Originally written in Polish as a birthday present for my friend soshi185, who approves of it. Now tackling the international audience with my own BelxMammon ^^
soshi185 is also the author of the picture I used as the cover. And of my new icon, by the way.
KHR belongs to Akira Amano. And no, I don't know Italian ;)
1. una vipera e un principe
A forest. Thick, ominous forest, where hardly anyone wandered to.
In the forest, there was a mansion. Some people would perhaps call it a palace due to its size plus a multitude of towers, turrets and similar. Over the entrance there hung an inscription, which read: Squadra killer autonoma di Vongola IX.
In one of the rooms with huge, gothic windows and a little too stony, cold walls there sat, at a desk, a petite figure in a white downy dressing gown with a deep hood pulled over the eyes.
The figure was resting her feet against the top of the desk and counting banknotes; moist strands of purple hair protruded from inside the hood.
The door opened without warning.
The frog sitting on the desk croaked alarmingly.
"I told you not to enter this room without permission, Bel," said Mammon in her monotone voice. "If this continues, I'll be forced to install a trap. A gilotine, maybe."
"Oi, baby, Prince comes to visit you and you still complain?"
"On second thoughts, an anvil will be better. Have you come to gape at me? I'll start charging you."
This time, in spite of apparent irritation, satisfaction could be heard in Mammon's voice, as always whenever she alluded to her newly regained adult form.
"You mean at your legs?" said Bel. "They're not bad. But surely you have more to show…"
Illusionists are not accustomed to, and indeed look down on physical combat. Unfortunately for Mammon, this meant the Prince was faster than her and she had no time to react when he jumped to her and tugged at the belt of her dressing gown.
None of the Varia officers had ever seen Mammon run – the illusionist, when not on Bel's shoulder, usually resorted to dignified levitation. Hence the entire squad watched with vivid interest when the girl chased the laughing Prince along the corridors of Varia HQ, all the time clutching the hood of her white dressing gown.
2. creatura della notte
Skin as white as snow… but not really; it is only the sickly paleness of a creature of night, a phantom evading sunrays, hiding her face from their touch. Because the world of day is not her world.
The world of day had rejected her, long ago, the girl with purple hair who laughed with her invisible friends; and the world of night had learnt to respect the figure in black cloak, with lips bent slightly in an ambiguous smirk and fine, greedy hands.
In the world of night everyone was different, which did not mean they were the same.
Snow had been falling on that they and was falling again, and Mammon knew its whiteness is temporary. In this world, hardly any whiteness lasted too long.
3. insieme in questa stanza
Her newly regained height, however stall not particularly impressive, allowed her to take in the remarkable mess Bel had managed to grow in his room from a new perspective. If that ranking boy had had a vision of this place, he must have suffered a harsh trauma. In his place she would sue whoever invented such an idiotic ranking for compensation for moral damages.
The room of the one who took the first place – as far as she knew it was some dumbass, that is: dumber than people she met everyday – Mammon preferred not to picture.
"You play chess?" she asked in surprise, kicking aside a small knife which lay in her way. The knife jingled against two glass bottles of… something standing next to a box with two pieces of an ancient pepperoni pizza.
"I'm a genius, after all."
"Fine, but with whom?" persisted Mammon, maneuvering between heaps of clothes, books, CDs, clothes, shoes, hair sprays, combs and brushes, clothes, video games, cardboard boxes, clothes, empty bottles of drinks, packs of sweets and other snacks, food leftovers and clother towards the window. Her first impulse after entering that room was always to open the window. Of course, she could have done it with psychokinesis without taking a step, but after a few seconds in Bel's room it felt good to be near a source of fresh air.
That question the Prince gracefully ignored, throwing himself onto the bed with a joystick in his hand.
"Promise me one thing, Bel. Never, ever try to play on this guitar, or else I'll personally cut off your fingers."
Mammon sat down at the corner of the bed. Years of practice in her Arcobaleno form resulted in her being able to play quite well while holding the joystick in only one hand, with a little help of telekinesis from time to time; on the other hand she rested her cheek, put one leg over the other and in a pose of studied lack of interest overplayed Bel in yet another video game.
The subject of the pair of handcuffs lying about in the room Mammon avoided in principle. Some things are better left unknown.
Truly white were the bandages on her wrists.
They were not an illusion. Nor were they anything unusual. In the mafia it was not common practice to comment on other person's clothing preferences, let alone taste for bandages. Among certain company, especially in Japan, they were extremely popular, but even in Italy there were body parts that happened to be strained. And who cared it was an illusionist wearing them?
It was the only white Mammon believed in. Because she had once seen that white mixed with red. Red the colour of blood.
Both white and red stood out against her skin.
An illusionist knew best that nothing was anything more than just itself. The rest was a delusion, play of words, senses, the mind.
A killer knew best that the only thing the colour of blood was blood.
Was blood on snow beautiful?
5. gioia di fama
They had always been a curious pair. Both back when Mammon had used to sit on his shoulder or even head and from that place surveyed the world with a calculating look, and now, when she walked by his side in her black, hooded cloak. Even as for mafia.
Let alone when they were simply heading to a sushi bar.
"Good thing it's not raining," muttered Mammon, looking carefully up at the sky so as not to lose the hood. Day or not, walk or not, reputation of the most mysterious person the mafia world obliged.
"Oi, you still about that, Mammon-chan? It was fun…"
"We were struck by a lightning, I recall. I had to buy us burn ointment, I recall, and you still haven't paid me for that, even though, I recall, it was your idea."
"That's what I'm saying… Anyway, Levi won't lend us his umbrella any more, apparently we damaged it."
Whenever they were in Japan, Bel insisted on going to one and the same sushi bar. Since it belonged to Sawada Tsunayoshi's Rain Guardian's father, it was not uncommon to come across the young candidates to the title of Vongola tenth generation, including their boss, which meant…
"Aaaah! VARIA! Why is VARIA here!" Sawada's familiar voice reached them.
Ah, the fame… Bel and Mammon smiled at each other, thought it was a bit hard to tell whether they exchanged glances.
6. perché così
Gentleness was not something to be expected from Bel. Neither was at least approximately predictable behaviour. Mammon thought she had long grown used to it.
Yet when suddenly he grabbed her hand, pulled up her sleeve in a swift, resolute motion and began unrolling the white bandage from her wrist, the rapidness of this motion unsettled her for a moment.
She caught his hand. Her eyes glared threateningly from the depth of her hood.
"Shishishishi," laughed Bel, showing white teeth in his characteristic grin. "What's wrong, baby? What're you hiding under here? Prince is curious…"
"That's none of your business," said Mammon, already in her normal, monotone voice.
"On the contrary, satisfying his curiousity is definitely the business of a genius…"
"Pay, then," she demanded coldly.
"Shishishishi… You're funny, Mammon-chan. Who knows, maybe I'll pay…"
At that, a small knife slid out smoothly of the Prince's sleeve, which Bel slid under the white linen and cut it neatly open.
"It'd better be enough for new bandages," murmured Mammon, even though she knew he was no longer listening.
The white fell away, exposing the memory of red.
Why? Mammon had never shown him her face. And he hadn't torn off her hood, but her bandages.
Perhaps he sensed that it was there that the story of pain was engraved, written in letters clearer than words, letters that had never been covered with illusions.
Why, really? Could it be that even the strongest illusionist, one of the Arcobaleno, needed something to be always unmistakably real in this world woven from lies and illusions? Something realer even than money?
Something never to let her forget she lived and intended to live on…
…no-one would notice an illusion, while the white of bandages struck the eyes and tempted, in spite of everything Mammon told herself, could it be she wanted someone to see it?
Bel moved his fingers along her bare wrists; he pressed them slightly, as if in hope that a long overdue drop of red would seep out of the paled gashes for his entertainment.
Despite herself Mammon shuddered.
"Happy now?" she asked brusquely.
"Of course, baby," the Prince smiled. No wonder; he had seen the proof of her weakness and suffering. Someone like him had to be happy.
He grinned once more and left her.
7. il colore dei fantasma
Red was really not her colour. Nor was white. Black could hardly be said to be anyone's colour; it meant too little, while at the same time it could mean too much. For Mammon black meant might. Magic. Mystery. And also cover, since people hardly ever looked beyond the black cloak; under her black cloak Mammon could be anyone.
In fact, her colour was indigo. The colour of illusion.
She was an indigo-coloured ghost.
At the verge of reality, stealing between the shadows of illusion, unnoticed… yet never completely.
She could never completely become a ghost.
8. dritto negli occhi
"Now show me your face, Mammon-chan, baby," said Bel.
As if it was a game. As if there was a dose of her secrets for him to discover every day, strip her off of her secrets until no shadow remained for her to hide from him in.
Mammon swallowed her anger. Anger was unproductive. Anger brought no benefit.
"You still haven't paid for the last time," she said, indifferently. "Do you think I'll show you my face for free?"
"Not for free," said Bel, moving closer.
His hand slid under her hood, grazed the marks on her cheeks, touched her purple hair. This time she sensed his intention just before he started putting it into action – among assassins it was early enough – but at the same time she realised she didn't mind.
Quite the opposite.
After a moment Mammon pulled back, caught her breath and looked at Bel.
"I'm prepared to bargain. I'll show you my face if you show me your eyes…" without waiting for an answer, she reached up and raked her fingers through the Prince's thick fringe.
"Ushishishi… All right, Mammon-chan, Prince will show you his eyes…"
It was a strange feeling to pull the black hood back, to reveal her purple hair and eyes. Without her hood Mammon felt exposed, vulnerable. Which was absurd, obviously. She resisted the urge to cover her face and looked at Bel with her uncovered eyes.
It was a strange feeling, after years of acquaintance, to look into his eyes for the very first time.
9. diverso, ma abbinato
He surprised her once again, insisting in his specific manner that they hold hands. She suspected it was a sign of possessiveness, and she didn't mind. After all, Mammon was possessive too, or rather – acquisitive, not to mention she was also, like most mafia-connected people, egocentric. It didn't matter what he thought; what mattered was what she knew.
She could hold hands with Bel.
Mammon forced him to treat her to strawberry milk and with much satisfaction watched him pay with his credit card for the largest and the most strawberry one she could find within the radius of one kilometer.
No matter how she looked at it, things were improving.
"Well, baby? Nice to have a Prince interested in you, is it?"
She was sure she saw his eye glisten from behind his fringe.
"It pays off, in any case," shrugged Mammon.
"Haven't you thought that if you had tried better before, you wouldn't have had to withstand that curse of yours for so long? Eh?"
"Hah, if it worked like that, Lal and that idiot of hers, Colonello, would've been free of the curse in five minutes. Don't overestimate yourself, Bel."
"Why, but I'm a Prince…"
Mammon smiled slightly, remembering when Bel placed one his diadems on her head. You'll be precious, he had said. Almost like a princess.
She was not a princess. But apparently she had found herself a Prince.
They were different, but perhaps, in some sense, they matched each other.