Ryou lay at the edge of the training ground, hands folded behind his head in a position a certain Nara would normally assume. So many thoughts, so little time.

This was always going to be his story, wasn't it? Born into a (clan, family, village) of thieves, only for them to be slaughtered while he was still young. He'd learn from their ghosts and thrive for the sole purpose of revenge, provided there was someone to take revenge on.

(He hadn't had anyone to blame in his second life. The other driver had been killed as well, and that was probably a good thing. He might have been a lot closer to his original self if he hadn't, and wasn't that a scary thought?)

Always without a home (the apartment he had was barely lived in, and his compound here hadn't been home since it had been dyed in his clan's blood), always alone. Always a thief. Wealth, secrets, techniques.

At least his hair wasn't white again. If there were a physical symptom of his curse, then he might just have resigned himself to it.

He'd seen where revenge could take him. Slain by the demon he'd called himself in his first life, soul torn in two. One half of that soul mixed with it until there wasn't a difference between them, eating his lighter half from the inside out when they met in his second life.

It wasn't until it had been wrenched from the demon and unbound from the items that he could be whole again, even if the shadows still wouldn't let him go.

Even after, he hadn't shaken old habits. Even after all that he'd been through, he was still the King of Thieves at heart. But he'd taken to sating that impulse with something new: secrets. Information, knowledge - the little nothings people buried their hearts and forgot about, waiting for him to unearth.

(It was safer that way, too. A secret told wasn't a secret anymore, grew less valuable as more people knew it. And what thief went about devaluing his own loot? No, secrets were safe with him. Just not from him.

Malik stopped trying to plan surprise parties after the first few years for a reason.)

He'd never been caught, either. Not in his first life, not in his second. He'd stolen things no one else could, from ludicrous amounts of treasure to secrets buried behind every barrier imaginable to magic to souls. Even now, he felt the shadows just a whim away from his fingers, the power created by his first family's flesh granted to him by blood and by soul.

All of Konoha, all of the elemental countries were already his. He just had to reach out and take them.

But he didn't want them.

When he'd realized he couldn't not follow in his first self's footsteps... he'd looked back over both his lives and thought about what he could do to make sure he never made the worst of those mistakes again. The conclusion was surprisingly simple.

Power corrupts. It was the one thing he'd never take for himself again.

And right there was his problem.

To avenge the clan, he needed power. Uchiha Itachi was a prodigy. He himself was distinctly average in comparison, even when he'd been all about power. But he hadn't had Shadow Magic at the time, either. Couldn't take that into account.

With that, killing the last of his family would be... too easy. Just a game away.

But the shadows were also dangerous. Too dangerous. Taking power was unpredictable, but he knew exactly where using the shadows as his source took him.

Was revenge worth the risk?

... No.

Two lives tainted were enough.

Uchiha Sasuke left the training ground early.

A/N: You can consider these as taking place in separate continuities, or you can consider them the one and the same. And depending on the reaction I get, I might leave this as-is, or I might decide to write a full fic for it. Both are entirely up to you, my dear readers and darling reviewers.

On another note, writing this was fun. There are a lot of parallels between the situations of the three I chose to have our favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! characters fill in for. And for all that, they're different from their counterparts in some core way that provides the most amazing contrast, don't you think?

Our favorite thief king f*cked up hard in his first life. Yeah, he has a damn good reason for it (I wouldn't be thinking straight, either, if my entire family was murdered in a cruel and unusual way right before my eyes and revenge was literally the only thing I had left to live for), but still - who the hell summons a demon and expects it to end remotely well?

And funnily enough, Ryou spent the bulk of his second life paying through the nose for it. You'd think he'd be wanting to stay as far away from making that little mistake again as he could. Of course, he has a lot of his other in there, too, and some habits just don't break. So I think this is a good compromise between the two personalities myself. You?