Rebound - A Gentle Haunting
Yu-Gi-Oh! and all its characters, are the legal and intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and any entities he has granted legal rights to. I claim no rights at all with my story. I greatly admire and feel gratitude to Mr. Takahashi for the amazing story and characters of Yu-Gi-Oh!
It has taken so long to find my way. Truth be told, I didn't set out right away. There was so much to see, and to do, greeting my friends of old, meeting and making new ones, learning, growing. After all I've been through, didn't I deserve some time of retreat and bliss?
But, there is only so much bliss I can find without you. And it's not enough. Without you, it can never be enough.
I dash down the corridor that, without my even being aware of it, has been etched deeply into my mind -- the one that connected our soul rooms together. The loss of that corridor and the connection between us was the only regret I held as I crossed over into the land of the blessed dead.
I pull up short, just outside your door. I understand completely why that door, which had so rarely been closed between us, is closed now. It hurts me to see the jagged void across from the door to your soul room. Once, that space had been reserved for me. Once upon a time, you made that room, in your life, in your soul, for me. That it is a void now, that you carry that emptiness within you still, pains me. I can only imagine how that void affects you. Oh, I understand why your door is closed, aibou.
I raise my hand to knock -- I pause and consider again. I've changed, from what I was; passing through the gate of the Pharaoh's Memory ended the supernatural attenuation of my life; the necessary effect of my duty to seal the Millennium Items. You were wise, sensing it before I did, that no matter how much I longed to stay here, with you, my place was on the other side of that gate. Our ritual duel brought me finally to the place my heart has longed to go for thousands of years, the Field of Reeds, the Land of the Blessed Dead of my people -- to see my friends again, to see my father again, to see my people again, and to finally understand, and become, myself, again.
There are wonders there, in that blessed existence. I've seen beauty no mortal being can fathom; the voices of the blessed make skilled harpsong sound like a discordant, clanging, gong; I've touched glories unimaginable. My father, whom I love so much; Mahaad, Mana, Seth, Shada, Isis, and all the rest, all of them there -- their constant companionship a blessing made all the sweeter for knowing that it will never end...
I still long...
I feel as though, perhaps, I left the most important part of my heart here, with you. Though I am blessed, justified, completed -- a longing exists within me, still. Even paradise can't satisfy this longing. I suspect only you can satisfy it. Does that make sense? Once soul-bonded, can even the gods sever our fates from each other? Perhaps I can only be truly complete, when you are complete as well. Perhaps paradise will satisfy me once you share it with me. But, my aibou, I do not want you to seek me in paradise just yet!
It would not be right to divert your life-course for my selfish whim. With all of eternity to look forward to, I can afford to wait for you. Still, there's nothing to say part of me can't remain, while your life unwinds in its natural course, watching, waiting, helping, from a place here in the shadows of your mind.
Though I can not live again, the gate between the worlds of life and death is not as strict as some suppose. It's not a one-way trip with no looking back. Of course, you might not recognize me now. Not all of me is able to cross the astral divide to return to you. Rather, you would not recognize me as myself. It is a piece of humor, I am afraid. Truth be told, I'm not certain my dignity could stand it if you beheld me now.
I can, wait, no, I long to be your "Yami" once more. Would it not be wonderful for you to find after your appointed span of days that you were never "abandoned" or "alone" -- that I was always here, in the shadows of your mind; watching, helping, loving; just waiting -- waiting for the time for you to come... The time for you to come home. To me.
So, I drop my hand, that I had raised to knock on your door and announce my presence to you. I will remain quiet within the corners of your mind, and keep watch over the shadows of your heart. Every human heart has them, even yours, but I will do what I can to make certain those shadows never overwhelm your natural instinct toward creating light.
Aibou, Yugi, I will haunt you gently from the shadows. Whenever they grow too large, I will rise up, unseen, and master them for you with my power.
I will always cradle your heart within my own.
Th-the door! It slams open and you -- Yugi, you are here! And I -- I am right here before you! I didn't have a chance to hide! What am I going to do?
It's been a year and a day since you left, Yami. I know now that you were never "my other self"; you were your own self the whole time, even before you got your memories back, but still... We were closer than friends, or brothers. Your soul lived within me, alongside my soul... That's a bond I'll never find the equal to in this lifetime. I could not help but look out, past the corridor that used to connect our minds, several times a day, at first.
But all that greeted me was the emptiness, reminding me again that you are gone.
The only thing that keeps me from falling into sadness is the last image of you I was permitted to have. You were surrounded by your friends from your ancient past, the friends you remembered once more, and the place you were in was full of light. After the shadows of the lonely tomb of your soul-room, I am relieved to think that you are now in a place full of friends and light. I just wish...
I miss you, "other me", even if you never were truly part of me, it felt like it. I hope I can be one of those friends in your place of light, someday (a far away day, I hope!) while still being able to be with my friends. I don't think paradise will be a good place for me if I can't have both you and my friends. I just have to trust that somehow it will all work out right.
You've got me thinking about life, and death, but not in a morbid way. I've got to live my life to the fullest so that I'll have no regrets when it's time for me to die. I don't want to linger so long that I forget who I was when I was alive, or forget any of the people who are important to me, as you did, Yami. Of course, I'm just a normal person, not a pharaoh, not someone who has to sacrifice himself to save the world, like you did, so it's not likely that I'll stick around after I die. Still, being bold now and living with no regrets, surely that's a good thing? It's a lesson you taught me. It's a lesson I treasure in my heart.
I wonder why I'm thinking of you so much, all of a sudden. It almost feels as if you are here, just on the other side of this door, close enough to touch, once more.
Am I strong enough to open it? Can I bear to look at that emptiness again and remember how it felt to watch you go -- no, to force you to go, by winning that final duel against you? In truth, I wanted you to stay. I didn't mind sharing my life with you. But, it seemed as if you couldn't move on unless I beat you. I'd never want to hold you back from happiness, from -- paradise, even if it means I must now have a lonely soul and a forever empty space within my heart.
But, suddenly, you feel close enough -- to touch -- once more -- just on the other side -- of this door ...
Sometimes the gods are kind. My pharaoh had a hard life, despite his birth. No, perhaps his hard life was because of his birth. He was bound by duty from the moment he became a man, destined to sacrifice his life for the good of his people, as is the destiny of any pharaoh, serving as their link to the gods. His life was further bound by his duty to save his people from the evil of Zork and the Shadow Powers unwittingly created in his father's reign.
And so, he died young. He had lived a justified life, but the manner of fate placed on him was such that he was not permitted to move on to his reward. How do I know? My own fate is entwined with his. I, too, was not permitted into the Fields of the Blessed, for I had bound my soul to him in duty as a Shadow creature for him to use whenever he wished.
When his soul passed into the Millennium Puzzle to sleep for thousands of years, my soul also slept in the stone tablet housing it. It was not until my pharaoh woke that I, too, became aware again.
The world had changed. Even I had changed. My soul is now bound to the card in the keeping of the Chosen One who solved the Puzzle, freeing my pharaoh's soul from its long confinement. How can I not hold the Chosen One in a special place in my heart? Not only did he willingly help my pharaoh when he was weak and confused, since my pharaoh had forgotten his very self, but Yugi also held my soul, though he knew it only as a card, in high regard as well.
So, I waited, patiently, helping as best I could within the confines of the restrictions placed on me, until my pharaoh recalled his own past and his own self once more. With Yugi's help, my pharaoh was able to finally complete his destiny and move on. And that, freed me as well, to move on with him.
Still, even though a blessed, justified afterlife is our reward, I can sense the unrest in my pharaoh's soul. I have been, and ever will be, his servant. Surprisingly, through the card that bears my image, I am still Yugi's servant, as well.
Sensing the longing of these two fractured souls for each other, even knowing that the tide of time will bring them together once more, I could not help but appeal to the gods on their behalf.
And they have answered me.
Oh, gods, just to see you again -- a blessing undeserved! There's a shadowed sorrow in your eyes, Yugi, that pains me to see, knowing that I am responsible for it being there. However, the gentle strength you've always possessed is even easier to see than before. I know you are okay, without me. The void behind me isn't draining your soul of joy as I had feared. If I can just -- bluff -- my way through this encounter so you never know that it's me. I don't want to hurt you, Yugi. Not ever again. Seeing me now, after you've fought so hard for some sort of peace that I'm gone, that would hurt you again. Wouldn't it?
Why? When I want to be strong and noble, sacrificing my own wishes one final time to protect my soul's twin, why did the gods do this to me? There's no dignity! There is no reason to have done this to me! I can't even... I don't dare to reach out -- and touch -- even a final time. Deceptively harmless. It would hurt Yugi if I were to follow my selfish heart and reach for a final embrace. No! I must be strong, and fake my way through this... Deny my heart so as to not hurt the one I've hurt so much already.
"Kyu! Kwee! Kyu, kyu, kyu!"
Are the gods laughing at me? Is this just something to amuse them? Or is this a sort of punishment for not being satisfied with paradise? Oh, Yugi, I don't know if I can bear this! Don't look at me this way!
A Kuriboh. There's a Kuriboh in the corridor on the other side of my door. I admit that Kuriboh is my second favorite monster, right after Dark Magician. Is it odd that I would favor those two? The most powerful and versatile spell-caster -- and the weakest monster of all. Dark Magician's power is obvious. It takes very little to make him more than a match for even a Blue-Eyes White Dragon, and he's always been capable of so much more than just attacking with Dark Magic. I've always admired the hidden strength of the Kuriboh, though. I've always wanted to be like the Dark Magician, but I've always been like the Kuriboh. Small. Overlooked. Laughed at. I hope I've always been like him in the other ways, though. Deceptive. Deadly, if ignored. Surprisingly powerful.
But why is there a Kuriboh here, so suddenly? Am I going mad? First, I think about Yami. Well, that's not so odd. Even now, I still think about him several times a day. Something will remind me of him, or something happens that I want to share with him. I can imagine what he'd say to some of the absurd things that have happened since he... Since he left. Since he -- died.
I still miss him. I'm sure I will the rest of my life. But, I know that I'll see him again. I'm one hundred percent certain that he'd chide me if I mourned him too much. He'd never want me to mope about because I missed him to the point where I didn't do the things I have to do, to live my life the way I'm supposed to. So, I think about him, sometimes, with fond regret. I'm sad that he's gone, but not crippled by it, not any more.
Today, I've been thinking about him more than usual. How odd. Why did I open the door again after all this time? Oh, yeah! It felt...
It felt like I would find Yami here, on the other side of the door.
It's so strange, though. I've never seen a duel monster in the corridor before. What does this mean? Why is there a duel monster here now? Why is Kuriboh here? Hyper little thing, isn't he, bouncing up and down the corridor. Must be happy to see me, but how could he be? He's just a duel monster...
I know that Dark Magician was really "alive" or at least, more than a duel monster. He was Yami's friend, Mahaad. He waited all that time for Yami to remember that he had been the pharaoh in Egypt, thousands of years ago. But, I saw Mahaad with Yami on the other side of the door, in that place of light. So, he's gone, too, just like Yami. With Kuriboh here, rebounding off the walls of the corridor in my mind like an animated ball of fluff, it seems as though, perhaps, the other monsters have souls as well. I haven't had the heart to duel since defeating Yami. Could it be the monsters -- miss me?
Kuriboh certainly seems energetic enough, but, now that I consider it, it seems kinda faked. Why would Kuriboh force himself to bounce around like this? Normally the little monster is a bit bouncy, but then he settles down and gets serious.
So, what's the deal with this Kuriboh? Why is he behaving so ...
Can it be?
Is this Kuriboh ...
I'm going to get to the bottom of this! There, that's the pattern. If I wait here, he should bounce this way in just a moment.
I caught him! He's shaking, panting with exertion, but shuddering as well. Is he afraid? What is he afraid of? Surely he knows I'd never hurt him. Especially as I've somehow realized, this particular Kuriboh...
It's the only thing that makes sense. It's why I've been thinking about him so much today. It's why it seemed so strongly he'd be on this side of the door when I opened it. It's why the Kuriboh was acting so much like a Kuriboh, too much so, for so long and not settling down that I got suspicious. Yami is about as far from a Kuriboh as the earth is from the sky. He's got too much pride and dignity to be such a weak creature if he had any choice in the matter. Of course he over-acted it, so I wouldn't guess it was him. Good thing that backfired or I'd never have known.
I don't know why he looks like a Kuriboh, but I don't care. I can tell, holding him in my arms like this, that he's scared. Is he afraid that I won't accept him, if he's in such a silly form? I don't care what he looks like! I don't care that he may never be able to talk to me again, even. He's here, soft and warm and alive, in my arms. There's a heart beating under all this silly fur and I know, whether this is his true form or simply one he's borrowed, it's Yami's heart.
Oh! That's why he's so afraid! Kuriboh explodes upon touch. He's afraid he'll hurt me! Well, that's only in duels when Kuriboh is sent to attack an enemy monster. Unless we are somehow unknowing pawns in a grand duel somewhere, he's not about to blow up and hurt me. Besides, if he were going to explode, it would have happened by now.
His heartbeat is calming down. I bet he thinks he got away with it -- that he managed to hide the truth from me -- that I think he's just Kuriboh. Heh. You'd think he'd know me better by now...
"So, Yami, why the heck didn't you just knock?"
"Of course he knows," a hand reaches down to pet the Kuriboh in my arms. Startled, I look up into the blue-gray eyes of the Dark Magician. No, of Mahaad. Will this day of wonders last forever? "You can't hide your true nature from the one who housed your soul. You should have known that, my pharaoh! Well done, Yugi. I knew you would recognize him."
"Why...? How is he here, again? And how are you here as well?" I ask.
"Let's just say -- it pleases the gods to make two lonely souls a little less lonely," Mahaad answers. His smile is gently warm as he looks at the ball of fluff in my arms. His gaze lifts to grace me with that warmth as well.
"I have been sent to explain things, Yugi, since my pharaoh is not able to talk."
Mahaad grins, as do I, at the outraged sound Yami-Kuriboh just made.
"Ahem. Allow me to amend that. Since my pharaoh is not able to make himself understood by means of human speech." Mahaad lifts an eyebrow at Yami-Kuriboh, waiting to see if he's going to get upset again. He snorts, but remains still.
"My pharaoh and I are both dead, and not able to pass into life again. But since you have held my pharaoh's soul once before within yourself and have finally placed your grief at his passing into the proper place in your life, you are permitted, once again, to make room for him here, in your soul. If you so wish, Yugi."
I blink at him. Would there be any question? But, I have a few questions of my own.
"Why does he appear like this?"
"Ah, perhaps my pharaoh needed to learn a bit of humility," Mahaad winks at me.
"It was also a test for you, Yugi. To see if you would recognize him. If you had not, my pharaoh would have known you did not have room for him in your soul any longer and would have been content with the afterlife he has earned. That you did recognize him, despite the odds against it, shows that there is still room for him here."
"Of course there's room for him! Always!" I begin.
Mahaad holds up a warning hand. "There are a few restrictions. Yami cannot try to make his presence known to the world outside your soul-room. That he is able to return here must be kept secret. You must not come to depend on him, Yugi. Talk with him, as a friend, certainly, ask for advice as you would any of your friends, that is also permitted, but more than that? Any behavior that would make you dependent upon him is forbidden. As is asking him for details of what lies beyond the door of death. Such knowledge is not for those still living. If these rules are broken, my pharaoh must leave and never return again."
"I understand. I wouldn't ask such things anyway. It's enough that he's here," I reply, hugging Yami-Kuriboh tight. He snuggles in my arms with what seems to be contentment.
The softest smile appears on Mahaad's face.
"Well, then. I have delivered my warnings, so I should..."
"Stay," I demand impulsively. "You want to stay by his side, anyway, don't you? There's room enough for you, too, Dark Ma -- Mahaad, that is if it's allowed..."
"Both he and I worried about you," Mahaad states as he nods. "We didn't have to, I can see now. If it truly does not trouble you..."
I shake my head. "It's no trouble at all. I'm guessing the same restrictions apply to you, right?"
Mahaad nods slowly.
"Well then." I open the door to my soul room and step inside. "Come on, it's nicer in here than in the corridor. And, in my room, I think I can manage to do something about my Kuriboh friend here."
"What do you mean?" Mahaad asks, floating into the brightly-lit room that represents my soul.
"As if you don't know! You gave me all the hints I need. How can I 'talk with Yami as a friend' if he's stuck as a Kuriboh? Since this is my mind, I'm guessing he doesn't have to remain a Kuriboh if I don't want him to."
Mahaad's smile deepens. "You've always been very quick, Yugi. It's one of the reasons you are my favorite duelist to fight for."
"Kyu!" Yami-Kuriboh makes an outraged sound at him. Mahaad doesn't retract his statement, even in the face of the Kuriboh's displeasure. In fact, he grins. Kuriboh floats up out of my arms and gets into the smirking Magician's face, kyu-ing all the while.
Smiling, I close my eyes. This is my mind after all. Everything else here in my soul-room is merely a representation of things that are important to me. Surely, if I want Yami to appear as himself, I should be able to make it so.
"Yugi." My name. Those tones I thought I'd never hear again, or rather, that I never thought I'd hear while still alive. I open my eyes. Just as I imagined him, Yami stands before me, garbed in the splendor and gold of his pharaoh regalia.
"I'm not the pharaoh any longer, Yugi," he states mildly, looking down at himself.
"True, but, you have to admit it's better than being a Kuriboh!"
Yami's eyes become very soft. He walks over, places his hand on my cheek and says, "To see you again, to make sure you are still okay, it's worth it to be even a silly Kuriboh, but only if it is your Kuriboh, Yugi."
"You -- don't blame me, for winning that duel, do you, Yami?" I can't help but ask. "Honestly, I wanted you to stay, but I didn't want to force you to stay, if that makes any sense..."
His arms wrap around me. I know we are just here in my mind, but still, I take comfort in the warmth of his embrace.
"No. You had to win, Yugi, to take back your life again. It would not have been right to force you to bear my destiny once it had been fulfilled. Even if the gods had not made it one of their conditions, I vow that if ever my presence here starts to harm you, or change the pattern of your life from its natural course, I will leave forever. I never want to hurt you, Yugi."
"I trust you, Yami. I know you never will."
"Grandpa is calling, I have to go."
"Go. I will be here," Yami promises.
Trusting that promise, I leave my soul-room to find out what Grandpa needs.
"Well, it makes sense, my pharaoh. You can only appear as yourself when the young one wills it. He's not here, now, so you reverted," Mahaad states serenely, reaching out to gather me into his arms. I don't want to admit it, but it does feel nice to permit someone else to take care of me, even if I have to be a silly Kuriboh for it to happen.
"This is good. He'll be able to adjust his life so that your presence is a positive thing. You won't hurt him."
Mahaad smiles and pets my head. "Of course I understand you! I speak all the monster languages, you know."
Mahaad looks around the bright room and opts to sit down with his back against one wall.
"It's tiring to manifest here for so long. I'm going to -- close my eyes for a moment," he murmurs as he leans over and curls up on his side.
He's right. I am tired, too. Odd, I haven't felt tired since losing the duel to Yugi. I guess it takes some sort of energy from me to appear in Yugi's soul room. We could just leave and come back when Yugi returns. I get ready to state as much to Mahaad...
Awww. He looks so peaceful when he sleeps. The lines of worry ease from his face and he doesn't look quite so frowny. It is peaceful here, in my aibou's heart. It's the other half of the paradise I've earned, so, despite my ire at being forced to be a Kuriboh here, I'm content. I'm not surprised the gods knew that about me.
Well, then. Let Yugi find us here when he returns. I'll follow Mahaad's lead and take a nap, too. He turns slightly without waking up as I squirm in his arms. There. I'll snuggle up against his cheek and be his pillow against this floor. What the heck is in that helmet of his anyway? Bricks? The dratted thing is heavy! Still, it's not as if I have to breathe too deeply when I'm asleep, so, this will do...
Sweet and fluffy. Silly, even. I hope, despite these flaws, you liked the story anyway. (And that Yami purists won't hate me for turning Yami into a Kuriboh!)
Reviews, comments and constructive criticisms are always welcome! Please feel free to email me also if you see something awkward that needs to be clarified or fixed. I need all the help I can get.
stargarde (at) yahoo (dot) com