Chapter Thirty-Six


"I love how, whenever you tell me a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion. Like a flower blooming." -Andrew Smith

The archway through which all the guests entered was well lit and accented with deep purple curtains, which parted elegantly and made for a striking entrance. Light Yagami and Kiyomi Takada made a particularly regal sight as they entered arm in arm, each holding themselves tall and poised, as they made their way further into the ballroom so as not to block the entryway.

The hall was tastefully decorated, with round tables covered with fine white tablecloths that held platters of hor d'oeuvres, champagne, and bouquets of flowers - stargazer lilies, gladiolus, and calla flowers artistically arranged in decorative vases.

Misa knew the names of each flower because she had picked them out herself, and they fit in with the color scheme that she had decided on for the evening. It looked every bit as lovely as she had imagined it, even if Kiyomi had nixed some of her more dramatic ideas, such as her solo performance. She didn't see what the big deal was - couldn't this be a "mature" gala and still be fun?

Has Takada ever had fun in her life? Almost definitely not. Misa thought to herself, letting out a self-satisfied sigh. She leaned on the railing on the second story of the ballroom, a perfect crescent stretch of marble looking out over the first floor where the masses gathered. A few people looked up and recognized her, to which she waved and blew kisses at them, giddy with excitement.

"That's him, Rem." Misa rested her cheek in her palm, frowning for a moment as she considered the picture they made, arm in arm, graceful and impeccably dressed. "They look kind of beautiful together, don't they?"

"I suppose," Rem agreed in her smooth, monotonous tone.

"Or," Misa put a finger to her chin thoughtfully, "do humans look beautiful to you at all? Are we just flesh bags in your eyes, Rem?"

"Many are," Rem replied. "Others can be, as you said, beautiful."

"Hmmm," Misa hummed considerately, her lips losing the quirk to them after a moment.

She wondered how Light was doing, after his confinement - it had been some time since they'd been released. Since that horrible display concocted by the terrible so-called detective in the shadows. Misa hadn't recognized the smell at first, that sickly sweet smell in the car on the drive back, but the long ride back to the hotel had given her time to think it over. She'd thought it might be her own heat, though she'd been allowed mild suppressants while she'd been locked away.

Light had refused to look in her direction practically the entire ride, or away from the window at all. He'd hidden from both Misa and his father's gaze, but even so, Misa had realized what the truth had to be. She didn't know how he'd managed to hide it, and sometimes she still thought about why he felt the needed to at all, and her heart ached for him. But her suspicion, while she was fairly certain of it, was far from fact. Even if it were, it wasn't her secret to tell - at least unless it suited her needs at the time. As of yet, she had no reason to spill such a silly secret.

What use would Light's gender be to Ryuga, after all? Still, keeping things from him made her nervous, and the best cure for the jitters was surrounding herself with other people.

Well, time to mingle then.

Misa made her way down one of the two elegant stairways that lead down to the first floor, her hand sliding down the railing gently as she did so, heels tapping lightly with every step. She caught the eye of many of their patrons, all of whom looked equal parts nervous and awed. Misa lifted her chin under their gazes and twirled as she approached her destination, showing off the delicate lines and frills of the rich purple dress she wore before stopping just in front of the pair. Kiyomi made a striking figure next to Light in her deep red floor length gown, and Misa finds herself vaguely irked at the fact Light's tie was only a few shades brighter crimson, making it look almost planned.

A ridiculous thought, considering her own Alpha was around here somewhere. Misa grinned brilliantly at them both and leaned forward playfully.

"Light Yagami isn't the only person at this party, you know."

The evening began with everything in its proper place. The guests filed in, many of them whispering to one another and looking around the room with awe and uncertainty. Kiyomi couldn't exactly blame them, even though their expressions strike against the deepest, most basic level of her displeasure.

After all, she had also entered into a partnership with Ryuga with much the same emotions roiling within her, though she would be lying if she didn't also admit to a hint of pride at being chosen at the time. Even if those feelings were barely a shadow of what they had been a couple years prior, she remembered them clearly.

Beside her, Light Yagami gave off none of these feelings. His expression was that of casual politeness, as had always been the case, at least in Kiyomi's experience. He surveyed the room as if he were at any other Gala of the sort - as if he made a habit of coming to such places, as if there weren't powerful politicians, executives, musicians, actors, and journalists from all over the world occupying the grand ballroom.

They found a place not far from the base of the staircase on the left, near one of the high, round tables with a bouquet of flowers in an elaborate vase in the center. Without thinking, Kiyomi trailed slightly behind Light, watching him as he moved through what was now practically throngs of guests.

Through. Yes, he moved through them, that was the best way to describe it. She happened to know this for a fact, as she'd spent over three years observing Light Yagami, trying to know him. While she had never quite succeeded, there were still plenty of things she had picked up, and his ability to walk gracefully through a room as if no one else were there was unmatched by anyone she had ever met before.

All these years, and nothing had changed.

"I've been following your career," Kiyomi began when they had settled, once Light had turned to face her. Once his attention was on her, it felt instead as if he had pulled her into his world, the one where only he existed. She knew it well, as she had sojourned there as often as she was allowed to. As important as it made a person feel to be accepted into the space of his consideration, she felt like a guest. She always had.

A waitress came by and offered them both glasses of champagne from a half empty silver tray. Light took one and Kiyomi took two, setting one down on the table while the other remained in the gentle clasp of her fingers. They nodded to the waitress as both thanks and dismissal.

"Have you?" Light answered, not even glancing down at the wine before he took another sip.

It was too sweet for his taste, Kiyomi was certain it was, as she felt mostly the same. It was Misa's favorite, however. Ryuga didn't drink, and as such had had no preference when it came to such things. In fact, he'd had barely any strict preferences at all on the appearance of the Gala, as long as it was aesthetically pleasing and formal enough to present the image he wanted.

"I have," she answered easily enough, "It's partly my job, but you know the law has always interested me. You've made quite an impact on the NPA since you left university."

But then, you always knew you would. You've never said it, of course, but you know exactly what you are.

"I'd say the same," Light told her in return, mouth quirking wryly, "but isn't everyone following your career?"

"Being one of the Kiras has certainly caught the eye of the populace." Kiyomi nodded delicately.

"I meant before that, actually," Light flattered her, giving a very slight nod of his own that hinted more at a bow than simple affirmation. "You've been a rising star for years now, Takada-san."

Kiyomi barely had time to raise an eyebrow before they were interrupted.

"Light Yagami isn't the only person at this party, you know."

Instead of reacting to Light's praise, Kiyomi turned her eyes on the origin of the voice, the pixie-like figure of Misa Amane all but spinning toward them. She wore a strapless, deep purple dress that was so light and airy that if she had spun with any particular force, she might have shown the room more than she cared to. Just behind her, Rem hovered like a pale shadow, as she nearly always did.

Not, Kiyomi thought, that Misa was a particularly abashed individual.

"I'm well aware," Kiyomi said amusedly, plucking up the extra wine glass and extending it to Misa when she was close enough to take it. "However, I would be remiss if I didn't say hello to an old friend."

Misa looked at the glass, a spark of surprise in her eyes, before they caught fire and lit up her entire face with a grin. She took the glass in her hand, twirling it a bit so that the liquid swayed and spun.

"More than just an old friend," Misa pointed out playfully, and though the heavy-handedness embarrassed Kiyomi, she didn't let it affect her much; she simply averted her eyes briefly and took a sip of her wine.

"Takada-san's friendship was prized highly, in addition to the rest," Light answered charmingly, his own smile coy. He bowed toward Misa. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Amane-san."

"Don't be so formal," Misa told him, shaking her head, which made her artfully curled hair bounce across her bare shoulders. "You look great, by the way. Better even, than before….you know, all that nasty stuff."

Kiyomi looked at Light to gauge his reaction. She had met Soichiro herself on two occasions while she and Light had been dating, and she had not received the impression he was capable of what Misa described. Light Yagami, affected in any significant way, was almost impossible to imagine. Even so, the girl's outrage was enough to make Kiyomi doubt her own convictions on the matter.

"Thank you," Light responded, without skipping a beat. "You do as well, of course. I'm glad you've been taken care of."

"Ryuga's been wonderful," Misa gushed suddenly. "Always sending Kiyomi after me to make sure I'm okay. He's so very busy, so for him to think of me at all, let alone write letters, send me flowers -"

Kiyomi took a long sip of saccharine wine and swallowed without the faintest grimace.

If Takada were not such a poised individual, it might have been awkward for her to be in the company of Light Yagami and Misa Amane simultaneously. Each a shining medal embodying her prior and current romantic inclinations, and perhaps even the flaw in her taste. They both stood before her, lovely on their own and in contrast to one another as well, similarly unreachable; it would have been entirely understandable for anyone in a similar position feel out of place between them.

As it was, Takada was not one to have a hair out of place, let alone her entire self.

Beside Kiyomi's personal reasons, Light and Misa shared more serious similarities. These were L's two most public former suspects and victims, although no one outside of Ryuga's small cortege knew that Light had been the second one falsely imprisoned. Kiyomi had never wanted to frame him, but Ryuga had made a compelling case for it. It wasn't like she could have used her past affection for Light as a serious reason not to - not when doing so had worked out so well for Kira's reputation.

It wasn't as if she held any real power when it came to anything of importance. Misa could decorate, and Kiyomi could draft his speeches, but Ryuga called the shots that mattered. In the end, he'd been right - the decrease in L's standing within the NPA had caused other governments to speak out against him, and was largely the reason they'd come this far this quickly.

She hid the curl of her lip on the rim of her glass as she took another sip.

"Come on, let's mingle, there are so many important people here we just have to meet." Misa stepped over and secured her arm's around Light.

For some reason, Kiyomi didn't feel the flash of instinctual jealousy she did whenever Misa showed Ryuga physical affection. However attractive and charming Light Yagami was, she couldn't consider him a threat - perhaps because he was a Beta, and perhaps because he clearly had no romantic interest in Misa at all.

"What about -" Light offered a polite hesitation, "I haven't seen Hideki-san, I mean."

"Oh, he'll be around soon." Mise waved a hand dismissively and eagerly. "He wants everyone to get settled first, and make sure everything starts smoothly. It's not easy being the host, you know."

"Arriving dramatically and fashionably late is just a bonus," Kiyomi found herself saying, earning a flicker of Light's gaze in her direction.

"Oh, hush," Misa reacted quickly, but there was a light pink to her cheeks and a wrinkle to her nose that told Kiyomi that Misa knew she was right.

"Wedy is hanging back for now," Mello explained, "until the event is in full swing, but she has eyes on the location."

"Has she spotted Kira yet?" L asked, the telltale crunch of some kind of cookie filling the line a moment later.

"No, her view is limited, but she believes him to be beneath the hall," Aiber's voice came next, his easy drawl covering the nerves that Mello knew he was feeling. The man's gaze continued shifting uneasily toward the gun in Mello's hands, then over to Sayu. "She saw some access points but the signal out there keeps fading."

"Fucking mountains," Matt snarled, mostly to himself.

"Isn't that bad?" Sayu asked, not hiding her anxiety half as well as Aiber was.

"Matt's handling it," Mello answered, leaning back in his chair until it was balancing precariously on two legs.

Aiber chose that moment to drawl, "Should she really be here?"

Sayu's eyes narrowed. "If this is safe enough for my brother, it's safe enough for me."

"Baby Yagami is safest with me," Mello answered casually, shrugging and offering Sayu a smirk. She was openly anxious, tapping her knees. Her brother was going in undercover to catch the most dangerous man in the world, and the woman she'd been dancing around the concept of dating was cat burglar-ing her way into the same mass murderer's twisted prom night.

Mello could tell Sayu was going to pace the entire time, so he'd given her the task of monitoring hotel security. It wasn't a difficult job, and it wasn't like they were targets, but it had given her a distraction.

"How is the hotel looking?"

"Which hotel? We're scattered all over," Sayu huffed, crossing both her legs and arms. Mello had a brief flash of deja vu, only it had been Light before rather than Sayu.

They'd split up between three hotels, each within a few miles of the others. L and Matt were in one, Aiber and Near were in another, while Mello and Sayu were holed up together. Though, Mello supposed, the term 'holing up' might not apply to five star hotel suites.

"Safer this way," Mello told her. "Just count yourself lucky that you didn't get paired with Aiber. I heard he gets terrible gas when he gets nervous, and he hates this whole operation. The real hero today is Near."

"Excuse me?" Aiber hissed.

A little scoff came next on the line, and Mello could tell it was Near's, even though he was in another location with Aiber. Mello's only company was Sayu, who was trying her best to hide the fact that she was a bundle of nerves. Naomi was on her bike, tailing a few miles behind Wedy for quick back up if it was necessary.

It brought a small smile to Sayu's lips, so Mello supposed it wasn't the worst joke imaginable. Aiber was only being kept around at this point to act as Near's pretend guardian and assistant, if he needed help getting around. This wasn't a con job, but they needed more hands on deck, and Aiber was nearby already.

In any case, Mello's job would be a lot easier if Sayu stayed calm and believed this operation to be entirely normal, at least for the super detectives Sayu believed them to be, even if this was far from it.

"...which is why I told our broker that he had to be absolutely insane to think we'd agree to…"

At first, Light was afraid that he wouldn't remember enough Mandarin to understand everything the man named Lin Hung was saying. Now, he rather wished that he didn't. Takada had been kind enough to introduce them, but had been pulled away by some crisis with one of the kitchen staff. Elegant hors d'oeuvres were now being carried by the waitstaff on silver platters, but she had yet to save him from the financial small talk the stranger had dragged him into.

The only reason that Light had not excused himself was because Hung didn't seem to care when Light's attention drifted, which allowed him to observe Ryuga from afar unnoticed.

Ryuga had joined the party over an hour ago to applause, which he'd brushed away with a gracious gesture of his hand. He'd then proceeded to mingle with, Light presumed, everyone besides him.

"Pardon. Are you Light Yagami?"

At first annoyed, the man with whom Light had been conversing (for lack of a better word) looked up at the intruder. Light didn't know him, but he was almost stunningly attractive, well-dressed, and seemed to make an impression on Hung.

"Namikawa-san, I didn't know you'd be here."

"I'm sorry, I'm just terrible with faces," the man named Namikawa informed Hung in a clipped yet polite tone, then turned back to Light. "I've been asked to escort you to the second floor, Yagami-san."

Light raised his eyebrow, gaze flickering upward.

Ryuga had come from the second floor to make his entrance but only a few had gone to the second story. It loomed over the first despite being perhaps a fifth of the size, casting a sliver of a shadow on the first floor. He'd cut his hair for the occasion, not much, but enough that he looked sharper than he ever had in his interviews. He looked older as well in his navy bespoke suit, but Light had no doubt that he had contrived every part of his appearance to look respectable. As if this was a legitimate political party rather than some kool-aid drinking cult.

Perhaps he was trying to humble Light, to let him know he was just one of many possible pawn in his supernatural plan for megalomania.

However irritated the entire charade had made Light, excitement rose in him at the prospect of meeting him face to face. It was a sour feeling, but gave him the energy he needed to smile graciously at both Hung and Namikawa.

"I see." Light bowed in Hung's direction. "It's been a pleasure speaking with you."

It most certainly hadn't, but making enemies here didn't seem the wisest choice.

Wedy was pissed at Mello for letting Sayu come along. Psychology degree or not, Yagami or not, she was a civilian. She had no business being in as much danger as the rest of them, who were either trained detectives or trained criminals. She was a twenty-something recent college grad. She didn't even have work experience yet, let alone experience in something as precarious as this.

Hell, Wedy herself wasn't fond of this entire plan either. But drastic measures had to be taken to deal with drastic enemies sometimes. She had worked her entire life to be an outstanding burglar, and even if Sayu was smart and driven, she was also young and foolish and - well. Soft. She wanted so badly to be like her brother, and it wasn't exactly Wedy's place to tell her that might not be the highest of aspirations.

She crept through the throng of limousines, parked in almost eerily straight lines. One of the snoozing drivers woke up and coughed. She made sure she was out of sight, all the while cursing Mello's bad judgement.

Getting into the facility and getting out unnoticed was a relative piece of cake, compared to some of the other places she'd weaseled her way into over the years. Hooking up each camera individually was more tedious than difficult; she had to climb to each position without being seen and spend a couple minutes setting up the camera at the appropriate angle. Then she had to wait to confirm with the little detective gang that she'd done it correctly, or else all the effort would be for nothing.

If there was anything more annoying than working such a dangerous yet over-involved gig, it was having to go back and correct mistakes. Treading the same ground over again was never good for effective sneaking.

"We have a visual."

"Perfect," Wedy replied under her breath, already turning to make her way back out through the window and to her rig. Up was always easier than down, which was counterintuitive but unfortunately true, so she'd need to take her time if she wanted to be discreet. There were only two guards at each of the entrances, which she thought to be a little bit lax. But then, this was hardly the Iranian Gold Reserves or anything, and she supposed that Kira had relied more on secrecy than brute force so far.

Even so, if Kira had really wanted to make sure this place was unhackable, there were a few essential precautions that would have made Wedy's life harder. Like having guards pacing the hallways at unpredictable intervals, or perhaps locating the entire thing on an island of some kind.

As it was, she made it up to the roof again in record time, giving her leeway to redirect her escape path in case the guards were smarter than they looked.

Which was just about when the roof shook beneath her so hard she was nearly thrown from it.

Although Near did not know Aiber well, he was a delightful alternative to his other options. Delightful, as in, he did as Near asked and was conventionally attractive and charming enough that the hotel staff wouldn't look too long at the eccentricities that Near presented.

His only other option might have been L, but each of them on their own drew enough attention as it was. Matt wouldn't wait on him hand and foot like Watari, but he was decidedly more likely to have practical knowledge and a willingness to utilise it than either Near or L. Mello was not an option for obvious reasons, and luckily, he seemed to think so as well. The prospect of them partnering together while the gala took place had never been brought up.

Aiber, to his credit, was a helpful assistant, even if he wasn't subtle about how below his station he found all of this.

Near occupied himself with stacking ear swabs in neat little houses while they waited for Wedy's voice to tell them when to activate each camera. Matt made small talk and told the occasional joke to diffuse the tension. Each camera was set up and connected until there were fifteen angles to watch the proceedings from. It took her a little under an hour, moving to each location with a clandestine poise that Near could not begin to fathom.

There were approximately seven minutes of consistent visuals, altogether. Matt was able to mine faces to confirm his version of the guest list with relative ease. When it was all done, Wedy sat tight for several minutes to make sure the ethernet lines were stable, waiting for L's confirmation before beginning to slip her way out of the building

Each screen gave them a different view of the venue, most of them in the main hall, but one in the hallway leading to the kitchen, which gave them a partial view of the kitchen as well. The staff was cleaning up and readying more glasses of wine and constant array of finger foods. Not much to see, but potentially important. No stone left unturned, in this case.

Camera #1: View of the limousines.

A large man exited his vehicle. He forgot to shut the door behind him.

Near glanced at the profile that Matt had provided him on the drivers. This one was a smoker. Even so, there was nothing in his posture to suggest that he intends to stop walking soon. He didn't reach for his breast pocket, which had an obvious cigarette box shaped bulge. His intentions were not clear, but they didn't seem to have anything to do with his nicotine habit.

Additionally, the security footage from the hotel that Light Yagami was picked up at confirmed that this was the driver that took him to the location.

Camera #14: Sliver of the hallway connecting the kitchen and entryway.

The large man stomped in from outside and through the detector that each of the guests had been subject to.

It went off.

Red lights flashed and periodically obscured Camera #14's clarity, but Near figured that was the least of their problems. L commented, but it was muffled by what Near guessed was his thumb. It didn't matter, as Near was fairly certain that all eyes were on the driver's sudden ambiguous activity.

Camera #3-#13: Ballroom.

The large man ran through the throng of people, several scattering as he made a path, without any apparent thought for the party-goers. He stopped when he reached dead center, red faced and shoulders heaving.

Although the expressions of the occupants were grainy, Near could pick up on a general disconcerting in the room. The alarm must have been loud, as several of the guests were covering their ears or looking around for the source in confusion.

Camera #6: Ballroom angle from a vent near the second floor.

It caught several seconds of the large man's angry face, enough that a lip reader might be able to make something of the words. It also caught the familiar silhouettes of Light Yagami, Kiyomi Takada, Misa Amane, and Teru Mikami on the second tier of the ballroom.

They weren't particularly close to the railing, but appeared to have a good view of the agitated large man that now seemed to be giving some sort of speech.

Camera #3-#7: Ballroom angles with a side or frontal view of the large man.

His arms were waving as he spoke, brow furrowing, his lip curling. Near was fairly sure he was spitting with the force of his words, and made out what might be the word 'Kira'.

Aggression was etched into every movement he made, enough to make the occupants inch away, but it wasn't until he pulled open his coat with a harsh tug that the crowd truly panicked.

They began to run, to push, to dive beneath tables, and then -

"Ryuzaki -"

"Fucking -"

"Oh my god -"

"He's going to -"

It happened an instant later, an explosion without sound, as if Near were watching it happen in space. The voices that had gasped or cursed over the line fell silent.

Camera #3-#13: Fire, smoke, debri.

Only Camera #1 remained unobstructed, a serene view of the limousines stretched across the venue's lawn. Wedy's connection fell away, her name falling off of the line.

Some kind of rock formed in Near's stomach and threatened to grow up into his throat. He pushed it down.

Aiber stood up and stumbled on his way to the bathroom, muttering an excuse that Near either ignored or didn't hear. His mind sounded like static for several terrible seconds.

Near supposed he ought to learn the driver's name now.

"Ryuzaki, did you lose the visual as well?"

Near knew that he must have, but he felt the need to confirm just the same. Felt the need to hear his own voice, to make sure that it didn't crack, that was still under his control. He had to get past this, they all did, or they would waste time. That wasn't an option now, not when lives were likely being lost every second they delayed.

"All except for Camera 14, in the lower left quadrant of the - " A tense pause. "Never mind."

"The debri is blocking our view."


This is too convenient. If we delay too long, the perpetrators could be miles away by the time the smoke fully clears. Kira himself could be long gone, more importantly.

While they'd gotten a few minutes of footage that they might be able to mine for suspicious activity later, that was a task for another time. The stakes had just gone up. There was no way of knowing from here how big the explosion had been. Everyone inside could be dead, for all they knew now.

Near wondered if perhaps that was why L's voice seemed so tense.

"I suppose this means -"

"Yes," L responded, sounding as if he's already walking away. "Watari is already on his way in Helicopter A, but it will take some time. He's reported that Wendy's tracker is still working."

Whether or not she's alive on the other hand -

"Please wait in the lobby for Mello to pick you up. You'll fly Helicopter B."

Near sighed, but otherwise didn't let the dread show on his face. There were more important things to occupy his mind with rather than the fact he'd have to face Mello. The work, the puzzle, the people, they were all more important than whatever negativity Mello might make him feel.

"Aiber, please escort me to the lobby. We'll be trading off with Mello shortly."

The entire venue moved beneath Light's feet, throwing him to the ground so hard that it felt as though gravity was holding him down even when the worst of it was over.

That was all he knew. Something had exploded, that was the only answer that made any sense. The noise, the way the ground shook, and the terrible splintering sound of solid objects being undone. That madman, his very own driver, had gone from pleasant to practically foaming at the mouth.

Light had never heard an explosion in person, so there was a split second where his mind could not fathom what he was hearing. Movies and documentaries could not do it justice.

Everything was impossibly loud.

Light had hit the floor before he had completely figured out why he should, and the impact startled him into action. Instinctively, Light had thrown himself behind a table, but it didn't offer him optimal cover. But then, he supposed that everyone who had been on the first floor with the now certainly dead driver had even less protection.

Following, it was quiet. So quiet.

The thought pierced his mind that perhaps everyone below was already dead, but he soon realized that the blast had likely damaged his eardrums. His head hurt terribly, throbbing as if from the core of his brain, though his current deafness was an even more terrifying notion.

But then someone shrieked, and though he was relieved that he could still hear it, he didn't look up to find the origin – it had come from below, where the bomb had gone off, and he didn't have time to think on which stranger might be screaming like that, as if it might tear through the air with as much force as the explosion had.

Instead, his eyes focused and darted around in search of an escape path. He was on the second floor, just a crescent sliver of landing meant to peer over the main ballroom.

He'd only come up to the second floor minutes before, escorted by Namikawa. He'd spoken with him over a glass of wine briefly while he waited for Ryuga to join them.

Who else had been up there? Light suddenly couldn't remember. Had Takada? Had Misa? Or had they been on the floor below mingling once again with those that had not earned an invitation to the second floor?

The idea of moving toward the edge to look at the havoc that the explosion had wrecked made Light sick to his stomach. He could hear groans. Multiple groans, different voices, a variety of pitches cut with pain. People had been hurt. Possibly more than hurt. Almost definitely more than hurt; there had been so many.

His mind flashed to the East West Festival, at the people scrambling to evade the inevitable. He couldn't hear well enough to know if there were people trying to get out of here too. If there were anyone left to try to get out.

Stop being morbid. Focus – FOCUS.

Is there a way out? No, second floor, the windows are reinforced. Even if you could break it, you're close to thirty feet up. Only worst case scenario, so what next - ?


Light's eyes darted around for anything he might be able to hide behind or inside. It was only then that he saw two bodies nearby.

They were dead.

They weren't moving so they had to be dead, and that meant that there was still a chance that Light could join them, that another bomb could go off, maybe he wasn't working alone, maybe Light was more injured than he knew and the shock was just protecting him, he hadn't even checked himself over -

God, his head hurt so badly and he couldn't hear well enough to tell if anyone was coming close.

And they're dead, someone was dead nearby, someone he knew, someone he was just speaking to, and there was nothing he could do about it. His body didn't want to listen to him, and every motion he made made him dizzy.

The figure of someone appeared in the smoke, their form mutated to Light's eye. Their arms seemed too wide, bulkier than any human should be.

Unease filled him as he pushed himself up from the floor, preparing himself to protect himself if necessary.

The form came closer and Light just managed to realize that it was two people. One was carrying the other, who was apparently unconscious. Which seemed like the least useful thing to be in this situation, but also, he was so tired, so hell, if someone could carry him too -

A flash of blonde hair caught his eye, yellow enough to cut through the debris cloud, however briefly before -

The floor tilted beneath him.

"Hop on."

The words didn't quite compute. They didn't sound like Japanese at all. Sayu and Mello had been speaking mostly in English while in the hotel together, because she needed the practise, but this was definitely Japanese.

Why didn't it sound right to her ears? Probably the shock. Why had he switched? Probably to make you feel better.

Not that there was anything that could really make her feel better right now.

"Yagami, I know this sucks." Mello took her arm and dragged her closer to the bike. "Everything fucking sucks right now. But I need you to do what I tell you."

"But he's dead," Sayu whispered, pulling back against his arm. "My brother is dead, and Wedy is dead, and my dad - and Kira is probably still -"

"We don't know that," Mello told her firmly, blue eyes catching her's sharply. "I'm going to get there as fast as I can, and Watari is already on the way."

She should have never let her brother come here. She should have gone with him. She should have stayed home instead. L should have prepared for this, Mello should have known, someone should have done something -

"Everything went wrong, again. Why does this keep happening?"

Her voice sounded like her mother's, in the quiet after her father's funeral. Soft and filled with despair.

Sayu hated the way it sounded. Helpless.

The question was futile anyway and she knew it. Still, it left her mouth and filled her mind and crept down her spine coldly. This terrible foreboding that Kira had instilled in her. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't. She wanted to vomit, but she couldn't do that either. Everything felt as though it had stopped.

Hadn't it been breezy before? Why couldn't she feel the wind?


A helmet slid into place on her head, and Mello buckled it beneath her chin. It pinched the skin there and made her wince, but it succeeded in snapping some of the fog out of her eyes.

"Near's hotel is only a few miles away, but I'm going to speed like nothing you've ever seen before. He's going to fly the helicopter, and if we can, we're going to save their lives. That's what we're here to do, get it?"

Mello pulled her harder, all but lifting her into place. She did the rest, hiking her leg over the seat, but the familiarity of the position struck her. Wedy had taken her for a ride on her bike just days before. Nothing could last.

"Hold on tight."

Despite the weakness that felt like it was spreading through her limbs, she wrapped her arms around Mello's middle as he revved the engine in warning. A second later, he took off with such force that Sayu's fear for her own life overrode her fear for Light's and Wedy's, which she supposed was probably Mello's goal.

Think. Thoughts. Those are things you had at one time. You're awake, so why don't you feel awake? You must be.

Light remembered the way L said his name, the way his mouth curved when he smiled, how it moved when he smirked, remembered the exact tone of L mumbling that he loves him into his hair when he -

There were arms around him, holding him close.

Maybe I'll wake up in Japan. Maybe this is all a dream and I'll wake up in our bed. Heats have been known to cause crazy dreams. It's possible.

L, holding him close.

That, too. He remembered that too, but the images weren't clear. He remembered L's hand in his own, remembered his arms pressing him tight to his chest, remembered holding him back.

He remembered a time when that had seemed like it wasn't for him. Like it never would be, like no one ever would be. He remembered being content with that, he remembered -

Light, wake up.

"Careful, don't move. We think you might have a concussion."

It took Light a moment to figure out who the voice belonged to, and why in the world she would be in his bed with him. Their relationship had been - well, not chaste, but verging on professional.

Kiyomi Takada. Why was she here again?

Oh, right. The murder gala. Murder at the gala. Murder in the ballroom with the fucking suicide bomber -

"Poor Light-kun, it's okay. You'll be okay."

"Amane-san, can you get him some water? I'll sit him up."


That was Light's own voice now. Had his lips even moved? Perhaps not. It had come out garbled, and before he knew it, his head was hitting whatever cushion it had been resting against.

A concerned voice sounded and then faded away to nothing just as abruptly.

"Light-kun, you've got to stay awake!"

He came back to consciousness quickly, this time with more lucidity. There was something cold against his mouth, a glass of some kind, but the prospect of drinking anything made him nauseous.

This time his eyelids obeyed him and his blurry vision cleared. He saw low ceilings and circular windows.

"...Are we in an airplane?"

That's what he meant to say. His voice cracked with dryness. Misa and Takada were dirty, had various scratches, and Misa's dress was ripped. She had taken to wearing an oversized tuxedo jacket. The dark purple pocket square told Light that it belonged to Ryuga, as he'd noted earlier in the night that they had color coordinated.

"Here, drink some of this," Takada offered, pushing the glass forward once more. He cringed at the thought of it, ready to close his eyes at the wave of dizziness that threatened to overcome him.

"Go on. It's just water."

The voice didn't belong to Misa or Takada, but to one he'd only heard twice before in person. He turned his head to look and found Ryuga Hideki entering the passenger area from what Light assumed was the cock pit. His head seared with discomfort and his stomach lurched, but he took the glass from Kiyomi just the same.

He sipped just enough to let the water coat his tongue and sooth his throat. He felt better rather than worse afterward, though the nausea hadn't entirely gone away.

Perhaps that had more to do with the company.

Ryuga rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt and sat himself in the spot to the right of Misa. It was only then that Light's eye was drawn away from the people immediately in front of him, to find two others seated in what looked like a dining alcove. Namikawa and Teru, the former of which appeared to be nursing his own aches, cradling his left arm with his right. Teru appeared mostly uninjured, and though his glasses were cracked in several places, Light could tell he was looking his way.

Definitely a plane. Why were they on a plane again? Light's head throbbed, the pain leaking down into his neck. He just wanted to sleep. Why couldn't he sleep?

"Yagami-san, I'm so sorry we didn't get to meet earlier," Ryuga spoke again, snapping Light's attention back to him. There was a scratch beneath his right eye, a thin horizontal line of red that stretched over his cheekbone. "To be perfectly honest with you, I delayed meeting you in person because I was nervous."

Light's brow furrowed.

"I wish I hadn't, of course," Ryuga sighed, shoulders sinking. Misa rubbed one of his shoulders comfortingly, and Takada looked out the small window into the dark. "It appears my enemies got the better of me."

However sluggish Light's mind was working at the moment, he did remember the speech that the driver had shouted to them before he had blown up the place.

"We will not bow to a false god. You are evil, Kira! So is everyone here. You think the world is on your side. We are not! We will never be! There are more like me to come!"

The driver that had been so jovial earlier in the day had been a violent Anti-Kira extremist. Light couldn't fathom it for some reason, but perhaps it was the concussion. How did they organize this? Matt has been keeping up on the Anti-Kira movement, surely he would have heard whispers if they used technology to conspire.

There were more immediate issues to address, however. Now that he was face to face with Ryuga for the first time since he'd come out as Kira, he had to - had to play him. Even if the pain in his head was more than a little bit distracting, he could likely use that to garner sympathy. He couldn't get off course, even if nothing had gone exactly according to plan.

"Where are we…?" Light tried to ask, but his voice still didn't want to be cooperative.

"I can't tell you that right now," Ryuga answered, giving a guilty expression. "I'm sorry for bringing you aboard without your permission, but I wanted you and Namikawa-san to be safe. I didn't know if there were accomplices nearby, and I'm sure you understand why I wanted to leave before the authorities arrived."

Before L could get to you, rather. Light nodded slowly, and instantly regretted it.

"Please drink up," Ryuga gestured to the glass Light had forgotten he was holding. "I'm afraid I have some questions to ask you, before we land."

It was then that Ryuga lifted his right hand up, revealing a small device trapped in between his thumb and index finger. The bluetooth earpiece that Light had managed to sneak with him into the gala, but had never gotten the chance to use.

"I'm curious," Ryuga spoke softly, "Can you tell me what you thought you'd need this for?"

A/N: Sorry for the long delay - I've had a lot of real life stuff going on, but I'm somewhat settled now and writing again. I definitely haven't abandoned this fic. I've already started the next chapter!

Special thanks to fourcardflush, Kylara, and Hannibaland for beta'ing this for me. You guys rock hard.

I hope this chapter was exciting! Be sure to let me know what you liked and didn't like, favorite lines, how things made you feel, what you're looking forward to, etc. :) I'm glad you guys are still in it with me.