Sorry! Took longer than I said! I had an unplanned (but appreciated!) temp job this week. Yesterday I was there for 15 friggin' hours. :P

This is the FINAL chapter of the sequel to my very first fic on this site! 8D ZOMG!!! I'm excited!

This chapter shall be dedicated to all of the reviewers who've stayed with this fic and its predecessor! Love to you all! The song is Within Temptations' "Towards the End". The song following the fic is Blind Guardian's "The Bard's Song". Squeee!!!

The turn against
The world we know
Now our destiny
Will be decided
We have to send our brothers in arms
With pain in our heart
We watched them go
Will they return?
Truth is we had no choice
We'll try to shield those we can
No better world
Let this end
Mothers cry
Our boys die
But we'll stand 'till the end!

Chapter 29: Everlasting Legacy

Mokuba's attention shot towards the area where Marik and Yugi were fighting at a piercing keen. It was nothing the likes of which he'd ever heard. The boy was trembling uncontrollably as he stood a good distance from Yami and Otogi, ready to flee should it be required. They were kneeling with the book in front of Otogi and the top of Ryou's head against Yami's kneecaps. The former pharaoh had drawn the Millennium Symbol on the teen's head in blood. His, Otogi, and Ryou's.

((If either of you has STDs or that shit, I'll kill you.))

(Not the time, Otogi.)

((That wasn't the answer I was hoping for.))

Both of their hands were dyed crimson as they arranged the final preparations; blood spread over their skin like soap. They'd drawn cuts across their palms with a knife they'd discovered in one of Bakura's pockets. Yami was more than a little concerned not only for Ryou, Bakura, and Jou but for Otogi as well. This spell would require all of the Shadow Magic they could possibly harness. While it was true Yami was the container of a large portion of the Realm, Otogi still held more than half. Even though he could help, it would depend on if the dice master could command his own share. Not nearly recovered, Otogi had to lean against Yami just to remain upright.

Yami glanced at Mokuba who was looking off into the distance like he'd seen a ghost. "Mokuba."

The boy jolted, face pallid. "It's…!"

"I need you to get somewhere safe further away from Otogi and me."

The young Kaiba didn't point out that there was nowhere to hide inside of the crater. He didn't refuse as he normally did or put up any kind of fuss. Instead he was in a daze.

"Mokuba go!" Yami urged him.

Nodding numbly, the child raced away. If the former pharaoh hadn't been so focused on the task at hand he would have noticed what direction the boy had run. Placing one hand on Ryou's forehead over the symbol, he grasped Otogi's left hand with his other.

((This feels like some weird occult ritual)) Otogi mused dryly as he rubbed a generous amount of the combined blood between his thumb and index finger. ((Oh wait, it is.))

(You're certain you know how to do this?)

((Yeah)) the dice master replied. ((For some reason I could understand Zork last time he was speaking ancient Egyptian.))

(The mind link will help at any rate. I can direct you.)

They waited a moment longer. It had really come to this. The very thought – very idea that this would be the last the world would ever see of Zork was what drove them. A world without the demon had always been a distant dream; never a reality. A goal. A hope for the future. Not since the day he sealed his own soul away in the Millennium puzzle had his hope been rekindled.

((Come on)) Otogi smirked bleakly from beside him. ((Let's finish what you started.))

In response, Yami closed his eyes and took a deep breath before tightening his grip on Otogi's hand. Even with his eyes shut he still knew what the dice master was doing. Otogi deftly stroked his finger across an open page of the golden book. Concentrating, Yami centered on Ryou as the dice master stilled. He could already sense the demon's presence inside of the hikari.

(We must make this quick.)

Sweat trickled down the sides of Otogi's face as he stared at the name scrawled in ancient hieroglyphs. ((Ready when you are.))

The atmosphere around them darkened as the Realm was unleashed. Eddies of clouds circled them like vaporous vultures as they both harnessed the powers within themselves. Otogi could feel his senses morphing as they had before. His eyes once again sharp, able to see the unseen, drifted to Ryou. Inside the white-haired teen, he found four souls…if the fourth could even be labeled as a 'soul'. It was a huge mass of obscurity and shadows with hundreds of eyes glowing like red hot coals in the depths of hell. Even now they sent a chill to the dice master's heart.


(Get ready) The former pharaoh gave him no time to reconsider. (We'll be back in a moment!)

"If Ryou would step forward, perhaps I will consider striking a deal with you," Zork smirked, blood gushing from the wound on the mutilated side of his face. "I'll allow these two to leave here if you relinquish control of the Mystic Elf to me."

"Not happenin' 'cause we're not leaving!" Jou shouted before Ryou had the chance to process what the demon said.

Bakura's grey eyes darted calculatingly from the main essence of the demon to all of the creatures surrounding it that were actually part of it. The hissing monsters all bore the same ugly glowing red eyes. They had never seen Zork's true form. He'd always hid behind a guise, often appearing as the person he was manipulating. Was the demon actually a shape-shifter with no true form? If not, this was only a fraction of Zork's self.

"But if you leave you could…!"

"No hikari," Bakura snapped grabbing his lighter half's arm roughly, emphasizing Jounouchi's prior statement.

The teen was astonished at how unyielding and protective his yami was acting. The fact that neither Bakura nor Jou would budge steeled his resolve. So many times in the past he'd sacrificed his own happiness and safety for the sake of others. They weren't going to allow him to do so again.

Diabound and the Mystic Elf were their last line of defense. No matter how strong they'd become they could not defeat Zork. Ryou wished he could speak with Bakura through their mind link, but, as they were in his soul room, it was the same as speaking aloud.

"I'll have to take it by force then, shall I?" The monsters reared up to attack.

"Guys!" Jounouchi shouted a warning that wasn't needed.

"If we can't defeat him, then let's try forcing him out of here!" Bakura yelled over the shrieking creatures.

"Where?" Jou cried. "He needs a host!"

"Exactly. Both of you have a connection to me! Open it!"

Both teens were horrified. "B-But yami…!"

"It won't kill me! It will buy us time!" the thief insisted while gathering his energies to transport them. "Plus he hasn't warped my soul room like he has Ryou's. That will give us more…!" Zork charged. "Now!"

Yami's breath hitched in a gasp. Otogi checked on the situation unfolding in Ryou's soul room. Emerald dragon eyes narrowed at the sight of a small fissure. A door was opening. It wasn't the right one though. He could see Bakura's spiritual energies emanating off it. The connection between Ryou and Bakura!

'No no no! Don't do it!' he silently entreated them.

They couldn't retreat into Bakura's soul room. The spell had been set up around Ryou. Everything was ready. If they left Ryou's body then Otogi and Yami would have to restart. Judging by the severity of their situation, the spell wouldn't be ready again in time. Zork would have destroyed Bakura and Jounouchi by then and reclaimed Ryou and his ka.

He couldn't do anything to help or hinder. Otogi was the connection between Yami and the book. The spell flowed through him. The former pharaoh was relying on him. If the dice master removed either of his hands from their designated resting places it would be broken. Yami could become lost in the abyss.

'Damn it, Yami! Hurry up!'

"It was uncharacteristic of you not to wait for me. I thought you wanted to fight all of us."

The familiar deep voice was merely Jou's dying mind playing tricks on him. He was crouched on the ground cowering as he waited for the jagged teeth to rip him apart.

Bakura and Ryou gazed in shocked wonder at the former pharaoh standing in front of them, a full translucent shield surrounding them. He stood outside, back to them as he stared down the demon who was snarling at him. Ryou felt his darker half smirk.

"Took you long enough."

Yami released a dry chuckle. "Excuse me for being late. We were a bit…delayed."

Bakura looked up at the monsters towering over them that had recoiled after hitting the transparent screen. "No shit."

"Once again, so much for gratitude on your part, Bakura." Idle banter aside, Yami grew serious. "I'm glad to see you alive."

"Likewise." Grey eyes penetrated the atmosphere around Yami. He was giving off an overwhelming amount of Shadow Magic. "I see the girl was successful. What the hell are you doing here though?" He looked down at the trembling blonde, kicking him. "Get up, you moron." Yelping, Jou sprang to his feet ready to fight tooth and nail. Bakura snorted in disgust. "You really are an idiot, you know that?"

"Yami!" the blonde chortled.

"What do you want us to do?" the thief ignored him.

Yami smiled though his friends could not see him. "You've done more than your share. Leave the rest to Otogi and me."

The former tomb robber started. "What are you talking about?"

The furthest their plans had gone were getting the Realm under control. They had been victorious in that feat. He wasn't seriously considering taking on Zork alone, was he?

Instead of answering, Yami gathered all of his powers to his core ready to launch his assault. "Get back to your soul rooms as soon as the barrier goes down. Bakura, take Ryou to yours until this is complete. Do not try to come with me."A thin thread wrapped around one of the demon's necks. Then another, until it was like they were entangled in a giant spider web as it thrashed about.

The thief's muscles tightened. "But…!"

"We wanna help!" Jou yelled before immediately taking a step back as violet flames shot up all around Yami.

"Then do as I say." The shield evaporated in a single instant. "Go now!"

No sooner had these words been bellowed than a detonation like nothing they'd ever experienced ignited the entire soul room. It blinded all senses and left one utterly vulnerable. Before it ended there was a violent implosion that dragged everything that had just been thrown back towards the center of the room. Anything remaining in there would be helpless against it.

Bakura leaned against his soul room door, his hikari huddled against his chest, both of them bracing their heels as the door vibrated horribly. He had no idea where Jounouchi was; if the blonde had made it out in time. The thief held tight to his lighter half, concerned what was going on in Ryou's soul room. If it was damaged…Another howl of rage made him press harder against the door.

'Yami…what the hells are you doing?!'

Otogi grit his teeth as he felt the demon snagging in the Shadow weavings he and Yami had created between themselves. The ancient creature was thrashing wildly in its bindings. Wrathfully Zork tore away at the netting while Otogi raced to repair it with matching speed.

"Release me, mortal!" the demon shrieked angrily.

It resembled no human form. Instead it was a mass of twisted tortured bodies and blazing red eyes. Otogi couldn't make sense of it. Yami opened his eyes.


Stepping over Ryou while never letting go of Otogi's hand, Yami sank down and placed his hand on the page beside the dice master's. Written in blood in ancient Egyptian was one word: Zork. The former pharaoh's arm shook as he felt the captured demon sink into the trap laid in the very weapon it had created. As Otogi had read, the spell would first confine Zork to his new 'vessel'. It would not hold him for long. That's where the next step came in to play. He grimaced as countless claws swiped at his soul for retribution. The book was alight as they fought the demon down, gradually sinking him into it.

(Can you hold him?!)

Dragon eyes shining a bright sea green, the dice master hesitated before nodding curtly. ((Just make it quick!))

Removing his hand from the book, Yami grabbed it by the corner and began closing it. Otogi's hand was placed firmly on the page, blood gushing from his palm at the demon's attempts to tunnel into him. Being a vessel of the Realm, it was not possible.


"Who's weak now?!" Otogi screamed at the demon as it cursed at him vengefully.

(Otogi!) Yami warned him.

The dice master pulled his hand back as the book slammed shut with a heavy thud. Immediately it began to rise off of the sand. Otogi jumped toward it, throwing it back down with both hands planted firmly on top of it. Yami didn't move to help as green light surrounded the dice master who was glaring down at the book in a most savage way.

"You did this to me! You did this to all of them!" he seethed, otherworldly eyes able to view the trapped demon clearly. He imagined Honda, Shizuka, and her family. He thought of Ryou who had to suffer at the hands of this devil. Of former hosts Bakura, Seto, and Marik as well as unknown others. "This is the last time! We're through with you and your shit!"

"You cannot contain me…!"

Upon hearing this frantic screech, a humorless smirk worked its way onto the dice master's face.

"Go to hell."

Yami watched in awe as the book began melting right there under Otogi's hands. Though his hands were immersed in the molten liquid, it did not damage his flesh. Smoke billowed up as thousands of echoing shrieks pierced the night. The gold spilled over the sand in a harmless puddle. Bakura's eyes shot open and he sat swiftly, mouth hanging open at the sight that befell him. Otogi was engrossed in his task, ruthlessly driving the demon into dust, destroying its vessel. Shadow Magic crackled like static around the dice master at the final rupture of magic from Zork before it went dead silent. Slowly removing his hands, Otogi held his breath. Bakura and Yami observed the way the morphed eyes studied the golden pool attentively for any sign of the demon. Only after a thorough search that came up negative did the dice master release a breath, pupils returning to their normal appearance.

The former pharaoh dove forward and caught the teen as he collapsed. "Otogi!"

Bakura's gaze was fixated upon the remains of the book of Seth. Could it actually be true this time? The demon was actually gone? Permanently? After everything he'd been through…was the thief finally free of Zork?

"Holy shit!...What's going on?"

Rolling his eyes, the thief finally turned to the blonde who was looking about confusedly. "Got to your soul room in time, I see."

Jou scratched the back of his head with a lopsided grin. "Just."

"Pity. I was hoping we would get a bit of peace and quiet."


Ryou smiled tiredly from beside his yami, having returned to his own body. His soul room was in desperate need of repair. It appeared Yami had done a meticulous job in keeping Ryou's spirit from being damaged by the spell. Even though he had only been partially conscious of what was happening, it felt like an eternity since he had been in control of himself. How long had it been? He really had no idea.

"Where are the others?" Bakura spoke over Jounouchi's insults.

Yami tensed. In all of the mayhem he had forgotten. Quickly he tapped into his link with Yugi. The teen did not answer. Bakura read the awakening panic in the former pharaoh's features, hurrying to his feet and racing off in the direction of their friends' last known location. Despite Zork's destruction and the Mystic Elf being dormant, there was still a chance the monsters summoned had remained. Yami wasn't too concerned for Bakura's safety, given Diabound was with him.

"Hey! Wait!" Jou yelled scrambling to his feet and jogging after the former tomb robber. "Where'd he get this energy from? – Bakura, wait for me!"

Otogi slumped against Yami as Ryou slowly crawled over to them; his own body fatigued. The former pharaoh sighed.

"I guess we'll let them deal with the rest."

((How do you manage this?))

Yami glanced down at the teen pressed against his chest. (What?)

The dice master stared at their blood-covered hands. ((All of this…? And never…no recognition. No one ever knowing. Nobody is going to appreciate or thank us. Don't you ever wonder if it's really worth it?))

The former pharaoh regarded him quietly, helping Ryou ease down beside them to wait for their friends. (It's true. No one will ever hear about this. And that's probably for the best. This will be an unwritten, unmarked piece of history…as there have been so many before us of which we never learned. As for your question: I used to wonder. Not anymore.)

Unlike his usual self, the dice master didn't make a sarcastic comment. Instead, his pupils stretched into vertical slits as he tapped into his powers. Yami was about to reprimand him for wearing himself out unneeded when the all-seeing eyes turned in the direction Bakura and Jou had run. Otogi's throat muscles tightened when he saw, limbs trembling as he stared at what Yami and Ryou could not see. The look on his face frightened Yami for some reason. It was pained and yet…it wasn't a reaction he'd expect if anyone had died.

"Otogi?" the hikari pressed. "Are they all right?"

Swallowing deeply, the dice master hastily drew his powers back; eyes returning to their natural state. "Yeah," he croaked. "Everyone's fine."

They were all motionless, staring up at the sky. Bakura took this as a sign they had defeated their enemies since their kas had returned to them. Yugi and Mokuba were holding Anzu steady. She was kneeling, breathing heavy, tears flowing from her cerulean eyes as they stared high over them. He immediately took in Marik's poor condition, gashes lining his friend's arms. As he made to shout out to them he detected the presence of something hovering above. Skidding to a stop, he tilted his head back, a gasp escaping him at the sight of the blue dragon soaring in the night sky.

"…said wait!" Jou wheezed as he approached the thief. "Sheesh, what part of 'wait' do you not…What's wrong?" The thief merely motioned with his head. The blonde looked up, muscles locking when he spotted it. Releasing a whimper, he took an unsteady step forward.

Bakura's gaze moved to Anzu, noting the card bending in her tight grip. 'Reborn the Monster.'

Winged Dragon Guardian of the Fortress glided calmly on the cool desert breeze, no enemies left to vanquish. Even so, the small dragon seemed restless.

"Allow it to leave," Bakura instructed the girl.

"No!" Yugi and Jounouchi exclaimed at once.

"Don't be selfish!" the former tomb robber admonished them.

"It's all we have left of him and you want us to give it up?" the blonde yelled at him, eyes stinging.

Scowling at him, Bakura focused on Anzu. "These aren't ancient times. This ka is not yours to keep. It must be released."

She looked at the thief sadly. "I understood that with Diabound and the Black Luster Soldier we had to come here because they had been sealed away…" Her eyes strayed back to Honda's ka. "But not the Winged Dragon. It wasn't bound to any one place. With my ka I had the ability to bring it back…" More tears slipped down her cheeks. "You and Yami said…he couldn't enter the afterlife. That with an incomplete spirit…" Anzu smiled up at the dragon. "Now he can be at peace. Right?"

At these words her friends' protests dissipated. They looked to the thief who nodded in confirmation that it was true. With this affirmation the smile widened and she breathed as if it were her first real breath of her life. All she had to do was let go. Despite the reassurances, it was still so hard. Exhaling that breath, she stared directly into the ka's eyes. She could almost see Honda gazing back through them.

"Go to him," she whispered. "Take him home."

The dragon made no motion that it had heard her and she wondered if she was unconsciously keeping it there. Then, without a sign, it gracefully curved on a flow of air and climbed the heavens lined with stars, flying farther and farther into the desert as it did so. They watched in silence, Jou yearning to chase after it and see if it would lead him to his friend one last time. His body obeyed this thought and he moved forward. A hand on his shoulder stilled him but he never looked away from the departing ka.

"You cannot go with this time," Bakura said softly.

Anzu buried her face in her hands, sobbing as Mokuba and Yugi kept her from collapsing. Jou reached up and gently pushed the thief's hand away. Brown eyes kept on the dragon until it could not be distinguished from the stars. Then he stared up at them trying to guess which was the ka before deciding it didn't matter. From somewhere to his left he heard Marik cry in joy as he and the thief finally reunited. A small smile crept onto his lips as he gazed upwards.

"Thanks Honda. We're all okay here. You look after my sister for now, won't you?...An' behave yourself, 'cause I'll be asking her a lot of questions when I get there!"

"I hate this so much!" Yugi said pacing the Game Shop where the group had gathered. They'd closed early, having been too edgy to work.

"Shouldn't they have called by now?" Anzu chimed in as she stared at the cars passing by. "What's taking so long? Yami have you sensed anything wrong?"

Yami chuckled from beside the phone. "No I haven't. And you all really need to relax. If something were amiss we would know already…"

"Nothin' on TV!" Jou's loud voice announced from the living quarters of the building.

The girl sighed. "Well that's good. It would be on the news if…"

"Not if they were all obliterated," Jounouchi interrupted as he entered the shop with a bag of potato chips.

"That's a very positive attitude," the former pharaoh chided. "Really guys, have a little faith in him."

Yugi gave his darker half a dubious look. "You're acting like your previous trips with him went smoothly."

Yami caught himself before he could grimace. "Well yes, but that was a while ago and we trained after that…"

"I dunno, Yami man," the blonde said before stuffing a handful of chips into his mouth. "Hss nbt thuut grwat wiff hith tempr."

"Jou swallow! Ugh!" Anzu scowled in disgust.

They looked up as a limousine pulled up in front of the curb. Mokuba hopped out of the back and ran into the shop while his older brother took his time as if seeing how long he could delay the inevitable of having to join them.

"Kaiba, you're finally up and about," Yami commented. "It's about time."

"That's what you get for ignorin' the doctors and leavin' the hospital way before you were supposed to," Jou sniggered earning a glare from the brunette.

Kaiba had plenty to complain about. He'd been drugged and practically unconscious when Mokuba and the group returned from Egypt with his jet. By the time they told him what happened several weeks had since passed. This didn't discourage him from immediately shutting down all of his brother's accesses to company vehicles for the next century. The dreams had ceased much to his relief. It was as if the defeat of Zork had laid the past to rest. He knew this wasn't completely true. They still had troubles the plenty and the clock was ticking. It was actually the reason he had come to the shop that very day.

"It's been an uneventful flight. They should be landing in five minutes. I'll get a call when they've touched down," he stated evenly, skimming over the blonde's mockery with ease. "I wanted to make sure you were getting the same…report on your side," he finished, uncertain of how to word it.

Yami cast his eyes upwards. "For the last time everyone: I haven't sensed anything."

The CEO frowned. "Be that as it may, I thought it best I be here when they call lest anything happens so they could get instructions from you…if your friend gives them the chance."

"Nothing is going to happen," the former pharaoh ground out; apparently the only person that believed that.

There was an awkward pause as they waited. No one seemed quite certain what to say. Much had occurred that could not be undone. Mokuba was the first to think of something.

"Could I borrow a ka item?"


Everyone in the room, his brother included, gazed disapprovingly at him. The boy pouted, sitting on the floor.

"I just wanted to see Gray Wing…"

"And blow up another of my cars? I think not," his sibling scoffed. "You should bury those items in the desert again. It's where they belong."

Yami would agree. "They help when it comes to controlling the Realm. Otogi wears one at all times for extra precautions."

Mokuba's ears perked. "What about the other three?"

The former pharaoh smirked. "There's no need for you to know that."

The child glared at him and Kaiba shook his head. Before a fight could commence a phone rang. The CEO whipped out his cell and held it to his ear.

"What is it?...I see." He switched it to speaker phone.

"What is with your people constantly monitoring me?" an extremely peeved dice master demanded.

"Hi Otogi!" Jou yelled.

Kaiba growled at him. "Tone it down, dog. Ryuuji, I don't need my planes spiraling out of control and crashing because you went haywire."

"Tch! Next time I'm flying commercial!"

Yami smirked. "Otogi, just bear with this for a little longer. You have a difficult time controlling your powers when I'm not around and you're in a foul mood. The last thing we need is you on a plane full of people who annoy you."

"…Are all of you there?"

Anzu raised her eyebrows. "Everyone but Ryou…and Bakura and Marik of course."

"And why the hell aren't you – oh I don't know – at the museum or somewhere figuring out how to remove and/or destroy the Shadow Realm so I can stop having you people babysit me?!..." A loud 'boom' drowned out anything he might have said next. The dial tone droned.

They stared wide-eyed at the phone in Kaiba's hand. Then the shop phone rang. Yami hastily picked it up.

"Otogi? What was that?"

"…okay, I'll take Kaiba's stupid plane home," the miffed dice master mumbled not answering the question.

"What exploded?" the CEO demanded the former pharaoh since only Yami could hear the dice master. "If he blew up my jet, so help me…!"

"The plane is fine. And so is he, thank you for being so concerned," the former pharaoh said before disregarding Kaiba. "Otogi, I promise we'll start searching again tomorrow. We just wanted to make sure you got there safely."

The teen snorted. "There was a time when business trips were much less of a hassle and just annoying."

"Don't get yourself worked up. I'm not there to help you control the Realm."

"Yeah yeah," the dice master waved it off. "I'll call again before I leave so all of you don't go ballistic."

Yami smiled. "We appreciate it."

"Ooh! Tell him to get some of those good chocolates while he's there!" Jou chortled tapping on Yami's shoulder.

"No souvenirs. And now I'm hanging up before you people annoy me further." And, true to his word, Otogi did just that. Yami chuckled as he hung up the phone.

"I promised him we'd continue researching tomorrow."

Kaiba crossed his arms over his chest. "And just what are Ishtar and the thief doing in regards to this whole mess? Don't tell me they dumped this problem on us and took off?"

"They wouldn't do that!" Jou exclaimed shaking his fist at the CEO.

"Marik's sister and step brother are investigating for us in Egypt," Anzu informed the Kaiba brothers. "Ishizu has ties to many museums and archeological sites. If anything of use surfaces she'll find it."

The CEO huffed. "Like that woman can be trusted."

Yami paid no attention to him, wandering back into the living room and reclining in a chair. He and Otogi didn't admit it to anyone else, but even with the ka items it was draining being the vessel of the Realm. While most of their friends could figure this out with ease, Bakura had been the only one to approach them on the matter. Yami wouldn't ever say it, but he missed having the thief around to converse with and bounce ideas back and forth; even if they did just end up blatantly insulting one another. He valued Bakura's insight and had grown accustomed to having it readily available 24/7.

The thief did call to check in on him and Otogi. Also, he would gruffly inquire about Jounouchi, to Yami's surprise. If the blonde was there at the time Yami would just hand him the phone. The conversations between the teen and thief always ended up as loud arguments. If not for the feeling both were somehow benefitting from this the former pharaoh would have banned it altogether. He would never understand the two of them.

"Yami man, you okay?" Jounouchi stood before him with an empty chip bag. "You just left."

The former pharaoh smiled tiredly. "Just relieved Otogi's landed."

His friend grinned. "I thought you said you were sure he wasn't gonna do anything."

"I was," Yami affirmed should Jou think otherwise. "That doesn't mean I don't worry anyway. He isn't the most cooperative person."

"Understatement." Jounouchi sank onto the small sofa. "Hey, I was wondering something."

"What would that be?"

The blonde was serious now. "How is Ryou doing?"

"Fairly well, from what I've gathered. When he called a few days ago he seemed quite comfortable." Yami studied his friend. "Why? Is something the matter?"

"Nah. I just wanted to make sure. I mean, he an' I both are kinda in the same boat, so to speak."

"This is true. Yet I think he wants to do this."

Jounouchi didn't need to vocalize the fact they'd both lost their families in the hell the Master and Zork had raised. Since that time the blonde had remained at the Game Shop. There was, too, the void that could never be filled of the elderly shop keeper. Everyone had banded together in the aftermath.

Otogi would only go so far. He'd stayed with them for two days before returning to his own place, having not the patience of living with them. Yami had worried the dice master was not ready to handle his portion of the Realm on his own but soon reconsidered. The more irked Otogi was the less in control he was of his powers. That meant, generally, he was actually in better shape when away from them. Just to be on the safe side, the dice master had severely cut back on the number of business meetings and such, having more people hired so he would have less to stress about.

"I'm definitely not like Ryou."

Yami regarded Jou at the dryness in the teen's voice, trying to discern how much he was joking. "You're both coping differently. This is simply the path he's chosen."

Jou's face broke into a grin. "Yeah. And man was Bakura was pissed."

Yami didn't hold back his laugh. "And that is no understatement."

"I never thought he was so protective of Ryou…at least, before all of this," Jou continued to admit while staring at the black television screen. "Then, looking back, I realized he's been watching out for him this entire time. Guess that's why he was so against Ryou going over to Egypt to help Ishizu."

"Marik smoothed things over."

Jou sat up a bit at this. "Speaking of Marik: Did Kaiba ever track down the doctor?"

Yami released a snort. "Not as of late. I can't believe none of us ever got his name. It's driving Kaiba insane that he can't locate a person."

"We got a lot to thank the dude for…plus the winnings," Jou added with glee.

Yami chuckled. "Who would have thought he would have been the one to deduce how long before those two got together?"

"I think Kaiba's just sore 'cause he lost," Jou kidded while flipping the remote over in his hands. "Not that he knows anything about relationships anyway. He kept sayin' stuff like: 'Let's just go to the person who was the second-closest to guessing when Bakura and Marik hook up.' That is, until he realized that person is me!" he stated in amused pride.

The conversation drifted off into silence as they both pondered the entire thing. When the bet was made no one had been very confident it would happen. Perhaps this was part of the reason Kaiba's guess had been five years. That way, once everyone else's guesses had passed, he would win by default.

Yami looked forward to the phone calls that came once a week on Sunday at 8pm sharp. It was like Bakura to be practical. He could tell by the eased tone of the thief's gruff voice that the former tomb robber had finally let go. The chains of that past that had remained intact for over three thousand years had been broken at long last. Zork was gone. The people of Kuru Eruna were at peace. The only problem left to be dealt with was that of the Shadow Realm.

It was something that made him wonder why the thief would request the other three ka items. He had figured Bakura would leave him to the task of finding a fitting fate for them. Instead the white-haired yami had been insistent nonetheless, and was adamant Yami keep it a sworn secret. And of course Yami obliged. It was simple curiosity now that made him ponder over what Bakura could possibly want with the items. Neither of them needed a ka item in order to summon their kas and Marik would only require one of the pendants.

"I think I'll turn in early," he said to the blonde.

"You sick?"

"No," he reassured as he rose to his feet. "A good night's sleep just sounds so refreshing...Well, as relaxing as the Realm will allow."

"Don't forget we're going back to the museum tomorrow!" Jou reminded him encouragingly. "We'll get you and Otogi free in no time!"

"You sound confident. Don't get carried away. It's already been three thousand years…"

"But this time you've got us!" Jou interrupted giving his friend two thumbs up. "So no worries, man! You just hang in there. Ryou's in Egypt searching and the rest of us are here. You and Bakura have already had to do so much. This time around it's our turn! And believe me when I say we'll get through this soon!"

Yami smiled lightly at his friend. "I'll hold you to that."

"A potato!" Marik chirped.

Earl and Bakura paused and stared at the teen as they closed the coffee shop for the night. The thief was in the midst of sweeping the floor with a broom and dustpan. The owner was stacking beer mugs onto a large tray held by a muscled arm. Marik was sitting atop the countertop he was supposed to be scrubbing swinging his legs merrily. Bakura quirked an eyebrow at him.

"What are you talking about?"

The teen grinned. "The riddle you gave us: 'What has an eye but cannot see?' A potato!"

Bakura shook his head. "You can be such a flake."

Marik pouted playfully. "Potatoes each have an eye! It makes sense!"

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"You're just mad because you gave a shitty riddle!"

Earl burst out laughing. He'd already grown quite accustomed to the blonde Egyptian. The shop owner hadn't so much as blinked when Bakura showed up out of the blue one evening with Marik in tow. Immediately the man seemed to sense how important Marik was to the thief – that this was something different than with the tri-colored haired teen called 'Tadadshi'. He also wasn't fazed when Marik addressed the thief as 'Kura' instead of 'Kenji'. When Marik began waltzing around wearing one of those belly shirts the shop owner had pointed out he was going to get unwanted negative attention from their patrons. Marik promptly began wearing full-length tees. It didn't even trouble Earl when he caught them kissing in front of one of the ovens, merely warning them not to fall on the burners to which Bakura had become flustered at being caught. Marik, meanwhile, had been beaming. Not a moment later he'd scurried to the phone and was spreading news of the kiss far and wide much to Bakura's abject horror.

No, Earl had not asked a single question when his nimble-fingered, foul-mouthed worker reappeared. He took what information was given to him. While it wasn't a lot, he found Marik was a lot more talkative than Yami. Bakura offered little explanations which was fine with the man. He understood this had become the thief's home and sanctuary. Whether it would stay permanent this time was never clear but he had a feeling that, regardless of the circumstances, Bakura would always come back.

"A storm," Earl stated less the argument should keep them from their chores. "Keep working, boys."

Marik frowned picked up the neglected rag beside him. "A potato could be the answer too."

"If Katsuya were playing, yes, because it's a food item."

"Do I have to beat you both with that broomstick?" Earl growled at them.

The blonde made a face. "It's covered in…I don't even know what!"

"Exactly. So pipe down and finish with that countertop. You haven't even touched the tables yet."

Bakura rolled his eyes. "I told you he's prissy, Earl."

Marik stuck his tongue out at the thief. Earl gave, putting the tray on a table covered in crumbs and walked over to the counter. He knew how to draw a reaction from the blonde, whipping out a cigarette and lighting it up.

"Hey!" Marik yelled. "I told you two to quit that crap!"

"You haven't got me under your thumb like we both do Kenji."

"You do not!" the thief snapped as Marik snickered.

Truth be told, Bakura answered to them both more than he would ever admit. It wasn't a bad thing though. He was smoking less – not at all at the apartment. Marik refused to go near him if he smelt of cigarettes. As for Earl, the man had gotten him in line once again. Bakura would simply retort and they would threaten and cuss out one another as they always had in the past.

There was only so much Bakura could control. He'd come to find this a long time ago. To have so many burdens vanish made living all that easier. There was no denying the extremely large task they had yet to complete concerning Yami and Otogi being the vessels of the Realm. He and Marik would go back to them when needed. Bakura was in no hurry to scour Egypt for the answers. His hikari was intent on doing that. While Bakura was still keen on shielding Ryou he could not stop him. Marik helped him see this.

He continued to protect everyone as best he could. Bakura checked in on the mutt who was adapting to his new life. Ryou was no longer in his charge but kept in touch. Marik was safe at his side and he wouldn't be able to pry said teen away if he tried. Not that he would. What was important to him was living life with the past behind them never to return. The ka items were safe locked up in a box in Earl's keep just in case they should ever be of need some day. The man didn't know what was inside. He didn't really care either way. Not being a saint himself, if it was drugs or something else illegal he was not daunted. Marik was not even aware the ka items had come with them to the little town. That was exactly how Bakura wanted it to stay.

Bakura came out of his thoughts when moist lips planted on his. In his surprise he quickly pushed his lover back who pretended to be offended.

"What? Don't be mad at me! Earl was the one who said it!"

The shop keeper laughed a deep throaty sound as a whiff of smoke left his mouth. Bakura pretended none of it had happened, stalking over to the counter and leaning against it. Almost immediately Marik was perched on it behind him with his legs on either side of the thief who inclined against the teen. Earl smiled at them, inhaling another breath from the cigarette.

"All right. Who's next?"

Marik shrugged as he played with the white locks in front of him. "Whoever thinks of one."

They remained as they were, Earl smoking while Marik ran his hands through Bakura's hair. Whether any of them were mulling over a good riddle was impossible to say. Each was immersed in his own thoughts. Finally Earl spoke.

"All right, I've got it: When one does not know what it is, then it is something; but when one knows what it is, then it is nothing. What is it?"

Bakura gazed straight ahead at the large windows watching lights in nearby buildings turn off one by one. Despite everything, he felt at peace. Even with the dilemma with the Realm there was so much relief for him. He turned the riddle over in his mind, examining it from every angle. It was difficult to focus with the soothing hands massaging his scalp. Chin dropped towards his chest and he quickly righted himself while fighting to keep his eyes open. Marik smiled when he saw this.

"I think this will have to be the last riddle for the night, Earl. Kura's beat."

The man hummed his agreement when his white-haired worker didn't make any sort of dispute. "All right then. I'll let you boys leave early and I'll finish up here. However," he continued when Marik made to climb from the counter, "first you have to answer the riddle."

The younger Egyptian groaned. "Are you kidding me?"

"Rules are rules, kid."

Heaving a deep sigh, Marik sat back. Riddles in general stumped him. He was never good at figuring these sorts of things out. His mind didn't work that way. In a crisis he could occasionally pull something out but usually it was Bakura that did that. This time, however, the thief was too tired and comfortable. They would be there all night at this rate.

'A problem? No. That doesn't make sense. I could say 'potato' and run for it while he laughs,' the teen considered thoughtfully. 'Damn it, I suck at riddles! Why did he and Bakura have to make this rule anyway? Riddles are…!' Lavender eyes widened.

Marik slid off the counter while keep his hands on Bakura's shoulders. Wrapping his arm around the thief's waist, he began walking for the exit. He could feel Earl's eyes on him the entire time and it wasn't until he opened the door that the shop keeper spoke up.

"You got the answer there, kid?"

Knowing the man had picked it especially for him, Marik smiled over his shoulder. "A riddle. G'night."

Then he left with the groggy thief. Earl stood at the counter, cigarette in hand, a satisfied smirk on his lips as his eyes trailed the two figures heading off down the block lit by streetlamps.

"It looks like there's hope for you yet."

Now you all know
The bards and their songs
When hours have gone by
I'll close my eyes
In a world far away
We may meet again
But now hear my song
About the dawn of the night
Let's sing the bards' song

Tomorrow will take us away
Far from home
No one will ever know our names
But the bards' songs will remain
Tomorrow will take it away
The fear of today
It will be gone
Due to our magic songs

There's only one song
Left in my mind
Tales of a brave man
Who lived far from here
Now the bard songs are over
And it's time to leave
No one should ask you for the name of the one who tells the story

Tomorrow will take us away
Far from home
No one will ever know our names
But the bards' songs will remain
Tomorrow all will be known
And you're not alone
So don't be afraid
In the dark and cold
'Cause the bards' songs will remain
They all will remain

Review the final chappie! (I'll reply to each!) Love and orange tic tacs to all of you! XD