This chapter… was difficult. Do you guys ever have that moment where you've completed something (an entire chapter perhaps) and realize you despise everything about it? well, that's what happened to me. So after a few… million rewrites, I think I've finally got this chapter matching what was outlined in my brain. its still not perfect mind you, but that's okay- cause i want to move on. Maybe i'll touch it up after. Oh, fair warning below is my very very very loose interpretation of Ancient Egyptian mythology- which has been twisted to suit my own needs. there are nooo claims of accuracy here ;)
Enjoy – CYAHB
Great- Glad you're enjoying this so far. And yes, this fic definitely leans towards puzzle shipping, or some facsimile of Puzzleshipping anyway (you'll see what i mean). These two belong together.
AndurilofTolkien- Glad you liking it. Thanks for reviewing!
TakatoMakino- Thanks for the compliment! There should be more chapters coming up soon. especially now that i'm past the stumbling block that is this chapter. While this fic is mostly about Yami/Yugi, Yugi and Ishizu have a few important scenes together, promise!
lalalei- Change of heart is such a useful card isn't it. No spoilers.
Guest- Happy to hear that you enjoyed it!
Xyrlea- What's life without a little gore (evil laugh). Thanks so much for your review, it def made me smile. Hope the rest of the story lives up to your standards!
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to Yugioh. But with X-mas only a month away, you never know what could happen.
Ishizu's office was in the back of the museum. Yugi had visited a few times during Battle City. Enough, at the very least, to be able to navigate the halls without getting lost. Tucked far away from the bustle of patrons and exhibits, it was far quieter in this part of the museum. A deliberate choice on Ishizu's part, Yugi had no doubt.
But it had never been silent. The Museum, by nature, was a busy place. Academics scurrying down halls, debates echoing from behind office doors; lively. But now…
Now, only the emergency lights were on. The glow was dim and waxy. Wavering shadows twisted on the walls in a macabre reflection. The muffled tread of the group's footsteps was the only sign of life. It echoed around them. Yugi shivered as he and Ryou made their way at the back of the group. To their left, a door stood opened. The office was empty. its occupant had probably fled hours ago. A Looter's dream in gold lay forgotten on the desk.
Anzu was first to reach the large double doors at the very end of the hall. She yanked them open, the heavy wood striking the drywall in a violent parody of a knock. "Ishizu!" Malik bellowed as he and Honda shouldered their way through, Jounouchi's limp frame supported between them. "Incoming!"
Ishizu leaped to her feet, the scroll she had been reading fell on to her desk. But when her attention settled on Jounouchi, her features betrayed no surprise. "Put him on the couch." She ordered and pointed at the love-seat nestled between two large bookcases.
Grunting, Honda and Malik heaved Jounouchi's deadweight down onto the creaking leather. "Thank god." Honda declared, rolling his shoulders in an exaggerated motion. "How can someone so skinny be so freaking heavy?"
Yugi gave a weak chuckle at the jibe. It wasn't the time for jokes. It shouldn't have been appropriate. But the taunt felt so familiar that Yugi half expected Jounouchi to leap up in retaliation.
He didn't so much as twitch.
Ishizu knelt on the floor beside the couch. She placed the back of her palm against Jounouchi's forehead. Even from the other side of the room, Yugi knew how clammy it would feel. "What happened?"
"Dark Game poisoning," Malik said. He leaned against the wall, arms crossed loosely across his chest. "The genius decided to play hero; summoned a four-star monster."
"Hey!" Honda barked, even as Anzu whirled on the blonde Tomb-Keeper
"He was protecting us!"
Ishizu's lips pursed. She pressed the very tips of her fingers to the inside of Jounouchi's wrist, closing her eyes. Her brow creased. "Be that as it may." She said, "Mortals are not capable of channeling that kind of magic. It was reckless."
"Is he going to be all right?" Yugi asked as he slowly made his way over. Ryou remained pressed to his side, his arm still wrapped around Yugi's thin waist. Ishizu's frown deepened as she turned to them. Yugi stood a little straighter, trying to hide how much extra weight Ryou was supporting. Ryou's grip tightened in response.
Ishizu didn't comment. She tilted her chin to one of the sleek leather visitor's chairs in front of her desk. Not needing to be told twice, Ryou crossed the room in a few short strides. To be honest, Yugi was grateful for the break that sitting offered. The grey began to fade from the corners of his vision.
"Jounouchi should be fine," Ishizu said, turning back to her patient. Her hand hovered over his heart, not quite touching his shirt. It drifted up to the hollow of his throat, and then finally to the space between his closed eyes. "But he was very lucky."
"Does that mean he'll wake up soon?" Ryou asked from behind Yugi's armchair. One of his hands rested against the back, his fingers brushing Yugi's shoulder.
Ishizu brushed the knees of her simple white dress as she stood. "By himself? She mused. "Not for several hours, maybe even a few days. Its hard to tell, his soul was nearly drained."
She paused, wanting to say more. But she seemed hesitant, Yugi noticed, as if thinking over her next words with the utmost care. Yugi wasn't sure if he wanted to know why. "Given the current circumstances, we don't have time to let his body heal naturally."
"So what? Are you saying we somehow speed up time?" Honda asked, incredulity seeming at war with suspicion. "Last I checked, medicine doesn't work that way."
"That depends on what you think medicine is capable of," Ishizu replied. Yugi realized that her penchant for vague answers had not faded, despite giving up the Millennium Tauk. "Rashid?"
At her prompt, the tall Egyptian stepped inside the door. Had he been standing outside this entire time? Yugi felt guilty that he hadn't noticed. Rashid turned to the floor-to-ceiling wall unit that stood behind Ishizu's desk. The lower levels consisted of locked cabinets. Above the cabinets were rows of shelves, each filled with artifacts and elegant books.
In the very center of the unit stood a large glass case, containing only a magnificent dagger. With careful hands, Rashid pulled the knife free. At only a glance, Yugi had no doubt about its origin. Hieroglyphs were carved into the golden blade, twining upwards to the ruby in the pommel.
Something stirred in the back of Yugi's mind, a memory on the very edge of recognition. The dagger seemed familiar. Had Atem carried it during Bakura's memory world? It looked like something a Pharaoh would own. That was the only reasonable explanation. But it didn't seem right, somehow.
Why did Yugi's finger's twitch with the need to take it? To wrap his finger's around the hilt? He could feel its weight. The way it pressed into his palm; So much easier to handle than the unwieldy bulk of a sword.
"Yugi?" Ryou asked quietly in his ear. Yugi blinked, not realizing he had zoned out. He ran his hand over his face, trying to push the thought -memory? - away. Where had that come from? "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Yugi reassured his friend. "lost in thought"
Rashid placed the dagger on Ishizu's desk. He handled the blade with the special reverence given to any valuable artifact. But it was clearly of little importance. Yugi forced himself to look away. He watched as Rashid he pulled a fine silver chain from around his neck. A single key dangled from the end.
Rashid reached into the case where the dagger had rested, before twisting the key. Something within unlocked with a satisfying click, before the center cabinet slid open.
The only thing inside was a large, steel lockbox. Rashid pulled it free, caring back to Ishizu. "Thank you." she smiled as he passed her the case. She placed it on the desk next to the dagger and pressed her thumb against the bio-metric lock in the middle of the lid. A green light flashed as it scanned her fingerprint.
Everyone pressed in closer as Ishizu lifted the lid. Yugi wasn't sure what he had expected to see when it was finally opened. But the glimmer of gold was low on the list. And yet, he couldn't bring himself to be surprised.
"Tell me this a joke."
Yugi looked over his shoulder at the sound of Ryou's voice. His friend's face had lost all resemblance to colour. His fingers tightened on the back of Yugi's chair. The whites of his knuckles pressed flush against the skin. "This has got to be a joke."
Nestled in craters of dark Styrofoam, lay all seven of the millennium items. Items that until this moment Yugi had believed were buried under several tons of sand. If this was a joke, Yugi didn't understand the punch-line.
His gaze immediately fell on the Millennium Puzzle. And the stylized eye stared back up at him as if the last few years had been nothing more than a dream.
He could still feel the way the chain felt around his neck. The metal of the puzzle always felt warm against his chest, no matter what the temperature outside was. Would it still feel warm, without Atem's soul trapped inside? Or would it be nothing more than cold metal, lifeless and hollow?
No, the Millennium items could never be anything less than magical.
Magical and dangerous.
Yugi's chair lurched forward. Startled, he looked up. Ryou struggled to pick himself up from the floor. Had he tripped over the leg of the chair? "Ryou?" Yugi asked, trying to reach for his friend. But the white-haired teen didn't seem to notice. He scrambled to his feet and lurched away. He seemed desperate to get as far away from Ishizu's desk as the confines of the office would allow.
"W…why do you have those?" Ryou stammered out. He stared at the box as if it had transformed into a particularly venomous snake. But judging from the glazed look in Ryou's eyes, he wasn't seeing much at all.
"It was a matter of necessity."
Ryou backed towards the door, his eyes never leaving the case. He reached behind his back, fumbling for the handle. A task made near impossible by the tremor in his hands.
"Ryou, listen for a second." Malik approached, his words pitched low and soothing as if addressing a spooked horse. His fingers curled over Ryou's on the door handle. A comforting gesture. But it made it impossible to open the door without Malik's consent. "We had no choice."
"Of course you did!" Ryou rattled the handle. "Let me though!"
"It's not safe out there." Malik soothed, and his free hand rested on Ryou's shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze. "Give Ishizu a chance to explain, that's all we're asking."
"What is there to explain?" Ryou countered, but his voice was growing brittle. "You dug them up. And now the world is ending. Seems pretty simple to me."
"It's not like that, I promise."
"You expect me to believe that?!"
"Listen to me!"
"No! I'm done!"
Malik cursed, and his grip on Ryou's shoulder tightened until the smaller man winced. "If you go out there, you will die." Malik said "If that's what you want, then be my guest. Otherwise, sit down."
Ryou didn't seem willing to back down. His brown eyes flickered between Malik and the case. Had he already forgotten how bad it was outside, Yugi couldn't help but wonder? Or was the apocalypse less terrifying than facing the Millennium Ring? "Ryou." He implored his friend. "Come back."
"You can't tell me this is a coincidence," Ryou demanded. He waving his hand from the millennium items, and then to the window. The room exploded into violet light as thunder boomed. "The items are toxic. They should have stayed buried."
"Only if they're used for evil." The words sounded pathetic to Yugi's ears, but what else was there to say. Ryou had suffered so much at the Thief King's hands. It was so easy to forget that the gentle quiet man bore the deepest scars out of them all. "But they can also be used for good. If they can help Jounouchi…"
"This is a bad idea," Ryou said, shaking his head. But he let go of the door. And for now, that was enough.
'Thank you." Ishizu said, but whether she was speaking to Yugi or Ryou was impossible to tell. "For your trust."
"We have to stick together," Yugi said as Ryou balanced on the arm of his chair despite the empty seat right beside it. "But I agree with Ryou, you owe us an explanation."
"I'll tell you what we know. All I ask for is patience."
Ishizu lifted the Millennium rod from the case, and passed it, handle first to her Brother. The moment Malik's hand curled around the hilt, the eye began to glow, a soft gold that warmed the room. Honda let out a low whistle.
"I didn't know the Rod could for healing" Anzu asked.
"it can't," Malik said as he crouched next to Jounouchi. He extended the rod so it hovered over the unconscious man's head. "But the Rod is very good at tricking the brain and soul into believing they are far healthier than reality."
"You mean mind control," Ryou said. "Like you used in Battle City."
Ishizu held up a pacifying hand. "Only in its mildest form. It is nothing compared to the power my Brother's darker identity once wielded."
Malik pressed the tip of his middle and index fingers to the middle of Jounouchi's forehead. He raised the rod higher into the air. The golden light grew denser. It spread like honey over Jounouchi's face, down his chest and over the rest of his body.
It was only moments before Jounouchi's lanky form was completely enveloped by the light. His face twisted and he twitched. Then, Jounouchi's back arched as he gasped for air. His eyes slammed open and he lurched upright. Malik toppled off his heels and fell back to the carpet with a curse.
"Jounouchi!" Yugi and Honda cried at the same time even as Anzu wrapped her arms around their friend's neck.
"Oh, thank goodness you're awake!"
"Awake?" Jounouchi spluttered. He patted Anzu awkwardly on the back, looking over her shoulder to Honda. "Was I asleep?"
Honda laughed and ruffled the other man's hair. "You don't remember?" he asked.
"I remember summoning Panther Warrior, and kicking some serious butt. " Jounouchi said, detangling himself from Anzu's hold to sit up on the couch. He scrubbed a hand over his face. "But after that, everything gets a little hazy. I remember you hitting me though!"
"Of course you remember that!" Honda groused, but he wasn't able to hide his grin. Not even when he had to jump out of the way as Jounouchi attempted to get off the couch, fist raised in retribution.
Until Malik pushed him back down with a firm hand on the chest. "I know I'm asking a lot, but don't be an idiot." The former tomb keeper said. "I didn't waste my time trying to wake your ass up, just to have you go and kill yourself.
"Thanks for the advice." Jounouchi pushed the hand way. But he didn't make another move to get his revenge on Honda. Instead, he fell back against the couch, leaning his head against the back with a groan. "Sucker punch aside, did anyone get the number of the truck that hit me?"
"The magic of the dark games are not to be trifled with." Said Ishizu. "But now that everyone is accounted for, we can begin."
"So you do know what's going on," Yugi said, perking up in his seat. "And the Millennium items are apart of it?"
Ishizu sighed. Her fingers moved to the hollow between her collar bones. "About two months ago, I received a message from Shadi. He said that the items were acting… oddly."
Two months ago… The fifth anniversary of the ceremonial duel.
"But we sealed the items, didn't we?" Anzu interrupted. "That was why Atem had to leave, to stop the magic."
"That's what we believed, yeah." Malik agreed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Or at least that's what our Father preached anyway."
"But you think he was wrong?" Ryou leaned forward, curiosity seeming to outweigh his previous misgivings.
"Trying to get to that part, thanks." Malik snapped. "Like Ishizu was saying, the items were acting odd, and given the date, we had the tomb exhumed right away. The Items were shipped here for observation."
"Wasn't that risky?" Jounouchi interjected.
"Compared to what?" Malik said. "Leaving glowing hunks of cursed gold lying around for any tomb raider to get their hands on? With nothing but an old guy in a turban for protection?"
"Malik," Ishizu warned. Her brother let out a frustrated huff but otherwise fell silent. "The Tomb-keepers have long believed that when the anonymous Pharaoh first sacrificed his soul, he placed a seal on the powers of the dark games, binding them to the millennium items. That is what gave Yami-no-Yugi and Yami-No-Bakura their abilities.
"But that was never meant to be a permanent solution. So over time, those seals began to crack, and the items could no longer contain the dark magic"
"Which is why the world is falling apart," Honda asked. "This is a dark game. And those are real monsters, not just Kaiba Corp holograms?"
"Well, technically those monsters " Malik signed air quotations around the word, "predate your precious card game by a few thousand years. But yeah, that's the Armageddon-style concept."
"I don't understand," Yugi said. "Mou Hitori… Atem, he went to the afterlife. That was supposed to be the permanent seal."
Ryou nodded his agreement. "That's what you promised. Atem needed to die again in order to end the dark games. You were pretty clear about that."
"Yes," Ishizu said. "The anonymous Pharaoh has the ability to permanently end the cycle of magic. It has always been the mission of the Tomb-keepers to aid the Pharaoh in this task."
"Which he did," Jounouchi said impatiently. "So what's the problem? Cause something obviously didn't work."
"We made a mistake."
As everyone's attention fell on Ishizu, Yugi realized just how haggard the normally elegant woman looked. Her white dress was heavily creased as if it had been slept in and Her long black hair was lank and oily. Heavy circles ringed her eyes. Instead of seeming like a resurrected priestess from Ancient times, she looked like an ordinary person and terrified one at that.
"A mistake." Honda parroted. "How can thousands of years of Tomb-keepers just make a mistake like that?"
"It's not like we had a lot to go on. A few chipped tablets, and some scrolls that did not appreciate a few centuries of aging." Malik rolled his eyes. "Mix that with a prophecy kept alive by non-consensual tattooing and you're bound to have a few crossed wires."
Honda barked out a laugh, but the sound was void of anything resembling humour. "Oh, that's exactly what I want to hear from the people in charge of preventing the end of the world."
"Just how big of a mistake are we talking about." Yugi threw in hastily, deliberately cutting of Malik's response "We know that Mou Hitori no Boku was the Pharaoh. Bakura's memory world was evidenced enough!"
"Yami-no-Yugi was without a doubt a representation of the Pharaoh's soul." Ishizu agreed. "We assumed that after his battle with Zork, the Pharaoh had just sealed his soul into the puzzle, waiting for the ideal host to solve it. But now, we realize the reality was far more complex."
"What do you mean?"
Ishizu turned to Yugi, looking him up and down. "How have you been, since Yami left?" She asked him. Yugi blinked, not sure how to handle the question or the concern that laced her words. "Have you been able to adapt to life without him?"
Instinctively, Yugi's mind turned inwards. He visualized the ragged pit that used to be the hallway separating his soul from Atem's. He reached out to the void, the way one might run their tongue over a rotten tooth to see if it still hurt. His blood ran cold.
He had thought when Atem left for the afterlife, his soul room and the adjoining hall would disappear. The human mind was never meant to hold two souls at once. Most people didn't have soul rooms, or at the very least, didn't know they existed. Atem was a spirit that had possessed his body. Once Yugi completed his task as the Pharaoh's host, everything would go back to normal.
Atem was gone. Yugi had accepted that a long time ago. That wound, the death of a man he had only known a short while, should have been survivable, no matter how close they had been.
He had never expected this. The void in the very core of his mind. It was a vacuum that sucked in every good feeling, every ounce of motivation he had, until even his bones felt hollow. The silence was deafening. Even after five years, Yugi struggled to pull himself away.
Yugi lifted his chin and met Ishizu's gaze. But he didn't answer. She had asked him a question, but Yugi realized that she already knew the answer.
Ishizu looked away first, turning to one of the many bookshelves in her office. "The ancient Egyptian's believed that after death the soul was split into two parts." She spoke as if addressing a lecture hall, pulling a book free had flipping through the pages. She held up a sketch of a body prepared for mummification. "These two parts were called the Ba and Ka."
"We learned about that in social studies." Anzu chimed in. "The Ka is a person's life force, right? And the Ba's the spiritual bit that travels between life and death. Together… they make." She paused, brow furrowing as she tried to remember the last word. "They make… the…"
"The Akh," Yugi finished. "The blessed soul."
"Exactly so." Ishizu continued to flip through the book. "But I think this process was interrupted when Pharaoh Atem died. The Millennium Puzzle prevented the halves of the Pharaoh's soul from reuniting in the afterlife. Instead, it drew the Ba inside, leaving the Ka to wander the earth."
"Okay, neat history lesson," Jounouchi said. "But what does that have to do with the monster and the freaky light show?"
"Malik, Rashid and I have been discussing that." Ishizu said, sounding drained as she leaned her back against her desk, holding the book to her chest. "We think that Yami only represented the Pharaoh's Ba. Which means, Yugi, that it is very likely you are Atem's double- the Ka. Only together was your heart complete enough to be weighed by Maat."
Yugi frowned, feeling the cold from the pit spread down from his spine to the very tips of his fingers and toes. "His Ka?" he breathed "But, Mou Hitori, I Mean Atem. He's the Pharaoh. Not me!
"Yah! I call B.S." Jounouchi spluttered. He took the book from Ishizu, staring at the text as if it would explain everything. "Sounds like a bunch of mystic mumbo-jumbo to me."
"Says the guy who summoned a monster with his mind. "Malik countered, resting a hand on his sister's elbow. "But that doesn't make it any less real."
"But Atem's already crossed over." Ryou pointed out. "We were there. After the duel, the doors opened."
"No, Yami crossed over," Malik said with a shrug. "Think about it. The magic required the Anonymous Pharaoh's soul to pass into the afterlife. His death would sever the connection between our world and the dark games, right?"
"That's what Ryou just said." Honda retorted.
"What if we skipped out on our half of the bargain? Sure the doors opened for the soul of the Pharaoh Atem; but we only gave them half. So the connection was never severed. For the last five years, we've been relying on the magic of the items to control the dark games. But that seal had a best-before date. And we're past it."
"Okay, let's assume your right," Honda said his arms crossing over his chest. "You're saying we're screwed."
"But the ceremonial duel was a one-shot deal," Ryou said. "I don't see what else there is to do."
Malik chuckled. "You guys are a depressing lot; do you know that?" he asked. "Is this how you normally save the world? Sit around and pout until the solution falls into your lap?"
"Are you going to help us, or be a jerk?" Anzu snapped at him. "Otherwise we'll figure this out ourselves. Right guys?"
"Right!" Honda and Jounouchi bother cheered. Yugi smiled at them but was Malik all that far from the truth. Outside the window, a bonfire raged, the crackling blue flames a twisted memory of the cherry tree that had once framed the Museum's roof. What could 7 completely ordinary people do to stop the end of the world?
This was insane. No matter what Ishizu thought, Yugi wasn't the pharaoh who had stopped the dark games 3000 years ago. That wasn't impossible. He would have known, wouldn't he? There should have been some kind of sign. Some warning! Mou Hitori No Boku would have mentioned something!
This wasn't real. Mou Hitori no Boku was a nickname, a holdover from when Yugi had first solved the puzzle and didn't understand what he had released. Yugi had stopped believing that Yami was actually his other half a long time ago. Yami was far more than that… he was the Pharaoh. The only Pharaoh.
Atem might have been able to figure something out. At the very least, he would have taken control, and would already be strategizing their next move. Was Ishizu expecting Yugi to take charge, to come up with some brilliant plan like Atem would have?
"Enough Malik" Ishizu said firmly, silencing her brother with a glare. "We do have a plan. But for it to work, we must work together."
Apparently, she wasn't expecting him to do much of anything. Yugi didn't know if he was relieved or not. The room obediently fell silent. But her words lacked the unifying quality that Mou Hitori no Bo… that Atem's carried so effortlessly.
He needed to stop thinking like that. Atem wasn't here. He wasn't going to swoop in and save them at the last minute. Yugi pushed the thoughts away with ruthless efficiency. If Ishizu said they had a plan, then they could do this. They had to try. "What are you thinking?" he asked the tomb keeper.
It was Malik who responded, "Its simple. " He said, with a dazzling smile that clashed with the chaos outside. "The prophecy says that only the Anonymous Pharaoh can control the dark games right?"
"Well we already have half. So the only thing left to do is bring Yami back."