For all the importance – importance being an understatement – of the next minutes of Bakura's life, he was fated not to remember them. There was far too much going on inside his head for him to take in the outside stimuli necessary to lay down memory – or indeed, to even be aware of what was going on at the present time. Everything happened as though there were a stone wall between Bakura and the rest of the onlookers; he knew that something important was going on only inches away, but for all he looked, he just couldn't see.
The Ring had chosen him. He, Bakura, had been selected as the Guardian of the Millennium Ring, over Mahad and every other candidate assembled alongside him.
He looked at Mahad. His friend's face was a mask of stone that sent a chill down Bakura's spine. He had never known Mahad to look so…emotionless.
Gradually, he became aware of what was going on. There was some kind of ceremony; the other five Guardians as well as the Pharaoh had formed a circle around him. Bakura barely even noticed them; he eyes were still trained on Mahad, who was stepping backwards away from the circle. He noticed Atem appear at his side, and Mana a few seconds later as she finally managed to break free of the crowd. She was saying something quietly into Atem's ear.
Hesitantly, Bakura touched the gold artefact now hanging from his neck. This contact sent a tingle through his fingers, giving him goosebumps. He gulped.
Mahad's gaze didn't waver; he just kept staring. His expression had changed – or rather, appeared. He didn't look hostile or cold or even surprised, just bemused. Bakura could almost hear him thinking from where he stood.
Everything that happened after that was a blur.
When the ceremony was finally over and the six Item Bearers stepped away, a throng of people rushed in to surround the new Guardian with congratulations. An amused smile on his face, Mahad got out of the way, pulling Atem and Mana along with him. He would wait until everyone else had spoken with Bakura; they would need a proper talk.
"I was so sure it would be you, Mahad," Atem admitted tersely.
Mahad laughed. "You and everyone else here."
Mana tugged his sleeve. "You're not disappointed are you?"
Mahad lifted an eyebrow at her. "Disappointed? Gods, no. I'm relieved."
"Really?" Atem and Mana both looked doubtful.
Mahad laughed more light-heartedly than he felt. "It's a huge responsibility. And while I would have been happy to take it on, I'm glad it hasn't fallen to me. Bakura's got a huge task on his hands; he'll need all the help he can get." Mahad suddenly grinned and ruffled Atem's already spiky hair. "Don't worry; if he treats this like anything else in his life he'll pawn off most of the work to me anyway."
Atem looked away for a moment and then sighed. "Well at any rate, I'm just as glad it's Bakura as I would have been for you – it could easily have been one of the others, and I honestly don't know them that well. I'd trust Bakura with my life."
"Me too." Mahad looked over the crowd again at Bakura, still thinking deeply. After a second, Mana grabbed Atem's hand and pulled him into the throng of people to congratulate the new guardian.
Mahad straightened up from the wall upon which he had been leaning. "Hey, Bakura."
An uncomfortable moment passed.
They were standing outside the entry to the ceremonial chamber where the selection had taken place, the crowd having finally dissipated and the Pharaoh having let Bakura go. Mahad had been waiting patiently for him all this time.
"Congratulations!" Mahad said suddenly with vigour. "You really did it."
"It should have been you," Bakura said matter-of-factly.
Mahad sighed. "What makes you say that? You think you're not worthy?"
"No!" Bakura exclaimed. "I don't! I was born a thief, Mahad! A thief can't be responsible for the protection of Egypt, it's not right. I…"
Mahad lifted an eyebrow. "Is that really your reason?"
Bakura blinked. "What else would it be?"
Mahad rolled his eyes. "You've gone through your entire life putting your past behind you. Whatever you are now, it certainly isn't a thief. You don't think of yourself as a criminal any more than I do."
Bakura didn't answer. With a smile, Mahad placed a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "I know you, Bakura; it isn't your worthiness that you doubt, it's yourself."
Bakura let out a long, ragged breath. Then, slowly, he nodded. "I can't do this, Mahad. It's not my ability in magic or even the dangers of the position that I'm worried about. It's…the Ring." His head snapped up, violet eyes blazing. "I can't control it…but it can control me. I can feel it already."
Mahad looked at the object hanging limply from its papyrus rope. He knew for a fact that he wasn't the only one it mesmerised on site.
Bakura picked it up and stared at it abstractly, just as captivated at Mahad. "I can't even look at it without feeling…obsession, madness, possessiveness. Mahad, I can't look at it without thinking that I'd kill for it. And that terrifies me."
Without thinking about it, Mahad reached forward and brushed his fingers across the golden eye, feeling them tingle as he did so. Bakura involuntarily jerked it away, making him jump. After an awkward moment, he held it out again, and Mahad's hand returned to it.
"I know you feel it too," Bakura said. "It marked both of us when we were ten. It may have chosen me to be its Guardian, but I don't need the Millennium Necklace to know that both of our destinies are tied to it somehow. There's a reason it makes us feel the way we do; it wants us to do something."
"The Ring isn't evil, Bakura," Mahad said, wondering who he was trying to assure. "Its job it to protect Egypt; whatever it wants us to do, it won't be bad."
Tearing his eyes away, Bakura let the Ring fall back against his chest. "I hope you're right, you know." His eyes darkened. "For all our sakes."
Mahad didn't answer this. Instead, he broke into a sudden unexpected smile. "Don't worry about the Ring, Bakura; you're stronger than you think, and if you won't have faith in your ability to use it, I will."
Bakura gave a soft smile. "What would I do without you?"