A.N: SPOILERS for the post-series one shot. You don't need to have read it to understand this chapter, but I still suggest you do - it gives a perspective on L that a lot of people have forgotten. It's on mangafox (google it), Volume XX, I believe.
THEE HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Around nine years later
London, United Kingdom
"Yeah. Vader's cool on his end to. But hey, you should see this. It's completely unrelated, but..."
"So he's really back?"
I ended the call and walked to the middle of the room, then remained immobile, thinking. The girls standing around me were equally as still and absorbed. They all looked eerily similar: hands in their pockets, black eyes focused in some point in the distance with a strange mix of intensity and distraction; dark eyelashes, slightly tanned skin; long black hair that almost reached their waist. A short, thin frame, which showed a hint of curves under the clean, comfortable clothes they wore. They looked about sixteen. Perhaps seventeen. Though their achievements far exceeded that age.
They had changed from when they were children, but not too much. They had braces. (The pain. The torture.) They no longer chewed on their hair or licked their fingers, but they still kept an elastic in their pocket. They still sneaked sweets from the pantry whenever they could, despite the braces. They took on many more and more difficult cases than they had in the past. I closed my eyes, knowing they would mimic.
The problem at hand required a fair amount of concentration. I took a deep breath, then opened my eyes, and in less than a second split my mind into all the different mirrors, each acquiring an individual role. Myself. Bishop. Kira. L. Near.
A new player. Perhaps Epsilon-Kira. No, Omega-Kira. If he deserved to be called Kira at all.
My room was bigger and more spacious than the one I had in Japan. The toys, Lego and chess pieces had been replaced by orderly Law books and stacks of papers and case folders, as well as various pieces of electronics. There wasn't much furniture, save for a huge double bed in one corner, and three computers side by side on the table against the far wall. All in all, the most prominent feature were the hundred or so mirrors, which occupied about ninety percent of the surface of the walls and ceiling. A hundred faces staring indifferently back at me. I glanced in between them, briefly meeting each in the eyes. Kira. L. Near. Through the window shone the pale sun of London, which was rare considering the time of the year.
To my surprise, I'd grown quite attached to this decadent city. Through the thick layer of consumerism and pathetic tourist attractions, I could still feel some pride in the oldest buildings, a fierce reminder of what it once was. When I got tired of my room and the mirrors I usually went for a walk through the eerily quiet downtown neighborhoods, feeling the heartbeat of the old city pulsing beneath my feet.
Olm had moved back to England first, some six years ago, forced by his parents - he had no say in the matter. Fate had it that three years later we moved too. Bonman had another mansion in London, bigger and less modest than the one in Japan, between the Spanish and New Zealand embassies. I'd started College here, at the age of thirteen. Now I was on the fourth year of my Law degree.
To my chagrin, Haru had remained in Japan with Inspector Gwenn and Anna. We still maintained a nearly-permanent open channel between our computers, so we could reach each other with the click of a button, usually early in the morning or late at night. Incidentally, he was also the one who'd sent me the video feed currently on mute on my screen, the one that had me in such deep concentration at the moment.
It appeared that, after four years of silence, Kira was back.
Not the usual Kira. This one only killed the elderly, and never through heart attacks - in fact, why people immediately assumed it was someone with Kira's powers was still a mystery to me. I knew it was possible, but they didn't. Much of that conviction originated in mere wishful thinking. My faith in humanity was momentarily dwindled by the observation.
I wondered what Near would do.
Omega-Kira was disgustingly easy to see through. A young, self-righteous hypocrite who believed he was doing Japan a favor by killing all the useless elderly. He didn't even have a grandiose goal or any kind of ideal. Kill the suffering old people in hospital who wouldn't live much longer anyway - it was a way of placating his guilty conscience, while at the same time attempting to recreate the personality cult to the previous Kira. It was repulsive. Pathetic. Weak. Bishop's face remained carefully neutral to these feelings, ascending to a superior layer to assess the situation objectively.
Sandra and Olm came into my room, interrupting my thoughts. They'd met again and, after a period of mutual hostility, were now together. I suppressed a shiver of disgust. Though to be fair, Olm had descended a few points in the idiocy-meter since we were children. Now his presence was minimally tolerable. "What's so important, then?" she asked impatiently. I nodded towards the computer, and she immediately zoomed in on it.
They were both nineteen now, and they had changed too. Sandra was turning into a very beautiful woman, though the playful and mischievous glint in her eyes had only intensified. If people had crowded around her before, it was nothing compared to now. The charisma, the physical appearance and the abundance of money had turned her into a social magnet - and she wasn't stupid, she used it well. Olm had grown much taller than the both of us, his English features clearly distinguishing him from our Japanese ones. His brown locks had become curlier and his eyes a darker shade of green, and he'd developed an entertaining sense of humor. "Ugh, you have such a creepy room," he commented, looking around at the mirrors, but his tone was joking, lacking the bite from before. "I always get the shivers when I walk in. Can't believe how vain you are."
"You're one to talk," I deadpanned.
He met my eyes and smiled, amused. "At least I don't feel the need to look at myself from three-hundred-and-sixty possible angles."
Sandra had already turned the sound back up.
"Kira is justice. He is a god who passes judgement on criminals, gives peace to the ailing elderly, and helps all people make their desires for a better world come true."
Sandra snorted. Olm was surprised. "He's back?" He stood behind Sandra and leaned forwards to better see the screen.
"From a few weeks ago, apparently," I obliged. "Now he kills the elderly."
"No, even if you say that the Kira who killed criminals was fair, you can't say that about the current Kira," someone on the other side of the debate retorted.
And so the discussion went on. Eventually Sandra and Olm got into an argument, as was inevitable. "Just how exactly is killing old people a good thing?" she demanded, obviously angry. "Bonman's old too, for God's sake! How can you even think it!"
Olm raised his arms defensively. "Look, I'm not saying it's a good thing. I'm just saying if you look at it a certain way you can understand why he does it. Besides, he's not killing all old people, only the ones that expressly ask to die through Internet videos. As far as I can tell that's not that bad." He frowned. "Though I really don't see what the motivation is."
Before she could retort things went insane. It started with a shout of "Hey, why only old people? I want to die too!" from one of the Kira supporters in the debate. The words were so absurd they shocked my mind into a state of incoherency. And within seconds all the Kira supporters had stood up, toppled over the screen that protected their anonymity, and were shouting into the camera that they wanted Kira to kill them. Their eyes were wide, mad, their skin pale, covered in sweat, and thin, shaky grins stretched across their faces from one ear to the other. The camera fell to the floor, but they picked it up and continued shouting into it, the image becoming a blur of mouths, bulging eyes and hands. "God, I beg of you, kill me!"
I didn't know what to think. I was too shocked to even think anything. And this was happening live? "This is happening live?" I asked to the room.
"Yes," Haru's voice replied through the speakers, sounding as shocked as I was. Oh. He was still there.
"Kill me, Kira! I don't have any hopes or dreams left! Please kill me, my God, and let me be at your side!"
What were these people saying?
"I changed my mind," Olm announced in disgusted awe. "This is just sick." The first of them clutched their chests, convulsed, and dropped. Dead. It restarted my brain and pushed it into overdrive.
Kira was back, unmistakably. The question now was whether Near would get involved - whether I would get involved. It was clear that Omega was a coward. He lacked the drive. The vision. The determination. He would make a pathetic opponent, and L wouldn't have bothered.
I knew I could catch him, should I set my mind to it. I'd caught smarter and more ruthless criminals recently.
The station cut the broadcast off, only for an L to appear on the screen a second later. This elicited vague exclamations of surprise from Sandra, Olm and the speakers. It made my heart skip for a moment, even though I knew the person speaking behind it wasn't the same.
"To Japan - no, to the entire world. This is L." The synthetic voice hadn't changed. A bout of nostalgia overtook me. "Regarding the mass murders happening in Japan right now...
"Oh, good," Sandra commented. "At least someone is putting a stop to this."
"... I will not be involved with them in any way."
She was speechless. I allowed myself a small smile.
"The murderer is not Kira. I have figured out Kira's killing methods, and he is using the same. But he is not Kira," the voice repeated for emphasis. "I have no interest in this criminal, and I don't get involved in cases I'm not interested in." My smile widened to a smirk - how very L. "But just saying that I won't get involved is not a good reason to hijack national airwaves. Therefore, let me add one last thing - I have a personal message for this criminal:
You abominable murderer."
The L symbol disappeared. My smirk was still in place. How very Near. He always did hate losers.
Sandra's expression had grown somber. "How can he just say he's not interested? That man is just..." Olm nodded in agreement.
Three days later my collaboration with Rook and Vader came to fruition and I found myself in the USA. Bonman erroneously believed I was here for a Law conference.
The two adults escorting me had kept sternly silent for the duration of our walk. One was a tall, beautiful woman with long blonde hair. The other was a big, muscular man with a strong jaw and very clear blue eyes. As far as I was aware, they were both top American intelligence agents and could probably kill me in less than six seconds using their bare hands. Faster if they used the guns concealed under their crisp suits. They certainly looked ready to do it at the least suspicious movement.
The corridors of the building were impersonal and empty, reminding me of different corridors, a long time ago. We passed through many closed doors requiring codes and fingerprints to be opened. Each time, one of them would operate the mechanism while the other stood in front of me to obstruct my view. I kept my expression carefully blank. I could see in their contained gestures that they were wondering who I was, though they didn't seem as interested as I'd expected.
Eventually we arrived to a much bigger room, curiously occupied by an enormous tarot card castle in the shape of a maze that spanned over the entire floor and reached up to my waist. An impressive construction - Haru would have been jealous. There was also a huge screen on the far wall, surrounded by many smaller ones. To one side there was a half-finished matchstick tower, and hidden away on the far corner, almost forgotten, a small chessboard, the pieces paused in the middle of a game.
"What is it this time?" a bored voice asked in English, with a slight British accent. I almost didn't recognize it - it was much deeper than I remembered. "And if you knock over my towers, I'll be angry."
I instinctively took a step back.
The male agent cleared his throat. "L, you have a visitor."
A head emerged from behind a card wall halfway across the room, deep black eyes immediately focusing on me like homing missiles. I could see a flicker of surprise there, then recognition, and finally they slid away again, as if bored. He continued piling up the cards on the maze. "Why did you let her in?" he demanded.
The male agent cleared his throat again. "It's-"
"Never mind. Leave us."
They glanced at each other, unsure. "But Near, who is she?" Near emerged again and gave him the evil eye. I had to admit, coming from him, it was quite intimidating. "Fine. We'll be outside."
Once they had left he returned to his tower, thinking about what he was going to say. I had no doubt that my sudden appearance at his headquarters was a variable he hadn't considered for some time.
I started walking around the walls of cards towards him, determining the fastest path through his maze without difficulty. "So you are responsible for the breach in our security three days ago," he finally observed without turning around. "Honestly, you took much longer than I expected. It's been four years."
"I was occupied," I replied, wading around the corners.
"I assumed so." He paused. "The Asker case. The Four Blue Brides. The Oyster case."
"You're missing quite a few," I corrected. "Amir Ilzeim. The Revenge. The Riddler case."
"That was you?" His tone betrayed a mild anger. Or maybe it was reproach.
I didn't reply, finally arriving to where he crouched. Although I could only see his back I could tell he'd changed too. Even sitting he seemed taller, his shoulders wider, the strands of his pale hair straighter and less puffy. How old was he now? Twenty-one? "Congratulations on the Kira case. I never told you." His hands were no longer on the cards, but shifting something in front of him. Intrigued, I leaned forwards to see what he was doing.
He wasn't holding cards anymore, but a finger puppet which he brought up in front of his face thoughtfully. To my surprise, it bore a certain resemblance to me. It even had the chess symbol for a bishop drawn with felt paint on its front.
He didn't acknowledge the praise. "You must understand why I didn't request your assistance. During the first five years, it was imperative that I wasn't associated with the first L in any way. That included using his old pieces. Not to mention you were a Kira suspect too, since you were so close to him."
I nodded. I'd been angry at first, when Near failed to contact me - I'd known the second L was a fake and that Near would take up the Kira case, so why hadn't he asked me for help? Later I came to realize I would have been more of a liability than an asset, and decided to remove myself from the equation altogether. Well, nearly. "But you didn't refuse my request, did you?"
Eyes still focused on the puppet, he wordlessly got out a piece of paper from the folds of his clothes - oversized white pajamas, as always - and handed it to me. His hand was also bigger, the fingers longer and more angular than the round, childish ones in my memory. I took it and unfolded it carefully, half-expecting it to crinkle or break because of its age; but it was as smooth and white as if no time had passed at all. Then again, given its nature...
"The criminal didn't have it on his person," Near informed, in a tone that clearly indicated this subject bored him to death. "We had to conduct various searches through his personal belongings to find it." I nodded distractedly, my eyes skimming over the lines.
Naomi Misora. Suicide. Destroys all evidence related to her fiancee's death and immediately commits suicide in such a manner that her body will never be found.
Once I'd read it he held his hand up expectantly. I gave it back. It told me nothing new - I'd known what would be written - but it was the final proof - unless Near had fabricated it, though I could see no reason why he would. "Will you burn it too?"
"Evidently." He put it back in his pocket. "Any other affairs you want to discuss with me then, Bishop?" Although his tone was disinterested, there was something in it. Something in the way he phrased the question, as if it were more than a simple question, almost like the invitation to a challenge, or the first feint in a subtle boxing match.
For a fraction of a second he sounded exactly like L, and I blinked.
"Actually, yes." I returned to the chess table, observing the pieces with interest. "I'll take Omega-Kira, if you don't mind."
He didn't seem very surprised. "He's a cheap imitation and a miserably incompetent opponent. Not worth your time. Or mine."
"Regardless, he's responsible for one tenth of the murders currently happening around the world." I looked towards the ceiling thoughtfully. "To you, being a detective is just a game, a distraction from the boredom. You only play if the puzzle will pose a challenge."
He didn't deny it, opting for throwing the ball back in my court instead. "Everything is a game. To you too."
"True. Except I take on any kind of challenger, no matter their level. Especially if they challenge loudly." That wasn't exactly what I wanted to say. "Our criteria for choosing cases differ. You take the entertaining ones, while I take the important ones." That was a fundamental difference between Near and I - between L and Bishop. I couldn't allow a serial killer to roam free simply because he wasn't interesting enough. That wasn't how a true detective worked.
"Some of them will inevitably overlap, either way," he observed. Like the Riddler case, his tone seemed to add.
"You're here to propose a collaboration." He said it without any kind of hesitation at all, like he was simply stating a fact, and he'd figured it out long ago. I smiled wryly. It had been a while since I'd talked to someone like this - someone so confident in his own deductions he simply didn't contemplate the possibility of error, someone with the ability to make the same mental jumps as I did in a conversation, someone I didn't have to explain my reasoning to because he'd already read my thoughts and planned ahead. It was refreshing, and I could almost feel the rust falling off the wheels of my mind as they started spinning faster in an effort to keep up.
"Only on those cases that overlap," I clarified. "It wouldn't be fair that you got the fun all to yourself." The other option, a competition, would be equally interesting, but logic dictated it would ultimately be destructive for the both of us, and Near had already made that judgement. "Unlike you, I rather enjoy the fieldwork. I can reach squares far away from you, cover alternate positions, and act more independently than the rest of your simple pawns. I could be a useful piece."
For the first time Near turned fully towards me, his expression somehow not as blank as I expected it to be. His eyes were blacker than night and held the same gravitational pull as always - but there was something different in them this time, a spark. "Very well. I accept. It could be amusing."
I smiled. "By the way," I added, casually moving one of the pieces without looking. "Bishop to c8, check. Your only option is to escape to e4. Bishop to b7, check." I watched as he stood up and walked through his maze, suddenly interested. "You can only cover with d5. Queen to h4, check. You could capture with the knight, but that would lead to mate in two." I continued performing my moves and his obligatory responses, smile growing as I announced them.
"Pawn to d3..." I reached forward to pick it up, but his hand on my wrist stopped me. I looked back to find him standing directly behind me, glaring darkly at the board. I grinned. "Don't be a sore loser, Near." After a second he reluctantly let go of my hand, and I continued moving it. "Check. And here, Checkmate. 52 to 50. With a two-point difference, I win."
He didn't reply, still frowning intently. Now that he stood I could tell he was nearly as tall as Olm. His gaze roamed the board, looking for an escape, but he obviously found none. Ha! Take that. My grin was more than slightly smug. "It will be an honor working with you, L."
After a second his lips slowly stretched upwards. The smile wasn't open and honest like a normal person's, and it jarred slightly, as if it didn't truly reflect what he was feeling, or he was unsure whether he should be smiling at all.
But the dangerous dark emptiness in his eyes wasn't as threatening, or as hollow, as I remembered from all those years ago. No, there was, definitely, a spark there, and as I looked back, it only seemed to grow brighter.
A.N: Thanks to all the reviewers. Especially those who gave me their feedback on nearly every chapter. You know who you are. You pointed out the flaws in my writing, characters and storyline, and encouraged me when I did something right. If I've improved over the course of this story, it's thanks to you.
A huge thank you to all the new readers too, your enthusiasm helped me finish it (finally).
One Last Question, to keep the tradition: what is your take on OC-centric canon-compliant stories? Do you think this one fits in the category?
On another note, I am in drastic lack of good fanfiction. Please, if you know any: tell me.
Cheers. Until the next one.