Light Yagami ran as hard as his weary legs would carry him. His right arm swung uselessly at his side while hot blood dripped from his limp fingertips. The places where the four bullets had pierced his skin stung so badly that he couldn't help but yell in pain and frustration.

Why? He inwardly demanded of the universe. Why did everything go wrong when I was so close – so close – to killing Near? It just isn't fair! They can't understand, not even Matsuda, that traitorous bastard!

Thoughts of Light's life before the Death Note whizzed through his mind. How peaceful that innocent time had been – but also, how boring. Light didn't regret picking up that notebook all those years ago, all he regretted was not giving Near's intelligence full credit. He had been too lax, too trusting, and now he was paying for it with every drop of his blood.

With each shaky breath sending another jolt of pain throughout his body, Light stumbled into a nearby warehouse. Through his blurred vision, he saw a staircase with a railing, and sitting on the railing was-

"Ryuk!" Light's cry of surprise echoed off of the rust-covered walls of sheet metal.

"Hey," the shinigami said calmly – flippantly even. After a moment of pause, he added, "Well, Light, looks like you lost."

"Don't remind me!" Light snapped.

Then, an idea hit him.

"Ryuk...kill them. Please! Please, kill them all for me!"

The shinigami stared at Light for a moment, then he threw his head back and laughed. "Kill them...for you! Sorry, kid, but I won't do that."

Light fell onto his knees, gazing at Ryuk in shock. "But...why not?"

"It's not my place to go around killing people just because one human asks me to. Besides, that might lengthen your life – if only for a few minutes – and I have no intention of dying on your behalf."

Dragging himself toward Ryuk, Light grasped the shinigami's ankle. Tears poured down his grime-streaked face.

Ryuk groaned, rolling his eyes. "Look, Light, do you remember when we first met? I promised you that I would be the one to write your name in my notebook. That's part of the agreement between a shinigami who brings a Death Note to the human world and the first human who picks it up."

Light's eyes widened in fear as Ryuk held up a red pen, its metal tip glistening in the early evening light.

"If you're arrested and put in prison," Ryuk continued, "who knows how long it'll take you to die, and – honestly – I don't want to wait that long."

He whipped out a black notebook, opened it, and thumbed through the pages. " ends here. This is where you'll die."

", no, no..." Too tired to hold his head up any longer, Light leaned forward, letting his forehead rest against Ryuk's slender leg. He choked back a few sobs. "I don't want to die, Ryuk. As a user of a Death Note, I can't go to Heaven or Hell, which means I'll just cease to exist, right?"

"Pretty much."

"Please, Ryuk...isn't there any other way? Isn't there something else you can do?"

Light looked up into Ryuk's bulbous red eyes. He could feel those yellow pupils penetrating his skull – no, his very soul. The shinigami sighed, and Light noticed a trace of pity in his luminous gaze.

"It's been fun, kid," he said at last.

Light watched in horror as Ryuk wrote his name in the Death Note. He didn't have to see the words on the page to know what was coming. Out of habit, Light's gaze drifted to his watch.

10 seconds. 20, 30, 37, 38, 39...

Right on cue, Light felt a sharp pain in his chest. He fell sideways, his head clanging against a stair. Darkness crept into the edges of his vision. He couldn't move, he couldn't even breathe.

This is really the end, he thought as his eyelids drooped shut.

Everything was dark and cold. Light figured this must be how nothingness felt. The strange thing was, he could swear that he could hear Ryuk's voice above him.

"Hey, Light. How long you gonna just lie there? Open your eyes and get up, already."

But, Light wondered, I don't exist, so how could I open my eyes? Well, I guess I don't have anything to lose by trying.

To his own surprise, Light could indeed open his eyes. This discovery shocked him so intensely that he sat bolt upright before he realized it.

"But..." Light gaped, holding his trembling hands in front of his face, "You killed me, didn't you?"

"Sure did," answered Ryuk without delay.

Light stood. At first, he was unsure whether his legs would support him, but he found himself feeling strangely weightless. He looked down at his now-clean shirt and felt his torso for the bullet-holes which were no longer there.

It was only then that he noticed the corpse.

"Eeaaagh!" Light screamed, scrambling back and sitting hard on an upper stair. Near the bottom of the staircase was what looked like his own body!

"What is that!" Light demanded.

"Quit freaking out already," Ryuk chided, motioning with his hands that Light should calm down. "I'll explain everything once we get outta sight."

Light raised an eyebrow. "Why do we need to get out of sight?"

"Cuz I think the cops and those SPK guys are closing in on us."

"Ryuk! I want to know why I'm seeing my own dead body! Now!"

Ryuk shrugged his shoulders. "OK, fine. I know you know how a shinigami can die, but I never bothered telling you how a shinigami is born, did I?"

The panic in Light's throat subsided, and his brain started working normally.

"Are you saying that I'm-"

"We can chit-chat later, Light. Right now, we need to move!"

Before Light could make any resistance, Ryuk rushed forward, wrapped his spindly arms around Light's waist, and hoisted him into the air. Once they quietly alighted on a higher landing of the staircase, Light extricated himself from Ryuk's grip. He could hear noises and voices below, so he peered over the edge of the platform.

"Oh, God..." Aizawa breathed. "Hey, Matsuda! I found him!"

Matsuda rushed to Aizawa's side. When he saw the body, his fists trembled with anger.

"It's really over, then. I'm just glad I was the one to kill him."

"Don't sound so proud about it. I can't help but feel a little sorry for him, at least for the Chief's sake, y' know?"

"He tricked the Chief, Aizawa. If not for Kira, Chief Yagami wouldn't have died! Light was a disgrace to his father, and I'm glad he's finally dead."

"Well, I'm gonna go let Near know."

"No need," came a small, cynical voice. "I'm already here."

Light turned away from the conversation below to look at Ryuk.

"Okay," he said, keeping his volume low. "I'd like some more answers now."

"Fine, fine."

The shinigami sat cross-legged facing Light and tossed him his Death Note. Puzzled, Light opened it and found the most recent page. Scrawled in Ryuk's thin handwriting was the entry: Light Yagami – at the instant of death, he will become a shinigami.

Light gaped at these words, then at Ryuk.

"It's really that simple? Why didn't you tell me about this before?"

"Well, see, a shinigami can only choose one human to become a new shinigami in his entire lifetime, so I didn't think it was important enough to mention to you."

"So, then," Light licked his lips as he began to consider all the glorious possibilities of his new situation, "Will I have all the perks of a shinigami now?"

"Eventually, yeah, but the transformation doesn't happen all at once. I don't know many details about how this works, since it's such a rare thing. Obviously, we know that you've taken a form identical to that of your human body, but over time, you'll learn how to change your appearance however you want. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine."

"What?" Light asked in exasperation. "But, wouldn't you know about what comes next from when this happened to you?"

Ryuk shrugged his shoulders again. "I became a shinigami thousands of human years ago. How am I supposed to remember the details?"

"I don't even immediately get my own Death Note?"

"Hmm...that would make sense..." Ryuk pondered. "But, you could always nab the one that Near kid has down there. Oh, wait, forget that."

"Huh? Why?"

"Humans are probably still able to see you."

Light flopped onto his back and groaned. "Seriously!" Then, he realized his mistake. The conversation with Ryuk had made him forget to keep quiet. If humans could still hear him...

"Hey, did you hear something just now?" Aizawa asked.

"Definitely," Near replied. "Someone's above us."

"Maybe it's just the shinigami," Matsuda suggested halfheartedly.

"Well, I'm gonna go find out."

Light heard Aizawa start to climb the staircase. Cursing under his breath, he turned to Ryuk.

"What now?"

Ryuk stood. "Get on my back and hang on tight. I have an idea."

Light nodded. After scrambling behind the tall shinigami, he managed to jump high enough to loop his arms around Ryuk's neck. His feet braced against the chains hanging on Ryuk's belt. Once they had gotten settled, Ryuk used the fur lining on his shirt to cover Light's arms and spread his wings to conceal the rest of Light. Almost as soon as they had prepared, Aizawa reached the top of the stairs. Light pressed close to Ryuk's back as the shinigami stiffened.

"Hey, there," Ryuk said conversationally.

"What are you doing here, shinigami?"

"Just doing my duty."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I killed Light."

Aizawa's eyes widened.

"He asked me to," Ryuk added. "You should have seen the poor kid. He was sobbing about he would rather die than go to prison. He practically begged me to end his life, so...I did."

"Please try not to make me look pathetic," Light whispered.

"Who is it up there, Aizawa?" Near called.

"Matsuda was right, for once, "Aizawa replied. "It's the shinigami."

"I have a name, you know," Ryuk muttered grumpily.

"If he's willing, I'd like to speak with him."

Aizawa looked to Ryuk for an answer.

"Uh, sure," he said hesitantly. "Why not?" Pointing at Aizawa, he added, "You can go down first. I won't kill you behind your back or anything like that." Aizawa raised an eyebrow, but he consented.

As they neared the bottom of the stairs, Light realized a possible danger.

"Ryuk," he hissed. "If not all of the SPK members can see you, and all humans can still see me, then won't someone down there be able to see me through where you would be?"

Ryuk halted and straightened. "Oh, crap. You're right."

"Now you think about that."

"Sorry. I'll come up with something."

"That's comforting."

Ryuk called down to Near. "Hey, white-haired kid. What is it you want to talk about?"

"Oh, whatever you're willing to tell me about this whole business. At best, I was hoping you could give me a full account of Light's movements as Kira so that I could complete a file on him."

"Heh, is that all?" Ryuk laughed sarcastically. "If that's what you want, I can write you a letter. I do have some duties to be getting back to in the shinigami world."

"I see," Near replied. "In that case, would you tell your brethren that we would appreciate it if they stopped bringing extra Death Notes to our world?"

"Sure, I'll tell them, but I can't help it if a shinigami thinks playing in the human world is the best way to kill his boredom for a little while."

Before Near could ask any more questions, Ryuk took off through an upper window.

"So," Ryuk said after several silent minutes of flying above rooftops, "where do you wanna go now?"

"You're leaving it up to me?"

"Well, even though I'm not bound to look after you or anything, I must admit that I've gotten kinda fond of you, so I might as well stick around and show you the ropes."

Light couldn't help but feel a little disgusted by the way Ryuk said "fond," as if Light was an amusing puppy that Ryuk had decided to keep.

"I...don't know where I should go. Somewhere without obvious connections to Kira."

"I guess that means Misa's place is off-limits."

"Please," Light scoffed. "As if I would willingly go back to that stupid little girl. I only stayed with her because she was useful to me at the time."

Light put his brilliant mind to work. Where could he easily hide nearby without being found by the police or the SPK? Suddenly, an idea came to him.

"If we can get in, we could use L's old base. As far as I know, no one has used it in several years, so we should be undisturbed there."

"Good idea," Ryuk agreed, altering the tilt of his wings. "I'll get us there in no time. And, you won't have to worry about whether we can get in or not. Shinigami can pass through solid objects, after all."

"You're sure I'll be able to do that?"

"As long as you're with me, you shouldn't have a problem."

Before long, the tall dark skyscraper came into view. As they neared the roof, Light closed his eyes and squeezed Ryuk's neck. The shinigami laughed.

"Not scared, are you, Light?"

"Shut up," Light snapped. He squinted through his eyelashes as they passed through ceilings and floors until they reached the main control room. When they touched the dusty floor, Ryuk noted, "You can quit half-choking me now."

"Sorry," Light muttered, unclasping his hands and landing somewhat clumsily. As he sat, a small cloud of dust rose around him.

"Well, here we are," Ryuk sighed.

"Yeah," Light agreed. "So, have you remembered anything important I should know about regarding this whole 'shinigami transformation' thing?"

"Hmm, let's see..." Ryuk tapped his chin with one of his long fingernails. "I guess we could think of it like a checklist of changes to expect." He counted off on his other hand as he continued, "Shinigamis all have wings, for one – wasn't that the perk you really wanted? Also, your eyes will change into those of a true shinigami. Your own personal Death Note will probably just appear at some point. You won't have to sleep or eat anymore, but you still can if you feel like it."

"I'm probably leaving out something," he added, "but I'm sure you'll figure it out as you go."

"Well," Light yawned, stretching, "I guess the 'not-sleeping' part hasn't kicked in yet, cuz I'm exhausted."

"In that case, you should go crash. I'll make sure no one else gets in here."

Light trudged up a few flights of stairs and through a long hallway until he reached his destination. When L had been in charge of the Kira investigation, Light had slept in this room for the short amount of time he hadn't been handcuffed to L. As he opened the door and shuffled across, he couldn't help but think about L – all the trouble he had been, and all the fun.

With these mixed feelings churning in his mind, Light collapsed onto the bed, ignoring the thin layer of dust coating the sheets. As soon as his head hit the welcome softness of the pillows, his eyes closed. The silence was like a lullaby, and within minutes, Light was asleep.

The last conscious thought to cross his mind was a strange one: he had a unexplainable feeling that this shinigami business was going to be a lot more complicated than Ryuk had made it sound.

To be continued...