Scars That Hide The Wound
The way he wanted to save her was not the way she wanted to be saved. AU.
The building that was to become their stage reeked of steel and rancid magic. The eerie, green glow that surrounded them was intensely uncomfortable, like being encircled by a crowd of angry, booing spectators. The atmosphere was heavy, bearing down upon them like a ten-tonne weight. Emerald lines underfoot cut through the floor, a miasmic lava stream of Orichalcos energy, emitting strands of mist that rose among them, partially obscuring the ground from view.
It set Jounouchi firmly on edge.
That was precisely Mai's plan.
The flame of the Orichalcos burned in her eyes; but it was empty, like staring down into the deepest abyss, a place even darker than the Shadow Realm. It clung to her clothing and her exposed skin, a creeping ivy snaking through her very being. Her forehead was stained with a dark green rune, draining through, into her mind. Jounouchi could see – and feel – the evil of the Orichalcos permeating her every movement.
"Mai! Listen to me! You know you don't wanna do this. It's that damn Orichalcos – it's controlling you!" Jounouchi yelled, and even he could hear the desperation saturating his voice.
The field seemed to react to Jounouchi's words, even as Mai did not. It shone a little brighter, and the mist was getting thicker. The feeling of despair and misery increased, until the makeshift arena had the feeling of a gladiator pit. And Jounouchi had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach – he was about to get a thumb down. Across from him, Mai smirked, and when she spoke it was with the calm purr of a lioness relaxing in the sun, yet knowing that somewhere she was being hunted.
"Sorry, Jounouchi," she said, her tone belying her words. "It's game over."
Jounouchi's eyes widened as calmly – almost softly – she ordered her attack.
Harpie Lady fixed her cruel, almost fluorescent-yellow eyes on Jounouchi. Because of the power of the Orichalcos, she was real. As were her incredibly sharp claws.
Jounouchi grimaced. This is gonna hurt…
He braced himself, closing his eyes.
The Harpie Lady leapt at him, emitting a feral screech that caused his eardrums to pound and his heart to beat faster with fear. Razor-sharp claws tore through his flimsy clothing like a knife through butter, and dug into his flesh, drawing blood.
Jounouchi yelled out, hurtling backwards, and the Harpie Lady flew back to her mistress' side of the field, looking satisfied.
Staggering to his feet, Jounouchi saw the counter on his duel disc drop from two hundred to just ten points. He hissed in pain as the swift movement caused a thin stream of blood to drip down his chest and onto his jeans, turning spots of the blue denim a deep purple. His arm tensed, and, in the back of his mind, he felt the monsters within his deck do the same. Jounouchi couldn't forget that due to the rules of the game, and the Seal of Orichalcos card, his monsters were real too.
Jounouchi looked to the side, and tried to see beyond the field of green magic. Where are the guys? They should have been here by now.
He wasn't used to duelling alone. His friends had always been there to cheer him on, but now they were nowhere to be seen. However, Jounouchi knew he couldn't afford to worry about that right now. He had a duel to win, and a girl to save. But he had to figure out a way to save them both, and ensure that neither of their souls were absorbed by the Orichalcos. But that meant staying in the duel long enough to come up with a plan.
"Come on, heart of the cards, show me some love," Jounouchi whispered under his breath. The familiar mantra helped him to focus as he placed two fingers on the top card to draw.
Jounouchi gasped. The sound was choked, and he instinctively placed a card-filled hand to his wounded chest. When he drew it back, Time Wizard's clock face was stained with blood. Jounouchi watched as the little clock's face frowned. He almost laughed. Almost.
"Alright," Jounouchi croaked. "I summon Masaki the Legendary Swordsman, and Flame Manipulator. Then, I'll fuse them together." He threw Polymerisation into one of the magic card gaps in his duel disc. "To create the Flame Swordsman."
He didn't say it with his usual flourish and smug look of triumph. Instead, it was almost feebly that the Flame Swordsman crawled his way onto the field.
Mai laughed openly. "Jounouchi, your monster is almost as pathetic as you are."
Jounouchi didn't take the bait.
"Flame…" He cringed. The Orichalcos seemed to be leeching into his wound, and he felt his energy draining. "Attack, now." His voice cracked, but the order was completed.
The Flame Swordsman leapt forward, his brow set in determination. He cut through Mai's Harpie Lady, and bounded back to Jounouchi.
Mai's life points were down to two hundred now.
But still she seemed unconcerned.
Jounouchi saw bright lights swimming in front of his eyes, like a million tiny fireflies inside his eyes. He barely registered the Flame Swordsman's demise, and the obliteration of the rest of his life points. The only thing he noticed was that the green light seemed to be getting smaller… and much, much closer… towards him.
"Mai…" he whispered.
He couldn't see her face.
He closed his eyes… and suddenly he could. Living memories of Mai Kujaku. He remembered Duelist Kingdom, and how she had helped him, enabling him to have his turn fighting against Bandit Keith. She had even helped Yugi gain entrance to the castle, by giving him her extra star chips. Without her, Yugi would have never had the chance to save his Grandpa. That was the Mai he knew. Jounouchi thought of all he had done, and would do, to protect her. Including sacrificing his soul.
All for her.
Always for her.
He waited… but he didn't feel his soul draining away. Slowly, he opened one eye.
Mai had thrown her duel disc to the ground. As Jounouchi watched, she pulled a small, black object from the back pocket of her shorts and pointed it at the disc. He gasped. It was a gun. She fired twice, right through the field card facility, blowing a hole through both it and the card within. Electricity crawled over the now-useless duel disc, and the life point counter flickered out.
The Orichalcos dissipated, without taking Jounouchi's soul.
Even as tired as he was, Jounouchi managed to crack a smile. She had done it, after all. Mai had conquered the darkness, overcome the power that the evil card had held over her. I knew you could do it, Mai.
Relief flowed through every cell in his body, and nearly weeping with hysteria, Jounouchi fell forward onto the ground. He pulled his duel disc from his arm and cast it away from him. The duel was over.
It was all over.
A calculated, metallic click disturbed the euphoric silence.
Slowly, Jounouchi raised his head, to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"Mai?" he whispered, so quietly he barely heard himself.
Her eyes were cold.
"Mai… what are you doing?" Jounouchi nearly started laughing, though the sound wasn't remotely amusing. More hysterical.
"Goodbye, Jounouchi," Mai said. Her voice was airy, as if saying goodbye to a work colleague whom she would see the next day.
Jounouchi just stared.
It wasn't like in the movies. The bullet didn't trace a perfect arc through the air, didn't push through his skin and give him time to react. He didn't cry out in agonising pain, didn't have the time to think - (ohgodohgodohgodthere'sabulletcomingstraightformeandnowi'mgoingtodieohgodhelpme) - in a panicked frenzy, each thought passing in a split second.
Jounouchi didn't think any of this.
He didn't think he needed to.
He was so sure that she wouldn't fire. He had thought that Mai would come through in the end for him, like she always had in the past. Even the possibility that she might fire… Jounouchi hadn't even considered it an option.
So all he heard was the deafening bang.
And then, so slowly it was almost comical, Jounouchi looked down. Stupidly, he thought, When did I get a hole in my stomach?
Then he fell.
His blood drenched the floor, as if someone had spilled a bucket of red paint. It stained the underside of Mai's leather boots, but she did not move a step.
Jounouchi felt the icy-cold floor against his cheek, and the reality of what had just happened started to seep into him.
But even as he lay dying, Jounouchi clung on to what he knew. It was the Seal of Orichalcos. Dartz. Valon. Raphael. They had brainwashed Mai, turned her against all of them. The real Mai would never… (never, ever...)
It was only then, exposed in the cold light of death, that the truth seeped into Jounouchi's failing, battle-weary mind.
Mai stood over him, eyes harsh and black SIG-Sauer exuding a thin line of black smoke in her hand. Jounouchi's eyes widened, and he let out a choked gasp.
For the emerald Seal of Orichalcos had long since faded from Mai Kujaku's forehead.
Not only that, but the stone around her neck… the Orichalcos stone that held its victims captive and brainwashed… had been shattered.
It was only now he realised it had been broken ever since the very beginning of the duel.
She had its power... but she had not been under its thrall.
Maybe she never had. (He'd never know, not now.)
With the icy sting of betrayal coating his last breath, Jounouchi Katsuya died.
Only after she was absolutely sure, Mai Kujaku lowered the gun that was nestled in her unwavering grasp.
She dropped it to the ground, where it fell with a dull thud. Its silver sheen had faded in her eyes.
It wasn't needed anymore.
Mai smiled, her eyes unnaturally bright and wide, giving her face the appearance of an ill-proportioned doll.
Now I'm free.
Once she was far down a side alley, and safely secreted away in the wrap of night, Mai let the body fall, straight onto three other, very familiar, bodies. Each one was marred with the same bullet-wound as Jounouchi. Their eyes were still open, each glaring their silent betrayal into Mai's form.
Mai just stood there in the cold, and looked at the four a while, her face blank.
They're all together again.
After an indeterminate amount of time had passed, Mai turned her back on them, delivering her final rejection, and began to walk back down the alleyway, pausing for a short second to kick something out of her way with a brutal snarl.
A golden pyramid — half-stained with dried, scarlet blood — hit the wall with a forceful crack, where it shattered to pieces.
The pieces scattered across the dank alley, gold in sharp contrast to black. By sheer coincidence, one small piece each touched a limp hand on each body. Except for Jounouchi.
The core, the heart, the Egyptian eye of the pyramid fell to a halt, resting, almost gently, against his lips.
The clicking of Mai's boots against the ground faded away as she walked further into the night.
A/N: Okay, so this is very strange and AU, yes, I know. ;) As you may or may not have been able to tell, this chapter was very Battle Royale influenced.
Note: Getting a thumb down from the Roman emperor at the end of a gladiator match meant that you would be fed to the lions. So that's what Jou meant in this chapter, for anyone who didn't get the reference.
Anyway, the ending. I really meant it to be Mai's final kiss goodbye to Jounouchi, in a weird, twisting way, with her kicking the Puzzle and a piece landing against his lips. Because she's evil, so she wouldn't actually kiss him. I thought it was good that her kick was also a kiss. Gah, I'm not explaining this too well. I didn't really know if anyone would get it, ergo this little explanation. I didn't really want to add any more to the story by way of explaining that, because I thought it would ruin it, somehow? I don't really know.
And there may or may not be some weird Jounouchi/Yami hints in there. xD
Meh, take from it what you will.
Maybe drop me a review on the way out? Pretty please? Never written AU Yu-Gi-Oh before so I would appreciate your thoughts greatly.