I don't spoil stories, so there are no warnings other than the one explaining the rating.
I listen to different music to get in writing mode, and I'll post it at the top if I feel it's worth sharing.
Edit: This chapter was edited substantially in Dec 2020. See notes at the end of the chapter.
The news. A murder. Some older man apparently killed his much younger wife for cheating. He was in jail awaiting trial. Click.
Anime. "Code Geass?" It looked familiar. The dark-haired boy was shouting at his friend to listen to reason. Click.
Music awards. Ryuga Hideki was performing one of his better songs in one of his more tasteless outfits. Click.
A talk show. Something about exhibitionists and those that loved them. Click.
The news again. A bank robbery. No injuries. Click.
An interview. Political scandal. Click. Click. Click.
The television set threw its ubiquitous blue glare over the young man slumped in front of it. The images stopped registering to the glazed-over eyes and become mere colors that shifted as the channel changed. Details of each show became more insignificant until it turned to a drone in the background.
Static. Eyes blinked, but cognitive processes had ground to a halt.
Yagami Light, genius and top-scoring student at Tokyo University, decided that he was tired. That was why he couldn't fake an interest in the goings-on of the world around him. He couldn't even force his eyes to focus on the now-fuzzy bluish box in front of him. He wasn't tired enough to sleep. Just... drained.
Something broke through the haze surrounding him, and he dredged himself out of the thoughtless void he had sunken into. His eyes struggled to focus on the new object in the room until he realized it was his mother. He forced himself to sit up and look at her as he tried to figure out what she was saying.
"...time for dinner. Shouldn't you be studying during finals? Or at least watching the news and not some cartoons," she said.
He shifted his gaze back to the television only to see the anime that was playing before. One hundred, two hundred channels, and he had clicked mindlessly through them for the last hour or two. He couldn't remember when he had sat down out here, but it was darkening outside. His schoolbag was at his feet, though, so he must have come here straight from campus.
"Sorry, Mother. I was awake too long studying last night. I'm getting tired, I guess," he said.
Maybe he was tired; he didn't usually make such vague statements, choosing instead to be precise and always sound intelligent. He was slipping, so he pasted on one of his sheepish and slightly embarrassed smiles for his mother's sake so she didn't worry.
After grasping his schoolbag and heading up the stairs, he glanced into his sister's room as he passed by. Sayu was watching the music awards and talking on the phone to one of her friends, but she waved at him when she caught sight of him. She was cheerful and surrounded by color and noise. Magazines spread across her brightly colored quilt, and clothes were left on the floor. Her collections of stuffed animals and cell phone charms were scattered across her bookshelf and desk. It was cluttered but homey and comfortable looking.
He lifted a hand in salutation to her before stepping into his darkened room. The sterility of it seemed striking tonight, as if it might have come out of a catalog for all the personality it contained. Textbooks and reference manuals lined up neatly on his bookshelves, and his gray bedcovers made the bed itself indistinct in the shadows. Everything was put away, and there was nothing on any surface save his clock, computer, television, and pens. It was stark and utilitarian, but it was how he preferred it to be.
He set his bag by the door in its usual spot then flopped with a complete lack of his usual grace on top of his bedcovers. His eyes fell shut, and his breathing evened out, but he was far from sleepy. He just lacked the energy to do anything. It took too much effort to concentrate on anything, even the television, which was something anyone could stare at for hours. Even that had failed to rouse his interest, instead crushing it with its endless reports of real-life crime, trivial coverage of entertainment, and fabricated drama.
He was so tired. He didn't know if he could take it anymore.
"Something wrong with the fish, Light?" his mother asked not long after he made it back downstairs and to the dinner table.
Light blinked to get his eyes to focus and stared down at his mostly-full plate, his chin resting in his hand atop his immobile chopsticks. After a quick glance at his family's plates and bowls to see how far along in the meal they were, he made an effort to eat rather than drift in that thoughtless fog from earlier.
"No, nothing. It's delicious," he threw out without thinking about it.
The meal was adequate to keep hunger pangs away, that was all, but it wasn't her fault he was so out of sorts.
"Sorry, I was thinking about a problem on one of the practice exams," he added to explain his lapse.
"How many more exams do you have?" his father asked while he studied Light.
It was the first night that week that Soichiro had made it home in time for dinner. There must be a particularly difficult case commanding his attention; either that or he was being his usual workaholic self. As the Detective Superintendent of the National Police Agency, it was all too easy for him to be stuck working late.
"I have one more exam this week and one next Monday," Light said. He sat up straighter given that his father's eyes were on him too.
"You might want to sleep for a week once those are over," his father said with a concerned look.
"Not if he wants to graduate," Sayu added. "He'll have to wake up for the ceremony."
Light made himself smile because that was appropriate while he ate the fish on his plate. He didn't even know what it was when the taste and texture didn't register as anything worth noting.
He was so tired. Even eating didn't help him focus.
"How is the case coming along?" Light asked his father to shift the conversation away from him.
"Hrmm," Soichiro said with a glance at his wife, whose expression grew wintry. "There've been some… developments."
"So Otaharada won't get off again on a technicality?" Light asked, trying to recall which questions he had asked before so he didn't repeat them.
"I doubt it. The evidence this time is air-tight, but the crime is so minor by comparison. It's connecting him to those 'Shinjuku Killer' murders from six years ago before that kindergarten debacle that should put him away for good."
"What debacle?" Sayu asked while Sachiko sighed and left the table before heading into the kitchen.
"He took hostages at a preschool and killed some of the children and staff before police could move in," Light said.
"The Nursery Massacre? I thought they caught the guy responsible," Sayu said, pausing with her chopsticks against her mouth.
"They did," Light started, "but his lawyer made the case that antipsychotics were to blame, and then some eyewitnesses—"
"Dessert, anyone?" Sachiko interrupted, coming back in with a covered plate.
None of them had even finished their meals, but Soichiro coughed and Light closed his mouth.
A few minutes later, Sachiko was busy interrogating Sayu about her finals, giving them both a reprieve. Soichiro leaned toward Light and said under his breath, "We're getting some help with the case. A consulting investigator. He's… very good."
"Outside the NPA?" Light murmured back, one eye on his mother.
"Yes. He's private but we've worked with him before," his father said. "Otaharada will be convicted of everything this time. No slips."
"That's good," Light said.
Because he couldn't feign interest any longer, he just gave his father a hopeful look to close the conversation.
Of course Light cared about serial killers not being free to roam the streets because they paid off lawyers or had evidence tampered with, but it was hard to stay cognizant long enough to hold a conversation about it. In only a few weeks, that would be his full-time job too. Then he could also work late at a thankless job trying to ensure justice was done when so many ways existed for criminals to squirm out of it.
Sometimes he wondered why following in his father's footsteps had seemed like such a good idea.
Back when Light had been preparing to take his entrance exams for Tokyo University, he had gone to get his second or third cup of coffee after dinner when he overheard his parents talking in low voices in the kitchen. It sounded like more talk about how long Soichiro was at the headquarters every day. Not wanting to interrupt but also not wanting to eavesdrop, he listened long enough to make sure it wasn't a fight he was walking into before yawning theatrically and stepping into the kitchen.
His mother wiped an anxious look off her face and beamed at Light, telling him that he was such a hardworking student and that he made her proud. He smiled back at her because he honestly didn't know what to say. He couldn't tell his mother that he was only studying because he couldn't sleep, and he was too bored to do anything else.
His father gripped Light's shoulder before he could reach the coffee, leaving Light trapped there with a false smile on his face and an empty mug in his hand.
"Son, I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You can see what kind of hours this work demands, and that you would still choose to do it does you credit," his father said.
Feeling less like he had been complimented and more like a pawn being used in an argument between his parents, Light opted to brush off the comment for the sake of disentangling himself from this awkwardness.
"If the hours are anything like the ones I keep now, I'm sure I'll find it normal," Light said.
"Nevertheless, you may have to choose between the job and a family at some point. You might have someone like your mother to answer to about your hours."
"So I should marry another agent?" Light said, rolling his eyes once he turned toward the coffeepot.
"You might see more of her if you do," Sachiko said with a snort.
Soichiro said something that Light didn't hear when he dug in the ice maker for an ice cube. Light plunked it into his mug and started pouring coffee over it to cool it down. He glanced over only to see that his father was now holding his mother's hands while he spoke.
"It's because I love you all that I have to work these hours. This is how I can protect you," Soichiro said.
"I know that, but when we don't see you—" Sachiko said quietly.
"Good night," Light said quickly and walked out of the room, away from that mawkish display.
This was not a new topic of conversation for their family. Light had realized what working for the NPA would demand of his father and later himself, but unlike his mother, he had long ago stopped hoping for the situation to change. It was just how it was.
Light's father was his hero: distant, noble to a fault, hardworking, and on a pedestal that Light couldn't reach. The lack of intimacy with his own father was something Light believed was normal, and anyway, heroes were always at their best when viewed from a distance.
But then again, so was everyone else.
Up close, Light could see everyone's flaws; not to mention, up close he had to pay attention to other people. It did not come naturally, and it had become more and more tedious over the years. He had no interest anymore in garnering friends. They required too much work to keep up with, and they didn't offer him anything substantial in return. If he wanted superficial conversation, he could talk to his sister. She couldn't converse about philosophy or justice like his father, but she respected him the way he respected his father, so it made up for her lack of depth. It wasn't uncharitable to think that.
It was just… how it was.
Light pulled himself out of his reverie with difficulty while he headed up the stairs after finishing dinner. His mind had been wandering so much lately that he barely remembered leaving the table.
He found his way to his desk in the light from outside and opened one of his textbooks only to stare outside the window, the end of his mechanical pencil caught between his teeth. He had studied it all before, and he couldn't bear to look at it again. The occasional person passing in the street as well as the vehicles driving by held more interest. His eyes slowly drifted out of focus until everything outside the window turned to abstract shapes, just like the television earlier.
Several minutes or an hour later, Sayu's voice in the hallway made him blink back to awareness and realize that he hadn't even turned on his desk light. If his mother came to check on him or bring him anything, she would wonder what he was doing. He flicked the light on, ever a dutiful son, and paged through a magazine he had picked up earlier that week during a wander after class. None of the articles or images held any meaning for him, but he was so bored, so listless that his mind needed to process something.
His mind had been wandering of its own accord for years. Reality had failed to offer him anything challenging enough to pay attention to, and as a result, his mind had taken to grasping onto any shred of thought and running rampant with it. That left him pondering old memories about long-resolved issues or trying to stimulate his thoughts with anything to hand.
It would get better soon. He chose the NPA and specifically the intelligence department because he had to, not just because of his father's example. There he would find cases and mysteries and a workload to challenge even his superior intellect. He would find something to occupy his mind and his time, and it would take his attention away from the crushing weight of sheer boredom.
He was starting to think the work was the only thing that would save him.
A week later, Light's dreams came true on the day of his graduation ceremony.
He had wanted to join the NPA and work as his father did, as a detective assigned to Intelligence. In pursuit of that, he had aced the remainder of his final exams, graduated as the top-scoring student on record at Tokyo University, and practically walked into the NPA Director's office to be congratulated on his acceptance as their youngest agent. He had already negotiated his salary and even signed his contract weeks ago.
Light had fulfilled all the goals he had set for himself.
Rather than making him proud, thinking about it bored him to death.
They were perhaps the last challenges he would ever encounter, and they had come so easily. What was the point of being a genius, a prodigy, if nothing ever truly challenged his skills? It was as though his superior intellect was being insulted by only being tested through mediocre means.
He couldn't take it anymore.
Today's graduation ceremony was supposed to mark a day of change, but it only felt like more of the same drudgery under the fancy trappings and speeches and well wishes. His future stretched straight out ahead of him, lacking any twists or turns, and it was perfectly clear, even now, the path he would travel for the rest of his days.
He saw himself working with others lacking in intelligence and lacking the ambition to do better. He saw himself having to dumb down his speech and repeat himself to civilians and fellow detectives alike. He had worked with them before while still in high school; he knew what most of his future coworkers were like: smart, analytical, but stupid in comparison. It was hardly a charitable thought, but arrogance and ambition had been the only things driving him for years. It was hard to lay them aside when they were the only things that kept him going.
Now nothing drove him. His once lofty goals had come easily to him, and it was all for nothing.
Light had not found himself suddenly filled with purpose, with anticipation. Instead, he had woken that morning, like so many others, and wondered why he kept going. The listlessness had grown impossible to ignore.
Now that he had his goals in his grasp, he couldn't feel happy. He didn't even feel satisfied. He felt... hollow.
Perhaps it was time for it all to be over.
Light shook off that feeling, wondering where that thought had come from. It sounded too melodramatic to be anything of his own. His mother and sister watched too many dramas during dinner.
Surely that was the only reason such a ludicrous thought had crossed his mind.
A/N – (December 2020) This was the first chapter of my first story posted online, fanfiction or otherwise, and it was never meant to be as epic as it has become. Twelve years later, I came back and tried to make it less sloppy and artless. Perhaps the early, unedited version had its charm, but I was still learning to write for an audience bigger than myself. Maybe this also gets it more in line stylistically with my later chapters.
I am steadily cleaning up the other chapters, but there will be no revisions so profound as this one.