A QUICK NOTE: Due to the whole problem, this chapter is MORE screwed up than usual. I tried to use LoneWolf16's tips on fixing the symbols, but it didn't work, and while I tried to go back and change some of this stuff quickly so I could have the chapter up fast, I may have skipped some things, like for example the hyphens/whatever you want to call them that symbolize breaks in sentence structure or whatever. So sorry if the chapter seems a little screwy…I'll try to get it fixed as soon as possible. MAJOR APOLOGIES.

HCG: 'lo, all, and welcome back to the LOOOONG awaited CHAPTER 13! Whoooo! [audience applause light goes on]

Readers: [all still shaking their weapons of choice furiously]

HCG: [sweatdrops] [applause light flickers out stone cold dead] Er....um....well...so....you don't all look too happy out there....[sweatdrops again]

Kawari: [dryly] What was your first clue?

HCG: Well...the fact that they're all swinging big gigantic weapons around is a bit of a tip off, and also…

Kawari: [smacks forehead] Never mind. I don't want to know.

HCG: Oh. [blink] But you just asked me to--

Kawari: [exasperated sigh] I'm beginning to wonder which is more trying, being stuck with Ebony or HCG. [considers] No, wait, scratch that, I'd rather be with HCG than Ebony...Ebony's got Nozomi. [annoyed look]

HCG: [glee] Awww, Kawari, you love meeeeee!

Kawari: [siiiiiiigh]

HCG: [cough] ANYWAY. Getting back to business. This chapter was slightly delayed because I had problems setting up my computer, and unfortunately all my medical/CPR notes that I needed for THIS chapter...which I looked up a good six, seven, eight months ago…were on said computer. So I couldn't actually WRITE anything until several weeks after NC12 had gone up. And then I was mostly working on ST6….which still isn't up yet…[cough]

Kaeru: Excuses, excuses.

HCG: [pout] You try keeping all this stuff in check! It's not easy to make it stay organized!

Kaeru: [rolls eyes]

HCG: [cough] Er...yeah...so, I suppose you all want to know what happened to your dear, delightful Kaze? Well....as a reminder...currently he has a big gaping hole in his chest!

Kaze: [eye twitch]

Readers: (Most notably WSJ) [raise weapons higher and growl threateningly]

HCG: [deeeeeep sweatdrop] [hides behind Kaeru] Er...well....now you'll see how that little problem is resolved! Will Kaze be saved, or shall he DIE A HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH?! [cackle]

Kaze: You're digging your own grave. [eye twitches again]

HCG: [whine] I dun wanna die yet...

Kawari: Then get to the story. Moron.

HCG: [sweatdrop] Er...right! So, without further delay....

Kawari: Yeah, right...

HCG: [cough, pointed glare] CHAPTER 13! Kawari, disclaimer!

Kawari: See, there you go, there's a delay...[rolls eyes] Yu-Gi-Oh doesn't belong to HCG, and she claims no ownership over it. The Negative Realm, all related Realm theories, characters, and plot ideas belong to HCG… you steal, and she'll make you suffer, there are a few who have experience with this [pointed glares] and the Elements belong to Wingleader Sora Jade, though the Scrolls they're currently connected to belong to HCG. That's all. Enjoy the story...or something. [shrug]


Kawari: NR Ryou

Kaeru: NR Bakura

Kaze: NR Kaiba

Saguru: NR Joey

italicized words are thoughts or memories/dreams

Other stuff? Hmm....Lonewolf16, and any other medical/biology experts out there, don't brutally slaughter me for this story/chapter. I did the best I could with this, and spent several hours researching the subject, but as it stands you can't exactly take paramedics to the Shadow Realm, so I've had to bend a few 'rules.' I also used the military a lot as an example and checked with my military-obsessed brother on everything here. So if any of it's incorrect, tell me, but don't hurt me, please. I'd rather not have to go through similar caretaking procedures myself.

......and if for some reason you didn't get that, that means there's BLOOD in this chapter. So get over it.

Oh, and a note for WSJ, too. I meant no connections with your own fics when I wrote this. And....well, you'll see what I mean later...just keep in mind that I was not trying to copy/use your stories as a base when I wrote one scene later in the fic...don't hurt me either.

That's it. I could be mean now and stop the story right here, but...I think you'd all kill me, so...I won't. [sweatdrop]

Negative Chaos

Chapter 13: Of Death and Desire

"Kaze!" Came a wild scream, ripping from Mokuba's throat in the eternal darkness of the Shadow Realm, only to be swallowed up and silenced eerily quickly. "Brother! No!"

Terrified, fearing for his opposite-Realm brother to the point of a screaming panic raging in his head, he dashed forward, collapsing to his knees beside the still form of Kaze. The older teen was unconscious, face-down on the not-quite-ground of the Shadow Realm, back rising and falling with each tortured breath, but slowly, in irregular gasps. Blood was already beginning to pool underneath him, but Mokuba ignored it, ignored the fact that he was practically kneeling in it, as he studied his 'brother' with his gray, worried gaze.

Beginning to express his panic more openly, the boy began to mutter to himself, eyes flickering back and forth desperately as he wondered what to do. He didn't know how to deal with this situation; he'd never taken a first aid class, or anything similar, and certainly hadn't expected anybody related to him to be torn open by some savage bird several times the size of a human. A thought streamed into his head: he was useless, he couldn't save Kaze, he was going to watch him die right there, because he couldn't do anything.

No! Don't think like that, Mokuba yelled at himself, closing his eyes momentarily and taking deep breaths to try and calm himself more. What was it Seto always said? Stay cool under fire...that's it. Can't let the pressure get to me...I know I can save my brother somehow...

Biting his lip, Mokuba considered a moment before moving forward to try and roll Kaze over, so that the wound was exposed. The teen was a lot bigger than him, being over six feet in height, but Mokuba managed with only a little difficulty, and soon Kaze was sprawled on his back.

The sight brought stinging tears to the black-haired boy's eyes, but he angrily suppressed them, staring down at his newly 'adopted' brother. Kaze's face was contorted in pain, even in his unconsciousness, and his shirt and trench coat around his torso had been torn and bloodied, exposing flesh. Or what was left of flesh; the chest was a mass of twisted skin and bone, and Mokuba could see all too clearly the impressions the Queen Bird had left with its huge talons; the slashes that cut across the whole torso; the way the claws had closed, squeezing everything within their grip, snapping the bone of the ribcage and forcing the talons deep, towards heart and lungs. There was blood everywhere, soaking fabric a deep black and causing what unmarred skin was left to look deeply pale, lifeless.

It made Mokuba nearly want to throw up; it was disgusting, and he hated to think that it had all happened because he and the others had been too careless concerning those monsters. He pulled his hands away from the grips they had used to turn his brother over, and saw that they were stained red, the liquid literally dripping off of his fingers, the smell pungent in the air. He fought the urge to vomit once more and automatically staggered away, gulping at the 'fresh' air of the Shadow Realm.

There was no way he could help with that wound at all, of that he was sure. What could a simple kid like him do? He had no experience with this, nobody to help him. The panicked yelling in his head was beginning to overwhelm the calming, in-control thoughts that he had been previously listening to. No one to help you, no one to save him, watch him die, watch your own brother die...

No! he thought suddenly to himself, even as the darker thoughts had begun to move forward to envelop him. That's not true...I'm not the only one here...Yugi's here! And Yami! And Joey, too! Maybe they know what to do!

A small flicker of hope wedged itself firmly in his brain, and he turned and darted towards where he had seen Yugi fall, hoping against hope that the teen was all right enough to be able to get up and help. But where was he? Mokuba looked around, nervous. They couldn't have disappeared...not here...they couldn't leave him alone with these...these monsters...and these creepy shadows...he'd die here, and so would his brother!

And then...a burst of relief filled him as he saw that familiar spiky head of hair, huddled in the darkness a few feet away from him. The way these shadows swirled, as if they were alive, he hadn't noticed for a moment. Quickly, he dashed over to his friend, kneeling down beside him, as well. No blood, he was relieved to see, or at least, not much of it; not as much as with Kaze, at any rate. Only a small river of it coming from a large lump on the small teen's head, from where he had received the powerful wing strike from the Queen Bird, and it looked as though, with time, it would heal well enough, though it would leave the bearer with a striking headache for some time to come.

"Yugi!" Mokuba yelled, nervous, spurred on by his brother's condition. He grabbed his friend's shoulder and shook hard, willing the hikari to wake up. "Yugi, please, I need your help! I need somebody's help! Please!"

No response. The blow Yugi had taken from the bird had knocked him out cold. Panicked, Mokuba turned to Joey, only a few feet away, and shook him by the shoulder as well, calling his name. Joey moaned a little, but did not awaken, and Mokuba was filled with a sense of despair. Desperate, he turned back to Yugi and shook him once more, but just as before nothing happened...until he spotted the Puzzle, connected to the teen's neck by a silvery chain, currently lying next to its owner where it had fallen when the host had been hit.

Mokuba recalled vaguely that Yugi had told him about the wish he'd made on the Puzzle, that the Puzzle had at one point granted his greatest wish, before he had really met and understood Yami. Out of desperation, he grabbed the golden Puzzle and, clutching it tight in his hands, squeezed his eyes shut and begged.

Please, he whispered softly, I need help...I can't do this on my own...I don't know what to do, and he'll die...we might all die...

He snapped his eyes open and stared down at the Puzzle, still looped around Yugi's neck, as if expecting something. At first, it did nothing, only sitting there quietly in his hands and somehow glinting with reflected light, despite the fact that there was no light to give in the gloom of the Shadow Realm. But then, sluggishly at first, but building in power, the Puzzle began to glow...and then, with a sudden flash, Yugi began to stir, moaning from the pain in his head, but undoubtedly conscious.

"Yugi!" Mokuba cried out loud, another dash of hope growing in his mind as he saw the hikari awaken.

"Mokuba....what happened?" Yugi asked, dazed, as he brought his hand up gingerly to touch the bloody welt on his head. He winced at the contact, grimaced, and added, "I remember that bird and after that...well....it had really strong wings. That's all I remember."

Mokuba found himself babbling without warning, trying to talk his way through the jumbled images that he had experienced in only a few second's time. "You got hit," he murmured softly, "and then Joey did too, he tried to save you, and then Kaze fought it, and he won, but..." the boy trembled slightly, the tears once more coming forth unbidden. "But...he got....hurt." He couldn't bear to give full details on the wounds; it was as if, as long as he kept it unsaid, they wouldn't exist, would somehow be only a bad joke that would quickly go away. He knew it wouldn't work that way, of course, but it was a desperate, childish whim that he clung to.

"Hurt?" Yugi asked slowly, groaning again a little as he stood up. He glanced momentarily at the Puzzle, faintly glowing now as it once more took up the task of guarding the souls of the travelers there, and the hikari knew that his yami was sustaining them from his soul room for the moment, where he had an easier time controlling the magic after such chaos. "Hurt...how?"

Mokuba trembled again, pointed slowly off in the direction his 'adopted brother' now lay in. "Go...go see...it's really bad...I don't know what to do..."

Frowning deeply, Yugi walked in the direction Mokuba had pointed out, his imagination bringing to mind gruesome pictures and ideas of what could have possibly happened to his friend. He had thought his imagination, spawned mostly by movies, had been disgusting, and what he had seen in mental imagery was bad enough...but when he stepped through the darkness and spotted the sprawled, pale, still form laying at his feet, he had a sudden fleeting thought, a voice that whispered to him that he hadn't even come close to the horrific wounds the Blue Eyes now sustained.

He heard a soft whimper behind him, and realized Mokuba had followed him, had now laid eyes on that disgusting, gaping wound again. Yugi felt instantly that the poor child shouldn't have to see such a thing, shouldn't see it at all, and hastily stepped in front of him, blocking his eye contact with the bloody mess that was left of Kaze's chest.

He had been too late though, he knew that much. Mokuba had been the first of them to see that terrible wound anyway, and there was nothing that would change that. His thoughts were confirmed when the black-haired boy whispered softly, "Is he...will he....he's gonna die, isn't he?"

"No!" Yugi said sharply, both for the comfort of the boy next to him as well as his own. "No, of course he won't. I promise. We'll get him out of the Shadow Realm...and then..." he stopped short, grimacing. Even if they could get Kaze out of the Shadow Realm in time, which was a slim possibility considering the distance they still had to cross before they reached the barrier again, what could they do next? Could the paramedics really handle such a serious wound? And there was no denying that Seto Kaiba suddenly in critical condition in the hospital would cause an uproar in Domino city; everybody would hear of it by the time the day was finished.

Still, he had to reassure the younger Kaiba. "Just....don't worry. He'll be fine. I promise." And I will try to help him, Yugi added to himself. Even if it does seem hopeless. All we need to do is believe.

Taking a deep breath, the teen took a few steps forward until he was standing directly next to the unconscious Negative, shaking off the nervous feeling he automatically gained at being at such close proximity to a severely injured person. Slowly, he bent down and extended two fingers to press carefully against the Blue Eyes' neck just below the jawline, searching for a pulse and feeling vaguely as though, if he touched that injured being, the person would shatter and break, somehow.

But Kaze didn't shatter, and Yugi was relieved to find a pulse still beat feebly against the skin of his neck, though it was very weak and rapid, as though it was trying too hard to spread life fluids through the body. The teen swallowed slightly and hastily withdrew his hand, gazing at the wound once again and frowning.

The teen considered for a few quick moments, very aware that time was of the essence if they were going to save their other-Realm friend, and then, coming to a decision, he spoke. "Mokuba," he said slowly, "Go wake up Joey. I'm going to need his help for this."

"I tried," the poor boy said helplessly. "He wouldn't wake up!"

"Keep trying," Yugi said urgently, even as he knelt down beside the unconscious Opposition leader, hastily removing the Scrolls and knives from Kaze's trench coat so that he could remove it. "Yell at him, shake him...anything. We need his help for this. Hurry!"

Mokuba nodded quickly, looking extremely worried, and darted off back into the gloom towards where he knew Joey still lay, determined to complete his task as quickly as possible. Yugi ignored him for the moment; he had finished removing all the contents from Kaze's trench coat and was now attempting to take it off the injured teen. The slightest movement to his torso, however, and he would give a sudden intake of breath, a tortured groan that would express his pain, and Yugi ended up using one of the knives to cut it free, with Yami appearing in a physical form to help him pull it from underneath the prone figure without causing too much agony.

There wasn't much left of the shirt, at least the front of it, but Yugi set about unbuttoning that as well and carefully setting it open, to leave the wound fully exposed so that he could care for it. The wounds looked even worse now that there was no cloth to partially hide them, and Yugi grimaced, fighting the lurching in his stomach at the sight and smell of it, the feel of the blood on his hands.

The teen paused at the sudden stirring he heard behind him and turned his head to look over his shoulder, frowning slightly. Yami, on the other side of the unconscious Negative Kaiba, had already seen who was approaching and dismissed the sight, returning to studying the wound as best he could so that he could contribute what little medical knowledge he had to their aid.

Joey was approaching, rubbing his head and muttering under his breath, complaining loudly about the massive splitting headache he was currently undergoing. Mokuba trailed behind him, looking nervous and wiping away a few stray tears with the back of his hands, trembling as they came within sight of his injured 'brother.'

"Damn bird, stupid thing shouldn't even have existed, at this rate this stupid headache isn't gonna leave and " he halted in mid-sentence as his eyes came to rest on Kaze's still form, and they widened visibly in shock and disgust, his mouth dropping open before he spoke again. "Wha....What the hell happened?!"

"Apparently," Yami spoke up, using the calmest tone he could on seeing Mokuba's increase of tears at Joey's words, "after the bird attacked us, he fought it off but gained these injuries in the process." He gave a somewhat tired sigh and shook his head; no matter the situation, he was still rather lacking in magical energy, and although he had lowered the shields slightly after that attack so that he had emergency reserves he wasn't stupid, after all it was still draining him.

"D-damn," Joey said shakily, unable to tear his eyes from the wounded figure. Then, after several moments had passed, he shook his head slowly and said in a more controlled, but obviously forced manner, "Okay...so....what should we do about this?"

Yugi frowned slightly, then answered slowly, "We have to take this step by step...just one piece at a time, or we're going to panic too much to save him." Mokuba whimpered a little, but the Hikari added reassuringly, "Don't worry, he'll live, just as long as we do everything carefully and quickly. He'll be fine." Mokuba nodded a little, trusting Yugi to see his 'brother' through.

"Okay," the teen began, thinking carefully through his first aid courses carefully, "we'll need to bandage him first. Once we do that, we can think about moving him, but that will be difficult...so first, let's just get that wound wrapped up."

"With what?" Mokuba asked, worried. "We don't have any bandages or anything!"

"Then we'll make do," Yami answered quietly, his outwardly calm presence seeming to sooth the boy a little. "With this." And he gestured to the discarded trench coat, the long trails of fabric that hadn't been torn calling invitingly to be used as bandages to wrap up the horrible wound.

"You're right!" Joey exclaimed, nodding at the excellent idea. "Here, I'll make'em." And grabbing one of the throwing knives from the small pile of weapons that had been removed from the trench coat, he began slashing up the flowing 'tail' ends of it, cutting them into long, wide strips that could be wrapped around Kaze's whole torso and still leave a little left over for adjusting the tightness of the bandages.

After only a few minutes, a small pile of the makeshift bandages had been made, though it had seemed to take far too long for any of them, even Yami. Kaze had not made a sound during the whole time, and his eerie silence disturbed them greatly; all of them were all hoping he'd do something, make any sort of noise, even a call of pain just to prove that he still had a firm grip in the world of the living.

"Good," Yugi said quietly, once Joey had finished tearing up a portion of the trench coat. "Those'll do for now. Let me think here..." he considered for a moment, then nodded. "Okay. Joey, you'll have to hold Kaze up so that I can wrap the bandages all the way around him...Mokuba, if you just stand on that side, you can help me." The boy nodded quickly, moving to the spot in an instant, willing to do anything to help his 'older sibling.'

Joey waited until both of them were ready, then carefully lifted the opposite Kaiba up, moving him as little as possible and leaving just enough space for Yugi and Mokuba to slip the bandages around his back. The Blue Eyes gave a violent gasp of pain even at so slight a movement, and blood dripped from the corners of his mouth as he coughed it up, causing Mokuba to tremble a little and even made Yami and Yugi grimace, but they continued with their work hurriedly and soon had the wound wrapped up as best as they could. It did, at any rate, serve its purpose to slow, and possibly even stop, the massive amounts of bleeding, and as Yugi said, "as long as we can keep him from losing too much blood before we get out of here, we should be able to save him."

As soon as they finished with the makeshift bandage, Joey carefully, but quickly, set the Negative back to the stirring, twisting almost-ground, allowing him to rest momentarily after the pain he had just suffered. The Opposition leader gave a soft groan and then fell silent and still once more, his labored breathing the only sounds they could hear from him; yet they could see slight differences in him, now. The tips of his fingers were tainted a slight bluish-gray from lack of oxygen, and his skin looked somewhat clammy.

Worried and whimpering a little, Mokuba sat down by his 'brother's' head, stretching out his hand and tentatively brushing aside the wounded Kaze's bangs, as though trying to give some comfort even though the teen wasn't conscious to recognize it. Indeed, it seemed to calm the younger Kaiba down more than anything else, now that he felt he was doing something useful, even though in reality he was hardly doing anything beyond waiting.

Yugi watched the black-haired boy brushing his 'adopted' sibling's hair away from his forehead, frowning a little as he thought of what action should be taken next. They had to get Kaze out of there immediately, that much was apparent...if they waited here too long, he wouldn't make it. Sighing, he opened his mouth to speak.

"Okay. This next part is going to be hard, since he's still hurt pretty bad, but...we gotta get Kaze out of here right now. We need to move him, as best we can without making that injury worse."

Yami nodded in agreement. "It would be wise to leave here before any monsters catch the scent of blood, too."

Joey shivered. "More monsters? No way. He " he indicated Kaze with a jerk of his thumb, " would be eaten before we could so much as blink. He can't even defend himself anymore!"

"Exactly," Yami said, shaking his head a little, "which is why it would be best to move before they have a chance to get here."

The blonde sighed a little in frustration, but then nodded. "Okay. How do we move him then?" He indicated the prone Opposition leader once more.

Yugi considered for a few minutes, and then volunteered his idea. "Well...Joey, you're the tallest and strongest person we've got right now...I hate to ask it, but it looks like you'll have to do a majority of the heavy lifting..."

"No problem, just tell me what to do." The teen gave a thumbs-up and grinned a little in an attempt to lighten the mood, though with a wounded person only a few feet away, the effect was sorely lessened, and he eventually gave up.

"Let me think," Yugi muttered, still trying to come up with a possible solution. After a few seconds extra pause, he sighed and nodded. "It isn't perfect, but it'll do for now, at least moving a short distance. Joey, you'll have to carry Kaze by holding underneath his arms, and you'll have to support his torso as best as possible. We can't have that wound bending too much or it'll get worse. Me and Mokuba," he continued, not even noticing as the black haired boy's head snapped up, anxiously awaiting his orders, "will have to help Joey carry him by each supporting one of his legs, which should also help to lessen the stress placed on the wound....I hope, anyway."

"Do you want me to do anything, aibou?" Yami asked, careful to keep his voice and appearance calm as he had been doing before he knew from personal experience that others would tend to 'feed' off the confidence of even one person high in morale, and that could make all the difference in the situation.

"No....I don't think so anyway, not right now." He glanced up at his yami quickly. "Thanks, though..."

Yami nodded, keeping his mind set on the task of defending the little rescue team and carrying the discarded knives, Scrolls, and trench coat, instead. He didn't mind Yugi's sudden shift into the 'leader,' of the group; he did know more about the situation medically than Yami did, after all, and he knew it was of the essence to make sure their friend stayed alive, no matter what it took.

Joey and Mokuba, meanwhile, had moved forwards towards their positions and were waiting for Yugi to join them and give the signal. Joey stood near Kaze's head, shifting as he awaited some sort of action to take place and unable to stand still in such a situation, while Mokuba waited quietly on the Blue Eyes' left side, looking nervous.

"Okay," Yugi called, as he moved to Kaze's right side, "On the count of three, we'll have to lift. It's going to hurt him, but we just have to move quickly so we can get him to medical attention as soon as possible." The others nodded, and so he began to count. "One...two...three!"

They lifted the teen quickly, Joey taking most of the weight while Yugi and Mokuba helped to steady the wounded being as much as possible. When each had a firm grip, they began to shift, moving as fast as possible while still keeping the Negative relatively still, trying to cover ground while carrying in the difficult position.

It was not easy, but not only because of the care needed while working with the wound; it was just as difficult to listen to Kaze's gasps of pain. For almost as soon as they had lifted him, he had cried out, groaning in pain as his terrible wounds were shifted. Mokuba squeezed his eyes shut against the sound, unable to cover his ears while helping to move his 'brother,' while Yugi and Joey both grimaced and tried to ignore it so that they could work without distraction, though they did not manage as effectively as they would have liked to control this tactic.

It became more difficult, too, when the cries of pain began to change, growing to have an almost delirious, feverish pitch...and growing, too, to form words.

They were difficult to recognize at first, hidden between loud gasps and ragged, torn breathing, but the more time passed as they carried the teen, the more they began to recognize that there were words there, that Kaze was somehow talking, even now. Startled, Yami, the only one who did not have to help with the movement of their wounded friend, leaned closer to try and hear exactly what was being said, 'translating' it into clearer speech for the benefit of others.

It was strange, what he managed to hear. From the way it was spoken, Yami was almost sure it was a delirious raving, but at the same time...what he spoke of seemed so clear-cut, so precise, that the former Pharaoh doubted it was simply crazed dreams caused by the angry wounds in his chest. "The Pharaoh...the people, all his people, did he not care?! A slaughter to cause a slaughter, lives for lives, blood for blood...death for power...he did not care! What could cause such a cruel heart to be born...why would They allow it so? Why would They? A test...a punishment? No...They are not that cruel...only the Pharaoh....only him...and yet...am I any better? I fought, yes...but I fought too late...I fought to preserve, but still....to fight death is a lost battle...I could not win, I could never win...all I caused was more death...but perhaps...perhaps I prevented eternal suffering...perhaps I still prevent it...only They truly know...but I will still fight, never shall I allow my will to die...!"

Yami blinked in surprise at this rather resolute ending, and looked over at the others curiously, frowning a bit. That had been...odd...

"What was that about?" Joey hissed, shifting his grip a little to hold the unconscious Opposition agent.

"Delirium..." Yami muttered slowly, still frowning.

"Maybe it was just him thinking over some of the war stuff from his Realm," Yugi suggested. "They've been through a lot over there, after all...I suppose it wouldn't be surprising to have...I dunno...weird dreams about them when you're injured. I heard that happens in wars."

"You may be right," Yami admitted...but nobody heard the soft, "but I don't think this is quite as recent as you think," that followed under his breath.

They fell silent as they focused completely on their travel, attempting desperately to get their friend to safety before he passed on. All that could be heard with the painful gasps from Kaze, caused by his laborious breathing and the cries that he could not keep from escaping his lips every time his wound was jarred. The skin around his eyes and lips was beginning to tinge the same worrisome gray-blue that his fingertips had adopted, and Yugi was beginning to become extremely worried from these signs. The Blue Eyes was obviously suffering from shock, but if they hadn't even managed to slow the bleeding...

"Stop," the short teen finally called, sighing. "Set him down...gently! This isn't going to work...we need a better way to transport him, faster than this."

"What's wrong with this?" Joey asked, frowning, as the three of them carefully set the injured teen down a gasping sigh escaped him as he was finally laid flat and still.

Yugi indicated the Negative's fingertips. "Major blood loss," he said quietly. "the way we're moving him keeps the wounds open and allows them to bleed. And we're not going fast enough. By the time we got to the barrier, Kaze'd be long dead..." Mokuba whimpered again he hadn't been able to keep the tears from his eyes for some time now and sat down near his 'brother's' head again, watching him quietly.

Yami carefully placed the items he had been carrying on the almost-ground of the Shadow Realm and moved forward, frowning a little. "Before you do anything else," he suggested, "I would consider very seriously changing those bandages. Look at them." He pointed, indicating the blood-stained trench coat strips wrapped around Kaze's chest; they were soaked through, obviously not doing any good whatsoever in the attempt to stop the blood flow.

Yugi sighed. "Yeah, you're right," he admitted, as Joey began to cut more 'bandages' from the remains of the coat Yami had, fortunately, brought with them. He was done after a few minutes, and the process of re-bandaging Kaze began quickly, with the four working as fast as possible to keep the life fluids from escaping. There was no difference in the torn wound, other than the angry looking, raw red color beginning to emerge on the edges of the bloody, gaping holes. The wound was beginning to get infected.

"Damn," Joey muttered. "That means we have even less time, don't it?"

Yugi nodded, looking worried as he carefully secured the last bandage. "Yeah...how're we going to get him out of here fast?"

Mokuba shivered a little from his brother's side he had once again taken up the 'comforting' of his adopted brother and was again stroking his bangs aside carefully and spoke up. "It's hard with three of us carrying him...we all have to go slow so we can work together okay..."

Yami considered this, and nodded. "If only one of us could carry him effectively, without injuring him the process could, perhaps, go much faster."

"There's no way we could pull that off, though!" Joey said, shaking his head. "You saw what the wound looked like. How could just one of us move him safely?"

Yugi stared at the silvery-flamed bandages they had just finished replacing, already beginning to soak up blood, and then said slowly, "How would they do it?"

The others blinked. "Hmm?"

The smaller teen looked up at them. "The Negatives! They must deal with stuff like this all the time, right? How would they move somebody?"

"Good question, Yug'," Joey commented, sounding somewhat sarcastic in his frustration. "Unfortunately, our one and only Negative is down and out for the time being, so it don't look like that's gonna get answered!"

Yugi attempted to be patient. "Okay, so we can't ask a Negative," he admitted, "but how would any soldier do it? Any war-trained person?"

Joey opened his mouth for another frustrated smart-response, but then froze as the question hit home. "Hey," he muttered slowly, "I think I know..."

All of them looked startled, but Mokuba practically leapt at him, looking urgent. "How, how?!"

"One of the guys on my old paper route used to be a soldier...he told me a whole bunch of stuff about that World War II he was in...never stopped yapping about his ol' war stories, but I never thought it'd come in handy!"

"Just explain it!" Mokuba practically shouted, trembling slightly in his anxiousness and turning back to glance worriedly at his older brother. "I don't want him to...to..."

"Calm down!" Joey shouted back. "Give me a second...what'd he say? Normally in war you gotta get an injured person outta there fast, you can't just wait around for somebody to come on by and whisk you to the nearest local hospital...if they can move you can try to support them while they partly walk on their own, but...if they have a chest injury or something like that..." he glanced momentarily at Kaze, "...then you can try to carry them on your back...create a harness or something to support them so they don't jar around too much or injure themselves further."

A few moments of silence passed as the three remaining conscious beings stared at Joey in surprise. The teen was beginning to think his idea would be rejected, but then Yugi spoke up, nodding and looking almost relieved.

"Of course! It might work...we'll have to be really careful how we do it, but still..." he considered, but then frowned. "But...what could we use as a harness? We have no rope or anything..."

"Belts," Mokuba volunteered shakily, also looking somewhat relieved that an idea had been decided on. "You can buckle them together and hook it to whoever's doing the carrying." He pointed at Yugi and Yami. "And between you two, we've got a lot of them."

Yami nodded, immediately setting about removing several belts from around his waist none of them actually there other than for style, one for holding his deck. Yugi did the same, removing the originals of the exact same belts that Yami had, while Joey offered the one he had been wearing, as well.

Constructing a harness was a bit more difficult, but after a few quick tests, they managed to discover a way to connect them all carefully and still leave them strong enough to fully support an injured person, should it come to that. The result was something like a rock climber's harness, with additional supports that they had created for the torso, so that Kaze's chest wound wouldn't suffer under too much pressure or movement.

The harness constructed, the only thing left was to lift Kaze onto the person carrying him and start moving. Yugi thought over the situation a moment, then sighed, turning to Joey. "I'm sorry to have to ask you again, but...you're the only person big enough to carry him here, and even then he's still taller than you. It might be kinda tough, but "

"I already told ya, Yug,'" Joey said firmly, "just tell me what to do, and I'll help the best I can."

Yugi nodded. "Alright, then. You'll have to kneel down so we can lift Kaze onto your back and fasten the harness to you both. It should be a little easier to carry him, but because of his height it might still be difficult."

"I can manage," the blonde answered, taking a few steps over to the unconscious teen nearby. "Whenever you're ready, let's go!"

"Thanks, Joey," Mokuba murmured softly, glancing up at the teen. "I owe you one..."

Yugi and Yami walked up behind the blonde as well, taking places at either side of the wounded Opposition leader, while Mokuba grabbed the makeshift harness and stood aside, waiting. Joey, seeing that they were all ready and in place, crouched down by the brown-haired teen's side so that he was low enough for the others to easily place the Blue Eyes into a good carrying position on his back. "All set," he called over his shoulder, waiting.

Yami nodded to his Lighter half, and the two bent down, carefully but quickly lifting their injured friend under his arms and shifting him towards Joey. Mokuba, thinking quickly, bundled the remains of the trench coat and placed it down as a softer surface for Kaze's injury to be better supported by, and Yugi and his darker half carefully rested the injured teen on Joey's back, arms hanging over the carrier's shoulders and making it almost look as though he was riding 'piggy-back.' Kaze's only response was a massive gasp of pain at the movement before falling silent again, though all of them were sure that if he had been conscious, he would have thrown a fit at having to be carried in such a way.

With Kaze in position, Mokuba moved forward quickly and began to buckle their makeshift harness, which formed a seat-like contraption so that Joey only had to carry the fallen Negative, not spend valuable time and energy holding him in place, as well. After a few moments of tightening the straps, Mokuba backed away, motioning to Joey that he was all set. Joey, nodding, hooked his hands underneath Kaze's knees (as the Negative was much taller and his feet would drag unless held up) and stood, wavering momentarily until he found his footing.

"Not so bad," Joey muttered, trying a few experimental steps to see how much the extra weight effected him. "I think I can keep up a walk. Maybe even a run."

"Just try not to run too fast, or you'll jar him around anyway. That harness isn't perfect, after all," Yugi warned, gathering up the remaining items with his yami.

"I'll do my best," the blonde answered, moving into a walk in the direction they had been taking. He attempted to turn his head to deliver a question to Yami, but found himself blindsighted on that side Kaze's head was flopped like a deadweight on one of his shoulders and prevented the turning of his own head and so he called the question loudly, instead. "How long do we have to keep this up?"

Yami considered momentarily, calculating their travel from before while at the same time double-checking the shields to make sure they were still in order they were, though they still drained him. "I would say....perhaps forty-five minutes more, at our old pace...but considering that we will be moving slower, and will have to stop periodically to allow you to rest and to check on Kaze...an hour and twenty minutes?" He shook his head. "A long time, at any rate. This will be a difficult trek."

Joey growled slightly. "Forget going slow," he argued. "I told you, I can keep up a fast pace like this. The sooner we all get outta here, the better." And, this said, he slid into a steady gait, covering ground at a decent pace while trying not to shake the wounded Blue Eyes he carried too much. Yugi and Yami sighed, exchanging momentary glances at Joey's stubborn ways, before going into a jog themselves, Mokuba already a few paces ahead of them.

Unfortunately, despite his endurance, the blonde had nowhere near the running skill that his opposite possessed, and after only ten minutes he had to slow down to a standard walk, panting slightly. He was strong, and Kaze was probably lighter than his True self, but it was still no easy task to carry a person close to the same weight as one's own self, and the teen reverted to a less-tiring pace quickly before he managed to burn out all his energy.

Yugi allowed his friend to continue walking for another ten minutes, then told him to halt and take a quick break, both so that he could rest up and that they could check on the opposite Kaiba. Joey didn't argue, panting slightly and slight beads of sweat dewing on his forehead, and seemed thankful for the rest. Kaze had not woken during the twenty minutes that they had been moving; indeed, he hadn't even moved, arms still draped over Joey's shoulders to aid with holding him in place and head resting heavily on the back of his shoulder. Yugi had been worried at this, and had carefully checked the chest injury as best as he could without removing the harness, only to discover that the makeshift bandages were soaking once again, and that the wound was still bleeding.

Frowning, the Hikari let Joey rest for about five minutes, then urged him to begin moving once again, anxious to get the Negative out of the Shadow Realm as fast as possible, as he was very weak. Nodding, Joey pushed himself back to his feet and started up his jogging gait again, thanking anybody he could think of for his years of street-fighting he'd learned there, at least, how to regain energy quickly in short rests, as it was doubtful anybody wanting to pick a fight would wait a decent amount of time to allow him his strength back. The others jogged along next to or behind him, urging him on, while Mokuba almost never tore his eyes from his dying Negative brother.

The somewhat fast gait went on for another ten minutes or so, until once again Joey was forced to slow down to a walk once more, panting heavily. It was during this transition that Yami blinked in surprise; he hadn't noticed it before, his mind having automatically thought of it as 'normal,' but Kaze's shield against the Shadows was still up. That was strange, the yami thought, eyebrows creasing slightly; when somebody was wounded, generally they would drop their shields, unless they were experienced...and why would Kaze have a shield anyway? He had never asked that question of the Opposition leader while he'd been conscious, and now there was no asking the question at all, what with the situation. So instead the Pharaoh filed the question away for later, when the more concerning problems had been solved and all of their Scroll-hunting members' lives were safe.

This time, Joey was able to keep the walking pace up for seven minutes before Yugi urged him to take a break, regaining his strength and stamina for another large bulk of time. Joey sighed, but nodded, coming to a halt and wiping sweat from his forehead. His bangs were soaked and sticking to his skin, and he felt tired, but there was no way he was going to quit when a friend needed his help.

The group took a quick, six-minute break, resting quietly and once again checking up on Kaze his condition was still bad, but only a little worse than before, as he hadn't plummeted badly yet. Yami, however, noticed that the Shadows seemed eager to get at the two tired beings, namely Joey and Kaze, as they could sense that both were weaker than the average, healthy human. Indeed, they were swirling overhead like vultures, a soft hissing noise escaping them as they flitted past, waiting until one of the beings dropped from fatigue or lost their shield so that they could swoop down for the kill.

Angry, Yami shouted several warnings at them in Egyptian without even thinking about what he was saying, before turning back to his friends and giving a tired sigh. "Come on," he murmured, "let's get moving again before those things get any ideas." He indicated the shadows still flickering about above them, which caused both Mokuba and Yugi to shiver slightly. Joey gave them a look, grimaced, and pulled himself to his feet once more, taking a few slow steps before pushing himself into the same jogging gait again though admittedly, looking far wearier than the first two times he had done so.

Eight minutes later, he had to slow once again into a walk, unable to keep up the fast pace with his quickly depleting endurance. He was obviously beginning to slow, not even able to keep up the same amount of time as he had before, and Yugi hoped feverently that he would be able to hold out until they reached the barrier. Yami guessed that it was, with luck, a half hour away, but if they couldn't make it that far, Kaze would be lost.

Joey seemed to still have his stubbornness, however, because seven minutes later he was still walking, even though he looked like he was tiring. Indeed, it was possible that he would have continued forcing himself to go on, but for one small thing: Kaze had begun to wake up.

None of them had expected it in the least after all, with such a terrible wound, how on Earth could anybody wake at all? yet all of them snapped their heads around in surprise when Kaze began to mutter slightly, gasping heavily in pain and stirring a little from where he was being carried on Joey's back. Surprised, the blonde attempted to turn his head a little, towards his blindsighted side, just managing to see the Opposition leader's head begin to shift slightly as he slowly regained consciousness.

Stopping short, Joey gave a quick call to the others, though it was highly unnecessary; Yugi, Yami, and Mokuba were all paying just as much attention and were beginning to crowd a little closer, each looking rather surprised at the Negative regaining consciousness. Resisting the urge to shrug (he didn't want to injure Kaze any more than he already was) Joey tilted his head again slightly and spoke quietly, sounding a little relieved. "Wasn't expecting you to wake up, but it's nice to see you moving a little...we were getting worried."

Kaze's only response were a few short, painful breaths as he attempted to get oxygen into his system, but then he spoke, groaning a little. "Hurts..."

"It's okay!" Mokuba said, attempting to sound reassuring, though the worried tone in his voice said that he was failing miserably. "We're...we're trying to get you help...just hold on, big brother..."

The Blue Eyes twitched slightly at the title, though for the most part he remained deadweight, not having even lifted his head yet. After a few more moments, in which his pain was easily recognizable, he seemed to realize this as well and shifted again, forcing his head up from its resting place.

"Woah!" Joey yelped, a little startled, as the shifting on his back threw him off balance and he hastily moved to regain his footing. "Stop moving back there! Just relax or you're gonna kill yourself!"

"Yeah," Mokuba agreed, as Yugi and Yami nodded, the Hikari watching the whole situation anxiously. "Just let Joey do all the work, you've done enough. Please don't hurt yourself!"

The comments seemed to do exactly opposite of what they had been intended for, however. Instead of calming the Negative down, Kaze seemed to suddenly realize that he was being carried, and shifted more, attempting to pull himself up completely to stand on his own, wincing at the pain that it caused but trying hard to ignore it and muttering under his breath that he didn't need such care. Joey, startled, braced himself so that he did not topple over and injure the Opposition leader further, while the remaining three yelped in surprise and tried to coax and force him to relax and not strain himself.

Despite his protests, however, Kaze's efforts were weak, all of the energy his body could grasp hold of focusing on battling the bloody wound and raging infection. The Blue Eyes barely managed to raise himself a few inches from where he had rested before he gave a startled cry of pain, an intense wave of agony having shot through his chest once more, and with a tortured groan he flopped back to the support of Joey's back, having gone deadweight once more.

"I...I don't need...this...help," the Negative Seto managed to hiss through his teeth, jaws clenched in pain, before he went entirely limp, the shock of the pain from his wound having knocked him out cold once again.

Joey stood still for a good minute, blinking in surprise, before exhaling with exasperation. "Phew," he muttered, shaking his head, "that was close. I thought he was really gonna hurt himself there without meaning to."

Yami looked exasperated, as well. "Must Seto Kaiba be this stubborn in any Realm?" he asked the air, looking annoyed. "Why do they all refuse any help that it's obvious they need?" Yugi shrugged, not understanding himself, while Mokuba gave a sad sort of smile before it faded away, turning to watch his deathly pale brother once more.

Since they had already stopped, they paused to take a quick break, checking on Kaze after his rather unexpected fight against his own rescue, while allowing Joey to rest up and build up his strength. It seemed that Kaze had restarted the massive flow of bleeding once more, causing everyone's spirits to dampen considerably, and if they didn't get him out very soon, he was going to die without ever having made it to the real world again. Yami, determined to bring good news to the group, assured them that they were very close to the barrier now, and if they managed to keep up a good walk for about twenty minutes, they should have arrived there. Joey, determined to get there as quick as possible, broke into a run once again, hoping that the faster pace would bring the time left down considerably.

Joey was able to keep the fast pace for another seven minutes before he had to slow down once more; by now, his face was heavily damp, and he was panting hard, desiring a glass of water more than almost anything in the world. Still, he kept at it, knowing they were close, and with his friends encouraging him every step of the way, he knew, somehow, that he would be able to make it.

And then...at last, at long last, Yami told them to stop, a determined smile on his face as he nodded to the others. "We've made it," he said softly, glancing about at each member of the group. "Thanks to all of you, all of us, with our quick thinking and teamwork...we've made it through this impossible task...we've made it to the barrier."

Mokuba jumped up and down excitedly, a few stray tears sliding down his cheeks as he felt the feeling of success burst through his heart. They were going to save his brother...he was going to live...they had made it! Yugi looked pleased, a soft smile on his face as he glanced over at the gasping Kaze, while Joey, though still panting, gave his friend a wink and nodded, a determined grin on his face.

Yami nodded back to him, then turned to face outward, away from the radius that they had just escaped. "I will open a Shadow Realm gate, then," he said, stretching out his hands as he dipped, once more, into the powers of the Millennium Puzzle...and found it nearly empty.

"No!" he gasped, startled, as he attempted once more to pull together the magics to open the gate from the Shadow Realm; but there was almost nothing there, not enough magic to create even a hole the size of a pinhead, and he was shocked. "I can't believe it...I've drained my magic..."

"What's going on?" Mokuba asked, frowning worriedly. "How come we're not leaving? My...my brother...he needs help!"

"I can't get us out of here!" Yami hissed, attempting once again, with no success, to break through the Shadow Realm to the real world. "I don't have enough magic!" Nearly all of it had been wasted away on the shields, and the only reserves left that he had were those of his own soul material a choice that he disregarded immediately. That was how his Opposite had been driven crazy, and he had a feeling it would be extremely unwise to get himself Mad while trying to save several others' lives.

"You...can't...get us out?" the black-haired teen asked softly, whimpering a little and glancing over at his 'brother' once again. "We...we're stuck here?"

"That," Yami murmured softly, sighing as he finally gave up battering at the Shadow Realm barrier, "is exactly what I mean. We are trapped here."


Kaeru concentrated on the magic he had used hundreds of times before, both true and imitation Rings glowing hotly with blue, fiery radiance they always took on when dealing with Shadow magic. Raising his hand, he made the same slight motion as he had before while opening their own portal to the Shadow Realm, and instantly, in pure silence, another nightmare black disc sliced open in the air in front of them.

Seeing the disc had successfully opened, all five members of the group Tristan, Téa, Ryou, Kawari, and Kaeru tensed, preparing themselves for the possible exit of a dangerous monster. Kaeru had not allowed his magic in the Ring to disperse and still held it at the ready, while Kawari had a hand raised to his sheath containing Gin Hebi and Tristan's fists were clenched, ready to let fly one of his well known punches.

Nothing happened at first, and the portal simply sat there, as though waiting for something to pass through it; but then, without warning, something began to move inside of it. The Scroll hunting group couldn't see what it was at first it seemed to have some dark coloring in it that blended fairly well with the darkness of the Shadow portal but then, to their surprise, Mokuba popped out of the portal quickly, taking a deep breath when he reached the cool, calm morning air of the True Realm.

"Mokuba?!" Téa couldn't help but yelp, startled. "So it was out friends! I knew it! Are you okay, Mokuba?"

The black-haired boy looked startled at the sight of five of his friends gathered around the portal, blinking at the readiness each of them had, but then he nodded, turning back towards the portal to watch and looking heavily worried.

Ryou frowned. "Is something wrong?" he asked of the newest addition to their group, looking concerned.

Mokuba trembled a little and nodded. "You...you'll see in a minute," he whispered, still watching the portal anxiously. The others blinked in surprise, but at that moment somebody else began to slip through the portal towards them, and they focused their attention on it to see what exactly was worrying the poor younger Kaiba so much.

Joey was now striding through the portal, his head the first visible part of him as he exited slowly. At first they couldn't see what was wrong, but as more of Joey began to become visible, they could also see the limp head resting like a deadweight on his shoulder, the unconscious, unmoving form on his back a form that was very quickly evident as Kaze.

Kawari and Kaeru gave identical sounds of dismay at the sight of their leader, obviously wounded, and moved forward quickly to help as Yugi and Yami exited the portal last and the tomb robber allowed it to close behind them. Ryou, Tristan, and Téa were not far behind, each asking the exact same question: "What happened?!"

"Got attacked," panted Joey he was obviously exhausted, sweat dripping down his face. "Kaze fought it off and got hurt...bad." The others frowned, but recognizing Joey's fatigue, hastily helped to unbuckle the makeshift belt harness and lift the wounded Kaze off of him, allowing him to sit down and take a much-needed rest. The Blue Eyes they stretched out carefully on the scruffy grass, laying him down flat to relieve the pressure on his wound, and each one of the group members grimaced heavily at the pain-filled gasps that squeezed their way from the wounded teen's throat. Kawari and Kaeru were more used to the situation, but still looked worried at the sight of the blood-soaked bandages wrapped around his chest, and exchanged troubled glances.

"Thanks," they heard suddenly, and Kaeru, blinking, turned to face Yami. The Pharaoh had currently taken control of his hikari's body, unable to sustain his temporary one at the moment, but he did look grateful. "I couldn't get out of there, didn't have any magic left. Thank you for opening the portal and allowing us out."

Kaeru shook his head. "Forget it. We have more pressing things to worry about at the moment," he growled, turning back to his leader. "What attacked him?"

"A Queen Bird," Yami answered, frowning. "I wasn't conscious when he sustained the wound, but considering how the bird attacks, I would guess the chest wound was caused by the talons...the other wounds he has were minor in comparison."

Kawari frowned. "How bad is the major wound?"

Yami grimaced. "Look for yourself," he said quietly. "We need to remove those bandages to check on it anyway...it isn't good at all."

Kaeru frowned as well, taking a few extra steps to reach Kaze's side. Mokuba was already bent next to his 'brother,' carefully trying to remove the makeshift bandages without causing him any more pain, and Téa and Ryou had moved forward to help him.

After several minutes, the bandages had been completely removed and pulled back, revealing the hideous, twisted wound once again. Ryou looked shocked at the size of the wound, while Téa looked disgusted and whirled around, clamping a hand over her mouth to try and keep herself from vomiting. Kawari and Kaeru's eyes widened at the sight of it as well, unsure of what could be done about it without any of the proper equipment or experienced people there.

Mokuba looked up at the two yami spirits almost pleadingly, looking afraid. "Can you guys...save him?" he asked softly, glancing at the gasping Kaze. "We worked so hard to get him here...I don't want all that to be for nothing..."

Kaeru grimaced. "I don't have any healing magic," he said, shaking his head. "The Ring is one of the more destructive Items." He glanced over at Yami. "What about you? That Puzzle of yours healed over in our Realm..." here he glanced at Kawari before turning back to the Pharaoh. "Think you have the magic it'll take?"

"If I do," Yami said, looking exasperated, "I don't know about it yet. And at any rate, Yugi discovered a way to heal minds, not physical ailments. I don't think I alone have the ability to heal that wound."

"Shit," Kaeru cursed, glancing over at his leader once again. Kaze's breathing was getting the slightest bit shallower, and he looked far too pale for his own good, causing the blue-gray in the tips of his fingers to stand out greatly. "We can't just let him die, the entire Negative Realm is relying on him!"

The Pharaoh sighed. "If you have any other suggestions, I'm well open to them," he replied. "I honestly have no idea what to do." He looked grim.

Téa watched the whole discussion with a heavy feeling beginning to grow in her heart, positive that the Negative in front of her was going to die within a matter of minutes. She was so focused on the situation itself, that it nearly made her jump out of her skin when her cell phone, of all things, began to ring; she'd had it replaced after her old one had been smashed at Battle City some time ago, but had totally forgotten that she had brought it with her. Startled, she considered ignoring it for the moment the situation was far too important for her to risk idle chatter from some family member but after the fourth time it began to ring persistently, she began to grow aggravated. Grabbing the coat Joey had discarded (it had been bloody from carrying the injured Kaze for so long) she wiped her own hands clean on it they had been stained when she had helped with the removal of the bandages and hastily grabbed the phone, checking the ID and blinking in surprise before hastily answering it.

The caller was Seto Kaiba.

"Kaiba?!" she spoke loudly, sounding surprised. "What are you calling my cell for?"

The reply sounded irritated. "Kawari's been ignoring that earring communicator of his," the True Kaiba snapped. "The....other Joey," he hissed, continuing, though Téa was sure that he had quickly changed the words he'd been about to say, "decided to try, on a hunch, the cell phone number his version of Téa used to use. Apparently," he added rather dryly, "it's the same number."

"Oh," Téa responded, blinking, rather at a loss for words. The situation rather confused her; here she could hear a perfectly healthy Seto Kaiba through her cell, yet at the same time she was staring at another one, lying nearly dead only a few feet away from her. "Um.."

"Is that my brother?!" Mokuba asked, staring intently at Téa as if asking the question. She nodded, and his voice trembled a little. "I'm...I'm glad he's safe, at least..."

"Was that Mokuba?" Seto asked sharply at nearly the same time over the phone, sounding annoyed as usual, but with a hint of confusion. "Was he crying?"

"Yes, and I don't blame him," Téa muttered over the phone, watching the others trying to brainstorm a way to save the Opposition leader. "Kaze was wounded really badly in the Shadow Realm...the others aren't sure they can save him..."

"What?!" Téa could hear the replies of not only Kaiba, but Saguru in the background, as well. It must be on speakerphone or something over there, she found herself thinking vaguely, and then grew annoyed with herself at thinking such an unimportant thought at a time like this. "What do you mean they can't save him?!"

"They don't know how, and they can't think of any magic to heal with!" Téa responded, sounding worried. "It's a really bad wound, he must have been gored right in the chest or something...he's lost a lot of blood, from that injury as well as a few others, and he's so pale...they don't know if he'll make it, but as it stands he probably won't..." Téa had to stop, as her own throat was painfully tight now at the thought of a friend they had only just made dying so soon.

"We were right," Kaiba muttered on the other side end, but now he sounded worried. He was probably talking to Saguru, Téa mused. "That chest pain was the result of a wound on Kaze's part..."

"Yeah," Saguru muttered as well...his voice was a little louder, so he sounded closer. "Good luck, Téa. Tell the others to try anything they can. The Negative Realm can not afford to lose Kaze or we're all dead."

"Right," the girl responded shakily, nodding even though they could not see her. "I'll deliver the message. I'll....call you back when we figure out what happens," she offered, not knowing what else to do.

"Good...okay, go help them out now, hurry " Téa was just about to cut the conversation, when she heard Kaiba's sudden yell.


Startled, having rarely heard the True Realm CEO yell like that, Téa placed the cell phone back to her ear, startled. "Wh...what?"

"I just realized something. Hurry, put me on the phone with one of the spirits!" Kaiba ordered, voice urgent. Still surprised, Téa quickly got up and trotted over to Yami, the closest of the two spiritual beings, holding out the cell phone. "Yami...it's Kaiba...I think he has an idea of how to help..."

Yami blinked a little, just as surprised as Téa was at the idea of Kaiba ready to talk to even him to help, but then again it was his Opposite and he supposed the whole situation seemed a lot more urgent on his side. Frowning, he took the cell phone offered to him and held it to his ear, speaking curtly. "Yes?"

"The Scrolls. Do you have all the Scrolls?"

The ancient ruler couldn't believe him. His own Opposite dying and he decided to ask if they had gotten the Scrolls at a time like this?

"Are you crazy Kaiba?! How, by Ra, can you ask about those stupid Scrolls now? They're not important right now, and "

"You idiot!" Kaiba hissed back, even less polite than he usually was from impatience. "One of those Scrolls had healing spells, remember?! You announced the discovery yourself, that there was one healing spell that could revive anybody from anything but death!"

Yami's world seemed to slow down for a moment in disbelief and shock. Kaiba, of all people, the one who denied every magical existence, the one who refused to believe his own heritage, was the first person to realize the incredible use of the Scrolls beyond that of the Sealing spells. His mind went on to recognize the truth in the company-owning teen's words, before time sped up again and a solution seemed suddenly in sight.

"Perfect, Kaiba!" the Pharaoh yelled into the cell phone, before shoving it back at a surprised Téa and turning towards where he had tossed the bundle of weaponry and Scrolls that he and Yugi had been alternately carrying since Kaze had first been wounded.

"What is it, Pharaoh?" Kaeru asked, a little surprised at the sudden speed Yami seemed to have gained. "Something useful?"

"More than that, Kaeru," the ancient ruler said, as he began to shift through the pile of Scrolls, searching for the one he wanted. "Kaiba, of all people, has just given us an answer to this problem, if we can find it in time."

Kaeru blinked. "Are you serious?!"

"Would I lie, especially about something like this?" Yami shot back, tossing aside the Scrolls of Hatred and Passion quickly as he searched. His hand clasped around the Scroll he was looking for, and he stood triumphantly, holding it out in his hands. "Perfect! The Scroll of Desire. It had healing spells, remember? Now if I can just find the right one..."

Kaeru's eyes widened as he caught onto the plan, and he grinned suddenly, while Mokuba looked considerably cheered. "Kaze's gonna live! I knew my brother could help!"

Yami, meanwhile, had carefully yet quickly unrolled the Scroll of Desire, and was now skimming over the various types of healing spells, searching for the one he had seen before. After a few moments of precious time, he spotted it, and with a look of success, headed quickly over near the wounded Kaze and showed it to his fellow yami spirit. Kaeru eyed the spell as if it were pure gold, reading over the promise that the spell would heal anybody near death, and hoped that the Blue Eyes had that much time left for them to complete the magic. He was going fast, they had all noted grimly; now it was simply a race against time.

Yami gave a hiss of sudden dismay, frowning as he read over the details of the spell. Kaeru gave him a look as if to ask, "What's the matter?" and the former ruler, grimacing heavily, indicated a section of the Scroll and spoke.

"We need three power sources," he muttered softly, shaking his head. "I'm one...though admittedly a weaker one, my magic is only just starting to come back...and you're the second. We don't have a third source of magic, and because of that, we can't complete the spell." He looked grim.

Kaeru blinked, then frowned, as though considering something in his mind. After several moments, he finally sighed and spoke, though his voice was low. "Kaze," he murmured softly, "has his own source."

Yami looked surprised. "What?"

"Kaze has his own Egyptian source, similar to ours," Kaeru said once more. "We can draw it out and use it, if we have to...and obviously, we will have to."

The Pharaoh looked shocked. "But how can he "

"Later, Yami," Kaeru hissed, voice urgent as he glanced around at the others nobody else besides Kawari, near his own yami, seemed to have heard what the tomb robber had said. "We need to help Kaze now. Kaze can, and probably will, explain later, if you ask him."

The former ancient ruler nodded. "Very well," he agreed. "Shall we perform the spell, then?" he added, lifting the Scroll once more.

Kaeru nodded, turning momentarily to his hikari. "I'll need to take control for this, aibou," he said, even as his temporary body faded out of existence. Kawari nodded and patiently waited until his mind was gently pushed aside, and then Kaeru stood in his place, Ring glowing once more in preparation.

Yami's Puzzle, though still a little weak from the entire ordeal in the Shadow Realm, began to glow as well with a golden light, and between the two they managed to draw out Kaze's source as well, pooling it into their combined reserves. After a few moments of allowing their magic to build, the two slowly began to chant the verses that made up the spell, speaking phrases in the Ancient language that no others there could understand. Despite that, each and every remaining Scroll hunter there stared anxiously at the two spirits and the wounded one at their feet, waiting to see if something would happen...if a life would be saved, or if it would be lost.

At first, nothing did happen, and Kaeru and Yami finished their chanting with a flourish, tearing their eyes away from the Scroll to stare down at their fallen friend urgently. A gaping, twisted wound still remained in his chest, which was barely rising and falling now in the failing struggle for breath. Frowning worriedly, the two glanced back at the Scroll, but they had performed everything perfectly...what on Earth could have been going wrong?

And then, as if it had caught up to the chanting of the spell, the Scroll of Desire suddenly flashed, a small burst of wind seeming to explode from it as it absorbed all the energy used in the spell and began to do it's work. The smaller scars, bruises, and wounds went first, the slashes on the Blue Eyes' arms and legs hissing and disappearing in small wisps of mist, before the magic spread to the worst wound of them all. The seven remaining watched in awe as the blood pooled around Kaze's chest began to trickle back up towards the wound, melding to reform skin, which stretched itself over bones that replaced themselves with loud cracks. The ribcage completely reconnected itself, once again protecting the healed organs and innards that had slipped themselves quietly back together. At last, with a final flash from the Scroll, the skin finished knitting itself back together, leaving nothing behind but a network of scars that were the only remains to speak of the terrible wound that had been there only moments earlier.

The Scroll of Desire snapped itself neatly back together in Yami's hands and sat there innocently, as though it had never healed anybody so close to death before, while the spirit, along with everybody else, stared in surprise at the amazing display that they had just seen. Yet, despite the healing that the injured teen had just undergone, Kaze did not wake up.

Frowning, the Scroll hunters took a few steps forward towards the prone figure without even realizing it, staring anxiously at the Blue Eyes as though hoping he was simply playing some joke on them. Mokuba, looking worried, murmured softly, "We weren't too late...were we?"
Yami frowned, giving the teen a sad look as he separated from his hikari, Kaeru releasing Kawari's mind as well. "I'm sorry Mokuba...we may have healed the body while the soul was departing, and " but he froze suddenly, whipping his head around to stare at the Opposition leader on a sudden hunch, watching intently.

There was silence for several seconds, in which nobody moved or made a sound...and then, to everyone's delighted surprise, Kaze's eyes snapped open.

A cheer went up almost instantly from everyone in the group, but Kaze didn't appear to hear them; he had rolled over on his side, gasping and choking, and began to cough hard, spilling blood to the ground as he did so it was the remains of what had still been lodged in his throat. After several minutes he finally quieted and flopped tiredly onto his back once more, panting slightly with his eyes half-closed, but undoubtedly alive.

"What..." he began slowly, his voice raspy. "What the hell happened?"

All nine of the fellow Scroll hunters stared down at him for a minute, most grinning from ear to ear at seeing him alive (Kaeru and Kawari smirked) and then, at the same time, all of them burst out speaking, beginning to tell him the whole tale from beginning to end in one jumbled mess.

Kaze winced at the massive headache he was beginning to get, and his mood much resembled that of his opposite's in his weariness. Grimacing, he finally snapped angrily, "Everybody shut up. Only one person tell me....you go ahead, Mokuba..." Grinning a little at seeing his 'adopted brother' alive, the younger Kaiba began to explain the whole thing in detail, pausing only for confirmation from Joey, Yugi, or Yami on a few minor things.

Kaze listened patiently to the story, unable to do much else at the moment, too weak to do anything but lay there quietly. After the story had been told, however, he nodded quietly and turned his head towards his fellow group members. "Thanks," he murmured slowly. "I'd be dead if it wasn't for you. I owe you all."

Yugi nodded. "Of course we'd help you!" he answered cheerfully, his yami nodding next to him, while Joey grinned and waved it off with a quick, "Forget about it."

Sighing, the Negative pulled himself to a sit slowly, feeling a little dizzy he was still very tired but otherwise able to manage without much trouble. Thinking suddenly, he asked, "what happened to the center of this whole mission?"

"Huh?" Mokuba asked from his side, having moved forward hastily when his brother sat up but realizing the Negative needed no help. "What do you mean?"

"The Scroll," the Opposition leader responded slowly. "Do we still have it? And...did it have the final clue?"

Yami responded by heading back to the pile of Scrolls that they had left nearby and pulling free their latest acquisition. "It's still here," he assured, unrolling it as he did so....and pulling free the final clue. "And the last verse was in the Scroll of Death."

"How ironic," the Blue Eyes commented dryly. "I nearly die to get the Scroll of Death." He snorted, then rather abruptly tried to stand.

"Woah!" Tristan yelped in surprise, leaping forward hastily as Kaze swayed, unsteady on his feet. He grabbed the taller teen's arm and steadied him, while Joey, well rested by now and the only other one there closest to the Negative Seto's height, offered support from the other side. Kaze looked slightly disgruntled at having to be helped with such a simple thing as standing, but allowed them to swing his arms around their shoulders to keep him upright.

Kawari chuckled. "I think you're sitting the next Scroll out, Kaze," he said, smirking a little. "A Kuriboh probably has more fight in it than you do right now." Kaze growled at the comment, but after nearly mistepping with support from Joey and Tristan, he admitted his current weaknesses and allowed their help without complaining.

"We should probably all head back to the mansion," Yugi suggested, thinking a little. "We can meet up with Kaiba and Saguru, Kaze can get some rest there, and we can share the final clue with them. Besides," he added, as an unnaturally chill wind gusted past and sent his blonde bangs flipping in the wind, "it looks like a storm's going to come soon anyway, and we should probably get inside."

Joey blinked up at the sky from where he was standing, helping the Negative Kaiba stand. "You're right," he admitted, frowning at the unusual dark, almost black clouds that were obstructing the beautiful remnants of the sunrise, now. "I'd like to go back home and change first, though," he added. "I'm covered in blood." He grimaced a little.

Yugi nodded; his own sleeves were a little bloody from where he had helped change bandages. "Yeah, that's true. Same here."

Kaze frowned. "Sorry about that..."

"Hey, it wasn't your fault!" Yugi argued. "It wasn't something you could control, after all." Kaze sighed, but nodded in agreement.

Téa snapped her fingers. "I've got an idea," she said calmly, grinning a little. "I'll go get the car we parked not too far from here, right guys?" Tristan, Ryou, Kawari, and Kaeru nodded, and she continued. "I'll pull up here, and give Joey and Yugi rides to their houses. I can also drive Kaze and Mokuba to the mansion, so Mokuba can get a change of clothes too, and Kaze can rest. The rest of you can walk back, and we'll start up the Scroll hunt again in about an hour. Sound good?" The others nodded, and she trotted off towards the car, hair blown by another unnaturally strong, chill wind and causing her to stumble sideways a pace before she caught her balance.

Ten minutes later, she returned with the 'borrowed' car, and Kaze was helped over to it, slipping into the back seat and relaxing into it slightly as he got a chance to rest. Mokuba sat next to him in the middle back seat, while Yugi sat on the other side and Joey took the front (Yami had returned to his soul room to make the transport easier). With a final wave, the brown-haired girl drove off and the others began the hour-long trek back to the mansion, carrying with them a bundle of knives and six mysterious Scrolls, wondering just how strange-and difficult the final Scroll and its Challenge would be.

The race against time... for Time... was on.


HCG: AAAND...that's a wrap! For this chapter, anyway. Rather short for me, once again (21 pages of story) but I was actually expecting this one to not have a lot to it, so...[shrug] It all works out!

Kawari: Fortunately for you. Otherwise you'd be charred Authoress on a stick.

HCG: Yeah, I know. See? See?! He lived! Your favorite resistance leader's alive, so don't kill me, for pete's sake! And no getting mad at me for any medical mistakes, like I said. I enjoy living. I really do.

Kawari: [rolls eyes]

HCG: [sweatdrop] ANYway. Shall I get onto answering the reviews? Yes, but first, A BIG NOTE. A few of you lately have been complaining about my reviewer responses. I won't say names, but you know who you are. Now, here's the deal. I'm sorry if I don't respond to your review, but you know what? There are a lot of you, and I'm not wasting valuable space on my computer and time in my life to respond to some of the junk some of you say. If you have a question, I'll answer it. If you have a worthwhile comment, I'll respond to it. But if you say nothing, I won't either, and I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT IT. I do this on my own time for your amusement, people. It takes me several hours to get through you all, and I don't want you bitching because I spend my valuable time answering you guys when I DON'T HAVE TO. The same goes for if I've ANSWERED your question already via email and don't want to repeat myself; I'm not babying any of you, nor am I trying to treat you as less of a person. Finally, my responses are NOT favoritism. I don't answer the people I like the best. I answer if a person had something interesting to say. So, sorry if this note seems rude, sorry if I offended you, but that little message needs to be heard, or I'm going to drop responses altogether, got it? Good.

Thunder Pichu Why, look, another Kawari fan. Heh heh heh. Actually, though, I have to thank you for noticing that he's a HUMAN character, not a super-human, unbelievable, shallow thing. I've put a lot of work into Kawari's character and I'm glad he has some depth to him. You actually have all the NR Soundtrack songs? Heh, that's interesting...that means you must have seen my CD cover somewhere.... Yes, I do agree with you that there's too many characters in the story, which is something I dislike. I'd rather work with only a few, like I did in STL. Unfortunately, all the characters play some purpose in NC, for reasons that have already been seen, as well as have yet to be seen, and so I can't take any of them out. [siiiiigh] It's annoying, but I'll try to do my best with it. Oh, and thanks for the belated B-day wish.

Silver Dragon Gold Dragon Yes, that's exactly my point. I just don't understand how Téa can run around, dance like mad, and escape death/soulessness/other random evil things in all these high heels and platforms. And yes, I do also wonder how she beat Johnny Stepps...and he kept tripping her and stuff too, didn't he? Wow, dancing AND dodging AND landing suddenly. I wish I had her skill with shoes.

Sylvia Viridian Heh, you think this fic is depressing? Wait until I get some of my other totally-NR-centered fics out...you'll be bawling and searching for any sort of sugar to get your spirits up, XD. I thank you, however, for the comments. Bakura being protective isn't as much of a shocker? Hmm, well, if you're basing that off of a lot of those "Bakura has a Change of Heart (no pun intended)" fics, then yeah, I suppose so. But he's never been nice to Ryou from the moment the two met up, eh? I bet I can safely say that, right? And I'm pleased I can help your Author's Instinct get some training, heh heh.

Silver Dragon, Iron Claws [gives DWyrm cough drops] Hope that one gets better...anyway, I love sword fights too (obviously) Kawari dirk fighting kicks arse! Meh heh heh! And thanks also for the belated B-day wishes!

sonicshadowfreak Will Bakura become good in this story? Sure. When hell freezes over. Sorry, but it's not really in Bakura's nature to suddenly become good because there's another guy just like him who is. If, and this is stretching it a little, he is, say, influenced by the Kawari/Kaeru team and how well they get along, he still wouldn't change immediately; it would take some time. Bakura doesn't have the magical ability of instant personality change, and it takes some time to erase habits that are several millennia old. Oh lord, you gave him a Platinum Flamethrower? Are you MAD? [watches him burn the crap outta all HCG's story notes and doodles] Aaagh! NOOOOO!

Ohime-Yukigi Fifth time rereading? That's a lot. And this is a long fic too. 311 and 1/2 pages, size 12 font. And it isn't done yet. Oh, and I've read the first two chapters of your fic (that's all I've had time for of late) but I thought it was very good so far; it's interesting the similarities we've had, while at the same time both having unique, different twists. I'll have to get back to it when I get the chance. Don't forget the disclaimer, though.

Sakura30 Awww...[gives Little Yugi a hug] Cuuute...ooh, cast torture...[cackles evilly and rubs her hands together] I'll have to take up the offer someday...

LoneWolf16 Aw, I've done that...reviewed the wrong chapters, had my reviews cut short because using the wrong symbols, you name it, I've done it. I didn't even notice, XD. So no problem. Heh, yeah, I myself liked the idea of Saguru calling Kaze "boss." He is loyal ([cough] a loyal ikkle puppy, but don't let either Kaze or Saguru hear that [cough]) and in more ways than one; when Kaze is busy looking out for everybody else but himself, Saguru's making sure Kaze's looked out for as well. [nodnod] He's a good second, he is he is. Yes, I have been forcing poor Kawari to go through lots of mazes of late, haven't I? I'm so mean. There shouldn't be any more for now...unless I throw this LABYRINTH WALL CARD at him and....er, on second thought, I don't think I will because I like having my heart in my chest. To be more serious though, Kawari probably WOULD try to take his yami's advice, but can you blame him for fearing mazes? He was stuck in one for 19 months and then it nearly killed him, I'd probably be a basket case if I had to put up with that. Then again, I don't think I woulda made it as long as he did, but...eh... Yes, Yami is noble, self-sacrificing, and also stupid. Yes, you'd think being the King of Games would have made him think of that, but then again, I suppose he also didn't have to lead three extra people through a currently agitated Shadow Realm that's trying to overflow at the same time. [shrug] Oooh, smart you, did you catch the hints at the beginning of the big bang in this chapter? [grin] Let's see if you did...Yes, Custos is a much more likable fellow. And both he and Kanshinin are mortal, but not in the same sense as, say, Yugi or Kawari is. They have...drawn out lives, we'll say, for simplicity; they're on a different level, not quite spirits (I mean, as long as their items aren't destroyed or their purpose finished, I suppose theoretically Yami or Kaeru could live forever, right?) but not exactly limited, 100 years max mortals. Yes, he has traveled to other Realms before, you'll understand why at the end of the fic Um....road trip...random… I agree with you, for all Téa's claims of training for dancing, she never does dance. And I think you have no idea how hard it is to get some sort of grace/dance challenge in the SHADOW REALM of all places...it took me ages to come up with that basic idea, and I still don't' think it was that good. XD, music of the Shadows...didn't you hear, there's a Shadow Realm Soundtrack coming out soon. [snicker]

Okay, now the Kawari sword battle stuff that you mentioned is something that I've been considering for a while, and I think you just misunderstood what I wrote. When I said that the blade's edge was cutting into Kawari's palm, I didn't mean that he was holding it with the serrated edge facing INTO his palm. The flat of the blade was. However, (and I suppose you COULD experiment with this, but be careful [sweatdrop]) if you take something like a knife, hold the flat of it in your palm, and then press and put a lot of pressure into it, the serrated edge(s) would eventually reach a point where they're rubbing up against your skin and could cut you. Now consider that this was happing to Kawari while something a good three times stronger than him was smashing with full force at his little bitty Gin Hebi. This will definitely ensure that the pressure is so great that the edge cuts into his hand even if the flat IS what he's using to block. And yes, for most blades you DO use the forte (the thick base of the blade) to block, but also keep in mind that the European dirk was originally created for DEFENSE. Which means it is a very stout blade that can take a lot of damage without actually being broken. Learning to have a good defense can allow you to get a stunning attack. The dirk transferred from a defensive blade to a defense-and-speed blade. The best other example I can give of this is Rurouni Kenshin's Aoshi and his blade style (see vol. 4 if you haven't, or watch the show). Although it's a Japanese blade, his style has the same basic idea. And yes, like you said, it is very stupid to cross blade with blade, you damage your weapon that way. Did that, perhaps, clear things up for you? I think you may have just miss-read that section of the battle.

WOW, that was a loooong review response. But then again, you leave long reviews. [nods] Anyway, hope you enjoyed this chapter…don't get TOO nitpicky about my medical messups, eh heh… See ya!

Seeky L. H. Wolf No, I'm afraid I don't know what "oy vey" means. I did at one point, but I've forgotten. It's something a friend of mine used to say all the time, and I unconsciously adopted it into my own speech patterns, which then translated to my writing. I haven't offended you, have I? Kawari's your one true love, eh? You've got massive competition, you know. Hey, you know what's funny? When I first got your review, I didn't get the "No Dead Piro Days" comment at all....but now I do! Yay me! XD

silvermuse89 You think the NR Challenges are harder? That depends on how you look at it. Perhaps from the perspective of somebody who DOESN'T fight a lot, it WOULD seem unfair, but Kawari gets into brawls on a regular basis and it probably didn't seem as unfair to him as it would to you. He probably hated Ryou's Challenge more; now THAT, to him, was unfair. And part of Ryou's Challenge was not only get them through the maze, but to keep Kawari going through it the whole time as well. Custos is nice, but he's also smart, and knew that would be a big Challenge for Ryou. As for Téa's Challenge...I can tell you right now, I woulda been swiss cheese. I suck at dancing. It takes somebody with great skill to pull of something like that. As for my battle scenes, thank you! A lot of people seem to like them. Rurouni Kenshin, I haven't been able to see the anime but I've got all the manga volumes that have come out so far (in English, anyway...) and they ARE good. The Kyoto arc? I think that's starting up soon in the manga, so I can't wait to read it, now. You want more card duels? Well, there probably won't be any more in THIS fic, other than ones mentioned in passing...I've got all the notes set up, and there's only three chapters left to this fic before it's over, so....however, I'll take into consideration that duels are desired. Perhaps I can fit one in later, or maybe have a separate story altogether for them (a friend of mine did request a card tourney with the NR's involved in it...). How is Custos a mortal? I would suggest going up to LoneWolf16's review response and reading what I already wrote there about him. And thank you for the B-day wishes. Good luck on your Global essays, heh heh...

Asiu Unmei most likely isn't consoled, although I wouldn't know...by now he's back with WSJ again. Actually, for a time I had both Unmei AND Chiot, although Chiot wasn't very useful as far as getting a writing mood...mostly he just got in the way, so I sent him back to help out WSJ. I just kept him out of her hair long enough for her to write without any argument from him, heh heh. So now you know what's up with Kaze; satisfied? I should hope so. He lives! [mysterious voice] Many things travel through the thought/mind link...but you'll see later, in a chapter or two...[grin] XD, Kawaii-kun...don't let Kawari hear you calling him that...[snicker] Yes, Yami Bakura is one of my fave characters as well, although I'm much more protective of MY KAWARI than I am a fan of Yami B, so if he starts bugging my char...oooh, he's gonna GET it. [cracks knuckles and pulls out Authoress Pen version 2.0 warningly] Custos is Latin, it also means Guardian, just like Kanshinin does in Japanese. And to answer your other question, Kanshinin's father was Custos' brother; Custos and his brother served as the Guardians for the Keeper-only-knows how long, and Custos' brother passed away recently ("recently being sometime in the past 400 years or so, XD). Custos is due to pass on soon as well, at which point somebody else'll take over his job for him. Kawari and Kaeru ARE competitive, but keep in mind that Kawari IS Kaeru's reincarnate; as my friend put it, it's Kaeru and 'Little Kaeru' (odd, but somehow it makes sense…) XD, the "...are all these Negatives just a little bit crazy?" line has to be one of my faves in that chapter, it just makes SENSE somehow. Oh yes, I agree that Anzu gets bashed too much. Admittedly she's not my fave character, but come on, she's a lot better than the dub makes her out to be! She's not all friendshippy in the manga, she's cool in the manga. So yeah, I'm glad I could give her a good part. A great uncle in Vietnam? Yeah, I've heard stories like that too. Can you imagine what shape half these NR's are gonna be in by the time this war gives up? Thanks for the B-day wishes, also. A Negative me? Yeah, I've thought about what that'd be like. Terrible writer, much more of a temper, very outgoing, crappy in school and great in physical activity and sports. WHOO, that reply was long! Sorry it scatters around so much…

Liviania Ooh, you're learning blade throwing? Lucky. I got my friend Alex to tell me about some blade throwing techniques, but I've never gotten to try it, myself...[pout]

Aitwo [sweatdrop] Something tells me I don't wanna know how Yuugi "asks" things...er, but I'm glad you've gotten past the cruel-ness and got to see what happened to Kaze...hope you enjoyed!

Oracle Mizuno OOOH, flags! Ooh, noisemakers! Aw, come on Kawari, get into the belated birthday and updating spirit!

Kawari:....rather not, thanks...

HCG: [annoyed look] you are such a pain.

Windswift Ah yes, Kaiba usually is the genius, but Saguru's been around Kaibas so long he can think like one! [gasp] Oh, the strangeness of it all! Yes, Bakura decided it was high time he got his entrance into the story again, but unfortunately...he has craptacular timing...[shakes head] Yes, Rurouni Kenshin is an excellent sword fighting source! As I said before to another reviewer, Aoshi and his style has the same basics that Kawari's style does...the idea of a short, controlling blade that is made for defense seizing control of the whole battle. [nodnod] Very good! Thanks for the B-day wishes. Enjoyed this, I hope? See ya!

NeoChaosCrystal You wouldn't get between Kawari and the exit to a maze, but you WILL lock him in a closet. [raises eyebrow] I dunno, that seemed pretty not-smart to me...XD, everybody's pitying Kawari after this fic...strange. He sure ain't happy. Kawari doesn't much like pity. Er, I wouldn't suggest capturing any NR, but if you had to choose one I'd say Kaze or Saguru, both are a lot more laid back (just as long as you give Kaze his coffee...) Anyway, did you enjoy? I hope so...

Nachzes-Black Rider No, I didn't get the apology email, but that's okay. I noticed that you took down the theme songs that concerned me, so I'm totally fine with it now. And stop groveling, I hate when people do that.

bakurakrazie No, I didn't muse-nap. WSJ asked me to take Unmei and Chiot off her hands for her because she had too many muses, and I was more than happy to oblige. I like Unmei's pony-tail though....[drool]....

Wingleader Sora Jade I didn't mind looking after Unmei for ya. Had fun in Mexico, right? Didn't drink the water? XD. Sorry to hear about the bootleg Yu-Gi-Oh cards though...that's a bummer. I enjoyed playing with Unmei's hair, if it's any consolation (though...I doubt it...). Yes, I LOVE evil cliffies, but only when I'm the one writing them, heh heh heh. Yes, as I said before, Téa's Challenge was exceedingly difficult to come up with...her strength was obvious, it was dancing, but HOW can you get a person to dance in the Shadow Realm? SRDDR MONSTER TOURNEY! XDXDXD. Hey, do you think I'd LEAVE Kawari with a busted arm? He needs it for later in the fic....you'll see why. [evil grin] And yes, the poor guy hated the maze with a passion, but it's not like you can blame him. And Bakura better watch it or he WILL get double teamed by Kawari and Unmei, and BOY will it be PAINFUL then. [nods] Anyway. I hope you're satisfied with Kaze living...[sweatdrop] see, I wouldn't kill him, just make him suffer a little...[whistles] Oh, and I've read your latest chapter, but if I don't review any time soon, I'm sorry. I don't have enough time to… SorrySorry!

Daricio What could have Kaeru so tired that he's resting? Hey, remember he IS still a person. He may be a spirit, but he DOES need to rest, even though he probably doesn't have to as much as a mortal does. [shrugs] What language does the Dark Magician speak? I'm assuming Egyptian also (if you go by what I made up) although it would probably understand a few phrases in Japanese too, since Yugi uses it so much. Yup, I had all the Bakuras purposely go after the Scroll of Fate...just a fun little random thing that I tossed in as a connection...though no Fate herself. I agree, if it was ME I'd go on Challenges in my sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt, but Téa...is not like most normal people, I guess. Hey, she's the one who decided to go roughing it during Duelist Kingdom in a pair of high heeled boots and a mini skirt. [shrugs] I overused the word "Gracefulness"? Hm...I didn't have my thesaurus with me at the time...and my internet had been screwing up because my computer is turning into a piece of junk, but...I'll have to make sure to keep an eye out for things like that, thanks. Nobody ever kills the bishies? I wouldn't say that's quite true, I did kill three main characters in my last story [raises eyebrow] Nearly four, if you count Kawari.

Now to the more serious stuff from your review. Firstly, I say I own the Negative Realm and all related ideas and theories, because, I came up with them. I have no problem if somebody else has their own ideas about alternate Realms and such, but I don't like it if somebody basically copies the NR or one of my highly detailed theories to a dime and tries to pass it off as theirs. A LOT of Realm stories that I've seen of late are based off mine, with very few exceptions (many people ask me for permission, THAT I know). As for getting mad about the Realm Guardian story that you mentioned as an example of my "over possessive ness," well, do try to see it from my side as well. Not even a week after a person reviewed for my story, they write their own Realm story with a few paragraphs in it that practically were mirror reflections of my own, with few exceptions. I may have overreacted a little, but I worked HARD on these Realm stories and theories, and I don't want somebody to pass them off as theirs without working for it, because that just isn't fair. As for you not getting a response to your last review...I believe I sent an email to you about this also, but if you didn't get that, here's the shortened version: I had thought that I had explained all your questions from the previous review in an IM, so I didn't want to re-type everything again when I thought you had already gotten the answers. It wasn't that I was trying to play favorites or look at one person as a 'bigger fan,' it's that I was under the impression I had answered your questions already, while I hadn't answered Ebony Kuroneko's and commented on HER review. And finally, I am not trying to think less of you or belittle you. Questions are good and I don't care how many you ask because I like answering them. So I'm sorry if you misunderstood or misinterpreted what I was saying (or more likely, what I didn't say) but I had no intent for it to come off the way you took it.

trefenwyd12 You want me to add more Kawari angst? Well, I would, but I like staying alive and I'm sure Kawari would kill me if I wrote more. I had to hide in a box for a week after I posted CVP, and that was pretty mild. Bring Bakura out more often because you like him showing up and being a bastard? O...kay...more angst and more Bakura. If I suddenly stop posting any time soon, it's because all my characters have killed me [grimace]

crazydominodragongirl Yeah, the Change of Heart didn't like him. The NR Change of Heart can be rather snooty. XD. It won't respect anybody who doesn't deserve it. On the flip side, anybody it thinks is worth protecting, it'll guard to the end. Yes, I enjoy torturing Kawari. Some days I think I created him for that purpose. I'm evil. w00t. [sweatdrop]

SugarHighNeko Ooh, gifts! [cheerfully looks at all the tracking devices on her muses, and then smirks evilly and puts the steel box in the center of the room as a warning for misbehaving muses] Thanks for the gifts, they'll be useful...oh, don't be jealous, there's nothing to be jealous of!

Ebony Kuroneko Ooh, say thanks to Nozomi for shutting Bakura up. No laughing at Kawari for his fears! The poor guy doesn't deserve that...sometimes...[sweatdrop] Yes, Kawari's gonna need billions of dollars' worth in therapy by the time we're done with him... NCC better have a nice amount of cash stored away...[sweatdrops again] Ooh, my Kaze's back! [glomps...spills his and hides behind Kawari so Kaze doesn't kill her] Er...Small Troubles is about half way done, if I ever get into a comical mood I'll keep working on it...[cough] So...yeah.

HCG: And that's it for the review responses! Hell there are a lot of ya....[falls over, exhausted] Anyway...[curls up with her Reshef of Destruction Yu-Gi-Oh game and starts trying to duel her way through it, since she's had NO time to play it since the game came OUT] Must...find...Millennium Items!

Kawari: Psycho...


Kaeru: [dry look] No kidding...


Kaze: [siiigh] [shakes head]

HCG: [gets beaten by some random guy on the street] .......NOOOOOOOOOO! EVIILLLL! WHY CAN'T I WIN, KAZE?!

Kaze: [dryly] It would help if your deck had a theme...

HCG: [gape] Then you play, you know how to! [shoves game at Kaze]

Kaze: [blink] [totally beats the game in about five minutes] [hands game back to HCG] That wasn't that hard...

HCG: [jaw drops] No faiiiiiiir.....

Kaze: [siiigh]

HCG: Anyway...I'll update next when I can, folks...there's only about three chapters left to write, and then this fic is over...[sniff] Until then, review, see ya, and KARMA-NESS!