Yes! Yes! I know you don't believe it, but its happening! This is it – the actual update! Sorry it took me so long, but I want everyone to know that I did not ignore your kind reviews, and your words of encouragement! Those reviews were actually the reason why I continued writing…
You see, what happened to me was this: at first I truly didn't have time to write. Then, when I did settle down to write, I got an awful writer's block…which lasted for quite a long time, as you may have guessed. Then, to shake off my block, I decided to read LxLight stories on to get inspired…and actually, I found SOOO many absolutely perfect stories, like "Coexistence is Boredom", "Chrome" and "Desideratum" (which everyone should go read immediately if they haven't already, which they have) that I got extremely depressed, because I felt that, despite my best efforts, TE is still completely OOC when compared to those stories…oh man…
But thankfully, now, I got over my pessimistic thoughts, and I'm back on track. I now know exactly where this story is going, and I know how to take it there (god, I sound like one of those self-help book authors)!! So I'd like to thank everyone who waited patiently for this update, and assure you, in all honesty, that it's not going to happen again. At least not until True Elision is finished.
So this is it. What you're about to witness here is the actual key-chapter. The place where we switch from confusion/awkwardness to confusion/romance. I don't think I made them OOC. At least, even if they do seem OOC at this point, I suggest that you try to remember the entire Trial ordeal, and the fact that both Raito and L have, supposedly, changed. They've become more open and susceptible to different ideas. There are many moments where I've intentionally tried to fool the reader into thinking that they are OOC, only to prove, later on, that they're not OOC after all. So if you do reach one of these moments, don't be like me and abandon the story…it's actually done on purpose.
Well, I really do hope you like this. Actually, being as it is the first update after a very long time, I'm a bit jittery. The fact that this is really my first attempt at DN romance is not helping…ugh…
Sorry for the long a/n, but I couldn't help it. And now, for my traditional phrase: please don't hate me for making stoopid spelling mistakes, miswriting 'their' for 'they're', and having repetitive vocabulary. To tell you that I'm editing this chapter now would be a lie…actually, I'm writing the next chapter. But when I finish the whole story, I WILL revise it, so there. It'll all be spelled perfectly soon enough.
Disclaimer: yeah, so…I don't own DN. But Mu is MINE, you hear? MINE, MINE, MINE!!!!
(ok, I'm cool now)
Once Upon a Time
It was always busy during this time of the day, Raito thought, queuing up in front of the tree. Everyone would always wait until just after the frigid dead sun had reached its ultimate peak, before they began searching for their lunch.
Raito blinked slowly, bringing his hand to massage the sides of his nose, staring unsteadily at the blurry outline of Ryuuzaki's white shirt. L, who was standing right in front of him, had one of his hands in a pocket, and the other in his mouth. Raito shook the yellow bucket he was holding a bit, as though to complain non-verbally about Ryuuzaki making him carry it all day long.
But L, in true fashion, was completely unmoved by this futile attempt at indirect nagging. Unfortunately, the more time he spent with this man, the more Raito had started to realize that this situation reminded him all too well of when he'd been cuffed to L. The only difference with back then was that now he was not willing to put up with each of Ryuuzaki's senseless whims. He now had his memories…and if he wanted, he could leave at any moment…
So why didn't he…?
As though to tease him, a vision of that dream he'd had a few nights ago appeared in front of his mind's eye. The notion of L finding Watari…Raito would be left completely alone. At least Ryuuzaki, regardless of how irritating on a personal level, was a form of camaraderie...
They were using each other, and they both knew that they were doing it. If they didn't have this meaningless brain stimulation to cling to, then what would they have?
Raito lethargically took a step forward, as the queue shortened once more. Only three more people to go, and he and L would finally get their lunch. From the front, L scratched the back of his head like a monkey, and Raito found that he couldn't even muster up significant annoyance at the other's pronounced shagginess.
Real friends? What was that? Raito had never experienced that in all his life and, to be honest, he didn't really believe it existed. He'd never wanted to become involved in the kind of self-compromise necessary for a relationship like that. Technically speaking, the closest he'd ever come to having a friend was his relationship with Ryuuku: a kind of non-obtrusive, non-imperative non-commitment, in which neither party was obliged neither to support nor condemn the other.
Of course, Ryuuku had broken the rules of their 'friendship' by killing Raito…but then again…Raito had never really intended to trust in Ryuuku; it had been a moment of extreme desperation which had forced him to.
In retrospect, he could see why Ryuuku would kill him instead of all the others. Kira's New World would have been extremely boring for a Shinigami of that sort. Ryuuku wanted conflict and drama…and the values that Kira's New World promised were quite the opposite.
"Finally" Raito caustically thought, seeing the zit-faced Westerner in front of them finally move away from the tree. Raito walked along to stand at L's side, and together they stared upward, at the massive plant. Unfortunately, all the easily reachable fruits had been already taken, by now.
"It's too high." Ryuuzaki stated the obvious, his black eyes unblinking and his expression mostly lukewarm, if not slightly annoyed. "Raito-kun; I'll support you." The former detective offered, motioning with his spider-web fingers toward the other man.
Moving slightly away, Raito looked at the hunched creature a bit suspiciously "Why should I climb? You're lighter…probably."
Ryuuzaki didn't miss a beat. "I don't trust you to hold me up."
Raito suppressed his urge to bash the other's face in with a fictional mullet. "I wouldn't have anything to gain by-"
But Raito was interrupted by a sharp tap on the shoulder. Both he and Ryuuzaki turned around, distracted from their verbal spar, to look at the people behind them. Seeing their aggravated faces, which all had identical hostile expressions of 'get on with it', the two men realized that they might find themselves completely without supplies unless they hurried. Raito gritted his teeth, making a muscle pump in his jaw. How he hated being told what to do…
Trying to preserve the last shreds of his pride, he looked meaningfully at L, who immediately shaped his hands in a nest and leaned toward Raito.
Without another word, but making sure that his eyes were drilling holes into L's – and everyone else's – pallid faces, he used the bastard's hands to hoist himself upwards. When trying to reach their doubtlessly disgusting lunch, however, he still fought to stay as respectable as possible. It wouldn't do if they thought they could boss him around.
Rather the opposite, since he was Kira.
But he wasn't much of a Kira anymore though…was he?
More than anything – even more than L – he hated this feeling.
"In the summer of my eleventh year, Watari took me to his country house. It was quiet there, since it was located right next to the cemetery." L stated with a completely even voice, his ebony bangs falling like curtains over his wide eyes, which were locked on Raito's.
The chestnut haired man stared at the other just as intensely. With his shriveled apple held loosely near his mouth, he let his auburn eyes scan over Ryuuzaki's face like searchlights, checking for any kind of telltale twitch. But of course, a visual inconsistency was too much to ask for. It was a fool's errand to expect a slip from the world's greatest detective.
A few moments of intense staring ensued, during which Raito's eyes progressively became beadier and narrower as they bored suspiciously into L's unperturbed expression. Raito wondered if the sound of his gritting teeth was audible to the outside world.
Finally, as the tension was brought to a zenith, the chestnut haired man opened his mouth, his nerves almost snapping.
"True." He declared, still staring at Ryuuzaki's pupils in the largely futile effort to understand whether or not they were dilated. For a few moments, L kept silent, and the other man could feel the tendons in his forearms actually strain. When had he gotten so absorbed in it? It was just a stupid game, for goodness' sake!
Then, finally breaking the eye contact, L brought his own fruit to his lips, taking a lusty bite and shrugging slightly. "Correct" he muttered, his mouth still stuffed with the disgustingly saccharine food, pieces of which went flying at Raito's shirt as the detective spoke. But the Japanese man, by now completely accustomed to these rude gestures, did not even bother taking note of this seemingly inherent crudeness, ecstatic as he was over having finally won.
'HA!' he thought gleefully, and found it impossible conceal the grin on his face. He internally praised himself for his extraordinary insight. Of course L had been telling the truth. Strangely enough, Ryuuzaki told the truth more often than not, since he knew it would not be believed. Raito should have figured this out much earlier, considering all the time he'd spent watching the other man.
"Next" Raito said rather animatedly, still grinning lightly as he chewed on the admittedly repulsive pap in his hand. Now that he'd started winning, he wanted to play some more. He wrapped an elbow around one knee and stretched the other leg out, uncaring of the dirt which would undoubtedly cover it when he'd stand up in a few minutes. It seems that L's habits might be rubbing off of him more than he'd thought they would… In any case, interestingly enough, Raito didn't seem too preoccupied with this thought, riveted as he was by their little lunchtime-game. He was riveted by any chance to mentally pummel L to the ground. A few pedestrians, who'd been walking by, grunted at Raito's unfolded limb, since it obstructed their way. Raito ignored them, while watching Ryuuzaki staring off at the distance, obviously considering what he might say next.
"Come on, think hard." Raito said with a slightly teasing tone, thinking that if he mocked L, maybe the detective would stop stalling. It was quite…pleasant…to do this kind of thing during lunch. It helped them forget what they were eating…Raito repeated this to himself, as he impatiently waited for the detective to think up a good statement.
Some of the people walking in the wide street turned to look at the two men, who were huddled at the side of the road. Raito was unpleasantly reminded of the fact that they could all hear what Ryuuzaki and he were saying, seeing as the silence around them was magnified and no one else in the street was speaking. He meticulously ignored the surreptitious looks of the strangers, who tried to seem uninterested when they were obviously quite intrigued – even jealous, perhaps – of these two youngsters able to communicate so freely with each other.
"Fine" Ryuuzaki's voice sliced smoothly through Raito's progressively darker thoughts, causing the auburn-haired man to turn around again, his eyes narrowing as he immediately entered his suspicious mode. He nodded a bit, to indicate he was listening, and Ryuuzaki proceeded to make a show of shuffling his legs around, supposedly to arrange his insect-like physique in a more comfortable position.
Raito restrained himself from rolling his eyes. How typical of the ex-detective to try and irritate a person once he knew had said person's full attention. But the Japanese man, a veteran of this little game, blinked slowly a couple of times, patiently waiting for L to start talking. He knew that L was trying, via these little tricks, however insignificant they may be, to make him lose his concentration and, consequently, the game. But Raito, an equal master of psychological warfare, was determined not to let any action of the opponent's get to him.
He was so determined not to give into L's tricks, in fact, that he kept thinking about it during a whole minute and a half, while L shuffled around. After that, once Ryuuzaki had finally arranged himself in his customary occult position, Raito felt assured that he hadn't allowed his concentration to lapse at all.
In the meantime, L set his black eyes on Raito's face with practiced cunning, and started talking. Raito's expression settled immediately, his shoulders leaning slightly toward the other as he focused all his attention on judging L's countenance.
"As I'm sure I've told you before, I used to be the British Junior Champion for three consecutive years. On the fourth year I competed in the Senior Tournament. The reason why I was defeated was because I stumbled on my shoelaces in the final round. The year after that, I left England."
Ooooh… this was a good one! It sounded too ridiculous to be true, of course…but knowing L, this complete implausibility was what he was betting on. Raito did not even blink his eyes, lest he miss some small detail of L's face which could betray the nature of the statement.
Completely calmly, Ryuuzaki took a pronounced bite from his fruit, his eyes never leaving Raito's as he chewed slowly, making exaggerated motions with his jaw, in a show of corny, non-verbal challenge.
Raito stared carefully at the other's face, to the extent that one would think they were debating matters of life and death instead of just playing a silly game to pass the time. But however trite their pastime, Raito was becoming quite enthusiastic about it. Not having had the chance at this much mental stimulus since…well, since the last time he'd talked to L, it was only natural that he'd be excited about practicing his insightfulness. Behind his rigid exterior, his mind was now racing in the way it had been during the early stages of the Kira case, trying to decipher not only Ryuuzaki's words, but his thoughts.
L's statement was ambiguous, of course, which was the whole point.
But Raito wouldn't put it beyond L to lose a tennis tournament because of something as idiotic as not tying his shoelaces properly…
Then again, L did hate to lose. Would he really have let his shoelaces get between himself and his victory? But it wasn't really a question of victory, was there? L had already won the tournament – or a closely related tournament – three times. Raito knew that L's character was very much like his own in this factor: once L felt like he'd conquered something, he became immediately disinterested in it…which was probably why he'd always enjoyed working on particularly 'unsolvable' cases. If L really had won the tennis tournament repeatedly then, probably, just like Raito himself, he wouldn't have much cared to win again.
The problem with this statement of L's was that it was so long. It had many clauses. For example, it might be true that L had lost because of stumbling on his laces, but false that he was the champion for three years. Or, it could all be true, except for the fact that he left England the next year. Even if one small clause of the statement was untrue, then the entire thing would be falsified.
Raito considered telling Ryuuzaki that this situation was unfair and that he should shorten the statement, but he'd be damned if he ever showed L any weakness of his. No, Raito would win. He would win against the odds!
He tried to break L's proclamation to pieces and analyze it, which was relatively easy to do. He remembered that L had told him, all those years ago, that he'd lived in England for five years. If Raito took L's current words at face value, that would mean that L had spent the first four of those five years getting involved with tennis in England. Seeing as good tennis technique is a manual ability, it requires consistent practice before it can yield any kind of result.
Therefore, if Raito took L's statement to be true, then that would mean that in the five years L had spent in England, at least four of them were spent in an environment where he could enjoy routine tennis practice…which would rule out the possibility that he was investigating any serious detective cases while in England. Given Raito's knowledge of L having stayed in some kind of orphanage, along with Near and Mello, this theory was plausible. In other words, during the time L had spent in the orphanage – doing Kira knows what – he might have spent time honing his tennis skills as well. Then, when he finished his 'detective' education, he left England and the tennis championships behind.
Yes, it had merit.
…but was it true?
It sounded false, if only because of the excess information in it. All the things L had said… it was unlikely that they were all flawless. Then again, knowing L, he would have predicted that Raito would think his statement was false if he added extra information to it.
Quite possibly, it was all true.
Or, it was all false…
Raito narrowed his eyes, internally sighing at himself. This wasn't working. His thought process was going around in circles. He wasn't reaching any conclusions. He decided that he might try the conventional method, which was looking persistently into the opponent's eyes and waiting for the detective to crack.
This method worked on most normal humans, at least, Raito thought begrudgingly.
It didn't take more than thirty seconds for Raito's annoyance to be justified. L wasn't cracking. He didn't even look perturbed. After a while, the black haired bastard even had the gall to make a show out of muttering, with overt disapproval "What's taking Raito-kun so long?", displaying the fact that he knew Raito didn't know the answer.
Finally, unable to wait any longer from pure curiosity if not anything else, Raito decisively took the plunge, reminding himself that it was just a game:
"True." he gave his verdict, and waited with bated breath – although he'd never admit it to himself – to see the fruits of his vigorous mental efforts.
Lo how the mighty have fallen.
From Death Notes to shoelaces. Where is this world headed?
L did not react, simply proceeding to bring his food forward again, biting it peacefully. Raito was sure that he must have gritted his teeth to white powder by now. It took all of his willpower to stop his fingers from tapping against his knees, and even that could prevent the twitch in his eyebrow. He was right! He knew it had been true! It was true; he'd won. Why else would Ryuuzaki be so reluctant to tell him if he'd won or not, except to torture him intentionally…the bastard.
Obviously taking mercy on him, L finally – at long last – turned his head upwards, thick black tresses kneading the base of his neck. Then, as he was staring at the chestnut haired man, he slowly and very deliberately brought his eyelids down in a prolonged blink. Raito tightened his jaw in marginally suppressed fury, understanding what the detective was saying.
But he'd been so sure this time! Hadn't he…? Why had his victory been so short-lived!!
Wait! Maybe L was lying, and he just didn't want to admit that Raito had won…Maybe-
"Again!" Raito commanded, swinging his fruit to his lips and hearing the satisfying crunching sound, accompanied by the sensation of sickly juice bleeding into his mouth. If he didn't win this, then he wouldn't be called 'Raito'! His eyes never left the 'vegetable', as he'd taken to privately calling Ryuuzaki in his thoughts. Such was his excitement about this whole thing, that he didn't even realize he had shuffled his body. Now he was sitting cross-legged on the dirt, with his head leaning forward and his ears stretched as far as they could go, unconsciously poised to hear L's next declaration.
In the meantime, Ryuuzaki, who'd used their small lapse in intensity to take a bite off his food, resumed looking at Raito, his eyes not having lost even a smidge of their sharp focus.
"Since Raito-kun lost, it is now my turn." L reminded, and, before Raito could control himself, he was actually making his eyes skip around in a show of annoyance. It was fun when L was the one being interrogated, he thought in unabashed immaturity…but why did Raito have to do it as well?
Then, as though horrified at his own lack of restraint, he suppressed his expression again into a calm mask of vague displeasure. It was too late to hide it now, of course, but…but, if only for the sake of his sanity, Raito still tried to feel like he was mostly in control of his own face.
"Very well, though I fail to see the point of this. You've already researched my entire life." Raito almost spat, but cleverly brought the half-eaten fruit to his mouth in time to disguise the frustrated twist of his lips into disgust for the terrible meal. Thank God that this fruit was taking him ages to finish, or else his facial vulnerability would have been left uncovered. This of course, did not alter the fact that the bloody thing tasted so horrible that Raito wanted to chuck it away, but it was a factor to consider. What was wrong with him, anyway? He should compose himself properly, he reminded himself.
L was not fazed, of course, and he did not make it easier for Raito by pulling his eyes away. He just sat there, perched like a hawk on a tree branch, his face unnervingly close to Raito's and his eyes completely wide, in that familiar mocking way they had. Alarm bells started ringing in the Japanese man's mind, since he knew from experience that this particular expression of L's never signified anything good for Raito's self-respect.
"Surely there must be something which couldn't possibly have been documented, Raito-kun." L patronized, and Raito was keenly reminded that, of all of Ryuuzaki's vocal tones, this was the one he despised the most. It was this most unnerving capability that the detective had always had: being very insulting while sounding very polite. Raito keenly remembered when L had kept analyzing the Yotsuba Corp's issues to Matsuda, using the same tone one would have used to instruct a three-year-old on how to use a potty.
In other words, L did occasionally like to treat Raito like an idiot. And because the investigator could always hide it so well in front of the other members of the team, Raito could never openly become annoyed at him, lest he risk being deemed "hot-headed" or "immature".
"I'm not going to talk to you about my personal issues." Raito proclaimed with clear haughtiness, and sniffed slightly as he took another bite of fruit. But just as the youth was reveling at finally having had the last word, L regretfully opened his mouth again.
"I doubt there are any." The lethargic baritone echoed, and the auburn haired man almost started seeing red and white lights dancing in front of his eyes. He closed his jaw sharply as a reflex, causing his teeth to sink rather maliciously into the tissue of the fruit. Well, it seems that, during the course of a particularly infuriating conversation, he could finally learn to appreciate this food, he sarcastically thought.
Procrastinating shamelessly, he was now trying to make sure he'd be completely composed when he'd speak again. This was facilitated upon seeing the serene calmness on L's face, which reminded Raito of his antagonistic streak and made him want to surpass the other in terms of expressionlessness. How could he allow Ryuuzaki to verbally overcome him…again? It was so obvious that L was baiting him, and treating the younger man's anger as a game. Unfortunately, it was in the young Yagami's character to become even angrier upon realizing he was being played for a fool.
But he wouldn't let L have his way…he'd make sure...if L wanted to insult him, then Raito would hurt him in return. Because after all, however reluctant to show it, Ryuuzaki was also human, and could also be affected by emotions. And of course, the overpowering emotion of defeat that L must have felt upon being killed…L must despise that most of all. L must have sunk in darkness as well…
But as he was thinking all this, Raito had unconsciously fallen into a trance, and was not aware of the expression on his own face.
…he must have hurt a lot after having lost, Raito thought. What if, to cast his revenge, Raito started baiting Ryuuzaki in return, by telling him about things that had happened after his death? What if he made Ryuuzaki jealous…reminded him of his defeat…? That would be cruel…it would be cruel, but so satisfa-
"Raito-kun should stop. Making faces at the opponent is both immature and impolite." A voice suddenly rang, jarring Raito from his trance. The auburn haired man felt the tense muscles of his face, and gradually started to loosen them, only now realizing that they'd been tightened. It seemed that, without realizing it, as he'd sat there getting lost in his own little dark private world, he'd started…he'd started…
And not just any smile, either.
The auburn haired man dropped his eyes, staring off into the distance, trying to look at anything but L. He couldn't believe himself! Had the Trial turned him to a complete idiot? How could he have lost control like that!? This was the first time this had ever happened to him! His nose had been seven inches from Ryuuzaki's, and he'd been smiling at the other man like…like…that! And even though it had been fine showing it to L when the detective had been dying…what was Raito thinking doing it now?!
This particular smile, along with an arsenal of related facial expressions, had always been conserved for the most private of moments. The last time he'd indulged in one, he'd been standing in front of Near, straining to stand with his one leg.
Well it was all L's fault, anyway! L was the one who'd made him start having this kind of vengeful thoughts again, anyway! God, how annoying Ryuuzaki was – how utterly exasperating. If only Raito could find it in himself to push the detective away, part ways with him…each of them would go their merry way. It would be fantastic…
So why couldn't Raito do it? Why couldn't he push L away, never to see him again…?
"Very well." Raito started, forcing himself to look upwards. He'd had this inner conversation with himself time and time again over the last few weeks, and he'd reached absolutely no conclusion. He didn't know why he seemed so hell-bent on staying with L. He didn't understand himself. Probably because of the loneliness that had overcome him in Mu-
'but this isn't right! I'm not affected by things like loneliness, or negativity! I'm not weak…I'm above all those things! A Trickster!'
But yet, here he was. And despite the fact that he kept telling himself that he should 'throw away anything he doesn't need' and that 'this kind of emotion can't touch this soul', the words sounded empty in his own mind. He'd said the same things when he was alive; true enough…the only difference was that, back then…he'd actually believed them too.
Angry more at himself than Ryuuzaki now, he was staring blankly at the ground between L's dirty white trainers and his own worn leather shoes. That small patch of ground…why couldn't he be a patch of ground too? Life would be so much easier and simpler…like it had been with the Death Note. There would be no philosophical treks, no moral predicaments. Perhaps this was part of why he'd appreciated the simplicity of the Death Note so much.
He'd lived greatness…he'd lived magnificence. Even if Kira's ideas were a lie, in the end his life had been exceptional, hadn't it…?
Unconsciously seeking for reassurance, he turned upwards, but the only thing he met was L's expectant gaze. The detective had lodged a finger in his mouth, and was pushing at his cheek from the inside.
Raito looked at him.
If not for himself, he thought, what about this man? Who knows what kind of luxuries L had enjoyed in America, or wherever else it was he'd lived. If he hadn't foolishly decided to overtake Kira, he would probably be rich and fat now. Most importantly, he'd still be alive.
But, regardless of these overwhelming thoughts, the mere sight of L's ridiculously familiar face, and all the memories it was associated with – memories of light hearted annoyance and passionate battles, mostly – were enough to make Raito think he understood why he wanted to stay near Ryuuzaki.
Having calmed down a bit, he decided that it would indeed be petty – not to mention unwise – to talk to L about the things that had happened after his death. Instead, Raito became resolved to keep the mood light. Because, he reminded himself, if he started bringing serious subjects to the forefront – in other words, if he started doing what L was trying to make him do – then he'd lose all the leverage he had. If he gave L all the information that he was so curious to discover – namely, how Kira had finally been defeated – then L might stop being interested in Raito altogether. Who knows if L would still want to stick with Raito if he took everything Raito had to offer…
Besides, if he wanted to be honest with himself, no matter how much he wanted to talk about it with Ryuuzaki, Raito didn't think his pride would be able to withstand a conversation like that. Until now, all such 'conversations' had been short lived, and they usually ended in a fight. But if Raito was forced to discuss seriously with L, in an adult conversation…then he might end up agreeing with L about Kira's shortcomings…
And that was something his pride could not withstand. He could think it, but he didn't allow himself to talk of it…and especially not to this man.
So, deciding to follow the next best course of action, Raito thought he might enjoy teasing the detective for the remainder of their meal. If he played his cards right, he might even gain some extra bit of information about the 'L Mystery' where he wasn't expecting it. It was always refreshing to have this kind of repartee. And besides, Ryuuzaki seemed to be in an especially chatty mood today.
So, careful to keep his maniacal grin back this time, Raito uttered the next few words, careful to keep his voice completely level and his eyes fixed on L's.
"When I was seven and Sayu was five years old, my mother used to take us to piano lessons every Thursday…but I hated it. What I really wanted was to learn how to play the guitar and get a tattoo." Raito developed this slightly hilarious concept with a severely somber face, careful not to let his inflection change at all during the announcement.
Ryuuzaki, on his part, stared at him steadily with an inquiring gaze, as though asking if that was all. When Raito nodded in finality, the detective leaned forward to rest his chin on his knee, bringing his thumb to his mouth – a signal that his mind was starting to initialize.
Raito neutralized his entire face, deadpanning it to the point of ridiculousness. As Ryuuzaki cryptically examined him, Raito inevitably started wondering if he was doing the right thing. Perhaps remaining so expressionless would indicate nervousness…? Without realizing it, Raito was internally hyperventilating. What if Ryuuzaki saw through his façade? What was L looking for? Why was L-
"If Raito-kun had really wanted to play the guitar, would he have asked for it?" Ryuuzaki asked, his eyes narrowed. Raito's heart, which had been thundering in his chest, impossibly started beating faster. What was Ryuuzaki trying to do? Was this a test to distract him? But distract him from what? For what?
"Now, now, L…you're only allowed one statement." Raito said with a patronizing tone, marveling at his own ability to keep his voice so calm, when calmness was the complete opposite of what he was truly feeling.
"Oh, don't mind me…I was only thinking aloud." L waved his hand slightly in a show of mock goofiness, and Raito didn't manage to stop himself from gritting his teeth again. The bastard was baiting him yet again! Everyone knew that if there was one thing that L did not do, it was thinking aloud. If he had, then he might have saved Raito a whole lot of premature heart palpitations, and perhaps a couple of pages from the Death Note as well.
As it was, however, in yet another show of unabashed manipulative intent, Ryuuzaki was trying to confuse Raito into revealing more than he'd bargained for. With all the exaggerated meticulousness that had made him so popular in his secondary school, Raito trained his face into a mask of calmness, with a fake friendly smile etched across it. Such niceties, of course, would not fool Ryuuzaki, who was more masterful in recognizing them than perhaps Raito himself.
Oh, if only they were back on Earth again! Back then, before his Trial, Raito had been so much more capable of concealing his emotions at any given time…
Therefore, as Raito had focused all his concentration on achieving that ideal nonchalance, he was shocked – and aggravated – to hear the unrushed calmness of that voice.
"It's true, of course." The baritone sliced effortlessly across Raito's thoughts, with the speed and precision of a Japanese blade. It was the addition of that small 'of course' in the sentence, which gave the phrase an all too different meaning. It was as though Ryuuzaki was implying that it wasn't even a challenge for him to decipher Raito's brain. As though Raito was less intelli-
No, better not think about it. If the young Yagami started pondering about all the reasons why Ryuuzaki would make an excellent stew, then he'd probably nail the detective on a stick and barbecue him right then and there.
But, of course, if L wanted a fight, then he'd have one. Raito would not let him get away with that kind of arrogance so easily.
"Wrong, Ryuuzaki. It's false." Raito said, and the grin on his face did not reach his eyes.
L did not respond immediately, preferring to let his eyes sink a bit more in Raito's, watching him like a cat sitting right in front of the hole on the wall, waiting for the mouse to peek outside.
"Oh?" Ryuuzaki finally said with his drawling voice deliberately slow. "Intriguing. What kind of tattoo was Raito-kun thinking of having?" he asked, reverting to his age-old investigation tactics. 'If unable to disprove a lie, search for ways to make the liar perpetuate it. Eventually, he will betray himself.'
Raito was quite experienced in this game as well, and had proved many times that he knew how to combat it. The only difference between now and the time they'd been standing across from each other, right after Misa's cellphone had rung in L's hands, is that back then the stakes were life and death, whilst now they were…Mu.
And Raito hated L all the more for reminding him.
He hated L with a passion for being this kind of sadist…and he'd had just enough frustration and teeth-gritting for the day to reach his limit.
"Well, L" Raito said, his voice assuming such a conversational, jaunty tone that Ryuuzaki's eyes narrowed instantaneously in suspicion "I'm really glad you asked, actually." and his sugary voice was pure venom. "Because, you see, since I always wanted to be a detective and you were my idol, I thought of having a huge black "L" done across my arse. " He finished, his face completely deadpan as he said it, and then looked at Ryuuzaki with utter sobriety.
It fell like a bomb.
The silence that followed was absolute – not even a dropping leaf could be heard after the sharp words. Without realizing how hard his heart was beating, Raito waited impatiently for the ex-detective's reaction, not knowing how L would respond to a direct insult. Raito had never, ever attempted to directly insult the other man anyway.
Knowing L, he'd probably remain unaffected, and eventually come up with some kind of indirect insult of his own. Raito closed his mouth and felt his own thumping heart, trying to make it calm down. Ryuuzaki was not responding. He was just sitting there, staring at the other man, his eyes completely wide – and almost bulging out of their sockets.
Then, he opened his mouth slightly, and Raito wasn't sure what he was going to hear. He blinked, to unconsciously shield himself from the unknown. But a fraction of a second later, to the auburn haired man's completely disturbed surprise, Ryuuzaki was grinning.
Raito started, with a slight sense of trepidation.
However, not only did L not respond; he actually turned downwards and buried his face against his knees. The only visible thing now was a mop of black hair against a background of denim jeans, and two lean long arms, wrapped around the calves.
Raito blinked slightly, not really knowing what to do. Then, out of no where, L's two white-covered shoulders started shaking, at first very slightly, and then increasing in intensity. Not knowing what was happening, or why his companion was suddenly acting like an epileptic – apart from the usual level of awkwardness, of course – Raito leaned forward a bit with a curious expression on his face.
Then, suddenly hearing a small sound, like a whimper, come from L, Raito froze. The strange choked sounds continued. Raito looked at the back of L's black head as though it had turned pink. What on earth…was L…was L…
"O-Oi…" Raito's hand hovered a bit over the other man's shoulder, not really knowing if he should touch it or not. Mostly, he just felt horrible now. He'd never pegged L to be…the…crying type? The Japanese man, who'd never really directly swore at anyone before, cursed himself internally over and over. He should have kept quiet! Who knows what L had gone through…Raito shouldn't have attacked L so openly…It was even worse now that L's shoulders were shaking so violently. His narrow bone structure and foetal position made him look completely weak and vulnerable. Raito felt as though he'd kicked a crippled dog.
Finally, mustering up all his courage, the auburn haired man gingerly lay his on the white covered shoulder, mildly surprised to find it so warm and… Then, carefully, as though afraid he might get kicked at any given moment, he shook the shoulder a bit.
"Ryuuzaki...?" he asked, his voice deliberately low and shaky. This was so, so strange, on so many levels, he thought, and felt completely disturbed. But then, just as he pulled on the other man's shoulder, L's head started to bob backwards a bit, until, little by little, his expression started to reveal itself.
If Raito thought that what he'd been thinking before was disturbing, then, obviously, he was mistaken.
Because the reality was quite unmatched in terms of incredibility.
L's face, coupled with the carefree laughter, was completely, completely wrong.
Raito stared, literally unable to pull his eyes away from the unique and terrorizing sight. It wasn't only the idea of Ryuuzaki letting go of all inhibition and laughing, but the actual vision of it. The way that L's eyes were scrunched up tightly and his mouth was open. The way his black hair fanned around his head as he waved it around. Most of all, the sharpness of the laughing sound was astonishing.
But that was not what had glued Raito's eyes on the other's face. It was the fact that, unbelievably, as he laughed with such unseen abandon, the senior detective looked…he looked…
"AHAHAHAHAHA!!" A few of the pedestrians walking quietly along turned curious, irritated glances at L and Raito's general direction.
Ryuuzaki was actually turning red. This was something that had never happened before in the history of modern humankind. Here had Raito been, honing himself for an apology, when all along, Ryuuzaki had been guffawing his guts out. The remorsefulness that had nested in Raito's stomach, slowly but surely, started turning into white, searing ire. As if he hadn't done enough already by provoking him, Ryuuzaki was making fun of him as well now!!
Raito snarled a bit under his breath, annoyed primarily at himself. He couldn't believe himself. For a moment there, he'd almost felt sorry for the slimy unwashed cretin! What had he been thinking? Of course L would never cry!!
Then again…he'd never laugh either. And amazingly, he just had!
The detective covered his face with his palms as the laughter finally started dying down. Raito stood over the other man, his shoulders tensed and his palms fisted at his sides, as though preparing to punch. Unsure of whether he should feel insulted or plainly disturbed, he simply waited for the ex-detective to calm down completely, before he said anything he might regret again.
"Ahaha…ha…hah…hnn.." the sounds grew calmer as Ryuuzaki removed his hands from his head, revealing his grinning expression. Raito, who wanted to ask what all that had been about and curse at L at the same time, watched the detective rub the tears of laughter from his eyes.
Finally, as L's placated breath resumed, Raito gritted his teeth and sat back down, facing the detective, who was now looking at him with strange eyes, still with a smile on his face. Raito didn't know how to act when those eyes were looking at him with anything but suspicion, so he broke eye-contact and stared at L's feet instead. He didn't realize that his own eyes were furrowed slightly, or that he was still seeing L's astonishingly young laughing face with his mind's eye.
"Are you finished?" Raito finally asked, finding it unnecessary to mask the extreme irritation he was experiencing. He found, strangely enough, that during L's little laughing fit, his need to make Ryuuzaki know how much he was despised had increased.
"Yes. Thank you, Raito–kun. That was very entertaining." L nodded slightly, looking like one of those dolls with the bobbing heads that Raito had always detested.
"I'm glad you enjoy being called an arsehole, because I could entertain you all day long." Raito's voice was sharp and cruel, intending to pierce through L's barriers and press the detective's buttons.
But, apparently, he pressed all the wrong buttons. Because this time, L didn't take time to start building up his laughter. He plainly chuckled, causing Raito to look at him again, startled.
"What's so funny?" Raito could not contain himself anymore, determined not to allow anyone – and most of all, this hypocrite – to attempt to ridicule him directly.
But Ryuuzaki was completely unaffected by the other's barely restrained anger, and answered with an unperturbed, clear voice. The only difference between his current tone and the one he'd always used in the past was that now, apparently after such an intense laughing session, even he could not reproduce the frigid suspicion and hostile irony that had always been between them in the past.
His conduct showed, apart from other things, the fact that he wasn't afraid of Raito anymore. That he was out of Raito's control…
…and perhaps it was that notion which had made the young Yagami so angry in the first place.
"I was just…I was amazed." Ryuuzaki started saying, his tone with an unusual undercurrent of sincerity that he'd used only when ordering cakes. He raised his hand to make a motion toward the other man, who was staring expectantly "That was the first time I've witnessed such frankness from Raito-kun. The sheer drama of it."
Raito narrowed his eyes unconsciously, only now realizing his error. How could he have allowed a small moment of anger to destroy the entire fortress of pretense that he'd managed to keep up so far! If L ever managed to see the kind of insecurity that lay beyond Kira's destroyed ideals, then Raito would never live the shame down. "I was just being ironic, Ryuuzaki, when faced with your useless interrogation." Raito immediately countered, trying to undo the damage.
But the moment he spoke again, Ryuuzaki's eyes, which had loomed warmly in front of him, immediately dulled again, apparently…apparently… losing interest? Some kind of unidentified force inside him propelled Raito to draw L's attention again, to reach the core of the labyrinth that was this mystery man's mind. Now there were two forces working in Raito's mind, battling for dominance. On the one hand, he didn't want to reveal any kind of honesty or truth to anyone, much less L…but on the other hand, this unexplained sudden need, which was uncalled and strangely intense, to keep L's interest…
"But…" Before he knew what he was doing, captivated by the way L's black eyes focused on him again, and the way L's thumb had sunk in the opening between his lips, Raito spoke again, not calculating what he'd say before he blurted it out. "my words might not have been completely unfounded."
L's face turned to face Raito completely again, his movement reminiscent of a moth being drawn to the flame. Thinking of the comparison of himself and Ryuuzaki as a moth and a flame, as a sudden reflex, Raito's pulse quickened significantly.
"Oh?" Ryuuzaki asked, leaning slightly forward "Is that a confession?"
Raito kicked away from the ground, tossing his apple to a pile of dirt on the ground. Slowly, he started patting the dirt off his – already quite dirty – clothes. As he bent his head out of the other man's view, he made sure to be heard nonetheless "You already knew what I think of you, L, although none of us would ever admit it. No harm in telling you something you already know." He stated simply, perhaps reassuring himself more than talking to L, as he proceeded to mingle with the crowd of the main street once more.
"Yet more confessions. Today is truly exceptional." Ryuuzaki's voice was heard from behind him, and, unable to stop his own hyper-awareness of the other man's actions, he heard the shuffling sounds of a body walking, with a rather faster-than-usual pace, towards him. Internally, he grinned. Strangely, he felt a bit as though he was inebriated in a way – that was the best way to explain it. The more he realized how he could command L's intrigue, the more he wanted to provoke it. Until, despite his better judgment, assuring himself that he wasn't revealing anything or being honest, he kept the conversation alive.
"I'm glad you're enjoying it, Ryuuzaki. At least you're always honest in your completely useless mental pursuits." Raito commented, turning to pierce L with a completely heartfelt, scornful gaze "How happy your world must be, not worrying about anything apart from your own little obsessions."
A small pause followed. Then, after a few moments, Ryuuzaki's voice echoed from the left, amused and ironic at its best "Kira-kun does realize, of course, how utterly ridiculous that sounds, when told from his perspective."
The small sting that had accompanied the appellation did not last long, and Raito grinned nastily to himself as he walked, not bothering to turn and look at the other "Of course. 'Kira-kun realizes that.'" He mimicked L's falsely polite turn of phrase. And then, feeling an unprecedented swell of exhilaration: "But that doesn't mean you're not a freak too." He concluded solidly, walking between two strangers, who were crowding his way.
Ryuuzaki didn't bother with squeezing himself between people, and just walked the long way around the throng. Raito waited for him, and then the two of them set off again, walking rather slowly, in comparison to their usual pace.
"Unlike Raito-kun, I never claimed the contrary." L's voice justified, and Raito shook his head slightly as he walked, grinning a bit.
"I suppose that makes you feel so honourable."
"Well, compared to Raito-kun…"
And the conversation continued as they walked, not pausing even for a breath. Neither the agitated, curious stares of the fellow pedestrians, nor the vivid hallucinations were powerful enough to weaken the intensity of the heated debate, which was drawn out and accentuated, as though the participants were truly savouring every single moment of it.
By the time dusk had fallen and they had to look for a hut, Raito didn't even realize that he hadn't mistaken any women for Misa today, or that he had eaten three awful fruits for dinner, instead of just one.
When L kicked the hut's front door open, the colour of the sky was already a mixture of light and dark blue. It hadn't taken long for the two of them to realize it was most prudent to retire early for the night when in Mu. Not only the hallucinations of the night were unpredictable, but, regrettably, other humans were unpredictable as well.
Ironically enough, criminality seemed to exist even in Mu, although in a much blander and milder version of its version in the live world. It made sense that most ex-criminals would be reluctant – and even dispassionate – about stealing and raping, after the indubitable horrors that they'd persevered in their Trials. If there was any reason why anyone stole in Mu, was because of necessity.
Everyone needed clothing, basic commodities…but few were the ones who had the courage to enter the 'haunted' houses in order to retrieve their supplies. As such, some resulted to larceny, or even violence. Most of it, of course, happened during the night.
And although Raito's fingers sometimes itched, even now, for the smoothness of the crème-coloured pages between his fingers, it was undeniable that Kira wouldn't have much reason to exist in Mu. Most creatures here were very much like ghosts and less like truly accountable humans, with L and Raito included.
In this place, both men had realized, peoples' minds were not screwed properly on their heads. With living nightmares in the streets worsening the situation, each person in Mu carried with him all the fears and regrets of a life long past. Sometimes, when walking in the Main Street at night, one could see people scratching at themselves, as though trying to peel their own skin off. Some people would just sit there, unblinking and unmoving – perhaps even unbreathing. Raito wondered if, perhaps, this was what happened when one gives up on one's quest to find their fated person.
Living dead, he thought with a chill.
The lean auburn-haired man, still dressed in the navy trousers and beige blazer he'd taken from a house a few days earlier, walked tranquilly through the door, which Ryuuzaki, just a few moments ago, had almost ripped from its hinges with his kick. Well, it was true that the bloody thing wouldn't open no matter what they'd tried – the wood had probably been affected by the humidity – so kicking it open had been the only solution left. Climbing though the window was simply disgraceful, not to mention that Raito had had enough of avoiding direct routes in his life.
Losing no time, Raito moved to the window, seating himself on the floor directly beneath it, unconsciously concealing himself in a blanket of shadow. He leaned his head back calmly and closed his eyes, hearing the muffled sounds of Ryuuzaki shuffling around at the door.
After he'd dumped the plastic bucket and his shoes outside, L turned around, closing the door behind him. The strange sight of seeing him be so active with his body rather than his mind had not been lost on Raito, but he'd become quite used to until now. Having helped L shower every morning, he pretty much knew everything there was to know on that aspect…
Raito opened his eyes immediately, estranged by what he'd just visualized. He frowned a bit at the darkness. For some reason, all of a sudden, he felt a bit hot. Technically, it wasn't much warmer in the cabin than it was outside, because of the hut's large glassless window. Even so, in the darkness, there was a strange kind of flush climbing from Raito's neck to his face.
Huffing a bit in frustration, he took off his beige pullover, revealing the black t-shirt that lay beneath. This might or might not have gone unnoticed by Ryuuzaki, who was still ambling around the room, trying to find a proper space to settle in.
"Raito-kun has taken the best spot."
Raito, who was folding his jumper neatly, made an unsympathetic little sound. "Better luck next time."
And the 'vegetable' deserved it too, since, after that critical moment, when he had so shamelessly guffawed in that disturbingly carefree way of his, Raito had experienced an evening like no other: he'd just gone through hours of debating with L openly, showing L exactly how honest he could be when he put his mind to it. Of course, he couldn't rid himself so easily from years of mind conditioning: his face and voice still weren't very expressive, and, each time he openly told L what he thought about something, a small part of him screamed in panicked protest.
But overall, the feeling he was receiving from this novel form of dialogue was…the feeling satisfaction, strangely enough. It was like fighting with their bodies, with the only difference that they were fighting with words. The same kind of twisted satisfaction – that wild, completely gleeful feeling – that he'd experienced when he'd proclaimed to everyone, on the last day of his life, that yes, goddamn them; he was Kira.
The kind of thing he felt now was closely associated to that. He had to admit to himself that the actual action of letting Ryuuzaki know how utterly aggravating, how hypocritical Raito considered him to be was so liberating, so redeeming after all those years of self-suppression, that it was no wonder Raito was indulging in it with every opportunity.
And Ryuuzaki, of course, was no exception. He gave as much as he took. Raito recalled a conversation from a few hours earlier that day, when he and L had still been in the High Street, walking near a relatively dull hallucination. He remembered what he'd said, and, even now, as he remembered it, he felt the thrill of seeing L's face, his eyes. Everything about it…it had just felt so…so liberating. So perfect.
"Why the hell are you chewing on your finger anyway? Hasn't anyone told you that you look autistic?" Raito asked, right after L had finished his own accusation. The black eyes had an onyx flare in them, as though lit from within by L's excitement. The very appearance of that face, with those scrunched features and intense expressio, was a thrill in itself, and it played a detrimental role in doubling Raito's own exhilaration.
"I'm not surprised that, when finding no solid faults in me, Raito-kun tries to dissect my meaningless personal habits." L answered with a flat and dismissive tone, as though not even deigning to consider the argument.
"Yes, 'meaningless'. By all means go ahead. But you do know what they say about foxes: if they can't reach a fruit, they call it rotten." Raito answered with a rather mocking voice.
"I'm flattered that Raito-kun has thought so very much about me – it seems that I managed to bring colour to his drab Japanese schoolboy life, after all. He does seem to have an affixation for anal-retentive, extremist ideas anyway. " L commented, in the way one would talk about the weather.
"Indeed" Raito said, trying to keep his lip from curling into an unbecoming snarl, and succeeding for the most part. The only evocative thing about him at that moment was his voice "I have reached extreme conclusions about you. You, the great detective, who probably can't use the potty without having a butler wipe him after he's done…oh, what am I thinking. You can't use a toilet in the first place. How would you sit on it like a normal human being?"
"Raito-kun must know first hand of all these things, since he was chained to me for upwards of four months for not managing to convince me he was not a serial murderer. Besides, it would make sense he'd inspect others' grooming habits with such perverted interest. He suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder comparable only to old spinsters and passive homosexuals." L answered in one breath, his inflection and cold precision not changing even once.
Upon hearing his opponent's last words, attacked by memories he'd rather forget, Raito almost became rabid. And even though he fervently kept his face completely expressionless, his voice was like a scorpion sting.
"Obsessive Compulsive? For noticing that you walk like Quasimodo? For being offended by your very existence, and your labeling of yourself as a healthy male? All those cute little things that you do, that you think make you look eccentric and cool, but they actually make you look even more mentally retarded."
"Oh, yes. Unlike Narcicuss-kun, who aims to look his best while killing off anyone who ever opposed him, and have his nails manicured for the next time his girlfriend comes over to celebrate the Annual Placebo Killing Spree, I've foolishly neglected my physique."
"I apologize for caring both about my appearance and criminality in the world, a concern that, apparently, you could never manage to muster up, despite your pompous pseudonyms and efforts to lock people smarter than you behind bars."
And after that, the conversation had gone downhill to an even greater extent. Raito sat there now; quietly recalling it with his eyes closed, not just the words but the whole electric atmosphere of it, and was left smiling unconsciously in the darkness.
Finally, when he heard a loud sound from his right, he was jarred from his trance, and opened his eyes to inspect what new disaster might have taken place.
"You all right?" he muttered beneath his breath, looking at L, who was holding his knee with both his hands. Raito got a good idea of what the banging sound might have been.
Without answering, L nodded slightly and squeezed his leg again, obviously trying to squelch the pain of the forming bruise. A few moments later, the detective carefully sunk to the wooden floor, leaning against the wall on Raito's right. From where he was sitting with his back against the windowpane, the amber-eyed man could vaguely see L's features, illuminated only slightly from the starlight. L had purposely chosen not to sit directly opposite Raito, in the best-lit part of the room.
Of course he wouldn't. Like Raito, he didn't like being revealed in any way.
Of course, that had all changed today, hadn't it…what with their shameless bickering…? In retrospect, Raito felt a bit embarrassed at having partook in such instantaneous and intrinsically childish insults…but then again, on the other hand… it had felt sinfully splendid to do something so forbidden.
Currently, like the survivors of a particularly earth-shattering war, they were sitting quietly, both clearly exhausted. Raito hadn't actually felt so exhausted since last week, when he'd had that horrible nightmare.
Not even wanting to think about that, he stretched his legs, letting his thighs spread smoothly while keeping his knees bent and releasing an unrestrained grunt of relief. Then, enjoying the blissful peace and silence as opposed to the constant screams of the High Street, he gave a wide, drawn-out yawn, which was a sure signal of an exceptionally restful sleep to follow.
On his part, Ryuuzaki wiggled his toes a bit in order to savour the feeling of being bare-footed and not constrained, at long last. Of course Ryuuzaki could not see him clearly in this lighting, but Raito wasn't unaware of the black eyes that were glued on him, back to their incessant calculating inspection. Raito would have told L to stop staring for once, but he couldn't muster up the courage. Besides, just as Raito was thinking about how tired he was, he heard a pronounced yawning sound coming from his side, and his eyes couldn't help but lock immediately on L's face.
Watching this spectrum of expressions going through Ryuuzaki's usually neutral visage would never get old. Raito still wanted to see as many expressions as he could from that face: shock, anger, fear, hatred…and even laughter, perhaps, now that he already knew what it looked like.
Yes, he realized it now. Ever since the very first day Raito had seen L walking there, as confused and hopeless as all the others, Raito had realized that he'd never stop wanting it.
"It's this way." Raito pointed to the path on the left, a narrow street coiled like a serpent, with a strange orange illumination shining in the distance. It was a few days after their questionable confrontation the other day, and Raito had found that, strangely enough, the more time passed during which he retained that same way of treating L, the more the tension that had been prevalent between them had started to dissipate.
Ryuuzaki stayed silent and calculating for a few moments, observing both the road that Raito was indicating, and the alternative route. Unfortunately, they'd reached an intersection again, and both their choices appeared quite bleak.
"…" the detective stared carefully at the thin, almost constricted passage that Raito had pointed at. It was strangely devoid of people, which, in this place, made it look all the more suspicious. Then, L turned to observe the other road, a wider, but much darker, pathway, which most others seemed to follow.
"It mustn't be. Look there." L finally gave his verdict, and pointed toward the broad street. Raito gritted his teeth at the other's lack of faith, but turned to inspect what Ryuuzaki was pointing at nonetheless.
"What about it?" the auburn haired man asked, unimpressed. The same westernized houses were everyone, and there was no diversity in the environment save for the people disturbing it with their presence.
"The tower." L instructed, and Raito finally noticed what the other was talking about. It was not exactly a tower, but more of a monument; a graphite obelisk against the pink-orange colour of the sky. From where they were now standing, they could just barely see the top of it, since it was hidden behind countless buildings. "If there's a landmark that we haven't seen before, wouldn't it be more logical to walk toward it?"
Raito unconsciously crossed his arms as he listened to the other man's words. Since the both of them were standing put in the middle of the crossroads, they obstructed the free movement of other pedestrians, which in turn earned them more than a few agitated frowns. If the fellow citizens of Mu could talk to them, surely they would appear even less friendly.
As it was, however, Raito completely ignored them. He had decided that he would not succumb to strangers' will any longer, so he focused on making them succumb instead. "How can you be so sure that this road leads toward it? Have you forgotten the last time we had this problem? Perhaps the less obvious path is the right one."
L tapped his thumb against his lower lip "True…but then again, the amount of people walking that way is overwhelming. Statistically speaking, and considering the amount of people in this place…then surely that road is the correct route"
"Even so…" Raito started, turning again to meticulously observe the two alternative pathways, and scrunching up his nose when facing the one that L was supporting "…it looks too suspicious. " He took a few steps backward, until he was standing directly beside L, both staring skeptically at the street in question in the same way one would look at a new pet they were thinking of buying. "We could have followed it if the daylight was stronger, but now it may be dangerous…"
"Dangerous?" Ryuuzaki countered within seconds, black tresses floating around his face as he turned to stare at Raito with light amusement "The most dangerous thing here is you."
Raito's face was overcome by a speechless irked expression, but apart from that, he mostly ignored L's comment, since the detective had started talking again.
"Besides," Ryuuzaki started, waving his wiry forearm across their field of vision to indicate the surroundings "in my opinion, the other street looks much more unsafe." He said, and pointed at the narrow, dimply-lit passageway that Raito favoured.
"Well" Raito raised his palms upward in a mock-shrugging motion "what can I say? Being as you are an expert on suspicion, we should all take your word for it. You hardly do anything else except to suspect anyway."
L didn't look the slightest bit perturbed as he countered with his own faux-nonchalance "Well I also think we had better follow my advice, seeing as Raito-kun does tend to 'space out' while walking." The detective started, and slowly started moving toward the more spacious of the two roads.
There was a subtle twitch in Raito's eyebrow, more as a reflex to that infuriating calm voice and sneering wide black eyes than an purposeful expression "Yes, but fortunately you're such a reliable guide that we never have to pause at intersections for twenty minutes, regardless of my unacceptable carelessness." The auburn haired man muttered, as he turned to follow the gawky youth, with obstinately heavy footsteps.
They had been walking peacefully, and relatively untroubled, for a bit more than two hours now. The sky had reverted to its nighttime visage, and they both knew they'd have to start looking for shelter quite soon.
As much as Raito didn't want to admit it to himself, Ryuuzaki had probably been right about following this path rather than the other. The road was open and the nightmarish hallucinations were distributed more sparsely around them. Additionally, they always had the looming obelisk structure to serve as their beacon, so they at least unconsciously felt that they had a sense of orientation – a feeling that they'd missed over the last few months.
"Shall we go to a hut again tonight?" Raito asked in a flat tone, when he realized that the sky started darkening significantly, and the wind that blew around them had become much chillier than he was comfortable with.
They hadn't talked much after that low-scale confrontation earlier, but, surprisingly, instead of rising during these long hours of silence, the tension between them had decreased instead. In fact, the atmosphere between them, despite their consistent verbal rows, was perhaps calmer than…
Raito almost felt that he could freely say things to Ryuuzaki now, without caring at all about the consequences. Which was, in itself, an unexpectedly pleasant feeling.
Maybe some dark, hidden part of Raito, a part he didn't want to acknowledge, had hoped that he'd eventually manage to talk freely to Ryuuzaki about something else.
Talk to L…talk without subterfuge…actually discuss…
"It's getting quite cold." Raito said again, when he realized that L wasn't planning on answering. He made a short pause in his walking, and slightly turned his head in order to look at the other from above his shoulder.
"Raito-kun must know it's still quite early, despite the darkness. That is what happens in winter." The former detective said with an undercurrent of scorn that, had he not become so used to this kind of bland insult, would have gone straight to Raito's more sensitive nerves. As it was, however, he kept calm, knowing that this was Ryuuzaki's twisted way of giving a serious response. In any case, he didn't want to persist about leaving to find shelter, lest he appear to have a weakness in front of the other man, which was one of the things he wanted least of all.
"Well I suppose we could walk a bit more, then." The Japanese man concluded, his features sharp and angular as he swiftly turned forward again, to resume his former pace. He was trying to keep himself moving at a relatively high intensity, so as to prevent his system from registering the cold around him.
This time, however, as he turned around, he sensed L's body walking directly beside him. Raito surreptitiously turned his eyes to the left, careful not to move his head. Sure enough, there L was, walking faster than he had before, hands in his pockets and teeth chewing on his bottom lip.
He was cold as well, the bastard! But he wouldn't admit it…
The moment Ryuuzaki's eyes moved to lock with Raito's, the auburn haired man stared openly for a few moments, and then finally snapped his auburn irises away. Focusing on the surroundings in an effort to relieve the slight tension that had surfaced so unexpectedly, Raito started paying attention to the buildings, something that he hadn't been doing as much as he should have. And he'd be damned if he gave justice to L's comments about him 'spacing out while walking', so he resolved to become more focused.
There were all kinds of edifices around them now: shops, churches…any kind of structure imaginable. And as though that wasn't enough, the street was adorned by various elements of the bizarre. For example, Raito had spotted a staircase which led to the window of one of the buildings and continued right through the roof of the house, leading to nowhere.
There was this other bench nearby, which-
"L…? L…?" Raito suddenly heard a…a rather strangely high-pitched, scratchy voice. More out of surprise than anything else, he stopped moving.
It took a moment for him to understand what was happening, and the fact that he could actually hear a voice other than Ryuuzaki's deep baritone. The flash of a nightmare ran through his mind, and his heart made a sudden convulsion, causing him to momentarily lose his breath. Was it Watari…had the day come? He turned to his left, to look at Ryuuzaki, expecting to see the old butler's kindly face.
But what he saw instead made his insides freeze.
L was just standing there, petrified as well, with his eyes as wide as they'd been when he'd first heard the word 'Shinigami'. In other words, a look of terror; which was actually more expressive now, than when they'd been alive.
"Is it really L…?"
Raito actually felt the breath be knocked from his body as his eyes finally fell upon what Ryuuzaki had been staring at.
He saw a…a…
"…L…" the creature that looked almost exactly like Ryuuzaki raised a skeletal palm, moving it as though to cup the detective's shoulder. But, in a movement more rapid and reflexive that Raito had ever seen this particular individual exhibit, L slapped the offending hand away, taking a few steps backward.
"You…" the ex-detective whispered, and, by the way they were both ignoring him, Raito felt as though they'd temporarily forgotten he wasn't there, which was a thought that hit a bit too close to the nightmare which had haunted him all these days.
But even though Raito moved backwards along with L, the investigator's eyes were still fixed on the stranger, completely still and unmoving, as though calculating the other's movements.
Raito turned to observe more carefully this newcomer, whose appearance had managed to get L so unsettled. Of course, anyone would become disturbed by the appearance of a creature that looks almost exactly like themselves, but…but, especially considering his composed persona, L's reaction was a bit…
Raito turned to stare at the stranger's face, expecting to see a replica of L's own. Now staring so closely at him, however, Raito's fingers became lax, and his lips parted slightly.
Because he'd just noticed…
There was a sheen of blood-red colour over each of the man's irises, which were constricted impossibly in their sockets. The rest of the face, in close inspection, was actually not so identical to L's, either – Raito rejected the theory that they were twin brothers. Why had Raito not noticed the differences sooner…? This man actually looked so…so…different, in a way…
But in the meantime, the stranger had not paid Raito even the slightest mind, his whole attention still remaining fixed on L, who, incidentally, had apparently recovered from his initial shock, and was now sporting a more composed expression.
"B" Ryuuzaki attributed the letter like a verdict, straightening his back. Internally, Raito rolled his eyes, thinking ironically that he should have expected one of L's acquaintances to be named after a letter. But then, just as he was mocking them both in his mind, Raito watched the stranger copy L's movements immediately, improving his posture as well. That was a bit…strange to watch.
"You don't seem to have changed much." L evaluated, and to Raito, who knew him so well, it became obvious that he wanted to leave this 'B' man's presence very quickly.
But the detective's words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Out of nowhere, surprising both L and Raito, who was still starting at B's eyes with a sense of déjà-vu, the stranger lunged forward, latching onto L's shoulders with sharp nails.
"…L…I thought I'd never find you…" the slightly sibilant voice echoed, in a tone so desperate that it was bordering paranoia. L instantly started trying to pry 'B's hands away, but then, just as Raito fully registered the meaning of what he'd just heard, the detective froze as well, raising his face to stare into the maniacally constricted eyes.
"You…what?" L asked with a wheeze, and Raito didn't remember ever hearing the arrogant man so breathless before, as though he'd just run a marathon.
The younger Yagami took a stop forward, coming to stand directly in front of them, watching their exchange. His eyes were fixed on their interlocked white forearms, L's pressed firmly against the other man's, as though to fight 'B' away.
"Yes. I was searching for you." the lunatic red eyes said, and Raito almost took a small step back as B's face twisted into an overly wide, sharp-teethed smile, which looked nothing like the expression L had had when he'd laughed the other day. "Who else would I be searching for?"
The silence that fell between the three of them right after that statement was so absolute, that, for the first time in all this time, Raito remembered where they were and that he wasn't supposed to be hearing the voice of someone he'd never met before.
Perhaps then, it was because he knew Ryuuzaki that he was allowed, by association, to communicate with the people Ryuuzaki knew as well…?
But at this moment, these musings were hardly what Raito was worrying about. The fact that this 'B' character had just said that…L had just found…L had found the person who was looking for him!
"This…can't be right." L suddenly said, and, once again with a rapid motion, shook B's claws away from his shoulders.
"What?" the look-alike asked, as though flabbergasted by the mere thought that his advance may have been rebuffed. "I left you all those nice presents…those perfect bodies…smeared in justice…" the man almost started raving, licking his lips.
But in the meantime, Raito, whose heart and blood seemed to have temporarily stopped working for a few crucial moments, decided he'd intervene, if only for an instinctual need rather than a practical one. Had he been thinking logically, he would have surmised immediately that this suspicious-looking, temperamental person was dangerous, and, if anything, at least his occult eyes might be an indication.
But, as it was, the keen sting of an unknown emotion, rather than his reason, was the thing that spurred Raito into action.
"Oi, Ryuuzaki. What's going on?" he asked with a curt voice, having had enough of not making his presence known.
But, even though he'd been expecting an answer from L, upon hearing his voice, B, the red-eyed clone, turned around.
"Do I know you?" he hissed in Raito's face, and his red eyes widened and narrowed consecutively, as though he was unsuccessfully trying to mimic L's mannerisms. Raito was taken aback, not immediately understanding what on earth was happening, since he was still too caught up in thinking that this man, whoever he was, was apparently obsessed with…replicating L, both in appearance and character.
"…what?" Raito simply asked, too confused to appear neither expressionless nor hostile.
Then, suddenly, L spoke again, his voice much lower than Raito expected it to be, more of a mutter than a statement "He's talking to me." He said,
Raito turned to look at L, only to realize that the black eyes were fixed on B, not on him.
And B also turned around, to stare at the detective at his own leisure. Raito felt that stinging feeling at his chest again as he saw them staring at each other, but, this time, the actual revelation of what he'd heard was too strong for him to be forgotten. Based on what they were saying, and the fact that B had answered to Raito's call, then…
"…I'm 'Ryuuzaki'." L simply said, his eyes unnaturally blank as he stared at the man against him.
Raito, standing a few feet aside, experienced a sensation comparable to when he'd been told Misa had been taken into custody – there were chills running down his spine…as though having been told, right after having eaten, that he'd just swallowed human flesh.
"…you…you…why?" B started, and his red eyes flashed in an indefinable emotion, which could be both ire and incomprehensibility.
But then, just as he'd been acting relatively docile, he suddenly lunged forward, bringing his palms to lock in a steel grip around L's throat.
"O-Oi..!" Raito exclaimed, lunging forward to try and retch B's – no, Ryuuzaki's – arms off L. But just as Raito tried to grab the man's hand, Ryuuzaki – that is, B – maneuvered out of the way, causing L to stumble as he was being strangled and dragged around.
"Why?" Ryuuzaki squeezed L's throat harder, and Raito actually heard the disgusting sounds of crunching flesh. If he didn't hurry up, then-
"So that…I won't…forget…" L gave a chocked wheeze, and, started clawing at the hands which were locked around his throat like manacles. His face had started becoming almost purple in colour.
In the meantime, a crowd of people had gathered around them, most of them watching the proceedings only with curiosity, instead of any substantial horror. Why were they all so unresponsive? Did they think this was a hallucination, or…oh. Oh.
If this was how hallucinations feel, not getting a helping hand from anyone, then Raito felt even more terrible now.
"We're going to stay together forever…" B was hissing again, as he all but crushed L's delicate skin under his bony palm "You're going to be mine…my…me…you're going to be me…I'm going to be you…you're going to be-"
"Ryuuzaki!" Raito called reflexively, not remembering that he was assigning the wrong name to the wrong person as the ran toward B, aiming a punch at the man's solar plexus.
But just as Raito was about to bring his fist down, B suddenly turned to dodge the attack, dragging Ryuuzaki's rapidly weakening body along the dirt on the ground.
"Ryuuzaki, hold on!" Raito called, cursing the people of Mu and their passiveness. A person was in actual danger, and they were content to just sit there and…wait, was L in actual danger? Wasn't he dead already…? But Raito wasn't willing to just sit and find out what would happen.
Just as he was preparing to lunge again, however, the red eyes turned to pierce him, staring at him with unreadable scrutiny. Raito didn't move, waiting to see what the opponent would do.
But as he looked into B's eyes, all of a sudden, they seemed to…glow…? And then, within seconds, B spoke once again "Who are you anyway…" he scrunched up his face into an ugly grimace "Yagami…Tsuki?"
Raito was immobilized, his body gone as still as a column of ice.
There was only one way anyone could mistake his name like that…Misa had done it as well when she'd first met him. There was only one way to mispronounce his name, and that was to misspell the kanji for 'moon'…
And Raito only knew of one way that anyone could instantly read the kanji of one's name, just by seeing their face.
"You…!" Raito started, pointing openly at B and internally cursing himself for not realizing it sooner. "Shinigami…?"
"What?" the black haired man croaked, his lip curling unattractively, and eyebrows furrowing "What's tha-"
But just as the enemy had lost his focus, L, who'd been gathering his strength all this time, threw a kick, aimed well-enough to knock B off his feet and consequently make his hands loose their grip on the detective's neck.
"Ugh…" B and L collapsed at the same time, and Raito lost no time, sprinting forward and grabbing L's upper arm, forcing the other man upwards. The detective was still coughing and panting, as the auburn haired man began dragging him away.
"No, wait." L said with a weak voice, digging his heels on the ground to prevent Raito from manhandling him. His one hand was clasped around his throat, and Raito could already see bruises forming on the alabaster skin. It must hurt…and now, B was recovering. They had to get away now, or else-
"What?" Raito barked, bewildered. "Can't you see your little boyfriend's a psychopath!" and he truly didn't like the hue his voice had taken right now. What had made him say that anyway? Why was he…?
The mass of people around them, in the meantime, was starting to disperse, some of them probably having surmised that it was not a hallucination after all, which was why they were trying to get as far away in the smallest amount of time possible.
Ignoring his advice, L turned away from Raito and towards B, who had now risen to his feet. But this time, as the enemy lunged toward the detective again, with his red Demon eyes, L was prepared. Indeed he could be quite strong when he set his mind to it. And obviously, B didn't seem quite so powerful when not facing unsuspecting victims.
It took only a few short moments, during which the tendons in Raito's entire body had become impossibly stretched, for L to bring B to his knees. Finally, the snake-voiced man lay immobilized on the ground, and L bent over him, resting his hands on his knees.
"Beyond…" he started, speaking in English. Raito didn't understand what the word 'Beyond' had to do with anything, not even after he heard the remainder of he phrase.
"…have you seen Mr.Wammy?" Ryuuzaki – no, not Ryuuzaki…not anymore – L asked, his black eyes sliding over the faint man's features.
But B wasn't responding. He didn't seem to be receiving any kind of external stimulus, as he stared blindly off to the distance, muttering incomprehensibilities to himself "I don't understand…" Raito heard him whispering, with the tell-tale speed of insanity "I don't understand…I looked…I looked for you…"
But if B was obstinate, then L was ten times more "Tell me, Ryuuzaki. Mr Wammy…?"
Then, suddenly, as though waking up from his trance, Ryuuzaki stopped muttering to himself and opened his red eyes wide, barking upwards "WHY IS HE THE FAVORITE!?" he roared at no one, and then fell quiet again, muttering to himself.
"…let's leave." Raito's voice, so clear and melodic compared to both the others' tones, echoed around them. L raised his eyes, gazing searchingly at Raito's face for a few moments.
Until finally, to the auburn haired man's honest gratefulness, the detective slowly stood up, taking a step away from the ranting man on the ground. The crowd around them had almost totally dispersed by now, probably realizing that there was no great spectacle to observe here, apart from a crazy man's ramblings.
Without further ado, Raito walked to the detective's side, his narrowed eyes still fixed on the enemy, as though watching for any stray movements.
"Yes, we might as well…" L's voice echoed, still skeptical, but apparently resigned to the fact that this suspect was not susceptible to reason. But just as L turned to follow Raito, and had taken a few steps away from his mysterious old acquaintance, a low, hollow sound, like a chalk scraping on a board, echoed around them.
Both men stopped walking. It took some time for them to realize…that the screeching sound was actually laughter.
L turned around slowly to stare at the pathetic sight, followed closely by Raito. But the guffawing sounded so cruel, so utterly self-satisfied, that Raito knew that, whatever followed…would not be in their best interest.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! WAHAHAHAHAA!!!" Ryuuzaki practically screamed, as though the horrid sound was being forced out of his lungs trying to rip through his system. It reminded Raito only too keenly of another insane laughter, one he'd heard from much closer…and one he'd been trying to forget. Many pedestrians dispersed from around them, choosing to walk a different route. But B would not stop howling; and the volume intensified rather than faded as more time passed.
Until finally, convinced that there was no point in listening to this, L turned to leave, at which point Ryuuzaki's laughter abruptly ceased, and was replaced by a drawling, sickly murmur.
"It's really too bad, L…" B laughed a bit more after that, but when L and Raito turned around to watch him, the lunatic was staring at the sky above, and not at the detective, who he was addressing.
"It's too bad that you're searching for that kind of person…"
L turned around to fully face the other now, obviously intent on hearing what B had to say. Raito narrowed his eyes, looking first at the red eyes of the offender and then at the shaggy rear view of L's black- covered head. Maybe it was best if they just left immediately-
"When in fact…the one he's searching for…aha…ahahahaha!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!"
But L waited patiently for the macabre, sadistic laughter to stop, obviously knowing that the more interest he displayed, the slower he'd learn any information. Besides, at times, even L may have fallen victim to what people call 'trepidation', Raito thought, as he noticed L's tightening fists.
"…Is his dead wife. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! AA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"
Raito stared again at the back of L's head, which was completely unmoving, and then back at the man on the ground, whose ribs were now threatening to split in two from the intensity of the hysteric laughter.
Even now, hours after L had quietly left B howling his mantra in the middle of the street, Raito thought he could hear an insane screeching sound, gnawing at his ears.
And L? Well, ever since a few hours ago…he didn't seem to respond to any sounds at all.
This hut looked exactly like the one of the previous night, and the night before that…and the night before that. On their way here, they'd tried a few other small wooden houses, but they'd all been occupied. And since neither Raito nor L was tired enough to succumb to sleeping in a space crowded with more than one other person – especially not tonight – they both resolved to walk as long as they'd have to until they could find a respectable, empty cabin.
When they finally found one, Raito was the one who had take care of their new bucket –which they'd picked up earlier this evening from a nearby junkyard, as they did everything else. L, in the meantime, took his shoes off quietly, throwing them haphazardly out the door.
After that, sitting on the elevated doorstep, in complete silence, the two of them washed each other's hands and faces. Not following the other's example, the auburn haired man took off his shoes and set them neatly outside, making sure that everything was arranged perfectly. The shoes, the bucket…everything was in place…
So now he had no more reasons to procrastinate, did he? In order to feel a bit better about it, he reminded himself that, eventually, he'd have to be alone with L anyway. So he walked inside calmly, proceeding to shut the door behind him.
Immediately, the interior of the house was cast to deep darkness, amplified by the heavy sense of macabre stillness that had overcome them. Tonight's weather was nothing like the frosty wind of yesterday night, but it was just cold enough that it would not allow for rest without a blanket.
Quietly, Raito settled in a supine position near the north cabin wall, nesting his hands above his stomach and blinking in the dark.
The silence around was making him uncomfortable, strangely enough. Usually, he'd enjoy this chance to relax…but now…after all he'd heard today, the curiosity and adrenaline that was still running through his veins wouldn't let him relax.
Who had that man been? Why did he look so much like L…? Why had L – the bastard – adopted someone else's name? Was that man important to L…no, he wasn't. Or else L would have gone off with him…right…?
Was Watari really…not looking for L at all?
Raito's blood was boiling, and his eyes just refused to shut. He opened his mouth slightly, considering starting a conversation. It was easy to check if L was still awake, by the pattern of his breathing. Yes, of course he was awake…Actually, come to think of it; L had been truly undoing himself here in Mu all this time, by sleeping every night like a normal human being. For L, it was more natural not to sleep.
Why couldn't Raito just calm his nerves, though? Perhaps it wasn't the same for L…but no, of course it was the same for him. This awkwardness was generated as a result of both their hush, not only Raito's…
Unable to feel comfortable, the lean man rolled to his side, facing away from the wall and toward L. Even though he was barely visible in the shadows, Raito could just vaguely discern the other man's quiet profile. L's eyes were still open, although, for once, they weren't trained on Raito at all, but turned downwards instead, staring at the floor. In true form, the detective was curled in on himself, knees drawn to his chest, arms wrapped around shins and head leaning lightly on the wall. What was he thinking?
Was it Watari…? Had L truly been affected by B's words…? Raito found it difficult to admit to himself that he did not have neither the insight nor the empathy to know. All in all, even now, after all this time, L remained a mystery. How could any normal human aspire – or why would Raito even want – to understand a mind as complex as that…
Raito shuffled his position again, still unable to rest. In the silence of the cabin, his frustrated breathing was equivalent to an elephant's stomp. And the fact that L could hear him – and consequently read him like an open book – was an equal source of irritation.
Until finally, unable to take it anymore, Raito just surrendered to his hyperactivity. He sat up and leaned his back against the wall, spreading and bending his legs in front of him, and then setting his elbows on each of his knees.
The black-haired man didn't say anything about this sudden change. In fact, L kept so still and quiet that, if Raito was a lesser man, he might actually be fooled into believing the ex-insomniac was asleep.
Raito stared at the wall opposite from him, which incidentally happened to be the one L was leaning against. Therefore, after a few moments of frowning at a spot on the wall a few inches above L's shoulder, Raito finally opened his mouth.
…but he closed it again. Frustrated with himself, he scowled a bit more and turned to look upward, through the window. The stars of Mu were just so very dull…as though there was no real light inside them. Just like the sun, moon, and people of this place…everything was…washed out. All the colours appeared faded…all the-
Suddenly, a small, repetitive clicking sound was heard. Without moving his head, Raito turned his eyes to peer at the detective, noticing that L was biting his nails again.
It was so aggravating being next to a person who bites his nails. Most of the time, out of personal reflex, Raito just wanted to grab L's hand and pluck it away from his mouth…or at times, of course, his foot, because L had the hygienic habit of biting his toenails as well, when times got rough. It was so irritating, sitting with someone who was always so…so…
But just this once, Raito forgave and forgot. After all, L didn't seem to be acting annoying on purpose today, seeing as he'd been too distracted with his own thoughts – whatever the deuce they were – to deign to look at Raito for most of the evening. Even now, that they were alone, the detective was still looking at the floor instead of the other man.
The familiar sting of before attacked Raito with full force, and the auburn haired man inhaled deeply, trying to calm himself down. He didn't even know what was wrong with him – he kept getting these ugly emotional explosions of…of, whatever it was. Most of the time, due to L's distractions, Raito couldn't even focus on logical affairs.
But now, in the nearly-complete darkness, when they couldn't really see each other…Raito could finally try to relax a bit. There was nothing here for L to do or say… this moment felt…insulated…even more personal than when they'd been chained to each other. It felt…secret. As though anything that was said or done in this completely dark place, where they could pretend it was not each other that they were talking to, would stay between these walls.
Perhaps it was this feeling, the origins and nature of which even Raito didn't realize, which propelled him to pose the next question, and expect to receive an actual honest answer.
"Who was he?"
Even though Raito had expected it to fall like a brick in the silence, it didn't. Actually, his voice blended with the background. As he spoke, the quiet tune was not disruptive, but rather flowing with the darkness around them.
Moments passed, and Raito didn't turn to look at the other man. He didn't really need to. He already knew the contours of L's face and body very well, having memorized his lethal enemy more than he did his nonexistent friends.
And in the same way, without looking at him and without making his voice much louder than a drawling murmur, L actually answered.
He sounded neither somber nor exhilarated, and Raito found that he was not irritated at this. That emotionless voice sounded soothing; that blank black stare, which offered nothing and demanded nothing in return, was pleasant when coupled with the dark nocturnal atmosphere. A bit like, Raito thought, when he'd talked to Ryuuku.
Besides, Raito was curious.
"That much I could surmise. You seem to have a knack to run into them here." Raito humourlessly offered the understatement of the century. And then, always keeping his tone devoid of all inflection, as though trying not to scare a bird away, he added "And I also surmised that you probably put him behind bars and stole his alias to use for yourself, in a gesture of victory." It was not offensive…rather, it was analytical.
And L, with the same kind of tone, answered steadily "I wouldn't call it so much a victory, as a form of perversion of mine."
Raito blinked in surprised, but recovered very soon, and started skimming the stars again, trying to recognize constellations and failing. "Oh?" he simply asked. He wondered if perhaps not all stars had died yet…perhaps Mu's stars were different from the Earth's. "If you defeated me, you would have called yourself 'Kira', then? How delightfully anomalous." he reamarked, and found, to his own astonishment, that the relative disinterest in his voice was genuine.
"No" L answered without needing to pause, obviously having considered this issue before and reached a conclusion about it "Kira was too…unique. When it came to Kira, I enjoyed being L."
Raito smiled a bit in the darkness "It's all right…you don't have to be nice to me." he said with a bit of irony, but the small swell of sarcastic emotion in his voice was not enough to perturb the silent balance that had been created.
"Hn…" L gave a small pensive sound, and then kept quiet for a few moments. Raito rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand, and then set it back against his knee, closing his eyes to enjoy the breeze that was coming from outside. He was wary of the cold, of course, which was why he kept his blanket near him. But for now, the temperature was still fine.
"Besides, there's no point to having such a popular pseudonym. I wouldn't manage to fool anyone." L pondered aloud, and Raito snorted a bit. But soon, his face reverted back to a form of wistful neutrality as he stared outside.
"Not that you managed to fool anyone with 'Ryuuzaki' either…we all knew it was fake from the start, didn't we?" Raito recalled, and, strangely enough, instead of being irritated or frustrated at the memory of L talking to the other members of the investigation inside the hotel room…Raito felt rather…nostalgic. So much so, that, without realizing it, he was smiling a bit as he spoke.
"Well, the point of having that one wasn't to fool anyone, anyway." L stated and, unable to decline such an obvious invitation, Raito turned around despite himself, finally moving his eyes from the window to L's face.
"Well what was the point, then?" he asked simply, and did not bother masking the curiosity in his voice. Why would he? There was nothing to be afraid of, at this stage. No ambition to look forward to. Nothing. Just a conversation, in the darkness.
"…" L stayed silent for a few moments, as though thinking. Until, finally, he spoke again, very slowly, as though trying to decipher his own words as he uttered them "I suppose…because whenever I hear that name…I become wary. In this way, I constantly remind myself of why I need to capture murderers."
Unable to help himself, Raito chuckled a bit. But it was neither cruel, nor mocking. It was, if anything, heartfelt "Are you…trying to say that you had morals?" he asked in clear disbelief, and pronounced caginess.
"Have you ever played computer detective games?" L suddenly asked, in a complete non sequitur. Raito noticed, although he had no idea why he would notice such a thing, that L was not talking to him in the third person, as he usually did. Actually, there were no names mentioned here at all.
Perhaps it was to aid the illusion. To make both of them forget who they were talking to…what they were saying…why it might have been important, at one time, to say all these things…and why it was of no consequence anymore.
Because they were dead. Their lives were over. And everything that was talked about from here on in…everything…would be completely, utterly useless and would result to nothing, just like the first time Raito had ever written in the Death Note.
"Where did that come from?" Raito asked, wondering amusedly if L had been hiding a cyber gamefreak under all those snide comments for all this time. That would have been typical of the detective, wouldn't it?
"Have you?" L persisted, and, even though they were staring at each other in the dark, neither of them could see a thing, which was all for the better.
"Well…what do you think?" Raito answered, deciding to humour L for now "…I always win, by the way."
"Then you must know that, in two consecutive games, the same player may actually be asked to play first as the detective and then as the murderer." L explained, his voice taking on a tutoring tone.
"What does that have to do with your sense of morals?" Raito asked, but there was a bit of an exasperated faint smile on his face, as though having resigned himself to the fact that there would never be clarity about this person's way of thinking.
"You're just playing the game because you like playing it. But even so, how do you feel when you, as the impartial and largely careless player, are asked to play as the detective?" L asked, and Raito was listening so carefully at the words that he didn't pay attention to the way the inflection had changed…the way L's voice seemed to come alive now, in the blackness, when each of them felt like they were talking to themselves.
"How do I…'feel'?" Raito considered the strangeness of this question, but decided, for better or for worse, to tolerate it "Well…I 'feel' righteous. Justified. And also, if I'm up against a murderer…afraid, perhaps? For my own life? Is that what you're getting at?" he answered, and he hoped that L would not lead this conversation into a form of insult at Kira, because that would be too cliché.
But actually, L continued speaking solidly, as though following a script in his mind. Raito wondered if, perhaps, the detective had been thinking about this subject all this time. Had L actually…needed to talk? "You are correct. And, even in a fake situation of a video game, this can be experienced. When opposing killers… the more time that passes and the more intense the battle is… the wearier and more exposed you become, the more you start to fear for you own life. For if you are searching for them, then they are searching for you…And he has an advantage over you, in that he can wipe you out instantly, whilst you have to gain social approval in order to dispose of him. " it sounded like a confession.
It sounded like an opening to L's mind.
It was frightening.
"Yes" Raito condoned, keeping his sense of surrealism to his mind "but you're talking about fear, not morality."
"Indeed" L agreed, and Raito heard the clicking sound of nails being bitten once more "Fear is a powerful adversary. The more intense it becomes, the flimsier the reasons for which not to give into it. And this is where morality comes in."
Raito nodded, even though L couldn't see his gesture. "So you mean, many detectives use the fact that they feel heroic and justified…they use their disgust against the acts of murder to convince themselves to risk their lives…Fair enough." A small pause followed, during which Raito narrowed his eyes a bit awkwardly "But I wouldn't have pegged you for that kind…Idealistic was the last thing I'd call you."
"True, my sense of morality was not strong back then" L said, and the way he proclaimed in so self-assuredly almost provoked Raito to ask him what had caused the change, and if that change was real. But then, Raito remembered the beginning of their symbiosis here in Mu, and the way L had defended that woman from a band of thugs…and he thought that L might actually not be lying…maybe he had…changed? "My will to defeat the opponent and stroke my arrogance was always enough to sustain me, through the hardest of situations….I never hid that nature from anyone." The former detective said, almost in an afterthought.
"But…?" Raito asked, because the way L had intoned his words had seemed as thought there would be a contradiction, somewhere.
"But in a case as demanding as 'Killer', it always helped to remind myself of the morality of the matter, as well. …not that it helped significantly. " L concluded, a bit disgruntled.
"So you didn't manage to find your inner idealist after all." Raito remarked, more in a friendly than a critical tone. Even so, L seemed to take it offensively.
"Why sound so disapproving, Raito-kun? I don't see why people cannot seem to understand it, no matter how obvious I make it for them." L started, and Raito humourously wondered if he was actually listening to the detective's equivalent of a personal rant "If I had this kind of ideological dedication then I wouldn't be good at my job. It's because I do not have any such attachment that I am…was…so successful as a detective."
"You don't even take a stand in Kira's case, where thousands of people were involved?" Raito asked a bit incredulously, as though it was hard for him to imagine.
"Of course I do. My work is considered Law Enforcement. Do you understand what that means?" L asked, and it sounded, at this point, like he was explaining this to some invisible person rather than Raito himself. As though this was something that he'd needed to explain all along…even though Raito hadn't provoked him at all. "I enforce the existing laws, which, in my personal opinion, happen to be much more mature than Kira's idea of justice."
"Ha!" Raito exclaimed, before he could stop himself "So you do have an opinion after all!"
"As I said all along, in the bottom line, 'Ryuuzaki' was very much a perversion of mine." L stated with a tone of finality, the act of changing the subject not even camouflaged. But Raito found he didn't care for it.
But even though young Kira didn't know the backdrop of the history between L and B, judging simply by the fact that B looked obsessed with L, and the fact that they both knew Wammy…B must be someone from L's mysterious British past. In any case, even though Raito made it his new goal to gain information about this questionable relationship…he supposed he could already surmise the kind of 'perversion' L was talking about.
"I assume you're referring to emotions of egotism, and self-satisfaction where it isn't due." Raito commented, running his palm over his thigh, in the unconscious effort to warm himself a bit. It actually was starting to get quite chilly.
"Yes." L stated simply, and did not elaborate.
A few minutes of peaceful silence passed, during which the both of them stared at the wooden floor, each lost in his own musings. Then, as though suddenly remembering it, Raito raised his head again.
"But you didn't tell me…what are the feelings of an impartial player when he becomes the murderer…?" he asked, his voice lower, and perhaps sounding a bit more hesitant, than he meant for it to be.
After a brief pause, L's voice calming in its bass quality, permeated the air around them "Well…I supposed you already know that kind of feeling, don't you? " a few moments of stillness followed, before L's voice erupted once again "It is quite thrilling, being confident you have the power to kill anyone who you deem unworthy."
Silence covered the space between them. And the more time passed, the more Raito realized he truly couldn't say anything to oppose that argument. He supposed it was true after all…regardless of his ideals…L's statement, if taken at face value…was correct.
"Yes, it was." Raito finally said, after an inordinate amount of time had gone by. Then, as an addendum, he reminded L "But I was never lying when I said that everything I did was to make the world a better place."
L answered naturally even to that – even this statement, which Near and Mogi and Matsuda had all scorned and degraded…L answered with at least some consideration "It is understandable why you'd think that way…and it is probably the reason why Kira was such a sympathetic figure to the public, against all odds…the problem with these issues of grand social scale is that, at this day and age, since mostly every conceivable ideology has already been conceived… it is safe to suppose that any social solution that is easy to envision is usually the erroneous one."
Raito stayed silent for a few moments, digesting that point of view. Finally, he answered "You mean that 'Kira' wasn't thought out well enough?"
"Well…I suppose you could say that." L answered, and his voice was skeptical in the darkness "I don't know if you realize the childishness behind it, yet, or..." The detective's tone was formed as an enquiry than a statement, in the same way someone would ask an indiscrete question. Raito didn't answer immediately, until he thought carefully about how he'd phrase his opinion on the matter.
"I…'ve…realized that it would never work the way I'd pictured it, so…in a sense…" He finished, not really sure if his point had actually come across. But L continued, apparently having understood Raito's point, and moved forward to a new one.
"But, in my personal opinion…you were very contradictory… as a person." The detective surmised, and Raito could just imagine L's face leaning to the one side, with those droopy eyes and the thumb stuck in his mouth.
"In what way?" the auburn haired man immediately asked, latching onto the chance to learn of peoples' – and especially this person's – impression of him.
"Well…even now, I wouldn't put it past you to believe that Kira's morality was the complete and true reason why you became what you became." L explained, and something flared in Raito's mind, like a reflexive movement.
"What do you mean? Morality was the true reason why I became what I became." He countered, his voice now gaining a vaguely indignant tone. But, immediately, he thought of what L had just told him, and felt mortified for having just fallen face-first into such a trap.
"I rest my case." L said, as though Raito's behaviour had demonstrated his previous point "It was very contradictory of you, wishing to become the all powerful murderer, who has the world in his hand, and yet remain the straight-laced son of the Chief, all at the same time… It's unbelievable to think that you can be so intelligent and perceptive when it comes to many unsolvable problems, and yet at the same time be so blind concerning basic issues. This is where your deeper contradiction lies." L elaborated, his voice laced with incredulity.
But Raito clicked his tongue against the top of his mouth "That's not what I was trying to do…who said that I was trying to be both Kira and the Chief's son…?"
"Yes, you did. In a sense, you took the video detective game one step further. I believe that what you wanted, all along, was to make your life…interesting, by adding drama to it." L offered by way of explanation, hitting every single preconditioned mental denial that Raito had left "Because the things you chose to do all involved a one-on-one battle. If you don't actually kill people with your own hands, it's logical that you view it as a game, and then you can switch with ease between the mentalities of hunter and victim. It feels good being the justified detective, and equally good being the powerful killer …"
"Fair enough, L…" Raito frowned, unwilling to accept that the most crucial occurrences of his life had been a result of, as L called it 'need for drama'. In any case, he was not willing to debate with L on the detective's lack of morality. More importantly, something else that L had said had caught his interst "But even supposing that you are right, how does that constitute a contradiction? The only thing you've proved is that I like playing games."
"Yes, but by the very act of treating it as a game" L started, and Raito heard the floorboards creak as the detective probably leaned forward " you found a way to combine the two in a form of Godlike vigilante serial killer, which you wouldn't have become if not given the chance to kill humans without touching a hair from their bodies…Would you? In this way, you could keep both your twisted ideology and become a killer. But the need to be a killer is an emotional getaway, whilst the need to have a set of principles is the characteristic of a logical man. That's why I say, Raito-kun, that you are a contradiction, in the purest sense of the word."
"…but you can't deny that in the end I did elect the pathway of Kira…not of Yagami Raito. That was a permanent, steady choice." Raito said, preferring not to start debating on the details of L's argument, lest he discover that it came much too close to the truth. "Besides, finding both emotional and logical needs is characteristic of a human, don't you think? What is contradictory about that?"
"Hn…did you make a permanent choice?" L asked controversially, obviously doubtful about the whole concept "In that case, probably because you were unprepared for it…you didn't do as well at it as you should have, given your statistics."
"Excuse me?" Raito asked, caught in disbelief and not sure he'd just been reprimanded for not being a good enough…Kira.
"Your success with me – evidently temporary – was based on the metaphysical weapon you were holding, which I didn't know about. If I'd known about the existence of the Death Note all along, like N and M obviously did, I would have pinned you in a matter of days."
"Ah" Raito started, and his voice was quite amused "so this is what this is all about then…Why didn't you say you were jealous they got all the glory? I'd understand."
"But do you deny that you relied on the preposterousness of your weapon instead of your wit? At least at first?" L countered, as though not even having heard Raito's words.
The auburn haired man, not happy to admit it but of course knowing it was useless to deny it, made a low unsatisfied sound "…Possibly…But this is justified, because of my own surprised disbelief at the time…"
"But that is why ours was considered an unequal battle – and that is why it is very embarrassing for you that I was able to sniff out something as obscure as the Death Note, despite your best efforts to hide it." L concluded rigidly, but this last statement struck a particular nerve.
"Hold on a second there…did you forget exactly who helped you 'sniff out' the Death Note in the first place, or do you just have selective memory in the afterlife?" Raito asked, his tone growing offended.
But L was not phased "The reason why you outshone me at that time, as both of us know, was because of my disheartened nature – admittedly a flaw of mine."
"Wait…so…even though I helped you defeat me and you failed …you're basically calling me…inferior?" Raito asked, now starting to become a bit more than just offended.
Strangely enough, L managed to diffuse what tension had started building up through his next few words. "Certainly not. I just think, truly, that you were very unlucky in your life."
Raito was not entirely satisfied with that, either. But he was confused by the suddenness of it, which made most of his previous proud anger fade away " Why do you keep saying that? I don't think I was unlucky at all." He countered, and he started scratching the chaffed edges of his trousers with his nails a bit.
"Of course you don't. But the fact of the matter is, you did deserve much more than you were given." L's reflective voice echoed, making Raito's lips part slightly from disbelief at what he was hearing. He'd expected L to say the opposite…
"Unfortunately, the Death Note arrived in your hands before any other substantial thing could. Your problem was...you never got to work with top-class investigators, as you should have…You never got access to…well, to people like me, I suppose. When you did, it was for all the wrong reasons…and it was already too late."
Raito stayed quiet. His first urge was to ward off L's words, and claim that what he'd done as Kira was much more massive and important than anything he could have achieved as a simple detective, with…human powers. But then again, that wasn't really what L was arguing here…was it?
"You would have been much more suited for a path of that sort...you were mentally prepared for it." L surmised instantly, perhaps sensing the fact that Raito was swaying "Which was exactly why a sense of justice was the first thing that came to your mind when you received the Death Note. And then, what resulted was simply the projection of your unfulfilled desires on the only medium you had to greatness. You didn't want to have to wait ten years, to graduate Touou, in order to change the world…I can see the logic, Raito-kun. Or rather…the emotion." The detective finished, his tone that of a logical and reasonable conversationalist.
Would L…have had a discussion like this with Raito when they were alive. Probably not…even if Raito had been willing to, the young Yagami got the impression that…something in L must have changed as well, to enable him to talk so…calmly…about the most important and crucial battle of their lives, which had lead to their young deaths.
Raito didn't speak for the next few minutes. Truth be told, he felt like sighing, but he held it in. He didn't want to talk about all this anyway. Why had they winded up talking about this in the first place?
"I don't know L…This kind of supposition is useless…who knows what might have happened 'if'…but you can't deny that your life became much more interesting after Kira appeared, can you?" he asked, and allowed a rather mischievous tinge in his voice.
A small pause followed. And after that, L's voice again, flat and accepting. "No, I certainly can't deny that."
They stayed silent for a while, and only now realized how late the time actually was. It was now so dark inside the room that even the starlight was not enough to illuminate each other's features.
Raito had started sinking in his own thoughts before the other man's voice rung again, making the young Japanese refocus his attention with renewed interest.
" But about your strategies…I believe that if you'd actually constructed a structured plan from the beginning, and followed it 98.7 percent, then you might have actually had me fooled." L stated solidly, as though thinking the situation over anew.
"What do you mean?" Raito asked, with his curiosity piqued at the new turn of this discussion "If I remember correctly… not to brag… but I did. Win, that is." He didn't think that L himself would ever tell him about the way to win…
"I didn't say 'you would win'. I said 'you would have fooled me'. In my eyes, that would have been an even greater victory…because when it comes to me, murdering me is so much simpler than playing me for a fool." L said, and strangely enough, Raito found that he wasn't bothered by the shameless self-confidence. Actually, to be honest…he…rather liked it. It was like a challenge to his face. "I can understand your satisfaction upon defeating me with my knowledge of being defeated, hence the unnecessary dramatic ending to my life…but if you'd truly decided to become an all-powerful Kira, rather than a boy who wants to prove himself smarter than L, you would have played the game differently…and much more smartly." L started thoughtfully, tapping his fingers on his shins, a gesture which was lost on Raito in the darkness.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Raito knew that he should be feeling very awkward about discussing L's death with L himself…but strangely, it wasn't half as unpleasant as Raito had thought it would be…actually…this was quite interesting. He was even willing to tolerate L calling him 'a boy' or 'inexperienced' if he could actually get to hear L's version of what a smart Kira-strategy would have been like.
"Go on…" Raito urged, and his expression as he looked at L in the darkness was reminiscent of the way a child would look at a magician: waiting for him to prove his unrealistic claims.
"With the Death Note in your hands, you could have turned the world upside down – even more so than you already did. The obvious first mistake was the fact that you started your career by killing criminals from Japan." L started, and, strangely enough, his voice was more akin to that of a reprimanding mentor than the person Raito had known until now. And even though L was technically insulting his sophisticated strategies, he was actually interested in hearing the continuation of this, if not for anything else, than simply to listen to L talking about this case from a completely opposite perspective.
Before Raito could say anything to defend his honour, however, L continued "But we can overlook that, considering that you were, at first, amazed at the powers of the Death Note, and wanted to test it on your immediate surroundings."
"All right." Raito agreed, prepared to be magnanimous with his pride when having this kind of discussion, because he knew that if he started caring too much, he would fail to talk logically at all. And he'd be caught with his head in a toilet before he'd let L prove himself to be a more reasonable man than himself "I know that the second mistake was Lind Taylor." He said, and L answered immediately.
"That goes without saying." The detective answered, and even though Raito had known it, it still stung to hear all his miscalculations laid out on the open. But on the flip side, this introduction to L's tactical thinking might actually be useful – Raito might learn something he hadn't yet considered. Namely…the way he could have defeated L even more efficiently. L continued his analysis "But even that I'm willing to overlook, on the grounds that you wanted to display godly power and cheap intimidation techniques."
Raito frowned a bit, but nodded nonetheless, forgetting that L could not see him in the darkness.
"The truly unforgivable mistake was only one, actually" L said rigidly, and, unconsciously, Raito leaned forward in intense concentration.
"The FBI agents… Stupid move." The investigator actually reprimanded, and, even if just for a minute, Raito wished he could see L's face, look at those eyes. Would they be wide or narrow…? Raito couldn't imagine L's current expression, since he'd never seen or heard L in such a conspiracy-complacent mood before.
"That was truly the thing that led to all your problems. You killed them, even though you could have persevered. And then, of course, you paid the price for your insolence: the moment they installed the cameras, regardless of whether or not you did anything…I was onto you. There was no true way you could alleviate the suspicion from the moment your profile fell in my hands. You were a perfect match."
"Eliminating Penber and the other agents was not baseless at all. They were compromising my…" Raito started, slightly offended, but mostly scandalized.
From outside the hut, their voices could be heard for a few feet around the hut's perimeter. Sometimes, a particularly loud exclamation would echo around the landscape. In all probability, not even the two of them realized how loud they were actually being, or else they would have definitely toned down their excited drivel.
As it was, however the unusual sounds of life sliced through the air until the wee hours of the morning, when exhaustion finally started to catch up to their fatigued limbs, and their eyes could simply stay open no longer.
In some surprising ways, Mu was very much like living in the countryside. Sometimes, depending on where one was located, in the beginning of the day one could hear the unmistakable call of the roosters. This was probably a source of great plight for chronic late risers, and glee for old-fashioned grandmothers everywhere.
Raito was mostly impartial to it, but today, he had to join in with chronic late risers. This was just pure torture…where were these birds hiding, anyway? It was impossible to track them down in the outskirts of Mu, but, if the were truly untraceable, how was it possible for their ghastly voices to be heard so loudly?
Raito cracked one eye open gingerly, knowing better than to allow the cruel morning light to penetrate his mind before he wasn't ready. What time had they slept last night? No, it hadn't been night…it had been morning! This was why Raito now felt so utterly thrashed, not having slept for more than a total of three hours before the offensive roosters had woken him once again.
And unfortunately, he seemed to have fallen asleep in an uncomfortable position as well. Now his neck ached, with that absolutely aggravating form of stinging pain.
Managing to open both his eyes, he drowsily turned to his left, more out of habit than anything else. Sure enough, he was met with the sight he'd been searching for: L's black hair were fanned out on the floor, the white shirt and denim jeans scrunched around his gangly body as he lay on his side, wrapped around himself even when lying down, like always.
Raito was just about to close his eyes again when he noticed a small detail. He blinked slowly and focused on it: L's marred throat, which, instead of its usual white smoothness, today featured a line of purple-blue bruises.
Raito stared at the mark for a few minutes, staring in spite of himself. He could see the outline of fingers, where B had probably used his entire force to strangle L. Every time L breathed in, a small line would form between his eyebrows and he'd cringe a little. It probably hurt like hell to lie down without a pillow, especially when his throat was at such a delicate state…
Recognizing the need to get to his feet, Raito gingerly started sending energy down his limbs, forcing them to obey, even when they felt like putty from tiredness. This would not do. They had better wake up and continue their journey to nowhere now, when it was still so early, or else they might miss the chance to meet Misa or Watari…
But wait…on second thought, Watari…
Raito sat up, using his elbow to support his weight as his mind escaped to renegade thoughts. Without realizing it, his eyes were still fixed on the small lump of L's white-clad torso, which rose and fell calmly, at ease for once. Raito became lost in thought, hypnotized by that fluid, repetitive movement.
Watari…if B had said was true, then he'd met Watari…was Watari really…not looking for L? The more that Raito thought about it, the more preposterous it sounded. And, for some reason, the faster it made his heart beat…Watari wasn't looking for L…then who would L search for?
But, despite Raito's uninvited excitement about the whole matter, if he wanted to think logically about it, there was no way the old man, who'd spent all his time with the detective and was practically like an adopted father – or even his real father, who knows with these two! – would not be searching for L. Then again, who knew if Watari really was looking for a long lost wife that no one knew anything about…
But on the other hand, B didn't seem like the most trustworthy individual imaginable…should they really take his words at face value…? He might have made the whole thing up just to spite L.
And L…he probably wasn't taking this whole matter as lightly as he pretended. Watari was the only thing they hadn't talked about last night….it was as though the detective was even avoiding mentioning his name…
Was the geezer really so important, then?
Raito pushed himself away from the floor, resting his arms on his bent knees, and looked away from the other man. What was so special about an old man like who could appear and disappear very fast, anyway? It's not as though he could bring L chocolates here in Mu…regardless of whether Watari was looking for him or not, L should just…just…
'Just what?' Raito wondered, annoyed at himself for no reason, yet again. He turned to look at the rare sight of the sleeping detective once again, staring at L's resting face. It was not all that different from L's waking face, except for the closed eyes. But perhaps even that was enough to make a difference, since, right now, L just looked harmless…
It was only when he opened his laser-beam eyes that the real power within was revealed. The power to bring people to their knees with just a stare, Raito thought, and turned his eyes away, stopping his thoughts right there.
Ryuuzaki was probably…his age? He looked young, but not young enough to be a freshman in Tou-ou. How would Ryuuzaki have looked like when he was a teenager, Raito wondered, turning back to stare at the quiet detective, in spite of himself. Probably thinner. Raito could vaguely imagine him, more as an aura than an actual visualization: skinny, awkward…full of knobby knees and knuckles…a shorter, slimmer version of his current self, with smaller clothes and longer hair, perhaps…or shorter hair? Raito couldn't imagine…
But actually, Raito knew that L was not really as scrawny or as weak as he seemed when wearing those clothes. Actually, L had muscles, and he had strength…Raito unconsciously brought his hand to stroke his chin, which had fallen victim to a spiral kick perhaps one too many times…But actually, L wasn't as malnourished as he looked…he had-
Unfortunately, the act of thinking about L's physical traits only led to the inevitable reminder that Raito had been helping L take showers for all this time. Which, in turn, led to a second reminder: namely, that they'd have to take a shower today as well…maybe in a few minutes, when L woke up too.
Unexpectedly, upon the mere thought of it, Raito's heart erupted so hard that it threatened to spill out of his ribcage. Shower…? He thought the word over and over; twisting and repeating it in his thoughts, but it still didn't make him feel any less uncomfortable, or untie the knot that had suddenly established itself in his stomach.
'What's the big deal…It's just a shower, we do it every day…' Raito thought, trying to quench all this unexplainable sudden panic via use of logic. He climbed to stand on his feet, now turning to look over L's still body from above.
'I should wake him up…' Raito internally disciplined himself. But even though he did intend to do so, the moment he took a step toward L, he paused again 'Well…maybe I could just…let him sleep for a while longer…no need to rush…'
Raito thought to himself, and his tumultuous heart was only too glad to agree with that suggestion. Deciding that he should make himself useful and that it was very justifiable that he would leave the hut, he all but ran to the door.
Careful to keep his movements silent, he hoped that the old piece of wood wouldn't start creaking. The fact that L hadn't even awoken with the offensive screeching of the roosters must be an indication of the detective's extreme tiredness…so Raito should let him sleep.
The door did creak a bit, but Raito could forgive a small sound, if it meant that he could exit the interior of the cabin, which had suddenly become stifling.
He stepped outside, feeling the red dirt beneath his bare feet and wincing a bit. Since it was very early in the morning, the sky still retained a light blue glow, which gave a sheen of underwater colour to all the surroundings. The dirt on the ground, which Raito knew to be brick-red, was now a deep brown colour…and the sharp metals and destroyed objects dispersed around him all retained a blue shine.
Without stalling any longer, Raito sat on the doorstep of the cabin, wearing his shoes quickly and efficiently. It was, perhaps, an unconscious effort to move away from the hut as soon as possible. And away from L…
He grabbed the pink bucket's handle slowly, and wondered with a slightly raised eyebrow why they always seemed to end up with ridiculously coloured buckets. In any case, he had better go and fill it up. They'd need it very soon, anyway, so why not go search for a source of water from early on…?
It took a bit longer than he'd calculated to find a proper tap. Usually, these hydraulic devices were attached to the back part of buildings, or they just randomly appeared amongst the piles of useless discarded objects in the junkyards, which seemed to be everywhere in Mu.
But this time, he'd been forced to walk down the entire hill before he could find a proper one, and then climb back up again. It must have taken slightly more than forty minutes, in total, and, quite obviously, they wouldn't be able to make many trips back and forth. He'd tell L to come take a shower near the tap, later…
Raito was just thinking about whether or not he should enter a house to get some new clothing for both of them today, when he opened the door to the hut.
His hectic thoughts slowed down as he took in L's figure, sitting down on the floor, amongst a pile of blankets, with his knees drawn to his chest and his back to the door.
There was nothing abnormal about it per se…it was how L usually liked to sit wasn't it? And yet, today, it seemed rather strange, somehow…as though…
Upon hearing Raito's footsteps, the detective turned around slowly, his circle-rimmed eyes suddenly seeming exceptionally large, and his face unhealthily pale. Raito suppressed a completely uninvited flush from spreading across his face. What was wrong with him?! This was just L…Just…L, who he'd spent the entirety of last night talking to…and…was he flushing even more?
"Oh…Good morning." Raito said, more from an impending sense of discomfort and than anything else. With the detective piercing him with his gaze so directly…Raito had almost forgotten about it after those long hours of darkness, last night, when L's entity had just been a voice…not the man himself.
But L looked so…exhausted today. His face was so sallow that-
Suddenly, a thought struck Raito, like a bolt of lightning, and he turned to look at the bucket, which lay guiltlessly outside the front door. His eyes widened as he turned to stare at the detective again "How long have you been awake?" he asked, keeping his voice as nonchalant as possible.
"…" L didn't speak for a few moments, until finally, with a slow, unhurried movement, he stood up, bending to gather and fold his blanket "…not that long. Did you get some water?"
"Yes" Raito said, internally relieved. For a moment, he'd thought that L had been worried…but of course L would not worry. He didn't worry about anything…Although, having learned that Watari may not be searching for him, the detective may have become jumpy…but no, no. L seemed fine. As always…
Raito stared at the detective for a few moments, until L's questioning eyes made him avert his gaze "Yes" Raito repeated, hating his sudden sense of disorientation. He followed L's example and walked across the cabin floor, reaching for his own blanket and folding it. They'd be needing it again come tomorrow... "It turns out there isn't a tap for almost three-quarters of a mile. I basically had to walk to the High Street."
L didn't respond for a few moments, and Raito, feeling guilty for absolutely no reason, and then frustrated with himself for feeling guilty for absolutely no reason, stared at the back of the other man's silent head.
"Well then we probably can't stay here this morning." the resident Sherlock finally concluded, and Raito figured that if L had time to sound like that, then he was probably all right.
It didn't take long for them to gather their meager belongings and start walking down the hill. They remained careful, as always, not to bump into any dangerous objects, lest hallucinations start appearing in front of their eyes, as was the popular tendency in this place.
After last night, Raito didn't really know what to do. He failed to recognize the fact that he shouldn't really be thinking about what to and what not to do, and instead allowed these unprecedented thoughts to spin around his brain, crowding his thinking capacity.
They'd been…well they'd been spilling their guts to each other last night. This was highly unorthodox, and also highly abnormal…what was L thinking now…?
What was Raito supposed to act like, after all that…? His voice was scratchy from talking so much, for goodness sake. He must have talked more last night than he had for the entirety of his living existence…And now what? Was he supposed to act like they were best buddies? He didn't really want to…but L…what was L thinking…?
Perhaps he should just continue walking, Raito instructed himself. Everything was continuing as normal: he was looking for Misa and L for…for Watari, and that was the end of it. Last night wasn't really…it was just a way to keep their brains alert. It didn't really mean anything.
Even so, showering that morning was a tempestuous affair.
Raito didn't really want to take his clothes off, and when he finally couldn't avoid it any longer, he kept looking down at the ground to avoid L's eyes at all costs, which was not only uncharacteristic of him, but also extremely mortifying. Why couldn't he just…be normal? But every time he told himself to come back to his senses and act naturally, memories of last night, when they'd been talking animatedly, returned to his mind.
And now, this same person was…
'It's just…so embarrassing! This emotion…must be humiliation!' Raito thought angrily, frowning despite himself as a curtain of water rained from the top of his head, down to the ground.
But he wasn't really furious at L either. Or maybe he was? Why was L acting so typical, anyway? Didn't he…feel uncomfortable about this situation at all!?
Raito decided to tell L not to shed water only on his back, but, when he opened his mouth to speak, he found that no sound would come out, so he closed it again. How does one speak to a person that one is supposed to detest, after a night of talking on…well, on…less than hostile terms?
When Ryuuzaki's turn to wash up came, the situation became even worse, as always.
Raito watched a stray dog with mangled black and brown fur walk slowly toward the small alley between two nearby buildings, which led to the high street. Raito stared absently at the stray animal for a few moments, watching as the dog disappeared from sight amongst the bodies of the countless people in the street.
But even the thought that Misa might be one of those people and that Raito might be missing his chance to meet her was not enough to alleviate his current principal feeling of distress. Besides, he wasn't so sure about this concept of 'finding the one who is looking for you' at all anymore…Hadn't L found B, a person who was obviously looking for him…? Therefore…why hadn't L gone to heaven…?
At that thought, Raito's hand slipped on the heavy bucket, and the container fell from his fingers onto L's naked shoulder, causing the detective to let out a surprised grunt of pain.
"Oh, sorry!" Raito started, his palm hovering a bit over L's shoulder, unsure of whether to touch the other man for support or not. Besides, there was water all over L's skin…and for Raito to touch it would be quite risky… "… Are you okay…? Your throat is…?"
"It's fine." L reassured quietly, rubbing his shoulder a bit. Raito immediately pulled his hand away, as though electrified. He retrieved the bucket silently, mentally cursing himself the whole time...L had seriously gotten quite roughed up these last few days, and Raito, with his sudden inability to hold onto objects, was making it worse. What on earth was wrong with him, anyway? He was acting as though he was back in pre-school: awkward, uncontrolled movements…he wasn't thinking clearly…what was his problem?!
Again agitated at himself more than anyone, he walked toward the tap, setting the bucket beneath it.
As though to taunt him, the stray mutt from before appeared once again, literally running away from the High Street. Not even animals wanted to remain where the two men would be forced to enter in just a few minutes. The amber-eyed man stared at the mutt's pathetic fur and furrowed his brow a bit, his annoyance evaporating slightly as he became lost in thought.
"D'you think dogs can see the same hallucinations as humans?...or do they have their own Dog Mu?" Raito asked, speaking to himself more than asking the detective a question. This was why, when he heard L's deep bass voice echo from a few feet nearby, he was rather jarred from his reverie.
"Well, after all, animal humanization is as old as time." L commented noncommittally, and Raito turned to stare at him with a pensive expression.
"Yes…but you're implying that human attempts to humanize them are actually completely different from whether or not they have human traits… Raito commented, looking at the stray, which ignored them completely and continued sniffing the ground in search for food, not knowing it was being gossiped about. "…actually, they might have, without our knowing." Raito concluded
"Thatis the general argument of the humanization principle…which is why starting this debate is always completely and utterly pointless." L concluded solidly, and Raito, who was looking at him, blinked rapidly, and turned away.
"Pointless eh…?" Raito muttered a bit, and his eyes conspicuously fell to the bucket, which was now overflowing with water, and then back to L, who was sitting there looking at the dog, completely unperturbed…A small grin started spreading over the lower part of Raito's face, as it did often when wicked ideas entered his mind. "Well then..." he started, and calmly picked the bucket's handle.
"Then how's this!?"
A few seconds later, the birds that were gathered on a railing nearby flew off rapidly, scattering in the sky like cherry blossom leaves. Their frail hearts could not withstand sudden splashing sounds.
Since the weather was so very cold today, and since they needed to rest anyway, they decided to sit down and enjoy their lunch. Of course, 'enjoying' the food was quite a relative term, which was not altogether accurate, when associated with the molding fruits and nauseating odours of Mu.
Nevertheless, after what had happened that morning, what with the childishness of the entire concept, they both felt that they should be feeling much guiltier than they did about acting like a pair of retarded prepubescent boys. Therefore, Raito, who was guilty about not feeling guilty, contented himself with a temporary reprieve from being alone with each other, staying in the high street where they were surrounded by people – even if these people functioned more as columns of ice than parts of an interactive environment. Now the two of them were sitting on the side of the road, against the fence of a rather quaint small house.
"I spy …" the bored drawl dragged on. But instead of scanning the area for search of something to say, the man's auburn eyes stayed fixed on his partner's ebony ones, and his jaw muscles were tense. "… 'p'." It was funny that, whenever he was competing about something, even if that something was the most ridiculous or inconsequential thing in the world, Raito would tend to become so deadly serious.
"Peg." L replied instantly, without even thinking about it.
"No." Raito said, almost savouring the word as it fell from his lips.
That self-satisfied expression alone was enough to tell the detective that Raito had indeed been thinking of the word 'peg', but was now switching, just to try and fabricate a challenge. A slow, relaxed grin spread over Raito's face, as he leaned back against the wooden fencing, bringing his fruit to his mouth and taking a quick, mildly repulsed bite.
"Pole...pliers...your food" Ryuuzaki humoured the other man temporarily, simply because there were currently no hallucinations around them to keep him occupied. He noticed that Raito was holding a pomegranate, and thought that it was worth a shot, however unlikely.
Raito grinned some more, failing to suppress it. "No, no and no."
L narrowed his eyes. He'd been choosing objects which were situated out of Raito's field of vision, believing that the other man would try to disorient the opponent by not even looking toward the direction of the thing he was referring to. But now it became obvious that Raito wasn't in the mood to play fair – he kept switching directives even though Ryuuzaki had obviously succeeded in finding the word.
L decided that two could play this game. He looked pointedly at the people around them, having no trouble detecting something. "Paranoia." He decided, but Raito shook his head negatively.
Then, finally, L's eyes fell to the side of the street, seeing a very blurry image of something moving in a small dark orifice. He turned to look back at Raito, a bored look in his eyes "'Porcupine', Raito-kun."
"At last, success." Raito said dismissively, closing his eyes as he bit down on his fruit, obviously trying to distract himself from looking at what he was forced to eat. Instead of getting annoyed at the auburn haired man, L ignored the entire outcome of the game, focusing on his own food. Perhaps sitting down for lunch had been a bad idea, after all. It put emphasis on the task at hand, which was defeating the purpose. It would have been better if they'd walked while eating, as usual. At least then they'd have something to do while chewing on that horrible lint of food and being forced to sit next to each other... because unfortunately, even though they'd stayed here to avoid being alone, there was still a sense of discomfort between them...a form of shared guilt, as though they knew that this…this…whatever that they were doing was…abnormal.
"But what is the meaning" L started, bringing his own fruit right in front of his eyes and keeping his fingers lodged on it like a pair of surgical handles on a heart implant "of us feeling famished on a permanent basis?"
Raito looked at the distance as he chewed, listening to the other man's words but unwilling to look at Ryuuzaki for extended periods of time. When he looked away while listening to L's voice, it felt a bit… like last night. In the darkness, when L had not been L, but just a…a formless voice. Something in Raito's own head…
"Even though we scarcely eat, we don't grow thinner" L remarked, widening his eyes at the little fruit he was holding, as though it held all the answers to the metaphysical mysteries of the afterlife "Which can only imply that the point of this feeding ritual is the constant hunger, not the actual need for energy."
"Yes. Constant insatiability is perhaps an innovative way to torture us." Raito agreed calmly, but he bit on his fruit a tad more viciously than necessary and avoided L's eyes, looking instead at the masses of silent people walking by.
"That's exactly my point. Why bother to torture us this late in the process? It's nonsensical...perhaps torture is not the ultimate goal, here." L tapped his thumb against his lips, until, finally, he let it sink in his mouth, making wet sounds as he licked at it. This was his 'investigator' face.
But from beside him, instead of just ignoring it as he usually did, Raito temporarily stopped gnawing at his fruit, his eyes stilling on Ryuuzaki's finger.
A few moments passed, and they both stayed silent. The auburn haired man obviously hadn't realized he was staring rather rudely, or else he would have resumed eating immediately. L, obviously sensing he was being so intently stared at, turned around after a while.
These simple words were enough to jerk Raito out of his small trance, since he hadn't heard them often over the last few hours. He suppressed his reflex to turn away immediately, lest his discomfort become obvious. Instead he settled for a less discriminating expression of disinterest, and slowly turned back to his fruit.
But after that, strangely, the detective's talkative mood seemed to disintegrate, as though he knew that the mood had changed. L turned his body slightly away from the chestnut haired man, looking at the pedestrians with his wide eyes as he chewed.
From beside him, Raito had pulled his knees upwards and was resting his elbow on one of them. He still held the fruit in front of his mouth. But, unable to help himself, for some reason, his eyes still skipped to the other man, this time looking at L's curved back. Raito's mouth slowly opened, closing over the smooth surface of the fruit but not biting on it, as he looked at the skin on the back of L's neck. So smooth and white, despite the bruises…
Sometimes, Raito thought, it was hard to believe. It was so surreal to think that this creature was beside him. Everything, from the foetal position to the extremely pale skin and the delicate bone structure of the nape...Raito had convinced himself that he'd never see it again, to the extent that he was now having difficulty believing that he was not currently sitting beside some product of his own imagination.
All the days and nights of wishing and praying that L would be wiped off the face of the earth…ironically, they'd all led to this one moment. This moment, when, as though nothing had ever changed, L was here. He was…back.
"L?" he decided he wanted to call the other, all of a sudden. For no reason.
And indeed, the person beside him turned around immediately upon hearing the name, eyes wide and expression questioning.
Raito looked at the other for a few moments, at the soft fabric of the white shirt, which seemed to remain the same forever. The Japanese man opened his mouth slightly and then closed it again, as though wanting to say something but thinking better of it. "Forget it." he concluded, internally cursing himself for sounding idiotic.
"Are you sure you're all right?" the detective inquired, and Raito felt insulted that Ryuuzaki was obviously treating him like an infant after that morning. It's not as though he was stupid, and-
Suddenly, with a flurry of movement, L stood up, wiry arms pushing him upwards and long thin legs bouncing underneath the denim jeans. Raito shook his head inconspicuously as Ryuuzaki was standing up, trying to determine how it was possible for him to suddenly notice all these particularities about L's body.
It was probably because they bathed together every morning, Raito reminded himself. Those horrible showering rituals…That's why he now knew all these details-
"-want another one?" Ryuuzaki's voice suddenly wrung, and the other man's auburn eyes, which had been unfocused on the ground before, shot up immediately. After a few awkward seconds, Raito opened his mouth slightly, his eyes a bit narrowed. As he sat down there, beside the standing Ryuuzaki, he felt so short, suddenly. So…stupid.
"I…what?" he simply asked, seeming a bit jumpy all of a sudden. It was understandable, since Ryuuzaki's current standing pose was making him a bit nervous. It seemed as though L was preparing to leave. Where was he going? Why had he stood up all of a sudd-
"I'm off to get another fruit. Does Raito-kun want one?" Ryuuzaki repeated his previous offer, evidently not phased by Raito's discomfort. The auburn haired man seemed to relax slightly, not even realizing himself how tense he'd previously been. He slightly shook his head, and Ryuuzaki nodded, turned around and slowly walked toward the mass of people, who were gathered in the wide street.
Raito didn't realize that he'd been keeping his eyes fixed on L's back, until he saw L's white shirt disappear behind the dark shapes of other people moving. Reflexively, Raito sat up a bit, blinking. He swallowed and took another quick, rather furtive bite from his fruit.
Now that he finally had a moment of ultimate privacy – despite being in a quintessentially public place – thoughts started rushing through his head. He tried to decipher why his behaviour lately had been so erratic, and why he seemed to be feeling constantly frustrated. Unfortunately, however, his self-psychoanalyzing session didn't seem to be going as well as he'd hoped. He wasn't reaching any enlightening conclusions any time soon.
And, to his great quandary, this time he couldn't blame it all on L either. Because, after all, L was neither forcing Raito to stay, nor doing anything particularly frustrating for Raito to be angry at. Overall, generally sp-
Raito's thoughts froze immediately, a chill climbing up his spine. Was that…? His heart started hammering immediately, and it took some willpower to force himself not to jump to his feet, lest he betray himself.
A few moments passed, during which he did everything in his power to act completely naturally. He stared around again, pretending to be calm and composed, but, inevitably, as though a moth to a flame, his eyes were drawn back to the source of his plight. Unbidden, thoughts started to crawl in his mind, and, no matter how he tried to suppress them by looking around, they wouldn't leave him be. In the meantime, he was cursing L for taking so much time. What was taking so long..?
Raito reasoned with himself, knowing that logic was the ultimate ally in times of unbidden paranoia. Everything was perfectly fine. L would come, Raito would wordlessly tell him what was happening, and together they'd-
Where was he, damn it? Why was he so late…?
Suddenly, completely unbidden, a second thought crossed Raito's mind, nearly making his breath stop. What if L…wasn't planning to come back…? Had he decided that Raito was being too…too…overbearing? The auburn haired man didn't want to sound like a little boy in a supermarket, reluctant to let his mother out of his sight. But that's exactly what he was doing now, wasn't it? Had Ryuuzaki abandoned him…? It was possible…after all, Raito had murdered him…Ryuuzaki did hate him, at least a little bit…he must. In his state of perpetual confusion, Raito couldn't truly evaluate L's possible reasons for wanting to leave What if-?
The feeling of overwhelming relief that flooded Raito's system upon seeing the glow of that damnable white shirt was enough to shock even Raito himself. But at the same time, the panic of before was rejuvenated, and upon seeing L, the Japanese man fought to keep his face completely neutral, so as not to betray anything.
"Long queue." Ryuuzaki simply said by means of explanation, verifying Raito's musings of before. The auburn haired man automatically grabbed the fruit that L had offered him, his expression steeling over in order to prevent its true nature from showing.
"No problem." Raito said, his voice the epitome of total neutrality. Ryuuzaki looked at him a bit quizzically, not moving from his standing position and continuing to awkwardly stand there, until Raito, whose adrenaline was soaring by now, whispered, in a rather urgent voice: "Sit down."
L stared at him for a few moments more, forcing Raito to turn and look at him again, as meaningfully as he could. Catching the drift, the detective folded his long legs, setting himself in the place beside the other man.
The auburn haired Asian brought the fruit in front of his mouth and pretended to take a long bite on it. Some people, like him, seemed to be born with the ability to exercise art of ventriloquism, rather than needing to practice it. Thankfully, L was also such a person, so the two of them could find some common ground.
"He's following us." Raito stated, chewing on a bite of food. A few seconds later, he felt L's eyes trained on him. And then, finally, the jaw-dropping answer came.
"What?" Raito immediately asked, careful to keep a natural visage, despite the unmistakable fury in his voice. From outside, it looked as though he was talking to L about the weather, regardless of what he was actually saying.
L strategically placed a thumb in his mouth, and turned his head in a way that would keep him completely concealed from the enemy's eyes "He can read your lips." The detective simply said, his voice akin to the whisper he'd used at that critical day when he'd first said "I'm L.".
Raito didn't need to be told twice. He stopped talking altogether and focused completely on his fruit, biting at it a bit more viciously than necessary. And more than anything, staring at the side of Ryuuzaki's worn out white tennis shoes, he felt something akin to fear climbing into his heart. A kind of fear he hadn't experienced in a very, very long time.
In fact, he hadn't felt it since that fatal day, when Ryuuku had stood in front of him with the Death Note in one hand and a pen in the other.
A horrid feeling. One that was able to chew your liver inside out, if you weren't careful with it: the knowledge that someone else was able to control aspects of your life, which had direct impact on your happiness.
Raito's jaw set. Out of the blue, without preamble, he kicked upwards, shooting to a standing position within seconds. He bent to gather their few possessions in his hands.
"Come on." He said in fabricated cheerfulness, and his eyes meticulously avoided the place where B had camouflaged himself across the street. But the red eyes were impossible to conceal…it was how Raito had managed to discover him in the first place.
L moved unhurriedly, standing up exactly as he would under normal circumstances. It was useful that the two of them were such good actors, or they wouldn't have managed to build such a high level of intercommunication so quickly.
The three minutes that it took for them to start walking down the street, moving along with the throng of people again, were torturous for Raito, whose heart was beating wildly, dancing in a frantic beat of anxiety.
Unfortunately, the fact that they'd start moving would mean that they'd lose track of their pursuer, but if they delayed moving any longer then it would seem overly suspicious.
And suddenly, Raito keenly recognized that, in Mu, there was no Death Note, no police…and the people surrounding them, however many, had their own problems to think of. And even if one did somehow manage to restrain a criminal…there was no way to kill anyone, since they were all already dead.
"Since when?" Raito simply asked as they walked, side by side, keeping a moderate pace. He kept his voice low, and hated this situated with an incomparable passion, for it reminded him of all the worst periods of his life.
"This morning" L answered, and Raito did not bother with asking why L hadn't informed him of this. It was obvious that the detective knew something – no, many things – about B that Raito didn't, and it would be more hazardous than constructive to let Raito know…
But still…being left in the dark stung more than Raito liked to think.
However, his own unexplained, aggravating emotions were the last of his problems right now. With 'Ryuuzaki' on their track and no form of defense against violence except their own fists, the only solution, Raito knew, was to try and disorient the hunter; shake him off their tail.
It was very easy to become lost in Mu, Raito reassured himself…all they had to was to make sure they knew where they were going, knew where he was located at any given moment and knew the opportune moment to make themselves literally 'lost'…but this was all much easier said then done, and…
It was then that Raito's eyes fell on it. Completely at random. And the unbidden thought, however distasteful, crawled to his mind.
The one place in Mu which would have a locked door.
They'd have to time it correctly, of course…they'd have to disappear in a house right when B would lose track of them…and then, they'd escape his grasp…they'd stay in the house, and then…
"L-" Raito started saying, his fists growing clammy at his sides. But just as he was about to make the utterly preposterous suggestion, that not even he was sure he wanted to propose, a loud, deafening noise interrupted him.
The detective and his ex-suspect turned around immediately, to detect where the shrillness was coming from. Many people around them covered their ears with their hands and started quickly walking toward the exits of the High Street, but both Raito and L stayed put in the rapidly panicking crowd, staring flabbergasted at the rare spectacle, rather than fully understanding what was going on.
At first, it looked beautiful, like a rain of comets, or glowing stars. They ran through the darkened evening sky, glowing like fireflies in the night. The kept coming closer and closer, exhibiting that horrible screeching sound.
But soon, the people in the street were running frantically to all four directions, taking shelter wherever they could, running out of the High Street, into houses… It didn't take long for Raito, who'd been gawking at the sky in a form of speechless incomprehensibility, to realize that these…glowing fireballs…or whatever they were…were not stopping.
They kept coming closer.
The auburn haired man took a step back, and then another. His loosened his grip on the bucket and blankets he was holding, just as the little stones crumbled beneath his leather soles.
His former predicaments now completely forgotten, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide, he suddenly turned around, stretching a hand across L's chest and pushing the detective backward as well, since L had still been staring upward, his eyes huge and pupils constricted.
"Go, go, go!!!!"
It didn't take long for the panic to settle in, and in a few seconds L had turned around as well. Now they were both running. Toward the closest alley, the closest exit. Anywhere!
Raito's eyes scanned the street as he ran, and he realized that, even though he could not hear it, most people must be screaming.
"L!" he called, as he saw the detective stumble, slipping on his improper shoes. Raito immediately grabbed the other man's arm, forcing him upwards.
They turned around, haunted, heading for the first dark alley they laid their eyes on. From behind them, the deafening sounds became ear-piercing. B had become a forgotten insect, now that the light around them was increasing, signifying that the…the fireballs?...were coming closer!
The moment of impact, an entire wave of vibration struck the earth, and Raito spiraled off his feet, tossed forward like a rag doll. From his side, even though the auburn haired man couldn't see him, L flew to the air as well, and tried to shield himself with his arms as he collapsed.
The earth kept shaking so strongly, that the once silent High Street of Mu had now become laced with the echoes of crumbling brick and rattling stone. The screaming hallucinations didn't pause their nightmarish scenes even for a second, oblivious to the peril around them.
And Raito, who tried to recover his strength in a desperate attempt at survival, cradled his bleeding cheek as he crawled sideways. He grabbed L shoulder, seeing that the man was still trying to recuperate from his harsh fall, and Raito let his fingers fist around the white fabric of the loose shirt.
Without speaking, he dragged the other man, forcing L to start moving again, if only slightly. Until finally, the black haired detective managed to get back to his senses and start moving by himself.
With the ground still unsteady, and every straight line of the world around them becoming twisted and bent, the two of them managed to crawl beneath some wooden scaffolding, which lay against the side of a short building's wall.
Raito pushed his back as far against the wall as it would go, unconsciously trying to become one with the cement, as the turned to stare, through the gaps of the scaffolds, at the full fledged panic taking place in the street.
From his side, L was copying his stance, staring forward with his eyes even more enlarged than they usually were. For once, his knees were not pressed to his chest, but bent haphazardly in front of him, in a defensive position of disorientation.
They both stared at the balls of light that pelted on the street in front of them…until finally, through the shaking of the earth and the screeching, deafening sounds, they managed to understand what was happening. With their jaws lax and their fingers trembling, they stared, realizing that what they were actually seeing…they were witnessing the birth of…of a…
"It's…" someone said, but Raito couldn't be sure if it was he or L who'd spoken, in such a breathless voice.
Their constricted irises became like shining bulbs, filled with reflected light, as they stared.
To Be Continued
a/n: ok, to clear some points, I haven't actually read "Another Note", but I know of the existence of this "Beyond Birthday" L-obsessed guy…Seeing as this guy's existence is a new addition to TE, I'll be editing some stuff in the previous chapters. Mainly, I'll probably take out all the stuff about L being in a French orphanage as a kid, and replace it with stuff about L being alone in the streets as a kid. But the main principles will be the same, so…no real need to reread anything.
Also…were they OOC? Please tell me! I'm really worried! I know that it's impossible for them not to be OOC at this point, but I'm hoping that, through the last fourteen chapters, I've been building enough justification to make their OOC-ness excusable. That's what it's all about…right? Right?
So yeah…I'm still a bit depressed…I'm feeling that this 'afterlife' thing may have been kind of a completely silly AU idea after all…but I'll keep writing this, just because I know many people are reading it, and it would be an insult to them not to continue it.
All my reviewers and readers: have a cookie!
Thankyou very much, and I hope you haven't forgotten about meeeee!
(oh,oh ! What was your favourite scene in this one?! I think mine was…uhh…the true/false scene and the Big Kira Talk scene! Raito's butt tattoo. Gah!!)