~~~~~~~~~~Epilogue: The Return of the King~~~~~~~~~~

~~~AUTHORESS'S NOTES~~~

I'm BBAAACCCCKKK!! *giggles hysterically* Miss me? Or at least my story? Sorry for the really really long delay. CWM took so much out of me that I just decided to take a break and like... sleep. ^_^;; That is, I WOULD if my school wasn't so intent on giving us all ulcers. -_-;; AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH I HATE HIGH SCHOOL!!

Okie dokey, this is chapter like 279 of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga (that's what the pictures are labeled, anyway O_o) and golly, I LUV this chapter! *squeal* Kazuki is a genius, really, and I can't imagine how he got all this stuff and made all these cool things! Anyway, most of the chapter is me trying to describe a comic strip, though I added lots of dialogue and twisted around some stuff. Therefore, if its not as you read or as you remembered, don't fret and just enjoy!

NOTE: I use 'Arabs' in here and describe them in a rather bad way, but I mean no offense! It might sound like I'm insulting those of Egyptian, Arabic or Islamic descent, but this is all more or less based on the manga so if you have anything to pick on about, pick on Kazuki. *runs away* Seriously, though, PLEASE don't take offense! As I mentioned, my best friend is Egyptian! And Islamic! And I still wuv her to bits!

~*~*~*~*~*~

"Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of a Pharaoh." ~old Arabic proverb

Red.

So much red...

...like an ocean of blood.

Everywhere you looked, there was red. It was all a dusty, faded crimson, but it still bore hints of the proud scarlet it once was in the age of the ancients. And by the heavens, the color was everywhere. On every rock, on every boulder, on every grain of sand... and under every footprint. It was unnerving.

But Lord, it was magnificent.

Below and around them rose proud cliffs the color of rosy dawn, faded and worn smooth. Still, it was not too hard to imagine where their massive girth might have reached in the age of the pyramid-builders. Even now, they still rose up to the heavens, stubbornly resilient to the wind that had howled at them for millennia. Here, the rocks were unique to the golden Sahara, bearing a rusty ruby hue rather then the dark golden-chocolate mix of the surrounding plateau. And if struck at just the perfect angle by a hot Egyptian sun, as was the situation here, these eroded walls of stone ignited into a dazzling waterfall of warm, cascading hues. Its only competition was the sky itself, now burning the golden-red of the purest flame. A flock of white birds glided past, their calls echoing off the valley walls as they fled toward the bleeding sun and the Nile that laid just beyond the uneven peaks. But even then, the bird calls disappeared, leaving a heavy, serene silence upon the place.

This was the Valley of the Kings.

Here, entombed for many lonely millennia, lay the once-mighty Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. And here, until recently, they slept in peace.

Sugoroku did not pride himself on about to become one of the many to disturb them. He did not pride himself on the fact that he would be trespassing through their ancient resting places, nor did he pride himself on his blatant ignorance of their ways.

In fact, Sugoroku didn't pride himself on much.

He was in this for the adventure. The ancients had a strange and clever nature of putting curses and traps in the sacred tomb of their kings, and Sugoroku wanted to challenge that. The Egyptians were not fools, he knew. No, no by a long shot.

"Here are the tombs of the Pharaohs, where darkness consumes all... even the soul." one of his guides was murmuring, doing a rather bad job in trying to frighten their 'tourist'. In fact, the Arab man didn't seem to be doing anything but frightening himself, judging by the nervous twitch in his eyes.

"Its not too late to back out," the other guide added, the older of the brother pair.

Sugoroku fought the urge to roll his eyes. These men were idiots, like most guides. He didn't really need one, let alone two, but his friends insisted that he not venture alone into the depth of the Valley. Judging by his luck in life, he ended up with these two losers here, whom apparently only knew as much as the books told them.

The two brothers were a strange pair; unshaven, dirty, and sniveling little men with their eyes fixed solely on treasure. They were dark skinned and dark eyes, though they seemed to be highly emaciated with their huge cheekbones and tiny beady eyes. And though they dressed in white Arabic garb, complete with the wrapped turban, Sugoroku doubted they were any bit of true Egyptian blood. Plus they had the I.Q of a rock.

He sighed, toying with his hat. He would tolerate them, for now, but he had a feeling that he would be just much better off alone.

"There are over sixty tombs here, but not many are left untouched by the thieves or archeologists," the older guide continued, eyes gleaming.

"Only one tomb has yet to be penetrated..." finished his younger brother, solemnly.

Sugoroku stopped trying to fix his hair and straightened, interest caught. This was why he was here, after all. 'KV 88...' His friends told him very little about this certain tomb, but it had fascinated him nevertheless.

"Since the beginning of the century, all but one had died in their attempts to open that tomb..." continued the small guide, voice barely audible, "That one man died shortly after, but he had gone far enough to decipher the Pharaoh's royal seal."

Sugoroku's gray eyes narrowed. "Yes...? And the name?" he demanded eagerly.

The guide flashed a glare at him, little eyes darting about almost in fear of being overheard in this lonely place. "Darkness..." he whispered finally, fearfully, "...His name was 'Darkness'."

Sugoroku grinned a roguish grin, flicking up his hat to reveal startlingly blond bangs. "Darkness... 'Yami'..." he translated quietly to himself, musing over the Japanese words. He felt a shiver of excitement. 'Sounds like a challenge...'

"I have to tell you one thing, though," the elder guide said, grinning as Sugoroku turned toward him. "Many have died going for that Pharaoh's gold. We're the only ones who'll risk going near his tomb, so we'll take you to the entrance. But no further." He shrugged, not looking too apologetic, "We will not risk our lives for you."

'I never asked you to, fool...' Sugoroku growled to himself. "I see..." he replied warily, frowning. "But I'm not interested in the treasure."

The guides looked at each other and raised an eyebrow at him, clearly not convinced.

Finally, the younger one spoke up again. "Alright then... We'll wait until dark. It is better to do this at night."

~*~*~*~*~*~

Night came fast, and soon the overwhelming heat of the Egyptian day was replaced by the breezy chilliness of a dark, cloudless night. The Valley turned nearly pitch dark, with only a faint line between the peaks of the distant cliffs and the darkening sky above them.

Leading their skittish camels carefully through the faded paths of the Valley, the three men made camp by a little shaded crevice in a large canyon wall. Quickly, to frighten off wild animals, the guides made a fire and fanned it wildly to life. It crackled and popped happily, a flickering fountain of red-gold flame leaping upward in a frenzied dance. It was welcomed in the quickly cooling night.

The gaurds sat close to each other and the fire to warm themselves, occasionally shooting Sugoroku with silent, skeptical glances.

The gambler ignored them. He dropped down to the ground, leaned against his bag and stretched his short limbs out on the cooling sand, tipping his hat over his eyes for a brief, short rest.

It wasn't terribly long before he jerked awake, blinding rapidly under his hat. For a moment, he froze, thinking that something was amiss. But no... No, all that had awoken him was a light breeze. 'Strange...' Not yet moving, Sugoroku strained his ears. He heard the quiet Arabic murmuring of the guards over the crackling of the fire, both of which were not out of place.

But wait... there, again, a wind, twirling and dancing around him... It was freezing. Well, Egyptian nights were always cold, but this tiny wind was so hauntingly cold... And it brought something that sounded strangely like distant murmuring, a mix of garbled voices raised to a language that Sugoroku could not understand. The words swelled passionately every time the breeze came closer, and faded away as it left... but either way, it never got louder then what seemed like a mental whisper.

Sugoroku shivered. It made him uneasy.

But at the same time, he didn't really fear it.

He stirred, making it dreadfully obvious of his awakening. The guides quieted, watching him intently as he pushed back his hat with a sigh. Sugoroku found himself looking upward at a beautiful starry night, pitch darkness broken by the mosaic of twinkling stars and the large crescent moon in their mists. The moon's light shimmered majestically down upon them, illuminating everything in silver where the fire could not.

Sugoroku grinned. "Ah. Time!" he chirped cheerfully. He sat up and found the two guides staring at him as if he had grown two heads. The man sighed inwardly as he climbed up, brushing himself off. 'Cowards.'

"You're dressed too well," the older guide said finally, and with a cheeky grin he pointed accusingly at Sugoroku's outfit. "That's not the kind of clothes you wear to raid a tomb."

The man addressed frowned at the choice of words, but kept silent. He raised an eyebrow and looked down at his tuxedo, its slick blackness matching the hat upon his head. "Heh, I'm dressed to play." He fixed his hat, carefully tucking in his violet-black streaks before fixing the two Arabs with an intense stare. "My interests are games. Cards... dice... chance...chess, even..." He flashed a grin. "But I'm looking for the ultimate game."

The guides stared blankly.

Sugoroku rolled his eyes and shrugged. "Look, I never lose. But if I ever do, I'll be sure to wear those sticky worker's clothes you're wearing." He smirked and stuck a cigarette in his mouth, inhaling deeply.

The big brother laughed, a high-pitched and disturbing laugh. "Sorry, but we're not interested in games." He grinned. "But I hope you have good luck, sir. You'll need it in the future..."

With that, he and his brother stood as one, both looking past Sugoroku's shoulder.

The tri-color haired man turned and followed their gaze, pursing his lips.

The massive cliffs came in rapidly now, slicing across great distances to hug a natural alleyway that led straight past them, far into the night. The path was worn and wide, though the farther it got from the fire, the less friendly it looked. The beautiful moon was conveniently placed right above the pathway, though it seemed like a warning beacon with its brilliant light.

Again, Sugoroku shivered. The path seemed too perfect... No doubt, it led straight to the dark Pharaoh's tomb. No doubt the Egyptians made it so wide and grand for a purpose. And no doubt it led to the deaths of so many worthy men.

Sugoroku shook his head, fighting a grin. Yup, there seemed like one hell of a ride in for him...

"Lets go," the elder Arab said, as they hauled their bags upward and doused out the fire.

Leaving their camels died down for the night, the three of them took off down the road without one more word or one look back, though Sugoroku could sense the worry radiating off his guards. He fought his own down, starting a brisk walk that hopefully could pass for confident. This was no time to chicken out now...

"There's a new legend in the game world..." he said suddenly, to break the uncomfortable silence.

The guides slowed, frowning at him as they continued to step daintily over ditches and stones.

Sugoroku continued on, eyes blazing passionately in the moonlight as his pace sped up with his excitement. "They said that in Egypt there's an very ancient, very dangerous game..." He chewed thoughtfully on his cigarette, blowing out the smoke only to watch it glide away with the breeze. "Well, I've been around the world playing games, and if there's one no one can win, that's the challenge I'm after." Self-reassured, he then took off at a jollier rate, a nearly mad gleam in his eyes.

The guides looked uneasy, shuffling along silently.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"Here..."

They stopped, the road and cliff suddenly mending together and stopped them at a dead end. The moonlight disappeared over the top of the cliff, drenching them in semi-darkness. And here, quite obviously, was an entrance, built into the very rock wall in front of them. It was of a modest size but very old looking, lined with what was obvious hieroglyphics though they were too faded to tell.

From its looks, it didn't seem too different from the entrance to all other tombs, Tutankhamun's included.

But archeologists learned a long time ago not to judge anything Egyptian made by what it looked like. A booby trap could looked like a harmless vase... that is, until you pick it up. Tutankhamun's tomb was hidden in a tiny crevice, forgotten by time and other kings, though within it held Egypt's grandest treasures. And while Egyptologists marveled over his riches, the young Pharaoh's priests' curse came upon them, killing many of those that dared to reveal the king's mummy.

And now... and now yet another ancient Pharaoh was about to greet the world.

Sugoroku pursed his lips, his hand clenching around the torch he had just pulled out and lit.

There was something in that tomb... He could feel it. Danger and age radiated from within that shadowy entrance, dark, ancient and mythical.

The gambler felt a shiver run up his spine. He's never felt anything like this... Was this how all the tombs were?

The guides looked at him curiously, most likely musing over the troubled look that cross the stouter man's face. For a long moment, the three of them stood in perfect silence, frozen in place, each unwilling to break the time lapse.

Then, gathering his wits, Sugoroku sent his companions a glare and shook himself, cursing his uncharacteristic meekness. 'Its just a hole in the ground,' he scolded himself. 'Just like all the other holes.'

He hoped, anyway.

With a deep breath, he stepped through the doorway and instantly found himself in a long, dark hallway, barely large enough to fit his girth. It was nearly totally dark in front of him, with only the flickering golden light of his torch to lead the way. A musky, ancient scent like wilting jasmine filled the air, and the ground beneath him sloped gently downward, clogged up with millennia's worth of sand and dust.

But even through all the grime, Sugoroku was startled at the clarity of the pictures that now surrounded him. The hieroglyphics and the shapes themselves were hard to make out, but they were exceptionally brilliant, almost as if some form of magic had kept them vividly colored after all these years.

The gambler found himself drawn to the walls, but quickly shook away that urge. He was superstitious enough as it is, and in this darkened, rather creepy hallway, he didn't need to know that he was surrounded by curses or what not.

"This tunnel continues downward for thirty meters. Not far past that, everything is unknown," came the sniveling voice of the elder guide behind him.

Sugoroku gave them no response as he began his descent, taking slow, leisurely steps to avoid tumbling or slipping the whole way down. He felt rather silly for an instant, walking into sheer doom with only his untrusty torch, but he heard the guides coming in after him and felt a twang of relief. So this wasn't the dreaded 'entrance'... If these two men knew the tomb as well as they claimed they did, there shouldn't be any danger here... yet.

True to the guides' words, they arrived in a modestly-sized chamber that, much to Sugoroku's bewilderment, was even more brightly hued then even the tunnel. 'Kami, are all Egyptian tombs like this...?' The poor man was at a loss of words as he peered around, taking in the crumbling pillars and the centuries worth of dust and cobwebs that covered them. The art that surrounded them was simply breathtaking, with slender, square-shouldered Pharaohs offering tributes to beautifully drawn gods, all surrounded by the timeless symbols that were hieroglyphics. Sugoroku squinted at the engravings, fascinated as he watched the flickering torch light dance across their ancient surface. He had never seen anything like this...

"There's the second entrance..." the younger guide said, pointing to a door that had failed to catch Sugoroku's attention the first time around.

Again, a deceptively small entrance opened for them, directly across the original that they had entered from. Two lonely, life-sized statues [1] stood on either side of the doorway, modeled identically after what seemed to be a very slender, beautifully proportioned boy. They wore the traditional nemes headdress with a dust-covered spear in their hands, their blank, timeless eyes staring unblinkingly at each other as they had been doing for countless centuries before.

No doubt they were the only survivors left after of years of treasure-raiding in this room. Perhaps the statues were too heavy, or their feet were wisely glued to the ground. It was sad though, to see two lonely brothers guarding this equally lonely place for so many years, with no companions but their 2-D brothers up on the wall.

Sugoroku frowned, stepping close to one of the statues and side-stepping around it. There was a mass of hieroglyphics here, suspiciously close to the wood of the doorway. Squinting in the dim light, the man reached out with a hand and wiped away some of the dust, coughing as a cloud of it flew into his face.

The gaurds chuckled nervously.

Biting his lip and ignoring them, Sugoroku leaned close to the wall, fingers resting delicately upon the engraved symbols, tracing them with stout digits. "This is where the Great Pharaoh sleeps... Gods guard this tomb, and may they curse all intruders. Beware."

His voice fell like a dead weight in the air.

"You... You can read it...!" breathed one of the guides finally, pale. "How? But-- Y-You are not an Egyptologist!"

"No... No, I'm not..." Sugoroku frowned and felt a violent shudder run up his spine as he backed away from the wall. He had no idea how he read that. He just did.

Hm. Interesting.

No matter. His body was on automatic pilot now, excitement and adrenaline thrumming through his blood. There was something strange in this tomb, something... something, dare he say it, challenging. And now that his curiosity was so desperate piqued, Sugoroku was intent on figuring out what exactly it was.

Without wasting one more breath, he stepped through the second entrance.

His eyes went wide at the sight that greeted them. Good God...

"It's a test..." he breathed, voice choked. "It's a *maze*..."

He now stood in a massive, shadowy cavern, his feet on a narrow, box-shaped ledge from which extended one sole, slender catwalk. That catwalk --a little thicker then the width of a grown man-- continued out for some two dozen feet before it bent abruptly, splitting in two and bending again and splitting in two until it formed a complicated labyrinth of twisting stone. Statues twice the size of a grown man, this time in the shape of white-garbed guards armed with swords, dotted the maze pathway at random intervals, almost like strangely formed chess pieces put there by a giant who, for his life, apparently couldn't play chess. But the worst part was that there was absolutely no ground around the pathways, sheer empty space dropping down into shadow farther then the eye could see.

'Kami-sama...' Sugoroku raised an eyebrow, watching as his weak torchlight reached into the massive emptiness for a mere few feet before being swallowed up in darkness. 'How bloody did they build all this?'

The two guides, on the other hand, watched intently from the safety of the entrance.

"Lets go back..." the younger whispered frantically to his brother, tugging on the taller man's sleeve. "There is still time...!"

"No..." The older guide turned on the younger, eyes twitching and wide, a maniac of a grin on his face. "Listen, we're not in danger..." he whispered fiercely, eagerly, "He'll pass the whole thing for us!"

Stunned, his little brother stared at him like he had gone mad, which was a thought then verbally expressed. "Are you mad? He--"

"He's different... I can tell...!" murmured his brother excitedly, turning back to Sugoroku's back, watching the stout gambler as he paced briskly across the ledge, clearly contemplating. "He doesn't think like the others do..."

Sugoroku, on the other hand, wasn't happy about any of this. Excited and challenged, perhaps, but not happy. He rubbed his beard fiercely, rusty-hued eyes never stopping in their scan of the entire maze, desperately searching for a way through it. "Think... Think, man..." he whispered to himself, "Its too dangerous to just walk across it..."

"Hurry... Go in!" whispered the older guide encouragingly, edging eagerly through the entrance with his younger brother nervously at his side. "What are you waiting for?"

Click.

Frowning, the older Arab picked up his foot, staring in confusion and bewilderment at the sunken button under his footprint. "What the...?"

There came the sound of grinding stone.

All the men looked up to find the top of the entrance suddenly descending rapidly downward, armed with huge spikes of metal and ancient glass preparing to spear them through.

"YYYAAAHHH!"

The two guides screamed and leapt forward toward Sugoroku, barely escaping the clutches of the doorway as it slammed down behind them with a sickening crunch. Then, on cue, a wall of spikes jutted forth from the solid stone wall, barely missing the three men as they scrambled backwards even more, crying out in fear.

"The--The door!" shrieked the younger guide, breaking into a babble of Arabic curses.

"The s-spikes!!" agreed his brother, motioning wildly to the blatantly obvious spearheads.

"Kami-sama..." breathed Sugoroku, backing away with twitching eyes and gritted teeth.

There were skeletons impaled on the spikes! Men and women of all different size and statues, their clothing faded and torn, their bleak, whitened bones gleaming in the flickering fire light.

'Good heavens... How many had died doing this...?' In an act of bravery spurred on by the moment, Sugoroku turned and leapt on to the catwalk. "No choice but to go on..."

In an instant, the closest statue flew down the path like a magical chess piece, slashing madly with a skillfully wielded sword.

The statues were *moving*....

The gambler watched, frozen in terror, as the statue loomed ever closer, some unknown force turning the rock of its arm soft as it swung its deadly blade again and again. The soulless eyes of the statue peered disapprovingly down at him, their inlaid irises gleaming in the pale torchlight.

Instinctively, Sugoroku leapt nimbly to the right to avoid having his left arm cut off. 'My god... I'll die if I don't do anything...!' With a cry, he fell backwards, barely saving himself from being gutted from a well-aimed thrust.

The instant his foot left the catwalk, the huge statue ceased moving, sword returning placidly to its side, the magical arm slightly raised and tense.

"It stopped...!" panted Sugoroku, his heart racing while his blood ran cold. Impossible. This wasn't what he had planned for. Moving statues? Killer spikes? Worse, no way out?

Now he knew that not all Egyptian tombs were like this.

His mind went on hyper drive, thrilled beyond reason as it raced for a logical explanation --no, screw the explanation, the solution-- to this insane test. But... But what to do...?! The ancient Egyptians made this maze so thus they must have also made the solution, but Sugoroku was no Egyptologist. He may have been fascinated with Egypt since his childhood, but books and gossip were of no use here.

Again, he paced. The logical part of himself screamed at him to get out of this accursed, haunted place, while the other half bounced up and down like a little boy who had found the worlds biggest amusement part. Naturally, the suicidal side won.

In full game-mode, Sugoroku began a visual search for... for anything. Anything they could use... A weapon, a stick, a vase, some kink in the wall, some secret trapdoor... anything!

A thick, panicky silence settled over them, broken only by the hysterical breathing of the guides and Sugoroku's shuffling.

Then...

"Wait..." Something tugging at him, Sugoroku found himself drawn to the magical statues. Or, more specifically, their dainty sandals.

They stood with the left foot first.

"What if...?" He inhaled sharply, holding a breath. 'Yes, what if...?' Heart thumping so hard it hurt, Sugoroku gathered the shredded strands of his pride and summoned his courage. He had little to loose, after all, and he didn't come all the way from Japan to die here like the hysterical, babbling mass that were his guides.

Taking just a few more shaky breaths, Sugoroku prayed briefly to whatever god is up there and stepped back on the platform, with his left foot first.

Silence.

Nothing.

The guides went pale and still, a gasp dying in their throats.

Sugoroku was ready to faint, half out of relief, half out of joy. He had done it. Incredibly, possibly out of pure stupidity, he had done it! He let out a shaky chuckle, releasing his torch of his death grip by switching it to the other hand. "In Egypt, gods ruled and demanded respect..." he whispered softly to himself, calming his mind with his own voice, "...so on sacred ground, people must walk with their left foot first." His breath caught in his throat,

Only the Pharaoh could walk with his right foot first...

Enthralled but now extremely nervous, Sugoroku took a few more steps --left foot first, of course-- and called over his shoulder. "Hurry! Follow me!" he cried to the two guides, who were tightly latched to each other as they peered at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Listen to me! Walk with your LEFT FOOT FIRST!"

The two stared blankly at him, then at each other. Then, with a shrug, they, too, approached the catwalk, one after the other.

"L-Left foot first!" the elder brother chanted as the two ridiculously tiptoeing their way after Sugoroku.

"We're lucky..." breathed Sugoroku to them as soon as the two were closer. "The others didn't think of this..." 'Not that they were lucky enough to get here anyway...' he added to himself, shuddering as he remembered the skeletons that they had left behind. "Be careful..." he whispered, more to himself then his companions.

They continued on, scrambling around statues and occasionally having to settle for crawling between the guards' legs. Sugoroku led their little party, though somewhat nervously. Surprisingly, he found that the maze itself wasn't terribly difficult, save the annoying dead ends they kept running into to. It took a while, but they got through with relatively little amount of pain, though they were sweating and trembling like fawns the whole way through.

"Finally..." whispered Sugoroku with a proud smirk, after they had gone through a terrifying, nerve-wracking hour of walking.

The walkways now merged to form a path leading right into a large entrance guarded by a massive, marble-carved statue of Horus, the god of kings. [2] Horus sat proudly upon the entrance, his legs protecting the sides, his hands rested upon his thighs. The deity's beak was raised high and proud, a colorful waterfall of hair and a magnificent Double-Crown upon his falcon head. On either side of his calves stood two life-sized Pharaohs, like the ones that had originally greeted the three men at the first entrance. Protecting them, Horus and the entrance was a dark, graphite bust of Anubis, his intense eyes and his canine growl forever engraved to look upon all that passed him.

'Goddamn, how did they make all this?' wondered Sugoroku in awe as he approached, craning his neck upward. He judged the Horus statue to be at least fifty feet tall.

He didn't get to admire anything else because at that moment, a small, shrilly cry broke the silence.

The younger Arab had tripped. It was a simple mistake, for the maze was falling apart so thus covered with pebbles and cracks. The guide was alright though, and caught himself before he could fall over the edge.

The problem was, however, that he caught himself with his right foot forward.

His brother screamed like a banshee, and Sugoroku turned around just in time to see two statues advance on the his youngest guide and spear him through instantly with their swords.

The trapped man screamed.

He screamed the skin-crawling, high-pitched death shriek that would send violent shudders upon one's spine. It made even the bravest of men just want to scream himself when he heard it.

Quickly, the scream was cut off and echoed away through the cavern as the guide slumped limply against the swords, scarlet blood dripping down his body and across the blades in rivers.

Stunned silence.

The elder Arab gave out a choked, strangled cry and fell to his knees, clutching himself.

Sugoroku, shaken but calm, watched him for a while, a hand in his pocket, the other holding his torch. Then, finally, he sighed. "Look--"

With an enraged roar, the guide leapt upward toward him, grabbing him by his tux and showing him a nice, close view down the barrel of a gun.

So, the man was armed.

Sugoroku looked at the gun, then back at the guide, one eyebrow arched. Interesting. He had no fear of guns. Moving killer statues, maybe, but guns were no big deal. He was a gambler after all, and it his business, it would be nuts not to carry one.

"ITS YOUR FAULT MY BROTHER'S DEAD!" the Arab shrieked in Sugoroku's face, shaking with grief and anger, tears running down his face.

Sugoroku sighed and rolled his eyes, easing the man's hand off his precious suit. "Give up. Its not worth it."

The gun clicked and cocked, still against his forehead. "Give up?" The man laughed a hysterical laugh, "Here's the first rule of the Pharaohs: you first."

For a moment, the two only looked at each other, the one at gunpoint calm and cool, the other trembling with rage.

Then, finally, with a mad gleam in his eyes, the Arab backed away a step, though he was by no means ready to let his captive go. "Go on." He motioned with his gun, knuckles white around the handle. "Go on to the second test."

Without another word Sugoroku shifted his torch in his hand and turned, walking under Horus at a steady, calm pace. The guide followed closely, gun still cocked at the gambler's tri-colored hair.

They were now in another maze, this time one with corridors. Sugoroku walked in near pitch darkness, but he was strangely calm, even for him. Something... Yes, something was drawing him through these hallways, urging him to turn at random intervals until he could barely remember which way he came. If he had a bad feeling about a step or a part of a wall, he merely avoided it, the guide following him nimbly. It was so very strange... Almost like... like he had been here before...

If his tall companion was surprised at all about how well Sugoroku knew these passages, he didn't show it.

They traveled in silence.

Very... eerie... silence...

'Incredible,' Sugoroku thought, fascinated despite his situation. 'People have not walked in these halls for thousands of years... Simply incredible.'

They arrived, with the help of some unexplainable force, at a stout hallway with very few pictures but plenty of hieroglyphics. Sugoroku slowed, brushing away dirt from the walls and reading as he went. Since he had all these strange, unexplainable gifts, he might as well use them. "Up ahead are spirits in stone. Those unworthy will be eaten. Go on if you dare."

It was the same message, written over and over again under the guardian of the god Horus.

'How very curious.' Shrugging, Sugoroku continued on until they entered another cavern, this one smaller and more of a man-made square in shape. Again, there was a catwalk flanked by dark abysses on both sides, but this time there was only one path, and it went only a short way before it arrived at the other side, yet another ledge.

But it was the catwalk itself that drew the most attention. On it were five giant plates embedded deep in the ground, each carrying carved creatures of magnificent splendor. There, a red dragon, a sphinx, some human with pointy ears, a strange looking crocodile with a mermaid tail...

Sugoroku looked at them curiously, fascinated. He hadn't been aware the Egyptians even conjured up such creatures in their beliefs, let alone be able to carve them so delicately and beautifully...

But then again, there was a lot the world didn't know about the Egyptians.

"The Stone-Tablet Bridge..." breathed the guide, eyes wide and gleeful. "I have heard of it... but no one had ever reached it!"

"That's wonderful," muttered Sugoroku somewhat dryly.

His companion ignored him, pointing with his free hand excitedly to the other end of the bridge. "Look! Look! Pharaoh's treasures!"

Indeed, there was a wide stone entrance at the end of the path, guarded by carvings of cobras, winged sun-disks and guardian sphinxes. Inside, they could make out heaps upon heaps of gold and treasures of all kinds, sparkling with age and beauty. But one object lay before all the others, on a stone alter of some sort, almost as if it was tribute to some great invisible god.

Sugoroku squinted at it, not too surprised --I mean, judging by what he had seen over the last hours or so-- to find it glowing. It was a gold box of some sort, a magnificent, ancient one covered in hieroglyphics and engravings.

He tried to make out what was on the alter itself but was roughly shoved from behind by a gun in his spine.

"Go," hissed the guide, greed and eagerness in his beady eyes. "You first, then I'll follow."

Sugoroku frowned but obediently began walking across the bridge, "Don't relax until I get to the end," he mumbled sarcastically, careful not to trip on the tablets or send himself sprawling over the sides.

"You too," replied the Arab with a smirk, gun fixed on Sugoroku's back.

The shorter man barely heard him, clenching his torch tight and holding it out ahead of him. He was aware, quite suddenly, of a warmth under his boots. A very strange warmth, more like a vibrating hum then heat. He shook his head, wiping away sweat, 'I'm just imagining it.'

There... he could see the box now... and what a beautiful box it was...!

"A little more..." he mumbled to himself, carefully trying to shuffle faster without tripping himself on the intricate carvings below his boots. "Then I'll beat this god-forsaken game..."

Needless to say, he felt good. Bewildered by the impossibility of it all, perhaps, but good. He had beaten the game of the Pharaohs... The first to do so in more then three millennia...

The moment he was a mere two feet away from the end of the bridge, however, he heard a voice cry out behind him.

"Ha... So it is safe then... Good!" A laugh. "I have no more use for you..."

A single shot ran out, and white-hot pain exploded in Sugoroku's shoulder. He gasped, a scream dying in his throat as he felt his balance totter and then fail him, sending him tumbling over the edge, his torch spinning downward through dark space like in a scene from some bootleg horror movie.

Down the torch went... Down... down... down...

...until he could no longer see the flame.

Almost in slow motion, numb with pain, Sugoroku watched it fall, his body following it. You know, its funny... Of all places he had been hoping he would die in, an Egyptian tomb was not on the top of the list. In fact, he had been hoping he would die in his sleep or something, safe at home, perhaps weary from bouncing a cute little grandchild on his lap. Yes, a grandchild, maybe a boy with crazy hair like him and pink, rosy cheeks.

Now that dream seemed so... far away. So stupid, so silly, so... distant...

But god forbid, he wasn't willing to give it up.

With a cry, almost overwhelmed by panic, pain and the sensation of free-falling, Sugoroku twisted around as he tottered and reached out, snagging the end of the bridge. The momentum of his fall swung him hard, slamming him against the edge of the stone catwalk. Sugoroku gasped, the breath getting knocked out of him. Pain shot up both his arms, one from the bullet, one from holding on to his weight. His fingers screamed in protest, but still he hung on, dazedly looking up at his tormentor with pain-glazed eyes.

The guide now stood over him, smirking, gun pointed at him. "The treasure is mine... and now, dear sir, you die..."

Sugoroku grunted, fingers desperately and painfully clutching at the stone. "No..." he whispered, eyes closing tightly to prepare for the final shot. 'I didn't want it to end this way...' A single tear rolled out from his eyes. '...And all I wanted was a... was a grandson...'

The shot never came.

On the bridge, the guide frowned. The ground was shaking. Trembling at first, really, but now it was all out shaking.

Strange. Egypt didn't have earthquakes.

"What in the name of..." The man stumbled backwards, Sugoroku forgotten as steam began to billow out from the cracks around the tablets. In the air came a sudden wave of ghostly chanting, angry voices raised in a language long lost, their echoing tones blending in a mass of chaotic cries.

The Pharaoh of this tomb had deemed him unworthy...

Before the stunned guide could even scream, a massive hand shot out from the steaming ground, snagging him roughly in its digits. Follow the hand came a even more gigantic arm, then a head and finally the body of a deformed, skeletal dragon-beast with horns and spikes jutting out of its scrawny limbs.

The man found his voice. And he screamed for all he was worth.


Sugoroku, who had been watching the scene with wide eyes, turned away instinctively, knowing what was coming next. There was a horrible shriek of a roar and the chomping of bones and flesh, followed by a dying, gurgled scream.

Then, nothing.

The chanting died away instantly. The steam dissipated and when Sugoroku looked back, the dragon had all but disappeared.

Impossible...

For long moments Sugoroku did nothing but hang there, heart pounding in his ears, his breathing near hysterical, his wounded arm numb and drenched in blood.

....'What just happened?'

Could he have imagined it? Could this all be... No...! No, there had been a dragon and it had... it had eaten... "Kami-sama, what was that thing?!" Sugoroku cried to himself, fear adding on to the weight of pain and desperation.

Silence was his only answer.

Just silence.

Sugoroku realized quickly that he should be worrying about other things. His finger strength was fainting, his knuckles white from lack of blood and from locking his digits around the stone. His shot shoulder and his wounded arm were completely immobile, but it still felt like somehow had taken a white-hot barb and jabbed it into his body. He wanted to scream, but he held it back. There was no use in screaming anyway, for there was no one to hear him.

Or help him up.

It took him a moment to realize what that meant, but he was too weak to do anything about it. "To come all this way..." he whispered bitterly, tears running freely now, praying for help that was not there, "...only to find this end..."

He appreciated the irony.

Too bad he didn't appreciate much else right now.

Then he heard it...

It was... a strange, soft sound, like the sound of a gentle April shower. And with it he heard faint, angelic music... an ancient harp, perhaps, accompanied by a beautiful tenor voice raised in a song long dead, the words so faint they were almost imaginary...

'I'm hallucinating...' Sugoroku told himself. It didn't hurt to look, though...

With all the energy he had left, he craned his neck upward, blinking rapidly to clear his blurring vision of even more burning tears.

What he saw stunned him to silence.

There was a cloud of mist upon the bridge, and within it stood a boy, delicately built and no older then seventeen, perhaps. He was dressed in a silk tunic the color of virgin snow, a gold belt tied around his slender waist with a long, purple cape that flapped gracefully to a nonexistent breeze. He stood tall and proud, almost innocently watching Sugoroku struggle to stay alive in his last moments.

'My god...' The man looked up in dazed awe, eyes tearing at the mere sight. 'He's beautiful...'

Only then did he notice that the boy was transparent. And only then did he notice that the boy apparently had no feet to stand on. Instead, he floated there like some unholy angel, silent and unwavering.

Sugoroku blinked once, then twice, willing himself to come to his senses.

But the boy still floated there, clearly unwilling to leave him.

Then, after a few long minutes, he knelt, leaning over the edge as if overcome by curiosity over this strange man hanging by his fingernails. Sugoroku could make out the faint outline of a young, charming face with bright, vivid eyes the color of the setting sun. On the youth's head was a gold, winged tiara of some sort, followed by a mass of tri-colored hair much like Sugoroku's in his youth.

The similarity was startling, though Sugoroku didn't notice.

For a moment, the two regarded each other, the boy absolutely silent, the man overcome by shock though weakening more and more by the second.

Then, slowly but surely, a slim, ghostly hand extended toward Sugoroku, palm upward and inviting. A warm smile found its way upon the boy's translucent lips, a lush, silky voice filling the air.

"Shimon..." The boy's eyes were soft, "I've been waiting..."

~*~*~*~*~*~

[1] - This is one thing that I have to pick with Kazuki, despite his amazingly accurate Egyptian history in the making of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. He could have been... well... a little more original in terms of the 'treasures'. All the statues seen in the museums or in Yami's tomb, including these two that guarded the entrance (and the mazes) look identical to the ones from Tut's tomb. And also, Yami's mummy looks suspiciously like an anime-ized version of the mummy of Pharaoh Seti I. O_o *twitch twitch*

[2] - Ah ha! See, I DO have proof about Yami and the whole gpds deal. Kazuki even supports it! See, there really IS a giant Horus guarding Yami, as well as a bust of Anubis!

~*~*~*~*~*~

~~~ Authoress's Notes~~~

Whee! I had so much fun writing that. :-p Me really happy about this chapter. ^_^ Okay, so I might have added some things and possibly over-exaggerated, but I loved it anyways. And yes, Yami really was the ghost at the end, and though I didn't show you, he really did save Sugoroku and showed him the box that contained the Puzzle. The frame for when Sugoroku looks up and see's the 'angel' is SO. GODDAMN. BEAUTIFUL!! *squeal*

Thank the GODS that this story is done!! MHAHAHAHA!! Okay, anyway, once again, thank you all for reviewing! Glad you guys liked the story. *squeal* There's SO not enough Yami/Seto out there, so I'm glad to provide one. :-p Please drop just one more review! Pwease?

THE SEQUEL, 'Dreamcatcher', WILL BE UP SOON, I SWEAR! I have half of chapter one written, but I am very VERY lost about one major part; Seto's dream. More or less, at night, Seto dreams of seeing this beautiful boy, but I have absolutely NO idea how to make the scene flow. Should they be speaking and touching or should Yami just stand there like some angelic figure? And what should the dream actually be about? Nothing but fluff or a nightmare reinactment of Yami's death or some memory replay? HHHHHHEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPPP!! *Any* suggestions are desperately needed! And I seriously mean ANY because if you don't give me any, I can't write the story! It can be the stupidest thing in the world or the vaguest but I don't care! I NEED IDEAS! Thanks to all that already gave me some but I'm very dead serious about it this time. Check my profile if you want to see my progress on Dreamcatcher, or, if you find this late, the actual story (which will ONLY BE UP if you reviewers HELP ME!! *sob*).