Warnings: We're diving right into this thing. So hold on, boys and girls, because this road promises to get real rocky real quick!
Disclaimer: I don't own Yugioh GX.
Year Three Part One: Journeys
" Hey, are you okay?"
" Hey, are you ignoring me or are you seriously that out of it?"
" Hmm, what?"
" Jesus Christ, welcome back to Earth, sis. What were you doing up in space?"
" What are you talking about?"
" You were, like, floating somewhere beyond the stars!"
"Your sarcasm wounds my sensitive soul. Seriously, you were gone. What were you thinking about?"
" Nothing in particular."
" Bull. No one gets that deep in thought that they ignore the awesome me!"
" You've been watching Hetalia again, haven't you?"
" When a friend sends a link, it's polite to take a look at it!"
" So you're saying Jay's to blame?"
" I'm still gonna hold you responsible."
" You're mean Sissy."
" And you should be used to it by now. You've been my brother for most of your life."
" Ah, to be young and an only child again."
" You were 18 months old, I doubt you remember much."
" Yeah, yeah. Back to my original question, are you okay?"
" Well, answer. It's the least you can do for ignoring me like that."
" Come Alexis, I know something's up, so spill."
" It's nothing Atty, I'm just tired."
" Lexi, I may have only been your brother for most of my life, but I've been it for all of yours. I know when something's going on. Now talk."
" Seriously, Atty, you're reading stuff into it. I'm just tired."
" Why don't I believe you?"
" Because you're a naturally suspicious person with trust issues?"
" ...You're hilarious."
" I know I am. Honestly, this is all in your head. You're probably just-"
" It's not in my head! You've been tense ever since we started heading back to DA!"
" –still just jealous that I got to go to France and you didn't."
" It wasn't fair! The City of Love was wasted on you! All you did was eat!"
" French food is the food of the gods. This is not up for discussion."
" Thousands of gorgeous guys and girls with sexy accents when they try to speak English, and you were distracted by a crepe stand!"
" A crepe stand that sold damn tasty crepes."
" An entire wedding party of sexy, sexy French people, and you spent all your time fawning over the pastry chef!"
" She was a damn good pastry chef."
" Argh! Why did you get to go? I would've made so much out of that kind of opportunity!"
" I think that's why Lia didn't invite you. She didn't want your DNA in half of her people."
" Pssh. Half."
" ...I can't tell if you're laughing at the idea of you being able to sleep with half the population of France, or if you're laughing at the idea that you would only sleep with half."
" I am a man of mystery, dearest little sister."
" Yeah, let's keep it like that, okay?"
" So mean."
" Look, I sent you pictures. I brought home videos. I updated Facebook every day. What more do you want from me?"
" Plan A."
" Atticus, you were not going to fit in my carry-on."
" Plan B, then."
" Or my suitcase."
" Plan C?"
" I was not telling airport security that you were a life-size dummy. I just...no.
" And that is why you are a terrible sister. If I was going to France, and you wanted to come, I'd lie to airport security and tell them you were made of plastic."
" Darling Big Brother, if you were going to France, I would be doing one of two things: I would already be going along with you to act as a chaperone-"
" Wait, why do you get to go all by yourself, but I need someone to babysit me?"
" –Or I'd be running as fast as I could in the opposite direction to avoid the mentally scarring. And Atticus, do you really want me to answer that?"
" Well, let's start being bringing up that family trip to Vancouver for the 2010 Games, and you-"
" I was five and a half!"
" And that poor street vendor will never be the same, now will she?"
" You know what, I take it back. Don't answer the question."
" I knew you'd see it my way. You always do."
" That's because when I don't, you dangle me off cliffs by my ankle."
" Oh, one time! And you wouldn't listen when I told you that I didn't want to sing!"
" You didn't have to dangle me off a cliff!"
" Sometimes it's the only way to get through to you!"
" A cliff Lexi!"
" Oh, suck it up, you big cry-baby."
" You still owe me for that!"
" You're scaring the other passengers."
" Wha-oh. ...Heh, heh. Sorry?"
" And this is why we never bring you anywhere. You can't behave yourself."
" Can too!"
" As evidenced by that little outburst."
" And now you're pouting like a five-year-old. In fact, you look an awful lot like you do in that picture from Van-"
" Moving on."
" ...Spoilsport. How come you get to talk about stuff that happened to me, but when I try, it's a different story."
" I'm the older brother. I'm supposed to embarrass the living hell outta you, and in retaliation, you annoy the shit outta me. There is a system, Lexi."
" Or I could just dangle you off of cliff until you stop."
" That works too. Oh hey! I can see Duel Academy on the horizon!"
" Yeah, see? There's Academy Island and there's the main building and-hey!"
" There you go again, getting all tense! What's the deal?"
" Look, it's just...with everything that went on last year..."
" Oh, come on Lex, it'll be fine. We won, the Light's gone, and everything is back to normal. Besides, if anything happens, I'll look after you."
Alexis smiled at her big brother's encouraging eyes, and turned to look out the window of the massive helicopter to avoid him seeing the doubt in hers. She'd had secrets from Atticus before – what sister didn't keep some things from her brother?- but nothing like this. The memory of the white mass, hovering above them all, speaking in a voice that made their ears bleed, still haunted her sleeping hours. She dreamed of being weightless and trapped at the same time, all the weight of the universe pressing down on her chest as her ribs threatened to collapse into her lungs. She'd woken up in a cold sweat, panting, more often than she'd like to admit, over the summer.
There were moments when she was eternally grateful that Atticus' room was at the other end of the house.
Still, as Alexis started down at the growing Duel Academy without really seeing it, she felt an uncharacteristic stab of fear go through her. The school no longer seemed like a welcoming, if exciting, place. There were dangers beyond her comprehension, beings that existed outside of the realm of her reality that could squash them all like insects if they so chose, and the only thing standing between humanity and total destruction was-
Her eyes drifted closed and her fingers brushed over them.
No, Jaden didn't stand alone. No matter what, no matter the monster that came or the god that rumbled, Jaden wouldn't stand alone on the front line. She'd be there, right next to him, along with everyone else.
Alexis touched her eyes again; another secret to keep from Atticus. She loved her brother dearly, but he was more broken than he let on, and knowing that his baby sister was prepared to go into battle would destroy him. She could never tell him what had happened that day in the White Dorm; she could never tell him what she had become.
There were certain truths Alexis understood about the world that she'd been blind to before the previous year, and one of them was that for the rest of her life, it wasn't going to be Atticus who was the protector. He hadn't been able to save her from the Light the previous year, and she was grateful. She had eyes now, and no matter what Exitium had commanded in those last few seconds of madness before It retreated, Alexis wouldn't give into despair. She'd use her new eyes and she'd find It wherever It hid.
Know me in all my forms, the Light of Destruction had said to her, and Alexis intended to do just that.
' That's right.' She thought as the helicopter began its descent. Beside her, Atticus was babbling inanely, obviously trying to soothe her frazzled nerves, but unaware of what was really bothering her. The chasm between her and her brother grew just a little larger, though he was less aware of it than her.
She touched her eyes again.
' I am Alexis Lightslayer. So bring it on, universe.'
" Well, what's go'cha in such a tizzy, mate?"
Jesse looked up, startled.
Jim Cook grinned good naturedly at the younger boy out of his one green eye. Jesse could remember blinking at the sight of the South Academy student, and wondering how he'd gotten such an injury to the other. One quarter of the boy's face was covered in bandages, though he often tipped his hat down to try and hide them. Another part of Jesse wondered if the wound was recently acquired, or if it was an old injury that liked to flare up. But the part of him that had had manners hammered in balked at the idea of asking such personal questions of a man he'd known for all of a week. As it was, he was still embarrassed by the humiliating amount of staring he'd done when the students from the various sister schools had been introduced. He'd gawked at Jim like the older boy was a particularly interesting animal display at the zoo. It was incredibly rude, but Jesse hadn't cared because there was a guy with one eye in front of him. It wasn't until he'd gotten to his room later that he'd realized how awful he'd been.
He was still unsure of how to apologize, and had spent days avoiding Jim as a result.
As it was, he hadn't been expecting the older boy to descend on him, especially not when he was lost in thoughts of Duel Academy, and so his response left something to be desired.
" Wha?" Brilliant and witty as always. Somewhere, he was sure Ruby was laughing at him.
Jim's grin just got bigger, and he settled himself lazily onto the rail next to Jesse. He was very graceful, the Northern boy noticed. Jim hadn't once tripped or stumbled on the week-long trip from the rendezvous to Duel Academy, even when the ocean had gotten rough. He was always well-balanced and calm. He looked like nothing could faze him, ever. His presence was nice, even if it did remind Jesse of a star-spangled room and the Earth slowly turning below him and the vibrant force that was Jaden Yuki shining before him so brightly that it made the stars dim-
" There ya go ag'in, frownin'. Summin's goin' on in tha' head o'yours, innit?"
Jesse stared hard at the water as it rushed by, made into waves by the white hull of the ship.
" It's just..."
Jesse shook his head, trying to gather his thoughts. They were in something of a frenzy, whizzing from one end of his brain to the other too fast for him catch up. He got flashes; half-formed ideas, images out of context. Amethyst Cat's frantic eyes, Topaz Tiger's contemplative gaze turned on Jaden, the black between the stars getting deeper, Lia Shanner's haggard face, Jaden's hidden in shadow, his silence heavier than any speeches he could ever make, that awful, there-but-not-there, impossible-to-see-but-filling-up-his-entire-vision Light as It laughed and Its laugh was so much worse than anything that had ever existed before and it was in his ears and down his throat and squeezing his heart and in his mind, in his mind and oh god-
Jesse abruptly came back to himself. Jim's hand on his shoulder was the grounding agent neither Amethyst Cat's nor Jaden's had been the previous year. It dragged Jesse out of his own mind and made him aware of his own body. He flexed the fingers he was gripping the rail with and in so doing, not only remembered that he had fingers, but also that they were holding the rail so tight that they were almost all white.
He let go gingerly.
" You alroight?"
Before he could stop himself, Jesse shook his head.
" Ah...Ah mean, Ah'm not not okay but..."
His thoughts were going even faster now, the distant, hazy memory of that monster throwing the acceleration in his mind to its highest level. He was horrified to discover that he was shaking. And sweating. And panting. When had he started having a panic attack?
" Mate? Jesse? Ya look a li'l pale there. Best sit down, yeah?"
Jim guided him away from the rail and made him sit by the pool. Jesse took huge gulps of air, not even able to muster up his usual annoyance. Since discovering that he was the youngest member of the group on the ship (he and Axel were the same age, but Axel's birthday came earlier and even if the boy was as stoic as they came, Jesse could feel him lording it over the Northern boy with his eyes), the others had been teasingly attentive of him, treating him like he was a grade schooler, and not the fifth best duelist in the world.
Although, on that point, Jesse was pretty sure Mr. Pegasus could never have seen Jaden in action. Really in action. Black spaces between the stars and silver light action. If he had, then there was no way Jesse would still be fifth. Hell, he wasn't sure Aster would still be fourth. It wasn't that Jesse lacked faith in his dueling ability. He was good, and he knew that, and when (not if, when) he finally got to duel Jaden, he'd probably do just fine. If he had Rainbow Dragon in his deck, he might even win. But that was provided that he was facing the regular Jaden. The Jaden who laughed and smiled to drive away the despair, the Jaden who fell over while trying to untangle himself from hospital bed sheets. If Jesse fought that Jaden, then it would be a little more even. It would just be two boys with talent, dueling it out because it was just what they did.
Jesse never wanted to fight the Jaden that had faced the Light.
That Jaden...he wasn't wrong, although he was terrifying, but there was something else. Something that made Cat answer to the name Vina, and Topaz Tiger look like he'd finally found the answer he'd been looking for. Something that had saved Alexis' eyes when they should've burned up in her skull. Something that had pulled the Light from Prince Ojin's body, and then commanded that It obey him after that last, brutal duel.
That Jaden wasn't wrong, but he was powerful.
And it was the kind of power that Jesse didn't think he could stand up to.
He knew that if he ever had to face that Jaden, he'd give up before the first turn. Because his instincts, when that Jaden showed up, told him not to fight and not to struggle, because this was not an enemy.
His instincts told him to drop to one knee, and bow before a king.
" Betta?" Jim asked, still rubbing his back. Jesse felt a flicker of irritation go through him. He might be the youngest, but Jim was only a year older so where did he get off acting so cool?
" Good. Now wha' was that about?"
Jesse bit his lip (oh god, now he was picking up Lia Shanner's habits!), and looked at his feet.
" Ya ever hear stories 'bout Duel Academy?"
" Sum." Jim said, carefully casual.
" ...Ever hear th' bad ones?"
Jim stretched his legs out and leaned back on his hands. In the pool, though how Jesse had missed her before, he would never know, Shirley the Crocodile floated by lethargically, one yellow eye trained on Jim at all times.
" If ya mean th' ones 'bout the monsters comin' t' loife an' souls bein' sucked outta folks and all tha', then yeah. 'Ve heard 'em."
Jim tilted his head to the side to look at Jesse, who didn't quite meet that green gaze.
" Ya sayin' there's sum truth in all those furphies?"
" Ya sayin' tha' it's not all furphies?"
" Furphy." Jim frowned. " Ya know...untrue, a rumor."
" Oh." Jesse mirrored the frown. He still wasn't used to the Australian slang that peppered Jim's speech " Uh, no. Not realleh."
" Summin 'appen to ya?"
" What, at Duel Academy?"
" Well, mate, s'only you who's been 'ere before. So you would know."
Jesse paused. Shirley made another circuit of the pool. On the deck above, Adrian Gecko of East Academy (apparently located somewhere in, of all places, Luxembourg.) talked into a recording device like he thought no one could hear him, and eyed the pool longingly. Clearly, he would've liked to go for a dip, but with Shirley in there, he wasn't taking the risk,
" ...Stuff happens at Duel Academy." Jesse said, and then winced. Stuff. How mature and descriptive.
" Bad stuff?" Jim prodded.
" Yes an' no." Jesse looked towards the blue sky, watching as the clouds drifted overhead. " Ah mean, sho'. Summa it's bad; Real bad. Ah saw people have their hearts turned against 'em, and students gibberin' an' foamin' at the mouth unda th' weight o' tha' thahng, and that was a weight tha' felt like it was death itself. ...But..."
He trailed off, still staring at the clouds. An image, finally, settled in his head. A jewel-bright marble, as perfect as anyone of his cards, gleamed like a pearl in his mind.
" ...But it's beautiful too. It's hard, an' it hurts, but it's so beautiful." He didn't look at Jim, but he felt the wide and serious eye on him. " ...Ah saw th' Earth. Ah was floatin' in a sea o' stars, and the Earth was spinnin' under me. It was so beautiful tha' Ah forgot everythahng else for a little whahle. Ah coulda reach out my hand, an' Ah coulda touched th' universe."
He finally turned to Jim. Everything else in the world seemed to have stopped. The boat wasn't moving under them. The wind wasn't rushing anymore. Even the waves were quiet. All there was was him and his new friend, who was staring at Jesse like he'd descended from the sky. Jesse smiled a sad, wise smile.
" Bad thahgs happen at Duel Academy, Jim. But if y' can weather th' storm, what y'll fahnd at th' end is worth it."
And then he got up, leaving Jim to contemplate how to get Shirley out of the water and onto the gangplank without scaring the students already on Academy Island.
They had arrived.
I greet you, Forgers of Words.
No, seriously. Omigod you guys, omigod.
We're actually here! We're actually starting Year Three. This is what I've been building for since I started Year-verse. This is where it all falls apart and comes back together. This is where the questions I've given you get answered, and where the story gets turned on its head. This is where heroes fall, and demons rise. This is it, my beloved, beloved readers. THIS, right here, is what I've been waiting to get to.
Year One was figuring out how to ride the bike.
Year Two was getting ready to take the training wheels off.
And now, here we are. The gloves are coming off. Batten down the hatches and get ready - this storm's the likes of which you've never seen before.
I've decided to forgo the cutsey, funny intro that I did last Year, because it helps set the tone of Year Three: We don't stop. The storm broke last Year, but it's been gathering speed, and it doesn't wait for anyone. There's no time for an cute intro, not with the plot rushing ahead and the characters gathering. Season Three got started pretty quick in the original show, although I'll admit that I'm having a hard time getting them all to desert world. 16 chapters, and I still can't get them moving. Oh well. And I'm holding off on writing Yubel for a bit, because I want to do her justice. For the first half of the season, she's the boogieman under the bed, the vision haunting Jaden's nightmares. I want to keep that feel.
Also, speaking technically about Season Three, it is about TWICE the length of the other seasons at 48 episodes long, while the last seaon, Season Four, is about 24 or so. So I'm cutting some things. They make sense, don't worry, but don't expect everything - particularly in the build-up - to be in there. I can't handle all that bad dialogue, and the less I have to see of Adrian Gecko, the better. 'Hello. I am a Slimy Bastard'. Asshole.
But we're here, folks, we're here.
I'll try really hard to impress you all, because honestly? This right here is my baby. I love all my Year-verse, but Year Three is without a doubt my favourite. All of it. Parts One and Two.
So enjoy the relative calm and quiet of these first 20 or so chapter as they come, because once we hit the Desert world, it doesn't slow down and the punches don'y get pulled.
I'm off to write chapter 17! See y'all!
Jesse: Ya stole mah lahne!
Go choke on it, Anderson. And prepare yourself for the mindfuck that is Yubel.
Jesse: Oh GAWD NO!
Ah ha ha...I am going to break him.