Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
It is a perfect setting. The wind blows gently, enough to rustle the already untidy brown locks but not to cause devastation; the clouds gather above, grey and thick, like they are awaiting the perfect moment to give way to the torrent they store within their wisps; the place is deserted and there is no movement, save for the natural motion of the tree branches and the neglected grass in the wind.
Truthfully, he had been wishing for the setting to be somewhat less than perfect; it would have been easier. Having people around to serve as a sufficient distraction or weather so nastily unpredictable that it would shorten this visit, so to speak, would have been a welcome difference.
This setting makes it all feel too real, and for whatever reason, his already heavy heart reluctantly accepts the weight of this new burden that the teenager must now carry with him: this is real. He can no longer lie between rough, worn sheets at night and allow himself to believe that tomorrow, when he inevitably awakens, his friend will be waiting, smiling as he always did. Now that he is here, now that he must come to this place to pay his best friend a visit, everything falls into a cruelly sharp reality, and he can't pretend any longer.
This was unavoidable and although he has long known this – and subconsciously has already accepted it despite his reluctance to do so – it still feels like an impossible challenge. This, in and of itself, lets him know that the feelings in his heart are genuine; he has always been the one who rises to any challenge, who does it with confidence and honest enjoyment, who loves the thrill of the challenge itself. But now he has no excitement in his veins, no thrill nor enjoyment. He does not feel grief or misery, either, if he is honest with himself – which he isn't. He is, in fact, strangely void of emotion.
It takes mere steps to arrive at the iron gate, the black paint flaking off at regular intervals and leaving behind a reddish-brown coloured metal, corroded by the rain that has fallen since the gate's protective coating fell away. One finger reaches out and he lets the tip touch a section of the rusted metal – right at the tip of his finger, there being no nail any more to get in the way since he has taken, these past few days, to biting them down nearly to the quick – where he lets the somewhat unpleasant texture linger on his skin for a moment before he pulls back and opens the gate with remarkable little hesitation. He can feel, rather than see, the encouraging smile of his friend who stands next to him, though he doesn't take the time to acknowledge the other boy right now.
Instead he follows the age-old path that leads him on a metre-stick-straight journey through the stones, and he feels a stab of sympathy as he passes each one which has been mutilated in some way or another. The newer stones stand strong, shiny and proud, with exquisite writing for detail. Some even have flowers, many wilting but some fresh, laid respectively in front of them. He smiles as he sees these graves; these people are recently dead, judging by the condition of their headstones, and they are not forgotten by the people they left behind. But precious few are in this condition; others lie upturned or broken, some partially and some so badly that they resemble nought but careless rubble. It is a devastating scene to witness: the people who lie under the soil in front of these graves no longer have any visitors, and nobody tends to the headstones any more.
After a while, everyone who loved you is gone, perhaps now lying under the soil nearby. After a while, every grave here will become deserted, and only the newest will be visited. Because human beings have but one lifetime, and when it runs out they are gone.
Jaden Yuki knows that this is not right, but that it is a fact of life – at least, it is to everyone who is not him. He hopes he will remember the specific grave, the specific location, in his next life. He, being the Supreme King, will have many lifetimes, although he will be partially unique in each; different every time but yet still always the same.
The grave he is here to visit now, for the very first time, will be always tended – he will personally make sure of it. Never will the headstone be vandalised or broken, never will the writing lose its shine, and never will the flowers on the ground in front of the stone be left wilting until they are brown with lifelessness.
He is the Supreme King, and if he cannot care for the grave of the person he cared for most in the entire world – on par or close to that with Yubel, even – then he is no good to anybody. Some things he will do in his life will be quietly momentous; this will be a smaller and personally precious duty that he will perform.
His journey on the gritty path continues, and he walks carefully, so as to avoid stepping on pieces of broken stone that have long since been left and forgotten about. He, for one, will not kick the broken pieces any further away from the headstone which they were once a part of, which now lies crumbled and abandoned.
It is a dismal setting: destruction, vandalism, those who once were loved now forgotten. It strikes a slight emotional stab of pain inside him, to think that this is the only place that he and his friend can be together now. And even then, their conversations will be forever one-sided. Although he, as a being who will have more than one lifetime, is willing to accept change, this is just one change too large for this lifetime. He has subconsciously accepted the event already; he just doesn't want to admit, even to himself, that he will never again see those green eyes again, those eyes which were always so full of excitement and care, that reflected the inner personality of the man who was his best friend.
Nobody who was always so lively and carefree should be confined to a dreary, dull place like this graveyard, where the graves are all placed in neat rows and there is no colour to contrast the misery which hangs in the air as thick as a fog.
Jaden is thankful for the support he is receiving during the seemingly never-ending walk towards the specific grave. His friend doesn't touch him in any way, but instead just walks a few steps behind him, a constant source of support should he require him, and Jaden wishes that he had it in him to turn around and tell his first friend just how grateful he is. Besides the boy walking with him, he has only one constant source of support, and that is from inside his own mind, in the form of his guardian Yubel. She is unsettled by this place, he realises, and he isn't surprised by it. After all the events which took place in the alternate dimension not so long ago, Yubel doesn't want to be here; Jaden is just grateful that she so strongly supports him despite this. He is lucky to have her, to have Syrus as well.
With the calming waves Yubel sends to him inside his own mind and the silent comfort he receives from Syrus, Jaden pushes himself on at a steady pace – fast enough to mean business but not enough to seem urgent – until he reaches his destination.
And when he does, he stops.
This is it. This is all there is. For an unknown reason, perhaps out of his own desperation, he was expecting more than what is really there; a medium sized, rectangular shaped gravestone, pale grey and speckled, with gold writing. Just like so many of the others, with nothing in particular different and nothing momentous to make this grave stand out amongst the others. Had he not memorised the specific location – which he knew from his faithful Winged Kuriboh's previous scouting missions to find the stone – he might well have walked straight past it.
But he stops. He kneels down on the fresh grassy mound and looks at the stone. Somehow, he still expects it to change, to turn into something more. Of course, that is only a fantasy; nothing changes. So all he can do is take a deep breath and prepare himself.
What is he going to say? What should he say? Is speech necessary, when you're only going to be talking to a headstone, when your friend cannot answer you?
Jaden is not even aware that the air around them is thicker here than it was at the front gate, that the temperature is marginally different in this part of the graveyard. Yubel does notice, and her presence in his mind seems to strengthen slightly.
Syrus places his hand on his friend's shoulder, hoping that this will be enough. He has never had to support his friend in this way. The closest he has ever come to having to be Jaden's support was right after he first became the Supreme King. And that situation was quite different.
How ironic, really, that this is once again a situation when Jaden simply must find Jesse.
Only, last time he actually got to see Jesse again. This time, he can't have even that satisfaction. But then, they both knew this before leaving that morning.
The shorter of the two males removes his hand from his friend's shoulder - almost reluctant but realising that Jaden needs to be alone with Jesse, as far as is possible – and walks as quietly as he can manage on the rough gravel underfoot to stand beneath a nearby willow tree, seeking shelter beneath its bending branches and giving Jaden the privacy he knows his friend needs. He almost wonders why he came but mentally berates himself; it is because he knows Jaden, and he knows that his friend is deeply grateful for his support. None of their others friends were willing to come today, all of them either being busy or just unwilling to accept that Jesse was gone and buried now.
It has not been long enough for everyone to have accepted it, but all the same, Jaden makes sure that he is the first of them to visit the grave, to see it and read the shiny lettering, to talk to the friend he will never see again as long as he lives – which will be lifetimes.
With Syrus gone – he is unsure where, though confident his friend is not far away – the brunette allows himself to close his eyes, keeping the pain running through his mind inside, keeping it from being obvious to the headstone. A stone without eyes, and he hides his pain from it; it is purely habit, because he would never have wanted to worry Jesse, his best friend, by showing him his emotional pain. He has never sought to worry any of his friends.
The headstone is so simple that Jaden almost feels like breaking down, just because Jesse was not like that. He was so different from most people; different in a good way. He cared about spirits in a way that nobody else did, except for perhaps Jaden himself. He was good natured and trustworthy and outwardly selfless, sacrificing himself for his friends when a situation was desperate enough to call for such a bold action. Jaden cannot blame him; he would always do, and has done, the same for his friends.
It would have been more fitting, Jaden thinks now, if Jesse had died sacrificing himself; it would've been something Jesse himself would have been proud of. It would have been worth it. So his actual cause of death is, by comparison, so insignificant that his best friend now clenches his fist in rage – his friend's death means nothing to the people who didn't already know him, nothing monumental or chivalrous.
Slender fingers – quite delicate looking but capable of immense damage – reach up and brush lightly against the flat surface of the headstone, the cool, smooth marble texture leaving his fingertips feeling uncomfortably cold. The writing is engraved and approximately half a millimetre deep into the stone, and he holds his breath as his the tip of his right index finger tracing the words written there in gold cursive writing.
This makes it all so much more real, so undeniable that he is highly uncomfortable with it. Ignorance can be bliss; ignoring reality can be incredibly soothing. Now that Jaden is here, facing the grave of his deceased best friend, he can no longer pretend that Jesse will come back soon, can no longer lie to himself out of sheer desperation. He walked across dimensions to find Jesse, put his friends through all sorts of terrible things in his search for him, and now it seems as though it was all for nothing.
No, he decides. That is not true. That journey rewarded him with his friend, back alive and seemingly well. That journey allowed him to rediscover the truth about himself, about his past, and he was finally reunited with the person he'd lost. If not for that search across those dimensions, would he ever have become one with Yubel? On that one detail, he had no regrets.
He only regretted not knowing how sick the dimensional travel combined with being possessed had made his friend. Marcel had had treatment, but Jesse hadn't wanted it; he had said that he was fine and that all he needed was some rest in order to regain his strength. By the time Jaden had worked out exactly what had happened, it had been too late to efficiently help Jesse. His friend, deeply in pain at the time, had pleaded with him to do what he wanted, to let him go. Jaden had naturally refused but...
With Jesse in so much pain and wanting to make peace with his best friend before the inevitable – and so it was by that point – Jaden had been unable to argue with him any further than he had initially. He chose to let his friend go, rather than to let him suffer.
It has all led him here.
To the rest of the world, it is unclear what Jesse Andersen has died from. Nobody quite understands, and Jaden knows that it is better this way. He understands because of the knowledge he now remembers from past lives, and because of what Yubel has explained to him. It is too complicated for anyone who is not him to understand, simply because of who he is and all he has seen in his lifetimes. It would be painful to recount to others, and he will not let his friends suffer any more than they have already.
And so now he carries the burden of knowing that he alone could have recognised and helped his friend had he been more observant at the time. And yet, while feeling this guilt, he realises that he had no way of knowing without Jesse telling him directly, and his friend told nobody at all, except for perhaps his family.
The Crystal Beasts. Jaden now possesses them. He does not use them to duel, but he speaks with their spirits; about their deceased duellist for the most part. He will never use them in battle until he feels that both he and they are ready for that, and it will take time. But he will perhaps use them one day, if only because he knows that Jesse would not want them to be unused and abandoned. He cared for them; Jaden will honour his memory by taking care of them now that Jesse is gone.
Jaden's spine curves as he leans forward, not to the point of pain but enough for him to lean his forehead against the headstone of the grave. He is fairly certain that, if not for the comforting and calming presence of Yubel that he can feel, he would be crying. His guardian is taking care of him, offering special comfort and love, and Jaden can do nothing except graciously accept it and offer it back to her.
He has accepted this; he knows that now. Jesse is dead, and although this is a personal tragedy, it is okay. Jaden will mourn his friend but he will celebrate him also; celebrate his memory and what he did for his friends. He will tend to this grave in a way that nobody else can, because he will live for more than one lifetime. He will not forget Jesse Andersen, his best friend; he realises this now. Even if he were to forget in his next life, he knows that Yubel will remind him, because he has asked her to do so and she has agreed. He trusts her, she won't fail him.
This grave is in a perfect condition now; it is new and sparkling and the writing his crisply clear. And unlike so many of the other unfortunate headstones, this one will always remain perfect. Jaden will see to it himself.
This is a small duty for him to perform; in comparison to some of the others he carries the weight of, being the Supreme King and all. However, he welcomes this duty. It is personal and something he wants to do just because he can.
Time passes as he remembers the times he had with Jesse; the good and the bad, the beginning to the end, their coincidental meeting to their unwilling final farewell. He has had a lot of fun with his best friend, times that he will remember fondly for longer than the duration of a lifetime. He will not forget his best friend. If ever he unwillingly does, he knows that he will have Yubel to correct him.
Jaden is entirely unsure of how long he remains in the one motionless position, with his forehead touching the marble effect stone and his hands atop his knees for support, with Yubel's soothing voice in his mind. It seems as though mere seconds have passed – although, judging by the colour of the sky, it has been far longer – when he feels the warm weight of a hand on his shoulder, and he lifts his head and turns his slightly stiff neck to see Syrus looking timorously at him. There is caution in his friend's grey eyes, but care and sympathy as well.
Jaden stands, his friend's hand falling from his shoulder as he does. Syrus peers up at him as though awaiting his reaction; he only smiles very slightly. He will not start crying or screaming or fall into a deep, dark despair. There is no need – it is not what Jesse would want, what his friends need him to do, or indeed what he himself desires.
He does not need to brood, to weep, to grieve.
It is better for him to celebrate the life that his friend had, that will live on in what he did, and also in the hearts of his family and friends. A person that is dead is not necessarily a person that is forgotten.
Jesse will not be forgotten. He will not be mourned. Instead, he will be remembered and celebrated. Because this is a cheerful reaction to a tragic event; it is all they can do for the lively character he really was.
The brown eyes of the duellist fall on the gravestone and Jaden smiles, whispers that he will be back soon. Then he begins to walk back in the direction he came earlier, however long ago. A few seconds go by before he feels Syrus walking beside him and he casually throws an arm around the shorter boy's shoulders in a gesture of friendship and gratitude. He feels Syrus relax a little under his touch and the two continue their journey out of the graveyard and back home, until they next feel the need to visit.
For now, Jaden will return to his home, and he will celebrate the calmness that he has with his friends, his cards, and with Yubel. He will do all that he has always done, will be himself. He has matured, and it shows. He can feel loss and sadness over the death of his friend, but he will keep going, and will enjoy his life, fulfil his duties. A tragedy does not mean that life will stop. Life must go on.
And so it should: Jesse would have wanted no less.