It wasn't raining, which was probably just as well. It seemed like so many of Ed's memories of Saioh were filled with rain, but that was back in the past, when destiny had seemed dark and ominous and unchangeable. That part of his life - and Saioh's, too - was over, and it was time for some brighter memories.
He suspected his memory of today would consist largely of loitering in the lobby of a hotel, waiting for Saioh and Mizuchi to get themselves sorted out. The eventual plan was for all three of them to end up at Ed's home, which, after all, had been financed with money Saioh had helped him make and had offered flawless advice on how to invest, so it seemed only right that he and Mizuchi should stay there until they knew where to go next. But that was a long journey, and Saioh and Mizuchi were both tired from the events of the day, so they had checked into a hotel on the Japanese mainland to rest, catch their collective breath, and attempt to adjust to the new order of things.
Resting and recovering was turning out to be very boring. Ed wasn't particularly pleased with it at all, even though he was more than a little tired himself, and knew that his traveling companions were probably even more worn out than he was. He was a man of action, and having nothing to do dragged him down. That was how he had ended up in the lobby, where there was room to pace the floor. Let the other two sleep if they wanted to - he was too rattled to sit still. A few people stared at him, but most of them were wise enough to sense that he had things on his mind, and they kept out of his way.
But one person did dare to interrupt him. After some time had passed, Saioh reappeared. He had changed his clothes, and his hair looked faintly damp, as if he had showered at some point and hadn't completely dried it. Ed was glad to see that he seemed to be looking better than he had in the aftermath of that last duel.
Well, of course he looks relaxed! This is the first time in years he hasn't had some mysterious doom hanging over his head, or the Light of Ruin burning him up inside. That's enough to make anybody look a little stressed out. Ed managed a smile for his old friend.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"Better," said Saioh, judicious as always. Not good, not bad, but better. "Mizuchi is sleeping. Her efforts in aiding... us... seem to have drained her."
"Shouldn't you be sleeping, too?" asked Ed. "I mean, today has been harder on you than anyone."
"I have rested sufficiently, for the moment," Saioh replied. "I have too many things on my mind to sleep."
"Yeah, me too," Ed replied. He glanced out the windows, where the sun was shining like it had been newly made. The ornamental trees that lines the streets were blowing in a crisp autumn wind. "It's a good day for a walk, if you wanted to go out."
Saioh considered a moment. "If you will consent to join me, a walk would be a pleasant diversion."
"I wouldn't have brought it up if I didn't think it was a good idea," Ed replied. "You need to get out more, anyway."
He started for the door, and, when Saioh showed signs of hesitating, he doubled back and tugged on his arm. Saioh took a few steps as if he'd forgotten how, found his stride, and followed Ed out into the street.
He really is going to have to get out more, Ed decided, watching as Saioh blinked in the strong sunlight and raised a hand to shield his sensitive eyes. It was hard to remember the last time he'd seen Saioh out in a crowded environment like this - he usually kept to his own rooms, or stayed inside his private conveyances, and managed Ed's career primarily via telephone and the Internet. Even when he'd been posing as a student at Duel Academia, he seldom left the dorm.
But that's going to change, now. He doesn't have to be afraid of people anymore. He can have his own life.
A life, he had to admit, might not include him. Saioh himself had admitted that he'd sought out Ed's company, not because he saw anything special in Ed himself, but because he'd believed the cards were indicating that Ed would help him somehow. Now that the crisis was over, he wasn't likely to feel the need to cling to Ed anymore. He might even decide he would rather not see very much of someone who reminded him of such a dark period of his life. Even their professional ties might not be enough to hold them together - with Saioh's clairvoyant abilities cut off, he would no longer be able to choose with such devastating accuracy which duels were most likely to help Ed move up in the world. He might decide it was better for them to go their separate ways, and do it as soon as possible.
If that was the case, Ed would let him go. He could get a new manager easily enough, and anyway, he no longer needed so much to become the top duelist in the world, now that he had finally exacted revenge for his father. He wouldn't be completely alone - he had friends on Academy Island he could go to, if he wanted them. But Saioh was his first friend, the only person he had managed to open himself up to in those dark years when he'd been eaten up with grief and a craving for vengeance. In the days when he had looked at everyone as a potential suspect in his father's murder, Saioh had been his refuge, his security, the one person he was sure he could trust. That feeling hadn't changed, even now. Just because the Light of Ruin had been jerking him around didn't mean he couldn't still trust the real Saioh.
Of course, there had always been that prophecy to take into account - the one that said that someday, Ed was destined to be some help to Saioh. That had always been a solace to him. No matter how badly things were going in his life, Ed had always been able to look forward to that comforting event. It was nice to feel that someday there would come a time when he and only he could make everything right.
But I guess that destiny changed when everything else did, he thought glumly. All I managed to do was get my tail kicked so bad I couldn't move for an hour, and then get turned into a hostage on top of that. Some hero I am.
He resisted the urge to sigh. It was just selfish of him to wish that he could have been the hero. The world was safe, and Saioh was free of the Light's influence, and Ed's father had been avenged. He told himself he should try to be a little more grateful that things had turned out as well as they had, and that his dearest friend finally had a chance to be happy. It wouldn't be right of him to spoil Saioh's happiness by acting childish. Unfortunately, Ed didn't have much practice at being unselfish.
Things were easier when I knew what to expect.
Things were easier when I knew what to expect, Saioh mused as he walked down the busy sidewalk. There were what seemed to him to be an uncommon number of people, though he knew there really weren't that many. He just wasn't used to being down among them anymore. On his own, or standing apart from the crowd with all of them gazing worshipfully - he was used to that, but mingling with the masses was something he'd nearly forgotten. He unconsciously edged closer to Ed until he was nearly brushing against him. He told himself firmly that there was really nothing for him to be afraid of, but he couldn't help it. He simply was. A lifetime of being treated like a freak or a god was not conductive towards feeling like he belonged.
It isn't only the crowds, he told himself, as they paused to wait silently by a traffic signal. It's that I no longer know... what I used to know.
Saioh had spent most of his life wishing that he had been born like ordinary people, who never knew what was coming to them from moment to moment. He'd always thought it would be nice, just for once, to not know ahead of time what kinds of nasty things were going to befall him but be unable to do anything about it. Of course, there were some advantages in knowing what was coming up next, but he had never fully appreciated them before now.
I feel so unprotected, he thought, a bit wistfully. With no trace of his old powers left, he felt as disoriented as he would have if he'd been deprived of his sight or his hearing. How on earth did people get through the day when they couldn't be certain of anything? It was baffling, and a bit frightening. He wondered how long it would take him to become used to it, or if he ever would.
Well, this is just one more thing that I cannot change, so I must accept it, he told himself. The story of the Tarot begins with the Fool, who goes into the world knowing nothing, and eventually gains all wisdom. That is what I shall be, then. I have already seen how much a Fool can accomplish if he does not know he is doomed to failure...
"Saioh, look out!"
Saioh found himself suddenly jerked out of his thoughts - and the street - by Ed pulling hard on his arm. Saioh had seen the crosswalk light change and had started walking automatically without bothering to look at the traffic, and in his preoccupied state, he had not seen an impatient delivery truck sneaking in past the red light. Saioh staggered backwards, nearly tripped on the curb, and managed to right himself with some help from Ed.
"Are you okay?" Ed asked.
"My mind was elsewhere," said Saioh, somewhat apologetically. He straightened himself up and brushed his hair back in place. "Thank you."
Ed smiled. "Always willing to help."
"Perhaps I'm not ready to go out into the world on my own yet," Saioh replied.
"After all you've been through lately, I don't blame you for being a little spaced out. I would be, too, if I were you," Ed replied. "Maybe we should find something to do where you can't wander into traffic. Any ideas?"
Saioh thought for a while.
"I think I would like," he said, "to see a movie."
Ed blinked. "I didn't know you were a big moviegoer."
"I am not," Saioh replied. "Not in the usual course of things. But it occurs to me that this is the first time I can see one without knowing how it will end."
"Oh, I get it," said Ed, laughing. "Right, then! Let's see if we can find a theater. Anything in particular you'd like to see?"
Saioh smiled. "Surprise me."
Ed found a theater, and picked a movie. That was harder than it sounded, since there weren't a lot of good movies out this time of year, and he wanted to take Saioh to something he might actually enjoy. Certainly Ed wasn't liable to subject himself to some chick flick or a vapid teen movie. He had better taste than that, and he wouldn't subject Saioh to anything he wouldn't watch himself. He also ruled out anything that had anything to do with magic, or with spacecrafts in it that might offer uncomfortable reminders of the SORA satellite. That didn't leave him a lot to work with.
"So what do you think? Should we watch an action thriller and risk our eardrums, or watch a historical feature and risk falling asleep from boredom?"
"I think I will risk the boredom," said Saioh with a hint of a smile. "I believe I have had my fill of excitement for the time being."
"I know the feeling," Ed replied.
They found seats, with Ed endeavoring to look as if he did this every day and Saioh looking around as if he had found himself inside a space ship instead of a perfectly ordinary movie theater.
Well, maybe he really hasn't ever been in one, Ed mused. He certainly couldn't remember ever seeing or hearing of him doing it, though he had to admit he didn't know a lot about how Saioh lived before he and Ed had met each other. It had always been something Saioh didn't talk about very much, and he'd never thought it worth his while to ask. Maybe he would have to make an effort to find out. He'd never made an effort to get to know anything more about a person than what they told him. Perhaps it was time he did learn how to get to know people, and Saioh was the obvious place to start.
Assuming he stuck around. Saioh might decide it was time he got out into the world and experienced a few of the other things he had been missing out on during his self-imposed isolation. He looked interested enough in the movie, anyway. Ed hoped he was enjoying it.
I guess I should look into getting out more, too, he mused. Though he didn't really know where to begin, himself. What did he really want to do next? Continue dueling, and attempt to fill the place that DD had left? He could do that easily enough. Now that he had the Bloo-D card, he was probably a match for anyone in the league. Go back to Duel Academia for a while? The idea had some merit; obviously there were things that could be learned there that didn't have anything to do with classes. Or should he go looking for some different path entirely, one that wasn't tainted by dark memories? He didn't know, and now he realized all over again that there was no one to tell him. Saioh probably knew less than he did about the subject.
It's probably selfish of me to wish things hadn't changed, he thought, but I'm not good at being unselfish. Saioh, I wish you'd hung on to your powers just a little longer... just long enough to tell me what I should do next.
Saioh stared at the screen without paying attention to what was happening on it. His thoughts, not unusually, were on everything but his physical surroundings, with the possible exception that he was dimly aware that Ed seemed particularly thoughtful. Well, that was fair enough.
I shouldn't be surprised if he decided he wanted nothing more to do with me, he mused. He speaks kindly enough, even knowing that our entire relationship has been based on lies, secrets, and cowardice, but how long will his generosity last? I am of no more use to him as a manager, and I have no other useful skills. I will be only a burden to him, and I know full well that he has little patience for anyone who is unable to look after themselves. Sadly, I don't know if I'll be able to do that. I doubt I'm fit for any serious work. Granted, I've made a good living managing a successful young duelist, but even if it is enough to survive on, it wouldn't make a very fulfilling existence...
Then again, neither would leeching off of Ed forever. He wanted to be a proper friend to him now, if he could, and if that meant taking himself elsewhere... he would cope. At least he would still have Mizuchi. And there were other good people out there who wouldn't mind talking to him - he had met a few. Still, it was hard to give up on the first person besides his sister he had ever been able to trust.
Though I still don't know, yet, how I am to trust anyone else I meet. I've missed a lifetime's worth of interacting with people. He stifled a sigh. The more he thought about it, the more he realized how truly lost he was.
His morose thoughts were interrupted as the movie ended and the lights came on, and he blinked at the sudden brightness. He had been so deep in thought that he hardly knew what was going on now, and it took a bit of prodding from Ed to make him stand up and start following the crowd out of the theater. While everyone else pushed their way out the front doors, sending shafts of late-afternoon sunlight streaming into the lobby, Saioh lingered in a safely shadowed place to let his sensitive vision adjust. There was something very comforting in how shadows could feel so... comfortable.
"So how did you like the movie?" Ed asked him.
"To be honest, I paid very little attention to it," Saioh admitted. "I was lost in thought. Perhaps you could fill me in?"
Ed laughed sheepishly. "You want to know the truth? I didn't pay attention, either. I guess we're both in the same boat on this one."
"You have so very much on your mind, then?" asked Saioh.
"Well, it's been a busy couple of days," Ed replied. "In the last forty-eight hours, I've talked to my father's ghost, seen my legal guardian go up in smoke, fought with some kind of sentient light-creature, and missed seeing the end of life as we know it by a much narrower margin than I would have liked. It's kind of a lot to get used to all at once."
"I suppose it must be," said Saioh. "Will you miss him?"
"Who, DD? Maybe... but more because I'm used to him than anything else," said Ed, after a moment of hard thought. "I mean, I thought he was being kind to me, but it was all a lie. All the time I thought he was taking care of me, he was really just trying to save his own neck. I really won't miss being lied to."
Saioh cast his eyes downward. "I lied to you."
"No, you didn't," said Ed firmly. "It was that thing talking through you, and that's all there is to it. You did everything you could to help me."
"Not at first. At first I was only hoping to find someone to help me."
"And I wanted to help," said Ed. More quietly, he added, "I still do. I'm sorry I failed you, Saioh. I wish I could have done more."
"I don't feel like you failed me," Saioh replied. "You kept your faith in me until the end. It was more than I expected."
"Well, maybe," Ed replied. "Still, I don't feel like I did very much. I didn't really get to play hero like I wanted to. I guess I just feel kind of useless now. I've spent the last ten years of my life waiting for these big events to happen, and now they're all over, and now I just feel a little..."
Ed gave Saioh a piercing look. "Are you sure you've lost all your powers? You just read my mind."
"I assure you, there was no magic involved," said Saioh. "Only that I recognize what you're feeling, because I feel much the same way."
"But you're never stuck for an answer," said Edo. "You always... Oh. Right. I keep forgetting. I guess you're going to have to muddle along like the rest of us from now on."
"I suppose I must," said Saioh, "but I think it will take me time to learn how. I... may need some help."
Ed looked surprised for a moment. Then, slowly, he smiled.
"Well, you know," he said, "I think I know a guy who would just love to help you out... and I don't think he's got anything better to do at the moment..."
Saioh felt a surge of hope. "You would...?"
"Sure, why not?" said Ed carelessly. He gave Saioh a warm smile. "I haven't got much practice at figuring out other people's destiny, but I bet between the two of us, we can figure something out."
Saioh shook his head.
"No more destiny," he said firmly. "Only... a future."
"A future," Ed repeated. "Yeah. I like that!"
"So do I," Saioh agreed, smiling. "I am grateful to have such a good companion to help me with it."
"Me too," Ed agreed. He laughed. "And the first thing we're going to work on is getting the hang of movies! Next time, you're supposed to watch it, okay?"
Saioh laughed, too. "I will endeavor to do a better job next time. But for now, I think we had best be getting back, before Mizuchi wonders where we are. She might be upset?"
"Yeah, you're probably right," said Ed. "But you never know, right?"
"Yes," said Saioh.
Ed caught Saioh's arm and led him to the theater doors. The sun had set now, and cool blue evening was falling. The shadows lay softly, punctuated by the many colored lights of the city. It was a perfect balance of light and darkness, and it was beautiful. Two people stood in a doorway and admired it for a moment before stepping out into it, and they became one with the crowd, and faded gently into the shadows.