Chapter 1: Prelude
It began as just another night for Naomi Penber as she rode around the outskirts of her village on her black stallion, Cha-cha, keeping watch, making sure nothing was amiss... and freezing her ass off. Naomi drew her coat around her against the frigid winter winds that scattered the flurries of snow, staining both her and her horse white. She was nearing the end of the patrol when it happened. As she gently tugged at Cha-cha's reins, steering him through the nearby forest when her horse suddenly stopped, gave a spooked whinny, and refused to go any further. Naomi spied a speck of color against the snow and went to investigate. It turned out that it was a mop of red-brown hair and it was attached to a young man. He sat huddled in the snow, his back against a tree, his knees drawn up to his chest. He seemed to be off in his own little world—oblivious to the fact he was freezing to death. He must be—he was curled up in the snow wearing nothing but a girl's pink ribbon tied around his forearm. He was indeed shivering but not from the cold. The young man didn't even notice her approach as his eyes were squeezed shut in anguish.
"Hey! You there! Where are your clothes boy?" Naomi demanded.
The boy's eyes snapped open and he gaped at the night guardswoman clad in leather and steel armor for several minutes as if trying to decide if she was real.
"Are you an idiot or some kind of pervert?" She demanded.
"Thieves..." he spoke brokenly when he finally found his voice. "They... they took everything from me!"
Well that much was true. But it was misleading... a lie. Papa said lies were bad...
But then so was killing people.
The boy knew he'd been very bad but there was no way to take it back. Not that he felt the least bit sorry—they deserved it! He was sure that even Papa would agree, wouldn't he? He did it for him, after all...
The strange woman frowned, concerned but cautious as she drew closer.
He put his head down again. Why didn't she just go away? The boy looked flustered as Naomi wrapped her leather coat around his overly-sensitive skin.
"What's your name?" the woman demanded.
"Light... Light Yagami of Estville."
That name, that life, was stripped from him tonight and any remnants of it—he threw them away himself when he chose to...
"Your name is Kira." The Dark Mother had whispered when he first entered the world. "My favored child, you are destined for greatness. Do not disappoint me."
Light stared at his own hands and shivered as he the events again replayed in his mind: the fire, the screaming, the rip of flesh torn asunder, the crunch of bone...
Killing humans—it was like swatting pests.
"I know it's in your nature... to do evil," Papa's words returned to him unbidden and unwanted. "But you can change your fate..."
The reality of the last few hours came crashing down.
I killed a whole village!
No, papa would never condone what I did! Even to the thieves that murdered him! I—
Estville? A survivor? Naomi thought, stunned. Their village had received word that Estville had been ransacked by thieves... it was horrific. What was done to them.
Naomi's husband was among the guards that had gone off to exact retribution for the sake of their neighboring village that very afternoon only to discover someone else had got to it first. The bandit village was now scorched earth. Raye said he had never seen anything like it, that it was even worse than what happened to Estville. Indeed he was so unsettled by what he had seen for the first time in years Raye Penber reached for the bottle.
Up until now none of them would have ever even guessed their might be any survivors. But this boy-he seemed miraculously unscathed. Could he really be from Estville?
Yagami... that name seems familiar... Right, the Captain of the Guard of Estville. He was a good man. I knew he had a daughter but I didn't know he had a son...
"Light Yagami, huh? Come along then," Naomi ordered.
Light looked at her blankly.
Perhaps he's soft in the head? "You want to freeze death?" Naomi huffed and before Light could think about protesting pulled him roughly along towards where she had tethered her horse. The horse reared up in terror as they drew near.
Light sighed. Well that was predictable... "It's alright, I can walk."
Naomi continued to express concern as the boy walked barefoot in the snow but Light insisted he was alright. He was already numbed to the cold. Besides as he had rediscovered earlier tonight he ran rather hot.
"What can you do?" The woman asked as they entered the village.
"There's no free lunch. Everyone is expected to earn their keep."
Light knew he had to be careful with what he told this stranger. It was as Papa said, "Never let a stranger know what you really are. They'll want to hurt you—even kill you."
But wasn't that a lie?
"I-I'm good with numbers, gold counting, and... and Papa, he trained me to use a sword but..."
This human body—so flimsy, so weak!
"I'm not very good at it..."
He hadn't realized just how much he had limited himself until earlier tonight—when he took his true form for the first time in years and realized what he was capable of, he was truly a God among insects.
"Where's your Papa?"
Though right now he didn't feel like a God...
"Dead... the thieves..." as he said it something wet and alien rolled down his face.
...He felt like a monster.
All this power and he couldn't even save Papa and Sayu!
Light wasn't expecting it when the stranger drew him into a hug.
Chapter 2: The Beast
The clank of armor heralded the approach of the company of knights long before the lion-crested banner of the Albion Empire became visible as they rode over hill and dale. At a signal from their leader they reigned in their steeds atop a hill overlooking the smoldering crater that once was the bandit village—the very same bandit village the Emperor had commanded they raze to the ground.
That was problematic.
"By Paladin! What could have caused this?" exclaimed one of them, unconsciously reaching for his crossbow in agitation.
"I have no idea..." said his companion, likewise disturbed by the scene before him but irritated at the younger knight's lack of professionalism.
"I do..." their leader muttered darkly though he effected a bland and unconcerned demeanor for his men as he shucked off his "accursed" new armored boots and allowed his bare feet to rest as he squatted atop his white stallion. As usual he chose to keep his helm on.
"Really?" asked the first with unbridled excitement.
The second removed his helm revealing his big, curly hair which had become misshapen and sweaty while encased in metal.
"Well, do you feel like sharing, Ryuuzaki?" Aizawa demanded.
The others looked on in concern—the leader's armor didn't quite mask the fact he was shivering.
"I just pray that I'm wrong..."
"A survivor?" Raye repeated disbelievingly as he hung his coat by the front door of their cottage.
Naomi gave an exasperated sigh as she helped steady her husband as he meandered over to see for himself, he had obviously drunk too much ale. Raye peered curiously at their sleeping guest. "How?"
"He was out in the fields when the bandits attacked." Naomi winced, remembering that Light had been quite upset about that. Really, what does he think he could have done? He would have just been killed too.
Raye's eyes narrowed in suspicion. He did not like any of this. He couldn't help but question such a "miracle" and really, what did they know about this stranger? Absolutely nothing. And there was another issue—sure he trusted Naomi but he was still less than thrilled that his young wife had brought an attractive young man home...
"You brought him home..."
"Of course! Where else is he supposed to go, Raye?"
"We barely have food enough as it is." Raye sighed as he looked over the scrawny boy where he had, exhausted, fallen asleep on the furs by the fire.
"What happened to his clothes?" Raye demanded as he recognized that leather tunic and pants Light was currently wearing as formerly being one of his that was hastily re-sewn to fit the boy. And what was that? A pink ribbon on his arm? Raye looked at Naomi questioningly but knew it couldn't have been her doing. Normally she wouldn't go anywhere near something so… pink. Naomi shrugged and told him how the boy hadn't explained but refused to part with it.
Raye let out a sigh of relief he didn't know he was holding. Perhaps he didn't have to worry after all.
Naomi looked on concernedly as the boy shivered, whimpering in his fitful sleep.
"The thieves took everything from me!"
Naomi drew her own conclusions that perhaps he wasn't as unscathed as he looked and murmured "Perhaps it's best not to ask..."
Light floated in inky blackness, trying to hide in merciful oblivion as SHE called to him again.
"Remember, child. You were never one of them," that dark and malicious voice hissed in the back of his mind.
Light opened his eyes and suddenly it was years ago.
"Poor thing, you must be hungry!" The girl held him in her arms and for the first time in the creature's miserable existence he knew warmth and comfort. The creature sensed movement at the door and saw Papa, Captain Yagami, for the first time. (He looked so young with none of the wrinkles or grey hairs he would have the day he died.)
The man took one look at that little creature his daughter was cooing to and drew his sword.
Light had forgotten this.
"Sayu get away from THAT!" Her father shouted frantically.
"What?" Sayu asked innocently as she fed the little creature table scraps, oblivious to her father's rising panic. "I found it out in the forest. Isn't he cute! Can I keep him, please?"
Yagami was flabbergasted. This was no stray kitten! He gaped in disbelief—his daughter had even tied a little pink bow to the creature's tail.
"I—I am very disappointed in you. How could you bring THAT into our home!" thundered her father.
"Please papa? It's just a little one!" The girl pleaded. Though at the moment it was no bigger than a cat Yagami didn't underestimate how dangerous it was.
"It's evil Sayu!"
"That is so mean!" Sayu huffed. As she held the little red creature it snuggled in her arms. "How could this little guy ever be evil?"
The cute little terror-to-be rumbled contentedly as Sayu scratched behind its fin-like ears. It looked up at them with puppy dog eyes and Mr. Yagami knew he was fighting a losing battle. He never liked to deny his daughter anything. It was just the two of them now that his wife had been taken by the plague and with his job he rarely got to see her. The creature admittedly seemed docile enough and he had been thinking of getting her a hound or something…
If he made her get rid of it, knowing Sayu she'd find a way to keep him anyway. So it seemed his choices were kill it now in front of his daughter or watch the coming disaster...
"They get bigger Sayu... and then they eat people," Yagami again tried to reason.
"Please, dad? We'll give him a nice home and lots of love and then he won't be evil!"
"It's too dangerous!"
As if to emphasize this point the little creature sneezed and a little flicker of flame shot out, illuminating the kitchen as it scorched the air for moment, and then extinguished itself.
"That's it, I'll call you Light," Sayu chirred happily, ignoring her anxious father who never stopped watching the creature with his untrusting gaze.
The Dark Mother laughed sadistically, "Love? They always hated you."
Light awoke in a cold sweat as he returned to cruel reality.
Light tried to stifle a choked sob for fear of waking his hosts.
What am I going to do now?
"You have no place among humans."
Light hated to admit it but the evil voice was right.
I can't stay here.
Light began to creep for the door when he was stopped by Raye Penber.
"What are you doing, sneaking out at this hour?"
"I... Thank you for your hospitality. But I—I should go."
"Nonsense. Where will you go?"
Raye ruffled his hair.
"You still owe me for those clothes, boy."
"Get some rest. Tomorrow you can give me a hand chopping firewood."
"Sure... No, problem," Light said resigned.
Once L had determined that the surrounding area was safe, he agreed that they should rest their exhausted horses and to set up camp for the night. The strange knight pulled a sweetmeat from his saddlebag and, lifting his visor just enough to eat it while still keeping his face hidden. Though none of his companions had ever seen his face they were still honored to just keep company with the legendary hero Sir L, really...
Sir Aizawa looked annoyed as L continued to just crouch atop his horse in his eccentric but commanding pose, apparently sitting there in deep thought... while they toiled.
He only got away with it because he was already a world-renowned hero.
"...But... you're never wrong!" Matsuda pestered L. "C'mon, Ryuuzaki, tell us what happened here?"
Matsuda could feel L's hidden eyes staring at him from beneath the helm so that he knew that this was not a trick, not a test of loyalty, but L was being perfectly honest when he announced "It was a dragon."
"SNAKE!" A woman shrieked.
Light startled and dropped his bundle of firewood into the snow. He whirled around at that in time to see what the ruckus was about. Nearby a little girl, one of the village children, had wandered over to where a viper was sunning itself on a rock. It was rearing its head back to strike, right before it could Light snatched it up with lightning-fast reflexes and smashed the abhorrent thing against the rocks. The light faded from golden, slitted eyes similar to his own true face.
It was a threat to the village. It got what it deserved!
All around him the humans thanked him. Light smiled graciously and ignored the cackling voice in the back of his mind.
"Don't you think they'd see YOU the exact same way?"
SHUT UP! Light thought back at that disembodied voice. He had always heard the voices but within the past day he had been hearing them louder and more frequently than ever before...
The other knights burst out laughing.
"A dragon? Seriously?"
"You believe in such fairy tales?"
"I wasn't inclined to believe it either until now," L assured them.
"An evil mage..." Aizawa argued.
"Not with the way the buildings were crushed and look..." L pointed out the dragon tracks left in the ashes.
The others went pale. That was a big footprint.
"Er... what do those book-thingies say about dragons?" Asked another knight (Ross, L believed his name was.)
"Well, if the chronicles are to be believed all dragons are the descendents of Rem the Dark Mother and they are all irredeemably evil. There are five subspecies of dragons—black dragons that spit acid, the white dragons control ice, green dragons give off noxious fumes, blue dragons hurl lightning, and red dragons which are the fire-breathing kind. I believe this to be the work of a red dragon."
"How does something that big hide?" Aizawa asked. "I mean how come no one's noticed something that big flying around?"
"Well... dragons are supposed to be inherently gifted in magic. There are legends that some could take human form. Perhaps it's hiding among the villagers? In any case our duty is clear..." L sighed. "What is it Matsuda?"
Matsuda gestured wildly with his crossbow as he pointed out. "It killed the bandit village."
Bandits they would have killed themselves had they just got here a little earlier.
"What's your point, Matsuda?"
"It killed the BANDIT village and didn't touch the others?"
L realized, much to his annoyance, that Matsuda had a point.
A dragon with a pretense of morality? That's... fascinating. But in any case...
"It's probably just a coincidence. Besides, it doesn't matter if they were bandits or civilians. There's a dragon, an evil monster, out there killing people. As I said, our duty is clear. We must slay the beast."
Chapter 3: Assumptions
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sir Matsuda warily approached where their leader sat apart from the others (in his unusual crouch atop his horse) stoically overlooked the ruins of the town, obviously in deep thought.
"Prince Lawli—" Matsuda began with some concern.
L gave the young knight a withering stare. Matsuda gulped. That's right L didn't want the others to know his true identity. No matter how "trustworthy" these knights were it would be bad to let them know he was actually Prince Lawliet, a bastard prince, one of several of the late Prince Rue discovered by the Emperor. Not to mention that the title of "Prince" still sat oddly with L seeing as he had survived as a thieving street rat for the first ten years of his life only to be whisked away to the palace.
With his origins L was in a complicated, dangerous position, seeing as right now he was also, technically, the sole heir to the kingdom—his twin brother Beyond was insane, his half-sister Kimiko showed no interest in politics and was currently studying at the Wizard's Academy, and his half-brothers Mello and Near were yet too immature (being half-elves they aged more slowly). As a prince L was entitled respect but as a bastard he would never get it on his title alone. Besides he had no patience for the courtly games, or decorum, or even proper hygiene—soap was an anathema to the former street rat. He also had no interest in being used as a political tool. Or the disgustingly transparent "Come your Lordship, look at my daughter, isn't she pretty?" Really; if he wanted that sort of thing he would have stayed on the street corners.
The only real option open for L to earn his legitimacy was on the battlefield. Not that he wanted to rule the Empire. He was discovering he was far more interested in the chase, in battle, in meting out justice than in the actual task of ruling. That was boring. So he had joined the Paladins, sworn to uphold an oath he didn't really believe in. (How could he when he cut purses in order to eat for the first ten years of his life? However joining any lower-ranked martial division was apparently "unsightly" for a prince.) There he could be happy doling out justice and he was out of the way of all those scared aristocrats: win-win for everyone. Well as long as his identity was kept secret. Matsuda wasn't supposed to say that name, even when they were alone…
"Sir Ryuuzaki," Matsuda corrected and apologized quickly. L sighed. At least it appeared the others hadn't heard as they were busy setting up for the night. L was not sure why his grandfather, Emperor Wammy, had saddled him with this idiot—he was far too dumb to be a spy.
L glanced blandly at the idiot that remained at his side. It seemed Matsuda wasn't going away.
"'How' what?" L prodded, resignedly.
"You said we must slay the beast. The beast that leveled this town! But how would it even be possible?"
The bastard prince sighed. He was sure that Matsuda had missed his true calling at being a court jester.
"You have your crossbow. Just keep shooting it until it's dead."
"It's a dragon, not a god. They have notoriously soft underbellies. And if it is a shapeshifter we might even be able to catch it while it's in human form and helpless against us."
"But that doesn't seem… fair."
L shrugged as he took another sugar cube from his saddle bag (that was actually meant for his horse) and popped it in his mouth. "It's up to you, you can either observe the proper rules and customs of war when up against such an enemy and die honorably OR take my advice, win and live. I don't know about you but I value my life. I play to win."
"Play?" Matsuda repeated indignantly and in the words of the knight's former mentor Captain Yagami of Estville "This isn't some game, you know! And if it is hiding among the townsfolk what do you expect to do about it? We're knights, not inquisitors! You plan to catch it while it's in human form but if they can take human shape as you say how could you know for sure you were killing the dragon and not an innocent human? What if we make a mistake?"
L let the sugar cube dissolve on his tongue before deigning to answer his subordinate. "We'd better not make a mistake then."
L hated to admit it but Matsuda had a point. The hero sighed, he supposed that this was the purpose of keeping the company of fools. The fool would question when no one else dared to speak. The honor he was supposed to hold as a knight demanded that he had to prove beyond any doubts that whoever he named was indeed the dragon. And of course, practically speaking it would be detrimental if they "slew the dragon" only for it to return and ravage more villages. (For that matter what if there was more than one dragon out there? That would indeed be problematic...) Dammit, Matsuda was right. They almost HAD to make the dragon revert to its true form, to reveal itself, so that there would be proof. Otherwise if another dragon appeared they might be accused of slaying some innocent villager and falsely claiming the glory. L sucked on his sugar cube and reflected on how much he hated this-there were so many unknowns. The only thing he knew for certain was that he had to expose the dragon and then they had to slay it. It would take much planning but L was confident that they could do it.
If I can just get it to reveal itself somehow…
"It killed the BANDIT village and didn't touch the others?" A dragon with a pretense of morality… That's it!
"Matsuda… you would have made a better fool than a knight."
The young knight flushed and looked away. "I suppose that's what they tell me, my lord."
"But I suppose you're not as useless as I thought you were."
"Everyone!" the eccentric hero turned to address the legion of assembled knights, his sapphire blue cloak fluttered dramatically in the breeze. As usual L never removed his helm.
"…We're going to be very careful about this. We'll send knights to each of the surrounding villages, just to observe. We'll have them spread the word about the evil dragon that is hiding in the surrounding countryside and watch to see who looks the most uncomfortable by our presence and then we'll go from there. Be sure to watch for these clues-the ancient monks have left us the following regarding red dragons. They are the most vicious, ruthless, and vile of all the dragons. They are avaricious, notorious treasure hoarders…"
Many of the knights perked up at that as they got the idea into their heads that slaying the dragon meant winning their fortune…
As Light hauled a bundle of kindling back to the Penber's cottage he noticed something silvery glittering on the ground. When he retrieved the silver locket from the snow his instincts screamed at him that he should spirit it away to some dark cave…
Instincts he had learned to ignore.
"Hey!" Light called after the nearest human. It was a girl that looked about his (apparent) age. The girl turned around and Light winced. She reminded him painfully of Sayu.
"Miss, is this yours?" Light showed her the locket.
The girl's hand shot to her neck to find her locket missing. "By Paladin! I can't believe I almost lost this! Thank you so much!"
Light looked distinctly uncomfortable as the girl gave him a peck on the cheek.
"I'm Yuri, daughter of Kenshi."
"Light Yagami of Estville."
"I don't think I've seen you around, are you new in town?
The girl clung to his arm and Light looked distraught. His human skin was so sensitive, as were his accursed human feelings. He wasn't even sure what these feelings were. Discomfort obviously, affection but…
She isn't Sayu. She's not my sister. Hurt, confusion… disgust? Being touched this way made him feel weird and tainted—he wanted to get away.
Why does she look at me like that?
It didn't matter. He had enough with feelings with his grief. He didn't want to feel anything…
Light tried to ignore the human emotions, pushing them down, and tried to recapture that other feeling—or was it not feeling (not caring?)—what it felt like to just lose it, to become a mindless killing machine; like when he had watched the bandits burn.
I didn't feel a thing.
No, that's not true. It made me… happy.
"Because you are my child, my beautiful destroyer." The voice whispered sibilantly in his ear.
Light squeezed his eyes closed as if that could will all the pain away before again forcing himself to look at "Not-Sayu." "Look I'm really sorry, but I have to be getting back home…"
No, not home. To Raye and Naomi's house. Home is destroyed.
Sometimes Light couldn't be sure his inner voices were real or just a projection of his own misery. Maybe it was both.
Meanwhile, Yuri looked very hurt and disappointed.
"Well… see you around, okay?"
"The reds are fire dragons and so they are most attuned to that element," L continued to inform the assembled knights on the centuries' worth of research transcribed by the holy scribes which would, hopefully, help them find their quarry… "In fact you are most likely to find a red dragon living in the heart of a volcano. But then again this one might be an aberration..." L swept his arm out to draw attention to the snow-covered landscape all around them.
"Then what good is such information?" one of the knights shouted.
Their leader was unfazed by the knight's outburst. "This simply means that when you're in town you should watch for someone who seems overly interested in fire. Or sticks particularly close to the hearth..."
Damn, this human body! Light groaned as he collapsed, bone-wary in front of the hearth in the Penber's cozy cottage. Every muscle ached after spending the long hours chopping firewood.
How do humans live like this, all the time? They are truly… amazing creatures—given their limitations.
After all, most humans were, well… not as smart as him, or as powerful, or could do the things he did...
"They are weak and stupid. You see this yourself." Light heard the contemptuous words echo in his skull. He tried his best to ignore the voice in his head and just dully watch the orange, twisting tongues of the fire.
"Humans are disgusting creatures. You yourself have seen how rotten they are. They killed your family!"
Light couldn't help but agree on that last count.
…And for what? A few shiny rocks? There are CAVES full of unclaimed gold just a short flight into the mountains! If they wanted gold so bad I could have just given it to them! And then they wouldn't… maybe… No. Light realized. Then they would have just kept threatening the village because they wanted more!
"You see? Humans are greedy and despicable."
But not all humans are like that! Light insisted. And they obviously have something going for them seeing how they rule the world.
"Oh? I wouldn't say that…"
But look how many of them there are! They dominate the land…
"And why do you think that is?"
…Because not all humans are idiots. Some use the brains they were blessed with…
"Yes… very good, mark it well young Kira—you can go much further with cunning than with just brute force alone."
Light grunted and snuggled deeper into the furs by the fire, basking in the warmth of the dancing flames. That was the first time he ever had an amiable conversation with the voice in his head.
Perhaps he was well and truly going mad.
Just then Naomi called him from the kitchen: "Hey, Light could you give me a hand with this?"
"No problem." Light suppressed another groan as he got to his feet again.
"…We must approach this with care," L continued in his address of the legion. The knights exchanged worried glances. The legendary hero L was concerned. What chance did they stand against the monster?
"Reds are the strongest, the most powerful of the dragons. Their strength is unmatched…"
"Dammit!" Light cursed as he strained and struggled to open Naomi's jar of preserves. Of course there were other ways he could have gotten it open but Light doubted that Naomi wanted glass shards or a mixture of melted glass and strawberry jam on their bread at dinner. Light finally conceded defeat and handed it off to Raye when he returned from hunting. Of course Raye got the damnable jar to open on his first try.
Raye chuckled good-naturedly. "Thank you for loosening it up for me."
"…and beware, red dragons also are said to have voracious appetites…"
Light pushed his plate away.
Raye and Naomi exchanged concerned glances. The boy was rakishly thing and he ate so little!
"Are you sure? I mean we have plenty of food here. And there's desert if you like…"
"It's okay, I'm not hungry," Light lied easily. He had learned to curb his appetite so he didn't eat his family out of hearth and home. He never wanted to be a burden to anyone—and if he got hungry later he could always hunt in the woods.
Light bowed deeply as he helped clean up the plates. "Thank you for your hospitality."
"…The only way to prove we have slain the dragon would be to let it revert to its true form but that would cost the lives of many men. It would be ideal if we could somehow prove the identity of our dragon while it is still hiding in human form and vulnerable and then take off its head or stab it in the heart before it can fight back."
There were many disgusted murmurs at that idea.
"I know many of you think it dishonorable but remember that we are not dealing with a man but a vile beast…"
Raye lounged in his chair, a mug of ale in hand. "He's a queer one. Almost… too perfect."He murmured after he was sure Light had gone to sleep.
Naomi chose not to comment on how earlier when she had gone to check on him she found him huddled in a corner staring, unblinking at the wall. Light was obviously more affected than he showed.
"I think he just doesn't want to trouble us."
"He is no trouble. He was very helpful today."
"You know he has no place to go. Do you think… maybe?"
"I don't see any reason why he couldn't stay…"
Light sighed where he pretended to sleep under the furs in the guest room, overhearing everything without trying.
They are good people…
"You are not one of them! You never will be! You will only bring them suffering or get them killed!"
I know. I don't belong here. I'll go… as soon as I've repaid my debt...
"….I will continue to search here and in the surrounding countryside for clues," L announced as he gave the knights their marching orders. "Sir Aizawa, I want you to take your Company and search the village of Shinsei, Sir Ross's company will search the village of Tenshi…"
The large, bald knight smiled brightly and bowed. "Happily, my lord."
A/N: Not that this story is in anyway going for historical accuracy but there's an interesting factoid from the History Channel: "Real Medieval knights had more in common with Tony Soprano than Lancelot." So next chapter: Sir Rod Ross (in Death Note he's the leader of Mello's mafia) and his knights go to "search" the village…
Chapter 4: Red Death
After Light was sure that the Penbers had gone to sleep he stepped out into the freezing night. Though the cold didn’t bother him that much he reflected he was already getting a bit spoiled from curling up in front of the Penber’s hearth… and it was about to get colder. He stripped out of his clothes, the black leather tunic, boots, and pants Naomi had provided him and stowed them in the hollow knot of a tree. Light quickly ascended the branches. Once at the top of the tree Light chanted some words—the young dragon knew that words had power—the power to reshape his world or himself. He felt his body shrinking in size. He gripped the branches with his bare feet (turning to talons) as his hands dissolved into red-brown feathery wings. Wearing feathers felt strange—so unlike the hard scales of his true form or the smooth human skin he wore so often he felt at home in it. Where he needed to go could only be accessed by flight but of course using his true form would have drawn far too much attention. “Eagle” was a more convenient form for when he wanted to fly stealthily. With magic Light could assume a number of different shapes but he always spent the most time in his human form and admittedly it was the form he was the most comfortable in outside of the one he was born in. Light finished his incantation and the eagle took wing.
Shapeshifting was the type of magic Light had become most adept at because it was the most useful to him. He was aware that other types of magic existed and he had occasionally used them to aid Papa and Sayu or to pull pranks but for the most part he didn’t find them as useful as shapeshifting. Light also had excellent control of his fire, his natural breath weapon, and he found he could magically kill at a distance (and had done so when some of the bandits had tried to flee.) Light had read about other types of magic but many of them seemed very harmful and not very useful so he never intended to use them—magic like necromancy, black magic, mind control—and some of them just seemed stupid: one such spell he had read about made it possible to break down one’s consciousness and place a sliver of the spellcaster’s own mind in someone else in order to control them—naturally that spell would also have the unpleasant side-effect of driving both the caster and the victim insane—really, what could one hope to achieve with such a spell? Where was the benefit?
The flight proved more difficult for the eagle at night—cruising thermals were harder to find in the chill night air and it took many powerful wing beats to stay aloft—but then Light hadn’t really mastered taking an owl’s shape and having made these runs quite often Light was more comfortable in the eagle’s body. He managed somehow, though the flight back was even harder as he returned from the mountains with a heavy sack clasped in his talons.
Naomi kept her hand on the hilt of her sword as they passing the mangled, dismembered bodies that were impaled on pikes that lined the courtyard.
“Ryuuzaki, no offense to you or your family but your brother is unfit for any place but the Abyss.”
“Hmm? I know, isn’t he amazing?!” L murmured in a dreamy, faraway voice as his fingers darted through the visor of his ever-present helm to feed himself another sugar cube filched from his saddle bag and Naomi got just a hint of what lay beneath the helm, just a hint of the warrior prince’s dark ,shadowed, owlish eyes.
“…” Of course Naomi had heard that the legendary hero L was… eccentric. But she couldn’t guess how much. And really—how could he eat at a time like this?
As Naomi entertained the rumors of how the royal bloodlines were running thin she took point, ahead of his royal weirdness as they ascended the narrow grey stone spiral staircase, up to the top of the turret of the ancient tower.
He was waiting for them.
“Ryuuzaki, look out!” Naomi shouted as she pushed the other man out of the way of that burst of sickly red light. The wizard’s spell hit her square in the chest.
“Kya ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
Naomi shrieked and awoke in a cold sweat. She urgently glanced over to where Raye snored on obliviously next to her. Naomi just took a moment to calm her breathing and rapidly beating heart before resting her head in her hands. Well, she wasn’t eager to go back to sleep after having such an unsettling dream, or the memories that came with it. Perhaps she should go check on Light…
Light was gone.
His bed was empty, neatly made, and looked like it was not slept in at all.
“Raye, wake up!”
Light, once again dressed in human form and black leather walked along the street, casually tossing and catching the sack he had procured as he strolled, affecting a casual, arrogant strut lest the ruffians out at this hour mistake him for some weak little push over and thus force him to kill them. Though killing might not be the morally correct thing to do, Light found he was incredibly good at it—Light could practically feel his father’s disapproval from beyond the grave. It was something he was sure both his “parents” could agree on—the best thing he could do to protect humans was to stay away from them.
The teen nearly dropped his bag in surprise when he turned the corner to see a troop of knights on horseback circling around Raye and Naomi. Apparently a skirmish had already taken place as one of the knights lay sprawled on the ground—just clear of being crushed by his own horse after Naomi kicked the animal’s legs out from under it. The knight dragged himself to his knees (no small feat in that heavy armor) while snarling out “You bitch!” at Naomi who stood defensively, with her sword drawn, in front of Ray who was currently nursing a black eye.
“…Our village has already paid it’s tribute! Ryuuzaki can tell you!”
“R-Ryuuzaki?!” stammered one of the knight in understanding.
“Yes, Ryuuzaki. Your boss. He just so happens to be a very good friend of mine. I’m sure he’ll be fascinated to hear about your unprovoked attack.”
Sir Ross chuckled. “Then I suppose there’s no hope for it. Killing a friend of Ryuuzaki would be troublesome. No of course we, the Knights of the Realm, won’t be killing anyone. Oh no, no, no. Of course this village will be razed to the ground by ‘Ryuuzaki’s dragon.’”
On Ross’s command a couple of knights broke away to reach for the torches.
“NO!” shouted Naomi.
“What? Dragon?” Raye shook his head in a befuddled manner, still trying to remember where he was and what was happening after taking a heavy blow to the head.
“And you know; I’m sure he’ll reward us for finding a lead!”
“No.” Naomi said again; eyes going wide in growing horror as the knights were about to set fire to the nearby houses. But before the flames could catch a hissed word drifted in on the wind and the torches went out.
Just as Ross charged forward to cut Naomi down with his sword a heavy bag suddenly slammed hard into his chest—the knight was unhorsed by the impact and had to take a moment to wheeze pathetically on the ground. The bag split open and gold spilled out onto the street. Down the street the boy that had thrown the bag gave them all a perfectly innocent look.
“What? Was it not gold you were after? Then take it and leave, and never return.” Of course they’ll never accept such an offer. If they do it means they intend to betray me later—they will just return to be a threat to the villagers in the future so best to deal with this now. “It’s far better than filth like you deserves!”
“What did you just say, catamite?!”
The boy affected a bored expression as he casually leaned on some sort of staff. “If you continue to be troublesome like this then I’m afraid I’ll just have to kill you.”
The knights started laughing but the boy was completely unaffected by their scorn.
Ross stared down his most pathetic challenger. “Normally I would kill you where you stand for making such threats against Knights of the Empire but I’m feeling generous tonight and you’re not worth the effort of getting my sword dirty. Run along home, little princess.”
“You fly the colors of knights but you are no knights! Your nothing but petty thugs! This is your final warning—leave or I’ll kill you.”
Ross sighed in exasperation as one of his pathetic underlings continued to interrupt him.
“What is it, Snyder?”
“I’m sorry boss; we can’t get the fire started! The torches went out.”
Ross sighed. “Then get another one.”
“All of them.”
“Oh, looking for this?” The boy asked and in an exaggerated gesture shot out his arm, his fingers almost seemed to form claws as he reached out to display how the fire danced harmlessly in the palm of his hand. The flickering flame matched the boy’s harsh golden eyes.
“Are you some kind of wizard?”
The boy made a fist and the flames went out but his eyes continued to gleam mysteriously in the night. “Perhaps,” Light said smugly. “Do you really wish to test my power? Maybe I’ll turn you into a frog? Perhaps I can crush your heart with but a thought. Please understand I would really hate to do such a thing” he said though the demented grin he was currently wearing suggested otherwise “but I can’t just let you threaten these villagers.”
At that several of the knights balked at the idea of engaging with such an enemy. Some shivered, some cried, some called to their god Paladin to protect them.
“Get a hold of yourselves men!” Ross barked out to his fellow knights. “He’s not wearing the robes! Clearly he’s no proper wizard! Are we not Knights of the Realm?! We will not be frightened by such parlor tricks!”
Light shrugged. “Fine. It’s you’re funeral.”
One of the knights charged and Light kicked his “staff” up into the air and caught it in hand, allowing them all to see it was not a staff but in fact a scythe, before swinging it down. His challenger’s head was soon rolling on the cobblestones.
Before confronting the gang Light had desperately cast around for something he could use and as luck or perhaps the Gods would have it he had spied the farmer’s scythe leaning against a tool shed. He had managed to keep it hidden from the band of idiots partly thanks to the dark and partly by the tall grass as he held his “staff” just off the stone pathway as he waited for them to make the first move.
“I gave you fair warning. You chose to ignore it. So, does anyone else want to die today?” Light asked as he calmly strode forward, letting the bloody scythe screech against the stones as he dragged in on the ground. As the predator approached the horses became skitterish—many of them turned tail and ran despite their riders’ protests, and others reared up, unhorsing their riders and Light and Naomi made quick work of them. However Naomi couldn’t really move very far—she didn’t dare leave her injured husband. It was the only reason she was able to be ambushed by Ross.
“S-stay there! Or I’ll kill your precious villagers!” Ross shouted as he attempted to take Naomi hostage even as she fought him viciously. From the look on his face it was safe to say he felt that kick she leveled at his manhood even through the armor.
Light let slip a word that his papa disapproved of when he considered his current conundrum. How was he going to kill Ross without hitting Naomi? It turned out he didn’t have to worry. Ross gurgled as cold steel suddenly burst forth from his chest.
“You dare to call yourself a Knight of the Empire?” There was a sickly squelching sound as the newcomer pulled out and Ross’s corpse toppled to the ground.
The man who held the sword was an exhausted looking knight—well he just seemed exhausted—the full helm he was wearing made it impossible to see his face but from the way the man’s shoulders slumped you would think that that brilliant blue cape he was wearing was quite a heavy burden—he almost looked like a hunchback. It was a most peculiar posture on a knight in shining armor and for a moment Light wondered if this was not yet another “knight” like Ross.
Their savior held his sword high and it glinted almost blue in the moonlight except where it was stained red with blood. “I am Righteous!” The man declared in a booming baritone and Light found himself becoming slightly weak at the knees.
It also seemed to inspire the troop of knights that followed him—the mysterious knight grabbed the reins of his snowy steed and rode up and down the ranks of assembled knights and in response they raised their voices high as if they were about to ride into a most epic battle.
Light took a moment to gaze in awe at the stranger.
He looks just like… he sounds just like…
“L?” Naomi gaped at her old companion. L turned sharply and seemed to notice Naomi there for the first time.
Now Light really was weak in the knees. L! It really is…
“Naomi Misora? What are you doing here?!”
Naomi sighed. “It’s Naomi Penber now and I live here!” Naomi shot back, putting her hands on her hips as she challenged. “What are you doing here?!”
“I’ve come to slay…” L began but stopped, surprised and annoyed, upon seeing the one he would have named his mortal enemy and charged into battle against kneeling before him.
The dragon disguised in the form of an attractive young man declared with utmost sincerity “Sir L… If you are indeed the real Sir L then my sword… well, my scythe is at your service.”
Beneath his helm L stared and he felt his jaw must have dropped to somewhere within the vicinity of the Abyss. “What?”