As Gokudera was being wrapped up by Romario, Reborn suggested that they go to Hotaru tomorrow, in the morning.

"He's stable for now," the kid said, with a nod towards Gokudera. "If you don't want to get her involved, then it's better to wait until the morning."

That, he added, and she would be exhausted at this time in the night.

Takeshi and Tsuna agreed, but when they went to Hotaru in the morning, they found her exhausted, the dark under her eyes more pronounced because she looked sickly pale.

"I think you need rest," Tsuna blurted out, and Takeshi agreed because it looked like she hadn't slept at all through the night.

"It's fine," insisted Hotaru, though she broke into a yawn that she failed to stifle completely. "Is it Gokudera-kun that needs help?"

Takeshi guessed it was obvious, because he wasn't with them today.

When they took Hotaru to see Gokudera at his house, she took one look at him, and gave them all looks of irritation.

"You didn't think to call immediately when he was hurt?" she asked crossly, as she put a hand to Gokudera, who pretended to be asleep so he didn't have to face her wrath.

"We didn't want to wake you up," Takeshi offered sheepishly. Gokudera insisted that his injuries weren't life-threatening, and Takeshi hadn't been keen on the idea of waking Hotaru so late in the night.

"If you're getting hurt at night because of some weird sumo tournament," Hotaru retorted, "then you can afford to wake me up at night to get fixed up."

Takeshi rather doubted that. The bags under Hotaru's eyes were too pronounced for him to feel comfortable about interrupting her sleep in any way.

"We'll call in an emergency," he promised, defining emergency as 'death-bed'. Tonight was his fight, so if he got hurt, as long as he wasn't near death, he could wait. Hotaru needed sleep, clearly.

Hotaru didn't look like she believed him, but the light flickered out from where she was touching Gokudera. She looked at the silver-haired boy, fell for his feigning sleep, and bit her lips before tugging him out of the hospital after bidding Tsuna farewell.

Not that Takeshi was protesting being pulled along but at the same time, the sheer amount of determination she was exuding from her small frame was a little terrifying. "Hotaru?"

She briefly glanced around. "Are you fighting today?"

"Not a fight," he said automatically. It was the mafia game. So, not a fight.

Hotaru gave him a very skeptical look, so Takeshi plastered on a smile. She was too smart to really believe that excuse about the hybrid sumo, but she was going along with what they said, just like how Takeshi agreed that what he was in was the mafia game.

It was in the wording of the thing. So long as he knew it only as the mafia game and didn't try to look too close at the details, it was the mafia game and nothing else. The mafia game that he played with his friends.

That was, at the end of the day, the most important thing. That he was with his friends. Having fun, having each other's backs.

"Fine," she said, giving first. "Your match. The one you've been practicing the sword for."

Takeshi nodded.

Hotaru fought for words. "And . . . you're not going to not attend, even if I ask you to."

As if someone had hit the pause on the remote, Takeshi stopped for a moment. Hotaru knew him too well. He wasn't going to be backing out of this one. As Gokudera said, this was the last chance to turn it around. In terms of baseball, all the bases were loaded for the opposing side, and he had to make sure they didn't get to home.

Tsuna needed him to win, and he couldn't let Tsuna down.

Even if, as Hotaru said, she asked him to.

So Takeshi did what he could and he smiled. "Don't worry. I'm not doing anything I don't want to do."

Which was completely true. He did want to do this. He wanted that rematch against the man who said he didn't know the sword, and he wanted to help Tsuna. He really did want this. This match was important, and it was personal.

It didn't do much to reassure his friend, who had always been good at noticing the differences in his real and fake smiles. Now Hotaru looked worried for both his upcoming match and his sanity.

"I'll be okay," he promised, and he meant it. He had his father's style, the flawless, unbeatable Shigure Soen Ryu. He couldn't lose, not with the style and not with what he had to fight for. Not just Tsuna, but also to make sure Hotaru wouldn't have to worry, or be dragged into danger.

Takeshi wasn't the smartest guy around, but he knew that there were really important things in life, like having the backs of the people you really cared about.

Tsuna had become one of those people, and so he would fight on his side. Hotaru was another, and he wouldn't get her into danger because of his decisions. It was bad enough that she got acid thrown on her face, and that more people knew about her healing ability when she had wanted to keep it a secret.

"I promise," he said, and then added a plea. "Trust me?"

He didn't ask for her trust often. In fact, this was probably the first time he directly asked for it.

It was cheap of him, because Takeshi was of the opinion that trust should be implicit, and earned. And here he was, trying to convince her with words first instead of action. A terrible thing to do to his friend.

But he asked, still, because he knew Hotaru wouldn't be able to refuse if he did. Which was the opposite of what trust should be.

Like he said. Terrible.

"This is really important to you, isn't it?" Hotaru did not look happy. Resigned, in fact.

Takeshi nodded. It really was. He could not lose this. They had to win every battle from here on. There were no other chances, and it was his turn to step in for the sake of his friend.

She sighed, and Takeshi heard the surrender in that small, soft sound.

"Usually Venus is your planet," she said, and the change in subject was like whiplash.

Venus. Planet. Astrology.

"Huh?" She did mention that a few times, but why now?

"But tonight," she continued. "Saturn will watch over you."

Saturn?

Hotaru was saying something that meant more to her than just astrology. Something important. Takeshi treated it as such and listened seriously, even if it didn't really make much sense to him.

"It's your choice," Hotaru said reluctantly. "But – if you don't want to, if you want to change your mind, ask Saturn for help."

There was something firm in her eyes that said there was something more to her words, even if he didn't understand them.

"Alright," answered Takeshi, knowing he wouldn't. Not because he didn't believe her – if Hotaru said something would happen, there was a fairly good chance of that happening, he knew from years of experience – but because he wouldn't change his choice. He was going to win this one. He had to. "Thanks, Hotaru."

His oldest friend sighed again. "Just call me if you get hurt, no matter what time it is. That," she added fiercely. "Is not permission for you to go get yourself injured."

The order was so exasperated that Takeshi laughed, this time genuinely. "I'll try not to get hurt," he promised.


The first thing that she blurted out when she saw Kawahira that night came out like a demand more than a question, despite what she intended.

"You were friends with Takeshi?"

Kawahira gave her a bland smile. "Good evening to you too. How am I? I'm fine, thank you, and how are you this fine evening? Lovely weather we're having, all things considered."

Exasperated, Saturn resisted the urge to rub the bridge of her nose. "Uncle."

Kawahira shrugged. "No, I wasn't. I was friends with his previous life, as Asari Ugetsu."

Venus entered behind her before Saturn could sigh at the nitpicking answer. "Evening, Acheron."

"Good evening, Sailor Venus."

The sailor soldier of love eyed the screen. "What drugs are the Cervello on?"

The moment Saturn saw the 'field', if it even could be called that, she wanted to throw caution and respect of free will and everything else to the winds and just jump in to pull Takeshi out.

"No drugs," Kawahira said with a sigh. "That's all them. Unfortunately."

"Is the school in on this?" Venus asked, looking at the screens the Cervello had provided them with, because the 'field' that tonight's match was to take place in was an impromptu aquarium. As the Cervello described the field, the feeling didn't go away.

The 'Aquarion' looked less like a field for battle and more like the building had been abandoned for several years and suffered from the weight of time and a few heavy rainstorms, leading to the floors suffering structural failure and water to build up within.

"I presume the Cervello did something," Kawahira said distastefully, which wasn't really an answer.

"Not that I was an excellent student myself," continued Venus. "But this is not what schools are for."

"Mugen Academy," Saturn pointed out, despite herself.

Venus pointed one gloved finger at Saturn. "Unless Namimori Junior High has aliens planning on taking over the world inside its bowels, that is not a valid example. Also, Saturn, betrayal. Brutus and Caesar, please."

"Sorry."

Kawahira rubbed his chin absentmindedly. "In terms of weather themes, he's the Rain. Maybe that's why the water?"

Venus looked at the screens, and the water that was on the ground of the lowest level, and she narrowed her eyes. "Let me guess. The water levels are going to be rising throughout the battle."

At that, both Saturn and Kawahira looked at the field, at the holes through the floor – roughly, because she could see the cracking cement and torn metal supports – and realized that Venus was right. The entire 'field' was set up so that the water would rise, added by the pipes, into the building that was now waterproof.

Kawahira blanched a little. "Can Yamamoto Takeshi swim?"

"Yes." Saying it didn't make Saturn feel better. Swimming in the pool or the ocean on a clear, bright day was one thing. Swimming in a building sealed up with floors shattered as the water rose was another thing entirely, and that another thing was madness and insanity.

That she had to trust the people who planned this kind of madness on their word that Takeshi wouldn't be killed by this made Saturn think she was a little insane herself.

Her opinion was only reinforced when the Cervello announced the field and its challenge.

Venus made a face when the Cervello informed everyone that seawater would be pumped into the field from the water tank on the top of the building. "Out of curiosity, are you funding them? Because I don't know what their budget is, but I have a feeling it's big. Like, the pay I get for a major ad contract kind of big."

"They don't get a cent from me," said Kawahira, rubbing his temple. "If they did, none of this would be happening."

He sounded like he wished he had that financial power over them now.

"An aquatic creature," Saturn repeated blankly. The ocean was full of so many diverse lifeforms, and for some reason a lot of the details that came to mind about them were dangerous. Sharks. Jellyfish. Sea serpents. Stingrays.

If Kawahira hadn't reminded her of the Cervello's vision and what it guaranteed, then trust Takeshi asked of her be damned, Saturn would have just done something to keep this from happening altogether.


"Now that we're at one win and three losses," said Reborn, small face somber at the gravity of the situation. "We're out of options. In more ways than one, this is a battle worth watching."

Not just in the way battles were, by nature, but because of the importance behind it. Maybe it was a good thing that Basil didn't have to fight on behalf of Sawada Tsunayoshi's Rain. He would have likely ended up ruining everything.

Unlike his downcast thoughts at the burden of tonight's battle, the people who actually had fought and would fight seemed almost optimistic.

"Alright!" cried out Sasagawa Ryohei, voice strong with conviction that he was in awe of. "In that case, we'll have Hibari join the huddle, too! Where is he?!"

The responses were unanimous from everyone – Gokudera Hayato, Yamamoto Takeshi, Sawada Tsunayoshi, even the Bucking Bronco himself. None of which was enough to deter the Sun Guardian.

"No exceptions!"

"Not as a replacement or anything, but why don't we include Basil-kun?"

The conversation, which had been about the one everyone seemed to believe would never join in the group huddle, turned onto the one subject Basil thought would never be even mentioned. Not because it was forbidden, but because he believed he would be overlooked.

Startled at the mention of his name, Basil pointed to himself. "This one . . . ? Would that be fine?"

He wasn't the one risking his life in these battles, and certainly not the one fighting Superbi Squalo. He didn't deserve to take part, surely the others thought the same?

"If the Tenth says so, then it's fine by me," said Gokudera Hayato, as if it was that simple.

Yamamoto Takeshi, fighting tonight, gave him an easy grin. "Our fates are going to be the same, so yeah."

Sasagawa Ryohei was already gesturing with his good arm towards him to step closer.

Apparently not.

"And Lambo, too," added Sawada Tsunayoshi, holding the tail from the Lightning Guardian's clothes.

And unable to refuse anything Sawada Tsunayoshi wanted from him Basil awkwardly shuffled into the circle. None of them – not Sasagawa Ryohei, not Yamamoto Takeshi, not Gokudera Hayato, and not Sawada Tsunayoshi – rejected him.

The ritual of cheer was unfamiliar to him. Not unknown. He had seen them engage in it in the previous matches, and knew it was a kind of activity to boost fighting spirit – a sportsman-like activity. Things that sports teams, or students did.

An activity that would not be uncommon to those who had sports experiences, like Yamamoto or Sasagawa, and yet was unfamiliar to Basil, who was unfamiliar with peers in general.

The cheer circle itself did not last long – only a few seconds – but despite his unfamiliarity, Basil gave what he could, to the best of his ability.

Though he couldn't fight on behalf of Sawada Tsunayoshi, the warmth of that short moment stayed with him for a long time.


"Saturn," said Venus, squinting at the screen in the way only a disbelieving person could while slowly growing more and more horrified. "Why is your friend holding a wooden sword?"

Saturn jumped to her feet in alarm when Kawahira clapped his hand, in the way a collector might in recognition of a rare piece. "That's the Shigure Gintoki. It's a blade that's enchanted to reveal its blade only in the right hands."

Venus wasn't easily appeased. "Does that mean his hands aren't the right ones?"

"Sorry, I should clarify. It changes its form when the right sword style is used. Otherwise it's just a wooden sword. An old acquaintance made it on commission a while back."

That didn't really reassure Saturn, because Takeshi was still holding a wooden sword in a crazy field for a fight against a grown man who was still far too excited about fighting a teen with an actual blade.

"Battle, start!" announced the Cervello, and Takeshi's opponent surged forth with a battle cry.

Takeshi dodged, and then the water between them exploded, closer to Takeshi than to his opponent.

"Not that explosives on the blade is a bad idea because it's not," Venus said through gritted teeth. "But does Takeshi-kun know this style?"

After another explosion at a distance too close to the face, the answer to that was given to them.

The spray of water, like a mushroom cloud, dissipated, and Takeshi stood with his sword in a reverse grip. The sword that now had a sharp blade, instead of wood.

"According to the Shigure Gintoki, yes," Kawahira said in the manner of one redundantly stating the obvious.

Saturn could care less about the magic of the sword. All she cared was that Takeshi looked unharmed.

"He blocked it completely," murmured Venus, eyes narrowed with interest. This was the sailor soldier of love, the leader of the inner soldiers who wielded an assortment of weapons with ease whose interest had been caught.

Whatever was special about this style was about to be analyzed by her, which left Saturn free to worry over Takeshi and step in the moment he called – or the moment she couldn't stay still anymore.

Water flew, man-made rain fell and not once was there even a bit of hesitation in any of Takeshi's moves. He was giving this his all.

Kawahira tossed out a question. "Do you want to know what Yamamoto Takeshi was like in his previous life?"

"You're trying to distract me," accused Saturn. Takeshi looked like he had the lead so far, his opponent thrown back far away from him, but she was ready to jump in the moment he called.

Kawahira was shameless. "Is it working?"

"Keep talking," suggested Venus, eyes fixed on the screen. "I'm curious, too. Unlike Saturn I can multitask, and this is interesting."

Saturn shot her a look accusing her of betrayal, but Kawahira spoke. He likely would have even if no one had given him permission, but Venus had just enabled him.

"Well, the key difference, I think," he began, "is in what he's interested in. In this life he loves baseball, but in the past, it was music that he loved."

Curse Venus and Kawahira, it actually was working. The thought of Takeshi liking music as much as he did baseball nearly made her brain short-circuit. "Music?"

"Quite. That's how we became friends – over our shared interest in playing music. Asari Ugetsu was quite happy to have a fellow musician of instruments familiar to him in Italy. One that actually knew how to play them as they were made to be. And I was a little tired of tone-deaf idiots, so it was nice having someone who actually played well, with passion around."

"I didn't know you played." She'd seen him enjoy her playing the violin, and making a few requests over the years, but he'd never once mentioned that he was a musician himself.

And if Takeshi's previous life was as in love and talented with music as he was with baseball right now, then it only stood to reason that Kawahira was also very talented.

The look of fond pride slipped away. "I quit music after Sephira died."

He tried to say it casually, but there was a small shaking in his eyes that made it not quite as casual as he likely intended. He recognized it, too, and cleared his throat.

"Music friends. Yes. I wasn't very close with them as a group for personal reasons, but he was the one I was closest with. It was quite surprising to see you become friends with him. Especially," he made a vague gesture. "Not over music."

"You never mentioned this." Once the words slipped out, Saturn realized it sounded accusatory, which wasn't fair. It didn't matter who he was in his previous life, Takeshi was still a friend. Kawahira didn't have any obligation to tell her.

Kawahira shrugged. "What should I have said? That your friend's past life was a friend of mine, some lifetimes back? It might have gotten awkward or weird, and you didn't deserve that."

Saturn didn't think so, but at the same time . . .

"Is that why you avoided him?"

Kawahira was always conveniently out of the house whenever Takeshi came over – and he did come over, because Granny made it clear to Hotaru that she could and should bring over friends. She had introduced him to Granny, but never in the several years she knew both of them had they met. That she knew of, anyways. He did influence their memories when her powers returned, but other than that, she didn't know of any overlap-

No, wait.

"That's why you knew about his mother's funeral," Saturn realized, before Kawahira could answer. He had been the one to tell her that Yamamoto Ameyuri's funeral was coming up, before Hotaru really became friends with Takeshi. It was after that event, that they became friends.

Kawahira made a so-so gesture with his hand. "I keep an ear out for funeral arrangements in Namimori. It's a neighbourly thing to do."

"Is that why you avoided Hotaru's friend?" Venus pressed, recognizing when someone was about to dodge a question by slipping past it, and pouncing like a cat. "Because he was your friend in his past life?"

Kawahira glanced at Venus, and then at Saturn.

"Basically," he agreed. "I thought it a little odd how things came together, but in this life, they were Hotaru-kun's friends, not mine. A new life should have a fresh start, and I'm far from fresh."

The poor joke didn't make Saturn miss the plural form. "What do you mean 'they'?"

He could have meant Tsuna and Gokudera and, to a stretch, Kyoko's brother, but something told Saturn that wasn't it.

Like, say, all the times Haru had come over by herself, and how each and every time Kawahira had conveniently made himself scarce as well.

"Miura Haru," said Kawahira, confirming Saturn's suspicions, though his next words blew everything out of her mind. "In her previous life she was called Silvia Marino – my co-worker, and reincarnation of my third wife."


"Why did you use the back of the sword?" Squalo demanded, on edge as if he would rip Takeshi apart at the wrong answer.

He noticed. Of course he'd noticed. But, well, Takeshi had never planned on making it a secret, and he sucked at being subtle, so honesty was all he had and it was an honest answer he gave.

"That's because I'm fighting to beat you, not take your life."

The weight of life, Takeshi knew, was heavy. Whether it was his own or another's. How was he supposed to look Hotaru in the eyes if he killed someone over a game? A sword was dangerous, and Takeshi recognized the leaps of progress he'd made over it. If he wielded it carelessly, he would become a murderer. Even if that person insulted the Shigure Soen Ryu, that wasn't reason for death.

It was victory Takeshi wanted, not blood.

"Are you insulting me?!" Squalo roared, but unlike before, there was a difference. In the sheer amount of emotion involved, as if this time, unlike before, he was truly angry.

"You don't seem aware of your situation, so let me carve it into your mouth, kid!"

Takeshi threw up water to hide himself, but Squalo did the same, countering with his own pillar of water. He faltered, and that was a mistake.

Hidden under the cover of water, like Takeshi had been before, Squalo struck, and blood flew into the air to mix with the water.


The distraction was working, damn it all.

"You knew Takeshi, Tsuna, Gokudera and-" she waved towards the screen. "And you were married to Haru?!"

Kawahira put up a finger, a pinched look to his face. "Their past lives, not them. There's a distinction to be made there. Especially with the last."

Saturn would have pressed him, but in that moment, Superbi Squalo cut Takeshi, and red spread over his white shirt, far too much of it.

The blood drained from her face, and she jumped out of her seat.

"Wait."

It wasn't Kawahira that stopped her, but Venus.

"He's hurt!" Saturn gestured towards the screen, even as she began gathering the magic necessary to teleport. There was distance between Takeshi and his opponent, made when Takeshi stumbled backwards, but it was nowhere near enough for Saturn to be guaranteed Takeshi's safety. The white of his shirt was being covered with bright red and he was kneeling in the water, holding his wound –

"I haven't heard that story."

His voice, though, made Saturn stop. With a confident grin on his face, Takeshi stood, as if he was getting up from sliding into base, satisfied with having brought his team one more step closer to victory.

As if he wasn't in pain, as if he hadn't even been wounded.

Saturn stared, rooted to the spot as if she had been turned to stone.

"Look at his eyes," said Venus.

"The Shigure Soen Ryu I heard about was perfect, flawless, the strongest and invincible."

Unshaking, confident, unbroken.

The whisper of Venus was cutting. "He has a chance."

"Are you an idiot?!" roared his opponent, and despite her growing dislike of this man, she was inclined to agree in that moment.

"You don't know if you don't try!"

Words that were full of hope and bravery. What followed afterwards, though, made even the soldier of hope think that hope wasn't helping in this case. The water that had helped him earlier seemed to hinder him now, making him exert more to move through the resistance it clung to his feet with.

But Kawahira and Venus seemed to look at something that she couldn't see.

"I had my doubts earlier, but now . . ." Venus twisted her lips in a mixed smile. "Did the Cervello set this up? Rig it in his favor?"

Kawahira shrugged. "Who knows what they're thinking."

"What are you talking about?" Saturn asked, not following their thought process and moving lips of stone slowly returning to flesh to ask.

Venus nodded towards the screen, and there was a change in how she looked at Takeshi. Before she looked at him like she might at an acquaintance, or the friend of Hotaru, but now, there was a sense of respect.

"It's not just because of his willpower. He's got a chance to win this because he's got the ability to back it up, and the environment to his benefit."

Saturn still didn't follow, so the older sailor soldier had to expand.

"Other than the first," Venus made a gesture towards her shoulder. "Hit, he's narrowly avoiding every other blow. Even when that weird attack made his arm paralyzed, he solved it by punching his own arm."

So that was why he'd done that. "But he's still being pushed back."

Kawahira put in his own two cents. "The water's rising."

She had forgotten about that. Wide-eyed with panic she looked at the field through the screen, searching for whatever would be released.

Takeshi jumped up to the next floor, only to fall when the floor he stood on crumbled under the onslaught of assaults from Squalo. And the water – broke his fall.

"No, no, wait, that wasn't what I was talking about."

"He means," said Venus, with a look towards Kawahira. "That the entire field is to his advantage. The style he's using, if he's not going to aim for a kill, is reliant on water, especially when he's on the defensive. If Mercury could fight with a sword, this would be a perfect fit for her."

Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Takeshi got back onto his feet, and then made his way up to the second floor to meet Squalo head-on.

No water flew up in protective pillars this time. Too fast for her eyes to catch anything other than blades flashing in the dim light, Takeshi sent his opponent flying. This wasn't defense, but offense that Takeshi had switched to.

"You're doing better than I expected, brat," snarled Squalo, getting back to his feet. "But that's why I don't understand why you're using the blunt edge. Are you mocking this fight? Or is there still a form I haven't seen yet?"

Saturn hadn't even noticed his switching to the blunt end, but in retrospect, she should have expected it of him.

Takeshi laughed, not a single worry visible on his face. "Huh? No. Forms one through seven are the ones you already know."

Saturn's jaw dropped at what she just heard, and she wasn't the only one taken aback by this revelation. Both Kawahira and Venus reacted like they'd been slapped.

"Is he lying?" Venus almost pleaded. "Tell me he's lying to trick his opponent."

Saturn wished. "He's not the type."

"Why is he telling his enemy and giving away an advantage?!" Venus screeched.

"Terra give me strength," bemoaned Kawahira, burying his face into his hands.

But Takeshi didn't take into account the sailor soldier or the ancient priest's frustrations, not knowing they were watching. With the same, unwavering confidence, he raised his sword, in the wooden form, in a form that Saturn was all-too familiar with.

"What's with that messed up stance?" his opponent taunted. "Do you think you're playing baseball?"

"Baseball is all I'm good at," he said, but the self-deprecating choice of words was balanced out by the complete lack of worry in his voice.

Years of baseball and the love he had for it, and the past weeks and the devotion he had came together in surging waters following the leads of swords.

With a blow to the head that had to concuss the silver-haired man, Takeshi snatched the ring from his opponent and won.

Saturn stared at the screen and wondered if it was a stranger's face she found familiar, or a friend who she didn't quite recognize she saw in that moment.


"I'm starting to doubt their visions," said Venus. She said it casually but Saturn could see the silent accusation, the piercing look.

For all that the silver-haired swordsman had been, well, unlikeable in his eagerness to fight Takeshi, his death by the shark had been unexpected.

Saturn realized she had put trust in the words of the Cervello. Not due to the Cervello themselves, but because Kawahira had vouched for them.

It was easier to be angry at the thought that they had lied, that the Cervello had tricked them because the alternative was to ask the question of if it was her that led to the change. Was it because she tried to interfere? Was it something she did? Were her friends in danger now?

Kawahira picked up a remote, pressed a button a few times to change the screen until they were looking at –

"What the hell?"

At several divers pulling the unconscious man away while the shark was knocked out.

"Not me," Kawahira said before either Saturn or Venus could ask. "I just noticed some people sneaking around when I got here."

Venus raised an eyebrow. "This doesn't count on the other side interfering?"

"The Battle of the Rain is over," said the robotic voice of the Cervello. Saturn nearly jumped in surprise as she turned around to see a pair of them. "Yamamoto Takeshi has taken possession of the Rain Ring. Thus, whoever steps in now is not interfering with the battle's outcome."

Either she had known or didn't show her own surprise, because Venus didn't react. "Loopholes."

The Cervello ignored that. "The next battle will be the Battle of the Mist."

They bowed, and then left.

"They're so hard to like," muttered Kawahira. His eyes softened when he turned away from the direction they'd gone. "I thought you'd go heal Yamamoto Takeshi as soon as you were able."

She wanted to, but.

As if she had read Saturn's mind, Venus cleared her throat softly.

"Go home, Saturn," said Venus, casually touching her own wrist for a brief moment as she gave her a meaningful look. "I want to talk to Acheron."

Slowly, Saturn nodded, and then left the building to fly into the sky. Once she was far above, she flipped open the communicator device and connected to Venus.

"What makes you want to question an old man so late at night?" Kawahira asked. as Saturn flew towards her home. She needed to hurry. She had her cell phone with her, but if Takeshi decided to do something dumb like try and walk to her home, then she needed to be there.

"Curiosity," answered Venus, her voice a little louder due to proximity. Wherever she had hidden her communicator, it was probably on her person.

"Oh?"

Venus cut like her sword. "Why do you fear us?"

Saturn nearly fell from the skies in surprise at the question. She had been expecting for Venus to question things about Kawahira's knowledge of the Silver Millennium, or magic, or something about the Earth.

She regained her balance and speed, and continued to fly towards home, waiting for him to deny her accusation.

"How did you know?" was his answer, and her heart nearly stopped. He sounded so deeply resigned.

Venus gave him a list. "The way you bluff. The way you aggravate just the right amount, on the border of being offensive but not quite crossing it. The way you avoided us."

"In other words, my acting like a yapping chihuahua gave me away."

"If it makes you feel better," said Venus. "It was a guess, and I didn't know for sure until you confirmed it."

Kawahira chuckled shortly. "You're an excellent actress."

"I try." Venus had not brought this up for nothing. With confirmation given, she moved onto the question Saturn herself was wondering. "Do you fear Hotaru, too?"

"Always aiming for the throat," mused Kawahira. "An admirable trait, Lady Venus, if a little merciless."

"My princess has mercy to spare for me," replied Venus, not missing a beat. "I have to make up for that surplus somehow."

Something about that made Kawahira laugh, as if it struck deep within him on a level he could truly, emphatically relate to.

"Truly," he said, once the sounds of mirth had died out. "Lady Venus, we have parts of ourselves that resemble each other."

"That could swing as both a compliment and insult," Venus commented.

"Indeed. Perhaps it's both," Kawahira agreed.

"So? Do you fear Hotaru, too?"

"A huntress that does not lose sight of her prey," he murmured, and only after a pause did he continue. "Though I find it ironic to confess this to the incarnation of the goddess of love, I fear all things I love, Lady Venus."


AN: if you're thinking, hey, it seems this lack of communication isn't going to be good for their friendship, congratulations you've caught onto the master plan. What's the point of a story involving time-travel if it doesn't include getting a chance to realize the repercussions your mistakes and then trying to not make the same mistakes when given a second chance (This person).

Asari Ugetsu's approach to Kawahira back then can be seen in Mikrokosmos (chapter 8 for AO3, and 7 for FFN).

+゚*。:゚+

Kawahira: he was a friend, we bonded over music.

(Back then)

Asari Ugetsu: *notices the cranky glowering Mist Guardian of the Giglio Nero playing an Asian instrument and playing it WELL* *Swept by the nostalgia / feeling of pure welcome you get when you're in foreign lands and far away from basically everything home*

Asari Ugetsu: Hello, we should be friends.

Sergio Tiberinus: What.

+゚*。:゚+

Sweet Dreams~