"The term 'dialogism' is most commonly used to denote the quality of an instance of discourse that explicitly acknowledges that it is defined by its relationship to other instances, both past, to which it responds, and future, whose response it anticipates." – The Living Handbook of Narratology
The moment he hits the ground I feel it too. The pain, the shock, the complete lack of consciousness and self-awareness stabs at me as if a sword had just been driven through my chest, and without being able to fully explain why I find myself buckled over, heaving out buckets of air. I wrap my arms tight around my torso, as if in an attempt to keep him out, and even though I was not his intended victim it feels like he has somehow snaked his way up through my brainstem as well.
Suddenly I'm in my office in Japan, idly letting the Millennium Eye slide between my fingers and wondering how it is that one piece of ancient gold can render people so completely vulnerable and intensely helpless.
For a moment I'm looking over my shoulder at the sunset-splattered colors of the destruction of KaibaCorp Island as it rears like a beast towards the horizon then collapses back into the shore. I can bite down and taste blood and I imagine it is the blood of everything I have destroyed and abandoned.
For an instant my vision blurs and I feel like I've been bound in a stranger's skin, unwilling or unable to face the fact that I will never meet the standards of success that I set for myself, that there will always be a competitor who is one precarious breath away from obliterating me completely. I act like I despise him for the fact that he can defeat me, but honestly I only despise myself.
Suddenly I'm standing in Pegasus' dingy basement, only able to look on in rancor and terror as the life force of the only person I have ever loved and longed to protect is robbed from me. And I am completely impotent, as immobilized and useless as a ghost. As his spirit goes I feel mine draining as well, as if my spirit was dependent on his. As if he was somehow furnishing me with energy, keeping me alive.
For a moment I'm standing on the table in the boardroom, my eyes burning a hole in the broken window. My hands are still hot, and I can feel the neat spider web trails of blood dripping down my fingers and falling like raindrops on the pristine white carpet floor. I don't turn around—some kind of unspoken rule book has passed between us and I can feel the environment in the room changing by the second. Everyone is calculating, trying to determine how they can manipulate the latest turn of events to their best advantage. And it doesn't take me long to realize that I have come out the loser. They now have a secret on me, and with that the power to control me. In the end I have just exchanged one cage and set of handcuffs for another.
For an instant I am seeing Noa for the last time, though I do not know it. Gozaburo pats me on the back, tells me I should be glad that I have won. I should be proud. Noa was the first of many adversaries that I will face, and my ruthlessness and exacting lack of empathy will certainly prove invaluable as I face the second set of challenges. I wonder where they are taking him, that little boy with the wide vacant eyes , but it doesn't occur to me to ask. I guess that I don't want to know.
Suddenly Mokuba is grabbing my hand at our father's funeral, and I know that in that gesture he is investing in me the role of father. In his hand I hold the responsibility to be kind, to be wise, to be put his interests always above my own and to protect him. I know that I have already failed to live up to these expectations, and at the thought that I have failed my first self-administered performance evaluation I grimace and feel close to fainting.
And, at last, I am standing on the palace steps, and under the expectant and misery-soaked eyes of my new subjects, I take the Millennium puzzle and hurl it to the ground. As it shatters into dozens of sun drenched golden pieces I realize that I have finally freed myself from the shackles of helplessness, from the continuous cycle of oppression, corruption, and misery.
At the last memory I jerk back into consciousness as if having been submerged in icy water. For I feel that I have made some gross violation—I have stolen someone else's memory and therefore stolen part of his life as well.
Or has he stolen mine?
I watch with wide eyes as he battles with the beast inside him, wrestling himself to the ground and writhing with agony as his body attempts to destroy everything that his mind and his heart hold dear. I watch as he toys with self-destruction, wanting to destroy the source of his unhappiness and his anger and realizing with revulsion that it has all originated within himself. I watch as he wills himself to be free of some nameless evil, some persistent doom that has haunted him his entire life and worked its way through his subconscious like a parasite.
With every moment he becomes closer to liberation, and each step he takes makes me feel somehow lighter, more exposed and raw. Vulnerable. It feels as if I am opening some door within myself that I had long ago locked and forgotten, and now the hinges are screaming and coated in rust.
And then there is a breaking point. Like the sun cracking over the horizon and burning away the final traces of night, something shatters within me and seems to reverberate all around. Standing before me is the same man, and objectively I can see that his features are similar enough to mine to mistake us for twins. But I can no longer recognize him. Face clear and composed, eyes sparkling, the faintest glimmer of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips—he is the same and yet completely transformed.
He regards me in silence for a moment, face painted with a look that speaks of both pride and sympathy. Then he slowly turns away, calling over his shoulder in a voice that slides like silk and echoes like iron, "You're welcome."
I stand rooted in my spot for a moment longer, stunned as if struck by lightning, and shivering, feeling that my mass has been reduced by half. I watch as his figure retreats into the distant sun, and can feel with certainty that our paths will not cross again. Voice shaking and senses still off balance, I utter my reply.
I finally made it to the end! This chapter was definitely the hardest to write—I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be some kind of confrontation between Seto and his former self but it took me a while to find a good way of going about it.
I hope you have all enjoyed this story. I have enjoyed writing it. Many of these chapters have taken on a kind of semi-autobiographical meaning to me, and I've often felt like I was writing a diary more than writing fan fiction. So for all the people who have given me positive feedback on those chapters—thank you—it has meant a lot to me.