This was originally written to be part of the first story in a crossover series called "The Spellfire Saga." It was the YGO summary from Yami's point of view, a restless night of contemplation and soul-searching. It took me three days, with all the researching and cross-referencing, to craft this. I wound up cutting it from "Shards" but, I have to admit, I'm rather proud of it. And because this was originally written for my Spellfire series, the timeline has been shortened up for reasons explained in those files (e.g. six months, per canon, between Kaiba's Death T challenge and Duelist Kingdom, not three). The piece is /heavy/ on exposition, for which I profusely apologize, but the important thing in this fic is the exploration of Yami's thoughts and reactions, his point of view, on it all – and if I ever figure out how to rewrite it to keep the heart of the story while getting rid of the OMG exposition, I will. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy even as is. ((sheepish grin))
Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belongs to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
"Reflection: Restless Night"
It was the eve of Kaiba Corp's Battle City Duel Monsters Tournament. In the Mutou household, all had managed to find sleep, except for one. In Yugi's room, a second occupant sat at the desk, staring out the slanted window into the star-filled sky. He shifted in the chair and the shaped moonlight from the window on the floor behind him caught his attention. A deep sigh escaped him as he noted that the desk and the chair each cast a shadow . . . but he did not. It was a painful reminder.
How long had it been now since he – . . . no, since Yugi – had solved the Millennium Puzzle at last? It had taken him eight years until, one night, he suddenly realized how two parts went together, and he passed the point where he had always gotten stuck before, and the ancient, golden relic revealed itself in earnest. Since then, he had known for some time that two halves of his self existed – but just when did the full realization hit him?
After the Puzzle was first solved, it was a long process of waking to himself and the world around him by slow degrees. He had supposed that it was due to the power of the Puzzle – "The one who solves me shall gain the powers and knowledge of darkness." Now he thought that he understood why – because the one who solved the Millennium Puzzle woke a spirit residing therein.
And that spirit . . . was him.
He was not sure when or even how he began to realize that he was not just another facet of Yugi's soul, who happened to understand innately how to wield the Shadow powers of the Puzzle, but a separate entity altogether. That had been a process as well. It started when Shadi, the Egyptian who claimed to be a guardian and avenger of the pharaohs of old, confronted Yugi that first time at the museum and told him that he needed to discover "the other Yugi" that dwelled in his soul before challenging the spirit himself to a series of tests of the heart, attempting to determine the Puzzle's true power and the boy's worthiness in wielding it.
Every person possessed a "room of the soul" but in Yugi's heart and mind existed two completely separate rooms: one full of games and children's toys, a warm room of pure light and innocence. The second, however, was vast, dark and cool, its layout like an Egyptian pharaonic tomb designed by M.C. Escher. That was the spirit's room.
He had thought he was another side of Yugi because that was what Shadi had thought. It had made sense to the spirit. After all, he had no memories or knowledge beyond what Yugi knew, beginning initially from the solving of the Puzzle, and their thinking was essentially identical.
Or so he had thought.
The first indication to the contrary that the spirit could recall was almost six months ago, during Kaiba Seto's Death T challenge on Yugi and his friends in his bid of revenge for being defeated at Duel Monsters a few months prior and unseating him as unrivaled champion of the collectible card game. Death T had been five levels of lethal games and puzzles they had to navigate, culminating in a rematch with Kaiba himself. As an initial "teaser", Grandpa had himself just been forced to face Kaiba in a 3D virtual simulator that recreated the monsters and spells around the duelists. He had lost and was forced to endure the same penalty game that Yugi –
No, that is not true, the spirit sighed to himself. It was not Yugi who subjected Kaiba to the experience of death as a Shadow Game penalty for the first defeat. Yugi was not the kind to do such a terrible thing to anyone, no matter the reasoning. The spirit had done that all on his own. Now, at the onset of the Death T challenge, Grandpa was paying for that act, barely rescued from the simulator box before he passed out altogether from the attacking holographic horrors. As it was, he had to be rushed to the hospital for congestive heart failure. The spirit wondered if Grandpa would have needed a pacemaker at all if only he had not –
He ran a hand over his ethereal face, both elbows propped on the desk's surface. I suppose I should not even call him that, the spirit realized sadly. After all, he is Yugi's grandfather . . . but he is not mine.
Halfway through the Death T challenge, Honda had become separated from the other three, from Yugi, Jonouchi, and Anzu (We had not met Bakura yet, the spirit remembered.), and was believed killed. Yugi had collapsed to hands and knees in shock and grief, Anzu speechless behind him, as Jonouchi pounded on the block that had walled off Honda from escaping the lethal trap through the hole with them. Yugi barely heard Jonouchi's voice through his own storm of emotions, promising that they would not give up. "Honda, listen up! We're gonna go on ahead – but you use that hard head of yours to get outta that fix! We'll be waiting for you . . . you idiot!" Jonouchi's voice had broken off with a repressed sob.
Now, young man! Let your blood burn with anger, let your body shake with sorrow – and call him forth! Shadi's challenging words some months prior to Kaiba's Death T challenge rang through the spirit's mind alongside the memories, echoing in the silence of the bedroom. That's it . . . Anger! . . . Hatred! . . . Sadness! . . . On the far side of your emotions, like a runner waiting for the handoff in a relay, the other Yugi is waiting! As it had been in facing Shadi, the shock of emotions from the loss of Grandpa and now Honda activated the Puzzle. This time, however, the outcome was different.
Yugi had fought an internal struggle as the Puzzle thrummed audibly with power, Jonouchi and Anzu looking on in fear. He shook with the effort to fight back that power trying to overcome him. It had only been by his raw terror of it that he successfully threw off the attempt – this time. "I can't hold it back!" the spirit remembered "his weaker self" gasping. "Something inside of me . . . I think there's another 'me' inside myself that I don't know about . . . " Even as the words passed his lips, part of him questioned them. "Ever since I solved the Millennium Puzzle, there's been times when I black out . . . " No, that was not true. The words referred to the times he had challenged wrongdoers to Shadow Games, but he remembered every Shadow Game he had played. There were other things he did not always remember, though. "I think I'm changing into someone that I don't know about!" Was this the penalty for the "powers and knowledge of darkness" he had gained? "I'm scared! I've finally become friends with you guys. I was afraid that if you knew about the other me . . . you might leave me!"
That was perhaps one of the scariest moments of his life, making that confession to his two closest friends and awaiting their response, their judgment. Their reaction surprised him but perhaps it should not have. After all, had they not already proven themselves time and again?
As Yugi's friends, yes, but . . .
No matter what facet, it was all Yugi, they had said, and he was their friend no matter what. In spite of himself, though, the spirit could scarcely help but wonder, sitting here alone in the darkness. He was always in darkness.
Being able to remember all of the Shadow Games, the spirit had come into an awareness of that other facet of himself existing, a weaker and more timid side. His side did not fear the power of the Puzzle, but the weaker one did. Perhaps that was why that side did not remember the Shadow Games before but now, facing these challenges and with his friends' confirmation, the weaker side made the decision not to fear anymore and also to accept the power of the Puzzle and to trust the stronger side, the "other Yugi."
Aibou, sometimes I have to wonder if you are not the stronger, in your own way.
That day was the first time Yugi could remember the whole experience – all of the challenges, the Shadow Game, everything. From then on, Yugi's awareness of his stronger side grew and he learned to depend on it, finally taking the last step some three months ago.
The Millennium Puzzle was not the only artifact of its kind. In fact, there existed seven such relics of power all told. Shadi, whom they had met nearly a year ago and not seen since, held the Millennium Key with its power to look into and even change a person's soul room and thereby control his or her personality and mind, and the Millennium Scales by which he could judge the guilt or innocence of one's heart. Now a student named Bakura Ryou transferred to Domino High School and he, too, was in possession of an Item, the Millennium Ring. And, much like Yugi had once been, Bakura was unaware of the other side of himself that dwelled in the Ring. That darker spirit, they would later discover, was quite awake and aware and was after all of the Millennium Items for himself, starting with Yugi's Puzzle.
What the dark spirit had not counted on was the presence of two souls in his counterpart when he lured the company to his host's apartment after school for a role-playing board game called Monster World. It was a sort of group impromptu story-telling, with one person portraying the villains and the rest of the players acting the parts of the heroes of the game. Their characters' abilities and skills were determined by statistics on paper, their actions depicted by lead figures on a gridded, landscaped board. What Yugi and his friends discovered too late was that the dark spirit controlling their new friend meant for them to play their parts in his world unto death – by trapping their souls into their own character figures.
That was the power of the Millennium Ring, to transfer souls into shaped objects.
Anzu was the first to succumb, followed by Jonouchi and Honda, leaving Yugi at the table alone surrounded by his friends' unconscious bodies, their spirits physically animating the painted lead miniatures on the board. The spirit still cursed himself for not noting the Shadow powers that had been gathering, slowly and discreetly, around the game from the beginning. It was now up to Yugi to roll the dice for his friends. It was the only way to save them, by continuing the game against the "dark" Bakura and defeating his boss monster, Zorc – and if any one's character "died" in the fictitious battles they would have to fight, that person died in reality as well!
Yugi was not confident enough to trust his friends' lives in his own hands, but there was another he did so trust. Yugi demanded that Dark Bakura seal his soul into his character's lead miniature as well. "I'll fight together with my friends on the board! If they're putting their lives on the line, then so will I!" The dark spirit was as shocked as his friends were with the proclamation, though the spirit of the Puzzle understood and was ready for the challenge.
"Yugi," Dark Bakura could not help asking, "it would be easy to grant that wish but if you, the last player, become a miniature, who will throw the dice?"
The OTHER Me!
With the power of that belief and trust ringing through their soul rooms, the spirit stepped up to the plate without hesitation as Dark Bakura shrugged and granted Yugi his wish, thinking the game won. Even now, the spirit allowed a smirk at the shocked expression on Dark Bakura's face when he realized his mistake. He remembered, too, the wonder and the genuine, heartwarming smile on the statuette's face as little Yugi turned and looked up. Until then, any time the spirit had been active, they had always been merged or the spirit was entirely in control, Yugi's spirit unconscious in the background, the reason for the previous blackouts in memory. Their souls now separated for the first time since the Puzzle had been solved, this was the very first time the two had really come face-to-face with one another.
-So that is . . . the Other Me,- Yugi had thought. -This is the first time we've met.-
-Yes,- the spirit had replied. -You put your life on the line to fight with your friends! That courage brought us together.-
They had not been severed from one another, however. Even separated, they were not truly apart. If Yugi's character died from an attack in the game, not only would Yugi's soul die, but the spirit's would perish as well. The spirit did not know how he knew this, but it was a truth that came to him in that game. He had figured it was because they were two sides of the same coin, but he had come to question that more recently.
Yugi's character, his core being, was that of a pure innocent, albeit painfully shy at times and an easy target for bullies. The spirit had come to think of himself as a product of Yugi's soul in desperate need of strength and that he had been brought forth out of Yugi by the Shadow power of the Millennium Puzzle to answer that need. However, strength was something that could not simply be granted. It had to be earned and cultivated. Over the months since they had become aware of one another, the spirit had seen and felt a growth in Yugi that was all his own. It was more as if he were watching and learning from the spirit than that the spirit was being anything in his place as a direct part of him.
And if the Millennium Items brought forth needed characteristics out of a person's soul, did that mean that the mild, gracious young man they had gotten to know over the past weeks, Bakura Ryou, had once had a need for an evil sadistic side to his nature? It simply did not follow. The spirit of the Ring, which they had thought destroyed when his soul's avatar Zorc was defeated and destroyed in Monster World, had to have come from a source completely separate from kindhearted Bakura. But if that were so, was the same true for the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle?
What am I?
Duelist Kingdom became the stage for several more milestones in his and Yugi's relationship and understanding of one another. The first was Yugi's realization that he could sense the emotions of the spirit, separate from his own. Yet another wielder of a Millennium Item stepped forward to challenge the possessor of the Millennium Puzzle. This time, the Item was the Millennium Eye, which they would come to learn gave the user the ability to see into another's mind and read his or her thoughts. This time, the possessor himself was very special, too. He was Pegasus J. Crawford, an American and the owner of a game publishing company, Industrial Illusions. Pegasus was the very creator of the card game, Duel Monsters. For reasons of his own, he challenged Yugi through a videotape to a Duel Monsters game right then and there as Yugi was watching his video message one evening. More than a recording, Pegasus was communicating in real-time through the television screen. With the power of his Millennium Eye, he turned their duel into a Shadow Game. When both souls realized that, the spirit took over. "I'll be the one to take you on!" The spirit preferred any risk from the Game be on him rather than his innocent half. The game would have been his if not for the timer. The one with the lower Life Points automatically lost. Pegasus managed to stall the spirit just long enough for time to run out fractions of a second before the final attack connected. For the Penalty Game, Pegasus did the unthinkable. "By the rules of trading card games, the winner can take one of the loser's best cards, but you don't have any cards I want. So, Yugi-boy, I'm going to take something special to you instead." The spirit had braced back from the flash of golden light that flooded through the television screen. When he could see again, Mutou Sugoroku's body lay motionless on the floor, his soul sealed into the video itself. The only way to free Grandpa's soul was for Yugi to win his way through the Duelist Kingdom tournament to be held a week from that night and face Pegasus in a rematch.
The spirit's hands clenched on the desk as he remembered that evening. He may not be my family by blood but he is still "Grandpa"! Even if I had known then what I know now, I would still have fought for his soul back as if he really were my own grandfather! An ethereal tear slipped unnoticed down a spectral cheek.
The emotions that Yugi learned he could sense, that were separate from his own, were the spirit's feelings of hurt, anger, and shame at his own failure to protect a loved one.
The next milestone was perhaps one of the hardest decisions Yugi had ever had to make. Jonouchi had accepted a challenge in a duel in which there was almost no way he could win and yet, he had made a request Yugi could not ignore. "I have a favor to ask you. This Duel, I don't want you to give me any advice. I want to win on my own, Yugi." The next thing Jonouchi knew, he had been pounded from 2000 Life Points down to 65 and, if he lost this duel, he lost his only chance to obtain the money his little sister needed for an operation that could save her sight. Honda, Anzu, and Bakura all pressed on Yugi to tell Jonouchi how he could still save himself if there were any way at all. Yugi realized that there was one, only one, but he had given his word. "Yugi, think about Jonouchi's sister!" Anzu reminded him. "What will happen to her if he loses? I know you want to protect Jonouchi's honor but wouldn't true kindness be to lend him a hand right now?"
Perhaps it was the desperation of their best friend's situation. Perhaps it was the strength of the spirit's conviction, or Yugi's willingness to hear. Neither was sure later why or how it happened but just as Yugi decided that Anzu was right and was about to speak up, a sensation from the Puzzle washed through him and he felt another presence within his heart and soul. My other self . . . !
-Don't say anything to Jonouchi. We can't interfere in this battle.-
-But if this goes on, Jonouchi will . . . !-
-No! If we rescue him from this situation, that's when Jonouchi will truly lose!-
-HUH . . . ?-
-For Jonouchi, this is a battle against himself. The only thing we can do is watch. We must watch the courage of Jonouchi, who drove himself into a corner and took the challenge of his own free will!-
Jonouchi did win in the end and that victory was a turning point for him, too, but for Yugi and the spirit, it was the first time they had communicated on their own, without outside influence – and the first time that the term and the concept of "we" had come into the conversation.
Is that when you became "Aibou"? the spirit wondered with a grin, glancing at the sleeping form nestled on the bed. He could not remember just when it was that he started consciously to think of Yugi as his partner – his equal.
Before the end of the next day came the next indication that they might be separate entities who did not always think in unison.
That tournament, Duelist Kingdom, took place three months after Kaiba's Death T challenge. In the end, Kaiba had lost again, even with his three newly-acquired Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards, the only ones in all of existence except for the one Grandpa owned, which was torn in half upon the old man's defeat at the beginning of Death T. Both in punishment and as a way to help Kaiba ultimately, the spirit's penalty game this time was "Mind Crush." By the Shadow power of the Millennium Puzzle, he destroyed the part of Kaiba's heart that was filled with evil. The rest lay strewn across the floor of his soul room. For the next three months, the body existed in a catatonic state as, in the quiet darkness, a little boy reassembled the puzzle of his heart one bright, shiny piece at a time, with his own strength, unhindered by outside influence, making no mistakes this time around.
With the company's young president in a waking mental coma, its highest share-owning stockholders, the Big Five, made a deal with Pegasus for a merger but only on one condition – that he defeat the one who had defeated the company's champion and caused their stock value to plummet in the first place. Pegasus, or any agent of his, had to defeat Mutou Yugi in an official, licensed Duel Monsters tournament.
Thus the reason for taking our "special something" and forcing us into that tournament, the spirit thought with a growl. Still, he could only imagine Kaiba's outrage when he awoke and discovered what was transpiring.
The first of several "player killers" hired to Duel Yugi out of the tournament turned up the first day – claiming to be a spokesman for Kaiba's soul through a ventriloquist's dummy fashioned to look like Seto, albeit an almost cartoon rendering. He even had managed to get a hold of Kaiba's very Dueling deck somehow, complete with all three Blue-Eyes White Dragons. Yugi's Deck no longer contained the card combo that had managed to defeat the beasts the last time, no thanks to one "Insector" Haga. Supposedly harnessing Kaiba's hate and anger, the player killer very nearly destroyed Yugi and the spirit but at the last second, the Blue-Eyes on the table responded to the will of its true master who heard the cry of his rival's heart. The dragon vanished before everyone's eyes, and the puppet fell lifelessly from its master's lap. Kaiba had awakened.
He arrived at the remote island in the dead of night via helicopter – much to the Big Five's dismay – determined to win back his company once and for all. He was aware of the stipulation that Pegasus defeat Yugi, but he did not care. He told Yugi in no uncertain terms that he would be the one to defeat Pegasus. The spirit reiterated his own oath, though he did not tell Kaiba why – nor would Kaiba have cared, not enough to give him the Duel. Kaiba knew of Pegasus's ability to read minds somehow and did not believe Yugi could overcome that, regardless of his incredible skill – but Kaiba's new portable three-dimension simulation disks might just do the trick. It came down to who reached the castle first.
For Yugi, that required winning star chips, the counters for the tournament that proved a duelist's victories; ten qualified one for the finals. Kaiba believed himself under no such restriction and stormed the castle in the wee hours of the morning, but he discovered that without star chips he could not pass the final door to get to Pegasus. Later that morning, he was given his chance to win the star chips he needed. He was handed a Dueling glove and five chips. The other five had to be won and only from Mutou Yugi.
That afternoon and with time running out to qualify for the finals, Yugi and Jonouchi both had won enough star chips to pass the gate, only to be thwarted at the steps of the castle by Kaiba. Between Yugi and Kaiba, only one of them would gain entry to the castle to face Pegasus. In spite of his friends' protests, the spirit and Yugi accepted the challenge. Whether or not Kaiba himself had truly changed from their last Duel, his new strategy, in fact his entire demeanor, was different. He Dueled with honor and with a power he had not possessed before. For one thing, he had discovered in the intervening hours since he had last seen Yugi that not only his company but the very life of his little brother, his only family, was at stake.
Kaiba's new-found Dueling power nearly cost Yugi and the spirit the battle as the balance teeter-tottered with every action, but their belief in the Heart of the Cards paid off once more and the tide of battle turned yet again. On the final attack, which would win the Duel decisively for one of them, Kaiba set himself up so that his defeat might also take his life. Did Yugi have the guts to do it? Would Yugi risk Kaiba's life?
For the first time, the two halves found themselves at odds. The spirit believed that he had to attack and take that chance, that it was the only way to save Grandpa, but something within him made him hesitate, a deep and desperate resistance. He decided to call the attack anyway but before it connected, control was wrenched from him and he found himself in his labyrinthine soul room, a terrible fear clouding the air in a nearly palpable fog. He realized that his room's door was open and that the deep, chilling midnight-blue mist came from outside, from Yugi's room across the hall between their souls. He did not comprehend at the time but the "memory" would come to him later – of little Yugi on his hands and knees, sobbing bitterly.
The spirit had frightened Yugi. That knowledge hurt even now, weeks later. It shook him deeply enough that, afterward, he swore to himself and to Yugi that he would never again go against Yugi's wishes. He would never put his aibou through that again.
Yugi murmured softly as his shifted in his sleep. The spirit looked over and smiled fondly, sadly.
They had managed to replace the lost star chips in time to still qualify with help of a new friend they had met on the island, a fellow Duelist by the name of Kujaku Mai. She, too, qualified for the finals, though Yugi and the spirit defeated her in their Duel. However, Mai was a formidable and honorable opponent, more than worthy as a Duelist, and she agreed that she looked forward to their next encounter. The rest of the finals progressed and Yugi, at long last, won the right to challenge Pegasus himself. By this time, however, he had more than his grandfather's soul to save. Pegasus had taken the souls of both Kaiba brothers by this time – Seto's as well as young Mokuba's. This Duel proved to be the final milestone in Duelist Kingdom for the two souls of Mutou Yugi.
Pegasus turned their match into a Shadow Game. Not only that, but he pulled them to the home of the dark powers themselves, the mysterious Shadow Realm. It was from this supernatural realm that the Millennium Items drew their dark energies. It was also inexplicably intertwined into the very heart of the Duel Monsters card game itself, though Yugi and the spirit would not learn the extent of that truth for some time.
The final step in their relationship and their ability to communicate with each other as two separate, thinking entities came when they were forced to learn to mind-shuffle. In order to thwart Pegasus's ability to read their merged mind, the two took turns Dueling, neither knowing what card the other played. It was the ultimate test of trust between them as each had to rely on the Dueling strength and strategic skill of the other. But then, another complication arose. Yugi was not accustomed to wielding the Shadow power, and the strain to maintain his own mind and soul in that energy environment and conjure the monsters with which to Duel threatened to shred his soul apart. From the start, Yugi could feel the pain and fatigue wear at him every time he stepped up for his turn, and the spirit hated to let him, fearing that he would be overcome. Still, Yugi did not hesitate to accept his turns, willing to take the risk for his grandfather's sake. He lasted only three before collapsing. The spirit shook his head now as he remembered kneeling in the hallway between their souls, cradling the battered, faded spirit of his other self in his spectral arms, wondering what kept the energy there even when he could not sense it. He would realize that it was the power of his friends' love – and his own – that held the insensate energy pattern in a cohesive whole, disallowing that the Shadows should destroy him altogether. With the real, tangible power of the others' friendship, the spirit managed to hold at bay Pegasus's ability to read his mind, eventually winning the Duel and the freedom of the stolen souls. With the cancellation of the Shadow Game, Yugi's spirit regained cognition.
That had been some two months ago.
The lessons learned at Duelist Kingdom opened the door on a whole new experience, a freedom of sorts. What the spirit had once all but ignored as a weak portion of his own inner self proved to be a delightful soul of endless joy and possibility, a constant companion he learned to cherish deeply. If he himself were in fact a separate entity, as he had come to believe, he was unclear of his own role in the scheme of things – but one thing he did know was that Yugi had been a target of attack many times, both in normal life and by those after the power inherent in the Millennium Puzzle. The spirit swore that he would protect Yugi with all the Shadow powers at his disposal. They would work together to discover the true purpose of the Millennium Items.
However, with the wonderful partner and friend he had gained by fully acknowledging and accepting Yugi came another revelation. It had only been a matter of time before Yugi realized it as well.
Movement out of the corner of his eye snapped the spirit's attention back outside, but he forced himself to relax at the sight of a stray dog on the street below. He allowed a low chuckle at himself for his own jumpiness, but he knew that it was not unfounded.
Someone new was after the Millennium Puzzle. No, more like he was after him personally, the spirit himself – and this person seemed to have an idea of his true identity. Their attacker's words, speaking through his mind-controlled agent, rang in his ears. "Come out, come out! If you are who I think you are . . . !"
Who is it that you think I am?
I . . . don't even know my own name . . .
Do I have one?
About two weeks ago, an unknown attacker under some kind of mind control managed to steal the Puzzle, leading Yugi on a wild chase and into a trap, forcing him into a Duel Monsters Duel to regain the Puzzle that had been bolted by its chain to the side of a Dueling simulation platform. The one that the controller expressly wanted to face, however, was "the other Yugi," and he tried to force him to appear. The spirit had been dwelling in the Puzzle at the time of the theft – Yugi had been on his way to school so the spirit did not think he was immediately needed. Now, standing at the door of his soul room, he could sense the danger to himself and his partner. Yugi was telling him not to come out and all he could do was trust, having already perceived another entity, another power, watching and waiting for him to emerge.
Yugi was beginning to lose the Duel but then something cracked in the puppet master's control of his mind slave and the captive began to fight back. The mind slave turned out to be a former acquaintance of theirs from Duelist Kingdom, an amoral American card shark by the name of "Bandit" Keith Howard. Keith did not know what he was doing there, but he recognized Yugi and his Puzzle and, thinking the Puzzle to be the source of the voice in his head, he abandoned the Duel to rush Yugi's side of the platform and smash the Puzzle.
The spirit watched in horror as what seemed like a mighty earthquake tore through his soul room, the great labyrinthine structure collapsing around him in an instant. Complete blackness took him.
The next he was aware, a new and different danger was threatening his partner but he could not tell what it was – Yugi had fallen unconscious. Then, the spirit sensed hands grasping the Puzzle. There were two pairs. The energies were not those of an enemy. He gasped as he realized that they were Jonouchi and Honda. Through them, he gained impressions of the situation outside. A fire was destroying the warehouse into which Yugi had been drawn to Duel. The Puzzle had been shattered and successfully reconstructed, but heat and smoke inhalation had overcome his aibou, who had refused to leave the Puzzle behind but was unable to pull the chain free which held a piece of the Puzzle captive – and with Yugi's hands locked around the Puzzle despite being unconscious, Jonouchi and Honda could not evacuate Yugi from the raging inferno without it. Even pulling together, however, they could not budge the embedded bolt. What they needed, the spirit realized, was leverage. He did not know if Jonouchi could hear him but it was worth a try. He concentrated all of his energies and reached out to his partner's best friend.
It had worked. Jonouchi got the idea and grabbed a bar, passing it through the loop of the bolt, and the two crowbarred it loose. They rushed out, Honda carrying the unconscious Yugi in his arms, just as the ceiling caved in.
Yugi was released from the hospital just a few days later, but the attack had left him with several questions. However, it was a few days still before the spirit had a proper chance to talk to Yugi around school, chores, and other distractions. Yugi had been unusually withdrawn and preoccupied, even a little sad. That evening, he sat on his bed with his knees drawn up, the Puzzle on the blanket in front of him. The spirit remembered noting that Yugi was wearing a wristband. The morning of the Puzzle's theft, the spirit had been complimenting Yugi on the shiny new chain he had put on the Puzzle to replace the worn rope with which it had come. Yugi had worried that it was too fancy but the spirit disagreed, thinking that he ought to add a wristband or something. Yugi had protested that it was not his style. Just then, Anzu had arrived to walk with him to school. -Show her how cool you are!- The comment only served to embarrass Yugi, who confused his poor mother as he hurried past her, fussing aloud to the spirit "Stop picking on me!" when the spirit insisted that Anzu would fall in love with him if he took the spirit's advice. After all, Yugi had had a crush on the girl pretty much for as long as he had known her, though he had never seriously considered trying to act on it.
Now Yugi was wearing the very wristband the spirit had suggested, and he could not help but think it to be of significance besides Anzu. First he had taken the opportunity to thank Yugi for putting the Puzzle back together in the face of the fire. Yugi had shrugged almost sheepishly and reminded him that it was Jonouchi and Honda who had gotten them out, and the spirit had agreed that they had good friends. Yugi, however, still looked sad. -Aibou, what are you thinking?-
By this time, the spirit had learned to manifest himself outside of Yugi's body, so that he and Yugi could speak face-to-face. It seemed like forever before Yugi raised his eyes to the spirit's. "Who are you?"
The question had taken him by surprise, though he supposed that it should not have. Still, his initial response was born more of shock than anything else. -Why do you want to know?- He had to agree with Yugi that it was a silly question. He had sighed. -I knew you'd ask me one day. The truth is, I don't know anything about myself. I don't know where I came from. I . . . don't have any memories.- In that moment, faced with that truth in such a way that he could no longer deny it, he had suddenly felt the full force of the ache that the realization struck in him, and he began to understand some of the implications that came with it.
He did not remember a previous home. He did not remember friends outside of Yugi's. He could not remember his family. Surely he had had one somewhere along the line, even if he were only a ghost now. He could not even bring to mind his own name. He had answered to "Yugi" or "the Other Yugi/Other Me" for so long, he thought maybe it had just gotten lost somewhere before he was fully awake . . . but no, he felt in his heart that it was something deeper. He did not have a true name of his own, or if he did it had been stolen from him.
Yugi must have seen some of that in his eyes because he apologized almost immediately, saying that he should not have brought it up, and asked to change the subject.
The spirit had caught and held his eyes. -There's one thing I know for sure. As long as you have the Millennium Puzzle, I'll be here.-
Yugi had nodded. "That's enough." The spirit began to say something – he could no longer remember what – but Yugi jumped off the bed before he could, repeating, "That's enough!"
-I want to be with you always,- the spirit confessed. He had not really thought about it – he had not allowed himself to go down that path, the path of his missing memories, shying away from dwelling on such thoughts – but, in that moment, he was sure of it with every fiber of his being. -Even if I don't get my memories back . . .- Something told him that if he were to pursue his memories, he would lose Yugi, his partner in this world and his closest friend. He did not want that.
Yugi, for his part, found himself crying. He had been thinking exactly the same thing. "Me, too . . . forever. I'll give you all of my memories."
The spirit sat back in the chair, silently wiping tears from his face. In spite of what he wanted, he knew what he had to do. Everything rides on the next two days, he mused. Tomorrow morning, Kaiba's Battle City Tournament would start. Most of the duelists who would be competing sought the title of Duel King and the prestige that it would bring. For the spirit, what was at stake was far more personal and compelling.
A week ago, very shortly after their talk, the spirit sat on Yugi's bed as his partner dressed for the day, and the spirit had thought that he had looked pretty cool. Yugi had told the spirit that he was meeting Anzu later. -A date! Finally! Go, Aibou!- The spirit had been trying for days to convince Yugi to ask Anzu out, knowing how his partner felt about his childhood friend.
"But it's not going to be me," Yugi told him with a wink.
Heh, I should have guessed what he meant, the spirit mused with a smile. Still, he had thought Yugi had set the date between Anzu and maybe Honda or Bakura and he was just going to make sure the two met up. Shortly thereafter, the spirit had withdrawn into the Puzzle to give Yugi privacy when heard Yugi tell him, "This is where you take over." The Puzzle activated and the spirit found himself on the outside, in control of the body. "B-but – wait! This isn't a duel! YUGI!"
The spirit shook his head with a chuckle. He could look back now and laugh at his own flustered shock, but it had not been so funny at the time. The truth was, he had never simply spent time with anyone outside of Yugi, not when there was not some dire situation going on. He hardly even knew his way around town without Yugi's guidance, though the Puzzle had been solved nearly a year ago. He had managed to gather his composure when he saw that Anzu had spotted him, realizing he must have looked quite the fool in that moment.
Anzu took him first to a coffee shop, but he was too distracted to enjoy the drink she had bought him. In fact, part of his problem was that he did not even know how to talk to her. It was not a matter of shyness like Yugi sometimes experienced. He simply did not know how to just talk to someone, to open a conversation – not without it involving a challenge to a Shadow Game. Things like that was his purpose, after all.
Anzu had brought a brochure she had picked up from the museum, advertising an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. The spirit noted with shock that the picture on the front was of a carving that bore the exact same eye symbol as the Millennium Puzzle. He realized why Yugi had asked Anzu to spend the day with him. Since even before their talk, the spirit had been troubled by the questions of his past, but he had not wanted to bother or upset Yugi so he deferred from discussing the subject with him, trying to convince him that it was nothing. He realized that his silence in itself had disturbed Yugi enough to try to do something for him, even if only indirectly.
But if he pursued his questions . . .
He had looked down, realizing that Yugi had put on the wristband again along with a few other adornments. Though he had claimed that "fancy" or "cool" things were not his style, Yugi had a small collection of such clothes and accessories, even if he had only recently worked up the courage to start wearing them in public. The spirit remembered telling Anzu that he thought they were a cover Yugi used to hide his true self from people.
Rather than address that comment directly, Anzu had made an observation of her own. "He's worried about you."
"Worried about me? Yugi can't even figure out who he likes!" the spirit had laughed mildly, but then he turned serious. "Like me, Yugi has a difficult road ahead. We both don't know who we are or what to do with our future." He looked at the museum brochure, and it was as if it called out to him. If he pursued his questions and sought his lost memories, though, he feared he would lose Yugi. He feared he might lose himself. "For now, I think it's best if we keep things the way they are." He knew it was fear talking as much as anything else, and he had never let fear rule him before, but what choice did he have?
They spent the rest of the day letting whim lead them. They went to a CD store, the park, caught a movie. The spirit even picked up some new Duel Monster cards along the way. "Aibou will be happy, too." He appreciated that Yugi had withdrawn completely, allowing the spirit to fully enjoy the day on his own. By late afternoon, their journey led them into an arcade where a big-shot calling himself Step Johnny challenged Anzu to a dance game. That morning in the coffee shop, Anzu had confessed that, while she did not know for sure where her future would lead either, her heart was telling her to be a dancer, and the spirit remembered that it was her training to recognize rhythms and patterns that had helped save the group from one puzzle trap so many months ago when they were navigating Kaiba's Death T challenge. The spirit had thought they should just ignore the jerk, but he watched Anzu step up to the plate with courage and an incredible fire in her eyes. Neither he nor Yugi had ever actually seen Anzu dance, but she proved herself with a passion, easily taking the game even in spite of the angry jerk's attempt to cheat and trip her off her feet.
Sunset found Anzu and the spirit on the pier, she still excited over her game victory. "It's amazing how spending 100 yen on a game can renew your faith in your dream!"
"A dream can be maintained even if you don't go after it," the spirit had ventured.
She looked at him sadly, realizing what he really meant. "Yugi, I don't think that's really a good idea." She called him that even knowing whom she addressed. They all called him "Yugi" or talked about him as "the other Yugi."
What is my name? Do I have one?
"I . . . I do want to know about myself, but if I keep things the way they are, I'll always be with Yugi. He must want it this way, too." There was no question. He knew it to be true.
Anzu confessed that she thought he must as well, but her next words rang too sharply to ignore. "Be true to yourself."
I cannot live Aibou's life. His life is his own. It would be wrong not to go forward, for both of our sakes. All we can do is trust that things will work out in the end.
Just then, the jerk Johnny showed up there at the pier, demanding a rematch. He had taken a liking to Anzu and wanted to make her his girlfriend, or at least get her to go out with him. Anzu told him to buzz off, but the spirit accepted his challenge in her place. The game this time, however, would be Duel Monsters. The three relocated to Kaiba Land, Kaiba's massive indoor game-oriented amusement park, to use one of the Solid Vision holographic Dueling simulators.
Halfway through the Duel, Johnny recognized whom he was fighting – Mutou Yugi, the gamer who had defeated the creator Pegasus at his own game at Duelist Kingdom almost two months prior. "I'm a dancer, not a duelist," Johnny confessed, forfeiting the match immediately. Stepping down from the platform, he found himself face-to-face with an outraged Anzu, who read him out for cheating or giving up when the going got a little tough. Was this how he lived? What about his being such a good dancer? She had gotten as skilled as she was by never giving up, even though she had failed a dozen times or more. No dream was faraway and impossible, not as long as one had the courage to pursue it.
The courage . . .
I want to know – no, I need to know – who I am. But my dream is also to stay with Yugi and his friends. Must I lose one to pursue the other?
Hearing her words, witnessing her conviction, affected by her courage, the spirit decided to follow his own dream as well, being true to himself in spite of his own fear. He and Anzu visited the museum that evening.
They had no sooner walked through the doors of the foyer and were headed for the ticket counter than one of the staff members stopped them. Addressing "Mutou-san" by name, the man welcomed him and said that he and his friend were to be afforded free admission to the museum. Ishizu Ishtahl, director of the Egyptian Bureau of Archeology, was in the office with the museum's curator at the moment but wished a word with young Mutou-san before he left. Wondering what that was all about, the spirit and Anzu wandered the museum's rooms, studying the artifacts on display. The spirit passed one door off to the side and felt a powerful response from the Puzzle. He resisted the reflex to clap a hand over his forehead in surprise when he felt the Eye pulse into existence for a moment. That had only ever happened before when he called on the full Shadow power of the Puzzle for a penalty in a Shadow Game. Now that dark power was resonating with something downstairs. The sign read "Keep Out" but the door was open, and he could not help but think that was on purpose. Even if it were not, he could hardly ignore the powerful impulse, the raw need, to know what was down there.
He and Anzu stepped into a basement room with several large stone tablets mounted under glass on the walls. They looked as though they themselves had been removed from walls in some tomb or temple. Making their way around the wall from one panel to the next, they read the descriptions on the little plaques, shocked at what they were learning.
The stone carvings depicted the origins of the earliest known game played in Egypt. Interspersed among the hieroglyphs were small, bounded sections like portraits, each carved with a different picture. The spirit realized that he recognized the likenesses of most of the beasts from Duel Monster cards. He suddenly remembered something in that moment that he had learned from Pegasus a few months prior, who had claimed he found inspiration for his game in a trip to Egypt. Pegasus had talked about seeing an intricately carved tablet in an underground temple, one that had holes in it for each of the seven Millennium Items – the Tablet of the Pharaoh's Memories.
Wait! The Tablet of What!
Even now, a week later, the staggering shock of that realization rocked the spirit along with the sight of the next panel – two figures facing one another over a burning brazier, each with a highly-recognizable monster summoned over his head. One's monster was unmistakably the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, and the priest who had summoned him looked more than a little like Kaiba. Without a doubt, the figure facing the great dragon was none other than the spirit's favored Dark Magician. Facing the priest was a pharaoh by his clothing and undeniably wearing the Millennium Puzzle, but it was his face and hair that made the spirit gasp.
The exhibit focused on showcasing the line of pharaohs through eighteen dynasties, but this individual was unknown, his identity never recorded – a pharaoh without a name.
The spirit recalled turning to Anzu at that. "I know who I am now. The Pharaoh's soul has been living inside the Millennium Puzzle ever since ancient Egyptian times."
So I was a pharaoh? Why can't I remember!
The spirit forced his fists to unclench, fearing to wake Yugi if he were too restless. He knew why he could not remember but he did not know "why." His memory had been sealed away but for what purpose he could not fathom.
Ishizu had entered the room at that point, apologizing that she had kept them waiting. She introduced herself and said that she was a protector of this pharaoh's memory, referring to the panel, as her people had done for the past three thousand years. She said that she had known he was coming and he realized that she did not mean the modern-day teenager but the ageless spirit. In coming of his own free will, she told him, he had chosen the destiny of battle. He wondered what she meant by that. Had he not been battling one force or another since the Puzzle's solving? What made this different? Was it his decision to face his fear and seek his dream?
He had noticed her necklace, a golden torque with an Eye design at her throat that matched the icon on his Puzzle, and he could sense its dark power. This was another of the seven Millennium Items. He had asked if she were a friend or enemy. She was not an enemy, but she warned him that a person with a new Millennium Item would come before him and that the upcoming battle would recall his memory.
He realized that he had now laid eyes on six of the seven Millennium Items: his Puzzle, Shadi's Key and Scales, Bakura's Ring, Pegasus's Eye, and now the Necklace of Ishizu. This coming person, he guessed, must be the wielder of the last Item.
The person who attacked us that day through Bandit Keith . . . that was the power of a Millennium Item that I sensed! That must be who Ishizu meant. So, actually, we have already encountered him.
"What upcoming battle?" the spirit had demanded.
"You will know when you go to the plaza. You will find your future there."
"What do you mean? What's going on?"
He thought her words were almost sad as she turned to leave, replying, "You'll have to find the rest yourself." He had the distinct impression that she had already gifted him by saying too much.
But by whose edict?
Walking past Domino Station on the way to the city's main plaza, the spirit had had a request to make of Anzu. "Aibou doesn't know that I went to see the Egyptian exhibit. Please, don't tell him about the mural and what Ishizu said. I want to get my memory back, but I want to be with Yugi, too. I don't want him to worry about me." He had pulled out their Duel deck from its case on his hip. "We created our deck together. Half of it is his work." Unsurprisingly, he found Dark Magician gazing up at him from the top of the Deck. "The day he knows the real me will be the day the power of these cards really comes out."
"I know that day will come," Anzu had assured him.
At the plaza, they met Kujaku Mai, whom they had befriended at Duelist Kingdom weeks prior. Mai was a little baffled at their surprise to see her. "You're here but you don't know?" she had asked, meaning the plaza, then went on to explain, "A few days ago, some news got out on the Internet to go 'where ancient duelists and card engravings are.'" It had taken her some time to puzzle out what that could possibly mean, but the spirit's mind went instantly to the murals at the museum.
That night was the announcement of the Battle City Duel Monsters Tournament, a tournament to end all tournaments, which would begin one week hence. That had to be the "upcoming battle" Ishizu had mentioned, by the spirit's best guess. He could not help but wonder if what it was he sought out of this tournament had anything to do with the new ante rule being introduced. As a trading card game, Duel Monsters was designed that cards could be bet between players but not usually in tournaments, where the sought treasure was a cash prize. This tournament not only required "a" card to be offered at each duel, but it had to be the player's rarest. Yugi owned more than a few, but his most rare was his signature Dark Magician.
I have never been one to back down from a challenge but . . . it seems that I must risk losing something vitally important either way. The spirit ran a hand over his face as he thought about that. If he won all the way through and regained his memories – however he was supposed to accomplish such a thing out of a card game tournament – he risked losing Yugi. But if he failed even one duel along the way, he would lose them their Dark Magician!
Can I really go through with this?
Of course, Yugi knew of the tournament as well, the spirit filling him in as soon as he returned so that it would not be a surprise. The spirit had listened from the background as Yugi and his friends discussed it the next time they got together. After school, they went downtown to register and pick up the new portable holographic Duel Disks that Kaiba Corp. had developed and were distributing for the tournament. On the way, Anzu had asked Yugi privately what the spirit had said about the other day. "Battle City!" Yugi had gone on to explain, "The Other Me doesn't like the ante rule. The individual cards aren't valuable. It's the way each player chooses from thousands of cards to build his deck. My other self doesn't think it's right to gamble on them . . . so it must be something else that he's after . . . "
The spirit sat back in the chair with his fingers laced behind his head. He still had not told Yugi why he wanted to participate in this tournament – nor, he realized, had Yugi asked. Surely, he must wonder. He gave a deep sigh, sitting forward again with his face in his hands, his elbows propped on the desk, as he thought, He deserves to know. Tomorrow, before we head to the plaza, I will tell him. I still do not understand what this tournament will prove as far as my past is concerned but they must be related somehow. After all, if that was in fact me on that mural, it records me and others playing an ancient form of Duel Monsters . . . or something. Grrrr . . . there is still so much that I don't understand!
For better or worse, I have to go through with this – if for no other reason, because someone out there is after the Millennium Puzzle . . . after me. If I know more of who I am, perhaps I can also learn more about the Millennium Items and what they are meant for. That understanding can only help us. No one solved the Puzzle before Yugi, and even he was not able to do so for eight years . . . until he was old enough, until he was ready.
But ready for what? For me? Hm, somehow I don't think so. He still has a part he is meant to play as well. Perhaps I will not lose him if I regain my memory. Perhaps we will gain another tool in our stand together.
But what is it we are supposed to be standing against, ultimately?
What is my purpose here?
For a long moment, the spirit did not move, his face still in his hands. He felt suddenly empty, mentally exhausted from his questioning. Like a hamster in an exercise wheel, he only ran himself in circles in his search for answers alone in the dark like this.
He longed for light, a clarifying light that would allow him to rest once in a while, away from the darkness. It seemed like, even when he was not Dueling, he struggled in a fight of another kind, a battle with himself. He needed something to distract him from the questions and the doubts that plagued him, the fears that pressed at him in the quiet darkness when he did not have some immediate challenge to occupy him.
He glanced over at the alarm clock on the shelf of the bed's headboard. It was three in the morning. He wished that he could go for a walk or something but he did not have the ability to remove his energies too far from the Puzzle, which currently rested in the bed with Yugi. Sleeping with the rope or chain of the Puzzle around his neck was a habit Yugi had developed ages ago but now it was even more important, as it was the only way Yugi could think of to ensure that no one could steal it from him while he slept. The spirit briefly considered borrowing Yugi's body while his mind and spirit continued to sleep but he knew that doing so would rob him of the physical restoration that the body gained in this state. All he could do was bide his time. The morning would dawn soon enough.
Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!