Author's Notes: I was disappointed with how abrupt the end of the manga was. Writing this made me feel better. XD
Summary: The prince got his happily-ever-after. But what of the pauper?
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh! Thanks for the reminder.
Warnings: Few swears, um... death? XD; SPOILERS for the end of the manga. Um... mythology. Please don't give me hell about if it's wrong; I don't mind you correcting me, but don't beat me up about it – I looked at several different sources, and as they all said something different, I just sort of combined several of them.
On with the one-shot!
This is it.
This is the end.
The Pharaoh has regained his lost name, and I have been defeated for the final time. Such unfathomable power... it seems that it was never truly meant for me to avenge KuruEruna. Thinking of my damned village makes my chest tighten painfully. I could not bring them peace. Why?
I collapse forward, but not before I catch a final glimpse of the Pharaoh's – Atemu's – eyes; those strangely-colored eyes... I expect he must be happy to finally be rid of me. Why, then, do those eyes of his not look pleased? Surely he cannot feel remorse for finally destroying me! I am the darkness, and he is the light; evil and good... he has to know this. And yet there he sits, looking as if he wishes the outcome had been different...
I know I must have fallen onto the table, but I feel nothing: I can only guess, as my forward movement has stopped. I feel hideously cold and heavy, unable to move, and I am confused – this is not what it usually feels like to enter the Shadow Realm. My vision becomes dark around the edges, until the Ring – that accursed trinket; a fat lot of good it did me – is the only thing I can see. Then that, too, is gone, and I sink into the darkness.
When next I am able to open my eyes, I find myself suspended in the air, surrounded by white. As though under water, I cannot discern which way is up or down. I know now, for certain, that this is not the Shadow Realm. The Shadow Realm has never been white.
My eyes ache from the brightness, so used to the shadows as I have become. I can make out voices, but I can see nothing but the white. Eventually – I know not how long I've been here – my eyes begin to adjust, and I see that I am in what looks to be a very long hallway. The end behind me is greyish, and I realize that must be where I have come from. I look ahead of me and see a set of ornate doors at the far end of the place. There are others in the hall with me, but they seem not to notice my presence, which is fine by me.
All of a sudden, a shriek pierces the air; it came from the end of the hall sporting the doors. But it is most certainly the sound of a soul condemned.
Suddenly, with sickening clarity, I realize just where I am, and wish that it was, in fact, just the Shadow Realm. This is different than I would have imagined, but I am doubtless floating just outside the Hall of Double Ma'at. And past those doors, they will weigh my heart beside the ostrich feather, and decide whether or not I will receive a favorable afterlife. Furthermore, if the scream I just heard is any indication, Ammut – the Devouress – is there as well. A creature of nightmares. The Eater of Souls. My heart begins to pound.
And now, I wait for the inevitable.
I am hauled abruptly to my feet, by whom, I am unable to see. I barely have enough time to wonder when this place suddenly got a floor when whoever it is barks something at me. It takes a moment for me to shift my mind from the Japanese I have lately become accustomed to back to my native tongue, for that is the language my guide has addressed me with. He says it again: "Walk!" I have never been comfortable with following orders, but I do as I am told, not particularly wanting to know the consequences, should I disobey.
He half leads, half shoves me through a set of doors, and then without warning, his hands leave my back and the doors close behind me with a resounding slam. It echoes ominously through the room I now occupy. I feel fear for only the third time in my long life. The first was when I was nothing but a child – the day my village perished. The second was the day I found myself sealed within the Ring. Now I am afraid for the fate of my soul. Once, I would have laughed and mocked the thought of being judged unworthy in this very room. Now, I shake so terribly that I can hardly stand... how quaint. 'Ore-sama' indeed. Who did I think I was kidding?
This new room smells of incense; I recognize frankincense and myrrh, among others; all of them familiar. I raise my eyes slowly. Before me, somewhat obscured by the scented smoke, are the Scales upon which my heart will be weighed. It is every Egyptian's nightmare that his heart may be so heavy with his sins to sink against Ma'at's feather, and suddenly, this is all far too real for my liking. The Shadow Realm was always a temporary problem; I have found my way out on numerous occasions. Being thrown to the Devouress is the final death. My soul will be lost to the desert, and I will be doomed to walk this cursed earth until the end of eternity. I never have liked it in this realm; it has been most unkind to me. To be stuck here forever would be utter torture.
The jackal-headed god, Anubis, stands beside the Scales, the Feather of Ma'at balanced in his hands. Atop the Scales sits the ibis-headed Thoth, who will record my fate on his papyrus scroll once it has been decided. Osiris sits upon his throne at the head of the room, bearing witness to the proceedings. But it is not they that cause this numbing terror in me. It is the beast Ammut, crouching behind the Scales, to which I owe that. Part crocodile, part lion, part hippopotamus; Ammut watches me with glittering eyes, and I know that she is hungering for my condemned soul. I shudder.
Anubis motions me forward, and my feet carry me toward him against my will. I do not want this! Everything I have done was for the sake of trying to save the souls of my people! All my suffering, which I thought had been brought on by Pharaoh; all my attempts at vengeance – it was only for KuruEruna. It was never for me. Surely they must know this... surely...
He asks my name, and I give it. "Bakura." My voice sounds foolishly small and hollow to my own ears. With a wave of the god's hand, my heart – or that which represents my heart, as I can still feel my real one pounding painfully in my chest – appears on one side of the Scales, and he places the ostrich plume on the other side. He removes the supports.
My soul never stood a chance.
The pan containing my heart clatters to the floor, heavy with sins un-atoned. I feel sick as Anubis speaks in a rough but quiet tone, "Thus has your soul been Judged." Thoth scrawls my fate on his papyrus without so much as a glance in my direction, and I am shoved roughly from behind. I find myself facing the Devouress. Ammut allows herself a luxuriant stretch; she is in no rush – she knows that I am hers. I tremble with a fear as strong as I have never felt in my life. For all the suffering I have endured, this is what I have been reduced to. The lack of justice in all of this is enough to make me sick.
All because I was wrong.
The Pharaoh Akunamkanon is probably laughing at me from his place in Paradise. Laughing at me for trying to best his only son over a crime neither of them ever committed. His twin brother Akunadin – the one to whom I truly owe my hatred – must also find this quite amusing. After all, everything worked well enough in his favor: his son got to take the throne because the true heir was forced to seal himself in the Puzzle because of me...
Fate must despise me something awful.
Ammut's jaws open, revealing sharp white teeth. I am pushed forward again, and now I am within the creature's grasp. I do not bother to hide my fright; the time for that is long past. I tumble forward, and Ammut's eyes glitter in feral delight. The same way I once looked at the Pharaoh and his priests.
The cry I release is of a mixture of terror and fury, but it is drowned out by another's shout.
This new voice pierces the air. Strong arms pull me back and away as Ammut's jaws snap upon air. The Devouress lets out a furious snarl, her meal denied. She attempts to lunge at me, but is restrained by the thick chains – fashioned by the gods – that bind her to her spot. She snaps her jaws in my direction again, as if to say, "You will be back, and I will not miss again." Who? Who would deign to save me from the will of the gods themselves? After all that I have done, all of the crimes I have committed, however misguided they were; I have already been condemned...
"I make this proposal under witness of my Divine Father, the Great God in Heaven, Amun-Ra! Bind this condemned-one's soul to mine, and let his fate lie within the Judgment of my own heart!" The voice, now achingly familiar, makes this declaration from just behind me. I am still clutched in his arms, for the moment, safe from harm. Surely, it cannot be who my fevered mind thinks it is. I have already been devoured, and this is some sort of cruel trick...
Anubis asks my rescuer's name. He says, resolutely,
"I speak my name before the gods: Atemu." The voice of my heart screams in my ears. The Pharaoh... ATEMU, who I have unjustly tormented for three millennia, is offering up a deal to the gods... to save ME...
Osiris turns his gaze upon the Pharaoh. He regards Atemu coolly, with an air of superiority. I am surprised when he speaks, in a low, rumbling voice that gives me chills. I still am, after all, only a peasant.
"Fallen Pharaoh-child, why do you seek to save this poor wretch? He is responsible for the events that have kept you from your own Judgment for so long."
Atemu sets me down away from Ammut and moves in front of me to face this God of the Dead. He stares straight up into the god's eyes, his back straight and his shoulders squared, and I think to myself that only he would have it in him to do something so arrogant.
But then, he always has been strange like that.
"I am full aware of what Bakura has done," he says, his voice firm. I note vaguely that I have never heard him use my name like that – entirely without malice. "I also know, now, the reasoning behind his actions, and I feel that, under the circumstances, they were justified. His acts of hatred against me were not unfounded. Not to him."
I cannot believe this. He is speaking up for me. Against the GODS. Practically telling them that their Divine Judgment is wrong. Pharaoh he may have been, but this is ridiculous! If we were not already dead, I would say he has a death wish.
Osiris, for his part, looks completely unbothered by Atemu's act of defiance, although I doubt it is because he gets to meet mortals as... impertinent as Atemu very often. I am not sure whether or not to be worried about this bit of information. Perhaps Osiris already knows our destinies, and the Scales are just there for show. Perhaps he will agree to Atemu's terms because he knows that Atemu will be condemned, and me along with him. Or perhaps he won't agree at all.
Apparently, the god has used all the words he cares to, for he merely looks at Anubis and nods his head.
I know damn well what all of this means: if Atemu passes Judgment, then both of us are saved. If Atemu fails, then we both get to feed Ammut. As if sensing this thought, the creature seems to grin at me. I shudder again, and fix my eyes on Atemu, who has his ever-familiar 'game face' on.
Leave it to Atemu to act like the fate of our souls is some kind of sport.
The Pharaoh sends me a glance, then.
"Is all of this right with you, Bakura?" he asks me quietly. I cannot help the incredulous look I give him.
"You're trying to SAVE me! Why wouldn't I be okay with it?!" I practically shout at him. He looks relieved."I wondered if maybe you would assume I was mocking you," he says.
"I don't care if you are. Just," I find myself hesitating. My loss in the Dark RPG is still fresh in my mind, and with it, the look he gave me as I collapsed. 'He's trying to make up for humiliating me,' I realize absently.
What a guy.
"Just...?" he prompts, and I abruptly notice that I have fallen silent.
"Just don't lose," I tell him.
He grins at my terminology, nods once, and turns back to the gods. Game on.
"We are ready."
Anubis waves his hand in the same manner he did for me, and Atemu's heart appears on the Scales. The feather is put into place, and the supports are removed.
The scales are indecisive this time, tipping rapidly back and forth between condemning us and saving us. Atemu stares unblinkingly at them, watching as they begin to slow. While my stomach twists as through I've swallowed scarabs, Atemu's eyes and posture remain fearless.
The scales cease moving. The pans look to be dead-even with each other. I hold my breath as Thoth kneels to check them. Atemu gives the Scales a look that says plainly, "If you are not in my favor, there will be pain."
Thoth, finally, in an agonizingly slow movement, gets to his feet and writes something on his roll of papyrus. Then he looks at Anubis.
"The small one has passed."
At these words, the room begins to fade, and I feel panicked, jumping to my feet despite how ill I feel. An impossibly slim pair of arms holds me upright as a wave of dizziness overtakes me. I know that they belong to Atemu, and I make no move to push him away.
Let him play hero one last time.
When the world comes back into focus, we seem to be in some type of oasis. I can hear the sound of a river, and there is greenery all around us. It is a great deal cooler than the desert, although it is warm enough not to be uncomfortable.
I shrug Atemu's hand off my shoulder, where it seems to have taken up residence during our little trip. I do not need him holding me up anymore; I have some pride left. I look around as I hear several voices.
"I am telling you – today is the day!" says a girl's voice. I hear one of her companions snort.
"You have been wrong before," says a voice I clearly recognize as belonging to one Seto Kaiba. Although this is his past-self.
"Seto, you cannot tell me that you are unable to feel his presence..." That must be Aishizu, then.
"I just don't want to get my hopes up!" Seto's voice responds.
"Would you two stop bickering?!" Shimon Muran's voice interrupts as he and the rest of Pharaoh's little... posse comes into view.
Atemu walks a ways toward them, and the little apprentice-girl is the first to spot him (possibly because they are at nearly the same eye-level), and she emits a shrill little shriek. The others look up and see Atemu grinning at them. Seto looks dumbstruck. Aishizu looks victorious. The small girl – Mana? – throws herself upon the Pharaoh and he laughs at her enthusiasm. Soon after, his priests have surrounded him, all talking at once, welcoming him – asking a billion questions.
I stand awkwardly in the place where I first arrived, not entirely sure what to do. Technically, I should not even be here...
Pharaoh's friends suddenly notice me. They look so bewildered that it is really rather priceless, and I find myself wishing I had a camera – a device they never would know about, that I had somehow lived long enough to see. The thought was oddly amusing.
They look at me, then at Atemu, and back again. Shaada is the one to ask, "Bakura is with you?" What he means is, 'Bakura is not condemned?', but I make no move to indicate the fact that he has obviously insulted me. At least they remember me. How touching. Atemu nods his head in reply. His priests look doubtful, but let the subject drop.
Then I notice Atemu's father. Akunamkanon. He is among those gathered around the Pharaoh. He – the once-scourge of my life – is watching me. His gaze is, surprisingly, lacking the disgust and loathing I had expected to be faced with. Actually, he looks understanding, of all things.
I am torn from my thoughts when I hear someone approaching me from behind, at a run. A voice accompanies the footfalls. A quiet voice. A female voice.
I turn around.
Gods. She is just the way I remember her. Perfectly lively and in good health. White hair, just like mine. Eyes the color of the Nile at sunset. The way she was before she died and left me all alone...
"Mother," I return shakily, not really trusting my voice, and she lets out a delighted cry and throws her arms around me, sobbing happily. She's certainly shorter than I recall... Over her shoulder, I see the rest of my sacrificed villagers – my father among them – grinning and waving at me. I can see that they do not hate me for what I have been forced to become, and the realization makes me glad. If they can forgive me, then I may be able to forgive myself...
The whole lot approaches me, chanting my name like some sort of mantra, whooping and cheering. Their lost child has finally returned to them. I feel at peace for the first time in three thousand years.
Atemu, surrounded by his cohorts, gives me a triumphant look. I give him a grateful nod – he is the reason I am here. The reason I may see my people again, and be at rest. It is a shame that he and I spent so long hating each other. Ah well.
We have the rest of our eternal afterlives to make up for it.
But for now, my family and I have some catching up to do.
End Notes: Mwahahahahahahaha. Ha. Please don't shoot me; I don't like pain.