***Uncertainty***

The musty airstreams of the Shinigami world chipped away at the pile of shimmering sand that attested to Gelus' death. When the last particles had been swept away, Rem finally accepted the fact that a Shinigami could indeed die. Falling in love with a human could change a Shinigami's behavior so much that he might even use his Death Note to keep his human love alive for longer. Of course using a Death Note in such an atypical way would cause death, Rem thought. Shinigami were born to take the lives of humans; this destiny came more naturally to them than walking did for humans.

If a death god betrayed his ordained purpose, then, it only made sense for its life to suddenly end. However, this discovery did not sit well with Rem. She had considered Gelus her best friend. She found herself wishing for his company, and in his absence she grew increasingly bored and quick to frustration.

Rem's boredom drove her to curiosity. Gelus had not been a stupid Shinigami, she reasoned, so why had he fallen so far? The human girl must have some ability to entrap the hearts of others. Rem wanted to see this ability. Plus, she wasn't sure how to feel about this girl. Should she be hated for causing Gelus' death, or admired for some special ability? The only way to know was to see for herself. Without any particular plan, Rem opened a portal through which she perceived Misa Amane in the human world.

From her observations, Rem learned a good deal about Misa Amane. However, this only left her more confused about what to do. She decided to seek counsel from the Shinigami King. Being both the oldest of the Shinigami and the one with the longest lifespan to come, the Shinigami King was well-suited to govern. The lesser Shinigami generally respected him despite their highly independent natures.

Rem approached the old King after inclining her head in deference. The monarch's large body was held up in the air by what appeared to be chains, and one two of his four arms were working on transcribing another copy of the Death Note Manual. The jewels that studded his skull-like head glittered brighter than his silvery eye sockets, making him look more like a lifeless statue than a living being. The Shinigami King stopped his work to welcome Rem. She quickly explained Gelus' Death and her confusion about the human girl involved.

"In this age, all Shinigami are bored," stated the King of Death. "That means we are all curious, too. Tell me, what did you learn about this human? Did she possess a rare ability like you thought?"

"In a way, she is special indeed," replied Rem, ready to tell the monarch all she had learned. "Misa Amane shows unusual resilience. She's barely nineteen, but she lives by herself, using the money she makes with her new modeling career. She witnessed the violent murder of her parents, and still manages her life well. She is also fearless in her own way: bold and outgoing with social confidence. Unlike many humans, Misa holds her own body in high esteem, using it for her career."

"Humans can be so interesting," remarked the Shinigami King. "I have no idea how one of us could come to love a human, but we can at least take some interest. This Misa must be spectacular."

"Well, I don't know," Rem said in her deep, flat voice. "On the other hand, Misa seems unintelligent. She lacks common sense and trusts people too much. When she decides she likes someone, she starts to view them as perfect in every way. She can't understand when she's being used. Misa Amane is cheerful and sincere with everyone because she's unable to pick up on lies, censure, or sarcasm."

"No wonder she ended up almost being killed by that insane stalker," said the King of Death insightfully. "Instead of immediately trying to run, she probably tried to hold a conversation with the man. She probably perceived him as an innocent fan."

"In addition," Rem continued, "Misa concerns herself almost exclusively with trivial matters such as makeup, fashions, and other models. Humans in her country have high standards of education. But Misa barely graduated high school. Science, math, and critical thinking are lost on her."

"So perhaps she is not so special," shrugged the King of Death. "She's a simpleton."

As happened from time to time, Rem felt the unwelcome rise of emotion in her spirit. What was she feeling this time, she wondered? Something a bit like anger? Yes, that's it. Rem wanted to defend Misa.

"Unlike general society," rejoined the female Shinigami, "I do not think Misa's mental limits deserve scorn. I think they deserve pity. I think I understand how Gelus came to fall in love. It isn't fair that others will use Misa and she will never know or care. She has already suffered so much after seeing her parents die; so it was too cruel to watch her robbed of life on top of all this."

"Robbed of life?" repeated the King of Death with a laugh. "Humans only exist to extend our lifespans. If Gelus didn't want to kill her, he should have let her die in the alley. It isn't tragic that she must die."

"I have also thought so, Your Majesty. Gelus was my friend. Misa Amane led him to his death. Therefore, I thought at once that it would be fair to kill that human. On the other hand, using a Death Note to avenge Gelus might be cause enough for my own Death. I wanted to ask if you could verify this."

"While I don't particularly care," the monarch answered, "it's safe to assume you will die, using your Death Note so unnaturally. We were not born to take lives over emotional matters such as vengeance."

"Then what should I do?" asked Rem, at a loss.

The King of Death considered. "Shinigami Rem, you believe that you are above loving a human. But it's interesting that you can comprehend the concept of "love" at all. Most Shinigami possess little or no capacity to care for others. But you are unusually gifted—or cursed—with the ability to form attachments. Gelus was your friend, you said. If that's true, stick to it. Do what Gelus would have wanted you to do after his rather foolish death."

"Your Majesty, I believe I do know what Gelus would have wished. However, following that path might put my own life at risk. I have a long lifespan and a rare ability to comprehend some emotions. Do I have any obligation to stay alive, given these facts?"

"Not at all." The Shinigami King answered honestly and without the intent to be spiteful. "Nobody will miss you now that Gelus is dead. You are free to risk your life pursuing an object of interest. We're all bored, after all. If you die, it's not like you will be missing anything diverting in this world."

"I am relieved to hear that." Rem inclined her head again. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

***Confrontation***

Misa Amane returned to her upscale apartment after a day of modeling for a well-known fashion designer. She seemed cheery, Rem thought. In fact, for the past couple of weeks, as Rem tried to make herself visible, Misa had seemed almost absurdly happy. Something must have finally gone right for her. Darkness had just begun to fall when the girl arrived home. She gave a long sigh and opened the refrigerator, wondering what to make for dinner.

"Maybe I'll change first," Misa said aloud.

She headed toward her bedroom. On the way, she saw an unfamiliar object on the table in the dining area. It was a black notebook with the words "Death Note" scrawled on it in white. Misa had invited friends to her place the previous night, so she figured one of them must have left the notebook. Without thinking twice, she picked up the odd jotter to put it somewhere safer than the cluttered table.

"Misa Amane," said Rem, forgetting to use a greeting.

She also forgot that most humans would be terrified of seeing her. Misa screamed. She backed up so quickly she stumbled and fell onto the floor.

The creature she beheld was surely a monster. It stood somewhere between seven and nine feet tall, and its bizarrely proportioned body seemed to be made of bones. The "hair" on Rem's head was a consistency unknown to the human world, like a combination of clay and spider web. Her eye—the single eye left uncovered by the bandage—looked far more reptilian than human. Even when the Shinigami was not speaking, her two fangs were faintly visible between purple-grey lips. Misa could only tremble and stare in terror.

"There is no reason to fear me," stated Rem. "I have already decided it would be foolish to kill you. Besides, you interest me. I am the Shinigami Rem. You can see me because you touched the Death Note I left there for you. It's about time, honestly. I've been dropping it near you, hoping you would touch it, for a while now."

"D-Death Note?" stammered Misa. "I'm being cursed just for touching a notebook…?"

"You are not being cursed," Rem said patiently. "Compared to your life before, you could say I'm bringing you a great blessing. I suppose it's both a blessing and a curse, for a human. I'll try my best to tell you what you need to know. And you, try your best to calm down."

Rem then spoke for well over an hour, explaining the Shinigami World, Death Notes, and life as a god of death. To Misa's credit, she did calm down as best she could when suddenly faced with a creature from another world. Since she had personally witnessed the murder of her parents, Misa handled psychological shock much better than most people. She showed great interest in Death Notes, and asked if others existed in the human world. When Rem said such a thing was possible, Misa smirked as if figuring out an important secret. Rem did not yet tell Misa very much about Gelus, since it would mean revealing the secret of how to kill a Shinigami. However, she had to explain at least a little bit to make Misa understand why she would be receiving a certain gift.

"There was once a Shinigami who cared for you, Misa Amane," said Rem, "more than he cared about anything. He loved to watch you. I, too, have enjoyed watching you go about your life. In accordance with the wishes of Gelus, I have come to give you a gift. It is a Death Note: one that can be used for your own personal benefit."

Misa watched as Rem produced Gelus' Notebook. The Shinigami took back her own note and handed Gelus' book to the young woman, who still hadn't removed herself from the floor. She had sat upright in a kneeling position to hear Rem's words, but she became too enrapt in them to move. Now she took the Death Note into her small hands, considering it. Most of the fear had left her face. If Rem was reading her correctly, Misa looked both surprised and, strangely, excited.

"The power to kill with a face and a name?" Misa said in awe. "This must be the same power that Kira uses to bring justice to the world. If I have this power, I might be able to reach out to Kira and help him. Shinigami-san… er, Rem… is it really alright for me to have this Death Note?!"

Rem nodded but added, "I didn't expect you to accept it so readily. Do you remember what I told you about humans who use a Death Note? They can neither go to Heaven nor to Hell. And if you accept this Death Note, the responsibility will fall on me to stay by your side until you die or surrender ownership of the Note. In other words, you will have no choice but to live alongside me."

"I understand," Misa replied, her voice quick with anticipation. "I understand and I think it's totally worth it. You seem very nice for a Shinigami so I'm sure I won't mind having you around. As long as nobody else can see you, like you mentioned before. And I don't care what happens after I die, either. It doesn't matter as long as I have a chance to help Kira."

"Who is this Kira person?" Rem asked, curious by nature.

"I didn't think he was a person at all," Misa replied with a dreamy smile. "I thought he was God. But now I think he's a person using a Death Note to kill criminals. In a way, he's still God—a God of Justice. I would have given up on life if not for Kira. You see, there was talk that the man who killed my parents might have been falsely charged. People stopped believing me, even though I saw him murder mom and dad with my own eyes. And then! It was too good to be true! Kira killed the murderer! My parents can rest in peace now. I have something to live for now."

Rem listened with a bit of chagrin. It seemed likely that Misa would just end up being used by whoever Kira turned out to be. Her devotion to him would be even more fanatic than usual if he had indeed brought peace and meaning to her life. Who knows what danger she might put herself in to help some childishly idealistic human? Maybe there was no hope for this girl, even with a Death Note. Maybe she was already gone. Even so, however, Rem was determined to stay with her.

"But Rem," Misa asked, "why would you give me a Death Note? You wouldn't agree to all this just because a friend asked you to do it, would you? I didn't know Shinigami were so considerate."

"I will admit there is another reason, a more personal one. I seem like a stranger to you, no doubt. But I have watched you long enough to know you. Long enough to know how hopeless you are on your own. Listen. You no longer have to suffer because you are simpleminded and helpless. With a Death Note, you can eliminate anyone who threatens you or uses you badly."

"How strange for a Shinigami to care about a human," Misa observed.

"I don't care about you," Rem lied both to herself and to Misa. "It's just that humans are interesting, and it's got to be even more interesting to see what they do with Death Notes. Shinigami are not supposed to care about humans; let us leave it at that."

***Contract***

Misa still felt a little light-headed with the continued shock of talking with a Shinigami, but she no longer felt afraid. She told Rem she was going to get changed and then make dinner for them both. Of course, Rem said she had no need for meals, so she just stood by awkwardly while Misa cooked and ate. As she ate, the human girl asked questions now and then. When she finished the meal, she said something that Rem thought was extremely unusual for a human.

"I don't know if this Death Note is powerful enough for me." Misa casually returned to the kitchen. "I think I deserve some desert after today, don't you think? Anyway, in order to be a greater help to Kira, it would be nice to have a power more versatile than his. From what I can guess, he can only kill criminals whose names and faces are publicly broadcast. It's harder to change the world that way."

"There is no better tool for killing in existence," answered Rem, "than the Death Note. Most humans are baffled by its power. Do you realize it surpasses the laws of your very world?"

"All the same," shrugged Misa, "I'm surprised you Shinigami are that limited. Doesn't this mean you have to research every human's name before you can take its life?"

"Of course not. I forgot to tell you. Shinigami can kill with only a face, because we always see the name of the person displayed above the face. It's the way our eyes work. We can see lifespans, too. Humans need to learn the names of other humans to kill them with a Death Note. Unless…" Rem trailed off.

"Unless what?" asked Misa. She grinned. "I can tell you were going to say something!"

"I have the ability to give you the eyes of a Shinigami," Rem admitted reluctantly. "However, this isn't something I can do for free. Shinigami can't just do something for no cost, or we would all be doing favors for humans and thus caring about them. If I give you the eyes, the cost to you would be substantial."

"Are you serious?" exclaimed Misa, nearly dropping her plate of strawberry cake on her way back to the table. "I don't care about the price! Do I need to sell my soul? Or, wait—haven't I already done that?"

"You will surrender the fate of your soul upon writing the first name in the Death Note." Something distracted Rem's attention. "Misa Amane, what are those bright things on top of that bread lump?"

"Huh? Oh, you mean the strawberries. This is a western desert: spice cake with dried berries, sweet icing, and a topping of fresh strawberries. I don't usually eat like this because I have to watch to my weight, but I treat myself sometimes. Anyway… So what's the price? For Shinigami eyes? Do you put some kind of curse on me that brings misfortune?"

"Nothing like that." Rem shook her head. "Shinigami are not spiteful. We take the lives of humans to extend our lifespans, which initially are extremely short. In any case, we think of taking lives as a necessary part of the business of increasing our lifespans. In business…"

Rem trailed off again. Despite her efforts to stay on topic, she couldn't help staring at the last strawberry, which Misa wasn't eating. Rem knew that there were certain human foods which were more pleasurable to Shinigami than drugs were to humans. Could that berry be one such oddity? It looked attractively juicy, completely unlike any fruit in Rem's world.

"Are you still looking at my food?" asked Misa in mock-annoyance. "How rude! Go on, taste it."

Rem thanked the human and quickly consumed the strawberry. It made her feel better than she had in probably fifty years. That was when Rem decided that she rather liked the human world.

"You look high," remarked Misa. "I'm glad you like strawberries. But, if you don't mind… what about that deal for Shinigami eyes?!"

"Oh," Rem said apologetically. "The cost of the eyes is half your remaining lifespan." Through the buzz the strawberry gave her, Rem tried to talk some sense into the human. "It's obvious you're interested in this contract. However, I know for a fact you were almost killed. It happened less than a year ago. Surely you wouldn't want to cut your own lifespan after experiencing such a thing."

Rem felt emotion appear in her mind once again. It was a decidedly unpleasant emotion this time, especially since she wanted to enjoy her strawberry buzz. But what she felt was a strong unwillingness of some kind… Of course, Rem realized. She didn't want to take any of Misa's lifespan. She had sincerely hoped the contract for Shinigami eyes would not even come up for discussion. But it had, and knowing Misa, she would want to go all the way.

"I'll do it," Misa announced, proving Rem right. "Although… I don't suppose you would tell me how many years I have, would you?"

"I am not sure I am permitted to do that." Rem's thoughts were hazy from the fruit. "Telling you would certainly be doing you a favor. But I can give you a clue." Rem tried to look at Misa somberly. "Your lifespan is already shorter than that of the average human."

Misa had the sense to appear a bit alarmed, but she shook it off with a smile. "I'll still do it," she stated. "Now that you've told me about the deal, you can't deny it to a human who genuinely wants it. Isn't that right? I can tell you don't really want to give me Shinigami eyes. I don't know if that's because you don't want to help me, but regardless, I want to make this deal!"

"It's not that I don't want to help you," Rem began—and quickly, she clarified. "I don't care if I help you or not, that is. I don't want to make the deal because it means we won't have as long together."

"If you say that," replied Misa, "you're sounding like you're caring about me again."

"Of course I don't care," Rem insisted stubbornly. "I only want easy access to strawberries. When I said we wouldn't have long together, I meant that would be unfortunate because humans relieve my boredom. That's all there is to it."

"Whether or not that's true," Misa said, looking Rem in the eye, "maybe this can sway you. I would be happiest helping Kira. Nothing in the whole world would make me happier. If my life is already short, I would rather live doing what makes me happy. If you give me the Shinigami eyes, you will bring me joy second only to that which Kira brought me. You don't think it will be as interesting to stay alongside a human who isn't happy, right?"

Rem considered. The strawberry buzz had worn off, and the eye deal seemed all the more unpleasant to her, but there was little choice. Refusing to make the deal would only prove that Rem favored this human. She made a sound somewhere between a grunt and a sigh. It must be done, Rem thought.

"If it will make you happy, then we shall make the contract." Rem placed her huge, bony hand over Misa's eyes gently. "You have agreed to give me half your remaining years. In exchange, I grant you the ability to see as a Shinigami sees. Misa Amane, you now have the eyes of a god of death." Rem lifted her hand and let Misa's eyes open and refocus.

***Already Gone***

The differences in vision were subtle, Misa found, except for the way she could see letters and numbers above Rem's head. When she looked at photographs or peoples' faces on television, she saw their numbers too. They seemed to float just above a person's head. When a Shinigami used its eyes, it saw the "stats" in the language of its own kind. When Misa looked, however, she found that she could read the names, as well as understand the lifespans.

"Rem, thank you!" exclaimed the human, impulsively hugging the huge Shinigami.

"Isn't that a way that humans show affection?" Rem asked, after awkwardly enduring the embrace. "Or perhaps you meant to show gratitude? I'm afraid the gesture doesn't make much sense to me. Regardless, there is no need to thank me, as long as you will be as happy as you said before."

Misa smiled. She was now convinced (and rightfully so) that the Shinigami did care for her somewhat. It seemed cute, but Misa wondered if Rem was breaking some rule or risking her safety by choosing to care. Since the Shinigami had given her a Death Note, Misa already respected and admired Rem, so she felt slightly concerned. She thought, who knows what danger Rem might put herself in to help a childish hero-worshipper like herself? Maybe there was no hope for this Shinigami, even after making the contract for Shinigami eyes. Maybe Rem was already gone. Even so, however, Misa was determined to act as the death god's faithful companion.

As for Rem, she was uncomfortably aware that she was lying to herself about not caring. However, it bothered her less than she expected. The Shinigami would rather risk her life and have a purpose—helping Misa—than choose safety and return to boredom. She would rather have a short but stimulating life than a long and less interesting one. In this way, Rem and Misa were surprisingly similar.

"You said I was simpleminded and helpless, earlier," the human girl rejoined. "Well, with all due respect, Rem, you seem unbalanced and hopelessly unlike a Shinigami. I'm not trying to be rude. I'm only saying that because it means we're in this together. We've both got to try to do what makes us happy, and we can only do it by helping each other. For my part, I'll try my best to be an interesting enough human for you."

Another emotion surfaced within Rem and she gave an awkward smile. "For my part," she said, "I will help you find Kira. I will also do what I can to guard your life. But only because I'm bored, and because I like strawberries."