Misa wandered in a haze through the woods outside the city, both the haze of her still-stunned mind and the haze of the mist hanging in the chilled and damp night air. She could barely see three feet in front of her, and it was a wonder she didn't knock into a tree every other step she took. Before, when she had first left the apartment after weeks upon weeks of remaining there in a lethargic and depressed state, her steps had been fast and urgent. One might go so far as to say they had been wild, as she bolted from the apartment - where she had lived by herself for a year, and had not left for six months - and ran all the way into the woods. After all that time cooped up and alone in a prison of her own making, Misa had felt a sudden urge to get out of there, to go somewhere else, and her racing feet had taken her here, of all places.

She didn't know how long she'd been here, and she didn't know where she even was, regarding which way was out. But Misa didn't care. In fact, she had started to enjoy it in a way, once she'd realized where she was. She'd noticed it had looked a little familiar some time ago, and then it hit her - This was the very woods where Light had had her bury his Death Note the first time he'd given it up. And on that thought, the thought of him, Misa's heart wrenched horribly, and she stopped dead, fighting back tears for the thousandth time since Matsuda had let the secret slip.

Light was dead. Light Yagami - her love, her soul mate, her god - was dead. And with his death, not only was he gone, but Kira was gone as well. The savior who had brought peace was gone forever from the world - killed, she knew, by what remained of the force hunting him. Even though no one would tell her how it had happened, she knew all the same. She knew in her heart that he had lost the game he'd played for so many long years, and had, as he had always known he would were he discovered as Kira, been killed as a criminal would have been. And now, everything he had fought to keep down had surged back up with renewed vigor and confidence.

Wars resumed in all their savage bloodiness, and violence and crime ran rampant without Kira to put a stop to it all. It would never end, Misa thought, there would never be a chance like the one she and Light had had and taken to purge the world completely of evil. There had never been anyone like Light before, Misa thought mournfully, and she knew there would never be anyone like him in the future, ever again. With Light's death, the world was plunged permanently back into darkness as if he had never existed at all, infected forever by evil, and now there was no one who could ever stop it.

Misa didn't know how she'd ever endured life before him - before there was Kira to create a new and perfect world, before there was Light to love her - and now she didn't think she could endure life after him, where her Light was dead and she was left alone to face the world's evil all on her own, with no one left to help her and no one left to love.

~0~

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree,

Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.

Strange things have happened here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

~0~

Misa continued to wander, lost in her own sorrowful thoughts, when she realized just in time that she was about to walk smack into a large tree. She stopped short, her mouth falling open, gazing up at the tree almost as if she was shocked that it was there. And when, after a moment, she made to keep walking on, her foot dropped into something, almost making her trip. Misa caught herself and looked down in surprise.

She had stepped into a crudely dug hole near the base of the tree, and had caught her foot on its inside. She stared at that for a moment, too, wondering why it was there, since it looked like it was dug by a person and not an animal, and this wasn't a place that people often came to. Then realization hit her, just as it had done a while before. She had not only come to the same woods where Light had instructed her to hide his Death Note, but now she had somehow come upon the very same tree she had buried it under. As fresh memories of her lost love rushed back to dominate her, Misa gave a small cry of pain and fell to her knees. It was too much, she thought. Light had become the center of her life ever since she met him. She had come to understand that it would be impossible to keep going without him.

Sure, she had her career to keep her going, modeling and acting and singing and such, but in the late years of the Kira case, she'd started to wonder if they weren't as desperately important as she once thought them to be. Now, comparing it to what she had been trying to accomplish with Light - creating a utopia in which the world would be freed of evil forever - she found that to be an unavoidable truth. She found that everything she had once held dear in her life came to mean nothing at all if Light was not there to hold her life together. It all fell apart, and Misa didn't know what kept her together now. She barely even knew what kept her alive.

Once Light had come into her life, he had been nothing short of a personal savior to her. First, he had justly punished the man who killed her parents, when everyone else had begun to believe he was innocent and it was almost certain that he would be let free. She had loved and admired Kira to distraction from that point on, and she set about trying to find him, and, when Rem had given her a Death Note of her own, to emulate him, once she had his power and could help him carry out his mission. And once she had found him, he was everything she had imagined him to be, and more, oh, so much more. He was not only willing to let her be his partner, and to help him, but he gave her his love as well as his acceptance.

Of course she had noticed that he could be distant with her (she wasn't so dumb that she hadn't picked up on these things!), and that he often was so busy with his duties as Kira that he had no time to spare for her. But that was okay. There were good explanations, Misa reasoned, as she always did when she began to think Light might not care about her as much as he constantly told her he did. He was always a rather reserved person, unwilling to be open to his own family, even. It was simply a part of who he was.

And of course he did not always have time to spare for her. Light had chosen to devote his life to ridding the world of all evil, and it required most if not all of his days and nights, to select criminals to be killed, plan the times and methods of their deaths strategically, to write all their names down in his Death Note, and all the while maintaining his facade of being a member of the Kira investigation who was dedicated to helping his comrades find and catch the psychopathic murderer who held the whole world hostage. It was understandable that little time could be spared for her, even if Light wanted to, as he assured her if she asked that he did.

Despite the things she found strange about their relationship, Misa could always be sure of one thing: Light Yagami loved her and her alone, and nothing could ever have changed that. He wanted only the best for her, and he had promised her that when nothing stood in the way of his reign over his utopia, she would remain forever at his side, as his goddess of the new world. At this memory, tears began to make Misa's eyes sting, and she fought hard to keep them from falling, as she had been doing for months. The only reason she refused to let them spill was that she knew Light would not have approved.

Light wouldn't have wanted to see his beloved Misa cry, she thought. If he were here, he would have comforted her, he would have protected her. But Light wasn't here to do any of that, and Misa was without comfort or defense. Oh, how she wished with all her heart that somehow he could be! How she wanted to feel his arms envelope her, as he had done that evening in his bedroom, the day they had met and he had told her that she would be his partner and lover from that day on. What she would give to hear his voice, even, if only just one word...

And then, suddenly, Misa thought she did. She thought she heard Light's voice, in the soft and gentle tone he only took when speaking to her, say her name. Misa jumped at it, and her head snapped up and she scrambled to her feet, her tears abruptly stopped by her surprise. She glanced all around her, her movements like that of a startled animal looking around for danger. But, despite her sudden hope, there was still nothing around her but the chilled gray surroundings of the misty forest, and she stood in complete silence, save for the sound of her own quick breathing.

It took a few moments for Misa to realize she had only imagined she heard Light's voice, and that in reality - cruel and harsh as it was - there was no one there. Light was still dead, his body cold and rotting six feet under the earth. Misa was still alone. She sank again to her knees at this knowledge, and let the tears fall. Then, as if her mind was subconsciously bent on tormenting her, she heard it again a few moments later, clearer and louder this time. Light's voice, calling her name...

Misa couldn't take it anymore. Abandoning all control, she clumsily spun around and ran away, deeper into the woods. She wanted it to stop, she had been wrong, the voice only brought pain if Light was not there with it. But it did not stop, and Misa ran faster as she fled into the trees, with Light's voice all around her, whispering so temptingly, Misa, Misa, Misa...

~0~

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Where the dead man called out for his love to flee.

Strange things have happened here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

~0~

Misa had almost lost sight of the tree where the hole had been dug, and she didn't hear anything else (at least, she thought she didn't), but still she ran as fast as she could. She went for another moment, picking up speed again, when another call of her name stopped her dead in her tracks. Light's voice was no longer calm and alluring, but that time, it had been a sharp command that claimed Misa's attention completely. She stayed very still, save for the slight nervous trembling she was beginning to feel, and listened carefully in spite of herself. Even if she were just hearing things, she could never disobey Light, especially when he spoke so firmly. And her attentiveness was rewarded. Light's voice, calm once more, spoke again.

"Come now, Misa," he said. "Come here now."

The thought occurred to Misa that she might not be imagining things. She had heard Light speak to her from out of the mist as clear as anything, hadn't she? A chill went down her spine at the idea, and once more Misa looked around for the source of the voice. She decided that it had come from behind her, and also decided that she'd take a chance and do as Light said. With that, Misa turned right around and on instinct ran back to the tree, which she could still see. But when she had reached it, she found nothingness and silence. Now, ever since she had first discovered the truth of Light's death, Misa had not spoken. She had not uttered a single word, as she had no longer found reason to. So it came as a bit of a surprise, even to her, when she cried out the first word she'd spoken in months.

"Light!" she cried, sounding every bit as desperate as she felt. "Light? I'm here! Where are you?"

At first she was met again with silence, and Misa's heart sank as she decided that she was probably only imagining things, perhaps even having a vivid hallucination of some kind, and she thought she was going to burst into tears again. But then, she caught sight of something black poking out from behind the tree, that she was certain hadn't been there before. It looked very much like a black feather, and Misa assumed that it was just a bird of some sort, like a raven or a crow. But then the "bird" emerged from behind the tree, and it was the absolute last thing that Misa expected to see. When she saw all of what it was, she let out a shriek and jumped back in fright, tripping on a tree root and falling backward to the ground. She was struck speechless; all she could do was stare up in silent shock and terror.

The creature that had stepped out from behind the tree looked like something out of a nightmare. It was tall and lean, but strong-looking, with smooth skin tinged deep silver. It was clothed in all black garments, and glinting silver ornaments adorned its belt and silver strands of small chain links were wound around its throat and forearms. It had a large, eerie-looking scythe strapped onto its back, which Misa thought looked like a warped version of the scythe the Grim Reaper was often depicted as wielding. It had an ominous, sinister appearance, and Misa was frozen in horror for a moment as it approached her, slowly and purposefully and with a gait that was almost catlike.

But then Misa noticed something: a familiar-looking black book securely attached to the belt...Misa would know that object anywhere. A second after she recognized the Death Note this creature had in its possession, other things began to resonate in her memory. The form of the body and shape of the face were the same, for one thing. The style of the hair, though now the hair was jet black and streaked crimson, was the same. And while the eyes were now luminous and blood-red, exactly like the ones Misa had once possessed, their shape was the same. And that voice...That voice hadn't changed at all.

Hardly daring to believe it, Misa timorously asked, "L-Light? Is th-that you?"

The creature smiled, baring sharp and gleaming white teeth. "Very good, Misa," it said, sounding pleased. "For a moment, I was afraid that you didn't recognize me. But now I see that I need not have had such worries."

Misa felt her features brighten instantly, something she had not felt in months. "Light!" she cried joyfully, bouncing up to her feet. "It's really you? You're really here?"

"Yes, of course," Light said, and now the memories of the times he'd used that sweet tone of voice with her in the past brought happiness to Misa, and not pain. "I am truly here, you're not imagining anything."

"But...how?" Misa asked, reason breaking through her elated feelings. "How are you here? Why are you here? You look like a Shinigami, but that can't be possible! And if you are a Shinigami, how can I see you if I didn't - "

"Enough, Misa," Light cut off her rapid-fire string of questions. "I promise, I'll explain everything. First - you are correct, I have become a Shinigami. This is the ultimate fate of a human who uses the Death Note."

"But, Light," Misa said, distinctly remembering something Light had once said to the contrary. "You told me once that Ryuk told you that people who use the Death Note just...fade into nothingness after they die. Well, I know Ryuk couldn't always be believed, but - "

"He was right," Light cut in again. "The realm of the Shinigami is a barren wasteland. Nothingness would be a perfect word to describe it. Shinigami can leave it and visit the human world if they like, I've found. However, most of them have no interest in taking the trouble to go. For beings that have such a fearsome reputation, they are such lazy creatures. To tell you the truth, I might not have come back, either, but I decided after a while that I simply had to. Because you see, Misa..." he purred, and if Misa had been listening for it she would have caught a truly malicious edge to his voice, "I came back for you."

Misa didn't know why, but this unnerved her badly. "For...for me?" she said, a bit of a whimper in her voice. "What do you mean?"

Light smiled at that, and Misa felt a chills run up her spine. "Misa..." he said in that same seductive purr. "I know how terrible you've felt for the past half a year, and only now are you beginning to be happy again, now that you see me."

Misa nodded, she couldn't deny that. But there was something about the way Light looked at her that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up...

"And as for how you can see and hear me," he went on, "that's all thanks to this." He patted the Death Note at his belt. "I have one of my own now, and I have been putting it to good use. Misa...I understand you thought you had some kind of nightmare recently?"

Misa gasped, as memories of just a few days ago came rushing back to her. She'd woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from a frightening dream. She didn't remember most of it, but she did recall a blurred sight of some monstrous creature, its form largely obscured by the shadows, standing before her, seemingly a moment before she woke up. Later, she'd thought it was simply part of the dream, but thinking back on it now, she realized that the "monster" had looked exactly the way Light looked now - that had been no nightmare!

"So you mean...that thing I saw was you?" Misa asked, and Light nodded.

"And the reason I visited you that night was so you could touch this," Light said, running his fingers along the cover of his Death Note, "so that when I came to meet you here, you would be able to see me and hear me, and also get your memories of the Death Note back."

"But why do it while I was asleep? Why didn't you just wake me up and show yourself to me then?" Misa asked, confused. "Why go to all this trouble?"

"Because I didn't want your...caretakers realizing something was going on," Light said. "You don't see how different you look now than you've done for the past six months. You're suddenly happy again, and you wouldn't be able to hide that if you tried. Severely depressed people don't just bounce back and be cheerful again like that" - he snapped his fingers for emphasis - "and if you did they would suspect something strange was happening. It might have kept me from bringing you here, and that just wouldn't do."

Misa had to admit he was right. Ever since Light's death a year ago, Aizawa, Matsuda, Ide, and Mogi had been keeping a close eye on her. She had assumed that it was for her own protection, but after getting her memories of the Death Note back, she realized it was not only for this, but so they could keep the former Second Kira under their watch. They would have noticed any drastic change in her behavior immediately. But Misa was still in the dark as to one last thing.

"Light..." she began nervously. "You said you needed to bring me here because you had come back for me. What...exactly...did you mean?"

Light smiled. "Misa, you know we can't get along without each other," he said. "So I came back to reunite us."

"And...um...how are you going to do that?" Misa asked, and she was ashamed to hear a nervous squeak to her voice.

"You were a user of the Death Note too, weren't you? And that can't be undone," Light said, still with the pleasant smile. "So if you were to die, you would live on as a Shinigami, like me. Never to die, as long as we keep writing names in our Death Notes. And unlike the other Shinigami, I have special conditions for whose names those will be..." Light's grin widened. "Misa, do you see what wonderful things Death Notes are? We used them to rid the world of evil in life, and since we did, we can now use them from the Shinigami realm, and look over the new world we will create as true gods, and rule over it for eternity!"

Misa was not unnerved by the fervor in Light's voice and the slightly crazed smile on his face, as they were familiar to her. However, when she put together every word he'd said to her thus far, and their meaning was suddenly crystal clear, a horrible shock ran through her body, and she let out a loud, choked gasp. "L-Light..." she said, no longer nervous but frantic now, "what are you saying? Y-Y-You don't mean - ?"

"You've figured it out, then? Good," said Light, sounded pleased. "We can't do any of that if you are still alive and unable to act as Kira with me. In order for this to happen, you have to die."

Misa could barely speak, her mouth gaping open like a fish out of water. She felt her blood go cold and turn to ice in her veins. Die? Light wanted her to die? How could he!

"No!" Misa cried, panicked. "Light, is that what you want? Did you want me alone so you could kill me?"

"Misa, Misa," said Light cajolingly. "Don't you know me at all? And didn't you hear a word I said? I don't want to hurt you; of course I wouldn't want that. But isn't this what you wanted?" He raised an eyebrow at her. "For the past year, even before you knew of my death, wasn't the thing you wanted most for us to be together again?"

Misa stayed silent, but she knew he was right. That was all she had truly wanted, the only thing...

"You were too depressed to do much of anything for all that time," Light went on, knowing she agreed. "I waited for a while to see if you would decide to do it yourself" - Misa flinched at that, but Light didn't acknowledge it - "but you were too depressed to do anything. So I decided that it was up to me to reunite us. Isn't that you wanted to happen, Misa?"

Misa considered this, reason beginning to work through her fear. "Yes," she breathed, thinking that Light was absolutely right in that respect. True, she wanted nothing more than to be with Light, and as near-immortal Shinigami, she would never be separated from him again. No one could touch them, and they could be together forever, not to mention they could realize their ultimate goal. But did she really want to die?

Misa was going to voice her discomfort more, but she never got the chance to. Almost as soon as she said yes, Light's smile widened. "Good," he said. "It'll go more smoothly this way. I was hoping we would see eye to eye."

Misa's breathing quickened. "Light, I -"

"Because, Misa, there's something I forgot to mention..." Light stroked the cover of his Death Note, once more before detaching it from his belt and throwing it to the ground, letting it open on its latest entry. Misa gasped in horror when she read the name written - with a calm, purposeful hand - at the top of the page: Misa Amane.

"...You don't have a choice in the matter."

Misa was struck speechless, and she struggled to remember how to breathe. Her heart raced, frantically pounding against the inside of her chest as she read the rest of the entry: Goes into the nearby woods at 10:30 PM, wanders until she comes upon a tree with a hole dug in front of it, at which point she encounters a Shinigami in possession of a noose, which she uses to hang herself with at 12:00 AM.

Upon reading the planned method of her death, Misa was momentarily confused, until she realized what Light had attached his Death Note to his belt with and was lying on the ground along with the book, just waiting for her to use it: a neatly made noose, looking brand new, without a speck of dust on the thick rope.

She only took a second to realize this, and then something else clicked in her head: the time. How long did she have left? She suddenly became aware of the watch on her left wrist, and she jerked up her left arm to read it. It read 11:59:57 PM.

Misa only had time to gasp again, snap her head up to look at the no longer smiling Shinigami before her, and cry out, "Light!", before the three seconds were up and she froze. Misa held Light's gaze for a moment more, and then she slowly looked down at the waiting noose. In a movement that would have been almost hesitant, if Misa still had control of her body, she took the first step towards it.

~0~

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free.

Strange things have happened here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

~0~

Light watched as Misa advanced toward the noose with visible trepidation. It had been easy to acquire - no one had been able to see him in the darkness as he slipped into the hardware store to grab the lengths of rope he needed. He kept back his smile as Misa stepped slowly towards her death. He didn't want her to think that he was enjoying it.

In truth, he wasn't; this was simply done as a step of his plan, not for any sadistic desire to kill his former "lover." Light had never loved her, but he had found her exceptionally useful - and he had to admit, perhaps he had become somewhat fond of her, like a master is for his pet. Light had grown used to having Misa at his beck and call, and he wanted her at his side again, ready to do as he said.

He was perfectly capable of reclaiming the title of Kira on his own, he knew. In that respect, Misa was somewhat unnecessary now. He had singlehandedly defeated the Shinigami King in order to gain total authority over this world and do as he pleased without opposition; if he could do that on his own, he certainly didn't need anybody to take control of the human world as well. However, Light was impatient.

He remembered what it had felt like to be Kira, the all-powerful god of justice in every sense of the word. When that idiot Matsuda had shot him down, he and the others perhaps not fully realizing just how vital the man they were taking from the world was to it, he had lost all of that. Light was impatient to get it all back, and to exact his revenge on those who had stolen it from him, as soon as he could. Many hands make light work, it was said, and he would rise again faster with his obedient little pet assisting him.

He knew that severely depressed people like Misa could be driven to suicide on their own, but he didn't care to wait any longer to see if Misa would, and he decided to take the matter into his own hands. Misa was frightened, he knew. He could see the alarm in her eyes, wide and staring like small moons. But he knew her very well. All she had really wanted was to be with her beloved Light once more, and she would not hold any lasting grudge against him for this. Once she was a Shinigami as well, and they could be together forever, which was more than she'd hoped for, she would forgive him, perhaps even thank him.

Light wondered if any thoughts of that sort had crossed her mind as he watched her, having tied the rope to a suitable branch on the tree, slip the noose around her neck. Don't fret, Misa, he thought, I'll be seeing you again very soon. Still, Light could not suppress a wince as the sharp crack of Misa's neck snapping as she finished herself off rang through the silence of the woods.

He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, and let out a sigh, his mind turning to what would happen next within the coming day. One of his great skills was making people think any way he wanted with the power of his soft, cajoling words. Given a little time, he would have Misa convinced that what he had done was right for her, and that he had only been thinking of her happiness. She would not be any problem at all. And neither, he thought, with the satisfied grin unfurling across his face once more, would the eight people responsible for Kira's temporary destruction.

Light strode forward and retrieved his Death Note, taking care to brush the specks of dirt from its sleek black cover. He stared at it, anticipating how he would use it next with rising glee. His grin widened, baring his newly sharp teeth, as he imagined how he would kill them all. As he thought about what he would put each of them through, he started to laugh softly, pleasure spreading in him already. Normally, he would have stopped after a moment or two, but he couldn't, and the sound gradually crescendoed to the point where Light, abandoning all sanity, threw back his head and howled with insane laughter that no one but he could hear. Now, he thought, they will be the first to feel Kira's wrath once more!

~0~

Aizawa let out a huff of frustration. Eight solid hours of searching for Misa Amane and none of them had been able to find a single clue as to where she had disappeared to. All they knew was that Matsuda had called them in a panic at nine in the morning after he'd gone to check on Misa, as each of them had taken it in turns to do routinely for the past six months. After finding neither a trace of her at her apartment nor any hint of where she had perhaps gone, he, Matsuda, Mogi, and Ide had gone out into the city to search for her. But none of them had made any progress all day, and it was really starting to get on Aizawa's last nerve.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the others approaching to rendezvous and share their findings, if any, as they had been doing periodically throughout the day. Aizawa got up from the bench he'd been sitting waiting for them on, and went over to meet them.

"Any sign of her?" he asked. All three shook their heads.

"Nothing," said Ide wearily. "She could have up and left the city for all we know."

"The question is, why..." Mogi muttered, talking almost to himself. "Wait a moment, could she have wanted to go to...Light's grave?"

"That's a good thought," said Aizawa, "but Matsuda and I already checked there, right after we found out she was gone. If that's where she'd initially been going, we would have found her there."

"Mogi did tell her where it was, in case it would make her feel better to go visit his grave," Ide mused. "Aizawa's right, she didn't go there."

Aizawa sighed. "We should probably check there again, just for the sake of - "

"Uh..." Matsuda started, looking worried. "Um, speaking of Light and Misa...She was really depressed when she found out he was dead and...you know, she always acted like he was the center of her life...So...I wondered...You don't think maybe..."

"She killed herself?" Aizawa finished, and Matsuda gave a quick nod. No one spoke for a couple minutes, and Aizawa realized that the possibility had occurred to all of them. He decided to break the silence and say what they were all thinking. "I...think that's very probable. But we shouldn't jump to any conclusions. Now, does anyone have any other ideas as to where she might be? Any at all?"

They stood in silence for another moment, and then Matsuda, whose head had been bowed, suddenly jerked it up with a sudden thought. "Have we checked the woods yet?"

"The woods outside the city? No, I haven't been there yet," Aizawa said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Has anyone else?" Mogi and Ide shook their heads. "Well, then, since we haven't found a trace of her anywhere else, there's no better place to look."

"Let's go, then!" Matsuda said, and all four of them set off quickly for the outskirts of the city.

~0~

"Misa!" Aizawa called out into the darkening woods. "Misa, are you there?"

So far, the woods seemed to be abandoned, but they had only been there for maybe fifteen minutes, and it was a large area to cover. And strangely, the more they looked - and the deeper they went into the woods - the more it seemed to Aizawa that they were in the right place. He felt more confident than he had felt all day that they were close to finding the missing girl.

"Misa, it's us! If you're here, then please come out!" he heard Mogi call from a short distance away. He sounded to Aizawa a little as if he were coaxing a frightened dog out of hiding. He listened a moment for any answer, heaved a deep sigh when he received only the fading echo of his own voice, then turned to Aizawa. "Aizawa...going back to what Matsuda said earlier," he said somberly, "do you really think that Misa could have decided to - "

Suddenly, Mogi's words were cut off by a guttural, horrified scream from deep in the trees, out of the two men's' sight.

Mogi, his face looking as shocked and shaken as Aizawa felt, said, "That sounded like Matsuda!"

Aizawa didn't bother to reply, he was bolting in the direction of the scream as fast as he could, with Mogi quickly following at his heels. Whatever Matsuda is so frightened of, Aizawa wondered frantically, could it have to do with what happened to Misa?

When he caught sight of Matsuda, on all fours on the ground and looking up with an expression of utter horror on his face, Aizawa called to him, "Matsuda, what's wro - ?" His question was cut off in a strangled cry when he saw what Matsuda had seen: The body of Misa Amane, hanging by the neck from a noose tied to the branch of a tree, still swinging slightly in the gentle breeze.

As a member of the police force, Aizawa had seen quite a few sickening things in his life, but he still felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach the second he laid eyes on Misa's body. Dimly, he heard similar reactions coming from Mogi and Ide, who had rushed to the scene soon after he did. Aizawa stared at the dead girl hanging from the branch, unable to look away. Through his shock, he was still able to see that her eyes were still eerily half-open, and that her face still had a frightened expression on it. But what disturbed him just as much as Misa's body hanging there were the four other nooses tied in a neat line next to her on the branch.

"The others..." he heard Matsuda yelp, "what are the others for?"

Aizawa began to try and answer him, but was cut off by the tinny, metallic ringing of his cell phone. By habit, he took it out of his pocket and glanced at the caller ID. "It's...the SPK's number," he said, sounding surprised and somewhat suspicious.

"The SPK?" Ide said, confused. "They haven't spoken to us for months; they broke off contact with us after Light was killed."

"Something's wrong," Mogi said with finality. "Very wrong. Answer it fast, Aizawa!"

Aizawa nodded, pressing the button to accept the call and putting the phone to his ear. "H-Hello?"

"A-Aizawa...That's you, right?" a weak voice, sounding as if it hurt immensely to try and speak, answered. "I-I-It's...N-Near..."

"Near, what's happened?" Aizawa demanded. "What's going on?"

"They're dead...All of them," Near muttered, his voice growing more strained the longer he spoke. "Rester, Gevanni, Lidner...all of them were killed, they're dead...Heart attacks, all of them...And I...I'm about to...to join them."

"What?" Aizawa cried. "Near, what happened? Who killed them?"

"…K-Kira," Near managed.

"What?" Aizawa shouted, stunned. "Kira? Near, what are you talking about? What's going on?"

"He's...come back..." Near forced out. "I...don't know how...but I know why...He'll kill us all...for what we did..."

"Near, I - "

"No!" Near cried with as much forcefulness as he could muster, while his voice grew fainter and more pained with each word. "You need to know...the others, they all died in less than a minute...But I...am taking time...I didn't mean to call you...my hand moved on its own...He's controlling me, he wants you to know this...He's telling you...he's going to...k-kill you all...He'll have his re...revenge...He's going to…to kill me...just like L b-before me...a-and then he...he'll...kill you...a-all...of...y-y-you..." Aizawa, listening frozen in horror, heard a faint, agonized breath, and then a sound like something dropping to the floor. After that, only a sickening silence.

"Near? Near, are you there?" Aizawa called into the phone, alarmed. "Near? Near, answer! Answer me now!"

"Aizawa!" shouted Mogi, whose face had drained completely of color. "What was that? What's going on?"

"The...The SPK are all dead...and now Near is too," Aizawa told them, his voice as faint with mounting terror as Near's had been with pain. "According to him...this is Kira's doing." His words were received by a collective gasp from the other three.

"That's impossible!" cried Ide. "Everyone known to have been Kira at one point or another is dead! Light, Misa, Higuchi, Takada, Mikami...All of them are dead and gone! It's not possible!"

"At first we found it hard to believe that Shinigami existed, and were responsible for the power of Kira," Mogi pointed out. "Anything could be possible. It happened once, it could very well happen again."

"I don't want to believe it, but Mogi is right," said Aizawa. "And...Near said...That we'd be next. Kira would kill us next."

"W-What?" cried Matsuda, looking absolutely terrified now, as were Mogi and Ide.

"He'd kill us?" Mogi repeated, as if unable to comprehend it. "First Misa, then the SPK…and then…Aizawa, did Near...did he say we were next?"

"Yes," Aizawa breathed. "He said that...that Kira was controlling him before killing him. He said that we would be killed next and that Kira wanted us to know..."

"He wanted us to panic," said Mogi, who was trying to make his voice sound calmer and mainly failing. "He wanted us to get too scared to do anything, and then he would kill us like animals in a trap. We can't let him."

"Kira killed thousands of people..." Ide said, sounding as though he'd lost hope for himself. "Whoever Kira wanted dead, died. There was no escape."

"No," Matsuda said, getting to his feet. "We escaped him once...Maybe we'll get lucky. We can't just let ourselves...die."

"But how?" Ide countered. "He kills with heart attacks! We can't run from our own bodies! We're as good as - !"

"No," Matsuda said again, pointing to the nooses hanging from the branch with a shaking finger. "I can tell those are for us! There's one for each of us! He could make us hang ourselves any minute, like he must have done to Misa! We can't just wait to be killed, we need to get out of here now!"

"Matsuda's right," Aizawa said, trying to keep his gut-wrenching fear back as he eyed Misa's body and the nooses beside it. "If Kira means for us to die here, we need to get as far from here as we can! We need to move!"

With that, Matsuda and Aizawa turned on their heels and started to bolt back through the trees with Mogi and Ide following suit, but they hadn't gotten ten feet from Misa's tree when all of them, quite against their wills, froze in their tracks. Matsuda tried as hard as he possibly could to take a step forward, but couldn't.

On seeing that his partners were unable to move as well, an awful chill ran down Matsuda's spine. He put every last bit of strength in his body into moving his legs forward, but they simply refused to move. Then, without Matsuda deciding to move that way, he - along with the other three - abruptly turned around and started back for the tree he'd been fleeing.

Matsuda frantically kept trying to run, to turn around, to go back, to go anywhere but where he was going, but it was no use. His body wasn't his anymore. He and the others could do nothing but feel themselves walking steadily towards their own deaths. Matsuda was painfully conscious of how helpless they were, completely trapped in their own bodies, with literally seconds before they would unwillingly kill themselves, and absolutely nothing they could do about it. Despite his earlier words, he was ready to give all his former bravery up and he tried to scream in spite of himself, but, adding to his rising horror he couldn't even make the sound come out of his mouth.

The noose was right in front of his face now. How much longer did they have to be alive? Five seconds? Not even. So this was what every single victim of Kira's had felt in their final moments, Matsuda thought grimly. He had never known a human being could feel their heart pound so fast with pure terror, or experience such an overwhelming combination of fear, desperation, helplessness, and nausea all at once. His hands were on the noose now, pulling it to his head, around his neck. Kira was going to kill him! No, there was no going to, it was over, he was killing himself! Tears were pouring uncontrollably down his face, he was sobbing. I don't want to die! Matsuda thought wildly as his hand moved to slip the noose over his head, and he saw the others, with identical looks of horror on their faces, doing the same and undoubtedly struggling with all the effort they had to stop themselves. I've done nothing wrong, Kira! I don't deserve to die! He could feel the thick rope pressing on his throat. In another second it would break his neck, ending his life in a sickeningly swift snap. Please, Light, don't kill me, please don't - !

In the next second, the harsh, sudden cracks of four necks breaking almost simultaneously split the silence of the darkening woods.

In the early morning, two days from then, search parties from the NPA, looking for the model Misa Amane and the four members of the Japanese Task Force who had been reported missing, found their bodies hanging in a neat row from a nondescript tree in the nearby woods. Their deaths were announced as suicide, with the motivation behind them being severe depression and trauma.

In the next week, the deaths of Near and the rest of the SPK members were discovered. Their deaths were reported as heart attacks, and in later news reported were put down as the first casualties of the second, permanent reign of Kira over the world.

In the realm of the Shinigami, for years to come, the youngest of the female Shinigami stood sycophantically at the side of the Shinigami King - an imposing, scythe-wielding creature with a perpetually manic gleam in his scarlet eyes, whose chillingly insane laughter echoed through the Realm with each name he feverishly wrote into his Death Note...

~0~

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

~0~

Disclaimer: I do not own Light, Misa, Aizawa, Matsuda, Mogi, or Ide. They belong to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I do not own 'The Hanging Tree'; the song belongs to Suzanne Collins.

[A/N] – FINALLY, this is finished! It took me three months to get done. This is my first songfic, and also my first time trying to write something dark, suspenseful, and a little scary. I'd really like some feedback on how well I did with that and the overall story, so review would be very much appreciated. Let me know how you liked it and more importantly, if there's anything I should work on!

Also, about Light – He reincarnating as a Shinigami and overthrowing the Shinigami King is my headcanon. His appearance is how I imagine Shinigami-Light would look. (I personally don't accept Relight as canon). One day when I'm a better artist I'll draw it and post it on deviantART, hopefully.

R&R?