Spoilers: The ending of the manga and for the entire series.
Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.
For the lovely yatsuka who betas and let's me know I'm not as insane as I think I am. .
Theodicy A vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing moral evil in the world. (1)
Light opens his eyes.
The last thing that he remembers before the blazing pain in his chest has made him squeeze his eyes shut is Ryuuk's smiling face.
In the end, he isn't a god…but Ryuuk is. Gods, in reality, have ultimate control over their destinies. He had been cornered – by a mere child – and been made useless. Kira has met his downfall at the hands of a real god.
The pain had so blinding that he hadn't even felt his head smash onto the ground as he had fallen, startled.
But now, he doesn't feel anything. There is no gun shot wound. No head trauma. No pain.
It is, Light thinks, like the deaths of tragic heroes, really. For all of them are figures of mythic proportions who ultimately view their own demise as a result of some inherent, unavoidable flaw. Not so, perhaps…perhaps they are directly complicit in their own downfalls.
The mighty, the semi-divine, the quasi-immortal fall by their own exertions.
The sin of hubris is never one that has easily been forgiven.
However, he never truly applies such logic to himself.
Because Light knows that by all accounts he should be dead. His name had been written in Ryuuk's scrawl in the Death Note that he, as Kira, had used to make himself a divine figure. The Death Note has never failed before; you can't erase the name once entered. And, beyond all certainty he had felt himself die.
And yet, he has opened his eyes, and there is Ryuuk looking up at him, grinning.
…perhaps it had all been an ill-mannered joke on the Shinigami's part.
But this is not where he had…died. He had been carried to what looked like a…desert?
But then again, perhaps this is what happened to those who used the Death Note. Ryuuk had told him that they did not go to either Heaven or Hell. Perhaps he is in some intermediary location between the two.
Ryuuk, Light knows, is not the most trustworthy of creatures. He might have lied in the agony of his final moments. It is a perfectly logical. Unassailably rational.
But he cannot afford to be certain of anything in his current state.
"Yo, Light. It's good you finally came around."
The Shinigami did not cease smiling at all. Light, grown used to in nuances of the creature's expressions and mannerisms, does not like the look on his face one bit.
It reminds him that he is still not entirely in control.
And, as long as such a situation persists, it should be viewed as imminently threatening.
Ryuuk would never be swept aside as Rem had been. The Shinigami had shown him that when he had written Light's name in the notebook. But, Light has awoken again, and there was the beast's leering face…and despite his best efforts there was a small twinge in him that the Death Note had failed…that he has ascended to something beyond its power.
He does not let any of this show on his face. Light will at least be in control of himself.
"Oi, Light," there is his accustomed tone of amusement nearly dripping from his words, "Aren't you pleased with your new accommodations? Bet it will suit someone like you…a god."
The last word is said with a derisive superiority that definitely alerts him that all is not as it should be.
Cautiously – for the look on Ryuuk's face most definitely calls for wariness – he sits up and looks around. The scenery about him is dusty and windblown with a reddish tinge. He checks out his hands, limbs, subtly brushes his face….his physical person seems to be entirely accounted for.
"They're going to come for you sometime soon, Light, you should be ready."
Ryuuk chuckles again before fluttering to the dry branch of a nearby dead tree that crackles under his weight. Except for occasional mutterings and his taunting, dark laughter, the Shinigami doesn't tell him anything for a long period of time.
Light thinks it best to observe his surroundings and take stock of the situation in order to improve his understanding of the position he is currently in. Then he will most definitely act.
At least he doesn't appear to be dead. But, as it is, it is difficult to ascertain even the most basic facts about his current state and Light feels a helplessness invade him more completely than it has in any of his waking memories...except for perhaps when Ryuuk had put his pencil to the Death Note.
His face still remains tightly controlled and impassive. As far as he is concerned, Light will never allow Ryuuk a triumph in that way.
But, from what he can see, that doesn't seem to matter. The situation simply needs to be probed and turned to his advantage.
He stands up and moves to walk to lean on the tree that Ryuuk has perched himself in.
Light has scarcely taken a step when a raspy, feminine voice whispers in his ear, "You must be our new entertainment."
Startled, he turns around to see a child-sized Shinigami wearing a skull mask and a gray tattered robe.
She smiles not at all pleasantly before looking beyond him and saying, "So this your human, Ryuuk? Funny, doesn't seem to know he's marked."
Ryuuk chuckles and responds, "Didn't tell him."
This exchange sends up a warning flag within Light's head. In a moment his thoughts hurtle through his brain, trying to parse the ambiguities that are arise for their conversation. To logically piece their scheme together word by word.
His face, however, remains utterly placid. Light strains to pick up every detail and nuance, lest some useful information be uttered while they believe he is somehow frightened of the veiled threat in their voices.
"That would explain things…" It was half a mumble that Light was barely able to catch. "Good work, Ryuuk," she continued on, "you've made things interesting now."
"Did he ask about Light?"
"He most certainly did, and it's ironic…your human is the reason why we have access to him."
Light is sure they are making sport of him. Taunting him with unidentified pronouns and half-formed thoughts that can't be applied to anything but conjecture.
Ryuuk disjointedly shrugs, "Rules are the rules."
The small Shinigami gives a jarring sort of giggle.
Hearing the noise – like metal rasping against metal – Light feels his serious frown waver for a moment.
But all he has to do is remain calm until he can manipulate the situation.
This is all he must do.
"Thank you, Ryuuk. It has been awhile since I've had any fun…the last few marked humans didn't have any imagination or….any valuable acquaintances."
Ryuuk chuckles back at her, stretching his wings out lazily. "You don't realize how much fun Light is, Quez. He's the reason you got those."
Now she begins laughing outright – a deep and throaty gurgling sound – before slowly moving around the human.
For a few moments his mask utterly fractures. Light hopes that neither of them notices.
"Funny something like you could use the Death Note as you did," she says, addressing him again, "You're quite…famous…around here. Maybe even, you might say, infamous. Now I have an ickle celebrity."
She grins with a mouth full of sharp daggers and odors of decay. Suddenly, she thumps him heartily upon the back.
"Eh, Light? You and I are going to have fun…" she sniggered, "or maybe only I will have fun…and him, too. Now say goodbye to Ryuuk, you may not see him again…"
She swallows the end of the comment, but to Light's well disguised horror it sounds as if she said, "in one piece." Ryuuk simply chuckles.
"I don't think that will be necessary," Light responds calmly.
He works to remain the very picture of composure.
"Still the god even when you're in a corner, eh Light?" goads Ryuuk, his face full of undiluted joy, "I'm gonna miss the apples…so…juicy."
Light feigns utter disinterest in the proceedings and the entire strange conversation. Rather, he waves his hand at the grinning Shinigami and begins to walk after the new one. What he has gleaned was the fact that he was under the dominion of the Shinigami now, at least this one. He brushes the part of his back off where she has touched disdainfully.
…And then he feels an utter abnormality in his calculations.
On his back, unnoticed previous to this moment, are the stunted beginnings of black, feathery wings.
He walks on, above all not wanting to give Ryuuk the satisfaction of seeing his facial expression, but hearing the damned creature's laughter echoing all the while behind him.
Looking over at his new companion, he finds her grinning so broadly that her small black eyes are squinted together in boundless mirth.
"Marked," is the only thing she'll say.
Light masters himself immediately. He needs to gain perspective on the situation. The fact that he is…marked…is something he merely has to mitigate and understand before conquering. He will not be so easily defeated.
"So Quez," his voice speaks her name without even the barest hesitance, "Are all you Shinigami as reticent to explain things as Ryuuk?"
Gurgling laughter answers him. It continues for a moment before she answers, "The smart ones are."
"I suppose you are one of the smart ones."
"Interesting notion, human," she pauses before drawling on, "You are certainly calm for a marked one."
Light frowns. It appears as if she might be more of a problem than Ryuuk. He feels as if she is merely baiting him, daring him to ask direct questions that he knows she won't answer. She is a Shinigami, after all.
"I have no reason not to be calm."
"Ah, your blood is still hot even when it doesn't flow anymore, human."
There is a short hesitance at this response, but he quickly recovers. No advantage can be given up, no weakness revealed.
So, he is indeed dead…and, as Ryuuk and another Shinigami are in this place as well, he assumes that this must indeed be the world of the Shinigami. From now on he will simply have to stab around in the dark for answers.
However, Light hates above all things to grope blindly around.
"I gather that the Great One Ryuuk has spoken about will see me for my use of a Death Note."
This elicits an entire deluge of laughter from his companion.
"Why would he want anything to do with a trifle like you? You'd detract from his gambling, although, you are a novelty…but as you know, such things wear off very quickly."
Light knows then that he has lied to himself. What he hates above all is not being made to grope blindly about…it is being made a fool of.
"Human, although it's amusing for you to wallow in your self-importance, I actually almost feel sorry for you – mostly because you are so amusing, mind you – so I will tell you that you are off to judgment."
"And I am marked to become a Shinigami due to this judgment."
Light says this with cold certainty. The wings – wings that he had once joked with Ryuuk about bargaining for – seem to logically prove this.
She makes an odd wheezing noise and only answers, "You are more and more entertaining…no wonder Ryuuk spent all that time down there in the human world."
They trudge on in silence for what seems to be a few miles before coming to a structure that was wholly composed of bones. Two skeletons, each with a pair of gold wings that are crusted over with dust and grime, line the open door arch. Quez gestures that he should go inside.
"Here is where I leave you to judgment," she says, halting at the end of the entrance hall where a ragged curtain hangs, "But you are Kira and therefore no stranger to…justice."
Her laughter and oblique warning - both grating and horrible in their own ways - echo bizarrely as he walks forward. His instincts tell him that there is an almost full certainty that he is walking into a trap. But it is unavoidable…he will just have to manipulate the situation he finds to the best of his advantage.
On the inside of the structure, Light finds himself in total sensory deprivation.
Black. Pitch black.
He vaguely thinks that he feels small stirrings beside him. Changes in the air flow. Movement in the utter darkness.
Whispers. Echoes. The barest Echoes of whispers.
And a quiet rattling.
The rattling of breaths being drawn in a thousand throats parched of air and buried and caked with dirt.
And finally, words.
A faint whisper in a half familiar voice that can't be logically parsed or deduced into a finite compartment in the inky darkness.
"A crazy mass murderer."
Remain calm and think.
And a clear, impossible voice. Utterly impossible.
"After death our destination is nothingness."
And suddenly there are lights. Cold and icy and unmercifully bright, bringing a thousand shadows stretching forth to gather at his feet.
Suddenly there is a well-known form. Hunched over and familiar in profile. A voice that shouldn't be there attached to an equally illogical person who is observing his own hand with its long thin fingers as a curiosity and is – almost criminally - entirely bereft of sweets.
Behind him is a hall of constructed of a thousand faces. A thousand bodies. Ones Light has seen on the television screen and in newspapers. Names and details of their deaths he knows by heart like any formula he memorized in his earlier days as a high school student.
Each one a marking in their own peculiar way.
Raye Penbar. Stony faced and silent.
Lindl L Taylor.
The fragile old Watari.
Criminals who dashed out nonsensical notes and strange symbols upon the walls of their own cell as part of his divine plot.
Sacrifices on the altar of Kira.
Thousands and thousands of faces crowned by a single familiar one.
Light believes, as he has always believed in his own unassailable logic, that he has figured out what exactly it means to be marked…at least he has deduced what he has been marked for.
"What…are you doing here…?"
It is all he can think to say.
The person who appears to be L, who he is sure is quite dead – but he thought he was also quite dead – merely glances up with his usual sort of detached interest.
"It is interesting, this equality of death," he says, a blank stare emerging from his eyes as if he is there and not quite there and liminally in and out of himself all at once, "Unquantifiable."
Now, Light finds that he is only capable of gaping.
Suddenly, deftly, his former rival hops up and, standing in that same hunched over posture that Light remembers seeing sometimes in blurred images and half recalled memories in his dreams and proclaims, "It was only one percent. Well played."
L starts to clap. Impishly. Impudently.
No one else moves. The thousand people train their vacant and still knowing stares at him as L spouts nonsensical numbers and formulas.
"Even though I knew and only couldn't quantify that one percent."
He walks very close to Light and looking him unflinchingly in the face uses the even voice that Light is used to him giving explanations in, "Death is equal. We go to nothingness….interesting nothingness."
It occurs to him somewhere that it seems that L has won, just as Near has won. However, due to the circumstances of the situation, he finds the swaggering brags about his godliness stick in his throat and he is unable to summon even any semblance of righteous anger.
It is close to a scream. There's no evidence to hide anymore. Somewhere his mind tells him that he may scream because there's nothing to be compromised from such an act.
L looks thoughtful, looking upwards and returning to his perch in front of the mob of the empty and horribly familiar.
…Light thinks that he sees the silently brooding presence of his own father among the masses. He does not have time to rationalize any of this out because L answers with his customary flippancy.
"It is time to make things equal," and then he adds, wriggling his fingers about as if they are an infinitely unfamiliar and novel distraction, "and I hate to lose."
The last part has quite an ominous tinge to it. Light decides that he would like to ignore it in favor of a situation he might manage and control. Even one that has gone beyond what even L would refer to as quantifiable.
"Ryuuk has told me that everything in death is equal. There is no Heaven and Hell."
Sticking a finger in his mouth he answers, "That may very well be…I can't recall being anywhere else between…" he twirls something between his fingers that looks like a bone, "But nothing has been equal."
The logic does not add up. A detached part of his mind thinks, with misplaced pride, that L's deductive capabilities have been hindered.
"You" he says, stabbing the air with a long finger while rubbing one foot against a leg, "Have not seen justice. Death has not been equal so far."
For the first time there is a sneering murmur behind him.
He hears distinctly "Kira is justice" and "Kira is the god of the new world" tossed about with sadistic, bloodthirsty derision.
Light feels naked with no recourse to turn to. There is no Death Note. Nothing between him. Nothing to give him any sort of advantage.
"I merely gave justice! Kira was justice!" He manages to shout, feeling a desperate sense of being unhinged from somewhere deep inside.
Now he finds himself screaming. Hoarse, ragged, and shrill.
L grins and says, "Death is equal. That is justice enough."
Suddenly above him there is a horrible cacophony of laughter that belongs to no human voice, dead or alive.
Above him hang hundreds of Shinigami, hovering on wings of feather and leather and scales.
Ryuuk is laughing the loudest.
"They want justice for the god."
Quez shows an entire mouth full of shiny teeth and adds her horrid chortle to it.
"It is equal. Death is equal. And being so," there is another chorus of horrible laughter and Light finds himself crouched on all fours, screaming and covering his head, at last as the faces of thousands of criminals swim around him and the scarred and grotesque faces of the Shinigami hover above him, "Those who a human kills with a Death Note can equal Death out later…"
Naomi Misora - vibrant with hatred and dull with a corporeal pallor all at once - stands over him and says, "You reap death when you sow it."
And suddenly they are all lunging for him and he is being carried somewhere.
Before Light understands and can calculate, he finds that he can see the entire world beneath him and his head stands just over the breach between the human world and the desiccated land he is in now.
Light can see everything. Kira's entire glorious empire spread out beneath him.
Misa leading a hundred white robed individuals shouting for him in her wake, bringing candles for their god. The world halting briefly as they recognize the power of Kira. The god. The god of their new world.
Light laughs, despite the cloud of dead faces and stench of decay that emanates from the creatures about him.
And for one ephemerally sweet moment, he realizes that he has won despite it all.
Kira and Yagami Light are the ultimate victors. He is a god still despite their accusations and best efforts. His justice still prevails.
He laughs because he knows he will not be eradicated.
And in the next moment the Shinigami above him have dived down onto him and have grabbed the stunted beginnings of his wings and have begun to pull and rip and annihilate.
And suddenly with a sickening crunch and a tearing of something he recognizes to be his own flesh, the mark is removed.
Within the blasting discordant noise, Light is dimly aware of a sudden, ephemeral burst of searing pain.
Quez's and Ryuuk's laughter join in a horrible chorus and one of them – he can no longer differentiate between them…or if that even is their laughter.
Then there is a jarring change.
Silence beside the crushing masses of noise and humanity and gods of death that were suffocatingly jammed around him, jeering and laughing and doling out their justice and making god atone for his sins.
And he feels himself slowly separating there as he is watching the world beneath him and he feels as his soul slowly leaves. The last thing he is internally aware of is a bright flash – a deep, apple red – before he is forcefully cast outward.
But his consciousness - what is irrationally and inexplicably left of it - remains unflinchingly trained on the world beneath him and all that is left is a paralyzed inundation of facts and images before him that cannot be filtered out.
It is a thousand deaths by sound and vision and texture and taste and stimulation.
He becomes unaware that his own flesh has rotted away beneath him into thousand of particles of sand and dust and, for their own especial amusement, the Shinigami have placed gold and jewels of dubious honor over his bones.
Unbeknownst to him, his finger bones have been taken for use in a gambling game they use to stave off boredom.
Amidst the constant torrent of the world he is only dimly aware of their laughter and he is swiftly forgotten as its source.
Novelties do not last long.
Misa has long ago died at a very early age. Tragedy, he hears whispered by a hundred voices. Good riddance by others. Violently murdered as Kira's high priestess.
He watches as, one by one, the marchers fall away and his name falls at first into whispered disdain and then out of waking memory entirely.
Kira becomes a ghost and he is unblinkingly and unflinchingly observing his own annihilation and the rotted world that he had molded within his own hands fall back into the an unfathomable abyss.
And he is forgotten.
Myth at best. But only rarely even remembered as such.
Yagami Light is only a fine dusty residue on a few pages of history.
Kira has been purged and he witnesses his own eradication.
And what is left of Yagami Light – which is very little because he has been stripped of all but the most acute awareness of anything but the world beneath him - understands the nothingness that humans descend into upon death.
Light watches his own death drag out within the world before him and repeat itself over thousands of generations until he is nothing but a myth recollected in a few archaic fragments of language and moldy pieces of parchment.
Those are all the debris left of the god of the new world.
And still he watches as justice continues on.
And Light is aware of everything.
Definition from the Oxford American Dictionary electronic edition.
A/N: This is my first serious foray into the world of Death Note…I've done a few quick character sketches and gag pieces, but I've never done anything of this length and seriousness.
This piece has been kicking around since…probably December. I knew vaguely where I wanted to go…but getting there got vaguely muddled by life and lack of time and such.
If you are wondering why its entirely in present tense, it is because I wanted to place the reader right alongside Light and make it apparent that he is thinking / acting as events unfold. The person reading knows just as much as he does.
This is also why there is a marked change in language at the fics end. As Light goes a little (more) crazy, the sentences are fragmentary and more declaratory than the more complex ones at the beginning. Moreover, there's less of an attempt to logically parse things, towards the end. They are more impressions and quick images than rationalizations.
I also wanted to make the greatest punishment to Light knowledge. Yes, it's a rather violent bringing it about and its largely inactive. But being forgotten and eradicated is a far worse fate for him, in my opinion, than any active torment.
Finally, thanks again to lj user"yatsuka" for the beta job. Love!
Comments are also love…and I'll have lots of nerdy discussions or just say random things if prompted.
Hope you enjoyed!