"You coming, Yugi?"
Yugi looked up from the card house she was working on and shook her head at the tall teen in the doorway. She had no intention of joining the guys in playing basketball. Not only was she really bad at boy's sports like rugby and basketball, but she was under five foot and nowhere near tall enough to play with the guys.
Of course most of her classmates just thought she was just being antisocial. Not many of them looked past the boy's uniform to realise that she was a girl, something that she supposed she understood, even as it frustrated her. It wouldn't be so bad if she could afford a bespoke uniform, but it just wasn't possible to get a girls' uniform to fit her on the kind of money her grandfather's shop made.
The problem was that she was small and underdeveloped for her age. That combined that with the fact that she kept her hair short because she had no interest in dealing with any sort of complicated style meant she could kind of understand why everyone thought she was a guy.
Everyone except Anzu that was. Anzu had been her friend for a long time and, while she too had made that mistake to start with, the two had become fast friends as the pair of them had found things that they both enjoyed and had worked on it from there.
Of course Yugi was aware that Anzu didn't share her interest in games, just as she didn't have the same passion Anzu did for dancing, but they had enough in common that they had plenty to talk about.
That didn't mean that Yugi didn't feel lonely on those days like today when Anzu was off with her other friends, leaving Yugi on her own. However it did give her an opportunity to work on something.
Once her classmates had gone out to have their lunch, Yugi pulled her bento and a golden box out of her bag, taking the lid off and examining the objects within, picking out one of the golden pieces and letting the sunlight drifting in the window cause it to appear to glow.
The Puzzle had been a present from her Grandfather and she'd been working on in for the last eight years. It wasn't that she was bad at puzzles, quite the opposite in fact. She could complete the world's largest puzzle, made up of twenty four thousand pieces, in less than a day.
It was that the Puzzle was three-dimensional, making it ridiculously complicated and if she wasn't incredibly careful the pieces tended to fall out of place and once one piece fell out the rest would follow in short measure. According to the hieroglyphics on the side of the box, was called the Millennium Puzzle. Not a particularly difficult name to remember, but she couldn't help but wonder if it was supposed to take that long to complete.
Of course it would go much faster if…
"What have you got there?"
Yugi scrambled to her feet as Katsuya Jonouchi grabbed the golden box off of the table and examined its contents.
"Give it back!" Yugi protested, trying to grab it from him, frustrated when the blonde teenager held it high above her head where she couldn't reach it, even if she jumped.
"Geeze, only a girl would care about a box." Jonouchi snorted, causing Yugi to let out a soft, frustrated snort. These two had been causing her trouble for over a year now and they still hadn't worked out that she WAS a girl, "You want it back then give me all you've got."
"I'm not going to fight you, Jonouchi." Yugi shook her head at the blonde, reaching up for her box, concerned that, if he chucked it around, as he was prone to doing with the rest of her stuff, that some of the pieces would fall out and she'd never see them again. "Please, give it back."
"What is this, anyway?" Jonouchi asked, picking out a piece and examining it. Yugi froze, afraid that he'd toss it away. "Boring." The much larger teen commented, dismissively, "Here Honda. Catch."
The blonde threw it to his brunette friend, Hiroto Honda, only for it to be interrupted midflight by the outstretched hand of one Mizaki Anzu. "If it's so boring, then give it back to Yugi." She said with a scowl before chasing the boys out of the room. "You alright, Yugi?" She asked, setting the box down on the table and sitting down on the chair opposite her, "You know, if you told them you're a girl they'd leave you alone."
"I tried that, I don't think they heard me." Yugi sighed as she slipped the first few pieces of the Puzzle into place without even thinking about it, "They say they're trying to teach me to be a man." Yugi chuckled slightly, "I might appreciate it more if I actually was a guy."
"If you were a guy like them, I don't think we'd be friends." Anzu informed her, "Jonouchi and Honda are idiots."
"I'm not so sure they are." Yugi shook her head, having watched the pair over the last couple of weeks. That they had bad grades was obvious, but as far as she could tell, they weren't actually stupid. They were just street smart, rather than book smart. On the other hand, they were among the masses that were completely oblivious to her true gender.
Anzu just smiled at her, humouring the much smaller teenager, unconvinced of the truth of her words. She recognised the box however, having seen it before, "So, working on the Puzzle again?"
"Who does she think she's talking to?" Jonouchi demanded as he and Honda stomped down the corridor, "Calling us bullies?"
"Uh, Jonouchi, that would be us." Honda snorted back at his friend, wondering what the blonde saw in the runty boy who acted so feminine. Before he could ask, however, the pair of them crashed into someone and bounced off, hitting the floor.
The person in question, the hall monitor, Ushio, just glowered at them as they tried to pick themselves up.
"What were you saying about bullies?" Ushio demanded.
"Nothing, you..." Honda put his hand over Jonouchi's mouth.
"Nothing at all." Honda told the hall monitor, who nodded and moved on. Only when Ushio was safely out of sight did the brunette move his hand.
"What was that for?" Jonouchi demanded, scowling irritably.
"Pick your fights, man." Honda waved off his friend's irritation, "He makes the rules here. Even the teachers are too scared to disagree with him."
Jonouchi kicked a wall in frustration. Ushio claimed to be anti-bullying and yet the hall monitor wasn't beyond pushing people around in his own way. The two of them had butted heads many times over the years…
Then he remembered what was in his hand. "Hey Honda, look at this."
Jonouchi opened his hand to reveal a piece of the Puzzle that Yugi had been working on. "I snatched a piece of Yugi's puzzle while he wasn't looking. If he's even missing one piece, he can't complete it, right?"
Honda just nodded.
"So I'll just do this…" Jonouchi chucked the Puzzle piece, whose eye glinted in the sunlight, into the aqueduct far below.
"That's great." Honda chuckled.
Jonouchi just nodded as they headed for the canteen.
"You're Yugi, aren't you?"
Yugi froze at the sound of the voice, wincing as she worked out who it was. She actively avoided the huge hall monitor if she could help it, he made her nervous, and him seeking her out wasn't a good thing.
"U…Ushio?" She stammered as she turned to look at him, nervously looking up at the older teen who was, at least from her perspective, at least twice as tall as she was an built like a brick outhouse.
"I just wanted to ask you something." Ushio said as he pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning on. "Have you been being bullied by certain members of your class?"
"No." Yugi blinked, confused, not quite understanding why Ushio would be asking, especially considering his reputation, and, though Jonouchi and Honda sprang to mind, she shook her head. After all they were just trying to toughen her up, they just didn't know that she wasn't a guy like they thought. "Nothing like that happens to me."
She started to leave, but Ushio's huge hand grabbed her arm. She tried to shake it off, but his grip was too tight.
"Now hold on. Victims often defend their attackers." Ushio commented, seeming bemused that Yugi would try to shake him off, "I've been doing some investigating and you can stop worrying. I'll be your bodyguard from now on."
"Thank you," Yugi said as he let go of her arm, "But I don't need a bodyguard, nothing like that's going on." She backed off slightly and, when it became obvious that he wasn't going to grab her again, she turned to leave, "See you around."
Glancing back over her shoulder as she turned the corner, she was relieved to find that he wasn't following her. She had no clue what had brought that on, but at least she'd managed to get away.
She needed to speak to Anzu. She was certain that the only people who were aware of Jonouchi and Honda's teasing were the four of them, after all the pair were always so careful to wind her up when there weren't many people around, probably to avoid getting into trouble.
As it was her friend was waiting for her at the Game Shop and, though Anzu had no idea why Ushio had known about the boys' constant harassment, she did spend the evening playing board games with her, which helped Yugi get her mind off of the problem, and working on the Puzzle in the evening after Anzu had gone home just helped a little more.
The only problem was, the next day the problem was back with a vengeance, when during the lunch break Ushio had demanded that Yugi come with him. She hadn't had much of a choice, considering that the huge hall monitor could quite easily pick her up and carry her if he had to and she wouldn't be able to do anything about it, so she followed him down to the school yard and round to the back alley where the bins were only to freeze when she saw what Ushio had wanted to show her.
"Heh, just look, Yugi." She stared at what Ushio was pointing to. Jonouchi and Honda were on the ground, beaten and bloody.
"W…what?" She gasped, looking from them to the hall monitor and back.
"I told you, I'm your bodyguard." He smirked at her, "So I decided to teach these bullies a lesson."
"N…No. I didn't want this." Yugi put herself between the two downed teens and Ushio, "I didn't ask you to be my bodyguard and even if I did, I wouldn't want this."
"You're protecting them?" Ushio snorted, surprised and amused at the same time.
"They were only trying to help me." Yugi told him, nervous at the look Ushio was giving her. "Leave them alone."
"Fine." Ushio snorted, "But remember Yugi, you still have to pay what you owe and bodyguard charges are two hundred thousand yen."
"What?" Yugi squeaked.
"What's the matter, not satisfied with the service?" Ushio asked, "I can beat up on them more…"
"No." Yugi shook her head, "Don't hurt them anymore. If you want to bully my friends, you'll have to go through me."
She heard a sharp intake of breath from behind her but didn't have time to react to it before Ushio backhanded her to the floor. Nor did she get a chance to pick herself up before his boot hit her stomach hard, winding her and causing her to start coughing.
Before she could pull herself together, Ushio had bent down and picked her up off of the ground by the collar, opening his mouth to say something, then closing it again, his face gaining a speculative look as he looked her over.
Suddenly it hit Yugi. Ushio had worked out she was a girl. For some reason that thought scared her more than the thought that he would beat her up did…
"Of course if you can't get the money." The hall monitor said, leering at her, "I can take another method of payment."
Terror coursed through Yugi at those words.
"Leave him alone." Jonouchi growled, picking himself up with difficulty.
Ushio just tossed Yugi aside at Jonouchi's demand. Her head hit the wall before the rest of her did and she slid down, pooling into heap at the bottom, her limbs unresponsive as Jonouchi got pounded by Ushio for trying to protect her.
When he was done with Jonouchi, Ushio turned his attention back to the girl, who was trying to pull her mind into some form of coherency.
"Remember Yugi. Two hundred thousand yen, by tomorrow or…"
He left leaving Yugi in a state of incoherent fear. There was no way she could raise that sort of money by tomorrow but…
Honda picked himself up and, somehow, managed to drag the badly wounded Jonouchi away with him, not even giving Yugi a second look.
Luckily for the girl just a couple of minute later, Anzu rushed down the alley to her side, putting her hand on the girl's shoulder and causing Yugi to jump out of her skin.
"A…Anzu?" Yugi asked, feeling rather dizzy.
"I'm here, Yugi." Anzu said, helping her to her feet, "They've gone too far this time."
"It wasn't Jonouchi and Honda." Yugi shook her head, then wished she hadn't as she nearly threw up over her friend.
"Come on, I'm taking you to the nurse."
Jonouchi was quiet as the pair of them left the school grounds late that afternoon, thinking through everything that had happened.
He'd had trouble believing that pacifistic little Yugi had been the one who had set Ushio on them, but when Ushio had come back with Yugi meekly in tow, he had started to wonder.
At least until Yugi had thrown himself between Ushio and them, shielding them from further harm and gotten himself beaten up for it. Jonouchi had to admit that he'd been rather impressed with the kid after that.
It took a lot of guts to stand up to someone that was twice your height and could knock you aside with a swipe of his hand and Yugi hadn't backed down, even though Jonouchi and Honda had been picking on him for ages.
Jonouchi hadn't been able to stand aside though, especially after Yugi had called them his friends, when Ushio had looked at Yugi like that. He'd seen that look on guys before, when he still ran with his old gang, and he couldn't say that he blamed the boy for freezing up the way he had at the implications. Not that he'd thought Ushio swung that way.
"Jonouchi?" Honda asked as his friend looked down into the aqueduct, "What're you thinking?"
Without giving an answer, Jonouchi leapt into the aqueduct, searching around for something.
"What're you doing down there?" Honda demanded, irritated.
"You go on ahead." Jonouchi waved him on, "I'm just looking for… Ah ha!" he let out triumphantly as he found what he was looking for and held it up, the puzzle piece glinting in the light.
"What're you going to do with that?" Honda asked, confused. "I thought…"
"After what he did for us today?" Jonouchi asked, shaking his head as he climbed out of the aqueduct. He wanted to do much more then just hand back this small piece, but he couldn't raise the money the other boy needed any more then Yugi would be able to…
A thought struck him. Yugi's grandfather owned the Game Shop. Yugi might not be able to get the money, but his Grandfather might… Perhaps there was a way he could help Yugi after all.
Yugi was working on the Puzzle, trying to take her mind off of the fact that, short of robbing a bank, there was no way that she could make enough money to pay off Ushio. It wasn't like she could ask her Grandfather if she could borrow that much money, the shop needed every yen it pulled in and borrowing that much money could cripple it…
She shuddered and dropped the Puzzle onto the desk. What was worse was that Ushio knew she was a girl. While she wanted more people to work it out, knowing that the hall monitor knew creeped her out. Especially considering that the first thing he had done upon discovering the fact was offer to accept that instead of the two hundred thousand yen.
She didn't even know why she was working on the Puzzle now. If she had any sense she would have been packing her bags and running for the hills, perhaps then Ushio wouldn't beat anyone else up or…
Except that she didn't want to run. There wasn't any point. She had no where she could go and no money to run with. Leaving would leave her in a worse situation than she was in now. At least here she could avoid being on her own with Ushio if she kept to the crowds… possibly.
She reached for the Puzzle, starting once again to put it together. She found working on it helped her calm down, and she certainly needed something to calm her down after the day she'd had. Even as she let her mind wander, the pieces seemed to slot into place much easier then they ever had before and before she even realised it she was reaching for the final piece.
Which wasn't in the box.
Yugi panicked. She'd been dreaming for years about the wish that was said to be granted to those who completed the Puzzle, the wish that was supposedly guaranteed to come true, the wish that could save her now. Her wish that she'd have friends who she could rely on, that could rely on her in turn. Now it would never happen.
Not if she couldn't find the final piece.
She turned her room upside down, cursing her bad luck. She'd been so careful with the box… she knew what piece it was too. The large jagged piece with the eye symbol on was gone. It shouldn't have been hard to find it, considering that there was little else in her room that was gold. She didn't have a predilection for jewellery, but it was nowhere to be seen.
The only place she could think it might be was in school. It might have fallen out while Jonouchi and Honda had been playing with the box.
That meant that she couldn't just play sick tomorrow. If she wanted to find the final piece of her Puzzle, she would have to face up to Ushio.
She slumped into her desk chair, tears beginning to flow down her cheeks.
She was doomed…
A knock on the door caused her to jump a mile.
"Come in." She called, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand as her Grandfather entered the room.
"I see you've finally completed the Puzzle, Yugi." He said, coming over to have a look and allowing his Granddaughter her dignity in pretending that she hadn't been crying.
"No… I haven't." She shook her head morosely, misery obvious. "I can't…"
"You've poured your heart and soul into this Puzzle over the last eight years." He told her, putting his hand on her shoulder, "You should have a little more faith."
She just looked up at him,
"Your wish will be granted." He promised her, revealing the missing piece of the Puzzle.
In less time then it took Sugoroku to blink, Yugi had crossed the gap between them and glomped her Grandfather. "Thank you. Thank you." She breathed, relief more then than obvious, "You found it for me."
"It wasn't me who found it." Mr Mutou told her when she unpeeled herself from him, "A friend of yours just came by and asked me to give it to you. He looked drenched, but it's not raining…" Sugoroku smirked slightly, "Have you got a boyfriend you're not telling me about?"
Yugi went bright red and started stammering denials. Sugoroku just chuckled and waved her back to the Puzzle. When Yugi turned away, he slipped an envelope into her bag and left, shutting the door behind him.
The friend, Jonouchi, had told Sugoroku that a thug was threatening Yugi and the elderly gentleman wanted to do everything in his power to ensure the safety of his only living relative and to do that he was willing to hand over the money she needed.
Not that he expected, now he knew that she'd completed the Millennium Puzzle, that the money would ever reach the hands of the thug. There was more to the Puzzle then just the one wish. The person who completed it was said to inherit the Shadow Games and pass judgement over evil. He wasn't sure how much of that was true, but he'd had enough experience with the Shadow Games in Egypt to know that they were very real.
With the power of the Shadows behind Yugi, Sugoroku didn't doubt that Ushio would be the one who was in trouble.
Inside the room Yugi was in the process of carefully, joyously, putting the last piece of the Puzzle into place.
And that was the last thing she remembered until morning.
Ushio paced the school yard, waiting irritably.
He couldn't believe that the little girl had had the audacity to call him out here in the middle of the night. Unless she was going to pay him… he smirked at the thought. He somehow doubted that she had come up with two hundred thousand yen in less then six hours, which he assumed meant that she was willing in another manner.
He paused, watching the school gates and then glancing at his watch. She was late and if he was honest, he wasn't certain that she'd have the guts to show up. After all, she did let people walk all over her regularly. She didn't even have the guts to stand up and correct the mistake people made over her gender, so he was convinced that her earlier stand was a fluke.
So when he turned around to find her waiting for him with a smirk on her face he was shocked.
"Well I gotta hand it to you," He said, hiding it well Looking her over, he was amused that she was more obviously female without her school jacket and with the gold, Egytian style jewellery and the huge pendant, even if her hair was wilder than usual. "I can tell you're going to be a good girl. Now, how are you paying me? You can't have raised the cash."
The fourteen year old girl looked bemused as she held up an envelope, "Actually I have your money right here." She told him, backing up as he tried to snatch it from her, moving to the side of one of the vaulting horses that had been left out. "If you want it, you'll have to play a game with me."
"A game?" Ushio glowered at her, wondering where this confidence had come from. The girl he'd pushed around earlier had had no confidence at all, whereas the one standing before him now was brimming with it.
"A Shadow Game in fact." She continued, examining her nails as if bored. "And if you win, you can have more than just the two hundred thousand yen."
"Really?" Ushio was interested now, convinced that he could beat her at any game she picked.
"We just need one tool to play." She nodded at him, "The knife you've got hidden."
Ushio snorted as he took it out. So she wasn't as stupid as he thought she was. That was fine, he had other means to take what he wanted. She was, after all, half his size and half his weight.
He put the knife down and she picked it up, weighing it in her hand and giving him a brief smirk, making him more nervous. Didn't they say watch out for the quiet ones?
"What kind of game is this?" Ushio asked, watching as she put the knife down and got the money out of the envelope, a look of greed crossing his face as she counted it and a small, knowing smile crossed her face.
The girl gave him an amused look, one he couldn't help comparing to a cat that had just gotten the mouse. "It's really quite simple." She informed him, demonstrating, "You put the money on top of one hand and stab into the pile with the other." She showed him that she'd pierced three notes and pulled them off the blade before offering it to him, "You can keep what you stab and the one with the most at the end wins but if you stab your hand or try to quit you lose automatically."
So it was a trial of confidence that she was challenging him to… that just confirmed his theory, at least in his own mind. He was almost certain that she wasn't Yugi and yet at the same time she looked exactly like her. He didn't really understand it, but then, he supposed, he didn't have to.
After all he was stronger then her and probably had much more control and experience with the knife.
He stabbed down and showed her the seven notes he'd picked up. This would be over soon.
The two continued back and forth, for a while, until it came down to the last few notes.
"Just one for me." She commented, showing him, "I like my hand in one piece."
Considering that there were maybe three or four note left and that was all he needed to win, Ushio was confident that he could beat her, except…
'Why does my hand want to stab down with all my strength?' Ushio thought, sweat beginning to pour down his face. 'My right hand's aiming for the money and my hand, and it's not listening to my brain.'
"The Shadows always reveal a person's true nature." She spoke up, as if reading his mind, "And your greed is what's driving your right hand. You can't stop it unless you forfeit."
Ushio had another plan though. There was a way that he could stab something with all his strength and not damage his hand.
"You let me have this knife, so you lose!" He lashed out at her, "Die, Yugi!"
She darted back, narrowly avoiding the blade and glowered at him, red eyes glowing, a golden eye glowing on her forehead.
"Wh…What?" Ushio demanded. Her eyes had been purple earlier! What was with the glowing forehead eye?
"Just as I thought." She snorted, incredibly ill amused. "You weren't able to play by the rules at all." She tossed her head as if trying to shake off some of the anger, "You have trespassed in my soul and sinned against my friends, Ushio." She growled, already setting the magic in motion, "Penalty Game. Illusion of Avarice."
Yugi was nervous as she went through the school gates, glancing around, looking for Ushio and hoping that he wouldn't see her, only to be shocked when she spotted him playing in a pile of leaves and tossing them around, shouting something about money.
"He's been like that for the last hour, possibly longer." She started at the voice and turned to find Jonouchi watching her, gaining an odd look when he saw she was wearing the Puzzle.
"Really?" She asked, partly freaked out that Ushio seemed to have gone mad and partly, guiltily, relieved that she didn't have to deal with him.
"Uh huh." Jonouchi seemed to consider her for a moment, then nodded to himself and guided her inside. "How are you today?" He asked as they headed in.
"I'm fine." Yugi replied, confused as to why he was talking to her, "How are you and Honda?"
"We're good." Jonouchi said, grinning at her, "We've had much worse then this." When she nodded but didn't ask any questions he continued, "I've got something to show you, Yugi." He said, as they took off their shoes and put their indoor ones one. Yugi tilted her head at him, curious, "It's something you can show but you can't see."
When she blinked at him confused, he just grinned at her.
"Give up?" He asked, waiting only for her to nod before continuing, "It's friendship." He watched her eyes widen and light up with delight, "Thanks for showing me we're friends."
"Okay." Yugi smiled brightly.
"Well… see you in class." Jonouchi said, darting off as he went bright red, feeling embarrassed at saying something so mushy.
Yugi just shook her head amused, at least until she realised something.
"Jonouchi!" She called after him, "You dropped your shoe!"
Author Note: - So… new series. Yugi's a girl, inspired by the fact that I found out that Atem is in fact commonly used as a girl's name. Yes I am aware of the fact that mythology states that there was an Atem who was the father of Bast, but once my brain had started ticking, well… here you go.
Also, anyone who came to this from my other series', I thought you'd like to know I have two chapters of Millennium with my Beta at the moment and the one of people you have to thank for getting rid of my writer's block has released a book on Amazon and Kindle… or will have soon. Look for books by Alison Cable, I believe the one in question is called The Barrow Elves.
I have read this book. It is very good. Certainly kept me engrossed for hours, I didn't want to put it down. I ended up reading a preview copy on the train to and from London and had trouble putting it down when I reached London so if that doesn't say how good it is…
Anyway, yes hope you enjoy this new series. There will probably be more next week.