What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 27: Adrift – Part 10/13
A Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction
By: Azurite – azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Conceptualized/First Written: 6/28/05
Completed/Final Edit: 8/6/16
“Mai, can you slow down?”
After leaving the pier, they hadn’t found any sort of limousine waiting for them to take them to a hotel. As far as the championship went, the cruise was over –and now Téa and Mai were on their own. On impulse, Mai decided that they would walk to their hotel. The only problem was that neither of them had a map of San Francisco on hand. They’d neglected to get one from the plastic slots full of them at the pier.
Worse, Mai seemed determined not to ask anyone for help –for anything. That meant that between the two of them, they hefted two duffel bags and three wheeling suitcases, a backpack, a large purse, and their Duel Disks.
“Mai, I don’t think this is the way–”
“Then fine, we’ll go back the way we came and go down that other street until we get there!” Mai snapped, striding past Téa.
“Hey!” Téa’s hand shot out and grabbed Mai’s arm as she passed, halting the blonde in her tracks. “Look, I get that you’re mad at what Alessa and Serena said, but who cares? We won that tournament!”
“No!” Mai yelled, yanking her arm back. “YOU won that tournament. You pulled that same ‘Heart of the Cards’ draw of destiny stuff, and you managed to completely destroy both of our opponents. And… and I invited you to this. You were the one with no tournament experience.” Her voice softened. “They were right. About me. I’m barely qualified to duel.”
“Are you listening to yourself?” Téa whirled on her feet and put her hands on Mai’s shoulders. “These are not the words of Mai Valentine, champion duelist!”
“Téa, they are! This is… this is how I’ve felt since Battle City. I’ve just been…” Mai swallowed. As her own eyes widened in astonishment, Téa saw tears start to slide down her friend’s face. “I’ve just been hiding it.”
Téa’s eyes widened. “‘Hiding it?’ Are you kidding me? You should get a Japan Academy Prize if that’s the kind of acting you’re capable of!”
“Ha, ha,” Mai deadpanned, sensing Téa’s sarcasm. “It’s the truth.”
“It’s bullshit is what it is–” Téa began, but then there was a loud rumble.
“Great. We’re stuck in some alley in the middle of the night, in a city neither of us are familiar with. We’re surrounded by a ton of luggage, and it’s going to rain. Can we please argue when we get to our hotel room?” Téa pleaded.
Mai’s head dropped to her chest. Never before had Téa seen her look so…
The word Téa had denied earlier seemed all too apt now.
Téa found herself at a loss for words. She couldn’t think of anything that she could say to convince Mai that she was more than a worthy Duelist. She was what Yugi called a “True Duelist,” a believer in her deck and her own strength. But if she said those things now, she would just be parroting Yugi. She’d be reminding Mai that they had come this far to escape the shadows of the famous Duelists that surrounded them.
The rain started to fall, a windswept spittle pelting onto the gum-stained concrete. Then it lanced down harder, sharper, a fiercer wind sending bullets of water onto their arms and faces. It didn’t feel right to Téa to try and find shelter, to move her bags out of the way and leave Mai and her things in the rain.
‘She’s my friend. And I’m going to stay with her.’
And so they both stayed out there, their clothes getting progressively soaked as they both stared, empty-eyed into the night.
Minutes later, a brilliant light from one end of the alleyway nearly blinded them.
“Hey, what’s a pair of beautiful ladies doin’ out here in the pourin’ rain?” The accented voice –Australian, Téa guessed– belonged to a brawny silhouette. He swung one his leg over a motorcycle, even as its headlamp bore down on them.
“Great,” Téa grumbled under her breath. It was a good thing she hadn’t taken her Duel Disk off–
Suddenly Mai was walking past her and stopped just a few meters shy of the motorcyclist. He removed his helmet and goggles –‘Wait, goggles? Have I seen those–’ and revealed a fluffy head of auburn hair.
“Hey, I know you! You two are Mai Valentine and Téa Gardner– the dueling world’s latest champions! Congratulations!”
Téa’s eyes widened as she shuffled closer to Mai’s side.
“That’s us,” Mai said, her voice cracking ever-so-slightly. She didn’t acknowledge the fact that this guy had recognized them on-sight. This despite the fact that they were soaking wet and who-knows-where in relation where the Arielle had docked. Were they that famous already, even in another country?
“Well what are you two doin’ out here? I can give you a lift if you want…?” He trailed off and gestured magnanimously to a sidecar attached to his motorcycle, a pair of helmets dangling off a hook on the side of his seat.
Téa furrowed her brows at the suspicious convenience of it all. They’d managed to get lost downtown without a soul recognizing them. How likely would it be for some Good Samaritan with two extra motorcycle helmets to show up just as they turn down a garbage-strewn alley?
The guy caught Téa’s suspicious gaze and explained. “My buddies have their own cycles, but they got into an accident and one had to go into the hospital. Other’s got his bike in the shop and he won’t let some bodgy mechanic put his mitts on his bike without undergoing some grueling questions, right? I just took the helmets back for ’em until they’re both ace again.”
He shifted his weight from one leg to another. “Look, you don’t trust me. I get it. Strange guy, pouring rain, dark alley, knows your names already. Sounds totally shonky.”
Téa had no idea what “shonky” meant, but she figured it was something close to “suspicious,” which she definitely was.
“My name’s Valon,” the motorcyclist said, thrusting out a hand. He wore fingerless, padded gloves. One of his fingers had a silvery-looking ring with a green stone set into it on. Despite the weather, he wore a sleeveless vest with straps on it in odd places. It reminded Téa of Seto for a brief moment, and her heart clenched.
Mai grasped Valon’s hand. “Mai Valentine. But you knew that. And this is–”
“Téa Gardner,” she spoke for herself, but did not offer up her hand. After a moment, Valon dropped his hand. If Téa’s lack of congeniality disappointed him, he didn’t show it.
“Heard you won using the Blue-Eyes,” Valon said carefully. “Got one powerhouse of a deck to bring those guys out.”
He didn’t mention the fact that the cards weren’t actually hers, or that she had spent the entire tournament up to that point not using them. Or that they rightfully–‘technically?’– belonged to Seto Kaiba. Téa could almost hear the next words out of Valon’s lips: “Got it from your boyfriend, right?” That’s all she was– not a champion, not a true duelist, just a girlfriend. An accessory.
It didn’t take long for the tears to start to sting her lash line, too.
“Listen, neither of you are stupid ladies,” Valon began. “And I know you don’t want to be stuck out here in the dark, in the rain, in this place. So hear me out, okay? I can get you both out of this– take you to someone who can change all this.”
Téa wanted to say something witty, about Valon taking them to see a meteorologist or something, but the sarcastic joke died on her lips as Mai spoke.
“Someone who can change our fate?”
‘Fate? What, does Mai think this championship was some sort of botched destiny of hers? She –we– won!’
“Not just your fate,” Valon said, his voice somewhat softer despite the increasing roar of the wind and the rain. “The whole world, if you want to be part of it. What do you say?”
Again, Valon offered his hand out.
Téa glanced at Mai wide-eyed.
Téa’s heart pounded in her chest. The more she looked at this Valon guy, the more the details added up. This guy wasn’t some stranger– he’d been on the cruise ship, she was sure of it.
‘And those motorcyclists who stole the God cards–’
Mai placed her hand in Valon’s. “Show me.” She didn’t look back at Téa, but Valon did.
In the heartbeats between his glance and Téa opening her dry lips, a torrent of thoughts flooded Téa’s mind.
‘This guy has one of the God cards! But… does he not recognize me?’ She’d been at that duel between Yami and Gurimo, one of the henchmen of the organization known only as “Doma.” She’d seen the devastating power of the Orichalcos.
‘I left Japan to get away from all the craziness and fate of the world-dependent duels, and this guy followed us – me! – all the way here to the States? Why?’
He’d said something about changing fate.
If it was her fate to keep getting tangled up in Yugi’s messes… so be it.
If it wasn’t enough to win more duels than Yugi had in Duelist Kingdom and Battle City… If it wasn’t enough to become a champion using her own strategies… If it wasn’t enough to stand by her friends in a strange place, in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain…
Maybe she did need to change her fate.
She could get the God cards back. She could – no, would! – show everyone.