Author's note: Before anyone complains, I would just like to say that understanding the untranslated French passages is not necessary for your overall comprehension because I have PARAPHRASED what was said in the following paragraphs. Complete translation can be found on my lj.

Chapter 12

Of French and Flatterers

December 31st 2000

He is dead. Dead. He is dead.

Il est mort.

A quick gulp of sake to wash away the truth but the slight buzz did nothing. Reality could not be so easily denied and the words kept echoing in his head like some cold cruel mantra, viciously taunting him.

Somehow, as his drinking progressed, externalities one by one melted away, leaving him only with that single cold cruel truth.

Laurent Carbone est mort hier à 21h30.

He took another mouthful. Maybe a bit more alcohol would do.

"Monsieur Takamiya, je sais que cet appel est plutôt soudain, mais… Laurent Carbone est mort.

"C'était un accident stupide. Alors qu'il retournait chez lui hier soir, un chauffard – ivre l'a renversé.

"Non, il n'a pas souffert. Il est mort instantanément.

"Je sais que vous vous êtes distancé de Monsieur Carbone après l'Incident, mais il aurait apprécié que vous soyez à ses funérailles.

"Oui, bien sûr, vous êtes un homme très occupé ces jours-ci. Mais vous ferez votre possible? Merci.

"Elles auront lieu la fin de semaine prochaine, le samedi 6 Janvier à…"

The call had come hours ago, informing him about – Laurent Carbone's death. Hit by a drunk driver as he was returning home the previous night. Instantly dead.

At least he did not suffer.

But that one little detail did not ease the pain in Hiroto's heart. He was not even certain if he would be able to attend the funeral. Though he could probably tie up most of his businesses and free the upcoming weekend, the yakuza knew he would never find it within himself to go.

The pain was still too fresh – the sense of loss still there though it had been three decades since the Incident that had ruined it all.

Hiroto quickly poured himself another glass, his hands trembling at the simple action – from the alcohol or the reminiscence, he was not sure which. Nevertheless, despite the drink's soothing burn as it flowed down his throat, it did not stop the river of memories from pouring out.

The breeze coming from the Mediterranean Sea teased him gently as it ruffled his short black hair and the canopy's cloth flaps. It carried with it the smell of opportunities of a land so foreign and far from his own. Though he was now away from home, it did not mean he could slow down his relentless pursuit. Since his little coup-d'état three years back, he had been aggressively expanding his territory and his group's sources of revenue.

Already, the largest syndicates had started to monopolise the underworld. Ever since the Summit Strategy in the early 1960s, the police's attitude towards their own brand of mafia had changed. They started initiating various crackdowns that mostly targeted traditional yakuza crimes such as gambling and extortion. In such an environment, the weakest groups had been forced to disband. They had been swiftly weeded out; their territory gobbled up by their more powerful counterparts.

Meanwhile, these larger syndicates had flourished. Forced to diversify, their own influence grew to encompass new domains previously untouched by the yakuza. Within such a climate, newcomers such as Takamiya Hiroto had very little breathing space.

But the up-and-coming yakuza was persistent and he was astute. He knew how to work the situation to his advantage and in the end, it had paid off. In very little time, he had persuaded other struggling groups to join his own, promising them survival and prosperity. And he had delivered.

Always a few steps ahead of his rivals, Hiroto never feared investing in potentially risky ventures. He knew his limits and he knew where the wind blew. The economy and society were changing. Hiroto made sure to constantly stay ahead of their needs. It was for this reason he travelled so much around the continent, constantly seeking new contacts and slowly establishing his network of informants among the natives. These unstable countries were ideal to exploit.

It was also for this reason he was now in Marseille. Though he had already approached La Cosa Nostra and the various Sicilian Families, that particular brand of organised crime did not hold the information he needed. While they were quite powerful in their own right, the Italian mafia found itself far too many times under the public scrutiny for Hiroto's liking.

No, he was far more interested with their elusive suppliers, the masterminds behind the French Connection.

The Unione Corse.

They were the ones responsible for the traffic of opium and its derivatives into the States. Hiroto was determined to create as secure a route in Asia – but for amphetamines.

He took another careful sip from his cup of coffee, scrunching his nose at its bitterness. He would never learn to appreciate these Westerners' strange taste. Though their so-called tea was slightly better, it in no way measured up to the poorest brew back home.

Pushing his large sunglasses up his nose, he leaned back further on his chair to better appreciate the café's seaside view. His contact should be here any minute now. There was no way the man could miss him. After all, he was the only foreigner here, the only Asian, the only Japanese.

A novelty, as some would casually point out.

And then, as though answering his mental summons, a shadow appeared next to him. A devilish young man of his age stood at his side. He was dressed in a clean-cut suit – as was proper of a 'vrai Monsieur' – and his dark, almost black, hair neatly framed his handsome, though foreign, face. He presented Hiroto with a gloved hand.

The yakuza shook it.

"Monsieur Takamiya? J'ai entendu dire que vous cherchiez les milieux à visiter à Marseille. Si vous le voulez bien, je serai votre guide durant votre séjour." (I heard that you were looking for all the locations – milieu – to visit at Marseille. If it pleases you, I will be your guide during your stay.)

Hearing the code and quickly noticing the use of the word 'milieu' (a term that referred to the recognized members of the Unione Corse), Hiroto responded in kind, silently thanking all the time he had spent in the old French colonies: his constant voyages through Indochina had the welcome side effect of improving his mastery over the language. "Il est vrai que je connais très peu le milieu. Je serais ravi de recevoir l'aide d'un vrai Homme. " (It is true I know very little about the milieu. I will be glad to receive the help of a True Man – of a Man of Honour.)

The smile that broke the Frenchman's face was breathtaking. "Ce serait un plaisir de vous aider," he breathed out. "Ah oui, avant de continuer, il faudrait bien que je me présente." He executed a mock bow. "Laurent Carbone à votre service." (It would pleasure to help you. Ah yes, before I continue, I should introduce myself. Laurent Carbone at your service.)

Laurent Carbone.

The grandson of Paul Carbone, the founder of the French underworld, of the Unione Corse. Though he was not one of the leading members of any of the ruling Marseille Clans, the youth still held much influence within the milieu.

Hiroto had spent his three far-too-short months in France with the man and within him, he had found a kindred soul. They shared the same ambitions, the same shrewdness and most importantly, the same ruthlessness. They had spent all their time conspiring together, conducting the Unione Corse's business in each other's company. Together, they had killed, threatened, and blackmailed.

And unknown to the other mobsters, they had also sketched out a potential alliance that would take place between their two organisations – after they'd each done their part and individually gained enough money, power and influence in the international underworld.

Most remarkable though was that in that short while, Hiroto had discovered that he had fallen in love.

But the feeling was taboo and he never spoke of it. Men were not supposed to love men. The stigma attached to homosexuality might not have been too severe in Japan but in France, in Europe… Hiroto dared not voice his feelings.

It would have destroyed their friendship.

After those three months, the yakuza had left Europe with slight regret but had been determined to build his empire and see their envisioned coalition to fruition. However, while Hiroto had kept to that course, Laurent had deviated from it and broken their vow.

'Je crois que je suis amoureux. Oui. Difficile à croire non? Mais je crois, non, je suis certain que je suis amoureux d'Elle. Sylvie.

'La fille d'un simple boulanger.'

The idiot, the love-struck fool had fallen in love with a mere peasant, the daughter of a local baker. At the thought, Hiroto's grip around the fragile porcelain cup tightened and he downed the liquid in one gulp.

Laurent had fallen in love with a silly little twit who will had never learn to appreciate Laurent's fierce beauty, his vicious mind and torturous tongue. He had given it all up, his future, his life, him for the girl. As soon as he had received the letter filled with the French's exaltations on that bitch, Hiroto had wanted to tear the paper to shreds.

But he had not.

He could never bear to destroy anything that had come from Laurent.

And so, the yakuza had attended the wedding, had offered his congratulations to the 'happy' couple, to the oblivious bride. He had witnessed a wolf turned into a sheep, as Laurent left the Unione Corse behind.

But the mafia, or to be precise, his past misdeeds, would not leave him and by separating himself from the milieu, Laurent had lost its protection.

It was the perfect time to strike back and seek revenge. A deranged businessman who had lost everything to the mobster had shot him. Driven by grief, he had shot the reformed mobster multiple times and then turned the gun against his own self. He had died instantaneously, before anyone could exact revenge on the coward.

As soon as Hiroto had heard the news, he had dropped his current workload and hurried back to France, to Laurent's side.

Luckily, despite how critical his friend's condition had been, despite how many times his heart had stopped beating, the stubborn fool had survived though he had lost the use of his legs.

But that was not all. That was not the worst.

Laurent had forgotten everything. When he awakened from coma, the depth of the damage to his nervous system had become apparent. He had forgotten all the details from his previous life, his old occupation. Hiroto gave a bitter chuckle as he poured himself yet another glass of rice wine.

The French had tried to erase all signs of his past in his attempt to integrate into his normal civilian life. Well, he had certainly succeeded in that regards and in the process, he had shown how much he needed Hiroto by forgetting him.

It had been the final blow and as soon as the words escaped his lips, "Enchanté de faire votre connaissance Monsieur Takamiya.", the yakuza had left to catch the first available flight. His presence clearly was not required. (It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mister Takamiya.

From that day forward, he had never seen nor heard from his old partner again. He had maintained a steady contact with the Unione Corse, who had ever since retreated further underground, driven into deeper concealment by the action of law enforcements worldwide. Even though the French Connection had been dismantled and their heroin empire had collapsed, they remained just as powerful and useful an 'ally', though a covert one.

Additionally, though Laurent had left and forgotten about them, they still surreptitiously watched over their old member and provided Hiroto with occasional updates on his situation. It was all the news his frozen heart could stand.

In the intervening years, the oyabun had kept that particularly painful fragment of his path locked away. He had not dared visit that specific set of memories as he had moved on in his life.

Or so he had thought…

As he emptied one glass of rice wine after the other, he could not help but wonder how great a hold Laurent's ghost still had on him.

Or perhaps it was simply the sake talking.

His steps swayed, one after the other, as he stalked down the corridors of his own house. Another foot forward; his hand held onto the wall for support. He tiredly shook his head, trying to shake away the drink's effect.

He had drunk far too much. His head was buzzing.

It was the first time alcohol had affected him so aversely but at least the hallways were empty. No one would witness his unwilling fall from – grace.

He stumbled another few steps forward. His body felt strangely heavy. So, so peculiar.

His right leg awkwardly crossed in front of his left one and he tripped on himself. Hiroto gave a slight laugh, amused despite himself at his uncharacteristic clumsiness. This experience was all so odd.

He really shouldn't have let his silly grief overtake him. It wasn't as though Laurent had any right to affect him after all these years – after he had rejected him. No, better to focus on the present and all its possibilities.

Once again, he pressed his hand against the door for support but as it gave in under his weight, he suddenly noticed that it was not as stable as he had thought. He frowned, looking at the surprisingly open door in confusion.

After a moment, his eyes lit up with understanding. Ah yes… Raito's room. There was no lock installed on his door and tonight, it seemed the youth had forgotten to close it.

Hiroto smiled fondly at the thought. His sweet little angel… His and no one else's.

Without any further prompting, he made his way into the small space. Though better furnished than the 'cell' in the headquarters in which he had at first kept his protégé, it still had very few personal effects. Only a bed and a closet for his clothes. The door at the corner led to a small bathroom.

Another two or three steps brought him to Raito's side. He leaned across the bed, drinking in the sight before him. The youth lay curled up in his blankets, the top of his pyjama twisted around him and revealing his collarbone oh-so-temptingly. Hiroto felt heat rise up in him as it had never done before – another effect of alcohol?

He did not spare his sudden discomfort anymore thought. His fingers unconsciously started wandering down the youth's torso, revelling in the smoothness of his skin.

So… so beautiful and all his. His to explore, his to mould, his to do as he desired.

His eyes blinked at that revelation, his consciousness catching up to the fleeting musing. How very true…

Raito was entirely his. He had raised him, he had shaped him, nurtured his potential when it would simply have been left to waste away had he stayed with his biological family. Raito was his in every sense of the word; his to do as he pleased.

And why ever should he have to worry about what anyone else would think of his actions? It wasn't as though he had to report to them. He sneered. No, useless. Useless to repress his cravings, useless to forget about his own desires. When had his own caution ever done him any good?

Satisfied with the direction of that thought, he twirled the soft strand around his digit. The youth before him was beautiful and his for the taking. He. Would. Not. Lose. Him.

His fingers abruptly tightened around the brunet's hair, almost yanking the silky curls out. At the sudden pain at his temple, Raito woke up with a start. His eyes flew wide open, panicking and confused.

Hiroto did not notice.

No, all he saw were the two possibilities sprawling before him. He knew what choice he had to make. He must not repeat his stupid mistake. Not when he was given this second chance.

No. His grin widened and his starved eyes thoroughly appraised Raito's sinfully lithe form.

He must not hesitate.

Not when the one laying before him, offering himself so temptingly was so much better than the original.

Raito was his, where Laurent was a free soul – free to do as he pleased. Raito had been forced to grow and embrace the underworld where Laurent had left it. Raito was everything Laurent was, and everything he was not. He was perfect.

And he was his.

He could not, must not let him repeat his predecessor's mistakes. He must not let Raito leave the mafia; he must not let Raito leave him. Not when such devastating consequences lay ahead of such paths.

There was so much at stake here and Hiroto knew that this time, he had made the right choice. Damn the consequences. Raito was simply begging to be his. He had to be, with the way he blinked his eyes in startled confusion, the way he lay there so irresistibly.

It was about time he staked his claim.

Without pause, he pulled the teenager into a tight embrace. When Raito parted his lips – to protest? To welcome him maybe? – the oyabun instantly took advantage of the granted access. His tongue possessively marked the territory as his.

Yet, as soon as Hiroto began on his mouth, the youth started squirming against him. The yakuza immediately grabbed his two hands. He pushed Raito back onto the bed. His greater mass kept the boy still and his struggling minimal.

But he would take no risk. While still pressed against the youth's wiry frame, with his left hand holding the two wrists tightly, unmercifully, he impatiently tugged off his silk tie and carefully fastened them to the bed.

Satisfied, he relaxed and took his time as he made sure to fully savour his flavour. His mouth slowly trailed kisses down the slowly revealing form, his fingers impatiently unfastening the cumbersome pyjama top, and then tugging off the bottom. The boxers soon joined the latter on the floor.

He took a quiet moment to silently admire his possession. His eyes were dark with lust and desire. He licked his lips.

This was his. His. All HIS.

Could not, must not let him go.

Caught in his exaltation, he paid no heed to Raito's still furious, though barely perceptible struggles. He did not see how the teenager's face was turned away, burying his face into his pillow when Hiroto bent down to delectably devour his neck.

He was blind to all of it. His entire being was consumed by one furious, anxious need.

He needed to stake his claim, his ownership of Raito on that enticing skin before he lost him forever.

No matter the cost.

A Prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but at such times and seasons only as he himself pleases, and not when it pleases others …

April 5th 2004

Raito looked down at the man standing before him with barely concealed contempt. The fifty-year-old owner of a small company had his back to them as he shakily opened his refrigerator door to retrieve a bottle of beer. His hand was trembling around the label.

"I… can't you please give me a bit more time," he mumbled, turning towards them pleadingly. "Just another month or two. I promise I'll have the money by then. Things aren't," he looked down at the ground, "going that well now but I'm currently working on a deal and if it does –"

His regained vigour was immediately halted when Raito merely raised an eyebrow at him. The youth's sinewy form leaned over the kitchen table, with his two hands pressed on its surface. Dressed in a black suit and surrounded by the kitchen's overall darkness, he looked like the grim reaper, threateningly looming over his prey.

"Was that not what you promised last month?" He drawled. The youngster tilted his head to a side. His hair fell attractively away from his forehead. "If my memory is correct, which I assure you it is, you again promised the same four months ago. My patience is slowly running out."

"Yes, yes! You only have to wait a month more! One month, I promise!"

"But your debt has already risen to 20 million yen and I seriously doubt your pathetic deal will ever be able to pull you through. He looked at Emori over the rim of his sunglasses. "So," his eyes glinted sharply in the dingy apartment's – a true representation of the businessman's current situation – shadowed kitchen, "when exactly are you going to run away with your wife? Or were you thinking of abandoning her to deal with you debts, Emori-san?"

The soon-to-be ex-president's eyes widened and his pupils dilated with fear. "Of course I wouldn't run away! I take my debts very seriously. If you will only give me a bit more time." He placed the bottle on the table after his unsteady hands failed to twist the cap off. Instead, he headed towards the drawer at Raito's side, fretfully nibbling his lips the entire way. Behind his dark shades, the yakuza rolled his eyes. The fool was probably looking for a bottle opener. But if he thought alcohol could actually help him or bolster his confidence, then he was seriously delusional.

"Of course not." Raito drawled as he fell down elegantly on his chair, watching the way Emori nervously scurried around the room like a cat would to his mouse. "Perhaps you will choose the more honourable course and commit seppuku." His two bodyguards, Kohashi and Hagino, snickered by the doorway, as they looked into the scene amusedly. They were used to Raito's mind games and the way he toyed with his prey, constantly prodding at their weakness until they capitulated. "But that would leave your lovely wife alone, with 20 million yen hanging over her head, and your poor parents…" He clicked his tongue for a few seconds.

Then, to further emphasize his contempt for the disgrace before him, Raito turned his head away. "But I wouldn't be surprised if you simply throw their teachings away. You are getting there already. There are only – what? Four, five centimetres? Your hands are clearly straining from the temptation." He shot the man an amused look. "Tell me, are you truly planning on using that knife?"

"I – I – you –" And then Emori's expression shut as he gritted his teeth with determination. His foolish lunge got him nowhere however. Raito had long since predicted his response.

In the time it had taken the businessman to make his decision, the youth had risen from his seat and had started moving against him. When the elder man lifted the blade, Raito was already before him, disarming him. It took only a second for the kitchen knife to be turned against its master.

The yakuza's hold on the executive was tight, his arms unmercifully wrapped around his victim. The razor edge was now pressed against Emori's neck. The forty-year-old was quivering with fear against the teenager.

It was necessary to occasionally remind their 'clients' of the mafia's power.

"There is a price for every action. It is about time you pay for your recklessness." He delivered one swift punch into the fool's guts and then loosened his hold as the man crumpled on the floor. "One simply does not mess with the yakuza and expect to get away with it."

After throwing him one last look of disgust, he turned his back from Emori and moved aside for his subordinates to do their part. His gloved hand quickly proceeded to dust off his captive's presence from his still pristine suit.

And then, he leaned back against the peeling wall to 'enjoy' the show, his mind muting away the businessman's pleas for mercy. His incessant calls to Raito's generosity and other 'wonderful' qualities were wasted on his cold heart. Neither did they reach Kohashi and Hagino's ears. The two yakuza spared nothing as they beat the well-deserved lesson into their victim.

Behind his sunglasses, Raito carefully catalogued every single whimper of pain, crack of bones and gasp of air that escaped the indebted man. They would all be analysed later, in the privacy of his room.

Unknown to his companions, the grim smile discreetly adorning his lips had nothing at all to do with the bloody spectacle he was witnessing.

One day, Raito too would face his judgement. L was at last closing in on him.

April 6th 2004

Quillish Wammy was at a loss. Such occurrences were rather rare and usually, he managed to pull through with little help. But this time, it was personal.

He was used to dealing with the unknown, with danger. They were all part of his job description as Watari, the greatest detective in the world's one and only intermediate.

He was also used to dealing with geniuses' capricious moods and eccentricities. After all, he was the founder of an orphanage dedicated to training them.

He was not used to, however, watching L entirely lose control of himself. He had seen the boy at his best and at his worse; he had watched the little prodigy grow into the man he was today. He knew all of his foundling's quirks, what made him tick and what brought him pleasure.

And yet, he had never caught a glimpse of the storm of emotions that lay underneath that icy, apathetic surface… until now. For so long, Quillish had believed that the way he had decided to raise the boy had wiped out every trace of L's humanity. With profound regret and guilt, he had watched the inquisitive, though emotionless, child turn into a robot living only for the challenge of solving intricate cases.

To witness his long-repressed personality emerge would have been a cause for celebration under any other circumstance. He would have been on his knees, thanking the person who had miraculously drawn L out of his shell, had it been anyone but Kira.

Had the emotions he now beheld been anything but anger, bitterness and a deep sense of betrayal.

Whether Takamiya Raito had truly intended to toy with L in the way the detective so firmly believed– Quillish highly doubted the youth had planned it to play out that way – did not matter. It was the consequences that derived from his multiple deceptions that were unforgivable.

Kira, Kirin and Raito. Three personas wrapped around one person. The teenager had probably thought it amusing to adorn so many masks and through them, experience different lives. Countless, including L, found such a concept thrilling and Quillish was certain the young killer felt the same. It must have been exhilarating for the eighteen-year-old to slither around unnoticeably between his various existences, subtly pulling the strings.

What the adolescent had never thought of, however, were the repercussions. He had never considered what would happen should his ruse be revealed, of the pain it would cause his real father, and the turmoil his sham would throw into L's normally orderly thoughts.

It was this particular brand of thoughtlessness that incurred Quillish's ire.

The detective might have thought him clueless, but the inventor had known of the friend L had found over the Internet, though he had remained discrete on the matter. He had watched with concealed pleasure as the private investigator opened up – though not to him or to anyone he had actually met.

It had been a mistake however.

And now, L was far too emotionally involved, far too bitter to truly think things through when dealing with Kira. He no longer detachedly and logically examined all the facts, instead concentrating all his efforts on pursuing his suspect. His temper was short; his nerves were frayed. A few times already, he had been on the verge of snapping at Matsuda for his endless inquiries.

Add his state of mind to his usual reluctance to dealing with people… it was a train wreck in the making. L should not be heading to Toudai. He was not calm enough to confront Kira.

But he was stubborn and nothing Quillish could say would ever change his mind.

He turned his car before the school's entrance. "We are here Ryuuga." He told him as he opened the door.

Without a word, the genius merely shuffled out of the vehicle. Watching his hunched form move past the gates and glare at the seniors previously merrily approaching him, Watari sighed.

L definitely was not ready for this.

L should have mentally prepared himself for the chaos awaiting him at the school gates. He should have predicted the hordes of seniors eagerly crowding the school entrance – especially after Kira's warning.

But he had not. He had spent the entire afternoon and subsequent night brooding on his disastrous first meeting with the two-faced bastard, dealing with the task force and the irritation called Matsuda and then, after that particular group had left, he had plotted with Aiber, Wedy and Misora. Fully aware of the fuss the NPA members would have raised should they ever learn that the best detective in the world occasionally worked with criminals, he had met the two in secret, only accompanied by the ex-FBI agent. She would become his main contact with the pair.

It had been a long night.

It was no wonder that L was in such a crabby mood. He had never been forced to spend so much time face to face with others (who – to make matters worse – constantly questioned and challenged him).

And now this.

Behind his scruffy hair, L rolled his eyes. He did not need to deal with more fools. He had already warned the batch yesterday of his utter disinterest in them. It was such a shame that the seniors had not attended the ceremony. The detective hated repeating himself.

Irritated beyond measure, he instead sent a full-blown glare to the sempai who had been cheerfully bouncing her way towards him, seconds from shoving one of her blue flyers into his face. His scathing glower effectively stopped her in her tracks.

It did not take long for the others to catch on and soon enough, none dared approach the anti-social 'freak'. He did not care how they labelled him. His only concern was Kira. Now, if only he could find the mass murderer.

The carnival taking place before him simply did not help matters.

Because students were only allowed to participate in circles and varsities while they attended university, there was always a rush in April to convince the newcomers of joining their clubs. Replenishing these associations with fresh blood was essential for their continual existence. With the spectacle currently sprawling before L's bottomless eyes, it seemed as though the rumours were true: shinkan was particularly active and aggressive in Toudai.

All around the school plaza, small groups had set up stands and posters describing the various virtues of their particular circle. Seniors wearing their team jersey were tailing the arriving freshmen and presenting them with a pamphlet on their specific group. At one side, a few students were actually juggling. Why anyone would want to participate in such a useless pastime was beyond the detective's understanding.

With so many people dashing back and forth, it appeared as though the task of finding Kira would be near impossible. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Unless…

L smirked at the thought that suddenly occurred to him.

No, Kira would never be as crude or mundane as a simple needle: he was the magnet that drew all those poor needles to him. Where the crowd was particularly dense, the charismatic killer was sure to be at its center, ready to seduce his audience to his wily ways.

Resolute, L turned left where lines of stalls have been set up around the footpath. With the hordes of students trying to pass through (and all the ones preventing or stalling them from doing so), it was a walking nightmare.

And it seemed that Kira had not even managed to set his foot into the madness before his fans had converged upon him with their various requests.

"Takamiya-kun, are you interested in videogames? From what I've overheard about your speech, I thought you might like to –"

"The debating club would be perfect for you! As you said, we must learn to think for ourselves and –"

"Gardening –"

"You must join the boat race team! It is the one club to be in!"

Despite the cacophony that reigned around him, Kira's clear voice rang through, pure and crystalline against the background noise. "As interesting as all your offers seem, I think it would be better if you each waited your turn before explaining. I'm sorry. My ears are not as selective as they used to be. Now, you were saying something about aikido. Though I have not –"

As he turned to address the delegate from a martial art varsity, the other club representatives all got themselves organised around the killer as though by magic. L watched in amazement as they lined up without fuss and patiently awaited their turn. The naïve would have attributed their sudden compliance to the respect Kira gave them and the novelty of actually being listened – instead of being irritatingly brushed away. But L knew better.

The answer to their sudden change of heart lay in the way their arrogant audience so skilfully played and manipulated them.

Standing amidst but apart from them, Kira looked like a ruler, calmly listening through his horde of supplicants. He summarily dismissed them, one after the other, after they had satisfyingly presented their case. The one element that disrupted this imagery though was that the mass murderer passed no judgement. He did not make any decision yet. After all, Kira would only lend his highly demanded presence to those he considered worthy and useful to his cause. It would not do for him to be hasty.

After what seemed like an eternity, the crowd died down and L finally approached his suspect. The detective refused to join the masses. He would not give the psychopath an excuse to effectively 'discharge' the detective from his presence.

"Cannot get rid of your swarm of flatterers fast enough, can you Takamiya?"

"Ah, Ryuuga-kun," he said, smiling. No sign of irritation showed through the fraud's placid exterior. "I was wondering when you would finally join me. You do not like crowds much, right?" He nonchalantly asked, probably noticing the way L awkwardly moved through the crowd in order to avoid bumping into any constituent of the flock of students.

"No and I cannot profess to understand Takamiya's willingness to indulge them. It isn't as though one with your background needs more sycophants."

"And you would know, wouldn't you? It must be wonderful to never doubt the rightfulness of your path."

And there it was, as expected. A subtle dig at my own situation in order to justify his own actions as Kira and a yakuza heir.

"But then, this is not about gaining followers." With a slight nod of thanks, Kira took the flyer a senior presented him and neatly added it to the stack he held after giving it a quick glance. American football varsity. "I am sure these people deserve better than becoming another's toady." He softly told the detective walking at his side. "I look forward to pitting my opinions against theirs."

And here is the reference to his pastime as Kirin. Always one to go for the kill.

"Then Takamiya believes they can measure up to him?"

"Perhaps. The two of us might have finished with the highest score but there is more to life than sheer intellect," he cocked his head to one side and thoughtfully looked up at the sky. "Had that not been the case, than an entirely different set of politicians would have been governing Japan."

"Does Takamiya have aspirations of becoming a dictator?" L asked, carefully observing his suspect's reactions from the corner of his eye. "I am sure Takamiya would manage. He has the charisma and intelligence necessary to wrap the masses around his little finger." He mechanically tapped his index on his chin as he said those words.

Kira's sinful lips quirked up in amusement. "Me? I am honoured that you would think so highly of my abilities but no mere human should ever have that much control."

Defence manoeuvre. Not an exact denial but you escaped contradicting your own beliefs by citing 'human'. Kira no longer believes he is a mere human.

"True, true." L nodded his head sagely. The silence that followed, though not awkward, was tense with anticipation. Kira did not seem bothered by it as he took advantage of L's quiet to collect some more club advertisements.

Raito spared L a quick glance before refocusing his attention on the president of some club dedicated to raising awareness on the injustice around the world – or something of the sort. The man had been rambling on the subject ever since he had managed to ambush the pair. Although Raito would have usually paid or feigned more interest on the issue (it was always good to keep an eye on the enemy – after all, the yakuza had contributed its fair share to the inequity in the third world), he was currently too preoccupied by the detective at his side.

Now that he had finally met L in person, he no longer knew what to make of him. After re-examining their first meeting, Raito must confess that he was disappointed.

Not in his sloppy appearance, though it was quite disgraceful. Everyone was allowed their own eccentricities. Not in his strange quirks either.

No, it was the man's unprofessional behaviour that irritated the yakuza. Raito had not noticed this significant failing at first, far too elated by his encroaching judgement. It was only in the dead of the night, as he passed his day in his head once more that it occurred to him.

L had no reason to appear before him. It would serve no purpose for the detective to reveal himself and the depth of his knowledge so soon. In fact, it would only increase the risks he was exposed to had Kira truly been after him. Even if his sudden appearance was supposed to provoke Raito into making a mistake, the way he went about it was too extreme, flawed.

The youth's initial assessment had been correct. The detective had acted out of spite; he had warped his speech for revenge. Such a reaction would have been understandable from any other person but L. The detective should have known better.

He should not have let his emotions blind him.

Instead, L should have approached Raito incognito. He should have sought out friendship, not enmity. He should have tried to worm his way into Raito's trust by calling to his intelligence and curiosity.

As the yakuza glanced once more at the detective shuffling at his side, it seemed as though he was trying to correct his mistake now. But it was too late. Their initial encounter had already revealed his true intentions and warned the killer of his impending execution.

It had given Raito time to collect himself and prepare.

And even this façade of friendship he seemed intent on constructing did nothing to hide his animosity. His subtle barbs and inquiries betrayed him on that front.

Or perhaps it was all a show, designed to confuse his enemy and drive him into the dangers of overconfidence. Raito really hoped it was so.

Sighing, the youth ran his fingers through his hair to brush them back in place. He was all too aware of the pair of eyes following his every movement.

In the end, it did not matter. Whatever his tactics were, Raito will simply play along with them. He was willing to indulge the detective as long as it did not interfere with his own plans.

He had his own set of responsibilities to handle and as long as L held no definite proof of his identity as Kira, then they would remain the eighteen-year-old's main priority.

L could tag along for all he cared.

"Perhaps Takamiya should accept his offer. Your unique situation gives you a distinct view on the exploitation of workers from third world countries," L told him snidely.

"Perhaps I will." Kira answered with a slight shrug. "But what about you? I have not seen you show any interest in any circle. Am I to remain your only acquaintance in Toudai? That would lead to a very lonely four years."

L's eyes impossibly widened. "Is Takamiya trying to get rid of me? And just when I thought I would do him a favour."

"A favour?"

"Yes…" The detective extracted one of his gangly hands from his jean pockets to point at a kiosk sitting a bit apart from the rest and away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. "I would think someone like Takamiya would appreciate seeing others take an initiative in complex ethical issues like the Kira case."

Kira's pretty eyes frowned.

"Or do you disapprove?"

It took exactly thirteen seconds before the killer replied and his face resumed its pleasant demeanour. "No, of course not."

"A club dedicated to the mass murderer Kira?" Teru's hackles immediately rose as he heard the defamation to God's name. He instantly turned away from the sophomore he had been talking to in order to give the impudent blasphemer a firm tongue lashing. The words stopped in his throat, however, as soon as he saw the one who had been addressing him. "I must commend your current action. It takes a lot of guts to pursue such a controversial endeavour."

"Takamiya-san," Teru breathed out in surprise. "I was quite – impressed by your speech yesterday. It is an honour to meet you in person. Are you perchance interested by Kira-sama's goal?" He worded his query carefully, despite his desire to jump right to the point. It would not do to be hasty if he wanted to recruit this brilliant speaker to his cause.

"Who in the world is not paying attention to this era's most notorious killer? I highly doubt you'd be able to encounter someone who does not know his name."

"Takamiya is incorrect," the haphazardly dressed man by the youth's side piped in. "Newborns and toddlers would not have heard of Kira."

Teru was stunned by the newest speaker's impertinence.

Yet, for some odd reason, Takamiya-san remained unfazed by the demonstration of disrespect. In fact, he actually chuckled at his 'companion's' unsolicited comment. But Teru did not let his irritation show. He had better manners than that unwashed ape and having Takamiya-san act so carefree was only to his advantage.

"Correct Ryuuga-kun." So that was his name. "It would be quite disturbing if Kira ever became a landmark in bedtime stories."

But it would show His might. It will be beneficial for children to have acceptable morals and a strong sense of justice instilled in them since young.

Must make a note of that idea.

"Knight L on a quest to save the world from the evil Kira, a monster who devours naughty children for breakfast." Ryuuga cocked his head to one side and behind his shaggy bangs, he blinked twice. "It has a strange ring to it."

The blood in Teru's veins boiled. "Or perhaps Prince Kira waging a war against the forces of evil that have gradually overwhelmed his kingdom, painstakingly purging it from spies and traitors like L."

"Kira trying to one-handedly take over the world, you mean." L added snidely.

"Or perhaps L somehow saving Kira from some evil dragon, after which they will all live happily ever after." Takamiya-san remarked in jest, rolling his eyes. "Either way, such oversimplifications of Kira would only lead to misunderstandings in the kid's mind. There is no such thing as 'Good' or 'Evil' – and in Kira's case in particular. We can only examine his intentions, his actions and judge him by them."

"Then Takamiya must believe Kira to be a hypocrite." The flat way Ryuuga pronounced that sentence hinted to something more – an inside joke perhaps?

Takamiya-san shrugged in response. A vague answer that said nothing.

He probably preferred to play it safe and support neither side of the argument to avoid offending his uninvited tagalong. Teru had no such compunctions.

"Better a righteous hypocrite than some cowardly fool. Despite his minute, negligible flaws, Kira-sama is the epitome of everything we should strive for. You cannot begin to imagine how much he must have sacrificed for his cause. He is only one man, but a god amongst men. If we are to rid this world of its filth, then we have no choice but to follow his example. Anything less –"

"A grand task, but an impossible one." Ryuuga rudely cut in. "Sempai-kun is rather pretentious, labelling a portion of his contemporaries as filth who deserve to die. But if they are filth, then Kira-sama's worshippers would be weeds, selfish and ambitious." Despite his offensive words, his tone remained nonchalant, as though he were merely commenting on the weather.

"And you'll be –"

"– getting nowhere with this discussion." Takamiya-san sighed, tiredly rubbing his temples. "If you want an appropriate analogy to Kira's situation, then you will find it within the human body. No matter how strong the antibiotic, bacteria will always find a way to evolve and strike against its host. They merely grow stronger and more resistant after each attempt to eradicate them. In the end, Kira's justice is futile."

"Not if the medicine is strong enough. Not if Kira-sama is the true cure." Teru firmly stated. His knowledge in biology barely touched the field's surface, but he was convinced of the truth in his declaration.

"Are you proposing Kira and yourself to be this 'cure'?"

"Yes," he pushed his glasses back up his nose, and behind them, his eyes shone with fervour. "There is no greater goal than the attainment of justice. Kira-sama has already done his part by discouraging criminals worldwide and by stripping us of the veil covering our eyes. He has shown us how deeply the corruption ran. Now, it is our turn. We do not only aspire to follow Kira-sama's lead. We aim to anchor these changes into the system itself by reshaping the foundations of our society. We are the brightest minds of our generation and this is the only path ahead of us, if we are to salvage anything from our rotting world.

"That is our purpose."

The way Takamiya-san's eyes blanked after his statement had Teru momentarily worried. They had quickly turned away from him, as though to gaze upon a sight that was beyond mere mortals. When the two seemed to have bonded only minutes ago, the freshman now felt distant, untouchable.

The law student became uncertain of where the younger student truly stood on the Kira issue. Perhaps the uncompromising, inflexible wording of their ambition had been too much. Perhaps he had scared the fledgling Kira-supporter away.

His fingers clenched into a fist. No. If Takamiya could not understand God's reasoning, then he was unworthy, despite his brilliance. It would be a shame but his club needed loyal followers dedicated to God.

When Takamiya-kun refocused his attention on him, there was a softness in his gaze that had Teru blink in confusion. "The path ahead of you will be a hard one. I might not fully support it but that does not mean I cannot help. When your ideas get out of hand and reality is no longer in sight, you will need someone to ground you back on Earth. I will be glad to offer my services in that regard." He brought his hand up. "As you know, I am Takamiya Raito."

Teru happily shook it. "Mikami Teru. Welcome onboard."

So he had been right all along. His worries were unfounded. Despite his show of neutrality, Takamiya-san did care about God's cause. He was simply unwilling to show it openly.

It did not matter. Before long, the freshman would shed the mistaken scruples that had been holding him back and embrace God's ideals. It was simply a matter of time.

Yet, despite his elation, his utter glee at the attainment of his goal, Teru did not miss the narrowing of Ryuuga's eyes at his companion's pronouncement, as they bore deeper into the brunet's back.

"If that is the case, then I will be the much needed opposition."

344 clubs and with his schedule as packed as it was, he would only have the time to join a handful.

344 clubs.

After closing the door behind him, Raito dropped his black messenger bag on the bed and bent down to retrieve the pile of flyers he had collected throughout the day. 344 clubs.

Pulling his chair out from under his desk, he turned on his computer and started absentmindedly flipping through the paper while waiting for it to load. His eyes were rapidly scanning through the brightly coloured sheets to remind himself of the association they each represented.

Careful consideration would be poured into every one of them.

These circles were the center of student life in Tokyo University and the ideal site for him to start building his web of connections. Only the most academically successful students were able to enter Toudai – only those with the brightest future ahead of them. It was no wonder a large number would become quite prominent in the future. If he could make allies out of them while they were still young and pliable (but most importantly, unsuspecting), then the Black Dragon would soon have a strong foothold in all the most important components of society. It was always useful to plan ahead.

However, with 344 clubs currently in existence, he would have to be very discerning. It was of course impossible to join all of them and with his life as busy as it currently was, he would have very little time to socialise. He thus had to make the most of the time he spent in the few chosen circles.

In order to complete his task, it became necessary for Raito to conduct a throughout check on the Internet on the clubs' history, their recent endeavours and most importantly, the members' background. He only required their public records, general knowledge, because it was that aspect of their life that Takamiya Raito would interact with.

Only later, when his choices have been narrowed down, would he start looking deeper.

It was a long and tedious process, but he would not skip out on it. Only one circle had managed to escape it however. Because of 'special circumstances', Mikami's Kira-oriented fellowship had been exempted from such a thorough perusal.

Then again, the yakuza's hasty decision had little to do with rationality, though the youth would never admit it out loud. He had acted entirely on gut instincts.

It had left Raito uneasy to see his so-called devotee do so much in his alter-ego's name. But he could not, would not contest his radical actions. It had been the man's choice. Kira might have inadvertently influenced his decision, but that did not mean he had the right to condemn the law student and his cohorts for it.

And although the youth had given up on humanity in general, he was glad others did not share his pessimism. And perhaps… through the actions of people like Mikami, some of it could be redeemed.

Raito shook his head. No. He was simply being wistful.

Still, despite his desire to remain distant from the senior, he had to keep an eye on the project he had unconsciously helped release. He had to make sure that the group stayed realistic and true to their path.

Power had a way of getting into people's head and with such lofty ambitions ahead of them, they might decide to sacrifice a couple of their morals for the 'Greater Good'. Raito would never allow such hypocrisy to take place - again. If they were to act, if they were to help society, then they had to think things through.

Similarly, Raito had to take responsibilities for his actions, for the group of revolutionaries that had been born from his crimes.

"Raito?" Ryuk whined, two feet behind him. Raito shot him an irritated look, annoyed by the interruption. He had expressly brought in a bowl of apples in the hope of keeping his invisible companion sufficiently occupied but it seemed that, with the abundance of sweet red orbs temptingly laying in front of him, the shinigami had been unable to refrain himself. He had probably gobbled up all the fruits in the short while it had taken the computer to load and the teenager's thoughts to wander off. "Weren't you going to check Interpol? I don't recognise your program here." He said, his gangly finger hovering dangerously close to the screen. The youth barely stopped himself from grabbing a napkin and wiping any possible fingerprints – did shinigami have any? – off.

"Of course you won't," Raito told him as he typed another name into Google's search bar. "I will be taking a break from my duties as Kira tonight. There is much research to be done before I join any club. You saw the number of offers I got today."

The god of death chortled. "They were like a pack of wild dogs around a particular tasty piece of meat."

The brunet cringed at the comparison. "Ye-es. And now I have to look into them individually."

"Couldn't you choose whichever one you like, like you've done with that Mikami fellow?"

"Mikami's is a special case."

Ryuk's wide smile exposed all his crooked teeth. "A special case, eh? Are you finally gonna take a greater interest in your followers? L's gonna love that."

"Still wishing for mayhem and bloodshed, Ryuk?" Raito exasperatedly quirked up his eyebrow as he twisted his chair around to better face his companion. "Wasn't today and yesterday's confrontations enough for you?"

"Maybe. But you're still not using the Death Note enough."

"Then I will have to disappoint. I am not planning to do much more on the Kira front. I simply joined in order to keep an eye out for potential risks for the yakuza. The zeal those fanatics show could be quite detrimental to lesser criminals. Kira might overlook them but I doubt this particular group will show such leniency."

"Hehe. But –"

The sudden knock on his door tore Raito's attention away from his companion. He was suddenly quite glad that his screen displayed nothing incriminating – for once.

"Come in."

As stiff and serious as usual, Kohashi entered his private sanctuary. "Your father requires your presence. He has a guest he would like you to meet."

Raito frowned at the request but turned on his screensaver all the same. Ryuk was making strange faces behind him.

The journey towards the living area was short and silent. It was useless to question Kohashi. His bodyguard had never been the talkative type. Professional, with a hint of resentment and distrust from the elder man's part. That was the nature of their relationship.

Still, when they reached their destination, he held the door opened for his charge. As Raito entered the ostentatious room – the only one decorated in the western style in the entire manor –, the first thing he noticed was the blond man casually sitting before the oyabun, taking slow sips out of his glass of wine.

His hair was elegantly brushed back to reveal pale blue eyes. He was dressed richly but not formally. His striped shirt was only buttoned halfway and he had pushed back his sunglasses so that they rested on top of his head. The way he lounged upon the loveseat similarly showed his relaxed state.

To feel so comfortable in the presence of a yakuza boss revealed much about his personality and life. This stranger was not one to be trifled with.

Keeping an eye on the guest, Raito took his seat at his adoptive father's side.

"Aiber-san, this is my son Raito."

"Ah… the one you've been talking about."

"Yes," was the oyabun's curt response, "Raito, Aiber-san is a good friend of some former acquaintances of mine. He came here on their behalf in order to find out more about the Kira issue."

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance," the mobster said, "I have heard many great things about you – about how you have dealt with the organisation's most recent threats, to say the least. I must say I am most impressed."

"Thank you." Raito answered, unconvinced of his sincerity. There was something in the other mobster's eyes, perhaps the way they followed and scrutinized him so intently. He did not like it. "But my part in the entire affair was rather minimal."

"Modesty does not make you." Aiber said, tilting his wine towards his listener and giving him a wink.

The eighteen-year-old feigned nonchalance though inside, he was slowly filling with distrust. This man was an artist of the highest sort, an actor. It did not bode well for Raito that he would covertly take so much interest in him.

Cocking his head to one side, he pretended to carefully examine the guest. "Are you French by any chance?"

Aiber blinked a few times, unable to hide his shock. Then, seeing no reason to deny his origin, he chuckled. "What clued you in? Was it my dashing looks and charming demeanour?"

Raito immediately tensed. The nerve of that stranger –

As though he would ever –

But he needed to respond before Takamiya-sama grew suspicious or Aiber noticed his unease. "French are known to be the best lovers." Feeling his adoptive father's weight at his side, he made sure to word his next statement carefully before their guest's one-sided flirting caused irreparable damage. "But now that I have met you, it seems your countrymen's reputation has been vastly exaggerated. Your gaijin parlour tricks would not work on us Japanese. We have more pride than that. However, I would be happy to introduce you to a few of the Black Dragon's establishments should you wish to relearn the tricks of the trade. What do you think father? Do you think Aiber-san will be up for it?"

Takamiya-sama gave him a fond smile while opposite to them, Aiber let out a full-blown laughter. Even Ryuk, who was not all that partial to subtleties, appeared amused by Raito's sly insult.

"Sharp tongue, sharp wit, you have raised your son well." The man's eyes had lost a great deal of its disturbing intensity.

"Yes, and I think he is right. After coming so far, I am sure you would enjoy seeing the sights. As long as you respect my rules, you would always be welcome here." The oyabun languidly rose from his seat. "Raito, why don't you accompany him? I do not doubt he has many questions on the most recent developments in our territory." He gave eighteen-year-old an affectionate pat on the shoulder and then, with one hand clutching tightly onto it, he leaned down to whisper in his adoptive son's ear. "I look forward to your formal report tonight."

He squeezed it once before leaving the two alone with Kohashi.

Raito felt the tension drain away from him after the reconfirmation and reaffirmation of the trust his adoptive father held for him. Now, all he needed to do was find out what Aiber truly wanted. That was not to mention the amount of research he had left unfinished in his room.

The yakuza sighed.

He was in for a long evening.

Aiber had to admit that he was impressed.

He had only been to Japan a few times and during each trip, he had of course visited its notorious red light district. He had witnessed first hand the abrupt metamorphosis those seemingly overworked, stuffy Japanese businessmen go through as they let their inhibitions go. Under Kabukicho's neon lights, their most disturbing and perverse fantasies were turned into reality.

From the most sophisticated clubs to the lowliest soaplands, Aiber had seen it all.

But for the first time, it seemed as though he had stepped into a dream world.

The hostess club Raito had founded was unlike anything he had seen before. Though its location held something to be desired, it far surpassed the most exclusive clubs set in Akasaka and Ginza – while still retaining its most important characteristics. The Mama who managed it was an elegant older woman, beautiful in the traditional Japanese sense. Her eight girls, all under the age of twenty-three, were witty, charming and most importantly, worldly.

Whichever way Aiber decided to run the conversation, they were able to follow and provide insightful new perspectives. That their comments were filled with subtle flirtation and sexual innuendo only increased their appeal.

But that, the sophistication and the quality of its employees was to be expected in such a highly esteemed club. No, it was the essence, the nature of the club itself that left its guests baffled.

The interior had entirely been modeled after a single theme: the aquatic world. The room had been set in cool shades of blue and sea green; the decorations, walls and furniture all followed the same scheme. For the most part, tiles of those shades ran a vast, but curved outline on their surface, before giving way to glass. It was all designed to not only reflect the realm underwater, but to convey a sense of calm to its clients. Businessmen came to hostess clubs to relax and this particular building's décor had cleverly been devised to fulfill this need.

Most impressive however were the aquariums. Slightly above the booths were long tanks of water where colourful fish swam. They were each connected to the large columns interspaced across the room that in turn led to either the floor or the ceiling. Thus, there were fish swimming above them and beneath them – even around them. The scenery was always changing and it was always amusing to try and follow a single clownfish make its progress through the room.

It was especially amusing, however, to see these little sea creature take a peck at the bottle of champagne that had been placed above them, on the marble and glass table.

In such a cool exotic environment, one could not help but feel at peace.

In addition, the hostesses' clothes further reinforced and embellished the club's theme. They did not pretend to be mermaids. No, nothing as crude as that.

Instead, the hostesses wore extremely thin but flowing garments that hinted to so much, but revealed very little. It only further enticed their clients, intrigued them.

All this was accompanied at times by the soothing tones of the soprano and a few live musicians. The grand piano at the center of the room was left untouched at the moment, but if ever a drunken client felt the need to express himself, his wish would easily be fulfilled.

This was a club reserved for the elite; only the elite were able to afford such an expensive pastime. This fantasy-come-true, this visit into another realm was far beyond the means of mere mortals and Aiber felt quite privileged to have visited it for free.

Still, despite the place's grandeur, it was all an illusion. The conman had easily noticed the numerous surveillance cameras hidden around the place. Though the guests had been warned of them – they were apparently needed to keep a close watch on the state of the tanks and to make sure security would be able to get there in time if a drunk client got too rowdy –, Aiber knew that most of these men would have forgotten them after only a few drinks and minutes in underwater paradise.

These prominent businessmen, politicians would unthinkingly loosen their tongue, enticed by the cunning flirtation of the hostesses. It was an excellent way to collect information and Aiber had to tip his hat to Raito for his ingeniousness.

And it was this particular brand of shrewdness he had to watch out for in his undercover mission for L. For this was Kira he was apparently dealing with and he could be killed at any moment. He could not let his admiration for the boy blind him to his deadliness. He could not allow himself to relax in his presence, despite his inclination to do so.

This was not a game.

He was currently dancing with one just as treacherous – if not more so than he. He would have to thread softly if he was to survive this particular confrontation.

Apparently, Aiber was here on behalf of the Corsican godfathers. He wanted to find out what the yakuza was doing about the Kira situation, since they and the American mafia had been the most affected.

"Kira ne s'est pas encore intéressé à l'Unione Corse. Ceci est probablement dû à l'absence de reportage sur le milieu, mais il va éventuellement découvrir notre existence. Nous devons nous préparer pour cette possibilité." (Kira has yet to interest itself with the Unione Corse. This is probably due to the lack of reports on the milieu but sooner or later, he will catch up to us. We will have to prepare for that eventuality.)

Their conversation, mostly in French in order to avoid being overheard, had discussed the yakuza's own steps to avoid arousing the vigilante's interest. It had been simple, filled with empty platitudes. After all, the Black Dragon had merely decided to become a bit more subtle in its operations. It had not done anything spectacular in regards to Kira. Hence, their business has remained basically the same (though the war threatening to break out at the end of December had almost destroyed that).

There was no need for Aiber to come all this way to collect so little – and obvious – information. The Corsican godfathers themselves, or their subordinates, could have called. That he arrived so late after Kira's initial appearance was also suspicious.

"By the way," Aiber said in Japanese, with one arm draped around Aiko, "you never did tell me how you guessed my nationality."

Their conversation had long passed into such banalities.

"Your almost unnoticeable accent for one, the wine and of course, father's mention of his old acquaintances. The only one he more or less cut contact with is the milieu. Your reaction simply confirmed it."

The hostess giggled at Aiber's side and her slim finger poked his nose. "You've been had, Aiber-san." And with that, the Frenchman returned his attention towards the two ladies cocooned around him.

Thus, Raito was once again left blessedly alone with his untouched glass of champagne. Ryuk, who had always loved this establishment, was eagerly following the fish around (and scaring some too). For some odd reason, animals were actually able to notice the shinigami's presence. Whenever the monster approached his yellow eyes too much to the glass, the little creatures would scurry away, with Ryuk somehow crawling behind them. It was when the death god climbed onto a particular archway that he noticed it.

"C'mon! You know you'd love it! All my previous girlfriends said I was their best lover and a pretty thing like you deserves a rich powerful man like me!"

In the opposite booth, a businessman had thrown caution and propriety to the wind. He had started harassing one of his girls. She was squirming against him and though she has yet to start protesting out loud, her discomfort was clearly seen. Mayu was new. That this type of behaviour from the clientele was not permitted had yet to sink in. She did not know the lengths its owner had gone through to protect them in this dangerous trade.

A dark scowl made its way to Raito's normally impassive face as he got up from his seat and stormed past the grand piano.

"Higuchi-san, please stop! I –" The panicked cry escaped her lips as the bastard further pressed against her slim form, one hand unmercifully squeezing her breast while his teeth ravaged her neck. His other set of fingers was already up her skirt.

The expression on the yakuza's face further darkened. It was time to take out the trash.

April 6th 2004


Today, 11:13 PM - ANTI-KIRA: KIRIN-kun is such a scheming, manipulative bastard. I wonder what would happen if the truth came out?

Flattery will not save you this time.

A/N: I am once again very sorry for the longer wait. RL's been hell. Who would have thought summer would be busier than the school year? Anyway, a relative's wedding is coming up and right afterwards, I'm leaving on a two weeks trip. I'll try to get an update before then but with the rate my writing has been going at, I doubt I'll have it done by next weekend.


Much snarkiness in this chapter and amusing play between the characters. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it (though L's been a bastard about his scenes).

So, if you want the complete translations for the French passages in the first part, check my lj. As already mentioned, I have paraphrased what was said in the following paragraphs so that isn't exactly necessary (and just plain repetitive).

And again, a HUGE thank you to Recipe for Insanity who actually took time off from her vacation to beta this. I'm just so spoiled. looks guilty

And now, I shall shut up (but comments and reviews of any kind are very welcome!).

Edited 23/06/08 (Recipe for Insanity)