Disclaim or Die: Read Or Die (R.O.D) is copyrighted by and the property of Hideyuki Kurata, Akitaro Yamada, Studio Deen/SME, Sony, and currently licensed to Manga Entertainment. Noir is copyrighted by and the property of Ryoe Tsukimura, Bee Train, Victor Entertainment, Inc. and currently licensed to ADV Films.
Sunlight shone through the clear skies, brightening and exposing the streets of Paris. To any ordinary citizen or tourist, there was nothing extraordinary to be noticed about this day, or any other day for that matter. Few of them knew that a dark and soiled underground lurked beneath them, and even less knew that the light shining for them today was almost put out. Almost blotted out by the looming shadow of a floating sky base, broadcasting a song of genocide.
Fortunately, such a bleak fate for the world was prevented by a handful of people. They stopped the shadow from falling upon the world, and they stopped the ambitious evil from realizing and grabbing onto its ill-gotten destiny.
Two of those people were strolling along the open-air shops and cafés of gay Paris. They were on their way to visit the other two that helped them achieve that victory over evil. One of them looked longingly at the bookstores while the other led them by the hand, trying to guide them away from such distractions.
Coming along a small break in the shops was a shaded alley. The leader peeked into the crevice, then giggling and playfully tugging her arm, she pulled her companion into the alleyway, travois and all.
"Come on, Yomiko-chan, we don't want to be late."
"B-but, Nancy-san! I wanted to see the bookstores! They might have the latest novel by my favourite author, Nenene Sumiregawa!"*º
"We're going to a bookstore, silly. It's been months since we've last seen them, and goodness knows I would hate to be rude by standing them up."
Yomiko looked down apologetically, like an errant child. "Gomen ne, Nancy-san."
Giggling again, Nancy kissed her lover's cheek. "You're forgiven."
The two of them looked up, finding a small corner shop tucked away into the brick wall. The only indication that it was there was a dark oak wood door with immaculately polished glass frames, and a mildly dingy window displaying its wares. A sign hung over the door, a white rectangle with an open book being the image on it; carved inside its page was the name of the bookstore: Carte Blanche.
Pushing on the door and opening it, they triggered the tiny bell that hung on the other end of its frame. The tinkling jingle-jangle filled the quiet store, alerting the owners inside of their arrival. Peeking their heads about and expecting to find a dimly lit interior, they were slightly surprised that an abundance of sunlight filtered itself through the smudged dirt-streaked windows, bathing and exposing all inside.
The sunlight hit a blonde head, turning it golden, and it looked up from the account books sitting on the counter to spy her visitors. Mireille genuinely smiled at them; it was good to see such friendly faces again.
"Kirika! They're here!" she called out to her partner.
The ever petite and waifish Kirika entered from the backroom. Upon catching sight of her former comrades, she smiled brightly, widely, genuinely; those rare expressions of happiness were now becoming more and more frequent.
Cheekily smiling back, Yomiko reached into the folds of her trench coat and discreetly pulled out a small package.
She threw it at the girl, who in turn caught the small box, with barely batting an eye. Credit it to her conditioned quick reflexes.
"Darjeeling tea," she read aloud.
"Hai! And it's authentically from India!"
"Thank you, Yomiko-san." She bowed curtly. "I truly appreciate this gift. I'll make some tea, right away!" With that, she disappeared back into the storeroom to put the kettle on and prepare the tea with her usual precision and meticulousness, savouring such a mundane task.
"How has the Carte Blanche been doing?" Nancy asked, making conversation.
Mireille shook her head and closed the account books. "Business isn't exactly booming; it's actually quiet, for one thing. For once, I'm relieved that it is."
"Now, now, don't give me that peace and quiet excuse. You must get your thrills somewhere else," the bluenette prodded and teased.
"Oh yes! That reminds me!" Cheerily, Yomiko pulled up her briefcase to lie on the counter in front of Mireille; she opened it up, revealing neatly tucked rows of high numbered bills. "Thank you so much for donating the Cosa Nostra-Soldats contract... and for using this store to track down the kikou books still on the black market, or any rare books the Library needs to find... and for your participation in that other document recovery mission..." The Paper began to ramble off, using her hands to count off the times the former Noir assisted them, and quickly caught herself. "Ah, I guess I should just say many, many thanks from the Royal British Library Division of Special Operations!"
Mireille smirked and examined the currency that would be put away in their safe, pretending that it was the only thing that mattered to her. "It's about time you paid me. I was waiting for our compensation ever since our first mission together!"
"You're worse than Drake-san!"
Getting up from her seat, the Corsican crossed the tiny room, and navigated with grace to a small furniture decorated corner; the woman sat down on one of the four plush armchairs situated there. Kirika soon reappeared, presenting a silver tray laden with fine china teacups, and laid it down on a small table in the center of the domestic island.
Each of the respective pairs took to a seat, partners sitting beside each other. Lovers held each other's hands and friends sipped their tea, engrossed in animated conversation and politely looking about the room. The Carte Blanche had indeed done quite well for itself, quiet and out of the way, not letting on to how deep its connections had run.
The store was lined wall to wall with immaculately categorized shelves. Displayed on these shelves were hundreds of rare and old books of many origins, many of them purchased from the black market and other underground markets with the accumulated blood money of the former Noir. That money, rid of by being put into a somewhat legitimate business, started this small store.
Strangely, Soldats had not come after them for any arising activity the two were involved in. Their guns had been traded in for with old and dusty tomes, replaced with scraps of aged pressed wood pulp and ink. Maybe that was enough to make the shadowy organization think they were benign to them. Or maybe the arms of the Library Force really were all encompassing and all protective. Whichever one it was, it granted the two maidens - no, it granted Mireille Bouquet and Kirika Yuumura, the solitude to seek their light.
They had help seeking it with their sporadic teammates with The Paper and Miss Deep. The pair hadn't changed so much since they last saw them. Yomiko Readman still earnestly pursued the written word in all its forms, with wide-eyed childish innocence and reckless abandon. And always to keep her in check, standing by her side was her ever contradictive, playful/serious, strong yet gentle lover, Nancy Makuhari. A shining example to the rewards of pursuing purely knowledge and truth, those two being another form of that metaphorical light.
Four chairs, four females, four friends sat in their intimate circle and caught up on old times, surrounded and bound by words, bound by books, bound by truth that brought them together.
*0 - Nenene Sumiregawa is a teenaged authoress that Yomiko saved from an obsessed fan: Marihara Kazumi, who was mentioned in chapter 2's footnotes. She is only featured in the manga, the novels, and also will make a cameo appearance in the latest R.O.D anime: Read Or Dream. I also mentioned her in the footnotes of chapter 3B, having to have kissed Yomiko for inspiration. Funny enough, Yomiko was surprised at how Nenene could waste her first kiss while Yomiko was currently on her second one! ^_^
All right! Done and done! *breathes a sigh of relief* It is finished, my Read Or Die/Noir crossover! This work has been in progress since fall of 2002, the idea coming to mind since August of 2002. I'm glad to have struggled with long bouts of writer's block, railroaded by school and work, and succumbing to mad fits of inspiration stricken insomnia to get this story out there to you. This story may not be perfect, but it is my creation, crafted in my vision, and I am finally satisfied that I've gotten it out of my system, for your entertainment and mine. Reviews displaying your comments and your criticism are greatly appreciated, for I can finally reap the fruits of my labour. ^_^