Zero Hour

Aug. 15th, 2013 11:26 pm
heleentje: (Default)
 Maybe Yusei was a little disappointed when he drove up to the Ark Cradle. The counter on his left wrist was steadily ticking down to zero – four hours left now – and somewhere down below, Bruno’s was doing the same. Bruno had gone all too easily when he’d told him to evacuate with the rest of the city, even though he had to know what day it was. Their counters had always run in sync, and for a while Yusei had wondered. But that happened sometimes, people whose counters ran together.  Only so many seconds in a lifetime, after all, and he’d rather see Bruno safe than his soulmate.

Four hours. The Ark was looming high above them, steadily descending towards a city that was still filled with people. If it were just the Ark Cradle hitting the city, the damage wouldn’t be that bad. The city center would be wiped out, sure, but houses could be rebuilt. If only it were just the Ark… But Yusei knew enough about Momentum to know that the real damage would come from the reactors colliding. One reactor going out of control had caused Zero Reverse. What would two do? No way around it but to stop Z-one. Maybe he’d be back on the ground before his counter hit zero. Maybe he’d be dead before then. Wasn’t that what Sherry had predicted?

(Sherry, who’d once told him about her own counter, and how it had run haywire all her life, stopping, rewinding, counting up and down and sometimes even negative before disappearing altogether mere months ago. Whoever or whatever her soulmate had been, they were dead now.)

Yusei glanced up from his D-Wheel and saw Jack looking back at him. Jack knew, of course, as did Crow. The three of them had always known how Jack’s counter would run out first, followed by Crow’s mere days later, while Yusei would still have to wait for another year. Jack had met Carly, and Crow’s counter had hit zero at the expected time. Only there’d been no one around whose counter had been in sync with his. It was a mystery they still hadn’t solved.

They made it to the Ark with everyone intact – barely. Yusei didn’t want to think about anyone dying, especially not by plummeting to their deaths from several kilometers up in the air. But Aki and Ruka were safe, and Yusei wouldn’t let them die. Not today. Not ever. He’d hoped they could all stick together, but with only three hours and thirty minutes left to go, they were split up. The conclusion was far too obvious. If he survived the next few hours, his soulmate was somewhere on the Ark Cradle, and it wasn’t anyone he’d met before. Z-one? Couldn’t be. Maybe. He didn’t know anything anymore.

Fifteen minutes before his counter ran out, he hadn’t seen anyone but the mysterious duelist accompanying him. (Wasn’t him – met him before.)

Ten minutes before his counter ran out, Rua became a Signer.

Five minutes before his counter ran out, they finally reached the third planet gear. Yusei looked around with trepidation, but there was no one. The mysterious duelist had abandoned his D-wheel and neared the edge of the structure, looking as wary as Yusei felt.

Ten seconds before his counter ran out, the mysterious duelist took off his vizor, and Bruno said, “My name is Antinomy.”

And his counter hit zero.

Bruno was still talking, words that made no sense, and Yusei stared. He’d regained his memories. They’d speculated about this, months ago, but why now? Why like this? Bruno hadn’t even noticed, and he was still talking and-

“Bruno,” he said, the word almost stuck in his throat.

“My name isn’t-”

“The counter.” Yusei removed his left glove and turned the inside of his wrist upwards. “It’s run out.”

Bruno froze, stricken. Looked at his right hand. Didn’t remove the glove. “It’s run out,” he repeated. “It can’t-”

“You were supposed to evacuate,” Yusei said, and it was the accusation he didn’t want it to be. “You weren’t supposed to be here.”

“You weren’t supposed to get invol-” Bruno half-shouted, and then whispered, “No, you were.”

Neither of them had moved. The few books Martha owned had all described this moment. How the lovers finally found each other as their counters ran out in perfect synchronicity, and how they rushed into each other’s arms, feeling more complete than they ever had in their entire lives. He’d scoffed at them with Jack and Crow, but read them anyway, because books were hard to come by in Satellite. This was nothing like those books.

“That’s not fair,” Bruno was muttering. “You can’t do that. Not now. Why now?”

He wasn’t even talking towards Yusei. Yusei stepped closer and reached out with his ungloved hand. Bruno flinched back violently.

“Don’t!” he all but shouted. He breathed in deeply, once, twice, and straightened. He put the vizor back on, conveniently covering his eyes, but Yusei didn’t need to see them to know how shaken he was.

“You know Z-one, don’t you?” Yusei asked. “And Aporia. That’s what you forgot.”

Bruno nodded, now utterly impassive. “Defeat me, and the planet gear will stop and you’ll find Z-one. If you don’t, you’ll die here.”

Yusei drew up his shoulders. “And if I win, you die? Unacceptable.”

“There’s no other option.”

“The counters ran out, Bruno,” Yusei said. Bruno flinched at the name. “We talked about this. Does that really mean nothing?”

Bruno’s D-Wheel was still running when he reached it. He gripped the right handle tightly, refusing to look at Yusei. “In four hours, the Ark Cradle will hit Neo Domino City. The explosion of the two reactors will take out everything and everyone in a 15 kilometer radius. Plenty of citizens won’t have made it that far.”

Yusei clenched his fists. That was nothing he didn’t know, of course. He’d already thought of it himself before even reaching the Ark Cradle. But to hear Bruno say it so coolly…

“You can stop it if you defeat me,” Bruno finished.

“I won’t do it,” Yusei said. After everything they’d been through, Bruno was just going to turn on them? The counters meant nothing? “This is crazy. You can’t really want to-”

“If I don’t, my entire world will be destroyed!” Bruno whirled around. His D-Wheel shook under the impact. “My family, my friends, everyone I ever cared about… They will die. So if I have to-” He swallowed visibly. “One more way for the universe to ruin our lives. It’s not like we’re not used to it already.”

“The counters-”

“Don’t matter. They cannot matter.” Bruno pointed at Yusei-Go. “The longer you wait, the more chance that everyone down there will die. We can sit here, and billions of people will die because of you. Or you can stop it all if you duel me now.”

There had to be another way, but with only hours to spare… He couldn’t give up on Neo Domino. He’d already seen it destroyed once, and he’d sworn to not let it happen again. He could find a way to save the city and Bruno all at once. He had to.

“Either everyone dies or only one person dies,” Bruno told him softly.

The duel. He’d figure something out during the duel. He’d find a way to save everyone. “All right,” he forced himself to say. “I’ll duel you, Bruno.”

Was it possible to look sad and relieved all at once? Bruno managed.

“My name is Antinomy,” he said, and got on his D-Wheel.

----

“I’m sorry, Yusei” Bruno said, later. “I really wish- I wish we could’ve.”

And an hour after Yusei’s counter had hit zero, it disappeared for good.

heleentje: (Default)
 Shadows Cast

People definitely weren’t made for crossing eight timezones in a single plane flight. Johan had arrived in Domino in the morning, arrived at Duel Academia by noon, and slept most of the afternoon away. Now, at one, he was still wide awake and craving dinner. He’d tried valiantly to ignore the rumbling of his stomach, but when even the Gem Beasts had started complaining, he’d given in and put on his clothes, Topaz Tiger’s, “Just go eat already, you’re keeping us all awake,” still ringing in his ears. He padded out of his room quietly. This late at night, the hallways of the Obelisk Blue dorm were deserted, but the lights in quite a few rooms were still on. Students excited over tomorrow’s graduation, no doubt. It was their last night at Duel Academia too.

O’Brien’s room was completely dark. Johan shrugged. He had the Gem Beasts for company, and O’Brien probably wouldn’t appreciate being woken up at this hour. Unlike Johan, O’Brien could shrug off jetlag like it was nothing.

Obelisk Blue had kitchens on every floor, made especially for students craving a midnight snack. Johan grabbed some onigiri with a silent apology to the original owner and leaned out of the window while he ate. He could have done without the persistent mosquito buzzing around his ears, but the warm July air was a welcome change from his fully air-conditioned room. His bed didn’t sound all that tempting.

“I’m going out,” he said through a mouthful of rice. The main entrance of the dorm had been locked at eleven, but his few months as a student had taught him about the window on the first floor that didn’t quite close properly. No one’d ever felt inclined to report it to the staff, so a few minutes later he dropped down to the grass and opted for the long route around the lake. The moon, nearly full, cast its glow over the entire island, and he was silently grateful for it. He’d never been afraid of the dark, but after the Dark World, and then Darkness and being trapped and alone, it made him uncomfortable more often than not. He squared his shoulders. If he’d never been afraid of it before, he wasn’t going to start now.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that he veered into the woods instead of heading back the the Obelisk dorm, or that he climbed the stairs to Osiris Red – now Juudai’s alone - only fifteen minutes later.

“He’s asleep,” Yubel said.

Johan, poised to knock on the door, dropped his arm. “Oh.”

He cast Yubel a sideways glance. She had appeared near the roof, but was looking at the night sky pointedly. A dismissal if he’d ever seen one, but Johan wasn’t quite ready to go back to the guest room he’d been given. Even when he’d been a student here, he’d spent more time in Osiris than in Obelisk. He sat down and swung his legs over the edge of the platform. Yubel hadn’t disappeared. Either she was waiting for him to leave, or making sure he wouldn’t wake Juudai. The silence all too quickly became oppressive. Johan swung his legs and looked at Yubel again.

“I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“No.”

Truly talkative, Yubel was. If the Gem Beasts had been awake, he’d have someone to talk to, but they had the same thirteen-hour flight behind them, and they wouldn’t take well to seeing Yubel.

“How’s Juudai?” he asked instead.

“Asleep,” said Yubel, but continued before Johan could actually roll his eyes. “He’s glad it’s quiet now.”

Johan nodded. The last few months had been bad for everyone. Luckily, nothing else had reared its head in the month after Darkness’ defeat.

“Nothing causing trouble?” he asked. He tried for levity, but he was sure Yubel could hear the undercurrent of worry. Last October he’d looked forward to a peaceful year in Japan. Suffice to say he’d had better years.

“Nothing immediate. The Light’s still out there, but-”

Yubel cut off abruptly. Johan sucked in a breath. Too close for comfort, but he’d have to face this eventually. If Juudai were here, he’d have acted like a buffer, but Juudai had already fought too many of Johan’s battles for him. He turned and craned his neck to face Yubel, who wasn’t inclined to get down from the roof.

“How are you?”

Clearly Yubel hadn’t been expecting that question. She unfolded her wings and folded them again. Johan hid a smile. Cobalt Eagle and Sapphire Pegasus did the same whenever nerves got the better of them.

“Don’t tell me you don’t blame me,” said Yubel abruptly. She folded her wings close to her body and crossed her arms.

“I don’t-” Johan began, but that wasn’t quite true, was it? If they were going to talk about this, the least he owed them both was honesty. “The Gem Beasts blame you,” he said instead. “Quite a bit, and-”

“What about you?” Yubel cut through.

Johan smiled a rueful smile. “Okay, I’ll try to be honest,” he said. “I feel like I shouldn’t blame you. Juudai explained. The Light did all this.”

“But you still blame me.”

Johan nodded once and broke eye contact.

“I came here to duel and learn things. I don’t appreciate being possessed for liking someone.” Yubel had literally seen all of his thoughts. He wasn’t going to pretend that was any kind of grand secret. “I won’t apologize for liking Juudai,” he added in a burst of defiance.

Yubel was looking at him intently. Johan met her eyes again. It was hard to focus on both of them, with their colors so different, but he managed.

“Nor will I apologize for Juudai loving me,” she said. Johan didn’t miss the slight emphasis on loving, but he let it go. He wasn’t interested in a fight.

“But,” Yubel continued, “I am sorry for hurting you and your family.”

Johan snorted softly. Figured Yubel’d be one of the few people to acknowledge the Gem Beasts as his family.

“I think that’s the worst part,” he mused. “That you hurt them.”

“You’re so selfless, aren’t you?” It wasn’t quite a joke, but it wasn’t an insult either. Johan could live with that. He grinned slightly.

“Selfless? Sometimes. From what I hear from Juudai, the same can be said about you.”

“I swore to protect Juudai. Only Juudai,” Yubel said. “I have my priorities.”

“As do I,” Johan said easily. To this day, he shuddered to think of what would have happened if Juudai hadn’t interfered in his duel with Geise. “You saw that duel with Geise, when he took Sapphire Pegasus, didn’t you? What would you have done?”

“Saved the horse,” Yubel said without a trace of hesitation. Then, more slowly, she added, “But I wouldn’t have agreed with whatever you did. If you’d saved the horse-”

“- I’d have been selfish and a hypocrite. But if I’d saved Jerry Beans Man I’d have abandoned someone I claimed to love. Right?”

Yubel nodded.

“Yeah, I’d have thought the same. Good thing we have Juudai, huh?”

“Quite.” Yubel looked down at the closed door. “When he bothers to be awake, that is.”

Johan giggled. “We can’t all be awake at two in the morning.”

He probably should be asleep. Duel Academia’s graduation ceremony would start at ten, and even though he hadn’t lasted the full year as initially intended, he’d still been invited as a guest.

“What are you going to do after Juudai graduates?” he asked. He’d talked to Juudai briefly that afternoon, but hadn’t been able to broach the subject before he fell asleep.

“Juudai wants to travel. See where his help is needed.”

“Sounds good. You should stop by if you’re ever in Norway.”

“He’ll like that,” Yubel said. Johan got up with a groan and stretched. The moon was already starting to set. He should get back to his room, but the cold, impersonal Obelisk room didn’t much appeal to him now. He looked back at the closed door of the Osiris dorm. Yubel saw him look.

“He’s still asleep.”

“I know, just-” he sighed and headed for the stairs. “I should go back.”

Yubel looked back at the door. After a long moment, she slumped.

“You might as well stay here,” she said when Johan was already halfway down the stairs. “He’ll sleep through the building collapsing right now.”

She opened the door before Johan could voice any protests, and Johan followed her inside. Juudai was asleep on the lowest bunk bed. He sniffled and rolled over when the two of them entered. Hane Kuriboh, asleep next to him, cracked open one eye and seemed reassured at the sight of the two of them. Ruby’d be in for a surprise in the morning.

“Go on then.” Yubel nodded at the ladder. He reached the bed above Juudai’s before the weirdness of the situation set in, and he started laughing silently, body shaking with suppressed giggles.

“What?” Yubel asked, wings flaring.

“Nothing, nothing,” Johan whispered. “Nothing to do with you, just- this isn’t the day I was expecting to have. Or the year.”

“Or the life,” Yubel added with a slight smile.

“Or the life,” Johan agreed. He lay down on the bed, fully clothed.

“I suppose it could have been worse.”

“Definitely could’ve been worse.”

 

 

Dormibit

Jul. 8th, 2013 11:46 pm
heleentje: (Default)
 “Rua, are you coming over tonight?”

 

Rua almost missed Naomi’s question, too busy digging for his bus pass. He extracted it with a triumphant grin and only then noticed that Naomi was waiting for an answer.

 

“Tonight?”

 

“Yeah, we’re having a movie marathon. You in?”

 

Rua frowned. He really wanted to, but it was Friday… Maybe he could skip this once? Ruka wouldn’t even know.

 

“When are you starting?” he asked.

 

“Five.” Naomi adjusted her backpack, still looking at him expectantly.

 

It was almost four o’clock. Not enough time to make the trip to downtown Domino and still make it to Naomi’s house before five, but if he hurried, he could still get there before the end of the first movie.

 

“I’ll join you guys at six, okay?”

 

Naomi grinned. “Alright, but don’t expect us to explain the plot to you just because you missed the first part,” she said. Rua laughed and shook his head.

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he told her, just as the bus turned the corner. It’d take him straight to the city center. At this time of day, the bus was crowded, but he managed to find a seat in the back. He stared with envy at the passing cars as the bus took off. By car, he would’ve made it to Domino Hospital in less than ten minutes, but the meandering route of the bus meant it’d take over half an hour to get there. If only he were old enough to drive. It’d make his life so much easier.

 

At least he didn’t have to deal with too many people. On Friday, Domino Hospital was more deserted than usual - no one wanted to start their weekend in a hospital room. Rua followed the familiar arrows to the fifth floor and almost ran into a touring doctor when he rounded a corner. He made to dodge him when the man spoke up.

 

“Rua, is it?” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you here. You’ve grown quite a bit.”

 

Rua nodded and hoped his discomfort wasn’t too obvious. He had no idea who this doctor was. One of the many who took care of the long-term patients, no doubt.

 

“How old are you now?” the man asked. “Thirteen?”

 

“Fourteen.” Rua looked past him. It was already a quarter to five. He wanted to get this over with so he could go to Naomi’s house.

 

“Ah, yes, it’s on your sister’s file…” The doctor said, his words contemplative. “Ten years already… But I won’t keep you any longer. I’m sure you want to go see her!”

 

“Yeah.” Rua nodded a vague goodbye and darted past the doctor to Ruka’s familiar room. The door was wide open. Rua grunted in annoyance. It wasn’t like Ruka was going to go anywhere, but he still didn’t want everyone to see her from the hallway. His sister, as always, made no sound when he shut the door firmly behind him, her body tiny and pale. They’d switched to feeding her intravenously last year, when a recurring infection had made it impossible for her to keep the mass of tubes through her nose. With the tubes out of sight, she just looked like a doll, fragile and lifeless.

 

“Hey, Ruka,” he said, force of habit. “Sorry for not coming last week. I was busy.”

 

Ruka didn’t answer. She hadn’t answered him in ten years. When Rua’d been five, he’d come here every day, talking to her and hoping that one days she’d open her eyes and reply. Back then he’d been able to imagine it vividly. Now he had no idea what he’d do if she suddenly woke up. Would she be angry at him for not visiting her every day? He stared at her. She needed a haircut; her fringe was covering her eyes again.

 

Maybe Ruka would have liked her hair long. He had a vague memory, one of very few, about her trying to put her hair in pigtails and getting frustrated when she couldn’t. She’d been sick already then. Rua had tried to do it for her, but he’d only made a bigger mess and in the end, they’d had to get scissors to get the tie out of her hair. He was sure they’d gotten in trouble for it, but the memory had long since faded. He shrugged and went back to staring out of the window. If Ruka ever woke up… What were the odds she would, really? It’d been ten years and his sister was little more than a plant. He should probably feel bad about that, shouldn’t he? He remembered screaming at her to wake up, back when she’d fallen unconscious and never come out of it. For a long moment, he looked at her, trying to replicate the feeling from back then, the anger and frustration and pain he’d felt when he was four and his sister wouldn’t answer him.

 

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t imagine what Ruka was like anymore.

 

He deflated. His watch told him it was five o’clock now. He could take the bus back at half past and stay here for another twenty minutes, but-

 

“Well, I’m off,” he told Ruka. She, predictably, didn’t react, and Rua left without looking back. It wasn’t as if the image of Ruka’s lifeless body wasn’t branded in his mind already.

 

At a quarter to six he rang the doorbell at Naomi’s house and listened to the shouting and stumbling that came from the other side of the door. Finally, after a minute or two, Naomi came to the door, followed by a pretty girl with long black hair, pulled together in a braid.

 

“You just interrupted the best part,” Naomi muttered. Rua grinned. It felt good to talk to people who actually talked back. Naomi waved him inside and pointed at the pretty girl while he was taking off his shoes.

 

“That’s Masuyo, a friend of mine,” she said. “She’s here from Nara.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Masuyo said with a small smile. Rua smiled back and followed both girls into the living room, where several of his classmates had already spread out. A few of them waved when he came in, but most were too engrossed in the movie to pay him any attention.

 

“I’ve never seen that one before. My brother’s too young for it,” Masuyo said later, when they’d both ended up in the kitchen at the same time. “Do you have any siblings?”

 

 “I-” Rua began, then paused with a glance at her. Masuyo would go back to Nara in soon. This was probably the only time they’d meet. Did he really want to explain Ruka to her?

 

“No,” he said. “Only child.”

 

After all, for the last ten years, that was exactly what he’d been.

  

Off Course

Apr. 30th, 2013 11:05 am
heleentje: (Default)
 Off Course

 

“Guys, I think we’ve been here already,” Johan said. He turned around and yes, that dueling theory classroom did look remarkably familiar. He frowned again at the map they’d given him. It was a bright, glossy thing with far too many colors, clearly intent on just creating more confusion. Were they on the third floor? Fourth? Why wasn’t there a window in this corridor?

 

“No, there was another room like that on the floor above,” Sapphire Pegasus said, lifting his head to look over Johan’s shoulder. “See, we came from the roof, then took two stairs and went through that corridor-”

 

Ruby disagreed. She chirped insistently and left her spot on Johan’s other shoulder to tap a spot on the map - a spot that was on the completely other side of the building.

 

“That can’t be right,” he told her with a frown. There was no way they could’ve ended up on the other side of the school. Duel Academia was big, but it wasn’t that big.

 

“No, I think she’s right, actually,” said Cobalt Eagle. The hallway was becoming very crowded. “Look, that room we just passed was duel theory, right? And that’s here on the map.” He tried to point, but unlike Ruby, he couldn’t quite do so without covering the entire map with his claws. “So that means we have to go left-”

 

“I already told you there’s another room like that-”

 

“Guys, please!” Johan interrupted before Sapphire and Cobalt could get into a full-blown argument. He sighed. One look at his PDA told him they were hopelessly late now. The opening ceremony - the very one he was supposed to be at - would start in less than two minutes. Maybe they’d find a late student somewhere? It was impossible for everyone to be on time, right? They turned a corner and Johan glanced around without much hope. No one. Any latecomers would be coming from their dorm anyway, not getting lost on whatever floor this was.

 

“Why didn’t you ask your friend with the Hane Kuriboh?” Emerald Turtle asked, sensible as always. Johan laughed.

 

“Yeah, that would’ve made more sense, wouldn’t it?” But Yuki Judai was probably at the ceremony already, along with his friends. Anyway, it had been far too much fun to pretend to be a first year. He might have to apologize for that, but Judai didn’t seem like the kind of person who couldn’t take a joke.

 

Another glance at the time told him the ceremony was about to start. Johan grimaced and turned the corner into a hallway that was just as abandoned as the previous one. Maybe he could still make it before he was officially introduced?

 

“Johan, if you don’t hurry, you’ll never make it in time.”

 

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Johan said without heat. Amethyst Cat snorted lightly. They would make a strange ensemble if anyone could properly see them now. One teenager and five spirits. If he knew his family at all, Topaz and Amber would appear before long. A clock chimed somewhere, officially announcing the start of the ceremony. They turned another corner and found themselves near another stairway. Johan leaned against the wall.

 

“Well, that’s that.”

 

“Johan, you really have to get there,” Emerald said. “They’re all waiting for you, I think.”

 

“I say we let them,” Topaz Tiger butted in, at long last. Johan was almost surprised it’d taken him so long. “Let’s just get outta here. It’s too warm.”

 

“You don’t even feel the heat,” Johan said mildly. Movement on the floor below caught his eye. “Oh hey, people!”

 

He took the stairs two steps at a time and ran after the person he’d spotted, his family in tow. “Excuse me!” he called. The person stopped. Now he could see the black dress, several decades out of style, and the intricate hairdo. Not a student, then, but a monster spirit. That suited Johan just fine.

 

“Excuse me,” he repeated, finally reaching the monster. “Do you know where the opening ceremony is being held?”

 

The monster turned around, and empty eye sockets focused on him. Johan smiled as the woman - nothing but white bones and spiderwebs - turned her attention to him. She tilted her head and twirled the teacup she was holding.

 

“Milady…” Johan paused. He knew a great many monsters, but this one wasn’t one he was familiar with. He looked at the Gem Beasts for support, but they just shrugged. The lady reached out a skeletal hand and brushed his shoulder briefly. Then she gestured to follow her.

 

“Someone here likes the undead,” Topaz Tiger said, far too loud to qualify as subtle. Johan grinned. He wondered whose deck the lady belonged to, and if he’d get to duel them. Most undead monsters were perfectly nice, if rather lacking in the speech department. Made sense. Most living people were perfectly nice too. No reason for the dead to be any different.

 

“So, now that we’re late anyway,” he whispered, following the lady as she glided down another set of stairs. They had to be near the ground floor now, “What are we going to do?”

 

“Go in and don’t draw too much attention to ourselves?” Amber Mammoth offered.

 

“Where’s the fun in that?” Johan grinned, and the lady turned around briefly. She couldn’t smile, but Johan thought she looked amused anyway. With her arms, one still holding the teacup, she made a wide gesture, as if throwing open an imaginary door.

 

“Ah, good idea!” Yes, he opening ceremony had already started, and they were most certainly expecting him, so he might as well make his entrance worth it. Maybe Yuki Judai would be amused. He still had to apologize for the whole first-year student thing.

 

The lady nods and walks on, another floor, another corridor, until she stops in front of a set of wide double doors. Behind it, he can hear hushed whispers. They finally made it.

 

“We’ll be in your deck,” Sapphire Pegasus said, and one by one, his family disappeared, until he was left alone with the lady.

 

“Thank you for your help,” he said with a smile. The lady nodded and patted him on the head, still turning her teacup. Johan gave a short bow and moved towards the doors when she stopped him with an agitated move.

 

“Something wrong, milady?” he asked. A few more minutes wouldn’t be a problem now. The lady held out her teacup. It was empty, except for the residue of tea leaves sticking to the bottom and sides. She pointed one white finger at a shape right in the middle of the cup - a half-circle.

 

“An arch?” Johan guessed. The lady shook her head and pointed at the large window towards the end of the hallway, at the sky.

 

“Arch in the sky… Oh, rainbow!” Johan realized, feeling stupid for not having done so before. The lady nodded.

 

“That’s good, right?” Rainbows meant his family, and Rainbow Dragon. Maybe he would find the dragon here. He smiled up at the lady, but she wasn’t reassured. She pointed at another shape, a circle partially stuck to the left side of the teacup. Johan tilted his head.

 

“Uh, the sun?”

 

The lady shook her head once more. She turned her left hand around in a circle.

 

“A circle… disk?” Johan was no good at charades. “Ah, a wheel?”

 

The lady nodded gravely. Johan just nodded back. He had no idea what a wheel meant, and consulting the Gem Beasts in his head didn’t teach him anything either. “Thank you for your guidance,” he said at long last, for lack of anything better to say. The lady put her hand on his shoulder again, and turned him towards the doors. When he turned around to thank her once more, she was already gliding off to the upper floors. He hoped he’d get to see her again.

 

He took a few deep breaths - if he was going to be late, he might as well appear out of breath - and put a hand on the doors. Time to see what this school had to bring.

 

heleentje: (Default)
 It's Hard To Know That You Still Care

You don’t look.

No, no, there’s nothing to look at. That’s different, you say. That means the flash of yellowgreenred is just your imagination. Not real. Real are the numbers on the page. Real are the ways you can save the world. Real isn’t the hand on your shoulder, aren’t the familiar voices pointing out your mistakes.

(They’re right and you make the changes. Then you think it’s just your subconscious helping you. A familiar form. A familiar voice. Still not real.)

No, they’re all long gone. You know that because you can’t stand the alternative: seeing them forever without any way to save them. Seeing all of them trapped and forced to witness your mistakes, witness how you fail them over and over again. They’re not really there. Before, when the city was still there, still vivid and vibrant, when the living still outnumbered the dead, you were sure you could see them. Now you tell yourself you can’t. You tell yourself that they’re just afterimages, products of an imagination too strong, remnants of a life long lost.

And yet, it’s wrong. In your imagination, they would blame you. They would hate you and shun you and let you die. Instead they talk to you, tell you that it isn’t your fault, that you tried so hard, and that you should run, Yusei, now! They save you, over and over again. They warn you when the Machine Emperors come and find you safe places to sleep. You now realize, with all the logic you so prided yourself on, that your imagination can’t do that, because in your head, you hate yourself.

There are others, too. There are children you knew, and children you don’t. There’s a girl with blue hair and brown eyes. She’s twelve, maybe thirteen at most, and keeps talking about her brother. You ask why she’s in Neo Domino, why she’s talking to you, why she even bothers. Then you turn away before she can reply, because you belatedly realize that she shouldn’t be there and shouldn’t be real.

Too often you see a glimpse of movement or a flash of color, and you think you’ve found survivors, only to find the people you couldn’t save. You think about giving up. It would be so easy: a step in the wrong direction, a hiding place that isn’t quite safe, and it would be over. Only it wouldn’t be, because you can’t deny it anymore. They’re here, and if you died, you’d be here too, and you’d never be able to leave. You would forever see the world you failed to save. They encourage you to keep trying, tell you they still believe in you, but how can they? How can they trust you, when you let them die? How can they trust you, when you weren’t even there when they died?

You almost fail to save another person, dismiss the speck in the distance as another one of the dead, another one you couldn’t reach in time. But then the girl with the blue hair is there, and she’s frantic, and you realize that maybe, yes, you can save this one. Antinomy, he calls himself, after he’s gotten over the shock of still being alive. He recognizes you, but you use the pseudonym you chose before, because it’s easier being Z-one.

You never see the girl with the blue hair again. You’re not sad to see her go.

The others remain, though, and you wish they would all go away and take their words with them. It would be so easy to listen, so easy to let yourself believe their reassurances and get lost in the time before the Machine Emperors-

Before Momentum-

Before.

Antinomy makes it easier, somehow, because now you can pretend that the voices you hear belong to a living person. You can pretend you were talking to him when you answer without meaning to, and Antinomy is too nice and too caught up in hero-worship to ask about it, even though he surely notices. There are others, after him. Some stay. Some leave after a few days. Some die and join the crowd that walks all around you.

For years, that crowd keeps growing as the world around you dies, until suddenly, it doesn’t. You don’t know when you realize that the streets are running empty, that you’re alone again. Maybe it started when the girl with the blue hair disappeared. Maybe it started before, and you never paid attention. You only notice now, when you’ve finally come to rely on them. Failing them once wasn’t enough. Now they’re disappearing, moving on without you, and you’ll be alone again soon. Even your oldest friends, the ones who’ve been with you since before you can remember, are disappearing one by one. They tell you they love you, and that you’ll be fine and that Antinomy and Paradox will be there for you. They tell you that you will save the world. They tell you they’re sure you will, and then, after all the pretty words and reassurances, they’re gone.

The world is empty now. You’ll die soon and even if you linger, no one will be waiting for you.

You don’t look.

There’s nothing left to look at.

 

heleentje: (Juudai)
Child of Thousands

Summer in the Dark World was very warm and very sunny, which was ironic in ways Juudai didn’t let himself think about for too long. They were two days away from the nearest village, and starting to run low on food, but Juudai wasn’t worried yet. If they really got in trouble, they could always fly. Juudai’d only insisted on walking so he didn’t miss out on anyone who might need his help. It was a decision Yubel had initially been reluctant to follow, but after almost four years of traveling, it had become a habit, comforting in its familiarity. Here in the Dark World, Juudai tried to avoid any actions that would mark him as anything but a traveler. His reign as Supreme King hadn’t yet been forgotten, and more than one person would gladly kill him when given the chance. Juudai didn’t even blame them for it. So a little past noon, when the sun was at its highest point, they were following the river that should lead them to the next village. Yubel had opted for walking, and she seemed to be suffering from the heat as much as Juudai was. Only Daitokuji-sensei looked perfectly comfortable. Being dead had its advantages.

“Let’s stop for a bit,” Juudai said with a quick glance at Yubel. She nodded and pointed him to a rocky outcropping up ahead. It made for an ideal resting place.  Juudai fished a reluctant Pharaoh out of his bag and grabbed a bottle of water and a package of food they’d received two villages ago. He passed on the water to Yubel and unwrapped the package. All things considered, the Dark World was very beautiful. He tended to avoid this world more than any of the other eleven dimensions, but on days like today, he could forget about the past for just a little bit. He rested his feet in the water while he ate, watching as Pharaoh wandered off towards a nearby group of trees. The cat would come back, and if anything went wrong, they had Daitokuji-sensei to warn them.

 

 

“How much further do you think we should go?” he asked.

 

“Another two days at least,” Yubel said, a slight frown on her face. “Don’t you think it would be better to go back home?”

 

Yubel had never really considered Japan her home, Juudai knew, but it made for a convenient base of operations. His parents tried their best to be around if they knew Juudai was coming, and were even starting to get along with Yubel. Sometimes he did miss Duel Academia, but he didn’t think the school would be happy with him claiming the Red Dorm for himself.

 

“Just a bit longer,” he replied. “I just want to be sure that this area is doing fine.”

 

He finished his part of the food and watched as a couple of fish went for the crumbs that had fallen into the water, then scrambled to get his feet out of the water when a passing Rainbow Fish took too much of an interest in them. Johan can have that one, he thought sullenly as Yubel giggled behind him. What kind of fish has tusks anyway?

 

He’d just put on his socks and shoes again when Daitokuji-sensei reappeared, looking agitated.

 

“Juudai-kun, can you come for a second? You might want to see this.”

 

“Something wrong with Pharaoh?” Juudai asked, jumping up and grabbing his duel disk. Daitokuji-sensei shook his head and led him to the small group of trees Pharaoh had disappeared into. It was significantly cooler here than next to the river. Maybe they should relocate. He almost walked straight through Daitokuji-sensei when his teacher stopped next to a large oak tree surrounded by bushes. Someone had left a large backpack next to the tree, but Daitokuji-sensei didn’t look very interested in it.

 

“So what’s wrong?” Juudai asked.

 

“Under that bush here,” said Daitokuji-sensei, pointing. Juudai crouched down. “I think there’s a child down there.”

 

“What, really?” Juudai immediately spotted the bundle hidden away under the bush. For anyone else the constant play of shadows would have made it difficult, but shadows were one thing Juudai didn’t have trouble with. He got up and parted the branches, careful not to disturb the bundle underneath them. It didn’t look like a child, but if Daitokuji-sensei said so…

 

“Well, what do you know,” he muttered when he finally got a good look at the bundle. Serious, blue-gray eyes stared up at him. “How did you get here?”

 

He picked up the child and got up again. The baby was watching him without making a single noise.

 

“Pharaoh found it,” said Daitokuji-sensei. Pharaoh chose that moment to appear. He meowed when he saw Juudai, then again, more plaintively, when Juudai failed to pay attention to him.

 

“Maybe the parents are still nearby?” Juudai looked around, and his eyes fell on the backpack he spotted earlier. “This might be theirs.”

 

Juudai?

 

Ah, Yubel. She was probably wondering what was taking him so long.

 

Everything’s fine. We, uh. We found a baby.

 

… I’m coming.

 

Juudai grinned. He could almost imagine her shaking her head. He studied the child in his arms more closely. It looked… Well, it looked like a baby. Juudai frowned. He’d never really been in close contact with children. He didn’t have siblings, and he didn’t know whether there were any young children in his family. Still, the baby was kind of cute. It wasn’t crying, at least.

 

“How’d you manage to find a baby?” Yubel asked, walking up to him. She put Juudai’s bag down and studied the child. “They don’t grow on trees.”

 

“I didn’t go looking for it,” Juudai protested. “Anyway, I think the parents might still be around. They left their backpack here. We should just wait for them to come back.”

 

“Why would they leave their child on its own?” Yubel said softly, a peculiar look on her face. Juudai shrugged.

 

“They can’t have gone far.” The baby had obviously been cared for recently. It didn’t look hungry, and the cloth it had been wrapped in was clean, except for a few patches of dirt. Juudai stared at the backpack. However curious he was, he shouldn’t open anything that didn’t belong to him. He sat down carefully and brushed the few wisps of light brown hair away from the baby’s forehead. It was still staring at him, eyes wide. How old would it be? No more than a few months, clearly.

 

“So,” he asked contemplatively. “Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?”

 

oOoOo

 

It turned out to be a girl. It also turned out that Yubel was remarkably proficient in taking care of children. By the time the sun started setting, no one had returned yet, and the baby, who’d been sleeping peacefully for most of the afternoon, had started snuffling. It had turned into a full-blown crying fit within minutes. After several minutes of watching Juudai’s panicky attempts at calming the child, Yubel had smiled and plucked the baby out of his arms. By the time Juudai caught up with her at the river, she’d already unwrapped the bundle and was cleaning up the girl.

 

“See if there are any clean things in that backpack,” she instructed Juudai when he emerged from the trees.

 

“It’s not our stuff.”

 

“It’s their baby. They can’t blame us for taking care of their kid when they’re not around.”

 

Hard to argue with that logic. Juudai retrieved the left-behind backpack and rummaged through it. Yubel had guessed right. Whoever the girl’s parents were, they’d stocked up on enough material to see their daughter through the next several days. He found a dark red gown and watched over Yubel’s shoulder as she changed the baby with quick, efficient movements. By the time she’d been dressed again, she was looking sleepy once more.

 

“Where’d you learn to do that?” Juudai asked in a hushed voice.

 

“I’ve done it before,” Yubel said, rocking the baby softly. “See if you can find food, okay? She’ll need to eat soon.”

 

“When?”

 

Yubel shrugged. “Within the hour, I’m guessing.”

 

“No, I mean, when did you learn to do that?” Juudai said. He was sure he would’ve remembered Yubel taking care of children.

 

“Oh.” Yubel’s face gained a faraway look. “It was back before we met… I was still living at the city orphanage. The older kids were supposed to help take care of the babies. There were worse chores.”

 

Yubel didn’t often tell him about the time before they’d met. All Juudai really knew was that she’d been left at an orphanage as a baby, and spent most of her life there before meeting him.

 

“So then you ran away.”

 

“Yes. You know the rest of the story.”

 

Juudai did, both from Yubel’s stories and his own memories. Still. He grinned down at her.

 

“Tell me again.”

 

Yubel sighed and looked at the baby in her arms. The girl was fast asleep.

“It’s not that the people at the orphanage ever mistreated us,” she began, “but it wasn’t a nice place. You were stuck there. Once you turned fifteen, you’d end up working at some place they chose for you, and that was it. I didn’t want to follow orders for the rest of my life. So when I was ten, I ran away. I don’t think I’d actually expected to stay away for good. I thought they’d find me after a day or two and then I’d be back at the orphanage. But still, I needed to do something for myself. Just once, I wanted to make my own decisions.

 

“So I ran off, and hid close to the palace, though I didn’t know that at the time. It actually worked out quite well for me. When I couldn’t beg, I stole. There were enough rich people who didn’t pay attention when some kid ran into them. The people of the orphanage never did come looking for me, and I was quite happy like that.”

 

“And then I came.”

 

Yubel smiled. “And then you came. Little rich boy, all alone. Easy target. You never even noticed when I made off with your money. Your guards did, though.”

 

Juudai laughed sheepishly. He hadn’t even known that there were guards following him that day. He’d just wanted a day outside the palace and thought he’d made a clean break for it. When his bodyguards had shown up with Yubel, he hadn’t even realized he’d been pickpocketed.

 

“I thought it was weird. Why would you steal?”

 

“Oh, you said so.” Yubel shook her head, but like Juudai, she was smiling. “You asked why I needed to steal. ‘Can’t you just ask your mom and dad for money?’ I really wanted to hit you right there and then.”

 

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

 

Yubel laughed. “You do know you were a spoiled brat, don’t you?”

 

“Good thing I had you, huh?” Juudai said, resting his head on Yubel’s shoulder. “Hey, look.”

 

The baby was awake again, and listening to Yubel’s story attentively. She cooed when she noticed them looking.

 

“Where do you think she comes from?” The sun had already set, and still there was no trace of anyone. Who would just leave their child like that?

 

“She’s a spirit,” said Daitokuji-sensei. Juudai nodded absently and studied the child. That didn’t exactly narrow it down. Most dimensions contained life, and monster spirits were far  more common than humans. The baby was starting to look sleepy again. Why had her family hidden her? Where were they and where had they gone that they couldn’t take her with them? He could think of just one possibility, and he didn’t like it.

 

“You don’t think they’re dead, do you?”

 

“It’s possible,” Yubel said, and her face told him she’d thought of the same thing, probably long before Juudai himself had. If the girl’s parents were dead… Juudai knew far too well how death worked in the Dark World. With no body left behind, it would be nigh impossible to find out who the girl’s parents were and where she came from.

 

“We’ll stay here for tonight. If no one’s come for her by tomorrow, we’ll go on to the next village and ask around,” Juudai decided. He threw another glance at the sleeping baby. Poor kid. If her parents were really dead, what was going to happen to her? What should they do? He got up and opened the pack again. Maybe they could find some clues inside.

 

What he dug up, apart from more supplies for the baby, was a book in a language he didn’t understand. Far more interesting was the picture hidden away between the two last pages. There was the baby, held by a pretty woman with dark blond hair. He didn’t recognize her right away, but something about her stance made him think of a warrior, even though she wasn’t armed in the picture. Next to her was a man who had to be the girl’s father. He too looked like a warrior, but just like the woman, he was unarmed and relaxed. His hair was a lighter shade of blond than the baby’s mother. All in all, the picture of a happy family. Juudai showed the picture to Yubel and Daitokuji-sensei.

 

“Ring any bells?”

 

Yubel shook her head. Daitokuji-sensei stared at the picture for a long time.

 

“As a teacher I should know them, Juudai-kun, but I don’t recognize them.” He looked disappointed with himself. “They may not be wearing the outfits we’re used to.”

 

Juudai studied the picture again. Both the man and the woman were dressed practically, wearing dark trousers of the same stretchy material that seemed ubiquitous among the travelers he’d met before. The woman had opted for a forest green shirt with a black jacket tied around her waist, whereas the man had gone for a blue coat. All clothes that left them a lot of freedom to move. Juudai chalked up another point towards his warrior theory. Maybe they traveled around a lot? It would explain why they were out here with their child.

 

“We’ll ask around,” he repeated. He tucked the picture back into the book and put the book with his own belongings. It was safer there. The baby was still fast asleep in Yubel’s arms and didn’t show any signs of waking up. They would be safe here for tonight. Tomorrow they might find answers.

 

oOoOo

 

The night was uneventful, only interrupted twice by the baby crying and a bleary-eyed Yubel telling Juudai to watch, so he could be the one to get up next time. By morning, no one had shown up, and Juudai reluctantly prepared to leave. It looked like their earlier hypothesis had been correct. He still left a note pinned to the tree where they’d found the baby, but he wasn’t getting his hopes up. Maybe the girl still had family somewhere. Their best bet was the village they’d been traveling to anyway.

 

They reached the place a little past noon. By general consensus, they’d opted for flying to speed things up. They’d lost a lot of time the day before, and walking with a baby was not very comfortable anyway. This village was bigger than the last one they’d been in, but only barely. Two hundred people, three hundred at most. They saw lots of toddlers, but few older kids, much like everywhere else. Juudai swallowed. Consequences. His past still haunted him, and it would keep haunting him as long as he lived.

 

The village head, a Fallen Angel Marie, greeted them warmly and introduced herself as Miryam. Unfortunately, the baby had her flummoxed.

 

“I know about everyone who passes through,” she said, “but I’m sorry. We haven’t had any visitors lately. You’re the first ones in weeks.”

 

“I see.” Juudai poked the baby lying on his lap. She gurgled and started suckling on his finger. Yubel took the book out of Juudai’s pack and took out the picture, which she handed to Miryam.

 

“We found this. Do you recognize them?”

 

Miryam tapped the picture, deep in thought. “They do look familiar… Can I see that book?”

 

Yubel pushed it towards her.

 

“It’s not written in any language we speak here. Not in this dimension, I believe, but I could be mistaken. It’s a large place.” She picked up the picture again, and her face suddenly brightened. “I think I know the woman. Different Dimension Warrior Woman.”

 

“Different Dimension?” Juudai asked, frowning. That wasn’t good.

 

“Yeah. I didn’t recognize her without the armor, but I’m sure of it. I used to have a neighbor who came from another dimension. That was before Haou, of course.”

 

She shook her head with the same faraway expression that Juudai had seen on so many people who’d lost their loved ones. He shrunk into his seat.

 

“I’m very sorry.”

 

Miryam smiled at him. “It’s not like you could’ve helped it. None of us stood a chance against him. It wouldn’t have been worth suiciding yourself.” 

 

Juudai looked down at the baby. She tightened her grip on his finger.

 

“I don’t know if you’ll find more information there, but there’s a town called Marastre near the coast, about a week’s walk from here if you stick to the river,” Miryam told them. “It’s worth a shot. If her family came from across the sea, they’ll have stopped there. The mayor’s an old friend of mine. He’ll be glad to help you out.”

 

Juudai found his voice again. “We would be very grateful,” he said.

 

Miryam smiled when Juudai tried and failed to free his finger. “You should stay here for a few days, though. We’re expecting bad weather. It’s not a good time to travel with a child.”

 

She gave them directions to a small hotel and left them with the instructions to come back if they needed anything. None of them spoke until they were outside again.

 

“Different Dimension. That complicates things,” Yubel said.

 

“Tell me about it.” Juudai shifted his grip on the baby. If her parents were Different Dimension spirits, she might not even be a native to the Dark World. There was no way that they would be able to search every dimension for people who might not even be alive.

 

“We’ll go to Marastre. Then we can decide what to do with her,” Yubel said, holding out her arms. Juudai handed her the baby, and the girl cooed. Juudai smiled. Cute kid. He would miss her when they found a place for her.

 

Like Miryam had predicted, it rained for the next four days. Unfortunately, the constant rain did nothing to lower the high temperatures, and combined with the humidity, it was making everyone irritable. On their fourth day of being cooped up in the small hotel, the baby spent several hours crying, and nothing they tried could calm her down.

 

“C’mon, what’s the matter with you?” Juudai muttered. He’d tried to feed her, clean her, even spent a fruitless thirty minutes singing half-remembered lullabies to her. Nothing was working, and he was already resigning himself to the inevitable complaints of the other hotel guests. He sighed and leaned back against Yubel. She wrapped an arm around him.

 

“Can’t you do something?” he asked plaintively. Yubel was just better with the child than he was.

 

Yubel tapped the girl’s nose. She didn’t stop crying.

 

“Come now, Chiyoko. You’re just going to make yourself tired.”

 

“Eh?” Juudai looked up sharply. “Chiyoko?”

 

Yubel looked vaguely embarrassed. “She needs a name.”

 

“Yeah, but why Chiyoko?”

 

Yubel let go of him and fished for a piece of paper and a pen. The first name she wrote was Juudai’s. Then, underneath it, she wrote three characters.

 

“Child of a thousand generations,” Juudai read. “Chiyoko.”

 

“And ten generations. Juudai,” Yubel continued, pointing at the kanji of Juudai’s own name. “See?”

 

“You’re making it look like she’s my daughter,” Juudai said, grinning. Yubel didn’t smile back.

 

“She needed a name,” was all she said.

 

And apparently the newly-named Chiyoko needed a pen as well, because by the time they realized the crying had stopped, she’d already managed to steal Yubel’s pen. The ensuing fight to keep it out of her mouth and avoid ink stains took up the better part of the next five minutes, and by the time they’d finally managed to get her to calm down, Juudai was already used to the name.

 

oOoOo

 

They said goodbye to Miryam on the next day. The woman seemed very amused that they’d named the baby, but she didn’t say anything about it. Instead she just gave them supplies for the journey and a letter for the mayor of Marastre.

 

“He knows you’re coming,” she told them warmly. “Good luck. Take good care of your kid, okay?”

 

“Will do.” Juudai waved goodbye. Daitokuji-sensei too looked very amused about something, but he refused to share when Juudai asked him about it.

 

Even flying, the journey to the town still took them three days. On the third day, blessedly free of rain, they could start to smell salt in the air. The sea was close, and Marastre was even closer. They reached the town only a few hours after noon. After getting spectacularly lost and spending another two hours wandering around, they finally managed to locate the mayor’s office. He was a large fiend with a severe demeanor, but he treated them kindly.

 

“Miryam informed me, yes,” he said, reading over the letter Miryam had given them. “I have consulted with some hotels in town, but they haven’t seen anyone who matches your description. You can go check yourself, of course.”

 

“We will. Thank you.”

 

“Have you considered what you will do with the child if you don’t find her family?” the mayor asked. “This world isn’t always friendly. There’s a good chance that they’re already dead.”

 

“We know.” Juudai bounced Chiyoko on his knee. “We’re thinking about options.”

 

“The town orphanage would be quite willing to take her. Their staff are highly trained.”

 

“We haven’t made a decision yet,” Yubel said abruptly. “It is far too early to think about leaving her behind.”

 

“Suit yourselves. You’ll be able to find accommodations all over town, depending on your budget.”

 

And with that, they were dismissed. Once outside, Juudai glanced at Yubel. She looked troubled.

 

“Something wrong?”

 

“No, it’s fine,” she said, but Juudai wasn’t sure if he believed her. She was keeping her thoughts locked off from him, and he knew when not to pry.

 

They found a hotel that allowed babies and fell within their budget. They would be able to afford their room for about a week. After that… Yeah, Juudai didn’t know. When they ran out of money he either went back home or found a job for a bit, but with Chiyoko around, he wasn’t sure if either option was possible. He wasn’t quite ready to give up the search yet.

 

But after almost a week it was becoming clear that the people in the picture hadn’t been in Marastre either. Juudai was beginning to despair. They would need to move on soon, and he couldn’t spend all his time looking for two people who might be long dead. He still had a duty to fulfill. On the other hand, he didn’t want to give up on Chiyoko either. He was finding himself looking forward to spending time with the baby. Apart from the occasional crying fit, which Yubel had been quick to ensure him was perfectly normal, she was a calm baby, who didn’t mind the large distances they covered every day.

 

On their last evening in the hotel, Juudai and Yubel slept with Chiyoko in between them. The baby slept through the night.

 

“I don’t think we’re going to find her parents,” Juudai confessed to Yubel the next morning. Chiyoko was still asleep between them, and Pharaoh was curled up against Juudai’s legs.

 

Yubel sighed softly. “I don’t think so either.”

 

“I guess we could leave her here. At the town orphanage,” Juudai said. Yubel turned away.

 

“I guess.”

 

“They’ll take care of her.”

 

“They will.”

 

Oh, not this again. “Yubel, what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing’s wrong.”

 

As if I’m going to believe that, Juudai thought. Something was really bothering Yubel about this whole situation, and- Oh. Oh.

 

He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. “I’m being stupid again, aren’t I?”

 

“You’re not stupid, Juudai.”

 

“Yes, I am. Because you grew up in an orphanage. And you ran away from it.”

 

He didn’t have to see Yubel’s reaction to know he was right.

 

“They will treat her well,” Yubel said slowly. “It’s not- It wasn’t a bad place.”

 

“But you hated it.” No, this wouldn’t do at all. So if they couldn’t find Chiyoko’s family and they weren’t going to leave her behind-

 

“We could, well, keep her,” he said hesitantly, not looking away from the ceiling. He felt Yubel shift next to him.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“She’s going to need someone to take care of her, and we’ve managed it so far without messing up. And well, you already gave her a name.”

 

“You… Want to adopt her?” Yubel sounded conflicted. “We lead a dangerous life. What if we have to go somewhere where we can’t take her?”

 

“Johan can babysit, right? Or Manjoume,” Juudai said. He brightened. “I bet Hayato wouldn’t mind!”

 

“You really want to keep her.” Yubel sounded almost awed. Juudai turned onto his side again and grinned at her.

 

“It’s really only logical, isn’t it? If we can’t find her parents, and we won’t leave her behind-”

 

“-we’ll take care of her. I… Guess. Okay.”

 

Juudai smiled brightly. “That settles it, then.” He caressed the baby’s cheek. “Looks like we’re going to be your parents from now on, Chiyoko.”

heleentje: (Default)

Neo Domino News Online

 

Carly Nagisa

Wednesday 26 April 2034

Neodomino-np.co.jp

 

Synchronizing with the city: How the Satellite children are trying to find their place

 

It’s a sunny day when Kokoro walks down the Neo Domino boulevard, on her way to Central Junior High. She’s excited, but also a bit anxious. At twelve, today is her very first day at her new school. Immaculately dressed in the girl’s uniform, she’s hoping to make a good first impression, like all new students are wont to do. And of course she’s curious about all her new classes. “Especially maths,” she tells me. “Crow-niichan (Crow Hogan, who raised her – Ed.) taught me maths, and I always liked it.”

 

It wasn’t always like that. Kokoro was born in Satellite, and for the first seven years of her life, she knew no other life than the constant run-and-hide that most Satellite children were so used to. Five years ago, when Satellite and the City were reunited, she enrolled in primary school for the first time in her life. She didn’t like it. She was always ‘that Satellite kid’ who would never amount to anything. A sad story, and unfortunately a common one for all the children who were born in Satellite.

 

Why is that, though? Are the Satellite children less intelligent than City children? Clearly that isn’t the case. One need only look at Fudou Yusei, who grew up in Satellite, yet became a Pro Duelist and is currently studying physics at Neo Domino University. Various Satellite children followed his example, enrolling at Neo Domino University or carving out careers of their own. The younger children all have their own dreams: 13-year-old Takuya wants to become a Security officer. Daichi, at 15, wants to go to Europe to study. And Hikari, one of Kokoro’s friends, would love to become a Pro Duelist, “Just like Jack Atlus and Crow-niichan (Like Kokoro, she too was raised by Crow Hogan – Ed.).”

 

They dream big, the children. Yet many of them share Kokoro’s primary school experience: Bullying is commonplace, and even though Security strictly forbids discrimination both at school and at work, every day Satelliters get rejected simply because they come from Satellite. The stereotype of the Satellite criminal is pervasive and nefarious, and the irremovable criminal markers that so many Satellite people acquired while trying to survive are now proving more harmful to them than ever. In a society that claims to be tolerant towards all walks of life, the former Satellite inhabitants are still being discriminated against.

 

Claiming that there were no real criminals in Satellite would be foolish. For years, the island served as a place to put those who could not be reintegrated in society. Yet many of the Satellite children, who just spent their days trying to survive, are now being punished for having the misfortune to grow up in a place abandoned by the City. People like Jack Atlus, Fudou Yusei, and Crow Hogan prove that the former Satellite inhabitants can be of great value to our current society. Why should they be punished for arbitrary factors? Are we not, as a community, better than that?

 

So how was Kokoro’s first day at school? Kokoro makes a face when I ask her. The teachers are nice, but there’s this one kid who keeps looking at her weird. But, she says, she’s from Satellite, and she’s going to show everyone that that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Comments (7)    Show all ǀ Hide all

 

Comment by: You have to be kidding me from Neo Domino City

 

How telling that miss Nagisa uses Fudou Yusei as her main example. Fudou Yusei was only a Satellite inhabitant by a stroke of bad luck, and therefore cannot be compared to the true Satelliters. Did the author forget that Fudou Yusei’s father was a prominent scientist and City inhabitant?

 

No, the issue here is clear. Miss Nagisa was desperate to write about kids’ silly dreams, but couldn’t find an example of a adult Satelliter who actually accomplished anything.

 

--

 

Comment by: King from Neo Domino City

 

@ You have to be kidding me: Shows what you know. Carly knows more about Satellite and the people who live there than you ever will.

 

--

 

Comment by: Black bird from Neo Domino City

 

@ King: This comment was flagged as inappropriate. Show ǀ Hide        

 

--

 

Comment by: Zach O’Neill from Neo Domino City

 

@ You have to be kidding me: How telling that you immediately assume that Fudou Yusei doesn’t consider himself a Satellite inhabitant. Never once has he said that he’s a City person. On the contrary, he’s never hidden his past and very much considers himself a Satelliter. As Kokoro-chan so wisely said, there’s no shame in having grown up in Satellite.

 

As for your point about his father being a City person, need I remind you that the parents of almost all the children who grew up in Satellite were City people? Or are you so desperate to forget that the two weren’t always separate places?

 

--

 

Comment by: No-chan from Tokyo Metropolis

 

I think it doesn’t mater that Fudou Yusei is from sattelite. If you’re a good person it doesn’t mater where you come from.

 

--

 

Comment by: You have to be kidding me from Neo Domino City

 

@No-chan: What are you, ten? Go back to school and learn to write.

 

--

 

Comment by: Black bird from Neo Domino City

 

@You have to be kidding me: Afraid that he’s making more sense than you?

 

 

Asian Journal of Modern Physics, 2039, 3, 41-46

 

Effects of Human Influence on the Rotation of Momentum as Evidenced by Synchro Summoning and Accel Synchro Summoning

 

Zachary O’Neill

z.oneill@sci.nduni.ac.jp

 

Abstract

 

In this paper we investigate the connection between human emotions and the rotation of Momentum, compared to the effect of human emotions on the Duel Monsters card game, as proposed by Zweinstein (2008). We compare the effects of Synchro Summoning and Accel Synchro Summoning on Momentum engines built into the current generation of D-Wheels, used in the Duel Monsters Pro Duelist Circuit, and examine the results in light of the current use of the Neo Domino City central Momentum reactor.

 

I. Introduction

 

Much has been made of the principles of Momentum and its timely arrival in a world facing a drastic shortage of fossil fuels. In his 2011 paper on the principles of Momentum, professor Fudou writes that “the Neo Domino City Momentum reactor is a perpetual motion device […] fashioned as a planetary gear system.”1

 

Indeed, not only the central Neo Domino City reactor is built upon that principle, but also the engines that power today’s D-Wheels follow the same schematics. Even though the use of Momentum became contested after the disastrous incident now known as Zero Reverse, it was later revealed that this incident was caused by sabotage, and not by any inherent structural flaws. No matter how big Neo Domino City grew, the central reactor had no problems keeping up with the demand for energy. Even more strikingly, not only did the Momentum reactor cope incredibly well with the 2029 reunion of Satellite and Neo Domino City, it even managed to surpass all expectations. The surplus in energy made for an explosive growth of the city, which also caused a rapid development in technology, last seen when Momentum itself was introduced. The Momentum reactor has not been significantly changed since its creation, yet when the aforementioned reunion took place, its massive energy output stunned the scientific community (Ohira, 2032). Can this be called coincidence?

 

To find out, we used the research of Albert Zweinstein as our starting point. He writes that “The test subjects, M and A, could breach a dimensional barrier through a display of exceptional willpower and, in the case of A, a close bond with his duel monsters deck.”2 We posit that willpower has a similar effect on Momentum engines and even the main Momentum reactor.

 

Our test subjects were four Pro Duelists, whom we shall identify as Y, J, C, and R. Accel Synchro Summoning, a novel way of Synchro Summoning that requires the summoning of a Synchro Tuner monster, could only be performed by Y. The parameters used were as follows: 

 

------------------------------------

 

1 Fudou, “On Momentum”, Asian Journal of Modern Physics, 2011, 6, p. 24.

2 Zweinstein, A., “Duel Physics and Duelists: A Case Study of the 2006 Duel Academia Incident”, Physics International Journal, 2008, 5, p. 78.

 

41 – Asian Journal of Modern Physics

 


Messenger log – 26 May 2043

 

speedtech: Erika are you there?                                                                               (15:43:26)

 

speedtech: Erika?                                                                                                     (15:43:38)

 

speedtech: Goddammit Erika where are you? Mom and dad aren’t picking up the phone, where are you guys??? PLEASE answer me!!!                                                         (15:44:05)

 

foreverblue: oh god youre okay! Whats going on? all the networks are going down and I can’t ind anyone!                                                                                                  (15:45:23)

 

speedtech: get mom and dad and get out of there! Find somewhere safe! It’s hell right now, you ave to get out of there!                                                                                     (15:45:31)

 

foreverblue: Mom and dad went downstairs to see what’s going on. Bruno, what’s happening???                                                                                                                  (15:45:50)

 

speedtech: I don’t know just get out of there!                                                        (15:45:59)

 

foreverblue: where? Where are you?                                                                      (15:46:12)

 

speedtech: I’m ine for now, don’t worry I’ll be fine. You gys just get somewhere safe! I’ll come to Tokyo as soon as I can!                                                                         (15:46:33)

 

foreverblue: oh god somethng just exploded downstairs                                      (15:46:54)

 

speedtech: Erika, I’m telling you, LEAVE NOW!!!                                                          (15:47:03)

           

foreverblue: I don’t think there’s anywhere to go                                                 (15:47:30)

 

foreverblue: I’m scared, Bruno                                                                              (15:47:38)

 

foreverblue: I can’t find mom and dad anymore                                                   (15:47:51)

 

speedtech: I’ll be there as soon as I can, I promise!                                    (15:48:12)

 

speedtech: Erika?                                                                                                    (15:49:16)

 

speedtech: This is no time for jokes answer me!                                                     (15:51:00)

 

foreverblue is offline   .                                                                                             (15:52:21)

 

speedtech: Where are you?!                                                                         (15:52:29)

 

speedtech: Erika!                                                                                                     (15:52:43)

 

 

heleentje: (Default)

1. Changing the Game

 

There were a couple of things Yusei had planned on doing when he’d woken up that morning: Duel, work on his D-Wheel, maybe get milk because Jack had forgotten it and Crow wasn’t going to get more. He could safely say that being stared down by a gigantic three-headed dragon decades into the past hadn’t been on the list. Yet here he was, a very long way from home and without Stardust Dragon, dueling the very madman who’d taken it from him in the first place. Good thing he wasn’t alone.

 

“My turn!” he announced, drawing and immediately playing the card. “With Reincarnation of Hope, I can send two monsters to the grave, and in two turns we’ll be able to add one monster from our deck to our hand." It would be Yugi’s turn then. Yusei was sure it’d be useful.

 

“Next, I summon Junk Synchron and use its effect to revive Road Runner. And with Junk Synchron on the field, Bolt Hedgehog revives itself!”

 

He closed his eyes. What he wouldn’t give to have Stardust Dragon now… But this was good enough.

 

“When the messenger of the winds meets the wishes of steel, the wishes form an impregnable shield. Become the path that lights the way! Synchro Summon! Appear, Junk Gardna!”

 

Yusei relaxed slightly. Junk Gardna would be able to hold out against Sin Cyber End Dragon. He had no idea how to destroy it, but he would rely on Yugi and Judai to come up with a way.

 

“I play two cards face-down and end my turn,” he said. Paradox sneered something that was predictably insulting. It still hurt. And with Sin World’s effect-

 

“I special summon Sin Rainbow Dragon!”

 

“How dare you use Johan’s card!” Judai shouted. Yusei spared him a glance. Whoever Johan was, he had to be the real Rainbow Dragon’s owner and, if the latter’s livid expression was any indication, a good friend of Judai.

 

Rainbow Dragon definitely wasn’t on their side now, though. Junk Gardna’s effect stopped its attack, but it couldn’t stop Sin Cyber End Dragon. Yusei hit the ground hard, and saw their life points go down even while he was still trying to get back up.

 

“In Sin World, if your life points hit zero, you die,” Paradox announced, supremely unconcerned. Yusei struggled back to his feet, trying not to think about the implications too hard. He’d been in life-or-death duels before. He could handle this. Junk Gardna was easily revived by his face-down Afterglow of a Miracle, and now both of Paradox’s monsters were in defense mode.

 

“I’m sorry…” Yusei said. They were in dire need of all their life points and they’d just lost 1400 of them.

 

“It’s fine,” Yugi said.

 

“He has two monsters with 4000 attack points, and you survived both of their attacks,” Judai said, giving him a smile. “You did great!”

 

“If we work together, we’ll definitely be able to beat him!”

 

“Right! My turn,” Judai said. He looked back at the two dragons on the field, and once again Yusei could see anger shine through in his eyes. He drew, every movement of his body carefully controlled, and stared at the card for a long time. Yusei shifted uncomfortably. To his right, he saw Yugi try to look past him.

 

“Have you come to terms with your inevitable failure?” Paradox asked, voice quietly mocking. Judai suddenly smiled, the anger dissipating as if it had never been there in the first place. A movement caught Yusei’s eye, and he saw Yubel put a hand on Judai's shoulder. She was smiling – no, grinning.

 

“Sin World will kill whoever loses this duel, right?” Judai asked. Paradox narrowed his eyes.

 

“Yes.”

 

Judai’s smile widened. “That’s all I needed to know,” he said, and flipped the card he’d drawn moments ago. “I play a field spell: Skyscraper!”

 

Paradox’s furious “What?!” was drowned out by the noise of Sin World shattering all around them. The fuchsia sky became dark, and skyscrapers shot up on the once-spacious square, trapping them between holographic steel and concrete. But Yusei wasn’t looking at the buildings, or even at Paradox. His attention was on the field, where Sin Cyber End Dragon and Sin Rainbow Dragon were shattering much like Sin World had. With a last cry, both dragons disappeared, and for a moment there was silence.

 

“When Skyscraper is on the field, every Elemental Hero gains 1000 attack points when fighting a monster with more attack points than itself,” Judai said, “but that’s not the important part.”

 

“Without Sin World, no Sin monsters can stay on the field,” Yugi continued. “Amazing, Judai!”

 

“I don’t like watching people die,” said Judai, strangely solemn.

 

“You’re a fool!” Paradox told him, but the panic in his eyes was clear. “Do you really think I only have one copy of Sin World in my deck? I activate my face-down card!”

 

The card that opened was called Sin Tune, and Paradox wasted no time in applying its effect. He drew two cards, but bared his teeth at the sight of them.

 

“You didn’t draw it, did you?” Yusei asked. He shouldn’t have bothered asking; Paradox’s expression told him more than enough.

 

“There will be more turns,” Paradox said.

 

“Perhaps. But in the meantime it’s still Judai-san’s turn.”

 

Judai gave him a brief salute and looked up at Paradox. “Fortunately for you, I have no monsters I can summon. Fortunately for me, Yusei left me exactly what I needed.”

 

Yusei nodded once and Judai grinned. “Junk Gardna, direct attack!”

 

Paradox didn’t flinch when his life points went down, only looked at Judai with something akin to hate. Judai didn’t look bothered. He merely placed one card face-down and ended his turn.

 

“Go on then,” Yugi said, smiling faintly, but Paradox didn’t draw.

 

“You really have no idea what it’s like to fight to save people, do you?”

 

“I can’t speak for all of us, but I think I have a pretty good idea,” said Yugi.

 

“So do I,” Judai added.

 

“And me,” Yusei said. He wouldn’t soon forget the Dark Signers, or the Earthbound Gods that had threatened to destroy the world. “You’re trying to save people by killing more people. That is never the right way.”

 

Judai had closed his eyes.

 

“You’re naïve, Yusei. Do you know what it’s like to lose everyone who’s dear to you?” Paradox said.

 

Judai clenched the hand not holding his cards into a tight fist, and even Yugi tensed up. Yusei thought of Zero Reverse, and of his parents and the thousands of people who’d died in the disaster. He hadn’t even known any of them, not really, and yet it still hurt. If he lost Jack or Crow, or Aki or Rua and Ruka or Bruno… It wasn’t something he wanted to think about now. He was doing this to save them.

 

“It’s your turn,” he said. Yugi and Judai both looked up abruptly, attention back to the duel.

 

Paradox drew, then took four cards and put them next to the one card he still had left on the field.

 

“Turn end.”

 

“No Sin World then?” Yugi asked, drawing. “Too bad. My turn!” he glanced at his cards. To Yusei’s left, Judai was almost bouncing with excitement, earlier melancholy gone.

 

“Yugi-san!” Yusei shouted. “Use Reincarnation of Hope!”

 

“With pleasure, Yusei.” He looked through his deck, chose Black Magician, and held it up for all to see.

 

“You can’t summon it without sacrificing Junk Gardna,” Paradox said. “Black Magician doesn’t have enough attack points to defeat me, and if I draw Sin World next turn-“

 

Yugi interrupted him with a wave of his hand. “I don’t need to sacrifice anything, because I have something far better. I play Ancient Rules to summon Black Magician. Come forth!”

 

Judai cheered and even Yusei couldn’t suppress his grin at the sight of Yugi’s signature monster. Paradox, on the other hand... Yusei’d expected anger, and it was certainly there, but Paradox also looked… sad? No, not sad, resigned.

 

“I could finish this duel right now, but I don’t trust those face-downs,” Yugi continued, “so I use Bonds Between Teacher and Student to summon Black Magician’s loyal apprentice.”

 

Black Magician Girl appeared in a flurry of sparkles, and both she and Black Magician looked back at Yugi expectantly.

 

“I’m not done. With Black Twin Burst, I can add Black Magician Girl’s attack points to Black Magician’s. Now go! Junk Gardna, Black Magician, direct attack!”

 

Paradox glared at them when the two attacks hit him and erased his life points, but even when his D-Wheel stopped working and plummeted to the ground, glowing a strange light, he didn’t move. Yusei winced at the resulting crash, and Judai made a pained noise.

 

“That’s got to have hurt.”

 

“Is he dead?” Yusei asked. The smoke from the wreckage obscured his view. Judai looked rather alarmed at the suggestion.

 

“He shouldn’t be. Sin World wasn’t around, right?”

 

As if on cue, the monsters around them disappeared. Yugi, looking smaller now than he had before, gingerly made his way over to the wrecked D-Wheel, and Judai ran after him. Yusei followed. The D-Wheel was a total loss, but the rubble had miraculously missed Paradox. Even though he was unconscious, he looked unharmed. Judai tossed away a piece of bent metal that Yusei was sure had once protected the Momentum engine and crouched down next to Paradox. He checked his head, pulse and breathing with quick, efficient movements that Yusei hadn’t expected from someone who hadn’t grown up in Satellite.

 

“You learn a lot when you travel on your own,” Judai said when he caught Yusei looking. He turned Paradox on his side and tilted his head back. “Anyway, he’s alive. He’ll be out cold for a bit and he’ll have a killer headache when he wakes up, but I think he’ll be fine.” He pulled a face and looked at both of them. “So now what do we do with him?"

 

Judging by Yugi’s expression, he had exactly as many ideas as Yusei himself had. Which was to say, absolutely none whatsoever.

 

“We’ve got ten minutes until Pegasus arrives,” Yugi said, glancing at the clock. “We’ll need to get him out of here before anyone decides it’s safe to come here.”

 

“Wouldn’t it be easier to turn him in to the police? He did kill Pegasus and steal all those dragons.”

 

“Speaking of which,” Judai grabbed Paradox’s deck, miraculously unharmed, and rifled through it, “Yusei, this is yours.”

 

Yusei gratefully accepted Stardust Dragon and tucked it back in his deck holder, safe with the rest of his cards. Judai took out Rainbow Dragon and Cyber End Dragon and rifled through the remaining cards. He frowned and muttered, “Not Fubuki-san’s,” then, “Yugi-san? Is this Jounouchi-san’s Red Eyes Black Dragon?”

 

Yugi’s eyes widened. “It is,” he said. “Why didn’t he tell me?”

 

“And these are Kaiba-san’s.” Judai took out three copies of Blue Eyes White Dragon and gave them to Yugi, together with the Red Eyes Black Dragon card.

 

Yugi studied the cards. “How come they didn’t tell me? They would’ve told me if their cards got stolen. Unless… Of course, he hasn’t stolen them yet!”

 

“He stole them after the duel,” Yusei said, then grimaced. That wasn’t right. “Before the duel for him, but after the duel for us, right?”

 

“Right, time travel.” Judai laughed. “Complicated.”

 

“I’ll be keeping those cards until they actually get stolen, I think. The idea of Kaiba-kun with six Blue Eyes White Dragons is kind of scary.”

 

“Well, I have to return these,” Judai said, waving around Rainbow Dragon and Cyber End Dragon. “Johan was beyond himself when he called me and Shou and Kaiser weren’t very happy either.”

 

Yusei cast a quick glance at the clock. Eight minutes.

 

“We have to get out of here. What do we do with his D-Wheel?” he asked. If he’d had more time, he would’ve been more than happy to find out how it worked, but unless he managed to persuade the Crimson Dragon to send him back in time just to study a D-Wheel, time was something he didn’t have.

 

“Yubel?” Judai asked, and Yubel appeared next to him, flesh and blood like when she’d chased off the convention-goers.

 

“Twice in a day.” She grinned. “I don’t know what issues you think I have, but I don’t actually need to blow up things, Judai.”

 

“You enjoy it, don’t lie.”

 

“Fair enough.” Yubel made short work of what remained of the D-Wheel. Yusei hoped he’d one day be able to find out how it’d worked.

 

“Yusei, mind helping me out?” Judai asked. He’d turned Paradox onto his back again. “Let’s get him out of sight, at least.”

 

Together they managed to carry Paradox until they found an alley, hidden from view by a tall office building. Yusei went back to the square quickly and picked up his D-Wheel, along with Judai’s bag and Pharaoh. The cat sniffed at Paradox once, huffed, and sat down while they propped Paradox up against the wall. He’d had been unconscious for a while now. Concussion? Yusei couldn’t bring himself to be overly sympathetic.

 

“Should we call the police?” he asked. Judai and Yugi exchanged looks.

 

“I think that might be a problem,” Yugi said. He frowned down at the unconscious man. “He technically hasn’t done anything wrong.”

 

“He killed Pegasus!”

 

“Oh, I know. Grandpa died because of him.” Yugi’s eyes narrowed. “But don’t you see? He didn’t kill anyone because we prevented it. He hasn’t stolen any dragons yet either. If we tell the police and they contact Kaiba-kun, which they undoubtedly will, he’ll tell them that his cards are safe and sound.”

 

Judai sat down against the wall, one knee pulled up against his chest. “I can take him to my time. He’s definitely stolen there,” he said. He hesitated, then shook his head.

 

“What is it?” Yusei asked. Judai petted Pharaoh absent-mindedly.

 

“Call me stupid, but I’m kind of curious. He’s no duelist. I don’t think he even wanted to duel us.”

 

That was something Yusei could agree with. Paradox’s deck couldn’t even work without other people’s monsters.

 

“So who created that deck? Did his world really get destroyed by Duel Monsters? Why did he go this far?”

 

Judai’s words triggered something in Yusei’s mind. “Why didn’t he try to kill Pegasus before he’d invented Duel Monsters? Wouldn’t that make far more sense?”

 

Yugi started to reply, but Judai hushed him. “He’s waking up. Anyone got anything to keep him under control?”

 

Yusei spotted a length of rope carelessly thrown away in a corner and rushed to get it. It wasn’t very strong, but after that fall Paradox wouldn’t have the strength to free himself. He fashioned cuffs out of the rope and tied Paradox’s hands together behind his back before he fully regained consciousness.

 

“You’ve done this before,” Judai observed.

 

“A few times, yes,” Yusei admitted. He’d needed to, back when Team Satisfaction had still existed. Judai and Yubel looked at each other, then back at Yusei, wearing identical grins.

“Really now?”

 

Yugi coughed, cheeks turning red, and Yusei groaned. “Not like that!”

 

“Kidding. He’s awake!”

 

Paradox lifted his head slowly, eyes still closed against the light. “Didn’t have the guts to kill me?”

 

“No one’s dying today,” Yugi said calmly, earlier embarrassment forgotten.

 

“Then what do you want? Or did you just feel like keeping prisoners?” he said, opening his eyes. He closed them again immediately and groaned. “What did you do?”

 

“You might have a concussion. Keep still, it’ll help with the headache,” Judai said.

 

“Why would you care?”

 

Judai shrugged, even though Paradox couldn’t see him. “I’m curious.”

 

“Why did you come here?” Yusei asked.

 

“So you’re deaf now too, Fudou Yusei? To kill Pegasus-”

 

Yusei cut him off impatiently. “Yes, I got that. Why now? Why not kill him when he was a baby? Heck, why not kill his parents? He’s already invented Duel Monsters. Killing him now wouldn’t have erased the game.”

 

Paradox took a while to reply. “What’s to say I didn’t just make a mistake?”

 

“I don’t believe that,” Yugi said immediately. “You can travel through time, so you’re smart enough to know when you should’ve killed him. … Not that you should’ve killed anyone, but-” He looked helplessly at Yusei and Judai. “You know what I mean.”

 

Paradox didn’t say anything.

 

“Either you really are that stupid, or you tried and don’t want to admit it,” Yubel said. Paradox jerked, and she smirked. “So you did try. Failed, didn’t you?”

 

“The creation of Duel Monsters is fixed. If Pegasus dies, someone else takes his place. It always happens in some way,” Paradox explained grudgingly.

 

Yugi toyed absently with the chain around his neck and tilted his head as if listening to someone. “That makes sense,” he said.

 

“And so you tried now… Why?” Judai asked. “No, wait, I know why. You wanted to discredit the game. Such a high-profile murder would make people reluctant to play Duel Monsters. After a few years, it would simply fade into obscurity. That’s why Neos started disappearing. If Duel Monsters wasn’t popular, I never would’ve created the Neospacians.”

 

Yusei put a hand on his deck holder. No Duel Monsters? It was something he could barely imagine. Without Duel Monsters they wouldn’t have been able to fight the Dark Signers. Or would the Crimson Dragon have given them a different way? Would the Earthbound Gods have chosen another way to manifest?

 

“Maybe we should continue this somewhere else,” Yugi said, pointing at the sky. Clouds were gathering. It was going to rain. The weather forecast that morning had predicted a sunny day, but of course, that day was a long way in the future. Yusei reached out a hand to Judai and pulled him up.

 

“Where can we go?”

 

Yugi checked his watch. “There’s no one at my home right now. Grandpa should be at the convention.”

 

Paradox didn’t get up, though he finally opened his eyes again. Judai raised an eyebrow at him.

 

“You coming?”

 

“Why should I?”

 

“Because you’re tied up, have nowhere to go and probably have a rather severe headache,” Judai said, shrugging. “Either you come along, or we make you come along. Your choice.”

 

Paradox looked at Yubel with narrowed eyes. He apparently decided not to risk it, because he struggled upright. As Yubel shed her corporeal form, Yusei quickly rechecked the cuffs. They’d hold.

 

The trip to Yugi’s house wasn’t very long, but it took its toll on Paradox. By the time they arrived he was white as a sheet and his pupils had narrowed into tiny pinpricks. Yugi took one look at him and sighed.

 

“Please go upstairs. I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

He really didn’t look good, Yusei thought. They wouldn’t get any answers out of him like this, and more than that, Yusei just didn’t like seeing someone in pain. Even if that someone had just attempted to kill people. He looked at Judai, who was leading the way. The other duelist looked pensive. He kept glancing back at Yubel, who was studying Paradox covertly. Once in a while, she made eye contact with Judai, as if the two were holding a silent conversation. The Crimson Dragon hadn’t showed itself since it’d brought them to the past, and Yusei’s Birthmark felt completely normal. It had to be around, but it clearly wasn’t interested in this discussion. What went on in a dragon’s mind?

 

That wasn’t something he had to worry about now. First they needed to find out what went on in Paradox’s mind.

 

Yugi’s room was easy to find. Judai sat down on the floor, and Yusei took off Paradox’s cuffs and told him to lie down. Not like he’d be able to do much damage to them here, not with Yubel and Judai and him in the room and Yugi downstairs. For a moment Paradox looked like he was going to remain standing, but he must’ve felt as awful as he looked, because he finally laid down. Pharaoh jumped on the bed and sniffed at his hand.

 

“Go away, cat. I’m not Antinomy.”

 

Pharaoh looked affronted and settled onto Judai’s lap with a plaintive meow. Yusei leaned over and scratched the cat behind his ears. They’d have to wait until Yugi came back and Paradox didn’t look like he was going to pass out. Maybe then they could finally get some answers.

 

oOoOo

 

Yugi was filling a can of water in the kitchen when the other him made his presence known. He’d been at the back of his mind, of course, but ever since the duel he’d mostly observed, with only the occasional comment when someone said or did something particularly interesting.

 

“What do you think, partner?” he asked now. Yugi put down the can and busied himself with grabbing a couple of glasses so he could get his thoughts in order.

 

“Judai-kun and Yusei-kun are very good duelists.”

 

The other him nodded. “They would provide a good challenge. What do you think about Paradox?”

 

“I don’t know what to think of him,” Yugi admitted. “He could just be crazy. He killed all those people in cold blood.”

 

“But?”

 

Yugi dug through the kitchen cabinets until he found the painkillers. “If his world really got destroyed, then I think it’s our job to help.”

 

The other him chuckled fondly and followed Yugi as he gathered everything he needed and headed back upstairs. “Of course. Let’s find out what his story is, shall we?”

 

Yugi pushed his bedroom door open with his shoulder, and Yusei immediately got up to take the can from him. They’d made Paradox rest, he noted with satisfaction. The curtains were still open, though, and even though it had started to rain softly, the light was probably still too harsh. He walked to the window and closed the curtains, then filled one glass with water and knelt down next to the bed.

 

“I got you a painkiller. It’ll help.”

 

Paradox looked at him from the corner of his eyes. “Why are you being nice?”

 

Yugi shrugged, a bit annoyed. “Because I don’t like seeing people in pain?” he said, pressing the painkiller into Paradox’s hand and waiting until he’d taken it to give him the glass of water. Paradox drank without getting up.

 

“You said your world got destroyed,” Judai said when he’d finished drinking.

 

“You made it abundantly clear that you didn’t care, Judai.”

 

“Oh come on, I never said that! And you didn’t exactly give us the best impression, did you? You tried to kill me, actually succeeded in killing a lot of people…” At that, Judai eyes flashed briefly. Yugi didn’t blame him for being angry. Just because he wanted to hear Paradox’s story didn’t mean that he’d forgotten how he’d killed Grandpa.

 

“You stole Stardust and all those other dragons,” Yusei said. “Frankly, I’m not very inclined to hear you out at all. I don’t talk to murderers.”

 

Judai twitched, and Yugi noticed. Still, murder was never the right solution. Even if Paradox was telling the truth and he was trying to save his world, there had to be another way, one that didn’t involve killing people and destroying the present.

 

“They’re all alive. I didn’t kill anyone,” said Paradox bitterly.

 

He wishes he succeeded, the other him said in his head. Yusei had come to the same conclusion; Yugi saw him glare.

 

“No, you did kill,” Judai said, and there was a certain sadness in his voice. “Even if they all came back to life, the intention was there. You killed them fully intending for them to stay dead, and that’s what makes you a murderer, even if your victims are now alive.”

 

Paradox turned his head to stare at him, and something passed between them that Yugi didn’t recognize. “I had to,” he said finally.

 

“I know,” Judai replied softly.

 

They understand each other, the other him provided.

 

Yugi studied them, nodded briefly and mouthed, “Yeah.” There had to be a story there, but now was not the time to find out.

 

“So what do we do now?”

 

Yusei sighed. “I don’t know what I can do. We need to prepare for the WRGP – World Riding Grand Prix, a dueling tournament,” he explained when he saw the confusion on Yugi’s face. Paradox froze.

 

“The WRGP hasn’t started yet?” he asked.

 

Yusei gave him a strange look. “It’s starting in a few weeks.”

 

“Of course, you’re from before,” Paradox whispered. “It hasn’t descended yet. They’re still alive and they’re part of the timeline.”

 

“Before what? Who’s still alive?”

 

Paradox abruptly changed the subject. “There was a Momentum reactor in Neo Domino City that went out of control.”

 

“Neo Domino City?” asked Yugi at the same time as Judai, who said: “Momentum?” Had Domino really changed that much in the future?

 

Yusei looked familiar with the terms, and he explained when he saw their surprised looks.

 

“Neo Domino City is where I come from, and Momentum is an energy source. Very cost-efficient, with no pollution, and it can be generated as long as the Momentum Engine is running. It’s been tested thoroughly to make sure it’s safe,” he said with a pointed look at Paradox.

“Not thoroughly enough. When the Engine went out of control, Duel Monsters started to appear. The destruction was…” Paradox swallowed heavily, and Yugi felt a stab of pity. “Very few people survived the initial attacks, and even fewer survived the following years. First it was just Neo Domino, but within a few days they’d spread out all over Japan and then to Korea and Russia. It was only a matter of time before the entire world was overrun.

 

“We were powerless against it. Everything we had ran on Momentum, and Momentum had gone out of control. I think Tokyo managed to hold out for a day or two, but I was sixteen when it happened, so I don’t remember much.”

 

That had to be a lie. Paradox couldn’t be a day older than twenty-five.

 

“So I take it you survived. Then what?” Yubel asked.

 

“We decided to change the past. Duel Monsters had destroyed our world so we’d destroy Duel Monsters. End of story.”

 

There were so many holes in that story that Yugi wasn’t even sure where to begin. He exchanged a look with Judai and Yusei, who were clearly thinking the same. At least this confirmed that Paradox hadn’t been working alone. It also confirmed that any normal prison most likely wouldn’t be able to hold him; whoever his friends were, they’d have access to time travel and could easily get him out. Yugi sighed. How were they going to solve this?

 

Do you believe him? He asked the other him.

 

Do you?

 

Yugi leaned back against his desk and poured himself a glass of water. There’s a lot he isn’t telling us, but I think that what he is telling us is the truth.

 

The other him nodded, but didn’t immediately offer his view on the subject, so instead Yugi asked out loud: “What do you think?”

 

“I don’t believe him,” Yusei said right away. Judai looked surprised. He took Pharaoh off his lap and turned around to face Yusei properly.

 

“Why not?”

 

Yusei had his eyes narrowed at Paradox. “I know Momentum,” he said. “I’ve worked with it and I know how it was created and how closely it’s being kept under control. There’s no way it can just go out of control like that.”

 

“Have you already forgotten Zero Reverse, Yusei?”

 

“That was intentional sabotage!” Yusei spat. “Momentum is safe.”

 

Paradox smirked. “Of course. It’s personal for you, isn’t it?”

 

“What do you mean?” Yugi asked, putting a placating hand on Yusei’s shoulder. No need to let the situation spiral out of control.

 

“Fudou Yusei’s father was one of the scientists who created Momentum.”

 

“If you know that, then you should realize that I know a lot about it.” Yusei said coldly. “Momentum is safe. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Maybe it wasn’t Momentum,” Judai said, clearly trying to settle the debate before any of them did something reckless. “You said that the monsters started appearing. Maybe they appeared first and overloaded the Momentum Engine? Yusei says it can only be intentionally sabotaged, so maybe that’s exactly what happened.”

 

Paradox relented. “It’s possible,” he said grudgingly. “There were no records left of what happened.”

 

“See? There you go!” Judai smiled widely. Yusei was staring at the ceiling.

 

“So all of you think he’s telling the truth.”

 

“I don’t think he’d go to all this trouble if he wasn’t,” Yugi said simply.

 

“Call it a hunch, but I’m fairly sure he isn’t lying. There are… forces in this universe that would find great pleasure in destroying the world, and they’d love to use Duel Monsters for that,” Judai said, then smiled again, solemn attitude disappearing in the blink of an eye. “Besides, he’s been feeling fine for a while now and hasn’t tried to get away yet. He’s suddenly decided to tell us his story, which can only mean that he thinks we could help and that making us believe him is in his best interests.”

 

Paradox didn’t seem willing to confirm whether Judai was right. “Where’s my deck?” he asked.

 

“Oh, here.” Judai held out the deck. Paradox snatched it from him and rifled through it. Yugi briefly spotted a magic card with a strange archway on it, but a second later Paradox had already tucked it away.

 

“You’re just giving it back to him?” Yusei asked incredulously. Judai shrugged.

 

“Why not? It’s not like he can do anything with it right now. We checked, remember?”

 

“After all this, you just trust him to-” Yusei made a frustrated noise and got up. “I’m sorry, Judai-san, Yugi-san. I’m going to step outside for a second.”

 

He took great care not to slam the door. Judai looked down.

 

“I’ll go check on him,” said Yugi. “Judai-kun, can you handle things here?”

 

Judai nodded and Yubel smirked. “He’d be a fool to try anything.”

 

“Don’t trust him because you feel sorry for him,” Yugi said softly as he left the room. Judai flinched, and Yubel put a hand on his shoulder, eyes focused on Paradox. Paradox, for his part, was either ignoring her or, more likely, just couldn’t see her in this form.

 

He found Yusei in the hallway, head pressed against the window. Yugi stood next to him, and for a minute they both just watch the rain fall. Yusei closed his eyes after a while, giving Yugi the chance to study him. He looked conflicted and angry, but most of all alone. Yugi was home, and Judai still had Yubel and Pharaoh with him, but Yusei was entirely on his own. Hard to believe Yusei was actually the oldest of them. He certainly didn’t look like it now.

 

Yugi waited patiently until Yusei felt like talking, and he wasn’t disappointed. After another few seconds Yusei raised his head and opened his eyes.

 

“Why does Judai-san trust him?”

 

“I don’t know,” Yugi said. “He probably has his reasons.”

 

“Then why do you?”

 

“I don’t trust him,” Yugi corrected gently, and Yusei relaxed just the tiniest bit. “How could I? He killed Grandpa and he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if he thought it would help him. I don’t think he’d hesitate to kill any of us, and I’m very sure Judai-kun knows that too. But I do believe him.”

 

“Why?” Yusei finally looked at him.

 

Yugi hesitated, trying to find the right words. Finally he settled for another question. “If he isn’t trying to save his world, what do you think he is trying to do?”

 

Yusei looked taken aback. “How could I know what drives a murderer? Maybe he just likes killing.”

 

“Would he really go to the trouble of inventing time travel for that?”

 

“Who says he invented it? Maybe it already existed in his future,” Yusei countered. Yugi inclined his head. That was a possibility he hadn’t considered yet, but Yusei was right.

 

“Still, it’s an awful lot of trouble, don’t you think? Go to the past, steal people’s monsters, all just to kill one man?”

 

Yusei sighed. “Okay, so assuming he’s telling the truth, why is he killing people? That’s never the right way.”

 

Despair, the other him said.

 

“Despair,” repeated Yugi. “It can make people do terrible things.”

 

“He’s really so desperate that he would resort to murder?”

 

“I wouldn’t rule it out.”

 

Yusei looked unconvinced. They lapsed into silence for a minute, and Yugi could hear Judai and Paradox talking in his room. Yusei had heard them too, He cocked his head slightly, trying to hear what they were saying, but their voices were too soft to make out.

 

“What should we do next? Judai-san is going to want to help him.” Yusei said. Yugi nodded. More than likely.

 

“I’m not opposed to it myself. Not for his sake,” he said quickly, “but for the people in his world. They do deserve to live as well.”

 

“We’ll need to know all the details. I want to know how that Momentum reactor went out of control. I don’t think Momentum can be overloaded, but if it were reversed…” Yusei's explanation suddenly became so technical that Yugi’s mind boggled. He asked the other him for backup, but only received confusion in return.

 

“… So if the gears destroyed each other, that would blow up the system, but there should be failsafes for that. They’d be stupid to-“

 

“Yusei-kun, that went right over my head,” Yugi said, and Yusei fell into an embarrassed silence. “Talk about it with Paradox. He should be able to tell you more.”

 

Yusei nodded and moved away from the window, and Yugi took that as their cue to go back. Judai and Paradox had fallen silent. When Yugi and Yusei entered the room, both of them looked up. Paradox had gotten up and was now sitting instead of lying down, while Judai was looking out of the window. He turned around when they came in and gave Yusei an anxious smile.

 

“I’m sorry, Yusei.”

 

Yusei waved his apology away and leaned back against the door. He looked at Paradox.

 

“Tell me what happened. I need the details.”

 

“Have you decided to believe me after all?”

 

“All the details,” Yusei repeated. “If your story holds up, I’ll consider it.”

 

What followed was another technical discussion so complicated that it left Yugi and Judai staring at each other in confusion. Both Yusei and Paradox were well-versed in the subject; after a few minutes they were bouncing theories off each other like they’d done so all their lives.

 

Yugi stepped out when Grandpa came home to tell him he had friends over and to dissuade him from coming upstairs. When he came back, Judai had taken out his laptop – even newer than the models Yugi had seen at Kaiba Corporation, but apparently not sophisticated enough for Yusei and Paradox’s liking – and Yusei was typing away at high speed, making calculations with the data Paradox provided.

 

“Okay,” he said after half an hour. Yugi looked up from the duel he’d started with Judai. “I’ll buy that the reactor went out of control, but that's only enough to damage Neo Domino. It would only be on the scale of Zero Reverse,” he made a face, “which is bad enough, obviously, but you said the entire world got ruined.”

 

“The Machine Emperors,” Paradox said. He wanted to continue, but Yusei held up a hand.

 

“Machine Emperors?”

 

“Yes,” said Paradox cautiously.

 

“Machine Emperor Wisel?”

 

“One of them, yes,” Paradox was staring at Yusei. “How do you- Oh! Of course, yes. Aporia.”

 

“You know Yliaster,” Yusei said, voice suddenly ice. “I should’ve known.”

 

Yugi looked at Judai, who shrugged. The conversation had taken a very different turn, one he couldn’t follow.

 

“I know them, but I don’t work with them. Our methods are very different.”

 

“Could’ve fooled me,” Yusei muttered. “How many of you are there anyway?”

 

“A lot of us died,” Paradox said, and Yugi decided he was awful at evading questions. But this changed things. They’d known Paradox hadn’t been working alone, but now they knew his friends were apparently dangerous in their own right. It made the situation a lot more volatile, and Yugi was instantly on his guard, duel with Judai forgotten.

 

“What’s Yliaster?” Judai asked.

 

“They’ve been attacking people,” Yusei gritted out. “If he’s working with them-”

 

“I already told you, I’m not working with them.”

 

“Why should I believe you?”

 

“Look, the data checks out, doesn’t it?” Paradox said exasperatedly. “I haven’t been lying.”

 

“You could’ve just as easily made it up. All we have is your word.”

 

“I made all this up just so I’d have a cover story on the off-chance that all of us managed to survive a duel with Sin World in play? I have better things to do with my time. Why would I have lied about the Machine Emperors if I knew you knew Yliaster?”

 

“Easy. You made a mistake.”

 

“I am not lying! How hard is it for you to understand that?” Paradox spat.

 

“He really isn’t,” Judai said, staring at Paradox intently, and for a second Yugi saw his eyes glow. “I can tell. He’s telling the truth about the Machine Emperors.”

 

The mark on Yusei’s arm flared red, and his attention was suddenly diverted. He went through a whole range of facial expressions before finally settling on resigned. “If you say so,” he murmured, then, “Okay, fine, you're not lying. What do you plan on doing now?”

 

“Save my future,” Paradox said. ‘Idiot’ went unsaid, but it was plain for all to hear.

 

“How?”

 

“Somehow.”

 

As far as plans went, Yugi had heard better ones.

 

“I have a friend who might be able to help,” said Judai. “His brothers own a corporation… Well, I’m not exactly sure what they do, but I’m sure they can help fund research or something. Maybe Industrial Illusions too.”

 

“After he killed Pegasus?” Yusei asked dubiously. Judai shrugged.

 

“They don’t need to know that, right?”

“Then what do we do with him?” Yusei pointed a thumb at Paradox. “He can’t stay here and we can’t let him run around causing more havoc.”

 

“I can-” Judai said, but Paradox interrupted him, pointing back at Yusei.

 

“I’ll go with him.”

 

“What?” Yusei said. “This isn’t something you get to decide!”

 

Paradox sat up straighter, eyes alert and fixed solely on Yusei. “I go with you, and I swear I won’t try anything. I won’t try to attack you, I won’t try to harm you or whoever you care about, I won’t steal anything.” He glanced at Judai. “Anyone else, and I won’t make such guarantees.”

 

Judai raised his eyebrows, but didn’t look overly concerned.

 

“No more time travel,” Yusei said.

 

“It’s not like I have a way of traveling, now that you so thoroughly destroyed my D-Wheel.”

 

Yusei snorted. “We’ve already established that you weren’t working alone, so whoever you’re working with can travel through time as well. No time travel and no contact with Yliaster.”

 

“No time travel,” Paradox reluctantly agreed. He was twitching, left hand moving as if he was writing something down. Yusei groaned, clearly wondering what he was getting himself into, and Yugi could sympathize. Paradox was not trustworthy. What if he attacked Yusei’s friends? Really, there was no doubt that he was planning something. Yusei’s time seemed important to him, but Yugi couldn’t fathom why.

 

Yusei sighed and looked at Yugi and Judai.

 

“Your call,” Yugi said softly. “We’ll still be able to help you. We can send you information.”

 

He wondered what it would take for Kaiba to investigate something he barely knew anything about. Maybe he should wait until his Blue Eyes White Dragons got stolen. It would lend some credibility to the story, though Kaiba would be furious.

 

There’s something new, the other him said, and Yugi suppressed a grin.

 

Yusei was staring out of the window again, face pained. He put one hand on his deck holder, running his thumb over the cards. Yugi wondered if he was even aware that he was doing it.

 

“You have our help,” he said again.

 

“If I do this, I’m not doing it for your sake,” Yusei told Paradox. Paradox nodded.

 

“Fair enough. Neither am I.”

 

“I will try to save your world, but you’ll give me all the information I need. If I find out you were holding anything back-”

 

“Alright,” Paradox agreed again.

 

“You’re not contacting anyone unless I know and trust them.”

 

“Fine by me.” This time Paradox agreed so easily that Yugi suddenly became suspicious. Still, Yusei wouldn’t trust anyone who would help Paradox. Yusei’s conditions were foolproof. Unfortunately they had no way to make sure that Paradox would actually follow them. He grimaced, and one look at Yusei’s face told him he’d come to the same conclusion.

 

Paradox had too. He snorted. “Why don’t you put a criminal marker on me if you’re so worried?”

 

“No!” Yusei all but shouted. He took a deep breath and touched the mark that Yugi had assumed was a tattoo. “No,” he said, calmer now. “No markers. I’m not putting anyone through that.”

 

The mark on his arm flared red again, and if anything, Yusei looked relieved. “But if you do break your promise, I believe the Crimson Dragon would like a word,” he said.

 

Paradox made a disgusted sound. “Of course the dragon would help you. Whatever. It’s fine.”

 

Far too easy. Yugi glanced at Judai, who shook his head, his eyes glowing again. Apparently Paradox still wasn’t lying, so whatever he was planning to do, Yusei’s conditions were no obstacle. And while Yugi could easily believe that Paradox did want to save his world, he couldn’t believe that he wanted to do so on their terms.

 

“You agree to all that?” Yusei asked, eyes narrowed at Paradox. Paradox gave him an exasperated look.

 

“I already told you that I did, didn’t I?”

 

“Okay, then we have a deal,” Yusei said after a moment of deliberation, and Paradox looked almost relieved. Yusei picked up Judai’s laptop again and started pouring over data, asking for clarification once in a while. Yugi suspected he was just doing it to put his mind at ease.

 

At eight, Yusei took Judai’s laptop and mumbled something about transferring information to his board computer, and Yugi left the room with him to order pizza and give Grandpa an edited version of the story. It took Yusei until after dinner to wrap up his work, and for lack of a printer compatible with Judai’s laptop, Yugi eventually resorted to just copying everything Yusei had typed up by hand. It made little sense to him, but someone out there ought to know what it all meant, and they’d be able to help them.

 

A little past ten, Judai yawned widely and started a conversation with the Rainbow Dragon card Paradox had stolen.

 

“He wants to go back to Johan,” he announced. “He thinks it’s been far too long.”

 

“We should go back home,” Yusei said, nodding but looking at Paradox from the corner of his eyes. Still not looking forward to it, apparently. Yugi didn’t really blame him, but surely the Crimson Dragon would be enough to keep him in check.

 

“You can spend the night here, if you want,” he suggested. “I’m sure Grandpa won’t mind and it doesn’t really matter when you leave here, right? Only when you arrive.”

 

Judai looked tempted, but he shook his head. “Nah, we should go back.”

 

It made Yugi strangely sad. For all he knew, this would be the last time he saw either Judai or Yusei, and he wished he could spend more time getting to know them. As if reading his mind, Judai grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down a phone number.

 

“In about a decade, that’ll be my number, so call me if you want,” he told Yugi. Yugi accepted the piece of paper and carefully put it in his desk drawer. Judai put his laptop away again, then picked up Pharaoh, who’d fallen asleep on Yugi’s desk chair and didn’t take kindly to being woken up.

 

“Yugi-san, it was an honor meeting you,” Yusei said. Yugi smiled.

 

“Likewise, Yusei-kun. I hope we’ll get to meet again!”

 

“And duel!” Judai added. He bent closer to Yusei as they left the room. “Are you sure the Crimson Dragon can handle three of us?”

 

“I don’t see why not,” Yusei said. They left the house in silence, but as Yusei started his D-Wheel and Paradox walked forward, followed by Judai, Judai turned around again.

 

“You’ll see me again, Yugi-san!”

 

“I’ll look forward to it, Judai-kun!”

 

Judai grinned and he and Yusei waved, just as Yusei’s birthmark glowed again and the Crimson Dragon appeared, enveloping the three of them. A second later they were gone.

 

“Good luck, Yusei-kun,” Yugi whispered, just as Grandpa came outside.

 

“Did Yusei-kun have a dragon with his motorbike?” he asked.

 

Yugi nodded. “They were from the future, Grandpa.”

 

“They have motorbikes with dragons in the future?” Grandpa marveled. “My, they’ve certainly come a long way, haven’t they?”

 

heleentje: (Default)

Hane Kuriboh’s earliest memory was darkness. It was a nice, cozy kind of darkness, but not the darkness he was looking for, so Hane Kuriboh waited, impatiently, until someone came along and brought him to where he was supposed to be. Fortunately he didn’t need to wait long. Mere days later, light flooded the place he was in, and his card was taken out of its pack by a young man. Not the person he was looking for, though, so Hane Kuriboh prepared to go back to sleep.

 

“So here you are,” the man said softly, and Hane Kuriboh blinked in confusion. “We meet again.”

 

Again?

 

“Ah yes, you wouldn’t know yet.” The man’s smile gained a wistful quality. “Your owner will have saved the world a few years ago.”

 

That made little sense to Hane Kuriboh. He flapped his wings agitatedly. The man laughed.

 

“Time travel. Don’t you worry about it now.”

 

And so Hane Kuriboh stayed with the man, who was called Mutou Yuugi, for the better part of the year. Then, on a sunny day in October, Yuugi picked up his deck and put Hane Kuriboh on top of it. Where they were going, Hane Kuriboh didn’t know, but he felt like something big was going to happen. He’d expected a long journey, maybe to a far-off place outside the city, but Yuugi merely walked to the park and sat down, checking the time as he did so.

                                                                                                                     

“Not much longer now,” he muttered, and Hane Kuriboh chirped a question mark.

 

“We’ll have to say goodbye soon,” said Yuugi, and Hane Kuriboh chirped sadly. Yuugi might not be the person he was looking for, but he was a good man and Hane Kuriboh liked being around him.

 

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll meet again,” Yuugi said. He checked the time once more and got up. He strolled through the park, looking completely relaxed but Hane Kuriboh could feel a sense of purpose in his gait. Hane Kuriboh also knew saw the kid who came barreling through the park, and had all the time to move out of the way. He didn’t. The resulting collision came as a surprise to no one except the kid.

 

The kid he’d been looking for, Hane Kuriboh realized with a shock. Even though Yuugi had told him, Hane Kuriboh still wasn’t prepared to see the darkness he’d been looking for, apparently contained in the form of a fifteen-year-old who’s picking up his deck.

 

“Do you duel?” Yuugi asked, even though they already knew the answer, and he took Hane Kuriboh out. He offered it to the boy, who seemed to have recognized Yuugi now, before walking off with a small wave. Hane Kuriboh chirped happily. Finally!

 

Hane Kuriboh spent the next two years with the boy called Juudai. Juudai was a good kid, as Hane Kuriboh had known all along, but he was woefully unaware of his own powers and a bit more reckless than Hane Kuriboh liked. Yet he trusted Juudai to do the right thing, and Juudai always came through. The first time he saved the school, Hane Kuriboh knew he’d grow and become stronger, and eventually become worthy of protecting the world and all the other dimensions. And Hane Kuriboh would be there as his partner, along with the rest of his monsters, who were all devoted to Juudai and with whom Hane Kuriboh got along quite well.

 

Even when the Light touched Juudai and he lost sight of them all, Hane Kuriboh wasn’t overly worried. The Light couldn’t keep its grasp on someone like Juudai for long. In the end, it only led them to new allies. After Juudai defeated the Light, Hane Kuriboh thought they were safe. The Light of Ruin was Juudai’s greatest enemy and he’d just defeated it. It wouldn’t bother them for at least another decade, Hane Kuriboh thought.

 

He hadn’t counted on the arrival of a boy named Johan and a blue squirrel called Ruby Carbuncle. Suddenly, faster than he could understand, Juudai was in trouble, and a past that Hane Kuriboh hadn’t even known existed had shown up. And then Johan was gone, Ruby was nowhere to be found, and Juudai had locked himself away from them completely. Fortunately he was small and most people couldn’t even see him. An excellent spy.

 

There’s another gap between dimensions.

 

Juudai looked at him, eyes wild and red from crying. He was out of his bed within seconds. “Take me there.”

 

So Hane Kuriboh did.

 

He regretted it now.

 

This Juudai wasn’t the Juudai he’d looked for when Yuugi had found him. It wasn’t the Juudai who had defeated the Seven Stars or the Light of Ruin. This Juudai was a Juudai who killed people in cold blood and justified it with the flimsiest of excuses. This Juudai…

 

This Juudai was not the partner Hane Kuriboh wanted.

 

And so Hane Kuriboh hid away at the bottom of Haou’s deck. It would have been easy to just leave, but Hane Kuriboh was still loyal to the partner he’d once had, and with his card still in Haou’s possession, he wouldn’t be able to get far. That was if Haou still cared about him, of course, and it was clear that he didn’t. Hane Kuriboh watched as his former partner made his way through the Dark World, killing everyone he came across. He felt glad that the Neospacians didn’t often make an appearance when Haou dueled. The Elemental Heroes were a different story altogether.

 

Why do you support him?

 

It came out as a series of chirps, but Hane Kuriboh knew his friends understood him perfectly well.

 

“Juudai is our friend,” Featherman said sadly. “We must protect him.”

 

He uses you to kill people!

 

“It’s not what we want either, you know,” said Burst Lady, voice sharp. “But he’s Juudai. What else can we do?”

 

Stop helping him kill people!

 

“Don’t be stupid,” Burst Lady said. Hane Kuriboh, taken aback, huffed angrily. “Of course we could abandon him, just like you did. We can make it so that he doesn’t draw a single monster, no matter how he tries. And you know what would happen then?”

 

Hane Kuriboh didn’t reply.

 

“He would die,” said Featherman. “We can’t let it happen. Juudai, no matter how he acts, is still our friend and our important person. We can’t abandon him.”

 

“Not to mention that it would end the world,” Aqua Dolphin said. Hane Kuriboh huffed. If even the Neospacians were turning against him, what chance did he have?

 

“Do you want him to die?” Aqua Dolphin prompted softly. Hane Kuriboh didn’t have an answer, so instead he looked at the person who’d once been his partner. Juudai was fast asleep. Even though his first nights as the Supreme King had been plagued by nightmares, they were gone now. Had he really forgotten all about his friends?

 

“So this is what you do while Haou-sama is asleep,” an icy voice came. Burst Lady made a sounds somewhere between a hiss and a growl as Evil Hero Inferno Wing appeared. She drew herself to her full height. “You proclaim loyalty to him, yet you plan to betray him.”

 

“Don’t talk about things you don’t understand,” Burst Lady said. Inferno Wing laughed shrilly.

 

“Oh, my dear little fusion fodder, I fear you are the one who doesn’t understand. You’re so caught up in your ideal of sweet innocent Yuuki Juudai that you fail to see the truth. But the fluffball understands, doesn’t he?”

 

Hane Kuriboh flexed his claws. Inferno Wing merely smiled.

 

“Haou-sama is the rightful ruler of this world and the wielder of the forces of the dark. Your Juudai is merely an illusion.”

 

“You’re not wrong,” Aqua Dolphin said calmly, and everyone, even Inferno Wing, stared. “Juudai is the wielder of darkness, as well as the rightful king.”

 

You agree with her?

 

“I wasn’t done. You’re not right either, Inferno Wing. The powers of darkness aren’t supposed to be wielded this way, but Juudai’s own grief warped his mind. This isn’t how it should be, and you know that, don’t you?”

 

Aqua Dolphin disappeared just as Inferno Wing took an angry swipe at him. “How dare you insult Haou-sama!”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Burst Lady said.

 

“Please go away,” Featherman added.

 

But Inferno Wing had regained her composure. “My dear… better halves, by sending me away, aren’t you denying part of yourselves? By denying the evil in your precious Juudai’s soul, aren’t you denying who he really is?”

 

“No,” said Featherman, uncharacteristically blunt. “You are a corruption of the Elemental Heroes, just like your Haou-sama is a corruption of the righteous darkness.”

 

“You’re no hero,” added Burst Lady.

 

“Heroes can’t be evil?”

 

No.

 

“Oh?” Inferno Wing bent closer to Hane Kuriboh until they were face-to-face.” So fluffball, that means that your precious Juudai, your cherished partner, is no hero either, am I right?”

 

If Hane Kuriboh had never found the gap between dimensions… If Ruby and Johan had never disappeared, then his partner would never have become this awful version of himself. This Juudai was a Juudai Hane Kuriboh could no longer believe in.

 

He’s not a hero I can trust.

 

“Hane Kuriboh!” Featherman said. Inferno Wing laughed shrilly.

 

“See? Even the fluffball agrees with me!”

 

But Hane Kuriboh flew up until she had to crane her neck to look him in the eyes.

 

I don’t trust this Juudai, but he is my partner. I know for sure that one day, he will become the hero he’s meant to be, and he won’t need your help to do it.

 

“Right!” Burst Lady smiled. Inferno Wing looked at the sleeping Juudai.

 

“Idiots, all of you. I sincerely hope Haou-sama will be rid of you soon!”

 

She disappeared in a huff. Featherman shook his head.

 

“Is she so single-mindedly devoted to her Haou that she’ll give up her own existence just to please him?”

 

Yes.

 

Hane Kuriboh looked at Juudai. Asleep, he didn’t look too different from the partner he’d known for over two years, but everything was different now. He hadn’t lied when he’d said that he believed Juudai would become a hero, but he just wished he knew how long he’d have to wait for that.

 

“Hane Kuriboh,”  Featherman said softly. “I truly wish we could stop him, but we can’t without killing Juudai himself.”

 

I know.

 

“What are you going to do?”

 

Hane Kuriboh couldn’t, in good conscience, help this person kill innocent people, but even if he weren’t bound to his card, he still wouldn’t leave. Haou might be a murderer, but Haou was also Juudai, and even though this wasn’t how he wanted his partner to be...

 

Juudai’s still my partner. I’ll stay with him.

 

 

 

 

heleentje: (Default)

“You just had to come here, didn’t you?” Without the benefit of a solid body, Amethyst Cat couldn’t turn up the heat in the room. She gave Johan a distraught look. Even through all the blankets, she could still see how the fever made him shiver. Juudai, asleep next to him, was faring a bit better, but he too was clearly sick. Topaz Tiger was lying between the two of them, making what could’ve been an imposing guardian if he hadn’t been fast asleep.

 

“It wasn’t my idea,” Yubel said, doing what Amethyst Cat couldn’t and turning up the heat in the room. She crouched down next to Juudai and pulled the blankets back over his shoulders. “He insisted.”

 

“And got Johan sick at the same time,” Amethyst Cat hissed. Yubel kissed Juudai on the forehead and turned to leave the room. Ruby, curled up next to Johan, made a distressed noise and Amethyst Cat looked at Yubel. “Since you’re the only one of us who has hands, could you please help him out?”

 

Johan had managed to kick off some of the blankets during the night, and it wasn’t doing him any good. Whereas Juudai had already passed the worst stage, Johan was right in the middle of it. Yubel sighed, but stepped over Topaz Tiger and obligingly tucked the blankets around Johan. She hesitated for a second, then brushed the hair out of his face, with a look that almost resembled fondness. Johan didn’t wake up, but Ruby made a contented noise and snuggled closer to him. Amethyst looked away. It had been over five years since Yubel had possessed Johan, and the two were on fairly good terms these days, but still…

 

“I haven’t forgiven you,” she said softly. She hadn’t really intended for Yubel to hear it, but Yubel did anyway.

 

“I didn’t expect you to.”

 

“You hurt Johan.” It made no sense to keep whispering, so Amethyst didn’t bother. “None of us will ever forgive you for that.”

 

“I understand,” Yubel said. “I wouldn’t forgive anyone who hurt Juudai either.”

 

“I used to hate Juudai, y’know,” Amethyst said, and one look at Yubel’s expression told her she’d better come up with a good explanation fast. “Don’t throw a fit. If Johan hadn’t met him, he never would’ve ended up possessed by you.”

 

Yubel seemed to think it over. Apparently someone hating Juudai bothered her more than someone hating her.

 

“If Juudai hadn’t been there, it wouldn’t have happened,” Amethyst said, walking into the living room. Yubel carefully closed the door of the bedroom behind her and followed. “I couldn’t forgive him for that, even though Johan wanted me to.”

 

“Couldn’t?”

 

Amethyst stretched out in front of the sofa and looked out of the window. She thought she caught a glimpse of Cobalt Eagle up in the sky. Sapphire Pegasus was probably with him. “I got over it. Johan likes Juudai and that’s enough.”

 

Yubel didn’t reply, so Amethyst continued talking. “I haven’t forgiven you, though.”

 

“So you said.”

 

Amethyst contemplated her next words for a second, then shrugged. If they were being honest anyway… “I haven’t forgiven myself either.”

 

That earned her a curious look, and Amethyst smiled. “Don’t tell me you don’t understand. Johan is my little brother. We’d sworn to protect him and we failed. Do you have any idea how that feels?”

 

“All too well,” Yubel muttered. She didn’t look like she wanted to elaborate, and Amethyst didn’t have anything left to say anyway, so she rested her head on her paws. It’d been a long three days. Johan had been fine when Yubel showed up with a feverish Juudai, but by the next day he’d been showing the same symptoms, and despite his insistence that it would pass, it soon became all too clear that he was in no condition to do anything. Not for the first time, Amethyst Cat was frustrated at her lack of hands – or physical form. With Juudai and Yubel’s powers, life would be far easier.

 

“I lied.”

 

 “What?” Amethyst rested her head on her paws. She was worried and not particularly interested in more conversation.

 

“I lied. It was my idea to come here.”

 

Now that got her interested. Amethyst shifted until she was sitting up. “You brought Juudai here on purpose. Why?” Her eyes narrowed. “I hope that this wasn’t some trick to get Johan infected, ‘cause-”

 

“No, it wasn’t,” Yubel interrupted. “I wish that hadn’t happened.”

 

“Then why?”

 

For the first time in the five years Amethyst had known her, Yubel actually looked uncomfortable. When she spoke, it was in the slow voice of someone carefully considering every word: “You may not like me, but you understand. I don’t need to pretend to be just a monster, or not show myself at all so I don’t scare people.”

 

It didn’t take long for Amethyst to understand what Yubel was trying to say. “You think we understand because Johan’s our brother and knows that not being human doesn’t matter when it comes to loving someone. He understands what you mean to Juudai because he has us.”

 

“Yes.” Yubel looked somewhat relieved. “Juudai’s parents are good people, but they never got it.”

 

Amethyst understood far too well. Johan still called them his family in public, but they’d all stopped expecting people to believe it. Most people assumed it was just a joke. At least those people tended to laugh it off and leave them alone, but then there were others…

 

“A few years ago Johan won some regional tournament. It wasn’t very important and he only participated because some of his old classmates were there. After the tournament, some reporter asked him when he was going to drop the ‘family’ joke.” Amethyst’s face twisted in disgust, and Yubel made an annoyed noise. “Johan… He wasn’t in a very good mood that day. He lashed out at the reporter. Said he had no idea what we meant to him and that he’d never be able to understand either.”

 

“Must’ve been a pretty bad day,” Yubel said.

 

“You have no idea,” Amethyst muttered. That day, one of the final opponents had spent most of the time before the duel mocking Johan for not having any family. The duel hadn’t lasted very long.

 

She took a deep breath and resumed her story. “It was all over the news. Some people just ignored it, but you should’ve seen the internet. People saying he’d gone crazy, that he was mentally unstable and needed therapy… There were a few people who believed him, but they were lucky if they just got ignored.”

 

“When did that happen?” Yubel asked.

 

“Two or three years ago?” Amethyst Cat shrugged. “You and Juudai were in some other dimension, I believe. Either way, the hype died down after a while, but Johan was still hurt.”

 

“People don’t understand.”

 

“They don’t.” Amethyst dropped her head on her paws. Something occurred to her and she grinned. “So really you’re telling me that out of all of Juudai’s friends, you like Johan best?”

 

Yubel grimaced. “Apparently.”

 

“And you’re not even gonna be jealous?”

 

This time, Yubel’s smile was serene. “I have no need anymore. Juudai will never like Johan best.”

 

Amethyst recognized the bait, but didn’t rise to it. “That’s fine. Johan will never like Juudai best either.”

 

“I cannot fathom why,” Yubel said, and Amethyst had to smile when she realized Yubel was at least partly serious. For a while, they sat in a silence that didn’t quite reach comfortable, but wasn’t entirely awkward either. Amethyst thought she could hear her brothers outside. Good thing only Johan was susceptible to human viruses. She didn’t know what she’d do if more than one of them got sick.

 

“It’s just flu. They’ll get better,” Yubel said.

 

“I know,” Amethyst said. This was something she could cope with, at least. She rolled over and studied one paw absently, before giving it a few quick licks and brushing it over her head. “So where are you guys going when Juudai gets better?”

 

“Juudai mentioned going to America.” Yubel said, then, carefully, added: “I’m sure he’d like for you to come along some day.”

 

Amethyst grinned. It was probably the most overt offer of friendship either of them was going to make. “Promise me nothing’ll happen to my family and I might consider it.”

 

“With Juudai? I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”

 

That was true, Amethyst admitted. “Alright then. You take care of Juudai and we’ll take care of each other.” She nonchalantly unsheathed her claws. “Unless you find that too hard to do? After all, you have no attack points.”

 

Yubel looked insulted for a second, but got the joke soon enough. “Just try it, Cat. I won’t be responsible for the consequences.”

 

“I’ll pass.” Amethyst Cat sheathed her claws again. “I’d rather keep my attacks for someone who actually deserves it.”

 

A couple of years ago, Yubel would’ve been that someone, and Amethyst knew they both knew that. But fighting would only make Johan and Juudai sad, and she’d do anything to keep her family happy.

 

Besides, good conversation partners were so hard to come by.

heleentje: (Default)
Story Title: Square One
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's
Rating: T
Characters: Izayoi Aki
Word Count: 3790
Warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for the end of 5D's
Notes: Dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] gin_no_ryuu, who helped out so much with this fic and didn't want anything for her birthday. Also a lot of thanks to all the people who helped create the idea and offered their input. You know who you are!
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's
Summary: In which laundry machines are confronted, Crow gets 2 am phone calls, and Aki decides that she rather likes this independence thing after all.
Square One )

Square One

Oct. 18th, 2011 08:28 am
heleentje: (Default)

Square One

 

Aki stared at the laundry machine. Against all common decency, the laundry machine did not stop being white and complicated.

 

It was Saturday, and even though she’d only been in Germany for a few days, her laundry was already starting to pile up and she was running out of clean clothes. It was enough to drive her to the laundry room of her dorm. None of the guides of the international office had said anything about laundry machines, though. They seemed to assume that anyone who made it to Munich in one piece knew how to use one.

 

Well, taking a plane and dealing with all the boarding procedures was easy compared to this, Aki decided. Back at home, her parents had taken care of everything, and the Arcadia Movement had employed people especially for this. She took another look at the machine, then at her pile of clothes. Thirty degrees? Forty? What would the difference even be?

 

None of the other students in the room looked like they had any trouble using the things. Would Yusei know? She could always call and ask… But actually, Yusei had never been the one who took care of any of the practical stuff.

 

With a sigh, she got out her cell phone and dialed a number. Calls to Japan were expensive, but her parents had insisted on taking care of all her phone bills, the one thing she hadn’t been able to dissuade them on. It was a small sacrifice she was suddenly happy she’d made.

 

It took several rings, but eventually Crow appeared on the screen, rubbing his eyes.

 

“Aki, what? It’s two in the morning.”

 

“I’m sorry,” said Aki. Time zones were a hassle she’d never liked dealing with.

 

“Seriously, I haven’t been woken up at two since Yusei and Bruno’s engine-” He stopped abruptly and Aki closed her eyes. Some things still hurt. “What’d you call for?”

 

“It’s my laundry. I can’t figure out how to use this machine.”

 

“And that’s why you called?” Crow sounded distinctly amused. “You couldn’t have asked someone who isn’t thousands of kilometers away?”

 

Aki hadn’t actually considered that, though it was obvious in hindsight. But Crow took care of all those little children, right? He’d know more about laundry than Yusei.

 

“Let me see,” Crow said, shaking his head. Aki held her phone in front of the machine and Crow studied it for a long time.

 

“Well, that’s a bit different from the one we use,” he said at long last. “I haven’t seen a temperature dial like that yet, but it should be no problem. How much laundry do you have?”

 

Rather a lot, if Aki said so herself. Instead of replying, she turned the phone so Crow could see the basket with her laundry. He whistled.

 

“You’re not planning on washing all that in one go, are you?”

 

She had been.

 

“Of course not,” she replied.

 

Even on the video screen, Crow’s grin was obvious, but he humored her. “Keep the whites away from anything else. If you have jeans, wash them together and turn them inside-out. It’ll keep those white lines from appearing.”

 

Aki had no idea which white lines he was talking about, but she nodded anyway and started sorting out her laundry.

 

“On second thought, just turn everything inside-out. It’ll preserve the color.”

 

“So that’s it? What about the water temperature?”

 

Crow took a long time for that one. Finally he replied, sounding somewhat hesitant for the first time: “If it’s not really dirty, just put it on thirty degrees. If there are spots that won’t come out, try forty, but be careful with that.”

 

Thirty, Aki decided. She didn’t feel like taking risks yet.

 

“D’you think you get it? Just keep the colors separated, and if anything’s wrong just call me.” Crow yawned loudly. “Though I’d prefer it if you did so at a more reasonable hour next time.”

 

Aki winced. “I get it, don’t worry.”

 

“See you, Aki.” With a last wave, Crow cut the connection. Aki looked back at the pile of laundry and pulled out a T-shirt with bright pink and dark blue flowers on it.

 

Now did she put that with the dark colors or the light ones?

 

----

 

One row behind her, a girl and a boy were holding a conversation in busily whispered German. Aki shot them an irritable look that seemed to miss them entirely. They were distracting her, and she was already having enough trouble understanding the rapid German of the lecturer.

 

“In the same spectrum we have Kawasaki disease, an autoimmune disease that usually targets children aged five or younger. While quite rare, it is most often found with children of Asian descent.”

 

Aki redoubled her efforts to take notes. A quick glance at her neighbor told her that he was writing down much more than she was, and for a moment it annoyed her. To her other side, a student was tapping away busily on a notebook computer, but when she actually caught a look of the screen, it turned out he wasn’t taking notes at all. Probably why he’d opted for a notebook instead of the much more modern handheld computers with their see-through screens. She herself had chosen to write down everything, so she could practice German more efficiently. She still kept a recording of all the classes though, in case she missed anything important.

 

“First described in 1967 by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki-”

 

Aki made a face and wrote down Kawasaki Tomisaku.

 

“-symptoms include fever, bright red tongue, rashes and peeling of the skin. You’ll find a full list in your textbook.” The lectures paused for breath. “It is often confused with the similar scarlet fever.”

 

Aki drew an arrow from Kawasaki disease to scarlet fever. Someone tapped her on the shoulder.

 

“You’re Aki, right?” the girl who’d been talking behind her asked in a whisper. Aki nodded, momentarily distracted from her notes.

 

“I’m Eva,” the girl introduced herself. She pointed at the boy sitting next to her. “That’s Ivan. We were planning on getting together on Thursday and play a few duels, and well, we heard you duel. Care to join us?”

 

Aki was about to decline, but she hesitated. It had been months since she’d really dueled. Yusei hadn’t played for weeks after the Ark Cradle, and although she’d had a few friendly matches with Ruka and Rua, it had been a while since she’d faced a new opponent. Her deck was in her room. Why not?

 

“Where and when?” she replied.

 

Eva lit up. “Great! Do you know the canteen at Goethestraße?”

 

Aki nodded. She’d passed the place a few times, but never eaten there. She’d found a small Japanese supermarket that sold passable food and preferred to get her meals there.

 

“We’ll be meeting there at six thirty on Thursday and moving to some place where we can play. Is that okay for you?” Ivan said.

 

“That’s good.” She looked at the two of them. They seemed friendly enough, and moreover, neither of them had made a reference to her participating in the WRGP. Did they just not recognize her? She rather liked the anonymity.

 

“I’ll give you my number,” Eva said. She scribbled down a number and Aki quickly saved it into her phone, then sent the other girl a quick message to pass on her own number. Eva added the number. She looked delighted.

 

“Class is almost over,” she whispered. “Want to go have lunch with us?”

 

Aki looked at her watch. She had two hours before her next class. “Alright. Do you know a good place?”

 

----

 

“So what we really needed was just a=F/m, but I didn’t think of it.” There was a strange melancholy in Yusei’s voice. “Good thing Tadashi-san realized it.”

 

“Right.” Aki nodded and surreptitiously opened her textbook to the page she was supposed to read by tomorrow. “But you figured it out in the end?”

 

“Yes. The system is going through a test run now. We’re hoping to have the preliminary results by next week.”

 

“That’s great news.” Aki had long since learned that when Yusei started talking physics, it was best to just let him. She took out a pen and neatly drew a red line under the title of the chapter, then shivered a bit and wondered whether she should turn up the heat some more. It was late November, and it was freezing outside.

 

“How is everyone?” she asked when Yusei paused after a long-winded explanation on parameters and testing conditions. Yusei seemed slightly taken aback at the sudden change of subject.

 

“Rua and Ruka are staying with their parents and Jack’s participating in the Pan-Asian tournament. He’s in the semi-finals.”

 

Aki had expected nothing less. Ruka had already told her about the tournament in an e-mail, but information was surprisingly hard to come by.

 

“Crow’s staying with Martha now. He’ll be watching the kids over Christmas and Martha wants to make sure he knows everything.” Yusei smiled faintly. “He complained that he already knew what to do.”

 

Aki smiled in return. She was sure that Crow didn’t mind being with his kids at all. Why would Martha leave them behind in the first place, though?

 

“Where will Martha be?”

 

Yusei smiled again. “It’s kind of a Christmas present from us. She’ll be visiting Satisfaction Town and traveling around for a few weeks, and with Saiga running his own business now, Crow offered to take care of the kids.”

 

 “Satisfaction Town?”

 

“Yeah, Kiryu said that she should come.” This time, Yusei sounded rather amused. Aki was glad to see him like this. It had been a long time since he’d been happy. “I hope he’s prepared.”

 

She realized with a brief pang of disappointment that it wasn’t her making him happy. The realization was quickly followed by another one: she was happy too.

 

“Aki?”

 

“Yes, sorry. I was distracted.”

 

Yusei glanced at his watch. “I need to go back to work. We’ll have the tests results of the B gear this afternoon.”

 

“I’ll talk to you later,” Aki said. She smiled at him and Yusei gave her a small wave. It was Aki herself who ended the call. She looked outside. It was a clear night, despite the cold. Tomorrow promised to be a good day.

 

----

 

Mid-December, it started snowing. When Christmas came, all the snow vanished in the blink of an eye.

 

Eva found this hilarious. Two days after Christmas, Aki met her and Ivan in a bar not too far from the city center. She’d just beaten Ivan for the third time in a row, to his great consternation.

 

“How’d you get so good at this?” he complained. Eva stifled a laugh. Aki believed the other girl knew perfectly well she’d participated in the WRGP, but Ivan remained oblivious.

 

“I used to play a lot when I was younger,” Aki said. It wasn’t technically a lie.

 

“Try playing against someone else,” Eva suggested. Their group wasn’t very big, but there were still quite a few people who showed up once in a while to duel. Some even provided Aki with a challenge.

 

“Oh!” Eva took out a bag. “I almost forgot! Merry Christmas, Aki!”

 

Aki hesitantly accepted the bag. Was it tradition to get presents for people you’d only known for a month? “I didn’t get you anything,” she said hesitantly. Eva waved her hand.

 

“Treat us to drinks some time.” She looked at Aki, who was still holding the bag uncertainly. “Come on, open it!”

 

Aki opened the bag and found a long tube. Inside was a poster with several black horses and one single zebra, standing in the middle of the horses and offering a striking contrast. She looked at Eva for an explanation.

 

“My brother used to study in England, and he said there was this proverb,” Eva said. “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, think horses, not zebras. It means you shouldn’t immediately look for a rare disease.”

 

Her teachers had told her that more than once. Aki carefully put the poster back into the bag. Her first Christmas present from people who weren’t her parents or a member of Team 5D’s.

 

“I’m getting you something in return,” she promised. “Thank you so much.”

 

“Can you let me win?” Ivan asked hopefully.

 

“Not a chance. It was my present,” Eva said, grinning. “Beat him, Aki.”

 

---

 

Whatever Aki had been expecting, it wasn’t this.

 

“What the hell do you want, Aki? ‘Cause if this about your laundry again, you can damn well do it yourself.”

 

“Crow?” To say that she was taken aback was an understatement. She’d even made sure that it was a reasonable nine in the evening in Japan. This was not the reply she’d been expecting.

 

Crow slumped. “Look Aki, just call back another time, okay? Kokoro’s getting worse and Taiga and Daichi still haven’t returned. I’ve seen these symptoms before and-”

 

“What symptoms?” Aki cut him off, knocking over a bottle of water in her haste to grab her notebook. She vaguely remembered Kokoro as the red-headed girl among Crow’s kids. “And where are Taiga and Daichi?”

 

“Getting a doctor, what else.” Crow’s worry now became laced with bitterness. “But why would any doctor care about a bunch of Satellite kids knocking on their door on a Sunday?”

 

His words momentarily distracted Aki from her search. “But the city was reunited!” It had been them who’d reunited the city in the first place!

 

“Did you ever think it was that simple? In their eyes we’re Satellite scum and no bridge is gonna change that.”

 

Had she really been so naïve to expect no more prejudice? With a sinking sensation, Aki realized that she had. She finally found her notebook and opened it, glad for the distraction it offered.

 

“I’m a doctor.”

 

“In five years, maybe.” Crow turned away. “It’s a bad time now. I’ll call you next week.”

 

“Crow, wait!” Aki took a deep breath. “If you’re right, then no doctor will come now, and Martha’s not around. At least give me a chance. What are the symptoms?”

 

Crow cast a troubled glance to his side, where Aki assumed Kokoro was resting. “She started complaining about a sore throat yesterday, and she had a bit of a fever, so I thought it was just the flu. But yesterday evening her fever got worse and this morning she was getting these red spots all around her elbows.”

 

Aki started paging through her book. He wasn’t giving her much to work with, but she was sure she knew those symptoms.

 

“And her tongue’s gone bright red.” Crow looked on the verge of tears. There was shouting and Daichi and Taiga came barreling into the room. Aki caught ‘doesn’t want to!’ and ‘called Security!’. Somewhere in another room someone started crying, and Crow disappeared for a few minutes. Aki thumbed through her notes. She knew this one. It was on the tip of her tongue.

 

Crow came back into the room, holding a glass of water, which he made Kokoro drink before he turned back to the screen. He looked paler than before, and when he spoke, it was in a slow, measured voice, as if he didn’t want to give away too much.

 

“I’ve seen this before. When we were kids… Every year there was always someone. Sometimes they’d get better after a week, but sometimes they died. Martha always tried, but when it happened in winter we never had enough medication.”

 

The few times Aki had been sick, her parents had given her all the care she needed. She swallowed and turned a page. “It’s not like that anymore. You can get her to the City if you need to.” Her eyes lit up as she read what she’d written months ago. “Crow, is she coughing?”

 

“No,” Crow said, looking from Kokoro to the screen and back.

 

Kawasaki disease, Aki thought excitedly. It all fit. The fever, the rash, the red tongue…Kokoro’d have to go to the hospital as soon as possible, but if Crow had any aspirin, they could help her right away. She opened her textbook to the right page to look up more on the treatment.

 

“Crow, I think I’ve got it. If you have any aspirin, give it to her.”

 

“How much?”

 

Aki hesitated. She’d need Kokoro’s weight to calculate the exact dose, and she didn’t want to risk an overdosis. As she looked for her calculator, her gaze fell on the poster with the horses and the single zebra.

 

Zebra.

 

Aki’s eyes widened. “Crow, how old is Kokoro?”

 

“She turned seven last October. Why?”

 

Kawasaki disease was a zebra. If it occurred at all, it generally didn’t occur with children over five. What if she was wrong? She scoured her notes again and a small arrow drew her attention. Of course.

 

“When did you say her fever started?”

 

“Yesterday morning.”

 

It didn’t fit Kawasaki disease. Aki could hit herself. She’d gotten carried away.

 

“Crow, I’m sorry, I was wrong. It’s scarlet fever.”

 

There was a glimpse of recognition on Crow’s face. He’d seen it before but never connected the name to the disease.

 

“She’s going to need antibiotics so get her to a doctor or a hospital as soon as you can. Keep her hydrated.”

 

Crow threw a significant look at the half-empty glass next to Kokoro. Aki laughed sheepishly. Right. This probably was far from the first time he’d cared for a child with a fever.

 

“Scarlet fever. Alright.” When Crow looked at the screen again, he looked slightly less pale than before. “Thanks, Aki. I’m going to need the phone now.”

 

“Oh, of course! Take care of her!” said Aki. It was a rushed goodbye, but Kokoro needed antibiotics soon.

 

“Thanks for the help, Aki,” Crow said, and this time he actually smiled. “You’ll be a good doctor.”

 

He ended the call, and Aki leaned back, breathing a sigh of relief. Had she really done anything to help Kokoro? Crow would’ve taken her to the hospital anyway, and a real doctor would’ve figured it out faster than she had. She’d almost been wrong. That was unacceptable.

 

And yet… She was sure she’d made the right diagnosis in the end. Instead of other people helping her, she’d been the one to help someone today. It was an amazing feeling. This was what she really wanted to do.

 

----

 

Two days later, she got an e-mail:

 

You were right it’s scarlet fever. Kokoro’s getting better. You’re a lifesaver Aki.

 

Aki smiled and looked at the poster with the single zebra on it. She sent a text message to Eva.

 

Do you guys want to go to the zoo next Saturday? My treat.

 

----

 

Second term brought an influx of new students with it, most of them foreigners who came to study one term at the university. Aki greeted them politely when she crossed them in the hallways, but for the most part didn’t try to make conversation.

 

On Saturday morning, she headed down to the laundry room, carrying her laundry basket with her and setting it on the ground with a heavy sigh. She had no idea how Crow and Martha managed to do this for several kids. At least she’d gotten rather good at doing it herself. With practiced ease, she started sorting out the pile of clothes and stuffing them in the machine. It was only when she’d added the detergent and was about to start the washer that she noticed someone looking at her.

 

Aki closed the washer and started it before looking back. It was one of the new students, a boy who was probably older than her, but the confused expression on his face made him look far younger than he was.

 

“Everything alright?” she asked.

 

He startled. “Ah, yes, I’m sorry for staring. It’s just…” His gaze fell on the laundry machines and he quickly looked away. Aki had a sudden flashback of herself in the same position. She smiled.

 

“Laundry, right? It is complicated.” She checked that her own machine was running properly and wandered over. “Here, try sorting everything by color first.”

 

The boy introduced himself as Thomas, and together they sorted out his laundry and got the machine started. He looked up gratefully.

 

“Thanks. I hadn’t really expected it to be this complicated. It’s not really what I came here to do.”

 

“I know the feeling,” Aki said fervently. She absently played with her deckholder. She’d planned to reorganize her deck while she waited for the laundry machine to finish.

 

“Do you duel?” Thomas asked, suddenly sounding far more cheerful.

 

“Yes, I do. You too?”

 

He nodded, enthusiasm barely contained. “Yeah, but I didn’t think I’d find anyone to duel against here!”

 

That gave Aki an idea. “We usually get together to duel every two weeks. Do you want to come along next time?”

 

“That’d be great!”

 

“Good. I’ll give you my phone number.”

 

Thomas walked away a great deal happier than he’d come in. Hard to believe that she’d been that way herself not too long ago. Aki shook her head. She’d find out how well he dueled soon, and in the meantime she had to prepare for classes. It was no hassle. After Kokoro, she was absolutely determined to learn as much as she could. Her psychic powers might be good enough for some immediate healing, but to really be able to help, she needed to study.

It was a burden she’d gladly bear.

 

----

 

“You’re Aki Izayoi!” Ivan accused when he entered the bar. Aki looked up from her duel with Thomas.

 

“… Yes?”

 

“Why did you never tell me?”

 

Aki was fairly sure she’d told him her name a long time ago. She looked at Thomas for help, but he just shrugged.

 

“He just discovered you were in the WRGP,” Eva said, entering the bar behind him.

 

“No wonder you were always beating me!” Ivan continued. “You’re a professional player! You won the WRGP!”

 

Technically it had been Yusei and Jack and Crow who’d won. She’d only participated once, as Crow’s replacement. Either way, she wasn’t very fond of digging up memories.

 

“That was last year,” she said as she summoned Black Rose Dragon. Thomas looked momentarily flummoxed, but managed to evade any damage with a well-placed Spirit Barrier. No matter. He had no more monsters on the field to protect him. She’d get him next turn.

 

Thomas drew and looked at his hand for a long time, before placing two cards facedown. “Why did you never become a professional duelist?” he asked. “Jack Atlus won the Pan-Asian tournament last November, didn’t he?”

 

“I like dueling,” Aki said. She smiled. “But I would much rather be a doctor.”

 

heleentje: (Default)
Story Title: The Nobility of Failure
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's
Rating: T
Characters: Fudou Yusei, Z-ONE
Word Count: 1389
Warnings/spoilers: Character death, spoilers for the end of 5D's
Notes: This takes none of the info of the staff's twitters into account. The destruction of the future takes place about 10-15 years after the main events of canon and puts a bit of a different spin on a big revelation in canon.
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's
Summary: Fudou Yusei does not fail. Therefore he is not Fudou Yusei.

Read more... )
heleentje: (Default)

The Nobility of Failure

 

Fudou Yusei doesn’t fail.

 

It was easy, a comforting fact that kept them all happy and alive. Fudou Yusei had saved them from the Ark Cradle and he would save them from the peril lurking in the future. Fudou Yusei would always be able to avert whatever danger they were facing.

 

Some things never change. Some things should never change.

 

They thought they’d succeeded. With the Ark Cradle gone, Neo Domino City was safe. And even though they’d had to make sacrifices they’d never wanted to make, in the end seeing the city flourishing was a reward all by itself. Of course, Yusei still had work to do. The specter of ZONE’s future still loomed heavily over them and it was his responsibility to avert it. That was why he’d gotten the permission to create the Fortune project. If he could change Momentum, he could change the future.

 

And it worked admirably. Fortune made the Momentum reactors more effective than ever and the city developed at a rate not seen since before Zero Reverse. He could make Bruno’s future a bright one. People were dueling everywhere now. The city was beautiful and safe and the people believed he’d always save them. After a while, Yusei even started believing it himself.

 

And then everything collapsed.

 

He wakes up in a dark room that smells of smoke, with no memory of how he got there and a persistent headache. For one horrible disorienting moment he thinks he’s trapped, but then he realizes that the smoke is coming from outside. The world is still on fire. The last thing he remembers is pain and helplessness, and the overwhelming desire to make it all better. Because that’s what he does, isn’t it?  Only he fai-

 

He catches a glimpse of himself in a large mirror shard and traces the edge of the metal surgically embedded in his skull. What does it mean? It doesn’t matter, because there’s screaming and he can see his D-Wheel right outside. That’s what he does, right? He saves people.

 

Yusei didn’t know how he survived. Maybe it was the Crimson Dragon, still looking out for him even though he wasn’t a Signer anymore. Maybe it was just dumb luck. Either way, when the building with the Fortune engine became the center of the chaos, Yusei was away for an out-of-town project. He returned immediately when the first reports came in, but by that time it was too late. Neo Domino was being destroyed before his very eyes. He’d failed to change the future. He’d failed to save-

 

Oh please no.

 

He headed into the city, desperately looking for survivors, but where Martha’s orphanage had been, there was only a burned out building, with cracked windows and stains that were too red for him to do anything but run away from.  

 

Outside it’s utter madness. After several days of destruction, the human race still proves itself to be resistant, and many people have armed themselves against the Machine Emperors. He manages to upgrade his D-Wheel himself, and sets out to save as many people as he can. When they see him, they regain hope. He has inspired so many people in the past, hasn’t he? But in the past he failed.

 

Can he fail?

 

It’s not right.

 

But he keeps failing, over and over again, sees hundreds die before his very eyes, and suddenly he knows. The metal. The memories that all blur together. It makes sense now.

 

Fudou Yusei cannot fail.

 

Therefore he is not Fudou Yusei.

 

Jack he found in the streets, only a few blocks away from Neo Domino’s newspaper corporation. He was barely alive when Yusei got there, and Yusei stayed with him, unable to do anything at all in the chaos that had overtaken the city. The Machine Emperors were real, and he couldn’t do anything against them. When Jack died, Yusei didn’t cry. Crying obscured your vision. Crying made you a target.

 

By an unhappy miracle, some news trickled in from Europe. Yusei would rather he’d never known at all. The city of London had been obliterated, first destroyed by the Machine Emperors and then flooded when the Thames Barrier broke. Rua and Ruka … He had no hope for them. Vaguely he hoped Aki had survived, but the whole of Europe was on fire. Yusei never found Crow. Only a collapsed building where he should have been.

 

He knew that one person had to have survived, though. The one person he’d purposely avoided the pro leagues for. He would still be out there.

 

It gives him a sense of peace. He can’t be Fudou Yusei, because Fudou Yusei would’ve saved the world already. He doesn’t know who he is, but he has vague memories of being a scientist, and he decides that it makes sense. Only a scientist would know how to change his appearance to Fudou Yusei’s. There are other memories in his head, but they make no sense and so he dismisses them. Where would he ever have seen a red dragon? Dragons don’t exist outside Duel Monsters.

 

If only he could save just a few people… He manages, once in a while. There’s a red-headed kid who looks vaguely familiar. The boy keeps crying for his parents, and he can’t take care of a child, so he drops him off with a resistance group that promises to take care of him.

 

He is driving through the barren remains of what was once one of the most beautiful places in the city when he spots a Machine Emperor bearing down on a lone figure in the distance. He spurs on his D-Wheel, but the Machine Emperor is already too close. He won’t make it in time.

 

And then he catches a glimpse of blue hair and he shoots.

 

It’s too far away, the shot shouldn’t hit, but somehow, every fiber of his body knows that this man has to live. So he watches as his shot, impossibly, impacts with the Machine Emperor and blows it away before it can kill-

 

Bruno

 

 -whoever it is. He comes to a stop at the edge of a cliff just as the man looks up, and he knows, even with the visor the man is wearing, that his eyes are gray. He has no idea why he wants this man, little more than a child, to live more than anyone else, but he does.

 

Somewhere out there, there were three people who would most certainly survive this horror and rather selfishly, Yusei admitted that he only really cared about one of them. Maybe he could find them. Though he wasn’t really supposed to survive, was he? Z-ONE hadn’t been him. He wouldn’t live to see the end of the world. In a way it was a relief.

 

Collapsing buildings were a hazard all over the city now, and Yusei didn’t hear the rumbling until it was already too late. When he woke up, it was with a large stone deeply embedded in his skull. It was keeping him alive, he realized. Without it he would’ve bled to death. It was so tempting to just pull it out, let himself die here and now, but no. He knew this place. One of the old science labs was just up ahead.

 

He was Fudou Yusei, and even though he’d failed before, if he managed to fix himself now he might just be able to fix the world.

 

“I’m Antinomy,” the man says, and for a second he feels a wave of wrongness, but it’s not like they’ve ever met before and Antinomy can call himself whatever he wants. He gently detaches Antinomy’s hand from his and walks towards his D-Wheel. Antinomy follows, as if afraid that he’d leave him behind. What a silly thing to be afraid of.

 

“Come on then, Bruno,” he says absentmindedly, and only stops when he notices Antinomy isn’t following anymore.

 

“How did you know my name?” Antinomy asks, wide-eyed, and he realizes that he has no idea. The name is there, in his mind, and he knows it’s right. Only he doesn’t know why.

 

“You’re,” Antinomy hesitates, “Fudou Yusei, aren’t you?”

 

“No,” he says, because he can’t be. There’s one more name in his head, and suddenly it all slots together perfectly. “No. My name is Z-ONE.”

heleentje: (Default)

Progression of Power

 

I.        Denial

 

28 August 2007 - Intercontinental flight Brussels - Kinshasa

 

“Mister?”

 

Johan looked up. There was a small girl standing next to his seat, looking rather put out.

 

“Yes?” he asked, dragging up the most cheerful smile he could manage.

 

“I want to sit by-” she said in broken English, then frowned and looked at her mother. “Het raam?”

 

“The window,” her mother replied.

 

Ja,” the girl said. “Yes, I want to sit there.”

 

“No problem,” Johan said quickly, getting up so he could switch places with the girl and her mother. It didn’t matter where he sat. In fact, he even preferred the aisle seat. He’d be able to get off the plane faster.

 

“Thanks. She loves looking at the clouds,” the child’s mother said once they’d all switched places.

 

“No problem,” Johan said again, sitting down and preparing to spend the entire flight in silence. The girl didn’t give him the chance, however.

 

“I am Liesje!” she said slowly, sticking out one small hand. “Who are you?”

 

“Johan,” he said quickly, and she repeated it in such a way that the ‘h’ almost disappeared. Her hand was warm and tiny in his. How could she be so cheerful?

 

Liesje smiled brilliantly and let go as a flight attendant passed by to remind everyone to fasten their seatbelts. She looked fascinated by the safety instructions the attendants gave and giggled as the plane took off, leaving Brussels in its wake.

 

“Bye bye België!” She waved as Belgium became little more than long rows of tiny lights beneath them. Soon enough she grew bored of the clouds, and out of the corner of his eyes Johan saw her fish out a tiny bottle of candy out of her mother’s purse. Her mother, engrossed in the book she was reading, didn’t notice.

 

He closed his eyes. Where was Amethyst now? From the second they’d first met, they’d always had a connection, but now it was gone. The other Gem Beasts had told them they still felt her, and that they felt something strange coming from Kinshasa, but he didn’t have a single thing to go on. His family was broken and he’d been utterly powerless to stop it.

 

The events of the night before kept replaying themselves in his head, like a movie he couldn’t turn off. Whatever was attacking Juudai had tried to hurt him, and Amethyst had taken the hit for him instead. And then she was gone, disappeared without a trace. If only he’d been stronger… If only he had powers like Juudai. He could’ve protected her. The frustration and anger was almost tangible, almost breaking the dam holding it in, and he was surprised that it hadn’t burst yet. How much more could he take? Oh, if only there was something he could do.

 

But no, he was just an ordinary kid. For a moment, he felt a wave of irrational hatred towards Juudai, who could so easily protect the ones he loved. He had nothing. Whatever powers Yubel claimed she saw in him, he had no access to them. It wasn’t something that would happen to him. He was too ordinary to ever possess the gifts Juudai did.

 

“Johan, I swear we’ll find her,” Sapphire Pegasus whispered. Johan opened his eyes to see the horse standing in the middle of the aisle, invisible to the other passengers. A flight attendant walked right through him and he pulled a face that Johan would’ve found comical in any other situation.

 

“I don’t know what to do,” he muttered. Liesje’s mother glanced up for a second, but decided that her book was more interesting. Liesje was still eating candy, though now at a noticeably slower pace.

 

“We’ll find her,” Sapphire Pegasus promised. Johan saw they were thinking the exact same thing: not finding her was not an option. No matter how long it took, and no matter how far they had to go or what they had to do, they would find her.  

 

The screen in the back of the seat in front of him showed that they were now flying over France and veering towards the east. Their destination was still several hours away. He closed his eyes and felt Sapphire Pegasus disappear again. At least he was still there, a comforting presence at the back of his mind. But without Amethyst Cat it felt wrong. His mind didn’t feel like his own anymore, and he was tired, so tired…

 

He had to have dozed off for a few minutes, but when he woke up again, it was to commotion and frantic shouts of “Liesje!” followed by a lot of words in a language that he didn’t understand. He didn’t need to. Panic was a language he understood all too well.

 

“What’s going on?” he asked, immediately wide awake.

 

“Johan, the girl,” Cobalt Eagle whispered from some point behind him. He didn’t need more information. Liesje was unconscious and breathing irregularly, and her mother’s best attempts to shake her awake proved useless. Johan immediately went for the alarm button above his seat.

 

“What happened?” he asked, once, twice, thrice before Liesje’s mother stopped calling her daughter’s name long enough to tell him.

 

“My sleeping pills,” she almost cried, and Johan paled as he saw the bottle he’d seen Liesje steal, now nearly empty. “She ate them all!”

 

He jumped out of the way when a flight attendant came hurrying down the aisle. The woman took one look at the situation and immediately called for reinforcements, as curious onlookers were trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

 

“Make her vomit!” someone was saying, a suggestion immediately shot down by Liesje’s mother.

 

“She’s unconscious, you idiots! She’ll suffocate!”

 

The other passengers were getting up, trying to catch a glimpse, and several more flight attendants tried to herd them back to their seats. Someone was calling for an emergency landing. But Johan had long stopped listening.

 

He’d seen her take the bottle, he realized, white spots dancing in front of his eyes. He clutched the armrest. He could’ve stopped her. He should’ve seen it wasn’t candy. He should’ve known and now the child was going to die. He felt it, could feel her breathing grow weaker and weaker with every passing second. They wouldn’t land in time. They wouldn’t find help. She would die.

 

Another family torn apart.

 

And it was all-

 

His.

 

Fault.

 

And the dam holding in all his anger, all his frustration and despair, burst.

 

He wasn’t Johan anymore. He was a being of power, pure power flooding through every cell in his body. And he must have been screaming, only he wasn’t making any noise but he didn’t need to. He knew words. Words that said no and not again and Amethyst and live!

 

“Out of my way,” he said – did he say it? It didn’t matter. He pushed past the obstacles. The girl would live. He knew he could make her better again. The last obstacle was resisting, wasn’t letting him close, but he was so much stronger. Was it malicious? Was it trying to stop him? No time now. There was a child, and the child was dying.

 

And then it was so easy to just touch her, find the source of her illness and chase it out, then eradicate it like he would eradicate whatever had taken Amethyst. The girl had to live. No more broken bonds, no more destroyed families. The girl lived because he wouldn’t ever face any other alternative.

 

“Johan, calm down!”

 

His family. They were here too, and he had to protect them. He’d already failed once. He couldn’t fail again.

 

“Johan, she’s fine, let it go.” There was a soothing voice and gentle prodding at the back of his mind. Emerald Turtle.

 

It was as if something snapped back in place. Johan slowly opened his eyes and stared in amazement at the bright light running from his hands over Liesje. The girl was still unconscious, but breathing normally now. Her face, once white as snow, was regaining some of its normal color.

 

“What happened?” he whispered, before being roughly pushed aside by Liesje’s mother; She took one look at her daughter, then rounded on Johan, her face streaked with tears.

 

“I don’t know who you are, or what you did, but thank you,” she said, voice cracking. “You saved her life. Thank you so much.”

 

“No problem,” Johan said shakily. He let her pass him and sank down in his own seat under the incredulous stares of the flight attendants. More passengers were trying to see why the commotion had suddenly died down, but at least no one else seemed to have witnessed his little display.

 

“What happened?” he asked again, the question directed only at the Gem Beasts. Ruby curled around his shoulder and nuzzled his cheek.

 

“I think,” Sapphire Pegasus said, sounding just as shaken as he did, “that that was the power Yubel was talking about.”

 

 

II.      Anger

 

08 September 2007 - Bergen

 

It was raining. After everything that had happened, that only seemed fitting to Johan. He smiled with grim satisfaction as he made his way through the streets of Bergen. There were very few people outside, and no one spared him a second glance as he followed the familiar roads to his house, jacket slung over his shoulder even though the rain was soaking him to the bone. Too much had happened. He had completely lost track of Amethyst, Athena had been no help whatsoever, and worst of all, it was now clear that he was  losing contact with the members of his family one by one. Right now he could only maintain the connection to Amber Mammoth and Ruby. How was he supposed to solve all this?

 

He closed his eyes against the surge of anger welling up. Why him anyway? This was Juudai’s job. His family wasn’t supposed to get involved. He wasn’t supposed to get involved. The strange light powers running through him were making him uneasy, throwing his mind in a constant state of chaos. What was he supposed to do with them? Light and Darkness were enemies, so did that mean he had to fight Juudai? He shook his head so vehemently that a passing woman threw him a strange look. Never. He would never.

 

You will lose them if you don’t.

 

He shook his head again, just to get rid of a voice that couldn’t be his own. Juudai was his best friend. No amount of light or darkness would change that.

 

She will be destroyed. It will be your fault.

 

“No!” he said out loud. Ruby made a soft noise that was probably meant to be reassuring. Johan passed a school and turned a corner. He couldn’t let Amethyst be destroyed. He’d do whatever it took-

 

“Give it back!”

 

Johan stopped to watch the scene in front of him. Two kids, both of them no older than thirteen, and one spirit, unnoticed by either of them. A Feral Imp, Johan saw. It had been a while since he’d last met one, but he remembered them as cheerful monsters. Not this one, though. It looked at him, eyes wide and fearful, and Johan immediately realized why.

 

Its owner was on the ground, begging the other boy to return the card. The other boy only laughed and held up the card, slowly bending it. Johan could almost see a tear appearing in the cardboard.  

 

He saw white. There was a card, and that card housed a spirit, and that spirit was going to be killed.

 

“Stop it,” he said, voice only barely louder than the falling rain. The boy holding the card didn’t react.

 

“Stop it,” he said again, louder this time. The boy looked up. He didn’t look all that impressed by someone who could only be a few years older than himself.

 

“What’s your problem?” he demanded. His victim looked on the verge of tears, but Johan didn’t pay attention.

 

“Give the card back.” He struggled to keep his voice level. Ruby chirped a low reassurance, but it didn’t help.

 

“It’s none of your business,” the kid said, casually tossing up the card and catching it again. The Feral Imp, helplessly tied to it, cried out in fear.                

 

“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Johan said coldly. “Give the card back now.”

 

“Make me,” the kid said. Johan took a deep breath. His duel disk was in his bag, but he didn’t need it. Didn’t want it. The Feral Imp cried again, but Johan didn’t see it anymore. Instead there was Amethyst, tied down and being engulfed by that thing - Chaos-   

 

She will be destroyed. You cannot save her.    

 

It took only a few seconds to cross the distance between him and the children, and the first punch made the bully hit the ground hard. Johan picked him up and pushed him back against the wall.

 

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” he hissed. “Murderer. You’re nothing but a murderer.”

 

“Let me go!” The boy dropped the card, and his victim quickly snatched it up, then backed away. Johan paid him no attention. He knew people like this kid and he knew what they’d become. They would continue to torment innocent beings, destroy them and destroy the bonds they had with their friends.

 

With their family.

 

Just because they thought it was fun.

 

“You disgust me.” He closed his eyes, only to find the world brighter when he opened them again. He caught his own reflection in a nearby window and wasn’t even surprised when he saw silver. Light. Of course. Maybe it could actually be useful for once.

 

“Johan, he’s just a child!” Sapphire Pegasus tried to reason. Johan didn’t listen.  

 

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you right here.”

 

“Johan, stop!” Sapphire Pegasus shouted. Johan spared him a quick glance.

 

“People like him tried to steal you and Topaz. People like him took Amethyst! They have no right-”

 

The child’s eyes widened in fear when he saw the white glow that had enveloped him. There was a loud crack as one of the pavement stones broke under the onslaught of power.

 

“Please stop…” a tiny voice pleaded. The other child gave him a scared look, the Feral Imp card clutched safely against his chest. “Please stop. He doesn’t deserve that.”

 

For a second, Johan saw himself through the eyes of both children: a monster. It was enough for him to release the kid he was holding. The children ran off in opposite directions, and Johan sat down and buried his head in his hands. The rain was still falling, but he hardly felt it. It sizzled out before it touched him, evaporated by the white glow surrounding him. He suddenly hated the Light with everything he had.

 

“Johan, are you alright?” Cobalt Eagle asked tentatively. Johan shook his head.

 

“I would’ve killed him. I wanted to kill him so badly.” He absently traced the crack in the pavement. His fault. The Light could only destroy. “He was only a child.”

 

“You’re not yourself right now,” Sapphire Pegasus said.

 

“No, I am!” Johan laughed. It was not a happy laugh. “Don’t you see? It was all me.  He deserved to be punished, but I shouldn’t have…”

 

“A death for a death is never the answer.” Sapphire Pegasus scraped his hoof against the pavement. “But you didn’t kill anyone. No one died. The spirit is safe, thanks to you, and that kid will never do anything like this again.”

 

“All I do is cause destruction.” Johan got up. He wanted to go home so badly. He wanted to make everything right again, and he couldn’t even do that. It was so completely unfair. Was this really who he was? Would he really have to be like this to get Amethyst back?

 

“It will be fine,” Cobalt Eagle said.

 

Johan tried his hardest to believe that.           

 

 

III.               Bargaining

 

10 September 2007 - Bergen International Airport

 

“Do you really think Jim will be able to help?” Topaz Tiger asked, glaring as they passed the security agent who had insisted that Johan take off his deckholder before going through the metal detector at their boarding gate. Johan had almost refused, and only handed over his deck with extreme reluctance. He’d barely managed to stop himself from panicking when the scanning machine didn’t give back his family as fast as he wanted it to. As an internationally known duelist, he usually had little trouble with security, but the scans were unusually stringent today. All worth it, though, if it would get them back Amethyst. And he hoped Jim could bring them one step closer to finding her.

 

“He knows more about geology than I do,” Johan said. “Perhaps it’ll help us find her.”

 

That wasn’t the only reason he had for searching out Jim. After Juudai, Jim was one of his closest human friends, and he knew he could count on the Australian to keep a level head. He needed someone who could think of a logical course of action, because he couldn’t do it himself anymore, and Juudai wasn’t an option.

 

Speaking of Juudai… Johan fished his cell phone out of his backpack with some difficulty. Several messages, like he’d expected. Juudai hadn’t stopped trying to call and text him, and while Johan read every message, he never replied. If he did, the temptation to see Juudai again would be too great, and right now he was far too dangerous for Juudai.

 

Light and Darkness are destined enemies. Why fight fate?

 

Was it the Light itself trying to change his mind? Whatever it was, Johan refused to listen. It didn’t matter if they were supposed to be enemies. Juudai was his best friend, and nothing was going to change that.

 

And what if it’s the only way to get her back?

 

Johan swallowed. The choice was terrible, but so incredibly easy. For all he loved Juudai, the Gem Beasts would always come first. However much the idea of having to hurt Juudai pained him, if he had to choose between him and the Gem Beasts, he’d attack without hesitation. He only hoped it would never come to that.

 

He hurried past several tax-free shops - overpriced things he would never have any need for - and arrived at his gate just as the plane started boarding. He was cutting it close; the security checks had taken longer than expected. He followed a family of four onto the plane and quickly found his seat next to the window. There was a pillow that was far too small to do anything but get in the way, and a blanket that could probably power the overhead reading light with all the static electricity it generated. Johan discarded both and pulled his jacket closer around him. Times like these, he really envied Juudai for his teleportation powers. It would make his search a lot easier. But Juudai was not an option, would never be an option until he either got rid of the Light or learned to control it. At least with the plane taking off he had an excuse not to look at Juudai’s messages.

 

He sighed and Cobalt Eagle appeared, perched precariously on the seat in front of him. Johan cast a quick look around, but no one seemed to have noticed the giant eagle sitting in the middle of the plane. He sighed in relief. While seeing spirits wasn’t exactly a common gift, in a plane with a few hundreds on board, one or two were bound to have the ability and not everyone reacted well to it.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Two weeks ago, Cobalt Eagle could’ve easily told him telepathically, but now they could only talk like this. Another trick of the Light? Whatever it was, he wanted to get rid of it, in whatever way possible.

 

“You know Amethyst isn’t in Australia, right?”

 

Johan laughed bitterly. “No, I don’t. How could I? I haven’t known where she is since-” He didn’t finish the sentence. Cobalt Eagle understood him perfectly well anyway. “I don’t even know if she’s still alive or not.”

 

“She is.” Cobalt Eagle sounded completely sure. “We told you that she’s alive. We don’t know exactly where she is either, but she’s alive. It wouldn’t make sense for her not to be.”

 

“How do you figure?”

 

“She’s bait,” Cobalt Eagle said with a bluntness Johan usually would’ve expected from Topaz Tiger. “As long as she’s alive, Chaos knows we will come, and,” here he hesitated for a second, “it knows Juudai will try to follow.”

 

“He can’t!”

 

“You know he will.” Cobalt Eagle cast a meaningful look at Johan’s cell phone, which he hadn’t put away yet. Johan had to acknowledge the truth in the eagle’s words. If Juudai hadn’t stopped trying to reach him after several days without a reply, he wouldn’t stop trying to help him either. Juudai was nothing if not stubborn.

 

“He still shouldn’t.” It sounded weak even to Johan’s ears. As if he would ever be able to tell Juudai what to do. If only, for once in his life, he would take a hint and stay away. He didn’t want to choose.

 

But you will, you will, you will.

 

And yes, he would. If he had to, he would choose and he would always choose Amethyst. He’d do anything to get her back.

 

To save a cat, you’d kill a king.

 

His life would be so much easier if the voices in his head weren’t actually right.

 

                                  

IV.    Depression

 

09 October 2007 - Bergen

 

It had to have happened before, Johan thought, but this was the first time he actually noticed it. He spent two minutes staring dumbly at the cut in his finger and the way the Light danced around it without actually doing something. Then he rinsed off the blood, made sure the cut didn’t start bleeding again, and left the kitchen. It was no use putting on a band-aid. The cut would heal by itself and he didn’t want to deal with any of the awkward questions that would undoubtedly come.

 

Juudai was in the living room, watching a movie Johan had seen before. He was squinting at the screen, as if that would miraculously make him understand Norwegian. Johan had asked him about it once, and Juudai had told him he couldn’t understand TV or newspapers in the same way that he understood people. The papers and TV sets possessed no mind for him to read.

 

“I can do it through other people, though,” he’d said. “As long as someone nearby sees it and understands it, I can too.”

 

Indeed, when Johan entered the room, Juudai’s face suddenly cleared up and he stared at the TV with renewed interest. Hane Kuriboh, sleeping in his lap, shifted slightly and opened one eye as Johan sat down. He made sure to keep his cut hand out of sight.

 

“Where’s Yubel?” Johan didn’t need to ask about the Gem Beasts. He hadn’t lost track of any of them since they’d found Amethyst again. Right now she was sleeping in the backyard, with Ruby  between her front paws.

 

“Yubel’s looking over the area with Cobalt Eagle.” Johan clenched his hands. Juudai grimaced and said: “I know, I don’t want them to be out there either. But Yubel insisted that Chaos can get to them just as easily in here as outside, and you have to admit that she has a point.”

 

“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

 

“No, I don’t either.” Juudai ran his fingers through the feathers of Hane Kuriboh’s wings. “But they’re almost back at the house. Yubel just told me.”

 

Johan smiled. “Alright. I’m going to make dinner.” He turned on his heels and ignored Juudai’s sputtering as the movie once again became incomprehensible for him.

 

“Johan! I wanted to know how it ended!”

 

“He ends up all alone.” Johan closed the kitchen door behind him, but not before hearing Juudai’s angry complaint. He’d have to deal.

 

“That wasn’t very nice.”

 

Johan looked at where Yubel was sitting on the windowsill, toying with the knife he’d cut himself with earlier. When Juudai had said she was almost home, he hadn’t been kidding. Johan raised his eyebrows. “Neither is sneaking up on people.”

 

“I didn’t sneak up on you. You just need to watch your back.” Yubel said. A year ago, it would  have been an threat, but now her words lacked heat. Funny how Juudai had a gift for making the most unlikely people get along. Of course, that weird connection they shared also helped.

 

Johan let it drop. “So why are you here, and not with Juudai?”

 

Yubel held up the knife, as if that explained everything. Johan realized, with a sense of resignation, that it actually did.

 

“You hurt yourself.”

 

“Yeah.” It was no use lying to Yubel when she felt all the pain he did. “It’s okay now, though. It’s healed.”

 

Yubel gave him a long look. Johan refused to show her his hand. He was pretty sure she noticed, but if she did, she didn’t say anything about it.

 

“The cat will be fine,” Yubel said eventually, just as the silence went from awkward to oppressive. “She’s strong enough to recover from whatever Chaos did to her.”

 

“She will be,” Johan agreed. “No thanks to me, though.”

 

That last part was mumbled, but Yubel caught it anyway.

 

“Are you always this hard on yourself? You really think you didn’t save her?”

 

Johan fought the urge to just walk out on her. “I didn’t save her, did I? If you hadn’t used Take Flight-“

 

“A card you gave me in the first place,” Yubel said. Johan ignored her.

 

“If you hadn’t used Take Flight, she would’ve been killed. And even though she’s still alive, what about all those people? What about Mihir and Chandran and Jiya? They’re dead, and it’s because of me.”

 

“Chaos killed them, not you,” said Yubel. “It was brutal and cruel, but it was not your fault. There was no way anyone could have prevented it.”

 

“If I hadn’t been there-”

 

“It might have still done so anyway. Don’t you see how it works? It does whatever it feels like doing, and nothing or no one can change its mind.”

 

Wasn’t that a cheerful thought? Johan looked out of the window and saw Amethyst Cat and Ruby Carbuncle, both asleep, with Ruby cradled between Amethyst’s front paws. From here, he could just see the long cut that ran over Amethyst’s chest and disappeared under the crystal she wore there. It had started healing, but despite his best efforts he wasn’t sure if he could prevent it from turning into a scar. Healing the cut took much more effort than healing ordinary wounds, and he didn’t know if it was because she was a spirit, because Chaos had inflicted it, or both.

 

 “So if no one can stop it, how do we even fight it?”

 

Yubel shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s far more powerful than me or you, or even Juudai. We don’t know what it wants, what its purpose is, or what it’s going to do next.”

 

“So we just hope for a miracle.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Johan waited for Yubel to elaborate, but she didn’t. Instead she just handed the knife back to him, handle first.

 

“Be careful with those things. Some wounds take a long time to heal.”

 

Johan shrugged, taking the knife from her and tossing it in the sink in one movement. “I’m supposed to be good at healing.”

 

“You better make sure you’re good at it,” Yubel said, getting up and walking towards the living room. “If you get hurt, Juudai will be sad, and I don’t like people who make him sad.” She paused for a second in the door opening. “I’m starting to like you, Johan. Don’t make me change my mind.”

 

And with that she swept out of the room, leaving Johan with a half-prepared meal, a throbbing finger, and the knowledge that now there was one more person he’d inevitably end up disappointing.

 

V.      Acceptance

 

3 February 2008 - Dark World

 

“I didn’t think it could be benevolent, you know,” Johan said conversationally as he righted the leg of the little girl and healed it in one smooth movement. Juudai, who had been relegated to just watching after being too enthusiastic and dropping several pots and plates, nodded.

 

“Yeah, I kind of figured.”

 

“Be careful with that leg, don’t run around too much,” Johan told the girl, then, in the same breath, “From what I’d heard and seen, the Light was, well, evil. And I spent most of my time blowing up things. Do we have any aspirin left?”

 

“In my bag. And yeah, with Chaos talking to you and everything…” Juudai tossed him a box of aspirin and Johan passed it on to the little girl’s mother, a woman called Eldeen. This was a village that had escaped mostly unscathed from Haou Juudai’s reign of destruction, and therefore relatively safe for Juudai to be in. Not that they wouldn’t be able to fend off any attackers, but they were here to make the place better, not worse.

 

“I didn’t even realize it was Chaos at the time. I figured it was the Light of Ruin. It just kept taunting me and telling me I wouldn’t be able to get Amethyst back if I didn’t turn on you. It seemed like something the Light would do.”

 

“Not really,” said Yubel. She landed next to Juudai. The little girl looked slightly scared, but her mother put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “It would’ve made you think you were making your own choice, without outside influence. Probably wouldn’t have been so obvious about it.”

 

Johan shrugged good-naturedly. “Point taken. It’s not like I ever had much experience with it. I just listen to what you guys tell me.” He turned to Eldeen. “Use it if the fever returns. She should be fine now, but keep it just in case.”

 

“Thank you,” she said. The child slowly tried to put weight on her leg and smiled brilliantly when the expected pain didn’t come. “Don’t run!” Johan shouted after her and smiled when she ignored his words completely and ran off, Eldeen right behind her. He stretched. They’d had a long day. This was the third village on their journey, and just a few days before they’d arrived, a collapsing house had hit a number of people. Most of the wounds had been superficial, and the villagers had already taken care of them themselves, but a few others had needed more treatment. The girl whose leg Johan had just healed had been running a high fever.

 

“So how about now? Better?” Juudai asked.

 

“Yeah, it feels a lot more natural now.” To demonstrate, Johan made a small sphere of light, the same way Juudai often did. I think it started flowing better once I decided to stop fighting it. Still-”

 

“Still what?”

 

“It’s certainly useful, but I can only be in one place at once, you know. And I’m no doctor.” Johan frowned. “There are only so many people I can help, and it’s never enough.”

 

“Too small a scale for you?” Juudai teased. Johan shrugged, embarrassed.

 

“A bit, yeah. I mean, you’re the force of creation. Healing one person at a time kind of pales in comparison. I keep thinking that that can’t be it.”

 

“Obviously it isn’t,” Yubel said. She shared a smile with Juudai, and both looked at him with identical, smug expressions.

 

“Enlighten me,” Johan said. In his mind irritation was fighting a furious battle with fondness for the two of them. Fondness was winning.

 

Juudai and Yubel laughed again, but Juudai took pity on him: “Me and Yubel were talking about the same thing a while ago, and we have a theory. Remember when you told me how you wanted to connect humans and spirits?”

 

Johan remembered. That had been before he’d found Rainbow Dragon, before Yubel and Chaos and the Light of Hope. It seemed a lifetime ago now.

 

“Well, connecting things is kind of like healing something that was broken, right? So maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

 

“Not only can you heal people, but you can also heal the bonds between them,” Yubel said, then, with a smile, “Good enough for you?”

 

Johan considered it. It did make sense, and at least he would have the means to fulfill his dream. “I think I can live with it.”

 

“So are you going to be okay?” Juudai asked. He didn’t try to hide the worry in his voice, and even if he did, it probably would have been useless. They all knew each other far too well.

 

“I think so. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, though,” Johan said as Topaz Tiger wandered over to where they were sitting and sat down on his haunches. He looked at the three of them, trying to pick up the thread of the conversation.

 

Juudai smiled a smile that wasn’t exactly bitter, but by no means happy either. “I think your crimes kind of pale in comparison to ours.” He looked out at the horizon, eyes shadowed, and Johan didn’t need telepathy to know what he was seeing.

 

“That’s why we’re here,” he said gently. “We can help these people now. It won’t change what you did, but we can make the world a slightly better place for them.”

 

Juudai’s smile tilted a bit more towards the happy side, and Johan smiled in return. Yubel gave him a considering look.

 

“So, with all the healing you’ve been doing, how about yourself?”

 

“He’s doing a lot better since he got out of the hospital,” Topaz Tiger said, but Johan knew that wasn’t what she meant. He grinned at her.

 

“Why don’t you see for yourself?”

 

“With pleasure,” And lightning-fast, before Topaz Tiger could interfere, Yubel raked her claws over his right arm, leaving four lines of blood in her wake. Topaz Tiger let out an outraged cry that would surely alert the other Gem Beasts, but Juudai just sat back with a calm smile. Johan took a moment to prod at the marks and feel the sting of them, and then watched with Juudai and Yubel as bright sparks of light danced around the cuts, erasing them neatly and leaving only rapidly drying blood in their wake. Johan looked up.

 

“You know what? I think I’m going to be just fine.”

 

 

heleentje: (Default)

Story Title: Lineage of Destruction
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, 10th Anniversary Movie
Rating: T
Characters: Paradox
Word Count: 2,266
Warnings/spoilers: Mild spoilers for the end of 5D's and the 10th Anniversary Movie
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise
Summary: Changing the world is easy in theory. It becomes far more difficult when the world doesn't want to be changed.


Lineage of Destruction )

 

heleentje: (Default)

Mirror Mirror:

 

An analysis of Johan Andersen as a reflection for Yuuki Juudai and Yubel, and Yubel’s hatred for him

 

This essay contains unmarked spoilers for all four Yu-Gi-Oh series. For simplicity’s sake, I will be referring to Yubel with female pronouns. Episode numbers are preceded by DM for Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters, GX for Yu-Gi-Oh GX, 5D’s for Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s, and ZX for Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal.

 

 

Mirror Mirror )

 

heleentje: (Default)

Mirror Mirror:

 

An analysis of Johan Andersen as a reflection for Yuuki Juudai and Yubel, and Yubel’s hatred for him

 

This essay contains unmarked spoilers for all four Yu-Gi-Oh series. For simplicity’s sake, I will be referring to Yubel with female pronouns. Episode numbers are preceded by DM for Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters, GX for Yu-Gi-Oh GX, 5D’s for Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s, and ZX for Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal.

 

Johan Andersen, the champion of North School, is a mystery. Even though he is the main catalyst for the events of the latter half of season three, very little is actually known about him. He is first mentioned by Amon Garam, as the ‘mystery man’ who should be on board of the cruise ship to Duel Academia but is nowhere to be seen (GX 106). It is never explained why he wasn’t present on the ship, and this isn’t the only question surrounding him. Why did he and Juudai feel like they met before? If Johan is a Chosen One, what is he the Chosen One of? And last but not least, why does Yubel hate him far more than any of Juudai’s older friends? None of these questions are ever answered, but I feel like I can at least take a stab at answering the last one. Johan mirrors certain qualities in both Juudai and Yubel, and precisely because so little is known about him, it makes those mirror aspects stand out all the more. There, to me, lies the reason for Yubel’s hatred.

 

1.Yuuki Juudai

 

Comparisons between Juudai and Johan are unavoidable. They are very similar, and indeed, those similarities are pointed out more than once by several characters.

 

Edo (referring to Juudai and Johan): “Looks like we have another dueling moron.”

- GX 107 –

 

Shou: “Jeez… The similar ones [Juudai and Johan] hang out with each other…”

Juudai/Johan (in unison): “Huh? What’s wrong, Shou?”

- GX 110 -

 

What makes them alike is their passion for dueling, their ability to see duel spirits and the way they consider them as close friends or family. They are both incredibly talented duelists whose lives revolve around the game. Initially, this is far more the case for Johan than for Juudai. Without Duel Monsters, it can be assumed that Johan would have no family. For Juudai, Duel Monsters gives him more friends, a weapon to fight with, and eventually the person he promised to love.

 

Then there’s obsession, a trait they both share with Yubel. Johan’s obsession seems mostly harmless. He wants to find Rainbow Dragon, and when he finally gets the chance to obtain it, he leaves his friends behind to retrieve it, even though they are currently under attack (GX 128-129). While this would be a bad move in any other situation, the characters already know that they’ll need Rainbow Dragon to return to their own dimension. Yet I’m still inclined to call it obsession, since even if Rainbow Dragon hadn’t been necessary for their return, there’s a big chance that he still would have abandoned the rest of the school to get it. However, this all pales in comparison to Juudai, who plunges into danger without a second thought and ends up being responsible for the death of several of his friends because of his obsession with finding Johan. It’s a dangerous obsession, that leads to him losing his grip on himself and becoming a mass-murderer. Here, Johan is the object of Juudai’s obsession, and of course, in the same arc Juudai himself is the object of someone else’s obsession.

 

2.       Yubel

 

Much has been made about the fact that Yubel targeted Johan above any of Juudai’s older friends. At first glance, this is indeed weird. Why does she feel much more threatened by a boy who Juudai has known for about two months than by all the people who he’s known for so much longer? In this section, I want to try to formulate an answer. My position on this matter is as follows: Yubel considered Johan as the biggest threat because he was the one who most resembled her.

 

To explain this, I will touch on various factors, but first I will return to obsession. As mentioned before, obsession is a trait that all the three characters discussed in this essay share. Yubel is obsessed with acquiring Juudai’s love for herself, and spends most of season three trying to eliminate the obstacles she perceives. And the biggest obstacle? Johan.

This too is obsession. She is obsessed with hating Johan, in a way that seems mostly irrational. While Johan does claim the title of ‘Juudai’s best friend’ (GX 130), this alone does not seem to warrant the deep hatred she feels for him. And so obsession is one thing they already have in common.

 

Another factor is love. Yubel is defined by two things: her love for Juudai, and, stemming from that, her hatred for anyone who tries to come between them. This makes up most of her character for season three. Although the hatred later disappears, her love for Juudai remains a defining characteristic throughout the rest of the series.

Johan too is defined by love. When we meet him, we are immediately introduced to the Gem Beasts, who Johan calls his family and evidently loves dearly. It is tempting to say that Johan would not go to the same lengths to protect his loved ones as Yubel did, but I would argue against this. As shown in his duel with Giese (GX 115-116), Johan shows no qualms about confronting anyone who tries to harm his family. While it can be argued that Johan did not know that Giese would die when he lost, he shows no regret over his death either. He shows a very protective kind of love, and it is clear that the Gem Beasts reciprocate this, both towards him and towards each other.

 

Amethyst Cat: “I won’t show any mercy to those who make Johan suffer!”

- GX 107 -

 

Johan: “I won’t forgive you. I’ll defeat you, and take Sapphire Pegasus back!”

- GX 115 -

 

His love for the Gem Beasts, at least at this point, far transcends his loyalty for Juudai. Even though Juudai is suffering from the aftermath of his own duel with professor Satou, and clearly in no shape to be on his own, Johan abandons him straight away when the Gem Beasts are in danger.

 

Closely tied with love is loyalty. Of course, Yubel’s loyalty is immense and crosses the boundaries of several lifetimes. This, at least, Johan cannot compete with. Nevertheless, Johan has shown great loyalty to the Gem Beasts, as outlined above, but also to Juudai, and Yubel is certain to have noticed this. When Juudai faces Yubel in the Desert World, Johan chooses to fight with Juudai to save the rest of the school. His motivations here are probably not entirely selfless: he had, after all, recently acquired Rainbow Dragon and was itching for the chance to use it in a duel. Nevertheless, he is still very loyal to Juudai. When he catches word of the mysterious disappearances at Duel Academia (GX 172) he immediately travels from Europe to Japan. He’s also fully prepared to risk his life for Juudai, not just during the tag duel against Yubel, where losing means becoming a Duel Zombie (GX 129-130), but also in the Battle Royale versus Fujiwara, where the loser is assimilated by Darkness (GX 175-176).

 

Which leads us to the topic of sacrifice. Unlike a lot of typical protagonists in a shounen series, Juudai isn’t very sacrifice-happy. Whereas Yuugi gives up his soul to save the Pharaoh from the Orichalcos seal (DM 158), Yuusei is willing die to reverse the negative Momentum (5D’s 151), and Yuuma takes several hits for Shark during their tag duel (ZX 12), Juudai isn’t all that keen on making grand sacrifices. In fact, right before he fuses with Yubel he even tells Shou that he doesn’t plan on sacrificing himself (GX 155).

 

Shou: “Juudai, you can’t! No matter what happens, you can’t sacrifice yourself for us!”

Juudai: “What? No, it’s not like that. I don’t intend to sacrifice myself for you guys.”

- GX 155 –

 

However, Yubel and Johan are there to pick up the slack for him. They’re both shown to jump at the chance to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Yubel gives up her human form and chooses to undergo incredibly painful and invasive surgery to protect Juudai. While Johan never goes through such a thing, he does sacrifice himself on two separate occasions. The first time, he stays behind to return Duel Academia and its students to their home dimension (GX 130). While undoubtedly a noble sacrifice, its consequences are severe. His disappearance causes Juudai to become obsessed with finding him, which leads to him eventually committing genocide. Yet Johan isn’t to blame for this, as he probably hadn’t expected to survive, let alone be possessed by Yubel. His goal was to become the bridge between spirits and humans (GX 116), and in a sense he had done so, by bridging the gap between the worlds.

 

Johan: “My goal [is] to become the bridge connecting humans to spirits.”

- GX 116 –

 

Johan: “Rainbow Dragon… Fly! Become everyone’s bridge!”

- GX 130 –

 

A couple of months later, when only Juudai and Johan are left standing against Fujiwara, Johan sacrifices himself again, negating an attack that would finish off Juudai at the cost of his own life points. He does so knowing full well that losing the duel means disappearing from the face of the earth, yet goes ahead with it anyway and gives up his life to protect Juudai’s.

 

The last similarity between them is far less noticeable than the previous ones, yet still noteworthy. Whereas Juudai is the incarnation of Gentle Darkness, both Yubel and Johan are connected to a form of Light. In Yubel’s case this is the Light of Ruin, which possessed her when she was sent into space and drove her mad, leading to her actions in season three.

 

Yubel: “There were many different waves in space.”

Juudai: “The cards I made took on the righteous dark waves of the Neospacians, and were given new powers.”

Yubel: “Yes. But a much more powerful and ominous wave of Light befell my capsule and granted me power.”

- GX 153 -

 

In Johan’s case, the connection is much less obvious… That is, until you look at his deck. The Gem Beasts symbolize the seven traditionally accepted colors of the rainbow, and when light hits raindrops, the light refracts to form a rainbow.

As mentioned above, Johan’s wish is to become the bridge that connects spirits and humans. In history and mythology, rainbows have often symbolized bridges, and one of the most famous rainbow bridges is Bifröst, the bridge that connects Asgard, the realm of the Norse gods, and Midgard, where the humans live. The bridge is guarded by Heimdall, described in the Edda as ‘the white As’ (‘As’ here refers to the Æsir, the best-known group of Norse gods).[1] Since it is commonly accepted that North School lies in Scandinavia, and Bifröst features heavily in Norse mythology, this gives rise to some interesting parallels. Yubel and Johan are both connected to a form of Light, which places them opposite to Juudai. However, whereas Yubel gets possessed by the Light of Ruin, Juudai’s natural enemy, Johan’s rainbow seems to symbolize a far more benign version of light. This makes them similar, but also opposite to each other.

 

3.       Conclusion

 

What does this tell us? While Juudai and Johan are very similar at first glance, most of those similarities seem centered around Duel Monsters, and Yubel and Johan actually share some qualities that Juudai does not possess. In fact, in some respects they are opposites of Juudai. Since Yubel spends most of season three watching Juudai, and Juudai spends most of his time with Johan, she may very well have spotted the similarities between them. In conclusion: even though Juudai and Johan only met a few weeks previously, Yubel still considers him far more of a threat than any of Juudai’s older friends. The similarities between them make him very dangerous to her. After all, if Juudai can love her, he can also love someone who resembles her. Therefore Johan Andersen, far more than anyone else, gains her hatred by being a reflection of Yubel herself.



[1] The Prose Edda, written down by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, contains some of the best known Norse mythological stories. For this essay, I used a translation by Anthony Faulkes, published in 1987 by The Everyman Library.

heleentje: (Default)
His name. Juudai – her Juudai – was shouting that thief’s name. How dare he betray her like that?  And how dare that thief take Juudai from her, claim his love for himself like the selfish child he was? He didn’t understand the bond between her and Juudai. After all, his mind was so small. He couldn’t possibly comprehend the greatness Juudai was destined for. He just wanted Juudai all for himself.

She couldn’t let him.

And he was right there! Mere feet away from her, swallowed up by the same light as she was. It would be so easy to just reach out and crush him. Juudai would be hers once more. He would fulfill his destiny with her by his side. She reached out, grabbed his arm, and the boy’s eyes filling with shock. No fear. Not yet. He would fear her soon enough.

But the child struggled, and he was not alone. That petting zoo of his… How she loathed them all. They were too bright, too vibrant. They reminded her of everything she had lo-

No. She would get Juudai back. The thief would die.

Or maybe… There was an idea forming in the back of her mind. Juudai was out of her reach, but the thief wasn’t. And Juudai would come for the thief, just like he would’ve once come for her. She could use him. She could break his mind and make him her puppet. Even the most worthless piece of trash could be used. She tightened her grip, and now there was something - not quite fear yet, but close – in the thief’s eyes. He was mouthing words she couldn’t hear over the rush of bright white, but it didn’t matter. Anything he said was not worth listening to.

And then, as suddenly as the light came, it was gone. She was so much faster than the thief, and she had him trapped before he regained his bearings. This world… Not Brron’s world, but it didn’t matter. Juudai would come.

There was a growl, and the sensation of something trying to bite her. Useless, of course. She could not be hurt. The thief’s tiger had just found out.

“Let me go!” the thief shouted. Such a pathetic child. He thought he could protect Juudai? If he couldn’t even fight her, how would he ever be able to fight all of Juudai’s enemies?

“You’re a thief,” she told him. “You stole Juudai from me. You deserve to be punished.”

“Juudai is my friend. I won’t let you hurt him!”

He was determined, she’d give him that. Maybe he would be more useful than she’d originally assumed.

Hurt him? This child was so stupid. How could he ever understand their love, their pain? He was only mortal, after all. Enough, she decided. The thief would not understand. She didn’t want him to understand.

She pulled him closer effortlessly and lifted him. How easy it would be to hurt him… Break his legs, so he couldn’t leave. Break his arms too, maybe, and leave him helpless for all the monsters in this world to find. Her grip tightened unconsciously and the thief made an involuntary noise of pain. No, not yet.

“Let him go!” One of those pesky monsters shouted. It looked like it hadn’t decided whether it wanted to be a horse or a bird. At least it had the common sense not to attack her. Not so with the bird, however. It tried to attack her from above, but only succeeded in hurting itself.

“Cobalt Eagle!” The thief wrenched himself loose in a fairly impressive display of strength. “Stop it! We’ve done nothing to you!”

“Liar,” she hissed, and even though he tried to run, it was so easy to catch up to him. So very easy to reach out and see into his mind. Every human had a weak spot, and this boy would be no different. Just one tug, and he’d fall apart at her feet. He was already struggling to stay conscious. Such a weak child, nothing at all like her Juudai.

He is protected.

One of those monsters again. She laughed. It was easy to feel how weak they all were.  “How will you protect him, dragon? You can’t fight me. You’re weak from the duel. If you fight, you’ll waste what little power you have left.”

We know when to run.


“Run?” Too late she realized that all of the thief’s monsters had disappeared. Too late she saw the dragon appear fully. There was another flash of light, like the one that had brought her here, and then the thief was gone.

Of course. The dragon must’ve had enough power left to leave this world. She could follow them, but it was unnecessary. The thief wouldn’t have made it back to his own world, and the dragon would never be able to gather the energy for another jump. In the end, she didn’t need the thief. This was between Juudai and her. Juudai would come, and when he did, he would finally know her love for him.

meme tiem

May. 17th, 2011 09:55 pm
heleentje: (Default)
Shamelessly stolen from [livejournal.com profile] tresa_cho 

Give me one of my own stories, and a timestamp sometime in the future after the end of the story, or sometime in the past before the story started, and I'll write you at least a hundred words of what happened then, whether it's five minutes before the story started or ten years in the future.

My stories can be found here at fanfiction.net. Knock yourself out!

(Also, [livejournal.com profile] cheeky_eyes, happy birthday!  I am working on your fic, but unfortunately my exams are getting in the way. I'll get there, I promise!)

Profile

heleentje: (Default)
heleentje

January 2015

S M T W T F S
    12 3
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags