Some say that the reddest apples are the ones that grow in graveyards, where the trees are allowed to tap their roots into the blood and flesh of rotting corpses.
Or so some say.
Light Yagami knew he was in trouble from the moment the ugly man pulled a pistol from his jacket and shot his attacker in the chest.
The attacker staggered for a moment, clutching at the bullet wound, groans and gurgles rattling out of his mouth. Light took a step back as the ugly man with the pistol took another shot, and then another, effectively and probably fatally wounding his attacker. He fell down, writhing a little. The ugly man approached him and gave an almost amused sneer with his sausage-like lips.
"Had your fun?" he asked, stepping on his attacker's chest. He groaned. "Good." The man promptly shot his attacker in the head, and removed his foot.
Light was horrified. Especially after the ugly man put the pistol back in his jacket, wrinkled his pig-like nose, and glanced in Light's direction with watery, yellow eyes. "Oh, sorry about that, kid," he said, in his almost grunt-like voice―there were a lot of things about this man that reminded Light of other things, almost none of them human or alive. "You didn't really have to see that."
Light gulped, regretting even stopping to help the man out, when he saw that he was being mugged in an alley.
He was just a 23-year-old reporter, barely out of college and pretty much the lowest of the low, when it came to the hierarchy of the newspaper corporation. He liked his job, but he still was under a lot of pressure from his father for not becoming a police officer. It had been expected of him, after all; but as much as Light hated crime, he hated dirtying his hands almost as much. He would much rather write about murders than actually have to investigate them.
The last thing he wanted was more pressure in his already stressful life, and any sort of involvement in a crime. Unfortunately for him, it seemed that this recent encounter with the ugly man (who was now approaching him) was going to give him both of those.
"Thanks for helping out, kiddo," the man said, putting his hand on Light's shoulder before Light could protest at all. "I really owe you one!"
Light could have said a lot of smarter things in response. What he really wanted to say was, "You're a criminal! You just murdered a man! I'm going to run off right this minute and call the police, and have you arrested, sir!"
Instead, all he could muster was, "Uh, you just, uh, shot him. You shot him."
The ugly man began to chuckle. "Yeah. Was about time that little punk got what was coming to him," he said. "Wasn't worth much to his boss anyways. Still..." He scratched his chin and leaned his head sideways to peer over Light's shoulder. "They'll be sending out some guys to try and find him soon. You'd best be coming with me, pal."
He grabbed Light's arm, and gave a grin. His teeth were as yellow as his disgusting eyes.
"Um, go where?" Light said, grimacing, struggling weakly to get away.
"My club. Hey, we'll be safe there," said the man. "C'mon, kiddo. You don't wanna get shot like him, do ya?"
Light shook his head very vigorously.
"Then come with me, if you know what's good for you," said the man, chuckling as he pulled Light along. "I tell you what, kid, there's weird things about, at night."
Tell me about it, Light thought sourly as the man called a cab and ushered Light within, once one was found.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, the street lights filling the cab with a copper-yellow light, the air unusually quiet for a night in the city. It seemed like it was just Light, the ugly man, and the cabbie on the streets that night, but cars very quickly began to appear outside the windows.
Finally, Light gulped, gaining the courage to speak. "Uh, sir?" he said.
"Would you mind, uh, telling me your name?"
The man, with his yellow eyes and teeth, grinned. "The name's Ryuk," he said, offering a leather-gloved hand. "Walter Ryuk. Dealer of fine liquors and desserts. 'course, that's just my day job." He snickered at his own joke, if it even was a joke to begin with. "How about you, kiddo? Got a name?"
"Light. Light Yagami," Light replied, not shaking Ryuk's hand and still feeling extremely uneasy.
"Light, huh? That's an interesting name you've got, there," he said, taking back his hand and putting it in his jacket pocket. "Well, Light, you have my gratitude."
"I... do?" said Light.
"Yeah, sure!" Ryuk continued. "Sure, I made quick work of that chump back in the alley; but I would-a been in trouble if you hadn't come and pulled him off me first. So, you have my gratitude." He reached into his jacket, searching for something. "So, anything you need done?"
"Need... done?" Light said.
Ryuk found a flask in his jacket, and uncapped it. "Yeah, you know. Somebody you need rid of? Debts that need paying? Anything you want." He took a long sip of whatever was within the flask, and contentedly smacked his fat lips afterwards. He then offered it to Light.
"Oh, no thanks," Light said quickly, and Ryuk pocketed the flask with a shrug. "Honestly, Mr. Ryuk-"
"Just call me Ryuk, kiddo."
"Okay," Light said, furrowing his brow. "Ryuk. I... honestly don't think that I can, well... You're a very generous man, and-"
Ryuk began to laugh. "Afraid to take favors from guys like me, I see," he said. "No problem, kid, I've met folks like you before. Well, the least I can do is buy you a drink."
"Actually," Light said, getting an idea, "could you bring me to my apartment? Really, I'd appre-"
"Not before a drink!" Ryuk said, clapping Light on the shoulder. "C'mon kid, on me. Won't get better service at my club."
Light sensed he was fighting a losing battle. Well, at the most he could just order a soda―he hated being drunk. It would keep him from having his wallet stolen by any questionable characters (and he suspected that there would be) in Ryuk's club. "I suppose," he said.
"Atta boy!" Ryuk said, gesturing cheerfully with his hand. "If I know one thing, kid, it's that you never pass up an opportunity to a free drink. You'll always regret it later, if you pass it up."
"I'm sure, sir," Light said, attempting as best he could to sink into the back of his seat.
Ryuk's club was an unexpectedly nice-looking one, the name of which was "Eden's Apple." The interior was all gilt and wooden, and full of laughter and jazz music and cigarette smoke and beautiful and ugly women. Light was a bit overwhelmed.
"Up here," Ryuk said, motioning towards the back of the club, and Light followed. Men bowed slightly as Ryuk walked past, saying things like, "Good evening, boss," and "Lovely weather tonight, boss."
One flight of narrow, lamp-lit stairs later, and Light found himself in a vast lounge, decorated by polished wood and plush seats. Ryuk took off his jacket and threw it over the side of one of the couches, undoing the first button of his collar, and sighing satisfiedly.
"Welcome to my base," he said, and laughed. "Now, how 'bout that drink?"
"Y-yes, of course, sir," Light said, his eyes flying from corner to corner of the lavish room. City lights gleamed beyond an enormous sheet of glass that made up one of the walls. "Should I, uh, take off my coat?"
"Do whatever you want," Ryuk said warmly, proceeding to a granite-countered bar and searching for something behind it. "Mi casa es su casa."
Light didn't speak Spanish, and neither did Ryuk. Light spoke French, German, and Latin. Ryuk just spoke English.
Light took off his coat anyways and neatly folded it on the arm of a nearby couch.
"Ah, here we are," Ryuk said, producing a cut glass decanter of amber-colored liquid. "Here, have some of this."
"Uh, what is... that?" Light said, as Ryuk took out two glasses and filled them with ice cubes from a bucket.
"My specialty cider," Ryuk replied, pouring a generous amount of the liquid in one of the glasses. "I have it made in my own facilities. Own the very orchards these apples grow on."
He poured the cider into the second glass, and it shone like honey and sin in the lamplight. "Very special orchard, these apples're from. You know why?" Light shook his head. "Grown near a cemetery, these are. You know that the reddest, most delicious apples grow off the guts of corpses?"
Light shook his head as Ryuk laughed and approached him with the glasses. They seemed filled with more sin than honey, at that point. "Well, now you know! Don't worry, it doesn't taste bad at all," Ryuk said, and thrust one of the glasses into Light's hand. "So, a toast to... goodwill, huh?"
"Uh, yes. Goodwill," Light said, and uneasily lifted his glass, where Ryuk clinked it enthusiastically and drained his glass of cider, with great relish. "Ah! Hey, Light. Why don't you have some?"
"Oh, I'd much rather have a Coke, if you have some..." Light said, attempting to stash the glass of cemetery cider on a small table. "Rum and Coke, if you insi-"
"No way! I insist, have some cider," Ryuk said, slapping Light on the back. It was too hard a slap to be friendly. "The drink's on me, fella."
Gulping, Light lifted the glass. "All right, uh, just one sip," he said, and hesitantly let the cider touch his lips.
It tasted like apples, but oh, so much more was in that cider.
It tasted like apples and cinnamon, warm cinnamon buns like his mother used to make when he was a child. There were pears and peaches in there, too, and pumpkin, bumbling on along after the thin, fruit flavors like a dumpling floating in a soup.
It tasted of desire and good times, and of longing, and oh, just oh so slightly, of that flirtatious sin that had teasingly glinted through the cider and the ice.
Light very quickly finished his glass, and found himself wanting more.
"Good, eh?" Ryuk said, and went to go get the decanter. "Best stuff in the world, I say."
"Oh, yes sir," Light said, a note of eagerness in his voice as he leaned against one of the couches, placing his glass on the coffee table. Ryuk poured more; first for himself, and then for Light. "Another toast, Ryuk?"
"Why not?" Ryuk said, and raised his glass. "You do the honors."
Light stood, and thought for a moment. "To you, Ryuk. To you."
"Cheers," Ryuk said, and they clinked glasses. This time, Light was more than happy to sip at the cider, and its cinnamon-sin taste. "Well, now. Shall we sit?"
"Don't see why not," Light said, feeling immensely satisfied with himself. So it really did pay off to be a Good Samaritan, especially if you got fantastic company and drink, such as this. He sat confidently, leaning back and squeaking a little in the black leather.
"So, Light. Tell me about yourself," Ryuk said, brandishing his glass.
And Light, who fancied himself a fantastic drinker, lost his self-control to the ravages of Ryuk's amazing cider. His mind had gone dancing, nestled close into the bosom of the cider's tough.
It seemed that almost no time had passed at all, when Light found himself elaborating on one of his favorite, most secret of subjects: moral decay.
Reporters weren't allowed to have opinions. Opinions were reserved as a privilege of the writers of advice columns, and editorials.
With nothing but Ryuk and the sweet, sweet cider around, however, Light didn't care that he wasn't allowed to have an opinion. Anyways, wasn't the newspaper business why the First Amendment was created, in the first place?
"This whole damn place is going to the dogs, Ryuk," he bemoaned, well into his fourth glass of cider. "Everywhere you look, what do you see? Prostitutes, delinquents, gangs, the mob―not that you're trash, Ryuk. You're a good guy."
"Thanks muchly, friend," Ryuk said, grinning with his yellow teeth.
"The rest of 'em all can just go to hell..." Light said, frowning. "Like this one guy. What's his name?" He thought, discontentedly. "Oh yeah. This guy, Takuo. The bastard."
"Huh, who's that?" said Ryuk.
"Some hooligan," Light replied. He drank. "He treats the women like trash an' drinks, an' rides around on that godawful motorcycle of his. Hangs around downtown, I see him all the time."
He stared at the cut glass, shining in the light. "See, 'speople like him that make the world so awful these days. I can't stand it."
Ryuk looked, surprisingly thoughtfully, at the young man before him. "You think the would'd be better off without guys like Takuo?"
"Absolutely," Light said. "I mean... just yesterday, I saw him copping a feel on some poor girl in the street. I mean!" He placed his glass down, rather forcefully, on the coffee table. He wasn't in the mood for any more drink. "Can't a guy have some shame?"
"Agreed," Ryuk said, in his rough voice. "No class at all."
"Damn right," Light said, and sat forward, with his chin balanced on his hand. "It's just... depressing. Cops aren't doing a thing about it, either."
"'To Protect and Serve' is what they say, right?" said Ryuk, and laughed a sandpaper laugh. "Some serving they're doing."
"Yeah, really. Makes me almost wanna be a cop..." Light said. The cider had taken his mind, gently, by the hand, and was now leading it into the twilight of sleepiness. His eyelids drooped. "I'd make sure none of that would happen... Get guys like Takuo out... out of here... M'too much of a coward, though..."
"What would you do if, say, Takuo never showed up downtown again?"
Light closed his eyes. "Nothing at all," he replied. "It would be... nice."
"Then consider tomorrow a nice day, kiddo," Ryuk said, as Light fell asleep there.
He grinned, with his moon-yellow teeth. He had an excellent idea on how to repay this Light Yagami. An excellent idea indeed.