Finally, Seto's duel was over. I followed the group back down to the hospital wing. They wanted to check on Mai and Serenity, but I didn't have the heart to tell them nothing would be different. It was important for them to hope…hope would keep them going…keep their spirits up…what an evil thing hope is.
"Greetings Yugi." Ishizu met us at the door and joined us inside. Something about this whole situation had been bothering me for a while now. The Tomb Keepers were supposed to remain underground, by my and the Pharaoh's commands, until his return. While it does seem like a terrible fate to bestow on any person, let alone a family, for as long as it took, they jumped at the opportunity. And yet…when the Pharaoh has returned, they have turned against us.
Someone had broken their oath…allowed Marik to see upper world…and now he wanted more than what the world under the sands had to offer.
While the others went to check on Mai, I sat down in the chair near the window. As I gazed out at the dark sky before me, I tried to figure out what had happened to Marik. I did believe that there was good in him, but where had such great evil come from? What had he seen in this upper world?
"I remember when this evil was born. It happened on the night Marik received the Tomb Keeper's initiation and inherited the task of protecting the Pharaoh's tomb."
I'll grant Marik that living in a dark tomb for life was a steep price to pay, and I can't imagine trying to thrive in that situation because I would go crazy. But, his ancestors agreed to this price in exchange for such an honor…an honor that is no longer appreciated it would seem.
Ishizu narrated her story to the group, with me half listening from my chair. She explained a little about the duty of the Ishtar clan and the initiation, but it was her confession to taking Marik to the upper world that caused my anger to boil.
"Marik deserved to see the light of the outside world at least once in his life."
I turned towards her, my eyes narrowing. She stiffened and stopped her story, knowing that I was expecting her to meet my gaze. I sighed sharply and turned away before she met my eyes. One must have changed red or something because not only was it a little blurry out of that eye, but they all gasped a little before she spoke.
"Please forgive me, Lady Dria. I know what I did was wrong but it was for Mar-" I raised my hand to stop her from pleading with me. She had broken the vow her family had made to me, and while it was 5,000 years ago, I had been assured that the code would be passed down and strictly followed until my and the Pharaoh's return.
Still, I had to be honest with myself. I wouldn't have been able to resist. I rubbed my eyes, trying to keep my anger and disappointment in check so they would both be green again. Finally, I turned towards her, "I can't be upset with you, even if I should be. I would have done the same thing if I were in your shoes, though my motives would have been far more selfish than yours."
She remained frozen for a few moments, keeping her eyes low as I watched her. When she did finally look up, I gave her a small smile and waved my hand, asking her to continue. She slightly bowed to me and cautiously continued her story, speaking of the one day she and Marik spent in the outside world. She spoke of Marik's first glance at a television and at the one object he desired most as a child: a motorcycle. It was clear that Marik had seen too much…perhaps if he hadn't been a child and had understood his duty more…no, he would have desired the outside world and would have found a way there no matter his age.
I smiled a little when she mentioned Shadi. He always managed to keep an eye on everything, and how he does it, I'll never know. However, in his attempt to warn them, it sounded like he had only made it worse. Perhaps that had been his point…because only by exposing the evil would the Pharaoh be able to destroy it as well.
She spoke of the madness that followed in the catacombs afterwards, how Marik had lost control of himself after his father banished Odion, perhaps the only person he truly cared about. Marik had been wavering ever since that day because he inherited the Millenium Rod far too soon, and without his father to guide him in the ancient ways, it was all too easy for the darkness to convince him of other plans.
"Lady, I'm supposed to feel bad for that spoiled brat? Because he grew into some evil nutcase?"
I couldn't help but feel it was all my fault this had happened. I could have guarded the Pharaoh's tomb on my own…it was selfish of me to compel another person, an entire clan at that, to do my duties. I would like to say that I was trying to obey the Pharaoh's pleas in moving on after him, but I could not even begin to believe that excuse. I leaned forward in my seat, holding my head in my hands. If only I had behaved and not caused so much trouble…maybe things would have evolved differently….
The day of my arranged match had finally arrived. After weeks of being delayed due to various complications, it was here. The Pharaoh had promised that I would fight a mage of his choosing so I could prove the mastery of magic I claimed to wield.
Naturally, something had to go wrong.
The duel would take place in the main hall, also the throne room. It was the largest space excluding the outdoors, but the Pharaoh wanted the spells to be contained, meaning that we could not simply unleash and destroy the palace.
I walked into the throne room far more arrogantly that I perhaps should have. Priest Aknadin and another man arrived moments after I did, both gazing at me in disgust. I recognized the second man, but I could not remember where I had seen his face before. In the years since I had been adopted by the Pharaoh, I had met so many new people that it was slightly overwhelming.
"You must be a monster to be here and stand there so haughtily. I thought you would find some sense and not even show your face here today, but clearly I underestimated your brash stupidity."
I simply bowed my head in response. Monster had long since been his favorite nickname for me. Anytime we passed each other, whether in the palace walls or out in the city, no matter who else was there, he'd whisper that word and scurry away. At first, I thought it was almost endearing, perhaps his way of adjusting to me. After all, I did reveal my magical abilities after no real "prior" training.
However, after some time, it became very irksome to me. His servants had begun to do it to, at his command of course. It would not be long before the entire kingdom was calling me a monster…I had to make him stop or I might eventually agree with his disrespectful words.
The Pharaoh walked in with the Prince next. After one glance at my face and that of his brother's, he gave Aknadin a disappointed look, already understanding the words that had passed between us moments before his arrival. He had tried his best to defend me from that terrible word, but now I wondered if he would continue or if even he would consider me a monster… He looked back to me and smiled gently.
He then looked around for a moment, as if expecting someone to enter into the hall next. The other high ranking officials were slowly trickling in, taking their places along the walls, with high ranking mages who would prevent any wayward spell from striking those uninvolved.
"Aknadin, where is Nakhti? He is Dria's opponent for this duel."
Of course, the mage that the Pharaoh had chosen would not appear. The rules of this game had already been changed.
"I apologize, Great Pharaoh, but he will be unable to duel this day. He received word that his wife, who lives in a town a half day's ride away, had fallen ill, so he departed to be at her side when Ra rose. Thank the gods our head mage Nassor was willing to step in and duel in his place."
That's where I had seen that other man before. Nassor, the head of the magical section of the Pharaoh's army. How fortunate for me that my opponent would be the strongest wizard in the land, one who had fought countless enemies in the defense of this land and, so far, had not lost. And here I was worried that my day would be dull.
Perhaps I should not have allowed my staff to vanish today.
The Pharaoh was clearly upset with Aknadin to the point that he rose to cancel the duel altogether. This would be my only chance to silence Aknadin's rude nickname and prove to the entire court that I could control myself, even at a young age. I stepped forward to the Pharaoh's throne, ignoring the gasps and the looks the hall gave me.
"I will duel and I will defeat, Nassor, Majesty. Grant me the chance, I beg of you."
A deafening silence fell over the throne room, until Aknadin began laughing. Slowly, others joined him, chuckling at my audacious words. Soon, the entire hall was snickering, as I stood alone in the middle of the room. Hearing so many voices against me disheartened me a little, but I tried my hardest not to reveal it.
The Pharaoh nodded, though worry clearly showed in his eyes. He knew this was a chance for me to gain respect and a place within his kingdom, something neither he nor anyone else could give to me. It was something I had to earn. He was just afraid that I would die trying to gain that respect. Nassor was not the kindest or most gentle mage. If the chance arose, he probably would kill me at Aknadin's secret request.
We stood opposite one another in the middle of the hall, he at least a head taller and his form far more masculine than my small feminine body. I bowed to him, as was expected since I was the challenger. He would not bow in return until I defeated him.
It was odd facing Nassor because our styles were so different. Where his movements were exact and almost mechanical, mine were practically lithe dance movements with no pattern. He could stop an attack head on simply by placing his hand and foot in the correct position, mostly because he could not avoid them, where I could bend my body around the beam to avoid it, since my current child-like body could not handle the same stress.
We managed to strike each other once before halting for a rest. Apparently, we had been going for quite some time, to the amazement of the spectators. Most of them had expected Nassor to defeat and kill me quickly, unaware of how I used magic. Although I was not winning like I expected myself to, I was at least enjoying this duel. He was the toughest opponent I had faced in years.
The Prince brought me a cup of water, smiling widely and telling me how impressed he was with my abilities so far. We had only been taking magic lessons for a couple of days, so the fact that I could hold my own against the strongest wizard in the kingdom was amazing, I suppose. Frankly, I was a little annoyed that I had not won yet.
He extended the cup out towards me and I smiled as I raised my hand to take it. Suddenly, someone's arm pushed me forward, causing my hand to hit the cup and spill the water all over the Prince's face.
"Look! That monster just rejected the Prince's king gesture! Clearly she is incapable of human emotions, being the demon that she is! How else could she survive this long against our head mage?"
Now, I was infuriated. I shot a blast of air at the Prince's face, quickly and gently drying off the water. The Pharaoh approached us, but as soon as I met his gaze, he put his hands up in surrender. My eyes probably reflected my anger, which meant they had turned red….and I truly did look like a demon.
"Dria, do not let your anger out. You must control it." I ignored him completely. I was tired of controlling and hiding my powers. If Aknadin wanted to call me a monster, then I would give him an actual reason to call me that. The Pharaoh grabbed his son and quickly moved back before I unlocked another part of my magic.
Nassor noticed the difference immediately. Whether it was because of my eyes or he could feel the rise in magic, I did not care. His movements no longer stopped most of my attacks. I knew I was gravely wounding him, but I could not bring myself to stop.
I was a monster.
"What I have warned this court about is true! Get rid of her! Kill the monster!"
"Dria?" A small hand shook my shoulder. I quickly looked up and met Yugi's gaze.
"We're heading to bed. Do you need us to take you back to your room?" I shook my head and stood up.
"No, I'll be fine. You go get some rest. Tomorrow is a big day."
He nodded eagerly and turned to follow Joey out of the door. The Pharaoh lingered a little, his purple eyes gazing at me worriedly. I reached out to touch his cheek, and even though I couldn't actually feel it, it still felt warm. He gave me a smile and touched my hand before he vanished again. Ishizu timidly bowed to me again as she left to return to her room. I realized that she no longer had the Necklace around her neck, so it was most likely that she had given it to Yugi. I hoped she would be safe against Marik's Rod still.
I began walking towards my room when the lights turned off. The blimp was quiet and dark, a good time for me to think. I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes, trying to push away past memories and focus on the present problem. I would be sure that the Ishtars would be freed after this, regardless of what happened. They had been forced to live in the dark for too long. I had to bring them back into the light, and I would help however I could, if they allowed me.
Suddenly, I felt an evil presence. This is where Odion's room was, if I was remembering correctly. Perhaps it was just the edge of the shadows I was sensing, for I knew they were waiting for his soul to cross the boundary into their world.
"He promised me the Millennium Rod, if I can successfully do away with you." That voice…it was that evil thief. He was speaking to someone…it had to be Marik if he was talking about the Millennium Rod. I felt two Items activate as I opened the door.
The two idiots had frozen each other using their Items. I sighed angrily as the door shut behind me.
"Well, if it isn't Her Majesty? What an honor to be in your presence again. Have you come to accept my offer to be my Queen?"
I glared at the evil Marik, "Hardly. I came because something felt off. I should have known it was the two of you." I turned my gaze over to the annoying thief, pausing a moment when I saw the good side of Marik floating near him. He must have hidden part of his spirit within Bakura, allowing him to continue to survive in this realm even though most of him had been sealed in the shadows.
Throwing my hand into the air, I transported the four of us to the dueling arena on the upper deck. This was going to turn into a duel anyway, so it was easier to just make the decision for them. Waving my hand again, a chair appeared off to the side. Sitting down in that chair, I crossed my legs and smiled mischievously at the two men.
"Let the Shadow Game begin, boys."
The darkness encircled us as the shadows came out to play. That little thief seemed confused at first, but with one giggle from me as my fingers twirled in the air, he realized that I was the one who had called them. Once they finally began the duel, I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes.
I really didn't care who won this duel; mostly, I was here for amusement. The Shadow Realm definitely brought out my cruel side because I wanted to see how these two duelists would toy with each other. After watching Marik toy with Mai, and Bakura attempt against the Pharaoh, I thought it would be interesting to see what they did against each other.
So far, they were boring. Yes, I know; I'm a spoiled brat.
It was hard to believe how many people one man had hurt in this tournament. I struggled to find comforting words for my smaller partner as he grew more upset and restless over the things that had happened. I sat on the edge of his bed, like always, thinking deeply as he fell asleep.
Why was this happening? Surely if I remembered more about my past, I could help Yugi and the others figure out these mysteries. The only one who could really help…was Dria. But I knew that she wouldn't even if she could, not because she was cruel in any way, but because it would forever handicap us, relying on her. I don't know how, but I knew she wanted us to be able to fight for ourselves, just as she wished that we would do the same for her.
Dria…what a confusing, manipulative, secretive, beautiful, kind, loving girl…what did she mean to me? She said that she had been my Vizier when I was Pharaoh…my right hand man technically speaking. While I did believe that was possible, I still felt like she was hiding one more fact. But what could it be? If she was being truthful and we did know each other 5,000 years ago, then what was the point in hiding something about us? I knew she wanted to help, so why the secrecy? Was it that important?
I felt something knocking at the door to my mind. Retreating back into the Puzzle, I chuckled when I realized Yugi had wandered into my side of our mind again. He must have been very restless to do that.
"Something wrong, Yugi?"
"I guess I am a little worried." I smiled at my partner, laying my arm across his shoulder, carefully walking through the staircases of my mind as he let out his concerns. He was worried about his friends, about the world, about the growing danger… maybe even about Marik himself.
"All these confusing paths represent the mysteries of your past and all the questions you have about the future." I nodded in agreement. It was difficult to wander through this place when I had time. Dangers were behind every door, some of which even I had no idea how to get around.
We sat together on a safe staircase, simply talking with one another, when I heard it. I quickly stood up and looked around these winding halls. It was a beautiful voice, humming a familiar tune. I ran down the halls, Yugi following after me, seeking out this sound as well. We stopped on a high platform overlooking an open area and looked down.
There, on the floor below, was a girl dressed in a short, impeccably white dress with a shimmering purple cape. A few sparkling jewels adorned her body, but it was her natural beauty that shone through. As I looked closer, a golden headpiece that appeared to be a crown of some sort was placed around her temples, with her brown hair curled perfectly around it. A great red horse stood beside her and closed its eyes as she stroked its nose and spoke quietly. She finally turned towards us, and my eyes couldn't believe what they were seeing.
It was Dria. But, how was she here? Perhaps if this was a reflection of my recent memories...no, this was an old reflection...5,000 years old...
Suddenly, scenes flashed before my mind, overpowering my senses. Images of Dria and I walking, swimming, kissing...in Egypt…as Pharaoh and…I gasped as the pictures released me.
It couldn't be…