WSJ: ^~ Inspired by Singing to the Scarecrow, by Sherrie Austin-sama.
Disclaimer: YGO is not mine. *sighs in regret*
Motou Yuugi sighed and pushed his hair out of his eyes as he trudged off the stage and collapsed into a chair in the wings. He adjusted the Dueling Disk on his arm and waited for whoever his next challenger would be. He hated days like this. Being world champion of Duel Monsters did have its perks, but it also had its cons.
Like today, for example. The twenty-three year old duelist was appearing at an American convention, where any and all challengers could try and take him on. No official matches of course, in case he just happened to get beaten. Thinking of that, Yuugi snorted a little. To this day, he'd only ever been beaten by Kaiba Seto and Jounochi Katsuya. Kaiba because he cheated, and Jou because Yuugi had let him win (although of course Jou didn't know that).
Thinking of Jou and Seto, Yuugi sighed again and let his shoulders slump a bit. Digging around in his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and flipped it open to an old, worn picture from almost six years ago. Smiling a little, he traced his fingers over the familiar, if a bit faded, faces. There he was, right in the middle, with Jou on one side and Anzu on the other.
These days Anzu was finally living her dream of being a dancer. Her attitude had escalated along with her fame unfortunately. Two years ago Yuugi had tried to propose, only to have been completely blown off by his childhood crush. It had risen to a shouting match and a media scandel, and the two hadn't spoken since. Thinking about Anzu always left a bitter taste in Yuugi's mouth. He really did love her. Or at least, he had...
At least Jou was doing a little bit better. He was the second top duelist in the world, right behind Yuugi himself and just above Hiroto Honda. Yuugi had heard fans refer to the three of them as the "Big Three". That always made Yuugi giggle a little and think about the Big Five, from all those years ago. Speaking of Big Five, Jou was also VP of Kaiba Corp. Mokuba had granted him the possition just after Seto's death.
Yuugi's smile faded as his eyes shifted to where the Kaiba brothers stood in his picture, just a little back from the main group. Mokuba was grinning like a fool, and even Seto had a small smile on his face. After Seto had bought out Industrial Illusions from Pegasus's executives, a few of those loyal to Pegasus had contrived to assasinate the young CEO. Unfortunately, they'd suceeded. Mokuba was now head of Kaiba Corp, and was doing well dispite the lingering sadness of his big brother's demise.
Moving past the Kaibas, Yuugi chuckled again. Mai was standing behind Jou, giving him bunny ears and winking at the camera. Mai was a premiere fasion designer, and she and Jou were engaged. Yuugi had been the one who'd encouraged Jou to propose, even after so long. Mai had happily accepted, and they were planning to be married as soon as Yuugi could get back to Japan and be Jou's best man.
Beside Mai stood Shizuka, and on either side of her were Otogi and Honda, each grinning possesively. Oh boy, what a trio that was! Otogi and Honda had been fighting over her for about two years when Shizuka had finally made her choice. Poor Honda. Yuugi couldn't help but chuckle when he thought of that scene. Currently Shizuka was pregnant, and she and Otogi were living together in Otogi's big old manor, but no wedding rings yet, a fact that made Jou considerably annoyed. Otogi still ran his game shop, which had branched out into a nation-wide chain. Shizuka handled most of his finances, since she was surprisingly good with numbers.
After being rejected by Shizuka, Honda had thrown himself into Duel Monsters and had steadily risen through the ranks. Currently he was third in the world, right behind his old friends Jou and Yuugi.
Yuugi's face saddened again as he observed the two figures in the very back of the picture, even behind the Kaiba brothers. They were trying to look as if they didn't care whether they were part of the group or not, but looking back on it now Yuugi could see where the longing was carefully hidden on their faces. For the ten-hundredth time, Yuugi wished he could have welcomed them and included them more, before it was too late.
//It wasn't your fault aibou,// Yami spoke up, his voice tight. //They made their choices.//
/Yes, I know,/ Yuugi answered sadly. /But I can't help but blame myself. Yami, if they'd had more friends, maybe Ryou and Malik wouldn't have.../
//Don't think about it.// Yami told him sternly, trying to keep his own mind off the two wayward teens that he would never see again. //Just don't.//
Yuugi sighed and nodded, tucking the picture back into his wallet. He sat back in the chair, resting a hand absently over the Puzzle. "So much has changed..." he mused aloud. "So much..."
"Hey, Yuugi, thinking about the past again?"
Yuugi turned around and smiled up at Jou. "Yeah. I seem to more and more these days. Jou, when did dueling become more work then play for you?"
Jou pulled up a chair and sat down next to Yuugi, and stared off into space with a funny look on his face. "Probably about the time Kaiba died." he said finally. "Once he wasn't around to argue with anymore, it just didn't seem the same. You?"
Yuugi looked down at his hands. "Battle City. It taught me that dueling wasn't just a game, and I think that almost ruined it for me."
Jou looked at his friend and felt a smile tugging at his lips. Standing up, the blond strode over to a nearby card table and swept aside all the papers and various knick-knacks sitting on top. Grinning at the surprised expression on Yuugi's face, Jou took his deck out of the Dueling Disk he was wearing and slapped it down on the table. "Come on Mr World Champion, I challenge you!"
Yuugi looked surprised. "But, Jou -"
Jou winked. "No yamis, no powers, no screaming media, no fans, no memories. Let's just duel for us."
Looking up into Jou's eyes, Yuugi suddenly grinned, and an old fire came back into his eyes, a fire Jou hadn't seen in a long time. "Alright Jounochi, but I won't go easy on you!"
where you did things because you wanted to and not because you had to.
God bless minna-san!