Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers. The world of Reirinsei and all related characters and concepts belong to Lunnaei. Dragon's just havin' fun. We get no monetary benefit from this. Our benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Otherworld I: The Door"
by Lunnaei and DragonDancer5150

Chapter 16 – The Seven

Atemu watched anxiously while Rishid laid gentle hands on Mokuba's shoulders, firmly holding him back as Jonouchi, Bakura, Anzu and Honda pulled in around Malik, staring in apprehension at the bag as Malik held it open. Malik met their eyes, the tone of his voice earnest. "If any of you don't want to do this, I will gladly take your place." Atemu hid a grin when a glare from Kaiba kept Mokuba from speaking up to make the same offer.

Jonouchi studied him for a moment, then shook his head and turned to catch Atemu's eye. "Told ya once already that you're not leavin' any of us behind. Now, I won't speak for the others, but . . . Duelist's Honor, Atemu. I swear you still got my word on that." With that, he turned again and jammed his hand into the bag. He paused, an odd look on his face, and pulled his hand back out, the Eye gripped in his fist. He grimaced at it, muttering softly. "Hn. Guess it's you an' me now, huh?" He stepped back.

Honda gazed at Jonouchi with a grimace of his own. "The Eye? Dude, you sure you want that?"

Jonouchi rolled his eyes. "No. But I figured whatever was the first thing I touched was what I got. Why? You want it?" He held it out.

Honda shuddered, pushing Jonouchi's hand back. "Not a chance, man."

"We do not choose the Millennium Item that we wield," Ishizu put in, leaving Rishid's side at the edge of the dais to step up beside Malik. "It is the Item that chooses its wielder." Catching and holding Anzu's gaze, she reached into the bag. "I had more than one vision over time of you wearing this. Now I understand why." She held out her hand.

Anzu swallowed and took the Necklace from the woman's palm. "Thanks . . . I think." She gave Ishizu a weak grin, then stepped back by Jonouchi, thumb brushing over the Eye of the necklace's centerpiece as it rested across her fingers.

Honda exchanged looks with Bakura, then huffed a deep sigh. "Guess I'm next." He closed his eyes and held his breath, darting his hand in and back out of the bag before he could consider which Item he was grabbing. He came away with the Scale.

Bakura stood before Malik and the bag, gazing at the remaining Item, the Millennium Ring, his expression unreadable. Yugi slipped up next to him, and Bakura jumped when Yugi touched his arm.

"Bakura-kun . . . you know that you don't have to do this. Namu-kun has offered to take your place." He looked to Malik for confirmation.

Malik nodded. "On my life, Bakura, I'll take the Ring. I'd be glad to. You don't have to deal with any of this any more. Believe me, if anyone understands what you've been through . . . " Bakura looked up at him, and Malik held his eyes, his own intense. "Let me take your place, Bakura. Let me take the Millennium Ring."

"If it will let you," Rishid reminded him quietly. Malik threw him an unhappy glare.

Bakura gazed at the Ring for a moment, then slowly shook his head, meeting Malik's gaze again. "Thank you, Namu-kun, truly . . . but I think Rishid-san is right. It won't let you. Not a day has passed in the last few since Battle City that a part of me has not longed for it back, like a missing limb." He grimaced, as though he desperately wished it were otherwise. Still, slowly, he reached in, then pulled his hand back out of the bag, fist closed on the hoop of the Ring. He gazed at the Item for a moment, glanced up at Malik with a small, sad grin of apology, then turned to Atemu. "I . . . I wouldn't have come, wouldn't have made it this far, if I didn't want to help, Atemu-san. Besides, I feel responsible too. I'm the one who was careless and spoke your name the first time back at the museum and released that demon to begin with. It's only right that I stand with the others to help you defeat him once and for all. And . . . and maybe . . . " His gaze fell to the Ring in his hand. "Maybe . . . put some demons of my own to rest in the process."

Atemu gazed back at him for a moment, almost too stunned to respond. Finally, he stepped up before Bakura, laying an ethereal hand on his shoulder. [Bakura . . . I cannot begin to imagine the fear you must be facing to show such courage. I am honored to have you at my side, my friend.]

Bakura smiled and nodded, his grip on the Ring tightening.

Jonouchi turned to Shadi. "Okay, so that's all straightened out – now what?"

"Pharaoh, go up to the upper dais and stand before the Door. The rest of you, place your Items into their slots in the Millennium Stone and then step up to join him."

Atemu nodded and went to his place at the center of the next dais, turning to watch Sugoroku stoop and slide his Key under one of the carven figure's hands.

Across from him, Kaiba had knelt to do the same with the Rod when Mokuba finally broke from Rishid, rushing to his brother's side. "Big-Brother!"

Kaiba turned and caught him, arms wrapping around the boy. He was either unaware in that moment or unconcerned that others were witnessing this rare display of affection as he held his little brother close, face burying into the boy's thick, black hair. Then, Kaiba pushed him back enough to catch his eye. "Mokuba . . . " His voice seemed to fail him.

Mokuba sniffed, tears in his eyes, but he nodded, his voice soft but steady. "I know, Big-Brother."

Rishid came over, crouching down on a knee next to the two. "Kaiba Seto, as the . . . the eldest son – " He paused, glancing over his shoulder, then continued at an encouraging nod from Malik. "As the eldest son of the Ishtahl clan, I assure you that your little brother will be in safe hands. We will care for him as one of our own until your return."

Malik snorted softly. "No, Rishid . . . better than that," he added with a wry grin.

Kaiba looked between the two of them, then nodded. "I will hold you to that." He pushed to his feet, and Mokuba reluctantly allowed Rishid to lead him back to Malik and Ishizu.

Ishizu laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Kaiba Mokuba, if you are anything like your brother, you have a power of your own as well. Perhaps you will lend us that power, help us with our part on this side of the Door to support your brother and the others."

"You can perform some of the rituals with us if you want," Malik added with a nod.

"Me? Power?" Mokuba looked back and forth between them in disbelief, then grinned. "You bet I will! Anything for Big-Brother and the others." He turned to stand with the Ishtahls. Kaiba's eyes narrowed slightly, but then he seemed to reconsider – or perhaps recall something – and merely nod, saying nothing.

Yugi was the last to set his Item in the Stone. He pulled the chain over his head and held the Puzzle cradled in both hands for a moment, gazing at it, before moving to place it in its spot, but then he hesitated. With an expression of concern creasing his brow, he glanced up at Atemu, then turned to Shadi. "Wait a minute. Other Me can only escape the confines of the Puzzle if I am in direct possession of it. If I set it down, let it go . . . won't that pull him back inside?"

Atemu had been wondering the same thing, and now everyone was turning to Shadi with questioning frowns.

Shadi shook his head. "The power of the Millennium Stone will sustain him, Mutou Yugi. Do not be afraid to set the Millennium Puzzle in its place."

Atemu watched Yugi place the Puzzle, then shift to watch Atemu in turn as he slowly sat back. Atemu felt something change in the pattern of his energy, but he remained standing in his spot at the center of the gathering on the upper dais. He and Yugi both breathed reflexive sighs of relief, then Yugi joined the group on the dais, readjusting the straps of his backpack nervously. Again, Atemu turned to Shadi. [What's next?]

"When you are ready, speak your name to the Door. Your true name, Pharaoh, is the final key to open that portal."

Before Atemu could do so, Mokuba spoke up with a shout. Bouncing under Rishid's hands once again on his shoulders, he waved at the group. "Good luck, guys! Beat that demon for all of us!"

Malik nodded. "Know that our whole clan is behind you."

[Thank you,] Atemu told them, his tone heartfelt. [All of you.] He turned to his companions on the dais. [Is everyone ready?]

Honda chuckled ruefully. "Is anyone ever 'ready' for something like this? Seriously?"

Jonouchi punched his arm, assuring Atemu. "Don't listen to him. Of course, we're ready."

"Yep," Bakura chimed in.

"Go on, lad. We'll be fine."

Atemu met Sugoroku's eyes for a moment, then Anzu's, Kaiba's, and finally Yugi's.

Yugi grinned at him. "Let's do this, Other Me." He held up his fist.

Atemu chuckled along with Jonouchi and Honda, knowing that what Yugi offered was actually a gang-ish gesture he had learned from Jonouchi. He returned the grin, tapping the knuckles of his fist against Yugi's. [Together.]

Anzu nodded in spite of her fear. "That's right. There's nothing the group of us can't face together. Right, guys?" She held out her hand, palm down.

"Yeah, together!" Honda and Jonouchi chorused, adding their hands.

"Yup!" Yugi put his in, completing the pinwheel formation.

Atemu imagined he could almost see the black-marker drawing across the backs of their hands. He reached in and laid his hand to align atop Yugi's. [Everyone, let's do this,] he said, bringing things full circle with the repetition of Yugi's words. He glanced up to include the remaining three. Sugoroku and Bakura had no idea what they were doing but could guess well enough the depth of the gesture's meaning to their friends and grandson. Kaiba was looking on with an unreadable expression on his face before he shifted his attention to the Door without a word.

The quintet broke up, and the group shifted to fan out a little behind and around Atemu, except for Yugi who remained at the spirit's side. Atemu met his eyes, his own full of appreciation for his partner's boundless strength and support. He set his right hand on his partner's shoulder, further acknowledging their solidarity, then raised his eyes and his left hand to the panel of rock before them.

[ATEMU!]

The word rang through the chamber with a power that stunned even him, and he watched with growing dread in spite of himself as light flashed across the Door, crackling gold energy filling every carving and crevice. The seam down the center broke open, the halves of the panels sliding apart at an alarming rate. Blinding golden light washed from the opening, swallowing their senses.

And all consciousness.


To Be Continued in "Otherworld II: To the Winds"

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