Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This is an idea that came to me yesterday, inspired by various confusing and unexplained things in both the manga and the anime versions of the Pharaoh's Memories arc, as well as by some conversations with Kaze. It takes place shortly after the Ceremonial Battle. The last line in Yugi's flashback with Atem was inspired by the title of a fanart.
The dark being reached down, easily lifting the fatally-wounded man in one hand.
"Pitiful pawn," he intoned. "You have served me well, so filled with hatred and your desire for revenge that you believed my will was your own. Now your body is spent. But don't worry---you will live forever, infused with that part of my spirit that has been corrupting and draining you since the day you took possession of the Millennium Ring. I will absorb your soul until all that you are is me. I will be all that is left of Thief King Bakura. And you will be forgotten, while my name and memory endure!"
A black aura surrounded the mostly-limp man. He screamed, the anguish in his voice unlike anything heard before.
Egypt was in ruins. Two figures stood out against the nearly-tangible darkness, one the bringer of it, the other its eternal enemy.
"Zorc!" called the one. "Our battle ends here. Because of the bravery and determination of my friends, I remember the key to your destruction. Never again will you be released into the real world, nor will you torment this world of memories any longer. Your reign of terror ends here!"
"It's too late, Pharaoh!" Zorc objected. "You will fall! You and your pathetic friends! My final attack is already in progress!"
"We'll see about that." The Pharaoh raised the cartouche over his head. "It's my own name that will seal your fate. And my name is . . . ATEM!"
Light penetrated the shadows, bringing forth the three Egyptian God monsters. Upon the Pharaoh's command they shifted and merged in the sky, transforming into the Creator God of Light. Zorc's attack was blocked.
"Now for you," said Atem.
And Zorc Necrophades, the personification of the darkness in the hearts of mankind, was destroyed by the light. But even as he perished with a roar, the heart-wrenching scream of what may have once been a human ripped through the air as well. For a split-second, the image of an anguished Egyptian man being torn to ribbons flashed into view.
"Bakura!" the spirit anguished. "Bakura, help me! Help me, Bakura! Please . . ."
But then he was gone.
Yugi flew upright in bed, gasping, his heart pounding. His pajamas were clammy, drenched in cold sweat. His bangs were plastered against his face, one on the left hanging into his eye. He brushed it aside, staring around his darkened room. Then, out of habit, he reached for the Millennium Puzzle. But he pulled his hand back. Of course, there was no Puzzle. It was gone. Atem had passed to the afterlife and the Millennium Items had fallen into the earth, forever sealed.
Yugi sighed, his shoulders slumping. "That dream again," he whispered. It had come every night since Zorc's demise, though never in such detail. This was the first time he had seen the identity of the man being drained by Zorc and had then heard his desperate cry upon his destruction. And in spite of himself, Yugi was haunted.
Before their fateful Ceremonial Battle, Atem had told Yugi about the past, including the horrifying truth behind the creation of the Millennium Items. Yugi had not even been able to comprehend.
"Ninety-nine people were sacrificed?!" he cried.
Atem gave a grim nod. "Yes," he said. "Men, women . . . not even the children were spared."
Tears leaped to Yugi's eyes. "How?!" he exclaimed. "How could anyone think something so evil was the solution?!"
"I don't know." Atem clenched a fist, still deeply grieved. "Egypt was in trouble. The Millennium Items were their last defense. But my father never would have authorized their creation if he had known how it had to be done. High Priest Ahkenaden never told him. When Mahado researched their origin and discovered the truth, the knowledge took my father to his deathbed."
He looked away. "The spirit of the Ring . . . he was only a child at the time of the massacre," he said, his voice lowering. "He witnessed the entire thing. He was the only survivor."
Yugi stared at him. "The spirit of the Ring?!" he gasped. "The evil Bakura?"
Again Atem nodded. "And can we really blame him for the path he chose?" he said. "If our positions had been reversed . . . if it had been my family, my friends, being sacrificed alive for the creation of seven mystical Items . . . I would have reacted the same."
Yugi swallowed hard. ". . . What happened to him?" he asked.
". . . I don't know," Atem admitted. He frowned, turning back to Yugi. "In the dark role-playing game, he turned to sand, then was revived only to be sacrificed to revive Zorc Necrophades. But that wasn't what actually took place three thousand years ago. It's strange . . . I had the feeling that Zorc may have been deliberately misleading us about his true fate.
". . . And as for what happened to him now . . . I don't know that, either." Atem stared out the window. "If he was in the Ring along with part of Zorc's spirit, then they may have both perished. If he somehow survived, I suppose he's still in the Ring."
Yugi stared down at the Ring, which was on the table along with the rest of the Millennium Items. "And we're going to seal the Items away for good," he said. "If he's still in there . . ."
"It can't be helped." Atem stood. "His story is tragic, but he is a danger to us, to the whole world. He can't be allowed to roam free."
". . . After three thousand years, I guess there's no hope he could ever change." Yugi frowned more. "And yet . . . we saved Dartz from ten thousand years of being corrupted by the Orichalcos. . . ."
Atem did not reply. Yugi hesitated, then spoke again. "If he was in the Ring with part of Zorc's spirit, do you think Zorc was poisoning him?"
"I don't have any doubt of that." Atem gave a sad sigh. "But he had already chosen the path of darkness before the Ring came to him. He lost his mind because of the massacre at Kul Elna."
Yugi clutched the Millennium Puzzle. ". . . There weren't ninety-nine people sacrificed," he said sadly. "There were one hundred."
Yugi stared out the window at the lonely Domino night. Was there any significance to his nightmare, since it had been coming each night? And what was the significance, if any, of seeing the tortured man's identity at last? Could any---or even all of it---be true? If so, why would it be shown to him?
"Spirit of the Ring, what happened to you?" he said aloud, the sorrow and worry evident in his voice. "Did we seal you away forever in the Millennium Ring? Were you destroyed with Zorc? . . . Will we ever even know?"
It was strange, he supposed, to be so concerned about the fate of someone who had brought them so much suffering. But it was Yugi's nature; he did not want anyone to be in torment. And it was even more horrible now that he knew the spirit's past. Just thinking of him watching his whole village be destroyed was heart-breaking. Yugi could not help wondering how the thief would have grown up if such a terrible thing had not happened.
And yet . . . if it had not happened, and the Millennium Items had not been created, would he and Atem have ever met?
He frowned, staring down at the windowsill. That was not fair. Why couldn't they have met under other circumstances? . . . But if they had, would they have even grown as close?
"So many lives were destroyed," he whispered. How many had died because of the Millennium Items? Because of Thief King Bakura's madness and subsequent corruption by Zorc? Because of Ahkenaden's corruption and Zorc himself?
The agonized cry from Yugi's nightmare pierced his mind again.
"Bakura, help me! Help me, Bakura! Please . . ."
Yugi slammed his fists on the windowsill. If that had really happened, and even if they could have done something to help, it was too late now. Whatever the spirit's fate, he was gone.
Why had Zorc misled them as to the Thief King's fate in ancient Egypt, if indeed he had done so? Why would he have cared if they had known? Had he thought they would try to save that tortured soul in the present time, when Zorc had still wanted to have use of him? Had he known there was a way to save his slave and had not wanted them to find it?
And Yugi could not even talk this over with Atem. He was glad that his friend had finally gone on to his rightful rest, but he could not help missing the other. Some days, he had found, were harder than others. Tonight especially, he felt so empty.
He slumped down in the chair by the desk. As he ran his hands into his hair, he found himself crying.
He cried for Ahkenaden, who had committed a treacherous evil in his attempt to save Egypt and then had fallen to Zorc's corruption.
He cried for the ninety-nine people slaughtered to create the Millennium Items, and for the child who had seen his loved ones die.
He cried for Thief King Bakura, who in his madness had also fallen to Zorc's corruption and in his last moments had pleaded for his modern-day descendant and host to help him.
The forgotten sacrifices.
Were they forever lost as well?