WDKY Chapter 24: A Perfect Victory

What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 24: A Perfect Victory –
(version 2.0 formatting fixes, email updated)
A Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction
By:
 Azurite – azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Conceptualized/First Written: 1/15/06
Completed/Final Edit: 8/24/06, 7/30/09, 4/12/10
Posted: 8/25/06

Author’s Note: Another enormously long chapter. It took a long time to write because of school, vacation, family, research, lack of inspiration, lack of beta readers, and plenty of other things. I’m just glad to be getting this up
before I go to Japan in September! I don’t plan on dropping off the face of the Earth, but I doubt I will be as accessible as I am now. I’ll be studying abroad at Tokiwa University until late January, so I apologize if that means WDKY25 (which is already partially written) getsout slower. I DO want to finish this
eventually.

Disclaimer: I have a mass disclaimer on my site, but since I don’t appear to have done this in a while, I feel the need for it, especially after the recent rehashing of CCwank (if you don’t know what I mean, you’re better off). With that said, I don’t own Yu-Gi-Oh/its characters/references to specific canon plot points, nor do I claim to. I do not make any profit whatsoever from this work; my joy comes from knowing this plot bunny is free at last, and that people are enjoying the fruits of my labor. And yes, my mind labors a lot to get this fic out.

Kazuki Takahashi is the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh, with the following companies associated or otherwise affiliated with the production, distribution, and/or release of Yu-Gi-Oh! in some form around the world: Viz Media (Shonen Jump), Jump Comics (Weekly Shounen Jump), Toei Animation, NAS, Konami Entertainment, Upperdeck Entertainment, Kids WB, YTV, Funimation, 4Kids.

If any other works have been used in any way (referenced, mentioned, cited, etc.) then you can find complete information on my source information on the WDKY Research Page.

“What Doesn’t Kill You” is the intellectual property of me, Azurite. This fanfic MAY NOT be redistributed in its entirety without permission, nor may portions of it be used elsewhere without my explicit permission BEFORE use. However, anyone wishing to link to it at its various homes on the web is welcome to. I would love to know where mention of my fic is being made!

Don’t Forget! All Review Replies are now hosted at my LiveJournal. Look for a section in my Memories called ‘Review Replies,’ and you can choose from the story/chapter of your choice to see what I had to say to your reviews! Thanks for your continued support!

And the Award goes to
Winterwing3000 for being this chapter’s supportive, creative, and thoroughly helpful beta-reader. Care to help beta-read WDKY? Drop me a line.


RECAP: Kaiba started acting strangely for what appeared to be no reason
but when TĂ©a discovered it was because he was simulating a rematch duel with Yugi, she was furious! Kaiba couldn’t explain to her why, and TĂ©a didn’t want to listen. Kaiba leaves TĂ©a and goes to Duelist Kingdom to see if Pegasus—who is surprisingly alive—has a way to beat the God Cards. But it seems as though someone other than Pegasus and his lackeys have been skulking around Duelist Kingdom, because Kaiba defeats Pegasus and leaves with not ONE God-smiting card, but TWO! Not even Pegasus knows what the second card is—until too late!

Meanwhile, TĂ©a and the others check out the Domino Museum of History, where an exhibit of the ‘Pyramid of Light’ and the mummy of ‘Anubis, Lord of the Dead’ are on display. Strange visions run rampant, and they get Yugi thinking that Kaiba’s in danger—but he won’t tell TĂ©a how or why! Mokuba meets up with him and they go to the Duel Dome, where an exhausted but overconfident Kaiba is assured that he’ll beat Yugi once and for all! Little does he know that his powerful trap card, the Pyramid of Light, is really a tool of destruction, and it not only separated Yugi from the spirit of the Pharaoh within the Millennium Puzzle, but it’s also destroying the Duel Dome and sucking souls!

TĂ©a seems to be in excruciating pain, but from who knows what? No one knows where Joey, Duke, and Tristan are, and it seems as though no one can get through to Kaiba and Yami Yugi inside the Pyramid of Light. Malik, Yugi’s grandpa, Serenity, Mokuba and TĂ©a are the only ones who can save the other guys now—but how!?

Victory was cold.

Kaiba knew it, he sensed it, and unlike all the other times when he’d been so perfectly close to defeating Yugi, this time—this time, he knew it as if the knowledge had been in him all along, as if it was as much a part of him as his very soul. But Seto Kaiba didn’t believe in the idea of a “soul;” he believed in what he could see and what he knew, without the slightest doubt in his mind. And at that particular moment, he believed in his victory over Yugi—at last.

Victory was cold because it was refreshing, it was thrilling, and it rippled through Kaiba, slow and small at first, but building at last until his eyes were opened wide, his mouth stretched open and his teeth glinted from behind the curve of a wicked smile.

And if victory was chill and icy, then what had motivated Kaiba ever since his first defeat at Yugi’s hands was burning desire and rage: the desire to see Yugi defeated, crushed, broken, and humiliated, the way that he’d been; the rage fueled him onward, the rage at being so close
and yet so damnably far.

But not this time. This time he would win.

He only had to glance at the card he’d just drawn to know it to his very core, to feel that cool rush run through him, telling him that this time, things would be different.

Why then, at the precise moment that he felt so confident, so assured, did he imagine seeing TĂ©a’s face?

Worse, he didn’t just imagine her face as impassive, or even smiling. He saw her crying, but crying angrily: he could see the fire in her eyes, because for her, rage and desire were also burning hot. She yelled at him angrily, blue eyes blazing and hot tears falling, but he couldn’t hear her. He couldn’t reach her, and he couldn’t come up with any words, simply because he knew there weren’t any. Neither of them could justify the things that they’d said and done; when it came to this one thing, they stood on opposite sides of the battlefield.

‘Yugi is my only enemy.’

That was how it had been ever since that first duel, and how it would continue to be, until Kaiba crushed him, the way he was supposed to have the first time around. And the time for that crushing defeat was now.

Kaiba pushed the idea of TĂ©a’s tear-stained face out of his mind; he pushed aside any thoughts of what she would say or do after this was all over, if she even wanted anything to do with him anymore.

That sudden thought was the trigger that melted the icy cold, and brought back the rage and desire that so many had come to associate Seto Kaiba with. His passion wasn’t just in dueling—not anymore. He’d experienced such a range of burning emotions, and all because of TĂ©a. Above all else, he desired her, and for a flicker of an instant, he dared to think that he might want her more than he wanted this victory. He might even trade his victory for it, if it meant she’d still look at him with her blue eyes burning, but not with anger, not with rage. With desire, the selfsame desire that he knew lived inside him
.

There had to be a way to have TĂ©a and his victory, even as his mind registered just how selfish he was being. Foolish and selfish. Perhaps the latter was a word that described Seto Kaiba, but never the former. Seto Kaiba was a genius, not a fool. And only a fool would listen to Yugi’s insane babblings and walk away from a victory so close at hand.

“Get ready, Yugi! I activate the magic of Monster Reborn!” Kaiba pressed the emerald green card to his Duel Disk and quickly indicated which creature from his graveyard he wanted resurrected. But in the same instant the form of the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon reappeared on the field, Kaiba immediately sacrificed it as he drew another card from his hand and placed it on the field.

“Then I’ll sacrifice my reborn Ultimate Dragon to summon a new monster!”

“What?” Yami reeled, his Life Points already dangerously low.

How many tricks did Kaiba have up his sleeve? It was impossible that he could have had all this power in his deck all along; he must have gotten the Pyramid of Light from someone, somewhere, not knowing the mayhem it would cause. But the question was, who?

“That’s right
you see, I have an even more powerful monster, compliments of Pegasus: a shiny new dragon! The Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon!” A brilliant blue-white light erupted on the field in the space where Kaiba’s reborn Ultimate Dragon had once stood, and in its place hovered a massive dragon with glowing veins and what looked like a large jewel on the crown of its head. It was almost robotic-looking, with sharp lines and angles for wings, and dangerously pointed claws on its feet.

The glowing veins pulsed even brighter, and the awesome dragon flexed its wings once, twice, beating them against the wind.

“Could it be?” Solomon mumbled from his trapped position beside Malik, Serenity, Mokuba, and TĂ©a in the lower-level galleries. The small space, which had once led back outside to the Duel Dome, was mostly protected from the destruction of the rest of the Dome by the overhanging arena platform. From below, the Pyramid of Light was almost translucent, allowing those watching to barely make out the shadowy figures of Yugi, Kaiba, and the creatures they summoned.

“A monster I’ve never seen before
?” But while Solomon was entranced by the sight of the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon, TĂ©a was trying to regain her strength. In the past few minutes alone, she’d gone from mind-numbing pain to an almost calm, blissful state. Since they’d gotten to this small space below the dueling arena, TĂ©a realized with a haze-filled mind that each burst of pain coincided with the destruction of a creature on the field, and each calming wave came whenever a new creature was summoned. But beyond that, it didn’t make any sense.

‘Why me? Why isn’t anyone else sensing anything
?’

Was Malik really right? Did she have some sort of destiny—a greater role to play in the constant rivalry between Seto and Yugi?

“For every dragon-type monster in my Graveyard, the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon gains an additional 300 attack points!”

Though Fusion monsters typically were included in a deck of their own, when they were destroyed, they were included in the Graveyard just like any other monster. That meant that aside from the three Blue-Eyes White Dragons that made up the Ultimate Dragon, there was also the Ultimate Dragon itself and the Rare Metal Dragon from the beginning of the duel to add to the Shining Dragon’s attack strength!

“That’s an extra 1500 attack points right off the bat
for a punishing grand total of 4500 points!”

“But don’t forget, due to my Sorcerer’s powers, your new dragon’s attack points decrease by 1500!” That would bring the Shining Dragon back down to its original 3000, easily defeatable by the 3200-attack strength Sorcerer of Dark Magic
right?

When Kaiba merely laughed at his pronouncement, Yami swallowed.

“I don’t think so—thanks to my dragon’s new Shining Diffusion!” Just as the Sorcerer of Dark Magic activated its point-lowering hexagram, the Shining Dragon opened its maw and sent a sphere of blue-violet light hurtling in the Sorcerer’s direction.

“What? Your points didn’t decrease!” Yami exclaimed as the two masses of light collided and dissipated into nothingness. Both monsters were still intact, and both kept the same attack values that they had before—the Shining Dragon with 4500, and the Sorcerer of Dark Magic with 3200.

“Exactly,” Kaiba sneered. “That’s because my Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon’s effect allows me to negate the effect of any magic, trap, or monster cards that target him.” That included the Sorcerer of Dark Magic, because it could only target one of Kaiba’s monsters at a time, and the Shining Dragon was the sole monster Kaiba had on the field.

“Just face it Yugi, your days as a champion duelist are over! My Shining Dragon is going to blast you back to the minor leagues where you belong! Now, attack, Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon! Shining Neutron Blast!”

If the power of the Shining Diffusion had been a blinding light, it was nothing more than a spark compared to the burst that blazed through the whole arena when the Shining Dragon attacked for real. The golden-orange light of the Sorcerer of Dark Magic’s hexagram was drowned out in a haze of blue and white light, and with it, the monster as well. In seconds, the black-armored mage disappeared in an explosion of holographic shards, while the light continued to hurtle straight toward Yami.

His life point counter dropped to a meager 200 points before Yami trembled once violently and collapsed face-first on the ground.

“How do you like the sting of defeat, Yugi?” Kaiba whispered quietly as he watched his rival collapse. “I’ve felt it for too long. Now it’s your turn
”


“You sure this is the way to that mummy guy?” Duke asked as they ran back down a darkened stone corridor.

“Yeah, every hallway looks the same!” Tristan groused. They thought they had gone back the way they’d come, but at some point, they must have gotten turned around. None of them remembered running from the mummies for this long!

When Yugi didn’t answer, Joey glanced over his shoulder and skidded to a stop. He noticed his friend had stopped some distance behind them, and was shivering in place, clutching his shoulders as if trying to retain some warmth.

“Hey, what’s wrong, Yug’?”

“It’s weird
” Yugi started softly, his voice shaking just as much as his body, “Suddenly I feel really weak, guys.” Yugi couldn’t explain it, but he was afraid of the possibilities that came to mind.

Duke, Tristan, and Joey all fell silent, unable to come up with any reassuring words that would motivate Yugi. They were all feeling pretty hopeless themselves, not understanding where they were, how they’d gotten there, or how they’d get out. Tristan glanced at the floor, and his gaze caught upon what looked like a thin river of blue-white light, moving just like water.

“Hey, check it out! Some kind of energy stream.” Tristan pointed out the odd flow of light to the others, and they realized it stretched onward into the darkness.

“Maybe if we follow it, it’ll lead us to Anubis,” Yugi theorized.

“Sounds like a plan,” Duke agreed. “Come on, let’s go!”


As the blue-white light of the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon’s attack died down, Yami still remained lying face-down on the floor, his Duel Disk practically smoking from the overloaded circuitry. But everything was still working, and if the massive Pyramid of Light still surrounding the arena was any indication, the duel was still on.

“Seto!” TĂ©a called out, but the tall, shadowy form in the Pyramid of Light either couldn’t hear her or didn’t want to register her cries. Was he really so blind to the destruction of the Duel Dome all around him? Was he so desperate to win the duel at any cost?

The Duel Dome continued to quake and rumble, and Serenity screamed again when pieces of the dueling platform began to crumble and crackle, electrical wires sparking and lighting on fire. Nothing seemed to penetrate the massive Pyramid of Light, but the Pyramid didn’t protect those outside from the destruction it was causing.

“We have to get out of here!” Malik hollered over the destruction. “Does anyone see any way out?”

Everyone looked around, but it wasn’t any of their voices that supplied the answer when it came.

“Up here! I’d hurry up!” All of a sudden, a ladder toppled down from the destroyed upper galleries above. TĂ©a squinted through the falling dust and debris, and could just barely make out what appeared to be a bright magenta suit jacket leaning out of a helicopter hovering above.

“Pegasus!?”

Everyone’s eyes widened, but they moved toward the ladder, as the Duel Dome continued to crack and crumble, with pieces of falling debris destroying everything in their path.

“Pegasus, what are you doing here?” Mokuba called out as he scuttled up the ladder. TĂ©a had insisted he go first, while she followed, then Serenity, then Solomon, and finally Malik.

“How about we start with a ‘thank you,’ you little ingrate,” Pegasus grumbled, but Mokuba ignored him. His attention, like everyone else’s, was on the crumbling Duel Dome below, and the massive Pyramid of Light, still shielding Yugi and Kaiba from the mayhem outside.

“If I hadn’t figured out what this whole Pyramid of Light business was about, then you’d all be crushed!” TĂ©a bowed her head silently in thanks. She wasn’t even sure if Pegasus saw her, as he just continued speaking, but Pegasus showing up amidst all the craziness that was going on didn’t help matters any.

“Just how did you find out about the Pyramid of Light, anyway?” Malik asked Pegasus, the suspicion in his voice as clear as day.

When Pegasus answered evasively, TĂ©a wondered if Malik was onto something. “You should know, Malik Ishtar,” Pegasus responded in that ‘I-know-everything’ voice of his. “I did quite a bit of Egyptology not all that long ago.”

“You weren’t involved in the dig for ‘Anubis,’ I know that much,” Malik shot back, nearly shouting over the whir of the helicopter blades. “Your archaeology days ended over seven years ago when you first met Shaadii and got the Millennium Eye. So who’s leaking information now?”

Somehow, TĂ©a got the feeling that Malik wasn’t asking because he truly wanted to know. Malik probably already knew who Pegasus’ source was—and if TĂ©a’s gut instinct was right, so did she. But what did Egyptian conspiracies and Pegasus being a know-it-all have anything to do with the safety of TĂ©a’s best friend and the man she loved, kilometers below?

‘I just want everyone to be okay!’

Pegasus never did answer Malik’s question; he only turned away with a serious expression on his face. Such an expression on the face of Maximillion Pegasus was unnerving, if only because it seemed more normal—for him, anyway—to be smiling in his usual creepy manner. But things had obviously changed since Duelist Kingdom
.

“Kaiba thinks he got that Pyramid of Light card from me, when in fact this has all been orchestrated by an evil lord who tried to destroy the world five millennia ago, and now he’s back to finish the job,” Pegasus finished, a slight smile curving his lips. “I looked it up.”

In reality, he hadn’t looked a damn thing up. Malik was on the right track—his source had told him everything, and he’d known the precise moment when to show up and ‘save the day.’ All of this in the name of getting answers
answers that were promised to come his way soon.

“Now this Anubis has created the ultimate game of darkness, and he’s getting stronger every moment,” Pegasus continued after a moment.

“Then the prophecy is being fulfilled!” Solomon murmured. Malik shot an alarmed look in Solomon’s direction, but he didn’t say anything. Both Pegasus and TĂ©a noticed the serious and concerned expression on Malik’s face, but neither of them felt it was their place to say anything.

“And Yugi and Seto are right in the thick of it,” TĂ©a murmured as she glanced back out the open doorway. And Joey, Duke, and Tristan were probably trapped down there too.

“So it is true, then,” Pegasus said under his breath. He happened to be closest to TĂ©a, with Mokuba on her other side and Malik, Serenity, and Solomon hunched together on the other side of the Industrial Illusions helicopter. TĂ©a glanced up at him, her eyes awash with confusion, when Pegasus nodded his head at her. “Funny, I would have expected someone like you would have influenced him to change for the better.”

‘Him’ being Seto.

‘You and me both, Pegasus,’ TĂ©a thought. She never thought a day would come when she would agree on anything with Maximillion J. Pegasus, the man she’d previously deemed as the reclusive and insane creator of the wildly popular Duel Monsters game. Ever since he’d lost his duel with Yugi back in Duelist Kingdom and the Millennium Eye in one fell swoop, he seemed to have dropped out of the public spotlight. Up until now, TĂ©a had thought he was dead.

‘Obviously not.’ But that didn’t mean TĂ©a trusted the man, even if he had just saved their lives.

“We’ve got to find a way to help them!”

Whatever weakness TĂ©a had been feeling earlier was long gone, and now, she was determined to see the end of this duel, and see Seto back home safe once more. Part of TĂ©a was still upset that he’d gone to all this trouble without even making the attempt to explain to her why he felt the need to duel again
but if Pegasus was right, then this ‘Anubis’ character had something to do with it, and perhaps Seto hadn’t had any choice in the matter.

‘Maybe I took him for granted. He couldn’t explain to me why because he didn’t understand
and I just didn’t want to listen. I was so selfish!’ TĂ©a knew that time was precious, and she’d already lost two of the people most dear to her in the world. Seto had been the one to help her the most during that horrible time, and now


‘I didn’t want to choose between them before. I couldn’t cheer Yugi or Seto on, because I’d be betraying someone that I cared about. But—!’

But now, her mind was made up.


“Looks like this is it,” Joey mumbled as he edged around a corner. The blue stream of energy that they’d been following had long since lifted from the gutter running alongside the stone walkways, and now it was floating in the air, right through a disjointed doorway. Yugi remembered that the entrance he’d walked through had the door intact, but that had been before the psychotic mummies woke up and chased him through the labyrinth.

Besides, they had to take the chance—what other way did they have of getting out of here?

The blue-white light filtered into the room, branching into several different directions. It hovered over the open caskets where the various mummies once lay, and far up to the dais where the sarcophagus of Anubis rested. The light seemed to grow stronger and more intense as they neared the stone slab at the top of the platform.

They paused, barely a meter away from the mix of glowing blue and red light when they all heard it: Foolish mortals! There is nothing you can do to stop my rebirth!

Quite suddenly, the blue light from the energy stream and the red light from the jewel on the stone slab pulsed brightly, twin streams of light slamming into the sarcophagus. Inside, the eyes of Anubis’s mummy glowed blood-red deep within its sockets, and the embalmed hands clutching the shining Pyramid of Light twitched and quivered to life.

When the disembodied voice spoke again, it was louder—sounding almost closer. The realm that was once home to the Pharaoh is now mine, and his life force feeds my rebirth!

“We won’t just stand here while you suck the life force out of others to save yourself!” Tristan shouted angrily.

“Yeah, we’re gonna take you down, Anubis!” Joey added fiercely. “I’d stay in that casket if I were you!”

“In case you haven’t noticed, oh-wannabe-Lord-of-the-Dead, we’ve got you outnumbered!”

No sooner than Duke had spoken was there a stirring amongst the open caskets. A low moan sounded, and soon countless mummies revealed themselves.

“This place is crawlin’ with stiffs!” Joey swallowed. He, like Yugi, Duke, and Tristan, slowly started to back away from the dais and out the way they came, but the mummies continued to rise and leer at them menacingly.

“Whatta ya want, anyway?” Joey hollered at the laughing, sourceless voice of Anubis.

Behold the future, pitiful mortals
since you won’t live to see it yourself!

A tendril of lightning snaked down from the jewel set in the slab above the casket of Anubis; under the archway of the dais, a faint skyline could be seen. It didn’t take long for the vision to become clearer—it was Domino, and it was on fire. Dragons roared and demons howled as the city fell to ruin.

Soon my beasts of destruction shall annihilate all traces of life on Earth! And I will finally have my revenge for what happened all those millennia ago! It is by your very hand that this devastation will occur, mortal
. Anubis chuckled darkly as another bolt of lightning changed the scene under the archway. This time, it was of a familiar room—Yugi’s bedroom. Yugi himself sat slumped at his desk, his face covered in purple bruises and violent red scratches.

Yugi’s hand visibly trembled—they could all see it, even from their distance—before he attached the final center piece to the Millennium Puzzle. Suddenly, there was a great golden light, and when it died down, so had the scene under the archway.

When you released the pharaoh, little mortal, you released me as well!

“Wha—” Joey and Duke gaped, open-mouthed.

“What’s he mean?” Tristan wondered aloud, but part of him was afraid of the answer he might get.

Yugi’s expression abruptly changed from surprised to determined, and he lowered his head against the blinding light from the jewel on the stone slab above.

“This is between me and him,” he said under his breath. ‘I was the one who assembled the Millennium Puzzle. That means it’s my fault for releasing Anubis!’ Yugi had always known that the puzzle contained much more than the spirit of the Pharaoh—it contained the secrets to a great and powerful darkness that Yami had traded his memory to seal away.

‘And it’s my fault for unlocking it!’

“What?” Joey asked in astonishment as he turned toward his best friend. Yugi couldn’t bring himself to face him, but he spoke all the same.

“Listen, you guys need to find a way out of this place and save yourselves! I’m gonna stay here and figure this out! There was a prophecy in the museum, and I think it may have something to do with this. I just don’t know what!”

“Yugi, all you’re spoutin’ is crazy talk! No matter what, we’re not leavin’ you! We’re a team!”

“Joey’s right! There’s no chance we’re turning our backs on you now!” Tristan added.

“That’s right!” Duke added, looking as confident as ever. Like Kaiba, he was quite skilled at masking fear and a lack of confidence, especially now, when he was literally trapped in a world that made no sense.

“But,” Yugi hesitated, looking from Joey to Tristan to Duke, “the last thing I want to do is put my best friends in danger
”


‘Yugi!’

TĂ©a didn’t know how she knew that something was wrong with Yugi, but as of late, she didn’t question the strange sixth sense she’d developed. All she knew was that her heart was pounding furiously, and she swore that if she just looked hard enough at the nebula of crimson and azure, she could see Yugi, Joey, Tristan, and Duke within. She knew that it was dangerous, that the Pyramid of Light was a tool of Anubis, and that the massive eye in the center calling to her was probably not the kind of thing you wanted to be staring at.

‘But I have to help my friends! I have to save Seto!’

“TÉA! What are you doing?!”

The voices of Mokuba, Serenity, Solomon, Malik, and even Pegasus went unregistered in TĂ©a’s ears as she clambered out of the helicopter and onto one of the runners. Nothing but rapid gusts of wind separated her from a fall to the crumbling Duel Dome and the Pyramid of Light below.

“TĂ©a, please, get down from there!” Serenity cried. The mixture of fierce winds and the fright her best friend was giving her was enough to bring tears to Serenity’s eyes, but TĂ©a still didn’t seem to hear her.

‘My friends need me
I just know it!’

“TĂ©a, come back here at once!” Solomon tried ordering the girl, but it was to no avail.

Her normally-brilliant blue eyes went dark as she edged closer and closer to the edge of the runners, to a place almost directly centered above the massive nebula in the eye of the pyramid kilometers below.

‘I’ve got to help them!’

Not just Yugi, Joey, Tristan, and Duke, but the Pharaoh and Seto, too. They needed her! No one else could do it, no one else would understand
!

“She’s falling!” Serenity screamed.

“Grab her!” Pegasus shouted. The helicopter lurched to the side as everyone moved to grab TĂ©a in the nick of time. Her body was safe, but her soul and very spirit was earthbound, flying through the violent winds and the abyss of color toward the dead center of the Pyramid of Light, brilliant blue sparkles trailing behind her.

‘I’m coming, guys!’


Bakura saw the light before he could quite make out the figure quite distinctly soaring through the air. Brilliant pieces of blue light trailed after the figure, but somehow they were different from the icy blue of the Pyramid of Light currently wreaking havoc on Kaiba’s precious Duel Dome.

Personally, Bakura hoped both the Pharaoh and Kaiba got crushed beneath the Pyramid, but then that would deprive him of the pleasure of crushing them both at his own hands. Whoever this ‘Anubis’ character was, Bakura never heard of him. That meant he was a nobody, and easily dismissed. As for the form soaring into the light


‘TĂ©a
’ He recognized that feeling, that connection that had no name. But the figure he spotted amidst the dust clouds and the light of the Duel Dome wasn’t anything like TĂ©a, and in the second it took for Bakura to wrack his memory and think of a girl who resembled the one he’d seen, she was already gone.

‘Into the very darkness to save her precious friends. She had better succeed.’

But not for the sake of her friends, or even herself. No
for Bakura, and Bakura alone.


“How the mighty have fallen!” Kaiba laughed cruelly, his Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon looming before him. “Lying there on the ground like a dog waiting to be put out of its misery. Get up so I can knock you back down!”

Yami struggled to stand on his unsteady knees, but he managed to speak to Kaiba nonetheless. “Something’s not right here Kaiba, and you know it!”

“Spare me the mystic mumbo-jumbo
you just can’t stand that your reputation is at stake!”

You’re the one with no idea of what’s at stake here, Kaiba! But believe me: I will not let you win this duel!” Yami rose to his feet, checked his hand to make sure he had a way of defending the last of his Life Points against Kaiba’s new creature, and quickly placed a card on the field.

“I summon Big Shield Gardna to the field in defense mode!” The hulking creature with empty eyes and a mass of hair appeared on the field, its enormous violet and gold shield protecting Yami’s Life Points from total annihilation.

“Yugi
I think you’re the one who doesn’t really have a clue what this match is about,” Kaiba said darkly. “It’s about payback! And this card will see to that.” Kaiba placed one card face-down in the magic and trap card zone of his Duel Disk, waiting for the golden light of the holographic card to appear on the field. Once it did, Kaiba continued his move.

“First, let’s deal with your so-called ‘Big Shield Gardna.’ Do you think it’s big enough to block the power of my Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon!? Shining Dragon, attack! Shining Neutron Blast!”

The same brilliant sphere of blue and white light hurtled toward Yami’s side of the field, effectively destroying his last defense. Since Gardna had been in defense mode, Yami took no damage—but that wasn’t to say he could afford to take any in the first place. He only had 200 points left
.

“I told you when we started this duel that this time, things were going to be different, Yugi! You may have beaten me in the past, but now there’s nothing you can do to stop me from having my revenge! You’re finished!”

‘This isn’t the Kaiba I’ve known in the past few months,’ Yami realized grimly. Though there hadn’t been a need for Yami to make himself known, he was always aware of the goings-on in the real world. There were certain things that Yugi didn’t even bother keeping from him, and that included the past several months while Kaiba and TĂ©a forged a relationship with one another. But it made no sense: the man demanding a duel on account of payback wasn’t the man that had looked so jealous over a simple hug at TĂ©a’s birthday party, or who had relentlessly pursued Malik at a dress rehearsal of Domino High’s Christmas musical after the Egyptian had terrified TĂ©a into running off stage.

But talking to Kaiba didn’t help matters, so what would? He couldn’t just give Kaiba what he wanted
Losing this duel was simply not an option!


A brilliant glowing gold light overwhelmed the crimson light from the tablet above Anubis’ sarcophagus, until it finally coalesced into the form of a very familiar female figure.

“TĂ©a!”

“Hey! How’d you find us?” Joey asked in surprise—his eyes wide not just because of the light surrounding TĂ©a’s undoubtedly translucent form, but also because she remained hovering in the air a good two meters above their heads.

“Are you kidding me guys?” TĂ©a smiled, holding up her hand. Lines glowed brightly on her hand, as if they’d been inscribed with light over her skin. “Remember that friendship symbol we drew?”

Yugi, Duke, Tristan, and Joey looked at their hands simultaneously, somehow unsurprised to see their ‘wedge’ of the smiley glowing on the face of their own hands as well.

“Of course we do!” Yugi said, though the expression on his face was still grave. “The ink may have faded, but our bond never will!”

“Right!” Joey and Tristan added in unison.

“We’re all with you,” TĂ©a told Yugi, her voice firm. “We’ll always be with you, no matter what!”

Yugi’s pensive expression faded away once more and he smiled at his friends. “Thanks, guys.”

“Friends till the end!” TĂ©a thrust her hand out toward the guys, somehow hovering downward that she was almost level with them. She was still glowing—and the boys could still see right through her, for the most part, but she’d never felt more connected to them than she did now. Everything had been so scary and confusing up until now—she was left wondering if her friends hated her for being with Kaiba, for loving him and wanting more. But what it came down to was that they were friends no matter what, until the end of time. Not even a so-called Lord of the Dead could change that!

‘Think again, foolish girl! You might have powers outside this realm, but none so long as I’m here!’

TĂ©a knew she heard the voice: it echoed loudly in her head, like someone speaking with a bullhorn pressed directly against her ear. But no one else seemed to have heard it either; their faces remained still and smiling, almost as if they’d been frozen for an instant in time.

‘Your pathetic little bond is nothing compared to my power!’ That same voice echoed again, for TĂ©a’s ears alone. Her smile transformed into an angry frown, and she willed herself to somehow find the source of the voice. Her astral body hovered higher and higher up in the air, approaching the vast darkness above, but the voice still seemed as loud and as sourceless as ever.

‘Soon my soul will be fully restored and your world shrouded in darkness
yet you fools prattle on about ‘”togetherness?”‘

The eye in the center of the pyramid on the stone tablet started to glow brightly, its power almost pushing TĂ©a higher up into the darkness. But this time, the boys did notice.

“TĂ©a!”

‘Don’t even think about losing your soul in this place, TĂ©a.’

The voice that TĂ©a heard this time wasn’t the same as the one from before, but it was familiar. But she couldn’t place it; everything was starting to become jumbled and confusing again, and she was sure her body couldn’t take any more of the pressure.

‘Fight them! The power I gave you still resides within!’

In the instant that Anubis’s ugly voice called out “SO BE IT!”, TĂ©a’s glow turned to a violent shade of red and the power keeping her levitating above the floor disappeared. But a newfound power took over, and just as a hoard of mummies moved to surround TĂ©a right where she would fall, it surged forth. TĂ©a kicked out to the sides, cleanly taking the heads of several mummies as she went. She landed on the balls of her feet and one of her palms, but other than a few scrapes, she was no worse for the wear than she had been when she’d been glowing and golden.

“
What? I could do that,” Joey muttered under his breath. The truth was, he was just as astonished as Yugi, Duke, and Tristan—if the looks on their faces were any indication. Since when was TĂ©a a martial artist?

But no, it had to have been just beginner’s luck, especially with the way TĂ©a was starting to look confused and lost, her legs shaking and the mummies closing in on her. Whatever strength had allowed her to kick mummy head before had left her.

“Okay then, let’s take them apart!” Duke crowed, pressing his hands together and cracking his knuckles loudly.

“Literally!” Tristan echoed, and he, Joey, and Duke all rushed forward to TĂ©a’s aid.

“Hey, Johnny Rotten, over here!” Joey called. Though the mummies were literally just strips of flesh and bone, they obviously seemed to register Joey’s mocking call, as they started to stumble toward him, seemingly multiplying as they lumbered in their disjointed way.

“Take this!” Joey smirked as some got close enough and he sent three torsos flying with a perfectly executed roundhouse kick to the legs of the approaching mummies. Tristan followed suit and managed to slam his leg through the lower chest area of one mummy, but his leg got caught in some sort of strange decayed substance, preventing him from pulling his leg out right away. Worse, though the mummy was disjointed from its lower body, its upper body still seemed intent on attacking!

“Tristan!” Joey called out nervously. “Kicks to the head don’t work!” Whatever TĂ©a had done was a one-shot deal; the mummies she had decimated still lay as still as dust, while all the mummies they tried to pummel just kept coming back in various bits and pieces.

“Neither do kicks to the stomach!” Duke snapped a few moments later, brushing his pant legs free of some yellowing goo.

“Then let’s try this!” Tristan attempted a more angular kick, using a nearby coffin to thrust his lower body up into the air. Though he managed to kick his way through a few more mummies, still more kept appearing out of the darkness, as if the room was endless and the supply of dead creepazoids was constant.

“These carcasses won’t quit!” Joey swallowed as he backed up against TĂ©a.

“How do you destroy what’s already dead?” Duke surmised as he backed up against Tristan and Yugi. “It’s no use! They just keep coming!”

Yugi noticed the red light of the Pyramid of Light’s eye glowing ever brighter as the mummies closed in one them.

‘It’s a longshot, but it might just save us all!’


Everything was glowing. It all seemed so wrong, so off. There was the blue of the pyramid, mixed with the faint white coming from its tip. There was a depthless black intermingled with a bloody red.

But there seemed to be bits and pieces of golden light, calling to Bakura, singing to him
.

He was spent. He’d spent far too long without letting his host maintain proper control, and as a result, he was severely weakened. Worse, when he’d seen TĂ©a—and he was sure it was TĂ©a—go ‘spiritually’ flying into the Pyramid of Light’s nebula, he’d pursued his old link with her, and given her the last bit of strength that he could muster.

Now all the lights were fading, dimming
they coalesced into one inky gray color, and then there was darkness.


“Why won’t she wake up?” Serenity cried out, her voice bordering on hysterical. She kept shaking TĂ©a, urging her to wake up, but TĂ©a remained as lifeless as a few minutes ago, when she’d first slumped forward and nearly plunged to her death.

“Something to do with that pyramid,” Malik muttered.

“Probably,” Solomon agreed, turning to look at Pegasus. “But what I don’t get is that if you didn’t make that card, why is it even working in Kaiba’s Duel Disk?”

Pegasus stared at Solomon, his lips set into a thin line. “Do you want the logical answer, or the answer I actually believe is the truth?”

Solomon’s eyes widened slightly, but he didn’t say anything. All eyes were on Pegasus in open curiosity, but clearly no one wanted to choose one answer over the other—Pegasus certainly knew much more than he was letting on.

“The logical answer is that there are plenty of counterfeiters out there. Anybody could have made that card and reprogrammed the chip from the inside of another card to get it to work in the Duel Disks. Another less logical, but still plausible possibility is that this Anubis character created the card himself, and it works with magic. But that wouldn’t explain why Kaiba was able to use it, or why Anubis seemed to want Kaiba to have it.”

“You mean all this was planned from the start?” Mokuba asked in astonishment. “Even before my brother went to duel you?”

“It would make sense,” Malik stated quietly. “Especially if Pegasus knew Kaiba was coming.” Unspoken was Malik’s implication that if Pegasus did know Kaiba was coming, he would also know that Kaiba would want certain cards to beat Yugi’s God Cards with. Pegasus could purposefully challenge Kaiba to a duel that he had no intention of winning, and place the card that would help Kaiba win against Yugi in Seto’s deck. But somehow, Anubis had gotten into the picture before Pegasus and his ‘source’ realized it, and it muddled everything up.

Pegasus didn’t say anything in response to Malik, but he did answer Mokuba’s question. “Somebody planted that Pyramid of Light card along with the Shining Dragon that I created. If Anubis coming to Japan was a fluke, then someone had to have brought him here and told him about everybody—not just Yugi with that Millennium Puzzle of his.”

“So you’re saying the true enemy isn’t Anubis at all, but somebody else?” Solomon asked.

Pegasus nodded grimly. “It looks that way. And whoever it is keeps doing a good job of covering up their tracks and making sure they stay well-hidden in the shadows. I don’t think Anubis even knows he’s being controlled from behind the scenes.”

“And I doubt whoever’s doing the controlling cares much about who gets hurt along the way,” Mokuba added angrily.

“You still didn’t tell us the answer that you thought was the truth,” Malik said after a moment’s pause. “So what is it?”

“You won’t like it,” Pegasus said firmly. “But if you insist: I think the likeliest scenario is that the card is counterfeit through and through, but whoever made it didn’t possess the technology to embed a chip compatible with Kaiba’s latest duel technologies inside. So Kaiba did the job himself.”

“That’s impossible!” Mokuba protested. “My brother would never—”

“But wouldn’t he?” Pegasus interrupted the boy smoothly. “Anything to beat Yugi, after all. Your brother is quite capable of deluding himself into believing whatever he wants, even when the truth is right before his eyes. Not even you can argue that.”

Mokuba’s mouth closed and his eyes fell to his knees. Pegasus—Pegasus!—was right. Right about his brother. Right about everything.

And that just made the already-bad situation seem ten times worse.

“Joey! Tristan! Duke!” Serenity, who had remained silent during Pegasus’ revelations, was staring out the helicopter’s door, the wind whipping her fire-red hair violently around her face. She tried to brush it away and still maintain a firm grip on the railing beside the door, but it was getting more difficult by the second.

“We have to get them inside!” Serenity shouted. “That place is still falling apart!”

“They don’t look conscious,” Solomon observed, peering out the opening himself. “How will you do it?”

“I’ll go,” Malik spoke up. He nudged Mokuba. “Come on.”

Mokuba looked astonished that Malik was not only speaking to him, but encouraging him to help bring boys much bigger than him up an unsteady ladder into a helicopter.

“I can help too!” Serenity cried out, moving to join Malik and Mokuba as they scuttled down the rope ladder.

“No! We need you to be up there to take your brother into the helicopter. Mr. Moto can help. Pegasus has to keep talking to his helicopter pilot so the ladder doesn’t get unsteady and we don’t fall.”

Everyone Malik mentioned nodded in the affirmative, though there was a great deal of hesitance on Serenity’s part. She watched with bile churning in her stomach as Malik and Mokuba moved downward toward the uppermost gallery in the crumbling Duel Dome, where the three boys below lay spread-eagled on the ground.

They only had a few minutes time before the whole ceiling collapsed—and not just on top of the boys, but on top of the low-flying helicopter as well!


“I’m not finished,” Yami managed hoarsely, his body still feeling as weak as rice paper. “Not yet.” He managed to straighten to his full height, but his legs still felt as though they might give any second now.

“I play Pot of Greed, so I now draw two cards!” One of the two cards Yami drew was Watapon, an otherwise-harmless looking creature that could be Specially Summoned whenever it was drawn outside of the normal Draw Phase. “Now I summon Watapon in defense mode! And since I used Pot of Greed to draw Watapon from my Deck, I can summon another monster to the field—and I choose Obnoxious Celtic Guardian!”

“It’s your move!” Having two monsters on his side of the field was a good position for Yami to be in, but it wasn’t as if he had anything strong enough to defeat Kaiba’s new dragon—not yet, anyway. He had to keep believing


“So let me see if I’ve got this right,” Kaiba asked sarcastically, “You’re playing a creampuff and an elf? Well then,” Kaiba returned to the angry, serious duelist he was known for being, “It’s your funeral! First, the Card of Demise I played before sends this dragon to the graveyard!” A light on the Duel Disk lit up, while a holographic guillotine appeared on the field, slicing a virtual Spear Dragon card in two. Kaiba placed the real Spear Dragon card into his Duel Disk’s graveyard, watching with delight as his Shining Dragon’s attack increased even more.

“You know what that means,” he chuckled darkly to Yami, who continued to be oblivious to his imminent defeat. “Now my Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon has more destructive power than ever before!”

“Kaiba, please listen to me!”

Not exactly the cry Kaiba had been expecting to hear from Yugi. He would have preferred something more along the lines of “I see now, I can’t defeat you!” But Kaiba wouldn’t have allowed Yugi to just surrender. Oh no, this defeat was going to be one he’d relish
.

“All I want to hear from you is your anguished cry of defeat!” Kaiba snapped.

“Kaiba, for the last time, I’m begging you to stop this!” Yami Yugi didn’t beg. Kaiba knew that better than anyone, but nonetheless, he wouldn’t be swayed.

“People are getting hurt, and lives are in danger!” Yami gestured up toward the point of the Pyramid. The walls reaching up just near that point seemed more translucent than they did further down; one could just barely make out the crumbling Duel Dome shrouded by a faint blue light. “The Pyramid of Light you’ve created is in the center of it all!”

For the first time, Kaiba noticed. He noticed the broken rafters and the falling debris
he noticed the control room, hanging lopsided from the beam that supported the movement cable.

‘Mokuba!’

But the youngest Kaiba was nowhere in sight. It seemed as though the Pyramid blocked out everything that Kaiba so desperately wanted to see in that moment—the Duel Dome, his brother
TĂ©a. It was true that she’d left the Duel Dome when she’d first found what he was up to, but something inside him told him without a doubt that she was here. But where?

“There’s a dark power in our midst and you can’t deny it!” Yami continued, on a roll now that he’d finally gotten to get a word in edgewise without Kaiba interrupting him. “With every Life Point lost, we both became weaker! I know you can feel it!”

Ridiculous! Now you can attack Yugi with your Shining Dragon and destroy the rest of his Life Points!

The voice in Kaiba’s head wasn’t his own. The thoughts weren’t his own—but Kaiba didn’t even notice. All he knew was that he had to destroy Yugi, once and for all—he had to get revenge! It wasn’t about payback for humiliation anymore, it was something greater, something that wounded deeper


‘It’s your fault! I won’t lose to you!’

Everything led back to Yugi. Always him—always his fault for everything going wrong!

‘No! I should stick to my original strategy and defeat Yugi with his very own God Cards!’ Kaiba thought resolutely, trying to squelch the idea of defeating Yugi with the Shining Dragon. As easy as it would be to do, it wouldn’t mean anything unless it was a perfect victory.

‘Mean something? Mean what? Defeat is defeat!’

But it still didn’t feel right!

“I’m afraid that it’s already too late!” Kaiba announced, hoping the sound of his own voice would block out the myriad of thoughts confusing him.

“No Kaiba, please! You mustn’t do this! We still have time to stop this madness—all we have to do is end this duel!” Even as Yami spoke, he had the sinking sensation that it wouldn’t be so easy. He wasn’t sure if it was something about Kaiba, or about this particular duel—but there was definitely something more sinister, more ancient than either of them knew, playing them both for fools.

That’s it
destroy him now! End the cycle of humiliation and pain that he has put you through!

‘It’s not that!’

But what was it, then? Why duel, and why now? Why was he suddenly so desperately craving a victory that had stopped holding much meaning for him? What kept pushing him
?

“You know, Yugi, you’re absolutely right! Stopping the duel is exactly what I’m going to do!” If just to shut up the warring voices in his head. Seto Kaiba didn’t have a split personality or whatever the hell Yugi had going on for him. All he had was a chance—right at the tip of his fingers—to defeat Yugi once and for all, and to get revenge
!

“Now, Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon, activate your special ability!”

“No! You’re playing with forces you can’t possibly understand!”

Finish him! Finish him now!

Why did this all seem so familiar? Not the voice, but the war in his head. The desperate urge to defeat Yugi when the better part of him knew that it wouldn’t mean anything, that it wouldn’t change anything


“I want a real reason, Seto! WHY?”

What was the real reason, anyway? Not even Kaiba could be sure. He just felt like he was losing his grip, and the sooner this ended, the sooner everything would make sense. The sooner he could explain to TĂ©a, and—

‘No! I want a perfect victory, and with this card, I can use Yugi’s most powerful monsters against him!’

Kaiba couldn’t finish Yugi with the Shining Dragon’s attack. That wasn’t the strategy he’d formulated once he’d obtained the two cards from Pegasus, the cards that seemed to be made for him. They seemed to call for him, telling him what to do, how to build his deck around them—and now it came down to the final attack, and he was wavering? What was wrong with him!?

“I use
Shining Nova! It puts the rage of a thousand Blue-Eyes White Dragons into a blast so powerful, it destroys itself—plus anything that I choose! And the card that shall feel the wrath of my Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon is the Pyramid of Light!”

No! I need the Pyramid to destroy the Pharaoh!

Kaiba growled under his breath; Yugi was Yugi—not some reincarnated king from on high. Kaiba would never give Yugi the luxury of referring to him like he deserved a modicum of respect.

‘What am I saying!? I have to destroy it to gain control of Yugi’s God Cards!’

“Yugi! Your reign as the King of Games is over!” Kaiba announced loudly, though his form could barely be seen, what with the simultaneous brightening of both the Shining Dragon and the Pyramid of Light. “That title will be mine
as will all three of your Egyptian God Cards! Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon—sacrifice yourself and destroy
the Pyramid of Light!”

The vein-like lines of light that crisscrossed over ever centimeter of the Shining Dragon suddenly flared to life, glowing a brilliant white. Kaiba refused to let his gaze stray from the sight, even though the light was almost blinding. The virtual Shining Dragon card and the Pyramid of Light card both started to glow, resonating in time with the activation of the dragon’s effect


This I cannot allow!

The blue-white light forming at the center of the glowing dragon’s chest coalesced into a single burst of lightning, which crackled downward with a deafening rumble. But when the virtual dust and smoke cleared, the Pyramid of Light was still intact—but the Shining Dragon had disappeared.

“What!? The Pyramid of Light wasn’t destroyed!?”

The Pyramid of Light endures because I will it! So great is my power!

This time, Kaiba couldn’t deny that he’d heard the voice—the same one that had been whispering to use the Dragon to destroy Yugi, rather than the Pyramid. But it couldn’t be that the voice had been with him all along!

“What is this!? Show yourself, whoever you are!” Kaiba demanded.

I have been here the whole time, mortal, whispering in your ear


“The whole time? No! This is some sort of trick!” But Kaiba’s own words sounded fickle in his ears; it was as if a part of him had registered that Yugi had told the truth, all along. Even with the voice speaking aloud, something still seemed wrong: that it wasn’t the true source of why Kaiba so desperately wanted this revenge. No, it was something greater, something older


Distracted by his thoughts, Kaiba was unaware of his own shadow stretching further and further, morphing into the silhouette of a jackal-headed man with enormous muscles. The shadow thickened, turning into a tar-like substance that boiled and shifted. All at once, a deeply-tanned figure, not unlike the muscular silhouette that had appeared in Kaiba’s shadow only moments before sprung up, naked but for the few traces of black sludge dripping off its limbs.

“Kaiba, look out!”

In the moment it took for Kaiba to turn his head, the figure had fully emerged from the darkness, a brilliant green gem glowing on its brow. The form thrust out an enormous hand at Kaiba’s head, very nearly crushing it.

“Kaiba, no!”

Kaiba winced as physical pain unlike anything he’d ever experienced before flooded his skull, sending an array of colored dots dancing across his vision. It was getting darker


You have served me well, little worm, but you have outlived your usefulness!

The massive figure, still clutching Kaiba by the head, swung his arm backward and hefted Kaiba—all 186 centimeters and 65 kilograms of him—up in the air, throwing Kaiba against the far side of the arena, where the Pyramid of Light still gleamed as if it had never been attacked.

Kaiba could barely make out the figure as it suddenly developed clothing and hair, and then the darkness claimed him.


“No!”

“TĂ©a, what is it?” Everyone turned around abruptly to see TĂ©a staring at the archway above Yugi’s head, her face a mask of agony. But she herself didn’t look like she was in any sort of pain—but it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out why TĂ©a had screamed.

‘See him now, child? With all his power, your foolish lover can’t even resist his own fate!’

Anubis chuckled mirthlessly in TĂ©a’s own mind, forcing her to watch his physical self outside in the real world throw Kaiba bodily against the Duel Dome arena wall.

“That had to hurt,” Joey muttered under his breath. The glowing red-gold light underneath the archway revealed a scene from what had to be the outside world—complete with Yami’s duel against Kaiba. But in the last moment, Kaiba hesitated over something, and a dark shadow emerged—and morphed into what everyone knew had to be Anubis, the so-called Lord of the Dead tormenting them.

Now that he was unconscious and halfway across the Duel Dome, Kaiba was no longer part of the duel—and whether or not Anubis took over for him, it meant that Kaiba was in more danger than ever before. The Duel Dome was crumbling—and Kaiba was too far away from anyone to save him.

“His arm looks pretty busted up,” Duke added with a wince, noting the wound just barely visible on Kaiba’s bicep. He glanced at TĂ©a to see her reaction, and was somewhat startled to see her staring, wide-eyed, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Hadn’t she been furious at Kaiba for wanting to restart the duel with Yugi in the first place?

“I didn’t even try to understand why he wanted to duel again, so suddenly. I didn’t even give him the chance to explain !” TĂ©a whispered brokenly. “I was supposed to learn my lesson after my parents died: I can’t take anyone for granted! Every single moment is precious
” TĂ©a sniffled once, and then her expression became harsh and determined. “And like hell will I let some evil idiot like Anubis get his way!”

“Yeah!” Yugi, Joey, and Duke agreed.

“Uh, guys? Not like I wanna be the odd voice out here, but—remember the mummies!?” Tristan yelped. Though the attack of the undead had slowed somewhat since Anubis had appeared physically on the Other Side, it hadn’t made them any easier to defeat.

Yugi abruptly remembered what he’d been looking for amongst the tattered wrappings and the heavy dust inside the sarcophagus of Anubis, and he quickly resumed his search.

TĂ©a screamed as a pair of mummies attempted to gang up on her; she darted behind Tristan, leaving him to take care of the front one. “He’s all yours!”

“I don’t want your mummy!” Tristan cried out while punching forward blindly. To his surprise, his punch cleanly took off the head of one of the mummies, while TĂ©a kicked high and upward against the mummy on the other side, still lurching toward her.

“That eye up there seems to be Anubis’ power source!” Yugi shouted as he tried to fend off the mummies approaching him up on the dais. “The prophecy said ‘The eye that sees what’s yet to come
its vision shall be fulfilled unless blinded by events predetermined
lest both light and shadows be killed!’ A predetermined event is just another way of saying ‘Fate,’ right, guys?”

“Right!” Joey and Tristan shouted. TĂ©a swung a stumbling mummy over her head with her arms, causing it to explode in a burst of dust and nauseating smell, but she didn’t answer. All she knew was that she was getting just as tired of ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ as Seto was. If all it meant was pain


“The prophecy means that the eye up there can be blinded by fate
I think I figured it out!”

“Heads up, ya freak!” Joey cried as he high-kicked a mummy that had gotten too close. The head went flying off the rest of the mummy’s neck, spinning in the air three times before dropping like a rock. “Way to use your head, Yug’!” Joey crowed appreciatively.

Most of the mummies had been defeated by now, leaving Yugi with the chance to resume his search—but there were still random mummy parts running, hopping, or bouncing around, and other mummies that seemed to be emerging from the depths of the shadows.

‘If I’m right, I’ve got to find that Dagger of Fate!’

Yugi glanced into the sarcophagus, but nothing seemed to be hidden amongst the wrappings. Yugi hated the thought of burying his hands in centuries-old cloth, likely littered with decayed organs and rotted flesh, but if it meant saving his friends and regaining the connection with the Pharaoh, then


“Yes! Here it is!” Yugi hurriedly rubbed his dust-covered hands on his pants, shifting the dirty, curved blade from one hand to the other as he did so. He noticed the mummies advancing from the sides of the dais, quicker than before.

“Let’s just hope fate is on our side!” Yugi muttered under his breath before hurling his right arm back and sending the dagger flying toward the crimson ‘iris’ on the stone tablet above.

“Come on
!” The blade arced through the air and abruptly twisted—its hilt slammed into the curves of stone holding the red jewel in place, and then the dagger clattered uselessly to the floor.

“No!” Yugi thought that his chance had been lost, but all at once, a bright crackle of gold lightning sprung from a tiny crack in the stone tablet. Bit by bit, the crack grew and the light brightened, and the mummies started to stumble back, either unable or unwilling to fight in the face of the new, brighter gold light.

“We just might win this!”


“Foolish Pharaoh—you have lost! Your friends have fallen, and now there is no escape!”

“I will not succumb to your lies, Anubis!” Yami shouted back. “I can still sense my friends within my Millennium Puzzle, and no matter what you and your Pyramid have done to influence this world, you will not break our bonds!”

But something still didn’t feel right.

Yami could vaguely sense Yugi and the others, but he couldn’t be sure if it was just residual energy, a trick of the Pyramid of Light, or his own wishful thinking. What if Anubis was right? What if this time, he couldn’t win? There was no one to support him, and his own Life Points and strength were running low


“Your bonds are easier to break than you think, foolish Pharaoh! You made the mistake of sealing me away with the powers of your own Millennium Puzzle, at the end of your time, your seal weakened! Then when the puzzle came together in this day and age, you caused my powers to grow and me to be reborn!”

‘The powers of my own Millennium Puzzle?’ Yami thought, astonished. There was little that he could recollect about his ancient past, but Anubis was most definitely part of it. He seemed to hold quite a grudge—something about the Pharaoh having thwarted Anubis’ plans to destroy the world—but maybe there was a way to coax the truth out of him.

“Tell me why, Anubis! Why have you been reborn in this day and age?”

“Only to destroy you, foolish Pharaoh. I will finish what I started all those millennia ago—and this time, no one else will get in my way!”


Thousands of years ago


“Enkur!”

The bulky blond snapped his head around at the sound of a voice calling his name; he put the boulders he was lifting as weights down on the ground, ignoring the small craters and the cloud of dust they created as they slammed into the earth.

“We’re moving out this evening,” Enkur’s fellow soldier told him. “Aren’t you looking forward to it? This is when we finally get our missions, and we’re charged with our own contingent!”

Enkur scoffed, brushing an errant hair from his sweat-slicked face. “We’ve already spent months in this desert hell, and you expect me to be excited about finally moving out? This is our life, Hadad. Always at war, always moving.”

Hadad gave a barking laugh, a single eyebrow raised in query. “Are you telling me—you, the one who has always wanted to prove himself, always wanted to become a great warrior—that you want to settle down? You’ve gone soft, Enkur!”

“That’s not it!” Enkur snapped. It was true though—he was always seeking to prove himself, to become a great warrior. He hadn’t been born into a privileged family like Hadad had—Hadad, who could trace his lineage back to the great Hadads and Adads before him. The fact that Hadad even talked to him was amazing: after all, what did Enkur have to offer Hadad? Still, when it came to brute strength and actual fighting prowess, all the blood running through Hadad’s veins couldn’t change the fact that Enkur was much stronger than him. Perhaps it was Hadad’s respect for Enkur’s hard work—or fear of what his ‘friend’ could do if he turned against Hadad and his family—that kept the two on friendly terms.

“Fine, fine,” Hadad dismissed Enkur’s protests with a wave of his hand. If it had been anyone but Hadad, Enkur would have slammed them in the ground for being so flippant with him. But Hadad wasn’t just his ‘friend,’ he was his superior in every possible way. To anger Hadad would mean certain death, and exile and poverty for Enkur’s already-starving family. This “war to end all wars” was supposed to stop all that. If they won this—if they captured the rich and plentiful land called ‘Kemet,’ they would never need to go to war again.

At least, Enkur hoped so. He was sick of working so hard and not getting the slightest amount of reward. He was sick of returning home for a scant few weeks in the year, only to see his family still suffering. He was sick of being the lowest in every rank, but the hardest worker, picking up slack for the lazy and the rich. In war, rank wasn’t supposed to have any meaning
.

“Your troops are waiting for you, Enkur. We move at nightfall.” Hadad’s parting words shook Enkur out of his brief reverie, and he nodded sharply before trailing after Hadad, hoping that his fellow troops were more than a group of slackers.

Just before nightfall, Enkur resigned himself to his fate and headed out to the part of the camp where leaders met with their troops.

‘Somehow, the word “slackers” doesn’t quite do them justice,’ Enkur thought the moment he took his contingent in.

In fact, Enkur’s troops were the scrawniest bunch of so-called soldiers that he’d ever seen. Most of them were only half of Enkur’s size, with arms so skinny it was a wonder they could support their supplies on their backs.

At least they weren’t a group of spoiled rich boys out to do their civic duty and retire to the lap of luxury. No, they were just like Enkur had been when he was younger—hopelessly idealistic, striving to be more, to get more. They didn’t know that the world didn’t necessarily reward someone that worked hard, or someone that deserved strength and power.

But rather than sympathize with his own troops, Enkur found himself disliking being stuck with them with each passing day.

“Lord Enkur, can’t we stop? We’ve been marching for hours!”

Twitch.

“Sir, I’m positive there’s an oasis to the north! If we just go back that way
”

Shudder.

“Ugh!”

Enkur stopped the moment he heard another one of his skinny, pathetic ‘soldiers’ flop to the dirt.

“Keep on marching,” Enkur growled into the sweat-covered boy’s ear. “Do you want to be considered a pathetic soldier, dishonoring your comrades and leader with your weakness?” These were the words that Enkur had drilled into his own head, throughout all those years when he’d been tempted to give up, to just be content with what he had and what class he was born into.

The boy looked up, his dark eyes swimming with nausea from the blazing heat. But in those same eyes, Enkur saw a fierce determination: his words had gotten through. If only the rest of the nitwits in this foolish band could be so strong-willed!

In a matter of hours, everything changed. Enkur’s lofty opinion of himself and the hard work that had gotten him where he was—leading a band of wannabe-soldiers—suddenly dropped like the boulders he lifted for sport.

“I’m blind! I’m blind!” It was one of Enkur’s troops that cried out first; a single gust of wind had blown a handful of sand into his face, and with the way the boy was fidgeting and hollering and scrubbing at his face, there would be no way to calm him before his cries filtered throughout the entire army.

“You’re not going blind!” Enkur snapped. He was sweating rivulets too, and getting sick of the stench of traveling with the faint-of-heart and frail-of-body—those that kept vomiting every third kilometer, and those that were so used to a constant supply of bread and wine that they fainted if they didn’t eat or drink for six hours. What soldiers! But unlike those soldiers, Enkur knew he had an example to set, a mission to fulfill, for his people as much as for his own personal reasons. He wasn’t allowed to complain. Precedence set those rules, and Enkur had no reason not to follow them.

‘This will be the battle in which my efforts are recognized at last! If the men I’m assigned aren’t willing soldiers, I will make them my troops!’ Such was the strength of Enkur’s will, unwilling to return home defeated in any sense of the word.

But that one pathetically ‘blind’ soldier-boy signaled the beginning of the end. That single gust of stinging, hot wind turned into another, and another—until the gusts didn’t pause, and a torrential storm was raging in the desert, right in the land where the Akkadian army dared to walk. Contingents were separated from their supply lines; horses whinnied and were lost to the dunes, and all Enkur could make out were the frantic screams of his own soldiers, terrified out of their wits by some sand.

“Follow the sound of my voice!” Enkur shouted as loudly as he could, biting his tongue at the last moment to resist calling the screaming boys ‘fools.’ He wisely refrained, and within a short period, most of his troops had found Enkur among the rest of the screams and the roar of the wind. Enkur’s was the darkest and bulkiest shadow in the sandstorm, and it was that imposing stature that they followed desperately out of the raging red gusts.

Hours later, both desert and army had calmed. But while the desert cooled and faded into the rich violet of the night, the few soldiers left to the Akkadian army were all in Enkur’s timid and inexperienced group. If their numbers had been poor before, they were even less now, without a horse or a supply to their name. All they had were the shields and swords on their backs, and even those were being seen as a burden.

The soldiers were only calm because they had expended all their energy, and couldn’t muster up nearly enough strength to be anything else. They’d lost track of the last time they’d seen anything, whether it was a horse, another soldier, or a palm tree marking a distant oasis. None of them dared hope to think that a town was anywhere in sight; even if there was, what could they possibly do? With their meager numbers, they could hardly invade a village, let alone the capital of the desert lands!

But they couldn’t go back, either.

It wasn’t just a matter of defeat and dishonor—there was no way they would make it back to Agade without supplies, anyway. They had to find water and shelter soon, lest the desert claim them the way it had claimed the rest of the Akkadian soldiers.


The problem with war tactics and strategy, as Enkur learned, was that nothing ever went the way you planned.

For all the experience Enkur had gained in the battlefield, throughout all the years, nothing could have prepared him for the journey through Kemet. Due to the sandstorm sending them so far off-course, they’d stumbled into the first town they saw, parched for water and starving for food. Many of the already-scrawny boys were on the verge of death from the lack of nutrients; they hadn’t encountered a single oasis since the sandstorm, and so they’d all gone hungry while tromping through the desert with their gear on their shoulders.

But rather than be treated as victims of the powerful desert, the townspeople immediately took one look at the imposing man leading the pack—a dark-skinned man with bright eyes, massive muscles, and light hair—and they declared the foreigners evil, and unworthy of anyone’s good graces.

Enkur hated being looked at that way—it was a feeling you couldn’t ignore, even when you just kept staring straight ahead, continually looking toward the horizon. He could always feel their stares boring into his back, as if their gazes had the power to press holes into his flesh and drain the lifeblood from his veins. But with every insult hurled their way, Enkur felt a stab inside him, almost as if he’d been physically attacked.

He worked so hard to become a great warrior to avoid this kind of chastising, and here people were doing it based on his looks? How preposterous!

“Get out of here, spawn of the dark god!”

‘Idiots.’

“Leave this place, or else the White Dragon will come to punish you!”

‘Brainless villagers!’ Still, for every insult Enkur didn’t murmur aloud, the villagers that gathered in the streets to see the soldiers passing through yelled more and more. Enkur took each and every blasphemous word personally, for there wasn’t any reason for his already thin-skinned soldiers to let the words of a few foolish villagers get to them. The same couldn’t be true for Enkur, though. He probably looked the most out of place out of all of them, and it was his fault for leading his soldiers here in the first place. He was the one with the grand plan to complete the mission they’d set out to do, rather than make the attempt to return home.

But Enkur didn’t attempt anything. He either did something or he didn’t, and that was what drove him on, step by step, even as the crowds grew thicker and the jeers of the villagers grew more violent
.

“Dirty foreigners—we don’t need the danger you bring here!”

“Ignore it!” Enkur bit out roughly, barking to his troops in their own tongue. It was only through what they’d learned of previous, smaller-scale invasions and word from travelers that they even understood any of the words the people of Kemet spoke. That didn’t mean their words made any more sense, but Enkur was more than willing to chalk it up to insanity caused by proximity to the desert. It was true that Enkur had grown up in lands not unlike Kemet—but they weren’t nearly this blazing, and there were the twin rivers to always keep the land fertile.

‘They are nothing more than the pathetic people that we will defeat! We will overcome them, and then this land will be ours!’

But the more Enkur and his men traveled, the more they wondered what was so special about Kemet, anyway. It didn’t seem very fertile, no matter what previous contingents of soldiers had said. It all looked so desolate and barren. The few towns and cities were scattered so far apart, it was a wonder that they even knew what direction the palace was in, or that they even had a pharaoh!

‘It won’t be possible to kill off these insolent fools in these backwater towns anyway,’ Enkur thought viciously. He’d been tempted on more than one occasion to strangle the fools that dared to call him a spawn of the dark lord, but he’d wisely resisted. His troops were watching. They expected him to set an example. And that meant being patient, and having tact. Even if it had been a week since Enkur had last tasted real food, that didn’t change the fact that he was strong. Nothing could defeat him—not even their so-called ‘white dragon god,’ or whatever idiocy they believed in.

‘We’ll start higher. Kill the Pharaoh, and the rest of his cities will fall in turn.’ Such was Enkur’s thinking: the thought of a bloody battle, with absolute victory at its end. His victory. The victory he’d been waiting for his entire life.

‘At last!’

But Enkur found that those backwater towns that dared to insult him turned into cities -each of them growing steadily larger. Each place denied Enkur and his troops shelter. They got what water they could steal, and what food they could find. But they didn’t make many friends from what they did steal, whether it was by stealth or by sword point.

And when the first of the men died—from starvation or thirst, no one could tell—nothing seemed to matter anymore.

Weeks had passed since the sandstorm. There had been no sign from any of the other soldiers in any of the other contingents. Even Enkur was having a hard time keeping up appearances. He was supposed to be the great leader, the wise tactician—and now he was in charge of a ragtag group of children who knew more about growing potted plants than they did about warfare and invading countries. And here they were—in the heart of Kemet—with no food, little war, and no plan.

More of the soldiers were getting sick and dying, and that meant fewer troops to take action—whether that action led them back home in shame-faced defeat, or to the palace with the intent of absolute victory.


They had been traveling for what must have been over a week; Enkur hadn’t had a substantial meal or clean water in so long, the days became blurred together as one endless stream of heat and dust.

On the furthest edges of the poor residential area stood a solitary home, strangely separated from all the others. If it were any further out, it wouldn’t even be considered part of the village: just a mysterious building, alone in the desert. But it was to this house that Enkur stumbled, on the verge of giving into his physical body’s weakness. But he would not ask for water for himself—no, he would still set the example, and still lead his men.

They had to succeed at this mission, and they had to live in order to succeed.

“I will ask for water,” Enkur told his men, gesturing for them to stay where they were. They acquiesced to his ‘command’ with not so much as a mumble; they were all so exhausted and dehydrated at this point that it wouldn’t have surprised Enkur if one of them were dead by the time he returned with water. And this time, he had to get water
or else he himself couldn’t survive the trek to the city, and then who would lead these ragtag boys into victory?

“Water!” Enkur managed upon reaching the small house, his voice surprisingly hoarse. “Please!” Enkur hated having to beg, because it made his class all the more apparent. Begging was for those that were too lazy or pathetic to work for themselves, to reap their own rewards. But he was so weak now, and the red-gold of the desert sands were blending in with the dusky gray of the horizon
.

Enkur was about to give up, thinking that the meager shelter on the outskirts of this sad village really was abandoned. But in a moment, a woman emerged from the darkened doorway, her skin wrinkled and hanging, her eyes clouded and dark.

Enkur stood silent for a moment, entirely unsure what to say. Would she be like the rest of the women in the village—looking upon him with disgust, as if he were some sort of vile spawn sprung from the shadows? Or would she be the sole kind person amid a village of cruel, thoughtless, and selfish people?

‘The choice she makes will determine whether she lives when we return to conquer this place,’ Enkur thought bitterly. Weak as he was, he had to keep confidence in the fact that they were on a mission, and that they would succeed, no matter what the cost.

“Water, please,” Enkur managed after a moment. “My men—” But the woman walked back into the darkness before Enkur could even finish his sentence.

‘Is she deaf? The fool, how dare she walk away from me
!’ Enkur was about to throw away what little of his morals he was trying to cling to in this harsh desert environment, and kill the woman for her insolence, but another moment passed, and the woman appeared in the doorway again, this time gesturing for Enkur to follow.

Enkur glanced back at his men, desperately crammed into what little shade the trees near the outskirts of the village would allow. One soldier looked dazedly in Enkur’s direction, but he couldn’t be entirely sure whether the man was even aware of where he was looking. It was entirely possible that the heat had truly claimed their minds at last. If Enkur didn’t get water soon, they would all succumb to the blazing inferno of Kemet’s desert lands. That thought firmly in his mind, Enkur turned away from his soldiers and followed the strange woman into her darkened house, ignorant of the villagers on the outskirts, staring at him and the other soldiers with a mix of suspicion and awe on their faces.

The woman silently exited out of the back of her house, where a well sat, surprisingly close by. Enkur briefly wondered if the reason why this woman was alone in her darkened household on the outskirts of the village was because something was wrong with her. And a well all to herself? Something seemed wrong, but before Enkur could ponder the possibilities, the woman spoke.

“This water will not save your life, nor the lives of your men.”

“And why is that, old woman?”

“Do I really look so old?” the woman asked in response, her voice abruptly growing soft. Her gaze dropped to the desert floor, and when it rose again, she was staring at some indeterminable point in the distance.

“The gods have granted me with nearly forty summers, but it does feel like so many more
”

Only forty? The woman was younger than Enkur’s own mother, but she easily looked much older. Enkur briefly wondered what sort of a life she’d led if the years took so much of a toll on her, and resulted in her being alone and cold in a ramshackle house separate from the rest of the village.

“I repeat my question,” Enkur stated, once he’d cleared his head of foolish thoughts of his mother, and of home. “Why won’t this water save my men? Is it poisoned by your ilk?”

To his surprise, the woman laughed. “I have no ilk, boy. There is no one like me in this village, and that is why I am outcast, doomed to live out the rest of my days alone. I toil for my own bread each day, and no one will ever share it with me.”

“And why is that?”

The woman stared straight up at him this time, and Enkur found himself looking into the most startling pair of eyes he had ever seen. One eye was a deep, rich brown, much like the rest of the people of this region. But the other was a brilliant aquamarine color, a forever-changing mix of blue and green, veiled with a thin, white sheen.

“I have seen what you cannot, and shall not, until it is too late for you.” She turned away from him then, and picked up the urn she’d filled with water. She swiftly scooped it into her arms, and with one surprising motion, she’d splashed Enkur with every last drop of the contents.

“The water that you do not taste will do you more good than the few drops you seek to keep you alive. Know this—this whole kingdom will fall in a matter of nights, and it is entirely beyond your control. Cool your head and your reckless thoughts, and perhaps you can break free of your fate.”

“My fate?!” Enkur roared, furious at the woman. “No wonder why you are all alone in this hovel, you wrinkled whore! I don’t believe in fate in the first place, let alone any sort of power that dictates my life!” The moment he started believing in higher powers with a vested interest in his life, the lazier he would get, thinking that the Powers That Be would recognize him, and reward him for his hard work. But that wasn’t how it worked—not where Enkur came from. It never had, for anyone Enkur had ever known, anywhere.

“You will fail whether you believe in the powers or not!” the woman snapped back, a trace of coldness seeping into her voice. “You already know there are things in this world beyond your control, no matter how strong you get! Or else why would you have lost your comrades in the sandstorm?”

Hers was a rhetorical question, obviously, for she continued speaking, even as Enkur fell silent, his jaw hanging slack in surprise. How had this woman known about the sandstorm? It was one thing to know by observation—he was a soldier, seeking to conquer and destroy, like any soldier would. He was the leader of a band of dying troops, all young men who had barely seen enough life to commit themselves to death by dehydration in these forsaken lands. All this was apparent to anyone that saw them, so the old woman’s initial words hadn’t fazed him. But to know of the sandstorm, which had occurred a great distance away and weeks in the past


“Greater powers are warring right now, and even if you did make it to the capital with enough strength between you and your men, it wouldn’t do a shred of good, child of Anubis—”

“Don’t compare me to your gods’ spawn! I’ve had enough of that drivel from the townsfolk you’re so exiled from. My name is not Anubis!” And with that, Enkur turned on his heel and left the small house, unaware that the older woman had followed him to the door. She clung onto the doorframe, staring at Enkur’s retreating back in dismay.

“Not yet, Enkur. But soon
”


Surprisingly, the soldiers mustered up enough strength to continue the journey, despite their lack of success at getting water. Enkur had been sorely tempted to spend the night camped over one of the dunes on the outskirts of the last village, and perhaps steal some water from that crazy woman who had splashed him rather than allowed a parched man to quench his thirst. But the night was cool and refreshing to the men, and they gained a newfound strength from the brisk desert breezes, and water from what few water-bearing plants they came across. By dawn, they found themselves outside the gates of a mighty city—the capital of the forsaken lands of Kemet.

Even more astonishing was the ease in which they entered the city. What few guards they saw weren’t guarding the front gates of the city at all, but the entrance to the palace.

“This will make our lives easier,” Enkur whispered to the few soldiers left under his command.

“How so, sir?” one of the men hissed back, his voice hoarse from the dry winds. All of them were cloaked by coarse brown fabric, which made the heat even more unbearable, but they knew that if their plan was to succeed, they couldn’t so obviously storm the capital city without some sort of disguise. They’d managed to pick up what other villagers had tossed out as garbage and use that as their cover—they were merchant traders coming from afar to participate in the massive bazaar held in the city’s center.

“So long as we keep up this ruse, we can figure out all their weaknesses. We’ll know when they have the changing of the guards, and which are the easiest points to exploit,” Enkur chuckled darkly.

“And we’ll be able to raid the royal kitchens?” one of the scrawnier boys—it was amazing he was still alive!—asked hopefully.

Enkur was tempted to feed the boy a knuckle sandwich, but he knew that it wouldn’t do to lower the morale more than it already was. If this mission failed—and it wouldn’t!—then there would be no hope for any of them
anywhere.

“We can’t possibly just barge into the palace,” another young man whispered. “How are we going to do this, Lord Enkur?”

Enkur had to only look at the massive palace with its high windows, the throngs of guards everywhere, and the general anxiety of the townspeople to know that the time to strike was coming soon. Kemet would be theirs!


The inside was far grander than the outside, which gave Enkur pause; what kind of a king wanted his palace to be little more than an illusion, making the people of the outside walls think that he wasn’t as rich and spoiled as he was?

Yes, spoiled. The foolish young Pharaoh whom Enkur had heard so much of since he entered the forsaken lands of Kemet sounded like a wealthy fool—and an absent-minded one, at that. Apparently he didn’t think well enough to train his guards to be wary of robed strangers claiming to have been summoned by the Pharaoh from many months ago.

Enkur scoffed as he and the other men made their way down the main passageway. They were only a few meters now from the throne room, where the entrance guards directed them to go—straightaway, without any dilly-dallying. They hadn’t thought to dispatch a single guard to accompany the so-called ‘summoned ones’ to the throne room to present them; the guards were simply spread too thin.

Enkur silently dispatched his few soldiers with quick moves of his hand; they’d been studying the palace for days now, and despite this being their first time inside the palace, so far everything was appearing where expected. Of the four other men with him, Enkur sent two to act as scouts, while the other two would accompany him to the throne room. The guards were spread so thin, it would be easy to kill the Pharaoh and his councilmen before anyone could do anything to stop them. And without any organized leadership, Enkur knew all too well how quickly the kingdom of Kemet would fall
.

He signaled to the other men with him to pull their cloaks lower to their eyes; if they had to meet the gazes of anyone, the Akkadians didn’t want to leave any of their victims with a visual good enough to pass on to anyone else.

Any moment now, they’d be in the throne room


“What?”

“Lord Enkur, I don’t understand
” one of the soldiers accompanying him whispered in a low tone. Enkur raised his head slightly, long enough only for his brown eyes to scan the scene.

Empty.

The throne room was abandoned. And they hadn’t seen anyone scuttling about the halls on their way to the throne room. The only sign of life anywhere near the palace was on the outskirts, where the guards appeared to be fiercely guarding an abandoned palace
from nothing.

‘They couldn’t have known we were coming!’

Beyond that, it wasn’t as if their small contingent of five men was enough to warrant the guards being scattered all over the palace, and the Pharaoh and his councilmen abandoning their posts. The people of all the towns and villages they’d passed through—even those in the capital city—didn’t seem to have the slightest clue that there was any threat coming their way—so why was the palace empty?

Even if their scouting of the palace had been wrong, they still would have encountered someone


“Ah, visitors? What business have you with the palace?” The voice that spoke reminded Enkur of a vaguely black slime he’d seen dripping down a dank well shaft once; it was liquid and rot all at the same time—and the speaker had a face to match. The short fellow who walked along the dais of the throne was no Pharaoh, that much was for sure. His face was far too old: it looked as if the years had melted his skin away from his skull, and his knobby hands and wrinkled feet were further indication of his age.

‘Stick to the story. The Pharaoh summoned us to
help him.’ The villagers had been speaking of a coming darkness, and a stranger that brought great power and destruction to the land. It sounded like more of that prophecy hogwash that the old woman in the other village had gone on about—but if there were any truth to it, Enkur realized the so-called prophecy could be applied in his favor.

“The Pharaoh summoned us many moons ago to aid with his
problem.”

‘Perfect. Leave it vague. The Pharaoh doesn’t tell his lowliest representatives everything. Surely this decrepit old man will assume that the issue is private, and take us directly to see the Pharaoh
’

The wax-faced man’s face shifted in a different direction, but oddly enough, his mouth still formed a distinct crescent, his lips pulled back over tiny teeth like a feral dog.

“Ah, well unfortunately the Pharaoh is indisposed at the moment. Dealing with that very problem himself. Chosen one and all that,” the man chuckled lowly as if amused by the Pharaoh’s absence, and hopped off the dais. “I doubt it will be one of his usual quick battles though; no, I know he’ll have a much harder time with this one. But, as with always, he’ll retreat back to the palace, have a council meeting, and go forth into battle once more. I imagine he’ll return here in a few days at the most. In the meantime, would you and your men like to tour the palace?”

Enkur’s smile widened; his plan was going better than expected. He nodded briskly, remembering at the last minute to bow to their gracious host—whoever he was—before signaling to his two men to follow the wax-faced man into a long side hallway off to the other side of the throne room. After a few minutes, it broke into a smaller, curving hallway that descending downward, the stairs only dimly visible in the torch-light. At the base of the stairs was a narrow hallway, two shadows guarding a massive door.

When Enkur and his men approached, only steps behind their host, they realized they were far deeper within the palace than their scouting could have revealed. If the palace was truly this large underground, it was entirely possible that the Pharaoh and his councilmen could escape deep into chambers such as these
!

‘And two guards!’ Enkur noted wryly. The only other place in the palace where two men guarded a single door was the main entryway of the palace, and even in that in Enkur’s mind was a pathetic number. Considering the Pharaoh was out ‘battling’ somewhere, it certainly explained why the guards were spread so thin. But why did this one place, deep in the underground, have two guards assigned to it? What was concealed within?

“I take great pleasure in showing this place to others
not even the Pharaoh knows of its existence,” the man chuckled. “But it certainly has its uses in this war-torn day and age; I’m sure a fine soldier like yourself will agree. By the way, my name is Gebeluk
and this is the realm I rule. ”

Enkur and his men stepped forward, their eyes adjusting to the torches lining each wall. The chamber was truly massive—and in its center, a pit with a variety of hanging ropes and platforms, many of them lined with dangerously sharp spikes and other deadly protrusions.

‘A torture chamber
’ Enkur realized. His realization quickly turned to dismay when he heard the distinct cry of a man from within that pit. He had only to look down to realize that the voice belonged to a disgraced soldier—an Akkadian, no less.

The dying man glanced up with his single intact eye, blood gushing all over the left side of his face and onto his nearly prostrate form. He yelled something that Enkur recognized as Akkadian
but he pretended he didn’t understand. The man down there in the pit, surrounded by death and sure to be touched by it any moment now
Enkur had no ties to him. He was not part of Enkur’s contingent, and he was fool enough to get caught by the enemy.

‘Just another pathetic weakling. If he had been more honorable, he would have died in the sandstorm.’

“Pathetic, isn’t it? We captured a small number of foreign soldiers that seemed intent on destroying the kingdom—but, well, we have enough of that to deal with already. Needless to say, their powers are nothing compared to our own criminals. I’m surprised that fool down there lasted so long. His own leader was beheaded many hours ago
by that.” Gebeluk’s knobby finger stretched up, drawing Enkur and his men’s gazes skyward.

Amidst the darkness, a decidedly monstrous figure loomed, just barely pulsing with dark energy. It moved lower and into the glow of the torch-light, and Enkur felt his throat constrict.

“A true beast, is he not? And to think, only a few days ago, this criminal’s ka was pathetic enough to be captured by only one of our council members! But in a fight to the death, his will to live causes him and his monster to grow strong!”

Enkur swallowed the lump in his throat, signaling silently to his shell-shocked men not to make a sound, lest they give away their identities as more of those “foreign soldiers intent on destroying the kingdom.” No, they couldn’t have that—not after having the palace practically at their command, with this great discovery at their fingertips
!

‘This is wrong! No man should be forced to fight here! It isn’t fair!’ Enkur knew his own thoughts contradicted themselves; here he was, sneaking into the palace under the pretense of killing the pharaoh, when all his values dictated that fights were to be announced, prepared for, and as fair as possible.

But here, Akkadians just like him were trapped—pitted against enemies far beyond their strength or understanding, and dying without honor.

“What is this ‘ka’ you speak of? In my realm of expertise, we rely on our own strength, not that of
beasts.” Enkur’s voice dropped lower when he finished speaking; he didn’t like the way the massive tri-horned beast with an eye in the center of its brow and blood dripping from its fangs leered at him.

“I’m not surprised you don’t know about it—I expected as much, if the Pharaoh were forced to bring outside forces in to help him in. Then again, plenty of the city folk don’t know about ka unless they’re attacked by a criminal or they see a council member subdue one.” Gebeluk clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Though I imagine more of them have an idea, now that they’ve seen the Gods.”

“The Gods?”

“Our very own Egyptian brethren, in what one might call a visible, spiritual form. Ra, God of the Sun which feeds us; Osiris, our Lord and King of this Underworld; and Obelisk, pillar of strength and fortitude against all those that would invade us. I’m probably one of the few that believes creatures stronger than the Gods can be created from the soul spirits of those that would otherwise be weak. Perhaps with the power of these black ka, we could even unlock the other great Egyptian Gods, such as the forgotten God Anubis
”

Powerful, massive creatures, possessed not only by the Pharaoh and his council members, but ordinary criminals. Their will to live strengthened these beast-spirits, these monsters borne of darkness, rather than honorable reasons to fight
.

Enkur clenched his fist as he watched the tri-horned ka arch out and sweep a bulging arm out at the shadows; a spider-like creature danced between the panes of light and dark, sending thick sprays of white webbing out at the enemy.

“Magnificent! Absolutely magnificent!” Gebeluk laughed, clearly enjoying the show. He clapped animatedly from his position atop the dais, apparently too thrilled to sit down in one of the two high-backed chairs positioned there.

“By your leave,” Enkur murmured under his breath, sickened by the display. “My men and I can find out way back to the upper levels. I’m sure someone will escort us to a place where we can stay.”

“Indeed, indeed,” Gebeluk said, hardly paying attention to the men. His gaze was still riveted toward the two ka monsters slashing at one another, the men controlling them in the pit below dodging physical blows while still trying to maintain enough mental strength to keep their monsters battling.

Enkur had to physically yank his soldiers back up the spiraling stairs with him, distracted as they were by the awesome strength of the spiritual monsters dueling each other in a pit of unfathomable darkness.


‘The pharaoh gone. A fool in his stead. Battling ‘soul spirits.’ Gods and monsters
This place truly is a forsaken land!’

Enkur stared out at the city that disgusted him so. He’d left his four soldiers in the palace; they’d all agreed that the capital city of Kemet was in such disarray that even the four of them could easily handle a barely-guarded palace. The four once-scrawny boys contented themselves by taking up shifts—two scouting the palace for any further chambers or persons of import, and the other two bingeing in the palace kitchens, unstopped by a single soul.

He half wanted to laugh, but this whole affair was far from over. No, it wouldn’t be over until this place belonged to the Akkadians, and


‘And what? Unseat a whole people from the life they have known? NO! This is to end a war, not to start one! This is the only way
’

Enkur could hardly believe his thoughts, torturous and contradictory as they were. But further contemplation on his inner arguing was put to a quick and silent death when a massive fireball erupted from what looked like the very center of the city. Enkur quickly started running down the cliff that overlooked the city, an uncommon desperation surging through his veins to get back—and get back now.

By the time Enkur made it, there wasn’t very much to “get back” to. What Gebeluk had termed “black ka” were running rampant everywhere—grotesque spiders crawling up buildings, devouring townspeople ensnared in their thick webbing; demons that resembled inverted bodies, staring hollowly into the darkness with blood and innards dripping from claws and fangs.

Enkur clung to the shadows that not even the monsters cared to permeate; it seemed an eternity before he finally made it back to the palace
and found not only the bodies of the guards that had once protected the main entrance of the palace, but pieces
of other bodies. Some were undoubtedly men, others had to be women. Shockingly, there were children’s body parts strewn throughout the palace as well, but who knew where they’d come from.

The bile building in Enkur’s throat rose to a frightening high as soon as he returned to the throne room—Gebeluk lay there—or rather, half of him lay there, half-slumped over the throne that didn’t belong to him. His blood stained the gold that decorated the chair’s arms and legs, but as for his own legs, they were nowhere in sight. Enkur swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth, and, carefully making his way around the blood and innards of the scum that was formerly Gebeluk, he headed to the underground chamber.

With any luck, his men had found refuge in the place where all this madness had likely begun.

But it appeared Enkur was far from lucky—though his men were much worse off than he. They had survived the sandstorms, the dehydration, the lack of sleep; they’d been stoned and verbally assaulted by every villager they met, and very nearly starved to death
only to die now, dishonorably, slaughtered by pathetic underground criminals!

All four of them had apparently fled to this place—or somehow, their bodies had ended up here. Perhaps the criminals with the “black ka” had spotted them all in their earlier visit
perhaps the Akkadian that had died near to Enkur’s arrival had told the others about his people, and their attempt to destroy the kingdom. Well, now the criminals had gotten that idea in their head, and they were doing a fine job of it on their own.

Better in fact, than Enkur would have expected out of a bunch of lowly thieves and rapists. It was true that Enkur had no qualms about the torture of such vile men, but when those men were even more powerful than Enkur and his warrior people


What was there to do?

“This world is ending, young warrior.”

Enkur’s head snapped up at the sound of the voice—it sounded distorted, as if echoing from far away. When his eyes finally fell upon the shadowy figure near the dais, his eyes widened. A small oil lantern lay toppled over not far from the two chairs on the dais, the light flickering only slightly at first, and then growing steadily as the figure stepped forward. Its feet crunched on a small figure that Gebeluk had apparently kept tucked away in the corner: a shrine idol, perhaps to his supposedly ‘forgotten’ god, Anubis? Enkur knew little of Egyptian gods or customs, but he knew that he was facing someone—or something—inhuman the moment its face came into view.

The body was unmistakably that of a man, but where the neck extended upward into what should have been the familiar face of a man, a fine line of black fur started up, thickening and curving around the skull of what was unmistakably a jackal. Its whole muzzle was pitch-black, save for what appeared to be naturally gold-colored fur around its eyes, extending upward near its brow.

Enkur, frozen in place, watched as the jackal-headed figure approached him slowly, speaking as if it were like any man—its mouth opening and closing, its lips pulling back over sharply-pointed teeth.

“You will survive beyond this time, with powers beyond imagination.”

When Enkur finally found his voice, it was only loud enough to speak one word: “If?”

The jackal seemed to chuckle, its lips pulling back again to reveal shining canines. Enkur never thought that a dog—or any relative thereof, including jackals—could smile, but this one, this half-jackal, half-man, obviously could.

If you take my name, Akkadian. Your people will not survive the coming millennia. If you wish to ever defeat the Pharaoh and secure a victory that is truly your own
you will accept this.”

The jackal held out its hand, revealing a small crimson stone, smoothly polished. Enkur hesitated a moment before reaching out for it—in the few seconds that passed before his hand met with the jackal-man’s, Enkur swore he saw the stone swirl with a nebulous blue light. The moment passed, and his hand touched the gem—but not the hand that held it. The jackal-man laughed loudly as Enkur’s hand came to grip the stone, and their surroundings faded into absolute darkness.

The jackal-man was nowhere in sight, but Enkur could clearly hear his voice: The gods will awaken again, millennia from now
but I shall be the first, and it is within you that I shall rule the upper realm, no longer trapped in the darkness! Henceforth, you are a servant of the name Anubis!

The name “Anubis” echoed over and over again, shattering like so much glass. The name ‘Enkur’ slowly slipped from the Akkadian’s mind, fading much like the light was from the world around him.

There seemed to be a melding of many things, all at once—the “black ka” that he had seen in the streets and in the pit; a shining golden puzzle and lifeless forms, finely clothed; and finally, a creature that could hardly be distinguished from the darkness itself. All Enkur could spot was the fading red of its eyes, devoid of life, before he too, succumbed to the darkness.

A woman’s voice echoed faintly, as if speaking from very far away.

“The reign of our Pharaoh has come to an end, but not his legacy. Though the Millennium Items are to be sealed away, my Necklace has given me one last warning: the eye that sees what is yet to come, its vision shall be fulfilled unless blinded by events predetermined
thus both light and shadows be killed.”

As the voice faded away, so too did all other sounds of life. And then
nothingness.


“You dared to seal me away with your own pathetic demons, and the darkness borne of your own pathetic rule! But
it is also thanks to you that I am awakened, for had your memories and the powers of the Millennium Items not been sealed within your Puzzle, you would not have awakened me!”

Yami had no idea that Anubis had already told Yugi this very same thing—-that without him solving the Millennium Puzzle, Anubis could not have been awakened. Yami internally sensed that there was a much greater story behind Anubis and his quest for vengeance, but finding out the truth of such matters was hardly important when Anubis had no mind to tell stories, and instead seemed to be wholly focused on destroying the planet.

“You lie!”

Anubis chuckled darkly under his breath, “Pitiful mortal! If you wish to deny your past, so be it. I will even play your little game
for I, too, have the power of ka!”

Yami hadn’t the faintest idea what Anubis was talking about, but in the next moment, Anubis thrust his hand out, and two massive figures appeared on the field, emerging from the sludge much as Anubis himself had.

“I summon the great and terrible beasts: Andro Sphinx and Sphinx Teleia! I believe in your ‘game,’ you wait a turn before destroying your opponent utterly
so I will do you the honor of floundering with what little life you have left!”

Anubis had assumed Kaiba’s remaining 2100 Life Points, while Yami continued to duel with a paltry 200. It seemed hopeless, what with two sphinxes on the field, and the power of Anubis continuing to grow with each pulse of the Pyramid of Light—both the card and the life-sized one surrounding the duel arena.

Anubis chuckled as his Life Point meter dropped by 1000. “It is pointless to use a meter as a measure to your destruction, Pharaoh. You are already weak, your body already dead and your spirit will join it soon enough! No amount of ‘points’ gained or lost will change that! And even if you manage to lower my ‘life points,’ they mean nothing to me. It is that pathetic mortal there that will die!” Anubis gestured vaguely toward Kaiba, still sprawled out unconscious on the arena floor.

Yami wanted to accuse Anubis of lying once more, but he knew it was a waste of words. He simply couldn’t let Anubis intimidate him—even if he was telling the truth.

He drew, hesitating before he looked at his card. “Reverse of Reverse,” he murmured under his breath. He had no idea if traditional duel monsters, spells, or traps would even have any effect on Anubis or his minions, but he had to try.

Across the field, Andro Sphinx growled menacingly, its hackles raised as it eyed Yami with blood-red eyes. If Anubis could be transformed into a monster, surely the Andro Sphinx was the closest representation of him. But Yami would not be frightened—not by “real monsters” growling at him, or by the absolute loneliness that was threatening to overcome him.

‘For my friends
!’

Even though Yami had no memory—no idea of his true name—he would still fight for them. He would fight for Yugi, even though the boy had unlocked Anubis along with a plethora of monsters, agonizing battles, and frustrating opponents. He would fight for the fallen Kaiba, though it felt against everything he felt in his heart
it was the honorable thing to do. And Yami would allow himself to be devoured by Ammit, guardian of the Underworld, long before Anubis upstaged him when it came to matters of honor.

Yami placed the card face-down in one of his magic and trap card slots, silently wishing that Anubis’ powers didn’t extend to the destruction of magic and traps in this ‘game.’ He only had one card in his hand now—Exchange, which was utterly useless considering Anubis didn’t use cards. There were few cards left in Yami’s deck, either
everything was hinging on surviving this next attack, and drawing the right card.

“Search your deck from now until doomsday,” Anubis laughed triumphantly. “You still won’t find anything to stand against my savage Underworld beasts! My apologies, Pharaoh,” Anubis’ voice was thick with sarcasm, “but your doomsday is today! Now, watch as your last line of defense is ripped to shreds before your very eyes! Sphinx Teleia
it’s feeding time!”

Anubis raised one arm, signaling to the great female sphinx occupying half of one side of his field. The creature with the head of a beautiful woman and the body of a pristine white lion bounded forward, propelled by hind legs so powerful, the movement was almost too quick to see. In an instant, Teleia’s once-beautiful face morphed into something akin to rubber, stretching downward as her mouth opened impossibly wide, revealing canines longer than any human’s, aimed to sink into the Celtic Guardian
.

With a mighty roar, the sphinx took a bite out of the Celtic Guardian, the fierce chomp causing the elfish soldier to burst into a thousand holographic shards.

“My Celtic Guardian, no!” Yami knew that the duel was no longer in his favor, but he had to keep on believing. But it seemed incredibly difficult when Anubis’ monsters took their time shredding Yami’s only defense into pieces.

“And now it is your turn, Andro Sphinx!”

Unlike its female counterpart, who’d gracefully leaped back to Anubis’ side of the field and shook the beast-like appearance from her face, Andro Sphinx merely lumbered forward, its crimson eyes gleaming with bloodlust.

With an awesome roar that shook caused tremors throughout the dilapidated structure, Andro Sphinx blew away Yami’s Watapon with a single sonic attack. Though the cream puff-creature was in defense mode, Yami could feel the energy leaving him—and if the screens above, miraculously functioning despite all the surrounding destruction—indicated correctly, Yami had but 100 Life Points left. Yami fell to his knees, his breath coming out in short, cold gasps. For a moment, he was sure he could see his breath—or maybe it was his soul, assuming he actually had one—emerging in puffs of white vapor, as elusive to the touch as the “magic” that Yami once wholeheartedly believed could fuel him through the worst of situations.

But now, Yugi wasn’t with him, and all he felt was desperate and empty
.

“As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now Pharaoh,” Anubis started disdainfully, “Each time Andro Sphinx destroys a monster, half of that monster’s attack points are deducted fromyour Life Points. You should be grateful Teleia does not possess a similar effect, or your death would have come much sooner!”

“Save your speeches, Anubis,” Yami ground out. “You may have the upper hand now, but—”

“But nothing, foolish Pharaoh! I learned the price of treachery and underhanded battles long ago, and it is not a practice I abide! It is only my honor that has saved your life up to this moment. Should you perish from this duel—and I assure you, you will—it will be because of your own failure!”

Malik and Mokuba had long since gotten stuck in the galleries from their vain attempt to rescue Joey, Duke, and Tristan. In the process of trying to rescue the rescuers, Solomon, Serenity, Pegasus, and TĂ©a’s unconscious form had all toppled out of the helicopter, whose pilot promptly had to swerve and land outside to avoid being blown up by falling debris hitting the engine.

Solomon and Mokuba simultaneously uttered a low “oh no” under their breaths as they listened to Anubis shout at Yami. It wasn’t enough that Yami had been somehow ‘separated’ from Yugi, veritably breaking their bond, but Yami seemed to be teetering on the edge of his own self-destruction. With only 100 Life Points and a single card left in his deck, it seemed like nothing short of a miracle would get him out of this situation.

“Your fate is sealed, Pharaoh! Soon you will be the relic buried away, and worms will feast on your flesh, as they once did on mine!”

Yami swallowed convulsively and prayed—truly prayed, for the first time since his ‘existence’ in this world began. Whether it was to the Egyptian gods, a singular god, or even the intangible force he called “the heart of the cards,” something had to save him here and now, for this was his last turn
.

“Your worms will have to wait, Anubis! I trust my fate to the heart of the cards!”

His fingers nearly slipped off the card as he drew it from his Duel Disk. His whole hand trembling, he slid the card into place and finally dared to look at it: Double Spell. With Exchange already in his hand and Reverse of Reverse set on the field, that meant he had no defenses—no monsters to protect his remaining Life Points.

“No monsters, just two magic cards
that’s all I have left.”

“We just might win this!”

‘Yugi?’ Yami swore he heard his other half crying out in triumph, but
he couldn’t sense him. But still, Yugi’s voice somehow encouraging Yami was more than enough, and within moments, a strategy—albeit a risky one—fell into place.

In the ‘other realm,’ mummies stumbled backward, either unwilling or unable to go near the golden light bursting from the crack in the tablet high above the tomb of Anubis. It had been a desperate attempt to save his friends when Yugi threw the so-called ‘Dagger of Fate’ at the jeweled red eye that stared down at them from the stone Pyramid of Light—but it had worked!

‘I sense a weakness in the Pyramid’s power!’ Yami realized an instant later. He could see it too, in the way that the massive pyramid surrounding the duel arena shimmered and flickered, as if its light source was being threatened with extinction.

Yami’s sole window of opportunity had arrived, and if he didn’t act, then everyone would suffer—not just him and his already-wounded ego.

“I activate Double Spell!” Yami thrust his newest card into one of the Magic and Trap card slots on his Duel Disk, and immediately discarded his Exchange card to the Graveyard.

“By discarding one spell card from my hand, I can select and use a new one from my opponent’s graveyard, as if it were my own! And I know just the card I want!”

As if responding to Yami’s words, the unconscious Kaiba’s Duel Disk began to glow, the miniature mechanisms shifting a particular card to the top. Another mechanism forced it back into the body of the main Duel Disk, where it pushed its way out of one of the Magic and Trap card slots, activating instantaneously.

“MONSTER REBORN!” The lights around the card glowed, creating a pool of golden-white light around Kaiba’s prone form. “So come forth, mighty Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon!”

The card for the dragon shifted to the top of Kaiba’s Duel Disk in much the same way that Monster Reborn had, with Yami controlling it from afar. The massive bejeweled creature rose from the arena floor in an awesome display of blue-white light, its mechanical-like wings thrusting it further up into the air, until it was almost at the peak of the Pyramid of Light.

“I have a hunch that this time your pyramid won’t be able to stand up to the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon’s Shining Nova! Now go, Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon—use all your power to finish what you started before, and destroy the Pyramid of Light!”

“IMPOSSIBLE!” Or so Anubis cried out, seconds before the brilliance of the Shining Dragon’s attack filled the dueling arena, causing the walls of the Pyramid of Light to crumble, and taking the two sphinxes right along with it.

“Magic or no, your sphinxes are connected to the Pyramid of Light. So when the Pyramid is destroyed
so are they!”

The massive eye on the outside of the Pyramid of Light crackled with lightning, the vortex of blood-red abruptly morphing into an abyss of blue. Inside the realm, the mummies holding TĂ©a, Tristan, Duke, and Joey hostage disintegrated like so much dust, and the one that had been leering over Yugi spontaneously combusted. While Mokuba and Solomon stood and watched the duel in awe, Pegasus glanced behind him the moment he heard stirring from the unconscious quartet behind him.

TĂ©a’s eyes were the first to flutter open, and it was to her that Pegasus extended his hand. She stared at him blearily for a moment, looking at him as if he might be a dream. She decided that even if it were, she wasn’t one to resist help when it was given, so she reached up and found herself hauled to her feet. When she regained her senses a moment later, she nudged Joey, Tristan, and Duke awake, and before long they were all staring out from the galleries, wondering how this duel would end.

“This whole thing
the Pyramid of Light,” Duke murmured. “It doesn’t sound like any of the Millennium Items we’ve encountered so far. How is it so powerful if it’s a fake?”

“Good question,” Malik and Pegasus said simultaneously. The two stared at one another, Malik’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, but they both looked away shortly.

‘There’s no question about it—the Pyramid of Light’s no Millennium Item. And unlike the Millennium Puzzle it’s meant to be like, it’s not fragmented into pieces. If what Anubis said is true, and he is somehow connected to the puzzle, then that means
’

“But that’s impossible
” Malik murmured under his breath as the realization hit him. It was one thing if Anubis was truly from the past—that was entirely possible. But if his Pyramid of Light was intentionally meant to be a copy of the Millennium Puzzle, then there was only one person who could have possibly made it, with only one reason in mind for doing so
but it had all backfired, and now Anubis was before them!

“What’s impossible?” TĂ©a asked, her voice quavering ever-so-slightly. “What do you know Malik? Tell me.” She said it with such firmness in her voice that even if Malik thought not to tell TĂ©a the secrets that he knew about the MIllennium Items, he doubt he could have found a plausible excuse that would have pacified her.

“The Pyramid of Light is,” Malik said at last. “Devlin’s right—it’s not a Millennium Item. But the Millennium Items aren’t exactly wonderful, perfect items, either. You know full well that they are imbued with darkness.”

Oh, TĂ©a knew all right. She knew that the ‘darkness’ in the Millennium Ring caused gentle Ryou to occasionally become vindictive, possessive, and angry. She knew the ‘darkness’ in the Millennium Eye had only added to what she believed was an existing mental illness in Pegasus, giving him the power to see into others’ minds and steal their souls from their bodies. And she knew that the Millennium Rod was somehow responsible for the creation of Malik’s former dark half


“But why? I don’t understand how together, they can be a force for good, if they’re all tainted with darkness.”

“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’?” Pegasus interrupted. “It’s something like that.” Malik again favored Pegasus with a critical glare, but he didn’t say anything to the older man. Instead, he addressed TĂ©a once more.

“The Items were created to protect Egypt long ago—to seal away the darkness that was threatening the country. But to seal away darkness, one must already
well, possess darkness.”

“
So you’re saying, the people that created the MIllennium Items weren’t exactly doing it because they believed what they were doing was right?”

“Not entirely,” Malik affirmed. “Each person had their own inner selfish desires. And to make it worse, one of them had particularly selfish desires that outweighed them all, and he’s the one who created Anubis’ so-called Pyramid of Light. At least, that’s what I think happened
”

But there was no way to know for sure, not without returning home to Egypt and heading to the catacombs where the legend was told on the ancient stone tablets. But somehow, Malik felt that what he’d told TĂ©a was the truth, without a shadow of a doubt
but how did he know that, if not from the stone tablets?

“And with that, I’ll end my turn. The Pyramid of Light is gone!” Yami announced, capturing everyone’s attention as the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon’s recent attack shattered the great illusion surrounding the arena.

“But how?” Anubis growled angrily. “Your opponent tried and failed to destroy the Pyramid with that dragon. You alone couldn’t make such a difference!”

“You’re quite right that I couldn’t have done it alone,” Yami smirked. He sensed Yugi’s presence beside him, and if the look on Anubis’ face was any indication, the Egyptian ‘lord of the dead’ saw him, too.

“The power of unity,” Pegasus murmured under his breath. “So that’s it
”

Malik glanced sideways at Pegasus, but he wisely kept his thoughts to himself. The true powers of the Millennium Items were known to a select few, and even Pegasus, as a former Millennium Item holder, didn’t know them all. At least, that’s what Malik had thought. Now he was beginning to wonder just how much Pegasus knew, and how


Anubis merely scowled. “You may have destroyed the card, Pharaoh,” he said disdainfully, “But not the Pyramid of Light around my neck! Behold its power!”

In response to Anubis’ cry, the Pyramid of Light began to glow with that same unearthly blue-white hue that it had before, the halo of light condensed to the space just in front of Anubis. From within that circle of light, the shadowy form of a card began to appear, and before it, the monstrous form of a massive creature, the likes of which no one had ever seen.

“Inspired by your modern sayings—two heads are better than one! Thinien the Great Sphinx!” As the light died down, a massive creature with the head and torso of the Andro Sphinx and the wings and lower body of Sphinx Teleia appeared, snarling madly while it foamed at the mouth. It was easily four times the size of either of the original Sphinxes, and it looked ten times angrier.

“My life energy is and always shall be greater than yours,” Anubis laughed. “A mere 500 of these so-called ‘Life Points’ will increase the strength of my Sphinx by 3000!” Anubis already seemed to have paid a price just to summon Anubis to the field in the first place; following the destruction of the Pyramid of Light and the subsequent Sphinxes, 500 of his Life Points drained away to permit the Summoning of Thinien—now with 6500 attack points.

“And now, Pyramid of Light
feed this perfect beast with dead souls set free!”

It was the Pyramid of Light around Anubis’ neck that reacted to his words; it glowed an unearthly red and suddenly seemed to emit a distant roar. Or was the roar coming from Yugi’s own Millennium Puzzle
? Much to everyone’s astonishment, dark shadows began to pour out of the two pyramid pendants, the slithering dark shapes taking form before vanishing into the great open maw of Anubis.

Mummy after mummy seemed to emerge from Yugi’s puzzle, while the once-terrifying faces of both Andro Sphinx and Sphinx Teleia emerged from Anubis’ Pyramid of Light. Now, with each subsequent creature feeding into Thinien, Anubis’ power grew stronger.

“Whoa—someone tell me that attack meter’s broken,” Joey stared at the flickering screen hanging at an odd-angle from the remnants of the ceiling; between lines of static, one could barely make out the projected form of Thinien—complete with 35,000 attack points.

“No,” TĂ©a murmured, realizing just how Anubis had powered up. “He got five hundred points from the Pyramid of Light trap, Andro Sphinx and Sphinx Teleia
and then he used all the cards in both Seto and Yugi’s Graveyards to power up Thinien even further!”

“But that doesn’t add up,” Duke interjected. “Both Yugi and Kaiba have more monsters—”

“He must have gotten 1500 additional attack points for each monster in the Graveyard,” TĂ©a said. “But there’d be no sense in taking the strength of a the same creature twice, so Anubis upped his chances of getting the strength of a powerful monster by only allowing one monster of a given name.”

Joey was mumbling to himself and trying to count on both of his hands when Solomon interrupted him. “She’s right. If you think back to the beginning of the duel, they would almost have an even number of Monster cards in their Graveyard—Kaiba with eight, Yugi with ten.”

“Kaiba’s Familiar Knight to Yugi’s Queen’s Knight,” Duke started, raising two fingers in the air.

“Yugi’s Jack’s Knight to Kaiba’s Rare Metal Dragon,” Joey added, remembering the powerful dragon with black spikes. “And that annoying-ass Clown, Peten or somethin’. Yug’ had his King’s Knight, too.”

“Then Seto had Des Feral Imp, while Yugi had his Magician’s Valkyria.”

“His Dark Magician Girl was destroyed by Kaiba’s Deck Destruction Virus, and Kaiba destroyed his own Spear Dragon using Card of Demise,” Solomon added.

“Then Kaiba used his Paladin of White Dragon combo to bring out the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, and finally the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon,” Malik stated quietly. “To match up with Yugi’s Dark Magician, Big Shield Gardna, and Watapon.”

“And last but not least,” Pegasus interjected dramatically, “Yugi’s Sorcerer of Dark Magic and Obnoxious Celtic Guardian.”

“So Fusion Monsters aren’t counted, but their Material Monsters are,” Joey realized. “Man, there’s no way that should work!”

“But it has,” Mokuba muttered, having remained silent up until now. He couldn’t bear to watch the battle knowing that his brother was unconscious and hurt somewhere down below, but he’d ended up watching it anyway—all because everyone’s lives hung on the balance of Yugi winning the duel.

To make matters worse, Mokuba had no idea where his brother was down below. The destruction of the Duel Dome was so great that even with the shining Pyramid of Light gone, it was hard to see anything in the mess. And they were trapped where they were on almost all sides—and going down to the arena was only asking for more trouble.

“Guys look!” Mokuba pointed as Yami smirked in that undeniably confident way of his—despite having an empty deck, no hand, and hardly any Life Points—and shifted his hand over the one card remaining in his Duel Disk—a card in his Magic and Trap card zone.

“Say hello, Thinien!” Anubis laughed, to which the massive two-faced sphinx before him roared menacingly, the tremors shaking the Duel Dome even further.

“Thousands of years ago, I never had the chance to summon Thinien to battle,” Anubis chuckled darkly. The truth was, he hadn’t known the first thing about the “ka” the Egyptians spoke of, or that within him resided the power of one—greater than even that of the gods that had plunged Egypt into darkness. But then he had met he who had bestowed him with the name ‘Anubis,’ and the dark knowledge that resides in all men awoke within him
while the memories of his life as a normal man were purged from him for eternity.

“I think it would be best if we made up for lost time and finally had a proper introduction
Thinien, meet the Pharaoh. And Pharaoh
meet your doom!”

‘We don’t have anything that can beat that sphinx,’ Yugi thought, the concern evident in his “mind-voice” to Yami.

“Yes, we do, Yugi
” Yami murmured, grasping the card in his Magic and Trap card zone and activating it with the push of a button.

‘If I’m correct about what Kaiba was planning
’ There was a chance that Yami could be wrong—completely wrong about everything, from Kaiba to this duel and everything in between. But Yami was counting on the fact that he’d never been wrong in a time of need yet.

“Now then, Anubis, this is still a duel, and I still have one face-down card to play!” Though it wasn’t Yami’s turn, he activated a trap he’d set several turns ago


“Reverse of Reverse! When the timing is right, I can activate one of Kaiba’s cards as if it were my own!”

Anubis shot an astonished and angry glare at the offending card that Yami chose to activate—a face-down card that he hadn’t even noticed, and had forgotten that his little puppet had set ages ago, when he’d been conscious enough to duel.

“RETURN FROM THE DIFFERENT DIMENSION!” Yami proclaimed successfully, knowing the card’s name even before the light shimmering around the holographic card faded away.

“Earlier, when Kaiba fought against your influence, he said something about the perfect victory—of dealing me the perfect defeat—he meant wiping me out with my own Egyptian Gods!”

Testament to Yami’s proclamation, three massive and familiar forms began to appear from the dimensional rip on the field—the hulking stone mass of Obelisk, the shining golden plates of Ra, and finally, the crimson slithering scales of Slifer.

“Allow me to introduce
Obelisk the Tormentor, Slifer the Sky Dragon, and the Winged Dragon of Ra!”

Being that the creatures he’d summoned were the God Cards, they possessed powers unlike any other Duel Monster—and that meant their attacks superseded that of any other creature, including Thinien. This meant Yami could attack out of turn—and not lose the duel by not having any cards to draw—and still win this!

“My Egyptian Gods, combine now for infinite power!”

Malik’s eyes widened a fraction as he saw Yami command the Gods to perform something that not even he had known about—and Malik thought he had truly known every effect and counter-effect the God Cards possessed, inside and out.

But as Ra released itself into its Phoenix Mode, Slifer coiled around Obelisk like a suit of armor, and Obelisk glowed scarlet with Slifer’s power
Malik was sure no one alive had ever seen anything quite like this before.

“TITAN FIRESTORM!”

Obelisk’s Fist of Fury glowed brilliantly as Ra arched toward Thinien and Anubis, Slifer’s double-mouths both open wide with crackling thunder balls barely trapped within. In an instant, the light made contact with Thinien, exploding the once-fearsome creature into millions of pieces that disappeared as mysteriously as they’d come. The blaze continued, its fury growing as Anubis fought against the magic of the Gods.

Anubis’ attempts were all in vain as the fire grew white-hot, to the point where few could look through the burning brightness in order to see Anubis, fallen to his knees, his cape burnt and tattered, and the leather cord holding the Pyramid of Light around his neck disintegrating. A moment more, and the Pyramid of Light itself shattered, its pieces melting in the flame before they could even touch the ground. Even the Eye of Horus that had so tantalized Joey, Tristan, Duke, and TĂ©a into its depths shattered—though the crimson jewel that had once found its place there remained, untouched by the fire.

The flames began to die and down and dissipate, revealing an empty space where Anubis once stood.

“Yeah, Yugi!” Tristan cheered.

“Awright!” Joey added.

‘You did it!’ Yugi said, turning to face Yami. He’d long since gotten used to facing “the Spirit” when he resided in Yugi’s body; there was something about Yami’s ancient soul that seemed to make Yugi’s own body look different to his eyes
different enough, at least.

We did,” Yami corrected him. He nodded wordlessly at Yugi, who reached out to touch the Millennium Puzzle—and then he found himself back in his own body
or at least, back in the place he’d come to know as the ‘Soul Room,’ the place “in between” being in control of his body and seeing Yami control it. Why hadn’t Yami relinquished control back to him? Was there still something he wanted to do?

Yugi extended his senses, the feeling refreshing after what had seemed like entirely too long trapped in another realm, or just outside of his own body. From within the Soul Room, Yugi could see Yami walking forward, approaching the fallen-but-awakening Kaiba.

Wordlessly, Yami extended a hand downward to Kaiba, who quickly noticed the gesture—if not the strange expression on Yami’s face that Yugi remained entirely unaware of—and swatted the offending hand away.

“I can take care of myself,” Kaiba bit out loudly, though his words inadvertently became laced with pain the moment he put pressure on his injured arm. He’d probably sprained it, or possibly dislocated the shoulder, but it would be a cold day in Hell before Kaiba ever admitted weakness before his greatest rival.

Pegasus was chuckling at Kaiba’s obstinacy, while Mokuba stared at the older man, wondering what was so funny, when all of a sudden a crimson light flashed from the side of the arena where Anubis had been, minutes before.

“What the!?” Kaiba barely had the chance to stand up before the red light was consumed by darkness—dark shapes and shadows bursting forth from an object far beyond their line of sight and reach.

In an instant, the doorway that gave Yugi the ability to take over his own body if he willed it was effectively slammed shut in his spiritual face. Yami realized there was something very wrong going on, and he didn’t want Yugi getting hurt or “disconnected” from him again.

Shadows take life
creatures be born!

TĂ©a whipped her head around wildly, seeking the source of the massive echoing voice. It sounded like Anubis, but
but that was impossible! But the more she looked back down toward the arena, the harder it became to see—a living darkness, almost like tar, seemed to be exploding from a small point that was glowing red, far, far away. For a moment, she thought it was glistening green, but then the flicker vanished, and the darkness grew, larger and larger, shaping into something somehow distinct.

Now let’s see how well you play this game when the monsters are real!

“Monsters
” Serenity whispered quietly, fear leaking into her voice. “For real?” Unlike the others, who’d had varying degrees of experience with bigger threats beyond Duel Monsters tournaments, the scariest thing Serenity had ever encountered in her young years was the chance that she might lose her sight. Back in Battle City, she’d taken that risk and dared to save her brother from certain death, but there hadn’t been any “real” monsters—or psychopathic resurrected mummies, for that matter. She was slowly beginning to understand what her brother meant when he said that “craziness” came hand in hand with their lives.

The darkness formed into what was undeniably the most frightening creature Serenity—or any of the others present, for that matter—could ever have imagined. Not quite wolf and not quite-dragon, the creature was easily half the size of the entire Duel Dome, with giant tube-like pustules reaching up from its arched back, purple smoke puffing up from their depths. The creature’s massive maw was set with fangs as long as the rails that separated the upper galleries from the arena below, while its eyes were as red as fresh blood.

Now it is no longer time to duel
it is time to die!

Anubis was clearly behind this creature—at the very least, acting as its voice—as the thing opened its mouth.

“Nothing in your deck of cards can save you now!” Before Anubis’ gaping maw, a pair of Magic cards appeared—-Inferno Tempest and Fallout, two of the most destructive spells in all of Duel Monsters. But it was apparent that this was no longer some card game powered with holographic technology. The two spells shone brightly as massive clouds appeared from nowhere, flaming lightning licking the arena floor in random bursts.

And in an instant, everything changed.

The line between reality and imagination was blurred, causing TĂ©a to blink in sudden confusion. Sure, she’d been knocked unconscious and then woken up thanks to Yugi stabbing some sort of an eye with a so-called Dagger of Fate, but that didn’t explain what she’d just seen.

A bright, blazing light, impossibly hot, but somehow chilling TĂ©a to the core, and it was racing toward—

“NO!”

Without even considering that the blazing light she’d seen wasn’t at all present in the dust-ridden arena, TĂ©a vaulted over the crooked railing separating the gallery from the crumbling arena below, sliding down a fallen rafter in a daring move. She ignored the shredded metal tearing into her exposed skin, and the chunks of concrete falling from above. She ignored the palpitations of her heart, beating so rapidly that she nearly entertained the thought of it bursting from her chest.

She ignored Yugi’s terrified, broken call to her as she ran—right past him, without sparing him a glance. His voice had cracked midway through shouting her name over the roar of flames suddenly coming from Anubis’ direction—hurtling straight toward both him and Kaiba.

The lightning had suddenly coalesced into a single sphere of fire, and now that sphere was hurtling toward Yami and Kaiba both, the sheer force of it sending debris flying around them, and causing cards to burst from their Duel Disks.

In all the time that the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle—Yami, Pharaoh, or whatever he was called—inhabited Yugi’s body, there had rarely been an issue of who was in control. In the beginning, Yami had only taken control when Yugi lost consciousness, or worse, when he lost his will to fight. Once the two had become mutually aware of one another, neither of them dared to force control over their shared body—even though it was technically Yugi’s body to begin with.

But in this particular instance, Yugi took control unexpectedly the moment he saw TĂ©a running toward him. No, not toward him—toward Kaiba. For all the fierce spirit and fire in her eyes, she hadn’t even looked in his direction. She didn’t even see him. The look on her face was one of such fear and desperation—desperation to save Kaiba!—that it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. But Yugi had never seen that look on her face before—not even at her parents’ funeral.

‘It doesn’t even matter. She doesn’t care that he was the one that asked for all this–this duel. It doesn’t even matter that Anubis used him as a pawn, and he didn’t even know or care
’

Nothing mattered.

Still numb with shock, Yugi didn’t even attempt to shield himself from the oncoming barrage of flames. At the last possible moment, Yami emerged in his spirit form, doing his best to shield his host from the wrath of Anubis’ Inferno Tempest attack. But even he had a difficult time fending the fire, for the image of TĂ©a, frozen only a meter away from him, her tunnel vision only allowing her to see one person, one man


‘The man she loves. ‘

Yami had known about TĂ©a’s feelings for Kaiba for a long while now, but the realization hadn’t fully sunk in—not until now. Not until she had clearly chosen Kaiba over him.

‘I can’t
’ Yugi’s voice came to him as if from a distance, echoing hollowly in that mysterious realm the two of them shared. Yami knew what no one else did—what Yugi hadn’t even told him—not directly, at least.

‘You mustn’t give up hope, Yugi!’

Yami’s own feelings on the matter went unspoken, but it was clear that neither of them were particularly inclined to take TĂ©a’s lack of regard for them as reason enough to stop loving her. For that was the truth of the matter: Yugi still loved TĂ©a, and it hurt more than any attack—physical or magical—to see her risk her life not for him, her friend since childhood, but for Kaiba—his rival.

‘But Kaiba—!’

There was simply no denying that their shared reaction was borne of selfishness, and no small amount of bitterness, as well. But if TĂ©a hadn’t run past him to save Kaiba, Kaiba would probably be—

‘I mean him no ill will, but
’ Yami didn’t finish. It wasn’t that his thoughts were interrupted; it was merely that there were no more words to say.

TĂ©a remained unaware of the inner turmoil Yugi was going through at the moment she dashed past him; she no longer thought about anything, and instead acted purely on instinct. She darted directly in front of Kaiba and thrust her arms outward, as if expecting the roaring ball of flame to land in her arms.

For Kaiba, time seemed to flow in an odd, stop-jerking manner. In one moment, he saw a shadow emerging from the light. The closer that shadow got, the more distinct its frame got—female, definitely—coming toward him. But time sped up before Kaiba could think to move, or think to look closer at the figure. And then the girl shielded him, her eyes staring straight into the oncoming light
the onslaught of flames.

For a just a moment, he saw that figure thrust her arms out, tremble once, and fall to the ground in a shudder. He saw himself—but somehow not himself—rush forward to catch the falling person and scream in silent agony.

Kaiba’s eyes widened as he realized that he had not dreamed of a figure shielding him from certain death. Several voices cried out in protest as they saw TĂ©a meet what would surely be her death by fire. Yugi tried to call out to her again, but his voice refused to come. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway—the only thing TĂ©a could hear was the rushing sound of the flames.

Then fire and TĂ©a met, the flames surrounding her and eating away at her arms. The pain was so immense that TĂ©a squeezed her eyes shut, going against her own will to look Anubis in the eye and show him she was not afraid. But all it took was an instant of her wishing the pain would stop—and it did. The flames dissipated around her, leaving Kaiba untouched.

TĂ©a’s jacket sleeves, burnt to a crisp, fell to the ground like so much ash, the blouse beneath spotted with brown and blackened stains. Her arms underneath remained untouched, but the numbness refused to leave her. She collapsed tonelessly to her knees, a mirthless smile and a glazed expression overcoming her face.

“TÉA!”

It was Seto who called her name loudest, Seto who reached her first. He had been the one she had shielded, after all


It was his arms that she fell backward into, the rest of her body going as slack as her legs had moments before.

“What the hell were you thinking!” Kaiba demanded. It wasn’t really a question, and both of them knew it. Still, TĂ©a favored him with a weak, but genuine smile.

“That Solid Vision system sure makes those holograms feel real
” TĂ©a managed hoarsely. She coughed, nearly choking on the ash and dust combined in the thick air. All the same, she smiled that same smile, though it was taking all her strength just to keep her eyes open.

But for all TĂ©a’s determination and willpower, no hologram could have burned the sleeves right off her jacket. And the realism of the Solid Vision holographic system didn’t explain why—if Anubis’ powers were for real, and this wasn’t all some sort of massive illusion—TĂ©a was even alive. For all intents and purposes, that Inferno Tempest should have burnt her to a crisp. At least, that had been Anubis’ intention, and explained why his massive, hideous jackal-form seemed angrier than ever before.

“Insolent child! Your powers mean nothing to me! I will destroy you!”

“Yeah?” TĂ©a managed weakly, cringing as she glanced up at the looming figure of Anubis. “I’d like to see you try it.” She struggled out of Kaiba’s arms, trying to stand on what were undeniably weak legs.

“TĂ©a—” Seto’s voice started out as a warning, but his voice died in his throat. She had saved his life. She had nearly died, and yet she was still standing up for him—in a duel that never should have happened in the first place. She was still defending him when she had no reason why.

“I love you,” TĂ©a whispered softly as she turned to face him, almost as if she’d heard his thoughts. Her steady gaze had briefly met with his wavering one, but a moment later, she faced Anubis once more, as if he’d never attacked with the Inferno Tempest. She didn’t seem to care that the Duel Dome was falling apart around her ears now, or that Anubis’ new form was easily five times her height and made of a dripping, black ooze. She didn’t even register the shocked expressions on both Seto and Yugi’s faces, though they were both in states of shock for completely different reasons.

“DIE!” Anubis howled, sending another ball of flame toward her. But this one was much smaller, and it didn’t even reach TĂ©a—instead, it exploded against a shield of blue-white light. When all the smoke and dust from the falling debris cleared, a massive, growling dragon stood on the field, fiercely guarding TĂ©a and all those that stood behind her. In TĂ©a’s trembling fingers was a single card she’d picked up after the first attack hit her, when the sheer forces of the blast sent both Yugi and Kaiba’s decks flying right out of their Duel Disks.

That card was a Blue-Eyes White Dragon.

“One pathetic little dragon won’t stop me! Be gone!” With one swipe of his sludge-covered ‘paw,’ the Blue-Eyes White Dragon burst into millions of pieces, the great creature shattering as if it had been made of glass. TĂ©a felt her breath go cold in her chest, and her knees finally gave.

‘He’s too powerful
’ She wanted to collapse into the sweet lull of darkness right then and there, but part of her was still painfully awake, her face pale and her eyes wide with shock: she’d seen the Blue-Eyes destroyed, right before her eyes. It wasn’t anything new to TĂ©a, the girl who’d watched countless duels between Kaiba and Yugi, but this time she’d been the one in control. And this was no ordinary holographic duel, she knew that much for damn sure. She could feel it within her
whatever “it” was, crumbling away into nothingness


“It appears you and your foolish friends are one card short, Pharaoh!”

“Yeah, but I’m not!” Joey hollered from the galleries. He quickly drew two cards from his own Duel Disk and held them out, praying to whatever gods out there—Egyptian or otherwise—were listening. Everything going on tied back to Anubis—creepy mummies, mysterious magic, and TĂ©a being able to summon a Blue-Eyes White Dragon out of nowhere. It was all Anubis’ fault—there was simply no other explanation.

“Gilford the Lightning and Gearfried the Iron Knight!”

The two warriors appeared and immediately hurtled toward Anubis, hoping to strike him on the skull with their massive swords. Anubis had only to look up and breathe in their general direction, destroying the two soldiers like so much dust.

“You have no concept of my powers,” Anubis chuckled darkly. “And now
the end begins!” A series of tubules on the back of Anubis suddenly exploded with a nauseating mixture of black ooze and indigo smoke, further thickening the choking arena air. What little there was left of the Duel Dome started to crumble even faster as the jets of sludge and smoke exploded against it, sending more debris and dust down to the galleries and arena below.

“We’re pancakes!” Joey hollered as he not-so-deftly dodged a chunk of falling ceiling.

To his astonishment, Pegasus piped up in what was probably the most confident voice among them: “Not yet!” All Pegasus said were those two simple words, and then he thrust his arm upward and revealed a pair of Duel Monsters cards—signature cards of his deck, in fact: the Toon Dark Magician Girl and the Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon. The two cartoon-like creatures appeared in twin puffs of sparkling smoke, each of them immediately hefting up the largest chunk of debris that threatened to crush the remnants of the galleries.

“These Toon monsters won’t last long,” Pegasus warned everyone. “We have to get out of here while we still have a chance!” Even as he spoke, the two Duel Monsters struggled with additional debris falling on top of the chunk they were already hoisting up in mid-air; more dust and ash continued to thicken the air and restrict their sight and their breathing.

“Yugi, I know you’ll take this creep down!” Joey hollered from the galleries. He hated not fighting alongside his friend, but it wasn’t as if there was much he could do. Even if he suddenly decided to “pull a TĂ©a,” there was no rafter for him to slide down. Besides, Anubis had already proven that Joey’s Duel Monsters couldn’t put up much of a fight.

‘This is Yug’s and Kaiba’s fight now,’ Joey thought, ready to start escaping this hell. No matter how you looked at it, they were running out of time. Worse, there were too many of them up there to begin with: Malik, Mokuba, Tristan, Duke, Mr. Moto, Pegasus, and worse, Serenity!

‘I’ll be damned if I let anything happen to my sister!’ Or anyone else, for that matter. Malik and Mokuba—and Pegasus too, Joey grudgingly admitted—had saved him. Mr. Moto had helped, too—and now all of them were in danger.

“That’s right, Yugi!” Tristan and Duke both chimed in. They all managed to show Yugi the backs of their hands—where their goofy smiley-face would have been, were it still glowing like it had been in that weird ‘other realm.’ Yugi looked up at them with a grateful smile and nodded, a fresh sense of determination coming to him. He would not let Anubis win, no matter what!

But it was easier said than done, especially when Yugi’s gaze kept drifting off to the side, to where his only allies stood—Kaiba and TĂ©a, together. But to Yugi’s astonishment, the two of them glanced in his direction—only briefly, for they all knew it was unwise to not keep your eyes trained on your enemy—and they each lifted their own hands. Even Kaiba, though the look on his face said he’d rather down a whole bottle of cough syrup before he’d vocally admit to any sort of ‘friendship bond’ between him and the others.

“We’re all with you. We’ll always be with you, no matter what!” TĂ©a’s own words, from earlier—back when they’d been trapped in the Millennium Puzzle, or something like it.

‘Even if I can’t be with her that way
’ Yugi allowed himself. He’d tried telling himself this same thing hundreds of times before, but it had never really worked. But now, it wasn’t as if he had much of a choice. If he was angry at either TĂ©a or Kaiba for being with one another, then that would impair his judgment and ability to defeat Anubis. And they had to defeat Anubis, or else!

“Fine, fine, let’s go already!” Pegasus snapped in irritation. Everyone dashed for the nearby elevator, praying that it would work and take them to the still-intact lower level, where they could get into Pegasus’ waiting helicopter and get out of this place. Just as the elevator doors slammed shut, everyone crammed into the small space caught sight of the two Toon Monsters collapsing underneath the weight of the rubble, exploding into bursts of sparkling smoke, as if they’d never been there at all.

Anubis reared back on his hind legs, sludge still dripping from every orifice and pustule. In an instant, he let out a massive roar that shook the very foundations of the Duel Dome. Even more debris continued to rain down on the three remaining people in the arena, each of them experiencing a fear unlike anything they’d ever felt before. A massive red jewel, set into the center of Anubis’ chest much like a similar jewel had been set into the Eye of Horus on the Pyramid of Light and its tablets glowed a brilliant crimson color, crackling as though struck by lightning.

“How can we possibly beat a real monster like that?” TĂ©a asked in a shaking voice.

Kaiba kept an arm tight around her shoulders, even though the two of them were in the fore of the field, right in the line of fire. But ever since TĂ©a’s attempt at destroying Anubis with the ‘borrowed’ Blue-Eyes White Dragon had failed, Kaiba had been at her side—just as cardless as her. But he wouldn’t leave her—not for a second.

“How? With a real monster, that’s how,” Kaiba murmured, just loud enough for Yugi to hear. Kaiba’s gaze drifted backward to where a myriad of cards were still splayed out all over the ground—his cards and Yugi’s cards alike. If they ever beat this Anubis creep, those cards just might find their way back into their proper decks, and Yugi and Kaiba could duel again.

‘But not anytime soon,’ Kaiba acknowledged wryly. It was events like these, with insane people trying to take over or destroy the world, that made Duel Monsters less and less worthwhile to play, whether one saw it as a game or not.

When Kaiba and Yugi’s gazes locked for just a brief moment, the message was clear: the card nearest them, the card that had the potential to save them all
if this really were happening and it weren’t some distorted dream or hallucination.

“What is it?” TĂ©a murmured, on the verge of falling unconscious. The pain coursing through her veins had grown to an almost unbearable level, and now she just wanted to go numb, so all the pain would fade away
but if there was any way that she could help—help to stop Anubis, and to make sense of what was going on here—then she would do whatever it took.

“The one card that could beat him,” Kaiba whispered as Yugi bent down to pick the card up. Yugi only had to glance down at the card briefly before the worried expression disappeared from his face.

“It’s time to get real with the Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon!” Yugi thrust his arm—card in hand—up into the air. For just a moment, amid the clouds of dust and falling debris, TĂ©a and Kaiba could both make out the hazy form of a figure standing beside—and somewhat through—Yugi. It was the first time either of them had ever really seen the mysterious ‘Pharaoh’ in any sort of visible form; most of the time, the only way you could tell the difference between Yugi and the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle was the slightly deeper voice and cockier attitude the Pharaoh had when he dueled in Yugi’s stead. But this time, it was decidedly clear that they were two different entities—and they were both fighting together, alongside everyone else, to defeat Anubis, once and for all.

Anubis didn’t seem too agreeable with the idea of being sent into oblivion, and from his gaping maw, a massive ball of negative energy started to form, steadily growing in size and crackling with destructive power. If it came down on them, there was no way any of them could survive


The Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon card gleamed with brilliant blue-white light, the sleek form of the creature gliding far up into the air, ignorant of the falling debris and the choking dust.

“If the monsters in this battle are real, then so are all their powers
including this dragon’s ability to destroy any monster,” Kaiba told TĂ©a, keeping his eyes riveted to the battle field. If either of them moved now, they stood a chance of being crushed by falling debris, or worse, being targeted by Anubis’ attack—whether it came in the form of negative energy, sludge, or ooze.

“SHINING NOVA ATTACK! Destroy Anubis!”

The Blue-Eyes Shining Dragon glided toward the ball of negative energy hurtling toward it, easily dissipating it like so much darkness washed away by the light. Soon, the light swallowed the whole of the decaying Duel Dome, blinding those that tried to find its source, and startling those outside, who swore that night had already fallen on Domino.

Anubis let out an awesome roar, tremors wreaking havoc on the skeleton structure of the Duel Dome. He was barely visible between the rays of pure white light, the sludge of his skin melting away like superheated tar. The skull of the massive dragon-like creature began to collapse, his once-massive maw slowly disintegrating into nothing more than a lump. Even as the gigantic shape crumbled further, TĂ©a swore she could hear the deep, chanting voice that had to belong to Anubis:

The ka that brings perfect defeat is the messenger of destruction


What she didn’t know was that everyone else had heard that same voice—but to their ears, Anubis had chanted in an unintelligible language, his words trailing off as his decaying mummy finally appeared amid the ooze and debris. In a moment, it collapsed into a mere human skeleton, and then into ashes that disappeared on the cool night breeze. The brilliant red jewel that had once been planted the core of the chest of demon Anubis rolled onto the arena floor, indigo flames licking the interior before the light extinguished them. The gem stopped rolling about, flashed once a startling shade of green, and then shattered into countless pieces.

A few moments later, the dark clouds obscuring the moon drifted away, fading into nothingness like the dust of Anubis’ corpse. The rumbling of the Duel Dome ceased, and the awe-inspiring faded away gracefully, as if it had never been there or done anything at all. All that remained were the duelists, their friends, and the nearly-destroyed arena. Silence reigned until the others rejoined them back on the arena, the Duel Dome collapsed to the point where doors and elevators no longer served a purpose.

“He’s not coming back, is he?” TĂ©a managed hoarsely, her body feeling weaker by the second. She struggled out of Kaiba’s arms, trying her damnedest not to look weak after this whole affair. After all, she wasn’t a duelist; she hadn’t really helped defeat Anubis at all. It had been Seto and Yugi that had done it all


Mokuba moved to wrap a temporary bandage around Kaiba’s wounded arm, until they could get proper care. He quietly admired his brother for not even wincing as he covered the wound. That was his brother: strong and resilient in any situation. But maybe this time, it was because Seto had more of a reason to be strong. Mokuba noted that Seto’s eyes weren’t trained on Mokuba and his first aid work, or even Yugi and the others staring at him from across the arena. Instead, he was looking almost mournfully at TĂ©a nearby, his other arm shifting in a way that seemed to indicate he wanted to hold her again.

“We should take a closer look at that prophecy and see what it foretells for the future,” Solomon spoke up.

Pegasus scoffed and waved his hand in the air dismissively. “Oh, please, old man. Anubis is gone. No one could return after suffering a defeat as thoroughly devastating as that.” He chuckled and continued in a slightly lower voice, “Well, no one but Kaiba, that is
oops, did I say that out loud?”

TĂ©a glared fiercely at Pegasus, but her vision was steadily growing blurrier, and she couldn’t be sure that Pegasus even knew she was boring a hole into his head with her eyes.

‘Must be all the dust
’ TĂ©a thought weakly, but the numbness seeping into her bones told her otherwise.

“Kaiba
” Yugi began, his voice oddly hesitant.

“Oh, please, save me all your bull about friendship, will you?” Kaiba remarked icily, venom creeping into his tone. Without TĂ©a to warm his arms and remind him of the foolishness of giving in to his constant urge to duel, he quickly reverted to the anti-social Kaiba that Yugi and the others knew so well.

“If it wasn’t for that freak crashing the party, we both know that the winner of today’s duel would have been me. So enjoy your last days of being champion—while you still can.”

In another time and another place, TĂ©a might have been inclined to disagree with Seto’s presumptuousness, regardless of whether she vocalized those thoughts or not. But this time, even with her mind all foggy, she knew Seto spoke the truth. Something still felt wrong about it all, though—that perhaps Anubis had interrupted on purpose, at just the right time. Of course Seto would beat Yugi one day, and maybe even reclaim part of his long-lost pride. But that time hadn’t come yet. Somehow, TĂ©a knew that the day Yugi lost a duel to Kaiba would be the day that changed everything.

“I gotta say, it’s nice to have the old Kaiba back!” Yugi remarked with false cheer. Inside, he felt much like the Duel Dome looked—crumbling, and destroyed almost completely. But if he didn’t paste on a smile, everyone—Joey and his other friends, Kaiba, and worst of all, TĂ©a herself—would see, and realize just what was going on in Yugi’s mind.

“Yeah, well, this conversation’s over. We’ll duel again,” Kaiba snapped. He reached a hand out to TĂ©a, who grasped it for her own needs as much as Seto’s own. This would be the first time she would leave the scene of a major duel without her friends—not by Yugi or Joey’s side, but by Kaiba’s. But that didn’t change the fact that Seto’s hand—so large and warm, encompassing her smaller hand completely—felt so right. All of him felt right. Leaving with him was the right thing to do.

“I suppose all of us should get going,” Malik finally said, speaking up for the first time since the duel ended. “There is nothing left for us here.” Everyone nodded and trailed after Kaiba and TĂ©a as they slowly left the Duel Dome premises, trudging carefully through the fallen debris and layers of dust. Yugi brought up the rear, looking pensive despite his victory over Anubis.

Something still wasn’t right in his mind, but it didn’t have anything to do with Anubis. Just as the moonlight hit his face, he had an epiphany, and he broke through the ranks of his friends, rushing to catch up with TĂ©a and Kaiba at the fore.

“TĂ©a, wait!” His voice cracked again, a result of both Yugi and Yami suddenly both coming into control at the same time. TĂ©a stopped in her tracks, turning at the rather odd voice calling her name. When she found herself face-to-face with Yami and not Yugi, her own voice seemed to stop in her throat.

“May I please
speak to you? Alone?” TĂ©a’s eyes widened marginally, but she nodded slowly, trying to reassure a scowling Kaiba even as she loosened her hand from his and stepped away to the side of the arena.

“What is it Yu—” TĂ©a stopped. How stupid was she, to still call him ‘Yugi’ when this day had made it even clearer that they weren’t one and the same. She’d been beside the real Yugi, her childhood friend, in that labyrinthine mess that was the realm of the Millennium Puzzle. And she’d watched “the other Yugi” goad Kaiba and duel Anubis
and eventually win.

“I–I need to know why,” he blurted at last.

“Why what?” TĂ©a asked in utter confusion. Everything seemed to have taken on a dream-like quality; nothing made sense. In her oldest and wildest fantasies, TĂ©a had dreamed of him speaking to her alone, of him confessing deep and profound feelings for her. But those were ancient dreams, and silly thoughts that meant nothing to her in the here and now. So why did it seem like now—when they were most unwanted—her old dreams were coming true? Here she was, alone with him after a fierce battle and near death. They’d barely escaped destruction, and yet he stood before her, head bowed and cheeks unusually flushed for such a cold night.

“Why Kaiba,” Yami finally relented, raising his eyes to meet TĂ©a’s. “You know him—he’s arrogant, rude, selfish, and proud! He will convince himself of the most ludicrous of lies, and he leaves himself susceptible to the whims of every enemy we have ever encountered! How–how can you love him?”

TĂ©a stared at Yami in mute shock, honestly wishing someone would pinch her so she could wake up from this sudden nightmare. But when Yami continued to stare at her expectantly, obviously waiting for an answer, TĂ©a realized that no amount of pinching would wake her up: this was reality.

“How
dare you? How can you possibly say that to me?” TĂ©a whispered angrily. Part of her wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come—even though she had a headache, and all the dust hurt her eyes, her eyes remained as dry as bone. She would shed no tears for this person, whoever he was supposed to be. He wasn’t Yugi Moto, that was for sure. Her best friend would never say anything like the words that had just come from his mouth!

“He doesn’t deserve you!” Yami persisted, but his words were futile.

“He means everything to me!” TĂ©a snapped, louder than she realized. The others, waiting some distance away, had all heard her, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the context of her words. TĂ©a stalked back to Kaiba’s side, refusing to look back at an extremely-upset looking Yami in her wake. The moment she reached Kaiba’s side and latched herself onto his arm, her body protested at all the strain it was under. Her knees wobbled ever-so-slightly, but she refused to show weakness, especially after Yami’s hurtful words.

They almost stung like physical wounds, with the way a numb, icy feeling crept up and down her arms and legs.

‘So cold
’

TĂ©a stared up at the brilliant moon, wondering why it appeared so hazy and far away. A second later, her loose grip on Kaiba’s injured arm slacked, and her knees gave out once and for all. She collapsed backward, unconscious, surprisingly falling into Malik’s arms. In the instant it took for Seto to turn around, his eyes met with the Egyptian’s, and a mute understanding passed between them.

“Neither of you are well. It would do for you to return home and rest,” Malik said quietly. Kaiba only nodded and took TĂ©a from Malik’s arms into his own. His injured arm protested in surging pain, but in typical Kaiba-fashion, he ignored it. No one would hold TĂ©a but him! He and Mokuba slowly made their way down to the base of the curving drive that led up to the Duel Dome, where a chauffeur awaited beside a sleek, black limousine, summoned by Mokuba after the theatrics had ended.

Even after Mokuba helped his injured brother and the unconscious TĂ©a into the car, Seto didn’t bother shifting TĂ©a into a seat of her own; he kept her curled up against him, holding her as close as he could with his uninjured arm. The boys watched Kaiba—though Kaiba didn’t even bother to look in their direction—just before the chauffeur slammed the limo doors closed, and they sped off into the deepening night moments later.

The shadowy Duel Dome presented quite the grotesque addition to what would have otherwise been a beautiful spring evening skyline, and no one seemed to protest the idea of leaving the place behind.

“I’m sure glad he didn’t bring up all the damage you did to the Duel Dome, ’cause I don’t think his insurance is going to cover this,” Solomon chuckled, but his laugh was thin, and echoed alone in the dark night. Everyone still with them seemed to realize the gravity of the situation extended far beyond the now-usual routine of “Evil psychopath bent on taking over the world.” No, this time there had been somebody behind Anubis—and Anubis was already plenty strong. Whoever had been pulling the strings in the background—unknown to them all—was probably watching them at that very minute.

“Kaiba has plenty of money, Gramps,” Joey said after a minute, glancing back at the Duel Dome only once. “What he ain’t got is any friends ‘sides TĂ©a. Friendship symbol or whatever aside, he certainly didn’t earn any points in my book tonight after what he did.”

“Joey!” Serenity admonished her brother. “That’s not very nice!”

“Sorry, Serenity,” Joey said with a shake of his head, “But it’s the truth. Kaiba doesn’t get that even if he had won the duel today, it wouldn’t have meant anything to anyone but him. Even TĂ©a would agree with me,” Joey gestured with his chin toward Yugi, Tristan, and Duke. “You guys all heard what she said in that weird place we all got sucked into. If it hadn’t been for this whole idiotic thing with Anubis, she still woulda been totally steamed at him.”

Tristan and Duke exchanged a hesitant glance. Joey was right
sortof.

“I didn’t even try to understand why he wanted to duel again, so suddenly. I didn’t even give him the chance to explain
!” TĂ©a had told them. “I was supposed to learn my lesson after my parents died—I can’t take anyone for granted! Every single moment is precious
”

But for all TĂ©a’s talk, and her apparent forgiveness that Kaiba had restarted his age-old feud with Yugi, she’d nearly died for Kaiba today—when he totally didn’t deserve that kind of loyalty. At least, not in Joey’s eyes. Recently, Kaiba had almost been tolerable in Joey’s mind
but now, he couldn’t be so sure.

“Man, this place gives me the creeps. Let’s get outta here, hm?” Joey nodded to Duke, Tristan, and Yugi, and with Serenity’s hand in his own, they started making their way down the slope that led back into downtown Domino.

“And what will you do, Pegasus?” Malik asked inquisitively before he headed down the hill.

Pegasus sighed melodramatically and flipped some stray hairs over his shoulder. “I suppose I could just take my helicopter and go home, but I have to say, I rather missed all the excitement. Maybe that whole death cover-up thing was a mistake.”

Malik raised an eyebrow in query, but he didn’t say anything. Pegasus noted Malik’s expression, and, pleased that he’d gotten the reaction he wanted out of his sole audience member, continued to speak.

“You knew I wasn’t dead, but that was only because Isis told you, hm? Your sister’s a very intelligent woman. We have a lot in common,” Pegasus added thoughtfully. Malik’s eyes narrowed, but he still didn’t say anything; he had no idea what Pegasus was trying to imply, and he wasn’t sure he could risk not hearing it.

“She’s not the only one who can still see the future without the influence of a Millennium Item,” Pegasus added under his breath.

At that, Malik’s eyebrows rose again, but higher than before—this time out of genuine shock and surprise, not curiosity. “What are you saying, Pegasus?”

“Exactly what I said, young Ishtar,” Pegasus continued, his perfectly straight, white teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “And also like your sister, I retired into solitude to find peace from the insanity that the outside world brought upon me. Only I did it in a more
shall we say, creative fashion? I don’t think your sister would bother with faking her own death; not many people know the Tombkeepers even exist.”

That was both true and not true at the same time. Isis was the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities; she was an important figurehead in the Egyptian government, and it would most certainly be noticed if she happened to disappear one day. Nonetheless, Isis managed to keep her Tombkeeper clan and governmental duties quite separate—though the influences of one certainly impacted her work for the other. And for whatever reason, no one ever questioned why Isis never stayed at hotels while she attended council meetings, or why she didn’t bother moving into Cairo when she had work in the government offices there.

If anyone knew she was affiliated with a millennia-old clan that lived out in the depths of the desert, they’d never let it on.

“So now you’re coming out of your so-called ‘retirement’?” Malik asked sardonically. “What’s the point? Do you even have control over Industrial Illusions anymore?” After Yugi had defeated Pegasus back in Duelist Kingdom, Yugi had been rewarded with the majority percentage of stocks of the company—effectively making him a member of the Board, and the presiding stockholder. It was he that had influenced Industrial Illusion’s latest releases, up until they’d found out Pegasus had been alive all along, overseeing their every move.

“Oh please,” Pegasus said in that same melodramatic tone. “Do you really think I would have kept up that whole ‘I’m dead’ scheme if I didn’t have something to keep me amused? I own forty percent of the existing stock. The remaining sixty percent is mostly Yugi-boy’s, though I imagine a few of the other board members have a few percent between them all. In any case, all major decisions about the company still have to pass through either me or Yugi-boy. Quite the pleasing arrangement, if I do say so myself.”

“Only so long as you stay out of the spotlight,” Malik said. “Whoever cut the Millennium Eye out of your socket probably could have done worse. You’re just lucky you survived and perpetuated the tale.”

“Hm, lucky. I wonder. Do you suppose whoever did it really believed they’d succeeded, and I’d died?”

“If no one’s made a second attempt, I’d say so. But that’s just the problem—if you suddenly reappear alive and well again, who’s to say you won’t be risking your life?”

“You’re not doing a very good job at convincing me to stay retired,” Pegasus said. “Besides, we both know that whoever took my Eye wanted that and that alone. My death wouldn’t have served any purpose.”

“Unless that person could care less about Industrial Illusions and more about shutting you up.”

Pegasus fell silent at that. Malik was—unfortunately—right. And Pegasus did know a lot: more than he was supposed to, that was for sure. And that had been for years before Duelist Kingdom—as far back as when he first met Shaadii and got the Millennium Eye, actually. That was when all of the insanity had begun
.

“It’s taking a chance either way,” Pegasus said at last, his voice sounding oddly hollow in his own ears. “If I do come out of retirement, I might be a target for whoever stole the Millennium Eye from me in the first place. If I don’t, they might find out anyway. The sooner I do it, the less likely Yugi-boy or Kaiba-boy will be hit first.”

“Since when do their enemies follow such simple stratagems?” Malik inquired. That was the only thing he had Pegasus had in common: they were both united by their former hatred of Yugi—or rather, the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle that resided within Yugi. That selfsame spirit had made an obvious mistake earlier in angering TĂ©a, just before she’d fallen unconscious, and who knew what he was thinking?

Pegasus scoffed. “You’d be surprised. Well, I suppose I’ll look around here a bit more. Don’t worry; I’ll inform you if I find anything interesting.”

“You do that,” Malik said. He didn’t walk away immediately; he waited for Pegasus to move toward the rubble of the Duel Dome before he finally turned his back on the man and sprinted toward his motorcycle and the road back to his museum home.


Black faded into green. The scent of smoke, dust, and pine needles assuaged his senses. And quite suddenly, Ryou Bakura was cold, numb, hungry, and feeling as though he weighed a thousand kilograms. He just lay there in the dirt, under the towering pine trees for a few minutes, still not entirely aware of where he was or what had happened to him. But he heard some voices, and being unable to move, it was quite impossible not to listen in on their conversation.

“Quite a show, eh?”

“It wasn’t supposed to get that out of control, Valon,” a huskier voice commented.

“Oh, don’t be such a spoilsport,” Valon snapped, though the cheerful tone of his voice betrayed his good-natured attitude. “‘Sides, we all knew it would go down that way.”

“What, with the spike-haired brat trouncing the boss’s trump card?” a third voice queried sarcastically.

Ryou realized—without any particular feeling at all—that the men must be referring to Yugi. Who else would they be calling a “spike-haired brat?” Yugi Moto had picked up quite the arsenal of insulting names from his various enemies over the years, but whoever had chosen this one obviously looked down on Yugi as nothing more than a kid with a bad hairstyle.

“You thought that stupid mummy was the boss’s trump card?” Valon asked in genuine surprise. “Come on, Alister, you can’t be serious.”

‘Stupid mummy?’ What
? Something seemed familiar—like a picture flickering in and out of Bakura’s memory—but he couldn’t place it.

Alister didn’t answer.

“Look, the boss got to see the Pharaoh in action, and now we get our chance to act. If Anubis really had managed to defeat that punk kid, none of us would get our chances,” the second, husky voice responded instead.

“Yeah, that Anubis was just a test for the Pharaoh, eh, mates? All the better that the ol’ ‘Lord of the Dead’ failed miserably
though he did leave a rather nasty mess behind.”

“The boss will clean that up, easy,” Alister said calmly. “He’ll deal with the museum pestering him about the missing mummy and the pyramid, too. Just be glad we don’t have cleanup detail.”

“You kiddin’ me? I wouldn’t touch that mess back there even if the boss did tell me to!” Valon chuckled, but it was a mirthless chuckle. He was lying through his teeth, and his companions knew it. Even Ryou knew it, and he could barely muster the strength to open his eyes fully and see the figures of the men in the distance. But their footsteps were getting further away, so if they were dangerous—and if they’d had anything to do with resurrecting a mummy that had put Yugi in a bind and made a mess of wherever he was, then they most certainly were trouble.

And if three henchmen were trouble, who was to even imagine the kind of power their boss—someone who could cover up the disappearance of a millennia-old mummy and artifact—had? Whoever he was, Ryou knew he didn’t want anything to do with him. But such as life was, Ryou had the distinct feeling that he wouldn’t be able to help it. Somehow, being ‘friends’ with Yugi and the others, and willingly carrying the Millennium Ring inevitably got him into binds like this—where he didn’t know where he was or when, and he couldn’t move, much less think clearly.

For the briefest of moments, Ryou wished he could just bury the Millennium Ring, spend his savings on a one-way ticket back to London, and


And that was the last thing he thought, for the previously-weakened Spirit of the Millennium Ring did not like the course his host’s thoughts were taking, and he quickly took over.

It only took him a few moments longer than it would have taken his host to regain the feeling in his limbs; he slowly rose to his feet and let his senses adjust to the darkness. He knew full well where he was, but he had no idea how much time had passed since he’d arrived at the Duel Dome and now. He remembered seeing the life-size Pyramid of Light encasing the whole of the Duel Dome, but what little of the structure he could make out through the trees had no massive blue-white light surrounding it, nor any sort of golden-framed crimson eye, with a nebula portal into another realm.

All that was left of the Duel Dome was a skeleton structure and rubble.


And a decidedly familiar figure, wandering through the debris as though he were looking for something.

‘I think I have the strength for one more encounter. This opportunity is just too good to pass up,’ Bakura thought maliciously as he approached the bent form of Pegasus. Bakura stepped carefully around the rubble, taking great care to disguise the sound of his footfalls, until he was close enough to spot the tiniest ball of lint fixed to Pegasus’s maroon jacket.

“Interesting, very interesting!” Pegasus exclaimed aloud, though he didn’t turn around. He didn’t seem to be aware of Bakura being anywhere in the vicinity—but the moment Pegasus spoke again, Bakura realized he’d somehow been mistaken.

“So much destruction—all of Kaiba-boy’s dreams for this place, destroyed in a single night, and all because of a simple emotion.” It was at that point that Pegasus turned around and faced Bakura, not looking the surprised at his presence in the least bit. “Revenge is a curious thing, wouldn’t you agree?”

Pegasus didn’t dare use any endearments with Bakura, though the Spirit was still a bit unnerved that his presence hadn’t surprised Pegasus, when the man was no longer with a Millennium Item, and therefore unable to sense the presence of other minds nearby. So how was it that Pegasus knew he’d been there?

Bakura eyed Pegasus analytically, sure that somehow he’d discover what was going on here; he, after all, was in no danger from the old fool. Bakura was the one with the Millennium Ring and Eye, not Pegasus. When Pegasus received no answer to his question, he turned back around to inspect the rubble, speaking as he wandered between snapped beams and fallen chunks of concrete.

“Look at all this—steel, concrete—some of the strongest materials on Earth, felled by something invisible and intangible. Or perhaps it’s that which we can touch and feel that becomes what we can’t see or understand. A bit like alchemy, I’d say.”

“And what would you know of alchemy?” Bakura bit out finally, the nastiness plain in his voice. Pegasus’s words were laced with implication, and Bakura didn’t like the possibility of Pegasus knowing more than he should.

‘I should have just killed him when I had the chance!’ But back in Duelist Kingdom, Bakura had been satisfied enough to leave Pegasus for dead, rather than make sure the job he’d started was actually finished. Now, Pegasus was more than alive and well—he was also well-informed of things he shouldn’t have been, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Pegasus turned back toward Bakura, a self-assured and wicked smile curving his lips. It was the sort of expression he hadn’t worn since he’d possessed the Millennium Eye, and had a guaranteed route into others’ minds, into their hearts and souls
and to victory in each and every duel he fought.

“Well, suppose you put it this way,” Pegasus began, gesturing widely, “You first need two or more people to instigate the desire for revenge—someone has to wrong someone else, and that someone else would want revenge. But the fusion of emotion and action in that person are things that can’t be seen or touched—and they last thousands of years longer than anything on this Earth. Well
other than the Millennium Items, I suppose.”

Bakura narrowed his dark eyes in resentment, but there was little he could say without giving his greatest secret away. Part of him was sure Pegasus was just making guesses, throwing things to the wind—but then, how else could he possibly know
!?

Pegasus smiled wider, drinking in Bakura’s unnerved expression. The poor boy was desperately trying to hide his reaction, but he was failing miserably, telling Pegasus all that he needed to know. His source had informed him of this—of this event, of the right words to say to escape with his life and his sanity. But Pegasus had known things that his source hadn’t told him, that she hadn’t needed to tell him. Pegasus might have lost the Millennium Eye long ago, but not his interest in them, or the Dark Magic that surrounded them. And with plenty of time and seclusion on his hands, Pegasus had found some very interesting information that not even the oldest Tombkeepers were likely privy to
.

“An interesting concept—perhaps the reason why the Items have lasted as long as they have is because they, like Anubis’ and his artificial Pyramid of Light were constructed for revenge. Against who though, I wonder?” Pegasus tapped his forefinger to his chin, posing in an exaggeratedly dramatic fashion.

“Oh please, drop the act, Pegasus,” Bakura snarled. “You know who, so what’s the point of getting me to agree with you?”

“Who says I know who?” Pegasus stared at him innocently. “Pharaohs back then had plenty of enemies, I’m sure
” he trailed off purposefully, picking up a tiny shard of something not concrete or steel from the rubble. “But then, it would have had to be an especially powerful enemy, to prompt the Pharaoh to tamper with Dark Magic.”

“Or perhaps the Pharaoh was just feeling especially selfish, and he decided to kill hundreds of innocent people without reason, all for the sake of looking powerful,” Bakura spat, the words slipping from his lips before he could think twice about them.

“Do you really think so?” Pegasus stared at him and blinked owlishly. “Much as I know, I’m hardly an expert,” Pegasus said with careful enunciation. “Most of what I’ve heard is mere legend—things that couldn’t possibly be true; they’re just too fantastic.”

“Oh really?” Bakura crossed his arms over his chest, fighting the weakness that was building within him. If his fool host was trying to regain control at this crucial time, it wouldn’t happen! But he’d expended so much of his energy earlier, he could hardly stand
.

“Yes, really!” Pegasus nodded, bobbing his head excessively in a nod. “Truly, the idea of killing hundreds of innocent people and melting their flesh and blood to create the gold for the Millennium Items—it’s something out of a fairy tale!”

Pegasus noted Bakura’s abrupt change in expression—from annoyed and angry to shocked. The look on his already-pale face was not easily mistaken for anything else, especially given the way Bakura’s mouth hung open in the tiniest ‘o’ shape. Relentlessly, Pegasus continued, intending to find out once and for all just who the Spirit of the Millennium Ring was, and how much he knew.

‘Whatever my precious source won’t tell me, I’ll find out on my own!’

“I’d have to admit, if it were my parents and siblings melted down, I’d want revenge too. A much better reason than Anubis’ quest for power, wouldn’t you say?”

Bakura said nothing, but he managed to close his lips and purse them together in a tight, thin line.

Pegasus knew entirely too much.

He would have to die, no questions asked.

“Ah well, but like I said, that is simply too fantastic to be true. Impossible, I’d say! Why, there’d have to be some sort of proof of it, and no one’s found anything, so
”

Pegasus pocketed the tiny shard he’d found and began heading away from the Duel Dome, toward where his helicopter was perched on some cleared ground further away.

“Good seeing you again, old man,” Pegasus laughed, raising a hand in a farewell as he turned away and disappeared into the darkness.

Bakura could only clench his fists in anger.


TĂ©a only stirred from her soundless sleep when Seto set her down on their bed as gently as he could manage, given the pain shooting up his arm. After a few moments of moaning unintelligibly (at least to Seto’s ear), her eyes fluttered open, and her vision slowly returned. No longer were her surroundings hazy and cold, but warm and familiar—her room with Seto in the Kaiba mansion.

“Seto
? What happened?”

Seto turned around at the sound of TĂ©a calling his name; he had intentionally kept the room dark so that if she were to remain unconscious, at least she could sleep peacefully. Something told Seto that no matter how dark his room was, or how warm the bed became with TĂ©a beside him, he wasn’t going to sleep much tonight, if at all.

“You fainted just before we left the Duel Dome,” he remarked quietly, changing into his pajamas with some difficulty. For some strange reason, it had been much easier to take off TĂ©a’s clothes and put her into her nightclothes than it was to change himself. Seto allowed himself a half-smirk, knowing TĂ©a couldn’t see the flush of his cheeks with his back turned to her and the room so dark.

‘Better to think about her without clothes than why she kept fainting tonight,’ Seto thought absently as he struggled to put his nightshirt on. His arm throbbed with every move he made, and he was growing increasingly irritated with the whole thing. It was unfortunate that his personal physician hadn’t been in his office to give him a quick shot of Vicodin for the pain. But even if his physician had offered, Seto knew he probably wouldn’t have accepted—wouldn’t have made the call in the first place unless he knew the man wouldn’t be there. Admitting he was in enough pain to warrant a narcotic was the same as admitting that a psychopathic so-called sorcerer had very nearly destroyed the world again, and used him as a pawn.

And there was no way in hell Seto Kaiba would ever admit to that.

But it wasn’t so easy to ignore the bout of fainting spells TĂ©a’d had that night. Mokuba had told him about the first—and deadliest—when TĂ©a had nearly plunged to her death from Pegasus’ helicopter. It didn’t make sense why no one had been able to wake TĂ©a after that stunt—but according to Mokuba, she had woken up at the same time Joey and the others did, right when Anubis started losing control of the duel.

The second had been right after Anubis was defeated—though TĂ©a had looked as though she would have fainted much sooner, back when she’d first taken the brunt of Anubis’ blast against Kaiba.

The memory caused his fingers to still on his nightshirt as he single-handedly tried to button it closed.

‘What happened then?’

He’d seen TĂ©a, but he’d seen her before she’d even thrust herself in front of him. He wasn’t sure how he knew that, but he did—without a single doubt in his mind. Normally, Seto Kaiba scoffed at anything and everything that he couldn’t see with his own two eyes—but he had seen this with his own two eyes. That didn’t mean he understood it, though. Far from it, in fact. But still, the only option was simply ridiculous.

‘A premonition?’

He remembered seeing a figure dart in front of an awesome display of light, arms splayed out to either side, as if to hug the force hurtling toward them both. And then the figure crumpled to the ground, knees first. Seto remembered feeling his insides go ice cold—a cold very different from that “cold of victory” he thought he had within his grasp—though Anubis’ flame attack had made the arena unbearably hot. He’d pushed forward, as if something or someone otherworldly urged him to move, and then


TĂ©a fell into his arms, her jacket practically burnt off her body, and her blouse charred.

‘She should have died!’ and every fiber in Seto Kaiba’s being knew it, but it wasn’t as if he wanted it to be true. He wasn’t sure which was more frightening: the prospect of TĂ©a dying for him, in his arms
or trying to figure out how she’d survived such a brutal attack in the first place.

Or was none of that important at all, and what really mattered was why she’d done it? No, he already knew why: “I love you.”

Seto swallowed convulsively and finished buttoning his nightshirt, leaving the top two buttons undone, because he no longer wanted to bother with unbuttoning and re-buttoning them just because they were crooked.

When Seto turned around, TĂ©a’s name was already on his lips; when he turned to face her, they both ended up saying each other’s names simultaneously. TĂ©a blushed from where she half-sat, half-lay on the bed and looked down at herself—clothed in a set of her own nightclothes that she didn’t remember putting on. Besides, the pants were on backward.

“You go first,” she said quietly, suddenly realizing how loud her voice had seemed in the still, dark room. She could just barely make out Seto’s form a meter or so away from her, apparently done fumbling with his own clothes. That was when TĂ©a remembered what she had seen when she was trapped in that weird ‘other realm’—Anubis throwing Kaiba against the wall, nearly breaking his arm, though the move had come close to killing him outright. TĂ©a swallowed a painful lump that had formed in her throat, silently thanking whatever powers that be out there for keeping them both alive long enough to see another moonrise.

“No, you,” Seto mumbled under his breath, still unsure whether to approach TĂ©a or not. She had every reason to be mad at him—more than that, to hate him. This wasn’t at all like the time when she’d thought he’d played a hand in the death of her parents—no, this was something he’d done directly and intentionally. He’d lied to her, and worse, he’d nearly gotten her killed because of it. That and he’d undressed her, and even if he had seen her naked before, he probably wasn’t going to get a voluntary repeat performance anytime soon after unclothing her unwillingly.

‘She was unconscious wearing burnt clothing that was practically falling off of her! I’m not the guilty party here!’ Seto frowned at the sudden ‘normal teenager’ side of his mentality that had abruptly asserted itself. That annoying part of him that was slowly but steadily making itself known was also causing him to blush much more frequently and in decidedly deeper shades of crimson, as well.

“I
just wanted to say thank you.”

“You—what?” Seto Kaiba didn’t normally display emotions other than confidence (which, to some was the same as arrogance). But in this particular instance, he couldn’t disguise his surprise, not even with a snappy comeback or an irritated glare. “What are you thanking me for? I didn’t—I mean, you—” Seto trailed off, trying to make sense of the situation and failing hopelessly.

TĂ©a laughed softly under her breath and rose from the bed, closing the distance between her and Seto. Her knees still shook, as if she wasn’t fully recovered from all the insanity earlier, but she refused to fall again. “Thank you
just
for being you, I guess.”

Seto raised an eyebrow. Even TĂ©a had come up with more creative reasons than that, in the past. He briefly remembered TĂ©a’s “confrontation” with Yugi earlier—and that she’d unabashedly yelled at him, “He means everything to me!” Somehow, Seto knew she’d been talking about him—not Yugi, not Joey, not Mokuba, not anyone else. It made him smile, just a little.

“The same ‘me’ that lied to you and nearly got you killed several times tonight?” Seto finally said with a sigh. He couldn’t look in her eyes. He couldn’t possibly stare into her face and say that, knowing that she still loved him so wholeheartedly after everything he’d said and done—again.

TĂ©a pursed her lips before nodding resolutely. “The same you. I meant what I said earlier: I do love you, and that means all of you, even the parts that I don’t always like or agree with. I’d hope the same is true for you.”

Seto suddenly found himself hard-pressed to come up with some particularly irritating traits of TĂ©a’s, but despite all the fights they’d been in—since day one, before they’d even looked at one another romantically—he couldn’t think of any that bothered him still. She wasn’t so much of a gung-ho cheerleader and staunch supporter of friendship anymore—at least not to the point where she sounded like a grade school teacher encouraging everyone to be nice and get along. She didn’t delve into his past recklessly—in fact, she probably knew most everything that Seto had kept hidden in the darkest parts of his heart for so long. All his guarded secrets were hers now. Almost all of them, anyway.

And–and what else? That was just the problem, wasn’t it? Seto–Seto who had never thought himself wrong or imperfect at any time—suddenly found it much easier to find faults in himself than he did in TĂ©a—TĂ©a who had nearly died for him tonight; TĂ©a who was mere centimeters from him, radiating warmth; TĂ©a, whose skin was so soft—he remembered running his hands up her legs (he couldn’t help it, or so he mentally excused himself) when he’d taken her charred and dusty skirt off and replaced it with—he now noticed—a pair of backward pajama bottoms.

“Seto?”

Oh. He’d neglected to answer her, hadn’t he? What had she asked again?

“You were staring at my legs, weren’t you?” TĂ©a grinned, intentionally swaying her hips until she was pressed right against Seto. She watched his face—much clearer now that she was closer up—burn a dark hue, though his eyes still were locked on her legs rather than on her face. After a minute or so of bemusement at Seto’s expense, TĂ©a pressed two fingers under his chin and forced his gaze upward.

When she spoke again, her voice was strangely lower, almost hoarse. “If I weren’t feeling like I was going to faint again and you didn’t have your busted arm, I’d say tonight definitely qualified as traumatizing enough for us to go all the way.”

Seto’s eyes widened nearly two centimeters before he completely comprehended her words. “Wait
’traumatizing’?”

TĂ©a chuckled under her breath. “That’s always how it goes, isn’t it? Something horrible always happens; someone nearly dies. It takes something scary like that for you to realize how much the people in your life mean to you, and how precious life really is. That’s what I meant when I said ‘thank you.’ If you’d suddenly wised up to why I was so mad at you in the first place, then neither of us would be here right now. Neither of us would have had the strength to do what we did tonight.”

“You especially,” Seto finally said. He’d been nothing more than a pawn in someone else’s twisted game. For the first time, Seto realized that TĂ©a wasn’t just someone who stood on the sidelines and watched things happen, all helpless and weak. Even if it was just through her words, TĂ©a did make things happen. And when words weren’t enough, her actions spoke plenty loud.

The memory of her darting in front of him, her arms spread wide to catch a massive ball of flame kept replaying in his mind, over and over.

‘She could have died. She could have died. She could have died.’

“Seto? I’m right here.” She didn’t say it in an irritated tone of voice that implied she was upset by his wandering thoughts. Instead, her voice was soft and gentle—just like her lips, when they met his a moment later. What began as a simple, almost chaste kiss quickly turned into something altogether different as Seto realized that something beyond his realm of understanding had saved TĂ©a from death tonight, and she was right: every single moment was precious, and it was only after surviving things like Anubis that one realized how precious the lives of others were.

‘If I let her go
’ He never finished his thought. Damn the shooting pain in his arm, or the headache throbbing dully behind his eyes. Damn his crooked nightshirt, and her backward pajama bottoms. He kept kissing her, fiercer than he ever had before, but singularly aware of how she was responding to him—to his every touch—so she would know that he really did love her, and that something good had to come out of the recent battle with Anubis.

He’d somehow gotten her back onto the bed and lying on top of the comforters before she pulled away from him, gasping for air. It wasn’t that his kisses had taken her breath away, but that she was feeling faint again, and Seto causing such a reaction out of her certainly wasn’t helping matters. Seto caught his own breath after a moment, silently realizing that nothing could happen between them tonight—not with his injured arm or TĂ©a in need of a real rest.

“This is what always happens, isn’t it? We get so close, and—”

“Don’t blame yourself, Seto,” TĂ©a interrupted him, her voice a mere mumble. TĂ©a’s cheeks flushed a pretty shade of pink. How many times was it now that they’d gotten so far and then just stopped? She’d lost track completely, and she also didn’t remember who had been responsible for stopping things the last time, only that she felt horrible about stopping things again this time.

“Besides, do you really want to risk hurting yourself more, or me passing out during
?” TĂ©a trailed off this time, her cheeks burning an even brighter shade of red. She shook her head vehemently, wishing she hadn’t even said anything in the first place, because now she couldn’t get the thoughts out of her head.

“No, I guess not,” Seto chuckled at last. He sighed deeply before crawling under the covers, nudging TĂ©a to join him.

After a few minutes of silence in which both of them knew full-well the other was pretending to be asleep, TĂ©a whispered something, her voice quiet but still loud enough for Seto to hear over the mound of comforters.

“I’d do it again, you know.”

Seto knew that she wasn’t talking about making out with him, or mentioning the fact that they had yet to be “intimate” with one another. Oh no, he knew exactly what she was talking about
but he wished he didn’t.

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth,” TĂ©a said, her voice clearer and firmer than before. She turned to face him, her gaze surprisingly liquid. “Both of us learned something after tonight, right? I learned that being mad about stupid things isn’t worth it, when a single minute could change everything, and you—”

“I learned that it’s pointless to lie to you, and it hurts the both of us. I’d rather you understand why I do stupid things, instead of being mad at me for them. Maybe next time when I do something stupid, you’ll just let me make my own mistakes and learn from them that way.”

TĂ©a chuckled softly, as her fingers traced the side of Seto’s face. “Don’t say that,” TĂ©a echoed Seto’s words from earlier. “You’re anything but stupid. But we all make mistakes
”

“It’s the truth.”

TĂ©a chuckled again and shifted forward to press herself closer against Seto. “You’re the best mistake I’ve ever made, Seto Kaiba. My friends can hate me for this, but I do love you.”

Seto’s lip quirked upward in the slightest of smiles; he didn’t say anything, he only pulled TĂ©a closer, tucking her head under his chin and twining his legs with hers. The shooting pain in his arm was replaced with a warm feeling, and within a few minutes, both Seto and TĂ©a were sound asleep.


“Please tell me I’ve died and gone to hell,” Joey said the moment he walked out of his classroom on Monday at lunchtime—and came face to face with Maximillion J. Pegasus. If the former CEO had been worried about causing a scene by appearing alive again, he’d obviously gotten over his concerns quickly.

“Oh, please, Wheeler,” Pegasus sniffed, pushing himself away from the wall he’d been leaning against. “Even I’m not that much of a drama queen.”

Tristan, emerging from the classroom behind Joey, stifled a brief laugh, earning him a death-glare from his blond friend.

“What brings you here, Pegasus?” Yugi asked curiously, wedging his way out another nearby classroom door. Duke, though he’d emerged from a different classroom altogether, casually shoved both Joey and Tristan aside, offering Pegasus a smiling handshake. If anyone had known the truth about Pegasus being alive after Battle City, Duke was the most likely candidate—after all, he’d managed to partner with Industrial Illusions for the mass production of his Duel Monsters spin-off game, Dungeon Dice Monsters. Since Yugi hadn’t known anything about the game when Duke had originally challenged him—despite being the primary shareholder of Industrial Illusions stock—it stood to reason that Pegasus had still played a strong hand in the company then, and no doubt would be again.

No one really knew what had gotten Pegasus thinking he needed to fake his own death in order to have a peaceful retirement, but one thing was for sure: that retirement was over now.

“I’ve decided to come out of retirement,” Pegasus stated firmly. “Since I was still in town as of this morning, I thought it prudent to tell you in-person.”

“How nice of you,” an icy voice remarked. Everyone turned, unsurprised to see Kaiba there. If anything caused raised eyebrows, it was the fact that Kaiba could still sound as venomous as ever while holding TĂ©a’s hand. The aforementioned girl was staring at her feet, either embarrassed because of Kaiba’s actions or feeling awkward in Pegasus’ sudden and unexpected presence.

Pegasus ignored Kaiba completely and stared unabashedly at TĂ©a. “Couldn’t you use your womanly charms on him to get him to act a little bit nicer around the rest of humankind?”

TĂ©a’s face only turned red and her chin dropped closer to her chest.

“In any case, I wish you luck, TĂ©a-darling,” Pegasus said with a chuckle. “You’ll need it.” He started to walk back down the hallway, obviously intent on leaving Domino High now that he’d delivered his news. He waved stiffly at the rest of the boys, but to everyone’s surprise, TĂ©a spoke before Pegasus was even a meter away.

“I think I’ve got my love life down pat, thanks. I’d rather have good luck for the upcoming Duel Monsters tournament I’m going to be in.”

Pegasus turned around slowly, an eyebrow raised in mute amusement. Everyone else was equally surprised—though Kaiba had been present when Mai announced she and TĂ©a were going on the Duelist’s Cruise, Joey had completely forgotten about it, and thus hadn’t passed the message onto the other guys.

That I didn’t know about,” Pegasus said with an odd smile, his gaze briefly meeting with Malik’s. The Egyptian had just emerged from his classroom, and he looked just as surprised as the other boys had been when they spotted Pegasus out in the hallway. Pegasus’ stare flickered back to TĂ©a, whom he walked toward with a quick stride. He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a sealed packet of cards.

“These should bring you some luck, then,” he said mysteriously. “I always carry them around
in case of emergency. I can guarantee you they’re not mummy-summoning counterfeits, though.”

Kaiba glared at Pegasus as the former head of Industrial Illusions chuckled the whole way out of Domino High.

TĂ©a was just about to open the pack of cards she’d received when Malik stepped forward through the throng of boys, holding out a cell phone.

“My sister. She’d like to speak to you.”

TĂ©a stared at the cell phone in surprise before dropping Seto’s hand and reaching out for the phone. She walked away from the boys, waving them on to go get lunch without her, but Seto lingered back, casting a curious gaze in her direction.

“Isis?” TĂ©a said in a low voice, despite the crowds in the hallway. “This is unexpected.”

Isis merely laughed, her voice sounding surprisingly clear over the line even with thousands of kilometers between Japan and Egypt .

“Malik told me about what happened with Anubis. I thought it only right to call you and congratulate you.”

“Me?” TĂ©a blinked in surprise, shifting the cell phone from one ear to the other. “I didn’t do anything. As usual, it was Yugi who defeated the bad guy.”

This time, Isis didn’t laugh, which made TĂ©a’s mirthless chuckle sound all the hollower.

“You did more than you think, TĂ©a,” Isis said after a moment—and TĂ©a thought that if she could see Isis, she was sure the older woman would have one of her usual mysterious smiles on, curving her lips up in a not-quite-smile, not-quite-smirk.

“The time is also coming for everyone to begin to recognize their roles in the ancient past. Darkness approaches, and all who surround the Pharaoh must be ready for it. I am still looking into who was responsible for bringing Anubis to Japan over my authority. Whoever that person is, be aware that he must be very powerful, and will pose quite the threat.”

TĂ©a swallowed a lump that had abruptly formed in her throat; she remembered the odd prophecy from the museum—the one that both Malik and Solomon seemed to take a great deal of stock in, even after Yugi defeated Anubis. They’d all been so sure that Anubis couldn’t possibly return from “a defeat so humiliating,” as Pegasus had dubbed it, but experience had proven them wrong before.

Isis abruptly changed topics. “If, between the Pharaoh and Seto
” she trailed off, but TĂ©a didn’t even stop to consider why. Instead, a frenzied, cold feeling rushed through her veins, and she started to babble without the slightest of prompts from Isis.

“Please don’t ask me to make that decision, Isis. Things are already so confusing between all of us, and I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to fit into this. I just wanted to live a normal life. That’s not to say I’d trade my friends or Seto for anything, but
”

“TĂ©a, it is all right. Besides,” Isis’ voice was almost a light chuckle of amusement, “
you have already decided.”



Another long chapter, I know. And this might not even be considered a cliffhanger ending, but it most certainly is a precursor to a steamier chapter (25), and the next dramatic, action-packed, angsteriffic arc (26-28).

Why Osiris in the part where Enkur (Anubis) met Gebeluk? Easy—even if the Duel Monsters retain their English dub names, the actual Egyptian gods’ names have not and would not have changed. Perhaps Pegasus changed the name for Duel Monsters because of how many people died when trying to analyze the tablets with the gods on them


Note that I am SPESHUL for not bringing in that Shadow Realm crap
:P Yes, “DEATH HAPPENS” in WDKY. Just letting you know. This is an M rating, not some lame Y7. (And hell, if I had kids, I’d want my seven year old to know that her bunny is not just sleeping, glowing, and or comatose.)

And before you start hollering about “everyone likes TĂ©a!” I suggest you check out the Review Replies; I’ll explain some things there. Honest.

Until next time


Continue to Chapter 25 →