Chapter 38: Many Returns

*Avoids flying debris chucked at her*. Yes, I know I just left all of ya'll on a cliffhanger; I'm probably now seen as a horrible person, but it's important to the plot! Honest! I was going to tack on another chapter to the previous one, but then that would mean spoiler alerts and everything would have been wonky. :/

He eyed the glass of wine again, wondering if he was truly hallucinating, due to the alcohol. Dartz merely chuckled. "You are not hallucinating, I can assure you of that."

"I most certainly hope so," Pegasus said, fiddling with the glass flute. "I do like my nightcaps, after all." He set the drink aside. "I was positive though, that you had been defeated,banished to . . . wherever it the Pharaoh had banished you to."

"So he had thought. What he had not realized was that I used magic to escape the wreckage that was the temple. I have been wandering since, hoping to redeem myself for the heinous crimes I have committed, although I fear that no matter what I do, they will be nothing more than a drop of forgiveness in a sea of misery." Dartz bowed. "May I sit?" He made a gesture to a chair just behind himself, a chair that Pegasus knew had been on the other side of the library. He must have somehow moved it using magic, or telekinesis, Pegasus could not figure out which, nor did he care to at the moment; he was simply trying to figure why there was a man who was supposed to be dead in his personal library.

Dartz only flashed an enigmatic smile and settled into the seat, lacing his fingers together and placing them across his lap. "I'm sure you're wondering why I came tonight."

"As any sane person would be."

"Yes, well, since the downfall of the Leviathan, I have been traveling the globe, hoping to begin to make up for the deeds I have committed, as I just mentioned. While journeying through Spain and Morocco, I noticed something peculiar, rumblings in the earth, deep rumblings. These weren't earthquakes though, I have personal experience with those. No, these were mystical rumblings in the earth's crust. I noticed them while going through other locales as well, all far flung from each other. Now, as I'm sure you know, the legends of Atlantis say that the city was located beyond the Pillars of Hercules, known today as the Straits of Gibraltar. This is true: Atlantis was indeed located beyond the Straits, out towards the Atlantic Ocean, but was destroyed in the war between my father and I, when our clashing magical forces caused earthquakes and tsunamis, wiping the City of the Rings from the face of the earth. I spent my life, magically extended of course, to somehow resurrect the city, but now, I see that to do so would be folly, as it is buried under thousands of years of sediment and water.

"However, there was something else in that city, something more important than the city itself, which was the primary reason for my insistence in its resurrection, among other things."

"And that would be?" Pegasus asked, leaning forward in his seat.

"The Heartstone."

Pegasus fumbled over the unfamiliar term. "The "Heartstone"?"

"Yes. When the Orichalcos fell from the sky, a piece fell into a fountain in the center of the palace complex. This was where I first uncovered the stone. I removed the stone from there and eventually, I fell under its spell. When I had been enchanted, the stone had "told" me to return the stone back into the fountain, where I had first found it. I did not question its demands, but I wondered why it would ask such a thing of me.

"The following morning, I went to the fountain, to discover small crystals of the Orichalcos growing in the water, branches of crystals expanding outward as a tree spreads its roots. The stone was growing, it was alive.

"Shortly after this discovery, the war between my father and I began and the city was lost to the depths of the ocean, this "Heartstone", as I called it, lost. For some time after this, I had sought to find a way to bring the city back from the depths, to gain access to the Heartstone, but the spells to rise the city were lost to me and I was unable to do it, so I went to my other option, which was the harvest of souls using what Orichalcos stones I had left. When the Pharaoh defeated the Leviathan, I was under the assumption that I would hear no more of the stone and I could live the rest of my natural life—once I had undone the immortality spell I placed upon myself—in peace. With the rumblings in the earth, I fear that the city is on the verge of rising once more from the depths of its tomb, revealing the Heartstone to the world, or to whoever managed to resurrect the city.

"This is a very bad thing indeed, for if the Heartstone is coaxed back to lif, the power of the Orichalcos will hold sway over the world and the Leviathan will be reborn in a more powerful form. Even more so since I suspect that the stone was merely in a state of hibernation."

"And who do you think is doing this?"

"Well, there is one man, I encountered him many hundreds of years ago, during the reign of the Nameless Pharaoh, and I gave him the tools to power. I had seen a kindred soul when I encountered him, not once, but twice, over a span of nearly seventy years, and I set him on the path. While I do not know much about him, I suspect that he has changed his name many times, I do know this:

"When I first encountered him, he was a scribe in the service of a Pharaoh, father to the Nameless Pharaoh. When I met him once more seventy years later, he was hideously scarred on his face and chest, like he had been severely burned. He carried a leather mask with him, presumably to hide his features."

Pegasus nodded. He knew nothing of a man that wore a mask and was hideously scarred. Despite his retirement, Pegasus still kept a pulse on the mystical happenings of the world, whether major or minor, just in case. "I do not know a man with that description," he admitted.

"I see." Dartz nodded sadly.

"But, if I may pry, why did you come to me?"

"Because you had once forged the tools of my demise, with the creation of the "Legendary Knights", through the card "Legend of Heart". I was hoping you could assist me once again, to destroy the Heartstone and the Orichalcos once and for all."

"I'm not sure I know what I can do to help there. Since you know much about it, do you have any idea on how to destroy it?"

"I have an idea, but I cannot do it on my own."

"Then how may I help?"

"I need to locate the Knights of Justice, Wisdom and Renewal."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Yugi sat on the edge of the bed, Tea sitting in a chair across from him, slowly sipping on a soda can through a straw. The past two days have been hectic and long, the quarterfinals and semifinals taking place over the span of said days. They had managed to remove all the Orichalcos stones from their disks, wrapping them in a handkerchief. Mai then took great pleasure in stomping on the bundle with her spiked boots, grinding them into dust. Had Yugi known it was that easy to destroy them, then he would have merely stomped on it when he had first encountered Dartz. According to Mai though, only those who had truly expelled the stone could destroy them that simply. The darkness in one's heart kept the stone alive. Only by purging the darkness through a trial could one resist the allure of the Orichalcos and it would no longer hold sway over their soul, which was why she could destroy them with the ease she did. He guessed she took a pleasure from "curbstomping" (as Tristan had so "eloquently" put it) them to pieces.

"Drink?" Tea offered.

"No, not really. Thanks though."

She bit her lip, the silence between them like the gulf of an abyss. It was not an awkward silence, merely a silence shared by two close friends. "You excited about tomorrow?" she asked, a part of her fully knowing what his answer would be. At least they could somewhat enjoy the tournament's end, with the threat of the Orichalcos expelled.

He shrugged. "I guess, since we don't have to deal with soul stealing rocks any more."

"Yeah. The semi-finals were doozies of duels though, at least from my point of view."

The quarterfinals, with the Orichalcos looming overhead, proceeded quickly, almost enjoyable in fact. Mai and Ryou had an intense one, going back and forth until Mai wiped away Ryou's poor monsters with her Harpy's Pet Dragon and combination with the Harpies, who gave the dragon quite a boost. Then there was the final duel of that day, Yugi versus Rebecca. Had he not known the cause of the collapsing duelists, he would have been concerned about dueling Rebecca, whom he regarded as close as a sibling, as did Rebecca- she only "flirted" with him to irk Tea, she told him once on a dig. Yugi had been sponsored by her grandfather during his years at the university and the two were often in contact with each other. That duel was a difficult one for Yugi, for Rebecca had found a way to prevent all of his higher monsters from attacking, while she sapped life points from him little by little. He only won when he played Mystical Space Typhoon to wipe away Gravity Bind, the card that caused so many issues.

Then there was the following day. Midas did not mess with the arrangement, so Yugi faced Kaiba, a predictable duel but an exciting one, and Joey and Mai. That was not so predictable. From what Yugi could gather, they had made some sort of bet beforehand, one he had no knowledge of, and they had been bantering it about it the entire time. He suspected that for the both of them, it was the ideal rematch since the Orichalcos fiasco, a duel on even terms. Nobody knew who to root for, poor Serenity was torn in half, but in in the end, Joey managed to triumph in the end, barely, but he did. When they shook hands in the center, Mai whispered something in his ear and he smiled, mouthing something back. Joey still wouldn't say what she told him, a smug grin plastered to his face for a good portion of the day. Tristan and Duke mercilessly ribbed him for the rest of the day.

"Yeah, it'll be like Duelist Kingdom and Battle City again. Joey's gotten tons better since then."

"Careful, he might give you a run for your money, King of Games," she teased.

"I'd like to see him give Kaiba a run for his money. I'm the King of Games, remember? I don't think anybody can beat me," he kidded, for Yugi would never say such a statement seriously.

Tea flicked the pop tab of her can at him, which landed on his lap. "You're bragging again."

"Really? Gee, I didn't notice," he joked. "I guess it's because I'm that awesome." he flicked the tab right back at her.

That was the opening salvo of a pop tab war, the tiny piece of metal flying back and forth across the room with increasing speed. Then it accidentally went down the headboard of the bed, losing it to the abyss populated by dust bunnies and other horrors that lurked in the realm that was "under the bed". Both of them went over, looking down the crack between the headboard and wall. "So much for that," Tea said.

"It was fun while it lasted."

"What are you talking about? I can simply beat you with the pillow here."

"You wouldn't beat the King of Games up with a pillow, would you?" he pleaded, making his eyes as large and innocent as he could.

"No, I'll beat up my best friend Yugi Muto with the pillow instead." To make her point, she tapped him lightly over the head with the pillow in hand.

"That's not fair," he pouted, unpleasant mood dissipated.

"Wanna bet?" After a beat, she continued, leaning against the headboard. "You know, we've all changed since high school."

He sat next to her. "Tell me about it. I grew five inches."

She repressed a laugh. "Not like that," she playfully shoved him away. "I mean in other ways. We're. . .we're all grown up."

"Yeah, it's kind of scary, if you think about it. I guess you could say that this is sort of a last "hurrah" for us, before you know, life happens."

"Yeah, but at least the whole gang's back together for the "hurrah", even Kaiba, if he won't admit it." she paused, "Remember the friendship symbol back in high school?"

"Oh goodness yes! Joey was complaining about that marker for days!"

"Yeah, I was such a dork back then, thinking that we need something like that to keep us together. We stuck together all this time, smiley face or no. It was pretty dorky, thinking back on it."

"I didn't think it was that dorky."

"Oh please," she snorted. "I was such a dork back then. . . You know, if I decided to that again, that circle would be huge."

"Yes, but I doubt that Kaiba would ever subject himself to such an indignity." He placed his hand down onto the bed, only to accidentally make contact with Tea's. Both glanced down, clearly startled, but neither of them made a move. He slowly curled his hand around hers.

"Hey Yugi?"

"Yeah?"

"We'll always be best friends, right?"

He nodded. "Of course. I can't see us not being friends."

He wasn't sure then, what had happened next, but he found himself leaning into her, just as she was leaning into him. When he realized this, his brain instantly went into overdrive. He was an expert in strategy games and ancient history, but girls were an entirely different subject matter, even more so on the romantic side of things.

Especially when it was your best friend all through high school and only just know you realized that yes, she liked you too.

In that way.

Their noses were just touching when there was a sudden and curt pounding at the door. In surprise, both of them had practically flung themselves away from each other, Yugi falling off the bed in the process, he was so startled. Tea leaned over the side, where Yugi was half sprawled on the carpet, his legs still on the bed.

"Ow. . ."

"You okay there, Yugi?" The moment had been broken, but he doubt that things could be the way they were again.

"Yeah, I think so." He slowly sat up. "I'll go get that," he added weakly, hoping that the ever growing blush would be gone by the time he opened the door. He figured that it was Joey or one of the boys coming by, probably to steal some food from his mini-fridge. They always had a way of crashing things like that. He opened the door.

He was greeted by a stranger, enshrouded in a long tan cloak and hood, with bright golden eyes, reminding him of freshly minted coins.

"Hello Yugi."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

He was in his room, going over the strategies he had used, wondering how everything could have gone so wrong in his duel with Yugi. It would seem that no matter what he did, Yugi always, always came out on top. It was driving Kaiba insane. What was it? What was his secret?

Could there actually be something to this cockamamie "Heart of the Cards" Yugi always believed in?

He scowled, eying the duel disk and scattered cards across the table.

"Seto, you're beating yourself up over this," Mokuba said, creeping up behind him. "You're still one of the best duelists in the entire world, number two. Can't you be proud of that?" When Seto said nothing, Mokuba added quietly. "I'm proud of you Seto."

Seto lifted his head up, surprised by this remark. Mokuba was always proud of him, no matter what his older brother seemed to do, but this, this felt different. "Really?" he asked, sounding like a child seeking his parents' approval, uncharacteristic of the CEO.

"Yeah," he hugged his brother from behind. "Can't we enjoy tomorrow as just a vacation? "

Seto sighed, eventually caving in. "If you want. I still haven't found Midas' identity yet."

"Seto. . ."

"What?"

"We can figure it out later. Take a break."

He sighed again. "Fine."

"Good. Wanna go to the arcade later?" he stopped, reaching for his phone in his pocket. He tugged it out from his jeans pocket, going to the main screen. "It's Yugi. He wants us to come to his hotel suite ASAP, like now, ASAP. He says it's really really important. I wonder what he wants."

He snorted. "It's probably something inane or what not. We don't need to go."

Mokuba's phone buzzed again, as if on cue. He read it again. He paled at the message. "Clearly, he must have heard you. He sent another one."

"What does it say?"

He showed him the phone and Kaiba frowned in displeasure, the light of the phone making the scowl even deeper. He continued to remain silent, standing up and snatching up his coat in a barely contained fury. He stomped out the door, coat still in hand, Mokuba frantically following behind.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

They gathered at the door of Yugi's room like a bunch of children eagerly awaiting for Santa's arrival. "So, what do you think the text about? He seemed kind of frantic," Rebecca asked, eying her phone, a piece of equipment whose technological achievements were on the cutting edge of the industry. She plucked the stylus that came with the device, going through the texts. "He didn't say why in my text. It just said for us to come now."

"Same here," Duke eyed the phone. "Where did you get that? I've been wanting one for months."

"It pays to be a child prodigy," she winked, before stashing it away.

"Well, let's find out shall we?" Mai knocked on the door, only to have Yugi open it a crack.

"Hey Mai, guys. Come on in, but. . ." he hesitated. "You might want to brace yourselves."

"What, it isn't Pegasus behind that door, is it?" Bakura asked. "Because I don't feel like explaining why my former yami decided to rip that poor man's eyeball out." At Yugi's silence, he added. "Oh good lord, it is Pegasus, isn't it?"

"I doubt he remembers and if he does, then I'm sure he'll understand." Joey gave the man a reassuring pat on the shoulder, before Yugi opened the door wide.

Ishizu and The Kaiba siblings were already in the room, as well as Tea. There was another man in the room, one wearing a beige tunic and pants, a long cloak of the same hue resting upon his shoulders. His hair, teal in hue, was tied back in a simple ponytail, the hair cascading down his back to almost his hip bones. His eyes were a vibrant gold, striking against his fair face. Every one standing in the threshold sucked in a collective breath, shocked beyond belief at the sight of him.

"I thought. . .I thought he was supposed to be dead," Tristan said, pointing at the man.

"Tell me about it," Rebecca said.

"I have no idea who this man is," Bakura quipped. Serenity nodded in accession.

The man stood upright from his seat, quietly arranging his clothes about himself. "Hello everyone," he said quietly, his words no longer possessing the power and charisma like they used to once upon a time.

Joey sputtered at last, "Dartz, you son of a- "

"Joey!" Serenity shouted, before he could curse at the man.

But while Joey spoke, Mai acted. She stormed over, one hand upright and in a clenched fist. Then, before anybody could stop her, or if she even realized her actions, she punched the man in the mouth and nose. "That's for everything, you snake in the grass!" she spewed furiously, breathing heavily. She looked at her hand, only to see small flacks of blood splattered across her knuckles. "You ruined everything!"

Dartz said nothing, dabbing a single hand to his nose, only to see blood on it when he pulled it away. His lip throbbed painfully. "I most certainly deserved that, Ms. Valentine," he admitted at last. He used the edge of his cloak to wipe the blood from his mouth and nose. "I probably deserve a lot more than a mere strike though, nor do I think that a mere apology can erase all the pain I've caused you."

Mai said nothing, using a handkerchief to wipe away the blood from her hands.

Seto grumbled something about "buying out his company" under his breath, only for Mokuba to nudge him and silence his brother with a glance.

Dartz sat back down, his nose still bleeding somewhat. "I'm sure you're all wondering why I'm here." He pointed to Yugi, Seto and Joey.

"You three, are the very keys to preventing the world from plunging into darkness."

Rebecca has one of those Samsung Galaxy phones, the ones with the stylus :D. I want one of those very badly lol.

And if you were wondering what Mai said to Joey. . .well, tough Twinkies, I won't say it here :p. Maybe you can coax me with a PM, but that's the only way you'll find out :D

Originally, Mai wasn't the one to punch Dartz in the face, it was actually supposed to be Joey; however, when I thought about it, I realized that it would have been better for Mai to do the deed.

And infinitely more awesome.

Just saying.