Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The Secret Rule" Chapter 17: Counterattack

Death Note fanfiction. Rated T

Well, here we go. The story approaches its endgame: only two more chapters after this. Thank you all for sticking with me; I hope I won't keep you waiting too much longer.

Sabanto clenched her fists as she watched L fall. Or at least, the man she thought was L; she hadn't gotten a good enough look at his face to be certain. She turned back and scanned the crowd. Who had killed the man? That was Kira's duty (or hers, if he so chose). Kira's reign meant a determined, absolute justice, not a justice that just anyone could decide.
That's a disadvantage of having to work through the population, she thought. There's always one guy that thinks he knows better than us. She wanted to find whoever had disobeyed Kira's orders, but to take further charge here would risk exposing herself as his chosen one. And she couldn't allow that.

This was not good. Not only was Sabanto not sure that the dead man was L, but it would be impossible to confirm his identity or even verify his death now that he had fallen into the river. But everyone here would believe it, and word would no doubt get back to Kira that L was indeed dead.

With that in mind, Sabanto turned and began walking away. As much as she didn't want to report a potential failure, she had to contact Kira and get the story straight.
The rest of the crowd soon began to disperse, their duty done. One person, however, remained for some time afterwards, gazing out at the spot where L's body had gone under. A trembling hand clutched the pistol hidden beneath his coat.

That was close, thought Taro, shivering from the thought of what he had been driven to do, but it was our only chance.

Strangely, the sight of the river was far less intimidating during the night. Perhaps that was because
there were no Kira supporters-or anyone else-around. That would make the next step much easier.

Taro reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Using the light from his cell phone, he illuminated the words written on it.

L Lawliet, shot by another person.

He decides to run away from the Kira supporters, and uses his hands to prevent them from seeing his face. He runs to the old bridge by the river, and is shot in the back. His body falls into the water, and disappears.

Even to save Ryuzaki, writing those words had been terrible for him. With each letter, Taro remembered the faces of the bullies he had killed as a middle school student. Two kids who had died through his actions, and they were certainly not the last. Even after all these years, he had never forgotten what they looked like. While they had of course never found out what happened, they hadn't bullied him anymore after that, and he assumed they had gone to live their lives as better people.

But Taro? He had killed yet another man, with that same damned book, and an ally at that. Maybe it was the only way to end it all, but he still hated Kira for driving him to this point.

He couldn't stand to look at the words another second. He whipped out the eraser, and wiped them out of existence.

Then he put the paper and his cell phone, took off his jacket, and dove into the water.

Moments later, another man broke the surface of the water. Before he could even begin gasping for air, Taro begin to pull him to shore, imploring him to make as little noise as possible.

"It's alright, Ryuzaki. I'll tell you everything."
After being taken back to the hotel and being warmed up from his swim, Ryuzaki insisted that Taro explain himself.
"I shot you," he said.

Everyone took private satisfaction that, for once, L was the one who was confused.

"You what?"

"When you left, we knew what you were about to do. You would rather die than give Kira the satisfaction of beating you," Taro said. "So, I wrote down in the Death Note that you would get shot, and then I shot you. And now that the name has been erased, you're back with us again."

L blinked, unable to form words. Maybe he just hadn't expected the same people who had frequently called him too radical in his methods to carry out such an extreme plan.

"Why did you shoot me?" Ryuzaki asked. "Why not Matsuda?"

"Because it was supposed to cause a scene," Taro said. "The public now thinks you're dead, which will give us a bit of breathing room for our next move. Matsuda is known to be a member of the police, but it would be easier for me to pass of as a Kira supporter in case I were spotted. And I had you run to the bridge and fall in the water so that no one would be able to double-check you name."

So the Death Note was influencing me, Ryuzaki thought. That's why my actions felt inconsistent. I have to admit, this was a clever plan, if futile.

"What was the point, though?" Ryuzaki asked. "If the shinigami are involved, there's no way to win."

"Not necessarily," Taro said. He quickly explained what Matsuda had said about shinigami and lifespans. As long as they didn't specifically try to use the Death Note to kill Light, the shinigami wouldn't bother them.

Hopefully, Taro thought

"If I might ask," Ryuzaki pointed out, "did it occur to you to just take the risk and kill Light with the Death Note, instead of coming up with that plan to save me?"

Taro wished he hadn't actually said that: it was talking about using the Death Note that had gotten Yamamoto killed in the first place.

"No," he said. "Because none of us have to die. I have an idea, but we need your help to turn it into a real plan. If the shinigami want action, that's what we'll give them."

Light frowned. Sabanto's report had him concerned.

First of all, who had brought a gun to the rally? That was specifically forbidden: if the English cell had managed to round up L's successors with only cameras and a few crowbars, then the Japanese cell could take down L without resorting to firearms. The idea wasn't to get people to carry out their own justice, after all. Only one person had the authority to kill people, and that was Kira.

Second of all, just as Sabanto had said, the circumstances surrounding his death were suspicious. The description did sound like him, but there was no definitive evidence that either it was actually L, or that he hadn't faked his death somehow. And if L was already in league with whoever possessed the eraser, the whole thing could be just a trick. And after that last announcement of L's death had backfired, he couldn't take any chances. Sitting down at his desk, he opened the Kira site, so he could see what sort of rumors were going around.

Justin looked over his shoulder. "What will you do now?"

"Say nothing," Light replied. "Declaring L to be dead or to be alive wouldn't accomplish anything. And thinking he's dead will improve morale. If he turns up, we'll just track him down again."

Justin frowned himself. Things weren't moving quickly over here. Sure, there was some satisfaction to be gained from seeing how masterfully Light was outmaneuvering this L guy, but Light just sat in his room, plotting and working behind the scenes, while the real battle was actually being fought thousands of miles away. Light wasn't even writing in the Death Note himself: he had given up ownership, but kept the book in constant contact with his body and arranged for a scribe to write on the pages. Something about keeping the enemy from recognizing him or something. This was not nearly as fun as Ryuk had described.

If this keeps up, Justin thought, I might just write his name down and go back to my realm. There may not be much there, but at least the shinigami can play good dice games.

On cue, a message popped up on Light's computer, announcing that someone had entered the online chat room. In response to the wave of celebration over the "reports of L's death," the newcomer said, "But Kira has already informed us of L's death once. How do we know this isn't just a publicity stunt?

Light shook his head. Even in a perfect world, there would always be some dissenters and malcontents. This was of no concern.

Then he noticed the username: LightY.

Someone knows that I'm Kira, and they intended for me to see this, Light realized.

The chat room continued:

"Kira wouldn't do that. That was just a mistake."
 "But this does look kind of familiar."
 "So what?"
 "Maybe Kira didn't actually say anything this time? Can't he just tell us directly?"

The mysterious LightY responded with: "If Kira is really doing this for us, why wouldn't he just clarify for us?"

Dammit, he's trying to entrap me, Light thought. He knows that I can't say anything in this situation.

The chat had plenty to say on that:

"It would be nice for him to clear this up."
"Why should he? Remember what happened last time?"
 "That's the point, dumbass. Telling us L was dead right before the guy showed up on TV was a major screw-up. He needs to be sure."

LightY continued: "Isn't he supposed to be a god? Wouldn't a god know for sure?"

The chat exploded, but it seemed pretty split on whether Kira was an actual god or whether he was simply very powerful somehow.

Then LightY played his trump card: "And if Kira isn't a god, who's to say he's really after our best interests?"

If I don't respond quickly...

The chat was starting to sway.

"You know, this guy's starting to make some sense."
 "Not you too."
 "What? I thought this was an open discussion. Wouldn't that be the point of him doing this for us?"
 "What else would he be doing it for?"
 "Are you kidding? The whole world thinks he's a god. That's not enough of an incentive?"
 "He might just be after his own selfish interests."

Light grimaced at the name attached to the last post: Apples. Yet another reference only he would recognize. There's more than one of them.

LightY: "I say Kira should prove that he really doing this for us and not himself."
Apples: "But how?"
LightY: "He should challenge his opposition. Have a debate."
Aoyama: "Why should he have a debate when he can just kill them?"
LightY: "To prove that it isn't just 'might makes right.' If Kira only looking after himself, why should we want him?"
Yotsuba: "Because he makes the bad guys go away?"
LightY: "The people he decides are bad. What if he's wrong?"
Yotsuba: "Kira's never wrong."
LightY: "He was clearly wrong about L being dead that one time. He's not infallible."
Aoyama: "That's true..."

The impostors went on and on, playing both sides, and before long, the entire chat room was practically shouting for Kira to debate with his opposition.

Damn, Light thought. Justin simply smiled. This was more like it.

Then another person joined in. Username...Ryuzaki: A naked challenge if there was ever one.

He must be alive, Light thought. This whole suggestion of a debate had L written all over it. This was just the kind of theatrics Ryuzaki loved. Revealing himself to be alive during the debate would damage Kira's authority even more.

Ryuzaki began:

"This debate is a great idea. I happen to sympathize with L, and I think that the Task Force would welcome the opportunity to prove that they are the ones who really have the people's interest in mind. I'll try to contact them."

"Yeah, you'll try to contact them," Light grumbled. Shit. He's no doubt planted the idea of a debate elsewhere as well. At this rate, I'll have no choice but to make some kind of appearance. Damn L, he figured out my weak spot. If I refuse to live up to my image as the people's justice, I'll lose my public authority. Sigh. Very well, L. If you want a showdown, I'll give you one.

Within two weeks, an anonymous tape was sent to the Sakura TV station. Supposedly from the surviving members of the Kira Task Force, it proposed a televised debate between themselves and Kira, on which of them was truly the more ethical and righteous party, on the condition that neither side would use the debate as a means to locate the other group, and that it would be strictly between a Task Force member and Kira himself: no proxies.

While the pro-Kira world had very little to actually gain from this plan, and quite a bit to lose, the idea of a debate had spread like wildfire through the ranks of Kira's supporters, who were eager to see Kira in action as their champion. And not one to disappoint, a reply soon came through the lips of a publicly judged criminal, informing everyone that the challenge had been accepted. Subsequent messages confirmed the manner in which the debate would be conducted, until, on October 13, the debate was officially set to air on Sakura TV in one week, on the 20th of October, 2013.

Light decided to hold on to the faint hope that the Task Force would be captured before then. No such luck.

Behind closed doors, Ryuzaki was, naturally, appointed to be the spokesperson for the Task Force. He felt it would be easy for he and Light to debate against each other well, given their history in the investigation together.

As for the other players in the game, they were content to quietly wait for the 20th to arrive. That would be when they made their move.

October 20, 2013. 5:59 pm

People turning in to Sakura TV's channel were greeted by the emblem of their savior. A filtered voice spoke.

"This is Kira. To all of my supporters who are watching, I appreciate the support you have showed me, and am gladdened that you share my desire for a better world. However, while we wait for our opponent to come on the air, I wish to pose a question to you. I agreed to appear here because this was what you told me you wanted. But isn't this the kind of delaying tactics that made it necessary for me to carry the burden of justice in the first place?"

The viewers were stunned.

"Corruption in courts and in media made it possible for evildoers to postpone their sentence and, in more cases than you might think, get out of their just punishment altogether. It might have taken years for the police to catch a criminal, and even longer for him to be executed. That's why I stepped in; to make sure that crime was dealt with swiftly and accurately, because evil thrives on our inability to deal with it decisively.

"This may come as a surprise to you, but the original notion among you for me to engage in a debate was actually planted by members of the Task Force. No doubt using public computers that couldn't be traced to a particular person, they collectively posted on various sites and cleverly manipulated the conversation to push the public to be in favor of their plan. All this debate does is force us to legitimize them as an alternative means of justice, which distracts us from our goals."

Kira sounded angry, but his viewers listened on with baited breath.

"However, I think some good can come of this, as it will help bring to light the true subversive nature of these criminals. Rest assured that I would not have accepted this challenge had I not taken every precaution against their trickery."

At this, a new voice began to speak.

"Really, now, Kira? Don't you know it's bad form to begin a debate before your opponent is there to defend himself?"

The Kira symbol moved to one side of the page, making room for another logo, one the audience was equally familiar with, but had not expected to see again.


"I am L, representing the New Kira Task Force. I also represent all those who consider Kira to be not a god, but a murderer, who cloaks his crimes in the guise of a totalitarian justice, in which he is the sole voice. Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated; it seems to be a staple of Kira's propaganda to declare me as such."

The pro-Kira members of the audience were too shocked at the news of L's survival to even boo their opposition. Kira, however, kept his cool.

"I suspected you were still around; it seems some people aren't as good at following instructions as I had hoped."

"And you made no attempt to allay these rumors?" L asked. "You let people go on thinking that I was dead even when the circumstances were so fishy? That doesn't sound like a very unbiased dictator to me. It makes me wonder what else your followers don't know about you."

"I am an arbiter, not a dictator," Kira insisted. "I protect people; I don't tell them how to live their lives so long as they show goodwill towards their fellow man."

"And yet," L said, "it seems to me that your result has actually turned men against each other, with everyone so eager to sell out the smallest offense in order to curry favor with you. I guess that makes your professed idea of utopia a failure, doesn't it?"

Kira was silent for the briefest of moments, but the viewers could almost hear him fuming through the filter. Then he said cordially, "Let's cut the small talk and get on with the debate, shall we?"

"I'm looking forward to it."

Sayu, sitting at Headquarters, grimaced at hearing Kira's words, but the tone did sound familiar. The text from Ryuzaki ("I can tell it is Light.") confirmed it.

So it really is him, she thought, and not someone speaking for him. That part was crucial.

She sent the signal text to Matsuda. "Go ahead." Then she switched the TV channel.

This was the part of the plan she hated the most, because her husband would be in grave danger. But she remained calm.

"You can do it, Taro," she prayed.

Matsuda grinned as he received the signal. He didn't need to pass it on to Taro; they were only supposed to contact him if there was a problem, and they had to abort. But everything was going according to plan.

He was already on his computer at home, keeping track of all the up to the minute news and police reports. If this proxy of Kira's made a move, he would know.

He switched his TV from the debate on Sakura TV to NHN. As much as he wanted to see L, this next part was crucial.

Sabanto chuckled to herself.

Those fools. Did they really think they could outmaneuver us? The debate is so obviously a distraction. But we're one step ahead of them this time.

She heard the knock on her door, right on schedule. "Showtime."


Taro cleared his throat. He desperately hoped the frosted glass was thick as the voice filter.

This is it, he thought. It's time to put my life on the line. It's time to tell the world the truth that I should have told them a long time ago. 

"I am a Japanese citizen," he began. "I cannot divulge my name, for obvious reasons. However, I want you to know that everything I am about to tell you is true. You may have spent the last 10 years wondering about Kira; it's all anyone talks about, after all. Who he is, what he wants, is he justice, and, most importantly, how he is able to kill people all over the world. Tonight..."

Be strong

"...Tonight, you will learn the answer."

1 comment:

  1. I like Taro's bravery. Out of curiosity, why did you choose the letter X for the last surviving letter?