Sakura Growing Upside Down

Hibari seeks out a rematch with Mukuro. Mukuro has his own agenda for this. Drama, I-3

Two days after the battles for the Vongola rings were over, Kyouya cornered Sawada and asked who that Chrome girl was, and why she carried what looked remarkably like Mukuro’s staff.

And then he went hunting Dino Cavallone.


"Look, Kyouya, I couldn’t…" Cavallone ducked the swing of a tonfa quickly. "I couldn’t let you know right then! You’d have gone right after her." He jumped back from a vicious swipe. "Him. Them. Whatever. You know you would have."

Kyouya set his feet again and glared. "Of course I would have."

"Well, then you wouldn’t have had the fun of fighting with that mechanical suit, right?" Cavallone offered, a bit weakly.

Kyouya growled and spun his tonfa forward.

They were both dripping blood on the floor before Kyouya’s fury ran out. He stood and glowered at Cavallone, panting. Cavallone wiped his mouth on his cuff and sighed.

"Are you sure you’re ready for this?"

Kyouya’s lip curled.

Cavallone frowned and coiled his whip with a sharp snap of his wrist. "I’m serious. Mukuro’s illusions aren’t like that damn drug. You can’t shake it off with pure stubbornness." His eyes were hard. "Or you would have done it the first time, wouldn’t you?"

"I wasn’t prepared the first time." Kyouya didn’t like admitting that, but it must have been true for him to be fooled the way he had been.

Cavallone’s mouth tightened. "Listen to me for once," he said, quietly. "You can’t shake off an illusion just by knowing it’s illusion." He stepped closer, holding Kyouya’s eyes. "Do you know your own strength well enough, yet?"

Kyouya frowned in turn. He’d always known his own strength. He looked back, silently.

Cavallone’s shoulders slumped a bit and he ran a hand through his hair. "I know I can’t stop you," he sighed. "Just remember, all right?"

After a moment, Kyouya nodded. Cavallone had earned that much from him. "I’ll remember."


He found them easily enough, back at the Kokuyou grounds, the two lesser carnivores and the girl. He raked her over with a glance, disinterested by how frail looking she was. "I want Mukuro," he told her bluntly.

She frowned and her soft "Why?" cut through the loud one’s "What the hell?!"

Kyouya would have thought why was obvious. "I have something to return to him."

The yappy one stalked toward him. "You think you can beat Mukuro-san? Hah! He’d just break you into little pieces again!"

Hibari ignored him; the girl had closed her eyes and her lips were moving faintly.

"Hey!"

Kyouya spun a tonfa absently, ready to smack the interruption quiet, but the girl spoke first.

"Ken." Her voice was lower, cool and amused. "I’ve been expecting him."

The loud one grumbled and snarled and sat back down in a huff, but the quiet one just nodded. "As you wish, Mukuro-sama."

Mukuro smiled at him with the girl’s mouth and turned, beckoning. "Come along, then."

Kyouya stalked through the crumbling doorway after him; more room would be welcome enough, but… "I’m not here to fight the girl."

Mukuro looked over the girl’s shoulder and gave him a slow, annoying smile. "Well, if you insist." They passed through the blurred shadow under a destroyed staircase and when they emerged into what might have been an auditorium it wasn’t the girl ahead of him. It was Mukuro.

Much better.

Kyouya lunged in close, striking for Mukuro’s ribs.

It went through them.

Kyouya spun on his toe and blocked the staff swinging down at his shoulder. Just because he’d expected that didn’t make him any happier.

Mukuro laughed and gave back, light on his feet. "You’re much more wary this time." He tilted his head, hair falling over his forehead. "So, are you really immune to these now?"

There was no gesture, no showmanship—just pale petals fluttering down past Kyouya’s shoulder. He stalked forward steadily, not bothering to dignify Mukuro’s prodding with an answer. Mukuro blocked the first strike but the second caught his shoulder and drove a gasp out of him.

"I see you have."

"Fight seriously."

Mukuro smirked. "Why?"

Kyouya stopped calculating with the front of his mind, stopped thinking at all, left observations to the back of his brain and just moved, letting rage flow through his hands, drive his feet against the rough floor. The back of his mind noticed the number four forming in Mukuro’s eye, poised him to lean into the strength of Mukuro’s guard and return, readied him for Mukuro’s speed, but his attention was on the feel of his tonfa grips in his hands, the reverberation through steel and bone that would tell him when a strike went home.

He thought the occasional softness was just Mukuro’s ability to roll with the strikes until he felt it one last time and Mukuro was abruptly no longer in front of him.

"The day you throw off illusions I’ll be in real trouble," Mukuro murmured from behind him.

Swinging around , taut and furious, Kyouya caught a flash of teeth, and then Mukuro’s weapon fell away and he collapsed to the floor. By the time Kyouya turned all the way around, it was the girl who lay there. He stood for a long moment, wrestling with the unusual urge to throw something against the wall.

The girl stirred and pushed herself up, rubbing her eyes. "Ah. Are you done?" She looked up, merely inquiring. Kyouya observed distantly that, although he was fairly sure Mukuro’s broken arm had not been one of the illusions, her arm was fine.

"For now," he ungritted his teeth enough to say.

She cocked her head at him. "I see. Well, if it’s important to Mukuro-sama…" She stood, brushing off her skirt, and picked up the staff. "I suppose we’ll see you again, then."

Kyouya watched her walk back toward the room where the other two were and breathed around the pain in his knee and side until his temper had settled, sharp instead of ragged. And then he went to go find someone to fight so he could think about what he’d found out.


"What again?" Ken looked up as Kyouya stalked through the atrium. "Don’t you ever get enough? You never win!"

"Boasting for someone else since you can’t do it for yourself?" Kyouya asked, not breaking stride.

"Fuck you! Come back here and we’ll see who’s boasting! You… Kake-pii? What are you looking like that for?"

As their voices turned fainter behind him, Kyouya heard the dark one say, "He never wins. But he never loses either, does he?"

Kyouya’s eyes narrowed and he stepped still more precisely over chunks of broken concrete. He was going to pin Mukuro down and finish this fight if it killed one of them.

Chrome looked up as he stepped through the break in the wall. "Mukuro-sama said you would be here today." She set down her can of coffee and stood, closing her eyes. Haze drew around her and, when it cleared, Mukuro was smiling at him, ineffably amused.

Kyouya knocked a few of his teeth out purely for his own satisfaction before he had to start being careful where he put his feet, lest he tread on a scorpion.


Kyouya stared at the pillars of fire separating him from Mukuro, who was leaning insolently on his staff.

"So?"

Kyouya closed his eyes. It didn’t help. He could feel the heat on his face, the dryness of scorched air in his nose and lungs. Every sense told him that if he stepped forward he would be burned.

His mouth tightened and he stepped forward into one of the pillars.

It burned, his skin tightened, his lungs felt knifed through, but there was a softness to the sensation that he recognized, now, and he took another step, mind locked around that difference.

The fires vanished, leaving echoing pain and Mukuro’s laughter.

"I think you’re the best toy I’ve ever had."


Kyouya lay on the roof of the school and stared up into the blue nothing of the sky. The deep slice along his arm twinged under its bandage.

Cavallone had had quite a few words to say, this week, once he’d tracked Kyouya down, medical minion in his wake. The ones that actually stuck in Kyouya’s mind were, "You can’t just insist reality is something different. He’s better at changing reality than you are, and what kind of idiot fights on his opponent’s ground?"

Was he trying to change reality?

He didn’t like the thought. It seemed weak-willed. Reality was what it was, and a strong person didn’t try to change that; he just acted.

Of course, knowing what reality was, around Mukuro, presented its own problems. He frowned up at the blue. His body could tell the difference, but he needed more than that to actually beat Mukuro. If he had to touch to know…

Do you know your own strength well enough yet?

Cavallone’s words came back to him and he frowned more deeply. If Cavallone thought Kyouya had strengths he wasn’t using yet, what could they be? If it wasn’t what he was currently doing…

Not trying to change reality?

Kyouya’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he watched wisps of white crossing the blue.


Mukuro knelt over Kyouya, staff tight against his throat, chuckling. "Haven’t you realized yet?"

Kyouya glared, saving his breath. Mukuro looked down at him with great good humor.

"This body is an illusion, isn’t it? Every time you insist on fighting me like this, instead of in my little Chrome’s body, you hand your senses over to me before we even begin." He smiled charmingly. "Should I fight you using her next time?"

Kyouya twisted one forearm under the staff and brought a knee up into Mukuro’s spine, throwing him over Kyouya’s head. He spun up onto his feet and around to face Mukuro again.

"No." His voice was rough from where the staff had raked up his throat, but his mind was abruptly clear.

Reality.

"You are here." He gestured at Mukuro’s body. "That is what’s real." The mist and flowers through which he and Mukuro had tracked each other today faded from his sight. "That’s all that matters to me."

He didn’t need to see or feel. All he needed was to know. To be and to know.

Mukuro didn’t laugh as Kyouya drove in on him, strike following strike, but his avid, smiling gaze never faltered. Even when Kyouya pinned him against the wall, breaking ribs in the process, he didn’t blink. "We’ll have to do this again," he gasped.

Kyouya struck full across Mukuro’s temple and let his unconscious body fall. It was Chrome before she hit the ground. He stood, panting, letting things settle in his mind.

"Oh." Chrome pushed herself upright, eyes wide. "You… won today?"

Kyouya looked down at her. "How do you know?"

"Mukuro-sama isn’t quite there." She stood up, dusting herself off.

"Here." Kyouya picked up his jacket and pulled the can of coffee he’d brought out of his pocket, tossing it to her. "We spilled yours, last time."

"Ah." She smiled faintly. "Thank you."

Kyouya shrugged. She was obliging him, after all.

"Will you be back again?" She took a sip, both hands wrapped around the can.

Kyouya considered. There was a certain satisfaction in the idea. It would be nice to drive his victory home a few more times. It would probably be useful, if he agreed to be involved in any more Vongola doings. "Yes."

Chrome nodded. "We’ll see you then." The Mist ring winked on her finger as she took another sip.

He gave her a parting nod in return.


Kyouya thought there was something odd about the fight today. He watched and weighed the texture of it as they moved, twisting aside from the butt of Mukuro’s staff, striking down to break Mukuro’s knee. He followed Mukuro down and brought the shaft of one tonfa hammering down toward Mukuro’s solar plexus.

Mukuro’s gaze didn’t even flicker.

Kyouya diverted into the floor, adding another small crater, eyes fixed on Mukuro. "You aren’t expecting to win," he stated.

Mukuro shrugged with one shoulder; today the other was dislocated, a match for Kyouya’s elbow. "Not really, any more." His eyes gleamed. "Not often, anyway."

"Then why are you fighting?"

Mukuro’s teeth flashed in the hall’s dim light for a moment. "Because it’s fun." His leg swept around. Kyouya rolled with it, ignoring the fiery wrench in his arm. His own teeth were bared as they closed again.

It was annoying that Mukuro didn’t stay bitten, but he supposed that the biting itself was fun, yes.

He would be back again next week.

Afterword

Chrome curled up in the bed she had created, soft old couch cushions filling a window-seat, piled with linens from the box that had appeared in the atrium one morning, weeks ago. She watched the moonlight sliding over the buildings and trees, past the glass, turning them stark and new. Mukuro-sama?

Yes?

You helped him figure out how to win, didn’t you?

Laughter tickled through her mind. Perhaps.

Chrome closed her eyes "looking" at the presence in the back of her head. Why?

With her eyes closed, she could see Mukuro-sama’s smile. He’s fun to play with. And this way he’ll last longer. The smile curled higher at the corners. And that will make me stronger.

Chrome nibbled on her lip. She wasn’t really aware of what happened when Mukuro-sama brought himself out through her, but she’d heard the tone of his laughter afterwards, and watched the rage of her fellow Guardian hone into something cooler and sharper than it had been.

A chuckle echoed behind her ears. Ask.

Softly, barely forming the thought into words, she said, You want him to be stronger, too.

Her mind was silent for a moment. We will see, Mukuro-sama finally answered, light and intent. We will see whether this thing Sawada Tsunayoshi is making will survive. Or whether it will be destruction after all.

Chrome remembered him telling her to fight her best as the boss’ Mist Guardian. And she remembered Chikusa and Ken discussing who they would kill first, when they destroyed the Mafia completely. It made sense enough to her that Mukuro-sama would do both things at once; he could be more than one thing at once, after all. She nodded to herself and cuddled down into her pillows.

Good night, Mukuro-sama.

Good night, my Chrome.

End