Wet hair rustled with noise as a towel was vigorously rubbed over it. Afterwards, it was carefully dropped on the dirty wood floor, the one to have dropped it beginning to dress with their only set of clothes. Yuugi shivered as he finished putting on his shirt, holding his arms close to his chest as he walked towards the blurred window pane, watching as the rain pounded mercilessly against the tired glass.
Life sucked. No, seriously, life was really, horribly terrible. He simply had to born into a poor life, with a poor past, with a poor character. He wished Jou was there right then. He hated being alone in that run down dump.
But no. Jou was out getting drunk right now. He knew Jou was trying to drink his life away, but he woke up every morning to cold, hard reality, and started to get drunk again. But at least Jou knew how to use a blade, and at least Jou was usually drunk enough to not feel any remorse after killing somebody.
It was cold. Winter was beginning to set in, and the heavy rains had come. Soon, they would turn into snow, and the lack of insulation in that rotten little apartment would become all too apparent. Yuugi was worried. Of course, he always worried, but right now something was really nagging at him. The rain always seemed to do that to him.
The city outside looked dirty, the rain doing little to wash away the filth. It seemed nothing could ever get this side of the town to come clean, even if someone decided to douse the whole area with bleach, it would only taint the bleach.
He dropped his head, scratching just behind his ear. A nervous habit he had developed. God, was it cold. At least leather seamed to insulate very well, no matter how old it was. Jou insisted that he wear it. The bad ass look was always safer than the poor, lost little boy. Not as many people tired to put a knife to your throat.
Yuugi froze when he heard movement coming up the stairs outside his door. Voices he didn't recognize were yelling at each other, not worrying about being quiet as they trampled their way through the decrepit building. Oh, gods no...
The door knob jiggled. Yuugi bolted to hide in the closet, closing the shuttered door as quickly and as silently as possible.
Three large men burst into the apartment, looking around warily. "Where's the damn shrimp," one of them growled. His buddies were walking around, poking through what little there was there. One picked up Yuugi's damp towel. The teenager cursed to himself. "Hey, somebody's been here," the man growled. "Either they're still here, or they just left."
Yuugi held his breath, praying to any deity that would listen that they didn't find him. He knew they were out for his blood. Jou owed them money. And since they could never find Jou, they were going to get to him through Jou's only friend.
A man started to walk towards the closet, but left view as he drew closer. Yuugi sighed a little. He had probably gone off to the bedroom.
But he almost jumped out of his skin when the closet door burst open. A nasty grin full of rotten teeth smiled benevolently at him. "Found you, runt." Yuugi cried out when the front of his shirt was roughly grabbed and he was dragged out of the closet.
"No, please, I didn't do anything!"
"Guilt by association, twerp." A rusty blade was drawn and placed directly over the artery in his throat. Fear gripped his heart, and the familiar adrenaline rush began to take over.
It wasn't the first time something like this had happened. It couldn't have been, in order for Yuugi to still be alive to this day. Suddenly, all of his senses were heightened, and he took in where every body in that room was, and where his escape routes were.
Wriggling out of his only sweater, Yuugi bolted to the door, winding easily around the thugs in the way. They yelled angrily at him, but he knew better than to look back. He ran for all he was worth.
The cold air blasted him as he rushed out the apartment complex door. The rain blasted him too, soaking his leather shirt and pants, and somehow managing to slip all the way down to his bones.
His pursuers were close behind. He could almost feel them pounding up behind him. Yuugi huffed and puffed heavily as he ran on, his vision blurring horrendously with the icy rainfall. "Get back here, bitch! We're not done with you!!"
Damn it Jou, where are you...you're supposed to be able to fight them off for me...
Yuugi started to panic when his path was suddenly cut short. A man hole in front of him seemed to collapse in on itself, leaving a seemingly black abyss directly in front of him. The chasm was too wide for him to jump over, too. His ears were bombarded with the thunderous booms of the thunder and falling gravel. He looked behind him. No good. Those thugs were so close, and there was now way he could weave around them now. The alley he had run down was far too narrow. Their sick grins smiled at him again. A flash of steel caught his eye. He turned back around.
This couldn't be real. No, it couldn't. The rain was clouding his vision far too much.
Then why did he fall when those shadows wafting out of the chasm caught his ankle and pulled him down?
"No!" He cried, clawing at the pavement under his nose as he was dragged towards the black abyss. He didn't want to die yet!
The thugs were so close now, he could see the pimples on their dirty faces. And those daggers looked so, so old. They looked to have been corroding for ages now.
Perhaps he should take his chances with the shadowy abyss. At least the fall would kill him quickly. The ones after him would spend a lot of time toying with him before they killed him, most likely.
Just as those dirty hands almost grabbed his arms, Yuugi let go, and allowed himself to be sucked into darkness. Even their screams of anger faded away into the distance.
Yuugi woke up groggy and cold...still. He registered that he was on a hard floor, smooth and unblemished. A floor that smooth had to be marble or granite, with how hard it felt. Also meaning that the floor was very expensive, and he was therefore in a place that costed a bit of money.
Boy, was he not going to fit in.
He opened up his eyes, seeing that his assumption had been correct. He was laying down on a black granite floor. It sparkled with white and silver specks, causing it to look like a clear night sky. It was pretty.
The walls around him sparkled gold and silver, just pale enough to not look gaudy, but rather ethereal. Pillars and columns and monstrously high ceilings surrounded him. Alcoves holding statues of women he didn't recognize holding staves with symbols affixed to the tops. It was ominous in a way, and yet somehow comforting. They almost looked like guardians.
There were voices talking somewhere around a corner. Yuugi froze instinctively, but calmed a little, only a little, when it didn't sound like the voices were arguing. That was strange. Voices always argued. Why weren't these?
Two men walked swiftly into view, conversing lightly with one another. Yuugi couldn't understand the language. He'd never heard it before.
But he couldn't believe what one of the people looked like.
And, it seemed, that the other person could hardly believe it either, for crimson eyes looked at him filled with confusion. "Mentehu, nehstal aeyetah. Senashu me-ent ylaseh."
Yuugi could only gape from his spot on the floor. Wow. It was amazing just how much of a deeper voice his duplicate had. And such darker skin, too. His duplicate was wearing clean white linens that clung greedily to his hips, wrapped lovingly around a muscular chest, and wore a blood red cape that billowed out behind him. Gold jewelry adorned his arms and neck and legs and waist. The only way Yuugi could describe him was pretty. So very, very sparkly and pretty. "I'm sorry," he spoke. "I don't understand your language."
His duplicate and the other man looked at Yuugi strangely. The one that looked so much like him walked up to him swiftly. Out of instinct, Yuugi held his arms up defensively, curling in on himself. The other him stopped short, slowing his pace. Well, he doesn't seem to intend me harm...
The teen found himself gaping. How could he have missed such a blatant detail? Gods, he's wearing a crown. I'm so fucked.
The other him came very close, gently taking hold of one of Yuugi's forearms and pulling him up to his feet. Yuugi realized now that his back was pressed against a wall. He didn't realize there was a wall behind him...
"Betehb kestuhna. Meyshyu ashaleh ne pyahna es ne."
Yuugi shook his head, violet eyes wide. "I still don't understand."
The other him didn't seem to have a sense of personal space. He moved closer and closer, taking very critical looks at Yuugi's attire and hair, his eyes and face, his skin color and his height. The other him sniffed lightly, then hid his nose into Yuugi's hair just behind his ear. Goose bumps jumped up the teen's skin. Not really in fear, and not really in discomfort. He really didn't know what to make of the feeling, so he decided to push it off until later.
The other him hummed appreciatively. Apparently he smelled good. Yuugi was just glad he got a shower before he was sucked into this strange, beautiful place.
The other him pulled back, looking at him with unanswered questions in his eyes. He looked to his companion standing quietly behind him. "Ksesune nehenta ehya mesta me tu yla. Kyesa." His companion nodded, walking off.
Yuugi watched as the other him pulled a small vial from a pouch tied around his waist. Opening it up, he took a small sip, offering it to the one in front of him. The teen looked at it skeptically. It couldn't be poison, otherwise the other him wouldn't have taken any of it. Right? Or perhaps it was a trick.
The other him waited patiently. Finally, Yuugi decided that if it was poison, at least he could die without any torture. And if it wasn't, then he had found at least one person he could marginally trust. He couldn't lose, right?
A pale hand shakily took up the vial, looking up silently for further encouragement. He received a warm smile. Yuugi shrugged. What the hell. He downed what was in the vial.
It wasn't all that foul tasting. It was like that flavored water, with a faint hint of chalk behind it. He handed the now empty vial back.
"Can you understand me now?"
Yuugi looked up completely surprised. "Perfectly. What happened?"
"That was a linguistics potion I gave you. I meet people often who don't speak my tongue, and try to keep a vial of it on me at all times."
"What's going on? Where am I? And who are you? I've never seen this place before, or heard of anything like it for that matter. How did I get here?
The other him laughed lightly. "One question at a time, please. My name is Atemu. You are in my...well, you are at my home. I for one do not know how you got here, or where you got clothing as strange and worn out as you have on, and what's going on is I just sent my friend out to make a contact for me. I know someone who will be able to answer more of our questions than either of us can. Now, tell me, who are you? And where are you from?"
Yuugi looked around himself in wonder, unable to comprehend the amount of money and power one would have to have to live in a place like this. "My name is Yuugi, and I'm from Domino, Japan."
Atemu frowned hard. "Never heard of such a place."
Where is your home located," Yuugi asked.
Now it was his turn to frown hard. "I've never heard of such a place." Suddenly, another thought popped into his head. "And how did that potion work? Magic or something?"
"How else," Atemu asked him, confused.
Perhaps I dropped into another dimension...
"Your highness! She's here!"
They both turned around when Atemu's companion from before walked back in, another person in tow behind him. Yuugi's jaw hit the floor. Was she real? Or had she jumped out of some strange dream?
Silver hair reached down past her waist, billowing and shiny. Pale skin was wrapped up tightly in a glimmering white gown that was highly form fitting, a sparkling pendant that shined so much around her neck, Yuugi couldn't really make out what it was. Crystal blue eyes looked him up and down, scrutinizing his appearance. "He's not from here," she spoke. "Or anywhere near here." She walked up to Yuugi and looked at him very closely. He backed up a little bit in reply. Apparently, she had no real sense of personal space, either. "What happened to you before you ended up here," she asked. Her voice gave Yuugi the impression that she was not in the mood to put up with any crap. It was all business.
"Well, I was running down the street, and a man hole opened up in front of me, and I swear, I'm not going crazy, but these shadows came up and sucked me in. The next thing I knew, I woke up here not understanding a word of your language."
She cursed in another language entirely. "One of those."
Now Yuugi was very confused. "What do you mean?"
She looked back to Atemu, ignoring the question. "I swear the realm is getting a mind of its own."
Atemu simply shrugged.
She looked back to Yuugi again. "How old are you?"
"Hm. Yes, that sounds just about right. Maybe a little old, but still in the right age bracket." She pulled out a deep purple velvet pouch that Yuugi swore she hadn't had just a moment ago. She put her hand into it. "Step away from the wall and hold you arms out for me." She backed up a little, giving Yuugi some more room. "Now."
The teen swallowed. He knew he really didn't want to get her mad. He walked forward a little bit and held his arms out. The woman pulled her hand out of the bag and threw a fistful of silver dust over his head and arms. Yuugi sneezed a little, unable to help the response.
All three of the others in the hall seemed to look pleased.
"You have the Glow of the Gifted, child. Which means you were indeed pulled here for a reason. You're just lucky you ended up here instead of some other place less desirable." The woman put her pouch away, and Yuugi was again unable to see where it went.
"I was pulled here for a reason," Yuugi repeated. "What do you mean? I'm confused."
"I'll explain it all later. Come. We must get back to the compound."
She turned and looked at him harshly. Yuugi's rebuttal shriveled up before it was even spoken. The woman looked back to Atemu and his friend. "I'm sure I'll see you soon, Sire."
Atemu gave her a lazy wave. "I'm sure you're right." Yuugi looked at him as they started to head down the hall. Atemu came up to him before he could completely leave, setting a hand on Yuugi's shoulder. "Don't take her too seriously," he whispered.
"I heard that," she retorted from ahead of them.
Yuugi smiled, receiving a wink from his duplicate. "Good luck, Yuugi."
The teen gave a weak smile as he left the other him behind.
The woman in front of him walked purposefully onward, not bothering to look behind herself to make sure Yuugi was still following. It was obvious no one was going to hold his hand through any of this, which really came as no surprise to the young teen.
She led him around many turns and corridors and halls and walkways until they came to a large circular room. Again, there were numerous alcoves that held numerous figures of women standing tall, garbed much like the real woman standing before him, holding tall staves with symbols resting on top. All of them were distinct in their appearance, with individual hair and eyes and figures. He counted thirteen in all.
"So...what's really going on here," Yuugi asked.
The woman sighed and turned to him, holding yet another pouch he had no idea she had. This one was silver in color. "Come here towards the center of this circle on the floor." Yuugi looked down, seeing indeed a large circle on the sparkling granite floor, surrounded by in fact many symbols. If fact...they were the same ones on the staves of those women statues.
"Don't move a muscle," she said. Yuugi could do nothing but reply.
She threw a sparkling crimson dust over them, muttering words he couldn't understand. He tried his best not to move, but oh how he wanted to look as a light from the floor caught the corner of his eye. The circle underneath of them was lighting up!!
Suddenly, all sense of feeling left him as his vision was blinded by a bright white light. Man, this place sure is strange.
When Yuugi's sense of feeling came back to his muscles, he found his rump firmly dropped on the floor. "Ow," he moaned, attempting to stand and rub the sore area at the same time. The strange woman looked at him, standing tall with her arms crosses. "You get used to it, or you figure out how to overcome it."
Yuugi scowled, and for the first time got half a grin from the woman. "Can I at least get some answers now??"
She gave him a hand up, and started walking again. Yuugi followed. The area they were in this time was circular, much like the last room, with the same statues everywhere, but it was more gothic in appearance, and a bit darker in atmosphere.
"I am known as the Priestess, but Headmistress will also do. This is the Sekesha Hall Compound, a school of sorts to teach the Gifts of elements and sorcery. Sekesha is the name of this country, ruled by the Prince His Royal Highness Atemu. The planet you are currently on is called Assahiineh. The language you are speaking, whether you realize it or not, is called Asalyaseh, which when translated by an outsider who doesn't speak it is really a bunch of gibberish. It is a language comprised of magic, where thoughts are put behind that gibberish to convey a thought. Because of our abilities, it is far more precise in conveying thoughts and ideas that any other tongue ever created. Poor peasants can not speak it, and it is very sacred. Yes, that's right, even the cuss words are sacred, used mainly in curses."
Yuugi gave a sheepish grin when she looked back at him.
"I am the Headmistress of this compound. My word is law within these perimeters."
Yuugi was given some time to digest all of this information. "All right, that was helpful. But how did I get here? And why?"
"I can tell you now, Yuugi, that you are not the first one to drop in on us, and you won't be the last. Those shadows were an extension of the magic always flowing in this realm. People who live in other dimensions grow talents that can be put to excellent use here, and are otherwise wasted elsewhere. It seems that this realm hates to see magick and elements go to waste."
"And I supposedly have some 'Gift' that your realm thinks can be put to good use?"
The Priestess nodded, her silver hair glimmering. "That's right. We're going to find right now just what kind of talent you have."
Yuugi asked a question that had been bothering him. "What about the whole age thing? If I do have some talent, why wasn't I sucked up by a black abyss earlier?"
"Because Gifts don't appear until puberty or later. Twenty is the latest anything can develop, but it's rare that it waits that long to develop."
"Ah. And I just so happen to have landed in Atemu's palace then?"
"Like I said. You were very lucky. Many people wind up out in the middle of nowhere, or worse, in un-welcoming territory."
"Oh, a vampire's home, or a tomb filled with zombies, or worse..."
Yuugi shuddered. He didn't want to know what 'wore' entailed. "Why does he look so much like me?"
"Why shouldn't he," she retorted. Yuugi shrugged. After all, it was possible. This was a different dimension, after all.
Suddenly, the Headmistress stopped, gabbed a key from the folds of her dress, and unlocked a door that was so large, Yuugi didn't even realize they had walked up to it. It looked more like a complete wall than a door.
It creaked loudly and groaned angrily as it opened. "Move easy," the woman warned. "There are Obsidian Dragons hiding behind these doors. Only those accompanied by me can come through without pain and death."
Yuugi swallowed, and only heard their labored breathing as they walked through, unable to see the massive beasts in the gloom beyond the entrance.
Was that a spark?
The doors slammed closed behind them. The Priestess seemed unaffected. She began to talk again, even as Yuugi lagged behind in puzzlement. He couldn't see much of anything around him, it was so dark. She was the only light in the area, practically glowing all of her own accord. "Every Gifted in this world has a symbol pendant. It is like their seal, and a type of guardian for them when things become hard. If your heart is corrupted by your power, you pendant will refuse to work for you. But if your heart remains good, no matter how much trouble you find yourself in, you will be saved from certain death. This pedant will also enhance your powers on a continual basis, and make sure that nothing goes out of control. Before these things started to appear, many a Gifted went rogue and had no control over it."
Yuugi swallowed. "That's comforting."
The Priestess turned and continued to walk, and suddenly Yuugi could just make out another door in front of them. She turned and looked at him. "Walk up to the door. This is the element of water. If it reacts to you and opens, then this is the Gift that you have been given."
Yuugi walked up to it, unable to make out the symbol that locked the doors closed. It remained quiet and still.
"Unreactive. We move on."
She turned around and walked in another direction, but Yuugi was officially lost. "This is all security measures to make sure that nobody breaks in and steals, isn't it?"
"That's right. Those dragons weren't the only creatures hiding in this area. Don't ever get any ideas. Most corpses don't even make it past the first doors." She turned and headed down another area. Stopping, she stood next to another door. "Fire."
Again, Yuugi walked up to it, and again, he received no response.
They went through the water and the fire, air and earth and some more bizarre ones that Yuugi wouldn't have considered before such as dreams and even healing.
He was getting worried. So far, no responses. Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe he really didn't belong here.
But the Priestess didn't seem perturbed. She just kept on walking.
Yuugi stopped when two forces he couldn't see tugged on either side of him. It was a little painful, a little ticklish, and very disconcerting. It was like someone was playing a tug of war game with him against another person.
The Headmistress stopped and looked back at him, seeing him rooted to the spot. She looked to either side, seeing two symbols lighting up. "By the Goddesses...I never dreamed. A double gifted!" She laughed, pushing him in one direction to his left. "Come on, we have two halls to tour. So very rare, indeed. No wonder those shadows sucked you up so quickly..."
Yuugi had to shield his eyes as the door they were coming up to glimmered and gleamed. "The sorcery of light," the Priestess replied. "Impressive. So very impressive."
"Why's that," Yuugi asked curiously.
"Well, it seems that you are a mage who's magick is mostly around light. Light is not really considered an element all of it's own, simply because you have to be a mage in order to manipulate light. But it is a specialty that very few are Gifted with. However, your other Gift is that of shadows and chaos, and the two almost always conflict....so rare indeed..."
The hall they were walking down was littered with pendant hanging on little hooks. All of them were dull and lifeless, but for one sitting way down the isle, practically hidden from view. The Priestess picked it up and handed it to Yuugi. The teen could see that it was the symbol of a crescent moon with a pentagram entwined within it. In the center was a beautiful, star-shaped moonstone that had eight points. Yuugi put it on, feeling a warmth spread through his limbs. If felt good to wear it.
"How do you feel?"
"Better. Just a little lighter, and certainly not as cold. I wish I had owned this sooner."
She nodded. "Good." She turned around and started to walk out. Yuugi rushed to catch up. She sure didn't dawdle.
They headed towards the other door, and Yuugi knew that this one was the hall of the shadows. The doors opened immediately for them, and Yuugi felt that tug stronger than before.
The Priestess brought up a pendant that was glowing with crimson and bright green and royal purple shadows dancing around it.
It was the design of an eye. It was carved out of...gold? No, it was too pale to be gold. No, Yuugi knew what it was carved out of. Electrum. An alloy of gold and silver. Yuugi put it on, feeling even better than before.
"Now how do you feel?"
"More secure, and somehow more protected than before." He held it close. "I really wish I had this sooner."
The priestess looked at him pointedly. "Just what were you running from before those shadows pulled you here?"
Yuugi shivered, suddenly remembering Jou and those thugs. What would happen to him now? "Certain death, and some blades that made me need a tetanus shot just looking at them."
She nodded. "I see."
Oh, no she didn't. "They wanted to kill me because my roommate owed them money, but if they killed him they wouldn't get their payment, but if they killed me, his only friend, it would let him know they meant business."
He looked up at her defiantly. "I didn't come from a very nice place. I'm not expecting any better until I see it. So far, I've seen nothing but a really wonderful place, but I don't want to be heartbroken when the bottom of my world falls out."
"That's quite understandable, but you have to remember. Don't ever close yourself off from all people here. You're going to have a lot of problems. If ever you have any problems, don't hesitate to come and talk to me. I didn't get this job by bluffing and bullying my way to the top. For the past three thousand years, this position and that of the current ruler has been held by the most powerful individuals in the country. You have to be able to subdue a monster when teaching Gifts such as these. Otherwise, your pupil might surpass you and usurp your rule. Your law. Things are different when politics no matter rely on golden tongues and money."
Yuugi nodded. She was a little arrogant for a reason. She had a good right to be. "Let's go, Yuugi." He nodded again, following her out of those dark corridors. "Ryou, primarily a healer but also a light user, will show you to your room."
"Um," Yuugi began, "how am I to pay for all of this? Surely this school costs some money."
"After your training is over, your will send a quarter of your pay to this school for two years after you've found a suitable job. There is always work for mages, and you will most likely be prized as a guardian of some sorts with your abilities. Healing and Chaos, what a better combination..."
Yuugi rolled the response around in his head. "All light users can heal, can't they?"