Disclaimer: I (sadly) do not own Yu-gi-oh! ©
Summary: A once companionable relationship between Bakura and his host has been forgotten when he advances his plans with Malik to get their revenge on the Pharaoh. However, once Ryou's in danger, Bakura's instinct to protect conflicts with his plans.
Sequel to "Landlord."
1.) Takes place during Battle City finals, during the duel between Bakura and Atem.
2.) / "Blah blah"/ equals flashback.
3.) There's quite a bit of swearing in here. Blame it on Bakura and Malik. Sorrrry :}
4.) I call the Shadow Realm the Dark Realm.
5.) WARNING: Slight deviation from canon facts.
A/N: This one-shot is dedicated to Bakura's Guardian Angel, who encouraged me to write a follow-up to "Landlord," despite the fact we all know one-shots aren't meant to be pursued! However, this fellow fanficcer has been wading through all my junk since day 1, and well, this is my way of saying 'thank you.' Your encouragement has often given me the strength to keep writing, even though I've felt like giving up…that's not going to happen anytime soon, all because you gave me words of kindness I never thought I deserved.
The evening of the massacre, when his entire village perished, Bakura remembered how the diminishing sun appeared to be drenched in blood. The outstretched crimson rays of light were like slashed arms, desperately clawing at the ground to escape death.
Now, standing across from his most fiercely loathed enemy, the Pharaoh's eyes were the exact same color. That massacre-sunset red. Did the Pharaoh's host ever realize, when his darker half had the upper hand in a duel, that his beloved spirit's eyes darkened to that lusty color? The allure of winning was just too delicious to pass up. He was the 'Game King,' after all.
Bakura hated the Pharaoh.
Oh, he hated him with every fiber of his being, every cell in his body shuddering at the mere prospect of justice. For the people of Kul Elna, that is. He fervently wished he could make that massacre-sunset red drench all over the Pharaoh's body in the unforgiving vice of death, wanted him to be covered in his people's blood.
That was essentially why he agreed to partner up with that brat Malik. They both shared an aching passion to inflict revenge on the one person whom they desperately wanted dead.
Revenge would have to wait though, Bakura realized with disdain, realizing the duel was about over. He was going to lose.
And then there was the Pharaoh, in all his sickening glory, moments away from unleashing Osiris's final attack. Bakura would be sent to the Dark Realm, Malik would have to attempt continuing his vindication solo, and meanwhile the Pharaoh would remain unscathed.
But Malik had other plans.
"Listen. If you use your host to absorb the attack, then you might make it out in one piece," Malik said with a calmness that thoroughly annoyed Bakura. "Bring him out, so then you—"
"—Shut up!" Bakura hissed at the Egyptian teen. "I'm tired of listening to your orders! I don't need your worthless 'advice.' Look where that's gotten us."
"A minor miscalculation," Malik replied, unfazed.
The spirit bristled at this. "Are you blind? A God card was summoned, you worthless shi—"
"Bakura!" the Pharaoh yelled suddenly, interrupting the duo's conversation. "Make your move!" He was growing impatient, knowing that there was nothing the white-haired spirit could do to defeat Osiris. His victory was tantalizingly near.
Bakura ripped his contemptuous gaze from Malik to stare down at his cards. He was so close to shipping the Pharaoh's ass straight to the Dark Realm, and then of course something as unlikely as a God card being summoned from the depths of hell happened. His Dark Spirit of the Silent trap card had been completely useless in possessing Osiris ("I told you it wouldn't work," Malik jeered) and had no monster on the field that would defend him from a fatal attack.
"Well the tables have finally turned in your favor, Pharaoh," the rebellious spirit said in his most patronizing tone, "and now you want things to speed up. Naturally." If he was going to lose, he might as well try to piss the Pharaoh off as much as possible. It was like blindly throwing a rock at an enemy, hoping it would land somewhere critical.
But the other Yuugi ignored Bakura's comment. "This duel is over, Bakura, and I'm sorry to say so is your chance at winning the tournament." His lips curled into a slight smirk, his more sadistic side leaking through. "I hope the Dark Realm will give you enough time to cool off."
Malik's voice sliced through Bakura's internal stewing. "Trust me, Bakura. You must separate yourself from the boy's body. The other Yuugi wouldn't attack a friend. It's the only way."
Bakura glared at the cat-eyed Egyptian. "It would probably work," he admitted, "however, that's not the way I want to get my revenge. Attaining victory through such a low trick could hardly-"
"As if you care about honor, or whatever the hell you're protesting about," Malik interrupted off-handedly. His attention was already redirected elsewhere. His kohl-rimmed eyes stared critically down at his most loyal servant, Rishid, evidently planning something.
As much as Bakura hated to admit it, Malik did have a point. He couldn't care less about how he disgraced the Pharaoh. But truthfully, there was something about the idea of breaking away from his host that particularly unnerved him.
"Now, Rishid, go."
Bakura watched as Malik's servant stepped forward from the group of spectators. He vaguely remembered that Rishid posed himself as Malik to deceive the Pharaoh and also possessed a fake Sennen rod and God card to secure the deception. ("Insurance," Malik called it).
Rishid ignored the various curses Yuugi's best friend, Jounouchi, viciously threw at him as he tilted up his head towards the Pharaoh. "You better reconsider before you choose to finish Bakura off," he said lowly.
"What?" the Pharaoh gasped. He blinked at the robed man, as if searching for further clarification. His hand was poised directly above the God card, moments away from unleashing his final attack.
He's probably wondering why this duel would concern Malik, Bakura speculated scornfully, but that impatient bastard is more annoyed at the interruption. After all, who are we to deprive him of his victory?
Rishid turned his attention to the group. "Ryou Bakura is the mind slave to the spirit of the Sennen ring," he brusquely announced. He held up his fake Sennen rod in conjunction with an unseen Malik holding up his real one and pointed it at Bakura. "Until now."
Instantaneously, Bakura felt his soul being ripped from his host's body. It was a sensation comparable to having his skin being viciously clawed by daggers, followed by being engulfed in burning ice. It only lasted a second, but it was enough to throw the spirit into shock.
Bakura was frozen silent for a moment as a sharp shudder coursed throughout his now transparent body. His mind spun from the unexpected switch.
And then everything came flooding back to him. "What the hell did you do?" he hissed at Malik, whose spirit had been floating next to him triumphantly.
The Egyptian teen tucked the Sennen rod back through his belt loop, rolling his shoulders casually. "I have just guaranteed us a victory," he answered with a flourish of his hand. "Thank me later."
When Bakura's gaze trailed back down at his physical body, his heart stopped.
In tearing Bakura's spirit out of his body, Ryou had resurfaced to consciousness. His immediate shuddering and swaying indicated the fear that grabbed at him. There was probably confusion grappling his mind as well, Bakura noted, considering he had kept his other locked away for a considerably long time. This was only for Ryou's own good, of course, because he would probably grow increasingly upset if he knew what Bakura was up to.
That, and the fact I don't need him interfering.
Ryou wasn't good at much, but he had a remarkable ability to whine incessantly. ("Why are you doing this?" "This isn't right," "Stop, it hurts—!") Bakura winced as his mind reluctantly reeled back to the last time he encountered his host face-to-face. In agreeing to partner up with Malik, it had also caused the weak tolerance Ryou had for the spirit to sever abruptly, shutting down all connection. It was when Bakura maimed their arm that Ryou had enough. The overly-sensitive teen stopped trying to communicate with Bakura, and Bakura made no effort to do anything about it. He didn't need his host's approval anyway, or acceptance, or tolerance, of all things—
"Now there's no way the Pharaoh can win," Malik smugly informed his counterpart. The two looked down at the trembling boy, one with wicked satisfaction, the other with confliction. Right from the start, Bakura knew he didn't approve of Malik's way of guaranteeing victory. He hated the Pharaoh just as much as his malicious partner, yet had no intention of acting on his hatred through using his other half as bait. Endangering his host and leaving his safety at the hands of the Pharaoh pissed him off to no end.
"Yuugi, where am I?" Ryou finally asked, his voice shrill and almost pleading. He made desperate eye contact with the Pharaoh, gripping onto his wounded arm. He momentarily lost his balance before catching himself. "Please tell me what's happening."
The boy looked thoroughly sick. He was already pale to begin with, but now held a greenish cast to his skin. Ryou bit his lip hard, perhaps fighting back to urge to break down and cry. It was painfully obvious to Bakura that his host was actually terrified, being awakened from his extended unconsciousness by a threatening God card and the howling wind. It wasn't exactly the most favorable circumstance, yet Bakura expected better from his host. Ryou was notoriously good at providing an indifferent response in the most inappropriate of situations. Like when he ripped the Sennen eye out of Pegasus' head. All Ryou really said about it was, "Well, that's rather unfortunate," accompanied by a stiff shrug. It confused Bakura at first, but then he came to realize that Ryou was just a weird kid. Or maybe in denial. Either way, the boy's frantic attempt to conceal tears somehow disturbed the ancient spirit.
Has he finally lost it?
"Yuugi…" Ryou called out again, almost inaudibly this time. Bakura could hear the exhausted thoughts of his host, one particularly standing out from being pondered on several times: Am I going to die?
This thought annoyed Bakura. Did Ryou really think that the spirit would actually let him—?
Bakura narrowed his eyes at his host. You've never trusted me. As if my promise to you never existed.
The promise of guaranteeing the boy's safety. Not that Ryou ever had a reason to believe him (perhaps any trust he might have had was blown away by that arm-injuring stunt), yet Bakura felt an icy stab of rejection. Not particularly because Ryou believed he might die, but because he called out for the other Yuugi, of all damned people. Ryou was his vessel, whether they liked it or not, and certainly not that bastard Pharaoh's. It was wrong, so wrong, on too many levels to count. How could you think I'd let you die? The Pharaoh's the one that's going to hurt you, not me.
"Bakura," the Pharaoh finally acknowledged, his voice softening in recognition of Yuugi's friend. His crimson eyes melted in sympathy, and it made the spirit's gut wrench up in disgust. Don't look at him like that!
"My arm…" Ryou choked out. He finally fell to his knees, being overcome with the aching in his bicep. Bakura had been able to endure the consistent throbbing just fine, yet Ryou seemed to have a horrible tolerance for it.
"Stand up!" Bakura wanted to scream at his other. The way he trembled like a grass blade in the wind nauseated him. Bakura could see the ripples of pain shuddering throughout the wounded boy's body as he clasped tightly onto his blood-soaked arm. The injury had broken open again, unleashing tiny rivers of blood which leaked through the bandage.
Everything was off about his host, and it completely perplexed and annoyed Bakura. True, he had never been quite himself after they stopped talking to one another, but now Ryou's change could not go unnoticed. It was like he had given up.
"As expected, the Pharaoh isn't attacking," Malik cut in with a relatively pleasant tone. "Just like I thought."
"Malik, you asshole," Bakura growled, "The duel can't go at a standstill for much longer. The Pharaoh would not sacrifice his advancement for my host. I can promise you that."
"Yuugi!" one of the announcers yelled on cue, "You must take action within one minute or you will be forced to forfeit the duel!"
"Hmm…let's find out," Malik grinned, completely unconcerned.
The Pharaoh's furious gaze flicked from the announcer, to Ryou, and then to the ground, perhaps listening to what his host was saying. He looked thoroughly conflicted.
"Yuugi!" Jounouchi shouted, practically falling over the railing of the platform while waving to catch his attention, "You can't attack the good Bakura! He won't make the attack!"
"I know that!" the Pharaoh snapped, his eyebrows pinching together in frustration. His hand wavered over his duel disk once more, literally a command away from blowing Ryou off the platform with Osiris's blast. Bakura shuddered from the anger coursing through his veins.
Ryou's eyes were hollow as he lowered his head. A realization struck him. "I'm in your way of winning, aren't I?" he asked softly. The boy sounded thoroughly exhausted.
The Pharaoh hesitated. "I don't want you to get hurt," he responded instead. If Bakura were tangible, he would have ripped Malik's Sennen rod out of his hand, unsheathed it, and hurled it at the monstrous liar that stood a short distance away. How dare he lead Ryou to think that he actually cared. A low growl began rumbling in the back of Bakura's throat. Malik lifted an eyebrow at the spirit.
The boy's attention was now on his arm, watching in morbid fascination as blood dripped off his elbow. He gaped in silence before resolving to speak. "Just attack me, Yuugi," he finally said, quiet but devoid of any emotion. Bakura could hear a faint thought floating aimlessly in his host's mind: I don't want to be a burden anymore…
"You have thirty seconds!" the announcer shouted out, his voice projecting as a gunshot.
Bakura glared down at his host, cursing him silently.
"Relax," Malik said with maddening calmness. "As long as the boy is in control, nothing will probably happen until the Pharaoh runs out of time. We are less than thirty seconds away from seeing him off to the Dark Realm."
"This is not something I want to gamble on," Bakura seethed to Malik. Ra, the kid was so blatantly obnoxious.
"You're not listening. The Pharaoh's too much of a coward to strike. He wouldn't dare."
Bakura could feel a thin film of sweat erupt over his brow line. Every second that passed watching his host made him increasingly uneasy. He hated this feeling that jabbed at him, yet it couldn't have been helped—Ryou's safety was no longer in his hands, but the Pharaoh's.
"And besides," Malik said dismissively, "If the boy does get hit, it'll probably only do psychological damage—"
Words that were once spoken—an infinitely long time ago—resurfaced from Bakura's thoughts as clearly as a scream amidst silence: / "In return for your body, I'll make sure you are always safe. No harm will come to you…"/
The spirit recoiled from the violent slap of memory. Damn it, he made a promise to his host, and even despite slightly breaking that promise before, and no matter how disgusted he got with Ryou's weakness at times, he could not let this one act of danger pass. The boy was already at his sanity's end from the extended confinement, and any further stress would likely break him to irreparable pieces.
Before Bakura allowed logic to counteract his instincts, he found himself standing adjacent to his host. Ryou didn't see him, his eyes vacant and glassy from the pain.
Malik's nonchalant drawl transformed into a more menacing tone. "Bakura," he hissed warningly.
"I can't let this happen."
"What the hell are you doing?"
"This is quite a stunt you've pulled, brat," Bakura answered dryly, before fading back into his host's body, "but this is one risk I'm not willing to take."
The spirit of the ring opened his eyes, back in his host's body. He could feel Ryou immediately sinking back into unconsciousness, relieved from the release in pain.
Bakura's gaze slowly traced to the Pharaoh's slightly conflicted face. He made sure to let it be known that he reclaimed possession of Ryou's body by allowing his usual sneer to twist his features, exposing his sharp canines.
"I'm back," he grinned viciously, his eyes piercing through the Pharaoh. "Let's finish this."
"The evil Bakura took over again!" Jounouchi announced incredulously to the group. What was he now, the unofficial announcer? Bakura could feel everyone's eyes darting over to him angrily.
Let's get it over with. I never wanted to get Landlord involved with any of this and now I'm making sure it stays that way.
The Pharaoh glared at the white-haired menace. "You are back," he agreed. "So that means I have no problem defeating you." Bakura inwardly noted with relish how much contempt was filled within his opponent's words.
"Think about what you're doing, you moron!" Malik furiously shouted, his violet eyes narrowed to slits, "You're letting him win!"
Bakura chose to ignore the furious shouts from Malik as he clenched his fists. "Do it! Just attack me! I admit that I've lost, and I accept that for now." His wolfish grin widened, which seemed to heighten the Pharaoh's annoyance.
"Fine," he hissed, lashing his arm out. "Osiris! Finish Bakura off by attacking his life points directly!" With a deafening roar, a massive coil of energy erupted from the monster's jaws before it hurled the attack at the spirit.
A rumble of laughter stirred inside Bakura's chest before it came out in sharp, barking stabs.
"Pharaoh!" the ghostly pale spirit shouted over Osiris' screeching, spreading his arms out wide, "This isn't over yet! It will never be over until you're the one who winds up in hell!"
Bakura threw his head back in maddening explosions of laughter, awaiting the attack to engulf him. The Pharaoh was an idiot, didn't he get it? This loss was only a minor inconvenience. If there was one thing he was absolutely certain on, it was that he would never let the Pharaoh inflict any real damage, (especially on his host), and he would never let the Pharaoh claim a final victory over him.
I'll come back, Bakura thought vehemently, eagerly, as the overwhelming mass of light began to overtake him, I'll always come back.
And then everything became painfully, blindingly white.
The state of drifting, of gently floating through warm darkness, lulled Ryou's mind into a delicate balance of the dream world and reality.
Each breath felt like the soft swaying of a boat on a balmy summer afternoon, each breath giving him a rhythm that allowed his thoughts to be consumed by the innnn and oooout of air. There was also a reluctant awareness of a steady throb gnawing insistently on his arm, travelling from his bicep to his fingertips, and back up through the bloodstream to reach his temples. The heavy pumping of blood pounded against the sides of Ryou's head and around his upper arm again, reminding him consistently that pain cannot be ignored. But despite the foggy state he was in, a single coherent thought drifted lazily to the forefront of his mind.
Could anyone actually die from a Duel Monsters' tournament? It didn't seem possible. And yet, staring up into the face of what seemed to be a living, vicious dragon the size of a skyscraper…
Ryou chose to numb his thoughts by drifting back into his safe bubble of a dream world, forcing himself to be consumed by more pleasant circumstances. He could pretend he was on a boat, perhaps sailing away. He would coast along a quiet ocean, not really having a destination other than to be away, to simply hide.
Eventually he could actually begin to see the imaginary world his mind had built, springing to life from the vibrant expanse of blue ocean and sky, occasionally interwoven with a wisp of white cloud. He could smell the salty tang of the sea and feel the spray on his face and neck…
No, that was actually a washcloth being wiped gently across his skin, perhaps in an attempt to cool him down.
Ryou was vaguely roused out of his half-dream from the human contact and the sporadic real-world sounds that reached his ears. He could pick up on the shuffle of curtains being drawn, detect the fading light behind his closed lids. There was maybe a soft hum coming from someone—was it Anzu?—as objects were shifted, arranged. For a fleeting second, the warm, tingling feeling of human flesh ghosted over his forehead. Brushing the bangs away.
Ryou's mind shifted back, way back, to when he was a child. He remembered he had a mother, once. She had the purest, most startling blue eyes. They would look down at him with such care and simple love, and brush away his bangs, just like that…
The soothing, absentminded humming returned in momentary bursts, calm and beautiful like rain droplets cascading from the sky in the morning. It lulled the boy back into his dream world voyage out at sea, him in his feeble boat, venturing out into the forever stretch of blue. His mother's eye color sort of blue. Ryou reached out his hand, collecting a small puddle of water in his cradled palm. He lifted the cupped hand to his mouth, letting the liquid spill past his lips. It tasted salty, like tears. Ryou was reminded then of the aching, rooted deep within his body, his mind, which refused to go away.
The soles of shoes padded across the floor, the muffled sound echoing from a greater distance than before. His caretaker had left the room, although Ryou didn't want her to go. He briefly considered turning his boat around, having a fleeting desire to coast closer along the shores of consciousness and call out. But with that came increasing pain, and he certainly didn't want that.
So the dream world embraced the exhausted boy, wrapping its comforting arms around his body and pulled him in.
The gentle swaying of the boat as the soft wind strung it along made Ryou feel relaxed. The waters were calm, and overhead, a bright sun poured warmth from within the pleasant dome of the dream world. Here, Ryou felt safe and secure. It contrasted profoundly with the fear that nearly tore him apart when he was seconds away from being devoured by the shadows…now how long ago was that?
"There was once a boy who believed in magic."
Ryou's head snapped up, attention yanked as a familiar voice reverberated off invisible walls.
"Bakura?" Ryou's back straightened, listening. His shoulders were tense, as he wondered feverishly where his darker half was. Did he somehow get into his dream? Ryou's mind fleetingly jerked back to the final moments he was conscious, when he prepared himself to get blasted away by a God's beam of energy, only to see Bakura flash in front of him to deflect the hit. Bakura, in all his sadistic glory, arms spread, head thrown back in a fit of defiance as his spirit ripped to shreds in the dying seconds of the duel. And because of that, Ryou was still alive.
He would have wondered what tore the spirit from his body in the first place, yet a more pertinent question arose which begged to be asked: Why did Bakura fling himself in front of the attack that was so obviously meant for Ryou?
"Where are you?" Ryou found himself calling out. He knew the spirit had to be somewhere, and yet sounded so out of reach.
Bakura didn't answer him, proceeding with his story instead.
"He believed in good magic, naturally, because he was a good boy." There was a scoff here, as if the spirit seemed amused by the idea.
"Bakura—just answer me! Where are you?" Ryou's eyes quickly scanned around him, yet saw nothing but the great stretch of water pooling around him.
It was like the spirit resided in an entirely different world. As if he didn't even hear Ryou's cries, trance-like in his narration. But that voice belonged to Bakura, undoubtedly, laced with a healthy dose of indifference with every word that bounced off invisible walls. He sounded far away, almost as if he were treading slowly along the outskirts of one of Ryou's chaotic dreams.
But did he even know Ryou was there?
"One day," Bakura continued, "his father told the boy about a gift he bought him from a distant land, promising him that the gift was made of the finest gold which was rumored, when held up to the light, to shine as brightly as a thousand suns."
Bakura had to be residing nearby now. He must have been moving around, wherever he was at. His voice was suddenly closer, drifting directly to Ryou's ears as a low murmur. As if whispering a secret to an accomplice.
"The boy thought it was a magic lamp. He believed a genie would be in it, and soon he would be granted a wish."
Ryou flushed, remembering this. When his father first told him he got his son a magical artifact from Egypt, he kept thinking it was a magic lamp that would grant him a wish. He knew it was nonsense to be thinking such childish things, yet his mind was raked with such desperation he clung onto any shred of hope he could find. His life was miserable, and made even more bleak after the car crash that instantaneously killed his mother and sister. Deprived of any friends or interaction with the outside world, Ryou lived in a small bubble of safety that was his apartment, and rarely ventured outside it. So really, delirious with the possibility that his life might change with a single wish, Ryou easily knew what he desired…
"He wanted his family back," the spirit breathed. "He missed them very much. He was a lonely child."
Loneliness did strange things to Ryou. He often wondered if it was normal to absorb himself obsessively with whatever hobby he took on at the moment. One week it would be origami, the other puzzles, and then RPGs…the list was endless. His father called them his "phases." Ryou would sit huddled in his room, his mind completely consumed by whatever he was working on. He remembered during his origami phase, he was immersed in a project to fold a thousand paper cranes, adhering to the Japanese tradition that making that many would grant the folder a wish. Ryou gave up after folding 592 cranes when a drink spilled over half of them. He remembered watching as the delicate paper withered from the liquid, shriveling beyond repair. He never made an attempt to continue origami after that.
But hearing about potentially getting what he was so sure was a magic lamp ignited a new, wild hope inside of him.
"Upon receiving his gift, the boy didn't quite get what he expected," the spirit said, as if reading the boy's thoughts. "Nevertheless, the golden treasure was beautiful, and it did in fact contain a spirit."
Ryou was too caught up in the narration to continue wondering why Bakura couldn't hear him. The memory of first discovering the spirit was a little more painful than disappointment itself. How he quickly became aware that the spirit inside his new ring was not a passive one, and absolutely refused to be ignored.
"Again, the spirit was not what the boy expected, just like his new treasure."
No, the spirit turned out to become one of Ryou's most terrifying nightmares turned into a reality. His seductive whisper rapidly transformed into a horrifying yell the moment Ryou even thought about taking off the ring which hung around his neck as heavily as a death sentence. The punishment was immediate and brutal: five long, dagger-like prongs pierced through his skin and held on tightly, guaranteeing that the item would never be taken off. Ryou quickly learned to be obedient to the spirit, yet loathed him every step of the way.
"Instead of a genie, this spirit once was human too. Now, resurrected, he had a mission, and needed the boy's body to accomplish that." Bakura paused here, a secret smile in his voice. "The boy became the spirit's landlord."
That reference always disturbed Ryou. It was so technical and made his body seem like nothing more than a vessel or room. Which to Bakura, that's all it probably was. Yet hearing the allusion was always unpleasant, and caused a fresh wave of resentment to flood the boy's senses. There was maybe a small period of time when he understood the name "Landlord" was a term of odd affection, yet that was quickly turned against him when the spirit decided that any sort of emotional connection with the boy would be meaningless. He made that clear the day that he—
"Or so the story goes," Bakura sighed, oblivious to the boy's reflection. Ryou could imagine him stretching his arms behind his back, firm muscles coiling beneath his alabaster skin. The spirit paused slightly, maybe thinking of something, before breaking into a laugh. It wasn't his usual mocking one, but almost as if he were laughing at himself. "I must be rambling because I'm just so damn tired."
Okay, so that definitely clarified that Bakura wasn't aware of Ryou's presence. Where was he? Why was he tired? It didn't matter. He would never admit such a thing to anyone, even to his supposed "landlord."
Ryou tried to grab the spirit's attention again. "Bakura, listen to me—"
"But anyway. Fortunately for the boy, this tenant understood that it wouldn't be fair to use up such precious space without payment," Bakura continued. "So he agreed to grant the boy whatever he desired. In that way, he was acting as a sort of genie."
Ryou frowned as he settled back in his boat. Yeah, right. Bakura may have agreed to adhere to whatever the boy requested in one way or the other, yet it always ended up going against him in the end. Even if he didn't specifically ask for something, (usually because it would have been absurd to do so), Bakura ensured the boy's request would be fulfilled in some twisted way. Ryou would never forget the time he absently wished for a moment playing with friends to last forever, and so the spirit granted his wish all too eagerly. Ryou still remembered the looks of horror painted on his new RPG dolls' faces, which hosted his ex-friends' captured souls. ("I just want to make you happy, Landlord," the spirit said with a slight edge of sarcasm, "Aren't you happy with what I do for you?")
Ryou made sure to be extra careful with his list of "wants" after that. Still, there were two things that he truly wanted that he knew Bakura would never give him…
The spirit finished Ryou's thought. "The boy remembered his wish for his family, that now becoming a faraway, faded-out memory. Because, naturally, other issues grew of larger importance to him."
"Stop," Ryou called out. He clapped his hands over his ears, but it was useless. "I don't want to hear this anymore!" He wished he could leap out of the boat and run away from his other's narration of a story he knew all too well. It didn't take much time with the spirit until his wish for his family was smothered by a more immediate desire.
The spirit didn't skip a beat. "Now he longed for freedom. He wanted to break away from this spirit, his own twisted form of a genie, and be the only owner to his body again."
Ryou tasted bitterness in his mouth. The spirit robbed him from his body, how could he forget? If only Ryou knew exactly what was going to happen to him the moment he found out that a spirit resided in the depths of the Sennen ring. He would have thrown it into the ocean, and hope that it would become buried beneath the sand and debris.
Well, that's not entirely true. Maybe, just maybe, Ryou wouldn't have minded the whole ordeal so much because he was lonely, and ached for any sort of interaction with another person. If only he had the sort of relationship with Bakura that he was convinced Yuugi had with his other…
But no, Bakura proved time and time again, that he despised him and wanted nothing to do with him except use his body.
I can't believe I trusted you at one point. You promised to protect me. I know I said I didn't believe you, but that was a lie. I wanted to trust you, Bakura, but you made that impossible the day you injured me.
He remembered looking into the spirit's rich amber eyes and begging him to reconsider teaming up with Malik. To ignore the plan to slice open his arm just to snatch a little of the enemy's trust. But Bakura simply stared back at him, as if to say, "Now why would I ever listen to you?"
He suddenly had a delirious urge to scream, as loud as his hollow body would allow, and have only the ocean to hungrily swallow up the retching of sound. He kept getting the unshakable feeling that he was betrayed. And it hurt him so bad, to think that the spirit knew him more than anyone else in the world yet hated him.
Bakura chose to directly address Ryou now, despite not being aware of his presence. The web the spirit was spinning from his story was now ripped down, abruptly and unceremoniously with a shift in his voice. "Well, Landlord, you may have received your wish."
And then that contempt that Ryou so strongly held for the spirit vanished. He was ripped back to the present, not the past, and the fact was, despite the pain he always endured from the malicious spirit, he was still starving for some sort of connection.
"What are you talking about?" Ryou asked, even as he knew he wouldn't be answered. Bakura continued on with his narration seamlessly.
"To tell the truth—and we both know this is shaky territory—I'm not entirely certain I can make it out of here. I know there's this constant blackness that keeps grabbing me and wants to pull me down—but where? I don't know."
What was "here," exactly? Where was Bakura? Maybe what disturbed him even more, was that Ryou had every nuance in the spirit's voice memorized, and something definitely sounded off. His ears picked up on the nearly inaudible dips and tremors barely present in such seemingly careless statements, tossed out like a days' old newspaper. What was Bakura actually feeling?
Ryou could imagine the spirit defiantly tossing his head to the side, the gesture that exuded his "see-if-I-care" attitude.
"Well, I just might let that happen. It's not that much different than existing in the ring for thousands of years. The waiting. The drifting. One second stretches into millions, millions of seconds shrink into one. And after a while, I wouldn't be a living, thinking entity, I would simply be, with only the faintest awareness that a shred of my soul is still conscious." An exhale released abruptly, as if it had been held in for a long time. "I've been through worse."
Ryou could feel his stomach twisting in shock. "Are you actually giving up?" No, there was no way this was Bakura. He would never even imply such a thing. There was no way. That was a complete lie. Bakura was so impossibly single-minded, and he would never stop if his goal wasn't reached. Never.
A realization struck Ryou, his eyes widening in horror. He finally made the connection. "You're in the Dark Realm," he breathed. He had forgotten that Bakura and the Pharaoh were in the midst of a Dark Game, and the loser always had to face damaging consequences.
If this was true, then everything would make a little more sense. Maybe it was only in this strange sort of dream world that he had limited access to Bakura…but at the same time, the spirit clearly couldn't hear a word Ryou said either. Did that mean that Bakura was actually talking to himself?
"Once in the Dark Realm, you slowly begin to lose your mind…" Bakura had once informed his host. "It doesn't take long for the victim to forget who he is, or what he once stood for."
Ryou doubled over in shock of this memory. Even while Bakura sounded relatively unconcerned at the effects of the Dark Realm, one couldn't deny it was a thought that would frighten even the toughest of individuals. Was the spirit finally being torn apart, driven to a slow and painful insanity by the shadows?
"Bakura, you've got to snap out of it!" Ryou yelled suddenly, his boat nearly tipping over from the abrupt movement. Damn it, if only he could actually locate where the spirit was…
"Back to the story," Bakura said, the boy's words not reaching his ears as usual. He broke out into a single chuckle, although to Ryou it was devoid of humor. It was more like a dying cough. "The relationship between landlord and tenant was strained. The tenant tried to pay his landlord with safety, with protection,"—Bakura's voice dipped lower—"but that sort of currency wasn't accepted. The landlord turned away from this offer, asking for something unattainable instead. He wanted to break the contract, even though he knew it wasn't a possibility."
That was when Ryou lied to the spirit and indicated he didn't want his protection. In turn, the spirit completely turned his back on him, disregarding any transgression he inflicted no matter how painful. Ryou really wished he could have told him the truth before their relationship grew even more frigid. There were always so many misunderstandings between them. That was now irrelevant though, because he wanted Bakura to pull out of his trance instead of letting him relive past events.
"I'm right here, Bakura! Listen to—"
"Eventually, the tenant became all right with that," Bakura said. "If the landlord refused his payment, then fine. He had no trouble with being just a parasite. So when harm undoubtedly came knocking on the landlord's door, the tenant shouldn't have cared."
Once more, the spirit pulled out of his narration and directed his attention to Ryou. "In other words, I had no intention of saving you, Landlord. Did you know that? Probably." There was an extended pause. "Only…that's not entirely the truth."
Ryou tilted his head towards the source of the voice, his eyebrows pinching together uncertainly. It wasn't?
"In theory, you're not worth saving. You're more of an inconvenience than anything."
Ryou frowned. I think I've received the message loud and clear, Bakura.
"That's why Malik thought separating us during the duel was the smartest decision. Hopefully the Pharaoh wouldn't hurt you, which would guarantee me a victory."
So Malik caused the split in the first place. That left Bakura with the uncomfortable decision of choosing whether or not he would be willing to gamble Ryou's safety. The obvious answer should have been yes.
Bakura's voice lowered angrily. "But I knew the Pharaoh would attack you. When it all comes down to it, it's his progression in the tournament versus your well-being. Take a guess which holds far more value to him."
Ryou didn't know how deeply the Pharaoh debated this conflict in his head, but he couldn't say he blamed him for wanting to finish him off. Ryou was just one person, and he knew he didn't really matter much to anyone. And besides, surrendering the duel would probably endanger Yuugi, which he knew the Pharaoh would never allow. So he braced himself for the pain, knowing it was better him than anyone else. But then, when he realized Bakura took the attack in place of him, he was more than surprised, to say the least. He still didn't know why the spirit would ever do such a thing. How did he benefit from it?
"According to this plan Malik set up, I would still be of help to him no matter what the outcome of the duel was. If the Pharaoh by some unlikely chance doesn't strike, then of course I win. On the flip side, allowing you to take a fatal blow from Osiris would reserve me enough energy to transfer myself to a more stable place. And then I could continue working with him."
Bakura stopped with the smooth rhythm of his explanation, letting his words shrivel as he said them. Ryou wished he could see the spirit's face right now, just to see how serious he was being. Yet he had no reason not to believe him. For once, the mocking edge to his voice was replaced with a strange sort of soberness that sounded odd to the boy's ears.
So why didn't you let me take the blow? Ryou wanted to ask.
But the spirit decided to skip ahead to the final result. "This is what I was thinking as I received the attack. The overwhelming sensation of power, wrapping around me in an unrelenting vice, and then squeezing out every cell in my body, can't be described by anything other than violation," he said, distant as his mind reeled back to a branded image. "There was a moment where I suddenly realized that I, for once, had no control. My time was up."
"Bakura," the boy called out, knowing it was useless in doing so. The spirit seemed so far out of reach, so far gone…
"There was also a terrifying moment when I realized your experience as my landlord must have been oddly similar." Bakura's voice was fading away now, as gradually as Ryou realized that he could once more hear footsteps treading closer and closer to him from outside the delirium of his dream world. He was overcome with the urge to fight off consciousness though, wanting to shout furiously to his mind, "No! Let me hear this part!"
"It appears, I think, that we—landlord and tenant, parasite and host— are capable of feeling the same things after all."
Bakura began to laugh. Nothing was funny, yet the spirit seemed entertained by something. Ryou could feel a sharp stinging grappling his chest, and somehow he knew his darker half was contending with real agony from wherever he lingered.
"The shadows are alive, Landlord, and they're swallowing me whole. I don't know what will happen as I'm confined to this darkness—to this imprisonment. It's all horribly ironic, don't you think?"
Ryou strained his ears to pick up on anything else, yet Bakura seemed to drift farther and farther away. He knew it was because of his awakening mind, being roused by outside voices and additional shuffling footsteps. As his dream world began to collapse, Ryou became terrified he would never get to hear the rest of what Bakura had to say. There was something else, he knew there was…
"And this is the part where I tell you that I was foolish to sacrifice myself for a host I don't care about, that…if he were hurt, then I could just look the other way and not think anything of it."
Ryou winced. This was undoubtedly the truth. Of all the times Bakura had destroyed their weak formation of trust, had deceived him in one way or the other—
"But no," the spirit murmured, his voice close to meshing with the stillness of the air. Ryou's head snapped up. What?
A few more seconds stretched in humming silence, filling in the cracks and crevices of Ryou's mind, lingering… and finally shattering to pieces when a string of syllables whispered ever so quietly to the boy:
"If given the chance, I would do it again."
A/N: Remember, a review brightens any writer's day! Tell me if you liked this more or less than "Landlord"! Or just tell me if you simply like/dislike it! :]