Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"The Secret Rule" Chapter 18: The Secret is Out

I'm guessing you are all probably tired of hearing this, but once again, I apologize for taking so long to update. I've not been in the mood to write fanfiction in months, and will soon retire from actively posting on so as to move on to other writing projects. However, I am not going to leave this story unfinished. I know this story has been going for about a year now, but the final chapter will be published before the end of the summer. I promise.

When we last saw our heroes, L was engaged with Kira in a public debate, but it's actually a ruse to draw him away from Taro, who is making a separate broadcast bent on exposing Kira's secrets. Meanwhile, Kira's proxy, Yuu Sabanto, prepares to make her move.

"Kira is just a man. He attended high school and university right here in Japan, and is now a mere 27 years old. No matter how much power he may have, he is not a god."

"You seem to know a lot about him," the newswoman said, sitting behind her own frosted glass panel across from Taro. "How did you come to know all of this?"

"Some of it involved my own research, and I also ran into a couple of his old friends. However, I've known a lot about Kira's operation from the very beginning, but I'll get to that in a moment."

"I see," she said. "And what did you plan to do with this information?"

Taro smiled sheepishly, even though he knew the audience couldn't see it. "Well, at first I was really scared. Even though he's an ordinary man, he has a considerable amount of power and influence. And I was much younger when Kira first appeared, so there was that."

The newswoman nodded understanding. "So why did you come forward now, at a time when Kira is very strict about dealing with people who oppose his methods?"

"Because people deserve to know the truth," Taro said. The newswoman opened her mouth to speak again, but Taro went on. "Not necessarily in every aspect. Certainly, sometimes people are entitled to keep their secrets. However, most of the people who follow Kira do so because they believe Kira to be a god, and that's simply not true."

"Who's to say that having as much power as he possesses doesn't make Kira some kind of god?" the newswoman asked.

She sounds like she supports Kira, Taro thought. Either that, or she's playing a good devil's advocate. Let's hope good journalism is as objective as it claims to be.

Then again, it's not like I don't have an agenda here either.

"Because it's not really a power, it's a tool," Taro explained. "And while it is rare, it is not unique to Kira, and anyone in possession of it can use it easily."

"And could you tell us about this...tool?" she asked.

"Actually," Taro said, pulling out a piece of paper, "I'm prepared to show you."

That was the signal. Matsuda wrote down the name.

Xavier Anderson

And now, we wait, he thought.

On the screen, Taro's silhouette passed the paper to the show's host, and instructed the announcer to switch to the Skype feed they had provided. A man appeared on the screen, sitting in front of his webcam. A mask covered the upper half of his face.

Just enough that people can see his expressions, but not enough for someone with the shinigami eyes to see his name. He had already checked.

The man waved to his audience. Behind the glass, Taro explained that this man had volunteered for the experiment. Then, as the second hand on the clock reached the top, the man on the screen suddenly clutched his chest, and his face contorted with agony. Then he collapsed.

Matsuda pulled out the eraser. Now came the tricky part.

The newswoman's face became pale. That, combined with the phones in the studio going berserk, told Taro there was a good chance the viewers wouldn't think there was a fraud.

And there wasn't, of course. But they hadn't passed the biggest hurdle yet.

"It's called a Death Note," he explained. "Any person whose name is written in it dies of a heart attack, so all Kira needs to know in order to kill his victims is their name and what they look like. What he does isn't exactly divine or even difficult."

"So, you've set up this demonstration to show the public that you also have this tool?" the newswoman asked.

"Yes," Taro said. "Several other people have also come to possess items like this one since the rise of Kira. Most notably, there was the so-called 'Second Kira,' who appeared in 2004, but then mysteriously vanished. Unlike them, however, I've never worked under Kira himself."

"And they did?"

"Yes, they were all his pawns, whom he used to conduct his killings for him, while he worked behind the scenes."

"And it was all done by this paper?" she asked.

"Yes, but there's more," Taro assured her. "What Kira doesn't know, or rather, didn't know until recently, is that there's a way to undo this."

A skeptical eyebrow went up. "Oh?"

"Yes. Just like there is a killing paper called a Death Note, there is something called the Death Eraser." Taro pulled an eraser from his jacket pocket. "If I erase a name from the Death Note with this, that person will come back to life." he said. "Kira may have told you that he brought back those who were killed by the latest Kira imitator last summer, but that was a lie. I brought them back."

Then Taro erased the name from the paper. The studio cut again to the Skype feed, and the whole world watched as Taro's volunteer sat up and waved.

The incoming calls were roaring through the studio. The host took the signal from her boss, and said, "Well, with that astounding claim, we're cutting to a quick commercial break. We'll be taking calls when we come back. Stay tuned."

"And cut!" the boss said. Both Taro and the host relaxed. She pulled out a cigarette and lit it. She looked even more nervous than Taro was.

"I'll give you this, you sure are brave," she said. "I'd bet there's a lot of people who aren't taking what you said very well. If not for our top security, there's a good chance they would come to shut you up."

Taro smiled weakly. "That's what I'm counting on."

In reality, though, Taro was getting more and more anxious. Each passing moment made it more likely that Kira's proxy would make his move, and this plan was far from perfect. A single slip could spell disaster. If the proxy was prepared enough to defeat them, or clever enough to not come at all, it would all be for nothing.

In the grand scheme of things, the L/Kira debate meant nothing. While it was true that Kira keeping most of the people on his side would make things even more difficult for Taro and the others, it would be alright as long as the proxy was captured. All the dominoes would fall once that happened. The only purpose of the debate was to tie Light down, leaving only his proxy to deal with the impromptu broadcast.

Of course, given that broadcast had been announced that day through graffiti on the street, it was possible that the proxy might not even know about it. A lot of local viewers were more obsessed with the debate, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the proxy could be among them. Not to mention that this would all be for naught if the proxy wasn't in Japan as Ryuzaki had speculated.

So many things that could go wrong. It'll be a miracle if we can pull this off. We have to lure the proxy into action.

"And we have our first caller of the program," the host said. "Go ahead, please."

"Yes, I think your guest owes us an explanation as to how he knows all of this. So far, all we've been given is a very implausible theory as to how Kira kills, with 'proof' that could very easily have been faked. Kira's given us better arguments."

"True," Taro replied, reaching into his bag and pulling out a folder of papers. Thanks to Ryuzaki's efforts, they were ready for this.

"This is an official police report, filed on November 6th, 2002, about one year before Kira first appeared. The specific names and places have been censored, but it tells of five junior high students who abruptly dropped dead of heart attacks, and bizarrely, came back to life only days later. This was crossed-referenced with some other cases, unsolved, from even earlier, where a particular group of people mysteriously died of heart attacks in a way that benefited others. In this case, it was determined by the leading detectives that a student who had been bullied by these five kids had come to possess this object, which is called a Death Note, and the eraser that can undo its actions. The case was believed by the detectives to be closed, but..."

Taro gulped. No matter how many times he recounted this story, it never got any easier.

"...the notebook was not destroyed. Instead, it was accidentally passed on to the individual known as Kira, while the student kept the eraser. I am that student, and I've had the eraser for the past 11 years."

The host's eyes widened with curiosity, as the police file was put on the screen for the viewers to inspect.

"For those of you who are still not convinced," Taro went on, "there's another source you can try. A few years ago, in an attempt to lure Kira in without causing suspicion, I submitted a manuscript for a one-shot manga to Shounen Jump, titled "The Death Note." It was published on November 25, 2009, and it detailed all of the events contained in that police report, but also with the names of people and places changed. In addition to setting bait for Kira, it was also meant to act as a means of testing people's opinions on Kira. Mainly, what if Kira was one of us?"

Shit, it really is the guy with the eraser that Kira told me about, Sabanto thought. He's an even bigger threat than I realized. I have to kill him.

There was a knock, and Matsuda jumped a meter into the air.

Relax, he thought. It's just Kei.

He went to open the door, and sure enough, there was Kei Sanami, back from her book club. She peered around Matsuda and sniffed the air. "Dear, did you fix dinner like I asked you to?"

Crap. "Sorry, I forgot. I was...er...busy."

Kei shook her head and put her hands on her hips. "Touta, Touta, what am I going to do with you?"

Matsuda grinned sheepishly. "I don't know. You were the one who married me."

Kei laughed. Oh, how Matsuda loved the way she laughed. Like most people, she laughed at him, but it always felt so much more kind-hearted than when, say, Aizawa used to.

"Well, perhaps we'll just go out to eat, instead," she suggested.

Matsuda bit his lip. "Unfortunately, I'm still in the middle of something, but I promise I'll take you out as soon as I'm finished."

Kei sighed. "More top-secret Kira business? Oh, alright. You know I can't stay mad at you."

Matsuda chuckled weakly and turned back to the broadcast. The commercial break was over, and one of the callers was angrily telling Taro that he shouldn't be opposing Kira. And when Taro reminded them that his main concern was informing the public of the truth, the host interrupted, pointing out that the timing of the broadcast was definitely intended to undermine Kira.

"NHN's got someone to talk about Kira?" Kei asked.

"Yeah," Matsuda said. Only this time, it's someone that actually knows what he's talking about. He noticed Kei frowning. "What is it?"

"It's just...don't you think it's weird that Koheina isn't hosting this?" Kei asked.


"Yeah. Ever since NHN stopped pandering to Kira, Koheina's the one that always does the stories about Kira, because he's the only one that isn't biased."

That's true, Matsuda thought. How did I not notice that? Unlike Taro, the host's voice wasn't filtered, and it definitely wasn't Koheina. It wasn't even a guy.

"That sounds more like Sabanto," Kei said.

"Sabanto?" Matsuda said. "She's the most biased of them all."

"Exactly. So why is NHN having her host something like this?" Kei asked.

Good question, Matsuda thought. Come to think of it, Koheina was supposed to host this show. But there's no doubt that Sabanto is the one who's hosting it instead. Something's fishy about this. I guess that if Koheina couldn't be there, they would have to get a replacement. But that...that...

Matsuda ran to the phone. "Director Kishimoto? This is Sanami. Have there been any Kira-related deaths reported in the past few hours?"

As they went to another commercial break, Taro turned to his host. "Excuse me, Ms..."

The woman smiled. "Just call me Yuu."

"Yuu, what do you think about all this? I know that you're trying to remain unbiased in this, but I can tell that you happen to support Kira. Does any of this strike as being a little unsettling, that we've basically entrusted our justice system to a single, unknown person, just because he has this notebook?"

Yuu smiled. "Not necessarily. Crime rates have been reduced because of him, and you can't argue with those kinds of results. If he is just a man, I'd say that just makes the impact he has had even more impressive."

"Really? That's a whole lot of power for one person to have."

"Well then, what about you?" Yuu asked. "By your own admission, you've killed people with this notebook, regardless of the fact that you brought them back later. Yet you've waited until now to come forward with this information. You're trying to mitigate your own crimes in order to bring Kira down: in effect, using the Death Note for your own ends. If the police arrest Kira for what he's done, then don't you deserve whatever fate he receives? Especially if you're partially responsible for Kira receiving this power in the first place?"

Taro gritted his teeth. "Maybe. But I'll worry about that when the time comes."

Just then, a sharp ringing sound split the air. But it wasn't any of the studio phones: it was Taro's cell phone.

What now? thought Taro, hoping it wasn't who he suspected it was. No such luck. Matsuda's number flashed on the screen. He had promised to only call if there was an emergency. Which, at this stage of the game, was very bad news.

"What is it?" he asked.

"The host is the proxy!"

Taro gulped. His whole life flashed before his eyes. After so many years of chasing Kira, the goal was so close he could practically taste it. But the best chance of victory also invited the best chance of fatal defeat.

"I understand, but I'm a little busy at the moment," Taro said, trying to keep a stoic expression for Sabanto's sake. Twenty seconds before the end of the commercial break. "We'll talk later." Then he hung up.

"Who was that?" Sabanto asked.

"Oh, just-" For some reason, no one came to mind as an immediate excuse. Oh right, it's because I don't have any friends. "-my wife," he finally blurted out. Why was that so hard? "I just need to let her know what's going on. She worries about me."

Sabanto smiled. "I'm sure she does."

Hoping she might buy the "I'm texting my wife" line, Taro messaged Matsuda.

Are you sure?

As the show resumed, Taro tried to pay attention to the caller's question, but he was getting anxious. He had to know what Matsuda had found out. Finally, the response came.

We had arranged for Kenichi Koheina to host the interview, but Yuu Sabanto replaced him at the last minute. Also, Koheina has just found dead in his house. Heart attack.

That was certainly suspicious.

Taro: What do we do? We can't just grab her now. If Light doesn't hear back from her, he'll know something's wrong.

Matsuda: X and I have worked out a plan. Listen carefully...

"Tell me something, Yuu," Taro asked, during the next commercial break. "Were you in the news business a few years ago, when Kira was speaking directly through the media?"

"Yes," Sabanto said. "I had just started at the time, but I remember when Kira killed the Sakura TV newscasters over their monument campaign."

"Did you ever want to be Kira's mouthpiece yourself?"

Yuu smiled. "Well, I couldn't have been even if I wanted to. Even though he came to our network, Kiyomi Takada was a veteran, so there's no way I would have gotten picked over her. Besides, she had the face for it."

She chuckled. Taro squirmed, not sure whether it was polite to laugh or not.

"But the truth is that I didn't want to be his voice on the news," she continued. "It's like...I always got the feeling Takada did it for the attention. You didn't work with her, so you probably had no idea how much of a snob she was in real life. I thought that following Kira's directions to be famous was being faithful for the wrong reasons."

"So," Taro concluded, "it would be better to just follow Kira's lead in one's everyday life. Without being noticed."


"Like in those underground cells."

Sabanto's mouth twitched. "What?"

"I mean, it's obvious that Kira's set up his own neighborhood watch, especially with what happened to the orphanage in England."

Sabanto's smile began to fade.

"You mean that attack? What about it"

"I heard it had something to do with L. That his successors were being trained at that orphanage or something."

Taro tried not to grin. He could see the cogs in Sabanto's mind turning. Did he hear that from L himself? Does that mean they're working together? For a threat like him to be working directly with L would be a major problem for Kira and Sabanto. She couldn't let that slide.

And yet, Sabanto seemed surprisingly calm.

"So...about those 'neighborhood watches'?" she asked.

"I was just wondering if that was the sort of thing you'd say was the 'right way' to support Kira."

Sabanto leaned back in her seat, with her hands firmly in her pockets. "Well, obviously, they shouldn't be disobeying the law. That would defeat the purpose of a perfect society."

Nice answer.

"So then you don't approve?"

Sabanto smiled. "Whether I do or not seems like a rather personal thing to ask, doesn't it?"

It might be, but now that Taro thought about it, he was sure she had been in the crowd when L was killed. Should I bring that up? Matsuda did say to try and goad her. No, it's almost time to get back on the air. But it doesn't look like I've gotten to her yet.

"Oh yes, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be impertinent."

"It's no trouble," Sabanto assured him. Then she noticed the director signaling. "Well, shall we continue, Taro?"

"Of course," Taro said. Then he realized that she had just dropped her voice down almost to a whisper, and called him by his name. Her lips curled ever so slightly into a smile.

She's already written my name down. God, I hope you've got a plan, Matsuda. If this doesn't work, I'll be dead. Again. Kira will have finally beaten me. I'll have nothing to show for 10 years of work and staying alive.

Then he realized that, again, he hadn't thought about Sayu. On the eve of confrontation with Kira, his thoughts had been totally concerned with the victory or defeat that was imminent, but not with his wife. Or, for that matter, any of his family. Or his old classmates. Or his old coworkers.

His life had become consumed by Kira.

And yet, unlike before, he had no ill feelings towards Kira because of this. All he could feel was guilt over going through life without really living it, either for others or himself. Kira or no Kira, life went on. Other people had managed to live their lives regardless of the world Light was creating. When was the last time I even spoke to my parents? he thought. It must have been years. He could think of no intentions he had in life other than seeing this matter resolved. He had even tried to bring back thousands from the dead: undoing Kira's work without giving a thought to the disastrous consequences. He had wondered what Ryuzaki would do with his life once Kira was finally caught. What would I do?

Not that any of that mattered now.

But Sayu...

She had put up with his secrets, and with his obsessions. And there were still more; he hadn't even told her the most important step in the plan to bring Kira down. And somehow, she had managed to forgive him for his dishonesty. That was more than he could have expected or asked for. But now he found himself thinking about why he had decided to marry her in the first place.

He knew the answer. He had always known it. And that was the greatest crime of all.

"Excuse me."

Taro snapped back to reality. "What?"

Sabanto looked at him. "The caller was asking about why we should care about all of this, as long as Kira keeps us safe?"

Taro's mind was a blank. For all his preparation, he was unable to think clearly about how to answer this, the most important question. But his mouth continued to speak, as if his body realized he had only seconds left.

"Because if Kira is human, he is fallible. And if I cannot sit before you and speak against him, then who can?"

Taro saw Sabanto's smile falter ever so slightly as it occurred to her exactly what was going to happen.

Then Taro felt it.

The sudden pain in his chest.

He was grateful that, as a 14-year-old kid at the police station, he had asked for a painless death.

Because a heart attack, especially one that could kill you in seconds, was even more painful than he had imagined.

He fell out his chair, clutching his chest, trying to claw the pain away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sabanto leap down next to him. "Oh, no! Someone grab the defibrillator!" Very clever, Sabanto, to cover your tracks. While the whole studio was in a panic, Sabanto leaned down close to his body. "It's okay, we're going to get the medics in here," but even as she said that, Taro felt her reaching into his jacket pocket and seizing the piece of paper and the eraser.

Then she smiled. "Sweet dreams," she whispered.

Taro didn't hear any more of her lies. He blacked out before the medics could reach him.

Then he awoke. He sat up and looked around.

The studio was dark, and very nearly deserted. There was a man standing a few feet away. He turned and saw Taro.

"Good, you made it back," Matsuda said. "Good thing you came back here, and not the morgue. That would have been awkward." He chuckled nervously.

Taro breathed a sigh of relief. The mere fact that he was alive meant the plan had worked.

"Where's Sabanto?" he asked.

"In her dressing room," Matsuda said. "X is with her."

"Just X?" Taro asked.

"Yeah," Matsuda replied. "Sayu and Ryuzaki are still at their posts. They're waiting to hear from us."

Good. This next part would have been a lot harder if Sayu was here. "Well, let's not keep them waiting too much longer."

"So, you were working with them, Xavier Anderson," Sabanto sneered. She would have happily strangled the man in front of her, or least written his name down, if her hands weren't tied to her chair.

"Just call me X," he grunted. "And they did say I was a volunteer. Unlike you and Kira, we don't lie."

"X? So you're one of the letters, then."

"The last one," X confirmed, glaring at her.

"So, how did you know it was me?" she asked.

"Koheina's body. If you need to commit murder in order to reach your target, you shouldn't leave him where it can be found."

Sabanto frowned, and when she saw Taro and Matsuda walk into the room, the frown deepened.

"I guess you got me," Sabanto spat. "But you were all pretty lucky. Especially you." She nodded her head at Taro. "I was on my way to destroy the evidence when you guys caught up with me. Then the eraser would have been useless."

"Actually," Matsuda explained, "it wasn't luck at all." He reached into his pocket and held up a piece of paper for Sabanto to read.

Yuu Sabanto, heart attack.

She carries out her plan to kill the person trying to expose Kira's secrets. She confirms her mission's success to Kira, then waits quietly until the commotion at the studio dies down. Then she walks to her dressing room with the intention to dispose of the evidence.

"And that's where we found you," X reminded her. "We knew you would have brought some of the Death Note with you, just in case you had to kill Taro. And we specified that you wouldn't dispose of that paper until you came here, so there was no chance it could be destroyed."

"From there, it was simply a matter of finding the Death Note piece in your pocket, and erasing Taro's name," said Matsuda.

"But instead of giving Taro the Death Note paper and the eraser, we had it, so we could use it without being observed, and so you wouldn't get ahold of it," X finished. "We staged my little death scene for the public and for you, and made it look like Taro did it."

Sabanto scowled, apparently unfazed at the prospect that she was about to die. "Kind of hypocritical to say all that stuff about Kira being evil, and then use a Death Note yourself."

Matsuda and X were at a loss for words at that remark, but Taro responded through clenched teeth.

"We never claimed to be the good guys. But we are going to restore the balance so that things can go back to normal."

Sabanto laughed. "That's rich. All you've managed to do is kill me, and Kira is still out there. You haven't exactly accomplished much."

"But we will," X said. "Once you tell us where Kira is."

Sabanto laughed again. "What makes you think I know where he is?"

"L told us that Kira's plan would most likely be to set a system in place so judgment could be carried on after he died," Matsuda said. "In theory, you would replace him, and so you would have to have some way of getting to whatever supplies he hasn't given you. So, you know where he is."

"And even if that were true," Sabanto continued, ignoring him, "why would I tell you?"

"Because Kira will betray you," Taro said. "You mentioned Kiyomi Takada earlier. She worked directly with Kira, and he killed her as soon as she ended up in a compromising position."

"And she was his former girlfriend, too," Matsuda piped in.

"Kira doesn't deserve your loyalty," Taro continued. "If your positions were reversed, he would give you away in a heartbeat."

Sabanto laughed again. "Kira has nothing to fear from me. You're all wasting your time."

"That's what you think," Taro said, "but that's because you don't the whole story. Show her, Matsuda."

Matsuda shifted his grip on the paper, revealing an additional line of Sabanto fate that was hidden behind his finger.

When she arrives at her dressing room, she is captured by members of the Task Force. She discloses the location of Kira to her captors. Afterwards, she dies.

Sabanto's smug smile vanished instantly. She understood the implications of this. If a situation described in the Death Note was impossible, the victim would simply die of a heart attack after 40 seconds. Sabanto, however, was still alive, even with these described conditions. That meant that not only did she have the information they were looking for, but she would give it up if pressed hard enough. And her captors knew it, too, so now they had the advantage. The Death Note never lied. Confession was possible, and thus, inevitable.

Of course, sometimes the specific circumstances can help, thought Taro. I doubt she would give up Kira if she didn't have proof that she will. Fate can be circular that way, I guess.

"I brought equipment to torture the information out of you," X said, opening a bag at his feet. "I would prefer not to resort to that, however. Since you're going to tell us anyway, you might as well do it now, and save yourself some pain."

The broken Sabanto didn't need that much convincing. Ten minutes later, she named an address in Texas where she said they would be able to find Kira. Then, just as the paper promised, she let out a strangled cry, and slumped over, lifeless.

"Now we know where Light is, and he doesn't know we're coming," X said. "You two dispose of her body; I'll go take Kira down."

"That's actually not the plan," Taro said evenly.

X raised his eyebrow, but before he could ask Taro what he meant, he suddenly staggered. "What did...you..." was all he managed to get out before he collapsed.

"Did we really need to kill him?" Matsuda asked. "I know we can bring him back to life, but still...And L told us he was trained at undercover operations. Are you sure we can't let him do it?"

"We both know what you saw," Taro reminded him, reaching for X's bag. "X isn't the one who is supposed to kill Kira. I am." Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed envelope. "Please give this to Sayu. Hopefully, it will help her understand."

Matsuda's eyes teared up, but he kept a stiff upper lip. "Goodbye, Taro."

In a flash, Taro envisioned a future in which he became good friends with Matsuda. In which he could be a proper husband to Sayu. He shrugged it away.

He smiled. "Goodbye, Touta."

Then he left the room. It was finally time to end this.

To be concluded...


  1. And just like that, the truth is revealed. I'm wondering; is Taro going to resurrect Sabanto, or leave her for dead. After all, he could revive her to avoid a murder charge.