Fran picked at the thick metal bands around his wrists hoping to access his power and eyed the other man in the car. The blond dressed in expensive rumpled clothes still reeked of alcohol. With a ridiculous mix of ditzy expressions on his face and an unsteady gait, the man had seemed like the perfect target to steal from that morning.

Fran had been sure of his victory when he'd launched his attack on the man.

But in the blink of an eye, a fierce orange flame had sliced through all his creations and hard eyes narrowed in on his hidden position. And in the next instant, Fran had been caught in an unforgiving grip.

"I am sorry about that, kid," the blond man said softly in French. "You really surprised me back there."

Fran flinched and hid his bound wrists against his chest.

The man sighed and turned back to the window. "We're almost there."

Fran knew better than to ask any questions. He'd heard all the horror stories about the street kids who were taken away by rich people. So he kept quite and and memorized everything around him- the driver up front, the deceptive man at his side and the car's route.

By the time the car had stopped in front of a small country house, Fran had prepared five escape plans. He discarded all of them as useless since he couldn't access his indigo-tinged powers.

"Don't be like that. No one's going to hurt you," the blond said and led Fran into the house.

Thoroughly prepared to find some creepy old men, Fran gaped as he entered a room filled with all sorts of electronic devices on every available surface. He flinched and ducked away as a loud boom echoed in the room.

"Lal," the blond man whined. The orange flames around his palms vanished and he threw a twisted metal scrap down. Then in perfectly fluent Italian, the man said, "Why can't you just say hello?"

Standing atop a table filled with multiple computer screens, a blue-haired toddler pumped a shotgun. "You went out to get a drink last night and you came back today with a kidnapped child?"

"He's a street rat," the blond said.

The toddler, Lal, raised her shotgun. "And that justifies you kidnapping him?"

"I didn't kidnap him," the blond scratched his chin. "I saved a street rat from a life of petty theft."

"You saved him by bringing him here?" Lal scoffed and adjusted her red cloak. "Does he even know who we are?"

"Lal," the blonde lowered his voice and raised his hands in a placating manner.

"No, Iemitsu. We're not like the others. We don't kidnap kids and force them into this life. That was what you promised me."

"I didn't kidnap him. He came willingly."

"Before or after you manhandled him Iemitsu?" Lal snarled, her eyes narrowing dangerously at Fran's bruised arms.

"He used mist flames. I didn't know he was a kid until I caught him," Iemitsu said, his voice lowering even further. "You know how I am with mist flames. I overreact before I can help myself."

Lal examined Fran with a long look. "Mist flames?"

"I was just walking around and a group of men attacked me," Iemitsu said with a slight smile and pointed to one of the bruises on his neck. "All physical illusions."

Lal took a deep breath. "I see."

"With such a strong aptitude for Mist flames I couldn't just leave him out there. Not with the Estraneo still at large."

Lal's lips pressed together in a thin line. "The last of those assholes are somewhere in Russia."

"We can't know that for sure. The Estraneo have always been adept at hiding things. They hid those labs under everyone's noses for so long." Iemitsu said, "We can't take any chances. You saw what happened to those other kids they had."

Finally tired of their dismissive attitude when he was right there, Fran interrupted them, "Who's the Estraneo? And who are you?"

Lal tilted her head, her goggle-covered eyes focused on Fran even as she switched from Italian to English. "Are you sure he's just a street rat? Since when were street rats his age fluently bilingual?"

Fran blinked impassively, still understanding her words.

Iemitsu easily switched languages. "Oh Lal, with how nasally some of his words sound, he's obviously not completely fluent. But I'm just as surprised as you. I didn't know..."

Hating the way they ignored his questions, Fran interrupted again. "I also talk English."

Lal snorted. "It's speak, not talk."

"I might not speak it very well," Fran said. "But I understand it."

"So I see," Lal said. "But, anata wa kore o rikai shite imasu ka?"

Fran narrowed his eyes and huffed. "Why would I need to know Chinese?

"That was Japanese," Lal smirked. "Zhè shì zhōngwén."

"Is that Chinese?" Fran asked, more curious now than insulted. "It sounds different."

"Of course it does, they are different languages," Lal said simply.

"Look at you two, already bonding like the perfect teacher-student pair I had envisioned," Iemitsu said with that ditzy look back on his face.

Lal's shotgun creaked under her tightened grip. She switched back to English. "What did you just say?"

Iemitsu scratched his chin with a sheepish grin. "As a mist flame user, he's safer with us."

Lal narrowed her eyes behind the red goggles she wore. "And?"

"And, you were complaining about having too much spare time on your hands," Iemitsu said.

"So you're giving me a damn brat?"

Fran flinched before he could help himself.

Lal spared him a look as she holstered her shotgun. "I'm not good with..."

Iemitsu interrupted her. "When news gets out about such a young mist user, the boss will suggest proper training. The only available mist tutor in the family is Mammon."

"No one would send a kid to that fellow."

Iemitsu stared at her, his expression morphing into something Fran couldn't quite read.

"You wouldn't let them send him there."

"If I can't put him somewhere within my own department, then his placement is out of my hands."

Lal turned to Fran and stared at him for a long moment. "What's your name?" Lal Mirch asked rather gruffly, switching back to French.


"Fran from France?" Iemitsu said with a crooked grin and a relieved posture.

"Why are you still here?" Lal asked, her eyes narrowed behind her red goggles. "Don't you have some paperwork to finish?"

"Now, now, I have to make sure he settles in. I'm the one who brought him here so he's my responsibility."

Lal scoffed. "When have you ever paid attention to your responsibilities?"

Iemitsu smiled sadly and an almost regretful look flashed through his eyes before he grinned. "So you're willing to take him on as your responsibility?"

"I don't look after brats."

"Everyone else in CEDEF already has a student or apprentice to take care of. You're the only one I trust who can..."

"I don't need to be looked after," Fran interrupted. "I took care of myself just fine all these years."

"Oh kid, you're not in the streets anymore and this place is a lot more dangerous," Iemitsu said with a serious look at Lal.

"Why is this place more dangerous? Where are we?" Fran asked.

"It's kind of complicated." Iemitsu said with a stupid grin. "We're..."

"We're Mafioso," Lal said simply.


"No one's an idiot like you." Lal jumped down, her red cloak floating dramatically as she landed beside Fran. With a quick flick of her gloved hands, the thick metal bracelets around Fran's wrists fell with a loud thunk. "There, your flames should be accessible now."

Fran stood up straighter as the power within him unfurled with a comforting hazy warmth. He shuffled closer to Lal, closed his eyes to fully picture his intent and pulled on his power. He opened his eyes to Iemitsu's yelp and looked around with his new green tinged view of the world.

Lal's lips twitched upwards. "See, he'd have figured things out in no time. He's got potential."

"You're just saying that because he's copying you and your ridiculous eye wear."

"Did you just call me ridiculous?" Lal asked in a deadly tone.

"No! I called his goggles ridiculous."

Lal pulled the shotgun from her back holster. "So, you're saying I just have bad taste?"

"I'm just talking about his goggles," Iemitsu said warily as he slowly backed away. "They look ridiculous on him."

With an unimpressed narrowing of her eyes, Lal raised her shotgun. "You have until the count of three to get out of my sight."

"Is this how you treat your dear boss?" Iemitsu said.

"Three." Lal fired her shotgun.

"What happened to one and two?" Iemitsu said as he ducked and weaved through Lal's quickfire shots and left the room.

"Why bother counting when I just want to shoot you?" Lal lowered her shotgun with a smirk.

"You're not a baby at all, are you?" Fran said, counting the numerous bullet holes in the room. "What are you?"

Lal pushed her goggles up. "Impress me and one day I might tell you about it."

"Is it a super top secret?"

"Something like that." Lal shrugged. "You're taking this rather well. Aren't you bothered that you're joining the mafia?"

"I knew I'd end up in a gang eventually. You can't be stay on the street for long without people noticing and bothering you."

"Was someone bothering you?"

Fran shook his head.

"Did someone bother you before?"

"I moved away before they could do anything more than bother me," Fran said as he looked around the room curiously.

Lal stared at him for a moment and sighed. "Ever played Hide and Seek?"

"I've hidden from the police," Fran said. "And the nosey people who bothered me."

Lal nodded. "Then, you need to hide in this room, using your mist flames."

"In this room?"

"And I shouldn't be able to notice you or your flames. You lose if I find you."

"What happens if I lose?" Fran asked.

"Nothing good."

Fran's stomach growled.

"Maybe you should eat first. Wouldn't want you to faint the instant you came into my care." Lal motioned for him to follow her out of the room.

"Lal?" Waiting till he had her complete attention, Fran said, "What's a mist flame?"