Hi there everyone! Happy summer vacation!
In case there is anyone here who has been reading my other fic, True Elision, I'd just like to say: thank you SO MUCH for your reviews! They've been a huge encouragement. I've received some PMs in my hotmail account which I haven't been able to answer yet, but that is because I've been away from a computer for almost a month. In fact, during this month, I've been working on this new story!! I plan to answer all unanswered PMs over the last few days, so, for those of you who think I am a snob/ignoring you/ angry at you…PLEASE do not despise me! I did not mean to scorn you, but it was impossible to answer your messages!
If not for your reviews, I would have completely abandoned that story! As it is, I have not discontinued it. I promised I'd finish it, and I will. The reason why I haven't updated yet is because I was dissatisfied with the latest chapter of TE (chapter 15) and I felt I had to make some changes in it. In fact, to be honest, I am not at all happy with TE ever since chapter 12. I feel that my characters have been spiraling OOC (Out Of Control; lol). Nevertheless, I don't believe in unfinished business. Even though I don't like how that story has turned out, I'll edit it as much as I can and finish it. I'm editing chapter 15 now, and I'll start on the next chapter once I'm satisfied.
To comfort my bruised ego, I've been working on this piece of writing, made exclusively for the purpose of having fun with the Death Note saga. This story will be constructed of nine chapters, but, as you may have guessed, it will be anything but short. This chapter, the introduction, starts from DN volume 6 (I think) when Raito first regains his memories of being Kira in the helicopter.
The Summary of this story is a surprise. To say anything would spoil the fun of the entire thing. Only after the second chapter is posted, will there be a summary!
PAIRING: L/Light, Raito/Ryuzaki (Ryuuzaki…or however you want to call him.)
WARNINGS: gore, violence, deaths, horrific deaths, inexplicit homosexual smut, male homosexuality in general etc. Do not read, I repeat, do NOT read this if you're not over seventeen or if you're disturbed/offended by horror or gayness between L and Raito.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the rights to Death Note.
More than anything, I want to give this as a present to the readers and reviewers of my massive fic, "True Elision". You guys deserve the hard work! I hope you like this.
Notes: this story is completely, utterly, incredibly crazy.
More Notes: Just to make sure, this story contains YAOI, slash, or male homosexuality as stated above. The pairing is: L/Ryuzaki and Light/Raito.
"Raito-kun…are you all right? Anyone would be surprised after seeing a monster like that…" the drawling baritone is actually quite subdued, but to Raito's pounding brain, it echoes like a gong.
"Yes…yes." The auburn haired man repeats, and the second time he sounds much more self-assured, as though having succeeded in consciously stabilizing his voice. A voice much more controlled and scrupulously nonchalant than it has been in the last few months, L realizes.
In fact, L hasn't heard Raito speak in this manner since before the notorious imprisonment.
"…Are you sure?"
"…Really, Ryuuzaki… I'm fine… But who would have thought that this notebook could really kill people…? "
"Huh, indeed…it's hard to believe, but…"
The detective has no further questions. He does not comment on the fact that Raito seems to be clinging onto the black book a trifle too hard, as though unwilling to let go of it even for a second. Perhaps L's narrowed black eyes are proof of his undying ingenious suspicion, but, at this point, it matters very little.
After all, in just a few short hours, Raito will set the last gears in motion… and then, all he'll have to do is lay back and watch. Watch Ryuuzaki's precious head be crushed by the wheel of destiny itself; his very life-force completely sucked out of him, down to the last drop.
Too bad, L. You were a good adversary.
Raito enjoys the luxury of smiling distortedly for a few seconds under his helmet, celebrating the glorious return of his memories, before he starts digging out the Death Note scrap from his watch's intestines.
God will remember you in his New World, as an exceptionally persistent bug he was obliged to squash, for the sake of principle alone, if nothing else.
"Heart atta-? What the hell?!"
"Raito-kun…Raito-kun…give me the Death Note!"
"…" Ryuuzaki's eyes are, if possible, even wider than usual. His fingers are crude and voracious – nothing like their usual tentative self – as they grab and flip the pages. Raito leans back; lets the detective snatch it from his hands and toss the unending paper back and forth, in the way a dehydrated man gulps down water. The midnight eyes soon narrow in acidized incomprehension, and for once it is Raito who brings his finger to his mouth, sucking on the pricked area as he gleefully observes L's scandalized face from beneath auburn bangs.
Yes…Search, L. Search all you want. Leave no stone unturned; search until you can't search anymore…., But not even you can control fate…You can't control God. Remember that, L.
Raito hates the fact that, even now, at the throes of L's ultimate obliviousness, he still can't be certain of what the detective is thinking.
To comfort himself, he imagines he can hear a series of panicked mantras. A part of Raito wishes that this is how L's voice sounds inside L's own brain, but another part of him is reluctant of being so presumptuous.
For a frozen, confounded minute, there is complete silence. It's a combination of shock, confusion and the terrifying realization that, in actuality, no one has any idea what the hell is truly going on here – not even L.
Then, the world explodes into motion once more, and thus begins a new chapter of Raito's struggle for survival.
"Wrap it up."
"Gather the evidence, people!!"
"Everyone! Return to HQ!"
"Grab his shoulders -"
Raito calms his wild heartbeat, ignoring the feeling of being surrounded by vultures, which seems to have become the status quo in his life for the last few years.
He comforts himself; and feels that he will triumph. He will win this uphill battle, in the end, despite all the hardships. He is destined to. After all, if the Cosmic Forces weren't already on his side then he would never have received the godly notebook in the first place, would he?
No, he will triumph, and it shall be worth it when he finally does, because the greater the adversity, the greater the victor's honour, and the only victory that matters is the one proceeded by effort. Generally, Raito is not a believer; butif he ever believed in anything, then this is it.
In this battle for Godhood, not everyone is fit to win. Only he, who has been recognized for his ability. He was the one chosen to bring balance and prosperity back to this sinful world, which has forgotten all sense of rules and morality. And for those who oppose the God of the New World…
He turns to look at his left, where L is chewing his thumb so hard that the skin is rapidly becoming shriveled. The blank black eyes are fixed on the offending figure of the white Shinigami, which floats silently alongside their helicopter.
The detective shows no expression. He never does, except at times of alarm, which seems to be the only emotion L cannot conceal. But right now, L is mysteriously calm and collected. Too calm for someone who has just witnessed the appearance of a grotesque, 8-foot tall, skeletal specter. Raito narrows his eyes as he peruses Ryuuzaki's demeanor from the corner of his vision. True; L's thoughts are ultimately unreadable…Raito can never, for the life of him, be sure of what the older man is thinking. However…
Now, he stares carefully at L's convulsing toes, and feels a wild sort of delight upon realizing that, indeed, L is… unsettled? One could even go so far as to say…afraid.
It turns out…L is also a human, not a computer screen. Perhaps, just in making this small discovery, Raito merrily thinks, he might have managed to solve one of those primal, colossal riddles buried so manically beneath the gigantic "L".
The sound of the vehicle's engines is a vague, blurred noise in the background, as are the flashing lights of Tokyo down below.
In his overblown fantasies, Raito fancies that L's restlessness signifies true terror, and that the reason L does not turn to stare at him is not because he doesn't want to, but because he does not dare to. In fact, the more he looks at L, the more vividly Raito can picture it. He can see it. Taste it, smell it, live it as though it were inevitable fact; even though it hasn't happened yet.
He can feel L's quivering spine cracking beneath his fingers. He can see L's horrified eyes, the impertinent mouth finally muted, eternally fighting but forever failing to express the truth.
It will happen. It will be so.
"Watari, arrange for the instrument to be secured-"
"As you wish, L."
" – also, make sure to inform-"
…it will be so…
The rest is just details.
"DRRRRRING!" The sharp ring of the bell sounds like a choir of angels to the tired ears and strained nerves of the cast and crew.
"All right people! It's intermission time. Intermission! Take a break and be back here in fifteen minutes…That's fifteen, not fifty!" The director, Hoshina, is exceptionally cranky today, seeing as the photography department didn't deliver the proper designs on time. By now, however, the crew is too tired to pay any serious attention to his jibes and intentional meanness. They've grown used to it anyway.
"Misa-Misa, would you like some coffee?" Mariko, the assistant manager is offering, and her sensitive smile and kindly round face actually do manage to leave Misa feeling a bit warm inside.
"No thanks! Just Oolong tea for Misa!" the girl's voice is always formulated in a chime, and she seems to have an affinity for hugging random objects.
She's much more annoying and much less interesting than Light, Ryuuku thinks.
"All right then!" Mariko's smile seems permanently stamped on her face, but not intentionally so. Most likely it is her natural inclination to appear gentle and friendly at all times. They wouldn't have hired her to be an assistant if she wasn't.
"I'll be right back!" Misa sing-songs, and reaches for her small bag of personal items.
"Don't be too late, Misa! I have to fix your make-up!!" the strange make-up artist shouts behind her. Ryuuku can't help but to pause and stare at the man, who he has deemed the 'weirdest human on this planet'. This man seems to have a certain proclivity for dressing, talking and acting like a woman, despite being a man. Why on earth a male would intentionally act so strangely, Ryuuku has no idea; must be a 'human thing'.
In any case, the Shinigami has a short attention span, and his disinterest settles in quite soon. He swiftly hovers back to Misa's side, watching the girl exchange pleasantries with nearly every person she encounters. Her smile is radiant and blinding, and there is a certain extra spring in her usual saunter today. Even her co-star, Ryuga What's-His-Face, has sacrificed his extreme narcissism for the sake of indulging in some ugly-faced, every-day exhaustion…but not Misa! She's still as vivacious and happy-go-lucky as ever.
"Cameraman-san!! Hello!!" Misa chuckles and blinks her long eyelashes at everyone and everything, and in return she is treated like the centerpiece flower of an ikebana composition: the shiniest ornament; the tasty cherry on top of the cake, which is there to sweeten one's day.
The blonde girl is still smiling as she walks toward her carefully calibrated destination, casually approaching the bathroom-trailer. It takes less than a minute for her to slide open the door with the 'ladies' sign on it, and then gently close it behind her.
After a few seconds, the characteristic clicking noise is heard, signifying she turned the lock. The room is sealed.
She leans her back against the door immediately, and releases a sigh of relief, as though she'd been holding it back all this time.
Then she smiles again, and the smile on her face changes meaning completely from the one she'd held until now. One might have to wonder which of the two smiles reflects her true psychology…
Ryuuku's yellow eyes emerge from the darkness behind her like glowing neon light-bulbs. It is curious that, for someone who is technically permanently smiling, Ryuuku has such a quizzical poker-face. Not that Misa is paying him any attention; she is busy shuffling through the objects in her bag; her bleached plucked eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she searches intently.
"Here we go…" she even mutters melodically, this girl. And when she pulls the accursed Death Book out and holds it suspended in front of her, she uses the manner of a child with an exceptionally impressive ice-cream.
"Time for Juuuuudgement!!" she announces with inopportune cheer, and loses no more time in opening the notebook and getting to work, using her glitter-covered pen to convey her intentions.
"Raito will be so pleased when he sees how well Misa-Misa is following his instructions!" the girl merrily giggles to herself as she eagerly plucks on her victims' heartstrings, tearing each heart asunder with every casual stroke of her pen.
Raito will love only me
When I first saw him, I knew at once that he was the one
The one man I was meant to love!
Ryuuku simply floats overhead, listening to her as she recites her aspirations for the umpteenth time.
"Kira's new world will become a reality, and Raito will be so, so happy with Misa-Misa!! He'll love Misa forever!" the girl murmurs to herself, and at the mere mention of the Damned Man's name, the girl's skin seems to shiver in delight. She squeezes her eyes a bit to remember her next victim, distracted as she has become by thinking of her hellish lover.
I'll make him love me if it's the last thing I do!
The Death God's huge eyes and spider-web clothes are still hovering in the darkness above her as she frantically writes, reading curiously the impressive plethora of names and faces this silly girl was able to memorize, just from watching the news this morning. It's been a week since she first started this new schedule: memorizing criminals from the news and writing their names in her Death Note during her spare time.
"But Misa…are you sure this is not a strange place to be writing in the Death Note…?" Ryuuku asks, observing the way that, in her haste and ardor to kill, she has spread the notebook on the closed toilet seat and is bent over it, with her knees on the floor.
"…Raito told Misa not to write while the house…" the woman mutters distractedly as a response, her wide round eyes not once abandoning the crisp crème page beneath her.
Ryuuku nods lethargically, and adds, with his usual burr "Ah, so that's why…it makes sense. But still, in such a place…what was Raito thinking, eh?" the Shinigami comments again. No other part of Ryuuku's statement seems to reach her ears, apart from her dark darling's oxymoronic name.
"Raito has the right to ask anything he wants from Misa! Misa will do anything for him – more than any other woman!" the girl counters immediately, momentarily pausing to send Ryuuku a small pout, before turning back to her 'work'. Judging on the speed and precision with which she delivered her answer, one might wonder if it had become more of a rehearsed robotic response than an actual critical process.
Ryuuku falls into silence, puzzled by her almost-preset personality. But on second thought, it's not much of a surprise that she was so obsessed with these things. After all, Ryuuku remembers well the rivers of tears that had flown from her eyes, upon the realization that she could not, for the life of her, remember that detective-human's name.
"I want to be loved!!"
Hmph. Seems like she really did 'love' a man like Raito…
Pfft. This 'love' business was a real waste of time and energy; even for a human – here's one thing that Raito and Ryuuku always seemed to totally agree in.
"Raito is going to love Misa-Misa so much, when he sees how well Misa-Misa is performing…Raito may even make Misa his fiancée…or even…his bride!" she whispers excitedly, trying not to speak too loud so as not to jinx her own wishes.
Raito, Raito, Raito. This was getting quite monotonous. Well, it has been a while since Ryuuku first realized that a life alongside Misa would not be one of diversity.
Well, at least they've got the Death Note to spice things up a little.
"Gee Misa…" Ryuuku blinks as he invigilates from high above, and sees her soft blonde hair sparkling in the dull light. By now, he can count more than twenty-two names, and she's still going strong. Ryuuku is willing to bet that she'd be eager to write names till tomorrow, if she had the chance. These humans can grow rabid, if you let them. Their thirst for blood, and how quickly it can develop from non-existent to barbaric, is utterly fascinating.
He grins. "You're a real heartbreaker."
The girl gives a small giggle, but nothing else as a reply. She seems much too focused on what she's doing, so Ryuuku stays quiet after that. He can't stand her constant whining anyway, and he knows that's what will happen if he doesn't let her finish her killing quota for the day.
"Thank God that Raito has me for help…he has me to be there for him and stand by him…thank-"
She is so focused on her labor that, when the sharp knock on the door comes, it serves to jar her all the more from her murderous trance.
Upon hearing the insistent hammering, she shuts the book in front of her immediately, as a reflex.
"O- Occupied!" she calls, and her eyes are still bright and jovial despite her recent activity; not at all as hazy as Raito's become after he spends some time alone with the Death Note.
Ryuuku is a bit disappointed. It was fun watching Raito get so caught up in it and make everything seem like a television drama. Misa is not like that…she doesn't take it seriously, even though she enjoys doing it.
To say that this girl does not truly share the same passion as her beau would be an understatement. Her way of killing is completely anticlimactic, which just goes to show she doesn't really understand what she is doing. Usually, humans make a much bigger deal of it. Ryuuku finds it a bit boring that she treats this Death Note as though it were one of her make-up kits.
To be honest, he can't wait to start following Raito again.
She has already zipped up her bag, and the Death Note is buried back in the leather 'Duchessa' Gucci folds. Ryuuku watches her, expecting for her to open the door and exit at any moment. That's her routine, isn't it? Bathrooms, parks…Later on, she'll go to a boutique changing room to write some more names, won't she? The only places Raito has told her not to do it is at home and in public, because of the surveillance Panda-man has doubtlessly installed. Other than that, she's free to kill wherever she wants. Apparently, even in the bathroom.
But she's not moving yet. In fact, she's just standing there, looking at him pointedly.
Ryuuku is confused. Didn't she promise she'd give him an apple later? Why weren't they exiting already?
"What?" he finally asks, estranged by her curious behaviour. "Aren't you leaving?" he waits.
"Go away, you! Shinigami pervert!" Misa furrows her eyebrows a bit, pouting 'cutely' and flipping her hair over her shoulder, in the way human females often seem to do.
"Huh…?" Ryuuku is even more confused now "Why?" he asks inquisitively, and looks her up and down for signs of inconsistency. Not that he has a problem with it, but he is curious about her sudden change of attitude.
"Now that I've finished writing, I want to freshen up! Go! Gogogogogo!" Misa whines, and Ryuuku clownishly raises his hands in surrender as she makes shoving motions toward his immaterial body.
"All right, all right already!"
A few moments later, Ryuuku is left with his hands folded across his chest outside the toilet trailer, waiting for her to finish, along with a long queue of obviously aggravated – and curiously fidgeting – women, who have gathered outside the lavatory by now.
'Freshen up…but hasn't she already done that twice today? Besides, what can be fresher than a nice, juicy apple? Human women are completely incomprehensible creatures!' Ryuuku concludes amusedly, and he feels glad that at least he's gaining some semblance of entertainment around here. Too bad that he can't go spy on Raito; since he is now officially tied to the girl and all…
The Shinigami almost starts cloud-gazing when a harsh shout from the left catches his ears. What now…? This human world never seems to be at rest. Something important is always happening… which is what makes it so interesting!
Newly intrigued and always eager for new distractions, the Reaper floats toward the source of all the yelling: the assistant director. The man is holding an object that humans call a 'newspaper' and pointing at the headlines as he shouts to his colleagues. Ryuuku squints lightly as he tries to catch the gist of the man's disconcerted shouts.
"-around here!…Nine more dead; all of them from heart attacks! They're saying Kira has struck again or whatev-"
Ryuuku chuckles a bit and ignores the rest of the human's exclamations, instead raising his eyes to the sky. Nine already, eh? And the other eighteen that she wrote a few minutes ago will die tomorrow and the day after.
Well, well, well, eh? Seems like the numbers are picking up…
…it will be quite soon now, won't it…?
Oh, this is bound to be good!
Ryuuku's been waiting for this for quite some time…to be specific, he's been waiting for it ever since he realized exactly how Raito was planning to treat this whole 'Death Note' affair…
…And they are getting so, so close now!
The more Ryuuku thinks about it, the more impatient he feels: it's not going to be just good…it's going to be priceless. The kind of priceless as yet unseen in the short history of humankind!
The King of the Reapers will probably be angry with Ryuuku…but that's just a minor concern in the grand scheme of things! The King will get off Ryuuku's case when he realizes the beauty of the whole plot. Besides, it won't be anything serious – just a little bit of harmless fun for all Shinigami…
Not just fun! It's going to be an all-around party – a truly unforgettable experience! And Raito…
The devilish eyes of the Death God turn back to stare at the closed door of the trailer, behind which Misa is obliviously doing her 'freshening-up', or whatever it is women in this world like to do. Her darling, Raito, who she'd do anything for…oh he'll thank her, all right…
Not only his eyes. Even Ryuuku's sharp, yellow teeth are glowing now, etched in their ceaseless, impermeable smile.
Things are going to get much, much more interesting.
"Should I assemble a team of forensic analysts, then?" the old man inquired in his usual somber, gentlemanly manner, which seemed too well-established to be a façade. But then again, one could never be sure with these two.
The big "W" was perhaps as much of an enigma as the L itself. His hair was completely white yet carefully combed, his mustache perfectly trimmed in the old-fashioned style… at times it seemed as though his knees would rattle under his weight…
…and yet, Watari had been able to wear a Special Forces uniform and serve as a sniper during Higuchi's hunt.
"Definitely not." The detective was so categorical that it drew attention, as he had doubtlessly been aiming for it to. "This discovery of the Death Note and all the information concerning it must stay completely classified until it becomes better established. Whatever research needs to be done shall be conducted in here, by our existing members."
Raito's eyes narrowed, twisting from within their sockets and lodging obdurately on a three-quarter view of L's bountiful hair. This had been bothering him since yesterday: why was L suddenly so hell-bent on keeping the Death Note under wraps? Raito would have thought that, having finally found a lead, L would now be eager to verify the validity of the mysterious book.
Perhaps L was aware of the disbelief and sarcasm he would be faced with, if he exposed the Death Note to the world at this stage…? Perhaps he had not yet made up his mind about how to proceed…? That sounded unlike him…L had never seemed to care about others' opinions.
In any case, this new procrastination did not bode well with Raito's plans of making L eager to experiment with the Death Note's credibility…Perhaps this whole denouement would take a bit more time than Raito had initially calculated…
A small part of Raito, the high-school perfectionist part, began giving his frigid heart small jibes of electric worry: Why was L not reacting as quickly as estimated? Why wasn't it all finishing, already? Why wasn't everything settling down…?!
But over the last few years, necessity had called for Raito to become adept at suppressing these trivial inner qualms and focusing on the objective. And, objectively, things couldn't be looking better for him: L was now unable to proceed with focusing on the Death Note, being as he was bogged down by 'Kira's revival' – the new Kira being Misa, working according to Raito's instructions. And as long as L did not test the Death Note, Raito's innocence would remain indisputable.
Humourously enough, as it turned out, the way to wipe L completely off the board had less to do with Raito than it did with L himself. It was L's big ego which would eventually propel L to attempt to press charges against Misa. Because, for a man of Ryuuzaki's caliber, it must now be – and it certainly was – extremely obvious that Misa was the new Kira.
In his mind, L must now also be completely certain of Raito's guilt. Raito was aware of that…and he wasn't daunted in the least by it.
Because it was exactly this certainty of Ryuuzaki's which would lead this entire investigation to its penultimate Doom. Being so confident of Raito's and Misa's guilt, L would not be able to contain himself – he would inevitably attempt to disprove the 13-day rule…at which time Rem would panic, killing all immediate threats to Misa.
In other words… L and his posse.
It was a risky wager to make, but Raito was quite reliant on it. It's not as if he had many alternatives, anyway. And besides, he was experienced enough with the inner workings of psychology to understand the principles of 'love' – rules that not even Shinigami were exempt from.
"I want every element of the entire book analyzed." L continued his declaration, and Raito stood up slowly, walking calmly to the detective's side with his expensive soles echoing pleasantly on the marble floor of the HQ building. L did not turn to look at him, able as he was, after all this time spent handcuffed to each other, to sense Raito's presence intuitively.
Not that he should have turned anyway…but Raito noticed that he did not.
"The paper, the spine of the book, the ink used for the names already written, the ink used for the inscribed rules…every material aspect of the item must be chemically tested. Also test if there is any difference in the ink consistency for certain inscribed rules as opposed to that of other-"
So that's what L was trying to do now.
Raito internally grinned, reassuring himself that his predator's new string of research would yield absolutely zero results. There was no need to worry about the fake rules, since they were written by the very same Shinigami who wrote the original ones. The paper of the Death Note was metaphysical, so it would not respond to human lab analysis…
It was a fool's errand. L must already know that this would prove useless.
So, apparently, this was part of a 'waiting period' that Raito would be forced to accept. It seemed that it would take this last, swan-song batch of investigations before L would finally proceed with the actual testing of the Death Note, and trigger Rem's response.
Ryuuzaki would do it, Raito reassured himself. Even if he procrastinated he'd eventually become forced to do it, by the pressure of the other members of the team if for no other reason.
But going that far was most probably unnecessary…Most likely, L himself would end up suggesting they test the 13-day rule. Raito was sure it would eventually happen – he could actually sense L's restlessness to prove Raito's guilt. And, truly, it made sense: now that he was sure of Kira's identity, Ryuuzaki was naturally all the more dogged to prove it. It seems as though the detective, at this point, had grown as impatient with getting results as the suspect himself.
"…Also, I'd like for all Kiras' – first, second, third and fourth – murdering history to be recorded and analyzed in statistical graphs. The details are important for ascertaining differences in killing preferences. Raito-kun's algorhythms can be used for this as well. Raito-kun,"
The sudden apostrophe caused Raito to turn and look downwards, toward the chair on which the detective was curled, in order to meet L's expectant, faux-naïve gaze. He waited patiently to hear the rest of L's statement, unable to help himself from noticing – once again, for the umpteenth time – the size and steepness of Ryuuzaki's black eyes, and how much of a foil it was for the rest of L's alabaster skin.
"…, you'll let us use your program, won't you?" L asked politely, and, with the way he spoke, one might have almost supposed he was being genuinely professional. Raito knew better, however, and he could trace the slight irony beneath L's sugar-coated friendliness. The cleverly disguised mockery was just as strong as the permanent pervasive watchfulness, which seemed to always accompany this individual's every action.
"Of course, L. That's what it was made for." But Raito was also good at this game. He could play nicely for as long as L wanted to keep pointlessly dancing around the issue …after all, at this stage, the only thing waiting for Raito was the promise of victory, and not even the slightest trace of defeat. All he needed was a bit more patience…just a little bit more, and-
"Will that be all, L?" Watari asked, in the usual sickeningly reverential manner.
Honestly. So polite. The two of them were such hypocrites; putting up such insultingly noticeable pretences…They'd always been acting much too civil to each other than simple coworkers do. It only served to make even more obvious the exemplary confidential level of trust between them.
Most likely, Watari had been L's partner for a very long time – it was crystal clear by the way they treated each other. Watari knew all of L's secrets, probably… all of L's secret past that Raito had no idea about, which would have helped Kira destroy-…
Damn them! Both of them! Their existence alone, regardless of their actions, made Raito feel more frustrated than he wanted to admit.
To comfort himself from the sudden unexplained annoyance, the young man resorted to reassuring himself with his favourite mantras, slipping back into a state of calming meditation.
'L will die. It is now inevitable.'
L himself probably knew it as well, which was why he was acting so passive lately. He could probably sense it too, the fact that Raito was not the same as before…It would explain the sudden awkwardness which seemed to have sprung between them, ever since that moment when Raito had touched the notebook in the helicopter…
"Yes, thankyou Watari." L said, and Raito, who was standing behind the detective, watched the man's black hair – black enough to glisten violet in the light – sweep over his nape as he nodded at the butler's direction. Raito didn't even realize the extent to which his eyes had been following L's body lately, as though attuned to the older man's every action. It was for monitoring and intimidation purposes, of course, Raito told himself. That was why he'd been so focused on looking at the other.
The old butler spun on his feet and started walking away, carrying the Death Note in its glass case.
L stared after his confidante's retreating back for a few moments and then, appearing uncharacteristically subdued, turned down to gaze absently at the document-infested desktop.
Now that the two of them had been left alone – well, as alone as they could be in a room full of people and computers – there was complete silence. Raito insistently fixed his eyes on the back of L's quiet, unmoving head, enjoying every second of it.
I'm watching you.
L did not turn around to return – or even acknowledge – the suspect's unwavering gaze. Instead, he slowly, noiselessly, picked up his teaspoon, sinking it gingerly in his artistically crafted teacup and stirring his drink. His head was still turned downward, not showing any signs of noticing Raito's towering presence.
What are you thinking?.
A few more moments passed, and Raito probably hadn't realized how intently he was staring, mentally reveling in the power of this new psychological warfare he was launching. Then, suddenly, L's head bobbed upwards again, and Raito furrowed his eyebrows unconsciously, annoyed at having his concentration broken.
"Oh, Watari!" Ryuuzaki called. The bespectacled gentleman hadn't moved very far yet, so he stopped dead in his tracks and immediately turned around, responding like a familiar to the call of its demon lord. Or at least, this was what the exchange seemed like in Raito's eyes.
"Yes, L?" the butler asked patiently, and, unconsciously, Raito strained his ears to catch every last bit of information L was preparing to unleash. After all, Raito didn't feel so secure about having the Death Note taken away from his sight – not even for a short while. What if Ryuuzaki tried to pull a 'stunt' by replacing the book? One could never be certain…Any small new clue of L's intentions would be-
"Could you bring me another one of these?" L simply said, lifting up a flower-shaped, truffle-covered cupcake, which looked just buttery and syrupy enough to give Raito goosebumps for the rest of the month. The auburn-haired man gave an almost audible sigh of relief upon realizing that he'd been worrying for no reason. He glared at the back of L's head intently, as though it was the detective's fault that Raito had grown so edgy.
"Of course, L." Watari's expression was kindly, with a hint of exasperation, which Raito sympathized with completely, for once.
"These are positively exquisite, you know." Raito could hear the small grin in Ryuuzaki's voice without even seeing it. By now, he had grown able to gage all of L's expressions without even seeing them.
'I guess staying handcuffed to someone can do that to you; even if that someone is a person you despise with all the power of your soul'. Raito thought unpleasantly, as he turned away from Ryuuzaki and started walking back to his 'workstation' in front of the computers.
Ah, whatever. It wasn't worth to attempt to be psychologically sadistic with L when the detective was obviously not willing to play the game. He didn't seem interested in interrogating Raito for now, so Raito decided to ignore him in return.
Let L soak in his misery. Let him keep staring at Remu, with hopes of deciphering the undecipherable. There was no way Remu would ever betray her beloved Misa's interests. Raito might as well keep himself occupied while L would become antsy and doubtful of his own mind.
Unfortunately, Raito's calmness would not be as long-lasting as he'd hoped.
"L! L!" Matsuda's puppyish shouts suddenly rung, just as Raito was becoming immersed in the creation of a new program. Even though the call was not aimed at him, he twisted around in his chair, unconsciously seizing this chance as an excuse to resume staring at L, in an effort to make the detective uncomfortable.
"…" the crow-haired man was silent as he expectantly waited for Matsuda's explanation of this sudden enthusiasm.
"We've just received news of another six deaths. Three from Japan, one from Taiwan, two from the west – all of them heart attacks…!" Matsuda dutifully reported, and, watching him, Raito was reminded of Akira Kurosawa's samurai movies, where there would always eventually appear some underling, scrambling beneath his superior's robes much like Matsuda was keen on doing with L and Souichirou.
"…" Ryuuzaki still wasn't responding, engaged as his mouth was with licking the icing off one of the infamous cupcakes. If there was ever a way to make that man shut his trap, this was undoubtedly it, Raito thought sarcastically.
Wait a minute…He should have realized earlier that perhaps the way to L's secrets was through his stomach (!) Perhaps he should have tried bribing L with sweets all along; that would have saved him loads of trouble, Raito thought mockingly.
Oh well, he'll die now anyway, so.
"Along with the nine from yesterday, and the twelve from the hours of the night, this makes twenty seven! This new Kira has started killing full force! So many in so little time…" Matsuda exclaimed, and Raito wondered if he should perhaps say anything at this point, to display his 'concern' for all these horrific events. Even though it was obvious that Ryuuzaki was certain of his guilt by now, Raito still had a public proper-son-of-the-chief image to uphold.
He was about to 'compassionately' ask Matsuda for details, when Ryuuzaki spoke first:
"Well it's no wonder that the murders are taking place at such speed" the detective's phrase was interrupted by crunchy chewing sounds, as the man shoved a caramel-smeared biscuit in his mouth. Raito unconsciously winced at the sight, turning away from the vulgarity of it. Honestly…didn't anyone teach these foreigners to chew with their mouth closed, he thought, annoyed. Whatever nationality L was – Caucasian, by the looks of him…maybe part-Japanese or Korean – he was absolutely, completely unrefined.
"…if Kira can truly commit murder just by writing down a person's name, it would make complete sense that large numbers of killings can accumulate so quickly. In fact" Ryuuzaki said, intentionally interrupting himself yet again, to draw more attention. This time, however, as he tossed his head back to bring the cookie to his mouth, he turned his black orbs to the side, letting them search out Raito's slim silhouette and auburn hair. "now that I know the killing method, I'm surprised the murders are happening so slowly."
Raito didn't say anything. For a few seconds, all he could hear was complete silence, and the augmented drum of his heartbeat.
…was that jibe…?
The younger man's eyes lethargically climbed over L's curled knees and arched throat, not stopping until they came to meet the detective's sharp, impertinent gaze. Raito wasn't sure if his nostrils had inadvertently flared or not, at this point. He hoped not, for it would be a dead giveaway. He didn't say anything. Just kept his eyes locked onto Ryuuzaki's.
"What are you saying, L!! We should be thankful that there are as many killings as there are! Any more and we would be completely-"
Matsuda's voice gradually faded into a dull, repetitive blur in the background, as Raito became completely immersed in L's eyes, which had not retreated an inch. So L knew…he knew what Raito was trying to do, no matter if he wasn't reacting…
L's face was completely expressionless, and yet, Raito started imagining he could see all kinds of grimaces on it. As always when under the scrutiny of those eyes, he felt penetrated, violated. As though the concepts of privacy and secrecy were completely stripped away, and all that was left was L's huge, glass, camera-like black irises. As though L was a huge eye…an eye in the sky…
How dare he? How dare he? Even when he knew he'd be dying any day now, how did he get the gall to come and criticize Raito's technique! How dare he question Kira's intelligence, especially when Kira had essentially defeated him so completely? This bastard! Those black eyes were-
"-aito-kun! Raito-kun, are you listening!"
Raito blinked slightly, breaking his concentration. He turned to stare at Matsuda a bit numbly, regaining his connection to reality, and immediately berating himself for having lost it in the first place. Even though his face was always expressionless, it was not prudent to space out on malicious thoughts like that, lest he unconsciously make a grimace of some sort…
Upon hearing Matsuda's calls, Raito finally allowed his eyes to slip away from L, relocating to the naïve policeman's flushed face. The young murderer was becoming quite…hateful of having to justify himself, and to keep suppressing the awkwardness of these situations. If only Ryuuzaki would just move the investigation forward…then, everything would end, already!! They both knew who would win, anyway, so why postpone the inevitable!?
Matsuda, noticing Raito's expectant expression, repeated his previous phrase.
"I said, you don't think the rate of the murders could possibly increase any more, do you?" Matsuda inquired, with lines of worry stretched across his forehead. Raito was sure to pay extra attention this time, in order not to raise any suspicion by appearing preoccupied…at least not in Matsuda.
"No, Matsuda-san…surely not anymore. I think L was just exaggerating the facilitated use of the murder-weapon." The auburn–haired youngster completed his usual pacifying act, as always reaping the benefits of the disaster Ryuuzaki's words had sowed. Upon finishing his statement, he turned to the detective with a neutral gaze, pretending not to notice the meaningful way in which L was staring at him.
"…Isn't that so, Ryuuzaki?"
L's eyes did not even flicker. "…Of course, Raito-kun."
Raito kept his eyes fixed on the other man for a few critical, charged seconds, before turning back to Matsuda and producing an automatic smile.
The young man's calm demeanor, if not the actual words, were the thing that seemed to reassure Matsuda most of all. The older officer, apparently comforted by seeing an individual as intelligent as Raito remain unaffected by the problems in question, nodded in agreement. The entire issue seemed to become forgotten…
A few seconds later, however, when Raito rapidly turned his eyes to check… sure enough, L was still staring at him.
Once again, Raito ignored it by turning away; choosing to focus on the yellow folder he happened to be holding at the moment.
Just as he opened the crisp yellow cover page and settled down to read, however, like the buzz of a persistent insect, the insistent, accursed drawl sounded once more.
"It must be noted, however, how curious it is that Kira's resurgence coincides so precisely with Amane Mis-"
"Ryuuzaki!! Please! Don't start with that again!" Matsuda's reaction itself was proof enough of Raito's ultimate control of the situation. He didn't even need to say anything, himself – in fact, it might even be counterproductive to start supporting Misa, since L was aware how romantically disinterested Raito was in her.
"I can't believe that, after all this time, you still suspect her!! She has proven her innocence again and a-" Raito grinned internally as he watched Matsuda obliviously continue his whining. In the meantime, L had raised his knees and feet in a faux-comical gesture of surrender, upon being catapulted by Misa's ex-manager's sudden aggressiveness.
Raito let his interest and attention float around the room, only vaguely listening to the generic conversation. Useless. Raito knew very well that, once he'd already formulated one, Ryuuzaki would never accept any opinion or action plan except for his own. What always interested the young Yagami was that, although everyone knew this, people still insisted on trying vainly to change the detective's resolute mind.
"No need to get so defensive, Matsuda-san…I was simply making an observation." L offered by means of explanation, and then lowered his limbs again.
Raito, feeling it was his queue to 'say his lines', decided to contribute to the act.
"But seriously, Ryuuzaki…" Raito started, with a carefully crafted mask of 'indignation', complete with narrowed eyes and furrowed eyebrows "You're not fooling anyone. With the way you keep bringing it up, it shows that you're implying something… in truth…you still suspect Misa, don't you? And possibly, even myself!" the young man uttered the statement as though he considered it completely ludicrous. The brazenness of the theatricality was surely not lost on L, whose features, nevertheless, betrayed no turbulence whatsoever.
Oh well. For the two of them, Raito's declaration was merely stating the obvious anyway. This was all happening more to keep up the pretenses in front of Matsuda. And indeed…it was working, just as Raito knew it would.
"…what? Is that true…?" the disappointment in Matsuda's voice as he turned his disenchanted face on L was reminiscent of a parent discovering narcotics in his rehabilitated child's room. "Do you still suspect Raito, Ryuuzaki?" 'Tell me it isn't so' – the rest of the statement went untold, but not unheard.
A few critical seconds passed, during which Ryuuzaki and Raito shared a staring competition of such intensity – more akin to glaring, on Raito's part – as unseen in the last three hours.
Finally, without moving his eyes away from the amber ones, L opened his mouth and spoke, very quietly.
"Of course not, Matsuda-san. Yagami-kun's innocence has been proven, as we all agreed."
Oh how frustrating it must be for a man of Ryuuzaki's intelligence, to be restricted by the rules of common social influence, Raito thought with gleeful malice. Because of his notorious disinterest in the opinions of other people, L's bad karma was now being avenged, since he was forced to depend on those very same opinions for nonexistent support.
"…that's right!" Matsuda enthused, appearing relieved once again. Only upon hearing the sound of the policeman's inappropriately jaunty voice did the suspect and detective disrupt their staring connection. They slowly allowed their eyes to slip away from the other, almost unwilling to relinquish their grasp.
"Now that we've found the Death Note, the rules inside it make it very clear that Raito-kun could never have been Kira, or he'd be dead already!"
"Yes, thank you, Matsuda-san. We are familiar with the rules of the book, having read them ourselves." L's slightly cantankerous dismissal was quite unwavering in its sudden cruelty, and Raito found Matsuda's taken-aback expression rather amusing.
"Yes…quite…my mistake." the miffed Matsuda muttered, more as an aside to himself than an answer addressed to L. After that rejection, the older man proceeded to walk away with dragging feet, an image which would break the heart of even the greatest puppy-hater in the globe. Apparently, L's heart was even harder than that.
Now that all obstructions had been removed and only Rem was left in the immediate vicinity, the young Yagami was preparing to resume towering over L and monitoring the detective's every move.
It had become Raito's new pastime – and the best thing about it was that he had discovered that it was a powerful psychological pressure that L was not immune to. Raito had noticed how fidgety Ryuuzaki got nowadays, whenever they were left alone – or nearly alone – together. L was getting – dare it be said – …rather surly.
The reeking, unasked question was still waiting to be uttered, lying behind Ryuuzaki's every stare:
'Why are you still here?'
And even though L always retained his inscrutability and impermeable face…it was obvious that Raito's very presence in the room was a constant nibble for the detective's mind and concentration.
Raito was still mentally rejoicing when, unfortunately, his reveries were disrupted by a loud voice calling his name.
"Raito!!" his father nearly yelled at him from the other side of the large office-like room "Come here for a second! I need your help with something!"
Oh, blast! How he'd been looking forward to torturing L a bit more…now he was forced to go complete some random idle task again…
The young man was unconsciously looking at L's black head with an expression resembling longing. Upon realizing what his face must look like, Raito blinked almost viciously, instantaneously wiping his facial slate clean and plastering on it the most genial, 'good son' expression at his disposal. After all, he still needed to keep himself in control.
He slowly rose to his feet and walked toward the main computer terminal, running a hand through auburn hair as he passed by L's chair. The detective did not turn around to observe him, and Raito was left only with a flash of square jaw-line and long knobby fingers, before he was obliged to stop staring.
But after he'd walked away…even when he was talking to the others, the auburn-haired man could practically feel the detective's insistent eyes drilling holes in the back of his head. He recalled that he had done to L the exact same thing some time ago, and only felt frustrated that the positions could not be reversed once more. He hated the sensation of being hawk-eyed…but he loved doing it himself.
A few moments later, the young man was bent over Souichirou's chair, clicking away on the mouse.
"Actually, I think we might be able to draw some conclusions about the identity of this new Kira based on the profiles of his victims, like we did with Higuchi and the Yotsuba Group. I think, at this point, we might have gathered data on enough new murders to be able to make a rough estimation of…" Raito let his mouth work on automatic pilot, switching off all functions that were associated with L and the suspicion involved.
It was only after he'd been sitting down with his father for at least five minutes that the prickling sensation finally stopped. Finally, he could calm down again, and focus on completing redundant investigational errands rather than simply waiting tensely for Ryuuzaki to decide to die.
"Here you go, L. Your cupcakes." The old butler's voice was soft and gracious as it echoed from afar, and – for those who could trace it – even a bit tender in hue. The elderly man smoothly placed the tray on the table, setting the silverware close enough for L to be able to reach comfortably.
But the black-haired man did not answer with his usual "thank you", nor did he deign to offer one of his small, rare smiles. Now was time dedicated for thinking and, apparently, staring at the Yagami boy. Because even though the detective was withdrawn as he sat there, the nothingness he was staring at was dangerously close to the back of Yagami's head.
L was not fooling anyone with his various subterfuges. Well…at least not this old man. Because even though no one else was perceptive enough to trace any inconsistencies in the detective's behaviour, Watari was able to read the boy clearly.
And that's all L seemed to do, these days: just sit there, and stare at Yagami, and think. Endlessly. Even more so than he had before.
But Watari was not one to question or pry. L had always been like this – it was just the way he was, and this was the way he had put so many criminal masterminds behind bars. The detective had proved that his method of thinking worked the best of all. So Watari did not question it, or doubt it, or try and change it.
After all, it was fact that L was much more intelligent than himself, despite younger and less experienced. The boy was a prodigy, in every sense of the word. He had no weaknesses, no negative elements, no-
Well. Perhaps there was something…
Being more experienced, Watari could see that even though L's analyzing method had so many positive aspects…there was a negative one as well. And this negative angle was possibly so strong that, in the long term, it could even overshadow all the good – that had always been one of Wammy's greatest fears…
It was not what most people would have thought…it was neither L's extreme abhorrence for field work nor his social isolation, and it was not his overblown insensitivity either.
Watari could see this fatal weakness as easily as he could the sun, and, unfortunately, judging by the way L did not seem to be aware of it, the detective's multiple enemies had also probably figured it out for themselves. L's great drawback…the one and only…
… his propensity for obsessions.
And, unfortunately, Watari thought, as he observed the way L was now looking at Souichirou's son with all his unwavering, formidable brain power, the Yagami boy seemed to have become an obsession. A particularly persistent one at that.
"Did you require anything else, L?" Watari probed, more in an effort to unpin L's focus rather than to assign himself another confectionary delivery task.
It took a few seconds before L finally reminded himself to dislodge his eyes. Watari watched the black marbles slip away with a sense of regret, as though still trying to cling to the back of Yagami's auburn head, unwilling to let go. When they finally fell to the floor, they seemed disinterested, and had completely lost their intensity – their reason for seeing.
"No Watari…that will be all."
Yes, Light Yagami was definitely an obsession.
The basic problem with these fixations that L had a tendency to develop was that, more often than not, they could become unhealthy, which in turn would lead him to make rash decisions and put himself in potential danger without realizing it. And this unhealthiness manifested itself in every aspect of L's life: Once he became fixated on something, L wouldn't eat, he wouldn't sleep, he wouldn't bathe or rest or laugh or cry or think about anything except the object of his obsession.
Paradoxically, it was exactly because of his overdeveloped intelligence and genius that L was so industrious with hiding and camouflaging these obsessions of his, even from himself. More likely than not, even now inside his own mind, the detective had managed to justify his mania with Raito by offering several legitimate objective reasons. This lack of self-awareness and complete uncontrollability of emotions was just another one of L's quirks. The only difference with the others was that this one could prove fatal.
Watari could remember L doing it long before Kira's appearance, ever since the detective's days of carefree boyhood:
' It's actually very important that I find out when the guards change their shifts in the orphanage, because only then can we discover what mischief lies behind the mysterious disappearance of the prunes and restore them to their rightful owners.'
'I'm not being obsessive, Mr Wammy. There really was another painting beneath the surface painting! I'm certain of it! I must find out, because only then can we be sure that we are not victims of illegitimate surveillance…'
At that time, he'd actually had to drag the rabid ten-year-old, who'd been whining and protesting, away from the offending painting. L was correct, of course. They had kept the vault beneath that painting. They'd never admit it to one of the orphanage's children…not unless they became part of the orphanage's staff when they grew older.
Back then, Watari had been amazed not by the young child's intelligence itself, but by the fixation that the boy had acquired with the subject. No amount of ice-creams or treats could take L's mind away from it.
In the end, it had been more than three years later since the truth was finally admitted. Watari had assumed that L had completely forgotten about it by that time. And yet, there came a day that the subject was brought in conversation… and L, unexpectedly, displayed the same amount of fervour for it, as though not even a day had passed since he'd last been obsessed with it.
'I'm not obsessed, Mr Wammy. I simply believe that what lies beneath can be equally, if not more important to what is on the surface. Especially in my line of work…. Isn't that so?'
And now, of course, L's latest poisonous passion – so intense that it was a record even for the detective. How could Watari ever forget the day he'd heard it; the very same lies that L was probably telling himself even now:
'You're exaggerating, of course. To say I'm obsessed with young Yagami is overstating the point. I am simply concerned about seeing Kira be brought to justice, in order to prevent all the unnecessary slaughter and careless plight that his actions have brought upon the world. A case of such grand scale requires I show equal professional dedication… Don't you think so too? '
'Professional dedication'. That was L's jargon for 'intense, unwavering mania'. It had reached the point where L considered Raito's existence his sole purpose for living. Even though Watari knew L would never admit it.
Morality…of course L cared about it. Or at least he told himself he cared about it. But Watari was certain that, deep down, L knew it as well: revealing culprits and unraveling mysteries was more a matter of obsession than moral integrity for him. It had always been like a game of 'Battleships': hit, miss. Hit, damage. Find the ships. Reveal them all and you get a prize. Reveal them all and you become all-knowing.
One day…one day, he'd kill himself with his obsessions, that boy. Watari did not confront L about it, of course, knowing he would most probably end up getting the opposite effect and fortifying the detective's resistance even more – because, as if his obsessive predisposition was not enough, L also had the lovely gift of mulish stubbornness, as unseen in the world's most persistent mules.
But that didn't mean that the elderly butler could force himself to stop worrying, or to stop fearing that, one of these days, before even realizing it, he might turn around to find the boy thrown to the ground, bleeding and dying, burnt by some fire whose heat he himself had been so ardent on touching.
What will Watari do then? Pluck out his eyes? Rip out his hair? None of those things will ever bring L back, once L gets caught in his own spider web! And with the way L seemed to adore entering volcanos…for how long could he still get away without an eruption?
What if Yagami truly did turn out to have been Kira all along?
And Yagami undoubtedly was, because L said so, and because Watari trusted in L's judgment completely.
But what would L's punishment end up being, for tapping so indefatigably on a monster's shoulder? What happens when the monster would turn around? L would be proved right…but he would die for it. And what's worse; at this stage, L had walked so far in the dark cave that there was no way to return – he had to find another way out. In that sense, L's current obsession with proving Yagami Raito's guilt was justified – because, at this stage, if L did not manage to prove it, L would…
Watari wasn't sure what he should wish for now. Should he wish for what L wishes, regardless of how much it pains him, or should he wish that the monster never turns around and that the boy can stay alive for as long as nature will allow him…? Should he wish for true Godly Judgment, and hope that the real God of Justice, if there is one, shall strike Yagami Raito down with some fatal disease – or, even more ironically, a heart attack?
Perhaps not wishing for anything was the answer. Perhaps Watari should do what he could always do best: damage control. What could he do except try to restrain L's most primitive urges in the best of his capacity? At least try to prevent total disaster from taking place…
Besides, he had accepted it all along, hadn't he? This risk was also part of his profession. Of course, when he'd first organized for L to become the person he was today, Watari had not considered the extent to which he would later grow fond of the boy. But there was nothing he could do now except to follow the path he had paved, and remain stoic while doing so. It wasn't L's fault…L was right not to puzzle himself with all these thoughts…it wasn't L's fault if he had grown into a person who does not question his own desires…
Wammy himself was the one who had taught L to think the way he currently did, anyway…he was the one who had shown L not to hesitate; to chase the wild fire…to be a professional in following his heart. So now, despite his own worry, it would be pretentious and disingenuous to ask L to be prudent, or to start exhibiting a completely different mentality.
As such, the issue was now settled…and he would do nothing except follow L's command. There was really no reason to keep recycling all these thoughts, since the butler always reached the same conclusion. But even so…it made him feel better to remind himself of all this. He had no one except himself to talk to, anyway. He couldn't talk to L about his own anxiety about the boy's fate. He couldn't make known to L how much he would be missed.
Something like that… would be much too cruel.
But still… Watari had always found it interesting that he was, apparently, the only one who could see all these things. It shocked him that no one else seemed to notice that, for someone who was considered completely insensitive and emotionless, L was, at his core, completely and utterly driven by his human desires. Why the others could not see it was a mystery to Watari – to him, it appeared so obvious.
L was so different from those people…If only L could see how different he was from Yagami, who he found so fascinating and interesting! L himself was ten times as fascinating – he was so much more complex, more intelligent, in every way...
But now the detective was once again lost in his musings. Probably sunken in mental analyses of actions and reactions. L was playing with his food again, as always using it as a distraction. Right now, he was holding the teaspoon at eye-level, watching the caramel syrup flow downwards in a smooth trail. It was as though Watari wasn't even there.
Of course. No one was there. It had been like this for quite some time now – in L's mind, there was no one there except for Yagami.
No one mattered, except for Yagami. No one else could possibly be Kira. No other human would be accounted for as anything more than yet another regrettable casualty in L's epic struggle to prove Yagami's guilt…Not even L himself.
He'd kill himself, that boy. And the very thought that he'd end up killing himself over Yagami, of all people, was almost insulting to the detective's intelligence. To put it plainly…in Watari's opinion…Yagami was just not worth it.
What L had seen in that Japanese boy that made every single element about Yagami so absorbing was completely beyond the elder man. It couldn't only be the fact that he was Kira. And it's not as though L hadn't seen and met his fair share of disturbed criminals in the past. The detective had been called on to solve incredibly difficult riddles, crafted by the strongest and most complex criminal masterminds…Of course, no case had ever been as challenging as Kira, but, as it turns out, that had more to do with the murder weapon than the murderer's strategies.
If not for anything, then, at that time, B…Beyond…
Who knew what B would have done, if he'd ever gotten his hands on a weapon as nifty as this Killing Book? Much more damage than Yagami – that's for sure.
So then what!? What was it about this specific criminal that made him so special? For the life of him, Watari could see nothing remarkable in Yagami's personality, which was essentially that of a spoiled teenager. As such, he was forced to attribute L's utter obsession simply to the fact that L had taken Yagami's entire existence as a direct blow to his ego. In other words, L was obsessed not with Yagami, but with defeating Yagami. After all, it was true…the Kira case truly was the peak of L's career.
But now that they'd discovered the grand scheme – namely, the Death Note – it should become even more obvious to L that what had actually baffled him and made this case difficult was not the criminal himself…it was the murder method! Yagami Raito's intelligence, in itself, was not so amazing after all. He was just another prep school student, whose aspiration until recently had been an admittance to Toou. What was so extraordinary about that?
In fact, the only thing actually amazing about Yagami Raito's person would have to be…strangely enough… his…physical appearance.
But that was something Watari was certain L was not interested in. It's not as though L noticed these things anyway.
But, unusual handsomeness aside, Yagami was just another one. The only difference with all the other mediocre swine was that he had simply happened on a very clever weapon.
Then why? Why the fixation?
The butler turned to inspect the young man beside him, one last time.
He sighed internally, as he realized there was no hope. It was completely, utterly, absolutely no use. The battle was already lost, on Watari's part: L's eyes, somehow, had gotten lodged on Yagami's head once more.
There was obviously no salvation, no cure for it. Not this time. This time, it had gotten pried so deep in the detective's mind, that there was no way to remove it.
This was it. The final showdown. The monster had bared its teeth. Now L would either fight and win…or else he would…
Watari knew that, if he stayed here, next to L, any longer, he might start saying uncontrollable things. He might explode…and then, the only thing he'd receive would be L's increased stubbornness, and absolutely minimal results.
There was no way around it…not when they'd come so far…Even though part of him wanted to drag L – even if L was clawing and kicking – away from this accursed building and that Adonis-faced viper…he knew that to be dragged away was not what L wanted. L wanted to win, now. He wanted to sink in further, he wanted to be burnt, he- he wanted to destroy everything that Watari had worked so hard to build, all for the sake of Yagami-
He had better go, Watari thought. Staying here would only cause him to think even more distressing things, and then that would lead to another disagreement with L. And that, in turn, would lead to more frustration, on his part.
The British man made a show of pulling his clock out of his pocket and checking the time. Then, as though realizing it was late, he excused himself by means of a bow and turned away slowly, leaving L with his ponderings. It's not as though the detective had acknowledged his presence at all until then, anyway. His bow and exit went completely unnoticed.
As always, he pretended not to notice this. It was only after he'd walked a few paces out of the HQ room that he realized it: perhaps he was being a bit too harsh on the boy. After all, he might be hiding a few things from himself as well.
Indeed, L had become mesmerized by the glowing gold hue of the caramel syrup. The softness of the warm colours seemed to blend pleasantly into each other, showing him pictures of another world – a world outside the Headquarter Building, where people saw Kira as nothing more than a passing circumstance, an inconsequential metaphysical phenomenon…not a concrete opponent.
It was a memory of unseen images, like children blinking and daffodils spinning around. And the smell of gardenias, with the sound of bells…the bride tosses the bouquet above the heads of the ecstatic crowd… L did not blink as he stared, overwhelmed by her translucent, gossamer veil...
It was relaxing, this was. It's not like he'd stopped thinking about the case. He was always thinking about the case. This just soothed him, mentally. It made his body feel calmer, whilst it allowed his brain to become engaged in full power at the same time. That's why he liked it.
Not that using full brain power was even necessary, at this point. The clues could not be more clearly interpretable.
…show each other our notebooks…
'We met at Aoyama, and I fell in love at first sight…'
No, it wasn't only clear. It was blatant, and suspiciously so. So transparent that even L himself was not sure how he could have missed it.
True; now he finally had the missing link. In his mind, it was now established and there was no more doubt to be had – not even those small fragments that had been bothering him during the time after Raito's imprisonment.
Yagami Raito was Kira.
Amane was the second Kira – not that there had ever been even fragmental doubt about that, but, in any case, it had now become de facto.
But even so, amazingly, despite this explosive discovery of the Death Note…despite the team's impressive progress…despite the priceless new information acquired…the problem still remained the exact same:
There was no way to prove it. No way to get the legal, practical part of the equation settled, even though the theoretical one had been solved.
This could only mean, disturbingly enough, that someone had taken precautions in case the Death Note would fall in L's hands.
In other words, right now, at this moment, everything that was happening in L's reality…
…was a part of that someone's plan.
L's discovery of the Death Note was obviously in the 'plan'. Amane's re-establishment as Kira was also in the plan. The Shinigami's attitude, as much as they were trying to hide it, was part of the plan.
And apparently, Raito's insistence on staying here and slyly monitoring L's every move…was also part of the plan.
The next question, therefore, would logically be to inquire what was next in Kira's plan? And since this action plan was more than likely to include L's murder, at some point or another, L had realized that it was critical he be extremely calculating of his next few actions, lest he unexpectedly find himself in a situation even more compromising than the current one.
Because, truth be told, the situation had become quite unfavourable for him at the moment, despite the fact that he had recently made the most ground-breaking discovery yet. Even though, in all appearances, he was now in possession of the key – the Death Note – which could unlock Kira's enigma, he was essentially unable to use this key unless he traded it with his life. But even more importantly than the loss of his own life…he had to find a way to sidestep this landmine and prove Yagami's guilt!
Raito had taken advantage of L's own suspicion – intelligent…that's to be expected of Raito-kun – to make himself a permanent ornament in the decoration of the HQ building. Now, the rest of the team considered it natural for Raito to be lurking around the Investigation Headquarters, asking questions, giving answers and sticking to L's side twenty-four hours a day, in a display of complete role reversal from before.
It was true that the 13-day rule was Raito-kun's alibi…but it was a flimsy one. In fact, the whole concept of the Killing Book was a flimsy one, and if not for the overwhelming presence of the Death God, many members of L's team would have completely dismissed the whole idea. Now, however, that everyone had accepted the possibility, the logical next step would be to attempt to test the notebook. Only then would be ascertained whether the Notebook can kill humans and, most importantly, whether it can kill its own user within thirteen days of no use. An assessment of the results of such a test was the only way to draw valid conclusions regarding Raito's true status.
This was the next step. This was what L had to do.
And this was what Raito was here, waiting for L to do. The fact that Raito expected him to do it was suspicious in itself…obviously, it was a trap. And L would not be surprised if the 'unpredicted factor' of the issue had something to do with the Shinigami…
The experienced detective could still buy himself some time by researching the possibilities more thoroughly…but in the end, ultimately, he'd have to test the notebook. If he didn't, most likely, he'd start receiving pressure from the other members of the investigation, who were already becoming more and more influenced by Yagami than himself.
And then…then, who knew what Kira's 'plan' had in store for them all.
But there must be some way he could neutralize the trap…Some way to sever Raito's trust with the investigation team, perhaps…or, in general, some other way to push Raito to the margin of the investigation, where he would not be able to hold such a level of control - the very fact that Raito retained the right to prowl inside the HQ was constantly gnawing on L's awareness already.
But no one questioned this fact. No one except L seemed to be suspicious of it…
This was another thing that L needed to be concerned about, now. Because, as if the fact that he could not legally prosecute Raito was not enough, he seemed to have another problem, this one of an internal management nature: evidently, he was the only one aware of the suspect's guilt!
No one else believed that Raito was Kira, anymore. Absolutely zero supporters for L, except for Watari, who didn't really count. Yagami's exquisitely proportional face and expensive shiny shoes had managed to hide it all, apparently.
Well. Even L couldn't argue with the effect of superficiality on the 21st century. To those interested only in things that were skin-deep – which constituted the vast majority of the contemporary global population – then surely, Raito, with his almond eyes and high cheekbones, was flawless. After all these months, L had seen first hand exactly how flawless Raito's appearance was, and, naturally, how opposite from the detective's humble own.
This was no joke, either: a true Greek statue physique; artistic and tasteful to the point of vexation. And not only did the boy have the prerequisite level of physical attractiveness – enough to make people respond favourably to him without much effort on his part – but he was also intelligent, and a good actor, and made all the right exclamations at all the right times. L would even wager the junior Yagami could cry upon request.
As such, with all this profusion of euphoric visual stimulus, L supposed he could see why it was so impossible for them all to see behind the façade. In their eyes, whenever they turned to look at Raito, there was probably a halo floating around the youngster's head.
Lately, at times, L had started feeling exasperated without even realizing it. It was at those times when he'd start making data analyses and diagrams of nothing, for no reason… or he'd start needlessly multiplying long numbers in his mind. He couldn't understand why himself, but he was feeling extremely aggravated, lately.
Was he expected to accept that he was the only one able to understand that this man, Yagami Light, was a psychologically unstable, vicious hound? A monster in disguise? A festering corpse – granted, a corpse with a brilliant brain – encased in colourful wrapping?
This is why L never liked working with other people. People's approval of his perceptiveness was the one thing L could not afford – and did not care – to have to deal with.
In general…associates and affiliates of any kind were all things that he could not afford to deal with.
If it had been just himself, then, by now, the case would have been closed – or at least, L believed it would have been much nearer to being solved. Probably, by now, he'd have already rigged not only Raito's house with cameras, but laced the boy's clothes with GPS transmitters. He'd have had not one, but multiple people tailing the suspect. And, if push had come to shove, he'd have had a group of cartel thugs torture the narcissistic butter-boy so hard that, by the end of it, Light would not have only confessed to being Kira…he would have cried with glee and licked L's boots for granting him the death sentence.
Well…maybe not exactly like that, but…
But no. Now, because of eternally irritating political complications, L was stuck with this group of bureaucratic incompetents. He was now forced to justify himself at every corner, for every simple task.
They thought the way he'd imprisoned Raito and Amane was torturous and harsh…? They should have seen what he'd done in the past.
L had learned early on that there was only one way to make madmen and spoiled children think reasonably, and it was not through diplomacy. And in L's opinion, Raito, despite his brilliance, was essentially just that.
L believed that what had gone wrong with that teenager was most probably the way he'd been raised. Souichirou's underlying boastfulness seems to have extended out of the workplace and into his family life, conveying to his son the same self-righteous arrogance and naïve, disillusioned morality. The only difference was that Raito was about two hundred percent more intelligent than his father…which could make him potentially dangerous, when armed with exclusive knowledge of metaphysical weapons.
L was categorical with these things, because they didn't much affect his reality. He understood his own dismissive arrogance, but did not bother to amend it. In L's outlook, a few well-aimed slaps on the face during his childhood and, most likely, Raito would have grown into a much more conscientious and respectable human being than he currently was. Or, if not to that extent, then at the very least he would have 'gotten a grip' on his realistic place in the world. Raito should have spent a childhood like L's own – that would have helped wake him up a bit and bring him to the real world.
Instead, L had realized that the only thing Raito's parents seemed to address him for was to commend or congratulate him for some new achievement. The result? Raito was now going haywire, playing God with things he did not understand.
And apparently, no one could see that except for L.
Why did people around him always seem to have this affinity to make judgments based only on appearances, without ever making the effort to think any deeper, or criticize what they were being spoon-fed? L didn't understand it, and it frustrated him enough to convince him that sharing his opinion with people was absolutely not worth the effort. Not only were they not motivated by personal curiosity, but, L had discovered, most people didn't wish to think too deeply even when they had external motivation.
How could he ever work with and communicate with people like that? He'd eventually go mad. Everyone, everyone, at times even Watari-
"Watari?" L remembered suddenly, and turned to his left to see the trusted partner.
Instead, he was met with vacant air.
Well then, Watari must have left without L realizing it…L must have been too caught up in his thoughts to notice… it had been happening more often lately, since L's awareness of the risks of his situation had started becoming more sensitive.
But even so, if there was anyone that L would allow himself to lower his guard around, then that was Watari. Only him. Anyone else would be unacceptable….
If L had ever let himself-
"-a mysterious sighting. We've contacted Nishima-san, who claims to have witnessed the appearance of this 'demon'. Nishima-san! Nishima-san, please! A word with you! Nishima-san, explain to us what you saw!" the reporter's eager voice echoed, and the strangeness of the subject caught L's attention. The detective immediately averted his eyes, pinning them on one of the various television screens which were set around the room, each one displaying the transmission from a different Japanese Mainland channel.
L was aware of the screens at all times, and of what was being discussed in each channel. Until now, all he had heard were news of Kira's new killings, and something about a new earthquake in China. But now…something new caught his attention, more from the strangeness of the statement than anything else.
He knew that so called 'ghost sightings' usually involved the staging of one's death, or some other mischievous plot to be uncovered…and L was always eager to uncover…
"…I saw it…I couldn't believe it at first…her eyes were red and her skin was as white as snow! She wasn't walking normally…it was as though she was…she was…a walking ghost!! She was walking toward me…" an old woman's unsteady voice ricketed, and, even though the speaker volume was set quite low, L could hear it echoing loudly in his already overcrowded brain.
"I couldn't hear what she was muttering…I…I got scared and ran back into the house, and when I came back outside, she was…she was gone… " L's eyes narrowed slowly, scrutinizing the woman's face through the TV screen. She seemed genuinely distressed, and the movement of her eyes did not indicate she was lying…Could it be that she misunderstood a rape or assault victim for a demon?
"Nishima-san…what made you jump to the conclusion that this was a metaphysical being and not simply another regular woman?" the reporter eagerly asked. L started getting the feeling that the channels were running out of good news stories and were now focusing on the silly ones. This scenario didn't sound all that engaging after all.
"Her eyes were glowing red!! I could have sworn she had the same red eyes I saw when I entered the park late at night a few days ago – I'd thought it was a jackal back then… But then I heard rumours about this park: they'd said it was the spirit of a woman who drowned in the pond last year!"
"Could it be that this was some sort of mirage, or a horror fantasy on your part?" the reporter asked, and the implications in his voice didn't seem to ring well with the woman.
"Wha--no…no!! I'm not crazy! I know what I saw! It was real I tell you! Rea-" the old woman's voice was interrupted right then and there, only to be replaced with the face of the anchor news reporter. L blinked at having his intense attention disrupted.
"Nishima-san claims that the person in question was Takaoka Ayami, a woman who supposedly drowned in the pond and whose death was never officially confirmed… In any case, it was verified by the local authorities that there are no records of such an individual in the specific district. The local cemeteries also lack records of such a person." L's eyes remained fixed on the TV screen, unwilling to release the issue just yet. It was probably because he was bored out of his mind, although he didn't want to admit it to himself. The ridiculousness of all this served as a change of pace for his tired mind.
"This trivial demon sighting could possibly be the result of Nishima-san's own distress, but it became an issue after Nishima-san contacted the local authorities and barricaded herself and her young grandchildren in her house, out of fear." The reporter's tone changed to one of compassionate exasperation "It must be noted that Nishima-san has been suffering from chronic pathological ailments for more than five years, which have caused her to experience similar illusions and 'sightings' at various times. After barricading her young grandchildren in their house, Nishima-san is no longer considered a suitable guardian for-" L's attention shut down then and there, and he turned away from the screen in complete disinterest, feeling a bit cheated.
How disappointed he felt whenever he was obliged to agree with the reporters! He looked around. No one else from the team seemed to have noticed the particular news footage. And why would they? It's not like they were ever paying attention to what was going on around them, those ignorant, blundering, oblivious baboons….
…wait, why was he whining, now, all of a sudden? The detective didn't make it a habit to whine…usually, when something was bothering him, he'd simply get rid of it without preamble…
-was he turning into a grumbler, now?
L, realizing that the war of attrition had started to make him a bit 'grumpy', decided to stop thinking about other people altogether, lest he become even more irritated. It frustrated him even more when he felt irritated, because then he could not focus on his work, which would in turn only feed his irritation even more, and so on and so forth.
Not having any other outlets, his eyes fell on the desktop and, inevitably, on the otherworldly being which was standing beside it.
L stared at her inquisitively, perusing inquiringly her repulsive flesh, skeletal face and evasive eyes.
To his experienced judgment, the fact that she was hiding something could not be more evident.
Even they are liars.
The whole world was composed of liars and fools – if anyone knew that best, it was surely L. It seems even Gods were liars, which would explain why humans were supposedly 'crafted in God's image'.
But no matter. That's what L was here for. To uncover. To reveal. To learn everything there was to know.
Whatever it was that she was hiding – and he had quite a good idea of what it may be – he would find it out and unearth it. He would penetrate. That was his profession – that was what he did, and he loved doing it. Really, he should be glad that these kinds of creatures exist in the world. If not for these liars and pretenders…who knows what L would be doing now? These facades were the very thing that made life so diverse and interesting…especially when they were facades created by Gods!
Then again, he thought, if it was possible for these creatures to exist and for everyone to acknowledge their existence…then what was to say other things could not exist as well? Things that L had not even considered legitimate until now. In that case, the possibilities became multiplied to eternity! Who could verify what was real and what wasn't, if the world had now come to the stage where even plain paper and pen could be used as murder weapons?
His jaw unlocked suddenly, as he turned back to stare at the TV screen he had dismissed so easily a few seconds ago. If everything was real…if there were no set rules…?
Suddenly, for no reason, L sensed a chill climb up his spine, and felt very unpleasant, as though a bag of ice had just been slipped on the inside on his shirt.
She drowned…she was coming toward me…
…her eyes were red…
Ugh! Enough of this idiocy! Perhaps noticing that the Shinigami's eyes were red and yellow was taking a greater toll on him than he'd expected…It seems that now even some silly news footage was able to rattle his concentration!
He was getting out of control….he needed to calm down a bit and keep himself in check, before he got overwhelmed by the broadness of the world and started hyperventilating again. One shock with the Shinigami was enough…he didn't want to exhibit any other signs of distress in front of the suspect.
Generally speaking, he wasn't very concerned about revealing elements of his own personality to Yagami, since he knew that his personality was naturally secretive anyway, and, in any case, it was not detrimental to the discovery of his identity…however, it was also a matter of pride not to let himself show signs of hysteria under any circumstances – at least not until the case was fully solved. He should remain focused on the objective, without letting random qualms regurgitate in his mind.
And what better way to reassure himself once more that a human mastermind was always behind mischief, than to be faced with the glorious auburn crown of Raito's head. Yagami's flawlessly arranged hair still looked just as it had when L had last set his eyes on it two minutes ago. Those perfect golden locks – a sign of a true angelic presence. And yet, the devil that doubtlessly lay beneath Raito's aristocratic features…
The sole existence of this person alone was proof enough of L's undying credo, so the detective felt a bit calmer.
As for the Shinigami, who was always so unmoving and uncooperative… her eyes would always grow restless and her pupils would always dilate whenever L turned his eyes against Yagami. And of course, her reaction upon being first introduced to Light was a deadly tell-tale sign.
L had realized it immediately: these two knew each other from long ago – one can only guess how long.
Light Yagami. If there was one person with endless things to hide, that was him. If there was one person who was living proof that, no matter how supernatural, crimes are still human inventions, it was him. No matter how deep L would dig, there was always more coming to the surface; always more that needed to be excavated. For someone with such a bland life, Yagami sure was full of layers.
Probability of being Kira…? At this stage?
Less than one per cent, less than one per cent!
How to prove it…how to prove it…how to navigate oneself out of this obvious – and carefully premeditated – snare? Raito's deadly plan evidently incorporated L's wish to start testing the validity of the Death Note… that much was apparent. And now, L was trying to find any loophole he could possibly think of to postpone that course of action…at least until he realized how to manipulate all the variables. Namely…
His eyes slammed against the white, glowing figure.
Before he was brought to a logical standstill…before his resources became inconclusive enough to strain him to test the Death Note on actual people…In other words, before he would become forced to commit indirect suicide…
Light Yagami is Kira
Time was running out. The panic of inconclusiveness was fighting to sink in, but the detective was holding it at bay with all his formidable mental might. Now was no time for distractions: he absolutely had to find a way to escape this corner that Yagami had managed to block him in. To make those idiots see what had been right in front of them all along…and to effectively do all this under Raito's uninvited and entirely incommodious watchfulness…
There were plenty of scenarios in L's mind, none of them ending well for his person. The problem was not that he'd end up dead in any case – that had been pretty-much expected from the start. The real problem was that, no matter what he did – even after dying – he wouldn't be able to officially prove Raito's guilt. He would end up dying…for nothing. That was what was most distressing.
I'm watching you.
So then… how?
"The material does seem to be responsive to the same things as our familiar wood-based paper. For example, it is flammable, can be torn etc…but, for some reason, the scanner cannot analyze the basic elements this matter is comprised of." When echoing from the speaker, Watari's voice did not sound as deep as in reality.
Raito, who'd just walked out of the adjacent bathroom, was patting the white towel against his hair. He stopped for a moment to gaze at the telephone intercom system, which was lying harmlessly on the small bedside table. The detective, who had been perched on the side of one of the beds, slowly turned to look at Raito. They both stayed quiet, listening to Watari's explanation.
"The only thing I've gathered so far is that the consistency of this paper seems to be…more condensed...than that of usual paper. It's as though more material is diluted in less space…but the nature of the material in question is still undefined. One thing is for sure: whatever it is, there's a lot of it. " then there was a brief pause, as though the voice on the other side of the speaker was hesitant to continue. Finally, Watari spoke again:
"The only thing I've seen that even remotely resembles this is…human tissue. Specifically, the inner surface of human skin. But, of course…that's impossible."
A small silence followed. Raito blinked, and his fingers became a bit lax on the towel over his head.
L's eyes were unfocused, for once. The detective seemed to be looking through the world, not at it.
When more than a few minutes had gone by, the electric voice sounded again.
Fearing that he'd just let his guard down, Raito quickly averted his eyes and started toweling off his hair with renewed vigour. Upon hearing his name, the detective somewhat lethargically turned back to the intercom. The tip of his long index pressed daintily on one of the buttons. Still listening without even trying to be inconspicuous, Raito slowly walked to the foot of the other single bed.
"Thankyou, Watari. Please keep working at it."
That marked the end of the exchange. Of course there were probably a milliard things left unsaid, but they would never be discussed openly as long as Raito was there to listen.
The fact that he and L still shared a bedroom, even now that the handcuffs had been unchained, was an unasked question in itself. Everyone had seemed to accept this new status quo without being estranged by it. This had probably increased the pressure on L himself, who had not openly expressed any curiosity or disgruntlement about the fact that Raito was still lodging with him.
Well, in any case, Raito was doing this more for psychological warfare reasons than any actual practicality. He was sure that, had L and Watari truly wanted to have a private conversation, they'd find a way to do so. The purpose of Raito's constant presence near L was akin to that of a football player, who runs toward the goalkeeper even when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball: illusion of pressure.
It was worth a try.
"Human tissue…for real?" Raito expressed with disbelief; the innocent hue of his voice crafted with expertise. Ironically, he was genuinely surprised – and a bit perturbed – to hear this news. He pulled the towel away and flung his head back and forth to wring the water residues off his hair. "By the way, Ryuuzaki – the bathroom is free."
"Aah." L's response was neutral. Raito turned his back to the other man and started slipping into his nightclothes, whilst listening to the older man's dragging footsteps against the carpet. A few moments later, the sound became more and more muffled, until, finally, they stopped altogether.
Raito's muscles became impossibly strained as he waited for the characteristic 'click', which would signify the closing of the bathroom door. In fact, at some point, Raito was even holding his breath, waiting for it. The silence was scraping against his nerves with every second it dragged on.
When more moments passed, with absolutely no sound echoing around except for the low hum of L's laptop, Raito started internally hyperventilating. Unable to contain himself, the man let his face imperceptibly turn left. His eyes rolled to the corner of their sockets, straining to see what L was doing behind Raito's back. Suddenly, shirtless as he was, the young man felt a bit exposed.
It took three more seconds for his control to slip. He turned around, twisting his head completely over his shoulder.
L was standing on the arch of the bathroom doorway, looking at him. Against the light from inside the bathroom, L's silhouette was completely black. Only his outline was discernible…and the outline of those black eyes, as they bored into Light's very skull.
Raito's heart gave a sudden hammering thud. His fingers felt paralyzed momentarily. Ryuuzaki's eyes did not move away. They just zoomed impossibly into Raito's vision, slicing through the air like rapiers.
"…What?" the Japanese man finally asked, almond eyes blinking with feigned nonchalance.
"…" L did not speak, just stood there, like the black ghoul that he was, his wordless omnipresence more invasive than even Ryuuku's. Until, finally, with a sudden fluid motion, as though waking himself from a trance, the detective shrugged a bit and turned away. "Nothing."
Raito's nape felt a bit numb. He didn't notice it immediately when the bathroom door clicked shut. Feeling the hair on his neck stand on end, he quickly grabbed his dark red t-shirt and pulled it over his head. Losing no time, he took off his watch, placing it carefully on the nightstand, along with his favourite pen, which he always carried everywhere with him. After all, it would seem extremely suspicious if he kept the watch on during the night…he had to succumb to this small risk. Besides, if he decided to snoop around while Raito was asleep, L would not be able to uncover the watch's mechanism before Raito woke up.
"…Uhh…I'm tired." The young man expressed with a drawn-out sigh, proceeding to blissfully pull back the covers and crawl into his bed. If there was only one thing he liked about this building, it was the mattresses. And that was more because of what they symbolized – rest – rather than their quality itself.
Buried safely beneath the comfort of his duvet, Raito allowed his eyes to skim across the room. Two single beds with a small nightstand between them. A large closet, a desk with a low chair, where L had set up his Macintosh laptop and microphone system…A small refrigerator permanently filled with L's favourite sweets, which never seemed to run out of stock… And the small private bathroom. Those were the humble furnishings of the bedroom.
Raito rested his wrist against his forehead, blinking up at the ceiling. Calmness was foreign to him, of course. It had become as alien a feeling as genuine flirtation with women. And yet, if there ever was a moment when he conquered a semblance of relaxation, this would be it. L could be doing a thousand things in there, and Raito knew he ought to be worrying about it…
But still, if only for those three or four minutes he would spend in complete, blissful solitude…
His eyelids already started drooping. Tiredly, he turned them toward the laptop screen, blinking slowly. The computer was connected to satellite television, and it was currently showing images from the latest news footage. The sound had been muted, so Raito only had his vision to ascertain what the reporters were talking about.
It was news on the stock market. Apparently, the Yotsuba Corporation's stock had experienced a gigantic drop over the last two weeks – more than 50 per cent. Raito sat up, supporting himself on his elbow as he stared at some reporter who was interviewing Namikawa. That strange man's feminine features filled the screen, and Raito absently observed the way in which his eyes kept looking downwards and left, betraying his dishonesty. Just as Raito was finding some entertainment, a creaking sound was heard, and light from within the bathroom flooded the room.
Raito, who'd been chuckling a bit at the display of the stock market fluctuation, turned around to the bathroom. From within the open door behind the detective, a misty cloud of steam floated inside the bedroom. L's body, once again, was silhouetted black against light. The only difference was that, this time, instead of worn jeans and mangled t-shirt, the only thing covering L's silhouette was an icy grey towel around the hips.
Typical. L had forgotten to bring his change of clothes to the bathroom again.
"Come take a look at this. Namikawa is throwing a fit." Raito was grinning with unabashed sarcasm. L wouldn't think him any more suspicious than he already did for openly displaying his exasperation with the Yotsuba group, and especially this she-man.
L walked toward his own bed, his footsteps slowing as he came to stand near the laptop, observing the screen.
"Yes, I heard about it. They went down seven points within just five days." The detective murmured, his eyes riveted by the screen. Raito blinked slightly, as though having just remembered something. He looked at L for a few moments, but, as though thinking better of it, his eyes returned to the computer.
L's movements were slow, but they didn't seem deliberate. Just tired. The detective walked to the wardrobe, selecting – surprisingly – a pair of blue jeans and a white shirt. Raito had gotten past the shock of living with someone who slept in their work clothes.
As L walked back to the bathroom, he struck something on the laptop's keyboard, unmuting the sound. The loudness of the reporters' voices ripped roughly through the silence, which had prevailed until then.
"- mikawa-san is but one of the various executives who've been directly affected by this economic crisis. On another note, Yotsuba is not the only corporation affected by this problem. Apart from the problems pertaining to Higuchi-san's death, the global rise in petrol prices has made it almost impossible for any company, except the already established multinationals, to-"
"Wouldn't it be interesting though" Raito's attention was diverted as he heard L's voice echo from the bathroom. The auburn haired man looked away from the screen and back to the direction of the bathroom. L – dressed as always, but now with wet hair – walked out of the door and switched off the light behind him. Now the only illumination in the room was the white-blue shine of the computer. In the silver, flickering light, L's features seemed to turn and distort into shadows, melting into the general darkness.
Raito wondered if that was what L's death might look like, or…
"…What?" Raito asked, since the detective hadn't continued the statement from before.
"Human tissue…" L repeated what Watari had said before. Unexplainably, the skin on Raito's forearms became hypersensitive and beaded. His heart thumped.
"…what about it? It's not really human, right?" Raito remained meticulously inexpressive, trying to salvage as much as he could from his unexpected uneasiness.
"No. But I just thought it would be interesting." L explained, and Raito watched the detective's huge, black orbs turn. "if the kind of paper that can truly cause hearts to stop" L started with a sense of false doubt, leaving unsaid the fact that he personally believed in the validity of the Death Note ninety-three point seven percent. "is made of the skin of the human heart itself."
A few beats went by. Only the voices of the news reporters echoed around them, but Raito couldn't hear even that. He was drowning in the black pits in front of him, which were boring into him as though trying to swallow him whole.
Finally, his mouth a bit slack, he spoke again.
"Just an idle supposition, Raito-kun. Pardon my weariness," L turned around and stood up. His movements, for some reason, seemed rapid in Raito's tired eyes. "I'll just go ahead and turn this off then? Raito-kun doesn't want to watch the news any longer, does he?"
"No…go ahead." Raito motioned with his hand. He wasn't sure if it was an illusion or not, but, a second before L put his computer into 'screen saver mode', the light flickered across the detective's face in the strangest of ways.
For a moment, Raito almost gasped in surprise. There! In the corner! He could have sworn he'd seen Ryuuku…!
"Goodnight, Ryuuzaki." Raito forced his own voice into complete serenity, and used his mouth to breathe, until he'd manage to feel calmer.
"Goodnight." L responded, and silence fell.
Raito closed his eyes obstinately, refusing to let this become one more night of panic. L was just playing with him, of course. The detective was growing desperate if he was now resorting to cheap tricks such as this one…Raito wouldn't let him…he wouldn't...
L's figure was dark against the lights that came from outside the windows. When Raito's breathing started to even out and become deeper, the detective blinked in the darkness.
He was sitting on the bed, leaning against the wall behind him, surrounded by the feathery whiteness of the duvet. From the right, the laptop was still pulsating softly, but now without light.
Perhaps he should have stayed downstairs to get some more work done…? But there was hardly anything to work on, at this point…Unless he wanted to start analyzing who Amane was killing.
The sound of skin sliding against fabric was always characteristic – L turned around to watch Raito change sides on his bed. The detective looked at the youngster for a few moments. In the darkness, he couldn't make out much except for Raito's shoulder.
There was a clock on the nightstand – an electronic one with glowing red digits. L watched them transform, rolling into one another. The red light…
Her eyes were flaming red…
She drowned, but they never found-
L turned away, allowing his forehead to sink slowly forward, settling against his folded knee. He closed his eyes very slowly, and held them shut for a few seconds, as though trying to force them to stay in the position. But to no avail. A few seconds later, they sprung open again, on their own volition. Helpless by now, he had no other outlet but to look at the designs on his duvet. It was a nice beige comforter. It had many rotund shapes.
The bride flings the bouquet upwards. The bells are ringing.
"Waiii!!" there are cheers, and hands fly to the air. Rice seeds are raining down.
The shapes twist. The colours swirl: the world looks alive again…The bells are – deafening…
L blinked his eyes rapidly.
The lights of Tokyo were ever-changing outside the window – when one went out there was always another to immediately take its place. The result was a horizon of glowing dots, which always seemed to remain the same. It was the same in all metropolitan settings. And yet…
"Confess." A voice suddenly sounded, slicing through the deadly silence, and L's head, which was still poised against his knee, whipped upwards violently. The man held his breath, more out of surprise than anything else. Right there, in the corner of the room, were two shadows, intermingled. There was a man, with black hair – himself! L was seeing himself! Could it be B…but no…it wasn't B…B was gone. B was gone. It was L now…B was gone now…
"Confess or she gets hurt."
Suddenly, L could feel it. He looked down at his own hand, his own fingers, and felt the pliant skin of her throat yielding to his touch. Confess…confess! Confess or the girl gets it!!
That's right! It's not working out…if L doesn't do anything right now, he'll die! Yagami Raito is Kira, and she is his accomplice...That's right…his accomplice.. This is the only way!!
L squeezes her throat tighter. With the other hand, he holds the gun against her temple. She's clawing at his knuckles with her gaudy black nails, but it's not working. He's much too strong for her. L is quite strong. He knows that.
"Let her go." Raito's eyes are calm, but he doesn't move to approach. His face is the perfect mask of neutrality.
Wait a minute…there's something wrong with this picture…Wait a minute…wasn't Yagami supposed to be shivering and confessing by now…?
"Confess!" L shouts, and he's much more urgent this time, trying to wring a reaction out of Yagami by force. If Yagami doesn't confess now, then there's trouble. There's loads of trouble if Yagami doesn't confess now. In the meantime, the Shinigami is no where to be seen…
"What are you going to achieve with something like that, L?" Raito asks, with the kind of compassionate shake of the head that Watari always does, which is enough to make L's nerves become even more electrolyzed.
"Killing her won't achieve anything…" Raito speaks again, but L has lost his focus, and is rapidly losing his patience. This fearful feeling is filling him up from the inside out. L feels it – this is not a quest anymore. This is a direct, primal threat to his existence. He feels it in the way an animal does. He's got to off Yagami, right here, right now.
"Confess! Say that you're Kira, Yagami Light, or she gets it!" L squeezes her hard. He's not even aware how hard. Beneath his manacle-like fingers, she is whining and mewling like a cat in a bag.
But no matter what, Raito is not responsive. He just stands there, watching…unmoving. Frozen.
This isn't working…
"I'm serious, Raito! You think I won't do it? I'll kill her!"
Still no response. L grinds his teeth. He narrows his eyes and feels beads of sweat roll down his back.
"I'll kill her! I'll blow her brains out!" the hoarseness of his voice is unrecognizable even to himself. Upon hearing it, she cries out again, and L jerks her by the hair "Shut up!" he barks immediately, before she has the chance to speak again. And it feels good when he says it. It just…feels good. It feels good! He's always wanted to yank this woman's hair. He's always wanted to make her shut up.
"Don't test me, Raito-kun" L narrows his eyes, his voice returning to a low growl. He's sweating, but Raito's not batting an eyelash. No matter what L does, there is no retort – not even a significant reaction.
L stares into the beast-man's eyes. Yagami Raito's eyes…they're red…they're glowing red.
L's own eyes narrow even more. He rolls his thumb backward and presses the safety of the gun down. Then, he glues the canister on the side of the doll's head. She's still whimpering. Let Yagami keep thinking that L might actually kill her. And if L does end up killing her, then…well, then that's a shame, since she is pretty. L likes pretty and sweet things…but there's no helping it, if she has to die. Better her than him. Kira must confess for L to be saved! The Death Note must-
L's forehead is almost splitting in half from the intensity of his own glare. If looks could kill, Yagami would be naught but a bloody pulp by now.
Finally, just as L's teeth are grinding almost painfully against each other, Raito opens his mouth.
"What makes you think I care?"
The woman's squeals stop. L has unconsciously loosened his grip on her a bit. He blinks, and his black eyes feel heavy, all of a sudden, as though he needs to rub them.
"I don't love her."
Of course he doesn't love her. Wait: of course he doesn't love her. And especially not enough to confess for her! What was L thinking? What was L thinking??
"Raito!!" she sounds betrayed, and that's probably how she feels. But that's not the worst of it.
L thinks. He thinks some more – he's good at it. If Raito doesn't care about her…if there's no point in L killing her, then…then, what? Maybe L should just finish this whole thing the easy way…? As in, displace the problem…? Permanently? Get rid of this threat that Yagami poses to his existence? In other words, kill-
"Raito!!" her screaming voice echoes again, and, uncontrolled by now, L releases a responding shout "Shut up!! I'll kill him-! Confess or I'll kill him!"
L aims rapidly. Raito never was flexible.
"Raito, NO! Raito!!"
L looks down. He's confused. Before he realizes it, the weight in his arms is vanished. Was that supposed to happen? The redness explodes everywhere. Blood drops splash explosively across Yagami's face, but the man doesn't even flinch – it's not Raito's blood.
L's vision unexplainably becomes red. He turns to look down at his own white shirt, and it looks like a butcher's apron. What went wrong…? Did L kill himself?! Is he dead? But, wait a moment…L is not in pain.
So then, it could only be…
He was about to-? But…? Why wasn't the right person dying?
The touch of her skin is still warm, but her lips and eyes freeze.
"She…why would she-?"
I killed the girl!
I killed the girl!!
L's eyes slammed open fiercely.
Realizing he was panting, he tried to calm his frantic heartbeat. Around him there was only darkness now. One swift perusal of his surroundings verified his suspicions. He could see Raito's body on the left, still sleeping soundly on the bed.
L grabbed the sides of his nose and massaged them slowly. After a while of doing this, he realized it didn't seem to be working, so he lowered his hand.
Unable to stay motionless on his bed without fidgeting, he stood up rather shakily, walking toward the window. The lights of Tokyo were still flickering in their strange dance. Nothing had changed at all…
It wasn't often that L dreamed. When he did, it was always episodic and fleeting…And it never left an impression.
The detective turned away from the window again, allowing his eyes to search out the familiar outline of those square shoulders. Even in the darkness, the redness of Raito's burgundy t-shirt was bold in L's vision.
Without realizing it, L took a step closer to the glass. Then, slowly, he let the side of his head slide sideways, until it was leaning against the window. He allowed his eyes to slip toward his laptop. The screen was black. No response. No connection. And unless he decided to move the mouse cursor, it would remain in this half-dead state.
L just stood there, looking at it.
"Mogi-san, you're better at this than I originally thought." Raito's voice was at its best during these socializing times. It was melodious and jovial, and just plain pleasant to listen to. He was aware of this power, of course, and he utilized it often. Especially when dealing with females.
"Thanks!" Mogi gave a confident, lopsided grin. In a classic display of human boastfulness, which increases directly in proportion to compliments received, he raised the sniper rifle again, and took his aim. Raito watched the older man shut one eye and bite a lip in concentration.
Three seconds later, another loud shooting sound echoed around the target practice studio. Raito blinked. The black outline of the target, which was hanging at the end of the shooting corridor, now had two solid holes in the chest area. Raito considered it superfluous to give another compliment at this point. To be honest, he wasn't genuinely impressed, anyway. Mogi was mediocre at best.
"See, shoulder stability is the key. Shoulder stability." Mogi explained in a rather laughably erudite tone, obviously reveling in this chance to show off his self-importance. Raito decided to humour him, finding the whole experience rather amusing. It might be fun to act dumb, for a change, and observe how Mogi would respond as a know-it-all.
"Mogi-san, that's amazing!"
Well, Raito had grown up in prep schools and social clubs after all. Pretentious enthusiasm was nothing new to him.
Upon seeing such enthusiasm from his audience, the bulky policeman took off the yellow practice glasses and the large ear protectors, handing them to Raito, who was standing behind him.
"Go on, give it a try. You've never done this kind of thing before, right?" The man urged, obviously feeling magnanimous now that his ego had been sufficiently stroked. But still, that did not alleviate Raito's honest surprise. Him? Shooting?
Of course Raito had tried archery when he was in High School…but, to be honest, he hadn't been exceptionally good at it, nor did he ever particularly enjoy it…The archery club had already had a president they were happy with. Besides, he considered shooting arrows to be a boring skill for a twenty-first-century civilian, no matter the Zen philosophy behind it. He couldn't see how shooting with a gun could be much different...it seemed like a second-class job that anyone could learn to perform.
"Me…?" the young man asked, pointing at his nose with his finger. He'd already thought of an excuse to avoid Mogi's tutoring: "I don't know, Mogi-san…" and then, as though in a conspiratory tone, Raito leaned a bit forward "I don't think it's a good idea for L to see me doing this kind of thing, especially considering his existing suspicion of me… " Raito turned to the direction of the adjacent studio, pointing nonchalantly with his index finger.
Mogi turned to follow Raito's gaze. Through the bulletproof, one-way glass, he could see the interior of the kick-boxing studio. It wasn't much of a studio, really: there was only a large leather sac hanging from the ceiling, and the floor was covered with gym mattress.
The great detective was in there, pounding the aforementioned sac with what seemed like effortless ferocity. He was still wearing his blue jeans and white shirt, of course, despite aiming spiral kicks and scorpion stings at his imaginary foe. The only difference with his usual appearance was the addition of the yellow gauges around the wrists, and the sweat pouring down his back. Other than that, L was at his normal state. Even his expression was the same as always: that familiar fish-like expression that he had whenever he would spar with Raito. It was funny to see a person exercising dispassionately, but, apparently, L's oxymoronic nature prevailed even in this.
"Hmm…you're right…" Mogi considered, seemingly staring off into the distance. Raito nearly clicked his tongue in vexation upon noticing Mogi's apparent stupor.
Why it was always so much of a strange sight to see L training, Raito could not fathom, despite how much he may have wondered. The other day, Matsuda had been the same. He'd come down to the basement – the first basement of the HQ building was where all the training studios and gym were located – to give L a briefing on some new data. When he'd seen L sweating on the treadmill, he'd just stood there dumbfounded, like a piece of furniture, until Raito had been forced to go ask him if there was anything he specifically wanted.
"I was just thinking…its good that… Ryuuzaki and Raito-kun get at least this chance to exercise a bit. Staying locked indoors is bad enough for your health…especially at the age you two are in. I guess keeping a sedentary lifestyle would be criminal. Criminal!"
"For sure, Matsuda-san." Raito had courteously agreed. If he'd wanted to be really mean, he would have asked why Matsuda didn't make a similar effort to keep fit if he approved so much, but, in the end, he decided to keep his mouth shut. What did Matsuda's fitness level have to do with Raito's life, anyway? The only person's fitness level which was of interest to him was L's, and that was because Raito always strived to surpass it.
"Of course. If only the investigation was not as demanding and time-consuming as it is, we'd be able to train more often." L's voice suddenly echoed, and they both turned to see the panting detective walking toward them, lugging along with him – what else – a sickeningly sweet energy drink.
"But Ryuuzaki…aren't you worried about Raito-kun leaving your sight? You can't wear handcuffs while training, can you?" Matsuda had asked, since, back then, Raito and L had still been tied to each other.
The detective was quick to answer "I see your point, Matsuda-san…but you should know that this entire floor – just like all floors of the HQ building – is filled with cameras and bugs. There's no way I'm unaware of Raito-kun's actions. Besides, it's not as though we have to take the handcuffs off whilst sparring, or running on parallel treadmills, or-"
At that time, Raito had rolled his eyes-
"Raito-kun? Are you listening?" a voice suddenly jarred Raito from the maze of remembrance. He turned quickly, realizing it was the detective who had addressed him.
When had L walked out of the kick-boxing studio and into the target practice cubicles? The last time the auburn-haired man saw him, the detective was still punching the kick-boxing bag…
Raito must have spaced out for longer than he thought.
"…of course." Raito didn't want to show he had lost control of his own focus. Choosing this kind of ambiguous answer would hopefully make L repeat his former point.
"You should go ahead and gain experience. What better teacher than Mogi-san." L motioned toward the older man, and Raito wrinkled his noise slightly at the dampness of L's sweaty hair. Well, there was no helping it. L would never agree to training in different clothes, so excessive sweat was something they'd all have to put up with.
More importantly, however, was to question why the great detective had been so accommodating of the idea of Raito engaging in target practice. Was this another test, as with the age-old tennis match? Would Raito's eagerness to learn how to shoot reveal whether or not he was Kira...? Should Raito really obsess about it?
"What are you talking about, L? I don't need this kind of experience…unless I'm aiming to be involved in serious crime prevention." Raito decided to follow the foolproof method: honesty.
He glanced at the long rifle, which was lying in deceptive – but beguiling – harmlessness on the counter in front of the bulletproof glass.
"Exactly." L uttered rigidly, and the commanding suddenness of his statement made the two men snap their heads up.
"You…are you trying to imply something, Ryuuzaki?" Raito asked with slightly narrowed eyes. Of course he knew that L was implying something. The question was whether or not Raito should overlook it, at this point. It wouldn't look natural to Mogi if he took each and every one of Ryuuzaki's small jibes as a personal offense. Ryuuzaki might be sure that Raito was Kira…but Mogi was not.
"Of course not, Raito-kun." The detective nonchalantly said and, had L's reflexes not been heightened because of his recent training, Raito would have seriously considered wringing the man's throat. As it was, he just remained expressionless and slowly counted to ten inside his mind.
"I don't know…." Raito finally feigned indecisiveness, trying to buy some time in order to think about the consequences something like this might have on L's suspicion of him. "You're a top detective. Have you ever done shooting practice before?"
"Yes, have you?" Mogi suddenly piped in out of nowhere, and Raito was vaguely amused by the fact that the hoi polloi seemed to be siding with him in teaming up on L. It seems as though Raito was not the only person around here with suppressed contempt at L's pretentiousness.
But the detective was not backing down. He blinked his black eyes once and turned to focus first at Mogi and then at Raito, whose curiosity had successfully been peaked by now "I-" L started, but, just as he was about to reveal one of the unseen layers of his all-too-secret persona, a loud beeping sound from the speakers interrupted him. It was coming from the big speakers that had been integrated in the basements' ceiling.
"Yes? Watari?" L raised his eyes toward the nearby surveillance camera, addressing it as he would the old butler. Raito and Mogi turned as well, annoyed that they'd lost their chance to interrogate L and expectant to hear the big news that had merited an interruption of their leisure time.
"L. The information is prepared, just as you asked. All the data has been gathered and analyzed. It's waiting for presentation." Watari's booming voice explained from the loud speakers and, for the umpteenth time, Raito was infinitely irritated that he had had no previous notifications about this secretive 'information'.
"Brilliant. Gather the rest of the team, Watari. We'll be upstairs in a few minutes." Ryuuzaki said, not even asking Mogi and Raito whether or not they were available. From behind the detective, the two men exchanged mystified glances. Raito concealed his annoyance for the sake of appearing natural. Sooner or later, he'd find out what this situation was all about, anyway.
"What's this about, Ryuuzaki?" the auburn haired man asked, as he saw L turning away from the camera.
"Yeah. What new information is this?" Mogi regurgitated Raito's statement, and, even though it annoyed Raito infinitely, it was actually a good thing. Mogi's participation in the conversation alleviated the pressure from the younger man, since it would seem suspicious of him to ask too many questions.
Ryuuzaki turned around slowly, and on his face was a rather grim gaze. He had started unraveling one of his yellow gauge-gloves as he spoke, staring blandly at his colleagues. By now, all light talk of target practice had been completely forgotten.
"We're going upstairs, to the Main Hall, for a team meeting. " L stated, looking down momentarily as he started unraveling his other glove. Then he looked up again, and his black orbs landed straight into Raito's eyes.
"Watari has finished analyzing…both the Killers and the Notebook."
To be Continued ( no worries, the next part is already written, lol)
a/n: what say you? Pretty generic until now, eh? I agree. THis was actually meant to be only the first part of the first chpater. Ffnet wouldn't let me post the entire thing; it was just too long. So I had to split it in two, hehe!
The continuation, if you care for it, will be coming quite soon.