Playground Logic.

People don't grow up; they just grow old.

And all their life they obey the rules of the playground.

Of course, most people think that the teenage years are the formative ones. Wrong, very wrong. By the age of 7, you can already tell what a child will be like as they age. Of course, people can change at any age, but they can't change what they're like inside. They can't change their core, because if they tried, they wouldn't be themselves to change it!

…but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Why bother you with abstract philosophy when I can give concrete examples?

That's Seto Kaiba over there. The tall, quiet one. There's one like him on every playground, a kid who never really joins in the games and doesn't even have the decency to give the others wistful looks like he's wanting to be invited in. The one who is the first to answer every question in class, and the last to leave the classroom. Not just work-orientated, but competitive too. Personally, I don't think that's a good combination (think he'll ask to be buried with his laptop?) but at this point, it's pretty clear that he doesn't really know another way of living. At least, not yet.

Oh, and that's Mokuba Kaiba next to him. They're brothers, you see. That always happens as well, that someone has a kid brother or sister that always tags along and won't leave because they worship their older sibling. It's a little different here though, because Seto doesn't try to shoo Mokuba away. Then again, Seto doesn't join in the games, so the only thing that he could push Mokuba away from is himself, and Seto's too lonely to do that. Mokuba wouldn't let him anyway, because Mokuba's a Kaiba and Kaiba's are famously stubborn. Even the adopted ones.

Jou and Shizuka are another pair of siblings, but they're not as alike as Seto and Mokuba are. Shizuka's very soft and feminine. She's the kind of girl who plays house and dresses dolls for their weddings, while expecting her older brother to beat up on any boy that won't play with her. Jou falls into that role easily; he's probably the most conformist of any of us. He talks too much, and too loudly, and on a playground, he's the boy that always the first to solve arguments with his fists and then be too stupid to get himself out of trouble for doing so.

…I don't like Jou much, as you can probably tell. I liked him even less at the start because I thought he was an idiot. I was right about that actually – he is an idiot. But at the same time, he's also loyal and stubborn. I see stubborn as a good thing really. After all, it's only another form of ambition, and I like ambitious people. Shizuka's not ambitious, but she's very, very girly, and isn't that what boys are supposed to like?

Honda definitely likes Shizuka. He's a lot like Jou, except without the sister to protect. He's also Jou's best friend, so he'll probably be the one to get together with Shizuka in the end, since she adores her older brother after all, and Jou would definitely rather see Shizuka with someone he knows and trusts than some pretty-boy who put him in a dog suit. (Jou's blind like that, he'll never see past the prettiness and the dog suit).

Jou and Honda are both Yugi's best friends. Strange that Yugi's the only one who gets called by his first name, but Yugi's a pretty strange kid all around. He's the one with an imaginary friend – you know, the kind of kid who keeps talking to someone that nobody else can see, and gets teased for it? Only in his case, the imaginary friend is real, which complicates matters a little. Only a little though, because Jou and Honda beat up on anyone who make Yugi unhappy. Playground rules again; mess with one member of the posse, and the whole group closes ranks against you.

Yugi's their leader, in a way. He takes advice from his imaginary friend, just like all little kids do, but when it boils down to it, he's in charge because after all, an imaginary friend is a figment of his imagination and therefore still under his control. Yugi's the happy kid, the one with big eyes and lots of ideas about what to do. Other kids flock to him because he's interesting and gets called nice. Other kids don't realize that Yugi can only afford to be nice because Jou and Honda are mean on his behalf.

Not everyone likes Yugi though, and just like on every playground, Jou and Honda can't always be there. Maybe they're having a milk break, while eating cookies, or they've been kept in during recess. The reasons don't matter though, what matters is that when they leave Yugi alone, the other kids come out to play with Yugi, and they don't want to play Yugi's games. They have games of their own, but Yugi always wins at them, then everyone else cheers because that's the way the playground works.

Anzu cheers especially hard for Yugi, but she actually loves his imaginary friend. He'll leave soon though as Yugi grows old, and then Anzu will be without a crush to cheer for. That's okay though, since Anzu has her own dreams, but she's the kind of girl who'd want a partner as well. She's not as girly as Shizuka, but she's still girly enough to want a boyfriend of a sort, and then she'll have to choose someone.

There aren't that many choices really, it's down to either Yugi or Seto. Yugi because he's sort of her first friend, and he's had the hugest crush on her for what feels like forever – and Seto because he's the one in need of redemption. Falling for Yugi would be a fairy-tale ending, since it's the whole girl-next-door idea, but Anzu doesn't believe in fairy-tales. She believes in friendship, and while she's trying to teach Seto about friendship, she'll end up teaching him about love instead.

At least, that's how I think it'll go, but I'm just a kid. You don't need to listen to me. Most people don't listen to me, they just listen to the sound of my voice and hear me say what they want to hear. Then again, most people do that to most people anyway, so I don't take it personally. If I did, I'd spend most of my time being angry, kind of like Malik. Malik feels ignored by the world (probably a by-product of living underground without a playground) and Malik gets angry about that. Then he does bad things, and blames it on his other side. Playground logic again, you see – "It wasn't me! It was bad me! Don't blame me for it!". Playground logic works though, so that's why people let him get away with it. That, and his other side is real, and really bad.

Ryou also gets away with a lot by using a variant of that excuse. Ryou's nothing like Malik though, he's shy and polite and so bland that it scares me. People are only like that when they're crazy, and Ryou has to be crazy because he has an imaginary enemy. Not even a friend like Yugi, but an enemy. Ryou's imaginary enemy hates Yugi's imaginary friend, so the two of them are always fighting, but Ryou and Yugi ignore that to be friends. Or at least, Yugi tries to be friends with Ryou, but Ryou's slipping away. Ryou's slippery like that – you know that kind of kid too, right? The kind that nods and bows and smiles, and as soon as your back is turned, does something even worse than what you warned him against, but does it in all innocence?

Kids like that tick me off. If you're going cause mischief, do it right and mean it when you do it. After all, I always do! I like making mischief. I like it a whole lot. And I get away with it too because I'm clever and rich and beautiful. Almost too beautiful for a boy really, but that's okay, Malik and Ryou are beautiful as well. Just as not as much as I am. Ryou's the kind of boy that gets chased around the playground by girls that want to kiss him, Malik's the kind of boy that hits girls with sticks for trying to kiss him, and I'm the kind of boy that kisses back. That's why girls flock to me more than them, because I'm better at giving them what I want, while taking what I need.

Mai understands that. She's a little older than most of us, and very very pretty. You know, the prettier, older girl that stops by the playground on her way to other, better places, and scoffs at how you're not playing properly, and how she did so much better when she was a kid? Some of the boys fall for it and get mad (and try to get her mad so that she'll stay), others like the attention and ask her to demonstrate. Except if she does play, then she'll lose her status of being older, and when she's messy from running and jumping and shouting, she doesn't look so pretty any longer, so Mai rarely plays with us.

She talks to me sometimes though, but I'm special, and we don't talk on the playground anyway. We talk outside the playground, because I go to those other, better places as well. I don't like them as much as I like the playground though, even though when I am in the playground, nobody ever really plays properly with me. I try to get into the group, but they don't have room for me, so I pretend that I don't care and surround myself with happy, laughing girls instead, because they laugh loudly enough to make up for the fact that I'm not laughing like their little posse is.

Playground rules rule our lives because we won't grow up, we'll just grow old, and we'll die, and we'll be forgotten.

Except me.

Because I will be beautiful, and I will be bright, and I will i shine /i and my name will be spoken after my death. Haven't you heard that a man isn't truly dead until his name ceases to be spoken?

My name is Ryuuji Otogi.

Keep me alive.