"The Best of Mediocrity"

He isn't a diamond in the rough. No matter how much polish one could apply to him, at his core he would remain unchanged. He will always be uncouth, ever the eternal fool. Yuugi has forged him, to an extent, brought to surface whatever latent talent that may exist beneath that rough exterior.

Jounouchi will never be anything but mediocre.

Given time and practice, he may have proven himself to be among the best duelists in the world. Among is us he is merely lucky to be qualify. Jounouchi will always trail behind Yuugi. He will always be fed the crumbs of the victor's triumph. Perhaps he has learned to be content with that.

If he has, then I must admit that small strength he has over me. Jounouchi knows. He knows that he will never wield the power of the gods. He knows that he will never bear the crushing weight of a nonexistent crown. I can't yet free myself from that.

Only in the darkest hours of dawn can I admit that to myself. I cannot free myself from the desire to defeat Mutou Yuugi. Perhaps I never will. If the knowledge he will never win ever teases Jounouchi during his duels, he never reveals it. He will meet every duel with the Game King as though he had an equal chance of winning. It grants his inevitable defeat a solemn sort of dignity that way.

Jounouchi will never be anything but honorable in his duels.

I will grant him that.

But Jounouchi will never be a true Duelist.

He can call forth pixel monsters as well as the next child playing card games. For him it will always be a game, a contest of will using pieces of paper with pretty markings. He is not deciding his fate with those cards.

Every time I duel, I place my fate with my Blue Eyes. Every duel is a another stepping stone laid before me on the road to my future. I will never shirk that duty I have accepted for myself and for Mokuba. I will forge my future and carve out the path to it with my own hands if necessary.

Jounouchi's path will lead wherever he takes it. He has the strength to do that. But his path is not that of a true Duelist. It never will be. It cannot. I will not allow it. In every tournament, he and I and the others will rise to the top. Yuugi will always walk the path of the true Duelist alone and ahead of all others. I will always strive to overtake him. Jounouchi will always struggle to find that path, never to glimpse it beneath his own feet.

I cannot allow him to see it.

I cannot allow him to become a true Duelist.

He must remain mediocre.

My reasoning for this is admittedly petty. If someone like Jounouchi Katsuya can become a true Duelist... What does that mean about the path I seek? He has known nothing like the price I must pay.

He is nothing like the rest of us. He has not been touched by fate or duty or desire to become a true Duelist. Jounouchi stumbled upon that path by accident and was quite surprised to find himself there. I'm certain of it. Without Mutou Yuugi he never would have become a duelist.

I must admit that I admire Jounouchi in my own contemptible way. I pity him also. To have come so far in this game of fate. Yet he can go no further. Yuugi claims to play this game on behalf of a forgotten spirit who wishes to find the chains of his fate and use them to bind himself together. I play this game to break the chains of fate. But why does Jounouchi play? Why does he duel?

Why do I duel?

Why do I persist in challenging that which I will never conquer?

What is the worth of my dragons if I continue to defile them with my defeats?

He forces me to ask these questions. His very presence forces me to question something once resolute and unshakable. Mutou Yuugi shattered my path. Jounouchi Katsuya refuses to let me reshape it. The braying jackass. The frightened dog nipping at people's heels. A pathetic, bragging little boy who insists in annoying those above his status. The worthless little cheerleader tugging on Yuugi Moutu's shirt sleeve, begging to join the real game.

He will never be a duelist! He cannot! If he is a duelist, a true Duelist, then what am I? What have I spent my life becoming? I have dedicated my life to destroying my weaknesses, erasing them from existence.

Jounouchi succeeds in his duels not in spite of his weaknesses, but because of them. His very human weaknesses allow him to duel with Yuugi. His shallow pride. His unwarranted desire to win. His never ending, never ceasing drive to continue despite defeat.

I will never be able to respect his strength. But... perhaps...

I can admire his weaknesses.