Episode Nine and Three Quarters
CHAPTER ONE – THE OWL
Leather pants: check. Light blue sleeveless shirt: check. Boots: check. Collar: check. Various bracelets, armbands, belts, and other baubles: check. Millennium Puzzle…
Yuugi Mutou paused in his inventory check, whirling around to his study desk, where he normally kept his precious Puzzle on the rare occasion he was not wearing it. There was a rather noticeable gap where it was supposed to be that sent the young teen from Domino High School running about his room, checking every dark space and every pile of junk. After about a half hour of searching he plunked down in the middle of the floor, eyes wider than normal.
"Where is it!" he exclaimed, trying not to panic… well, any more than he was already.
His frantic scrambling must have been louder than he thought, for his mother entered the room a moment later. She cocked a confused eyebrow at him, tilting her head to the side.
"Yuugi… what are you doing…?" she asked… only to be nearly tackled by her son as he sprang up, grabbing onto her.
"'Kaa-san! Have you seen my Puzzle? Please tell me you've see it!" he exclaimed, frantic.
His mother sweatdropped, shaking her head in exasperation… before holding up the golden, upside-down-pyramid-shaped pendant.
Yuugi sprang up, snatching the Puzzle back and practically cuddling it. "Why did you have it?"
"You asked me to give it to your grandfather to have the chain fixed, remember?" she deadpanned. "And I cleaned it up while I had it; Yuugi, that thing was filthy. Try to take better care of it."
She gave him a soft smile before she left, and Yuugi looked down at the Puzzle in his hands, noticing that it did seem a bit shinier than usual. He shrugged – what did it matter as long as it was in one piece? – and slipped the chain around his neck, turning his thoughts inward as he cleaned up after his mad scrambling a little bit.
While his body moved, his consciousness found itself in his Soul Room, a bright and cheerful room filled with toys that reflected his inner innocence. He bounced up from the floor, opening the door and revealing a hall separating the way to the other door in his soul. This door seemed to be covered in vines, as if anchoring it to him by means that were not normal. The door itself was made of stone, with a golden eye design, same as the one the Puzzle bore.
Yuugi grinned privately, reaching up and knocking on the door… and frowned when he did not get an answer.
"Mou hitori no boku…?" he asked, pushing the door open gently… only to be hit in the face with an overpowering smell of bleach. Yuugi crinkled his nose in disgust, trying not to gag as he set foot into the other Soul Room… only to be dragged out a moment later by a taller, older looking version of himself.
"Gah!" his other gasped. "I'm never going to get that smell out!"
Yuugi blinked, perplexed, before he started giggling uncontrollably. His other sweatdropped.
"I'm glad you find it funny…" he said dryly, rolling his eyes as that only sent Yuugi into a fresh case of the giggles.
"I-I'm sorry, mou hitori no boku," he finally said after a moment, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "I didn't think she'd clean the Puzzle, not to mention with bleach…"
Yuugi grinned up at his other as the older man shook his head, amused. His other… the spirit of a three thousand year old pharaoh, preserved through the magic of the Millennium Puzzle as well as and other forces, as they had found out just recently. Yuugi and his companions had gotten trapped in a role-playing Game of Darkness, playing out the events of ancient times, of when his other was pharaoh and the conflicts that ultimately led to his death. Now, though… now that they knew who the man that had become his closest and first friend over the years was…
"Ahh… Atemu-kun…" Yuugi began, using the pharaoh's real name, "I'm… uhh… I'm gonna talk to 'Jii-chan… ask him if we can go to Egypt… so…"
The pharaoh smiled gently, though his eyes were sad as he reached a hand out, resting it on Yuugi's shoulder.
"I understand, aibou," he said softly. "Thank you."
Yuugi sighed softly, standing up in the real world and dusting his hands off, having returned a pile of dirty laundry to its proper place.
It's not fair… he thought to himself as he started toward the kitchen for breakfast. Why… do I have to kill my own friend all over again…?
He ate his cornflakes in silence, staring off at nothing and everything at once. He did not know for sure what would happen when they reached Egypt, just that he knew he would have to lay Atemu to rest. The thought did not sit well with him. After everything that happened, was the pharaoh not entitled to have his own life? It just did not seem very fair to him… they beat the monsters, the demons, the evil gods… and that was it? Death? Some reward…
Yuugi got up, depositing his empty bowl in the sink, hardly remembering when he ate the contents. If it was something he would have to do… well, he supposed he did not have a choice. He would just have to prepare himself ahead of time; he could not have second thoughts when the time came…
He bounded down the stairs with his usual amount of energy a moment later, down to where the main part of the Kame Game Shop was. His grandfather was behind the counter as always… only he was reading something on a strange looking sheet of paper. It was brown and rough, almost like parchment…
"Morning, 'Jii-chan!" he called, and Sugoroku Mutou looked up, folding the parchment and stuffing it away, trying to conceal the troubled look on his face with a smile.
"Ah, Yuugi-kun," he began, "going out with your friends today?"
Yuugi mentally frowned; was his grandfather trying to hide something from him? Why would he… he had no reason to…
"Yeah," he said, deciding to ignore it for now. He knew his grandfather would tell him when he was ready. "We're going to hang out at the arcade; there's only a little more than a month before school starts again, so…"
Sugoroku smiled, chuckling softly. "Understood, but tomorrow you're helping me here at the shop."
"Okay!" Yuugi exclaimed, already starting on his way out, before he stopped. "Uh… 'Jii-chan, can I…?" He faltered, biting his lip. Oh… he could not do this right now… "Never mind; I'll talk to you later! Bye!"
Sugoroku waved to his grandson until he left the store and was out of sight… before the troubled look returned to his face. He reached back under the counter, pulling out the parchment he had been reading. His eyes scanned over it again and again, but the message still did not change, no matter how much he wanted it to.
"Dumbledore, what are you plotting…?" he murmured softly…
Yuugi bounded into the arcade, all thoughts of what his grandfather may have been hiding and thoughts of loosing his other half gone for the moment as he was surrounded by the beeps and whistles of the machines around him. He headed straight for the back of the room, where he knew his friends would be… and was surprised to find the atmosphere rather grim. Ryou Bakura was there, shaking his head sadly, as Katsuya Jounouchi nursed a rather large bruise on his face.
Eyes widening, Yuugi went right over to his best friend, looking at the damage. "What happened, Jounouchi-kun?"
"Kaiba happened," Hiroto Honda explained, returning with a pack of ice. He tossed it to the blonde, who immediately slapped it on over the bruise.
"It was his own fault," Anzu Mazaki, the only girl of the group, huffed. "It's what he gets for sending out prank letters."
"How many times do I have to say it?" Jounouchi exclaimed. "I'm not the one that sent them out! Blame some other whacko!"
Yuugi blinked. "What letters?"
Ryou held up an envelope and letter… both made of the same material as the note Yuugi's grandfather had been reading before he left the Game Shop. He frowned, reaching for both; they apparently had been Ryou's, for the envelope bore his address… in a very odd manner:
Mr. R. Bakura
The Only Bedroom in the Apartment
54 Ringmaster Drive, Apt 601
Yuugi blinked; well, that was certainly odd… but what made it even more so was the metallic green lettering: neat and precise English words.
"I already know Jounouchi didn't do this," he announced. "I mean… you guys didn't see his last score in English…"
"Thanks a lot, Yuugi-kun," Jounouchi grumbled.
He grinned encouragingly at his best friend, moving on to the letter that had been included:
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary
books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
We are aware that you are older than the standard age for
first years, but you will have to start out at year one regardless. We
apologize in advance.
Yuugi blinked, looking over the included list of equipment: a wand, a cauldron, books with strange titles… He shook his head after a moment.
"Now I know Jounouchi-kun definitely didn't do this," he stated.
"Thanks," Jounouchi replied dryly, waving off in the general direction of the entrance. "Now go tell Kaiba that."
Yuugi shook his head again, giving his friend an encouraging pat. "Oh, don't worry about it, Jounouchi-kun."
"Yeah, we've got more important things to worry about," Honda agreed. "Like getting to Egypt and stuff."
Yuugi grew quiet at that, and Anzu clunked Honda over the head with her purse, admonishing him for bringing it up. Ryou gave Yuugi a sympathetic look, and unconscious hand coming up to grab something around his neck… that was not there. He grimaced slightly, lowering his hand.
"I know how you feel, Yuugi-kun," he said softly. "'What will it be like without the other me?' I used to think that all the time, but now that he's gone…" He shook his head. "I know he said he was Zork, and I know he was evil… but I can't help but wonder if the other me was possessed like he possessed me. I can't help but think… that it wasn't really his fault."
"Not his fault?" Honda echoed. "Bakura-kun, the other you was crazy. He wanted to take over Mokuba's body, for Christ sake!"
"Honda!" Anzu shouted, whacking him over the head again, bending his only spike of hair. Ryou rolled his eyes, amused, and Yuugi just smiled as brightly as he could.
"Guys, it's okay. If… it's something I have to do… then I'll do it," he said… before adding mentally…
What other choice do I have…?
Yuugi came home late that night, entering through the back door as the store was closed. Him and his friends had enjoyed a long day together, ending with supper at Burger World. He yawned, making his way upstairs to the living area of the house. The lights were out… save for the one in the kitchen. Not overly concerned about it, he started for the bathroom to shower and get ready for bed.
"Yuugi-kun?" came his grandfather's voice, making him stop.
"'Jii-chan?" he asked, heading for the kitchen. Sugoroku was sitting at the table, his hands folded before him. He looked up at Yuugi as he entered, before nodding toward a parchment envelope resting innocently on the table.
Mr. Y. Mutou
The Bedroom Next to the Stairs
Kame Game Shop
Yuugi blinked in surprise, picking it up and turning it over in his hands. It felt a bit heavy, obviously from the folded pieces of parchment inside. On the back was an old-fashioned wax seal, with four animals surrounding an English "H".
"Ryou and Kaiba got one of these too," Yuugi said, frowning slightly at the look on his grandfather's face. "Do you know about it?"
Sugoroku nodded solemnly. "When I was younger than you, my parents traveled about quite a bit. We were in London for a few months when I received my letter; it helped us decide where to live for a while. I attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"So you're a wizard?" Yuugi asked, eyes wide as he tried to process that.
"No, not really," Sugoroku replied, smiling. "I was expelled in my fifth year; too involved with games than my studies."
Yuugi sweatdropped; why was he not surprised?
"In all seriousness," Sugoroku continued, his expression reflecting the gravity of what he had to say, "I kept in touch with some of my friends that I had at school. One of those… is Albus Dumbledore." He reached out, tapping the letter in Yuugi's hands. "The current headmaster of the school."
"So… why am I being invited to a school in London?" he asked, setting the envelope down.
"It has a lot to do with the Puzzle," Sugoroku admitted, leaning back. "And… why I can't let you go to Egypt."
It was rather subtle; if the Puzzle had not shone slightly, he probably would not have noticed. Either way, Sugoroku nodded respectfully, acknowledging the pharaoh's presence in place of his grandson's.
"I have a felling I want to hear this personally," Atemu began. "Why do you not wish for me to rest?"
Sugoroku sighed softly. "Personally? For a number of reasons; you may not notice, but it has been eating away at Yuugi. He says he knows that it's something that has to be done… but I know it won't be easy for him to accept it."
Atemu nodded solemnly; he was not blind… he knew it would hurt Yugi. However, he knew that hurt would help Yugi grow into a man. He knew he was a strong young man, someone that would surpass him one day, and maybe one day soon. If he was not allowed to rest, though…
"I might hold him back if I stay," he said aloud.
"You don't know that for sure," Sugoroku said. "You give him strength, support him; a pillar that he can stand on, as the priests of the past did for you." He sighed softly. "Also… Dumbledore does not wish for you to rest, not yet."
Atemu raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
Sugoroku shook his head. "Dumbledore works in strange ways. He's a brilliant man though, if a little odd. It was because of him…" He reached over, poking the Puzzle in the center. "That I found out about you."
Atemu frowned, tilting his head to the side. "You told Yuugi that you found me because you were seeking out a challenge."
"Yes, of course, but someone had to have told me about the greatest secret hidden under the sands of the desert," Sugoroku replied, amused. "Dumbledore approached me one day, told me about a great magical treasure hidden in what turned out to be your tomb. As you know, I headed out almost immediately with two other men that knew the desert."
Sugoroku paused a moment to sigh, thinking carefully before continuing, "When I returned to my hotel in Cairo, Dumbledore was there, explaining the apparition of you I had seen, and how your conflicts would need to be resolved."
"So… Dumbledore knew about me?" Atemu asked, curious. "Why didn't he try to help when we were going around trying to figure out who I was?"
"He knew of you," Sugoroku corrected. "He really knew about as much of you as we did; you could have been an important royal janitor for all we knew when you appeared."
Atemu snorted, shaking his head in amusement.
"Pharaoh," Sugoroku began again, his tone serious once more. "I don't know why Dumbledore still wants you around. But… I trust his judgment. If he wants you to stay around… it would be for a good reason."
Atemu gave him a serious look in turn. Still remaining alive… well, he could not say he was disappointed at the thought of still living, but his destiny was almost fulfilled. What it came down to was whether or not he was ready to pass on…
"I'll have to think about it," he said softly. "And talk with Yuugi as well."
Yuugi found himself looking up at the arrival and departure board at the Domino International Airport, feeling a bit overwhelmed. His plane was supposed to show soon, but he still felt a little edgy about it. This was his first time out of country, and alone to boot, going to a strange place under even stranger circumstances.
"No pressu— ack!"
Yuugi stumbled slightly, nearly loosing his grip on the small travel bag he had kept on him, the small tinkling of metal coming from within. He turned around, catching a flash of white hair.
"Bakura-kun?" he asked, eyes widening in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"Uhh…" Ryou began, "well… 'ya know, I've got some relatives… and… umm…"
Yuugi raised an eyebrow in amusement. "The school is real, you know."
"Oh, I know," Ryou replied quickly, shuffling his feet. "I know! I'm… just… uhh…"
"Wanna sit together on the plane?" Yuugi cut his stammering off, grinning. The other boy rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.