Author's Note: Regular non-italics indicate Bakura's thoughts; italics surrounded by slashes like /this/ indicates Ryou's part of the conversation. I think you can guess who's in charge here…
Mmmmm. You know, little host, sometimes you come up with the most peculiar ways to pass the time. I mean, really; a trip to the local museum? Feh. Don't you get enough of dust and bones, living with your father's obsession with rifling the tombs of the dead?
/My father doesn't rob tombs. He's an archaeologist, a historian, not a--/
Careful, boy. We're getting along fairly well today; you wouldn't want to spoil that with an unkind word.
/…I wouldn't call grabbing control like that 'getting along'. You could have said something first./
Why would I want to do that? And besides, you're the one who fell asleep on the train. I merely picked up where you left off and allowed you to continue sleeping. Thoughtful of me, wasn't it? Anyway, trains are such lovely places to acquire a little extra spending money… people lose things all the time on trains, don't they? Wallets, stray bills loose in their purses, the occasional credit card… Your fingers are very deft when I'm in control. We did well this morning.
/We stole over 30,000 yen/
Yes; a good start for the day, though I suspect we can do better if we stroll around the platform at lunchtime... Oh, stop with the guilt, will you? Did I hurt anyone? Did I shove any hapless bodies to a messy death on the tracks? Did I knife even ONE person? No. No souls stolen, no lives lost, and we're quite solvent. You should count your blessings, little host; the sun is shining, spring is in the air, and I haven't shed a drop of blood this morning, not even once. How nice.
What? Don't you want to eat lunch? I'm not the one who left without bringing any extra cash along.
Oh, don't sulk. It doesn't become you, and it gives us both a headache. You wanted to see this exhibit, so let's go.
Must you continually hum that abominable tune in the back of your mind? It's getting quite annoying.
/I can't help it, it's stuck in my head--/
No, it's stuck in OUR head, and I've had about enough. –there. You didn't know I could do that, did you?
/…..there's a dagger sticking out of my Soul Room's wall…../
--but no more annoying tune, is there? Much better.
/Are Soul Room walls supposed to bleed like that/
Deal with it; a little blood never hurt anybody. Now shut up for a bit, there are guards—
/Those aren't guards, they're Docents. Museum guides. You need to get in one of the tour groups, and –will you STOP looking for weapons! I told you, those aren't guards/
Not guards? Don't be more of an ass than nature made you, there are always guards where ever there are valuables on display—ahah. Video surveillance and those pesky little electronic eye things; I see them now. And there are the guards. Uniforms make them so much easier to spot. Did you know, little host, how few people wore anything resembling a uniform in centuries past? Identical clothing was a rare thing. Badges, now; I have quite a distaste for badges. I once spent a few enjoyable weeks showing that distaste to the authorities back in Khefer, I remember, after they decided to put a little real effort into hunting me down…
/Urgh. You—carved them into their-- That's disgusting/
Yes, but it got the point across.
/…….We'd better get in line. Please don't eviscerate anybody today, okay? Or steal anybody's souls, or steal ANYTHING ELSE… never mind. You will if you feel like it, won't you? You always do. I guess that's better than killing./
Hmph. You're learning. Oh look, it's a grade-school group; let's join them, shall we?
So cute. Don't worry, I won't harm a hair on their precious little heads. What would be the profit in that? And we're here to look at the exhibits, aren't we? Heh. Such darling children, so trusting. Perhaps we can give them a bit of an education today… I'll bet you were a lovely child, my host, with that angelic white hair of yours and such wide eyes… delectable.
/I have a name, you know./
Why yes, I do know; I stole it, didn't I?
But don't worry; I only steal things I value.
I think that used to be mine.
/What? That bracelet? The one with the, um, what ARE those figures doing on it—oh, they're—um./
Yes, that one…..
/Oh. Oh dear. You're not going to try to--/
Not now, no. But we'll be making a trip back here in a few days or so—what's mine is MINE. I'm so glad we came, aren't you? What's that tag say? 'Early Etruscan work, excavated at—' Utter rot. I picked up that little trinket in what would now be called Mesopotamia, I suppose. It was one of a pair; I wonder what happened to the other one? Hmph. My host of the time wore them for nearly two decades before he took an arrow in the lung. Nasty way to die. See? There are always guards.
/What were you trying to steal when he got shot/
Nothing, for once; we were quite well off. That time it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; my host had started out as a minor little thief of sorts—oh yes; the Ring often fell into those kinds of hands one way or another—and I had built him up into quite a… gang leader? Yakuza boss? Something like that, without all the sweating and bloodless political maneuvering that goes on these days. One can make so much more of a statement with a little violence, don't you think?
Don't wince so; I was merely answering your question. Anyway… Yes. The fool had a tendency to drink too much when I allowed it, and one night he stumbled into the wrong alley while I was sleeping, and—well. As I said, wrong place and wrong time; he'd strayed into territory where we were not welcome. A lucky thing it was for me that I was secure in the Ring while he was busy drowning in his own blood... and what a lovely moment it was when his killer looted my ex-host's body and tried on the necklace he had been wearing…
What? Don't you think he deserved avenging? He HAD been murdered, after all. I was quite fond of him in my own way.
Don't worry, little host; if anybody kills you, I'll see to it that they die in a very memorable and creative fashion—I've always wanted to try out the Norse blood-eagle. I haven't had such an innocent-looking face in centuries and I value it. Oh, and I like you, you know; I do. You have potential.
/……Let's just look at the rest of the exhibit, okay/
I don't believe this.
/What? What's wrong? It's just mummies. I wouldn't think that you would be one to be bothered by mummies…/
Feh, of course not. However… not to sound repetitious, but I believe I've found something else that used to be mine.
Oh yes. That one right there, to the left. Akhi-Jafar, that was my host's name. Can't say that the eons have treated him well… He was of good family, and I spent nearly four decades deep in court politics when we were together, Akhi and I. Hah; well met. I wonder what he'd think of his new tomb? Glass and steel and the finest climate-controlled display case; better than gold, almost.
/How can you tell? That it's him, I mean, it's… all shriveled up and everything, even with the wrappings. And it wasn't even in a pyramid, just a mastabah. Don't tell me you recognize the face--/
Don't be absurd. It's the resonance; can't you feel it, echoing from the Ring? It's not the first time I've seen my remains before, after all… There was even a time that I used to wear the bones of a former host's fingers around my neck; it amused me for some reason. Well, you don't need to worry about my wanting to steal that. I have no use for corpses, unless they're worth looting. The school-children seem to think it's interesting, though… I think I'll give them a little thrill. Let's see—
Heh. Heh heh.
That was amusing; look at them go. I wonder how long it'll take your 'Docents' to notice that one of their displays is now making a rude gesture? Don't sound so surprised; there was just enough of a connection to the Ring left for me to manipulate my old bones, no more.
/I cannot believe you just did that/
Whyever not? And don't try to tell me you didn't find it funny too; I could hear you. As I said, you have potential, my little innocent. Wasn't that fun? And no-one was hurt at all, not even my ancient host's corpse. I can be something other than homicidal on occasion if I feel like it, you know.
Now; let's see what else this collection of dusty relics has for us to s—oh. Oh, now here's an old friend… Do you know what this is?
/Of course; it's famous in Egyptology circles. The Papyrus of Ani, translated by Budge, with the Negative Confessions. I think this is a reproduction, though, because the original is in the-- What are you doing/
Checking my tally. Let's see….. 'Hail, Usekh-nemmt, who comest forth from Anu, I have not committed sin.' Mmph; don't make me laugh. 'Hail, Hept-khet, who comest forth from Kher-aha, I have not committed robbery with violence.' Been there, done that, did it again since I liked it. 'Hail, Fenti, who comest forth from Khemenu, I have not stolen.' Ditto. 'Hail, Am-khaibit, who comest forth from Qernet, I have not slain men and women.' Ditto again… Ah; here's one I still need to do: 'Hail, Neha-her, who comest forth from Rasta, I have not stolen grain.' Somehow I've never gotten around to robbing a grainery of its actual contents, just the gold stored there. Too bulky, really; I've always preferred to deal in gold or jewels, since stolen goods have to be stored as well as sold. I suppose, though, I could manage a few hundred kilos of rice some evening when we don't have anything else to do… I wonder what your dear father would say if he came home one day to find that in your kitchen?
/Wait a minute. 'Checking your tally'? You're… going through the Confessions? I mean, you're already dead, but you haven't, um…/
…haven't had my heart weighed against a feather in the Hall of Ma'at, failed, and been devoured by Ammut? Been justified, or rather failed to have been? Don't make me laugh; it's all lies. No, but every now and then I like to check off the list; I know I've missed a few here and there…
What? Even I have to have a hobby or two. Now, where was I?
You do that a lot, do you know? It makes me laugh.
Hmmmm… 'I have not purloined offerings', done that, 'I have not stolen the property of God', which one, I wonder? Never mind, that one's covered. 'I have not uttered lies', done and quite well done, too; 'I have not carried away food'-- just last week, wasn't it?
/--what? Oh, right, lunch--/
Yes, then, and of course many times before. Starvation teaches one the value of a meal; once you've died of it, you'll do almost anything to avoid being hungry again. Not that you'd know that; have you ever been really hungry, boy? Ever felt your body—or your host's, at any rate—wither in flesh from lack of food, like a dying flower? Not a good way to die. Even an arrow in the lung is better.
Where was I? Ah—' I have not uttered curses,' oh, but I have, and very effective they were too; 'I have not lain with men', mmm, yes… and how deeply you blush, my little innocent; charming. Don't worry, I'll see to your education sooner or later… 'I have made none to weep'; often, I'm sure. 'I have not eaten the heart'-- Damn, another one I need to take care of. Or does cannibalism not appeal to you? It was out of date by my time embodied, but I remember tales of fierce warriors feasting on the hearts of their foes to gain their strength…
…but then again, perhaps that's what I do, here, inside you. What do you think?
You're being very quiet. I can feel you feeling, horrified and shrinking away from me, even though there's nowhere to go. That's why I like you so, you know; you feel so deeply. It's like a feast, wrapping myself around you and drinking in your sorrow and rage and regret; lovely, after sensory deprivation alone in the Ring.
Even pain is better than nothing.
But it could be so much better, if you'd just let yourself feel with me, blend with me, be with me, my host… Feel my anger, feel my rage and hate and longing… like love, almost, as sweet and intoxicating as stolen kisses in the dark… We could feast together. And then perhaps one day we'd have the Pharaoh's heart on a plate. For lunch. Wouldn't that be nice?
So quiet. I've frightened you; I can taste it, like honey-mead and copper… ah. I will never starve while I am with you.
Never mind. Back to the list.
'I have not attacked any man', 'I am not a man of deceit', 'I have not stolen cultivated land'-- Oddly enough, another omission, and I'm not sure how to remedy that one. Land fraud, maybe? Whatever. 'I have not been an eavesdropper', 'I have not slandered', 'I have not been angry without just cause'—just cause? I could argue that one, but never mind. 'I have not debauched the wife of any man', oh yes I have… another area for education. What an interesting future you have before you, wouldn't you say? Don't worry, you'll enjoy it, I promise you—and so will they.
Well; that was an interesting reaction… Yes; potential.
Mmmm, what's next? I've never been sure about this one: 'I have not polluted myself'; drugs, wine, what? We'll say 'probably' and leave it at that. And then we get into, what? Terrorist activities, done that, blasphemy, done that, violence and strife, ditto, witchcraft against the king… any chance I can get. And then there's all that rot about stealing the cakes of the dead and so forth; no. That's one I haven't done—why? Because I'm no fool; curses are curses, and the dead can be quite vengeful.
I should know, shouldn't I?
And last of all: 'I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.' Hm; no, haven't done that. And I'm not quite certain where to start in these modern times; temples don't keep herds for sacrifice anymore, do they? Sacred cows. I suppose perhaps I could find a Christian live diorama later this year at that winter holiday of theirs, the one with the manger and the animals, and—
/…you know, that's really awful./
Hah! Silent during my talk of cannibalism, but you'll speak up over a little cattle-mutilation, will you? You eat steak; I've tasted it.
/Why do you do this? Those are the Negative Confessions, you're supposed to try NOT to do them, aren't you/
Fool. Why do you think?
/I don't know. I don't know why you're telling this to me at all. I don't understand you--/
I think you do, little host. I think you do. Because I am lost and you are lost with me—do you think that the doors of Heaven will open for you and your innocence, with your soul full of me? I like you, boy. We're more alike than you think—or do you really believe that the Ring came to you by chance? You may howl and plead with me when I threaten your friends, but I remember how you kept silent when I took care of those lackwit louts that used to give you such trouble; I think some part of you enjoyed that, I really do.
/You're wrong. I never wanted you to do that to them. You're wrong. We're NOT the same, you're like, like a wave that swallows me up and drowns me--/
…and you're the shore I beat against. Every river has its shore. 'Hail, Ari-em-ab-f, who comest forth from Tebu, I have never stopped the flow of water…' I forgot about that one. Irrigation canals, invading the land, permeating it and drenching it... No life without water, you know; even the drowned are more alive than sterile stone. Stop struggling; I'm not going to hurt you. You're safe in your Soul Room, aren't you?
/…and the wall is still bleeding…/
Do you think mine never bleed? They have been bleeding for three thousand years… Why do you think I enjoy the taste of blood so much? Sometimes it's all I've had to drink, there in the dark. No, listen to me, little host, little innocent, little boy; you are neither so helpless nor so innocent as you might think. Tell me: do you ever wonder what we'll do with your life after I have my revenge?
/You'll never have your revenge. Yuugi——the Pharaoh will--/
We'll see, won't we? Never mind. The point is this: Once I have a host, I am with him until death—his death, not mine. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, as I believe the saying goes. We will always be together, you and I, and win or lose, I am here. I can take you high or bring you low, little one, and I much prefer the heights to the depths; do you think I'll settle for being in the background forever? Even if this lifetime doesn't give me what I want, I am with you, just like I was with Akhi-Jafar until he died.
/I know. I… remember with you. I remember so much with you. I don't want to, but I do, sometimes, especially when you dream…../
Do you? I didn't know that—
/Yes. Do you ever dream my dreams/
/Are you sure/
Yes. Shut up, Ryou.
/You never call me by name./
This is a pointless conversation. Let's go on, shall we? Perhaps we should try to catch up with the gradeschoolers and teach them another lesson or two, one about how children were treated three thousand years ago—
/You like to think that I'm like you, but you don't want to think that you're like me, do you/
What are you—shut up, I said. Or shall I show you where else I can aim my knives? I have an endless supply…
/You said it yourself, though… I'm the shore you beat against. There's just as much shore as there is river. I'll always be with YOU, too, as long as I live./
Shut UP. You're ruining my good mood. And might I add, the phrase 'as long as I live' is dependent solely on my good will. Your mind would find it hard put to stay unfractured if I decided to tear it apart, piece by piece by agonizing piece, little fool. So shut up about shores and rivers; we're not in Egypt.
/We're not? Look around you./
/And if you tore my mind to pieces, how long would my body last? You said you only steal things you value; how long would it take you to find a new host? Especially with the Pharaoh and Yuugi and the rest, knowing about you and the Ring--/
Be silent, boy—
/You're with me, and I'm with you, at least for this lifetime. Why don't you stop bleeding? Nobody can bleed forever--/
I. Said. For you. To shut up.
/You're very quiet./
I don't feel like talking. Be silent and look at your preserved corpses and dusty scraps of dirty papyri. You wanted to see this trash, so see it. Middens and waste, all of it… nothing but the dregs of a dead time, long gone.
/If you want, I could take control—you could--/
--go to my Soul Room and let you run things? Hardly. I—what's that?
/More of the Papyrus of Ani. 'O heart of my being, do not rise up against me as witness, do not oppose me in the tribunal, do not rebel against me before the guardian of the scales—' My father used to read Budge's translation to me when I was little./
Really? Interesting; telling your child about the Devourer of Souls as a bedtime story—no wonder you have so many nightmares about being eaten alive.
/…I thought you didn't dream my dreams…/
…………..Well. You were correct about one thing, I suppose, little host: We are stuck with one another.
/Yes, I suppose we are./
And I've had enough of Egypt for today. Corpses and dry bones and dust… enough old blood to choke a desert. What shall we have for lunch?
Yes… Heh. You do amuse me sometimes. Steak it is. Sacred cows… But not here, not anywhere near here; I want to try that restaurant over on the East side of the city, the one your idiot father mentioned last night-- After all, we can afford it, can't we?
/I suppose so, all things considered... Why there, though/
Why not? It's by the river. And I feel like watching the waves for a little while.
/'Hail, Ari-em-ab-f, who comest forth from Tebu, I have never stopped the flow of water…'?/
Ysabet's Notes: If anybody out there can figure out the purpose of this fic, I'd like them to tell me, because frankly, I'm baffled. Poof! There it was, boom on the screen, from my fingers to the keyboard. Dunno. The 'Negative Confessions', by the way, are real, as is the Papyrus of Ani, a religious document containing instructions about how to deal with entering the Afterlife. Look it up; it's interesting reading.