Ryou was playing in his sandbox, all alone. He didn't have any friends, because all the other kids said he sounded like a girl. And looked like a girl. And played sports like a girl—a girl with a concussion. He, being a small child, wasn't sure exactly what a concussion was, but he knew an insult when he heard one. He'd tried to play with them a few times after that, though, but they'd stopped their previous games to play a new one—they called it 'throw rocks at the little pale boy with white hair'. It wasn't a very concise name, but it did give a good idea of how the game was played.
Ryou had run home crying to his father, who had told him perhaps he shouldn't go near those boys again. So the next day, Ryou tried to join a game of hopscotch with a group of girls. The results were more or less the same—although, this time there were sticks as well as rocks. Once again, he had run home crying to his father, who told him it'd probably be best if he didn't play with the other children. So, he played all alone in his sandbox, and made believe that he weren't so damn girly.
"Ryou!" called his father, peaking his head out of the back door to find his son. "Ryou, come here! I've got a present for you!"
Ryou hurried to his father, curious to find out what the man had for him. Ryou's father bent down and unzipped a suitcase sitting just inside the door. From within it, he pulled a golden box with bizarre markings and hieroglyphics all over it. Proudly, he handed to his son. Ryou looked inside to see a pile of oddly shaped slabs of gold.
"It's… nice," he said hesitantly.
"It's a puzzle!" exclaimed his father. "Something for you to do that's a little less creepy than playing all alone in a sandbox!"
"A solid gold puzzle?" Ryou asked, looking up at his father. "That's… that's a little insane, dad. I mean—it's made of solid gold! How much did this cost? And where on Earth did you even get it?"
"Why, I got it in Egypt!" his father said, ruffling his hair with good-natured mirth.
"You went to Egypt…?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the man, smiling. "I was gone for a month. Don't you remember?"
"…I remember accidentally getting locked out of the house for a month," Ryou said, considering. "I just thought since it was spring time, you decided that the sunlight would be good for my pasty skin."
"No, no," said his father, waving away that possibility. "I was in Egypt."
"…why didn't you take me?"
"What's that, now?"
"Why didn't you take me with you to Egypt?"
Ryou's father considered the question for a very long moment. Finally, he answered, "It never really occurred to me. Sorry, my boy! Now, run along and play with your solid gold puzzle!"
"Grandpa!" Yuugi yelled as he came down the stairs from his room, hands clasped behind his head. "Grandpa?"
"What is it?" asked Sugoroku, slightly irritated. He was behind the counter of the quaint little game shop, neatly ordering the games therein.
"I'm bored," Yuugi said. "There's nothing to do…"
"Well, if you had any friends instead of being a weird, little, anti-social, munchkin," grumbled the old man.
Yuugi raised his eyebrows. "What, Grandpa?"
"Er, I said," Sugoroku began hesitantly. "I said go check the back shelf in the store room. I have a few things I picked up from abroad back there… Some of them are games."
"Why would you put non-games in the storage room?" Yuugi asked, frowning.
"Because I don't have a lot of room elsewhere," answered his grandfather. "Now stop bothering me so I can get some work done!"
"Oh, silly grandpa," laughed the boy. "What you do isn't work!"
"That! That right there is exactly why you have no friends," snapped Sugoroku.
Yuugi frowned. "You don't have to put it so bluntly," he said sadly, opening the door to the store room. He walked in, slouching and thinking about how crappy it was that his only friend was Anzu—a girl who literally would not shut up about the virtues of friendship. Did she even realize just how insensitive that is when you're around someone no one wants to hang out with?
He rummaged through the shelf, picking up boxes with foreign writing on them and examining them briefly before putting them down again. Here and there he came across items that were not, in fact games, which he promptly pushed aside. The boy sighed and picked up another box, raising his eyebrow. He looked over the title, written in English, and read it aloud. "Sexopoly."
He paused for a moment, considering the word. "Hm. Sounds kinky," he finally decided, and opened the lid to take a look. He was disappointed to find only a bizarre ring with a pyramid at its centre and pointers along its rim within. He pulled it out of the box and looked at it, before returning to the front of the shop proper.
"What's this, Grandpa?" Yuugi asked Sugoroku holding it up.
"Hm? Where did you get that?" Sugoroku asked, mildly surprised.
"It was in your Sexopoly box. What is it?"
"Oh, I got it in Egypt some time ago—it's some sort of necklace," he said, and then scratched his chin. "But, if that was in the Sexopoly box, then where did all those little plastic penises and that little metal tophat from the Sexopoly game get off to…?"
"A necklace?" Yuugi asked examining it. "Sweet! That's just what I need! A big, gaudy necklace that I can wear around everywhere, and when people see it, they'll ask 'hey, Yuugi? What's that? It's uber-cool and you're uber-cool for wearing it!' And then they'll want to be my friends!"
He grinned and sprinted toward the stairs. "I'm going to find a string to run through it!" he said. "Thanks Gramps!"
"Okay," Sugoroku said, calling up to him. "But if you come across any little plastic penises, you let me know, alright?"
Yuugi set the ring on his bed as he searched his draws for something to hang it from. Finally, he found a length of leather string which he strung through the hole at its top, which appeared to have been built into it for just that purpose. "Popularity, here I come!" he exclaimed, slipping the rope around his neck. All of the sudden, a dark presence filled him, and he became aware of something very evil lurking within the golden recesses of the ring. Yuugi's knees buckled and he fell on the bed, eyes wide—or, rather, wider than usual.
It had been many years since Ryou had gotten the puzzle. His father was positively loony, so he'd been changing schools often and still had no friends—their latest residence was Domino City, which was full of crime and quite frankly terrified Ryou to the point he refused to go outside except to go to school and then come straight home. But all his time inside did give him the chance to work on the puzzle almost obsessively. Years and years of hard work and he still hadn't finished it. It was really beginning to piss him off. But, ever since moving to Domino, it seemed like he was making more lee way with it.
Late at night, he sat on his bed, legs crossed, puzzle in front of him, humming a tune to himself as he worked on it. There were many nights like this. Though, it was mostly because he had insomnia due to night terrors involving vivid images of his sister Amane dying a brutal death in a bloody car accident. His father had once considered taking him to therapy about that, but had later decided not to on the grounds of "screw it". Then he went to Egypt to buy more solid gold puzzles, but was disappointed to discover they were all out.
He clicked another piece of the puzzle into place, and then another. Finally, he clicked the last piece into place, grinning with private satisfaction. He held the puzzle up and examined it. "Oh, a pyramid," he said to himself, and then pursed his lips. "…that country's not much for originality, it seems…"
He turned it over in his hands, and then set it down on his bed. He looked at it for a few minutes, and then picked it up again. "Well, that was a colossal waste of time," he muttered. "I could have been playing in my sandbox with my Barbie dolls…"
The puzzle flashed brilliantly, then. Ryou yelped in surprised and dropped it. That's when a spirit—one that stood effeminately and had outrageous hair—appeared before him, staring him down with enormous eyes.
"Don't drop it, you'll break it!" said the spirit of the puzzle. "You took long enough to put it together the first time!"
"Sorry," Ryou said quickly. "…uh, I don't want to seem rude, buuut… Who, exactly, are you?"
The spirit frowned and looked around. "I could ask you the same thing," he said. "Not a bit of this really feels right…"
"I'll say," concurred Ryou.
"Silence!" commanded the spirit of the puzzle. "I need time to think… I'll discuss this later."
And, with that, he disappeared into the puzzle again. Ryou blinked and set the artefact on his bedside table. "Strange fellow," he murmured. "Particularly the hair… And the translucence…"