Disclaimer: Plain and simple. I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh.
A/N: Oh my goodness, it's actually over? I'm not sure if I should jump for joy or cry. I'll probably do both. I love this story! It was so much fun to write and helped to introduce me to all of you wonderful people! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed and supported me, and to everyone who simply read and enjoyed as well. There will be no sequel to FAH. The story is played out and any addition would merely be trite and redundant. I hope you all find the ending to your satisfaction, and I hope to see you on my next endeavor!
Fairy-of-Fortune: I'm not sure there is a much greater sign of devotion from a reviewer than to have that reviewer translate a story into another language! But, between you and me, don't translate the mistakes! There are so many little things waaaaaaaay back there in the beginning that are just embarrassing mistakes. I'm probably going to revise the story once it is done for my own piece of mind. Maybe you should translate that version. Your review was the first of many to tell me that I induced tears... and I'm still trying to decide if that is a good thing. I'm leaning towards 'yes', but we'll see. I'm flattered you love my story so much. I'm very proud of it myself. It turned out far different from what I had imagined, but I like the changes it has. May this ending keep your trust in me, and I hope to see your review in my future stories!
jkateel: Now, what good could ever come from a review that starts off with 'I have a problem'? First, there is sympathy for Yuugi in the water fight, though I think he totally deserved it. I achieved romance, at least according to you, so that is a very very good thing! And then! I have someone falling at my feet and bowing... yes, I enjoyed that... because I read and LOVE their story! A most interesting review indeed! I noticed I still haven't gotten over there to review it, but I promise it is on my 'To-Do' list. I'll probably start reviews once I have this story out of my mind. I hope you like this ending, and I will be seeing you around for sure!
Nightingale13: Never did trust me, did you? chuckles Don't really blame you. As for your request about additional chapters with author reviews, I'm not going to do that because the site is getting really stringent on the rules and I could get kicked off again. I am, however, going to be emailing certain reviewers, including you, of course, with my comments on their reviews. So don't worry, you'll be knowing exactly what I think real soon. evil laughter, catches self, then continues on in a more subdued manner It was really interesting for me to hear you call the Shadows a 'child.' I mean, I agree, but as I was writing them, I just never really thought of them that way. I saw their inexperience, definitely their possessiveness, and now I see their tantrums and that cause and effect you were speaking of. Funny how one can write a particular character without ever consciously seeing the inspiration. Just thought you'd like to know you cleared it up even for me, and the writing of the Shadows will be easier for me from here on out. As for the items... I'm glad you agreed with my not delving into their personalities. I thought it would have added an unnecessary complication, and I truly don't believe that the items... that my interpretation of the items, with all due worship of Banjodog... would be able to attain any further sentience beyond an awareness that they exist to aid the Shadows. They were meant to only be the Shadows prison, and because of this, were only ever exposed to the childish Shadows, and so would never be able to grow beyond them. The puzzle, being Atemu's prison, had the added bonus of being able to observe a sentient being far beyond the capabilities of the Shadows themselves, and for this reason was able to reach for and obtain a higher awareness of itself. I agree, it is an 'old soul' in regards to the other items, and I am rather fond of its intelligence. The humming of the items, well, you made me think on this one. As I see it, the magics of the Shadows would have an initial music themselves. Each item has its own form of sentience, each item was able to obtain a different level of pseudo-awareness, and it is this sentience mixed with the underlying magics that gives each item its independent music. Not resoundingly different from each other, but enough so to notice. How does that sound? Best I can do at the moment. Banjodog was informed and she has read your review, and provided me with great amusement with her response. But all in all, she appreciated it. I think my characterization of the puzzle was influenced by Banjodog's representation in the sense that I am starting to see it as a living being, rather than just a big piece of gold. Uh, many pieces of gold. (Add "I'm fine" to that pet peeve list of yours for me) The kissing? Well, it's not like there is much distance between the top and bottom lip, is there? Besides, most of the time you are tilting your head to the side anyway. And everyone else talks about the bottom lip, and I beat my own path, so... there. I do disagree with you on the 'Besides, what else...?' line. Considering the chapter it was placed in and the action to come, I think it was appropriate to have that ambiguity. I didn't want the reader to know either way before the actions ever took place, it would have given away what was ahead. You would have done it differently, and I respect that, but the way I chose to do it created the impact I was looking for. Atemu did know that the end was near, but I don't think he would be aware of just how much Yuugi knew or expected. For the beach scene, Atemu was just trying to distract himself and create a final fond memory for him and Yuugi. Though his guard was down, the Shadows did act independently of him. By this point in the story they have their own agenda and are paying no attention to Atemu other than to know where he is. The biblical reference of yours... just wow. I was so blown away by it, it was so good! Wish I could say I meant for it to be there, making me that much better of a writer, but alas, I must rely on wonderful reviewers such as you to give my work meaning. I'm not trying to sound egotistical here, but I really don't know the impact my writing has on others. People tell me, but when I read my stories again, I find myself kind of numb, simply because I know them so well. That sounds odd to me, and probably to you too, but I kind of want to forget the stories sometimes and read them fresh from the eyes of someone who doesn't know what is going to happen. In another world, perhaps. I'm seriously thinking of binding this book, now that you won't let up about it. It'll be a while before I get to fictionpress.net, I have too many YGO stories I want to write right now. Oh, and trust me. I have done my best not to disappoint you or any of my other readers with the ending of this story. I truly hope I've succeeded. Take care, my friend. I eagerly await our next discussion!
Seventh Sage: Funny how nice the sound of applause is, no matter when you hear it. Thanks! I'm glad you liked the chapter, the lime, the water, and of course the popsicle. And even without the eyes, I couldn't possibly leave the ending like this. It has to at least have a positive implication! Which leaves the door open for me. Which probably isn't a good thing, considering... Oh well, I hope you like the chapter!
Sorceress MooNBlaDeR: So happy you liked my chapter! And hey, thanks for reviewing! Every review deserves a response in my opinion. Shame on those authors who don't take the time! Yuugi's gone through all the depression and everything before this chapter starts. I didn't think it would be interesting for anyone to read, nor for me to write. So onto the chapter. I hope you like it!
shadow-demon18b: My goodness, I was your first look into this world?! You poor thing! I am so proud of you for surviving! And I can't say how neat it is to know that I helped initiate someone into the wonderful world of fanfiction and yaoi and lemons (it took me a while to figure out what those were too) and just all the goodness that is Yu-Gi-Oh. I am deeply honored you attribute it all to me, but you must also give yourself credit for doing the research! Welcome to our world. May you enjoy your stay here!
DragonsDesire: My friend's dad is out of the hospital and is doing very well. Thank you so much for asking! I feel all warm and mushy now. I'm not sure if Atemu could hear your shouts or not, but the message certainly got through to me. My ego is swelling with all the people who say they are going to trust me. I just hope I won't let that trust down! Geeze, pressure! No more waiting, here's the end!
Phoenix 3:16: holds up a metal shield to protect myself from the impending flying toasters That... that was a mean threat! I mean, the toasters?! Going in straight for the kill, huh? Well, dry your tears, call off the toasters, and go read and be happy. Deal?
Abi2: is proud that I have made you faint again It must have been a good chapter for that kind of response. Once you come to, don't forget to read the end, okay? And you might want to bring smelling salts with you, you know, in case of future needs.
Cherry Romancer: sighs Another threat? And this time with a knife? But it had to be done! And now I can't take my eyes off that very large, shiny scary looking knife that is dangling over my head and I don't want it to come down on me so here is the chapter go read and put that thing away! gasps for breath I want Cherry 'Romancer' to remain exactly the way she is, yep, I certainly do.
tenshi208: Thank you! And the only reason I haven't updated at Soul Bounds is because I simply forgot to. Sad, I know. Pathetic. But I'll be updating there as soon as this chapter is done. Doesn't help you now, but hopefully it will help others in the future. I'm just horrible at remember these things. I need a permanent post-it note or something.
Silver Draggon: The unexpected is always good in a story. Makes things interesting! And no, the ocean scene had nothing to do with my name. I've always known I wanted the scene to be at the ocean. To be truthful, since I live less than a mile from the ocean, everything related to it comes from the thing itself! I love the ocean!
Sansi: Yes, I have decided to be very happy when I make people cry with my stories. I'm so happy you like my story, and are able to feel the emotion that I try to put into it. To answer your question, no, the puzzle didn't disappear. It fell to the sand like the other items, in its pieces. Hope that helps!
SoulDreamer: hands over a tissue Conclusion here!
LeDiz: Fine. Hold it against me. I won't take it personally. I think I am becoming immune, or at least more tolerable of it all by now. I love the idea of fore-lighting! That was exactly what I was going for. Sad, sad, sad, sad, and then some hope. Because when there is hope, anything is possible. Is the suspense getting to you yet? I felt kinda bad that Yuugi didn't get a chance to vent too, but it's hard to write Yuugi venting! I mean, an intelligent vent, not the standard 'You're mean!' and have him run away crying. shudders at the typical 'cry-baby-Yuugi' image Oh, and Kudos to you for writing 'Atemu' without thinking about it! Welcome to the club! 'Oh evil writer of goodness.' My, how you flatter me. Keep it coming! And I'll keep the stories coming! Take care until next time!
YumeTakato: You read the whole story in one sitting? Whoa, that's dedication. I appreciate it! I'm glad you like my story!
metallicbubbles: Yay! No shortcuts! First time you've cried with a story, is it? It is an interesting feeling, isn't it? I hope you enjoy the ending!
Cyberkat: You know, it would be far more useful to me for you to tell me which words you think I have used incorrectly rather than quoting Samuel Clemens. It makes it sound like you are trying to show off more than anything, and I know that wasn't your intent. In the future, please give me an example of the problems you have noticed. Now, thank you for reviewing, and I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Mythical Mel: 'Shpadoinkleous.' It's still my favorite word. I've just gotta put it up on my wall. I'm touched by your faith in me and your willingness to trust that the story won't end completely unhappy. I think the Shadows have won a little more than you do. Ultimately, they did separate Yuugi and Atemu and reclaim Atemu as their own. No matter what happens from here on out, that initial pain of separation can never be healed and will serve as a reminder to Atemu that such pain can be caused again. That was my intent, anyway, to have them have a more complete victory even should Atemu return. (And I think it is 'a while,' but I'm not entirely sure myself. It's the one that jumps out to me as being correct.) As for the one who stole some of my work, I meant that it looks like she 'cut and paste' it. Even if someone did hack into my account, I have several copies on my hard drive, so no worries on me ever losing my stories. I don't know why people do it, other than the fact that they need serious help. And don't ever shy away from analyzing or asking questions. It is always worth a shot! Anzu... well, much can be said about her, good and bad alike. I don't appreciate her outright ignoring Yuugi's feelings, yet then turning around and being jealous if anyone else likes him. (I refer to, of course, that most annoying, aggravating, infuriating, useless little character named Rebecca) Yeah, I don't like her. But anyway, I think it says a lot about Anzu's character, and I guarantee that none of that is good in my mind. I certainly do appreciate all my reviewers, so I don't care if others are annoyed by my responses. It's not like the length of my response impede on the length of the chapter any, like some authors. I hope this chapter induces another exercise program for you, and that you enjoy it as well! Thank you for the review as always! I love hearing from you.
Yaky: Go ahead. Everyone needs to flatter themselves every now and then! You are intelligent, and I won't hear another word against it. So there. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. Sometimes I wonder about the amount of detail I put into my stories. I see everything so clearly, but I know that it can be very cumbersome to read someone's excessive details on matters you don't think are important. I'm glad I haven't done that to you. I'm sorry to see this story go, but it is going to be so liberating! There are so many stories I want to write, and now I will finally be free to tackle them. Oh my, what do I study? I think a better question is what haven't I studied? I wanted to be an Egyptologist for a long time. I spent most of my schooling studying biology, but did branch out into chemistry, marine biology, archaeology, anthropology, psychology, prehistoric art, math, logic, and philosophy. I have loved all of these fields, and ultimately I want to work with horses (my all time love and the one passion that has never changed) but right now I have finally decided to get my teaching degree. Grade school level, and I want to look into being a substitute. Guess you could say I am a student of all fields. I just love to learn. (except speech. I have trouble staying awake for that one) As a final note, you don't bore me. Type to your heart's content! See you next time!
Sakura-chan: chuckles So the best reaction an author can get out of you is to make you go blank? I'll have to remember that. I am flattered that you were unable to find words to describe what you thought of the chapter. I know that sounds egotistical, but that isn't what I mean. It's just nice to know that something I worked so hard on had an effect on someone else. Thank you for letting me know how you felt. I hope this chapter produces a similar effect of blankness for you!
RyuArashi: That was an interesting tid-bit about the Japanese belief that items acquire an awareness when they become very old. Makes my story sound better after knowing that! Thanks for sharing it with me! I wonder how many times I can make you reread this chapter? I'm shooting for three, but we'll see. Poor Atemu, I know, but things will work out somehow in the end. I shall continue writing, and I hope you will continue reviewing!
Moonlitspire: Thank you! I'm glad you think I am keeping up in the quality department. I think angst is good, but you have to have humor interspersed, or else it isn't any fun for you or the reader. I think it also makes the angst that much more potent, when it suddenly jumps out at the reader. I must admit I'm rather proud of the water grenade idea. It just popped in there, and I could so see Atemu doing that. 'Horribly realistic'? It took me a moment to realize that was a good thing! I must have been slow that day. Again, thank you so much for the kind words, and I hope you enjoy this ending as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
WigglyJello: Thank you so much! I fully intend on continuing my writing in this genre, and I hope to see you around my other stories. I'm glad that the sentimentality got through in the last chapter, considering what the chapter was going to be doing. It was hard to wrap up the whole story in one punch like that, but oddly, it was a relief to be able to do so. You should know, right now, that I don't like sad endings either, and though I will never write a sappy fairy-tale ending (I hope) I will at least but in the possibility of happiness. If that didn't give this ending away, I don't know what will. May this chapter wrap up this story to your liking!
Dannee-san: Thanks for the leap of faith. I know how that last chapter sounded at the end. But I've always known how this would end, and I think it's ended quite well. I am so glad you enjoyed my story, and I hope you will enjoy my future works.
Wolfspeaker1: Hee, no worries! Just so long as you review eventually I don't care how long it takes! Thanks for all the praise! It feels so good to hear that people like my writing. Just makes me feel all... happy inside. I hope you like this ending. See you next story!
Hime no Ichigo: Yes, I was very proud of that eighteen page chapter. One of my longer ones, no doubt. This one is the average length, though not intentionally. Guess it just wanted to go out as it began, or something. I'm with you. I want to be able to soak all my friends by simply holding my hand out. I'm a little confused to you asking why Yami had to hit Yuugi that hard. I know it doesn't really matter, but Yami never hit Yuugi. I'm confused, but that's okay, I've been here before. Anyway, it's always nice to hear from you! I hope you like the ending of this epic of mine!
Nikuru: Ah, a new one! Hello there! Thank you for reviewing! I'm happy to hear you like my story as well as the Egyptian I used. I just love the language, and I thought it would add an originality to my story. You don't see many stories out there that have Egyptian in them. I hope you like the ending as much as you liked the rest of the story!
Ente: Yo, Ente! hands over a tissue I reduce someone to tears, and they wind up telling me that the chapter they just read is one of the best they have ever read. It seems like that shouldn't be, that it contradicts somehow, but I say leave things alone if they are working. No apologies necessary on not reviewing the day I posted that last chapter. I certainly can't complain with the speed I do things. I just enjoy hearing from you. I am now very proud of myself that I melded everything into a 'thing.' My new motto is going to include 'thing' just as soon as I come up with it. People seemed to have liked the water bombing. I must admit I loved it too, once it came to me. I can just picture that scene with perfectly clarity, and I laugh every time. As for Yami's soul, it belongs to the Shadows now, but it is kept in the puzzle, just like it was the first time it was sealed. I tried to put more of a link between them that way. Sketches. waits for the idea to sink in, then moves on You flatter me so much, and all I can think of to say is 'thank you.' It seems so inadequate, yet I can't think of anything else. May this ending leave you feeling just as satisfied, and I hope to see you on my next story!
Yami Trekkie: gasps! You! It's you! I remember you! My god it's been a long time! How you doing?? And the first thing you do is announce my nervousness at sexual scenes and criticize my spelling? Gee, thanks a lot. So glad to have you back. sighs Ah, our banter returns so easily, doesn't it? Good to see you again! Hope to see you online soon!
Genki-Rei-Chan: looks at my hands curiously, wriggles the fingers, no little magic sparks make themselves known I suppose the magic is hiding and only emerges on the keyboard. Thank you so much for the praise! I am not predictable... duly noted. And so many exclamation marks! Keep them coming, I won't complain! I use my fair share as you can see. I hope you like this chapter, and that I'll see you around!
BlueBolt: My goodness... I'm not sure how to respond to that review of yours. It was... I was just hit so hard by what you said. I mean, I liked it, sure. I loved it, actually. But there was just so much in there, more than just the words. I thank you for taking the time to tell me how my story made you feel. It was such a surprise to find your review in my mailbox. I wish I could think of something else to say to thank you, but really, just... thank you. I truly hope you like this ending. Take care.
vapidbreath: Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate it!
Dreamer Wolf: Thanks! And no, there won't be a sequel. Anything in a sequel would just be redundant, and I am fresh out of ideas for this one. I want to work on something new. Thanks for reviewing!
Fluffylittledragon: Sorry I haven't replied! No, that wasn't the end, as is probably obvious to you now. Dry your tears and go read! Thanks for the review!
And Banjodog, simply because I want to say hi. waves enthusiastically There now, don't you feel special?
Fly Away Home
Chapter Eighteen: Ptah's Piety
People burdened by their luggage hurried into and out of the airport, their loved ones scurrying behind them in an attempt to say their hellos and good-byes. Skycaps were busy assigning luggage and passengers to their proper flights, always mindful of the hustle and bustle of the airport drop-off. Energy permeated the air and people, and the underlying rush made the world appear to be permanently stuck on fast forward.
Gina felt the spark in the air as she shifted her weight between her feet and craned her neck to see over the crowd. Her large brimmed hat shaded her eyes from Cairo's blazing sun. A large, brown leather backpack pulled at her shoulders while she rung her hands anxiously.
"I can't believe he's coming here!" Gina said, her voice an odd mixture of apprehension and excitement. "It's been so long, Katashi."
"I'm still surprised Sugoroku sent us that telegram," Katashi mused to his wife. He continued to search the crowd for the not-so-familiar head of hair as he set his bag down on the curb beside him. "What's Yuugi doing on this side of the world, anyway?"
"I don't care," Gina replied distractedly, waving energetically at someone she mistook as her soon, receiving a rather peculiar look in return. Her words and mistaken identity spoke volumes to both her and her husband's lack of involvement in their son's life. Their yearly letters of mild interest and peripheral inquiries did nothing to compensate for their diminished parenting skills.
Gina and Katashi Motou had been abroad for over three years, traveling to such exotic locales as Naples, Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, Berlin, Warsaw, and Casbah. They were chronic nomads, unable to stay in one place for any discernable length of time. A taste for excitement and cultural flare dominated their actions and guided their travels. Both native to Japan, their homeland held little interest for them.
Consequently, so too did their son. But this sudden venture of Yuugi's sparked an excitement in his parents, and they were eager to see if their son had grown to follow in their footsteps. A life of travel was the only life worth living in their eyes.
A young man approached them slowly, seemingly unaffected by the energy around him as evidenced by his languid pace and quiet air. His head was bowed against the sun and the crowd, his long hair draping around his face and hiding it from view. Gina tilted her head as he walked nearer to her, recognition stirring from the dust only slightly as she tried to remember what her son had looked like the last time she'd seen him.
How old had he been again?
"Mom," Yuugi greeted softly as he came before her, setting his one suitcase on the ground beside him.
Gina's hand rose to her chest and covered her heart. This... young man was her son? How handsome Yuugi had become! His features had sharpened over time, though they still retained a hint of the roundness of his youth. His hair was so much longer than she remembered, but just as wild and carefree. A smile graced Gina's lips as she looked into the violet eyes that mirrored her own. She didn't notice how Yuugi's smile held only a fraction of her warmth.
"Oh, Yuugi," Gina said as she stepped forward and embraced him lightly. Her brows crinkled at the minimal response her hug recieved, but she dismissed it as nothing more than the fatigue of travel. She put her hands on Yuugi's shoulders and held him out at arms length. "Look at you! My little boy is all grown up!"
"Yeah, well, the years tend to do that to you," Yuugi said, just as softly as his initial greeting. The quietness of his tone was able to hide some of the accusation behind his words, but not enough so that his father didn't notice.
Katashi stepped up beside his wife and clapped his son's shoulder. "Good to see you, my boy. Looks like you've inherited some of your father's finer features." He winked in the old conspiratorial manner of men sharing deep secrets.
The comment was met by Yuugi's blank stare. This unnerved both his parents, memories of their sweet, emotional little boy tumbling across the floor and through their minds. Gina looked a little closer at her son now, and for the first time she noticed Yuugi's confident, yet guarded posture. She also noticed his eyes, not just their color, but the maturity, strength, wisdom, and... the depth of sorrow that they held.
But why was her Yuugi so sad?
"So, Yuugi, got any horses in the corral back home?" Katashi asked jovially, attempting to power-bond with his son. "I bet you have girls lined up around the block with the ol' Motou charm."
Gina tensed at the sudden hardness that enveloped Yuugi's eyes, the sorrow doubling in its intensity. Maybe he and his girlfriend had separated? She decided to intervene on Yuugi's behalf, in part protecting him from his father's less than tactful ribbing.
"Yuugi, dear?" she asked with a mother's softness. Yuugi turned his eyes to look at her, an eyebrow raised in question. "You found someone to love, didn't you?"
Yuugi blinked slowly at her, his voice a little thicker than it was moments before. "Yeah."
"And she loved you back?" Gina pushed further.
At this Yuugi closed his eyes and turned his head away, biting his lower lip and trying to bury the surge of emotion that threatened to consume him. Even though it had been over a year since that day, the wound and pain were just as fresh as if Yuugi had just taken a knife and sliced his arm.
"Oh, my poor baby," Gina whispered as she reached out for Yuugi's cheek. Katashi gave her a questioning look, utterly confused by Yuugi's and Gina's actions. Gina released an overly dramatic sigh before explaining. "Don't you see, Katashi? Our Yuugi gave his heart to her and she just left him!"
Yuugi's eyes snapped open and he glared at his mother for her careless remark. She made it sound so damn trivial! As though Atemu had done nothing more than toy with him and that their love was just some silly little infatuation! And she acted as though she were the one suffering!
Gina recoiled from her son as he snarled at her, lips pulling back against his teeth and his hands clenching into fists at his side. She gasped when she realized the purity of Yuugi's anger, and she found herself turning to her husband for protection. This made her even more concerned, to think that she needed to be protected from her own son. Katashi placed a comforting arm around her shoulders as he tried to stare Yuugi down, with little success.
Finally, Gina and Katashi were beginning to realize that Yuugi was no longer their little boy, but his own strong and independent man.
Yuugi just wanted to lash out at something. There was so much anger and pain he had buried within himself that he didn't know what to do with it all. It wasn't like he had had anyone to talk to about it. As sympathetic as Sugoroku had tried to be, there was very little he could offer in regards to sympathy. Yuugi had been emotionally shattered when he lost Atemu, left virtually empty inside and drowning in his grief. All Sugoroku could do was aid Yuugi in his suddenly frantic research into Egyptian mythology.
"How dare you," Yuugi seethed, his tenuous control over his emotions rapidly failing. "You know nothing about us! Nothing about me!"
"Y-Yuugi–" Gina began, stunned and frightened by his sudden outburst.
"Easy now, my friend. Your energy will be better spent elsewhere."
Yuugi closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath, tilting his head toward the gentle hand now resting on his shoulder and nodding. It was good advice, as always. His friend had that uncanny ability of being influentially calm and infuriatingly correct all at once.
Katashi stared openly at the man now standing behind his son, irritated at how easily Yuugi accepted this man's words and yet was determined to shout at his father. He was slightly taller than Yuugi, his skin a little more pale, his silver-white hair flowing down to the middle of his back. His voice held the calm hum of a finely tuned musical instrument, and his accent betrayed his English descent.
"And you are...?" Katashi asked curtly.
The man didn't answer at first, keeping his brown eyes fixed on Yuugi. Once he was certain that Yuugi was back in control of his emotions, however momentary that control may be, he squeezed his shoulder once before addressing Katashi.
"I'm Ryou, sir. Yuugi was kind enough to allow me to accompany him on his journey." Ryou pointedly did not introduce himself properly, signaling to Katashi exactly how little he thought of him.
"Where did you two–?"
"What journey, Yuugi?" Katashi interrupted his wife, his irritation melting into anger at the dismissal both his son and his friend directed at him.
"I'm going to find him," Yuugi answered, his voice going soft again as he pulled his body straight and tall.
"Find who?" Katashi snapped.Yuugi looked at his mother, letting her see the answer in his eyes. Gina's eyes widened as she suddenly understood Yuugi's previous anger at her. He and his lover had been separated, but not by choice. She felt a sting in her chest as she realized how her words must have sounded to him. Yuugi had chosen to venture from his home to try to reunite with the one he had fallen in love with. Perhaps her son was more grown up than she had given him credit for.
"Come, Yuugi," Ryou coaxed as he bent to gather Yuugi's suitcase. "Memphis awaits us, and he awaits you."
Gina felt a tug on her heart as a smile pulled at Yuugi's lips, lasting but a moment before being replaced by a resolute determination. Yuugi hesitated before leaning forward and giving his mother a brief, yet gentle hug. Gina couldn't help her smile as Yuugi turned to his father, nodded once, then turned to follow Ryou to their waiting taxi.
"Just a minute!" Katashi demanded. "You can't just–!"
"Yes he can, dear," Gina said, placing her hand on her husband's arm to calm him. "We did it to him years ago, didn't we? He's already given us more than we ever gave him. Besides..." she trailed off as Yuugi's taxi pulled away from the curb, "... he's following his heart. We have no right to get in his way."
Katashi didn't respond to his wife's comments, keeping his thoughts hidden as he glared after his son.
The old and battered truck skidded to a dusty stop as the tires skated on the dirt and gravel road, a small cloud of dust following in the vehicle's wake. The tan hue of the truck glared in the afternoon sun as the sun's rays tried to bake the color to match the surrounding landscape.
The metallic sound of doors opening and closing were muted by the heat, as were the sounds of feet scuffling along the rocks and pebbles as Yuugi and Ryou made their way into the ruins. The magnitude of what the once capitol city must have looked like was lost among the debris of large blocks of limestone and countless layers of time and sand. Palm trees were gathered around the edge of the shimmering blue pool of water that managed to look both out of place and yet perfectly at home in the desert landscape.
"Not much left," Ryou commented as he knelt besides the pool, using its reflection to tie his hair neatly into a ponytail.
"No, there isn't," Yuugi said as he examined one of the large blocks of stones that lined the pool, one of the many that were covered with the hieroglyphics of a different era. "Then again, I guess we shouldn't expect much, seeing as how Memphis was used as a quarry to build Cairo."
Ryou stood and stretched his arms above his head, arching his back like a cat. The hint of a smile tugged at his lips as he eyed Yuugi from behind his hair. "Cute and able to retain information. You just have so much talent, my friend."
Yuugi snorted at Ryou's light jab, abandoning the stone he was studying to turn and look off into the distance. "I'm not cute," he added as an afterthought. "I'm drop-dead gorgeous."
Ryou laughed heartily as he unscrewed the cap from his canteen and shoved both it and his hand into the pool of water, pointedly ignoring the disgusted face Yuugi was giving him and the film on the water's surface. He was so happy that fate had allowed him to meet Yuugi. Not only was he a good friend, but he was a well of entertainment.
"Not going to argue with you there," Ryou said, taking a moment to splash water onto his face before reclaiming his canteen.
A long and quiet moment passed between the two companions as each allowed the other to follow whatever thoughts their minds wished to explore. A sharp breeze whipped the heat around them, cooling their skin slightly as the sweat evaporated at the wind's insistence. There was an unnatural calm to the area. A calm that seeped from the trees and stones and the remaining monument that just radiated with... something indescribable.
"Should we be looking over there?" Yuugi asked after a while, uncertainty playing along the edges of his voice as he pointed to the hazy mirage of Saqqara, the burial city of Memphis. "I mean, that is where they... you know, when people..." There was a hitch in his breath as he simply couldn't bring himself to speak of Atemu's death again, even though he had only spoken of it once.
Ryou turned to look at Yuugi's back, his expression softening. He sighed as he brushed his bangs out of his eyes and took a seat on one of the exposed stones, the old temple behind him framing his presence. "You know, this place doesn't really live up to its reputation. It's hard to believe that from this spot all of Egypt and her people were created."
Yuugi had bowed his head to listen while Ryou spoke, his hair floating in the breeze in an attempt to distract from the emotions visible on his features. "Appearances can be deceiving," Yuugi said quietly. "I'm not really sure what I was expecting. I'm still kind of numb to the fact that I'm even here. I was so sure back home, and on the plane, but now... I don't know if I can survive this if I'm wrong."
"Uncertainty doesn't suit you, Yuugi, so stop it," Ryou said with a friendly harshness. He was satisfied when Yuugi shot him a weary glare over his shoulder. "Think of where you are, not where you are. Focus on what you came here to find. That, if anything, should dissuade all doubt you might have."
Yuugi considered this advice, finally producing a small smile as he made his way over to sit by Ryou beside the pool. "I'm so glad you were as bored as I was that day, and as much of a dork as me to seek entertainment in the basement of a library."
Ryou raised his canteen in a mock salute, an action Yuugi followed as they bumped their containers together and took healthy swigs of refreshing water. But the worry still remained in Yuugi, and he turned his eyes to Ryou to relay his concern.
"We wait, Yuugi," Ryou said softly, having always had the ability to read Yuugi's emotions with unnatural ease. "He will come to us." When Yuugi raised a brow in question to Ryou's absolute certainty, he was met with a mischievous sparkle in his friend's eyes.
"I know because I read it in a book, and we all know that whatever we read in books must be true."
The bronze sun hung lazily above the horizon, keeping a silent watch over the two who sat in the ruins. Heat tried to escape from the ground in discrete plumes of hot air, and a harsh wind blew over the land.
Ryou bobbed his head to the music playing in his ears, his CD player held loosely in his hand as he moved to the rhythm. Yuugi scooted a few inches away from his friend so as not to be hit by an immanently flailing arm. Ryou really got into his music. He had spent the last two hours dancing in his seat and was completely unconcerned with the passage of time.
Yuugi sighed as he turned his attention back to his book. He noticed a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye as he tilted his head back to take a drink from his canteen. Frozen in place as his mind wrapped around the image he was seeing, Yuugi slowly lowered his canteen and his book, setting both down beside him without taking his eyes off of the snake.
The asp slithered its way closer to Yuugi once it had his attention, though not so close as to be within reach. Its tongue poked out and tasted the air, its eyes staring directly at Yuugi. Without so much as a hesitation Yuugi stood and took a step towards the snake, remaining calm as the asp jerked back in nervous precaution.
Kneeling against the baked sand, Yuugi held his arm out towards the snake, his palm facing the sky. He remained perfectly still and confident as he waited patiently for the snake to find its comfort and inch its way forward. With a few more flicks of its tongue, the asp did just that.
Yuugi's skin tingled as the belly scales of the asp twitched rhythmically against his fingers. He blinked slowly while the snake slithered further up his arm, finally standing when he was supporting the majority of the snake's weight. The asp immediately coiled the length of its body around Yuugi's arm, its grip tight and unforgiving. Yuugi kept his eyes on the serpent as he raised his free arm, his hand open and his palm facing the snake's head, as if to halt it in its path.
The asp didn't move for several minutes. Not even its tongue came forth to taste the air. But eventually, the asp guided its head forward and bumped its nose into Yuugi's palm before drawing back and loosening slightly the grip it had around Yuugi's arm. Yuugi's lips twitched into a small smile as the asp allowed him to pet its head with two of his fingers.
"It appears you have been judged as worthy."
Yuugi didn't raise his eyes immediately to the new voice, keeping them and his respect on the asp around his arm. The man waited patiently, time having little meaning to him other than a faint knowledge of its existence. Ryou's energetic dancing paused as he noticed the man, but resumed shortly after. He was who they had been waiting for, after all, and this was a damn good song.
Yuugi kneeled to the ground and encouraged the asp to uncoil from his arm. The snake slowly obliged, choosing to drape itself between Yuugi's feet, its tail and tongue vibrating in the desert heat. Yuugi finally turned his attention to the man.
"What is it you seek?" the man asked, his voice an even monotone of one who is determined to keep his company oblivious to his true intentions. He was tall, a good six inches taller than Yuugi, and his skin had the healthy, dark sheen of a native of the Egyptian landscape.
Yuugi narrowed his eyes fractionally, studying the Egyptian carefully. "... you are the one they call 'Shadi,' are you not?" His own voice held a diplomatic air that he had not intended, but had surmised would best suit the situation. He could feel the sweat of anticipation beginning to bead on his palms.
There was a pause. "It is not often I allow people to know who I am," Shadi replied eventually. His eyes were such an even shade of blue that they appeared to be pupil-less, and they revealed absolutely nothing about what he was feeling. It was an unnerving characteristic that he often used to his advantage, only it appeared he could not do so in this case. The Chosen One would not be so easily intimidated by a seeming blankness of feeling.
"You are here on behalf of the Pharaoh," Shadi continued. His eyes narrowed and his voice took on a slightly acidic edge. "Tell me, Yuugi. What makes you think you are owed any favors?"
"It is not a favor that I'm looking for," Yuugi replied evenly. "I wish to right a wrong."
Shadi remained as still as stone. He gave every appearance of knowing all and yet knowing nothing, comprehending without understanding, intentions without purpose. He revealed nothing while he absorbed everything. These traits had been bred into him and cultivated over his years of living. To be the priest of any god was a difficult and unrelenting task, yet to be the priest of his god demanded an even greater devotion. One of complete humility.
"And you assume that a wrong has been done?" Shadi asked in a tone that alerted that the answer was soon to follow. "Assumption is a very dangerous thing, one not considered to be desirable in those who claim to be of the most devout faith."
Yuugi blinked at the accusation. "Devout...? I don't understand-"
"You follow him, do you not?"
Yuugi nervously rolled his tongue in his mouth, not liking how easily Shadi was able to unnerve his already wavering confidence.
"It is much better, and would be in your favor, to simply accept the events as they have occurred and move on." Shadi paused here, partly out of tactic, but partly because he was curious to see if Yuugi was capable of understanding his message. It was a vital test.
A deep breath filled Yuugi's lungs and succeeded in quieting his pulse and internal doubts as he released it slowly. He closed his eyes against his surroundings and focused himself inwards, to the core of his belief that Atemu was important enough to endure any trial. A new calm washed over him as he submerged himself in this belief, in the comforting embrace of the love he held so dearly.
Yuugi smiled briefly, the calm allowing him to see Shadi's words for what they were. They weren't so much advice as they were words of caution. It appeared that his worthiness had not been judged as thoroughly as he had thought.
"Yes, I do follow him," Yuugi said succinctly. "But not..." he added at the momentary triumph that crossed Shadi's features, "... in any divine manner that you seem to imply."
Shadi's brows showed the faintest hint of creasing at this reply. "You accept, then? His status, both past and present? The implications of his future?" He began to circle the pool of water that rested behind Ryou and in front of the ruined temple, each step slow and precise, never diverting his gaze from Yuugi. "Why are you here?"
Yuugi turned his head to follow Shadi's progress around the water's edge while keeping the rest of his body still. The asp between his feet hissed dangerously and curled itself more tightly around his legs. Yuugi braced himself for the test he knew was coming.
"I am here because this is the land of creation. I am here because this is where he was born. I'm here to ask Ptah to bring him back to this world." Yuugi clenched his jaw to keep himself from speaking further, not wanting to release the words that threatened to slip past his lips. He couldn't trust himself to start thinking about Atemu again, not like that, not now that he was working so hard to get him back.
"And why should Ptah grant such a request?" Shadi bit out, halting his predatory circle of the pond. "What have either you or the Pharaoh done to deserve such a gift?"
"He saved the world!" Yuugi finally shouted, his emotions breaking through the iron-clad mask he had tried to maintain. "He sacrificed himself to seal the Shadows-!"
"Which you released."
"Pegasus released them!"
"Once you solved the puzzle."
"I only did that to help Atemu!"
"You only did so for your own selfish desires."
Yuugi clutched at his chest, his breaths harsh and shallow. He clenched his eyes against the flooding tidal wave of guilt and pain and shattered dreams. He choked on his love and feeling of desolation, falling to his knee and barely avoiding the strike of the asp still at his feet. The serpent considered him a moment before slithering up Yuugi's back and settling around his shoulders. Ryou slowed his dancing and lowered the headphones from his ears as he watched Yuugi collapse in on himself.
"What do you want from me?" Yuugi whispered brokenly. "What could I possibly say or give that could ever equal what Atemu did? How could I ever acquire the favor of any god when I have done nothing worth noticing with my life?"
Ryou pursed his lips and frowned at Yuugi, not liking the way he was baring his soul to the world. He knew instinctively that Yuugi wasn't nearly as healed as he pretended to be. That his smiles were hollow and his laughter was heavy with a shallow ring. But there was also so much strength in him, a strength unheralded in the world. He was stubborn and resourceful in his beliefs and true to his morals and never reneged on his word.
To see him hurting angered Ryou, and he turned his frown into a glare and shot it over to Shadi. Instantly his hardened features fell into the slack-jaw look of surprise as he saw Shadi sitting lightly on the stones that surrounded the pool, his expression unexpectedly as soft and understanding as it was capable of being.
Shadi inclined his head so he could observe the horizon and its painted colors of the sunset. A cool breeze filtered its way through the ruin and ruffled the clothes of the three men, sending a soothing chill over their skin. Shadi closed his eyes and nodded once, humbly, before returning his attention to Yuugi.
"It is interesting what the people of this age consider to be valuable," he began in a level, yet quiet tone. "It appears that personal value is equal only to the number of people who are aware of your accomplishment. One would think that the quality of the act is inconsequential. Or that the act itself must be of some monumental achievement that benefits, in one way or another, all of mankind."
Yuugi wasn't really listening. He was so caught up in his pain that he hadn't even noticed that he had started stroking the asp's head in order to comfort himself, or that the serpent had coiled around his neck in a supportive manner. He heard Shadi's words, but they were as meaningless as a whisper in a concert hall to him. Which is why Shadi's next words caught him by surprise.
"Humility is a practice that has long since been lost. Although, on occasion, it does make its appearance." Shadi looked pointedly at Yuugi, whose head had snapped up from its bowed position to stare openly at him. "You asked me what it was you could offer."
Yuugi nodded slightly, his eyes clearing as the spark of hope crackled in his blood. His hand stilled on the asp's head in anticipation.
"It has just been given."
Yuugi remained down on his knee as Shadi dipped his hand into the sacred pool, the impact of Shadi's words slowly and completely encompassing him. He... was going to be granted his request? So it had been honesty that was required of him. An acknowledgement of his actions and acceptance of who he was and all that Atemu could be. Yuugi realized with little humor that he had almost lost his opportunity to find Atemu because of his pride. Yuugi swore at that moment to never let his pride hold such importance for him again.
"You do realize the implications of Ptah's generosity." Shadi skimmed his fingers over the surface of the pond, exciting the water to dance expectantly after his fingertips.
"What do you mean?" Yuugi asked, looking at Ryou in confusion as his friend made his way over to him.
"So long as even a single entity exists in this world that is connected to the Shadows, they will be able to invade our land again." Shadi's voice had turned heavy, both hands now dancing over the surface of the pond.
Ryou interjected his comments here, trying to take some of the burden off Yuugi, whose appearance exuded too thoroughly his fatigue. "By that logic, the fact that the items are still here and did not disappear when the Shadows were sealed means that there will be no consequence to bringing Atemu back to Yuugi. If the event is to happen anyway, then Yuugi cannot be held responsible for its occurrence and so his request is valid."
"On the contrary, the items existence has little to do with the Shadows themselves. Though it is true that as long as they remain the magics will have some influence on this world, it is the Pharaoh's presence that will guarantee their full emergence." Shadi turned his eyes to Yuugi, their blue color glowing with a hidden power. "Having seen what the Shadows are capable of, are you willing to allow them the conduit to this plane?"
"I-" Yuugi hesitated. His resolve was not about to falter again. But still... "Isn't there some way to... isn't there anything that can be done to allow Atemu to return without opening the door for the Shadows?"
Shadi didn't answer, merely stood and turned toward Yuugi while keeping one arm suspended over the pond.
Ryou considered the question, hurriedly paging through the hours of research he had stored in his mind, his photographic memory allowing him to cipher through his memory at a rapid pace. His eyes opened slowly.
"You know, Yuugi," Ryou said quietly into his friend's ear, feeling that to speak any louder in the now twilight hour would be something near blasphemy. "The Egyptians believed in the power of the name. To speak another's name was to control them. To define them, in a sense..."
Yuugi's eyes widened at this. He swallowed against his nerves, knowing that Ryou was right, following the path of Ryou's information. And he did not like where that path led him.
"To seal his memory?" Yuugi ventured, casting a glance to Shadi, who remained motionless. Yuugi chewed on his lower lip as he considered the possibility further, shaking his head against the implications the action would bring. How much of his memory would be sealed? The magics? His past life? ... Yuugi? "What would that do?" he insisted.
"Delay," Shadi answered simply.
"Is that all?" Yuugi said to himself, though Ryou did hear the disheartened words. If all the sealing of Atemu's memory would do would be to delay the emergence of the Shadows, then that meant that Yuugi would be allowing their return... actually aiding their return. And as horrible as that fact was, to know that he would be helping the force that tried to kill him, had killed many others, had tried to destroy the world and imprison his lover... and there was another inevitably that loomed on the horizon like so much poisoned wine.
Yuugi would have to lose him again.
It had nearly killed him the first time.
And here he'd be condemning himself to the same experience. The same gnawing and soul wrenching pain that still burned in his veins.
Yet... until that time...
"It is done."
Both Yuugi and Ryou jerked to attention at Shadi's voice, eyes widening in shock and disbelief at the image before them. Hovering, suspended above the pond's surface and just at the edge of Shadi's reach was the Pharaoh, his body limp and his head bowed in his state of stasis, his toes skimming the water's surface. Water trickled down the Pharaoh's nude body in long rivulets, his hair falling long and wave-like along his neck and back and around his shoulders.
"How on earth...?" Ryou ventured.
"We do not question what Ptah has given us!" Shadi said sharply.
Yuugi was frozen in place before the image of the man he loved more than anything in the world. His heart pounded thunderously in his chest, all thoughts and movement halted by the possibility in front of him. Yuugi took two small, hesitant steps towards the pond. Ryou made no move to stop him.
"Think clearly before you choose," Shadi advised through narrowed eyes. "The choice is not as simple as it may appear, and the repercussions will rest solely upon you."
Ryou rested his hand on Yuugi's shoulder, careful to avoid the head of the asp that hissed when he approached. In this manner he offered his support of Yuugi's choice, whatever it would be. With a final squeeze of his shoulder Ryou stepped back to allow Yuugi the space he needed to make his decision.
His thoughts and Shadi's words cycloned their way around Yuugi's mind, colliding and fighting with each other for dominance, for control over Yuugi's actions. His eyes dulled as the war continued loudly, the possibility of future horrors and present pleasures playing out in vivid detail.
A delay was all that could be guaranteed by sealing the Pharaoh's memory. But it was something, and it was more than most were given. It was inevitable that the Shadows would again someday break through into the real world. Yuugi could feel it in his bones that this was true. Atemu would again be forced to wake at someone else's command and to fight a war not of his making. He would again be forced to make too great a sacrifice.
The brightness rushed back to Yuugi's eyes and the thoughts that swirled in his mind suddenly stilled. He had had enough of this. Neither he nor Atemu could be held responsible for the future. Neither of them had control over what had not yet happened. He wasn't going to be scared into backing down and hiding away. He wasn't going to take the path of least resistance, simply because it had the appearance of being the safer course.
Yuugi had promised Atemu that he would find him again. There was no way in hell that Shadi or the Shadows or anyone else was going to make Yuugi break that pledge.
It didn't matter what the Pharaoh was called. If he remembered himself and he and Yuugi were able to be together but for a brief moment, then that was enough. Yuugi would find him again. If the Pharaoh's memory was sealed, and with it any memory of Yuugi, then Yuugi would make the Pharaoh fall in love with him again. It was that simple.
He wasn't going to fear possibility any longer.
Yuugi squared his shoulders and walked confidently around the pool until he was standing in front of Shadi. The two men stared at each other for a long moment before Yuugi opened his mouth and spoke a single word. A single name.
Shadi smirked. Yuugi had passed the final test.
The Pharaoh slowly opened his eyes.
No actual translations this time, just a little background info on names and places and such.
Gina – Japanese, meaning "silvery"
Katashi – Japanese, meaning "firmness"
Shadi – Arabic, meaning "singer" (I just about died laughing when I found that)
Ptah – The creator god of the Egyptian mythology. He is accredited with creating Memphis, the Egyptians, and all the other gods. In short, one powerful dude.
Memphis – 'Land of Creation,' from where all of Egypt was created, and home of the principle sect of Ptah. Also the first capitol of the Egyptian empire. Very little remains today of the city and its temple, as most of it was used as a quarry when Cairo was built.
Thank you everyone!