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.”




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?”




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.”




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.




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.




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)

“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.”




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)

Progression of Power


I.        Denial


28 August 2007 - Intercontinental flight Brussels - Kinshasa




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-






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.”




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)

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)
Series Title: Shatter
Chapter Title: Life's Philosophy
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T for this part, T overall
Characters: Gem Beasts, Johan, Juudai
Word Count: 1879
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, spoilers for season four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters


Shatter (8/8): Life's Philosophy )

heleentje: (Juudai)
Series Title: SFSG Universe
Story Title: So Far, So Good
Chapter Title: USA, New York
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Juudai, Yubel
Word Count: 5194
Warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for the entire series, Soulshipping
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters


heleentje: (Juudai)
(Here there be shameless self-promotion)

New GX fic yay!

Title is So Far, So Good, and I'm really liking the writing process and the ideas I have for it. Third chapter is currently giving me some trouble, but fourth and especially fifth and sixth are gonna be great to write.

Also, expect pics next chapter.

ETA: And all YGO fans, go read this, it's awesome (and no, I'm not just saying that because I helped)

heleentje: (Juudai 2)
Title: To Cope
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Yubel, Juudai (past life)
Word Count: 1169
Warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for the last episodes of season three, References to surgery-without-anaesthesia
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

Notes: First person to get the connection with the Five Stages of Grief gets a cookie! (Hint: The working title for this thing was Negotiation.)

To Cope )

heleentje: (Default)
Title: Reunion
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K
Characters: Asuka, ensemble
Word Count: 2776
Warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for the entire series
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

Reunion )
heleentje: (Default)
Series Title: Shatter
Chapter Title: De Amicitia (About Friendship) a.k.a. Chapter eeeeeeeee since my cat decided it didn't like De Amicitia as a title.
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K+ for this part, T overall
Characters: Gem Beasts, Johan, Juudai
Word Count: 1509
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, spoilers for season three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters


Shatter (7/8) - De Amicitia )
heleentje: (Johan 2)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Duelists' Friendship
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 3002
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan 2)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Courage to Confront
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2250
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Profound Words
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2480
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Determination
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K+
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2177
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Juudai)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Interlude: Power of Darkness
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 1229
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: A Desperate Situation
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2101
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan 2)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Beyond the Sorrow
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: K+
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count:
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title: Agonizing Heart
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2372
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters

heleentje: (Johan)
Series Title: Crossroads Universe
Story Title: Crossroads
Chapter Title:
Author: Heleentje
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh GX
Rating: T
Characters: Johan, Yubel, Judai, Gem Beasts
Word Count: 2201
Warnings/spoilers: spiritshipping-if-you-squint, psycheshipping-if-you-look-sideways-and-s
quint-very-very-hard, spoilers for seasons three and four
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh GX or any of its characters


heleentje: (Default)

January 2015

    12 3


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags