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Please remember: This is an AU. If you see anything you don't like, feel free to hit the back button on the browser. Come on, people, let's be mature. Constructive criticism is welcome. Flames will be doused by fire extinguishers. And as always, READ AND REVIEW!

The Hero

A Yu-Gi-Oh! Fanfic

Song: Michael Bolton – I Can Go The Distance (Hercules OST)

The sun seared the horizon in a golden line. Trumpets echoed faintly in the distance, carrying over the great stone walls and into the hills that rose beyond. Tawny rays struck the green and illuminated the leaves of a single oak tree on one hill called Farbough, setting it aflame with light—and into the eyes of one sleeping youth.

There was a slight squint from the sleeper, and Copenhagen blue eyes slowly opened. Behind veiling lashes, they gazed into the morning, and he roused himself into the waking world. A little stiff from his position sleeping against the tree, he stretched out his long limbs and slowly got up. As he bend down to tighten the straps of his sandals, he felt the ground vibrating at the thudding of hooves.

He looked up to see three chargers coming down the dirt road, their riders wearing bright togas and adorned with gold and silver amulets, headdresses and cuffs. They held tall poles upon which fluttered brilliant streaming banners emblazoned with ancient family insignias—great and powerful signature monsters of their noble families.

He watched them as they came up the road, heading North, for the city of Dulle, which lay just beyond the hills. He stared at them, with a strange sort of hunger in his eyes—not physical, but of a hunger for the place, which they possessed, riding jauntily to the City known for the most powerful Duelers the world over. For sure—they were headed for the Coliseum to participate in the tournament held by the Emperor.

Maybe it was something in those blue eyes—something deadly, that caught the riders mid-stride.

The white horse among the chargers, adorned in black armor with scarlet eyes on the horse's head, pulled to a stop as the rider saw him, sending the stallion rearing ferociously. The rider was a youth, armored in black and scarlet, honey blond hair fluttering in the wind like his banner—a great black dragon.

"You!" the rider said, not very much older than he was and sounding insulted as the horse tottered. "Why do you stare at us with such fire in your eyes?"

This elicited no response from the teen under the oak, and instead, those fearsome blue eyes only gleamed with more fire, and narrowed at the rider's words.

The golden-haired rider rode a few more steps towards him, gripping his banner. "Is that a challenge, commoner?"

The brown charger reared as his rider frowned. This rider was swathed in bronze, and his banner was that of a powerful man. He frowned at the black rider. "Jonouchi! What are you doing?"

"Don't you see?" the black rider answered, barely glancing back at him. "He so impudently challenges us! And as Duelers, we cannot let it pass! Even if he is some peasant in rags!"

Now, the final charger, which was black, and had a rider bedecked in red armor, stamped its hooves in place as its rider tutted impatiently. "We don't have time for this, Jou!"

"If we have time enough to wait for your grooming, Otogi, we have time for this," the black rider, Jonouchi, replied tartly. His horse shifted onto its side as he asked the youth, "What's your name?"

There was a pause. But the blue-eyed youth made no answer. He continued to glare darkly at the black rider, as though feeling him unfit to know his name. Jonouchi narrowed his eyes and his black headdress—a black dragon's head with red eyes—flashed in the morning sun. But the tall youth did not even flinch.

"Jonouchi!" the bronze rider was getting impatient. His horse stamped the ground.

"Not yet, Honda!" Jonouchi replied, frowning still at the youth. He thrust the banner suddenly at the teen, as though intending to spear him. The spear hissed through the air, but stopped within inches of the youth's face. Though the wind blew back the brown bangs, there was no reaction whatsoever from the youth. Instead, his look got deadlier than ever.

Jonouchi frowned and his horse back at step. "No mere peasant, then… If you come here to Dulle with such eyes, then I am sure that you intend on being in the Emperor's tournament. Shall I see you there instead, then?"

And he received a nod of assent. "Count on it," he muttered.

Honda, the bronze rider, said, "So he can talk…"

And at this the red rider Otogi said, "That's enough from the both of you. We have to make haste. The trumpets have already sounded, you know. I won't have any so-called fashionably late entrances from either of you, or I shall leave you." And with that, he reared his horse, green eyes gleaming. "Hey!" he pointed his banner at the youth beneath the tree. "I want to see you in the tournament, all right?"

And he galloped off. Honda turned his horse. "Jonouchi! Come on."

"Right." Jonouchi nodded and gave the teen a last glance. He and the bronze rider then left, their horses galloping full speed to the city gates.

The youth watched them with those intense eyes and clenched fist. On his fist shone a mythril ring with a strange crest—a white dragon. Nobles… Feeding prestige off their ancient names… Though without an ounce of real power to call their own… They're proud enough to display themselves in such a fashion, but are easily drawn to petty squabbles… I guess it's no different whether in the city or the province.

He looked over the hill. The Emperor's tournament. It's come at last. I've made it to Dulle. I guess that old man was right… I could do whatever I made my mind up to do.

He picked up his pack on the ground, and began to make his way to the city gates.

Dulle was like any other city in the empire in many ways, but had a number of oddities that made it stand out beyond the rest and gave it the shining distinction as the capital. It was actually a smaller metropolis than that of Genghar—the main city of the Southern province—and yet more densely populated than Mishin in the far East. Besides the fact that Dulle was where the great Pyramide of the Emperor lay—well into the Northernmost area of the city—it was also home to the most powerful fighters in the empire, for one very good reason.

Though many arenas are littered all over the empire, none of them compared to the colossal structure here in Dulle created solely for the emperor. Five acres of land were set aside for it, and all gleaming in white marble, decked in gold streamers and set with gold-topped pillars, it was beyond any doubt the biggest and most extravagant Duel Arena in the entire empire. It was called the Coliseum, and many a Dueler strove to cross its gates and gain an opportunity to combat before the majestic court of the Emperor.

Because of the Coliseum, many fighters came to make their homes around it and many merchants of armor, weapon and amulet settled around it, thus building Dulle itself, the fighter metropolis. Every day, there would be battles, but on some such occasions the Emperor himself would come, and the fights would become more drastic and deadly.

This was what Dulle became known for and for years, the people continued to go there in anticipation for the powerful battles of the Duelers.

Even from where he stood, just within the massive steel gates of the city, over the din of the merchants and the fighters and of trotting horses, he could see the Coliseum, and hear the desperate sounds of blasting and clashing metal. Behind the Coliseum was the peak of the Emperor's golden Pyramide.

For an instant, he was at a loss of what to do. He looked up and saw the streets filled with people, arguing with merchants or testing out armors and weapons, and looking for amulets—the rarer, the better. But many armor-clad horsemen were already making their way to the Coliseum, which seemed to be hogging up more space than usual—and that was saying something.

Puzzled, he took a few steps towards it and immediately felt something small bump into him. Looking down, he saw a little boy with long messy black hair wearing beggar's rags looking up at him with big brown eyes. "Sorry, mister!" he said, wide eyed at his great height.

He said nothing, but he saw the circlet on his head and said, "…a page?"

"Oh!" the little boy smiled proudly and patted his forehead encircled by the symbolic steel band. "Yes, I'm a page."

Mystified, he got on one knee to look at him better. "Aren't you a little young to be a page to a Dueler?"

"Hey!" The little one looked miffed. "I happen to be a very good page, you know! I know a lot of people in town! I can get the best of everything!"

"So where is your Dueler?" he asked. "Pages don't usually scamper on their own."

And now the little boy looked downcast. "…I…don't have one yet. No one would take me because they think I'm just a little kid."

"You are a little kid."

"I am now but I will be a Dueler too someday!" his eyes were bright and determined. "You'll see! I'll best them all! I'll become a page first so I could watch how they do it. I want to be on the Coliseum ground and see the battles first-hand. Then I'll get my own amulets and become a Dueler when I'm good enough!"

"Pretty difficult without a Dueler to page to begin with."

The small boy pouted. "You don't have to point it out again." Then he looked up and blinked, pointing to something gleaming inside the tall youth's tunic. "An amulet! Are you a Dueler too?"

The teen tucked the amulet out of sight. "…you could say that."

"Oh!" the small boy looked positively delighted. "Can I be your page? Please? Please?"

The taller's brow furrowed as he got up. "I don't know… I don't have anything of value to give you in return. And besides…you're still too young."

"I don't want money," the boy argued. "I just want to be a page! I'll work really hard, I promise! I know I can help you."


He smiled. "Because you look like a good person."

Many people would beg to differ, myself included, the teen said, raising an eyebrow at this. He just kept staring at him, and the boy begged, "Please let me! Give me a chance! If given the chance, I know I can do well!"

The words struck a nerve. He gazed down at so tiny a boy, claiming to want to be a Dueler's assistant—a ferociously difficult task sometimes—and so determined. He sighed slowly, wondering if he was going to regret this someday. "What's your name?"

The boy brightened and smiled. "I'm Mokuba. What's your name?"

A pause. "…Seto."

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