A/N: So, I had been deliberating on whether or not to delete this story. Truthfully, I strongly dislike the old writing and storyline, and I just couldn't get myself to write.
But this story received a lot of support once upon a time, and looking back at the old reviews people gave me, I couldn't bring myself to throw the whole thing away. I'd smile at their comments and read their advice, and I just thought that deleting the story would be poor repayment.
So I went Japanese (what can I say, I wanted to try writing creepy Yami Yugi from the manga :P) and came up with a new plot and new style, and thought, hey, I'll make another attempt for those people who were so nice to me throughout.
I'm rather uncertain about this, but I decided to go for it. I'm really sorry for the wait and inconvenience, but thank you for your patience! T.T
And to new readers who just picked this up—I also thank you for giving this a chance.
Here we go!
He doesn't mean to follow Atemu.
He knows that stalking people—save for when the perpetrator is a remarkably attractive one-hundred-and-seven-year-old vampire in an eleven dollar romance novel—is creepy. Therefore, Yugi tends to avoid it. Especially when it involves awkward moments in isolated hallways on the opposite end of the school from where he wants to be.
He's left with no choice, however, when Jounouchi needs something from his locker and Ryou needs to run back to his advanced biology class and retrieve a forgotten textbook. So Yugi tells them he'll meet them in the lunchroom, he'll go ahead to save them a table.
He's living proof that no good deed goes unpunished, and no careful stalking goes unnoticed. Yugi unsuspectingly ruffles through his backpack when he glances up and suddenly realizes, there's no one around. No chattering students, no glaring teachers, not even a janitor or the principle shouting at him to get out of this hallway. Which would be typical, but this is even worse. It's his first day and already embarrassing enough that he needs directions to the cafeteria, the largest room in the school, which is sort of like inquiring how to find the Atlantic Ocean on a map, but now there's no one around to even ask. He is lost and doomed.
He turns around, logically thinking that he'll go back the way he came, but he only travels so far before he reaches a corridor. It's there he truly grasps the situation, extremely conscious of the fact that he's hopeless at directions, a new student in a ridiculously large school, and stuck in a skirt. And yes, that last bit is very relevant to his current predicament.
His head whips between the two possibilities, and he's well aware that he looks like a buffoon, but there's no witnesses and more importantly the strategy works, so he can live with that. He spots a flash of navy at the end of the hall on his right, which he discerns as the dark blue of the boy's uniform. He's saved.
Now, by this point, Yugi has already noticed that this school is not only enormous, but well-kept and impeccably clean, as well. He feels no small amount of trepidation, then, when he sees that this particular hallway is a dead end and resembles something out of low budget horror film. A broken lightbulb dangles above him, and the only light comes from a filthy window, giving the area a splotchy, grayish tinge. Any moment now, he'll be attacked by rabid vampires.
He hears talking, though, so taking a deep breath he slowly continues down the hall and tries to banish the thought that the murmuring voices could be the restless undead or the insane mutterings of a serial killer.
He reminds himself that in general, the average person does not murder their classmates because they can't find their way to the cafeteria, even if it is annoying to explain that no, the cafeteria is on their other left. Imagining his bacon sandwich and how he would have no time to eat if he doesn't press forward, he valiantly reaches for the door handle, the one separating him and the whispering voices.
When he turns the knob, the unearthly whispering stops, and Yugi pauses in confusion when he finds the room empty except for the lone, silent student standing by the window. There isn't furniture, either, aside from the small table with two chairs on each side. The floor tiles are cracked, but not unclean, and glow white in the strip of light coming in from the window. Yugi thinks it resembles an abandoned interrogation room in a blackout.
"Why are you here?" the student asks, turning his gaze from the window to him, and Yugi jumps when he recognizes his English partner from earlier, Atemu.
It's an odd coincidence. Atemu had been one of the few people keen on not talking to Yugi, and yet he's the one Yugi ended up following in a lost daze. If he'd known, he might have tried his luck with the other corridor, given Atemu's apparent dislike. Not to mention his demon-like smile that distorts what would otherwise be a handsome face. Not that that has anything to do with anything. Yugi has nothing against glowing red eyes.
...Well, maybe they're just a little bit creepy.
But even without the unnatural smile and unusual eyes, Atemu would have made an impression on him. He has a remarkable indifference that contrasts noticeably with the curious attention the other students had given him, although Yugi had been too preoccupied with other concerns to pay much attention to the brooding teen. Namely, concerns such as pretending to be a girl, pretending to be a girl, and pretending to be a girl. And his friends pretending to be girls.
"I got lost," Yugi admits sheepishly, but before he can ask for directions back to the cafeteria, Atemu cuts him off. It's not exactly helping with Yugi's unease.
"You're not supposed to be here," he tells him, without the slightest bit of guilt on his own part, as though he's above such petty precepts. "This corridor is off limits."
"Sorry," Yugi replies contritely, automatically. But then Jounouchi's influence becomes apparent, because he finds the nerve to question, mostly hesitant but with a hint of accusation, "Then what are you doing here?"
Atemu just smiles, and Yugi feels the same shivers from before creeping down his spine and warning him to get away before it turns out that the man in front of him is actually an undead serial killer after all, and he really should have listened to his first instinct when walking down that creepy hallway. The poor heroines in slasher films always do think that they're beyond harm and vicious bloodbaths, and that's just an example, because no matter what he's wearing, Yugi does not view himself as a heroine.
He starts to back away, more unnerved than he would like to admit, but Atemu stops him with a simple question. "Would you like to play a game?"
Yugi pauses at that, abruptly feeling rather ashamed. He shouldn't make assumptions. Maybe Atemu hasn't lured him here to brutally murder him and stash his corpse in the forbidden wing of the academy, not to be found until years from now when his flesh has already rotted away. Maybe Atemu is just a lonely teen with no friends to eat with during lunch, because everyone judges him for his creepy smile and intensely wide eyes just like Yugi almost did. Maybe he deserves a chance, and he should give him one. Jounouchi and Anzu had done the same for him.
"Okay," Yugi says, cautiously inching forward until his hands are hovering over one of the chairs at the small table. "Okay. What kind of game?" He doesn't see any boards, but maybe Atemu has some dice or cards.
His second suspicion proves correct when Atemu pulls out a deck and Yugi's eyes light up in recognition. Jounouchi once affectionately named the look the "nerdgasm", which Yugi argues is completely inaccurate. He's just...passionate about games. That doesn't mean he has a fetish for them.
"Duel monsters?" he asks, unable to completely hide his enthusiasm. Atemu's ghoulish grin impossibly widens and he shuffles the cards before passing them over, gesturing for him to do the same. Yugi does so eagerly.
"It's a deck of only monster cards," Atemu explains as Yugi forms a bridge with the cards, the shuffling sound is barely audible beneath his words. "We draw five cards. Each round we place one card facedown," he takes the deck back and splits it in half, allowing Yugi to choose which pile he wants. "Whoever has the strongest monster wins the round, and takes both cards."
It's a simple use of cards intended for a much more complex game, but Yugi has no objections, excited just to have found another fan of his favorite pastime. Even if that person keeps grinning in a seemingly malicious manner, like he enjoys eating souls for breakfast with a side order of blood. Yugi decides he must be imagining it.
He quickly gets into the game, finding he's enjoying himself despite Atemu not seeming interested in maintaining an ongoing conversation, and he even forgets he hasn't eaten lunch yet. Yugi discovers that although the game appears completely luck-dependent at first, reading his opponent's expression is just as important as having a strong monster when choosing which card to place down. If he can call a bluff, he can save his more powerful monsters for later rounds, and if he already knows his opponent has something beyond what he can beat, he can do the same. Sort of like high stakes poker, only with children's trading cards.
He unwittingly becomes sucked into the game, absorbed in deciphering the meaning of Atemu's slight twitch of the eyes, his smug bluffs, and his ominous smiles.
They're tied when Atemu suggests that they turn the game into a bet.
"Raise the stakes?" Yugi asks with a measure of dread. He doesn't like the sound of that, but this may be due to Atemu's disturbing level of anticipation rather than a lack of confidence on his part. He prefers to play for fun and without the risk of bloodshed, either way.
Atemu lets out a chilling laugh. "There will be no objections," he declares, self-assurance still oozing from his every word. "The loser of this match must give one truth, their darkest secret." His eyes narrow in sinister satisfaction.
Yugi's thoughts immediately drift to his own secret, and he's suddenly acutely aware of the skirt and false identity he bears. He'd been so immersed in the game, he'd completely forgotten that he was supposed to be acting like a girl, and only now does he realize how much he'd let down his guard. Being a girl isn't so much different from being a guy, so long as he's still allowed to wear boxers underneath his skirt, he realizes.
But regardless, he can't agree to this game, because he can't share his darkest secret. He doesn't even know what he'd ask Atemu if he won.
"I'd rather play for fun," he says apprehensively, and Atemu's unnerving grin disappears and its place lingers an intense focus that refuses to back down. His lips curl and he seems to stop blinking.
"You've trespassed into my territory," Atemu states, and the room darkens almost imperceptibly. "Therefore, you've become my opponent. If you have any courage...you'll play this game with me."
Yugi shivers, and he feels a fresh bout of dread wash over him when he recognizes the familiar chill. He hopes he's mistaken, but Atemu's next words shatter whatever doubts he may have had.
"A shadow game," Atemu announces, and the darkness swirls around them in black chaos. Even the light from the single window seems to fade, sucked into the condensing shadows.
Yugi automatically reaches out to his backpack, aware that the Millennium Puzzle is probably gleaming at the surrounding magic even when he tries to muffle its exuding aura in his bag. He keeps the puzzle close, close enough that he can feel a touch of its power, but leaves it hidden. The item will help protect him, but if Atemu finds out that he has it, Yugi knows from experience that people tend to grow manic when they realize that the acquisition of the ancient, powerful object lies in the defeat of a small boy. Or in this case, his opponent will assume he's a girl. Suddenly his disguise seems even worse than it did before, which is an impressive feat.
This is not how he wanted his first day at school to go.
"I really don't want to play," Yugi tries again, unable to hide the fear in his voice. Atemu only glares in response, as if Yugi is the villain in this equation and besides, he's bored, so as a righteous high school student, he demands his entertainment with an appetizer of justice. So there.
"You will play," Atemu commands, clearly not used to being disobeyed. Yugi's hands are trembling, but he clutches his bag tightly, seeking strength from the Millennium Puzzle. He shakes his head. A bit of gold light leaks out from the closed zipper, and he knows unless he can end this now, the situation will escalate beyond his control. Of course, he doesn't feel overly authoritative even now.
"It's a game of truth. You have nothing to fear, if you're an honest person," Atemu taunts, the mocking smile returning to his lips. Yugi opens his mouth to retort, but he struggles to force the words out. Something about shadows and impending doom tends to do that to a person.
"I-" Yugi starts, the first word coming out in a stutter. His grip tightens even more. "You're not being truthful about what's at stake," he finally blurts out, hunched over so he's staring at the table instead of the Atemu's unsettling gaze.
He dislikes lying, but no matter what, this is one secret he has to keep, not just for himself but for Ryou and Jounouchi, too. The Millennium Ring is also at risk, and he can't put Jounouchi in danger when the only reason he's involved is to help Yugi.
And why should he tell this stranger, when the other man doesn't even tell him that in a shadow game, he can lose his soul if he doesn't comply?
Atemu's eyes narrow. "If you won't play, it's a forfeit, and you have to take part in the penalty game. Do you agree to forfeit?"
"I never agreed to play," Yugi protests, setting down his cards and pushing them across the table. "So how can I forfeit?"
Atemu glares, and Yugi doesn't yet fully appreciate that he just chose to protect the Millennium Puzzle over his own soul. But even if he did, he'd do exactly the same thing, because the wish Yugi made on the item would have no meaning if he gave up so easily.
"You did agree," Atemu tells him, and Yugi watches in fright when a glowing, golden symbol of an eye appears on his forehead. "When I first asked you if you would like to play a game."
"But you didn't say it was a shadow game," Yugi holds up his hands pleadingly, but Atemu has no desire to listen. The darkness continues to press forward.
"You forfeit, then," he proclaims arrogantly, and Yugi braces himself for what he knows comes next. He can't look away, captivated by red eyes and swirling magic, consuming him in cruel amusement and untouchable ink.
Atemu watches him remorselessly.
That's chapter 2. I'd love feedback, since I'm writing in a totally different style and tense than what I'm accustomed to…I'd even just appreciate hearing whether or not you enjoyed it, because I'm actually not sure what I just posted. Oops?