Disclaimer – Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Ronin Warriors (a.k.a. Yoroiden: Samurai Troopers) and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to their respective owners. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters. If you recognize him/her/it, I don't own him/her/it. If you don't recognize, I might still not be the owner but it'd be best to ask. I'd appreciate it, anyway. ((grin))

"The Spellfire Saga – 1: Shards"
by DragonDancer5150

Epilogue

Yugi sat alone in his bedroom, gazing at the solid gold box on the desk before him, tracing the hieroglyphs across the front. He knew its every line and curve, had memorized its every inch some nine years ago when he first found it collecting dust on a back shelf of his grandfather's game shop one day where he had been playing as a child. It was the box that had held the Millennium Puzzle for three thousand years . . . and now held all three God Cards – Osiris, the Saint Dragon God of the Sky; Obelisk, the Great War God; and Ra's Winged Dragon.

As promised, Yugi had called Nasutei when they got home a number of hours ago, but he and his friends would be waiting a few days before getting together with the rest of the company alongside whom they had fought only just yesterday evening. There was something else they had to do first. Tomorrow after school, Yugi would be going to the museum with Jonouchi, Honda, Anzu, Bakura – and possibly Urameshi and some of the others – to see a stone slab on display from an ancient Egyptian temple. Otogi had the Black Crown to see to, and Mai had parted ways with the group upon returning to Domino.

I haven't seen that stone, he mused, but Anzu said there's an image of a pharaoh carved on it that looks like me . . . or Other Me. Apparently that stone slab means a lot to his lost memories. The three God cards, this mysterious slab . . . His fists clenched in determination. I promise you, My Other Self, you'll find your memories soon! The spirit did not react outwardly, but Yugi knew that, deep within the room of his soul, within the Puzzle, the spirit knew well his conviction.

That would all come soon enough, though. At the moment, Yugi knew that the spirit was mentally preparing for something even before that, something of equal importance – to both their hearts.

-Aibou . . . -

Yugi nodded, and the two traded places. He settled into the room of his own soul as the spirit pulled their Deck and a deep breath, a grin of positive anticipation tugging at his lips as he set to the task of modifying it with cards from Yugi's considerable collection. They had one last Duel to fight, one that both souls had been looking forward to for three days now.

Yugi gently closed the mental door so that the spirit could concentrate without distraction, then let his mind turn to the conversation with his grandfather only moments ago. Sugoroku had wandered into Yugi's bedroom and begged to see the exceptional cards "just one more time" – he had already ogled them at least a dozen times by then – and they wound up in an argument over whether or not Yugi should allow him to display them in the shop as the ultimate in collectors' items. In fact, Sugoroku had reminded Yugi for a moment of that withered-frog-like character from a fantasy trilogy of American – or was it British? – literature that Bakura had once told him about. Sugoroku had pushed to the point that Yugi finally lost his temper, if only for that brief instant – "I said NO!" As Sugoroku relented at last, he had explained himself a bit.

"You don't know how hard it was, Grandpa. You don't know the life-and-death Duels the Other Me had to go through in Battle City to win the God cards!" Not to mention everyone else's sufferings – Bakura, Mai, Jonouchi . . . Rishid . . . Malik . . .

"Hm?" Sugoroku interjected. "The other you?"

"Urk!" Yugi gasped. "D-did I say 'the other me'? I meant . . . uh, 'it bothered me'." Ut-oh . . . Grandpa hasn't met the Other Me . . . Well, there was that one time, some months ago, when Sugoroku had spoken to both him and "the other him" from time to time during the Duelist Kingdom tournament. Then again, it had been from within a videotape in which his soul had been trapped – so maybe he did not remember . . .

"Yugi." Something in the tone snapped Yugi's attention back to the present with a twinge of foreboding. Still, he was completely unprepared for his grandfather's next words. "You're talking about the pharaoh's soul, aren't you?"

Yugi nearly fell out of his chair. "WHAT? Grandpa, how did you . . . ?"

Suddenly gone were the light-heartedness and the half-joking greed over the cards. Mutou Sugoroku regarded his grandson in silence for the span of several heartbeats, and Yugi could see the memories and deep thoughts playing behind amethyst eyes as rich as his own. At length, he laid a gnarled hand on his grandson's shoulder. "All I know is . . . the one who solves the Millennium Puzzle inherits the will of the Pharaoh, and that person will be endlessly tested. Yugi, that is the fate of the chosen one."

Grandpa . . . For a long moment, grandfather and grandson gazed at one another, and Yugi could almost hear his grandfather's thoughts, in truth or imagined – No matter what, you mustn't give up! Finally, he nodded in confidence. After all, he was not alone in facing whatever fate had in store for him. "I know."

With that, the moment passed, the dark seriousness broken. "Oh, ho!" Sugoroku laughed, ruffling his grandson's thick hair affectionately. "Well, time for bed. Good night, Yugi!"

"Good night, Grandpa!"

Within his soul room, Yugi sat up from the ethereal bed on which he reclined. He opened his door. -Nakama! Don't forget to put Heavy Storm back in.-

He could not help a grin in return at the deep fondness he sensed in the other as the spirit's chuckle purred down their bond. -Already done, Aibou. See?- The spirit guided Yugi's consciousness back into the body to merge with his just enough to perceive through the eyes as slender fingers shifted through the cards, finding and displaying the one in question before returning to the task at hand.

Yugi nodded and retired back fully into his soul room, mind returning to the conversation with his grandfather. I . . . I wonder just how much Grandpa does know about what's going on. He's the one who found the Puzzle to begin with, navigating the traps in the Tomb of the Nameless Pharaoh some thirty years ago when he was an adventuring gambler, before meeting Grandma and settling down to open the Kame Game Shop.

"That is the fate of the chosen one." Why did Grandpa say that? He recalled similar words from the dark spirit of the Millennium Ring. "To awaken the pharaoh's memories is the duty of the one chosen by the Puzzle." How could he have known? How much did he know about all that? Thankfully, Yugi thought, there was no asking him anymore, or so it would seem. The mysterious spirit of the Ring had apparently perished when Bakura Ryou, his host and Yugi's friend, had suffered their souls being separated from the body as Penalty of a lost Shadow Game inflicted during the terrible Battle City Finals. Yugi shook his head, remembering Kurama's warning from yesterday evening and thinking about just how right he had been. Yugi and the spirit had managed to win back Bakura's soul along with accomplishing many other victories by the time those horrible Duels were over with for good. He shuddered especially at the memories of Jonouchi's Duel, which had left him in a coma, and of his own very last one only just this past afternoon, the one that had threatened – and nearly succeeded! – to strand the spirit in his body as it ate his own soul alive, consumed by the cold, unforgiving Shadows . . .

With the end of the finals, too, Yugi had found himself in possession of two more of the Millennium Items: Ishizu's Necklace and Malik's Rod. The end too found Malik with the realization of his grave misjudgment, and he fought to right all the wrong he had done. Malik had long had the Millennium Ring in his possession by that point as well and had given it to Yami along with the Rod, though the Ring would later turn up missing from Yugi's room. Then was announced the self-destruction of the island on which the finals actually took place, the countdown started, and there was no time to search for it.

Yugi felt the body shift and sit back, stretching. It was done. Yugi manifested as the spirit shuffled their Deck one last time before standing and slipping it into the small case riding on the back of his hip. Yugi tapped a finger on a card sitting apart from the collection still strewn across the desk in careful disarray. The spirit nodded and gathered it into his hand, pausing to study the powerful black dragon on the face, red eyes seeming to wink at him in good-natured encouragement. Another grin tugged at the spirit's lips and Yugi chuckled silently as the card joined the rest of the Deck in the hip case.

Yugi looked at the alarm clock to their left, on the shelf of his bed's headboard. It was a goofy, almost cartoonish little thing, but it had been his first timepiece as a child – and a gift from his father. -Ten-thirty. We need to go. Heh, knowing him, he's already there.-

The spirit nodded and retreated. Yugi slipped his hand through the cuff of his Duel Disk, snapping it closed on his wrist and forearm, then headed out of his room and down the stairs. His mother had gone to bed just a little while before, and he hoped his grandfather had as well. He would have to disarm the alarm on the door of the shop if he went out the front – and the little bell would ring when the door opened anyway – so Yugi turned to slip out the back, through the kitchen and dinette space. House key in hand, he was already starting to close the door behind him when a voice stopped him cold.

"Eh! Where are you going?" Sugoroku stood on the other side of the living room, at the foot of the rear staircase, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

"Ah . . . I've got something to do. I'll be back soon."

"Really?" Sugoroku studied him a moment longer, then seemed to come to a decision. "Be careful."

Relieved that he would not have to convince his grandfather to let him go without an argument – or worse, have to leave without permission at all – Yugi nodded, waved good-bye, and hurried off.

Mind full of memories of the past forty-eight hours – indeed the past year that he had known this person, and all that they had been through together – he crossed town on a sort of mental autopilot. It was the spirit who brought his attention back to the present as he darted into an alley whose opposite end opened onto the town square. His eyes found the tall, slim figure silhouetted against the streetlights of the square behind him, a thick, unruly mop of gold crowning a head that tilted as he came around the corner.

Soft brown eyes glimmered in challenge, quiet excitement, and brotherly love for both souls, no doubt able to read the shift of the body's movements when the two traded places once again. The spirit closed the distance between them, and Yugi knew well the memories filling his mind and heart.

8 8 8 8 8

The spirit would never forget to be thankful for this sight, of his friend standing tall, alive and strong after the Duel – Only just this morning? Gods, so long ago now – that had felled him, by all rights should have killed him. He would replace the memory of the hallway outside of the room where this one lay in a dying coma, Duel Disk switched off while he pounded the wall in grief and begged his friend, his brother, not to die. Before the stroke of midnight, that whole terrible chapter in all three of their lives – his, his living partner's, and this man's – would be closed for good, framed by this last and arguably most important Duel.

The spirit stopped about twenty feet from the other, a good distance for a Dueling field. "You're early, Jonouchi-kun." The minute hand of the clock on the pole in the center of the square inched closer to eleven o'clock.

Jonouchi grinned, pulling his Deck from its case. "Yeah, but what the hell. Why wait? We'll have this decided by midnight, in any case."

The spirit smirked, falling into the mindset of the Duel. Jonouchi was now his opponent, and the spirit would face him with the honor that position demanded. After all, he had more than earned it. However, the man he faced was one thing more, something no other opponent before him had ever been: his closest friend, his brother-in-arms. The spirit cherished each and every one of his and his aibou's friends, but not one had come so far, fought so hard, gained so much as Jonouchi Katsuya, and the pride the spirit felt in this young man knew no bounds. Red-Eyes Black Dragon would finally go home with the one to whom he belonged because, no matter which of them took this fight, they both already had won simply by being able to stand there, True Duelist to True Duelist.

Twin Duel Disks hummed to life. Twin sets of holographic projectors fired out into position. Two Decks slid into place as two voices in unison rang out in the cool night air.

"Duel!"

A pair of ruby eyes topped by a single one of mystic purple watched from high above, intent on ensuring that this sacred fight of honor remained private and uninterrupted.

8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8

It was nearly one in the morning, but the spirit was restless, even after all that had taken place over the past few days, indeed the past few hours. Exhausted but infinitely content, Yugi had returned from the Duel with Jonouchi and collapsed right into bed, barely taking the time to change into his pajamas. The spirit chuckled to himself at that, then turned his eyes to gaze out the window in the steeply slanted roof-wall. Had it only been three nights since last he had sat like this? He heaved a deep sigh, his mind heavy with all that had happened in the interim – the Duels, the Shadow Games, the lives and souls of dear friends he had nearly lost . . .

His eyes wandered from the window to the gym bag on the bottom shelf of the bookcase behind him, within which rested the other two Millennium Items in his and Yugi's possession – the Necklace and the Rod. So much suffering – he could not help but wonder . . . was it all worth it? And what lay ahead for him? What was his fate now?

"Nakama . . . "

Yugi's voice was so soft that, for a moment, the spirit could not tell if he had honestly heard or merely imagined it. Hearing the nickname his closest friend used in private, he looked over to see Yugi sitting up in bed, regarding him with those large expressive eyes he had come to cherish so deeply. He had already caused the innocent young man such pain . . .

-I'm sorry. Did I wake you?-

Yugi shook his head. "No. I couldn't sleep, either. After all, tomorrow we might get your memories back! You've been wanting them for so long! I'm too excited to sleep!"

Such incredible selflessness . . . The spirit looked away briefly to gaze out the window, unable to meet those bright, generous eyes. It was a long moment before he could speak. -Aibou,- he started hesitantly, -I know that who I really am . . . is the soul of a pharaoh sealed in the Millennium Puzzle. I met you when you became my aibou, my partner in the search for my memories. Then I met Jonouchi and Anzu, Honda, and lots of other friends . . . -

"Yup."

-Now I have new memories, the memories of being with my friends. No matter what happens to me, those memories will always be there.- That was one thing that bothered him deeply, that he would lose his present self in regaining his past. Speaking the words aloud, however, helped him to start believing them as he had not been able to yet. He turned to meet Yugi's gaze then. -To me, the memories of my friends are an eternal treasure.- He could not emphasize that enough.

He watched Yugi absorb his words, mulling some of his own thoughts. Yugi's hand found the Puzzle sitting in his lap, and he cupped it up in his palm before raising his gaze once again to the spirit's. "Nakama, this is just like when I put the Millennium Puzzle together. This time it's your turn to put the pieces of your memory back together. As long as you need me, I'll always be your partner!"

-Aibou . . . - No words could begin to express the spirit's gratitude. It was Yugi's boundless hope, courage and conviction that had always given the spirit the strength to face any challenge set before him – and now more so than ever. With a big, genuine smile on his face, the spirit nodded. -YES!-


Author's Note: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!

Owari desu yo!