A/N: Soarshipping (Dark Magician Girl x Spiria) for Season 10 Tier 10 of YGO Fanfiction Contest. This is actually based during YGO 5D's, but no actual knowledge of it is necessary, as this story is an anachronistic piece of a hot mess anyway. The whole premise of it runs on the idea that the time in the Spirit World doesn't run the same course as in the real (YGO) world, which would make it possible for the Spirit World timeline to converge with both YGO DM and YGO 5D's.

Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.

Warnings: Violence against duel monsters, if that counts for anything.

Across the Land

It started with little things. Whispers in the dark. Unruly monsters roaming outside their realms. Fear growing slowly. Darkness spreading. Chaos building up as a prelude to something greater, something fearsome. They'd had it before. They'd been through this before. Where monsters of different calibre and conviction lived under the same sky, strife was unavoidable. Opposites attracted to clash and ravage the land in their wake. Monsters crawled out of the dark to erase the light. And the light…

"Help… me," Dreamsprite whispered, clinging to Spiria's hand while her lithe body slowly turned into stone. The rich blue of her skin faded to a dull granite grey. The fiery-red wisps of her hair stiffened, chiselling themselves into the eternally unchanging locks of a stone carving.

"Duck!" one of Spiria's allies roared and she reacted instinctively by crouching low and twisting to the left, unsure whether that warning had been for her or somebody else. The spell hit someone or something – she hadn't the time to look; she was already flying up and out of range. Safe. This time.

They couldn't fight back. They hadn't the means. All of the monsters who had tried previously were littering the field as stone tablets now. The marching army of monkeys and their Minus Curse-powered staffs was too formidable. Where the Burning Beast had stomped two of them into the ground and the Freezing Beast bitten another's head off, six other monkeys had sprung forth and turned them both into stone slabs. Where Element Doom had cloven a path through the enemy's rows, it ended with an askew ta

blet, halfway stuck in the ground and jagged around the edges.

Eagle Eye soared above the destruction, high and unreachable by their foes, and Spiria joined him for a moment of reprieve as well as to assess the situation. No monsters had ever thought of creating an army and taking over the land. No one else had even permitted such a thought into their minds. No one else before Demonic Monkey King Zeman, that is. And here they were now – rows upon rows of monkey soldiers advancing across the field and forcing the wildly mismatched monsters back further into their own land.

"The Darkness is moving," Eagle Eye said, cryptic as always.

Which darkness he was referring to, Spiria didn't ask. She risked being obvious instead. "We're losing."

"The light still burns, but the Darkness is moving."

Spiria held in a sigh. Yes, the darkness was moving. It was expanding further and further beyond the borders of the land belonging to the creatures of darkness; it's rightful realm. Its usual inhabitants, what little was left of them, were now roaming the sunlit fields, feeling out of place and out of use. Fiends and Vampires, and Zombies could now be seen in habitats that were not naturally theirs, suffering from the bright sunlight and a myriad of obstacles they'd never encountered before. Their fellow night-dwellers had been the first to fall to the new threat. The darkness itself consisted of roiling, twisting coils of dark matter, tinted in sickly shades of reds and purples, and blues. Whatever it touched, withered. It left the conquered parts of the Spirit World barren, with only dust and grey smoke filling the air. The darkness had come alive and out of it marched a legion, armed with weapons hitherto unknown. But the light…

Magicians, Spiria decided. They needed magicians. Since their opponents appeared to be Spellcasters, although limited to one spell only, pitting them against the same type would be their best option at winning. Moving away from Eagle Eye, she scanned the field for her friends and comrades. The bravest of them, who'd thrown themselves into the fray, were now reduced to being nothing more than an assortment of stone slabs. Others had already fled the scene. Flight was her only option also.

Surprisingly, the monkeys didn't chase them. They didn't hunt down the runaways even if they could. Instead, they meticulously gathered the stone tablets and carried them away, back into the darkness from whence they'd come. Almost as if they knew that it was only a matter of time before they got the rest of the opposition. Spiria shuddered at the thought. They probably will.

She beat her wings faster, trying to put the battlefield as far behind her as possible, as fast as her wings would carry her, though the memories of lost friends were slow to follow. She wondered, cold dread twisting in her stomach, how soon she would get sealed away. How long would they last, crowding around the last beacon of hope in this world that was becoming emptier each moment? Their final stand didn't seem too far off.

The aftermath of the battle was spent on a nearby mountain where the power of the monkey army did not reach yet. In a clearing surrounded by old, gnarly trees, the survivors had come together for a recount of losses and an overhaul of battle strategies. The bout of small victories from days before was interrupted now. From her perch on a low-hanging branch, Spiria could oversee the crowd of monsters quite well. There was an assortment of Beasts clustering opposite her, several Warriors stood at uneven intervals with Spirits and Plants, and she could spy several Winged Creatures perching in the trees all around, partially hidden by the foliage. There were no wounds to be treated, save for the ones the fleeing monsters had given themselves, but those were all coward's injuries and the afflicted chose to not draw attention to them. Most of them were proud spirits and couldn't bear the thought of how those had been acquired.

Most of the Dragons, being among the bravest and usually in the frontlines of every battle, were already trapped in stone. They had been amid the first ones to respond to the new threat and they had paid for it dearly. Fighters and Warriors, and a good deal of Healers were gone as well. It had been gradual at first – the outbreaks of violence in the furthest and darkest corners of the land – but now it was taking over it all rapidly. Each day they lost a field, or a forest, or a lakeside. The entire span of Spirit World was slowly being narrowed down to one island of light. The ones who could have been the greatest and most powerful of allies were already lost in tiny, meaningless battles. Quite a number had been summoned to the human world and therefore currently unreachable. There were barely any fighters left.

Spiria had heard all of this time and time again, during each of the war councils they held. The only not-quite change was the names of the more recently petrified Duel Monsters. That list was ever growing. So far, there were no records of anyone breaking the spell.

"There's still hope for us. We still have allies on the other side," a new voice joined the old and familiar choir of debaters, gathered in one of the last few safe havens after the battle. Spiria turned her head sharply, recognising it.

"Dark Magician Girl! Help us! They're spellcasters too! You should know how to stop them!" a hundred voices all but bellowed at once. Monsters stepped closer to the centre of the clearing, leaving their spots under the ancient oak trees to join the most active group, as if just being closer to the young Spellcaster would provide them with the knowledge necessary to beat the army of monkeys and darkness.

It wasn't a secret that Dark Magician Girl was among the select few spirits who could travel between their world and the human world at will. Everyone expected answers and solutions from her now. Unfortunately, she had none.

"The Crimson Dragon is struggling in the human world. Even the Ancient Fairy Dragon has been sealed away. We're looking for a way to reverse the Minus Curse, but…" She shook her head regretfully. "We have to rely on our allies in the human world. They're doing their best."

Spiria knew her well enough to hear the unsaid 'but' in her voice. She could see how her long-time friend stood tall through the onslaught of griping and complaints at her announcement. Dark Magician Girl hadn't changed one bit, she decided.

Once fellow monsters had somewhat calmed down or, at the very least, turned their attention to more pressing matters, Dark Magician Girl approached Spiria. It had been a while since they'd last seen each other. Since they'd last fought side by side in this world or the other.

"So. Humans again," Spiria stated, though it was actually a question only the two of them could understand. Do we have hope?

"I believe in them," was the unwavering reply.

She'd always been good at that, Spiria noted, though not out loud. She suspected that her friend couldn't live without hoping for the best and expecting favourable outcomes no matter what the situation at hand. She nodded, accepting that response. "I'll believe in you, then."

A frown settled on Dark Magician Girl's forehead, as if she would disapprove of such a claim. Even if she did, even if she saw a second meaning behind that statement, she didn't comment on it. She knew better. Experience had taught her better.

"It won't be easy," she ventured at length. "The humans know they must win this; they've sworn to win, but-"

"Let's take a walk," Spiria cut her off abruptly and slipped off her perch. She turned away from the clearing and the impromptu council of the most recent battle survivors, heading for a winding path that would take them higher up in the mountain. "You've been away for a long time. Did you serve as somebody's Deck Master?"

"Oh, occasionally." She let Spiria lead the way, oddly glad for her offer, as it took her further away from the rest of the gathered monsters. Falling in step with an old-time friend felt somehow comforting. "No one's picked you in quite a while though, have they?"

Spiria shrugged. "I don't really mind."

After a moment of silence, Dark Magician Girl said, "It gets worse with every time." She wasn't talking about her summons to the human realm.

Spiria shot her a sidelong glance. She didn't have to clarify what was meant with that; their minds were running the same course. "We think that every time. Every time, we make it through."

"This time…" Dark Magician Girl paused, shooting a look around the scarce undergrowth and over the tangled branches in search for someone who might be listening in, "It's different this time. Worse."

"Zorc seemed impossible to beat as well."

"Back then it was many of us against just one of him in the human world. This time, it's many of them against only a few of us across both worlds," she argued. Then added thoughtfully, "Zorc, really? Has it been that long?"

Spiria nodded, a wistful smile on her lips. "You were born for that battle."

This made Dark Magician Girl feel suddenly shy, remembering that Spiria was much older. It also made her what? Sad? Regretful? That they hadn't stood side by side in a fight for so long. Spiria was one of those rarely summoned monsters who spent most of their time in the Spirit World. In a way, she envied them. And yet in another way, she almost pitied them. They were all warrior spirits, no matter how small. Their existence served only one purpose – to compete in battles, to claim victories and to be useful in every fight, no matter how insignificant. To be denied their purpose, their sole reason of existence… She felt sad. Most of the monsters here would never know that special feeling of forging a bond with a human. Most monsters would never know what it was like to stick with one master through thick and thin, to work their way to the top, to help them reach their goals.

"I hoped we wouldn't need to fight side by side anymore," Spiria confessed, her gaze trained firmly on the road ahead. "I find it an honour, make no mistake."

"But there's just been too much war already," Dark Magician Girl filled in, nodding in understanding. Most of the Spirit World's inhabitants were used to peaceful lives. Most of them knew nothing of battles and wars, and losses. And now that the war had begun simultaneously in both realms, the vast majority found themselves at a loss. The little ones needed protecting, the greatest warriors were already lost, and the middle-class fighters, most of the time, didn't have enough battle experience to pull the weight which had suddenly come crashing down on them. "No one has targeted our realm before, though."

Spiria didn't reply. She'd reached an overhanging cliff, which presented an unobstructed view of the land. Beyond the forest at the foot of the mountain lay that day's battlefield, still crawling with life. The monkeys still worked on retrieving the tables which had fallen closest to the tree line, not yet daring to set foot inside it. Spiria didn't doubt that, come morning, they would march onwards and conquer even this safe haven with renewed forces in their ranks. The monsters taking refuge here would either have to fight and lose a part of their comrades again, or flee and lose a part of their comrades again. There was no way to win this.

Dark Magician Girl walked toward the edge of the cliff, each step slow, almost reverent. Her gaze rowed the scene unfolding before her, shifted to the darkened horizon, took in the desolation of the once-friendly and familiar land, and she shuddered, teetering on the edge like a bird of flight, unsure whether to stay on the ground or take off. There were dark clouds piling up high at the horizon, blotting out the light. Grey mist spiralled up and evaporated into nothingness from rivers and lakes, shrinking the waterlines and uncovering mud, forcing their inhabitants out onto dry land where they would be easily overtaken by the army of darkness. The trees stood bare and blackened, the once-lush forests now all dead and scarce; nothing but harsh silhouettes that offered no shelter and no cover. Beyond the destruction stood the cliffs with the trapped Ancient Fairy Dragon – the strongest protector of their realm which had still been available. Dark, rainless storm clouds crowded over the polluted land, illuminated in ghostly purples and acid blues, as if lit from within by silent lightning storms.

"If there is hope for us," Spiria began, but couldn't bring herself to finish. What could she possibly say? The devastated landscape before them spoke volumes. Soon, there wouldn't be a single corner left unaffected. The light was already fading.

Dark Magician Girl didn't respond for the longest time. She'd spent a far longer time in the human world than she'd thought. Or maybe it was just the darkness, spreading faster than her mind could comprehend.

"There is one thing," she began hesitantly, her gaze turning to the far right, toward the towering mountain range and the storm clouds above it, "that we could still try."

Spiria said nothing, her silence showing all of the agreement to any proposition, any stray idea her old-time friend could manage to come up with. Come morning, this mountain might already be overrun by monkeys and polluted by darkness. Doing something before that… Anything. Anything to move, to put an extra distance between them and the billowing clouds, and the creeping dusk. Anything to give the light one more day, one moment longer, for their own sake and for the sake of the humans fighting on the other side.

"Exodia was sealed away a long time ago. Do you think… Would it still be sealed away? Unaffected by the Minus Curse?"

"It was sealed away for a reason," Spiria said simply. "It can't be controlled."

"It's in the enemy territory, though. What's the worst thing that could happen? They'd seal it away again?"

Gaze trained on Dark Magician Girl's back, Spiria considered this possibility. All things taken into account, they had a chance of succeeding if. If they could get through the enemy territory unscathed and unnoticed, if Dark Magician Girl was strong enough to break the binding spell put on Exodia, and an added bonus would be if they both managed to get out of its path before the destruction began. If, however, Exodia turned the wrong way, away from the enemy and toward the last good monsters standing, there would be no stopping it. It would only serve to bring about the Spirit World's demise much sooner.

Dark Magician Girl didn't turn around, didn't chance a look at Spiria, knowing very well how insane her suggestion was. She yearned to move, to go somewhere, do something right now, instead of biding her time and waiting. Instead of standing by and watching her homeland smoulder and wither away.

"We'll be harder to spot at nightfall. Let's go then."

Her shoulders relaxed slightly at Spiria's quiet suggestion. It didn't stop the jitters, but it gave her something to concentrate on. Since neither of the two felt like returning to the clearing and the other monsters, they settled on the cliff. A few attempts were made to catch up on the old days and the old fights, a few brief bouts of reminiscing on their previous masters and their prowess – or lack – thereof wormed their way amid conversations that soon petered out. The moment felt too strained, too heavy for either casual or soul-searching talks; almost solemn – and all the more ominous because of that.

Once the light faded and stars began lighting up the sky, they rose and took flight side by side. Dark Magician Girl gazed over the nightly landscape, recalling places where light had shone before, but her eyes found only the greyed fields, the blackened land, and the ghostly forests. Only a few small rivers still twinkled back the starlight at them, though smaller now than what they had been the last time she'd laid her eyes on them.

Before long, they had to fly lower because of the approaching clouds. Long before they started though, mist stretched its wispy tendrils toward them, and it turned out to be heavier than one would believe. It had a suffocating quality that made them feel dizzy. Eventually they decided to walk the land, hoping to clear their heads from the poisonous fog they'd inhaled. Once in the shadow of the bare trees, they felt alert and on the edge. The forest, once lively and friendly, had turned ill-boding and scary. Branches stretched overhead like thousands of clawed hands, creaking every now and then as if complaining even though there was no wind. Every pitch-black corner seemed to harbour something evil that lay in wait, patiently standing by till the right time to pounce presented itself. Each path, once familiar, now appeared completely foreign. Where lush undergrowth had been, shrivelled bushes and boulders had taken over the scenery. The only good thing was the clear view on their destination. The mountains loomed ahead in a seemingly uniform line, their barren peaks weakly lit in the same unnatural light that illuminated the clouds.

Dark Magician Girl and Spiria moved forward swiftly and soundlessly, wary of danger, whether real or imagined – they couldn't tell. They kept their ears pricked and eyes peeled for the slightest trace of oddity, the tiniest hint of something being amiss, unwilling to believe that their enemy had left Exodia without guards or at the very least – a watchman. The further into the enemy territory they went, the more unsettling the feeling became. The mountains didn't seem to be coming any closer either until suddenly, they were right there. The first slope slowly rose up like a hill before stretching out and veering off to one side and connecting with a series of peaks. Soon another one followed until the ground began gradually rising up.

They continued walking straight forward to where the path twined between the mountains, to where sheer cliffs rose up on both sides of it, to where it ran into a seeming dead end. There, only those who knew could find a doorway leading inside the mountain. Only those who knew the right spell could ever hope to break it down – break, not open it, as it was meant to remain closed for eternity.

When they came face to face with the solid wall, Spiria shivered. Anyone could feel the imprint of the powerful magic sealing off the area. It warned them to not approach, ordered to turn back and never return. And above that – was it just her imagination or was that the dreadful influence of Exodia, seeping through the stones?

"It's here," Dark Magician Girl breathed in barely a whisper. The closer they'd gotten to the site of Exodia's imprisonment, the quieter they had become until even the will to converse had become suppressed.

"Can you-"

"I think."

It took Dark Magician Girl a moment to compose herself. The words didn't want to come past her lips; they didn't want to be spoken out loud. The force of the magic sealing off the place seemed to try to push them back down her throat, making her choke on every syllable.

"Together," Spiria whispered, coming forth and taking Dark Magician Girl by the hand. "Let's do it… together."

That turned out to be easier, though not by much. Spiria concentrated all of her magic, forcing it to transfer to Dark Magician Girl while she used all of hers to activate the shattering spell. Nothing happened at first. Nothing happened for the longest time and they started considering repeating the spell, though they didn't think they could muster up enough magic when the ground began trembling and the first tiny crack sped along the solid stone. With a thunderous crash it opened wide and both Spellcasters had to hastily flee the site when a good portion of the wall came crashing down in an avalanche of boulders. Once the falling rocks stopped rolling and the dust settled down somewhat, they climbed over the pile in search of an entrance. It was there – just a narrow crack in the mountain, as dark as the world around them had become. Dark Magician Girl lit the end of her staff, preparing to creep inside and seek out Exodia when Spiria shoved her forward, sending her tumbling through the darkness. Her staff went rolling along the floor, getting caught between stalagmites. In its fading glow she could see Spiria, frozen in one spot.

"Run," she whispered with one last breath before her lips stilled and her image flattened inside a solid stone frame, her wings caught in half a beat. As if her will to protect her friend would extend beyond even this predicament, the tablet with her image fell forward, covering the entry into the mountain and giving her precious moments to put more distance between herself and her pursuers.

The group of monkeys had crept up on them unnoticed. Dark Magician Girl couldn't believe she hadn't noticed them sooner, couldn't believe she'd been ignorant of their presence until it was all too late. She shouldn't have missed the moment they unleashed the Minus Curse spell. Or was it the presence of Exodia and the powerful sealing magic performed on this mountain that muddled all of her senses? She grabbed her staff and stumbled along the path. Soon it became submerged under ice-cold water, which she had to swim through, having to conserve her magic for one more release spell. She couldn't afford to waste it on levitation or flying because just cracking the mountain open had taken all of her strength. In fact, she reminded herself, it had taken the combined powers of Spiria and her to even get the words out. She didn't dare to even think how costly releasing Exodia would be. Thankfully, there was only that one straight path reaching deep into the heart of the mountain. At least she didn't have to worry about getting lost in a maze of labyrinths the way she'd feared it would be.

The closer to the centre she got, the harder it became to breathe. Magic and wrath had permeated every pore of the stone, every particle of the stale air, every drop of the water seeping from the walls at uneven intervals. Soon enough, she became aware of her followers. They were still a good distance away, but they were swiftly gaining on her. Suddenly, she stumbled through darkness and found herself in a room that seemed infinite. There was not a trace of the confining stone walls boxing her in from all sides. There was only bottomless darkness which the faint light at the end of her staff couldn't hope to illuminate.

"Have you come to free me, little girl?" a deep voice came from the very heart of the darkness, echoing off the walls and stirring the dormant fury in the air.

Dark Magician Girl attempted to rise to her feet and light the end of her staff brighter, but fell back on her knees with a weak sound escaping her lips. Exodia laughed. It was a low, booming sound that rattled every bone in her body. Chainlinks clinked and grated against each other.

"You hope to free me, little girl?" Exodia chuckled in dark amusement. "Just stay on the ground and let your hunters overtake you. I'll watch them ripping you apart."

"No," Dark Magician Girl muttered. "No." If it was the last thing she did, if this was the last moment she had, she had to try one last time. She had to do one final reckless thing. The light at the end of her staff flickered out. She heaved the words like heavy stones, gasping for each intake of breath. All of her magic coiled together in one burning knot in the middle of her chest, threatening to rip it apart.

"Do you mock me, little girl?" Exodia roared, straining in his chains. "You dare to mock me? Come here so I can tear you apart, you little piece of scum!"

The final words of the incantation ripped the last remainder of air from her lungs as the magic shot forth. For a moment everything was still, only the stone walls around them groaned and the excited chitter-chatter of the monkeys echoed increasingly louder from the passage behind her. Then, with a series of terrible cracks the chains binding Exodia down came undone. In the next moment the cave filled up with blinding light and for the first time in her life, Dark Magician Girl came face to face with Exodia. Their eyes locked.

"I will keep you, little girl, for my own amusement," Exodia sneered viciously.

Afterwards, there was only the searing, blinding light.