Here we are, finally at the ending of this thing. It feels really good to have it complete, especially after all of the time that's gone by since the first chapter was posted many years ago. This is by no means the best story in the world, and it could certainly use a rewrite or two (or ten), but I hope that if you've made it this far, it's provided some enjoyment.
Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you thought. I do appreciate everyone that's read and reviewed so far. This posting marks the end of a chapter in my writing life that meant a lot to me, and I'll always look back on it with fondness.
Thanks, as always, for reading and reviewing. Thank you also to Kaiya-Hikari for giving the story a once over before posting. Enjoy!
Epilogue: Home Again
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Six months later
Yugi was out the door and into the quickly crowding hallway before the bell signifying the end of the school day had even finished ringing.
"Yugi, wait up! Where are you going so quickly?"
Yugi heard his best friend but chose to not acknowledge him. He needed to get out of the school and away from all of the people that meant well but managed make him feel as if he were incomplete because he couldn't be the person he used to be.
"You know that's not true, Yugi"
Yugi ignored the spirit of the puzzle as well. He bypassed his locker and stopped only to grab his shoes before running out of the school and into the busy streets of Domino. After fifteen minutes of aimless jogging, Yugi realized that he didn't know where he was. He stopped and looked around, but didn't see any other kids in uniform. He didn't see any houses either, so he must have taken a turn in the opposite direction of the residential neighborhood where he was supposed to go.
Yugi's heart was pounding painfully in his chest. He closed his eyes and tried to focus his breathing, but that wasn't helping. He hated these memory lapses. He should know where he was and should know how to get back home, but it was as if there was a short circuit in the connection between his conscious knowledge and his long-term memory that wouldn't allow him to access the information he knew was there.
He looked around some more and, instead of seeing the streets of Domino, he saw the streets outside of the restaurant in Tokyo.
"Yugi, calm down," the spirit of the puzzle said, "the memory will come if you stop panicking."
"Easy for you to say," Yugi retorted aloud, "you're not the one with conflicting images of two different cities in his head."
After a few minutes of deep breathing, Yugi's panic subsided a bit, but he was no closer to figuring out where he was. He started walking again and had come to an intersection when someone grabbed his shoulder. Yugi pulled away, instincts he'd recently acquired screaming for him to counter attack. Luckily, his other, more familiar instincts kept him from doing anything more than pulling away from the man.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the man said. "You just look lost."
The man's presence finally registered, and the way he was dressed sparked that memory that had been eluding Yugi.
"We're close to the docks," Yugi said.
"Yes. The warehouses are three blocks that way," the man said pointing behind him. "You really shouldn't be wandering around here, kid. Do you need to call home?"
"No. Thank you, sir," Yugi replied and walked past the man in the direction of the docks.
The adrenaline from the confrontation was wearing off and anger was slowly making its way past the fear of the past few minutes. Was it ever going to stop? Was he ever going to feel like himself again? Was he ever going to know who he was? He'd been so driven by finding Shadow that he'd pushed everything else aside. As soon as he, Kaiba, and Joey had told their story to both the Santa Fe and Tokyo police and convinced the officers that they needed to look for Shadow, the burden had been lifted off Yugi. With that gone, Yugi had been forced to finally deal with the fact that he had memories that didn't seem like they belonged to him and instincts that were both alien and familiar at the same time. The people he'd know all of this life would sometimes seem like strangers and things and places he'd always known were being discovered for the first time. Yugi couldn't predict when the lapses would occur, and that only served to put him on edge at all times. His friends had been supportive, but sometimes didn't realize how they reacted to the memory lapses.
The first night back from the United States had been spent fighting the urge to run as far away as he could. The thought of going somewhere where no one knew him or expected him to act a certain way was appealing, but the thought of his grandfather in the wheelchair made Yugi rethink that strategy. He couldn't be run away because his grandfather needed him.
Yugi made it to the docks and stood staring at the water. The sights, sounds, and smells of the vast ocean that surrounded them used to be a soothing thing for him, but now they just brought memories of drowning and pain. Yugi turned his back to the water, shoving the memories as far down in his brain as he could. He started wondering around the docks and came to a stop in front of an abandoned warehouse. The place looked familiar, even though he couldn't remember being here before. The front door was ajar and the urge to go inside pushed Yugi through it and into the dimly lit interior. He was in a hallway with doors on either side. Some of the doors had been torn off their hinges, offering unobstructed views of the empty rooms on the other side. When he came to the third such room he stopped in his tracks. He knew that room… that was the room in which Kano had beat him up…
Yugi's head throbbed as the buried memories of that day assaulted him. They'd been Jomei's memories and had been blissfully locked away from closer scrutiny by his conscious mind until now. Yugi could suddenly feel the pain, the hands on his body and the smell of blood in the room. He felt nauseous but fought the urge to throw up the little he'd eaten for lunch. He heard Yami's voice somewhere in the back of his mind but couldn't pull away from the memory. It wasn't until he felt himself pulled into the Millennium Puzzle that he was able to come back to himself. When Yugi looked around, he found Yami standing in front of the door to his soul room.
"You remembered," Yami said.
"You knew?" Yugi asked. He was a little disoriented from the onslaught of the memories, but felt a bit of anger making its way through the jumble of the emotions at the thought that Yami had known and hadn't told him.
"I didn't know for sure, but I saw glimpses in your soul room," Yami explained. "I knew there were some memories locked away and affecting you in your sleep when your mind could freely access them, but I didn't know what they were, until now."
"How did you see it in my soul room?"
Yami looked away, and Yugi could sense the apprehension in the spirit. Yugi had rarely seen Yami this doubtful and it didn't seem right. After a while, Yami seemed to come to a decision. When he looked at Yugi again, the hesitation was gone.
"See for yourself," Yami said and pointed to the door of Yugi's soul room.
Yugi was still afraid, but knew that he had to deal with this now before it ate away at what was left of his sanity. Resolved, Yugi opened the door and walked into his soul room.
He had gone three steps into the room before stopping in horror at what he saw: the broken, bloody remains of what used to be a bright, happy, almost child-like room. What little furniture remained was upturned with torn and blood-stained upholstery. Full length, broken mirrors adorned a good portion of the walls where wallpaper had been before, and a bisected Duel Monsters deck rested in the middle of the room. It took Yugi's breath away that the room so closely resembled the way he felt.
"How long has it been like this?" Yugi asked.
"I do not know," Yami admitted. "I noticed it after you started having nightmares."
Yugi kneeled beside the deck and picked up the half closest to him. It felt alien and yet so familiar at the same time.
"It's been a long time," Yugi whispered as he looked through the cards. "I remember what it's like to play, but the memories feel like they belong to someone else."
"You can relearn to play, make new memories," Yami said. "The room can still be repaired, Yugi."
"It feels like everything is broken," Yugi admitted as flashes of his life in Tokyo flitted through his mind. "I don't know who I'm supposed to be anymore."
Yami kneeled down beside Yugi, and Yugi felt the spirit's strength and determination wash over him and fill him with peace he hadn't felt in a long time.
"Be yourself," Yami replied, "that is all that matters."
Yugi lifted the other half of the deck and held it beside the half he'd picked up earlier. It wouldn't be easy to piece things together again, but it might be possible after all.
"Yugi, snap out of it!"
The voice, plus the jolt of worry that accompanied it, went through Yugi like an electric shock. He looked at Yami, who had also heard the voice.
"You better go back before he calls the police," Yami said, a slight smirk on his face.
"You're right, Yami," Yugi replied and got up. He placed the deck in the pocket of his pants. "Thank you."
"You are welcome, Yugi. Welcome back."
Yugi returned to awareness to find Seto Kaiba shaking him.
"Stop it, you're going to make my headache worse," Yugi said.
Kaiba let go, which caused Yugi to bump his head against the wall at his back. He had ended up sitting on the floor by the door and Kaiba was kneeling at his side. Kaiba got to his feet, looking even taller and more imposing from Yugi's vantage point on the floor.
"I'm fine, Kaiba," Yugi said as he got to his feet.
"You didn't look fine when I found you," Kaiba replied. "How did you know about this place?"
"I didn't, but apparently Jomei remembered."
Kaiba looked around the room, his forehead furrowing with unpleasant memories of his own. His gaze eventually landed on Yugi once again.
"Do you remember what happened here?" Kaiba asked.
Yugi shuddered, despite his intention to not show weakness in front of Kaiba. "I do now," he replied. "They drugged me here… twice. They took my memories and my life away here. Kano…"
Yugi trailed off when his voice cracked a bit, and his eyes wondered away from Kaiba to avoid seeing any pity or judgment that might be there. Kaiba didn't speak for a long time, and when he did, it wasn't what Yugi was expecting.
"My adoptive father used to hit me with a whip. Every time I didn't learn something perfectly enough or didn't recite the right passage or said the wrong thing in front of whoever he was trying to impress. He'd hit me in the back because if the blows left scars, then no one would ever see them."
Yugi turned to look at his companion. Kaiba was facing him, but his eyes said that his mind was very far away.
"Why did you tell me?" Yugi asked.
It took a while for the life to return to Kaiba's eyes, but when it did, there was that strength that Yugi had clung to when Kaiba seemed like the only one Yugi could trust.
"We made a deal, Yugi. I would tell you about my scars if you'd tell me about what was freaking you out," Kaiba replied, referring to the conversation they'd had at Kaiba's house before Yugi had been kidnapped the second time.
"I didn't really tell you," Yugi admitted, unable to look away.
"I know. The memories will lose their edge with time, so maybe someday you can." Kaiba said.
"I didn't think you'd actually do it," Yugi finally replied.
Kaiba raised an eyebrow. "I never go back on my word, Yugi."
Yugi almost laughed at the insulted look on Kaiba's face, but wisely covered it up by turning away and surveying the room one more time. The sights, sounds and smells would be with him for a long, long time.
"I'm thinking of buying this place and having it torn down," Kaiba said suddenly. "The docks could use some revitalizing, don't you think?"
Yugi's lips curved into a smile. "Yeah. A place for seaside amusement rides would be nice."
"I think so, too," Kaiba replied as they made their way out of the room.
"Did you follow me here?" Yugi asked when they'd reached Kaiba's car.
"No," Kaiba replied. "I came to see a client and was going back to work when I saw you. I figured you'd end up here."
"I'm glad you did."
"Me too," Kaiba replied. "Now let's get you home."
Edward wasn't expecting visitors, so he was surprised to hear a knock on his door as he was getting ready to take his son Jon to baseball practice. What he found on his porch was even more unexpected: two men in dark suits, one of which was carrying a package.
"Are you Edward Rhodes?" the man not carrying the package asked.
Anxiety ran through Edward as he recalled the teenage visitors he'd recently had. He momentarily considered lying, and then common sense kicked in: if these men were here because of the information he'd given to those kids, lying would be useless and would likely make things worse.
"Yes, I am," he replied.
"This is for you," the other man said and held out the box.
Edward took it gingerly, half expecting to hear ticking or some other indication that the box held something sinister. There was no address or any other markings written on the part of the package that he could see. It wasn't heavy, but did have some weight to it.
"Who are you?" Edward asked. "What's in the box?"
"Our identity is not important," the other man said, "were were only to ensure that the package made it to you in one piece."
Edward looked from one man to the other, but their faces were set in stone and gave nothing away. They reminded Edward of some of the bouncers he'd encountered in his life: imposing, but not always harmful. Without another word, they turned and headed towards the dark sedan parked in front of the house.
"Wait, you still haven't…" Edward trailed off when he realized that they weren't going to stop now that their job was done. Within moments, they'd been swallowed into the darkness of the sedan and had pulled away from the cub, leaving Edward staring open-mouthed after them.
"What's that, honey?" Alyson, Edward's wife, asked as she joined him on the porch.
"I don't know," Edward replied.
He examined the plain, brown package, turning it over in his hands to examine the sides and bottom. On the bottom, right hand corner of the box he saw a familiar logo that made the tension in his shoulders drain away. Edward had seen the logo just recently and knew that the person behind it meant him no harm. Curious, Edward made his way into the living room to open the unexpected surprise. He set it down on the coffee table and then used his keys to tear into the tape that held it closed. Inside, he found something that was vaguely familiar, but clearly wasn't meant for him.
"Jon, come here," Edward called out loud enough to be heard upstairs. Minutes later, Jon had joined them in the living room.
"Here, this is for you," Edward said and held the flaps open for his son to see what was inside the box. When Jon peeked inside, he gasped in surprise.
"Wow, the latest Duel Monsters gaming system!" Jon exclaimed in awe as he took it out of the box. "Where did you get it, dad? These haven't been released yet."
Jon turned the contraption every which way, examining it from every angle and handling it as if he were holding the greatest of treasures. Edward rummaged through the packing materials and, after some digging, he found a note.
Thank you for your help. If your son ever wants to come see the virtual reality version of what he's holding, or if there's anything I can do for you, give me a call.
The note was signed "SK" and had a phone number neatly printed underneath the signature.
"Who is SK?" Alyson said.
"SK, as in Seto Kaiba?" Jon asked. "You know him, dad? I'm going to tell all of my friends. I can't wait to show this off," the boy said and ran out into the backyard to play with his new toy.
Edward chuckled at his son's enthusiasm.
"Was Seto Kaiba one of your recent visitors?" Alyson asked.
"Yes," he replied. He hadn't told his wife the entire story for her own safety, but he'd had to share some of it. "It looks like they made it home safely."
"Dad, Mom, come look at this!"
"We probably should go before he comes in here and drags us out there," Alyson said.
Edward nodded and followed his wife, tucking the note into the pocket of his jeans. He hadn't heard anything in the news about the three Japanese teenagers and their incredible story, so he was glad to know that they'd made it home safely and were ok, at least for now.
Yugi and Kaiba had gotten to the Moto residence as dinner was being prepared, and Yugi managed to talk Kaiba into staying to eat with them. Talking Kaiba into doing anything was not an easy task under normal circumstances, but Kaiba seemed unusually pliant that night. Once Kaiba had found out that Joey was helping with the meal, he'd made it a point of making snide remarks about the safety of the food being prepared. It had gotten so bad that Joey had, at one point, come out of the kitchen with a knife and threatened to use it if Kaiba didn't shut up. Kaiba had done as asked, at least while Joey was within earshot.
Once dinner was finished, Yugi had again convinced Kaiba into staying, and all four of them were in the living room watching television. They had settled for an old movie that no one was really paying attention to, but Yugi had to admit that it was nice to feel safe and a little more like himself than he had in a long time. He was startled out of his thoughts when a news report sent chills running down his spine.
"In international news, Dr. Justin Shore, an American scientist who has been missing since he walked out of his research position at a government installation, has been arrested in Los Angeles, California in connection to a ring of kidnappings and forced child labor spanning at least two countries."
Yugi's body went numb, and he could see that the news was having a similar effect on the other people in the room.
"Dr. Shore's arrest comes after a manhunt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was initiated following the testimony of one survivor and two witnesses involved in the case. Their names are being withheld because they are minors, but it is believed that they are citizens of Japan. Japanese and American police report that they've arrested several additional people involved in this labor ring and are still investigating. More arrests are expected soon."
The news report ended and the movie they'd been watching came back on, but no one was paying attention anymore. Joey was the first to break the silence.
"They found him."
"It's about damn time," Kaiba said.
When Yugi looked up, all eyes were on him. His grandfather looked sad, but Yugi knew that he had the elder man's support no matter what. They would be strong for each other… it was what they had always done.
"Aren't you going to say anything, Yugi?" Joey asked.
"I'm glad they found him, but it's not over," Yugi said. "There'll be more testimony, and trials, and everyone will eventually know about what happened."
"We're all in this together," Kaiba said. "We didn't choose it, but we can see it through to the end and make sure it never happens to anyone again."
Yugi felt Yami's strength from the Millennium Puzzle and also felt it from the people in the room with him.
"You're right," Yugi replied. "We need to make sure it never happens again."
He settled back onto the couch, scared out of his mind at what was sure to come, what was sure to haunt him for the rest of his life, but also determined. This thing wasn't going to beat him. He'd survived this far, and, like Kaiba said, he'd see it through to the end.
"This movie is boring," Yugi said after a few tense moments, "let's find something else to do."
"How about a duel?" Joey asked, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"How about it, loser?" Kaiba replied. "You couldn't win even if I gave you a 1000 point advantage."
"Oh, yeah? Wanna bet?"
The argument quickly deteriorated into name calling, as Kaiba and Joey's arguments often did, but Yugi sat back and took it all in, enjoying the little bit of normalcy in what was sure to become a very crazy reality.