Shadow World: Realm II

"Ryou! Ryou!" Yugi kept calling out into the darkness that surrounded him. He didn't like being here, who would? Maybe Bakura? No, not even the tomb robber would feel comfortable in this much darkness, even if he claimed to be the darkness, he had proven otherwise when this mess started and he tried to help Yami.

"Yugi?" Yugi heard Ryou's voice and tried to follow it, but it seamed like the faintest sound had an echo in the darkness. The Shadow Realm was making his search much more difficult than it already was. Yugi listened carefully and tried to determine in what direction the echo started. Finally, he gave up on that as the voice sounded the same from all directions and took a guess. Fortunately, he was able to find Ryou, but unfortunately Ryou was not in a very good condition.

"Ryou!" The candle burned out just as Yugi spotted him. From what he could see before the candle burned out, there were small seeds all over Ryou. The strange small seeds were a reddish brown color and where covered in small needle like spikes. He saw small dots of blood in Ryou's arms. The seeds slowly dissolved into dust and were gone, but their effect on Ryou had already been made.

xoxox xox xoxox

Joey started hearing something as he walked. It was someone ordering a monster around. He tried to look into the distance, but the fog was too thick so he just kept walking, concentrating on that voice. It was a man and the voice was familiar, could it be?

xoxox xox xoxox

Malik stared at the figure in front of him, who was holding a candle out to him, as if he was supposed to take it. Malik took the candle and the duel monster walked away, back into the darkness of the next room. "Dark Magician, wait!" It looked like Dark Magician was okay, but where were Ryou and Yugi? "Where are they?"

Dark Magician simply shook his head as if saying no.

"I have to find them, see if you can cook this," Malik gave Dark Magician the unconscious, not yet dead, Kuriboh, and was about to go out when he heard the door being opened. "Who's there!"

"Malik? Ryou's hurt!" Yugi had brought Ryou, who was unconscious. Malik helped Yugi get Ryou to Yugi's old room and placed him on the bed.

The two boys looked at Ryou. The white haired boy teen looked like he was having trouble breathing. Yugi placed a hand on his forehead and quickly removed it as if he had been burned. "He has a really bad fever!"

"What happened to him?" Malik didn't take his eyes off Ryou.

"We were worried about you and I tried to stop him, but he said he was going to find you. I'm so sorry I couldn't stop him, he just ran off and I called him, but he wouldn't stop so I went after him and found him like this." Yugi hated himself for what had happened, he didn't want anyone else getting hurt and felt as if it was all his fault. "There were some little seeds all over him, they disappeared just before the candle I had burned out," Yugi explained. Those seeds looked familiar, but Yugi didn't remember where he saw them before. He had a feeling they weren't really seeds.

"What did the seeds look like?" Malik hoped there was a cure for whatever Ryou had. He had already lost his sister, Ishizu and his brother, Odion. Malik tried to keep his hopes up, their sacrifice would not be in vain, he had to survive and do something to fix this mess, but he didn't know what to do and it was so frustrating.

Malik felt like he was letting everyone down, even the siblings that would give their lives for him and he knew that Ishizu and Odion were not the only ones willing to do that. During his stay in the Game Shop, Malik, Ryou and Yugi had become very close friends and would without a doubt risk, and even give, their lives to save each other. Now Ryou was sick. Malik just couldn't take losing one more person in his life, there had to be a cure.

"The seeds were small, reddish brown, with spikes like needles and they looked familiar, I think I've seen something like that before, but I can't remember where." Even if Yugi tried not to show it, he was scared for Ryou. He felt guilty that this had happened. If only he caught up to Ryou sooner, if only he comforted him and convinced him to stay and wait.

"Try to remember, Yugi! This may be important to make him better." Malik didn't mean to sound as angry as he did, it just came out that way. He didn't blame Yugi for anything; he was just upset about the entire situation.

"I know, I'm trying," Yugi was trying to remember and at the same time trying not to cry. So many lives had ended. So many friends were lost; he didn't want to lose anyone else. He couldn't stop a tear from rolling down his face, but managed to hold back the many that followed.

Even if it was dark and Yugi wasn't crying too much, Malik noticed. "Yugi, I'm sorry, it's not your fault, I didn't mean to yell."

Yugi didn't answered he just stared at the floor in a trance and let the tears fall freely. Yugi's life flashed before his eyes, as if he had died, he felt so horrible he might as well. Everything from the day he met each of his friends, to Duelist Kingdom, to Battle City. Wait, Duelist Kingdom? Suddenly he was remembering his duel with Seto Kaiba right before the Duelist Kingdom finals. Yes, that card he used; that virus, that's what the seeds looked like! "Crush Card Virus!"

"What?" Malik looking at Yugi with confusion.

"I remember where I saw them, they weren't seeds, they were some kind of germs and they looked like the Crush Card Virus, it's a card Kaiba used in a duel against me in the Duelist Kingdom tournament," Yugi explained.

"So Kaiba could be behind this? He did lock us out of his castle and while he's in there safe from everything and has plenty of supplies, we're out here starving in the middle of danger," Malik looked angry now.

It was true Seto has shown no intention of helping. In fact, it was almost as if he knew everything would come to this, judging by the way he prepared. When the Shadow Realm started to take over, no one imagined that things would get this hard, but Seto Kaiba prepared as if he knew.

Yugi shook his head. "No, Kaiba wouldn't do this, he may not help us, but he wouldn't attack us for no reason and he doesn't have a reason to want anything bad to happened to us. Kaiba just doesn't want to share. I don't think he can control viruses. Think about it, I had traps and magic cards in my deck, but I could only call the monster cards and now all I have left are Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl. I don't think Kaiba did this, he probably doesn't even know about this," Yugi concluded.

Malik sighed. "Yeah, you're right, he wouldn't." Malik was still a little suspicious of Seto, but he didn't speak of the matter, there were more important things to discuss right now. "What did this virus did in Duel Monsters?"

"I could only play my weakest monsters, but I don't know what effect it may have in humans." After Yugi said this, once again the room remained silent.

The silence went on until an unknown male voice was heard. "I know what's going on."

xoxox xox xoxox

Mai and Mako were riding Mai's Harpy's Pet Dragon to the island Mako spoke of. "How much longer until we get there?" Mai asked.

"Not too long!" Mako wasn't sure if they were almost there or not, he couldn't measure distance as easily in the air as he could at sea, he hoped they could land safely soon.

The wind picked up at an amazing speed and it was getting very difficult for Harpy's Pet Dragon to fly, at least the other flying monsters had given up and stopped following, but somehow that worried them even more. Riding Mako's Legendary Fisherman was out of the question. The ocean was having a storm unlike any other. This storm looked even stronger than the one that took his father.

The waves were high and strong, crashing against the ocean violently. Watching this brought back many memories to Mako. He remembered how frightened he was as a child and he had to admit that even now the storm scared him. Getting a little distracted by his memories Mako slipped and almost fell off the dragon, but he managed to grab on to its tail. Mai was holding on for dear life to the dragon's neck almost choking her.

xoxox xox xoxox

Far away, Joey had managed to find someone, "Tristan."

Tristan looked at him and gave him an evil glare. "Attack!" He sent his only monster, Garoozis to Joey.

"Red Eyes Black Dragon!" Joey called out. "Blast that thing back to the real Shadow Realm!" Soon the dragon let out a massive fire ball that destroyed Garoozis.

Tristan glared at Joey and his dragon and made a run for it. He headed for his underground hide out where Serenity was locked.

"Come back here coward!" Joey couldn't believe this used to be his best friend. What had he done with Serenity? It was as if Tristan was an entirely different person.

Joey chased after Tristan but Red Eyes Black Dragon was too big to enter the cave where Tristan ran to. That cave led to the underground dungeon where Tristan always hid from the monsters, also where Serenity was trapped. The Flame Swordsman could go inside easily since he was about the same size as a normal human. "Flame Swordsman, let's go!"

The Flame Swordsman came from the shadows that surrounded the Earth at Joey's call and followed him, while the Red Eyes Black Dragon flew up into the dark sky and disappeared. The Red Eyes Black Dragon would stay in the shadows until he was called again.

Joey continued to chase Tristan inside the dungeon. It was dark but the, Flame Swordsman's sword glowed with fire, lighting the way. Tristan didn't even look back as he ran. They ran until they reached the room where Serenity was locked. By now Joey knew that Tristan was not the same. The Shadow Realm had brainwashed him and he was nothing like he was before.

Tristan quickly unlocked the room and ran to take Serenity hostage. However, the Flame Swordsman was faster than he thought. With a quick movement the Flame Swordsman jumped over them, landing in front of Tristan, between him and Serenity.

"Joey!" Serenity got up and ran to hug her brother. He gasped in horror when he didn't recognize her at first. She looked like she has not eaten anything in days; she was very pale and weak. She had a few cuts here and there, the biggest one on her left arm, where she had a piece of cloth tied to it with dried up blood stains. Her hair was a shorter, barely reaching her shoulders, and uneven, as if it had been burned rather than cut.

"Serenity?" Joey asked as if he wasn't sure that this was his sister, as if he didn't want this to be his sister. No, not this girl that looked like she had suffered greatly. This couldn't be his sister, this just couldn't be Serenity. Joey remembered the times before the Shadow Realm came.

Serenity had always been so full of life. She was always the one to cheer him up no matter what. That girl Joey remembered always smiled, the only time when Joey had seen his sister truly sad, was when they were separated years ago. After that, when they talked over the phone, Serenity always tried to sound cheerful. Just listening to her made him happy. She didn't deserve to go through any of this. Why Serenity? Why his little sister? She never hurt anyone; she never did anything to deserve being treated this way.

"Yes, it's me, brother," when Serenity spoke, the realty sunk in for Joey. He wanted to know what happened and make the one who hurt her pay. At the same time, he didn't want to know, he feared he couldn't handle knowing his sister had suffered so much pain. He knew she was hurt, but what about the wounds he couldn't see? Even now he could see the fear in her eyes, as if she could never be at peace again, as if whatever happened would torment her forever. The truth was no one could really ever be at peace, not with the Shadow Realm like this.

Joey woke up for his thoughts and glared at Tristan. His ex-friend, the one he used to trust. No, this wasn't Tristan, this was a traitor. "Kill him," Joey ordered, not even looking at the Flame Swordsman. The traitor would pay with his life; he would die, burned by the Flame Swordsman's sword.

The Flame Swordsman raised his blade above Tristan's head. He slowly moved it to the side and prepared to decapitate Tristan, waiting for the moment when Joey gave his final order. Tristan's mind was freed by the shadow spirit at that very moment, the darkness had no use for one that was about to die.

The dark spirit came out from the vessel not realizing that the Flame Swordsman could sense it, despite it trying to make itself invisible. The dark spirit was destroyed by the burning sword in one swift impact, then the Flame Swordsman returned to his position with his blade near Tristan's neck.

Tristan blinked a few times, until everything around him came to focus. What was going on? The last thing he remembered was waiting for Joey, Serenity was there and then... The memories slowly flooded his mind and flashbacks of what he had done replayed in his head. Had he truly hurt Serenity so badly? The Shadow Realm had taken over his mind. He knew now he was being controlled by the darkness.

Tristan watched the scenes play over and over in his mind, as if he was in a trance. He could hear the distant echo of Serenity's voice telling him that she wanted the real Tristan to come back. He remembered the dark spirit saying that he was the real Tristan. He wasn't there for her when she needed him the most. He promised the one who used to be his best friend that he would protect Serenity, yet it was because of him that she was hurt. It was because of him she nearly died.

He failed to protect Serenity and instead hurt her. "Forgive me..." Tristan whispered looking at the floor and closed his eyes to await Flame Swordsman's fire blade.

Tristan didn't want to live anymore. He didn't think he deserved to live, he wanted to die. That would be better than standing there in front of the girl he loved. He failed and he just couldn't stand the memories of what he did while he was under the Shadow Realm's control. Even if it was the Shadow Realm controlling his vessel, Trsitan blamed himself because he wasn't able to push the dark spirit out of his mind.

As Flame Swordsman was about to strike, Serenity let go of Joey and grabbed the Flame Swordsman's arm. "No, don't kill him!"

Joey pulled her away. "He hurt you, Serenity. He's a traitor, he caused you all this pain!"

Tristan looked up, "I deserve to die."

Serenity looked at Tristan, then at the Flame Swordsman and finally at Joey. "No, it wasn't him. He didn't hurt me, it was the Shadow Realm! The Shadow Realm took over his mind and controlled him!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Yugi and Malik looked at the one who spoke. "Dark Magician!" The both exclaimed in surprise. Up until now, the duel monsters had not said anything. The duelists just called whatever monsters they had to help them and the monsters would listen. No one could figure out how to control trap and magic cards, and no one knew what happened to Ra, Obelisk and Slifer, since they had mysteriously disappeared from Yugi's deck right before the Shadow Realm took over.

Sometimes Yugi, Ryou and Malik would sit around in what was left of the Game Shop talking just to pass the time away, always in whispers, just in case. Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl were there, but they never said anything. Now Ryou and Malik's monsters had been lost to the Shadow Realm in one way or another and only Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl remained from Yugi's deck.

"Yes, I was once human in Ancient Egypt, so don't be too surprised that I can speak," Dark Magician revealed.

"I'm not surprised you can speak. I'm surprised you didn't say anything before. Why didn't you say something?" Yugi asked.

"I didn't have anything of importance to say," Dark Magician simply explained. "Now I do. About Ryou, he has a very powerful virus that will affect everything vital. His heartbeats will slow down, the oxygen will be consumed faster, his natural defenses will be affected, everything. In this state he might not last long unless we cure him."

"Cure him Darky!" Yugi requested as if it was that simple. He knew it wouldn't be that easy, but he hoped that it was at least possible.

"Darky?" Malik repeated. "I knew you had a nickname for your duel monsters, but you called him Darky?"

"Makes sense," Yugi looked at Darky. "Cure him, you can cure him right?"

Dark Magician was silent. Yugi and Malik looked at each other then at Ryou. Finally Dark Magician spoke, "no, but I know who can, unfortunately I don't know if she is still alive."

xoxox xox xoxox

Joey still insisted on killing the traitor and Serenity remained firm in that it wasn't his fault. Tristan was so disappointed and felt so bad for hurting Serenity, that he didn't care to live anymore. It was true that the Shadow Realm made him do things he would never do on his own free will, but he didn't have the strength to fight it off.

The Shadow Realm had not taken over Joey's mind so why Tristan's? Why couldn't he resist the shadows like Joey did? He let Serenity down and instead of protecting her, he hurt her and for that he would never forgive himself. "Just end it..." Tristan refused to make eye contact with Joey or Serenity.

"I will," Joey started. "Flame Swordsman-"

"No!" Serenity stood in front of Tristan and wouldn't move out of the way. "Please Joey; please let him go, do it for me. If you care about your little sister at all, don't kill him, please!" She started crying, she was really scared before, but even more now. She didn't want Joey to fall into the darkness too.

"I won't kill him," Joey finally agreed. "Thank you Flame Swordsman, I'll call you again when I need your help." The Flame Swordsman nodded and disappeared, back into the shadows.

"Thank you big bother," Serenity was relived.

"Let's get out of here sis," Joey looked back at Tristan. "You too, I know it was the Shadow Realm and not you."

"I'm still beyond forgiveness," Tristan didn't move.

"Then come back with us and earn it, or do you not care to earn it?" Joey replied. Tristan finally looked at him and nodded.

The three left the underground dungeon place and walked back to the surface. It had been a while since Serenity had seen the outside world and she didn't like it, it was worse than she remembered. It was very hard to see in the dark fog. Joey called the Red Eyes Black Dragon to carry them and the Flame Swordsman to light the way. They were going to Domino city.

With the light created by the Flame Swordsman's fire sword Serenity could see the Earth a little more clearly, yet she didn't recognize anything. Not in the sense of being in a strange city, but she didn't feel like she was in a city at all. Everything was in ruins and there were no people to be seen anywhere. They saw a few duel monsters fighting with each other, but no people at all. They wondered if there was anyone left. If there were any humans, left they must be well hidden, probably underground.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the Game Shop, Yugi and Malik awaited Dark Magician's explanation. "Who is she?" Malik asked.

"Mystical Elf," Dark Magician replied.

"But I haven't seen her," Yugi recalled. "She was in my deck before, but when the Shadow Realm came, she just disappeared and so did Ra, Obelisk and Slifer."

"She couldn't have just disappeared, she wasn't like the other three," Dark Magician reasoned. "She must be somewhere else, we just need to find her or find someone who can tell us where she is."

Dark Magician Girl came in. "We have a visitor," she announced.

To their surprise Espa Roba was there. Yugi didn't know him well, but he had heard about him from Joey. Either way, any human was welcomed there; very few people were left anyway.

It turned out that Espa had been wondering around the city when he came to the Game Shop. The duel monsters had captured his brothers and destroyed must of his monsters, except Ginzo, who soon came upstairs also following Espa. He protected him, even when Espa stopped caring about surviving after his brothers were captured by the monsters; they were probably dead by now anyway.

"Espa, you're welcome to stay here with us if you want," Yugi offered.

"Than you, but I don't want to be a bother. I should go now, I was just passing by. Please let Ginzo stay with you, I'm sure he'll be able to help." After Battle City, Espa had found another Ginzo card and that was the only monster he had left from his entire deck.

"Ginzo, can tell us where Mythical Elf is?" Dark Magician asked. Ginzo nodded and showed them a psychic mental picture. They all saw it; Mythical Elf was at Dragon Castle.

"We have to find a way into Dragon Castle," Malik concluded.

Not too far the Game Shop, there was a large castle with a statue of a Blue Eyes White Dragon on the tallest tower. Seto Kaiba had ordered the construction of that castle where Kaiba Land used to be, when he noticed the Shadow Realm had started to take over. Some said he knew all along about the Shadow Realm and was the only person who was truly prepared. He knew it was going to be more than just a strange storm, as everyone thought at the time. Seto was already prepared by the time things got worse.

xoxox xox xoxox

The storm over the sea seamed to become calmer and Mai saw an island ahead. Mako was holding on the dragon's tail still. "Mako! Is that the island?" Mai looked behind her, where she thought Mako was still sitting. "Mako? Oh great, he fell and drowned," she complained with more anger than sadness, she did not have enough patience left for sadness.

"I'm fine!" Came Mako's voice, "I'm on the tail!"

"Everyone rides a dragon in whatever way they like I guess, but tell me, is that the island?" Mai asked again.

Mako looked ahead. "It must be!" Finally, they were close to their destination and would land soon.

They were heading to the island when out of no where, a bat came and tried to bite Mai. She screamed and tried to slap it away.

"Mai?" Mako looked up, trying to see what was happening, but he couldn't see Mai from the dragon's tail. "Mai, what's going on?"

"Bat!" Mai yelled back. It was strange, there weren't supposed to be any bats in that area. Birds maybe, then again, the Shadow Realm killed most living creatures, so birds would be a strange thing to find too.

The bat gave up trying to bite her and instead bit Harpy's Pet Dragon. The dragon roared and started flying wildly. Mai had to hang on, almost chocking her again, and Mako was sure he would fall if this didn't stop.

"Tell her to stop!" Mako battled not to fall, but Harpy's Pet Dragon looked like she wanted to shake them both off.

"The bat bit her!" Mai thought it was very strange for a bat bite to cause a big strong dragon to act this way. Harpy's Pet Dragon changed the direction of her flight and instead headed away from the island. Up ahead there was a floating Dark Castle. She shook Mako off her tail and he fell to the ocean. Mai and Harpy's Pet Dragon crashed into the Dark Castle.

xoxox xox xoxox

Mai had no idea what happened. The last thing she remembered she was screaming at the top of her lungs when she realized they were going to crash into the Dark Castle. Now she was waking up in a strange room. Someone had put her in a bed and left her there.

Mai got up and looked around. It looked like there was a lot of black there, but what else could to be expected from a Dark Castle. The walls were painted black and the floor was covered by fuzzy black carpets. There were few windows, but it's not like there was much to look at out there anyway, just the darkness of the Shadow Realm.

Mai picked up a candle that was on a small table next to the bed and walked to the window. The glass window was framed in silver and was opened, letting a light breeze into the room. She tried to figure out where she was, but the island she saw was her only way to tell how far she had gone and she couldn't see it from here. Maybe it was on the other side of the castle.

"Harpy's Pet Dragon, come to me now!" Mai called out the window but received no answer. Instead she felt a pain in her heart, as if she had suffered a loss. "No," the thought crossed her mind that her dragon might be gone, but that just didn't make sense, yet the scene she put up with the bat didn't make sense either. "Harpy's Pet Dragon!" Mai had no choice but to accept the truth when her dragon didn't come. How was it that her dragon died? Was it the crash with the Dark Castle that killed her or was there more to that bat?

Slowly, Mai walked over to the bed, placed the candle back on the table and lay down. She looked at the ceiling where there was a silver chandelier with candles. She felt water running down her face and thought she better stop staring at the candles in the chandelier, because it was making her eyes water, but it did not stop, even after she sat up and stared at the floor.

She was still sitting there crying when she heard someone knocking on the door. She stared at it for a few seconds, not knowing what to expect and decided it was best to be prepared. So she picked up a base, that was also black, and stood next to the door.

"Come in," the door opened and Mai threw the base at the one who opened the door, hitting him on the head. The man tried to regain his balance but he was too dizzy and fell on the floor. Mai poked him, wondering if he was dead, but a hit on the head doesn't kill someone unless it's really hard and that base that was now in a million pieces, but that wasn't hard enough, right? Mai shook her head and decided it was best not to think about it, then poked the strange man again.

Mai took a step back when he opened his eyes, but he didn't move. "Why did you do that?" He was still on the floor.

Mai blinked, now she felt like an idiot, why did she do that? If this guy wanted to hurt her, wouldn't he have already done it? "I'm sorry," she extended her hand to help him up.

"It's okay," as he smiled at her, she screamed and grabbed the nearest solid object, another black base, when she saw his long sharp looking fangs.

He backed away until he was up against the wall. "Calm down lady. Don't hit me again," he tried to sound as friendly as possible.

"You're a vampire!" Mai sounded like she was accusing him of a terrible crime.

"Yes I am, my name is Varon," he reminded himself not to smile again. "I was a human once."

xoxox xox xoxox

Yugi and Malik had decided to journey to Dragon Castle and do whatever they could to find Mythical Elf to cure Ryou of the virus that threatened to take his life. At the same time, they would watch out for other viruses that could possibly attack them and of course, hungry monsters.

They were both hungry so they headed downstairs to eat before the journey, leaving Dark Magician taking care of Ryou, who was in what used to be Yugi's room. They had managed to convince Espa to stay at the Game Shop with Ginzo and everyone. All of them lost people whom they cared for, but those people wouldn't want them to give up.

Dark Magician Girl had taken the task to prepare and cook the food that Malik brought, the unconscious Kuriboh. However she did not want to feed the hikaris something that might make them sick, so the first thing she did was try to clean the Kuriboh, but it woke up.

Dark Magician Girl reached for her staff, but the little Kuriboh just looked at her sadly. "It's okay," Dark Magician Girl put her staff down and smiled at the Kuriboh.

"Poo!" The Kuriboh jumped on her and hugged her happily.

"You didn't explode," Dark Magician Girl was surprised.

"Poo! Poo!" The little Kuriboh told her the story.

"Ah, so you can't explode and the others are mean to you. Don't worry; you're one of us now." Dark Magician Girl tried to think of a name for the Kuriboh. "I shall call you Plushie!"

"Darky Girl!" She heard Yugi calling and ran to him with the Kuriboh in her arms.

"Yes?" Dark Magician Girl voiced as she entered the room.

"Did you take the... Kuriboh! It's alive!" Yugi exclaimed.

"Do something before it explodes!" Malik urged.

All of this scared Plushie. "It's okay Plushie," Dark Magician Girl gently petted the Kuriboh. "No one will hurt you."

"Plushie?" Yugi and Malik said in unison, as they looked at each other silently asking if the other knew what this was about.

The confused looks confirmed that they had no idea what Dark Magician Girl was talking about, so she explained. "This is Plushie, that's what I named him. He can't explode so the other Kuriboh were mean to him." Obviously the meal was canceled, not that either Yugi or Malik were looking forward to finding out how Kuriboh tasted.

Yugi and Malik got their candles, as they were out of batteries for the flashlights, prepared to go on their way to Dragon Castle. "Stay here, Malik," Yugi requested.

"What?" Malik was not expecting this. Why did Yugi suddenly want him to stay? Did he think he had a better chance of hiding from the wild duel monsters and getting to Dragon Castle alive if he was alone?

"I just... I need to do this by myself, okay? Just go back, there's no need for both of us to go." Yugi hoped that Malik wouldn't ask him what he meant by that. He just had a bad feeling about going to Dragon Castle, but he knew he had to go to help Ryou and there was no sense in putting both their lives in danger.

"Yugi, what is getting you so worried?" Malik noticed appeared to be thinking of an excuse. "Do you think Kaiba will turn against us for some reason? Is that it?" Malik looked at Yugi for a few seconds and waited for an answer.

Yugi really couldn't explain to Malik how he felt right now. He just somehow knew that there was something wrong, something very wrong. "I don't think he would... I just... don't... I..." There was a moment of silence. The two boys looked at each other, as if trying to guess what the other was thinking. They never thought that simple survival would be so hard and that they and Ryou would need to help each other to accomplish it. Many memories came back to them while lost in thought.

"Meow!" They were taken out of their thoughts by the sound of Mr. Fluffy's meowing. Malik's cat had followed them there.

Now that the silence was broken Yugi spoke. "Just trust me, please."

Malik sighed and gave up, just for this once. Obviously Yugi wasn't going to change his mind about this. "Alright, but take my cat with you. Cats can sense duel monsters and I think he knows the way to the Dragon Castle too," Malik patted Mr. Fluffy. "Good boy, stay near Yugi and take him to Dragon Castle," Malik thought for a moment, "take him to that cat you like." This way Mr. Fluffy understood and walked towards Yugi, meowed at him, then continued towards the exit of the Game Shop.

"I'll be back as soon as I can!" Yugi ran after Mr. Fluffy.

xoxox xox xoxox

Mako had reached the island he and Mai were heading to. He called the Legendary Fisherman after he fell from Harpy's Pet Dragon's tail and the fisherman caught him. The swim to the island didn't take long. Mai didn't fall, or at least Mako didn't see her fall. He wondered where she was now and if the dragon calmed down after a while or... He didn't want to think about that other possibility.

"My dragon, is she..." Mai started, but she didn't feel like ending her question.

"I'm afraid so," Varon knew what she was referring to, "I'm sorry."

Mai tried to push away the sadness. "Never mind, I'm Mai Valentine. You said you were a human once, what do you mean?"

"I was bitten by a vampire girl, actually she was a duel monster but I defeated her, even if it was a little too late," Varon explained. "My friends and I found this castle and came to live here, it's better than out there, believe me."

"I know; I've been there. I come from Domino city and I've been searching for a place to live where there aren't any monsters trying to bite my head off all the time. What of those strange bats around here? Are those duel monsters too?" Mai asked.

"Yes, I think so. There are many strange bats around this area, but they never actually come inside the Dark Castle so you're safe here. There are also plenty of supplies to go around and we've trained several duel monsters to go out and look for anything we may need. You're welcome to stay," Varon smiled, forgetting about his fangs.

This was what Mai was searching for, a safe place with no duel monsters trying to eat her alive. A place where she could, for once in a long time, relax. Then why didn't she feel happy or even relieved now that she found such a place? Was it the less than friendly atmosphere? Even if the Dark Castle itself wasn't very inviting, Varon appeared to be nice enough, but there was something missing.

Mai started to understand why those sailors returned after finding that island. This wasn't the same without her friends. She could make new friends now; she could have people around her to keep her company. It wasn't that she would be all alone. It was that she missed her friends and no one could replace them. She specially missed Joey, more than she would ever admit.

xoxox xox xoxox

Yugi headed to Dragon Castle following Mr. Fluffy. It was a good thing the cat appeared to know the way, because Domino City had changed so much, that Yugi wasn't sure which way Dragon Castle was. Everything was so dark Yugi could hardly see. He just kept walking following the cat's green glowing eyes.

Suddenly, Mr. Fluffy hissed and hurried to hide in the ruins of a near by house. Yugi quickly followed, wondering what had scared the cat. He watched from the hiding place as an Alligator Sword walked by, looking for anything alive to hunt. Yugi stayed hidden until it was gone. Mr. Fluffy made his way in the ruins until he jumped out what used to be a window.

Yugi followed, feeling hopeless, sure he knew his purpose now was to find the Mythical Elf and bring her back to Ryou so she could heal him, but what then? Even if Ryou did recover, it wasn't like any of them had anything good to look forward to. Their world was dieing and they didn't even know why it began or how to end it.

As he continued his trip following the cat, Yugi remembered the better times when this city was so full of life. All those times when he and Yami had dueled on behalf of the world and this is what it all came down to. What was it that went wrong? Would he ever know? Did it even matter?

After what felt like an eternity, Yugi and Mr. Fluffy finally arrived at Dragon Castle. The tall walls stood there as if assuring Yugi that there was no way he could get in. He didn't bring any monsters and he wasn't planning to call Dark Magician or Dark Magician Girl, though they could come to him instantly since he was their master.

There was no use in fighting anyway, it just caused the wild monsters to call for reinforcements and in the end the situation would be much worse than it would be just trying to run away. Yugi and Mr. Fluffy circled the large castle a few times looking for an entrance or a way of communication with the inside, anything. After finding nothing, it seamed that ever contacting Seto to ask about the Mythical Elf was impossible.

Yugi turned around to leave. He wasn't the kind to give up, but this was over. He lost and he had to admit it. Just as he started to walk away, Mr. Fluffy started meowing and hissing. Yugi turned and saw a pair of red eyes glaring at him. The creature came closer and Yugi noticed it was a Battle Ox. Wasn't that one of Seto's monsters? Yugi stood there motionless, unsure if the creature would attack. The Battle Ox swung his axe at Yugi and then it all went dark.

xoxox xox xoxox

As Mako explored the monster free island, he learned that it wasn't such a great place as he thought. There seemed to be a strange sickness in this island, possibly the result of some kind of virus that killed humans and duel monsters alike. Maybe this place was better when he heard about it, but by the time he got there, it was not worth the trip. "I was foolish to think I could find a peaceful prosper place in this dieing world."

Knowing that staying there wouldn't do him any good, Mako decided to set off again. He called the legendary fisherman and hopped on the shark that carried him. "Let's go somewhere else, somewhere far away, anywhere." The fisherman nodded and soon they were off. It didn't matter where they went, it didn't matter if they just wondered endlessly in the ocean; nothing really mattered anymore.

xoxox xox xoxox

Yugi slowly woke up to find himself in what looked like a dungeon. By his headache and the large bump on his head, it was obvious that the Battle Ox knocked him unconscious with the blunt side of his axe. Outside the cell there stood Seto Kaiba. "So you finally wake up Yugi, I was stating to think you were dead," he grinned evilly.

Yugi blinked a few times to get his blurry vision to clear up and stared. "Kaiba, you... Why?"

Seto ignored his question. "We'll have a duel, we'll duel tomorrow, even if the cards are just pieces of paper now," he started to leave.

Yugi quickly stood up despite the pain that indicated that he must have been dragged there and thrown into the cell. "Kaiba, I can't wait that long, I need to take the Mythical Elf with me!" Seto continued walking down the hall. The metal walls on the dungeon reflected the dim light of the torches around it. "Kaiba! Ryou will die if he isn't healed by Mythical Elf!"

Seto stopped and looked at Yugi for a moment. "That is none of my concern," then he left.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the Game Shop, Malik placed a cloth with cold water on Ryou's forehead in a useless effort to lower his persistent fever. He was getting worse by the second and there was no sign of Yugi or Mythical Elf, not even of Mr. Fluffy. Dark Magician, Dark Magician Girl and Plushie, the Kuriboh, were downstairs. Malik told them to go and keep a look out for Yugi when he returned.

Malik sighed and sat on the end of the bed. Ryou's eyes were closed, but he could easily notice the expression of terror in his face. He was having a nightmare.

xoxox xox xoxox

In his dream, Ryou was in a dark cold place. "Come hikari," a voice called in the distance. Ryou looked around and found no one, yet the voice was so familiar. "This way, hikari."

"Bakura, is that you?" Ryou started running in the direction he thought the voice came from, but he felt like he wasn't moving. His surroundings were always the same, as if he didn't move an inch. There was darkness everywhere, Ryou wasn't even sure he was standing on anything, there was just darkness and emptiness.

"I'm here hikari," Ryou knew for sure it was Bakura, so he ran faster now and soon began to see something up ahead in the darkness. It was someone that looked like Bakura, but he wasn't sure. He looked a little older than Bakura, but not by much, his skin was tan and his eyes were purple. His hair was white just like Bakura's.

Although even if he looked different, his presence felt like Bakura's. "Bakura?" Ryou asked uncertain.

"Yes," Bakura confirmed. Ryou stared in shock and as soon as he got over the surprise, he quickly tried to remove the chains that kept Bakura from moving. Yes, he was Bakura even if he looked different, but it was him. The chains were not attached to anything, but they seamed to hold Bakura in place quite well. "Don't bother, Ryou."

"No, I won't leave you here!" With this statement, the question came. Where was here? Ryou tried hard to remember. The seeds! He passed out and the last thing he remembered was darkness and voices in the distance. He must have been unconscious and now dead? "We're dead, aren't we?" Ryou didn't stop his efforts to free Bakura.

"I'm a yami, I wasn't alive," Bakura stated as a matter of fact. "You are not dead,"

Ryou looked at him, for a moment taking his attention off the chains. "Then why am I here?"

There was a moment of silence as Bakura thought about it, "because you're not awake."

In his dream, Ryou stayed with Bakura, sitting beside him in silence having given up on the chains. He waited to wake up or to die whatever came. "How is it that I'm here simply because I'm not awake?"

"The shadows have advanced; they haunt human minds when they're unconscious. Normally, when you sleep, there are nightmares, but since you're so close to death, instead you were brought here. Your spirit is still connected to mine and mine was taken by the darkness." Ryou wasn't sure he understood what Bakura explained.

From what the hikari could interpret, the Shadow Realm was taking over everyone's mind slowly. They were doing a lot more than they realized to survive. But people needed to rest and sleep, what then if being asleep weakened their defenses? Ryou realized that the nightmares he, Yugi and Malik had, were more than just nightmares. Was the end of humanity really coming? Was this truly the inevitable end?

Again Ryou sat in silence, the darkness around them seamed to change colors like strange smoke. There was black, dark grey and a little bit of dark purple. The colors melted into each other in an endless fog of darkness. Dark purple, black, dark gray, they looked really strange when Ryou stared at them. Every thing was so endless and empty. It was dark gray, black and dark purple, slowly moving in the endless shadows. There was dark purple, dark gray and black, mostly black. Ryou couldn't stop looking at the distance.

"Don't do that," Ryou jumped when he heard Bakura's voice.

"Don't do what?" The hikari inquired.

"Don't stare into the distance for too long or you'll go insane," Bakura warned. Ryou blinked, he looked at the darkness one last time, then back at Bakura. "Trust me, the shadows are out there. If you stare at them too much, they'll hypnotize you, they'll invade your mind faster. You'll be looking around, thinking that something's going to jump on you any second. All you'll know is fear and nothing will come. Then you'll start to wish that something would just jump out of the shadows and bite your head off so you're put out of your misery. Constant fear and panic are not the best things to feel for eternity, if you've been scared before, believe me that was nothing."

Ryou felt a cold chill as Bakura's words sunk in. He did feel fear when staring into the darkness, but he couldn't stop. "Did that happen to you?"

"I'm feeling better now that you're here," Bakura admitted, "but at the same time I wish you were not, because being here means something bad for you."

xoxox xox xoxox

Another day came, not that it could be distinguished as a day, but a considerable amount of time passed, so Seto had decided that it was the next day and the day of his duel with Yugi. He ordered the Battle Ox to bring the prisoner. When Battle Ox didn't arrive with Yugi, he went to check what was wrong and found Battle Ox searching the castle on his way to the dungeon. Seto rushed to the dungeon arrived at Yugi's empty cell.

Flashback

Yugi was lost in thought in his cell. How could Kaiba do this? There was something strange about him; something was out of place. But Yugi wasn't sure what was out of place, where it belonged and what was there before. He never knew too much about Seto Kaiba, but he did know more then most thought.

"Yugi," Yugi tried to find to source of the sudden voice that broke the ever present silence and got him out of his thoughts.

"Mokuba?" Yugi was surprised but happy to see him.

"My brother is in danger. Something's happening to him, I think it has something to do with the Shadow Realm. I'll let you out," Mokuba used the key he stole from his brother's room to open the cell. He also opened the cell that held Mythical Elf. "My brother is sleeping now; you have to leave before he wakes up. The cat that was with you earlier is waiting at the door."

End Flashback

Seto glared at the Battle Ox who had followed him. "Idiot, Yugi escaped, you let him escape!" Seto raised his hand as a black orb of dark light began to form; he threw it at the duel monster making Battle Ox disappear. "Useless duel monster," still many questions remained. Where was Yugi now? What about... Mythical Elf! Seto rushed to a different part of the dungeon, Mythical Elf was not in her cell.

xoxox xox xoxox

"I'm back!" Yugi called out as he entered the Game Shop.

Malik ran down stairs and saw Mythical Elf was with Yugi. "You found her!"

"Now Ryou will have to recover," Yugi couldn't wait to see his friend wake up. They went back to Yugi's room where Ryou was.

"I will do my best" Mythical Elf started casting a spell that sounded like a heavenly song in an unknown language.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Bakura, do you hear that?" Ryou asked.

"Hear what?" Bakura looked at Ryou, who seemed to be staring at something in the distance. "Remember not to stare at the darkness," he warned.

Ryou shook his head, "not the darkness, the light. Don't you see it? Up ahead there's a bright light, it changes from white, to silver, to light blue. It's coming closer and there's a song coming from it. I don't understand the words, but it's a very beautiful song. Don't you hear that voice? It's so peaceful."

"I can't see that light and I can't hear the song, but I do sense the presence of Mythical Elf. She must be casting a spell on your body to heal your vessel and bring you back," Bakura realized. "I guess it's goodbye again..."

Ryou turned around, ignoring the light and the song. "I won't leave you."

Bakura smiled at his hikari, something that took Ryou by surprise. "You need to go, I'm glad you're going to survive, being in this place isn't good for you."

The light came closer and Ryou looked at it. The light appeared to form a tunnel and at the other side he saw his vessel and a Mythical Elf singing that strange spell. Yugi Moto, Malik Ishtar and Espa Roba were looking at him for any signs of life. Ginzo, Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl were also there and she was holding a Kuriboh, even Mr. Fluffy was watching expectantly. His friends were worried and wanted him to return, but Ryou couldn't leave Bakura. "I'll stay with you."

"Just go, there's nothing you can do here, go!" Bakura knew Mythical Elf couldn't keep the spell going forever. "Go hikari, there's nothing you can do here."

Ryou understood, "you're right, it's clear I can't break the chains from here, I'll go, but only to find a way to get out of here!" Ryou hugged the one that used to be his yami, then jumped into the light.

Ryou heard the song's echo all around him, until the bright light turned to darkness. He slowly opened his eyes, he was finally awake and completely healed from the virus. Time passed slowly from that moment on. Things went back to the way they used to be for them, just trying to survive any way they could.

xoxox xox xoxox

Mai was getting tired of living in the Dark Castle. She got along with the others who lived there, Varon, Allester and Raphael. She could tolerate Dartz, even if his constant complaining of how evil humanity is and how the great Leviathan would come and save them got on her nerves occasionally, but she could tolerate him most of the time. Nevertheless, she still missed Joey. One day without warning, Mai disappeared; she flew away with the Harpy Ladies.

xoxox xox xoxox

The Legendary Fisherman had brought Mako back to where they started. "Why did you come here again?" The fire was out, but the land didn't look any better, it looked worse. Mako stared into the distance. "Domino city..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Though their adventures led them far, in the end they were all once more reunited in Domino City. The yamis remained captive in a space in-between the Shadow Realm and Earth, inside the closing gap. Yugi and his surviving friends once again stood together will small but undying hope. The answer awaited in Dragon Castle, for the darkness had taken Seto as its main vessel and he too fought to remember who he once was.

The end is only the beginning...

Disclaimer, I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh! Credits to Laria Kaiba for the character of Mr. Fluffy.