His head throbbed. He felt unnaturally dizzy, and his tongue felt thick and dry. Why was it so dark? Had he not opened his eyes yet?
He blinked a few times. No, he had definitely opened his eyes. Where were all the lights? Was he blind?
There was something in his hand. Ugh, his head...it pounded, making it hard to think. The thing in his hand felt rather solid. Maybe he should figure out what it was. No, better idea – he should figure out how he had gotten here. His head...ugh. He should sit up, but he was afraid the motion would make him feel worse.
Hm? What was he touching with his other hand? It felt...warm...and – sticky –
Yami no Yugi snapped into full awareness. His head continued to throb, but he sat himself up anyway. The world seemed to tilt around him. His stomach heaved. Before he could stop himself, he threw up all over the floor. Wincing, he wiped the corner of his mouth with his sleeve. He had forgotten about the warm stickiness in that hand, though, and smeared it against his lips. It was...coppery. He retched again, realizing instantly that it was blood.
Other me? Other me!
The voice echoed in the back of his mind. It was that more than anything that made him regain his composure.
Yugi, are you all right?
I'm fine. What about you? Why can't I see anything?
Yami no Yugi grimaced.
Sorry. I'm not trying to block anything from you. I can't see a thing, either.
What...happened? I can't think...
You don't remember?
It's all a little fuzzy...
In the back of his mind, Yugi opened up the memory to him.
Anzu hadn't wanted to go alone when she visited the New York college – so of course, pretty much the entire group tagged along. Anzu stayed behind at the college to talk a little more to the head of the dance department. Jonouchi and Shizuka went to do some sightseeing, and Honda tagged along with them. Ryo hadn't been feeling well, so he had returned to the hotel. After a few hours with Jonouchi and the others, Yugi had started to feel a bit tired. He decided to go check on Ryo, assuring the others that he could find his way back to the hotel just fine. But the New York streets were far more confusing than he had expected, and he found himself lost.
A quickly muffled scream rang out. He jumped, looking all around – there, in an alleyway, he could see someone. A girl was being attacked! He rushed into the alley without a second thought. It was deeply shadowed, but he could see the unconscious woman in the man's arms, see the strange pig mask that obscured the man's face. Yugi charged at him. The man grabbed him by the hair, whipping him backwards. By an unlucky turn, Yugi's head struck against a wall, and everything went black afterward.
And it still is black, Yami no Yugi thought dryly.
So where do you think we are?
Yami no Yugi took in a deep breath. The air was tinged with damp and mold. The floor felt cold. He felt across the floor with both hands. There were slight indents in the ground every few inches. Tile, perhaps? Then he remembered the other thing that had been in his hand. He had lost it when he struggled upwards.
With a groan, he shifted onto his knees and felt around. Tile, tile, tile, ow, that one was chipped, tile, tile, there!
The item felt somewhat warm, as though he had been gripping it. He ran his fingers down and all around it. There appeared to be buttons along one side...
He pushed one experimentally. A slight click and then a buzz filled his ears. A voice crackled from what had to be a tape recorder.
"Hello. You will find that you are unable to see. You are not blind. All of the lights have been removed, and there are no windows."
The voice was in English, and garbled. Yami no Yugi silently thanked Anzu for her extra English tutoring that Yugi had mostly forgotten, but Yami no Yugi had paid close attention to. When he heard the part about the lights and windows, he let out a small sigh of relief. He had been worried there was permanent damage to his eyes.
"You were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, you will participate in my games."
Now Yami no Yugi's eyes narrowed. A game? This sounded like one of Yami no Bakura's tricks. But that was impossible, because Ryo didn't have the Ring. It was safe, back in Japan with Yugi's grandfather.
"There is only one exit from this room. However, it requires a key. You will have to find the key, and the door, to escape."
Yami no Yugi nodded. It sounded simple enough.
"Does it sound simple? Take a sniff of the air. There is a gas being pumped slowly into the room. It contains a very small dose of poison that should not be lethal for another fifteen minutes. But if you can open the doors, the vents will close off, and the poison will dissipate."
Yami no Yugi did take a sniff. There was a faint hint of...sulfur, perhaps? He couldn't put his finger on it.
"You seemed willing to protect the woman I took to also participate in these games. If you still want to play the hero, then move quickly. You will find her after you escape this room. But remember this: she is not the only participant in the games."
He bristled. "Play the hero"... He was not some child looking for attention.
"Damn this man," Yami no Yugi whispered. "He thinks he can play with people's lives in a game?"
Then be willing to give up your own, mystery game master, he thought darkly.
A tremor of Yugi's fear and worry fluttered at the back of his mind. He immediately tried to calm him by sending waves of reassurance.
Don't worry, partner. I'm the King of Games, aren't I? I'll get us out.
I know, I know... Yugi thought back. But the others...they'll be so worried.
The smell of sulfur was becoming stronger. Yami no Yugi didn't risk wasting time chatting more. He shoved the tape recorder in his pocket and got to his feet. His head didn't hurt so much now. Everything around him was completely black. How would he find anything in less than fifteen minutes?
There was no point in worrying about it. He started to feel his way for a wall, his hands out in front of him. The sound of his feet sliding across the floor echoed. His heart jumped in spite of himself. Suddenly, his fingers touched wall. It was cold, like it too was covered in tile. Bolstered by finding something solid, he kept one hand to the wall and started moving alongside it.
He hit his knee against something hard. Wincing, he reached with his free hand to feel the object. He jerked back when he realized that it was a toilet. Now he could add germs to the blood on his hand.
An uncomfortable sensation stirred in his stomach as he wondered where that blood had come from. Determined not to think about it, he navigated around the toilet and continued around the wall.
He smacked into something else almost immediately. His free hand grasped something cold, metal, and curved...a faucet. It had to be. He was in a bathroom. The thought was vaguely disgusting.
He took a deep breath – and instantly starting coughing. The smell of sulfur was creeping into the back of his throat and lodging there. How much time had passed?
Stumbling in his haste now, Yami no Yugi nearly fell flat on his face. But as he stumbled, his hand flew out and grabbed something – a door handle! He pulled himself back up. He started feeling along the door. The handle wouldn't turn. He had no idea where he would find a key in the pitch blackness with such a time limit. He moved to the hinges, thinking maybe he could pull out the bolts. No good. That part of the hinge must be on the other side of the door. He took a step back, wondering if he could break it down. He put his hands to it again. No. It was metal. He turned back to face the darkness of the room.
The key. He had to find the key. How much time did he have left?
His heart pounded in his chest. He coughed every time he took a breath. Key. Key. Key. Where would he hide a key? He was in a bathroom. It could be on the floor. It could be within whatever the source of the blood was. Yami no Yugi could not suppress a shiver at the idea of having to search a corpse, if that was what joined him in this bathroom. His hands clenched. He played games. He understood them. Where would he hide a key? The sulfur scent mixed with the terrible, rotting dampness of the bathroom –
Yami no Yugi slapped his hand onto the wall and moved as quickly as he could. He ran into the sink again, nearly knocking the wind out of his chest. He pushed himself around the sink and felt his way to the toilet. The lid and the seat had been ripped away, if his touch was to be trusted. Grimacing at what he was about to do, he plunged his hand down into the water. The cold seeped into his sleeve. He coughed, banging his hand painfully against the side of the bowl. But there, there was the key! Right at the bottom of the bowl!
Triumphantly, he half ran along the wall, running into the sink again – and shoved the key into the handle. It jiggled, stuck for a single, terrifying moment – and then the door pushed open. It opened so quickly that he lost his balance and tumbled face first to the floor.
Ugh, the light! It was much much too bright! He lay prone on the floor for a few seconds, gratefully breathing in clear, clean air. The smell of sulfur dissipated quickly. This new room smelled just as damp and rotting as the last one, but it was sweet, pure breath to Yami no Yugi in that moment.
Are you okay? Yugi asked.
"I've been better," Yami no Yugi said.
He heaved another, beautiful breath. Then he pushed himself up to his feet.
He glanced back into the room, now illuminated by a cutting of light. It was tiny, he could see now. He could have crossed the room in just three steps. And there was no corpse, no bloodstains, no death to be seen. He looked down at his own hand. A cut ran across his palm. He felt almost sheepish about jumping to conclusions.
But that wasn't important right now.
There were other lives at stake.