Man, I edited this chapter so many times… ah well, hopefully it's better now than it was.
If anyone's having trouble figuring out what's what or who's who, please ask. I'd be happy to explain. I understand that it's a little confusing without the plan (I find it confusing and I have the plan!) so sorry for any confusion either now or in the near future.
Disclaimer: I don't own Yugioh GX, Yugioh 5Ds or Deltora Quest.
Chapter 2 – Worm Path
Many hours passed as Johan and Yusei walked, Domino slowly becoming nothing more than a dark shadow behind them. Johan trudged on, gazing ahead with his mind stuck in a daze. It was like a dream… everything held such a dream-like quality to it that he was barely even sure that he was awake.
And Yusei… the beggar man that Johan had known for most of his life, the man who sat near the forge in a rocking, mumbling mess. That man was gone, replaced by this young, strong, dependable person. He walked with his head held high and eyes straight ahead, silent and reserved and ready for anything.
Johan's eyes trailed to Yusei's sword, staring at it in undisguised curiosity. He couldn't understand where it had come from, he'd never seen the other with a sword before but there it was; a beautifully made sword with a large star sapphire in its silver pommel. The stone seemed to glitter in the light of the moon, as if it really was a star fallen to earth.
Yusei's cobalt eyes snapped to Johan, making the younger boy blush a bright red and look forward again as a chuckle escaping the raven-haired swordsman.
"You're curious, aren't you?" Johan glanced up at his companion's question and Yusei looked down, the hint of a smile on his face. "About my sword." He started laughing again when the teal-haired boy blushed darker than before, emerald eyes lowering to the floor. "I've had this sword for many years…" Yusei said, looking forward again. "It belonged to my father, and when he died it was passed to me, though not in the best of circumstances." He broke off, blue eyes glazing over. "We lived at the palace. My mother was the nursemaid for the king and your father. My father was the palace physician. On that night, my parents were both killed; I saw them die with my own eyes. I was six years old at the time."
Johan's eyes widened, he didn't like that Yusei had been subjected to something like that at such a young age.
"Just before he died, my father told me to take the sword and get out of the palace by whatever means necessary." Yusei continued, still with that haunted look in his eyes. "I couldn't stay, it was too dangerous. Darkness was coming; the Mists had already come and gone with the Gems. I can't remember how I got out, but when Jaden and Yubel found me, I was dirty, bleeding and babbling about how my parents were killed. You're parents took me in, cared for me until I was strong enough to look after myself. I wandered the city by day, pretending to be crippled and weak to avoid unwanted attention. I spied on the Dark Signers, listened for any news that could be of help to your parents' plans. Your father hid my sword away where it could not be found by thieves or the Dark Signers." he stroked the sapphire in his sword lovingly, smiling down at it. "He cared for it when I could not, kept it in an impeccable state. I don't know what I'd do if my Stardust was damaged."
"My sword. It's called the Stardust Blade. My father's family have had it for generations, but the sapphire was only recently place in it." Yusei's eyes turned sad again. "My father placed the sapphire in the sword, it was to be given to me on my sixteenth birthday… it was given ten years too early."
"I'm sorry…" Johan whispered, looking at the ground with tears in his eyes. "I didn't know that you'd gone through so much…"
"It's alright." Yusei's eyes cleared and he shook his head. "Come on then, let's get moving."
The moon rose higher into the sky as the two pressed onwards, following the road north towards the Forest. Johan glanced around edgily as they went, a feeling of foreboding slowly beginning to fill him. Yusei sensed it too, the other walking with his hand on the hilt of his sword. Johan began to tremble as the Forest came into sight, a looming wall of blackness in the distance.
"It's alright." Yusei said. "At the moment, we are in relative safety. The worst we'll find out here are bandits. When we get to the Forest, then you can panic."
"I'm not panicking." Johan muttered, scowling in Yusei's direction. "I just have a bad feeling."
"So does every traveller coming this way."
"Let's go. We're wasting time!" Johan snapped, his patience wearing thin. He stormed off down the path towards the Forest, his new cloak flaring behind him as he brushed past his companion. Yusei just smirked, quickly following after the younger boy.
The Forest didn't start at one set point and go on from there, as Johan soon discovered. It started slowly, first a few trees here and there, then more and more until they were surrounded on all sides by thick, moon-bleached greenery.
Johan tensed, feeling unease spike in his stomach as the forest got darker and darker. He glanced around, fear filling him as he saw a pair of red eyes shining back at him from the cover of the bushes lining the path. He reached out and grabbed the flaring edge of Yusei's blue jacket.
"I see them." Yusei murmured, not looking away from the path ahead of him. "Draw your sword, but don't stop walking. Keep your eyes ahead and be ready."
Johan nodded and followed orders as Yusei drew his blade. He whimpered almost soundlessly as more eyes appeared in the bushes, the number growing until they were surrounded by glowing red eyes. But they made no sound, didn't move from their hiding places.
"What are they?" Johan hissed. "What do they want?"
There was movement behind them and Johan swung around, just in time to see something scuttle off the path, something with long arms and a thin, red body. He shuddered, his skin crawling.
"Look ahead!" Yusei whispered furiously, grabbing onto Johan's arm to drag him onwards. "I just told you -"
He stopped short as a whining cut through the air, the sound high pitched and uncomfortable to listen to. It came from all around, as if it was echoing in a stone room. The sound was akin to that of a swarm of bees, though there were no bees to be seen, only the unending line of thorny bushes and shining red eyes.
With every step they took into the forest, the sound got louder. It grew in pitch and intensity until the two travellers were holding their hands over their ears, running as fast as they could in an attempt to escape.
Blackness started to crawl into Johan's field of vision, causing him to stumble and fall as he lost sight of where he was going. He heard someone cry out in agony, though he couldn't tell whether it was Yusei or himself.
The whining rose again to an almost satisfied shriek before all went dark.
Johan woke slowly, his fuzzy mind vaguely wondering where he was and how long he'd been out. His ears were ringing; his throat was dry and sore and his muscles ached as if he'd been hit multiple times with something heavy.
I'm alive… he thought. How am I alive?
He was lying on his back, his cloak spread out beneath him and his sword still at his hip. Light filtered through the foliage above him, signalling that the night had passed. It would have been around midday by then.
As if he'd just fallen asleep on the road.
Last night… was that all a dream? He wondered. Was that horrible sound just a nightmare?
Johan looked around, his eyes trailing over trees and bushes until he caught a flash of blue in the corner of his eye. He tried to turn his head, panicking when he found that he couldn't move. He tried to move his hand, his legs, his neck, but nothing would move.
How… he thought frantically, eyes widening in fear. How did they bind me so completely?
But he wasn't bound… it was just that his body refused to move on his command.
"What's going on?" he asked, his voice trembling with terror. "What did those things do to me?"
"They stung us." Yusei's voice floated from somewhere on his left. "They injected come sort of venom to paralyse us." Johan felt his hopes plummet at what his companion said.
Yusei was paralysed too. There was no escape.
"I'm so sorry, Johan…" Yusei murmured, drawing Johan's attention from his depressed thoughts.
"I should never have brought you here… I knew that there was another way to the Ancient Forests from Domino, but I was so caught up in getting this over with quickly that I didn't think. But I can't understand why no one knew about the dangers of this path! I heard nothing of it while I was wandering the streets of Domino!"
"Maybe they didn't know?" Johan offered quietly. "Maybe no one who has heard the sound has lived to tell the tale?"
"I'm sorry all the same." Yusei said guiltily. "I have led you to your death!"
"It's not your fault." Johan insisted. "We came here together. And we aren't exactly dead yet! There's still hope. Maybe the venom will wear off soon and we can escape! But first, where are we?"
"I… I think…" Yusei broke off, swallowing audibly. "I think we've been moved deeper into the Ancient Forest."
Johan closed his eyes as a fresh wave of terror swept over him, fighting back tears as stories of the Forest came to the forefront of his mind.
"B… but why?" he stammered. "Why bring us all the way here? Surely this is nowhere near their home?"
"Because," a new voice called from somewhere behind Johan. "You are too great a prize for the Worms themselves. They have brought you here as an offering to their goddess. When the sun goes down, the Worm Queen will come to feast on you."
There was a rustling from high above and Johan's eyes widened in shock as a girl dropped down from the tree, landing lightly by his shoulder. She had two toned brown hair cropped at her neck with two strands at the front flowing down to her shoulders. The hair was caramel on the top and a dark brown on the bottom. Her eyes were a soft milk chocolate colour with what looked like swirls of gold in their dark depths. She was clothed in a dusty black jacket with red seams and matching pants. Her feet were bare and there was a cloak wrapped around her shoulders, the black material oddly familiar. She seemed to be about Johan's age, and would probably be several inches shorter than him once he stood upright.
She bent over him, reaching for the clasp of his cloak.
"Oh, thank Ra you've come…" he breathed.
"Look, Ruby! Won't this be useful!" Johan blinked, shocked as he saw that she wasn't talking to him, but to a little squirrel-like creature with purple fur, red eyes and a ruby-like bauble at the end of its tail.
"It's a good thing we came this way." The girl continued, fumbling with his cloak. "If we came here tomorrow, the cloth would be ruined, wouldn't it?" she bent down a bit more, pushing Johan onto his side so that she could pull the cloak out from under him before letting him roll back. She stood back up, draping the cloak over her arm.
A trilling cry echoed from above, drawing the girl's attention. Johan looked up, following her gaze to see a brown bird sitting on a low-lying branch, its violet and gold eyes staring down at them sharply. It spread its white wings, wiggling its white-feathered tail as it trilled again.
"Look, Kuriboh!" she grinned, holding up Johan's cloak. "A new blanket for the nest! We're coming back now, don't worry!" she turned to go, stepping around Johan to head for the tree.
"Wait!" Johan cried. "You can't leave us here!"
"You can't just let us die!" Yusei yelled at the same time, his voice barely supressing his fury.
But the girl was gone, disappeared into the trees as quickly as she'd arrived, taking Johan's cloak with her. Johan's eyes watered as he thought of the cloak, of the hours of work and love his mother had put into its making.
"Bring me back my cloak!" he screamed, desperation creeping into his voice. Even as he said it, he knew how stupid it was. Why should it matter if the cloak was here if he was going to die anyway?"
But it did matter…
"Bring it back!" he shouted furiously. "You had no right to take that! My mother made that for me! My mother!"
There was silence, nothing moved besides the wind-rustled leaves. Then, to his amazement, the girl was back, looking down at him from the branches of the tree.
"How could your mother have made this for you?" she demanded, staring disbelievingly at him. "Dark Signers don't know their mothers. They are raised in groups…"
"I'm not a Dark Signer!" Johan insisted. "My friend and I are travellers, from Domino City. Can't you see by our clothes!"
The girl laughed, her voice mildly amused. "I'm not deceived by your disguises." She sneered. "Only Dark Signers take the Worm path. It leads nowhere other than the Ancient Forest after all." She reached up, caressing the fur of the creature on her shoulder. "Many of your comrades have come through here, wishing only to destroy or take things. They learned their lesson the hard way."
"We are not Dark Signers!" Yusei tried. "My name is Yusei and my friend here is Johan. We came here for a reason of utmost importance."
"What reason?" the girl asked suspiciously. "What could be so important that you'd risk the Worm path?"
"We… can't tell you…" Johan said, turning his gaze away from her.
She shrugged nonchalantly, turning away to leave again. Johan felt panic rise in him, crying out desperately to keep her a while longer. "What's your name? Where is your family? Can you bring help?"
She turned back to him, looking confused… as if no one had asked her such things before. "My name is Judai." She said. "Ruby and Kuriboh are my family. Dark Signers took my mother and father long ago."
Johan felt his heart sink. So there was no one to help them out of here. But maybe there was still a chance…
"The Dark Signers are as much our enemy as they are yours." Johan said, trying to make her understand. "Our reason for being here is a part of a plan to defeat them and Darkness, to rid Teraska of their tyranny. Help us, please!" he held his breath, hoping against hope that she would aid them.
Judai hesitated, running her fingers along the material of the cloak. Just then, the bird screeched and Judai's head shot up. She dropped the cloak down onto Johan's chest and darted away.
"Come back!" Johan cried. "Please Judai!"
There was no reply, even the bird was gone.
Johan heard Yusei moan in despair. Then there was silence. The sun sank lower and lower, the sky changing from blue to yellow and pink. Shadows formed on the ground around them, each new patch of darkness bring a little more fear, a little more helplessness into Johan. Soon it would be dark. Soon, the Worm Queen would come.