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Anomaly

Chapter Text

Three

Decisions

 

Rem heard the words, and she understood.

It did not really matter who had actually said the words or who had pulled the strings to set the fatal scenario—both humans were beings of thought and action. And both were threatening Misa’s life.

She looked at the youth who was eyeing her in the most subtle of manners. A pang of hatred burnt inside her, together with the dread. Light Yagami. Rem had grown fond of him while she had been stuck with the disgusting humans of the Yotsuba group. It had only taken a short span of time beside him again to remind her of his ruthlessness. Light Yagami. It was a name easy to pronounce, not that easy to write, even for hands more used to the Japanese language than hers were. Anyway, she would be able to write it before turning to dust and sand—he deserved it for having endangered Misa once again, for using her. Rem did not even need a loophole in the rules anymore now that she haunted him and the note he owned. Yes, she would write down his name. Thus, Misa would be freed from the manipulative human who thought himself a god.

Think. Act. Hurry!

Nonetheless, the model’s heart would be torn apart because of his demise. Rem was unable to understand why, but Light was everything to Misa, and Rem knew that she would break without him. She would take the whole blame in order to clear her beloved’s name and get herself caught and executed. Maybe she would go insane and become suicidal, throwing away Gelus’ sacrifice as well as her own.

Do I really want to sacrifice myself? I am being framed.

If only she had not been friends with Gelus. If only she had not witnessed his end. If only she had not received these feelings for the human girl. Wishful thinking.

There is no other way. There is no time for doubts. Act. Hurry!

Her eyes roamed throughout the place. A thunderstorm roared outside the building; inside, the sick light of the computer screens mirrored the lightning. Names and life spans shone over the humans’ heads. The men were talking, complaining, even shouting. Everything was light and noise.

Suddenly, Rem felt exhausted. How she longed for darkness and silence!

It is time.

She watched the weird detective who would be the death of Misa and glared at the anomaly.

She had asked Ryuk about its meaning time ago, but he had not had a clue. Neither could she remember a single Shinigami who had. When Gelus’ Death Note had been disowned and Rem had been released for a while, she had come back to the Shinigami realm in order to find answers. She had not spent much time there, as far as the plan regarding the despicable Higuchi had to be implemented. Besides, her enquiries had been of no use. One of the gods had seen one of those humans a century ago, and that was all. Wise Nu had whispered her contempt for Shinigami that dropped gifts to the human world, but she would not elaborate. Finally, Rem had approached the Shinigami King’s right-hand man, Armonia. He had feigned ignorance. Rem could swear she had seen the skeletal mouth twist in a mockery of a smile, but she had not dared push the question further.

Rem looked around and frowned; she had to take a decision. Which one? Which one first?

Gelus had started crumbling even as he finished writing the name. Nevertheless, she was stronger than him. How many names could she write before fading away?

She took a glance at the screens. The butler had to disappear, too.

She made up her mind.

Misa, remember me. Live and try to be happy.

Rem phased through the walls, took her Death Note, and began writing. How many names?

One? Two?

Three?

Chapter Text

Two

Failure

 

All in all, the scene was as it had to be—the sworn enemy had knelt before the God of the New World. The scene was as it had to, except for the weirdness of it all. Ryuzaki was drying and massaging Light’s feet while apologising again and again. What was the meaning of that? What was he plotting?

Truth be told, Ryuzaki had been acting oddly all day long, even for his standards. From time to time, he would stop his work to observe his own hands absent-mindedly. Afterwards, he had disappeared. Light had found him on the roof under the pouring rain, soaked to the bone, looking depressed, defeated, harmless. For a second, Light had felt sorry for him. But then, he had started mumbling about bells tolling, and the spark of sympathy was gone. What new trick was that? Or maybe, just maybe, the great L had finally lost his sanity.

In fact, Light had been wondering frequently of late if something was wrong with the detective’s brain. At first, he had thought the sackful of quirks and eccentricities to be part of an elaborated façade designed to unnerve anyone who met the detective. The façade was there—Ryuzaki, L, was a consummate liar. Everything he said or did was deliberate, charged with hidden purpose. Something was missing, however. The time they had spent chained to each other had taught Light that there was truth in Ryuzaki’s mannerisms, and that this truth spoke volumes of disorders—the unhealthy eating habits, the lack of social skills outside the professional field, the insomnia, the bout of depression. The pills he took. The nightmares. On the rare occasions he slept, he used to wake up with a start, looking ragged and unfocused. One night he had screamed and awaken Light. One night he had not only screamed and awaken Light, but got up in a frenzy and dragged him to the bathroom, where he had spent half an hour looking at his reflection in the mirror.

And now, the toll of unreal bells.

The youth looked down at the dripping black hair which crowned Ryuzaki’s head and sighed. He took a towel and wiped the hair. The parade of apologies and self-deprecation would not stop.

What is in this head? Is there something here that might help me get rid of you?

Once he had read that genius, eccentricity, and mental conditions often went hand in hand. Furthermore, the combination could indicate the onset of a serious disease such as brain tumours. Of course, genius did not always involve illness—Light was the proof of it. And yet.

And yet, a brain tumour could cause people to act in strange ways, smell things which were not there, hear things which did not exist. Like these bells.

“It will be lonely, won’t it? You and I will be parting ways soon,” Ryuzaki said.

The sadness was so deep that Light felt it himself; his stomach churned. In a heartbeat, it disappeared and was replaced by eagerness.

You are signing your death sentence, aren’t you, Ryuzaki? Or are you already dying?

The awkward scene came to an end, and both returned to the room where the rest of the task force awaited. Rem was lounging around, dancing between being present and making herself unnoticed. The detective crouched in front of the Death Note and the myriad of monitors. Light was expectant, though he never lost his composure.

Whatever you are going to do, do it now.

The ornamented W multiplied throughout the screens. Soon after, Ryuzaki was giving orders and explaining his plan to finally check the rule of the thirteen days. Light’s chest swelled with anticipation. His schemes were fruitful at last.

Carefully, he stole a glance from the Shinigami.

You have to do it now, Rem. Kill him. Keep your promise.

The other men argued. Light faked interest in what they were saying, but his mind was somewhere else.

Kill him, Rem. What are you waiting for? Kill him and turn to sand!

And then the beeps began, the computer system went crazy, the data disappeared.

“Watari? Watari!”

As Ryuzaki explained that the old butler had orders of deleting the data provided he was in mortal danger, Light knew that Rem had used her Death Note.

“Where’s the Shinigami?”

There was chaos, and there was shouting, and Light could not even breathe.

One second, two seconds, three, four, five, six, seven...

L started.

Light saw him fell from the chair. He moved to catch him before he hit the ground. He held him in his arms. It was as if time had slowed down.

“Ryuzaki!”

Pain was written all over his face, dark eyes larger than ever. It was moving. It was pathetic.

It was victory.

I win, L. Kira wins.

Light smiled, a triumphant, dark smirk, only for the dying man’s eyes. These eyes understood and died. Light made the smirk disappear. He cried in faked anguish, warning the others to protect themselves, warning them against the Shinigami. He would keep on pretending until he could take Rem’s Death Note.

Something stirred in Light’s arms.

No. Not something. Someone.

“He is not dead!” somebody yelled.

It is impossible.

The large eyes were alive once again. They were staring at him with a strange shining in them.

“I remember,” the man who should have been dead said. Light shuddered. He remembered the smirk, he knew he was Kira.

He has no evidence, anyway. He should be dead. Why is he still breathing? What has Rem done?

“Help me with him,” Light asked the others while trying to keep his nerve. “Stay with him, watch him, I will look for the Shinigami.”

“It... is...dangerous. You could... !” Matsuda stuttered.

“Someone must do it,” Light said. He tried to stand up.

The grip of a firm hand prevented him to do it.

“Do not leave me,” Ryuzaki rasped. He touched Light’s face. It felt like a caress; the touch made Light’s insides somersault.

He knows, he knows everything. Rem, what have you done, you useless fool?!

“Light-kun is special. He saved me. The bells have stopped,” Ryuzaki muttered. And he smiled.

Light felt a chill crawling down his spine. He let the detective go.

“We must get medical aid,” Mogi said.

“Stop,” Ryuzaki said. He stood up slowly. “You have to leave the building; you have to leave me alone. Go home and wait for my call.”

“What do you mean? Watari is dead! And you need help!” Matsuda replied.

“Actually, I could well die and cause you harm in the process if you stay. The Shinigami is perhaps waiting to finish me. It is dangerous to stay here. Go, do not waste time.”

Reluctantly, the men complied.

No, I must stay. I have to find Rem’s Death Note before the others.

“Maybe you are not yourself now, Ryuzaki. Maybe you are being manipulated into this,” Light said.

“And what will I do? Delete the data? It is already lost. Maybe I will be commanded to burn this place to the ground,” Ryuzaki chuckled. It was unnerving. “That is another reason for you to leave. Go. I will call you if I can.”

“He is right, son. Let’s go now,” Soichiro said. He took Light by the arm.

“But—”

His complaints were of no use. Light finally followed his father and the others. They left the building.

Light was desperate.

He is not dead. Rem has failed me. And now, there is a Death Note inside this place, and I can’t reach it.

He felt the rise of bile in his throat.

No. Not only one Death Note was out of his reach.

Two Death Notes.

Chapter Text

One -1st part

Hypotheses

 

The second break of dawn since the fiasco found Light pondering hypotheses.

The first one was pretty simple—Rem had not been able to write L’s real name. It was possible that death had surprised her before finishing it. That would explain the minor attack the detective had suffered.

The second one was different. In this scenario, Rem would have written both names and added details which would help clear Misa of blame. If this was to be true, then they would be waiting for a call that would never come, and two corpses would be rotting in the headquarters after erasing any piece of evidence against the model.

The third hypothesis worried Light. What if Rem had betrayed him, and the whole series of events had been a ruse? May Rem have decided that L was a better asset than him regarding Misa’s safety? Would they have set a new trap to catch him, to catch Kira? Were Rem and Watari still alive, helping L in the shadow, waiting for Light to make a mistake? Actually, no one had seen the butler’s corpse. In this case, the failure in getting Rem’s note would be the least of his problems.

Light opened his wardrobe and chose a shirt and a pair of trousers. He caressed the fabric and revelled in the touch. The remembrance of a spectral hand touched his face, large eyes shone for him. Do not leave me.

He frowned.

He needed to contact Ryuk and Misa as soon as possible, but he had to be extremely cautious. Plans circled in his mind. For now, it was better to wait for a signal.

The signal arrived that afternoon.

***

The break of dawn found a handful of men attending a memorial service. Despite the warning that Ryuzaki had given them—There is a sixty percent chance that you are in danger just by getting close to me in this moment. Do not feel obliged to come to the service—the members of the task force were there, even Aizawa. Aiber and Wedy had not appeared, but they had sent the flowers which surrounded Watari’s picture. In fact, the dead butler was the missing one, for his body had been repatriated to whatever country was his natal one. Suspicious.

Light stood by his father, who had been the first one to assure he would attend the memorial. Soichiro was a honourable person, so he felt compelled to pay his respects to the fallen comrade-in-arms. Light, ever the dutiful and perfect son, had accompanied him. Kira, ever the puppeteer, would have attended that service with or without Soichiro. So much depended on it.

He peeked at Ryuzaki. As usual, he was the only one who did not wear formal clothes. A pair of sunglasses with dark lenses, a hood that hid most of his face, and a baggy trench coat in which he sank were the only differences with his customary attire. Light hid a grimace. He was not sure if he despised the man for his impropriety, or if he admired him for his personality.

Ryuzaki himself seemed to embody a contradiction—too alive for a dead man, too gaunt and ghostlike for a living one. A tangled mass of hair fought against the hood, his posture was worse than ever, his skin had a wan hue. He looked haunted.

A haunting guffaw shook him out of his thoughts.

“Ha-ha, feels like home.”

The tiniest smile twisted Light’s mouth. He turned around and saw Ryuk looming over the tombstones. Misa was also there, dressed in a sober black dress and waiting for him to tell her what to do. For once, he almost felt proud of her—she had understood the things left unsaid in the sparse conversation they had had last evening. Light had phoned her in front of his whole family and had been very careful not to say a word which could unveil his plans and suspicions.

He hoped she would also understand what was expected of her now.

“Misa, I am so glad you are here. Your presence comforts me.”

He took a few steps towards her. She offered him a reassuring smile.

“Misa is happy to be by your side in weary times.” The actress in her got into play. She was controlling her annoying behaviour, and he rewarded her with a gesture meant to be sweet.

“It is difficult to believe this is real. When you look at his picture, it is difficult to believe that Watari is dead,” Light sighed.

Misa stared at the photograph. Good girl.

“Have I missed some good entertainment?” Ryuk asked.

Light ignored him. He walked Misa to the place where Soichiro stood. He greeted her, she greeted him back. Light awaited.

Ryuzaki saw them. He removed hood and sunglasses in order to gaze at Misa, then he talked to Mogi. She was distracted and did not notice it. Stupid girl! The Shinigami noticed, however, and he sneered.

Ryuzaki approached them with renewed energy, his face half-hidden once again.

“Raito told Misa. Misa wanted to give her condolences.”

“I am indebted to your generosity, Misa-san. It is so considerate on your part. I am really grateful,” Ryuzaki said. He took Misa’s hands and smiled at her. Light raised his eyebrows at the unexpected display of affection. Ryuk laughed. Misa blushed. She was playing her part.

“This is hard for everyone. Misa wanted to comfort Raito.”

“Of course you did, Misa-san, didn’t you? Light-kun is lucky to have his special one at his side, especially when she is someone as pretty and gentle as you are.”

“Hyuk! Seems Misa-Misa has a new admirer.” Ryuk was having a great time. Light was not.

“Misa is the lucky one, ” she replied. Her blush increased. “But tell Misa... Is Ryuzaki-san... alright?”

Ryuzaki worried his thumb. A look of intense concentration marred his polite mask.

“I must say I am sad. Watari was not only my assistant. He was like a surrogate father to me. He was family. A monster killed my family,” Ryuzaki stated as he lowered his head.

A pang of pain darkened Misa’s visage, and an alarm rang inside Light’s mind. He’s playing with you. Can’t you see it?

This time she was the one who touched Ryuzaki.

“Misa is sorry for your loss,” she said. And her voice was sincere.

The detective raised his face. Unexpectedly, he exposed it and wiped some tears before taking on the glasses and the hood again. Misa was looking at him. Light held his breath. Good girl. Soichiro coughed.

“Thank you, Misa-san. Now I must speak with my men."

Ryuzaki patted her hands awkwardly. She eyed Light, and he nodded. She said farewell and walked along. Light realised she was agitated. Keep calm, silly girl. Don’t dare to ruin this chance.

“Thank you all for coming. We are in dire straits, but there is some good news. Medics saw me and said I am fine.” Except for the diabetes and the brain condition. Light concealed his smugness—it had to be Ryuk’s influence. “Besides, if I am to be manipulated, I am still my own self. I have been working with a couple of experts in order to recover the data. I have been searching for the Shinigami; unfortunately, I have not found anything. I am sure that the Shinigami murdered Watari and tried to murder me. This god is on Kira’s side, has been denying us answers on purpose and is bound to the Death Note. The threat of having the Death Note dispatched to another place must have pushed the monster to make that move. There is a high probability there is a price to be paid, or else it would have happened before. Anyway, I think we should not be together for a little longer. In fact, I will understand if you leave the force.” His voice strengthened. “Nonetheless, I am not giving up. I am going to defeat Kira even if it is the last thing I ever do. Justice will prevail.”

The men said something, but Light was not paying attention.

He was thinking of the things he would make L do before killing him.

***

Light found Misa and Ryuk at the train station. They got on the train and spent the ride in silence. Misa’s unexpected quietness was a blessing.

They got off the train and went to a quarter where a urban park and a forest tangled. Light bought a few apples in the near market. They kept walking until Ryuk snorted.

“It’s safe. No one has followed you, there are no cameras, no people here. Now you can speak, and I can have my treat.”

The apple that Light threw was caught in mid-air. Ryuk made a sound of content, and Light turned to Misa. She looked upset.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” The lack of third person worried Light.

“I didn’t have time, he hid his face way too soon,” she babbled. “I try and try, but I can’t remember!”

“You don’t remember his name,” Light hissed. He started seeing red.

“His name is not Japanese, the words are foreign. I didn’t have time to figure them out. Misa is ashamed,” she apologised.

Light fought against the urge to smack the babbling idiot.

Misa does not understand what is at stake. This is the second time you forget. We may not have a chance like this again! You’re only good at wasting the sacrifices others do for you,” Light spat out. He was having trouble managing his anger.

“I’m really sorry. Misa is so stupid,” she sobbed. “But I looked at the picture. You wanted me to do it, didn’t you? I looked at it, and there was neither a name nor a life span. Watari is dead, he is.”

Light breathed slowly. At least she had accomplished that. And Watari’s actual death weakened the third hypothesis.

“Small confort. And the numbers over L, did you see them?”

“Yes...I think so... I was trying to see his name. But yeah, they were there, yes.”

“That is fine. He is not an owner... Ryuk, I have some questions for you.”

“Do you want to make the deal?”

“No, I don’t. What I need to know is how many names a Shinigami can write down before fading away.”

Misa gasped. Ryuk stared at Light.

“It depends on the rank. Those of Rem’s rank should be able to write two names; maybe more.”

“And could they have time to add details to the deaths?”

“If they write them fast enough and don’t elaborate them, they may. Unless they hesitate.” Ryuk’s voice was harsh and detached.

“Is Rem dead?” Misa asked.

Isn’t it obvious? But Light bit his tongue and praised the Shinigami and her deeds, done for the sake of Kira’s New World and their love. It was an impressive speech. Her face changed from blank to hopeful.

Then she screamed.

Light turned around, and he saw a creature with a mouth full of teeth like needles and insect-like arms. For a second he lost his composure. Then he saw Ryuk’s smile broadened. Another Shinigami.

“Ha! Sidoh! What brings you here? Have you missed something?” Ryuk teased.

Light saw the stranger glanced at him and Misa.

“I must talk to you. Alone,” the new god said. His voice was oddly shy.

“They know about the notebook. You can speak here,” Ryuk replied.

“It’s not only about the Death Note. I’ve got a message for you from the Shinigami King’s right-hand man, and it’s not for humans’ ears.”

“From Armonia Justin Beyondormason? That’s another story. Ok, let’s talk. I’ll be back soon.”

Ryuk and the other disappeared. In the meantime, Misa had got closer to Light and was pulling at his sleeve.

“Don’t be afraid. I am here.” Light tried to use a tender tone.

“Is Raito still mad at Misa?” She pouted. She was trying to get his attention.

Light decided to humour her. After all, he still needed her eyes. There would be time to get rid of her.

He kissed her. It was a chaste kiss. He did not feel her shiver like she had before, so he deepened the kiss, and she did shiver. Tongue met tongue, lips met lips; he tried it to be thorough and passionate. He even touched her hair. He felt a hand caress his cheek. Do not leave me.

He opened his eyes and broke the kiss. As she sighed, he realised he was still touching her hair, which had the wrong colour.

What’s wrong with me?

He swallowed hard and moved. Ryuk returned without the other Shinigami.

“He is gone,” Ryuk said.

“Is there anything I should know?” Light asked.

“Not really. There is an anomaly, and we Shinigami have a new prohibition.”

“Does it have to do with Rem?” Misa muttered.

“Perhaps. But don’t bother. It’s going to be fun!”

Ryuk laughed. It was not his usual laughter—the sound was threatening and horrifying. It made Light’s skin crawl. Misa shuddered and hid behind him. He did not allow his fear to show. In fact, it was no surprise that the Shinigami had taken measures after losing two of their kind because of a human. And what mattered was L. If Misa saw part of his name...

He had to know what Rem had written.

“Ryuk, I need you to do something for me.”

***

The alley was empty save for Light, who was lost in thought. Two days had passed since he had finally found out the truth about Rem’s note. They had approached the headquarters, hidden at the exact distance for Light and Misa to be safe, and for Ryuk to get into the building. Ryuk had seen Ryuzaki inside the building, alone with his computers. Afterwards, he had found Rem: a pile of dust topped by what remained of the Death Note, that is, a handful of ashes. Its secrets had died with its owner.

At least, the third hypothesis had been discarded. Now, he had to do with what he got. And he got a bag of apples, and the feeling he was being watched.

“Do you like apples, Sidoh?"

The Shinigami appeared. His movements were hesitant. Oh, but that was going to be easy!

“I don’t know.”

“You should try one. We can have a talk after that.”

Sidoh took the apple, and Kira smirked.

Chapter Text

One - 2nd part

Nightmares and Delusions

 

Time and space blurred—Light knew he was stuck in a dream. Somehow, the awareness did not surprise him. What was his intellect for, if not for controlling everything, even dreams? Anyway, he did not feel in control, not really.

He sat down as he witnessed a scene he had already lived. L knelt before him, the crown of black hair dripping on Light’s thighs, Light’s hands stroking the dark locks. He had lived it all before; however, there were differences. The detective was not using his hands, but his mouth. And he was not massaging his feet, but another part of Light’s body, a body which seemed on fire, for he was melting, melting...

The sound of laughter made him watch somewhere else. There stood Rem. There also stood Light glaring at himself, and he knew that this self was Kira. A large city could be seen behind him. “Choose: one kneeling man or thousands of kneelers,” Kira said. He looked at L, who had stopped his ministrations. “Save me, Light-kun,” the detective whispered. Light felt sick, but he made a gesture towards his other self. Rem wrote in her notebook and disappeared. Bells began tolling. L’s eyes fixed upon Light’s. “Save me,” he begged as he lay dying. Light stood up. He had to hide from those eyes, he had to run away...

A cold hand gripped his ankle.

“Do. Not. Leave. Me,” something croaked.

Light screamed

and woke up drenched in sweat. Raindrops tapped against the windowpane; his heart thundered to the beat of them. He pricked up his ears, afraid of having awakened Sayu or his parents. Fortunately, silence countered his fears.

He let go of the air he was holding and started cooling down. It was not the first time he dreamt of someone’s (Ryuzaki’s ) death; neither was the first time disgusting dreams about him plagued his sleep—he had had his share of them while they had been handcuffed to each other. That sort of reaction was normal, to a certain extent—juvenile hormones, the pressure of being a prisoner... There was a name for that, Stockholm Syndrome, damn it! If Light had been a weakling, he would have suffered from a serious shock. Light had endured because he was better than the rest. Justice would not be misguided by urges he did not really have. It was insulting to consider he could feel the slightest attraction towards a guy.

That mouth. Those eyes.

Anger took over his body. How did he dare to poison his dreams? Light should have been judging criminals, not obsessing over a single human, a single letter. L, L, L.

A clean death would be too merciful for the weirdo. He wanted him to suffer. He wanted him broken. And Light would have his prize, even if the second hypothesis were the right one. There still remained enough days to play with L. In fact, the days of freedom the detective had allowed the members of the task force were helping Light make new plans, use new minions.

He took a tiny box from the desk drawer, opened it, and grinned at the pill that was stored inside the box. Then he coughed three times, and that poor excuse for a Shinigami appeared.

“It is safe,” Sidoh whispered timidly. Light had taught him to avoid Soichiro and to look for cameras or bugs. The house had been clean for ages, but Light would not take unnecessary risks. “What can I do for you?”

“I want you to repeat the list. You must learn it by heart.”

***

Although he could not conceive anything more pathetic than the story of the loss of the notebook, Light had to admit that Sidoh was a gift. He was virtually his slave—not for apples, but for the promise of getting back the Death Note Light owned. The creature still had time (around five years in human terms) before having his life in danger for lack of writing names, but he wanted it back so badly he would do anything Light commanded him to do. Anything, within the constraints of the rules Shinigami had.

Consequently, Light had experimented, and the god had proved himself to be a useful if squeamish tool. Ryuzaki’s face and identity were as unattainable as usual, but he had watched the detective in his own cage, and he had played the ghost in haunted headquarters while Light was strolling through the surroundings.

That human eats sugar, looks at screens, talks to the letter R. The letter talks back from time to time with a strange voice. The voice says they're trying to recover the data, and one of the kids is helping. The voice says a kid is angry and worried for L’s safety. Then the human leaves the screens and looks at nothing for hours. He gazes at pictures, does strange exercise, kicks a bottle of pills, and swallows different pills from another bottle. The human listens to the noises I make, and sees the things changed and broken, and seems afraid, methinks.

Who’s the prisoner now, Ryuzaki?

Light did not care about that R or the kids, who were undoubtedly more examples of Ryuzaki’s assistants, but he was glad Sidoh had brought him one of the discarded pills. It was similar to those Ryuzaki had taken by the time of the Yotsuba investigation. Maybe they were mere vitamins to compensate for the lack of a proper diet, but he was convinced they kept secrets. Freedom had let the youth visit To-Oh and got in touch with his former girlfriend, Takada, whose eldest brother worked in a chemical lab. By means of lies and the advantage of the crush the girl still had on him, the secrets of the pill would be revealed. It was easy for Light to charm and manipulate people, especially women.

Charm was the arm he was using at the moment with a Misa who had become greedy since their last meeting; charm and enough willpower to stomach the make-out session. Light cursed the passion he had faked before—Misa would not content herself with mild kisses anymore. She demanded further attentions. Her hands were all over Light’s chest, and she wanted his hands roaming over her body as well. At least, her breasts were small.

“This is going too fast, Misa. Modesty would suit us better.”

Misa blinked. Even she noticed the irony of the wording.

“It’s okay if it’s Raito. Misa wants to express her love for her boyfriend, Misa wants Raito to make her his,” she said in a sultry voice. He felt like vomiting.

“We will be together, I promise you. However, now you have to do what I told you.”

She pouted, but obeyed him nonetheless. He smoothed his clothes and checked his appearance in the mirror—everything was perfect. Afterwards, he gave the signal. Sidoh appeared, followed by Ryuk. Misa took her cell and started texting what Sidoh was saying.

“The photos you should check in the webpage SeKond Coming, some have no names for them. The others are: Kurosaki Hiro, Kento Yoko, James Walls...”

Light left the dressing room.

“Why the grimace?” Ryuk asked.

“She can be utterly annoying.”

“Hyuk! Make the deal and you’ll have L’s name and won’t need her eyes.”

“Don’t insist. The deal is never going to happen.”

“Oh! Well, maybe you can get the eyes for free with your charisma. You have caused the death of a Shinigami, and another one is your errand boy. You know, there’s Nu, she’s covered in eyes. There are tales that say she gifts the eyes to every new Shinigami, and that she throws the spare ones to the human world. If you pique her interest...”

“It is not funny, Ryuk. Stop joking and focus. Next time, I will not get so close to Misa, and you will have to pay attention to what Sidoh tells you on my behalf.”

“I know, I know. But think of the spare eyes.”

Light ignored him. The echoes of Sidoh’s words can be heard, the names which will be written by Misa later on the pages of the Death Note.

After all, the rule of the thirteen days had to be observed.

***

The men stared at the pile of sand and dust.

“What’s that?” Matsuda asked.

“I am positive it is the Shinigami,” Ryuzaki answered while nursing a strawberry. His appearance was unkempt; purple shadows encircled red-rimmed eyes. There was an edge to his monotone that Light recognized as fear. Good boy.

“Why do you think so?” Soichiro asked.

“When I found it yesterday, I tried to remember the last place we saw the creature. If the Shinigami phased through the walls, a straight line to the meeting room can be traced back. Assuming the fact that we have never seen it again, and no other attack on my person has occurred, we can say it has disappeared. As I told you, there is a high probability the monster did not attack us before because of the consequences. These are the consequences.”

“It makes no sense, Ryuzaki. According to the lore, these are gods of death. Why should they be punished for following their nature?” Light said.

“Because of rules. The Death Note has rules, so we must expect the Shinigami also have them. It is possible they are not allowed to kill while they are in our world, or they can’t harm those who have touched the Death Note. That would explain why it succeeded in murdering Watari, but not me.”

Light knew the logic was flawed, and he could not remember for the life of him whether Watari had touched the notebook or not, but he could not help being impressed by the detective’s power of deduction.

“Are you implying the Death Note is some sort of shield?” Aizawa asked. Surprisingly, he had resigned from the NPA and resumed his post in the task force. Bad idea. Your current boss is going to fall sooner than later.

“I am implying it remains here.”

“And we forget about the veracity of the rule of the thirteen days?”

“There is no need to demonstrate its truth anymore. Amane is not guilty,” Ryuzaki stated.

That was unexpected.

“Not again! I thought it was clear!” Matsuda complained.

“I presumed the second Kira had recovered her skill to kill by looking at a face, and she had not seen me since the murders resumed. So I showed Amane my face in the memorial service. I expected her to kill me soon after; nobody would suspect her after my ordeal. So I warned Mogi; he knew what to do if I died. I am alive though, which is not really a surprise. Amane’s condolences were sincere. She was not pretending.”

The men looked at Mogi, who just nodded. Light hid his uneasiness. For once, Misa’s incompetence had saved them.

“I apologise to Yagami-san and Light-kun. I am convinced of Light-kun’s innocence now.”

“Now,” Soichiro muttered. His brow was furrowed. “At last. Because of Amane.”

And because of Light-kun’s reaction when I collapsed.”

Liar! You think you can fool me, but two can play at that game.

“It is fine with me, Ryuzaki. Let’s not dwell in the past. We have work to do.”

“Indeed.”

Ryuzaki’s little smile was far too warm and genuine for Light’s comfort.

***

As planned, they knew of Kira’s new judgments that same evening.

“Bastard! Those were police officers and politicians, not criminals!” Matsuda yelled.

“He has murdered everyone who was involved in the repression of the Kira fanatics that happened four days ago in five different cities, in two different countries.”

She,” replied Ryuzaki. “I still think the second Kira is female.”

“Tomorrow is the tenth day since the last killing spree. The rule applies,” Soichiro remarked.

The men kept a gloomy silence. Ryuzaki finished his tea and left the room. He returned later on with a large box.

“You should go home and take the stuff you need. I expect you to be here tomorrow at first light, for we are staying. We have no suspect, and this game has to be over.”

***

Light had a couple of free hours to visit Misa’s neighbourhood. He needed Sidoh to tell Ryuk the new names and instructions. What he did not need was more physical contact with the vapid model.

Besides, he already had a scrap of the Death Note in his watch.

***

They sat in front of laptops, created new files or fought to organise and made sense of the old ones that were rescued from the digital black hole—slowly, so slowly. They searched the Internet to monitor any webpage or piece of news related to Kira and his (her, their ) followers, who were becoming increasingly restless. They found out the first important Anti-Kira civil pages worldwide, which raged against the latest purge—not his smartest move, Light acknowledged through clenched pride, but he had to make a point, and a god would not let down the people who followed (adored) him.

Matsuda made coffee. Ryuzaki made towers out of sugar cubes.

They watched security tapes that had been stored in the bowels of the building. They were watched by screens which never showed a W now, were watched by the few cameras that still worked—most of them had stopped working the evening of Rem’s death or broke afterwards mysteriously.

Soichiro gave a sensible opinion. Ryuzaki ate a piece of cake and did not try to fool Light into admitting he was Kira.

They unpacked folders and files from boxes, physical backups of the data that did not seem so lost anymore—who, when? They were given keys for decrypting the ciphertext the files bled out, codes and ciphers so complex that even Light would have needed more than a year to figure them out without the key.

Aizawa frowned. Mogi kept silent. Ryuzaki called Watari, reality struck him. Grief tinged his face. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. The movement was distracting.

They worked for hours on end.

Routine had returned, different enough from before. Light enjoyed it. Ryuzaki tidied up trays with delicate fingers. Those were also distracting.

Perhaps Light enjoyed this routine a bit too much.

***

It was the afternoon of the third day; they took a little break. Light was skimming through a book, sat next to Ryuzaki, who was replying—tap, tap—to some email. Soichiro and Matsuda sat in a couch; the former was talking about an important exam that Sayu had just passed, and Matsuda was making a fuss about it.

“Matsuda-san is the biggest fan of the Yagami family.”

“He’s just enthusiastic,” Light replied while turning pages.

“He could become Light-kun’s brother-in-law.”

Light raged. “You...you are...Don’t you dare talk about my sister!”

“I mean in the future, Light-kun. It is a possibility. Besides, Matsuda-san would make a perfect relative-in-law and an ideal husband. I am sure he would do everything for his wife. If she told him to cosplay as a pink fairy, jump off a bridge, and try to fly, he would do it.”

The image was fastest than Light’s grudge. He could not help it: he started laughing out loud. A laugh full of joy, without a trace of malice. It was strange.

“It is good to make Light-kun happy.”

That would not do it, so Light changed the topic of conversation.

“What did you mean then?”

“When?”

“You said I could not be Kira because of my actions during your attack.”

“Light-kun had a gut reaction. His first instinct was to protect me. Kira would have faked concern, but Light-kun’s body language was honest. He held me in his arms, and there was concern in his eyes.”

The shadow of a blush coloured Ryuzaki’s cheeks. If he was lying, he was the best actor in the world. Light even doubted he had smirked at him then. At all.

A foreign feeling warmed Light’s insides and clawed its way towards his chest.

That would not do it.

Later that day, when everyone was asleep except for two geniuses, Light told Sidoh to pay Ryuzaki a visit.

***

The next morning Ryuzaki looked haunted. Although he tried to pretend otherwise, his unfazed demeanour was gone. He stuttered rather than spoke, started at every sound, made several mistakes, could not concentrate. He slouched through the day with his nerves on edge. In the afternoon, the detective excused himself and said he was having a bath. Light coughed three times.

“Ryuzaki looks ill,” Matsuda said.

“And what can we expect? He had some sort of heart attack or shock we don’t quite understand. Anyone saw those medics? Who can say he is out of danger for real? Has this curse run its course?” Soichiro said.

“Its course?”

“My father means the twenty-three days,” Light explained. “Although I hope it is not the case, I think this is taking its toll on him. He could break.”

An hour had passed when Light said he was going to watch Ryuzaki. The rest of the men agreed, so he headed to the floor where the detective had disappeared. He heard murmurs and sobs. He found the door of the bathroom ajar and came in.

Ryuzaki lay in a fetal position on the floor, surrounded by different fallen objects and a few empty wrappers of chocolate. He was wet and naked but for a towel that clang to his bony hips as humidity clang to the air. Light was reminded of their time handcuffed. A wave of anger and other things he could not name washed over him. How the mighty have fallen.

“It was his fault. He should have let me in, I could have saved them,” Ryuzaki muttered.

“What happened? Are you hurt?”

The black-haired man lifted his head towards the voice. Light focused on him, ignoring the other being in the bathroom.

Tendrils of steam danced around Sidoh.

“You think you can play with gods, human. You’ll pay for your arrogance. We don’t disappear, we change. You’ll never get rid of us.” The Shinigami had managed to hide his usual hesitation, and the script sounded menacing. Good boy.

“What’s wrong? Speak to me.”

Ryuzaki’s body jerked. He crawled towards Light, tried to hold on to him.

“Shinigami!” he panted.

His touch was feverish; his breath, almost a living presence. Drops of water glimmered on his skin, tracing angles, framing begging eyes, and Light wanted to handcuff him, wanted him to beg for death, for mercy, for (release). The youth realized he had leaned over the detective. Instinct. He moved away. What’s wrong with me?!

“The Shinigami is gone. You said it yourself.”

“It came back.”

“Save your words, human. You’re alone in this. Your time is running out; eleven days and you’ll die. Before, you’ll know the meaning of pain. By the end of this you’ll have regretted a thousand times the day you decided to mingle with the reapers!”

“Don’t you hear it? Can’t you see it?” The honorific had been forgotten. Light understood the other man was terrified.

“It’s only the two of us here. Have you touched anything strange?” Another Death Note?

“No!” Perfect.

“So...”

“Can’t you see it?”

“There is nothing here. You’re scaring me. You are delusional.”

Sidoh hissed and made a high-pitched sound. The look in Ryuzaki’s face was priceless. Light did his best not to laugh. The older man let go of him, pulled his own hair with his left hand, clutched at his chest with his right hand. For a second, Light thought Ryuzaki was having a heart attack, and the mirthless laugh turned into bile.

“What’s happening?”

When the detective heard the others’ voices and steps, he pulled himself together, asked Light to help him stand up, tried to get back his usual blank expression. As the others came in the bathroom, Ryuzaki asked them if they could see the Shinigami. The others’ expressions were also priceless, but Light was not in the mood to mock at them. Of course they did not see Sidoh; he was gone.

After half-made questions and awkward explanations, the men grudgingly accepted Ryuzaki’s insistence on being fine and only needing rest, and let him be. They left for their bedrooms.

Light undressed and went to bed after congratulating Sidoh for his performance.

Everything ran as planned. Nonetheless, Light was not as exultant as expected. That worried him.

***

A single towel prevented L from being completely naked; drops made his skin glisten. Light had him pinned to the floor, but the other man kicked him. They fought, punched, drew blood, rolled on the ground. Steam enclosed them.

Light got the upper hand, ripped the offensive towel, got on top of L, felt his angles against his body, felt his bones, his hardness, the heat that his body radiated. He felt the heat of his mouth on him, the ghostly touch of delicate fingers drawing lines on his limbs. L was a bonfire, and Light was melting because he hadn’t been so hard in his whole life, and he wanted, wanted, wanted.

L changed his mind, tried to get free. Light bit him, oh, that paleness screamed for teeth to tear it apart, and the large eyes were begging. L kept silent; he didn’t agree, but he didn’t refuse, and Light hated him, wanted him dead, wanted him to scream his name, and his cock looked for the fire in L, and his insides craved for L to be buried in him.

But L did not move, did not pay him attention, and Light hated him, had to do all the work, and L fought back, and his hands were around L’s throat as he thrust and thrust and thrust, L, L, L, even when the fire was gone and only cold remained, even when Light was the only one breathing.

He came in the corpse

and woke up screaming.

Barely had he got up and cleaned the mess in his pants when he threw up. He felt sick, he felt like shit.

Another scream, in another place, hit the walls. A revolting laugh followed it. Light had heard this kind of laugh before.

He left the bedroom, joined the other men who had just woken up, hurried towards the sounds.

They found Ryuzaki in a pool of water, tea, crumbs, shattered porcelain and glass. His face was distorted with pain, his breath was shallow, his teeth were chattering, his fists were clenched. Blood stained the whiteness of his shirt.

“What the hell has happened?” Matsuda asked.

Ryuzaki screamed as if he was being flayed alive.

Light threw up again.

Chapter Text

One-3rd part

Spectrum

 

Spectrum (noun) (English):

5. any range or scale, as of capabilities, emotions, or moods.

6. another name for an afterimage.

Spectrum (noun) (Latin):

2. spectre, apparition.

 

Confusion.

Light did not know what to do, did not understand what was going on. Nothing made sense.

For example, the youngster who stood frozen in filthy pyjamas beside a puddle of his own vomit could not be him.

For example, the rabid animal that bellowed and bled and hit and tried to bite anyone who dared get close to him could not be Ryuzaki.

The other men said and did and tried as Light remained motionless, useless. Uncomprehending.

Some time, somehow, the animal was reduced to a pitiful creature that whimpered and fought to keep on breathing.

Then, the rage.

Rage against Rem, who had failed to do the single thing Shinigami had to do; against Misa, who had forgotten Ryuzaki’s name. Rage against the task force that would not surrender to Kira’s justice; against the world for being so rotten. Rage against Ryuk, who should have minded his own business in his decaying realm; against the Death Notes for their mere existence. Rage against Ryuzaki, who had not died, would not go gently. Ryuzaki, who was L, was Kira’s enemy. L, who made Light, made Light...

And rage against Sidoh, who had done this, had made L writhe in agony.

“What have you done to him, you bastard, what have you done to him?! Show your face! Coward! Bastard!” the youngster who could not be Light yelled.

Some time, somehow, the other men said and tried and did.

***

When the smarts came back to Light, Soichiro had already saved the day. Ryuzaki was sent to some clinic, together with Aizawa and Matsuda, whereas Soichiro drove Light home. Afterwards, he drove back to the headquarters to meet Mogi.

Luckily, Light regained his composure soon enough and convinced his mother he had only suffered from indigestion. He put off the ruined clothes and had a long shower. He rubbed his skin under the scalding water until it hurt—then he let cold water cleanse his body and mind. There was an uncomfortable, fluttering sensation inside him which he did not quite apprehend.

Embarrassment?

Yes, that was it. He was embarrassed. Late night and dawn had witnessed humiliating experiences—from the nightmare to its climax, from the awakening to the show he had made of himself in front of everyone. He had been through humiliating experiences during his captivity, but he had been proud of himself then and there. He had never been embarrassed because of his own actions.

Now he was. For goodness’ sake, even Matsuda had been more useful than him!

Ok. He could cope with it. Just for once he would allow the feeling in, would swallow it down. Once, and nevermore.

He dried himself, breathed slow, made a sound between a chuckle and a cough.

“Sidoh. Come here. Right now.”

The ugly creature appeared. If he had had proper fingers, he would have been fidgeting.

“Please, don’t be angry at me. I’m sorry I didn’t appear, I didn’t know if I should do it. There was no signal, and everybody was there...”

“You know that is not the issue. You hurt him. You broke the rules.”

“No! I didn’t! I wouldn’t! I don’t want to be punished.”

“I heard you laugh. Don’t lie to me, or else I swear you’ll regret it.”

“He wasn’t asleep, so I decided to scare him a little, as you told me. There I was; next thing he was falling over the trays, making strange movements, having a seizure or something, I don’t know. He clutched at his head, his stomach. It was scary. But I didn’t touch him, I can’t, I wouldn’t. Please, believe me.” The meekness of the Shinigami disgusted Light.

“For your own good, I hope you’re telling me the truth. You don’t want to upset the owner of your former note, do you?”

Sidoh shook his head.

“That’s all. Leave me alone.”

The Shinigami hesitated. Finally, he gathered the courage he was trying to get.

“Yagami Light, you looked upset then. Why? I don’t understand. Didn’t you want him to suffer? Wasn’t it your wish?”

The sensation was there again. Embarrassment. Fuck you, monster.

Light showed the mockery of a smile.

“And that is my wish. I was just pretending, of course. Acting skills. Now, leave me alone.”

***

It was almost noon when Soichiro phoned. He was sparing in words—Ryuzaki was out of danger, but he would be under observation; Aizawa and Matsuda were discharged from hospital and went home. No details; no diagnosis.

“And you, Light? Do you feel better?”

“It was just indigestion, I’m fine now. In fact, I could stay with Ryuzaki if you...”

“It’s not necessary. Take the day off. You need to rest. You can come back to the headquarters in the evening.”

He frowned. “Well, I can use seeing some classmates. And Misa finishes work at five, so I could meet her then.”

“It’s a good idea. Go out, have some fun. You deserve it. After all these months... This is no life for a youth... Are you sure you are okay?”

A little too late to be worried, dad. “I’m perfectly fine. Don’t worry. See you later.”

He hung up. It would have been great to get more information, but it was enough for now. He would make the most of the time he had to get things done.

He replied to Takada’s message and confirmed their date. Then he went to bed for a nap and ignored the images that tried to come to his head.

***

“Why do you have to be so perfect? You’re going to break the heart of every girl you meet today,” Sayu complained. She giggled, and Light grinned. She had left school earlier than usual to spend a little time with him.

“Sayu!” his mother said in an affectionate voice.

“I’m used to her antics, I quite like them,” Light said. He wasn’t lying—Sayu was the only person whose teasing he did not find irritating. Besides, she was right—he looked simply perfect. It was wonderful to look good again, to be himself again. And he needed to (manipulate) impress a girl, indeed.

“You’re returning to work after your date, aren’t you?” his mother asked.

“Yes, mother. I’d love to stay longer, but we have much work to do.”

“I know this is important for you, son, but I wish you were doing the things youngsters do, not risking your life. I wish for normalcy to come back.”

Back to the dullness and the boredom? Never again. “I’ll be careful. And I’ll look after father,” Light said, playing the model son.

He put on his new jacket, a well-cut one which brought out his colouring. Sayu accompanied him out of the house. Once there, she hugged him.

“I’m so proud of you. You’re the bravest person I know.”

Light appreciated admiration because he deserved it, but he took it for granted, so words of praise had become empty within the years. Sayu was also one of the few people whose admiration still moved something in him.

“Who’s serious now?”

“I mean it. I think you’re even braver than father. He has been in this job for years, but you...You are so young.”

I am young, little sister?”

“You know what I mean. Young for this madness. I hate Kira’s guts.”

“So, you don’t share the popular opinion, do you? That Kira is true justice, that this is the dawn of a better world?”

“How could I?! Kira is a mass murderer, and their followers are crazy! Please, Light, tell father: you both have to be careful. I don’t want to lose you.”

Her voice shivered. Light returned the hug, whispered comforting lies. Then he said farewell and was gone. His mood had soured.

His sister was sweet, but naive. Maybe when she grew up she would be wiser and would understand. He really hoped so, for he did not want to lose her admiration.

***

He met Takada in a boulevard near the campus. Gone were the unusual storms of the previous week; the afternoon was mild and nice, so they took a promenade before getting into a café. Among the customers no couple seemed more attractive than the one they made. Takada knew how to dress, which was a refreshing sight compared to Misa’s vulgar choice of clothing—Light even found her black hair and grey eyes quite attractive. She strove for a serious career, and her playing hard to get fulfilled his requirements—she would not ask for attentions he was not in the mood to give. He could humour her, made her believe she was the desirable one, when he knew that she would be the one to fall hopelessly for him. Nevertheless, her pride could prove to be a problem.

There were two paths for Takada’s future, and Light had not decided yet which one she should take. He would think about it later—at present, what mattered was her report.

“That pill happens to be more intriguing than it seemed at first. It’s a composite drug used to treat anxiety-spectrum symptoms associated to different disorders, but it’s more than that. Kenji says it’s something he has not seen before, an experimental drug which contains an unknown selective inhibitor. This is not the kind of pill for a stressed businessman or an anxious housewife, this is serious. Moreover, it may lower blood glucose levels to a dangerous extent. How did you get it?”

“It’s for an investigation. I can’t tell you more.”

“I understand. You don’t need to worry; we know how to keep a secret. You have everything in this file. As for the inhibitor, Kenji has already contact a colleague, and they will figure all out in a few days. Its secrets will be revealed.”

Her fingers touched his gently while she passed him the file. Light played along.

“I deeply thank you. This will help us a lot. I see your brother is as smart as you, though I think you may be the beauty of your family.”

“Are you flirting with me, Light?”

“Absolutely, Kiyomi-san.” He turned to her given name, but kept the honorary to appeal to her pride.

She smiled smugly. “That’s bold of you... Anyway, you can’t judge if you can’t compare.” She searched in her purse and took a photo. The image showed her beside a young man. Both were dressed in formal clothing.“This is Kenji.”

Any man would have noticed that she looked exquisite in that picture, and she knew it. Let’s not disappoint her.

“Definitely, I was right: you are gorgeous,” the youth whispered while giving her a seductive grin. Her scent surrounded him, some perfume which was not unpleasant, but too feminine for his taste.

Her face glowed with the typical emotion any girl had under Light’s spell.

“If you think so, you can store this photo to remember those who helped you in your top-secret investigation.”

“It’s the loveliest present I’ve ever received.”

“You liar,” she replied. However, she looked delighted.

They sipped their coffees and made some small talk. Light kept his charming façade as he tried not to look at her nibbling at a strawberry tartlet. He glanced upon the television on the wall and saw the news about the demise of twenty minor criminals last night, presumably caused by Kira. He frowned—that was not the timing for them, it should have been the mafiosi. Misa, you idiot. The newsreader quickly moved to the next issue: several anti-Kira public demonstrations were being held in the US and Europe.

“They have been informing about the demonstrations since early morning. They say there is a CIA member behind their organization in the US, some Ludner... I wonder when they will start in Japan,” Takada commented.

“Kira seemed to have more supporters than opponents,” said Light.

“This is changing, particularly in the last weeks. People start realizing not only Kira is dangerous, but their zealots too.”

“You seem well-informed. What’s your opinion on the matter?”

“I confess I supported Kira at first. It was attractive to think of a mysterious vigilante, but it was all a lie. There appeared more Kiras, they started killing people that were not criminals, and everything grew old. They’ve become erratic, mistaken... I’m sure they will be caught before the end of the year. They are not interesting nowadays,” she said disdainfully.

“In other words... You think Kira is pathetic?”

“As pathetic as their fanatics. And you? What do you think?”

“I think that justice will prevail.”

Light left her soon after. Her scent suffocated him and was not pleasant anymore.

It smelt like disappointment.

She could have been the goddess of a fairest world. Instead, she had chosen the wrong path.

Maybe it was better that way—from time to time gods should allow their lesser free will.

***

Everything was busy business at Misa’s workplace—Light could sense it even from the private room where he awaited. A myriad of voices asked for some garment or outfit, or shouted at someone on the phone, or demanded a photographer to be there right now.

“It’s always the same, and it’s boooring,” groaned Ryuk.

“The rogue is all about fun,” complained Sidoh.

“Hyuk! Last time he checked, the rogue still had a higher rank than you.”

“Ryuk, you’re speaking in third person,” Light commented with a smirk.

“See? This is what happens. I’m bored, I miss the good ol’days. Why don’t you exchange ownership with Misa so I can be out of here?”

“No way I’m leaving my note near your cheating clutches again!”

“I’m not talking to you, Sidoh.”

“There can’t be any exchange. Misa can’t reach the other Death Note,” Light remarked.

“Make her renounce ownership then, take her note.”

“This is out of question now. I need her eyes.”

“Haven’t you considered Nu, then?” Ryuk asked.

“STOP! Stop cheating!” Sidoh shrieked. “You are a shame for us Shinigami.”

“Ha! The idiot says I’m a shame?”

“When this ends, I’ll be worthy of a higher rank. Armonia is the closest to the King, so...”

“Armonia Justin Beyondormason, whose name and shadow are long?” Ryuk chanted.

“You are walking on a thin line,” Sidoh was fuming.

“Beyondormason, Beyondormason, who always sits on a throne. Hyuk!”

“That doesn’t even rhyme!”

The door opened all of a sudden. Misa appeared dressed in the most ridiculous attire Light had ever seen, wings and tiara included.

“Won’t you stop the singsong!? You’re giving Misa a headache! Tomorrow Misa’s travelling, must be pretty and healthy!”

The Shinigami Show reached a new peak with guest star Misa-Misa, and Light guffawed. Just wait for Matsuda’s cameo, and then L and Light could sit together to watch and laugh their brains out.

Except L was his enemy, and he was insane or dying, or both.

The foul mood returned to Light.

“Listen to me, the three of you. You marred the latest purge.” He made a gesture to keep them silent. “Save your excuses. I don’t care whose fault it is, but I won’t allow more mistakes from now on. We must be extremely careful in whom we choose to purge and when, the public opinion is changing.”

“That was what the beautiful girl said,” commented Sidoh.

Imbecile.

“What beautiful girl?” Misa asked in a shrilling tone. She got close to him and sniffed the air. “That perfume, Misa knows it. Raito has seen that girl before.”

“Don’t smother me. I’m not asking for your permission to see other people.”

“She’s trying to steal Misa her boyfriend, Misa will kill her before it happens.”

He towered over her and gripped her arm. How he despised her jealously.

“You won’t kill anyone unless I tell you so.”

“You’re defending her,” she almost sobbed. “You want to break with Misa?”

“This scene is pathetic. Cut it off.” He released her and pulled away.

“Fine! Misa is a faithful girlfriend, but not for lack of admirers!”

“Do you mean stalkers?”

Her face grimaced with hurt and fear, before flushing again.

“I mean admirers. Even Ryuzaki has sent me a card and a gift.”

“Ryuzaki?”

She smirked. Do you really think I’m going to feel jealous, Misa?

“He apologized to me for having thought I was the second Kira and said that he’s convinced of my innocence now. Poor thing.” She giggled. “But it was a cute card, and he sent me a cake as for a gift.”

“As if you would eat a cake.”

“Misa did eat a piece. He wrote that Misa could eat it because she is smart enough to burn the calories.”

He hid a new guffaw. Ryuzaki could be a mischievous bastard when he put his mind on it.

“Don’t tell me you believe a word he says.”

“So Misa is stupid? This is what you think?”

He tried to use a sweeter tone. “I think you have many talents.” Shinigami Eyes and blind devotion. “Nonetheless, we should be more cautious than ever. None of us is a suspect anymore, and we can’t lose this chance with rush decisions. Besides, I also have a present for you.”

He gave her the photograph he kept in his wallet. She stared at the image with eager eyes.

“Kenji and Kiyomi Takada. Is she...?”

He nodded. “Her brother must be eliminated after he finishes a job for Kira. As for her, it’s up to you. This is my gift. Anyway, you won’t write their names before the right time comes. Until then, follow my directions and destroy any piece of paper you use. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” She beamed. “Misa wants Raito to be proud of her!”

Proud? Of her? Of an exasperating nitwit whose former monster had botched up her mission or had... had... ?

Didn’t you want him to suffer?

He ducked her groping and kisses, and said he had to leave. His stomach would not bear her touch. Not today.

***

He arrived at the headquarters at a quarter past six. Soichiro was the only person there, and was not glad to see Light so soon.

“You should have rested a little more.”

“I’d better work and keep myself occupied.”

His father tried to have a conversation. The youth kept his poise and made inane remarks as his mind rejected everything his father said.

“Light, we need to talk.” Soichiro was serious. There was pity in his eyes.

“Really, I want to do something productive.”

“Light...”

“I am fine, and everything is going to get better. You worry too much. Now, if you excuse me...”

Soichiro kept silent. Light did not dwell in the things said or left unsaid.

Will you endure it if...? I fear this might end in... I’ve never seen you...

He monitored the news about Kira on the Internet for a while, learned the nicks of two of his most active followers for further plans (some Sakujo, some E.D.), but he could not really focus. Therefore, he changed the computers for the files in the boxes. He peeked at some of them until he found a folder which had been set apart. He used the key to decipher a fragment and something in him arose.

Curiosity.

The text was written in English, so the challenge was twofold. And what he found made it more intriguing.

1962.

I was ten when I saw the spectre for the first time.

It was Halloween, and we were at Lord Richards’ country house. I was playing outside, near the bonfire; I felt strange all of a sudden and had the urge to look at the sky. Then I saw it: a round circle of light, like an afterimage of the fire, but it was different, as if a window had opened. Behind the window stood the spectre, sitting upon a throne with a book in its hands, gazing down at the house. Then the cries began, and I heard someone said Mr Jenkins was sick. I was terrified and could not stop gaping at the creature. Then the spectre noticed me, looked at me, and I fainted.

When I woke up, I knew of Mr Jenkins’ death. I did not say a word about what I had seen—nobody would believe me. But I was positive I had not hallucinated. I’ve always known my senses were sharper than anyone else’s, just as my intellect is.

I am fifteen now, and since then I have experienced the rapture at least two dozen times. Behind the windows in the sky there is a waste land, stale and dusty; other creatures dwell there beside the spectre. They are strange, monstrous even, and they all carry books, though it is true that I cannot see them as clearly as I can see the spectre—it resembles a deity from an exotic culture, a smiling golden skeleton covered in jewellery that glimmered against the skulls carved in its throne. Whereas the other creatures are not aware of my presence, the spectre always stares back at me.

In fact, it is highly probable it is watching me. I am surprised I am not scared now. I am just curious. I want to know more.

Nor.

He stopped reading. How? When? Who? Had Ryuzaki commanded Watari to look for this information right after Misa had named the Shinigami on TV? Why hadn’t he told the task force about this until now?

Because it’s now when he truly had to fear the reapers. Because now he truly thinks I’m not Kira?

He gulped, fought against the knot in his throat, reread the text. The spectre...

“Sidoh,” he whispered.

“Yes?”

“That Shinigami, Armonia... What does he look like?”

“Oh! He’s magnificent! A tall skeleton, covered in jewels. And he owns a throne,” Sidoh chirped.

“Have you ever heard of some Nor?”

“There’s no Shinigami with that name.”

“I see.”

“Yagami Light...”

“What?”

“When that detective returns, shall I go on with your plan? Frighten him, tell him the lines you taught me?”

Shall I?

“Yes, when I tell you. Nevertheless, if another attack happens, you’ll stop and warn me immediately. The point is to make him unable to keep on leading the investigation, make him fall. I’m getting medical evidence soon enough, and delusions will suit the purpose.”

“So that he doesn’t have to die?”

Don’t .“Maybe”

“Maybe? Maybe it’s too late? You mean the script you wrote for me is true?”

Don’t dare to say it. “Leave me now, Sidoh.”

“...it seems really painful; I never thought Rem had such a sadistic vein...”

Shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!

“Leave. Me. Now.”

As Sidoh disappeared, Light stood up and wandered from one part of the building to another, fleeing from the second hypothesis. There had to be another explanation—maybe Ryuzaki had stopped taking the unknown drug, and now he was suffering from withdrawal. Yes. Withdrawal was a logical explanation. No need to think of omens come true.

After a while, he headed towards the meeting room and found that Mogi was already there. There was an ugly bruise on his face. He had been lucky—according to Soichiro, Matsuda and Aizawa had taken the worst part of Ryuzaki’s rabbies, and they were not only bruised, but had needed stitches.

He never hurt me like that when we fought. Is it possible that he didn’t want to? No. It’s the strength from the withdrawal. That’s the difference. Period.

Mogi explained that Ryuzaki’s blood analysis and medical tests had not thrown light to what had happened to him, said that Ryuzaki was determined to come back to the HQ that same evening, said that he had made Mogi phone Wedy, and that she had arrived at the hospital to keep him company as Mogi was dismissed.

“Why would he do that?” Light asked. He did not like the bile in his own voice.

“The company of a dull middle-aged man can’t live up to the company of a gorgeous lady. Ryuzaki is a young man, so...” said Mogi matter-of-factly.

Light nodded, tight-lipped. “Of course. Anyway, I could have...”

“He didn’t want you to visit him.”

“I’m Kira again?” he sneered.

“No, Light. He wants to protect you,” Soichiro answered.

Liar.

He did not reply.

***

It was a quarter to nine when Ryuzaki and Wedy finally arrived. Light noticed he leaned on her to walk, touched her carefully, and she touched him back. There were subtle gestures of affection between them, and they had forgotten about Japanese, for they were mumbling in English, a fact that made Ryuzaki’s monotone turn into something completely (beautiful) different.

Suddenly, Light remembered one night of the time he had spent handcuffed to Ryuzaki. They were in their bedroom, and the youth dozed off. Then he heard someone whispering in a foreign language. The voice was the most wonderful thing he had ever heard, a velvety sound that soothed him and tantalized him at the same time, as if a lover were cradling him, and he wanted to drown in the sound and touched their owner.

Then he had been fully awake and realized in horror it was Ryuzaki muttering to himself. He had told him to shut his mouth and had hidden his arousal under the comforter, cursing the other man.

And now he was wasting that precious sound on that blond (bitch) thief, and Light was reminded of Misa, which was normal because she was also blond and had eyes by means of which he was going to find out the thief’s real name to write it down. And what if he was also reminded of Misa dripping venom against Takada—the poison in his veins did not mean a thing.

Luckily, Wedy did not linger in the headquarters. When she was gone, Ryuzaki’s façade was also gone. There came the sallowness, the bandaged arms, the wounded expression, the glassy eyes. Light could not hold his gaze, so he tried to look somewhere else as Ryuzaki slouched towards another floor followed by Mogi. Soichiro had his eyes fixed upon Light, and the chances were whether the youth would start crumbling or would stay unfazed.

Therefore he stayed. Unfazed. Cool as marble. Perfect. He was Kira, he was a god, he would endure.

He did not care.

***

Light was the only one that remained in the meeting room by ten o’clock. Mogi had gone home, Soichiro had gone to bed, exhausted. The youngster was tired, but would not close his eyes to wait for the images to come.

Unexpectedly, Ryuzaki appeared. He brought some of his sweets and pecked at them in silence. Light suggested a game of chess just to break the tension. Ryuzaki agreed. Eighty minutes and two games afterwards Light announced his second checkmate.

“I see,” said Ryuzaki in a quiet voice. He made a small smile. “L is for Loser.”

Light was not sure if the sound that came from his mouth was a product of mirth or sadness, so he decided he felt neither.

“L is for Liar,” Light replied.

“That is also true, but I’ve already lost.”

Ryuzaki left the table, left the room, left Light, and disappeared. The tiptoe of his bare feet reverberated in the youth’s ears long after the other man was gone.

Light picked up the pieces one by one, gazed at the white ones he had used, then at the black king—all of them seemed tainted with red.

He fled to the bathroom, had a shower, rubbed his skin under the scalding water until it hurt. Once in his room, he gave up on sleeping. The mere idea of a nightmare (searing heat, deathly cold) made his skin crawl. Instead, he went on working on the mysterious files.

1964.

I have been organizing data for two years, and I have come to some conclusions. The first one is that they can speak, and speak they do in at least two different languages of their own. They can also write; in fact, what I thought books are actually notebooks where some of them write from time to time. I have been compiling words I heard or symbols I read from their languages—I will understand them eventually. I am determined to use the symbols as the basis for a new code. I am not going to let my intellect to waste, regardless what my parents say.

The second one is that the term spectre is not really appropriate for those creatures, provided they are not ghosts—anyway, I like it, and I will keep on using it until I know their real name. Furthermore, they are neither angels nor demons, as a thorough study on Theology has taught me, nor specimens out of ancient mythologies. Nonetheless, there are religions and mythologies with which I am not acquainted, so further research is compulsory. In order to do so I need to travel and find the sources. Theory is empty without solid evidence. It is a shame my mother had renounced her ancestry.

I reached the third conclusion just a few days ago: they can die.

“Yagami Light.”

His belly somersaulted. “I haven’t called you, Sidoh.” 

“But your target is on the roof with a gun against his temple, I thought you’d want to kn...”

Instinct. Light jumped off the chair and ran, up, up, up to the roof, up to the sound of the shot that pierced his ears, and why he could not run faster.

He reached the roof, saw L holding a gun—for a second he saw red and death, and his own father threatening him at gunpoint, and almost choked of fear.

“Ryuzaki,” Light stuttered.

The black-haired man turned around. At his feet there were wrappers of chocolate bars and a bottle of some berry syrup. Everything seemed unreal.

“I am glad I decided not to jump off the roof,” Ryuzaki said. “It is not death by suicide then—I can’t shoot when the gun is against a vital part of my body. There is a ninety percent chance I can shoot against a non-vital part, but I do not want to maim myself to prove it.”

“What are you saying? Please, unhand that gun, you’re ill, you have to rest.”

“I am not only ill, I am doomed. Light-kun is a genius, I am sure he has also realized it.”

“You have to calm yourself, you have to drop that gun. Please.”

“It started the morning after I did not die. The pain. It is like fangs gnawing at my flesh, like fire searing my bone, like needles piercing my organs. It only grows stronger—painkillers are not working anymore. I knew I was risking my life from the start, but I did not foresee this torture.”

Light could not think properly. “We’ll talk about it afterwards, now...”

“Will it be by murder, then? Won’t Light-kun help me to know?”

Ryuzaki handed Light the gun. The youth stepped back, horrified. Was this your plan all along, Rem? To frame me like I framed you? Is this what you wrote?!

“You’re accusing me again?” Light clenched his fists.

“Please, no fights this time around. I am not sure I could bear more physical pain without going insane.” Light’s heart clenched like fists. “Besides, now I know the first Kira is dead, and that was the only one worth my time. But even the first Kira fell. In the end, everything amounts to being the plaything of monsters. It is against all logic. I was doomed to fail from the beginning. Won’t you put me out of my misery?”

Unable to think of a better plan, Light coughed, coughed, coughed.

“What are you playing at, little human? Everything is fixed. Are you ready for your last ten days?” Sidoh said.

“When you are.” The tremor in Ryuzaki’s voice diminished the strength of the bravado.

“Who are you talking to, Ryuzaki?”

“You should be glad, soon you’ll go to the hell where we sent that old coot. What was his name, Wotori? It was delicious to see him hurt and died. But he has not found peace, oh no! We’re still playing with him! It’s so fun!”

Did I really write those lines? They sounded far crueller than he had thought.

Ryuzaki shuddered, crouched on the floor. He dropped the gun; Light made a subtle gesture to the Shinigami, and the gun was out of reach of both men. Light gave a tentative step to get closer to the detective, but Sidoh stopped him all of a sudden.

“But why stop when we crave your misery? Is there anyone else you care for? What about this young man here?” What?! “We can cut his face until he is not handsome anymore, we can burn him alive, gut him in front of you.”

Definitely, he had not written that. And he had to fake not feeling the monstrous touch of the creature while shivers came up and down his spine.

Then Ryuzaki pounced, pushed Sidoh out of the way, placed his body between Light and the creature. Sidoh screeched, and Light bit his lips trying not to scream.

“You touch him, you die,” L threatened.

“What?” It was the only thing Light was able to utter.

“Gods can’t die, mortal!”

“I am smart, you know. In fact, I am the greatest detective in the world. I know positively you can die, and I swear I will kill you if you dare to touch him.”

“You have no time left to figure out a way,” Sidoh mumbled.

“I have already figured it out,” L said.

“Fine, fine, think what you want, I’ll see you later,” Sidoh babbled.

And he left.

Light tried to say something, anything, just to show he had not witnessed the encounter, but L’s hands caressing his face prevented him to do it.

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” No Light, no kun. Just concern and shining desperate eyes.

“I don’t know what you think was happening, Ryuzaki, but...”

He could not finish, for L’s mouth was on his, kissing him, tongue tracing his lips as if Light was the most delicious sweet L had ever tasted, and Light tasted tea and strawberry, and courage and lo...

Then the mouth was gone.

“I am sorry, Light-kun. I should not have done this. I apologize. For everything.”

And the mouth’s owner was also gone.

Light was left alone, head and heart turned upside down.

He protected me. He kis... kis... me.

And Sidoh! He has gone crazy or what?!

L is agonizing, and it’s Rem’s fault, it’s (my) fault.

And he protected me!

It was too much, he felt too much.

The word with “l” was frightening, inconceivable, so other awful words took its place.

Regret. Remorse.

But he was not going to cry, he was not crying.

The tears said otherwise.

Chapter Text

One-4 th part

Loophole

 

Do not give up. The prison is bereft

of light, its fabric is incessant iron,

but in some corner of your mean environs

you might discover a mistake, a cleft.

-J.L. Borges

***

They shared a bed meant for a single person, but none of them cared. Quite on the contrary, the younger man revelled in the lankiness that enwrapped him, drank the whispers the older man uttered in a foreign intonation as if he had been dying of thirst before he heard them. They touched one another almost shyly, afraid of breaking the cocoon that kept them warm and safe, and alive. Just the two of them, the world forgotten, they were untouchable. Invincible.

A piece of paper touched Light's forehead. Then the fire started and the others appeared.

"Which are the charges against the man who has disowned me? Which are the charges against Yagami Light?" Kira asked.

"Unforgivable feelings. Heresy. High treason," Rem and Sidoh answered.

"Queer, sinner, traitor: I hereby declare you guilty and sentence you to death," Kira said.

The Shinigami gave Kira a Death Note. Light tried to stop him; L was faster.

"My name," L offered. Kira accepted.

"Let me do it, let me kill him!" Sidoh mooed. "Let me slit him, let me devour him."

Kira nodded.

Sidoh laughed and jumped on L. Needle-like teeth shone, howls started, blood ran, flesh burned. Light had a gun in his hand, pulled the trigger, but he could not kill Sidoh, could not save L, and the screams and the laughter went on and on, and

there was silence. Light was alone in the bed where he had dozed off out of sheer exhaustion. It was cold, so cold in the semi-darkness of the room, so cold inside. He hid under the blanket and closed his eyes.

Teeth, fire, pain, blood, desperation, guilt, regret, remorse. Agony. Laughter.

He got up, seized a pen, took his watch, grabbed the deadly scrap of paper and wrote down Sidoh's name.

***

Light headed downstairs at seven o'clock, prisoner of an awful headache, dogged by the pervading frigidness. The building reminded him of a monstrous tomb waiting for its owner. Demons loomed in the shadows, dead people and dead creatures haunted the corridors, murderers sheltered in the rooms. And the heart of the mausoleum, the Death Note, festered in its coffin.

It would be a mercy to burn the place to the ground. Then they might escape. Together. Pathetic.

His head ached; his chest ached, too. He did not want to be alone—he feared the moment when his hope would shatter.

Murmurs came from the meeting room. Light hurried towards that source of warmth, the only warmth that seemed to exist there, the one that soon would be extinguished. Would he be free then?

It will be lonely, won't it? You and I will be parting ways soon.

He shook his head, took one step then another as he approached the sounds.

"Aiber... vous avez fait un excelent travail… l'équipe avec… félicitations… rendez-vous qui sait..."

It took a moment for him to realize it was L speaking in French. His mouth got dry, his skin heated. He stopped moving, suddenly shy of coming into the room, so he decided to eavesdrop the conversation from afar.

Someone (Aiber) replied. He did not understand much of the exchange except for a few words of praise and the gloomy farewell. Another voice joined the party, one that spoke in English. Although it was a little distorted, the youth and eagerness of its owner were blatant.

"Are you proud of me, L? Are you satisfied with the results?"

"You have done a brilliant job, Mello."

A delighted chuckle chimed. "Would you please tell me another story next time? About Coil and Deneuve?"

"I will if I can. Now, if you excuse me, I need to speak with Roger."

A heartening farewell preceded the new voice. "This kid is so moody that it is scary. If you had witnessed how he reacted when we thought you were dead! I fear you are the only person that could tame him." That was Roger?

"I told you he could do it," L said.

"Yes, he can cooperate with others, except for the one he should."

"Both must learn to cooperate as well as to compete."

"And Matt and Linda?"

"They have been useful. However, they should follow their own paths, chased their passions. I will not tolerate another tragedy like A's." L's tone hardened.

"That was years ago."

"And yet I remember, and you'd better not forget. Time is running out." He paused. "And the burial?"

"Without further complications. Solemn."

"I wish I had been there," L said. "Perhaps soon. Anyway, thanks for everything. We will keep in touch."

Light finally found the courage to go on moving. He came into the room in the precise moment that the capital R on the screens blinked and disappeared. He saw L's back and stopped again.

"Soon. Sooner than you think," L whispered to the black screens.

Light's temples throbbed. Now he could see L's profile. The detective was licking his fingers absent-mindedly. Next to him there stood a large envelope, a cup of tea, and a dish with the remnants of a chocolate cake. Light stared at it, unable to look at the tongue that a few hours ago he had felt on his own lips.

"Good morning, Light-kun," L greeted. Japanese. Monotone. Sterile.

"You have been eating a lot of chocolate lately." Of all the moronic things to say, Light chose that. He was becoming a Matsuda.

The detective tilted his head, thumb brushing his lower lip. "Does Light-kun notice my preferences?"

Light's throat closed, making him unable to answer.

"Actually, strawberry has always been my favourite flavour," L said in response to his silence. "Nevertheless, a day comes when you taste a new flavour and wonder how you could have been living without that taste in your mouth. But when that day comes, it is already too late."

Thud, thud, thud. The throbbing jumped from Light's temples to his solar plexus, clutched his heart, made it beat faster.

L sipped his tea, turned back, cleaned his hands, began typing in his laptop. Light stood there, listening to his heartbeat, fighting to find out a way to ask the myriad of questions that burst in his head, failing to do it. Then he heard the sound of steps.

"Good morning," Soichiro said.

Never in his life had Light been happier to see his father.

***

The morning was uneventful. Mogi arrived around nine o'clock and reported that Aizawa and Matsuda would arrive by mid-afternoon. In the meantime, they did some stuff or another. Light took note of the updates about the people behind the Anti-Kira Movement—they were sinners and had to be annihilated. In time. Later. That would require meticulous plans which he was not willing to make at the moment.

For now, his main goal was not to be alone in the mausoleum. For now, his main goal was to unravel the invisible ropes that were strangling him.

He eyed L. Not that he was paying him any attention. He remained expressionless, as if the night before had never happened. Only now and then Light noticed the tension in his jaw, the tremor in his limbs.

Do you hurt? Are you thinking of me? Are you thinking of your killer?

Whatever his thoughts, they had sank under the icy surface. He eyed L again; L never eyed him back.

Let's pretend. Or let's forget. Actually, nothing of relevance had happened. Nothing at all, but a moment of insanity.

Nevertheless, the choking sensation did not fade. He needed to untie knots. In an instant he knew which thread he needed.

"I will be working in the ciphertexts," he announced.

L hummed, Light decided to take it for a yes. Next thing he realized the files were in his bedroom.

With a lame excuse, he convinced Mogi to accompany him. Soichiro lifted his eyebrows. Light did not care. He did not want to walk alone.

They headed towards the upper floors. Light tried to numb his senses. If he did not hear, he could still hope. If he did not see, he could still hope.

They got to the bedroom, retrieved the files, retraced their steps back. Nothing. No teeth, no laugh.

Once again in the meeting room, the youth ignored the cold sweat that covered his skin and drowned into the task at hand.

...I reached the third conclusion just a few days ago: they can die.

I have witnessed the death of one of them. It was a furry creature that got into a frenzy, searching for its notebook, shouting that it had to write immediately or else... Then it stopped shouting and turned to dust. Therefore, they are not immortal. I have to research lore whose pantheon has no perpetual life.

Nor.

Several pages with notes and references about a variety of ancient myths followed the entry. Light skimmed through them.

...I am not contented; I need to find a way to have access to new sources of information. Nothing is said about creatures that must write to keep on living. Today I have remembered the first time I viewed the spectre. I have a bad feeling.

1964, November.

God have mercy, I know what they do! The fabric of reality ripped both ends, one of the beings was watching our world. I saw it take the notebook, understood the signs on its cover—Death Note—, saw it write a woman's name, then I saw through the loophole her dying. A glowing halo surrounded the creature as it released a satisfied sound. Freight took over me; everything spun around. My anchor appeared, the spectre, its jewel eyes fixed upon me. "This you did the first time I met you, monster!"I told it. Then I was back, and I cursed this gift of mine.

They kill humans, feed on humans, feast on us! Lives, souls, both maybe. Mother have mercy.

Nor.

Light took a break, swallowed a couple of tablets of aspirin. His dream as Kira had made him overlook a simple truth—Shinigami were dangerous. Reapers. And yet they can die, and they will. I've already killed the one that threatened me.

A pyrrhic victory. Besides, Rem had proved not to be the only threat. Even Ryuk had promised he would be the one to take Light's life when his time was due. And Sidoh...

Cursed this gift of mine.

The next entries narrated a long journey through different countries. There also appeared sketches of theories that mixed logic, maths, physics, even parapsychology. Who has written this? He skipped most of the content till the word Shinigami appeared.

1965, August.

I have finally found some answers thanks to my own grandmother. Those Shinigami might well be the creatures. Although they are some sort of literary invention, they are based on ancient legends. My grandmother has been teaching me the Japanese language, so I have a good command of it now. It is a pity she is living in Hong Kong, and I can't travel to Japan by the time being. Anyway, I have the feeling that the knowledge I search resides somewhere else. At least I have developed the codes and I have sketched a thesis.

Moreover, it has been wonderful to meet my grandmother. My mother hates her ancestry. She has always taken advantage of her appearance—she does not resemble Japanese except for her hair colour. Relationships between Great Britain and Japan have been strained since the war, and my parents are quite strict. I am positive we are going to have a strong argument when I return home and announce my decision. That is not the path they desire for me. I don't care; they have got my brother, the normal child, the loved one. I know I am a hypocrite for having used their money to travel.

Nor.

1966, January.

It is a fact my family wants to disown me. I don't mind, I have been awarded a splendid scholarship from a private academy. They were impressed by my work. This is the beginning of a new life. Thus I will be among peers. I will not need to pretend...

Light realized he had to go to the bathroom.

Reluctantly, he left the meeting room and the security Mogi and Soichiro embodied. He passed by the corridors, not seeing, not hearing. He got into the bathroom, got things done, washed his hands, noticed the reddish hue his skin had because of the savage cleansing of the day before, did not see, did not...

"Yagami Light," mumbled the goofy voice that had become so repulsive.

Hope crashed—he grimaced. He had been an idiot for thinking...

But I had to try. I had to try.

Now the other plan had to be implemented and that would mean the loss of the Shinigami Eyes that Misa owned. It was a sacrifice Light was willing to do in order to get rid of the monster.

Luckily, Sidoh kept his distance. Light washed his face, gazed at his reflection in the mirror. He looked awful.

He gripped the borders of the sink until his knuckles turned white, closed his eyes, counted to fifty. When he opened them he could still see the hem of Sidoh's rags floating over the floor.

With a choking sound, Light unlocked the door. L was in the corridor, glaring at something (Sidoh) over Light's head.

"Is everything alright?" L asked. Light could see the pinkish bandages under the sleeves of his shirt. He looked so fragile; nonetheless, his expression was almost feral. He wants to protect me, damn him!

"I'm going out for a while to see Misa. She's spending a few days off city, and I couldn't say a proper goodbye yesterday."

"Yes, Light-kun would rather spend time out of here. Send Misa-san my regards. I would be glad to see her anytime soon."

Not while she still has Shinigami Eyes.

The thought was as automatic as ludicrous, and its implications frightened him. When had he become so inconsistent?

***

He chose a quiet park to take a seat, but he was beyond worry—Sidoh had not left his side since they had got out of the headquarters regardless of the people around. It was like the months he had spent with Ryuk, when the Shinigami was always close to him. Suddenly, Light felt that something was wrong, that he had not taken into account...

Well, something was wrong, indeed—lots of things, actually. It would not do to imagine new sources of uneasiness.

"Yagami Light, please, listen to me. I didn't mean to hurt you, I was just improvising, you said it yourself, acting skills."

Light shuddered, did his best to ignore the Shinigami, and phoned Misa.

"Raito!"

"Misa, do you have it with you?"

"It? You mean the...?"

"Of course I mean it."

"Yes, it is with Misa, safe and sound."

Fuck. He had expected Misa to leave the note at her place where he could have retrieved it. Nothing seemed to go smoothly frequently of late.

"You must come back to Tokyo as soon as possible."

"Misa is returning in two or three days."

"No! Today. Take it with you, catch a train and come back."

"You talking about the Death Note she has? Why do you need it?" Sidoh asked.

"Misa can't do it, she has an appointment with a film director. If Misa doesn't go, she will be fired. Besides, Misa wants to stay to visit her parents' tombs, to pay them respect. Tomorrow it would have been their wedding anniversary."

"I don't care! Misa, you must obey me. I have no time to waste. I have to see Ryuk and the note, and I can't leave the city. Come right now."

"But..." There were mechanical noises. "Rait...? Can... y... hear... M...?"

Silence. No signal. The idiot had hung up! "Dumb bitch!"

"Why do you need the rogue so badly? He will cheat you, you don't need him, I will help you. Why do you need...?"

"You know why, traitor," Light fumed. "You won't expect me to forfeit ownership of your note before having won ownership over another, will you?"

The creature's eyes bulged and a hopeful sound escaped his mouth.

Then he hesitated. "I'm not very intelligent, but I don't get why you would give me the thing I want most now when you are so angry at me." He paused. "Wait! You will have Ryuk to cheat me once again, to steal my note from me. You want him to be the owner!"

"Congratulations," Light spat out. He was being so careless, his head ached so much, the plan was so average than even Sidoh was able to guess his intentions. Well, the easiest way to get rid of him would be to give him back what he desired, but Light refused to surrender, even if it also meant the disappearance of the essential piece of evidence L had against Kira. If by chance L witnessed Sidoh taking the note, he would shatter. To think of adding a tad more suffering to L made him sick.

He shook his head. Ryuk would get it, Light would push Sidoh back to the Shinigami realm. And then come what may.

"All of this because of my foolishness? Listen, initiative is always a problem with me. I had a stupid idea, I never meant to harm you. Besides, to kill a human with any means other than the Death Note warrants an Extreme Level punishment. We're not talking of a quiet death and sand, we're talking of a century of unbearable torture followed by the slowest and most painful death any can imagine. I am not crazy!"

Light remembered Ryuk talking about the different punishments; he had never explained in which they consisted.

"It doesn't change things." But it changed them, of course.

Sidoh looked desperate. "I don't really understand why you want to be in danger. Are you suicidal?"

The youth started. "What do you mean?"

"To make Ryuk possess you again is not wise. Now you're untouchable, no Shinigami can kill you."

Thud, thud. "Explain."

The creature looked for something under his rags. A tiny piece of paper blew; Sidoh ignored it. Finally, he took out a scroll and started reading aloud.

"Rules: Shinigami can't kill a human who owns a Death Note while the Shinigami stays in the Shinigami realm, and it is forbidden to go to the human realm to kill the aforementioned human. Actually, only the Shinigami that haunts both the Death Note and the human can kill this human. Those who defy this rule shall be subjected to the Extreme Level punishment." Sidoh stopped. "See? No Shinigami would dare to break this rule. Now it's only me that could kill you, but I have no note! However, if you allow Ryuk to haunt you again..."

Dizziness struck Light. Suddenly, Ryuk's insistence to come back to being his Shinigami gave him goose bumps. Nevertheless, that paled in comparison to another fact: Rem's threats had been empty until Light himself had given her the power to make them real.

If he had known that before, he would not have feared Rem. If he had not feared Rem, he would have killed Misa right after L had imprisoned her. If he had done that, Rem would have been thrown back into her world and would not have had a reason to write down L's torture.

For a heartbeat, he thought he would faint.

Stay focused. I had no choice, it was self-defence, it was a master plan, I defeated my enemy, L was my enemy. Keep calm, I didn't know those rules, why didn't Ryuk warn me? I couldn't foresee this, Kira is good, Kira is justice. I'm not a torturer, I will prove it! Stay focused!

Struggling against the sickness, he grabbed the scroll. The symbols were similar to those on the cover of Misa's note. Although he did not understand the words, there was something familiar in them.

"Is this authentic?"

"Of course! Armonia gave it to me, and other scrolls, too." He showed them. "All the rules of the Death Note are written down these scrolls."

All the rules. A spark of hope shone through the haze.

The cell rang. "Darling? Misa is sorry!"

"Don't worry. I don't need to see you here anymore." I don't want to see you anymore. He hung up.

"That means I'm forgiven?" Sidoh asked.

"Maybe. If you translate these rules for me."

The creature agreed heartily. Light made a mental count. There might be more than ninety rules. The larger the amount, the higher the chance of finding out a contradiction.

And where there was a contradiction, there was a loophole.

***

When Light got into the building, L was apologising to the others. Aizawa greeted him with a nod; he had his left ear covered with a bandage and limped slightly. Matsuda was more enthusiastic.

"Hey, Light! Are you okay?" The question was strange when it was Matsuda the one with a swollen eye and stitches on his chin. "Wow, you really impressed me yesterday. I bet you would have killed Kira with your bare hands if the coward had shown his face!"

"No, I wouldn't. I'm not a murderer. We have laws," Light said.

"Uh, I didn't want to be rude," Matsuda stuttered.

"Some monsters deserve to die. I would kill the monster that murdered Watari with my own hands if I could. I would do it to avenge the ones I love, or to protect them."

Light felt a rush of blood to his face. Fortunately, the rest of the men seemed as shocked as him by L's words.

"You wouldn't stoop so low, Ryuzaki. This is not the justice we defend," Light stated.

As they supported each other's views on justice, the youth realized what L should have been: Kira's right-hand man. What a perfect world we could have created together, you stubborn bastard.

"Light?"

"Yes?"

"I was asking you about Misa-san."

"She had already gone. She wanted to have time to visit her parents' tombs. Tomorrow is the wedding anniversary," Light answered. It was the right thing to say.

"Poor girl. It was a terrible crime. She has been really brave," L said.

No. She's just a bitch, and it's her fault you're going through this ordeal. Anyway, he just agreed, and moved to sit beside his father.

"Alright. Now that everyone is present, I will tell you some news. Do you remember when the FBI left us alone? The man who was in charge then has passed away. It is not confirmed it is Kira's doing, but the new person in charge has contacted me to offer his collaboration," L announced. "The FBI resources would have been very useful months ago, but we must do with what we have. In fact, their help will be welcome to control Kira's followers worldwide, as far as we are facing complicated days."

The detective showed them his laptop, where a mixture of graphics and schedules appeared.

"The twenty-eighth of November will be the anniversary of Kira's first murder—that gives us nine days. We are supposed to expect serious situations during this period of time. We'll work undercover online to monitor Kira's zealots' plans in order to stop them. I will be watching the most active users in SeKond Coming, the ones nicknamed Sakujo and E.D. As for the rest of you..."

L went on assigning tasks. Nonetheless, Light's thoughts were somewhere else. He had forgotten the anniversary! He had not made plans, and he had not been paying enough attention to his followers. He needed to devise something symbolic, it was expected of him.

"Besides, I have a theory on the grand finale of..." L stopped mid-sentence.

Drop.

"Ryuzaki!" Matsuda warned.

L fixed eyes full of dismay upon Light's. There were red spots on the white shirt again. Fat drops of blood fell from L's nose, and trickles of blood ran down his face from his scalp. He made a strangled sound and fell from the chair.

The men hurried towards the fallen one. When Light got to his side, L pushed him away.

"Do not touch me!" the bleeding man cried out. Light stepped back. L crawled on the floor. "Phone Wedy. Quickly!"

"For goodness' sake!" Soichiro exclaimed. "Stop this nonsense. You shouldn't have left the hospital, I'm calling an ambulance!"

"Listen to me. They can't help me. Phone Wedy right now if you want me to get better."

Convulsions began. Soichiro groaned, but he said as he was told. Mogi and Matsuda held L and led him to his room. Light swallowed another tablet of aspirin. Its bitter taste made his eyes stung.

Wedy arrived in twenty minutes. She exchanged a few words with the men before locking herself in L's room. Light commanded Sidoh to discreetly watch the pair. Then he wasted more than an hour with the task force tasting his own bile until Wedy reappeared.

"He is stable for the time being thanks to the dose I administered to him. Hopefully, he will be able to sleep for a few hours. God knows he needs to sleep."

"Is it contagious?" asked Aizawa. He was livid, and Light remembered the rabid L biting Aizawa's ear.

"No, it isn't. This condition is only his."

"What is this condition? Are you giving him some medicine that can't be found in Japan?" Light asked.

"This is confidential, honey. You can ask him, he wanted you to go to his room. Don't bother him too much."

She said farewell and was gone. Relief poured on Light as the theory of the withdrawal from the unknown pills recovered strength. Furthermore, Wedy's presence could be explained because of her being the provider of the medicine instead of other reasons.

The detective's room was tidy and neat. L was pale and heavy-lidded, but he was clean and dressed in fresh clothes. For once, he was lying on the bed instead of crouching. The youth felt the urge to touch him. His fingers itched.

"Thanks, Light-kun," the older man whispered.

"For?"

"For not telling anyone about last night. I was out of my mind, it was so embarrassing. So I want to express my gratitude. Now I know I can trust Light-kun."

Do not touch me. Light felt cold inside. "You're welcome."

"I am sure Light-kun shares my theory and has also guessed Kira's grand finale. The twenty-eighth. I am so tired, I can't go on. I just want this to be over." His voice wavered, his eyes closed.

Relief abandoned Light and anger took over him. You don't know about Kira, you don't know about me. Stop pretending you understand what's in my mind, I don't even know it anymore! He wanted to yell, to shook the detective out of his reverie, but he was already asleep. He looked around: a bottle full of pills, a pillow, his own hands cupping the detective's throat. Oh, he would touch him, he would, he would give him the rest he longed for. It would be so easy.

Perhaps it will be by murder. Won't Light-kun help me to know?

No, he wouldn't. He wasn't even able to control his own fingers, which were stroking L's face and hair in the most delicate way, or to stop his lips from brushing the other's.

What are you doing to me? This is shameful. Seeing you like this hurts me. I can't reach you. You're giving up.

He went downstairs to tell the others he needed to rest. While going to his floor, Sidoh explained what he had witnessed before:

"The woman did some medical stuff, helped him to look presentable. It was difficult, he was delirious. I didn't let him see me, so you have succeeded, he is going nuts, methinks. When he was lucid, they talked a little about some cases they had worked in together, some BB case, people they have met. He looked so sad."

No intimacy. That made him feel better—nothing to be proud of. Anyway, what worried him was L's mood. So he had really given up. Well, Kira wouldn't give up. Kira was over the law, he was meant to create new laws. He would find a loophole.

Once in his room, he took his laptop and made Sidoh read the rules while he was typing them. They were organised into different blocks. Those belonging to the first three blocks Light knew and did not help him. By the time Sidoh started block four, the pain behind Light's eyes was so deep that he had to stop. He fell asleep in the chair.

Sometime later he woke up with a start. He had been dreaming of a piece of chess, a king that was both black and white. The king was covered in blood.

A knock on the door startled him. It was Soichiro.

"Son, we are going to talk. I am worried for you."

"Why?"

"The rest can be blind, but we both know that something is really wrong with Ryuzaki. I don't understand what that creature did to him; sometimes I think a clean death should have been better than this. I know it's a horrible thought. However, he is withering before our eyes: he's in pain, he's delusional."

"I agree it's terrible. Anyway, what does it have to do with me?"

"Stop pretending! Light, you are not an emotional person. You endured the confinement; you are cold with your girlfriends; you didn't shed a tear when I had the stroke. And yet, you lost your nerve when the Shinigami attacked Ryuzaki, you acted like a madman when he had the seizure. Even before that. Strange as it seems, that man can reach and expose parts of you that no one else can, not even your family."

"I'm afraid you're mistaken; your fears are groundless. Moreover, if I survived that my father shot me in cold blood, I will survive anything."

Soichiro lost his voice. Light apologised immediately. Empty sentences followed; Soichiro disappeared. Light required a long time for his body to stop shaking. He regretted his words, but not quite. The cause of the regret he felt was other, was all-consuming, did not allow other reasons to join in. It was unnerving that his father was right: he was obsessed. The twenty-eighth. Time was a scythe.

"Sidoh," he called. "Shinigami mustn't tell humans the span of time of another human, must them?"

"That's correct. It is in block eighteen."

"Does it deserve the Extreme Level punishment?" he asked. Sidoh answered that it didn't. "In that case, would you break that rule for me? Would you tell me L's life span?" Please, I beg you, I need to know if Rem has sentenced him to death.

"Sorry, I'll never break a rule. You can ask Misa, she saw it... though humans can't understand it. Well, there have been a few humans in history, not long ago there were two that understood, uhh..." he stammered. He looked nervous. "I mean, I'm not sure, those were tales, you're so smart... Make the deal?"

Light puffed. "Never. What about that Nu? Is the story of the spare eyes true?" They had been Ryuk's words.

"NO! Nu is not for humans' eyes! She's not like the rest of us, she's like the King, she's forbidden to the human world. Horrifying things could happen!"

"I see." He frowned. Everything that Ryuk said or did had become threatening, sinister. Furthermore, he had no time to squander in guessing.

Thus he forgot about the life spans, returned to the laptop, translated every rule he had typed into English.

"Sidoh, you are good at repeating things by heart. Are you good at copying human languages?"

***

Breakfast was a gloomy affair. His father barely looked at him, nobody had much to say. Light had spent most of the night typing rules like a robot, without apprehending their meaning. There were too many, and Sidoh had had trouble reading some of them. It had been an exhausting task. Finally, he had slept a couple of hours. He would study them afterwards; besides, he had not given up on the idea of finding out a crucial clue in the ciphertexts. Too much work to do; he feared he had wasted a precious time, but a plan was there, in the shadows. He only needed to clear his mind—he would also need another person. He had shaken L out of his depression once; he would be able to do it again.

L appeared later than usual. He did nothing of use, did not give directions. The men grew unnerved. Light took the files.

"Ryuzaki, I have found a strange text among the files you gave us. It tells things about Shinigami; we should decode it together."

"It is pointless. The first Kira is dead, the second one is dead, the third one is dead, now there is a new one. The cycle has no end. The insect is waiting for me. The Shinigami is waiting for me. If you excuse me, I need to be alone."

He left them. The men complained, cursed, expressed their frustration.

"Please, listen to me," Light requested. "Who can read English well? I need you with this. Someone met Shinigami before and wrote his experiences in a journal. I know this can lift Ryuzaki's spirits."

The others agreed with a sigh, the files where shared out. Time passed by. He skimmed through pages full of formulae, notes on what the author called Logics of Death, comments on aspects of the Shinigami's daily chores or lack thereof, like the gambling—nothing new. Then he got to an entry dated on February, 1967—the author had been contacted by the MI6 through a certain Q.

... It is an immense honour. I should find an alias. I shall not use Nor; it is well-known around my acquaintances. Moreover, it is the alias of a girl, and I am a woman now...

A woman! He could not believe someone that logical and clever could be female. Well, there was always an exception to the rule. He kept on reading, but he was not able to understand the rest as far as the author had changed the code she had been using. Damn it!

"Did Ryuzaki give us a different key apart from the one we've been using?" he asked.

"No, he didn't," Aizawa answered with a groan. "And this is stupid. It's just some boy's journal crammed with details about common things. Mogi's pages are similar. There's not a word about Shinigami! And the efforts of the chief and Matsuda on Internet are fruitless. The FBI has closed most of the web pages we had been monitoring."

Light eyed the others' files, confirmed that they were different. He felt the weight of his father's pity on him. How he hated it!

After several unproductive hours, L appeared. Instead of his former passivity, he was frantic. He insisted that they had to call Deputy Director Kitamura, that an impending attack on members of the Court of Justice and his families was going to happen. It might have been alarming if not for the incoherencies and hallucinations he added to his speech; none of them really believed his warning. Reluctantly, Soichiro phoned Kitamura, who did not want to have anything to do with Kira or the fraud they called L and only complied to send a few men out of respect for Soichiro. Aizawa accused L of being incapable of leading them anymore, the rest agreed.

"I will go, I will stop the fanatics myself," the detective said.

"You stay here. We'll be watching you. We'll be taking the decisions from now on. We are deeply sorry, but we can't trust you," Soichiro and Aizawa said.

"I see. You think I am a failure. Everyone thinks so." L surrendered, slouched towards the darkest corner, turned into a statue. Silent. Defeated. Despised.

I could defend him. I can make Sidoh appear, can show them L is not completely insane.

Light hated that he could not find the courage to unveil the truth. He also hated the fact that he could not find the slightest joy in Kira's victory.

***

The evening news announced that criminals had shot down some members of the Court of Justice and their families. A couple of police officers had appeared. They had prevented some casualties, had caught one of the gunmen, who had admitted supporting Kira. It was suggested that if the N.P.A. had sent more men, not a single life would have been lost and no criminal would have escaped. But the focus of the report was other. One of the two officers, Ide Hideki, was being interviewed by reporters. Next to him there stood a scared woman who said Hideki had saved her life and that of her little child, that he was a hero. Then Ide roared to the camera that these crimes were Kira's fault, that Kira was a cold-blooded murderer. Right after saying that, he had a heart attack and died in front of the camera. The footage was shown in every channel.

A poignant silence and cries of anguish fought for the supremacy inside the headquarters. Light had trouble to breathe. Misa, you have given my enemies a martyr! I will kill you, moronic bitch! How he rued the moment he had used the scrap of the Death Note to write Sidoh's name.

L just gazed at the rest with a blank expression and shut his door.

That night Light let Sidoh copying rules right before he blacked out.

***

The morning witnessed dozens of persons attending certain funeral services. All the members of the task force were present, including L, who hid in the shadows, unnoticed. Deputy Director Kitamura was also there, clearly distressed. Light heard him speaking with Soichiro—Kitamura said he was going to resign, said that he had been a coward and a fool for mistrusting L.

Back in the headquarters, the men stood mute in the meeting room. Someone tried to make some small talk, abandoned the try. L had not said a word since the day before. He left the room, came back soon after. He had the coffin where the Death Note was stored. He took a key, pushed some buttons. The coffin opened, and the note was released. A shiver went down Light's spine. He craved to touch it as L was touching it. He felt the need to write down on it as L was doing.

Writing.

"No!" he shouted.

The others stared first at the youth, then at the detective, and realized what was happening. L held the Death Note in his strange manner, turned it over for everyone else to see one page. Two words were written in large foreign characters.

L Lawliet.

"My name," L Lawliet said.

Gasps sounded all around—Light was barely aware of them. For forty seconds, he thought his own heart would be the one to explode.

The time was due. L remained alive.

"I assure you this is my real name, and this is the real Death Note." His voice was firm. Every bit of confidence had come back to him. "I am not dead because my name was written down before in another Death Note, the one owned by the monster that killed Watari. We have been blind. There are more than seven rules, we already know that others do exist: the twenty-three days rule, the fact that a Shinigami accompanies the note and can be seen and heard by those who have touched it. By writing my name, I have proved that there is at least one more: when the same name is written on different notes, the first one will have effect regardless of the time of death, and the other notes will be rendered ineffective."

He shook the note, showed the first page.

"The human whose name is written in this note shall die. Is it a necessary truth? No, it isn't. At its best, it is a contingent proposition. It depends on time and amount of notes. And the rule of the thirteen days? If I die within the twenty-three days, this is not absolute; if I survive, then the twenty-three days rule is abolished. There are restrictions; there are more rules. There are inconsistencies."

"But... your name... your life... " Matsuda whined.

"I am positive my death will happen twenty-three days after Watari's, the twenty-eighth of November, Kira's grand finale for the anniversary. I fear it will be something public and humiliating, apart from painful. This is why I have almost surrendered, I apologize for my weakness. It won't happen again. I will fight for justice until my last breath. I will find a loophole."

"I will help you, I swear I will," Light said.

L eyed him. Then he looked at some point above their heads.

"Have you heard, monster? I shall not give up," the detective told Sidoh.

Initiative. The creature opened their rags. Pages floated in the air. Soichiro took one of the pages.

"Death Note rules. Block..." he muttered.

Sidoh took the Death Note. Quicker than flies he touched everyone with it, then threw it towards L, who caught it mid-air. Rasps and moans filled the room.

"He was not hallucinating, he was right all along," Aizawa mumbled.

"Shinigami don't die, we change," Sidoh trumpeted. "Don't worry, we are only interested in that Lawliet, he will be ours in a few days. Anyway, Lawliet, you are a great source of entertainment, here you have lots of rules for you to unravel. I dare you to defy us! Or maybe we could have a deal? What if I told you that you could trade your life for the youngest one's ? We crave youth." Sidoh stared at Light and coughed to show him it was a bluff.

"Stay away from my son!" Soichiro yelled.

"No deal. This is between you and me," L told Sidoh.

The Shinigami flew towards L, enwrapped him in his rags. "It is decided, then! The rest of you are spared!" With a chilling laughter, he disappeared.

Silence spread around the room. Then, Soichiro stood in front of L and made a long and deep bow.

"Would you please allow me to be under your lead until the end? I am ashamed of my doubts. I swear I will protect your secret with my life. I beg your forgiveness, Lawliet-sama," Soichiro said.

The bow, the honorary, and the words were repeated by everyone in the room. The black-haired man blushed, smiled shyly. For once in his life, Light's chest swelled with pride and emotion for someone else.

A beep sounded. L went to check his laptop and the smile turned into a radiant grin. He opened a hidden drawer and took the large envelope Light had seen a couple of days ago.

"Good news. The FBI has verified the authenticity of the letter I received days ago: the handwriting, the signature. And it is not an old one, it talks about events that have happened out of late. If I can't succeed in defeating Kira, she will help you to do it."

"Who is she?"

"Naomi Misora."

As Kira screamed inside in horror, Light almost cried with relief.

He had finally found the loophole.

Chapter Text

One-5th Part

Before

But our beginnings never know our ends.

T. S. Eliot

 

As Kira, Light had judged hundreds of sinners. Only a few remained in his memory: Kurou Otoharada, for he had been his first; Lind L. Tailor, Higuchi, Raye Penber. Naomi Misora.

He closed the door of the bathroom and frowned, deep in thought.

He remembered the nightmare of half truths and lies, fake intentions and polite denials, dangerously accurate deductions and false names, all against the backdrop of Ryuk's guffaws. As he had realised that the real threat had never been the idiotic Penber but his fiancée, he had panicked. Panic had mounted to the point of contemplating the idea of using violence in plain sight. When he had finally sent Misora to her death, euphoria had brightened the world, and he had gloated over his suicidal puppet.

Afterwards, pride and elation had returned every morning he woke up to the certainty that his execution had been but a bad dream. A couple of times, slumberland had been besieged by the image of a mourning woman walking to the gallows under the quiet snow. Those times the shadow of a restlessness a god should have never experienced had darkened the daylight. The restlessness had not lasted. Kira was never wrong; power was his right, and enemies had to be punished.

Now that enemy had come from the ashes to tear Kira's kingdom apart. Although his mind whispered that her miraculous return also meant hope, self-preservation raged within, and panic was sharpening its claws.

At least, the letter had eased some of his worries. It had been sent to Wedy—Misora did not know where to find L and had chosen the thief in hopes of reaching the detective. Its content seemed pretty harmless, too. Misora offered her help to catch Kira and apologised for not having tried to contact L before, as far as she had suffered from amnesia and depression after her fiancé's murder. The amnesia was a little too convenient, but he had convinced himself that it might be a side effect of the Death Note. The final lines of the letter were strange. Light suspected them to be a private code between L and Misora. A code. A terrible thought had struck him: N for Naomi, or in Misora. Nor. Anyway, after a second reading, he had dismissed the theory. The style was different. There were certain Japanese mannerisms in Misora's writing which could not be found in Nor's journal. Furthermore, though Misora was intelligent, her intellect could not be compared to the mysterious author's.

Hot water steamed the bathroom. He unbuttoned his shirt, breathed slow, tried to control his heart rate. After the former maelstrom it was good to be on his own for a while. Soichiro had gone home to calm Sachiko, Mogi had volunteered to organise the pages of the Death Note rules. Aizawa would be grieving over his late friend Ide. Matsuda would be pestering either Aizawa or L. L had to send emails to the Interpol and wanted to revise the decoded files. Light needed to think and plan. Quickly.

He welcomed the hot water. His muscles were as tense as strings, stress was taking its toll on him. He needed some kind of relief, any kind.

His mind blocked the thoughts related to Misora and focused on L. Brilliant bastard, what a razzle-dazzle move! He still felt his skin crawl when he remembered him writing—the shock had made him forget L's unfruitful previous attempts at committing suicide. In spite of this, Light had to admit he would have never written his own death. How much courage did L possess, how deep was his dedication to the cause? How desperate was he to reveal his name before the once main suspect and the kinds of Matsuda? His name. L Lawliet.

Light barked a noise that could not be called a laughter. Now that he knew the name, he did not need it anymore. L. The detective had been hiding behind his real name all these years. What kind of parents gave their child a letter for a name? Lawliet. Japanese made it sound like low light. If he believed in fate, he would think it to be a joke of destiny. He knew better: Law. L was law and order. He barked again. The embodiment of law was a quirky bastard. What a sight to behold! Smart and brave enough to be on a par with him, interesting enough to make him...

All of a sudden, it was too hot in the bathroom, and his hands were cleaning certain parts of his body too thoroughly. He was so tense, he needed relief. Memories of the time handcuffed assaulted him. Had L watched him while he had been taking a shower, naked, wet? Yes, he had, he had always been watching, he wanted him to watch, he wanted to watch him, too, to watch him write, sheer will radiating from his body...

What made him stop was not only the awareness that he was masturbating to the image of L writing on the Death Note, but the certitude that the second hypothesis was the correct one. No more room for theories of withdrawal, no more denial. Solid evidence. L was sentenced to death. Not if I have a say in it. Well, he does have a say: Misora, the Lazarus woman, both a blessing and a curse.

He croaked under the freezing water. He was becoming hysterical. His father was right, he would be in need of therapy after everything was said and done. If I survive.

He took a towel. Coldness had replaced the heat. He looked himself in the mirror. Never before had the dichotomy between Kira and Light been so evident. The misty reflection showed two faces. One of them was perfect and terrible in his self-righteousness; the other was tight-lipped and weary. He put on his clothes.

"Did my performance make you happy, Yagami Light?"

He nodded. As usual, Sidoh had taken some liberties, but the results had been the expected ones. However...

"Why did you take the note and touch the others?"

"For them to see me... I mean..." the Shinigami stuttered. Uneasiness loomed. "Well, I wanted to make you a present, I'm sorry it's not too much, I didn't want them to notice."

Sidoh gave him the piece of paper, and Light's suspicions disappeared. It was large enough to write several names, or a single name with a detailed way of dying.

He took his jacket and the pen that was stored in a pocket. His hands shook. Naomi Misora. Two words and the danger would be over. Naomi Misora. Two words and the loophole would disappear.

All at once the decision was clear—Light would not die, could not die. He had a great mission to accomplish. If there was one person in the world who deserved to live, it was him. He would never sacrifice his life for anyone else, not even his family, not even L. What did L mean to him, anyway?

Misora Naomi, he wrote down.

Then he saw L on the roof shielding him from Sidoh, heard him renouncing the chance to trade Light's life for his.

Run over by a car the twenty-ninth of November at six o'clock. The twenty-sixth she meets the person who wrote her name on a scrap of paper hidden in his watch months ago. She tells him every single detail about her life since that day, tells him everything she knows or suspects about Kira and how she has survived. She never tells other people. She arranges the meeting so that no one else ever knows of it. Her presence does not help the task force or their leader to catch Kira.

He destroyed the evidence. A pathetic compromise—he had not been able to forget about L. Besides, there was another problem: he had used the Death Note against Misora before. The second note will be rendered useless. Nonetheless, the first note had not worked, thus maybe the rule would not apply this time around. If this second note did not work, he would have to kill her with his own hands, god have mercy.

But the gods he knew were not merciful, not even Kira.

***

He stood in front of a window in the corridor; composure had returned to him. The late afternoon sunlight warmed his skin. There was peace in that stillness.

"You are stunning."

He recognised the voice—he gave its owner the chance to take the words back. "What did you say?"

"Light-kun is stunning, sunlight suits him," L remarked. "Light-kun's parents should have named him after the sun instead of the moon. He does not reflect others' glow—he irradiates."

"It is obvious why you decided to work as a detective instead of as a poet." He faked a derisive tone to conceal his nervousness.

L moved softly and swiftly, invaded Light's personal space, put his hands on Light's chest. "Light-kun should not look unkempt," he said as he fastened a couple of forgotten buttons in the youth's shirt. The movement of the fingers was mesmerising. "That is it: as perfect as usual." The fingers lingered for a moment longer before they dropped. They shivered slightly. For all he knew, the tremor might be infectious—he could also feel it on his chest.

They stood silent.

"Light-kun's father has some news," L said, breaking whatever was happening between them. The detective headed towards the meeting room. He followed him at a distance, overlooked the weakness at his knees.

Once in the room, Soichiro showed them Kitamura's press conference, where he announced he was resigning. He urged the citizenship to open their eyes at Kira's evil nature, accused the Government of cowardice and high treason, explained they had complied with Kira. He exposed politicians and owners of great companies, gave names and dates. He finished his speech saying that the only honourable people that stood for the country were L and the few agents that still remained at his side.

"He has finally grown a backbone," L commented while munching a piece of toast coated with jam. Light did not fail to notice the malicious smile that danced in his tone.

After watching the national news, they monitored the international ones. Light grew worried. The anti-Kira feeling was strengthening worldwide; in Japan, Ide's murder and Kitamura's confession promised havoc. There was an ominous silence on SeKond Coming, where a single post signed by those Sakujo and E.D. had been fixed: We'll not fail you. It was meant to be flattering; it had the opposite effect. How did they dare to address him in such a direct manner? Worshippers were supposed to be more respectful unless... Misa, if you've made another mistake... He sank his sourness into a cup of black coffee. Distress was not his prerogative—the others peeked around, agitated. They are wondering where Sidoh is. He had told the Shinigami to be as discreet as possible—although everyone believed the creature haunted L, it would not be sensible to give them a pattern by means of which they could figure out it was Light the one to whom Sidoh was tied.

Haunted. A touch. The others. The prickles on his neck told him something was amiss. He fidgeted in his chair. Stress was taking its toll on him.

"... and the CIA agent, Lidner, will also support our efforts overseas." Light tried to concentrate on L's words. "I have been revising the files and decoded a few more pages. We can forget about those boys' diaries. On the contrary, the lady's journal may be an asset; I should have acknowledged it earlier. Here it is the new key. Apart from it, at nightfall I will be studying the rules," the detective hesitated. "Perhaps I could use some help. Chief Yagami? Mogi-san?"

"Light would be more suitable for that task," both of them answered.

L worried his thumb, looked down. "Light-kun will be welcome if he agrees to work all night long."

"I told you I would help you, Ryuzaki," he snapped. He felt a pang of resentment for not being his first choice. How dared he compare his worth to the others'? He's embarrassed because of what he said to me, because of his actions. It's not my fault he can't control his urges! The mere thought made his muscles tense again.

Before his anxiety got worse, he took the key and the files, and started working. The other men imitated him. Time passed by. Mogi did not find anything of value, just theoretical digressions. L's share was full of notes about some missions for the MI6.

"Someone might write a good thriller out of this," he commented.

"At least you've been saved the romance," Aizawa complained. The wreckage of his marriage had embittered him. "Listen to this: 1968. I cannot believe I have not noticed Headmistress Ruvie and Agent Q are married. I must not blame the maiden name or the alias, but my own callousness. I am happy for them. I like and admire them both. The headmistress is a brilliant and generous person. I have just known of her work outside this academy, in the orphanage, and I think it is remarkable. Q is even more talented, and we understand each other. He is like the elder brother I have always wanted... and so on, so forth.

"Now, tragedy strikes: 1970, November. Quillsh has finally recovered from Rachel's passing away and has decided to keep on with his wife's dream. He has left the MI6 to focus on their philanthropic work. His latest invention has granted him enough money as to implement his new ideas for the House. I have been invited to teach there. I have accepted, though I have doubts. A few days ago I met the caretaker, Rachel's brother, a dull if loyal man. It is the children who frighten me; not the children per se, but my flaws. Unlike Rachel, I am not nurturing: I am tainted, I reek of death. Isn't it melodramatic?"

"It's like a novel!" Matsuda interrupted. The moron was enjoying the gossip. "By the way, she went on writing about that Quillsh along the years, they developed a long-lasting relationship. But if you are thinking it was the romantic kind, you'll be wrong. In 1974 she fell in love with some Benjamin and by the end of the year they were preparing their wedding."

Aizawa looked daggers at the idiot. L's expression darkened. He nibbled his thumb as if he wanted to draw blood. Don't worry. My efforts have been fruitful.

"Well, I'm sure you will like this entry," Light said in a condescending way. "We are still in 1970: January. It has been a week since Rachel left us. Quillsh is desolated, and I have not slept since the burial. I was the last one to see her alive. Though reason tells me otherwise, I can't help thinking that I could have foreseen the aneurism. This is why I struggled to provoke the rapture. I already knew no human soul can be found in the Shinigami realm; I hoped nonetheless. I lounged around consumed by grief and regret, until I reached a place I have never seen before. There was an eerie quality to it. I saw a large cave where strange cocoons were sheltered. Then I sensed a preternatural quietness, enwrapped by sibilant whispers that called my name. I was pulled forward; I have never been more scared in my life, not even when I found out what Shinigami do. I had the feeling I was being watched by a hundred murderous eyes. Then, there was another pull, harsh and backwards, and I was in front of the spectre's throne. His voice was a roar after the horrible silence. I understood most of what he said to me: 'Never look at Nu! She's not for humans' eyes.'"

"Hand me those files," L commanded. He reread Aizawa's and Matsuda's useless fragments first, a fact that enraged Light once again. "This is highly improbable. What were the chances of this?" Then he moved to the entry Light had decoded and compared it to other entries. "Understood some of the symbols, understood most of what he said..." He stopped muttering and glared at nowhere.

"Let him think," someone said. Light sipped his coffee as he wondered about that Nu. What made her so special among her peers?

"Rem-san, are you there? I would like to speak with you. Rem-san?" L asked.

Aizawa swore, Matsuda dropped a glass of water at Sidoh's arrival, the glass shattered. That was fine, for the turmoil hid the fact that Light had nearly choked on its coffee. Rem. L was summoning a demon from the grave.

"Umph?" Sidoh floated in front of them, swallowed some stuff (an apple?) he had been chewing. He looked as confused as the men.

"Rem-san," the detective repeated. He wanted to seal L's lips—every time the name was said, a knife twisted his guts.

"We don't answer to that name anymore. Methinks we are beyond courtesies now; Shinigami will do." Good boy, Sidoh. For a moment he was so grateful he almost considered fulfilling his promise. Almost.

"That is fine by me, Shinigami. Will you answer my questions?" The creature assented to it. "It has been polite of you to write the rules in a human language. I compared the handwriting here to that in the Death Note. Taking into account your hands have changed, it is possible you wrote them both, indeed. Nonetheless, there is no evidence you are telling us the truth. Do you have a way to demonstrate the veracity of the rules? Do you have the original script?"

"Of course they are true, see it yourself, if you can understand a single word!"

L got close to Sidoh and stared at the scrolls. Light moved towards them, hesitant. What if the Shinigami were really playing with them? Everything amounts to being the plaything of monsters, L had said. Soichiro also hurried, probably afraid of the damage Sidoh could inflict upon Light—his father was such an honourable fool. L seemed satisfied. Why?

Then he understood: the symbols had looked familiar when he had firstly skimmed the scrolls because some of them reminded him of those used in the first code. With the new key and the second code, most of the symbols became legible. He could even read parts of the sentences. That woman had taken the Shinigami languages as basis for her codes. How could they use this for their purposes?

He tried to make eye contact with the detective; he ducked his gaze.

"That will serve. Would you be so kind so as to leave us now?"

Sidoh left. The black-haired man stood still and detached, shadows lurking around him.

"Are you alright, Ryuzaki?" Matsuda asked. The fact that the men were still using the alias pleased Light. He liked the renewed respect that the others showed L. It was foolish.

The reverie abandoned L. "He was Watari." Incomprehension was displayed in every face. "Quillsh. Watari was Quillsh. He knew for years a person who had met Shinigami, and he never told me about it. He kept these files, and he never told me. Why didn't he warn me?"

Astonished silence met L's revelation. Before he could elaborate, a phone rang. Mogi answered. "It's Wedy. She says you're going to receive another call."

It rang again. L connected the hands-free mode. The female voice lacked Wedy's strong accent. It was the voice of a ghost. "Misora speaking."

"Misora-san, I have known of your offer, and it is more than welcome. How are you feeling nowadays?"

"I had something to do..." Those have been her last words. A chill crawled up Light's spine. "I feel better now. I will be arriving the evening of the twenty-sixth. Do I presume Wedy will catch me at the airport?" Her voice was muddy, dreamy, almost childish. Possessed.

"Yes, she will. I will be looking forward to seeing you," L finished. Colour had drained from his features but for the red of the blood in his bitten thumb. The pain had to be growing.

Light turned around to avoid the sight. He had to be glad: whatever secret Watari had held was six feet under now, the second note had worked, everything ran as planned. The twenty-sixth. He was sure Misora would meet him the morning of that day—a woman in dark walking to the gallows. He shuddered. Endure it, it will be worthwhile.

Besides, he would not have to dirty his hands with her blood.

***

The twin room brought him mixed memories that he did not dare to disentangle. The difference resided in the absence of chain and handcuffs. In fact, L had made a copy of the rules, and they were working as far from each other as it was possible. Oddly, L had been glad to be tied to a suspected mass-murderer 24/7 whereas now he had severed any knot between them.

Are you embarrassed? Are you disappointed in me now that you believe I'm not Kira?

He glanced around: paper. It seemed his world, their world, could be reduced to pages, pieces, scraps—fodder for a danse macabre, a collage made by a psychotic artist. It had been that way for too long. He remembered Takada's comment: This is growing old. She might be expendable, but insightful. He cringed at those musings. It had to be the tiredness. Both of them were strained. The detective had refused to explain anything about Watari and had disappeared after the phone calls, presumably to suffer in private. The youth had taken advantage of this to ask Sidoh never to show the scrolls to the others again. Although the Shinigami writing could not be wholly decoded, the keys could be enough for L to notice that there were differences between the original rules and the translated ones. Light had left out every rule related to the loss of memories, had varied others, had included the fake ones. After dinner, L had come back only to say that he feared he would need a more comfortable place to stand working. The hesitation in sharing the burden with Light had resumed until the youngster himself had led them to the prison-like room.

Why are you trying to ignore me? Don't you trust yourself with me? That train of thought upset him. Scared him.

They skipped block one. Light had made Sidoh add one rule to the second block: If the Death Note is found by several humans at the same time, the owner will be chosen by the Shinigami. "Should I be honoured?" L joked.

The two fake rules had been embedded in section three. "I do not feel changed," L said. Light lifted his eyebrows. "Yagami-san once said that it was the power to kill what corrupted a person. I used the note, and yet, if the thirteen days rule is the one to prevail... There are already too many losses for which I have to atone. I do not want to become another Kira. I would rather die. Kira must have had it in them beforehand, the killing instinct. I doubt it is the note alone."

No proper reply was found, so none was given. L underlined in principle in the fourth section. The Shinigami Eyes appeared in block five—the detective set it apart together with number six. The third rule in the seventh section surprised them both: Not even the Shinigami know much about the note. Block eight was useless. Block nine left a bittersweet taste.

"It is a pity I am above 780 days old and my name is too easy to be misspelled four times." L's mockery sounded sour. The mood turned grimier after reading the rules about the suicide that filled the next section. L underlined This is to ensure other lives are not influenced and stored the pages for further research. Block eleven was innocuous but for the last sentence: Once the victim's name has been written, the death can never be avoided. The urge to start a bonfire grew stronger.

A clock announced the midnight. L stopped again. "Six days left in my own private Doomsday Clock. I wish Misora-san would arrive earlier."

Indignation crawled. "You seemed to have her in high regard."

"She was an excellent FBI agent until she quitted. We worked together in a notorious case two years ago, the BB murders. According to the official report, we barely met each other over a couple of weeks; the truth is more complicated. I had to bend the dating in order to fit her time off the FBI, but, in fact, we had been collaborating for a while. Time ago she had helped Wedy's family, so it was thanks to her that I knew Naomi. She saw through Aiber's disguise so fast that I had to introduced myself as a proxy straight away. Do you remember the last words in her letter?" Light nodded. "I am positive you have fathomed they convey a message meant for me. They do. Kick, for example, refers to the moment when we first met face to face. It still hurts." A certain melancholy that made Light want to kill Misora a dozen times tinged his voice. "Therefore, I know her, and I know her value."

Indignation swelled. "So do you trust her more than you trust the task force?"

"She has the drive and the skills. Furthermore, she once saved both my reputation and my life. Thus, I hope... I hope..." L scratched his left ankle with his right foot.

You need a god now, not a woman! It's me you need! "Listen carefully, Ryuzaki: I've never lost a challenge. I've never failed a meaningful task, and I'm not failing this one. I will bend these damned laws, I will find a way to break this curse."

"If I still thought Light-kun to be Kira, such arrogance would have increased the chance a twenty percent, whereas the intention behind would have lowered it a forty percent."

Light could not help mirroring the other's smile until a sense of déjà vu froze it. One night months ago, the same room. L bracing himself, claiming he was only human. Light annoyed and trying to calm him, then trying to comfort him, then trying to... Then words that resembled those. Then, shame; then, façade.

L's smile had also frozen. "Light-kun has to go on without me. I must rest." He crouched on the bed.

Light tried to ignore the ill-concealed gestures of pain the other man showed and kept on reading. His focus was on the parts where there had been written rules regarding the loss and recovery of the owner's memories, and those that could signal Light as the true owner. He revised those pages twice, and felt contented. Everything was correct.

"Yagami Light."

He grimaced as he turned to watch L. Good luck he had dozed off. He tiptoed out of the room to face Sidoh.

"What happens now?"

"Umm... Since I've already forgotten my good manners in order to help you, I thought I could push it a little farther." Sidoh was such a complaisant slave. For the second time in hours, the slightest pity for the creature glimmered. However, Sidoh had sealed his fate when he had warned him against Ryuk. "I've just found what you were longing for, at last. They are his."

The photographs that would have been more than welcome once stood in front of him now, when they were useless. Irony had a horrible timing. Nevertheless, he studied them out of curiosity.

The first picture had sepia colours. It showed a woman with a baby in her hands. She sat in a rocking chair, looked at some point above her head. He did not know her.

He recognized Watari in the second photograph. He looked twenty years younger. The child that was beside him would be four or five. He had a shock of black hair and was barefoot. L as a child. So he had not been lying when he had told Misa that he had considered Watari family. Suddenly, it was crystal clear that Nor must have never confessed the old butler her secret or else Watari would have told L right from the start, dooming Light with his knowledge. He sneered. Good fortune smiled at gods.

L also appeared in the third image. He would be around twelve in this one and was accompanied by another boy more or less his age. Both were dressed in sport gear and were holding a trophy with the shape of a tennis racket. The unknown boy had sandy hair, dreamy eyes and a shy smile. L had one of his arms around the boy's shoulder and gazed at him intently with a wide grin. In the back part of the photo there were a few words: Alex and me. Champions! Light realized he hated the sandy boy.

The last photo showed an unidentifiable young woman whose hand was covering her face, as if trying to avoid the eye of the camera. She had been caught in motion; her frame was blurred because of the movement and the awful temperature and exposure. The woman's smile held the focus of the picture. It was a mirror of pure joy—happiness overflowed it. It was beautiful. He turned the photograph: She shines.

He hated that woman, too.

"Ugly pics, aren't they?" Sidoh commented. "Well, you can't know. I mean, they are the opposite Shinigami Eyes should see in humans. There is no pulse of life, no red glow over them. Every person in these images is dead, but one."

The golden burn of triumph took over the youth. There was no need to waste his contempt on the boy and the young woman anymore. May ghosts be buried in the past, may gods remain and have their prize. Light might have not been part of L's past, might not know this past yet, but he was part of his present, would be there in the future. The future.

What the hell am I thinking?

"...and the one who still glows will soon cease to be, maybe?" Sidoh inquired.

Triumph disappeared. He gave the photos back to the Shinigami and dismissed him. He got into the room again, tracked by sadness.

The scene had not changed. L's sleep-deprived body seemed to have reached its limit out of late. Gently, he was getting prepared for the big sleep. Alarm nagged at Light. What if L did not wake up? What if he stopped breathing right before his eyes?

It happened once, and I smirked. I would have laughed over his tomb not long ago.

And yet, even then, a sudden aching void had overshadowed Kira's victory. What had changed? I changed. The time I renounced my memories changed me. Had he changed, or had he come back to what he had been prior to the Death Note? Kira must have had it in them. L's words carved trails of discomfort in his mind; he was not sure if this was due to the stark contrast with his own idea of Kira, to the preaching quality of the words or to the warped admiration he thought he could guess in them. What he could not deny was the effect L had on him, for better or worse. This man can expose and reach parts of you that no one else can. So, was L the catalyst of change? Hadn't he craved for a change his perfect dull whole life?

I wish I had met you before.

Both sadness and alarm reached a new peak at this thought. Cursed his reasoning, which flickered and quivered.

Someone also quivered. L stirred in bed, groaning. Gently, but not quite. Light approached the bed. L was sweating, moved restlessly. Was it the start of another seizure?

"Light-kun," he moaned. "Light..."

Blood pumped hard through his veins as he realized it was not pain the cause for L's unrest. He was dreaming, a dream which did not look unpleasant at all, a dream where he appeared. Another groan. The sight and the sounds were making Light feel dizzy. Aroused, damn it.

Then L called Misa's name. Misa. Winter chilled Light's bones. No. He was mistaken. It was not Misa; L had said Kira. He neither liked it. A reddish mist clouded his vision. Light, I am Light, you son of...

It was not until L's feet hit him, and he found himself pinned to the floor with the other man on him, that he realised he had shook the detective out of his sleep.

Their eyes locked. "I am sorry... I believed it was..."

Kira. The thought enraged him. He told L to get off him, struggled to get free from the strong grip. How could he be that strong?

The only sound that left Light's mouth was not a command, but a letter. And his body was looking for the wonderful friction, and his hands were not exactly pushing the other man away.

L's pupils became abysses, dilated with desire. His mouth crashed against Light's lips. Hot kisses burned his mouth, his neck, his collarbone. Fingers fought against layers of fabric to reach his torso, his stomach. Limbs entwined; there were angles and bones and hardness in all the right places. It was like a fight, a fight that threatened to drown Light in a haze of instinct and irrationality and lust and dread, for it was too much, it was too intense. I can't, I shouldn't, I mustn't...

The fever came to a halt.

"Light-kun does not really want this. Fear spoils his face," L said as he pulled away and stood up. It was humiliating how fast his passion had faded while Light was still trembling on the floor, discarded, ashamed, furious, terrified. "Besides, it is Misa-san."

"What about Misa?" Light despised the whining quality of his question.

Innocent, panda-eyed L answered: "May I state the obvious? She is Light-kun's girlfriend."

The youth collected the remnants of his pride and left the room.

***

Clarity and focus. Reason and composure. Self-confidence and control. The mirror reflected the perfection that befitted a leader, a ruler, a god. There was no difference between Light and Kira that morning.

No one would ever know the agitation he had been through during the previous hours, only the night and the solitude of his room. The morning had brought him resolution: his body was an armour, his heart was a trust fund.

He headed directly to the kitchen. He needed caffeine and carbohydrates. He needed to recover his physical strength. As he approached the room, he heard a complaint coming from it.

"But it is true you are clumsy."

So he was lucky. He could confront him when his resolve was firm. He got into the kitchen. Ryuzaki was picking up pieces of some dishes that had broken. There was a lingering smell of strawberry and chocolate. He helped himself to some toast and coffee, let its bitterness swallowed the irritating sweet smell.

"Good morning, Ryuzaki." Before the other could reply, Light started a speech by means of which he demonstrated, without a single doubt, the irrelevance of the incident that both had suffered. He gave a variety of logical reasons: the detective's condition, the burden of the curse, the pressure they were under, the youth's former confinement, youth itself, confusion. He did believe in everything he said, even if the sentences sounded repeated and twice-told.

"You would agree with me: we have the duty to honour our intelligence and do not blind ourselves. We both know that nothing of importance has happened. Besides, as you have said, I have had girlfriends. I do have a girlfriend." He made himself comfortable in a chair, crossed his right leg over his left one, sipped his coffee, kept cool.

Ryuzaki's face showed no feeling. He forgot about the cleaning task, walked towards Light, walked by him, spoke at his back.

"There are ways to kill a Shinigami which are not generally known to the Shinigami, according to the rules."

What? Of all the possible replies he had foreseen...

He turned his head and saw Ryuzaki's back. He was between Light and Sidoh, who hung over on a corner with a stupid expression plastered on his ugly face and crumbs on his rags. Blood rushed to Light's cheeks. He did not know what was more embarrassing, the fact that Sidoh had witnessed the scene or Ryuzaki's blindness to the truth. Stop protecting me, you are making a fool of yourself. Don't you realise I am the master of that monster? Don't you realise I don't want anything from you?

"We told you the others were spared. Save your empty threats, your life will be enough," Sidoh replied.

"And yet, your life span won't be expanded because of mine, will it, Shinigami?" Ryuzaki asked.

"No, it won't, but that is not your business."

Ryuzaki's knowing smile whipped Light. Moron, it's a ruse!

"And yet, this is not what the rules say, unless you are not the one that wrote my name. I am sure you are not that Rem."

No, no, no, no.

"Err..."

"I did study the rules. Shinigami do not change, they just live or die. That Rem died to expand the life of a human, the new Kira. All of you have to write names to keep on living. What happens when one of you loses the note? If you don't write, you die. Where is your note, Shinigami?"

"Human, you are bold!"

"Here is my theory: I think this Death Note was yours once, it is nevermore, and you need me, the current owner, to die to get it back. Now that I know this, be sure you won't get what you want. Before I die, I will hand the note to someone who will never bring it back to you. Moreover, you won't be able to harm that person, and when you are dead no other Shinigami could, it is written in the rules. You will rot here until you die, you will never return to your realm. How much time do you still have?"

Sidoh made a strangled sound, Light suffocated another. Ryuzaki was saying aloud what Light had actually planned for the creature. It could make Sidoh rethink. But it also made him think. The easiest way for Sidoh to get his note back was Light's death. Nonetheless, he had made everything he could to keep him away from danger. Was he really that loyal? It was possible that...

Sidoh is walking the same path as Rem and that Gelus. I am the human he favours. He had to believe this, or else the Shinigami's hesitation would make him panic.

"You don't know what you're saying, Lawliet, you don't have idea!"

"I do, Shinigami. I have even thought of a deal which can benefit us both. I have no intention to use the Death Note, for me it is just evidence against Kira. Anyway, it is clear the new Kira has another note, so as soon as I bring Kira to justice, I will forfeit ownership of your note willingly. You have my word... if you help me."

"Help you?"

"Help me to survive. Shinigami shall not help or prevent, in principle, the deaths in the note. Which deaths? The ones to be written or the ones already designed? In principle. You won't be even breaking a rule, so you won't be punished. Besides, you have already broken some rules. Shinigami shall not show the original Death Note guidelines to humans, and you showed us the scrolls. It is forbidden for Shinigami to tell a human the life span, and you keep reminding me of the days I have left. Either you lie or you have broken two rules, at least. Thus, tell me, are you lying, are you an outlaw?"

"Yes, tell us, are you lying? Can the rules be broken?" Light could not help asked.

"I... I..."

"Will I die the twenty-eighth? What did that Rem really write? It is a disease, is it?" Both Ryuzaki's voice and hands wobbled.

"I don't know what she wrote! I can't help you live!"

"So help me to understand. If I make the Shinigami Eyes deal now, what date of death will prevail, the date written on the note or the new one after I gave away half of my life?"

The admiration Light felt in that instant for Ryuzaki was overwhelming. The fear that the truth about the owner came to light was overwhelming, too.

"I don't know, I..."

"Help me to unravel how to survive until I catch Kira, and afterwards I will make the deal with you before I renounce ownership. Thus, you will have your note and half of my remaining life."

"You... you can't..."

"Just tell me which rules are prevalent. I did find inconsistencies, but I need the hierarchy. Which ones prevail? Which ones?!" Ryuzaki's voice broke. His legs failed, and he stumbled. His body shook violently.

"Ryuzaki?"

"I can't breathe, I can't see... Why can't I see?" the detective whimpered.

Light knelt on the floor beside L. He forgot every promise he had made to himself about not touching L ever again, surrounded him with his arms, held him tight.

"Help him, Shinigami! Help us!" Light demanded.

Sidoh shattered. "I don't know how! I can't do miracles! Just let me be!" He fled. Light clenched his teeth.

"I need... I need..." L heaved.

"Shhhh. Easy. Just breathe slowly. It's just anxiety. Just breathe, relax, breathe," Light whispered.

Suddenly, it was like before, like that night he had buried in his mind.

L was desperate, was human for once. His antics would not let Light sleep. Sheer annoyance made him try to calm him at first. Then, an instinct crept which made him stop pretending and try to comfort the other for real. As he muttered nonsense, he found L's body too cold to be healthy, so the urge to keep it warm grew. Then it was too warm, and the urge to touch with his hands, his lips, became irresistible, even when Light knew that it had not to be happening, that it ignited a spark in him that it had no right to exist, that it was wrong in every possible way. "Trying to seduce his warden increases Light-kun's chance of being Kira a twenty-three percent," L panted. Light stopped right away. "The emotion behind would lower it a thirty-six percent, were it real."

It was real. It is real. And it is not yielding.

Luckily, the man who came into the kitchen and found them was Mogi, who was an expert in calming turbulences. L recovered his poise and strength soon after, and the three walked to the meeting room. The rest of the men were there.

"We have spent the night looking for information. What we found will bring you some peace, Ryuzaki," Soichiro said. "Watari was not hiding that secret from you—he never knew. That woman never told him about Shinigami, she said it herself in different entries: I cannot and must not share this secret with anyone, not even Quillsh, who is my dearest friend, my brother; not even Benjamin, my love. This is written several times."

"Have you spent your time on that, just to help me?" The others nodded. L looked transfixed. Light did not understand his reaction—he had reached that conclusion alone hours ago.

"Ryuzaki..." he began. In truth, he had nothing to say. Anyway, he felt he deserved L's attention more than the others.

What he received was a glare that froze him in place. He could not remember seeing such wrath directed at him, not even when L thought him to be Kira.

"Let them finish, Light-kun."

He shut his mouth. Soichiro cleared his throat. "Thanks, Ryuzaki. The rest of the information is... serious. 1970, December. When I wrote that I reek of death I was not exaggerating. Two months have passed since I own one of those Death Notes. And the one who gave it to me, the spectre, whose real name is Armonia Justin Beyondormason, stays by me since then, my own private god of death. I do not know how much time I will be able to keep them both before I have to start writing on the note. I crave knowledge, but I will not kill. I will not.

"1971, February. I have succeeded in making Armonia tell me about Nu. Shinigami have ranks. Armonia is second to the King, but the one that is on a par with the King is that Nu. Armonia explained both the King and Nu are different because they are the last of the original Shinigami. 'They are makers apart from reapers. They are our source of survival: the King gives us the Death Note, Nu gives us the Shinigami Eyes and watches the cocoons. Our realm would not survive without them; it's different with regard to the human realm. The King is simply anathema to human life. As for Nu, humans from ancient times, shamans, seers, sage women, looked for her to achieve wisdom and vision. They sometimes got what they sought, at a high price. Whenever a human saw Nu, a disease was grown, both a curse and a miracle were born, and she always got what she desired. Humans do not remember or look for her anymore', he said."

"So that woman did own another Death Note," someone stated.

Light knew it was important. Nonetheless, his mind whirled around a single word.

Miracle.

Then, the TV screens vomited the news.

Deputy Director Kitamura had been assassinated.

On the walls of his study, the following warning had been written in blood:

Kira is law, Kira is justice. A sovereign creates new laws, judges those who are guilty. Treason, unproductiveness, laziness: all are sins. Sinners shall be deleted. Beware these words, for they are ex deum. Kneel before Kira, for the Kingdom is nigh.

For the second time in forty-eight hours, Light's surprise at a Kira's purge was not feigned.

Chapter Text

One—6 th part

Kingdom Come #1

Things fall apart.

W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming

 

He had to eliminate Misa.

The scales were wriggling. On the one hand, there were Shinigami Eyes attached to a lovestruck slave of him. On the other hand, there was everything else.

Light was certain that Kitamura's murder had not been Misa's doing. But not an hour later, the international news told the story of the simultaneous deaths of a couple dozen political prisoners, and that was Misa's doing. Light had included their names in one of the lists given to her, with the warning that they were not to be purged until he knew whether the public opinion saw them as victims or traitors. The reactions tilted towards the first option. Absolutely. Go down, Kira. He was not sure if she had disobeyed him on purpose, or her idiocy had increased tenfold.

Kitamura's murder had not been her doing. But thanks to the hacking of the SeKond Coming site L revealed afterwards—some Matt had been working on it for a while—, they compiled half a hundred messages from that Sakujo where the zealot claimed that he/she had contacted Kira, had been given direct orders. E.D.'s messages were more ambiguous, though the insinuation was there. And then, they found the file with the picture—handwritten symbols in an otherworldly language, the Shinigami language. Note. Although L and some of the others recognised the symbols because of the codes, they missed an important point. Note, as it appeared on the cover of Misa's Death Note. The task force had never seen that note, but Light knew, and he rued the day he had shown the dumb model the website.

Shinigami Eyes had not enough weight to balance the leak of information. He had been doing brilliantly without them in the first months of being Kira, when Kira had been true justice. Before the nightmare dressed as a pig-tailed girl had appeared, before the twice-damned Rem.

He had to eliminate Misa, he had to find that Sakujo. He had to bend the rules, had to keep L alive. He had to ponder the significance of Nor and her Death Note. He had to consider Nu. He had to teach his followers a lesson, had to regain control of the situation.

He had to...

Eyes.

Spots of light.

Faint.

Black.

***

"Light." "Light."

He came back to consciousness and found himself lying down on a couch. His legs were over some cushions. His father's face was inclined over his; his worried expression softened at seeing him awake. Light noticed the puffs under Soichiro's eyes—he had not realised how worn out his father looked, how old. A new drop of regret tried to sink into the ocean Light already felt. But that ocean had a name graved on it, and it was not Soichiro's.

Nu.

Light blinked. Nu?

"Are you alright? You were so dizzy you nearly fainted. Or did, actually," Matsuda stuttered. He knelt beside the couch and offered him a cup of tea. Soichiro moved aside.

Light sat down, took the cup of tea and sipped at it. The beverage made him feel better. He politely refused Matsuda's help to get up.

"I am fine, thanks. I haven't eaten anything since yesterday evening, so I presume I need some sugar," he lied. He was not going to admit that it had probably been the tension of the ongoing ordeal. It was pathetic. He made a confident smile. The others nodded in relief.

Everyone but L. He was crouching on a distant chair, and he was watching him intently.

"There is as much sugar here as one might wish. Light-kun can help himself," he said in his monotone. Light followed the charade and ate a small biscuit. "Does Light-kun remember?"

Light chewed and swallowed the sugary thing.

"What do you mean, Ryuzaki?"

"Does Light-kun remember?"

Discomfort poured over Light. There was a trick behind the question.

"My name is Yagami Light. I am son to Soichiro and Sachiko, and brother to Sayu. These are the men that work at the Kira Task Force. And you are the great detective who locked me up because you thought me to be Kira. Did I pass the test?"

"I used to be the one with a sense of humour, Light-kun."

"How can you be joking?" Aizawa groaned. "Ide, now the Deputy Director, everyone else. The murderers are multiplying! We have a bloody monster haunting the building! We won't see the end of this."

"I will see the end of this, and I could well see it before you, Aizawa-san. Do not assume I am unaware of the gravity of the situation," L replied. Aizawa pulled himself together and apologised. "Now, could we have the report?"

Soichiro sat down on a chair.

"You must excuse him, Ryuzaki, we all are exhausted. Aizawa has been helping me to get the details of Kitamura's murder." He took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. "There was no trespassing, and Kitamura didn't defend himself. He had moved his family to some relatives' the day before. Evidence points out to him allowing the murderers to get into the house."

"Kira must have written down this, forcing Kitamura to act as a puppet," L remarked.

Light kept silent. That couldn't be true. Were it true, then Misa was to blame for this, too. Such a clumsy movement was not only risky—it meant that she was not respecting his commands. It meant betrayal, and that was unforgivable.

"Two suspects were caught near dawn. One of them had the murder weapon on him, and his clothes were drenched in blood. The blood type coincides with Kitamura's. The suspect confessed his crime right there, proclaiming that it was Kira's justice, and then he attacked the officers. He hasn't survived.

"The other suspect surrendered. He had a camera with him and confessed he had recorded the crime scene. You know, you watched it, he had already sent a copy to the NHN TV station. That was all they got from him, for he died soon after."

"From a heart attack, of course," Aizawa added.

"Of course," L deadpanned. "What does Light-kun think of the choice of station?"

Light pondered his answer. He knew where L was leading him, and it did not amuse him. The way L was glaring at him did not amuse him, either.

"Logic tells us that the tape should have been sent to Sakura TV instead, to Kira's Kingdom." He decided to be sincere. He was as interested as the others in knowing the truth of this particular purge.

"That disgusting Demegawa," Matsuda complained.

"And what might be the reason for the change, Light-kun?"

"Kira might want a more serious station to get the message through," Light said. "However, those fanatics... It is plausible that Sakura TV is expecting other news, the kind that gets the ratings. I think we will see another tape on live television very soon."

The others gasped. L agreed with him, but his demeanour was icy. What is happening, L? I thought we... We. A rush of blood came to his face. When had he started to think of L and him as we?

He cleared his throat. It was a ridiculous thought. Besides, L seemed to have changed his mind in the last few hours. Why?

Suddenly, he had some idea of what was going on. He adjusted his tie. Cold sweat was covering his neck. Misa, I swear...

L began giving directions. Every monitor and TV screen was switched on. News reports from a myriad of international stations were displayed. Sakura TV had a preeminent place among the others. Mogi and Matsuda were instructed to go to another floor to get the stored tapes with every Kira's Kingdom show they had ever recorded. Next thing, L phoned Aiber. He told him to go to the Sakura studios and wait for someone to give him a package for L. He warned him to protect himself, to use a bulletproof vest and a helmet to hide his face. He told him that Wedy would be covering his back. Then he phoned Wedy and gave her the instructions.

"Have you spoken with Naomi, Wedy? Has she got any ideas that can enlighten us?" the detective asked. The answer was not what he expected, because his face darkened. He picked a plump strawberry from a bowl and pecked at it. "I see... She hasn't... It is alright, Wedy. Do not bother her unnecessarily. She will arrive in Japan in time to be of help." He hung up and licked the strawberry juice that stained his fingers clean.

No, she won't. She will never be of help in catching Kira. I have written down quite the opposite. However, maybe she will have the clue to your survival. Forget about her, L. This is up to me.

"Excuse me, Ryuzaki. We want to attend the Deputy Director's service. It is our duty," Aizawa said.

"I am afraid I can't allow it. It is too dangerous. This time is not only Kira, but their pawns. They might be near there, watching the place. They might attack out of fanaticism and with any weapon, without Kira using the note. I can't protect you out there, and I can't afford to lose anyone of you."

"Although I understand your reasons, Ryuzaki, I must attend it. He was my superior. He sent the squad that saved my life when the Second Kira appeared," Soichiro remarked.

"It was us that made him save you, Yagami-san. Kitamura let us down and left us alone," L replied in an angry voice. It was a strange reaction. The others gaped at him. He calmed down. "I acknowledge he showed great courage in the end. The investigation of corrupt politicians and the remnants of the Yotsuba group has just started. It is a pity he had to pay with his life. I don't want any of you paying that price for attending his service."

A solemn silence followed. Soichiro and Aizawa finally complied.

"I will contact his family to give our condolences," Soichiro said.

"I appreciate this, Yagami-san. You can take an hour off if you need it. You can come round your house and see your family, too."

"It is fine at home, Ryuzaki. A phone call will be enough." He got out of the room to make the call.

"And you, Aizawa-san?"

Aizawa looked uncomfortable.

"It isn't a secret my marriage is not going well. We have an arranged appointment the afternoon of the twenty-ninth, when I will be able to meet my daughter with my wife."

"The twenty-ninth." L chewed his thumb. "I understand."

Mogi and Matsuda arrived, and the awkward conversation was ended. They brought with them several boxes containing the tapes L had asked for.

"Shall we start seeing them?" Matsuda asked.

"Not yet. We will be watching the current streaming for a while."

"What about the ciphertexts?" Mogi asked.

"I need to think about what we have already found out."

"And the Death Note rules?" Light asked.

Dark depths measured him.

"I finished reading them all last night, Light-kun. I also need a little time to think about them."

Don't you want me to help you find a way out? Don't you believe in me anymore?

"Last night was a long one for every of us. You are acquainted with my sleep habits, but it is advisable you take a nap," L said. Soichiro came back to the room at that precise moment. "I only need another one that stays awake."

"I will stay," Light said.

"I did not expect less of Light-kun. If he thinks he is fine now." The tone was chilly.

"I am perfectly fine," he replied.

"Why don't you rest instead, Ryuzaki? I can stay with Light," Mogi said. It did not surprise Light; Mogi had seen L's feeble state early morning in the kitchen.

The detective gave Mogi a faint smile and refused. Finally, the men gave a little bow and left the meeting room. Light heard Aizawa asking Mogi if he had seen the Shinigami. Sidoh had been hiding since the kitchen scene, and not even Light had seen him.

When there only remained L and Light in the room, L sat down in front of the screens. Light took a seat beside him.

"L, I..."

"Hush, Light-kun. I am watching."

Light kept silent and watched, too.

He could almost hear the rattle of the chain.

***

The task force returned around ninety minutes later. The only important thing had been the rumours that told two members of the Government, who had been defenders of Kira before the latest events, had retracted from their ideas. Another one had resigned.

Then, one of the international channels showed a story that caught their interest. In the US, a celebrity had just been shot to death by a Kira supporter. The criminal had barked some speech about negative models before getting caught by the police officers.

And then, what they were expecting happened. Sakura TV awoke. At once, L called Aiber and Wedy to tell them to be ready for the impending delivery. He also pushed the Rec button. With a sick beep, every video player started recording.

A special issue of Kira's Kingdom began. After some imitation of debate and much fanfare, the screen turned black.

The capital K appeared. It had a dark green glow, more sober than the former instances of the same videos. It might mean something or nothing at all. A distorted voice spoke, proclaiming the arrival of a new law in the world and lauding Kira.

"The Second Kira all over again," someone said. Light kept tense and still. Misa, if you have sent this, I swear you will regret it.

The voice in the recording went on preaching.

"I hereby declare that every word I say is ex deum. They have been sanctioned by the very own Kira, the ruler of a fair new world. The twenty-eighth of November is a date to celebrate, for it is the anniversary of the first instance of justice enforced by our sovereign. Therefore, we will celebrate it accordingly. We will use the remaining days to enforce Kira's law, to make the whole world kneel before the new ruler. Last night, a sworn enemy of Kira was put down. Today is the twenty-third of November. Today the world will learn a new lesson. Change to the NHN station. You will be allowed exactly ten minutes to see what happens before the explanation is resumed."

Neither the contents nor the way to express them fitted Misa's style. Nevertheless, it was quite clear that the maker of the video had had some kind of contact with her, or at least she had encouraged this to happen. Sanctioned by Kira. How did they dare? Light's indignation escalated.

White noise replaced the voice. The video was reduced to a little square on a corner of the screen while Sakura TV connected with NHN TV so as not to lose the ratings. In the meeting room, another monitor showed the other station, too.

The host of the show was talking about some new film that would be released soon. Then, they connected with the set for an interview with the actors that would be starring it.

One of them was Misa.

"She looks so pretty in that dress," said with delight the imbecile Matsuda. The others frowned.

"Amane-san is a brilliant actress. Doesn't Light-kun think so?"

Light did not deign to answer. He was focused in not giving away the anxiety he felt.

She babbled on and on about irrelevant stuff and common places.

"Misa has spoken enough, Yoshida-san. Her role is just secondary," she chirped. "Misa is glad to present the audience the real star of the film, our much admired Ryuga Hideki."

Applause and giggles followed. The camera gave a close-up shot of Hideki. He stood quiet.

"Ryuga-san?" asked the host.

"I..." His voice was muddied. "I deserve neither fame nor recognition. I have used my looks and shallowness to reach notoriety. I was lazy at school and laughed at those who worked hard. I am an ill model for the youth. Idols, actors, and models are the shame of this nation. My sins must be deleted. Let Kira purge my misdeeds."

As a stupefied silence received his words, the heart attack began. As it began, screams started, and havoc broke loose. The camera zoomed in and out. Finally it got fixed on Misa. She had moved aside, had her hands on her mouth, her eyes were wide open. And yet, she did not seem afraid.

L jumped off his seat and took his laptop and another mobile phone.

On Sakura TV, Kira's video resumed. Ten minutes had passed by.

"Ryuga Hideki has confessed his sins. He was not a good example at school, so he cannot be a good modelling role for our youngsters. None of them, idols, models, actors. They bragged about their indolence and shallowness. Those are also crimes and must be treated suitably. The youth of the nation deserve better. From now on, such frivolities are forbidden. Those who dare disobey will pay the consequences. To show you how seriously we speak, go on watching. There remain five days until Kira's anniversary. Thus, four other undeserving ones will be purged at this precise moment in Japan, and four other countries will suffer the same fate. Tomorrow, at the exact same time as today, another set of criminals will be deleted, and the world will learn a new lesson."

And thus it ended.

On another national channel, the three members of an idol band that were singing in a programme died right away after confessing their sins. On an international channel, similar news from the US, Brazil, Australia, and Italy appeared. It was an utter disaster for Kira's reputation. Light gritted his teeth.

On the NHN station, the camera still showed Misa's face. Light hoped. But he knew. Misa would be spared.

Minutes passed by. Misa remained well and alive, and commercials finally replaced the shot.

"Phone Amane-san, Light-kun. At once."

Words like steel. We are suspects.

Light did as he was told. Misa's phone was off.

"Mogi, please call Amane-san's new agent as Light-kun tries to get in touch with her. Light-kun must be so worried."

Light tried and failed. L was observing him, looking for the minutest mistake.

We are suspects again. Damn you, Misa, he thinks we are Kira again!

Mogi's attempts were also unfruitful. The other men were hesitant, now eyeing Mogi, now giving Light concerned looks, now gazing at the monitors. Light stood on edge, repeating the useless call in a mechanical way. L was typing in his laptop and talking on the phone at the same time. He was faking a raspy voice with a rough accent, like the one he had used when he had saved Matsuda from the Yotsuba group.

"Demegawa-san? It is me, L. Yes, I assure you. This is why I am using your special number. Kindly listen to me. There is a seventy-five percent chance the NPA gets your station close and off this time around. I am positive you will accept my deal." He named an obscene amount of money. "I am serious. I will explain my terms to you." By the end of the conversation, it had been agreed that the Kira tape and the ones to come, the files with the personal information of everyone who had been connected with Kira's Kingdom, plus the recordings of castings, interviews, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes moments in the commercial breaks of every issue of the show will be delivered to L via his agents (Aiber and Wedy) in exchange for the money.

No man of the task force said a word against the flagrant bribe.

"What do we do now?" Aizawa asked.

"Keep on tracking the news. Watch the tapings we have just recorded. Keep on trying to contact Amane-san. Wait for Wedy and Aiber. Let me think for a while," L said. "It would be advisable that Light-kun accompanies me. It would be soothing for the two of us."

Liar. However, he had no choice but to follow him. He heard his father commenting that Sayu was a great fan of the late Ryuga. As if that were of interest for anyone. Someone told him some comforting words about Misa. He had to hide a scowl.

They went to the room where they had been studying the Death Note rules. L revised them, but he did not let Light touch the papers. He just told him to phone Misa, stay quiet and let him think. Not even Sidoh was present to keep Light focused on something else other than his own uneasiness.

After what seemed an eternity, they left the room and went to the kitchen. The place was still messy, and L began tidying it up. Since Watari's death, L had developed a fondness for cleaning and tidying. Bored and nervous, Light helped with the task. The silence grew until he had enough of the silent accusation.

"Do you want to use the handcuffs on me, Ryuzaki?"

"Not without your consent, Light-kun."

The frankness and warmth of the words got straight to Light's nerves. The image of a bed where the two of them were experiencing a creative use of the handcuffs came out of nowhere. He was so aroused that he bit his tongue in fear his reply would betray his thoughts.

L's expression changed into a mask of hesitance, as if he had just realised what he had implied. Next thing, the aloofness returned. Light could not stand it.

"Are you going to tell me what is happening?"

"I know Light-kun has figured it out."

"Tell it to my face, Ryuzaki." Light gave a step forward.

"I suspect Light-kun and Amane-san again." L moved backwards.

"Why? Why now? You said you were positive we were not guilty. Were you lying to me? Have you ever really trusted me? Have you been playing with me?" He rushed forward. A kick sent him back.

"Do not touch me, Light-kun. Do you think this amuses me?"

"You hurt me," Light said in a shocked voice.

"I did not mean to hurt you, but I can't afford to have the slightest doubt." L was shaking. "There is the tape. There is Amane being spared."

"Do you need Misa dead in order to trust us?"

"Do you want her dead?"

Yes, I do. "Don't dare to twist my words, Ryuzaki. That is not what I've said or implied. What about me? What did I do?"

"You passed out. That had happened before. I am frightened."

For a moment, Light could not make sense of what he had heard. Then it was crystal clear—the detective was talking about the loss and recovery of the memories of the Death Note. But he had left those rules apart, had never allowed Sidoh to translate them. Sidoh would not have betrayed him, would not have risked Light destroying his note. Besides, Sidoh had proved to be as loyal to him as Rem had been to Misa. It was just the product of L's intelligence. He was too brilliant for his own good. He would spend his last days in suspicion instead of in hope. It was horrible.

I wish I had never recovered those memories. For a split second, the idea of actually renouncing ownership shook his mind. The idea was dismissed as fast as it had appeared.

"You need us to be Kira to feed your hubris, Ryuzaki. You just can't recognise you were wrong right from the start. If Misa is murdered, you know you are going to regret what you said before." That was not what he wanted to say, but he could not say anything else, lest he started confessing or Kami knew what else. Kami. The irony of it. Light had become a caricature of himself.

They came back to the room where the others awaited. Kitamura's murder was casting a long shadow over the Government and some important companies in the country. Rage against Kira was spreading like wild fire among the youngsters both at home and overseas. Wedy and Aiber would be arriving soon. Mogi was still trying to contact Misa's agent. The fifth death was still a mystery. All in all, Light's mood was as foul as it could be.

"Have you got to some conclusion?"Aizawa asked.

"I have some theories," L said. "I have a profile for the person behind the recording. This is undoubtedly the zealot nicknamed Sakujo. The point is whether they are Kira's chosen pawn as they want us to think or it is a red herring. Anyway, this is what we have. So, we have someone who uses legal jargon, has a distorted sense of national pride and seems obsessed with an ideal for the youth. Yagami-san and Mogi-san, you will break into the personnel files of the law firms. Use that laptop; Wedy will help you when she arrives. We are looking for someone who has children in school age, or for young adults who have just left university and are in internship. High scores, hard work. Focus on those who expressed opinions about Kira and those involved in bullying cases. Please, tell Wedy that she should help Matt, he is trying to identify the IP of the messages on SeKond Coming. Aizawa-san and Aiber will be watching the tapes, looking for a pattern. Besides, I need someone who translates a bit more of the journal. I need to know what the lady did with her Death Note, if she actually wrote down on it or disowned it."

"Can it be disowned?" Matsuda asked in awe.

"The rules said so. But there is something they do not say that I need to know. Our resident Shinigami is not helping."

"I will work in the ciphertexts," Light said.

"I am afraid Light-kun won't. He, Matsuda, and I are going out to visit the law colleges in the city—college students with a friendly driver."

***

Two merry college students, their merry friendly driver plus a merry, flying, reluctant Shinigami spent the afternoon going to and from the different universities. Public transportation would have been more useful, but L had shifted into his guard dog mode, and the constraints of a car suited him best. Matsuda had probably been chosen because of his being the best shot in the task force. In fact, he carried a gun with him, as he had been appointed a bodyguard of theirs. Light did not find this much reassuring.

They drove and were driven by, were followed by Silent Sidoh, got acquainted with a traffic jam, waited inside the car or inside the university buildings. They left Matsuda behind, asked questions, got useless answers, lied to the faculty staff, got forms and files with personal information. They were never much far from one another, were never really close to each other. L's constant surveillance was freezing, was smothering. In the meantime, Mogi called to say that Misa's agent had reported she was safe and hidden until the impending press conference. Only Matsuda out of the three expressed outward joy at knowing that. Light did not even try to fake it.

Fifteen minutes later, Misa phoned Light, and he had to try.

"Misa, thank goodness. We watch what happened. I was worried," he lied. L made a quiet sign to instruct him to turn on the hands-free mode. It had been a pleasant feeling to have earned L's confidence. It was unnerving to have lost it.

"Misa is really sorry! She was not allowed to call anyone until her agent said so. Misa has phoned Raito as soon as she could. Twenty missed calls! This means Raito cares for Misa!" The cheerful tone was so out of tune with the dread she was supposed to feel that Light feared the chance of being Kira was increasing exponentially in L's mind. "Misa was worried about Raito being angry because of her staying outside Tokyo for too long."

"I only wanted to see you, Misa. Every couple has arguments. It was not important. Your welfare is important," he lied.

"Hey, Misa-san! We are so happy you are okay!" Matsuda said. A part of Light blessed the idiot for letting Misa know Light was not alone. Another part of him craved to hear the truth.

Misa, Matsuda, and L engaged in a pointless chat while questions gnawed at Light. Whom did you contact, Misa? Have you given them pages of the Death Note? Why in hell have you done such a thing? The exchange finished without a single answer. At least it finished.

There was no further comment on the phone call. Quietness travelled with them until they reached the last of their destinations, To-Oh University. Light and L did as they had done in the other buildings. When they were on the verge of leaving, someone stopped them.

"It's good to see you. Are you coming back to classes?" Takada said.

Before he could answer, a whirl of wings approached them.

"The beautiful girl!" Sidoh said.

L gave Sidoh and Light the most curious of glances. Suddenly, Light was fed up with every Shinigami who had ever existed. For the second time, the temptation of giving up the Death Note assaulted him. Takada's presence was not much welcome, either.

"Kiyomi-san, I'm happy to see you, too," he lied. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid I won't be able to return to classes yet. Do you remember Ryuga-san?" The name L had chosen to use at college made Light recoil. Everything was turning into a practical joke.

"Yes, I think so," she hesitated. "Pleased to meet you again, Ryuga-san."

L displayed every quirk he knew as he stuttered about the embarrassment of his name and the horror of what had happened to the other Ryuga. Takada agreed politely.

"The situation is unsustainable," she said. "A serious station like NHN, it's unbelievable they showed Deputy Director Kitamura's crime scene so shamelessly. One of my dreams was to work as a journalist for this station. I even once dreamed of being Kira's spokesperson, I was so stupid. I am ashamed of it. Now, the news I'd like to report is the end of Kira."

"This is quite a change of mind," L remarked.

"It is wise to change when you realise you've been wrong," Takada stated. Unconsciously, Light found himself nodding.

"It is wise, indeed," L said. "Well, Takada-san, I am afraid we have to leave now."

"Before you leave," she said. "Light, Kenji-sensei wants the assignment to be submitted as soon as we can. I finished my part, so I would like to send it for you to revise it so that you can also finish your share in time. Thus, tell me, can I send the papers to yours? It will take me a couple of days."

Kenji. The information about the pill. It was a pity that cleverness of Takada was for nothing. She was misguided in her rejecting Kira, and Light needed no weapon against L by the time given.

Except that maybe she was not so misguided this time around, and L was his enemy again. If L shared his suspicions with the task force, that pill might be Light's safeguard. Cat and mouse all over again. He felt so tired.

"Absolutely, Kiyomi-san. You've got my address, send it there, my mother will see it to get it to me. I apologise for the delay, but don't worry. I promise the highest marks."

She smiled, and they left her.

"She is a fine girl, Takada-san. Smart, sensible, nice hair, nice eyes," L commented as they were walking to the car. His expression was unreadable. "Is she the reason why Light-kun is not interested in Amane?"

"I care for Misa."

"Light-kun is not fooling anyone, not even Amane. Sometimes, I think Light-kun can't stand her."

"You won't think I am going to tell you about my private life, will you?"

"Takada-san seemed pretty comfortable around Light-kun. He was really assertive about the issue this morning—he has girlfriends." He stopped talking and stared at nowhere. "It is not the reason I prefer, but it is a better reason for Light-kun's lack of concern than the one I suspect."

"I am not playing your game, Ryuzaki."

L did not reply. Light felt so drained that could not bear to look at him. He focused on Matsuda and the car. The fifth death had been made public: another model who was not Misa, a famous one with thousands of fans.

Another blow to Kira's reputation.

***

When they arrived at the headquarters, everybody was working in one task or another. Soichiro reported what they had been doing. Wedy and Aiber had arrived with their packages nearly three hours ago and were still there helping the task force. In a corner of the room there was a high tower made of the boxes that came from Sakura TV. They had managed to break into the data bases of the law firms and the list of possible suspects was increasing by the minute. They had got the IP of Sakujo's messages and discovered the zealot had used several different computers in different directions, so they were busy with the localization of the places.

"...besides, we were able to translate a little more of the journal," Soichiro said. "I hope it is what you need, Ryuzaki. The lady..."

"Please, don't say it aloud. Just hand me the files," L said in haste. "Aiber, give me your jacket."

L grabbed the files and the jacket while inspecting the surroundings. Then he used the jacket as if it were a camping tent and hid himself under it to read the papers. Light understood he was hiding from Sidoh. After five minutes of strange aerobics, the detective under the jacket crawled on the floor until he reached the place where the other decoded pieces of the journal were stored. He skimmed through some of the pages and finally stood up.

"Shinigami, would you be so kind so as to speak with me? If you care for your note, that is it," L said.

Sidoh appeared.

"Now, follow me to another room," L ordered Sidoh. Light gave the Shinigami a subtle nod to let him know he had to obey. He did as he was told and both left the room. The files with the decoded texts had been left behind.

Quickly, Light moved away from the others and took his mobile phone. That could be his only chance.

"Outmost importance. Whom did you contact? Why did you lend it?" he texted Misa.

Luckily, she answered almost at once. "Misa doesn't understand."

"It, Misa. Internet? Why? Be careful."

"Err... yes. Yes. That. Few times. Some freaks with funny nicks. But lent it?"

"We'll talk later, not safe now. Keep in touch. You owe me an explanation. Never again, Misa." Or else, I will eliminate you.

He deleted the messages and turned the phone off. He checked that the others were not paying him attention. Then, he asked for the files and began reading.

1974, August.

All in all, it has not been so difficult to be in a relationship with dear Benjamin while keeping him unaware of Armonia's existence. And yet, Armonia's demeanour has changed dramatically since Benjamin proposed to me last week. He has been hinting at Benjamin not being healthy for me, and I do not know what to think of this warning. I do know Benjamin is a good and kind man. It is not just what my heart tells me—I have investigated him thoroughly and never found a flaw. It is true that his health is not that strong because of the war wound he suffered long ago, but I do not mind. In my opinion, it is jealously the reason for the Shinigami's unrest, a fact which I find disturbing. I fear for Benjamin's safety. Yesterday I made Armonia promise never to take Benjamin's life. He said that he had always had his life in high regard. With 'his', I know he means Armonia's own life, not Benjamin's. This might have something to do with one of the rules which are still a mystery to me. Anyway, I have to make a choice. I have decided to get rid of the Death Note. I choose love and life.

Light's heartbeat quickened. What if that woman had destroyed the note and had written anything afterwards? It would prove the falsity of the second of the fake rules. It would prove the Death Note could be torn down without having deadly consequences for those who had touched it. It could mean Light's downfall.

With his heart thundering in his chest, he kept on reading.

1974, November.

I did not foresee the fact that I would miss Armonia's company so much after having renounced ownership of the note. Nonetheless, I must be consistent with my decision. At least, I remember everything he taught me about the Shinigami. Thus, I can get on working. Besides, Benjamin and I are really busy nowadays, for our wedding is approaching.

Light stopped reading. His heartbeat was still racing, but for an entirely different reason—he had been saved. Either Nor had lied and had never given up ownership, or her strange sensitivity had shielded her from oblivion. Either way, that entry was a present.

He excused himself and rushed to the room where L and Sidoh were talking. Both of them looked agitated.

"...so you say it, give up ownership, and that's it. You won't fall dead or get injured. The note is not going to explode. It's that simple!" Sidoh was saying. Light stopped dead. That was a slippery road.

"What if I regret my choice and want to get ownership back?" L asked. That was shrewd, damn it.

"Perhaps you could cry at the skies? Maybe you'll be heard by another Shinigami with a spare note," Sidoh answered. He had not taken the bait. The time Light had spent training him was finally paying off.

"The point is that the memory remains. I will remember my time as an owner," L whispered. Sidoh nodded. A bit shy, but a nod nonetheless. Good boy. "What about the thirteen-day rule?"

"It prevails," Sidoh answered emphatically. The defence of the fake rules was a life or death issue.

"This implies that, when someone renounces ownership, if they have used the Death Note, they will be doomed to die for not writing," L said. His voice brimmed over with dismay.

"Yes, that's it. The thirteen-day rule prevails." Sidoh was growing more nervous every minute.

"It fits. The lady never wrote that she had actually made use of the note," L muttered. "Therefore, the Death Note is a lifelong curse for the human owner."

"I think so? Anyway, you..." Sidoh said.

"But if I survive against all odds, I will have to keep on killing people in order to stay alive." L sounded horrified. He put his hands over his mouth and nose in a gesture full of anguish.

Sidoh did not reply. Light decided to make his presence known.

"Ryuzaki, the others are worried for your hasty exit. Is it everything alright?"

L turned around to look at him. His eyes showed an impossible blend of hope and misery. He pulled his hands away from his face. They were stained with the blood that was dropping from his nose once again.

"My hands will be red with blood. Do not get close, Light-kun."

Against his will, Light's concern for L returned anew. Sidoh noticed this, too.

"You asked me to help you, so I'll do as I can." Sidoh's performance had finished. His words were truly aimed at Light. "The age restriction prevails over the general rule. People under 780 days old or over 124 years old cannot be killed with the note, even if there is some ambiguity in block XXV. The preservation of the lives of those whose names have not been written is preeminent over other conditions or specifications. Imagine a pregnant woman. If the phoetus is alive, life is life. So we have two rules there that would prevail over the general one."

"According to the rules, the condition of death should be accident or suicide for the survival of others to take effect." After Sidoh's surprisingly clever exposition, L's statement sounded like a meek pleading.

"Any condition would be included, a disease, too. The disease couldn't be infectious, or else a heart attack would have happened. Methinks that is the reason for your worries, Lawliet. I can't think now of anything else that may be of help, but I'll keep on thinking."

L twisted the handkerchief where he was trying to clean his hands. He faced Light, opened his mouth to say something.

Light turned his back on him and walked away from his words.

***

It was around one o'clock when L told the men to stop working and go to their bedrooms. The list of suspects had been reduced to less than a hundred, but the advances had stopped there. Light had almost found a pattern, but that rollercoaster of a day had been too much for clarity of mind. L had been talking to one FBI agent or another, and then Aiber's fake credentials had become less false. He and Wedy had left the building before ten after receiving Demegawa's message about certain change about the place of delivery. It seemed as if Sakura studios were doomed to be raided by the police. Some had been working in the journal, but nothing of value had arisen—it seemed that the disowning of the note had been the end of the usefulness the journal had for them.

When the men started moving, L tried to catch Light's attention. He stroke back before the blow hit.

"Can I go to my bedroom, too?" Light asked.

L nodded awkwardly. Light walked towards the door. Soichiro raised his brows in confusion. Then he shook his head and let go. Light was grateful for that. He was also grateful that Sidoh decided to leave him alone.

Once in his room, he took a quick shower and put on some comfortable clothes. Then there was a knock on the door.

"May I come in, Light-kun?"

His mouth got dry. That was the trap. He opened the door quietly. L slouched into the room. Light moved as far from him as the room allowed him.

"I have just come to apologise. I know neither Light-kun nor Amane are guilty," L said.

Light remained silent. L bit his thumb and lowered his head. Bangs of hair hid his eyes.

"Let me explain, Light. A few days after we had first put Misa under custody, she suddenly lost consciousness. When she woke up, her demeanour had changed. The same happened to you when you were incarcerated. Although it is easy to get to the conclusion that it was a consequence of stress, I thought it to be suspicious. I also noticed a similar happening when we caught Higuchi and found the Death Note. Shock was the logic guess. However, after knowing of the existence of the rules, I came to a different idea—perhaps when an owner renounces their rights over the note, they lose their memory. And then, this morning, you passed out another time."

Light made an exasperated sound. L made a gesture of appease.

"Do not worry. Now I know my theory was wrong, for I have evidence from three different sources: the rules, the journal, and the Shinigami. Memories remain. Furthermore, the thirteen-day rule is undoubtedly a fact, and it would have made your survival impossible had you been Kira. This supports my theory of the previous Kiras being dead. It is probable the first Kira regarded the second one as a threat and killed her. As for the first one's death, maybe he was killed by his Shinigami, or was forced to disown the note and the thirteen-day rule killed him. So, we have a new Kira who must be important, as far as a Shinigami was ready to die for them. There is a big chance of this Kira having a Shinigami that has a higher rank than Rem had, so she was bound to protect them both. Did you read the rules that talk about Shinigami ranks? But I digress... Well, this Kira is maybe copying ideas from the previous ones. Misa has survived simply because she is still not as famous as the dead ones were. We have been lucky."

"Yes, we have," Light said. He was hiding a grimace. "We are also lucky that you found that much evidence. Not a speck of trust is showing, anyways."

"We both know we are not the most sincere people here, Light-kun."

"If you have finished talking, I would like to rest."

"No, I haven't," L started. "I want you to know that I am being honest now. I am really glad you are not Kira. When you fainted, I was so scared. I was scared of my trust in you being shattered. But if you were not Kira, the other reason scared me even more."

"I don't understand you."

L raised his head and looked at him directly.

"I thought you were ill. I thought you were infected with whichever disease I am cursed with because of what we did. I... I..." Words were uttered huskily, as if needles were pinning L's throat. "I have never thrived in the company of people, but I have feelings. I have cared for people before. I have had special ones in my life. I had a boy years ago, then I had a woman. I felt for them. I lost them both. Although logic tells me otherwise, I feel guilty for their loss. I don't want to hold the responsibility for losing another one. But you heard the Shinigami: you are going to be fine. And I am glad of it, too."

The pictures of the sandy-haired boy and the smiling woman burned in Light's mind. He tried to say something; he tried again. For some reason, words had turned into untameable beasts.

"You called me your first friend," he finally said. It seemed like only behaving à la Matsuda could make him speak.

"I would have said anything just to catch you," L replied. A smile illuminated his features. His hand reached toward Light's face, touching it ever so slightly. "I will not keep on bothering you tonight. Try to sleep. We will need a sharp mind tomorrow. We have to stop Kira. We will do it together."

With a last gaze, the detective left the bedroom. Liquid warmth ran all over through Light's veins. If a kiss could be given without lips touching, Light would have been kissed by L's eyes and voice. He shook his head. He felt so strange.

He felt lighter, as if he had been freed from a heavy burden. He felt relief caressing every inch of his being. He found he could breathe again without a knot in his throat. Then, he understood. L's mistrust had been suffocating him all day long. He had been choking in self-righteousness. As if he had never been guilty. As if he had never been Kira.

I don't want to lose his trust ever again. I don't want to be his enemy. I want us to be on the same side. I won't allow anyone to make him doubt me again.

For the third time in a day, Light wished he had disowned the note for good. This time, the wish lingered.

Mercifully, he dove into slumberland soon after.

In his dreams, he was sitting in a classroom, haunted by boredom. He looked out of the window and saw a note fell from far above. When the bell rang, he ran toward the note. He had a box of matches. He took the Death Note and set it on fire. He saw it burn. He smiled peacefully.

Somewhere in the skies, a hundred eyes were watching him. The wind blew and whispered a name—Nu.

Chapter Text

One—7th part

Kingdom Come #2

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Anger is the guard dog of denial.

D.Cunningham

Love is a serious mental disease.

Plato

Drizzling skies and clouds of molten lead awoke Light from a bittersweet dream. Anyway, that was not a day for dreams. Razor sharp clarity illuminated his thoughts. Now that he was in L's good terms again, he could finish revising the Death Note rules and figure out what the detective had not been able to. Nor's journal had been proclaimed useful no more, a fact that suited him, lest some piece of writing might uncover the lies behind the fake rules. Maybe it would be worth a final revision in order to seek some information about Nu which had been overlooked. Maybe. Sidoh might be more useful. Light made a mental note to set a serious conversation with the Shinigami by nightfall. There were other issues to take care of in the daytime. Light was determined to unmask that outrageous sycophant of Sakujo. And when he found them, he would teach them the meaning of justice.

As for Misa's fate, he had to ponder it.

He chose an appropriate outfit and got out of the bedroom. He reached the corridor and saw Sidoh floating around. The creature was making a weird grimace, munching empty air. Light felt magnanimous.

"Do you fancy an apple? I can pick up one for you."

The Shinigami fidgeted. "Oh! It's not necessary. We Shinigami don't need to eat at all. Unless you think of the rogue. He's such a glutton."

Ryuk's antics had been entertaining, certainly. He froze when he remembered Shinigami's true way of feeding. He presumed Ryuk's gluttony also expand into writing names. He had exchanged that for apples while living among humans, but who knew how many lives he had taken when he had returned to his realm in the meantime. To top it all, he had made the eye deal with Misa.

The wheels began spinning. Misa had been given the life span of two Shinigami. Whereas she had made the deal twice, she was still a tasteful bite. Ryuk was greedy, was bored to death by her, and he longed to come back being Light's companion. Although he would never allow it, Ryuk did not need to know the truth. He would be able to manipulate the creature into helping him to get rid of the model while keeping the notes far from his clutches.

The specifics of the plan came into place swiftly. Perhaps it was sensible to check the usefulness of Misa's eyes one last time. He sneered. He could wait a little longer. The decision had been taken—both the eyes and their owner were expendable. After all, it could not be so difficult to find another pawn ready to bury their life for him. This time he would choose and would choose wisely.

"Light-kun looked pensive but in good spirits this morning."

Speaking of gluttony. Light's sneer softened. L approached him—he was licking the palm of his hands. The usual smell of chocolate and sweet fruits accompanied him. Out of a sudden, Light recalled some scenes from the Yotsuba investigation. Watari had bought cherries; L had prided himself on using his tongue to make ribbons out of their twigs. After twenty-four hours of torture, Light had finally punched him again with some Kira excuse. Actually, he had just wanted him to stop. Actually, Light had been paying L's mouth much attention for too long. Even when I was Kira and wished for his demise.

When I was Kira. The choice of tense shook him to the core. Flushed, he lowered his sight and met the detective's bare feet.

"I don't think it wise to stay barefoot in your state. You must take care of your health," he said. And he meant it, damn it.

L's eyes widened. Laughter smacked into the walls and into Light's senses. Sidoh somersaulted and flied away. Soon, the sound was replaced by a childish smile that made Light feel dizzy.

"Shoes will not make any difference, but I am grateful for Light-kun's concern. I never thought there could be sweetness in Light-kun. I do like sweets."

That was not a day for sweetness, so he changed the topic of conversation as they crossed the corridor. When he mentioned the rules, the detective agreed, though his voice was dull.

"I can't find a loophole. I should stop nursing false hopes."

Light's reply was encouraging, for he owned knowledge that L was missing. The detective's mind was not in its prime—sparks of genius were overlapped by compromised conclusions. Light had a better understanding of both the details and the big picture, so he would unveil new answers. Besides, he owned Sidoh, and he would make him help them whether he liked it or not. Moreover, he had an ace in his sleeve—the ace called Misora. Sidoh said... What did he say? It did not matter. He chose bright words which conveyed that feeling of certainty without revealing what had to be hidden.

"It is so kind of Light-kun to try and uplift my spirits. He does not have to worry. I just want to be realistic. Perhaps it is for the best."

"What do you mean by that?"

L's monotone wavered. "I have never been a saint, but I am not sure I could cope with the requirements of the thirteen-day rule."

Light bent over as if a spear had been stuck into his stomach.

Regret. Remorse.

"Is Light-kun okay?"

The youth pulled himself together. The rule he had invented would not tear L apart. It would not. Meanwhile, he fed L sweetened lies.

"Let's not think about it now, Light-kun. Kira is my priority. We must concentrate on Kira." L's eyes reflected deep emotion.

A sour, green poison spread through Light's veins. Can't you stop obsessing over Kira? Kira is not going to save you!

"Is Light-kun sure he is fine? His face is livid."

That was not a day for (jealously) (disassociation) foolish thoughts. Therefore, he smiled and lied his way out.

***

A heated argument welcomed the two geniuses to the meeting room.

"Didn't you hear Ryuzaki?" Aizawa was shouting at Matsuda. "The lady got married, her husband died in 1979... Who cares? We have murderers to stop!"

"But the entry she wrote before her wedding day, I thought it could be interesting," Matsuda stammered.

"You thought? We have so much to do, and you thought!"

"Aizawa-san, behave yourself," Soichiro said. "Matsuda, I know he is being rude, but he is right about the journal."

"I just wanted—"

"What is happening here?" L asked. "Do not answer, the situation is self-explanatory. I must ask you to refrain from yelling at a team mate, Aizawa-san."

Aizawa groaned and moved aside. Soichiro nodded.

"I just wanted to be of use," Matsuda apologised.

"You are a helpful asset as you are, no need to prove it further. Last time you tried, you almost got yourself killed," the detective said. Light hid a guffaw. Even Misa had been smarter than the nitwit while fighting the Yotsuba group. "You work hard, a fact I appreciate. Now, you can prepare some tea."

It worked, for Matsuda beamed and hurried to do the chores. It was hard to understand why L had accepted him in his team in the first place. In the future, that would have to be considered. If L survived, his revealing his true name in front of the men would make him vulnerable again. Light had no doubts about himself; his father and Mogi were dependable, too. But Aizawa's short fuse was dangerous, and Matsuda was a liability. After the twenty-eighth, that kind of things would have to be sorted out.

First things first. He had a clear purpose.

Less than an hour later, he had succeeded. With a smug expression in his face, he announced his discovery.

"Sakujo's activity on the website follows a specific pattern. Messages are written three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The time on Tuesdays and Thursdays relates to the end of the working hours. The IP localisations belong to a quarter which currently holds different amenities: restaurants, gyms, cyber cafés. There is only a ten-minute ride by subway from the quarter which holds so many offices and firms. Sakujo must work there."

"Wow!" Matsuda mooed. The others moved towards Light.

"By pinpointing their workplace there, twenty suspects can be erased from the list. There are seventy left," L stated.

"Fridays are another story. Sakujo always logs in around lunch time. The computers used are located in the eastside, near the campuses of two universities." Light went on.

"Sakujo may be lecturing there or attending some course. The theory of them being a young graduate gains strength," Soichiro said.

L added up and subtracted data in the spreadsheet. "Fifty-one."

"In addition to it, every two weeks they log in on the site exactly half an hour after the Kira's Kingdom issue is finished. The place of choice is somewhere about a fifteen-minutes' ride radius from Sakura studios. The messages focus on information about the show current issue. It pretty looks like first-hand information," Light said.

"Are you saying that Sakujo is a guest at Kira's Kingdom every two weeks?" Mogi asked.

"Sakujo is living in that kingdom all the time," L remarked with dry humour. He calculated. "Thirty-five."

"I also checked their messages. There is always the same amount of messages per day and the same amount of lines per message. Do you remember the video, the exactitude shown? Our suspect follows a clockwork schedule. Sakujo is meticulous, probably to the extent of compulsion." Light marked his conclusion with a grand gesture.

L revised the data at fast speed. "Two of the people in the list had trouble because of their unpunctuality, five sought changes in their work schedule, and there are four whose profiles do not fit at all. Thus, there remain twenty-four suspects." He crouched on the chair which was closer to Light's. "Amazing job." He tilted his head to glance at the youth, eyes gleaming with admiration. "This is impressive. Light-kun is brilliant."

A chorus joined his compliments—noise and trifles. L's praise was the one he cherished, the one he craved, out in the open for everyone to see (Other things belonged to secret corners, other things he was still trying to accept.) He had had a taste of it when he had found Higuchi. The catch had been his sharing that taste with Kira. Even if he had not remembered, L had not been fooled, had always known the truth. L had wanted him to be Kira. Fortunately, that had changed.

For the time being, L zeroed in on Light Yagami. There was no room for anyone else, no room for Kira.

L's praise was for Light alone.

I win, Kira, Light thought.

It took a bit too long for the enormity of that thought to sink in.

***

Three other suspects had been discarded when a phone rang, and Aiber reported the foretold change of place of the transmission. L contacted everyone he had to, turned on the monitors. From the new localisation, Sakura TV's crew offered the tape to the world. Capital K, distorted voice. Same time, same introduction, same amount of lines up to the different date and station, "Today is the twenty-fourth of November... Change to Taiyou TV..."

They did so. They were issuing a programme from an old people's home, interviewing several older people and their families. They all seemed nice and polite. There were some children. There were giggles and bows and loving words.

Coughing fits. A hand clutching a chest. An old body hitting the floor.

The first scream.

Then, the horror.

One after another, the old men and women died in front of their dismayed families and the audience.

A gasp let Light's mouth. He heard the thumping of his pulse in his ears, the heart-wrenching yelps on the screen. His mind refused to apprehend the insanity of it.

Exactly ten minutes of insanity before the death sentence resumed.

"The idea that age purges crime is unholy. Unproductiveness is another way of laziness, so that it is also a crime. It has no place in Kira's new world. Those who are no longer productive must be deleted. Those should learn from wiser traditions where the aged ones knew when to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. By rights they must surrender for the younger generation to thrive..."

The end of his dream.

"...There remain four days until Kira's anniversary. Thus, three other shelters for sinners will be purged in Japan, and three other countries will suffer the same fate. Tomorrow, at the exact time as today..."

The beginning of the nightmare.

On another channel, the inside of a hospital ward appeared, older patients in bed connected to machines, others sitting down on wheelchairs. The noise of a riot. A bunch of muffled up zealots shouting their devotion for Kira, attacking the personnel. Three entered the ward, began disconnecting the machines. Some patients tried to escape. One of the criminals seized a syringe, aiming at injecting its content on them. A shattering howl, GET OFF OF MY PARENTS, a woman pitching herself forwards against the criminal, adrenaline rush allowing her to disarm him and fight another before she was overpowered. Two of the aged men struck a wheelchair against the third one. The criminals recovered, then two of them collapsed, masks lost in the struggle, faces hidden no more. A security guard stopped the last one. They had been able to murder half a dozen patients before being subdued.

International channels showed similar scenes.

"Kamisama," Mogi said.

"Kami? No. They called him Kira right from the start." L's tone dripped wrath. "They could have called him Saviour or Hero. They chose Kira instead because those naive enough to think a single vigilante could stop evil in a world so full of it knew instinctively that he was still a killer. And those mad enough to worship a mass murderer revelled in him acting out the killer they were at heart."

Light could not completely disagree with L. He was in shock.

"Monstrous... It's monstrous..." Matsuda gave Light's thoughts a voice.

His utopia had become an extermination camp.

Matsuda fell to the floor, weeping inconsolably. Livid and weary, Soichiro tried to support him. Aizawa slammed his fist against the wall, burst into tears as well. Mogi mumbled prayers. L stilled in front of the monitors, muttering quietly, Not meant to be.

Light's mobile phone glimmered. He peeked at the message. "Why?! Why did you?! Misa can't understand!"

Light's loathing subsumed within the fear of the threat behind the words. The missing piece came into place. She had killed the two zealots. But it was her fault it got out of hand, and she thinks it was me! She may write my name, the brainless traitor.

Soichiro had taken Matsuda out of the room, the others had withdrawn to their inner worlds. Light opened a certain drawer, took the SIM card he had been hiding for an emergency. He moved to a discreet corner and replaced the SIM card in his phone with the new one.

"It's me, Misa. Safe line," he texted. "Not my design at all. How you dare to doubt me? You leaked information to murderers, gave them the means, and can't even tell who they are. You've destroyed my dream, you betrayed me. I thought you loved me."

"Misa loves Raito! Misa never gave them nothing, doesn't understand what's happening."

"They know your note. They're using its pages."

"I didn't... I don't know how... Please, forgive me, I'll do anything."

The danger was averted, she was still an ally until he could eliminate her, but everything was grim. Now, now, why now, when he should have been helping L live, not chasing the vermin that had had access to the fucking Death Note.

"I may forgive you. I'm sending you some pictures to the email safe account. Follow the instructions I taught you about security, don't use your computer. Watch their numbers. Don't kill anyone, just tell me if you find an owner. Don't contact me until I tell you." The chance of the plan being fruitful was not that high, but he had to try.

"Misa will do as Raito tells."

He took the SIM card off and disposed of it. He watched the others. It was still safe. Pretending he was working, he used a computer he had hacked time ago and sent the pictures of the remaining suspects to an account that will get to Misa before erasing the traces. There was still a degree of risk. He could sort it out in the worst case scenario. No one had noticed him. His sight was caught by L.

He was embracing himself, trying to stop the tremors that shook him from head to toe, lips whispering, Watari, sorry, everyone. The victims must have reminded him of the butler. Silent tears ran across his face, dropping to the desk surface. Each tear was a quiet accusation, and Light was the one to blame.

I started this. No, I didn't. Sakujo did. Misa did. Rem. Ryuk.

He could not stand those deadly tears. He neared the detective, put his hands on his shoulders in a gesture of comfort. L's right hand covered Light's left one. Their fingers interlaced, an anchor in the middle of a storm. If only time could stop.

Time would not stop for anyone. L's fingers escaped Light's and reached for a phone.

"Aiber, the police will soon end Sakura TV and its staff. We found Sakujo is compulsively organised, so they must have foreseen it in order to have the tape played tomorrow. Stay there with Wedy. Watch anyone carrying a package. If so, confiscate it and notify me. I will handle the NPA and the others," he said as he sent emails to the Interpol and the FBI.

Right after, he tried another call. After several attempts, the haunted voice of Misora answered at last. He asked her if she knew if any Japanese lawyer or college student had shown interest in the BB case. Light remembered the file, he had read it after Sidoh had mentioned L and Wedy talking about it. The deceased serial killer had displayed a morbid obsession with numbers and countdowns. Sakujo might be copying this, it could give them a lead.

Of course, that lead was lost.

"This is for the Kira case," Misora said. Light ground his teeth."I am sorry, I don't know anything about it."

The detective asked her other questions. She did not know, she could not help him. How could she? Light had prevented it. As he witnessed L's drawing blood from his thumb, he regretted it.

"She has changed so much I can barely recognise her. She was strong, insightful, and skilful," L said after hanging up. "Now I am afraid she will be of no use. I have the impression she will not even set a foot in Japan. She has not overcome the grief. Grief and mourning can destroy a person's ability for reasoning."

It is my fault. No. It was self-defence, damn her.

Sidoh said... Why does Misora remind me of Sidoh?

Soichiro and Matsuda returned to the room, joined Aizawa and Mogi. The monitors showed an iteration of terrible scenes. Grief and anger consumed the world.

Light looked around him, at the task force, at the monitors.

Dull, ordinary, but decent people were suffering Kira's actions or were fighting against them, whereas Kira and his worshippers were beasts. Everything had gone wrong.

I opened the door for this.

He stared at L. And the only one that I... The only one that I...

NO.

Light's stomach had enough. He ran to the nearest bathroom, threw up and threw up again until he was as empty as he felt.

***

The rest of the announced deaths were known. The death of Demegawa and several other members of Sakura TV, who had been caught by the NPA and forsaken Kira before the heart attacks happened, were witnessed by everyone on live TV.

"Mark this. Sakujo did not anticipate their change of mind. Our target acts rashly if they can't control the situation," L said.

An influential British celebrity led a declaration against Kira which was broadcasted worldwide. His sudden demise was also broadcasted. Italian mafiosi in Europe and overseas gave a press release offering a truce and disarm in exchange of being allowed to collaborate against the common threat. They had lost their elder dons in the purge. Half of America was grieving the loss of a well-beloved senior philanthropist. Demonstrations anti-Kira were spreading all over the globe, Kira supporters were investigated all over.

Kira's kingdom was falling apart piece by piece.

A ring, and Wedy announced, "You were right, L. Aiber caught a messenger trying to deliver a new tape. What do you want us to do with it?"

The task force looked at their leader with expectation.

"Go to the Int. 24 h. News TV studios, officers will be there to help you. We are broadcasting its content right now for the world to watch." L hung up and contacted the security forces.

"Why?"

"We are swinging Sakujo off their feet, we are forcing their hand with the unexpected change," L explained.

"It is a risky movement," Soichiro said.

"Tomorrow Sakujo will be writing the new murders whether the tape appears or not, so it will be too late. If Sakujo has not written the names yet, which is what I presumed, seeing the tape now might crash their plans. Sakujo will act without thinking, forget about their plan, since it should have been known tomorrow, not today. This may be our only chance to catch them and avoid the next purge."

Thus, the tape was broadcasted. For once, the date, channel, and time on the tape and the actual ones did not match. "Today is the twenty-fifth of November... Watch Nation 1 TV..."

Ten minutes of blank noise for the future murders.

"Tokio has held one of the three secondary schools chosen for the new exam that checks the level of our young students. Kira is merciful, our sovereign shall give the kids that have low marks a second chance to study harder. Nevertheless, cheating in exams shall not be forgiven, for it means laziness plus disloyalty. Those students you saw had been known to have cheated in their exams. They met their fair sentence. There remain three days left until Kira's anniversary, so the other two schools in Kyoto and Osaka will be purged right now, and two other countries will..."

Absolute silence. If no one acknowledged it, it could not be true.

"They are aiming to slaughter kids," L finally said, blowing up the mirage of denial.

A red haze engulfed Light. Kids. It was over. Not even he would ever find a way to undo that. Go down, Kira.

The outrage and anguish that followed in the HQ mirrored the world's reaction. The spokesman for the Japanese Government announced that Kira was to be considered the nation's number one enemy. He was killed straight off. The main producer of Int. 24 h. News TV found his end, too. Religious authorities of several nations declared Kira's followers heretics.

The sound of a phone call startled them. It came from the desk that was next to Matsuda.

"Chief, it's yours," he said.

He was so nervous that almost let the phone drop before handing it to Soichiro. He answered.

The hands-free mode was connected because of Matsuda's clumsiness, so everyone in the room heard the desperate cries of Sayu Yagami. "Dad? I'm scared, I cheated in the exam, I'm so ashamed, I just wanted to have high marks like Light, I'm so scared, please, dad, help me, I don't want to die, don't let Kira kill me, dad, help me!"

Soichiro's face lost his colour, he had to support himself on an armchair in order not to fall. He mumbled to his daughter empty promises of protection. Light seldom understood that his sister could be murdered in Kira's name in less than twenty-four hours. Reality blurred. He took one step then another towards his father, he had to keep the charade, had always been the perfect son, the perfect brother. He took the phone from his father's hands, spat the comforting lies he could, noticed his insides heavy like hailstones. Sayu's sobs lingered in the room.

The gentle contact of L's hand settled on his arm and brought him back to reality. He realised he had knelt beside the armchair where his father had collapsed.

"Shinigami! Come here now!" L commanded suddenly. Sidoh appeared. "I will ask you again, which date of death will prevail if I make the eye deal?"

"I don't know, I'm honest. It's nowhere in the rules, and I never faced this issue before," Sidoh answered.

"I see," L replied. He locked eyes with Light. Resolution alighted them. "I want to make the deal anyway. Shinigami, give me the eyes."

"No! Don't listen to him!" Light's strangled cry was equally the product of fear for L and of being exposé.

"What in hell are you talking about?" Aizawa asked.

"This is how Kira know the names. The owner of a Death Note can offer half of his remaining life in exchange for eyes that see anyone's real name and life span," L explained.

"Why would you want to do it?" Mogi asked.

"The only life spans that can't be seen are those of dead people and owners. With them, I can tell who owns the note. I can find Kira among the suspects."

"No, you can't. We are sure Sakujo is a pawn, so they will not be the owner," Light replied.

L caressed Light's arm. "We may be wrong," he said, his voice tired. "Shinigami, the deal."

"I refuse! Your life's too short, I don't want crumbs," Sidoh improvised, blessed him.

"Transfer ownership to me, Ryuzaki," Soichiro asked all at once. "I will make the deal."

"Yagami-san—"

"That's a joke. No one older here? Pff," Sidoh screeched. He was growing nervous. An abyss was opening its gates right before Light, and the fall was a long one.

"Let me do it instead, Chief, Ryuzaki," Matsuda offered.

"I refuse," Sidoh maintained.

"What's the problem? I'm young enough!" Matsuda exclaimed.

"You are not doing this, I forbid it. I will do it," Soichiro insisted. "Ryuzaki, give me the ownership."

"And I forbid you to do it," L replied. "Shinigami, you must accept mine, the condition of my life span does not break any law. Why are you refusing?"

"I... I follow the laws..."

"Then, accept it."

Sidoh waggled around, stealing glances from Light. He was asking him for a way out.

What could he do? Even Matsuda was willing to sacrifice half his life for the threatened kids, whereas the brother of one of those kids hid and cowered.

But if he said, it would be for real. He was the owner. And if he did not offer himself, L would get the truth out of Sidoh sooner or later.

I started all this. No. Others did.

Sayu can be killed tomorrow.

But I must prevail. My life is too precious.

He should have ordered Misa to kill everyone in the list of suspects and kill herself afterwards. He should have taken Sidoh's note from its coffin and written their names himself.

"I am the youngest," he said.

Sidoh's repulsive mouth twisted in a simper. "Yes, you are."

Cold sweat froze his skin. He would not do it. He would rather expose Misa and face the consequences.

L stood up in all his height, his usual hunch forgotten. "I already warned you, Shinigami. Don't hurt this man, or else you will suffer dire consequences. Take my offer and end this game."

The emotion that overpowered Light was so strong that he mistook it for hatred. He pushed L roughly. "Stop embarrassing me. I am quite capable of protecting myself."

"Light-kun—"

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

L's laptop was ringing like crazy. Beep. Beep. Beep.

"Wait," L said. He neared it, froze in place. "Shinigami, forget everything we were discussing and get out of here," he said as he took a seat.

"Wh-wh-?"

"Get out!" L seethed. There was a feral quality to his intensity. It was exciting to see him like that. It was arousing.

Sidoh phased through the walls and disappeared. Everyone else gazed at the screen. It showed the PM page on the SeKond Coming site. The receiver belonged to an account L had hacked with the help of Wedy and that Matt. It was the only account that could receive messages on the site for the time being.

The entering message came from Sakujo.

"Son of a bitch," Aizawa swore.

The noise of a barrel. Matsuda had taken out his gun and glared at the laptop as if he wanted to shoot at it. Soichiro and Mogi calmed the others.

"Kami, forgive my boldness in initiating contact, but your devoted worshipper needs your help," the message read.

Light wished Matsuda had shot down both the machine and the author of the message.

"Kami, I beg your attention, please."

"Sakujo has lost his composure. The amount of lines is uneven, and he has uncovered himself as a male by his choice of kanji," L stated.

"What do we do?" the men asked.

"Cross off the female suspects. Mogi, use that computer to track the localisation of the messages." L's long fingers tapped along the keyboards. "How do you dare to address your sovereign without being summoned beforehand?" he wrote.

L was impersonating Kira.

Light's breath became shallow, schemes turning around wildly in his worried mind. What Kira? The second? The first? A fake one? Had Misa told Sakujo about him? What if that mad dog exposed them? What could he do, then?

The battle was not thrilling anymore, it was just deadly. I want to stop. Oh, how I want to stop.

"Kami, I deeply apologise. I would have never broken your rules were not for an emergency. I have run out of paper."

Exclamations of hope filled the room.

"I endowed you with a sacred tool, and you did not live up to the responsibility. I trusted you with the timing of the tapes, and you failed me. That was not my design."

"Kami, I beg your mercy. I lost control. Sinners were spawning all around, I could not allow them to defy the ruler of the world, I had to delete them."

L bit his nails like a maniac before going on. "Hence, you have no pages left to keep the promised purge tomorrow." That was the core of the issue. Among the anger and dread that were devouring him, a raging passion for the detective nearly brought Light down to the ground.

"Kami, what you said is true. I am so ashamed."

"You are a disappointment. Servants who are unreliable have no place in my perfect world. I shall write your name."

Yes, L. Write his name. Write Misa's name, write the name of all those murderers, release me from this curse. Let me watch you do it, let me touch you afterwards, let me fuck you, fuck me. Fuck me.

"Kami, mercy. I implore a second chance. Please, give me more pages so I can offer you the intended purge, so I can worship you as you deserve."

"Be grateful that your deity is merciful. I will give you more pages."

"Kami, I am so happy. I will not fail you."

"But how?!" Matsuda asked.

L waved his hand to mark silence. Then he wrote, "We shall meet today."

A pause.

"Kami.

Do you want us to meet?"

"He is regaining his self-control. He is turning suspicious," Light warned.

Tight-lipped, L went on. "Do not interrupt your sovereign. We shall meet today at half-past seven in Naga Square."

"Kami.

I am confused."

Shit.

"You have some nerve to question your ruler."

"Kami.

..."

"He logged out," Mogi said.

"Fuck!" Aizawa cursed. "Do you think he took the bait?"

"There is a forty percent chance he noticed the bluff. Mogi?"

"Wait, it's just... Oh, no." Mogi frowned. A mechanical noise came from several computers. The screens turned black, and a tiny star bounced from one corner of the darkness to the other.

SeKond Coming had been hacked, traces lost, data missed.

"A fifty-eight percent chance."

"For hell's sake!" Aizawa roared. "Can we do something?"

"It can be fixed, probably," Light said, concealing his frustration. "However, it will took us hours."

"Time is running out. I will go on with my plan. Sakujo has proved to be clever, but he was also desperate. We may still have the upper hand." He phoned Wedy and Aiber again.

"Do you really intend to go there, Ryuzaki?"

"I must." He looked at the men. "At least, there is the highest chance the kids are safe tomorrow. Yagami-san, Light-kun, your family is going to be safe. He has no paper, and if there were a best way to contact Kira, he would have used it instead of the web."

Hopefulness replaced some of Soichiro's concern. He gave his son a sympathetic gesture before searching for a little privacy to call home.

"Who is accompanying you, Ryuzaki?"

"As I told you once, I can't afford to lose any of you. You stay here, and this is final."

L gave some instructions and left the meeting room. Truth be told, Light had tuned out. He had taken advantage of the chaos to slide off. His plan did not include Sakujo alive by any means.

Misa's phone was off.

She having a heart attack would not be enough for Light to clear the anger he felt in that moment.

He breathed slowly, returned to the present. L was decided to meet the sycophant, if he was to appear. Light was torn. He wanted the bastard to appear to finish him, whereas he needed to protect himself from what he might tell about Light or Misa. In the end, it seemed he did not really know much. Someone must know.

Unless they were all puppets.

A frightening idea plagued him. What if that was Rem's design, and L was walking to his death? I can't let it happen.

He got to L's bedroom, he let him in. He was wearing a different pair of jeans, darker and less casual. He was buttoning up a white shirt. He noticed Light's ogle, and his pale skin blushed. "I presume that Kira can't wear ragged clothes."

You do not need to change ."You should wear a tie or a jacket."

"I am quite uncomfortable as it is to add a tie." I want to lick your Adam's apple, L. I want to see it move as you swallow my... L opened a wardrobe and took out a well-cut grey coat. "This will do," he said while he tried to comb his hair. "We must mind the details. Wedy is going to be there in case Sakujo expects a woman. We still do not know who Kira is."

Don't groom yourself for Kira. He does not deserve it. "Let me go with you. I can help you."

"Light-kun heard me before."

"It is dangerous."

"Apart from Wedy and Aiber, I also have an Interpol agent in disguise. I need the valuable agents safe and sound here."

"It can be a trap. Sakujo may have gathered a bunch of zealots in order to catch you." His need for self-protection had intertwined completely with the urge to protect L.

"I have to take risks."

"Why must you go alone?"

"Don't be silly, Light-kun. I will not be alone, though it is true that I am the one who will expose his face. What will they do, write my name?"

"You said you feared your death happening in the public eye." Light's voice increased its pitch, the sensation of danger in his stomach having crawled its way up to his throat. "You said you feared the Shinigami had written something horrible. What about, Dies of a painful disease after being kidnapped, tortured and recorded by Kira's zealots?!"

He could not follow the tirade, for L's mouth covered his. The kiss was long and deep, as if it was trying to convey all the feelings the detective had for him, all the ones Light was fighting to resist. He surrendered to the emotion, kissed him back in earnest, savoured his moans, sank his fingers in the dark locks. He wanted him. He wanted him so bad it scared him. The full awareness of what L had been willing to do for him, for his sister, for the unknown kids made his chest heave. That was not only lust. He wanted to hold him tight and never let go of him. If he had to choose—

Light was no fool. He had used that weapon before to numb others. He was no vapid model. He broke the kiss.

"You will not manipulate me, L."

L blinked, then shook his head. With a sigh, he left to meet his enemy outside the building. Light saw him go, unable to stop that folly. His fingers itched. I will make Misa go there with the Death Note and kill anyone who dares to get too close to L.

Misa's phone was still off. Her uselessness dragged him down.

Instead of following L, he found Sidoh and warned him never to fool around about the deal again. Aizawa was seeking him, so he joined the others and spent the subsequent hours trying to recover the hacked data, trying to contact the stupid blonde to no avail, and pending on the electronics that connected them with the detective's tiny squad. Time passed by. Fortunately, no herd of zealots attacked. Unfortunately, no Sakujo appeared, no Kira. No pawns, no king.

"We have waited enough." L's defeated voice sounded through the microphones. "I thought the Shinigami would be of help. I knew he would not unmask him, but I hoped to catch him eyeing someone so I could figure it out. Anyway, I have not even seen the creature. Mission is over. We are coming back to HQ."

Chills crept down Light's spine. Of course Sidoh was not there, with Light being the true owner. Stress was making him so careless. Was that a glare on Aizawa's face?

Did Aizawa see me talking to Sidoh? No, he did not. Please.

Only L and Wedy entered the building. The detective looked awful.

"We assumed you had not suffered any damage."

"And we hadn't. It is just the usual curse," L replied in a poor attempt to lighten up the mood. "I have overextended myself. I can barely stand up. So much pain."

He stumbled. Wedy held him. The others helped him to his bedroom. At some point, L whimpered and called Watari. He looked like a helpless infant calling his dad. Light would have found it pitiful in anyone else. Not in L. His throat was constrained.

"Let him rest if he can," Soichiro ordered afterwards. "I want everyone having a break tonight. I know what is at stake, but we are only human. I'm going home to stay beside my daughter until tomorrow's threat is over."

He had never heard so much fear in his father's voice. That moment he knew that, for all of Light's perfection, Soichiro would choose Sayu over him if both of his children were in danger. He did not know how to feel about that revelation.

"What will you do, son?"

"I stay here. A little sleep will be enough, then I could go on working. I am sure the threat is neutralised. Tomorrow Sakujo will not be able to write a word. Do not worry, father, Sayu is going to be alright."

"I'm proud of your strength. There are times when a man has to choose," Soichiro said intently before taking his leave. Everyone else left somewhere else.

Although Soichiro's words carried gravitas, Light's choice was not between L and Sayu.

" Which are the charges against the man who has disowned me?"

***

He disciplined himself into sleeping a few hours. He was awake well before dawn.

He drank some black coffee, broke into the meeting room, forgot about the computers, projected the tapes from Kira's Kingdom. They had had a seemingly good lead that had gone astray, as far as it had been a woman. However, Sakujo had to be there. He saw tape after tape. He was absorbed in the job when Mogi arrived. It was early morning.

"I could not just sit around."

Light nodded. Both resumed searching. Watch. Rewind. Skip. Discard. Change tape. Where are you? Watch. Skip. Stop. Discard. Change tape. Behind-the-scenes. A young man in a black trench coat. Stop. Rewind. Compare. Zoom in. The same young man abandoning the set. Two issues apart.

"Mogi, play tape number fifteen again."

Mogi did so. Skip. Stop. There he was, leaving the set, two weeks before. A close-up shot.

"He is in the list." Mogi looked for the file. "Mikami Teru, law school, in an internship designed for criminal prosecutors."

Light's brain was saturated with electricity. Zoom in. Zoom in. The suspect was mumbling, moving lips that uttered one single word again and again.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Sakujo, I got you, bastard.

***

"I found him, L. We got him," Light whispered in the twilight of the bedroom.

The detective granted the youth such a radiant grin that he wished he had brought him Mikami's head on a silver platter.

***

Unlike Higuchi's detention, Mikami's one lacked fanfare. L prepared beforehand the evacuation of a little market which held the café Mikami went every day mid-morning. Instead of an impressive squad, less than ten agents—Soichiro, true to his word, stayed at home—hid and awaited there, protected by masks or helmets. The bastard finally arrived, less composed than in the pictures or the videos, somehow worried and dishevelled. He noticed the solitary figure of L crouching in a bank in front of the café, half-hidden under a baggy hood. He stopped in his tracks.

"You avoided Naga, Sakujo," L said. "But the appointment was always here in Samarra."

That was the signal. As Mikami shouted and tried to escape, every agent was on him, preventing him from doing more harm. Hand-cuffed, blinded, immobilized, frisked. There were no notebooks or pieces of paper, just his mobile phone and wallet, a case with a laptop, and some ball-pens.

"Confiscate the wallet, the phone, and the laptop. I will examine them later. Throw the ball-pens to the trash," L told the others.

"You aren't so cheeky now, chien. Today's carnage will never occur. Tu es l'appat aujord-hui," Aiber mocked.

"Kami, I am sorry to fail your will! Kami, help me!"

Light realised Mikami was shouting at the place where he stood up, even when he could not see him. Anxiety was almost strong enough to crash his elation. Almost. He wanted to punch the insane man's mouth and shut it up for good.

"Your kami found you wanting. He deleted you from his Nice List," L said nonchalantly.

Light laughed out loud until the tension he felt started to disappear. L winked at him. He laughed again.

***

Mikami's house was searched from one side to the other. His personal computer was confiscated. They interrogated him for a while. Insane prayers and rants were his answers. The fateful hour arrived.

No kid died. No purge occurred.

The agents burst out in glee.

The world breathed a sigh of relief.

***

There was a simple press release explaining that L's team had prevented the murders to happen, though the warning to be alert remained. The situation was still stormy globally, with riots in several countries and new laws being passed here and there. Wedy injected sedatives to Mikami that had him sleeping almost at once. Another dose would be eventually provided. L had to sort out a couple of things and wait twenty-four hours before getting Mikami's custody. Nevertheless, he would have him knocked out for anyone else. He was him (theirs) to question and chain and incarcerate.

***

A message from Misa arrived at last. She had just arrived in Tokyo, her phone had not been operative before. There were no owners among the suspects in the list. Light guffawed at the useless news. Pride and victory were shining, the moron was not going to ruin that.

***

Soichiro called. Light spoke with his happy family. Soichiro decided to stay with Sayu and Sachiko for the rest of the day. Light's choice was different.

Before hanging out, his father told him that Takada had left an envelope containing a college assignment. He could bring it to him the following day to the HQ, Light agreed. The useless file about the useless pill. A new laugh. One more idiot to add up to the sum. He accepted a second beer. A day was a day.

***

"The Shinigami was on and about, up above, around, guess what? Sakujo could not see him!" Matsuda cried his epiphany over the sushi and the ramen.

"He was blindfolded," L deadpanned while munching some sweet something.

It was so funny in spite of Aizawa's look, the food so tasty, and a shot of sake was not a bad idea at all.

***

They brought the celebration up to the headquarters. They deserved some hours of joy and satisfying oblivion. Light felt a little dizzy, but he had stopped drinking, he was in control. Still dizzy, anyway.

They stood in an adjacent small living next to the meeting room. L was sipping a sweet liquor. Light moved towards a cupboard to bring clean water glasses. L caught up with him, took his face, kissed him hard. Light gasped. L's tongue slithered within, pouring down a wave of sweet fire into Light's mouth as he shared the liquor from his. Both the tongue and the alcohol were intoxicating, igniting sparks in Light that went all straight down to his crotch. He drank from his mouth, rejoicing in the delicious sensation. L pulled away, a mischievous grin on his face, moved back to his armchair. He hated his teasing. He loved it. He came back for more.

The insulting amount of people was still present. Wedy left after flirting so much with Mogi that his face was deep red. That gave way to an avalanche of remarks about beauty charms. L made his statement.

"Years ago, I met that woman. You see her, intelligent, compassionate..." The men mooed, disappointed. "And so attractive. When she smiled she could light up the world." He stared at Light, taunting him with a deliberate smirk.

Light's cock twitched. She shines, the picture said. She is rotting, he added. And let's get real, L was well into him. Light knew how to play that game. He had invented it.

"I love how Misa's skin is so soft under my hands, how her eyes close with desire," he said, his tone charged with sensuality. Idiot Matsuda sighed. "Though I admit I've always preferred the smart, dark-haired type."

L did not blink. "Like Takada."

Light smirked. "Like Takada."

Idiot Matsuda whined for the injustice of it all. Aizawa was determined to win some drinking contest against Matsuda before passing out. Mogi and Aiber called it for a day, quite sober. Soichiro would be sober at the Yagami's, too. Nobody loses his mind all the time.

Anyways. Light sat down right in front of L, spread up his legs in a defying stance, showing him the shape of the power that was pulsing inside his fitting trousers. L licked his lips, up to the challenge. The two other morons did not notice, would not have noticed a thing if Light and L had started groping there and then, the drunk idiots. Light stood up, said good night. Too early for that, late afternoon. Who cared.

He walked well into a more private place, L's bare feet tip-toeing after him. Follow me, L, chase me, I'm the worthy prize, the big game, not Kira, not Kira.

He chased him. Nonetheless, it was Light who attacked L's mouth first, tongues fighting for dominance. He also drew the first blood, but not quite, just some chewing on L's lips before moving to his long pale neck and licking the sweat drops off his Adam's apple, revelling in the panting that had the detective out of breath. "You found the light that can illuminate the world," the youth whispered in his ear. "You found the dark-haired genius," L replied, his hands worrying with the buttons in Light's shirt, struggling to reach his nipples, lingering there, finding a mirror in Light's hands.

They fell down on a large coach, one on one, side by side, what mattered was to quickly get rid of the clothes that separated skin from skin, to set them free. Then Light was humping against L's hands, L was humping against Light's thighs. It was messy and hot and not enough when Light's body had been reduced to a bare nerve of sheer pleasure, when L's skilful fingers were teasing his vein, first gently, then firm, then slowly teasing again. Light would not let his prey escape, either. He moved his hand up and down, up and down over L's, at the same pace that he was using on him. L's pants became husky whispers in English, noises so sexy that nearly pushed the youth to the edge. The rhythm slowed down, L muttering, Easy, Light, I want this to last. His fingers travelled down and back, probing. Light felt a pressure within. Stop. More probing, a second finger got inside.

Freeze.

A lifetime of pretence and denial washed over him. He tensed, kicked away from him.

L looked shocked. He pulled away, his erection throbbing as painfully as Light's. Light wanted to relieve them both, but was also terrified. That was not supposed to be, was it?

"Did I hurt you?" the detective asked.

"No... it is just... I am a man... You are... We are..."

L neared him with the outmost care, caressed his legs. "I will not pretend I understand, because I never had that kind of issues. There are so few interesting people in this world to mind if they are men or women. You best them all, Light. Your body, your mind are gorgeous. I feel you so close, I don't want to lose you."

Neither do I. "I have... I feel..." Light's brain and words slurred. He reached for L again, kissed him, let him stroke him, relaxed into his touch.

The fingers were circling his entrance, and even when he wanted to explore, to feel, fuck, he really needed it, his long-ingrained bias made him recoil again.

This time L stood up, dressed himself, and made to go.

"Wait! Don't dare!" Light shouted.

L looked jaded under the deem light of the lamp. "I can't push you, Light, I apologise. This is over. I have never craved someone so much in my life, but my life is ending. I refuse to spend my last days being regarded as some sort of creep and pervert, which I am not. It is just not fair."

No, no, no, you can't let me here like that, I want you, too, I just need adjustments, I was supposed to be different, don't dare to abandon me, don't die and leave me, DON'T FUCKING IGNORE ME.

"These are poor excuses, you liar, you are just disappointed," Light chuckled darkly, his pride refusing to bend. "You are disappointed in me because I am not Kira. You wanted me to be Kira, you wanted to fuck Kira!"

L stopped right on track and turned around. He was grinding his teeth, his body language that of a wild animal ready to attack. Slowly he regained his cool. When he spoke, his voice was made of icicles. "This is so sad, Light-kun. You are in denial, and you insult me. I despise Kira. I have been fighting my feelings for you for months because I thought you were Kira. If I still had the slightest doubt you were that monster, I would rather chain myself than touch you. After everything Kira has done, the thought is so disgusting the mere insinuation makes me gag. If you found my advances that repulsive, you could have just told me the truth instead of hurting me so much with such an accusation."

"Liar," Light groaned.

He composed himself and ran away from his dread and his desire, ran away from the headquarters right into the city lights. Sidoh flied somewhere above. No trouble now, he was never visible at HQ.

I will show L. I will show everyone.

He ended up at the door of Misa's house. He was more than welcome.

"Hyuk! Look who's back!"

"Raito! Misa is..."

He hushed her with a kiss. "Not now." He caressed her face and her hair. It was not that bad.

"Oh, Misa and Raito are making up?" the model said, and she returned Raito's affections tenfold. With a noise of disgust, both Sidoh and Ryuk disappeared from sight.

Light tried to live up to Misa's groping, he really tried, though it was getting more difficult. Focus. Hands on skin. Caress. Kiss. Pretend. Focus.

"Raito is not prepared yet," Misa pouted, her nails playing inside his trousers.

"It is the emotion," Light said. "A little bit of silence, a little of darkness will help."

It got a little better, he could do it, he could be excited by women, women were not the problem, Misa was just not his kind, maybe if he imagined another woman.

Tall, thin, angular, long-limbed, with pale skin and strong legs.

Why had it to be like that? Who was going to judge him?

With thick black hair, large dark eyes, a sinful mouth.

Did anyone really care? Did he care?

Brilliant, witty, quirky, challenging.

"Ohhh, Raito is getting ready for Misa."

His ideal was L. It was impossible to deny it, to deny him.

As it was impossible to call it a mere infatuation.

"Wait a minute. Raito should wear this. Misa and Raito don't want babies yet."

Babies?

Misora.

Sidoh. Sidoh said...

Babies. Misora.

"Imagine a pregnant woman. If the phoetus is alive, life is life. So we have two rules there that would prevail over the general one."

Misora had been pregnant. The Death Note had not taken effect because she had been pregnant.

The room disappeared, replaced by a starving eddy that was sucking him deep, deep, deeper. He was drowning. He was choking in the slimy tears of a monster with a hundred eyes, he could not breath, could not do anything but feel the pain, the regret, the water inside his lungs, the air and the life sliding away from him. His ace was lost. The loophole was useless. L was going to die, he could not save him, Misora had been pregnant.

Blows against his chest, his arms. Some hurt, enough to make him come back. What was happening? A shrilling voice, "Who's pregnant?! How can Raito do this to Misa? Who's the bitch?!"

He shoved his attacker, a thump against a wall was heard, then whimpers, a piercing cry, "Rem, help me, Rem!", and the monster was right in front of him, horrible and murderous and covered in eyes from head to toe, mocking at his grief, at his mourning, rejoicing in her sadism, so he put his hands around her neck, tighter, tighter. Something was wrong, those monsters did not die like that, it was so similar to scenes he had dreamed long ago, L, L, L, but he did not want to hurt him anymore, he wanted to save him. He pulled away from the monster, L's image hiding his murderer, forgive me, L, I could not stop her. At least she would not deprive him of this, he masturbated while cursing and grieving and crying a letter until he spilled himself on his own hand.

Wasted. Like his chance. Like L's life.

It was my fault. It was my fault.

As the waves of pain receded and the ocean spat him on a silent shore, his mind processed where he stood, who was with him. Misa hid on a corner, not hurt, but utterly terrified, looking at him as if he were a demon.

Rem is the demon. Kira is. They called him Kira right from the start. You are not going to destroy me.

He helped Misa to get up, pulled her into the bathroom, undress her completely to look for a piece of paper or wounds. No wounds, no paper, sheer panic.

"Sidoh, Ryuk. Watch the Death Note, look for any piece of paper in the room," he commanded.

He checked himself, there was no wound either, tomorrow both of them would have some bruises, nothing serious. And yet.

He washed himself with scalding water, trying to erase the hideous feeling. He was not like that, it was disgusting.

This was not me, this was Kira's swan song.

He put his clothes on, made him presentable again, went back to the bedroom. Sidoh was fidgeting all around, Ryuk looked nervous but expectant. He took the Death Note and a pen, write on a page, Amane, returned to the bathroom, showed it to the model.

"See what I have become, Misa. I am sorry. This will never happen again. This is over. However, mark my words. I don't want to write your name, but I will do if you threaten me. If you try to use the note against me, Ryuk will prevent it, will let me know at once. Rem is not here to help you. Ryuk and Sidoh are mine. Don't try to kill me, and you will be safe."

"Hyuk! So I'll be possessing you again? Yes, please! I don't want to miss the show!"

"Be patient."

He left the house, ripped a couple of pages from the note, and stored it inside Misa's mail box.

He ran away from there until only Sidoh could follow him.

"Yagami Light?"

A man had to choose.

"Don't worry, Sidoh. I lied to Ryuk. I will never give your note to him."

On the one hand, there was a self-professed fallen god that had turned a rotten world into an even more rotten place, a god worshipped by demons, idiots, madmen, and murderers.

"I will never be haunted by Ryuk again, I promise you. This ends tonight."

On the other hand, there was Light Yagami, a brilliant man that could start anew, could manifest a different vision of a better world in the future, when the remnants of that nightmare would be already gone.

"Just help me to save L. It is all you have to do."

Above everything else, there was L.

I renounce Kira. I disown him. Kira dies tonight.

And the loose ends would be cut as well.

He wrote down on the paper.

Takada Kenji.

Takada Kiyomi. Twenty-seventh of November. Upon knowing of her brother's death, she has an accident in the way to the city he lived, and she dies.

Mikami Teru. Dies the thirtieth of November. Days before he confessed everything he knew about Kira and his followers to the detective who leads the investigation anti-Kira and his men. He never mentions anything about the real first and second Kira.

He stopped for a second, a pang of guilt baring its teeth. He buried the guilt. No one was going to separate L from him. No one's temper was going to put L in danger again when he saved him.

Aizawa Shuichi. Dies the fifteenth of December. He never tells anyone about what he witnessed between the Shinigami Sidoh and the son of his Chief, or the suspicions he may have about said son.

He stopped again to ponder the final entry. The Death Note could be kept in the human realm, but harmless. No owner, no Ryuk, just the distant promise of coming back someday. Not in a lifetime.

Amane Misa. She never uses the Death Note again. She recovers it from her mail box. She carefully buries the note in the same place in the forest where she found it. She eliminates any evidence of Kira's activities. She moves outside Tokio, let the man she loves alone. The twelfth of December she commits suicide after leaving a warning in her computer where she says she could not live without love.

He ripped the paper down to pieces save for a last blank scrap that he hid in his watch in case he had to defend his life or L's in the time he still had until Misa's death.

He breathed deep. The air seemed cleaner than before, the moon seemed brighter, the world seemed less filthy.

L.

He rushed to the HQ, entered the building, ran through the corridors silently, moved to the upper floor where L's bedroom stood, reached his door, knocked on it softly, heart thundering in his chest, muscles aching with expectancy.

L opened the door.

"You were right," Light said. "You were right, but I have made my mind at last."

L's eyes shone in the twilight of the room. He pulled Light onto him, kicked the door close. He led him to the bed, made him sit down on it, pulled down Light's pants with furious tugs, and kneeled before him.

"I am your only one," L asserted, voice like liquid flames burning down Light's will.

"Yes, you are", Light agreed while L's hungry kisses on his thighs moved up to reach their goal, leaving trails of fire that made him so hard, oh so hard again he ached, he ached for L's wet mouth blissfully around him, his warmth swallowing him down.

As he lost himself in ecstasy, he looked at L through heavy-lidded eyes and knew without a doubt that Kira had been wrong.

That one kneeling man was worth more than one thousand kneelers.

Chapter Text

Zero—1st part

Eyes #1

Find what you love and let it kill you.

Bukowski

Misa had a perfect childhood right until her ninth birthday. Dotted and beloved by her relatives and peers, the child soon learnt to take advantage of her natural charm. She was popular at school, had lots of friends. She had a best friend, Kyo-chan, a clever and sensitive boy who lived in a nearby house. Boys around her age were mostly gross. Kyo-chan was different. He was not much strong, so he might have had a tough time at the playground, but Misa got along with him. If someone as cool as Misa were friends with him, he had to be alright, hadn't he? They spent a lot of time together, even when the boy's bronchi often had him stuck in hospital. Misa would cheer him up, would put on fancy costumes and model for him. They would make dolls out of pieces of cloth, draw animals. "This is a cat?! Things don't look like that," Kyosuke's big sister used to say. "You can't see them like we see them because you don't have our eyes. Our eyes are special," he would reply. "Yes, we have special eyes. You're jealous," Misa would say sticking out her tongue. That was their secret. For them, the world was beautiful and bright and full of wonderful colours.

Misa's family planned a great party for her ninth birthday. Unfortunately, Kyo could not attend it because he had just left hospital. Misa told her parents they had to finish the party, for she wanted to visit her best friend. They did so. Misa came round Kyo's house. He had made a drawing of her as a birthday present. She hugged him and pecked him on the cheek.

Ten minutes later, he started coughing and choking. His face darkened and swelled with the lack of air, his weak chest heaved because of the spasms, the inhalator turned into a useless tool. Misa screamed, calling the adults. They arrived almost at once.

He was already dead.

Doctors said it was normal for Misa to start referring to herself in third person as a way to distance herself from her pain.

Doctors said it was understandable for her to tear away the dolls, destroy the paintings and draw pictures in black and dark red instead.

What doctors did not know was that Misa's eyes would never be innocent again.

***

Unlike so many others', Misa's teenage years ran smoothly. Any childhood trauma long gone, the cute child blossomed first into a pretty girl, then into a radiant young woman. Academic life was not her forte; she did not mind, as far as she knew she would become a model and an actress. Adolescence was simple—beauty, popularity, and sympathetic parents were the key. She pitied the ugly and awkward. Anyway, it was not her business. When faint memories of having once taken sides with the misfits appeared, she just shrugged. It was great to have a circle of friends just like her. It was awesome to have an attractive, smart, sweet boyfriend. They loved one another so much. People said teenage love was fleeting, but theirs survived their school years right into early adulthood, theirs would last. "The agent I told you about? I'm meeting her next week! And I have another photo session. I'll be wearing the pale green dress," she said to him while cuddling in bed. "The camera loves you. It's great your parents support you. You'll be a star and I'll write the scripts. We'll be famous and get married," he marked his words with tender kisses. "My parents will be your new parents then. You'll find them a little soft," Misa laughed. "I prefer this softness," he said with a wink. They smiled and made love and dreamt of bright futures.

Bright futures shattered in bloody red (red and murder and two corpses that had been her parents) right in front of her, the murderer running away right before her eyes.

***

Misa did not know about legal procedures, but she knew that was not justice. Her parents were dead, and their killer was not going to be punished.

"Misa was there. Misa saw him!" she bellowed.

PTSD, doctors called it. She knew the truth.

Misa's eyes were powerless.

***

Her boyfriend stood by her side in the horrible weeks that followed. She found no shelter, however. Almost as devastated as she was, he cried a lot. He went on crying even when Misa's tears had run dried.

He was so sweet, so soft. Soft people did not do well near Misa.

She split up with him.

***

Misa-Misa was the most promising model in Japan. People were delighted by the blend of her upbeat personality and the suggestive darkness of her looks. Misa-Misa always wore black or dark red clothes and gothic jewels. Everyone thought she was a brave woman who had overcome a tragedy. She worked and trained. She smiled and enchanted the public and met important people and flirted and had some intimate encounter or another to numb herself, and cried when she was alone.

Misa-Misa was a perfect shell for the blank space within.

***

Her parents' murderer had finally been punished, and it had been Kira's deed. Therefore, she learnt about her hero, she supported Kira in public even when her agent scolded her. It did not matter. Kira was the angel of justice.

***

A month later, death caught up with Misa. The stalker said he would kill her in the name of love. Maybe love and death were two sides of the same coin for her. However, she did not want to die like that, killed in a dark alley, alone with a crazy stalker. She screamed for help. She prayed for Kira to save her.

The stalker collapsed and died.

***

The notebook had black covers and strange letters. The angel had wings, but did not look like an angel at all.

"Are you Kira?"

***

Rem was neither Kira nor an angel. She had not even been the one to save Misa—it had been another Shinigami called Gelus, who had sacrificed his life for her.

"What a beautiful way to die," she whispered.

"Death is death," Rem replied.

No. It was not the same to die saving the life of the one you loved than to drown in your own phlegm, to be butchered in your own home, to be stabbed in an alley. And yet.

"Such love. Sweet Gelus," Misa day-dreamed. She felt a little angry with the unknown Shinigami who had died and abandoned her.

"For a Shinigami, love means death."

For Misa, love and death were two sides of the same coin. She would demonstrate her love for justice through death. She would become the Second Kira.

"Rem, Misa needs to find Kira. Help Misa!"

Rem told her about the Shinigami Eyes. She made the deal without a second thought. She was ecstatic.

Misa's eyes would be powerful at last.

***

"Rem, will the headaches ever be over?"

"Your body still needs some adjustments. You will get used to the eyes soon."

Misa sighed. She was dizzy with all that wavering red. She looked at the mirror and refreshed her make-up, trying to ignore her name. At least there were no numbers. What meant—

"Rem, how do you know the deal has worked? Owners have no numbers, so you can't say if Misa's life span's shortened."

"The eyes of a Shinigami and the eyes humans get because of a deal are not identical. Our eyes are given directly by Nu, so they are not so constrained by the Death Note rules."

"Who's Nu?"

"Nu is one of the higher-ups. She gives the eyes to every new Shinigami."

"Oh! She's like a mother for your race?"

"We mustn't talk about Nu. What I can tell you is that with age and experience, Shinigami rise in rank and our sight improve. I can see the changes in a life span due to the deal and to the action of a Death Note. If I focus hard enough, I can tell if they have been shortened because of the threat another human embodies for that one. Higher-ups' eyes can perceive any fluctuation in a human life span. Nonetheless, you can see things with the eyes you got that other humans can't."

"Enough, enough. Headache, remember?"

She was not in the mood for boring rants. She had much work to do. They will be moving to Tokyo in a few days.

***

Misa was proud of herself. She had put into motion a complex plan. She was sure Kira would contact her after the tapes.

"Those you wrote down were not criminals," Rem remarked.

"They were Kira's enemies," Misa replied. Since she had got accustomed to her new eyes, she had noticed human beings were the same at their core—a mix of red letters and numbers. Her hero and she were the only ones that stood out in the crowd. She giggled as she took out the red contact lenses she wore sometimes when she used the note. It was empowering to look at her reflection and see the red eyes. And they suited the gothic look.

"As far as you don't take unnecessary risks..."

Misa waved her hand. "Don't be a spoilsport. Misa's meeting him soon."

"You are convinced Kira is male."

Misa giggled again. It was true, she thought of Kira as male. A young, powerful, handsome man who would be Misa's soulmate.

***

Yagami Raito embodied everything she could wish for. It was not only him being gorgeous or being a genius or having a never-ending list of graces. It was not even the fact that he was Kira.

When they finally met at his house, Misa had some epiphanies.

Rem did not like Raito, she threatened him. Rem wanted to protect Misa so much. Misa's heart got cold. Would Rem be able to sacrifice herself?

She had to know and had to show her loyalty to Kira. She betrayed Rem's secret about how a Shinigami could die. Then she supported Raito and asked Rem to kill L even if that meant her death. The Shinigami promised to do so. Misa-Misa put on a show of giddy happiness. Misa's heart froze.

She had been getting attached to Rem. That had to change. She started to get detached from the creature at once, disappointed.

Rem would not last. Sooner or later, she would leave Misa behind.

Her Raito was different.

He would not die for her. He would not die on her.

He was perfection.

***

One of the college students smelt of a perfume Misa had smelt faintly in Raito's clothes before. She whipped around, but the bitch's name was entangled with at least twenty more names in a large group, so Misa gave up, light-headed and irritated.

She spotted her love from afar—Shinigami eyes had improved her sight. He was with another student, a male one fortunately. She noticed something curious. She had observed Raito around other people; he acted out what he really was, a god among ants. Not now. Misa had taken a workshop on body language as part of her training to become an actress. Raito's body language showed tension and an unexpected interest around the other student's presence.

She hurried up towards her boyfriend. His face lit up when he saw her. She was so happy.

"This is Hideki Ryuga," Raito announced.

Misa greeted the weird young liar. His red glowed in foreign characters. Misa had studied some English at school, had been revising it out of late to write foreign names on the note. She could do it. "L", said the first word. And that was all.

L? As in L, the detective?

She smiled at the man's antics. Could it be true that weirdo was Kira's worst enemy? The other word started with the same letter. L...aw... Lawli... Lawliet.

L Lawliet. She could not forget the name. Raito would marry her after that success.

Someone touched her butt, L got to her defence. Poor silly thing. She said farewell.

"L Lawliet. Is it okay, Rem? L Lawliet," she murmured gleefully while she came back to the car. Rem was more serious than usual.

"I don't like this. Beware!" Rem started.

The attackers were already on Misa and her agent.

***

Misa was afraid she could not endure the confinement. That monster of L Lawliet was a cunning snake. He would catch her in a mistake. She could not even said the name to Raito. Rem could not, either. Misa would rather die than be Raito's downfall. Rem tried so hard to comfort her. She would not kill Misa no matter what. A part of her was moved by the Shinigami's commitment. Another part wanted to scream.

At the end, Rem thought of a good plan. Misa cried when she realised she would lose her precious eyes and the detective's name. At least she would go on living, and her love would survive. Her Raito would save her with Rem's help.

She renounced ownership.

***

Enough time had passed by to acknowledge that her kidnappers might not well be crazy stalkers. She had put on a brave mask to conceal her fear, but days went on and on and she was not damaged. Someone who had calloused, old hands helped her with her needs of feeding and evacuating.

The men questioned her again and again. They were convinced she was the Second Kira and that her boyfriend was Kira himself. She admired Kira, but that was stupid.

Were she Kira, she would have killed the kidnappers long ago.

***

Misa was a practical woman, so she quickly saw the bright side. For starters, Raito and she were out of their cells. Secondly, her looks had not suffered too much. Thirdly, she could go out and work again, and Mogi was proving to be an excellent manager. The best thing was the fact that she was living with her boyfriend. A dream came true, were not for that Ryuzaki. He had chained himself to her Raito, the creep!

Anyway, she had dates with Raito. To be honest, he did not seem much excited. It was understandable—he was working so hard, and men could be shy about their feelings. And yet, it was infuriating to realise that the one that fostered the dates was Ryuzaki. What a pervert! Probably he was delighted to have an attractive couple under custody. Maybe he thought of watching them while they were making out, or something that kinky.

To top it all, Raito behave oddly around Ryuzaki. In one of their dates, her composed, elegant boyfriend became a brute that punched the other, then the two geniuses were beating the hell out of one another like spoilt children. Matsuda stopped them by breaking great news about Misa's job. Instead of thanking Matsuda or hugging Misa for her success, Raito joined Ryuzaki in a friendly conversation about Matsuda's idiocy.

From Misa's point of view, they were the ones who were acting like fools.

That was only an example. They were always absorbed in each other, bickering or working or having something similar to a... friendship? Why did they have to sleep in the same bedroom? If Raito had to be chained, his father was there, wasn't he? By the way, what kind of father threatened his son with a gun and let a pervert share a bedroom with him? When they were free, Misa would take Raito to her house. The sooner, the better.

There they were again. Misa had displayed her charms, and he had ignored her.

But look. Ryuzaki makes a show with some cherries, and Raito is all about him again.

If Ryuzaki were a woman, at least Misa would know how to counter-attack, and her jealously would be less pathetic.

***

"Mogi, do you think there can be friendship between a detective and a suspect?"

She had just finished working. They were packing up to get back to HQ. Mogi had returned to his usual self, thoughtful and silent.

"You mean friendship between Light and Ryuzaki," he said after a while. Misa nodded. "I presume that people who are as intelligent as them can feel lonely and bored among common people. I think they might relish the fact of spending time with their intellectual equal for a change."

The soundness of the statement did not make it less painful for Misa. "Do you think their affinity would go on? Misa saw that film years ago, the woman that fell in love with her kidnapper. May it be it?"

Mogi's face turned red. Misa moved her hands, horrified by the mistake. "No, no. Misa isn't talking about her. Misa's talking about Raito." Again, she realised what she was implying. She was the one to blush that time. "Not love. Friendship. Unreal. Because of the circumstances. Umm... forget it."

Mogi looked pleased to let go. Misa thought about it for a while. The confinement. Misa was okay, and Raito was stronger than her, so it made no sense. Besides, Misa had the memory of the day she was abducted. Raito and Ryuzaki were hanging around at college, and she had found Raito a little changed.

Then she thought of Ryuzaki still in their lives in the future, and she shivered. She shook her head. Too much thinking would not do. Direct action was called for.

After all, the most common way to break a male friendship was to throw a beautiful woman between them. Misa was beautiful and could become Ryuzaki's friend, as well, or fake it.

Who knew? Maybe Raito would get jealous and begin to show his love with more enthusiasm.

***

It was for real. They had a lead to Kira. Misa found herself torn between conflicting loyalties.

She admired Kira. Kira had avenged her parents and had saved her from a stalker months ago. Kira was her hero.

She had never thought the task force would catch Kira. But now they had Raito, who was more capable than all of them together. Kira's time might be running out.

She loved Raito, she wanted him free. She wanted her freed of charges, too. She could not protect Kira, because if they did not catch Kira, Raito would suffer the consequences.

It was terrible.

***

She had been an asset in rescuing Matsuda, and now Ryuzaki wanted her to keep on helping them. She was excited. She could show Raito how resourceful she was and, at the same time, she could get close to Kira. Perhaps she could do something that would make Kira help Misa and Raito and save them from the task force.

Raito did not approve of her involvement. He wanted to protect her because he loved her. And yet, Misa was a little down. Did he not trust her with a mission?

Ryuzaki, on the contrary, encouraged her. She felt a bit warmer towards the detective. Her efforts to charm him had been paying off. He was more polite than before. He trusted her skills.

He would give her the chance to risk her life for Raito.

***

Misa was beyond happiness. The ghost, Rem (the name Higuchi had said when he thought Misa was not listening to him) had told her the best news she could hear.

Raito and Kira were one and the same. Misa was the Second Kira. Everything was part of Raito's plan to save Misa and get L. And Misa had been willing to die for her hero, her love. (It was better to live together happily ever after in a perfect world, but for Misa love and death were two sides of the same coin.) And Rem was their ally. The three would be triumphant very soon.

(Ryuzaki had been right about them. He was so clever. What a shame he stood by L.)

What a silly thought! With Ryuzaki gone, most of Misa's troubles would be gone, too. She grinned.

"Misa, a final word," Rem said. "That Ryuzaki... There is an anomaly. Be careful, please."

Misa had to go. She did not understand the word, but she shuddered.

***

The big screens showed how Higuchi was running to his doom. Misa, Raito, and Ryuzaki watched them in the meeting room. Raito was focused on the display. Misa tiptoed towards the detective and whispered in his ear, "Ryuzaki, what does an anomaly mean?"

He blinked. "Is Misa-san calling me names? I do not think this is the best of times."

Misa blushed furiously. She turned around.

"An anomaly is a deviation from the normal or usual order or type. It is an irregularity," Ryuzaki muttered. "Misa-san has found a smart insult or an unusual compliment."

She stared at him. Then, she gave him her second and last peck on the cheek. The chain clinked. Raito was glaring at them.

"One peck meant I had a new friend. Does a second one mean I am your best friend, Misa-san?" L asked.

The chain rattled louder. Raito looked (jealous) annoyed. The men returned their attention to the screens. Misa gave some steps backwards, an old wound wide open.

She half expected Ryuzaki to choke and die.

When it did not happen, Misa was not sure how to feel about it.

***

The world was almost whole again. Misa was free of charges, she was at home. She owned a Death Note, had Ryuk, had recovered her memories. And she knew Ryuzaki was actually L. She remembered that day at college and knew she had known he had been L.

Almost whole. She could not remember his name, only that it was not Japanese. She had been seeing and writing so many names while she had had the eyes, and too many months had passed by, and she saw him just once.

"Misa wants to do the deal!"

"Hyuk! Fine by me, but your life span will be reduced by half another time."

"Misa understands."

As the eyes came back to her, she felt whole again.

***

She chose the black dress carefully, put it on, and left for the cemetery with Ryuk on her tail. Raito had not been clear, but she had understood several things. One, there had been an attack at HQ. Two, Watari might be dead or not. Three, Raito needed her eyes. Four, she might meet L and find out his name!

Watari was dead. She did not care. The old butler had witnessed her most humiliating moments during her confinement. He had what he deserved.

Ryuzaki's red was mute. He had chosen that day to hide his face, the weirdo! There was a glow here and there, but glasses, hair, hood, and the high collar of the outdated trench coat were enough to hide his name. She started growing nervous. She could not fail Raito. She approached her target, gave her condolences, pretended interest.

"Watari was like a surrogate father. He was family. A monster killed my family," Ryuzaki said.

There was a flashing red, but not because of names or numbers. Misa saw her parents' corpses, felt her own despair, saw the crime scene, blood everywhere. She could understand Ryuzaki's feelings.

"Misa is sorry for your lost." She was sincere.

The memory of her mother brought her the memory of Rem. Where was she? She might be there. Unless...

She looked around, searching for Rem. A red flash shone. Ryuzaki's face was available. She studied the red, frantic. Foreign characters. Two words. But the red was so similar to blood and her parents' corpses would not go, and she shook her head.

The glow disappeared. His face was hidden. No!

She had to leave. She could not. She stood at a certain distance, watching the men. Ryuzaki's name was not visible anymore. It was no use. She had not had enough time to figure out his name.

In the park, Raito was very angry at her failure. Anger made him rude. He chilled down at knowing of Watari's demise. When he asked about L's numbers, Misa was the one to get angry at his lack of empathy. He had never had the eyes, did not know the difficulties. Names, numbers! However, she complied with him, she loved him. Then the truth about Rem's absence showed up. She had done it. She had sacrificed her life and abandoned Misa. Misa-Misa came to the rescue. She finished listening to his love's speech with a heart full of gratefulness. Then she felt the touch of something in her earlobe and forehead, like scraps of paper or confetti.

The monster appeared out of nowhere. She screamed.

***

It was heaven. She could get lost in Raito's kisses. She had been starving for them. In the park, they had made up, and he had kissed her. Cold kisses, devoid of passion, until they had become passionate. Now, in the privacy of her dressing room, they were sharing their love. She wanted to take the next step so much. They were adults. She would help him get rid of his shyness.

He stopped her. It was vexing to be rejected. They had been a thing for quite a good time now. Was she not attractive enough for him? What else did she have to do to get his attention?

He left her with Sidoh, the new Shinigami who was dictating the names she had to write down. She peeked at Raito in the other room. His gestures were similar to those she had made when she had stopped Higuchi's lecherous advances. They revealed disgust.

It could not be possible. Her eyes were lying to her.

***

"Ryuk, I've been thinking about something," Misa said.

"So?"

"You said there had been an anomaly. When Sidoh appeared and talked to you."

"And?"

Misa frowned. Rem would have not done this. She would have been collaborative. "Rem once warned Misa about Ryuzaki. She said there was an anomaly. Is it the one you were referring to?"

"Hyuk! Rem warned you? What did she say, exactly?"

"What Misa has just told you."

"She didn't elaborate. Neither will I. Anomaly, anomaly. Two plus two. Use your brains."

He was not funny at all now that he possessed her. "Umph, forget about it," she pouted. She stood up from the chair and went to the kitchen to take some fruit.

Ryuk had not finished. He phased through the thin wall and startled her. She almost cut herself with the paring knife.

"Hey!"

"Use your brains or use your feet. Go to the headquarters with a silly excuse. Go where the party's going on, hyuk!"

"Misa and Ryuk must wait for Raito to tell them." Her pulse was running fast from the fright.

Ryuk groaned. She understood him. She also wanted to go there and stay with Raito and kill Ryuzaki once and for all.

In fact, why did Raito have to still be there with him?

***

Ryuk would not stop complaining. "Sidoh's a pain in the ass. He should have remained in our realm for years before noticing his note was gone. Beyondormason must have warned him. And now, I have to listen to Sidoh slurring the names of the killing list. Where's Light? He must be near! Why doesn't he come and see us? I'm booooored."

"Take an apple."

He hissed, took the apple and went on spilling names and websites where Misa could look for the photographs of the criminals. Her eyes were sore, her heart, too.

Why didn't Light want to meet her?

***

At the studios, the staff were barking against Kira and the purge. Not the twenty names Misa had written the night before that were still unknown, but the politicians and other Kira's enemies. They were also making a fuzz about some drama of several criminals judged by Kira long ago (Raito-Kira, Misa had not written those). It seemed that new evidence had shown them not to be guilty in the first place. Bah! Her boyfriend was never wrong. Misa-Misa had to do her best not to let Misa told them off. Ryuk looked entertained for a change.

Then the presents arrived: two huge boxes and an envelope with a card. Oh! Raito had been acting oddly because he wanted to give her a surprise! She shut herself in her private space. She took the card first.

It was signed by Ryuzaki. She could not believe her eyes.

After a second reading, she understood. He was apologising for everything she had been through for his mistake in thinking she was the Second Kira. Too much for being a genius, silly thing! There was a cheque with a pretty sum of money written on it, as salary for the help Misa had provided the Kira Task Force. She opened the boxes. There was a big cake that looked delicious. It was a fruit cake, not much fatty, with a shiny frosting and lots of ripe strawberries. Misa-san can eat it because she is smart enough to burn the calories, the card said. There was also a gothic doll, a rare collection piece. She admired the details: the silk of the witch costume, the black lace, a bag with four tiny dolls in one hand, a shiny cauldron and a broomstick in the other. How could he know her taste? Well, he had investigated her for the Kira case, hadn't he? She shrugged. This must be so expensive. Then she unpacked the portrait.

She gaped at it, speechless.

She left the room for a moment, closed the door.

"Ryuk, look for cameras or bugs in the presents."

"Hyuk! They are clean."

She grinned. Then, she shared the cake with the crew, Hideki Ryuga included. She excused herself for not eating. Diet. She ordered an errand boy to deliver the boxes to her house.

The working hours finished. She have supper at a café. After that, she walked the last two streets towards her flat. There were a few people walking down in the opposite direction. A strong wind blew. Out of a sudden, a new red gleamed near her. It belonged to an odd old man who was wearing torn clothes and a hat that had flown away. Misa scanned the red and realised the characters were foreign. T- Thie- Thier- Thierry Mo... No red. The man had covered his bearded face and unrealistic huge nose (seriously, it looked fake) with a ragged scarf. Then he was gone. She kept on walking. The characters had made her curious because they were foreign. She had thought they might help her remember Ryuzaki's true name. Thierry did not awake any memory. Just a stupid foreign name of an ugly beggar.

Finally at home, she admired the portrait. It was a picture of her, inspired by one of her most famous photographs. The artist had taken it to another level. She looked like a queen. She would not write Ryuzaki's name until he told her who the artist was. He or she had to paint Raito and Misa together—the King and the Queen of a perfect world.

A hiccup stopped her musings, and she realised she had been crying. She remembered someone who had drawn pictures of her long ago, she thought about Raito and her, she thought about the departed. She was not sure for whom she was shedding tears.

She pulled herself together. If Ryuzaki was capable of being so thoughtful and choose those gifts for her, what would not Raito give her, being his boyfriend? She smiled.

Next morning, after checking that no one of the staff had died because of any poison in the cake, she gratefully ate a piece of it. She was acting like a detective. She was clever enough to burn the calories, indeed!

***

The only gift Raito gave her was a photo of a certain Takada Kiyomi, the cow that wanted to steal him from her.

Misa had just packed her clothes in the suitcase for the impending business trip. She crossed out the items in the checklist. She had been absent-minded since afternoon, when she had seen Raito, and would stop from time to time to glare at the hateful photo. Takada was pretty. No big deal—Misa was prettier than her. But she was a college student. She looked intelligent. Big deal. To make things worse, her hair was inky and her eyes, although with a different shape and a lighter shade, were grey. Just like Ryuzaki.

How unnerving!

She took the Death Note. How she wanted to write her name! She stored it in a safe box, locked it, and put it inside the suitcase. She would write it soon, when Raito told her to eliminate her brother. Raito did not care about that bitch.

And yet, he had smelt of her perfume, had groomed himself to meet her, damn it, Sidoh himself had talked about the beautiful girl! And Raito had been acting so rude. He had made cruel remarks, had gripped Misa's arm. Didn't he realise the difference in height and strength between them? Misa had not had a good day: a terrible headache, stress, so much noise, so much dancing red. Ryuk had not helped, either. He had been particularly annoying, chanting about some Armonia. Nonetheless, Misa had done her best. She had had her nails polished, had been wearing a juicy lipstick colour, had concealed her eye bags. She laughed bitterly. Perhaps she should have appeared with black shadows under her eyes Ryuzaki-style to appeal to Raito. He had only reacted when she had mentioned Ryuzaki's card and present. (Only the cake, she did not want Raito to doubt Misa, and she wanted to find the portrait's author to draw him before spoiling the surprise.) Finally, he had accused Misa of marring the latest purge. If at all, it was the Shinigami's fault; Misa had followed the list and instructions to the letter.

She glanced at the pic again. The Takadas' red mocked at her. They would see soon. Despite everything, Raito had chosen Misa, had given her Takada's life.

She sat down in front of her computer and browsed some websites. She had not made any mistake. Fine. She sipped her chamomile tea. There was expectation among fans about Misa-Misa and Hideki's film. Fine. She gossiped SeKond Coming. They were a little freakish, but they were always saying good things about Kira. She used an account she had convinced a lovestruck colleague to do for her; there were no traces of Misa's email there. Misa is smart enough to burn the calories and beat Takada. Is Misa-san smart enough to beat Ryuzaki? Yes. Misa has eyes that will bring you down, L.

Beep. A private chat room had opened.

"Excuse me. I've seen you around here a few times. Pleased to meet you." It came from some E.D.

Misa looked at the screen, entertained. "Pleased to meet you, too."

"Can I ask you a question? I have been asking before, but no one here seems to give good advice. I may be lucky this time! It's a bit personal, about how to attract a particular person, how to make him notice me."

That was interesting. A girl in love with some boy. Misa had never had trouble with attracting men. Raito was only playing hard to get, and after all, he was already her boyfriend. He was so perfect he deserved to be a little hard to get.

A thought. Umm. She had to check it. "You aren't talking about Kira, are you, E.D.?"

"No! Kira is like a deity for me, I would not dare. It's a young man here, a devoted Kira's supporter."

Love between Kira's supporters. Misa giggled. "Pay attention. The ideal thing is that it was him that got attracted to you. But men can be shy or indecisive, or blind to love."

"Yes, they can!"

"Do something great, something loud with a degree of mystery to catch his attention. Do it in front of an audience, as it is aimed at many people, but in such a way he realises he is the real target. Must be something important for him, in a way that makes him be proud of himself. Don't be timid. Give it all. And dress yourself to look real good, beautiful, when you meet for real."

"That sounds great. Thanks so much."

Perhaps the girl was mousy and unattractive, but anyway.

She surfed a bit more. Just before she was going to log out, she saw the file E.D. had uploaded to the forum. The file was encrypted, it could not be opened. The message read, "If you are worthy of the gifts I can give you, you will be able to open this file. The first in doing so will prove to me how loyal a supporter he could be. I am waiting for a hard-working, intelligent, devoted man, a lover of justice. I am thinking of you, Sakujo. Show me I am not mistaken. Open this file and reveal the picture it contains. Open it and receive the gift ex deum."

She is not doing bad, Misa thought.

Sakujo answered.

"I will show my devotion.

I will not fail you."

Wow! Misa's advice had worked brilliantly. She would be able to beat anyone and everyone to make Raito hers forever!

In a better mood, she went to bed.

Ryuk's laughs lingered for a while.