The Devil and the Star
Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. All Yu-Gi-Oh!-related characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi.
It was standard procedure, when accepting new recruits for the Movement, for Takuma Saiou to administer each a thorough tarot reading. The cards never lied, especially not to Saiou, which rendered them a far more useful tool than medical or psychological evaluations in determining a potential student's true character. These readings served not only as tests for potential psychic aptitude but as a safety precaution on Saiou's part as well; any recruit whose cards portended trouble for the Movement or its founders was to be immediately dismissed. Saiou had only relaxed this rule in a single case…and he had paid dearly for that mistake for the rest of his life.
The moment that Saiou drew The Devil in the boy's reading, he knew that he should have immediately rejected him from the Movement's recruitment program and sent him as far away from them as possible. Flipping over the card at the beginning of the boy's Ouroboros formation had been a nasty shock to his system in any event; Saiou had not seen the fifteenth card of the Major Arcana take such a principal stage in a reading since his own, twenty years prior, where it had foretold his actions when possessed by the Light of Ruin. And given that under the Light's influence he had brainwashed half of Duel Academia into worshipping him as a God and nearly succeeded at obliterating the Earth with a laser-equipped satellite, he had no reason to take The Devil's presence at all lightly this time.
So why had he chosen to overlook the signs?
Admittedly, the boy's story had struck some disconcertingly familiar chords with the blue-haired psychic. Abandoned by a family who feared his powers, forced to live on the margins of society, stripped of his little sister at age ten by an overzealous mugger…that last detail had affected Saiou particularly deeply. Before he had met Edo, Mizuchi had been his entire world, and the thought of losing her awakened a white hot fury in his mind that tended to drive out all rational thought.
…Never mind that the vast majority of the story had turned out to be a complete fabrication. As Saiou would later learn from the man himself in the form of pompous gloating, his entire family, sister included, had been wiped out in an early "experiment" to test the limits of his disturbingly potent psychic abilities. That the boy had actually gotten away with lying directly to his face (the first and last person ever to do so) only demonstrated further how unbelievably folly allowing him into the Movement had been.
But unfortunately, even the considerable advantages of extra-sensory perception and precognition could not save Saiou from the occasional lapse in judgment. The boy's narrative had seemed quite compelling at the time, and in any event there were multiple ways to interpret The Devil; this was the very nature of tarot. Just as easily as the card could signal a person's lust or obsession or anger or vice, it could also indicate their own self-bondage to such impulses, one that they needed to break through in order to grow and ultimately attain unity with the World. Understanding only too well how the scorn and calumny of society could twist the mind toward such bestial extremes (after all, had he not resented the rest of the world at least a little bit for their collective treatment of him and his sister, the Light of Ruin would have had no place to take root in his soul), Saiou had chosen to follow the second interpretation, hoping that with his help the malicious thoughts weighing down the boy might be alleviated.
Saiou's mistake in conducting that reading was his neglect of Occam's razor: the simplest explanation is most often the correct one. Swayed by sympathy for the boy and the parallels he had unconsciously formed between them, he had deluded himself into believing that the demons the cards foretold were locked within the boy's heart, and not running rampant throughout his very essence. As it turned out, however, it was just as the simplest interpretation would have indicated: the boy was not constrained by the Devil…the boy was the Devil.
The drawing of The Devil had only been the beginning of a long litany of highly disturbing signs that Saiou cursed himself every day for not picking up on sooner. If Saiou had managed to derail the boy's mad plans before he had gained such a strong following in the Movement, perhaps he would still be helping young psychics to find their way in the world, not watching helplessly as they were either slain by the new leader's abhorrent experiments or carefully manipulated into serving his warped agenda.
It had all been so simple, all those years ago. The initial idea had been Mizuchi's, though Saiou immediately took to it with a fire he had not felt since he had contributed his own small portion of energy to Judai's final assault on Darkness. Thinking back to those lonely days on the streets all those years ago, Saiou knew that he would have given about anything for a mentor, for a support system, for even one true friend…and he also knew that there were thousands of psychics wandering aimlessly around the world, still craving precisely the same thing.
His powers, and consequently his interests in the journey of tarot, had been rekindled following the defeat of Darkness, making the Arcadia Movement a natural name for their new organization. A combination of a boarding school and a social network, the Movement would take in any psychics who needed its assistance free of charge, educating them in the use of their powers and setting them up with a stable career in any of a number of fields that Saiou maintained contacts with thanks to his previous experience as Edo's manager and his working relationships with Pegasus J. Crawford and Seto Kaiba.
For the most part, the concept had worked like a dream for the first several years. While the initial response from the psychic community had been decidedly lukewarm, endorsements from big names like Pegasus and even Yugi Muto himself (Saiou still wasn't sure exactly how Judai had managed to finagle that one, though he had his suspicions) raised the prestige of the Movement enough that his opening class of about three dozen expanded within a year to nearly four hundred. Soon enough psychics from all corners of the world were flocking to Domino in droves, anxious to receive education and training or simply emotional support as they learned to control their powers. The genetic anomaly that Saiou and his researchers at the Movement had determined to be at the root of the development of psychic abilities was exceedingly rare, and even more rarely was it bestowed upon a child fortunate enough to have a family willing to understand their gift. Given these factors, there was unfortunately a significant surplus of psychics across the world lacking proper homes, and Saiou's top priority in those formative years was to alleviate that issue for as many wayward souls as he possibly could.
It was a good existence, all things considered. Gone was the sheer, gleaming opulence that had surrounded Saiou when he led the Society of Light, but his quarters were still sufficiently comfortable regardless. And with no supernatural forces scheming to drive them apart, Saiou was free to connect with his sister to a degree that had escaped the pair since childhood. True, the two supremely powerful psychics were in charge of teaching separate tracts within the Movement, but a great number of those classes overlapped and in any event they were always able to reconvene after lessons for the day had ceased.
Edo had made a point of visiting quite frequently as well, for which Saiou was infinitely grateful. Saiou's destiny as the fated harbinger of Earth's destruction had always tainted the pair's friendship to a degree before, but now that the long-haired psychic was free of the curse that had burdened him for so long there were no longer any barriers separating their burgeoning feelings for each other, which were awkward and alien but also somehow unbelievably right. Secret nights spent in each other's company passed regularly throughout the years, their relationship always bordering on but never quite developing into something more. After all, Edo was busy attempting to rebuild his career in the new Pro Leagues Dueling Circuit that the highly successful Marufuji brothers had introduced to great acclaim a few years prior, while Saiou was equally as involved in managing and expanding the Movement. Once again, life was good, and it was long; the pair of dear friends reasoned that there would always be time for them in the future, so they had decided to wait.
But then the boy had arrived, and everything had gone straight to Hell.
Ignoring the early warning sign of The Devil, the boy's initial actions upon entering the Movement would have been unlikely to cause anyone alarm. Even as a teenager he was already an expert at winning friends and influencing people, endearing himself early on to many of his professors and trainers with his intense charisma and smooth flattery. It didn't hurt either that he was an absolute prodigy with his psychic abilities; there was no question that he was far and away the top student in every single one of his classes. For the boy's protection as much as anyone else's Saiou ended up keeping a very close watch on him, choosing to mentor the talented pupil directly rather than delegate him to one of his aides. Under Saiou's tutelage the boy's skills grew exponentially, and together with his natural proclivities toward organization and leadership this made him an easy choice for Vice-Administrator once he accrued sufficient experience.
As soon as the boy had been handed a position of power, however, his demeanor had taken a disconcerting turn. Most telling had been his introduction of the concept of Psychic Dueling into the classes that he was now in charge of; his method of replicating Solid Vision holograms into physical forms using his powers, while undeniably impressive, was also incredibly dangerous, and Saiou let him know this in no uncertain terms. But times were changing, and the Psychic Duels were so popular with the student body that Saiou found himself effectively outvoted. Looking back on the entire narrative, Saiou recognized that moment as the first major step toward his own downfall. The boy's status within the Movement had spiked dramatically as his Psychic Duels began to take center stage in the organization's self-image, and it was his most earnest fans that had become the earliest contingents in his rapidly growing faction. His unmatched, nigh-miraculous success in the duels had even provided the boy who had long since forgotten his true name on the streets with a new moniker: "Divine."
As Divine attained more and more authority within the Movement's power structure, he became downright impossible to work with. He was arrogant and abrasive, quick to anger and nearly as quick to scathing retaliation. Those psychics that made mistakes during his lessons often did not return the next day, their instructor's violent reproach driving them to intensely dread seeing him again. Those students that did curry favor with the red-haired psychic, however, found themselves receiving unabashedly preferential treatment in a manner that absolutely infuriated Takuma and Mizuchi Saiou, but unfortunately Divine's following in the Movement had grown to the point where he was virtually unassailable. Divine had usurped a significant amount of control over the Movement without them even noticing, and it was only the unshakeable support of the Movement's financial sponsors and alumni for the Saiou siblings that prevented him from wresting power away from them completely.
But then two world-shattering events occurred in quick succession. The first had taken place during the final duel of the Pro Leagues Championship Cup of 2010. The contestants had been none other than reigning champion Ryo Marufuji…and challenger Edo Phoenix.
The rematch between the nigh-invincible Pro Leagues founder and the first person to ever hand him an on-record defeat was the most-hyped duel since the final clash between Seto Kaiba and Yugi Muto that had signaled the latter's retirement from the professional scene two years prior. Hundreds of thousands of fans had gathered to observe the spectacular match-up firsthand, which had been quite an impressive crowd before the D-Wheel and Riding Duels had been introduced into the game and the professional circuit had begun to cater more openly to spectators. In what might well have been a dry run for those innovations, KaibaCorp had spared no expense in producing a monumental stadium in Beijing for the match, and soon enough the world's collective attentions were turned to the duel.
Three turns in, the entire building was engulfed in a fiery explosion; every single person within, duelist and fan alike, was killed instantly.
The official story behind the blast was an electrical malfunction, but this explanation was so ridiculously at-odds with the magnitude of the inferno that Saiou had not considered it for even a moment. No, there was most certainly foul play involved…not that Saiou paid that mystery all that much attention. Edo was dead, and to Takuma Saiou that was all that mattered.
The psychic had not realized, until he was gone, that he had loved Edo. Their friendship had been long and, despite being plagued from the onset by issues far more severe than most friends faced in their entire lives, exceedingly rewarding, and their amorous trysts in recent years had tended their thoughts toward something even greater, but it was only after Edo's passing that Saiou came to grips with the fact that he had been romantically in love with the silver-haired duelist for years, if not decades.
For the first time in his life, Saiou had cursed fate. The Wheel of Destiny had been Saiou's lifelong companion, and regardless of his own personal take on the events that it caused to transpire he had accepted its news with solemn determination, acknowledging that the true duty of every seer since Cassandra had been merely to know, not to vainly attempt to interfere. Even after Judai had convinced him that, under certain circumstances, the course of fate could indeed be redirected, Saiou had mentally excluded himself from the people who were allowed to make such alterations. That ability was afforded only to the Fool, and to a select few others of comparable power.
But with Edo snatched away from him in a single moment, without Saiou even getting a chance to say goodbye, the blue-haired psychic felt betrayed by the very hands of fate for which he had acted as loyal steward for nearly thirty years, and his immediate reaction had been to more-or-less give up on living.
For weeks upon weeks upon weeks following the incident, Saiou had lost all interest in work or recreation, instead spending all of his time staring silently at the heavens. Angry as he was at the forces of destiny, Saiou had even stopped using his tarot cards, robbing him of the one comforting activity he tended to engage in under similar states of duress. But it could not be helped; every glance he stole at the pieces of flimsy cardboard enlarged the sizable pit in his stomach, unfailingly reminding him of the friend and lover who had gifted them to him on his twenty-fifth birthday in order to replace the deck he had released into the winds of Duel Academia.
As Saiou's depression worsened and he began to neglect his meals, Mizuchi had taken it upon herself to nurse him back to health and sanity. Ultimately she had decided that her foremost responsibility belonged with her brother; she loved him dearly and found the form he had taken following Edo's death, of a withering empty shell, to be unbearable to behold. As such she had worked out a half-day schedule with the Movement, using the remainder of her time to attempt to coax Saiou out of his dismally withdrawn state. Unfortunately, this placed far more authority in the hands of the lower officials in the Movement, Divine chief among them, and rendered both of the siblings completely unprepared for the second cataclysmic event less than a year later, the one that had effectively handed over absolute power to Divine on a silver platter.
That event was Zero Reverse.
Despite being within several kilometers of the blast's epicenter the Arcadia Movement headquarters had remained practically unharmed, thanks to the numerous psychic wards that had been placed upon it over the years. The buildings surrounding theirs, however, had not fared so well. By the end of the day Domino City was cleaved clean in two, and at the new border of the metropolis was a long strip of devastated ruin, the Movement solely intact amidst the ash and rubble.
Divine's reaction to the disaster had been swift and brutal. According to the red-haired psychic, Zero Reverse was just the latest demonstration of why "normals" could not be trusted to administrate government, and why it was high time for psychics to assume control instead. It was a narrative that Divine had evidently been spinning for years without Saiou's knowledge or approval, and one that sadly took fire quite rapidly with the vast majority of the Movement. After all, nearly every member had a friend or relative who had died or been injured by the "earthquake," and it was hard to argue against the assertion that the rest of the city might have been spared its fate had it been controlled and protected by psychics as well, given the vivid image of the Movement headquarters standing alone amongst the devastation.
Virtually overnight the Arcadia Movement transformed from a school and support center into an aggressive militia, and Saiou's impotent sorrow rendered both of its founders unable to do much about it. Mizuchi had attempted a few half-hearted speeches, cautioning her students from reacting to the world at large with as much bigotry and discrimination as they themselves had been shown, but her warnings fell entirely on deaf ears. She could tell which way the wind was blowing.
Divine's first major act following Zero Reverse had been moving for a vote of no confidence toward the Co-Administrators of the Movement, which had passed with overwhelming majority. Following this had been a single-candidate show election that had appointed Divine in their place. Since Divine had absolute authority over the Movement by that point in all but name anyway, the vote was strictly for the purpose of stroking the psychic's massive ego. The Saiou siblings might have raised more objections had the new Administrator's next act not been to construct prison cells at the bottom of the complex and swiftly throw the Movement founders into them. His justification had been the same as his reason for ejecting them from their leadership positions in the first place: they were "too weak" to do what needed to be done, and too dangerous to be allowed to interfere.
Takuma and Mizuchi Saiou did not do well as prisoners. Divine had not bothered to stock their cells with more than the barest amenities, and the basement floors of the Arcadia Movement headquarters were musty and miserably cold. Neither was permitted any form of recreation, and their facilities for sleeping and going to the bathroom consisted of a rock-hard, sheet-less cot and a moldy wooden bucket. Meals were served once a day and always took the form of gooey paste; a number of different foods were blended together to create a meal that, while nutritious, was excruciating to actually consume. Saiou knew well that the only reason they were even being given food at all was that Divine feared the psychic backlash that might erupt if one of the siblings was to suddenly expire; besides, killing them would rob the red-haired psychic of his daily opportunity to tease and taunt his two favorite captives.
Unfortunately, Divine's bare-bones treatment of his prisoners did not extend to the security measures he had installed to prevent their escape. The siblings were placed at separate ends of the complex and wards designed to block mental communication were erected directly between them. In addition, all guards assigned to the prisoners were first given extensive training in meditation and mental warding, preventing Saiou from reaching into their minds and giving them…suggestions. Wards tied directly to Divine's own mind were also installed about the entire floor; were Saiou or Mizuchi to use enough of their power to successfully facilitate a breakout, the egomaniacal Administrator would know about it immediately.
The guards also made sure to remove Saiou's tarot deck immediately, and to prevent him from acquiring the materials necessary to produce a new one. Mizuchi was far trickier to deal with; her abilities could manifest using any object that produced a reflection, be it a mirror or a puddle or even the pupils of a person's eyes, so the majority of the precautions that Divine took with regards to the siblings related to making sure that she would never see her reflection again. All of the guards in her wing were given special, non-reflective sunglasses to wear at all times. Anything glass, metallic, or otherwise shiny was absolutely prohibited within her presence, and she was bound and blindfolded before receiving water or other liquids.
These protocols had only been broken once, about five months after their initial imprisonment. A janitor had skirted regulation and snuck his iPod into the hall as he was cleaning it, and Mizuchi had used the silvery rear surface to produce a duplicate of herself. The double had only made it halfway to Saiou's cell however before it had been shot dead by Divine, wielding a Buster Launcher. The next day, Divine had retaliated by placing Mizuchi in the bound state under which she received water and then removing her clothes, telling her in a loud, carrying voice that he was about to do something that he had wanted to do for quite a few years.
Although Mizuchi's panicked cries had been heavily muffled Saiou could sense the desperate urgency in them, and the long-haired psychic had finally been pulled out of his funk by sheer fury. At a thundering pitch he had threatened to force his own brain into aneurism and kill every single person in the building, his tone leaving no room for doubt that he was not bluffing. Divine had taken everything away from him since Edo's death, and he would not let him rob his sister of her innocence as well. Sensing that Saiou was not fooling around, Divine had mercifully acquiesced to his demand.
Ironically, it was this event that had at last shattered Saiou's all-consuming depression. As long as he and his sister drew breath, he realized that there was still a reason to live, small though it was. By all objective markers his life was worse than it had been in quite a long while, but in mind-numbing isolation Saiou found the will to carry on. He reasoned, after all, that Edo would not have wanted him to spend the rest of his life pining for his departed soul, and so Saiou set off to do the only thing he still could while imprisoned: listen.
Saiou discovered to his pleasure that he could psychically scan the lower floors of the Arcadia Movement headquarters for conversations for about a minute at a time without setting off the wards, just so long as he didn't do it again too soon. As days stretched on into months and months stretched on into years, he was able to glean a surprising amount of information about the Movement's current state from these brief and fleeting observations. Saiou knew, for example, that a few years prior Divine had discovered a girl with monumentally powerful psychic abilities on the streets of what was now called Neo Domino, and that he had since taken her directly under his wing, in more ways than one. Saiou had been disgusted to overhear the rumors that she had become Divine's own personal concubine in Mizuchi's place, the despicable psychic taking advantage of her own misery and loneliness by promising to assuage them in return for her absolute loyalty and devotion. And even worse, the poor child was completely oblivious to his machinations; on the sole occasion that Saiou had managed to break into her unusually well-protected mind he had sensed a great swelling of love toward Divine pervading throughout her core…or at least, what she thought of as love.
It saddened Saiou to an unfathomable degree to imagine what her life could have been like had she come to the Movement while it was still something more than just an extension of Divine's twisted will. The red-haired Devil was gradually decimating her mind, perhaps irreparably, with half-truths and outright lies, playing with her thoughts and emotions as if they were building blocks that could be reshaped into any form he desired. The last straw had come when Saiou had managed to pull a particularly vivid memory from Divine's cortex while his attention was directed elsewhere following one of their near-daily taunting sessions. The memory concerned an…accident that had occurred several nights beforehand which had resulted in the girl becoming pregnant without her knowledge, and the potent psychic attack that Divine had used to forcibly abort the fetus without her ever being the wiser. Despite being absolutely powerless, browbeaten and emaciated and without any resources whatsoever, Saiou knew at that point that he could not stand by and do nothing any longer.
And so, for the past couple of years, Saiou had begun to construct the one tool that might be able to assist him in stopping Divine: a new tarot deck.
It was not an easy task by any means. Unable to access paper materials and limited in his ability to use his powers, it had taken two years for Saiou to construct a single seventy-eight card deck. The cards were assembled out of stone shavings that he had gouged from the walls and molded into the proper shapes using his powers, taking constant care not to use too much at a time lest he trip Divine's personal wards. As long as the cards were all identical on one side his precognitive abilities could use them to reveal the course of fate without issue, but this meant that his construction of them needed to be flawlessly precise. These factors, along with the need to hide the finished cards despite a distinct lack of inconspicuous locations in his tiny cell, combined to ensure that his full deck had not been completed until just a few months prior.
Since then, Saiou had been engaging in daily readings of a slow and experimental nature, carefully testing the limits of how much of his power he could utilize without alerting the Arcadia Movement's current master. Formations used to foretell extended narratives were clearly out, but Saiou had managed to extract answers to several simple questions without crossing the psychic threshold that the wards required to activate. On the occasions when Divine's attention was fully occupied on another task, Saiou had even been able to lay out a few three-card formations to discern some far more pertinent information.
This had been especially useful when the Wheel of Destiny had finally smiled upon Saiou once more and Divine had left the Movement for a weeklong period, choosing to observe and direct his protégé from close range during Rex Goodwin's recent "Fortune Cup" dueling tournament. Saiou trusted the unctuous Director about as little as he trusted Divine – even a person without a literal sixth sense for such matters could tell that he was hiding something significant – but for the moment he had simply been grateful for the man's impeccable timing. The extended neglect of several of the wards upon his cell allowed Saiou to ask numerous questions of his cards without fear of repercussion, affording the blue-haired psychic his first opportunity in years to gather news of the outside world.
He learned that Mizuchi was in much the same state that he was in – physically fine, but without any real hope of escape – and that her virginity had still, thankfully, not been violated by Divine or one of his licentious cronies. He learned that Duel Academia was thriving under the direction of new Chancellor Asuka Tenjoin, who had recently married her financial backer, business mogul and former professional duelist Jun Manjoume. He learned that Judai was alive and well but had not been seen for years, his jovial visits into his friends' lives having grown more and more infrequent after a great number of them had died under mysterious circumstances in the months leading up to Zero Reverse.
This led Saiou to undoubtedly his most significant discovery: the identity of Edo's killer. As he had initially suspected, the explosion that had ended the silver-haired youth's life had not been an accident, but rather deliberately caused by the same entity that had brought about the deaths of Daichi Misawa, "Tyranno" Kenzan, Hayato Maeda, and scores of others that had once associated with Judai. The cards chose to identify this entity with The Star in reversed position, a card that usually foretold a major disaster or cataclysm, but that here seemed chiefly to emphasize the dangerous and obscenely powerful nature of his enemy. Any other tarot reader in the world would have stopped there, but Saiou was no ordinary fortune-teller; his cards spoke to him in a manner that no non-psychic could ever comprehend, telling him quite forcefully that the name of the organization that had killed Edo was Yliaster.
Ironically, this put Saiou and Divine in something of the same boat. But while Divine worked against Yliaster, the secret society that had governed the world's backroom affairs since time immemorial, simply because he distrusted anything with the ability to challenge his power, Saiou now had a genuine reason to hate them. An upright Devil might attempt to take over the world if he was so inclined, but a reversed Star was guaranteed to eventually destroy it.
Still, it was far too much to hope that Divine and Yliaster might destroy each other in their inevitable conflict. The cards were insistently informing Saiou that a clash of titanic powers was fast approaching, and compared to Yliaster or the new enemies that it was soon to face (ones that seemed absolutely incapable of being represented by any card other than Death), Divine was nothing. Though the red-haired psychic had succeeded in ruining the lives of the Saiou siblings and countless other Movement members over the years, at his core he was still just an arrogant, egomaniacal fool, with little going for him beyond intense charisma and above-average psychic abilities. So while Saiou acknowledged that there was absolutely no chance of him ever being able to exact his revenge on Yliaster for what they had done to Edo and millions, perhaps billions of others, he took small comfort in the notion that Divine's current course of opposition to all outside factions seemed to have only one, inescapable result: the man's own destruction.
Tonight's reading was the culmination of all of Saiou's work for the past couple of years. Having long since accepted that it was impossible for him to escape from Divine's captivity, Saiou had been heartened to read the signs that a hero to their cause was approaching. He was unsure if the hero would arrive in time to save him and Mizuchi – the cards did not specify a timeframe – but he was absolutely certain by this point that he was indeed coming. In conflict with Divine, Yliaster, and the mysterious agents of Death, this hero was uncommon enough in his strength and valor that he might actually succeed in toppling every single one of them, given the fullness of time. This was no ordinary hero that his cards were predicting now; this was the hero, the sort that only appears once in a generation.
And that was the reason for this reading: to identify this hero and his role to play in the coming War by constructing a pattern of lineage with previous heroes of his caliber, using a basic three-card spread. Divine was occupied at the moment, though Saiou couldn't ascertain exactly why; the most he had managed to extract had been a sudden, fleeting image of a hummingbird.
After what seemed to be an eternity of shuffling, Saiou laid out his first card with shaking but determined hands.
Judgment. Upright position.
Undoubtedly, this card was meant to represent Yugi Muto. Possibly the greatest hero of the modern age, Yugi's numerous feats were the stuff of legend; that he had saved the world half-a-dozen times before turning twenty was a testament to his consummate role as a supreme administrator of destiny's will. Mysterious as some of those encounters had been, rumors had been abound for years amongst those attuned to the more arcane facets of life; rumors of a man who had mastered the ancient Gods and wielded them in victory against multiple deities of destruction, rescuing Earth from the brink of oblivion on more than one occasion.
In the journey of tarot, Judgment often represented a period of absolution or rebirth. Though he was a herald of justice and an emissary of fate, Yugi had above all been an agent of mercy. While many of his "judgments" had been notoriously brutal, they had ultimately worked a transformative effect on a great number of his former foes. Pegasus J. Crawford was probably the most famous example; his posthumously published autobiography had afforded Yugi enormous credit in saving him from near-insanity, after which he had become one of the world's leading philanthropists. Less well-known were names like Malik Ishtar, Ryou Bakura, or Rafael Stráž, but in each case Yugi's influence had been paramount in saving their souls from their own personal demons. Saiou had even heard whispers that Tetsu Ushio's dramatic conversion from schoolyard bully to Neo Domino's most proficient Security Officer had been the result of an encounter with Yugi as well, and while Saiou had never been able to dig up the evidence to substantiate this claim he did learn that the two had attended Domino High at roughly the same time, so it was certainly a possibility.
Saiou also considered it likely that there was a more literal aspect to the concept of "rebirth" in Yugi's position as Judgment. It was Yugi's adventures that had reawakened so many powers of antiquity, triggering an era of increased mystical presence on Earth that continued to the present day. Whether or not Yugi was personally involved in such matters was debatable, but Saiou had his suspicions, particularly about the strange golden pendant that he had worn during several of his early tournaments.
Certainly, if the hero in question was cast in the same mold as Yugi Muto, he must be quite the formidable warrior.
Saiou barely even needed to reveal the next card, for he knew with absolute confidence who the greatest hero of his own generation had been. They had, after all, been both friends and mortal enemies at varying parts of his life.
The Fool. Upright position.
For perhaps the final time, the representation of Judai Yuki appeared to lend his patented individuality and unpredictability to one of Saiou's readings. Just as Judai was like no other man that Saiou had ever met, so too was The Fool the most unique card in all of tarot. The cards of the Major Arcana were sometimes referred to collectively as "The Fool's Journey," for they depicted the people and experiences that The Fool encountered as he progressed from a state of infinite potential to one of infinite wisdom.
This was the perfect card to represent Judai, who had been nothing if not a Fool at the commencement of his years at Duel Academia. A lazy, carefree slacker who was unconcerned with schoolwork or grades despite being an unqualified dueling prodigy, Judai had matured amazingly over the course of his adventures, saving the world nearly as many times as Yugi had and carving Academia history in a thousand different ways to boot. Judai truly was the consummate learner, poor student though he had often been; each encounter with a new face or figure expanded his horizons until his knowledge of the universe's inner workings surpassed that of any other man on Earth. Even Saiou could not hope to compare with Judai's grasp of the cosmology of life, death, and nonexistence; Saiou may have studied those matters in great detail, but as Haou, the mortal incarnation of the dark void that filled the universe, Judai was them.
Not that very many people were aware of this last point on Judai's résumé; his status as Haou, the Supreme King of the True Darkness, was known only to Judai's most intimate friends and allies. The fact that he was one of the very few people on the planet that Judai trusted with this information filled Saiou with an inordinate amount of pride; after all, being trusted by anyone was not exactly a sensation with which the psychic was all that familiar. Although their relationship had had a rather…rocky start (to say the least), Saiou was eternally grateful to the former star of Osiris Red for saving him from the demonic, sentient Light that had nearly forced him to bring an end to life on Earth, and just as much so for vanquishing the personification of the negative side of Darkness and saving him and Mizuchi from its Hellish grasp. And though Judai had appeared in Saiou's life only sparingly since Darkness' defeat, their brief encounters had always been both enlightening and heartening. Strange as it might seem, Saiou could honestly say that, after Edo and Mizuchi, Judai was the best friend that he had ever had.
If there were two greater heroes to which this new warrior could compare than Yugi Muto and Judai Yuki, Saiou would have been hard-pressed to think of them. And so it was with keen anticipation that Saiou revealed the final card of his tripartite array.
For one last time, Saiou's violet eyes alighted on The Star. But this time, it was in upright position.
As portentous of an omen as The Star was when it appeared in reversed position, it was easily one of the most positive cards to receive in a reading when it was revealed upright. Just as a star was a singular beacon of hope amongst an incomprehensibly infinite darkness, so too did The Star indicate a shining presence of serenity, joy, harmony, faith, and peace. Whomever this card represented, they were clearly a purifying influence on those around them, forging bonds between people as strong and as everlasting as starlight itself.
The fact that this hero and Yliaster, whom the signs were strongly indicating would be in direct opposition, were symbolized by the same card was not lost on Saiou, but as was often the case in tarot it was the position that meant everything here. The light of Yliaster was a negative force that reminded Saiou of the Light of Ruin; all-consuming in its intensity and longing to fill everything in existence with its radiance, regardless of whether or not its targets would survive the process. But this hero, this upright Star, was different. His card seemed almost…warm to the touch, transmitting the calm and inviting glow of one who was totally at peace with his surroundings. After all, the true beauty of a star was not simply in-and-of-itself, but rather in the way that it shined in perfect balance with the rest of the universe, both the darkness and the light.
For the first time in countless years Takuma Saiou breathed a heavy sigh of relief. If this reading had taught him anything, it was that if the world came to depend on this new warrior as it had done numerous times in the past for Yugi and Judai, then the Earth would be in good hands. Little though Saiou knew of the peripheral details of this hero (such as his name), this final array had convinced him utterly that it was safe to trust him. Now, perhaps, he might finally be able to take The Star's lead and settle into tranquility with all else that existed, for now he was at last ready to die.
The omens had been coming for quite a while, always the same cards, and always the same outcome: The Devil would grapple with Death, and The Tower would be the result. All that Saiou now knew of the world would crumble explosively, life cascading upon death and the spiritual collapsing upon the physical until it all comes tumbling down, like an enormous tower sent crashing to its foundation by a sudden impact.
…Which, based on the intense rumbling that was now seizing the building above, might not have been entirely figurative after all. It made sense; the Arcadia Movement's tower had been the most permanent monument to his last great mistake, and if it was finally time for him to exit the world of the living and begin his next journey, it was only fitting that the tower exit with him. Then, the world he had worked so hard to establish and which Divine had violently stolen for his own disgraceful purposes would finally be over with, hopefully clearing the way for this upright Star to finally vanquish the Devil. For the first and last time, Saiou was placing his full confidence in this unknown hero, and he smiled contentedly at the thought.
Then the ceiling of his cell began to collapse, and a moment later, everything was gone. Just a deep, warm light, dancing in eternal rhythm with a soothing and intimately familiar darkness.