"To survive the next few years, there are a few key areas we will need to work on simultaneously. First are your physical abilities. You will need to be able to fight. More than that, you will need to be able to win.

"Follow the training schedule strictly or you won't even have a chance."

..


..

The regime is, in one word, hellish.

They start that very afternoon. Every moment they could get away from her father's scrutinising police gaze and Kaito's observant magician sight is not to be wasted. He takes her to a Vongola-owned compound, a modern building with only the most advanced of technology, in one of the many training rooms. They pass a few other people, but Reborn doesn't stop to chat. Though he assures her she'll have plenty of time later, as it'll soon be as familiar as her own home.

The first lesson is brief Reborn says, acting as a test of her abilities.

It doesn't feel brief.

Once again, Aoko skids across the floor after Reborn's hit connects with her body. Pain, new and recently gained, blossoms on the entirety of her left side. Her body runs hot as sweat drips down her nose and the sides of her face. Since they've started, there hasn't been a chance for her to catch her breath.

Reborn stands nonchalantly in the middle of the room, Leon-green staff in hand, face blank. His black, beady eyes take her in. She must look pathetic: sweaty with shaking limbs. The hairs, in strays and clumps, that escape her bun only add to the sight of a deranged girl.

He says nothing, simply waiting.

There's no pause before she gets up. She doesn't lament her life nor beg for death in the respite between attacks. Reborn has made it clear: she doesn't have time for that. As soon as Aoko realises she's on the floor, she works on standing. It's slow-going, though not for lack of trying; her legs are noodles and every movement aches. She grabs the practice staff from where she dropped it and once more gets into the stance he showed her.

She'll take being crazy. She'll take anything he gives her.

There are things that need to be done—If Aoko doesn't do them, who will?

Reborn smirks.

..


..

"Second are your studies—Italian language, mafia knowledge, culture, topography, and more. All this should be common knowledge to you when we're done. Other mafia bosses will have an edge over you. They will have lived, breathed, and assimilated information that you will need to learn by rote.

"After all, an ignorant boss is a useless boss.

"By this time next year, before you even set foot in Italy, you will know it as your new home."

..


..

They start with the language. He doesn't give her a textbook, instead she is immersed in audio. The speaker talks. Reborn translates. Aoko takes notes, not just on the language component, but also on everything else—her estimate on speaker details, their nuanced accent and where it is commonly acquired, whether she thinks they are lying and why, the clues to gain from the background.

All this she learns.

..


..

"What about otou-san? What will you tell him?"

"Don't worry. I'll handle that."

..


..

Ginzo is silent as he stares down the home tutor that came to his workplace. His eyes burn, eye-bags prominent on his face, and a migraine drilling itself into the centre of his forehead. It's only partially because of drinking a hell lot more of coffee than his doctor would advise.

There's barely a moment to eat before the heist, but yet—he makes time.

This is important, after all.

"Listen, Reborn-san, I appreciate the way you went above and beyond, even with your condition, but.." Ginzo trails off. He knows Reborn said he only looked like a child due to a medical condition, but it was still hard to be his usual boisterous self when faced with the figure of a child. In the end, he forges on; this was Aoko's future they were talking about. "Aoko is still young. She hasn't yet completed high school, nor has she even begun to apply to any university. While this is a great opportunity and she told me she already accepted the scholarship, the way I see it is all this early tutoring..? It seems like just another way for your organisation to limit her choices in the future."

Nakamori Ginzo is a straight forward man, both in his working life and at home. He leads the task force to catch Kaitou KID and, while not successful, they have yet taken him off it—And that's because of his relative success in disrupting KID's plans compared to anyone else they could have on the job.

It infuriates him to know KID is playing around with the police force, that they barely present a challenge to the phantom thief, and the entire world knows it, can hear his shouts when they are broadcasted live on the local and international news. But secretly, deep down where he'll never admit it, Ginzo is pleased to have his old adversary back. The years without KID were long and dull.

But that doesn't change the fact that to his superiors, Ginzo is still a man failing at his job. He doesn't have the time, energy, or the resources to beat around the bush.

He understands that universities poach early in some cases. Competition, after all, only ever gets fiercer and a bright student like Aoko? He's not terribly surprised. He heaves a sigh and feels the ache between his shoulders returning. "It also doesn't help that my caseload has been so heavy lately. I don't even have time to return home, never mind sit down with Aoko and talk to her about university choices."

"I understand," the sharply dressed tutor says, nodding emphatically.

This bolsters him, and Ginzo continues, "Yes, preferably I would like more time to think about this offer before accepting. University is a big decision and I want to make sure Aoko doesn't accept simply because it's the first offer she got."

"I can respect that. But what if I say that the Vongola organisation will retract the offer at no additional cost later after Aoko finishes school?"

Ginzo narrows his eyes, interest peaked. "Oh?"

"Yes, the Vongola is running an expenses-paid invite-only program aimed at young high-schoolers to lessen the culture shock upon living and learning in Italy. Consider it a trial run for Aoko-san. Naturally, she'll be more at ease after working with people her age heading in the same direction as her.

"Do you know the Vongola organisation is leading the technological advancements in Italy? This is mostly because of the work of the great minds behind the organisation. The Vongola CEO is personally invested in Aoko-san. He believes it to be crucial to invest in young sharp minds for the future of the organisation. If Aoko receives a better offer later in her schooling, she is allowed to break off the arrangement with Vongola with no hard feelings." Reborn tilts his head. Amusement shines through when he says, "That is only if she gets a better offer. I'm sure if she expressed any displeasure in her scholarship, Vongola will do their best to rectify things immediately."

Ginzo's eyebrows scrunch together. There's only one way to explain this whole situation, and it is: Too Good To Be True. It makes him twitchy, like someone is playing a giant prank on him, though surely Aoko wouldn't go that far. "What's the catch? Why is this CEO so interested?"

"You can say that Aoko-san's homeroom teacher made a really convincing argument for her. After sending in the video, you can't blame him for being so interested."

Ginzo's eyebrow raises in question. "Video? What video?"

Reborn slides over a tablet to play said video. On it was a picture of the whiteboard in a classroom with Aoko's homeroom teacher just finished writing an equation. It's sideways and the person who's holding it—a young man still in schooling years—is cursing under his breath. There's fumbling before a bang and a familiar screech disrupts the calm. His daughter's voice rings clearly through,"Bakaito! Get back here!" The video turns to show his daughter, in all her rage, chasing around Kaito-kun with a mop, missing him each time.

Ginzo feels a headache forming.

"You two are late! Don't disrupt the class! As punishment, Nakamori-san, what's the solution to this problem?" Due to the seating arrangement, the phone clearly captures the moment Aoko's eyes flicker up to the board. It's not even a second more before she rattles off an answer. The video turns back to the defeated teacher as she says, "Correct." It cuts off just as Aoko misses hitting Kaito-kun again.

Ginzo gives into the temptation to knead his forehead. Apologies are on the tip of his tongue, along with excuses and explanations. They're just kids who have known each other from a young age. She doesn't usually have that temper. He doesn't any of those things.

"Besides both the principal's and her homeroom teacher's glowing recommendation, they also sent this video to be reviewed. What was so interesting was the speed at which your daughter answered the question. Almost instantly. That kind of talent... You can see why Vongola wants her for even a short while. Besides that, the Vongola host a certain type of talent which comes with their own eccentricities. It is the belief of the CEO that Aoko would fit in exceptionally. We are always searching for passion."

Reborn's mouth twitches upwards in a semblance of a smirk. "Besides, there is one catch."

Ginzo raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"

..


..

"Most importantly, we will need to hunt for Guardians for you. Besides Sky, there are six different flame types. We will need one from each type. Keep an eye out for anyone interesting. If you have a good feeling, invite them to join you. Don't hesitate."

..


..

"I'd sell my soul for one long ball hitter."

Yamamoto Takeshi startles from his seat watching a group of children playing baseball, turning behind to face the voice who spoke. He sees a long-haired, blue-eyed brunette he doesn't recognise wearing the school uniform of Ekoda High. She seems around his age or slightly younger.

It is more reflex than conscious thought that brings a smile to his face, close-lipped, more polite than anything else. Wearing it is painful, and the expression of happiness never reaches his eyes these days.

But nobody else has noticed.

"'Damn Yankees!', right?" he says, making small talk, "Thought I recognised it."

"Got it in one!" The girl laughs before inviting herself to his bench.

Takeshi wants to tell her to go away, that she's too close to him, though she's a polite distance from him. There's a burning itch under his skin, which appeared in the doctor's office, and only grown stronger since he has been told he could never go pro. His wrecked arm has healed, with not even a bandage left as a reminder. Though it means nothing, he'll never use it the same, and for that it aches still. They say it's in his head, but sometimes the pain is so bad he can't move through it. His body failed him. His mind is failing him.

He couldn't bear to stay home these days, for his dad is too patient and too observant and too careful and just too much. He's treated like glass in all the ways that hurt. Takeshi's already cried all the tears he had in his room. He's heard his dad cry, when on nights he should've been asleep. He couldn't stay at all his usual haunts either, for he's always bumping into people who knew him before and the pity in their eyes make him physically want to hurl. He could barely handle going to school and faking his way through the day. Nobody knows what to say to him anymore, for baseball is a forbidden topic. His smiles are emptier than ever. His friends move on with their lives. Takeshi is just another has-been. Nobody understands, nobody has tried.

He needed peace somehow. This obscure park far from Namimori, away from anyone he knew, might have been the key to that. To being alone, and dealing with being alone, and picking up the pieces of a future that could never be, in the relative privacy of anonymity.

That plan failed.

The girl says nothing though. With every moment that passes, as they watch the children's baseball match, his awareness of her grows. She's simply sitting there, not doing anything, but still there's irrational anger at her, a burning fire that only festers hotter, spreading to the tips of his fingers. He's so tired—Tired of hurting, of pretending, of playing nice.

Go away; the words claw up his throat. Go away, go away, go away.

"How do you feel about vigilantes?" the girl says at last.

"Vigilantes? Like Batman?" he confirms. It's a weird topic to start with, and he had to swallow his newfound attitude. It's not him. He never used to have a temper. He doesn't want one.

He doesn't want a lot of things.

She nods, imploring him to go on. Her wide blue eyes are on him, but they don't hold no pity, which soothes his irrational anger somewhat. Lately, all he sees is pity.

Takeshi tilts his head to the side, considering it half-heartedly. "I think they're cool?"

"Great!" she suddenly exclaims. She takes out a black card from her pocket and shoves it into his hands; on it is a number, printed orange, with no other explanation to go with it. It is so professionally done, yet mysterious, that Takeshi felt that this must be what an undercover agent's business card felt like. "You should call this number and become vigilantes with me. We'll be going to Italy though, which is a bit of a bummer."

"Oh, then no thanks? Thanks for invitation though. It sounds fun," he placates, meaninglessly.

This girl is pretty weird. Takeshi doesn't know if he even likes talking to her, never mind going abroad with her.

He tries to hand the card back, but the girl doesn't take it, instead waving him off.

"Keep it, I have spares," the chatty stranger says, "You can always change your mind later too. You know, I have a friend a bit like you, though instead of smiling, he had what he called a poker face. He's never played poker in his life though, just to be clear. He also likes giving out roses since that's a magician thing. I don't have any roses but—" She unclasps her necklace. On it is a pendant the size of a coin, blue and shaped like an umbrella. Cheap and childish. It's something he could get at a carnival or festival. "Here. Cute, isn't it?"

She places it in his hands, which he holds out more out of politeness than anything else. The metal is dull, ravaged by time, but surprisingly the blue glass still shone brightly.

"You should have it. It suits you," she offers.

His eyebrows scrunch together and his mouth opens—either to protest or to mindlessly accept—he isn't sure yet, but Aoko beats him to it.

"My mother got it for me a long time ago," she continues. Her whole demeanour changes, there's a weight to her words now. It startles him. Takeshi doesn't feel like he could interrupt anymore. "When I'm sad, I wear it all day and it helps. She died when I was young. I don't have many things from her actually... At least not ones that haven't already been lost or broken already." She shrugs. "I wasn't the most careful child."

The girl is heedless to the way her words dumped a bucket of ice water on him. The shock of it blows any restless itching right off him as he looks at the necklace in an entirely new light, cradling it like it might break in his hands.

"Why give me something so precious?" he asks reverently. His own mother died when he was young too. Takeshi only has a baseball cap from her, the one he always wore when they watched their favourite team playing on TV. He wouldn't ever consider giving that away.

Takeshi's black eyes plead for an answer that makes sense. Swathes of compassion swims in her blue ones and yet—no pity.

Has he been that obvious?

She smiles, soft, caring and entirely compassionate. And yet, it's not a happy one. "Because I think you need it more than I do," she says, simply. She scratches her cheek. "It would be a lie to say giving it away doesn't hurt. But I couldn't give you anything else, there's nothing I have on me that is worth as much."

"Then why give it at all?"

"Because it's worth a lot and when I hold it... I feel like I'm worth the world too. I think you need to be reminded that you can be worth the world too."

Takeshi looks away, unable to meet her gaze anymore as his eyes grow increasingly misty. He kind of expected an emotionally taxing outing, just like the movies where the hero goes on a side-trip and finds himself. He was searching for it for a reason.

He still didn't expect this.

He watches the children, heart aching. They are so carefree with their whole lives ahead of them. No regrets, only potential.

"If I gave you something that means nothing to me, it wouldn't be worth anything to you either," she says. Takeshi doesn't mind her talking anymore.

His fingers enclose the necklace. It sits warm in the palm of his hand.

"Thank you." The words leave him breathless and so does the smile she turns on him.

They go back to simply watching the children, and this time the itch never returns. It's bizarre. Takeshi has never had such peaceful silence with anyone besides his dad. Teenage boys aren't known for their peace, nor their simple ability to sit in companionship without becoming bored very quickly.

But she doesn't mind.

This time, he breaks the silence. "You go to Ekoda high, right? I recognise the uniform."

Aoko hums, agreeing. "Yours Namimori, isn't it? Pretty far away. An hour and a half commute, I think." The girl stands brushing off her skirt. "You should head back before you make people worry. It's getting late already and I still need to cook dinner too."

His heart jumps, irrationally desperation, as he sees her grabbing her bag. He doesn't want her to go. "Wait! What's your name?"

She blinks in surprise, lips rounding, before breaking out in an embarrassed smile. "Aoko. Nakamori Aoko!"

"I'm Yamamoto Takeshi. I'll see you?" he calls uncertainly, blood rushing distractingly loudly past his ears at the thought of never seeing her again. He tightens his fist to keep them from shaking, then loosens it abruptly, as he didn't want to damage the necklace.

Aoko grins, bright and sincere. "Count on it. Man, this is baseball, you gotta stop thinking! Just have fun."

Takeshi snorts, heart calming, a smile—the first real one in a very long time—lifting the corners of his face. "'The Sandlot', right?"

She beams at him.

Takeshi stays after she leaves. The children have gone home a while ago and the sky darkens with sunset. He still holds the blue umbrella in his sweaty palm.

It is only when he stands to go, that the movement of something fluttering to the ground catches his eye. He picks it up, and the matte black of the card is stark even in the dimming environment. The orange numbers shine ominously.

Vigilantes, huh?

Takeshi is in need of a new profession. He's never planned to go to Italy, but thinking about it more, it does, indeed, sound like fun.

It's practically a sign.

..


..

Reborn watches the face off between Kaito KID and the renowned KID Killer, Edogawa Conan, from the roof of a skyscraper. He chose his vantage point for its view and its strategic location out of the way of any phantom thief or police. He's already figured out Kuroba's method of escape and the direction he would lead the police on their merry chase.

He's only here for recognisance in light of Aoko's new information. The white old-fashioned suit of KID contrasts easily against night, fitting just slightly too big—Most probably an original suit of Kuroba Toichi's or using his measurements at least. Kuroba Kaito and Konosuke Jii fund their illegal operations themselves, it seems. It's interesting that Kuroba Chikage is not; either she disapproves of her son's activities or for plausible deniability. Either way, according to their frequent calls, she's at best an advisory figure. If she steps in to aid her son, Reborn would know the moment she leaves L.A. His contacts would make sure of that.

Either way, even with an adult figure, the white-themed suit is here to stay.

A thief in white. Reborn can appreciate the irony.

He watches the dance of cat and mouse between Kuroba and Edogawa. Edogawa is good, but Kuroba has to be better to evade arrest.

The higher the stakes, the sharper the skills Reborn knows from experience.

Nobody employs Reborn as a hitman anymore; few can afford it, no one has the desperation enough to need to.

Such masks both wear, one pretending to be an adult, the other a child.

Reborn didn't think he had reason to see it again: the one-in-a-million affects of the APTX poison, specifically the strain of APTX 4869. It's not his jurisdiction. Reborn is more knowledgeable than most on poisons—with particular emphasis on most common, or fast-acting, or deadliest—and he developed a respectable level of immunity from his short time partnering with Bianchi. But this doesn't mean he's the expert; he leaves that to Verde. Even now, Verde is analysing and up to date on its composition and effects. Mammon too provides support as an informant, at a rate they would usually never listen to. If the Black Organisation is performing a trial, Mammon is the first to know its results.

Decades after this curse and their hope hasn't faded. Or more likely, their desperation.

Reborn has already let go of both.

Not that he wouldn't help his fellow Arcobaleno when necessary. They often call Reborn in when they need muscle, specifically a sample of a poison on enemy territory. Work that Mammon could do, if it didn't overstep their informant job and they weren't already paid so abysmally.

He's unattached, politically neutral as can be. Though he keeps an old correspondence with Timoteo, it wasn't because he's the current Vongola boss; it was actually an old favour of his mother Daniela when she was alive.

Besides, it wasn't strenuous work. The Black Organisation hasn't improved their security much from the original break-in. Overconfident and careless, incompetent, ignorant, or all of them at once. There's only a handful of smart ones in the entire organisation.

Which reminds Reborn of the circumstances behind the fake background of Edogawa Conan. Newly forged and professionally done, the whole cover stinks of INTERPOL.

Reborn wouldn't be mafia if he couldn't recognise that much.

A little more digging reveals the identity to one Kudo Shinichi, more famously known as Japan's Detective of the East. With a father working as a highly influential mystery author and a Hollywood-actress mother with a face said to be of the global top recognisable beauties, Kudo Shinichi was practically born in the lap of luxury. They said he inherited his father's sharp mind and his mother's impressive looks, but spends all his time solving cases that stump the Japanese police.

But that all halted half a year ago.

The same time one Edogawa Conan appears from nowhere to stay in the Mouri Detective Agency. Not so coincidently, this is the same time the Mouri Detective Agency soars its traffic flow because of their sharp increase in case success rate.

It doesn't take the Second coming of Da Vinci for Reborn to infer a few things.

First, Shinichi had a run in with the criminal organisation, probably in relation to a case he was working on. Two, he bit off more than he could chew and they murdered him for it using their latest trial poison. Three, he's staying undercover at the Mouri Detective Agency.

Shinichi's last known whereabouts were at Tropical Land amusement park with Mouri Ran, childhood friend and love interest, plus, not so coincidently, of the Mouri Detective Agency, as tagged by the girl's social media. Though she wasn't named in the newspaper clipping of the case where Shinichi was photographed.

In the background of said picture, almost too blurred to be seen, there is a flutter of a black cape.

Sloppy sloppy. Everyone knows better than to be caught on camera, especially by the paparazzi. What ever are they teaching the common criminal underworld if that is their level of competency?

It's not much to go on but who else could be so tacky?

What's wrong with good old-fashioned suits?

This was a potential problem. It might be Shinichi's mess, but it is the elder Kudo that Reborn worries more about.

Reborn met Kudo Yusaku once years ago, and almost the very instant he stepped into the restaurant Yusaku had known he was a hitman. One of the sharpest minds Reborn had the displeasure to meet. Granted, he was able to throw the author off with his youthful appearance and an excellent bit of acting, but seeing as that will not work a second time, Reborn has a little over a year in this area to lie low.

It also doesn't help that Yusaku has active contacts with INTERPOL. They used to have Reborn's picture on sight. But since his curse and over the many long bored years, Reborn has since rectified that mistake. Though it wouldn't take long to put two together if he's seen with a fedora, curly sideburns and shooting all their members dead with pinpoint accuracy—At least not for the ones with an ounce of intelligence and memory. The naysayers would be hard-pressed to ignore him then.

Even if he looks like a minor.

For Reborn, World's Greatest Hitman, having INTERPOL locate him is more an annoyance than a genuine worry. For Aoko, Vongola Decima hopeful and his newest student, it is too high of a risk.

He cannot let them connect the Nakamoris to Vongola mafia famiglia. It would regress Aoko's entire resolve. To implicate Ginzo in any way would crush her will. Aoko is fiercely proud of how upstanding a police officer her father is, to even imply otherwise would send her off to reckless places. Meanwhile, Ginzo would undoubtedly confront Reborn or Vongola Nono or both. Killing him outright would forever turn Aoko against them. Staging his death would also have a high chance of turning her against them. Aoko's fledgling intuition and Kuroba's observant mind would sniff out an ounce of suspicion. And it would be suspicious, simply because Reborn is a hitman and Vongola is part of the mafia.

No, if the secret is out within INTERPOL, it would be better to make sure it dies there, before any negative impacts affect his student.

If there was more time, a couple of years to experiment with, he wouldn't mind such risks. The chaotic manipulations needed to work in such a delicate situation would certainly entertain him for a good long while, and it would be better in the long run to resolve the Nakamori Ginzo loose end somehow.

But same as Aoko, Reborn too is working against the clock.

Sure, he could easily whip up an excuse to bring Aoko to Italy to tutor her there, which would circumvent the whole need of lying low, beneath the notice of local law enforcement or local underground activity. INTERPOL has no jurisdiction in Italy. They don't know what occurs in mafia business and it will stay that way as long as the Vindice has any say about it.

But already he could find strong guardian candidates in Japan. He dislikes mentioning it, but the potential guardian candidates in Italy aren't nearly as good. Too many have already been dragged into mafia circles. He would have to poach from other families. If Aoko was five years younger, it wouldn't be such a problem. But at this age, the possibility of any strong candidates also being spies significantly goes up. The chances of them being won over by Aoko are slim, not none, but still too slim to leave up to chance.

The only luck Reborn believes in is the one he makes himself.

He would have to constantly evaluate their threat level, which is doable but not an ideal situation. Playing the long game is not unheard of after all, and Reborn won't be there forever.

Not to say he would fail to find any suitable candidates, but it's always good to make the most of a situation while you have it.

Reborn refocuses on the duo, whom are ignorant to how deep their actions and connections sink them into mafia circles. It is clear, via body language and their conversation he overhears through his earpiece, that they both enjoy the thrill of the game. It's capture, no killing, and everyone keeps most of their morals.

His initial impressions of the boys were two strong Skies; both competing for dominance, both attracting people everywhere they go.

Skies weren't useful. Not since he has to groom Aoko's fledgling Skyness. She's nowhere near as good—Can't even compete in the same court yet. Originally, he couldn't blame her. Two skies who are childhood friends? One would stamp out the other. A leader and a follower.

Kuroba leads, letting Shinichi follow, and leaving Aoko to struggle.

This dynamic can't be allowed to continue. She faltered and didn't even know why, kept in the dark as she was. Reborn fixed that by setting her on a new path, alienating her from two powerful Skies.

Even as a baseline, Aoko should have a medium-high Sky flame purity, as the flame purity of Giotto's line is no joke. Given her healthy, normal, if slightly lonely background, there was nothing too bad that could corrupt flame purity. Adding to her newfound resolve and determination, it can only get purer.

She was untapped potential.

Kuroba and Shinichi aren't.

Both had something she lacked: an unrelenting passion.

Shinichi solved cases like he was breathing air. He couldn't stop, and he didn't want to. It is a mix of circumstance, genes and personality that forged his resolve. Not even the threat of assassination can stop him from solving cases.

Kuroba Kaito is another beast entirely. A passion for the work and then the drive to uncover away his father's murderer. Either would have been enough to match Aoko's flame purity, but together it beats it. Moonlighting as Kaitou KID is Kuroba at the top of his game.

Even before the phantom thief, it is easy to see that while both childhood friends are stepping in the footprints of their fathers, Kuroba is the one who understood and relished in his love for the profession. Aoko didn't have that first-hand understanding. She had a goal, and her determination was nothing to scoff at, but knowing something with your head and with your heart is not the same thing.

Two high-purity Skies, childhood friends with similar drives, experiences, even shared a few key characteristics. Yet, it is easy for Reborn to conclude that Kuroba would have had the higher flame potential.

(In time, Aoko would have eventually learnt to love being a part of the Japanese police force—but it would not have come easy. No, too many long hours and cold nights alone to truly suit her fierce personality. She relished in company, and not all police work was like the Kaitou KID Taskforce. She would have to learn that the hard way.

Whether or not she darkens her soul, being Vongola Decima would sate her need for constant companionship. She'll grow protective of her Guardians, as they do her. She'll excel with their support.

That, for certain, is the one life improvement she gains from Vongola.)

It's no surprise then that the strongest guardian candidates in Ekoda, Koizumi Akako and Hakuba Saguru, both gravitate more towards Kuroba over Aoko. More specifically, they both are more attracted to the persona of Kaitou KID, rather than the character of Kuroba Kaito. Unacceptable, but understandable. There's a certain charisma to the thief that Kuroba has to employ to entertain the crowd while outwitting the Japanese police.

However, interestingly enough, between the civilian identities of Kaito and Aoko, Koizumi and Hakuba actually prefer Aoko. In fact, Aoko doesn't actively antagonise anyone, unlike Kuroba. She is friendly, something he doesn't try to be. Kuroba is unapologetic in his antics that, more often than not, rub people the wrong way.

Both Koizumi and Hakuba have potential; Reborn is not sure exactly how much yet, he'll have to test their mantle first.

That brings Reborn back to the reason he is doing this extra recognisance: the enlightening conversation with Aoko.

Very enlightening.

She said Kaito is a Sun.

Aoko who has the famed Vongola Hyperintuition and doesn't even know it yet. Aoko who has a habit of blurting out random things and being spot on. Aoko who regularly scares Kuroba with her accidental uncanny insight.

Reborn had seen Kuroba Toichi perform live and was 99% sure he was a Mist. If his son wasn't a Sky, surely he would be that. After all, Kaito's mother, Kuroba Chikage, also known as the Phantom Lady, is definitely a Mist.

Skies needed to be taken out of the equation for the betterment of Aoko's development. But a Sun would change the game entirely.

She might never get a Sun as strong as Kaito again.

Before Kaitou KID arrived on scene, it is to Reborn's knowledge that Aoko and Kaito circled each other, thick as thieves. When Kaito disrupted class, Aoko disrupted class. When Aoko had plans, Kuroba had the same plans. They went everywhere as a duo, once even scuba diving in the sea.

Kuroba with his ichthyophobia? It's a miracle he didn't simply sit this one out.

The year they got assigned different homerooms lead to a schoolwide petition the likes of which frankly impresses Reborn. There was chaos, there were tears. It was on tape and beautiful.

Those two didn't need other friends, they didn't want other friends.

Reborn initially assumed it was because their Sky frequency were level and they synced (which was extremely rare), or that their personality just meshed over the years, becoming one entity.

But now, in light of Aoko's information, it was more likely that their relationship burned like a hot summer's day: Fierce, unrelenting & unapologetic.

Even now, estranged as they are, their loyalty to each other is undeniable.

She's prepared to follow him into hell and high water. If Kuroba was anymore of a selfish person, he would allow her. But instead he distances them; a typical behaviour of a self-sacrificing idiot in love.

And the same could be said on Aoko's end. Keeping him ignorant is keeping him out of mafia matters and relatively safe. For the sake of Kuroba's ambitions, she would never dream to tie him to her. If she was a tiny bit more selfish, she would drag him with her and they could properly rule Vongola. With Vongola's resources, they could buy or bully their way into any avenue for Kuroba to perform in. Achieving fame after exposure like that would be too easy.

A las, she too is a self-sacrificing idiot in love—one with a strong but flexible moral code.

Truly, they are two peas in a pod.

Reborn could work with that.

(On an entirely personal note, and as an independent Sun who did not need a Sky, Reborn highly appreciates Aoko's actions. Despite their supposed rarity, Reborn has met too many Skies who weren't as selfless. Even Dino, though he should have known better, asked Reborn to stay.)

If Kuroba knew that it was Aoko who was wading through high water straight to hell, Reborn wouldn't even need to give him any incentive to follow. Reborn would just need to grab some popcorn and a good seat to watch the show, with only needing to interfere occasionally to guide them.

Yes, Kuroba Kaito plays a crucial role in Aoko's development (as a brilliant Vongola Decima).

At least, this entirely shelves the problem of Aoko's potential suitors permanently. He might not need to bring in Bianchi as love guru. Though it would be amusing to bring in Aoko's suitors just to witness Kuroba struggle. It would also double as an effective distraction technique if necessary. If he got Dino to play along, it would serve as a valuable lesson to both his students in the art of seduction. If Dino learnt anything in the years under Reborn's tutelage, he would pull out all the stops to court Aoko.

Sadly, Dino would be too soft to play with Aoko's feelings, even if it would be politically advantageous for him. And in the unlikely event that she did somehow end up falling for him, and he her (because Dino is a closet romantic), Dino would treat her well.

But this is all speculation. Reborn can't do anything until he confirms Kuroba's flame type. He needs to know for sure.

If Kaito is a Sky or a Sun or an entirely different element altogether, he still needs to confirm what Shinichi, Koizumi and Hakuba is. No more assumptions from here on out.

Developing skies poach elements. They attract all.

It would be a problem to find out that Kaito is a Sun only to have him strongly gravitate to the wrong Sky. Unlikely, but still troublesome.

This is a situation which needs Vongola finesse. If approached wrongly, Aoko might conclude that Reborn is untrustworthy, and it would hinder her development.

So many things to balance and so little time to do them.

It was why he was called in after all.

Reborn knows more than anyone else that Suns can be viciously possessive, or possibly that's just him. There is only ever one Sun in the sky, and he doesn't share.

It is possible that Kuroba drove the rest of the elements from the Sky. Something that is still happening perhaps.

It doesn't matter too much. Kuroba won't like his presence either way, but will have to learn to deal. There will be many changes coming with Reborn spearheading most of them. As long as he wants to be here, Aoko won't ever push him away, that Reborn is certain. She craves companionship most of all, and that's not something Kuroba can give her while he also keeping secrets.

Reborn is glad he took this job. Already it's more interesting than anything back in Italy.

From within his jacket, his phone vibrates.

Incoming call unknown.

...

...


1. Disclaimer: Italy isn't a mafia-infested hellscape. This is fiction & to be taken as such

2. Would the Vongola illegal mafia family name a legal business cover 'Vongola'? Logically, realistically, they wouldn't. But also they could. a) as a show of strength, b) just to trademark & copyright the name Vongola, c) because they are good enough that nobody can prove anything (and they are very very good). In this headcanon, most grunts don't even know that Vongola the Italian business is officially Vongola mafia run. They know it had to be allowed by Vongola to run (as most things are in Italy), but like they don't know its a Vongola operation. On the other hand, Manga KHR would def make up a silly name & Tsuna yelling 'that its obviously a cover for the Vongola mafia!' If anyone has some good Italian cover business names, shout it out. I might change it later if its hilarious

3. You got this chapter because I didn't want to write AND chap 17. I rewrote it in its entirety

4. Aoko randomly blurts out things she's seen & almost gives Kaito a heart attack each time? I know that's a mix of just random humour & Kaito's paranoia but what if? Also, they going from mops to staffs to bisento in that order. Disclaimer: I don't know anything about weapon handling

5. I hate that all the characters are just so smart. Damn like how am I supposed to keep them ignorant to mafia dealings. Also, is that the flimsiest excuse to give Ginzo? Maybe.

6. How many weather metaphors can I throw at you?

7. A. Reborn hella impressed when he returns to the Nakamori residence to news that Aoko has already found (& caught) best rain guardian candidate. 2) Reborn has flashbacks to Lal & Colonello. They're not nice flashbacks. Apple) I had lots of fun with Reborn's pov once I remembered that Reborn does anything & everything for the development of his student

8. 'Umbrella symbolises the canopy of the heavens, shelter, protection, & shade. It is often an emblem of power & dignity,' Google says & That's good enough for me. This Takeshi is highly influenced by movies. It's unrealistic. But also can you blame him

9. It just occurred to me that Reborn shouldn't know that Aoko is a Sky, because unlike Tsuna, she was never sealed by Timoteo. So imagine Timoteo, 15 years ago, did his own recognisance, tested Aoko for Sky flames (to scope the competition), then just left her alone to live her life, because he didn't feel threatened because she is the youngest girl in line after his three older sons.