Another dawn had broken at the training camp, the rising sun spreading its light over the tents. As soon as Yugi had noticed that it was light out, the youth had risen from the tangled mess his bedding had become from the twisting and turning he had been doing throughout the night. He had not slept very well, only managing a restless fitful sleep when he had finally fallen into slumber. And it was all because of Atemu's mysterious 'hint'.
Yugi had been unable to get the words out of his mind. He had not managed to forget them for even as long as to catch a proper night's sleep. And so the boy had woken up right before sunrise, deciding he might as well get up when he spotted the rays of light dancing on the roof of his tent.
Still, despite his fatigue, Yugi was not about to waste the day. He knew that he would need any moment he could spare for trying to improve his skills with both the daggers and a sword. Just because he had been given an alternative weapon did not mean that sword skills had suddenly become useless to him. On the contrary, Yugi had been practising the sword blocks Jono had shown him whenever he could find the time. He would not be defenceless even if he came across an opponent who could not be defeated with just daggers.
There was also another reason for Yugi to force himself out of bed despite how exhausted he was. He felt energized whenever he reminded himself of one thing; Jono was coming back to the camp that day. Yugi was happy to be able to see his friend again, and he also wanted to give the best possible impression to the one he looked up to as much as he did. He did not want Jono to think that he had been slacking off in the blond's absence.
So when the word of Lord Odji's group's return reached Yugi's ears, the youth hurried over to welcome his friend. But as soon as he was face to face with the blond, Yugi saw the other give him a surprised and worried look right before Jono commented: "Wow, Rasui, you sure look run ragged." The taller male frowned in a displeased manner. "Don't tell me Akefia's responsible for this. Has he given you any breaks at all?"
"This isn't because of Akefia", Yugi assured his friend. "There's something that I've been trying to figure out. It's something I've been wondering about since yesterday." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "I wasn't even able to sleep properly because it bothered me so much."
"So what is it?" Jono queried curiously, a hint of worry remaining in his expression. "I'll do my best to help out, even though I doubt I can of much help if not even you can't figure it out."
A soft sigh came from Yugi as the youth remembered how he had struggled with the mystery, followed by the teen explaining: "Prince Atemu was teaching me how to use daggers instead of a sword and he said something rather peculiar." Yugi directed his attention to Jono's face so that he could catch any possible hint of the other getting any ideas as he continued: "He said that a warrior's weapons are his tools, and that if I understood that, I could 'reach new heights'. What do you think it means?"
Jono was silent for a moment, frowning in thought, before finally speaking out: "Well, obviously a tool is something used to make progress. Defeating your opponents is one goal and so is gaining mastery of the weapon. You can reach both of these goals by using a weapon."
Yugi's frown at the words mirrored Jono's own as he murmured: "That's true, but I don't think it's quite what he meant." The boy released another sigh before conceding: "I'll give it some more thought."
"I think you should sleep on it instead", Jono said insistently. "You'll be able to think better once you've gotten some rest."
"I suppose you're right", Yugi agreed in disappointment. He truly wished he could have been able to get at least a hint from his friend's ideas, but perhaps the best thing he could do was to try and get some proper rest for now.
As Yugi was considering the suggestion over, he had instinctively already started walking in the direction of his tent. He became aware of the fact that he probably should give a goodbye to Jono before vanishing on the other, but when Yugi turned back to the blond, Yugi noticed that the taller youth's attention had already been drawn elsewhere.
"I certainly hope you weren't trying to avoid me, Jono", Seto spoke to the blond soldier with an amused smirk. Jono returned the gesture before replying: "Oh please, not everything revolves around you. That idiot Odji requested that I come along, but I think he understood that I wasn't interested in his crap after the third time I completely ignored his advances."
"A person like Odji needs to be put through some tough schooling before he learns his lesson", Seto commented. "Something should be done to put him in his place."
Yugi stopped really paying attention to the conversation then, as he noticed something much more fascinating about the duo. There was something in their body language that was completely out of ordinary for them. Jono's shoulders lacked the hunch they usually took on when talking to someone other than his closest friends, signalling a lack of defensiveness. And Seto's arms were not in their usual position crossed over his chest. Instead they were at his sides, the right hand rising occasionally, as if to touch his conversation partner, but then falling back to its previous position.
Back during the most difficult years of Yugi's engagement to Atemu, Seto had been the closest thing to a friend than Yugi had had in Egypt. The brunet was rather blunt, and often ended up saying hurtful things because of that, but the other was also a loyal comrade even if he was awkward about it. Seto was also intelligent and insightful, providing Yugi with interesting conversation when the boy would have otherwise been brooding over his, at the time, failing engagement by himself. Because of this Yugi was actually glad to see the brunet so obviously warming up to another human being, and he hoped that things would get sorted out between the two.
Not wanting to risk eavesdropping on something he should not, Yugi turned away from the two taller males and continued on his path to his tent. He needed to catch some shuteye.
Seto would never confess to the almost excited expectation he experienced when he was waiting for Jono's return. Atemu was already beyond amused over the fact that the brunet had actually grown fond towards someone; Seto refused to consider the very likely ridicule that would follow from Atemu if the prince ever found out that Seto even missed the blond, no matter how good-natured said ridicule might be.
Despite his own disdain over his yearning towards Jono, Seto still found himself headed to the scene of the blond's return. He did manage to feel better about it, however, once he managed to wait patiently while Rasui exchanged greetings with his taller friend. Certainly it proved that Seto was not completely controlled by his emotions if he could stay out of the blond's usual private affairs without any bouts of jealousy.
Once Rasui left the scene, Seto immediately approached the blond, speaking out: "You really vanished at the most inconvenient time." The brunet smirked in amusement. "I certainly hope you weren't trying to avoid me, Jono." He did not really mean the words, and it seemed that Jono understood that, as the blond gave him a smirk of his own and replied: "Oh please, not everything revolves around you. That idiot Odji requested that I come along, but I think he understood that I wasn't interested in his crap after the third time I completely ignored his advances."
Seto doubted it was that easy to shake off Odji's interest; the raven-haired noble could be persistent when he chose to be. And so he spoke his opinion: "A person like Odji needs to be put through some tough schooling before he learns his lesson." The brunet was already considering the possibility. "Something should be done to put him in his place."
"That's probably right", Jono agreed with a thoughtful frown. "He really needs some sort of a reality check."
Seeing that Jono would be the most likely person to agree to help him in the plan he had been cooking up ever since he had found out that he and his cousin would be spending more time than was healthy around Odji, Seto confessed: "I do actually have an idea."
A chuckle came as a response from Jono, followed by the blond grinning mischievously before saying: "Knowing you it's probably something brilliant with a touch of maliciousness. Let's hear it."
They were truly somewhat alike in some aspects, Seto noted as a smile quirked at his lips. It was just enough for them to find amusement in the same things. And Seto was certain that this would amuse Jono just as much as it did him.
While lying in his tent waiting for sleep to come, Yugi allowed himself to play with the thought of simply going to Atemu in a dream and straight out asking the other about the significance of the daggers he had been given. However, the youth knew very well that he could not do that without giving himself away. Yugi could not afford to be found out before he managed to impress Atemu and he was not even close to accomplishing that yet, since there was no fight he could prove himself in, at least in the foreseeable future.
In the end it turned out that Yugi's subconscious was not aware of the things his conscious mind already knew when, instead of falling asleep into a dream, Yugi found himself in a familiar corridor he really had no use for at the time. The young prince was about to head back to the crest that would take him back to the material world, when a continuous, low creaking sound reached his ears. The boy whirled around to the direction of the sound to see one of the doors sliding open and felt panic start to rise. No one should be able to leave their mind like that without having abilities like Yugi.
"This is a dangerous place for such a small human, little prince", a voice spoke from the darkness that spread out beyond the opened doorway and Yugi shivered from the power behind the tone. The voice was clearly masculine and deeper than any other Yugi had heard before. If the deepest ravine in the world had a voice, it would be like to voice Yugi just heard. Even the tone was low and slow like ancient caverns and Yugi realized it was like that simply because the speaker was just that enormous. The speech was also overlaying a growl and that in turn told Yugi that the speaker was not quite human.
"What are you?" Yugi asked fearfully, all the while being careful to keep his distance to the gathering of darkness.
"A friend", came the answer as red, glowing eyes appeared in the dark. "You don't need to fear me. I am not a threat. On the contrary, my purpose is to remove any possible threats to you and your success during your mission."
"How will you help me?" Yugi queried from the being, realizing that the other's voice was actually very kind. "What do you consider threats?"
"A threat is anything that I consider to need immediate intervention", the creature answered. "Now, come closer, little prince. Step into the room of my soul."
Yugi's body started moving before Yugi really considered the thought and the prince found himself walking towards those almost hypnotic eyes. There was a serpentine edge to the red gems and Yugi realized that this was the same door that had led him to the dream about the valley filled with dragons previously.
"My name is Yugi", Yugi offered, hoping to hear the other's name in return. He did not want to end up in a situation where he would have to call the other 'creature' or anything else along those lines.
"I know", the red-eyed one spoke. "I am known as the Chaos Dragon."
A crackling sound, like something was slowly being grinded broken, reached Yugi's ears. The boy looked down to see a large obsidian paw with long dark talons that were sinking into the stone floor. The rock was no match against the sharp and strong, almost metallic claws. The tile broke apart, as did the block in Yugi's mind. The prince quickly looked up right into those frighteningly inhuman eyes and saw that they held a great deal of warmth.
"I have to go", Yugi said as his idea continued to form itself in his mind.
"So soon?" Chaos Dragon questioned, and Yugi wondered if the other got lonely in this 'room of his soul'.
"I'll be back at a different time", Yugi assured the dragon. "There are still many things I want to ask you about."
"And there is still a lot I need to teach you", the dragon agreed seriously. "Don't forget."
"I won't", Yugi declared before turning around and rushing to the sigil that would take his consciousness back into his body in his tent. And even as the prince snapped awake, he was still panting slightly heavily from the sprint his spirit had done. But that did not stop him from leaping up from his bedding as he hurried out of the tent, grabbing the belt holding his daggers as he went.
Yugi did not make it far, as he fell down immediately after emerging from his tent when he tripped over something that sent him sprawling to the ground with a strangled shout. There was now sand all over Yugi's face and the boy started wiping it off even as he rose to his knees and turned his head to see what he had tripped on. It had to have been something large; it had caught Yugi mid-shin.
"Wow, Rasui, you were in a hurry there!" Jono exclaimed as he moved over to Yugi's side. "Are you okay? That was quite the fall you took."
"I'm fine, I think", Yugi replied as the blond pulled him up off the ground. "What were you doing in front of my tent anyway?"
"I wanted to make sure you got that sleep you needed", Jono answered. "So I came here as soon as I could, to make sure no one came by and disturbed you." The blond left out a chuckle. "Turns out I ended up disturbing you instead." The humorous expression turned curious. "So where were you off to in such a rush?"
The question served as a good reminder of the fact that he had something important to do, and Yugi hurried to explain his situation to his friend. He started to speak even as he struggled to get his belt on with his sudden impatience: "I know how I'm going to climb that wall." The belt finally slid into place properly and Yugi turned his gaze to his friend. There was a brief look of surprise on the other's face, but it slid away to be replaced with a smile that held not only pride, but a hint of satisfaction, like an expectation had been reached.
"That's great", Jono spoke gently, patting Yugi's shoulder as the smile grew wider. "That's really great, Yugi." Then the blond pulled back and flashed a helpful grin. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Actually, yes", Yugi admitted once he gave the matter a quick thought. "I need you fetch Atemu and bring him to the waterfall. I want to show him."
"Alright", Jono agreed with an eager nod. "Consider it done." And with that the blond ran past Yugi, through the gathering of tents. Yugi took a deep breath as he felt nervousness creep into his mind – he was really going to do this – and then he rushed off as well, his direction only slightly different from his friend's.
Atemu had no idea that leading an army could be so boring. But, that was only because they were stuck in that small camp. Atemu was certain that out in the battle field there would be more than enough to do to keep one active. It might even be so active that he would wish for more of these dull days once he experienced a true battlefield. Or, that was what Seto kept insisting on anyway. Atemu, on the other hand, had full faith in his own determination to bring the war to an end.
'And marry Yugi', an unhelpful voice in Atemu's mind added, one sounding suspiciously like his know-it-all cousin. It was a selfish reason to fight, but Atemu was certain many people fought for selfish reasons. Besides, simply because someone had a selfish reason as their foremost motivation, it did not mean that they did not think about the common well being of the nation as well. Yes, Atemu wanted to be with Yugi again, but he also wanted peace for his people.
The young prince's contemplation of the different aspects of boredom and motivation were cut off when one of his guards entered his tent, telling in a low voice that there was someone with apparently urgent news for him. After Atemu gave his agreement to letting the messenger in, the prince was rather surprised to see a familiar blond appear before him.
"Your highness", Jono started, gaining Atemu's attention with just that, as the prince was very curious to know what kind of news Jono of all people would bring him. "Your presence is requested at the waterfall." There was a hint of a smile on the other's lips and Atemu dared to hope… "Rasui claims he's now capable of reaching the top of the wall."
It was almost too good to be true, but Atemu was not about to be sceptical yet. Rasui had, after all, managed to surprise him several times already.
"I take it he's about to demonstrate this now?" Atemu queried and smiled at Jono's quick nod. "Fine then, I'll come see it for myself." Jono nodded once again and Atemu stepped next to the blond. "Let us go then", he spoke and followed after the swiftly walking Jono with amusement bringing a smile to his face. The blond clearly believed in his friend's ability, with the way he did everything in such an excited rush.
Rasui was already at the oasis by the time Atemu and Jono arrived. The short soldier was tugging on something on his hand, a piece of string by the look of things, but the other was finished quickly and lowered his hands as he turned to the new arrivals. Rasui was gripping both of the daggers Atemu had given him, one in each hand, and the prince started to understand what Rasui's plan was exactly.
"Ah, your highness!" Rasui greeted quickly, his tone tinted slightly by his habitual uncertainty. The soldier gave a quick bow and uttered: "Thank you for coming with such a short notice, but I felt you would want to receive such good news right away."
"I certainly would like that", Atemu agreed kindly. Rasui was not an overly proud person; on the contrary, the youth tended to put himself down somewhat. If he was this confident about reaching the top, there really was a chance of success, and a large one at that.
Rasui smiled slightly, apparently gaining some more confidence from Atemu's cooperation, and then turned around and headed to the wall rising before them. Atemu watched with satisfaction and pride when Rasui lifted one of his daggers and pushed it into one of the countless small cracks on the wall. There were a few cracks large enough to be used as handles or footholds, but there were smaller cracks in a much greater number, suited for a knife blade to slide into. And holding on to a knife handle went much more easier on a person's hands than gripping uneven stone did.
Atemu observed Rasui's progress up the wall intently, marvelling at the other's patience in finding every crack he could use as well as the steady pace in his progress up the wall. He had been so focused on the display that he started when the blond standing beside him shifted suddenly, having completely forgotten that the other was even there. Atemu turned to shoot Jono a glance to see that the soldier was looking to the direction of the camp. The prince followed the example and saw that a crowd was nearing from the camp, gathering at the oasis around the wall. Apparently someone had noticed Rasui climbing and had gone to inform the others, who had all been curious to find out how the notoriously unfortunate climber would faire this time around.
Suddenly wondering if word of Rasui's latest attempt at the wall had reached Odji's ears, Atemu looked around for any sign of the noble in question. He did spot the other rather quickly, since only the thorn in his side would be walking straight at him in such a self-important fashion. The raven-haired youth came to stand beside Atemu, but did not utter a word as he looked up to the wall, to Rasui. Atemu also directed his attention back to the climbing soldier. Only, Rasui was not climbing anymore. He was standing, on the very top of the wall.
There was no grandeur in Rasui's presence, there never seemed to be, but the short male did appear somehow stronger, more impressive. And judging from the cheers that broke out in the air, others noticed this fact too. Atemu heard some soldiers speak about the bet Odji had thrust upon Atemu concerning Rasui's progress and realized that someone had actually spread the word on the matter. It was very possible that everyone in the camp understood the full extent of what Rasui had just accomplished.
A silence fell over the oasis then, sweeping over the gathered crowd like a wave, and Atemu directed his attention back to Rasui, to see that the soldier had lifted his hands to silence the cheers. Not a sound could be heard for a moment, and then Rasui began to speak.
"I know you're all very excited, but please spare a moment for my thoughts", Rasui spoke in a clear voice, sounding so much more confident than ever before, and Atemu had heard the other's voice strengthened by confidence earlier as well. "I couldn't have made it this far without the aid and advice of our commander. From that I have learned that power isn't always everything. Sometimes you can win by having determination and faith and by being a bit sneaky." No one was speaking, Atemu noticed; everyone was listening to Rasui attentively and the Egyptian prince had to admit that the other had some kind of charisma. "Even a small group such as ours can make a difference with a wise leader. We can be victorious with a leader like Prince Atemu."
If the previous cheers had been loud, then the shouts that rose after Rasui's words shook the heavens high above. This excitement Rasui had lit in the troops, this fighting spirit, was certainly so great in strength that the gods could feel it within their own realm. Atemu felt his chest swell with pride as he thought: 'These men are mine to command.' If power was to be measured by the strength of heart, the soldiers occupying that small oasis were possibly the greatest in all of Egypt. And Atemu could thank Rasui for the faith of his men.
Looking over to Odji, who was glancing around them with an expression of awe, Atemu waited until the other's eyes met his own and then mouthed, not needing a voice to get his words across: "I win."
To be continued…
Author's Notes: Okay, there's a matter I'd like to discuss here and that is the amount of reviews I've been getting from people concerning Yugi's "test by fire", so to speak. Now, I know that the original work had Mulan do something extraordinary to prove her worth to Shang, but I just can't see Yugi accomplishing any physical deed that neither Bakura nor Jono could perform, considering just what the two of them are.
I can't write Yugi being super extraordinary physically while still remaining serious about it, so I decided to try and show you all why I think Yugi is beyond compare. Yugi's strength isn't in his body, nor is it in brain power. Atemu can produce pretty much the same strategies as he. What I think is Yugi's power is his ability to connect with people. Yugi is very empathetic and a bit naïve, but he also knows how to speak to people, how to make them see his way and approve with his cause. This is not something many others of the characters can do, and I see that as a huge strength.
I hope everyone likes the chapter, despite the way my personal values ended up highjacking it. Also, I'd like to dedicate this to kuan5555, without whom this chapter would not have been finished when it was. When it comes to stuff like proof reading, I really need a kick in the behind every now and then.