Sol of Luna: Near and Far

Author: Gakusangi

Author's Notes and Acknowledgements:
This is a Death Note fan fiction. Many of the characters presented here are not mine, but the legal property of writer Tsugumi Ohba, and artist Takeshi Obata.

Epilogue

The Emperor's throne sat neglected upon the platform, the small stair below it carpeted red. The Emperor himself stood beside Chief Councilor Reiji Namikawa, one the eight Imperial advisors. But everyone really knew the Namikawa 'was' the Imperial Council. Not to mention he was also the Emperor's closest – and probably only – friend. He was also the only person to have ever beaten the Emperor in Shogi, a game very similar to chess, though he had only managed to do so once in all their years of playing. Namikawa himself wasn't a particularly large man, but he still managed to tower almost a full six inches over the Emperor's head. He had long black hair, neatly trimmed and combed, with a silky shine. His features were sharp, and handsome, without blemish. He wasn't by any means old, however he did have an air of maturity, and cunning that could not go unnoticed.

The smaller, white haired man beside the Chief Councilor had a chilling aura about him. The Emperor's mood had darkened with the tardiness of Mikami's report. And though Namikawa himself was a powerful – and even dangerous man – in his own right, he couldn't help but feel fearful with the Emperor in his current state. From the outside no one would have been able to tell that the Emperor felt…anything. His expression was just as unreadable as ever. His eyes, pale with their small pupils, icy. Namikawa had been feeling less and less comfortable around the Emperor during these past few days. Why did he continue to come? The answer was simple. When the Emperor summoned you, you came to his call. But all the same, Namikawa knew that the only reason he was summoned was because the Emperor wanted him near. That was a secret that Namikawa was kind enough to keep to himself. They were friends, after all.

Just then, a palace attendant came bursting into the room, panting and sweaty, as though he had been running for a while.

"Speak." The Emperor demanded immediately.

"Rester, Gevanni, and Lidner just arrived!" The man said, falling into a belated and very low bow. "They came on the Princess' carriage! The Prince is with them!"

Without a word, the Emperor left the throne room, leaving Namikawa and attendant behind. Namikawa didn't mind in the least. Their conversation could wait.

(XXX)

Rester and Gevanni stayed behind with the carriage. Halle was moving up the steps to the back entrance of the Imperial Palace, with Near and Misa following closely behind her. Near hadn't said a word since their departure from the canyon. For the most part, he'd simply nodded or shook his head at the constant questions his older sister had asked, and during the day hours, when he was overwhelmed with fatigue, he had slept within her protective embrace. He hadn't minded. Halle had spent a good portion of that time inside the carriage, as though she feared the Prince might suddenly disappear in her absence. Near hadn't been bothered by this either. This was, after all, Halle, his mother's childhood friend, more like an aunt, or even a second mother to him and his sister than a bodyguard.

The only thing that lingered in Near's mind were his companions back at the old fort, and whether or not they were safe. But there was also this matter of his sister's presence. It wasn't out of the question that his father, the Emperor, had sent men to retrieve his only son, and only heir to the throne. But why had Misa come along? Sure, she probably would have wanted to, but why had she been allowed? This more than anything caused Near a measure of unease, for it was undoubtedly something his father had orchestrated. And anything his father had prepared for him was likely 'not' to be in his best interest. But as they proceeded up the steps towards the back entrance of his home, Near suspected that he was likely to find out, and soon.

Near glanced up, and felt his heart seize for a moment. The Emperor stood beneath the entrance, looking down at them as they approached. Then he began down the steps to meet them. Near wasn't sure why he seemed in such a hurry. They were already here. There was no hope of him escaping. So why did he come so fast? Halle stood aside, her head down in a respectful manner. Near and Misa both knelt on the steps as their father approached. The Emperor came before them, his shadow casting over the two, stretched by the setting sun. And then, to everyone's great surprise, The Emperor fell to his knees, and pulled his children into him. For possibly the first time, Misa found herself at a complete loss for words. Near couldn't hide the surprise and confusion that crossed his features as his father held them in embrace. The Emperor's voice drifted quietly into their ears, as he gently tightened his hold around the two.

"You do not bow to me." The Emperor said quietly, though his voice hinted at only the slightest of tender emotions. "I am not your Emperor. I am you father, and you are my children."

Then he released them, and they all rose together. He put his arms about their shoulders and began to escort them gently up the rest of the steps.

"And now, I wish to hear everything." The Emperor said lifelessly, and Near knew that it was directed at him.

(XXX)

Since their departure, Mello had spoken only in response, and only when he was addressed directly. Otherwise, the blonde boy had remained painfully silent, causing a measure of concern to pass among his traveling companions. The days had passed slowly, and Mello had found little to no sleep within that time. Every time his eyes closed, or his thoughts allowed to drift, he would return to the white haired boy. Near was back in the clutches of his father, the Emperor, the man who wanted to kill him out of fear. He hadn't been able to protect him, as he had sworn to do. None of them had. But none felt it more heavily than Mello. He couldn't explain why it got to him, why it was so pressing when compared to his comrades. It was frustrating. He didn't like Near, that much he was certain of. Then again, he was beginning to suspect that he didn't hate Near either, which made him uncomfortable. It was easier to hate, but he couldn't genuinely find those feelings when he thought of the ivory haired boy.

L removed the bandage that had been placed on the bridge of his injured nose and tossed it aside. It wasn't broken or anything, but the pressure had helped with the bleeding. It was still reddened, with a little bit of bruising around his eyes, but the dark crescents had helped hide those. Like Mello, he had said little. But no one had expected him to be particularly talkative. Naomi would occasionally look over her shoulder to check on the children, when a long span of silence had fallen over them, but this was just her motherly nature. She was Guild Master after all, and though they were guildsmen now, they were still the children of the Guild, and she felt a certain sense of responsibility for them.

Matt did what he could to keep the mood light, but even he found difficulty and trying in his cheery tone. Jokes were met with hollow, half-hearted laughter, if anything at all, and reminiscing often trailed back to, "Remember when Near…" It was hard to keep his mind off his little, if somewhat quiet, companion. His only fallback was Linda's encouragement, which he met with what support he could lend, but even then it seemed like wasted effort, just words. Words could do nothing to help Near now. They were all just too afraid to state this, all too obvious, fact. So they did what they could to distract themselves, keep from acknowledging their destination and what in entailed.

Mello absentmindedly touched the smooth ivory surface of the revolver's grip. He truly was prepared for things to turn for the worst. If it came down to it, he was prepared to fight his way through the Imperial Palace to get to Near, and drag him out. He wasn't sure why he was so set on the white haired boy's retrieval. This was more than a contract, more than an oath. But Mello was afraid of what that might mean…

(XXX)

Only two days had passed since Near had returned to the capital. Things had fallen back into their initial routine, save for his father's determination not to let his only son out of his sight. He had even arranged for Near to sleep in the same room, during the periods when Near's morning fatigue overwhelmed him. For some reason, Near didn't lose any sleep over it. He was actually quite comfortable with sharing a room with the Emperor, his father by blood. Somehow he knew that, despite his father's fear of him, Near needn't be afraid in return. He couldn't explain it, but since his return, his father had seemed…different. Still, during the waking hours, while the Emperor held court, and Near and Misa sat quietly on either side of the throne, Near took everything with an air of caution.

It was during the early evening, while the Emperor was listening to the recent counts in the Imperial Treasury, when things came to a head. The treasury was a department headed and monitored by Councilor Shingo Mido, who was currently presenting the numbers to the Emperor in person, which was odd but not criminal in nature, so Near paid little mind. Misa, however, looked upon the young Councilor was a strange newfound interest, which Near, and undoubtedly the Emperor, didn't fail to notice. She couldn't explain it, but there was something oddly familiar about Mido. Sure, she had seen him on numerous occasions, as he was an advisor to the Emperor, but still, there was something different this time.

"In conclusion, my Emperor," Mido began to wrap up his presentation, much to Near and Misa's relief, "I must agree with Councilor Higuchi in this matter, and recommend extending our markets to receivers across the Alabaster."

The Emperor leaned back his seat, and thought for a moment. After a long silence, he spoke. His voice wasn't powerful, but it carried, in that dead way it always did.

"Foreign trade and relationships off continent often lead to the encroachment of foreign culture." The Emperor stated flatly. "Assimilation is something which I am not eager to invite. We must hold true to our culture, and ourselves, lest all we've accomplished vanishes entirely. But still, I can scarcely deny the toll this war is exacting on our funds."

Another round of silence followed, in which Mido only adjusted his glasses. Cool and confident, those were Mido's qualities. But he was also dangerously cunning. If it weren't for Namikawa's influence, Mido could have easily been the most powerful member of the Imperial Council. The Emperor sighed, but even this managed to come out lifeless, and hollow.

"I approve of trade overseas." The Emperor announced. "But only enough to set us back in order. 'No' aggressive expansion."

"Yes, my Emperor." Mido gave and short bow, and turned to leave.

Just as the Councilor neared the doors, they flew open, and a guardsman rushed into the throne room, throwing himself at the foot of the stairs leading to the Emperor, his head bowed low.

"Report." The Emperor said blankly, though Near and Misa could both tell that he was annoyed by the sudden intrusion.

The guardsman looked up nervously and spoke.

"Guild operatives have just arrived at the gates." The man said quickly. "They request an audience immediately."

In a sideways glance, Near and his father's eyes met for an instant.

"Immediately?" The Emperor seemed amused, though only his children, and maybe Mido, could tell.

He fell into a thought, leaning back in his seat again, and lacing his fingers. Finally he gave a nod.

"Send them in." The Emperor commanded.

"We'll have them check in their gear, and send them–" The man began as he rose.

"No." The Emperor said firmly, causing the man to pause. "Send them in 'as is'."

The guardsman hesitated for a moment, but then gave a bow and left. Mido followed after the man, his presence no longer required. The guards stationed around the room began to move in on the throne.

"Away." The Emperor said, halting all the men in their progress, confused expressions on all their faces. "Back to the walls."

The guards all looked at one another, but then retreated back to their original posts. Near knew this for what it was. His father wanted to show their 'guests' that he wasn't afraid. And why should he be? He was the Emperor. Not mention, he was invincible. But Near had an idea of who their visitors were, and what their arrival might lead to.

(XXX)

Matt and Linda had been taken by the glamour of the capital, much as Mello had been the first time he saw the gleaming city, its white walls, and towering spires, elegant and powerful, even in the pale moonlight. But his mind was elsewhere. They had arrived, they had entered the Imperial Palace, and now they were going to see Near. Mello found it odd that they hadn't been disarmed. They were about to meet the most powerful figure in all the Empire, and they were going to 'with' weapons. L and Naomi, of course, understood this maneuver. The Emperor had nothing to fear of them, and rightly so. The Guild may have been out of his jurisdiction, but the Emperor 'was' the power in these lands.

They proceeded down a long hall with banners waving high on the walls, and tile floor polished to mirror finish, divided down the middle by a plush, red carpet. At the far end of the passage lay two massive doors, masterfully crafted to lock in temperature, and block sound. Not to mention that their sheer scale, and the materials that they were composed of, for they were many and mixed, made them an excellent fortification, should the palace come under siege. As they approached, the doors began to open slowly, and soundlessly. Mello felt Matt and Linda tense, but remained calm. Naomi and L were in the lead, and both strode confidently into the room.

There, set upon a might throne, was the Emperor. He was small, maybe only a few inches taller than Mello, and must have little more than half the blonde boy. He was almost stark white, with little to no pigmentation to his skin. He had long, white hair, pulled back behind his ears, and held out of his eyes by a golden band resting upon his head. His pale grey eyes, almost white in color, with tiny pinholes for pupils, fixed upon them in a cold, emotionless stare. But all this went almost entirely unnoticed by Mello. His attention had been drawn to the person seated at the Emperor's left arm. Near looked odd in his formal garb. A cotton undershirt, set beneath a long, white, silky kimono with gold trim, and a golden sash to wrap them. Baggy white leggings, similar to hakama, and though he often wore baggy clothing, they seemed far too large for him to wear comfortably. A tall, black hat, almost cone shaped, was set atop his head, tied under his chin to hold it in place.

The Guild members all knelt before the red carpeted steps leading to the throne, bow their heads respectfully. There was no need to be impolite. To their surprise, the Emperor rose from his seat, and started slowly down the steps, his flowing, white garments trailing behind him, their fabric seeming lighter than air as they bellowed in his wake.

"My son has told me of his journey." The Emperor said lifelessly.

Mello almost shuddered at the sound of the man's voice. It was emotionless, but not like L's. The Emperor's voice was somehow...empty, where L's was just blank, and cold, while L's was indifferent.

"I know who you are." The Emperor stated.

They rose then, standing before him. He stood on the last step, so that he didn't have to crane his head to see the taller persons present.

"I am grateful for what you have done." The Emperor said. "You protected my son, kept him from harm, and evil powers that would compromise him. And for that, I am grateful."

The Emperor gave a short bow, everyone else bowing as well, though much lower. Mello did not miss how the man's eyes fell on him as he rose, and fought hard to suppress the shudder that wanted to quake through him.

"I suppose now," The Emperor started again, "That payment is in order."

"That won't be necessary." L said suddenly.

"A donation then." The Emperor said quickly. "Something to help ensure the future of you organization, and show my personal thanks."

"You may feel free to donate as generously as you find suitable." L replied.

Mello could see it now. This was a battle, not like at the fort, but a battle nonetheless. L was challenging the Emperor. Mello could not deny the excitement the rose in him as he watched and listened.

"I would wish to have more words," The Emperor said, sounding only slightly regretful, "But certain 'pressing' matters have not allowed for ample time."

"I understand." L responded. "We will take the Prince, and be on our way then."

Silence filled the room, pressing against the walls, and causing everyone present to tense.

"Take the Prince?" The Emperor repeated, raising an eyebrow.

"You see," L began to explain, "The contract made to the Guild clearly states that we are to protect the Prince from harm."

"That contract was made by two counted among the dearly departed." The Emperor countered, and though his expression hadn't changed his tone had seemed oddly downcast.

Then Mello remembered that among those 'departed', was the Emperor's wife, Near's mother. Was it possible that he missed her? The idea did not seem too farfetched, even given the kind of man the Emperor clearly was.

"And the Prince has been returned into my custody, and the care of his royal entourage." The Emperor went on. "Your services are no longer required. The contract is void."

And then the Emperor smiled. It was cold and menacing thing, which Mello hoped to never see again. But L was not prepared to give up. He met the Emperor with a cheeky smile of his own as he presented his next argument.

"True," L said flatly, "Without either the person making the contract or the person accepting it, it has no weight."

Mello couldn't believe what he was hearing. L was agreeing that they had no right to claim Near. What was he thinking?

"But you see," L went on, his smile broadening slightly, "The children here, along with the Prince, swore an oath together. An oath of protection, to guard the Prince from harm, with even their lives if necessary."

L stepped forward a little ways, and Mello noticed as the all the guards in the room leaned in, their hands finding the swords sheathed at their hips.

"Surely the Emperor," L continued, "In his great wisdom, understands the weight of oaths."

The Emperor was no longer smiling. He nodded slowly as L's words sunk in.

"An oath is a weighty thing." The Emperor agreed. "Misfortune would surely befall those who stood to blockade it."

He thought for a moment. Mello was certain that he wouldn't be able to counter L this time. The oath had sealed it, just like it had sealed their fates, and entwined their destinies. The Emperor nodded again.

"In that case," The Emperor said, "The children should be with the Prince, in order to fulfill this oath."

He looked past L and at the children standing behind him.

"What say you?" The Emperor asked. "Will you guard the Prince and see this oath fulfilled, even at the cost of your lives?"

"Yes." Mello answered immediately.

Linda and Matt both nodded.

"Then it is settled." The Emperor announced. "The children will act as the Prince's personal guard, from this moment forward. At any one moment, at least one of them will be with the Prince, at all times."

"Agreed." L replied.

The Emperor was no fool. He understood how the guildsman had trapped him, and knew why. But he wasn't about to lose this battle. No. He had something else in mind, something that would meet this man, whoever he was. The Emperor smiled that empty smile of his again. This guildsman was cunning, but he would have nothing to meet this next attack.

"If I understand correctly," The Emperor began, "These children, like so many others, are orphans in the Guild's custody?"

L seemed to tense in the slightest. Naomi blinked a few times before answering.

"Yes, that is correct." Naomi replied, thinking it was appropriate, since she was Guild Master.

"Then, they are open for adoption?" The Emperor asked, his cold smile spreading.

L's eyes flashed for an instant as he realized what was happening. He was cunning foe, the Emperor.

"Yes." Naomi answered, fearful of where this line of questioning was going.

"Then it would only seem proper," The Emperor began, "That if they are going to protect the Prince, I should to invite them into my home, and allow them permanent residency."

The children all shared a fearful look at one another.

"I wish to adopt these children as my own." The Emperor announced. "You could not deny that royal accommodations would be suitable for them, and besides, there is this matter of the oath. What better way to serve it, than to be here at all times, brothers and sister to the Prince?"

Naomi's mouth opened for a second, but then quickly snapped shut. She had nothing to offer in response. She looked desperately over to L.

"Yes," L said slowly, "That would seem appropriate."

"Then it is settled." The Emperor said, his smile seeming frighteningly genuine now. "I will fill out all necessary forms, and they will begin their new lives here, this very evening."

His eyes fell on the children, who shifted uncomfortably under his gaze.

"May they, with time," The Emperor said coldly, "Come to accept me as their loving father."

(XXX)

"That could've gone better." Naomi remarked as she and L descended the steps leading to the Imperial Palace, and stepped back onto the main avenue of the city.

"All things considered," L replied, "It went very well."

"Really?" Naomi asked seeming very much unconvinced.

"Well," L began, "The Prince is once again in their charge. And I believe they, despite the fact that the Emperor is a very powerful man, have nothing to fear while they are in his custody."

Naomi nodded slowly, slightly reassured. But still, this was a very uncomfortable situation. Not just for her, but for the children as well.

"The one setback," L continued, "Is that they will be unable to assist us."

"Oh?" Naomi asked in confusion.

"We have much to do, with precious little time left." L replied. "And I'm afraid that, at the moment, it will all have to hold, in light of these recent events."

"So what do we do?" Naomi asked.

"We return to the Guild," L answered, "Fallback on our duties…and wait."

(XXX)

The Emperor was sitting behind his desk in his personal quarters when Rester, the newly appointed commander of the Kagebannin, entered. The veteran warrior knelt before the Emperor, and waited.

"Report." The Emperor commanded, seeming strangely eager.

Rester rose, and cleared his throat.

"We've completed our investigation of the fort." Rester said.

"Yes?" The Emperor pressed.

"We discovered chard remains at the site." Rester continued. "The armor identified the body as Light Yagami."

The Emperor leaned back in his seat, his eyes drifting as he fell into deep thought.

"So, he is dead." The Emperor stated, though Rester could have sword he detected the slightest hint of doubt in his voice. "And the High Summoner?"

"Nowhere to be found." Rester replied apologetically. "She is presumed dead."

"We've lost some of our strength." The Emperor said, rising to his feet and stepping around the desk. "But do not be disheartened, for we are still strong."

Rester nodded in agreement. Who was he to argue, after all?

"You and Gevanni," The Emperor began, "Will go to the front, and join up with this guildsman, Aizawa. The Kagebannin will offer him whatever assistance he requires, to meet the Daimyo threat."

"Yes, my Emperor." Rester replied.

(XXX)

"I'm not cut out for this desert travel crap!" Shibuimaru snapped.

He and his four companions had been trekking across the seemingly endless sands for days now, with little supplies and no signs of life apart from themselves. Light had offered little explanation for his unwillingness to return to the Empire, and so the others were left to simply trust him. It was no problem for Lind, his ever-loyal comrade, but the others had begun to talk among themselves. And desperate talk among desperate men, often led to rash, and ill-advised decisions. But Light wasn't worried. He had the golden apples to grant him strength. Plus, he could utilize the Shinigami powers if ever he truly felt threatened. So he continued to pay little mind to the talk, instead setting his sights on the horizon.

Lind rode up next to him, leaning in close so that only he and Light could hear what was to be shared.

"Are there any nearby settlements?" Lind asked.

"There are lights during the evening, which are not mirages from the moonlight." Light replied. "Civilization is at the desert's edge, and I don't think we're too far now."

"If we don't find something soon–" Lind began fearfully, glancing back at the other two men riding behind them.

"Fear not." Light replied. "I have plans. Plans that will reestablish us, and even place us in a position of great influence."

"What plans?" Lind asked eagerly.

"This sounds like it could be interesting." Ryuk piped in. "What did you have in mind?"

Light only grinned.

End Book I…

Something Special
I'm eternally grateful to those of you who have stuck with me throughout this entire project. Really, you guys have been the key source of my inspiration, and my drive to continue writing. An author may have the ability to weave great works, but what would they amount to without an audience with which to share them. So thank you, I truly appreciate your support. And now it's time for a little treat. Since you've all been such good sports, I feel compelled to share something special with you. Unfortunately, there is so much that occurs between SoL: Near and Far, and its sequel, SoL: A New Age, I have to write a supplement book to cover the span of months that separates the two stories. This book is entitled, The Four Winds, and it is a series of four short stories which help explain a few things. However, since there is indeed a SoL: A New Age in the works, and since you'll have to – regrettably – wait for it, I've decided to allow you this little sample to tide you over. So now, with no further delay, I present to you a sneak peak of SoL: A New Age. Enjoy…

Scene: The Masquerade Ball

The great hall wasn't anything grand when compared to accommodations of the Imperial Palace, but it was by no means humble. A dozen or so crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, lighting the expanse of the room. There were various tables littered with all manners of fine cuisine, and more than a fare amount of punch bowls, most of which would be filled with 'hard' punch to tide over the elder guest, but still wouldn't miss a few of the younger, more eager mouths in attendance. As they had expected, everyone was masked, and costumed, in order to hide their identities until the time of unveiling at the stroke a midnight. The time of which none of them planned on being around for, but they would enjoy the festivities while they could.

There was raised platform at the head of the dance floor, upon which played a band. They were opening with something slow, and soft, pleasant to the ear, and perfectly capable of being talked over. The children along with their 'parents' merged with the main body of people collected near the back. Mello stayed close to Near, who was easy to keep track of in his gleaming white outfit. Misa wandered off somewhere, and Matt made his way immediately to one of the food tables. Halle watched him closely. Though the redhead, like Misa, had given his word not to drink, or at least overindulge in drink, he still had a wiliness about him that she didn't entirely trust. Linda did the best out of all of them, easily mingling with a small flock of girls close to her own age who were busy gossiping to one corner.

The Emperor, with Halle latched to his arm, began to converse with the nobles, keeping his tone, and features light in order to avoid being identified. Mello spotted Ide, Mogi, Ukita, and Naomi scattered among the crowds, keeping an eye on things. The blonde boy shook his head. Didn't they trust them with anything? After all they'd been through, were they still just seen as helpless children that needed looking after. He snorted in his annoyance, accepting a glass of punch that Near silently offered him, hardly aware of who's pale hand he was taking it from. Mello took a sip. It was 'soft' punch. Near was apparently looking out for him this evening, something that only served to annoy the older boy further. Who was he, a pampered prentice, to look after him? Mello shook his head and polished off his punch in one shot. He set his glass down, a bit harder than he had intended drawing a few eyes to him, and then stepped off to the side to scan the crowds, leaving Near alone.

(XXX)

The night carried on for while, but it soon came time for everyone to join in dance. For this, the Emperor apparently had something special in mind, for he approached Matt and tapped the redhead lightly on the shoulder to get his attention.

"Step onto the dais, and show them how to play a 'real' waltz." The Emperor said with a grin.

Matt also grinned.

"A proper waltz, coming up!" Matt said brightly.

He dashed across the room, and hopped onto the platform, ignoring all the odd and even scornful looks he received. Matt immediately shooed off the pianist, who gave up his bench without protest, and set himself behind the extravagant grand piano, cracking his knuckles loudly over the keys.

"You guys know, 'Lady of Midnight'?" Matt asked the band.

The musicians all gave a quiet nod. Matt grinned, and then started them off, his fingers gliding gracefully over the keys of the grand piano. For a moment everyone stood in shocked silence, expecting Matt to be little more than an over excited, and maybe even a little drunk, youngster set on making some mischief. They certainly hadn't expected the beautiful sound that he managed to draw out of the instrument he was set before. But after a moment, they all stepped onto the dance floor, partners hand in hand, and the waltz began.

(XXX)

Nori, as she was easily identified by those who knew her, which also allowed them to assume that her father, Councilor Namikawa, was somewhere nearby, approached Mello with a broad grin.

"Wanna dance?" Nori asked playfully.

Mello sighed, there wasn't going to be any getting out of this. Blushing slightly, which was thankfully partially concealed by his half-mask, the blonde boy reached out and allowed himself to be drug enthusiastically onto the dance floor.

(XXX)

Near looked on with slight amusement as Mello fell into step with the beaming Nori. He was actually a very good dancer. Near supposed that the Guild covered all kinds of things when it came to education, even a few lessons concerning court life. But then Near's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a small girl that appeared before him. She was dressed all in white, and her costume was fit with a pair of feathery wings spreading from the backs of her small, slender shoulders. Her ivory mask was framed by delicate feathers and glittered with tiny jewels, and precious white pearls. She seemed nervous as she folded her hands over one another in front of her, the toes of her silk slippers turned in towards each other.

"W-would you…um…" She stammered. "Would you…like to dance…with me?"

Near blushed slightly, unfortunately his mask revealed more of the slight change in color than Mello's had, but he said nothing in response. The girl looked away, and turned to leave without another word. She was stopped suddenly when slender, pale hand fell gently on her shoulder. She turned around, and saw that it was Near's. Near didn't say a word. He smiled gently, and then took her hand in his, leading her onto the dance floor. Then he pulled her close to him, and they fell into step, neither saying a word nor making eye contact, but both smiling quietly, and blushing quite brightly.

(XXX)

Naomi watched with slight amusement as Near and Mello went onto the dance floor. Both boys seemed to have fallen into rhythm well enough, but Near seemed a little nervous from the slight flush of color in his pale cheeks. Naomi smiled, and shook her head. There was always something with these kids…her kids.

"May I have this dance, m' lady?" The voice was quiet, and raspy, pulling Naomi out of her thoughts.

She turned and looked upon Ide, his mask unable to keep him from being identified by the Guild Master. The older guildsman was grinning, and Naomi could help by feel slightly amused by his veteran charm.

"Why yes, you may, kind sir." Naomi said in a higher pitched voice than was usual for her.

She held out her hand, which Ide took gently, and together they went to join the children in the waltz.

(XXX)

Taro came stumbling over to a small flock of girls standing in one corner of the room. They were all quite pretty, but the one he was interested in, the one with silky, amber hair and a red dress, stood just beside the larger group, looking thoughtfully into the crowds. Taro cleared his throat nervously, accidentally catching Linda's attention as he did so. He jumped slightly as her emerald eyes fell on him, and his palms began to sweat.

"Um…" Taro began, "I was w – ah – wondering if…if…"

Linda suddenly took his hand and pulled him onto the dance floor without any response. She moved his hands so that he was holding her in the proper position, and then began to lead 'him' in the waltz. Taro didn't say anything, but instead simply watched his feet, careful not to step on Linda's toes as they moved. A small, and subtle smile crossed his face, framed by smooth cheeks that had now risen to a fiery red.

(XXX)

Halle noted the nervous little fellow that Linda was dancing with. It was undoubtedly Taro Kagami, as anyone would have noticed how the young boy had taken a fancy to the amber haired girl. Halle couldn't help but smile. Then her attention came back around to her own dance partner. The Emperor's pale eyes seemed to drift behind his mask, something deep on his mind. Halle tightened her grip on his slender hand affectionately, to catch his attention.

"What troubles you so, my love?" Halle asked quietly.

"It's that doll," The Emperor sighed, referring of course to the Wara-Ningyo from earlier that day, "I can't imagine who would have sent such a gift."

Halle could tell that he was frowning beneath his mask. She leaned in slowly, and pressed her lips firmly against his. The soft give of his lips was stimulating, the firm hold of straight, white teeth behind them, along the scent and taste of lightly perfumed mouth care, as was only a commodity among those of higher birth. She leaned back again, looking into his eyes. He smiled at her. Not the cold, emotionless thing that he used at court to unnerve those who would challenge him, but a genuine smile. A happy smile, that made his eyes twinkle, capturing the light of the dozen or so chandeliers that hovered overhead.

(XXX)

Misa wandered along the edge of the dance floor, making note of everyone present, as her father had instructed. Regardless of their masked faces, one look into their eyes told Misa exactly who they were. She filed these names away in the back of her mind, deep, where they could be drawn to the fore at a later time.

Ko Lefou, Tai Maika…Mai Yazikawa? Who the hell invited her?

Suddenly an armed clamped down on Misa's and she was drawn onto the dance floor, vanishing among the happy couples. At first Misa was worried that someone was abducting her, using the crowd to conceal the act. But then she was brought before a dark figure in a flowing cloak and black mask, who took her hand and placed his other in the small of her back. They began dancing. Misa fell into step quickly and easily, having been brought up 'proper', and well learned in the many subtle arts of court life. Her 'partner' seemed quite adept as well, his feet leading gracefully across the polished floor.

"You're the prettiest one here." The man said in an odd sort of voice, which seemed somehow dull, but not unintelligent.

"Th-thank you." Misa stammered, still a bit surprised.

The man's eyes caught her attention immediately as she gazed into them. Dark, but maybe a little…crimson, at the edges. The eyes were like her own, only they were without any spark of life behind them. She found it hard not to look away. Then something else caught her attention.

What an odd name…I can't imagine any parents naming their child…then again, I can't imagine anyone with that surname either.

"Tonight seemed so drawl, and unfulfilling." The man said, bringing Misa out of her thoughts. "That is, until your radiant beauty captured me, and I found that I hadn't the courage to ask you to dance with me."

"So you thought you'd just…" Misa thought for a moment, "Reach out, and sweep me off my feet?"

"Oh, but your feet move so gracefully." The man remarked, almost casually. "I wouldn't dream of denying them the right to dance."

"So now your evening is satisfied." Misa always found it humorous how the nobles talked, and so decided to meet his extravagant weavings with some of her own.

"Not just yet." The man said with a smile that was as odd and lifeless as his voice. "I have some excitement yet planned for this evening."

"Oh, does any of it include me?" Misa asked, ever the flirt on these occasions.

"Most definitely." The man replied.

"Interesting." Misa replied, no stranger to being hit-on. "And what might you have planned on this momentous occasion?"

The man twirled her, and then drew her back into him. She could feel that he was slender, but very strong beneath the folds of his black costume. She looked up, and for a moment, his red hued eyes seemed to glow with fiery intensity. But then it was gone, and Misa simply shrugged it off as a trick of the light. The man looked one way, and then the other, as if to be sure that no one else was listening. Then he leaned in close to her.

"I'm going to kill everyone in this room." The man whispered with a smile.

Sol of Luna: A New Age

Coming Soon…

Author's Comments

There you have it, the end at last.

I know, it leaves so much open, but it has to in order for there to sequels. Now I have to write "The Four Winds", the book that covers the space of time between SoL: Near and Far, and its sequel SoL: A New Age. There was just too much developement between for me to add it at the beginning of A New Age, so I decided to make a suppliment book instead. Sorry.

What to expect from "The Four Winds":

Naomi and L travel across the Alabaster to the land of Kalish, a place that nearly claimed L's life years prior, in order to settle a trade dispute among the powerful merchant families that rule the land.

Mello is busy adjusting to palace life, while keeping a close eye on Near, for his father will attempt to kill him at any opportunity. Meanwhile, the Emperor's rule is beginning to waver in light of recent events, and he's beginning to suspect treachery among the Imperial Council. He sets Mello to the task of unveiling whoever is responsible.

Matt and Linda, go off on a Guild assignment to escort a prisoner in the lands to the far west. They are joined by a young noble named Taro Kagami, who's acting as a House Representative. But there is more going on in this small, backwater place than meets the eye. And the shadows from teh former Guild Master's past have now come to light.

Finally we join Light Yagami as he attempts to rise in power once again, as he had during the Clan Wars. But now he has a different plan. Before, he had acted as a the vanguard, making himself a target. He was man, and men can be bought, trapped, and even killed. But as something else, an icon or symbol, he can work behind the scenes, untouchable. But how to do it? Well, the Shinigami powers help...