"Ahem..." The Don clears his throat loudly. All heads turn, "I have news about the merge we proposed a while ago to the illustrious Vongola Family of Italy..."
"Yes?" The members sit impatiently. A merger would greatly expand their prospects and allow a corner of the European market under their control. Of course, it's really collaboration, but they have had the upper hand in many of these relationships. Soon even the largest families merely become another addition under their enormous umbrella.
Freeze. Cigars drop and ashes flutter. Jaws hang open and glasses crack in the pressure.
"They said they disapproved of our 'Americano' ways..."
"Good grief, chief..."
"They can't just walk away like this..."
"What about our plan? We payed millions even to have an audience with 'em!"
"The Europeans think themselves too good for us, eh..."
"No, it's not quite that," The Don clips the end of his cigar nonchalantly, "We need to give a good show to them. So I got a deal."
"Wait, I thought they refused-"
"Let's feed them to the lions!"
"No," The Don holds up his hand and the room goes silent, "I invited them to come and view our civility. They have a branch in Japan that is willing to meet with my daughter."
"Why, excuse my saying so sir, but Chitoge is hardly-"
A gunshot. The speaker, slowly, nervously turns to see a smoking hole dangerously close to his right ear lodged on his seat.
"Alright then," Adelt leisurely cocks his gun upwards and glances at Claude, "I expect you to uphold the honor of the Beehive. Be sure our guests get a taste of our 'civility'."
"Yes, of course."
"In the meantime, I'll meet with the current head again. See if he won't change his mind."
A dark limo drives up to the front of a high school. The tuxedo driver opens the door for the two people to exit.
"This is Bonyari High School, Tenth."
"What do you think, Reborn?" The brown haired one, Tsuna turns to his home tutor, a baby in a suit that steps out of the car, "The Ninth sent us here to meet the future head of the American Beehive."
"This is certainly strange territory," says the immaculate hitman infant, "The area is generally under the Yakuza's control; their Shuei-Gumi branch. Odd place to send an American mafia Don's daughter."
"Signor Reborn, the Shuei and Beehive have been interacting in this area a lot as of recently. So maybe there is some sort of collusion agreement?"
"Who's the person we're to meet?"
"Chitoge Kirisaki. I've been informed she has 'The Black Tiger', a notorious hitman, as her bodyguard."
"Yeah..." Tsuna had thought that he held a life unique in all cases until he'd heard that another successor to some Mafia also might have an overly bearing hitman trailing one's every move.
Claude appears from the school. His face is rigid.
"I am Claude Ringheart, your emissary from the Beehive."
"Ciaossu. So you're the Black Tiger's teacher. As I've heard."
"You're quite famous yourself, Mister Reborn."
The two engage in a staring contest until Tsuna speaks.
"So! Are you our guide?"
"Of course," Claude immediately straightens, adjusting his glasses, "How rude of me. Come right this way."
Class is just ending and students scurry to their next destinations, be it extracurricular activities, home or a gathering. Tsuna looks about appreciatively as they walk to the classroom.
"I guess this is how it's like without a disciplinary committee, huh..."
"The students here are quite content to be behaved without coercion. Say," Claude peers over his shoulder at the young Tenth, who stiffens, "You're about fourteen, yes?"
"Uh, turning fifteen..."
"Hm... Just a little bit apart I see..." He swivels away, "And it's just the two of you today? What of your famous guardians?"
"We're here for diplomacy," states Reborn curtly, "We'll decide later if we want to break some bones."
Claude says nothing but smiles. Grandly, he opens the door to the classroom where Chitoge and Raku are squabbling. Onodera is standing by fidgety as Ruri is whispering something in her ear. They all turn at the sound of Claude's entry.
"Claude! What is it now?" Asks Chitoge haughtily.
"Excuse me, princess. But this is the Tenth of the Vongola Famiglia your father wanted you to meet, Sawada Tsunayoshi."
"F... Famiglia?" Raku knew that was code for Italian Mafia. What the heck were they doing here?
"Ichijou and company, please leave the premises. And Seishirou," Claude walks over to the window and looks to the side, where Tsugumi is seemingly plastered to the conjoined wall in the effort to hide, "Nice try."
Reborn watches, intrigued, as the Black Tiger enters the room, rather abashed at being caught, "So she's the Black Tiger?"
"Is that disapproval I hear?"
"Well, seeya, Chitoge," Raku and Onodera and Ruri make a beeline to exit, not wanting to be caught up in some Mafia battle, "Try not to do anything stupid, okay, Gorilla?"
"Hi!"Tsuna extends his hand, "I'm from Namimori. Nice to meet you."
Chitoge, seeing Raku has already left, grudgingly shakes his hand. She quickly wipes it on the back of her skirt.
"N-nice to meet you too," She hated how her father was using her as an instrument of diplomacy. She also hated this idiot's dumb looking face.
"Alright, then!" Claude claps his hand and begins ushering Reborn and Tsugumi out, "Show the young Tenth around, why don't you? We'll be in touch!"
"Wha- Claude!" For once, Chitoge wished Claude would spy on her meticulously. The door closes, leaving her with an idiot awkward teenager.
Outside, Claude draws his gun and places his ear on the door surreptitiously. Reborn averts his gaze to the Black Fang. True, she (or he) was famous, but after the horrible display today, Reborn was definitely underwhelmed, to say the least.
"Oi, Claude," Reborn calls, "I'm going to take your student here for a walk."
"Tsugumi, keep an eye on him," Claude says without looking at her.
"Let's go to the pool," Reborn tips his hat, "I'd like to have a little chat with you, Black Tiger."
Tsuna and Chitoge walk aimlessly past the schoolyard. At this time, the baseball club is pitching and batting. The sport reminds Tsuna of Yamamoto.
"Do you like baseball?"
"Uh, no," Tsuna laughs a little, "I have a friend who's a real nut for baseball and kendo..."
As Tsuna is talking, Chitoge spots Raku and Onodera sitting under a tree. They are alone. Ruri must have left them. Seeing them together somehow made her just a little bit irked. Definitely not jealous though. She grabs Tsuna by the hand and drags him to where the two sit. Raku sees her coming.
"Oh, you're done already?" He sees Tsuna being dragged over, "Um, hi to you too."
"Why are you still here?"
"We thought we might wait for you, Chitoge."
"Well I've got to show this guy around or something," She leans over to Raku, "To impress him for the Gang."
Raku swallows, knowing of the Beehive's prerogatives.
"So … from a Mafia, huh?"
"Heh," Raku glances nervously at Kosaki, "Yeah. The Yakuza."
The four enter an uncomfortable silence.
"So," Chitoge suddenly starts, "Why don't we get out of here? It's so stuffy!"
"Aren't you supposed to give him a tour of the school?"
"Shut up! We're going to the ramen shop!"
"That's sounds fun," Tsuna says nervously, "But I'd better tell Reborn..."
"Oh come on!" Chitoge begins dragging him and Raku towards the school gates, leaving Kosaki to follow, "How can you stand someone who's basically Claude breathing down your neck the whole time?"
Reborn stands by the pool where Raku had initially rescued Tsugumi. Upon her approach, he turns to face her.
"I'll be blunt, Black Tiger," Reborn purses his lips, "Quite frankly, I'm disappointed."
"Jump into the pool."
"Go on," Reborn notches his head at the pool, "No one's here. Oh, wait. I forgot, you can't swim."
The Black Tiger turns beet red at the mention of what she thought was a secret, "Who are you?"
"A hitman. The best in the world, in fact," He says that half-smiling, "Now swim."
Tsugumi tenses at the embarrassing memory of when Raku had to save her from drowning in the pool. But this strange infant was asking her to dive in now... She glances around. No prince will save her here.
So she draws her gun. Or tries to anyway. Reborn whips out his pistol and effectively ricochets a shot off the floor, knocking the butt of the gun out of her hand.
"Who are you? The best hitman..."
"You are an amateur."
All those years of being Seishirou and training under Claude like a dog. Protecting Chitoge and doing jobs for the Beehive... And SHE'S an amateur?!
"As if!" Tsugumi deftly dodges his next shot and whips out her hidden handgun. She shoots three times and he lifts his body about in the air, dodging the bullets effortlessly. She gapes at the agility despite his baby-like appearance. His eyes never left her face.
"What a nice expression," He kicks her arm with surprising strength, pointing it away before she effectively pulls the trigger, making a nearby hole. Tsugumi's eyes widen in fear as she realizes he's got her outclassed completely, "You think just because you're bigger and fire a gun that it's suddenly all over?"
As if to make his point, he lets her point the firearm straight at his head. She jerks her finger and pulls the trigger, but his head makes a quick movement to the left, missing the shot completely. One of the curly locks on his side are mildly singed though.
"Anticipate your opponent's movement," He lets go of her hand, "Shoot sparingly and aim for where they will dodge to, not their shadows."
Tsugumi's hand loosens on the gun. It drops and the sound reverberates throughout the pool area.
"I know all about your fight with the White Fang; as well as the fact that you can't swim. And how you failed to even conceal yourself today. Disgraceful," He makes a clicking sound with his tongue, "The standard of a good hitman must have fallen. Forget about swimming, we could trek a volcano."
"..." Tsugumi can feel her face getting hot as this pro seemingly chastises her harshly. It was true, she couldn't deal on all terrains as real pros should. But it's not like she ever had to.
"Come, Black Tiger."
Tsugumi perks up. Reborn is gesturing to the exit.
"I'll teach you how I became the best."
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Ninth."
Adelt sits in a lavishly furnished room in Genoa, Italy. After little disagreement, Vongola had decided to let him have another audience with the boss. Timoteo sits across from him at a lacquered marble table with glasses of alcohol and complimentary cigars. He picks up the crystal glasses with frozen soapstone and cognac.
"Nice place you have here."
"Mr. Wogner," The Ninth coughs, "No, Mr. Kirisaki, we both might as well get straight to it. You want access to the European market we currently hold the floodgates to."
"Yes! Splendid, we understand each other," Adelt gulps and empties his glass, "You're a sharp old man."
The elder chuckles, crinkling the skin around his eyes, "I have been the boss for a while now. It won't do to suddenly go senile."
"So? How about it?"
The refusal crashes into the lax atmosphere and shatters it. Both sides' guards tense, their hands on the butts of their guns. Adelt and the Ninth are still smiling rather friendly.
"Aw, you salty old codger..." Adelt snickers, fishing a Cuban cigar out of the box on the table, "Do you have to be so blunt?"
"I'm afraid," The scepter in the Ninth's hand suddenly blazes with a small flame at the handle, "That the American Mafia has proven too little in regard to fiscal responsibility, especially with a new playing field like Europe. It's too much to risk."
"So you won't yield?"
Adelt's eyes narrow, but not menacingly. He lays back cockily and gestures one of his men with an iPad over.
"Listen, Timoteo, we've both got a vested interest in this. It's a win for us both."
"Is this coercion, Mr. Kirisaki?"
"No..." Adelt pulls out a picture and slides it across the table, "It's an offer."
Timoteo looks hard at the picture of the blonde girl in the photo, "I'm guessing that's your daughter? What is the meaning of this? It's confirmed she will be marrying into the Yakuza, no?"
"You know what I mean." Quid pro quo. It may be of more significance to have Chitoge marry the Tenth than that Shuei-Gumi brat. Sure they may have to go at each other's throats again, but this new pact would bring in many new resources.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kirisaki," The Ninth shakes his head and turns the photo over, "We don't do things like that here, I'm afraid."
There is silence. A vein is visible on Adelt's temple, throbbing. The Ninth sits composed but aloof. A sinister air is brewing.
"I expect that the Tenth will return unscathed regardless of this talk?"
"Yeah, sure..." Adelt takes the iPad and taps idly at it. Unbeknownst to Timoteo, Claude's face shows up on the screen and he begins to engage in text-talk with Adelt.
He's not budging.
What now, boss?
Where is the Tenth?
Chitoge should still be leading him around. Do we switch to gear B?
"Mmm~!" Chitoge sniffs the bowl set in front of her appreciatively before taking big slurps of the broth and noodles, "Oh, YEAH! This is the stuff!"
"Itadakimasu," Raku and Kosaki say in unison.
"Aren't you eating?" Kosaki looks up from her fare to glance at Tsuna, who sits with a cup of tea, "The ramen here's really good."
"Ah, no... Reborn's had me on a healthy diet. Only home foods and whole produce."
"That sounds boring," Chitoge plunks down her bowl, "You're the successor, right? Can't you do what you want?"
"Huh? No, no!" Tsuna waves a hand in protest, "Reborn is my home tutor; he's supposed to groom me to be the next boss."
"Sounds like Claude isn't doing his job-" Raku starts, but Chitoge cuts him off by pinching his lips shut with her chopsticks.
"Well that's horrible. What's the point of being the next head if you can't get everything you want?"
"Being the boss," Tsuna smiles thinking of the familial bonds held within Vongola throughout the Famiglia's existence, "Means taking over with responsibility and holding the mafia together. Like a family."
"That sounds really cool, Sawada-kun!" Kosaki chimes in.
"Heh, really? That's just what Reborn's always taught me..."
Chitoge looks down at her empty bowl, temporarily in thought. She'd always though Claude annoying and overprotective. He'd never taught her anything though, like the guardian Tsuna has. Maybe she would feel different otherwise?
"So, your guardian, Claude, right?" Tsuna laughs lightly, while sweating on the subject, "He, um, seems capable."
"...Yeah, he is," Chitoge remembers how he used to chase away all suitors and potential friends.
A deep, throaty voice sounds behind Tsuna. The four turn to look at a behemoth of muscle. He has a tattoo of a dragon inscribed on the side of his face. There are scars on his bare arms. He growls and looks down at Tsuna so he's reflected off his shades. His gaze is fixed on the ring Tsuna wears.
"You're Vongola, ain't ya? Not from around here..." He grabs him by the collar and hoists him up.
"Aa...aaah," Sweat beads profusely on Tsuna's face as he squirms midair. He couldn't use the Dying Flame here! So there he was, a complete coward like he was prior Vongola.
"Hey! What're you-" The shopkeeper is silenced by the behemoth's companion, who reveals a small gun. Everyone in the joint looks ready to panic.
"Hey! Put him down!" Raku and Chitoge ram the guy's midsection, making him drop Tsuna. The four hightail out of there immediately, followed by shots that ring out.
They run into a nook and settle in among the disposed electronics.
"W-Who were those guys..." Tsuna pants heavily.
"That tattoo..." Raku bites his thumb, "They're from the main Yakuza branch! What are they doing here though..."
"We'd better get back to school... It's almost sunse-Mmmph!" A meaty hand clamps suddenly over Chitoge's mouth. More arms grab Raku, Kosaki and Tsuna. Raku makes an instinctive kick at Kosaki's assailant. A voice curses as Kosaki runs out into the street.
"Forget it, Takawa."
"Yeah, alright. Let's bring these guys to the boss."
"You guys do that. I'll go after the loose ends."
One of the swifter men leave without the others can protest. The leader gestures that the plan continue and Raku, Chitoge and Tsuna, struggling, are shoved into a parked silver van. Tsuna's ring subsequently slips off onto the pavement before the door is slammed shut and the van drives away. A drunkard, having seen it all, hiccups slightly, thanking his lucky stars he was overlooked. The shiny thing attracts his eye and he pockets it before starting his lumbering journey home for the day.
The target splinters as the bullets tear through the wood. Sweat beads run down Tsugumi's chin as she loads another round and begins firing anew at another target. Reborn stands by idly, observing closely. The girl was tense, eager to impress.
"Y'know, I still can't believe," She says in between shots, "That you're the best hitman."
"Like I said. Don't try to understand it if you can't. It really doesn't matter," He fires suddenly, intercepting one of Tsugumi's shot with hairline accuracy, "That was good. Now-"
"Seishirou!" A breathless Claude runs up to the two, panting, "Where... Have you seen the young miss?"
"Chitoge? Isn't she with the Tenth around campus?"
"I-I've searched everywhere. They're nowhere to be seen on school!"
"They left school grounds..." Reborn makes himself conspicuous by speaking. Claude looks at him, puzzled, as he tips his hat in thought, "That no-good Tsuna..."
"Any idea where they might be?"
"Uh..." Tsugumi racks her brain hard, "Oh! There's a ramen shop in town. Chitoge loves that place..."
The three are at the school gates when they hear a shrill cry. Kosaki runs toward them, her voice pleading. There is a person trailing behind, and gaining.
"Kosaki!" Reborn holds her back. He raises his gun, much to her surprise, and fires.
The bullet moves past Kosaki, seeking it's destined target. There is a thud behind her as the bullet pierces and bulges out the pursuers' skull. The frightened girl runs into Tsugumi and nearly collapses from exhaustion.
"Kosaki! What happened? Who-"
"R-Raku said..." Kosaki takes large gulps of air, "They're from the main Yakuza branch..."
"The main-!" The idea becomes reality when they see the distinct tattoos on the man's neck and arm.
"Judging from your expression, Claude, they are not native to this area?"
"N-No..." Claude fixes his glasses, rather flustered, "They outrank the Shuei-Gumi completely. They must not have been aware of our business in these parts and took it as a territorial thing..."
"But what are they doing here in an area out of their jurisdiction?"
"They got Raku, Tsuna and Chitoge," Kosaki says breathlessly, "We have to save them..."
"Indeed. But where might we find them?" Reborn looks at the body furtively, "He's not a source anymore."
"They ambushed us near the ramen shop. We should look there."
They make speed for the shop. A drunk falls over trying to avoid them. Reborn catches a glimmer from his finger and stops abruptly to grab the man by the collar.
"Whuzzah prob, bub?" The drunk slurs.
"This," Reborn takes the ring from his finger, "Where did you get this?"
"A lil' kid dropped it... O'er in the street where a van was parked, hic, I swear I got nothin'..."
"Duuuhhh..." The man's eyes close as he falls asleep right in the middle of interrogation. Passerby are barely glancing at the spectacle, not wanting trouble from the baby in the fedora.
"So, not much to go on," Remarks Tsugumi as Reborn drops the man on the pavement. The drunk just lies there, snoring.
"I don't really want to use the transmitter in Tsuna's earpiece, but I'll have to."
"Why don't you?"
"If the enemy picks up the signal, the hostages are dead."
"What's the Italian and American Mafia doing here? And why are you not keeping them in check?"
The thug prods Raku with an iron pole before smacking him subsequently on the side of the head. A trickle of blood runs down Raku's face. He's trembling. Bruises and cuts are visible under his torn shirt and face. Chitoge, tied to Tsuna a little away, winces and averts her gaze.
"We... We have a deal with the Beehive..."
"Did the Yamaguchi-Gumi give you permission? Think you can go and fraternize with them yourselves?"
Raku takes a shaky breath. Nothing he says here will help. The Shuei-Gumi did act out of their own jurisdiction, sure that they'd be unnoticed. It's just plain inconvenient a higher ranking branch came to survey their area at this time.
"And these two. Vongola and Beehive, huh? Those sure are some well known names in the Underworld."
In the darkness, some of the Yakuza snicker. Others eye the blonde girl, wetting their lips anxiously. These foreigners should be made an example of.
"I just got off the phone with Ichijo Issei," A slimy looking man with shades reports.
"What did he say about this blunder?"
"It was to preserve the peace of the area apparently. A marriage between the two."
"What a load of bull!" A bulky, tattooed man bellows, "Everyone knows the Beehive can't be trusted! They're all a bunch of bloated egomaniacs, foreignors here to invade our motherland."
"Shut up!" Chitoge pipes up, "Don't you dare call my father an egomaniac!"
"Ch-Chitoge...!" Tsuna squirms, exasperated, "You shouldn't say-"
Tsuna is interrupted by a rough kick to the stomach. Struggling to keep his breakfast in, he bends over, trembling and gasping. Chitoge opens her mouth in protest, but a swift slap stuns her to silence.
"They have no business here. I say we send them back to their families... in pieces," The man with shades sneers, chuckling.
"Now that's a great idea... Eh? What's that?"
The big lug notices a small blip flashing red on the side of Tsuna's head. He pulls out the earpiece and stomps it to pieces.
"He's been tracking us!" The slimy man shrieks.
"How did no one notice the little light?!" The muscled man roars at the onlookers.
"Huh? I thought it was a trick of the light..." Some sniveling cohort squeaks.
"It's dang dark in here, idiot!" The tower of muscle punches the sniveler into a wall, "Great, now what?!"
"We should deal with them now. The trackers can't have found us yet, but moving them will require too much effort."
"Well, too bad. I wanted a little more fun. 'Specially with the little miss," Several antagonists encircle Chitoge and Tsuna, "You can kill those two."
"You, to your feet," Raku is roughly shoved up to his feet, "We'll deal with you and your branch at our place."
As they usher him away, Raku hears sudden grunts and thuds from the dark behind. His escorts turn at the same noise. In the moment they're distracted, Raku butts them away with his shoulders and makes a daft run back into the warehouse.
"What the- He's getting away!"
"Shoot! Shoot him!"
From the dark two bullets fly and enter their skulls. They fall to the ground, not having known whatever it was that killed them.
"I think that's the last of them."
Claude blows the smoke from the muzzle of his pistol. Behind him, Raku, Chitoge and Tsuna are untied by Tsugumi. Limp forms of the Yakuza members lie about.
"Where's Kosaki?" Raku asks a little blearily. The blow to his head is jarring.
"She's fine. We took her to the Beehive HQ. She'll be safe there. As for you," Reborn kicks Tsuna in the face, "Why didn't you do anything, you no-good wimp!"
"I couldn't just fight there! Look-" Tsuna's eyes bulge at the sight of his finger, "Where's the ring?!"
"You dropped it," Reborn throws it squarely to his face, "Though I don't see any point of returning it if you won't even use it."
"The hideout's clear," Claude steps forward, adjusting his glasses, "I suggest we all retreat to the Beehive quarters and recuperate there."
The Beehive HQ is centered in the heart of town, a luxury office condominium rising high above the surrounding lower ventures. While various rooms are rented out for famous residences, the majority is used for intelligence and stealth services within the American Mafia. The compatriots sit about the penthouse living room in low murmurs. Those wounded had been patched up by Beehive faculty.
"I'm worried they may come again. The Yamaguchi..."
"It's been quite a day for us. Perhaps we ought to go back to Namimori before things get more out of hand," Reborn looks at Claude, "Sorry we have to cut this short."
Claude's face is stolid. If they left now, Adelt's plan would never even be in play. But with the Yamaguchi drawing in, and the scuffle, there's no telling if retaliation would be possible. In that case, it'd be a matter best left to the Yakuza to resolve within themselves. So Claude begins messaging Adelt, who's busy staring out to the lights in the city.
The Yamaguchi have made things difficult. Shall we pull out of the area? Plan B in jeopardy.
Adelt frowns slightly. Whenever complications arrive, the profit always dropped, regardless of the result. He could always force a hand, but that could prove tricky. He replies to Claude: Keep going. Tell Chitoge to make it happen for her Daddy.
When rest began overtaking the crew after their exhausting day, Claude made sure Chitoge was the last asleep. Then he ushered her into a smaller room and closed the door.
"What is is Claude?" Chitoge yawns and gives him an annoyed look, "If I don't sleep, I'll be extra-grumpy in the morning."
"Young miss, I'm afraid there is something your father needs you to do for him."
"Ugh … can't it wait? I'm sleepy..."
"You must have the Vongola successor fall in love with you!"
Chitoge gives him a dull, uncomprehending look, "What? Have you lost your mind, Claude? Honestly-"
"Listen to me, young miss!" Claude grabs her shoulders for emphasis, "Your father needs you to do this for him, for the family! Please try! We have only a little time before they leave because of the situation!"
"B-But..." The girl can now see he's serious. She flusters, "W-What about the marriage agreement with the Shuei-Gumi...? And Raku..."
Being the tsundere she is, she immediately turns bright red and clams up before saying anything else about Raku. Then Claude's words take their desired effect, and she sees her father's face pleading like a puppy.
"I... I can try..."
Claude seems satisfied with the acquiescence, "That's all the Beehive asks. Good night, young miss."