Timeline III, known universe: Domino City, Japan

The food was simple, but nourishing - at this moment, he couldn't have cared less for the finer taste of the dishes he was used to. There was even a napkin packed in the box, which he used for wiping off his fingers before he finished off the rest of the milk. His only regret was that there was obviously not any more food in the shed; he felt like he could eat a whole army's worth.

How long had it been since he had anything to eat before this? His earliest memory went back to breakfast at the Palace, and since then he simply drew a blank. Closing the box and screwing the typical cap on the goblet once again, he decided that he had to be thankful for the bite of food he had found instead of complaining. It was dark, cold and raining, and he had shelter, his clothes only torn at the hem and he'd had something to eat. Fortunately, his shenti wasn't soaked, but slightly damp; he'd been inside before it started to really pour. His cloak could serve as a blanket, the fabric thick and comfortable enough to provide him warmth. There wasn't anything resembling a bed here, but that was obviously too much to ask for from this simple shed.

He looked around to see if he could improvise something to sleep on, but there was nothing that could serve as a makeshift bed, and he gave up on the idea. He was too tired and his feet hurt; the chair would have to suffice. He'd fallen asleep on his throne before, a chair wasn't that different. In the morning, he would go out and find someone who could help him, as well as paying for eating the food; he didn't have any money on him, but one of his earrings or regular rings would do. A Pharaoh would always respect his citizens and pay for what he took, even if it was simple bread and milk.

There was someone fumbling at the door, the handle rattling. He turned his head around, surprised. Who could come here at this time of hour? Another lost person? How was he supposed to communicate, would they speak the same language as he? Straightening himself despite his sore feet - he really, really wanted to sit again - he waited for the visitors to enter. The door was pushed open, a gust of cold wind blowing inside, followed by a slew of raindrops.

"What a shitty weather, fuck," the tallest of the two spoke out loud, following by a loud burp.

"You said it, Soyjo," the smaller one said, huddling in his leather coat, his words mumbled by the ratty shawl wrapped around his head. He had stuffed his hands deep in his pockets, shivering again. No wonder he was cold - the man wore even rattier jeans, cut open everywhere, tucked in muddy, badly tied boots.

"It's a good thing we saw you going in here," the one called Soyjo said. "A very good thing.

You wanted to take shelter for the rain too, huh?"

He nodded, figuring from the intonation of the man's voice that he asked a question, and his guess was, ten to one, that he was commenting about the bad weather.

"Hey, cat got your tongue?" The small one closed the door behind him, shutting the rain and the wind out.

"He's not very talkative, Haruku," Soyjo said, grinning. "Not that he want him to be. He's not from here…you aren't from here, are you?"

"I do not understand you," he answered.

"Whoa, whoa! It talks! Jesus fuck man, is that a language or a disease you got?"

Soyjo laughed, sounding like a mule. He took his hands out of his pockets, almost similarly dressed as Haruku; cut and torn jeans, combined with a sweaty, sticky shirt and leather jacket, steel-toed boots on his feet.

"Who fucking cares, man, look at what he's wearing! I told you that it was gold! And you fucking telling me that I didn't see right! Fuck you, I'm taking that pendant of his!"

"Hey!" Haruku yelled at his partner in crime. "Shut the fuck up, man! Equal share!"

"I do not understand you," he repeated, keeping his voice neutral. The tones in their voices were picking up, and he didn't like it one bit - he had to remain calm and collected. He had to have faith in the Gods and in their infinite ways…he wasn't sure if he was able to summon them in this world, but he could always try, and he had his Sennen Item…these two weren't friendly, and the feeling that he was in danger increased by the second.

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For some reason, Yuugi had thought of something more spectactular than running down the streets close to midnight as a rescue mission. Mana and Mahaado were both magicians, and he had imagined them flying or at least using some kind of magical transport; instead, they were running the hardest to wherever Mahaado had located the Pharaoh. Even taking a car would be faster and more efficient than running, and his lungs burned in his body, chest heaving from the exertion. Yami wasn't doing much better, completely unused to intense physical activity like this. Anzu was running with, how else, the grace of a dancer; her steps were long and elegant, as if she wasn't hurrying or running at all.

"How…far…is…it?" Yami panted, stumbling every now and then and latching onto Yuugi's jacket to keep him from falling to the ground.

"I… Idontknow," Yuugi blurted out in response, keeping his eyes focused on the two running in front of him. "I hope…itsnotmuchfurther!"

As if he overheard them, Mahaado suddenly addressed Mana, not skipping a beat.

"Apprentice, we better send our kaa in first, they are faster!"

"Yes, Master," Mana agreed and twirled her wand, a soft blue and a pale pink light glowing from its tip. They both halted in the middle of the street - fortunately, at this time of hour there were hardly any cars. Yuugi used the brief respite to catch his breath; wheezing, he took in large gulps of air, hands on his knees. Yami was next to him, mimicking his posture, panting as well.

Yuugi almost forgot to breathe when he saw what the magicians were doing. Mahaado, enveloped in a dark purplish glow, and Mana, bathing in the blue and pink colors, were summoning their kaa - Yuugi couldn't even ask what it was, but he understood the moment he saw the bright light. He could see it despite the brightness, two forms taking shape, all in a matter of seconds; when the light died out, two familiar monsters were on the field…so to speak. He smiled in recognition. It was like Kaiba's holographic technology had come alive, rendering the images more lifelike than ever could be possible. Gaping, Anzu noticed the same, and she took a step closer to Yuugi, bewildered in what she had just seen.

"Black Magician Girl, Black Magician," Yami and Yuugi said at the same time. As the monsters had their back turned to them, they couldn't see their faces, though Yuugi caught a brief glimpse of the Black Magician Girl's face as she turned to look at Mana who had summoned there.

Even though there were no orders given, the two kaa suddenly moved forward, flying through the air, but not yet out of sight. Yami was about to say something when Mahaado and Mana started running again, following their kaa. Yuugi was glad for the brief pause, ignoring his burning lungs as he sped up, trying to keep up the other's pace. Anzu and Yami were close to him, and together they didn't lose the two magicians one moment out of their sight. Despite the intensive running, Yuugi recognized their surroundings. If he wasn't mistaken, they were heading for Domino City Park - this street was notorious for being blocked by double-parked cars from all the visitors during summer. The fence was visible in the light of the street lanterns; could the Pharaoh really be in the municipal park?

Every kid knew the history of the city park. It was constructed in honor of the Emperor, in an attempt to imitate the design of the empiric gardens. While it used to be open only for the nobility in the earlier ages, nowadays it was a meeting point for almost everyone, from junior to senior. Every season had its charm, especially in the park: in the summer there were lots of dance festivals and street theatre, in the fall guided walks and barbecues. Lots of schoolkids were to be found at the large lawns, or close to the fountain where they threw in a few yen to make their wish. Some parts were gardens only, divided by theme: a Japanese garden of course, a French garden, an English garden.

They finally came to a halt in front of the large main gate, wide open.

"This is Domino City Park," Yuugi said after he found his breath again, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice. The park was never closed; the local police made their rounds to chase away hobos or people who looked suspicious. The dimension of the park was far too big, though - it could very well be that there were still people hiding, or that a Pharaoh was lost in one of the gardens. Anzu caught up at him, looking just as confused as Yami.

Mahaado and Mana were standing in front of the gate, both sporting a pensive frown.

"What is it?" Yami asked, wanting to know what was going on.

"I…I lost it," Mahaado said.

"Lost what? Where the Pharaoh is?"

"He must be in here somewhere," Mahaado made a wide movement with his arm, sending his kaa into the park, the Black Magician determinedly flying, his characteristic staff in his right hand. Mana seemed to hesitate, but sent her kaa as well, the young Black Magician Girl reflecting her hesitation and searching out her Master, following his trail.

"He must be in here somewhere," Mahaado repeated, impatience in his voice.

"Master, try to concentrate," Mana gently admonished. "You're too tired. If you can't concentrate well…"

"Found him!" Mahaado barked, eyes widened in anxiety. "We have to hurry!"

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Trapped. No way out. He stood with his back against the wall, literally. There was no room to move in this small shed, occupied with tools and maintenance materials and equipment. He couldn't reach for one of the hoes or shovels - if he made a movement, the other two would attack him. He knew enough to sense trouble, especially when it was so close to him, and these two oozed danger.

"This is going to be fucking great, Soyjo, look all that gold!"

"We're going to have some great fun with you," Haruku grinned, stepping forward. Greed was visible in his eyes; never had he seen so much gold before. All this jewelry was worth millions, and he wouldn't have to have any more worries for the rest of his life. He was rich!

That pendant alone would bring up such a hefty sum that he could buy his own deserted island. With all that money, he could bring some chicks and party till he dropped…and the gold on this stranger would provide him with whatever he wanted.

"You're a walking treasure chest," Soyjo said, digging into one of his pockets and whipping out a switchblade. Clicking it open, he held it up, blade clearly visible. "We're going to pry it off your dead body…we're going to have so much fun…!"

He cackled madly and took another step forward, cornering the other. This was so easy, like stealing candy from a baby! The other had nothing to defend himself with, was dressed strangely and obviously didn't have any pockets to pull out a knife of his own. So easy, yes, so easy…and with all that money that gold would fetch, he could buy himself everything - houses, weapons, bitches…everything.

"Please do not do this," he said, keeping his voice calm, though it took him considerably much effort. He was exhausted, the adrenaline rushing through his body not enough to fend off the two thieves, both equipped with knives, the other pulling out his weapon out of his jacket pocket. They were after his gold of course, and he didn't have the slighest illusion they would keep him alive in their attempt to get it off of him. "I can give you…"

"We don't understand your gibberish, not that it matters much." Haruku showed him a devilish grin. "If you think that someone's about to save you, forget it. You're in a maintenance shack in a city park…tough luck, stupidhead."

"Get his stuff first, then we can have some fun with him," Soyjo said. "I saw some rope here…"

"Later," Haruku licked his lips and moved forward, his knife firmly in hand, blade flickering in the yellowish light.

The air was split by a primal scream, and a thousand knives appeared out of nowhere, imipaling the thieves the next second. Each and every one of the blades penetrated their bodies with a sickening sound of tearing clothes and flesh, boring into bones. Spitting out blood, death instantaneous, the two of them fell wordlessly to the floor of the shed, hands dropping their weapons. The Black Magician looked contemptuously at the lifeless bodies, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Mahaado hurried forward, barging through the open door, followed by Mana - both reached their Pharaoh at the same time.

"Pharaoh! Pharaoh…"

"Mahaado! Mana…" He opened his arms and the girl jumped into them, throwing him against the wall with the sheer force of the impact, hugging him close for a brief moment before she pulled away, looking at him in ecstasy.

"We finally, finally found you! For real!"

"Pharaoh…praise the Gods we found you!"

Mahaado sunk to the floor, kneeling for him. "We have been searching all over for you…forgive your servants…"

Yami and Yuugi stumbled into the shed, both widening their eyes simultaneously in surprise. In front of them, looking rather disheveled but the similarity was uncanny, stood another one…another Yuugi. His skin was dark and his hair was a little wilder, but the shape was unmistakable.

"Stand up," he said, obviously addressing Mahaado, who remained kneeling, unmoving. The Pharaoh leaned forward and tapped on his shoulder. "Stand up, my Priest. You have found me. Everything is all right."

"I failed you…"

"No, you did not," the Pharaoh said, straightening himself and looking over at Mana, returning her smile. He looked back at Mahaado who still lowered his head.

"Stand up and look at me, Priest Mahaado."

"Yes, Great Pharaoh," he whispered and he got up from the floor, forcing himself to look at his Pharaoh, only noticing how disheveled he looked. "What happened! Pharaoh, we'll take you home immediately!"

"Yes, home," he said and Mana latched onto his arm, exclaiming "Home!" cheerfully. He trusted his Priest to tell him how it had been possible for all of them to end up here, but happiness about their reunion dominated the moment, and he didn't want to distrupt that right now.

Yuugi looked at Yami, smiling like a lunatic; he was so happy for the others to have found their friend. Yami nodded in appreciation, not insensitive to the happy emotions. He stared at the other, his third self as it seems, wondering if he really looked like this before…no memories were springing to his mind, nothing of all of this seemed familiar to him - except for the Sennen Puzzle, dangling from the Pharaoh's neck.

"Pharaoh," Yuugi said, and bowed. Yami scowled a little, remaining upright. He refused to bow to himself, not even when Yuugi elbowed him.

"Great Pharaoh, they are your incarnations of this time," Mahaado explained to him, switching back to their native language. "This timeline is perfect - everything has gone as the Great Timeline has dictated it. The only thing off in this timeline was caused by your appearance, but now that we have found you, everything will be restored."

"I do not know what you are talking about," the Pharaoh replied dryly. "I have been here since…a day, waking up in some kind of alley, wondering what was going on. I would appreciate it if we could…leave here?"

"But of course!" Mahaado said, noticing by now that the lower part of the Pharaoh's shenti was spattered with blood. He scowled at the thieves, mimicking the contemptuous look of his kaa that was still manifested and held itself up in the air, ready to attack or to defend according to his master's wishes.

"We go home," Mana chirped, and pulled at the Pharaoh's arm. He took a step forward to follow her, all but collapsing the next moment.

"Pharaoh!"

"It is all right," he said, getting back up on his feet again, limping.

"Pharaoh? Your feet…"

"It is all right," he repeated stubbornly, sending his golden earrings flying as he shook his head. Mahaado grabbed the small chair he'd sat on previously, and forced him to sit down again. Mana knelt at his feet, taking the thin, soiled and torn slippers from his right foot first.

"Oh! You've walked a great distance, didn't you?" she said worriedly.

"No, not that much," he answered, heaving a sigh.

"His footwear isn't adjusted to these streets," Mahaado added, switching back to Japanese again.

"Can we help?" Yuugi asked, moving forward. Anzu had been strangely silent, watching the scene in front of her. Mana applied her knowledge of healing, casting a spell to heal the blisters and the abrasions on the soles of his feet. He wriggled a little.

"That feels cold!"

Mana laughed softly, not minding that casting the spell took almost the rest of her energy left. Her kaa had already dissolved, unable as she'd been to keep it up. She didn't mind as Mahaado's kaa was still present; his heka was much stronger than hers.

"It's all right," she spoke up to answer Yuugi's question, also changing back to Japanese. "He wasn't really dressed for the occasion, and his feet got hurt from walking around on the street. We're…not used to what you call that 'asphalt' of yours."

Yuugi nodded, noticing how Mahaado was standing behind the Pharaoh, supporting him, and how gentle Mana was with her spell, carefully taking care of his feet, using her heka to render his slippers spotless clean and whole again. The Pharaoh himself had gone strangely quiet, head lolled to the side, his hands resting in his lap as he was waiting for Mana to finish. When Mahaado picked him up as if he didn't weigh a thing, Yuugi realized the other had fallen asleep.

"We better return to the apartment now," Mahaado said, keeping his voice low. Yuugi couldn't help but stare at the sleeping Pharaoh in his arms, in every way similar to Yami except for his tan.

"You look wonderful, mou hitori no boku," he said, then blushed furiously.

Mana was the first to break the slightly awkward silence, and her cheerful laugh cleared the sudden tension. Yuugi, Yami and Anzu were all red in the face; Anzu didn't know whether to cry or to laugh. She was extremely grateful when Mana came to walk next to her, keeping her head adverted at first. The magician patted her hand, and Anzu understood her as the other showed her a compassionate look.

"Master cares for our Pharaoh a lot, as we all do," she said brightly, stressing the words 'a lot'. She looked years younger however; the joy of finding their Pharaoh had taken away a lot of her worries. Anzu nodded, not really happy with the situation but she understood enough of it to know that she would have to be content with 'only' being friends. As they walked silently, Mana and Mahaado exchanging some words in their native language every now and then, Anzu accepted just as silently that being friends with both Yuugis was important enough to her to fight for their friendship, and not allow it to be ruined with unreasonable expectations or ruined chances. A smile found its way to her lips and she kept in pace with Mana, the girl's cheerfulness contageous.

The lights were still on their apartment; no one had even thought of switching off the lights in their haste. Even the heating was still on; Anzu heaved a relieved sigh. It had stopped raining, but it was still chilly outside and she felt chilled to the bone. Yami shivered as well, since he'd run outside with nothing but his school jacket on. Yuugi took off his shoes, looking around for the house slippers. Mahaado had walked a few steps forward and turned around in the middle of the hallway, still carrying the Pharaoh.

He heaved a soft sigh before he spoke.

"My Pharaoh needs food, a bath and some rest," he said. Mana nodded at his announcement, disappearing into the kitchen. Anzu trailed behind her, offering the girl her help with the preparations. Yuugi certainly hadn't missed the 'my' Mahaado has used in reference to the Pharaoh; he had said it earlier, in the shed when they rescued him from the thieves.

"We should not dally that much longer," the magician continued.

"How much time is there left?" Yami asked, moving towards Yuugi.

"The other timelines have been…restored as it was fitting for them," Mahaado said.

"My…our Pharaoh here is the Pharaoh who was supposed…" He stared at Yami and Yuugi, shaking his head. "I can not divulge much more, I already told too much. As soon as we leave, I will cast one more spell, to make you forget what has happened. Your knowledge of all this could alter this timeline, and it was perfect how we found it…."

He remained silent. Finally he said: "We have some time left. The rest of this evening."

Yuugi all but clinged to Yami.

"This evening only?"

"We have both depleted our heka, when we called forth our kaa," Mahaado said. "We have a little left for our…jump back, but a lot of necessary energy will come from our Pharaoh here."

"I didn't know we had only this evening," Yuugi said, looking distressed. The magician lowered his head.

"I know what you are going through, Prince. It is however, important that we do not disturb the timeline anymore than we are already doing by simply staying here. The sooner we leave, the better…but I doubt that is the answer you were wanting to hear."

"Not really, no," Yuugi mumbled.

Yami searched out his hand. "Then let this evening be for everyone of us," he spoke. "The way we want to spend it, with the ones we love and care for."

Mahaado's eyes showed melancholy and he turned away a little, carefully with the Pharaoh in his arms, still asleep. He recognized the feelings between the other two all too well; a love that would never be really true and would never come to pass. They weren't destined to be together, however harsh it was; it was the undeniable truth in their future. Yami was the Pharaoh, who was going to be sent back to the Afterlife sooner or later. So many trials and tests were still awaiting them, so much grief and sorrow as well as happiness and victory. Mahaado studied the face of his sleeping ruler. He had failed him enough, he wouldn't fail him now, this evening, this one night they had together. He wasn't afraid of what the morning would bring, even more so he was looking forward to it. Together forever. Past, present and future. An eternal servant.

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Time was a strange thing, Yuugi thought as he sat on the edge of the bed, fully dressed. Morning already, and he had hoped this night would never end. Not only for himself. He'd seen the love in Mana's eyes, he'd seen the deep respect and love in Mahaado's eyes. He'd seen the love in Yami's eyes, and knew there had been love in his eyes, too.

How could a night be so short, and so intense? How could he live with himself, knowing what he knew now? About timelines, other realities, other Jounouchis, Anzus and Yuugis who existed in other worlds, making mistakes, living, loving, laughing and lamenting all the same?

How could he live now everything would be turned back, and his Other would become a spirit again, losing his body for the second time? Yuugi had hoped to learn the reasons behind it all, the answers to his million questions, but he knew it was too late - he couldn't ask them anymore, and if he could, they wouldn't be answered. This morning…this morning, people would die, and they would embrace it with joy.

Startled as he felt hands on his shoulders, he quickly broke into a smile when he saw it was Yami. Who else could be touching him at this very moment?

"Aibou," he said, cupping his face, "this is going to be difficult. When they leave…"

"Shhh," Yuugi silenced him. "One more kiss, please. They're not going to leave, not yet."

There wasn't an answer, just soft lips on his, and he couldn't help but heave a sigh.

"This shouldn't happen," he said when Yami pulled away from him, repeating the kiss on his neck.

"It seems that higher forces than us have decided for it to be this way, aibou," Yami said. "Fate, or destiny. Whatever brought us together, whatever made you solve the Puzzle after eight year, whatever invented that Great Timeline…it also made them, no forced them, to return to where they came from."

"But they came from nowhere, mou hitori no boku," Yuugi said. "As soon as they…leave, they'll die!"

Yami nodded. He couldn't, and wouldn't, sugarcoat it. "They will die, but not in a way we see death, aibou. They will continue to live on another plane - Afterlife, heaven, however you want to name it…but it is something they believe in, and something that will await them, and they will be happy together."

"As long as they're happy," Yuugi said, but his voice didn't sound very confident. He looked up when there was a knock at his door.

"So early?" Yami said confusedly and looked at the clock. It was unbelievable that it was a regular school day, and Yuugi should've been sitting in his math class by now. He couldn't care less at the moment. Time…had proven itself to be very strange and very fleeting, slipping through his fingers like sand, whisked away by the wind…

"Too early, way too early," he mumbled and stood up from his side of the bed. Yami followed him, standing up as well, the chain of the Puzzle rattling as he moved.

"Aibou."

"I know."

Yami pressed a kiss on his forehead, but made no movement to walk to the door. They remained standing, facing each other, bright violet eyes gazing into dark crimson ones.

"We have to go."

"We can't keep them waiting."

"This is horrible," Yuugi whispered as he pressed down the handle of the door, opening it.

"I know," Yami said, repeating Yuugi's earlier words. He felt nervous, light-hearted and burdened at the same time if that was possible; he couldn't describe the feeling that ran through him. Was it because he was going to meet the other Pharaoh again? Or was it the inevitability of the situation…and that he would return to be the spirit of the Sennen Puzzle as soon as the magician left?

"Good morning!" Mana waved at them as they entered the living room. They were standing close to the window where Mahaado had stood only yesterday - only a few hours ago. Yuugi swallowed, returning the wave. She looked different, and not only because of her clothes. The formless, dark purple long robes were gone; instead she wore a short skirt, combined with a top in the same color, a golden belt around her waist. Her eyes were sparkling, and her smile was brighter than before. The Pharaoh was standing next to her, the epitome of composed calmness, his hands next to his sides. His clothing was repaired and his jewelry shone in the early morning light. Mahaado wasn't present yet - secretly, Yuugi hoped that their departure would be postponed, for whatever reason Mahaado hadn't shown up.

Anzu was in the other corner, also waving at Yuugi and smiling when he returned the wave as well. She'd been reading something, and she looked rested, yet anxious - her face was a little too pale, her expression too blank as to keep her emotions in check.

"I hope you slept well?" the magician asked and she even winked. Yuugi blushed furiously, and the Pharaoh seemed to be very amused.

"This has to be one of the most…eventful nights of my life," he said, and Yuugi looked crestfallen when hearing the word 'life'. If only they didn't have to leave…he had hoped they could at least share breakfast together, but the table wasn't set, even though the dishes from last night were cleared out. They had shared a very late dinner, Mana serving them quick and easy Egyptian dishes, but tasty enough to feed them sufficiently. Yuugi had never thought he'd sleep well with a full stomach, but he hadn't gottten much sleep anyway, so…

Yami chuckled when seeing Yuugi blush even deeper. For a moment, just this little moment, everything seemed to be perfect - just joking around, sharing a little fun, being together. Yuugi wouldn't have minded if this moment did not end; he'd rather stick with his friends than send them off to wherever they were going…and in their case, going to somewhere no one could follow them. He didn't even dare ask for Mahaado, as if that would burst this happy little bubble.

Mana talked softly to the Pharaoh in their native language, while Anzu got up from her chair and walking over to Yuugi and Yami, only her strained movements betraying the tension she was trying to hide.

Yuugi beamed up at her in an attempt to reassure her. He was glad that she'd been with him the whole time; she was his best friend, and that was something he was extremely grateful for. The moment he opened his mouth to ask her how her night had been, if she'd gotten any sleep, the door to the living room opened and Mahaado entered.

"Good morning everyone, good morning, Pharaoh," he greeted, his voice less tensed than Yuugi was used to. How could these people not be afraid of what was waiting for them? Did the Pharaoh know everything about what had happened? The way he was standing, he was one and all regal calmness, unfazed. He nodded at Mahaado, acknowledging his presence, prepared for anything. Mahaado already seemed to reach for him…

"We don't want you to go," Yuugi said, voice loud. "There must be a way we can solve this, a way that will make everyone of us happy, that everything can be solved."

Mahaado withdrew his hand, turning around to face Yuugi.

"I am afraid, young Prince, that is not possible, no matter how much we all want to," he said. His robes were a light beige, generously flowing around his body, but not as formless as his previous clothing. The fabric was held up by a beautiful golden belt, and his hair was covered by a headpiece, also made of gold. Yuugi was fairly sure these were his clothes as he was supposed to wear all the time, in his function as a Priest.

"All the timelines have to follow the Great Timeline, and all of you, and especially the Pharaoh, are a part of such an influential event that any disturbance could cause a major collapse in the Great Timeline itself."

"We know," Anzu said, looking sad. "But that doesn't mean that we're overjoyed to see you all go, especially because we know what awaits you."

Mahaado nodded, the fabric of his headpiece shifting over his shoulders with every movement. The Pharaoh shifted on his feet, tugging a little at his purple cloak.

"There is a battle ahead of me that I need to fight, and I am not going to lose," he said. "The darkness will be sealed for millennia, and that is a victory worthy of my life." He turned to Yuugi and bowed to him. "My strong vessel."

He went to Yami and bowed to him as well. "My strong self. We will all survive."

Yami finally returned the favor, bowing to him. "It was an honor to meet you."

That answered Yuugi's unspoken question if the Pharaoh knew about everything, and though he was a little confused about his words about a battle ahead of him, it filled his heart with sadness that no more time was given to them. He would've loved to talk to the Pharaoh and learn from him and his culture, and to save him from impending death…or just that nothingness.

Mahaado raised his hand, but not in a way to say goodbye. A light purple glow surrounded him for a brief moment, and then it was gone. It was the spell he told them he would cast; the spell that would make them forget what happened, or at least the information and knowledge they had gotten from the previous events. So little time, so much happening.

"My Pharaoh, it is time."

The voice of magician sounded with longing, without a trace of fear or hesitation. The Pharaoh showed Yami and Yuugi a warm smile.

"The Gods watch over you always."

Yami nodded simply in return, while Yuugi swallowed heavily. He couldn't hold back the tears and desperately didn't want to cry in front of his friends, in front of the Pharaoh, Mahaado and Mana who were literally going to walk to their death.

"We'll see you again, Prince, sooner than you think!" The girl waved, smiling as she never smiled before.

"Farewell, Prince, Other Pharaoh," Mahaado said, a hint of amusement at last. He took the Pharaoh's left hand, and Mana all but latching onto his other, immediately opening a portal with the supplied energy.

The Pharaoh looked over his shoulder as they stood in front of the portal, seconds away of walking through it. There was no fear on his face, only a very familiar smirk, and suddenly he moved both entwined hands up, as in a last greeting.

Yuugi put up his hand as well, waving his last goodbye, unable to keep from crying. He didn't want the Pharaoh's last memory of him to be with tears on his face, even though he knew the other would forget it as soon as they went through the portal. Mana, Mahaado, the Pharaoh…they would all be gone, gone forever, dissolved into the timeline and into nothingness. They would simply cease to exist as all the timelines has been restored, their presence superfluous. The light absorbed them as they stepped through, the flowing cloak of the Pharaoh the last thing to be seen. The portal shone strongly after they passed, their bodies disappearing from sight.

The bracelets around Anzu's wrists clicked against each other as she was still waving, the portal slowly shrinking, the light still shining brightly until it disappeared suddenly, as if someone had turned off a switch. Silence was all that reigned in the apartment that seemed heavy with suppressed grief and pain, the last trace of lingering hope gone with the portal.

"Aibou." Yami said, his voice sounding strangely hollow.

"Mou hitori no boku…"

"Aibou, do you want to sit down…?"

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Yuugi whispered.

"What do you mean, aibou? There is nothing you have to be sorry about."

"Yes, I do," Yuugi hiccupped. "Look at me, crying all over. I didn't want them to see me cry as they left…"

He gently touched Yuugi's shoulder, relieved that he was still solid. Yuugi needed some comfort, and hopefully he could give it to him before he would dissolve as well…he had no doubt that as soon as the portal was gone, Mahaado's magic would end, unable to uphold his physical body.

"Aibou, you remember what they said, do you not? There is still a long road ahead of us, a road wherein we will discover my memories. There are dangers ahead, but also good moments, and we will learn from it…we will both learn from it."

"You…your other self didn't even hesitate in stepping through that portal." Yuugi rubbed at his eyes, hating that he couldn't stop the flow of tears. Anzu dabbed at her eyes as well, using a handkerchief to absorb the flow of tears.

"It was courage," Yami said. "Courage we all share, aibou. You have been very courageous too, you know…when you stood up for your friends, when you gave people a second chance…it is a trait we all share."

"If it's courage, why am I crying so much?"

"Do you want to say that only girls are allowed to cry?" Anzu said, trying to make it sound like a joke. Yami showed a small grin.

"Of course not. Tears are never a sign of weakness, you both know that. You are my friends, more than that - you are here." He placed a hand over his heart. Anzu nodded, suppressing another sob.

"Those battles and tests ahead of you took place millennia ago," Yuugi whispered. "That was what the Pharaoh meant. Mou hitori no boku…"

"Yes, aibou?" Yami said, leaning into him to put his hand on Yuugi's shoulder. Both he and Anzu gasped in surprise when his hand went straight through Yuugi's body, unable to touch him.

"No, no, not now!" Yuugi cried.

"With Mahaado gone, the spell can't be upheld any longer," Yami sighed, the look on his face devastated. Anzu stared at him, her mouth moving as she couldn't find the words. He was dissolving in front of her eyes, his solid body becoming more and more ghost-like by the second.

"Please don't leave me!"

"I am not leaving you, aibou…we could not be closer…"

"You're right…" Yuugi looked up, rubbing at his eyes again. He was done crying - tears wouldn't bring his friends back, and tears wouldn't change the situation. He forced himself to watch as his Other, Yami, disappeared, wearing the same smirk as the Pharaoh when he stepped through the portal. The Puzzle fell to the floor, his body too far gone to support the weight. Yuugi reached for the Item, grabbing the thick chain and putting it around his neck again, the weight immediately familiar against his chest. A hand was on his shoulder - Anzu's. Gratefully, he looked up at her.

"Is he home again?" she asked, a little sheepishly because she referred to the Puzzle as his home. Yuugi beamed at her.

"Yes, he is," he said. Just as the weight of the Puzzle, Yami's presence in his mind was familiar. It would be hard living without it, as that day would be inevitable as well, but as far as Yuugi was concerned, that day would take a long time to come. Time again. Anzu smiled nonetheless. She suddenly turned her head to the right.

"What is it?" Yuugi asked, cautious.

"I thought I heard something," she said.

"Someone?"

"No…look, Yuugi!"

She didn't have to point at anything in particular, as it seemed all of the furniture and objects in the living room started to decay and rot. Dust settled over the couch, chairs and the large dining table, the walls looked gray and dirty, with the wall paper torn and peeled off. The book case was empty, only a few volumes, dusty and crumbling, left behind. The paint was chipped, large flakes falling down from the ceiling.

"I guess that was the last of their heka," Anzu said. She looked up at the ceiling which showed large black circles, as if someone had been smoking there at exact the same place for ages.

"I guess so too," Yuugi agreed, feeling sad. All those beautiful things, gone, withered away, just as time would take everything away. We will forget in time, he reminded himself, but we won't be forgotten in time.

"We better go," Anzu suggested. "Ah…my book bag!"

He had to suppress a short laugh. "Is mine there, too?"

"Yes, they're both here," Anzu said, pulling out the two heavy bags from behind the dusty, moldy chair she had just been sitting in only moments ago. Yuugi took his bag from her, flinging it over his shoulder.

"Come on, everyone will be so worried," he said.

"Especially Jounouchi! He's going to give you an earfull when he hears all about this…"

"I'm sure he will!"

They left the living room, not surprised to find the hallway in the same state of decay. Carefully, they moved past the large gaps in the carpet, avoiding touching the dirty walls. Yuugi reached the front door first, and rattled at the doorknob. It broke off as the door swung open.

"What the hell?"

He immediately took a step back, almost bumping into Anzu, as the tall man towered over him. "Hey kids, get out of the way! These apartments are going to be demolished, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Nothing," Anzu chirped, "we were…just curious!"

"Curious, my ass," the man answered rudely. He tugged at his utility belt and took out a hammer. "Get lost!"

Anzu had to giggle, dragging Yuugi with her as they searched for the elevator of the building, which looked dilapidated in broad daylight. A large crane was next to it, and construction workers were all over the place. Yuugi looked over his shoulder a few time, being stared after by the man that had 'caught' them, but he wasn't really looking at the man - he was looking for a last glimpse of Mana, Mahaado, or the Pharaoh…but there was nothing to see, there was nothing that remained of them, and finally he turned his head around and looked forward, if only to see where he was going; a lot of rubbish was on the floor.

They avoided a few other construction workers on their way down and left the building, Anzu looking around to discern where they were. Not that extremely far from the park, as their run from yesterday evening had proved. She pointed westwards.

"That way to school, Yuugi," she said.

"Okay!"

She shifted her book bag from one hand to another, walking along Yuugi on their way back to school. Obviously lost in thoughts, she stared in front of her, her hands loosely on her back. Yuugi's thoughts drifted off as well, subconsciously worrying about his Other and searching him out in his soul room, wanting to know if he really, really was there.

"Mou hitori no boku?"

"Yes, aibou?" came the immediate answer.

"Will we ever know if they succeeded in repairing the timeline?"

"The Great Timeline they were talking about was out of danger with the timelines they repaired…and with the Pharaoh they found in this universe, everything was rectified," his Other pondered. "I guess that if they really did not succeed after all, this world would either come to an end right now or they would return, to try to restore it."

"I would love to see them again," Yuugi whispered. "Mou hitori no boku…"

"Yes, aibou."

"About last night…"

"About last night," he repeated, some amusement to his voice. "What is it you wanted to talk about, last night?"

"Hey, are you blacking out on me again?"

"Whu-what?" Yuugi blinked a few times.

"Keep your attention to traffic young man," Anzu mock-scolded him. She lifted up her finger, tapping him on the nose. "I don't want to see you getting almost hit by a car once again."

"You're right about that," Yuugi said a little sheepishly.

Anzu reached for him, grabbing his hand and dragging him over the crossing. "Come on, it's green now!"

She laughed contagiously, and he laughed with her. Their memories started to fade during the last spell Mahaado had cast. As they ran to the other side of the street, time twisted and turned one more time, a small ripple in the universe of timelines, to return to a calm, smooth pattern as the Great Timeline moved on, all in due time.

-------------------

"Yuugi! Anzu's here for you!"

"Coming!"

Mutou Yuugi snatched up his Sennen Puzzle, a golden pendant shaped like an upside-down pyramid, and put the metal chain over his head. Satisfied, he looked into the mirror, checking the way the Puzzle was secured - he used to wear it on a rope, but recent events had proven that a chain would be far more effective.

"I can't believe it," Yuugi muttered.

"What, aibou?" A voice floated through the room, only audible to the young teen.

"That so many people are after the Puzzle, mou hitori no boku," Yuugi answered, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to speak to a spitting image of oneself in spirit form.

"I am really glad that you have chosen for a more…ah, sturdier solution," the spirit said, his crimson eyes resting upon his home - the Sennen Puzzle. Ever since Yuugi had managed to solve this mysterious puzzle, his spirit and soul had been reawakened. For what purpose or reason still eluded the both of them, but he had faith enough that someday it would become all clear to them. For now, they had their hands full on finding his memories; as he didn't recall anything from his past, and that was the most logical thing to look for first.

"Mou hitori no boku..."

"Yes, aibou?"

"You're daydreaming. We have to go to school!"

"Ah, yes, you are right," he chuckled briefly and the next second he was gone, retreating back into the Puzzle. Yuugi smiled to himself. One day, we'll find your memories, mou hitori no boku, and then you'll know all about yourself and why you're here. Until then, we'll be friends and help each other. Slinging the book bag over his shoulder and storming out of his room, Yuugi almost ran over his mother.

"Sorry about that, kaa-san!"

"Were you talking to yourself again?" the woman asked, throwing him a suspicious look.

"S-sorry." Yuugi blushed.

"You're growing up to be exactly like your grandfather," she said, shaking her head though she didn't sound too sad about it. "Now, hurry up, don't keep poor Anzu waiting!"

"No, kaa-san," Yuugi answered and threw her a smile before turning around and thundering down the stairs. He really should've gotten up earlier - there was no time for breakfast now. Yuugi opened the door, squinting his eyes at the bright sun.

"Yuugi, over here," Anzu waved, her voice clearly indicating that she wanted to be saved from his grandfather. Mutou Sugoroku was the proprietor of the Kame Game shop for decades on end, and besides his love for games he was pretty much renowned for his appreciation of the female bust size. Anzu was too polite to tell him to knock it off with glaring at her upper body and she heaved an audible sigh when Yuugi grabbed her hand and dragged her off to school.

"Bye, jii-chan! See you later!"

"Really, Yuugi, your grandfather…" Anzu started when they were well out of sight. Yuugi was now the one to heave a sigh.

"I know, Anzu…he doesn't mean it like that, really."

"He's a pervert," she whispered furiously. Yuugi blushed again, trying to find a way not to belittle his grandfather's actions…but he couldn't find any, because Anzu was right.

"He really doesn't mean it that bad," he repeated, willing his blush away. Anzu was far too optimistic and cheerful to let it ruin her day, and started talking about an upcoming school performance. She loved to dance, and this year the students of their class had chosen to incorporate dance in their annual performance. Yuugi wasn't really looking forward to it and hoped he could avoid all the dancing by simply volunteering to help with the costumes and the stage settings. Mentally going over their classes for today, he listened to Anzu talking as she was describing her costume and the dance she was studying.

"I think red would fit you splendidly," Yuugi said, blushing at the thought of Anzu in a form-fitting, long red dress. They halted in front of the traffic lights. Anzu was very excited about the performance, as her greatest dream was to go study modern dance in New York. Only her best and closest friends knew of her ambition - Anzu wasn't the kind of girl to flaunt it in everybody's face, but she sure loved this opportunity, no matter if it was only a mere school performance, to demonstrate her skills.

The traffic light went green and Yuugi already took a step forward, still listening attentively to Anzu describing the costumes for the dance. His feet had barely touched the asphalt when he heard the girl screaming his name.

"Yuugi!"

Her hand grabbed him at the collar of his school uniform and yanked him forcefully back, out of the way of the onstorming car. Yuugi yelped in surprise, stumbling and falling on his ass as she let go of him.

"People are driving like crazy around here," she muttered, looking at the car disappearing around the corner, honking for good measure. She reached for him to get him back up on his feet.

"Phew! If it weren't for you, I would be roadkill by now!" Yuugi dusted off his school uniform, glaring at the direction in which the car had disappeared to.

"If you didn't have me to look after you," Anzu quipped. She smiled. Yuugi adjusted his backpack and returned her smile.

"Come on, let's go."

Anzu had picked up the conversation about the school's performance again and Yuugi listened to her, enjoying her calm voice and her enthusiasm for the dance. His own thoughts wandered away just a little, and suddenly, something… or rather someone, to the left caught his eye. It was a man, sitting behind a wooden table, a crystal ball in front of him. He was dressed in a large, formless robe, masking a great part of his face.

"Hey kid, want to know the future?"

"The future?"

Yuugi wasn't really sure. He wanted to know the future, that was for sure - he wanted to help his Other, the spirit of the Sennen Puzzle. It had just been a few weeks since they won Duelist Kingdom and it had become pretty apparent that people were after him and the Puzzle. Maybe…a glimpse in the future could help him out?

"Are you sure?" Anzu asked, scrunching up her face. Whoever was sitting in front of a dark alley with such weird clothes and a crystal ball in front of them was pretty weird in her book,

but if Yuugi really wanted to, it couldn't hurt, could it?

"Can you really see the future?" Yuugi asked, slightly incredulous.

"But of course," the man answered smoothly. "But I need something personal of yours…your pendant perhaps?"

"Yuugi…are you sure…?" Anzu asked again. She knew that there was something about the Puzzle, and not only because of Yuugi's other. He hesitated, not sure whether he could trust the man or not. It took him a few minutes, but then he beamed at Anzu, his good-hearted and kind nature prevailing. He would have to have faith, not only for now, but also in the future. He would find his Other's name, his memories, and help him as much as he helped Yuugi in retrieving his grandfather's soul. He would trust, he would have faith, in what was to come, and what Fate - and time - had all laid out for him.

He took the chain from his neck, missing the satisfied grin on the man's face. A glimpse in the future wouldn't hurt. He would do anything to help his Other, and his faith and hope was more important, even if he was about to be fooled. He would remain positive, and believe in himself and the goodness of mankind. Yuugi handed the Puzzle over to the man, unknown of the series of events he would set off with this simple gesture, events that would test him, his friends and his Other, in deepest darkness and hopeful light.

------------------------

End of The Past of The Present Future