In Death's Shadow
"Every day is the same thing over and over…" Ryuk muttered to himself, taking in the entirety of the unimpressive bareness that was his home. He waited, solitary, counting the minutes by in his head, a vigil uninterrupted for five days. Lazy Shinigami were strewn about from one wall to the other; the entire realm seemed to be situated within a deep cavern, the only exit from which was the portal to the human world. Two other Shinigami lounged over to one side, gambling away their life on bones.
"Two sideways skulls," the one with the scythe proclaimed. "I win again." His opponent, the one with the cattle skull for a head, waved it off with a grunt. He still had plenty of years left to gamble, though he was a poor gambler. It was mostly a way to pass the time.
Ryuk rose slowly, like a machine that hadn't been oiled in a long time. "Time to go check it out," he announced to no one in particular.
Deridovely, the Shinigami with the scythe, heard him speak. "Huh? Where ya going, Ryuk?" He seemed genuinely curious about a Shinigami going someplace; he hadn't actually moved from the gambling area with Gukku in days.
"Yeah," Gukku agreed. "The Shinigami World is barren no matter where you go!"
While such a reminder might have worked on another Shinigami, Ryuk shrugged it off. "I lost my Death Note."
"What? How clumsy can you get? Wait a minute," Gukku remembered. "Didn't you manage to trick the Shinigami king into giving you a new one? Did you lose both?" But Ryuk didn't answer, so Deridovely tried.
"Do you remember where you dropped it?"
"The human world," Ryuk replied with a toothy grin.
Shinji turned at Rei's voice. Even through the cacophony of students leaving school, he could always make out her low, strained voice. "Oh, uh, hi Rei." A smile tried its best to form on his face, but chickened out halfway, leaving him with an awkward half-smile that he quickly dropped. Rei remained her usual impassive self.
"You dropped this." She thrust a black notebook at him. It wasn't his.
"That's not mine, Rei."
"It must be," she insisted. "I saw it fall beside you. You dropped it and now I am returning it to you. This is what friends do." Ever since the defeat of Ramiel, the two of them had both attempted to become friendlier. Attempted. So far, they had only succeeded in making things slightly less awkward when they spoke. At least now he was comfortable in her presence; and she seemed fine in his.
He hesitated. "Thank you, but it really isn't mine. Maybe it belongs to somebody else. I dunno, maybe it fell from higher up?" That was unlikely. The tallest object around was a tree; there was no way a notebook could just fall from the second floor or roof and land right behind him and Rei not realize this.
Rei's eyes narrowed just so, suspicious. He took the book anyway. "I'll keep it until we find the proper owner, ok, Rei?" Rei held on a moment longer before relaxing her grip.
"Yes. That would be best."
She was still uncomfortable. "Should we walk to base together?"
A rare Rei smile. "Yes. I would like that."
"Death…Note?" It was evening in Tokyo-3, and Shinji was home alone with Pen-Pen while Misato worked late at NERV again. The two of them shared a home-cooked meal courtesy of Shinji while they contemplated the notebook. "Like…a notebook of death?"
"I don't know, Pen-Pen. Maybe connected to shinigami legends?" That's when it occurred to him. "Why is it written in English?" Opening the cover revealed a set of instructions also written in English. "The...human…whose name is written…shall die…gah, I can't read all of this. But I guess if I write someone's name in this notebook, they're supposed to die. Something about their face…maybe to prevent similar names from intereacting?" He puzzled through the rest of the rules. "Forty seconds…cause of death. If not, heart attack. Details in six and a half minutes…wow, this is really detailed. Think it could be a prank?"
"Too elaborate. I don't like it. I should get rid of this thing; it feels like bad luck holding it." Underneath his mattress would be a decent place to hide this from Misato, at least until he figured out what to do with it. There was no way he could tell Toji or Kensuke about this. But Rei…she was the one who found it originally. But she gave it to him, likely without knowing what it even was.
No, this was his little secret for now.
The front door slid open with a snick, followed by an exuberant "I'm home!" from his guardian, Misato Katsuragi.
"Welcome home! I made dinner."
"You're awful cheery today," she feigned suspicion. "Did you break something, or are you trying to schmooze me?" A fresh beer appeared in her hand, open and half drained.
"I just had a good day." It wasn't a complete lie.
Ryuk let the thermals carry him in a gentle downward spiral, taking in all of the human city of Tokyo-3. Human history wasn't exactly something he was interested in. Sure, he spied on them every now and then, casually choosing which mortal would be sacrificed in order for him to continue living eternally, but there was just so much of the planet crawling with the hairless apes that he gave up on following politics millennia ago.
All he knew from asking Armonia Justin Beyondormason was that a decade and a half ago, the planet was devastated by a massive explosion at the southern geographic pole. Half of humanity was wiped out and they've spent the rest of the years rebuilding. Somehow it shifted the tilt of the planet, giving Japan nearly year-round summers, which was a drastic difference from the shinigami world, much to Ryuk's enjoyment.
If only he'd had his stoke of brilliance during the wars that followed Second Impact, as the humans were calling the event. If he had devised this plan then, oh, imagine the fun he could have had. At least he was in a city that experienced some action on a regular basis. Justin the Jewel Skeleton had confirmed that three giant monsters had attacked Tokyo-3 in the last month or so, and the humans had countered with giant robots.
Interesting seemed an understatement.
Something large and blue caught his eye, and he decided to investigate. Perched on a telephone line, the scene made little sense. The blue mass looked vaguely metallic, but seemed to absorb light, instead of reflecting it. It must have been huge. Probably 90% of it had already been hauled away, which still left a building sized structure, surrounded by several blocks worth of deconstruction crews.
"What a monster," Ryuk muttered before taking off again.
After a few more hours of aimlessly gliding about, Ryuk finally zeroed in on the source of the Death Note's power: a nondescript apartment complex near the edge of the city's center. He swooped down and passed through the exterior to a plain-looking room. The bed was neatly made; the desk only had a few books and papers on it. No seemed to have disturbed the solitude. It reminded him of the Shinigami realm.
He took the air once more and circled the apartment until the owner came home, a vulture waiting for the dying animal to breathe its last.
Shinji skipped dinner and went straight to bed that night. It had been a stressful day. No angels and descended upon Tokyo-3 today. No, it was something else this time, something man-made. Jet Alone, the prototype for a nuclear-powered giant robot intended to replace the Evangelions. Jet Alone had been autonomous, while the Evas were piloted. In theory, an unmanned craft was better since it both eliminated human error and did not endanger a teenager pilot.
Jet Alone's core malfunctioned and the thing went haywire, charging headlong towards a heavily populated area while the nuclear core quickly overheated. Only Misato's infiltration of the hulking machine had saved the day just in time. Things looked good for NERV and bad for Japan Heavy Chemical Industries. But Misato was silent on the ride home. Brooding. "Something wasn't right about that," she confessed to him. "I didn't do anything."
Admittedly it was too close for comfort, and the timing of the reactor shutdown was near perfect…was Misato thinking sabotage? Would NERV do that? Shinji banished the image of his father by turning onto his side and hiding his head beneath a pillow. Gendo Ikari was certainly not above sabotage.
"Well, how are you enjoying it?"
Upon the windowsill, right above his bed, a monstrous creature with a pale, leathery face and bulging puppet eyes waited. Too many teeth were crammed into an overlarge mouth seemingly stuck in a perpetual Glasgow smile. The face itself appeared to be a mask sewn on to the body of the creature, or perhaps overtop of another face.
"Shinji! Are you alright?" The door slid open and Misato appeared in the doorway, more like a protective older sister than a mother, no matter how hard she tried. "What happened? What's wrong?"
How could she not see the monster? It was right there! Logic rapidly overrode fear in Shinji's mind, no that he was aware of not being dead. Quite clearly whatever he was seeing was both invisible and inaudible to her, since it kept asking "Who's that?" in his ear over and over.
He screwed up his face into an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I guess I must have dozed off and had a nightmare or something. Maybe I'm still shaken up over the whole Jet Alone incident."
Relief flooded Misato's face. "Is that all?" Then, "Shaken up over what? It's not like it was an Angel or anything."
"I know, but I thought…you might have been killed inside Jet Alone." He flushed red and turned away. "It's dumb. Sorry." He wasn't acting anymore.
Crouching down to his level, she ruffled his hair gently. "No, it's not dumb to be worried about me. I worry about you, Shinji. Every time you get into the Eva, I'm afraid I might lose you. You're not my kid or anything, but I do take care of you – I'm supposed to at least. So I definitely feel that worry whenever an Angel appears." After a pause she added, "And that's not just because it's my duty."
In truth, he felt a lot better now and he would have smiled, were he not staring directly into the hideous face of the invisible monster. "I know you can see me," the monster said. "But CAN YOU HEAR ME? I AM SHINIGAMI RYUK, A GOD OF DEATH. DON'T YOU IGNORE E. I DON'T LIKE IT. Hm, did I give the note to a deaf kid?"
He must have shown any relief on his face because Misato then asked, "Do you want me to make you some dinner?"
Stomach juices curdled at the memory of her microwaveable catastrophes. "Ah, no, no, that's alright. I'll make something in a little bit."
"Alright. I'll leave you be for now. I have some paperwork to do anyway." Still, she seemed unconvinced by his happy act, but she left him anyway.
"She's gone now," the monster observed. "Can we talk now?"
Swallowing his fear and ignoring every instinct to run screaming out of the apartment, Shinji whispered. "What are you?" If the monster wanted to eat him, he would have done so already.
"Hehehe, I am a Shinigami. Do you know what that means?"
"A god of death. A being that takes the souls of the living to the afterlife."
"Very good, although not 100% correct. My name is Ryuk, Shinji Ikari, and I thank you for picking up my Death Note."
"How…how do you know my name?"
"Hehehe, all Shinigami can see the name and lifespan of any mortal just by looking at them. I'm not allowed to tell you how long you have left to live, but just know that I know exactly how much time you have left."
If he was trying to unsettle Shinji, it was working. "Why couldn't Misato see or hear you?"
"Because she hasn't touched my Death Note. Any mortal that touches a Death Note can see and hear Shinigami, but only them. Which is why I'm here: you have the Death Note, yes?"
Shinji nodded, still tense, and retrieved it from under the mattress.
"Have you tried it out yet?" Ryuk disappointedly found the notebook blank. In his experience, most humans wrote at least one name down before they lost their nerve.
"Too afraid it might actually work?"
A barely perceptible nod.
"Yeah, a lot of humans are like that." The Shinigami sighed. "And here I thought I would find someone interesting in the human world…why'd I have to give it to a worthless kid like this?" Barely out of the gate, and already his plan was tripping over itself. "Tell ya what kid, if you don't want it anymore, I can take it back and erase all your memories of ever having the Death Note. You won't remember it or me. Whatdya say?" It wasn't too late to salvage the plan.
"R-Really?" He couldn't believe it, was it that easy?
"Of course. We can't have humans running around with knowledge of the Shinigami. It would upset the balance of the worlds or something apocalyptic like that. I dunno, they're the Shinigami King's rules and we have to obey them or else." There was no need to explain 'or else'. "So? Want me to take it back?"
"Yes. Please." He held out the black notebook to the Shinigami.
"Excellent. Now I can give it to someone else, someone more interesting – someone who might actually use the Note." Right as he was about to take the book, Shinji jerked it back.
"Wait. You'll give it to someone else? Someone who might actually…write names in it?"
"Grr. Yes. Someone other than you might actually use the Death Note to kill people." The smile faltered slightly. "You're a boring person. Are you returning it or not?"
"What happens if I keep it?"
Ryuk exhaled heavily. "Then it's yours to do with as you please. Use it or don't. Burn it, bury it, dance around with it, whatever. But all the while, I have to stay with you until you die or return the notebook – whichever comes first." He tilted his head. "Does this mean you're keeping it?"
"Only…only so that someone else doesn't kill people with it."
"Even if it means me following you around all the time?"
A long pause. "Yes."
"Hehehe. Very well. You'll use it eventually. They all do. Hehehe."
Shinji returned the Death Note to its hiding place, deciding he would have to find a better spot later. Ryuk made himself comfortable on the bed. "Well, since we'll be hanging around each other for a while, I might as well make sure you're clear on the rules, kid." He took the silence as assent. "Obviously, anyone's name that's written in the book will die of a heart attack in forty seconds. You have to know the face, or else it won't work. You can write the cause of death within those forty seconds and then exact details within another six minutes. Got that?"
"Yeah, I understand. I read through the rules already. How come you wrote them in English and not Japanese?"
"I thought English was the most popular language – and I was right. You, at least, could read it. I didn't exactly pay attention to where I dropped it."
"Pah. This is going to be boring."
Ryuk hovered around Shinji as he made dinner, asking questions left and right. What kind of food is he making? What ingredients? What's this? What's that? Why won't you talk to me? When Misato and Pen-Pen joined them, Ryuk switched from hovering around Shinji, to hovering around Misato…studying her. After he became bored, Pen-Pen became the object of his interest for the remainder of the evening.
Shinji was asleep when Ryuk finally returned. He sat around the room for a few hours before leaving again to explore the rest of the apartment. Two hours later, he was bored again, so he decided to position himself in such a way that his face would be the first thing Shinji saw upon waking. That kid was so jumpy. He waited for what seemed like forever, but it was worth it.
Eventually Shinji became accustomed to Ryuk's presence over the next few days. The Shinigami followed the pilot around to school and did his best to either scare him or make him laugh. He hid around corners, phased through his desk, stole his clothes during gym, and even resorted to suddenly shouting loudly during class. When it became clear that wasn't going to work, he went to the front of the class and proceeded to make faces at him, the teacher, and the students. He mimicked the teacher, pretended to teach the class, but eventually gave up and just sort of floated over his shoulder.
"Why do you do that?" Shinji asked him one day.
"Try and make me laugh – or scare me? Don't Shinigami have better things to do?"
"You'd think so, kid, but no. Life in the Shinigami Realm is boring. All we do is sleep or gamble away years of our life. If you write a few human names in the note to extend your life, the others laugh at your for working so hard. Killing humans from the Shinigami world is boring, and writing Shinigami names doesn't do anything." He sighed. "So I figured I would have some fun here in the human world."
Shinji mulled this over. "So…you were bored? That's the only reason?"
"Hehe, pretty much."
Shinji frowned but said nothing.
Ryuk even followed him to synchronization test, although Shinji was apprehensive about it. Was it alright to let a god of death free in such a secret military installation? Probably not, but then neither was having two fourteen year-olds pilot giant robots. To his credit, Ryuk stayed near Shinji most of the time. He answered what questions he could about the Evas, NERV, the Angels, Second Impact.
"An Angel in the South Pole?"
"Yeah, Misato only just told me about it recently. Most of the world thinks it was a meteor impact, but that's just a cover-up."
"Hehehe, even Justin didn't know about Adam," Ryuk chuckled.
"Armonia Justin Beyondormason. Justin the Jewel Skelton. Another Shinigami. He's the expert on Death Notes and the Shinigami King's right hand man. A bit conceited and he likes his rules. He's the one who briefed me on the status of the human world before I arrived."
"Do all Shinigami have strange names?"
Ryuk tilted his head back and forth. "Yes and no. A lot of us choose our names. Some of us are simple, like me and Rem and Sidoh. But then there's those like Justin and Kinddara Guivelostain who have to be fancy."
"The Shinigami Realm is different than I would have thought," Shinji said later.
"Is that so? What did you expect?"
"I don't know, but not what you described."
"Well, the human world isn't what I imagined either. Giant machines fighting giant monsters; it's pretty interesting – or it would be if only you were more interesting."
Shinji grumbled but before he could respond, Rei rounded the corner. "Oh, hey, Rei."
"Hello, Ikari. Who are you talking to?"
"Huh, uh, nobody." Oh no, how much did she hear?
"Nobody," she repeated, as though she tasting the word to make sure it was right. "Yes. Nobody." Did her eyes flick to the upper right, where Ryuk hovered? No, they couldn't have. "Tomorrow the Second Child will arrive as will Evangelion Unit 02." That passed as casual conversation for Rei.
"Oh, that's right. Misato is taking us along for the handover. We're going to tour the Pacific Fleet's Over the Rainbow. Are you coming with us?" Toji and Kensuke and even Pen-Pen were going.
"No," she said uncertainly. "I have…I am busy. Major Katsuragi already knows; I thought you were aware as well. I thank you for the invitation, but I must be going. Good day, Ikari."
"Maybe this Second Child will be friendlier to you," Ryuk said.
Shinji waited until Rei was out of earshot. "Rei is friendly. She's just…quiet."
"Awkward." Ryuk substituted. "But it's none of my business."
It wasn't until much later that night that Ryuk realized something about what Rei had said: "Who are you talking to?" not "Who were you talking to?" He puzzled over that for a bit before getting bored and setting himself up to scare Shinji upon waking again.
Ryuk didn't pay that much attention to anything onboard the Over the Rainbow. Standing on the boat made him feel sick (he didn't even know Shinigami could get motion sickness), so he flew around most of the time. The Second Child – Asuka Langley Soryu – he liked her. She was fiery, judgmental, and German and he wished she had been the one to pick up his Death Note instead of Shinji.
She was pretty quick to show off her Eva, which, for Ryuk, was the first one he got to see up close. Shinji's Eva was always closed off and partially submerged. When they practiced, it was in simulators. This one, though, was bright red, which made Ryuk grin even wider. He liked red.
Suddenly alarms were going off. Something was out in the water, an Angel a crewman said.
Ryuk was intrigued. He followed Shinji and Asuka while they changed into equally bright red, Plug Suits and would have also followed them into the Entry Plug had it not looked crowed already. Also he wasn't sure if he could breathe in the LCL. So, he gripped the right shoulder pylon tightly and rode the Evangelion into battle with the Angel.
He loved every minute of it.
"I'd say that was very interesting," Ryuk wheezed once he was sure Shinji would respond. "I can't stop laughing whenever I think about it. Life as a Shinigami is so mind numbingly dull – that was the most excitement I've ever had; at least since ancient Babylon."
"Well, I'm glad you had fun," Shinji snapped uncharacteristically.
"What? Are you still upset about looking like a girl in the Plug Suit? I thought was pretty funny."
Shinji reddened at the memory. Ryuk continued to talk as the boy lay in bed.
"But still, I thought Angels were supposed to look kind of like me" he spread his wings "but more like humans and with nicer clothes." He stood there for a bit, studying himself. Shinji recalled seeing an old version of The Wizard of Oz, and thought Ryuk looked like one of the flying monkeys. Whatever the Shinigami saw in himself, he wasn't sharing.
"Have you ever seen a real angel?" Shinji ventured. "Like, the nice ones with wings and stuff."
"Hehehe, it's been a long time since anyone asked me that. Gods of death and messengers of Heaven don't usually cross paths much. Not anymore." It wasn't much of an answer, but that was all the human was going to get.
Shinji rolled over. "I'm going to sleep early, Ryuk. I still have to go to school in the morning."
Still overjoyed at the day's excitement, Ryuk didn't even both to scare him in the morning.
He was even more excited when Asuka appeared as a new classmate of Shinji's.
And then Misato revealed after school that Asuka was to be Shinji's new roommate.
Ryuk was so excited, he flew laps around the apartment.
"I don't want to talk about it," Shinji insisted later that night. The memory of the battle on the sea was one wasn't likely to live down. Toji and Kensuke certainly didn't let him on the VTOL ride back. Even Misato poked fun at him, but remarked how he and Asuka both broke their Synchronization ratios.
"Aww, you're no fun."
If he didn't act fast, Ryuk would start taunting him as well. "Ryuk, I've been thinking about this since the ride back, but, can you see the Angel's names and lifespans?"
"Huh? Whatdya mean?"
"You said that you can see the names and remaining life spans of humans, right?"
"So, can you do that for the Angels?"
"Hehehe, you know I've never tried. That last one was underwater most of the time, and you guys moved around so much that I didn't really get a good look." Ryuk recalled the battle, but couldn't remember if he'd seem the Angel's name or not. Maybe he had. But then, could he even? "Why? What are you thinking, Shinji?"
For some reason, Shinji became embarrassed. "N-Nothing. I was just…thinking that, maybe if I had the name of the Angel, I could…"
"You could write it in the Death Note," Ryuk finished.
"Hehehe, it's a good idea. Next time one shows up, I'll have a look. Or…you could?" Now seemed like a good time to mention the deal.
Shinji was suspicious instantly. "What do you mean?"
"I can give you the Eyes of the Shinigami – trade them, actually. You would be able to see anyone's name and remaining life just by looking at their face."
"You said trade. What's the catch?"
"Half of your remaining lifespan."
"Think it over. It might come in handy if you're ever in a real bind."
"I told you, Ryuk. I'm not going to use the Death Note to kill anyone."
'But you said you'd use it on an Angel."
"Oh? How? If it were a human, instead of a monster, that showed up to destroy the city and kill people, who you hesitate to use the Note to stop him?"
Shinji didn't have an answer for that. He fell asleep silently promising never to use the Death Note