Sep. 21st, 2014

heleentje: (Default)

There were a great many things the prince,  firstborn heir to a kingdom spanning most of the continent and confirmed incarnation of the life-bringing darkness that had created them all, had to do today. There were diplomatic meetings his father wanted him to sit in on and tutors waiting to meet with him. And all of those things were overridden by two simple facts: the prince was nine years old and very very bored.


Prince Judai had discovered the hole in the hedge just yesterday. It was hidden away by some overgrowing branches, giving the hedge the impression of solidness, and it was just large enough for a limber nine-year-old to climb through. The other side of the hedge gave out on the outskirts of one of the traders' villages that had been established near the palace long before even Judai's father had been born. Judai remembered the road well enough to get there unnoticed. Even his guards weren't following him! He couldn't even really remember the last time he'd been alone. Really, they were all treating him like he was so special for the Darkness thing, but they didn't believe he'd be fine on his own?


The village was full of people who never came up to the castle, dressed in clothes Judai only vaguely recognized from other kingdoms. And all the things they sold! Judai toyed with his wallet. He had money enough to get whatever he wanted to buy and he fully intended on doing so.


He got distracted by a group of children running past. Judai didn't know a lot of kids at the palace. He had a sister who was way too young and stupid to play with, and the prime minister had a son who was afraid of everything. Those kids probably had way more fun in life than Judai did.  Maybe they'd let him play with them? But he hadn't eaten at all today yet, and there was a food stand right across the road from him!


Two minutes later he was holding a kind of stuffed pastry he'd never seen before. There was definitely meat in there, and vegetables, and he absolutely loved it. He'd have to tell the cooks to make it when he got back home.


He was chewing on his last bite when someone slammed into him, making him choke and cough violently.


"I'm sorry! Are you okay?" a girl asked, patting him on the back. "Keep coughing, c'mon."


Judai groaned as the urge to cough finally subsided and he got a good look at the person who'd ran into him. The girl couldn't be older than Judai himself. Her tangled hair was a peculiar shade of greenish blue that matched her eyes. Judai had never seen that kind of color before.


"Sorry for running into you. I tripped," she said.


Judai should probably say something nice to that. Instead he said: "Your hair's weird."


"Right," said the girl with ill-concealed impatience. "Well, if you're going to be okay, I'm off."


And she walked off, disappearing from sight within seconds. Were all kids this weird? Judai definitely wasn't that weird.


Oh well, he could still go buy things! He turned on his heels and walked towards what looked like the main street of the village. So many shops and stalls!


"Your highness!"


Oh no. Judai set his shoulders and watched as captain Amyntha of the royal guard strode over, her every step carefully measured. He'd never seen her run in his life.


"Your highness, you should not disappear like that," she hissed, guiding him away from the now-stupified vendors. She led him to an empty building with unerring accuracy. Probably one of the many buildings the royal guard owned everywhere. "You'll be happy to hear that we've caught the thief."


"Judai frowned. "Thief?"


"The one who stole your—" Captain Amyntha paused, her mouth quirking into a vague half-smile. "Your highness, did you realize that your wallet got stolen?"


Judai's hand flew to his belt. "Hey, my money!"


"Yes." Captain Amyntha looked outside. "Rest assured that the culprit will be punished severely."


On cue, two more guards whose names Judai had never bothered to learn showed up. With them was the girl from before. Her blue-green eyes narrowed when she spotted Judai.


"Hey, it's you!"


"Could you please tell them to let me go?" she asked. "I have places to be.


Captain Amyntha smiled grimly. "I don't think so, girl. The money?"


The guard on the right handed over the wallet. "She was carrying it."


"I thought so. Do you know what the punishment for stealing is, girl?"


In an instant, all of the girls anger vanished, and her face paled in a sickening kind of fear. Life in prison for stealing from a member of the royal family, Judai remembered. Possibly even execution. But it was just a wallet! Judai wanted to say so, but the girl beat him to it.


"I just wanted to eat!"


"A judge will decide—"captain Amyntha said, as Judai asked: "Can't you just ask your parents to buy you food?"


Where the girl's face had been pale before, it now turned a blotchy red. The guards exchanged uncomfortable looks with captain Amyntha.


"I don't have any parents, you idiot," the girl spat. "Did you ever stop to think that not everyone gets to live in a castle with stupid servants following you around all day?"


"You will not address the prince like that," said captain Amyntha. "Take her away. I will escort the prince back to the castle."


"Hey, but," Judai told her as the captain took his arm. "It's just a wallet! I don't care, she can have it! You can let her go!"


"I don't need your charity!"


Judai frowned. The girl looked pale again under her anger.  He thought he could see her tremble. Did she really have nothing to eat? She looked very small and her shirt was torn in several places. He turned pleading eyes on captain Amyntha.


"Can't we just let her go? Dad won't know!"


"Your highness, it's highly unethical to leave a criminal on the loose."




Guard-on-the-left shifted uncomfortably. "It's just a child," she said.


Captain Amyntha sighed. "I have to report this. But I suppose... How fast can you run, girl?"




"Then I suppose you could have outrun us."


Judai cheered. The girl's eyes widened. "I can go?" she asked.


Captain Amyntha nodded. The girl didn't need to be told twice. She darted out of the door as soon as the guards let go of her. Judai frowned at her retreating back.


"You know," said captain Amyntha, following his gaze. "We never did catch her. I'm sorry about your wallet."


She offered him his wallet. Judai smiled and ran.


"Hey, wait!" He caught up with the girl and pressed his wallet into her hands. "They couldn't find you, so that's yours."


"Still don't need charity," she said, but she pocketed the money anyway and handed him his now-empty wallet back. "I suppose you could be worse. For a spoiled brat and all."


Judai pulled a face. "Look, listen, I'm sorry. but there's a hole in the hedge on the east wall, left of the water tower. You can come if you want to."


"Why would I?"


"There's food?" Judai tried. The girl shook her head.


"I can find something here."


"Well, just once," Judai begged. He never had anyone to play with and this girl was kinda cool when she wasn't angry.  "Please? Tomorrow, this time."


"You don't even know my name."


Judai gave her a wide smile. "What's your name?"


The girl rolled her eyes, but Judai counted the small smile as a win. "It's Yubel."


"Yubel." Judai liked that name. "Will you come?"


Yubel brushed off her clothes and took a few steps back into the crowd of shoppers. "I'll consider it," she shouted.


Good enough for Judai.



heleentje: (Default)

In the three years she'd been working for Tome-san, Hana had never seen the Osiris Red dorm so deserted. It was honestly unnerving to seen it empty after so many years of being filled with students. In the eight o'clock April darkness, it even looked scary.


Only Yuki Judai still lived in the Red dorm. Well, at least Judai-kun could always be counted upon to cheer up their days at the shop. With that in mind, Hana set off towards the building, clutching the box of cleaning supplies closer to her chest. She really should've brought them over as soon as she got the request, but it had rained all day and she hadn't felt like making the trip.


The building was completely dark. Judai-kun had to be out. Hana shrugged and fished out the spare key Tome-san had given her. It turned in the lock soundlessly. She'd have to remember to thank the maintenance people. Inside, it was even darker than it had been in the forest, a heavy, oppressive darkness that weighed her down. Hana found the light switch and flicked it on. Nothing. So much for maintenance doing their job. With a sigh, Hana shouldered the door closed and made her way through the dark hallway.


"What do you want?" A voice growled right behind her. Hana didn't lose her grip on the box, but it was a near thing. That wasn't Judai-kun, and no one but Judai-kun was supposed to


"Answer me, girl."


A hand gripped her shoulder, claws —claws?— digging into her skin painfully. Hana struggled to get free. "What are you doing here?" she managed. Who would break into Red dorm? She had to tell someone. If only she could get her PDA...


"If you are here to kill me, I strongly suggest you reconsider," said a second voice. And suddenly there was light, two points in front of her, orange and teal. Hana dropped her box for real this time. Those were eyes! But who had eyes like that?


"You gonna talk or what?"


Wait, that was... "Judai-kun?"


"Wait, Hana-san?"


Light flooded the room. Yuki Judai stood in front of her, eyes still that orange-green combination. Hana pulled herself loose and came face-to-face with... No, that was too much for one night.


"Dropping off cleaning supplies, sorry for bothering you!" she got out, her voice breaking. She bolted through the door, down the stairs and into the forest that suddenly felt a whole lot safer.


"Hana-san, wait!" I'm sorry!" Judai-kun shouted in the distance, but Hana didn't stop. Only when she was back in her room, under the safety of her covers, did she let herself think. There was a monster living in the Red dorm. Even with everything that had been going on lately, that was still too much.




The next day was a Saturday and, thankfully, Hana's day off this week. Saturdays were busy days in the shop, full of students who were stocking up on snacks for the weekend, and Hana had far too many things on her mind to deal with so many people at once.


Still, staying in her room proved equally unproductive. She's already found clean sheets for her bed, cleaned the shared bathroom and reorganized her shelves, and she was still at a loss. Should she tell headmaster Samejima about the monster? Knowing him, he already knew about it. And what about Judai-kun? She had no idea what had happened to him in that other world. Why would he think she'd come to kill him?


With a frustrated groan, Hanna grabbed her bag and left her room. It was a very nice April day, unseasonably warm even though the grass was still wet from yesterday's rain, and best of all, there wasn't a cloud around to block out the light of the sun. Even the beach was crowded when she got there, but Hana had worked at Duel Academia for longer than most kids had been students there, and she knew all the really good, isolated places where she'd have plenty of time to think. She maneuvered herself onto a rocky outcropping, careful to stay away from the wet spots. The ocean wasn't very deep here, as she'd found out last year, but she still didn't feel like slipping and breaking an arm. Again.




Hana lost her footing, slid down at least a meter and scrabbled uselessly at the rock. Two clawed hands lifted her and she found herself face to face with the monster. It pulled her from the rock and deposited her on the sand, right in front of Judai-kun.


"Where did you come from?" she burst out. She had been all alone, she was sure of it! Judai-kun looked as uncomfortable as he could with those eyes once again glowing orange-green. The monster took its place next to him. They had the same eyes.


"Sorry, I didn't mean to sneak up on you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."


Hana became acutely aware that there was no one else with them and that her hands were stinging where she'd scraped them open on the rocks.


"Yeah, I'm fine," she told him, looking anywhere but the monster. Was it a duel monster? Why was it real? Would it try to kill her like the monsters in the Desert World had? "I'm sorry, Tome-san needs me. I have to go."


"I'll go with you," said Judai-kun. Hana shook her head quickly.


"No, no, I'm sure you have homework or something. Don't bother on my account!"

She knew she was rambling, but she just had to get out of here.  Judai-kun looked about to argue, but the monster shook it's head and Hana didn't wait around to find out what it might have to say. Only when she was back among the students on the beach did she dare to look behind her, but Judai-kun was nowhere to be seen.


She asked Tome-san about it the next day, when a lull in customers left them alone in the shop. Tome-san, normally always so upbeat, sat down heavily.


"It's supposed to remain a secret, so I can't tell you everything, Hana-chan. But Judai-chan has gone through terrible things when he was in that other world. He's changed."


The pain in Tome-san's eyes was striking. Hana had only ever seen her like that once, when they'd have to tell a crying second year that his father had died in a car crash.


"Judai-kun thought someone was coming to kill him," Hana asked. She'd expected surprise, even shock, but Tome-san merely shook her head.


"If Chronos-sensei is to be believed, he has reason to think so." Tome-san straightened her back. "And that's all I'll say on the matter, Hana-chan."


What kind of seventeen-year-old had reason to believe someone wanted to kill him? Hana wanted to ask more, maybe about the monster, but then the shop door opened and she slipped back into professional mode.


It was Yuki Judai. Of course it was. At least the monster was nowhere to be seen.


He zeroed in on Hana and walked up to the counter. Running off wouldn't do her paycheck any good, would it? His eyes were actually brown today. She took that as a good sign.


"Judai-chan!" Tome-san greeted. "It's been such a long time. Have you been eating enough? You look a bit thin."


Judai-kun looked rather overwhelmed with the sudden attention. He shifted from foot to foot. "That's alright, Tome-san. Actually, I came to apologize to Hana-san." He turned to her. Hana made a conscious effort not to flinch. "I'm sorry for scaring you the other day. We... We were on edge and overreacted. We shouldn't have taken it out on you."


"Um, we?"


Not the most intelligent thing she'd ever said. Judai-kun didn't immediately reply. He fished a card out of his deckholder without looking and carefully slid it over to Hana. A monster card. The monster.


"Yubel has been with me for a long time," Judai-kun said. "Yesterday, I couldn't reach you in time, so Yubel caught you. Again, we're sorry."


She he had followed her yesterday to apologize. Well, if he'd gone through all that trouble...


"It's okay. Judai, try not to do that to anyone else in the future?"


Judai-kun actually looked like he had to think about that. "Unless they deserve it," he finally compromised.


"I can live with that," Hana said with a smile. She didn't get one in return, but Judai-kun visibly relaxed.


"Thank you. I'll be going now."


"Tome-san tsked. "Now, Judai-chan, you never did tell me when you ate last." She made her way out from behind the counter and grabbed a protesting Judai-kun's arm. "You stay cooped up in your room all day long, you need to get out into the light."


"Not really," Judai-kun muttered, casting a pleading glance at Hana. She just raised her hands and smiled as Tome-san dragged Judai-kun over to the sandwich stand.


"Now you pick one and you're going to eat it all here," said Tome-san. "Free of charge, so I don't want to hear any excuses."


All in all, Hana reflected, Judai-kun wasn't so scary. He wasn't even the scariest person in the room. She leaned back and watched as Judai-kun opened his sandwich.


"Huh." The look of happy surprise at the sight of his sandwich was genuine. "Golden eggwich. Guess I can still do that."

heleentje: (Default)

Had Sam known how her day would turn out, she wouldn't have picked the nice skirt to wear this morning. She loved that skirt, loved how silky the fabric was and how the deep blue looked against her own dark skin. She'd bought it with her very first paycheck months ago, when she'd just moved in with Mike and found a store willing to hire her, and she wore it whenever she thought she could get away with it.


But she loved it a whole lot less right now, when she'd been on her feet for nearly eight hours and Asshole Customer of the Evening had delayed closing for so long that she'd missed her bus. The guy hadn't even bought anything, only thrown her a disgusted look when he finally left. She wished she could say it didn't hurt.


The next bus wouldn't arrive for another hour, and Sam definitely didn't want to stay here, near midnight, all alone with only a passing car every once in a while. If only Mike hadn't been out of town, he would've picked her up for sure. Sam let out a long breath. Walking home it was. Her skirt was absolutely no good for that, but home was only three miles away. If she hurried, she could be in bed with hot chocolate by one.


She was so engrossed in her vision of hot chocolate milk, with whipped cream and cinnamon and maybe even chocolate sprinkles, that she almost didn't notice the guy ambling the street in front of her. Sam tensed, but the guy something Japanese? only smiled up at her when she passed him and wished her a good evening. She didn't think she'd seen him here before. Sam resisted the urge to look over her shoulder. It was no skin off her back. Only one more mile to go and she'd be home.


She turned a corner and almost ran into a group of three twenty-somethings outside a bar. Sam quickly sidestepped them with a muttered apology. She'd forgotten about this place. Crossing the road would have been wiser.




And there it was. Sam straightened her shoulders and wished she'd worn jeans. Could she get her keys from her bag?


"What're you, some kinda shemale?"


Derisive laughter. Sam kept walking. If she didn't pay attention, they'd find a new target. Of all days for Mike not to be in town...


"Where'd you get those clothes?" A girl yelled.  "Stole them from your sister?"


Sam risked a glance backwards. The girl was pretty, prettier than Sam could ever hope to be, and it hurt to know that even with the nice skirt, the one she adored, she still wasn't


"Hey tranny, we're talking to you!" The first guy made a grab for her. Sam narrowly avoided him, but before she could run, he was crowding her against the building and looming over her. Sam balled her right hand into a fist.


"Please leave me alone," she said. She could take the guy, but all of his friends?


"Hey," the other guy in the group said. He was shorter than the first guy, with bleached blond hair that was dark at the roots. "I bet you fags love to suck cock. You gonna"


"I think that's enough."


It was a new voice, one that sounded remarkably sober. Sam used the opportunity to duck away, but the guy grabbed her arm. Nothing to it, then. She punched him.


It was a good punch, and the guy reeled back, clutching his nose.


"You fuckin' slut!"


"I said, that's enough," the newcomer said. It was the Japanese guy, the one Sam had passed earlier. Was he following her?


"Piss off!" the girl shouted. New Guy looked entirely unimpressed. He walked over to where Sam had backed up.


"She said to leave her alone."


He was at least a head shorter than Sam herself. Not that she wasn't grateful for the interruption, but what exactly was he going to accomplish?


"Fuck off, this has nothing to do with you," said Bleached Guy. The Japanese guy sighed and gave her a wry smile over his shoulder.


"Well, I did try to be polite," he muttered, and then said, louder, "Last warning. Leave her alone."


"Or what?"


The guy shook his head. He waved a hand and the lights went out.


Sam blinked against the sudden dark. It wasn't just the lights from the bar, she noticed. Not even just the streetlights. Even the moon and the brightest stars, visible against the bright city lights, were gone. The street had gone completely dark.  Sam stumbled back. Had she just come across something even worse? Bigoted fucks she could deal with just fine, but this?


"I don't like people like you," Japanese Guy said. "You think you get to bully people, hurt them, because they are different?


"Hey bud," one of the men said, his voice wavering. Clearly they weren't so drunk that they didn't notice they were in trouble. "We're all friends here."


"Are we?" Japanese Guy's voice was utterly, thoroughly cold. "Yubel, what do you think?"


"Not very friendly," a new voice said, darkly amused. At long last, the light of the moon returned. Sam took one look at the scene in front of her and right away wished she hadn't. Because Japanese Guy was still in front of her, but now, next to him, there was... That was a monster. It looked at her and Sam willed her legs to move, to run, but then it smiled at her.


"What'd you do?" the pretty girl whispered.


"That? That was nothing," said the monster. "Judai and I can do worse."


"Much worse," Judai repeated. Sam caught his reflection in the window of the bar. His eyes were glowing. "I would leave now," he said. The monster spread its wings. "And I'd be very, very nice to everyone you meet in the future. Yubel and I will know if you're not. If you don't..." Reflection-Judai smiled, showing teeth. "I will find you. I will be the monster under your bed, the shadow lurking just around the corner, out of sight. Darkness, you see, is everywhere."


They ran. Sam was very close to following their example. But then the streetlights came back on and the guyJudaislumped and smiled, back to looking entirely non-threatening, not... Whatever that had been.


"Sorry, did I overdo it? Are you okay?" He turned around. His eyes were a very normal brown, only a shade lighter than Sam's own. He reached out a hand. "I'm Judai. This is Yubel."


"Sam," she said, and shook his hand. It was probably wise to be polite to the guy who'd just taken the moon itself out of the sky. "Thank you, but I could've handled it."


"I'm sorry," said Judai. He looked genuinely contrite. "I know that probably won't fix anything in the long run. It's just,  I heard what they said and I can't stand it when people..."


Yubel, the monster, wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulder and glanced at Sam. "When I took this form, people weren't always nice."


"Even before," Judai muttered.


There was a story there that Sam wasn't sure she wanted to know. She still said, vehemently: "Fuck them."


Judai and Yubel both laughed. Sam hesitated. Where did one go from here?


"Can we walk you home?" Judai asked.


"You don't need to. I'm fine on my own."


"For the company, then." Judai looked at her imploringly. "I don't actually know the city. We're just tourists."


"Well, okay." They seemed nice enough when they weren't breaking the laws of nature. If they wanted to kill her, they could probably do so whenever they wanted, and if they didn't, she'd have an awesome story to tell Mike.


"So that thing with the moon, how'd you do that?"


Judai laughed, loud and happy. "Oh, that? Parlor trick, nothing more."

heleentje: (Default)

When her predecessor had died, after what she remembered to be a long and, despite some hiccups, enjoyable life, he had left behind a universe that was mostly at peace. Nitya could appreciate that. It gave her plenty of time to grow up and develop the powers she was born with.


It also gave her Yubel.


Perhaps the greatest achievement during Yuki Judai's tenure as the incarnation of Gentle Darkness was fusing his soulthe very soul of Darknessto that of Yubel. No more looking for each other. No more scouring the earth, hoping with each passing year that they would meet each other soon. Yuki Judai had been lucky. Nitya distinctly remembered at least one life where she'd never met Yubel at all. That incarnation had met a violent end, one that could have been avoided if Yubel had been by hir side. But after years without Yubel, xe hadn't had much will to live left anyway. Better to move on and start over.


And Nitya must have been the luckiest of all, because Yubel had been with her since she'd been born in some remote area of India. No more searching, no long years knowing someone was missing, but never remembering who.


But even though Yubel was at her side, the cards in Yuki Judai's deck had disappeared without a trace. So when Nitya turned twenty, she left home and started looking. It wasn't easy. Yuki Judai had long outlived his friends and the importance of the cards in his deck had been lost to most people. Disturbing, but at least most of the cards hadn't been dangerous.


Most of them.


"Super Fusion," Nitya said. They were holed up in a youth hostel in downtown Chengdu, tiny but mercifully clean. Her roommates were out and she and Yubel had claimed the top bunk.  "We have to find it first. Who knows who has it now."


Yubel nodded. "It should not have gotten lost. We set up security measures."


But they'd already checked those, and the card had slipped between the cracks. Those measures were at least thirty years old. The Gentle Darkness had waited a few years before taking on another mortal form.


"Best case scenario, it's in some rich idiot's safe and no one knows what it can do." Nitya closed her eyes. Yubel ran a hand through her hair and started braiding it.




"Worst case scenario, someone does know what it can do and the world's in very big trouble."


It turned out to be neither. They finally tracked down a woman who claimed to know about the whereabouts of Super Fusion. Nitya made the lights go out for a bit and Yubel put in a strategic appearance, and after that, their informant was amazingly helpful. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to provide them with the exact location of the Fallguys, as she called them. And Nitya had seen enough terrified people to last her several lifetimes, so she and Yubel decided to set out on their own. They had names and they had an approximate location.


Heartland City was far too bright and cheerful for Nitya. Something was brewing under the surface, and it was going to explode very soon. Nitya resolved to keep an eye on the city, but there was little she could do without her complete deck. No, her first priority was Super Fusion. Fortunately, the World Dueling Carnival meant that no one was surprised to see another foreigner walking around. Nitya wasn't quite as interested in dueling as her predecessor had been, but she still took some time off to follow the tournament. So many strong duelists, so many interesting people... Some a bit more interesting than others.


"What do you think of the kids?" she asked Yubel, idly turning up the volume on the TV that was airing a recap the preliminary rounds.


"Not all of them are human," came Yubel's reply. Nitya laughed.


"We're in no position to throw stones."


But it was true. Nitya had become very good at sensing who was born human and who wasn't. And the Shark kid, for one, definitely wasn't.


"It's not our problem, is it? We can always help them if they're in trouble." She switched channels. "Hey, have you seen that Anna girl?"




Like all cities, Heartland City had its shadier districts. Nitya was honestly relieved. The bright colors had been getting to her. Here, in the small streets and alleyways covered by shadows, she felt far more at home. Anyone else would have been wary. Nitya had never had a reason to be.


"Through here," Yubel said, several steps ahead of her. Nitya ducked under a steel girder and followed her through the door of a dilapidated house. At least, that was what it looked like from the outside. Once inside, Nitya whistled.


"These guys must have some good sponsors."


Their access was blocked by a heavy steel door, equipped with one of the ultra-modern holographic keypads usually installed by some of the most high-tech places she'd visited. Fingerprinting, retinal scan and most assuredly an eight-character password containing at least three numbers and a capital letter. The keyboard still had masking tape on it. This gang had only recently gotten their money.


"So how do we get in?"


"You could ask," Yubel offered. Nitya shrugged.


"Sure, why not?" She knocked. The ambient noise disappeared right away. They'd heard her and were pretending very hard that they hadn't.


"Hello?" she called. "My partner and I were wondering if you knew anything about rare cards."


Silence on the other end of the door. Then, at long last, "How'd you find us?"


"Oh, we had a source." A very, very terrified source. "See, I was thinking about building a Fusion deck? But all Fusion cards are just so weak, you know? So I really need something more... super."


"Subtle," said Yubel.


"I'd like to see you try."


Again, it took several long seconds before they got a reply. "We don't deal in cards," a gruff man told her. Nitya bit her lip. She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and turned to Yubel.


"I'm going in. They can't say we didn't try to be polite."


Teleportation had been easy once she'd gotten the hang of it. She just needed a convenient shadow, and this building had plenty of them. With Yubel right next to her, she stepped to the side, away from the door and into the corner of what passed for the hallway, and turned.


Instantly, she found herself on the receiving end of several guns. She wished she could say it was the first time that had happened.


"Hello again! Sorry for dropping in like this, but I'd really like to discuss that card."


"How'd you get in here?" a dark-skinned man asked. Jackal, if her source had been correct. He desperately needed to learn how to button a shirt.


Yubel nudged her towards the man standing to the side. He didn't have the sheer size that Jackal did, but the other two seemed to defer to him. Wolf.


That's him.


Nitya nodded. There were three men, two of them bigger and probably stronger than her, but Yubel clearly didn't deem them enough of a threat to become visible. That meant Nitya could have fun with them. She opened her hands, palms upwards, and took the opportunity to study the room. Not quite as sophisticated as the steel door she'd just bypassed; all their money must've gone there. Off-white walls with no windows, a few heavy chairs, a table, a large safe, and several doors leading to other areas of the house. She could feel Super Fusion's presence emanate from the deck holder on the table. Briefly she debated sealing off the room, but she was only here for Super Fusion. If they wanted to run, she had no problem with that.


"Who are you?" One of the other two shouted. Nitya repressed the urge to sigh. If he kept waving his gun around like that, she wouldn't even need to do anything.


"Ah, right, name's Nitya. I teleported."


"Listen here, missy"


Nitya closed her hands. The room went pitch-black.


"No, I think you need to listen." A bullet ricocheted, but Nitya had already moved to the other side of the room. Yubel, still unseen, did away with the guns. "Wolf, is it? I know your type. You don't ask questions as long as you get paid, don't you? And if you get a shipment of rare cards, you'll take them. Do you have any idea of the power you are holding?"


Nitya allowed some of the light in the room to return. Just enough so they could see the shine of gold in her eyes. Just enough so the shadow of Yubel's wings was magnified tenfold.


One of the men made a break for the steel door. Yubel cut him off.


"You shall not be leaving. I will ask again: Do you have any idea of the power you hold?"


"Who are you?" the smallest one whispered. Nitya drew herself up to her full height.


"I am Nitya. I am the Forever Born and the Incarnation of Darkness." She let the light dim again. "Super Fusion is the most dangerous card ever created. Its mere existence can destroy worlds. It is dripping with the blood of a million people, all slaughtered for the very purpose of creating this one, single card. Do you wish to know who created it?"


They were all cowering now. It really had been a while since she'd had so much fun with people. Wolf, the one who had Super Fusion, was edging away from the table with his deck on it. None of them even answered her question.


"I did," she told them. "Millions of souls, and Super Fusion still wants more power. Would you like to be a part of it?"


Yubel glanced at her, surprised. Nitya almost winced. Maybe she'd overdone it a bit. As a compromise, she let one of the doors open. The men didn't need to be told twice.


Nitya watched them run, shook her head and let the light in the room return in full.


"You went too far, Nitya," Yubel said. Nitya ran her teeth over her lower lip and picked up the abandoned deck.


"I'm sorry," she said. For all that she and Yuki Judai had the same soul, Nitya had no real memory of creating Super Fusion. She only knew Judai had done it, which meant she had, too. But Yubel knew how bad it had been and how Judai had agonized over it. "You know I would never kill them."


"I know. Tone it down a bit in the future, okay?"


"I will." She finally located Super Fusion and put it in the inner pocket of her jacket. She'd need to buy a deck holder if she wanted to rebuild her deck. Carrying Super Fusion so close to her body wasn't comfortable anyway. It might be one of her cards, but it was blood-soaked and dangerous.


She teleported straight out of the room, and then out of Heartland City altogether. Maybe she could go to Neo Domino. She had a good feeling about it.


"You know, you could've just teleported in, taken the card and left again."


Nitya buried herself in Yubel's arms. "Oh, I know. But where's the fun in that?"





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January 2015

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