PLEASE READ...IMPORTANT(AND UNFORTUNATELY LONG) NOTE: Ah hahahaha...hah. Sorry for being gone…a long, long time. Thank you to the super kind people who reviewed and messaged me; it meant so much to me!

Yup. So, this is being redone. Entirely. Partly because someone was kind enough (and I am NOT being sarcastic) to point out that this story's interpretation of Tea comes off as...dun dun DUN! A Mary Sue. I read over my work, and smacked myself in the face for about three minutes straight. Left a really cool bruise. So, yeah, redoing this. It was not my intention to have Tea be a Mary-Sue; I was just being lazy in my writing and skipping over some stuff. For example, her parents. I was really just trying to get rid of that influence, because I couldn't find a place for a normal family in the plot. This was LAZY; I am fixing it, and I do NOT intend to do any real character bashing in this story-or if I do, it will be distributed equally, if only because I have a hard time being serious.

May all Mary Sues and Gary Stus die unfortunate, miserable deaths, steeped in their own outrageously amplified angst and beauty. I do not own YuGiOh or any of its characters (if I did that kid from Zexal would have an emergency appointment with the barber.)

From now on, I promise to update at least once a week, even if it's only a few lines. I won't vanish again, unless it's, you know, seriously unavoidable, like alien abduction or some shiz.

Tea cried softly as she ran down street after street, hounded by the encroaching fingers of twilight. Her usually smiling face was a mess of tears and snot, and her brown hair, neatly brushed as of that morning, hung in her face, further obscuring her already blurry vision.

Today had started off so well, too. The sun had been shining, the birds had been singing their little feathery hearts out, and Tea Gardner had been beyond excited about meeting up with her friends that afternoon at Grandpa's Gameshop.

She hadn't gotten to see them that much the past week; dance practice and a new job had eaten up her time. Sure, she got to see them at school, but unlike some people (cough Joey and Tristan cough), the girl cared a great deal about her academics, so class wasn't as good a socializing time for her as for them.

She had decided to get up early and bake them a cake as a surprise. Then of course she had burnt the first one, forgotten the sugar on the second, and flat-out dropped the third.

She should have known it was a bad omen, and she should have known the day was going to sour once storm clouds blocked out the sun, hanging ominously low over Domino City.

However, her optimism was irrepressible: it couldn't be destroyed by the discovery of dark shadow magic, and it certainly wouldn't lose against a baking mishap. So Tea baked a fourth cake, still smiling, cheered victoriously when it came out perfectly, and set out for the Gameshop in the early afternoon, umbrella in one hand and cake in the other.

The cake was heavy(being composed of five layers to accommodate everyone's preference in flavor), and with the added complication of the rising wind and rainfall, Tea ended up being over half an hour late to the meeting. Tardiness displeased her-punctuality had always been important to the girl, and years of balancing school, jobs, and helping save the world had only honed that sense.

But, in accordance with her boundless positive energy, Tea decided to take advantage of her lateness and pull a prank on her friends. Grinning brightly, she slipped into the Gameshop silently. It was time to exact sweet payback for all the times Joey had crept up on her!

Gratefully setting the heavy cake down on the counter in the darkened store front, the girl tiptoed towards the living area, where she could hear her friends chatting.

Laughing silently, she crept to the door and was about to leap in when she discerned from within her name being mentioned. Biting her lip, Tea deliberated on whether to eavesdrop or not. It couldn't hurt just this once, could it?

"...Seriously Yami, we just can't let her in on this one." Woah, that was Tristan. But who and what was he talking about? He sounded so serious. Unconsciously, she leaned closer.

"I understand what you're saying, Tristan. This particular event is something she must be excluded from." Now Yami...Well that was the what answered at least. If it was an event, it involved games, most likely cards. Tea marveled at that for all their lives contained spectacularly unusual events, said events were pretty predictable. Where there was trouble, there would be cards.

But excluded? Surely they couldn't mean-

Yugi was next(he must have switched back with Yami), and the girl smiled at his pure voice; they had been friends for so long she would know his voice anywhere. "I have to agree with you guys. I don't like doing this, but this is just way too dangerous and important. I don't want her getting hurt." Behind the door, Tea clenched her hands. So they were trying to keep her out of something.

"Tea simply isn't strong enough to come with us on this one. She can't duel, she isn't physically capable of doing much other than running away, and she doesn't have the mental fortitude for this kind of thing." Yami again, and it would be funny to think of him and Yugi switching back and forth so much were it not for the awful things they were saying.

"Besides, she can't even do anything to help us. Sure, she's our friend, but she would just hold us back, and we can't afford that." Tea flinched back as though struck. She-she held them back? That couldn't be true! Joey, Joey hadn't said anything, surely he would speak up for her, right? No, as ever, Yugi was the defending voice.

"That's not really fair," he said uncomfortably. "She's helped us tons, even if she can't duel. She's always looking out for us."

"I know Yug', but all those times weren't as freaky as this time. You understand, right?" And there was Joey, with his thick accent and bouncy tone of voice. Not standing up for her, not saying that she didn't hold them back as she had hoped; instead, implying it was true.

A pause came in which her fate was decided, and Tea blankly stared out into the rain through the windows, blue eyes wide and vacant.

"You're probably right," Yugi said at last, heavily, sadly. "It doesn't feel right, but at least we can be sure she'll be safe this way." It would have been easier to hear if he hadn't sounded so disheartened; as it was, she felt his pain next to her own.

"There we go then," declared Joey. "Y'know, it's not like I'd let Serenity come either-"

Tea took a step back, and then another and another and suddenly she was out of the shop, her feet having led her silently back out the front door.

She sucked in a deep breath, rain pelting her head and shoulders-oh right she had left the umbrella inside, hadn't she?

The girl felt dizzy, unbalanced. "You can't stay here right now," she told herself out loud, and she let her feet walk her further away.

She got about a block before everything caught up to her-the burnt cake, the dropped cake, the rain, and the words of her friends who thought she was holding them back.

A choked sob ripped its way out of her throat, and she began to run.

An hour later, her pace hadn't slackened as she sprinted haphazardly through the city. Nor had her tears ceased, and the rain still vengefully tore down from the blackened skies, drenching her thoroughly. Spotting a bench through her blurred vision, Tea halted her mad dash and slowly shuffled her way to it. Sinking down onto the cold planks, she curled herself into a dripping ball of grief and forced her last, shuddering sobs from her body. Utterly miserable, Tea lifted her head slightly to examine the street she found herself on. It was a rather decrepit place, a shutdown factory dominated one side of the crumbling asphalt path while the other flaunted small, shriveled houses that seemed to shrink in on themselves. With a groan, Tea concluded that not only was she soaking, desolate, and bereaved but was also lost, putting a cherry on her metaphorical ice cream cone of bitter sorrow.

"Enough's enough, I suppose," she reprimanded herself drearily, wiping off her cheeks. It was a futile action, seeing as the rain replaced the wet drops instantaneously. But the action was a symbol, a mark of her resolve to move on.

Sitting up-posture was ingrained into her as a dancer-the girl began to force her thoughts into some semblance of coherency.

All right. All right, she could do this. So, her friends were going on another adventure. One they thought was more dangerous than previous ones, where people had been possessed, put into comas, and played around with large explosives and arcane forces. Right. Well, that was just fantastic.

And she wasn't allowed to go with them. Wasn't going to be able to watch over them, do whatever she could to make sure they all came back.

But that was okay, because apparently-thank you Tristan-she had only ever been hindering them.

She tilted her head back, far back, so the raindrops pooled around her eyes, and she breathed deeply of the downpour. That accusation had cut deeper than stitches could fix, had reached into her core and ripped and clawed, and she felt so angry and hurt and confused and even guilty, because what if it was true?

"It isn't," she mumbled to the uncaring skies. "I'm helpful. I've played a part-a good part!"

But Tea was the sort of girl who couldn't help but listen but listen to her friends, and so even as she denied it, doubt began to grow in her mind. Sure she had been a part of all their crazy adventures, and it was true that she had helped her best, but maybe all the things she had done would have been done better by another of her friends. A better dueler, like Yugi or Joey. Someone stronger, like Tristan or Duke.

And for Tea, who had risked her life and postponed her own interests to follow her friends into whatever danger had arisen, that realization nearly broke her heart.

Wordlessly rising, the girl slogged on through the rivulets of water rushing down the streets, and a few last tears escaped her watery lashes as she tilted her head towards the dark turmoil of clouds overhead.

Just for a moment, she wished she were more like Yami or Joey.

At that revelation, Tea abruptly halted. Standing stock still in the midst of the sky's downpour, she mulled this insight over. Something new, slowly unfurling within her mind poked a hesitant but irrevocable tendril into the forefront of her mind. A deep, shivering breath inflating her lungs, Tea realized something. She wanted to be better able to look after herself and her friends. I mean, she thought, it's not like I'm incapable now. Her brows furrowed and her teeth worried her lower lips as she contemplated. But then again, that was not quite true either.

Because when it came down to it, she could cheer on her friends with all her heart(something she did believe to be important, no matter what stink faces like Kaiba said), and she could remind them over and over of their strength when they were discouraged, but she could not protect them.

Bitterly, she kicked at a lone can. It wasn't her fault that saving the world tended to align more with her friends' love for card games than with her own passion for dancing. She briefly snickered at the idea of a Shadow Dance Duel, but quickly sobered as she realized she had wandered further into the rundown district.

The girl extricated herself from her musings, still acutely painful from her experience. Shaking her head, Tea re-focused on her current predicament, resolving to further her speculations later. For right now, she needed to find a way home.

Slogging through the puddles, the sodden girl strode down the street in search of a pay phone. Hopefully her parents would be home by now so she could receive directions, although she winced at the thought of the repercussions they surely would dole out. They were already miffed enough at her, what with her tendency to go gallivanting off across the world to stand on the sidelines while her friends battled evil.

She smacked herself in the face, exasperated by her own negativity. Man, she really needed to stop being so down. This-she could fix all this. She didn't know how, but the first step to turning things around was to believe she could.

As if in answer to her determination, a payphone appeared down the next block.

Hurriedly, she slouched her way to the little black box of salvation, only to groan in disappointment as she realized she had no coin on her, not even a measly penny. Her newly minted optimistic mood crumbled, and she almost sank to her knees right there on the gritty sidewalk.

Could this day get any worse? (She should have known better than to ask, just like she should have known the day was doomed. But it was the curse of her optimism:when at rock bottom, she naïvely assumed that was as low as she could go.)

About to resign herself to groping around in the gutters for fallen change, she stopped as her ears detected soft footsteps approaching. Turning, she caught sight of a very peculiar person. They were so bundled up that she could discern nothing of their shape or gender. A floppy hat deflected the worst of the skies deluge, tilted downwards to nearly meet an enormous scarf circling an unseen neck, which similarly met a decrepit, oversized trench coat that blurred the person's physique all the way to their knees. Those appendages in turn were eaten by a pair of ragged jeans. Immense shoes tapped oddly lightly against the pavement, despite the person's obvious weight. Patched shoulders slumped against the skies barrage, and hands hid from the world in pockets. Nothing at all could be seen of the other's face, only a deep shadow warped by the sick gleam of a nearby lamp.

Looming ominously through the rain sliced night, the faceless person drew nearer, and Tea knew she should have been afraid. But in her harried state of mind and current destitution, she gave her intuition no heed and instead rushed up to the obscured one, peering anxiously up into their invisible face while babbling out her predicament.

"Hi, look, I'm really sorry to have to ask you this- believe me, you don't know how sorry I am- but do you have any spare change?"

There was a long silence, long enough for Tea to feel slightly awkward. But then the hat tilted, and a curiously gravelly voice asked: "You wish for change?"

"Uh, yes please," the girl smiled uncertainly.

The man reached into a pocket and handed her a small stone. The girl stared at it, bemused. It was rather pretty, and it twinkled in the sparse light.

"Will you accept it?" the man asked in his strange voice. Tea wondered if maybe he wasn't all there, or if perhaps he was drunk. The girl should have known better than to take strange stones from strange men, but it had been such a long day, and the idea of such a simple kindness from a stranger was so appealing(even if he was a bit bonkers and what she really needed was coins.

"Thank you," she said, and the man laughed, a great booming laugh that sounded like boulders crashing together. The stone burned in her hand, and she gasped in pain. She tried to drop the rock, but it stuck to her hand, burning its way into her palm.

"What did you give me?" the girl demanded, clutching her hand to her chest.

"The conditions are met," growled the man, and his voice echoed for a moment. A sound like a bell split the air, and Tea shouted as the great noise reverberated in her ears.

"Who are you?" she shrieked, terror quickening her heart.

Nearby, a street lamp flickered on, and its wan glow finally penetrated the shadows embracing the other's face. She stifled a scream as a monstrous mouth cracked open, and five gleaming red eyes stared back into her own.


Yay Chapter 1 Redone! I like it better all patched up like this. Yup. Anyways, Saturday's going to be my day for updates for now! Thank you all for reading!