Disclaimer – Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Ronin Warriors (a.k.a. Yoroiden: Samurai Troopers) and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to their respective owners. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters. If you recognize him/her/it, I don't own him/her/it. If you don't recognize, I might still not be the owner but it'd be best to ask. I'd appreciate it, anyway. ((grin))
"The Spellfire Saga – 2: Awakenings"
Chapter 1 – Reflection
The alarm sounded far too soon.
He groaned and rolled over, a blind hand finding the clock on the shelf of his headboard, clicking the Snooze button on the rear before he settled back in. Just a few more minutes . . . please . . .
A chuckle vibrated through him, one not his own, and he felt someone gently shake him from the inside. -No, Aibou, that was the Off button. Come on.-
Nnn . . . ? Yugi reached up again, pulling the cartoony clock down to his chest as he rubbed sleep from bleary eyes. Six a.m. Not that he was the spring-out-of-bed type, but this morning found him especially groggy. Wow, why am I so tired? Then, it came back to him.
He had not slept but probably a total of three hours last night – or, rather, this morning. First of all, he had not even climbed into bed until nearly twelve-thirty, after getting home from his Duel with Jonouchi, their personal end to Battle City, but he had not fallen asleep for at least another hour, with a brief conversation with the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle in the middle of that. Thick clouds had gathered before the Duel with Jonouchi was finished, and Yugi had been glad to be home before it started raining, though it never really did. Mostly what passed over Domino was a noisy lightning storm . . . which proved fortuitous for the thief who broke his bedroom window, covering the noise of shattering glass under a particularly violent peal of thunder. Yugi had left his Puzzle box with the God cards sitting on his desk, which stood under his window, unwittingly leaving the hot items right within easy reach.
Exhaustion forgotten, Yugi hauled himself out of bed, dragging his protesting body to the laundry basket by the wardrobe. He dug in, breathing a gasp of relief to find the golden box near the bottom. He had not been able to think of a better place to hide it after recovering it.
He stuffed the box deep into his backpack and dressed for school, shaking his head. No . . . I'm not the one who got it back.
Hours before, Yugi had hit the street at a dead run, the spirit imploring him, -Aibou, let me do it!- Yugi, however, had been adamant, growling as he spotted the thief bolting away down the avenue. "NO! It was my duty to protect those cards!" Down that street, around a corner, along another – Yugi was fast on his feet, but clinging fatigue from the long weekend coupled with his shorter gait still had made for a heavy disadvantage, and he had quickly lost the thief. Then, he heard a yell down an alley ahead of him. He had darted to investigate, only to stop cold at the sight of a slim, wildly snow-maned figure in a black trench coat standing over the thief, who lay unconscious at his feet.
Yugi went into the bathroom to take care of toiletries, remembering how Bakura Ryou had turned to him, the Puzzle box in hand . . . except that it had not been Bakura in control of his own body.
"If we lost these cards, we'd never find the pharaoh's memories! It's your job to keep them safe! Well, Yugi?"
For a moment, it was all Yugi could do to keep his jaw from hitting the concrete, and even the spirit within him needed a heartbeat to recover from shock.
"Feh," the spirit of the Millennium Ring grumped, "you're so careless, I can't leave you alone for an instant. Here!" He tossed the box. "Make sure they're all there."
"Nn!" Yugi managed not to fumble it before he had it squarely in hand. Being solid gold, it was weighty and its corners dug into the soft flesh of his palms and fingers as it landed. He lifted off the lid, and breathed a sigh of relief. It's okay. The cards are all right.
The Ring-spirit eyed him hard. "Every card collector on Earth knows that you won the God cards at Battle City. They're the rarest cards that Pegasus left to this world. You should have known thieves would come after them."
Yugi hesitated a moment before speaking up. "Bakura . . . thanks for helping me – you got my cards back."
"Thank you, but . . . you're wearing that thing . . . " Yugi would have had to be blind not to have noted it the first instant he laid eyes on his friend.
"Heh . . . do you mean this?" Five solid-gold needles chimed softly in the damp night air as the treacherous spirit held out the hoop-and-triangle from his chest. "Yugi, the Millennium Ring belongs to me . . . although I'm sure my host's little theft on the Battle Ship caused a problem for you."
-That's one way of putting it,- the spirit of Millennium Puzzle growled from the door of his soul room, ready to act in an instant. All he needed was Yugi's permission. If the former tomb-raider so much as breathed wrong . . .
Yugi only glared back at the Ring-spirit, recognizing the bait for what it was and unwilling to take it. He could not help but wonder, however – when had Bakura found his way to Yugi's room? And how or why? By accident? Or was he led there, coerced by the whispering voice of the spirit of the Ring? He could not have been possessed or otherwise forced, Yugi knew – at least, not if the Ring worked the same way the Puzzle did, with the same limitations on its bound entity. If Yugi were physically separated from the Millennium Puzzle, he could still hear the spirit's voice – distance alone was not enough to break that bond – but the spirit could not "reach" him, could not possess him, trapped fully in the Puzzle without that physical contact. Did the dark spirit of the Ring have such a hold on poor Bakura that he could influence the boy's subconscious mind even from a distance? Yugi could not imagine Bakura having picked up the Ring on his own, not with knowing what it housed and what that did to him.
"Don't worry," the Ring-spirit smirked, "I know that, sooner or later, you'll need all seven Millennium Items. When that time comes, and no sooner, I'll hand over the Millennium Ring. In return for that, I'll give you this."
Yugi went back to his bedroom for his backpack before heading downstairs for breakfast and glanced at the spot where his gym bag had been left last night. It was not there now but rather waited for him in the locked office of the game shop below. He had thought about putting the Puzzle box with the God cards in there too, but felt it a bad idea to keep everything in one place.
His count of Millennium Items was now up to four: the Puzzle, the Necklace, the Rod . . . and the Millennium Eye of Pegasus J. Crawford, founder and past if not current president of Industrial Illusions, the American game company that published the wildly popular trading card game Duel Monsters TCG.
Yugi stumbled a bit at the bottom of the staircase, absently trying to step down one stair too many. He gave his mother a sleepy grin, letting mere exhaustion explain his lack of focus this morning as he dropped into a chair at the dining table beside his grandfather, even now still reeling from shock. If he had thought the sight of the Ring-spirit having felled the thief had knocked him for a loop, both he and the spirit he hosted had been stricken dumb by the sight of the thing in the Ring-spirit's outstretched palm – a solid gold sphere a little smaller than a golfball with a raised Horus Eye in bas relief on the surface that matched that of the Puzzle, the Ring, indeed most of the Millennium Items.
"Take it, Yugi! Let this be a symbol of my loyalty. I'll help you solve the puzzle of the pharaoh's memories."
Yugi only gaped for a long moment. No one knows what happened to Pegasus after the Duelist Kingdom Tournament. H-how did Bakura get the Millennium Eye?
Arms folded as he stood against the door jamb of his soul room, the pharaonic spirit of the Puzzle thought he could hazard a guess or two, but he refrained from voicing them . . . for now.
"Yugi, when you solved the Millennium Puzzle, you released the pharaoh's soul into this world. In that moment, it became your duty as the chosen one to reawaken the pharaoh's memories. To do that, you need all the Millennium Items. This Eye is one of those. I'm going to give this to you so you can use it for its intended purpose. When you have collected all of the other six Items, I'll give you the last one, the Millennium Ring. You have my word!"
The Puzzle-spirit's low growl vibrated through Yugi. -Yes, but we know what your word is worth.-
There was that, but there was something that bothered Yugi more in that moment. How much does Bakura know about the Millennium Items? Pegasus talked about seeing something in an underground temple in Egypt. He'd called it the Tablet of the Pharaoh's Memories, and said that it had holes in it that matched the Millennium Items. "Bakura, do you know about the Tablet of Memories? Do you know what happens when you fit all the Millennium Items into it?"
The Ring-spirit smirked, head cocking a bit to one side. "The Tablet of the Pharaoh's Memories? That memorial stela in the museum you're going to visit tomorrow . . . or do you mean the Millennium Stone, the great tablet in the village of Kul Elna?" He allowed a caustic laugh at Yugi's confused expression. "Pegasus had his names mixed up. The Tablet of the Pharaoh's Memories must be that stone slab at the museum. What Pegasus saw is called the Millennium Stone. That stone tablet is an artifact that connects this world to the world beyond."
Yugi gasped. The world beyond? Within him, the Puzzle-spirit reacted with similar shock to the news.
The Ring-spirit continued. "When the seven Millennium Items are placed in the stone slab, the Door to the Afterlife will open."
"The Door to the Afterlife . . . ?" This just keeps getting better and better, Yugi thought with a silent groan.
"That's right. And you know what that means . . . don't you, Yugi?"
The pharaonic spirit was solemnly quiet within him as Yugi cupped the Puzzle in his hand, contemplating. "I . . . I kind of know. It's my duty to send the Other Me . . . no . . . the pharaoh's soul sealed in the Millennium Puzzle . . . to the Afterlife."
"Bingo! That's what you get for solving the puzzle. Great power means great responsibility, right? In any case, I'll help however I can. I promise, Yugi. Here! Here's the Eye. Take it!"
Yugi barely dropped the Puzzle back against his stomach in time to catch the sphere thrown at him, relieved to do so successfully.
Within him, the Puzzle-spirit was frowning. -Why is he being so friendly? He used to be after the Millennium Items himself.-
-He even tried to kill us,- Yugi reminded him. -We can't trust him that easily!- The spirit only nodded.
The smirk was back on the Ring-spirit's face. "What? You look suspicious . . . "
"Tell me why you want to help me!" Yugi demanded.
To Yugi's surprise, it was the Ring-spirit's turn to contemplate his Millennium Item before quietly answering. "I, too, am a soul in a Millennium Item. I was sealed in the Millennium Ring for three thousand years. I can't do anything without a host body. So, Yugi . . . I want to go to the Afterlife, too! When the pharaoh goes there, so will I."
"Nn! . . . ah, y-yes, Mom?"
Mutou Michiko sat across from her son at the table, her father-in-law Sugoroku nowhere to be seen. Michiko shook her head. "You haven't heard a thing I've said, have you?"
Yugi hung his head, surprised to see as he cast his eyes down that a bowl of rice and fish sat before him – and that he had managed to eat most of it. "I'm sorry, Mom. The past weekend was really trying, and I didn't sleep much last night at all."
Michiko eyed her son. "I know. I heard you leave and come back a few times. Grandfather says he sent you out last night to pick up his heart medication from the pharmacy, then later you realized you forgot one of your schoolbooks at Honda-kun's house?"
Yugi's heart skipped a beat. She knew that he had left the house both times, and Grandpa knew about the second exit as well. He must have covered for me to Mom. I'll have to be sure to thank him when I get home tonight. This was not the first time his grandfather had lied for him to his mother. He hated that it was necessary, but what could he do? Michiko did not know the full story of her son's prized curio, had no clue about the second soul her son's body housed, nor suspected the truth of some of the odd things she had noted take place on occasion at the seeming edges of her son's life in the past year, unaware that her son was in fact at the very heart of most of those happenstances.
He hated lying, especially to his mother whom he dearly loved and deeply respected for how much she had worked to make life the best she could for her son after her husband's death – but the truth was too unbelievable. "Yup. My math book. I loaned it to Honda-kun last week, and remembered last night that I have an assignment due today." Which was mostly true, except that he had gotten the book back on Friday and finished the assignment that night, before the tournament. He did remember it last night, though, and had checked his backpack to make sure it was in there.
Michiko raised a skeptical eyebrow. "At two-thirty in the morning?"
Gods, was that what time it was when that thief broke my window? AH! My window! How do I explain that? Yugi doubled over, face in his hands, a soft groan escaping him.
"Yugi!" His mother was at his side the next instant, a hand on his shoulder.
Great. Now I've worried her again. He forced himself straight. "It's all right, Mom. I'm just . . . tired enough that I'm not feeling well."
Michiko eyed him. "You did too much this weekend. You know how I feel about that, honey. You get too busy, wear yourself out . . . " She pulled a deep breath, stopping her own lecture before she got started. Again. She crouched by her son's chair so she could meet him eye-to-eye. "Yugi . . . honey . . . " She sighed, running fingers affectionately through his thick locks. He suppressed a grimace at the gesture – it was the kind of thing a mother would do to a young child, not a teenager . . . but he did not really mind so much. "Honey . . . I didn't get the chance to tell you last night how proud I am of you for winning yesterday. There were a lot of technical difficulties, especially towards the end, but I watched as much of those game finals as they were able to air. Yugi . . . I know I've said it before, but . . . I'm glad you've found something you really enjoy, something you're good at . . . something that you can have a lot of confidence in yourself doing . . . "
Yugi nodded, knowing what she was not saying. They had had that conversation before, too. It worried her to see the kind of person her son could be when he played this game. She had watched the Duelist Kingdom Tournament a few months ago as well, having allowed him to go despite the fact that Grandpa was in the hospital at the time. His being home or away would not have helped her father-in-law's condition.
The confidence was certainly wonderful to see, so far removed from the shy introvert he always had been until recently, but there was an edge of hardness that concerned her. What Yugi could not tell her was that it was not truly him that she was seeing in those times.
-Aibou . . . - It grieved the spirit to put his partner in such a situation with his family, that people who did not know about the spirit would mistake his behavior and habits for his softer, more innocent host's. Yugi knew what else was on his mind, too – that the spirit had sworn to protect him, not only from their enemies, but from having to become as he was in order to survive. The spirit cherished his aibou's, his hikari's, "Light" too much to let it be tainted with his "Darkness" more than was unavoidably necessary.
His mother's fingers brushing his cheek brought his attention back to her. "Just . . . be careful, okay? And don't forget about real life, either, about your future. I know you're very good at games and puzzles of all kinds – none better – but you can't play games the rest of your life."
"I know, Mom."
Michiko grinned, then shook her head a little as she studied him. "You're more and more like your father as you get older . . . " She grimaced slightly, as though she had not meant to say it aloud, but then she smiled, letting her son know that she had meant the words. "Hurry up and finish breakfast, or you'll be late for school. I have a meeting this morning, so I won't be able to drive you if you miss the bus." With that, she gave a last ruffle to his hair before leaving the kitchen.
Yugi gazed absently at his now-cold breakfast. He wished he could remember more of his father, but he had been very young when a lethal cancer had taken the man's life. Yugi sighed. At least he had memories of his father, something his other self sorely lacked. But hopefully we'll remedy that this afternoon . . . -Right, Other Me?-
- . . . indeed.-
Quite frankly, the spirit was doing his best not to get his hopes up, Yugi knew . . . but Yugi himself was hopeful enough for both of them.
-Bakura's coming with us, Aibou,- the spirit reminded him, -which means you know who else will be there.-
Yugi nodded, recalling the Ring-spirit's parting comments from early this morning.
"Yugi, after school today, you're going to the museum with your friends, right? My host is looking forward to it. The three God cards and the mystery of the pharaoh's memories . . . soon you'll find another piece of the puzzle. I'll be watching from the shadows. We'll meet again." With that, the spirit had already turned and was walking off into the night.
Yugi gave up on breakfast and cleared the table, cleaning his dishes in the sink. -I wonder what "other piece" Bakura was talking about.-
He could feel the spirit's sardonic grin as the other shrugged. -You're asking me, Aibou?-
Yugi chuckled, shaking his head as he headed into the game shop at the front of the building. He found Sugoroku in the side room that acted as storage with a corner set aside as a cluttered office space. Locating his gym bag behind the desk, he shouldered it as he called across the room. "Bye, Grandpa! I'm heading to school."
Sugoroku peered at him from between shelves. "Hold on, Yugi." He shuffled around a metal shelving unit, eyeing the gym bag. He glanced out the door, then pulled Yugi further into the room and shut the door behind them. "Yugi, I saw that a little while ago . . . and I know what's in it."
Yugi paused, then nodded. His grandfather knew a lot more than his mother did, but nothing close to the whole story. "Jou-kun, Anzu, and a few others are going straight from school to the museum with me this afternoon. We have something to take care of there. I don't know how long that's going to take, but when I get home tonight, I promise to tell you all about these . . . and . . . about a lot more." He owed his grandfather that, at least – remembering, too, the conversation they had had the night before – and this was one of his mother's late work nights, so he knew he could be safe from her overhearing any of it. He only hoped that Jonouchi and the others could come home with him to help back him up.
-At the least, I'll be here, Aibou . . . - Not that the spirit had any more desire to face Mutou Sugoroku and his possible reactions to "the rest of the story" than Yugi had, but Yugi knew the spirit figured that he owed Yugi at least that much himself.
Sugoroku studied his grandson for a long moment, then laid a hand on his shoulder. "Take care, my boy. I look forward to talking to you tonight, then." He grinned suddenly. "There's a brand-new American pizza restaurant that opened up a few blocks away that I've been thinking about trying. How about I put in an order for dinner tonight?"
Yugi's eyes lit up. He had never had pizza before. Food places that served it were still relatively new, especially outside of the big commercial cities like Tokyo, as it had been much slower to catch on in Japan than hamburgers and related cuisine. "That sounds great, Grandpa! I'll give you a call when I think I know when I'll be home, okay?"
"Sure. And . . . should I plan for the whole gang?"
Yugi's grin turned sheepish. His grandfather knew him and his friends all too well. It was not uncommon for Jonouchi and the others to come over for visits, but all the more so would they likely be here for the conversation to be had that night. Sugoroku knew it, and he understood. Yugi threw his arms around his grandfather. "Thanks, Grandpa!"
Sugoroku embraced his grandson tightly. "Of course, Yugi. Of course . . . "
8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Both grandfather and grandson had long grown accustomed to the reality that was the Millennium Puzzle, and neither took note of the subconscious gestures on both their parts to shift the object aside so that it was not between as they embraced.
The spirit of the Millennium Puzzle noticed.
Not that he blamed them, especially on a practical level. The Millennium Puzzle was large, sharply angular, and would hurt to have digging into one's chest if caught between them in such a manner. It was rare these days but still not completely uncommon for Yugi to roll over and wake himself up with the bruising he would get from finding himself laying on the Puzzle when he wore it to bed.
Still, to his chagrin, the spirit found that it hurt all the same – that, in a way, it felt like he himself was being brushed aside, excluded from the warmth and the close familial relationship that his aibou shared with his mother and grandfather, as well as all of his friends. The spirit could sense that warm comfort . . . but could not share in it.
In the boundless silence that was his soul room, boots clicked against hard stone as he paced across the floor to one of the innumerable Escher-ian staircases. None of it was "real" in a material sense, and yet the room always "felt" dank and chill, and more than a little forbidding. It felt like he imagined a tomb would.
Chh, fitting . . . it is a tomb. Mine. And just as lonely and forgotten. Or so it sometimes seemed. Yugi was the sole person in existence with whom he could interact on his own, without another person between them, muddying the perceptions of just with whom other people truly communicated. Recently, Jonouchi and the others had come to fully understand and accept that he existed, but whether they saw him as their friend in his own right or appreciated him merely as part-and-parcel of accepting Yugi among them, he could not tell – nor was he sure he wanted to know for certain, ill at ease at the thought of the truth. Granted, he was The Duelist, the one to whom the others turned in times of trouble . . . but it was precisely because of him that trouble found them at all. And there was more. He was not a living man but a shell of what once he had been. He was a ghost, a possessing entity, a self-aware energy pattern bound to an item of power, dependent on it and on his host's life essence for his own continuation. "Things" like him did not necessarily have friends, certainly not families.
"Whoa, hey! Back off, spook!"
The spirit jumped, startled at the voice that echoed through the room, sudden and unexpected. U-urameshi . . . ?
"Yeah, you heard me right. Chh, with or without that Malik guy, we already know you're not Mutou. In fact, is he in there? Hey, Mutou, can you hear me?"
The spirit shook his head, remembering standing in the town square with Hashiba and Urameshi barely two days ago, and how Urameshi had shifted to look right at Yugi when he manifested by the spirit's side.
"Hey, there you are. Listen, tell your buddy he's the one wastin' time findin' Jonouchi if he's gonna start askin' a bunch of questions."
You . . . can see him? the spirit recalled stammering back in shock.
"Hear 'im, too."
I-I . . . I wonder if Urameshi would be able to see and hear me if I did the same? Hashiba had neither seen nor heard Yugi, but he reacted a bit all the same, as though able to sense Yugi's soul-presence.
And then there was Shu, who had jumped when Yugi disappeared, taking control of his body back so the spirit could rest. He saw Yugi, too, so long as he had that body armor of his on. In fact . . . a number of them did. He had ignored it at the time, focusing on more pressing matters, but now that he had a chance to think about it, he remembered several of them reacting – or not particularly reacting – to the sight of Yugi's soul next to his body.
Jonouchi, Honda, Anzu, Bakura, Otogi . . . even Mai now . . . th-they're not the only ones who know of me anymore. And many of the others would even be able to see me! It shocked him to realize, in that moment, how much he had longed for acceptance in his own right, for people to know of his existence and accept him as a separate person among them.
The spirit dropped onto the stairs, folding as his heels pulled in and he rested his chin on his knees, arms hugging his shins. Perhaps he could not wrap himself in the warmth of a grandfather's embrace to ward off the isolating chill of his soul room but, for just a moment, the darkness itself felt a little less cold.
Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!
Yeah, yeah . . . I know by canon the tablet at the museum is merely "the stone slab" and that "The Tablet of the Pharaoh's Memory" refers to the sarcophagus-lid-like carving with depressions to house all seven Items, and it does indeed open the door to the Afterlife as Bakura says, but . . . well, think about it. The sarcophagus-lid-carving has nothing to do with Yami's memories! It was forged before he was even a year old, if not before he was born. It's the tablet at the museum that he has to present the God cards to for regaining his memories. It is that stone that holds the catalyst energies to interact with those of the God cards to unlock the seal in Yami's mind and soul. On the other hand, I forget where I read the sarcophagus-lid-carving was "named" the Millennium Stone, but that makes a lot of sense to me. Millennium Puzzle, Millennium Key, "Millennium" Pick-an-Item . . . and that carving is basically a Millennium Item in and of itself. Hell, it's the very MOLD that the other Items were fashioned from! The gold was poured into the depressions, and they basically formed themselves! We see it in "Duel 30" of YGO: MW Vol 4 – episode 206 in the anime. So . . . yeah, I can't help but wonder if Takahashi-sensei may have named the carving when he had Pegasus talk about it at the end of Duelist Kingdom, only to rethink a few things and decide to go in a slightly different direction with his story than originally intended by the time he got to the beginning of Battle City. I'm sure any author can relate to that. Hell, /I/ sure can. Oh, well. In any case, this is part of my "fanon" now.
Heh . . . gomen. Rant over. -sheepish grin-
Hikari – "Light." The yami/hikari terminology is often applied both Yami/Yugi and Ryou/Dark Bakura. The use of this term is strictly a fandom creation, so there are some fans who frown on its use. It is not canon but, then again, neither is calling the Puzzle-spirit Yami, which means "darkness." I happen to like the idea of the "hikaris" Yugi and Ryou balancing their spirits' darkness, especially between Yugi and Yami – Yami would not be who and what he is today without the saving grace that is Yugi – so I've made the choice just for myself to use the terminology as part of my personal fanon.