EUREKA! Sorry about the update time! I've been trying to load this story for WEEKS! And it finally went through! bows down and praises fanfiction staff. This time it was not my fault...for once...it kept telling me it was an empty file, and I was all "no it's not...I mean, it's a short chapter, but it's not EMPTY!" Anyway, the next chapter I don't have written, but it shouldn't be too too long in the making, sorry for the wait, I hope you enjoy!

Chapter Sixteen: Stop Thirty-Nine, Sydney, Australia

She'd never hated anyone so much as she hated the Shinigami that followed her now to her final destination before she reached home.

While they waited to take the stage, Takuto sat next to her, completely silent, like he'd been for most of the last week. Tomorrow, they were to leave for Japan and the majority of Australia had been left undiscovered by the duo. They stayed confined to their rooms, Takuto in absolutely silent meditation, Mitsuki sobbing, unable to be comforted by Ooshige's hushed words and gentle condolences. Izumi was gone; he'd disappeared for her. It was worse than death; he had simply been erased, after he'd gone through so much change for Meroko. First she'd stolen Takuto from her dearest friend, and then she'd stolen Izumi. How selfish could she be?

Tears sprang to her eyes as the thoughts surfaced again, and the microphone trembled in her hands. Carefully, Takuto wrapped his own hand around hers, and she looked up into his eyes that were quivering as well, with suppressed fear. One question was written all over his face – what next? But Mitsuki had no answers. For the last few years, she had been so focused on making him remember that she'd never even thought ahead to when he actually did remember. Sure, she'd let herself daydream of it once in a while, but this was nothing like the way she'd imagined it. In her dreams, Takuto was happy with his memories, complete, their love was full and fresh and young, like it'd been when he'd been stolen from her. Sometimes, she'd even dreamed that Meroko was able to be with them again, and the three of them would tour together, friends forever. But Mitsuki was quickly learning that that was not to be the case. Takuto was not happy with his memories, he was confused, lost, alone, and utterly broken, Mitsuki was just as distraught as he, Meroko was still missing, and worse, the love of her life had been wrenched away.

"Your hands are freezing," Takuto murmured, and she nodded blankly back, pulling her head away from his questioning eyes. Why?

Jonathan smirked cruelly nearby, "Oh Mi-ki, always the little troublemaker aren't you?" he jested, and she turned and glared fiercely at him.

"Don't call me that," she growled between her teeth. "Don't ever speak to me."

Takuto, who had rapidly become acquainted with the fact that she could still see the Shinigami, gazed intently at the spot where Jonathan hovered in Izumi's body, "Why can't I see them?" he ventured, and Mitsuki shook her head and began to meticulously examine her shoes.

"I don't know, probably because you haven't remembered their secret yet."

"What?" Takuto's eyes narrowed.

"Insolent girl!" Jonathan hissed viciously, slamming his fist into Mitsuki's face, causing her to go sprawling out across the floor. "What do you think you're saying?" the sick feeling of power welled up inside him, and he turned to stare at his hand that had left a welt on Mitsuki's cheek. He smirked, "Why didn't Izumi do this more often?" blood raced through his body, and he had the most amazing feeling of life.

"Mitsuki?" Takuto pulled her crumpled form into his arms and cradled her while she cried.

"I'm sorry I told you Takuto, I'm sorry," Mitsuki begged for forgiveness from the wrong person, and she knew it. But it was the best she could do, because the people she needed forgiveness from were either gone or missing. "Meroko, Izumi, I'm sorry…"

The crowd roared their approval as Mitsuki stumbled onto the stage, only one song resonating in her heart – a song she'd written when confronted with the wars of various countries – a song of death, a song befitting what she'd stolen from Meroko, and what she'd forced upon herself, a tribute to Izumi's bravery, yet emphasizing the pointlessness of his death.

"Hello," she whispered into the microphone, half in fear, half in sadness. She was about to do something unconventional, it could ruin her career, but she wasn't afraid of that; she was afraid that her message would be lost. She feared that her whole point would turn to unaccountable sorrow unless she put the right spin on her words, the right amount of hope in her voice, the right lie in the truth. "I…can't explain this song. A very close friend of mine – died, recently." Then she could go no further; she had to let the music explain her feelings. In the end, that's all she could ever do, let the music carry her soul and hope that the audience received her true meaning. Life isn't hopeless, she coached herself as she pulled the microphone closer to her chest. Life is full of things to live for; Izumi knew that, Meroko knew that; they would want others to know that. But bad things happen, and it's about time people realized what was going on in this world, about time that they started caring; they would want them to know that too. There's love, but there's hate, everything is hanging in the balance, and maybe there's nothing we can do to change it, but there's nothing that says we can't, either.

In the misty, smoky voice that defined her, Mitsuki began the opening notes to her newest song, her band sitting back, watching, wondering how this would pan out.

"A casket black as death, a red rose for my love, another died too young, a broken candle never burns, my dearest friend, my blood-bathed dove, this tattered heart can't ever seem to learn,

"To have these lives in your hands, not your own, to run like we did in a life long ago, you died with an unfulfilled promise you know, how many steps will they force me to go on alone?

"You make a widow of my dark virgin heart, a sentence of solitude is what you've left to impart, long years of waiting with nowhere to restart, let me lie on your coffin, and we'll never part…" Mitsuki choked on her words, tears flooding her eyes, and her lead guitarist, sensing her distress, whispered the chords to the bassist who boldly entered with a quiet, eerie solo, followed gently by a snare rhythm that slightly resembled marching feet. In the background, harsh minors drifted in and out from the guitars. Mitsuki glanced back at them, thanking them with her eyes, and forced herself to continue, pulling her voice up from its normal octave, trying to match the minors of the guitars, "You told me once that you weren't afraid, but what's there to fear except tomorrow, when all you leave behind is love that's decayed, and a family swathed in sorrow

"The choices you made in your youth will haunt me to my grave, and if you'd come back, the images wouldn't let you be the same, so maybe it's better that it was only your life that you gave, and maybe it's better that that's where they left you to stay…"

The bass faded to nothing, and Mitsuki allowed her voice to sink back into its normal range before she could taste the satisfaction of the music, teasing herself, pushing herself forward into a verse that crescendoed into nothing, "All the world is spinning now, and the rain keeps hurtling down, you've become another number, reduced to a quiet murmur, the ripples you left in the world still remain, but you didn't leave a dent, there are no after-effects, they're still suffering – everything is just the same, the only new thing is these tears that I've wept…"

She waved a hand behind her, urging the symbol that would symbolize the climax of the song, while clenching the microphone tight in her hands, facing Jonathan with fierce, angry eyes, demanding to him, "How can they say that's it's all all right now, when I'm lowering your body into the cold bare ground? How can they say that everything will be fine, when my soul is lost in a different place, a long-gone time?"

The chorus came easily from the band, and Mitsuki felt herself sliding into the improvisation, silently marveling at the deft way these talented musicians weaved their own meanings into her words. She'd never felt such a serge of feeling while onstage before; somehow, she knew that it was going to be all right. Her message was getting out, and with her face to the heavens, she allowed a small smile and the words poured out of her, almost frantically. They needed to be said, not just for her, but for the world. This was the unpleasantness of life, but getting them out there was the first step to fixing them, and in that way, her message, even of death, was a positive one, "It's just another green beret, another missing lover, another missing son, one more secret they say, we'll tell you when this war is finally won, you're just another mark in the record-book, just another dot of red on a page of black, you never moved the world you could've took, why did you never come and steal it back?"

Again, the fever disappeared, and she allowed her guitarist a solo while her blood cooled. Her palms were sweating; she couldn't tell, but the lack of noise in the audience made her hopeful, "All the world stands still when they drape the flag over the tomb, a seven gun salute, the deafening roar that fades to nothing, I'm frozen, the one you never loved enough, remembering an empty room, if you'd only stopped and took a look at me, we could've been something, the first lump of dirt falls onto my blood red rose, on the flag, I hear your mother crying, somewhere in the din of useless noise, the pounding silence fills my ears, my shoulders droop, my body sags, can't come to terms that this could have been your ultimate choice, (You were never one to act the little boy)…"

She could feel herself becoming choked again as she finished the verse she'd written for Meroko, trying to project a little piece of Meroko's anguish to the world. Somewhere, she prayed that her friend was being treated well, that she wasn't withering in her misery. Mitsuki knew Meroko was strong, but could she weather this? She tossed the thought from her mind and focused completely on the music, letting her voice drop into a childish kind of murmur, "In the end, you were just another green beret, could've been something special, so they say, tried to take a bad guy by the hands, lead him away, he took you by surprise, wasn't your lucky day, and now, here we are, they're dragging me away, the men in the white coats, calling me out to play, and I'm screaming to the heavens, asking why didn't you stay?"

For a solid minute there was absolutely no sound in the audience, and Mitsuki sat on stage, panting, wondering what the reaction would be, until they erupted into a fit of pleasure, screaming approval, begging for more, throwing themselves toward the stage, chanting her name, and she smiled weakly and pulled the microphone to her lips once more, swathed in a cloud of black that was slowly receding, "That was for you Izumi, for you Meroko, I love you both, wherever you are."

"Where am I?" Izumi moved to shield his eyes as he stumbled in the blinding white light and found that he had none.

"You are in the spirit world," a hauntingly beautiful female voice echoed in response. She seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at once, sexless, yet distinctly female, loving and harsh all at the same time. The amount of emotion and apathy in one of her words sent Izumi's head spinning, or what he assumed would be his head if it were there. "You are a ghost."

"Oh," he whispered softly, trying to make the feeling of desolation disappear. He'd thought…never mind what he'd thought; he'd chosen this road, and he'd have to accept the consequences, this was no different than any other time in his life.

A light tinkling was what Izumi guessed was her laugh, but it sounded more like bells than any human noise, the sweetest bells he'd ever heard, a sound so angelic that he wanted to melt into it, curl up and disappear inside it. "You have grown so much fair one."

"And for what?" Izumi demanded bitterly to the spirit, though it was lacking its normal fire. He feared this powerful entity, whatever it was, and he was tired, tired of fighting.

"But would you fight for her?" the entity questioned softly, a whisper of warmth against Izumi's soul, and he decided immediately that this was no force he could reckon with, no fore he could fight; yet, for Meroko, he would try.

"I would," he answered strongly, and the entity laughed again.

"I knew you would answer that way."

"Then why did you ask the question?" Izumi countered, and the entity seemed to smile, and the light where he was intensified.

"Because I wanted to see if you'd admitted it to yourself yet."

Izumi stayed silent, fair enough, "What am I doing here? Who are you?"

"You are here, because I am about to let you in on a little secret, a secret that has been told only to two others in the history of the world."

Fear clenched Izumi's heart; this was it. This was the Shinigami boss, and this creature was about to tell him the unknown secret he'd been forced to keep Takuto from remembering.

"But why?" Izumi choked out, afraid once again. He was sure his knees would be knocking if he had them.

"Because," the entity sighed, "it is time."

Oh yeah, I've been getting a lot of questions recently about whether or not these songs that Mitsuki sings are mine or not, and yeah, they are, so please don't steal them, but I'm really glad you like them! Maybe I should switch my profession from writer to singer...heh...maybe not...