. They were all rather thin, and all of their clothes were in tatters, though it was clear that someone had tried to mend the rips but had only succeeded in making them worse.

Rin voice came out as a whisper as he asked, “Who are you?”

The third man who stepped in grinned crookedly. “Just some people trying to get by on what they have.”

The dread he felt was only getting worse. “I don’t understand.”

“Well, you see.” The first man crouched next to him. “It’s hard to make a living in this town, so we have to get creative. A friend of mine is actually at the port in the next town over, and he just so happens to deal with a,” Rin flinched back when the man brushed a piece of hair off his forehead. “Different type of merchandise.”

Rin felt all the blood drain from his face, and the tight hold he had on his panic slipped, making his nen come rushing forward in response.

Wind billowed around him as the man was knocked backwards, and Rin used the opportunity to cut through the rope and hurriedly stood up, ignoring how it made his head throb even worse.

Just as he got to his feet, Rin saw the second man running at him with a knife. He sidestepped him and then pushed with the palm of his hand, his nen sending the man flying through the air.

This isn’t good. Rin grimaced as he tried to catch his breath. I didn’t think my body was still this exhausted and using my nen is not-

He twisted and just barely managed to avoid the arms that lunged at him.

Enough!” The sound of a gunshot rang through the air.

Rin froze.

The man lowered the gun from where it was pointed at the ceiling and slowly aimed it at Rin. “Now, you’re going to behave or I say screw the money and shoot you.”

He knew that if worse comes to worse he might be able to nudge the bullet with his nen enough so that it missed, but that moment of pause was all they needed.

A hand snapped out and yanked his head back by his hair, which made the throbbing increase tenfold . He gritted his teeth and glared at the man but refused to give them the satisfaction of hearing him scream.

The man holding him grinned, his hand forcing Rin’s head back until he could only see the ceiling. “Since he’s giving us so much trouble, I say we play around with him first, break him in. I’m sure your friend will appreciate it, Avim.”

No... Rin’s breath hitched, heart starting to race as horror filled him.

Avim scowled but kept the gun aimed steady at Rin. “Do what you want, Belial. Just don’t damage him too much.”

Belial chuckled as his free hand trailed up Rin’s chest, and Rin flinched, body jerking in the hold. Avim gave a sharp noise, freezing Rin in place as he shifted the gun. Rin felt tears sting his eyes but held them back as his chest heaved, breathing becoming more and more painful as panic clouded his mind. No!

As Belial’s hand slowly started to move down, Rin snapped, slamming his head back and hearing a satisfying crunch. He squeezed his eyes shut from the all-consuming pain that followed but couldn’t find it in himself to care.

“You little-” The man snarled and yanked painfully on Rin’s hair, drawing a gasp from his lips. He leaned closer until Rin could feel his breath hit his cheek, then a chill suddenly filled the room.

Rin could see confusion and slight fear slowly overcome their features, and all of them turned to the door when they heard the sound of footsteps coming closer. Belial yanked him back a step, the fear practically radiating from him at this point, though it was clear the man didn’t know why he was so terrified.

Rin felt his eyes widen when a familiar bloodlust wrapped around him and stared at the door as a figure stepped in. This was not the same man who teased him endlessly. No, this was the man who ruthlessly killed someone for simply bumping into him.

Rin didn’t know if that was better or worse.

“W-Who are y-you?” Avim tried to aim the gun, but his hands were shaking so badly that the barrel was going everywhere.

The slitted eyes narrowed in on him.

“You really should know better than to take what doesn’t belong to you~” The drawled words had all three men flinching back as the temperature dropped even further.

There was the sound of something slicing through the air, and Avim dropped like a stone.

Rin saw the third man tremble and yell, “M-Monst-” before a card was sticking out of his forehead.

He winced when the hand tightened in his hair, and something cold pressed against his throat. Rin felt a sting and then blood was slowly trailing down his neck. Without even looking, he could already tell that it had gotten onto the necklace.

When Hisoka turned his attention to them, the man holding him flinched and pressed the knife even harder against his skin.

“S-Stay back! O-Or I slit his throat!”

Hisoka ignored him, eyes trailing along Rin’s form—raising goosebumps in its wake—and only pausing when it got to his neck. The eyes narrowed even further, if possible, then he smirked and raised his hands in surrender.

Neither of them saw the card fly through the air.

The man landed with a dull thud, and Rin watched, in a sort of daze, as a few strands of his hair fluttered down.

Footsteps made him look up again, and the sight of the predator prowling closer made his heart thump painfully in his chest. The eyes were still filled with the yearning to kill, so he forced his body to relax, flipped his hands so that his palms faced outward, and tilted his head to the side to reveal his neck. Rin saw Hisoka’s eyes flick down to it, but he didn’t stop until they were only a hair's breadth apart, and Rin hissed when a finger touched the wound on his forehead.

There was a growl and then he was being slung over the other’s shoulder, and he had to slam his eyes shut when his vision swam from the movement, mentally willing his body not to be sick.


 

It wasn’t until he heard a loud thump that his eyes flew open and saw that they were back in their room.

Once the door was shut, he was finally put back on his feet. He started to look up only to gasp when he was pinned against the wall.

The pain in his head skyrocketed, but he ignored it as his throat was immediately attacked, and Rin could only whine helplessly as it was sucked and bitten. He clawed at the chest in front of him with a whimper when Hisoka mouthed at his jugular then moved over to lap at the blood still dripping down his neck. The tongue made a slow trail upwards until it latched onto his mouth, and Rin didn’t even bother trying to fight for dominance, knowing that he wouldn’t win. He could taste copper from his blood, and it should have disgusted him, but in that moment it made the fire building in his stomach grow even more.

His yelp was muffled by the lips still pressed against his when he was suddenly yanked into the air. Rin automatically wrapped his legs around Hisoka’s waist and felt his eyes widen when he felt just how aroused the other was. He shifted unconsciously, which caused the man to growl and jerk his hips forward, grinding into him with just the right amount of pressure. The breathy moan that escaped Rin had him flushing in embarrassment, not that he had time to feel it for long because Hisoka choose that moment to draw Rin’s tongue between his lips and suck. It had Rin clutching desperately at the other, tightening his legs as Hisoka continued to grind against him. Rin didn’t even notice when one of Hisoka’s hand let go of his waist and move downwards until it was suddenly palming him, and his hips jerked forward even as he pulled away with a gasp, letting his head fall back against the wall as he panted, feeling oddly lightheaded. His breath hitched when teeth nibbled at his throat again.

He tried to catch his breath, panicking slightly when he realized he couldn’t.

Rin tugged on the arm and gasped, “Wait.”

Hisoka growled and bite down hard enough to draw blood at the same time as he rocked his hips pointedly.

Rin groaned weakly, quickly losing the will to actually make him stop. “Please…”

There must have been something in his voice because Hisoka pulled away slightly to stare at him.

Now that Rin could think somewhat clearly, he noticed that the blackness that tinged the edges of his vision was fading the more he focused on trying to breath.

A hand gripped Rin’s chin, tilting his face so Hisoka could see it better. What he saw made him glower.

“You have a concussion.”

“Sorry.” Rin winced. The headache had come back with a vengeance once the adrenaline left his system.

A familiar smirk eased onto the other’s face. “I did tell you not to leave the room~”

Rin pouted. “I didn’t go voluntarily.”

Hisoka didn’t say anything else, just grabbed either side of Rin’s waist to keep him from falling back and carried him to the bed.

Once they were both lying down, Rin tried to force the redness to go away, but the fact that he could still feel the man’s arousal pressing against his thigh made it difficult.

He squirmed, then froze when Hisoka growled, “Stop moving or I will continue where we left off~”

The threat had him squeaking again. “Sorry.”

Rin stayed as absolutely still as he could until sleep dragged him away.

 

Chapter Text

 

Or, well, more like as he tried to sleep. However, a certain clown was making the task harder than it needed to be. He wondered if this was the other getting his revenge for having to stop.

Every time Rin so much as closed his eyes, Hisoka poked him. Rin buried his face in the sheets with an aggravated groan, wishing that he could just merge with them, anything to get away from the annoyance that was Hisoka. He was even starting to contemplate simply smothering himself in the slightly musty smelling fabric when Hisoka suddenly got up. Rin turned his head so that one eye was peeking out, watching the other cautiously. It was definitely not like the other to simply give up, so Rin was almost positive that Hisoka was up to something, which did not bode well for him.

Hisoka quickly disappeared into the bathroom, where Rin then heard running water, before coming back out with a wash rag hanging limply from one pale hand. Hisoka’s face was blank as he climbed gracefully back onto the bed and nudged Rin until he rolled onto his back. Rin blinked but let himself be turned, feeling more curious now than anything else. His body twitched slightly before relaxing back into the bed as the rag gently swipped across his face, touch becoming feather light as it ran over the cuts.

Rin stared at him, taking in the serious expression painting Hisoka’s face as he focused on the task at hand. He had only ever seen that level of concentration when the man was fighting, so the sight was both humbling and strange.

Despite how gentle the touch was, it still made his cuts sting, but the pain was shoved to the back of Rin’s mind as he focused on the rhythmic motions lulling him to sleep.

Something pinched his arm, and he groaned in complaint, trying to move away from it.

“You have a concussion,” Hisoka repeated. His voice came from directly above Rin, and it was tinged with enough amusement that Rin scowled. “You’re not allowed to sleep~”

Rin opened his eyes and stared pleadingly at Hisoka, who had both his hands on either side of Rin’s head and was hovering above him. “Can’t I just-”

“No.”

“But-”

Air blew across Rin’s face as Hisoka leaned even closer, practically growling, “No.”

Rin pursed his lips, annoyed. Realistically, he knew that Hisoka was just trying to help. He may not know a lot about medicine, but even Rin knew that a person with a concussion shouldn’t fall asleep. However, that didn’t mean he had to like it.

Rin glanced between the clock, which said twelve forty-five p.m., and Hisoka.

He sighed and tilted his head. “Then what should we do instead, if you’re not going to let me sleep.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Rin regretted saying them because a devious look immediately spread across Hisoka’s face.

Rin blushed and waved his hands in front of him. “Not that!” he hurriedly said.

“Oh~” Hisoka purred, leaning even closer until their noses were touching. “I was going to suggest a card game~ What were you thinking of?”

Liar, Rin wanted to shout.

“I’m fine with a card game,” Rin said instead.

“Hmm~” Hisoka leaned back far enough that Rin finally felt like he could breath again.

Hisoka sat with his legs crossed and took out a deck of cards, a deck that immediately had images of the men flashing across his mind. He shivered and raised a hand to his neck at the memory of that man pressing himself against Rin’s back. It made his stomach roll with revulsion, something Hisoka apparently noticed because he reached over and tugged on a strand of black hair.

When Rin raised his eyes, he was pinned in place by burning gold. They were narrowed into slits, the familiar bloodlust swirling in their depths as Hisoka stared into grey, but for some reason the sight eased Rin instead of frightened him like he was expecting. He felt...safe. He didn’t even notice how his body had relaxed until Hisoka drew his gaze back down to continue shuffling.

He knew he should be concerned with how his body was reacting around the other, but at that point he couldn’t find it in himself to care.


 

They ended up playing for hours, and by the time Rin glanced out the window, the sun was already rising above the horizon. He stared at it for a few, uncomprehending seconds before pressing the palms of his hands against his eyes. His eyelids were heavy weights, and it took everything he had to keep them open. Even the pokes were becoming less and less effective in making him stay awake.

He heard rustling and pulled his hands away. Hisoka had gotten up from the bed and had one hand on his hip as he looked out the window. Rin made a questioning sound, and Hisoka glanced over his shoulder at him.

“Get ready, we’re leaving~”

Rin turned and squinted at the clock. “But it’s only six thirteen.”

Hisoka raised an eyebrow. “Do you really want to stay here another day?”

No, was Rin’s first thought. He paused and realized that Hisoka may have had a point.

Since Rin had never bothered to even unpack anything—they weren’t there for long, and Rin had been itching to leave as soon as he stepped foot in that place—all he had to do was grab his bag and then they were heading out the door.

As soon as they stepped outside, Rin flinched and threw up a hand, trying to block the death rays stabbing into his eyes. He grimaced, gritting his teeth as he tried to stop himself from making a sound.

He heard Hisoka chuckle quietly, then he was pulling Rin’s hand away. Rin opened his mouth to protest, only to jump when something slid over his ears. The burning was replaced with blessed relief as the world was suddenly tinted blue. Rin raised a hand and touched the sunglasses that Hisoka had placed on him, then lowered it to give the man a questioning look.

Hisoka’s lips pulled up into a pleased smirk as he met the stare. “The owner was,” he tilted his head, eyes glinting mischievously, “Kind enough to let me borrow them.”

Rin almost snorted as he sent Hisoka a disbelieving look. Hisoka only smirked even wider, lips pulling back to reveal teeth in a vaguely threatening manner. Again, Rin wasn’t scared, not when he knew the look wasn’t actually directed at him. Although, he did kind of feel bad for the owner, just a little bit.

Rin blinked as a thought suddenly hit him.

“Wait, when did you-” he started, but cut himself off when Hisoka just gave him an innocent expression, one that he didn’t believe for a second. “Never mind.”

He’d rather not know.


 

Dasson City was...normal.

There wasn’t really any other way to describe it. It was almost exactly like Yorknew City, only slightly smaller. The people there didn’t specialize in selling anything particular. There weren’t any absolutely amazing sights that would bring a ton of tourists. It was just a normal city with normal people.

It was freaking Rin out .

He kept waiting for some psychopath to suddenly jump out and attack them, or to hear people scream as they ran away from a rampaging monster. Anything .

Instead, there were just people calmly walking by, sometimes stopping and chatting with others, but otherwise carrying on with their peaceful lives. Occasionally, someone would send them a curious look—something he had quickly grown used to, what with him travelling next to a man with bright red hair and white and pink clothes; he’d honestly be more surprised if people didn’t send them strange looks—but other than that, it was a normal day.

That still didn’t stop Rin from sending anyone who came too close wary looks, inching away so that he was closer to Hisoka’s side. He understood that he was being slightly too paranoid, but he felt he had plenty of reasons to be, especially after everything that had happened so far. If anything, Hisoka seemed to find Rin’s reactions hilarious, and Rin had even caught the man chuckling under his breath a couple of times.

He shot the magician a glare when he heard it again but because he wasn’t paying attention, Rin nearly ran into someone, and if it wasn’t for Hisoka yanking him back, he definitely would have ended up crashing into them.

Rin blushed and quickly apologized, but the person simply smiled and walked away.

He felt his face grow even darker as Hisoka laughed, the man leaning down to whisper in his ear. “If you wanted to be pressed against me, all you had to do was ask~” he purred.

Rin spluttered unintelligibly and jumped away from him, but Hisoka just laughed even louder and grabbed his hand, dragging him through the crowd. They didn’t stop until they had reached a small restaurant that was painted a pale yellow, which seemed appropriate since the logo was a dancing sun with the name “Levant” written across in calligraphy. However, even just the smell was making Rin’s stomach stir uncomfortably, but before he could say as much, Hisoka was already tugging him inside.

The waitress’s smile didn’t even twitch as she turned to them and asked, “A table for two?”

“Yes~”

The place was busy, but it didn’t seem packed, and there was an empty table off in the corner that she quickly led them to. She handed them two menus, asked what drink they wanted, and told them to call for her when they were ready to order, then she left to tend to other people.

Rin blinked down at the menu, a little dizzy from the whirlwind of activity. He never even had a chance to protest before she had practically teleported them over.

“See anything you like~”

He looked up to see Hisoka had propped an elbow on the table and was leaning his chin on his open palm.

“I’m not hungry,” Rin tried to explain.

Hisoka’s eyes narrowed. “You haven’t eaten anything all day~”

Rin scrunched his nose, trying to calm his stomach as the smell of food washed over him from all around.

He choose a different tactic. “I don’t think I’ll be able to keep it down,” he admitted, and it wasn’t a lie. Just the thought of eating anything almost made him want to throw up.

“Hmm~” Hisoka studied him, face oddly expressionless. “Let’s make a deal~”

Rin was immediately wary. “What?” he asked carefully, eyeing the man across from him.

“If you manage to eat something,” Rin frowned, but Hisoka continued before he could say anything, “Then I’ll let you sleep when we get to the hotel~” He smirked and wiggled a finger at him. “Of course, I’ll still have to wake you up every so often~”

Rin’s brows furrowed as he thought about it. On one hand, he would finally be able to sleep—getting woken up once and a while notwithstanding—but on the other...He glanced around at the plates of food, the sight making his stomach turn.

He sighed and finally nodded.

“Good boy~” Hisoka praised teasingly, then called the waitress back over.

She smiled at them in greeting. “What can I get for you two?” she asked, pen and paper in hand as she looked at them patiently.

Rin stared blankly as Hisoka smiled at her. Smiled , not smirked. “What soup would you recommend?”

She raised the pen to her lip and said, “Our tomato soup is the most popular, and it’s absolutely delicious.”

“Hmm~ He’ll have that, then~”

She blinked in confusion. “And what can I get for you, sir?”

Rin was almost tempted to laugh, hiding his growing smile behind the cup as he took a sip of water. It sounded so weird hearing someone call Hisoka sir.

The smile turned even brighter, if anything, and Rin wasn’t the only one to blink in surprise—she even blushed slightly, making Rin frown.

“Nothing for me~”

She seemed to shake herself from her daze because the polite smile was back. “Alright, I’ll be right back with your order.”

Rin waited until she had disappeared through the doors to the kitchen before turning a blank stare on to Hisoka. “Why are you so insistent that I eat when you’re not? You haven’t had anything today, either,” he reminded with a scowl.

Hisoka gave his head a pointed look. “I’m not the one with a concussion~”

Rin huffed and turned to look out the windows. However, his staring was eventually interrupted when the waitress came back, carrying a bowl with steam rising from the top.

“Here you go.” She placed the bowl in front of Rin, then stepped back. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

Hisoka didn’t even spare her a glance. “No~”

She gave a small bow and then left again.

Rin stared down at the bowl. The smell didn’t hit him as hard as some of the other food, but it still made him slightly queasy. He shot Hisoka a pleading look, but the man simply grinned back at him.

Gold eyes were filled with mirth as he said, “If you want to sleep, then eat~”

Rin sighed before carefully bringing up a spoonful to his mouth. The warmth felt wonderful as it went down his throat and to his stomach, and it did taste good, but Rin wondered if he would be able to get it all down.

A quick glance up revealed that Hisoka had added his other elbow to the table and seemed content just watching Rin. Probably to make sure that I actually eat it, he thought grumpily.

Rin ended up only managing to eat half of it, but Hisoka apparently deemed it enough because they quickly paid and left to go check in to a hotel. It was oddly reminiscent of the hotel they were at when dealing with the spiders, and it made him think about Gon and Killua.

I should probably call them. We haven’t talked since Krekkle City.

Hisoka nudging him into the room brought him out of his thoughts, and his eyes trailed around the room. It was definitely bigger than the other rooms they had stayed in so far, and again, there was only one bed—though this one appeared to also be following the same theme and was rather large. It also looked really fluffy and warm, with plenty of blankets folded at the foot of the bed.

Rin was already taking a step forward before he even realized it.

There was a chuckle behind him, and Rin paused long enough to look back over his shoulder and see Hisoka incline his head toward the bed with amusement lining his face before Rin practically ran over and jumped onto it.

It was how Rin imagained laying on clouds would feel like.

He bounced slightly as Hisoka joined him, and Rin let the other manhandle him so that he was on his side, face pressed against the firm chest. At that point, he was too tired to care, his body choosing that moment to remind him exactly how exhausted he was now that Rin was laying down. He wrapped his arms around Hisoka’s waist and shifted until he found the most comfortable position, which so happened to be one he usually woke up in: Hisoka practically smothering him and his chin resting of top of Rin’s hair. He heard Hisoka chuckle—something he seemed to be doing a lot that day—but Rin was content, so he simply gave a deep sigh and relaxed in the hold.


 

Never let anyone say that Hisoka didn’t keep his word. Because he did.

Rin was woken up, as promised. Every. Two. Hours. Not a second before, and not a second after.

He knew it was part of the deal, but Rin felt like ripping his hair out. He finally gave up on sleeping peacefully at around seven thirty and just laid there looking up at the ceiling. That is, until his vision was suddenly blocked by bright red hair and a smirk. They were in a position similar to how they were yesterday morning, with Hisoka leaning over Rin and their noses almost touching.

Rin felt his eyebrow twitch, and in a rare show of confidence, sat up quickly to place a small peck on Hisoka’s lips, then tried to slither out from under the other’s arms while the he was stunned. Tried being the key word there.

His foot didn’t even made it to the floor before he was being pulled back, and he landed on the bed with a quiet, “Oof”. Any further attempts to escape were immediately thwarted as Hisoka’s arms gave out, and he let all of his weight fall onto Rin. What little breath Rin had managed to save came rushing out as his chest was crushed.

Rin pushed on him with a groan. “Get off, you’re heavy.”

He shivered when a cold nose pressed against the side of his neck, and he didn’t need to see the smirk to know it was there.

“Hmm~ You’re quite comfortable~” Hisoka purred quietly, breath ghosting across Rin’s skin and sending pleasant tingles down his spine.

Rin squeezed his eyes shut and trembled beneath the weight as something wet flicked across his neck. He let out a quiet moan as the tongue was soon replaced by lips, lips that wasted no time in exploring. They slowly trailed down until they reached Rin’s collar bone and bit. Rin jerked in the hold and let out a loud groan, almost a scream . The sound startled him enough that he covered his mouth with a hand, trying to muffle his whimpers as Hisoka continued to attack the same spot.

Then, just as suddenly as he started, Hisoka jerked back to glare at the door. Rin couldn’t see it since Hisoka was leaning down so that his body blocked Rin from view, and when he tried to peer around, Hisoka let out a low growl in warning.

There was a quiet knock, and someone said, “Housekeeping.”

Hisoka’s lips pulled up into a snarl, and his nen whipped through the air, filled with anger and bloodlust. Rin could vaguely hear a squeak and the sound of footsteps quickly leaving before the other turned back to face him.

Rin still had one hand pressed against his mouth and knew his face was beat red, but he met the heated stare evenly. He removed the hand and bit his lip, watching as gold eyes followed the movement, then slowly raised one hand to tug at Hisoka’s sleeve. Surprisingly, Hisoka let himself be flipped so that he was laying on his back, and Rin hesitated for a split second, not really believing that he had gotten this far, before he crawled forward until he was sitting in Hisoka’s lap. Not once did Hisoka’s eyes leave his face, and it sent tendrils of excitement shooting through Rin.

Now what?

Rin had never done anything like this before, so he ended up just staring down at Hisoka from his new position. It didn’t help that Hisoka just lay there, hands resting on top of the bed, not moving. Rin bit his lip again, eyes crinkling around the edges as he contemplated what to do next.

Now that he thought about it, Rin had never really taken the chance to explore, always letting the other take charge because of his inexperience. With that in mind, he slowly raised one hand to trail two fingers down Hisoka face. It had always fascinated him, in the brief moments where he had touched Hisoka, how soft his skin was. Rin just couldn’t imagine the magician using lotion or anything of the sort.

His eyes roved over the pale skin, fingers running over sharp cheekbones and a defined chin, pausing only as they made their way to soft lips. The lips parted, warm air caressing the fingers and making them twitch. Rin raised his eyes to meet Hisoka’s, taking in the excitement, the lust that swirled unhidden within them, and felt his heart start to race.

Rin’s hand shook as he lowered it—and his eyes—to the chest beneath him, knowing that if he looked any longer that something in him would snap. The chest was hard underneath his palms, and he could feel the slight rise and fall as Hisoka breathed, using it as an anchor to calm himself. His legs gave a painful twinge, reminding him that he was still kneeling, so he shifted to try and relieve them, only to freeze as he felt something hard press against him that was decidedly not Hisoka’s chest.

Rin blushed, heart rate picking up even more as he tried to decide what to do. Ignore it, was his brain’s first thought, but...he didn’t want to.

He could still feel Hisoka’s eyes burning into him, so he tilted his head back and met them evenly, letting some of the desire that curled in his chest show through. They darkened further when Rin pressed down, grinding against Hisoka and throwing his head back with a gasp. He could feel Hisoka jerk beneath him, his hands clutching at the sheets and tearing them slightly, but the man remained stubbornly still, and Rin couldn’t help the frown that pulled at his lips. Was Hisoka testing him? Seeing how far Rin was willing to go?

Rin leaned forward, pressing both of their hard members as close as possible with only the barrier of cloth still separating them. Hisoka growled in response but still did not move.

Rin choked back the whine that threatened to escape his throat, and instead, jerked forward to kiss the corner of Hisoka’s mouth, whispering, “Please.”

It seemed to work because Hisoka lunged forward, capturing Rin’s lips, who eagerly opened his mouth to let their tongues twirl together. His hands came up to grab Rin’s waist hard enough that he knew there would be bruises and yanked down.

Rin’s moan was swallowed by Hisoka’s mouth as the man set a gruelling pace that sent more and more heat south until it was verging on unbearable. He had to set trembling hands on Hisoka’s chest so he didn’t collapse forward, only for them to give out when one of Hisoka’s hand snuck between them and squeezed Rin’s throbbing erection through the fabric. Rin had to bite his lip to keep the scream from escaping as he broke away from the kiss and panted against the side of Hisoka’s neck, hands scrambling over the clothed chest as heat coiled in his stomach.

He gasped out pleas. For what, he wasn’t exactly sure. All he knew was that the coil was growing tighter, tighter, tighter, and he wanted to-

His stomach let out a loud growl.

The sound made both of them freeze, and Rin felt his face burn for an entirely new reason. Hisoka let out a huff of amusement beneath him, and Rin sat up, covering his face with both hands as he tried to die from embarrassment.

“Sorry,” he squeaked.

“I’m starting to think you’re doing this on purpose~”

The reply made Rin feel even worse. Hisoka didn’t sound angry, but even Rin was starting to feel frustrated.

Rin pressed his hands harder against his face. “I’m not,” he whined. I know for a fact you can feel how very much I want to continue because I can feel you.

“Hmm~” The hand that was still gripping him tightened, and Rin’s breath hitched as Hisoka’s thumb rubbed seemingly soothing circles that were anything but soothing. “It’s too bad~ I can’t have you being hungry~” Here the thumb pressed down even harder, and Rin fought the urge to grind down on the hand . “I’ll guess we’ll just have to stop~”

Rin didn’t even have time to blink before he was pushed to the side, room spinning until he ended up staring at the ceiling. He sat up just as Hisoka was standing from the bed, eyes wide as the other simply smirked at him.

Hisoka put his hands on his hips and raised an eyebrow as he gazed down at Rin. “Well? Aren’t you going to get up?”

Rin ended up stammering out, “But you- We-”

The eyebrow raised even higher as Hisoka stared at him challengingly. “My little kitten needs to be fed~ What kind of owner would I be if I ignored him?”

Rin opened his mouth, then closed it.

What do I even say to that?!


 

They ended up going to the same restaurant as before, but wound up with a different waitress, one that wouldn’t stop flirting with Hisoka—and no, Rin was not jealous, no matter what Hisoka and his stupid smirk seemed to think. Thankfully, since it was still fairly early, the restaurant wasn’t as busy as it was the night before, so they were in and out in no time at all—which was a good thing because Rin wasn’t sure what he would have done if he had to watch her bat her eyes at Hisoka one more time.

Rin had managed to eat a little more that time—he wasn’t even sure how he managed that much, since just watching the waitress interact with Hisoka made him want to gag—but it still wasn’t what he normally would have ate. Although, he was honestly just content that he even managed to keep it down at all.

After they left the restaurant, Hisoka suggested that they walk around since neither of them had ever been to Dasson City before. There weren’t any stalls out on the streets like most of the other cities, but there were still plenty of stores to look at.

They were just walking past one stripe of said stores, when a group of people went running by them, joining the already rather large crowd about a block away.

Rin glanced over at Hisoka, then sighed when he noticed how the man had perked up in interest. Anything that interested Hisoka was bad news for Rin, but, like always, Rin knew he wouldn’t get anywhere trying to stop him, which was why he let himself be dragged closer.

There was some sort of stage set up in the middle of the road, and it was otherwise empty except for a man holding a microphone. He was wearing a long red coat with a top hat to match, one that Rin had seen a ringmaster wear the one time he had went to a circus with Daisuke. It was setting off all kinds of warning signals in Rin’s brain, so he turned to Hisoka, mouth opening to suggest they leave, only to notice the man was no longer by his side. He tried to peer over the people around him, hoping to spot the bright red hair that should have easily be seen within the crowd, but there was nothing.

Rin worried his bottom lip between his teeth, heart starting to race as more people pushed closer to the stage. He took a step back, stumbling slightly on a loose rock. All that was running through his head was that he needed to get out of there.

Something grabbed his head, and he flinched, nen already rising to cover his fist before his face was pressed against cloth, the soothing scent of peppermint invading his nose. The hand that wasn’t tangled in his hair moved down until it was pressed against the side of Rin’s neck.

Rin reached up and gripped the shirt tightly with both hands. “Stop doing that,” he complained quietly, voice muffled slightly because of the fabric. Stop disappearing.

“Hmm~” The hand stroked his hair, fingers running through the strands in a motion more soothing than Rin wanted to admit. “I found something interesting for us to do~”

That simple, little statement was enough to make Rin stiffen immediately.

He pulled back enough so he could stare at Hisoka’s entirely too excited face with a heavy amount of caution. “What did you do?”

The lips curled into an exaggerated pout. “Why do you think I did anything?” Hisoka’s voice was a dead give away, filled with more amusement than Rin ever wanted to hear.

“You’re you,” he stated bluntly.

The smirk that unfurled onto Hisoka’s face was one that clearly said he did something that Rin was most probably not going to enjoy, and they both knew it.

Rin opened his mouth to try and ask again when the man on stage interrupted.

“Ladies and Gentlemen! We are now about to start Dasson City’s thirtieth fighting competition!”

The sheer roar from the crowd was near deafening, but all Rin could feel was dread.

Rin slowly turned back to Hisoka, face going blank as all the blood rushed out. “Please tell me you didn’t.”

Hisoka didn’t say anything, but the quick glance he gave Rin showed enough anticipation that Rin already knew the answer.

There goes normality.

Rin sighed. I should have known better.


 

The other competitors were rather...weak.

Well, at least compared to the fights Rin had grown used to seeing at Heavens Arena. Rin was sure they were all strong in their own rights, but they all seemed so...small. Not physically, of course; most of them were pretty buff, with large shoulders and forearms. It was just that not one of them had nen. The fact that Rin knew that some of these poor people would have to go against Hisoka , did not help.

He pitied them more than anything, to be honest.

The other fighters gave him strange looks, probably because Rin kept looking at them sadly—though it was more likely because even they could tell that Hisoka was dangerous, so they were wondering why this pip-squeak of a human was standing so casually near him. Rin was slightly confused on why Hisoka had dragged him over to where the fighters were waiting but figured it was just another one of the man’s whims, which was why he was definitely not expecting the announcer to suddenly call out his name.

He choked, head whipping around to glare at where Hisoka was standing beside him with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

Hisoka had the gall to look amused as he nudged Rin forward. “Best not keep them waiting~”

Rin wanted to facepalm, or better yet, smack Hisoka.

Instead, he climbed the stairs up to the stage as if he was walking to his death.

Rin paused, then shook his head and kept walking. I’ve definitely been around Killua too much.

The announcer gestured for both of them to step forward and shake hands, which they both did reluctantly. The entire time, Rin’s opponent—because of course this was his life now—glowered down at him with disdain. In fact, he looked a second away from sneering at Rin outright.

“Are you sure you want to fight me, boy?” the man asked—Rin was pretty sure he heard the announcer call him Beor. There was confidence in his voice, and his chest was almost jutting out as he stared down his nose at Rin.

It made Rin’s hand twitch, and he could already feel annoyance creeping up.

The announcer either didn’t hear him or decided to ignore the man because he said, “The rules are simple: either knock the opponent from the ring or get them to yield.” He aimed a stern look at each of them. “Killing is prohibited and will automatically disqualify the contestant. Is that understood?” He waited until they nodded, then jumped from the ring as he shouted, “Then begin!”

Rin didn’t move, simply stared at the person across from him.

As soon as the announcer had called the start of the fight, his opponent had dropped into a stance. It was sloppy and that was just comparing it to Zushi’s form. His feet were too spread apart, making his whole center of balance off. It would be so easy to simply knock the man over, but Rin was feeling slightly bitter. This man had judged him simply because of his appearance—something that Rin was used to, sure, but that didn’t mean it still didn’t irk him. It also didn’t help that Rin was already annoyed with Hisoka for even entering him in the competition in the first place—not to mention what had happened that morning, or rather, lack thereof—so no one could really blame him for...taking out his frustration.

Beor appeared to rely on brute strength, rather than speed and strategy, and patience was definitely not one of his virtues because he suddenly charged at Rin with all the grace of a rampaging rhino. Rin easily side-stepped him, watching as Beor stumbled before righting himself. He whipped around, growling at Rin as if he thought that would intimidate him. He tried it a few more times before finally seeming to realize that simply running at Rin wouldn’t work because then Beor started to circle him. He wasn’t exactly subtle as his eyes flicked across Rin’s form, trying to find weak spots, and it almost made Rin snort. Even Gon is better at this than you are.

Rin felt his lip twitch with the urge to smile as he shifted his weight onto one leg, watching as the man’s eyes lit up. Beor grinned, ducking down low and aiming a fist at Rin’s supposedly vulnerable side. Rin grabbed the wrist, twisting it at the same time as he let his foot catch one of the man’s ankles.

Beor landed with a loud thud, but to his credit, he almost immediately shot back onto his feet. Rin would have been impressed if he couldn’t already tell that the man had lost what little amount of strategy he had left. His eyes were glinting angrily as he snarled at Rin, and Rin figured it was probably time to end it.

Rin shot forward, seeing Beor’s eyes widen but knowing the other wouldn’t have time to react, and spun around him, grabbing one arm and yanking it behind the man’s back as he did. While he still had the element of surprise, Rin kicked out both of Beor’s feet, going down with him so that his knee dug into the man’s back and pinned the arm under his weight. Beor struggled against him, and Rin knew he wouldn’t be able to hold the man down with sheer strength, so he squeezed the pressure point in his arm—a little trick Daisuke had taught him. Just like he expected, Beor went limp, though he was still growling audibly.

Rin tightened his hold. “Do you yield?” he asked.

Beor strained against him before seemingly giving up. “Yes,” he said, spitting the word out like it was venom.

Rin got up, keeping a careful eye on the man in case he decided to try anything, and made his way off the stage. He walked past the announcer as he jumped back up, yelling out Rin’s victory.

As soon as his foot touched the ground, Rin looked up to meet amused eyes.

The smirk was still there—though, to Rin’s embarrassment, it was definitely more heated than normal. “You shouldn’t play with your food~” Hisoka scolded playfully.

Like you’re one to talk.

Rin scowled. “He called me boy.” There was more to it, but Rin was definitely not explaining that.

“Hmm~” Hisoka leaned closer until their arms were touching, dropping his voice until it was just a whisper. “Maybe I should try it if that’s the reaction I’ll get~”

Rin scrunched up his nose. “Please don’t. It’s already weird enough that you call me kitten.”

Hisoka simply chuckled.

Rin didn’t know how to feel about that.


 

Rin didn’t know why the thought never occurred to him. He had already known how weak the other competitors were and how no one there would be able to defeat him , let alone Hisoka, so Rin didn’t know how he never realize that eventually the two of them would have to fight.

Rin would have to fight Hisoka.

Rin would have to fight Hisoka.

There was something so wrong about that sentence.

He knew there was some amount of horror painted across his face because this time Rin was the one getting pitying looks from the other competitors. It also didn’t help that Hisoka was just smirking at him with his hands on his hips, and when the announcer asked them to step forward, Hisoka raised one manicured hand and flicked Rin on the forehead.

It was so unexpected that Rin yelped and jerked back.

The announcer just looked between them with confusion, though he seemed to consider saying something to Hisoka, but one sharp look had him sweating nervously and yelling to begin the fight. Rin had never seen someone run off a stage so fast in his life.

Hisoka tilted his head as he peered down at Rin, still yet to move away even though the fight had already begun. “How about we make this fight more interesting?”

Oh, no.

“What do you mean?” If Rin was nervous before, it was nothing compared to how he felt now.

The words that came out of Hisoka’s mouth only made it worse. “Let’s make a bet~” he offered. “The winner gets to do whatever they want to the loser for a day.”

Rin’s face immediately heated up, and Hisoka looked rather pleased by it, eyes glinting with mischief and a little bit of the lust Rin had seen just that morning, making his already heated eyes darken further.

Rin didn’t know how to feel about being completely at Hisoka’s mercy—not that he wasn’t already—because that was what this bet was about. Whatever Rin had started earlier, Hisoka was asking—in his own unique, weird way—if he wanted to take that step over the line. If he didn’t, then Hisoka was offering him a way out, at least for now.

The thing that scared Rin the most was that he did.

He took a shaking breath, steeling himself as he said, “Alright.”

“Wonderful~” Hisoka purred.

That one tiny, little word was filled with so much promise that it made Rin’s knees weak.

There was a cough off to the side, and the announcer asked, “Are you two going to fight?” Hisoka turned an unimpressed eye on him, and the man paled so fast Rin was slightly worried for him. “N-Nevermind. C-Continue.” He retreated so that only the very top of his hat could be seen above the stage.

“Now then~” Rin turned his attention back to Hisoka, watching as he took a few steps back and raised his arms in the air. “I’ll give you the first move~”

Part of Rin wanted to object, but the bigger part already knew he was going to lose anyway. Hisoka knew it. Hell, even the crowd probably knew it. However, just because he knew he was going to lose did not meant he was going to go down without a fight, so he might as well use the small advantage while he could.

Rin also knew that the same tactic he used with Beor wouldn’t work with Hisoka because, for one thing, Hisoka was faster than him. Rin would just have to count on his instincts and nen and hope for the best.

Rin shifted from foot to foot, deciding what his first move should be. He could try for a physical attack, which would most likely be similar to hitting steel—Rin had felt Hisoka’s chest; he knew how hard it was—or go for an attack using nen.

Hisoka lived on fighting strong opponents, and he was staring at Rin with that same anticipation.

Rin sighed. Nen it is, then.

He shot forward before he could doubt himself, twisting mid-air and aiming a kick at Hisoka’s side, nen billowing around his leg as he did. Hisoka didn’t move to block it, and the blow sent him sliding back a few feet, almost making him slide right off the edge.

Hisoka grinned and tilted his head tauntingly. “That stung a little,” he purred, then raised one finger in the air. “My turn~”

Rin’s eyes widened as he hurriedly activated gyo, just barely managing to dodge a shot of bungee gum aimed for him. Suddenly, Hisoka was in front of him, and Rin saw a hand reach out, so he let wind shoot around him, knocking it away as he jumped back to put some space between them. Or, at least, he tried to. He tensed as he felt the familiar presence behind his back and spun to aim another nen enforced kick. It was grabbed, and he only caught a glimpse of a smirk before he was slammed to the ground. He gasped for air, moving to get shakily back up on his feet.

“Giving up already?” There wasn’t a hair out of place on Hisoka, and he looked entirely too amused by that fact as Rin scowled.

As soon as Rin was standing straight again, the grin widened. Rin only had time to frown before Hisoka jerked a finger, and Rin yelped as he had another painful meeting with the ground. He sat up in a flash and glowered down at the strand of bungee gum stuck to his leg. He brought a hand to it and used his nen to see if he could cut it like he did with Machi’s thread. The strand bounced but remained stubborn, sticking to Rin just like its namesake.

He sighed in frustration. The fight wouldn’t last very much longer now that Rin was caught. Not when everytime Rin would try to put distance between them, all the magician had to do was yank on his nen. He glanced up at Hisoka, who was simply staring at him with that same anticipation that he had since the start of the fight, and debated going for one last attack.

Might as well try.

Rin climbed back onto his feet and raised his right hand to his side, tugging on his nen as he did, which came forward with the same nervous excitement he was currently feeling. He spun the air faster and faster, feeling it creep all the way up his arm like a snake and knowing that by concentrating his nen in an area so small that it would become visible. He ignored the gasps of the people surrounding the stage and focused on Hisoka. Gold eyes had lit up with unholy glee, and Hisoka quirked one finger in a ‘come-closer’ gesture, almost making Rin roll his eyes. Only Hisoka would be so excited to be attacked.

Rin ran forward, the wind around his arm starting to make a high-pitched whistling sound as it spun even faster, and made a slashing motion toward Hisoka. However, Rin felt his eyes widen in horror when instead of dodging it, Hisoka brought up both arms to try and block the attack. Even from where he was standing, Rin could see Hisoka’s eyes widen slightly as his sleeves were ripped to shreds, small cuts maring the otherwise pale skin.

Rin was already running toward Hisoka before his mind even caught up, and his hands hovered over the arms that were quickly being painted red as blood steadily dripped down. “Oh god, what were you thinking?! Why didn’t you move?!” His voice was filled with panic.

There was a huff above him, and he looked up to amused eyes, only to yelp when his surroundings spun as he was suddenly upside down. His eyes were level with Hisoka stomach, and he tilted his head down— up? —to see Hisoka’s hand holding the strand of bungee gum, with him attached.

All the blood was rushing to Rin’s head from his new position, but he still heard Hisoka say, “I win.”

Someone—it sounded like the announcer—said something, but Hisoka was already moving toward the stairs, with Rin still hanging from his hand.

Rin groaned and tried not to be sick from the swaying motion. “Put me down!”

Hisoka hummed non-committedly but set Rin back on his feet, only to suddenly throw Rin over his shoulder the next moment. Rin gave up at that point, going limp and focusing on keeping his stomach contents where they were supposed to be as they travelled back to the hotel.

When Hisoka set Rin down in their hotel room, Rin immediately rushed to the bathroom to grab the first aid-kit.

As he came back out, he leveled Hisoka with a hard look and pointed at the table and chairs in the room. “Sit.”

Hisoka did as told, for once, automatically holding out his arms as soon as Rin got closer. The cuts were only bleeding sluggishly, having slowed down as they made their way back. It really shouldn’t have surprised Rin that Hisoka would see a strong attack and want to take it head on, and it really, really shouldn’t have surprised him that Hisoka would be able to. It was just...Rin had seen what that attack could do before when he was practising, and it left trees in tiny pieces.

Rin tied off the last of the bandages, and as he closed the lid of the first aid-kit, the full weight of what he had agreed to slammed into him.

He stiffened, staring down at the floor and refusing to meet Hisoka’s eyes.

Something Hisoka apparently didn’t like because a thin, deadly finger curled under his chin and tilted his head up. “Having second thoughts?” His face was expressionless, giving nothing away about what he thought, but Rin would have to be blind not to see the lust.

It cemented something in Rin, and he shoved the anxiety away to the furthest corner of his mind.

Rin smiled warmly, a smile he hoped showed everything he wanted Hisoka to see. “I want this,” he said quietly, but no less honest.

“Hmm~” Arms were suddenly wrapping themselves around Rin’s waist and lifting him in the air, making him squeak as he grabbed onto Hisoka’s shoulders to steady himself. He was thrown unceremoniously onto the bed, and before he could so much as move, Hisoka was already climbing on top of him.

His cheeks were hot as he peered up at Hisoka through his eyelashes, suddenly feeling shy. The feeling quickly disappeared, however, when warm lips captured his own, and he melted into the kiss. Hisoka’s mouth still tasted like peppermint and chocolate—the desert he had at the restaurant—so Rin took his time savoring the other, moaning as Hisoka curled his tongue around his.

Vaguely, he could feel one hand trail down his side, stopping as it got to the bottom of his shirt, and he jerked back with a gasp when Hisoka placed his hand flat on Rin’s bare stomach. Hisoka took the chance to dart forward and place a searing kiss on Rin neck, right over the scar, so Rin tilted his head to the side, giving him more access, and closed his eyes with a hum. The hand not on his stomach tugged at his shirt, so he arched his back and helped Hisoka pull it off him.

The sudden brush of cold air made him shiver slightly, but it was quickly replaced by the heat of Hisoka’s hands, and Rin felt the smirk pressed against his neck as the other wasted no time in exploring the newly revealed skin, hands running along his sides and over his chest. He let out a breathy moan as one brushed over his nipple, and mentally cursed himself for it because Hisoka pulled back with an absolutely devious look.

That was all the warning he got before lips wrapped themselves around one. He twitched, groaning loudly, and tried to arch up into that delicious mouth, but one hand pressed him firmly back onto the mattress. He whined, tugging helplessly at the hand, but all that gained him was a sharp nip in warning.

Rin wanted to snarl, but instead, he writhed against Hisoka, one hand pressed tightly to his mouth to try and quiet his whimpers as a warm, wet tongue wrapped around his nipple. It was a feeling he was not used to but one he was definitely enjoying.

Hisoka pulled back with an obscene pop, licking his lips as he stared down at Rin hungrily.

Rin reached up and tugged on Hisoka’s shirt before he could lunge forward again, gasping, “Too many clothes.”

The corner of Hisoka’s mouth twitched, then he was suddenly ripping off his shirt, leaving him as bare as Rin was at the moment—which was still not enough, in his opinion.

Rin’s hands came up, fingers following the hard curve of Hisoka’s abs and running over the course hair disappearing further south, and felt his face turn red with renewed heat. The blush only grew worse when Hisoka tugged on the waistband of Rin’s pants, sliding them down inch by agonizing inch. Hisoka flung them somewhere off to the side, where Rin heard them land with a quiet thumb, but all he could focus on was warm hands leaving trails of fire up his thigh, stopping just below the underwear still covering him. He opened his mouth, to beg, to yell, Rin wasn’t sure, but he didn’t get the chance as Hisoka ripped them off, finally, finally allowing his member to be free.

His eyes widened as he cried, “Oh god!” Hips jerking automatically as Hisoka wrapped a hand around him without any warning.

The hand tightened, squeezing him until he thought he was going to explode. “Just Hisoka is fine~”

Rin cried out again, clutching at the sheets and trying to stay sane as Hisoka slowly unravelled him, then the hand pulled away, leaving him panting and red-faced. He cracked open his eyes, about to ask what was wrong, only for the words to get lodged in his throat as Hisoka stepped out of his pants with the same grace he always had.

Rin had only caught a glimpse of Hisoka naked before, and the sheer size of his erection straining between his legs had excitement and fear shooting through Rin’s chest.

Oh god, he’s going to kill, he thought hysterically.

He was shaking, he knew he was shaking, but he couldn’t stop. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart, but it came rushing right back out when Hisoka laid on top of him. The feeling of skin on skin, nothing between them, had him moaning into the side of Hisoka’s neck.

His hands twitched with the urge to cover himself, suddenly feeling self-conscious under the heavy weight of Hisoka’s gaze. A feeling that quickly disappeared as Hisoka captured his lips again and ground down. It pulled another breathless moan from him, and he wrapped his arms around Hisoka’s neck, pulling him impossibly closer. It was almost enough for him to miss a hand trailing down his thigh, until a finger rubbed against his hole.

A wave of anxiety crashed over him, breaking through the arousal that had clouded his mind. What if I’m not any good? What if he’s disappointed? What if-

A sharp nip on his bottom lip, hard enough to draw blood, broke him from the panic that was slowly taking over. “Stop.”

Rin sucked in a deep breath, wondering when he had even started holding it, and met Hisoka’s eyes. The sheer fire in them seemed to burn away the remaining fear in Rin’s chest, and he relaxed his muscles that he didn’t even realize he had tensed.

Hisoka lapped at the blood that dripped down Rin’s chin, smirking in that self-confident way that just screamed Hisoka. “Stop thinking. Just give yourself over to me, little kitten~”

Hisoka made it sound so simple, but...maybe it was.

Rin nodded and used the arms still linked around Hisoka’s neck to draw him into another kiss. The motion was soothing in its familiarity, and it helped calm his racing heart. Rin tried not to jump when the finger teased his hole, not quite pushing in but giving little hints of pressure that were slowly making Rin crave more, which was probably what Hisoka was aiming for if the widening grin against his lips said anything. Rin would probably be annoyed that Hisoka was so good at playing him later when he could actually think more clearly, but for now, Rin was going to enjoy himself.

The finger turned more daring, the tip of it finally pushing past the rim, and it had Rin gasping, both from the oddness of it and the spike of pleasure it sent through his stomach. It took all he had not to push down on the finger, and he felt the strenuous hold he had on his restraint snap as the finger curled. He cried out, jerking beneath Hisoka as the man chuckled.

“Found it~”

Hisoka pulled the finger out until the tip just barely remained inside, then slammed it back in on the same spot. Rin clutched at Hisoka, head tilting back as gasps and moans fell from his mouth. The pressure increased as a second finger was added, but the discomfort was pushed away as Hisoka’s free hand pinched one of his nipples. Rin was practically shivering when a third joined the first two, and he almost came right then when a hand grasped his erection, jerking it in time with the thrusts of the fingers.

Rin clawed at Hisoka’s arm. “H-Hisoka, I’m g-going to-”

He almost sobbed as the hand pulled away, his hips raising to try and follow it.

Lips trailed up his neck until they reached his ear. “Tell me what you want~” Hisoka purred.

Rin shifted, trying to find some type of friction, but even the fingers had stilled.

“Y-You...I w-want you.” When the fingers still didn’t move, Rin gasped out. “Please, Hisoka.”

The fingers pulled out, and Rin let out a whine. He heard rustling and opened his eyes in time to see Hisoka pull out a bottle from the nightstand. He watched as the other poured some of it over his fingers and barely had time to gasp before they were shoved back in. The feeling was different now, the thrusts smoother, each one making a slick sound as they entered him. It made his cock twitch, and he reached down to grab it, but a hand pushed his away. He tried to glower at Hisoka, but the man simply stared down at him heatedly as he poured more liquid on his hand and rubbed it onto his own cock.

Rin yelped as his hips were yanked upward, wrapping his legs around Hisoka’s waist automatically. The new position left Hisoka’s member pressed between the cleft of Rin’s cheeks, and Rin’s face so hot that he almost felt like he was going to pass out. He tightened and relaxed his legs in anticipation, sucking in a sharp breath as he felt the tip press against his hole. Hisoka started to push in slowly, and all Rin could feel was pain . A sharp, stabbing pain that seemed to rip straight through him, tearing him in half. Even as he cried out, clawing at Hisoka’s back, the man continued to push in until his balls were pressed against Rin’s cheeks.

Rin squeezed his eyes shut as tears pricked them and drew in a shaking breath, forcing his body to remain still.

Hisoka shifted, and Rin flinched, shaking his head frantically. “W-Wait!” he pleaded, chest heaving as he tried to regain control.

He could feel Hisoka’s chest brush against his as he leaned forward, then felt lips press against his eyes. Rin cracked them open, staring blearily at Hisoka as the other’s eyes flicked across his face. The look in them wasn’t exactly worry, but it was the closest thing Rin had ever seen Hisoka get, and it had warmth shooting through his chest.

Rin blinked away the tears and tentatively wiggled his hips. He winced. There was still pain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad, so he nodded his head.

“Okay.”

That was all Hisoka needed, apparently, because in the next second he pulled out and slammed back in.

Rin whimpered at the slight pain that coursed through him, one that slowly turned into a groan as pleasure started to overshadow it. The fingers were nothing compared to this. The sheer warmth alone had him mewling, making him crave for more, wanting Hisoka deeper inside him, filling him until he couldn’t possibly take anymore. Rin might have accidentally said so out-loud because Hisoka let out an animalistic growl and snapped his hips forward so hard it had Rin screaming, white overtaking his vision as he gasped for breath. Hisoka growled again and angled his hips, hitting the same spot with every thrust, leaving Rin a whimpering mess as he thrashed against the bed. Rin tightened his legs, trying to meet each thrust that pounded into him, trying to pull Hisoka even further into him. He could feel the knot in his stomach curl tighter.

“P-Please...I-I want to-” He moaned, arching his back off the mattress, feeling the delicious waves of pleasure increase until-

A hand wrapped around his erection tightly, cutting off any hint of release and making him sob. He writhed as Hisoka pounded relentlessly into that same spot, the wet, slapping sound of skin against skin filling the room as his hips jerked helplessly, the knot growing tighter and tighter but unable to do anything about it. Fresh tears trailed down his cheeks as the frustration grew.

Just when Rin thought he was going to go crazy, Hisoka leaned down and licked the shell of his ear, whispering, “Beg for it~”

The words barely registered in Rin’s mind, but the promise of release was enough to break through the painful haze.

“Please, Hisoka...”

“What~”

Rin whined breathlessly, meeting burning gold as he said, “Please let me come.”

The eyes turned even darker, and Hisoka purred, “With pleasure~”

The hand loosened, then yanked Rin’s weeping cock in time with his thrusts, dragging a scream from Rin’s throat and bringing him to the brink of release. His entire body shuddered as his vision went black, mouth opening in a soundless cry as he came. He clamped down on Hisoka instinctually, riding out his climax as the other continued to pound into him. Both the sound of Rin and the increased pressure seemed to be too much because Hisoka’s hips jerked erratically before he lunged forward to clamp down on Rin’s neck, filling him with heat. Rin moaned weakly, barely even feeling the pain and just laying there limply.

Hisoka pulled back, licking the wound as he went, and stared down at Rin with an all too satisfied expression. He looked like the cat who got the cream and the canary.

Hisoka turned them so they were both laying on their side, and only then did he pull out with a wet sound, making Rin hiss. Even despite the discomfort, Rin couldn’t stop his lips from pulling up into a warm smile as he stared sleepily at the other man.

He felt content.

Hisoka’s eyes lit up with something, but it was gone before Rin could identify it, then the man was wrapping his arms around Rin’s waist and dragging him closer, burying his face in ebony strands. Rin huffed out a tired laugh and pressed his forehead against Hisoka’s throat, somehow going even limper.

He was almost asleep when Hisoka decided to break the silence.

“The day’s not over yet~”

Oh god, he really is trying to kill me…