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Ruling Child

Chapter Text

This marks the day my life went to Hell. No, literally. Buckle your seatbelts, because if you plan on staying to keep reading, you’re in for one hell of a ride.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is—or, well, was —Sienna Mason. I was twelve when the following events came to pass, which more or less destroyed my mind and mentality. Now, note that I don’t mean to be dramatic—I’m only saying it as it is.

Without further ado, I’ll begin.

I’d start off by saying it was a normal day, but doesn’t every awful day start normally? Anyhow, I digress.

I’d been waiting to cross the street, following the rules and everything—heck, I wasn’t even on my phone— when I heard my name being called. “Hey, Sienna!”

Naturally, I turned. And, naturally, it was exactly the wrong thing to do. Why? Because, of course, at that moment, someone—who’d been on the news the previous night for robbing a bank was making a break from the police behind him on a motorbike—was speeding in my direction.

Of course, I was terrified, and I’m embarrassed to admit that, yeah, I froze up.

Panicking, the robber tried to swerve out of the way, when his entire body stiffened, lifted, and he keeled over. Right in my direction, before my brain could even comprehend that I had to move.

I don’t remember feeling the impact of the bike at first. The first thing I remember having seen was the sky. And then the pain kicked in. My side burned, ached, and I was fairly sure something—or, well, a lot of somethings—had been shattered in my ribs.

I wanted to scream. I think I tried to, too. “Ngh—” I managed to get out, before my vision began to blur, the sheer combination of pain and disorientation making me nauseous and dizzy.

I definitely don’t remember blacking out, though that must have been the case, since I regained consciousness lying upwards in a bed.

Hey . . . the pain’s all gone. It took me a moment, but then I remembered what had happened: I’d obviously been injured by being hit by that motorbike. Which meant I was on some sort of painkiller—what were they called, again? Anesthesia? Analgesia?

Wait a second. I’m alive. Relief flooded through me as I—albeit belatedly—realised that I was lucky to have been so.

Now . . . to open my eyes. I honestly didn’t want to, considering how sleepy and lethargic I felt. I sighed internally, forcing the lethargy away for a moment—

Only to find I couldn’t open my eyes. Okay, I thought. Okay, the medicines are probably just keeping me from moving. Don’t panic.

I heard something akin to a door opening, as an unfamiliar voice spoke. “. . . still comatose, ma’am.”

Comatose?

Wait. Wait, wait, wait.

What?

No. No, no, no, nononononononono. There was no way I was in a coma.

. . . Of course, reality had other opinions. And, of course, I had no choice but to accept the facts for what they were.

“Oh, Sienna . . . oh, my baby . . .” That was Mom’s voice. “Why . . . why did this have to happen to you?”—a hiccup; she was probably crying—“Oh, God, it’s my fault . . .”

I wanted to say that it wasn’t—how could anyone possibly be blamed for a freak road accident?—but I was rendered unable to even comfort her.

I hated it.

“Don’t cry, love, she’ll be alright . . . Sienna’s strong. She’ll make it past this,” Dad said, but there was a severe undertone of grief to it. Like they’ve already lost me.

I didn’t feel like listening any longer. Even when my friends—Anna, Louis, and Christie—came to visit, all they did was apologise. I couldn’t stand the apologies. I couldn’t stand to hear Mom and Anna break into sobs whenever they entered the room, or to hear Dad whisper apologies and regrets softly enough that he’d think I couldn’t here, or to hear Christie curse and berate herself for not being there sooner, or to not hear Louis speak at all, sans quiet questions to the nurses.

I hated every single moment of it.

Or, at least, I thought so, until a month later, when everyone was gathered over. I could hear the soft clack of the nurse’s shoes against the floor when she entered. “I’m sorry, sir, ma’am,” she said, not addressing my friends. “But she will be unable to survive without life support. It is . . . inadvisable for you to continue keeping her on life support, as the costs are extremely high and there is almost no chance of her waking up.”

Oh my God. I’m going to die.

And yet my body refused to comply with the shock my mind was dealing with. No racing heart, no sweaty palms, no fast breathing. I’m . . . I’m scared. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to keep going like this, either.

Surprisingly, Louis, who’d been silent this whole time, spoke up first. “Is there . . . really no chance? None at all? I’ve heard of people being shocked back into waking up before; wouldn’t that be possible?”

The nurse must have shaken her head, because the only following sounds were a loud “DAMMIT” from Christie, and a choked sob from Anna.

I wanted to scream. I didn’t know why, but I did. I knew from a school project that the costs of keeping me on life support were more than my parents could afford.

And there was no way in Hell I wanted to stay like this.

But the words I’m sorry, sweetie had never hurt so much.

If I’m to look back now, perhaps I would think that back then, I was steeling my resolve for the inevitable. I still do miss that life, and I won’t deny it. There are days I still wish I can wake up and find myself in the same place as back then, but, of course, wishes can only remain wishes. The story of Sienna Mason ended painfully, cruelly, and all too quickly, but perhaps you can find yourself more invested in the story of Kimiko Yamada.

The day finally came when I had to make my peace with the world, or whatever, and it was time for me to actually die . I’d read my fair share of teen fiction, and I didn’t really know whether or not all that overload of death helped me come to terms with it easier or not, but I supposed it did allow for the reasoning that everyone died, some sooner than others, and that it wasn’t always fair, but was inevitable.

Or something like that.

But if I had to say, the one thing that really struck a chord with me was that one manga, Death Note . Sure, it was dark and edgy, but if I was being honest, the use of something that dark in such a casual yet abrupt and serious manner was definitely something I could latch onto.

And its end message was unironically what kept me calm for the next few hours while the life support was released:

All humans will, without exception, eventually die. After they die, the place they go is MU (nothingness).

It’ll be like falling asleep, I told myself. A nice nap, I told myself as my mind slowly started losing focus. Goodnight, Mom, Dad, I bade.

. . .

Hang on.

I’m still awake? Thinking? Something doesn’t add up.

I tried, but I still couldn’t open my eyes. Something . . . feels wrong here. I couldn’t describe it—it was like I’d lost all my capacity to think anything other than the simplest thoughts.

I wasn’t sure how much time passed before I could open my eyes to see a bleary white hospital room. Honestly? I felt like I’d forgotten how to count.

. . . which was embarrassing, to say the least. Moreso when I felt myself starting to cry.

In a voice that wasn’t mine. Two unfamiliar voices saying something I couldn’t understand filled the room. Something was obscenely wrong here; this didn’t make sense, and my brain couldn’t comprehend what it was due to my limited brainpower capacity.

But those thoughts all turned to dust when I fell asleep again.

Hours turned to days, which turned to weeks and then months, but my brain still hadn’t come to comprehend what exactly was going on around me. Somewhere, I had subconsciously realised that I wasn’t Sienna Mason anymore, that I was a new person, one named Kimiko, that I now had different parents.

But I still couldn’t think all that clearly, so I couldn’t understand. I’m not quite sure what had happened during this time, or whether or not I had encountered the one person who was destined to change my life—or rather, the person whose life I was destined to change, but by the time I was one, I’d picked up basic sounds and speech, crawled around and started growing more.

And, incidentally, it was also around the time things started coming back to me. Little bits of knowledge here and there, vague memories from somewhere my mind couldn’t quite reach. The language I heard around me and understood seemed different, the people and places odd and new.

Other facts, too, such as that the woman and man who were there must have been my mother and father. At the time, I never knew why that sense of confusing familiarity made me feel guilty everytime I felt it. But, I digress.

I was a little over one when it happened. My mom had taken me next door, to our neighbours’ house, where they’d supposedly had a kid my age—whom I was currently looking at. I didn’t quite recognise him, but there was something there that tugged on the strings of my memories.

“Micchan, why not tell him your name?” My mum suggested softly.

“I’m Kimo— Kimiko Yamada,” I managed to say.

He smiled, and I could just about see a few teeth peeking out. “Nice to meet, you, Kii—Kimi—” he cut himself off, before declaring, “Mikko!” He looked satisfied with the nickname he’d given me. “I’m— Light-o Ya— Yagami,” he said.

And whatever had been sealing my memories had been ripped away, leaving me flooded with a whole twelve years’ worth of thoughts, memories, and facts, all at once, stunning me into sitting down. Thankfully, I’d been in Light’s crib at the time.

I wasn’t Kimiko Yamada, I was Sienna Mason. I wasn’t one, I was twelve. These people weren’t my mum and dad. The language I’d been learning felt strange because it was Japanese, not English . I felt like things were missing because there was no technology that I was used to, since the year wasn’t 2016, it was 1987.

Or maybe not.

If I died, that meant that I couldn’t go back. It meant that this was my new life.

And, if the boy in front of me was the same Light Yagami he may have been, it meant I was in the story Death Note .

I panicked.

Like I said, this is the story of how my life went to Hell.

As I discovered over time, I was, in fact, in the universe that Death Note was set in, as far as I knew. Light’s parents were Soichiro and Sachiko Yagami, both of whom looked just as I remembered (albeit fairly younger, if anything).

And, as it turned out, my mother, Chiyoko (that wasn’t her birth name, though, since she wasn’t Japanese), and Aunt Sachiko had met at around the age of fifteen, and had been best friends since. Thanks to that friendship, Light and I spent a lot of time together, and ended up becoming fast friends.

One would think I should have had some sense of self preservation.

Of course, if the canon storyline was anything to go by, being Light’s friend could go two ways: either it wouldn’t concern me at all, considering his family never ended up getting involved, sans Uncle Soichiro’s involvement with the police and Light’s sister’s (whose name I’d forgotten) kidnapping in the third arc, or I ended up getting roped into the Kira business one way or the other.

I tugged at my hair. I was terrified of the latter option, obviously, but I knew that the former would be the most likely one to occur. After all, it would mean a higher chance of Light getting caught, no matter how small.

“Mikko!” Light was sitting in front of me, pulling me out of any thoughts going through my head. “We have our reading practice now,” he said, lifting up a book for the two of us to read through. “Uncle Hayato said he would help us!”

I looked at the door, and, sure enough, my father was there, about to come in and sit next to us. “Hey, kids,” he said, plopping himself down opposite us, then handed another book to me. This one was in English, titled Lewis the Cat .

“That’s not Japanese,” Light said, clearly not used to the English font.

“Mum isn’t Japanese, so sometimes we speak English at home instead,” I responded, secretly relieved since I tended to skip my hiragana practice a lot.

“I see . . .” Light said, opening his book, then started reading out loud, in fluent Japanese, before stuttering once he got to a certain point. “I forgot that one,” he frowned, pointing to a .

“That one is ‘no’,” my dad said, sounding out the syllable.

“It looks like an e on its side,” I commented.

“You know,” Dad lowered his voice to a whisper, “I’ve always thought that no looks like norimaki, so it became easier to remember, since they start the same way.”

“What’s norimaki?”

“Norimaki are those sushi rolls you like, with tofu and mushrooms,” Dad explained.

“Avocado’s better than tofu,” Light said decidedly. “It’s softer.”

“Blegh,” I made a face. “Avocado’s all mushy. Tofu’s fun and bouncy.”

Dad ruffled my hair and Light’s at the same time. “We’ll have to agree to disagree then, because I like my norimaki with cucumber,” he chuckled, making Light and I fake-gag simultaneously.

“Shouldn’t you be reading, kids?” Mum asked, having just stepped into the room.

“Muuuum,” I whined, really not wanting to read that book again. “I’ve already memorised the book!”

“Oh, really? Then, go on, tell me what it says.”

Lewis the Cat of West Halibut Street was the fussiest eater you could ever meet,” I said in English, reciting each word, and continued to do so for the rest of the contents of the book.

Mum beamed, patting my head. “That’s great, Micchan! What about you, Light? How’s your book?”

“I finished it!” Light smiled earnestly at Mum. “It was sad that the crane had to leave the farmer, though. He shouldn’t have been so greedy,” Light said firmly. “It wasn’t fair that she had to be sad because he wanted money.”

“Hey, I want to read that! Light, let’s swap!” I’d never heard that story before, considering it was probably a Japanese folktale.

“But I can’t read English . . .” Light looked down, ashamed.

“That’s fine; I can’t read hiragana either!” I said in an effort to reassure him, only realising that my sorry butt would end up getting grounded for that when I caught a glimpse of Dad’s disappointed expression.

“While that should not be the case,” Mum reprimanded lightly, “I’m sure it would do both of you some good to practice the other language. So, Light, how about I teach you some English, while you, Kimiko, practice Japanese with Dad?”

“Yes please, Auntie Chiyoko!” Light cheered, smiling eagerly. I know this Light’s still a toddler, but I hope he can stay this way, I mused. I really don’t want the Death Note ruining this for us.

I was jolted out of my thoughts by the phone ringing, and Dad went to answer it, while Mum helped Light out with reading English letters. I watched as Dad answered, then his face paled, his eyes grew concerned, and he bit his lip. Something’s wrong.

“What’s wrong, love?” Mum asked Dad, resting an hand on his shoulder. “Does it have something to do with . . . them ?” she asked softly, switching to English.

Dad shook his head, giving me no clue who Mum meant by ‘them’. “It’s not that,” he said, voice low, then quieted a little more, just enough so I could tell he’d switched back to Japanese, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Mom’s eyebrows creased in a frown, and she glanced worriedly at Light. So it concerns Light? I wanted to tap Light on the shoulder to ask him if he knew what was going on, but he was so entirely engrossed in trying to sound out the alphabet that I really didn’t want to disturb him.

So I just scowled at the hiragana in the book, just looking at every and read “ no ”, considering it was the only one I could remember now, until Mum kneeled in front of the two of us, an obviously forced smile on her face. “Light,” she said, voice uncharacteristically strained, “how would you like to stay over for a sleepover today?”

Light beamed, not having noticed. Of course, I was sure all he saw was the smile and not the terseness behind it, simply because he couldn’t pick up on it. “Yes, please!”

“Are you okay with that, Micchan?” Mum asked, turning to me.

No matter how much I wanted to know why, I didn’t want to stress her out, so all I said was, “Of course!”

“Auntie Chiyoko,” Light then asked, tugging on Mum’s jumper, “why do you look sad?”

I decided to eat my words.

Mum shook her head lightly. “Your dad is feeling a little sick today, so it would be good if you stay here so you don’t get sick, too,” she explained.

Light nodded sagely. “That’s a good idea,” he agreed. “You’re sad because Dad’s sick, but that’s silly, because he always brushes his teeth and eats his vegetables, so he’ll get better very fast! So don’t be sad, Auntie!”

C-cute, I thought.

“That’s right,” Dad agreed, resting a hand on Mum’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine.”

There’s no way he’s just caught a cold if they’re that worried. Of course, I couldn’t say anything, or I’d quickly end up blowing my cover—or, at the very least, it would be extremely suspicious for me to have picked that up. Of course, I wanted to know what the truth was, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. Internally, I growled in frustration. I couldn’t keep up this act for long—I couldn’t wait to get older.

But the older you get, the closer Light comes to being Kira, whispered a nagging part of my subconscious. I tried to ignore it, but it had already planted a seed of anxiety.

Surely . . . surely I can try and change Light’s mindset before then? Maybe then . . . he won’t feel the need to use the Death Note at all. That is, if it existed in the first place.

That night, even though Light was beside me on my bed, I couldn’t sleep. We’d both gotten our own rooms, having become too old for the cribs now that we were both two.

I rolled to my side to look at Light, who was fast asleep, barely making a sound. No, I can’t wake him like this. I sighed slowly, making my way to my parents’ room. I was about to open the door when I heard snippets of their conversation.

“. . . not going to happen for years, Ann.” Dad was saying. ‘Ann’? Is he talking to Mum? Is that her real name? If it is . . . why doesn’t he ever call her that in front of me?

“I know, love, but if what you’re telling me about is real . . .” Mum’s voice lowered, leading into muffled conversation that I couldn’t pick up, then, “. . . can Kimiko really end up . . .” Why are they talking about me? What’s going on? I pressed my ear to the door, eager to hear more.

“I’m not sure yet,” Dad was saying, “but if she is, I hope she’ll at least give me a big enough hint to make it seem like I picked up on it.”

A sigh. “I just hope . . . she never has to meet . . . him .”

“‘Him’ as in One or Three?”

“The first one, Hayato. I’m still not sure about Three, but I’d be worried about him if Two ends up being unable to cope. Three’s already impressionable and impulsive as he is. I don’t want Kimiko to ever encounter anyone from there .”

“But that can’t happen for at least another twelve years,” Dad interjects. “And after that, it can’t happen . . . not with Three, at least.”

I was getting more confused than informed, so I decided to just go in. “Mum, Dad, I can’t sleep,” I announced loudly, opening the door. Dad had his hand on Mum’s shoulder, and Mum’s head was buried in her hands. I felt a little like an intruder now, but I did my best to ignore the guilt pooling in my stomach. I hadn’t technically done anything wrong.

Mum just smiled, swiftly lifting me up, and carried me back to my room, gently laid me down next to Light, and lay down next to me, until I finally fell asleep. By the next day, I’d forgotten most of the details about my parents conversation that night.

After all, I had a bigger issue on my hands: Light Yagami.

Chapter Text

Time passed quickly when one was a kid. Of course, that much was probably a given, but it felt like mere days had passed between the time I’d first met Light, his sister Sayu was born, and our kindergarten days till the beginning of primary school. We’d just finished our first year, and had been heading home.

“I can’t believe we already have our first summer holiday,” Light said, fidgeting awkwardly with the straps of his backpack as we got in the train.

I nodded. “Mhmm. I wonder if we’ll go on vacation somewhere now, since Mum said that she thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere out of Japan, now that school’s over.”

“We can’t go anywhere, though, since Sayu’s too little.” Light countered a little too suddenly. While his words were reasonable, his tone had been unnecessarily sharp.

My stomach dropped. “Well, no one said you guys were going.”

Light flinched. “I didn’t mean that—”

“Yeah, I know. I didn’t either.”

We both stayed silent the rest of the way home, awkwardly parting ways after. I didn’t even turn to glance at his house next door when I opened the door to my own, storming through the house.

“Micchan, did something happen?” Mum asked, glancing over from the kitchen, obviously having noticed something off about me.

“Just Light thinking he can make my decisions for me and pissing me off.”

“Kimiko, that kind of language is unacceptable, no matter how angry you are. Come on, talk to me about this. And please, calmly,” Mum coaxed, carrying me up to her room. I didn’t resist it, instead choosing to just sulk in her arms.

“Light said we can’t go on holiday because Sayu’s too little,” I muttered. “It’s like he’s trying to control what I do because he can’t come. Like he thinks the whole world centres around himself, like he’s some sort of god !”

“Kimiko,” Mum said, voice gently, “maybe he just wants to spend the holidays with you and got upset that we’re going. The two of you are best friends, right? So, wouldn’t he be a little sad that both of you can’t spend time together?”

“Yeah, but still , he can’t just be mean about it!” I insisted. Even if he’d wanted to spend time together, he couldn’t decide that I couldn’t do something if it meant he couldn’t, and I told Mum as much.

“You’re right about that, Micchan. He shouldn’t have used that tone with you, and you shouldn’t let him. But even so, you need to make sure you don’t respond the same way. It’s important to be the bigger person, and try and resolve the situation instead of making it worse.”

Logically, I knew Mum was right, but that didn’t make me want to see Light at the moment. “I still don’t . . . want to talk to him yet.”

Mum bit her lip, worrying at the skin. “Light and his family are already supposed to be coming over for dinner, but if you’re sure you don’t want to talk to him—”

“I’m sure.”

“—then you don’t have to, okay?”

I nodded. And I ended up keeping to it. The whole evening, other than periodic shared glances at each other, there wasn’t a single interaction between Light and myself.

Guilt churned in my stomach the entire time, but I did my level best to ignore it, even as I looked Light in the eye before he left. I’m sorry , his eyes seemed to say.

Me too , I thought.

Neither of us said anything.


 

I sighed, sitting off to the side while Mum and Dad collected the two suitcases we’d packed for our month-long stay from the baggage carousel. We’d landed about half an hour ago, and I was bored out of my mind.

And, admittedly, I missed Light. Now that’s something I never thought I’d think. I sighed again, staring at the screen the flights were displayed on. We wouldn’t be going back for a month, so I was starting to regret parting with him on that sour note.

If I still had my own phone, all it would take was a simple text or video call for me to try and set things right, but of course, it wasn’t that easy now.

“Micchan, we’re going now,” Mum said, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Come on, we need to hurry if we want to get a cab.”

I nodded, trailing behind her as we left for wherever we’d planned to stay for the month. As it turned out, Mum had someone here who’d been willing to let us stay in a house they owned (but apparently never used), somewhere around Micheldever, in Winchester.

It took a couple of hours to get there, but by the time we did, it was already almost midnight. “I’m sleepy,” I yawned, leaning onto Dad, who gently patted my forehead until I fell asleep.

The next two days were pretty normal, with us getting used to the differences between Winchester and Tokyo, but there was something that was bothering me about the whole thing: I couldn’t help but feel like Winchester had some relevance to the story of Death Note, and that it wasn’t something minor, either.

But I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was.

“Kimiko, we’re going sightseeing today,” Dad announced the next day.

“Sightseeing? Where?” I asked, curious.

“How about Winchester Castle and Winchester Cathedral? After that, we’ll go get some McDonalds and come back.”

“Okay, sure.”

“You don’t want to?”

“No, it’s not that, I just . . .” I looked away, not really wanting to admit it, but I continued, “I miss Light. And I wish I’d apologised to him when I had the chance.” And I want to know why Winchester’s tugging at my memories, but I can’t tell you that.

Dad sat down next to me on the carpeted floor. “Well, Micchan, that’s understandable,” he said softly, patting my head. “But you know what? It’s taught you just how valuable the friendship you two have is. I’m sure Light regrets the argument too—and the fact that you both do just means that you still want to be friends with each other, right? That you don’t want to lose each other over a silly little argument.”

He was right, I knew. “But I still haven’t said sorry . . .” I murmured. “I wish I could Skype him or something to do that, at the very least . . .”

I felt Dad stiffen beside me, but when I looked at him, all his expression revealed was confusion. “Kimiko, what’s Skype?”

Oh my god, Skype hasn’t been invented yet! How do I cover this one up? “Uh . . .”

It was at that moment that Mum walked into the living room, interrupting our conversation with a tired sigh. Internally, I thanked every higher power that existed for the intervention—until I actually looked at Mum.

She looked haggard, plain and simple—her blonde hair was matted and messy, and her eyes were dull and tired.

“Mum, are you okay?” I asked, rushing up to her, concerned.

She yawned, downing the cup of coffee she had in her hand. “Nnn, you guys go have fun today . . .” Another yawn. “I’ve gotta get to a meeting in the evening so I’ll sleep now.”

“What kind of meeting? I thought you gave online English classes.” I frowned. I’d never heard too much about Mum’s job, but I hadn’t expected it to be important during our holidays.

“The place I’m teaching at is offering new material, so I’m just going to be picking that up. Since we’re here, I’ll probably be going to sort some things out, and maybe teach a few classes in person.”

“But you deserve a holiday too!” I protested. “Right, Dad?”

Dad pressed his lips together. “Of course she does, Micchan, but . . . well, Mum’s work is important. She’ll come out with us tomorrow, okay?”

There was no room left for argument. “O . . . kay. But tomorrow is a must, right?”

Mum smiled, putting her coffee cup down on the counter and ruffled my hair. “I promise.”


The rest of the holidays were fun, and I wouldn’t deny it. We even went to London one weekend, but despite everything, there were still two pressing things on my mind: Light, and Winchester itself.

It had already been three weeks since I’d spoken to Light, having parted with nothing more than a glance at each other the night before we left. Needless to say, I was still pretty bummed out that we still couldn’t speak, but I didn’t want to broach the topic with either of my parents, lest Dad remember what I had dubbed the ‘Skype Incident’. That had been an experience that I was glad was forgotten, and I still didn’t know what I would have said if Mum hadn’t stepped in.

On the topic of Winchester, I was still frustrated that I had no clue why I felt like I needed to be paying more attention—like I was missing something I really shouldn’t have been. I hated it. I’d once thought I was an expert on all things Death Note , so this was downright frustrating.

The sound of the door slamming jolted me from my thoughts. It didn’t seem as though anyone had entered or left—the only thing different was that Mum and Dad were both outside, talking to a guy—a teenager, perhaps?—whom I’d never seen before. Did he get lost? That seemed like the only reasonable explanation for a random guy from here to show up at the porch of a house we were borrowing from someone else. Or maybe he’s interested in the owner?

Then, bright red eyes met mine, and I couldn’t look away. The boy held my gaze for a few seconds, then his gaze drifted upwards, he tilted his head, and then looked away as though nothing had happened, continuing to converse oddly casually with my parents.

I didn’t like it one bit.

A few moments later, Mum came back in, clearly troubled. What should I say? Should I even ask who that was? I settled instead for a simple, “Mum, what’s wrong? Who’s that boy outside?”

Mum just sighed, her hands raking through her hair. “One of my . . . students.” She didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t ask. Somehow, it felt entirely too invasive to try, so I kept my mouth shut. This was forbidden territory now—I was on foreign turf, literally and figuratively.

“Oh,” was all I said.

Mum inhaled deeply, then smiled—properly, this time. “Come on, let’s try calling Light.”

All former thoughts evaporated at the mention of Light’s name. “Yes!”

One ring. Two rings. Three rings. On the fifth ring, the phone was picked up. “Hello?”

“Auntie Sachiko! It’s me, Kimiko—hi!”

“Oh, Kimiko! How’s your holiday been?”

“Good,” I said, then tagged on, “but I miss Light . . . can I talk to him, please?”

“Of course! Here, I’ll call him over.” A moment of silence, likely as she covered the receiver to call Light, then a second of static, followed by Light’s voice.

“. . . Mikko?” His voice was hesitant, and the awkwardness stung.

“I . . . hi, Light,” I said, just as obscenely awkward.

“Hi,” he said back. This wasn’t getting anywhere. All we were doing now was just wasting international call money.

I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for what I said before I left. I shouldn’t have snapped at what you said.”

“Yeah . . . but the way I said it was mean, so I’m sorry too. I should have said it before you left, but I was angry and didn’t want to, so I’m sorry for that, too.”

“Me too. I was too proud to say anything, too. So . . . we’re okay now? Friends again?”

“We’re always friends, Mikko. We always will be.”

Relief flooded through me, and a weight that had settled over me for the past few months had finally been lifted. “Yeah,” I agreed, sinking into the couch as Mum gave me a thumbs up, then started recounting the holiday we’d had so far—only excluding the things about Mum’s job, the Skype Incident, and the boy who was still talking to Dad on the porch.

When the call ended about half an hour later, I felt a lot lighter than than I had for the entire month. One of two issues solved , I thought, satisfied, lulling myself into an easy slumber.


The rest of the holiday ended quickly—almost too quickly—as before I knew it, we were back on a plane to Tokyo. Back to Light , I couldn’t help but think throughout the journey.

Things should finally go back to normal now that we were back. No more black coffee-laden mornings for Mum, and late nights with random teens showing up at our porch for Dad. I could go back to playing with Light and helping take care of Sayu.

That night, I was drifting off to sleep, back in my own room, when it hit me:

It was Wammy’s House which was in Winchester!

Chapter Text

“Do you think it’s okay for criminals to die?”

Light looked at me, intrigued by the question. Of course, he had no idea why I’d asked it, but now was the perfect time: we were both eleven, so it was at a point where he’d developed his own perception of right and wrong, but he wouldn’t remember the question by the time he would get the Death Note.

“I guess it depends on how,” he mused. “If a killer dies by accident, then not many people will miss them, but if they’re killed, that just makes the person who did it the same.”

Phew, I thought. “Like, if executions and stuff became used frequently again, all over the world.”

“But criminals are still executed,” Light pointed out.

“I meant in a sense like . . . if one person was the one to choose whether or not criminals should be executed, and they would carry it out in the same method.”

“One person?” A frown made its way onto Light’s face. “That leaves a lot of moral implications, and it means that the person would probably be biased towards people they know or can relate to.”

A valid point. “Assuming this person is completely unbiased, has never met the criminal, and looks at things without considering the emotional side of it,” I clarified. I didn’t want to get too specific, of course, but I wouldn’t get anywhere without some specificity.

“Well, in that case, the person shouldn’t be with any kind of government, because otherwise they could be swayed or corrupted—no, even without government involvement, that level of power could corrupt a person.”

“You’re definitely right about that,” I agreed. After all, knowing what I did, it wasn’t like I could disagree. “The sheer gravity of what they’re doing could probably make them feel like a reaper or god of sorts, since they choose what qualifies death and then carry it out.”

“Or it could have the opposite effect,” Light continued, “and they would slowly lose their mind by constantly killing people—it’s gruesome, especially if it’s bloody.”

“Bloody deaths would be unlikely with executions, though,” I argued. “People are only executed by hanging, injections, or electrocution.”

“How do you know that?” Light asked, slightly disturbed. Okay, maybe that wasn’t really the most appropriate trivia for an eleven year old, but I’d done my research for a reason.

“Someone at school mentioned that the last execution by guillotine was twenty years ago, and I decided to do some research.”

“And that’s why you’re asking me?” Light tilted his head to the side, questioning.

“Yep,” I said, popping the ‘p’. “You’ve got better judgement than anyone I know, so I wanted to know what you think about it.”

Light seemed satisfied with my answer. Stroking his pride always works, I noted, and I couldn’t help but laugh at that.

“Hm, but with corruption aside, if the person didn’t have any legal influence or wasn’t with any governments or police, then the public would start losing faith in them, since there’s someone with their own agenda deciding who lives and dies,” Light continued. “They could even start rioting or protesting.”

“Or if it was a vigilante,” I countered, “they may start choosing to place their faith in this person instead of the people who are actually in charge, especially if they remain anonymous.”

“Either way, it’s a bad idea and wouldn’t work in the end,” Light asserted, nodding decidedly.

So Light was completely against the idea—victory. Satisfied, I grinned. “Think you can beat me running from here to the football field on the other end of the park?”

“Oh, you’re on!” Light laughed, jumping off the rock we were sitting on, and we both ran. He won’t remember this conversation, I assured myself. And even if he does, it’ll seem more like a coincidence.

“Ha, I won!” I cheered, having jumped over the grassy area to get to the field, as Light reached a moment after.

“But you aren’t allowed to go on the grass!”

“No one saw me, Light,” I laughed, then added, “you don’t count.”

Light shrugged, but laughed all the same. “Fine, you win this time, but I’ll definitely win next time!”

“We’ll see!” I glanced upwards, to see that dusk had already fallen. “Say, Light, we should probably go back home now, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Light said appraisingly. He dusted off his pants as I picked up the small backpack I’d brought with me. “Let’s go.”

“Mhmm,” I hummed, instinctively reaching for his hand as we left. “By the way, your dad’s now chief of the NPA, right?”

Light’s eyes shone with admiration the moment I brought it up. “Yeah! He got promoted yesterday, so we’re going out for dinner tomorrow to celebrate! I think Mom’s gonna call your mom about it so we can go together.”

“Uncle Soichiro’s really cool,” I said. He definitely deserved that promotion, no question about it.

“Yep! I wanna be a cop like him when I grow up!”

“A cop, huh? Why?” Surely it wasn’t just because his dad was one, I figured, so what other reasons did he have?

“Well . . . because they stop criminals and stuff, mostly,” Light said, thoughtful. “They can protect the people they care about, like Dad does. And they even end up saving people they don’t even know from those that could harm them, and just end up making the world a better place in general.”

I bit my lip. “You’re . . . wow. You’re amazing, Light. That’s way more virtuous than any reason I’d have had.”

“Why, what would you have said?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Maybe ’cause you want to be one?” At Light’s look of Seriously? I added, “Also because detective work and looking for clues and stuff sounds kinda cool. Plus, job stability, and I can legally beat jerks up for a living.”

“What the heck, Mikko.”

“You asked, I answered.”

“You want to be a force of justice so you can solve puzzles and throw hands.”

“I told you your reason was way more virtuous than mine! You’re practically a saint, you goody-two-shoes!”

Light cast me a glance of mock offense, and we both burst out laughing. “Well, see you at school tomorrow,” Light said as we reached home.

“See you!” I said, opening the gate to my house. I saw Light nod, then he went into his own.

Save and protect people, huh . . . if I’m not wrong, that’s what Light told himself—or, well, will tell himself when becoming Kira. His basic morals and philosophy are the same, I guess, but how he feels about killing off criminals should be different now . . .

I sighed, relieved as I laid my hand on the doorknob, turned it open, and—

The overwhelming stench of vomit hit me, as did the urge to gag. Covering my nose, I raced into the house, doing my best to ignore the smell, only to see Dad on his knees on the floor, hunched over while trying to cover his mouth.

“Dad! Wh-what happened? Are you okay?”

He didn’t react to my presence with anything but another heave of his chest.

I need to call Mum, I realised belatedly. She wasn’t at home, since she was volunteering to teach at a nearby orphanage, but she could only make it within half an hour if she rushed. I raced for the landline, punched in the number, and waited.

Mum picked up on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Mum! You have to come home right now; Dad’s sick—he’s vomiting!”

“Right. I’ll be there in twenty minutes—get Aunt Sachiko over if you can; she can help. You should stay with Light and Sayu until then.”

“I can’t leave Dad like that!”

“Kimiko. Please try to understand that there isn’t anything you can do. Please, get Sachiko there.” Mum’s tone didn’t leave any room for argument, so I relented.

“Okay,” I said, put the phone down, and ran back outside and next door, to where the Yagami family lived. The door, I realised, was locked now that Light was back home, and Uncle Soichiro wouldn’t be back for at least a few more hours. Frantically, I pressed on the doorbell several consecutive times until Light opened the door.

“What is it, Mi—”

“No time to explain, get Aunt Sachiko right now, please Dad’s sick and I’m scared—”

“Calm down, Mikko,” Light said, putting his hands on my shoulders. “I’ll get her, but you get some water, okay? You need to calm down, or you won’t be able to think straight.”

I nodded and inhaled shakily, following Light into his house.

“Mom, Mikko needs you and it’s really urgent!” Light called, barrelling into the kitchen, where Sayu and Aunt Sachiko were making dinner.

“Kimiko? What’s the matter?”

“It’s Dad—he’s sick or—or something, I don’t know, he just—he’s thrown up all over the floor and I don’t think it’s stopping—I called Mum but she won’t be here until at least twenty minutes but she said that you could help—”

Mikko, breathe.

I did as Light said and took a deep breath. “Can you help him? I don’t know what to do.”

Aunt Sachiko wrung her hands, but nodded firmly all the same. “You three sit at the dining table and wait until I get back, okay? Don’t open the door for anyone; I have the key. Kimiko, don’t worry, okay? It’s probably just a bug.”

I nodded, but I wasn’t so sure. Even when I vomited, I had enough energy to make it to the bathroom before anything actually happened. For Dad to not even be able to get up . . .

“Uncle Hayato will be fine,” Sayu asserted, hugging me from behind. “If you believe he’ll be fine, then he’ll definitely be fine.”

“Yeah . . .” I mumbled, still faraway. It can’t be a bug, I figured, since we haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary or been around anyone that could possibly have spread it. That immediately rules out any sort of sickness or disease—

“Right.” Light’s voice, accompanied by a loud slam on the table, jolted me out of my thoughts. “Since you’re not calming down about this—even though there’s nothing else you can do—we’re going to do our homework. Sayu, do you have any homework?”

“Not much,” Sayu shrugged. “A little bit of fractions and highest common factors.”

“Alright, bring your math book here. Mikko, you can use my textbook and some scrap paper, then you can copy it into your notebook later.”

“You’re good at taking charge,” I mused, reaching to get the paper Light had brought. It had an old worksheet printed on the other side, but was otherwise blank. “We’re doing the nth term in class, right?”

Light nodded. “And after that we’ll be starting speed, distance, and time. I’ve read through the chapter, and it looks like it’ll be easy.”

“Yeah, I think Mum taught it to me a few months ago. What’s important is remembering the triangles.”

“Triangles? You mean in the graphs?”

“Uh . . . no, I’ll explain when we get to that part.”

“O . . . kay.” I knew Light didn’t like not knowing something that I did, but he brushed it off.

“What’s a reciprocal?” Sayu asked, having sat down with her books.

“It’s like . . . with a fraction, you’ve got to switch the numerator and the denominator,” Light explained to her, “and when you multiply any number by its reciprocal, you’ll get the number one.”

Sayu seemed a little confused by the last part.

“Okay, say you have half. That’s one over two, right?” I asked, prompting.

“Yeah . . . so its recipriocal—”

“Reciprocal.”

“—its reciprocal would be two over one.”

“Which is?”

“Two!”

“Right! Now, multiply them.”

“Two halves are one. Hey, you’re right, Light!”

Light smiled proudly. “Of course.”

I flicked his arm. “Have a little humility!”

“I’m just being honest,” Light teased, and Sayu and I laughed, earlier tension forgotten.

Until Light looked out of the window. “Mikko, your mom’s back.”

My head snapped up, and sure enough, Mum was opening the door to our house. “I’m gonna go—”

Light grabbed my shoulder. “You can’t. You have to stay here until my mom comes back. If your dad’s sick, you could get sick too.”

“But—”

“You aren’t going. I won’t let you.”

Light —”

“No, and that’s final.”

It was another half hour before Mum and Aunt Sachiko came back. “Micchan,” Mum said, yawned, then continued, “come on; let’s go home.”

“Is Dad okay? What happened?”

Mum’s smile was terse. “He’s fine now, Micchan. It was just a minor—”

What happened, Mum?”

“Kimiko. Come on, let’s go home. Now. ” Mum had never used that tone of voice before, and honestly? It scared me. Silently, I took the pages I’d been working on my math on, and took Mum’s hand. I didn’t ask what had happened again, and if Mum’s expression was anything to go by, it wasn’t something I should want to know the answer to.

“I . . . did my math homework at Light’s place,” I offered.

“I’m proud of you for that, sweetie,” Mum said, rubbing the bridge of her nose, “but I’m a little worried about your father right now, so forgive me. I’m just stressed.”

“Oh . . . okay,” I just said. I didn’t press further, even when Mum brought a bowl of instant ramen to the table instead of miso soup or anything remotely close to what we usually ate. Instead, I just ate quietly and went up to bed.

Why won’t Mum tell me what happened? Mum isn’t one to keep secrets, and this isn’t even something major enough to warrant this weird . . . silence!

Unless it was.

What could be so bad that she can’t even tell me what’s up with Dad? It’s obviously not a stomach bug, or it would have been in the open way earlier; it can’t be an infection either, since all that would need was a simple explanation and a trip to the doctor. What could possibly make her not want to talk about . . . oh. Was it something personal? What could be personal and make someone vomit? Or was it something I specifically wasn’t supposed to know?

. . . Alcohol? was the only conclusion I was able to draw from the situation. No. No way, right? Dad would never let himself get drunk. I’ve never seen him have a sip of alcohol in my life! But what else could it have been?

I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to accept it. I couldn’t accept it. Dad wasn’t . . . wasn’t like that.

Was he?

Of course, me being me, at the time, I figured there was only one way to find out: stake out my parents’ room until I heard something that could either prove or disprove my only guess.

That was why I ended up outside, pressing my ear to the door to try and catch any snippets of conversation after my parents had tucked me in and I’d pretended to fall asleep.

“It’s . . . it’s changed now. I’m not sure what, but it’s different now . . .”

“What do you mean, different ? You said there was no way things would change . . . Hayato, what’s going on?”

“I . . . I’m sorry, love, I don’t . . . I can’t explain this.”

Why?

I leaned closer to the door as their voices quieted—

—and slipped, barely managing to break my fall with my palms. A loud thud resounded from the impact.

I sprinted for my room, dove onto the bed, and pulled the covers over me, just when my parents opened the door. “No, she’s still asleep,” Mum said, the tension in her voice palpable, then closed the door behind her.

What’s going on here . . . ?


 

Over the next two years, I saw less and less of my father. He was almost constantly sick or out of the house, and slowly, it got to the point where he lost his job because of it.

But he was still almost never home. Mum even started taking a full-time job at the orphanage she used to volunteer at in addition to her late night online teaching, too. Even if she never said anything, it only could be to make ends meet, because Dad never worked.

I didn’t know what he was doing, and I didn’t care to. I started spending even more time with Light whenever Dad was home, and Light would often come over when he wasn’t, largely because I didn’t want to be alone.

Today was one such time, when the two of us were sitting in my room, talking over a board game of Scrabble.

“We used to play with your dad,” Light mused, putting down a piece in the Double Letter bonus square. “He’s good at Scrabble.”

“Maybe he’d play if he actually cared,” I grumbled, “rather than spending all day out while Mum works herself to death, just to come home and sleep late.”

Light hummed in acknowledgement. “Any ideas about where he’s going each day?”

“Certainly not to work, if Mum’s schedule is anything to go by. I don’t think I ever see him around the house after we get back from school.” I drew a couple more pieces from the bag, arranging them in the little stand. “For all I know, he could be going out drinking or something whenever he’s out.”

“Actually, now that you’re saying that, I just realised that I’ve never heard either of your parents talk about having any friends other than my parents . . . so maybe drinking is a little farfetched?” Light pressed a tile to his mouth as he thought aloud.

“It is possible to go drinking alone,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but it’s less likely.”

“I guess. But anyway, I honestly don’t really want to care.”

“Mikko . . .” Light just sighed, about to continue, when the phone rang.

“I’ll get that,” I said, getting up to answer the landline. Unlisted number . . . ? Picking it up, I said, “Hello?”

I need to speak to Annelyse!” the voice on the other end said in English. It was a male voice, and sounded as though it belonged to an adult.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know an Annelyse,” I answered, switching to English too. “I think you’ve got the wrong number.”

Please, she doesn’t have much time left,” the person seemed to plead. “I need to speak to her. This is the number she gave me to call her, I’m sure of it!

“I’m really sorry,” I said again, “but there isn’t an Annelyse here. Maybe the number is outdated, or she gave you a different one. I do hope she gets better, though. I’m sure she’s grateful to have someone call for her, but I’m positive that she isn’t here.”

No, you don’t understand. Annelyse is—

“Not here. Look, I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know who Annelyse is, but—”

Who are you, then?” the man interrupted, voice sharp.

Exasperated, I answered. “Look, I’m Kimiko Yamada, and you’ve got the wrong number. Have a good day, but please don’t call this number again.”

Two weeks,” was all the person said before the line went dead. Shaking my head, I went back upstairs.

“Who was it?” Light asked as I closed the door behind me.

“Heck if I know,” I mumbled, reclaiming my spot on the bed to scowl at the seven-letter word Light had made while I’d been on the phone. “Some random weirdo asking for an Annelyse and saying she didn’t have much time left.”

Light looked wistful. “Well, wherever this Annelyse is, it’s nice that there’s someone out there who cares for her.”

I sighed. “Yeah.”


 

A month later, I found myself staring at the kamidana, looking hollowly at the picture of Mum that had found a home there.

Why?” I whispered. “Why now, Mum?” I miss you. Why did you have to go? Why can’t . . . why did you have to—!

I couldn’t even think the word ‘die’.

I could feel the slow descent of a tear making its way down my face, but I didn’t bother wiping it away. Instead, I just stared up at the framed picture, as the smell of the burning incense filled my nose with the scent of sandalwood.

I’d always liked the smell of sandalwood. It was both strong and unique—distinguishable—but not overpowering or stuffy; instead, somehow gentle.

Just like Mom was.

I swallowed thickly, and diverted my thoughts to the incense itself. Each morning, it was Dad who burned it—it had to be, since it wasn’t me—even though I’d never seen him do it. He always seemed to be awake before I was, but in the last two weeks, he hadn’t gone out as much, instead staying home each day to burn incense and place offerings on the kamidana, and he’d make three meals each day—including my lunchboxes in the morning—but we never really talked to each other. At least, not as much as we ever used to.

“Kimiko, I’ll be late tonight. I’ve gotten a job interview,” Dad said, as if on cue. I’m not Micchan anymore, I realised dully.

I hummed noncommittally. “Good for you.”

I heard him sigh in a way that sounded like he wanted to say something, but I didn’t turn to look, even as I heard the door close behind him.

“Why . . . why does he only care now, after you’re gone?” My voice was little less than a whisper, but it carried through the room more than anything I’d said before.

Or maybe he didn’t stop caring, but I was too stubborn to notice.

Chapter Text

November 28 th, 2003. Slowly, I underlined it, the line wobbly and dark. It was tomorrow’s date—the date Light was supposed to find the Death Note. There were few specific dates that I actually remembered, this being one of them. The other four were December 3rd, 2003, on which Ryuk would show up; January 1st, 2004 (though I wasn’t quite sure what happened on that day); November 5th, 2004, the day on which L died; and January 28th, 2010, was supposed to be day Light would die—but it wouldn’t be, if I had anything to say about it.

Hopefully, I’d driven Light in a direction in which the idea of using the Death Note would be abhorrent to him, or, if nothing else, I could potentially distract him from the Death Note when it fell.

“Yamada, pay attention in class,” the teacher interrupted my thoughts. “Please translate the fifth sentence in paragraph five.”

Oh, just translation, then, I thought, doing as I was instructed. I almost considered sighing, but if I wanted to get into To-Oh University, where Light was planning to go, my grades needed to be top of the mark. It was our last year of high school, so I needed to make it count, and if Light did end up getting the Death Note, I’d probably spend a lot less time studying.

Would I? It probably won’t really affect me too much, come to think of it. Light never told anyone about the Death Note, and I’m not sure he’d tell me, either. Even though we’re close as all hell, knowing Light, he’d probably try to keep anyone he cares about away from it altogether, so it probably won’t actually affect me much . . . at least, until L comes into the picture. By then, it’s possible—no, it’s almost certain that by the time L installs those cameras, he’ll find out about me. But, again, this was only if Light ended up getting the Death Note at all. I really, really hope he doesn’t, I thought, sighing as the bell that signalled the end of the school day sounded.

“Alright, class, remember to complete the exercises from pages fifty-six to sixty-nine from your textbooks and complete it by Monday. You’ll also be getting your results for the national practice exams on Tuesday, so you should make your university decisions accordingly. Your entrance exams are in less than two months.” He paused, then, “And you, Yamada, no matter how well you do in class, if you don’t fix that habit of yours of spacing out, it’s going on your report card. To-Oh University isn’t an easy place to get into.”

I winced. “Yes, sir . . .” I mumbled as snickers ran through the class, before the teacher turned his attention away from me and began to hound the other students over their respective grades.

I looked back at my notebook at the underlined date and bit my lip. Tomorrow’s do or die day.

I hoped it wouldn’t be the latter.


 

That night, it was impossible to sleep. I sat at my desk, pensive, tapping my pen against my lip. As the odds stood, the possibility of the Death Note actually existing were 50-50. The entire time I’d been in this world, I hadn’t ever heard so much as an old wives tale concerning strange deaths, heart attacks, or notebooks.

Of course, that didn’t really mean anything—as far as I knew, the first person to actually obtain a Death Note in the modern era was supposed to be Light, and Shinigami ordinarily didn’t really care about killing humans all that much, only doing it to keep themselves alive. It made sense that I wouldn’t have heard anything about it, so it was rather a moot point.

On the other hand, the sheer impossibility of it seemed like a huge factor in the equation. Not a whisper of any myths or strange creatures had ever been mentioned outside of fiction, and everything seemed just the same as my old world had been, with the exceptions of the technology and development that wouldn’t take place for another fifteen years. The mere idea of supernatural phenomena such as a Death Note actually existing could be laughed at.

Then again, my entire situation was laughable, too. Dying, then being reborn into a universe which I’d once thought was a cool comic, only to become best friends with the main character? Sounded like the plot of a badly written fanfiction.

But, of course, this wasn’t a fanfiction, this was actually happening. So if I could be born in the same universe as Light Yagami, yeah, there was a pretty good chance the Death Note that was supposed this entire world spiralling into chaos would exist too.

So, if it did, how was I supposed to distract Light from it when we weren’t even in the same class? I didn’t know what time the Death Note would fall, or what would be going on until then—all I knew was that Light was supposed to be staring out the window at just the right time to see it fall from the sky. Maybe if I had the manga with me, I’d be able to work this out easier, I thought glumly, and not for the first time.

What would be a reasonable way to keep Light from looking out of the window during class?

The easiest way would be to just block the window—but that would be nigh impossible to do without raising suspicion. I’d toyed with the idea of putting up a sort of poster earlier, but that would be ridiculous—after all, our school had corkboards in the corridors for that, and placing a poster specifically next to Light’s window seat would be plain absurd. I sighed, striking through the words Block the window on my notebook.

Another way to avoid the situation entirely would be to get him out of class around the time the notebook fell, but that would, again, be next to impossible. For one thing, I had no clue when the Death Note would fall, and even if I did, timing it would be ridiculously hard.

The simplest way would, of course, get into trouble, but I couldn’t risk ruining Light’s and my reputation right when university entrance exams were right around the corner. For another, neither of us were ‘problem kids,’ so it was most likely that if either of us were caught doing something we shouldn’t, it would just be brushed off. If the teachers even bothered to notice, anyway. I struck Get him out of class off of the brainstorm list.

I looked at my third option: Keep him distracted. Well, that one was significantly more reasonable than the other two, but it would still be pretty tough. After all, if Light was paying attention in class, he wouldn’t have seen the Death Note fall anyway.

The number one way to keep Light focused on something is to find something that he finds interesting, I figured, but he can solve most puzzles faster than I could even imagine. It’ll have to be something that completely stumps him. I tapped my pencil onto my lip, then underlined the words. Of course, it was risky at best, but there was still no guarantee it would keep him from staring out the window.

Finally, I moved to the last option: Get the Death Note before Light/Distract him before he picks it up . Rushing to get the notebook would, of course, be suspicious, but it would absolutely be worth having Light avoid the Death Note. Of course, there was still a chance Light would question it, and perhaps ask what is was if he saw it, but I could pass it off as mere curiosity as to wondering what the note was.

Slowly, I circled the last option. If Light did end up seeing the notebook falling, the very most I could do was to make sure he didn’t pick it up . In fact, taking it myself would be the only viable option, now that I thought about it. After all, the Death Note getting into anyone’s hands would be dangerous; not just Light’s. Most people wouldn’t have the forethought to choose someone’s name to write, even if they thought it was a prank, and would end up killing someone close to them.

If I had it, I’d know it was real. I could burn the Note, hypothetically, and that would immediately negate any and all consequences that related to the actual storyline, unless Ryuk were to decide that was no fun and drop another Note into our world, but then, it would be out of my hands.

The other option was to keep the Note with me, but not use it and keep Ryuk entertained some other way, which would be hard at best, impossible at worst. Perhaps he would take an interest in shounen manga or Sailor Moon or something.

Either way, crisis averted, right?

Satisfied, I put my pen down, closed my notebook, and found myself drifting off into a dreamless sleep there at my desk.


And at long last, the day I’d been waiting for for almost seventeen years had arrived. This is the day that could change the future, I thought numbly, fidgeting offhandedly as I thought of the riddle I’d give Light to keep him occupied throughout the day. It was something from an old Indian folktale, if I wasn’t mistaken, called Vikram aur Betaal, a story about a super-smart Indian king called Vikramaditya who was tasked with bringing an evil spirit that possessed corpses to a magician.

The spirit Betaal, apparently, didn’t care to come, but got his jollies from making a fool of people, and told the king that if he talked at any time throughout the journey while carrying Betaal back, the spirit would go back to the graveyard. Betaal then would proceed to tell Vikram a story, then ask him a riddle or question concerning the story he told. If Vikram knew the answer but didn’t say it, the spirit would kill him.

Which made it pretty damn hard for Vikram to take him back, considering how smart he was. It wasn’t until the twenty-fifth story, to which Vikram actually didn’t know the answer to, that he actually managed to get Betaal back.

That was the story I told Light on the way to school, ending it with the riddle. “So if the man married the princess and they had a girl, and his son married the queen and had a boy, what relationship would the children of both couples have to each other?”

Light bit his lip. “Putting aside how remarkably screwed up that entire relationship is . . . well . . .” Light frowned, his mind clearly working at breakneck speeds as he said, “I guess that’s about impossible to answer. I mean, the whole setting is complicated. The boy is the half-sibling to the princess, as he’s the queen’s child, which would make him an uncle to the girl, but on the other hand, the girl’s father is the grandfather to the boy, which would make her his aunt.”

“Yep, and it’s the same vice versa.”

“Exactly.” Light sighed. “Wouldn’t it be easiest to call them cousins, then, since they’re the same age?”

I laughed, and I could feel some of the tension relieving itself from the anticipation of what was yet to come. “But that’s not how it is, Light!”

“That doesn’t make it explicable!” Light protested, frustrated.

I snickered. “You aren’t wrong, Light, but it’s not the answer. Tell you what, I’ll give you until the end of the school day to figure it out.”

“It’s not solvable!”

“Tick, tock, Yagami.”

Mikko!

“I can’t hear you over the sound of your deadline.”

“I don’t know why I put up with you.”

“Please,” I scoffed, “you love me.”

A pause. Then, “Yeah.”

Then, we both burst into laughter. “See you at lunch on the roof?”

“We aren’t allowed on the roof, Mikko,” Light just sighed.

“You’re not saying no,” I pointed out.

“I’m not, am I?” Light grinned. “I got your lunch too, since you obviously didn’t make any for yourself.” Both of us opted to ignore that maybe Dad should have been helping me out with that.

“I can’t cook, Light, and you know that,” I countered.

“Unfortunately, I do,” Light teased.

I gasped in mock offense, and we both laughed as we parted ways to get to our respective classes. Mission start, I told myself, my smile fading as soon as Light was out of sight.

The whole day, I kept my eyes peeled for a single anomaly—for even a smudge of black that didn’t belong, but there was absolutely nothing out of place throughout. Soon enough, it was already lunchtime, and there had been neither hide nor hair of the Death Note. It wouldn’t be possible for it to be visible from Light’s classroom and not mine, I reasoned, considering it’s supposed to fall from the sky, and into the courtyard.

After almost getting caught on the roof with Light at lunch (and subsequently hiding in a storage closet to avoid getting in trouble), I made sure to keep my eyes intensely focused on the window, not wanting to miss the Death Note if it fell.

We had one class left, and there had been no sign of the Note anywhere. I shuffled in my chair, keeping my eyes trained on the window . . .

. . . when it fell.

I could feel my heartbeat in my ears.

No.

I took a deep breath. It’s okay. Light . . . Light won’t get it. He can’t . I’ll get it before him. I will. I couldn’t let the alternative happen.

But everything I had planned started to fall apart the very moment the bell rang. “Okay, remember to hand in your workbooks on Monday. Class is dismissed—oh, Yamada, not you. I need to talk to you, so please stay behind.”

Damn it! Of all days to be called in after class . . . I tapped my foot impatiently as the class slowly cleared out of the room, more than most of them glancing periodically at me, as if to wonder why, but eventually left.

I let my gaze wander to the winder, where I could see the Death Note lying face down in the courtyard.

“Yamada.” My head snapped over to look at my teacher. “You’ve been particularly disinterested in classes as of this week. Is there a reason you’ve been so distracted lately? I’ve even heard that you’ve been sleeping in class.”

Internally, I swore. I hadn’t been counting on this at all. I took a deep breath, realising that the only way to get out of this quickly was to play dirty. “Sorry, sir . . .” I bit my lip. “There’s just been a lot going on at home lately, and studying for the entrance exams has taken up all my time, so it’s a little hard to focus in class, sir. I know that’s no excuse for not paying attention, but . . .”

My teacher sighed, cutting me off. “If you wish, I can arrange a meeting with your father—”

“No thank you, sir. I’ll rest up tonight and I’ll make sure to be at the top of my game from Monday onwards.”

“Thank you, Yamada. Remember, though, the school always offers help if you need it, so don’t hesitate to talk to any of your teachers.”

“. . . Thank you, sir. I’ll be leaving now.”

“Oh, Yamada, one more thing. Pick up a copy of Kurono Masaharu’s Revised Exam Notes sometime. You may be friends with Yagami, but you also have to study yourself.”

“Of course.”

I sighed as I closed the door behind me, then made a break for the courtyard. Please, please, please . . . please don’t have picked it up yet, Light!

By the time I reached, Light was waiting for me. “Come on, Mikko. Let’s go home.”

Agh, no! What should I . . . “Did you see, uh . . .”

“See what?”

Shoot, right, I can’t ask him if he saw it fall. “Yamamoto still has my pencil from last week. Have you seen him?” Sorry, Yamamoto.

“Mikko . . . he’s in your class.”

“Yeah, but I had to stay back because Mr Furuya needed to talk to me, so I didn’t get to ask him.”

“He held you back because . . . ?”

“I wasn’t paying attention in class.”

“Then you deserve it.”

I scoffed in mock offense, but held off on asking anything about the Death Note—if he had picked it up, just knowing about it would have me screwed over in a matter of hours. In the end, I didn’t speak to him about it at all, the horrible sinking feeling of failure settling in my stomach.

The moment I got home, I dumped my book bag on the floor (not like Dad would care anyway) and dove onto the couch to switch on the house TV. Come on, come on, come on, where’s the right news channel . . . Ah! News 6!

. . . have determined the man’s identity. He is Kurou Otoharada, forty-two years old and unemployed. Two days ago, Otoharada is reported to have been found in Shinjuku, having killed three people in an alleyway behind Keio Plaza. His motive remains unknown to police despite his frequent appearances around Shinjuku, as each of his murders was indiscriminate. We’ll be checking in with Mr Soumiro Hashimoto at the scene.

Thank you, Ms Kuromae. There still seems to be no changes yet in the sce—wait, something’s happening.” I held my breath. “What’s this . . . ? The . . . the hostages are coming out! They seem to be alright. The police are going in now. Will they be able to arrest Otoharada?

They can’t if he’s dead, I thought, already noticing my fingers were numb. Please don’t let this be true.

A moment later, the chatter subsided and the police headed out. And then, the crushing words of failure I’d feared for years resounded: “The captor is inside the nursery school, and he is dead!

Dead.

Dead.

I failed.

All of a sudden, it was like my head had been submerged underwater. Light has the Death Note now. What . . . what do I do now? Do I just . . . give up? Would it even be possible to do anything? I don’t—

A multitude of beeps from my alarm shook me out from the spiral of negative thoughts that were sure to only mess me up. Right . . . we have our prep course today.

Maybe I could try and take the Death Note from Light’s bag during prep? Or would that be too suspicious? I bit my lip, knowing that now, the only way to approach getting the Death Note from Light would be within these five days, before Ryuk showed up.

If I didn’t, I’d just have to let things run their course and just make sure Light didn’t die. Or, if I was lucky, that L would never find him— us —in the first place (even if that was a stretch).

I swallowed, my throat dry as I noted that Light hadn’t yet showed up, even by the time I was in the classroom. Of course, Light wasn’t one to like waiting around for no reason, but class would start within five minutes.

The teacher stepped in mere moments after Light did, and immediately called attention to the class, effectively cutting any and all chance of getting the Note from Light. Damn.

Towards the end of class, I even tried passing a note to Light, but it went unnoticed, with how deep in his thoughts he was. I swear, Light, if you’re raving about how rotten the world is in your head, I’m going to kill you before Ryuk can.

Then, my throat tightened—now that was a possibility, wasn’t it? Ryuk killing Light? I’d been so quick to brush off the entire canon as likely fiction, but from the moment the Death Note fell, it seemed so much more real.

And now, it was that much more dangerous—the likelihood that my best friend would be responsible for mass slaughter . The deaths of hundreds—no, thousands —of people.

That he’d be locked up, alone and denied contact with the outside world, hands and feet bound for months, deprived of his most basic rights beyond what was essential to barely survive.

That he would die before he even turned thirty—killed by a reaper who would willingly throw a whole planet into disarray for amusement.

I felt sick. I can’t let that happen.

Then, an unwelcome thought wormed its way into my mind: You said that about him getting the Death Note, and look what happened?

I shook my head. I didn’t have time to dwell on it now. Not when there was this much at risk. All I could do was try my best to stop the worst things from happening.

My eyes flitted to my bag, where my own notebook (the one in which I’d been noting down the events that would take place) was. I can try and intercept Light at the bookstore . . . maybe?

And it was then that the bell rang, signalling the end of prep class. I picked up my book bag and made my way to Light’s seat, where he was zoning out, staring in the direction of Sudou’s seat. He can’t seriously be considering . . . killing Sudou, right?

I snapped my fingers in front of his his face. “Hey, space case! We need to get home!”

Light jolted backwards, only having just realised class was over. “Oh . . . Mikko, right.” His eyes shifted. “You know what, you go ahead today, and I’ll catch up. I’m going to have to go over the lesson and meet with Mr Nikaido for the briefing for the next few lessons. I don’t want you getting held back because of me.”

I sighed. Obviously, Light wasn’t going to tell me about the Death Note. Staying would be pointless—I wouldn’t be able to get the Death Note from him today, no matter how hard I tried.

And besides, I probably wouldn’t have the energy to deal with Light questioning me if I accidentally let slip more than I should. I’ll plan this out properly when I get home, I decided, before sighing again and leaving.

It had been a while since I’d walked home alone, I realised as I shifted my bag over my shoulder and pulled my hood over my head. I sighed as I passed by a bookstore on the side of the road. Right . . . the exam guide—I’m supposed to pick one up.

Just as I was about to enter, the loud screech of tyres sounded next to me. “Hey, girlie!” A sleazy voice called out. No, no, no! This wasn’t how it was supposed to go! “How ’bout havin’ some fun with me tonight?”

“How about no?” I said instead, really not wanting to have to deal with this. I pulled my hood down lower.

“Ooh, a mysterious chick, huh? Taku, you got good taste, man,” one of his lackeys appraised.

“My name’s Takuo Shibuimaru—that's Shibutaku for short, heh heh . . .” Shibuimaru said, lowering his sunglasses. That translates to “Cool Taku”—and it’s a blatant ripoff of that other idol’s nickname. Classless, if you ask me.

“Taku’s usual come-on,” said the first lackey.

“Well, it is his real name,” countered a second.

“Look, I don’t have time for this—”

“She says she doesn’t have time, dude! Ain’t that cute!”

“Aww, come on!” Shibuimaru tried again.

“You really can’t see that this is a waste of time for both of us? For one thing, I’m a minor, and a law-abiding citizen, so that’s a firm no.”

One of the lackeys snorted. “Like anyone cares about those rules anyway,” he jeered, and I felt a hand on my back.

I smacked it to the side. “Don’t touch me.” I’ll just run, exam book be damned. I glanced pointedly at a traffic light. “Look, there’s a police officer right there!” I lied, then took advantage of their moment of bewilderment to make a break for it.

But just as I had crossed the road, a truck hit Shibuimaru with a sicking crash and a consecutive crunch .

Just like in the story.

Right there, on the pavement, I collapsed to the floor as Shibuimaru’s lackeys fled.

“Mikko!” Light’s voice seemed far away, even as he lifted me up and carried me somewhere—I could tell where, and quite frankly, I felt too sick to care. The crunch of Shibuimaru’s bones breaking still echoes in my head, and I felt the need to throw up.

“Light,” I mumbled, curling my fingers in his shirt as I hid my face. “It’s real,” I whispered.

It’s all real, I realised, and I’m too late.


Chapter Text

It was a good thing Dad wasn’t home. We finally made it back to my house, and the two of us both immediately collapsed onto the sofa.

“Are you okay, Light?”

Light just blinked slowly. Right . . . he can’t be okay. He’s just . . . oh my god, Light’s just killed two people. Then, he inhaled, exhaled, and said, “Am I okay? You could’ve gotten hit by that truck and you’re asking if I’m okay?”

He’s acting, I noted, stomach churning. I met his eyes. You can tell me anything, you know?

Light’s mask didn’t fall. He just kept looking at me with those wide, concerned eyes—probing. Not for any suspicions, but more likely than not, for my own wellbeing.

I suppressed a shudder as the crash replayed in my head. That was a scene that wouldn’t leave my head for a long while.

And then, in a soft whisper, Light said, “I’m scared, Mikko. I don’t know what I . . . how I . . .” Of course he won’t want to talk about the Death Note, I realised belatedly. No normal person would ever admit to anything like that, even if they’re—no, especially if they’re as close as we are.

“It’s okay,” I mumbled, fidgeting with my fingers.

Light shook his head, mouth playing into a mirthless smile. “I didn’t know it was you, you know? Until your hood fell when you ran from those guys. Then, not even a second after I realised that it was you who was there, that truck ran past.” He shuddered. “I thought you had died then,” he mumbled slower, softer. “What kind of person does that make me, Mikko? What if you’d been a few seconds slower? What if you’d died; what if I’d killed y —”

Light cut himself off abruptly.

“Light?”

“Sorry, I . . . I’m not . . . I don’t really know what I’m feeling right now, Mikko. It’s just throwing me off a little.” His expression softened. “You should get some rest, okay? Call me if you can’t sleep and you want to talk.” His eyes were uncertain, but it was clear he’d sensed my own exhaustion despite it.

Come to think of it, I could feel the lethargy catching up to me, making my eyelids heavy. I nodded, and pulled a throw blanket over myself there on the couch, then fell asleep.

I woke up again in the middle of the night in my own room, with a plate on my bedside table. Under it was a note that said, Today must have been draining for you. Sweet dreams, Kimiko. —Dad

I looked at the plate itself. On it were a few small homemade peach tarts—my favourite treat. Slowly, I bit into one, the flavour bursting onto my tongue. He used Mum’s recipe, I realised. And somehow, that calmed me down enough to sleep properly for the rest of the night.


The next few days passed by quickly. In the hopes of getting the Death Note, I ended up spending more time at Light’s house, and even more time in his room, under the premise of studying. On the third day after he’d gotten the notebook, he’d been called by his mom to give something to the neighbours.

Now’s my chance, I decided as Light left the room. Quickly, I looked through the drawers in Light’s cabinet, finding the Death Note in the top one. I had about ten minutes before Light would get back. That should be enough time.

I took the Death Note out of the drawer, and flipped it open. The cover page had the How To Use It rules written on them in the same messy, chunky handwriting that was suddenly all too familiar. On the first actual page were the names of Kurou Otoharada, and seven variations of Takuo Shibuimaru’s name. Then, a pencil line sharply drawn across the page, as though the book had been closed in a hurry and the pencil left a mark. That must have been from when he ran out of the store and—

I shook my head, clearing it of the memory—there was no time to waste.

Turning to the second page, I noted that it was significantly more organised than the first—there were four names on each line, written in neat columns. The second page was full, and a quick count showed that there were thirty-six lines on each page—that was a hundred and forty-four names that could fit on each page, and Light was already halfway through the third page, from the looks of it. Will I have time to count the number of pages? A quick glance outside the window showed me that Light was nowhere in sight.

I opened the Death Note to the halfway-point, where it was bound by thin thread— not staples, huh? —and counted the number of pages from the centre to the start—thirty in total. That made sixty whole pages, and a hundred and twenty sides.

“And done,” I breathed, closing the Note, just as I heard the doorknob turn. Startled, I dumped the notebook into the drawer it had been in, and quickly shut it behind me.

“Kimiko, could you help me with this math question?” Oh . . . thank God it’s just Sayu . . . Light would’ve noticed something was up if it had been him.

“Yeah, sure—what’s the topic?”

“Quadratic equations,” she groaned, flopping onto Light’s chair with her notebook. “I don’t get them at all.”

“Well, then, let’s start with factorisation,” I said, “do you know the FOIL method?”

“As in . . . tin foil?”

“No, it’s an acronym in English,” Light said, shrugging off his coat as he entered the room. “It stands for first, inner, outer, last, and that’s how you’re supposed to multiply the numbers in brackets.”

“When did you get back?” I asked, folding my arms as I swivelled the chair around to face him.

“A minute ago,” Light said, his tone airy and casual. Too casual, in fact. He’s forcing it. I decided to put that issue aside for later, after Sayu left.

And so, the impromptu math class began. For the most part, everything was fine, until—

“My pencil’s out of lead . . . Hey, Light, do you have any in here?” Sayu asked, reaching for the drawer that the Death Note was kept in.

“Here!” I supplied, scooping a small box of pencil lead off the floor.

“Thanks, Kimiko!”

I didn’t dare to chance a glance at Light, but I did hear him exhale shakily. It’s a good thing I’ve already touched the Note, and then some. Now, it was more likely than not that he’d be considering moving it to a different location.

Then again, there isn’t much related to the heart attack deaths on the media yet, and there wouldn’t be, until the confrontation with L that would be . . . soon. Maybe he’d think he wouldn’t have too much to worry about?

When Sayu left the room to watch the latest airing of a drama, I turned to Light. “So, care to explain your newfound weariness, you old man?”

Light attempted to scowl, but it looked more like a pout. “It’s been harder to sleep since . . . the incident the other day.” Since he got the Death Note.

“You aren’t eating properly, either,” I pointed out, recalling his half-full lunchbox. The notebook’s already screwing up his health. I felt sick. “Do you want to see a therapist or something?”

Light shook his head. “No, that’s not . . . that’s not it, Mikko. Don’t worry,” he said, smiling (and if I didn’t know better, I would have believed it was genuine), “I’ll be fine. Are you okay after that, though?”

“I’m more or less okay . . . I didn’t see what happened to that Shibui-whatever guy, but I did hear the crash. That’s about it, though.”

“If you’re okay, that’s good.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. Obviously, I wasn’t going to get any more out of Light tonight. I picked up my book bag. “Alright, guess I’ll go back home now. See you tomorrow, Light,” I said, and stepped closer to him.

Light stepped backward a little. “Light . . .” I tried not to feel hurt. I closed my eyes, sighing as I raised the back of my hand to his forehead. As I suspected, it was warm. I shook my head as I withdrew my hand. “Please take better care of yourself, Light, you’re almost getting a fever.” In fact, now that I noticed it, his face was pinkish, too.

Light nodded. “Goodnight, Mikko.”

“Night,” I returned, leaving.

 

I didn’t go to Light’s house the next day. If memory served (and I sure hoped it did), it was the day Ryuk would first show up, and if I was there when he did, it would probably have made things all the more confusing for him, Light, and myself. Plus, when I had an idea of the timeline, however vague, I didn’t want to screw it up.

So that meant letting Light do as he pleased with the Death Note, for now. I hated the idea, if only because of how it was affecting Light—it wasn’t only messing with his sleep schedule; I could also tell that he’d definitely looked paler and thinner too. Of course, since he hadn’t been eating.

Almost as if he were trying to be a martyr of sorts.

“What are you doing to yourself, Light . . .” I mumbled aloud, switching on my computer. There still hadn’t been any news from the mass media on Kira specifically, but the ‘unexplained deaths of wanted criminals’ was already a major headline. It’s barely been four days, and we’re already getting this far in . . . imagine how quickly this would have spread if I were still in 2016, I thought, stunned.

It was then that a gossip column caught my eye— Kira: Saviour or Sinner? —the first one I’d seen to acknowledge Kira.

I was wrong. This is where it begins.

I sat back in my chair, turning towards the window, only to see Ryuk sitting on a lamppost outside. I made eye contact with him for a brief moment, then spun around on my heel and turned away.

He saw me. And he knows I saw him. Please don’t tell Light. Please don’t tell him, please.

That night, I waited patiently for any messages or calls from Light, but none came. It was almost ten, in fact, when I heard footsteps behind me. “Who is it?” Even I could tell that the casual tone in my voice was fake.

“So, you can see me,” Ryuk mused, voice gravelly and amused. If I remembered correctly, the best way to deal with Ryuk was to sass him. Interest him.

I swallowed thickly as I said, “Technically, I can hear you right now.”

Ryuk cackled. “You’re amusing.”

“I get that a lot.”

Ryuk cackled again, obviously satisfied. “You’re surprisingly calm about seeing a Shinigami.”

I closed my eyes, turned around to where I heard Ryuk’s voice from, then looked at him. Ryuk looked exactly as I remembered he would, from the leathery clothes stapled onto him to the yellow-red eyes and spiked-up black hair. “What if I said that it’s because I knew you would come? That I touched Light’s Death Note because I knew, then, that I would be able to see you?”

Ryuk’s already-wide grin stretched wider. “So you’re one of them,” he said, quietly enough for me to have barely heard it.

“One of whom?”

“Can’t tell you that,” Ryuk just said in response. “I’m breaking enough Shinigami rules already,” he chuckled. He has to know something. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I can remember . . .

I shook my head. “In that case, you owe me—so you need to make sure that Light doesn’t find out that I know about the notebook, or Shinigami, or that he’s Ki— that he’s the one who’s killing criminals.”

“Looks like we’ve got a deal then,” Ryuk said, then took off.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. That’s one issue solved. Now for the rest of them . . . ugh. Tomorrow . . . I decided, crawling into my bed. I’ll deal with the rest of it tomorrow.


 

Two days passed, and nothing had changed from what I had expected. Ryuk hadn’t been in my house since the last time, and Light didn’t seem to suspect a thing.

I sat up straight, having been hunched over the coffee table while doing my homework. Why do we even need this many questions on the binomial theorem? I grumbled internally, letting my eyes drift to the television, where some romance drama was playing.

Better than math, I decided, and shifted my attention to it, even when I heard the door open and Dad step in. From what I could hear, he took off his shoes, and either sat down at the dining table, or was standing there.

We are interrupting the program to bring you a live, globally televised broadcast from Interpol, with Japanese voiceover by Yoshio Anderson.

The broadcast . . . is today?

I am Lind L. Tailor, more commonly known as ‘L’—the sole person able to mobilise police in every country worldwide.

I stood up abruptly, forcing myself out of the narrow spot I was in. I have to stop Light from killing him—or at least, stall until the broadcast ends. I raced upstairs to get my socks and put them on, and then to the front door to get my shoes, when Dad called for me.

“What do you want?” I tapped my foot in a mixture of impatience and nervousness.

“I need to talk to you, Kimiko.”

Now, after what, six years and a peach tart? “If a conversation can wait for six years, it can wait another half hour. Give me the house key, please.”

Kimiko.

“What do you want and why can’t it wait ?”

In the background, Lind L. Tailor had just declared Kira was evil. I won’t be able to make it there in time, I realised. If Dad hadn’t . . . no, I realised too late anyway. Damn . . . another inevitability.

Dad looked at me with an expression that I couldn’t quite place—pity? “Kimiko, things can’t change,” he said, then dropped the house key in my hand. “Don’t try to change them.”

I felt a chill run down my spine. What did . . . what does that mean?

Tailor collapsed.

I sighed in defeat, and gave the keys back to Dad. There wasn’t much point, anyway. Now . . . now Dad probably suspects something. He isn’t stupid, but . . . he doesn’t really care, does he?

I shook my head, picked up my math books, and headed back to my room. I didn’t feel like watching the rest of the broadcast. I knew what it would say, anyway—that it was only being broadcast in this area, and that L had just proved that Kira existed, and had determined Kira’s location.

Later that evening, I got a text from Light:

Did you see the broadcast?

I didn’t respond. The thought made me sick.

Another text came in:

Dad’s going to be back in Japan tomorrow, after that Interpol meeting.
Do you think the meeting was about Kira?
. . .
Mikko?
Are you asleep?
Message me when you see this.

I switched my phone off.

 

Chapter Text

Two more weeks had passed, when I was rudely awoken by a phone call. “Mmm, who is it?” I mumbled into my cell phone, half asleep.

As it turned out, it was Light. “I was thinking we should go to Spaceland today—”

“Invite someone else, goodnight,” I yawned. “Take . . . take Sayu or Yamamoto or Kayumi or Yuri or someone.”

“Come on, Mikko. It’s been ages since we actually went out together.”

“Yeah, because we have our entrance exams for To-Oh next month and some of us need to actually study, Mister Number One Nationwide.”

“And you’ve been holed up in your house for three weeks. That’s not exactly healthy, Mikko. You need sunlight.”

“Nooooooo,” I said, pulling the covers over my head.

“Okay, I’ll see you at the station in half an hour.” Light ended the call.

Which was how I unwillingly ended up at a bus station on a Saturday morning, heading towards an amusement park with my best-friend-turned-Kira.

“Good to see my best friend not being a shut-in for a change,” Light commented airily when I got there.

Ryuk snickered. “Told ya.” What’s that supposed to mean? Was Ryuk spying?

Speaking of spying, a man stood in the queue behind us. A quick glance told me that he wasn’t Japanese, judging by his sharp facial shape and narrow grey eyes. This is that FBI agent . . . what’s his name again? I sent him a mild smile when he caught me staring—obviously, I didn’t exactly look Japanese either, with my blonde hair and blue eyes.

I shook my head, clearing it of the thoughts. So if that’s the FBI agent, that means that this is the busjacking journey.

“. . . kko? Mikko!” Light said, apparently having addressed me several times before.

“Huh? What?” I mumbled dumbly.

Light shook his head. “When are you going to stop spacing out like this? It’s already getting you in trouble at school.”

I’ll stop spacing out when you stop being Kira, I thought. I shrugged, then said, “You know me, Light,” as I leaned against the metal pole behind me.

Light sighed, then changed the subject. “You look tired.”

I nodded. “Uh-huh. I haven’t been sleeping well, I guess. First there’s my grades dropping at school, now Dad’s been around even less than before, plus no one ever talks about anything except Kira and L, and I’ve been trying to draw my own conclusions on them.”

“Your grades wouldn’t drop if you weren’t sleeping in class, you know,” Light pointed out.

The metal pole was beginning to hurt my back. “And I wouldn’t be sleeping in class if Dad was home more and actually helped out with stuff when it’s not, you know, the middle of the night,” I countered, shifting uncomfortably as I stood up properly again.

Light pursed his lips together. “Okay, I’ll give you that,” he said, “but why spend time on Kira and L, then?”

I smiled partway. “Curiosity?”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” Light breathed softly. That’s a warning. That is most definitely a warning. “Or at least, the cat’s grades.”

“But satisfaction brought it back.” I paused. “Ah, the bus is here.” When we boarded the bus, I started the conversation again. “But . . . there’s something that’s been bothering me about Kira.”

“Oh?”

“Interesting,” Ryuk commented.

“I’ve been wondering . . . what does Kira get out of killing criminals? What benefits does Kira get?”

“Benefit, huh . . . it’s pretty unlikely that Kira gets anything materialistic, isn’t it? If he was being paid to do it, someone would have to know his identity, and he’d end up being revealed at some point,” Light said thoughtfully.

“So you’re saying Kira’s killing criminals of his own accord . . . through a sense of righteousness?” Shaking my head, I continued, “Light, barely anyone bothers to differentiate right from wrong anymore. What would make Kira any different?”

“Maybe . . . that’s why Kira’s doing it, then? To be different? To make the change that could, in his opinion, be better?” Light paused. “Then again, the whole idea is ridiculous, since killing people would make Kira a criminal himself.”

If I didn’t know he was Kira, I would have fallen for this—hook, line, and sinker, I realised. “Mhmm,” I hummed. “But . . . what do you think L would do next?”

“Why ask me?” Light seemed genuinely surprised.

“Because knowing you, you’ll have an idea. You’re good at this kind of stuff, Light,” I said, bu I could already feel my eyelids drooping with exhaustion. Damn . . . I wish I’d slept better last night . . . “And besides,” I said, “you’re interested in this Kira versus L thing too, aren’t you? I lowered my voice, in part because it felt odd to say it aloud, and in part because I didn’t want the agent to hear what I was about to say next: “You’re trying to figure out who Kira is too, aren’t you?”

Light recoiled, then tried to cover it up with a sneeze. “I mean . . . I am curious about Kira, but I’m not actively trying to figure it out—not with entrance exams so close by.”

“Please, you probably have all the subject material memorised already, Mister Number One Nationwide.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“Never.”

We both laughed.

“Hmm, you know what, I think I’ll just close my eyes for a moment . . .” I said, leaning onto Light’s shoulder. It was comfier than I imagined. “But, you know,” I murmured, “I can’t help but feel like we’re being watched.”

Just as my consciousness began to drift away, I heard Light say softly, “I can’t believe you noticed it so easily . . .”

I was jerked awake with a shout of, “THIS BUS HAS JUST BEEN HIJACKED, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!”

“Ngh . . . what’s going on . . . ?” I mumbled, still half asleep.

“Shh,” Light whispered, then gestured subtly to the guy who’d just disrupted my sleep.

I squinted at the guy, then whispered to Light, “Isn’t this that druggie who was on the news yesterday?”

“Kiichiro Osoreda,” Light confirmed, as murmurs filled the bus, mostly in the form of aghast exclamations of surprise.

“Cut the squawking!” the addict—Osoreda—yelled in our general direction. “Anybody makes a sound or move of any kind, I blow their damn head off!”

I winced—his voice was loud and fairly high pitched. In short, annoying, and, having just woken up, I was not receptive to it. “If anyone’s squawking here . . .”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Light suppressing a laugh, even as he pulled something out of his pocket.

“Hey, driver. You know the Spaceland phone number, don’t you? Call it.” Osoreda hissed, poking the driver’s hat with the edge of his gun.

The driver visibly shivered as he acquiesced. Poor guy, I thought, opting to ignore the fact that it was Light’s fault everyone was going through this ordeal. “This is Sasaki,” he said, voice shaking slightly, “driver of bus number one-two-four.”

“Tell ’em what’s happening,” Osoreda drawled, grinning creepily. I suppressed a shiver.

“Th-the bus has just been hijacked by a man with a gun! He—”

“Gimme that,” Osoreda interrupted, snatching the phone from the driver. “You hear that?” he asked into the phone. “Now listen to this. Take all the money you made yesterday, and bring it to Yuhihama bus stop—that's two stops before Spaceland—before this bus gets there. I want a woman delivering the money by car, no one else!” he said, waving his gun around animatedly. “You try to be smart with me, or call the cops, I kill every passenger on this bus! You got that?” Osoreda didn't even wait for an answer before ending the call, sniggering, and smashing the phone underfoot.

That’ll get rid of any chance of a negotiation, I thought, as the hijacker leered (and drooled, yuck) at the thought of what he thought he would be getting.

Then, I felt a light tap on my thigh. I glanced towards Light, who was holding up a note. Right . . . he’s going to get that agent to see it, isn’t he? Nonetheless, I read it through.

Mikko, it’ll be fine. I’ll look for a chance to grab the guy’s arm and pin it down so he can’t use the gun. Dad’s taught me what to do in situations like these, just in case. Plus, the guy’s small and weak-looking. I’m sure I can restrain him.

As much as I knew it was an act, I had to respond in kind. “Yeah, but isn’t restraining a druggie more dangerous than restraining a normal guy with a gun. There’s no telling how he’ll react.”

“She’s right,” a deeper voice sounded from behind. Light had successfully got the agent’s attention. “Don’t do it; it’s too dangerous. Let me take care of that.”

I raised an eyebrow as I glanced at Light. Can we trust him?

Light lifted a shoulder slightly. We’ll have to see.

“I don't mean to be rude, but you have a slight accent. You aren't Japanese, are you?” Light said, his voice low and calm.

“No, I'm American. My mother's Japanese, though.” he said cautiously.

“Do you have anything that will prove that you aren't the hijacker’s accomplice?”

“Accomplice?” I asked, doing my best to sound skeptical and slightly confused. I could feel my head starting to throb. I need to get my sleeping schedule on track . . .

“It's pretty common practice. They make you think there's only one guy, but he actually has an accomplice in the back to keep watch and come to the rescue if anything goes wrong.” Light said softly, his words directed at me.

“So if you knew there was a guy in the back, why’d you hold up the note so clearly?” I frowned. “It’s not like you to be that careless.” I was starting to throw him under the bus here, but it was getting harder and harder to come up with a reasonable argument without giving away too much.

Ryuk snickered in the background.

“I wasn’t anticipating he’d intervene—that’s why I thought he could be an accomplice. Most other people wouldn’t try to prevent someone from trying to restrain the hijacker if it meant a chance for their safety.”

“Unless they realised it could put them in an even more risky situation if the hijacker decided to shoot—and, like I said earlier, he’s a drug addict, which makes the situation even more dangerous.”

“Again, in a situation like this, most people wouldn’t think that far ahead. I . . . I guess I didn’t, either.” Then, Light paused. “But I still don’t know if I can trust you,” he said, tilting his head in the direction of the agent behind us.

I heard him sigh, and then a small ID appeared between the seats. Raye Penber, I read off the card.

“Okay, I trust you,” Light said, passing the ID back, “and right now, I won’t ask why an FBI agent’s aboard this bus.” A pause. “Got a gun?”

“Yes,” Penber affirmed, “I do.”

“So you’ll take care of it if something happens?”

“Yes.”

I felt Light shift beside me, and then he leaned over outside his seat, saying, “Oops,” as he picked something up off the floor. Paper . . . ? If I recall correctly . . . that’s Death Note paper, isn’t it?

My suspicions were confirmed moments later, as Osoreda demanded Light hand over the note and berated him when he saw it wasn’t important. “Tch! Drop something again, I’ll shoot ya! And that goes for all of y’all! Anybody makes a move, I’m gonna . . .” He trailed off, his voice trembling as his eyes widened in pure fear.

He’s seen Ryuk.

“WHAT THE HELL? YOU IN THE BACK THERE, YOU . . . MONSTER, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?”

I winced, covering my ears. Does he have to be so loud . . . ?

“Hmm? You talking to me?” Ryuk drawled, likely interested. Then again, his expression made it hard to tell. “You can see me . . . ?”

Osoreda choked. “Don’t . . . move, just . . . stay . . . right there, or I’ll . . . I’ll shoot . . . !” He pointed his gun at Ryuk, waving it around in his general area.

Ngh . . . I think I’m getting a migraine . . .

Penber yelled something from behind me, but I couldn’t pick it apart. Ugh, my head . . . head hurts . . . I pinched the bridge of my nose to try and ward it off, but it did little to stop the migraine.

Ryuk began talking to Osoreda, figuring out Light’s plan to reveal Penber’s identity, but I didn’t end up catching a word of it. All his words seemed to blend together, as if I’d been submerged underwater. My vision began to blur with dizziness, too.

Why . . . can’t I think straight . . . ?

Then, for a moment, my head cleared as my left arm suddenly grew warmer.

Somewhere in the background, the hijacker got off the bus, and I felt Light’s warmth disappear from my side. Wait . . .

It was then that I realised my glove was wet. And, when I looked at it, dyed red. Is that . . . blood?

The second I realised it, my arm exploded in a sharp pain. I got shot. “Light . . .” I whispered, and my consciousness began to fade. Stay awake, I told myself, but with the (both literal and figurative) shock of being shot, coupled with my exhaustion and headache, it was fruitless.


When I woke up, the first thing I was aware of was that I felt like I was floating. The second was that I was in a hospital, if the crisp smell of disinfectant was anything to go by.

The third was that there was an IV drip plugged into my arm. “Whaz habbenin’,” I mumbled.

“Good thing you’re awake,” I heard Light’s voice crystal-clear. “But now, you’re also in a lot of trouble.”

“That, you are, miss.” That must be a nurse . . . ? Right, I’d gotten shot. “You received a bullet to the arm. You’re lucky it was only a flesh wound from a graze, but you still lost quite a bit of blood, and you seem to be suffering from severe sleep deprivation.” I winced.

Light shook his head. “You should have said something about it if it was this bad, Mikko. When was the last time you got a full eight hours of sleep?”

I hesitated, uncomfortable with the pressure. “. . . November.”

“We’re halfway through December, Mikko, and it looks like you haven’t gotten any sleep at all this week.”

“Two,” I corrected.

Two weeks,” Light amended. “You’re not helping your case here.”

“Excuse me,” the nurse interrupted before we could butt heads, “but allow me to expand on the details of your situation. You were lucky that the bullet did not enter your body, and that it didn’t cause any long-term damage to your muscles or bones. It should recover in little over a month, though there will be some scarring in that area.”

The nurse continued talking, saying something about the flesh and muscles rapidly contracting and expanding, and something about the stress of all that, before she finally got around to how to treat it:

“You will need to change your bandages every other day until then, and clean it when you do to prevent it from getting infected. We will also give you two types of painkillers, once of which should be taken in the day, and the other before you sleep. The second one is a drowsy medicine, which should also help you with your sleeping issues.”

The nurse continued to ask my questions about previous injuries, my mental state, et cetera, before she nodded and left the room.

Light sat down on his stool again. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault you got injured . . .”

I shook my head. “No, it isn’t. You couldn’t have known this would happen. It could’ve been anyone.”

“But I did — I should have been able to protect you, still. I should have pulled you downwards when he shot, I should have stayed on the bus with you when you weren’t responsive, I should have—”

“Now we’re talking about what we should have done, Light? Then, I should have been sleeping properly this month. I should have been more alert, I should have realised that the agent guy was probably telling us to get down.” I sighed. “It’ll heal in a month or so, right? And we can’t change the past. If you make a mistake, you have to learn to accept it so you can deal with it and do better next time.”

Light didn’t look any happier, but at least he’d stopped objecting. If I recall correctly, no one got shot in the original canon. This is on me.

“Not that you’d know—you barely ever make mistakes, Mister Number One Nationwide.” I paused. “Then again, maybe it’s about time you did make one.”

Light finally cracked a small smile.

“Say, what time is it?”

“Three,” Light said, without glancing at his watch.

I smiled. “Oh that’s not too bad, then. I’m surprised I was only out for, what, four hours?”

Light looked at me blankly. “It’s three the next day, Mikko. It’s Sunday. You’ve been asleep for twenty-six hours.”

Oh. Oh. Yeah, I really needed to get back on track.

“Anyway . . . they want the name of a legal guardian. Is your dad still abroad?” Light asked, changing the topic.

“Uh huh. He’s in Los Angeles, if I recall correctly. God knows what he’s doing there.” The conversation carried pretty smoothly from there, and I was dismissed from the hospital later that evening.

“You’ll have to stay at my place for now,” Light said, shrugging off his jacket as we stepped through the doorway to the Yagami house. “I’ll bring your stuff over, and you can change into something more comfortable. Mom’ll help you with that and the bandage tomorrow morning.”

I nodded. “Winter break starts soon, right?”

“Yeah, it technically starts tomorrow. They decided to move it up a little because there’s no point in going to school on just one day of the week.”

“Alrig—”

Kimiko!” Sayu yelled, racing down the stairs and promptly squeezing my torso.

“Sayu . . . I can’t . . . breathe . . . !” I choked out, gasping for air.

“You can’t just worry us like that!” Sayu said, ignoring me. “How did it even happen —you got shot! By a gun!” Sayu finally let go of me, just to throw her arms in the air in exasperation. “How?

I sat down on the couch, and gestured for her to do the same. “There was a hijacker that got on the bus we were on,” I explained. “Turns out, he was armed, and started hallucinating towards the end, and started shooting, and I got it. After that . . . he died, I think. Jumped off the bus and into traffic.”

“Oh.” Sayu’s voice was small. Then, after a pause, she said, “Hey, Kimiko? Do you think that’s the kind of person Kira would have killed?”

I looked at her. She wasn’t looking at me anymore, but instead at her lap, and her expression was conflicted. “Why are you asking me?”

Sayu shifted in her seat. “Dad’s not here, and Mom couldn’t really answer that. You and Light are super smart, too, but I can’t ask Light, because . . . well, I know he doesn’t like Kira, especially because the investigation is dangerous for Dad, and Kira is still killing people. Light’s against Kira, so he wouldn’t even consider him being good. So you’re the only one I can ask.”

I looked away from Sayu. “The hijacker was that drug addict who was on the news a few days ago. Something Osoreda. He tried to rob a bank and failed, and shot—killed—three people on his way out.” I sighed. “Yeah, that’s definitely the kind of person Kira would have killed.”

Sayu’s face darkened as she curled her hands into fists, tightening her grip on her skirt. “I see . . . so, if Ki—”

“I’m back,” Light said, stepping through the door with one of my backpacks. “Come on, Mikko, let’s go upstairs.”

I glanced at Sayu, who’s switched on the television. “Hey, did you know that Hideki Ryuga’s actually sixteen?” she asked. Her smile was a little stiff, but she was definitely getting as coy as her brother.

“Really?” I asked, somehow surprised. “He looks older than that . . .”

“He’s so cool! And I’ve watched all his interviews, and he’s really nice, too!” Sayu continued, and now her excitement seemed to be genuine. I patted her head as I got up, and followed Light into his room, where the pullout bed had already been made.

“I’ll sleep on the pullout,” Light clarified. “Since you can’t risk your arm getting hurt any further.”

I had been about to object, but I acquiesced. If I let myself do something stupid, it’d only server to mess things up for me further. “Okay.”

It took a surprisingly short span of time for me to get changed despite the injury, and I was on Light’s bed before I knew it. As I was taking my medicine, Light asked, “Have you told your dad about what happened yesterday?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I haven’t. He probably wouldn’t even care. And even if he did, what could he even do about it from LA?”

Light hummed in acknowledgement, then switched off the lights. “Goodnight, Mikko,” he said softly.

“Night,” I yawned, already feeling the clutches of sleep taking hold for the first time in a while.