Insert Standard Disclaimer here:I do not own any part of Yu-Gi-Oh, but if I am now the proud owner of a millennium ring. Which means some part of Yu-Gi-Oh may now own me...

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"He won't come out…" Ryou sighed, sitting across from Yami Yugi. He had invited the pharaoh over to his apartment after a long series of failed confrontations with his yami.

The other yami leaned back against Ryou's couch. He watched the white-haired teenager fiddle with his millennium item. The golden spikes swung back and forth with a nervous tension all their own.

Given everything that happened at Duelist Kingdom and just a few weeks ago in Battle City, the pharaoh would have never expected such concern out of Ryou. Always being pushed to the back of his own consciousness, the other yami would have expected Ryou to WANT Bakura to stay inside his own soul room. Unless something had changed…

"Perhaps you'd better start at the beginning, Ryou." Yami Yugi finally spoke.

Ryou nodded, and cleared his throat.

"Well, pharaoh… it started when Marik banished us to the shadow realm…" he spoke softly, choosing his words carefully.

Yami Yugi was aware of the danger that Marik had caused. And he was also aware of how dangerous the shadow realm could be. His own hikari had taken control once in a shadow duel. Indeed, the atmosphere of the shadow realm was almost too much for Yugi's mortal body to handle.

"I could hear Bakura dueling from inside my soul room. And I could feel his thoughts resonating in my head. He wouldn't show it on the outside, but I know he was in a panic…" Ryou sighed. "Something had gone very very wrong. And he knew it too. It wasn't that he was going to loose the duel. He wasn't… isn't… afraid of the shadow realm… It was that… as his body started to fade away. I think he knew that it wasn't just his soul that was being attacked…"

Yami Yugi listened intently, nodding slowly in between Ryou's short phrases.

"And when he lost, we both fell into the darkness…"

The pharaoh remembered his frantic dash onto the top of the blimp, only to discover Marik had already won the dreaded shadow duel. Bakura had been nowhere in sight. And of course, Yami Yugi (and Yugi as well) had feared the worst. At least three days went past before he saw Ryou again, in either body or spirit.

"Our souls separated. He emerged as his spirit self, but I stayed in my human form." Ryou choked as he remembered the darkness that surrounded him. The purple haze, wrapping itself around his human throat, suffocating him as he tried to breathe. The blue mist that stung his eyes, causing tears to swell over his cheeks. The green smoke that tore at his skin, burning him from the inside out. But those were probably sensations that Yugi knew all too well.

"And I saw him, floating above me. He was cocky at first… but that was until he noticed me there. Then he solidified a little."

"What happened, Ryou?" Yami Yugi asked.

"It shocked him for a moment… I tried to stand up. I don't know if there was solid ground there or not… but there was something underneath me… I couldn't… And when I looked up at him… he was concerned…" Ryou smiled. "He was actually concerned."

"Of all people, he should know too well the pressures of the shadow realm." Yami Yugi interrupted. "He banished enough souls there…"

"He knows…" Ryou replied quickly. "And that was probably why he was so concerned."

"Your body…"

"I don't even wan to think about it…" Ryou added. "Each minute felt like an eternity, and as I quickly found out… there are more dangers in the shadow realm than I ever heard about from either your or Bakura's duels…"

For a moment, Yami Yugi was intrigued. He had been in many shadow duels, but he had not actually spent an extended period of time in the shadow realm itself. He had used its immense power, but had never had it seriously inflicted upon him.

"In the shadow realm, spirits are just as real as you are right now…" Ryou elaborated. "And there are monsters too…"

The pharaoh didn't blink.

"Pharaoh, do you know what happens to physical people who are trapped in the shadow realm?" Ryou's gaze turned incredibly stern.

"No, Ryou… I don't."

"They're lucky if the shadows kill them quickly…" Ryou stated matter-of-factly. "The monsters writhe chaotically when they catch the scent of human flesh. And nothing can keep them from devouring it…"