SJ: HI!

Kageka: She's hyper, mostly because Christmas is on Saturday, but partially because she got three reviews since the last update.

Dragon Child: sorry about all the typos in the last chapter. SJ was taking it from our notebook and typing it out on the computer, the only betas she used being the two of us.

SJ: usually we read over the chapter about a hundred times to get it perfect while we make the chapter, writer's block loosening as we reread, but last time we just typed it out from the notebook, making one or two changes along the way.

Dragon Child: this chapter was particularly hard to write (and our notebook got lost for about two weeks) and we're very sorry for the long wait.

Kageka: A bit about the timing of this fic … Battle City is over and all that good stuff is done (except Yugi and Yami told Malik to just keep the Rod), but the Doom Arc hasn't come yet.

Dragon Child: *looks at reviews* Wow… SJ, you totally guilt-tripped them!

SJ: Aww… At least I have reviews now!!!

Dragon Child: Okay, we're planning on redoing the first bit of this series, "Guardian", and putting it into an easier to read chapter format and totally killing the original ending and replacing it with the alternate ending (except maybe more drawn out?) so be on the look out for that. It'll happen sometime in 2005… we hope.

SJ: We don't own, so you don't sue. If that sequence happens, all will be right with the world, okay, minna-san? (minna-san means "everyone")

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"What just happened?" Yugi asked, blinking.

"I'm not sure." Ryou said, equally confused.

"What?" Malik asked.

"Our yamis … they're … gone." Yugi said, paused, and added, "It's like somebody shoved them into their soul rooms and locked the door." Ryou nodded.

"Well, you'd better hope they come back soon." Malik said after glancing out the window.

"Why?" Yugi asked, standing and walking over. He gasped and Ryou hurried to his side.

"The city … it's under siege." Ryou muttered. It was an adequate description. Duel monsters of every size, shape, and strength were crawling all over the city, so thick that cars couldn't go anywhere unless they wanted splattered Kuriboh all over their front end.

"They're heading here." Yugi said.

"Are you sure?" Malik asked. To him there was no pattern to the monsters' movements.

"Trust me. I'm nearly as good a strategist as Yami, and you can't plan strategy without seeing and sensing patterns." Yugi shrugged.

"Then you two are gonna have to learn to summon pretty fast. Those monsters will probably attack soon." Malik muttered.

"Attack what, though?" Yugi pondered, glancing at Naid.

"Why is everyone after her? She can't really be that dangerous… and she's nothing special, not really. People attack you, Yugi, to get at Yami, but that can't be the case with Naid and Sola because Sola's even less special than Naid." Malik mused.

"Well, Naid once told us that she and Sola think that the Armlet can do pretty much anything as long as they can connect it back to assisting Yami and I." Yugi shrugged. At that moment Seto burst through the door, looking shaken and worn.

"What happened?" Yugi asked worriedly. Seto shook his head, closing the door and locking it.

"Seto Kaiba, tell us what happened." Malik said, grabbing Seto's shoulder. In an instant Malik found himself on the floor. Seto looked as if it had taken the last of his energy.

"Kaiba, you ought to sit down." Yugi suggested, choosing his words carefully. Seto glared at him before sitting in a chair next to Naid's bed. Malik stood back up, making sure to steer clear of Seto for now.

"Kaiba, please tell us what's wrong." Yugi pleaded, worried for the other teen.

"Yami." Seto said and it took Yugi a moment to realize that Seto wanted to talk to his dark side.

"He's not here… it feels like someone pushed him in his soul room and locked the door." Yugi explained, biting his lip. Seto sighed and started babbling out a sentence … except it was a hodgepodge of dozens of different languages, including Ancient Egyptian.

"Anybody catch all that?" Ryou asked when Seto finished.

"You need to calm down, Kaiba." Yugi said, receiving a glare as thanks for his patience. But Seto did as he suggested, taking several deep breaths and talking again, this time all in Japanese.

"I don't want to talk about it to anyone but Naid or Yami, preferably Naid. But you do need to know that there is a large group of duel monsters headed this way."

"Terrific. None of you know how to summon. I'll be our only defense." Malik snapped.

"Just because we can't summon doesn't mean we're useless." Ryou said indignantly as Seto glared at Malik, who just rolled his eyes.

"We can learn." Yugi said quietly.

"That will take time that we don't have." Malik shook his head.

"Yami learned in seconds!" Yugi protested.

Malik blinked. "He did?" Yugi nodded and at that moment the door flew open, low class duel monsters streaming in. Malik jumped back and summoned several monsters, who instantly began protecting the small group of humans. Seto glanced at Naid, to the monsters, and back before sighing and, to the immense surprise of everyone there, summoning a small Blue Eyes White Dragon. The Blue Eyes blinked and "rar"ed, sounding like a kitten trying to be a lion. Yugi blinked a second, then grinned.

"So this is what you didn't want to tell us." He said and attempted to summon a Dark Magician. It appeared in front of him, blinked out, and then blinked back in, this time for good. Ryou looked undecided for a split second before pulling out a Change of Heart card and using it to control some of the strongest of the monsters attacking them.

It took four hours for them to drive back the monsters, and at the end the only one not completely exhausted was Seto.

"How can you still have enough energy for that, Kaiba, and on top of being tired before the fight?" Malik asked. Seto, over the course of the fight, had summoned two more of his small Blue Eyes Dragons. Now he was pacing across the room nervously while maintaining all three. Seto just shrugged without stopping.

Yugi glanced at Seto and sighed, musing out an answer. "Well … in ancient Egypt he was a sorcerer, second in power only to Yami, right? Also he's got a lot of endurance, so that and the fact that his powers have passed on to his reincarnated state may be why."

"That makes some semblance of sense." Malik muttered, lying down across several chairs, his head hanging off the end so that he was looking at everything upside-down. Ryou sighed and sat down on the window seat, watching as most of the monsters turned from the hospital and began to take over the city – at least, that's what it looked like to him. Yugi took a chair next to Naid's bed and grabbed the remote. He was about to turn on the TV when Seto's phone rang, making them all jump.

"Moshi moshi?" he said into it and a second later his scowl deepened. "No! I am in no way responsible for these monster sightings! Kaiba Corp's technology is working perfectly! Yes, you can quote me on that!! Good bye!" Seto angrily turned the phone off, then, on a whim, turned it to silent mode and tossed it into an empty chair.

"Well, you can't blame them for thinking –" Ryou began, but Seto cut him off.

"What I can't blame them for being is idiots." He growled.

"Don't take out your bad mood on us, Kaiba." Malik snapped.

"Don't tell me what to do." Seto growled, narrowing his eyes at Malik, who sat up to retort with a glare.

"You –" he started, but Ryou and Yugi stepped between them.

"Stop." Yugi said as forcefully as Yami or Naid would have.

"We can't get anything accomplished if all we're doing is bickering. Now, I suggest we see if the news is on to see what kind of information we can gather on what's going on." Ryou snapped at Malik and Seto, running out of patience faster than Yugi. Seto glared, but returned to his pacing, and Malik frowned, but lay back down.

Yugi and Ryou glanced at each other and shrugged, Yugi turning on the TV. The three mini Blue Eyes immediately went over to hover around the TV, wondering what it was.

"For those just tuning in, reports have come in from all over Japan about Duel Monster sightings. We recently received word from Seto Kaiba himself that Kaiba Corp is in no way responsible for these monsters. Domino city has the highest frequency of them, however, and they are causing mass panic and destruction." The young female reporter said, trailing off and turning to watch as pictures started going on a monitor behind her, showing picture after picture of bodies and decimated homes. The small group in the hospital had a limited view from the window, so they hadn't been able to see the extent of the damage. But the damage was apparently far, far worse than they'd thought.

"Stop!!" the reporter yelled and the screen froze, showing a picture of the Game Shop. All around it was chaos, but the Game Shop was completely and totally unharmed.

"why … everything around it is destroyed…" the reporter mused, then turned and began yelling for someone to find other cases of things like that.

Ryou, meanwhile, had turned to Yugi, who seemed totally unfazed, with a puzzling glance.

"When Naid moved in with us she and Yami went around setting up wards around our friends' homes and places they cared about. Though they insisted that the strongest one go around the Game Shop, all the wards could last through nearly anything." Yugi explained.

About ten minutes later the reporter was showing pictures of untouched places, most of which weren't very expensive or large, but Seto was pissed off when a shot came up of his mansion, then one of Kaiba Corp.

"Don't you think you three went a little overboard?" He snapped.

"Four, actually, including Sola. And no, we didn't." Yugi shrugged. Seto rolled his eyes and continued pacing.

Now the reporter was trying to decide what the connection was. Yugi had extended the tern "friends" wide enough in this case that some people were people that he had known years ago, or that he had helped out once and never saw again, so it was hard for the reporter to find a connection. All her guesses were wrong, but she was getting uncomfortably close to finding out the true connection.

After a long time the reporter got off that subject, dismissing it as chance, and talked more about the monsters. This time, though, everything she said was either useless to them or they already knew about it.

Several hours later, the tiny Blue Eyes long gone, Yugi began to wonder aloud. "I wonder where our yamis got to."

"Who knows." Ryou shrugged. Seto opened his mouth to say something but stopped and stared at Naid. The others shifted their gaze to her to see small cuts and bruises appearing from out of nowhere all over her body. Ryou jumped up and hit the nurse call button.

"Yes?" a voice asked.

"We need a doctor or a nurse up here fast! Something strange is happening to Naid!" Ryou shouted and the nurse at the other end seemed to sense his distress.

"Right away." She said briskly. In about two minutes a doctor and nurse rushed into the room in time to see a large wound appear in Naid's stomach.

"What's happening?" the doctor asked.

"That's what we want to know." Seto semi-snapped.

"Kaiba, calm down." Yugi soothed, placing a hand on Seto's arm. Seto glared at him and yanked his arm away, but did seem to calm.

Then, surprising everyone in the room, Naid's wounds partially healed.

"What just happened?" Malik asked. Yugi shot him a glance, his gaze shifting to the doctor and nurse, who were bandaging Naid's remaining wounds. Malik nodded.

When the doctor and nurse left, both muttering about how strange things were getting, Yugi looked at Ryou and suggested, "Maybe our yamis had something to do with this." Ryou shrugged in response, biting his lip.

"Do you really think it was them?" Seto asked.

"Yes." Yugi nodded.

"But … neither of them can heal, and I don't think Naid can, either." Ryou said slowly, shaking his head.

"The Rod can heal." Malik and Seto said at the same time. Yugi and Ryou stared at them, and Malik started at Seto.

"Remembering more than you want, Priest?" Malik grinned and ducked the punch that Seto threw his way.

"Seriously, if the Rod can heal, but you're here, the who…" Yugi asked, but then trailed off, his face scrunched up in thought.

"You don't think …" Malik gave Yugi a dubious look.

"I do think so." Yugi nodded and Ryou shook his head.

"Isn't it impossible for your yami to come back, though?"

"I thought so, but your yami has come back so often, maybe it's never really impossible … just improbable." Malik mused, licking his lips.

After that no one spoke. Malik lay back across the chairs, this time with his head at a more comfortable position and fell asleep. Ryou made himself more comfortable on the window seat and before long he, too, was a sleep. Seto continued pacing and Yugi, from his seat next to Naid, had taken her hand and slowly slumped over, also asleep.

By this time it was late at night, and they'd had a very busy day, so it was understandable that they were all asleep. Seto took that time to sit in a chair next to Naid, across from Yugi, to relax.

At that moment the full severity of their situation hit him. Mokuba was missing, and it was very likely that Seto would never see him again. Duel monsters were taking over Japan and the country's best hopes of standing against them, the yamis, were missing. Naid was in a coma, likely that she would never wake up again. Naid, who, despite all odds, had wormed her way into a place in Seto's heart.

"I … I love her, don't I?" Seto muttered, the realization hitting him like a ton of bricks. He couldn't believe that he'd let himself do that. He'd let someone, someone who was not Mokuba, close enough – and in such a short time – to develop any kind of feelings towards her.

Ever so slowly, as he mused on what may happen to the two people he loved – one as brother and the other as something much more than friend – his head drooped and finally came to rest next to Naid's leg as Seto fell fast asleep.

As soon as Seto fell asleep, Yugi jerked up in a cold sweat, the remnants of a nightmare about a girl with no fingernails and a well haunting him. He shook his head, banishing the images of the dram from his mind.

Glancing at Naid, he stood and began to pace. After a few minutes he went over to the window, making sure not to disturb Ryou, and looked at the city.

"You seem to be in a thought provoking mood." Malik said, making Yugi jump.

"yes… so many changes … so suddenly … it's hard to comprehend." Yugi said, biting his lip. Malik nodded.

"I understand what you mean. Maybe even more than you know." He muttered.

"I just … keep getting the feeling like there's more to come … and none of it good."

The next morning they woke up to see an almost duel monsters free city with a sunny blue cloudless sky.

"Awesome!" Yugi said with a grin.

"Maybe things are going to get better now." Ryou suggested, Yugi's grin proving to be contagious.

"I'm not so sure about that." Seto muttered, he could feel something ominous coming, even if they couldn't.

"Don't spoil things, Kaiba." Malik growled. Seto glared at him but, surprisingly, otherwise did nothing.

About noon something happened that surprised and distressed them all.

A nurse came on the intercom, asking, "Is Ryou Bakura there?"

"Yes, I'm here." Ryou answered.

"There is a phone call for you. Would you like us to put it through on the speaker?" the nurse asked.

"Yes, please." He responded.

"Ryou Bakura?" a bored sounding voice asked.

"Yes?" Ryou said, licking his lips.

"As you may or may not have known, your father's dig in Egypt recently ended and this morning he was on a plane flight on his way back to Domino. As it was coming in for a landing it was attacked by several duel monsters and crashed. There were no survivors." The voice said coldly after rattling out that he was a representative of the morgue. Ryou sank to his knees, tears streaming out of his tightly closed eyes. Yugi immediately ran over to Ryou and wrapped his arms around his friend. Ryou gratefully buried his head in Yugi's shoulder, sobs shaking his body.

"Sir?" the voice asked and Seto turned to glare at the intercom.

"Thank you. You may go and make someone else's life miserable or whatever it is you people do." Seto snapped and they suddenly heard a dial tone, then the intercom turned off altogether.

"Thanks" Yugi mouthed at Seto, rubbing Ryou's back. Seto shrugged and gave Ryou a look that bordered on pity, but then it was gone.

Malik turned to the window and noted that the monsters were back now, in larger numbers, and obviously clustered around the hospital.

'Poor Ryou." Yugi muttered a long time later, pinned down by a sleeping Ryou.

"Wasn't his father his last family left?" Malik asked, turning towards them from the window.

"Yeah, now all he has left is Bakura. To be honest, that's not much." Yugi shook his head.

"He seems to have gotten better of late, though." Malik pointed out.

"Yes, he has." Yugi nodded.

"Noting can replace a real father, though." Seto muttered. Both of the others nodded solemnly, lost in their own thoughts.

They were silent for a long, long time until finally Yugi spoke up.

"My foot is asleep." He grumbled. Malik burst out in laughter and Seto smirked.

All of a sudden a large gash appeared in Malik's leg, causing him to fall to his knees and his breath to come in sharp hisses of pain. Another large wound appeared on his chest and he gasped.

Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they disappeared. The others stared at Malik, Yugi obviously worried.

"I'm, fine." Malik grumbled, standing up.

"What was that?" Yugi asked.

"Whatever it was, I get the feeling that it's not the end of things." Seto answered.

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SJ: Review replies!! *tosses reviewers large gift baskets with cookies in them*

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Lonewolf16 (for both ch 3 and 4) – Yeah, the symbols really are that precious to me. *laughs* you really could have sold the solution if you wanted to. Ten cents every time someone uses it!

yeah, I figure that Bakura's view on things as they're going now is "if they take over the world, I can't!" plus those visions … pretty powerful stuff.

I agree. NEVER say N&N again.

You guessed the doctor right so you get to use a character from this story as a muse. If it's a non-OC, then you can simply use their personality from this story or you can use me or one of my muses/other personalities (as long as you keep Djanil away from us if he's still mad)

He's SCARY when he's mad, by the way. O.o

So, about Chibi, she had to grow up REALLY fast. That will be explained later, along with how "Mr. Scary I-Haunt-Bathing-Places Man" (Kageka and Dragon Child stifle laughter) ahem! Well, that's actually Falcon, and he'll be explained later. Your description of him is very funny though.

Also, like I explained in the email, just because she's a yami doesn't mean she lives in her Item. She simply has a darker soul. Sola is the spirit part of their little team and lives in the Armlet (which is why she hasn't been around lately).

Again, I love the idea that the Rod can heal. It really is an oxymoron for it's current holder and rather one for it's Egyptian holder too.

Seto: HEY!!

SJ: quiet, Seto. Anyways, thanks for the review!

Phoenixfire-k – I can understand about being busy, and I was kinda overreacting to not having any reviews. I want to ask you something. Did you get the email I sent you about Ohayocon? If not for the link you can just go to Google and type in Ohayocon. I'll be there all weekend so whenever you want to meet up we can meet up. If you need to email me, use the email that's listed here at ffdotnet. I'm thinking Saturday January 15th at noon at the main gate or something like that. Anyways, on to the real reply.

Yeah, about hurting Naid … I actually have a bad tendency to beat my characters to within an inch of their lives and have them survive with no bad long-term effects far too often. They almost never come out of a fight unharmed, no matter how strong they are, there's always someone strong enough to hurt them. I'm really glad that, despite the fact that you dislike author created characters, you seem to like Naid pretty well.

Do you like how Seto's doing so far? I personally love exploring this side of him (discovering his ancient Egyptian past and powers), a side that seems to be increasingly rarer in fan fiction, so I want to know how a self-proclaimed Seto otaku likes it.

Was I really that insecure a year ago? *laughs* if it's up to me, I'll go really far. Far meaning a lot of fics that are well liked by the majority of those who read them – it doesn't matter how many people read them. Quality over quantity, ne?

Thank you so much for the complement! You're a great author yourself, which makes the complement all the more meaningful.

*hugs the bottle of fire* Thank you! I love it!! *accidentally sets a tree on fire* Fun! Watch out flamers, I have bottled fire!! Grr.

Kageka: she's had far too much sugar. Beware.

SJ: Thanks again ever so much.

*~*

SJ: that ends replies. So, I lasted over a year and so has this series. Yay for me and the series. Now we're shooting for two years! *blows on a party horn*

Kageka: We hope you liked this chapter (the next one will come out sooner than this one did)

Dragon Child: to all other Christians out there, merry Christmas. To everyone else, happy holidays.

SJ: Review please!!

Carpe diem