Author's Note – This story, though not originally intended to be, sort of became a response of sorts to Bayleef's AMAZING "Silent Sacrifice" ( http : / / www. fanfiction. net /s/ 3221028 /1/ Silent_Sacrifice ...remove the spaces) while I was trying to figure out motives behind character interactions. You'll want to read that first. It's a one-shot as well, so it's a short read. TRUST ME, it's (omgheartbreaking! but) worth it. XD!
Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers, as does the song to its respective owner(s). I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
"King of the Mountain"
You're missing the whole point - you're not my little pet
Don't throw away your life - The game's not over yet
I do not own your soul - don't want you in a cage
I only want your heart to find that special place
"Not My Slave" by Oingo Boingo
Yami rubbed his eyes, closed the heavy tome and stood, stretching the kinks from his muscles. The fact that he had muscles – his own muscles – still boggled his mind sometimes. He turned and strode down a long corridor to the cave mouth, bracing into the wall against a vicious wind that threatened to snatch him away and toss him like a rag doll into some unfathomable crevice. Blinking in the bright light, he looked out over the snowy crags of the mountain range below. The . . . Hima-lay-as . . . ? Yes, that's what she said this is.
"What troubles you, love?"
He turned at the voice – unmistakably feminine, but deep, rumbling up from a barrel chest, the Japanese only faintly accented. "Hm?" It was more the fact that he had not been paying attention than he could not hear her, even over the wind.
"Shall I switch to Egyptian?" she teased with a chuckle, then proceeded to do so. "What troubles your heart, my friend?"
Egyptian . . . he knew Egyptian. Yes, of course he knew Egyptian. He was Egyptian!
But also Japanese. Well . . . sort of. No . . . no, it was the other him who was – had been? – Japanese.
"Atemu . . . "
Atemu? Yes. That's what she called him. But . . . he thought of himself as Yami. Why? It was not his name – Atemu was his name. But "Yami" was one he felt he more identified with, one he . . . thought . . . he had come to adopt . . . at . . . one time . . . ?
"Atemu, come here."
She could have compelled him. She had that power. The fact that she chose not to always surprised him a little. She held complete control over him – body, mind, and soul – and yet she had never exercised that power. Not to his harm, anyway. A benevolent, matronly type, Karra had been working for months now to piece together the remnants of his shattered heart, reforging from scratch what she had been unable to salvage. Her work was yet incomplete – hence, for one, his dismally poor retention and how his thoughts could so easily scatter like snowflakes on the morning breeze – but she was tireless, and he grateful. Not because he had to but because he chose to, Yami obeyed.
He walked back down the age-smoothed tunnel into the small cave – small compared to what he knew lay beyond – his gaze taking in his surroundings out of habit. Everything in here thrummed with magic, a sort of cross-section of the horde buried deeper under the mountain. Her treasure included not only gold, gems and every other precious metal and stone known to man, but scrolls, tomes, weapons and artifacts of power from every continent and every age of history. Some of her work and their studies were done deep in that labyrinth of caverns, but she knew he needed fresh air and sunlight too, so most of their time was spent in this antechamber, with only what items she thought he would need.
A long, reptilian tail shifted, careful not to upset any of the stacks of miscellany, tip thumping lazily like a cat's. Yami stepped closer, completely unafraid in spite of teeth the length of his arm and claws that were longer than he was tall. He paused as his boot bumped something on the ground, eyes finding the frosted black scale he could easily use as a shield. "You're shedding," he murmured with a grin as he stooped to pick it up.
The long neck snaked downward, bringing with it a massive head. "So are you, little pharaoh," Karra whispered before oh-so-carefully nipping at the ends of tall locks of red-black hair.
"Ah! K-karra!" Yami ducked and danced back from under the great muzzle, batting at it with one hand before he could catch himself. It was not usually a good idea to swat at a dragon, even in jest. Thankfully, Karra did not seem to mind.
The dragon, Mukarramma – Yami thought he knew the name as Egyptian, meaning "revered" – pulled back, snickering at his reaction, head turning a bit to fix one deep gold eye on her consort. Yami held up the shed scale in both hands, half ready to defend himself from further attempts. Reading his mind, she cocked her head. "Okay, love, no more nippings."
Suddenly, Yami was on his back, pressed to the ground with the scale to his chest, one dragon paw carefully spread over and around him in a loose, low cage. "How about a bath instead?" The forked tips of her tongue flicked across his cheek, lightly stinging the skin, before the rest licked up the side of his face from jaw to temple.
Yami shuddered in spite of himself. From this vantage, he could not see past large nostrils and a massive gullet glimpsed behind sword-sharp teeth. She could bundle six of him together and swallow them whole! He knew she had the strength to crush him under one large finger with the same ease that he could squish an ant, but she was also long-practiced at dealing with humans. She had never hurt him, and he knew she never would. If not out of some kind of respect, he knew that she was at the very least quite fond of him.
To be honest, he was fond of her too.
The warm, silky tongue caressed the lines of his face and down across his throat for another moment before she drew her head back. She shifted her foot off of him, offering the side of a claw for him to grasp so she could help him up. As he regained his feet, she turned her head to fix an eye of molten gold on him once again. "You taste of sadness, love."
"Do I?" Yami swallowed and looked away. She knew his heart almost better than he himself did – which made sense, considering she had been rebuilding it for so long. He sighed. "I . . . keep getting the feeling that . . . I've lost so much . . . and I can't even remember what it might be. Not all of it, anyway." His head snapped up. "Not that I'm ungrateful! I know you've been doing all you can . . . but . . . " His gaze fell away from her again. "It's irrational, I know. I should just be thankful for what I do have, and content with what you've managed to recover, and will continue to. But . . . " He closed his eyes, hands fisting at his sides as the half-formed grief welled up in him, a feeling that had been growing steadily stronger over the last several days – weeks, even. The more Karra restored to him, it seemed, the more he grieved what he did not have, which was unfair . . . to both of them. "Emotions are not, by nature, logical."
After a moment of silence – and a swell of magical energies – Yami flinched in spite of himself at the sudden touch of a small, delicate hand softly cupping his cheek. "Atemu, look at me."
He did so, turning to face Karra. A grin tugged at his lips. Magnificent and powerful and far greater than any human, Karra was not above taking the form of one to accomplish what she set her mind to, if it would better serve her purpose. And right now, they both knew, the intimacy of interacting with her in a human form over her natural one would better suit her purpose of putting her young charge's heart at ease.
Deep golden-brown eyes gazed into his from a face the color of strong coffee, a shade to match his Egyptian-dark skin tone. To let him feel on equal terms with her, she had even matched his height of barely over four-and-a-half feet, unusually short even by his own ancient people's standards. Her other hand came up to cradle the side of his jaw, her gaze infinitely sad as she regarded him. "Do not apologize, Atemu. The fact is, you have lost. You have lost so much and so many times over." He heard the genuine grief in her tone, sadness for the wrongs that he had suffered – wrongs that he knew she was determined to set right.
"Tell me." He reached up and took her hands in his, his gaze imploring. "Tell me again. Please." He knew that she had already told him many times before – how many times, he could not remember – but repetition helped cement the knowledge, the memories, in his mind even as she worked to heal the fragments in his heart back into a cohesive whole. With each telling, he thought that he retained more and more and, though he hated to have to ask her over and over, the fact that more and more felt familiar – and he was even beginning to retain actual memories, his memories – with each session was encouraging. And she had told him on more than one occasion to not hesitate to ask. She had a patience bred from centuries of experience, and she had centuries more to come. She had the time to work with him any way he needed her to.
She graced him with a smile, then gently tugged on her hands in his, guiding him to a tall mirror in a gilded frame. She stood him before it and shifted behind him, her arms wrapped loosely around his narrow waist, her chin resting on his shoulder. "You were a king once, and your heart has always retained that regal bearing as well as a powerful sense of right and justice, of honor, integrity, and responsibility. No matter what has been thrown at you, no matter what you have suffered, you have never lost sight of that. Not truly." She turned her head to plant a soft kiss to the corner of his jaw before setting her chin atop his shoulder once more, gazing at him through the mirror. "It is what drew you to my attention to begin with, even when you were a small boy."
"You knew me back then." It was not question. "You knew . . . my family."
"Not your mother. She died in childbirth, as did the infant that would have been your sister. But I knew your father. Akhenamkhanen was a great man. Even many of my kind thought so. I was deeply saddened at his passage on to the next existence – " She shifted around him enough to meet his eye directly, slender arms still loosely embracing him. " – though his son did no less an exceptional job of leading his people. Like your father, you had a heart for your people, doing what was best for them."
"It was my duty." Yami did not remember directly so much as felt the truth of it in his slowly-mending heart.
She nodded, cascades of dark-red hair bouncing around her face. "And one you took on with a willing heart of love and service." Anger marred her features as she turned to look at him through the mirror once more. "And ultimately, war, betrayal, and a torturous death were your rewards."
Yami studied her for a heartbeat longer before he too returned his attention to the mirror. He saw that his reflection was no longer dressed in the thick, soft leathers and furs that Karra's attendants had brought for him, but rather the pharaonic garb of his homeland: white tunic of the finest linen, nearly transparent, pleated kilt of the same material with a wide belt of gold supporting a blue apron, a flowing blue cape nearly obscuring the wide collar of gold and precious stones that draped his shoulders and covered his upper chest. More gold glittered from his ears, fingers, wrists, upper arms, and a series of bands down his shins. He reached up to touch the headdress on his brow, sweeping wings of gold flaring from either side of a long diamond-shape with a stylized udjat at the center. The headdress was not truly on his head, but he closed his eyes and let his soul feel the weight of the gold on his head and arms, remembered cape tugging gently at his shoulders as it billowed on a breeze that was not there.
He opened his eyes, refocusing on the mirror. His reflection no longer looked back at him, nor did Karra's. The mirror showed another place entirely, the brightly-painted interior of an expansive room, one that rivaled the size of the cave in which his real self stood, eyes finding his memory self on the throne at the other end right before the image – and his perception – shifted, aligning with the point of view of the long-dead pharaoh.
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Mukarramma reclined along the curved sofa, still in human form with Atemu's head on her chest, his body curled slightly on its side as it lay propped up against her. He was unconscious, his mind lost in the memories the mirror had induced. Her own mind rested in a meditative state of semi-trance, still keenly aware of her surroundings while a deeper level of her mind walked the halls of recollection alongside the boy's. She concentrated in each session on a different part of his memories so as not to confuse or overwhelm him. She had divided his life's experiences into three parts: his childhood, his time on the throne, and his time in Japan. All in all, the whole of it covered a scant eighteen years. He had ascended the throne at his father's death when he was only twelve, and sacrificed his life for his people and his world at the tender age of sixteen. He then had been bound to the young Mutou Yugi for a little over two years before he finally managed to accomplish what he had not the first time, destroying the demon Zorc Necrophades once and for all. But he had learned another truth in the process and once again made the ultimate sacrifice to correct it. The first time around, he gave his life to stop a demon. With the second, he gave up his power and his very existence in exchange for freeing the spirits of Kul Elna and destroying the Millennium Items.
Dragons were dimensional beings with the power to teleport freely among many worlds in many dimensions. Mukarramma had been elsewhere when she sensed the reactivation of the Millennium Puzzle and had not made it back to this world in time to intercede on the boy's behalf in the events surrounding it and the rest of the Millennium Items. She sought Atemu's soul in the Afterlife, intent to check on him, and learned the terrible truth of his fate – and vowed to correct that if it was at all within hers or any other being's power. She had located the boy who solved the Puzzle, as well as his friends, and had managed to draw from them the seeds of being that knowing Atemu had planted in them.
Every life touches another, and bonds of friendship and love forge links between people's hearts, each leaving a little something behind in the others. In some cases, these bonds form spiderwebs of connection, and the web surrounding Mutou Yugi was very strongly two-tone – one for himself, and one for the spirit he had once hosted. Mukarramma had gathered the threads of Atemu's spiderweb, then ventured into the Great Dark, determined to recover what she could of the young pharaoh's soul, with the spiderweb as a focus and a dousing rod of sorts.
The damage had been extensive. The beasts of the Dark had shattered Atemu's soul, consumed his power, and dispersed the rest among the masses like little trophies. His power she could never restore to him, but his base existence she could, reassembling his heart – the seat of intellect, emotion, and memory – from the seeds of his loved ones. She could give back to him the essence of his ancient self from her own heart and those of his friends and family of old who waited for their beloved in the Afterlife, and his more recent existence from his loved ones in the modern world. It would not be perfect, but far better that than the oblivion to which he had consigned himself undeservedly.
And from there?
He had fulfilled his Destiny, paid his prices, suffered his consequences. She would see him finally given the rewards he so richly deserved for his services to the Heavens and all of Earth. His heart was one of Honor, of Light, and yet he had been made to walk such paths of Darkness. The Shadows had had him for long enough. Once he was fully restored, it would be time for him to be granted his final wish at last, to be reunited with his family who loved and missed him so.
It would be time to go Home.
Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!
Okay, so maybe not one of my better pieces, but . . . ((shrugs)) Eh, I'm fond of it. Elements of it, if nothing else. XD
The inspiration for this fic came out of musings from a meme on LJ. Heh, some of you might remember it, actually. This one – http : / / dragondancer515 .livejournal .com/ 9777 .html (remove spaces) Obviously, I've added a crapload of icons to my journal since then, but anyway . . . The first "couple" got me thinking . . . what if I did do a fic where Yami's sort of in the thrall of a dragon, almost in a sort of relationshippy kind of way, but not. And I wound up with this.