Author's Introduction:

On the bandwagon I jump, and it's up to the readers to grade the landing, and possibly style points.  Like many before me, I love to watch "Yu-Gi-Oh!", and like many before me, I love to read the "Yu-Gi-Oh!" manga, and like many before me, I've always wondered what it would be like if Yugi Motou, bless his little golden heart, was rewritten as a cute, sweet, occasionally lethal girl.  Being a cute, sweet, occasionally lethal girl myself, I couldn't resist the urge to see for myself what might happen if Yugi stepped into a pair of high-heeled shoes…

Some things you should know, should you choose to continue, and I hope you do: I love the meaning of the word "Yami", and so I've decided to rename my girl-incarnation Yami, that which means "dark", as opposed to "Yugi", that which means "game" or "to play".  You'll see why once you meet her…it just fits her better.

For most of the story, I'm following the manga; however, parts of the storyline have been radically altered to suit my rather capricious taste.  It's fun to be a writer, isn't it?

The character of Tea Gardner will not be appearing in this story.  I wish to make it clear that that is NOT because I am anti-Tea--in fact I'm very fond of the character.  The only reason I couldn't write her in is that too many alpha females and a pack tears itself apart.  Yami and Mai are quite the prima donnas.  Plus, I couldn't resist stealing a few of Tea's outfit designs for Yami-girl.  :P Shoot me.  Think less of me. 

I've decided to make Yami-girl a brunette.  It just looked cooler when I colored some early sketches on Photoshop; plus, I'm a brunette myself, and being the original Elegant Egotist, I couldn't resist.

Yes, there is a romantic pairing in the story, but you'll have to wait for it.  Any and all comments are appreciated, but please be civil. 

All right, I think that's it so far. Take it away, Yami-girl.  The weaker sex, indeed! *^_^*

**

The Weaker Sex

**

Chapter One, First Duel: Strange Little Girl

**

She didn't know how to live in a town that was rough

 

It didn't take long before she knew she'd had enough

 

Walking home in her wrapped up world

 

She survived but she's feeling old

 

'cause she found

 

All things cold

 

Strange little girl

 

Strange little girl

 

Where are you going?

 

Strange little girl

 

Where are you going?

 

Strange little girl, you

 

I really should, you

 

I really should be

 

Going

(Strange Little Girl)

(Tori Amos)

**

Morning in Domino City. The temperature was warm, the wind gentle, and a girl was buckling her sandals by her door, under the watchful eye of her grandfather.

"Grandpa," she said softly, turning crimson eyes up to the old man. "I can't do it. I'm too different. I'm too afraid."

He shook his head, giving her a smile. "Think of it as a game, honey. Maybe it'll even be fun."

The girl frowned. "I don't like fun."

Her grandfather grinned. "But you like games."

She stood up, putting a look of determination on her face that made her grandfather proud. "That's my girl."

She drew herself up to her full height--which wasn't much, barely over five feet--and headed out the door.

Her grandfather couldn't help but add the last part. "Yami?"

The girl named Yami turned, her hair catching the light from the early morning sun. "Mmhm?"

Her grandfather looked sheepish. "Try not to get kicked out this time?"

Yami frowned mockingly at him and then continued on her way.

**

Joey Wheeler was having a bad ten minutes of it.

His eyes ached. He'd spent the entire night watching a porno tape he'd pilfered from his father, but all the good parts had been censored out! Now he had a raging headache, and Ms. Chono's voice was like a nail in his head.

"We've got a new student today, class. Like to introduce yourself?" Chono gave a squinty smile to a girl standing at the front of the room. That is, Joey thought she was standing. She was so small, she looked like she was kneeling! He snickered to himself watching her lift her bowed head with a sigh.

She was petite--her head barely came up to Chono's shoulder, and the teacher was petite, too. Her short hair was a cold brown, except for streaks of vanilla blonde in her bangs. It fell straight just above her shoulders, when she lifted her head, the entire class could see crimson eyes flashing in her tanned face.

Joey was startled. She had red eyes!

She was wearing a blue sundress and sandals--being new, she didn't have the school uniform yet. She seemed uncomfortable being on display at the front of the room. "My name is Yami Motou. I'm very happy to be here," she said, but not like she meant it. She gave the class a watery smile.

"There's an empty seat in front of Joey Wheeler," Chono said, and the girl scurried to her seat. She quickly scrunched down in her chair, and Joey forgot all about her for the rest of the class.

**

After trying the boys' bathroom, the telephone alcove, and the bushes outside, Joey had decided the best place to steal a smoke was the quad. The only point in the minus column was that sneaking back inside involved passing directly by the principal's office. Luckily the principal was distracted.

"Ms. Motou, this has been the way for years. The rules cannot be changed because they offend your sense of fashion."

A voice was ready to argue. "I can't wear this!" it shrilled. "It's ugly!"

Joey flattened himself against the wall to better hear this exchange.

"It is the uniform!"

"It's pink!" Yami Motou continued. "It looks ridiculous! Why can't I wear the blue coat?"

"That's the boys' uniform," the principal said. "You, Ms. Motou, are a girl."

"I'd wear the blue skirt," Yami protested, trying to bargain. "It's just the jacket that's no good."

The principal apparently didn't feel like making a deal.  "This discussion is closed. Go back to class, Ms. Motou."

Unfortunately for Joey, Yami did just that--she stormed out of the office and straight into him, stepping on his foot with a pointy-heeled sandal.

"Ow!" Joey yelped. "Watch where the hell you're going!"

Yami looked surprised for a second, then her red eyes turned angry. "You were in my way!"

"What's all the noise?" The principal stepped out into the hallway to see what was going on, and narrowed his eyes at Joey. "Mr. Wheeler. What are you doing out of class?"

Joey struggled for an answer. "I--ah--"

"Never mind. You can make up the classwork you're missing--in detention. See you at dismissal." The principal turned, going back into his office. "Both of you, go back to class."

As soon as he was gone, Joey turned to glare at Yami--but she had fled.

**

When Joey got back to class, Yami was already in her chair. He glared at her as he passed, but she ignored him.

Stupid girl, he thought. I'll show her what happens when you tangle with Joey Wheeler!

He always kept a package of gum in his pocket to chew after he had a cigarette; right now he took out the remaining three pieces and began chewing all of them at once. Yami's dark hair was shining in the light from the window, just begging for it. The blonde streaks faded into the brunette just after they framed her face.

Meanwhile, Miho Nosaka was raising her hand, her pale ponytail waving as she tried to get the teacher's attention. "Ms. Chono! Ms. Chono! Joey Wheeler's chewing gum in class!"

Chono turned a frown to the back of the classroom, but Joey raised both his hands to show that he was unarmed, flashing a dazzling, gum-free smile at his teacher. "She's lying, teach. I ain't got no gum."

Chono looked puzzled. Miho started to protest, but she was silenced by a tiny shriek as Yami started out of her chair, hands in her hair. "Oh! Oh, no!"

The class started laughing as Yami tried to get the gum unstuck from her hair. Chono sighed exasperatedly. "Yami, go to the girls' room, okay?"

The tiny brunette was almost in tears. Joey smirked in satisfaction as she ran out of the classroom, hiding her face in shame.  Take THAT, Yami Motou.  And there'll be more where that came from, with love from Joey Wheeler!

**

By lunchtime, Yami had gotten rid of the gum and kept sneaking peeks back at Joey to make sure he was behaving himself. He felt he'd let her squirm for the rest of the afternoon and come up with something else to do to her tomorrow, but his plans changed when she took a box out of her bag and smiled down at it.

"Woo hoo! Lunch time!" Steve Blackburn stretched his tanned arms over his head at the front of the room. "Let's play basketball." Not a big surprise from Steve--he was captain of the team.

Murmurs of agreement from around the room.

"We'll let the girls play, too," Steve decreed. "Yami, come on, want to play?"

But the earlier laughter had made Yami wary. She shrank back in her chair and shook her dark head quickly, no.

"Okay, suit yourself." Steve shrugged. "What is that she's got in that box, anyway?" he murmured as he left the room, spinning a basketball on his finger.

Yami smiled secretly. "It's my greatest treasure," she murmured. "It's something you can see, but have never seen before!"

She started to open the lid, but tall, tanned Tristan Taylor apparently was reading Joey's mind. "Yoink!" he teased, snatching the box off the brunette's desk. "Talking to yourself, Yami? You win the prize for creepy!"

"Give it back, Tristan!" Yami said, red eyes wide as she rose from her chair. "It's mine!"

"Yeah, it's your greatest treasure!" Tristan jeered. "Pass, Joey!" He tossed the box over Yami's head.  Yami leapt gracefully, but she couldn't catch it.

Joey caught it easily and chuckled. "Yeah, it's Yami's treasure box. What girly crap!"

"Give it back," Yami cried. "It's important--my grandpa gave it to me!"

"Sounds special," Joey teased, waving the box temptingly at her.

"It is special," Yami insisted, pouting.  "It was found in an Egyptian ruin.  Whoever solves it gets one wish--"

"A wish?" Joey asked. "You're outta your mind!" He held the box above his head.

Yami kept swiping at Joey's hands, despite the major height differences between them. "Give it back to me!"

"Nuh-uh." Joey lifted the lid to peek into the box. He frowned at the contents. "Aw, man. How dumb! Here, Tristan." He tossed the box languidly back to Tristan, but Yami intercepted it and held it close to her chest.

"If you think it's dumb, then you won't mind if I take it back." She frowned at the both of them. "Bullies. Don't you have anything better to do than pick on people?"

"What's that, Yami?" Tristan asked, cupping a hand over his ear as if he were hard of hearing. "You've got something sticky in your hair?"

Yami blushed as red as her eyes. "You guys are so dumb."

Joey grinned and joined in the teasing. "What? You want some gum?"

Yami blushed even harder and stormed out of the room, clutching her box tightly.

"Jesus Christ. What is with that girl?" Tristan asked, propping his feet up on a desk. "She's got such an attitude. And she's got red eyes! Honest to God, Joe, red eyes! Did you see?"

"She's weird," Joey agreed. "She thinks who she is. Who's a bully?" he asked himself crossly.

 Tristan sighed. "Uh...Joey, that would be us."

"What were you saying about bullies?" a deep, gravelly voice asked. Tristan and Joey both turned, startled, to see Ushio, the hall monitor, in the doorway, blocking the wall like a tall, dark mountain.

"Nothing!" Joey said defiantly, despite Tristan's warning glance.

"Nothing!" Tristan agreed, quickly getting his friend in a half-nelson. "Picking on people is bad!"

"I agree," Ushio murmured, turning and walking away.

Joey growled and struggled, finding that bitching out Tristan and breathing were conflicting interests. He broke free and gasped, "You jerk! I couldn't even breathe!"

Tristan pushed his friend. "Snap out of it, Joey! Who do you think you're picking a fight with? That's Ushio, our ogre of a hall monitor!"

"Big whoop!" Joey snorted.

"Have you lost your marbles, Joe?" Tristan continued, dark brows snapping over his granite eyes.  "He makes all the rules here. Even the teachers are afraid of him!"

"Ahh, he's not so tough!" Joey said, easily because Ushio was gone.

Tristan frowned. "Yeah, right."

Joey grinned suddenly. "Maybe this'll cheer ya up." He held up something that shone gold in his hand; a piece of metal with a stylized eye carved on it.

"What's that?" Tristan asked, looking at the little piece of gold.

Joey smirked. "It's something I snuck out of Yami's treasure box. I didn't get a good look, but it looked like a puzzle."

"So?" Tristan asked.

"So? You're asking me a so?" Joey chuckled. "So, my friend, if Yami's missing this piece, she can't solve her precious puzzle."

Getting it, Tristan laughed. "Good work, Joey! Up high!" They slapped a high-five.

Joey looked out the classroom window to the courtyard, where the swimming pool was catching the light of the afternoon sun. "Make a wish!" he laughed as he threw the gold piece out the window. It shone brilliantly in the sunlight for a second, then hit the water and sank, gone from view.

**

Yami Motou was having a bad day. It was nice to know that everywhere you went people were the same--stupid and shallow. At least she'd gotten through the whole day without hitting anybody. Grandpa would be proud.

I've got to look on the bright side, she thought as the bells signaled the end of the day. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school.

She was eager to get home, to escape to her room, but a deep, gravelly voice stopped her. "Yami?"

She turned to see a tall, dark-haired boy, his arms folded over his chest. "You're Yami," he repeated. "Aren't you?"

"Yes," Yami sighed, preparing for more abuse.

But the boy smiled, the expression looking out of place on his stone face. "I'm Ushio, the hall monitor. Tell me something, Yami. I know it's tough to be the new kid. Are you being bullied by kids in your class?"

Yami didn't like the boy's smile, so she did something she was good at--she lied. "No. I'm fine."

But the boy shook his dark head. "It's sad. Victims often defend their attackers. They feel it's somehow their fault. But don't you worry, Yami." He grinned an oily grin at her.  "I'm going to be your bodyguard from now on!"

Yami's lizard sense was screaming. This boy was bad news. She could feel it. Time to go. "Thank you, anyway, Ushio, but there's really nothing going on. See you later..." She turned and hurried away, even more eager to be home.

"Goodbye, Yami," Ushio called pleasantly.

Weirdo, Yami thought as she walked home. What was THAT all about?

**

The bell above the door of the Kame Game Shop rang, and Sugoroku Motou gave Yami the first real smile she'd seen all day.  She was grateful for it.

"Hi, honey. How was your day?"

"On a scale of one to ten?" Yami asked, dropping her bag in the doorway. "It sucked!"

Sugoroku's smile faded, as if he'd been expecting this. "What happened? Did you get into any fights?"

"No," Yami sighed. "But the other kids seemed to really want me to."

Sugoroku slid a glass of chocolate milk to his granddaughter. "Well, you're home now. You're safe."

Yami sipped her milk, her red eyes staring into a middle distance. Sugoroku could tell she was reliving the events of the day. He patted her shoulder gently. "Yami, they that tease are stupid, and it is worse for them than it is for you."

"I know," Yami said dully. "I'm okay."

Sugoroku knew she wasn't okay, so he changed the subject, retrieving her bag and taking the box out of it. "Still haven't given up on that puzzle, eh?" he asked.

"Who's giving up?" Yami asked defiantly, taking the box.

The old man smiled. "That's my girl. Never give up, Yami, and you can do anything."

It earned him a smile.

**

The next day, Yami tugged angrily at the sleeves of the pink uniform jacket at lunchtime. She hated it so much. The color was wrong, the cut was wrong, the material was a nightmare from hell, and it itched. It wasn't fair...

"Yami?" a familiar gravelly voice asked. "Could I have a moment of your time?"

Yami picked her head up to see Ushio. Uh oh, she thought. "Um...sure."

"I've got something to show you," the hall monitor said. "I know you're going to love it."

**

Joey's right eye was sealed shut with blood. He pawed at it frantically for a second before he could get both eyes open.

He was leaning against the gym block, but he couldn't remember how he'd gotten out here. It was deserted this time of day, and the buildings created an alleyway. No one could see him, and he couldn't see out. His whole body screamed in protest when he tried to move. Tristan was next to him, blood drying beneath his nose.

"Joey? Man...what happened?"

"That goon Ushio..." Joey started, but had to pause to spit blood from his mouth.

Shadows fell across the mouth of the alleyway. One tall shadow, and one small one.

Ushio's chuckle was warm and jagged. "Take a look, Yami!"

Joey's blurry eyes focused on a small figure in an ill-fitting pink jacket. She brought her hands to her mouth in surprise when she saw them.

"Joey! Tristan!" She whirled on Ushio like a tiny, angry kitten. "What have you done?"

"I told you, Yami, I'm your bodyguard!" Ushio said. "Someone had to teach these nasty bullies a lesson on your behalf!"

"You're horrible!" Yami cried, kneeling at Joey's side. "Joey? Hey, Joey? Are you all right? Tristan?"

Joey spat blood in her general direction and missed. Gross, but not very effective. "You happy now, you little bitch? Is your midget ass happy now?"

Yami's eyes were wide and shocky as she shook her head. "Joey, he's lying. It's not true. I didn't ask him to do this!" Again, she turned on Ushio. "I can't believe you did this. Someone ought to teach you a lesson, you prehistoric imbecile!"

She reached for Joey but Ushio grabbed her arm and pulled her roughly back. "Hold on there, Yami. I'm not finished punishing them yet."

"No," Yami growled, yanking her arm back with a force Joey hadn't thought her capable of. "You are finished. You are so finished. It ends now."

"You are so weird," Ushio said, arching a black brow. "Why are you protecting them? You ought to be thanking me! You can even pound on them yourself if you want to!"

"No!" Yami said. "You're sick!"

"Why not?" Ushio asked.

Yami was nettled on this one. Joey blinked, waiting for her answer. "Because...because they're my friends," she said decisively, nodding.

Ushio laughed out loud. "Your friends? These guys were making your life miserable yesterday, and you call them your friends?"

"They may not be much, but they are my friends. Don't hurt them anymore." Yami stood firmly between Joey and Tristan and Ushio. "Go away."

Ushio snorted. "Whatever. But don't forget, Yami, you owe me!"

"Huh?" Yami asked. "Owe you?"

"A fee for bodyguard services!" Ushio proclaimed. "200,000 yen!"

"You don't hear very well! I never asked you to do this!" Yami snarled. "Where would I get that kind of money!"

Ushio clucked his tongue. "Boy, Yami, you're hard to please. You won't be satisfied till I hurt them even more, will you?"

Joey stiffened, anticipating more pain. The only thing standing between him and death was a five-foot-tall girl.

Yami was livid. "Ushio is not a fast learner," she murmured in a singsong voice, cocking her small fists.

Tristan muttered, "What?"

Ushio was laughing as if he didn't believe his eyes. "Are you going to fight me, little girl?"

At the mention of the word "fight" Yami jumped, lowering her fists. "Oh...I promised I wouldn't..." she murmured, almost to herself.

Joey wanted to scream at her to break whatever promise had been made, but it was too late.

"You think I won't hit a girl, hmm?" Ushio asked. "You must know how I hate to pick on people--" Almost languidly, he turned and slapped Yami with one large hand, sending her spinning down to slide next to Joey. Her cheek was red and Joey could tell she'd have a bad bruise by tomorrow--it had been an open backhanded slap. If he'd closed his fist she'd have been unconscious. Ushio punctuated it nicely with a kick to her stomach. Yami lay on the ground, the fight gone out of her before it began. Her breathing sounded like a bucket of bolts.

Stupid girl! Joey thought. Why didn't you just back down like you did yesterday? Why'd you have to be a hero and try to protect us?

"Don't forget. 200,000 yen. Tomorrow." Ushio nudged Yami with his boot and then walked away.

"Damn, man," Tristan groaned, sliding up the wall to his feet.

"You okay, man?" Joey asked, brushing dust off his coat. "What about you, Yami?"

He reached to help the girl up, but she pushed him away and ran, coughing, out of the alleyway.

"Hey!" Joey said, surprised. "Yami! Come back! Yami!"

**

Late afternoon was shading into evening, the sunset dipping Domino windows in gold.

The tears stung Yami's bruised cheek. Even the gentle pressure of crying hurt. Her hands were scraped from falling in the alley and they stung too, but she kept working on the puzzle, fitting pieces into pieces and trying to forget how bad everything was.

I can't believe I'm working on a puzzle with the Cup of Death floating before my eyes, she thought. Why is it that the more awful I feel, the easier it is to--oh!

She fit a piece in with a sharp snick, and suddenly a pattern was revealed to her.

I get it, she thought. After you put this in, you give it a half-turn...then this one...then...

And suddenly, there it was, a golden pyramid, completed in her hands. All except for--

"The last piece!" Yami reached into the box. "If I can put the last piece in, it's done!"

But her hand touched on flat, empty space. Crimson eyes wide in disbelief, she looked into the box. "It's not here," she said frantically to the empty room. "It's gone!"

Curling up in her chair, she rested her bruised cheek against her knees and wept harder. It's gone, it's gone! I'll never solve the puzzle--I can never solve the puzzle!

"I'll never get my wish!" she cried angrily, smashing her scraped fists on her desk. Burying her face in her arms, she abandoned herself to tears, positive the fates were conspiring against her.

"Well, I'll be damned!" Sugoroku chuckled behind his granddaughter, coming into the room. "You finished the Millennium Puzzle!"

Yami sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve, turning to face him. "No. I couldn't finish it after all, Grandpa. No good."

Sugoroku smiled at his granddaughter and ruffled her dark hair. "Have a little faith, Yami. You'll get your wish."

And like a magician, he pretended to pull something from behind her ear. Something golden--

"The last piece!" Yami's eyes went wide and dead with shock. Then she was tackling the old man in a hug. "Youfoundityoufoundityoufounditthankyouthankyouthankyou!"

Sugoroku smiled. "I'm not the one who found it. A friend of yours stopped by and asked me to give that to you."

"A friend?" Yami was confused.

"Yes. Strange boy...he was soaked to the skin! But it's not raining..." Sugoroku looked out the window.

"I wonder who it was?" Yami smiled at the piece of gold in her hand. "Thanks, anyway, Grandpa!"

Sugoroku dropped a kiss on his granddaughter's forehead and turned to leave. "Get some sleep, Yami. You've got school in the morning."

Not even the thought of school could dampen Yami's excitement. Well, she thought with a wry smile, at least I can say I finished the puzzle before I died.

Yami carefully slid the last piece into the Millennium Puzzle, holding her breath. It fit perfectly and she grinned. "I did it! You're mine!" she cheered, jumping out of her chair. Holding the puzzle above her head, she spun gracefully in a victory dance and flopped backwards to land on her bed.

So tired, she thought as her eyes flickered shut. What a day...

Soon she was asleep. When Sugoroku looked back in to check on her, he smiled.

The boy who came to the door told me everything, Yami, he thought. Told me his name was Joey Wheeler, but he asked me not to tell you that. He told me about the boy that's threatening you. He told me you didn't fight back...how you tried so hard to keep out of trouble.

The old man slid an envelope into his granddaughter's bag. In it was 200,000 yen.

Although, Sugoroku thought with a smile, I think that thug Ushio might be the one who'll get trouble!

**

Sugoroku couldn't have been more right. As soon as he was gone, Yami rose languidly from the bed, a strange new light in her crimson eyes.

"I want to go play," she murmured, picking up her wireless telephone and dialing a number from the student directory.

**

Ushio snickered to himself as he walked into the schoolyard. A full moon rode high over the bell tower, holding court over a cloudless sky. Ushio's dark eyes scanned warily across the empty schoolyard-it didn't hurt to be cautious, considering the mysterious phone call he'd received...

I can't believe that little bitch Yami called me out here! he thought, turning to see someone already waiting for him. "Huh?"

 Yami Motou was sitting on one of the hurdles the gym class used. She was wearing a pair of black jeans and a black midriff blouse. Over this funerary color scheme she wore a black jacket that closed with one button over her stomach and fanned out, hitting her at mid-thigh. The black was accented with heavy gold jewelry--two large bracelets encircling her wrists. Ushio had no way of knowing that they were ankhs, the Egyptian symbol of life. Around her neck she wore something that looked like a black belt, buckled over the big pulse in her throat. But the real crowning glory was a gold pendant shaped like a pyramid. Its stylized eye seemed to follow Ushio as he advanced towards her. She had one leg crossed over the other, and her pose was sleepy, sexy, her smile leading to something yet unrevealed.

Translate all that to mean this: the girl sitting before Ushio now bore no resemblance to the whimpering, tiny girl Ushio had slapped to the ground just this afternoon.

"Yami," Ushio said hesitantly, not even sure if it were the same girl.

"Thanks for coming, Ushio," she said, her voice soft velvet instead of a small bell. She uncurled herself from her sitting position and hopped off the hurdle, walking toward him.

"You might be wearing big-girl's clothes, Yami," Ushio grinned, "but I can tell you're going to be a good little girl and hand over the 200,000 yen like I asked." He held out his huge hand.

"Oh, that's too bad," Yami sighed, holding up a stack of bills. "I only have 400,000 yen."

Ushio's eyes widened. "400,000 yen! Good girl!"

Yami smiled secretly. "But I think money has to be earned, don't you? It wouldn't be any fun at all to just give it to you." She teased the money beneath Ushio's nose, smirking. "How about you play a game with me!"

"A game?" Ushio knew Yami was weird, but this was a little too weird.

Yami nodded. "Not just any game, though. A Shadow Game! It'll be fun, and if you win, you'll get more than 200,000 yen! Pretty sweet deal, right?" She crossed one leg behind the other girlishly. "How about it? Don't you want to play with me?"

Ushio felt a slow smile forming on his face. "Interesting concept."

"You bet it is." Yami suddenly tipped herself forward, hands pressed to Ushio's chest to hold herself up. "Is that a knife in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" Reaching into his jacket, she drew out the blade, tilting it back and forth in the stingy moonlight. "Perfect. Everything's ready, then!"

"What sort of game are we supposed to play with these?" Ushio was confused as Yami returned to the hurdle, placing the knife on top of it.

"It's simple. This is what we do." She placed her left hand palm down on the hurdle and put the stack of yen on top of it. Taking the blade in her right hand, she touched the tip of it to the yen gently. "We take turns putting the money on top of our hand and stabbing it with the knife. You only get to keep the money that the knife stabs, and you always have to take more than one bill. The game ends when all the money's gone, and whoever has the most wins. Sound good?"

Ushio grinned. "It's just a test of courage."

"Exactly. Oh, and one more thing," Yami added lazily. "If a player tries to take the money by hand or quit before the game's over, they'll lose and forfeit all their money to their opponent. And if you lose, the consequences will be...dire." The word left hissing echoes. "A penalty game decides the punishment of the loser. Shall we ro-sham-bo for turn order?"

Yami held out her delicate hand flat, while Ushio kept his in a tight fist.

Yami smiled. "Paper wraps rock. I'll go first." She took the knife and hesitated a second before plunging it a little ways into the stack of bills. Sighing, she held up the pierced yen and her uncut hand. "Hm! I didn't even get ten bills! They're not so easy to stab!"

Ushio took the knife, snickering. "Stupid. The point of the game is to get as much money as possible."

"No, the point of the game is to control your greed!" Yami answered. "If you use too much strength, you'll stab yourself!"

"Shut up," Ushio growled, punctuating it with a mighty stab to the yen. Holding it up, he waved it at Yami. "In your face, little girl! I've got over 100,000 yen and my hand's not scratched!"

"Pretty good, Ushio," Yami said, nonplussed. "But you'll find that with every turn, the money lessens, and so does your control. I take my turn again."

Like noon and night, they continued the game with only the moon as witness--as Ushio took his turns, his movements became more brazen, his stabs with the knife more vicious to the yen.  By contrast, Yami seemed to have all the time in the world.  She reached languidly for the knife and plunged it deftly into the thinning stack of yen, holding it up curiously to her eye level like a scientist.  She seemed to care little for the sharpness of the blade as she lazily slid the bills off it just in time for Ushio to rip the knife from her hands again.

Finally, the money was almost gone. Ushio had the knife, wavering over his left hand. Yami watched patiently, her eyes deep. "What's the matter, Ushio?" she asked pleasantly, seeing the boy tense.

My HAND, Ushio thought, trying not to let his face betray his rising fear.  It wants to stab down hard so I can take the last of the money, but I can't do it without hurting myself!...

"What the fuck's going on?" Ushio growled, straining against empty air. "I can't stop my hand!"

"Welcome to the Shadow Games, Ushio," Yami explained with a dark chuckle. "You cannot hide your true nature here. It's your own greed that will decide your fate, not I! Do you sacrifice your left hand to take the money, or do you lose the game?"

Ushio suddenly snickered. "I've got a better idea!" Swinging his arm, he buried the knife in the little brunette's chest--

--or tried to; Yami was too fast for him, leaping gracefully out of the way.  Ushio whipped his head to the sky to try and follow her flight, but all he saw was a dark blur that suddenly landed behind him, heels clicking sharply on the ground.  Whirling to face her seemed a slow graceless dance.  Her smile was wicked.

"Just as I suspected! You weren't able to follow the rules after all!" she said, her vanilla blonde bangs flicking in a sudden breeze to reveal something flickering on her forehead--an eye, a stylized eye that matched the one on the pyramid she wore around her neck. "How dare you trespass in my soul, Ushio! How dare you hurt my friends and try to steal my money!!"

Holding her left hand out in front of her, she spread her fingers as if casting a curse on him. "Penalty game!" she announced gleefully. "Greed, the illusion of avarice!"

Ushio opened his mouth to say--something--anything--but was interrupted by a sudden vision.

Money. Money falling around them like cherry blossoms, like snow. Yami was nearly lost in it, a ghost in a fog.

"It's money!" Ushio screamed, throwing his hands in the air. "It's everywhere!"

"No, my dear," Yami murmured. "It's only in your head..."

But Ushio had no ears for her any longer. Let the stupid git play her games! He was rich! Rich! Rich! He grabbed fistfuls of yen, trying to stuff as much of it into his coat as he could.

Yami was already tucking her own yen into her black coat. "And they all lived happily ever after," she said softly, turning away, a stain on the night.

**

Joey scratched his cheek gently as he waited for the first bell. The bandages were stiff and they itched. The bright side was that if Ushio killed him today, they wouldn't hurt anymore...

"Hey, what's going on?" A crowd was amassed around a tree by the front door. Jogging over there, Joey saw something very peculiar.

"Mine," Ushio was mumbling. "It's all mine! You can't have any of it...I won't let anyone else have my money!"

"Ushio??" Joey wondered aloud. The hall monitor was lying in a pile of leaves, picking them up and looking at them in the sunlight as if they were something precious and fine.

"He thinks those leaves are money?" someone asked.

"Ick!" Miho Nosaka. said. "It's not just leaves! There's garbage in there too! Yuck!"

Another voice caught Joey's attention. "Well, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy..." The voice was attached to a confused face, and the face had red eyes. As she turned away, Joey caught a glimpse of a gold pendant around her neck.

"Hey, Yami, wait up!" he called, jogging after her.

She turned. "Hi, Joey. How's your eye?"

He shrugged. "Ah. Been better. Hey, you finished your puzzle!"

Yami grinned and held it up. "Yeah! I finished it last night." She smiled down at it. "My treasure..."

It was now or never, Joey decided. "I've got a treasure, too. Want to see it?"

Yami nodded readily. "Okay."

Joey chuckled. "Heh. You can't! I'll even give you a hint if you want. It's something you can show, but can't see!"

Yami grinned at the riddle, trying to figure it out. "What could that be...?"

Joey smiled at her. "Give up? It's friendship."

Getting it, a slow smile spread across Yami's face. "Oh!"

"Thanks for showing me we're friends." Joey held out a hand to Yami, and she shook it tentatively.

"Really, Joey?" she asked.

He nodded with happy inspiration, remembering something he had in his locker. "Really, really. Here, I'll even prove it to you! I've got something for you. You know, as thanks for yesterday. Come on."

Puzzled, Yami followed Joey to his locker, where he pulled something long and blue out of it--a uniform jacket. "It'll be too big for you, but anything's better than that stupid pink one you're wearing now." Joey folded the jacket over his arm and handed it to Yami. "Here, try it on."

Yami's crimson eyes were wide with surprise as she stripped off the pink coat and tried on the blue one. Joey was right--it was too big. The hem fell at mid-thigh, and the sleeves had to be rolled back a little, but the grateful look on her face was worth it.

"That's a lot better, ain't it?" Joey grinned. "You c'n keep it. I don't ever wear it. It's too small for me."

"Really?" Yami's eyes sparkled. "Thanks, Joey!"

"No problem," he said, turning to go to class. "What are friends for, anyway?"

**

Author's Note:

And there we have the first chapter.  I've got a few more shuffled into my deck, though…comments are greatly appreciated.  *^_^* And if you're mad…yell at Yami-girl.  It's she who's gotten me into this mess.  *^_^*