Red And Black - By Kirika


Hello! Well, it looks like it's big fanfic time once again. And you know what that means: lots of my ramblings about inconsequential things coupled with an excessive amount of smiley faces (^_^). Oh, and hopefully a decent story sandwiched in between that stuff.

This is a Noir fanfic, dealing with the Mireille/Kirika pairing. So it's shoujo-ai.

Some things in this chapter (events and thoughts) took place in my Noir one-shot, 'Black Turned Red' also. However, I tried to word them differently. I did consider making the one-shot a prequel to this fic, but I didn't want Mireille and Kirika's relationship to have progressed so far.

And finally, I don't own Noir. I do, however, own any original characters I create. No using them without my permission. Oh, and there are spoilers galore in this fanfic.

~This denotes translation~

Now that all that stuff is out of the way, on with the fic…

**FF version

**Now with linebreaks and [] brackets. Thanks for that FF. That was sarcasm, in case that was lost in upload too.

- Kirika


Chapter 1 - Shattered Peace

Le noir.

~Noir.~

Ce mot désigne depuis une époque lointaine le nom du destin.

~This word designates since a distant epoch the name of destiny.~

Les deux vierges regnent sur la mort.

~The two virgins reign over death.~

Les mains noires protégent la paix des nouveaux-nes.

~The black hands protect the peace of the newly-born.~

- Extract from Langonel's Manuscript


Mireille Bouquet, with a glass of water in one hand and still dressed in her nightshirt, quietly walked over to where the new pot plant resided on a small, Walnut-coloured, square wooden end table beside one window of her apartment. The blonde, statuesque woman bent down and carefully poured the liquid from the glass around the plant's stalk, giving it its morning watering as either she or her partner did every day. The plant was an orchid, like its predecessor that had once sat on the table before it, but so far no flowers had bloomed... also like its predecessor. However, Mireille was not disheartened. Under her and her colleague's constant nurturing over the past few weeks, several buds had formed that could be found nestled in between the plant's broad green leaves-a sign of things to come. Mireille hoped that this time the orchid would flower brilliantly.

Mireille put the now empty glass on the table by the potted orchid, and then stood up straight with a sigh, placing her hands on her hips and admiring the plant. After returning to her home in Paris, France, she had felt a compulsion to replace the orchid that had been destroyed in a shootout within her apartment. If she were honest with herself, she knew where the desire had stemmed from. Tending to the plant had been a small but precious diversion she and her partner had shared in the past, and, she rather grudgingly supposed, she had wanted to recapture the pleasant and comfortable air of that joint activity again.

Mireille turned around to face the rest of the apartment and all of the other items that had been replaced following its redecoration courtesy of countless bullets fired by a score of white-masked Soldats hitmen. The repairs had taken just under a couple of weeks, and now it was as if the intense gunfight that had ravaged the place months earlier had never occurred at all. Smashed windows had been restored with new glass panes, and not a single blemish could be made out on any of the painstakingly patched and freshly painted walls. All of the bullet hole ridden furniture and appliances had been removed and replaced also, including Mireille's computer, and, oddly enough, the billiard table she used as a desk. The woman wasn't sure why exactly she hadn't simply bought a real desk instead; it wasn't as if anyone used the table to actually play pool.

Mireille looked around the living room, surveying the apartment's new and improved décor with satisfaction. The specialists she had hired to restore her home had done a good job-as they should have considering the amount of money the Corsican had paid for their services-and had also been very discreet. Mireille's landlord hadn't asked any questions about why her apartment needed a near total renovation either. Money could buy most people's silence… among other things. But it had helped that her landlord knew that Ms. Bouquet was not a woman one crossed lightly… or even willingly.

Mireille's blue gaze came to rest on the black wall that separated the living room from the bedroom, behind which the other permanent resident of her home currently was. Her partner, Kirika Yuumura, was evidently still fast asleep in the bedroom.

A ghost of a smile crept upon Mireille's features as she conjured up the endearing image of the darkhaired girl snoozing peacefully in their bed. Normally as soon as Mireille woke up Kirika awakened with her, or had already been wide-awake beforehand. Even when it appeared that she was in a deep slumber, looking as vulnerable and as frail as ever, Kirika remained alert-at least on a subconscious level. It was a throwback to her extensive training as an assassin, Mireille imagined.

However, Kirika had yet to fully recover from the gunshot wound to her side she had sustained at the Manor-a result of throwing herself in front of a bullet meant for Mireille-and so slept in late most mornings. Mireille's own injuries had merely consisted of scrapes and shallow knife puncture wounds, all of which had healed relatively quickly without scarring, but Kirika's singular wound had been much more serious than all of hers combined. The quiet girl was still not at a hundred percent and needed her rest, thus Mireille had silently slipped out of the bed they shared this morning, more than happy to let her sleep. And provide the semblance of a normal atmosphere-a normal way of life-for Kirika's sake.

Mireille's faint smile strengthened and became bemused as she thought about how much things had changed in her relationship with Kirika… and consequently in her own life, as well. In the past Mireille wouldn't have had much concern about Kirika's wellbeing whatsoever as long as the girl survived long enough to lead her to her abhorred quarry, Soldats, and aid her in finding the answers behind why her family had been murdered. But now ensuring that her partner had a calm and relaxed environment to recuperate to full health in was one of Mireille's highest priorities. She had to admit Kirika had become the most important thing in her life… and for someone as fiercely independent as Mireille; that was saying a great deal.

Mireille wasn't exactly sure how or even when Kirika had snuck her way into her cold heart, but as time went by, slowly yet surely the blonde's uncaring attitude towards the introverted girl had changed. The ice encasing the Corsican assassin's hard heart had melted gradually living and working with Kirika, so much so that when she had at last learned the awful truth behind her family's death and the time had come to make good on her promise to execute her 'temporary' associate, she had faltered outright in doing so. Despite her pledge to kill Kirika when she was no longer useful, and even with the added incentive of the young assassin being the slayer of her parents and brother, Mireille hadn't been able to pull the trigger of her gun. At the very idea of ending Kirika's life Mireille's body had rebelled, and no matter what her mind had said she *should* be obligated to do, the stronger force of her warmed, thawed heart had stayed her hand.

Mireille had tried her utmost to resist warming up to Kirika any further when she had first realised her heart was softening to the quiet girl, but her efforts had been feeble and ultimately futile. Moreover, a part of Mireille-a part she hadn't liked to acknowledge at the time-hadn't really wanted to stop the growing changes between herself and Kirika. Mireille had never truly been close to anybody before after her hasty nocturnal leave-taking of Corsica-unless she counted her Uncle Claude when she was a child-and had been alone for many years following the end of her training in the ways of a contract killer. She had depended on no one but herself, *trusted* no one but herself. But being with Kirika had given her a taste of what it meant to share one's troubles and joys with another person… and Mireille had found it to her liking.

Nevertheless, Mireille had still went into a state of denial in regards to how she felt about Kirika, to such a degree that when her partner had left her side-or rather, had been abandoned by Mireille-the woman had resumed-or at least had attempted to resume-her prior lifestyle, and had tried to recapture her former independence. But it hadn't been that easy anymore. The absence of Kirika had left a hole in Mireille's life, and, if she were so inclined to admit, a hole in her heart as well. However, even with such a vast and bleak void inside of her, she had still tried to maintain her usual routine and forget about the Japanese girl she had once known and become so emotionally attached to…. But, thankfully, it wasn't meant to be.

Fearing what might happen in the future and knowing that a grim darkness lurked inside of her, Kirika had left behind a parting letter to Mireille, under the ruins of the orchid that had been so significant to both of them during the time they had spent together… although neither of them had ever stated the fact out loud. In that letter the withdrawn Kirika had confessed all of her feelings towards her blonde counterpart, plainly for the woman to see on paper. And when Mireille had read that letter, it had been enough to jolt her out of the delusion that she could simply forget about Kirika and return to her previous way of life. But even so, she had still used her right to fulfil her destiny and become Noir as an excuse to track down the missing girl; in spite of everything the-albeit weakening-denial of how she felt had still held fairly strong within her.

It hadn't been until the very end, until Kirika's life had been hanging by a thread, when Mireille had at last confronted the feelings that dwelled secretly within her heart. At that point, Kirika, thinking all her ties to the world gone, had been all but ready to die. It was then that Mireille had realised with crystal clear clarity that the girl's fate rested wholly in her hands. And so, the stubborn woman had finally let her mask of aloofness fall and had subsequently lowered herself to begging her partner to stay with her. Thankfully, it had been enough. Mireille had almost been too late, but with that tearful supplication Kirika had clung to her and in turn clung to life. At that moment Mireille had felt an overwhelming sense of relief in her heart and soul, of an intensity of such she had never experienced before. It was then she truly knew that Kirika meant everything to her; that she indeed was in love with the girl.

Once the two assassins had received professional-and surreptitious-medical treatment for their injuries in a town neighbouring the Manor and Kirika had recovered enough to travel, she and Mireille had returned home to Paris. But in spite of Mireille accepting the fact that she shared Kirika's feelings-or at the very least felt something romantically for her-not much was different in their relationship. Mireille was certainly enormously more affectionate towards Kirika now, but her fond gestures were limited to mere kind words and chaste touches. No affirmations of their feelings for one another had been exchanged either, and on Mireille's part, none ever had been uttered in the first place.

Mireille wasn't exactly sure why her relationship with Kirika had not progressed any further, but she had a feeling it was attributed to herself. Certainly, Mireille had made no effort to advance the relationship to an openly romantic level, and knowing Kirika, the introverted girl would follow her example and let her be in control, as usual. Was that it? Was Mireille simply waiting for Kirika to 'make a move', so to speak? It was a possibility, but the Corsican doubted it. She knew Kirika well, well enough to know that she would do nothing to forward their relationship until Mireille herself showed that she wished to. But if that were the case, then just what was holding Mireille back? Was she afraid of the commitment? No, ridiculous, considering she had been committed exclusively to Kirika for a considerable amount of time now. Perhaps it was because her partner was in actual fact responsible for the death of her family. Was Mireille troubled that her parents and brother were turning in their graves every time she let Kirika cuddle up close to her in bed at night? Did she believe that her heart was betraying their memory?

No. That was definitely not it. As soon as Mireille had learned that Kirika had been the one who had snuffed out her parents' and brother's lives, the woman, in spite of herself, had instantly forgiven her, even if she hadn't been consciously aware of it at the time. Mireille's heart had already been a captive of Kirika's back then. Furthermore, she didn't even view Kirika as the killer of her family. That 'honour' had been Altena's alone, who had wielded the girl when she was only a young child as a living, breathing instrument of murder-Kirika was a victim just as much as Mireille's family had been. Kirika had simply been a tool used by Altena… and the wicked Soldats follower had already paid for her crimes.

Whatever the reason for Mireille's seeming reluctance, she was comfortable with the way things were at the moment and she believed Kirika was too. She liked her current daily life. Her days were filled with peaceful times spent with Kirika, and she felt contentment with her existence that was completely new to her. Perhaps that was it; Mireille feared change, even if it were potentially for the better. She feared losing what she had already gained. Having a permanent partner, someone who even shared her living space, was quite a big step for the normally private woman. Mireille had never relied on or been emotionally close to anyone for a long, long while. Maybe all she needed was a little more time to grow used to the idea of having a genuine, stable, romantic relationship; more time to grow used to having a real… lover.

Mireille heaved a sigh and with a last glance in the direction of the bedroom, dismissed her reflections and walked over to the billiard table masquerading as a computer desk. She sat down in front of her PC and switched on the machine, hoping that the drone of it starting up would not disturb Kirika's sleep in the adjacent room. As soon as the computer's operating system had booted, Mireille logged onto the Internet and checked her secure email account. In her hazardous and illegal line of work, security and anonymity was imperative for continual business success. Mireille Bouquet was not only a beautiful woman living a life of privilege in Paris, but also one of the most reliable professional assassins in the criminal world. Of course, 'Mireille Bouquet' had apparently dropped out of the business in recent months. She now used a new name… and had a partner.

As Mireille had suspected, several assignment propositions for her and Kirika-or more accurately, Noir-were waiting for her in her email inbox. She pursed her lips thoughtfully as her eyes scanned the subject headers of the emails, but then promptly frowned in irritation as she realised what she was doing. As she was about to delete all of the emails before she could do something she would definitely regret, she noticed that yet another message from the clandestine society, Soldats, was present. Mireille's irritation suddenly increased twofold. She didn't need to read the contents of the email to know what it contained; it wasn't the first time she had received it. Nor, did she imagine, would it be the last. Soldats, or more accurately, one high-ranking member of the organisation, Remy Breffort, sought a meeting with her. But for exactly what reason, Mireille didn't know. Or care, for that matter. She was done with Soldats, and she didn't want herself or Kirika to have any more involvement with them ever again.

Mireille deleted all of the emails along with Breffort's message, as was quickly becoming her morning ritual. Noir was no longer a part of Soldats; the sooner the man recognised that fact the better.

Mireille logged off of the Internet and leaned back in her chair, exhaling heavily, and stared up at the ceiling. She ignored the prospective jobs solely for the sake of Kirika. She hadn't even told her about the emails requesting their services she was regularly receiving, preferring to hide the knowledge from the still recuperating girl. Mireille and Kirika's lives were peaceful-for the moment, at any rate-and the Corsican didn't want that other, darker life they had in common interfering with it. And she was positive Kirika didn't, either.

However, Mireille was also sure that she was only delaying the inevitable. She had willingly chosen to walk a black path in life, a black path filled with death-murder. Her life was that of an assassin, and nothing would change that; it was part of who she was. In truth, Mireille even missed the work. She had never had a problem with killing. Well, unless she considered the time in the graveyard with Kirika…. which she didn't.

But while Mireille had accepted that she would travel down a soiled, sinful path until the day she died, she felt differently in respect to Kirika. The diminutive girl was still young and yet she had probably seen more violence and murder than Mireille herself had. What Altena had exposed Kirika too, a mere child at the time…. Mireille ground her teeth and suppressed her rising anger. The fanatical Soldats member had damaged Kirika's mind with her immoral treatment. Another personality prowled inside of Mireille's normally rather shy counterpart, one that was as heartless as a pure cold-blooded killer. Mireille still remembered that persona… her eyes… her eyes had been devoid of feeling, of mercy… of life.

Yes, Mireille still remembered… and was still haunted by the memory of that other Kirika she had faced off with in the colosseum by the Manor. It was one of the primary reasons why she did her best to preserve a relaxed and normal atmosphere for herself and her partner to live in and enjoy. Kirika's short life had been full of bloodshed, so much so that the darkhaired girl had developed a defence mechanism in the form of another persona to cope with the horrors she had no doubt witnessed… and carried out herself. And Mireille was almost certain that the sinister personality still remained with Kirika. Thus, the blonde woman wanted to keep that other side of her partner repressed, and she hoped that an ordinary lifestyle would help to do that.

Moreover, Mireille believed that it was working. Kirika, while still relatively taciturn, appeared to be happy. At least she smiled a little more often now, as if she were a normal girl with no skills whatsoever in the art of murder. Sometimes, however, her unmatched combat abilities manifested themselves unconsciously. The manner in which she handled knives while doing everyday chores such as cooking came to mind, as well as the way she had of seeming to be as withdrawn as always when outside of the apartment, but at the same time constantly vigilant of any possible threats; a sort of relaxed readiness.

Mireille smiled wryly up at the ceiling, shaking her head slightly. She had never in a million years believed that she would end up living with a Japanese schoolgirl, who was also a fellow assassin with expertise even surpassing her own, and if that wasn't enough, fall in love with her too of all things. But now here she was, doing her utmost to protect the same girl and keep her happy. Love certainly made you do strange things.

"Morning," a soft voice spoke in Japanese from a few feet in front of Mireille, bringing her out of her contemplations.

Mireille straightened in her chair to look at Kirika who was standing at the bottom of the steps that led to the bedroom. The two normally conversed in Japanese when they were alone together, which was practically all of the time. And living in Paris, where the majority of the population predominantly spoke in French, the voluntary language barrier gave Mireille and Kirika a sense of privacy even when in a crowd of people; their own little world where only the two of them existed. In actuality, they had always communicated in Japanese since they first met, only switching to French or another language when it was called for, customary for the sake of others. Perhaps it was because they had encountered each other in Japan in the beginning, and the practice of speaking in the country's native tongue had simply stuck. Mireille didn't know for sure, but whatever the habit's origin, her Japanese had certainly improved a great deal since meeting Kirika.

"Ah, so you're finally awake, sleepy head," Mireille teased at the sight of Kirika, the girl looking quite dishevelled from sleeping, with her dark locks tousled wildly and her vest and shorts that made up her nightwear creased and twisted. It painted a positively adorable picture in Mireille's eyes, one she hadn't been able to resist commenting on. But then she did often nowadays take pleasure in poking light-hearted fun at poor Kirika. "Are you sure you don't want to go back to bed? It *is* still early…" Mireille went on, but only half-joking this time, aware that the recuperating girl required her rest.

Kirika lowered her head and looked at Mireille though her bangs, a small, rueful smile forming on her features in response to the woman's ribbing. She then shook her head, the action accompanied by a cute sound in the negative; one of many idiosyncrasies that Mireille found endearing.

"Alright," Mireille said, pushing her chair back from the billiard table on its wheels. "How are you feeling today? Come here so I can check how you're progressing."

Kirika dutifully walked over to the blonde and stood in front of her chair. "I feel better," she quietly informed Mireille as the woman lifted the bottom of her vest to inspect the injury beneath, "but I'm still tired."

Mireille nodded absently at Kirika's report while she studied the gunshot wound in her partner's side. It appeared to have finally healed up completely, leaving behind only the faintest of scars. Mireille reached up and gingerly traced the mark with one fingertip, her touch feather-light on the darkhaired girl's silky-smooth skin. Every time she saw the wound it brought back the unpleasant memory of Kirika intercepting Altena's bullet with her own body in an act of selflessness. But at the same time, it was a reminder of the extent of Kirika's feelings for Mireille-a testament of her love. It always filled Mireille with a sense of… wonder, that someone cared that much about her to make such a self-sacrificing gesture.

Mireille blinked as it dawned on her that she had ceased circling the scar and was now using her whole hand to rub-or rather, caress-Kirika's taut stomach with gentle strokes. Acutely aware that Kirika had stopped breathing, she abruptly halted the motions of her wayward hand and looked up at the girl, only to meet rapt reddish-brown eyes with her own apprehensive blue ones. Somewhat guiltily, Mireille drew back her hand and let Kirika's vest fall back into place before dropping her gaze and forcing a cough, seeking a means to dispel the awkward moment, although she wasn't sure why she felt it was one.

"You… you seem to be recovering fine," Mireille said, her voice a little hoarse. "After a few more days of rest you should be perfectly fit."

Kirika said nothing and merely nodded, her countenance now one of her usual subdued expressions.

"But in the meantime, I want to go shopping," Mireille continued, her tone becoming more blithe as she snatched onto something lighter to talk about. "*Clothes* shopping…" she then elaborated, her expression turning considerably sly as she ran her eyes over Kirika's lithe figure, pretending to size her up.

Kirika blinked a couple of times and then swallowed a bit uneasily-Mireille knew that she understood what going clothes shopping meant. Mireille loved pampering Kirika, especially with material things. Her favourite form of indulgence was buying new clothes for her reticent partner. She simply adored using the slip of a girl as a model for her to play dress-up with. Fortunately, Kirika stoically consented to Mireille's little pleasure… although with a mildly noticeable lack of enthusiasm… that the blonde summarily ignored, needless to say.

"Mireille…" Kirika said, almost whining out the woman's name, and with a tiny hint of longsuffering in her soft voice.

Mireille merely smiled, implicitly knowing that Kirika would concede to her wishes, and also relishing the way the Japanese girl said her name. Mireille wasn't sure if it was because of her accent or just another one of her quirks, but Kirika had a unique and exquisite way of pronouncing her name. It was like her sweet tongue caressed each and every syllable of the Corsican's name in a special and intimate fashion as it left her lips, and it always served to send a trill of delight through Mireille. She doubted she would ever grow weary of hearing the enchanting sound.

Mireille took the hem of one leg of Kirika's shorts between a finger and a thumb and rubbed it thoughtfully. "Hmm…" she murmured with false deliberation, "I think you could use more shorts. And perhaps some new pyjamas as well." Mireille did her best to restrain the smile that threatened to spoil her mock serious examination of her partner's clothing. She had a feeling that today was going to be an entertaining one… for her, at least.

"Pyjamas?" Kirika parroted somewhat uncertainly, as she blinked again and looked down at her clothes.


Mireille took a sip of her frothy cappuccino and then settled back in her plush seat with a content sigh, savouring the flavour of her beverage. She and her virtually inseparable companion, Kirika, who was seated across from her, were in a private booth located in one of the many cafés scattered along the streets of Paris, the pair taking a short respite from their enjoyable-yet quite exhausting-shopping expedition for lunch. A dozen glossy bags overflowing with designer clothes ranging from skirts to socks purchased from a variety of exclusive boutiques were crammed next to Kirika at her side of the booth, all of which the slender girl had carried herself. Mireille did feel a tiny bit guilty about her own... well, laziness to put it bluntly. More often than not she allowed Kirika to do just about all of the menial tasks that filled their normal daily lives, such as hauling grocery bags and luggage around, as well as setting and washing tableware. In the past, the woman had eventually wound up viewing her partner as sort of a little 'servant'; or in other words, someone to do all the jobs she herself didn't like doing… and old habits apparently died hard. Mireille frequently slipped into her domineering role even though the nature of her relationship with Kirika was now… at least somewhat different, permitting the compliant girl to do most of the chores inside and outside their apartment. And it didn't help that Kirika never ever protested the treatment and even seemed glad to be devotedly lending a hand, regardless of how hard she toiled as a result. However, she did assist the girl when they cooked at home, Mireille thought defensively, squirming a little in her seat. That was *something*, wasn't it?

Nearly every garment contained within each of the shopping bags alongside Kirika had been graciously-yet also slightly reluctantly-modelled by the pretty darkhaired girl for her older partner's own personal gratification. The corners of Mireille's full lips twitched and then curled upwards into a small smile as she recalled the memory of Kirika wearing one of her new sets of silk pyjamas. They were a little baggy on her, almost swallowing her diminutive frame completely in their folds, but that had only added to the whole cute and lovable vision. Mireille had prudently stayed away from choosing any new undergarments for her, however. Strangely, for some reason the idea of making Kirika pose in her underwear made Mireille a tad uncomfortable.

Mireille brought her coffee cup to her lips and watched Kirika over its rim as the girl, dressed in one of her newly acquired outfits she had changed into earlier under her partner's 'suggestion', idly picked at the remains of her ham and cheese croissant, pushing the remnants around on her plate. She looked distant, as if something were on her mind, perhaps even troubling her.

Mireille's face fell a little and she took another drink of her cappuccino to hide the expression. Kirika often retreated into her own private world; she had even done so in the past, when she and the Corsican had first met-Mireille remembered when the quiet girl would stare out of one of the apartment's windows at seemingly nothing for hours at a time.

Mireille frequently wondered what Kirika ruminated on during those withdrawn periods of hers, appearing totally detached from her surroundings. She sometimes considered simply asking her, but she doubted even she would get a straight answer from the reticent girl, or at least one that would satisfy her. Looking at Kirika now while she gazed vacantly out the large front window of the café their booth was adjacent to, the leftovers of her lunch forgotten, Mireille thought she looked rather sad as well as distant. Of course that wasn't saying too much considering that her normal everyday expression was usually melancholic. But after having lived with Kirika for the better part of a year now, Mireille could generally tell how her brooding partner was feeling on the inside. She had learnt that using Kirika's lovely brown eyes to determine her emotional state was the easiest and most accurate method. Her eyes were so expressive, soulful, and they seemed to speak volumes-poignant words poured straight from her heart… well, poured straight to Mireille at any rate. And right at this very moment, Kirika's brown orbs said clearly to the blonde that something was definitely bothering her. Mireille sighed softly. She wished Kirika were able to share her problems with her.

But instead of confronting Kirika on her evident preoccupation, Mireille plucked a random topic of conversation out of the air, feeling that she had to say something, even if its subject matter was in essence basically small talk.

After taking one last sip of her coffee, Mireille put her cup down with an exaggerated breath, smacking her lips. "After lunch why don't we go shopping for more clothes?" she piped up, placing her elbows on the table and propping her head in her hands as she looked at Kirika.

Kirika turned away from the view of bustling people and heavy traffic outside the café's window at the sound of Mireille's cheerful voice, roused from her private thoughts. She favoured Mireille with a glance before flicking her eyes to the mound of boutique bags beside her for a second, and then directed a questioning look at the keen blonde.

"Oh no, not for you. I believe you have more than enough outfits," Mireille clarified, but not before furtively adding, "…for the time being." Somehow she managed to contain the large grin that wanted to burst out on her face at the sight of a fairly nervous-looking Kirika.

"No, you've had all the fun thus far and now it's my turn," Mireille quickly continued, before leaning forward conspiringly towards her partner, a faint smile on her features. "And this time, *I'll* be *your* model," she whispered with a playful wink as her smile turned more than a little seductive.

Kirika simply stared at Mireille for a moment, her steady gaze only broken by several languid blinks, but she then nodded eagerly while making her patented peep of approval. She smiled shyly at Mireille and then started to open her mouth to say something, but stopped suddenly as her eyes shifted to the right of the blonde woman, her countenance returning to its fundamentally emotionless mask.

Mireille blinked and then followed Kirika's gaze to her left, meeting a waiter's apologetic eyes. The assassin frowned in irritation at having her banter with her colleague rudely interrupted and then sat back properly in her seat, glaring coldly at the now even more remorseful waiter.

"Well?" Mireille snapped in French as she folded her arms, quite annoyed… and inwardly a little embarrassed at having been caught stretched over halfway across the table to Kirika. She was suddenly very glad she spoke in Japanese to her.

The waiter, obviously flustered by the imposing woman's ire, stumbled over his words for a few seconds, his eyes occasionally darting to an apathetic Kirika as if she could somehow help him out of his predicament, before finally informing Mireille that he had been asked to deliver a note to her and her friend's table. He brandished the crisp white envelope in his hand for further emphasis whilst smiling sheepishly.

Mireille deftly snatched the envelope from the waiter's grasp before he could even react in the slightest, and then examined it carefully. One could never be too cautious in her line of work. While Mireille may not have been actively accepting contracts for a couple of months now, it didn't mean she had become stupid or sloppy. Indeed, her handbag next to her contained a fully loaded Walther P99, her firearm of choice. The idea of not taking her weapon when she left the safe haven of her apartment was simply foreign to Mireille. It was better to be safe than sorry; who knew when an old memory with a score to settle would somehow track her down? Besides, between her and Kirika only she carried a firearm now-the girl hadn't replaced her last gun after it had burnt up with Altena in the volcanic cavern below the Manor. And for the moment, Mireille intended to keep it that way. If Kirika carried a gun it would only serve to dispel the happy and peaceful atmosphere she currently lived in-the heavy burden of a lethal weapon almost constantly by her side put a damper on even Mireille's spirits nowadays; she didn't want to think what it would do to her poor brooding partner's. But by all means Kirika wasn't defenceless without a firearm; even unarmed she was a devastating opponent. Her combat skills were beyond the scope of most people's even much older than she, including those who had dedicated their whole lives to warfare. Kirika was a living weapon.

"Who asked you to deliver this?" Mireille queried the waiter as she continued with her inspection of the letter.

"Er, I don't know. The manager just told me to take it to you," the waiter replied, shrugging.

On the front face of the envelope in Mireille's hands was simply her full name, written in long, flowing script. The envelope itself was thin, and Mireille doubted that any sort of explosive could have been hidden inside. That didn't rule out the presence of a biological agent, though. The Corsican assassin gingerly brought the envelope up to her nose and surreptitiously sniffed it, trying to detect any telltale odours of a chemical weapon or poison soaked into the paper within... and without exposing herself to it. Needless to say, if the envelope itself were contaminated, it would be far too late. But since the waiter hadn't keeled over just yet, Mireille had assumed the note was safe to touch.

"You're still here…?" Mireille said pointedly to the lingering waiter as she finished her investigation. She maintained her attention on the mysterious envelope however, under the alert gaze of Kirika, and the baffled gaze of the now startled waiter. "Find out who is responsible for this letter," the assassin ordered the man, opting to give him more than a hint to what action he should be taking.

"Uhh, of course, I was just… umm," the waiter spluttered, searching for an excuse for his loitering. However, after seeing that Mireille had already dismissed him from her mind, he gave up and walked away, all the while muttering something under his breath about prissy women and their uptight attitudes. Mireille, although catching his parting remarks, paid them no heed-she was more concerned about the envelope. Besides, to her knowledge there was no contract out on the discourteous waiter. It would have been a waste of bullets and money to teach him some respect-if she shot every person impolite to her or simply incompetent, she would have went out of business long ago.

"It seems clean," Mireille said to Kirika in Japanese once the waiter was out of earshot-just to be safe-and looked up from the note.

"Mm," Kirika mumbled in the affirmative. She looked down at the envelope in her colleague's hand and then raised her head to look the woman in the eye, silently asking the question that was dancing on Mireille's own tongue.

Deciding to alleviate her and her partner's curiosity, Mireille carefully opened the letter, and after nothing untoward happened, she delicately pulled out its contents between her thumb and forefinger. The envelope had contained a single sheet of folded paper, which Mireille now warily opened. Her brow creased in irritation and all worry left her as she scanned the familiar text that was written on the paper, which she had read numerous times in the form of emails received on her computer, before her expression turned into an all out scowl when she came to the signature at the end of the message. Breffort. Naturally. Did he really think that signing his own name rather than the group he belonged to made his message more appealing to her?

Mireille's eyes narrowed to dangerous slits as she crushed the note in her hand, conscious of the concerned look she was getting from her oblivious partner. And how dare Breffort disturb her and Kirika's peace. Messages in her private email account were one thing, but a letter delivered out in the open, and in front of Kirika no less…. Soldats. How Mireille hated those who supposedly 'held the world'.

"Mireille…?" Kirika questioned uncertainly as Mireille sharply half-rose from her seat, the woman's eyes darting around the café, searching for any suspicious character that stood out and could have been responsible for relaying the note.

Mireille's questing eyes caught the waiter's who had presented the letter. The uniformed man started at her piercing blue glare, almost dropping the tray laden with full drinking glasses he was carrying, but then recovered with only a splash of soda on his white shirt. With one minutely shaking hand he pointed to his right, giving a wan smile to Mireille as he did so.

The assassin snapped her head in the direction of the waiter's finger, and saw that he was indicating an immaculately garbed man in a black suit and tie who was striding calmly yet swiftly across the floor of the café, heading for the front door-doubtless he was the individual who had asked the manager of the establishment to deliver Breffort's message to Mireille and Kirika's table. Judging by his shifty apparel, reminiscent of many a Soldats minion the blonde and her companion had slain, as well as his unmistakable enthusiasm to vacate the premises, Mireille was absolutely positive that he worked for the secret society.

Mireille mentally bit off a curse, grabbed her handbag, and then hurried after the Soldats courier as he reached the entrance of the café and opened the glass door, leaving the building. The Corsican, a moment behind him, threw open the café door and stepped out onto the footpath outside, just in time to see the darkly dressed man quickly open the rear passenger door of an equally darkly painted sedan parked across from her in the street. He obviously knew she was on to him.

Mireille dashed forwards, hoping to intercept the Soldats agent before he climbed into the safety of the black vehicle, but was rudely halted in her tracks as she bumped into a passer by. Mireille turned angrily to give a brief grimace of annoyance to the bad-mannered man she had knocked into-he hadn't even given a semblance of an apology!-but only caught a glimpse of shoulder length stark white hair and the back of a long jet black coat before he blended into the swarms of people travelling along the footpath.

Hearing a car door slam shut jerked Mireille's attention back to the ebony sedan, and to the woman's disgust she saw that her momentary distraction had been enough to allow the Soldats messenger to escape. She scrunched the letter still held in her left hand into a tighter ball. She was sure there would be other Soldats couriers in the future to relay her own message; one way or another Breffort would learn of her displeasure at being hounded.

All of a sudden Mireille was hurled backwards through the air by a tremendous explosion, originating from the sedan that had erupted into a huge ball of flame, fiery tendrils reaching out to consume the footpath and most of the street as well. Mireille felt the intense heat of the blast along with its force on her body as she smashed through the glass pane of the café's entrance at the same time the entire front window of the restaurant was blown inwards, showering patrons inside with a deluge of sharp shards.

Mireille lay on her back, staring up at the café's partially blackened ceiling, its cream coloured paint now streaked with scorch marks. Her body felt numb and she could hear a faint ringing in her ears… but that was all. Kirika's anxious face suddenly appeared above Mireille, the girl's lips moving rapidly, but all the blonde could do was blink stupidly up at her in response, hearing nothing. However, as she continued to simply stare at Kirika, the ringing in her ears gradually became more perceptible, the ringing turning into a piercing shriek, almost as if she was being exposed to a steadily mounting high frequency soundwave, until-

"-reille? Mireille?" Kirika's fretful voice cut into Mireille's hearing without warning, the buzzing in her ears fading until it disappeared beyond audible range. Mireille was glad the explosion had not damaged her eardrums. Unfortunately, sensation had also returned to her body. She had forgotten how much it hurt to be flung through solid glass.

"I'm… alright," Mireille assured her concerned partner in a croaky voice as she struggled to sit up, mindful of the doubtless myriad of jagged glass flakes she was lying on. Her back ached something fierce, and she was sure she had sustained numerous cuts and bruises, but she didn't think she had broken anything.

Kirika helped Mireille sit up with tentatively placed hands, her support careful yet helpful. The blonde flashed her considerate colleague a grateful smile, and then reached her right hand up to touch her head, only to realise that somehow she had managed to keep a hold of her handbag despite being violently propelled like a rag doll into the café through its front door. Mireille was pleased. Even when rocked by an explosion, being forcibly parted from one's weapon was unacceptable for a professional assassin. The danger to one's person didn't necessarily stop when the explosions did.

With Kirika's assistance, Mireille clambered unsteadily to her feet, accompanied by a tinkle of shattered glass that had stuck to her back falling like glittering dewdrops to the floor. The woman took her time to assess the destruction… and piece together what could have happened. Wisps of flame billowed through the destroyed front window of the café, with the remaining ragged glass attached along the edges of the frame giving the impression of a huge gaping maw breathing fire. Turning her gaze outside, Mireille saw the blazing skeleton of the Soldats car, the vehicle utterly gutted to a charred wreck. The still raging fires hid most of the chassis' interior, but she was sure she could make out two well-cooked bodies inside. It appeared that Breffort's messenger and his associate had not escaped after all.

But the two Soldats agents weren't the only casualties by far. Littering the street were several corpses-or soon to be corpses-simply people in the wrong place at the wrong time who had caught the brunt of the blast. There were even more than a few victims inside the café, some of them horribly wounded and unmoving unfortunates sprawled on the floor, having been thrown through the front window from the footpath outside, while others who had been sitting next to the window had been badly cut by flying glass as well as scorched by searing flames. All in all the fatalities of the car bomb, if indeed that was what it had been, were extensive. Mireille had been extremely lucky to avoid serious injury.

On seeing the booth where she and Kirika had only had lunch minutes before now a melted mess, Mireille turned worriedly to the girl.

"Are you alright?" she asked, consciously keeping all but a little concern out of her voice.

"Mm," Kirika nodded, her eyes flicking to their demolished table and then back to Mireille, understanding. "I followed behind you."

"Good," Mireille said, quite calmly, but with relief welling up inside of her. If Kirika had remained in her seat, she didn't want to imagine what could have happened.

Mireille noticed that all of the new clothes she had bought for Kirika had also been ruined beyond all recognition. And while the sight rankled Mireille's nerves-some of those outfits she had really wanted to see Kirika in again! Well, they could always go on more clothes shopping trips-right now that was the least of their problems. Someone had taken out two Soldats agents-Breffort's agents. Why? Infighting in the organisation perhaps? A little internal strife? It was feasible, but without further information all Mireille had was speculation.

"Mireille," Kirika said, her soft voice interrupting the woman's musings.

Mireille looked at Kirika, and saw her partner lower her brown eyes pointedly to her left hand. The Corsican followed her gaze, suddenly aware of the crumpled paper she still held. Evidently she had managed to retain her grasp on that too. Mireille lifted her left hand and frowned at the letter in it. Had the Soldats courier and his driver died because of this note? But it was only a simple message, one merely requesting that Mireille contact and meet with Breffort as soon as possible, just like all the emails before it. Was that worth killing two people and who knew how many innocent bystanders in the process? It didn't add up.

Police and ambulance sirens could be heard wailing in the distance; they would soon be here. It was long past time to be gone. Mireille certainly didn't want to be caught up in answering questions asked by the authorities, especially with a gun in her handbag. Besides, something had happened here today that didn't sit well with her, which may even involve her and Kirika. And she intended to find out what.


It was dusk by the time Mireille arrived back at the apartment building. For the remainder of the day, after a short visit back home following the car bombing, she had been out on the streets-the backstreets mostly-of Paris, seeing what she could learn from her usual rumourmongers who normally kept their ear to the ground regarding events in the underworld and the circumstances behind them, no matter how significant or trivial. She had been to see many people, some less scrupulous than others, and after loosening tongues with cash incentives and filtering out the illogical hearsay and fervent personal beliefs, the solid facts she had gathered all said more or less the same thing. An unexpected and disquieting thing.

Mireille trudged up the apartment building's flight of stairs to the first floor, lugging her yellow scooter with some difficultly beside her. Normally Kirika would do such labour for her, but on the Corsican's insistence, the obliging girl had remained behind at home. Mireille had cited it would be faster for her to zip around town collecting information by herself using her scooter. However, there had also been another reason why the assassin had wanted Kirika to stay in the apartment, one she hadn't told her. While it was obviously safer to wait in the security of their home, the main reason was that Mireille hadn't wanted Kirika's quiet and peaceful atmosphere to be harmed anymore than it had already been with the carnage at the café. The majority of the individuals the blonde had consulted were not the most… honest of people, to put it lightly. In truth, a good number were hardened criminals. Even in broad daylight, a woman and a girl alone in a seedy part of the city made tempting targets, especially with the well-to-do manner Mireille carried herself with. Of course, anybody who tried anything would have regretted it for the rest of his or her suddenly drastically shortened life, but the violence that would inevitably break out would undoubtedly extinguish whatever shred of tranquillity and believability Kirika's happy and normal living environment still had. Mireille would maintain the façade of an ordinary and serene way of life for as long as she could for Kirika's sake. Not until the bullets were flying in their direction would she finally concede that their black pasts had finally caught up with them, staining the light they lived in with darkness.

Mireille grunted in quite an unladylike fashion as she at last struggled up to the top of the staircase hauling her heavy load. It had been a long time since Mireille had last utilised her scooter before today. It was designed for only one person to ride, and now that she was no longer living alone indefinitely, she hadn't had much use for it. It was very rare when Mireille left the apartment without Kirika by her side, today notwithstanding, and the pair usually either walked to their destination or took a taxicab. They sometimes took advantage of the Metro, the subway system that ran beneath Paris like a subterranean spider's web, but only if pressed. Mireille preferred the privacy of a cab and was more than willing to pay for it.

But perhaps it was time for her to trade in her faithful yellow scooter for something that allowed more passengers. A car maybe, or even an actual motorbike. Mireille smiled at the thought of cruising around the streets of Paris on a juiced up motorbike with Kirika riding behind her; the girl's arms wrapped tightly around her waist while she snuggled into her back, naturally. Mireille wasn't really a big fan of motorbikes, but it certainly would be a lot of fun, and not to mention a great deal better than walking.

Mireille reached the apartment she shared with Kirika at the end of the hall and unlocked the door and entered, wheeling her scooter inside. As she walked into the living room, she saw Kirika sitting at the computer on the billiard table, watching TV on its monitor. A report on the car bombing outside the café was showing on the PC's screen, the channel set to a local news station that the darkhaired girl was regarding intently. However, she turned her attention to Mireille as the woman trundled her scooter past her to park it in its usual spot by the window, but not before then, somehow implicitly distinguishing that her partner had returned to the apartment and not an intruder instead without so much as looking in her direction. Mireille wondered how Kirika did it.

"What are they saying?" Mireille inquired as she walked over to the billiard table and casually tossed her handbag with her Walther P99 inside on it.

"It's being said that it was a car bomb and that there have been a total of seven deaths so far. There have been over a dozen injuries, too. Some are critical. The two men that were inside the car haven't been identified yet," Kirika said, knowing that Mireille was referring to the news stations she had occupied herself with viewing while left alone. "No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the reporters are saying that it could be gang related."

Mireille nodded. It was merely the bare essentials, the most basic of facts. The assassin had anticipated as much. It was natural for the media. It was uncommon when they actually got it right when it involved the underworld, and this time with Soldats involvement, it was doubly unlikely the news stations would.

There was silence between Mireille and Kirika for a few moments, and the blonde woman was acutely aware of the expectant look she was receiving from her partner. But Mireille wasn't very eager to disclose what she had discovered to Kirika. Her eyes went to Breffort's creased note that was lying flattened out on the green surface of the billiard table, next to the computer. Kirika hadn't asked whether or not it was the first message Mireille had gotten from the high-ranking Soldats member, and the Corsican hadn't told her either. It was better to keep that fact secret Mireille had decided; she wasn't sure how the generally stoic girl would take her duplicity. But in Mireille's eyes, it wasn't really duplicity. More like withholding the whole truth. It had been for Kirika's sake anyway; that made it justified, didn't it?

Mireille exhaled heavily. Kirika still hadn't said anything, but the silence between them was deafening. She could practically feel the girl's brown gaze on her, waiting patiently for her report. There was no prompting on Kirika's part, just quiet tolerance, noiselessly waiting for her to say something. Somehow that mute patience seemed to demand that Mireille speak more than encouraging words would have.

"I've found out something," Mireille finally admitted with some reluctance, "not much, but something." She looked up from the crumpled letter to meet Kirika's expressive eyes. "The word going around is that…" She paused for a second, knowing the impact this would have on their quiet existence. Perhaps she just wanted to soak up the remaining peacefulness for one single moment longer.

Mireille swallowed and then sighed, before continuing. "The word is that the car bombing was… was Noir's doing." She stopped for an instant to let it sink into the girl, and also for her to gauge Kirika's reaction. But Mireille's taciturn colleague simply blinked, nothing more. Sighing once again, Mireille went on with her report. "Supposedly Noir has returned to Europe after a few months hiatus. Either that, or they are back in business."

It wasn't the first time someone else other than Mireille and Kirika had claimed to be Noir. Indeed, the duo had met Chloe, the self-proclaimed 'True Noir', that way. Many contract killers in the underworld had taken on the title before Mireille and Kirika, and with the pair apparently vanished from the scene, some ambitious individual or individuals who believed they had the expertise to back up the name had taken advantage of their absence. Or at any rate, that appeared to be the case.

"Noir…" Kirika suddenly whispered, as if the word held special significance…. which in truth it did. She stared off into space as she spoke the feared title of the greatest assassin, or rather, pair of assassins in the business, seeming lost in thought. She then abruptly blinked, snapping out of her reverie, and her eyes moved to the letter resting atop the billiard table at the same time Mireille's did.

Mireille had no doubt what was running through her own mind was running through Kirika's as well. With the grapevine proclaiming that Noir had detonated the car bomb outside the café, it was likely that Breffort would believe that Mireille and Kirika were responsible for the deaths of his agents, and had performed an act of hostility against Soldats, effectively declaring war. While Mireille had no love for the group, she didn't want to go head to head against their entire force, or even solely against Breffort's own. Who knew how many belonged to the cloak-and-dagger society? It would be like fighting against the whole world-not a fight Mireille was raring to rush into, or to have Kirika engaged in either. Between the two of them they had killed an incalculable number of Soldats agents, but unbeknownst to them at the time, it had been during controlled conditions. The skirmishes had been tests, mere trials to see if they were worthy of becoming Noir. Going against a completely unleashed Soldats would be a very different experience.

So there was no choice. Even if just to assure Breffort that she and Kirika weren't to blame for the attack on Soldats, Mireille would have to meet with the man. It seemed he would finally get his much sought after meeting in spite of everything. But whatever he had to say, Mireille didn't care. She would go only to pledge her and Kirika's innocence, nothing more. She flat out refused to become embroiled in some Soldats plot, dragging along her partner for the ride too. Kirika was still recovering from her injuries sustained at the Manor; she didn't need anything more to worry about.

Mireille's shoulders sagged as she closed her eyes, shutting out the sight of Breffort's note. Regardless of her intentions, there was a good chance that simply conceding to Breffort's wishes spelt the end of her and Kirika's peaceful lifestyle. Or perhaps, the woman thought sadly, it was already at its end.


To be continued….

Author's ramblings:

And so it begins. Finally! ^_^ This was a fairly long first chapter, but I had to reintroduce some things mentioned in 'Black Turned Red'. I hope it is okay, and that the story will flesh out to something decent and entertaining.

The sounds Kirika makes when saying yes or no (those little mumbles) are more or less Japanese, but I figured Mireille wouldn't know exactly.

Oh, and yes, Mireille's PC (the original and this new one) does in fact have a TV antenna. Yes, really. ^_^