Haaa...another one pushing a deadline! I need to get better writing habits.
Well, this one was for the Character Cache forum's Character Trait Writing Contest. The character I chose was Yugi, and the three traits I tried to show he has are Curious, Nervous, and Introspective.
This is a minor what-if set in the early manga, right after the chapters for 'Monster Fighter', and here Yugi meets his other self face to face a little earlier than scheduled...I think Yugi's fairly in character for this point in his life...
Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh!
Even though it was bedtime…even though his lights were off and his mother and Grandpa thought that he was in his bed, Yugi was wide awake. In fact, he wasn't in bed at all; Yugi was sitting at his desk, in the dark, polishing Alti by the light of the stars and the streetlight outside. It wasn't really necessary to polish his Monster Fighter, and there were some scuff marks that weren't going to go away no matter how hard he polished them, but Yugi took good care of his things. Right now he was working on making his monster shine like Alti was fresh out of his box.
Besides, doing something with his hands made it easier for Yugi to avoid thinking about what had happened today. What had happened with Nagumo and his other self, and…it wasn't helping as much as he'd hoped it would.
Yugi sighed, and decided to put Alti back away before he polished the monster's paint off. It did look much better, though. No more fingerprints from where Yugi had handled it.
Or from where Nagumo had handled it –
Shaking his head furiously for a second to chase that thought away, Yugi set Alti down and walked back over to his bed, flopping down on top of the sheets. No matter how he tried to distract himself, the same thoughts kept bothering him, over and over again.
He'd thought he knew his other self, now. He'd told Jonouchi-kun and Anzu and Honda-kun the truth, he had! He did remember what had happened, all those times he'd suddenly blacked out, only to wake up somewhere else minutes and hours later, the current crisis long since solved.
'Maybe,' Yugi thought glumly, 'I was only remembering what I wanted to remember. Just the good parts.'
Because while seeing Nagumo's face crack had been strange, the same thing had happened to Chono-sensei, hadn't it? Her face had cracked open like the love puzzle she had been finishing…she hadn't been seen since.
There were other things, though. What about Sozoji? What about Goro, and Kokurano, Hirutani, Ushio? What about Kaiba-kun, and Mokuba? There were others as well, whose names Yugi had never known, but what had happened to them had been just as…sometimes even more…and…
'This makes my head hurt,' Yugi sighed, turning his head to look at the object sharing space on his pillow.
A strange, Egyptian-looking eye stared back at him. The Puzzle lay there as innocently as if it really was just a very unusual-looking pendant. Only Yugi and his friends knew for sure how wrong that assessment was. Well, they and all the people who had run afoul of his other self…
Yugi grimaced. He closed his eyes and turned on his side so that he wouldn't be facing the Puzzle any longer. If only there was some way to know for sure. He was so confused…
His other self was someone who hurt other people! Really hurt them!
But if those people deserved it, would that make his other self a bad person too?
And if his other self was just a part of Yugi that the Puzzle had brought out, the way they all thought it went…did that make Yugi just as bad? He wished there was some way to find out for certain!
Yugi was so focused on this, in fact, that he almost missed seeing a faint glow appearing. Blinking, he turned his head towards the source of the glow – just in time to see the Puzzle glow so brightly that Yugi had to cover his eyes with a hand. And when he lowered that hand again…
…Where was he?
Yugi was now standing in a strange corridor. He didn't even remember getting out of bed! The corridor ended in a funny V-shape not far from where Yugi was standing, and the only other thing in the corridor aside from Yugi was a set of two doors. One door was closed. It looked like it was made of metal, with some weird eye shape engraved on it. The other door was open, and the space beyond was filling the end of the corridor with warm light.
Walking over to the open door, Yugi peered inside. The light made it hard to see what was in there, so he stepped through the doorway.
Whoa…the floor was soft! Soft and squishy! It was like walking on a thick, warm carpet. It felt so much better under Yugi's bare feet then the hard floor in the corridor had. Heartened, Yugi took another step in.
Whoa…look at all those toys! There were some kinds of toys that Yugi recognized, some that he didn't, but the floor was covered with them! It was as if someone had deliberately left them all out, just so that the next person to come by would never have to worry about not having something to play with. Yugi took a few more steps, being careful not to accidentally step on any of the toys.
Whoa…look at the walls! And the ceiling, too! All swirling colors…bright and cheery and welcoming. Even though the colors kept moving around, which wasn't really normal for paint to do, it was still amazing. Yugi took a few more steps.
Whoa…check out this bed! It was one of the few pieces of furniture Yugi could see in this room, and it just had to be at least three times bigger than the one back in his bedroom! It looked almost like a raised section of the soft and comfortable floor, but when he got close enough to sit on the edge, Yugi discovered that the bed was even softer and more comfortable. It almost didn't seem possible…
Wherever this was, Yugi didn't mind being suddenly taken here any longer. This room was so nice! Surely whoever owned this room was just as nice and friendly. If Yugi had ever tried designing his ideal bedroom, he knew that it would just have to be something similar to this one!
…Yugi's happy, contented state lasted until his gaze went back to the door, and the corridor beyond it. The corridor looked much darker from inside this room, and really, Yugi didn't feel much like going back out there just yet. Then again…there was another door out there, right? Maybe, Yugi mused, he should investigate it.
On the other hand, that door had been firmly shut. This friendly room had been left wide open, so he knew coming in here had been okay – Yugi wasn't sure why he was so certain, but somehow he knew it was perfectly alright to be in this soft, welcoming room – but if there was another room behind the other door…Yugi wasn't sure if checking it out was such a good idea.
Many long minutes later, Yugi was back in the corridor, in front of that other door. The worst thing would be that the door would be locked, right? And then Yugi could go back inside the other room, that bright and warm and soft room, and not have to worry about this door at all. Which would be just as well; he had the weirdest impression that that weird eye engraving was watching him. Not a comforting thought…and it was strange how oddly familiar that eye was…
Yugi had just reached out to touch the door's handle when he did a double-take. No wonder that eye looked familiar! It was the same one that his Puzzle had! What a weird coincidence. Yugi hadn't been wearing his Puzzle when he'd arrived here, so no wonder it had taken him this long to figure out the similarities.
Hmm…the last thing Yugi remembered before coming here was that his Puzzle had started glowing brightly. And now there was a door, with the Puzzle's eye on it. It made Yugi wonder if there was some relation between the two. Was it the Puzzle that had brought him to this strange place?
'This is getting more and more confusing,' Yugi thought to himself, but swallowed his nerves and grabbed the handle. No backing down now…backing down now would mean that he'd lied to Jonouchi-kun about no longer being such a coward, and that was the last thing Yugi wanted to do.
The door wasn't locked, but it didn't open easily either. This door must not see much use. Once he'd gotten it open wide enough, Yugi noticed several things immediately. First of all, the space beyond was dark. Very dark. The air inside was cool and a little musty as well – a far cry from the welcoming warmth of the other room.
Yugi hadn't even moved past the doorframe yet and already he was reconsidering the wisdom of opening the door. This door led somewhere dark and strange and it was unnerving him as nothing had before. He would have closed the door and called it quits – Jonouchi-kun would've understood, Jonouchi-kun hated creepy, spooky things like this – if the lights hadn't started slowly turning on. When Yugi tentatively took a step inwards, the lights brightened slightly in response.
It made Yugi feel a little braver. This room wasn't completely off-limits…it just didn't get a lot of use. That made sense, right? Especially when you remembered that there was that other room, the open and friendly room, to hang around in instead. Yugi made his way in a little further.
He still couldn't see much, even though the lights were brightening as he walked. What Yugi could see were stone bricks. He could feel them under his bare feet as well – this floor certainly wasn't very soft or comfortable – but the finer details were lost in the shadowy murk. Yugi wished that the lights were brighter.
And that was when the lights blazed to what must have been their full brightness, Yugi's jaw dropping in response. He could see very clearly now; Yugi was standing in what had to be the strangest place he had ever been. This room was gigantic! And it was filled to the brim with an equally gigantic, twisted stone labyrinth! Yugi craned his head to get a better look, but all he could see was stone passages, stone staircases, and metal doors.
Of course the strangest part of the labyrinth had to be how most of it seemed to have no interest in obeying the laws of gravity or even physics; it reminded Yugi of a picture he'd seen once, with doors and paths and stairs going in every possible direction, and some that weren't.
Amazed, and unable to resist the temptation, Yugi wandered further into the twisting maze. It was eerily quiet, so much so that the sound of Yugi's footsteps and even his breathing seemed much louder then they really were. He walked up staircases and down staircases, he walked through various twists and turns, and he tried the doors regularly. Most of the doors wouldn't open when Yugi tested them; those that did took him deeper into the labyrinth. Despite an underlying worry over whether he would be able to make it back out again, Yugi continued deeper and deeper into the maze, wondering where it led and why it had to be so confusing. What was at the end of it?
Yugi's progress was finally halted when he reached a dead end. A wall rose in front of him, denying anymore forward progress. The only other option – besides going back the way he'd come – was a door to his left, which opened when Yugi tried it. The door led to a staircase which went up to a wide, flat ledge with no other exits.
'So much for that,' Yugi thought, and moved carefully to the edge to see how far from the entrance he'd gotten. Much to his surprise, Yugi couldn't figure out where the entrance was. He distinctly remembered that there'd been a wide-open space, but all Yugi could see was the twisting maze in every direction. It looked a lot more complicated now then it had originally, too…
If Yugi hadn't decided to sit right on the edge of the ledge with his legs dangling over the side, he might never have noticed the strange sight below him. As it was, he stared at it for a few minutes while his brain processed what he was seeing.
What he was seeing was a person. In fact, it was a person identical to Yugi, wearing Yugi's school uniform. Only they couldn't be Yugi because he was Yugi. Except that it they really looked completely identical. Well, almost completely identical; there was something different about the hair…
Much more confusing was the fact that this Yugi-like person was lying curled on their side, head pillowed on a folded arm and apparently sound asleep. That wouldn't have been remarkable in the slightest if not for the simple fact that this Yugi-like person was curled on their side and asleep while lying on the vertical wall below where Yugi was sitting.
As soon as that sank in all the way, Yugi scrambled back from the edge. That didn't make any sense – maybe this giant twisty maze wasn't following the rules of gravity, but did that mean that people would just be hanging around on top of walls and – and ceilings? Even though he'd seen it, Yugi wasn't sure if he believed it.
Heart pounding, Yugi waited a few moments…and then cautiously moved back to the edge. It took him another minute to work up the nerve to peer over the edge, to see if his eyes had been playing tricks on him. There couldn't really be a person there, could there?
There was no person lying on the wall when Yugi looked again. He sighed, relieved. He must be more tired than he thought…his mind was playing tricks on him…and when a there was a sudden, soft touch to his shoulder, Yugi nearly leapt clear out of his skin.
He almost went over the side of the ledge as turned in his seat, yelping audibly. What Yugi saw as he turned wasn't exactly calming; that Yugi-like person was sitting behind him, hand still raised to the spot where Yugi's shoulder had just been.
"You…you startled me!" Yugi exclaimed once he caught his breath.
All he got in response was a level stare; it didn't take Yugi long to flush and turn his gaze away, embarrassed and even a little ashamed of himself. He'd just walked in, not even thinking that there would be someone asleep in here, hadn't he? Now this person must think Yugi was horribly rude…
"Um…I'm sorry I came in without asking permission," Yugi apologized.
There was a momentary silence, followed by the soft sounds of the Yugi-like person shifting in his seat. Yugi risked stealing a glance out of the corner of his eye; from the vaguely thoughtful look on the other's face, he guessed that he was being studied. Eventually, he spoke.
The voice was like Yugi's voice, but nothing at all like his at the same time. Yugi was certain he had never sounded so…so solemnly confident.
"…Not really," Yugi admitted.
In his peripheral vision, Yugi could see the other nodding.
"That must be why the Puzzle brought you in…" he remarked.
It was a quiet remark, clearly meant to be mostly towards himself, but Yugi focused on the crucial part immediately. He turned to face the other, embarrassment momentarily forgotten.
"The Puzzle brought me…?" Yugi frowned, "I remember that it started glowing…then I was suddenly standing in front of those doors. I don't know how exactly I got here, though."
"Do you know where this is?" the other asked, frowning a little himself.
"All I know is that this is someplace very, very strange."
Yugi flushed again as soon as he heard the flippant words leaving his mouth.
"N-Not that this is a bad place!" Yugi added hurriedly, hoping to avoid inadvertently giving offense, "It's just…this room's interesting, but the other room is nicer – I mean, they're both…both…"
Yugi spluttered to a halt when he realized that the other wasn't annoyed or offended at all. He only looked amused.
"No, you're right," he replied, "I haven't been in the other room, but it is nicer than this one."
"If you haven't been inside, how do you know?"
The Yugi-like person seemed puzzled by the question. Was the other room just that obviously nice?
"I just know," he finally answered, and changed the subject.
"So, you really don't know where this is?"
"Not a clue," Yugi answered, "And I probably should go home before everyone notices I've disappeared."
"Don't worry, you haven't actually disappeared," the other reassured him, "Your body is still right where you left it. It's only your mind that's traveled."
"Oh. That's good… Wait, what?"
That…didn't sound right. The Yugi-like person sighed, "Should I just explain from the top?"
"Very well. This," and here the other waved an arm to indicate the vast, twisted labyrinth they were sitting in, "Is what is called a 'room of the soul'. It cannot be seen, reached, or changed it anyway by anyone other than the owner, except in certain cases involving Sennen Items. Everyone has one which is unique to them. This one is mine; the other room is yours."
Yugi took another look around.
"This giant maze is your soul?"
Yugi asked this very carefully, wanting to make certain that he hadn't misunderstood.
"It represents my soul," the other clarified.
"So…the other room…"
"Represents your soul."
Yugi thought about this. The pieces were coming together now. It was no wonder that that bright and warm room had been so inviting; it was a piece of himself, open and welcoming him in. And no wonder, as well, that he had been so unnerved coming into this room. This was a piece of someone else!
But, Yugi thought, then why had their two doors been so close together? And why only two doors? If all people's souls could be reached this way, there should have been a whole lot more doors to a lot more rooms! If that wasn't how it worked, if each person's room stayed far away from anyone else's room…then why would there be two souls so close together?
Two souls…two souls together…and this other room belonged to someone who was Yugi but wasn't Yugi…and that meant –
"…Mou…hitori no boku?" Yugi asked hesitantly, just to make sure.
When he got an affirming nod in reply, Yugi's discomfort multiplied tenfold. It was one thing to fret over whether another person was bad or not in the privacy of your own bedroom – quite another to do so in front of that person. Possibility…maybe even especially when you were inside their soul's room…thing.
"You don't have to call me that if it distresses you, Yugi."
Yugi blinked. His other self wasn't meeting his gaze, and his expression was much more closed-off then it had been before. Yugi frowned, and asked "Then what should I call you? I don't know your name…"
"A good question," the other Yugi said, now with a strange, sardonic twist to his features.
He leaned back until he was lying flat on the stone floor. Yugi thought he looked a little odd that way – not really relaxed, but maybe pretending to be – with his hands tucked behind his head and his eyes closed. "A good question," the other Yugi repeated, "Whatever you want to use should be fine. I don't have a name to give to you anyway."
"…You don't have a name?"
"It's a little…unusual," the other Yugi explained, eyes still shut, "But it's the truth. Call me whatever you'd like, it doesn't matter."
Yugi's frown deepened. That didn't sound right…and none of this matched at all closely with his expectations of the kind of person his other self was. Yugi's other self was supposed to be someone always strong, always proud and confident – something like a fantasy super-version of himself that Yugi had never thought he'd ever be like. Yugi's other self was supposed to be someone capable of fighting and winning, no matter the stakes.
This wasn't anything like how he was supposed to be. He wasn't supposed to be so, so…Yugi shook his head, derailing that train of thought immediately. There had to be more productive turns for this conversation to take. And there was one thing…
"I – I never got a chance to thank you," Yugi started.
"For all those times that you saved me. And for helping Jonouchi-kun, and Honda-kun, and Anzu too! I know I never would have been able to do anything like what you did," Yugi elaborated, "I just realized that this is the first chance I've had to…well, thank you for it."
"Even when my methods disturb you so?"
His other self had cracked an eye open; it was looking at Yugi in an unimpressed fashion. He'd gone straight to the crux of the matter; his other self wasn't one to mince words, it seemed.
Yugi didn't know what to say; it was true, this was exactly what he'd been fretting over before. The things that his other self had done were disturbing things to do to another person.
"Did you really have to hurt everyone like that?" Yugi asked, unable to hold the question back, "Was it really necessary?"
Both of his other self's eyes were open now. He was looking in the direction of the ceiling, his gaze distant. It was a minute before he spoke, and when he did, he seemed to be picking and choosing his words.
"There are…certain rules to Yami no Games that have to be upheld," the other Yugi said, "Rule-breakers have to be punished."
"Those fade when the rule-breaker has learned their lesson and repents of their actions," countered the other Yugi.
"What about Chono-sensei's face?"
"I only exposed her inner nature; she was being maliciously cruel for no reason save her personal pleasure."
His other self's tone added 'Why are you worrying over something so minor?' to the end of the sentence. It added a sense of derision; this was so obvious, why do you care? Yugi could hear his other self's annoyance at being doubted, at being questioned, and the sense of dismissal he was picking up made Yugi pick his next words with less than perfect care.
"Inner nature? What does setting someone on fire, or electrocuting them, or – or poisoning them show anyone about their inner natures?"
His other self was sitting back up now; far from collected or impassive any more, his other self looked like those comments had stung. Seeing how those eyes flashed, Yugi knew he'd gone too far. Here was the scary other Yugi; here was the great deadly gamer –
Much to Yugi's surprise, his other self abruptly deflated. Yugi saw something else flit across his features – something that looked suspiciously like hurt – before his other self abruptly climbed to his feet and strode off to another corner of the platform.
…Well that could have gone better. Yugi sighed, and got to his own feet. What right did he have to come into someone else's soul room and yell at them, anyway? He should just get out of there, before he made things any worse.
The only trouble with that plan was that Yugi still couldn't see the door he'd entered from. He wasn't certain he wanted to try retracing his steps; Yugi seriously doubted that he'd be able to remember the exact route he'd taken. He had a funny feeling that the labyrinth had moved around while he'd been walking through it, too…that meant that if Yugi wanted to get out of here anytime soon, he'd need to ask for his other self's help. That meant making amends with his other self, hopefully without making things any worse than what Yugi had done so already.
Yugi entertained serious doubts as to whether it was possible for him to successfully do that. Since he had no alternative but to try, Yugi cautiously made his way over to the corner where his other self was standing. Yugi's other self was gazing out into the depths of the labyrinth room, arms folded.
He also was (Yugi was surprised when he realized this) Yugi's height. Somehow Yugi had had the impression that his other self was taller. He wasn't, though – he just carried himself differently.
His other self spoke before Yugi had a chance to say anything. "I had wondered what you would think of what I've done, and of what I'm capable of doing," the other Yugi began, speaking in a low voice.
After interrupting himself with a mirthless chuckle, the other Yugi added "And yet for all that wondering, I never really thought that you would hate me for it."
"I don't hate you!" Yugi protested, "That's ridiculous! Why would you even think that, mou hitori no boku?"
Oblivious to the way his other self stiffened, Yugi continued on blithely, "I may not always like what someone does, but that doesn't mean that I hate them! It just means…just means…"
"…It just means that I don't understand them, I guess," Yugi finished lamely, "I don't understand why people have to hurt each other. I don't like it; I don't like fighting, even for good reasons. I'd be happy if no one had to fight at all."
"Unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way," the other Yugi said, turning to face Yugi now, "And I think that protecting you and your important people are good reasons to fight. It's not something I'm about to stop thinking, either."
"I'm not asking you to change, I just…"
…But he was thinking about it, wasn't he? Yugi shook his head; this was just getting too confusing. The point, what was the point?
"The point is that I don't know you, mou hitori no boku. I don't know you, and I don't understand how you think."
"Then that makes two of us."
They were both silent, for a while. Eventually, Yugi raised a hand and held it out to his other self.
"…Do you…want to try this again?" Yugi was red-faced with embarrassment, even as he continued, "I guess we might have gotten off on the wrong foot…"
To Yugi, it seemed like ages before his other self's hand tentatively reached out to grasp his; his fingers brushed Yugi's, only to draw back. It was a weird, almost nervous quirk to have, but his other self's grip was firm when they finally shook hands. "Nice to meet you, mou hitori no boku," Yugi said.
"Nice to meet you…mou hitori no ore," the other Yugi replied.