"Nyeeeh…! Man, I can't believe you beat me again, Aura!"
The grumbling boy hit his head on the desk, a little harder than he had intended.
"Oww..." he muttered, bringing the girl sitting opposite him to giggle. Her green eyes shone playfully, as she poked her tongue out and flashed her winning card, the Silent Magician, proudly in her hand, "Heh, better luck next time, Joey!"
This was about her fourth win in a row. Aura Takano, the new kid at Domino High, was rumoured to have skills that could even rival the King of Games himself.
Since she transferred to her new school, she'd befriended Joey Wheeler, another aspiring duelist who shared her good sense of humour, and the shy student Ryou Bakura, who was a transfer like herself. On top of that, she was deemed by her peers to be an attractive girl, with lightly tanned skin complimenting the dark brown of her hair; she had already gained some fans among her classmates.
"I must say," Bakura piped up, in his thick British accent, "That duel was quite smashing – possibly your best one yet, Aura!"
"Yeah, yeah…" Joey groaned, waving his hand in the air, "I just got unlucky, dat's all!"
"Oh really?" Aura raised an eyebrow with a smirk, "Sure, I believe you."
Joey rolled his eyes, and the two others laughed; they both knew he was only joking around. It didn't take long for a grin to return to his face.
"This was only a warm up! Just watch, I'll be at the top of my game when the tournament starts! You'll be entering too, right Aura?"
"You mean the Battle City tournament? Of course!" Aura beamed, "It sounds pretty fun. I might even get the chance to face Yugi!"
"You'll certainly go far if you participate." Bakura was smiling sweetly, through his mop of messy white hair, "I'll be rooting for you all the way! Oh… a-and you too, Joey, of course!"
"Huh?" Aura blinked towards him, "You mean you're not signing up?"
"Oh, no." he blushed a little, rubbing his head, "I couldn't hope to compete with players such as yourselves. I think it's best if I sit out of this one."
"Awww… really? That's too bad, Bakura."
He averted his eyes down at his shoes, shuffling about awkwardly. Aura couldn't help but smile though; she could hardly resist how adorable he was whenever he shied away like that.
"Meh, he's got a point…" Joey sighed, leaning back and stretching his arms out behind his head, "There'll be a lotta tough duelists taking part. It's not gonna be easy! 'Specially with Yugi entering."
"Say," Bakura looked thoughtful, "Aren't they registering the duelists for the tournament later today?"
"Hey, dat's right!" Joey rocked in his seat, "I forgot it was today! They're holding the big event in the city centre."
Aura broke into another smile, "Oh, how about we go sign up together after school then?"
A grin split wide across Joey's face, as he stuck his thumb up at her, "Yea, sounds like a plan to me!"
"Jeez! Look at dis crowd!"
It hadn't taken them long to walk down into the shopping district after school, but already there was a huge sea of people gathering in the square, blocking their way. The city had never been so lively - swamped with masses of people, bustling about and some merely idling around to chat.
"Woah… are all these people duelists then!" Aura asked; the card game was certainly popular here in Japan, but she'd never seen so many people like this in one place before.
"Must be…" Joey replied, looking over the heads of other people to try and see what was going on; he grimaced, "Aw, I shoulda guessed dat he'd be here…"
Aura screwed up her face, frustrated for not being as tall as Joey; but among the low droning of the crowd, she could hear a loud, familiar-sounding voice carrying over across the square. Joey's lips curled into a frown.
"It's dat rich boy, Kaiba… making some long speech, no doubt."
"Oh… ugh, I totally forgot he was hosting this thing."
Aura had never really liked that pompous tycoon Kaiba. He seemed to have a hard time making an effort for other people; plus, he seemed like he'd do anything to get what he wanted.
"…Hey c'mon, let's try and jump ahead of these guys!"
"Huh?" Aura whipped her head around to see Joey already pushing ahead, impatient as always, "W-Wait up!"
In her hurry to try and pursue Joey, Aura was shoved quite hard back against someone. She scowled, scanning around for the jerk that had pushed her, "Hey!"
She froze. A pair of sharp eyes had suddenly snatched and caught hers, holding them fast. For a moment she blinked, and couldn't help gazing into those striking violet eyes, which seemed to be boring back into hers fiercely. As quickly as they came, they softened, and the owner wore a small smile as he reached a hand out towards her.
"Sorry about that. Are you alright?"
"Uh…" Aura realised she'd been staring and shook her head vigorously; she'd been caught off guard for a second, "Uh, y-yeah. I'm fine! Thanks."
"No problem." The boy with violet eyes gave another warm smile after helping her back up. She noticed the darker colour of his skin, and the stunning platinum blond of his hair. Judging by the ornate black maquillage under his eyes, she guessed he might be Egyptian; nonetheless, he was certainly quite handsome.
When she failed to speak, he asked again with a pleasant tone, "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I'm sure." She nodded; remembering what she had been doing, she whirled around looking for any sign of Joey. He seemed to have already steamed off through the masses of people. Typical…
"Are you looking for someone?"
His voice surprised her. Aura looked back at the Egyptian boy, perplexed, "Uh… why d'you ask?"
"Oh, no reason I guess."
He was still smiling that same smile; it made Aura raise an eyebrow curiously.
"I'm Namu." He was quick to introduce himself; he thrust out his hand in an open manner, for her to shake, "And you are?"
Aura eyed him, slightly suspicious. Although she was friendly, she was always weary about people she'd only just met; he seemed just a little too nice to her. It was like he was trying way too hard.
"…My name's Aura." She said, vigilantly accepting his handshake. His hand was warm.
"Aura…" he seemed to be tasting her name, "That's quite unusual. I like it."
She smiled at his compliment, trying not to show her uneasiness. She didn't want to seem impolite.
"Thanks." She said, before taking another glance around her. There really was no sign of Joey anywhere…
"Oh, you have a duel disk!" the boy's voice came again, enthusiastically.
Aura was taken aback, "Uh… y-yeah… You're pretty observant, huh?"
He gave her a look before chuckling lightly, "Heh, it's just… I'm a duelist too. I assume you'll be registering for Battle City, as well?"
"Of course." She nodded, thinking it had been a bit of a silly question. She suddenly wondered how she'd gotten stuck into this random conversation. It was a little unnerving, the way he just kept staring and smiling… she couldn't shake the feeling that it all seemed so hopelessly fake to her. Was he one of those fanatics who chased after people's rare cards? Or worse, some kind of creepy stalker with a crush? Not that he wasn't good-looking, but…
Hurriedly, Aura tried to muster up an excuse to get away, "Hey, um, I've gotta—"
But Namu once again interrupted her train of thought.
"Oh." he seemed to be looking over at someone behind her, "Right… well, I've got to get going now. Maybe I'll catch you during the tournament, Aura?"
He didn't wait to hear her goodbye; with a swift movement past her, he'd already disappeared.
This guy was just so abrupt.
One minute he was there, and the next he'd taken off. Aura tilted her head in confusion, trying to piece together what on earth had just happened... She turned and watched Namu making his way out of the crowd, towards some men wearing unusual purple cloaks. He spoke to them briefly, and nodded twice before marching them away, not taking a single look back.
If he hadn't already looked suspicious, he certainly did now.
Against her better judgement, Aura decided she couldn't just let him go – she couldn't help being bothered by such things. Helplessly curious as to what this strange guy was really up to, she weaved her way out through the horde of cheerfully chattering duelists, and followed the peculiar bunch down into the darker backstreets of Domino.
Aura shivered slightly, as the sky had darkened over bringing dim gray clouds. Light wisps of rain in the air dampened her hair, as she continued as a brisk pace – she began doubting whether this was a good idea. She could just about keep up with the hooded men, who were ducking through various alleyways and going deeper into empty parts of the city. She'd never strayed this far away from the shopping district before; it was a little disturbing. Joey was bound to be wondering where she was by now…
"What're you freaks supposed to be?"
She immediately stopped on a corner, after hearing some ruckus going on from the other side. Despite her rash nature, she was wise enough not to go charging into trouble, and decided instead to watch what was happening from her hiding place.
"You punks aren't from here, are you? Don't you know you shouldn't go wandering around places you don't belong!"
A shady looking man was standing in the way of Namu and the purple hoods, laughing and taunting in a drunken-like manner. He hiccupped and chortled, his face bright red as he loomed over the trespassers. Sot thugs like these were known to be common in these back alleys.
Aura's eyes, however, were on Namu. She felt her stomach churn, as the kind face the Egyptian boy had shown her before suddenly warped into a deathly scowl. His eyes blazed with some other surreal emotion.
"We don't have time for this! Out of our way, you fool!"
His voice was different too; it was gruff and demanding, nothing like earlier. Aura watched, her eyes widening with wonder, as Namu unclipped a gold sceptre-like item from his belt. Whatever it was, it had an incredibly ancient look to it, and was remarkably gleaming… it seemed to be getting brighter and brighter.
All of a sudden, Aura drew in a sharp breath; she'd almost leapt out of her skin, as the drunken thug let loose a horrendous shriek, more animal-like than human. It was enough to rattle her to her core. …What just happened? Was he screaming with pain?
She had to shield her eyes from the glaring light, so she couldn't make out what was going on; but after the glow died away, the man was already lying lifeless on the ground, his eyes filled with white. His face was washed of colour too, and his mouth lay wide open, like some deranged zombie. The sudden silence was sickening.
Aura's heart rose to her throat, rendered horrified – had they… killed him?
"Hey, who's there?"
Aura's insides lurched - one of the purple hoods had suddenly yelled, swerving without warning to face her direction.
For the second time that day, Aura found herself locked with those fierce violet eyes.
Namu turned and was looking right at her, that gold sceptre of his in hand, and a frightening glower in his eyes. He snarled dangerously, calling out in disbelief.