All Things New
"I should have paid more attention in English class," Yugi whispered to himself, trying his best to navigate the signs of the Los Angeles airport. Under any normal circumstances, on any normal day, he would have refused Malik Ishtar's request. But these were not normal days, and this was anything but a normal circumstance. And Yugi, for that matter, was anything but ordinary.
He brushed his hand against the puzzle resting on his neck, the dormant Pharaoh calming his nerves. He had remained within the puzzle the entire flight, though his voice was far from silent in Yugi's mind. Even now, the thoughts of the Pharaoh were anything but hidden. For once, Yugi resolved to keep his refusal to allow the Pharaoh to take control. Navigating Japan was one thing for the ancient spirit, but navigating the United States was an entirely different scenario.
The call from Malik had been strange and unexpected. He had not given the young Japanese boy much insight into the situation, nor had the Pharaoh who had been able to hide most the conversation from Yugi. All he truly knew was that the darkness in Malik's heart was anywhere but gone, potentially putting his friend Haydee in danger—not to mention, potentially threatening the sanity of the world as he presently knew it. Well, with what little sanity the world had.
Since the darkness in Malik had seemingly been obliterated, the world had for the most part been at peace. Duels were still a very big part of the world, but so few knew the true history behind the creatures and the games. And even fewer knew the dark powers that hid beneath the cards and the seven mysterious items: one of which he was going to repossess according to the Pharaoh.
The phrase the Pharaoh had given to him was unnerving to say the least. And while Yugi did not want to admit it, he knew the path they were traveling would lead to a farewell. Before that, the Pharaoh had told him he had one more thing he wanted to do for the friends who had done much for him. And that was to help Haydee by helping Malik, which in essence, was helping the world.
It is time to collect them, he had spoken to Yugi after he had ended the call with Malik. And Yugi knew what that meant. The seven items. The Pharaoh returning to where he truly belonged. Saying goodbye. He had his friends by his side at least: Anzu, Jou, Honda, and the others. They would all miss the Pharaoh, but life had slowly begun to return to normal. And it was only a matter of time when life would be as mundane as it had been before the Pharaoh had entered their lives.
But they would always have the memories. And the cards.
Yugi, keep walking.
Yugi blinked, realizing he had stopped his quest to find his baggage and the exit to the enormous airport. Malik would supposedly be waiting for him in a car somewhere. Or Rishid, depending on how bad things had gotten over the last week. Yugi shook his head. Only a week, and Malik was already begging for the Pharaoh's help. For his help, though Malik would probably only admit to the former.
He found the place where his baggage would eventually appear. He waited patiently for the small and mostly empty black bag to make its way down the conveyor belt. He grasped the bag and pulled it with him, easily clearing customs. He pulled out the small cell phone, dialing the number Malik had called from a week earlier. The cost of the single call was not as important to Yugi as getting out of the airport full of strange people and signs.
Take a rest, Yugi. Please.
Yugi closed his eyes, allowing the dim glow to illuminate his mind as the Pharaoh took control of his body. He watched through his eyes as a small convertible pulled up in front of him, a large Egyptian man seated in the driver's seat—which was on the completely opposite side of cars from Japan.
Yugi climbed in the car, dropping his bag in the backseat. He nodded a greeting to Rishid.
"Thank you, my Pharaoh," the man said, bowing his head as he quickly pulled away from the airport.
o - o - o
Malik growled, staring out at the never-ending ocean and skyline. Haydee was inside, apparently resting. The time adjustment had not been easy for her. Then again, neither had her nights. Nor had his, for that matter.
He pressed his forefinger and thumb to his temple, shutting out the menacing voice that filled his mind. His sleep had been restless, his mind racing at the idea that his darkness could take over and he would never know. His constant tossing and turning kept Haydee in a state of half-sleep, and his occasional groan of mental anguish kept her too worried to sleep.
He found it appealing that she worried over him, except for the fact that he hated he made her worry. He hated the darkness in him. And he hated the rod. He pulled the metal from his pocket, careful not to connect his skin to the burning gold. The eye glared at him, a reflection of his inner self. It was true, he would willingly admit, that he could never be good. He could never be the kind of man who deserved Haydee—or any sane, intelligent, beautiful woman—and he could never be the kind of man who had good and pure intentions. He would forever have ulterior motives. But he could not be his darkness, either. Because Malik Ishtar was not entirely evil. He could be the kind of man who deserved the love of a woman, and he could be the kind of man whose ulterior motives behind good deeds were for his own satisfaction at having done something good.
He glanced at the point where the sky and ocean met before shoving the rod in his pocket and glancing at the time on his cell phone. The Pharaoh would have landed already, and would hopefully be currently in a car on his way, ready to take the rod with him.
It occurred to Malik, in that moment, that giving up the rod would essentially solve none of his problems. He would be without a way to control the minds of others, but the temptation to do that was the least of his worries. He pondered a moment, realizing that by giving up the rod, he was giving up all insight into Haydee's complex mind. Not that he had browsed through her thoughts recently. The burning of the rod's metal had seen to it that he not make contact to peek at the girl's inner secrets.
For the first time, Malik would have to ask a person their thoughts to know what they were thinking. The thought seemed daunting, frightening almost.
He turned away from the balcony and reentered the room he shared with Haydee. Though she had claimed she needed sleep, it was clearly evident she had never gone to sleep. He blue eyes were curiously watching him. Perhaps with a hint of admiration, though Malik was uncertain. He smirked, almost thankful he had felt the need to step out into the fresh air without a shirt—though the need had come because of a fight for control with his darkness, and had come in the process of Malik dressing.
He sat on the bed, turning his back to Haydee, wondering why she had to find the carvings as fascinating as she did. He shivered when one of her fingers lightly traced one of the markings.
"The Pharaoh is coming," he said calmly, reveling in the feel of her finger on his back.
He could hear the surprise in her voice. "Yugi? Wha-why-whe-wait, what?"
Malik smirked again, enjoying himself too much to turn to face her. "Today, actually. I…requested his…assistance."
"Is everything okay?"
Her fingers were no longer touching his back. And the way the weight had shifted on the bed, Malik knew she was now sitting up. He felt her breath touch his neck. She was close. And her breathing was quick, unsteady: worried.
"It will be," he assured, reaching blindly for her hand. Glad to find it, he pulled her arm across his chest, pulling her chest against his back.
He sighed mentally when she willingly placed her other arm around him, holding him in a comfortable embrace.
Very little had happened between them over the course of the week. Only once did he press the issue of their stalled "relationship." Only once did she tell him she would not be with a man when there was no love between them. Only once had he kissed her. More than once, he wished she would accept his inability to love. Having never known the love of his parents, he felt it impossible he could ever truly love another human being.
He could care for her. He could even do his best to respect her. He could let her come to him. But he could not love her. To love her would be to admit a weakness. And he had already admitted a weakness by declaring his need for her. He could not give the darkness within another opportunity to break free.
"Haydee," he whispered after a few minutes of silence.
Malik turned in her embrace, glad to find her face as close as he had hoped. He eagerly kissed her lips, the awkward position of his body in her arms and the shifting of his weight causing them to topple over. Her arms still around him, his body pressing her into the soft covers of the bed, he continued his kiss, mentally joyful that she made no attempt to stop him.
If he did not know any better, he would almost believe she had wanted to kiss him as much as he had been desiring to kiss her. He had thought he was resolved in letting her come to him, but the desire to feel her lips on his was overpowering.
He grasped her sides and rolled over so that her body moved with his, positioning her on top of him. One of her hands moved from his back to his chest, the other moved to his hair, her fingers entwining with his blonde strands.
In that moment, Malik knew she would have to be the one to break the kiss. And Ra help him, if she did not do it soon, there would be no stopping him, darkness or not.
o - o - o
Malik grunted, his eyes flashing open. Haydee was sleeping quietly in his arms. He blinked rapidly, clearing his vision, his breath quickening as he realized he had been completely asleep. Was he really still in control?
He glanced at the clock on the nightstand, thankful to find he had only been out for a mere ten minutes. He leaned his head back, popping his neck and yawning. Ten minutes of solid sleep made him feel as if he had slept at least a solid hour.
The Pharaoh would be arriving soon, along with Rishid. But before he met with him, he had made another appointment. He pulled his arms away from Haydee and adjusted her on the bed. She remained asleep.
He slowly stood, smoothing the wrinkles from his shirt. A cheeky grin made its way across his face as he noticed the slight pink that was still on Haydee's cheeks. It had been quite the make out session, he had to admit. He was still shocked she had not slapped him when he had decided to grope her. Though she had pinched him when he had attempted to undo her pants. At least she had not stopped kissing him until the second time he had tried to undo her pants. Then, she had just settled comfortably in his arms and had closed her eyes.
He slipped from the room and descended the stairs. He exited the house and went to his motorcycle, pulling the cell phone from his pocket. A quick text to Rishid to tell him when he expected to return to the house, and then he was off, zooming down the coastal highway.
He maneuvered through the early afternoon traffic, making his way east. The appointment he had to keep was not one he would enjoy, nor was the idea to make such an appointment his idea. Rather, with the gentle yet forceful prodding of his sister, he had obliged. Both she and Rishid, against their better judgment of course, had promised to keep the entire thing a secret from Haydee.
In Malik's mind, the whole thing was unnecessary. But it could serve to be a decent backup if the Pharaoh were to fail, he agreed.
He exited the highway seven miles east of the small beach home, continued a mile north, and pulled his motorcycle into the campus of Pepperdine University. He followed the signs, recalling the map he had memorized, and made his way to the Pendleton Learning Center where Dr. Tomas Martinez had an office. Isis had apparently met the man when he was on a tour of her museum exhibit, though Malik was not entirely certain. All he really knew was that Dr. Martinez would be expecting him.
He parked his motorcycle in a guest parking space and slowly approached the building. His head was throbbing. Dr. Martinez's office was on the third floor with the rest of the professors of psychology in room 329.
Malik found the door to be open with a man in what appeared to be his mid-sixties half-seated on the edge of his desk, watching the open doorway. He instantly stood, covered the distance to Malik in four quick strides, grasped his hand in a welcoming shake, and introduced himself, as if Malik had no idea who he was.
"Malik Ishtar," he replied coolly, following the man inside his office. Dr. Martinez shut the door and motioned to the empty chairs in front of his desk while he made his way around Malik and to the large leather chair hidden partially by the extravagant mahogany desk.
Dr. Martinez was an eccentric kind of man, Malik gathered. All photos and artifacts that were hung on the wall or on display were in a particular kind of order and neatly placed. The photos were the same distance apart from each other, as were the man's multiple degrees. Further inspection revealed Dr. Martinez not only had a Ph.D., but also had a doctorate in archaeology and in psychology. A myriad of other diploma-like documents lined the wall to the side of his desk, all the same distance and perfectly arranged.
"Tell me about yourself, Malik."
Malik pulled his attention from the perfect symmetry of the office's adornments to the man's waiting face. His face appeared perfectly symmetrical, with the fingers of both hands pressed firmly together to form a small triangle—his chin barely resting upon the two index fingers. The man was clearly already lost in thought.
"I'm from Egypt," Malik shrugged. Why Isis had insisted a psychologist would be a good idea, Malik could not fathom. The darkness inside him was attached to the rod, and could be contained within the rod—he was sure of it. The rod is what brought the darkness to light, so to speak. It would be the rod that would ultimately seal the darkness of his mind. And that would require the help of the Pharaoh. But he had to appease Isis. He had to at least try. These were, after all, desperate times. And as time wore on, Malik was becoming a desperate man.
"Are you uncomfortable, Malik?"
The man was being intrusive. Malik rubbed his hands against his pants, wishing he had ignored Isis this once. He was not uncomfortable, though the man had yet to look anywhere other than directly at Malik. And though he was not certain, Malik believed the man had yet to blink.
"This really is a waste of time. I don't have anything to say."
"How about you begin with the Pharaoh? Or the rod. Really, the beginning would be the best. But I find the rod absolutely fascinating."
There was a glimmer in the man's brown eyes, a hidden mirth, as if he knew something that Malik did not. Though the man already knew more than Malik had ever shared. And he was almost certain Isis had not said many personal matters to the man—certainly not about the Pharaoh and the rod and the death of his father. The murder, rather. That he had committed.
He squinted his eyes, pushing the thought back. The thought of his father always brought the darkness in him out. He could not risk that. Not now. And not here. He considered using the rod to look inside the man's thoughts, but the metal had only risen in temperature as the days went by.
"Alright then, I'll begin. I am an archaeologist, Malik. That is, I am an archaeologist among many other things. I am fascinated by history, particularly that of Egypt. You must have heard of Maximillion Pegasus, yes? I was on exhibition with him in Egypt many years ago, before I returned to Pepperdine to resume my teaching career. Thus, I already know far more on the subject of your background than you or your sister would ever dare to verbalize."
Malik blinked, finding himself taken aback. Knowing about the shadow games the Pharaohs of the past played did not give the man much insight into Malik's mind. Though, considering the shadow games did still exist if one were to pull on the dark powers, the man did know a little.
"You see, Malik Ishtar from Egypt, my life is wrapped in the things you see around you." He gestured around the office with his wrinkled yet sturdy hands. "I have no family. I have devoted my life to education—learning about the world and the people around me. You are the first case I have ever taken a, shall I say, personal interest in. You are from Egypt, you were raised as a tomb keeper—according to your sister. You know the same hidden history of the ancient land that I discovered on my journeys there. Our meeting was aligned by Ra, I am sure you would agree."
The man had leaned back in his leather chair, his eyes blazing with light. Most people exhibiting the kind of excitement that Dr. Martinez was currently exhibiting would be leaning forward or pacing the floor. He seemed to be calm, in spite of the excitement in his voice.
"You can give me the answers I could never find. And I, in return, can help you deal with your—"
Dr. Martinez went silent, his eyes suddenly fixated on the glow coming from Malik's left pocket.
"My problems?" Malik growled, crossing his arms in such a way that the dim glow was hidden from the doctor's eyes. The man continued to stare.
"You have one." His voice was filled with awe.
"One of the items. Magnificent! May I see it?"
Unsure why he was pacifying the doctor, Malik pulled the rod from his pocket and set it on the large desk. He unwrapped the towel, revealing the deep engravings of the eye, allowing the rod to glow at full illumination.
"Don't touch it!" he snapped as the doctor reached forward. He was ignored, and he watched in horror as the doctor lifted the rod to get a closer examination. He held the eye, careful to point the handle away from him.
"And how do you cause it to become a blade?"
"I just think about it becoming one."
Malik did not think so.
"You have a darkness within you, yes? A secret—well, perhaps not quite a secret—but a dark past that you cannot truly escape. Dark thoughts that haunt your mind. Am I close?" His eyes were clearly fixated on the rod, and seemingly, all his attention.
Malik decided to humor the man. "Something like that."
"I can help you, Malik. However, I make one request." He placed the rod back on the towel, turning his eyes to Malik.
Malik shifted uneasily, grabbing the rod and shoving it back in his pocket.
"I know of the tomb keeper's initiation…I would like to see the Pharaoh's memories. That is my request."
o - o - o
Malik slid on his helmet, hopped on his motorcycle, and sped away from Pepperdine University. And from Dr. Tomas Martinez. For reasons unknown to him, he had revealed his back to the man. He had remained "fascinated" as he said multiple times for a decent ten minutes before Malik had demanded they "get on with it."
Of course he could not "diagnose" him after only one meeting, one conversation, but based on the history he knew and the stories he had heard from Isis—who had apparently shared much more than she said she had—he had told Malik his initial assessment would be in the realm of schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder—commonly known as multiple personality disorder.
It was not quite the disorder Hollywood had made it out to be—and both were treatable. Without medication, the doctor has been adamant about. Though he had acquired a doctorate in psychiatry, he preferred to go the psychologist route. No problem could not be solved without a little communication, he had said.
He had mentioned a third disorder, which Malik had found a little farfetched himself. The doctor had said it was quite possible for Malik to simply have obsessive compulsive disorder. He was fixated on the death of his father—Malik had merely said his father had been murdered—and to compensate for the obsessive memories, he acted in a compulsive manner. Though when Malik had mentioned he once had a plan he believed could have been successful to take over the world, the doctor had said delusions of grandeur were more congruent with schizophrenia.
Malik shook his head, speeding down the seven miles of coastal highway to get to the house. He had spend five hours with the doctor, sharing more of his life than he had intended. Mostly childish dribble, memories before the initiation, nothing of significance. But the doctor had been intrigued, and had listened intently.
The Pharaoh and Rishid would have arrived hours ago. No doubt Haydee was thrilled to have her little Yugi friend visiting. Though with the time change, Yugi was probably already sleeping. Isis would probably be upset with him for two reasons—he had company he was ignoring, and he was incredibly late for dinner.
He parked his bike by Isis' car and strode in the house. The lights were all out, except for one coming from the living room. He glanced in, finding the three Egyptians and the one Japanese with the Egyptian spirit seated on the couches in the living room watching a film on the television.
At that moment, who Malik assumed to be the main characters were fighting what appeared to be a mummy. Malik rolled his eyes, hopped over the back of the couch, and draped his arm around Haydee's shoulders.
"Really? The Mummy again?"
Haydee shushed him, pointing to Yugi who was currently asleep on the papasan chair in the corner of the room. Malik rolled his eyes again before kissing Haydee's cheek lightly and resting his head on her shoulder. Yugi had the right idea for once. A nap was just what he needed. Talking about his childhood with Dr. Martinez had been much more draining than he anticipated.
o - o - o
Dr. Tomas Martinez lightly placed the desk phone in its holder and turned his attention to the computer monitor that sat in the left corner of his desk. He moved the mouse, the screen illuminating his dark office. A brief glance at the clock in the lower right corner of the computer screen told him it was past ten in the evening. His young Egyptian visitor had left hours earlier. Shortly after, he had begun his research.
And only thirty minutes ago, he had made his phone call. Malik had shared very little with him, though not much needed to be shared. Dr. Martinez had already done his research after his conversations with Isis. It had taken some in-depth research in the deepest corners of the internet, but he had found what he had been searching for. After all, in this day and age, everything was online.
Including some very strange videos of monstrous creatures that greatly resembled the world's favorite trading card game. He was able to catch a glimpse of a man with strangely colored hair, extremely spiky hair at that, and greatly resembling the engraving of the Pharaoh on Malik's back. As well as the Pharaoh on the artifacts he had viewed at the museum where he met Isis.
Of course, he had seen that same marking of the Pharaoh numerous times before, but now he was closer to uncovering the mystery of this Pharaoh. And the card game that was more than mere cards.
Meeting Malik and Isis was more than mere chance. It had been orchestrated by the gods, Tomas was certain. The gods, and the help of Maximillion Pegasus. After all, it had been his old colleague who had financed the transfer of the Egyptian exhibit to California. The fact that Malik had some mental issues to work through was simply a bonus.
Tomas would help Malik. There was not a bone in his body that would ever lead the Egyptian teen away from the answers he did not even know he sought. But knowing Malik could bring to light the questions that had followed him for years after the Egyptian excursion—Tomas could hardly contain the excitement. It had taken everything in his trained body to attempt to see to Malik's needs before his own. Though, if all went as planned, he would find the answers he sought through Malik seeking his own.
Malik was distressed. Tomas could easily see it in the boy's eyes. They were entirely alert, but entirely too tired. He could easily understand the problem, but for Malik to accept what his reality would be, Malik had to come to the answer on his own. It was the only way he would believe it—that much was certain to Tomas.
He had dealt with many cases over the years, nearly all had been successful. And the greatest success he found was when patients would come to the final answer on their own. Malik would be no different, particularly considering the personality Malik had exhibited.
He had stayed as far as possible from the topic of the murder of his father. A murder, Tomas could only guess, Malik had either seen—or, more likely, committed. And while Malik did not exhibit the tendencies of a murderer, the only logical explanation for his split-persona—so to speak—was that he had undergone a disturbing childhood experience. First, the initiation; second, the murdering of his father. It all made perfect sense in the mind of Dr. Tomas Martinez.
Malik had not displayed any tendencies of schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder or compulsion, but the stories he shared of his past led Tomas to believe it could be one, two, or all. Currently, he was dealing with this "darkness" inside him by ignoring it through compulsive tendencies. But again, Tomas' deductions were not concrete. He still had much to hear from Malik before he could ever truly understand the problems Malik was facing.
Though he was entirely certain that Malik would despise the hard truth he would discover in Tomas' office.
Tomas turned from his thoughts to the internet search engine. He had to learn more of the ancient rod Malik had shown him earlier. The rod was more than just a hidden blade. It was, in fact, a key. The key.
And Dr. Tomas Martinez would be damned before letting that key disappear from his sights.
o - o - o
Yugi woke to a somewhat gruff nudging on his shoulder. The room was dark and empty, except for the platinum blonde Egyptian standing over him, his hair reflecting the lights from the outside. Yugi blinked tiredly, glancing around the room. He remembered having dinner with Isis, Rishid, and Haydee. He could also remember starting a movie. But he could not remember the content of the movie, or Malik being present for any of it.
He stretched, noticing the deep impatience of the Egyptian. Sighing, he closed his eyes. When they reopened, his height had increased, his hair had slightly changed, and his eyes were not as innocent as usual. He swiftly rose from the papasan, his new height matching Malik's.
"Pharaoh," Malik spoke, his voice even, lacking the slightest hint of emotion.
The Pharaoh's voice was low, almost gruff. He seemed agitated, as if he had woken from some deep slumber. He was staring at Malik in the darkness, his violet eyes narrowed.
"You called me here, and here I am. What I have trouble understanding is how this darkness that was obliterated is returning. Explain."
He crossed his arms, ignoring the mental comments from Yugi to be kind to the boy Haydee had—for some Ra-forsaken reason—chosen. The only promise he had promised to keep was that he would return with Yugi to Japan with the rod in hand.
He knew it was time to collect the items. It was time to return to the world of dreams. It was time for him to sleep. Most important, it was time for the world to be at peace. Without the items, it would be impossible for the shadow games to be called upon. Without the shadow games, the world would be safe from people like Malik Ishtar—or, from demented psychos as he had heard Anzu call the Egyptian.
He was ready to return. He certainly was not ready to leave the world with an uncertainty of its safety, and he really was not ready to leave the friends he had made, but the purpose of sealing his spirit within the pyramid resting in the neck of Yugi's body—the body he was possessing—had almost been served.
"This darkness inside is not the problem. It's part, but…" Malik trailed off, pulling the towel-covered rod from his pocket. The dim glow illuminated the room.
The Pharaoh reached out, taking the rod from Malik's hand, allowing the towel to fall to the floor. He closed his eyes, focusing his mind. The metal was warm in his hand, but hardly a cause for concern. The warmth was merely caused by his focusing his energy from his brain through the rod and into Malik's mind.
In a flash, he had seen everything the rod itself had seen. Everything from the murder of Malik's father to the carving on Haydee's side to a strange older man in an office. The eye recorded the memories of the events in which it was involved—something Malik most likely had very little knowledge of.
The fact was, Malik's recollection of many violent and disturbing images had been caused by the rod. His connection to the item was strong, the Pharaoh had to admit. But the rod could no longer be managed by him. It had served its purpose.
The Pharaoh looked at Malik through the eye of the rod. "Malik Ishtar."
"What?" His voice was impatient.
"Are you relinquishing this item to me?"
Malik's eyes seemed to hold confusion as they glanced quickly between the eyes of the Pharaoh and the eye on the rod. He was conflicted, that much was obvious.
"Giving up this item is not going to solve your problems. It will only alleviate the strength of the memories. But the darkness is within you. That is a battle you must face alone."
Malik remained quiet.
"I plan to return." He had not intended to share this with anyone except Yugi, considering Yugi was being gracious enough to allow him use of his body. But the words still continued, as if he were compelled to share his plan. "I must collect the seven items, return to the pyramid of my tomb you and your family once protected, and say my farewell. The door is there, waiting for me to enter. But I must take all the items with me. I…trust this item in your hands. If you desire to care for it until I collect the others, then I will allow you to protect it. But—"
Malik quickly exited the room, leaving the rod in the hands of the Pharaoh. He had spent most his years in control of the item. With it, he had the ability to control the minds of others, to see into the thoughts of others. With it, he had power, strength, and courage. With it, he was more than a mere man walking the earth. Without it, he was simply Malik Ishtar.
The thought of being a regular person drove strange daggers into his mind. A shield was being shattered. There was absolutely nothing he could do to restrain the memories.
Giving up the rod was supposed to alleviate the strength of the memories. While it did, it failed to alleviate the pain that went with those memories. The pain that Malik had locked within his mind and within the rod. Without the rod, the pain freely flowed through his veins.
The rod had been his heroine. Not even one full minute, and he was going through withdrawal.
He hurried to the room he shared with Haydee. He quickly stripped down to his boxers and climbed in beside her. Without consideration for her sleep, he pulled her in his arms and wept.