How could I have let this happen?
For the hundredth time that day, he asked himself that question, and for the hundredth time, he had no answer.
Jaden always thought he was a great friend. He was a duelist, after all, and he had no idea why, but he was always taught the most important virtue for a duelist was Friendship. Every True Duelist had the Power of Friendship- that, he never doubted.
Up until last night, he was sure he always was a true friend. Without a second thought, he'd put his life and soul on the line for his friends too many times to count: dueling megalomaniacs of all different degrees of evil and psychotic, taking all kinds of risks, and repeatedly enduring excruciating pain to save his friends from being dropped in lava, buried alive, trapped by a vampiress, or being trapped in a parallel dimension of torment and darkness. What more could a friend be asked to do?
Then again, what friend would be asked to do that much? The majority of the world who weren't duelists, the majority of duelists who didn't have to battle for the fate of the world... just how often did friendship involve risking imprisonment in a card or saving your friend's soul from "the shadows" in the rest of the world?
Throwing yourself in front of an energy blast for someone, that's easy. But when a friend just needs support, someone to talk to, someone to share their fears with, someone to cheer them up, some other way to spend their time besides doing calculus all over their bedroom walls... not so much.
He remembered Bastion standing behind him, Tyranno, and Syrus, asking them if he was a good duelist, and all he could do was sit with his back to him, waiting to get that fishing line back in the water. He remembered turning back from the sea to find him gone, but he couldn't remember when he'd left. He remembered being concerned about him (a little... sort of... ?) the next day, at least. Then he remembered seeing their first catch that was actually a fish and, with no hesitation, deciding Bastion could wait.
He remembered the unexpected appearance by the aloof Aster last night. Jaden couldn't believe his news at first. How could he have missed all that?
... Bastion can wait ...
He remembered immediately hurrying to the school as fast as he could, but it was too little too late. How could I have let this happen?
He was supposed to be stopping Sartorious and this cult he called "the Society of Light," but instead, he kept losing people, one duel at a time. At least he could say he always tried his hardest- that was, until now.
Some friend I turned out to be. And if I'm not a true friend, am I really a True Duelist?
There was something else he was taught as a duelist: always learn from your mistakes. If there was anything he could learn from this mistake, for the first time, it was the true meaning of friendship.