Note: This was written for the Zexal Flash Bingo challenge, for the prompt "Actshipping (Dark Yuuma/Astral)"

It was so hard to see.

Astral was suffocated in darkness. It held him in its grip, blinded and suffocated him. It had buried him alive, and that still wasn't as bad as not knowing what was going on. He had used the last remnants of his strength to break through Black Mist's hold on him, just long enough to get a message through to Yuma, and that was all he could do. Now he was waiting here in this dark prison for something to happen. Either Yuma's friend would win and Yuma would be free, or...

How good a duelist was Tetsuo, anyway? Astral had only seen him dueling with Yuma, which was hardly the most accurate gauge of a person's skill. He was a competent duelist, surely, but not an outstanding one, and Astral had no clear idea of just how good Black Mist was. He had a sneaking suspicion that he was probably very clever indeed. Astral wasn't even sure if Yuma had heard his instructions clearly, or that he'd understood them. There was no way to know now. There was so much about this plan that could go wrong, and so little he could do about any of it except to trust that Yuma's indomitable spirit would carry them through.

And if it didn't? It was hard to be sure. The worst-case scenario would be if the charade became reality, and Yuma fell under Black Mist's control. Astral already knew that even ordinary Numbers had a way of taking over a host and dragging out every dark desire they had. Astral could only imagine what Yuma would become if something as clever and actively malicious as Number 96 was controlling him. What would Astral do if he woke from this in-between state to find that the boy he'd grown to know was irreversibly changed?

A few months ago, the answer would have been to simply give up on him and to try to find some way to proceed without him. Now the answer couldn't be so straightforward. He understood now what it was like to be lonely and to need a companion. He knew he couldn't face his task alone. He didn't even want to, anymore. Somewhere along the line, Yuma had gone from a necessary annoyance to someone he couldn't bear to be parted from.

Perhaps this was where things had always been leading. Yuma had always been something of a puzzle to Astral, one he'd longed to understand, and the Numbers were part of Astral's essence. Perhaps this was the only way they could ever truly be in accord with each other. He would be sorry to do that to Yuma, but at the same time, there was a part of him that felt the two of them belonged together, were meant to be together in some deep and fundamental way that they had not achieved yet.

If this was the only way, so be it.