Yagami Raito was dead.

The air had vanished, deflating him and leaving the void barren and silent as he drifted within it. Pain spread thorned vines over his heart and squeezed. A heart attack. His chest was still constricted from it, throbbing, repeating like a mantra that he was dead. Dead.

Yagami Raito was dead.

Raito opened his eyes—did he still have eyes—and saw nothing, black that tunneled into black, empty. The vines on his heart tightened, choking him with grief, panic, loneliness and regret. The emotions couldn't all be his. They thrummed like a cord plucked inside him and vibrated deep in the caverns of his chest. It was deafening. There had to be other sources, a dozen, a hundred, a hundred thousand other sources screaming at him with their emotional echo.

What had he done? What had he become? How could he be dead? Dead.

Yagami Raito was…

"Dead…" he whispered, and he could hear his voice passing through lips, real lips. This couldn't be nothing. This couldn't be nowhere. This couldn't be eternity. If he could speak and feel such searing pain then there had to be something out there.

As if to answer his assertion, the darkness cracked, two separate points breaking open and blossoming in the distance. Raito could see it. On his left was light, bright and brilliant blue. On his right was the absence of color, so much deeper than black that it looked like blood. He could see them both, growing, filling his vision as he drew closer. He waited for the moment when the right side, darker than death, would take him, but he didn't veer one way or the other. His heading remained straight and direct between the two broken points.

No Heaven or Hell. Not for you.

Raito felt the air return, stinging his cheeks as he moved through it and striking every part of his body. It was then that he knew he was naked but that he was also whole. He could feel the air on his toes as well as his chest. The speed of the air increased like wind, like racing down a highway on top of a car.

Was he falling? Would he fall forever?

The ground met his feet with such force he crumbled to his knees and gasped. The air was stale but it existed. He could feel the ground, black hard rock, and it too was real.

Raito stood, surprised to find his knees unmarred by the impact. He stared at his hands, pale and trembling, and touched his heart to feel how fast it was beating. It was beating. He could hear it in his eardrums, feel it through his fingertips. He felt alive, surely and completely alive, and looked up in joy.

His own face stared back at him, smiling. The smile disappeared just as he felt his own slipping. A mirror. Large and ornate in cast iron black it was two times his size and stood just a foot in front of him. He was transfixed, unable to look around at anything else.

So young. Was he not yet a quarter century? Was he really this grown up child, thin and naked and frightened? He couldn't be alive. He knew that. He was dead. And nothing could be said against it.

Reaching out to meet his hand to the image's hand, he touched the glass only to recoil. Cold. Freezing. He looked at his hand and a scream died in his throat. The hand was changing. It was not a hand but something growing and sharpening into a fearsome claw.

Raito tried again to scream and again he failed. Like a virus whatever was happening to his hand was spreading, his other hand becoming gnarled and taloned like the first. He looked up into the mirror and he could see the black sickness moving through him as ribbons of it coiled across his skin. At the same time his arms were stretching, ape-like, to hang long at his sides and his legs were growing in likeness. It forced his shoulders to pull forward, hunched.

The black ribbons were more than a sickness, he soon realized, they were hardening, black leather that covered and bound him. Up his legs, his torso, and around his arms, everything was being wrapped in black.

The leather continued to thicken and on his feet were suddenly boots, heavy like shackles. He choked as more leather tightened around his throat in a collar and he brought his hands up to pull at it. But his claws cut into his chin and he had to bring them down again or risk tearing his throat.

Staring terrified into the mirror, Raito waited for the disease to finish its course, fearing the final outcome. For a moment his face was still his, out of place with his new body. But soon that too changed. His hair stretched long as if every strand had been pulled. His nose sunk into his face until it was nothing but two bat-like slits. His mouth remained but fangs grew from his canines. Finally, he watched in horror as his eyes grew another size larger and his irises turned black like their pupils while the whites of his eyes glowed red.

When Raito at last found his voice, he threw back his head and howled.


A/N: Yes, I know I'm working on my Saiyuki fic, but this bug bit me and I am a slave to my passions. I imagine some of you can guess what dear Raito-kun is going through right now and you would be right. For those of you who do not know, stay tuned for the explanation and further entertainment. This plans to be a fic of around 5 or 6 parts. I hope to do justice to how I think the story really should have ended, or rather, how it really could continue since this is set after Raito's death. I hope I've caught enough of your interest to keep you reading.