|The Ninth Legend
Author: Evil Neptune PM
Created as an entry to High Crystal Guardian's fanfiction contest. Please read her fanfics before you read this one, or you may not understand parts. See inside for a plot summary. Latest Chapter- 5: VictoryRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Mystery - Chapters: 6 - Words: 40,779 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 02-29-04 - Published: 08-26-03 - id: 1495287
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Okay. This is it. No author's notes this time, I'm just going to jump right into the story. Here goes…
The colors swirled about him. His sword moved lazily around his body as he mechanically went through the complex movements needed to translate his body from one Realm to another. They were all there, at his command. Soon, he would bring forth the Ninth Legend.
First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, his own Sixth Realm… the Shadow Realms… the Endless Realm…
First Negative Realm looked the same as it ever had. Destitute, violent, and dark. There was nobody else in the streets, or if there had been they had hidden at the sight of this strange travelling party.
Kaze himself was in disguise. It was not wise for the Blue Eyes of the Opposition to go walking about on the streets of his own Realm. Ichiko had used her mental magic to create a simple glamour for him, based on one of her former patrons when she still had a library. His hair was now white, though his eyes were still the same color. His face was longer, granier, tanner, and far older. No one, seeing him by chance as he walked down the street, would have recognized Seto Kaiba.
They had arrived in First Negative inside the Opposition headquarters. Apparently, Kaeru and Kawari had led a mission of very small numbers to the Hand headquarters; in fact, Kaze realized as he glanced at the mission roster that it included only the two Ring holders and their escape crew. What had persuaded Kaeru to act so foolishly? One did not take risks when an organization as important as the Opposition was in your hands. When he learned that Saguru had followed Kaeru to the headquarters, and when Aikan had suggested that it would be the likely hiding place for the First Negative kernel if the Hand of the Shadow had it, it had become an obvious choice to follow them.
Miyaburu had assumed a perpetual scowl, thinking many things but sharing none. His mistrust of Yami had been intensified a thousandfold by the events at the Fourth Realm cave, and he was convinced that somehow, it was Yami's fault that Metsubou had escaped. He wasn't sure where this feeling came from, but he knew he was correct, and he stewed silently in his conviction that the others were wrong to trust the Pharaoh.
Getting inside the HQ is going to be tricky, Aikan mused. "Kaze," she asked, "do you have a plan for what you're going to do here?"
"Of course," he snapped, assuming his more formal leadership role. "First, we'll check the status of their cover. If it's blown, you'll force your way into the tower and ascend as quickly as you can from the inside. If it's still secure, you'll try to ascend covertly on the outside. I obtained the necessary equipment for this possibility before we left. I assume you can handle this operaton."
"Yes, Blue Eyes," Aikan responded.
"Wheeler, you will accompany Aikan. I'm sure you are as capable as your Negative self at this sort of thing. Miyaburu and Duke Devlin will secure the tower's entrance and ensure that nobody enters or leaves while we are inside. Ichiko, what are you capable of physically?"
"Not much," she replied sheepishly. "I'm sort of a book nerd."
"I thought as much," Kaze replied, his tone absolutely neutral. "You will accompnay Aikan and Wheeler, but if they must make an exterior traversal, you will be carried in a backpack worn by Wheeler. Don't argue," he cut her off, as she looked like she was about to say something.
"I want a magic user accompanying Aikan, and you are the most easily transported of the three choices I have, being the smallest. Can you deal with Shadow magic traps, if you must?"
"It depends on the type," Ichiko replied. "I can disarm the basic kinds, but the 'black hole' types that suck magic into them, I can't do anything about those."
"Well, it's as good as we're going to get," Kaze decided. "Meanwhile, Kouten, Yami Yugi, and I will attempt to reach either Saguru or Kaeru, hopefully both, and assist them in completing whatever mission they must.
"Remember team, this mission has two goals: number one, assist Kaeru and Saguru in completing their mission and escaping, and number two, seize the First Negative kernel. For those of you unfamiliar with Opposition work, I'll tell you now- we have rules here. First, no unnecessary killing. Second, do nothing that isn't important to accomplishing a mission goal or protecting yourself or your team members. Third, you must always help out an Opposition member in trouble. Survival is the number one goal on any mission. Beyond that… follow the orders of the Opposition member in your group, and do what you must."
By this point, they had reached the Hand of the Shadow building.
"Wait a minute," Yami Yugi said. "You were saying something about checking to see if Kaeru's cover was blown. If it isn't blown, then how-"
"HOW DARE YOU CONTRADICT THE BLUE EYES!" Miyaburu spat. "You… traitor!"
Kaze looked alarmed. Miyaburu was the last person he'd expected any kind of outburst from. "Calm down, Miyaburu. He's not used to how we work here."
Miyaburu shot a strangely desperate look at Kaze, who returned with a confused glance. "You should know that. It's common sense."
The two men continued to give each other strange looks for a few more seconds. Aikan coughed, and Kaze returned his attention to the group. "Yami, I'll answer your question in a minute. I think I know what you were trying to ask. In the meantime, for the rest of you… move out."
After collecting themselves, Saguru and Kawari had a serious talk about what was going on so far. The third-in-command of the Hand of the Shadow was dead, and the second-in-command was sealed in the Shadow Realm. What had started as a risky but not essentially major assignment was suddenly turning into a complete and utter destruction of the Hand leadership.
They'd come this far by this point. Why not go for Solvaring, now?
Because he most likely wasn't in the building, Kawari pointed out. There would be enough of an uproar over the deaths of the enemy Saguru and Katana.
But what if he was in the building? Why not go for the whole thing?
They'd come this far. Almost nothing had gone according to plan- except for Kaeru's death, it had all gone better than the plan. Why not make it a clean sweep?
And it was decided. They would go beyond the second floor. They would infiltrate the top. But first, there was the "trap" floor.
As the two Opposition members alighted from the staircase, they glanced about each other nervously for traps. Almost, immediately, one became apparent as a giant weight was released from the ceiling above them. Barely dodging in time, Saguru and Kawari raced ahead into the next room.
This room was entirely dark. There was no way to see anything else inside, or even where the exit door might be.
Suddenly, Kawari's instinct took over. "Get down!" he shouted, and he and Saguru both fell to the floor instantly. It was a good thing they had, because the automatic machine guns mounted in the walls of the blind room suddenly opened fire above their heads.
"I bet the machine guns are mounted on the lateral sides of the room," Saguru whispered to Kawari, under the noise of the blasts issuing right above their heads. "We have to crawl on the floor to the door, which will be perpendicular to the way the guns are firing." They did so.
The next room was not blind, but contained a large orb of shadow magic, blocking their path. Kawari dismantled it with his Millennium Ring, and the two proceeded.
The fourth room also contained a Shadow magic trap, but this kind was of the "black hole" sort that couldn't be disengaged through ordinary means. Kawari had to use several layers of shadow "padding" on either side of his dismantling spell in order to prevent his Ring from being sucked into the void, dragging him behind it.
The fifth room contained a sealed metal door with a computer code panel to one side.
"Damnit!" Kawari said when he saw the computer code. "Kaze's the one who's good at this kind of thing!"
"Good thing for you Kaze is here, then, isn't it?" said a voice from behind them. The Blue Eyes himself had just followed them through the door from the fourth room, wearing an Opposition-issue backpack full of stuff.
"K-kaze?" The normally unfazable Saguru was confused. "Weren't you… working on that… other mission?"
"The trail of that mission has led me back to this Realm," Kaze said. "I have learned, by following you, that Saguru Kenji and Katana Takeo are both dead, and I guessed that you probably plan to go after Solvaring. I must warn you- he is here, and he is expecting you. He also possesses an item of extreme value to the Opposition that we must secure from him. It will be difficult to beat him now that he has warning of our approach, but with the three of us together, we still have a chance."
Kaze took a deep breath before continuing. Saguru and Kawari, used to such briefings and on-mission updates from Kaze, listened carefully. "I originally followed you in a team with True Realm Yami and one other, but… there is no time for explanations. They are here no longer at the present, and that is all that matters presently. Where is Kaeru?"
"Dead," Saguru said, without fanfare or frill. There was nothing more that needed to be communicated at this time.
"Hm," replied Kaze. "That complicates things, but not unnecessarily. You can use the Ring without him, can you not?" At Kawari's affirmative nod, Kaze continued. "Abandon the old mission goal. Our new mission goals are these- destroy Solvaring and seize the object he possesses. Are we clear?"
Both of them nodded. Kaze moved up to the computer terminal and opened the door with a few swift keystrokes. As the two of them walked through the door and up the staircase to the top levels of the Hand of the Shadow, Kawari couldn't help thinking: What happened to True Realm Yami?
About half an hour earlier…
He had been incapable of rational thought for several hours now. The black seed that Metsubou had planted in his mind during the battle in Fourth True had seized upon Miyaburu's own doubts and intensified them a thousandfold. His brain pulsed with the subliminal messages that originated with his own mistrust.
YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL
"Miyaburu, I think there may be a Shadow-magic trap around the next corner. Will you please check?"
YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL…
YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EV-
Kaze, please save me, save me from this… YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL… YAMI YUGI… EVIL
"Are you okay, Miyaburu? What's going on?"
And so Miyaburu had snapped.
He whirled around to face Yami, glaring, his eyes stained red from rage, his Millennium Eye gleaming. "Yami Yugi… EVIL!" he screamed aloud as he sent himself to the Shadow Realm along with the ancient Egyptian spirit.
"We will duel now!"
That was the last Kaze saw of them, but he was intelligent enough to figure out what had happened. He had suspected something like this ever since Metsubou's attack. The evil of the Saga Blade affected everyone, because it had created everyone. Lacking Shadow magic, there was nothing he could do to stop them, so he proceeded around the corner, relieved to find that there was no trap after all, and continued in search of Kaeru and Saguru.
"Remind me never to agree to something this crazy again," Ichiko said from the backpack she was being… toted in.
"Hey, you're not the one carrying the stupid thing," Joey complained huffily from his place on the nearly-invisible but extremely strong wire that he and Aikan were using to scale the walls of the Hand of the Shadow tower.
"That 'stupid thing' you're carrying is ME!" snapped Ichiko. "This is no fun. Too bad I don't have any magic that lets us scale walls instantly." Then, she slapped herself on the forehead. "Duh! Let's see… Mota no Kaze!" Ichiko whirled her rod in several sweeping down-to-up motions, and repeated them rapidly.
"Okay, now let your weight leave the support of the line, but keep your hands on it."
"What? You mean let go?" Joey asked confusedly. "No way!"
Aikan, however, had already obeyed, and was borne up the line by a swift wind rising from the ground.
"Whoa!" Joey amended his earlier opinion, and let go. The continued hold on the line ensured that they weren't swept off course, but the speed with which they ascended in this way was remarkable. When they reached the top floor, Aikan shouted for Ichiko to stop the spell.
"Ya-majina!" she shouted, this time jabbing the Rod in a swift, cutting motion. The wind stopped right away, and Joey slid down the line several inches trying to support his own weight again.
"Okay, now into the building," instructed Aikan. Joey grinned, removing several lockpicks from the pack Kaze had supplied him with, and began to expertly pick the window lock. Aikan stared at him in wonder.
"Saguru was always hopeless at lock-picking. It was the one 'sneaky' skill he never mastered."
"Well, I am his opposite, right?" Joey grinned again as the lock snapped. Of course, what he had so blindly ignored was the fact that no building as secure as the Hand of Shadow headquarter tower would leave any window or door without an alarm.
"Damnit!" Joey shouted as he heaved Ichiko's basket through the window, then followed himself. The blaring siren sounded at least as loud as a gunshot at close range, and it continued on and on…
Aikan followed Joey through the window, then rushed to the nearest exit to the room. It was too late, however, as both of the room's two doors were now filled with guards. "Too late," she told Joey and Ichiko, rather unnecessarily. "Remember, no killing that isn't needed," she warned one last time as she began to assume a battle position.
Joey hadn't ever been in fights of this magnitude before, but he'd been in plenty of street brawls, and he knew what to do. He began squaring his shoulders, focusing his weight on the center of his body, and assumed a threatening air.
"Let's go!" he said, as the nearest guard engaged him in combat with a sword. Joey blocked with the short sword Kaze had given him, then pulled out his .38 pistol and shot the man before he could prepare for another attack.
Aikan also had a short sword and pistol, but Ichiko was rather at a loss. Kaze had given her only a thin, easy-to-wield rapier-type blade, clearly expecting her to do most of her fighting with her magic. But Ichiko had never used her magic in a fight before. In fact, she'd never even been in a fight before, not counting the battle with Metsubou in the Fouth Realm. But she had a try.
"Megiddo," she shouted, unleashing the same fireball spell that she had used on Metsubou. Now that her targets were much more magically mundane, the spell was able to incinerate three guards before they could retailate. Their charred bodies fell to the ground with a sickening thud, scattering ash about the room.
A few other guards had limited Shadow magic, however, some even with S-Guns, and they were beginning to reach the front of the mob. She had learned one spell to counteract Shadow magic.
"Shimanagashi no Hikari!" she shouted, holding her Rod of 1,000 Minds high. It began to emit rays of brightly-burning light, sending all Shadow-magic back from where it came from. Joey and Aikan stared in wonder at the room, which was now bathed in the magical light. S-Guns immediately shattered, other Shadow-infused objects vanished or became mist.
Encouraged by her successes so far, Ichiko decided to try one more spell. "Shinoku!" she cried, unleashing her most complicated- and deadly- spell yet. A great cloud of black energy was released from her Rod, a cloud that whirled and spun in the bright room. It was a cloud of darkness; a cloud of death.
The blackness rapidly turned itself into a twister, and every guard who breathed in the poisonous fume of evil sank to their knees, then fell to the ground in a dreamless sleep of death. The spell of death and ruin gradually spun itself out, and the room returned to a state of relative normality, except for the bodies littering the floor where the guards had once been. Joey and Aikan stared at her for a minute, grasping the true power of her Rod- and of her own mind and knowledge.
But not for long. Aikan was too well-trained. "C'mon," she said. "More guards may turn up at any minute." And the three of them ran out of the room.
No unnecessary killing. Aikan's now-worthless admonishment rang through Ichiko's ears as she closed her eyes to the horror beneath her feet, the horror she had caused with her own mind, a mind she had focused on the purpose of death.
"Miyaburu, this is crazy!" shouted Yami Yugi, as the shadows of misty darkness swirled about his form and that of the Negative Pegasus, providing the only distraction of movement in a land that was otherwise an endless expanse of black. Hikari Yugi was sealed in his soul room, and Yami was not about to let him out with this raving madman on the loose in the middle of the Shadow Realm.
"You will duel me, if you ever want to escape the Shadow Game I have created!" Miyaburu taunted. He was beyond reason, beyond sanity- the small, parasitic darkness had used his own mind's weaknesses against him. The shadows were sensing this weakening of the mind, and were beginning to take a hold of Miyaburu's soul; his eyes had lost their color, and were beginning to darken to the pure, undiluted black of a mind corrupted by Shadow Magic.
But he was not to that point yet, and as long as he remained physically capable and in control of the Shadow Game, he was a danger to Yami. "Come, play with me, if you aren't afraid," taunted Miyaburu.
This hurt Yami's pride. He had never lost a match, to any Pegasus in any form. Besides, he had no choice. Miyaburu had initiated the Shadow Game, and the rules of the shadows dictated that he would control over it until he lost the game. Then, Yami would have the control, and he could remove both players from the Shadow Realm. "I am the King of Games," Yami announced. "I will defeat you, and purge this darkness from your soul."
Miyaburu removed his deck from his pocket, and it too glowed with an eerie, dark light. Yami matched his movement, and withdrew his own deck. However, Yami's deck remained uncorrupted- for the moment. Spend long enough in the Shadow Realm, and even the most powerful mind will eventually break
There was no need for duel disks, or any other sort of device in a duel in the Shadow Realm. The monsters were real. Miyaburu took the first turn.
"I summon the Surprise Donkey (1700/1700) in Attack Mode!" An evil-looking equine monster with big donkey ears and fangs appeared, snorting and stamping cruel-looking hooves that ended in sharp claws. "And that will end my turn," Miyaburu finished.
"Fine," Yami replied. "I summon the Gemini Elf (1900/800) in Attack Mode, and I use it to attack your Donkey!" The twin spellcasters simultaneously made the formations for the Light and Dark magic runes, combining into a spell that annihilated Miyaburu's monster and leaving him with 3800 life points.
Miyaburu did not seem distressed. "I'll set this card face-down, and then activate the magic card Toon World at the cost of 1000 Life Points. then play Premature Burial to ressurect my Donkey at the cost of 800 life points." A hole in the dark "floor" of the Shadow Realm appeared, and the Surprise Donkey clawed his way out of the chasm.
What does that accomplish?thought Yami. Miyaburu is down by half his life points, and my monster still has superior attack. Miyaburu answered that question with his next move. "I will then sacrifice my Surprise Donkey in order to summon the Toon Summoned Skull! Unfortunately, he can't attack this turn, so I'll instead play Pot of Greed." He drew the alotted two cards, then smiled at them. "And I'll end my turn by putting two more cards face-down."
Yami examined his hand thoughtfully. Toon Monsters were Pegasus's specialty, he knew, and the new Battle City rules allowed them to do direct attacks on their opponent's life points. But they had to pay Life Points to attack, and they were only single monsters.
"I'll setting this monster in face-down defense position," Yami announced. If all went well, he could end this duel quickly and put an end to Miyaburu's Shadow-induced madness. "Now, I'll activate the magic card Raigeki, to destroy your Toon Summoned Skull!"
"Ha!" Miyaburu triumphantly shouted. "I thought you might do that! Activate the magic card Magic Jammer! Your magic card has no effect!" Miyaburu's eyes were blackening even further. There was now no discernable difference between white, iris, and pupil- all were a shade of cold gray that was slowly darkening to black. His mind was so weak that the shadows would consume the rest of his body as well if the duel went on much longer.
Yami was worried, but not overly so. He was the King of Games, and he had a plan. "I'll end my turn, then," he announced, not able to do anything further. Miyaburu was grinning ferally.
"Your doom approaches, traitorous bastard!" shouted Miyaburu in a most un-Pegasus-like loss of cool. "I will pay 500 life points in order to directly attack your life points for 2500 damage!" Yami winced at the impact of the evil toon monster, watching his life points dwindle to a meager 1500. Although Miyaburu's life points were the same, he was poised to win the duel next turn with another attack from his Skull.
"Now, I'll activate these two face-down trap cards!" Miyaburu announced. "Two copies of my Solemn Wishes trap card! This will allow me to keep using my toon monsters without fear, because every time I draw a card the stacked effects of these two cards will allow me to gain 1000 life points, starting next turn! Now, Yami, make your final move!"
Yami looked down at his hand. There was nothing. He looked at his sole attack monster on the field. No help there. His face-down monster… would win him the duel.
"I will Flip Summon my face-down Princess of Tsurugi!" Yami told the shadows that were invading Miyaburu's mind and body. The pigment of his face was beginning to darken next. Good thing Yami had just won the duel.
"You lose 500 life points for every magic or trap card you have in play, and I see three- Toon World and your two Solemn Wishes traps. That totals 1500 life points- reducing your remaining life points to zero."
Miyaburu stared. His face was darkening more and more rapidly. Yami quickly began preparing to remove them both from the Shadow Realm before he was tainted beyond hope.
The Millennium Eye held in the Negative Pegasus's socket began to glow. The outline of Miyaburu's body began to flicker, then die. Shadows swirled like mist through his empty form. There was only the merest trace of him there, and also the golden Eye, glowing like a beacon in the darkness.
Too late did Yami realize what Miyaburu was doing. The Eye suddenly exploded in a flash of light, making a last futile attempt to protect its wielder. Then, its power spent, the Eye itself began to turn black with shadow corruption. The white-haired, Negative man let out a shrill, inhuman cackle, the insane cackle of one who knows their fate.
Yami lunged to grab for the Eye, to save it, but it flickered and died into the shadows, leaving nothing more of the once-great Millennium Item. Miyaburu himself was almost completely gone, and it seemed that the shadows consuming his body were doing the screaming rather than the man himself. A hand wreathed in darkness reached out from where Miyaburu's body had once been, reaching to grab Yami around the throat.
Activating his Puzzle, Yami shouted a spell against the darkness, and the hand was blasted away. The small force of Yugi's mind inside his own persuaded him to keep fighting. The shadow-beast that had once been Negative Maxamillion Pegasus swooped down on Yami, trying to eat through his soul and Yugi's. Yami whirled around, dodging the attack, and aimed a blast of light from his Puzzle at the shadow-creature. It screamed in pain, and retreated slightly.
But this time, it was massing all the power of the Shadow Realm itself against Yami and Yugi, collecting the strength that could overwhelm even a Millennium Item, as long as it was only one. He was collecting the strength to send Yami to oblivion by way of darkness.
Yami would not lose to Pegasus. Ever. In any Realm, in any form. He would not lose to what Pegasus had become, either. There was one last trick he had up his sleeve; it was used by game masters, but it had been invented by hunted prey. It was the trick of the lizard, of the sea star, of the ninja.
Yami sealed a portion of himself inside the Puzzle, the way Yami Bakura had done before Battle City. Then, using the power he had gained by winning the duel, he sent Yugi and the Puzzle back to First Negative.
He turned to face the screaming beast of dark mist and shadow above him, felt the rush of death and oblivion as it swooped down on his head, through his soul, ripping his flesh, tearing his mind to shreds. He felt the pain, the terrible pain, as his mind and body were destroyed utterly by this thing that had been corrupted by shadow.
But he wasn't worried. It was painful beyond belief, but soon, he would wake up safe and sound, inside his Puzzle…
The top of the tower was not the lavish, kingly place they had expected it to be. Simon Solvaring was a shrewd businessman, a ruthless dictator, and wielder of a powerful Shadow Magic left over from his contact with Negative Yami, but he was not vain. At the moment, he was also expecting them.
Kaze stepped through the doorway of his office, with Saguru and Kawari close behind him.
"Lord Solvaring. I greet you as one professional to another, but I must request that you immediately disband your organization and resign from your position, as it has become a danger to the people of the world." Kaze was ever calm, acting like this was simply another Kaiba Corp. business deal.
"Seto Kaiba, Blue-Eyes of the Opposition, I greet you also as one professional to another, but I must unfortunately deny your request to see my organization's end. The Hand of the Shadow shall continue until I achieve my goals."
"And what are those goals?"
"I will not flatter myself. My goal is world mastery, for better or for worse. I have been chosen to rule the world by destiny, and so I will play my part."
Kaze narrowed his eyes. "On the contrary, Lord Solvaring. Destiny decides nothing. We must all choose our own paths. And if your aim is world mastery, I must choose a path of opposition to you."
Lord Solvaring rose from his desk, but it was too late.
"I must kill you."
The throwing knives were in Kaze's hands before Saguru or Kawari knew what was happening. Solvaring had been ready, though, and dove beneath his desk. He retaliated with knives of his own, but Kaze dodged them. Saguru and Kawari drew their weapons and began to warily circle the American man, wary of more knives.
"It is really too bad that a meeting of professionals must end this way," Solvaring continued from beneath his desk. "Is there not a way that your goals, and my goals might… combine? I have heard tales of your power, Blue-Eyes, and I would not toss such a great thing aside needlessly."
"If you ask me to join you in your quest for world mastery, you waste your energy, Solvaring," Kaze retorted, beyond false politeness now. "I defend the world against your evil."
Another round of knives was exchanged, yielding no injury. Kawari made a quick slicing attack with his blade while Solvaring was occupied, but the American parried expertly with his own small dirk.
"We seem to be at something of a stalemate," Solvaring commented, now out from under the desk and pacing the room warily. "I am quite enjoying myself, though, aren't you?"
The Opposition team attempted a three-way attack with knives, dirk, and sword. It almost worked, but Solvaring ran behind a filing cabnet and pushed it over onto Kawari, who was forced to jump back or be crushed.
"You are involved in things you do not understand, Solvaring," Kaze spat. "You are holding something called a Kernel for someone, are you not?"
Solvaring paled at the mention of the kernel, temporarily letting his guard down.
"How do you know about the Kernel?"
Kaze's response was to release a knife into Solvaring's stomach. It did not sink deep enough to do serious damage, but it would certainly slow his Shadow-magic-enhanced senses and reflexes. The American glowered witheringly at the Opposition leader.
"You will pay for that, Blue-Eyes," he spat. "You should have accepted my offer when I gave it. Now, you will pay." Solvaring threw two more knives, which Kaze expertly dodged, but he was distracted from his counterattack by the window smashing.
In through the pane crawled Ichiko, Joey, Aikan, and Kouten, who had joined the trio as they went through the trap room.
"We seem to have you surrounded, Solvaring," Kaze told him. "Your underlings Saguru and Katana are dead. You cannot hope to win a fight against seven highly skilled fighters, no matter what kind of knife-thrower you are. I will give you one last chance. Hand over the First Negative kernel and disband the Hand of the Shadow, and I will let you live."
Solvaring had turned an odd shade of pale when he heard the news that his subordinates had been killed. He had been counting on them to bail him out if the odds grew unbeatable. And they looked fairly unbeatable now.
"Fine," he said, defeated. If he refused, he would die, and with him would die his dream of world domination. If he lived, even if he lived powerless, he would still have a chance to grow powerful again. He removed the kernel from the desk.
"Take it," he said. "I'll disband the Hand of the Shadow, I'll do that. But nothing more, and then you'll let me live. Swear by the Blue-Eyes White Dragon."
"I swear," responded Kaze, as he walked over to Solvaring.
But then… a ripple in the air. A familiar feeling of displacement in the fabric that separated the Realms. A sword, biting into Solvaring's neck. Choking on his own blood, the former leader of the Hand of the Shadow crumpled to the floor, his killer snatching the First Negative kernel before it hit the ground.
"So we meet again, Shinwaa Metsubou," Kaze said, looking at him blandly. The other Oppostion members, True and Second Realmers, and various other followers of Kaze stood behind him, glaring at the man who had caused so much death, so much strife, so much conflict.
"Spawn of evil, hand over the Fourth True kernel now. It is the last kernel I need to bring forth the Ninth Legend, and return the world to its origin." Metsubou was spouting his usual hate-speech.
Ichiko was turning something over in her mind. It was almost there, like when you thought you knew how to solve a problem but weren't quite sure how it all fit. Metsubou wants to destroy the world… that's what he calls the Ninth Legend, because the Saga Blade created all the Realms, six True, six Negative, and two Shadow. But… if this is all true, the Blade had to exist somewhere in order to create them! And fourteen isn't one of the numbers of cosmic balance… it's… there's something…
And then it clicked.
"Fifteen!" Ichiko shouted aloud. Everyone, even Metsubou, stared at her.
Kaze didn't let his guard down for a minute, but this sounded important. "Fifteen what, Ichiko?"
"There aren't fourteen Realms, like Metsubou said there were, there're fifteen! There's a last Realm… something that isn't True or Negative, or Shadow, or Light, or anything! And that's where the Saga Blade is from! And when Metsubou brings forth the Ninth Legend, every Realm will be destroyed… except that one!" It all made such perfect sense now!
Grinning at the stupidity and obvious evil of everyone around him, Metsubou opened his mouth to speak. "Very good, girl, that's the second time your line of witches has figured out the truth. Only this time… I'll be the victor. The Blade has chosen ME!"
"What is he talkin' about?" Saguru wanted to know.
"I don't think any of us know," his True counterpart responded.
"Ichiko, the last time someone tried to use the Saga Blade to bring forth the Ninth Legend, someone figured out what you did," Metsubou began, falling back into the pattern of his favorite activity- storytelling. "They assembled a guild of magicians, thinkers, and other intelligent people to stop the Ninth Legend. Eventually, there got to be 1,000 members, including the founder. The members of the guild ensouled the combined strength of their minds into a magical weapon, and then the founder used the weapon to defeat the one who would bring forth the Ninth Legend. That founder was your ancestor."
Somehow, miraculously, Ichiko wasn't surprised. It was almost as though she'd been expecting something like this. "And what makes you think you'll fare any better than your predecessor?" she taunted, feeling bolder than she ever had in her life. The Rod of 1,000 Minds glowed warm in her hand, as though it knew it had finally been accepted for what it was.
"Because I am chosen by destiny," Metsubou snarled. "Come! You and I will finish this in the fifteenth Realm- the Endless Realm!" The wielder of the Saga Blade whirled it around his head, and both he and Ichiko were sucked through the invisible fabrics that guard our Realms.
"Would someone mind explaining what just happened?" Aikan asked, feeling put-out.
"I think this is Ichiko's fight," said Kaze. "We must provide her with all the support we can from this side, but we will not try to follow her. Wherever she and Metsubou are now, it seems apparent that only one will return alive."
The others all nodded their heads and sat down to wait.
He had returned from the darkness. He was alive. His aibou was alive. They were safe. But another one was not safe, though he was not dead either. Miyaburu, the Negative Maxamillion Pegasus, was lost to the shadows forever. He was doomed to wander endlessly through darkness and oblivion in the form of the spirit of pure hate and malice.
But Yami Yugi had not suffered the same fate, nor had his aibou. Shinwaa Metsubou had condemned one person to a destiny worse than death, but two others had escaped. That meant that Metsubou was not immortal. He was not invincible. His power was not infallable, it was not unbreakable. He could be defeated, by the right person, in the right place, with the right help.
But that didn't mean it would be easy.
The expanse in which she had arrived seemed literally without bound. She could see nothing, nothing at all beyond herself and her possessions. Just a vague expanse of blackness that wasn't quite there. The feeling of limitless expanse and the blackness of the world around her reminded Ichiko somewhat of the Shadow Realm, but at the same time it was quite different. The Shadow Realm was black because it was filled with Shadow magic, with darkness, with consuming power. This Realm was black because there was simply nothing. Nothing at all. No light, no energy, no matter, no size, no location, nothing but… nothingness.
"Welcome to the Endless Realm," spoke a voice next to her as Metsubou materialized next to her. "This is the only place that exists which was never created and will never be destroyed. This Realm has seen an infinite number of Realms created and destroyed, and it has an infinite number of cycles still to repeat. And I have been chosen by my weapon to end the current one."
Ichiko snapped her head to face him. "And I have been chosen by mine to stop you," she intoned quietly, her calm, level voice at odds with the fear and turmoil in her soul. "I will fight on behalf of my Realm, on behalf of my friends, on behalf of my enemies, to save all of their lives."
"Hmm, you seem to have developed my knack for storytelling," Metsubou shot back. "Very well then, if you are so determined to begin the destined battle, let us do so. Just remember that I am the destined victor."
A new element of emotion crept into Ichiko's psyche: rage. "There is no such thing as destiny, you fool."
With that, she began her attack. She quickly summoned about three hundred tiny, needle-like spells that she could activate with her Rod alone, requiring very little mental or verbal exertion. Metsubou responded like a whirlwind, whipping the Saga Blade about him in concentrated arcs and loops, deflecting every single attack before it came anywhere close.
He then pressed a physical attack with the sword, and Ichiko was forced to use the Rod to parry. Forced clumsily backwards, she blocked his relentless attacks, each blow taking a bit more out of her, until she managed to recall the word for the spell she needed.
"Dengeki!" Ichiko cried. Mestubou attacked again with his sword, only to be jolted back by a nasty electric shock that seemed to pulse from the Rod to the Blade through Metsubou's skin and into his soul.
The Sixth-Realmer got to his feet slowly, looking about him in the void of nothingness for signs of impending magic. Ichiko, not being quite the combat-seasoned, well-reflexed fighter than Kouten and Kaze were, had not begun any. He began to circle the girl more warily, wiser now to the extent of her powers. He did not intend to ever let her get the upper hand in this fight.
Ichiko, for her part, was desperately trying to devise some strategy. She knew that if the battle consisted of simply physical attacks and throwing spells at each other, she would lose. She could hold her own for a bit, true, but there was no way she could.win a fight that way. She needed a master plan, something that would guarentee her the win that she needed.
This Rod stopped the Saga Blade before… Ichiko thought. There must be some power that I don't know about… but that's impossible, I've spent my entire life studying this thing…
Metsubou suddenly jumped in with another attack, and this time it was a physical blow combined with Shadow magic that he pulled from the Shadow Realm, designed to prevent her from using any counterspells. Ichiko managed to avoid being impaled by falling to the ground (if there could even be any ground in this plain of endlessness) and sort of squirming clumsily into Metsubou's legs, which caused him to go toppling to the "ground" in front of her.
Both combatants got to their feet, huffing, puffing, and glaring. Metsubou spoke three muttered words, and the Saga Blade began to glow with light. He then began launching beams of purging energy at Ichiko, who grinned. This was a tactic that would not work on the Rod of 1,000 Minds.
"Suitoru," she muttered whirling her rod in a counterclockwise spiral. The energy beams that were being fired from the Saga Blade were pulled to the center of her miniature black hole that she'd created with her spell, along with some of the loose Shadow magic from Metsubou's earlier spell.
Next, Ichiko spoke the releasing word for the second part of her spell. "Hangeki!" she shouted, and all the energy and magic absorbed by the Rod was fired straight back at Metsubou, multiplied threefold. The Sixth-Realmer had not been expecting any counterattack of this magnitude, and crumpled beneath the blow.
Ichiko had learned from her earlier mistake, and discovered for the first time what to others is the basic rule of combat- get the enemy while he's down. "Meggido," she chanted, unleashing her favorite meteor-like fireball into Metsubou, who was struggling to rise. The impact carried him several meters away from their combat zone, where he fell to the "ground" and lay limp.
Have I won? Ichiko wondered. Just like that? Was it that easy? She began to approach Metsubou's still form. Big mistake. Roaring madly, Shinwaa Metsubou arose from the ashes like a phoenix, a dangerous, crazed glint in his eye. Making several wild, unprepared hacks at Ichiko's head, he forced her to retreat several feet.
Unfortunately, one of the favorite strategies of fencing was impossible here because there were no corners to force your opponent into. In a battle in the Endless Realm, nothing existed except you and your opponent. There was no terrain, no walls or corners, no cheering allies or enemy reinforcements. It was the ultimate fair test of skill, one person against another. The Endless Realm was the ultimate personification of coldheartedness, of empty-heartedness, of a mind devoid of emotion. Almost like the Saga Blade…And that was when the strategy clicked. The Saga Blade was the Endless Realm, at least to some extent. For some reason, from the beginning of time, the Endless Realm had been locked into a cycle of create, seven Legends in between, destroy. The Saga Blade was "its" avatar in the Realms, that was what "it" used to create and destroy.
If you destroyed one, then you could also destroy the other. You could put an end to the cycle.
Metsubou was no longer relevant, although he was charging for what looked to be another fierce attack. There was one spell that Ichiko had studied in her library, a spell that had scared the very life out of her. It required no word of power, no outward sign woud be given when it was activated. It was a spell designed to test the user's will, and strength, in such a terrible way that no one would ever use it. But it was a spell of choice.
It was a spell she'd sworn to never use, because it was too powerful, and too terrible. It was even worse than the death-cloud spell she had used on the guards. In fact, it was so powerful that the only way to use it was at the cost of the user's life and the user's spellcasting weapon- the Rod of 1,000 Minds.
It was a spell to dismantle the fabric of the very Realm you were in. Everything alive in the Realm would be slowly shifted back into another Realm, the last Realm you were in, but the Realm itself would cease to exist. If she used it on the Endless Realm… the Saga Blade would be destroyed, and the Six Realms would be saved from ever having to face the terrible, apocalyptic Ninth Legend.
It was the strategy. It was the answer she had sought. All it would cost was her life. That isn't that much, thought Ichiko. One library nerd, compared to fourteen Realms full of people… not a hard decision at all.
Metsubou had reached her, fury in his eyes, sword in his hand. But it was too late. As she activated the spell that would save the world, she crumpled to the ground, dying. But she had time for one last thought.
I made the right choice. Kouten, Kaze… all of them. I hope they will understand.
Shinwaa Metsubou opened his mouth in aject horror, staring in turn from the dead girl on the ground before him to the sword that he held in his hand, which was disintegrating into nonexistence. The Endless Realm was being destroyed, he realized, and so was the Saga Blade.
But her creations, the Six Realms, True and Negative, and the Shadow Realms, they would live on. As he was shoved back through spacetime to First Negative, Metsubou let out a cry of despair. Not only had his Blade failed against the sheer power of Ichiko's choice, but that choice had ensured that no one would ever succeed in doing what he tried to do again.
In that one instant, Metsubou's life lost its purpose.
Kaze and the others had just finished bringing Saguru and Kawari up to scratch on what had occurred during their quest to bring justice to Metsubou and avenge his murder victims. Yami had arrived, Yugi with him, and they had explained the circumstances of Miyaburu's demise. The mood was anything but happy as they sat in the office-like room that had once belonged to Simon Solvaring, still waiting for something to happen.
Then, the fabric of the room rippled. It felt different this time, less like a person moving through, more like something just settling and locking into place. Two forms materialized on the floor near the desk. Everyone except the two Joeys got to their feet, eagerly scanning to see who- or what- had arrived.
It was Metsubou and Ichiko. Metsubou was alive. Ichiko was dead.
"YOU BASTARD!" screamed Kouten, rippling his glaive free from its sheath. "YOU KILLED MY FATHER, AND NOW YOU'VE KILLED HER TOO!"
Metsubou was on his knees, weeping. Everyone rushed to seize him- everyone except Kaze. Kaze was also the only one who noticed the absence of the Saga Blade.
"Ruined… ruined…" Metsubou was muttering to himself. "She… too powerful… she has defeated me…"
"What do you mean?" spat Kouten icily, his glaive inches from Metsubou's neck.
"She killed herself to destroy the Saga Blade, and the Endless Realm," Metsubou said dully. His voice was flat, with none of its former energy and calculated drama. "She's dead, but she beat me. The one thing that the Saga Blade couldn't beat… was the choice of a powerful human. Her choice to die rather than see the Six Realms destroyed. She beat me."
He still spoke as if he couldn't quite believe what had happened.
Kaze got to his feet slowly. All of the people in the room stood silently, gazing down on Ichiko's body and Metsubou's limp form. No one was sure how to proceed.
No one it seemed, except Metsubou himself. He shuffled up to a standing postion, methodically placed foot in front of foot until he reached the open window, and jumped out. Anyone who knew him would have said Shinwaa Metsubou was destined to meet his end heroically, on the end of a foe's blade. Instead, he was destined to fall 300 stories to his meaningless death in a dark alleyway of a troubled city.
There was a lot to work out. Some of them understood Ichiko's choice, some did not. Joey and Aikan both wondered why she hadn't held out for some other way, hadn't tried some other means of escape. Yami and Kaze both understood that there hadn't been one. Saguru and Kawari hadn't known Ichiko well enough to grieve, but both were dully impressed by the power she wielded, in life and in death. Kaeru, when he was reborn inside the Millennium Ring a few months later, had his own ideas about life and death, which he kept to himself. Duke Devlin, who was informed of the events in the Hand of the Shadow tower later (had had been guarding the entrance during the final operation of the Opposition) was not struck in quite the same way by the deaths of Ichiko and Metsubou, but he still felt a definite feeling of sadness for the bookish, fearful girl who had saved their lives.
Kouten was deeply depressed and disturbed. It seemed like as soon as he began to care for someone, to love someone, that someone would meet an untimely death. He returned to the Second Realm, to his home by the sea, and eventually he recovered and began to live a normal life again, but the shadow of darkness never quite left him. Metsubou had been able to play off of Miyaburu's fears and use Shadow power to enhance them to the point where they consumed his soul. Kouten's fears were so great that he didn't need Shadow power to feed them. He lived with his own personal darkness all his life, and the only thing he could ever love again were the storms.
Yami could not forgive Metsubou for what he had done to Miyaburu. The others all hated him for murdering people, but none had seen the full effect of his insanity the way Yami had. The image of Miyaburu's deadly, shadowed form was burned in the back of his skull; the deadly panic and pain as his life flashed before his eyes, the swift flutter of death as it rushed into his skull, they would all be lasting parts of his life from now on. This was his darkness, but one that he could control better than Kouten could. As long as he continued to hate Metsubou, however, there was no relief in sight.
And Kaze… Kaze, the fearless Blue-Eyes, was suddenly without a job. He had seen more horror in the past few days than any ninteen-year-old should ever have to. But then again, he had seen more horror in his life than anyone could ever imagine here in First True.
He could work it out in time. And Yami, and even Kouten, could learn to deal with their darkness. Grief would pass in time. But thanks to Ichiko's choice, time still existed to pass. Thanks to her choice, the Ninth Legend had been thwarted.
And existence would continue forevermore.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I can't believe I'm finally finished. Well, I just finished watching the Academy Awards before I wrote this, so I feel like I should give out a thank-you speech or something. Well, I'd like to first of all thank my parents for putting up with me while I wrote this over the past five months, High Crystal Guardian for her fantastic fanfiction series for the inspiration it brought (and for sponsoring this contest), and to myself for the time and effort I put into this (a bit self-serving, but its true!). I'd also like to thank OverClocked Remix (www(dot)ocremix(dot)org) for providing the music I listened to while writing this. Can't write without music! And NO THANKS to Microsoft for building another crappy Windows version to crash on me in the middle of Chapter Three.
I can't believe this is finally over. I would welcome comments (heh, haven't received many so far), but I didn't write this for the reviews. Although this probably wasn't my original purpose when I started this story, I realize now that this fanfic has helped me grow immensely as a writer. Already, I feel much more mature in terms of style than I did five months ago. So, no matter how well or poorly I do in the contest, I'm glad I did this because it is my first COMPLETED serial fanfic, and it helped prove to me that I could complete one, and it helped me find myself (a little). With that, I shall simply end with a quote from Chrono Trigger, one of the greatest games of all time:
"If history is to change, let it change. If my fate is to die, I must simply laugh."