VI. Hokkaido (北海道)
“Today,” their professor was saying as Haruki stared down at his notebook (which was blank, save for about three or four magnificent doodles), “we will begin our discussion in regards to the emergence of the newest Kira… J-Kira, or ‘Justice-Kira’, as the press has dubbed them.”
Justice-Kira? I guess that’s not so bad. Not so bad at all. He had never thought to give himself a name, but now: he was distinguished from Yagami and the others. He hadn’t heard about this on the news, but then again, he hadn’t been listening to the news much at all. Haruki had chosen Yukari Yamaguchi to be his spokeswoman. He knew the only reason he had done that was because she was cute. That was the only reason, he thought in amusement. But, being the one sending out the news, he hardly needed to watch his own words read back to him by a loyal and beautiful newswoman. He preferred to watch with the sound muted.
“And what about you, Kiryu?” the teacher asked him, breaking Haruki out of his thoughts like a sledgehammer through ice.
“Um, s-sorry, professor, what was the question?”
Professor Yamashita gave the boy a foul look. “Is J-Kira really an avatar of justice or not?”
Haruki didn’t much like this class, and he didn’t much care for the opinions of the other students in it. Everyone gathered to spout their feelings on what Kira should be and what Kira should do–as if such thoughts were important to share in the first place. The arrogance in believing they were was what got to Haruki.
“I don’t believe so, professor. In my opinion, this Kira is nothing more than a show-off.”
“Heheheheh, what’s that, Haru?” Ryuk cackled from behind his shoulder. “Playing devil’s advocate, eh?”
He had to suppress a smile. Come on, Ryuk. Keep up. “Is that so?” Professor Yamashita replied coldly. “Is that because he killed so many criminals at once?”
“Yeah. What’s he trying to prove, anyways? I don’t get it. It just seems arrogant to me.”
“It’s not arrogant,” another student cut in. Jiro. Haruki considered this boy his friend, but perhaps ‘acquaintance’ would be more apt a description. “It was Kira showing us his power in its most wonderful, cleansing form… how can you feel sad for the criminals? Are you saying they deserved to live… to suck resources from the countries they were imprisoned in because those countries didn’t have the moral fortitude to do what Kira was forced to?!”
“Oh, he’s good. This is so… interesting!” Ryuk was flying about the room, focusing in on Jiro now. “He’s got a point, you know.”
Oh, I know, Ryuk. “It’s always wrong to kill someone.”
“That’s a morally corrupt stance,” Jiro replied simply. “I think Kira would agree.”
Yamashita nodded fervently. “Of course, that is true. J-Kira, like L-Kira, as the Kira Files named him, seeks to rid the world of evil. To determine that criminals, especially violent felons, as most of the sixty thousand were, I’ll remind you, Haruki, deserve to live, is morally indefensible and evil in and of itself. That is how these Kiras think. Not all agree, of course, but arguing that there is an inherent sanctity to life–that we should never kill anyone because doing so would make us evil–is profoundly conceited. We deserve life no more than any other living creature.”
Haruki shrugged. “I don’t care about any of that. Killing people is just wrong.”
As predicted, others tore into him like a gazelle cornered by a pack of lions. Good, he thought. This is proof that they’re on my side already. Haruki leaned back, once again chewing on the corner of his lip to prevent himself from smirking.
“You’ve really done it now, haven’t you?” laughed Ryuk. “I get it. That was clever of you, Haruki. They don’t even realize what…”
The Shinigami trailed off and fell silent.
Haruki’s eyes found him, but in that instant, a new Shinigami stepped out of the darkness before his eyes, blocking his view of Ryuk’s back. “Hi there,” the skull-faced, goggles-wearing Shinigami breathed. His voice was higher than Ryuk’s–aloof but cold.
Haruki did well not to react too strongly. The conversation about Kira had likewise turned away from him, as Jiro and Akari were debating the specifics of J-Kira’s morals compared to L-Kira’s. The boy swallowed.
Ryuk walked up behind him. “Aw, come on Jakkuran, it was just getting good. Besides, how can you blame me? Raght swore the notebook belonged to Baloucher. I thought it was a free book…”
“So I’ve heard.” He paused undramatically, folding his arms, the sounds of the real world rushing back into Haruki’s eardrums in a heartbeat. “The human has it, doesn’t he?”
Ryuk glanced about, wide-eyed. “He won’t talk to you out here with all the other humans around. Don’t even bother. Trust me, I’ve tried more times than I can count.”
“Oh. How long until he goes back to his home?”
“After school. That’s in, uh… five or six hours…” Ryuk guessed. He’s only come here with me like a hundred times.
“I will find you again at that time,” the other Shinigami breathed before leaping into the air, jumping through the classroom’s ceiling, and disappearing.
“Well that’s just great! Damnit! I’ve got to go back to the Shinigami Realm, Haruki. The old man’s gonna be pissed…” The pale-faced Shinigami exhaled a forlorn sigh, weakly adding, “But it wasn’t my fault! It wasn’t…!”
The boy stirred. Now my Shinigami is leaving me? His heartbeat quickened. Jakkuran might not be as merciful as Ryuk. He looked pretty angry after he learned that I had his notebook… he may kill me to get it back. But I can’t say anything to Ryuk here…
“I know you can’t talk, but, uh, this is goodbye,” the Shinigami said awkwardly, standing in front of Haruki’s desk. For once, Yamashita’s voice faded from Kira’s ears. “It wasn’t my fault, so he won’t get mad at me… I hope, heh. But I’ll be breaking a rule if I stay here any longer now that he’s reclaimed his lost Death Note. Good luck. I wish you good fortune in the wars to come. Goodbye, Haruki.”
The great Shinigami’s wings spread from wall to wall like a wild, painted shadow, and following Jakkuran, he leapt into the air, graceful as a hawk, and was gone.
Shit. Yamashita’s eyes found Haruki’s again. The bastard’s going to ask me another question. Maybe I should write his name in the Death Note. But that was a foolish thought–a dangerous thought. He couldn’t afford to falter now. The boy cleared his mind, forgot what had just happened, swallowed his fear and sadness and melancholy, and for an instant too forgot that he was Kira.
“I suppose Wammy never mentioned me?”
“Pity.” C was tall, with a wrinkled face and slicked-back grey hair. Removing his white gloves, he sat in the chair Brennen had once occupied. “So too is it a pity that you’re working out of this shabby old hotel room, L.”
“I asked for something better, but this is all Rester could afford.”
“I see. Now, anyways, I won’t beat around the bush,” C said suddenly. His watery blue eyes were ever searching, and his fingers were slender and pale as melting wax. “Kira wants you dead. The message he had delivered by that newswoman was all Kira ever said. He sent no additional messages. He will kill the leaders of the UN unless they give up L.”
“Is that why you’ve come, C?” He had built half a wall out of legos, but the whole effort seemed in vain now that he looked at it. The carpet was covered in stains and burn marks, providing grim scenery for his crumbling monolith.
“Quite the contrary. Indeed, I am the only one preventing them from throwing you to the wolves.”
“None of them know my name or have any pictures of my face.”
“Kira has given them one month to produce you in Hokkaido.”
“I assume you will have men in Hokkaido to capture Kira should he show up?”
“The Japanese government has not allowed it. There was some concern that we may be operating against Kira’s will, and they would have none of that.”
“Cowards.” He produced a little hand-puppet from his pocket, pulling out one of himself as well. This new one he had made only last night. J-Kira. Justice. Is that really what you’re going for?
“You have one month to find him,” C said pointedly. “At that point, I will be forced to reveal your information to Kira.”
He felt heat in his cheeks as he looked up. Ifufe and Hallow stood between him and the old man, their arms folded. How does he know my name? “You mentioned Wammy. Do you expect that to mean anything to me?”
“Well, I would have assumed he had told you about me. I did, after all, own the orphanage originally, although after my illness, I relented and gave Wammy sole ownership.”
“He never mentioned you. The only C we knew was one of the candidates. He’s dead now.”
“Suicide. Self-immolation, if I remember correctly,” Hallow yawned.
So he knows about them too. Has C spilled the beans to everyone? The old man was leaning back in his chair, the fleshy bits of his fingers pressed against one another. “That C was not me. I am Cardinal. And if you aren’t given to Kira in one month’s time, I, along with the other leaders of the UN, will be murdered by J-Kira. None of us can do anything about that. I hope you understand.”
“I understand, Cardinal.” So he knew Wammy and he’s a big-shot in the UN. He certainly seems to be the one who leaked the Kira Files to the public. “I assume this is the part where you take me to Hokkaido so we can begin.”
“Not so fast,” Cardinal replied. “I have been authorized to give you three agents to assist you, but all further funding has been withdrawn in light of J-Kira’s emergence. That means no more satellites and no more help from the Japanese police.”
“Very well.” He’s making it needlessly more difficult. He seems to want me to fail. But then why have his agents assist me? Are they just here to watch me, to make sure I don’t do anything too damaging to J-Kira? And then what? Will he really try to kill me then? No… there’s only a twelve percent chance of that happening. It didn’t matter. “This is the last time we’ll see each other, isn’t it?”
“Oh, I very much doubt that,” Cardinal said, rising. “I’ll meet you in Hokkaido tomorrow. We’ll set up base there. I’ll be assisting you too, L. I want to see what you’ve got. I only got to work with the previous L over the phone–we never met face-to-face. I regret that to this day. It will not be so with you.”
You say one thing and do another. “We know J-Kira is Japanese, or can speak in Japanese. He was so imprecise about Hokkaido though, and that makes it appear likely that he has made the eye deal already.”
“Well, if he has, that makes this whole thing that much harder.”
“Nonsense,” Near said excitedly, jumping to his feet. Running to the far side of the room, he pulled from a bag several masks, including one he had made of the previous L’s face. Placing it over his cheeks, his sight now being hampered by up to fifteen percent, Near said, “We’re safe as long as we wear these.”
The other masks were of the Japanese Task Force members, now all of them dead. Near thought back to that drug bust they had helped him pull off just after Kira had been brought to justice. The future had been so bright for all of them that day.
“What are these?” Ifufe complained. “They’re all men!”
“The Japanese Task Force,” Near said stoically. “The members of the Japanese police force who helped me catch Kira last time.”
Cardinal took the mask of Mr. Mogi. Hallow took Matsuda’s mask; Ifufe begrudgingly took Aizawa’s.
“May we be as lucky as they were last time,” the old man said in a tired voice. That’s just what you would want. “We can leave as soon as you’re ready, L.”
“I see. In that case, please give me two minutes to pack my things, and I’ll be ready to go.”
Cardinal nodded deeply. Near bit his tongue, pocketing the finger puppets. I should not underestimate him. His anticipation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I have to be very careful around him. For all I know, C could be J-Kira.
That afternoon, before he returned home, Haruki received a text from Keen: hey Haruki, it’s Keen from Hebereke. Your father requested that the two of us meet tonight to go over a potential business deal with a South Korean software firm. I’ve enclosed my address below–it shouldn’t be too far from your school hopefully! Please come by whenever you can to discuss this specifics with me, thanks!
All of it was written in perfect casual Japanese. Keen’s house wasn’t all that far from home. He was surprised. He could walk there if he wanted. But what about that other Shinigami? Haruki’s thoughts were still raw from losing Ryuk so unexpectedly.
He didn’t really have a choice in the matter. To refuse the man’s invitation would be to bring dishonor upon his father.
Keen lived in the rose-red ward of Saitama. His apartment was tucked away in the corner of the third floor of an unassuming apartment complex. When Haruki knocked on the blue-painted door, Keen answered at once, as if he had been watching through the peephole.
“Hey, Haruki. Have you had dinner yet? I was just making a little…”
“Oh, I haven’t had anything to eat…”
“Great! Come in, come in, I’m making an old favorite from home. I bet you’ve never had tortellini before, have you?”
“Torte… uh, huh?”
The man brought him into the kitchen, where the aroma of something salty and savory was coming from something boiling in a pot on the stove. “It’s the most luxurious stuffed pasta… do you like mozzarella?”
“What the heck is that?” Haruki asked, laughing, dumbfounded. ‘ “It’s very tasty, here,” the older man replied, handing him a spoon with what looked like melted plastic on it. “It’s a type of cheese.”
Haruki took the spoon and ate it at once. “It’s not bad,” he said. “Saltier than I would have thought.”
“That’s the filling–well part of the filling. Is this cool for dinner?”
“Sure man.” Why’s he so jittery all of a sudden?
Keen was racing about the kitchen, his forehead glazed with sweat, his cheeks red and rosy. Haruki had always found it odd how foreigners turned such a deep, purpling color when they got worked up a bit. “It’ll all be ready in five minutes or so. Why don’t you wait in the other room? I set out silverware. I hope you don’t mind, Haruki. You can’t really eat tortellini with chopsticks.”
“Yeah, that’s fine, no big deal.”
Keen’s apartment was surprisingly messy. The boy noticed that half of the dining room table was covered in dirty clothes and paperwork. There were unwashed dishes all over the place too. He looks a lot neater in public. The air was a little stale, and it was colder than he was used to at home. The man’s chairs had a faint odor of dust about them, as if they had been rarely used.
He sat in silence, half-expecting the boneman to return in that time. But only Keen appeared with a steaming bowl of tortellini in each hand. “It’s a bit hot, watch yourself,” he said, setting the bowls on the table. And the way he said that made Haruki confused–he didn’t know if Keen was sincere or not. There was something artificial and hollow about his actions, speech, and tone. That could simply be because he’s a foreigner, though.
They said their thanks and dug into the meal. Keen brought up the business partnership between Hebereke and the South Korean software producer almost immediately, and the two talked at length, dully, about the operation. Haruki was barely paying attention throughout the conversation, which only made him more nervous. His mind was focused on Jakkuran and pretty much nothing else.
Keen poured himself some wine from a bottle he had displayed proudly in the center of the table. Haruki took a glass too. Can this guy go one day without getting blackout drunk? Nevertheless, Haruki had started to understand this game, and he was becoming more comfortable. The butterflies in his stomach, releasing when he gulped down the first swallow of wine, felt not unlike raw sexual desire, and in that moment, he again missed Misaki, again felt a wave of guilt bury him, and struggled to maintain focus on the present.
“… and if you help us work out this partnership, Haruki, your father will be able to get you an internship with me,” Keen hiccupped a few minutes later, long after their conversation had spoiled. “And after that, you’ll be offered employment… once you’re eighteen.”
He smiled and said how much he was looking forward to it in an earnest tone, and the fakeness of that tone cut him deeply. Keen poured himself another cup; Haruki had yet to halfway finish his yet. I won’t have to worry about working… but I can’t tell Dad and Mom and Masumi about it… especially not after their reaction to my reveal. But what am I supposed to do here?
He felt a fleeting panic welling in his fingertips–the kind that was like to make him run out of the room and keep on running until he had passed out from exhaustion. There was fear and cowardice mixed in between the cracks of laziness seeping into Haruki’s mind. He was trapped here; there was no way out of this. He either had to help Keen or tell his father he didn’t want to join Hebereke.
Burying the thought in a sour-tasting swirl of crimson, the boy’s public persona drifted into autopilot, answering Keen only when required, and only in the most basic way. To bury the shame, he focused on his ambitions–primarily his plan to get L’s name and face. So far there had been no sign from the leaders in the UN of giving up that most crucial bit of information, but Haruki was optimistic. If there’s one thing I know about people it’s that we’re all in it for ourselves. They will yield by month’s end, after the weight of their impending doom smothers the nobility out of them. They won’t sacrifice themselves for a fake L. That would be preposterous.
Keen poured them each another glass, and the bottle was empty. He downed that cup in a blur. Standing proudly next to a gnarled bonzai tree in the center of the table was another bottle of red wine. Without hesitating, Keen plucked that bottle up, popped the cork out, and poured the foaming, bitter-smelling liquid into his cup. It was not long before Keen had poured himself another Well, I can see where all of his wages are going, the boy thought, looking over the bottle of wine. That’s no cheap wine. That must have cost a week’s pay at least. Why’s he sharing such high-quality wine with me? Is there some hidden motive here?
“So you heard about Kira, right?” Keen asked him drunkenly. “That was pretty crazy, killing so many criminals at once like that.”
“Yeah,” the boy replied meekly.
“That was a remarkably bold plan. I am surprised that Kira had the discipline and fortitude to execute it,” he hiccupped, eyeing Haruki suggestively. “Doesn’t seem like his style.”
“His… style? What’s his style? I’m confused. And how do you know Kira’s a guy, anyways?”
Keen chuckled darkly, chasing a scrap of mozzarella with his fork. “The Japanese Task Force was killed immediately.”
Clearing his throat, Haruki gasped, swallowed, and then fell silent again. He was getting too drunk. I nearly just blurted out that I didn’t kill them! I have to be careful. “Who’s to say that was the same person as this Kira, though? What if there are two notebooks in the world?”
Though merely a tactic of deflection, Haruki’s bold speculation made Keen’s eyes grow wide and bloodshot. “Now that… that would be insane, wouldn’t it? That would be a real fucked-up situation, wouldn’t it?”
“Haruki…” the man said rudely, leaning against the table while looking up at him in an awkwardly broken pose, “if you were Kira, how would you use your powers?”
Again with the questioning. Is he a cop? SPK? One of L’s men? It was simply impossible for any of those things to be the case. If he is, how could he have found me? Did L trace Misaki’s death back to me? But the autopsy said she was killed in the car accident… not from a heart attack!
He realized he had been thinking, and looking up suddenly, Haruki found that Keen was lying against the table, snoring softly, a trail of translucent spittle running down the corner of his pink, foreign lips. Haruki swallowed hard, standing up. This guy is a mess.
Still, the boy was feeling a bit light-headed, and he wasn’t exactly in the mood to walk home so soon after finishing his meal. The alcohol was giving him ideas.
Those keys he had made–obviously carried along with him in his backpack here just in case Keen ever called him like this (as Haruki’s father had implied he would)–were now in Haruki’s pocket. He glided to Keen’s bedroom, hardly feeling even a shiver of fear. Am I too drunk to act rationally right now? he thought, realizing he had been staring at the doorknob for more time than he could remember.
He didn’t care; pressing on, Haruki carefully pulled open the door, and he was surprised to find the room mostly well-kept. The bed was made, and there weren’t any dirty clothes or dishes or any such rubbish that filled up the rest of the apartment in this room. Bizarre. This place gives me the creeps. Everything is too well-placed, like he’s a serial killer, or something.
There was nothing under Keen’s bed or in his closet that had a keyhole. But there was a little box in the back of his underwear drawer, hidden beneath Keen’s ridiculous brightly-colored lingerie, that caught Kira’s attention.
It was not the first key, nor the spare, but the little fat one that popped open the box. Inside was nothing but several sheets of paper. And upon the first page, written in barbaric English scratches, were the names of all of the Japanese Task Force Members as well as the members of L’s SPK. Oh no.
More so than fear, anxious jitters, bubbling up the back of his throat, gripped Haruki tightly in a barren embrace. This is too easy. He’s setting you up.
Is he now? Or am I giving this guy too much credit? Haruki spun around sharply, but Keen was not standing there in the doorway.
After the boy closed the little metal box up again and placed it back amongst a sea of unmentionables, he returned to the dining room to find Keen still sound asleep. That eased his anxiety significantly–yet, he never felt that good, clean, burning rush, for as Haruki looked upon Keen in that instant, he noticed the Shinigami hovering over the man’s shoulder staring right back at him.
His throat was still raw when he closed the door behind him. Turning on the light, Haruki nearly jumped out of his bones, for Jakkuran the Shinigami was lounging comfortably on his bed. It wasn’t quite midnight yet, but Haruki was thankful his father hadn’t come home yet. He’ll ask about dinner with Keen.
Fingers trembling, Haruki sighed and said, “Hello. I don’t think we’ve been properly acquainted before. My names Haruki–Haruki Kiryu.”
“I’m Jakkuran,” the Shinigami replied with a wide smile. “You have my Death Note.”
The urgent, bitter heat of shame rushed to the boy’s cheeks. “I was given it by another Shinigami.”
“Who stole it from me.”
“I’ve read the rules already; I know I don’t have to give it back to you unless I want to.”
Jakkuran’s smile broadened. “I’d kill you right now, you insolent little twerp, but I don’t want to get punished for using my hands.”
The hairs on the back of his neck had risen. His confidence broke like bits of kindling curling up over a fire.“P-please… I’m following the rules… you can’t take it from me… not unless I want to give it to you… it says so in the rules…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Damn rules. There’s a lot I’d do right now if it weren’t for those damn rules.”
He’s nothing like Ryuk. He wants to kill me! Haruki straightened his spine, thinking. “Is this your only notebook, Jakkuran?”
“Of course it is! Why would you even ask me that?! I need it back!”
Ryuk had two… and what about Keen’s Shinigami? I’ll have to deal with that tomorrow. He was taken by a phantom full-body shiver. “Well, in that case, here,” he said, handing Jakkuran a folded-up piece of paper from his pocket. “That’s a page from your Death Note. I know Shinigami need to write down the names of humans in their Death Notes to prolong their lives. All you need is a piece of the n–”
The words caught in Haruki’s throat as the Shinigami stared him down. In the boy’s humble opinion, Jakkuran’s fur coat looked a bit obnoxious on him. He couldn’t tell if the monster wanted to kill him or not, and that was somehow more terrifying than knowing.
Jakkuran cleared his throat, produced a pen, flicked his wrist, and immediately wrote down a name on the piece of paper. Did I just make a huge mistake? the boy thought. Forty seconds passed, and he didn’t know whether to breathe again or not.
“That works,” Jakkuran said at last. “Alright. I can see you are not a foul being. I trust you, Haruki Kiryu. This page is real. If I wanted to kill you…”
“You can,” Haruki said breathlessly, trying to remain as confident and collected as he could for the sake of this daring bluff. “But would that really be any fun?”
“Fun?” Jakkuran sat up, playing with his goggles. “Is that all you think I care about, human?”
“Well, it’s all Ryuk cared about.”
“Ha! True that. This is the second time Ryuk’s gone and made a mess of things down here in the Human World just to have some fun. But you must understand, human… the Shinigami Realm is a terribly boring place. I can’t blame him for trying to find some reason for living out here.”
“Will you follow me now?” Haruki asked him.
“Until you die or relinquish my Death Note,” the Shinigami replied stoically. “In the meantime, I assume you wish to conquer the world? Have you declared yourself Kira like that last human?”
“Yes, I have. Though no one knows it’s me.”Jakkuran giggled childishly, leaning back and writing another name on the piece of paper. Haruki hardly felt a drop of fear. “Then human, to alleviate my boredom, would you get on with conquering the world, please?”
VII. Betrayal (裏切り)
He’s the one who killed the SPK members and everyone in the Japanese Task Force. How did he even get a Death Note? Why are they all appearing in Japan? It was suspicious not only that a man in Japan had a Death Note, but that someone so close to him–someone involved in his life, no less–possessed one.
Bringing up this fact to his Shinigami, Haruki was surprised to learn from Jakkuran that this was not surprising in the slightest to him. “It can happen. What, do you think coincidences don’t ever happen? Is everything in life predictable? Wouldn’t that be… so boring?”
“It’s more than coincidence,” the boy countered. Sitting up in his bed, he still felt so tired from last night. He hadn’t gotten much sleep. “All of the previous Death Note owners have been from Japan. Something isn’t right…”
“Are you sure the Shinigami didn’t see you?”
“He did, but I don’t think he knows I saw him. Could he tell?”
“Hard to say,” the skull-faced Shinigami replied. He was lounging ridiculously on Haruki’s desk. “He didn’t say anything, did he?”
“Nope. He would have thought I left because Keen passed out.”
“Maybe… but if this Shinigami is who I think it is, heh, he’s not as dumb as Ryuk.”
“I didn’t think Ryuk was dumb at all.”
Jakkuran’s mouth opened in a jagged bone-gash. “Meh, not all Shinigami are as lazy as him. I don’t know how that guy got to be sixth rank. Maybe he bribed the Shinigami King…”
All of this was very fascinating and very cool to learn about, but Haruki had a serious problem to deal with. “He has to die.”
“Are you sure he does not know you’re Kira?”
“Of course not. How could he?”
“If he’s made the eye deal…”
Haruki’s entire body went cold as he realized what the Shinigami was referring to. “Th-the rule about the eye deal…?”
“Even if he’s done it, we will not be able to tell.”
The boy jumped up, grabbing the book. Thumbing his way through the rules pages, he came to the one Jakkuran had just referred to: An individual with the eye power of a god of death can tell the name and life span of other humans by looking at that person’s face. By possessing the Death Note, an individual gains the ability to kill, and stops being a victim. From this point, a person with the Death Note cannot see the life span of other Death Note owners including him/herself.
“But… if he’s done that, he would already know I’m Kira…”
“How often do people make the eye deal? Is it common?”
The monster shrugged dispassionately. “No idea. What are you going to do about it?”
“I can’t trust him. He knows my name and face. He can kill me whenever he wants.”
“And yet here you are, living and breathing still. What if he’s sympathetic to your cause? You told me he killed the men who captured the previous Kira…”
“Those were the only names written on those sheets of paper he had hidden away, but I can’t be sure those are the only ones he’s killed. I’ll meet with Keen and feel it out… there’s still a decent chance he hasn’t made the eye deal and doesn’t know I’m Kira. And he won’t know I can see his Shinigami.”
“Do you really think visiting him is a good idea? What if his Shinigami spills the beans…?”
“I don’t know his name.”
“Ah, so that’s it, Haruki?” Jakkuran perked up, his jaw slacking and unslacking excitedly. “You need to make the eye deal with me.”
The boy was silent for a few moments before standing up and making his bed as he began to speak again. “I never made the deal with Ryuk. But there’s a loophole in the Death Note,” he said. “If I kill someone who holds power over me, I will gain their lifespan. And it’s easy to artificially create such a situation by writing a scenario involving a criminal who takes me hostage in the Death Note.”
“Oh, is that so?” Jakkuran leaned in, grinding his teeth. “I haven’t heard of that before.”
“It’s in the rules,” the boy said, flicking through his Death Note again, stopping at Rule XLIII. “By manipulating the death of a human that has influence over another human's life, that human's original life span can sometimes be lengthened. If a god of death intentionally does the above manipulation to effectively lengthen a human's life span, the god of death will die, but even if a human does the same, the human will not die.”
“Oh.” Jakkuran appeared somewhat bemused, somewhat lost. Has he never heard of this before?
“So long as that human is me… well, I can get all of my lifespan back, can’t I?”
“Well, I don’t know about that. Hell, this all sounds pretty idealistic to me.” Jakkuran leaned back, folding his arms. “How can you be sure that it will work?”
“I won’t be able to. There’s another rule that states any life modifications won’t be noticeable by people who possess Shinigami Eyes. Not even Shinigami will be able to tell the modifications from the original lifespan.”
“So make the eye deal with me. Get it over with.”
“I may not have a choice. But not yet. I need some time to think about this more. Come on, I’m going to get some breakfast, and then we’re going to meet up with Keen at his place.”
“Is that wise?”
Haruki pocketed his phone, having just sent a message to Keen informing him that he would be over soon. “It’s my only choice. He very well could not know about me touching his Death Note, in which case avoiding him would be very suspicious. I cannot allow that man to become suspicious of me.”
“Alright,” Jakkuran yawned. “Oh, and don’t expect me to talk to his Shinigami either. I know the rules.”
And so did Ryuk, the cunning bastard. He never gave off any hint that Keen had a Shinigami… except not wanting to go to England with him, the boy realized. That must have been why.
“I’m going to have to find out what his real name is somehow… but if he’s only using aliases, I will make the eye deal with you. I’m not willing to do that yet. Not until I’m sure it’s my only choice.”
Downstairs, his mother and Masumi were eating lunch, watching the news in the dining room. “Hey Haruki, look, it’s more about J-Kira,” Masumi was saying, pointing at the glowing screen.
On it, the pale, beautiful face of Yukari Yamaguchi could be seen. Haruki liked the shape of her neck, the hue of her skin, the fullness in her cheeks. His mind started to wander for only a moment before his brain registered what she was saying: “…while UN officials have again confirmed that they will not reveal L’s name and face to the public. They remain unwavering in their staunch support of L and his pursuit of justice against the tyrannical Kira.”
He was surprised, but not outraged. Color came to his cheeks, he felt, but it was not enough for his mother or sister to notice.
“When will it end?” his mom complained. “When will we be able to go back to our lives and stop having to worry about Kira?”
“We don’t have to worry about anything, Mom. Not as long as we behave,” Masumi said. “Besides, it’s not like any of us is a criminal.”
He could feel the floating monster’s gaze upon the back of his neck.
“I’m just scared that either one of you two will get caught up in something, maybe not even your own fault, and get punished severely for it… I know when I was your age, we didn’t always follow the law exactly with everything we did.
He pulled some cold tofu and rice out of the fridge and poured himself a bowl, warming it up in the microwave as Yamaguchi continued to speak. I wish I could tell them… but if I did, they would hate me. What am I supposed to do? He had thought about throwing the notebook in the ocean, or leaving it on a bench in the park, or burning it up–or maybe even giving it to Jakkuran so he could return to the Shinigami Realm. Every possibility tugged at his heartstrings, and yet he could not act.
Sitting down at the table, Haruki noticed the news come back from a commercial break. Ms. Yamaguchi (she was, of course, unmarried, despite being a successful news presenter) began reading another piece: “Welcome back. At the top of the hour, we have breaking news regarding J-Kira, this time coming from L. L released the following statement only a few moments ago: Greetings, Kira. I am L. I have come to Hokkaido to find you. I am not scared of you, nor your sick and twisted powers to murder. If you want to see me dead, come find me, and we’ll settle this like men. If you’re too shy, I will find and bring you to justice myself, no matter the cost!
“He’s going to get himself killed,” Mom said glumly. “He should give it up.”
“Why? L caught the last Kira, didn’t he?”
“That was different. There is no worldwide support for L today. Even in our country, J-Kira is becoming more and more popular… almost like the Emperor when my mom was young.”
They didn’t talk of those times. I am neither an emperor nor a god, Haruki thought with satisfaction. “He will never give up. He’s too competitive. Either Kira or L will have to win. They cannot co-exist.”
“That’s just what Professor Yamashita thinks,” Masumi teased him. “He’s not very bright. Sumiko told me that he’s always been a pretty dumb professor, though. Her older brother hated him because he was so stubborn and graded so hard…”
Haruki shrugged. “I haven’t noticed that.”
“That’s because you’re smart,” she complained. “You know how annoying it is that you don’t have to study for your tests? I wish I could do that!”
He couldn’t suppress a wry smile. “Who says I don’t have to study? There’s plenty of subjects I’m bad at.”
“Stop it you two… you’re going to give me a headache,” their mother complained. Having finished her meal, she stood up and walked over to the sink to wash her dishes. “So what are your plans for today, you two?”
“Nothing!” Masumi declared boisterously. “I finished all my homework already.”
“Good. And what about you, Haruki?”
Careful now. “I’m going to Jiro’s house. We’re going to finish up our Kira Studies homework together.”
“Don’t stay out too late,” she said. “Be home before sundown.”
Her tone was delicate and loving, but ever so sterile. His father was the same way. Haruki bit his tongue, almost wanting to ask her in the presence of Masumi if his father had said anything about the deal with SWN Corporation. As of yet, his father had not even praised him once for making the deal. He had only mentioned the increase in equity trade as something his boss would yell at him for. What if his boss was unimpressed? What if he was too? What if he told Mom?
“I’m going out for a few hours. Please lock up if you decide to leave,” their mother said before walking off.
Alone, Haruki had to press the issue with Masumi. Even if his parents were anti-Kira, Masumi was less sure. If she’s on my side, maybe I can tell her. It had built up inside him, the terrible burden of keeping his identity a secret. He wanted nothing more than to be able to exhale deeply, let it go, and bring Masumi into his wider sphere of awareness.
“So… what do you think, Masu-chan?” he said pleasantly. “L or Kira… who will win?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, her face buried in her phone. Her bowl of soup was no longer steaming.
“Nobody does. But what’s your prediction?”
“I don’t know… I don’t really care, Haruki. Sorry.” She was typing very fast–faster than Haruki could. He admired her skill for a moment before clearing his place, washing his bowl, and preparing to leave.
“Let’s go, boss. Daylight’s wasting,” Jakkuran hissed menacingly from the doorway out. “I can’t believe how boring your family is. Let’s go! I want to see something fun happen!”
He’s not so unlike Ryuk after all. Haruki waited until his mother returned down the hall, a grey-blue jacket and blue scarf thrust over her. She looked very beautiful. She said goodbye to them, once again warning Haruki to not get into any trouble with Jiro and the others. It was only after she had left, however, that Haruki pressed his next question to Masumi:
“So, Masu-chan… what if you were Kira? Who would you kill?”
“Oh come on, Haruki. You of all people shouldn’t ask me that.”
Glaring up at him for a moment before returning her gaze to her fat and bejeweled phone with a bright cover, she seethed through her teeth, “Because! We talked about this years ago, don’t you remember? After the last Kira was caught.”
“Things change,” he replied. Haruki didn’t say anything else, although he didn't remember their conversation those years ago. Did we really discuss this, or is she lying? I don’t remember… But admitting his memory was not as clear as hers would be pointless. “So what’s your answer?”
“I wouldn’t kill anyone,” she said. “Didn’t you know that?”
“Yeah, just wondering.”
“Why, would you?”
“Nah. I wouldn’t want that responsibility,” he replied, laughing coolly.
“Yeah, it’d be such a bother… and you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone else about it… well, your friends and family, maybe. But no one else. Otherwise L’d find you.”
“Definitely. But if Kira killed L, I guess he wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore, would he?”
“Maybe. Lots of people would still try to kill him. Some would want to steal his power… if it’s possible. But there would be plenty of people who would never accept Kira, no matter what.”
“Oh she’s good. She’s real good,” Jakkuran whistled, clapping slowly. Is he mocking me? “Nice sister you’ve got there, Haruki.”
His cheeks burned and he turned from her. “Well anyways, I’m going now, Masumi. Try not to burn down the house while I’m gone, alright?”
“Yeah, yeah…” she snapped back. “It’s not like I’ve never been home alone before, brother. You don’t have to worry about me.”
The boy headed upstairs to get his jacket, when, as he was closing the door behind him, Jakkuran growled, “Were you paying attention to the news?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“That Agent Brennen guy… he works with L.”
“What?” Haruki’s mind went blank as searched for any memory of an Agent Brennen. Finding none, he looked up at the floating Shinigami, whose arms were crossed. “I don’t remember that.”
“You were too busy talking to that girl.”
“Whatever. That guy was being interviewed by the newswoman. He was talking about L’s plans to capture you.”
“Looks like things are getting pretty dicey for you, eh? How long will it be until they find you, I wonder?”
“Don’t get your hopes up, Jak.” The boy snorted, sitting down at his desk, pulling a pen from the top drawer. The folded piece of paper that had been in his pocket was now lying slightly misshapenly on the desk. “I have an idea.”
“I have the names and faces of several criminals ready in case I need to use any–criminals nearby, I mean. I’m going to use one to contact Ms. Yamaguchi and ask her to schedule a follow-up meeting with the agent. She will then take a picture of his face, send it to my contact, who will then send it to me, before dying of a sudden catastrophic brain hemorrhage of course.”
“My, my, that is quite the plan,” Jakkuran spat sarcastically. “And what if he’s got a mask on like he did in that interview?”
“She’ll have to get the picture by any means necessary–it’s her life if she fails,” he whispered zealously. “Most people don’t give up in the face of impending death. She’ll find a way.”
“Ooh, that’s very clever of you. But aren’t you becoming just as evil as all these criminals you’re purging from the world? Where’s the justice for you, Haruki?”
“You would really like my Kira Studies class. They go back and forth about that kind of crap all the time.” Pocketing the slip of paper and his pen, Haruki got up and put on his jacket. “We’re going to see Keen now. I have more planned. Just watch. Ryuk and I did tests.”
“Oh, good for you. I wouldn’t doubt your abilities, Kira.”
Kira. Nobody had ever called him that before. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. I like it. “Let’s go.”
Once outside, Haruki’s face was cut by the coldness of the Saturday afternoon air. He walked with purpose all the way to the train station, which was only a few blocks away. As they passed Ryuk’s favorite apple tree on the way, he was struck by something dull and hollow in the pit of his stomach, but continued on. Jakkuran, thankfully, was not a rambler; the skinless Shinigami hardly cared to make small talk as they moved through public.
It was a short ride to Jiro’s house, where Haruki paid more than he should have for a single tablet of Rohypnol, which Jiro’s mother took for insomnia (allegedly). The boys spoke little else to one another; a second-long exchange of yen in the mid-afternoon sunlight was all he remembered.
Taking the train two more stations down, he got off downtown where, after a hasty scrawl on some paper in alleyway, he conjured up a second criminal, as if from nothingness, who entered a very fancy-looking saké shop and purchased the most expensive bottle there. Returning outside, he found Haruki, twisting the cap off himself. Holding it patiently, he waited for the boy to drop the little tablet inside before screwing the cap shut again.
The boy took the bottle, and the man wandered off, soon to be killed brutally via a serious car wreck. The boy would not stay to watch. I am not so base.
Waiting for the train back to Keen’s, he checked his phone, finding no additional messages. Yukari won’t be able to get that picture to me for at least another day. I’m going to have to plan this carefully. His plan was more than a little mad, but it would deal with both of his enemies, hopefully, and had no chance of implicating him. I’ll pretend like nothing’s happened. I just have to make sure his Shinigami doesn’t frighten me. Any reaction would be suspicious.
He watched a video of an octopus from a nearby aquarium escaping from its cage, his chest swelling with fervor. Jakkuran snickered softly. The train rushed into the station, wind-whipping Haruki and the two or three others who were looking to board at this unseemly hour. He could taste urgency, and he craved release.
“Oh, hey, Haruki,” the man said, opening the door. He was quite clearly hung-over, his beard having grown in somewhat. Mr. Keen stepped aside, swinging open his apartment door, and the boy stepped inside, the bottle of saké in his hands. “Where’d you get that?”
“It’s from my dad,” he said. “He, uh, gave it to me a bit early as a reward for us figuring out this deal.”
“Oh.” The man’s blue eyes seemed to sparkle with desire looking upon that bottle. “Well, yeah, come on in. You wanna get started now?”
He returned to the kitchen, to the Shinigami, to Keen’s innermost sanctum. The boy didn’t so much as look at the floating spectre. As far as he was concerned he couldn’t see it–and he wouldn’t be seeing it for much longer. Keen, for all his drunkenness, reacted strangely when Haruki entered the room. He seemed to recoil, as if he had expected Haruki to attack him. But he wasn’t looking at the boy. His gaze turned slightly upwards, there was no doubt he was staring dumbly at Jakkuran. Even in his semi-drunken state, however, the man averted his eyes almost instantly. Not quick enough.
The boy could hardly react to what he had just seen, as the mere thought of it was enough to send him into a panic (and he couldn’t have Keen witnessing such a sight). He sat down at the table, across from Keen, noticing that their bowls from the previous night were still sitting in place, as was the paperwork for the Hebereke deal.
“Yeah… sorry about last night,” Keen yawned. Though it was approaching evening, he seemed to have just woken up–perhaps when Haruki had knocked at the door, even. “I shouldn’t have that much, really. Heh, always think I can surpass my previous limits. That’s not a game one should play with alcohol.”
Haruki said nothing. They didn’t look at each other’s Shinigami. They were both very polite. He knows. He touched my Death Note at some point… somehow… he can see Jakkuran. There’s no other way. The two Shinigami, for all their honor, spoke not a word to each other, but the hate between them was startling palpable.
“So, you hear about L?” Keen said in a hoarse voice. “Came all the way to Hokkaido looking for Kira. Crazy, isn’t it? Why would Kira even meet him there?”
“I don’t think he would.”
“Wouldn’t he?” Keen smirked. I don’t like the look he’s got. He wasn’t a particularly handsome man in Haruki’s estimation either, so it made the whole bloody affair that much less tolerable.
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Huh.” He leaned back in his chair, pausing for a moment. He looked upon Haruki’s bottle and then said, “What do you say we crack that bad boy open and get started?”
“Whatever you want,” the boy replied passively.
Immediately the man lurched forward, his chair scraping raucously over the wooden floor. Grabbing the bottle, he twisted off the cap in one well-practiced motion, sending it flying into the corner. The show of force was enough to make Haruki blush. He poured them each a glass. He didn’t realize the bottle had been opened before.
“Aren’t you going to have any, Haruki?” he asked the boy who had set his glass down instead of drinking any of it immediately after being poured a shot.
“Oh, yeah, I guess. I mean, if it’s so important to you, sure.”
Without hesitation, the boy scooped up the glass, leaned his head back, and swallowed, passing the liquid down the back of his throat too quickly to taste. Even so, a burning, hideous aftertaste lingered, making him gag, his eyes tearing up.
Keen’s glance became deeply satisfied. He too drained his cup.
“That’s some damn good saké. Your father has excellent taste.”
“Yeah that’s what they keep telling me. Hey, Keen, what did he say to you about the SWM merger? Did he like the deal?”
“Like it?” Keen was, for a moment, confused. “Of course. Don’t you remember? We celebrated afterwards.”
“Y-yeah, just making sure.”
The foreigner scratched his baby beard. “That’s an odd thing to worry about. Didn’t he tell you what he thought about it?”
“Nope.” The boy leaned back in his chair, now. The effects were crippling, total, and overwhelming. His veins were flooded with a sluggish, drunken feeling, and it became suddenly harder to keep his eyes open. Mr. Keen had yet to react at all. He better not have a tolerance for this, or else I’m screwed. Even so, there was heat in his cheeks, behind his eyelids, and for a moment, the boy was perplexed by the weakness his body was exuding. Don’t do it. Don’t!
“Hey, Haruki, are y–”
He stopped, swaying violently and nearly falling over. Holding his hand up to his face, Keen moaned, rocking gently back and forth softly in his seat, blinking rapidly. There was within him a pressing urge to release, to laugh in Keen’s face, to mock him, to gloat and revel in his victory.
All Haruki could do, though, was giggle to himself, feeling a wave of unconsciousness beating against the inside of his skull, rising over and over again to crash against those atramentous pools of lizard thoughts. “I’ve won,” he whispered after some time. “Goodbye, Keen.”
The man was still staring at his fingertips. His cup had fallen from his hand to shatter on the floor. “The fuck’d you put in this…” he groaned in English.
A little something to keep you nice and peaceful for the trip to Hokkaido, Haruki thought lightly. And when Brennen tells me where L is, I’ll send you to him. If you have the eyes or not doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re not going to get out of that alive. I promise you that.
Jakkuran snarled. “Liar. I’ll have you punished for this.”
“Go ahead and try. See what the Old Man thinks.” That was the other Shinigami’s fault.
Wh-what are they talking about…?
“You did a very bad thing trying to steal from me,” Haruki’s Shinigami continued. “You won’t get out of this alive, Raght.”
“Bold and stupid beast! Do you have no awareness of your ou–”Haruki Kiryu’s head hit the table, and all he saw was black, though for some reason he tasted a bit of iron, and a bit of bile too, pooling in the back of his throat.
VIII. Daybreak (曙)
Yukari’s mind was swollen with terror, but she had to remain professional.
Agent Brennen muttered something in a foreign language. The annoyance in his voice, at least, was clear. Her cell phone felt like a stick of radiation in her pocket. You have twenty-four hours.
The man had already returned to the news agency, and so she had him exactly where she wanted him… except for the fact that he was wearing a handkerchief pulled up over his cheeks and a thick pair of sunglasses. This was how he had looked too when she had interviewed the man the previous day about L’s attempts to track and find Kira.
Having never met Kira, Yukari Yamaguchi was more than a little puzzled by his sudden reliance upon her. The thought that he could, at any moment, kill her, was incredibly humbling. She had never really delved into her personal beliefs on Kira before this–he was merely a phenomenon she was required to report on. So what if he picked me? Does that mean I must love him?
And yet, in the same vein, where did this idea of love even come from? She was standing nervously, her fingernails digging into the fleshy bits on the inside of her palms as she watched the man getting looked over by her people. One of them was fitting a tiny microphone on the front of his raggedy brown-and-white striped suit.
Anxiety was building inside her, bubbling up from the pit of her stomach. Yukari felt the weight of dread upon her shoulders; her hands were covered in sweat; her upper lip was twitching. Do this for me, and I will make you the Queen of my new world, the text had read. Fail, and I will bring justice down upon you, like all the rest.
The men prepping Brennen for his follow-up interview, along with his loyal interpreter, had moved away from him, leaving a clear opening. Her fear caught in her throat; she wanted nothing more than to step back and return to autopilot, to return to the safety and dullness of regular life. Yet, something inside Yukari prevented her from giving up.
Almost as if she were not controlling her body, she felt herself lunge forward, tearing the man’s hat, sunglasses, and scarf off. He shouted a surprised, spittle-filled curse at her, falling back from the chair. Her phone was in her hand, the screen so pale and artificial she wanted to curl up and die. Aiming it at him, she tapped her finger. It didn’t flash. He swore louder and threw himself at her, trying to knock the phone from her pale fingers. Yukari stepped aside, and the old man with the long wrinkly face and bushy grey mustache fell face-first onto the carpet. The others came running over, attempting to help him up.
She clicked the send button.
“Y-yukari, what are you doing?” one of the producers asked her, uncertainty in his voice.
“Be quiet,” she responded sharply. Her eyes were numb, the lids heavy and warm. She felt profoundly strong and profoundly scared. “This is Kira’s will! If you try to stop me, I’ll tell him exactly what you did!”
They fell into silence, staring at her. It was well-known that only Yukari had access to Kira; any of his decrees or messages came through her, not only on television, but beforehand too. They eye my phone with jealousy and envy, not pity and terror, she reflected.
The agent was swearing loudly now. He had found his feet and was running to the door. That was when, suddenly, unnaturally, weirdly, he stopped. His own phone had been in his hand, but now he put it back in his pocket and adjusted his tie.
Clearing his throat, the man said, in shockingly-perfect Japanaese, “Miss Yamaguchi.”
“Kira thanks you for your service. Please, excuse me.”
“Wait! You can’t go! Aren’t you forgetting the interview? And aren’t you going to get your things?” one of the producers asked.
He shook his head violently. “Kira needs me,” Brennen said flatly. “Goodbye.”
Goodbye, she thought, her mind echoing with pain. Never for one moment did she doubt Kira’s power, and in that moment, the lethality of it, the quickness of it, the power of it, all took her by the throat and seemed to choke the last bit of moral clarity from her mind. By any means necessary, the warning had read, and yet now those words seemed little more than bright lights on an artificial screen, and she had already half-forgotten their potency.
His phone buzzed. Taking a deep breath, Haruki turned it on and noticed the face of the so-called Agent Brennen. “Is this good enough?” he asked Jakkuran.
“Yeah, I can see his lifespan right now.”
“Very well.” The boy closed his eyes, thinking everything through again. If I’m going to win, I have to do this. There’s no other way. “Jakkuran, I want to exchange half of my life for the eyes of a Shinigami.”
“Not bad, is it?” the Shinigami asked a moment later. “Feel any different?”
“No?” The boy looked around. “Are you sure you did it?”
“Take another look at that picture, Haruki.”
The boy did, and that was when he nearly fell out of his chair. The man’s name, Gregory Hoffmann, floated over the old man’s face now, as if by magic. He blinked, and the picture stayed the same. Without waiting, the boy wrote the name on the sheet of paper he had laid on his desk, the cause and conditions of the agent’s death already worked out for him.
Just like that, Haruki had won. “If only we knew if Keen had made the eye deal with his Shinigami… then I could be certain. Did he say anything to you about it?”
“Not a word. He laughed quite a bit when you got knocked out though. He didn’t seem to mind when your men came in and took Keen, either, although he left with them.”
“Strange. But he can’t do anything about this, right?”
“Nope. If he tries to kill you, he will be unable to. And even if he found a way to, it would result in his death as well… something I think Raght very much does not want to happen.”
“Then we’re all good now. We just have to w–”
A knock came at Haruki’s door. He straightened up, pocketed the scrap of paper from the Death Note, and answered the door. At his door was the greying figure of his father, slouched forward, his nose red and raw from the cold he was battling.
“Who were you talking to?” his father asked.
“Wh-what do you mean, Dad?”
“I heard you talking to someone in there.”
“Oh… I was just on the phone with Jiro. We were discussing a time to meet tomorrow so we can finish our homework together.”
The man nodded absentmindedly. “Good, good. In any case, how did the meeting go with Keen? Did you two work out a plan of partnership with the South Korean distributor?”
“We… well, we didn’t finish our proposal, but, uh…” Haruki glanced back into his room. The blue light of his laptop illuminated the hovering god of death’s stark white skull. He swallowed. Maybe I shouldn’t do this right now… not while everything is so complicated. But at the same time, something else drove the boy forward. There was something building in his legs, a sort of electrical energy that made it feel almost more painful to stand still rather than rush forward. “We should probably talk about this, Father.”
“About what?” the man asked, his voice raw from coughing. Clearly he was confused. That got to Haruki more than anything.
“About me joining Hebereke.”
His father’s confused, watery eyes suddenly sharpened into clarity, and Haruki’s heart fell. “Oh. Well come downstairs then. Your mother and Masumi are already asleep so we’ll have to talk quietly.”
His watch told him it was nearly midnight. The plan won’t begin for several more hours. I have time, he thought. Even so, the anticipation building in his fingertips was not so much about what was about to happen to Keen for him, but what his father would say. He probably suspects what I’m going to tell him. But it’s for the best. I don’t want to mislead him.
So with that, the boy, having written the conditions for Gregory Hoffmann’s death already, and having the only evidence of what was about to happen crumpled up in his pocket, followed his dad down the dark stairways into the kitchen wondering to himself why he had decided to make this issue come into focus right now, of all times.
“Nice of you to wake up finally.”
The old man was smoking a cigarette, sitting on the back end of the van, his legs dangling off the end. The doors were open; the van was parked; the sky was a grey-black sheet, misting the air in the moments before dawn. He was smoking, belching white plumes from his wrinkled old mouth as he watched Keen sit up.
“Where am I?”
“Nearly home. Same as the rest of us.”
He became acutely aware of how his hands were tied behind his back (with zip ties, no less). There was a man sitting in the driver’s seat of the car, as well as a second man in the passenger’s seat. Neither one of them said a word to Keen. What’s going on? Did that kid write my name in his Death Note…? No, he couldn’t have. I wouldn’t be able to think like this if he had…
That was when he noticed Raght hovering behind him. “Why haven’t you killed them yet?!” he shouted, the pain of his Shinigami’s betrayal eating into him more than those bonds around his wrists. “What are you waiting for?! Write their names in your book!”
The taciturn god of death split his maw, perhaps in a wry smile. “Our mission has not changed. Your mind must remain clear for us to proceed.”
“Out there’s where L’s hiding,” the old man said, pointing with his cigarette.
Beyond the mist, a small complex, fenced and single-storied, could be seen. It was an old war shelter, perhaps having been abandoned for the past seventy or so years.
Keen’s blood nevertheless ran cold. “They… they can see you?!”
“We’re all in this together,” the other man replied haughtily. “Come on now, it’s nearly daybreak. We don’t have much time.”
“I-I don’t… understand…”
He threw his cigarette into the mud, stamping it out cruelly. Ushering Keen out of the van, the man pulled a knife from his belt. What’s going on… is this Haruki’s doing? It cannot be. He cannot know my name. I don’t feel like I’m being controlled by his Death Note…
“Follow him,” Raght commanded. “Our prey lurks within those walls. Find L and write his name down. End this.”
The floating monster’s tone was almost fervent. He didn’t understand. The older man grabbed him by the leg and pulled him out. His silver blade glinting in the grey-black darkness, a sliver of the moon visible through the tarnished cloud veil, the man with the grey, bushy mustache took Keen by the wrists and with a single, well-practiced maneuver, cut him free.
“Everything you need is in your pocket,” Gregory Hoffmann told him.
A piece of paper and a pen were all that were in his pocket. A piece of my Death Note… he must have put it there. But why? “Sir, who exactly are you?”
“That’s not important right now. What is important is that you write down the names of every person we meet inside there. Do you understand me? You will not survive this encounter if you don’t manage to do that, alright? Do you understand?”
Survive? Fear cloaked Keen. He looked up at Raght, mouth agape, but the great Shinigami refused to look back at him. There was a single page of the Death Note stashed in his pocket–the page with the names of the SPK and Japanese Task Force members on it. Haruki must have found that. I should have killed that stupid kid when I had the chance. Fuck me.
At that very moment, he took the pen out, clicked it on, and wrote the boy’s name on the piece of paper without hesitating. His cheeks flushed, Keen stumbled after Mr. Hoffmann, whoever he was, and followed him to the building complex. At the door, Hoffmann pressed his fingerprint against a pad, and the massive metal door groaned, swinging open slowly.
“If you hesitate, we are all lost,” the old man told him. “Now, don’t say a word to them once we’re inside. They won’t know who you are.”
He gulped, sweat covering his palms. Raght followed passively. The inside of the halls were dark at first, but as they walked, the lights seemed to come on by themselves. Hoffmann led Keen all the way to a door at the end of the hallway. It was cold inside, a faint odor of mold lingering in the stale air.
Yet, as they reached the door, it opened from the inside, and out came a woman, tall and dark-skinned, with high cheekbones, and dyed white hair. She walked with purpose until she reached them a moment later. “Who have you brought with you, Brennen? What’s going on?”
“This is Keen,” the old man replied, nodding to him. “He has valuable information about Kira.”
“You can’t just bring him in here, though. He has to be quarantined… we have to make sure he’s not compromised, Brennen.”
“Do it,” Raght growled.
The paper and pen came out of his pocket in one fluid motion. He had written her name, Iahadra Momuazi, before she understood what was happening. And when she did, her eyes grew wide and white, and he could not unsee the fear in her face. She stuttered, swore, drew her pistol, and ran–only after Hoffmann struck her so hard in the side of the face that she dropped her weapon. He kicked it aside into the darkness.
Forty seconds later, as she ran back down the hall, Ms. Momuazi collapsed. Brennen reached for the gun he had kicked away and gave it to Keen. “There are four more of them. But now they’ll know we’re coming. We have to move.”
He began to run, and Keen followed. Why are we doing this? What’s going on exactly? Raght seems to be okay with this… he hasn’t shown any sign of wanting me to kill this guy either… He ran, regardless. They came to another door a moment later, stepping over a fast-cooling corpse, and were met, face-to-face, with a second man. This man was wearing a mask of one of Japanese Task Force Members–Matsuda, if he remembered correctly.
He fired his weapon without even speaking. Hoffman took two bullets in the chest before returning fire, hitting the man’s mask just in the corner, splintering it. His face laid bare, Keen could read his name easily: Charles Bolton. Too easy.
He wrote the name down, taking cover around the corner of the door. The door, having been pulled open by Hoffmann, remained halfway open as he and the other man exchanged more gunshots. Keen never fired one round. He wasn’t like that; he couldn’t manage anyways.
Hoffmann’s crimson-staining teeth were gritted. “Go!” he shouted. “He’s dead! Go! You don’t have much time!”
“What about you?”
“I’m right behind you.”
Yeah right. The man was sitting up against the metal wall in the dank, low-lit hallway, blood flowing from multiple chest wounds. Regardless, Keen had no other options.
“Go!” Raght urged him. “Go on! If you linger, you will die!”
He had no time to question what was going on. Keen ran inside, stumbling over the corpse of Mr. Bolton, and found himself staring at another door. This time, he had to open it himself. Inside, he found a man with white hair, wearing a mask he did not recognize. And there standing beside this man, who was sitting on the dirty, cold stone floor and who was playing with a set of dominos, was another man, slender and tall, wearing the mask of Mr. Mogi, another Japanese Task Force member.
What the hell is this?
“Greetings, Kira,” the crouching man said. “I was wondering when you would show up.”
“Kill him!” Raght urged Keen, for the first time betraying a hint of emotion. Keen felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. “By whatever means necessary.”
The standing man said nothing. His arms were folded and he was watching this, but he did nothing to stop Keen from approaching the crouching man with the white hair and the strange mask. I’ll have to kill them both, he thought. I have a gun… I can use that if I have to.
He charged at the crouching man, who did nothing but continue to arrange his dominos until Keen crashed into him. Tearing off the man’s mask, he jumped back and beheld his name: Nathaniel River.
Swallowing hard, he wrote the name down. It was strange. Neither one of them moved; Nathaniel didn’t even react to being tackled. Now, the man, who was in his mid-twenties, it appeared, looked up at Keen with wide eyes.
“Is this justice, for you, Kira?” he asked, a second later. “Are you finally satisfied?”
Keen was taken aback by the monotone, by the lack of emotion, by the man’s disinterest with his own fast-approaching death. What’s wrong with him? This whole thing is so weird… I don’t understand what’s going on. “I’m not Kira,” he replied in a whisper. “I’m just trying to s–”
That was when his chest exploded. He felt no pain, only pressure. His bones bent and buckled, and he was falling, tasting blood, even as a torrent was spraying out from his chest where the wound had materialized so suddenly and so illogically. He didn’t understand.
Keen felt cold. They were staring at him. Why isn’t the other one saying anything? He dropped the pen and paper, noticing the floor approaching him with great pace. It was only after he hit the ground, which he did not feel, that he noticed Raght hovering above him, not looking at Keen but at the white-haired man whose mask had been laid bare.
He’s smiling, Keen thought with astonishment. Why’s he smiling? I’ve never seen him so happy…A torrent of blood choked the rationality out of him, and all he saw was black.
IX. Truth (誠)
From the darkness, the lean figure of Malu Ka'uhane appeared, the smoking barrel of his rifle lowering to the ground.
“It seems like Kira wrote my name in his Death Note.” Near stood and walked over to the bleeding body of the man who had barged into the room not a minute ago. His corpse was already cooling. Picking up the paper and pen, Near went to change the time and conditions of his own death, when he noticed something rather interesting.
It was then that Cardinal, masked by Mogi, tore the paper from his hands. Malu took his rightful place behind C, the rifle still lowered, staring at Near. He fell to a crouch again, returning to his dominos.
“That will be all, Nathaniel.”
Now you reveal your true colors. Pity that you were so hasty. “I suggest you read the names on that paper, C. They’ll enlighten you.”
There was a moment of silence, and then the man crumpled up the piece of paper, gritting his teeth. “H-he didn’t… you… gah!”
“That’s right,” Near said coolly. “That man misspelled my name.”
Nathaniel Rivers. He had been right all the way until the end–all the way until he hadn’t. He could see my name, but in the hysteria, he must have added that ‘s’ by accident. It was true that Rivers was a far more common last name than River, and yet…
From the wall, a monster appeared. He wore a shabby, ripped suit, his hair brown and disheveled, his face gaunt as a demon’s, his eyes two dark pools illuminated by thin, blood red pupils. Malu raised his rifle and fired twice. The bullets sliced through the monster’s head, not so much as leaving an imprint.
“Stop. You can’t kill him, Malu,” C said sternly. “He’s a Shinigami.”
“You just tried to kill me,” Near said pointedly, looking up at C. “Too bad he misspelled my name, isn’t it? If you wanted to kill me, you should have ordered your henchman to shoot me in the back.”
The Shinigami’s lips parted; he laughed in a gutteral, low tone, like a beast’s blood-curdling death cry. “I win, Near.”
He had heard that before. Without warning, Near was brought back to the warehouse, his memories becoming waking reality, Light Yagami spinning and pleading and bleeding before him again. He tasted familiarity in the stale air. Mr. Mogi was there, as was Malu, but Near was alone. They were not standing behind him; they were not with him. So this is the real endgame, isn’t it?
“Hello… Light Yagami.”
The Shinigami laughed again, this time with more force and grandeur. He was really putting on a spectacle now. I should have guessed, Near thought to himself. Anyone who uses the Death Note will become a God of Death… but this means if he tries to kill me, he will die. He wasn’t able to kill me before, and he won’t be able to now.
“When I told you I won, I meant it,” the Shinigami replied arrogantly. “You are not L.” With that, Light pulled out his Death Note, and wrote a name in it. “Goodbye, Nate River.”
Near perked up, feeling something in his chest, in his cheeks, in his eyes. Why was it becoming so hard for him to see? This wasn’t fair… this wasn’t right! “Light, y-you can’t…” he said, his voice breaking, his resolve breaking, everything concrete and real around him crumbling to muddy darkness. Everything had become utterly irrational.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” the Shinigami replied. “We’ll both die because of this,” he told Near, “but that’s how it should be. I’ll see you in hell, fake L.”
“Wait a moment,” C said, stepping forward. “What’s going on here? I don’t get it.”
“He’s won,” Near said flatly, standing up again, kicking the dominos aside. “I didn’t foresee this… I didn’t foresee any of this.”
“That’s right. You aren’t the real L, just a fake… just a false copy, like that man,” Light said, his voice rising to maniacal proportions as he gestured to the dead man, “and all the other who declared themselves Kira! There is only one Kira, just like there was only ever one L! You are nothing but dust!”
“This was never about finding Kira… you just wanted to gain revenge on me… Light…”
“Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six…” the Shinigami breathed.
Is this really the end? If it is… I won’t go out alone. Near snarled, reaching for the paper from Cardinal’s hands, tearing it away. “You too should have been more careful,” he said to the old man. “You didn’t hide your past life so well… as you know, the SWN Corporation’s history of Board of Directors is a matter of public record, Mr. Johan Schweinsteiger.”
“Malu, shoot him!” the old man screamed in horror.
Too late, Cardinal. Revenge is a dish best served cold, isn’t it? Near bit his lip, looking up at the floating Shinigami. As C’s last bodyguard raised his rifle at Near, the man let the pen and paper drop from his hand. It’s over, he thought. Now I can finally rest. He desperately wanted a piece of chocolate.
Something deep and hard and burning hot welled up in Near’s chest. He gasped for air; the Shinigami exploded to dust before his eyes, and he was falling, just like that man had not five minutes ago.
Haruki flew to Hokkaido under an alias. He traveled with the Death Note in his carry-on bag, a rare move by him. But this was the end–he would not be returning home as Kira. Having already discarded the cell phone he had used to contact Ms. Yamaguchi with, he read on his personal phone the report that she had resigned from her post and would be taking an extended leave of absence from broadcasting in general.
He could not ignore the furious desire building up within him to write her name in his notebook. I have to let it go, he thought to himself. I’m not a murderer. I only used the Death Note for justice. But had he really? Real people–more than sixty thousand of them–had died. Was he not responsible?
He felt sorry that he did not regret what he had done. And yet, he here was, making an end of things.
The last names he had written in the Death Note had been two men who were meant to gather up the bodies of Keen, Hoffmann, and the rest, once the deed was done, and dispose of them. They were to report back to Haruki when they were done.
Neither had contacted him in any way. Something had gone wrong; he had no recourse but to go see what had happened himself… well, that wasn’t entirely true. He would be using Jakkuran as his eyes and ears.
Having learned the location of L’s hideout from Hoffmann, Haruki easily found his way to the war bunker after he landed, taking a taxi most of the way, and renting a bicycle to get himself the rest of the way there. It was nice, he thought, that the hideout was located beyond city limits. It was out in the middle of the plains, far away from prying eyes.
Jakkuran assured Haruki that, when he arrived there, there was nobody alive–except for one man. “Who is he?” the boy asked.
“I don’t know. His name is Malu Ka’uhane. He’s inside… with all the bodies.”
“That’s right. But it’s more than that. Raght’s gone too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. His Death Note’s in the room, along with a pile of dust.”
“Wait, he’s dead…? How did that happen?”
The skull-faced Shinigami shrugged. “No idea, Haru. What’s your plan?”
“I’m going to kill him, whoever he is. He can’t know of my involvement with this. I assume the other bodies are of L and his assistants?”
Jakkuran was a useless fellow more often than not, but Haruki couldn’t blame him for his apathy. His father had, after all, convinced him to join Hebereke, and in so doing, the boy had thought it best to give up his role as Kira. But if there’s a second Death Note… I can give Jakkuran back his notebook and use that one, and I won’t have to worry about a Shinigami following me around. But then wouldn’t I lose my Shinigami Eyes?
Regardless, Haruki had a plan. It was simple and effective, but that didn’t make it any less scary in his mind. If he didn’t succeed, he would die. But the possibility of that was rather low in his estimation. He pre-wrote the conditions for Malu’s death: At precisely 2:17 pm, he will collapse from a heart attack. It was currently 2:08 pm. He had time.
Making his way through the building, down several dank and dark hallways, cold as death, Haruki eventually came to the last room, where all the bodies had been neatly arranged for him. There was Keen and Agent Brennen, along with a dark-skinned woman and a fair-skinned man with a beard, an older gentleman, and a young man. They were lined up neatly on the floor, and only Keen and Hoffmann were covered in blood.
Noticing the man behind the bodies, Haruki beheld his face and wrote his name while standing in the shadows. Whether or not the man could see him was irrelevant. He did not move.
“Greetings,” the man said. He was crouching, as if in prayer. When Haruki entered, however, he raised his rifle at the boy and aimed down the sights. “Who are you?”
“My name is Haruki Kiryu,” the boy said awkwardly in English. “The real question is, who are you?”
“Please leave this place,” the man said solemnly. “You do not know what has happened here. It is not for you to know… please, leave before I make you.”
“I do not think you understand,” the boy said. He felt a creeping heat in his throat, a sensation akin to excitement, but not quite. “I am here for that notebook,” he said, nodding to the pile of ash. “Let me take it, and I will leave.”
“No. You cannot take anything from here. Leave now, or I will make you.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Haruki said. Now he was feeling elated, almost. He wanted to scream. 2:12, he thought, glancing at his clock. Don’t be hasty now. “I’m just trying to retrieve my notebook.”
“That notebook does not belong to you.” The man stood, continuing to aim his rifle at Haruki, and approached the boy. “I will not ask you again. Leave this place and never come back!”
“You are holding me at gunpoint,” the boy responded coolly. “I am entirely at your mercy, aren’t I?”
Jakkuran let out a cry of glee. “Oh, that’s cunning of you, Haruki! You’ve become like a god of death!”
He smiled, ever so slightly. “I will shoot you,” Malu warned him, his tone thick and low. Will you now? It’s 2:13. You have ten seconds left. Is this how you’re going to spend your remaining time?
“No, you won’t,” the boy replied calmly, smiling more broadly. He felt utterly euphoric. “You know, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I’m Kira.”
The bronze-skinned man’s eyes widened, and he dropped his rifle. Gagging, spitting, clutching his chest, he fell face-first to the cold stone floor.
“I thought you were done being Kira, Haruki. After last night, you made it sound like you had given up.”
“No, I don’t think that’s accurate,” the boy replied. “Here,” he said, reaching down and taking the ash-covered notebook from the ground and handing it to Jakkuran. “This is your notebook now. You can have it if you want.”
“B-but… that’s not mine!” the Shinigami complained. “You take this one, and give me back my notebook!”
“If I did that, I’d lose my Shinigami Eyes, wouldn’t I? And besides, what’s it matter to you? I didn’t think Shinigami were sentimental.”
“Heheheheh, so that’s how it’s gonna be, is it?”
“Don’t you want to go home?”
In silence, he reached out, handing the notebook to the floating monster. Jakkuran took it swiftly, glancing over Haruki one last time. “So you’re still going to be Kira, eh?”
“Justice is not an end result, Jakkuran. It must always be maintained, for we humans are weak and selfish and full of malice. I will do whatever I can to create a better world.”
Jakkuran turned, took to the air, and was gone.
“Your turn, Ryuk. Come on, you’re going so slow today! I’m going to die of boredom,” Elir Mepherik complained.
“Yeah, yeah, here,” the other Shinigami replied, throwing his bone bet onto the table. “There. Now put up or shut up.”
The portal became blue, the world became blue, and dust flew. Jakkuran appeared at the gate.
Mepherik grinned, rattling his bone bowl, which echoed across the barren desert. “There he is! Welcome back, buddy!”
“What happened down there? Did you kill the kid?” Ryuk asked him.
“Humans are interesting creatures,” Jakkuran replied, “but they’re so petty. They’re ruled by their emotions. I couldn’t take it any longer.”
“Then you killed him? You should have brought me back some apples! They’re so juicy in the human realm!”
“What is justice to you?” Jakkuran asked them, ignoring Ryuk. “What about revenge?”
Mepherik shrugged. “Stop it with all that stupid philosophical talk. You’re going to give me a headache. You in, or what? There’s room for three. What about Raght? Is he coming back any time soon?”
Jakkuran smirked, sitting down at the stone table next to Ryuk. “He let himself be consumed, like all the weak ones do. And here we are again, you and me, Mepherik.”
“Hey, don’t forget about me!” Ryuk interjected. He was hurt very deeply by that omission.
“Of course,” Jakkuran replied.
“So you’re saying Raght’s dead… he’s gone?!”
Jakkuran shrugged. “If you care so much, why don’t you go down to the human realm and gather up some apples for the old man? Then he’ll promote you for sure. I’ve heard he’s a sucker for bribes.”
“You never answered me,” Ryuk complained. “Did you kill that kid, or what?”
“Go see for yourself, Ryuk. But if you stare too long, you may get drawn to the human realm again.”
“Is that a bad thing, eh?”Jakkuran laughed softly to himself. A keen wind was blowing through the desolation of the Shinigami Realm. Three gods of death huddled together, leaning over a timeworn stone table, wagering bone against dust, as if one were worth more than the other.