Next to him, Matsuda seemed to be choking. Taro suddenly thought he was having a heart attack as well, until he managed to say, "It's...just like...last time."
"What's like last time?" Taro asked.
"When Ryuzaki died, there was a moment where every one of us was all sure we would be next," Matsuda explained. "When the moment passed, the only thing we could think of was why we had seemingly been spared. Now we know it was because there was a traitor in our midst, and he needed us alive."
Taro immediately understood what Matsuda meant. Could it be that one of them was responsible for this?
Sayu? No, it was impossible. Just...not possible.
Matsuda? No, the guy wasn't likely to go over to Kira's way like that. Kira was responsible for killing most of his friends. That left...
Despite being able to sympathize with the detective in a lot of ways, something about him unsettled Taro. He barely slept, he was always munching on sweet food, and he gave every indication of a man who was obsessed. But what exactly was he obsessed with? Was it really Kira and the Death Notes, as he said? Or was it a challenge? After all, he had gravitated toward's Taro's initial killings precisely because it was a seemingly unsolvable mystery. Ryuk had started this whole mess because of his own boredom; maybe that same quality was what kept Ryuzaki wrapped up in it.
Taro shook his head. Even if that were true, there still wouldn't have been reason for Ryuzaki to sabotage his own efforts. Not to mention that Ryuzaki wouldn't have had any opportunity to kill Yamamoto anyway. Still, though, there was definitely something strange about the guy that made Taro wonder why he had been so quick to trust him in the first place, back at Sayu's house. He was suddenly very nervous about what Ryuzaki might do, in his restlessness, if they ever actually stopped Kira.
Taro looked around, and everyone seemed to be sharing some similar sentiments of mistrust towards the others. Remembering what Sayu had said earlier, he pointed out, "Let's not forget that we know who Kira is, and he's not here. We have to trust each other. Kira would just want us to fight."
"Then how did this happen?" Matsuda demanded.
Ryuzaki was silent.
"Maybe Kira's followers noticed him spending a lot of time away from the office, concluded he was up to something, and told Light about it," Sayu suggested. "Since he doesn't use a fake name, it wouldn't be hard for the public to get that info to Kira."
Matsuda shook his head. "If that were true, they would have gotten me, too: I've taken even more time off than he has. If anyone were paying attention, it would be easy for someone to find out my real name as well. The fact that Kira apparent still hasn't figured it out is nothing short of a miracle."
"Well, he still has no reason to think you're alive anymore," Taro said.
"True, but if more and more of his 'dead' enemies start reappearing, he might decide to look into that," Matsuda pointed out.
"Kira's not even looking here," Ryuzaki finally said. All eyes turned to him again.
"If Light were in the area, he would never have been so careless as to not monitor the police's movements closely. He has probably retreated to another location and is operating in Japan through proxies, who might not be quite as thorough as he is."
Matsuda sighed with relief, until the real message in Ryuzaki's words hit him. "You mean...Light had nothing to do with Yamamoto's death?"
"Right. Whether it is one of Light's proxies or not, there is an 80% chance we are dealing with another individual."
After that, brainstorming drew abruptly to a halt. To narrow down the identity of the proxy, they needed to know how he had found Yamamoto's name and connected him to L. But there was no reason why anyone who found out Yamamoto's name wouldn't have found Matsuda's, or left him alive after finding it. How did
Kira manage to outsmart us, Taro thought.
We have to think outside the box. "Are we sure it's a proxy?"
Matsuda looked up. "What do you mean?"
"Think about it. Even if it was a proxy, why would he have given the game away by killing one of us if he couldn't kill all of us? That would just make it easier for us to find him."
"So you're saying it is Light?" Sayu asked.
Taro shook his head. "No, Light wouldn't have just killed Yamamoto either, for the same reasons. I'm saying, are Kira or a proxy of his the only two possibilities?"
Ryuzaki said. "It could be a third party who has somehow come into possession of a Death Note, like the Second Kira did. Unfortunately, if that is the case, this person is obviously not supportive of our cause, and our information may be being leaked to him. The fact that the shinigami can give a Death Note to whomever they want makes things very unpredictable."
Then a horrible thought occurred to Taro. "What if...it actually was the shinigami?"
Sayu's face paled with terror. "You mean...the actual shinigami might have killed him themselves? But why?"
"Because he was about to kill Light," Taro answered. "That would explain it. The shinigami can see our names, and they would have a reason to keep Light alive so he could entertain them. One of them killed Yamamoto, and they left us alive because if all of us are dead, they don't have their fun."
The room went dead. If the shinigami really were defending Kira, things were grim. Ryuzaki in particular looked like he had been hit by a truck. His normally alert eyes had a very dark look in them. "Excuse me," he said quietly, and walked out of the room.
Ryuk's eerie chuckle broke the silence. "Sounds like you guys are screwed."
"Would you mind contributing something useful for a change?" Taro snapped.
Ryuk shrugged. "I'll still take half of Matsuda's lifespan."
Taro turned to Matsuda. "That's probably not a good idea. We need to rethink our strategy first."
Matsuda shook his head. "No. I need to do this. Besides, at the rate things are going, I probably won't need that extra lifespan anyway."
"Just what I wanted to hear," Ryuk laughed. And without another word, he passed his hand over Matsuda's face.
The young officer blinked. He glanced at Taro. "Oh...this is SO COOL! I can see your name and lifespan and everything!"
"Uh, duh," Sayu said, stifling a laugh. "That's what they're supposed to do."
"Ha, oh yeah," Matsuda chuckled. "I guess so."
Why are we laughing, Taro thought. And yet there was something just kind of funny about the hopelessness of the situation. I guess this is what it's like to hit rock bottom.
Ryuk, oddly enough, was now the only one not laughing. "So that's it? What are you going to do now?"
"What can we do?" Taro asked. "The shinigami apparently think it'll be better if Kira wins, and they can kill us whenever they want, so what's the point?"
"Those idiots," Ryuk grumbled. "Who wins isn't what makes the whole thing fun. It's how the battle goes. Do they not get it?"
"Maybe Kira bribed them or something," Matsuda pondered.
"Right. So they're working directly for Kira." Taro shook his head. "That's so much better."
"What could Light bribe them with?" Sayu asked. "Unless he can somehow give them more lifespans for every person he kills." She looked at Ryuk. "Is that possible?"
"Ordinarily I would say 'no,'" Ryuk said, "but if anyone could think of a way to do it, it would be your brother."
There was silence for a minute. Then Matsuda stood up and moved over to the chair where Ryuzaki had been moments earlier. He sat down, and pulled his legs up close to his chest. Then he reached for one of Ryuzaki's sugar cubes.
"Matsuda...what are you doing?" Taro asked.
"Ryuzaki said that sitting like this helped him think. That it increased his intelligence by 50% or something."
Sayu couldn't help but laugh. "Really?"
"Yeah. I figure it couldn't hurt. I'm not about to give up just because there are a few dark clouds in the sky."
Taro personally thought it was just Matsuda's optimism, combined with wishful thinking. Fighting the shinigami directly was literally impossible, so why act like there was any hope? Besides, there was no way that just sitting a certain way could actually make you smarter.
Matsuda's face lit up.
"Ryuk," Matsuda asked, "can shinigami die?"
Ryuk looked surprised at the question. "Uh, yes actually, we can."
"What happens to them when they die?"
"From what I understand, their bodies sort of turn to sand or something," Ryuk said. "But I haven't actually seen it happen before," he quickly added.
Before Taro could point out that Ryuk wasn't completely trustworthy, Matsuda shouted with triumph.
"YES! That means that the pile of dust we found was actually Rem!" Seeing that everyone else in the room (except possibly Ryuk) was confused, he quickly described the events that immediately followed L's death nine years ago.
"Now, answer me this, Ryuk," Matsuda said, ready for the big finish. "We know that shooting you won't actually kill you. So under what conditions will a shinigami die?"
"Well, we steal lifespans from humans, and add them to our own," Ryuk said. "So as long as we write in the Death Note, we're basically immortal. But if we go a long time without writing a name down, we will eventually die. Also-"
Ryuk cut himself off, and Taro feared he might just decide to keep silent. But only a moment passed before Ryuk continued:
"Rem also said that if a shinigami fell in love with a human, and prevented their death from occurring, the shinigami would also die, because it's a betrayal of our purpose. 'We exist only to take human lives' or some crap like that."
"I'm surprised you gave us that much info," Taro said. "That's a lot of stuff we could use against you."
Ryuk laughed harshly. "Yeah, good luck trying to get me to give up my life for a human."
"In other words," Matsuda concluded unabashed, "shinigami are not allowed to add to human lifespans."
"Yeah," Ryuk shrugged. "So what?"
Matsuda pulled out a pen and paper. "Well, look at it this way. This is how I understand the whole taking-lifespan thing, based on what Ryuk has told me. Say we have a 30-year-old man who is scheduled to die at age 50.
"If a shinigami writes his name in the Death Note, that shinigami gains whatever amount of time the man didn't live. In this case, 20 years. So we take the number of years he's supposed to live and subtract the number of years he actually lives to get this."
Matsuda wrote down: 50-30=20
"However, suppose a shinigami uses the Death Note to extend this man's life once he reaches 50, say by killing a mugger, and he lives until he's 60. That creates an imbalance. There are only 50 years to go around, so the extra years the man lives has to come from somewhere. So it comes from the shinigami who kept him alive."
"Thus the shinigami can lose his own lifespan, which could wind up killing him. It's not really about any betrayal of purpose: it just adds up that way.
"But, if a shinigami prevents a murder via Death Note, what would happen? Nothing, because that death has nothing to do with the length of the man's lifespan, so he simply lives out the remainder of his life."
Taro was impressed. He knew that Matsuda was smarter than he looked, but for him to put all of this together...before Ryuzaki, even. Still, Ryuzaki hadn't had all the pieces, since he was dead while these events took place.
"How does this help us?" Sayu asked.
"First of all, take the shinigami trying to kill us. It seems kind of odd that they would do something so dangerous, just for the sake of their entertainment. But we can see that there is a difference between stopping us from killing Kira with a Death Note or with, er, 'conventional means.'"
Sayu looked unfazed now. "So you're saying that if we write Light's name down, the shinigami can stop us with impunity. But if they tried to stop us from shooting him, they would risk killing themselves."
"Right," Matsuda said. "So we can still win this. We're back to square one, but we're still in the game."
That could actually work, Taro thought. But there's one problem.
"Sayu," he said, "go get Ryuzaki. He may somehow know all of this already, but we need to be sure we all come up with a plan." Sayu nodded, and ran out of the room after the detective, now full of a hope they hadn't had before.
Hopefully, it's not another lie.
Taro turned to Matsuda. "Of course, if he has another 20 years or so to live, then any attempts we make in the near future will end in failure. If that's the case, we may have to risk the Death Note after all."
Matsuda's face fell. "But how will we know?" Taro noted that he, ironically, had put his legs down.
"You've got the eyes," Taro replied. "All we need is a picture of him, and you can take a look at his lifespan."
Matsuda immediately pulled out the files. Taro kicked himself for having deliberately waited until Sayu left the room, especially after all she had called him out on for not being honest. With any luck, there wouldn't be any snags, and there would be no harm done.
But, of course, that wasn't going to happen.
Matsuda stared closely at the picture of Sayu's brother and turned white. It was just an ordinary looking picture to Taro, but whatever it was that Matsuda could see clearly had him worried.
"No way. It's a sign."
Taro and Matsuda's discussion was cut short when Sayu burst into the room. Alone.
"Where's Ryuzaki?" Taro asked.
Sayu's breath was short from panic. "He left," she panted. Seeing that they weren't quite comprehending what she meant, she added, "He's going to get killed!"
He had tried. He really had. And maybe he had even done the best job he could possibly do, despite the fact that so many people had still died.
But he would not be a puppet of the shinigami. He refused to dance around for their amusement, and if that was all the effect this investigation was going to have, there was no point in continuing. If the gods had really decided that they wanted Kira to rule, they would have to do it without using L as their plaything.
This was it; the final defeat. After nearly a decade of conflict between L and Kira, before and after death, he was the one who had broken first. And now, there was nothing left to do but turn himself over to the de facto ruler of the world, appointed by the gods of death. With any luck, he might be able to reason with Kira before he died. Convince him to be gentler with his people, at least.
No, he wouldn't beg. He had more dignity than that.
He turned the corner to the police station, where the pro-Kira crowd had gathered, angrily demanding L's arrest. Whether Kira had actually told them to carry out L's "judgment" themselves or not, they sure seemed like they would be willing to. He had to stop them. Then the mob might be less inclined to go after the other Task Force members.
Ryuzaki opened his mouth to call out and turn himself in, but the words caught in his throat. Suddenly, he felt fear swelling up inside him. Suddenly, he wanted to live.
Why should I be afraid of death, he thought. I've been there before.
And yet his mouth would not move.
At that moment, someone called out, "Hey, it's him!" Everyone turned, but Ryuzaki's legs were already carrying him in the other direction.
So much for dignity.
With the roaring mob on his heels, he ran, with his hands over his face. No doubt they would try to photograph him, or perhaps Kira had instructed them to simply get rid of him themselves. It hadn't exactly stopped them over in England.
Again, he was struck by his own irrational behavior. Why was it so hard to just give himself up, when he had resolved to do just that moments before? He had faced death before, and he had risked his life on multiple occasions. Sure, this was suicide, but there was nothing else that could be done. Why didn't he have the guts?
Because I know I am the last one, he thought. Even in death, I took comfort in knowing that Near and Mello would be able to carry on my work. Now, only X remains. Perhaps he will find a way, but...no, it's impossible. I thought I could set things right, but Kira has outmaneuvered me completely.
He really is as a god.
Ryuzaki knew he couldn't head back to the hotel room; he wouldn't bring the others down with him. After all, perhaps they could find some way to live in Kira's world, even if he couldn't. Instead, he turned right, and headed toward the bridge. Maybe he could lose them in the river.
As he neared the bridge, he heard a woman's voice cry out, "Give yourself up. Kira demands it." She sounded very authoritative, and also a bit familiar. Could that be the proxy? Ryuzaki resisted the temptation to look and see who Kira had chosen to do his bidding. He didn't want to give them the satisfaction. He prepared to jump.
Then he heard a shot ring out.
He simultaneously felt a sharp pain in his chest.
He looked down and saw that his white shirt was stained with blood. He heard the woman yell with surprise. He felt his eyelids grow heavy.
So...that's it, then.
Unable to keep his balance, L fell forward, and plummeted into the dark water below.