Kira’s method of killing has been discovered, Light has his memories, and L is dangerously close to uncovering the truth behind the world’s worst case of mass killings. He knows he’s gotten too close, and senses that his own death is near. As he prepares for his final move, he takes a moment to reflect on the nature of truth.
The bell was ringing again. The incessant clangs echoed weirdly off of buildings, then were muffled again by the deluge coming down on the city. Nevertheless, they could be heard, loud and clear.
L sighed. It was never a good sign when the bell could be heard. He was too intelligent - too aware to not know what the bell actually was, or what it meant. He was the only one who could hear it, an echo from his childhood. It was the bell of the Wammy House, where he had been raised, and where even now, possible successors of his were being groomed. Where his replacement would soon be contacted.
It wasn't real, the bell. Only an old memory bouncing around in his head. It had no place there, really. It wasn't real, it wasn't true.
Standing on the roof of the Kira Investigation HQ, he was soaked to the skin. Jeans, T-shirt, hair… had he been wearing shoes, they would have been filled up long ago. L tilted his head back until he was facing the sky, the rain beating down into his face. This was real, this was true. A moment in time where the simple act of being and experiencing was all there was. When the multifaceted mind games of a killer and a detective, which really amounted to a near nothing, could be set aside.
Because, really, that was what L strove for, what any investigator worth his salt, strove for. Truth, and justice.
Truth. If you looked the word up in a dictionary, it would say something along the lines of: sincerity, honesty; conformity with fact; correctness, accuracy. But what it actually was, its essence, was more than any dictionary could capture. Possibly more than words of any kind could capture. Truth was more than not telling lies, more than stating bald facts, abstaining from embellishing the tale. Truth was something, L believed, that you lived. Something you breathed. Truth was a thing that wasn't restricted to what a person said. It was tied to their every action, their every thought, their smallest gesture. It was a living thing, truth. Usually referred to as honesty.
It would be impossible to live a life completely honestly. Human nature wouldn't allow for it. Which was not to say that a person, alone, could not be completely honest. But the general structure of human society was far too aggressive. If there was a person, or even a child, whose every word, gesture, and deed all stemmed from what was in their hearts, they would fall easy prey to any observer. L knew that.
So. There were lies. There was subterfuge, there was distraction. There were half-truths and red herrings and labyrinthine word games to hide and conceal what was too fragile for public exposure. All to protect, all to keep yourself safe. Everyone did it. They even did it to themselves. In a way, ironically, it wasn't even dishonest to do so. It was just what they had to do to live. People, fundamentally, weren't liars. They just weren't honest.
For the most part. There were always those who would dive into the sea of lies headfirst. A depressing number, in fact. Some made an art of it. There were hundreds of mediocre painters in the world, and only a handful of masters. Only one Picasso, only one Rembrandt, only one de Vinci.
Only one real Kira.
L opened his lamp-like eyes. Face still thrown back, hands still jammed into his pockets, he made no move to prevent the raindrops from falling into his eyes.
Kira. It was Light Yagami. L knew - L knew that it was Light. There was no plausible scenario that did not have Light as the infamous mass murderer, Kira. But there wasn't enough, from anyone else's point of view, to prove it. Without something more to truly condemn Light Yagami, all L could do was continue this macabre dance, using human life as bargaining chips. It rankled, but he did it. What else was there to do? With so much at stake, there was no room to be squeamish.
Light Yagami. There was a man whose entire existence, as far as L could see, was one falsehood after another. There wasn't a single word out of his mouth that wasn't examined first. Not a move he made that wasn't weighed and reweighed for its suitability of purpose, its usefulness to his selfish ends. Equally, whenever anyone spoke to him, you couldn't help but see the wheels turn behind his eyes. Was this person a threat, a tool, or simply not worth considering? Always ticking over, was Light. Constantly living his life through a filter. Could he feel the rain, if it fell on him? Or was he forever chasing the echoes of his own bells?
L snorted a little. His bell always made him a little existential. But, of all the times in his life, now might be the best.
He became aware of eyes, or the feeling of eyes, locked on him. Slowly, he turned his head to the door leading to the stairs. There stood Light Yagami, staring out at him.
Think of the devil.
Light said something, L could see his mouth moving, but the bell and the rain drowned him out. L put a hand up to his ear, to show he hadn't heard.
Light called again, “What are you doing, standing out there by yourself?”
Even though he caught the words this time, L made a more theatrical show of straining to hear him. It's time for you to come out into the rain, Kira. See if you can feel it.
Light frowned, but came out onto the roof, into the torrent, and stopped about six feet away. “What are you doing, Ryuzaki?”
Hmm. How to speak to him now? Now that the clock was ticking backward? “Oh, I'm not doing anything in particular, it's just… I hear the bell.” Why not?
Light blinked, surprised. “The bell?”
“Yes,” L said, turning his face back into the rain, “the sound of the bell is unusually loud today.”
There was a brief pause as Light strained to hear a sound from L's past. Finally, “I don't hear anything.”
I wonder what your `bell' sounds like, Kira. “Really?” he said, twisting the word just a little. “You can't hear it? It's been ringing nonstop all day. I find it very distracting.” And a little foreboding. “I wonder if it's a church, maybe a wedding. Or perhaps a…” A reminder? A ghost? A scrap of sentimentality not burned away by logic?
His expression, or his tone, must have betrayed something of his melancholic train of thought, because Light sounded genuinely concerned when he said, “What are you getting at, Ryuzaki?” He took a step closer, “C'mon, cut it out, let's get back inside.”
Why concern, Light? Is this out of a surviving tidbit of humanity, are you worried that your real sparring partner has cracked, or can you not take the sensation of the rain? So small a motive, but do you even know?
“I'm sorry,” he sighed. “Nothing I say makes any sense anyway. If I were you, I wouldn't believe a word of it.” And now, recommending deceit on the part of the criminal. Damned bell, anyhow.
L continued to watch the rain falling down on the city. It showed no sign of letting up, which was fine. Everything could do with a thorough soaking, including himself. Something to refresh, to reset the world.
L didn't expect Light to respond to his last comment, had expected him to make his way back inside alone. So it was a surprise when his voice floated through the rain, sounding, a little forcibly, amused. “You know, you're totally right. Honestly, most of the things you say sound like complete nonsense. There'd be no end to my troubles if I actually took you seriously all the time. I probably know that better than anyone.”
L didn't smile. “Yes. I would say that that's a fair assessment.” The bell was fainter, now, and his mind was in that peculiar halfway between point of sentimentality and his usual mental state. Strange. “But… I could say the same about you.”
“Hmm? What's that supposed to mean?”
Defensive. Always wary. It was how he had survived so long. Well, let's take him with a sideswipe. “Tell me, Light,” he snapped his gaze back onto him, “from the moment you were born, has there ever been a point where you actually told the truth?”
Light froze. Even the wheels seemed to have stopped their constant turning. L kept his eyes fixed on Light, didn't allow him to waver away. Even the sounds of the rain and bell seemed to have stopped, leaving the two of them in a silent, damp world of locked wills. How will you respond, Kira? Will it be something approaching the truth, or will you be predictable?
The world began moving again, the sounds of reality returned with Light's voice. “Where's this coming from, Ryuzaki?” Again, that slight concern. Gone in the next sentence, “I do admit, I stretch the truth here and there. However, find me one person whose never had to tell a lie, it wouldn't be easy. Human beings just aren't made to be perfect like that. Everybody lies from time to time.” True. And all very close to L's own musings of only a few minutes ago. “Even so, I've always made a conscious effort never to tell a lie that could hurt others. That's my answer.”
Neat. Admitting humanity, not culpability. And complete tripe. Really, Kira, couldn't you come up with something more inventive? Something that didn't sound like a five year old caught with the last cookie? You were much more honest when you were punching me in the face. Not running every word through that damned internal filter of yours, allowing emotion to play a part in your interactions.
“I had a feeling you would say something like that.”
The bell was faint. The echoes were gone. The rain had chilled skin to near freezing. And word sparring had muddied the cleansing effect of the rain.
“Let's go back inside,” L said, “we're both drenched.”
On the stairs, Light and L were attempting to dry themselves off with small hand towels. It was a token gesture. There was no way they would be dry before they headed downstairs. Light was sitting on the steps, shoes and coat stripped off and blotting his hair.
L walked onto the landing behind him, his own towel draped over his head. He didn't move to dry himself. There was no point, and he still wanted to feel the rain.
“Well,” he said, “that was certainly an unpleasant outing.”
“It's your own fault,” Light snapped. “I mean, what did you expect?”
L smiled just a little. Still no sense of humor, eh, Light? “You're right. Sorry.”
He watched Light for a minute as he continued to run the towel through his hair. It was so natural, so uncontrived, that it was strange to watch. It reminded L of when the two of them had been working together. Then, too, Light had seemed more like a person, and less like a machine. Now the automaton was back, but the mask was slipping just a little.
L took the towel off his head. Let's see if we can make it slip a little more.
Light didn't notice what he was doing until L had a hold of one foot, towel poised. His eyes widened, “What are you doing??”
L looked up, “I thought I might help you out. You were busy wiping yourself off, anyway.”
“Look, it's fine, you don't have to do that.” Still defensive, but less controlled than usual.
“I can give you a massage as well.” Pressing the issue even farther. See how much he can take and maintain those shields. “It's the least I can do to atone for my sins. I'm actually pretty good at this.”
The look on Light's face, on Kira's face. He didn't know what to think. Was it a trick L was playing, a ploy? To what gain? No, Light. Not every move was made with a gain in mind. “Fine,” he said, “do what you want.”
L suppressed a smile, “Al - right.”
He wrapped the towel under Light's heel, began with his arch, using moderate pressure. Light grunted, twitched away. “Hey!”
“You'll get used to it,” L said quietly, soothingly. He was using a pressure he liked on his own feet, which were calloused from being almost constantly barefoot. Light's feet were softer, more used to being shod. L lightened the pressure a little.
After the arch, the dorsum of the foot, digging just a little between the bones. Then the toes. Getting into an easy rhythm, L's mind wandered a little.
It must have made such an odd picture. Kira and L, L at Kira's feet, a picture of subjugation or of intimacy? With no context, who would know? It didn't really matter, anyway.
Drops of moisture fell onto Light's leg, just above where L was working. Rain from his hair? Again, it didn't matter.
“Here,” Light's towel wiped back L's hair, absorbing the rainwater. “You're still soaked.”
L glanced up. This time he was the one surprised. He had wanted to see if could get Light to slip out of his calculating frame of mind. And here it was. A simple act of kindness to the man he wanted dead, probably more than any other in all the world. It was genuine, it was human.
“I'm sorry,” L said, and meant it.
Are you still able to feel concern for you victims, Light? I am sorry. Sorry the Death Note came to you, that you weren't strong enough to just walk away. Because it was the Death Note that had truly put them all in this position. Everyone had the potential to become a killer, just as everyone had the potential to lie and deceive. The reason most did not was either due to a fear of being caught, or not being able to face their victims.
With the exception of sociopaths, anyone who killed experienced that kill - in one way or another. If it were a “fit of passion” killing, then the murderer and murdered were close to each other, and the life could be watched as it drained away from the victim. If it were planned, then the killer had to think and rethink the act, essentially experiencing the kill in that way.
But the Death Note. It all but completely took away the danger of ever being caught. You could kill quickly, instantly, anyone whose name and face were known, even someone on the other side of world. And, in a way, it was unreal. L didn't think that anyone could truly feel that they had killed another human being by simply writing their name. It was like playing a game. Like watching a movie.
And it had come to Light.
Light, with all of his brilliance, his strong sense of justice, and his devious creativity. It had come to him, of all the people in the world. There was no doubt in L's mind about that. In Light, the Death Note had found a man who would, could, and did use it to accomplish in seconds what every officer, investigator, and prosecutor dreamt of, and strove for, but could not hope to accomplish in years of collaborative effort. An end to hundreds of the world's worst criminals. The only problem was the killing part.
If the Death Note had never been dropped to earth, if Light had continued along his original path, then he would have been a brilliant detective. Had he been one of the boys at the Wammy House, he might have made a good successor to L. As it was, without the training, he was close. Had things been different, L and Light might have been able to work together for real.
As it was, they were almost on even footing as opponents. Had Light been using any tool other than a supernatural one, L would have had him long ago, but… At the same time, if anyone other than L had been working on this case, he would have died before coming into contact with Light Yagami. They were well matched.
“It'll be lonely, won't it?”
Light looked up. His mind had been wandering, too. “Hmm?”
L looked up into Light's face. Not trying to stare him down this time. Just an open, slightly tired gaze, the dark circles under his eyes seeming darker than ever. “You and I will be parting ways, soon.”
Light stared openly, his defenses finally down as far as they could go. Take it as he would, the most obvious interpretation of L's comment was the one he meant: When I'm gone, who will be left to fight that will give you any challenge?
Don't worry, Light. This is just an instant in time where we can be completely honest. Once the moment passes, once the bell stops, it will be as though this had never happened. We will continue as though we never spoke.
On cue, L's cell phone rang.
L broke off the stare to turn and answer his phone. “Yes?”
Watari's voice came through, “L, the foreign embassy has just given the go ahead.”
Now we'll see… “I understand,” he said quietly, “I'm on my way.” He flipped the phone off and turned back to Light, who was still watching his back.
“Let's go, Light. It seems like it's all worked out.”
Light's blank look remained as he got up to follow L to the elevator. He forgot his shoes on the stairs.
Back downstairs the rest of the investigative team were all agitated. They must have heard already. As L and Light exited the elevator Matsuda turned and took a step toward them. “Ryuzaki, what's the meaning of all this? You somehow got approval from another country to use the notebook for an execution?!”
L climbed into his seat at the monitor bay that dominated one wall, knees folded up close to his chest as always, completely ignoring Matsuda. No doubt the coming argument would go on for hours, so why start it with the first outcry? Instead he looked up at the screen that showed Watari's stylized “W” image. “Watari, excellent work, thank you.”
“Not at all,” came the voice through the speakers.
“First things first,” L continued to the screen, “Please make arrangements to transport the notebook immediately.” He felt the others shift behind him at that statement.
Light came up closer behind his chair. “Ryuzaki, what are you trying to do?”
L picked up his spoon between forefinger and thumb and tapped the open Death Note. “I'm going to try out the notebook for real.”
He felt Light twitch back as the implications sank in. It went unnoticed by the others, who weren't taking the plan well, either.
Aizawa, who was sitting beside L at the bay, spoke first. “We can't do that! And there's no point in testing it now that we already know the notebook's power is real.”
“And besides,” continued Matsuda, his voice not as forceful as his companion's, “who's going to write the name? If someone starts writing in the notebook, they'll have to obey the thirteen day rule and keep writing forever.”
Logical for Matsuda. And the entire point of the test. They did all know that the notebook's power was real. What they didn't know was if someone who started writing in the notebook had to write at least one every thirteen days or die. That little detail wasn't proven yet, and it was essential. “It's all worked out,” he said as calmly as possible. “The person who will write the name is a criminal scheduled for execution in just over thirteen days. If he's still alive thirteen days after writing the name, he'll be pardoned from execution.”
They wouldn't like it. He knew they wouldn't.
“But still,” began Soichiro, Light's father, “to sacrifice a life-“
“We're very close!” L snapped. To sacrifice one life to save thousands, possibly millions? It did grate, but L could handle having it on his conscience. “If we work this out the entire case will be solved!”
Now what, Light Yagami? Kira?
Suddenly they were all plunged into darkness as the lights cut out. A second later the generators kicked on, and the monitors all glowed a dangerous red.
Someone yelled, “What is this? A blackout?”
L moved to start hitting keys, to see where the power outage had stemmed from, when a sound reached him. Gasps. Labored breathing. A glance told him it was no one in the room with him. It was coming from the speakers. He stared at the screen showing the calligraphic W, wishing he could see the man it represented, and simultaneously glad that it did not.
“Watari?” The gasps became groans, almost yelps. “Watari?”
Again, all the screens blinked. They all came up white an instant later, with the same three words printed across them: All data deletion.
“Data deletion?” Aizawa was yelling now, “What the hells is going on?”
L spoke slowly, shocked by the speed of it all. “I told Watari… to make sure that he should erase all information… in the event that something were to happen to him.”
“If something were to happen?”
Watari was dead. It was the only reason he would destroy all the work they had done so far. But the Death Note was right here, at his hand. And Light, who had to be Kira, was standing right behind him, had not made a move. Could it be the second Kira operating... Misa Amane, with a second notebook? No. She wasn't here, and the timing was too perfect for it to have been planned ahead of time. As soon as L had told everyone his plan to kick away the one prop holding Light's story together, that's when the power went out. It had to be someone here, working in Light's interest. Everyone was accounted for, except…
“Where is the shinigami?”
Everyone looked around them for the specter. “Good question, I don't see it.”
That was it. But could it be stopped before the entire task force was wiped out? Forty seconds after writing the name before that person died… was it already too late?
L raised his voice, “Everyone! The shiniga-“
Fire ripped through his chest. L's heart felt as though it were being squeezed in a vice, and then torn to shreds. His vision blurred, screens melting together to form a nothing of white light.
The bell started ringing louder than ever.
Was he falling? It felt like it. But it was hard to tell. It might hurt when he hit the floor. He didn't want to hit the floor.
The landing was soft. Someone had caught him on the way down. L opened his eyes, and found himself looking into Light's eyes, once again.
It was hard to focus. The bell was so loud! Light's face blurred, and L saw the stained glass windows of the Wammy House, the gate swinging closed to seal him in, saw the faces of the other children, heard them crying in tune with the bell.
Light came back. L was struck by his expression. It looked… surprised.
Is this the first time you've known your victim, Light? Is this the first time you've known them as anything but a name and a face found on the television or the Internet? Is this really the first time you've looked into their eyes as they died? Funny. Of the thousands that you've killed, despite how soaked in blood you are, this is the first time you've felt it, isn't it? In a way, I'm probably you're first real kill. You reek of death, and somehow, you're still clean.
Light's face blurred again, and L saw the clockwork makings of the bell that screamed inside his head. The bell wasn't real! The bell wasn't real! A thing that had controlled the daily routine of his young life, and it wasn't real anymore! Not to him. But to those still inside… Mello, and Near. They would be told soon of his death, and would take over.
It was the best he could do, now. His final dishonesty. He hadn't picked either one to take over, which meant they had to decide between them. Near wouldn't care, but Mello… He would drive them both to the limits needed to catch Kira out of his sense of competition. With any luck.
The bell began to quiet, to dim. Light's face… was twisted now. Eyes narrow and evil, mouth contorted into a grin of victory. No longer the face of Light Yagami, honor student with a promising future. Kira's face, killer and user of thousands, gloating in the dying eyes of his enemy.
So… by my death, I finally push you over to your true self, Kira. Your truth. And now you will be alone. Free to judge, to kill, and to create your world of supreme rule.
We'll see… Kira. We'll see how well you deal… with my prodigies…
He let his eyelids drift closed. It was time to find out what happened after the bell stopped. Time to experience truth.
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