I. Cravings (渇望)
He hadn’t been to this one since then… not since he had gone to the human realm.
“Hey Ryuk. Wanna gamble?” Elir Mepherik asked, looking up from the table, a bowl full of animal bones clutched between his arms.
The skeletal face of Raght, as he liked to be called now, looked up at him. “Yeah Ryuk, are you in?” He could almost sense the slightest hint of a threat in the Shinigami’s tone.
It was a grey day, like all the rest. A phantom pain coursed from Ryuk’s stomach to his fingertips. His hands shook, contorting slightly; his eyes were on the portal looking down at the human world, so full of… Apples.
With a sigh, Ryuk replied, “Nah I think I’m good, you guys.”
“Ah, don’t be like that. Join us. Three’s better than two. Raght’s smokin’ me anyways…”
“I would go down to the human realm,” Ryuk said miserably, eyeing the portal, “if I had another–”
That was when he saw it: a Death Note, its cover white, poking like a bone up from the ashy sandy that coated much of the Shinigami Realm’s surface. It was stuck next to a rock, buried up to its rich cursive black-font cover in ash when Ryuk plucked it out.
“H-hey,” he said, looking around, “whose notebook is this?”
Mepherik, whose real face hid behind a long-chinned mask, painted grey and red, and a smattering of animal hair for a wig, wheezed out in a sneering way, “Never seen that book before. Never seen one without a black cover before.”
“It’s uncommon but not unheard of,” Raght replied simply. “That notebook belonged to the Shinigami Baloucher who committed suicide three weeks ago sitting on that very rock,” he said in a cool, calm voice. Ryuk detected not a hint of malice coming from him.
“Oh did he? Why’d he do that?”
“He grew bored of this place too. But unlike you, he saw no hope in the human realm.”
Ryuk chuckled. He had no hope in the human realm either. Apples were all that mattered to him: juicy, crispy apples. Nearby, a tree, covered in ash, loomed impressively. Looking back to Raght, he remembered something Kira had once told him: This world is rotten. More often than not, more and more lately, he had found the Shinigami Realm to be of little difference to nothingness itself, with the vast stretches of desolation extending in all directions. The meager groups of Shinigami who remained were little more than the dwindling watchkeepers of a kingdom so long fallen their purpose had faded even from their minds.
Ryuk’s wings unfurled wide. He was not ready to give up. “Sorry I can’t stay boys.” He pocketed the white notebook, grinning. “I’m going back to the human realm.”
Rain. It was always raining. But that wasn’t especially uncommon on Jeju Island. Near was sitting in the ambulance, watching what was going on outside. The SPK, or Special Provision for Kira, was still his to command, but with its prime suspect now dead, their funding had gone dry. Only he and Commander Rester remained. It was just the two of them on this operation.
But it hadn’t always been so. Just a few months ago, both Gevanni and Lidner had still been alive–before the accident, anyways. He had held onto a two percent suspicion that Kira still lived and that he had killed them, but no other unusual deaths had occurred since Light Yagami’s death. There was no logic to believing Kira still lived. He couldn’t chase ghosts.
And all this rain. Near didn’t understand how people could live in it, as warm and humid as it was. The constant noise was hampering Near’s abilities by six point two percent. Near sighed, tired. He would be glad to leave Jeju City soon. He looked down at the marbles he was playing with. They were so messy, so disorganized, so unpredictable.
Commander Anthony Rester opened the passenger door of the ambulance and got in. He was soaked. “You were right, L. Like always. And he had the girl too,” Rester coughed.
“Did she survive?” Near diverted twenty-two percent of his attention to Rester, continuing to play with the marbles. He picked one up and tried to balance it on another.
Rester wasn’t paying attention. Gruffly, he said, “Yeah, he cut her once on the cheek before we took him out. We were lucky this time.” He peered out the window, trying to see through the downpouring tropical storm. “They’re bringing her out. You’re going to need to move, L.”
Just at that time, the back doors swung open; EMTs and Paramedics swarmed in. Near, unmoving, was pushed aside, his marbles flying about. An EMT slipped on several of his bigger ones, and the room went quiet.
A woman with a pudgy face glared at him, shouting something vitriolic in Korean.
Near was not listening. He got up and delicately picked up each and every marble, placing them into his pocket. “You can bring her in now.”
Another EMT snapped something crude at Near.
Within moments the victim was brought into the ambulance, and the vehicle was on its way. The remaining EMTs inside stared at Near, who simply stared back. They got off three blocks later, walking the rest of the way back to their hotel in the warm mid-afternoon rain.
“Commander Rester, how many men did it take to pull this off?” Near asked.
“Uh… I think it was… it was a dozen. Yeah, a dozen. But that doesn’t count the paramedics,” Rester pointed around at the paramedics in the ambulance. “Yeah, without them, Ms. Ozaki would have probably died. It’s a good thing you thought of them.”
“What of Genzo Ozaki?”
“I guess that’ll make finding his brother all the more trickier.”
“Yeah, you can count on that. He’s going to cancel all of his business meetings after he learns of this, and he’ll only send proxies–”
“I want to go back to the UN. Surely, they’ll see that I can’t catch the Ozaki Brothers without my own men. The costs will become unmanageable if this continues.” Near paused politely, waiting for his commander’s response. When none came, he said, “Rester?”
“Yeah, fine. We’ll go. But it’ll all be the same. They’ll deny the request.”
“Maybe. But we have to try. It’s the only way to win this game.” Near, fascinated by a single marble in his hand blinked. “I’ve grown bored as it is.”
“Well, in any case, we’re here,” Rester said, gesturing to the nearest grey-drenched building.
The commander had booked a simple hotel room with two beds. It had been a while since Near had gotten to stay in a suite–not since Light Yagami had been alive. Inside was quiet, cold, as if abandoned. But this place would be their base of operations for the foreseeable future–until the last of the Ozaki Brothers was captured, dead or alive.
There was enough money left for Near to work on at least a few more cases. But now the funding had gone dry, and the two SPK survivors were reduced to helping in whatever cases were available, with little chance of selecting their preferences.
It didn’t help that C-Kira was the most recent Kira to surface. If not for him, perhaps the funders would see pursuing the Kira cases as meaningful. But the Kira’s weren’t meaningful anymore. Indeed, not a single one had put up any kind of challenge, apart from Light Yagami. Kira had one thing, even in death, that Near could never have: the people. Somehow, his perverse sense of justice had struck a chord with the most of the people around the world. To Near, that only made him despise them more.
Several pundits and news analysts had even called for L to reveal himself to the public to atone for his crime of finding and killing Kira. Near wouldn’t play that game though. The real L only revealed himself to a select few, and only because of the seriousness of the Kira case. Near had to think like L, to be like L. And L would never give himself up.
“Hey Near, letter for you,” Rester said, walking into the room, a crisp white envelope in one hand. “From the front desk. I checked it myself–it’s clean.”
Near paused, looking up. No one knew he was here; no one knew he was Near. After all, he was L. Therefore, it had been a while since he’d gotten a letter. Nevertheless, he trusted Rester, so he took it. On its face was written only one word: Asahi–the name of the third most popular detective in the world.
Who knows I’m here? Who knows L uses that alias?
This questions bloomed like marbles rolling from the lightless corners of Near’s mind. He felt excited, drawn in by the mystery of this. In the upper corner, a return address listed no name save for the letter C. Near stared at that, thinking a dozen different thoughts. He knew no C. Surely this was somebody from Wammy’s House, but could it really be that C?
Near wouldn’t believe it. He tore open the envelope and found a simple message:
“Hello Nathaniel. It appears you are in a bit of a dicey situation at the present moment. I should not like to have to be the one to reveal your identity to the public, but should the files on the Kira case not be made publically available within a week’s time… well, perhaps you will force my hand. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that, L. With Kindest Regards, C”
“What’s it say?” Rester asked, peering at him steadily.
“Nothing,” Near said quietly, folding the piece of paper several times before pocketing it. “In the morning, we’ll interview Genzo Osaki’s daughter, provided she’s recovered from her wounds,” Near said flatly.
Rester needs not know. Whoever this C is, he has no idea who he’s up against.
Ryuk emerged into the human realm, greeted by a blinding sun piercing through the cloudless sky. Squinting, the Shinigami looked around for signs of humankind. Below him was a town, modest in appearance, located on the outskirts of what looked like a pretty big city. Ryuk descended to the ground, noting the warm weather.
"Ah, this is better. No more cold, no more gambling and, best of all, plenty of apples!” Ryuk walked up to a nearby apple tree and carefully plucked one out. He took a bite, and another, and then another. “Oh… it’s so good. So juicy sweet! Hahah, I’ve missed the human realm.”
A girl standing on the sidewalk screamed, having witnessed an apple pick itself from the tree and then proceed to disappear in bite-sized chunks in front of her. Ryuk ate another apple, and then another, and soon enough the girl was running down the street screaming. She wouldn’t be the one. She was too young anyways.
Next to the apple tree was a window showing a classroom full of high school students inside. Like Light Yagami, they were Japanese, and Ryuk could understand their language perfectly. His stomach feeling warm and full, the Shinigami, instead of reaching for a fourth apple, instead stepped through the wall, looking for his prey.
Their voices went from being muffled to being annoying loud and cranky. They were high school students alright–some no older than Light had been. Ryuk noticed several paper banners pinned to a bulletin board near the door:
Ryuk grinned. It was perfect.Not constrained by earthly limitations, the Shinigami simply walked through the students and desks and sat down in an empty desk in the back. The class had just begun.
“As you can see, class, I’ve put up several names on the board. I want someone to tell me the significance of each of them.” The man speaking was obviously the teacher. He looked around, as no one raised their hands. “No one? Has no one followed the Kira case? Do none of you remember it? It was only nine years ago.”
A student in the front raised his hand. “Sir, we were all children when the Kira case took place. I don’t think any of us can remember it that well.”
“Ah. Well then, I’ll give us all a brief history of the main players in the investigation,” the teacher said. He was surprisingly nonchalant. “This class will explore all of the Kiras, their motives and histories, no matter how feeble they may seem, when compared to True Kira. First, Higuchi Kyosuke. I doubt any of you would remember him. He was one of the Kiras–one of the lesser Kiras. We know quite a lot about this man actually and his actions as Kira. This may be because he was not personally connected to True Kira.”
Ryuk looked at the students as they discussed Light. They didn’t know his name nor even the details of his death. Only Ryuk knew the truth. Maybe I should have been their teacher, heh.
The teacher proceeded up to the boy whose nametag read: Kiryu Haruki. The boy with messy brown hair and dark eyes had not been paying attention. “Tell me, Haruki. Why did True Kira give Mr. Kyosuke his power?”
The boy yawned, blinking effeminately. “He probably didn’t want to get caught and wanted to divert attention away from himself.”
A horse-faced boy in the back of the class spoke up, “Yeah, but he killed that one guy, right in front of everyone! I feel like that was kind of a bold move.”
The teacher sat on the edge of his desk listening to the discussion. He looked over at Haruki, who was staring back at him. “So, Haruki, now that you know all about what I am going to teach, tell me… why do you think True Kira never intended on contacting the world about his noble purpose?”
Haruki began again in his calm, unblinking manner, “I don’t think he intended to be found out. Not at first, at least. It was a personal to him–to rid the world of evil. Kira was acting as justice by only targeting criminals. That’s how he saw it, anyways.”
Another student turned to Haruki. She had long black hair, a pale, thin face, and water muddy green eyes. Plastered above the left breast of her uniform was a nametag: Miyamoto Misaki. “Yeah, but he killed everyone the same way. I mean a guy as smart as that should’ve known that the cops would see a pattern, eventually… He should have been ready for it. That’s all I’m saying. L tracked him here pretty fast. He was too arrogant. That was his downfall.”
Without pause, Haruki continued, “We don’t know how Kira killed his victims, but I think even he didn’t know how to use his powers at first. And it’s possible that heart attacks are the only way to kill people with whatever he used.”
The teacher stood up with his mechanical, academic poses. “Perhaps, subconsciously, our Kira wanted the world to know about his presence? So then, why didn’t he immediately use the televisions to contact us first?”
Haruki sighed. He obviously wanted to leave. But instead, he continued on, “I know if I had Kira’s power, I’d want the world to know, but it would be too risky to do that. It‘s actually quite smart the way he revealed himself.”
At the end of the day, Ryuk slipped the Death Note with the white cover into Misaki Miyamoto’s bag. Haruki had stayed after school for soccer practice. But now, he was walking home with Misaki, who had stayed behind to do homework, seemingly to wait for him. It was strange. Ryuk didn’t understand humans sometimes.
The sky was tinged a sharp shade of orange, brimming with the sounds of distant trains and starved seabirds.
The two returned to the same home together. They had been talking gossip the whole way. All Ryuk could think was when his next apple would be. The sun was setting fast. Ryuk only hoped that she wouldn’t pick up the notebook in front of her family, let alone Haruki–the boy who curiously reminded Ryuk of Light.
A woman came around a corner to greet Haruki and Misaki and Ryuk as they stepped through the front door. “Haruki, you’re late!”
“Oh, hi mother. Sorry I’m late. Soccer practice went long today. Misaki stayed late with me. I thought she could come over for dinner?”
“It’s no matter, Haruki, but we started eating already. Your plate is in the kitchen. I’ll get another for your friend.”
“Okay, we’ll be down in a minute.”
Haruki walked passed his mother and to the stairs. Good. Ryuk would need to know which room was his. Haruki’s room was more or less as Ryuk imagined: neat, organized, but minimalist. He wondered if either of them would scream. He had picked Misaki primarily because he expected she would not. As for the boy, however… Ryuk had not meant for him to ever behold the Shinigami. But if they were this close, it would be impossible to keep Haruki oblivious to the Death Note for long. Ryuk knew he shouldn’t bother trying.
He waited in the boy’s closet, peering out the opening as the two of them continued talking for what seemed like at least ten minutes (a life-age in Shinigami time). At one point the two sat on the bed and began going over homework problems, and Ryuk nearly fell asleep. Misaki showed no sign of seeing the strange new book in her bag, or if she had, she hadn’t mentioned it at all.
They snogged for a while, which was alright, but then they were called down for dinner. Ryuk snuck out of the closet only after they had left. The door was long shut behind him before he pulled the white-covered book from the bag and set it gently on top of Misaki’s bag, making it clearly visible. There was no way they’d miss it when they got back. He only wondered who would pick it up first. In Ryuk’s mind, though he had had a clear target in mind, this added bit of chaos only made him more inquisitive and eager to see how these humans would react.
Impatience, however, was a deep and cutting emotion, affecting even seasoned gods such as Ryuk. He was the sixth-ranked Shinigami, and supposedly that meant something, but he had forgotten what that was. He waited only three to four more minutes in silence before flying out the window–or rather, through the window–to the apple tree outside Haruki’s home.
There’s a lot of apples in this town, Ryuk thought to himself. Dying sunlight slanted on the glistening, summer-ripe fruit hanging by the scores on the twenty-foot tree. Eh, he thought, reaching for one high up in the tree, wondering if anyone would see him this time and knowing that he did not care if they did, at least this’ll be a little interesting, no matter what happens. Who knows. Maybe one of them could turn out to be like Light…
The bone-bowl was empty. A smattering of dust whisked through the air, uncurling itself like marrow powder. “You got me again, Raght,” Elir Mepherik growled softly. “Damn luck, I say.”
“I’m going,” Raght said suddenly. “If anyone asks, tell them I lost my Death Note in the human realm.”
“Y-you did what…?!” The mask-wearing Shinigami’s eyes were wide with surprise. “R-raght…”
“Oh, I have more than one Death Note. You see, I’m something of a prodigy in bone gambling. Everyone I’ve played has lost bigtime to me. I won several notebooks from Armonia Justin Beyondormason that way, heh. Now I’m going to go have some fun. This place is so rotten,” he snarled, looking around at the vast expanses of rubble and lifelessness. “The human realm was said to be a fun place. I’ll go have fun there. Good luck paying me back, Mepherik,” he said, eyeing the less Shinigami fouly as he stood amongst the ash. “If your debt is not returned to me in twenty-three days, you will surrender your Death Note to me as payment.”
“B-but then how will I write down names and keep on living, Raght?!”
The Shinigami shrugged and kicked off, angling himself at the portal. “Figure it out. I’m sure you’re smart enough. A Shinigami with as high a rank as you should have no problem coming up with what you need to.”
He cackled, silencing the fourteenth-ranked Shinigami with ease. It had taken a bribe of only seventy-two bananas and apples from the human realm for the old man to allow Raght to take Rem’s old place as the fourth-ranked Shinigami, bypassing more than a dozen senior candidates. There were grumblings, but few would question Raght to his face, for he knew he intimidated them.
Good, he thought, and he jumped through the portal leading to Japan.
His mother gave him a look before he closed the door behind them. I’m in high school now, Haruki thought. Come on Mom, this isn’t weird, I promise. Dad would be proud, he thought, sighing. Still, his mother’s look worried him, so he promised himself they wouldn’t go all the way tonight. I’m only fifteen. Most other guys my age haven’t done it yet.
Misaki sat on his the edge of his bed, looking down at her backpack. She had been going on about his mother’s cooking, almost to an annoying degree, when suddenly her voice broke and she stopped, staring blankly down at her bag.
“What is it?”
“D-death… Note…?” she read aloud slowly. “Come here, look. Is this yours, Haruki?”
The boy walked over, immediately noticing the white-covered book lying on top of Misaki’s backpack. That wasn’t there when we left. I know it wasn’t. He shivered and peered around, finding nothing but familiarity, hazy, yet indiscreet. The cover’s headnote was written in English, and thus was somewhat awkward for either of them to try to pronounce. Misaki was better at English than Haruki, but even she said she had never seen these two words put together and hardly knew what to make of the meaning.
The instructions inside were in English as well. This was almost like homework, trying to decipher the meaning. The two of them sat on his bed, shoulders rubbing against one another, huddled over the book, trying to read out what it said. And though he could feel his girlfriend’s heart fluttering, Haruki himself remained calm and a little perplexed. He turned the page and continued reading the rules aloud as Misaki listened patiently. This doesn’t seem like it’s real. More like a prank. What are we doing, reading this? Are we really this gullible?
“Hey, I think we should stop,” Haruki said after finishing reading aloud the fourth rule. “This has to be a joke.”
“Does it?” she asked him. “What if it works?”
“You’re going to write someone’s name in there? Come on, Misaki. It’s a prank,” Haruki continued. “It says anyone will die of a heart attack if their name is written in there,” he pointed emphatically at the little white book. “That sounds just like how Kira kills people. Don’t you see, Misaki? It’s a hoax. They’re making up a way to pretend you’re Kira and–”
“Would you object if I wrote down a criminal’s name and wait to see what happens?”
“Haruki, come on,” her voice rose earnestly. “Are you really going to be like this? Are we going to have to have a fight over this?”
That was the last thing Haruki wanted. Really, all he wanted was the continuation of his species. “No, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, gosh!” he said, his cheeks going red. He felt ashamed of how un-manly he felt in that moment, her cold gaze upon him, peeling back the layers.
“So I can write someone’s name in it? Would you allow that, Haruki?” Her tone was bitter.
Haruki shrugged. “It’s a prank,” he said. “This is ridiculous.”
“Why’s it written in English then, huh?”
“Why would the gods speak English?” Haruki retorted. “Of all the languages… Someone just did it to be a little cheeky. It’s almost like putting all the rules in a secret code. You have to be good enough at English to read it out…”
“You were almost good enough,” Misaki smiled at Haruki.
His ears went red and tingled and he smiled uncontrollably in response, that dumb oaf he was. He had nothing–no response, no way to console her or egg her on. He was paralyzed by her beauty for a moment. And in that moment, Misaki reached forward, clicking on her pen, and wrote down the name of a man they had been discussing earlier–a former yakuza who had lost at least three fingers in his wet ops, the details of which had been discussed on last night’s evening news all throughout Japan.
Haruki faintly knew this was a bad idea, but he could not stop her now. The name was written: Hattori Kiyoshi. He was currently on trial–at this very moment–so if he suddenly died of a heart attack…
She was one step ahead of him. The remote was in Misaki’s slender hand, and in one click, the boy’s television hummed on. It was already on the evening news. There had been an earthquake in Hokkaido–nothing serious, but one building had been damaged to the point of requiring evacuation, and the business owner and others were at present discussing whether to demolish it and rebuild it, or try to reinforce it in case of another earthquake in the future. Nothing about Hattori was being played. They watched for five minutes in silence.
“It’s fake,” Haruki said to her, grasping her hand and squeezing it. His girlfriend was left-handed, and he didn’t know why, but he had always loved that about her.
Misaki’s grin was fierce, just as it had been when she had scolded him in that stupid Kira philosophy class. “Just you wait. It hasn’t even been a minute yet.”
“I thought it was supposed to take forty seconds.”
“Hey, you were the one translating it, not me. I thought you got a B- in English last year–”
“Shut up!” he snapped at her suddenly, the color surging into his cheeks again. But this time it was not lust that tempered his cheeks, but shame and ire mixed into one hideous beast. “Why do you always have to bring that up?! And besides, I’m sure it said forty seconds… I know how to read numbers…”
She had cut him deep and she realized that. “H-hey, Haruki, look,” she said soothingly, “you’re about the smartest person I’ve ever known and–”
“Oh shit, look!”
On the television, the lights all turned to red and black, flashing impatiently, making Haruki’s eye twitch subtly. “We’re sorry to interrupt your current broadcast, but this is Breaking News: moments ago while on the witness stand, defendant Kiyoshi Hattori fell over, grabbing his chest, and collapsed. Several people attempted CPR but were unsuccessful in reviving him. He was then rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 9:13 pm. The initial report given to us is that he died of a heart attack.”
There was something uplifting in that reporter’s voice. Yukari Yamaguchi, he thought dreamily for the faintest of moments before it all came crashing down to reality.
“H-haruki…” Misaki had gone white as a ghost. Her lips and fingers were trembling. “I-I-I k-killed him…”
Tears formed in fresh waves at the corners of her eyes. His girlfriend’s long and pale neck glistened with sweat. “It was just a…” he was saying, when out from the wall, a floating monster with wings appeared.
Neither one of them screamed.“Hey there,” the monster said stoically, looking directly at Misaki. “My name’s Ryuk. That’s my Death Note you’ve got.”
II. Murder (殺害)
“Good afternoon, Jeju City,” the newscaster said, staring awkwardly at the camera. She adjusted her papers uncomfortably and sat up in her chair. “It’s three o’clock. We have some breaking news for you now… It appears that details regarding the Kira Case have been leaked online. We are bringing this information to you at…”
He placed the last lego on the very tip of the roof, completing a miniature recreation of Wammy’s House. Twisting a curl of white hair around his finger, Near cycled through his memories as best as he could remember them, searching for anything that would tell him exactly who this C character was. Not one of us, he knew.
There had been numerous children selected to be a possible heir for L. Of them, only he and Mello, the only remaining candidates of the fourth generations of successors, were left. He knew of a C–but that candidate, along with A and B, was now dead.
Whoever this C was, it was someone different, perhaps a drop-out who knew his real name… But no, that didn’t make sense. The C from the first generation of candidates to succeed L was dead. He had died over twenty years ago.
The shoulders of his jacket were damp from rain. “She wouldn’t say anything.” Rester closed the door behind him. The birds were gone.
“That was expected,” Near replied coolly. “Ichizo Ozaki is in Japan. Yokohama, specifically. That’s where his gang is operating from. We should go there now.”
“L…” Rester’s brow furrowed, and Near had trouble understanding if that was concern or fear he was portraying.
“Are you afraid, Commander?”
“We need funding. If I don’t have more men next time, things won’t go well. He knows we’re coming for him. He’ll be prepared. He’s got an entire gang of Yakuza protecting him.”
“C released the information,” Near replied bluntly. “Almost all of it.”
Once again, Rester’s emotions rolled across his wrinkled face in an uneven tide. “Did he reveal our names?”
“The names of the Japanese Police who were involved with the case were leaked, as were the names of all members of the SPK, except for mine.”
“Kira is dead,” Near said flatly. “We burned the notebooks. There is nothing to fear.”
“Why would anyone release that information?” Rester grumbled, taking off his coat and lying it across the back of a chair. Sitting down, he ran his fingers through his blond hair, watching the newswoman continue on about the leak. “What could C possibly gain from this?”
“Kira has been dead for nine years. And yet, the people are still with him,” L said. “They want my head.”
Commander Anthony Rester grimaced, his face turning pale. “He doesn’t know your name, so whoever he is, he can’t be the real C.”
“And yet, somehow, this person has gotten ahold of classified information. That’s interesting. Our list of candidates has been narrowed significantly.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing for now. This is a distraction–a way to get me to back off. I won’t. I suspect this C character, whoever he is, is in business with the Ozaki Brothers, and doesn’t want me to catch them. They survived Kira,” Near mused, pulling the last lego off the top of Wammy’s house, observing the imperfect creation. “That’s how we know they’re using pseudonyms too. Most criminals weren’t this careful.”
“But Near, we need more men. You and me alone cannot–”
“For now, I wish to keep a low profile.” He continued removing the blocks until the structure was no longer recognizable. “We will go to the UN only if my next hunch proves not to be true.”
“And what’s that?”
“That Genzo Ozaki is already dead.”
“I would like to speak to Genzo Ozaki’s first wife, please.”
“L, I already told you, she wouldn’t say anything…”
“That’s right, Commander. Tell me… why would the ex-wife of a Yakuza druglord refuse to cooperate with us, after her ex-husband held her at knife-point and even attempted to kill her?”
“I have no clue. Maybe she still loves him.”
“She’s afraid–afraid she’ll be murdered if she speaks up. Why would that be, Commander?”
“Maybe Ichizo won’t–”
“No. That’s what we’re expected to believe.” He raised his eyes hopefully towards the window again, but all he saw was the rolling tide of dark clouds swarming into Jeju City. “If we find Ichizo, we’ll find C,” he declared.
“But I thought you said he was dead,” Rester replied, doubt tingeing his voice.
Near shrugged in disinterest. His mind was racing with thoughts of L. He wouldn’t wait. Now is the right time to act. C won’t expect that.
A flush colored Near’s cheek. Excitement building in his chest, the man stood, glancing around the dark room. “Let’s go now.”
“Right now? I just got done questioning her, L.”
Unblinking, Near strode to the door and feebly pulled it open. “The hardest game to win is a won game. Please, Commander, would you accompany me to the hospital?” he asked calmly, betraying not a hint of emotion.
Rester gave him a knowing look, pulling his coat back off the back of the chair, and following him out without a word.
The two returned home that day later than usual, but the Kiryu family hardly noticed. So caught up were they in watching the evening news, his mother and sister, that only when he set his backpack on the couch next to where they sat in astonished repose, did the two of them look up at Haruki.
“Haruki! Look! The Kira Files were leaked a few hours ago!” Masumi said eagerly.
“Who was Kira then?” he asked, for a moment thinking back to the Kira Studies class today, where the professor had argued that the identity of the real Kira–not Higuchi Kyosuke–was someone who had assisted in some way in the Kira investigation.
“The son of the chief of the National Police Agency… Light Yagami.”
“Never heard of him,” Haruki yawned. “What’s for dinner, mom?”
“It’s just leftovers tonight, Haruki.”
“Alright. Misaki’s over too.”
“That’s fine,” she said. “Your father won’t be home till late tonight.”
“Oh, why not?” Father never usually stayed late. He was, in Haruki’s imagination, a robot, operating like clockwork day in, day out. He was always home for dinner, except when he was working on presentations for the first-of-the-month company meetings, or other similar projects.
His mother bit her lip, as she often did. “Work, same as usual. He’s been working on a project with his boss for quite some time, but he hasn’t said any details about it yet.”
“Huh. Well, I hope he’s getting paid for overtime if he’s working it.” His mother sighed, shaking her head as the news continued on, detailing more of the release of the Kira Files. He wondered mildly if there had been any mention of a Death Note. Walking into the kitchen, Haruki took two bowls from the shelf, and pulled out some day-old soba his mother had cooked from the refrigerator, pouring out portions for himself and his girlfriend. His mind was running blank, almost numb. All day, she had been white-faced, unresponsive, shaken. He wasn’t quite sure how to approach the situation, nor how he could make her feel better. Is that even possible? She killed that criminal… just like Kira did. That’s a fact. I can’t insult her intelligence by pretending she didn’t murder him. “So Masumi,” Haruki said, returning to the living room with the steaming bowls, “how exactly did Kira kill his victims?”
“They didn’t say. That wasn’t in the leak.”
Did L ever find out how Kira killed people? “Weird.”
“There were a few other things they didn’t report on, either,” his younger sister said, peeling her eyes from the television. She had been kneeling in front of it only a few feet away. “We didn’t learn the name of L, but all of the other members of the SPK were revealed… and some of them were Japanese Police. Kiyoko’s father was one of them… Mr. Mogi, don’t you remember?”
“Wow, that’s crazy.”
“Yeah, well, I guess this puts things to rest. They’re still going through the documents right now. It’ll probably take a few days for us to piece the whole story together.”
His mother’s look was like that of a wind-worn statue, glaring and empty as the television flickered and hummed.
Upstairs, Mikami sat on the edge of his bed, pale as the cover of the Death Note she held in her lap. “There was no mention of a notebook like that in the leaked report,” he told her, trying to comfort her. She took the bowl of warm noodles and didn’t say a word.
They watched some Gaki no Tsukai in silence, and he remembered only the clattering of their chopsticks. Before he knew it, the sky outside his window had turned a deep orange-yellow, then purple, then a blue of the deepest shade. Starlight shone faintly above the city of Saitama. In the distance, a train raced along its tracks, echoing down the suburb. She would have to be leaving soon. Mom doesn’t like it when she stays over…
Their bowls had been piled one atop the other on the edge of Haruki’s desk, which was otherwise spotless. They had finished their homework, and in silence remained sitting on the edge of his bed. “So, uh, Misaki, it’s g–”
But even as he began speaking, breaking their silence, she immediately looked up from the television, saying with earnesty, “Tell your mother I’ve already gone home.”
“You heard me, Haruki.”
“You want to stay over… for real?”
“Yeah.” She reached into her bag, pulling a slender, unopened bottle of wine out. “I’ll take half and you take half.”
“Whoa, Misaki… did you–”
“Have you ever had any before?” she asked him, blinking.
“A-alcohol? No, never.”
“Well now’s a good a time as any. Seriously, Haruki.” Her head dropped and she paused to sniffle. “I-I… I killed him!”
“He was a criminal!” the boy replied fiercely. “What does it matter if he’s gone? Is the world worse off?”
“I-it’s not that, Haru,” she sniffled again. “I-I just can’t take it anymore… how this thing makes me feel…!” she said, throwing the Death Note across the room, where it landed against Haruki’s dresser. Ryuk the Shinigami was eyeing them soundlessly from that side of the room, sitting on a reclining chair, poking the fleshy bits of his fingers into one another, grinning widely.
“If you don’t want to be Kira, burn it,” he said. “Or throw it away.”
Ryuk cackled at that moment. “Do that and I’ll write your name into my Death Note.”
“Wh-what…?!” Misaki’s cheeks flushed pink as cherry blossoms. “Are you serious!”
“You read the rules, didn’t you?” he shrugged. It’s my obligation if the Death Note is destroyed.”
“Y-you mean… we can’t just get rid of it?”
“We could lock it up and never think about it again,” Haruki countered. “That way, it won’t be used and we won’t have to destroy it…”
“No,” Ryuk said. “I didn’t give you that Death Note for you to lock it away. Should you keep me here in the human realm against my will, I will have no choice but to write your names in my Death Note.”
He told his mom she’d left, and they drank the whole bottle in less than half an hour. Haruki’s bed was relatively small–it had been the bed he’d had since he had been five or six and it was not accustomed to holding two people in it. Misaki had spent the night once before, but that time, she had been so tired that she had passed out in his bed a good three or so hours before he had finished his homework that night. They hadn’t done anything then.
Tonight, she snuggled up against him. The boy turned his light off with his phone, though he knew Ryuk could probably still see them. If he’s watching, there’s nothing we can do about it. They had meant to talk, but as soon as the heat of drunkenness had overcome them, past the awful taste of the wine, both of them had been lost for words once again, and had only looked upon each other.
Now they were in bed in the dark, her body pressed against his, her warmth against his. She was breathing quickly and deeply, and he felt her forehead against his. She kissed him suddenly in the darkness. Her lips were warm and soft. He kissed her back. “I can’t believe I did it,” she whispered, pulling away for a second before kissing him again, now more aggressively. “I can’t believe I did it…”
Her drunken voice was in his ear, and the wind blew all night, only every now and then being interrupted by the roar of a night train.
The only good thing about today was that, mercifully, there was no school on Saturdays. The Death Note sat spread opened on his nightstand, nestled firmly on top of Yukio Mishima’s Patriotism, which he had only finished reading two days ago. Lying firmly in the deep ridge of the spine was a pen, uncapped; on the first page of the Death Note’s blank pages were the names of two people: Misaki Miyamoto, and Haruki Kiryu… although for Haruki’s name, the final character of his given name had not been completed. Next to their names had been written only one word, and in kana, for Misaki had been too drunk to write it out in kanji: shinjū.
“You were very drunk last night,” Ryuk murmured in Haruki’s ear. The boy sat up, his head killing him, his lips raw, his hand smelling of another person. She lay dead next to him, her eyes closed, her face peaceful and still, pale and beautiful in the morning’s light. His eyes again found her slender neck, and then he was running his thumb down it, feeling only coldness. “It seems like you passed out before finished writing your name.”
He had woken up on the floor, not in the bed, and it surprised him more than anything just how little he remembered. His eyes were stinging, and he was blinking rapidly. How will I not get blamed for this? Why shouldn’t I be blamed for this? I should be dead too… I should be… But he couldn’t even remember agreeing to commit double-suicide with his girlfriend. His memories of last night were mostly of darkness and heat and movement, and he certainly didn’t remember falling out of bed. There was a cut on his chin, but he could explain that away if he had to. Explaining this…
At least Mom thinks Misaki didn’t stay the night.
“Why are you still here?” Haruki whispered groggily. The cut on his chin had already begun scabbing over. Glancing at his alarm clock, he saw that it wasn’t even 7 o’clock yet. No one else will be awake right now… especially not Mom and Dad. His father had likely not gotten home until past midnight. There was no way they would be waking up soon on the weekend.
“I could take that notebook with me,” Ryuk said in an innocent tone. “Or you could take it, Haruki Kiryu.” His wide Shinigami Eyes sparkled lifelessly, a dull, unfocused gaze washing over his face. “What do you want to do?”
The boy bit his lip and picked up the Death Note, thumbing to the very front again, where the rules were listed. He made sure to read them all over again. And then he read them a second time. It quickly became apparent to Haruki what he had to do.
Does this make me Kira? No… I’m not Kira! I’m just trying to save my life! He had no desire to die; he didn’t remember a word of agreeing to do that with Misaki last night, and he deeply regretted that they had even attempted to take that path. He stared at the names in the book. It would take him half a second to finish writing out his name. If the cause of death written is physically impossible, the victim will merely die of a heart attack. Because he hadn’t signed his name properly, Misaki had died that very way, forty seconds afterwards…
“I will be using the Death Note for one purpose,” he said to Ryuk. “I have to get rid of her,” he said, nodding to his girlfriend. The pain was harsh, flickering before his eyes, a warm, embracing heat that he fought not to give into. I have to remain level-headed. I’ll get caught if I’m not. I must be cool under pressure. “But once that is done, I will be giving the book back to you. If you want to find someone else to be the next Kira, so be it.”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” the Shinigami whined. “I can’t believe you would give up such a power so easily. Are you really that sad about using the notebook on bad people? I didn’t peg you as such a moral person, heh.”
Haruki shrugged. “I don’t really want to be Kira,” he said. “I’ve been learning about the last Kira a lot in class… and, well, I just don’t have a god complex like him. I don’t want to rid the world of evil and be the king and…” He shook his head, wiping his eyes. “I’m not a god. I don’t want to be. It’s too much pressure.”
“Is it?” Ryuk laughed again. Is he mocking me?
Haruki stood up, taking the notebook and pocketing it. He had a plan for how this would go, and it almost entirely hinged upon luck. For the situation he was in, however, that was as good as he could hope it would be.
The man he had chosen for this was no one he knew, and he wasn’t sure it would work to begin with. Jotaro Iwasaki was little more than a petty criminal, but he was the only one who lived close enough to his house in Saitama that the boy could recollect from memory. He wrote the man’s name into Misaki’s Death Note without hesitation, then writing out the conditions of death.
Standing up, the boy closed the book and put it in his pocket. Sneaking out of his room in nothing but his underwear and socks, Haruki silently crept down to the first floor, where he unlocked the back door in the kitchen. Then, he snuck back up to his room, closing the door behind him.
“Can you give us some privacy?” he asked the Shinigami in a dead tone.
“Heh heh, you didn’t seem to care last night…”
“Come on, Ryuk. I’ll give you an apple if you…”
Haruki’s head ached, and his eyes were dry. Leaning over the white-faced corpse, he pressed his forehead once more against hers and tried as well as he could to remember. There was nothing but blackness, the creaking of wood, the faint sound of light rain on the window.
About twenty minutes later, Haruki standing in the hallway to make sure neither his parents nor sister were awake yet, the kitchen door creaked open. Jotaro walked somberly up the steps to the second floor, then made his way directly into Haruki’s room, picking up Misaki, and returning back down the steps and out the door with her body in his arms. Haruki locked the door behind them, wiping the man’s water tracks from the tile and wood floors on his way back to his room.
Then he collapsed back into bed, falling where she had lay, a wild swirling gale of emotions descending upon him. He was too tired and too hungover to give into those yet. In his jacket pocket, against his chest, he felt the spine of the Death Note pressing against him with rigid force. Justice, he thought, thinking back to his Kira Studies class. Kira was justice… he only tried to bring about a better world…
Statistics blurred through his fracturing mind, as Haruki felt sleep coming on. Crime rates plummeted during Kira’s reign, he heard his teacher drone on, his voice deepening in the memory corners of Haruki’s mind. His was a brand of justice many countries considered threatening, but at what point did he kill anyone innocent? Never.
Misaki’s dazed look after she had killed the man came to Haruki next. In the darkness, all thoughts bled into one another, forming a ghastly series of shapes and formations, and he remembered no more.
It came and went as expected. Haruki didn’t have to feign the emotions. A man named Jotaro Iwasaki had kidnapped Misaki on her walk home from Haruki’s house last night and had attempted to sexually assault her before crashing his car into a tree past a turn in the road. Both of them had been killed in the crash.
He locked the Death Note away until after Misaki’s funeral. In truth, he experienced those next few days as a blur mostly, and the only thing he remembered from that time was going to the library two cities away to download the illegally-leaked Kira Report, printing out the entire 34 page document before returning home.
He read its entire contents, gleaning from the information that the SPK, led by the fearsome detective L, along with the Japanese Task Force, had been after Kira before. All of their names except for L’s were printed on page three. Haruki felt an immediate temptation to write their names in the Death Note.
Ryuk was munching on an apple loudly over his shoulder, laughing softly as he watched the boy reading the Kira Files. “I thought you said you were done with the Death Note, eh?”
Haruki didn’t respond for a long while. “So if you have multiple Death Notes… have you done this before, Ryuk? Were you the one who gave Kira his Death Note?”
“Kira? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re not very helpful, are you?”
“Heh, I’m not on your side or anyone else’s, Haruki. I’m just here for some fun. But it looks to me like you’ve become somewhat possessive of that Death Note ever since…”
“Enough, Ryuk.” Haruki stood up, cracking his neck easily. “If I were to become Kira, it would take months of preparation. I’m not going to make the same mistakes the last Kira made.”
“Oh?” Ryuk leaned in eagerly. “What do you mean, Haruki?”
The boy’s spine was straight. In his dim-lit room, he looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to signal to himself that this was the lair of a real god. A God of Justice. “I’m not going to play games with L like the previous Kira did. I’m going to take my rightful place as the means of balancing justice in this world…” He shuddered, trembling. He didn’t know what he was saying, nor why he was acting like this, but it wasn’t like Haruki could stop himself now that he was all wound up. “Crime rates went down to almost nil when the last true Kira was active… and in the nine years since, crime rates have risen again almost to pre-Kira levels. Humans are rotten, evil beings,” he said. “They need Kira in order to behave. Without me, they’re lost. Human nature itself is pathetic. If this world is to become a good place–a just place, Kira must exist. In that much, I am certain, Ryuk.”
“Oh? Now that’s interesting. I’ve never heard you talk like that before, Haruki!”
“Without Kira, crime rates will go back up. But while Kira was around, crime went way down… it’s undeniable proof that he was good… that his cause was just. No, I can’t let the Death Note go. I will become Kira,” Haruki swore, biting his lip. “I will rid this world of all its evils!”
“Does that include L and the SPK?” Ryuk asked.
Now it was Haruki’s turn to laugh. “Honestly, I’m surprised at you, Ryuk. I would have thought you already knew what was going to happen to those sad fools.”
“Commander Rester, can you take us back to the tapes from three days ago?” Near asked, a remote-controlled car zooming past him as he crouched on the floor in front of his laptop. “I’m thinking around 9:03:17 am, when the first car pulls up.”
“Yeah, from what our informant said, that was just before the meeting took pla–”
The man froze, choking on that last syllable like a bloody lego. He dropped the file of papers he had been holding, spilling their contents onto the hotel floor, clutching his chest as his eyes bulged and cheeks ran with tearlines of sweat.
Near’s mouth was agape, and he felt something, briefly, flicker like a candle in the pit of his stomach. He rose, trying to catch Commander Anthony Rester, but by the time the older man had fallen, he was already gone.Outside, the Yokohama Marine Tower flashed once and white, and Near was alone.
III. Keen (切実)
Often he was struck by guilt and anger and doubt and numerous other emotions that swirled in and out of his brain, before his eyes, like wave-run sand on a desolate shore.
Ryuk’s voice rose from the bed in pained quavers. “Hey Haruki, you promised me another apple today. Come on, I’m dyin’ over here.”
Haruki smiled. “I didn’t know you were so addicted.”
“Come on… let’s go out for a bit. I saw a nice apple tree two blocks down the road.” Ryuk floated around, halfway through the floor, to face Haruki. “Hey, are ya listening to me? Let’s go!”
Haruki stood up, placing the note in his pocket. He had negotiating power right now, and that was very good. He whispered to Ryuk, “We go on one condition. You have to honestly answer any question I ask you. Alright? ”
Ryuk grinned as he flew toward the door, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Can we go now?”
Outside it was cold, but not wet, and that made it tolerable for Haruki. The two started off heading north. There were only a few people around, mostly salarymen returning home from work or people riding bicycles. It was Friday afternoon, and in this suburb in the Sakura-ku where Haruki and his family lived, the bunched-up houses in this region were home mostly to businessmen, not families. Such was the life they lived.
He knew he could have easily gone to the nearest shopping center where his friends were hanging out, probably playing soccer behind the buildings and smoking weed, but he wasn’t in the mood. The boy remained silent until he found a tree and tossed Ryuk an apple.
Haruki stopped walking, waiting for Ryuk to finish. He placed his hands in his pockets, shivering. Glancing around to make sure no one could hear them, he whispered, “Okay Ryuk. I held up my end of the bargain. Now, I have something to ask you. I know that there’s a good chance that Light Yagami was the original Kira, and that you may or may not have been his Shinigami. But that doesn’t really matter right now. I’m more interested in L. I want you to tell me all about him.”
Ryuk stopped chewing his apple. “L? He’s dead. Kira killed him.”
Haruki couldn’t believe it. No, it was impossible. In the report it said that L killed Kira, not the other way around. “So they took each other out…?”
Ryuk became very serious. “No.”
Haruki could see the Shinigami didn’t want to talk about it. If L wasn’t the person who caught Kira, then who was it? Probably someone in the SPK. Their names and driver's licence photographs, sans those for L, were listed in the document, on page four. He could kill every single one of them if he wanted to. I will, in due time. Right now, they don’t need to know I exist. If I’m going to use this notebook… He paused, waiting for that feeling of guilt to wash over him, but it didn’t. And when it didn’t, he knew his intentions were pure. I have to be prepared first. I won’t reveal myself to the world until I’m ready.
“Is there currently someone operating as L?”
“As far as I know, yeah. Someone replaced him.”
“I assume you won’t tell me who that was.”
“Heh, not a chance, Haru. That’s against the rules.”
Can’t blame me for asking, he thought. They stayed out for a few more minutes in the frozen air, the boy knowing his father wouldn’t be home for hours yet. He never once questioned if it was right or not to kill those who had committed heinous crimes. The answer was obvious. Still, images of them keeling over in their cells, clutching at their chests, spittle running from their open mouths, their eyes wide and bloodshot and radiating without light… The image of this drew Haruki’s curiosity to it with great energy, but he found the reality of it neither beautiful nor grotesque.
He began walking back home, silently urging the Shinigami to keep pace with him. It was damn cold outside. He should have brought a jacket.
Being careful would become his primary goal at this point. If any of his theories didn’t work out, the victim would die of a heart attack, making the death easily attributed to Kira. Once again, he would need Ryuk’s help.
Inside, he slipped back up to his room before his mother could start up conversation. He could smell she was cooking something good–shrimp and udon and cabbage and pepper… but before he could see what she was making, he had rushed upstairs and locked his door behind him. Thankfully his sister wasn’t already in his room, as she often was, waiting for him to return so that he could do her homework for her. She calls it tutoring, ha.
“Hey, Ryuk. Come here.”
Ryuk snapped back into reality–Haruki’s reality. “Ah, what is it now?”
“I need to know how much I can control a person before I kill them. I know if the conditions I write out are not possible, the victim’ll die from a heart attack. But I can’t let that happen; it would reveal Kira to the world before I’m ready for that.”
“Hyuk hyuk hyuk. What were you planning on doing?”
Haruki sat comfortably in his desk chair, pausing, contemplating on what to say next. “So what about other people? Like people whose names I’m not writing down. Can I control them too?”
Ryuk now seemed bored. “Huh? Whaddya mean?”
“Other people. Like people who I haven’t written down yet. Can I control them too?”
Ryuk’s grin came back, now realizing the full extent of Haruki’s plan. “Heh. You know, I’ve never tried that. But you can’t write their names down, or they’ll die.”
Haruki nodded. “Alright, so if I say, like ‘The criminal takes a woman hostage. After a few moments, she breaks free’, would that work?”
A wide smile came to Ryuk’s face. Haruki’s plan was just up his alley–just his style. The boy could tell how giddy the God of Death was becoming. This is going to be fun.
They introduced themselves as Agents Brennen, Hallow, and Ifufe. Brennen was an older man with sagging skin and yellow eyes–a candle about to melt in half; Hallow was a younger man, fit, athletic, with a thick, albeit well-trimmed beard, brown hair, and brown eyes; Ifufe was a dark-skinned woman taller than either of the men, stern-faced with short black hair pulled back ever so. They all wore the same grey-white coats over white fabric suits beneath.
They had not even waited a single day. Alright, C. Make your move. All this did was assure Near that he was closer than C was comfortable with. He was still angry about the bug, however.
“So we’re it,” Hallow said coolly. “I assume you’ve already dealt with Rester.”
“There is nothing to worry about,” Near replied in monotone. He had a remote controlled drone flying about the room wildly, and in both hands, he held onto the remote like it was his lifeline in this world.
“Very well then. So I take it this is your first encounter with the newest Kira?”
“Kira? Since when is there a new Kira?”
“Since the acting commander of the SPK keeled over mid-sentence just a few days after those leaked documents with his name and ID photo got out to the general public…”
“It appears someone has a Death Note, or perhaps merely a fragment, and sought out justice, as they saw it, in Kira’s name. Killing all remaining SPK members as well as the members of the Japanese Task Force was a bold move, I’ll admit, but there have not been any other killings since then that can be logically attributed to Kira.”
“For now we’re treating this as a real case,” Brennen grumbled, coughing into his handkerchief. “We are all the resources provided to you for this case by the UN.”
“The UN? Don’t you mean C?” he asked with a blank look on his face, craning his neck bizarrely to keep track of his drone. “If we’re going to be working together, we should at least be honest with one another, no?”
Near’s eyes flashed, and they all went quiet, looking back at him without a hint of restraint. For a moment, he indulged them, and staring back, tried to find the cracks in their masks. But they had been well-trained, probably for this specific circumstance. Near was out of resources and on his own in Yokohama. He found this entire setup to be rather uncomfortable. Having three agents serving him–even if they clearly were spies for C–was to his benefit for now.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about, L, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to get started on the case,” Hallow said. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with, so we need to work fast to gather intel.”
Near crashed the drone into the far wall, though none of them flinched. Setting down the remote control, he told them, “Rester and the Japanese Task Force members were killed at precisely 5:17 pm local time.”
“Local to Japan?”
“Yes.” Near’s finger found his hair, curling and uncurling around his bangs. His attention once more diverted to a pool of blocks he had awaiting him on the other side of the bed. C had our room bugged, and he even managed to sneak one in after Rester had gone through his usual sweep. Strange. I haven’t dealt with anyone this clever in a long time. What’s C up to? Why does he want to protect Ozaki so much? He didn’t step in to save the younger brother… “This time would be very convenient for a businessman just getting off work and seeing the news… but it’s almost too convenient. Perhaps Kira wants us to think he’s located in Japan.”
Brennen was scratching his chin, having seated himself in one of the fine hotel chairs on the other side of the room, past Rester’s bed. “Perhaps we can pinpoint which news broadcast Kira saw… if this occurred in Japan. That’s a large assumption to make, L.”
“We have no other evidence, Agents,” he replied coolly. “What would you suggest? I am open to hearing your ideas.”
Agent Ifufe pursed her lips. “Gathering intel, asking around for credible witness information. As bad as it sounds, we may have to wait for him to strike again.”
“L’s name was not listed in the leaked material,” Near said. “And given that Rester and the Japanese police officers were not killed until after the leak… that suggests that the leaker and Kira are two separate people.” There was no one who knew Near’s real name; there was no one who had the full Kira Files to leak it, except for himself and the SPK members. Near was sure none of them had flipped–so sure that he was willing to bet his life on it. If C’s the leaker, he doesn’t know my name. That narrowed down who C could be, admittedly, if it were true.
“So what?” Hallow asked.
“Kira could have controlled someone to leak the information, perhaps… but I doubt it. I didn’t sense anything strange from Rester before his death, and he was the only operating SPK member aside from myself.”
“We could try to provoke Kira… make him show himself by insulting his pride.”
“No,” Near said sternly. “L already tried that trick once; it won’t work again. We’ll have to wait until Kira pokes his head out on his own. I’m sure he won’t be able to resist the spotlight for much longer. It’s guaranteed celebrity status–god status, really. Ifufe, Brennen, go to the local television stations. I want you to investigate for any signs of Kira contacting them.”
“This is assuming he’s Japanese. If he’s not…”
“If he’s not, we’re wasting our time in Japan. But we can’t know that yet. Please check this out for me.”
They glanced at one another, which Near didn’t like one bit. “Very well.” Ifufe tossed near a cell phone. “Here,” she said. “Reconfigured, totally airtight. Use this to contact us. We all have one. One is me; two’s Brennen over there; three’s Hallow.”
“And what happens if I press number four?”
She giggled loudly, closing the door behind them. Then it was just Near and Agent Brennen. I have never seen this man before. Especially at his age, there’s no way I should have missed him… is he really a distinguished interpol agent? Or is he an actor?
There was silence in the hotel room, save for the lonely sound of marbles cascading down the wood floor. Brennen coughed again, pulling up his bright blue handkerchief around his mouth, his cheeks going red, his forehead perspiring.
Finally, Near asked, “Is BB really dead?”
“You’re sharp,” Brennen growled, not looking up at him as he polished his glasses with an entirely different and purple handkerchief. “But I don’t think you believe in conspiracy theories.”
“No, I wouldn’t say that at all. Mello thought–”
“Mello’s dead, kid. It’s just you now.”
Their eyes met again, but Near had never felt safer. He was beginning to understand C a little. “Your boss worked with Quillsh Wammy, didn’t he?”
“My boss assigned me to this force because he knows how good you are, L. The entire UN is on edge following the leaks, and it seems like there’s a new Kira poking around. A few thought it was C-Kira, even.”
“Impossible. That coward killed himself years ago.”
“I know. It was a fringe theory. Regardless, most think there’s a new Kira.”
“Is there?” He had created a rather large block tower which he promptly rammed another drone into, causing everything to topple over in one fell swoop.
“If there isn’t, this is a helluva coincidence.”
“It’s too good to be true–in that way, you are correct, Agent. Be that as it may, we still cannot rule out fragment owners or perhaps someone who owns an entire Death Note, but who does not consider themselves to be Kira.”
Hacking violently into his handkerchief, Brennen wheezed in response, “That’s a lot of mental gymnastics you’re using to justify a tenuous opinion.”
“The likelihood of there being a person with a Death Note who does not consider themselves to be Kira is admittedly low… perhaps 15% at most. But it cannot be discounted. The likelihood of there being a Kira at all is 17%. We’re not deviating from our plan, Agent,” Near said boldly. C expected me to go along with the investigation while going after Ozaki on the side. “The Ozaki Brothers still run the most profitable and dangerous Yakuza gang in all of Japan. Until we have more proof that Kira exists, we’ll continue on with my investigation… that is, unless you have a problem with that?”
L looked up, fondling a pair of marbles between three of his fingers. The older man smiled softly, barely feeling the effects of pressure. “Not at all. The faster we catch Ozaki, the faster we’ll find Kira, I bet.”
And now, for once, Near was truly puzzled. He wants to find Ozaki…? Is he bluffing? Is this part of the plan C came up with? Even now he had to doubt his analysis, for he didn’t know with certainty that these agents were not actually from the UN. Brennen especially, though… there was something off about him. Near never ignored his instincts.
Alright, C. I’ll admit you’ve surprised me. You’ve got a lot more fight in you than I expected. No matter. If you truly are the leaker, Rester’s and the Japanese police’s blood is on your hands, and I won’t stop until you are brought to justice.
“Hey, Haruki, Dad’s home early tonight,” his sister called to him from beyond the door.
The boy had been furiously writing in his Death Note, using its ability to control people in order to build up an illicit bank account filled with riches beyond what his father could make in a lifetime of service to Hebereke Industries. Mayhaps one day he would need that money. Using criminals to gather the money was only augmented by the Death Note’s requirement of writing any name in it leading to the death of that individual. It was elegant and clean in that way–the perfect weapon. He almost felt like a god when he used it. His heart beat more excitedly with every name he wrote down.
“Yeah, I’ll be down in a second.”
“Well, hurry up. Dad asked for you.”
“Huh? What’d he want…?” But she was already gone. Figures.
“So Ryuk, why don’t you tell me the history of L versus Kira? I’m sure it was riveting from your position.”
“That’s a long story,” Ryuk replied lazily. “I’m sure you’d get bored halfway through.”
“If Kira killed L, then who is L right now, and why wasn’t his name in the leak?”
The God of Death had nothing to say about that. “Hey, how about we go on a walk down the block? Those apples by Mrs. Takahashi’s house are getting so juicy! Come on, you don’t want to let them spoil, do you?”
“I have to go to dinner. Dad’s home early, which is pretty rare. It’s going to be a long dinner. The least you could do is keep me entertained during it. Come on, Ryuk.”
He pocketed the notebook, or rather the single page of it he had on him for today (the rest being locked up in a secret place far away). There was nothing suspicious about that page… except that if anyone touched it, they would be able to see Ryuk.
Ryuk floated after Haruki Kiryu down the stairs. “Hey Haruki, you know, I knew this rotten Shinigami back where I’m from. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he bet blood rubies like a…”
“There you are!” his mother said in relief. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming down for dinner.”
“Oh, sorry about that. I was just finishing up some homework.”
“We have a guest over,” Masumi shot in.
They were all seated at the table, his father at the head, the stranger to his right, Mom to the left, and Masumi sitting next to the other man. Haruki took his seat across from his sister as his mother poured him a bowl of steaming vegetables.
Ryuk had gone suddenly quiet. They all exchanged a few words before digging in. Haruki’s father began discussing a business project he was involved in, and it was a dull affair to Haruki. He had always found business talk to be about the least tolerable subject in the world. His jaw was already beginning to build pressure.
He wasn’t going to reveal himself to the world anytime soon. There had already been whispers… apparently the Japanese Task Force members who had worked on the Kira case had all recently died of heart attacks. He could only guess the same had occurred with the SPK members. All except L. For some reason the leaker hid his name. Why protect this fake L?
It was alarming, regardless. There was a second notebook out there. But that person hadn’t declared themselves Kira either. What were they waiting for? Such a blatant act as attacking the police was sure to draw a response from L.
For a moment, he wavered between canceling and enacting his plan. It’s the only way, he thought. I can’t let this other Kira claim credit…
“Haruki?” his father asked, breaking the boy from his train of thought. “Well?”
Masumi was snickering cruelly.
“I was just asking you what you thought about a potential partnership between Hebereke and the SWN Corporation?”
“Oh… yeah, it sounds good, I guess.”
“It’s a two billion yen deal we’re working out here, so upper management wants us to go to England to meet with Corman Nestius, the current head of SWN Corporation.” The guest, who was named Keen, spoke with an awkward and slow Japanese, and sometimes his words unfolded in a way that was slightly out of order, marking him for a foreigner. He looked like one too. His eyes were blue, and his hair was brown. “Th-that’s your father and I, I mean!”
“I’ve pulled some strings, but I’ve managed to get another ticket for you, Haruki,” his father said sternly, sipping tea and leaning back in his chair, his sleeves rolled up as they always were. “You have some time off for winter vacation, don’t you?”
That was almost a threat. The boy remained calm. “Yeah, it’ll be fun. Am I allowed to come along for the negotiation?”
“Perhaps. We’ll see when we get there.”
The foreigner was smiling warmly at him. “I’m glad you’re coming along, Haruki. Your father has spoken so highly of you, it’s great to finally meet you! So I heard you’re going to business school after you graduate high school, isn’t that right?”
“That’s the plan,” he replied, picking at his noodles.
“You’re an excellent student from what I’ve heard. This trip will be a very good experience for you, I think.”
“How long’re we going for?”
“A week. Ten days tops. Don’t worry, you won’t miss any school time. The meeting’s in three days.”
“Alright. I guess I’ll pack my things,” the boy said coolly, his eyes shifting, glancing from Keen to his plate. The young man was staring at Haruki for some reason.
“Yeah, you better do that! We’re leaving tomorrow evening!” Keen was laughing for some reason.
“Is it a very long flight all the way to Great Britain?”
“We’re going to London,” her father corrected her. “We’ll be landing after about twelve and a half hours in the air.”
“And that’s on a nonstop flight!” Keen interjected vibrantly.
“Wow. That’s the whole other side of the world. I can’t believe you three will be so far away from us!” Mrs. Kiryu remarked.
“I’m not sure we’ll have time to get acclimated, but we’ll have to get through it either way. No whining,” his father said. “That’s my motto. A real man doesn’t complain.”
This guest his father had brought over had underwhelmed Haruki immensely. The dinner continued for about an hour until Mr. Keen made up an excuse for needing to be home and politely and graciously excused himself. The man had hardly touched his plate, Haruki noticed.
He talked on for a while more with his father, who seemed very eager about bringing Haruki along on this trip. His round face was flushed with triumphant color. He was in rare form. Sometime around midnight, Haruki finally got pulled away and trudged off to bed. He had forgotten how much his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps. But the boy really didn’t care so much for working for Hebereke like his father before him. He was Kira, after all. He didn’t need to do anything anymore except exact justice.
Back in his room, the boy whispered, “What happened, Ryuk? Did you get shy around the new guy, or what?”
“That was weird,” Ryuk admitted.
“Well, I thought I was going to sneeze, but then I didn’t.”
“No, that’s all I have to say,” the Shinigami replied, yawning widely. “So we’re going on a trip to England. Cool. I’ve always wanted to see the other parts of Earth. Do they have apples there, Haruki? Juicy and crunchy and sweet…”
“It’s always apples with you. I’ve got more to worry about right now. The work has just begun, Ryuk.”
“Oh, has it now?”
“In two weeks, sixty thousand criminals will all simultaneously die of heart attacks.”
Ryuk sat up, his eyes nearly bulging out of his sockets. “Wh-what was that, Haru?”
“The world will experience justice through me,” he said simply. “This notebook is all I need. I’m going to kill every last criminal there is–including the fake L.”
“Well, I have to hand it to you… you did pick a pretty dramatic way to announce yourself. I like your style, heh.”
The boy cracked his neck and sat down at his desk, pulling out the page, unfolding it, and revealing several more bound up with it. He had accessed this information at a public library three cities away. Instead of printing out a list of names and pictures of all of the criminals in the world’s prisons, he copied the information to a flash drive, which he was now using at home on his laptop. It was untraceable as far as Haruki could tell. Even if L was onto him (and he had no reason to suspect that), there was no way to find evidence of him looking up criminal names and photographs.
Every night he wrote as many as he could, and the deadline was fast-approaching. The Kira of nine years ago had wiped out almost all of the criminals in the world. Few remained from those times–those whom Haruki was writing into the notebook were almost all recent offenders, emboldened to commit crimes in the wake of Kira’s stunning fall. It was by that alone Haruki knew he was justice; L was evil–he stood against justice. Haruki would find and kill him too, but he wasn’t about to play a cat-and-mouse game with him as the original Kira had, as detailed in the Kira Files. They both got enjoyment out of that. Not me. I want the fake L dead, and I don’t care how I have to make it happen. I won’t mess around. He is responsible for this world becoming rotten again. He alone will atone for his sins. Kira’s justice will see to that.
Everything was happening so fast that he had little time to think, and less time to act. There was, however, one thing Haruki needed to test before he left for England with his father and Keen. He took the train for several stops, until he came to Shizuoka. All the while, he didn’t say a word to Ryuk, who himself was not speaking either.
It was only after they got off the train platform, mostly empty, with only a few salarymen staggering off to work at unnatural hours in the day, that Ryuk began to speak. “Hey, uh, so I’ve been thinking… and you don’t have to say anything, obviously, if you don’t want to, but I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to go England with your dad.”
Haruki paused to kneel and fix a loose shoelace. In a breath, he exhaled, “Why?”
“I, uh, don’t think it’s a good idea. You know, I don’t like traveling, especially on human airplanes!”
“Hmph.” Haruki smirked, walking on, ignoring the shinigami’s whining for now. He’s a god. He can suck it up.
After a while, the path led them to the water’s edge, where in the distance, great ships vied against one another in turbulent trade lanes in the congested harbor. Haruki sat down at a bench and pulled out a book to read–Confessions of a Mask, by Yukio Mishima. On the page Haruki had turned to, there was something written in pencil on an otherwise blank sheet of paper: Choki Funae… takes a woman hostage, holding a gun to her head. She breaks free, and during the struggle, Choki’s pistol is knocked away. A nearby onlooker picks it up and shoots Choki with it. After this, the man sets down the pistol and runs off. Everybody else who was gathered around watching this scene unfold run away too.
Before Choki even arrived, Ryuk had gone quiet, stifling wheezing laughter.
At 12:15 pm exactly, the man with the mohawk, Choki Funae, strode into view, walking down the sidewalk with an agitated gait. Haruki leaned forward slightly, anticipating the action that was about to unfold. This is it. This will show me just how capable the Death Note is. The man suddenly and forcefully grabbed a woman who was passing by, walking the opposite way. He began screaming, threatening her life as if performing in front of a crowd of drunken spectators.
And then she broke free. Almost like clockwork. The gun went flying, landing right at the feet of another unnamed person. Without hesitation, he picked it up and blew out the brains of Choki Funae, who had raped three women in the past fifteen years. There were several screams, and everyone around fled. Haruki watching from farther off, yawned, closing his book and standing up. It would be suspicious if they remained here. Besides, I have to get home and finish packing for England.
His fingertips were tingling. The waves crashed against the shore; the air was thick with the aroma of salt and pine.
Ryuk flew up to the dead man, who lay bleeding and abandoned. “Hyuk hyuk. That was clever, Haruki. My, my. You proved something quite valuable there, didn’t you? Not even I knew you could affect a crowd like that.”Anybody could be controlled–even those whose names were not written in the Death Note. The force of his thoughts came to him suddenly and without warning, gushing down the back of his throat with a flaming, racing feeling. He wanted to throw up as the taste of justice burnt the tip of his tongue.
IV. Accident (偶然)
None of them had gotten much sleep on the flight, and they were all feeling like going to bed, or so he assumed. Though it wasn’t even eight o’clock yet, the three business diplomats decided to check in early, not daring to venture out into the grey foreign mists of London’s crowded streets.
His father handed Keen a keycard and told them that they were sharing a room. #34 and #35 were across from one another at the end of the hall. Yawning, Mr. Kiryu excused himself and disappeared behind the wilted wooden frame of the former.
Thankfully, at least, there were two beds inside their room. Why’d dad have to put me with Keen instead of letting me stay with him? Annoyance rushed impatiently through his body. He was tired, but not that much. Adrenaline kept him up, being in a foreign land, but his internal body clock was telling him it wasn’t nearly time to go to bed yet, either.
The foreigner was poor at small talk. Haruki didn’t try to start any conversation. Ryuk floated over his shoulder; he wanted to discuss his plans with the Shinigami, not the nervous, uninteresting businessman.
“Are you going to bed, Haruki?” he asked after he had thrown his suitcase onto his bed carelessly.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll be quiet if you’re going to bed.”
“No, I’m good. I’m not tired for some reason.”
“Meeting’s not until the day after tomorrow, so we’ve got some time to get settled in.” Pulling a bottle that had been wrapped in shirts out of his suitcase, the young man grinned eagerly. “This right here’s some real good tequila. Want a shot?”
Is this a test? “If you don’t tell my dad, sure, I guess.”
He pulled two shot glasses out of a wrinkled-up baggie in his suitcase. Pouring each of them their first shot, Keen said in perfect Japanese, “You don’t have to worry about that, Haruki.”
The boy barely unpacked. He hadn’t packed much to begin with–a few changes of clothes, some reading material, his laptop, and several clean sheets of paper bundled up below all of this at the very bottom. He eyed that bundle even now. What would it take to kill him?
It didn’t startle him to think that, but upon reflection, that only made Haruki more worried. He grabbed the shot glass left for him and downed it in a single gasp. Falling instantly to his knees, the boy’s mouth burning, his eyes watering, he began to cough and dry heave, his face pressed to the carpet.
The office chair squeaked shrilly as Keen let his weight fall against it, leaning far back.“Is that your first time?”
“N-no…” the boy coughed, sitting up and wiping his eyes. “J-just never had anything that strong before…”
Keen shrugged dispassionately and poured himself another glass. “Lemme tell you something, kid. If you wanna get into this profession, like me and your father, you’re going to have to develop a taste for tequila.”
Haruki Kiryu did not very much like the implications of what the man had said. Without fear, he offered up his shot glass, and the man poured him a second. Though he coughed this time too, at least his eyes didn’t tear up noticeably. He gulped the paint-tasting liquid fire down his throat without complaint. I need to be careful. I’ve got a low tolerance. I can’t have much more.
“Your father told me you’re at the top of your class,” Keen continued. He had sat down in a chair in front of the television. Though it was on, he had muted it. British people always looked so awkward when they tried to run, at least in Haruki’s opinion. “That’s damn impressive.”
“Thanks. But really, it’s nothing. I’m really not anything special.”
“Hah.” He wiped his mouth, pouring another shot. The bottle was already half-empty. “Didn’t say you were, kid. There you go again, making assumptions. Dangerous habit.” The shot glass was drained again “So Haruki, what are you studying right now? Well, I guess what I should ask you is what are you good at? Which classes do you like?”
What’s with this guy? Regardless, Haruki’s fingertips were starting to tingle, and he felt a sudden rush of excited emptiness cascade through his mind. Worry and tension flamed through his veins, spent up in an instant, and it was as if he were floating on a cloud of intransient bubbles. “Oh, they’re all about the same, I guess. English, Calculus, Kira Studies…”
Keen interrupted him.“Seriously? Kira studies? They’re actually teaching you about Kira?”
“Yeah… basically a mix between a history and philosophy class, I guess. Things were a lot more vague before the Kira Files were released, since we mostly talk about the old Kira anyways. We haven’t really discussed the new one.”
He offered Haruki a third shot. He felt very good right about now, but still something within him made him refuse all the same. Keen poured himself another shot and gulped it down effortlessly. How does he endure the taste of it like it’s nothing? “Yeah, you would have been pretty young during the first Kira’s reign of terror, right? Do you remember any of it, Haruki?”
“Just my father yelling at me and my sister for staying up late to watch the news reports on TV. I take it you’re interested in Kira, Mr. Keen?”
Ryuk sighed bitterly from Haruki’s bed, his voice as forlorn as a starved cat prowling their home’s empty halls past the hour of the tiger.
Keen smiled. “I can’t say I’m a fan. But yes, I’ve delved into his past. Is that strange? I suppose lot’s of people are curious about Kira. I think Kira’s only become more popular since the leak, honestly.”
“But what is it about the case that is so interesting to you?”
He was more drunk than he wanted to appear. Ryuk began to laugh. “We’re getting off topic here…”
“Oh, sorry. It was rude for me to ask such a thing…”
“Hey, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. So what has been going on in your Kira Class? What do you guys usually talk about?”
“If Kira was justice or evil.”
“Oh. I should have known, heh.” He hiccuped loudly, pouring himself another shot and asking Haruki again if he wanted one. The boy politely declined.
“Everyone gets so fired up to defend their positions, but after the bell rings, it’s like we’ve already forgotten what we were just arguing about.”
Keen looked amused. Leaning back in his chair, he was sniggering childishly, his eyes glued to the television. “And how many of them defended Kira?”
“Well, that’s the easy position to take,” Haruki admitted. Would it appear more suspicious if I told him I was anti-Kira? Ninety percent of the class supported him… Misaki did too. “It’s harder usually to justify L’s position.”
“L, hah!” Keen spat. “But go on, try to convince me. I’ll play L’s part this time.”
Somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The boy’s suspicions were rising, and the longer he was alone with Keen, the more unpredictable the man seemed to get. He’s just drunk. I’m overreacting. “Well… uh, I mean, crime rates went down when Kira was killing criminals, and they went up immediately after Kira was killed.” I could have said ‘murdered’, but I didn’t. I wonder what he thinks about that. “There’s no moral or logical way to argue against that,” Haruki said. “At least no good argument that I can think of.”
“But who is Kira to play god?” Keen smiled. “Why should an imperfect human get to decide others’ fates?”
Haruki felt heat rising in his chest, building in his throat, and coloring his cheeks effeminately pink. Try as he might, he could not hold himself back. Where this sudden passion had come from, bubbling up like a fish leaping out of a well, he could scarcely tell. “They decide their own fates when they commit their crimes.”
“Perhaps,” Keen muttered lazily, barely paying attention. Haruki began to notice the musty, mildew smell of the room, inhaling the age of this place in a realizing shudder. “Isn’t killing evil, though?”
“Why should it be?”
“It’s against the laws–”
“Laws made by humans equally as imperfect as Kira, no?”
“All I know is when Kira was alive, everyone was living in fear that if they did even one thing wrong, they’d end up dead. That fear hanging over everyone at all times… it’s oppressive.”
Haruki’s retort was choked by the rising volume of the current program. Keen had evidently lost interest in their conversation. Finding his actions nevertheless rude, the light-headed boy sat down at the table and began messaging Masumi and his mother that they had landed safely were going to be going to bed soon.
Masumi was still going on about Kiyoko’s father–Mr. Mogi. He had been one of the Japanese Police Task Force members on the original Kira case. And now he was dead–from a heart attack.
Keen could be SPK. But there would be no reason for the SPK to be in Japan. Haruki had gone over it a thousand times in his head. There was no was anyone could have tracked him down. And besides, they would need his Death Note to even suspect him–something which Haruki had not brought with him to England.
It would look strange, almost suspicious, if Haruki now continued to ask Keen questions about Kira. Maybe he’ll think I’m just trying to get to know him. Haruki could not help himself; he tried once more. Try what? His thoughts froze when the rational part of him, seeping through the cracks of his drunkenness, illuminated his pettiness. You just want someone to agree with you that you’re right–that you’re justice–so that this isn’t murder. It doesn’t count if it’s justice, right? “But you don’t like Kira, do you Keen? Do you think he was evil?”
Keen groaned, his voice competing against the sound of the television in a lamentable, losing effort. “Last time, at first, Kira was a very controversial issue. The public was divided, with about half of them on his side and the other half against him. As you probably know, the number of Kira’s supporters went up greatly over time… but I always was against him.” Keen shifted, slightly, to stare Haruki right in the face. “He was more concerned feeding his own ego than fighting for justice.”
“If you think the real evils in this world are the criminals locked up behind bars, I don’t know what to tell you, kid. Hell, I’m surprised our client,” he hiccuped, “is still alive. You can’t tell me there’s many more evil fuckers out there than him.”
“Why…? What did he do?” The boy was almost ashamed at his breathless tone.
“He figured out how to manage a powerful international billion dollar corporation.”
Keen was an impressive man. Haruki himself could barely understand English while he was drunk, and trying to listen along to the show on TV was a most isolating experience. He was reminded again by his weaknesses, deficiencies, and imperfections. There was no ego within Haruki to be hurt by that; it was only shame at disappointing his father that clawed up the boy’s throat. He swallowed and blinked his eyes clear.
“Wh-what’s a dobby?”
“Dobby? You mean her?” Keen asked, slurring his words slightly, pointing at the woman on-screen. “Dobby’s her name.”
British comedy shows were odd. Their comedic energy was both unusual and awkwardly smooth, and even if he could barely understand what they were saying, there were a few jokes Haruki understood, and in those moments, he laughed with Keen, and they were no different.
It took the man another hour to fall asleep. Passed out in the chair before the television, the screen’s reflection blinking blue and black off his handsome, foreign face, Keen was finally out of Haruki’s life for a short while. He decided to go on a little walk, lest the man wake up and find Haruki talking to himself like some madman. He would have to chance somebody running into him out in the halls, but that was a risk he had to take. I have to talk to Ryuk about this.
He exited quietly, and thankfully, there wasn’t anyone around. It was only around eleven o’clock. “What’s up with you?” he asked Ryuk after walking several doors down and pausing to tie his shoe. “You’ve hardly said a word since we’ve left.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like to travel. Why can’t we go back? I’d kill for an apple from that tree down the block…they were so crispy last time…”
“Come on, Ryuk. What’s going on?”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“I don’t know… What do you think? Is he just weird, or is there something more going on with him? I got some weird vibes from him, but that might’ve been nothing. It’s hard to tell sometimes with foreigners.”
“If you want to kill him, you’ll have to make the eye deal with me,” Ryuk said dryly. “You remember what I told Misaki about how the deal goes, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” See anybody’s name at the cost of half of my life. Not worth it. Not yet. “For now, I can’t,” he said. “Why do you care, though? You haven’t ever been like this with other people.”
Ryuk sighed long and hard, and Haruki couldn’t believe nobody else could hear him. “I need an apple. This country has apples, doesn’t it, Haruki?”
“Yeah, but you’re going to have to wait. We’re not in the clear yet, Ryuk. But when we get home, don’t worry. I’ll have more than just apples waiting for you when we do.”
“Oh, will it already be time by then?”
“Heh, now this could get interesting. But I still say you make the eye deal with me and kill that human.”
He is too greedy for his own good. Haruki stood up and drunkenly stumbled down the hallway. He whispered recklessly to Ryuk in response, not caring if anyone in the world heard him (except for his father, mother, and sister), “You’re starting to scare me, Ryuk. Why don’t you just write his name in your own notebook if you dislike him so much?”
“Because then I would die.” The Shinigami’s wings spread black in the hallway before Haruki. He had to make a choice to go through the door ahead, or the one to the left–or turn back. “And that would be unbearably boring, wouldn’t you agree?”
If you were dead, my main obstacle in ruling the world would be gone, Haruki reflected, biting his tongue. “Is he working with L? Is he SPK?”
Ryuk said nothing.
“I can’t tell you. You’re smart, Haruki, heh. You’ll figure this out one way or another. Whenever you’re ready, I can do the deal with you.”
Haruki paused, thinking for a moment. What was half of his life if it ensured the fulfillment of Kira’s justice–of actual justice? Was he truly so selfish as to deny himself the opportunity of operating at full power? Was this about him, or not?
Haruki was well aware of the need for the public to be his ally. If they were on his side, he was justice–that was the reality of human nature. What Keen had said earlier was also true, however. At first, a majority of the people had not supported Kira. But, by his death, Kira had become a god-like figure in the eyes of the vast majority of the human populace. The boy knew he would tap into those vast wells of support when he revealed himself. They know Kira already. They’re itching for him to return. This world is rotten. Everyone who’s good wants it to be healed–everyone who stands with Kira stands with justice. It must be so.
He had no intention to kill any innocent people. It was not killing itself that interested him, he told himself. The SPK would have to be eradicated, but that was only out of necessity. The world would be cleansed. Haruki would make sure of that. The last Kira had almost been successful; the last Kira had laid all the groundwork for his ascent. Haruki just needed figure out the answers to two questions to assure his success: what made Light Yagami fail; and who was pretending to be L, even to this day? Once he had dealt with those two problems, the entire world would be his to judge. The realization brought goosebumps to Haruki’s skin. He took the door straight ahead, his mind teeming with only the purest of thoughts.
“Agent Ifufe, I would like you to begin gathering information on all suspicious deaths that have occurred in Japan in the past three–no, make it six–months.”
“That’s a lot of work,” she complained. “Must I do it alone?”
Near was crouching over an army of dolls and stuffed animals of various sizes and dimensions. None of them interested him much. His mind was focused on only one man. “If you are unable to do this, please feel free to resign from the team.”
Glowering at him, the woman with high cheekbones left the hotel room. A shot in the dark, perhaps, but L would have done the same. There is nothing worse than not being thorough. Near felt nothing. The emotions directed at him, however subtly and rebelliously, fell from him like invisible rainwater. Staring at the sterile Yokohama Marine Tower, he continued, “Agent Hallow, please give me the full report of your investigation into the Japanese news networks.”
“Got nothing. Nothing at all.” He was standing by the window, looking out it as well, though Near hardly thought he was looking up at the majestic tower that dominated the horizon like a frozen skeleton. “They haven’t gotten anything legit from a possible Kira.”
“So we know this Kira either does not live in Japan, or is not seeking fame with his power.”
“Why do you assume Kira is in Japan?” Brennen growled from his chair in the corner where he sat rocking and coughing. “Show us the evidence for that assumption. It’s arguably more likely that Kira is not from Japan.”
“No. This Kira lives in Japan–at least, he did when he killed Rester and the Japanese Task Force Members.”
“Oh, why is that?”
Logic is always theoretical. “The Japanese news reported on the leak of the Kira Files for approximately 1437% more airtime than any other nation. It goes to reason that whoever heard about this leaked file, and was curious enough to go download it, would have heard it from the Japanese news. Even in the United States, it was a news item for only a single day–and Kira did not kill them on the day the leaks occurred, but several days afterwards.”
“That’s an assumption, not evidence.”
“That is all we can do right now, Agent. Would you suggest an alternative? Please… if you can.” He picked up a doll in each hand, putting one on patrol duty, while making the other an escaping criminal. As he began to chase one doll with the other, Near continued, not waiting for a reply, “On second thought, Agent Hallow, I will have you observe Light Yagami’s family for the next two weeks.”
“I thought they moved and are now trying to live in quiet obscurity? Why would they–”
“Please just go and make sure Light’s sister didn’t have a piece of the note that she used to kill off the SPK and Task Force members.”
“No,” Hallow replied flatly. “I know pages from the Death Note won’t work after it’s burned. You burned all of the Death Notes, right?”
Clever man. I can understand why C chose you. “Very good, Agent Hallow.”
The man was pacing the dim-lit room, walking gingerly over Near’s toys. If he stepped on even one, Near would immediately remove Hallow from this case, so he watched the man’s movements with almost twenty percent of his focus. “What the hell was that for?!”
“Please do not misunderstand me. I merely–”
“Look, L. We get it–you’re incredibly smart, and you’re our best hope at catching Kira. But you don’t have to be such an asshole, okay? What was the point in trying to trick me there?”
“Ask your boss.”
The inmate was escaping. We’ve got a runner, Near wanted to mutter, but there were people around.
“If you don’t trust us, why are you working with us?”
“I never said I don’t trust you,” L countered. “Agent Ifufe is currently on a very important mission to gather intel about a possible Kira in Japan. If she comes up empty, I will admit that the possibility of Kira being Japanese decreases to three percent.” But by that time, we will have caught Ozaki.
The man was visibly grinding his teeth. The way the sun reflected on his skin through the window made him look almost as old as Wammy. “We’ll move the operation to Los Angeles once she comes back.”
“You’re confident that she won’t find anything,” Near observed.
Hallow, for all his worth, refused to back down. “It’s more probable that I’m right and you’re wrong, L.”
“We’ll see, Hallow.”
“Alright, Agent Brennen,” Near said, turning his focus to the last of C’s spies as if moving down a checklist, “I think we’re ready.”
Brennen and Hallow exchanged hushed whispers before the former said, “Alright, the cameras are up.”
The boy jumped into a chair in front of the desk where the large console of computer monitors had been installed. On the central screen, a Japanese supermarket in Yokohama was being focused upon by the satellite camera. “Tell Ms. Ozaki to go now.”
A moment later, her familiar form split from the shadows and moved into the crowds of people browsing fresh produce and seafood on the open market. This particular market was a known front business run by Ozaki’s Yakuza gang. And given what the informants had said, this place was where she was most likely to run into Ozaki himself–perhaps the only public location he could be found at with some regularity. And seeing who she was on the cameras he had set up around the market, Ichizo Ozaki would meet with her himself. That was when the agents’ men would move in.
We have some resources now… enough for satellite cameras and SWAT… but not enough for an Agent I can trust. Two minutes later, as Ms. Ozaki was making her way down the fresh produce lane, a man in a black ski mask walked up behind her, drew a pistol, and blew her brains out.
Every person–man, woman, and child–ran screaming. The assassin was already gone, and Near knew they would not find him again–not with these cameras. Someone had dropped a ripe watermelon, spilling its red, spongy flesh onto the pavement, soaking the ground red with sugary stickiness.
“Call them off,” Near said.
Brennen sounded like he was about to cough up one of his lungs. Nobody said anything. Between the older agent’s hoarse, wheezing gasps, the tension only seemed to grow. Near clutched the guard and inmate in his hands, feeling relief when he felt their tangible forms press back against his skin. Not bad, C. I should have expected that.
“Zoom out two times, please,” Near asked, and the screen adjusted as he wished. “Those, there,” he said, pointing to a mass of burning incense sticks on most of the fruit stands, set off to the side. The entire supermarket was lightly smothered in a thin grey blanket of incense smoke.
“I don’t know, something to do with their Shinto rituals,” Hallow said.
Brennen nodded. “Yeah, they’ve been up the past few days since we’ve been observing the place.”
Ichizo Ozaki is a deeply spiritual man. It is for this reason that some attribute his and his brother’s miraculous survival of Kira nine years ago to the powers of the old gods. Near could recite the entire psych report on the Ozaki brothers if he wanted to. The more cautious of the two, Ichizo is said to have the emotions of a woman, a far cry from the aggressive personality of his brother. It is for this reason that Ichizo’s marriage is considered to be a social mask by some of his rivals. Their slanderous claim has as of yet remained unproven.
Ichizo Ozaki’s devotion to his brother was evident even now, several weeks after Genzo’s life had come to an end. He loved his brother. That is his weakness. L would exploit his weakness. Near’s eyes scanned the supermarket again, but he found no clue, no trace of an idea stemming from what he saw.
“Turn it off.”
“What are we going to do now, L?” Agitation in his voice. He doesn’t think it’s worth it to investigate Ozaki either. What kind of special agent could be so apathetic?
“I’m going to build a new castle,” he replied, gesturing to a stack of several packs of unopened playing cards. “In the meantime, I suggest both of you conduct additional interviews with our Yakuza informants. It seems they either lied to you or set you up. Either way, there must be consequences for such behavior.”
“Aye,” agreed Brennen. “But we’ve hit a dead end. Word will have gotten out that we took the bait…”
“When will the thermal satellites be ready?”
“We have only one, and it’s being used right now. It won’t be available for another two days at least.”
“We’ll wait until then.”
“So that Ichizo can do all of our work for us,” Near said, his eyes falling to his dolls again. There he goes ‘round the corner, see, he’s gonna escape! “Tell me, either one of you, which is the closest shrine to Ichizo’s home?”
“We don’t exactly know where he lives, but if I had to guess, it would be the Wakarai Shrine. Hallow was at the window again, his hands on his hips, looking out over the distant city. “That one’s pretty secluded–not easy to get to. You think he’s going there to grieve?”
“It would be dishonorable to capture him in such a place,” Brennen muttered.
“Dishonorable?” Near’s head tilted as he stared at the ruddy-faced man. Squeezing the inmate between his hand, he let the guard drop from the other as he brought the other doll into both hands before his face to leer at passively. I didn’t know the agents were comedians as well. “There’s no such thing as honor. You either win or you die.”
“Are you paying attention to me, Haruki?”
“Yeah, dad, I’m just writing down notes,” the boy replied, leaning back in his chair.
With his back to the wall in this pub, he could easily be sure that no one could see him. There weren’t any cameras that could see him either–Ryuk had said as much. Haruki was forced to bring a page of the Death Note with him because he didn’t know how long they would be out today, and he still had thousands of names to write by the deadline. His hand numb, the boy switched to his left hand, a trick he had taught himself years ago so that he wouldn’t fall asleep in Biology.
“Well, anyways, as I was saying, Hebereke’s dominates this market with…”
Within seconds, Haruki had already tuned his father out again. His father was well-meaning, a good man, but stern. He wanted Haruki to go even farther than he had up the corporate ladder and perhaps one day run the Japanese branch of Hebereke. I’ll have to go to America, he thought suddenly, copying down names (while remembering the faces) of the criminals he had in his stashed file on his phone. It’s the only way Dad won’t be disappointed in me. Maybe if I disappear, he’ll think I did go into business after all.
He was not looking forward to the day he would have to confront his parents about this fact. In terms of what Haruki actually wanted to do with his life… well, he hadn’t figured that out yet, either, and yet, now that he had the Death Note, it didn’t feel like he was drifting through life without purpose. He had a goal: he was justice, the last hope of humanity. He will be so disappointed if I tell him I don’t want to do this.
When his father excused himself to go wash his hands before their lunch arrived, Haruki’s Shinigami flew up in front of him to get the boy’s attention. “You’ve been writing names all day, Haruki. Hyuk hyuk. Come on, let’s take a break. You can get me an apple at least.”
Haruki continued to write, without looking up, “Can’t. Time’s not on my side…”
The god of death looked at Haruki miserably, and the boy couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of their situation.
When his father returned, Ryuk once again fell silent. He doesn’t like talking to me when I can’t respond. Putting his cell phone away, his dad said, “Keen will be joining us in a few minutes. I’ll order his lunch so we can all eat together.”
There was no mention of why Keen had not appeared yet (it would be rather rude to point out how hungover he had been that morning), but Haruki’s father was always polite like that, and he didn’t understand why. He ordered for Keen in perfect English, rousing jealousy in Haruki’s veins. If Father can get that good, so can I. It’s not impossible.
About twenty minutes later, after all their food had been served (fish and chips all around), Keen appeared. He looked better than Haruki would have expected. He could hardly tell that the man was hungover. Still, the sallow color of his face and the dark bags under his eyes gave it away. This isn’t the first time he’s done this. He wondered if the man was still feeling any pain. As for Haruki, he had drunk quite a lot of water before going to bed the previous night and had not awoken to throbbing pain in his skull.
He apologized for his tardiness, bowing awkwardly and not quite enough, and taking his seat, the three of them said their traditional thanks in loud Japanese, drawing the eyes of several patrons around them. Haruki felt his ears go hot, watching Keen. The man sipped beer and spoke softly to his father as if he didn’t feel their eyes. Is he oblivious or courageous?
Their conversation was almost entirely about the Hebereke deal. Haruki continued to pretend to take notes, risking it even with Keen being there. Keen gave him a few sideways glances, as if he didn’t understand why the boy would possibly be taking notes about such a banal conversation, but there was no knowing glint in his eye when he looked at the boy.
Ryuk hovered over Haruki’s again. “Hyuk hyuk hyuk. You know, you can always make the eye deal with me, Haruki. It just takes two words.”
He was stunned. What the hell?! Why is he talking now… I thought he was shy in front of them? Indeed, this was the first time Ryuk had dared speak up in the presence of Keen and his father.
The eye deal was not worth it. That’s not to say that Haruki hadn’t considered the offer. Obviously, it would let him kill Keen with ease. Hell, he could kill anyone at any time if pushed into a corner. Before he continued to entertain that thought, Haruki would have to test that other loophole of the Death Note. It could allow for the eye deal to be made with no loss of lifespan. But that would require thorough testing to confirm.
“Forgive my curiosity, Mr. Keen… but were you born in Japan? “ asked Haruki during the next lull in the conversation, hoping to take their talk away from Hebereke for one moment.
“Hah, what gave it away?” Keen’s dashing smile was almost disarming. “It’s true that I wasn’t born in Japan, but you probably already guess that. I was born in the U.S. But I’ve lived in Japan for most of my life.”
Keen stopped, in thought, and Haruki used this to his advantage. “Is that why you use an alias?”
“Haruki!” his father said, wiping his mouth. The corners of his lips had gone white.
Keen came back to reality. He unfurrowed his brow. “Oh, it’s okay Mr. Kiryu, I don’t mind answering him. Anyways, no, that’s not why I used an alias. I had one because I was afraid I might get killed by Kira. Let’s just say my past… well Kira wouldn’t have approved of it.”
His father cleared his throat awkwardly. “If we can get Nestius to give us twenty-five percent, it would be a more fair deal,” he said, sipping pub ale. “Keen, you will argue that twenty percent is too low. I will take a more reserved line of argumentation, but you will overwhelm me and put forth the notion that if we do not get twenty five percent, we will agree to merge…”
On and on they talked. Ryuk was in Haruki’s ear, asking him again what he wanted to do. The boy wanted to slap that ghost so hard, but doing so would accomplish nothing. Keen’s words had been curious, and now Haruki was starting to get suspicious. What could he have done that would warrant his fear of Kira? And why doesn’t Dad seem to care that much? Maybe it wasn’t a big deal… whatever he did… or maybe Dad’s in on it too…
If my own father were a criminal, could I write his name in the Death Note? I am justice–familial attachments are beneath me. A god can have no such attachments. He felt his eyes stinging, and he wanted to bawl. There were so many people around.
“Haruki, are you alright?” Keen asked suddenly.
He looked up at them, startled. The pub was packed, loud music blasting from the wall speakers around the vast room. People were having lively conversations all around them. The group to their right burst out in drunken giggles at something a red-bearded statue of a man had said. The boy thought only of Misaki and that deathly look on her face when Hattori Kiyoshi’s death had been confirmed on the news.
“Y-yeah… I just think… n-nevermind…”
He bowed his head in shame, and the two continued their talk. He felt his father’s eyes upon him, their heat searing holes through the top of his skull, spilling inside in cleansing tides.
“Do the eye deal with me,” Ryuk urged again. “Come on, Haruki, this is serious!”
His stomach was twisting. Why is Ryuk acting like this? He’s not doing this to be annoying… he’s never this earnest. Why? Keen glanced at him again, a loose, judgmental look painted clumsily upon his face. That said all Haruki needed to know. He didn’t know exactly what Keen meant with that look, but it had chilled him to the bone all the same.
“I-I… I think I need to go back to the hotel.”
“The food not sitting well with you?”
“Yeah… I think… well, I should probably go. Sorry, dad.”
His father cleared his throat and looked down at his plate, saying nothing.
“You have a keycard, right?” Keen asked him innocently.
“Yeah,” Haruki replied.
“If you have to throw up, do it in the toilet,” Keen cautioned him. “Trust me, that’s the cleanest way.”
The boy stood up trembling. He was half faking this anxiety. His father looked ashamed of him. That was all it took to get him out of there. He didn’t look at the foreigners. Keeping his head down, Haruki walked all the way back to the hotel three blocks down, went to his room, and promptly locked the door with the chain pulled.
If Keen returned early, he would just say he locked it with the chain because he didn’t want Keen walking in on him in the midst of an embarrassing moment.
“Well Ryuk, what is it? Why do you want me to make the eye deal so bad?”
The Shinigami, hovering just in front of the boy, shrugged lightly. “I dunno. What do you say?”
“No, I won’t. Not yet. But seriously, Ryuk… what’s going on? Why are you all panicked now?”
The Shinigami shrugged forcelessly. Useless! If he thinks I’m getting him another apple now…
The boy glanced over at Keen’s bed. His suitcase was still lying on it. If I’m careful, I can put everything back exactly how it was, and he’ll never know. But… if he’s gone to this much trouble to protect his identity, would he have anything in there with his real name on it?
Haruki couldn’t know, so he had to check. But there was nothing in there that he wanted. While Keen had stashed a few more bottles of alcohol–both gin and tequila–aside from his clothes and hygiene essentials, he had packed almost nothing–same as Haruki. The boy found nothing suspicious: no recording devices, no signs that Keen was with the SPK. But even if he were, why would he keep evidence of that in his bag?
After what seemed like an eternity of going through Keen’s various assorted goods and finding nothing, Haruki noticed something strange. There was a business card crumpled in one of the pockets of his folded dress pants inside the suitcase, reading a name of Kellen Brewer. The card was written in Japanese, the name approximated in katakana. Is this his name?
Haruki had no idea. Yet, in a mad, desperate moment, his fear coming up all around him, his mind fixating on Keen for some reason, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the folded piece of paper from the notebook. Hastily, in hiragana and katakana alone, the young Kira wrote the following:
Kellen Brewer. Hit by a car trying to cross the street on his way back to his hotel from lunch.
Ryuk began to cackle softly at first. Haruki sat back, breathing hard, staring down at the name, imagining Keen’s handsome foreign face. His chest felt a little light. The god of death’s laughter built and built and built until, two minutes later, a knock came at the door.
“Hey, Haruki, are you okay?” Keen called from the other side. “Can I come in?”
Another alias, the boy thought in shock. What is he hiding? I can’t believe it… He looked up at Ryuk again, and it was in that moment exactly that Haruki understood how little Ryuk truly cared about him.This was all just a bit of entertainment for Ryuk. We’re like actors on a stage for him–only this isn’t pretend.
V. Justice (公平)
“Then let’s proceed, shall we?”
The older man was coughing into his arm as he typed the commands into his laptop. On the larger monitor display, set up on a collection of desks and tables across from the hotel beds, the thermal satellites activated. “First up is Wakarai Shrine,” the older man grumbled. “As you can see, L, there’s no one even there right now.”
“Yes, it appears so.” Near’s attention this day was glued on the monitor. He knew the case was at its end. He always got a feeling in his stomach, a little buzzy, a little hopeful, on days like this. I will find Ozaki and unmask C.
C had stolen the Kira files from Lidner, Gevanni, or Rester. That was most concerning for the simple fact that if that were true, C was most likely Kira. If C has a Death Note, then why am I still alive? He used my first name in the letter. He must know my whole name.
Near’s tracking of C in the time not spent hunting the last of the great Yakuza bosses was going nowhere. His last query had been into an old friend of Wammy’s–a man who had apparently been dead for the past sixteen years. That track had lead him nowhere. Other than that, his investigation into the C from Wammy’s House had led to the same result he had already known–that C was dead. Suicide, Near reflected coldly. Same as A.
“Try Sugiyama Shrine, please.”
“Zooming out,” replied Hallow from the other side of the table, as he remotely controlled the satellite’s focusing ability with the help of his fellow agent at the other end.
“Aye, it’s just a tick southwest, Hallow, you see it?”
“Affirmative. Zooming back in.”
“Seven vitals. Shall I scan them all, L?”
“If you could, Agent.” His finger had found the tip of his hair, curling around the first and second digits of his forefinger and uncurling again. “How close are the snipers, Hallow?”
“They could be there in two minutes.”
“Four women, three men. None of them are him, sir.”
“Are you sure, Brennen.”
“Very well. In that case, please readjust the satellite to the Morooka Kumano Shrine.”
“A little more east,” Brennen coughed two minutes later, after Hallow’s frantic typing yielded no sight of a new shrine to Near.
“There, I see it. Zooming in now.”
“Twelve people, L. I’ll do a scan.”
“Thank you, Agent Brennen.” Near’s thoughts diverted forty-five percent focus to Kira. It was undoubtedly true that Rester had been killed by someone with an authentic notebook. But Near was dubious as to if this was actually a real Kira or not. Lidner and Gevanni had, though they had both been killed in accidents, seemingly not died at Kira’s hands, regardless. It was likely one of their laptops that C had stolen. Maybe he killed them…
“There… L, look. We have a positive match!”
Past the gate, up the stairs, in the back of the temple, was none other than Ichizo Ozaki, kneeling in prayer before a shrine, a lit stick of incense in one hand, a bit of paper in the other. He was not with anyone, though the other men on the property were his yakuza–eleven of them guarding the gate and patrolling lazily and lighting cigarettes and talking amongst themselves obnoxiously as their master said his silent prayers to his dead brother.
“How soon can the snipers get there?” Near asked.
“Give them five minutes or so.”
“I don’t know that he’ll still be here in five minutes.”
“Understood, but we’re not losing him again… not with this satellite,” Hallow said.
“On second thought,” Near yawned, “Call off the snipers. You’re right, Agent Hallow. We really should keep watch over him. If we bug Ichizo Ozaki, we’ll learn who exactly he’s doing business with. That perhaps will be the bigger catch for us all, no?”
Brennen coughed in the corner, his cheeks flushed fiery red.
“How exactly do you plan to bug him with this many of his men around? And what if they do any sweeps and find it? He won’t ever come out again like this. We’ll lose our only shot at…”
“Please, Agent Hallow, relay the orders to the team. We will track him back to wherever he’s hiding out and then install the bugs at a later date. I–”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Brennen huffed. “We have to take him out now! It’s too risky any other way. We’ve come too far. He has eleven guards, L. We have to be reasonable about our options here.”
“I have thought things through, Agents. Please inform the snipers that–”
At the moment Ichizo Ozaki looked up from his murmuring prayers, his brains splattered out of a hole in the back of his head, moistening his long brown hair, and splattering the dirt path red with gore. The yakuza jumped to their feet screaming, looking around wildly, brandishing their weapons, so terrified and furious they didn’t know if they should rush to attack or to cover.
No other shots were fired.
“Agent Hallow, did you refuse to tell them to stand down?”
“L, we’re here to help you, but there’s some things I can’t budge on,” Hallow replied tersely, looking up at Near. There were lines of sweat running down his face. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but…”
“Hallow, shut up!” Brennen warned him. “If you’re smart, you’ll hold your tongue, you impudent bastard!”
The two of them exchanged a look. Near decided to say nothing at all. His fingers were lonely with nothing to grasp.
“We’re operating under orders from C,” Hallow said simply.
“You fool! You goddamn traitor!” Brennen spat, stumbling to his feet, his cheeks so red now that they appeared close to sunburnt.
“Ozaki had to die. Now look, Near,” Hallow continued, completely unphased by his fellow agent’s threats and shouting. “You have to help us find Kira. That is what truly matters.”
“Oh. I wasn’t aware there was a Kira, Agent Hallow.”
“You are going to pay for this, kid,” Brennen yelled hoarsely at Hallow before grabbing his bag and running outside.
He’s impulsive, but not overly emotional. “Tell me, Agent Hallow, did you give that order hoping that a quick conclusion to this case would make me focus on the more pressing Kira case, or did you do it because your master was in business with Mr. Ozaki and risked being exposed had I implemented my plan?”
Not looking at Near, the man shook his head. “You really know how to piss someone off, L.”
Exactly seventeen minutes later, the door opened. Expecting to find Brennen, Near was somewhat startled to see Agent Ifufe enter. “Hello,” she said curtly, walking directly up to him and throwing her pack onto the nearest bed. “I’ve done what you asked of me, L. I’ve found some evidence I think you may believe is convincing.”
“Is that so?” he asked apathetically.
“First up,” she said, pulling out her laptop to show him a video she had paused, ready to play, “is Kiyoshi Hattori: a local yakuza strongman who worked for Ichizo Ozaki. He was on the witness stand of his own trial for first degree murder of three women when this happened.” She played the video, and Near watched another man die of a heart attack.
“Perhaps,” said Near. “What other evidence do you have?”
“Well,” she said, “no other high-profile heart attacks, admittedly. I say there’s a thirty percent chance Kira killed him. But still, to die on the witness stand is suspicious, isn’t it?”
He’s connected to Ozaki. But then again if she and Hallow work for C, why would she reveal that information to me? Is Ozaki just a dead end?
“Yes, I’ll have to look into this one more closely. But you said there were no other high-profile deaths from heart attacks? What about deaths in general?”
“Well even then, nothing that could be attributed to Kira. There is one case I wanted to show you, however. It’s odd… odd for Japan, specifically. I wondered what you would have to say. Perhaps Kira was using this situation to test his capabilities to kill?”
“Interesting. Which case are you referring to?”
“The death of Choki Funae… a man who held a woman at gunpoint and ended up being killed by his own weapon after an onlooker shot him in the struggle.”
“Near… he’s coming,” Hallow said, and this time when Near looked at him, though Hallow’s face was still covered in perspiration, it had drained of all color as well.
“Him?” Ifufe asked, startled.
“Yeah, C. He’ll be here soon, he wrote me… didn’t specify when exactly.”
So C’s going to reveal himself to me now. I wonder if Agent Brennen will return. Will this even be the real C? What if C has made the eye deal with his Shinigami? He could possibly only know my first name… but there’s less than a forty percent chance of that being true. Still… it is a bold move by C to do this now. I wonder what Hallow’s fate will be.
“Very well,” L said without emotion. “I don’t know where Brennen has gone off to, but Ozaki’s dead.”
“Yes, I know,” Ifufe said solemnly, not looking him in the eyes.
“So I guess you’ve won, Agent Hallow,” Near said. “We’ll wait for C, and in the meantime… please tell me more about Choki Funae.”
That next morning they had woken early, taken showers, shaved, rehearsed their lines, and his father had given them all, Haruki included, a shot of his own favorite brand of saké, just to ease their fears a little. From the street, Nestius’ limousine greeted them shining black, taking them approximately five blocks down the road before depositing them outside his gated estate.
They all felt nerves; even Keen was uncharacteristically silent today. One of Nestius’ servants led them past the gate and into the complex, and it was only a short walk inside before they found themselves inside the old man’s office. It was a cramped and musty room, with old hunting trophies (foxes and falcons, mostly), several bookcases lining the walls, and Nestius’ desk remaining almost entirely devoid of items, save for a small tablet, its screen flickering blue in the low light, and an old-fashioned painted globe, fully spinnable.
“Welcome,” he said, warmly, ushering them in. “I hope the journey wasn’t too taxing upon you three. Tea, anyone?”
They all bowed very low, very stiffly; Haruki had never seen his father grovel like this before. The realization brought with it panic. Ryuk was snickering about something, and Haruki wanted to slap him. They all accepted the man’s offer, and soon three steaming cups of tea were brought before them, though none had, in the fluster of greetings and bowing, remembered what flavor this tea was supposed to be.
Nestius himself sat sucking on a straw, the fragrance wafting over from the desk being one unmistakably of lemon. Once the tea had been poured and the servants closed the door behind them, the old man, who was really quite wrinkly-faced, almost so much so that it was difficult to tell his gender, with wispy, bright white hair, and a sagging, brown face. His eyes were watery and blue, and his teeth were all gone–well, he wore dentures to be polite.
They exchanged formalities for a good while, and his father spoke in very strict, error-free English that made Haruki much admire him. Haruki himself answered a few basic questions Nestius posed him, but the man didn’t ask him anything unusual or see any reason why he should not be here for the negotiation of the merger. Though that eased Haruki’s pains, he was still very anxious, and he was annoyed at how difficult it was for him to conceal this.
For some time, Mr. Keen and Mr. Kiryu and Mr. Nestius had a conversation about their lives, their families, their passions, and they exchanged jokes and laughs, and Haruki laughed with them every time, even when he lost the meaning in some of the English sentences. At one point, the old man even passed out cigars and asked his two men to smoke them–Haruki of course being far too young even to take a whiff.
They obliged, though his father had never smoked even a cigarette in his life, Haruki knew. He’s going to lose a lung from this. Still, the elder Kiryu maintained his honor and accepted the gift graciously. Nestius lit up first, then Keen, then his father.
Haruki leaned back in his chair, trying to keep himself from laughing. His father’s cheeks were already turning pink, his eyes watering, his mouth gasping soundlessly, trying to not be in any way impolite. He’s probably dying on the inside. He has to cough so bad. Keen, for all his worth, was flushed too, and he coughed into his arm at one point, after exhaling a long puff of foul cigar smoke.
Haruki wrinkled his nose. I wish I could be like Ryuk and phase out of this world. Haruki was watching Ryuk stare at the various stuffed animals, making salacious comments about Nestius for keeping such prizes. It was at this point that the argumentation started to get a little heated. Keen and his father pressed Nestius for an agreement of 20% equity in Hebereke in exchange for the partnership, and fifty percent lifetime profits from all units that use Nestius’ processors. It was a reasonable offer, his father had insisted.
“I’ll do 30% and I want 90% of the profits until my loan of thirty billion yen is repaid.”
“We must insist upon 15%,” Keen countered. For now they were holding steady at a higher rate in order to secure the 20% later on. It was a good strategy. Haruki, being both the most junior member of this team, as well as a rather meek boy in general, found no opening to say anything. He simply sat back blinking and watched his dad and his co-worker shout with a client over the banal particulars of a rather bloodless business deal.
It was to him, in more ways than can be expressed in words, trite. He wanted nothing more than to be back in his room, finishing up the last names he needed to write down. The sixty thousand would die only two days after he got home from this trip. I will finish them tonight maybe. Then I won’t have to worry about anything until it all goes down.
And then he would find L and kill him. He would give all of the countries in the world–and even the UN and other international powers–the simplest of ultimatums: Hand over L or die. He would first target their political and military leaders if L’s name remained undisclosed for more than a month. He knew he would target the UN with that, as L operated international and had been funded by several international accounts for the Light Yagami Kira case.
Once L was gone, there would be nothing standing in his way. All who did would die. He would rule as the watcher over this planet, its justice-keeper. He had thought the idea of being a god entertaining once, but dwelling on the thought had been more than slightly unsavory, and now he held no such thoughts of grandeur about himself nor his title as Kira. Still, it was his power to enforce justice upon the world, so he would. But he would never reveal himself to the public. That is the quickest way to death.
“I cannot do it, damn it! You Japs are so goddamn stubborn about these sorts of things! I said 23% is my limit, alright?!”
Nestius’ shouting broke Haruki out of his thoughts. The old man’s cheeks were now flushed too. He was standing up, his hands on the desk, his posture thrust forward. The cigar was still in his mouth. Haruki’s father rose. “20% is as low as we can go… please, sir. I am only a representative of Hebereke. I was only authorized to give 20%...”
“No, damnit, no! 23% is as low as I go!”
Keen rose now. “Please, Mr. Nestius, be reasonable. If we are to repay your debts as well as grant you favorable profit returns from the early product launches, our own profits are going to go down somewhat… we need more time and less equity for this to be equal for everyone.”
“You need something I have,” the old man replied astutely. “23% is all I can do.”
“Please, consider 20%!” his father said in a deep, quavering voice that sent trembles down his spine.
“Hey Haruki, I don’t know what your plan is or anything, but they’re about to lose this thing, so you better say something,” Ryuk piped up, flying over to him. “Seriously. What do you say? I don’t know much about this sort of thing, but can’t you think up something?”
Were it so easy. Clenching his fists, his closed his eyes and imagined his father’s disappointed gaze, looking down upon him. Why didn’t you say anything? You could have helped us… you could have come up with something to save the deal…! You didn’t do anything! I bought you a ticket to London and you didn’t say a word, you coward!
He stood up too, his heart racing and waited for a break in the shouting. Finally, a few moments later, the three of them all took a deep puff of cigar smoke at the same time, and all three of them then proceeded to attempt to cough out a lung as a result.
When the smoke cleared, Haruki cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Nestius, would you please consider 22% and the loan repayment time be extended to thirty-six months?”
Silence followed. “32 months,” the old man growled, his eyes like marbles staring up at you from the bottom of the bath tub.
“Deal,” the boy replied in a high voice, not waiting for either his father or Keen to reply.
“Excellent,” Nestius smiled, coughing as he inhaled again. Leaning forward over his desk, he reached out his hand. Haruki and his father didn’t at first respond, so Keen stepped forward to take grasp it, shaking it in the way westerners did. Mr. Kiryu and Haruki then proceeded to do the same, and the deal was consummated.
That was easier than I thought. He looked around at his father, who had bowed his head, his skin gone pale, not looking at anything but his folded hands in his lap. Keen was looking with narrowed eyes at Haruki, almost as if he were trying to pierce into the boy’s mind with his gaze.
Nestius beamed and offered them all another cigar for the road. This time, he even gave Haruki one, and the boy did not refuse. They shook his hand again, exchanged thanks lavishly, bowed extravagantly, and were whisked out in a breath by the old man’s servants, taken to the limo, and driven right back home.
The three of them didn’t say a word the entire trip back, though Ryuk seemed to find the whole affair amusing. Haruki lamented that Gods of Death were so difficult to kill.
Once back in the hotel, they all convened in Haruki’s and Keen’s room. His father started actually by going to the bathroom for about half an hour in his room, but afterwards, they all got together to discuss what had just happened.
“We were not supposed to go above 20%,” his father said darkly. “Our boss will be furious… this deal is not to our benefit…”
“Mr. Kiryu, with all due respect, the deal’s not bad. 22% is not much different from 20%. Considering the three and five year returns we’re expected to get if this device can be made cheaper with Nestius’ processors… I just don’t see how that’s not a major win for Hebereke. Yeah, we’re going to take on the chin a bit for thirty-two months, but then it’s all profits from then on out… and major profits at that, the markets hold.”
“I guess,” the old man said sourly. “I’ll call him then, and after, we’ll–”
“Mr. Kiryu… it’s past midnight back home. He’s not awake. You can tell him in the morning.”
“Right… of course… I-I should’ve remember,” the man said in a dazed exhale. There was sweat on his forehead, sticking his hair to his skin. Haruki’s father looked very tired in that moment. The boy’s cheeks were growing hot.
“We should celebrate, yeah?” Keen said. “We got the deal… doesn’t that deserve a little celebration?”
“I guess… yeah… yeah, it does…”
Keen once again proceeded to walk over to his bag, pull out a fresh bottle of tequila–the really good bottle this time–and took out three shot glasses. He handed them their shots fully loaded after pouring three in a flash. He’s so practiced in this technique. I wonder if he was a bartender at some point.
They raised their glasses, murmuring their thanks, and drank again. The flush and heat came on quick, and suddenly his father’s skin was starting to get some color again. “Heheheh, we did it, didn’t we?! We’re going to be rich for this! I’ll be promoted for sure, and you… Keen, you’ll be considered for the diplomat’s job, won’t you?”
“Maybe, sir. I don’t know yet. It would be a lot to ask of them, but it would also be a great honor and privilege.”
“We’re going to make this company rich, I guarantee it! Pour me another shot!” his father shouted.
They were all given another shot. This time, Haruki felt it in his stomach more, and it was not so much pressure as a loosening force. He felt altogether lighter.
“Well, well, Haruki,” Ryuk said from the bed. “So, I must say I am a bit impressed. I didn’t think you’d be able to do that after I brought it up earlier. But it looks like you managed to put the deal together yourself…”
Haruki wasn’t worrying about that. He just hoped that his dad’s boss wouldn’t yell at him. He could blame me if that happened. That way they couldn’t pin it on him… but I am his son, and I’m not a member of the company. He vouched for me. If anything, I’m his responsibility. So if I failed him… why shouldn’t he be fired? He should resign in disgrace…
That was the way things usually were. But 22% was barely more than 20%. All of the other conditions to the repayment of the thirty billion yen loan over thirty-two months, to the 65/35 profit margin split until that debt was repaid, were fair and actually slightly better than his father had expected in both cases.
His father didn’t beat around the bush to get to the third shot. Keen expertly poured all three of them another round, and this time, Haruki was unsure if he should continue. His vision was already becoming sloppy, and he wasn’t sure he could stay awake getting any drunker.
Still, he could not refuse–not so early in the partying. He took the third shot, put it in his mouth, and held it there, pretending to swallow. Setting his shot glass down, he stood there for another minute, the alcohol burning his tongue; he wanted to throw up so bad, but he maintained his composure to sell this to the others as best he could.
A minute later, he walked off into the bathroom and covertly spat the shot out. He remained in there for as long as he dared, hoping that the other two had stopped taking shots, but when he came out, they were watching the television again–that program with the Dobby girl Keen and Haruki had been watching the previous nights. His father was standing on a chair and reciting everything the tall bloke was saying in a curt drawl that was both endearing and indicative of his conscious state.
Keen was sitting on the edge of the bed, his cheeks aflame with color, rocking back and forth, pointing and laughing at the television, mocking Mr. Kiryu for his boldness.
They didn’t notice him and both had fallen asleep within five minutes. He guessed they had taken more shots since he had been in the bathroom. His father was leaning back in a chair snoring while Keen had thrown his bag off his bed halfway, and it had spilled its entrails all over the bed and floor, for the most part.
Haruki walked up to Keen’s bed, feeling very adventurous, and glanced down at his bag again, noticing something glinting metallically in the artificial, yellow hotel light. A key. But those aren’t his keys… He walked over to the desk next to the television, which was playing end credits to a very energetic and nihilistic English song (as they often were, Keen had advised him), and pointed at Keen’s keys and wallet, sitting next to his father’s.
“Oh… I get it. Those are his keys there… then what are these keys for…?” Ryuk asked, curiosity thick in his voice.
Haruki dared not say a thing, lest either one of them be pretending.
Those fresh keys were sitting like a cherry on top of an ice cream cone, only this time on top of Mr. Keen’s freshly-folded-and-promptly-thrown-hither underwear and socks. He knew he should probably not risk this, but he wasn’t feeling like keeping things boring. I just orchestrated a multi-billion-yen trade merger while barely trying… while my dad and Keen couldn’t get a deal done… Well, that was probably just luck… but so what?
He snatched the keys up from the bed, to Ryuk’s shout of joy. I should have realized this the first day when I saw him put his wallet and keys on that desk every time he came into the room. That was careless of me. Last time when I was unloading his bag, I didn’t even think twice about those keys…
There were three of them; feeling them over, and glancing at them down the hall, from the bathroom, making sure the two men were still sound asleep, Haruki confirmed two of the keys were the same–a master key and a duplicate. The third key was shorter and fatter, shaped more asymmetrically.
The boy’s heart was beating almost up to his chest, and he didn’t know what he should do. He was feeling especially bold on account of his victory. It’s not even late yet. I haven’t had that much to drink, either. Besides, it’s already starting to wear off…
But if it was wearing off for him, what about them? What if Keen awoke to find his real keys missing? He may not notice it’s gone… but then again if he sees that the keys are gone and so am I, he will probably suspect something. Haruki swallowed. I don’t need to be afraid. Last two times he got drunk, he was out for hours.
The boy didn’t wait another second. Sliding out of the hotel room, he eased the door shut behind him.
“So… what’s going on? Why’d you take his keys? I’m lost,” Ryuk said, baffled, following him intently.
“These are his real keys. He has another pair that he walks around with, but those must be fake keys, or perhaps they’re his real keys too, but these ones are for something he has locked away probably. Two of them are the same, meaning two actual things to unlock. I’m going to that locksmith shop right next to this hotel that I’ve passed every day on the way to lunch or breakfast or the like; I’m going to get a duplicate of each.”
Ryuk smiled innocently. “Oh… are you now? Do you suspect that foreign guy’s up to something?”
And then, the alcohol making him feel like he was indeed a god–for this moment, at least–Haruki rushed off down the hall to enact his plan. I’ll find out what’s up with him. If he really is an SPK agent of some kind, or some other suspicious self-made detective kind of person… I’ll have to kill him for real. And that may mean having to trade for the eyes. I can’t let anything get in my way. I can’t let this situation become even a little risky for myself. I have to nip these things in the buds, always; if that means I so too have to shoot the kids, then so be it.
His father didn’t mention the merger to Haruki again for the rest of the trip, nor after they returned home. Indeed, they returned home several days early so Haruki could finish up some homework he had to finish up in preparation for classes resuming.
He did not see Keen again after they returned back to Japan for some time. There never was a time for him to test out those keys he had made. So it seemed, at least. It was time to focus again on his studies, and his father seemed extra concerned about that for him, despite Haruki finishing the last grading period top of his class again in every subject.
Still, three days before classes were to resume, Haruki set down his pen, stretched his back, and said, “Ryuk, it’s finished.”
“All 60,000, eh?”
The boy nodded, and though he was a little tired, he was certainly also quite proud of himself. A bloody good feeling welled up in his chest, enough to make him want to cry, but he blinked back the tears and slowly exhaled. All my work is now complete. They’re all going to die at exactly the same time, and then the news will broadcast Kira’s return to all the world.
He wondered vaguely what the other Kira would think of it. Whoever you may be; I am justice. If you are justice too, we can co-exist, perhaps. But if you’re not…
He knew the people were always on the side of justice over injustice. It was just the way humans fundamentally were. It was always why, when he had argued the philosophy of the nature of being human with Misaki in that oh-so-blurring past, he had always taken the side believing that humans were, at the fundamental level, good. His position standing in opposition to Misaki’s beloved Laozi, she had always fought him tooth-and-nail on that subject. Yes there were outliers and yes there were mentally or genetically damaged individuals who tended towards sociopathy. But the outliers never defined the sum, he had always believed.
“It will happen today,” said Haruki slowly. “Just after lunch in about thirty minutes from now.”
“Wow, heheheh… you cut it a little close, didn’t you?”
“It took longer to write that many names than I thought it would,” the boy admitted in a breath. “But not even Light Yagami ever did something like this before. I will truly show how potent my justice can be.”
“Is that so, eh?”
He tossed Ryuk an apple generously, hoping to melt the old Shinigami’s hard shell a little bit, at least for today. Today is my day of glory. He has to be on my side. Sighing and taking this last piece of paper, folding it up, and slipping it into his pocket, Haruki stood. Walking over to his bed, he reached under it, pulled out a strongbox, unlocked it with a fingerprint scanner, and pulled out his actual notebook.
On the first page, the following names were written:
Miyamoto Misaki, with her lover in a romantic act of shinjū on the beach at the edge of town just before sunrise.
Kiryū Haruk, with his lover in a romantic act of shinjū on the beach at the edge of town just before sunrise.
Iwasaki Jotaro, who takes a girl into the passenger’s seat of his car, whom he picked up from Haruki Kiryu’s house in Haruki’s own bed before taking her into his car, driving off, and dying in an accident after he attempts to sexually assault her and swerves off the road into a tree.
He paused there. Four names followed–those criminals whom he had used with the Death Note to gather millions of yens worth of money into an international bank account that he now had access to and could use if he ever needed the money fast–but he was not attached to them, and their deaths meant little to him. These four written names, and then the one just below the four criminals (Funae Choki… takes a woman hostage, holding a gun to her head. She breaks free, and during the struggle, Choki’s pistol is knocked away. A nearby onlooker picks it up and shoots Choki with it. After this, the man sets down the pistol and runs off. Everybody else who was gathered around watching this scene unfold run away too.) burned at him.
That’s six people you’ve killed up until now, he reflected to himself. I wonder how long it took Light Yagami to kill six people. Probably not six days… the world still feels the effects of his justice. The worldwide prison populations are drastically smaller than they were before Kira emerged even nine years later. Sure they’ve started swelling up again, but that’s to be expected. The longer justice is buried, the longer evil will flourish. It’s like mould left to fester in a basket of vegetables.
He felt nothing killing the four criminals, nor for the sixty thousand who had less than an hour to live.
These other names pulled at him, though. Kiyoshi Hattori had technically been killed by Misaki, but he knew if an investigation into Kira were ever started, his death was almost too perfect a starting point for almost anyone to find him. I mean, they still sometimes talk about it on the evening news.
And the deaths of those Japanese task force members, as well as (presumably), all of the members of the SPK, and possibly even L himself, was orchestrated by someone else who had also dared not yet come forth with a Death Note. It was true that the last time a Kira emerged, multiple Death Notes somehow circulated amongst several people, including Light Yagami, Misa Amane, Teru Mikami, Kyosuke Higuchi, and perhaps others that the Kira Files had detailed (he did remember a few minor names being added in the footnotes, but those shouldn’t be too important). For some reason, he wasn’t afraid, and Haruki wasn’t exactly sure why. He sort of felt like he should be.
The news people had long speculated that Kira was back; they were all waiting on the edge of their seats with bated breath, knowing a Kira return would spark an increase in revenue for them. That’s all this is to them. He had known that when he had sent the letter to PIQTV’s Yukari Yamaguchi.
Haruki stood. Time had passed unexpectedly, and now he had roughly fifteen minutes before it would happen. His mother was downstairs, and he found his father down there too, both of them watching a colorful anime in English on netflix on the TV. Dad’s so proud he got the whole thing hooked up.
He had the whole thing planned out. He knew how he would get them to turn to the channel at just the right moment and not make it seem suspicious. But his sister wasn’t down. She had been when he had returned to his room about an hour ago.
“Hey mom, where’d Masumi go?”
“Up to her room, I think. If she went out, she didn’t say goodbye.”
“Then she didn’t go out,” he said simply, walking back up the stairs, snagging a right this time to find the white door of his sister’s room, covered in stickers and parchment-painted requests on long strands of white paper, which rattled when he opened the door (most of them being prayers for good grades). “H-hey, Masumi, you there?”
“Whoa, Haruki, why didn’t you knock?!” his sister yelled. She had been lying on her belly on her bed, talking to someone on skype on her laptop. Her long black stockings had stretched up towards the ceiling as she had bent her legs up into the air, arching her back in mid-chortle. But as soon as Haruki had entered, all of that had faded; she rolled off the bed with startling ferocity and slammed the door in his face.
The person on the call had looked a bit like a chipmunk, but he hadn’t gotten a good look admittedly.
“Hey, Masumi, sorry, I didn’t know you were in there!”
“What were you coming into my room for?!”
“Oh, I just wanted to see if you wanted to do that tutoring session I promised you now. I’m free for the next hour or two.”
“Oh. Uh… yeah, just give me a few minutes okay?”
“Sure, that’s fine, just come down when you can. I don’t have a tremendous amount of time, but the sooner we start, the more I can help you with today.”
“Sure thing, Haru!”
He retreated to his room for a few moments to compose himself.
“Are you ready?” Ryuk asked him. “This is where it gets good, isn’t it?”
“This is where I learn if that other person with a notebook killed all of the SPK and L. That wasn’t televised. We know their names were leaked… except for L’s. I mean, you know his name, don’t you?”
“The fake L’s, yeah.”
“It would be cheating if you told me, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, not exactly,” Ryuk admitted. “I would be breaking a rule though, and I’d have to go see the Shinigami King… ugh.” He shivered, which was so unlike Ryuk that Haruki became slightly more lucid again. “It’s Rule XLVI. I think this sort of interference would be a level 3 crime… maybe level 2. Eh, I’ve heard bad things about those punishments, I don’t want to have to go through that!” he complained. He resembles a young child, Haruki realized. He’s scared.
“Fine. Could you at least tell me if he’s alive or not?”
Ryuk shook his head. “I’m not here to help you, Haru. I already told you that. If I do, I could get in a lot of trouble–my life’s at stake here! This is serious, Haruki! Be reasonable! Don’t you care about me?”
“Fine. I guess if L is alive, after what’s about to happen, he will likely have to make an announcement of some kind. If he doesn’t, I can’t assume he’s dead, as he could be lying low… I’ll still send the message to the U.N.”
“Ooh, that’ll be interesting,” Ryuk said. “What if they refuse to cooperate?”
“Then they are enemies of justice. Enemies of justice have no place in the world.”
He closed the door behind him, walking downstairs to find his sister sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for him, her literature homework splayed out like paper guts across one half of the table. She scrawled her notes impossibly small and impossibly illegibly, and Haruki knew he would have no hope of being able to read any of those. He’d have to go off instinct for all of this.
That was the fun part, after all.
It was two minutes to go-time.
“Okay, Haruki, you’re going to laugh, but my first question is, what’s alliteration? Professor Tanaka described it in class, but I was just so lost, and…”
“Yeah, no problem. It’s actually really simple. Look here at this sonnet by Shakespeare,” he said calmly, flicking to another page that had a printed copy of an English-written poem. “Notice all the “l” characters at the start of the words?”
“Y-yeah, I guess.”
“That’s all it is. It makes the poem sound nice when it’s read aloud. It’s just an aesthetic choice with sonic considerations in mind.”
She looked at him like he was an alien. “Whoa…”
Haruki’s phone buzzed.
The fake text (if anyone had bothered to check) read: “hey haru-kun check the news right now!!! shits going down :o
“H-hey, dad, I just got a message from Jiro… he says we should put on the news… something’s happening.”
“Ah, but we were just getting to the fight,” his father complained, as the female protagonist of his favorite anime (‘Martial Arts Handbook for High-Level Jabronis’, as it was called) in a brightly-colored pink-and-green jumpsuit had been encircled by light and started to grow in size. It was very impressive, but his father changed the channel anyways, first coming to TTR, but at Haruki’s suggestion quickly switching to PIQTV.
There, Yukari Yamaguchi, the dashing long newscaster was reading her lines with perfect pace and clarity, staring at the camera with a graceful look. He felt something for her, he knew, but nothing like what he had felt for Misaki. “We received this letter only three days ago and said nothing of it until today, believing that it was a prank… but now that its veracity has been confirmed, we are compelled to read out the entirety of this letter for you live over the air at once. To repeat,” Ms. Yamaguchi said in a high voice, “We are getting reports right now that around the world, criminals suddenly started dying from heart attacks again. Kira has returned. This is his letter:
“Ahem,” she said, clearing her throat and taking a deep breath. “That is the entire letter. PIQ can confirm that around the world, there are scattered reports coming in of many criminals suddenly dying from heart attacks–in some cases, the entire populations of prisons. This is a startling act by a force the media has for the past weeks, and perhaps even months, been speculating to exist, ever since the deaths of the Japanese Task Force members by heart attacks.
“Kira has asked us to transmit this information to the world under threat of death. We would have transmitted the information anyways,” she said steadfastly, a glimmer of resolution in her auburn eyes. That’s right. Keep going. You’re nearly there. “Kira has at last returned! Will he be a force for good or evil? We must decide in these coming days… but if he is anything like Light Yagami, whose role as Kira has, as this network has reported on many times, reduced not only the local crime rate, but international crime rate to unseen levels–for practical purposes, Kira eliminated crime. Should this Kira be anything like that Kira, perhaps we are in good hands. One can hope, I suppose?”
She giggled and laughed, and it was just so cute he had to look away.
“That’s abhorrent,” Haruki’s mother said when it was finished. “Murder is murder, no matter who it is.”
“Yeah,” his sister agreed, looking up from her mess of homework and troll-scrawl, “I don’t care if he’s killing criminals… he killed Mr. Mogi, too! That’s my friend’s dad! How can someone like that be good? Mr. Mogi wasn’t bad… he was a decorated policeman… tell me why he deserved to die?”
“Because he caught the previous Kira,” their father replied tersely. “It was ruthless, but effective. He had to eliminate his threats. It was nothing personal.”
“S-so… what do you think, Dad?” Haruki asked him cautiously. “Is this a good thing or not?”
“It’s neither. For now at least, we cannot tell.”
“Well, what do you think it’ll turn out as? Like the last one…?”
“No,” he said, bowing his head and not looking at his son again. “I have a feeling this Kira will be a lot more brutal, a lot more impatient with people. Look at this sixty-thousand number. That is an absurd power to possess. He could wipe out humanity if he wanted to. And if he ever became corrupted by his power, we would all become his slaves… Kira’s intentions may be good, but it is never good to have to be ruled over by another like that.”
It was a remarkable thing for his father to say, given his stern attitude and loyal demeanor, not to mention the way he acted at his job. He was a mighty professional, and yet even he didn’t agree with Kira… They’ll change their minds when they see what good this does, he thought madly, standing up.
“H-haruki?” his sister asked, looking up at him. “We just got started. Are you…?” ‘ “Just give me the paper, and I’ll fill it out,” he said. “Sorry, this news has… I don’t know… Jiro and the others from Kira Studies want to talk about it, I guess. I need to go see them.”
“Alright,” his sister sighed in disappointment.
He stood up, bowed to his father, and said goodbyes to both of his parents. Their eyes were glued to the television still. Yamaguchi was recapping the events a second time, showing the letter in half the screen as she spoke from the other half. Her pink dress was so cute, but at the same time had a refined maturity about it that worked well with her eyes.
“Be careful,” his mother said. “He’s in Hokkaido. There will be an increased international presence, no doubt. Don’t go about doing anything crazy now, Haruki. I don’t want your name ending up on this Kira’s list…”
“N-no mom, it’s nothing like that! We’re just getting together to discuss what’s going on. I-I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go. It wouldn’t be good.”
“He’s right,” his father said sternly. His eyes were narrowed as he squinted at the television. Forgot his glasses, like usual. “Haruki must maintain a good positioning in the class if he’s to graduate with honors. He cannot be isolated in an event as critical as this.”
“Then go,” said his mother, looking away. “I’ll have made dinner for you when you get back.”
“Lunch was good,” he said awkwardly. “You always make the best soba, Mom.”
“Yeah, yeah…” she mumbled.
He gave another apologetic look to Masumi and skirted out of there, Ryuk flapping his wings madly to keep up.
Once they were outside, Haruki took a right down the street, thankful that even though it was a Friday, it wasn’t quite late enough for the salarymen to be making their ways home yet. No one was around. It was a crisp winter day. The sky was grey, and he was walking quite fast now, his hands in his pockets.
“Well you did it, Haruki. Congrats. I guess that makes you really Kira now.”
His eyes stung. “I-I… I thought they’d be more on his side, you know?” Haruki whispered after coming to a stop to tie his shoe lace. He could hardly stop his voice from breaking. “I thought maybe Mom wouldn’t be for it… but Masumi and Dad… none of them approve of Kira.”
“And? Is that really going to make you give up now?”
“What am I supposed to do?” he asked Ryuk in that instant. “It’s already done. I have to do this now. I’m just scared that I’m going to have to write their names in the notebook too.”
Ryuk yawned. “Oh, that’s a shame. Well, anyways, can we pick up the pace a little? It’s cold out. And it’s three more blocks until that tree outside Mrs. Yamada’s house.”
“Fine,” Haruki murmured, standing up again, blinking away his tears. I cannot be overcome by emotion. I have anticipated this day for months. I cannot look back now. “Did you want another bloodbath when you gave Misaki the notebook, Ryuk? Another years-long struggle between good and evil, like last time?”
“Good and evil?” Ryuk cocked his head. “What the hell are you talking about now, Haruki?”
“I don’t know… it’s just, I suspect that since you’re a God of Death, this next part is going to get really interesting for you.”
“Oh, what do you mean?”
The boy’s breath frosted before his mouth. “I’m going to start killing a lot more people now,” he said. “All of the criminals in the world, as fast as I can. Before this year is done. You’re going to love it. I’ll be just like you, only efficient.”
“Hey!” Ryuk screamed, his voice breaking. “That was uncalled for. Just because you can’t touch me doesn’t mean you can’t hurt my feelings, you know!”
“Yeah,” he said. “So what do you think? Was it a good idea?”
“A bit unnecessary,” Ryuk said. “But it’s crazier than anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember anyone ever killing that many people at one time with the Death Note. It’s really impressive.”
“Well, I hope you were entertained, because we’re just getting started.”
Ryuk cackling on his heel; the boy walked on, deciding he would take another train ride down the coast to Shizuoka to clear his head and maybe work out that cramp in his wrist.
It was another one of those rotten grey days in the Shinigami Realm.
Jakkuran landed softly by the portal.
“Oh, hey there man. Long time no see. Where’ve you been?”
“Nowhere. Say, you haven’t happened to see my Death Note anywhere, have you?” the Shinigami with a skeleton for a face, his goggles pulled back expertly, asked. “I swear I left it around here somewhere. But that was a while back.”
Mepherik was sitting at the gambling table alone, running some old bones between his fingers listlessly. A faint wind was spraying ash into the sky around them, but neither Shinigami reacted. The new Shinigami was scouring the portal area, looking under rocks and even digging in the ash, desperately searching.
“Your Death Note doesn’t happen to have a white cover, does it?”
“Oi, yeah–that’s it. Where’d you see it?”
“Raght gave it to Ryuk. Or… I mean, he told Ryuk that notebook was owned by some other Shinigami… Baloucher, I think. You ever heard of that guy?”
“Psh, what a filthy liar,” Jakkuran retorted, folding his arms angrily. “But all the high-rankin’ ones are. I guess that means my notebook’s in the human realm, yeah?”
“That’s right, Jak.”
Jakkuran bowed his head, tasting ash on his lips. He was so very tired, and so very pissed off that he had to exert energy to complete this newest, stupidest task. Ryuk and Raght would both owe him big. Maybe I’ll get that increase in rank after all. “Goodbye Mepherik.”The skull-faced Shinigami stirred from the surface like a dead leaf caught in a cyclone, and faster than the wind, he had dived through the portal just ahead, leading right down to Earth.