A/N - This story came from the Plot Bunny Exchange as well, and the idea for this one came from TimeTravelFreak. See my profile for more details.
The Death Note
"Hooray, starting a new stage in life, becoming an adult, blah blah blah." Light Yagami mimicked the principal's closing speech to his graduating class on the way home. His mother and sister had left shortly thereafter to go shopping, and his father had missed it due to work. His graduation from high school, placing first in all of Japan this year, and he missed it.
It wasn't as though he wasn't used to disappointment, though. He had caught the train and was walking the last few blocks home in blissful solitude. The streets were empty since most people were finishing school or still at work, and he reveled in the quiet.
He didn't hate his family, really, but they got on his nerves lately with their inane questions about school, something he didn't care about even if he was good at it. He was only doing it to keep from getting bored, but his classmates didn't offer much by way of competition. If they had pulled their heads out of the sand long enough to see that there was a bigger world outside their petty concerns, they might have been more difficult to beat.
He unlocked the door to the house and toed off his shoes, saying "I'm home" to an empty house and heading up the stairs. Normally his mother was there waiting for him after his test results came in, an eager smile on her face and in her eyes as she reached out for the papers before he even got them out of his bag. She probably thought she had to be enthusiastic enough for both parents since his father was rarely home in time for dinner, much less in time to spend any quality time with the family. Sayu, his sister, was often out with friends doing who-knows-what downtown until long after dinner and was forever being reprimanded by their parents. Then she would pull the repentant act while she begged Light to help her with her homework in order to get it done before school the next day.
With a family like that and nothing to offer him a reprieve from boredom and irritation with the direction the world was headed in, no wonder he wasn't excited about graduating. Now he just had too much time to waste before his college classes started.
What did people do when they were so disappointed by reality that they longed to start school, of all things? School wasn't fun, it was just more drudgery.
If only something would fall out of the sky, something more interesting than this boring life. He was tired of it. Taking off his dress clothes, he put on a more comfortable pair of jeans and just collapsed on his bed, wondering if he could take a nap and magically wake up in a more positive mental state. Not likely, but it was worth a shot.
Several hours later, Light woke, still in the same frame of mind, so he rolled out of bed and pulled on a shirt before leaving his room. He flicked on the television and set about making dinner. His mother and sister were still out; he had a text message waiting from Sayu saying as much. His father wouldn't be home until much later either, so he threw some vegetables and chicken into the wok, intending to put it on the rice still sitting in the rice cooker from this morning.
He stood, poking blindly at his food while it cooked, his eyes on the news. Even if his life was dull, the news seldom was, for they wouldn't report on anything not worth listening to since they had ratings to worry about. His ears were faintly aware of the usual string of murders, political scandals, entertainment news, and environmental crises, but when an update came on about a video game, of all things, his ears perked up at the strangeness.
The reporter looked positively delighted as he extolled the virtues of this new virtual reality game by Wammy House that might finally hit shelves by late autumn that year. It was revolutionary, the first of its kind, and according to him, everyone was buzzing with excitement about it.
Light smirked. If he was part of this 'everyone' and he didn't even know it existed, this idiot had no right to say that everyone was excited. Advertising was a tissue of lies if people could run around spouting trite crap like that and expect everyone to believe it.
He turned off the heat and scooped the food out of the wok, served his rice, and sat down in front of the TV. It looked like they were doing a special on this game, for it was still running. What was this world coming to when a stupid video game made it on national news and occupied more than a 30-second time slot in the technology report? He didn't care quite enough to turn it off while he ate, for he knew that the other 100 channels only had mindless entertainment news, game shows, or… reality television. He shuddered just thinking about it.
They were interviewing several executives from the company about the game, and all they could talk about was how they were sinking millions into design and had some of the most advanced artificial intelligence the world had ever seen. It was a MMORPG, which Light only knew meant massive multiplayer online roleplaying game because that World of Warcraft game and its knockoffs had been circling the corpse of Japanese youth like a vulture for years now, sucking the life out of students and adults alike with its addictive properties. It was nothing he had ever been interested in, for he could see the reddened eyes and dark circles under the eyes of the students who couldn't stop playing long enough to study or sleep before coming into school the next day.
The fact that they didn't even explain that term was a testament to how pervasive its effects were. Light sighed and picked at the remains of his food, adding MMORPGs to society's growing list of sins against intelligence and common sense, which was headed by the aforementioned reality television.
His eyes started going out of focus while they were explaining about the game's properties and the beta testing going on all over the world. He sat for long moments, his brain refusing to acknowledge that this was it, this was the end of the world when games made it on the news instead of things that actually mattered.
The irony of that was that none of it mattered, at least to him.
The next day, Light rose later than he was accustomed to only because he didn't have school to worry about waking up for. His mother was awake and happily made him breakfast to make up for not being home for dinner, but his sister was asleep since her classes were over, and his father was at work already. Light had been thinking for years about becoming a detective like him, but him being gone so much was making him rethink that decision. Then again, he didn't really have anyone to be home for, so maybe it wouldn't bother him as much to have long work days.
He took the train downtown because he had nothing better to do and didn't want to stay home. Soichiro's job might be demanding, but at least it paid quite well so Light never had a shortage of spending money even if he didn't throw it away on a regular basis like his sister. The bookstore was his first stop, followed by a slow meandering path through some of the other districts as he glanced in store windows and debated if he needed any new clothes or something for his computer.
His favorite electronics store lay just ahead, but today there were balloons outside the store and a small crowd of people waiting to go inside, so there must be a sale going on. Light debated whether or not he wanted to go in when there were so many people, so he tried to find out if they were waiting for anything in particular.
"Is the line just to get inside?" he asked a man probably in his 30's when he got close to the end of the line.
"No, we're waiting to sign up for that game, the one that's been on the news so much." The man looked excited, almost breathless with the prospect.
"The VR one by Wammy House?" Light couldn't believe he knew enough to even ask that question.
"That's the one. The game's not on sale yet, but they're taking applications for beta testers here."
"Oh, is that so." Light barely kept from sighing in the man's face, which would have been rude. Instead, he bypassed the line and sidled in the door just to look at the merchandise. He tried to ignore all the chatter behind him as he looked at external hard drives for his computer. The sheer number of people in here was putting a damper on his mood, though, so he skimmed the shelves distractedly before contemplating just leaving.
"You're not signing up?" a slightly raspy voice behind him asked as he put back one of the products.
"No, I'm not. I'm not… interested…" Light turned, irritated, to meet the speaker before his voice trailed off. The man standing behind him was over 6 feet tall and almost as pale as milk. His pallor was only accentuated by the black eyeliner, lipstick, and the spiky ebony hair. Even his clothes were all black, a tight leather top with slashes in the sleeves and what looked like pants made out of belts or strips of leather atop clunky boots. It was a runaway from the Harajuku District if he ever saw one.
"You don't play video games?" The man smiled in a vaguely predatory manner and chuckled darkly, crossing one arm over his chest and fiddling with his heart-shaped earring with the other ghostly pale hand tipped in black fingernails. Light didn't like the way he was looking him over, like he was a piece of meat.
"No, I don't have time for that nonsense." He turned back to the display before him and tried to display a studious disinterest in the man.
"Don't give me the cold shoulder. I understand you completely," that creepy chuckle came again as the man leaned against the display beside him. Light glanced up and was about to tell him exactly where he could stick it when the man spoke again. "You look bored, and I have a proposition for you since you think all this is stupid." The freak of nature glanced over at the table where people were signing up for beta testing before looking back at Light, as though he didn't want to be seen. Light couldn't stop staring at the man's face despite his best efforts to look away, for he just looked so strange and out of place.
"If you truly think this is idiotic, call me. I have something you might like." He pulled a card out of nowhere, the slip of white and black paper appearing between his claw-like fingers.
"I'm not looking for a fix or whatever you're offering, now get lost." Light had never met a drug dealer with this kind of nerve, approaching someone in broad daylight in a store. For that matter, he had never even met a drug dealer before, since they didn't exactly hang around cram schools or his quiet suburban neighborhood.
"I'm not selling drugs!" that ghastly chuckle manifested again as the man laughed in genuine amusement. "I work for those idiots." He tilted his head toward the Wammy House's table.
"So what are you trying to sell me?" Light reluctantly turned from the display since this conversation was just too odd to ignore. "I already told you I'm not interested in that game."
"Absolutely nothing. I want to give you the game, in a sense. I need someone who thinks it's as boring and idiotic as it sounds."
"Well, you've got that part right. Why would I want it, though?"
"Come with me," the man gestured, heading for the front of the store. "C'mon, man, it's broad daylight. I'm not going to rob you." It wasn't getting robbed that Light was worried about, though, what with the leers the man was directing at him. Sighing, he left the store, wondering exactly what he was getting into by following a stranger around. He was just bored enough to contemplate taking this man up on his offer, whatever it was, for it was certainly outside the realm of his usual humdrum existence.
"Look," the man continued when he and Light were slightly up the street from the line of people. "I'm supposed to be finding testers for this game, but I'm on break right now. I saw that disgust on your face and figured I found what I was looking for. You ever played an online game before?"
"No," he answered shortly as the man started rolling his business card over the tops of his fingers, back and forth like it was a coin trick. "I don't do games at all."
"Perfect. I'm looking for someone inexperienced because the gamers get to be all the same after a while. All they want to do is level and kill things and buy stuff." Light eyeballed him while he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Would you be getting to the point of this anytime soon?"
"Hehe, I needed someone arrogant too, and it looks like I found him. Look, don't leave." Light started to turn away, but turned back to humor him, though he couldn't fathom why. "I can see you're bored, and I'm offering a way out of that with this."
He brandished a mini-disk from his back pocket, unmarked in a clear case. He held it out to Light, and he took it, glancing at it with amusement.
"A disk? What is this, the Dark Ages?" He hadn't seen a disk since he was a child since everything was downloadable or streaming media these days.
"The game runs on disks, believe it or not. You install it into a headset of sorts that you wear while you're playing. This isn't available for sale, what I'm giving you."
"So what is it? And who are you, anyway?" The man smiled, and that expression made a chill run through Light.
"You can call me Ryuk, and this is the Death Note."
A/N - Next chapter should be up before too much longer, no worries about the brevity of this one. Believe it or not, having more stories to write does not affect my update speed for my other ones. I need to let the Muses recharge for a few days while I hash out the next chapter, and having more stories just gives me more to work on while they recharge. Wow, I said "more" a lot.
I've changed my writing style to suit the story so it reads more like young adult fiction, just to see if I can do it. I'm basing it off K.A. Applegate's "Everworld" series and Meg Cabot's "Princess Diaries", minus the first person perspective, of course. Let me know if it works, please?