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VALIANT

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"Last night, at approximately twenty five past eleven in Shibuya, Takamiya Tatsuya, 45 years old, died of heart attack. It seems that Takamiya, who had been persecuted for larceny and homicide since three days ago, collapsed unexpectedly from heart failure while chased by police officers. Takamiya was-"

The side of Raito's lip lifted surreptitiously, as the news anchor from one of the surrounding television screens droned on.

Good girl…as always, doing what she's told.

It amazed him that they all still acted so surprised by these 'unexpected heart attacks'. It had already been almost two years…shouldn't they have gotten used to it by now?

"Watari. Please bring up all the scanned pages of the notebook, making sure the resolution is high enough to identify all the names written."

'Except Ryuuzaki. He's never surprised'. Raito thought disdainfully, as he watched the old man unlock the bulletproof glass case and take the black notebook which lay within. From Raito's side, L was crouched on his chair, staring at the proceedings like a scientist with a magnifying glass, making obscene noises as he chewed on an assortment of confectionaries. It was a battle of will for Raito not to break apart and either start laughing hysterically, or attempt to strangle the other man with his own hands.

Raito's narrow hazel eyes slid fluidly to the left, lodging onto the Shinigami's bone-white silhouette. He concealed his twisted smile beneath his palm, on the pretext of covering a yawn.

"…we have just been informed of the death of yet another-…"

"…evidently, Takamiya was climbing over a railing when…"

The voices from all the different television monitors were dulled, but Raito could still hear them echoing like an angelic choir. Ryuuzaki always kept an active screen of every available local channel on standby, in order to stay updated with what the rest of Japan was informed of Kira's activity and, also, to double check the speed at which each channel delivered the news. If there was anything suspicious about the media, L would instantly have a specific channel – its entire staff and history – investigated, in order to ascertain any possible connections with Killer.

Despite all appearances of faux-naïveté, Ryuuzaki was always constantly aware of each and every channel…the bastard was probably listening to all of them at the same time right this moment.

"But Ryuuzaki, if-"

"Considering the data gathered and analyzed until now" L's voice interrupted, taking its most authoritative tone. Raito observed the magnetic energy of that voice, seeing as every single head in close vicinity whipped around immediately to watch the black haired demagogue. Including, embarrassingly enough, Raito's own.

"We have concluded that all the names written in the pages of this notebook correspond to criminals whose names and faces were publicized by the mass media – no exceptions. Also, all these criminals eventually died within the last three years. No exceptions. This is obviously an argument which strengthens the possibility of this Notebook truly having metaphysical powers." A pregnant pause followed, during which the listeners waited, with bated breath, for the continuation of the analysis.

"But this is not all. Our infrared scans of the Death Book" and by that, L of course meant, Watari's analysis of the Death Book "reveals that the material of which the book is comprised of is…for lack of a better word…not from this world."

Silence. It was only a few seconds before Matsuda lost his patience:

"What do you mean, Ryuuzaki? It's not real ink and paper?"

L blinked. Then he opened his mouth, but didn't immediately speak. He waited a few moments, and then drawled his answer "Honestly, Matsuda-san…we have no idea what it is." The statement fell heavily amongst them, and Raito fought with all his might not to break down and start cackling maniacally.

"It is not material known to man." L continued, picking up a heart-shaped cookie and perusing it against the light. "The ink is of the water-resistant kind available in every local bookstore…and that's as far as we've surmised. The pages are not made of paper…It is impossible to identify whether they are finite, because we cannot deface the Notebook, for fear of breaking the last Rule."

"You mean you tried?" Raito asked, trying but failing to suppress the amusement in his voice. Ryuuzaki's eyes slowly abandoned the cookie, slipping to Raito's face. Raito straightened his expression rather comically when faced with the detective's austere look.

"As I said, it is impossible to conduct more conclusive chemical tests on the Notebook, since that may be considered as 'defacement' and result in the loss of our lives."

Of course. How could Raito forget? L didn't like it when he wasn't taken seriously.

Naturally, L himself never followed the rules that he set for other people. Raito suspected, with malicious annoyance, that this was the exact reason why L set them in the first place. Because he loved showing off that he was not affected by them. L hated to be interrupted, but he loved interrupting. L didn't want any cell-phones to ring in HQ except for his own. He would get irritated by his employees' cowardice, even though he was completely satisfied with his own. The more times Misa would claim that she was happy with her low-carb diet, the more simple sugars L would eat in front of her.

A child, really.

Raito felt his stomach turn, partly from disgust at L's shameless whoring for attention and partly from deeply-ingrained jealousy that L was able to fulfill it.

"But that's not all. There is also the study of the statistics gathered from the beginning of the Kira case until now…" L continued, keeping the trepidation alive. Of course, this was yet another of his little tricks. The concept of trying to constantly sound as though talking about an epic situation of great melodrama. This conversational strategy was not foreign to Raito – after all, he religiously practiced it himself, despite not realizing it.

"…it has now been estimated that Kira – all three, or four, of them – have caused the death of exactly five thousand six hundred and thirty seven people."

Gasps echoed around the room.

Humorously enough, even Raito himself gasped.

Five thousand six hundred?

Naturally, this number was an accumulation of murders committed by all three; Higuchi, Misa and Raito…but still…still…

Unbelievable.

It was nearly impossible for Raito to suppress his trademark grin at this time; but he employed all his willpower. Of course, he still felt light headed, as though having inhaled too much oxygen at once.

He was the cause. He was the catalyst….He was the God.

He was the reason why they were currently five thousand six hundred less scumbags in the world. Only two years of his hands on the Death Note had led to a mass catharsis as unseen in the entire history of humankind.

"…My God…" Matsuda's jaw was slack and his eyes wide as he gawked at L's bent black head. From the void in his irises, it was obvious that he was now not looking at L himself, but staring off into the distance.

"…" Souichirou and the rest of the team obviously had nothing to add. There were various degrees of shock and surprise displayed on their faces. Using Mogi's flabbergasted countenance as a template, Raito schooled his own expression into a mask of helpless confusion.

L didn't bother to notice all of this. Or, if he did – which he probably did, on second thought – he didn't give it any undue attention. After all, he was in the middle of a lecture. And everyone knew: while L was admiring the sound of his own voice, everything else came second. Even the suspect himself.

Of course, that would be L's great downfall, Raito thought with sugarcoated viciousness. His love for talking. With the way he liked analyzing, it was likely that he might over-analyze… Ryuuzaki would eventually utter his grand master-plan in front of Rem's ears. And then, the music would start.

"…of these victims, obviously, ninety-two percent are criminals. The remaining eight percent includes FBI investigators, Japanese National Police officers, adversaries of the Yotsuba group, and others. " L continued, intentionally ignoring everyone as he poured disgusting smelling, sticky chocolate syrup over his fourth crème caramel.

The rest of the investigation team were used to getting the dismissive treatment and, as for Raito, he was listening much too intently to be angry right now. The result of this general disinterest was that, yet again, L got away with being a bastard of a human being.

"The statistics for the deaths of criminals follow a bell curve. On the two ends of the spectrum we have low and high degree perpetrators, and the major central part features moderate offenders." L slowly squished the tube of syrup in his fingers, draining it as far as he could. He didn't stop talking even for a second.

"The top degree offenders – homicidal maniacs, serial killers, purposeless murderers, arsonists, terrorists, paedophiles, necrophiles, cannibals and such – constitute twenty one percent of total fatalities. These deaths occurred mostly during the first thirteen months of Kira's appearance…which implies that they were killings committed by the first Kira." He continued, making Raito feel a bit affronted. He'd thought he'd been killing many more high-level perpetrators than just a measly twenty-

"On the other end of the bell curve, at nineteen percent, we have mild offences – common larceny, unplanned random rape, crimes of passion and-"

"Wait a minute! How can you say rape is a mild offence?!" Matsuda started, obviously unable to contain himself. Ryuuzaki's black eyes rose immediately from their resting place on the table, slicing through the naïve policeman's defenses.

"I should remind Matsuda-san it is impolite to interrupt." Ryuuzaki said, and, for a few seconds afterwards, Matsuda's face was so red that Raito thought the man might combust. But then, the detective started talking again, and Raito forgot all about the others. "But to answer the question; compared to other injustices featured in higher levels of crime and perversion, rape actually is considered a relatively minor offence… " L drawled lethargically, and, by the way he was talking, one might assume he wasn't aware the others were even there. Until, of course, he shot his venom "By experienced investigators, who've seen a plethora of cases."

Regardless of his own contempt, Raito had to acknowledge the situation was quite amusing. Seeing Matsuda try to appeal to L's nonexistent conscientiousness would never get old. And L's reactions were always priceless… Maybe Raito should consider dressing Ryuuzaki up as a clown and locking him in a cage instead of killing him, he thought. Then, the detective would be able to amuse Raito all day long as a personal jester. Yes…that would be quite well-suited for-

"Finally, the main part of the statistics…Sixty percent of criminals killed by Kira committed moderate-to-high offences, such as single premeditated homicide, multiple crimes of malice and revenge, multiple pre-planned rapes etc." Ryuuzaki finished. Raito kept his expression skeptical, in order to mask the suspicion he was truly feeling. What had motivated L to indulge in this sudden spurt of computerized data? This was quite strange…

…was he, by any chance, trying to gage Raito's reaction…or was this just a corny way to waste time and throw dust in the eyes of the other members?

"Of the grand total of deaths," L continued, taking the teaspoon in his hand and setting it on the tabletop, allowing it to spin under his fingertip "Only fifteen percent are female. Nine percent are below eighteen years old and three percent below sixteen – in other words, sent to juvenile hall."

Raito hadn't killed any of those, had he? Well, one or two, perhaps, but never under sixteen. It was probably Higuchi who had murdered most of them. Misa didn't seem like the type, and Raito assured himself it was natural that he couldn't remember every detail and every face he'd killed. Completely natural.

They were thousands after all, he reminded himself with glee and justifiable pride.

L badgered on with information, completely oblivious – or not – to the ex-suspect's private musings "Of total fatality, thirty five percent of deaths have taken place in Japan. This percentage, obviously, is extremely high." L indulged in a display of faux-intelligence, which would probably fool everyone except Raito, who was busy cursing Ryuuzaki in his mind. Of course the percentage was high! No need to hammer it home, genius!

"Of this 35 percent, forty two percent of deaths occurred in the central region of Japan. It is unnecessary to point out what this data indicates. Kira is here." Raito begrudgingly thought that, even though it was 'unnecessary to point out', Ryuuzaki still did explain it. He did like the sound of his own voice a trifle too much.

"Ryuuzaki. This data is extremely eye-opening, since it helps review the entirety of the case. Has this information just been processed?" Souichirou finally erupted, recognizing L's pause as a queue. Now that the lecture was over, it was time to pose questions. It was good that the senior policeman had chosen this question, since Raito was relieved of asking it for himself and risking appearing suspicious.

Listening to the proceedings, Raito's eyes flew swiftly over Remu's bent figure, wondering if it was the Shinigami's reaction that L had been aiming to assess. But the white Reaper was simply standing there, completely nonchalant. Thankfully, Remu's perverted love for Misa seemed to make her much more pliable and cooperative than the occasionally over-irritating Ryuuku. Unlike that Trickster, Rem had a weakness…and Raito could exploit that weakness. By blackmailing her indirectly, he could always trust her not to betray him, which was more than could be said for Ryuuku.

"Indeed, Yagami-san. I should not need to repeat that the fact that we've found the majority of the names of these victims written inside this notebook, has increased the possibility of it serving as a murder weapon..." L started by means of explanation, not once turning to look at Raito's father. Raito started wondering, upon noticing L's insistence on the subject, if L was, by any chance... trying to prove Raito's guilt without testing the Notebook. Surely the detective realized…that something like that was completely crazy!

Surely…

"Not all the names of the entire case are written within this notebook…but a significant percentage – sixty two percent – of them are. I believe I've made my point. It can perhaps be surmised that another notebook has been used for the remaining thirty-eight percent, regardless or not if it was the same which is being used now by the new Kira…Either that, or we can surmise that this Notebook was used for every killing until now, and that pages have been torn out to disorient us. That would, in turn, falsify the Rules written on the Notebook, since the tearing of pages equals defacement." The detective allowed the occult element of his conclusion sink in. Raito, realizing where the other man was going with this trail of though, gave L an unguarded glare of utter disbelief.

The young man held back without saying anything, sensing the calm before the storm. His heartbeat augmented, and he could feel his temples throb, as though something critical was about to take place. From his side, Raito noticed that L didn't seem to be breathing loudly. And indeed, a few seconds later, the self-proclaimed 'leader' spoke again.

"And a falsification of the Rules would, most regrettably, restore suspicion on Yagami-kun and Amane, whose release coincides so amazingly with the emergence of the new Kira…."

A swarm of protests – some angrier and louder than others, according to Raito's level of popularity – exploded around the Round Table. When it became clear than not a single voice supported L's argument, Raito was forced to bite his lip to stop it from smirking. Despite obviously sensing the dissatisfaction of his audience – it was hard not to, given the circumstances – L shamelessly ignored it, choosing instead to continue his reasoning as though nothing had happened.

"Regarding that new Kira…the threat seems to have grown once again. Criminals are dying right and left, both in Japan and in the West. The case is currently at a standstill." L started, and the sound that his chair made as he spun around was blood-curdling. By now, the protests had died down almost completely, and silence reigned. As such, when L turned around to glue his face on Raito's profile, all attention fell on the young auburn-haired man.

Raito didn't flinch, not even now that L's eyes – and everyone else's eyes – were fixed so intently on his face. Especially now that their eyes were fixed so intently on his face.

Having left the excruciating pause drag on for just the right amount of time, L opened his mouth again slowly, causing Raito's toes to curl inside his pristine shoes.

"…even if we do prove the validity of the Death Note…there is still no way to trace the current Kira." The proverbial brick fell. L's eyes did not bother to narrow. They were merciless enough as they were, since all the poisonous suspicion and condescension had been well-established until now.

"We have no way of finding the new Kira, even if it is true that the Notebook can kill people. Regardless of whether the 13-day rule is true." L badgered on almost, one might say, purposely. As though he was trying to provoke Raito by rubbing in the fact that he was not complying to Kira's wishes. Raito, on his part, was extremely careful not react at all to these scathing comments.

But on the inside…he was boiling. He was boiling alive. So this was what Ryuuzaki had been trying to do all along! Not that it was surprising, but seeing it happen was still unsettling enough. L was trying to postpone, if not completely cancel the testing of the Death Note…Raito was infuriated.

He had never considered – or at least never relied on – the possibility that L might actually…agree with the 13-day rule!!

But two could play the game.

"I suppose that's right." Raito agreed, holding back his ire lest it become derailed. He put his voice and expression on automatic pilot, aware of how careful he needed to be, if he wanted to bring this situation to his favour. After all, the image of the current Raito, who was supposedly completely innocent and had never touched a Death Note in his life, had no reason to fear the testing of the Death Note. In order to turn the tables around once more, Raito decided to use Ryuuzaki's own game against him: that is, he would simply agree with the circumstances.

"Perhaps we should first try and locate the new Kira, and then try and verify the validity of the Death Book. Besides, to be blunt, we all already believe that the Death Note is real, right? All that's left is but to prove it to the authorities…but that still doesn't take care of the current Kira, who's terrorizing mankind. Is that what you're saying, L? "

"Exactly, Raito-kun." Those black cinder eyes were narrow slits as they zoomed into Raito's vision. That voice was reptile venom. "How well you understand."

"Yes, but…!" Matsuda's voice echoed suddenly, breaking the intensity of the moment. "Now, with the notebook…we…."

Still trapped in L's gaze, but now Raito internally guffawed.

It was a piece of cake.

"L!" the young man started suddenly, causing the detective, along with the entire team, to turn back and focus on him "I see your point about finding the new Kira. But, as you said…we still have no idea how to go about tracking him. What if doing further tests on the Book yields some new results…which will help us identify him, so we don't keep falling into the same traps? I mean…no offense, but…we're not really so sure about the mechanics of this… 'Death Note'…are we?" he asked, and looked at Matsuda and the others to appeal for support.

But L lost no time in snapping his retort, as though Raito's words were a boomerang that he'd been prepared to thwart. Not surprising. L had probably already worked out this conversation in his mind…the thought of this made Raito feel even more resentful.

"True, Raito-kun, we could do it that way. Then again, the testing process will cost us much time and money…and these are both things we can't afford to waste while a new Kira is out there, more bloodthirsty than ever. We can track this new Kira down in the same way we tracked Higuchi: It might take a bit more effort, but I believe our team is capable of doing it – after all, they've done it before with your help, Raito-kun. " L declared boldly, looking at Raito with a meaningful gaze, as though daring the youngster to claim the opposite. Then, he continued his diatribe.

" If, after capturing this new Kira, a new one re-spawns, then we'll gain two advantages: firstly, we'll know the rules of this Death Note are real and secondly, we'll know for sure than the permanent destruction of Kira will never be possible without the testing of the Note on live prisoners. " the detective finished, obviously satisfied with himself if the slight mischievous grin – that no one except Raito could see – was any indication.

The young suspect hated the appreciative calls which echoed from around the table. He made a conscious effort not to let his lip curl. It wouldn't do if he persisted in his opinion, lest he raise suspicion. Besides, he shouldn't let Remu realize that he was trying to bring Misa into a trap, or else Remu might end up killing him instead of L, as a threat to Misa. And that was definitely not part of his plan.

In the meantime, L's narrow eyes were pressuring him into a forced inexpressiveness, not allowing him to analyze the situation with complete ease.

He tried to think as effectively as he could, in the absolute minimal amount of time. The main problem for him at this point was that, even though wouldn't do to be antagonistic at this point, at the same time…given the fact that Raito had made a solid pretext for himself not to exit the HQ building…he didn't have the time to stage the capture of a new Kira and the spawning of a new one…In other words, if he chose to follow L into catching the 'new Kira', then…most probably…he'd end up catching Misa! And that would be a terrible blow, not only because of the fact that he'd lose her eyes, but because her capture would automatically re-insert him into the main suspect list.

"I don't know, L…" Raito decided on the diplomatic approach for now, hoping to postpone this meeting enough to block them from taking major decisions yet. Thank God that did not depend solely on L, and mostly on the other members, who Raito could manipulate. So, deep down, this was yet another crisis which could be resolved in a simple manner: all Raito had to do, for now, was play on his own strengths, and try to win in the only field that L couldn't possibly antagonize him.

Public relations.

"In general, I agree with you." And then, as the trump card, he finished "I mean, after all…I always said I didn't agree with the idea of testing it on live prisoners."

"What?" Matsuda's voice was always the harbinger of L's problems. The detective knew this also, judging from the slight furrow of his fringe-covered brow.

"Who talked about testing anything on live prisoners?" Souichirou's indignant tone followed, and Raito quivered with suppressed glee. Soon…soon he'd have them eating off the palm of his hand.

"What?" Raito asked, boldly acting surprised and faking it down to the last raise of the eyebrows. His awareness of the extent to which L must be detesting him only served to feed his malice "What did you think L meant by testing the Notebook? Testing it on real people is the only way to truly verify it… right Ryuuzaki?" Raito innocently asked.

L's eyes were fixed on Raito's, and they would not retreat. Raito kept staring at the other man, not opening his mouth even once, as voice upon voice started echoing around them.

"Testing it on real people?!"

"But who would ever agree to such a thing? What country would-?"

The protests started all over again. Raito did not manage to fully conceal his smirk, this time. Thankfully, L did not notice, having turned around to justify himself to the enraged barks of the audience.

"Of course we are talking about prisoners already convicted with the death penalty-" the detective started speaking, but was rudely interrupted, with no remorse on the interrupter's part.

"You mean that makes it justifiable?! It's ruthless! If we do that, then we're no better than Kira-"

"How will we ever find the new Kira?"

"This is hopeless! Hopeless! We can't test this thing on people-"

"Ryuuzaki…! You may be a good detective…but as a human, you really are nothing but an immoral cad after all!"

That's right L…be trampled by all their suffocating voices…like a fish floundering out the water. Sooner or later, you're bound to try and flap back to your little pond…and when you do, you'll fall on the ground… and I will be there to squash you.

"Now, now. Let's not be extreme. But, apart from petty disagreements…L, this problem is actually quite serious. If that really is the only way you were thinking of testing the Death Note" an uninvited Yagami senior took the mature stance of conversational moderator. He spoke in the most commanding voice he could muster whilst in L's presence "then maybe we should try to find some other way, before we focus on anything else."

Finally, Raito thought. He could thank his father for his contribution.

"That's right, Chief!" Matsuda's cheer was regrettable in the current tense situation. Then again, Matsuda did have the ability to become inopportune at any place and instant. For example, no matter how much time went by since Raito's father had resigned from the police force, Matsuda would still call him 'chief'. If not for anything else, it grated on people's nerves.

"Yes, perhaps we can-" Souichirou started, obviously encouraged by his former subordinate's girlish excitement. Unfortunately for the short attention spans of his listeners, this meant that he would now start analyzing his doubtlessly inconclusive theories at full power…

Raito leaned back. His work here was almost done. He'd made them all start thinking along his own lines. Now all he had to do was make sure the vote of the majority – which he could influence in any way he wanted – would overwhelm L's will. It didn't matter that they all appeared opposed to testing the Death Note now – as long as they gave their vote of confidence to Raito instead of L, Raito would be able to mold their opinions and actions in any way he wanted. L would be unable to control his own team. And then…

Without realizing it, as he was quietly sitting there, the young man started falling into a pleasant daydream about L's upcoming funeral and the flawlessness of the New World.

And then I can reach seven thousand. No! Ten thousand…ten thousand…After that, people will start worshipping Kira completely. Of course, I'll make sure to bury L under a pseudonym…Something completely nondescript. Tanaka…how about 'Tanaka'? Everyone's name is 'Tanaka'…a few years later, not even I will remember where we've buried him…The New World will be created as a perfect Eden for the virtuous…watch me, L. Watch the creation of-

"Hey, wait a second!" Mogi's voice rung loudly, jarring Raito from his reverie, and forcing him to blink a few times. Reassured that his expression was still completely in check and betrayed none of his disgruntled thoughts, he internally reprimanded himself for becoming distracted while in L's presence. It wouldn't do for him to lose his head now that he was nearing the end of the game…

"What is it?" the former Chief asked, obviously not taking kindly at being interrupted while developing his ingenious theories.

"Listen…" Mogi said, pointing abstractly at somewhere behind L and Raito's heads. Everyone sitting around the large table turned to where the man was pointing. Everyone except L, that is. L never answered to direct commands. He just stayed still there, slurping his syrupy dessert.

No one seemed to notice this rude nonchalance, however. They'd grown used to it. By now most of them knew that, even though he didn't want to show it,h e he was listening quite raptly at what Mogi was indicating.

It was Channel Nine. There was a news anchorwoman speaking, with that familiar uninspired, falsely intense tone shared by news reporters of all ages and nationalities. Raito narrowed his eyes, straining to hear her voice over those of all the other screens.

"…due to high stress, but Takakura-san claims she is absolutely certain she encountered it. When asked about her experience, this is what she had to say:"

The anchorwoman's face disappeared from the screen, becoming instantly replaced by a low-quality video footage, showing an elderly woman. From the borders of the screen, a microphone bobbed in front of the old lady's mouth, obviously originating from the reporter interviewing her.

"Takakura-san!" the reporter's earnest voice sounded from outside the frame. Raito narrowed his eyes at the crudeness of the montage, and the pink gaudy colours of the letters occasionally popping around the screen. Well, that was Channel Nine for you… "Please explain to us in detail. How did you see it?"

The woman lost no time, her hazy eyes, untidy hair and constricted pupils reminiscent of disoriented old people all over the globe. "It was…it was…horrible!" she nodded, her hands flying upward to cover her mouth "I swear it! I was flowering the pot in front of my husband's grave when I… I saw him! He was…he was coming toward me… It was a man, maybe in his late thirties…his clothes were covered in…in blood!! I'm certain that he wasn't there when I looked before…I….I ran-"

"But Takakura-san!" the reporter probed, and it was obvious that he was impatient by the hue of his voice. Who knows how long he'd been putting up with that old lady's shivering. "Tell us what you said before. About the identity of the man..."

"He was" the confused old woman grasped at what few strings of logic still remained in her mind. She was obviously delusional. "He was that man they showed on television a few days ago…the one with…with …and he…And then I saw him! I saw him!"

Was this seriously the news, Raito thought in disbelief. Didn't they have anything better to report…Like Kira, for example?

The old woman's face faded away from the screen, only to be replaced by the news anchor's flat expression once more. The journalist dutifully started her report:

"The man Takakura-san is referring to is thought to be Seiji Yakamoto, twenty-nine years of age, a high-level convict who died the day before yesterday while in pursuit from the local authorities. Despite Takakura-san's impassioned claims, it has been confirmed by the NPA and the local hospital, as well as the national civilian listing, that Yakamoto-san's death was legitimate and verified. His entombment proceeded completely normally and there is absolutely no possibility that he was buried alive. Further research has shown that Takakura-san, of a--"

"What did you want us to see, Mogi-san?" Raito turned around to stare at Mogi, unable to prevent his eyebrow rising a bit from the ridiculousness of it all. "The dismal state of modern journalism?"

"Yeah…another old lady." Matsuda started, with a tint of annoyance lacing his tone. "What's wrong with people? Since this morning, I must have heard-"

"We don't have time to lose on such nonsense!" The 'Chief's' voice boomed authoritatively, making Matsuda's words die on his lips. "And I think it's generally a bad idea to listen to the news from Channel Nine. Mogi, why y-"

"Silence!" L's unexpected command thundered down, and Raito was slightly perturbed to see his father, the manly pillar of his childhood, recoil back in complete submission to L's request. Blinking slightly, a bit disoriented by the suddenness of it, Raito – as well as the others – turned around to look at the detective. He could have sworn he'd never heard L actually with such… what was he so intent about, anyway?

Raito turned back to the screen, to see the amazing feat which had captured L's attention.

The reporter in the news now looked closer to genuine distress than Raito would have expected. She was still speaking:

"-in total, five since three days ago. These so-called 'ghost sightings' involve a distressed elder civilian calling the local police department and complaining about having seen – unbelievably enough – a demon or spirit. This kind of urban folklore is not rare and is quite understandable and acceptable as a part of our culture, and the older generation might be especially prone to it…however, the specific pattern is quite repetitive."

"Pfft!" someone from the back clicked his tongue "I say: this is all bullshit!"

"Ryuuzaki!..Oi… Ryuuzaki!" Ukita complained loudly, but L's shoulders did not budge.

"Oi!" Matsuda tried as well, to no avail.

Raito, who was sitting behind the detective, let his eyes fall from the television screen to the back of L's head. In the background, he could still hear the reporter's voice droning on. In his opinion, this news report didn't seem so crucial after all, but…

Ghosts? Honestly …how desperate were reporters becoming for some good stories? The kinds of things that old people could come up with were just amazing, weren't they…? Or maybe that woman was just trying benefit from the publicity by sprouting nonsense…which was quite a plausible theory. Oh well, whatever. Souichirou was right in one thing: this was Channel Nine, and they never had any worthwhile news.

Out of habit more than anything else, Raito's eyes flew to scan over Remu's face. He expected to meet the calm serenity of a neutral expression.

He was, therefore, rather surprised when he was met with the Shinigami's direct stare. Raito stared back at her, trying to tell her, through his eyes, to stop looking at him. Didn't she realize she was drawing attention…?

Thank God L was still looking at the screen, or else who knew what he would make of Remu's sudden defiance…

But even so, Remu did not stop staring.

How very bothersome…

Raito, always a fair-weather friend – mentally rejected all the appreciative thoughts he'd previously had about her.

He moved his eyes away from her, resolving to stay expressionless. If she wouldn't keep up the pretenses, then at least he would make sure he would.

Idiots. All of them. Every one, both physical and metaphysical. Why must all the idiots of the world be associated with him? He was surrounded by them! Well, on that aspect, Raito supposed L's invigorating presence had been more of a blessing than a curse.

Still, though, Raito would much rather L were dead.

In the meantime, the commentator in the news was continuing her report, and she'd managed to keep all of the investigation team fascinated. Succumbing to his fate, Raito turned to observe also, disgruntled that the general attention had moved away from the issue at hand, and that his triumph had not become completely ascertained yet. Instead, he was forced to look at this useless news, that had nothing to do with Kira...

"The police are researching the possibility that groups of hooligans might be using this pattern to terrorize the public. What has estranged the authorities most of all, however, is not the nature of these 'demon' sightings, but the descriptions of the 'demons' themselves. To better illustrate the point, we in Channel Nine, have here an amateur photograph taken by a cell-phone, and sent to Channel Nine by spectator Kikuchi Sanjou-kun. It supposedly displays the 'demon' that was recently sighted in Sakura Park. "

The correspondent's face, once again, disappeared from the screen. In it's place zoomed a pixilated image of horrible quality. And yet, despite the gravelly surface of the picture…

"…o…oi…Isn't that…?" Matsuda muttered raising his index slowly to point at the screen.

By now, all talk of Kira and testing the Death Note had been forgotten. They were all standing up. All except Ryuuzaki and Raito, who were fixed on their chairs and staring upward with unblinking eyes, at the snapshot displayed on the monitor.

"No way…that Abe? From a few days ago? " Mogi asked, his voice a lonely echo of all their thoughts. The picture was blurry and unclear, but what little was visible of it was not an attractive sight.

Raito could barely make out some sort of…twisted grimace…on the man's face.

"But…I thought they said he…" Mogi continued, letting his voice trail, realizing that his own words were contradictory.

Ryuuzaki's eyes did not blink at he stared at the television. He brought his thumb to his mouth, and the clicking noise of nail against tooth echoed around the impetuous silence. The detective filled in his colleague's statement, with a voice perhaps lower than a whisper.

"…Died?"

-

-

-

-

"Are you sure that will be all, L?"

Once again, the electronic voice asked through the speaker of the intercom, and Raito ignored it completely, shrugging into his t-shirt.

"Yes, thank you, Watari." L answered, and, after a meaningful pause, added as an afterthought "We'll be fine."

'Oh please.' Raito thought, thinking mockingly as he ran a hand through his hair to smooth it down: 'Yes, don't worry, daddy. We'll be fine. It's not as though I'll kill him in his sleep… yet.'

"Goodnight." The butler's voice echoed with finality and the detective pressed the button slowly. "Good night." L's courteous answer came in return.

When Raito turned around, yanking his bed sheets to climb on his bed, L was still hovering over the machine, looking at the microphone with undivided attention. It took a few more minutes before the black-haired man calmly lifted his finger, sinking the room to complete, isolated silence.

The young Yagami kept his expression completely nonaligned, deciding to ignore the detective. Besides, he already had plenty to think about, without wasting another second wondering what someone else may be thinking. Today had been a critical day for him: the first time he'd had an open confrontation with L about the Death Note issue…Fortunately, however, due to that strange news reportage, the issue of Kira had been temporarily forgotten and the confrontation had not led anywhere. The meeting had ended without having reached a concrete conclusion. Everything was still quite vague…

Which suited the opportunistic side of Raito quite well, for the time being. Exhausted, he decided that he might as well sleep on the problem. Unfortunately, the glaring radiation from L's computer struck him directly at the face, making it impossible to rest peacefully.

"Aren't you going to shut that light?" the chestnut-haired man asked after a few moments. He had lied down by now, and was covering his eyes with a tired wrist.

"…pardon." Ryuuzaki's unusual distractedness was really starting to grate on Raito's nerves. L had seemed to be getting progressively more and more distant and absentminded ever since they'd found the Death Note. And even though, most of the time, Raito was glad to see the emergence of this fatalistic attitude, at times he was also annoyed by it.

He didn't have much time to ponder on these frustrations, however, since L lost no time in approaching the laptop and carefully folding the lid, causing all light to be extinguished. Now, the only illumination left in the room was the soft warmth of the bedside lamp, which was neither bright nor intrusive enough to prevent Raito from sleeping.

The young man slowly slid his almond eyes shut, turning on his side and burying one of his palms underneath his pillow. He took in a deep breath, preparing for a night of much-needed rest. It wasn't long before he heard shuffling sounds from nearby, indicating that Ryuuzaki was also slipping into his bed. That was a bit surprising to Raito, who'd grown used to L's insomnia and the detective's habit of working while Raito was asleep.

"G'night, L." Raito muttered without opening his eyes, and did not bother to stifle a long, drawn-out yawn.

"Good night, Raito-kun." The neutral politeness answered. Raito heard a small clicking sound, signifying that the small lamp had been switched off. After that, the only thing that could be heard was the sound of deep breathing.

Not deep enough, however.

More than ten minutes must have gone by, and Raito just lay there, unable to sleep, and aware that L was also wide awake.

Remu's strange, persistent stare from earlier would not leave his mind. Why had she been looking at him so…dramatically? And now, before realizing it, Raito was losing sleep, worrying about it.

Unable to help himself, and feeling rather tense after everything that had happened that day, Raito opened his eyes again. This time, the only thing he could see was blurry darkness, and the hazy dark outline of a shadow.

The detective was sitting on his bed, with his knees drawn close to his body, as always. Against the light from outside the window, L's curled figure was completely black. Raito's pupils dilated in their auburn irises as he unconsciously struggled to see clearer.

After a few minutes of complete silence, he realized that Ryuuzaki knew he was being stared at. The detective's breathing was not deep and steady enough to signify he was resting, or even relaxing. It was the usual tense breathing that the detective always had during a staring match.

"…L?" Raito muttered, aware that his question would appear to have come out of the blue.

And yet, a few seconds later, completely expectant, a responding mutter echoed "Yes, Raito-kun?"

Ryuuzaki sounded alert…and yet, at the same time, weary. Had Raito's mind not been preoccupied with anxiety about the Death Note's fate, he might have given L's apparent tiredness a second thought. As it was, however, the only thing the young man could focus on was the uncertainty surrounding the future. He hated not been sure…he hated that it was no longer inevitable that L would die as quickly and painlessly as Raito had originally calibrated. Why was it that every time Raito managed to put that man in a trap, every time, L would find a way to avoid it.

"…I've been thinking. How are we going to go about capturing the new Kira?" using all his acting skill, Raito laced his voice with the most innocent tinge possible. And then, in order to justify his sudden extroversion, he added "…when I think of all the work we have to do, all over again…!! Starting from scratch…"

The silence that followed was heavy, as the double irony and pretentiousness of the situation settled down. Surely, Raito would have to start from scratch: he'd have to formulate a new plan of action in order to kill L. The meaning of this ambiguous statement was probably not lost on the detective. Raito wanted to see how the other man would react.

In reality, it didn't take so long for L to respond. But to Raito it seemed like an eternity.

"Being forced to start from scratch is quite a common occurrence in my line of work, Raito-kun." Ryuuzaki said, and his deep baritone voice sounded, for lack of a better word…wearily amused "I seem to remember that the last time I complained about it, it was you who urged me not to lose my motivation."

"Yes, well…" Raito shrugged off the occult feeling. "Back then I didn't fully understand what you meant, Ryuuzaki." He did have memories of the time he'd spent handcuffed to L. However, all his recollections from that time were vague and uncertain at most. He couldn't clearly summon up his own actions and his own thoughts – since they had technically been a different person's thoughts – let alone other peoples' actions. If possible, he tried to bypass mentioning the events of that period…lest he give L more ammunition to suspect him.

"That's quite natural." The detective explained and, even in the darkness, Raito could clearly see that all-too familiar, obnoxiously patronizing look on the older man's face "One can never fully empathize with an experience until they've lived it in person…Higuchi was the first criminal whose capture Raito-kun was so personally involved with, right? " L asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"I'd helped the NPA with several cases before, but…" Raito started, turning slowly to lie supine on his bed, taking his eyes off L and setting them on the ceiling absently, completing his act of innocent and carefree college-boy "Capturing Kira was – is – really the most important thing to me…since it was the only thing I could think of that would prove my innocence."

"…Interesting choice of words." Ryuuzaki stated, before Raito had even finished his trail of thought. For a few panicked seconds, the young man became internally frantic, worried that he'd made some kind of blunder. But, after thinking about it calmly, he realized that, most likely, L was simply baiting him. This indirect self-confession method was yet another cheap trick that was not beneath the genius detective, apparently.

"…Yes, I thought so too. That's why I used them." Raito tried not to snap, and he succeeded, for the most part. It wouldn't do to let L get under his skin. Not now. Not when they'd already come so far. Ryuuzaki, true to form, was simply testing Raito's patience and resilience. Raito was forced to calm himself yet again, reminding himself it would simply take a little longer for the detective's flame to finally flicker and fade. That's all there was to it. Just a little longer…

The most savoured victory is the one which follows-

"Don't be angry, Raito-kun. I was just teasing you." L's voice had taken on that naïve tone of false cheer, the one he always used on Matsuda and Misa. Upon hearing it, Raito could not help but grit his teeth, being as it was a direct insult to his intelligence.

"I'm not angry." Raito closed his hazel eyes, running a hand through his hair, and making sure his voice was infused with enough premeditated disinterest to not seem juvenile. He wondered if, perhaps, he should add something to his statement, but eventually decided not to bother. After all, he reminded himself, the more he played into L's little mind games, the more excuses he'd eventually give L to badmouth him.

"I'm glad." The detective answered simply. Seconds continued ticking by as Raito's tiredness finally started to get the best of him. The hypertension of the day was only now starting to abate, now that he was finally lying down in complete calmness. Not even L's presence so close by was enough to prevent the weariness from manifesting itself.

It's all right. Everything's fine. L is going to die in a few days, if not hours. Everything's working according to plan.

"…you didn't tell me, though." Raito started, using the very last of his strength to sustain this conversational tone "You were planning to test the Death Note on live prisoners, right? I just went ahead and assumed so…but, truth be told, you never mentioned…"

"…oh yes, you were right. Death penalty convicts are obviously the ideal choice." L answered, and Raito was quite surprised to recognize an equal level of tiredness in Ryuuzaki's voice as he did in his own. Perhaps this situation was taking an equal toll on both parties…being on his exhaustion threshold now, Raito was more empathetic than he wished to be. "Using my connections in America, I'd easily be able to convince the US government to… 'lend' me some of their convicts…" L let the statement trail on, and Raito had to wonder if this half-hearted muttering constituted the detective's version of thinking aloud.

Even though this conversation actually had a lot of potential… and even though they should be much more engaged in it…it seemed that both Raito and L had become completely fatigued, by now.

It had been a very long day, after all.

"…well, never mind. For now, it seems there are 'ghosts' coming to get us…" Raito muttered grumpily, as he slowly entered the phase between waking and sleep, and had started almost blubbering instead of speaking coherently. "I can't believe they even made fake pictures of Abe …" the auburn haired man furrowed his brow a bit as he tried to remember the news he'd heard about this specific criminal. "…the paedophile, right?"

Abe had been a murderer of the worst sort, apparently – psychotic as can be. He'd been lurking around the streets of Tokyo until five months ago, when they'd arrested and convicted him for life. Then, two weeks later, he'd escaped …only to be found dead in one of the alleys surrounding the prison encampment. He died by heart attack – Misa's handiwork, most probably.

"…yes…he died five days ago, supposedly." L had leaned his head backwards and closed his eyes. His Adam's apple bobbed as he spoke. "…then again, there are many people trying to take advantage of publicity nowadays – Kira himself included…that photo was most definitely tampered with, so."

Raito chose to ignore the intentional jibe on Kira, acting as though he hadn't heard it. He simply twisted around on his bed one last time, turning prostrate and burying his face in his pillow. "I remember a few years ago…was it 1999 or 2001? I can't be sure, exactly. Anyway,. This kind of thing was in fashion back then, too. There used to be talk of haunted parks in Nakano, sakura tree spirits, mushroom-picking ghouls etc."

"Oh? I do seem to vaguely recall… " the detective asked, clearly absent-minded as he was preparing to enter a sleeping state. "I hadn't been in Japan back then…"

"Yeah…Japan never changes, does it…anyway…" Raito simply said, signifying the end of the conversation. He felt warm and comfortable, and the feathery pillow was soft when he rubbed his nose against it.

Somehow, he was calmer now. For a moment, back there, he'd been worried. When he'd realized that L was trying to escape his doom and capture the new Kira, Raito had assumed that his plans would all be thwarted, and laid to waste.

But now that he felt placated in the serenity of his bed, he could think a bit more clearly: there was no problem. Even if L tried to capture the new Kira, Remu would end up killing him for threatening Misa, anyway.

There was no reason why Raito should worry about it and try and change L's course of action. No need to panic or he might spoil the whole situation that he'd spent so long setting up.

This was not a bad thing. This was actually a great thing. In fact, Raito could not have asked for anything better. If L did indeed try to pursue Misa immediately, Raito would act as though he could not do anything to stop the detective…and then Remu would kill Ryuuzaki in an explosively dramatic manner. If, on the other hand, L decided to test the Death Note on live prisoners, then that would also prompt Remu to kill Ryuuzaki, in order to protect Misa's innocence indirectly.

No matter how Raito would look at it…it was a win-win situation for him.

Why had he been so worried?

Bah! He'd just let the instantaneous anxiety of the situation get to him. Thank God he hadn't said or done anything in his panic that he'd later regret. In truth, everything was all right. Now, in the warm comfort of his bed and with his tired mind's eye, he could see his victory clearly.

L is going to die. In the long run, it won't matter if he dies today or tomorrow, as long as he just…dies! Which he most certainly will.

Raito tried not to smile blissfully, aware that it would seem suspicious, even in the darkness. He had to retain in total control of his own reactions at all times…regardless of the presence of other people…He had to be in control…

I will be…I am in control…I am in control…I have total, absolute control…over L, over dad, over everyone…Kira will win, and will live to see the creation of the New World…I will control…that world…

Before he knew it, Raito's breathing had sunk into a slow, steady rhythm. He'd successfully used his usual lullaby to put himself to a completely dreamless sleep – the most heavenly kind of sleep.

A few feet beside him, still curled awkwardly on the other bed, Ryuuzaki's forehead was leaning against his knees, and the detective's chest was rising and falling evenly, in a lethargic, peaceful rhythm. The long fingers, for once, had stopped convulsing, and had become completely neutralized in the calm oblivion of Morpheus – a rare luxury for his line of work.

-

-

-

-

-

RING

"Urgh…"

RING

RING

"Wha…what is it…?"

In his semi-conscious state, the first thing that Raito realized was that, whatever was happening, the timing was very, very wrong. Scrambling on his bed, his head rose automatically to look at the small alarm clock, which always rested at the same place, on the night-table. With his blurry eyes, he could barely discern the small, red-lighted digits, which seemed to be flashing at him almost urgently.

3:47

What the…?

"Ryuu…zaki?" he gave a disoriented croak, which was more of an effort to bring himself back to full consciousness than to receive an answer. The continuous ringing sound blended with his lingering dreams, making it temporarily impossible to distinguish reality from illusion.

The only thing he acquired as a response was an abstract groan. Raito vaguely heard echoes of shuffling, recognizing them, in some hidden part of his mind, as the sound of the detective moving around on his bed. And as if that wasn't enough, all of a sudden, the startling boom of thunder tore through the nocturnal ambience, signifying that a wild storm was raging outside. The tell-tale rapping of rain on the windows followed soon after.

As though to fully establish a war on Raito's senses by accompanying the pandemonium of hellish sounds, a ray of light stung his unprepared vision. The young man immediately covered his eyes with one of his wrists, mentally cursing the intrusive rays, as well as L who had switched on the light. Although, in retrospect, it wasn't really L's fault…

Who the hell could be calling at this hour?

It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust, and he carefully opened them, just in time to see L's silhouette hunched over the nightstand. Raito rubbed his eyes as he sat up, silently watching the detective's hand hover over the accursed phone device.

RING

RIN-

"Hello." L's voice sounded dry and scratchy, and much too slow. The detective had most probably been sleeping just as deeply as Raito. After all, they'd fallen asleep a bit after midnight, and they both needed their rest…

Raito was running a hand through his hair as he blinked at L, and the circumstances of the situation were starting to sink in. Becoming more alert with every passing second, his eyes feverishly turned to check the clock again, as though unbelieving of what they were seeing.

3:48

The last time someone had called him after midnight...

"What?" A chill ran down Raito's spine upon hearing the hue of L's voice. It was definitely much livelier now…as though someone had just downed the man's black-haired head with a bucket of ice.

Well this was interesting.

From a few meters close by, upon hearing L's unusually peeved tone, Raito immediately fixed his eyes on the back of the detective's head, noticing that the lines of the man's shoulders were tightly strung beneath the white shirt. Unable to prevent his brow from furrowing worriedly, Raito started unconsciously biting the inside of his lip.

The first thing that his mind had flown to, naturally, was Kira.

Misa…

Had they captured her? What had the stupid woman done? What was going on, so important that it would merit a phone call at this hour?

Because if there was one thing Raito knew about late night phone calls … it was that they were never good news. And now his heart was thundering brutally in his chest; his pulse threatening to rip apart the gelatinous skin on his wrists. Kira…Misa…

was this the end…?

"…How? What did you -"

This was officially the first time Raito had ever seen Ryuuzaki actually scrambling for words. Of course, the young murderer had imagined this moment many times in his malicious ambitions…but the scenario had never gone quite like this, nor had it involved excruciating anxiety on his part.

"What happened…?" Raito asked in a subdued, rather hesitant voice, which he fancied did not become him at all.

L twisted around lightly, catching Raito's eye. The expression on the senior investigator's face was…indescribable. Not exactly shocked, but not exactly neutral either.

The detective stayed frozen in that state for a few moments, looking at – and, for the first time, staring through – the younger man as he listened to the frantic, incessantly blubbering voice on the phone. Just as the wordless Raito had started feeling disturbed by L's and his apparently shared incomprehension of the situation, a loud knocking noise echoed from the direction of the door, causing both men to whip their heads around immediately.

"Enter!" L shouted, and at the same time kicked himself off his bed, striding urgently toward the door. Losing no time, and still left in the dark about what was going on, Raito mirrored the other man's movements, scurrying off his bed and ignoring the fact that, unlike L who slept in his usual attire, he was still in his t-shirt and grey briefs.

Ryuuzaki grabbed the handle just as the door had started opening. The figure that emerged in Raito's field of vision was none other than the notorious butler, complete with pristine suit and moon-shaped spectacles – in other words, looking disturbingly composed considering the late hour. Not only that, but Raito noticed the corridor behind Watari was well-lit…just like it was during the working day.

Something was very, very wrong about all this…

The expression on Watari's pallid face could only be described as distraught, and it appeared completely alien on his serene features. He was holding a mobile phone, which he lowered upon seeing L. The detective mirrored the movement with his own mobile, verifying Raito's suspicions that the phone call had been from Watari all along.

The two members of L's personal little crew looked at each other wordlessly, the intensity in their eyes apparently speaking volumes.

"Watari? What's going on?" Raito had just about had enough of this sudden, unexplained panic. He looked at the old man, noticing that the wrinkles on Watari's face seemed strangely accentuated in the shaded lighting of the corridor. "Ryuuzaki?" he tried the alternative, but was completely ignored.

"Both of you, you have to come downstairs. There is something you have to see." the foreign gentleman motioned with his hand with a gesture, as though herding the detective outside. Raito, who'd previously been unyielding about receiving some answers, was becoming more frustrated by the second. Humorously enough, by the way he was looking at Watari, it seemed that L did not appreciate all the mysteriousness either. Perhaps it had something to do with the irrationality of the late hour, since L was usually one to revel at intrigue.

"Watari…even though we-" L started, but, for once, was interrupted.

"L…you have to see this. Now." Watari actually grabbed L by the shoulders. His face had gone beyond pale by now. It had gone beyond sallow. It was obvious by his tone that the old man was not negotiating.

Raito, who was standing close enough to L to be able to smell the soap on the other man's hair, took an indiscernible step backwards. His eyes, unbidden, couldn't help themselves. They became fixed on Watari's hand, which had somehow gained a vice-like grip on Ryuuzaki's upper arm.

The detective stayed momentarily frozen, looking at Watari with what seemed like an extremely private, kinesthetic intensity.

A few seconds later, without speaking, Ryuuzaki gave a curt nod. Raito was wordless at the speed at which L had succumbed, watching the black strands bob smoothly up and down before L allowed himself to be pulled forward by Watari's hand.

"Raito-kun, come." L's voice was not commanding. Surprisingly enough, it sounded more concerned and distracted than it did authoritative. This was, perhaps, why Raito mutely followed the beckoning with no further protest.

"Wait a second...my-" Raito rushed like a whirlwind back into the room, grabbing his trousers and pulling them on with one smooth movement. He proceeded to fleetingly snatch one of his dark jumpers and drag it along with him, hastily pulling it over his t-shirt as he walked back to the doorway. The urgency on the butler's face prevented him from doing any other kind of morning ritual.

He was getting a very back feeling about all this…

Down the corridor they went, still accompanied by the sounds of pelting rain, and it was the first time that neither L nor Watari checked if the door had shut securely behind them. Into the elevator, where the old man finally let go of the detective's arm and stopped dragging Ryuuzaki along. The butler, who was closest to the elevator panel, reached in his pocket and produced a swipe card, running it through the special receptacle.

He pressed the button for the main office.

No words were exchanged as the elevator started moving. All three men stayed completely silent. Raito's madly beating heart had not abated during all this time, but only gotten more severe. He kept feeling as though he had not seen the worst of it.

Kira…Misa…what had happened? Was everything all right? Why was-…

Perhaps it was Watari's blanched, grave face which served as a foreboding. Perhaps it was the alien vibe of apprehension that he was receiving from the eternally-confident Ryuuzaki.

Or perhaps it was the fact that he just remembered: in the midst of all the panic, he'd even left his watch unattended on the nightstand…!

-

-

-

-

When they entered the main hall, the lights around them were so bright that, had Raito not known what time it currently was, it would have been impossible to judge whether it was night or still a working day.

In fact, the office was much livelier, and much better lit than during any working day. Raito could see the entire investigation team gathered here. Apart from that, the first thing he noticed was that all television and computer screens were turned on, as were the radio frequency tracking systems. Across the entire office there was visual and auditory mayhem, with panicked loud voices coming from each and every different monitor.

All of Raito's colleagues, apart from still dressed in their night-clothes, appeared completely motionless as they stared at the screens. Some where standing, some had covered the lower parts of their face with their palms. Some where sitting down and keeping an iron grip on their chair. Ukita, who was sandwiched between Mogi and Matsuda, was leaning forward in his seat, elbows on knees and nose buried in his palms as he watched, transfixed.

"Ryuuzaki!" someone called in a tone of mixed relief and alarm. The sudden exclamation caused the other members' heads to snap around immediately. Several reassured tones joined in a litany of L's name. Raito recognized it as the typical reaction of his colleagues in case of emergency: call for L. As though L had the supernatural power to make everything all right! And the most annoying thing for Raito was that, usually, L did.

"Ryuuzaki!"

"What is this?!"

A new explosion of voices, this time coming from the actual people within the HQ office, accumulated around the room, as everyone slowly started noticing L had arrived.

"L!"

"The world is going crazy!"

Raito, seemingly awakened from his trance, suddenly felt lost in a sea of pallid, horror-struck faces, which were crowding toward him – or rather, crowding around L. Perhaps it was at that moment that, for the first time, Raito actually thought that being the leader…or the center of attention…did not always feel fantastic.

"Dad?" upon seeing him, Raito's voice automatically burst out to call his parent before he could contain it, in what he supposed was a dimming remnant of his adolescent years.

Souichirou Yagami, with a complexion as ashen as burnt wood, turned around.

"Raito!" the urgency in the man's voice seemed unnatural, and only served to augment his son's acute sense of growing anxiety.

But if Misa had been discovered, then…?

The young man walked into the room alongside a silent Ryuuzaki, and Souichirou rose from his seat to stride toward the newcomers. L, who was walking beside Raito, wordlessly grabbed a chocolate bar, which he saw lying unprotected on a nearby desk. The detective continued walking, his black eyes scanning over the area.

"Dad: What the deuce is-" Raito started, just as he'd reached his father. However, he'd walked quite far into the room by now, and the voices coming from the TV monitors became discernible – no longer a muddled murmur.

"- the situation is unprecedented! Hysteria is overcoming -"

" – there is still no explanation of what could only be described as mass paranoia – "

"Special armed forces have been called in to assist-"

Raito, who'd been focused on his father's face, became distracted by wild, hoarse voices which served as an ongoing soundtrack for every TV screen. Before he could hear Souichirou's answer, he curiously turned to stare at the multiple monitors, which were all blinking with the kind of exigency only witnessed during serious environmental crises.

Wait…this wasn't about the storm, right? Raito was fairly sure that, despite there being thunderbolts, the rain wasn't that serious…!

However, just as he was pondering the possibilities, his eyes fell on a particular monitor. He actually felt his pupils constricting as his fingers grew lax. From beside him, L's fingers, which had been in the process of calmly unwrapping his newly acquired confectionary, also froze – something not quite commonplace.

The detective took two or three dragging steps forward, his large eyes glued on the same monitor Raito was looking at. He came to stand directly beside the younger man, with the chocolate left hanging from his mouth.

The news reporter on the local channel was nearly shouting as she spoke into the camera. Obviously, she was walking in the street, furiously motioning at the surrounding bedlam. The scenery behind her featured the dark sky of a stormy Tokyo dawn…as well as what appeared to be groups of policemen, trying to restrain more than ten people...who appeared to be…screaming and clawing at the authorities almost…rabidly?

There were ruined police-cars everywhere in the background, and there seemed to be fires raging at various places in the streets. Combined with the hellish rain, the landscape was one of incomprehensible, extreme mayhem not witnessed before in their organized, industrialized world.

"…there are no news regarding the cause of this sudden wave of unexplained brutality, which has spread around Tokyo since early last evening- "

People were screaming everywhere…but that was not the worst of it: Raito was certain he caught more than one flash of blood, and the sight of some grotesque wounds…as well as some grimaces on faces that were quite…disfigured…

"…what is…this?" he finally voiced his confusion. Ryuuzaki, from beside him, gave the chocolate a small, reflexive chew, causing the larger part of it to snap and drop to the floor. The detective didn't even bat an eyelash as he focused entirely on the frantic voices of the reporters.

"- but the SWAT teams' efforts have been thwarted!!"

"-we have three dead! I repeat, three more dead in district number- "

"-No, wait! City Hall! They're gathered around City Hall! There's too many of them! We need backup! Backup!! Over!"

"All available personnel, on and off-duty, are required to report to-"

Raito's eyes slowly slipped away from the disorganized mumbo-jumbo on the televisions, coming to rest on the small radio transmitter, which was connected to the intercom system of the NPA.

"L! Do you know anything about this?" one of the investigation teams' members suddenly asked, her voice disquieted in the least.

"Yeah! People have started suddenly turning into-" someone else shouted from the far side of the room.

It was interesting to see what L looked like when he was lost for words. Unfortunately, the situation did not genuinely allow for Raito to enjoy the sight. L ignored all the shouts and demands aimed at him, still focused completely on the voices of the various reporters.

His black eyes were skipping from screen to screen with lightning speed, ingesting information more in the form of a computer than a human being. Raito was surprised to realize he was probably finally witnessing what L looked like when his brain was fully engaged, working at full capacity. Given the circumstances, the sight was not as engaging as it could have been.

Suddenly, as L was focused looking at one particular screen, a voice from another, particular, monitor seemed to catch his attention. The detective almost lunged forward in his haste to turn and detect the right screen. Finally, his eyes settled on one – a generic news report. He twisted his whole body to peruse it, ignoring the fervent gestures of the other members of the team. Raito copied the detective's movements, listening carefully to the words of the specific reporter.

"-since early last evening. At that time, they were considered by the NPA – and by the general public – as coincidental incidents, completely unrelated to one another. The recent mass murders that have taken place in Tokyo, as well as the increased fatality caused by what many people refer to as 'Kira' were also factors that contributed in creating an impression of harmless coincidence. However, as it turns out, those early incidents were indicators of a wider crisis which seems to have developed and has been sweeping over this city for the last few hours."

Ryuuzaki's black eyes became mirrors as he widened them; like ebony crystals that reflected the silver light of the screen.

"The following images reflect the situation in the streets of Tokyo as it has progressed until now. The content is completely genuine and has been recorded by our journalists – these images reveal astonishing brutality, and must not be viewed by underage audiences." The commentator continued, and, after a few moments, her face was replaced by a photo montage as unseen until now on television.

From behind L, Raito took one step back upon seeing the projected images of what vaguely resembled dislocated human limbs, screaming faces and people's bodies drenched in…in…mud? But then again, it could be blood, or it could be the rain…? It was imagery of the kind that was usually not shown on National television. The reporter's voice continued throughout the montage.

"The NPA informs us that they started receiving distress phone calls at first in an alarming rate, and then, just hours later, on a massive scale. People started calling from all corners of the city, claiming they were being brutally assaulted by various random offenders."

Not a single voice could be heard in the HQ office, apart from the blood-curdling sounds coming from the multiple screens and different channels.

"Soon after, there were not only reports of unexplained violence…but also, reports on brutal cannibalistic attacks, or explosions of vicious homicidal intent from previously docile individuals. The exact number of people who've lost their lives by now cannot be ascertained, but it is safe to assume it is more than…two hundred people, ranging from the entire city of Tokyo…"

"-we don't know what to do!"

"-They're closing in!!"

Despite the incomprehensibility and anxiety of it all, at least Raito could rejoice in the reassurance that, for once, L appeared just as clueless as everyone else. If it weren't for the fact that L's cluelessness had not implied the direness of the situation, Raito may have appreciated the irony much more.

"There is talk of viral weaponry having been used by terrorists as an attack against the Japanese Nation, and Tokyo in particular- "

"Their attacks are growing more powerful by the minute-"

"It has now been verified that the cannibals' numbers are increasing. I repeat: they are increasing."

"-it's spreading! It's spreading! It's a disease!!"

In another channel, a religious preacher was shouting nearly at the top of his lungs: "This kind of mass hysteria has been in the works! Sinners must repent!! This is Judgement Day! This IS JUDGEMENT DA-"

Suddenly, above all others, Raito focused on one voice in particular. He turned, along with L, to stare at the woman standing behind the microphone in the specific channel, the sweat on whose brow was visible even though the camera's lenses.

"At first, a large number of witness accounts was scorned " she was saying, and L did not even realize his teeth were almost drawing blood as they sunk into his index. "But it has now been verified: This is a video recorded by the security camera in a local morgue at approximately seventeen past ten pm last night."

Raito heard many of his colleagues gasp breathlessly upon witnessing the image on the monitor. Impossibly enough, from beside him, even L's shoulders started quaking visibly. As for his own reaction…it was not much more composed. "Is…is this a joke…?" Raito questioned no one in particular, his voice a breathy whisper.

He watched the security footage from the morgue and felt as though the air had been knocked out of his lungs.

Because the morgue shelves, whose tenants were always silent and serene, seemed to be…to be…

Opening from the inside?

"Oh my God!" Matsuda's grim exclamation was completely lost on the others, who were staring in complete disbelief at the unnatural sight. The corpses…the corpses were…moving?

"It is staged." An unidentified voice said from the back, and, from beside him, Raito saw L slowly shaking his head.

"It's not staged." The detective's voice had but a shadow of its normal caliber in volume.

"How do you know?" someone protested, but they didn't receive an answer.

On the screen, the voice of the reporter shot through the disturbing guttural groans, which seemed to be emitted by the 'walking corpses'.

"Similar security footages in other morgues, hospitals, cemeteries and prisons verifies that this is not a local phenomenon. Indeed, is has actually been verified:"

Raito's eyes turned, sweeping over the panicked faces and distressed cries featured in every single channel.

'This dream is so strange' he thought unconsciously, sensing the occult element around him and realizing his mind may be playing tricks on him 'if this is a dream, then I'd like to wake up…'

Patiently, he waited for his request to be granted, as though by some higher power. The only thing he received, however, was the reporter's merciless, finalized statement.

"The dead are coming back to life."

Raito felt something strike the back of his head upon hearing such profanity to logic be uttered out loud. He raised his fingers on his cheek completely reflexively, unable to look at anything but the paper-white face of one of those…those… monsters...as it appeared through the camera screen.

From a few feet away, Ryuuzaki had narrowed his eyes into twin suspicious slits as he stared at the images, with enough intensity to crack glass and bend steel. He was trying to decipher and decode; trying to process. But no amount of processing could ever account for the kind of data they being were presented with.

After all, what is a lie and what is truth, in world where the existence of Shinigami must be acceptable…?

"All civilians are advised to barricade themselves safely in their homes, or in the closest building they can find, and wait safely in there until the crisis can be resolved-" The reporter was speaking, and Raito could see the skittishness in her eyes. Ironically, it appeared that she was also impatient to leave the studio she was in.

"…! Ryuuzaki!!" Mogi's exasperated voice sounded, for the umpteenth. But, apparently, this time, neither L nor Raito had any clever answers to elaborate on. In fact, neither of them was even aware they were being called.

"-they are biting on anything they can get their hands on!!" a frantic voice was screaming from somewhere, and it's frigid hue permeated the warm, calm office.

"Help! HELP!!"

"it's spreading-" the police frequency radios were saying "we've lost contact with large areas of the east and south parts of the city…"

"They're roaming the streets…it's as though they're…they're feeding on-"

"Watari." L's tone suddenly rung clear, making Raito, in his unresponsive state, lethargically turn to observe the butler, whose severe expression left nothing unsaid, for once "initiate emergency lockdown of this building. Immediately." The detective commanded rigidly.

"But-"

"How will we-!"

"Our families!?"

But before they had the chance to say anything further, L spun around, plainly presenting his back to them and striding to the main computer console, setting himself in position, taking hold of the keyboard, and starting to type furiously without even acknowledging anyone else's presence.

It took seconds before Raito, realizing what he should do, dove into the seat right next to the ebony haired man, pulling a set of earphones over his ears and starting to type into his own computer, immediately trying to connect to the Interpol network.

"L! This is serious-!"

"Who knows what!?"

"My wife and daughter-!" Raito recognized his own father's voice, but realized that L was not even aware of the voices around him, much less responsive to them. Eventually, the young Yagami decided to copy the senior detective's attitude, realizing that getting to the bottom of this crisis was their first priority for now.

Because it was simply impossible…It was not possible for…for the dead to actually be…

Their voices progressively faded away completely, until, in due course, all of them had settled down and were working feverishly, researching any kind of information they could get their hands on, sitting on their chairs and fiddling with communication controls, trying to get in touch with anyone they could from the NPA. In the meantime, Watari was no where to be found. He had disappeared instantaneously to execute L's commands.

The only things that had been left to generate human noise in the room were the television monitors and the transmitters.

A few more minutes later and the sound of screams, howls and distress signals had still not become customary to Raito's ears.

-

Oh, by the way, LOL: I call the rights as founder of all future DN zombie stories. As far as I know, this is the first of its kind :) (if it isn't, let me stay in my delusions of greatness, LOL!)

Summary: The Rules were written clearly: If you write their name, they die.They die. Besides, Ryuuku said so too. So Raito writes their names and Raito sees that, indeed, they die. And it feels good when they die… as long as they stay dead. YAOI Raito/Ryuzaki GORE