Hey there, it's been a while! Before we hop into the story, you should know that this was a request from May of Rose, who asked that I write a story in which L is given knowledge of the future and decides to work with Light to change it. I altered the idea slightly so it would fit my tastes, and this is the first chapter of the result. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One: The Fool

The Fool: signifies potential, new beginnings, and the commencing of a cycle.


It was approximately ten o'clock in the morning, and Ryuk had already been threatened with death more times than he cared to admit.

First it was Sidoh. The brainless idiot hadn't even noticed when Ryuk had snatched his Death Note a few weeks back, but oh had he noticed when he took just a few of those sandy, repulsive things the shinigami called apples from the cave in which he dwelled—well, at least, where he dwelled when he wasn't running around gambling, complaining, spreading nasty rumors, or just generally being an eyesore. It wasn't like shinigami really cared about apples—so why did Sidoh have to get so worked up over a few of the things mysteriously vanishing from the tree-like hunk of wood "growing" right outside his cave? It wasn't like he was going to eat them! (Although, Ryuk later reflected, it wasn't as if he was going to eat them either. He was just planning on chucking the things at Sidoh's shriveled, shrunken head later when he wasn't paying attention. It was about the only thing that shinigami apples were good for—they were too hard to bite, and the crunch of sand between the teeth was flat out repulsive.) But that was besides the point—all that mattered was that when Ryuk flew up for his friendly act of burglary, Sidoh was apparently lurking around inside his pathetic excuse for a cave, and he'd come bursting out at full speed, screeching something about how if Ryuk was stealing apples, he must have stolen his Death Note, and if he had, he absolutely demanded that he tell him where it was!

Well, first of all, Sidoh's Death Note was quite literally tucked in between Ryuk's belt and his tattered semblance of a shirt, clearly visible to even the most untrained of eyes. But Sidoh hadn't noticed, oh no—he just flapped around screaming, and if Ryuk hadn't known better he would have guessed that his fellow shinigami was having some sort of fit of insanity. Which, Ryuk reasoned, he probably was. It wasn't every day one's Death Note mysteriously vanished, and the prospect of actually dying set in. But that was just too bad for Sidoh—if he wasn't intelligent enough to notice that his Death Note was five feet away from him, then he really didn't deserve it in the first place. He could crawl off somewhere and die for all Ryuk cared; he was just a whiny-voiced parasite.

It was around then, when Ryuk was just beginning to think of how pleasantly quiet it would be once Sidoh died, that he realized that Sidoh was in the midst of hurling death threats his way. He didn't take it seriously, of course—what could Sidoh do without his Death Note? Hell, what could he do with his Death Note against another shinigami? Zip. Zilch. Nada. But nonetheless, he found himself slightly unnerved by the way Sidoh was writhing about on the ground just then, and so he ignored the incredibly detailed death threat being hurled his way—something about ripping his wings off and stuffing them down his throat, curling him up into a ball and shoving his toes into his eye sockets, that kind of thing—and flew away with absolutely no apples whatsoever, much to his irritation.

The second death threat had come from Rem. An ugly creature, that one, Ryuk believed. All pasty white, gangly limbs, old-looking bandages, too-large feet, and that one, staring yellow eye. Oh, how he hated that eye. It was just so…hideous. Blank, expressionless, constantly watching. Ryuk was shuddering just thinking about it. Once again, he hadn't been paying too close attention when he received that particular threat. Something about Gelus dying after watching after some human girl for a couple years, he thought. Oh wait, no, that wasn't it—it was something like, "I know you haven't taken a human's life for quite some time, and your lifespan must be rapidly decreasing, so I'm going to warn you now—if you lay a hand on—"

Wait, what was her name? Missy? Mika? Miso? No, wait, that last one was a type of soup… Misao, then? No, he remembered! It was Misa! Misa Amano, or Amana, or something like that.

"—Misa Amane, then I'll make sure you meet your end. Mark my words, Ryuk, if you dare to write her name, I will find a way to destroy you. Do not forget, I saw how Gelus died, and I could easily find a way to replicate it on you."

Hmm…maybe he should be concerned about that one.

But no matter how concerned Rem's threat made him, it was nothing compared to The Threat. The big one, with a capital T. Two capital T's. And The Threat wasn't one you could just ignore.

At about one in the morning (at least, Ryuk thought it was one in the morning. Shinigami didn't really sleep, so keeping track of time was more of an estimate than an exact science), the shinigami had called him up. The shinigami, as in, the ruler of all the other shinigami. Now, obviously that was a bit surprising. It wasn't every day the old man wanted to speak to another shinigami. Even if he did want to speak to someone, he normally just sent his right hand shinigami, who was just as scary, if not more, than he was. And so to get a call directly from the old man himself was quite a surprise. A terrifying surprise, especially seeing as Ryuk had just stolen another shinigami's notebook, which was a big no-no. He half expected to walk up to the old man and have the guy blast him off the face of the shinigami realm. One of those "righteous judgment" things that humans were so concerned with. But when he got there, the old man was just sitting on his throne, as per usual, staring off into the distance. Looking just as terrifying as ever, he might add.

It was at that point that Ryuk approached him, and, an uncharacteristically sheepish look on his face, asked why he'd called him.

"There is a shinigami in the human realm."

Ryuk blinked, surprised, and asked, "Yeah? And what of him?"

"He is not supposed to be in the human realm. He has broken shinigami law."

Oh, boy. If the old man thought Ryuk was about to go off gallivanting about in the human world in search of a mysterious shinigami, he was wrong. He had better things to do—collect apples, look at apples, dream about apples, throw apples at Sidoh's shrunken head… He did not have the time to run off to the human world, no matter how boring it was in the shinigami realm, or how entertaining it might be, or what kinds of humans he might get to see along the way, or how greatly his boredom might be alleviated.

Although, when it was put that way…

But no. Ryuk was no one's errand boy. He didn't sit, speak, or shake on command, and he was determined to keep it that way. And so he said, a nasty grin plastered across his face, "No way I'm going after the guy, boss. If he's not supposed to be there, then send your little messenger after him, or go yourself. I don't want to go to the human world."

"You do want to go, and that's why I'm choosing you."

And once again, Ryuk insisted, "I'm not running around the world looking for some bratty little shinigami that decided to run away from home."

To which the boss replied, "You don't have to run all over the human world. I know where he is, and all you have to do is get his Death Note for me."

Ryuk paused then, a frown on his face. Because if there was one thing he knew, it was that the boss wasn't an idiot. Everything he did, he did for a reason—and if he was telling him to go to the human world, it was for a damn good reason. Like, apocalypse level good reason. As in, the world itself was ending, and the fate of all mankind—and by extension, all shinigami-kind—rested on his shoulders.

Well, that was probably a bit of an exaggeration. But still—there was a good reason.

But not good enough.

And so Ryuk looked his boss directly in the eyes, grinned, and said, "No." Just like that.

And just like a small child, the boss leaned forward, and replied, "Yes."

He cackled. "No way in hell, boss. I'm not following your orders."

The old man raised a brow and leaned forward in his seat even further, and for a moment Ryuk thought he was about to be obliterated. But then the big boss shrugged, and said, "Your decision, I suppose. I can't force you."

Well, that was that. Ryuk turned, wings aloft, about to take off and head back to Sidoh's place—hopefully, he thought, to snatch some apples off that tree-like stub protruding from the ground. But things were never that easy. There was always a catch, and the boss was the king of catches.

"I can't force you," he repeated, "but if you don't go, then I'll kill you."

Oh. Well, that changed things a bit, now, didn't it? He'd already received two death threats today—well, dozens, if you counted the plethora of clipped phrases thrown his way via Sidoh's strange, almost beak-like mouth—and now it seemed that he was receiving another. Which, of course, wouldn't have been so bad if not for the fact that it was coming from The shinigami. As in, the only shinigami in all of existence that could actually follow through with his threat.

"So, would you rather me kill you here and now? Or would you rather run a little errand to the human world?"

The sarcastic, snide part of Ryuk's mind very much urged him to say something incredibly suicidal and foolish—but he reigned that part in, and instead asked with a half-assed grin, "The location?"

And then the old man told him, and Ryuk raised a brow, and realized and why he was being sent instead of the boss's right hand shinigami.

It was Japan. Japan—as in, the one place the boss's right hand shinigami had sworn off as a result of some shady, uncertain events that took place a few thousand years ago. Ryuk had never really paid attention to the rumors—it was always the same thing, after all. Some shinigami ran off to the human realm and fell in love with a human, or did something they shouldn't have. Actually, those two things were pretty much considered the same thing. Funny.

"Do you understand?" the old man asked, and Ryuk really had no choice in the matter, and so he nodded.

The boss told him the location, reiterated the importance of getting the notebook, and told him to get lost.

And so Ryuk, bearing a grudge and a half-excited, half-bitter attitude about his whole situation, headed over to the portal to the human world and jumped right on in. A flash of light, a sensation, a draft of wind beneath his wings, and then there he was—Japan. Everything was so easy these days, Ryuk reflected. So boring. Why couldn't something interesting happen? Something other than this ridiculous little errand? If this was the boss's attempt at entertaining him so he didn't go running of to the human realm to cause trouble, then he was doing a terrible job of it. Just what the hell was he supposed to be accomplishing here?

Oh, yes—he was killing another shinigami. Not literally, of course, but time was deadly. Without a Death Note, shinigami were really no better than humans—they'd live, they'd die, they'd decay and turn into dust. Ryuk supposed he should feel bad about killing one of his own, but feeling bad wasn't really his thing. He was much better at sitting back and laughing when another shinigami died, and completely denying the fact that one day, he would follow. After all, he wasn't the boss's favorite shinigami, despite the fact that he'd been chosen for this little errand. Perhaps the old man thought he'd mess it up, and he'd have an excuse to kill him.

Well—that wasn't going to happen! The thought of the boss trying to kill him just made Ryuk more and more frustrated, and time passed swifter than it should have as he made his way to the destination of the rogue shinigami.

And then he was there, in that place said shinigami had been staying in for however long he'd been hiding out in the human world. And then there was a lot of noise—yelling, screaming, fighting, screeching—in general the whole experience was just quite unpleasant. That shinigami, whoever he was, was absolutely against the idea of another shinigami barging in and stealing away the only thing that kept him alive. But he was very old, and very weak, and if his visage had anything to say about it, he hadn't used the Death Note in a long while. His lifespan was clearly running low, and he was clearly nearing the end of his life. He looked old—shaggy hair, gaunt, sunken cheekbones, pale, pasty skin—even paler than Rem, in fact. And that was saying something. If there was a color paler than white, then that was what the shinigami was.

Wait…what had he been talking about?

Oh, yes—around the time when Ryuk wrenched the shinigami's notebook out of his hands, said shinigami had begun to scream in earnest. Something about, "The future must be changed!" and "No, you don't understand, that notebook contains a terrible secret! If you take it, you'll ruin everything I've worked for!" and lastly, "He must be warned! They must all be warned!"

Hmph. Crazy old bat.

After that, Ryuk kicked the shinigami off him, turned around, and flew away, ignoring the animalistic shrieking emanating from the warehouse-esque area he was currently exiting.

And then, in a high-pitched, shrieking voice, there came the fourth death threat of the day. "You'll rue the day you took away my notebook, shinigami! The information contained within the pages of that book can save the fate of the entire human race! You wretched little—!"

…That was when Ryuk stopped listening. He was just so tired of having his life threatened. Especially by the deranged individual that was writhing about on the ground, exactly like Sidoh, screeching threats that he would have no opportunity to follow through with seeing as he wouldn't be alive for much longer.

That brought Ryuk to ten o'clock in the morning—the current time. And currently, he was flying over Japan on his way to the shinigami realm. He'd finished his little job in less than three hours, and was eager to return to his boring, mundane existence, sneaking around Sidoh's cave to steal apples and hurl them at whoever happened to catch his eye that day. He couldn't wait to sit there, high up on some desolate cliff, and stare down into the human world, wondering what it would be like to give a notebook to a human and wander around for a while. And he absolutely couldn't wait to do absolutely nothing for the rest of his pathetic existence.

…Not.

Japan was a place that the boss's right hand shinigami absolutely would not go, and at the current moment Ryuk had not one, not two, but three Death Notes in his possession.

Wouldn't it be a shame if he…accidentally dropped one of the notebooks into the human world?

Then again, maybe it wasn't such a good idea…the boss could find out what he'd done and send someone after him. He might not be able to send his right hand shinigami after him, but he could still send Rem, or Sidoh, or someone else equally unpleasant.

In all honesty, it would be much more intelligent to take the third notebook back to the boss, then come back to the human world and drop his second notebook for someone to find. But that was just so inconvenient, Ryuk mused. It would be so much more entertaining to just drop both notebooks. After all, the boss hadn't exactly ordered him to return the notebook to him…he'd just asked him to take it away from the rogue shinigami, and he'd done just that. So now, now that he'd fulfilled his task, Ryuk should be able to do whatever he wanted…right?

No, probably not.

He should probably just go back to the shinigami realm and give the boss his notebook. Then he could come back and drop Sidoh's notebook in the human world, and follow whatever human happened to pick it up. Yes…all around, it was a very bad idea to stay in the human world for any longer.

Oh, shit…had he just dropped one of the notebooks?

Ryuk's eyes practically popped out of his head as he saw one of the notebooks, its pages open and fluttering as it soared through the air like a caged animal escaping its master, falling down to the earth far, far below with a sense of betraying finality. As it fell, pages began to spit out from between the dark cover, flying up into the sky and vanishing as the breeze snatched them up and pushed them away. Well, it was a good thing the pages of the Death Note looked just like regular notebook paper—no one would ever suspect they were anything more than simple college-ruled pages.

A sudden fluttering sound drew Ryuk's attention back to the situation at hand, and he realized that in his momentary daze of surprise, the second notebook—not the one he'd stolen from Sidoh, which was currently spiraling towards the human realm, but the other one—had slipped from his fingers. As in, the one that the old man had specifically asked him to retrieve.

That was a problem.

"No, no, no!" Ryuk hissed under his breath, realizing suddenly that if he couldn't immediately retrieve the notebook, he would most likely be vaporized by the boss for his blunder. On one hand, it would mean no more boredom, no more endless weeks, months, years of sitting around. On the other hand, it would mean no life. He'd be dead. And so with that in mind, Ryuk immediately turned, folded in his wings, and darted for the notebooks, which were flying towards the ground at impossible speeds. He caught up to the notebook he'd been sent to retrieve swiftly enough, and eagerly reached out to grab it. And just as planned, his spindly fingers gripped the edge of the notebook, he pulled it back towards himself, and—

About half the notebook's pages suddenly tore free from their respective places and spat downwards towards the ground.

…What had that rogue shinigami said about the pages containing some sort of crucial information? Something like, those pages hold the key to saving the human realm…?

Ryuk really hoped that the shinigami was just insane. And he hoped even more that those pages, currently carving a path towards the ground in one massive lump, were not, in fact, the reason the boss had sent him to get the notebook in the first place. Because if they were…

Well—that death threat would probably end up being less of a threat, and more of a literal death.

He really didn't want to die.

And so Ryuk continued his hasty descent to the earth below, and had anyone walking the streets of the city below been able to see or hear the shinigami passing over their heads, they no doubt would have heard a loud shrieking sound, not unlike a pterodactyl, as said shinigami tried desperately to catch up to the second notebook and loose pages of the first notebook before they hit the ground. In a moment's time he'd caught up to the loose pages, which were blackened with ink, covered in writing that didn't appear to consist of the names of humans. Had Ryuk not been trying to save his own life, he may very well have wondered why on earth a shinigami was wasting space in his Death Note by writing something other than names—but as he snatched up the clump of pages and darted towards the still-falling second notebook, it wasn't really the most pressing thing he had on his mind.

The city below was becoming much closer now as the notebook grew dangerously close to the ground. And as Ryuk barreled after it, all he could think was that it absolutely, under no circumstances, could be allowed to hit the ground, because if hit the ground then there was always the possibility of a human picking it up, and Ryuk really didn't want to have to follow said human around when the boss was waiting for him to return to the shinigami realm with the rogue shinigami's notebook in hand. Now, if he was here of his own accord, and he just so happened to drop his second notebook, he didn't think he'd be so opposed to seeing what might happen—but he was not here of his own accord; he had specific orders to return to the shinigami realm immediately, and if he didn't then he had no doubt that he'd be vaporized.

Oh, the notebook was so close—just a few more feet and he could grab it, snatch it up and prevent the inevitable onslaught of the boss's anger. He reached out, fingers straining towards the black notebook, arm aching as he extended it to its full capacity in an attempt to prevent his own extinction, and then, just as it was about to hit the ground, just as it was about to fall into the human world—

He caught it.

The corner of the notebook was a mere centimeter from touching the ground, and Ryuk had been just a mere centimeter away from death—but he'd caught it, it was in his possession, and now he could forget that the whole mess had ever happened.

A sudden breeze tore through the area in which he'd caught the notebook, nearly ripping the loose pages out of his hand. He hastily shoved said loose pages into one of the notebooks carelessly to keep them from flying away, and for the first time took in his surroundings.

An alleyway. Shadowy, damp, and clearly shady, the entire place was incredibly dark, and for a moment Ryuk wondered why until he looked up and saw that the moon was small in the sky, and the stars were covered by a layer of fog. The only light came from a very, very dim streetlamp, which flickered uneasily in the darkness at unfixed intervals.

A shiver passed down Ryuk's spine, and he had the sudden, unnerving feeling that he was being watched. He threw a glance over each shoulder, shot a brief look up into the sky for any sign of another shinigami, but there was nothing. Hmm…perhaps he was becoming paranoid. It wasn't impossible. Shrugging, Ryuk spread his wings, preparing to take off for the shinigami realm, when something stopped him.

Sirens. Loud, blaring, sirens.

And a heartbeat later, the sound of heavy footsteps and ragged breathing, and a sudden dark shape emerging from the shadows.

Said dark shape was obviously human, and obviously injured. He lurched down the alleyway at a slow, jagged pace, clearly unaware that said alleyway came to a dead end several dozen feet ahead. A criminal, perhaps? Someone on the run from those sirens, which seemed to grow closer and closer with every passing moment?

The human stopped, leaning against the side of the alleyway, and clutched at his chest, breathing heavily. He'd obviously been running for quite some time, and was bleeding heavily from the leg. Psh. Not that Ryuk cared or anything.

He should leave…the boss would be expecting him.

But still, something kept him there, staring at that pathetic little scrap of a human. He was curious, he realized. He wanted to see what would happen here.

And then, a moment later, he realized that staying had been a very bad idea, as a voice suddenly screeched, "Give me my notebook back!"

Oh, no. That was why he should have left for the shinigami realm the instant he got his hands on the second notebook.

The rogue shinigami, hair still sticking up, skin still sickly white, eyes still wide and crazed, was floating above him, fingers twitching as if he longed to reach out and snatch his notebook back. "Give it back!" he repeated, and his voice even sounded crazy, even when he wasn't babbling on about life-saving notebook pages and warning "them" about the future. "Give me back my notebook!"

Ryuk immediately tucked said notebook tighter to his torso and shook his head, twisting his face into a nasty grin. "Sorry, bud. Boss's orders."

"Where is it?" the shinigami went on, acting as if he hadn't even heard Ryuk's explanation. "Give it to me!"

Geez…this guy was a real piece of work, wasn't he? Ryuk rolled his eyes and said again, "I told you, I can't—"

And that was all he said, for a moment later the shinigami was launching himself at him with a vicious screech, hands struggling to wrench his notebook from Ryuk's grasp. After that, things got a bit fuzzy—Ryuk thought that maybe he was kicking the other shinigami off him, and that said shinigami was retaliating with a crazed kick to the chest, and that his hands were wrenching at his Death Note, and that the rogue shinigami was frantically trying to knock him out of the air and pin him down for the sake of retrieving his notebook…but it was all quite fast and hard to keep track of, and so by the time Ryuk realized that he was actually losing, and that the other shinigami was actually strong, it was too late to stop him from wrapping his grubby little paws around his notebook and wrenching it from his grasp.

"Hey!" Ryuk protested as the shinigami drew away, his notebook clutched between his hands. "The boss wants that notebook, you dolt! Just give it to me now, and he won't send anyone else after you!"

The shinigami's eyes widened. "He's sending others after me?" he rasped, shaking like leaf at the prospect of being hunted down.

Ryuk crinkled up his nose, thinking to himself that this pathetic creature was a poor excuse for a shinigami, shaking like that, but all he said was, "Yeah, so you'd better give that notebook back, or the boss'll be after your hide!"

"He'll kill me," the rogue shinigami rasped, shaking his head, his knuckles turning white as he gripped his notebook harder. "But he can't! I've got to stay here, I've got to change it!"

More nonsense about changing the future, or whatever? Ridiculous. "Look," Ryuk insisted, "you haven't got a choice. It's either handing the notebook over now, or being hunted down by one of the boss's lackeys." Ryuk realized then that he was probably considered one of the boss's lackeys, and the thought nearly made him throw up, despite his distinct lack of a stomach and physical ability to actually do such a thing.

A sudden noise drew Ryuk's attention to the alleyway. The human had pushed himself away from the wall, and was steadily making his way towards the dead end. The sirens were growing louder now. If this was indeed a criminal, then he would be caught soon, it seemed.

The rogue shinigami shifted suddenly, holding his notebook tighter as his eyes flickered between Ryuk and the human below. "If that's the case," he began, and Ryuk suddenly knew what he was thinking, "and either way, I'll be caught…" He reached out a hand, and for a moment Ryuk dared to think that he was handing over the notebook—but no, he was swooping downwards, scrawny wings stretched outwards, heading straight for the human with the Death Note extended in his direction.

"Stop that!" Ryuk screeched immediately, making a dive for the rogue shinigami, trying to stop the inevitable.

"I won't let you have it!" the shinigami wailed, and despite his scrawny appearance, he was fast, and it took no time at all for him to outrun Ryuk as he bolted for the injured human. "I'll give it to a human before I let you take it to the boss!" He kicked Ryuk, whose hand was just beginning to close around his ankle, and threw the notebook as hard as he could at the human.

Ryuk could only watch as the Death Note he'd been ordered to retrieve struck the ground right in front of the human, and said human tripped over it and slammed knee-first into the thing. The human cried out, dazed, and barely managed to drag himself back into a kneeling position. He confusedly reached down with searching fingers, and the moment those fingers made contact with the notebook, it was over. Ryuk could practically feel the moment the human took possession, the moment he was no longer able to just snatch it up and take it to the shinigami realm.

"I win!" the rogue shinigami exclaimed, crazed eyes widening impossibly.

"You do not win!" Ryuk snarled, chest swelling with anger. His hand snapped to his Death Note, and he immediately flipped it open to the closest blank page, his pen appearing in his hand as he lowered it to the paper. "I'll kill the human and take the notebook before you can get to it!"

"You can't, you can't!" came the response.

Ryuk snapped, "What the hell do you mean I can't? Of course I can, I can see his name!"

"You can't kill him!" repeated the shinigami. He raised a finger, as if reciting something for a teacher, and announced, "Haven't you read the rulebook? Only a god of death that has passed on their Death Note to a human is able to kill an owner of the Death Note!"

"I've never heard such a thing; that's ridiculous!" Ryuk spat.

"Then try it," the shinigami challenged. "Try to kill him! Unless you've passed your notebook on to someone in the human world, you can't kill an owner of the Death Note!"

"Then I'll pass my second notebook along, and I'll kill the human you gave your notebook to!"

"Second notebook?" The rogue shinigami looked alarmed, and Ryuk felt an acute sense of satisfaction that he'd caught him off guard. "You mean you had two notebooks already? Before you even took mine?"

Ryuk just grinned in response.

The sirens were piercingly loud now. The human, still clutching the notebook, shot to his feet and looked down the alleyway. And then he turned, intent on running away from the sirens, and—

His eyes locked onto the rogue shinigami, who just so happened to be floating just a few feet behind him, and just above his head. And then there was a whole lot of screaming, lots of denying the existence of the "monster," and just a general lack of rational thought from the poor, confused human, who was suddenly being forced to register the fact that there was a shinigami staring him down.

And then there was the rather intrusive sound of static from some sort of megaphone, and someone, presumably a police officer, was screaming into the alleyway.

"Kou Hashimoto, we know you're here! Come forward with your hands up, and we won't shoot!"

The criminal, who had stopped screaming in favor of staring, blank-eyed, at the shinigami hovering before him, shook his head immediately. "Get away!" he screeched, and suddenly he was yelling again, wailing about the demon staring him in the face.

A brief scuffle was heard on the other end of the megaphone, and suddenly that same voice was saying, "Sir, no—you'll get hurt!"

And a dark, monotonous voice was snapping, "I have the authority here, Chief Yagami. The subject is unarmed, and due to his incessant screaming, there is a ninety percent chance that his physical incapacity has induced a panic attack."

"You can't just—!"

"Please, Chief Yagami, quiet yourself. The sound of your voice is grating; it's been bad enough sitting in the police car with the sirens on full blast for hours on end without having to listen to you rambling on."

"Sir, I really must protest—"

And once again, that second voice cut him off. "I have not come this far to have you ruin things at the last moment. I am giving you a direct order to stand down and let me handle this. Do you understand, or do I need to repeat myself?"

Silence. Presumably, the police chief had relented. A moment later a second dark shape was making its way towards the criminal, who was still screaming threats at the rogue shinigami.

Ryuk rolled his eyes. This was becoming bothersome. "I have to give my notebook to a human, huh? Fine, then I'll give it to that guy and be done with it."

The other shinigami just stared, completely silent.

Unnerved, Ryuk turned around, and—

"What the hell?" he yelped, more than surprised to find himself staring into one slanted yellow eye. "Rem? What are you doing here?"

"Boss's orders," she said in a dull, monotonous voice. "You were taking too long, and he sent me to retrieve you."

"But the notebook is still—"

"He said to accept no excuses. He also said that if you don't return to him immediately, he'll kill you."

Another death threat. Great. Just what he needed. "Let me just get that notebook," Ryuk insisted, gesturing vaguely towards the criminal, who was in the process of being pinned and handcuffed by a young man with dark hair, darker eyes, and a painful-looking slouch. The criminal was still screaming, of course, telling the person currently placing him under arrest that he needed to arrest the monster, not him—and said person, clearly unamused, was swiftly and calmly reading him his rights.

"You're not going to do anything," Rem said flatly. "You are to return to the boss now, or you'll be killed."

"I'm sure he won't mind if—"

"If you do anything else before coming with me, I've been ordered to report it," came the dull response.

Ryuk turned his steely glare on the rogue shinigami, who was simply sitting back, enjoying the show. "Fine," he growled in a low tone. "Don't think this is over, guy. I'll drop my notebook on some poor, unsuspecting human and write that criminal's name down the instant I get the chance. And when that happens, I'll come after you and get it back. Understand?"

The rogue shinigami's eyes widened fearfully. A moment later he was turning on heel and darting away, vanishing into the night without a trace. And it was a good thing too, because just as he vanished from sight, that dark-haired human picked up the notebook curiously and riffled through the pages briefly. The criminal, handcuffed and shaking violently, shook his head without halt. Hah…Ryuk couldn't contain a grin as he observed the mortal's obvious terror. Now there was someone who wouldn't be recovering anytime soon. Oh well—what was the life of one little human worth? Not much.

"Ryuk," Rem urged flatly.

He grumbled some sort of response noncommittally, turning away and following her up towards the entrance to the shinigami realm. Ooh, the boss would have his head for this! He'd had one job, one job, and he'd blown it! What if the boss killed him? He hadn't even gotten a chance to drop a notebook in the human world! He couldn't die without subjecting some poor mortal to the horrors of the notebook! Ryuk raised the second notebook, the one that he'd stolen from Sidoh, up to his face and riffled through the pages mournfully. Oh, how heartbreaking it was, to have been so close to being able to give a notebook to a human…

Hmm? What was this?

Ryuk frowned, realizing that there was a chunk of loose pages in Sidoh's notebook. He removed said pages with a deep frown, poking at them with his unoccupied hand. Oh—he knew these pages! These were the pages that had fallen out of the rogue shinigami's notebook! Huh…how strange…he'd thought that he'd stuffed them back into the other shinigami's notebook, but apparently in his haste he'd shoved them into Sidoh's instead. It appeared that half of the original pages had found their way to Sidoh's old notebook.

Once again, he remembered the rogue shinigami's insistence that the pages of his notebook held the key to preventing some kind of horrible tragedy.

…Losing a fair chunk of pages from said notebook wouldn't change that, would it? Was losing this many pages dangerous? Would it affect the rogue shinigami's so-called life-saving notebook?

He sure hoped not—but then again, the shinigami was insane. He probably had no idea what he was talking about, and his whole speech about saving the future of the human world had most likely been a product of several hundred years spent alone in said world. Ryuk was worrying for nothing.

Hopefully.

Ryuk shrugged and stuffed the loose pages back into Sidoh's notebook. He supposed that he shouldn't really care about the fate of the human world—after all, it was quite likely that the boss was about to kill him for his blunder.

Oh well…at least he got to have a bit of fun before his death.

†††

This isn't usually my kind of thing…

L clutched tightly onto the edge of his seat as Soichiro Yagami, chief of the NPA, cut the wheel of the police car to the left and nearly flipped the vehicle clean over. In fact, if he'd turned it any harder, L had no doubt that it would have done something of a barrel roll—no, more of an aileron roll—and landed back on its wheels. And what was more, Chief Yagami probably wouldn't have even paused in his frantic pursuit of Kou Hashimoto.

Kou Hashimoto…he was the informant for an underground organization involved with human trafficking—and for the past several months, he had been the bane of L's existence. The bastard was just so damn elusive, and no matter what L tried, he seemed completely uncatchable. It'd gotten so bad that after two months of searching endlessly for Kou, or for anyone involved with his vile occupation, L had done the unthinkable—he'd asked for help.

More specifically, he'd asked for the NPA's help. The chief of the NPA, Soichiro Yagami, was someone he'd heard much about from various digital reports and other sources of importance, but he'd never had the chance to work with or even see the man. The most he knew about him was that he was regarded as one of the best chiefs the NPA had ever seen, and that was more than enough for him. It wasn't as if he'd need his help on more than this one case, anyways, so it hardly seemed worth it to get to know him on a personal level. Besides, if he ended up dying during the race to catch Kou, he didn't want to feel any guiltier than was necessary. It was best to just stay detached.

While the NPA hadn't exactly done much in terms of actually locating Kou, they'd done more than L ever could have dreamed in terms of helping him actually catch him. After L had finally, finally caught a break in the case—a victim who'd managed to escape and contact the police—he'd immediately sent out all available units to Kou's location in hopes of bringing him in. His location was quite mundane, really. It seemed a bit ridiculous that after so many months of searching, he was staying in a hotel a few blocks down from the NPA investigation offices. But no matter—the hotel was informed of what was happening, and a few minutes later the entire place was surrounded. L stayed in the car as Chief Yagami and a squad of officers headed inside and up to Kou's room. L listened in via headset while they headed up the many, many flights of stairs (the elevators were down), and heard every word when they kicked down the door and found—surprise, surprise—no one. Kou was gone. The window was wrenched open, and dirty footprints led straight over the windowsill and to the streets below.

After that, Soichiro had come barreling back downstairs, slipped behind the wheel of the police car L was currently riding in, and slammed his foot down on the gas pedal. He repeatedly stated that he refused to lose Kou—they'd spent too long tracking him, spent too many resources attempting to catch him, to let him slip away now. And L, having objection to such a notion, said nothing, even when Soichiro nearly sent the car into a complete three hundred and sixty degree flip. He dug his fingernails into the seat, made sure his seatbelt was pressed snugly across his hips and chest, and steeled himself for the fury-induced spasticity that was Soichiro Yagami's driving.

It was at that point that L realized that maybe, just maybe, he shouldn't have come along. He'd never been one for fieldwork—he'd only ever showed his face to one agent before this, and it had only been for a few minutes at most—but here he was, trying not to lose his lunch as, again, Soichiro made a hard left. Oh, his beautiful lunch… so many pastries and sweets… Unfortunately, it seemed as if all of those delicious treats and various confectionaries were about to be reintroduced to open air via L's mouth. If Soichiro made another one of those ridiculous turns, he was certain that his body would end up forcibly riding itself of all previously consumed goods—and then Soichiro did make another harsh turn, a right one this time, and L had to throw open the window and stick his head out to avoid vomiting all over the interior of the squad car.

"Ryuzaki?" Soichiro called over the wail of the sirens. "Are you all right?"

L nearly threw up again as Soichiro shot him a concerned look. "Focus on the road, Chief Yagami!" he ordered, clamping a hand over his mouth. "I will be quite all right, but only if you don't crash this vehicle!"

A voice suddenly flooded in via radio. "The subject has just entered the alleyway running between Blue Haven and the Sonata Café. Should we move to intercept?"

L vaguely heard Soichiro ordering a few cars to head to the other end of the alley, and he swiftly informed him that the alleyway did, in fact, lead to a dead end. That made things easier. But his words to Soichiro didn't register in his own brain, for he was too busy finding amusement in the fact that Kou had taken refuge in the alleyway leading between a club and a bar.

The car suddenly screeched to a halt, and L was nearly thrown out of his seat, despite the protective band of polyester that made up his seatbelt. Soichiro immediately threw open his door and withdrew his gun, pointing into the alley. Kou was not yet in sight, and he was no doubt unarmed, but Soichiro still ordered all of his officers to aim their guns point-blank into the darkness, just in case he attempted to escape. Soichiro reached for a megaphone with one hand and held it up to his mouth, and the next moment was roaring, "Kou Hashimoto, we know you're here! Come forward with your hands up, and we won't shoot!"

Oh, dear…well, he supposed this was a logical reaction. He'd hoped to go about it with a bit more tact, maybe try to convince Kou that he was doing him a favor by taking him into custody rather than shooting him then and there…but it seemed that Soichiro was dead set on taking the more violent route. That just wouldn't do—and so L reached forward and attempted to take the megaphone, fully intent upon rectifying Soichiro's wrong. But the man pulled back, clearly unwilling to release said megaphone, and L knew immediately that words would be useless. Well, then—he'd just have to go and arrest Kou himself. After all this, he couldn't handle it if one of the police officers felt threatened by Kou's proximity and shot him without thinking. If he walked into the alleyway, then the chance of Kou being shot decreased by, oh, say…thirty percent. Maybe thirty-five. Still, he'd risked his life on lesser odds than that before, and he'd always won. This would be no different.

And so he shrugged, released the megaphone, tucked his hands into his pockets, and began to head down the alleyway towards Kou, who had just begun screaming. Maybe he was beginning to panic about being caught? No matter—he'd be caught either way, and after that, L could interrogate him as to the location of the rest of his friends. The whole operation would be brought to its knees, and all victims would be rehabilitated and sent back into the society from which they were snatched. Game over. The end.

There was a sudden, audible gasp from Soichiro's direction, clearly amplified by the megaphone, and he was suddenly yelping, "Sir, no—you'll get hurt!"

L rolled his eyes, turning back to face the chief of the NPA. "I have the authority here, Chief Yagami," he reminded him. "The subject is unarmed, and due to his incessant screaming, there is a ninety percent chance that his physical incapacity has induced a panic attack."

"You can't just—!"

"Please, Chief Yagami, quiet yourself. The sound of your voice is grating; it's been bad enough sitting in the police car with the sirens on full blast for hours on end without having to listen to you rambling on."

"Sir, I really must protest—"

"I have not come this far to have you ruin things at the last moment. I am giving you a direct order to stand down and let me handle this. Do you understand, or do I need to repeat myself?"

Soichiro stood there, mouth opening and closing repeatedly like some sort of humanoid fish, and made small choking noises.

L turned back towards the alleyway and casually strolled into it, momentarily straightening to crack his back before allowing himself to fall back into his signature slouch. His white shirt swished loosely around him as he moved; his jeans brushed lightly against the pale flesh of his legs. And his feet, uncovered as per usual, picked up countless layers of dirt as he trudged through the narrow space lining the two establishments, both of which pounding with loud music and flashing with light.

Kou was still screaming, even as L grew close enough to see him. "Demon!" he wailed as the detective approached. "Hellspawn! Kill it, kill it, you have to kill it!"

L frowned, one brow shooting up to grow acquainted with his hairline. "Demon?" he repeated. "I assure you, Mr. Hashimoto, I am no demon. If anyone, you are the demon here, for giving your coconspirators the information necessary to elude the authorities for so long. Your actions have cost Japan the lives of sixteen young adults, and the mysterious disappearance of thirty-four others."

"You can't see it? You can't see that…that…that thing?" Kou made frantic, wide gestures towards the sky above him, and L immediately suspected that he was either stalling, trying to distract him so he could attack, or both.

"There is nothing there Mr. Hashimoto, and I'm afraid that you're under arrest."

"No, no, no!" he screamed immediately, still gesturing wildly at the sky. "Kill it, kill it, kill it! Kill it, not me! Not me!"

…Or there was the third option: that after so long running from the police, and after injuring his leg, presumably during his jump from the window of his hotel room, he had simply snapped and had gone insane. Completely, irrationally, undeniably insane.

L, feeling entirely too tired to consider the possibility that he'd gone through so much only to find himself in possession of a half-crazed captive, decided that he'd heard more than enough. He'd take him into custody, make sure he was away from the NPA, and interrogate him to his heart's content. The whole insanity thing would have to wait.

With one, swift, fluid motion, L snatched Kou by the collar and hauled him up, shoving him against the wall of the alley. He wasted no time in reading Kou his rights, struggling to make himself heard over the man's incessant screeching. Of course, he knew, the instant he had Kou alone and separated from the NPA, all of his so-called rights would be thrown out the window. L would do anything it took to get information out of him.

"Mr. Hashimoto, please hand over the notebook," L requested, noticing for the first time the black notebook clasped between both hands. Records, perhaps? Records of the people who passed through the vile business he worked in? It was evidence, most certainly—and L was most definitely not going to allow Kou to keep the thing.

Kou shook his head, his fingers tightening on the notebook. His gaze was still locked on the space above L's head, staring at something only he could see, and he was clearly terrified. The more L saw, the more he became convinced that he was dealing with a lunatic.

"Mr. Hashimoto," he said again. "The notebook." He closed his fingers on the notebook and pulled, and this time, the man let go without a fight. L immediately turned, on a hunch, to stare at the space behind him, as if by touching the notebook he might be led to see the monster Kou was describing—but as expected, there was nothing there. And of course there wasn't; why would there be?

"Ryuzaki!" came a loud voice, and once again L was driven to roll his eyes as Soichiro screamed his alias into the alleyway, no doubt wishing to know if he was still alive. "Ryuzaki, do you require assistance?"

L sighed, slapping a pair of handcuffs on Kou, and paused to flip through the notebook briefly. He sucked in a deep breath as he realized that every page was practically black with ink. Every inch of free space was marked on, completely filled with tiny lines of writing. The writing was so small, in fact, that L had a hard time reading it without squinting—and he certainly didn't have the time to examine the writing just yet anyways, and so he finished riffling through the pages one time for anything of interest (at about the halfway point, he noted, there appeared to be quite a large chunk of pages missing, and after that the pages became completely blank save for a few stray marks), and tucked the notebook under his arm. One hand shot up and twined into the back of Kou's collar, and the next moment he was dragging his struggling captive back towards the entrance to the alleyway.

"Ryuzaki!" Soichiro called again. "Are you—?"

"Yes, Chief Yagami," L sighed, "I am quite all right."

Soichiro's eyes widened as he caught sight of L, hauling Kou towards the line of police officers. "Stand down!" he ordered immediately, and a dozen guns lowered in sync. "You have him, Ryuzaki!" he exclaimed. "Good, now we'll just get him into the police car and take him to the station, and—"

"No, Chief Yagami."

"What? What do you mean no?"

And this was the part where the chief of the NPA became very, very upset with his situation.

"Ryuzaki, you're not seriously telling me that after all this work, all these months of tracking this…this criminal down, you're not going to let us take custody of him! You don't have the authority to just—"

"Chief Yagami," L interrupted. "I am L's mouthpiece, as you well know. And as is such, what I do and what I say comes from L himself. He has ordered me to take Kou Hashimoto back to a location that is not to be released to the NPA, and that is exactly what I will do. No matter how much you might disapprove, I am taking Mr. Hashimoto to said location, and there is nothing the police can do to stop me."

And once again, Soichiro was reduced to a spluttering, gasping mess. "You can't—I won't let you—!"

L's eyes raked the curb just beyond the line of police cars, and he saw with satisfaction that there was a limo awaiting his arrival, just as planned. Watari wasn't a moment too soon. L purposefully gripped Kou's collar tighter. The man was still babbling, but his volume had fallen considerably, so it was nigh impossible to hear what he was saying unless one was prepared to strain their ears. He yanked Kou past Soichiro, past the line of police officers, and in between two of the police cars.

"Ryuzaki—!" Soichiro tried one last time.

"Good day, Chief Yagami," was the response. L could practically feel the anger rolling off Soichiro in waves, in oceans themselves, but he knew that the man would make no move to stop him. Despite his anger, despite the frustration he felt at having Kou snatched away from him, he knew that he could do nothing. This was L's request, after all, and L's requests were always met. If he wanted something, there was nothing he could do to stop it. L was L, and L was all-powerful.

L reached the limo, wrenched open the door, and just as planned, there was a syringe waiting for him on the back seat. He immediately snatched the thing up. One press of thin steel to Kou's neck had the man falling over, and the next moment he was stretched out across the back seat of the limo, heavily sedated. Satisfied, L swiftly closed the door, moving to the driver's side seat and slipping into it with practiced ease. He drew his knees up to his chest, a feat he hadn't been able to accomplish during Soichiro's frantic, screeching drive across the streets of the moderately small city in the Kanto region of Japan.

"L?" came a comfortingly familiar voice. "The mission went well, I presume?"

"Yes," L responded coolly. "Kou is in our possession. Tomorrow morning I will break all contact with the NPA, and we will extract the necessary information from Kou. Within three days, I predict the downfall of his pathetic excuse for a gang." It went unsaid that the pathetic gang Kou worked for had kept L searching for them for upwards of three months.

"Excellent. To the warehouse, then?"

"With haste, Watari. The sooner we crack Kou open the better."

Ignoring the inelegant phrasing, Watari responded, "At once." He urged the limo into motion, and L found himself sighing with relief to be back in the car with his old mentor rather than Soichiro Yagami. He might have been an excellent agent, but the same couldn't be said of his driving, especially when he was in a panic. L reached out with the aim of circling his arms around his knees, but froze as something suddenly fell from between his upper arm and his side, fluttering down and striking his seat noisily.

Hmm? What was that?

Oh, yes—the notebook! L had nearly forgotten about the notebook Kou had been holding at the time of his arrest. Now he grasped it between his thumb and pointer finger, dangling it above his knees and staring intently.

Death…Note? Death Note?

It was English, L noted. Unusual, for a notebook found in Japan in possession of a Japanese man who hadn't taken so much as a year of English in high school. L ran his fingers over the cover curiously. The white lettering on the front, written in occult-esque font, was slightly raised to the touch, and slightly ragged with age. It was old—much older than Kou, who was barely on his twenty-third year. Just how had he come across something as old as this?

Frowning, L opened the notebook. There, on the inside cover—How to Use It? How to use what? The notebook itself? The…the Death Note?

"What do you have there, L?" Watari questioned curiously, barely taking his eyes off the road long enough to see what L was holding.

"Just a notebook the suspect was holding," L murmured by way of response, running a thumb across his bottom lip thoughtfully. "I thought that it might be a piece of valuable evidence, so I brought it with me, but…"

Watari waited patiently for a long moment. But when L made no move to continue his statement, he urged, "But what, L?"

"Oh…" L trailed off thoughtfully, eyes still locked on the first white lettering spread across the inside cover. "It's nothing, I'm sure, Watari. Just a prank…" L read it again. Then again. And then a fourth time, and a fifth. "A prank…" he repeated slowly, not realizing he'd spoken aloud until he saw the strange look Watari was giving him.

A prank, a joke, a trick…just something written for fun, L assured himself. Nothing to be concerned with.

But still…

The human whose name is written in the note shall die.

Wouldn't it be interesting if…?

No—L immediately snuffed that train of thought, slamming the cover of the notebook shut without bothering to read any further. It was just a play on words, he told himself—after all, he knew better than all others that all humans, without fail, would eventually die. By that logic, he could pick up any scrap of paper, write any human's name, and said human would die. It might take a few dozen years, but it would happen. Be it by disease, accident, or car crash (most likely due to Soichiro Yagami's atrocious method of driving, L mused), the human would, someday, cease to exist. And that was why it had to be a play on words and not, in fact, a literal statement.

…Right?

L couldn't resist another peek inside.

This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person's face in their mind when writing his/her name.

L blinked. A name and a face…? His eyes immediately scanned the rest of the page, and—

If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds of writing the person's name, it will happen. If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.

L closed the notebook again, this time a bit more gently. It was quite detailed, for a prank. He wondered if Kou wrote down the names of the people who passed through his gang's hands, and as a cruel joke, wrote the rules stating that the people belonging to those names would die. But then, he wouldn't exactly have included that bit about the heart attack, or specifying the kind of death, now, would he? Unless he was just some sort of sadist who liked to imagine the violent, brutal deaths of those around him, and he'd just projected his need for those deaths in the creation of the notebook…

Slowly, as if he were a small child doing something he knew he shouldn't, L pied open the notebook for a third time and read the first couple of words. He shut the notebook again. And then he opened it a moment later, for he absolutely could not understand what he'd just read.

And so he read it again. Closed the notebook. Opened it. Read it again. Closed it. Repeated the whole process several times.

"L?" Watari asked, sensing the detective's obvious discomfort. "Is everything okay? You seem a bit…disturbed."

"I told you, it's nothing," L said, but his voice was shaking considerably now. "Just a prank; someone's sick, twisted joke."

"Would you care to elaborate on that?"

L read the first few words again. "No," he said decisively. "Most certainly not." He vaguely saw Watari nod, ever unobtrusive, and resign himself to driving in silence. And meanwhile, L slowly ran his fingers over the cover of the Death Note. He shouldn't open it again, he shouldn't read any further than those first, stomach-jarring words—words that were not names, but the beginning of some kind of story, as if Kou was using the notebook for his own amusement. That in and of itself wouldn't have been so strange, if not for one, significant, blaring detail. And that detail just so happened to be one letter, consisting of two lines, adorning the first line of the first page.

L. The letter L, specifically written as a name. L's name was in this notebook—not his whole name, but just the first letter, just the letter he used as his detective code.

Just what the hell was his name doing in Kou's notebook? And in the form of some sort of sick story, no less? Just what was going on here?

No. L closed the notebook. No, he would not continue reading. He wouldn't give Kou the pleasure of knowing that his little notebook had caught his attention.

He set his jaw and leaned back in his seat, refusing to look at the notebook.

It was staring at him. L continued to ignore it.

It continued to stare, and he ignored it some more.

He would not look. He would not.

But…maybe just a little more wouldn't hurt? He could read just long enough to figure out just what Kou had been writing in the Death Note, and then he could just close it, or destroy it, or file it as evidence.

Yeah…that sounded good.

Swiftly but guiltily, L opened the notebook again and began to read.


So, here we are again—after a year of silence, I'm finally back with a new story! I'm really excited to share this with you guys, so I truly hope you enjoy it. I'm going to warn you right off the bat that this story will be quite dark, and that it will take several chapters to get going. L will definitely be more of a dark character than you may be used to, and Light will be depicted as more of a lighthearted character once he's introduced. As for the schedule, I'll be posting every Saturday. Also, just to let you know, while there will be M rated content in the future, it won't be for many chapters. I like taking a decent bit of time to build up relationships in stories before writing anything of that nature.

If you enjoyed the beginning of the story and you'd like to see more, don't hesitate to shoot me a review!