Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of the characters. If I did, well, I don't think I'd change the show at all. I'm quite content with it. What are you looking at? Is it wrong to be happy with a show and not want to do anything about it? STOP STARING! I MEAN IT! Ok, ok, you got me . . . I'd cut down on most of the dueling, it gets so frickn' boring . . But other than that . . .

Author's Note: Welcome to my first Yu-Gi-Oh fan fic! Ta da! trumpets blast This concept took a lot of thinking and organization and above all time. Many hours were dedicated to getting this thing together and I hope you fellow writers out there will appreciate it. Now a little background info on me . .

I've actually been writing fan fiction for over two years now and I started out as a Digimon writer. It will always be my favorite anime, but I can't write about it anymore since I've become uninspired by it. It has become really hard to write about my favorite characters since they change the entire concept of the show every season! Then, I discovered Yu-Gi-Oh on a fluke thinking Joey looked a little like Yamato (mmm, Yama-sama) and became hooked. Although I must say, his accent creeped me out for a while.

I like all the characters and support almost all couples for Yu-Gi-Oh, this includes yaoi/yuri/hetero, but only as long as there is decent character support for it and/or goes along with plot line. Then, of course, there's the exception for humor. I do favor some couples. However, I do not see any basis for once couple: Tea x Seto. WTF?! I have yet to read a reasonable story surrounding these two. This is almost as bad as Mimato (Mimi x Yamato - Digimon once again). No flippn reason for these people to be involved!! But it doesn't mean I won't read those stories, I just avoid them unless the synopsis perks my interest. I am still uncomfortable with the idea of Yami x Yugi and/or any hikari with their yami as a couple because I view them as the same person and take this in account when writing a story. I see it more as a brother/guardian thing, but once again it doesn't mean I won't read Y/Y stories. Now for this story . . .

Background: I love writing alternate universe stories by taking a very crucial moment in the timeline of a series and creating a fic that goes with the other option. For example, what this fic is, what would have happened if Yugi lost to Pegasus? This type of thinking probably came from my favorite movie "Back to the Future". I tried one like this for Digimon called "It's All in the Cards" (based off the episode), but the lack of airing Digimon killed it.

I used Yugi as the key to the story. He is held up in the series with such respect and preserved as an innocent boy who is only trying to help his friends. It always seems that everyone is trying to destroy that. I know, very sad. I love him and how terribly cute he is. But Yugi does have incredible courage and this fic will hopefully explore how his friends see the power of his traits as guide lines to living their own life. Though this sounds dark, its more action/adventure and I promise there's lines of comedy etched in there and more in the future.

Please forgive my butchering of any character's names and some of the names of cards, etc. I'm going with the English translation for everything, except for Ryou/Bakura and Isis -- her dub name sounds ugly, but you'll get to that eventually. This prologue/story takes place in the last episode of the five episode arc of the duel between Pegasus x Yugi/Yami (a.k.a. Final Duel of Souls).

This thing is also REALLY long (50 pages when I finished!). I suggest you get something to eat and come back. Go on, break your diet! I won't know!

Thank you and please read and review!

*****

Victims always seem to be the innocent. Those who know nothing of true hate or true vengeance fall into ultimate suffering. It's never because they deserve it, after all they are the innocent. The only emotions they've ever known were those that are pure like love, trust, hope . . .

Friendship.

Could one rely on pure bonds such as these forever? It would be an existence that everyone deserves. However, destiny tends to step in quite often for those innocent ones. And they change from being the innocent to becoming much more than life ever intended them to be. But that is what destiny is all about, isn't it? And destiny weaves a fickle web of complications. One road can lead to alternate destinations - alternate choices that might have been chosen. The question is, does each one lead to the ultimate fate? Being the hero in one lifetime might not stretch across the wings of time.

Though destiny can seem grim and awfully cruel at times, she also shows us the choices we never thought possible. A life is strengthened by actions, choices whose effects can spread out like the ripples of a pond. The answer is inconclusive, but there is a message . . . you are your life. It will sum up somehow in the end, and that is who you will remain to be.

In a life of one innocent, his path will change and lead to an unexpected destination. His destiny was never quite clear, but it was his heart that placed him ready for a future where great and powerful things await him. What can be said about him is this, destiny will preserve his spirit through the ages as his heart is the key to unlocking the souls of many who look to him as their savior. And he will be theirs . . .

In time . . .

*****

The sky was dark with diamond stars. A barren land of desert lay before these beams of heaven. This sand filled with history with the remains of so many individuals . . . heroes, villains, innocents . . . charmed by the unknown, they sought knowledge here, for ancient mysteries often life in the unlikeliest of places.

A lone figure stood on a balcony. This balcony of a majestic palace that was only fitting to witness an enchanted desert such as this. The walls were pure white reflecting the harsh rays of the sun during the day and basking in the moonlight of the night.

She stood on the balcony wrapped in the finest of linen, material highly prized for living in the harshest of climates. Delicate beadwork sewed into the sleeves showing her shapely figure and her slender, tanned neck. It has been said that the desert produces individuals of great traits, shown by their ability to survive in almost absolute solitary, which is also said to drive the mind to the brink of insanity. Her thick raven hair glided down her back as a gold head band held it in place - out of her shimmering eyes. Eyes that were completely focused on the desert horizon. All thought seemed to concentrate out in the mystic depths of this night.

It allowed him to slip into her company.

"You shouldn't do that," she scolded in a light tone. "It's rude."

The young man froze in his movements as he glanced up. Her position remained the same. He smiled, mostly to himself.

"I should've known you would sense me." His voice was like that of a tenor, melodic with no rumbles of harsh tones. "But I honestly did not mean to disturb you . . I only felt -"

"Ah, so you picked up on it to?" Her voice had changed from playful to almost bitter. Something had taken affect.

"Yes. Then its true?"

"The sands of time have shifted."

"How quickly things change . . ." His voice grew soft as his thoughts turned deep. "No wind."

"No wind," she repeated. "So unlike the first time."

"The first time?" His curiosity peaked and he turned toward her. "Isis, what was it like?" Upon hearing her name, the maiden turned her gaze towards him. He shivered momentarily as he felt her power ripple through the air.

"You are so curious in your quest to discover origins and the path the mind takes. It is a maze, but you know that and how one can get lost in our own mortality . . . so many thoughts, so little time . . ."

"I am not so naive as you think," he spoke quickly letting his usual gentleness be lost briefly. "Origins are more your calling, if I'm not mistaken." She narrowed her eyes at him.

"I've let you enter my mind once, but things change, people change . . ." A silence echoed.

"Yes they do," he admitted sadly. Isis's harsh gaze softened, and she turned once more to the sky.

"Another night these stars would shine about triumphs, but tonight -- there is only misfortune." She sighed. "The first night . . the first duel . . . it was a night where one could step out and cower from the tumult of the storm. The heavens cried from the strain of so much power. Yes, my friend, there were strong winds that night long ago."

"Not like tonight," he spoke quietly.

"Not like tonight." She hummed softly, it was a tune that would only be recognized by those locked in tombs of glorified days past. "Evil keeps the winds calm as if to suggest nothing is to change . . Funny, tonight is going to change everything . . The world will never be the same . . "

He moved closer, listening with intense feelings of her sorrow. He moved to put a hand on her shoulder, but her body rejected the motion.

"Isis -"

"No, please, the future . . "

"It's too much for you?"

"Yes." They looked together once more at the night. A night they used to find hope in.

"Come, preparations need to be made . . ." She left him on the balcony. Then, his eyes too became lost in the stars.

"May his end arrive on swift wings . . poor boy . . my poor Pharaoh . . ."

*****

"Go Winged Guardian of the Fortress!" cried out a strong voice. A voice that was deep with courage and had ripples of passion running through. He commanded a blue dragon towards the evil that stood across from him. A distance separated them, yet the horrific power never felt so close. There was a malevolent glimmer in the distance, this glimmer that could at any moment lead to his undoing. Their undoing.

"A magic card!" Now a younger voice was shining through the fierce battle. A voice full of hope and love. A lighter voice that contrasted to the dark undertones of the first. There was an unmistakable bond between these two, a bond that went deep into their souls. They were fighting with immense skill and flawless technique. But despite the exterior of success, they knew that anything less than everything was the key to their undoing.

We have to win . . their thoughts rang together loudly. And even though he couldn't read their thoughts because of their little shuffling trick, it still somehow bellowed in the mind of their opponent.

Cocky fools, growled internally their adversary. The malevolent glimmer grew brighter, yet there was nothing to be done. He turned once again - rather reluctantly - to his cards.

This was the duel between Maximillion Pegasus and Yugi Motou.

A duel through an ancient as well as powerful card game known as Duel Monsters. Though is reduces its glory to refer to it as such, nevertheless it is a game. Games have decided the outcomes of many events through out history. It is recorded that crowned heads of Europe referred to war as a game as they sent hundreds to die in cold blood on green fields. Somehow, Duel Monsters surpasses their little toy soldiers with the intense complexity that stops the breath on all those who drawn near. Strategy and skill lead these dueling warriors to the edge of their emotions. Especially when their very soul is on the line, and in the literal sense . . .

Duel Monsters is based on spirit and heart - two metaphysical aspects that gives quality to life. Qualities that ancient Egyptians held dear. The soul is the keeper of these traits, which adds to the ultimate power one can wield. Duel Monsters calls on this power of the soul to summon monsters to battle. At least that was how the ancients played it. It had been modernized thanks to Pegasus and his questionable origins. Thousands play the game because of him. Some breathe it like oxygen, wallowing in the power - the rush - it gives . . . That was Kaiba . . But this is Yugi. An innocent boy caught in a war. He's just a casualty.

Or he will be.

Pegasus got sucked into the possibilities that Duel Monsters had to offer. The surrounding secrets, especially with the link to the Millennium Items. He had his own agenda.

But still there is Yugi. His eyes wide and bright, though recently they've dimmed with all that he's had to witness. Somehow he received a Millennium Item - the Puzzle to be exact. The most powerful one . . . legendary. Yugi was just another stepping stone or stepping soul, which is really what Pegasus had in mind. What he didn't count on was this spirit, this un-known being that resided with Yugi. It had to be through the Puzzle. This spirit was darkness, Pegasus could sense that. When he did manage to read the being's mind, it troubled him. But he had to keep focus on his strategy by keeping the pair one step behind him.

The Shadow Realm proved to be a useful tool. Only those whose body and soul could stand the magical energy could dare fight a duel as powerful as this. The spirit was handling the forces of the Shadow Realm with ease. It was odd to see how he didn't even pick up on how he handled the power like an expert. As though he was used to this power . . Pegasus didn't dwell on this. After all, the Puzzle must be the real cause of the expertise. No one, not even him - the Master of the Millennium Eye - could handle the Shadow Realm for extended periods.

But Yugi obviously couldn't.

The young boy's breathing was deep and his body grew paler by the second. He gripped the edge of the duel board with a shaking hand. He could barely hold onto his cards, let alone strategize effectively. Pegasus smirked in delight at the shadow novice. He saw the opportunity for victory.

"H-Had enough?" choked out Yugi. Despite how simply exhausted he looked, his eyes didn't show it. They bore into Pegasus. The usually heartless duelist shuddered as Yugi's eyes made him feel as though he had one. A cold one at that. The feeling died easily though.

Pity, thought the Creator of Duel Monsters. And I thought I gave Yugi more than enough obstacles for him to be able to handle the Shadow Realm. Oh well, can't say I didn't warn him.

Another presence watched the Duel between the pure light and the evil. His thoughts pounded in his brain, hidden from his counterpart. For they were not as optimistic as he wanted them to be.

Yugi . . Be careful . .

A simple warning, yet with so much truth in it.

"Oh Yugi!" mocked Pegasus applauding the duelist. It was to Yugi as if Pegasus was making an obscene gesture. "I am so proud of you! It's wonderful to know that you have backbone!" Yugi glared back. He did not want to lower himself to Pegasus' level by voicing what he was really thinking.

"No I must insist," called out the arrogant duelist. "First Kaiba, then the Kingdom, now me! Handling so much responsibility," Pegasus then turned nasty. "But not handling the power of the Shadow Realm!" He reached into his deck and slammed a card down. A surge of power struck out at what little energy Yugi had left.

"This is a little card I've created . . Yes, I know I'm multi-talented - hold the applause. This is Relinquish, a card that absorbs every monster you lay down on the field. Just try to stop him!" Pegasus laughed louder, his insanity growing in the realm. "Oh and by the way - if you notice my pet's life points - they read zero . . "

Relinquish was a hideous olive green and brown monster. It had a gaping hole for a mouth with spiky teeth. Who could foresee its foul purpose?

The spirit demanded a switch instantly.

Yugi! Let me finish the duel! The strain -

Yami I can do it! I need to help, we can't let Pegasus read our mind!

Yami reluctantly backed off, but not before he also drew another card to defend against the opponent. Now, it was Yugi's turn all over again and his condition just continued to worsen.

Pegasus' smirk seemed to deepen.

Now I will overtax him with energy that not even the spirit could detect!

Yugi gasped loudly as he found himself back in the pressure of the Shadow Realm. It was though he was struggling to keep afloat in a sea that smothered him with waves. Drowning was comparable to his situation. His skin was drenched in perspiration from the way his mortal body rejected the Shadow Realm. Yet, he couldn't defer from the course that lay before him. Who else could defend against Pegasus? Who could possibly stop the monster if he was defeated? At one time, Kaiba could've been an option, but his so-called rival was now a prisoner just like his -

Grandpa . . Is this what you meant by the "heart of the cards"? Can I finally understand what I have to give to this game? Heart . . I thought at one point Pegasus took that away from me . . . Yet I knew I was wrong . . . By having heart, I must depend on what life has given me . . . Faith . . . I trust myself and the spirit . . .

Yugi reached for his deck. The deck that had brought many lessons of life and love to him. Emotions he never realized he was capable of handling. He pulled a card.

I don't know if I can last . . . Any longer and we'll lose . . .

Yugi put that card face down before pulling another from his hand.

"I place the Feral Imp in defense mode!" he cried strongly. His body quivered from the energy he had to give.

Pegasus smiled in wicked delight. His chance had come.

"Relinquish!" shouted the Creator. His Millennium Eye glowed once more responding to all the power that fluctuated in the Shadow Realm. It was feeding off Yugi's life force, so it seemed. "Absorb that pathetic monster!"

The mouth of Relinquish began to suck with terrifying force, which caught the Feral Imp in its suction. The green monster was soon nothing on the board as it went into the bowels of the beast.

Yugi was just an innocent caught in a game of power. His heart was full of courage and love for his friends, yet he could not fight the black soul that loomed before him. He received the Millennium Puzzle and never raised a question of "why" to his destiny. Yugi was a pure soul.

Yugi! Concentrate!!

I'm sorry . . .

Please, you can do this!

The boy lost all his energy. He couldn't fight anymore.

Yugi!! Don't go!!

Yugi collapsed onto the board.

. . My light . . My dear, dear light . . .

*****

Three friends waited on the outside of the dark Shadow Realm. They waited with fear in the hearts and hatred against the monster Pegasus. It was because of this man that they were forced to battle. Forced to turn friend against friend. Yet, sometimes that is what one must do for survival. They had seen so much in such a short time.

Sometimes the bond of Friendship must be tested. The pressures of the world can force this delicate strand to be in situations that one could never have comprehended. Yet, this was before dueling came with such high risks. When life could remain carefree and innocent.

Yugi's friends always felt an indescribable connection to the boy. Though small and weak he may seem, it is only a shallow misconception. In truth, he had courage and heart that none had ever seen. These three had witnessed his triumphs time and again. They never doubted his abilities, only they feared his opponents - feared what they could do to their pure friend.

Yugi never had to deal with hardships as his three friends did. Never to their extent. He did lose his parents at a young age, but his Grandfather managed to fill the void splendidly. Perhaps that loss of the surrogate parent was the first attack at Yugi's innocence and his friends couldn't take witnessing the destruction of his light. They had to protect him . . .

But right now he was their protector.

Savior.

They looked into their hearts to support him in this hour of darkness.

"Oh no," she gasped in horror. A feeling of dread churned in her being. She didn't even need to glance at her companions. The same feeling was coming through to them.

"You felt that," said the blonde. It wasn't a question.

"I-I'm going to be sick," replied the taller boy, yet he couldn't turn away. Not yet.

"This can't be it . . Not Yugi . . " She couldn't bring herself to cry. Not yet.

But they knew this was only the beginning.

*****

"Well apparently little Yugi is all tuckered out," spoke Pegasus dryly. He looked down smugly at the fallen boy, before his spirit vanished into the realm forcing his darker counterpart to appear.

"Monster," gritted Yami between his teeth. His powerful eyes glared at his adversary. Though the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle had felt power and in control through many of his duels, this was a time when he felt his weakest. His arms seemed nothing as he held the spirit body of his beloved light in their joint mind chamber. He was supposed to protect the innocent, yet Yugi would not let his courage falter.

Or was it because you failed Yugi? He had to fight your battle!

Yami flinched from his internal struggle.

"Well are you going to make a move?" taunted Pegasus once again. His Millennium Eye flashed. "Especially with your Magic Box, Multiplier, Reborn the Monster, Dark Magician, and --" Pegasus sneered in disgust. "Kuribo."

The Millennium Eye proved its worth again. Yami's mind was no longer protected by the Mind Swap, now that his partner was . . .

He could've even bring himself to think it.

"I will punish you," growled Yami. His body shook with fierce anger.

"Then do something about it," prompted Pegasus. He held his powerful cards as if they were nothing to him. "Give my Relinquish something tasty to eat!"

Yami couldn't even bear to look at his cards. They were worthless now without Yugi's heart. His mind was frantic for a plan, a comeback - yet nothing came to him.

Is this what I'm left with? Nothing?

He held Yugi tighter with in his mind. Protecting what was left of him as best he could.

*****

"Time is infinite," spoke Isis steadily from her desert chamber. "There are many possibilities for the outcome of a duel. Physically and emotionally, the duelists are left with a series of choices whether they win or lose."

"Yes," agreed her male companion. "The mind can get lost on its own path."

"But time is vastly different than the mind and can be more deadly," Isis corrected.

He raised an eyebrow. "How so?"

She walked steadily in front of him passing by the wall adorned with ancient relics, though they looked well preserved. They glistened in their golden silence as she spoke.

"Time can allow all possible outcomes to occur at once. One choice leads to branches of that decision. Choices that weren't possible before become an option after a key choice is made. For instance, if you decided to have a drink with your meal you would have wide selection to choose from. Or for simplicity, you could have water or wine. And then if you had wine, what kind? What if you opened a new bottle or chose a good year?" Her voice dropped to an almost inaudible whisper. "Or what happens when the wine you have chosen is poisoned?"

His eyes dilated only slightly, but other than that his appearance remained like stone.

"I see."

Her pace quickened and her eyes sparkled. He sensed her spirit growing in anticipation with the talk of time. The very element that Isis thrived in.

"Or lets take the current example. Our dear hero in the midst of a battle that will decide the outcome for more than just the souls he seeks to save. A Final Duel of Souls . . . if you want to choose such a mundane title like that." She stopped her pacing and relaxed. Isis was often conflicted by the outcomes that time and destiny could offer.

"If we do nothing the world could be on the brink of destruction that we have been trying to avoid for centuries," she spoke softly. The vulnerability that she sought to hide managed to break through.

"Isis," he approached her. "Do not doubt yourself and your abilities. You taught me that. Tell me - what choices is the Pharaoh left with?"

They both knew that something had changed causing their destiny to switch. They had always been prepared for the next step after his victory, they never wanted to prepare for his loss.

The Millennium Necklace glowed brilliantly in the desert chamber. Not maliciously like that of the Millennium Eye, but more of a refined glow. Her eyes became focused as the future appeared before her mystic gaze.

"With the loss of his light our Pharaoh is finding difficulty to go on . . . His adversary's powers are not stronger than his, just more confident in his abilities . . The Pharaoh is now left with two choices - both which can change the destiny of many souls . . . "

"And his choices . ." the young man prompted.

"To go on and fight or to surrender . . "

"Surrender?!" gasped in complete shock Isis' companion. He took several steps back. "But the Pharaoh has never lost his courage before!"

"He has never lost his light before . . his hope . . Until now . . . He is meant to be with Yugi . . The loss of that bond can change him . . for better or for worse is up to him . . "

"But why did our destiny change? Why will he lose? Why is the pressure stronger than before?"

The glow of the Millennium Necklace stopped as Isis came back into reality.

"That I cannot say, but only guess. Destiny changes its course when the individuals are not realizing their full potential. Or we are the unfortunate victims on the wrong path and we must deal with it accordingly." She heard her friend sigh in despair.

"Then he really has lost the duel?"

"I'm afraid he has." Isis walked back to her collection, she gazed at them searching for answers to the problems of the future.

"Have faith my friend . . It's not the end of the world." She gently grasped her Item in hand. "Not yet anyway."

*****

The blonde paced frantically, hating every minute he had to wait for the outcome. His body rejected the thought of remaining still for an answer. He had to move, to do something. Even his hands flexed trying to escape being useless.

"I can't stand this," he grumbled. "Just waiting while he's in there . . "

"And you think we can!" snapped his tall brunette friend.

"Well you sure aren't showing that you care . . " threatened the blonde turning suddenly.

"Shut up! Both of you!" she cried. Her gaze never wavered from the looming blackness. They bowed in shame.

"Sorry man," apologized the blonde sheepishly.

"S'okay," replied the other. They smiled at each other, masking their pain.

And so they were forced to wait.

"Tea?"

She couldn't tare her eyes away from the sight before her. Knowing one of her best friends was trapped in there, away from the people who truly care and want to protect him.

"Tea?"

"Yes Joey?"

"Do you remember when you first met Yugi?"

Tea whirled on him violently with her intense blue eyes piercing into him. Sudden hatred swirled into her.

"Don't you dare talk like that!!" she screamed at him. "Don't you dare talk like he's gone!! As if this is good-bye!! As if . . As if . . " Tea wrapped her arms around herself in effort to calm her emotions. "As if he's already lost." Her blue eyes brimmed with threatening tears. She hated crying.

Joey placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "I just wanted to remember something good Tea, that's all . . out of all the crap we've been through, one good memory is all I want . . "

"Joey's right Tea," spoke up the brunette with a wry smile. "And you know how I hate to say that."

"Thanks Tristian, now get over here and hug me."

"He had ketchup all over his face," she sniffled burrowing her head into Joey's shirt. She felt her friends encircling her with their strong arms. "And he wasn't even mad or anything."

Joey looked at the people he cared the most about. He didn't want to fail them now. He had to remain strong like Yugi.

Yeah, Yugi would want us to be together. He has never faltered, no matter what. I need to be strong like him . . Or else who will?

Joey made a decision right there. A crucial choice the reflects the way the individual works to overcome an obstacle. His future and his friends' future was at stake. He could no longer ignore the intense feeling of dread within him. If Yugi lost . . .

When Yugi lost . .

Things will have to change.

Tristian, being the tallest, could see over the heads of his friends, despite the tight group hug. In his line of sight was the Shadow Realm. His hazel eyes narrowed as he detected a change in the bubble's exterior.

Something's going on . .

"It's vanishing," he spoke with low tones.

Tea gasped. She wanted to turn around and see . . . whatever it was, but fear of the outcome kept her grip tight on her friends. She couldn't break away.

"Do you see anything?" Tea whispered fearfully.

Tristian hesitated momentarily, debating whether to tell them. Even Joey's vision was blocked, but the blonde remained uncharacteristically silent. His thoughts were elsewhere, so it seemed.

"Yeah," Tristian finally admitted. "I see the arena and . . . " His eyes lit up. "Yugi! I see Yugi!" Maybe the situation wasn't as bad as they feared. Maybe.

Upon hearing their friend's name, the three broke from their hug and turned to face the vanishing shadow. The darkness was dispersing at a decent rate revealing the dueling arena where they last witnessed Yugi's duel, and now . . .

"Yugi! Yugi!" They called his name desperately in reassurance to themselves that yes he had made it out of the Shadow Realm. Now the nightmare was over.

Or had it just begun?

The boy stood in silence with his back towards them as they ran to his side -- faithful as always. Faithful till the end.

Something's wrong, nagged that annoying voice from the back of Joey's mind. The voice that taunted him through all his duels. The voice that sounded strangely like Kaiba's at times, "A worthless dog", that popped up at the most inconvenient of places.

Yet, there had never been a time when it had been wrong. When Joey had become too cocky during the crucial turns of a duel or when he had to ground himself to help his friends. When Joey had to grow-up suddenly and be a hero. The voice was ringing true, no matter how much Joey wished it wasn't.

Yugi would never ignore you . . .

"Yugi!" cried Tea happily. She was the first to reach the boy, her ecstasy and fear causing a sprint. "Yugi!" She placed a hand on his shoulder turning him to face her. She longed to see his face. His smile that was always reassuring to her somehow. "Oh Yugi, we were so worried about y--"

Tea's scream echoed through the halls of the castle.

"NO!! NO!! IT CAN'T BE!!" Tristian's own voice followed suit to Tea's sobs.

But it was.

Yugi was now a soul-less shell. A body with no life. His eyes - his brilliant, vibrant violet eyes were now dull and shady. The innocence and hope that always soared with in him were non-existent. Even the Millennium Puzzle's glow was dying.

"That's not Yugi," whispered Joey. His voice was hoarse, choked on the flood of emotions. His brown eyes looked down at his fallen friend, now in Tea's arms as she sobbed helplessly. Yugi was extremely pale, his unique hair drooping. "That's not Yugi . ."

A low laugh from the opposite side of the room reached their ears. It took every fiber of their being just to look at the man. The monster. The Creator.

"Looking for this?" In his hand was a soul card. An occupied soul card.

Joey's stomach took a sudden lurch, he felt extremely dizzy. He heard Tristian smash the duel pad with his fist. An array of sparks flew everywhere.

"Now now," warned Pegasus waving a finger. "That's private property . . Well more of a memorial now, wouldn't you agree?" Pegasus' eyes widened in delight. "Yes, wouldn't you agree - Yami?"

The three were thrown off briefly by Pegasus' statement, that is until they saw the Millennium Puzzle glow its final time. The entrance of Yugi's darker half did not go un-noticed this time.

"I-It's you," stammered Tea wiping her tears away for the moment. She'd lost count of how many times she detected his presence, when she knew she wasn't looking at Yugi, but someone else. How could she explain it? She couldn't. She only felt what wasn't true to her. And now here he was.

"Big Yugi," Tristian stated bluntly referring to the one instance that they acknowledged his existence.

Joey blinked momentarily. His mind clicked as he saw Yami's face. A face etched in stone showing courage and pride. But Joey knew this type of face well, a face that hid fear and the truth.

He grabbed Yami roughly by the collar. "Bring him back . . " It was a fierce growl of an order.

Tea and Tristian stared at the blonde's actions. It was certainly a different situation with Yami being almost as tall as Joey, not the quarter height that Yugi was, and those eyes . . Darker than Yugi, with a deep loss of innocence. Joey would not be turned from his motives, even though Yami had the physical aspects of Yugi . . This was still not the friend he wanted to see.

That's not Yugi . . .

"You heard me," repeated Joey. "Bring Yugi back!"

"Joey," spoke up Tea. "H-How?"

"That Puzzle!" hissed the blonde. "I know something is up with it!" No one spoke until a low reply came from the threatened spirit.

"I-I can't," he muttered. He forced himself to look Joey in the eye. "Pegasus defeated us --"

"YOU!" raged Joey shaking Yami. "Pegasus defeated YOU! Yugi never looses!" Yami's eyes widened as the thought occurred to him.

Was it really me that lost?

"Ooh the plot thickens!" snickered Pegasus. "Yami, the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle against little Yugi's friends! He guided the young one for so long, helping him defeat Kaiba, pull them out of all their little miss-adventures, and yet he never earns their trust - their friendship! Hah!"

"Is that true Y-Yami?" whispered Tea looking up at the spirit with her bright, blue eyes. She still remained on the ground cradling Yugi in her delicate arms. "Were you supposed to be helping Yugi?"

"Oh yes!" called out Pegasus once again. "I can read minds you know! In fact -" That malicious glimmer appeared. "Yugi meant something more to him than you'll ever know . . "

"Shut up," whispered Joey.

"It was such a quaint little phrase, what was it?"

"Cram it . . "

"It's on the tip of my tongue . . ."

"SILENCE!!" bellowed Yami shoving Joey away with hidden physical force. "Do you want to know!" He whirled on Yugi's friends. Friends he was barred from. Friends that he sought to reach, but never could be part of that bond. A bond he envied that Yugi shared, a bond he couldn't touch no matter how close he was to his other half, his --

"Light," Yami confessed. "Yugi was my light. I am darkness and he is what is left of me . . Innocence . . Love . . Hope - emotions that I find difficult to access at times. But we had a bond, an understanding - it was destiny that brought us together . . ." His voice drifted as he only added the last thought just at that moment.

"Light?" repeated Tea. She stood up slowly, still holding Yugi in her arms. She looked at Yami in the eyes. Eyes that she'd seen before through countless battles. At times she thought she was attracted to this darker half of Yugi, yet she couldn't explain what it was then. He stared directly back.

His eyes were nothing like Yugi's.

She struck him. Yami recoiled from the harsh blow not only to his face, but to his heart. He really never did have their friendship.

"Light?!" Tea cried with fresh tears running down her face. "If he was your light you should've protected him better!! Where were you when Pegasus ripped him away from all of us?!"

"That's enough Tea," interrupted Joey.

"You were his friend!!"

"That's enough Tea!" shouted Joey. Tristian stepped in and pulled the sobbing girl away from the broken spirit. He tried to pull Yugi out of her arms, but she wouldn't let go.

"I am his friend," defended Yami, but he was unheard. Or ignored . . .

"I think you should go," said Joey. "Just leave." His breathing was ragged from his rage, yet his statement rang clearly around the arena. Joey's eyes were cold - no warmth of friendship, that Yami had seen before, existed.

But that friendship was for Yugi, wasn't it? Not you, not for darkness . . .

"Gladly," replied Yami. His voice grew hard with an icy tone. "Never again will my life be ruled by destiny!" He backed away from the group, away from Yugi's body, across the bridge. His breath got caught in his chest as he felt the Millennium Puzzle drawing him back, but he couldn't - he refused.

Yami broke his metaphysical chains from the Puzzle as his body illuminated a deep, violet color all around. He would no longer be able to stay in the mortal realm, but he did not care. What reason was there for him to stay anyhow? The Millennium Puzzle floated to the ground at Yami's feet. It didn't make any noise. Its glow faded as it now had lost both of its masters.

Good-bye Yugi, my light . . My friend . . .

He looked once more with sad eyes at Yugi's body. Then Yami vanished.

"Good riddance," muttered Tristian still holding Tea. She looked down at Yugi and then back at where Yami disappeared. Her face revealed nothing of her feelings, however.

"That was a poor move on your part," spoke Pegasus. His usual mocking tones were gone and now his voice was full of evil. Every word that came from him was only hinting at what he planned for them, which of course wasn't good. "Getting rid of the sole member of your little party with any sort of power is never a wise choice. It's not that I mind, of course, its just I thought you should know - a little hint that's all. Especially since none of you stand a chance of getting out of here, with your souls intact I mean."

The three remained silent. They refused to dignify Pegasus with a response.

"Speechless eh? Well, no need to be sore losers! The prize has been won by a true duelist . ."

"Yugi's soul is not just some trophy you bastard!!" snapped Joey suddenly. He couldn't stand hearing Pegasus go on like that, as if the duel of their lives meant nothing to him. "This is just some sick game to you, isn't it?"

A low laugh came from the Creator, but it grew in volume and soon Pegasus was cackling in an unpleasant sounding voice. His usual calm demeanor was gone as he taunted the three that dare stand before him.

"You thought it was a game? Fool, nothing is ever so simple as that . . Someone always has an extra card hidden up their sleeve and the rules will always change in the middle of the game."

Rules? There were no rules in this game, just . . . Strategy and Monsters, and Yugi always wins at that! Yet, there was more than our lives at stake and more on the line for Pegasus than he lets on.

"Only cowards change rules," spoke Tea.

Pegasus merely shrugged. "I evolved to be superior, my dear, thus I was able to adapt for a whole new game." He smirked evilly. "You'd do well to remember that."

"You had an unfair advantage!" argued Tristian.

Advantage?

"So I created the game, Kaiba mastered it and he -- oh wait, I forgot, I beat him too." He suddenly scowled at Tea. "Now my dear there's no reason for thinking with such profanity . ."

What is he psychic of something?

Wait! He is! The Millennium Eye!

The Puzzle! That's the prize!

Joey watched Pegasus steadily with his gaze. The Creator seemed preoccupied in his taunting of Tea, maybe because her thoughts were nothing like her actions. Or maybe because he saw how deep her feelings went for Yugi, and he was taking special care in agonizing the pains of the heart. Funny, wasn't that what Yugi believed in? The Heart?

He's so confident, because he knows the Puzzle is his.

For the second time that day, Joey decided on something - a course of action that could give a chance for - for something. He wasn't sure what yet, all he knew was that the Puzzle could not go to Pegasus.

Joey started moving slowly across the bridge, towards the door, and closer to the discarded Millennium Puzzle. He couldn't draw attention to himself or else. But he just kept hearing that laugh, Pegasus' laugh that would haunt him until the end.

Tristian suddenly noticed Joey's movements. He stared, questioning the blonde until he saw what was behind him. The boys made eye contact then, and a thought flashed across their minds.

There needs to be at least one victory today . .

For Yugi . .

Tristian tightened his grip around Tea as he saw Joey was close enough, in his opinion, to make a go of it. It was now or never.

Tea choked on her tears as Pegasus continued his mockery, that is until she really began to feel Tristian's hold on her. As if he was prepared to --

Pegasus stopped smiling as he read Tea's thoughts. Then he saw Joey.

"GET AWAY FROM MY PUZZLE!!" he screamed across the duel board.

Joey took that as his cue. He sprinted towards the Puzzle.

An indescribable force of power suddenly radiated everywhere, stemming from Pegasus. His fury triggered levels of Millennium power as he let loose his eye and the secrets of the Shadow Realm. Anything to stop what was about to destroy his dream, what he had been striving towards through out the entire duel.

Tristian and Tea were knocked to the ground by the force causing the girl's grip on Yugi to be broken. He didn't need a hint as to what he should do next. Effortlessly he picked up Tea and started running after Joey.

"NO!" she cried kicking her legs, but to no avail. "YUGI! WE HAVE TO-"

"I'm sorry Tea!" called Tristian as he ran with all his might. "He's gone now, there's nothing we can do." The guilt pounded on the inside of Tristian, he could've picked up Yugi too, but what good would it do? Maybe he should turn back . .

"Keep going Joey!" he shouted, ready to turn around and get --

The bridge started to retract breaking away from the arena. Tristian could see Pegasus' men at the controls prepared to do anything to stop them. He saw their weapons as well. So Tristian kept on running.

"No," whispered Tea as she was pulled farther away from Yugi. His body just lying on duel board. As if he was nothing.

Joey made it to the Puzzle. He dived to it, grabbing the thin rope that held it around Yugi's neck for so long.

It had never been taken away from him before, until now that is.

The blonde looked up to see Tristian carrying Tea coming his way.

"Come on!" ordered Joey fiercely. Together he and Tristian smashed open the door that originally led to the arena, now their only hope of escape.

Something white then caught Tristian's eye.

Ryou?

"Joey!" cried the brunette as they thundered along the passageway. "Ryou and Mokuba! They're still out there!" A brief pause came before he received an answer.

"These stairs lead to the balcony, we can get them on the way up . ." Tristian nodded. Again guilt pounded in his stomach.

"Ok I can carry Mokuba and Tea . . "

"Or you could put me down Tristian," Tea cut in sharply.

"Tea! Are you -"

"Not now," interrupted Joey. "Not until we're out of this passage." The stairs seemed endless. Joey didn't remember that. It was one corridor after another, another flight of stairs, like in an apartment complex. The same red carpeted stairs, the same pictures on the walls . .

"Oh no," gaped Joey. He skidded to a halt. "There's no way that picture can be everywhere and on every floor." He pointed to a delicate portrait of a fair blonde young woman in a blue dress. She was very beautiful.

"I've seen that picture before," mumbled Tea breaking free of Tristian.

"Look," panicked Tristian, "Do we really have time to discuss paintings?" He heard several gunshots from behind.

"This doesn't feel right," repeated Joey taking off again on a run, letting instinct kick in. "There weren't this many steps before . . " Suddenly, in one painting, Joey could have sworn he saw Ryou carrying Mokuba run through the portrait, as though they were apart of the painting.

"This is an illusion!" shouted Joey. "Pegasus is using his Millennium Eye to trick us!" More gunshots and the whizzing of bullets were distinctly heard.

Tea winced. "Then what do we do?" Joey looked pack at the portrait of the young woman. Her bright eyes beckoned him.

"We take a leap of faith." He grabbed Tea and Tristian, then ran into the wall that the portrait hung on. Their bodies passed right through as they came into a new room. This room they had not seen before. It must have not been used for ages as it was dusty and stuffy. Even the furniture had sheets on it. There was no visible door they came out of, they must have passed through the wall . . .

"Well," remarked Tristian. "Now I've seen everything." A low chuckle was heard from a dark corner of the room.

"I certainly doubt that," came a voice. It was harsh sounding, yet there was familiarity to it. "But I am glad that you caught my little trick in the painting. Pegasus won't be though that you escaped his Mind Illusion."

"Who are you?" demanded Joey stepping in front of his friends. The voice appeared not to have regarded him.

"I am impressed that his powers grew in such a small amount of time, even without the Millennium Puzzle. He will be a powerful adversary."

"Who are YOU?" repeated Joey fiercely. He was not in the mood for being jerked around.

"I heard you!" snapped the voice. "You'd do well to listen to me, after all I saved your necks!" The presence stepped into the faint light that the room had to offer. They recognized him immediately.

"Ryou?!" gaped Joey and Tea.

"You!" Tristian narrowed his eyes at him, not buying his act. He'd seen that song and dance routine before.

"Where's Mokuba?" the brunette demanded instantly. Ryou's eyes flashed at him.

"He's here. That's all you need to know." Tristian stepped forward, reaching out his hand threateningly.

"You're not Ryou, now stand aside and --" Tristian cried out in pain before he could reach the white haired teen. All points of the Millennium Ring were turned towards him with a green glow, which gave him an electric shock. The brunette was thrown across the room, into the wall, by the force. His friends ran to his aid.

"I will not have you destroy my plans again," sneered Ryou. "You know too much already . . " Joey and Tea stared questionably at Ryou as they helped Tristian up.

"You're that evil spirit," stated Joey. Ryou rolled his eyes.

"Bravo," he patronized. "Took you long enough, especially with Yami . ."

"Don't say his name!" snapped Tea. The spirit looked mildly surprised by her words. "He's a traitor."

"I hit a sore spot with you so it seems." He laughed cruelly. "I did see your pathetic emotional conversation with him down below. Pegasus seemed rather bored with it as well. Can't say that I blame him," Ryou smirked deviously. "He must be really sore with you now, stealing the Millennium Puzzle . . He'll see that your souls are punished eternally." Ryou moved forward towards the group, almost backing them into the wall. The wall that they ran through.

"I helped you for a reason," whispered the evil spirit. "You know you can't get out of this castle with out some magic, being pathetic mortals and all. I, on the other hand, am a being with magic, who is willing to do you a favor --"

"Don't go calling it a favor," interrupted Joey harshly. "Call it a deal, because that's what it really is, isn't it?" Ryou chuckled.

"You're not as stupid as you look . ."

"I'll take that as a compliment . ."

Ryou dismissed Joey with a wave of his hand. "Very well, down to business. Keeping emotions out of the way." He was interrupted by noise of men running and shouting. "We must be quick about this, for we will be discovered soon, and I for one do not intend to be handed over to Pegasus and his eye."

"He'll take your Millennium Ring," surmised Tea. Ryou nodded stiffly.

"Yes, which will make him all the more powerful with the Puzzle, which is exactly what I want." His eyes narrowed, emphasizing his point. "Hand over the Millennium Puzzle and I'll get you off the island and give you . ." He snickered unpleasantly. "This vessel."

"W-What about Mokuba?" wheezed Tristian. He forced himself to stand. "You can't have him."

"Well you can't get off the island then," replied Ryou flatly. "So do we have a deal?" Tristian noticed that the teen put one of his hands around his pocket, probably where his deck was.

He's going to try for the Puzzle either way.

"Deal," spoke Joey looking at the spirit directly. Tristian and Tea were appalled.

"What?" cried Tristian. "Are you insane?!"

"He won't keep his end of the bargain!" insisted Tea grabbing Joey's arm.

"Smart lad," smiled Ryou. "Now give me the Puzzle --"

"First," stopped Joey. "Show us that Ryou, the real Ryou is ok." The spirit snorted.

"Very well, talk to the simpering fool." A shimmering light came from the Ring and the evil counterpart vanished. The real Ryou blinked in surprise after the transformation.

"O-Oh god," he stammered. "Y-You can't be serious? Giving up Mokuba? The Puzzle?" His eyes fell upon the Ring. "This blasted ring has caused enough misery . ." He reached to grab it, but then Ryou clutched his head in agony. "Ah! Bakura, you devil!"

"Bakura?" questioned Tea.

"He is bonded to me and I rather not dignify him with my own name," stated Ryou in disgust.

"You talk to him?" added Joey.

"Yes," he admitted sadly. "I am forced to confront him, as he is apart of me. My darker side . ."

Tea shuddered recalling Yami's words. Darkness . . Light . . Could it be the same for Ryou and Bakura?

Joey stepped forward and placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Ryou, you're a good guy -- you know that right? I mean, I'll never forget what you did as the Change of Heart card." Ryou looked at him oddly.

"Yes, I remem-"

"Good-bye." In one movement, Joey punched Ryou hard in the face knocking him unconscious. He ripped off the Ring and chucked it out the window.

"That's only going to buy us five minutes," stated Tristian. "I did the same thing."

"Yeah, I figured you would." Joey ran to the sofa and ripped off the dust cover discovering Mokuba's body. "Tristian, grab the squirt and lets go!"

"How did you know he was there?" asked Tea in awe. Joey gave a small sad smile.

"Serenity pulled a trick like that once . . Hide and Seek . . The creases in the sheet give it away . . ." Tea looked frantically around the room.

"There's no door!" Then her eyes caught the portrait of the beautiful fair blonde woman once more. Except this time it was a rather large painting that was adorned with curtains. Her eyes widened as she came to a realization.

"That was no dream," she spoke solemnly. Tea faced the boys. "There's a lot of magic going around this place and I bet there's some in the castle too."

"With in the castle? Like itself?" asked Tristian. Tea nodded.

"The painting, it's a portal . ." concluded Joey. "Ryou, I mean, Bakura figured it out and was able to escape and he wanted us to follow him so he could get the Puzzle."

"Well it explains how he was able to get everywhere," agreed Tristian before shuddering. "It was really creepy." He shouldered Mokuba. "You're sure about this? Who knows where the painting will take us?"

Joey shrugged. "Any place is better than here." He noticed Tea looking sadly down at Ryou and grabbed her arm pulling her away. "That's not Ryou . . " She sniffled in reply. The girl was still emotionally off balance since Yugi lost . . .

He had to stop thinking about that.

The three disappeared into the painting.

Ryou moaned on the ground as he stirred from unconsciousness. He rubbed his head where he was experiencing a mother of a headache. Then he shifted back to his darker side. Bakura growled noticing he was alone.

"They'll be eating breakfast in hell . ."

And you'll be serving it, Bakura . .

*****

The three tumbled out of the portal into a new room.

"The only way to travel," gritted Tristian as he pulled himself up from the ground. "I don't look so good in black and blue." He picked up Mokuba, cradling his body briefly. "Poor kid . ."

"Don't go there," warned Joey as he started looking around the room for the next step. Tristian clenched his fists. Anger flared in him as he believed Joey didn't care. The very thing that the blonde accused him of earlier, when they didn't know if Yugi was . . alive . . . And now there was no apology coming his way.

"You know its true! Why deny it?" the brunette demanded. "Four souls are lost now! Four people who deserve better! Grandpa, Kaiba, Mokuba, and now Yugi!"

"We all know that!" snapped Joey in reply. "We don't have time to moan their loss!"

"And when are we going to do that even?" interrupted Tea. "Our best friend is gone and we didn't even do anything to help him!"

"What do you want Tea?" argued Joey. "Do you want to march down to Pegasus and ask him to return Yugi's soul? How about that!" Tea started to cry again.

"I don't want any of that," she sobbed. "I-I just don't know anymore, I mean we rescued Mokuba, why not Yugi?" Tristian looked away.

"Mokuba was in immediate danger," Joey said slowly. "If Bakura got him, then who knows what? Mokuba is a key to Kaiba Corp."

"And he also has Ryou, isn't he our friend too?" asked Tea bitterly.

"No," answered the blonde. "Not anymore. We can't align ourselves with anyone who has a Millennium Item."

"And what does that make us?" cried Tea. She pointed at the Puzzle still locked in Joey's grasp. "We have an Item, are we a danger to each other?!" Joey closed his eyes.

"Maybe . ." Tea gasped. She had never seen Joey look so grave before. Perhaps there was more darkness with in them then she ever realized. Perhaps everyone has a darker side like Yugi, like Ryou.

"You said align Joey," Tea spoke quietly, almost afraid of what she was saying. "As if this is w-war . ." Joey sighed.

"It might as well be now. We have an enemy and we don't know who we can trust. Alliances don't have the depth of friendship or the forgiveness of it. We're fighting when we have to and running when we need to. We're at war with Pegasus." Tea lowered her gaze. How dark their world had become in only such a short amount of time.

"I see a way out!" shouted Tristian from the window. "We must be in a tower, so we're out of the main building - that's good, and we can get to the outer stairway from here if we run along the top of the wall down there." Joey and Tea nodded.

"I see a door, lets go." Again they ran down the stone stairs. Their eyes completely focused on what needed to be done. They reached the wall with no problem, but who knew how long they had?

Joey gasped as he realized where they were.

This is where Kaiba and Yugi dueled . .

From the looks on his friends faces, it appeared they all realized it, but didn't want to say anything. Or maybe, they didn't want to admit it.

The sunlight played with his mind as he imagined he saw star chips lying everywhere . . .

They dueled to have the right to save the people they care about. Tears finally leaked from Joey's chocolate brown eyes. Was that so terrible to have a heart? To care? To love? If they knew what coming against Pegasus would lead to, would they still have dueled to that extreme?

Joey stopped running.

"What?!" shouted Tristian. "Do you want to get caught?!"

"They were dueling with their hearts," he spoke with emotion. "They were dueling with the heart of the cards. We can't let their sacrifice be forgotten."

"What are you saying?" asked Tea breathlessly. Joey's hands began to shake as his knuckles turned white from his tight grip on the Puzzle.

"It all started with this Puzzle," Joey whispered. "Yugi made a wish on it . . And now only evil is coming from the good that surrounded it . . " He smothered a sob. "Y-Yugi, I told you . . Our friendship is something special and I promised to be your f-friend f-forever . . "

Joey raised the Puzzle in the air and smashed it on the stone ground. The Puzzle broke instantly scattering the mystical gold pieces everywhere.

"Now no one will have it," he announced in a tone with great seriousness and sadness to it. Tea and Tristian stared in silence at Joey. They didn't move for his words had a powerful impact on them.

"Pegasus is going to be pissed," chuckled Tristian dryly. "And Bakura and who knows how many other evil spirits out there who wanted that thing."

Joey snorted. "Oh yeah, that would be bad." The two boys started snickering. They couldn't help it. It was one of those unexplained circumstances that causes an unlikely reaction. While Tea could only express her emotions through tears, the boys used laughter as a substitute - for now at least.

"Wait, the pieces," spoke up Tea. "They can still put the Puzzle together if we leave them here . ."

"Then they won't get that option," spoke Joey. He dropped to the ground and grabbed the pieces. "Tea, Tristian - take some." They didn't question him -- for once. Then Joey noticed a large, loose stone in an odd shape, he grabbed that too. "Ah, a decoy . . " He tied the Puzzle rope to the rock.

"We've done all that we can," muttered Tristian sadly. He felt the pieces with in the pockets of his coat. They didn't feel special to him, so why did so many lives get thrown away because of them? He couldn't understand it.

"Yeah," admitted Joey. What else could they say? They destroyed the Puzzle that their best friend had been devoted to, a Puzzle that brought them together . .

Wasn't Yami apart of that Puzzle? Did he help us at all . . ?

The guilt was still very strong within all of them. Pounding away in their hearts. Would Yugi approve of what they've done? How would they look in the eyes of the innocent duelist?

"Oh my, my, my," came a very obnoxious voice. "Are we all still thinking about that?"

They froze in their tracks instantly as fear trickled up their backs. He had found them at last.

"Pegasus," growled Joey once again. His hatred rose with each passing second as he watched the Creator draw near with all of his guards, well armed too. They were definitely outnumbered.

"I see you've found Mokuba," continued Pegasus with his usual smirk. "No soul I'm afraid, but since you took something of mine, I'm going to have to ask for something of yours . ."

The Millennium Eye flashed its malicious glimmer once again.

"You'll never get the Puzzle!" shouted Tea. She gripped onto Tristian's arm as her body was racked with emotion that she couldn't control.

"Feeble words," countered Pegasus. "As if you could stop me, as if you could stop any of this!" He spread his arms out gesturing to the great scenery that surrounded them. The Duelist Kingdom.

"What are you saying?" questioned Joey with an intense stare. He originally thought that Pegasus was a power-hungry, certified lunatic, but now . . An actual motive?

"Do you think I just created this game out of boredom?" He laughed contemptuously. "As if any of you could fathom what dueling is really all about. What a true loss in a duel is, how devastating the loss of a soul is . . Or a part of one." He was quiet for a moment, but not long enough for anyone to notice. "We all have ultimate goals for our lives. What we truly want or want back. Maybe something or someone, but you're still wanting it and that want can never go away, no matter how you fill the void whether by striving for perfection or normalcy. But there's always that selfish desire within you, which you can never escape, then why would you want to? Its that other life that you imagine yourself in, breaking away from the chains of cold reality. Somehow, power always has a part in it, because power is what truly can change a life -- depending on how much or how little you have affects everything. So you see, boys and girls, I am striving for enough power to get what I want. I am going to create a little fantasy of mine . . It'll be fun . . . Now that I have the power to do so . . "

Yup, he really is insane.

Tea trembled. "Power, that's all you think is important?"

"What happens when the bubble bursts on your dream world there?" taunted Tristian. "What happens when your fantasy comes crashing down?"

"Believe me, it won't," replied Pegasus. His ego was getting extremely annoying. He tilted his head to the side. "What's wrong with wanting the best out of life? Isn't it natural to desire for what one cannot have? Don't people wish on a daily basis? With my alterations, the world will change and for the better."

"Wait," said Tea. "You mean you're going to change the world for everyone? Not just yourself?"

Pegasus' grin grew deeper. "Oh it's for me alright, everyone else will just have to adapt, but I think many of you will grow to love my world. My ultimate Duelist Kingdom . . Or should I say my Duelist Empire?" Pegasus suddenly turned his gaze. "Don't you agree Joseph?"

Joey's face remained like stone, only his eyes narrowed. A faint tremor was detectable in his body though -- he knew that Pegasus had read his mind.

"Come now, why the silent treatment?" taunted the Creator. "So like Kaiba are we?"

The blonde glared further. "I'm not Kaiba."

"But don't you want to be like him? All powerful, the best duelist ever! You want power don't you? You want to be the best so no one will ever make a fool of you again, no one would have the right to criticize you, and Yugi would never have to fight your battles --"

"I'M NOT A DOG!!" bellowed Joey shutting his eyes, trying to stop his thoughts that were somehow getting to Pegasus. The thoughts, that were fears really, that he never wanted anyone to know about. Especially that dream where Kaiba loomed over him as he was on the ground . . Begging . . .

"Stuck a nerve, I did."

"Joey," comforted Tristian. "Don't listen to him --"

"Yugi had power and skill," continued Pegasus. "Things you will never have."

"And neither will you," snapped Joey, surprising Pegasus tremendously. He thought he silenced the blonde's barking.

"What?" cried Pegasus incredulously, yet daring Joey to speak again.

"Yugi will always be the number one duelist!" His voice rang with courage.

"He lost!" spat Pegasus back loosing his cool demeanor once again.

"So? Everyone knows he beat Kaiba, was the best guy out here, and -- get this -- he didn't cheat! There are plenty of duelists who were honored to face him and honored to be beaten by him. Myself included." Joey looked at Pegasus with disgust. "No one is going to honor you, you're the Creator. You made this game, who cares if you won? People will believe this tournament was rigged, which it was . ."

"Joey!" hissed Tristian. "Are you trying to get us killed?"

"Stop it!" pleaded Tea.

"Fool!" shouted Pegasus. "While Yugi and Kaiba will be remembered as great duelists, you'll be remembered as nothing, an idealistic, pathetic duelist who never had anything going for him! Nothing is what you're destined to be!"

Prove it . . .

"Gladly!"

The malicious glimmer turned into a piercing light as the Millennium Eye was preparing to take another soul.

"JOEY!! NO!!" screamed Tea.

Joey closed his eyes, waiting for the darkness to take him.

"These souls will not be yours!" shouted a familiar voice.

Yami . . ?

Green light shot at Pegasus throwing him back into his guards.

"Bakura?!" yelped Tristian. "Great, from one psycho to the next. It doesn't get any better than this." The evil spirit stood triumphant with his Millennium Ring as the glow fainted. He pulled out his deck, prepared to strike.

"Why are you helping us?" asked Tea, a bit fearful of her life.

"I told you, I refuse to let Pegasus have the Millennium Puzzle. He's powerful enough all ready." He drew a card and smiled cruelly. "I think I'll re-introduce you to the Man-Eater Bug."

A shimmer in the atmosphere revealed a green translucent monster. The creature immediately leaped into the air and directly started to attack Pegasus' men. The guards started to fire their guns into the bug, but the bullets were meaningless to it. Screams filled the air as the monster did its work.

Tea turned away and pleaded with Bakura. "Leave them alone!" Bakura looked at her oddly.

"Why?"

"No one deserves that! Use a different card!" He laughed.

"I don't have those holy cards . . "

She glared at him. "Of course a demon like you wouldn't." He shoved her roughly to the ground.

"Just stay out of this mortal!" Tristian ran to take a swing at him. "If you touch me then you won't be getting out of here alive!!"

Suddenly the Man-Eater Bug burst into nothingness. A glow from Pegasus' direction instantly told them exactly what killed it.

"Nice trick," he muttered. Bakura bristled.

"I assure you I have more!" The Rude Kaizer came upon the scene. With a single roar of attack, the armored lizard shot out with his jagged sword already raised above its scaled head.

"Don't you have a flying monster to get us out of here?" cried Tristian.

"It'd be easier to kill them!" Tea screamed as she saw a blade of the monster come down upon a petrified man. He was dead in an instant. She shivered uncontrollably. Her hands clasped around a deck in her pocket and she pulled a card.

"Use this!" Bakura snatched it and his eyes widened.

"This is Yugi's . . " Tea looked away. "Swords of Revealing Light!" Instantly holy swords appeared blocking the men from the four teens. Bright light became chains as well.

"Can I have a friend join the party?" cackled Pegasus. He drew a card and held it in the air. "Yugi was quite close with him -- his name is Relinquish!"

The evil spirit's eyes dilated. "I don't have cards of that level," spoke Bakura turning to the others.

"Run!!" shouted Tristian. "We can't take him!"

There was power surging around them, all stemming from Pegasus. The Shadow Realm was seeping into their world, it was hard not to fight all the magic. They were only human and had to fight this evil with power they couldn't comprehend.

Joey pulled a card from his deck.

Yugi would've done something.

A strong force radiated from Joey causing whatever power Pegasus was channeling to be stopped. All eyes were fixed on the blonde as red light came forth. Suddenly standing next to Joey was his most powerful card . . .

Red Eyes Black Dragon.

"I'd call this our escape vehicle," Joey stated with wide eyes. The black beast instantly knelt to their level. Not one of them questioned what just happened, all they knew was this was a guaranteed way of getting out of there.

"NO!! MY PUZZLE!!" screamed Pegasus. His power surged once more knocking Joey to the ground before he had a chance to climb onto the dragon. Only, the blonde was the only one to notice his monster's eyes to flicker ever so slightly -- as if provoked -- before it turned it's head and fired its attack at Pegasus. The guards screamed once more as they were burned alive.

"Oh god," whispered Joey.

What have I done?

"Joey! Get up here!" shouted Tristian frantically.

He stood up on his shaky legs. Pegasus would still chase after them.

"You want your Puzzle Pegasus, then go get it!" In one swift movement, Joey chucked the decoy Puzzle off the castle wall and into the water below. Pegasus wasn't phased.

"Another mistake on your part," he smirked in delight. But Joey didn't appear to have heard him as he jumped onto the dragon. The Red Eyes spread its great wings and leapt into the sky taking his passengers safely away.

Only Pegasus remained.

So this is what its like to know that your dream is only an instance away? The world will become heaven to me and the angel I seek will come to me . . .

He was a man that tampered with power, fate, and destiny. Power that he wielded as if he were a God, fate to over come what life had did to him, and the threads of destiny would now only be spun by him.

Two Millennium Items were now his. How easy it was to dip into his own moat and gather his prize? The boy was a fool indeed. They all were pawns in his game and it was amazing to watch them be led into traps they couldn't dare conceive. Then, believing that Yugi could actually beat him. It was amazing how such a powerless child was admired so by others. Sickening, really.

He planned to make them all bow before him. He was the Creator. And now he was going to create a whole new world, but in a little over than seven days. In his Duelist Empire where he would reign and the game he controlled would be unstoppable.

Especially after he acquired more Millennium Items, and he knew the location of two of them . .

Seven days to create the world and seven Items that would destroy it.

He smiled once more.

Ah, the irony.

"Master Pegasus!" shouted Croquet. The graying agent ran to the Creator with more men, Kimo being one of them. "They got away!"

Pegasus rolled his eyes. "Behind as usual Croquet. But they lost the Puzzle." Croquet flinched.

"About that sir, it's been destroyed." Pegasus whirled on him.

"WHAT?"

"Its smashed on the ground -- stone pieces every where."

"Stone?" He began to chuckle, then his laughter grew louder that it rang through the halls of the castle.

"Master?" Pegasus grinned.

"I guess he's not as stupid as he looks." He retreated back to his lair, leaving Croquet utterly confused. "But he'll regret everything . . And wish that I took his soul today, because I will make him want to rip it out himself."

*****

"Why can't this retched dragon go faster?" demanded Bakura. After making a daring escape and pretty much revealing himself to what will be his future nemesis, the evil spirit had every right to feel on edge. After all, Pegasus was known to take down all those who dare to oppose him. Especially since Bakura does own a Millennium Item.

But he was right about one thing though, why was the Red Eyes -- a powerful card-- drastically loosing altitude? They had only escaped just moments ago, they haven't even left the island yet, why was it loosing power?

Tristian looked over at his long time friend. "Joey! Joey! Are you ok?" The blonde was turning a sick pale color and his body grew clammy with sweat beading on his forehead. His eyes weren't focused and he struggled to breathe. Tristian grabbed Joey by the shoulders, trying to stir some life out of him. "What's wrong with him?"

"What did you do to him Bakura?" demanded Tea. But to her surprise, Bakura also looked taken back by the blonde's ill appearance.

"H-He summoned the Red Eyes Black Dragon from the Shadow Realm," murmured Bakura.

"That's not possible," argued Tristian. "Joey doesn't have that kind of power. No one does . ." The dragon gave a sudden lurch and it was clear that they were going down.

"Pegasus had released more than he's aware of," muttered Bakura. His eyes were locked on the physical torment Joey was going through. "With his powers growing he releases more and more of the Shadow Realm into this world . . But still, only those who possess Millennium Items can control the monsters . ."

"Now is not a good time for theory making!" shouted Tristian as he clung to the dragon as it took a nose dive. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Joey's form start to fall, the blonde was falling in and out of consciousness. "Hang on Joey!!" The brunette shot out an arm and grabbed his friend before the worst could happen.

Joey's eyes fluttered. His body was on a roller coaster of nausea. Then there was this overwhelming force of power flooding through his system, power he couldn't possibly explain.

Is this what Yugi went through? I never thought I could feel things like this . . Its overwhelming . . Make it stop . . .

If that's what you want.

Joey's eyes snapped open. Since when did he hear voices?

The Red Eyes Black Dragon began to pull itself out of its dive, but continued to land more gracefully. Bakura faced Joey again, his eyes continued to stare and probe. But his mind was coming to a fast conclusion. The Dragon's feet finally touched the ground and it spread its wings to slow it self down. Then everything was fine.

"I hate flying," whimpered Tea. Her body took a lurch and she struggled not to vomit.

"Well, that was fun," spoke Tristian. He looked down at Mokuba sadly. "I bet he would've gotten a kick of this."

"Oh boo-hoo," snapped Bakura. "One soul-less body to sob over, pretty soon we'll be crying buckets when Pegasus comes and steals all our souls!"

"Whatever," groaned Joey. "I just want off this ride."

The Red Eyes instantly jerked beneath them and the monster began to fade. They struggled to get off the dragon before they fell twenty feet from the air.

"Move!" commanded Tristian. He landed in a roll protecting Mokuba in his arms. Unfortunately for everyone else, they did not have his athletic abilities and hit the ground in more of a painful way.

The Red Eyes Black Dragon then shimmered one last time before finally vanishing. Joey's hand was gripped tightly around the card and he felt some sort of release within himself. A tingly sensation spread to his fingers from the card. He felt bonded . .

Bakura searched the blonde's soul at that same instant. At last he found his answer.

"YOU HAVE IT!" he roared. In one swift movement, Joey was thrown across the ground by the blast of the Millennium Ring. If he wasn't already feeling lousy from the mysterious appearance of his Red Eyes, Joey was certainly reeling now thanks to Bakura's wrath. He heard vaguely Tea scream and Tristian swear, but the shadow that loomed before him told what he was up against now.

"I . . don't . . know what . . you're talking . . . about," gritted Joey. He struggled to pull himself up, but he winced immediately from the pressure he put on his arm.

"Pathetic mortal," hissed Bakura. His feet mere inches from Joey's face. "You don't have any idea what you've just unleashed. Only Millennium Items have that power and you stupidly revealed that you have the Millennium Puzzle. Now . . hand it over before I finish what Pegasus started . . "

Joey's deep brown eyes merely stared into Bakura. Defiance was not something the evil spirit appreciated.

"Do you really think you can handle power that is over five thousand years old?" demanded Bakura once more. "You are not one who is destined for worth and the Millenniums Items certainly fall under that category . ." A chuckle fallowed. "Yugi was rather an idealist to believe in you and look where that got him."

"SHUT UP ABOUT YUGI!" bellowed Joey. He collapsed to his knees and pounded the ground. His tears sprinkled the ground as he tried to force the rolling emotions away. "THE PUZZLE WAS HIS!! IT CAN NEVER BELONG TO YOU!"

And Joey cried.

I'm sorry Yugi, I tried . . I tried . . . Why do I keep screwing up? I can't help nobody!

Tears streamed as well from Tea's eyes. Joey's courage finally fell. She thought her heart had broken once that day, who knew it could shatter repeatedly?

"Leave us alone," she pleaded to the evil spirit. Bakura rolled his eyes and powered up for another attack on the blonde. Frantic, the girl threw herself at the Bearer of the Millennium Ring. She grabbed the Item and yelped in pain as it burned her hands. Bakura swore and swung violently at her. Tea was knocked to the ground and clutched her bruised face, but kept trying to do something.

"Take the Puzzle! Just take it!" she cried helplessly. Bakura peered down at her pathetic form. A sudden wave of change came upon him. He kneeled to her level and placed a gently hand on her face, near the corner of her scalp. He stroked her temple gently.

"Don't touch her!!" ordered Tristian. He was torn between helping Tea and putting Mokuba in danger. How many more lives would he lose, just because he was trying to do what he felt was right? Tristian remained frozen in shame.

Bakura looked at Tea with sympathetic eyes.

"Don't want to lose any more of your precious friends today, do we?"

"P-Please go . ." she whispered. Her body shook from fear and the heartache that plagued her. "You've won . . you've won . . ." Yet he did not leave her, his fingers began to wrap around strands of her hair tenderly.

"I understand what its like to question what happens to the people around you, the people that you care about. You want to make sure that there's always a ray of happiness somewhere, and you think if there is one constant enjoyment in life, surely, friendship can be that. Then, when its ripped from you unwillingly, the world is an awfully cruel place . . You resort to dark measures to get that back." Tea gasped and stared at Bakura. Their eyes met and she swore she saw something there . . .

"I can get him back Tea," murmured Bakura. His gently grazing of her face with his hand, deeply affected her. Her thoughts became overwhelmed and she could feel her whole body throb with feelings. "He can be here, just like before and he'll never leave you again . . ."

"Tea!! Don't listen to him!!" shouted Joey. He gritted his teeth as he got himself to stand, albeit shaking, and he held his arm tenderly. "He's lying!! He's just trying to use you!!"

"He'll never leave . . " repeated Tea. Her voice was dream-like, soft. "Friends never leave each other . . "

Ryou smiled gently. "We don't need the others Tea, just each other. Yugi would want to see his real friends be together." The white haired teen tilted the girl's face with the grace of his hand. He brought his lips slowly down to hers and kissed them deeply.

"YOU TRAITOR!" bellowed Joey. Ryou narrowed his eyes with hatred at the blonde.

"How can I be? I was never considered your friend!" The usually mild mannered teen flared and stood up holding Tea in his arms. Her body was relaxed and limp. Her eyes were dim as she remained as delicate as a dream. "You left me with Bakura! Did you ever try to help me?! Yugi was the only one who cared and its your fault he's gone!" His eyes gazed softly down on Tea. "She tried, she cared . . And she understands the pain of Yugi's loss more than you two!!"

"That's not true!" argued Tristian. "Bakura's corrupted you, I know it."

"Bakura has condemned me to be utterly alone in this world," replied Ryou. "I don't care anymore what he does! He's destroyed what I am already, I am no longer myself and Tea will at least make me feel like a man."

"Tea!!" pleaded Joey. He looked at his long time friend. Her eyes were distant, she was in some sort of trance. Joey's own eyes widened. "You reduced her to being some sort of comfort for you, you freak! Using the Shadow Realm to justify your pathetic excuse as a person . . . What did you do Ryou? Sell your soul to Pegasus?" He stared at Ryou in disgust. "And I thought you had a backbone, I guess Bakura was right to call you a simpering moron."

"Shut up Joey," sneered Ryou. "Don't speak about what you couldn't possibly comprehend. You've never been alone, you don't know what its like to lose everything."

"Wrong again," snapped Joey. "I've been living on my own for most of my life. On the streets or where ever I could find a roof over my head. My parents' divorce separated me from my sister and a normal life. Having a family with out really having one. My mother left me and my dad's virtually gone all the time with that stinkin' job of his. I was utterly alone."

Joey grinned suddenly as his thoughts came upon one the brightest moments of his life. "Then somehow I wasn't anymore. Tristian, for some reason, thought I was an all right guy -- and I can never thank him enough for that. Then meeting Tea, who wasn't so girly as she seemed."

He clenched his fists and he shouted his last feelings at this boy who thought he could steal friendship. "But it was Yugi that was really alone, who taught me what it means to have a heart. To care enough about someone to do something about it! He made a wish on this Puzzle! A wish for a true friend and each of us -- Tea, Tristian, and me -- will never let his wish down. Don't you see Ryou? Yugi was alone too, like each of us, but it was his heart that made the difference and allowed all of us to be friends."

Joey's soft tone changed violently. "But I can see he made a mistake with you!!" Tristian walked over to his long time friend and placed a strong hand on his shoulder. It was simple gesture that spoke words greater than what could ever be said.

"Tea cares for Yugi, not you," stated Tristian. "You're only making her believe that you're Yugi, aren't you? That you can bring back part of her heart, but you don't have that kind of power, especially since you don't have a heart to call your own."

Ryou was now quaking with rage.

"You're really not as stupid as you look . . "

Joey rolled his eyes. "Oh look Tristian, the crybaby Brit has lost his grip on the obvious!"

"Hey Ryou!" taunted Tristian. "Have you heard the one about 'I'm rubber and you're glue'?"

"No," returned the white haired teen. "But have you heard the one about the insanely powerful spirit who used his adversaries own friends to kill each other?!" The boys stopped their mocking laughter and their eyes widened at what was said.

"Crap," cursed Tristian.

Bakura glowed with his Millennium Ring. Pure venom was etched across his face and coursed through his body. It seemed extreme emotions like anger triggered more and more power from the Shadow Realm as well as the Millennium Items.

"Isn't the Change of Heart a remarkable card?" mused Bakura. His white hair rippled behind him by magical wind. He held the card between his two fingers. "It's hard to resist its call, but then again most don't have choice." He reached out and stoked Tea's face once more. The girl was under his control now.

"Uh Joey?"

"Yeah Tristian?"

"How fast can you run?"

"Pretty darn fast!"

With that, the two boys turned and sprinted down the grassy slopes of the Duelist Kingdom. Bakura's laughter radiated behind them.

"I have his Heart and soon his Puzzle!!" He turned towards Tea and pointed in the direction of his enemies. "Avenge your beloved's demise and use his greatest weapon as your own!" Tea nodded and obeyed. She shot her hand into her pocket, pulled a card, and prepared to take down her former friends.

"Oh god oh god oh god," muttered Tristian as his feet pounded away on the ground. "First Yugi, then Ryou, now Tea! What's next Joey? Whatever it is I don't think I want to know what it is!" He shouted in surprise as he nearly face planted into the ground, that is until Joey caught his arm.

"Come on! Don't tell me the Great Tristian is wimping out on some little run. Hey man, you're only carrying a ten year old, been electrocuted, and took a twenty foot fall! Don't let that slow you down!"

"Look Joey, I'm just trying to face reality that we are loosing ways of getting out of this place alive and with our original number of friends."

"So we lost Dorothy and the Tin Man, the Wizard is bound to save us!" Tristian curled his lip in disgust.

"Now you're pushing it," he muttered. "Wait, what does that make you? Brainless or ball-less?" The arm Joey was leading him with suddenly hurt very much. "It would be nice, though, if there was a balloon waiting to take us home --" A light bulb went off. "Joey that's it!! Kaiba's helicopter!!"

"What?! Who can fly that thing? You?!" Tristian snorted.

"Really Joey, I faced a lot of things I can't possibly begin to comprehend. I've put my life in danger several times today, but if there's at least one thing that I can control is not letting you fly the damn copter and making sure there's a chance for a life beyond this hell I'm currently dealing with."

"Point."

And so a plan was formed. With a new burst of energy, the boys changed direction and headed towards the beach that they camped out on only a night ago. A night when there was still a promise for the future. When together they united to take down Pegasus. Even Kaiba backed down from his aggression towards Yugi in effort to save Mokuba and perhaps them all. His goal was to duel Pegasus before them, maybe he could've avoided them this pain they now dealt with. But then, he still lost to the Creator in the end, didn't he? After brutally taking away Yugi's confidence and star chips, he still failed. What could be counted on anymore? Friendship, no -- Bakura was certainly using that to his advantage. What was once a comfort was now a weapon.

One thought pounded in Joey's brain. This would be the question that would be haunting his dreams.

What would Yugi do?

And still he had no answer. But then the rules had changed, hadn't they? Pegasus had said that. Well, how ironic that the one person he never thought he 'd agreed with Joey suddenly found as inspiration. Life was certainly about adapting and using the right cards at the right time. Unfortunately, he had no hidden card up his sleeve, but that was the next item on his list for the future.

If he ever lived to see it.

"I see it! I see it!" shouted Tristian. There was their salvation. Its smooth black exterior glistened as sunlight bounced off its surface. The proud Kaiba Corp logo was hard to miss. How arrogant it seemed to Joey when Kaiba arrived that night, his old anger flared momentarily, but it subsided knowing where the rich boy was now. Though he found the genius to be the biggest jerk he ever met, nobody deserved to be cast off in some other realm. Joey found the helicopter to be a sign of pride and originally detested its appearance, but now he had the urge to kiss its black doors. He smirked as he could mentally hear Kaiba's degrading comment . . . Something about dogs marking their territory or a dog going where it didn't belong. Whatever it would've been in regards to a canine.

Tristian reached the helicopter first and pulled open the door instantly. He lifted Mokuba's body gently into the back seat.

"Wait, Joey I can't do this. We have to save Tea. She still has her soul, Bakura is just controlling her." The brunette looked grim. Joey nodded sympathetically.

"Of course, that's all apart of the master plan. But come on Tristian, Tea is shorter than both of us and a girl! I don't think she can beat us up and take our lunch money, if you know what I mean."

Tristian didn't look reassured. "Don't be too sure Joe . ."

"What is she going to do? Sic one of her little fairy cards after us!!" Joey snickered at the thought of one of those marshmallows with wings trying to threaten him. What he didn't notice though, was the rather large shadow that came upon them.

Tristian paled. "Uh . . You might say that Joey," he stuttered.

"Huh?" The blonde whirled around and came to face a card he only recently had to oppose. A card that was virtually unbeatable to him. A card that was, to him, as symbol of who Yugi is. It was almost as if this was Yugi preparing to judge them for their recent actions when their world virtually ended.

The Dark Magician.

"Where's a Blue Eyes when you need it?" he whimpered. He faltered in his step when he saw Tea approach them from behind the powerful monster. In her grasp was a card.

"Since when does she have a Dark Magician?" questioned Tristian astounded.

"She doesn't," answered Joey coming to a conclusion. "That's Yugi's . . I'd know that card anywhere."

The Dark Magician's piercing blue eyes stared down the boys. He pointed his staff at them in a threatening manner. He was prepared to strike the moment he heard his new mistress speak. Tea held the Heart indeed.

"Tea!! Don't!!" cried Tristian. His call pleaded with his friend, but she merely continued her stare. "We're not the enemy! Bakura is!"

"Yugi is gone because of you," spoke Tea in an eerie voice. If there were any doubts of her being controlled before, they were washed away. "With your blood, he'll come back . . . Sacrifices must be made for the cost of victory." Any traces of what was once Tea were gone. Only her anguish remained under Bakura's trance.

Joey whipped out a card from his deck.

"Joey, you can't!" shouted Tristian. "You don't have the energy and you already used your Red Eyes! How can you take down Yugi's most powerful card?'" The blonde remained stubborn.

"Remember, the Change of Heart Card only lasts one turn . . If we don't fight the Dark Magician, Tea will never come out from the spell!" Tristian closed his eyes and nodded in reluctant understanding.

"Then I guess you'll be needing a distraction . . " Instantly, the brunette took off in a run towards Tea and her monster. Joey cried in horror watching his friend put himself on the line. He couldn't tear his eyes away as he saw Tea give the order for the Dark Magician to attack.

Perhaps Tristian was trying to atone for leaving Yugi behind and perhaps he was trying to receive forgiveness from Tea somehow. But whatever the reason, the teen could not stand by and not save his friend.

"Dark Magic Attack!" cried Tea, still deep with in her trance. Letting instincts kick in, Tristian braced for the attack and dove forward at Tea, sending them both to the ground.

"Kunai With Chain!" countered Joey. He flinched mentally as he saw his trap card stop the Dark Magician with its magic binding chain.

It's the same as before, the same with Yugi . . Never again did I wish to battle him, after all that we promised each other, now I have to relive attacking my best friend with another best friend . . I'm sorry Tea, I'm sorry Yugi . . .

Tea screamed as Tristian pinned her to the ground. She fought fiercely back and she punched Tristian squarely in the face, nearly drawing blood from his lip. Apparently, the Change of Heart increased strength as well, or maybe it just did that for when it controlled humans.

"TRAITORS! TRAITORS!" shrieked Tea. Her anguish still as strong as before. With each shout the guilt tightened in Tristian's stomach. He felt he was the once causing Tea pain. If only he picked up Yugi, if only . . .

Tea seized the upper hand and grabbed Tristian by his shirt collar. She stood up, still holding on to him, and then held him in the air with his feet dangling a few inches off the ground. In a flash, Tristian was thrown back across the grass and collided this time with Joey. Instantly, the Kunai With Chain disappeared from Joey's break in concentration.

"Yugi," she whispered fiercely. It was her mantra in this battle in cold blood.

"This isn't working," said Tristian untangling himself from the blonde. "We need to get through to her." Joey grasped his chest, feeling his breathing trapped with in his body. Once more the Shadow Realm was sucking the life out of him.

"I-I have . . " He struggled to pull a card. Tristian didn't let him finish, he tore the deck away from Joey with ease, and found the cards he was looking for.

"If this doesn't appeal to friendship, then I don't know what will." Joey looked at the card Tristian handed him and smiled gratefully. He prepared to summon once more, but was caught off guard when he felt Tristian slip his hand into his.

"You know in case you're scared or something . . " Joey squeezed his hand affectionately.

"Or something," he repeated. With the power of two, the boys felt their energy grow and focused on their cards all their might.

"Tea!" shouted Joey. "We're your friends! Remember the pact we made? Remember everything you felt friendship stood for? It still holds true!"

"No matter what!" agreed Tristian.

"Silence!" screamed Tea. "Dark Magic Attack!"

The Dark Magician glowed a purple hue before thrusting a hand forward and calling upon his strongest weapon.

Bakura stepped out from behind a tree. He smirked in devious delight watching the soon to be demise of his opponents. He gave himself a pat on the back for turning friends against he each, how simple it was to deceive people with only glimpses of an emotion. Or tempt them with a small truth, somehow it always grows stronger and more deadly to the people who believe in it.

"And now the fun truly begins . . "

A bright explosion radiated from shore covering everyone in the vicinity. If Pegasus wasn't sure where they were before, he certainly did now. Bakura laughed coldly knowing the sight he was about to look upon . . .

. . . Was that of two Armed Battled Guards?!

"NO!!" raged the evil spirit. He clenched his fists in fury. "YOU CANNOT BEAT ME!"

Tristian and Joey slowly opened their eyes to find their plan coming true. The power of two was an amazing thing. Triumphant smiles arose on their faces as they saw their monsters work together as before, protecting each other from all attacks. Unfortunately for the Dark Magician, this meant his attack was repelled back on to him. The bright explosion was the end of the magician, not of Joey and Tristian.

"Yes!" cheered Joey pumping a fist into the air.

"That was one turn, wasn't it?" cried Tristian in excitement. His senses too were overwhelmed by the power he just experienced. The rush was unbelievable. "Tea should be free of that bastard's control!"

"Don't be too sure," hissed Bakura. His appearance was yet again unwelcome. Almost sensing their master's emotions, the Battle Guards crouched down, ready for another attack. "I have more cards . . "

"No, no," whimpered Tea. She collapsed to her knees. Her eyes changed from diluted to her normal focus, but she seemed totally absorbed with her loss. Fresh tears sprang from her eyes. The loss of the Dark Magician was almost like watching Yugi being taken away all over again. Except, the wound was still fresh and another part of her soul gone.

The Battle Guards rushed forward and blocked Bakura as Joey and Tristian rushed to her aid.

"Tea, it's ok," soothed Joey. His and Tristian's arms encircled her gently.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she sobbed. Her beautiful blue eyes were overcome with sadness and longing. "I-I just wanted Y-Yugi back . . "

"We all do," agreed Tristian. His hand slipped into Tea's as did Joey's. They all cried together as their eyes fell upon where the Dark Magician just stood. They destroyed their best friend's card together.

"There's always Reborn the Monster," joked Joey speaking what their hearts felt. Teas splashed to the ground from all of them. Tea finally made eye contact with them, that is before she shrank back as she saw Bakura draw near.

"Stay away!!" She looked at him with disgust and fear. Tea's eyes were laced with confusion and sorrow as she couldn't admit whether it was Ryou who betrayed them or not. She just couldn't take seeing him right now.

Bakura this time did not find use for banter.

"Gladly . . "

Before anyone could react, the evil spirit made a dash toward the Kaiba Corp helicopter.

"Mokuba!!" cried Tristian. They all clambered up from the ground and tore after Bakura. The spirit just reached the cockpit when Tristian seized him by the arm and threw him out of the helicopter. The two began to roll around the ground in a brawl.

"Don't break your arm!" shouted Joey. "You need to fly this thing!"

"Oh allow me!" cackled Bakura as he managed to grab Tristian's arm and pull it back farther than it was ever meant to go. A sharp cry was admitted from the tall brunette. He returned the favor with a swift kick to other's knee.

"How do you start this thing?" cried Tea, looking around frantically for a key or a switch. Anything to get away. She saw Mokuba and took the crude statement as a "Key to Kaiba Corp" in the literal sense. Tea reached into the boy's pockets for something. But she found nothing, that is until she noticed something handing around his neck. She grabbed the rope and pulled out a locket in the shape of duel monster's card.

"Hurry up!" gritted Joey as he tried to join the fight. However, having used up most of his energy three times that day, he was in poor condition to take on an insane and powerful spirit.

Tea gasped softly to open the locket to a picture of a young Seto Kaiba. Her finger grazed the picture to detect a bump in its surface. She used her nail to pry off the photo to reveal a sophisticated, small, square key. An all access pass.

"I've got it!" Tea quickly found a matching shape slot near the controls of the helicopter and slid in the key. The machine turned on effortlessly and the propeller started to whirl.

"NO!" growled Bakura reached his hands up towards Tristian's neck. "I will not lose everything!!" Tristian gagged as he started to be choked. His energy too was lagging from expending it on summoning monsters. "DIE MORTAL!"

Bakura cried in tremendous pain as he felt something slam into his back. Make that someone.

"Start flying Tristian!" commanded Tea. The boy blinked, but knew it was futile to argue. He hopped into the helicopter and started to adapt to the controls. Joey hopped in as well, and received a withering look from his friend.

"Don't worry she knows what she's doing!"

"Tea?" questioned Ryou sadly. His dark brown eyes looked up at her. His gentle voice reached her ears, pleading with her. More tears came as she remembered what he did to her.

"Did you mean it?" she cried. The sting of betrayal rang in her voice. "All those things you said, do you really feel you're alone? Were you going to have me kill my friends?"

Ryou remained bewildered. He didn't know what to say to please her.

"Tea, I --" She struck him.

"How can you call yourself Yugi's friend?!"

"I don't," answered Bakura. His tone never ceased to be icy. "A Pharaoh would never associate himself with such a lowly soul as mine . . ."

Tea looked at him curiously. "What are you talking about?" But her question didn't have time to be answered. Tristian got a hang of the helicopter's controls and was taking off.

"Tea!" shouted Joey, reaching out a hand. The girl bit her lip and ran swiftly across the ground towards her friends. She used her ballet background to prepare for a leap much higher than she ever cared to go. But with fear pressing her on, she felt her legs push and Tea miraculously made contact with Joey's hand.

"If you let go . ." she warned breathlessly. Joey grinned.

"Nah!"

The helicopter jerked from additional weight as another person made the daring leap into the air. Bakura was incredibly strong or incredibly willed. Either one was not good.

"Why can't you just give up?!" demanded Joey, highly agitated. However, he couldn't do anything about the spirit with his grip on Tea loosening.

"Joey!" she gasped as the helicopter took another jerk. She heard Tristian curse some more. The copter was clearly not made to deal with so much pressure on one side. Not to mention when a way-below amateur pilot was flying. Their elevation grew as they were now officially above the dense forest that they all traveled through during the course of this tournament.

"GIVE ME THE PUZZLE!" roared Bakura. His eyes were no longer brown, but turning into black as he channeled more and more of the Shadow Realm into his being. The Millennium Ring glowed green, an attack was ready. To further his threat, he reached over to Tea and began to pull her off the helicopter. She screamed in terror as Joey's grip was already unstable. Her eyes dilated as she felt her last few fingers slip and her body began to fall.

"No!!" shouted a new voice as a strong grip caught Tea just before she would've plummeted. She looked up and found a pair of warm, dark brown eyes staring back at her.

"Ryou?"

"Joey!! Take her now!!" The order was in a panic as if time was running out for him as well. The blonde seized the girl and pulled her will all of his last bit of strength into the helicopter, where she promptly collapsed in the back seat.

Joey turned back to the side of the helicopter. The extreme wind blew his blond locks in all directions, but his eyes were steady on the white haired teen that was hanging there before him.

He'll never stop coming after you . . This is war . . He cannot be trusted . . . What's one more soul to him? More blood stains on his hands that he happily washes off or if he cares to . . Friendship has died today . . .

Joey closed his eyes tightly. He knew what he had to do.

The blonde bent down and grasped the dangling boy's wrists firmly. The two made eyes contact. In one movement, Joey threw the white haired teen off the helicopter. He heard no scream, if there was one, above the roar of the helicopter. He just followed the falling body into the trees below.

Tristian and Tea were in complete shock.

"O-Oh god," she covered her mouth in horror. "J-Joey what have you done?"

"I'm protecting my friends," he replied. Though his voice was steady, his body trembled fiercely. Things had certainly changed. "He's not our friend."

"Ryou . . But wasn't he . . ?" Tristian too was at a lost for words. He choked back his emotions and gripped tightly onto the controls.

Joey shut the door silently and took his seat. He did not move nor speak for quite some time. He just stared out the window, looking down into the deep blue water. He refused to cry anymore, that is until he felt his hand unconsciously slide into his pocket. His fingers found the pieces of the Millennium Puzzle.

So this is what it's always going to be like? Someone always after the Puzzle, trying to tear away what little we have of Yugi left. Together, these simple pieces create a weapon that could harm more than just my friends. Funny, how easy it was to steal a piece from Yugi way back when and watch him as he helplessly saw his chance to grant his wish disappear . . underwater . . Where he knew it was impossible to reach . . Now, the consequences are unpredictable . . . The world, my friends, my family . . .

Joey's eyes shot open as reality slapped him in the face.

"Serenity," he whispered. Another broken promise to add to his list. But this one had to hurt the most. Yugi was not only dueling Pegasus to save the lives of his Grandpa and the Kaiba brothers, but for him, for Joey, for Serenity's operation.

So this is what it feels like when all hope is gone?

Then that was that, Serenity was destined to be blind after all.

Joey closed his eyes in pain once more. Everything happened so suddenly, he tried to recall the last hours he spent in a place he used to find hope in. The Duelist Kingdom. Though it was an overwhelming experience, the fact that Joey was trying to fight for a just cause made it bearable at times. Testing himself, he wanted to succeed so badly. The countless obstacles seemed trivial now compared to the deepest loss of all.

Yugi.

Broken promises of friendship. His best friend, who taught him not just about Duel Monsters, but about life. Then, in an instant, what was so pure turned dark. Joey's fist clenched as he thought about Pegasus, hearing his laughter echoed loudly in his head. The true villain, Bakura couldn't compare to that man, the monster that destroyed everything.

Yami.

The name flashed suddenly into Joey's mind. Yes, yes there were more to blame for Yugi's loss. This spirit, who dared to call Yugi his "light", it was disgusting to think of Yami believing him to be Yugi's friend, and only cause suffering in the end.

But then, the pain in Yami's eyes as he looked at Yugi? No one can mask sadness such as that, it was almost as a part of his soul was also taken . . .

The world had become a dangerous place in only a few hours.

Dusk settled in as the occupants in the helicopter found their sunlight vanish and the sky turned a glossy orange. The Duelist Kingdom now seemed a distant dream, or nightmare rather. It was just a hazy outline on the horizon, yet they knew it would haunt them. The three friends began to look to each other for answers to what they have experiences. They lost a friend, fought powerful enemies, summoned monsters that shouldn't exist, and made daring leaps of faith. How had they changed?

A depressing realization settled in on Joey as he thought about the priceless pieces that were innocently resting in each of their pockets.

If the Puzzle is a danger to the world, then we're a danger to each other . .

"We can't be friends," he spoke out loud, breaking the silence. His voice remained so quiet and low that the other two weren't sure what he said.

"Joey?" timidly questioned Tea. Her body quivered, fearful of the conversation.

"We can't be friends," the blonde repeated. "We're a danger to each other and to everyone else."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Tristian harshly. He was tired of being jerked around. "How can we hurt each other? We're not under anybody's control."

"That's just it. We could be." He sighed sadly. "I've thought it over, I'm sorry. But as long as we're together than the Puzzle pieces are as well. That can never happen. Pegasus, Bakura, and who knows what else will be coming after them, wanting to take over to world or use the power. This is not the end of it . . Soon . . "

"Duelist Empire," finished Tea. She shook her head and buried her face in her hands. "No Joey, I can't - we can't . . "

"After today, we need each other more than ever!" argued Tristian. "We helped each other escape from those creeps and --"

"The used our friendship as a weapon," interrupted Joey. "They'll do it again, and they're getting stronger. We all hold something that Pegasus wants. And if they get it, then there will be no stopping them. If we separate, then at least that's something for the world to hold on to, even if . . "

Joey gave a grim look. He couldn't even finish his sentence. It was too much.

If we fail, then there's maybe a chance for someone else to do something about it . . Before the world ends . .

"I'm sorry," he repeated. They all cried quietly this time, silent tears streaming down their faces.

"So this is it," spoke Tristian. "This is good bye. I honestly never thought I'd be saying this to the two of you . . "

"I-I . . I lo-" stammered Tea.

"Don't," pleaded Joey, his pain breaking through. "We know, just don't." She reluctantly nodded.

Silence echoed once more.

"I'm glad Yugi never had to see this," admitted Joey suddenly. Tea turned to him and looked at him, really looked at him.

"If Yugi was here, Joey, then this would never have happened . . Good-by would never have came . . "

And Joey knew his question had been answered.

Yugi would never let us go.

He wasn't Yugi. He wasn't Kaiba. He was Joey and now there were consequences to deal with.

The three best friends stayed silent all the way home. They couldn't bear to speak knowing only sorrow would break out once more. They agreed to the pact, it was binding. This is what they had to do. For the world.

For Yugi.

The Puzzle would remain bound to their fallen king.

Their Fallen King of Games.

*****

Author's Note: Oh, did you all survive the lengthy read! Man, almost 50 pages! Sheesh, my longest chapter ever. It's just all these ideas that kept coming and all the conflicts I had to get set up for the rest of the story, well I must say I never expected the prologue to be this complicated, but actually I'm quite proud of it.

On the other hand this could be one shot, but I like it too much to stop.

Ok explanation time! There is a ton of guilt going around for the characters so there can be conflict later on. Don't worry, everybody gets to make an appearance eventually (I.e. Mai, Bandit Keith, and our poor prisoners).

I had a lot of fun writing Bakura or Yami Bakura. His voice with the evil British accent sounded so cool when I was writing this! I really wanted to make a distinct split between him and Ryou, for later use and so each character could really be distinguished. And I bet a lot of you feel bad for Yami. Yeah, he had to go (but he'll be back!) because once again the whole action part of the story. Also, in the whole duelist kingdom thing, he was never noticed. The poor guy might feel a little lonely, especially after loosing Yugi in my story. You see, Yugi is supposed to be on a pedistool for everyone. And besides, I don't think Pegasus is able to take Yami's spirit away from the Puzzle, or would need a lot of power because he isn't mortal.

Speaking of Pegasus, he really went insane in the Shadow Realm if anyone remembers the episodes. I kind of let that leak over and yes, there will be a ton of Cecilia references in the upcoming chapters.

Ah, about the Ryou x Tea thing, I honestly didn't mean to have that in there. But it just kind of worked to add to the tension. And I didn't see Joey or Tristian doing anything romantic with her, they're more of her brothers I suppose. But it doesn't mean that they can't have stuff with her in the future? ^_^

If you've noticed, I focus a lot on Joey. He's going to kinda-of be the main character, or at least featured frequently. He's always the unlucky one in the bunch, even after he tries so hard to do the right thing. I see Joey as trying to fill Yugi's shoes and he's good for showing a lot of that internal conflict over making a crucial decision. Which leads to his "upgraded" intelligence. Big disasters make a person have to face themselves, and mature, which is why Joey is more on the ball than in the show. But he does have his moments, even if the series. And humor wise, he's just so kawaii!

And the whole summoning monsters, that's a little hint of what the future is going to be like under Pegasus' control. It really is going to be a Duelist Empire.

Well, please tell me what you think. Also, since this chapter is very long and required a lot of time, so will the next chapter. And I do write humor fics and I have a few in mind for Yugi and gang. So I might divide the little writing time I have between more than one project.

Thanks again and please read/review!