Jan. 3rd, 2014

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Shou shouldn’t have followed. But he was small, and unlike his brother, he could perfectly well hide out in a crowd. More importantly, he’d known Asuka was lying. He’d followed her when she’d snuck away in the early hours of the morning and witnessed her defeat at the hands of Yubel. He wished he could have retrieved her duel disk and buried it like they had for Manjoume, back when they’d thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse. All Shou had done so far was watch. And with Asuka gone, he feared it was all he’d ever do.

Judai had reacted to Asuka’s final words. Some of it had gotten through to him, Shou was sure of it. Judai had almost called off the duel altogether. So then why his blank expression now? And Yubel had reacted in much the same way. No, if Judai was brainwashed (no doubt about it), he wasn’t the only one. Asuka must have realized that, probably long before him.

Shou moved away from the balcony and blended back into the masses. He needed to think and talk to Junko.

“So I think there’s something else behind this,” he told Junko three hours later, after he’d finally made it back to their hideout. She glared at him. She hadn’t taken the news of Asuka’s death well.

“What, so we should just go up to them and make friends? Like— Like they did nothing?”

“No! I—” Shou did want Judai back, but confronting him only led to all of them dying. “I’m just saying that we should find whoever’s behind this.”

“Asuka-san tried that already. Look how that turned out.”

“I don’t think it’s just Yubel. It’s like something else is controlling them.”

“You mean like last year, with that weird society? I thought that didn’t affect Judai.”

“He couldn’t see his…” Shou trailed off. The Society of Light. Judai hadn’t been able to see his cards until he’d made that trip and come back with the Neospacians, something Shou still didn’t quite understand. But now no one ever mentioned the Supreme King using the Neospacians anymore. If it was the Light of Ruin… Shou groaned and dropped his head in his hands. There was no way he could face the Light of Ruin. It had taken Judai and Edo and Kenzan just to beat it the first time.

Junko eyed him and sighed. “We’re not going to make it back home, are we?”

Shou wished he could reply, but didn’t.

OoOoO


The next day brought news.

“The army is moving? Where?” Shou asked. Alexander shrugged and joined him at the small table Shou had appropriated for himself.

“No idea, but they’re coming this way, which means we’re moving too,” he said. “What are you going to do? Cassia and I are going back to our world. You can come with us, if you want.”

Shou bit his lip. Confronting Judai or Yubel, even with thorough knowledge, had proven to be an unmitigated disaster. Shou could barely beat Judai on a good day, let alone this corrupted version of what used to be his Aniki. If only his brother were here… Or Edo. They had both beaten Judai before.

“We got here from that desert world through some kind of gate,” he told Alexander. “Are there any more like that?”

“Yeah, a few.” Alexander studied him and sighed. “I know what you’re going to ask, but there are none that lead to your world. Not as far as I’m aware.”

Shou deflated.

“For us, there isn’t much to do in your world. It’s just… We’re not visible there, you know? So why bother?”

“Some monsters do.”

Alexander shrugged. “Sure, always some exceptions.”

The army was moving… But where? They’d already conquered this world almost entirely. What more was left for them?

“Judai— He wants to conquer other worlds,” Shou realized. Alexander’s face told him he was right. “We have to warn them!”

“We’ve sent messengers, but there’s no telling if they’ll make it. And I have more bad news…” Alexander looked down. “Yesterday the coast town of Marastre was invaded by the Supreme King’s army. The entire town was destroyed.”

“What?! But—” If there was still anything good to be said about Judai, it was that he had, so far, left people alive as long as they didn’t oppose him. Shou himself had seen him offer Asuka a chance to leave. What had changed? Why had he suddenly started killing indiscriminately? Judai had taken over this world, perhaps compelled by the Light of Ruin. Shou groaned. Ruin. It was out to kill them all and doing a great job at it.

“I’ll go. I’ll go warn those other worlds,” he said.

“You sure?”

“I know Judai and I know what his deck is like.” Shou thought of the Evil Heroes and grimaced. “Most of it, anyway. And we’ve always gone wrong when we stumbled in without any information. That’s why everyone’s dying. So if those other worlds can prepare, they might stand a chance.”

“In many worlds, the rules are the same as in this one,” Alexander warned. “You’ll die if you lose a duel. And I must say that you humans aren’t exactly popular right now, not after what the Supreme King has been doing.” He peered at Shou. “Maybe it’s better if you don’t let on that you know him. They’ll think you’re a spy. Can you handle all of that?”

“It’s nothing new, is it?”

“The Supreme King… If he loses, he will die too. He’s only mortal,” Alexander continued, watching him closely. Shou swallowed.

“I know… I wish I could bring him back somehow, but I don’t know if anyone can.”

“You’d spread the information that could kill him?”

Shou thought of the town of Marastre, which had been razed to the ground. He thought of Asuka and how she’d almost gotten through to Judai, only to fail at the last moment. He thought of Manjoume and Kenzan, whom Judai had killed without a second thought.

“I think…” Shou looked down. “I think the Judai I knew is long dead already.”

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