Chapter Two: Fragile Visions

Despite the trappings of the duelists and his interest in young Yugi Moto, Pegasus spent most of the second day of his tournament pouring over ancient texts acquired over the years from around the globe. His dreams had been getting worse, and though he'd never felt the strange power before which had forced him into wakefulness, he'd been getting less rest and his exhaustion had effected his judgment of the tournament. He'd procured the tomes in the hope of discovering some means of reviving Cyndia or unlocking the mystery of his own Millennium Item, but now he began to search through the records concerning dreams and dream states. Something profound had occurred last night, he was sure of it, but he kept the details of his encounter to himself, ordering his men about with as much coolness as he could muster.

Regardless the staff noticed that something was definitely amiss. Instead of the usual wine and comics as his silent companions through the day, the elegant dining table was piled high with books in all shapes, sizes, and states of preservation. Mythology, ancient religions, legends, reports of drug-induced dreams or hallucinations – all had become a part of Pegasus' newly inspired research. He sipped the occasional glass of wine, and but it was four in the afternoon and he'd barely used half the bottle. He isolated himself as usual in the dining hall, his massive collection strewn along the length of the elegant table. Some thought he was recovering from the alcoholism that had plagued their master for years, while others saw little more than a new obsession. The guards in particular were dissatisfied with the current change in approach – there hadn't been any action all day, and even though Seto Kaiba could storm onto the island at any moment to claim his captive brother, Pegasus just didn't seem to notice.

Every so often he did a Mind Sweep over the island, assuring himself that all was in order before he continued with his work. He was amazed to find so much in such a short amount of time. The few ancient scholars who had bothered to dabble in the occult had left a vast amount of knowledge concerning a mysterious figure associated with the dream world. The being had many names, but all agreed that he was the ruler of dreams, a sort of Dream King, who was of a pantheon older than gods or men. Could that peculiar figure with the pumpkin head have been the King of Dreams himself? That would explain the wackiness of some of his better fantasies, and the strange horror of nightmares. Further research had revealed more about the pantheon and the King of Dreams, but in no record did Pegasus find reference to a living scarecrow with the head of a hollow pumpkin. His research, though, had not been in vain. He nearly choked on his wine when he read the final bit of information that would turn the course of his actions.

"Master Pegasus, are you alright?" Croquet took the glass from his hand, patting him solidly on the back several times.

"I'm fine, Croquet, thank you." Pegasus winced. "You can stop beating me now! I'm quite alright!"

"Yes, sir." A ghost of a smile flickered beneath the bodyguard's moustache as his employer rubbed the bruised shoulder blade. "It would be ironic, wouldn't it, to die by your own alcohol intake?"

"If you came here to lecture me, you're dismissed."

Croquet nodded, "Reports indicate that Yugi Moto will reach the castle within two days at his current pace. Already he has defeated the regional champion, Weevil Underwood, and has progressed to –"

"Well way to go, Yugi-boy! I had no doubt he'd target Underwood first after the Exodia incident. His ruthless streak has at last reared its ugly head." Pegasus snickered, leaning back from his studies to sip gently from his wine glass. "Why don't you go supervise and keep me updated?"

"May I ask why you don't want to supervise personally, Master Pegasus?"

"I'm busy. You take care of it. I give you full authority, just don't bother me for the rest of the evening."

Croquet paused a beat before nodding with a bow. "As you wish, Master Pegasus."

"Oh, Croquet?"

The bodyguard paused in the doorway, his moustache twitching slightly. He already disapproved of the tournament itself but for Master Pegasus to insist on ignoring the festivities after all he had riding on the outcome was more than peculiar. Croquet was beginning to wonder if his employer might benefit from a psychiatrist. "Yes sir?"

"I'll require another bottle of the Vintage Port in an hour. The '77, if you don't mind this time. If you bring up another bad year, I'll lock you in the dungeon." The threat was palpable, but Croquet couldn't help but notice the lack of emotion behind it. All of Pegasus' energies were devoted to his dusty books. "Who'd have ever thought I'd be using the Crowley folios again…"

"Pardon, sir?"

"Nothing, Croquet, go about your business. Some of these require much translation and care. I can't be bothered with the tournament. Make sure that young Mokuba is secured, the elder Kaiba contained, and Yugi Moto procured – am I clear?"

"Perfectly, Master Pegasus."

"Get on it, then."

"Right away, sir."

Once the massive door thumped shut, Pegasus sighed, rubbing his eye wearily. There was so much to do yet, and with this latest option arising at a most inopportune time the isolated billionaire couldn't help but divide his attentions. He wanted to watch little Yugi duel, he really did, but what he'd discovered in the hour of casual research he'd spent that morning had propelled him into near-obsession. The text spoke of seven forces anthropomorphized in myth and legend which held sway over every major moment in humanity. There were visual descriptions of the god-like beings that rang true in every culture the author had examined, the universe contained in the eyes of the King of Dreams for example. Pegasus couldn't judge the accuracy of the legends, but being the chosen holder of a three thousand year old Egyptian artifact with mystical powers to tap into a hidden plane of existence tended to make a man more open-minded. He quelled the cynicism that he'd cultivated since Cyndia's death, trying to let the innocence and imagination of his youth blossom once more in his heart. He was struggling, but at least he'd not wavered in his convictions as of yet; though he seemed to be getting far deeper than he'd initially intended. He'd gone from researching a pumpkin-headed figure unfamiliar in his dreams to the concept of dreaming itself and the possibility of a single conscious force behind it all.

The first truly intriguing information he'd found came roughly three hours into his studies. He'd been in the library, selecting more texts for his research when a few pages fell from an ancient Islamic discourse. With a curse Pegasus lowered himself from the ladder with care, struggling with the Greek and Sanskrit texts balanced in his arms. With a grunt he'd lowered the books onto a nearby cherry wood desk and knelt to gather the pages. The papers had fallen neatly enough as though still bound, and in his haste to recollect them he'd nearly overlooked the contents of the book itself. A glance over the graceful Arabic lettering had given him pause. There were paintings done in gold leaf, beautiful renderings of legendary encounters long lost or overlooked by intrepid scholars, depicting a sleeping dreamer and his rising soul.

Pegasus had kept the book open at his side the rest of the day, the pages opened to the painting in the quarto so carefully rendered. Something about the figure, the dreamer's face peaceful as his physical body entered the realm of Sleepers ringing true, and combined with this latest testimonial research Pegasus could not deny the odd coincidence. There had always been legends of the state of dreaming being a window into a greater truth hidden beneath the bustling daily life of mankind, and for the most part the stories were considered myth. Only recently had parapsychologists begun to concur that astral projection might be possible in certain gifted individuals, though their test results often were dismissed as far-fetched despite years of carefully controlled research. As a child, he'd been recognized as one of these few gifted individuals, and his parents had indulged their curiosity by allowing their child to be subjected to a variety of tests. His psychic prowess had been confirmed, and though Pegasus had ceased the experimentation after the passing of his parents, he still maintained contact with certain of the professors who had been kind to him.

He'd reached for his cell phone before he could stop himself, and had already dialed the number before an obvious snag became clear. The people he was attempting to contact, though accustomed to accepting a variety of paranormal activity as within the realm of science, were still rooted in a concrete solidarity. Facts were critical, and Pegasus had nothing definite to tell. He'd had a dream of his beloved Cyndia, but that was nothing new. He always dreamed of her in pain of happy, begging for his company or simply reliving their brief time together as children. The men he'd trusted as children would approach him as an adult and apply a psychological explanation before attributing the supernatural.

"Hello this is Dr. Morgan's office, how may I help you?"

Pegasus blinked. Had he dialed the number? Stammering as hasty apology he snapped the phone shut, "Jesus, I must be more tired then I thought…"

He tried to focus on the mysterious realm of dreams, but him mind, ever imaginative and stretching beyond the given evidence, had already found a new focus. If there were a master of Dreams, then surely there was a master of Death… and if an entity lorded over the realm of the dead, decided who and how people succumbed to that final horror, he must be terrible indeed. Death itself, the figure responsible for the balance between realms of the living and the dead, could take a human form? Impossible. An idea conceived of pure fantasy, conjuring the image of a Grim Reaper in flowing black robes preying upon the living for sport. But according to all he'd read an anthropomorphic Dream existed, so why not Death as well? It was something Pegasus had never considered, and as he translated the texts further a plan began forming in the back of his mind. A plan that could save him from the evil ends he'd thought unavoidable for his cause that required no snatching of souls or cheating his way through duels.

Perhaps death could be reasoned with? It was silly, but surely it was worth a shot. He was desperate for his love. For seven long years he'd waited, and each day the clock ticked closer to his own end, an end that might or might not lead to a life eternal alongside his beloved. They'd planned to have a life together, and although he would gladly give up the chance of children and old age to see her again, he could not hold faith in traditional Western thought. Pegasus was not a religious man. He'd read the minds of too many as they lay dying, they're thoughts thrown into a panic as the eternal blackness swept over them. It was hard to ignore the plaintive cries of the suffering, the mental anguish of human beings dying in their own filth amidst the rush of city life. No one noticed them, and they're bodies were unheeded for the most part. Being as psychically sensitive as he was, though, Pegasus heard they're pleas.

When he'd first received the Millennium Eye he tried to help everyone who cried out mentally. He gave so much of himself away, thinking that maybe that was his purpose and hoping that it would be a means of filling the empty space in his heart; but he could only help so many. Even he had not the funds to save the world, and as his assets dipped lower and his investors became restless Pegasus had reluctantly pulled out of the philanthropic interest and retreated once again to his paintings … and the fantasy game he'd been designing. When Duel Monsters became a success, Pegasus had built Duelist Kingdom, a sanctuary where he could block out the pain of the world and the minds of others. The island was populated, but not nearly so much as Las Vegas or New York had been. At least off the coast of Japan he could tune out the language and simply ignore the multitude of voices that pleaded for aid, the foreign tongue blending into nonsense.

But if Death was a real entity, a creature of reason, perhaps something could be done. Like a true businessman, Pegasus believed that anybody, or anything for that matter, could be swayed by the proper presentation of his goal. He only regretted that he'd not searched more thoughtfully through his books before, but he had direction now. His new plan was far stranger, but arguably more feasible than stealing Kaiba's holographic technology – and better for Pegasus' conscience too. He no more enjoyed keeping young Mokuba locked in a cell than the boy himself appreciated being there. Besides, he had to explore every avenue in his pursuit of Cyndia. She was counting on him, and if there was even the slimmest of hopes he had to make the attempt. Perhaps a reunion with Cyndia was not so far off after all, if he could just figure out how to get started.