They turn his story into a fairy tale.
A boy, bright and golden like the sun, perfect like a god, finds a thing of pure evil which corrupts him and causes his downfall.
What they don’t remember is that he’s been built to fall since the beginning, and that he’s as flawed as everyone else, perhaps more, and that he’s always had evil sitting in his gut. It was just waiting for a reason to come out.
There are two sides to a story, and a listener – or perhaps a reader – is often expected to choose sides. There is right, and there is wrong; there is righteousness and there is evil; there is justice and there is injustice; there is light and there is darkness.
There is Light and there is L.
People also tend to forget that there is Ryuk.
The thing about gods is that it’s all about identity. People can get your name wrong, people can forget details, but as long as they have a vague idea about what you are, who you are and what you stand for, their faith will fuel your existence.
People get it wrong all the time, of course. Culture heroes, who were simply humans who lived and hurt and failed and succeeded and screwed up are treated as infallible. The smallest things they do are treated big successes. One word in another language, and they’re labelled linguists. Acts of defiance are called bravery with a sense of righteousness even if it was originally done out of pettiness.
People believe in Kira, a faceless mass-murderer who sought to change the world even if he had to bathe it in blood. And maybe most of them think he is wrong, and some of them think he is right, but they know he exists. They know he is real. And they believe in him. They don’t know how he does it, but once upon a time, a Judge came into the world and found it wanting. So he did something about it.
They don’t know about a second or a third Kira. Only the Kira Task Force did, and then the SPK, and everyone else either died or were told never to speak about it. And they don’t, and they go on with their lives and solve other cases, until the time comes when they don’t do even that.
But Kira remains. Kira always remains.
Here’s the thing with gods – they never die until the last person who knows their story closes their mouth.
And everyone knows Kira. He might be history, but at least he’s actually written in it.
Everyone knows about L too.
L, the famous detective who declared war on Kira for the whole world to hear – try to kill me; what’s wrong, can’t you do it? – and then proceeded to humiliate the would-be god when Kira didn’t kill him. Or couldn’t kill him. Only a few people really know. Those two people are dead, or perhaps not really, nobody knows for sure.
Those who were on Kira’s side crucified L, the devil, the antichrist, the one wished to stop their messiah from his noble quest to save the world. Those who were on L’s side wanted Kira to stop, and preached that he had no right to play god, and that L was right, and when the day came that L put Kira behind bars, they would rejoice.
Nobody gets the news of L catching Kira though. The killings just stop. And the world whispers about what could have happened.
(What happened was Nate River thought that the most fitting ending for the god of the new world was to die, unrecognized and undignified, like a dog.
What happened was Near, as L, closed the case and decreed that it was never to be spoken about again, and that its details were not to be disclosed – after all, Death Notes do drop from the sky.
What happened was that Light Yagami died at the age of seventeen the moment he picked up a black notebook.
(And he might have lived again, just for a little while, but everything Kira touches, he kills. And if there was anyone to carry the burden of murder and be a sacrifice for the good of the new world, Kira had chosen Light Yagami a long time ago.))
So the story goes like this – there is Kira and there is L. One seeks to change the world, and one seeks to stop him. One is right and one is wrong. One chases after the other.
The story is wrong. Kira and L were both right and both wrong, because at the end of it all, they are the same person; two sides of one coin, and sometimes they even forget there’s a coin at all. One does not chase after the other, until the end of the line, until the edge of the world. They chase each other in a never-ending loop. Kira and L, L and Kira – imperfect without each other; the perfect balance when coexisting.
They don’t have to agree. It’s just that Kira without L deteriorates, and L without Kira goes stagnant.
L has never had to dig himself out of his own grave before. He’s had lessons on what to do when stuck in a coffin, just in case, because his training always takes account all of the ‘just in case’s, but the probability of him being buried alive was less than the probability of him swearing sweets off for the rest of his life. Possible, but not very likely.
But here he is, nails chipped, and fingers bleeding, kicking at the lid of his coffin that is nailed shut. The moment his foot makes contact with the velvet-lined wooden panel, the lid flies out of the earth, taking dirt along with it. Plenty of it rains down on L, and he turns on his side to avoid getting his face smacked by clumps of soil.
Obviously, it’s been a while since he’s been buried if the soil was that hard. It would have been more loose instead of clumping together if he’d been buried hours ago.
He should try to wrap his head around that piece of information, because he doesn’t remember being buried, but right now there’s an uneven way out of the six-foot depression in the ground he’s in, and he wants to think about what’s just happened in a comfortable room, preferably after a good, hot bath with sweets on his table.
Or just, out of his grave. That works too.
So he climbs out, arms stiff and hands hurting. Then he catches sight of his arm, and then looks down at himself.
He’s…wearing a suit. He’s wearing a fucking suit.
He looks down. Shoes.
Lifts a foot.
Mother of god.
He’s pretty sure he knows who the culprit is.
It’s takes him a while to get himself out. While the hardened soil helps with him not continuously falling down, his joints aren’t agreeing with him, feeling like they’d been frozen for a while. His hands hurt, and his arms are numb. So are his legs, now that he’s kicked his coffin lid off a few feet away.
When he gets out, he collapses on the ground immediately, fall barely cushioned by soft grass.
After he’s steadied his breathing, he pushes himself up, irritated by his stiff arms. The suit isn’t helping either. He shrugs off the dirty jacket, takes off the tie and the vest until he’s just in the dress shirt. He takes off the shoes – they’re branded and beautifully made too, and he knows exactly who would appreciate them and who probably picked them out. He picks them up and pulls his arm back as best as he can, ready to chuck them into his open grave…and stops. He knows exactly who to chuck them at, just to make revenge a little sweeter. Especially if he’s not expecting L to be alive. How the fuck did he even die?
He lowers the shoes beside him and takes off his socks, throwing them into the grave instead. He wriggles his toes, or tries to. It takes a few minutes before they respond.
Then L collapses onto his back and stares up at the sky. It’s cloudy, which is a shame.
He stays there until the first few droplets of rain hit his face.
Most people do not remember Janus. Oh, they know Jupiter and Mars and Venus and all the other gods whose names were plastered on planets, and that’s exactly why they’re doing well for themselves, but they don’t remember Janus. They’ll say January and they’ll say beginnings, but they forget the god of duality who looks into the past and the future.
Just like they don’t remember Czernobog or Bielebog. Their gods are only ever one. They don’t believe in duality anymore, these people.
Except duality does exist, because there’s always more than one side to an entity.
This is why Kira wakes up in America and Light Yagami wakes up in Japan.
Because this is also the thing with self-assured world-renowned genius detectives – when they believe, they believe.
Light Yagami doesn’t remember a lot of things. He remembers high school and he remembers being bored. He remembers Ryuuzaki and he remembers being his friend, even if the little shit was hard-pressed to admit it and would rather spit another percentage at his face. Ryuuzaki was a challenge he’d never had before; Ryuuzaki was the only person to come close to understanding him.
The rest is just blank, which is why he’s incredibly confused to be standing in the middle of a sidewalk while it’s raining.
The rain is harsh and thick, and he can barely see anything in front of him, especially since it’s still nighttime. He’s not even standing underneath a lamppost, he’s just in the dark. Incredibly convenient.
He’s soaking wet and his limbs feel like they weigh more than they physically should, but he slowly gets himself moving. The rain doesn’t let up even after hours, so he finds the overhang of a closed shop and shakes the water out of his hair. The wind blows in his direction, angling the rain to hit him again.
It’s a few more hours before the rain finally stops, and by that time, the sky’s already started to change.
Light squeezes out as much water from his school uniform – why is he wearing his school uniform – and dries his hair as best as he can. When it still sticks to his face, he slicks it back instead. Better to suffer that than to suffer getting poked in the eye with the end of a sharpened clump of hair.
The streets are flooded, and he keeps to the elevated sidewalks to prevent himself from getting wetter than he already is. The water goes down as the sun comes up, and the city starts to wake. Bicycles pass, and then motorcycles, and then - sleeker, shinier cars than what he’s used to.
He looks around the area. He feels like he should recognize the street, but it seems like it’s changed overnight. It’s little things, and if he were someone else, then he wouldn’t have noticed. But Light isn’t someone else, so he does notice – lights have been changed, paints have been renewed and aged, there are scuff marks on buildings that look like they’re years old when they shouldn’t have been.
It’s like he’s woken up in a different time entirely.
Whatever’s happened to him, it appears to have affected his appetite. He’s not hungry at all.
Which is good, since he’s been walking for the entire night from the cemetery to – to wherever. He doesn’t even know where he is, and the rain had made it hard to look for signs, but he just wanted to put as much distance as possible between himself and his grave. Which was a stupid thing to do – the whole ‘walking without stopping thing’, not the ‘put distance between him and his grave’ thing – because he would get even horribly lost.
L’s plenty lost on several things right now. Like, for example, how he woke up in a coffin, buried six feet underneath hardened earth and then proceeded to kick the lid off said coffin.
He’s also barefoot, and his feet hurt. Still, he’s not wearing the shoes that he’s carrying in one hand.
He sits by a bench when the sun starts to come up, pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to ignore the headache that’s building on it. It’s going to burrow behind his eyes soon, and that’ll be unbearable.
He places the shoes beside him so he can close his eyes and bring his knees up to his chest, almost slipping due to the water on the bench. Familiarity is nice, at least. He stays like that, and he almost falls asleep.
He jerks awake when he sees a city – in another land, he knows, and sees red hair and red eyes belonging to a face he knows. Older, crueler, sharper, but L’s seen all the facets of Light Yagami, and no doubt, that’s Kira. In another land, in another city, but that’s Kira.
He stands up and gets moving.
Light finds his house occupied with another family.
He stands across it, confused, for a few minutes when he sees two kids step out of it, waving their mother goodbye, and wonders if he’s just gotten lost. But no, he’s sure this is his house. This is his street. This is his prefecture. He’d managed to find his way back after finding a few landmarks that hadn’t changed with whatever had happened to this place.
He walks away before anyone thinks he’s suspicious.
But that is his house – or, used to be, whatever. Where’s Sayu? Mom? Or even dad, if he’s not sleeping at the station?
He pauses again when he’s a few meters ahead, and puts a hand on the wall beside him. He’s tired too. His legs have been sore from walking so much, which confuses him all the more because he’s used to walking around long distances.
He leans against the wall for a minute – there’s nobody here anyway – and closes his eyes to take a deep breath.
And then he sees another place – another city, another land – and it’s noisy and dirty and too bright against a backdrop of darkness, and there are whispers of a name, a name he hates and is familiar with, Kira, Kira, Kira.
The worst thing is that it feels like they’re calling him.
When L Lawliet finds Light Yagami, dressed up in his school uniform and standing in front of what should be the location of the Task Force building, but obviously isn’t anymore, he throws the pair of shoes he’s brought from his grave at the young man’s face. It hits true, and the look of relief on Light’s face at seeing L had melted into shock, annoyance and then anger in less than a second.
“What is your problem?” Light hisses, looking at the shoes in confusion as he holds them in his hand before shooting L another venomous look.
“You buried me in socks and shoes,” L says, “Kira.”
“I did not – ” Light starts, and then his eyes widen minutely as he processes the entire sentence through his concussion-via-being-hit-by-funeral-shoes. L hates the fact that it looks genuine. It’s most likely genuine. “What? What do you mean buried? And why – what are you wearing?”
“It was worse, believe me,” L says, “I was in a three-piece suit.”
Well fuck him sideways, this is 100% Light Yagami. L presses his lips to a thin line.
A few days of wandering around had given him a lot of information. Firstly, he didn’t need to eat or sleep, which was useful. Especially the sleeping part. The eating part he can just ignore because if he was going to stuff his face full of skittles, nobody was going to stop him. Secondly, the day after he’d torn his nails out from digging through his coffin, his hand was in perfect condition, like he’d never injured it in the first place. Thirdly, it’s no longer 2004.
Light is uncomfortably looking at L’s dress shirt, which has been soaked by rain, and then dried, and then soaked in the rain again. The weather’s damnable lately.
Fourthly, he can’t get sick, which is convenient.
“Why are you in your high school uniform?”
“You’d know what my high school uniform would look like, wouldn’t you?” Light asks. Then he sighs. “I don’t know. I woke up like this.”
“What do you mean, where?”
“I woke up in a coffin.”
Light chokes on air for a few seconds. L relishes the sight. This is the best thing he’s seen, right next to Light’s expression of betrayal when L threw his shoes at him.
“I believe it was my grave,” L says, “It had an angel standing over it. I think you picked that out too.”
“I did not. When did you die?”
L frowns and looks away. This, he doesn’t remember. He still doesn’t remember how he ended up in a coffin or if he died in the first place. Memories have been coming back to him except for this one.
Light screws his eyes shut and puts a hand to his forehead, hissing in pain.
L raises an eyebrow.
The headache doesn’t seem to go away after a few seconds.
“It’s just headaches,” Light says, waving him off. “I’ve been getting them a lot lately.”
“They don’t happen to be of the sort that feels like your head is splitting in two, yes?”
Light glares at him as best as he can through the pain. L brings a thumb to his lips out of habit.
Fifthly, the only thing that seems to affect him – and Light, it seems – are mysterious headaches. Headaches that feel like your very self is splitting in two, and headaches that come with visions of another land, a land that doesn’t know what it is, and another self, a self that is him and at the same time not.
“Have you had them since you’ve woken up?” L asks when Light finally breathes easily, the headache appearing to have ebbed.
“Yeah,” he says.
“What do you see when you get them?”
Light frowns. “What are you getting at, Ryuuzaki?”
“What do you see when you get them?” L repeats, “Do you see another place? A city, perhaps?” A city so loud it hurts your ears, and the loudest part of it isn’t the traffic or the people, it’s of the land that is unsure of itself, it’s of the land that has too many gods.
It’s a bad land for gods.
Light stares at him for a while, as if trying to see if he’s joking. They both know each other well enough to know he’s not.
They turn his story into a fairy tale. The thing with fairy tales is that they are diluted. They change too much and too often; the princess has red hair, the princess has black hair; the prince has blue eyes, the prince has brown eyes; the godfather is evil, the godfather is good.
Names change, appearances change. Faith fuels both the real thing and the caricature. It’s almost sad when they get the caricature horribly, horribly wrong.
Kira is a nightmare spoken in hushed whispers in Japan. Kira is a phenomenon that has vocal supporters in America. It’s no surprise he wakes up there.
He’s still Light Yagami, of course, or a splinter of him, because Light’s always had evil riding on his back, just like he’s always had goodness wrapping around his soul. This is how humans are built, they are a balance of everything. The Death Note was just Kira’s excuse, just like L was just Light’s excuse.
The Death Note is also Kira’s weapon.
If there’s a Kira then there’s an L. Two sides of the same coin. If there is a side.
The entire thing is a massive headache for all parties involved.
This is a bad land for gods.
Light Yagami knows this the moment he wakes up in a city that makes his nose hurt and his lungs choke. He’s all alone when he wakes up. L is not here, and he almost wishes he was.
Light Yagami knows what Kira is, even if he’s confused as to what his involvement in all of this is. L doesn’t remember either.
This is a bad land for gods. Especially one that thrives on blood and a mangled sense of justice.
Especially one that whispers in his ears. Whispers that he knows exactly who Kira is. He knows exactly what Kira does. He knows exactly how Kira kills.
All he needs to do is look in the mirror.
Killing must feel good to god, L has read somewhere before, He does it all the time.