What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 27: Adrift – Part 9/13
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
“So uh…where’s San Francisco?” Téa joked as she looked over the ship’s railing with Mai. She still felt a little like she wasn’t actually standing on the ship’s private balcony. It was more like she was floating over the polished boards, flecks of glitter and paper bits strewn here and there.
‘Must have dragged it in here from when they exploded that silly confetti ball after…’ She still couldn’t quite process it. Even though she’d dreamed of it. She’d hoped for it. Maybe she sort of even planned for it with the way she’d arranged her deck. And she’d eventually made use of the cards Seto had given her….
Seto… and Malik. And Pegasus.
Mai wasn’t staring out at the fog-obscured city skyline. She handled their crystal trophy like a kaleidoscope, looking through it at varying distances.
“What, can’t believe it’s real?”
Téa shook her head and gripped the railing tighter. Maybe she could will the pangs of uncertainty to fly out of her head and disappear into the night. Her hands slipped nonetheless, clammy and smeared with something dark. She wiped them off on her skirt and reached for the award.
“You either?” Mai sighed, leaning on the railing after she handed the trophy off to Téa.
“No, I still feel… weird about it all, I guess. I figure once I get my feet on actual, solid ground again it’ll start to sink in.”
“I’m sure it’s out there somewhere,” Mai said with a half-grin. She gestured to the pier, a shadow in the dense fog.
She glanced at the watch that had replaced her Duel Disk ever since the tournament completed. For some reason, Mai had taken hers off almost immediately.
True, the Disk did have a weight to it. There was something heavy and hot Téa felt creeping up her own arm each time she dueled with one; did Mai get the same feeling?
The Solid Vision System provided tactile feedback from the loss of Life Points, but it was just supposed to be a vibration here, a shock there. Nothing serious. And nothing like the Dark Games Téa saw.
‘And that Mai was actually in,’ Téa remembered.
Téa opened her mouth, about to ask Mai if she was okay. Did she ever felt like the Duel Disk was too much to handle? That was when the emcee bounced onto the private deck.
“Hey champions! It’s time! We’re just about to dock. I wanted to be the first to welcome you to the U.S. of A!”
“Guess that means we better get our stuff,” Mai said. Téa couldn’t quite tell what her tone of voice indicated. Mai seemed… flat. Actually, the first word that came to Téa’s mind was “defeated,” but that made no sense.
Getting through customs took a while. On top of that, the press had stopped both Mai and Téa to ask them questions and haggle them for pictures– with their Duel Disks on, of course.
By the time they made it down the hall from the pier to the outside world, crowds of other Duelists, friends, family, and press ambled ahead of them.
“How’d that happen?” Mai frowned, gesturing with her chin at the duelists ahead of them. Her extra-large purple suitcase with wheels kept one hand full. The other gripped their championship trophy in a white-knuckled fist. Téa hefted a duffel bag and the luggage cart one of the crewman had loaded their other suitcases onto.
“I thought the whole point of being champions was that we got off the ship first and got priority treatment at customs.”
“Well, we did have a lot more bags…” Téa said with a wry chuckle. She glanced back at the luggage cart to make sure everything was still in place. When she discovered her nose scraping against Mai’s back, she screeched to a halt. She shoved her hands against the cart to avoid an avalanche of luggage.
“Mai, what’s up?”
Mai halted right before the hallway turned a corner, her bags set down before her.
“Alessa, you were so cool in the championship match!” a voice gushed.
“Yeah, you and Serena both! Talk about a powerhouse combo!” Another voice.
“Who were they playing again?” Someone older this time. Téa glanced around the corner and made out a gaggle of people surrounding Alessa and Serena. They meandered down the hallway like they didn’t have a care in the world. Behind them, a drooping crewman dragged an overloaded luggage cart.
“Uh…I think it was somebody Valentine? And a gardener? That doesn’t make any sense, though.”
“Haha, seriously, like some gardener could be a champion-level duelist! Get real!” Téa frowned and pulled back from the corner. She took a deep breath, but Mai pressed a hand over Téa’s mouth before she could utter a word.
“You mean Mai Valentine,” said a girl’s voice matter-of-factly. “She made it to the semi-finals in Duelist Kingdom and was Top Eight in Battle City.” There was a pause and a pointed clearing-of-the-throat that Téa guessed was Alessa. She was likely staring daggers at the girl who’d spoken.
“Uh… but those are the only qualifications she had for entering the tournament,” the voice continued after a moment. “And I mean, sure, she’s pretty strong, but what about the champion of Battle City, Yugi Moto?”
Téa’s eyes widened in surprise when she heard Alessa’s voice next. “Ah yes, Yugi Moto. Holder of the God cards, he who defeated the creator of Duel Monsters! The King of Games himself! He’s the true Duelist every proper champion wants to face!”
‘Mai and I fought more duels on this ship than Yugi ever fought in Duelist Kingdom and Battle City combined! How dare she!’
Both Duelist Kingdom and Battle City had been 48-hour events. Invitation-only participants with prior Duel Monsters knowledge and experience dominated both of them. They were infamous tournaments, forever engraved in Duel Monsters history. Yes, they had been grueling, but they were also short.
The cruise consisted of several duels in a match. Enough matches, and it constituted more work days than vacation days.
“Joey Wheeler also made it into the Best Four of Battle City, and he didn’t even have a God card,” Serena added.
“Ah yes, don’t let me forget dear Joey,” Alessa said.
Téa could just picture Alessa licking her lips lasciviously at the thought of dueling Yugi and Joey. She wanted to gag. Mai had dropped her hand from Téa’s mouth and instead had it balled at her side in a white-knuckled fist.
“I would much have preferred to duel them,” Alessa continued. “Wouldn’t you agree, Serena?”
Despite the anger and tension that had built up between them during the championship duel, Alessa and Serena seemed to be back on good terms. That is, if Alessa doing the majority of the talking and leading Serena by the nose was “good terms.”
‘What a doormat,’ Téa thought. ‘She made herself out to be some calculating genius duelist, but she’s just a meek mouse, letting Alessa bully her like that.’
‘Maybe a rat,’ Téa amended. After all, rats sometimes bit.
“This whole duelist cruise was just the most prolonged waste of time–” Alessa continued. Then her voice faded, along with the sound of their footsteps and the scraping of the cart on concrete.
“That stupid little–”
Mai’s hand holding the championship trophy was up in the air before Téa could grab it.
In one split second, the trophy lay shattered on the ground, splintered into hundreds of tiny pieces.
A distant “hah!” met Téa’s ears as she bent down to inspect the remains of the trophy. If she squinted, she could make out Alessa’s silhouette down the hallway leading outside.
The silhouette nodded in what Téa presumed was self-satisfaction. Alessa whipped her head back to the street before disappearing into the night.
“Mai–” Téa began, rising to her feet. There was no way to recover the trophy. It was too broken to even read their names engraved on it. She shoved what she could off to the side of the hallway so no one would step on it. At least it wouldn’t hurt anyone else that way.
“Don’t. Just–” Mai pursed her lips and raised a hand. “I’m sorry. Let’s just go.”
Mai didn’t wait for a response; she just grabbed her suitcase and took off down the hallway at a brisk pace.
Téa glanced at the crushed trophy, consigned now to the shadows.
She adjusted the duffel bag on her shoulder and hauled the luggage cart behind her as fast as it could go.