Kyouya turned over in bed with a huff and yanked the covers up. He was annoyed.
A good fight, one he could sink his teeth into properly, was always enjoyable, but he saw no call to interrupt it with chatter.
And just who did Cavallone think he was, to judge Kyouya’s skill? He wouldn’t even fight properly, all avoidance and evasion.
Still. The fact that he could evade and avoid spoke its own language, and a far more convincing one than the flowery nonsense about frogs and wells. As long as Cavallone showed up, Kyouya would fight him.
Now if he could just make the man fight seriously.
The ring made a useful lever, which was good; Kyouya couldn’t imagine any other reason for keeping it.
"All right, then, how about a trade?" Cavallone showed his teeth. "If I beat you in a serious fight, then you have to be part of Tsuna’s Family."
Kyouya had to snort a bit over Cavallone’s foolishness. He wasn’t one of the idiots from the sports clubs, who made bets and dares out of their wins and losses—cutting one’s hair or slave for a week or whatever. A win or a loss was what it was; that was all. And as for joining anything, least of all Sawada’s little herd, that was laughable.
The thought did tug at him, though. Family. That was something the baby had mentioned.
Well, that would save for later.
Right now there was only the sudden sharpening of Cavallone’s eyes, the speed and sureness of his feet against the roof, the singing of the whip cutting the air. Things that made the world bright and sharp and satisfying.
Losing was not satisfying at all, however.
"So, it’s a deal, right?" Cavallone prompted, shaking back sweat-soaked hair.
Kyouya spat blood on the man’s foot.
He didn’t know why that made Cavallone smile, and didn’t waste time trying to figure it out. The man couldn’t shut up to save his life and would undoubtedly tell him sooner or later.
"It’s not just a decoration, you know." Cavallone opened the range again. "That ring."
Kyouya stalked forward, tracking the motion of the whip. "If it’s a herd badge, I don’t need it."
Cavallone groaned. "You are the most perfect Cloud in the history of the world, I swear."
The whip hooked one tonfa and Cavallone slid back from the other and Kyouya stepped in, turning to strike again. "Cloud?" That was the symbol on the ring, if he recalled.
"The Cloud watches from above." Cavallone snaked the whip through the spin of one tonfa, tangling it, and jerked Kyouya to the side. "The Cloud follows its own way and can’t be bound." Kyouya spun on his center, found his stance again, struck for Cavallone’s stomach with the shaft. "You’re a natural."
A loop of the whip tightened on Kyouya’s neck as Cavallone sprang back, and he barely got a tonfa up in time to keep it from closing completely. Cavallone smiled and twitched it loose, releasing him, and Kyouya’s lip curled in a snarl. He hated it when Cavallone did that. "What’s your point?" he asked, shaking his tonfa free sharply.
Cavallone tipped his head to the side. "The ring. Doesn’t it match what you are?"
Kyouya considered for a moment. "Well enough."
Cavallone smiled. "That’s my point."
Kyouya eyed him narrowly. That seemed far too simple for someone who fought in such an indirect style.
"So, you really like this school, don’t you? You always choose here, to fight, without even thinking about it."
Kyouya raised his brows. "It’s mine." The rest was not some outsider’s to ask about.
Cavallone’s mouth quirked. "It fits you well. But don’t you think some variety would build your skills faster?"
Kyouya stood still for a moment, torn between insistence that Cavallone was not his personal trainer or any such nonsense and the knowledge that he was sharpening against Cavallone’s skill.
"It would be more interesting for you, too, wouldn’t it?" Cavallone added, easily.
Finally Kyouya shrugged. "If you like. It doesn’t matter to me where I bite you."
Cavallone’s hair fell over his eyes as he rocked forward, laughing. "I’ve noticed. Well, come on, then." His smile was bright. "Let’s try something interesting."
Kyouya looked over at Kusakabe, standing next to Cavallone’s man. "Keep things as they should be," he ordered.
The forest gave him an advantage. The shore was difficult for both of them, with its shifting footing. The edge of his inside strike was exactly here. If he set the ball of his foot at just this angle it increased his power. When Cavallone gave back to rob a blow of its strength, he couldn’t draw his whip back in for one and a half seconds. Kyouya stored away all these observations, evaluations, the things he usually didn’t bother with because no one could match him.
Cavallone could, though.
It seemed wrong. He’d seen the man trip over his own feet when that assistant of his wasn’t around; he was the epitome of a herd-beast. How he could be herd and carnivore as well, Kyouya didn’t understand. It seemed disingenuous, and not proper at all.
Of course, very few people understood true propriety, which was why he had to bite them.
It made him wonder, though, how many other carnivores might be found among the herd.
Every now and then, as they fought, he considered what these environments would do to Mukuro’s staff, and then he pushed Cavallone harder.
"The thing is," Cavallone panted, hands braced on his knees, "there are people coming after it."
Kyouya blinked sweat out of his eyes. "What?"
"The ring. I told you it wasn’t just decoration, didn’t I?" Cavallone’s smile was wry. "It’s a weapon. And some of the most deadly people in the mafia want them."
Kyouya considered this. He didn’t care particularly about the ring itself, but if it would bring a real fight to him… He smiled slowly.
Cavallone burst out laughing until he had to sit down. "God, Kyouya. What are we going to do with you?"
Kyouya worked tingling fingers around the handles of his tonfa and looked coolly down at his opponent. "You could fight me for real."
Cavallone leaned back on his hands, one corner of his mouth quirking as he looked up at Kyouya. "Maybe I am."
"Not yet," Kyouya shot back. Last week he wouldn’t have been sure of that, but now he could tell. It annoyed him; the only proper fight was a real one.
Cavallone had an odd look on his face, smiling still but his eyes had turned dark. "Maybe." And then it was gone. "In any case, it would be a good idea for you to see some of the other Guardians’ fights, to get an idea of the other side’s strength, so we should probably head back."
Kyouya cocked his head. So there were other people who had these rings too. More importantly, though… back? "They’re in Namimori?"
Suddenly Cavallone looked just a bit shifty. "Ah. Well, yes, about that. See…" he stood up and brushed himself off, "it seems the matches are actually taking place at the school."
Kyouya just looked at Cavallone for a long moment.
And then he turned away and strode for the treeline and the road beyond it.
"Kyouya, hang on! Wait, you don’t… are you going to walk back?! Kyouya…!"
Kyouya lay on the roof, glowering at the sky. Those masked things were breaking his school. He would have to do something about that.
It was hard to concentrate, even on such an outrage against propriety, though. He kept remembering the flash of steel and water, and the sharpness of eyes he could have sworn belonged to an herbivore.
"So, are you going to try to take my head off right this instant?" Cavallone sounded cautious, as well he should. Kyouya narrowed his eyes, not looking back to see the man coming up the stairwell.
"Why not? You lie to me."
"I didn’t lie." Now Cavallone sounded uncomfortable. "I just didn’t say everything all at once. You know you would have—"
"Not that." Kyouya rolled up on an elbow and glared at the man. "You act like an herbivore, but you fight like you have real teeth. You pretend you’re not what you are." And apparently this was a popular thing for people who should be honest and self-respecting carnivores to do.
Cavallone was staring at him. "It’s not pretending," he said, slowly. He settled on his heels beside Kyouya with a faint frown. "You’re talking about my Family, aren’t you?"
Well, obviously. Kyouya glared some more.
"Kyouya…" Cavallone ran a hand through his hair, and now he had a tiny, helpless smile. "It’s because of my Family that I have real teeth."
Kyouya leaned back, disgusted. "Herd beasts never have teeth. It’s their nature."
"Hmm." Cavallone looked at him sidelong. "Well, herd beasts, maybe not. But packs do, don’t they?"
Kyouya paused. He supposed there was some truth in that. "They don’t congregate with herbivores, though," he pointed out. "They prey on them, as it should be. They only congregate with others of their kind."
Cavallone was smiling. "They’re social enough, though, aren’t they? With their pack. That isn’t dishonest, is it?"
Kyouya pursed his lips. "Hm."
Cavallone laughed and reached over to ruffle his hair, and that was more liberty than anyone was allowed to take, even if they had proper teeth and maybe weren’t being dishonest about it. Kyouya’s tonfa connected, if not quite as satisfyingly as he would like. Clearly he needed to keep on sharpening himself. He drove after Cavallone as the man retreated.
He was still annoyed that Yamamoto didn’t show his teeth properly, and intended to bite him to death as soon as it was convenient, so he could see them again.
Kyouya sat at the edge of the school grounds, watching the masked creatures restore his school. He intended to take every incomplete repair out of their hides. And possibly out of Sawada’s, too, since he had done nearly as much damage as that mechanical suit.
"So?" Cavallone stood behind him on the little rise. "What do you think?" There was a smile in his voice. "Will Tsuna make a good pack leader?"
Kyouya snorted. "They’re certainly licking his hands already."
Cavallone was quiet for a moment. "And you?"
Kyouya looked over his shoulder, brows raised.
"Will you guard him?"
Kyouya looked back at the school. "If he needs someone else to fight for him, he’s an herbivore." Grudgingly he added, "Which he doesn’t seem to be. As much."
"I don’t know why I even asked," Cavallone sighed. After a moment he asked, "Why do you protect the school? It’s full of herbivores, isn’t it?"
"It’s a traditional school. It’s a proper thing."
"Hm." Cavallone sat down beside him, one leg curled under him. "Could a Family be proper?" He sounded curious. "We’re about as traditional as it gets."
That was an interesting question, actually, and Kyouya decided he would consider it. But he had a more urgent question this evening. "Why are you doing this?" Cavallone was putting in a ridiculous amount of effort to persuade Kyouya into someone else’s Family. If it had been his own, Kyouya might have understood better.
Cavallone didn’t pretend he didn’t understand, which saved Kyouya having to bite him. "Because the boss is given for his Family." His eyes were distant, fixed unseeing on the school. "It’s true; Tsuna isn’t suited to be a mafia boss. But he’ll be the one Vongola needs. I can’t help Tsuna escape that." His hands tightened on each other. "I love him like a little brother, but I can’t. My Family needs him, too." Cavallone bent his head, light hair falling forward to hide his expression. "But I’ll do everything I can to protect him."
Kyouya stood and Cavallone’s head came up, eyes startled. Kyouya looked down at him. "Guilt is boring. Come fight me when you’re over it." He walked down the rise to go inspect the work on the school.
Propriety tugged at him.
He stopped, back still to Cavallone, and added, "I’ll see what this Family looks like. Whether it’s suitable as was it is." The fight between Sawada and Xanxus tomorrow should offer him an opportunity.
He heard Cavallone start laughing, free and rueful, as he walked on.
Kyouya sat silently and suffered Kusakabe to clean and tape his cuts from that pitiful "prince’s" knives and wires.
"You should really let us give you a transfusion," Cavallone complained, leaning by the open window.
Kyouya snorted. "I’m not that weak." He’d consented to come to this hospital Cavallone had apparently taken over, and that was enough for one night. Or one dawn, as it nearly was.
Cavallone sighed. "All right. Here, though." He fished a small box out of his pocket and tossed it to Kyouya.
The Cloud ring was inside it.
He had to admit, Sawada did appear to have reasonable teeth, and, if he could be induced to show them, would be quite suitable. One or two of the others had potential. And there was Mukuro.
He turned the ring in his fingers and finally looked up at Cavallone. "I’ll see if this Family is a proper thing." It would balance his obligation for the things Cavallone had shown him.
And he supposed it was distantly possible that he would decide in favor.
He sniffed a little over Cavallone’s brilliant smile and tucked the ring away.