5. "Calling"

Neku woke up to an unfamiliar ceiling, disoriented by his surroundings until he realized where he was. He was still in the Death God's Pad, lying under a blanket on one of the couches. Sitting up, he shrugged himself out of the blanket and onto his feet, searching lazily for his headphones. He found them on the table next to him, a piece of paper folded neatly underneath them. Eyebrows raised, he unfolded it and read it.

"Glad you got some sleep, Neku," the note read, "but don't forget; you've got work to do. Listen to the Music, and then use what's in the backpack to issue the mission to the Players. You can track the progress of the Game and access information on the Players from it, as well as the Reapers' points. When you're done, I'd like you to meet someone. Meet me on top of the 104 Building." There wasn't a signature, but he already knew who it was from.

'He couldn't wait for me to get up… I guess he just got bored. I wouldn't put it past him. …Does he even sleep? Is he alive, or dead like the Players? I don't really understand anything about him, I guess, or what being Composer is like. I don't even know what to expect as the Conductor. Too many questions! I can't dwell on them now. …Well, I'd better get down to it…' Stumbling to the doors, he pushed one open and stepped out into the black sewer, eyes squeezed shut. The Music started as its usual melodic piece, a symphony of different instruments and pieces flowing into a melody unique to Shibuya, until, as usual, the familiar screeching filled his ears, blocking out the peaceful and overwhelming tune. Cringing against the screech, Neku focused, willing himself to understand what was causing it.

As he focused more on the screech, images flashed through his head; a Noise infestation in Dogenzaka, a man being possessed by Noise because he lost his wallet and couldn't afford a bus fare home, a turf war between some store clerks out in Udagawa. Once these pictures finished, she screeching intensified, and Neku scrambled back into the silence of the brightly lit room, shoving the door shut behind him.

Picking the backpack up off the floor, he sat down and opened it, pulling out the black PDA from the bubble-wrap bag it was in. Turning it on, he sorted his way through the various unlabeled applications until he found the mail function. 'Today is Day One, so guess I'll give them the easier of the three. I want some Players to make it through to Day Seven.' Grumbling, he sent the mission mail out, assigning the Players the task of finding the man's wallet. He shoved the PDA back in the backpack when he was finished.

The trip back to the street wasn't as nerve-wracking as the trip down into the sewers, but the switch from the utter blackness back into the light blinded him for a moment. Neku quickly made his way to the 104 Building and snuck out the roof exit once he reached the top floor.

The roof of the building was flat, solid cement, and the wind blew harshly, threatening to push him over the edge once he stepped out of the doorway. He glanced around quickly until he spotted Joshua, standing precariously at the other end of the roof. Joshua was busy dialing a number into his phone, and when he received no response from the other end, he snapped his phone shut in frustration and shoved it back into his pocket. His clothes and hair flapped wildly in the breeze, but he didn't seem to mind.

"No one's picking up?" Neku asked, walking up as close as his flimsy balance would allow.

Joshua shrugged and walked in from the edge. "Not even a signal. Someone obviously doesn't want to talk to me," he added grimly, staring off into the clouds with a less-than-pleased expression.

Neku sighed. "You could have picked a better place for a meeting, but then again, I guess this suits you."

"How so?"

"Don't people with power like high places?"

Joshua laughed. "Common misconception. Greedy people with power like high places. It's a good place to gloat and feel superior to those less powerful than you. I like this place for other reasons."

"Those reasons being…?"

"Why most sane people like high places. I like watching people. Normal people, going about their daily lives, and Players rushing to save theirs; I can feel all of their intentions from up here. It's like Pork City, only in reverse."

Neku shuddered at the reminder. "Being Composer has nothing to do with that? You don't feel like you're some kind of all-powerful being, looking down on your territory? Most people would if they were in your position."

"Of course they would. Power is something that goes to your head, and if you're not strong enough, your heart as well. Not even being Composer makes you free from the temptation of surrendering to power, or growing tired of it."

"Tired? Of being Composer?"

"Despite what you might thing, it's not very fun. There's a lot of pressure involved in this job, and some people can't handle it. Shibuya's last Composer wasn't up to the task, and he ended up causing a lot of problems."

"Is that why you're Composer now?"

"Pretty much. He was under too much strain and wanted to quit, so he began abusing his powers, pitting Reapers and Players alike against each other, even going so far as to erase his own Conductor when his motives were questioned. The situation was beyond anyone's control, and so, I decided to make things right, and here I am," he shrugged. "Shibuya might not still be here if I hadn't."

"Are you tired of being Composer?"

"Maybe just a little, but who wouldn't? I'm not going to start looking for a way out, though. My focus is on protecting Shibuya, and that's what I'll do. Anyone with any less resolve would have quit by now."

Behind them, the door swung open noisily, and as Neku turned and saw who was there, he almost stumbled back off the rooftop. "I-it's… you!"

Minamimoto raised an eyebrow in response, shoving his hands into his pockets. He had abandoned his signature black attire for something more formal; a pair of black dress pants and a long sleeved white dress shirt. His red bandana was still present, though it was tucked into the back pocket of his pants rather than on his head. He walked quickly over to them, ignoring the draft.

Joshua flashed his signature smarmy smile. "Enjoying your new job?"

"Heh!" he snapped back, glaring off into the clear sky. "Bunch of hectopascals, all of them. I could iterate them all for being such zeros, but it's actually fun flunking them. Almost as fun as erasing Players."

Neku stared blankly at Minamimoto. 'How..? Wasn't he smothered under his own junk heap last time we saw him? He had a car and a soda machine piled on top of him! No normal person could survive that!'

"Minamimoto is a university math professor," Joshua explained, "I told you, didn't I? I like having him around. He makes things a lot more interesting. After I… temporarily removed him from the picture, I brought him back and got him a… better outlet… for his energies. I've been trying to arrange a meeting so we could discuss his new contract, but our schedules haven't been very forgiving."

"And? Why's he here?" Minamimoto asked, turning his attention back to Neku.

"He's the new Conductor, making him your new boss," Joshua explained.

"Huh?" Neku gasped, "You mean…?"

Joshua nodded. "I thought you should be present, being that you'll have to agree to his terms if you're going to be working together."

"Then let's get started," Minamimoto grumbled. "I don't have all day."

"You'll have all jurisdiction over Taboo Noise, you can still perform Reaper duties if you want and you won't be penalized if you don't. You'll still have to answer to direct orders from the Conductor, and from me should I feel the need to contact you. And, of course, you can still build your 'masterpieces', though that doesn't give you permission to erase anyone for moving them, especially if they're Reapers."

Minamimoto mulled over these conditions for a moment. "Fine."

"Neku, do you agree?"

"Uh…" Neku blinked, caught off guard. "Sure."

"Good. I'm out of here. I have to mark failing assignments," Minamimoto muttered, smirking before he turned and walked back through the roof access.

Neku stared after him, still too dumbfounded by the exchange to speak. 'I guess the Grim Heaper is back in action, then, huh? Weird, I thought it would have bothered me more…'

Joshua turned to Neku. "Ready to head down? You look like you're about to fall over."

Confused, Neku turned slightly and lost his balance, the wind pushing him towards the edge. Joshua quickly grabbed his wrist and pulled him back from the edge, closer to the door.

"I never want to come up here again," Neku panted, staring back in the direction of the edge. "I hate tall buildings, and I hate standing on them."

Joshua chuckled, but they exited the building. Happy to back on the street, it took Neku a moment to realize how hungry he was, and only when his stomach rumbled. 'Guess I really should have stopped to get something to eat…'

"Hungry?" Joshua asked. "Would you mind if I made something?"

"You can cook?" Neku wondered aloud, following Joshua back to the River. "You can eat?"

Joshua stared at him skeptically for a moment. "Obviously. What kind of normal person doesn't eat?"

"Well, you're not normal, if I recall correctly," he grumbled back sarcastically, sliding off his headphones as the entered the Pad. "I'm not actually sure what's normal about you. I'm not even sure if you're dead or alive."

"A combination of the two, in fact. I'm not alive, but I'm not dead either. So, in answer to your question, I can eat, sleep, use the washroom; anything normal people need to do, but I don't actually need to do it." As he talked, he walked behind the bar and began fussing around with something, out of sight.

"You don't need to, even though you can?"

"Exactly. I can eat, but it won't benefit me as much as it would for you. Of course, eating food comes with its own mandate of other actions, but most of the time, the benefit of doing more… human things… is lost on me. It's too much trouble." He shifted some more things around under the bar. "Not that there aren't times when those things become necessary, but that isn't very often." Finally, he came out with pizza and placed it in front of Neku, who started eating almost immediately.

"I'm kind of surprised at all the things down here," Neku muttered, his mouth half full. "It's actually kind of cozy."

Joshua shrugged. "I guess. The Reapers - or the high ranking ones at least - spend most of their time down here. I'm getting used to it, since it's been out of use for a while, and Rika likes it as well."

Neku swallowed. "Where is she, anyway?"

"Off taking care of your mission, I suppose. She stopped by while you were asleep, but I was… in the back, so I didn't talk to her."

"O-oh…" Neku muttered, blushing slightly.

Joshua laughed. "Well, don't worry about it for now. I'm sure she'll want to talk to you soon enough. She'll probably decide on soon than later; she's been interested in you since I dragged you into the Game."

"So, she really doesn't remember anything," Neku mumbled, staring at the floor.

"No, she doesn't, but you can't blame her," Joshua smiled softly. "It's better than her other possible entry fee."

"Which was?"

"Her brother," Joshua grunted, standing up again. "It's time you went home. People will be wondering where you ran off to if you don't go back. If you need anything, you can come back, or call. Either way is fine. And don't forget - you have a job to do. I'm counting on you, Neku. Prove to me I picked the right person."