Sorry it took so long to come out with this. It was a combination of "I don't want this story to end" itis and "Wow I never realized that I could possibly have that many things to do for College."
So here it is! The final chapter (which turned out longer than I though it would...) of Mistakes!
Disclaimer: I obviously do not own Yu-Gi-Oh! 5ds. That would be bad.
In that one final moment of life, I learned more about death and myself than I ever had while breathing. I know now why the dead leave no warmth behind from whence they came; I know where the light in ones eyes fled to; I know the stillness that enveloped bodies left behind; I know why peace appeared one their faces; I know the grief of forgetting love; I know the aches of regret; I know why it was the blessed whom the rain fell on. I knew all this and more; for that one second; for that one breathe; for that one tear; for that one beat—then...
I knew nothing.
Third Person POV
"That dragon?! But that's—that dragon only appears to those with noble intentions—of pure heart! This duel—you were—but I... so you were..." Goodwin's final realization came to close, dampened eyes wide with the gravity of his ultimate mistake. The denial disappeared with the light of Yusei's last testimony to the gods, to his friends, and to his enemies, cushioning the impact of the truth. Then softer, a message to the stars, "I see now... Please... big brother... forgive me..."
He opened his arms to the attack.
"Clustering minds will now become a new miracle. Become the path its light shines upon! Synchro Summon! Descend, Savior Star Dragon!"
The great beast did that and more; it burst into reality through the raging purple clouds above, punching a hole into space, where the stars smiled down on them in victory. The sight, completely foreign to the viewers, dazzled their eyes with its beauty and grace, its promise for a brighter future written across the deep blue sky.
Moving with all the supernatural strength of the stars, Savior Star Dragon took Yusei within it, joining their souls for a second time tonight with light so intense it outshone Momentum, the disaster that had born its legacy. Angling sharp wings, it sliced through the thick air between the Satellite and Neo Domino with the strength Yusei's heart possessed; its target gruesome and weak in comparison.
Even now, at the edge of death, they heard their savior cry out for their bonds again with a card, raising allies from their graves, powering the heaven-bound dragon with their enflamed souls. With baited breaths, the city gazed in wonder as the slender beast grew brighter still, empowered by the hope of its bonds and flushed with the taste of victory...
Yusei! Yusei! Yusei!
Impact: with a screech that echoed its King, the final Earthbound God succumbed to the power of life and love, exploding into thousands of shooting stars that lit up the streets they touched, the ocean waves below, and the faces of those remaining behind. Merciful laughter was heard echoing between the crowded cities, joyful exclamations of wet emotions as families were reunited, friends embraced, and children screamed in awe of their Savior in the winds.
All they had hoped for, believed in, fought for: he had made reality! He had overcome Death's shadow and claw—he had surpassed destiny as promised!
"He did it! He did it!" Rua cheered, pulling his sister into a crushing hug and whirling her around. For once she laughed along with him, holding him as tightly as her young arms could. Turning their heads to look on the other three in the group, the twins grinned and took their hands, squishing them all together in one group of mirth and love; all spawned because of one man with the power to hope.
And it was in this moment of peace and love, where victory had been a certainty, his strength faltered.
Ruca! Ancient Fairy Dragon sensed it first, followed by the sharp keening of Black Rose Witch. The dragon duelists broke apart with searing pain from their arms, from Yusei, and turned their eyes skyward, to where Savior Star Dragon was slowing.
Yusei! Yusei! Yusei!
With the same light it had appeared in, the great dragon shattered, surrounding their hero as he plummeted out of sight and sound, into a world without light.
Yusei! Yusei! Yusei!
Their marks back burned onto their arms, warning and dread instilled to their cores. But they had come this far—surrendering was not an option! Neither pain nor grief would force them to their knees, they would support Yusei through their bonds if it was the last thing they did!
If it was the last thing he did... amazingly, irresistibly, and miraculously...Yusei called for them.
Though his voice was scant a whisper, though his body had long since frozen with the shock of agony, he was still there, still fighting against death! They would not allow their star to fall tonight!
Each by his or her own means, the cry was answered with all the feeling they could lend him, with all the love their thundering hearts could manage. Gratitude embedded in their souls, they watched their marks fade from their arms as he accepted each of them, as he clasped their hands once again tonight and soared free from death and calamity.
Savior Star Dragon evolved from the light of his soul, ascending where it had fallen, attacking the King alongside the Crimson Dragon. Without prompt, the other two dragons fell back, knowing that this was a fight between destiny and mortality, a fight best left to its victims. Taking the fallen duelists on their backs, they flew levelly towards the Satellite, carrying the hope that it would soon no longer be just that.
Their hopes were answered.
Bonded firmly by crimson faith, the God of the Dragon Star and the Star itself joined together, flooding the night with the screams of the overwhelmed king as they burst past all the power he could pour at them, drove through his being, and chased the shadows of his soul into oblivion. He struggled and choked, reached for Yusei within the dragons to no avail, and made one last empty vow to the light that outshone him.
For this betrayal, I revoke what's been given!
With that, the God of Death died, vanishing from the earthly plain in a great rush of purple flames. And their hope flew above still, gliding calmly as it drudged up the early signs of dawn.
"Yusei! Yusei! Yusei!" they called for him, waved their arms, worried not about the threats of a lying King or the hollowed joy they felt fading through their marks. No, they rushed to the base of the shaky beginning of the true Daedalus Bridge now that the light had faded, they shouted his name, they cheered as the great Crimson Dragon landed before them, vanishing to reveal their silver star, then Yusei himself, who stood caught in the stardust as if entranced.
Eyes gleaming soft red with reminisces of the God of life's power, he saw them all without seeing, took a step forward, stumbled, and fell into their outstretched arms, facing the revealed heavens. The mark flaring on his back returned to its individual Signers, lighting up their area with a gentle red glow, soothing the situation as it unfolded before them.
"Yusei?" Aki was the first to question his silent collapse with the touch of her smooth skin on his wet cheek. "Yusei are you...?"
He couldn't dream of replying, even as he was lowered to the ground, even as his friends took instinctual places around him, Mikage on his lips, Ushio his chest, Aki his mind, Ruca his deck, Rua his sister, Jack his right hand, Crow his left. This stopped with astonished cries from the Security Officers as his hands retreated shaking and her lips pulled back stained.
Anguished tears shaking the earth around them, they discovered the injury that ailed him, the wound that had started all of his pain and finally put an end to it. Standing to his full height, Jack called to the small crowd around them, demanding for the presence of a doctor, his anger fueled by the cruelty of this world to its savior. He stormed and raged at the gathered helpless, instilling a search within the masses, a search to continue the miracles under the fading stars.
Fat tears rolled down the soft cheeks of the children again as they lifted his shirt to reveal his bruised and blackened chest, as the keens of Stardust Dragon began to fade with its other half. Heads together, they clutched his deck tightly between shared fingers, urging both to be strong, to survive. Hands heavy with familiarity, Crow took them by the shoulders and pulled them close to his injured body, holding them like he had Pearson's kids, whispering promises he wasn't sure he could keep. Sparing a glance at his new mark, he willed his lids to close to the approaching sun, determined not to see the light of day without him.
He was not wading alone in the darkness; Aki had long since surrendered to the world behind her eyes, searching for a flicker of Yusei within his soul, fingers cupped firmly over his beating temples. Warmth met her clumsy touch, unafraid of her presence as she combed his heart for him, finding that he himself was cutting his thread to life. Her tears fell to his eyes, masquerading the sorrow she felt deep within him, filling Mikage's mouth with the startling chill of water as she shared Ushio's borrowed air with him, side warm with the touch of said officer as he alternated between moving a still heart and calling for a helicopter, the plea answered by renewed parents looking to save their savior.
Though they were bound by cause and purpose, each was left to their own thoughts, their own guilty sins that Yusei carried on his shoulders, which weighed him down to where he rested now. Reasons remaining in the shadows, the King had been able to taint their friend, to twist him, to kill him, and where Yusei had been saved by their light...
It was their darkness that had condemned him.
This was the consequence of their mistakes, taken on by their Savior, who they could not forsake now, not when victory was so close to their outstretched arms...
Like the guilt he had bared, Atlas' punishment from the gods, they would take burdens of their own to their shoulders, they would share the weight, they would strive to make it up to him, to tell him they were sorry, to alleviate all the suffering in his broken soul...
But they toiled on uselessly, for the gift the King of Death had revoked... was that of life.
Open your eyes Signer.
Dear God no, was my first thought at the sound of such a powerful voice. The next was full of bitterness—who else would it be?—the following realized that it was not the voice I had become accustomed to. This was the command of the God of Life who wished to kill me to spare the world, not the God of Death who wished for me to live to damn it.
With irony a heavy weight on my mind, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was Divine's last malicious attempt on me, his will powerful enough to extend beyond the weak boundaries between life and death. It seemed so, for despite all my talk about disregarding what the gods wanted in favor of my path, I obeyed the dragon that had Chosen me three times over, fluttering my eyes open in the eternal night of the underworld.
Waters as dark as my eyes rushed along my face; it was a bitterly stale taste against my lips. Slick with precipitation, my gloves bled anew on the rock I was draped over, revived by the moisture of its source. Scraping my bruised cheek off the purple granite, I raised my heavy head and observed the stretch of river to my right, noting the depth by the pinpricks of reflected red light on its surface.
As before, my mark continued to light the way in the blackest darkness Death could throw at me.
My eyes traced the path of shallow water towards the familiar shores of the dead, where they paused at a new sight: The Door—open just enough to allow one long talon to reach out, waiting at the beach, pushing against an invisible force to reach me. Where it had spurred fright, defiance, love, and hate earlier, I now saw only pity for the creature, pity and a need for justice. I would end this now—I would defeat him and restore the world to its proper boundaries.
The boundaries have never been weakened Yusei. Even in your case, the clouds and craters you have wandered were of Limbo, the Great In-betweens for the Lost. Death may have touched you, but you have yet to be seized. The dead remain dead, no matter how they walk upon Earth afterwards. It is simply the space they can travel that is extended. Life, even a half one, cannot be granted by the King's touch.
Life is not necessary, seeing as it was that which damned them.
Turning my head at their beck and call, I came face to face with the other legendary beast as it watched me from the opposing side, scrutinizing me with its immortal intelligence as if judging my fate. My gaze flickered beyond its silent curiosity and found a soft red glow in the distance, shading seven shapes as they darted about a lifeless heap on the rocky ground.
Was it possible that...?
I found lifting my body was a chore as the warnings of the River finally reached my drowned ears, clinging to my clothed form like a scared child. Presence noticed the weight was suddenly crushing me against the half submerged stone on which I lay, eager to drag me to its murky depths. Sparing my apparel only a fleeting thought, I shrugged out of the worn blue jacket, gloves, and suctioning boots; freeing myself enough to kneel before the crimson god; enough to see past it.
Enough to see that those seven precious bonds understood so deeply that it travelled through, their defiant and heartbroken hope luminous enough to pierce the veils between us... enough to make even me understand.
Although there had never been a doubt, watching them now, clearly, was something painfully gratifying, something like seeing my father in Old Momentum, talking to him for the first time while simultaneously knowing it would be the last... an unforgettable moment that must fade away like Kiryu's ash between my closed fingers.
They needed me, I needed them, and they were calling for me so desperately...
There was doubt again, if anything that was my weakness. How can I willingly tear apart the people I love? How can shattering them where they were cracked be the solution? Leaving them will perhaps save the world, but we had already defeated the King once, was it not plausible that together we could destroy him once and for all—wasn't there another way, a way that we wouldn't lose each other?
At one point, everyone will be lost Yusei. That is the way of death, the way of the King.
The way of death... but the way of life...?
Fascinated in a way perhaps only I could understand I watched my friends in favor of the Gods, chest tight with more than injury. Each had their own certain place about me and each other, each worked jointly like the family we desperately needed, and yet each was an individual performing their own tasks, but they came together to...
... What? Save me? They had already done so tonight... dying was my last decision... wasn't it?
That Choice has not been made yet.
Yusei, should you return to life, I will fight with all my power for you. Your strength will see me through.
Return to life...? But that was impossible, life can't be granted to the dead, and I...
Ushio's hands moved my chest slowly and rhythmically. Mikage breathed air into my lungs. Aki kindled the fire in my soul. Ruca and Rua empowered Stardust Dragon. Jack fought an impossible battle for hope, and Crow held them together with strong, faithful words.
... Through my bonds I was still alive. Then if I took the path the Crimson Dragon offered...?
I jerked about to the low laughter of The King, his pupils flashing eerily behind the opened door as he reached out further, clearing the shore with his claws. Frowning, I understood the gesture. If I took that offer, then there was still a chance that he could seize that opportunity, that he could take hold of me permanently... that I could end the world...
But what of my vow to Goodwin: that I would surpass destiny? I had told him becoming the Creator was not my Choice, and taking this road seemed to bode that stench. Returning to my friends just so that they could watch me die in their arms was simply not an option. After experiencing that feeling myself... after holding Bommer's hands as he begged for forgiveness in his pleas for defeat... after speaking the last words to my closest comrade as he faded to dust... after shedding more tears for lost life than I had for death... I understood that would break them beyond repair.
My life was only to help and guide them—my death would not be to destroy them, it would be liberation.
Scattering with the powerful currents around me, memories and thoughts collided, exploding into bright details across my star filled eyes. There had to be an answer, something I had overlooked, or something that was too close for me to see...
Escaping from one god to fall victim to another—to relinquish your control over destiny? The only way to live is to return through me—to become the King, not only of the Underworld, but the Earth as well! It is the only way to save your friends from pain, to save the world so much suffering...
The pain argued otherwise, and I knew, in the darkest part of my mind, that I would die no matter what the end result of this duel was.
A world without suffering is a world without life. Good and evil must always coexist, life depends on their balance.
This is just another world without change—change, the force that spurs destiny! Change: the force that can end this cycle that will snatch up five new Signers 5,000 years from now, that will end the lives of five new Dark Signers.
The cycle between life and death is irreversible, just as this cycle is. We will continue to exist, no matter which of us is Chosen. Death cannot be destroyed and life cannot be revived. 5,000 years from now, the Signers will rise again, and this decision will be repeated.
"The struggle in a world that remains the same."
It does not have to be that way. You claimed to Goodwin that you would surpass destiny; this is the only way! A mortal with the immortality of a God—we could shape the world Yusei!
Mortality and Immortality cannot coexist. You must make the Choice yourself, do not be tempted by this devil's words.
Temptation can only exist when the urge to do so does. You want to end this cycle Yusei, you want to prevent the suffering of the future Creator, you want your friends to live on happily, and they can't without you, the center of their bonds. If they would go as far as to offer their own lives in exchange for yours, what will they do if you abandon them?
"There is no satisfaction in an ending like this."
By spurring the King you will not be abandoning them Yusei. To attempt to live without his taint and die within my power you will be showing them your will to fight for them.
My last duty in the Other World, when Death came calling for me, would be to seal his presence with me.
People become lonely so easily. Death is the ultimate form of abandonment, and to return to life without my power, you will die, you will commit suicide, the path of the Dark Signers.
Suicide?! Suicide?! The Crimson Dragon roared. That will be Sacrifice! The ultimate gift of love—not the greatest act of selfishness!
"Only a coward would choose to end their life instead of facing their mistakes."
A strange smile found my lips: only a coward indeed.
"I don't have the power to save anyone."
I was wrong.
Dancing along the waves, their cries drowned with my doubts, sparking something deeply distraught in my barely beating heart. Trailing more than shadows, I turned my back on life and gazed up at the door to death, marveling in its bold simplicity. It was like any other door, yet it was stories high, decorated with simple twisting marks from the Nazca lines, and shaded a deep purple that stood out from its surrounding blackness. A glance at my own shining mark was enough to prod me forward, in the direction away from the god's bickering, away from a destiny that would bring this world above.
The path towards my future.
As my foot sank deep within the underbelly of the River Styx, a gentle calm overcame me, soothing my aches with the promise of everlasting sleep. I couldn't help but think of the stories Martha had told me as a child of this place, curled up on her lap with Jack, sharing a worn blanket as she poured over texts to complicated for us to fully understand: how it was the barrier between the Underworld and Earth, how it was the place of lost dreams, how taking a dip in it had granted Achilles' his invulnerability and his heel... This was the second time I encountered this tonight, and only the first legend seemed to be...
The voices of my friends reached me once again, spurring my spirit and wounding my heart.
Ahh... so that was it.
Strangely, sorrow did not touch me here. With a twisted smile, I thought, there is nothing, that memory already half forgotten. Contently serene, the other foot followed its predecessor, marking my descent into crystal clear waters where only one thing was certain—Death.
As if summoned by the word he feared, the King drew away from his bickering with the Crimson Dragon, astonishment bringing a small light in his dull eyes behind the Door.
Opposite to him the great dragon was silent, watching my retreating back with a nonplused resentment that slowly morphed to awe.
To forsake the chance of life that destiny has given you... to walk on your own path towards Hell... to save your bonds...
"I will show you both," I replied, turning my head to face the spurred deities, cold and wet in body but blazing in spirit, "that this cycle will see its end after all."
Crushed by both immortal reaches as I was, a mixture of their wildly human emotions collided firmly within me, balancing me in a way they had destroyed Rudger. The tide of foaming hatred met its match with an undercut of surging admiration, merging in a way that must have been similar to the eternal battle of Momentum. While they raged and feared and loved my vow, I moved myself forward, shoulders proudly back the way Martha had raised me.
For this betrayal, I revoke what's been given!
An echo of an empty threat. And I release it—it was never mine.
It was as before, the cycle had been reset, and I stood on my own two feet in the underworld with Rudger's damage inflicted on my body, staring down the talon before it overtook part of me that only Death could return.
This was the path my mistakes had prepared me for.
Docile to the touch with an iron hard heart and a punctured lung, I marched forward through the icy waters, destination firmly set in my soul. With the strength of my friends I mounted the rocky banks and squared myself as the talon came at me, hard and furious.
For once tonight, my red dome held strong and unyielding.
"You have to return back to your friends, they need you. They're waiting for your return. Go back to them Yusei, continue to be their light..."
My father's words swept over me now, laced with his revealed malice. I brushed aside the jab with another step forward, throwing my hands out in front of me to ward off his pressure.
"It was because I killed your parents that Martha took you in and you met Jack. And because of those bonds you made with him and Kiryu, you were able to unite both the Dark Signers and Singers."
He was pushing harder now, physically and mentally, doing everything left in his power to cling onto my dimming life. Jaw set, I marched on steadily, the only sign of discomfort showing through my leaking lips.
You have always been the center Yusei. You are the one who controls the fate of the world! Do not make this mistake—forfeiting your life will destroy your world!
The Crimson Dragon's glow vanished from sight as the beast departed, leaving me to my final battle against my darkness. Now the only light came from the mark that bound me to my friends, as it should be.
It was just he and I.
Like Momentum, if you, the center piece, disappeared the entire machine will be useless! It will be the same with your friends!
The dark rocks of the underworld were soft under the soles of my feet. I thought fleetingly of drifting, but knew that with this purpose I held I would never do such a thing again.
Doing this will be finishing what you and your father started seventeen years ago!
"I have come to terms with myself," I said, digging in my heels as I grew nearer to the door, the stench of Death soiling my nostrils. "My friends have saved me from that darkness. I'll show you that will."
Darkness never vanishes! The larger your light, the blacker shadow it casts!
"Balance is the key to life," I replied with a grunt, shoving against my glowing dome now, feeling the heat rush up my arms with renewing vigor. The door drew steadily closer, just ten more steps...
I will not allow this! You are still mine!
This time I felt it—the difference that meant everything. Being so close to his true being and domain (or perhaps simply being closer to death than I ever had before) must have thickened his power, for I could physically see the shadow of his talon reach through the shield and plunge deep within my chest. My body recognized the touch easily and fought against him as he searched for the part of my soul he had tainted—no, that was not it.
It was not dyed black... he had marked it for himself, just as the Crimson Dragon had. And because of that mark, he was able to return, able to act through me as if I were a Dark Signer, he was able to twist my will and squeeze what was supposed to be untouchable because he had...
No, that was not it. He had not made me believe in that darkness—that fault was my own. So he had never touched my soul—that was my own being in sickening pain... he had just instigated it. And now that I have been cured by my loved ones, without even the debt of his healing within me, he is powerless. He may as well be...
"The one moving my heart isn't you," I smiled, stopping before his extravagantly rippling face with my palms pressed firmly against my shield, revealing my lifeline to him.
Your heart won't be moving much longer, Creator. Your chosen path has been preordained. Once you cross this threshold, I will have you!
"I refuse that."
What? I... I... For the first time I tasted the scent of his confusion and found it was polluted with age old fear. ... I don't understand.
Feeling impossibly like I was echoing another tonight, I replied, "The only way to make certain people understand is to make them experience it themselves. You desire a life when you have never had one, and that is why you believe that the Underworld would save the Above World. But now you have tasted life through me, and by those same means, you will find everlasting peace in death. That is the cycle in a world that is constantly changing, King."
Creator! Not even you have the audacity to fulfill this curse while you stand on MY threshold!
"You said it yourself. You strive to make your opponents see as much as I do. In the end, they always realize their errors through our persistence. They always make the right choice," I stared down his monumental size, empowered by the truth of our shared words.
His thick ozone filled the entire threshold to death, blocking any path that he thought I was going to take into his Kingdom. As silence raged between us more effectively than war, his talon shook and withdrew, clawing its way onto the Door, pushing it open. Its counterpart appeared soon after, but the portal would not open any further.
"What will yours be?"
You and I are not the same—not yet! I will make you see the wonderful world where we are! Then you Creator; what will your path be? I will not let you enter this place! I will not die!
So close to him, I sensed all the betraying fear that one sentence held and grabbed it, turning away from him and touching the Door with my Signer arm. The contact burned like hell's fire, so hot that is froze any sense of touch.
Creator, what are you...?
"I am not the Creator, King. Nor am I the Destroyer. I am Yusei Fudo, and just like my father wished, I have become the center for many wonderful bonds and people. This is not the Choice that has been predestined, this is the power of my own will to surpass destiny!"
I pushed against the door.
For the first—minute? Time was irrelevant to those without it—he was far too stupefied to fight back. As my mortal muscles strained against the impossible weight, groaning and crying with the Door, he watched without comprehension, neither hindering nor helping, his great talons the perfect illusion of death
You...? Lightening across his sky, I witnessed another flash of understanding, spotting my own blue spirit in those clouds. This is where your strength ends!
Artificial life flared back into his claws, sparking a strange phrase across my mind, 'Dead man's grip.'
I am immortal—close to my Kingdom! My strength far outweighs yours! You will collapse from exhaustion and return to your world, where I will take you!
Rubble gathered at my heels as I hauled against the barrier through the fatigue steadily clouding my eyes. What would have taken me a millisecond to realize at anywhere else took eternity here: I was losing this fight.
A heavy grunt escaped my lips as I shoved harder, thinking of Jack's endless strength and how he would be rapidly shouting down the Door as he pushed. Crow would most likely have a few colorful words to brighten this place, and Aki would be silent and supportive by my side, hauling with all her small body to aid us. Ruca would be next to her brother of course, beside Aki, pushing even though she was frail and sickly.
The fact that I was worse off did not even cross my mind. This was my Choice, and in it there was not the option of failure. I could withstand any blow to save the lives of my friends, I had to withstand. For them... this was all for them... for my bonds... and maybe...
... For myself.
Darkness closed my eyes without my consent, but now I could do more than see them beside me; I could feel them. They were here, calling my name, all around me, hazy, blurred, somewhere close yet far... but here all the same...
I slid to my knees, searching for a support handle up against the slick Door.
Blind, my hands found nothing but unyielding resistance.
"D... King... ie... sei!!"
The King was laughing at my weakness, laughing as my friends tried to lift me...
I drew the air to scream, choked...
"Heli...ter! Over... mask!!"
We were all pushing now; I could feel their hands against my chest and back, supporting me as I was lifted upwards...
If I could just open my eyes, would I see them?
"Yusei... he's...coming to. Be str..."
The faint glow of approaching dawn bled through the dark veil across my eyes, revealing the unfocused faces of those working tirelessly around me in a world of light. The Door lay translucent behind them, half forgotten in the starlight fading above. They were smiling, radiant and beautiful in their own ways, tears springing up in a few of their eyes, scolding me for scaring them...
... Scaring them? No... Too close... this... this was too close!
And I did something completely stupid and reckless, I dove headfirst back into the darkness, willingly blotted out the light that my destroyed body and precious bonds were trying to bring me. I would not falter at the last hurdle!
But the Door was fading. The King's laughter was growing. Everything was falling to pieces, and for a second that doubt was back, taunting me, telling me that I had only repeated my mistakes, that I had not learned anything, that this time I would truly ruin the lives of all the people I loved.
No... No... No...
"Yusei? Are you...?"
They were clearer where they needed to be nothing more than figures in the background. Slowly the Door dissolved, giving way to the miracle of modern medicine as the blotched faces of the Izayois came into slow focus, frantic and hopeful as their wealth worked to save me.
Not yet... I have to see my Choice through... I must...
"You're not going anywhere Yusei! Earthbound God Ccapac Apu!"
The Door moved. The King screamed.
I looked up and saw, not the group of Signers, but the perpetually confident face of the long dead. He stood tall, gripping my shoulders with one hand and holding his card up with the other, his long silver hair tasseled in the gusts his summoning created.
His old grin cut through the space between us, his gold eyes dangerous in the way that they should have always been. "What? Did you think you were the only one with a Choice to make Yusei?"
"Summon! Earthbound God Aslla Piscu!"The girl with the glasses came into view as her giant beast dragged the King away from the Door with the help of Kiryu's. His face mirrored my own as his once loyal servants fought bitterly against him, dragging him into the land of lava and hate.
"I will repent for my actions! Earthbound God Cusillu!!" The fist of the monkey that had nearly crushed Rua slammed into the side of its master, furious and deadly.
"You revealed the truth to me Yusei! I will repay that debt! Earthbound God Ccarayhua!" The lizard that had killed Divine by that truth bellowed angrily at the shapeless King, digging its teeth into his side.
"I am indebted to you no more! Earthbound God Chacu Challhua!" The whale that once held his heart hostage collided with his body, rattling his grip to the Door.
As if strengthened by the sight, the darker Signers took me in their own grasps and shouldered the Door with me, bodies jerking with the effort. Doing a little more than slumping against the closing barrier, I took them all in; dazed by their clear eyes and pure intentions, wondering if the emotion was mine or the Kings.
"You gave us hope Yusei," Carley grinned through her labors, sweat running tracks down her pale face.
Misty nodded at her new friend and added, "You showed us all the truth."
"We are not indebted to the power of the Earthbound Gods," Demark continued, using his sheer muscle strength against the yielding object.
Bommer's free hand crashed against my shoulder, "Or the error of our past mistakes."
"We control our own fates," Kiryu finished with another smile. "And we have to make that choice ourselves. There's no way I'd go down without an ending like this. There would be no satisfaction otherwise."
Something in their sparkling eyes urged me forward, propelled my hands to the Door that burned me, and gave me the strength to match my unwavering power of will. "Thank you... all of you... thank you."
"We wouldn't leave you alone in this fight," Kiryu assured, jaw setting into a hard grimace as out combined weight inched the boundary forward.
No! No! I am your Master! I command you to stop!
"Attack harder!" Carley declared. "I won't let you hurt Yusei or Jack or anyone in the world anymore King! This destruction has to stop!"
She turned to me, revealing the startlingly beautiful eyes that Jack had fallen in love with behind her amusing spectacles. "Yusei, our monsters will hold him off for a while, but he's still stronger than his servants combined. We've got to hurry."
"I understand." And I truly did.
So we stood united, life and death, suicide, murder, and sacrifice, together at the gates of hell, fighting with all our lives and afterlives for a Choice that was made by none other than ourselves, selfless and selfish, for the sake of both worlds. Without the full resistance of the King, the Door moved easier under our efforts, inching steadily closer to the end while we grunted and struggled. Somewhere beyond our friends in the world of light called out for me, begged for me to return.
I will... I will...that is my ascension past fate.
I refuse that!
With a scream that came from either me or him, the Earthbound Gods assaulting him were thrown into oblivion, where they would not rise again. The renewed Signers around me fell at the loss, something akin to life dissipating from them, but they fought regardless, echoing my own sacrificial flame.
Feel my wrath! I will destroy you all!
I threw myself at the Door as he did, succeeding only in bruising my shoulder and launching myself away as it swung open wide, revealing the horrors of the world within. It was a world with a bloody sky, filled with smoke and flames and dark towers that stretched ominously into the crimson clouds. It was a world of burning flesh and stumbling lost ones. It was a world reserved for those who had committed the worst crime. It was the world of hell.
And he was on fire himself, burning black as he towered on the threshold, torn and wounded from his battle against his own puppets. His form shuddered as he screamed towards the heavens, reaching out again and again to slam against my unbreakable red dome, enraged and agonized past any level of sanity.
Strangely, there was no fear as I watched the talon come down and down again. I knew that he could not touch me, so I rose and faced him head on, arms wide open in invitation. His glare was scathing, and I knew if he could cross over fully, he would have simply swallowed me whole with his never-ending blackness.
But I would not have that.
He was weakened now, and although the dead Signers were fading, they had risen as well, they were already heading for the Door, and soon they would be pushing.
This is not over! This is not over!
"I'm afraid it is King!"
"It's a strange thing, isn't Yusei?" I turned against my will at the sound of that voice, the one voice I had come to hate, and stared as that man whispered out of the darkness, ash to ash, something terribly akin to redemption in his dark eyes—those eyes that were locked on the Mark that he had forfeited, on my arm, then on my shield, on the Dark Signers, and finally... his King.
My mouth opened, but no words escaped, just a single hissed gasp. The irrepressible reaction did not seem to bother him, in fact, he grinned at me before facing his master with arms wide open, the Spider a sickly purple on his white skin. "Hating your own Mark enough you're reborn to destroy it!"
The earth shook with his proclamation, and from the same rubble Earthbound God Uru rose once more, glaring at me with its many hungry eyes. Alarmed into action, I swerved to face him, holding said bond in front of me like a torch, eyes narrowed at his challenge. My hand went automatically to my belt, reaching for the Dragon Card that couldn't appear here, and he laughed mercilessly, ordering the attack that had failed to kill me before.
"Rudger!" one of the other's gasped, voices rough as the challenge before us, and I braced myself for a second impact, not trusting my screaming heart to attack, for fear that I would not stop.
Was this the last hurtle the King had for me? A hatred that I could not over—?
With a thunderous shriek, the right half of the Door banged closed, seized by the eight powerful legs of the traitorous spider. Jaw slack, I stared at the structure with the same blank astonishment as the King, knowing full that this was my own heart's reaction. Searching for the truth, he grinned at me sidelong, the gesture a grimace of pain from his pulsing Mark.
"This Mark was my mistake, and I will use my second chance to destroy it... for the sake of my brother." My mouth snapped closed with embarrassing clarity, something that would never have crossed my expression in the upper world.
"It seems we've made a detour, dear brother." Once again, my body jerked around at the sound of a familiar dead enemy, and I saw what had been lost between us in the final moment of our duel. Goodwin stood across in his normal attire, smiling as if I had given him life's most amazing gift. Following his gaze to his deceased brother, I wondered if, perhaps, to him, I had.
This betrayal is unforgivable! I will destroy you all! I revoke EVERYTHING!!
He revived from his stupor once more, struggling with the closed twin of the open Door, burning even darker with his pointless labors. The Signers without sides cried out in anguished misery, and I ran to them, falling beside them with outstretched arms as if I could aid them. Bodies convulsing with pain that was too full of life to be dead, their red marks ignited with purple fire before burning away, leaving scars in their wake.
Desperation gave me strength, and I caught Kiryu before he fell, nearly mistaking the tears in his eyes for fear rather than joy. His mouth moved, but the words were lost in the roar of the King as he attacked once more, slaughtering any chance the Nazca Line monsters would have at revival 5000 years from now. The Spider erupted into hellfire, withering away into ashes with a silent scream, destroyed by its own Creator.
Flakes of lava spilled from the doorway, painting the stones at our feet an angry red, making coals of them or melting them into the greedy sweep of the River. Clutching my friend close to my chest, praying that I would not lose him this way again tonight (There's no satisfaction in an ending like this, Yusei), I hollered to his agonized form, "Stop this pointless destruction! You'll only destroy yourself!"
But he was beyond even my reach; he was in a place beyond understanding and sanity, a place that I could never follow, and a place that the Signers around me had turned their backs on.
I WILL START ANEW THROUGH THE BODY OF MY DESTROYER!! EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE MUST DIE TO BE REBORN INTO A NEW WORLD!! THIS ONE IS DAMNED BEYOND SAVING AND I WILL NOT LOSE TO PITIFUL, LOATHSOME HUMANS!! He punctuated the last words with shoves at the door, uncaring as he bled black smoke with each collision or that the contact sent shock waves along the shorelines, crumbling the rocks around us.
"So the world is your Phoenix now, is it King?" Goodwin commented, holding his arms out like he had before our duel started. "I have learned better, and I see that you refuse to."
Then he paused, looking at me peculiarly, as if from the eyes of another, "You should not condemn Yusei, for he is a better man than I. He is trying to understand and save you while I can do nothing but spit in your direction. You are the root of your own suffering! People are lonely all the time—but it takes new bonds and promises from old ones to get over it! My pain for the damage I have dealt him gives me the will to fight, the will to crush people like you who cannot hope to understand!"
Jack's words. Jack's words. Those words. Those were the words!
QUOTE DEAD KINGS TO YOUR STILL HEART'S CONTENT, IT WILL NOT CHANGE YOUR FATES!!
"He already has King," his eyes found mine, mirroring both his brother and I, and something deeply rooted in me shook free.
He is trying to understand and save you... You're not the only one with a Choice to make... our bonds will see us through... bonds will surpass destiny!
"The Choice..." my voice trailed off, swallowed by the gasps of the fighting dying, screeches of the King, rushing of the river, echoes of oblivion, and the divine power of the forces working through us...
He smiled, "Shadow of the King, demon that plagued Earth, Earthbound God Wiraquocha Rasca! Rise again and finish this fight! Fulfill the Choice that Yusei has created! Protect the bonds that he has reestablished! Fight for the love he's reminded us of!"
With the lightning of horror and understanding, the defeated Condor shook itself into reality, throwing the burning King to the side with a charge of its massive beak. Smoke curled off its feathers, vanishing into the brimstone filled air as quickly as it had appeared, and the full form of its talon grabbed the Door.
Gouged by his shadow, the King reacted as violently as he had to his other servants, sparing no mercy to his once loyal beast, sparing no thought that it wasn't the monster itself that had changed sides, it was the will of the Signers guiding those hands. The once immortal beast keened with pain but continued forward, a giant torch that burned bright crimson against the blackness. With a start I realized the beast meant to kill itself in order to close the Door, and shielded Kiryu and the others to the best of my ability from the fiery aftershock.
NO! NO! I CANNOT GO DOWN HERE! NO! NOT THIS PAIN AGAIN...!
With one final curse from the King, the Door slammed closed, shaking the entire Underworld with its colossal bang.
"Yusei... we did it..." Kiryu grinned, voice fading as if stolen by a great wind. "Finally... satisfied..."
He said no more. Gently, I laid his head to rest on the smoldering earth and glanced back at the two who had done what I set out to do, the two that had saved us. One that filled me with hatred and the other that was like me.
"Do not thank us Yusei," Rudger cut in, human once more, human in a way that I couldn't see him earlier this night. His brother nodded in agreement, already turning the pale color of white ash, ready to depart from this world for one last time, "It was because you brought me back that this was even possible. It was because you saw our bonds that we could make our own choices. And that was your Choice to end the war Yusei."
I looked towards the once dark Signers as their consciousness left them, leaving their bodies slumbering husks against the dark, smooth stones. An end to the war...
"Over power, hatred, and greed you chose bonds, regardless of which side of the field they were on. And those bonds have done more than see you through Yusei," Rudger finished up, glancing towards his once fellow Dark Signers as they sat dazed on the rocky floor. "They have seen us all through."
Have I? Staring at them all, the five who had loved us enough to hate us, who had made the right decision in the end to simply die for me... that seemed like the path of the true Destroyer, the role the King had willingly played against his Earthbound Gods. But when I returned to the brothers to say so, I found my words lost in their calm eyes.
"We won't let you all suffer because of our mistakes," Goodwin asserted, turning to his brother fondly, peace and serenity smoothing the wrinkles of plotting and hatred from his face. Perhaps this was the face that my father had seen every day, the face that had prompted him into trusting Goodwin with not only his work, but with his only son as well. Seeing the soft curves in his face, I knew it to be true.
The other nodded in soft agreement, smiling at his family before turning his eyes skyward, eyeing a light in the distance that I would some day see again.
"Take care of them Yusei," Goodwin asked with a nod towards his victims. The will to speak had not yet returned to me, but I nodded firmly as I could, hardly able to believe what my ears so avidly clung to. "We await our reunion, and I believe there are many things that I have to make up for yet."
There was a pause as Rudger and I stared at each other from the same side, unable to find middle ground even with a mediator firmly between us. Finally, he said, "That darkness you hold... don't let it fester any longer. Apologize if that's what you need to do... but know that I am sorry that I caused it."
They both stood white with renewed faith and love, ready to fade into oblivion to save those that they had willingly deceived. The Door melded into the background beside us without a sound of farewell, taking whatever consciousness the companions behind me had with it. This, I realized with a faint sort of joy, was truly the end.
I found my voice, "Don't apologize."
Surprised, side by side with his dearly loved brother, the two faded away into flecks of white dust, lighting the darkness like stardust.
And perhaps... just perhaps... gave me... Hope.
Third Person POV
Today was the day; they could all feel it in their bones—through their bonds.
Though excitement threatened to burst past their mouths with each passing second they waiting in utter silence, staring at his relaxed brow as he struggled through the final parting of his dreams. It was hard to believe how little time they had spent with him when they were this close to his heart, ready to knock down all the barriers he so jealously guarded it with.
How could they have only known him for a few months, spoken to him for a handful of days or weeks? How could they have betrayed him and have been without him for years at a time? How could they blame him for something that wasn't his fault in the first place? How could they do a number of these things and feel infinitely for one single person?
Perhaps the best answer lied in yet another question: How was it possible that the dead stood alive beside them, with swirled glasses that glowed softly in the sunlight along with a jewel on the center of a forehead, another which held a village in his arms, and a grin of gleaming satisfaction?
The workers around them did as they always did, changing bandages or checking vitals, muttering about options or money or other nonsense that was unspeakable. They were ignored wholeheartedly today, simply because it was The Day.
Finally, after many patient weeks of waiting by his side, of many shared words and hearts, of many hands being held and bodies embraced, the blue eyes that had bound them together winked open, bright and clear in a way the old imposter could never be.
Several breaths were caught in their surprised throats or smiles at the sight, and more than one whispered his name softly from their lips. The time would come for cheers, for celebration, for tales of the River, of the great sacrifice of the two brothers who had started and ended the war, for discussion on the true Choice that had been made... but now it was not.
Now was time for a simple smile to pass between them, for eyes to dry of any tears of doubt, and for the beginning of a true bridge to sparkle at them from beyond the wide windows of this white room.
Now was the time to marvel in the true power that held this world together, the true cycle that would always remain changing.
"We've won," he whispered, voice scratchy with injury but glowing with pride. His eyes travelled across each of the Signers and beloved friends in the group, soft with gratitude. "And now we've met up in the end."
Through their unbreakable bonds.
(sobs) And it's over... ahh, well, onto the next story I suppose.
Thank you so much for reading and all of your kind words. I avidly await your ending opinions and hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.