It is a click that shatters the silence.
Ten years of no sound but that of the steady breaths of a man condemned to rot—and with a single rap of metal-tipped wood on desolate floor, it is ended. The sound echoes uncomfortably through the halls, for they are unaccustomed to any noise but the most subtle.
Once again, the cane taps against the cement floor—and then again, and again, each brief contact with the ground announced by a stately clack. Their echoes rise in crescendo, flooding the deserted corridor with the crisp, cool commotion of the cane. Accompanying the rhythmic tapping is a set of shuffled footsteps, emanated from a pair of beaten sneakers as they lift unsteadily from the ground, dragging ever-so-slightly. Untied laces scrape in the sneakers' wake, snagging on each other.
Too many days of emptiness have made the hallway untrusting of strangers, and the sight of him seems to protrude unnaturally from stark white paint slathered generously over cement floor and walls, as if the crumpled form were being rejected by the building's very foundations. The hallway stretches even as the man continues to shamble, his cane grating against the floor as he leans his weight upon it with every step.
And yet despite the illusion of age the man is not old—though there are gray strands throughout his black hair and his back is bent with weariness, he has neither the experience nor wisdom of one who has aged. His eyes, vast and dark and bruised with the trophies of sleep deprivation, are those of a man who, though weary, is no older than forty—still swift, sharp, ever-so-slightly baleful. He is dressed in simple clothes—bagging jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that no longer suit him. Only the dull black cane matches the bags sagging beneath his eyes.
On his face there stretches a grimace of pain; his dark eyes stare straight ahead, looking at nothing besides his destination. He ignores the echoed rapping that stalks him through the sterile halls as a constant companion, a small reminder of his mortality, of his death's beckoning finger—the brief recollection of a chilly smile and a pair of golden eyes contained within a single tap against the untouched cement.
He does not stop walking even as his mind reels back to images he swears to have forgotten; instead, he moves on, his back bent forward as he makes his way towards the door. His shadowed eyes narrow as the silver handle comes within sight; his pale hand reaches forward and he is suddenly struck by the thought that he shouldn't be here, that he should pull his hand from the handle and turn away—never come back. And then his fingers are wrapped around the handle and the foreboding intensifies even as he, inch by crawling inch, pushes the door open.
dies irae, dies illa
Day of wrath, that day
The room is painted with glaring white that is distant—almost divine—beneath the cold luster of fluorescent lighting. In the center there protrudes a table. Gleaming silver, it mirrors the blank ceiling and the dead white walls. The detective fancies that if he were to sit in one of the metal chairs, he might be able to make out his own reflection in its surface.
In the room there sits a man hardly older than a boy. He rests beside the long table, which shines harshly beneath the fluorescent lights. His skin is pale from lack of sunlight and his long hair shields amber eyes from view; on his thin face there rests a gentle smile, fabricating an aura of serenity.
His presence in the room is the one thing that is not questioned by the blank walls and the table's aloof reflection (and he looks at it and he thinks that it is this reflection, only this reflection, that the table possesses—without the image, the table is nothing, vacant, useless).
"You've kept me waiting a long time, Lawliet." The ethereal quality of his voice is not contained in its tone but in its texture, in the peace of mind that leaks through his words.
The man with the tapping cane says nothing as he walks towards the handcuffed prisoner, his twisted back attempting to straighten of its own accord. The prisoner waits for the man to stand above him; when he does, his black eyes stare down with a loathing unheard of anywhere but within the walls of that small room.
"I remember telling you once, Kira, that you were to call me Ryuzaki. I did not believe I would have to repeat myself." The man with the cane glowers at his rival, who is bound to a chair with a pair of metal handcuffs. He feels the rising of that unnamable power grow between them once more (it is tears in a ghost's empty eyes, a rope made of sifting sand—contradiction, paradox… impossibility).
"Your ebony hair is streaked with gray; your eyes are dark and weary as you stare down upon me. Even now, age has bent you crooked. You stand not on your own, but through the support of a wooden contraption. The years have been kind to you, my victor." There is no hidden insult within the prisoner's words; they are merely observations spoken aloud.
And yet the man with the cane grits his teeth in rage. "I see your powers of observation have not abandoned you, Kira." The crippled man manages a bored monotone, but neither of them is fooled by his attempted apathy.
"And yet you stand here with your broken pride, holding the cracked shards of your dignity—the debris digs into your palms as you clench them, causing blood to seep from your closed fists." He pauses. "Watari is dead." The prisoner's tone does not change as his observations turn to statements; it is only the older man who reacts to the shifting topic.
"What makes you say that, Kira? You have been locked within these walls for years; you know nothing of the outside world." The detective sneers, his mouth twisting into a cruel, tortured smile.
"My powers of observation have yet to fail me, Lawliet. You would have sent your proxy if you wanted information—the fact that you are here leaves me only one conclusion." The calm that the prisoner possesses is not breached, even as the detective is battered by the unspoken threats.
"You still think you are brilliant, Kira? Last I checked, I wasn't the one sitting in a cage. You should rethink that statement."
The prisoner does not answer; the room becomes unnaturally silent, the only sounds being the detective's ragged breathing and stuttering heartbeat (the prisoner—where is his breath, his blood?). The cold white of the empty room amplifies his fear and hatred.
Broken silence once again—this time not by the cane, but by the man. "Yes, Watari is dead. And more importantly than that, Kira has returned." The detective's face darkens as he looks upon his rival, who still seems to hold that same dark power he has always possessed despite the fact that the chair's arms devour his in their metal jaws.
"And you believe I am behind this? You are rather naïve, Lawliet." The prisoner smiles his tranquil smile. "You're contradicting yourself, Lawliet; you told me I was just a pitiful human who once tried his hand at omnipotence. How can you claim now that I can be in two places at once?"
The older man turns away from the prisoner and begins to walk, tapping his cane against the floor until he comes to the other end of the long table, then looking the prisoner directly in the face.
"What are you trying to say, Kira?" asks the crooked man who stands only so that he might increase his height in the eyes of his enemy.
"I am saying that if I were out there, how could I have possibly been in here?"
There is no logic in that statement; it is merely a distraction to the detective, intended to sidetrack him from his true objective. The detective's eyes narrow.
It has worked.
solvet saeclum in favilla
shall consume the world in ashes
The detective sits within the metal chair, his eyes locking with the rival before him. "I know you are not necessarily behind this, Kira—although it looks to be your handiwork—but I believe that you still possess information that could be of use."
"And what could that possibly be, Lawliet? What could I offer you now?" His voice is soft and dangerous as the detective remembers it—teetering on the edge of sanity, one false move from destroying them all in his wrath.
"You were the most lethal Kira; you were the original, and you knew the rules by heart. Those rules listed in the cover weren't all of them, were they, and I know you are going to lie to me—and I know also that this interview will take a very long time to reach completion. But I will not stop until that madman sees justice."
The prisoner smiles, his eyes glowing like embers in a furnace being stoked into life; he lifts his head to meet the detective's disapproving gaze. His body begins to shake with laughter as he watches the older man clench his fists and grit his teeth.
"You are still so very naïve, Lawliet. I think you and I are going to have a lot of fun tonight. The gods are smiling down upon you, my fair companion—let's see if you can maintain their dark favor." He takes a breath, letting out a chuckle before continuing. "Once upon a time, there was a child. And one day, this child did something—something that many others thought to be very, very wrong."
The man with the cane does not want to hear this. It is another lie, another tall tale concocted by a mad man to confound and confuse, to distract Justice from the Truth. He begins to count the lights (the perfect lights, he realizes, for each is as bright as the next and the next is as bright as the daylight). One, two, three—ten, ten ethereally perfect lights, two rows of five (five columns of two?) But it is of no matter—one for sorrow, two for mirth, he thinks.
"The child did not think it evil, but he knew that the others would, and so he hid away all his secrets—locked them up in a closet, where they would never be found. Then he hid this closet's key beneath the floorboards. And so the child's secret remained, locked in the claws of the cat with green wings."
The detective says nothing for a time, before licking his lips and answering in a calm, even voice.
"Kira, I didn't think isolated confinement would drive you mad; I thought you were better than that. If you can't answer my question then we might have some problems. Things might not remain so amicable between us."
"I have nothing to tell you, Lawliet. There are rules, yes, but they are not the rules that will save you. Tell me, Lawliet—did you really think locking me up would keep me from coming back to haunt you? Didn't I tell you, Lawliet, on that day so long ago, that you would pay for what you did to me?" The prisoner sits back in his chair with his eyes closed, letting out a small, contented sigh. The serene expression remains plastered upon his face and the detective continues to grip his cane in suppressed rage.
"You're lying, Kira—you've been keeping information from the police all these years. It won't slide any longer; you will find my mercy lacking if you do not tell me what you know." The detective no longer sneers; his face remains blank and cool under the tension. It is only his pity-less eyes that give any expression to his fury.
"Mercy? What are you talking about Lawliet?" asks the prisoner, his eyes snapping open while his face contorts into a somewhat puzzled expression.
"I let you live, didn't I?"
The room grows cold. The prisoner's eyes darken and the detective swears he can see shadows dancing across the walls. When the prisoner speaks, it sounds like the voice of the murderer he so well remembers.
"For a man who believes he is justice, you have a strange idea of mercy. Even I was not so deluded as you, Lawliet." The chained man smiles slowly. "I'll give you your rules, Lawliet, your miracle cure. Do you want to hear it?"
"For everything you gain you will have to pay the price. That's the only rule you will ever need. There are more, yes, but they are irrelevant to you. They deal mainly in specific cases of use—for example, illnesses, or how many Death Notes are allowed in the human realm at a specific time. Nothing useful to you. I'm sorry to waste your time, Lawliet, but you really should have asked right away."
The detective says nothing; his eyes stare straight ahead as he notes the strange physical appearance of his rival. Years have passed by, leaving them stranded in the dust. His own hair has faded to gray with age and stress, and yet before him sits the same adolescent boy that he convicted so many years ago. Time has no effect on his features, leaving them just as youthful and sharp as they had been when they first met. Perhaps his hair is longer; his skin may be paler, and his eyes are certainly sharper… but those small differences do not change the disturbing revelation the detective is having.
He stands abruptly, ignoring the pain as he straightens his shoulders. He looks down upon his seated rival, reminding himself once more of who won the war. Yet it does nothing to age his enemy—his contempt will not cripple and break the criminal as it should.
"I do not have the time to break you, Kira. I'll leave that to someone more suited. But rest assured, you will give me a straight answer before the night is up."
The cane hits the pavement in a steady rhythm as he makes his way to the door, his spine falling into its usual hunched state. His back turns against the man seated in the chair, refusing to look and see his fey grin as his hand reaches the silver handle. Surely and confidently, he pushes down upon the handle. The door sticks fast.
He tries again, rattling the silver lever in his attempt to leave. He stops abruptly and his head turns to see the silent statue at the other end of the room, grinning even while the room around him spins.
"You are in a room with no windows and no doors; the walls are blank and remind you only of the death you cannot have; and a question is poised in your mind as your fingernails scratch across that white surface. How do you get out?"
quando Judex est venturus
when the Judge is come
"The door is locked…." The detective stares at the silver handle gleaming against the pristine wall. "The door is locked. Why is the door locked?" The detective turns back to the captive, his dark eyes glaring with unconcealed fear.
"Is the door even there, Lawliet? All I see is an empty wall—you simply imagined the door. You can not open it because you are looking for the handle that does not exist. Or perhaps you are attempting to turn the lock that exists only within the walls of your mind. There is no door, there is no handle, there is no lock." The convict smiles coldly, his voice harsh and blunt in a way the detective had never heard it before.
"Open the door, Kira—open the Goddamn door!"
The convict shakes his head, letting out low inhuman laughter. "What door, Lawliet?"
"You bastard, you little bastard, Kira. What do you want?" The detective lowers his hand from the handle and shuffles slowly back towards the table. He takes a seat within the confines of the steel chair, facing his enemy eye to eye.
"How considerate of you, Lawliet. And here I thought you didn't care." From the lower angle, the prisoner looks much larger than he had before. More lethal. "I want what you promised me at the beginning of this. I want justice. I want salvation. I want to die. But you seem incapable of such an act, so I'll leave it at this—I want vengeance."
"Vengeance? Vengeance for my generous sparing of your life?" His voice is growling, low. "How ungrateful, Kira. I think you should be content with your lot." The detective's fear changes to fury as he watches his silent captive with heartless black eyes.
"I will never forgive you, Lawliet—you or your god of justice. Remember that, even if you forget everything else." The prisoner closes his eyes and leans back in his chair, his voice travelling across the length of the table. And without segue, without reason or logic, he continues the story.
"Now, this child had a parent. This parent was not any parent, but a parent who believed he always knew the truth, a parent who made that truth into a mask of plaster to wear instead of a face. And this parent knew of his child's secret; he declared it iniquity. He searched for years and years, this parent who wore the stolen face of justice, and yet he never unburied the child's secrets—for their house possessed many locked doors and hidden hallways. The adult could find no proof."
The words rush around the detective, swelling in great waves as they roil past him to crash against the blank surface of the walls. He hears them; he feels their malicious intent, but he cannot see them. Their colors are empty of meaning, cold and transparent—he cannot see them. But he can feel them, just as he can feel the words and the looming presence of the omniscient white walls.
(Three four a wedding, four for a birth—five for silver, six for gold.)
Light Yagami has become a mask, a shining mask that speaks the words of a monster. "Every day, he begged the child to reveal to him the hiding place, to unveil the secret. He fed him lies of the vilest sort, promising compassion and mercy. The child, in turn, knew of this parent's secret—that no matter how many times he claimed, with greater and greater fervency and conviction, that he would not be angry, that he would not punish the child, that the secrets did not matter—that the adult was always a liar. The adult would always bestow upon him retribution fitting of his perceived misdeeds."
And he looks, and then he realizes—white is not the absence of color, but the presence of so much color that none appears without a filter of the purest sort. The walls are the words, he thinks.
"And so the child was silent."
Seven for a secret never to be told.
He has to say something, has to lash back—recover ground, reclaim standing, control. "What are you talking about, Kira—what are you even babbling about? Did you know that until Kira returned, the world had moved on without you?" It is all he knows to say. "That you were nothing but a shadow, a ghost of the past left to rot, cold and alone in a prison cell so plain they did not even bother to pad it? You are just a name in a textbook, one of the little blurps in the human conscience—nothing more, nothing less. I don't know how you locked that door, or how you came back, but I do know this: You've already lost." The detective's eyes do not stray from the man locked to the chair; he attempts to dissect that bloodthirsty smile and the cold hate-filled eyes.
"You still don't know why you are here, do you, Lawliet?" asks the killer almost thoughtfully, his intent obscured from view.
"I'm here to interrogate you, of course. Kira, what else would I come for? If I had known you were insane, perhaps I never would have bothered."
"You didn't win, Lawliet, when you stuffed me in this room all those years ago. You did not win. My victor, you are, as always, a fool. You cheated. I handed you my life with the full realization that I must die and rot away in an unmarked grave. That is war; that is life; that is death, and there is no changing it. Not even your god of justice deems it worthy of change. But you locked me in a cage to be your pet bird, your prize, the antlered beast mounted on your trophy wall. And so now, Lawliet, you are here to finish what you started." Even in the brightly lit room, the detective can perceive dark shadows engulfing the murderer, curling against his bare feet on the white washed floor.
"You want me to kill you?" asks the detective.
"It is not about what I want; this is a game, Lawliet, nothing but a game. And once you start the game you cannot quit as you did; you cannot cheat and call check mate. You have been coldly tolerated by the gods until now—they have brought you back a crippled old man. The tables are turning. We shall see which of us has really lost the edge to war."
when the damned shall be cast down
"So where is your chessboard, Kira?—as that is what I assume we are doing. Or what you are doing; I confess I'm not sure what game we're playing at." The old man's face becomes lethargic, conveying a false sense of boredom. This causes the jailbird to smile.
"Chessboard, Lawliet? We have been playing this game far too long for such a useless tool. But tell me, Lawliet—how do you expect to escape the confines of our prison now that you still find the door to be locked every time you glance surreptitiously in that direction?" The captive's lips quirk into a smirk before falling back into the careless serene expression.
"I'm not entirely certain, Kira," answers the detective truthfully. "You should tell me. How do I get out?"
"Kill yourself, as I do not think you have the courage to kill me. Unlock my chains and I will use my hands to throttle you. I do not require a notebook to do that, Lawliet."
"Why do you do that?" he queries slowly, covering his face with his veined hands (and it is purple against pale, blood against white). "Why do you call me Lawliet? I have never asked you to call me that; I have never even told you my name."
The prisoner stares across at him, his face curiously blank as he answers, "Because it's your name. That's all."
"That's all—is that your answer? That's it, nothing more? No games trying to get into my head; no subtle complex riddles hidden inside that one single phrase! Well, damn, and here I thought you hadn't changed a bit." The detective slams his fist on the metal table; the sound echoes through the room.
"And yet, Lawliet, you still have not found your exit. I'm starting to wonder if you're even capable."
The detective watches the white-painted wall behind the prisoner's head; his gaze drifts towards the ceiling where he finds nothing. Nothing. The room is comprised of nothing but a table, two chairs, and two prisoners. There are no light fixtures; there are no one-way mirrors; no cameras—nothing. He knows that's not right—he knows there are lights, were lights, should still be lights (eight for heaven). He turns in his chair to search for the door that had let him into the room, to find that silver handle that gleamed seductively under his eyes.
"The door is gone," he whispers slowly, waiting for the information to sink in.
"I didn't think so…." The murderer almost sounds disappointed, as if he has been hoping that L could have walked through the door that isn't there.
The detective feels his eyes widen as he searches his memory. "I don't remember how I came in. How I came through the door, where the door was, what the hallway looked like. It's all gone. All of it. I don't know why I'm here."
"There was no hallway either, Lawliet. Perhaps I should explain. You look confused." The prisoner leans forward in his chair as if about to confide a great secret. "You don't remember coming here because you never did; you have been here just as long as I have. I have been waiting for you to realize the walls of your prison cell—it has taken you longer than I expected."
"Am I dead, Light-kun?" asks the detective bluntly. The prisoner drew back suddenly, his eyes dilated.
"Light-kun? What does he have to do with anything? What has he ever had to do with anything, Lawliet?"
The detective feels all his cynicism drip away and simply stares blankly forward. "Light Yagami—you were once Light Yagami…. I am dead, I am dead. You are standing on my grave, staring blankly, laughing, screaming…." The detective feels the steel walls of his mind melt away and leave nothing in their trace—nothing!
He leans back in his chair and begins to laugh, a strange sobbing laugh as he shuts his eyes and waits for the room to disappear, waits for Kira to disappear, so that he can see his grave. He briefly wonders how old he had been when he died, and that sets him into even deeper hysteria. He is drowning in laughter, white laughter….
"Are you done yet, Lawliet?" asks the prisoner patiently
flammis acribus addictis
into the searing flames
Days. Minutes. Hours. Seconds?
And then the story.
Nine for hell.
"But now that the deed was done, the secrets hidden away, the cat with green wings had no fun. And so he, like the parent, told the child lies. Every night, he whispered softly to him. He confused the child, made him doubt. He assured him that the game could not be won because it was no game at all, that redemption and absolution were the only options. But he said also that he could not redeem him, and that the child was doomed to live forever tangled in the unbeatable contest.
'And the child was afraid."
"This story is getting better and better. I have to wonder, though—what happens at the end?" The detective smiles once more, stifling his giggles as he glances at his captive, his caged bird.
"You still think you're dead?" asks the prisoner almost casually, glancing down at his feet in mock interest.
"But of course, Kira-sama. What else would I be doing here?" The detective stuck in the word sama with a snide smile, watching his prisoner's face remain an expressionless mask.
"Interrogation is what you said, Lawliet."
"Yes, I did say that, didn't I?" The detective sighs. "But I don't believe it either; not anymore. It's not worth the effort."
"I screamed for you, I cried for you, Lawliet; I laughed over your grave and damned you to Hell." The prisoner smiles suddenly, his head lifting and revealing not the knowing smile the detective expects, but an innocent, light expression. "But that was a dream, and that died long before I was locked in here."
voca me cum benedictis
call me with the blessed
"One day, the child opened the closet door. That day was the day the parent broke all of his promises."
The detective can no longer tell time. The meaning of the words slip through his fingertips. Instead of a clock, he sees those blank looming walls that surround him—he sees Kira's spiteful amber eyes. He doesn't recall the sound of a ticking clock, only the silence that hangs over him. Is Hell nothing more than empty box? Is that all that is needed for unending torture? No fire, no brimstone, no agonizing pain, just blank empty walls?
"But how? What happened next?"
"Why, the parent took the key from his hand and pushed the child into the closet, of course. And then, he turned off the lights and locked the door."
Kira himself seems to be made of the same white paint, the same eerie light that seems to stem from the walls itself. The same patience oozes from his skin. 'I will kill you; I will destroy you; I will eat your heart out of your chest….' His thoughts are tiny needles pricking into the detective's skin, pulling out to draw a single drop of blood.
He can't remember where he put his cane; somehow, that constant tapping has not followed him into the whiteness, into nothingness. Perhaps, like the door, it has never existed, leaving him stranded as the lock turns and the demon smiles.
He cannot remember his name, 'Lawliet'—even that small fact manages to evade him as he stumbles blindly in the room. He can't remember pounding against the walls, and yet his fists are bruised; he can't remember fighting Kira, and yet he tastes blood in his mouth and sees the bruise on his opponent's face.
Nothingness is eating him alive. His bones, his eyes, his ears, his mind are all melting away into those blank walls.
He doesn't know how to fight it.
'I want you to suffer as I have suffered.'
"Am I blind?"
'You were always blind, Lawliet— to everything.'
"Is this what insanity feels like?"
'No, we've always been mad, you and I. This is nothing.'
And he can hear Kira's voice through the nothing, whispering his deadly story—words always have been his greatest weapon.
"The green cat had no more use for the child, and so he flew far, far away. And then the closet child was left all alone in the dark," he says, sinking back into silence.
when the damned shall be cast down
"Lawliet, it's still your move." The prisoner stares at him through those amber, inhuman eyes, his thoughts more evident to the detective then they ever were before.
"Is it?" he asks slowly, his mind still washed away on the sea of silence that had surrounded him.
"Do you even remember what we were playing?" asks the murderer solemnly, his eyes searching the detective's face.
"Can you, Kira?" he replies in return, his dark blank eyes uplifted towards the ceiling, still searching in vain for that light source.
"Lawliet." The murderer lets the word vibrate and drift into the nothingness that still surrounds them, even in the absence of the silence.
"I just wanted to say it one last time, before it loses its meaning…."
"Like the door? Like my cane? Like my hatred?" The detective is losing himself; he no longer feels the urge to fidget as he used to. He has gained the unnatural stillness of the chamber.
"No, those things never existed in the first place. It will be a shame to lose you, Lawliet."
"Can you hear that, Light? It sounds like… bells…."
The murderer does not answer. He sits still and silent, his eyes cast down as he waits patiently. He realizes, with a sad smile, that the detective is no longer talking to him.
"Church bells… for a wedding… or a funeral…."
The detective stands, knocking his chair over in his haste. His great black eyes close and his hands lift towards the ceiling. The prisoner still says nothing, watching the detective with a sorrowful expression.
gere curam mei finis
help me in my final hour
"How does the story end?"
He doesn't answer, but instead brings the tale with them into the nothingness.
"The closet child may be alone, without both his friend, the cat with green wings, and his enemy, the parent…. But once in a while, if you look closely, you can see the silver handle turning, opening—if only for a moment. Perhaps the parent stumbled into the closet during one of these stray moments; perhaps his own hand closed around the brightly-beckoning handle. And when the door opened, perhaps he didn't see the closet child or the cat with green wings.... Perhaps he saw something entirely different and fled from the horror that it created in him, or perhaps... perhaps he saw this atrocity and he stayed and stared for ever and ever, until he grew bent with age and even forgot his own name.
'But then, I don't suppose even the story-teller knows. The door has been closed and locked, anyway—ever since he swallowed the key."
"That's not an ending."
"No. It's an exit."
(And ten for the devil's own sel')