Spell of Pain (spell card): Transfer the damage sustained on this turn to another player.
Chapter One: I Have to Protect You
When Malik Ishtar climbed out of the taxi to emerge on the crowded, excited streets of Domino City, he felt overwhelmed. He gripped the handles of his luggage tightly as he looked around. People brushed past him, some giving his foreign appearance a lingering look, and he caught snatches of Japanese conversations in a dialect he wasn't too familiar with. The sun had set, but the streets were still bright from neon billboards, streetlamps, and lit storefronts. If Malik had ever wondered what the opposite of a musty, lonely tomb was, he knew now.
Keeping his head held high, he entered the apartment complex that was to be his new home. The owner, a middle-aged woman, welcomed him and gave him the key to Room 612. He ignored the elevator and carried his two bags up the six flights of stairs to the building's top floor. There were about a dozen rooms on the hallway; his was at the end, opposite the staircase. Malik shifted his bags to one hand and with the other, inserted the key into the lock. He found it wasn't necessary as the door creaked open, revealing a dark interior. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he returned the key to his pocket and tentatively stepped inside, finding a switch and flooding the room with fluorescent light.
When he saw the figure sitting on the leather couch in the middle of the room, an intense range of emotions flew through him. Disbelief: had he gone completely mad? Fear: how dangerous was this situation? Anger: would the past never let him be?
In front of him was the physical manifestation of his childhood pain, the Darkness of his heart incarnate, a person who wasn't a person but Malik's own twisted reflection. The Darkness looked at Malik with no expression. Blank violet eyes watched Malik step backwards as he considered running from the room. It was this apathy that disarmed Malik and made him finally question, "How are you here?" His hand slightly twitched as he considered rubbing his eyes. This had to be an illusion, brought about from the restless flight from Egypt.
The Darkness slowly smirked. "Go ahead and rub your eyes, Malik. It won't make me disappear. Even killing me didn't make me disappear, did it?" It laughed, a sound both hollow and sinister, before standing up.
They glared at each other, neither budging. Without blinking, Malik asked again in a hiss, "How are you here?"
"You told me where to come," the Darkness answered smoothly. "You told me all about moving from Egypt to Japan. I know you're planning on living here for a year. I know Rishid wouldn't leave your side for a week beforehand because even though you wouldn't admit it, you're terrified about living on your own. I also know that that demon's host- the white-haired one, Ryou, I believe- lives just a few doors down from here and that you're too pathetic to move to a foreign country without having someone to rely on, even if that person is a former victim-"
"Shut up!" Malik shouted, throwing down his bag and slamming the door closed. "I've dealt with you before and I'll deal with you now."
"You did nothing. The Pharaoh destroyed me- or thought he did. But I can't be destroyed. Would you like to know why?"
"I'm not interested."
"You should be, because-" its mouth curved into a snarl- "it's the reason I won't kill you, now or in the future."
Malik hesitated. His knife was in the bag at his feet; if he was quick enough-
"You'll never reach it in time."
"I'm part of your mind, Malik. All your thoughts and feelings are accessible to me."
Suddenly Malik felt very vulnerable. The Darkness was sifting through his mind; it was like he could feel its cold touch numbing him. If he couldn't get to his knife, then all he could do was listen to what the Darkness had to say. "…Fine. Why can't you be destroyed?"
The Darkness got a distant look in its eyes. "For a few months after Battle City, I existed nowhere, but I still existed. The judges of the afterlife found me and couldn't even feed me to Ammit, like they wanted to. As it turns out, as long as you're alive, I will be too. It makes sense, doesn't it? After all, I am you- the strongest part of you."
"You are nothing but my hatred," Malik said softly, voice colored with regret. "You should go back to whatever spirit form you were in, and leave me alone."
The Darkness shook its head. "I can't do that. When they realized I was here to stay, I was given my own body, with a condition. I have to fulfill the role I was originally born for. I have to protect you." Malik's eyes widened and he prepared to shoot down this terrible, terrible idea, but the Darkness silenced him with an icy gaze. "Do you really think I want to? You're pathetic. You disgust me. You needed me to do everything you couldn't, and then you thought you could just get rid of me when you decided to play the good guy. But it's because you're pathetic that I have to be here. If you die, I will too, and I have no interest in dying myself."
"I don't need your protection," Malik retorted. "If you're so happy about having your own body, go celebrate somewhere else, and leave me alone. I am fine without you."
"Oh Malik, that has never been true."
Malik opened the door and stepped to the side in one fluid movement. "Get out. Now."
The Darkness was unimpressed with his show of anger. "You'll never survive here without me," it taunted as it strode by Malik, coming much too close for his taste. Malik refused to back away this time, though, and when the Darkness was in the hallway, Malik shut the door, locked it, and checked the lock twice.
Light knocking distracted Malik from his unpacking. There wasn't much of it to do; the apartment came fully-furnished, so he'd brought little more than clothes and a few personal belongings. It was taking some time, because he kept losing focus and thinking of his encounter with his Darkness. He wanted to believe it hadn't happened, and couldn't be sure it had; it was impossible to fully trust a mind that would split itself in two. Real or not, he wanted to forget it, so he was pleased to find the person at the door was Ryou.
Seeing Ryou at the Rite of the Duel between Atem and Yugi had been strange. The last time he'd seen him, he was working with the parasite within him and putting him in danger's way. He hadn't expected to be forgiven, but Ryou had been more than willing to give him a second chance.
Since the duel, which had been nearly a year ago, they had kept in touch with phone calls and emails. Both were awkward at making friends- it was an art neither had had a chance to master during their troubled lives. Still, Ryou was patient with his efforts, and Malik was grateful that someone existed that would forget the cruel things he'd done. Malik would never forget, but at least Ryou could pretend Malik hadn't used him as a tool for revenge. They'd met at some halfway point and were comfortable enough with each other that when Malik made the decision to live in Japan, Ryou had told him of the vacancy near his own apartment.
"Come in," Malik said to the teen who was wearing his typical blue-and-white striped t-shirt and jeans. Ryou smiled at him and stepped inside, folding his coat in his arms.
"I just got back from work," Ryou explained. "I thought I'd see if you were here yet, and wanted any help unpacking."
Malik shook his head. "I'm fine. I don't have much."
Ryou considered this and offered, "If that's the case, why don't I make us some tea? I'll be right back." He disappeared and Malik heard another door along the hall opening and closing. He pulled some clothes from a bag and was hanging them up when Ryou returned with two mugs of tea.
"You still have a semester of high school left," Malik pointed out. "Not to mention studying for your college entrance exams. How do you have time to work, too?"
"It's not a hard job," Ryou said brightly. "I work in a bookstore. It's quiet, so I can usually study some during my shifts."
"I see." They sipped their tea in silence for a minute. "Thanks again for getting me the job at your father's museum."
"You don't have to thank me. You read the curator's messages yourself- he's thrilled to have someone with firsthand knowledge of Egyptian culture working there. He'd probably offer you a permanent position, but-"
"This is only for one year," Malik replied firmly.
"You never said why, though." Ryou looked at him with imploring brown eyes, trying to understand what would bring someone so far across the globe.
Malik didn't see any reason to hide his motivation for moving, though the events of the evening seemed to have already rendered his objective moot already. Malik wanted to move forward in his life. He wanted to learn about what it meant to be normal. He couldn't do it under the shelter and protection of his siblings, so he'd decided to leave them for one year, to live in Japan, as it was the only other country he was familiar with, and to experience things. He hadn't expected the past to hunt him down so quickly and so mercilessly.
There was one more reason, but Malik would not voice it.
"I… needed a change."
Ryou didn't press him any further. It was getting late, so he picked up their empty mugs and prepared to leave. Right before Malik closed the door, however, he turned around and asked a question.
"Malik, is everything okay?" He scrutinized Malik's face, searching for clues to his unusually subdued mood.
Normally Malik couldn't be read by anyone- his face could become any mask he chose. He found that letting his guard down in front of Ryou was easy enough to happen without even meaning to. He corrected this with a convincing smile and said, "I'm just tired from the flight. I'll see you tomorrow, Ryou." Ryou nodded and Malik shut the door.
He did not sleep that night. He didn't think it would be worth the inevitable nightmares.
The darkest alleys were still too bright for Malik's Darkness. He paced through them impatiently, vaguely missing the swish of a cape behind him. He'd been given the black muscle shirt, boots, and tan pants he'd adorned upon taking control of Malik's body, but the cape was long gone.
He growled and shot a hand out near a stack of molding boxes. A squirming rat squeaked imploringly in his grasp, gnawing on his fingers. He grinned savagely and squeezed tighter and tighter until bones crunched in his hand and the rat became forever silent. He tossed the carcass to the ground.
That had been a nice distraction, but it didn't solve the problem at hand. The problem, of course, was pathetic pathetic Malik. He didn't want to hang around and babysit him, but he didn't trust Malik to be able to take care of himself. Even when Malik hadn't realized it, he'd always depended on him. He'd drawn on his strength to become the leader of the Ghouls, to kill those who needed killing and to manipulate the rest heartlessly. If Malik got into trouble- yes, if he were killed, then the Darkness would fade to nothing as well. That would not do, now that he finally had a body of his own. Now that he did, he could- he could-
No goal manifested in his mind. He'd always using Malik's hatred and inner desires as a springboard for bloodshed and spreading darkness, and Malik didn't have so many negative emotions like in the past. Now, as he concentrated and reached out to Malik's mind, he found only anxiousness and guessed Malik was thinking of him.
He shook his head. It didn't matter what he ended up doing, as long as it spread some of the hatred he was born from. In the meantime, Malik would realize how lost he was on his own, and come begging him for help. He just needed a little patience.
By noon the following day, Malik's apartment was in order, and he was sitting in the chair in the living room- not on the couch, that was what it had chosen- thumbing through some old cards. He hadn't planned on bringing any Duel Monsters cards to Japan with him, but when his bags were nearly empty, he'd started to regret the decision. The game was a therapeutic mental exercise to him. Rishid had anticipated his change of heart, it seemed, because there'd been a couple of decks at the very bottom of a bag.
He didn't have to begin work until the next day, so he spent some time forming a new deck. He decided to challenge Ryou to a game. It would be a normal game, with no shadow rules or dark magic, and the loser would not die. A normal game. A normal life.
This is what he repeated to himself as he tried to suppress the knowledge that his Darkness would not leave him alone for long.