DISCLAIMER: I don't own Yuugiou/Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters. Christmas is not mine either.
Four years ago, I wrote and half-finished some Christmas fics soaked in drama, brotherhood/friendship and romance, but it was only this year that I realized I hadn't written anything that even comes close to what Christmas is really all about. In other words, I'm guilty of being among those who would come up with the same types of works as the others. There's more to Christmas fics than presents, romance and friendship, much as they dominate or overcrowd the spirituality genre (sad on the spirituality part but true), and I'm taking a shot at the former notion. Fortunately, I couldn't find any fics with the same plot I had in mind, so here goes: a one-shot taking place sometime after Battle City (in a parallel timeline, given that Christmastime was never shown in canon).
I hope you'll enjoy! =)
THE FORGOTTEN KING
Battle City had left Mou hitori no Yuugi so much mystery to unlock. At times he would find himself lapsing into distant silence, contemplating and wondering who and how he really had been three thousand years ago.
That must be the motivating force behind Anzu's sudden invitation with Yuugi, although they wouldn't disclose the details until tonight to keep it a surprise.
The two of them wanted to do something different each Christmas, Anzu had explained last night. It was a tradition deemed special for them only, one concreted even before Jounouchi and Honda widened Yuugi's nearly crumbling social circle. Last year they had watched a Christmas play; this year, they both wanted the former pharaoh to take part with them. But being the serious character that he was, they could come up with only one entertainment they believed would suit his level of appreciation.
Well, whatever it was, he would appreciate it. This was, after all, the first time he, Yuugi and Anzu would go out together.
Only that it wasn't Yuugi who would be holding the reins of his petite frame.
"It just wouldn't do, Mou hitori no boku," he had replied this morning to the Egyptian's protests on how Yuugi himself wouldn't be able to fully enjoy. "Anzu and I don't wish for you just to be with us. We want you to actually experience it. Firsthand. Besides, you've been so quiet ever since the end of the tournament. We understand why, Mou hitori no boku, but it wouldn't harm to put your mind off things even for just one night. We, especially Anzu, are getting worried about you."
Yuugi must be that determined, even as far as allotting pocket money for the Egyptian spirit to spend as the latter wished. Not wanting to let his partner down, Mou hitori no Yuugi had accepted it albeit with the intention of returning it in the form of a holiday treat upon his return. The Mutou family, people he deeply cared more than himself, were not the type to expect anything from anyone, even friends, but that didn't mean he was about to let them receive nothing special. With Anzu's unsolicited tip, a box of hot rich cinnamon rolls, a rare find in deliciousness, was the perfect treat to delight Yuugi and their grandfather's taste buds. For years Yuugi had been dying to have this bestseller, but for years had always kept missing it, either due to money-extracting bullies or simply because other customers had often beat him at buying. This year, Anzu had initially made an early reservation as a bonus to her Christmas present for him but later on had passed to Mou hitori no Yuugi the opportunity of giving. It was just like the brunette to be that thoughtful, considering the former pharaoh's unspoken sentiments, and also considering that the bakery would close earlier than their anonymous excursion would start.
Now to wait for Anzu to pick him and his partner up. Having already prepared much earlier, the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter of the game shop. To kill time, he studied the nearby pine-like tree ornamented with aurum and silver balls and pine cones. Gazed at the scintillating lights bathing them, at the grand star with extensive golden rays in all directions. Eyed all the red poinsettias, trails of gold and evergreen bordering the door, the same kind of foliage he often noticed lining shops, cafés and other establishments whenever Yuugi went out in public. Anzu's house was adorned in a similar fashion. Mou hitori no Yuugi had no idea about Honda's, though. As for Jounouchi's…
Suddenly the door cracked open, and Anzu's head peeked in. "Yuugi?"
"Anzu." He nodded, a silent invitation for her to come in.
She did, tugging at her crimson sweater. "I hope you'd bring a rather really thick jacket, Yuugi. It's colder outside than I expected."
A slight nod. "So, where exactly are we going then?"
"To the plaza. A choir keeps on performing there lately, usually during nights at eight. Seems like a church service. That choir happened to have had participation in the play the other Yuugi and I watched last year, and they're really good with carols. Well, as far as we're concerned."
Carols. Mou hitori no Yuugi had already heard a lot of those, not yet even counting Jounouchi and Honda's simultaneous off-key rendition of something about decking halls. From every sound system, in every establishment he and Yuugi had gone to, they spelled out the same notions: jingles, holiday acronym, good tidings and presents, the season in a dozen days, a man popular with the young and the good, and romance, just to name a few. Christmas songs sounded like fun and happiness but, for some strange reason, listening to them felt hollow, like there was something… lacking.
Or perhaps, he was just putting too much thought into it.
Or maybe, he just couldn't see yet the entire point.
"I'm really glad you agreed to come with us, Yuugi. I was afraid you'd refuse." Smiling warmly, Anzu set her bag over her shoulder. "So, you ready?"
She blinked, rather surprised at his stillness. "What is it?"
"You and Aibou… Even Jounouchi-kun, Honda-kun and everyone else, you all seem exceptionally happier lately." Happier than on Anzu's celebrated birthday a few months ago. Happier than when the school had announced the start of the holiday vacation. Happier than at the conclusion of the Battle City tournament where miraculously everyone still breathed. "Christmas must be very influential."
"What you see is just normal. After all, Christmas is the merriest tradition there is the entire year."
"Tradition." The word resounded more to himself than to Anzu. "How come?"
"Well, it's about spending time with your family and friends. About peace and goodwill to all. You decorate your surroundings and give gifts and stuff. It's sort of grander, more extravagant than celebrating your own birthday." Anzu must have seen the sudden distant look on her friend's face for her hand immediately flew over her mouth. "Wait, I didn't mean to say that…"
But her apology was already lost on deaf ears. Mou hitori no Yuugi shifted his sharp gaze to the floor without a tilt of his head, hands in leather pockets. "Not knowing the date of my birth, along with the fragments of my memory… I managed to retrieve only a few of them during the tournament. Ishizu showed me through the stone tablet that I was an ancient ruler. Along with Kaiba, I saw that pharaoh in a battle with his high priest possessed by darkness. The gods we saw were merely stone, and Egypt was in ruins. Shrouded by blackness. It isn't far that those events are connected to the loss of everything about me. Of me." Maybe that was a consequence but the picture still needed more pieces to be interpreted properly. Maybe there was some kind of sacrifice on his part…
For a while Anzu fell silent, seeming to share the same train of thought. Finally she directed her gaze at the sparkling Christmas tree. "You know, you remind me of him."
The brunette cast a sidelong glance at him. "There's a king I know who's just like you. I can't recall all the details, though. But if we're both right about the possible kind of your past we have in mind, then I'm pretty sure you share some parallelism with him: in exchange for his people's lives, he gave up his own. Sacrificed, you could say. To save them. Christmas exists because of him."
"Ah. So this celebration is in memory of his demise, then."
"No, that's another story. Tomorrow is the day he was born. At least, that's what my parents and a teacher told me when I was a kid. Speaking of teacher, that reminds me of something taught in world history class—he was the son of his subjects' god. Almost, if not exactly, pretty much like a pharaoh being the son of a god—Ra."
A king who was just like him. A son of a god. An exchange of his life for others' own. That morsel of information itself already spoke volumes of significance, but it was rather strange. Why did the Christmas carols the Egyptian spirit often heard spoke almost nothing of the ruler Anzu was talking about? His forehead creased slightly. "Did this ruler also lose his name?"
"No, but…" Anzu trailed off, a strange expression burdening her face, the azure gaze already fixated on the wrapped boxes underneath the tree as though weighing their value. As though something just sank in. "But he might as well have."
"What do you mean?"
"Most people, if not all, know his name but it's like no one knows him."
"The logic makes no sense at all, Anzu." How was it even possible? If only Mou hitori no Yuugi could get hold of his missing name, that itself would already unlock so much of his mysterious identity.
"People celebrate because of his birth per se. But most of them barely even know what's so special about that. And that's not all. Every Christmas season, so much food is prepared, so much decorations are used, so much money is spent on gifts for everyone… People get so attached to the tradition that they forget why they're doing it in the first place. It's like…" The rest of her words died as though she couldn't continue.
Mou hitori no Yuugi mentally frowned. "Anzu?" He stepped a little closer, slightly worried at the sudden uneasiness her features barely veiled.
"Like… Like tomorrow is all about presents and having fun."
She fell into uncomfortable silence again, briefly regarding the sprig of green directly above their heads in regret. Mou hitori no Yuugi didn't miss the sudden flush slashing her cheeks even as she glanced away from it. For a moment he wondered what power that decoration possessed over his friend but soon dismissed it. Anzu herself was much more in need of his concern. "Something's bothering you."
"No," was her automatic response. A few more moments and she sighed. "Well, sort of yes." It was her turn to incline her gaze, and the male duelist patiently waited. "I don't exactly follow this king; I was just fascinated by stories and accounts about him. But I feel heavy inside, like I did something wrong. Like I'm one of his people who had forgotten him. It's ironic." A hint of sympathy flecked in blue orbs. "I read before that he came back to life. Then he must be sad. I, too, would be if everyone, especially you guys, forgot about my birthday or, worse, me. But he still loves them."
Sharp eyes widening slightly, Mou hitori no Yuugi was taken aback. "What kind of ruler could tolerate such a despicable thing?"
"A forgiving one." Her face grew contemplative, like her mind was working more and more on his question. "A peaceful one." She nodded as though agreeing with herself. "A loving one."
Her words echoed inside his mind, inside his heart, only to weigh themselves against him. To be no longer remembered after a huge sacrifice must be, no, it was an extremely huge blow. But despite such offense, for a king to be this selfless… What kind of ruler had Mou hitori no Yuugi been in the past? Had he been as caring for his own people? Had he been as forgiving, as just, as peaceful?
Had he been just like this king?
"Well, I think I've said all that I know. We need to get going now." Snapping back to her usual self, Anzu glanced at her watch. "The bakery's going to close soon. Come on or we'll be too late." She headed for the door.
She halted, looking behind.
He remained rooted to his spot. There was only one more thing left unanswered. "This king… Who is he?"
And she smiled.
Christ. The duelist mentally tested the unfamiliar word.
Anzu began advancing toward the door, then glanced back once more. "And that choir we're about to watch?" she added as though an afterthought. "They sing actual Christmas songs. Real, if you want to call them that way. You'll feel good, I promise."
She sounded confident, like she was speaking an absolute truth. And he trusted her, sensing he would learn more about this king through such songs.
"Well now, shall we?"
He nodded, wrapping Yuugi's pale blue scarf around his collared neck. Anzu waited for him to reach her side before they stepped onto white snow together.
And then minutes after, amidst the sparsely scattered crowd of strangers, Mou hitori no Yuugi stood in meditative silence. He listened attentively, unaware of people who lost interest that they left, of mere casual glances from passersby and of nonchalance of those who never even bothered to look at all. Among lines about angels, shepherds and kings, among warm messages of love, hope, peace, salvation and rejoicing, and among words that depicted humble beginnings, the truth unraveled itself. Yuugi and Anzu clearly had intended his enjoyment but in origin probably more of with the physical senses. His current experience, however, surpassed them that his soul drowned in deeply felt realization.
As the last note faded into the cold evening air, the singers bowed humbly, earning a polite clap of hands. As though to cap the performance, soft flecks of snow drifted from above.
Just then, Anzu turned to him. "That Christmas tree over there looks so beautiful, doesn't it? I'll just have a good look at it for a while. Be right back." Without even waiting for his response, the brunette hurried away to admire the season icon glistening in layers of soft white and, soon, the rest of the décor encompassing it.
As onlookers and very soon the singers dispersed all around him, Mou hitori no Yuugi caught sight of a young boy in soiled clothes and jacket standing alone outside a closed café several feet away, the same boy he sometimes saw sitting outside shops whenever the Duel King bought duel monster cards. The same boy he had seen earlier watching the choir wistfully upon his and Anzu's arrival. The same boy who now faintly rendered vocal tunes of carols, albeit with notes out of place, whose plead in big brown eyes passersby all around him never read at all, whose tin can at his worn-out shoes still remained to receive even just a single yen. The duelist observed him for a while, then landed eyes on the people within range of vision. All of them, if not hurrying for some last-minute holiday activity, were huddling close to the quite distant section of the plaza where the grand Christmas tree towered over its admirers by tens of feet.
All of them but one.
A teenage girl, probably a high school student just like Yuugi, had slowed down her pace and halted to look back at the side of the café. Mou hitori no Yuugi recognized her as one of the choir members, members who were now no longer in sight anywhere in the plaza. For a split second, he wondered if singing carols as public performance or service was as forbidden as any part-time job Anzu had risked, but the thought deserted him when the girl continued to gaze. Her gloved hands flew to her pockets, then dropped at her sides in defeat, and the duelist didn't miss the look of helpless sadness as she looked on. He watched the pale and weak object of her attention in that powerless shivering state, expecting to feel an ounce of pity for one who had nothing to receive.
An infant, born to save countless, shivered slightly, a cloth his only physical protection in poverty. He, who should be crowned, was not meant to be in the company of beasts and hay, as where he was now…
His eyes closed.
Maybe next time… Slowly his eyelids parted. …Aibou.
Striding to the girl, he wordlessly handed over to her the box.
Nothing but a warm rewarding feeling beyond explanation.
He never looked up to witness the surprise and soon the smile on her face. He never stuck around to hear her thanks on behalf of heaven. Not even to find hot tears freezing halfway along a young face, the package cradled by pale small hands like a priceless gem. Hands warmed by his pockets, he simply walked away.
The world might have forgotten about him today, and Mou hitori no Yuugi might not have met him nor been like him but…
But even in his own words, even in his own way, he would pay honor to a king of unparalleled greatness.
Apparently Mou hitori no Yuugi can't be expected to celebrate the occasion in strict Christian style since he was already dead way before Christmas even existed. Given this, I hope the concept of the fic fits.
Feedback would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Hark! the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations rise;
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Merry Christmas, everyone.