Yu-Gi-Oh! and all its characters, are the legal and intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and any entities he has granted legal rights to. I claim no rights at all with my story. I greatly admire and feel gratitude to Mr. Takahashi for the amazing story and characters of Yu-Gi-Oh!

I humbly beg the pardon of Yu-Gi-Oh! purists, as I am basing this story on the Americanized version of the Duel Monsters story as aired by the KidsWB.

This story picks up where Rebellion (my first Yu-Gi-Oh! story posted here on fanfiction.net) left off.

Respect

Chapter One - Puzzle Labyrinth

"And so, we meet," he heard a voice say. Strange, he couldn't see anything. Perhaps Yami, the magic card creating darkness on the field, had been played before he had been summoned. No matter. He would wait until his master told him what action to take.

His master...

The image of a harlequin-masked face crossed his mind's eye. He shuddered.

"Give him a moment," a new voice suggested. This voice teased at his memory. It wasn't the voice of his master, but someone who...knew him, somehow. Strange! He wished he could remember. Memory, something about memory. He almost remembered speaking with someone about his memory... He shook his head. If only he could...remember...

A hand touched his shoulder. Memory bloomed in him at that touch. He'd felt that before! A touch mutely offering comfort. Why had he needed comfort?

Oh, yes! That duel, the one that had sent him to the Graveyard in the company of another Dark Magician. The one that had freed him from his former master, Arcana. The one that had made Yugi his new master.

"Who is that?!" The first voice exclaimed in surprise. "Apparently this won't be as simple as I had envisioned... Vision, I suppose that is going to be necessary..."

Light finally met his straining eyes. He was prone on the ground in what appeared to be an Egyptian tomb. Kneeling next to him, the one whose hand lightly touched his shoulder, was the Dark Magician who had traveled to the Graveyard with him in a blaze of mutual annihilation during the decisive duel between their masters. Yugi's Dark Magician. He pushed himself up on his hands so he could see more of the chamber. Also standing over him was...

"Yugi!" he breathed.

Purple eyes flicked over him, widening slightly as they took in the presence of the other Dark Magician. Those eyes smiled benevolently down on him.

"No," he stooped to grasp his arm. Between them, Yugi's Dark Magician and...whoever this person was, helped him to his feet.

"I am Yami, an ancient spirit who resides within Yugi now," he explained.

"Where...are we? Where is the your opponent? What am I supposed to do?" he asked.

Yami's mouth tightened that the proud Dark Magician had been so cowed by Arcana's intimidation.

"I sought only to make certain you would not harm Yugi when he plays your card. He has been wanting to, but I was concerned. Arcana has gone completely mad, true, but I didn't know if perhaps you were a plant of Marik's placed to harm Yugi. I had to make certain," Yami explained.

"I..."

Yami held up one hand. "You don't have to say anything. I used the power of the Millennium Puzzle to bring you here. We are in...my mind, the labyrinth whose pathways even I don't know anymore. But here, I can tell that you are not what I feared. You are instead a Dark Magician who has been dreadfully abused. Well, no more!"

"But you...how came you to witness this?" Yami turned to the other Dark Magician.

"I knew you would test him, before permitting Yugi to play his card," Yugi's Dark Magician responded serenely.

It took Yami a moment to assimilate all that the calm reply meant. "And how are you able to enter my mind?" Yami demanded.

"It appears I am already here." Yugi's Dark Magician smiled very slightly. "But that is a puzzle for another time, is it not? We are here for a different purpose." He turned to regard the other Dark Magician again.

"This will quickly become confusing, if we let it," Yami observed. He gazed up into the eyes of the Dark Magician who had been Arcana's. "Will you permit me to give you a name?"

A name?! A name! Something of his very own, Arcana would never have thought to give him something as personal and precious as his own name! Part of Arcana's intimidation tactics had been to belittle his Dark Magicians. In a million years he would never have given them their own names!

He nodded.

Yami smiled at him again. Smiled! A warm, genuine smile...at him! Not like the sneer in a duel, aimed at the opponent, that his master Arcana had most often worn. Was everything the other Dark Magician told him actually true?! Could he trust that he would be...respected, here?

"Until we learn more about you, would it be okay if I named you 'Akai'? It means 'Red'. And we could then refer to you as the Red Dark Magician in duels," Yami finally asked.

A personal name and a distinctive title?! This could not be happening! He nodded tightly accepting the name. 'Akai'...he had a name!

"I told you Yugi would respect you. It appears that Yami will too," Yugi's Dark Magician observed.

"Ah, yes. You." Yami turned to regard the other Dark Magician again. "Until now, we never needed a distinctive name for you, as you were the only Dark Magician," Yami started. His gaze traveled down, taking note of this Dark Magician's appearance, then up into his Dark Magician's eyes. "Given the purple armor you wear, it makes sense to name you..."

"I have a name," the purple Dark Magician interrupted softly.

Yami stared at him. "You do?" Nonplused, he blinked twice. "May I know what it is?"

"You will recognize it, my pharaoh." The purple Dark Magician bowed gracefully. "My name is Mahaad."

Yami stood stunned. Memories of his high priest and trusted friend poured into his mind at the name. What had happened that he would hear that name again now, from a card monster, of all beings? "Mahaad?!" Yami reached down and lifted the Dark Magician to stand and face him again. He stared for a long, incredulous moment up into the Dark Magician's face and finally recognized his friend. "Why did you never tell me?!"

Mahaad, the Dark Magician, crossed his arms in thought. It was his turn to become pensive. "I regret that had no way to inform you, my pharaoh. I must function as a card monster in Duels, so I could not break from the behavior expected of me enough to actually address you and let you know. This is the first time I had a chance to speak with you apart from the game." Mahaad gazed down at his own feet. "I...I could not helplessly watch as you and Yugi were injured, or worse, in the duel with Arcana. I had hoped after my sacrifice in that duel you would come to realize that I was still... But you have summoned me several times in duels since then. I presume you did not realize that I became...?" He opened his arms conveying the totality of his changed existence with the gesture.

"No, my friend. And I should have. I'm so sorry!"

"No harm has been done." He caught Yami's eyes very deliberately and smiled slightly. "Reading the most subtle clues was never your strong point."

Yami blinked up at his friend. "You are...teasing me?"

For an answer, the Dark Magician smiled a little deeper and nodded once.

Yami grinned. "If you are teasing me, then I know all is well."

Akai, the Red Dark Magician, spoke up. "Pardon me?" Yami and Mahaad turned to look at him. "I know that name, somehow...'Mahaad'...'Mahaad'... YOU! You are the first Dark Magician!"

Mahaad nodded.

"'First' Dark Magician?" Yami asked. "And the others know your name?"

"I am the one upon whom all other Dark Magicians are based. Of course each has his own spirit, but all of them have abilities exactly like my own in the game. So...I am...the first."

Yami stared again. "When, how...did this happen to you?! How is it you are here now, as a card, a monster in Duel Monsters?"

"I do not know. I presume the Dark Magician has been an active card monster since Duel Monsters' rebirth as a card game, but I was not aware of it. To me it seemed as if I 'woke up' the day Yugi solved your Puzzle. Since then, whenever Yugi plays his Dark Magician card, it is my honor to serve as his, and your, Dark Magician," Mahaad explained.

"You have trained him well, Yami, that he respects his cards as he does. Many things about Yugi remind me of you," Mahaad continued softly.

Yami smiled. "Thank you for the compliment! But, I can not claim to have taught Yugi that, Mahaad. Yugi is Yugi. My only influence on him has been to help him with the Shadow Games. The way he respects his cards, the fact that your card is his favorite, and how he treats everyone he meets, is all part of just how he is. I should know, as I now share his mind. He has his own darkness, but the balance of his mind is light."

"And so he helps you willingly in your ancient strife against the dark forces trying to take over the power of the Shadow Game," Mahaad approved.

While Yami and Mahaad discussed the import of what had happened to each of them, Akai realized that Mahaad, the other Dark Magician, had been able to act as more than a card monster in the duel against Arcana because under it all, he WAS more than just a card. So the power to act on his own will would not be anything that Akai could ever enjoy on the duel field, as he had secretly wished.

"He is more," Akai thought. "So much more, than just a card monster, but that is all I am. Arcana was right. I am just a pawn in someone's hand. I suppose it is an improvement if that hand is gentle. But from the sound of it, my card won't be used...I won't be active, much anymore. Yami, and probably Yugi too, favor the Dark Magician just because he is Mahaad. Whether they knew it or not, before today."

He looked over to where Yami and Mahaad continued their discussion. The way they stood next to each other, as if they would take on all the evil in the world and win somehow as long as they were side by side, clearly showed the friendship between them. Something in Akai yearned for that. He remembered how it had felt when his spirit appeared again on the dueling field after he had been so ingloriously sent to the Graveyard by his own master. He had stood shoulder to shoulder with Yugi's Dark Magician Girl, giving her all the power he was permitted to. At his other shoulder had been...the other Dark Magician, Mahaad.

"I am just a card. It is only because he is more, and he needed my help, that such an amazing thing happened. I'm...grateful that I got to see Arcana's face when he realized my involvement in his downfall...but, though I won't have to listen to grandiose speeches about fear and power controlling me anymore, it's going to be just the way it was. Yami respects Mahaad and Yugi respects his Dark Magician because HE is so much more than just a card monster...and a card monster is all I am."

Akai's face darkened even as his thoughts turned dark.

"My pharaoh, I have a request," Mahaad stated.

"Go ahead, my friend."

"Could you and Yugi, when you are not using the deck, store it in the Puzzle Box more often? I crafted that Box, if you recall. A considerable amount of my magic is 'archived' there. When the deck is in the Box, I am able to tap that power and we...your cards...are able to converse with one another. I suspect it is like the Shadow Realm or Graveyard, another dimension removed from this one, but much smaller, a pocket dimension. Only the monsters of your deck appear there." Mahaad explained. "This is something I've wanted to request for a long time."

Yami seemed stunned again. "I've learned so much today! The other cards...the other monsters...?"

"All of us are loyal to you and Yugi. But all the cards in your deck are much more than they ever appear to be in a duel," Mahaad told him.

"Of course we can store the deck in the Box. We will start right away! So...our 'card monsters' have will and...'life' apart from the duels. Interesting! But...what happens when we don't store the cards in the Box? What happens to you when we aren't dueling, Mahaad? You aren't just a card!"

"I sleep. Sleep, waking only to appear on a dueling field to fight for Yugi and returning to sleep when it is over." Mahaad told him simply. "I suspect it is the same for all your card monsters."

"A life of sleeping and dueling. Some might see that as an ideal life," Yami mused.

"We...do not."

"I suspect not. We will place the deck in your Box whenever we are not expecting to duel. It is...the least I can do for you, old friend!"

"Thank you, my pharaoh."

"You can't...I'm not... You can't refer to me as 'pharaoh' in duels, Mahaad."

"I know. I don't talk during a duel. Talking is not something a card monster does, but I always think of you as 'my pharaoh'. You must not call me 'Mahaad' in duels either. There, I am...the Dark Magician."

"It taxes Yugi when I use the power of the Puzzle like this," Yami admitted regretfully. "I wish we could talk more..."

Mahaad smiled again. "Harming Yugi is not something either of us wishes to do. It is enough that you know I still fight for your cause, my pharaoh." Mahaad told him simply.

Yami nodded. A sad smile touched his face, before he turned to regard Akai again. "I did achieve what I set out to do also. Akai, the Red Dark Magician, as he is no threat to Yugi, is a welcome addition to Yugi's deck. I will see you, both of you, in duels."

Mahaad's nod of acceptance was a shade quicker than Akai's. Yami smiled as both Dark Magicians faded from the labyrinth of his mind.

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Author's notes -

Oh dear. Please be gentle, as my knowledge of the actual (Japanese version) story is very weak. I expect that some, if not all, of what I write here will be in contradiction with the official story. I'm definitely writing without a net on this one!

With a bit of luck, and your patience, I hope to write a story based on some of the characters from Yu-Gi-Oh, that a reader might say 'it could be that way' as he or she reads it, even if it ultimately contradicts the official story. Hopefully, it will be a rather cool look at the relationships of Yugi and Yami to their cards, as well as the cards among themselves!

I have something of a shrine to the Dark Magician (my favorite card and character) on my site. There I have written everything I know about the Dark Magician and who I am led to believe he used to be 5,000 years ago in Egypt - Yami's high priest, Mahaad.

(For some reason, ff.net is stripping the URL. You will need to cut and paste the bit below to my main URL from my profile.)
/shrines/shrinedarkmagician.html

Reviews, comments and constructive criticisms are always welcome! Please feel free to email me also if you see something awkward that needs to be clarified or fixed. I need all the help I can get!

stargarde@stargarde.com