Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Gi Oh.
By Silver Sailor Ganymede
It was only just before he died that Noah Kaiba realised why his father had told him never to leave the manor: there were people out there who hated him just for who he was, people who could, and would, kill him. In the end though it wasn't jealous business associates of his father that killed him; it was a bunch of kids. Downtown rats, gangland kids, only a few years older than him but already hardened up to life, half of them on their way to the Yakuza or some other such organisation. At least the ones that survived. There was no chance of real life in those parts, he realised, but he had never even seen them until then, until just before his death.
He had been running away from his father at the time: after all, he was sure that nothing could have been worse than his life at the moment. How wrong he was. In the end though it was bad luck more so than anything else that cost him his life. Gun battles were commonplace in the area he had run into: one gunman had mistaken him for some sort of spy or something, he couldn't recall. The only thing he could recall was a gunshot, a searing pain in his chest… then darkness.
When he had awoken he was in his own bed… but something wasn't right. At first he thought that his death had been nothing more than a particularly horrific nightmare, but then he saw his father's face on the wall in front of him, its eyes narrowed in anger. His father had told him that he was dead, that all his plans had been ruined: now Kaiba Corporation was without an heir. Noah had become nothing more than a figment of a virtual reality, and he could never escape from there.
Years later Noah knew that his father had died without an heir, leaving Kaiba Corporation to fall into ruin. Meanwhile Noah himself had been reprogramming his world, his virtual nightmare, trying to make it somewhat more interesting. The one thing that he wanted most of all though was the one thing he was incapable of creating: a human friend. He waited for another to come, but in the end he contented himself with waiting, his mind filled with naïve hopes of escape from his virtual prison. It was at about the time that Noah was loosing hope that another person finally did stray into the virtual world.
Ryou Bakura was nine-years-old, but he was not like the average nine-year-old boy. He preferred drawing and writing to playing sports and games, and was extremely introverted for his age. This wasn't, however, without reason: he had seen both his younger sister and his mother die just months before and couldn't seem to understand that their deaths hadn't been his fault.
The one thing that Ryou did have in common with other boys his age was that he loved to play a card game called Duel Monsters. His favourite card was the Change of Heart, and he took it with him everywhere, even when he left the rest of his deck behind. This too had a reason behind it: his sister was the one who had given him the card. It was the card that led Ryou to eventually stumble on Noah's world, but we'll get to that later.
One day Ryou had decided to go out, to the park near his house. His father didn't seem to care what he did any more; he was always too busy with work. Ryou was sure this worked in his favour, as he got to do pretty much whatever he wanted, though he rarely wanted to leave the house. This day, however, he did, though whether the consequences were good or bad he didn't know.
At first he thought that nothing else would go right: as soon as he got to the park he saw that a bunch of gang-kids were hanging around there. They were about three years older than him, he guessed, and he knew two of the especially well. Jounouchi Katsuya and Hiroto Honda were his main tormentors, and Ryou couldn't help but be scared of them.
"Whatcha lookin' at?" Jounouchi spat, seeing Ryou's nervous glance in his direction. "Doncha ever learn ya lesson, kid? You shouldn't come round here: this is our place, and if you come here you mess with us, and you don't want that, do ya? Do ya?"
Ryou's eyes widened: he knew what was coming next and he also knew that he should run away but as always he couldn't. He flinched away just as one of them shoved him to the ground.
Jounouchi saw something shining inside Ryou's coat pocket. He reached in and pulled it out.
"A 'Change of Heart'?" Jounouchi scoffed. "Is that ya most prized card?"
Ryou didn't reply, but he felt the colour drain from his face even more.
"Bet it is," Honda muttered. "After all, a sissy like that would never have a real deck of cards."
"Ya," Jounuchi laughed. He ripped the card in half and chucked it onto the ground. Ryou couldn't suppress a gasp as the two halves hit the ground. That was the card Amane had given him… he felt unwanted tears come into his eyes.
"Now getcha butt outta here before were cover your face in bruises, pretty boy," Jounouchi sneered, and the others with him laughed.
Ryou didn't say anything in reply: he just grabbed the ripped halves of the card and ran as far away from the park as he could. He ran and ran, tears flowing unwanted down his face: that card was the only thing he really had to remember Amane by.
He continued to run and run, not caring where he was going: he just wanted to get away from everywhere he knew. Eventually he stopped and realised he had come to a pair of gates. They were large, towering over his like the gates to Hell, and must once have lead to somewhere grand, but they were rusted by then. Rusted, Ryou noted, and broken. They weren't locked. His curiosity got the better of him: he pushed at the gates. With a screech they opened and Ryou slipped through before they closed again.
The path before him seemed to stretch out into infinity: it was broken to pieces and overgrown on both sides. The grass was higher than his knees and weeds had long overrun the path, but it was still just about visible. He continued to walk along it, and was only slightly surprised when he came to a house at the end of it. In fact, what had surprised him most was the size of the house… that and the fact that 'Kaiba Corporation' was written in gold letters over the front doors. He had heard of Kaiba Corporation; it had been a huge company years ago according to his father: it had gone bust about a year ago though, just after the CEO had died. He remembered hearing his father mention it.
Ryou pushed at the doors: they were unlocked too. He stepped inside. It was dark in there and smelled strongly of dust and decay. Strangely enough Ryou was far less scared of deserted places like this than he was of bullies like Jounouchi. He brushed a mesh of cobwebs out of the way and continued down the corridor.
Ryou tripped as he walked and, thinking it was nothing more than a hole in the carpet, he payed it no mind at first. Still, his curiosity got the better of him and, with his torn card still clutched in one hand, he walked back over the torn carpet and began to roll it over. He didn't expect to actually find anything there, so he was quite surprised when he found a loose joint in one of the tiles. He slid it sideways: it came off to reveal a set of stairs that seemed to spiral down into nowhere.
Ryou was intrigued: he wondered where it might lead him and, despite feeling a little nervous, he decided to go down them. Curiosity killed the cat, you know…
The virtual world was almost silent but Noah was used to that by then. He was sitting on a bench on the edge of the park, an icecream cone clutched in one hand. He didn't seem to have noticed that the icecream was melting, but he didn't care. He was, in fact, too bored to care. None of the virtual friends he had tried to make for him had any personality whatsoever. All he wanted was a friend, someone he could talk to: was that really too much to ask for?
It was then that he blinked: he was sure he had seen someone out of the corner of his eyes, and he knew everyone in the virtual world. But no, there was a boy sitting on the ground next to him, a real boy: he looked dazed and upset about something. Noah decided to go over and talk to him.
The boy was about the same age as Noah had been when he entered this world, perhaps even a little younger. He looked up and Noah was startled by the contrast between the boy's black eyes and white hair.
"Who…are you?" he asked. For Noah that was all he needed: someone had come into his world and, even though he couldn't leave, he might just have found the friend he wanted.
Ryou continued down the stairs to the cellar: the air was thick and he could practically taste the dust. He went to put his foot down of the next step but much to his surprise he had already reached the bottom. He stepped forward and a dim light came on. Ryou was shocked by what he saw. The room was filled with pods of some sort, all of them empty: once again he became curious: he tapped one of the pods and it opened. Ryou didn't know what it was for, but he was tired and the pod looked comfortable. He got in and soon enough he fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself in the middle of the park. He was confused for a second – had Jounouchi and his cronies knocked him out or something? Then he realised that there were some differences to this park than the one he was used to: the slide weren't covered in vandalism, the swings weren't broken and there was no litter of any kind there.
Ryou blinked again: it hadn't changed: he wasn't seeing things. Then he looked up and found himself face-to-face with another boy. The boy seemed to be about his age, maybe a year or so older, and was looking at him with interest. Ryou noted that he held a half-melted icecream in his hand.
"Who… are you?" Ryou asked and the boy smiled.
"I'm Noah," came the reply. "Noah Kaiba."
"I'm Noah," Noah replied. "Noah Kaiba. And who are you?"
"I'm Ryou," the boy smiled. "Ryou Bakura."
He stood up and Noah saw two pieces of paper fall from the boy's hand. The boy stooped down quickly and picked it up. Noah wondered why the boy seemed so concerned about it then he saw that it was a Duel Monster's card.
"Change of Heart," Noah noted. Well that didn't make much sense; the Change of Heart wasn't even a rare card: you could get it just about anywhere.
"How did it get torn in two?" he asked.
"Bullies," Ryou said quietly, tears coming into his eyes. "They tore the card in half because they thought it wasn't special, but it was special to me. My sister gave it to me, but my sister's dead now. I killed her."
Noah's eyes narrowed; how could this boy have killed someone? He was too young, too innocent for that.
"She was killed by a hit and run driver," Ryou continued. He didn't know why but he felt he could trust this boy, Noah. "I should have picked her up from school, but I was late. She tried to cross the road by herself and got knocked down. It's my fault she died. My mum died a few months later… of a broken heart, I guess."
He was crying freely now, but Noah didn't know what to do or say: he couldn't even begin to imagine how this boy felt. Then an idea came to him.
"Give me the card," he said. "I can fix it for you."
"Can you?" Ryou asked, not sure whether or not to believe him. He handed over the two pieces of card. Noah held his hand over the card and it fixed itself back together.
"There," he handed the card back to Ryou, who looked amazed.
"How did you do that?" he asked, his tears suddenly stopping completely. "Are you a magician? I didn't think anyone could do magic in real life…"
Noah laughed, "No, I'm not a magician. But we're not exactly in real life here."
Ryou was confused, "Then where are we?"
"We're my world."
Ryou's eyes lit up, "Your world?"
"Yes, my world," Noah replied. "My father built it for me so that my mind didn't die along with my body."
"You're dead?" Ryou's eyes widened in shock: if Noah was dead then that must me he was dead too. Well, it was better than another beating from Jounouchi and his cronies. In fact, he decided, death was peaceful. Maybe Amane and his mother were happy now… "Is this Heaven?"
"Yes," Noah laughed. "This is Heaven."
"No more bullies?" Ryou asked and Noah nodded.
"No, no more bullies; and even if there ever are, I won't let them hurt you."
"You mean you're my friend?" Ryou asked.
"Yes," Noah replied. "I'm your friend. Your guardian angel if you want."
For the first time in what seemed like forever, Ryou felt a smile, a true smile, creep onto his features. So he was dead, but death was peaceful, death was almost… fun.
He never found out the truth: Noah hadn't the heart to tell him.