"I've got him!" Ryou shouted, eagerly clutching the millennium ring. "Malik! I've got him! I can feel the ring pulling his soul!"
"Don't lose your concentration." Malik sternly advised, crossing his fingers and whispering a prayer of his own. "Keep focused!"
Ryou nodded, and started to pull away from the puzzle.
"Focus the energy into the new body… into his new form." Malik continued. "Hold it steady."
Ryou closed his eyes. Through the ring, he could feel the spirit lifting out of the puzzle. Its gaseous form encircled him briefly, and then continued on to the lifeless body on the couch. A small jolt of electricity signaled to Ryou that the soul had left the ring.
"I think it's gone!" he announced quickly, opening his eyes.
He scampered over to the couch, and reached towards his yami.
"Did it work?" Malik asked, still looking at the unconscious pharaoh for any change in his condition.
"I don't know…" Ryou whispered. "He doesn't feel any… wait!"
After a few seconds, a faint pulse could be felt on the tomb robber's neck. Another moment later, and the deceased figure gasped for its first breath in two hours.
"It worked! Malik! It worked!" he squealed, letting the ring fall against his chest. "I did it! It worked!"
Malik looked at the tomb robber. Indeed, the figure on the couch had started to breathe. In the distance, he could even see the man's eyelids fluttering. He might even be approaching consciousness. But something was still wrong with the pharaoh, and with his millennium puzzle.
When Ryou moved away, the puzzle started to vibrate again. And the shaking was only growing worse. Another new crack broke through the left side of the golden pyramid. It was so large, that Malik feared that it would break through entirely.
"No… something went wrong…" he spoke in a dead whisper. "You must have gotten something else."
Ryou turned quickly back to the figure of his yami.
"Yami? Yami, is that you?"
The prostrate tomb robber coughed, gagging for a breath that was not laced with blood. His face turned quite pale.
"Priest…" the man gasped. "Priest of the ring… come… cl…closer…"
Malik froze. Ryou had managed to pull a soul from the millennium puzzle, but it didn't belong to the tomb robber or the pharaoh. It belonged to someone, or perhaps something, else entirely.
"Isis!" he shouted, not knowing what else to do. "Isis!"
He looked around desperately for his sister. It only took her a moment to emerge from the game room, still wiping the tears from her eyes.
"What is it, brother?" she attempted to control the sadness in her voice, but to little avail.
"Priest…" the unknown entity whispered again. Ryou looked around, and moved in closer.
"There's something inside the tomb robber's body." Malik whispered.
Isis simply stood there beside him, neither of them knowing exactly what to do.
"Who… who are you?" Ryou asked cautiously, trying to keep as much distance between him and the unknown spirit as possible without causing any alarm. "What do you want with my yami?"
"Priest… I… am… the first… keeper of the ring…" he spoke.
Isis gasped. It was another spirit from the pharaoh's ancient past.
"I… invented the ritual… of…" he coughed again. He tried to turn his head, but blood still trickled down the back of his throat. "Pur… purific…ation…"
Ryou's eyes widened. He suddenly found his courage and his voice.
"What's going on? What happened to my yami? Is he really in the puzzle? How do I get him out? Is he okay? What are you doing here?"
"Ryou, give him time to talk!" Malik interrupted the white haired teen's endless list of questions. "In that body, he probably has less time than the tomb robber did!"
Isis nodded in agreement.
"His soul is strong, but that body is extremely weak." She finally added.
Ryou quieted his outburst.
"Yes… not much time… to… to set things… set things right…" the former temple priest whispered. He struggled to breathe. "You must… hurry…"
"What do I need to do?" Ryou asked, and a deathly hush befell over the room.
"You… are stronger…" he gasped, quickly studying the situation at hand. "Point… the ring… at the puzzle… and repeat… exactly… what I say…"
Ryou did as he was told, and the spirit started to speak in an old dialect of Egyptian. It was similar to the incantations that Isis and Malik had spoken earlier.
"It's the other part of the ritual…" Malik whispered to his sister. She simply bowed her head in acknowledgement of her own misdeeds.
Ryou started repeating the priest's spirit, word for word.
At first nothing happened.
The priest in Yami Bakura's body kept speaking, his voice ebbing and flowing with what remained of his life in that strange wounded frame. Ryou kept speaking as well, never losing his focus.
Suddenly, a bright light started to engulf the ring.
"Isis… something's happening!" Malik gasped, grabbing his sister for support. She did the same, watching as the light continued to spread.
Soon, it had engulfed the puzzle as well.
The priest continued to chant, and so did Ryou.
Isis stared as the puzzle stopped shaking. It's tremors calmed to steady vibrations, eventually settling like sand at the bottom of an ending hourglass.
The chanting continued.
Ryou could feel the power of the ring spreading through his fingers, up his spine, and out of each word he spoke. It resonated with a dull hum, and shivered with a low heat.
The priest grew quiet, but Ryou found that he could not stop chanting. No matter how much he willed himself to cease, the words kept flowing, as if from the ring itself.
"I think it's working…" Malik gasped.
"Yes… I think so, brother." Isis agreed, and felt the pharaoh's forehead. It was growing warmer to the touch.
Suddenly, Ryou stopped. The room quieted again. Nobody dared utter a single sound, not even a breath.
"Did… did it work?" Malik finally cut through the tension.
"I… don't… Spirit?" Ryou turned to the man on the couch. He was unconscious. Ryou rose to his knees, and felt for a pulse. There was nothing there. "Spirit?"
The former holder of the millennium ring was dead, just as he was before.
"Ryou?" Malik whispered, trying to hold back his fear.
The white haired teen picked up the ring. It was warm to the touch. It felt, as best as Ryou could describe it, normal again.
"He… he's back…" Ryou smiled. "He's there in the ring."
Malik crawled closer. He looked at the emaciated figure on the couch. Its flesh was starting to disintegrate into fine grains of white sand. As the skeleton underneath met with the hot air of the apartment, it too started to break apart.
"Are you sure?"
Ryou nodded, and hugged the ring tightly to his chest.
"Yes. I'm sure." He stated calmly. "He's exhausted. He's been wounded. But given everything that's happened, I'd say he's all right."
Isis sighed with relief, a strange feeling directed towards the spirit she had despised so much.
"But what about the pharaoh?" Malik whispered.
"I…" Ryou couldn't speak. He feared the worst, until he glanced over at the body of Yami Yugi, and saw his hand twitch. "He's awake!"
Malik and Isis quickly turned around.
"Oh pharaoh!" Isis shouted, offering support for him to lean on as he pulled himself to a seated position beside the wall. "Are you all right?"
"I am now." He sighed. "Thanks to the Dark Magician."
Exhausted, he leaned back against the white wall. His chest still hurt.
"The Dark Magician?" Malik questioned.
"He found Yugi and myself. But he left us to go after the tomb robber." Yami Yugi replied with a faint smile. "From the look on Ryou's face, I guess he succeeded in reaching my consciousness."
"Kind of…" Malik answered, not wanting to burden the pharaoh any more in one day.
Ryou, however, could not do him any such courtesy.
"Pharaoh…" he began, his voice almost non-existent. "I… I pulled him from the puzzle with the millennium ring…"
Yami Yugi nodded.
"I sealed him in the body of my yami… that we found in the alley… And… while he was helping reverse the ritual… he…" Ryou froze. He didn't want to continue. "He… he died…"
Ryou gestured with his eyes to the couch. All that was left of the tomb robber's temporary body was a pile of white sand, scraps of blue fabric, and various bloodstains.
"I'm sorry, pharaoh." He bowed his head.
"Don't worry, Ryou…" Yami Yugi smiled. "He is not dead."
Ryou looked up, surprised. The pharaoh just held up his millennium puzzle.
"He is in here."
"But how?" Ryou whispered, still holding his own millennium item tightly.
"He explained the nature of the ritual while we were still trapped within the puzzle." Yami Yugi smiled. "It cannot harm him, nor any other bearer of the ring. Thus, he could not be destroyed by it."
"He is safe. As is your yami."
Malik and Isis both smiled in relief. After everything that happened, it was finally over. They had come so close to losing people they cared about.
Ryou brushed another tear from his face. This time, however, it was one of joy, not sadness. He tried to speak, but choked on the words.
"Thank you." Ryou finally whispered, when he found his voice again.
Isis and Malik looked at each other, and then back at the owner of the millennium ring.
"No, Ryou…" Malik began slowly. "We should be thanking you…"
"You were right all along." Isis sighed, placing her arms around her brother and the pharaoh. "Death, even of a wicked soul, is still death. And destruction of darkness is no more justified than destruction for the sake of darkness. I was wrong to attempt such a dangerous ritual… and it is a lesson I will not soon forget."
"Neither will I." Malik smiled as well.
"Perhaps it is a lesson that the tomb robber will learn as well. And perhaps, it is a lesson that…" Yami Yugi eventually added. "…I too need to be reminded of. I am sorry for convincing you to go through the purification spell. It only brought more tragedy."
"It's all right, pharaoh." He smiled back. "You were only trying to help mankind. I know…"
"I am lucky to call you friend." He cut the hikari off. Ryou squeezed the ring between his fingers and blushed. "And fate is lucky to have given you the millennium ring."
Ryou sat on the floor as he watched the three other millennium item holders stand up. Isis supported Yami Yugi until he regained his sense of balance. They turned to leave the apartment.
"I won't let anything like that happen again, pharaoh. I promise." Ryou added, just as they reached the door.
Yami Yugi turned back around for a brief moment. He stared at Ryou and smiled.
"As long as you follow your heart, I'm sure it won't."
And the door closed behind them, leaving Ryou Bakura to ponder the mysteries of the millennium ring, and the goodness that resided within both halves of his soul.