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 4 – A Rose…
Ryo and Seiji crossed paths with Honda on the way out to the baseball field, then spotted Anzu and Bakura already settled under the trees. Ryo paused only briefly, gripping the Wildfire orb in his pocket, but it did not seem to sense that anything was amiss with the white-haired third-year. Bakura felt as he had this morning: there was a darkness present, but it seemed to lay dormant for the moment. Satisfied, Ryo waved as the pair stood to greet them. "Hey, guys! Mind if we join you?"
"Date-kun, Ryo-kun, hi! Not at all." Ryo grinned that Anzu remembered to call him by his personal name as he had requested last week. Anzu smiled back, then turned to Honda. "Where're Yugi and Jonouchi-kun?"
Honda shrugged. "Figured they'd be here by now."
Seiji shook his head. "Mutou-san might not make it. Shu said his Chemistry teacher might detain him for lunch because he didn't finish a project due today." The responding groans were a mixture of amusement and sympathy.
"That's probably where Jonouchi is, then, too," Honda commented. "They have classes in the same hallway, so Jou usually meets Yugi before they come find the rest of us."
The group settled onto the grass in a moment of uncomfortable silence, starting into their various lunches, before Ryo spoke up. "I know I kinda asked already, but . . . you guys okay?"
Honda, Anzu, and Bakura exchanged looks before Honda pulled a breath, glancing furtively at Bakura as he turned to the two Ronins. "Y-yeah . . . yeah, pretty much, I think. Your friend Kurama wasn't kidding about the Finals being . . . dangerous, though." He pulled another deep breath, combing fingers through close-cut brunette hair. "Man, some crazy stuff went down. I mean, like . . . crazy! Even for us." He glanced at Bakura and Anzu, seeming to share a private half-joke with them. They, in turn, only grimaced at the memories.
Ryo sat back, rolling his eyes. "Wanna tell us about crazy?" He grinned sidelong at Seiji, who only nodded.
"Yugi-kun, Jonouchi-kun!" Bakura stood once more, looking relieved to change, or at least stall, the direction of the conversation.
Yugi, Jonouchi, and Shu jogged over, plopping down on the lawn among the group. Jonouchi grinned at Seiji and Ryo. "Cool! Glad you guys could join us. Yug said you might."
Ryo snickered. "Teacher let you out of jail after all, Mutou-san?"
Yugi blinked at him in mild surprise, then flushed sheepishly. "Eh . . . most of the class hadn't finished the project yet, so Hiroshige-sensei extended it another week. And please, Sanada-kun – just Yugi's fine."
Ryo grinned. "Sure thing. Ryo, then . . . and Seiji." He pointed at himself, then jabbed a thumb at his teammate. Seiji nodded.
Bakura tucked his head with a shy grin. "You know, I wouldn't mind being called by personal name, either. It is rather a bit more close and friendly . . . although I guess it could get confusing, too." He looked at Ryo with a soft chuckle.
Ryo laughed. "Yeah, but we'll figure it out."
Jonouchi shrugged. "Eh, I don't care what ya call me, s'long as it's not late for dinner!"
"You and food," Anzu snickered with a shake of her head.
It was Seiji's turn to laugh. "You sound as bad as Shu."
Honda nodded. "Whatever's fine with me, too."
Another brief moment of silence fell over the group as they ate. Again, it was Ryo to break it first, looking at Yugi – or more pointedly, at the Millennium Puzzle. "Speaking of names, what do you guys call your spirit friend?"
Yugi and his companions exchanged looks, and Ryo wondered if the subject had ever come up among them before. At length, Yugi shrugged. "Well . . . I call him Other-Me. He's . . . my other heart, in a sense."
Jonouchi nodded. "We thought for a long time they were basically the same person. Kinda like split personalities'r somethin', you know? Yugi an' the Other Yugi." He shrugged. "Guess we've never really . . . thought about it since."
"It's only been pretty recently that we've known they're actually two separate people," Honda added. Anzu was strangely quiet, and Bakura would not even meet anyone's eye, his hand straying to his chest.
Seiji studied them. "And . . . you've never asked him?" From the expressions, it was evident that they had not.
Anzu gave them a wan smile. "He introduces himself to other people as 'Yugi,' too. I guess it's just easier than trying to explain himself."
Yugi shook his head. "That, too, but honestly it's because he's just used to it. Even he thought that he and I were facets of the same person, so he's used to answering to my name." To the Ronins, he explained, "You see, my other self doesn't remember his name. In fact, he doesn't remember anything about himself." He glanced at his friends. "We're actually going to Domino Museum after school today to see if there's anything more we can learn. There's an exhibit there from Egypt that includes some artifacts from the dynasty we believe he's from."
Ryo exchanged glances with Seiji, remembering the trip to the museum on Sunday. Likely, Yugi and his friends were going to the same exhibit where Ryo's group had spoken with that Egyptian woman, Ishizu Ishtahl. Just then, too, Ryo frowned and reached into his pocket. Wildfire had warmed against the hollow of his hip with a sensation across his mind that was not exactly a warning.
"You want company?" Shu offered from behind a mouthful of noodles.
Jonouchi grinned. "Sure. Why not?"
"In the meantime, I tell you what, guys – why don't we ask him?" Seiji was looking to the side and up, as though at someone standing behind Yugi.
Yugi flinched in surprise and looked up at the same spot. "Y-you can see him, Seiji-kun?"
Ryo wondered if the spirit had manifested himself, and if it were that to which Wildfire had reacted. If he had, it would not surprise Ryo to know that Seiji could see the spirit even without his Armor, his teammate being the most acutely-attuned among the Ronin Elementals to the psychic and the supernatural.
Seiji nodded, then looked at Ryo and Shu. "Take your Armor orbs in hand and concentrate through them. You might be able to see him even without donning sub-Armors."
Ryo did so, closing his eyes for just a moment as he stretched his senses into the mystical crystal in his palm, then back out through it. He opened his eyes, suppressing a flinch in spite of himself as he noted a translucent figure standing over Yugi, gazing back at him, Seiji, and Shu in stunned silence. Boy, that Hiei guy wasn't kidding about them looking like brothers!
It took a moment before the spirit could gather himself. [Y-you can . . . see me?] he stammered in shock, a deep mix of emotions in his gaze.
"Dude . . . " Shu breathed.
"Whoa, quit jokin' around!" Jonouchi barked. "You guys can really see him?" Anzu stared at them, stricken, while Honda sat back with a low whistle of astonishment. Bakura, on the other hand, seemed very careful not to show any reaction. At the nods from the Ronins, Jonouchi shook his head, glancing at Yugi. "Damn, wish we could. We only get ta kinda 'see' when he an' Yug trade places." Yugi ducked in apology.
Bakura's voice was barely audible. "I can see him."
Seiji looked at him, at the others, then leaned over to Jonouchi, dropping something into his palm. "Here."
Jonouchi stared down in shock at the green crystal orb in his hand. "Huh?"
Seiji wrapped his hand over Jonouchi's after letting him see the orb of Halo that he had placed there. "Close your eyes and concentrate. Feel the energy in your hand. Try to pull that energy into yourself, into your mind."
Yugi looked excited. "Think that will give Jou-kun the ability to see Other-Me, too?"
Seiji nodded, though he did not take his eyes off of Jonouchi. "I think it will, if Jonouchi-san can pull off his part."
Jonouchi stared back at him for a long moment, looked at Yugi, glanced up in the spirit's general direction, at Honda and Anzu, and finally down at Seiji's hand over his. His grip around the crystal tightened as he raised his eyes to Seiji's once more, taking the challenge with a friendly smirk. "Watch me." He closed his eyes.
Ryo studied the spirit's expression as Jonouchi applied himself to the attempt. He saw the guarded hope in the spirit's eyes, and it occurred to him: for however long they had known their pharaonic friend, they had no idea what he truly looked like, must not have ever been able to interact with him at all but through Yugi. He thought about how lonely that would make him feel if he were in the spirit's place, at once present and yet cut off from his friends. He saw Anzu and Honda eyeing him and Shu, and he nodded before turning back to Jonouchi.
Jonouchi's face scrunched in concentration, then relaxed suddenly with an expression of mild surprise and curiosity. Blinking, he opened his eyes once more, looked around, up over Yugi – and squawked, jerking back in shock so that his hand nearly came out of Seiji's, eyes wide and staring. The spirit gazed back in equal question and surprise. A grin spread slowly across Jonouchi's face, and he breathed in awe. "Wow . . . um . . . Hey, buddy!"
The spirit swallowed. [J-jonouchi-kun . . . ]
Jonouchi gave him a thumbs-up, the goofy grin on his face threatening to split it in two. "Oh, man, this is great! I can see ya, hear ya . . . "
Honda leaned forward. "Dude, seriously?"
"Ha-ha! Cool! Hey, c'mere." Shu scooted over closer to Honda, plunking Hardrock's brilliant orange orb into the other's hand and grasping over top.
Ryo and Anzu exchanged looks, and he grinned, offering his hand. She took it with a small smile, the ruby Wildfire orb pressed between their palms. Ryo closed his eyes after she did, searching through the orb for her mind. He was not as practiced at any such thing as Seiji was, but he felt the questing presence beyond Wildfire and reached for it. He heard her gasp as he made contact, and startled back at the flood of emotions that responded: excitement, nervousness, self-consciousness . . . and a secret infatuation. She's in love with the spirit! Ryo realized, then flinched, hoping she had not "heard" that. If she had, he did not sense a reaction. He opened his eyes once more to the sight of Shu watching in amusement as Honda gaped up at his spectral friend, awe and disbelief in his eyes. Then, Anzu opened her eyes . . . and seemed to stop breathing.
The spirit of the Millennium Puzzle gazed around at them all, and Ryo could see that he was just as stricken as they. Ryo imagined that he would be. How often must the spirit have stood among them as he had been just now, and not once had his friends look at him, acknowledge him, with the exception of Yugi? The thought made Ryo's heart ache, and he was glad he and his teammates could offer this opportunity to their new friends.
Yugi sat in silence, observing with a wide smile and a light in his eyes. He looked up after a moment, his voice soft. "Other-Me . . . come join us." He patted the grass next to him.
The spirit hesitated a moment longer, then stepped up next to his partner and crouched on his heels, still looking around at everyone in his own disbelief. At length, he shook his head and offered a small, almost sheepish grin. [Yo,] he murmured with a wave of greeting.
Ryo feared for just a split second that Anzu would pass out on him or something, but then he sensed her shake her mental head at herself and pull her focus back to the matters at hand . . . even as she seemed to want to lose herself in dark amethyst eyes.
Honda chuckled, breaking the enchantment. " 'Yo' yourself! Damn, buddy, can't tell you how many times I've wished we could do something like this! I mean, no offense – " He looked at Yugi in apology. " – but it's just not the same when you know you're talking to a different person but looking at the same face."
Yugi laughed. "I can only imagine! Wow, this is awesome! I'm so glad you guys can finally see him, too! Not that I've ever thought you questioned that he's real or anything, but . . . " He looked at the spirit. "It's just that . . . he's wanted to be able to talk to you guys for so long, on his own, without me between you to confuse things."
[Aibou . . . ] The spirit grinned at his partner with a small shake of his head, the hint of embarrassment that shaded his eyes belying the admonishment.
Yugi shrugged, unbothered. "It's true, though. And I understand. It'd confuse the heck out of me, I think, if I were the one looking at one person and knew I was talking to someone else."
Ryo watched the spirit's smile widen, seeming to appreciate that Yugi was not hurt or offended. The Ronin was glad for them.
"Well, now that we got everyone together and talkin' to each other, and hearin' and seein' each other, we got a question for you – What?" Shu huffed at Seiji's groan.
"Shu, you have the tact of an avalanche."
The Warrior of Hardrock grinned with a shrug. "Hey, I'm not the Ronin of Earth for nothin', you know."
The spirit chuckled softly, then sighed. [My name.] They could hear the pain in his voice. [As Aibou and the others have told you, I don't know my name. I . . . ] He shrugged. [I have always been known as Yugi . . . as . . . his darker self, if you will.] Yugi frowned at that, but the spirit ignored it.
Ryo frowned as well, confused. "But you know you were a pharaoh, right? Couldn't you just look in the . . . well, like, the history books or something? Figure out which one you were?"
The spirit started to respond but deferred as Bakura shook his head. "It's not that simple, actually. Not every pharaoh is recorded in the Kings' Lists. There are wide gaps here and there, with a few dynasties fairly well known and others little at all. Plus . . . we know that Other-Yugi-san's name was very deliberately removed from all records . . . " He gazed at his spectral friend with a deeply chagrined expression in his eyes, as though he felt terrible for bringing it up.
The spirit nodded. [Or so we have been told. I . . . don't know why, though my guess would be either to protect something, or . . . as some kind of – ]
Yugi growled without warning, turning fully to the spirit with a vehemence that surprised even his closest friends. "Nakama, no! Don't say that!"
The spirit sighed. [Aibou, we don't know – ]
"You're right – we don't know. But I've told you before, I refuse to believe that you came to us because of some punishment! You're not a bad person, not now and not then!"
"P-punishment?" Anzu gasped. "Y-yugi, how can you say that?" In her upset shock, she did not even seem aware of what name she called him.
The spirit flinched visibly, eyes dropping from theirs. Seiji studied him a moment, then murmured, "Because of his present imprisonment." The spirit looked up at him, a hint of shame darkening his eyes. Seiji nodded, the spirit's expression seeming to confirm his suspicion. "That artifact is some kind of soul receptacle, I'll bet. It sustains you, but it also binds you somehow . . . doesn't it?" He gazed at the spirit with an expression of empathy.
The spirit studied him in return, at length looking away again with a weary nod. [Aibou's soul and mine became intertwined somehow when he solved the Millennium Puzzle and awakened me. His life energy bolsters my own . . . but it is the Puzzle itself that binds my soul to this world. I can escape its confines so long as Aibou is in direct possession of the Puzzle, but its energies drag at me. I've . . . never determined how long I can remain outside of the Puzzle before its pull becomes too much, but I'm sure that such a point would be reached were I to test it.]
"Hn, might not be a bad thing to discover," Seiji mused.
Jonouchi frowned. "Might be if it hurt one of 'em."
Bakura shook his head. "Not likely, Jonouchi-kun. He would be forced back into the Puzzle for a time to rest, but it wouldn't particularly injure either of them."
Honda frowned. "You know that from the Ring-spirit?"
Bakura grimaced, nodding. "Voice tried it a few times, I think."
The Ronins looked at him with odd expressions. "'Voice'?" Shu queried.
Bakura startled, hesitating as he realized that perhaps he had said too much, looking especially at the Ronins, then turning to Yugi and the Puzzle-spirit.
The spirit only gazed back for a moment. [Has he let you remember last night yet?] Bakura paused, then looked away and nodded. The spirit sighed and nodded in turn. [It's all right, Bakura. It wouldn't hurt for the Ronins to know, considering how much they already do.]
Bakura pulled a deep breath. "Yugi-kun's . . . not the only bearer of a Millennium Item with a spirit bound within." He unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the Millennium Ring hanging against his chest. "Unlike him, I've . . . never seen the Ring-spirit. He's just a voice in my mind, when he lets me be aware of him at all." He scowled, as did the Puzzle-spirit.
Jonouchi studied him a long moment, then nodded. "Bakura an' the Ring-spirit don't exactly share the same relationship as Yugi an' Other-Yugi."
"No," Honda grunted. "More like host and parasite." He flinched and glanced apology at Bakura, as though realizing after the fact that it might be rude to say as much in front of him.
Bakura shrugged with a small grin as he buttoned his shirt closed. "What is, is, I suppose. In any case, back to the subject of names . . . " He hesitated again, continuing only after an encouraging nod from the Puzzle-spirit. "The ancient Egyptians believed in a very real power in a person's name, that it was tied to his or her very essence. If you look at some of the monuments, you'll notice cartouches with the names inside chiseled out. They believed that if you destroyed all record of a person's name and never spoke it again, so that the name itself became forgotten, you could destroy the person as well and keep him from passing on into paradise in the Afterlife."
Shu winced. "Dude, that's harsh!"
Ryo looked at the Puzzle-spirit, thinking he understood. "So . . . maybe someone had a beef with you and tried to hurt you by taking your name, but the Puzzle nabbed you instead?" The spirit could only shrug.
Yugi's fists clenched in his lap, his words an impassioned oath. "We're going to get it back for him, though."
Ryo nodded. "I'm sure you will, and the Ronin Warriors will help you." Seiji and Shu nodded, and Yugi grinned at them, thankful.
"So . . . so if we get you your name back, though," Anzu ventured, "will . . . that release you from the Puzzle?"
The spirit met her eye for a long moment before responding. [I don't know, Anzu. As we talked about once before, I want to know who I am, but I also want to stay with Yugi . . . with all of you.] The conflict in his eyes was clear for all to see as he looked around at everyone. Yugi's eyes were hidden behind his bangs for a moment, as he was unwilling or unable to meet anyone's gaze and reveal his own struggle.
Seiji sat up, drawing attention to himself. "We're getting ahead of ourselves, guys. We don't even have his name yet, so let's not worry about what it will or won't do, all right?" He focused on the spirit. "Until we do get your true name back, the question is: what do you want to be called? We can't just keep calling you 'the other Yugi'."
Jonouchi bristled a little. "Why not? It's worked for this long."
Yugi chuckled. "True, but I think Seiji-kun has a point. You've never gotten to actually talk to both me and Other-Me at the same time. I don't mind sharing my name – I really don't! – but if we get to talk like this more often, having two Yugis is going to be worse that telling Ryo-kun from Ryou-kun!" Ryo and Bakura exchanged amicable grins and shrugs.
[I am truly honored to be known by Aibou's name, but he's right. Still, I've . . . never really thought about it, to be honest.]
"Well . . . tell us a little about yourself," Shu suggested. "Likes, dislikes . . . Surely you remember something about yourself, don't you?"
The spirit chuckled, sounding amused in spite of himself at the warrior's tone. [I wish I did, Shu. Believe me.] He sighed, shaking his head. [Unfortunately, there is nothing. My mind is as dark as the Shadows.]
Bakura shook his head. "Speaking of which, I still can't believe you initiated a full Shadow Game."
The spirit grimaced. [It was the only way, Bakura.]
Ryo frowned. " 'The' shadows . . . ?" He gasped softly as he remembered. "That canopy of darkness! That was your doing, wasn't it?" The spirit nodded. "Hey, what the hell kind of power is that? I've never heard of anything like it."
Honda snickered at the look on his face. "This coming from a guy who can pull a suit of samurai armor out of a shooting marble."
"Uh . . . yeah, well . . . "
The group laughed at that for a moment before refocusing, Jonouchi reaching with his free hand to pull a stack of cards from a small case on his belt. "Anyway, yeah, that was Other-Yugi. See, he figured if he made that into a Shadow Game, he'd be able to make it so the holograms from our Duel Disks would be a little more real an' be able ta help you guys. Worked even better than we thought, too, huh?"
[Very much so. I had hoped we might be able to confuse your enemy, adding allies to give you all some advantage. I didn't . . . well, perhaps I should have guessed that our spells and traps would have worked as they did.]
"Shadow 'game,' huh?" Ryo shook his head with a deep grimace. "That really wasn't exactly a game, you know." He looked at the spirit. "And what was that power that released everyone when you called 'game over,' anyway?"
The spirit hesitated, then shook his head. [A proper explanation of the Shadows and the Shadow Games is a very long telling. I'll wait to explain until I can do so once for everyone, at your friend Nasutei's house tomorrow night.]
Ryo frowned but nodded, understanding.
"Hey, Jonouchi-san, may I?" Shu asked, gesturing at the cards in the other's hand.
"Sure!" Jonouchi handed over his Deck, watching as Shu set it on his thigh to turn through it a card at a time, one-handed so he did not break the contact with Honda. Jonouchi grinned suddenly as though just then remembering something and wagged a finger at the warrior. "An' just in case you've forgotten, you still owe me a Duel."
Anzu laughed. "Yeah, and we better get to watch!"
Yugi nodded. "I don't know if Mai-san is still in town, but I know she still wants a rematch, too."
Shu grinned at them. "Oh, I haven't forgotten! Although . . . " His grin turned sheepish as he focused on Jonouchi. "Dunno I'll be any kind of a challenge to someone who's ranked in the top four in two consecutive tournaments."
"Well," Yugi put in, "you never know until you try."
"Yeah, right!" Shu said with a laugh. "And that coming from the champion of both those tournaments!"
[Aibou's right, Shu,] the spirit admonished, his tone mild. [You'll never get stronger if you don't spar and practice and develop your skills, just as in anything.]
"Heh . . . yeah, that's true."
"So that magical energy you used . . . you draw it from shadows?" Ryo asked.
The spirit sighed. [Not just any shadows, no. Not as in shadows such as this tree casts. The Shadows that I wield are energies not of this world, but from a different realm altogether.]
Bakura shuddered. "The Shadow Realm." Anzu put a hand on his shoulder, comforting him.
Ryo frowned in thought, nodding slowly. "Malik mentioned such a realm when he was talking to you guys through that mime when you fought him at the waterway. Was that a Shadow Game, too? I remember we all felt . . . well, something like the energies you used at the sports park. Not quite as strong, though, overall."
[That was not a full-fledged Shadow Game, no, but the Shadows were indeed present in that Duel.]
Shu handed Jonouchi back his Deck, then checked his watch and groaned. "Bell's gonna ring soon, guys." Reluctant nods responded from all around.
"Eh?" The murmur of questioning reaction sounded from most everyone in the group. Seiji had been sitting in such silence, as though pondering something, that the comment without any preamble startled them all.
Seiji nodded to himself, then looked at the spirit. "Yes, I think that would suit you."
The spirit frowned at him in confusion. [I'm afraid I don't follow.]
"Your name, or at least one for us to call you until we recover your true name." Seiji ticked off his points on the fingers of his free hand, the other still locked over Jonouchi's fist. "You call yourself a darker aspect of Yugi-san. You live in the darkness of the Millennium Puzzle, your mind as dark as that. You wield a power known as the Shadows. Hn, for all we know, it could be those very Shadows, that Darkness, that holds your true name from you, even. So . . . let those Shadows give you one in return. 'Darkness.' Yami."
The group turned to the spirit, who gazed at Seiji in a mixture of surprise and contemplation. [Yami . . . ]
Honda nodded. "You know . . . he's right. It does suit you."
"I think so, too," Bakura offered, his voice soft.
"Yeah! I like it," Jonouchi declared. "Yami it is! Whaddya say, buddy?"
Anzu rolled her eyes at him, then looked at the spirit, seeming to test the name. "Yami . . . Yami . . . heh, 'Yami-no-Yugi'?" she wondered, glancing at Yugi.
Yugi thought about it another moment, then grinned. "I like it, too. What do you think, Nakama?"
The spirit stared around at the group for a long moment, a faint smile tugging at his lips. [I-I . . . yes. I suppose it is fitting, isn't it?] He turned to the Ronin and offered a small bow. [Thank you, Date Seiji.]
Seiji grinned back. "Hey, don't worry about it."
"Cool!" Shu exclaimed.
Ryo was laughing. "Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony in the Ronin Warrior of Light giving a name to the spirit of 'the Darkness'?"
Bakura folded over with a snicker. "Oh, right! I think that's perfect!"
Jonouchi stood up just then, careful not to loose Seiji's grip on his fist. The spirit of the Millennium Puzzle followed suit as Jonouchi fixed him with a mirthful gaze. "Well, then, I say we do this right, eh?" He stuck out his hand. "Hey! Nice ta meet'cha. Name's Jonouchi Katsuya. What's yours?"
The spirit gaped at him in shock for the span of a few heartbeats, then shook his head and laughed. It was soft but a rich sound and pleasant to hear. He could not grasp his friend's hand properly, but he held his out to align just the same, seeming to delight in this game with his friend. [The pleasure is mine, Jonouchi-kun. I do not know my true name yet, but for now . . . I am called Yami.]
Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!