And so we come to the final chapter, and the end of the biggest writing project I've ever undertaken. I can't let this occasion pass without thanking everyone who's read this fic. Thanks to those who reviewed, and to those who have never reviewed; I just love that this story is loved. I never expected it to take off the way it did; I've never had this kind of reaction to my writing before. Thanks to people who recommended it to others or even discussed it on message boards - I was blown away one day when I googled the title and found a board where someone was posting a theory about how it would end! (You know who you are! I appreciate the message, and I hope this ending isn't entirely disappointing to you. I'm one of those people who really likes open endings. It's a great idea, and to be honest, I had considered it even before you contacted me about it, but in the end it just didn't fit with the story I was trying to write. This is my compromise, I guess.)

Thanks also to Byron for reading right from the start, and to Rustydragonfly, my NaNoWriMo writing buddy, for always spurring me on, even though I know you'll probably never read this.

Apologies, too, for the long gaps I sometimes left between posting chapters; I really didn't have an excuse as I finished this fic in early 2008. I'm just a perfectionist who sometimes has trouble knowing when to stop editing.

There's a new anime series starting now, and I'm full of new ideas, so hopefully it won't be long before I have something new to write. I've worked on this story for so long that it started to feel like a weight on my back, but it's sad to finally label it 'completed', too.

Enough of my self-indulgent rambling, though. Here's the end. Get stuck into it. And goodbye for now - with any luck, it won't be for too long.

Epilogue

When the shinigami Ryuk made his third and final midnight visit to my bedroom, he didn't startle me in the slightest. Despite feeling exhausted and going straight to bed after coming home from school, I hadn't had any sleep whatsoever. After hours of lying awake in bed, I was actually glad to see his big, ugly face.

"So everything's back to normal, is it?"

"Yes," said Ryuk. I felt certain he wasn't happy with this latest turn of events, but his expression never changed.

"Then why do I still remember?"

Before Haruhi gave up ownership of the Death Note, the world was falling apart. I didn't know what was going on outside; whether Koizumi was alive and fighting, whether Nagato had fought her way out of the building or whether she'd been overcome. The world ended at the clubroom's walls, and everything outside them was chaos.

Yet the moment that notebook changed hands, everything snapped back to normal. In the moment it took me to blink, the storm had been replaced by blue skies and the weak sun of winter, and before I knew it, Ryuk had taken off out the window and was rapidly becoming a black speck in the sky. As I came out of my shock, I realised that Haruhi was shouting at me.

"Kyon!" she suddenly shoved her face in front of mine and I stumbled backwards. "What are you doing just staring into space like that? Stop acting like a useless idiot and help me clean up."

Can't you see Ryuk leaving?

"What are you talking about?"

I pointed out the window at the shrinking, but still visible monster.

"There's nothing there, Kyon. There's not a single thing in the sky."

"There is. There's a monster out there. A god of death. Ryuk. Can't you see him?"

I would have thought that Haruhi would be excited to hear me talking about monsters, but to my surprise, she whacked me on the back of the head with something. I was shocked by how much it smarted and when I stopped seeing stars in front of my eyes, I realised that Haruhi was holding a broom. The window was still broken and Mikuru's costumes were still on the ground, and Haruhi couldn't see Ryuk.

What happened?

"Suzumiya-san didn't tell you?" asked Koizumi, who had just walked through the door, along with Nagato. "Someone practicing their baseball during the day hit a ball through the window. It knocked over all the costumes and everything."

"You were the first one here when it happened," Nagato added.

I couldn't decipher her expression right now. Haruhi was just looking at me with annoyance, as though I was just messing around, and behind his enigmatic smile, even Koizumi looked concerned. I was sure that just a moment ago I had been facing down a god of death with the world falling apart around my ears, but how could I be sure of that when suddenly it was all back to normal and nobody else remembered? Were they all right to be concerned about me? Was it all real, or had I finally gone completely mad?

"Hello everyone, it's great that you're all working so hard! I'll help you clean up in a minute, but I'll make us some tea first…"

I forgot even the question of whether I had lost my mind when I heard Mikuru's voice as she entered the room. I could only stare at her as she made her way over to the tea set and started to boil the kettle.

"Kyon? Is everything okay?" she asked, when she realised I was staring.

You died today. I saw your body. I stood beside you as your hands grew cold.

"I'm just… glad to see you, Mikuru."

She started to blush at the same time that Haruhi hit me with her broom again. "Don't be so familiar! Mikuru-chan is your senior, so she's Asahina-san to you!"

That doesn't stop you from being familiar with her, Haruhi… That was the first normal thought to enter my head. But Mikuru… Asahina-san… she was dead only half an hour ago. How can I be annoyed at Haruhi right now? Am I forgetting what happened already? How do I even know what was real?

"Kyon?" Haruhi jerked me around to look at her again, and I was surprised to see her looking concerned. "Are you okay? You look kind of pale."

"I request permission to take the rest of the afternoon off, Chief," I muttered, in a daze. Haruhi must have been in shock at the way I called her 'Chief' for once, because she let me go immediately. I bolted straight out of the room, not daring to look at Asahina-san before I left.

As I ran out of the school and all the way home, as I lay on my bed all afternoon and evening, it wasn't the image of Asahina's face that haunted me. When I closed my eyes, trying to sleep yet always remaining wide awake, all I could see in my mind's eye was the look Haruhi wore as I ran out of the club room. Haruhi Suzumiya was concerned that I was going crazy. And worse still, I was starting to think she was right.

It would be better if my memory had been erased. These events were so shocking that I wasn't sure whether anything had happened. By the time Ryuk appeared through my bedroom wall, I had almost convinced myself that the past few weeks had been one long delusion. If I never knew which version of events was real, I would never know whether I was sane or not. Or perhaps that was the very definition of insanity. It was as though I didn't know whether I was asleep or awake.

"So why do I remember everything, when everyone else has forgotten?" I asked again.

"There are some things about the Death Note that even the shinigami do not know," said Ryuk, at last.

That's not a very satisfactory explanation.

"Well, it's the truth," he said, with a shrug. "However, the fact that I am talking to you at this moment should be proof that the events that you remember occurring since I first appeared to Haruhi Suzumiya really did happen to you."

And yet Mikuru is still alive.

"As I said, there are many things that even we don't know. It seems you were right all along. Haruhi Suzumiya is a being far more powerful than I would have imagined. She's just proven that she's more powerful than any god of death."

"You're glad of that, aren't you? You liked her." Suddenly I was angry, and it wasn't jealousy this time. "You'd better not be thinking of giving that note back to her. After all the trouble you've caused, there's no way I'll let you do that."

He laughed. "There's nothing you could do to stop me if I wanted to. Who do you think you are?"

I'm the one chosen by Suzumiya Haruhi. And that means something.

"Well, you needn't worry. I've already passed the book on to someone else. A student at another high school. He shows a lot of promise. A very interesting individual."

But not like Haruhi?

"No. He has a talented mind, but he's an ordinary human."

I guess I won't be seeing Ryuk any more. Suddenly, that seemed a little sad, and also a little scary. If Ryuk is what proves that I'm sane, how will I know what really happened if Ryuk is no longer around?

He laughed. "Look out for the deaths of criminals on the news, for one thing. But it might do you good to look at those papers Haruhi gave you before she returned the Death Note."

The small wad of papers she had pressed into my hand when she said goodbye. It had been in my pocket all day and I picked it up from where it had fallen beside my bed.

"I don't know exactly why you kept your memory when everyone else lost theirs. It may be because of the Death Note, or it may be that Haruhi didn't want anyone to remember. Those papers she gave you are a page torn from the Death Note, a page she'd written on."

And that's why I remember?

"Perhaps. You might want to keep them as a reminder."

"A reminder of what? That all those things really happened? It's just a piece of paper."

"It does just look like a piece of paper. Perhaps it is an ordinary piece of paper. But if you ever want to know for sure, there's a way that you can test it."

He leaned down so his face was closer to mine, and I started to wish he would leave.

"You might not be the owner of the Death Note, Kyon, but a piece of paper torn from the Death Note works the same way. If you ever want to prove to yourself that all those things really happened, all you have to do is write down a person's full name on that piece of paper, while picturing their face in your mind. I guarantee you: within forty seconds, that person will die."

I'm not a killer.

"Really? You're not curious enough to try it? Not even on, say, a criminal?"

"Get out, Ryuk. My mind is overloaded enough as it is. Don't go asking me to kill. The only person I want to kill right now is you!"

He shrugged. "As you wish, I'll leave. Perhaps you really don't have what it takes to kill. But humans are curious creatures. Haruhi didn't use the Note except by accident, and she's more curious than most. But the truth is, Kyon, you're more daring than her, and you know it."

Ryuk seemed to be aiming for a dramatic departure for once, and I realised that he was gradually fading. Like the Cheshire Cat, it was that creepy leer, the only smile in the world more annoying than Koizumi's, that was the last to vanish.

"Thanks, Kyon. You've always been very… interesting."

And with that, for the last time, he was gone.

I looked at the piece of paper folded in my hand. It was an evil thing, and I wanted to burn it right then. I want to think that I would never use it to kill, but what if Ryuk were right about me? I ddin't want the temptation. What if I really was that inquisitive a person? What if one day I decided to test it out? I don't want to be tempted to kill someone, especially not in such a cowardly way. Maybe I do have a curious nature, but the question of whether I'd ever use a Death Note to kill is something that I'd rather not find out about myself. It would be safer to burn it, and perhaps then I would forget everything that happened.

It would be safer to forget, but it's not what I did. I don't want to forget kissing Mikuru. I don't want to forget Koizumi's courage and hard work, no matter how it irritates me to compliment him, and I don't want to forget the way Nagato came to realise how much the SOS Brigade means to her.

I don't want to forget that I once told Haruhi I loved her, even though I don't know if I will ever say those words to her again.

I told Haruhi I didn't want to forget, and this was the way out that she gave me. Even if it terrified me to keep a piece of the Death Note in my possession, I wouldn't let her actions go to waste. I wouldn't make this gift from Haruhi a waste. I'll keep my memories, and if it sometimes makes me feel like I'm going crazy, then at least I have this to remind me that I'm not.

Finally, I unfolded the paper and began to read.

Everything's gotten so boring again lately. Why doesn't anything exciting happen? I hate it all. I hate this whole life. Kyon said I should try writing a diary. That moron. I wish he'd just shut up once and for all. What good does writing in a diary do? I just found this stupid thing on the ground so I'm trying it, but it's not making me feel any better. This is dumb. Still, I guess at least Kyon is happy with things like this…

This is the proof of my sanity? Haruhi was using the Death Note as a diary to complain about me? Hey, Ryuk, shouldn't you be coming back to tell me that this was all an amusing joke?

Yet even if the joke was on me, I was the one who was laughing.

With that, I pushed the handful of torn pages safely under my mattress, and fell into a deep, relaxing sleep for what felt like the first time in a month.