The Chess Match

10

-L/L-

He had almost forgotten how intriguing Lelouch was just to talk to. The way the other boy bristled, but didn't back down from Light's accusations. The way he clearly defended himself. And of course, the way he talked about Kira as someone who made conscious decisions and understood that his purpose was to ride the world of criminals rather than to kill Britannian royals. Lelouch actually understood that it was because the Britannians were often criminals who simply got away with their crimes. Lelouch was so full of interesting bits and pieces, stuck together like an ever-changing mosaic of emotions, intelligence, fragility, and strength.

And it looked like it could be the beginning of a very interesting partnership. Lelouch was unbelievably perfect for what Light wanted from this school and its inhabitants. Not only did Lelouch most likely know the true names of the nobility, but he also hated them. The trick—and it would be quite a trick due to Lelouch's keen intelligence—would be to get the names he wanted from Lelouch without Lelouch knowing that he was Kira.

Of course, there was always the possibility of simply telling Lelouch he was Kira. He knew Lelouch's full name from the article. He obviously knew those black locks, purple eyes, and pale face. It might just be easier to lure Lelouch in with the promise of destroying his hated Britannia, and never let him escape. If Lelouch wanted to reveal Light was Kira, Light would simply kill him. It would be extremely easy for Lelouch to be hit by a stray bullet in Area 11, and no one would ever know Kira was behind it.

"Light? Are you ready?" Kallen's voice interrupted his thoughts. He had arrived at their meeting place—the front doors of a warehouse and only a couple blocks away from the Shinjuku Ghetto. There was no one else around.

He smiled at her and gave her a quick hug and kiss. "I suppose I'll be as ready as I'll ever be." He tried to look a bit nervous at the expedition.

Kallen gave him an apologetic smile and held up a black piece of cloth. "Sorry, Light. It's protocol."

Light looked at the blindfold and shrugged. "I guess that could be expected." He lowered his head slightly so Kallen could tie is snugly around his head.

"Is that okay? It's not too tight, is it?"

"It's fine." He was surprised that she was either smart or experienced enough to cover from his nose to his eyebrows so that no light could sneak in if he wiggled his eyebrows or nose. It was also very, very opaque.

"Alright, so we're going somewhere, but obviously, you won't know where it is," Kallen began. While her speech was casual, her tone was stern. "When you get there, someone will explain who we are and stuff, and then you can either agree to join or not. Either way, by going there, you are agreeing to not reveal anything you learn. From this point on, Light,—and I'm really serious—if you tell anyone anything about this who is not a member, then you can be killed for it. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Light nodded. It was relatively clear and straightforward, but also gave him the impression that Kallen may be in over her head. She was only a high school student… and well, to be fair, so was he, but he was confident he could handle himself in any situation, and Kallen seemed too pretty to wind up in a gang. He suddenly got an image of her with a bokken and a long skirt. Maybe a small motorcycle.

"Okay then." He heard Kallen suck in a deep breath and pick up his hand. "Follow me."

Light heard the warehouse door open and a car engine start up. The warm sun left his black school jacket and the sidewalk concrete turned smoother. It was obvious they had entered the warehouse and were going to a different location by car.

"He's a Britannian student?" a male voice called incredulously. Light felt Kallen's hand tighten around his.

"He's Japanese!" came her fierce reply. It left no room for argument.

They walked towards the low rumbling vehicle, and Kallen helped guide him into the back seat. She got in next to him and fastened his seatbelt. Light couldn't help but feel the action was slightly ridiculous.

The car began to move and while Light tried to keep track of turns, distances, and road surfaces, the task was impossible without being able to judge the car speed accurately. It also felt like they kept taking right turns, which gave Light the suspicion they were purposely driving in circles to confuse him.

It seemed like a good half hour later when the car came to a stop and the engine turned off. The entire ride had been perfectly silent of conversation and Light was guided back out of the car by his girlfriend. Wherever they were, it was either inside or shady.

Several pairs of footsteps and Kallen's hand ushered him towards his left and single-filed through what Light assumed was a door. His assumption turned out to be correct as he heard it close behind him. They continued until they reached another opening door to his right.

"You're on your own from here, Light." Kallen said quietly, then whispered into his ear, "Good luck."

In a single swipe, she removed the blindfold and then gently pushed on the small of his back to urge him forward into the room. Light blinked rapidly, adjusting to the fluorescent lighting and the man at the table in front of him. The door closed behind him.

"Alright, have a seat," the man said, gesturing to a folding chair between them. He then returned his hands to a folded position behind his head, leaning back slightly and surveying Light's school uniform.

Light took the seat and scrutinized the man. He was in his mid-twenties, medium build, with short dark brown hair and a headband. Even though he was sitting, Light judged him to be about 170 centimeters tall. His uniform, although unbuttoned and slightly wrinkled, undoubtedly marked him as a member of the Black Knights.

The Black Knights. Light blinked. He was going to be a member of the Black Knights, the most wanted terrorist group in the world. And led by the masked freedom fighter, Zero, the very man L believed was Kira. This was… much bigger than he had anticipated from Kallen. Extraordinarily bigger. It seemed like lately, everything was turning out better than his expectations. The weight of the situation gave Light pause for a moment before he recovered.

He smiled politely at the man. "Thank you."

"So, you're obviously a Britannian student," the man stated bluntly. His tone made it clear he didn't think highly of this fact.

"And you're obviously a member of the Black Knights. I'm honored," Light responded, bowing his head slightly.

This seemed to please the man, because he failed his attempt to hide it. Light got the impression he was trying his best to act tough and unconcerned, but didn't know how terrible he was at acting.

"So, why would you wanna join us? You're obviously doing better than most of us in the current society. You're a student, and if you go to Kallen's school, it must mean you're pretty bright." The man looked down at his fingernails as if he wasn't really interested in Light's response. It was almost like the man was the caricature of a stereotype he'd seen on television. Light pretended he didn't notice and acted properly intimidated.

Light made himself out to be a somewhat angry teen—resentful of his father's loss of pride and rebellious towards the corrupt government. "I only got into that school because of my dad. He's an honorary Britannian and made the rest of my family ones by default. It's because I'm bright that I want to join you. I'd rather be Japanese than Britannian." Unlike the man sitting before him, Light was a brilliant actor and knew it.

"Well… we can't be letting in just anyone who wants to join, you know. And even if you do get in, chances are you won't be doing any real fighting. You're just a student, and you've got no experience," the man drawled.

Light saw right through him—it seemed as if the Black Knights really would recruit almost anyone, but there was still only one option to act out. "But I'm a quick learner, and a good athlete! Since I go to Britannian school, I could… could get tip-offs from other students who hear things from their parents or something!"

This seemed to interest the man like it was a perk he hadn't thought of. Light guessed he hadn't. "Well, I suppose that's true, but how do we know the opposite won't be true? You could give out our information to the Britannians."

Light swallowed a snort, and molded his face into wide-eyed shock. "I'd never do that! They're the ones who did this to Japan!"

Even he did blame Britannia for ruining Japan, what he really wanted to point out was that the Black Knights had already threatened to kill him if he talked. But sometimes the truth didn't serve as much good as partialities. Or lies.

"Hmmm. What's your name, kid?"

"Yagami Light," he replied, and then added as an afterthought, "Sir." A little stroking of this man's ego seemed like it would go a ridiculously long way.

"You've got ID of some kind?"

"Is a student card okay? I've also got my old ID from before the invasion…." Light got out his wallet, glad he had saved the invalid piece of documentation. He held out both.

The man looked them over, and then handed them back across the table. "You seem to be alright and you've got Kallen's recommendation which is pretty valuable, so… we'll see how you do for now. If you really want in, say so now. If not, you can go free. It's now or never, Yagami."

"I want in." Light's voice was firm. There were too many possibilities here for him to say no and give them up. He avoided delving into all of them at the moment. That could wait.

"Alright, that's final then," he said, standing up. "I'm Tamaki Shinichirou, head of recruiting. Welcome to the Order of the Black Knights."

He held out his hand and Light stood to shake it firmly. "Thank you, sir."

They both returned to their seats. It had all been so easy. Light hadn't really anticipated any difficulties in the first place, but it had been far simpler than he had expected. And now, he was Yagami Light, a Black Knight. It was so sudden.

"Here's some paperwork for you to fill out so we know where your best fit might be," Tamaki said, sliding a single sheet towards him with a pen on top. "We need stats on everyone to put into the computer."

Light looked it over. Name, height, weight, birthplace, ethnicity, education… it was all fairly simple. He began filling it in truthfully. Not much of a reason not to. The truth, in this case, would probably bring him to the higher ranks much faster.

Tamaki continued talking while Light finished up the form. "Kallen timed things right; there's a new recruit dinner this evening that you should attend in about an hour. It's at this base, so I recommend you get a uniform first and then just get to know the place. It's only one of our many bases, of course, but layouts usually tend to follow the same pattern."

Light nodded, and passed the information sheet back to Tamaki. "So where do I get a uniform?"

"Don't get too ahead of yourself, kid," Tamaki said, and Light wanted to know how someone so incompetent wound up as head of recruitment. He had not been getting ahead of himself if Tamaki had just told him to first get a uniform. "I'll take you there myself. You wouldn't get far down these halls dressed as a civilian."

"It makes sense that security would be pretty tight," Light offered in response.

"You said it," Tamaki agreed, heading around the table and to the door. "Zero sure knows how to keep things locked up tight, but since I'm one of his best friends, anyone seen with me can go anywhere on base."

Light highly doubted that the mastermind called Zero would choose Tamaki as a best friend, but kept the opinion to himself. He made an appropriately awed face, as he followed Tamaki to the door.

Tamaki opened it, and had gotten one foot into the hallway when Kallen pounced, grabbing Light's wrist and pulling him past Tamaki. Light only barely managed to avoid hitting the recruitment head as he was jerked out into the hallway. Was she crazy?

"How'd it go?" Kallen's blue eyes were focused only on Light, completely ignoring Tamaki. Could she get away with…?

"Er, just fine, I think. I'm in, at least" Light responded. It was a little jolting to be whisked out of the room and asked while still in the presence of his examiner. In his peripheral vision, Tamaki seemed upset at Kallen for stealing away Light's attention, but made no motion to intervene. Kallen must have some kind of rank or superiority over the man—Tamaki didn't seem like the type to let an equal ignore him. Hell, he didn't even seem like he'd let a superior in a casual situation do that. So why Kallen?

She was talking. "And you're sure about it? I mean, we do lots of dangerous things, and—"

"Kallen, I already made up my mind, okay?" Light interrupted her gently. "I need to go get my uniform."

"Oh. Right, I'll go with you." She didn't give Tamaki a second glance and began dragging Light down the corridor.

It occurred to Light that Kallen probably held a much higher rank than Tamaki Shinichirou. While this seemed to be the case considering her attitude, Light had no idea why. Although Light definitely preferred Kallen's intelligence and manner to Tamaki's, it was strange that a younger female held a higher rank. She also devoted at least half her time to being at school.

"Kallen…" Light began, and she slowed to look at him, releasing his hand so they could walk side by side. He glanced back at Tamaki who was shuffling with his hands in his pockets the other way down the hallway."…What exactly is your rank?"

The redhead looked into Light's eyes directly and gave him a self-satisfied smirk that looked nothing like the Kallen he had first asked on a date so long ago. "I'm Zero's ace."

It was neither the answer nor reaction Light expected. But he could work with that. Oh, definitely, he could work with that. It was truly some kind of gift the way opportunities fell into his lap effortlessly. "You- you are? So… you actually get to see and talk to Zero himself?"

Kallen nodded, her bright hair swaying. "He's incredible, really, Light. There's never been a leader like him, I'm sure of it."

Light wasn't really sure what to make of her statement other than wonder whether he, as her boyfriend, was supposed to be jealous or not. A Black Knight walked past them, giving their school uniforms a strange look before obviously recognizing Kallen and giving her a smile. He wondered how big the organization really was. "Do you think I'll get to meet him?"

Kallen looked Light up and down carefully, as if sizing up his Black Knight capabilities. She was being even more forward with him then she had lately been since revealing her heritage. "Hmmmm, well, you'll probably have to do a lot more here than waltz on in as arrogant as I know you are. Work your way up the ladder and all… I've been doing this since before even Zero got here, so you've got a long way to go, buddy."

Light chuckled and held up his hands. "Alright, you got me. I get it, I won't be able to see our marvelous miracle-maker until I prove my mettle." He gave a sigh, before casting her a teasing smirk. "But I bet I'm still the type to look good in a uniform regardless of what I'm doing."

Kallen flushed a light pink and rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say, playboy. Let's see you suit up then 'cuz we're here."

She opened a door appropriately marked "UNIFORMS" in kanji. Rows upon rows of dark grey and black jackets greeted them, separated by a red sign with and arrow pointing out the section for "WOMEN" and a blue one for "MEN."

"I'll let you find your own sizes and stuff, and then just wait for me here," Kallen instructed. "I'm going to go to my locker and change. Oh, there are locker rooms in the back, so just go in and change in there. Nobody steals stuff from here, so just remember whatever your locker number is for later, okay?"

"No problem," Light said, smiling at her. "See you soon."

She practically dashed off and Light shook his head at her enthusiasm—it was so different from her school persona. He turned towards the men's section and located a long-sleeved jacket and grey pants in his sizes before heading into the locker room. There were several pairs of boots and shoes, and even though his school shoes looked basically the same, Light grabbed a pair so there would be no connections between his school life and his terrorist one. There was no such thing as being too careful.

Pretending to look around the room just to be interested, he made a quick check for cameras. He couldn't decide whether it was more likely or unlikely for some to be posted in the locker room that, contrary to definition, wasn't locked. He didn't see anything obvious or fairly subtle, so changed as quickly as possible and poked into a couple of lockers. Most of them were empty, but a couple held some rather worn plain clothes. They were obviously older—from before the invasion—pointing to the clientele being from the Ghettoes.

He returned to main room and found Kallen waiting for him. Her transformation was impressive, and Light had to admit, more appealing than her school attire. Her hair was flipped up and adorned with the same kind of headband Tamaki had been wearing. Light gave it a gentle tap.

"Is this part of the uniform as well?" he asked giving her a smile.

Kallen's eyes grew larger for a moment before she looked down. "Kinda. But just for a few of us." She continued before Light could ask it's meaning and whether he should find one as well. "My brother used to run a small resistance group, and well, the people you see wearing these were all part of his group. He… died, though… and so we all wear this to remember him, even though we're part of Zero's group now."

"I'm sorry, I had no idea," Light said smoothly, a little shocked. Kallen had so much depth! It was amazing, and he gave her a hug to hide his face from her. He didn't want her to believe he thought the fact that her brother was dead was incredible—because he didn't—but Kallen was always unfolding to reveal more and more layers. She was strangely fascinating and each layer she revealed to Light, the more he was able to put together a better picture of her. She was probably the smartest woman he had ever met, and didn't know how many layers she still had left until he would know her completely.

He realized with a mental jolt that maybe, just maybe, he had underestimated Kallen Stadtfeld.

"It's okay, really." She shrugged off his hug and began moving towards the door. "You should really start exploring the place, now that you're a member and all."

Light smiled. He really was a member of the Black Knights now, whatever that really meant. It was almost frightening how easy it was to infiltrate the most wanted terrorist group and he no longer had to wonder about how L had found twenty of them so easily. They were geniuses of a similar caliber, after all.

Light followed Kallen to the door, her walk bouncy enough to clearly show her excitement at showing it off to Light. They talked easily as she led and he memorized the series of mazelike corridors and rooms. Kallen only received a few catcalls from other members—mostly men slightly older than her—at being seen walking around with her boyfriend. Light found the situation funny, which only made Kallen more embarrassed.

Kallen was still bright red when a much taller man approached them. Light was almost shocked to see that although he wore a Black Knight uniform, he was unmistakably Britannian. With a single lock of hair perpetually escaping from a pony tail, and vigorous bright blue eyes, there was no mistaking it. And unlike Kallen's soft face that had Japanese angles and roundness, if not color, this man's was rigid and angular. Very Britannian.

"Miss Kozuki, may I have a word?" he asked, his manner brusque and slightly awkward. Light kept his expression neutral.

Kallen looked torn for a moment between staying with Light and finding out what the man had to say. Then she turned to Light. "Um. I'll text you or something when this is over. You can keep looking around."

Light fixed a smile on his face, even though he was trying to comprehend whether his girlfriend had just blown him off. "It's fine, Kallen. I have to go to the new recruits dinner soon anyway."

She flashed him a huge grin—Light was forced to admit his girlfriend was stunningly gorgeous—and then turned back to the Britannian Black Knight, her manner becoming serious. "Were you just at Zero's meeting?"

Light turned and looked around, as if he weren't paying close attention to their conversation and instead trying to decide where to wander off to. So this man held a higher rank than Kallen? Or was Kallen just in trouble for missing the meeting?

"Yes, and there is something for you to do," he began and then Light heard them beginning to walk in the opposite direction down the hallway. "You see," the man said confidentially, his voice growing fainter, so that it was difficult for Light to be sure of all the words, "Miss Kozuki, you… …the perfect… …for… …thing Zero needs…."

The rest was lost in a low murmur and then silence as they turned a corner. Light sighed and figured he could at least ask Kallen later and see if it were anything important. For now, he had the run of the Order of the Black Knights base.

Thoughts danced around in his head as he walked. What if he were able to discover Zero's identity? There would be so much room to play with blackmail if he did. Even if he didn't, how could he get Zero to help Kira? For surely, Zero could get information that Light didn't have yet. He would have to make himself extremely useful to the Black Knights… it was a good thing that Kallen had been the one to invite him in. Her apparent superiority gave him a leg up on other new members. And probably older ones, he inwardly laughed, thinking of Tamaki.

Admittedly, being a Black Knight might be dangerous for a couple reasons. One, for the obvious reasons of being in a militant group in a war zone. The other was L. The detective was already looking closely into the Black Knights as if Kira were Zero…

…Which was really the perfect cover, Light suddenly realized. Now that Light was a member of the Black Knights, he could use the Death Note on criminals who may also be in Zero's way. It would seem obvious that L were right in his assumption of Kira and Zero being the same, and yet… L was obviously smart enough to guess that Kira might be simply leading him on. The beauty was that even if he did, he would still be required to follow that lead. As a detective, he could do no less. And if Light found truly despicable people within the Black Knights, it would look like Kira-as-Zero was hiding his identity by secretly killing off some of his members to throw L off his trail. No matter what he did, L wouldn't be able to figure out whether Kira was Zero or not just by basing it off of who died. They were both too smart for that.

He entered a small cafeteria where the dinner would be held, his mind still wandering with opportunities, and decided to find a table. There were already a few people milling around, looking awkward like they didn't quite belong yet. Upon second glance, Light decided it might look strange if he didn't get something to eat or drink first….

Light had just opened his bag of chips when a figure appeared at his left shoulder with a quiet male voice.

"Is it alright if I sit here?"

Light swiveled his head and found two terrifyingly large and black eyes staring into his.

It was only through sheer force of will (and probably training with Ryuk) that allowed him to keep his composure. "Ah, sure. Have a seat."

To Light's utter fascination, the man shuffled to the seat across from him—he wasn't wearing shoes!—and climbed into it like an awkward monkey. A ruffled mop of black hair hung in disarray around his face, casting deep shadows onto his pale face. His uniform was loose and Light got the impression the man sitting—or rather, squatting—opposite from him was anorexically thin. He held a styrofoam cup filled with dark, steaming liquid and began removing packets of sugar from his pockets to place them on the table.

"…Hi," Light decided to begin casually since the stranger didn't seem to be making any effort at conversation. The mound of sugar packets was already in the double digits. "My name is Light, and I just join—"

"How interesting that you give out your name so easily," the man interrupted, his spindly fingers now picking up sugar packets one by one and tearing them open with practiced ease. He didn't look at Light.

There was a pause as Light tried to decide how to continue. He ate a chip to buy time and watched another member file into the cafeteria looking lost. He turned his gaze back to the man across from him. "How interesting," he started carefully, "that you still have not."

The man looked up, his black eyes peeping through dark hair. Even though there were bags under his eyes, he looked startlingly alert. With that amount of sugar, it wasn't terribly surprising, Light thought dryly. The man was still draining white crystals into his drink.

"Yes. Well, it's nice to meet you, Light who just joined." There was a moment's pause before the dark haired man continued. "Is that better?"

"Um," Light said, making it a judgment. Was this guy an idiot or just trying to make enemies? "I suppose. But I guess I wanted to know something I can call you as well."

"Oh. Rue Ryuuzaki." He took a stirring stick out of his pocket and began to stir his coffee. If there was one thing that was sure, Rue Ryuuzaki was terrible at making conversation.

"It's nice to meet you, Ryuuzaki-san," Light replied politely. His new acquaintance thoughtfully sipped coffee. It seemed to be to his liking as the man made a low contented noise in his throat. "Are you here for the new recruit dinner?"

"Something of that nature."

Light paused. What did that even mean?

"I decided to join just after L and Cornelia kidnapped me," he continued, unperturbed. "So I've been here a few times before."

Light's eyes widened. This man… had a connection to his rival, however small. "You were part of the 20 members? I saw that on the news…. So L just found random people off the street? Who weren't even Black Knights? I wasn't sure if that were true or not."

"Yes. It's so nice of Zero to save people falsely accused." The way Ryuuzaki delivered his lines in a monotone, Light couldn't be sure if he were being sarcastic or genuine. It left Light feeling off-balance. He was beginning to wish Kallen would text him soon so he had a polite excuse to leave. Awkwardness seemed to cling to Ryuuzaki like a spray-on tan… that maybe the man needed. He couldn't be fully Japanese and that pale… no one was that pale. Light smiled and made a sound of agreement, not really sure what else to do.

Silence descended on the table, stagnant and suffocating. What was he supposed to do?

"Tell me," Ryuuzaki began suddenly, his uncanny eyes piercing, "why did you join?"

Light blinked, his nerves oddly on edge. "To fight against Britannia. Isn't that why everyone's here?"

"I hope so," he said cryptically and looked down dolefully into his coffee.

"Why are you here?" Light asked. It was the only reasonable response.

"Zero saved me. And I loved Japan," Ryuuzaki said and it seemed like the most normal thing he had said so far. His voice had even softened and lowered as he spoke, no longer in Ryuuzaki's usual unsettling monotone.

Light sighed. He had loved Japan too, and he swallowed, feeling partially responsible for Japan's downfall. While Britannia probably would have invaded no matter what, they had used Kira as their excuse. His own father had endorsed the recruitment of Brittania officers into the Kira Investigation Squad.

"So did I. I mean, I still do, but…" Light trailed off, oddly unsure of how to continue with words so close to his heart. It was so rare that he ever spoke openly about the things he truly cared about. It made him feel unnaturally vulnerable.

Ryuuzaki looked at him, his large black eyes holding a subtle softness, like they could fade into a rich, gentle brown at any moment. Something that looked more like human empathy. "But it's not the same," he finished for Light.

Light looked away. "Of course not." He sighed. "But that's why we're here, right? To change it."

Ryuuzaki never stopped watching him. "Things don't ever return to how they were, Light-kun . You should know that."

"Well, we can at least make them better," he replied, only a little defensively. Who was this Ryuuzaki to patronize him? He was Yagami Light, and practically a god. "I can make things better."

Ryuuzaki smiled, and the image sent a small shiver up Light's spine. "I hope to catch you in the act, then."

Alarm bells went off in Light's mind. This conversation… was not was it seemed like on the surface. Ryuuzaki was… not what he seemed like on the surface. Underneath his shaggy hair, palely stretched skin, and sunken eyes was an unconventional, yet intelligent mind. Instinct led Light to proceed as if he was not making this connection, however he couldn't help a slight jab to his sense of reality.

"And I hope to catch you in yours," he answered firmly. He softened his speech with a friendly smile. "We're in this together after all."

"I suppose we are," Ryuuzaki mused thoughtfully.

Light ate some more chips while pretending to be comfortable in the silence. Thankfully, it was short as his phone buzzed from his pocket. He pulled it out, relieved as he saw his redheaded girlfriend's name on the screen. He flipped open his phone and read her short text. Was he done? Could he meet her near the entrance?

He stood up and smiled as if helplessly to Ryuuzaki. "Looks like I've gotta go already. But it was nice to meet you."

Ryuuzaki only nodded once, and sipped his sugary coffee. It was all Light needed to turn on his heel and leave the cafeteria.

-L/L-

Since Kallen had only met with him to say that she needed to make preparations for a mission and wouldn't be free for a while, Light had decided to make his own way home. He had returned to his school uniform and left the base discreetly, heading slowly back towards Ashford Academy.

He was nearby, in the high-end Britannian sector when a familiar girl rose from a bench and stood in his way. Her long green hair was hidden mostly under a hat, but there was no doubt that she was Lelouch's… friend who Light had met in Lelouch's room a few weeks before. She had given him the ridiculously false name of C.C..

She had clearly been waiting for him.

"I'll be blunt with you, boy," she began as soon as Light stopped before her. Her large yellow eyes shifted to a point over his left shoulder. "It's not you I wanted to talk to."

Light's stomach dropped. There was a sense of utter certainty in him that he knew who she was talking about, but that was impossible. There was no way this C.C. girl could see a Death God, not the big black thing hovering over his left shoulder. Light had been too careful—he had only met her once, and that meeting had had nothing to do with the Death Note. Had she been following him? His mind whirled. But no, even if she had, there was no possible way for her to find out, unless Ryuk had done something purposefully. But that was even more unlikely because Ryuk was usually with Light and despite Ryuk being non-human, Light felt he could trust the Death God to at least tell the truth—that he was neither helping nor hindering Light.

So who was she talking about? If she had followed him, then she might know he was a Black Knight. What if she was just looking for Zero? Or anyone at Ashford? What if she was looking for Lelouch?

With these more normal justifications in mind, Light relaxed slightly. There was no need to worry so much—he was simply paranoid after dodging his way back from the Black Knights' hideout. "Who is it that you wanted to talk to, then?"

"What are you?" she asked, clearly not aiming the question at Light. All his calming thoughts fled like sheep from a wolf.

Ryuk laughed, and drifted closer to the girl. "I might ask the same of you. I've never seen someone like you before—not even from my realm. You're very interesting."

"Why thank you," she answered prettily, tossing a lock of green hair over her shoulder. "I'm a witch."

Light couldn't believe the exchange going on in front of him. It was a level of surreal that even he hadn't witnessed before. This couldn't be happening—not to Light. Who was she?

Ryuk twisted to the side, his head staying on the same level as it had been. "A witch? Doesn't that mean you're a human who uses magic?"

C.C. smiled. "Something like that, yes. And you? Certainly you are the first of your kind that I've ever come across."

"I'm Ryuk, a Death God." Ryuk smiled in return, his teeth yellow and grotesque. Light wanted to punch him in the face or at least stuff it full of apples so the Death God couldn't talk anymore. He was giving away information that Light had been protecting for so long! "But if you're a human," Ryuk continued thoughtfully, "why can't you die?"

C.C. sucked in a breath of air and took a step back, clearly off guard. A shadow of fear flickered over her face, proving the truth of Ryuk's words. Oh, fuck, it shouldn't be true. Her voice came out in a low hiss. "How did you know that?"

Light's mind spun to a halt. This was… even worse….

Ryuk grinned, this time his smile less playful and more sinister. "Or is it that you're already dead?"

If either of those statements were true, Light was sorely fucked. Ryuk had revealed his identity and a connection to Light to someone who could not be killed. For even though Light had not spoken aloud to Ryuk, his lack of questioning and stupefied demeanor during the experience was probably enough. He gritted his teeth. Now was not the time to play dumb and pretend he was simply confused by her talking to the air. Now was the time to present his brilliance.

It was time to push forward and through the obstacle. She couldn't die. Neither could Ryuk. Light could, and to prevent it, he had to win this girl to his side. And he had to prevent it. There was no one else who would be able to take up the Death Note and use it like Light would. No one else had the courage and ambition and intelligence to usher in a new world full of kindness and prosperity. Only Light had the fortitude and so only Light could do it, and thus, Light must survive. There was no one else who would be willing to give their all to the world the way Light was. There was no choice but to win over this girl.

This… friend of Lelouch. He took a deep breath through his nose, his shoulders lifting.

"I'm both and neither, Ryuk," she answered flatly. "I'm a witch."

Ryuk leaned back. "I don't think I get it." He paused, and Light used the moment to step in effortlessly. He could not fail.

"Miss C.C., if I had known you could see Ryuk, I would have introduced the two of you sooner," Light said in a somewhat gentlemanly fashion, but there was still a firmness in his voice that couldn't be mistaken. "Normally, people can't see him."

C.C. turned and held Light's gaze. "As your friend made clear, I am obviously not normal. …But what is it that makes you so special that you can see him?"

There! He could do this—even if Ryuk was a Death God, even if she was immortal. Light's own worthiness would shine through, and he would stand with them on equal footing—no, he would stand above them. Light couldn't help but let a smile spread onto his face, his words low and dangerously arrogant as he leaned in closer. "How could you possibly think I'm average?"

For a moment, C.C. held his eyes and he could tell he was weighing him cautiously. He didn't lose his smile nor look away, letting her see his indisputable confidence. Then she laughed loudly, her rich peals making several passersby give her curious glances. "Oh, you're funny, boy," she said between chuckles. "Is that how you've managed to stay alive? Even with a Death God hanging around you?"

Light felt the atmosphere relax a little, but not enough to feel comfortable. She was friendly, but not respectful towards him yet. He shrugged, trying to make it as smooth as possible and give off a nonchalant attitude as if he were bored with Ryuk. "I suppose. Not that Ryuk does much."

I am the one who does everything, Light thought vehemently.

"Oh? So what do Death Gods actually do?"

Ryuk cut in to supply the answer himself, only making Light angrier. "We kill humans. The life they have left is given to us."

Shut up, Ryuk. The Death God was supposed to be a simply bystander and not involve himself in Light's affairs like this.

"And how do you kill humans?" C.C. asked, missing Light's malevolent eyes directed at the Death God. She was unsettlingly easygoing about the topic, but the tension in Light's body had risen again. If Ryuk told her about the Death Note, there would be no way she wouldn't guess he was Kira. And then… everything might be finished. He held his breath, trapped in a bind—if he stopped Ryuk, then C.C. would know he was hiding something, but if he didn't, Ryuk could provide a woman immune to his power with the information to kill him. His heart pounded in his ears, reminding him of his own mortality and how close death always was.

"In any way we want," Ryuk answered lazily. "It can get pretty boring actually."

Light breathed a small sigh of relief as C.C. nodded as if she understood. Even though Ryuk had not mentioned the Death Note, Light was not out of danger yet and he was still extremely wary of her. Did she think killing was boring? Was she some kind of monstrous killer herself? That would be… difficult to deal with. An immortal criminal. He reined in his urge to shudder. What kind of terrible world would result from that? How would he be able to overcome that kind of challenge? He had to stop this conversation from continuing. He didn't need this woman as an opponent.

"It's probably best not to encourage him, C.C.," Light interjected, aiming for a dry tone to cover up his literally dry mouth. "Some of us are still capable of dying."

The truth was that if Ryuk found C.C. more interesting than Light… there would be no reason for Ryuk to keep Light around. Unfortunately, that was the price he paid for making the world a better place. Sometimes becoming a great hero meant doing something terrible to achieve something greater than before—even if it is striking a death bargain with a god. Even if it meant no one would recognize his own part in creating a new, brighter world. Light just had to make sure that the ends really justified the means before he died.

"Ah, so there must be something else that makes you special," C.C. purred, her honest laugh from before just beneath her smile. "I guess I'll have to wait until next time to figure it out though. You have a party to get to, don't you?"

Ryuk butted in excitedly. "We're going to a party, Light?"

Light frowned. "Not that I'm aware of."

C.C. smiled mysteriously. "Be sure to have fun for me since I can't go." Her voice rose in pitch almost petulantly, her lips forming a bit of a pout. "And I hear there's pizza…."

She twirled on her feet so that her back was completely open to him. She had such slender shoulders, and looked incredibly vulnerable as her hair floated back down to her back. She lifted a delicate hand to wave as she sauntered off. Just judging by her outward form and demeanor at the moment, she couldn't have been more than sixteen years old. Barely more than a child.

She was almost as deceiving in appearances as Light.

-L/L-


Yay! See, I told you guys I'd have another chapter up soon. :P As always, let me know what you readers thought about it. I really, really enjoy any and all comments I receive from everyone. I'm sorry I didn't get to reply back to all the reviews from the last chapter like I normally try to do-I wanted to get this one up as soon as possible to make up for my lapse year. A lot of you mentioned that Chess Match is still as good as it was then and I hope that continues to be the case.

Until next chapter,

anja-chan