Yami no Malik looked up with a scowl as an obviously pissed-off Yami no Bakura appeared in his realm again. Not bothering with the pleasantries, he hissed out, "You again? Leave."
Ever since Battle City, Yami no Malik had been sulking in the Shadow Realm – after all, there were few things more embarrassing than being defeated by a midget with bad hair. Except being defeated multiple times by said midget, which is why Yami no Malik preferred to remain in the Shadow Realm as opposed to attempting to exit and challenge the Pharaoh again. However, every time that he managed to get into a really good sulk, the kind where the shadows started to pulse to his heartbeat, someone would appear and disrupt it!
Usually it was Yami no Bakura. And to make matters worse, that idiot of a thief didn't even have the decency to apologize for barging in but would instead go off on a rant about how the stupid Pharaoh had banished him. Again. As if it wasn't obvious that was what had happened since nobody ever came to the Shadow Realm willingly.
Normally Yami no Malik would let Yami no Bakura rant about it until he got fed up of listening (annoying as it was to have his sulk interrupted, there was something amusing about how passionately angry the thief would be) and then Yami no Malik would simply kick Yami no Bakura out of the Shadow Realm. After all, that's what he had used to do before Battle City as well, except the difference was that then, Yami no Malik had been plotting how to defeat the Pharaoh and Yami no Bakura had been interrupting his evil plans, not his sulking. Not that it really mattered what the thief interrupted, since all such scenarios always resulted with him being banished from the Shadow Realm and back to the mortal realm…
Yami no Malik occasionally wondered if Yami no Bakura complained about being banished from the Shadow Realm once he returned to the mortal realm, but decided that the thief most likely wouldn't want to admit that he was being kicked back and forth from realm to realm like a volleyball. Then he'd promptly returned to sulking.
And such was the plan for today as well, since on cue, Yami no Bakura was glaring back at him and obviously, the thief was about to launch into one of his usual anti-Pharaoh rants. However, the words that emerged out of his mouth in response to the shadow born's demand that he leave took Yami no Malik by surprise for a change, seeing as they were a definite break from the norm. "I can't."
Taken back by this deviation from the usual routine but unwilling to show it, Yami no Malik instead snapped, "Well, obviously you can't leave, but I can expel you from here. I came from the shadows and control this Realm, remember?" That said, he was about to send Yami no Bakura away (feeling mildly disappointed that he wouldn't get to see Yami no Bakura trying to kick at shadows while pacing about angrily) but was stopped by the thief shaking his head.
"You can't send me back either. The Pharaoh's sealed the Shadow Realm – there's no more traveling between them." Yami no Bakura explained in a manner which was suspiciously calm. Truth to be told, the fair-haired thief was looking forwards to seeing the other lose his cool for a change as Yami no Malik was usually annoyingly self-possessed.
Clearly not believing the thief, Yami no Malik narrowed his eyes and gave a casual, dismissive wave of his hand.
He tried again.
Still nothing happened.
Frowning, he flapped his hand a few times experimentally, as if shaking a broken piece of machinery. Apparently the thief had been telling the truth about the Realms being sealed… Choosing not to state the obvious, a horrifying thought occurred to him, causing Yami no Malik to suddenly glare at Yami no Bakura with renewed annoyance. "Are you telling me that you are now permanently stuck here with me?"
Arching a white eyebrow secretly amused but knowing it would be unwise to show it, Yami no Bakura responded, "So it would appear."
With a frustrated sigh, Yami no Malik snarled, "I am going to kill the Pharaoh for this. Painfully. Several times over. And-" Cut off by a snort of laughter from Yami no Bakura, he was tempted to continue but instead asked the other, "What?"
Smirking, the thief informed the other, "Too late. The Pharaoh's already in Paradise."
"…" Now there was an unexpected setback. Not like Yami no Malik would let that stop him though – after all, how was he supposed to sulk properly when he had to share his realm with some worthless mortal thief? Decisively, he said, "Fine. Then we'll go there as well."
"… 'we'!" Yami no Bakura protested, dark chocolate eyes widening with honest shock. "What do you mean, 'we'?"
"I'm not leaving you behind in my Realm. I'd probably come back to find you've looted it." Yami no Malik told him haughtily, dusting off his cloak as he stood up.
"What's there to loot? Apart from you and the monsters, there's nothing here! And nobody would be idiot enough to try to steal anything from monsters that are several times larger than they are, especially when there's nowhere to sell the goods." The thief pointed out.
With a shrug, Yami no Malik responded, "I don't care. You'd probably set fire to it then."
Curiosity temporarily overruling the thief's instinct to snap that unlike some people he wasn't psychotic enough to torch things for no reason, Yami no Bakura chose instead to ask, "…do shadows even burn?"
Another shrug and the dry response, "I'd prefer to not find out the hard way."
Snarling at that answer, the thief demanded, "All that aside, how exactly do you propose to get into Paradise? In case you didn't notice, you couldn't send me back to the Mortal Realm. We're trapped here. Trapped." He emphasized the last word, hoping to get through to the other. Not that Yami no Bakura objected to the idea of leaving, just that he didn't see how it was possible and felt like baiting Yami no Malik for being so patronizing.
"The Pharaoh closed the pathway to the Mortal Realm from here. That doesn't mean that I can't access other Realms." Came the careless reply. A wave of his hand and a wriggle of his fingers later and the two of them were suddenly standing on at the fork of a dark road in front of three men before Yami no Bakura could make any scathing comments about how making obscene gestures wouldn't get them anywhere.
Unimpressed, the thief triumphantly declared, "Hah! You might have got us out of the Shadow Realm, but you also got us lost. This is most definitely not Paradise."
Before Yami no Malik could reply to that, one of the men responded in a deep, booming voice, "Prepare for judgment mortals, for now is the hour that it shall be decided if your souls shall pass to the Elysium Fields or to Tartarus. I, Minos, shall pass the final judgment upon your souls but Aecus shall judge those of Europe and my brother Rhadamanthys judge those of Asia so ready yourself to address those to whom you belong."
A smirk on his lips, Yami no Bakura repeated, "Definitely not Paradise."
"Actually," Aecus corrected mildly, "The Elysium Fields are a version of Paradise. You see, there are so many religions around these days that we take turns admitting souls to the places of reward and the places of punishment, so Paradise is called by different names depending on which religion is taking its turn."
At least that explained the mortals scattered around them in sleeping bags – they were probably waiting for the day of their religion to come by.
Just in case these were uneducated mortals, Aecus added almost apologetically, "Today is the day of the ancient Greeks. If you want to be admitted to Paradise, you will be judged by us. Come back tomorrow if you'd prefer to face Saint Peter since the Christian religion seems to be rather popular at the moment. Of course, then you'd be judged by the Christian standard and we're far more forgiving than they are."
"What about-" About to ask when the Egyptian gods would be presiding, Yami no Bakura was cut off by a foot suddenly descending very heavily on his. Only the knowledge that they were standing in front of the people who would decide if they could be admitted into Paradise and thereby wreck revenge on the Pharaoh stopped him from swearing. No force could stop him from stepping on Yami no Malik's foot in return though, so he did so. Hard.
Surprisingly enough, Yami no Malik didn't retaliate but instead told the judges calmly, "Begin the judgment then – we are most eager to enter your 'Elysium Fields'."
The sooner they got this over with, the sooner he could tell the Pharaoh precisely what he thought of stupid mortal midgets that kept sending thieves to realms where they weren't wanted instead of just dealing with them. And after he told the Pharaoh, then he could kill Atemu. Slowly. Painfully. And several times over.
In fact, Yami no Malik was so occupied in thoughts of bloody revenge that he didn't even realize that a list of Yami no Bakura's crimes were being listed off, until he heard his own name being called by Minos. In the same deep voice as earlier, Minos boomed, "Yami no Malik, how is it that none of us appear to be responsible for judging you?"
"Hm?" Distracted, his attention clearly on the road which would take him to the Pharaoh, Yami no Malik snapped his attention back to Minos. "Oh. I am neither Asian nor European. Nor am I human. Nor am I dead, since I never really lived. Therefore, you cannot judge me."
Following the logical train of thought, Aecus pointed out, "But if you are not human – and you are certainly no animal – that would make you an immortal. A god of sorts."
…that sounded like a much better description of him than simply Shadow-Born. With a smirk directed at the dumbstruck thief who had apparently never thought of it like that before, Yami no Malik replied carefully, "As a god, would I be given automatic entrance to Pa- to the Elysium Fields?"
Minos answered solemnly, "As a god, you would be given your own day within which you may admit your worshippers to whatever fate you decree appropriate to them."
Tempting as that sounded, the only 'worshippers' that Yami no Malik had (using that term in its loosest sense) would be the shadows and assorted monsters. Besides, if he ruled the Realm of the Shadows, then why would he want to send them elsewhere? That would deplete his 'kingdom'. So instead of accepting, Yami no Malik shook his head. "No, I simply wish to discuss certain matters with one of the dead. That is all."
A hasty conference was held, and at the end of
it, Minos decreed "You may pass into the Elysium Fields, but your
companion shall be sent to Tartarus for the many barbarous crimes
that he has committed."
Oh hell no. Yami no Bakura was not going to go to some place of punishment if Yami no Malik could get to Paradise and kill the Pharaoh. Especially not since Yami no Malik was every bit as cruel as him and most definitely no god. About to say as much to the judges who were already preoccupied with their next case, he was cut off by Yami no Malik who took his arm as they began to saunter towards the fork in the road behind the two thrones. Quietly, so that they wouldn't be overhead, Yami no Malik stated, "You know what to do."
"No I don't!" The thief hissed in exasperation.
Calmly, stepping onto the grassy path and taking the thief along with him, Yami no Malik told him, "You will once it begins."
…and Yami no Bakura had thought that working with Malik was bad. It was a positive walk in the park, compared to the way that Malik's dark side behaved.
Sudden screeching was heard, and half-bird, half-women creatures swooped down from the sky. They looked suspiciously like the Harpy Ladies, except foul and with matted hair.
Ah - apparently being attacked by them was what Yami no Malik had referred to as 'it', a conclusion that Yami no Bakura would have been happier to reach if he actually had anything upon him that he could use to defend himself with.
Not that it mattered. Judging from the sprint that he had broken into, Yami no Malik's grand plan consisted of simply outrunning the flying birdwomen. Perhaps poor planning skills were contagious? Certainly Yami no Bakura didn't remember Yami no Malik being this simplistic during Battle City. It made him a little embarrassed to have lost to someone who seemed to think that breaking into Paradise was as easy as outrunning a couple of bird-people… though really, Yami no Bakura was too busy running to be very embarrassed, but he did manage to pant out, "Now what?" Strange. You'd think that the dead wouldn't get tired but nope, he was experiencing definite problems running so fast and talking at the same time.
"Keep running!" Yami no Malik yelled in return. Considering that to be the least helpful advice that he could have been given, Yami no Bakura was tempted to tell the other that, but settled for doing exactly that, trampling the flowers underfoot as he fled. The harpies were gaining on them though, beginning to make feints at them and screaming with delight as they did so. Suddenly, Yami no Malik's hand slipped into his hand and the two of them were in the Shadow Realm once more.
Yanking his hand away as if he had been burnt, Yami no Bakura placed them on his thighs and leant over, simply breathing hard for a few minutes while he tried to get his breath back after the strenuous run. Finally straightening up, he rasped at the other, "What was the point of that? We're back here again!"
Nodding, Yami no Malik calmly acknowledged that. "Yes, but we managed to make it almost halfway to the gates. Next time we return, we'll be at where we were when we disappeared, instead of in front of the judges, and the harpies might not be alerted to us since we already stepped on the path once. It won't be as if you were judged and went against the judgment."
Vexingly, that made sense. After all, Yami no Malik was the one who knew how this Realm-jumping worked, and the thief had no choice but to accept that. And to think of what he would to do to the Pharaoh once they reached him. Brushing his hair out of his face, grimacing with distaste as he felt it to be slightly sweaty, he inquired, "How long will it take the harpies to stop paying attention to that spot? I'm assuming that they won't be pleased at having their prey simply disappear."
"Not all that long. After all, they do have other tasks to perform." Yami no Malik replied, settling down in the same spot that he had been in when Yami no Bakura had so rudely burst in and disturbed his sulking. Instead of returning to sulking though, he glanced sideways at the thief, and informed him in a deceptively light tone, "For the record, were we both to be judged as mortals, they would have found me to be much worse than you."
A slight to his pride? Yami no Bakura most certainly wouldn't stand for that. Arrogantly, he laughed. "You? You've spent most of your existence in this Realm. You barely spent a week in the Mortal Realm and the worst you ever do here is expel people from it! How could you possibly be worse than someone who had nearly two lifetimes within which to do whatever he pleased?"
Giving Yami no Bakura an amused, patronizingly smirk that hinted that Yami no Malik could explain his reasoning if he chose but simply didn't think it worth his time, the golden-haired one answered succinctly, "Quality over quantity."
"How trite." The thief sneered, angered by the look on the other's face. Aggressively, he demanded, "Weren't you listening to the list of accomplishments that those judges recited? That alone should prove to you that I'm far worse than you!"
Taking a casual glance at the thief, and Yami no Malik stated in a mocking tone which made fun of the other's line of reasoning, "You have fluffy hair. I don't. 'That alone should prove to you that I'm far worse than you!'"
"…" Too shocked by that line of reasoning to say anything at first, Yami no Bakura found himself actually trying to pet his hair down, then snatched his hands away and crossed his arms over his chest before inquiring in his most hostile manner, "Was that meant to be amusing? Because my hair is not fluffy. And even if it was – which it most definitely is not – it would still not prevent me from being evil."
"All things fluffy are cute. Cute things are not evil. Ergo, you are not evil." Yami no Malik drawled in a bored manner, more focused on wondering if the harpies would have given up yet than on the argument at hand.
Sarcastically, the thief demanded, "And I am meant to take that as you finding me 'cute'?" Seconds later, as Yami no Malik arched an eyebrow at him, he was to regret that remark, a flush touching his cheeks. The shadow-born didn't even need to say anything, the amused indifference evident in his eyes making it clear that yes, he was willing to apply such a scathing insult to the thief.
…suddenly, Yami no Bakura found himself wondering if he should hate the Pharaoh for having banished him to the Shadow Realm, or for having banished him to the Shadow Realm with Yami no Malik. Not that he had ever minded the other's presence before, seeing it as it was a sure-fire guarantee of being returned to the Mortal Realm if he could sufficiently annoy the shadow-born, but right not, the thief was tempted to strangle the other.
Too bad that he needed the other to get them back onto that pathway.
b Author's Note: /b So, how do you like it so far? This is just the first chapter – obviously there'll be more. Reviews are always appreciated and constructive criticism is welcome.