Disclaimer: I of course do not own the concept of Yu-Gi-Oh, or any characters. All rights belong to the creators. I merely borrow their ideas to fuel my own stories inspired by their brilliant world.

Summary: Yugi had one wish, and that was to have a single true friend. When gifted the Millennium Puzzle, she childishly dreamed it had the power to make her one wish come true. Little did she realize the stranger trapped inside may be the friend she was looking for. Unfortunately, nothing comes without a price. Fem!Yugi Gender Bender. Atem X Yugi. A slight retelling of the original with some unexpected twists.

Confide in Me, Beautiful Soul

Chapter Three

"Gah! I can't believe you won again!" Jonouchi cried, grabbing his hair in aggravation.

Yugi laughed weakly, "Give yourself a chance, this is only your third time playing the game."

It was lunch time, and they were hanging out together in the classroom with some other students. Before them on Yugi's desk were Duel Monster cards. Jonouchi had finally managed to scrounge up enough to build a deck, and had been challenging her to duels ever since.

Honda laughed, patting Jonouchi on the shoulder. "Yugi's a shark bud!" He couldn't believe just how good the girl was at the trendy card game. It was a hard thing to master, even he still had trouble figuring out a winning strategy. He didn't think her submissive personality would allow her the cut-throat determination to play for keeps. He had been very wrong, as had Jonouchi, who was now learning the hard way just how good at the game Yugi really was.

"Wow Yugi, where did you learn how to play like that? Think you could teach me a few tricks too?" Anzu peered at the cards in Yugi's hand, impressed. A lot of them were high level creatures, and scary looking. She typically collected the cute ones, and had expected Yugi (now that she knew she was in fact a girl) to follow a similar style.

Yugi rubbed her head, awkward at the praise and attention. "S-Sure. My Grandpa taught me everything I know, he was the best at it before it got popular. I still have a long way to go before my desk is good enough to beat his though. He has some pretty powerful rare cards." She couldn't believe Anzu had continued to talk with her after their encounter in the bathroom two days ago, let alone show interest in anything as nerdy as Duel Monsters. She had never had a female friend before, and felt a swell of hope that maybe Anzu could be the one to fill that role.

"Keh, amateurs."

Yugi turned to the back of the classroom where Seto Kaiba was sitting, typing away on a laptop. His steely blue eyes were focused on the screen. If his voice hadn't been so distinct, she would almost doubt she heard him say anything at all.

"Got something ta say there, Kaiba?" Jonouchi growled, placing his foot on top of a chair. Honda quickly held him back, already anticipating an escalation in violence.

Kaiba continued typing, ignoring him completely. Or at least, he tried very hard to appear to be. Yugi's eyes picked up a slight thinning of his lips, the only outward sign at the cold teen's growing temper.

"Grrr you think just cuz you're some rich pretty boy you can mock us whenever yea feel like, eh!?" Jonouchi fisted his hand and waved it threatening in front of him. "I'd like ta see yea come over here an say something ta my face!"

Kaiba stopped typing, and closed the laptop with a sigh. "That's your problem Katsuya, you seem to think I have breathe to waste on someone as insignificant as you." He stood, tucking the laptop under his arm as he gathered his bag. "I have a multi-billion dollar company to run, and unlike you, I don't have time for petty posturing that all but shouts I'm an insecure cry baby."

"W-Whaddya say?"

Kaiba ignored him, strolling past him without another word before exiting the classroom.

Yugi sighed, the feud between Jonouchi and Kaiba nothing new.

"Argh! Dat jerk!" Jonouchi huffed, crossing his arms. "Eh, ignore him Yug, he's just jealous."

"It's ok, he's probably right." Yugi said, putting her cards away. "He's an international champion at Duel Monsters after all. I'm sure I do probably seem like an amateur to him."

"Keh, who cares what title pretty boy's got. He aint nothin compared ta you, Yugi." Jonouchi leaned in closer, thumb striking his chest. "I wanna learn from da best, so I wanna learn from you!"

Yugi blushed. "I don't think I'm the best though…" She mumbled, but Jonouchi was having none of it. "I don care whatcha think, I've decided and that's that!"

Honda grabbed Jonouchi around the neck, giving him a noogie. "I don't think that's how it works, doofus!"

"Hey! Get yer hands off me! Quit dat!" He managed to wriggle loose and dashed over to Yugi, grabbing her hands. "Please Yug! I need help! Can yea take me ta Kame Shop and help me pick out some new cards?"

"Actually, I wouldn't mind going too." Anzu piped up. "I need to pick out a fun game for my niece."

"And someone's gotta keep an eye on this knucklehead here, so I might as well go too." Honda added with a sighed. Jonouchi chose to ignore his comment. Instead he gripped her hands a bit tighter. "C'mon Yug! I need to beef up my deck!"

Yugi looked at all their eager faces as they turned to stare at her, waiting for confirmation. "I-I guess that would be fine, but not today. The shop's closed because Grandpa's still off on his adventure. When he gets back, we can all go." Everyone seemed to deflate at her response, and she felt the fear of their disappointment spur her to fix the situation. "Maybe we could stop off at that Corner Store instead though? Sometimes they have some pretty cool cards."

"Yes!" Jonouchi shouted, fist pumping the air. "Time ta get me some cool monsters!"

Yugi laughed. "I think you have enough of those, Jonouchi. What you need are more magic cards."

The blonde scratched his cheek ruefully. "Wha, I need more? Isn't four enough?"

"Not even close." She deadpanned, eying him critically. "Do you even have any trap cards yet?" She took his silence as confirmation enough, and sighed dramatically. "I thought I told you that magic and trap cards are as important as the monsters in your deck."

"See, this is why I need yea Yug! Yea gotta keep reminding me of these kinda things!"

"That's not how teaching works Jonouchi…you're supposed to remember those kinds of things on your own!" Honda jeered.

It wasn't long before the two broke out into another fight, Anzu trying to separate them without much success. Yugi smiled, resting her cheek in her hand as she watched them all. Her heart felt full, for the first time in quite a while. The crippling loneliness was gone. Things were looking bright, her world not teetering on the edge of dark depression. Her gaze moved down to her puzzle, a single hand caressing the smooth surface. Ever since she had solved it things had gotten much better. It truly must be magical, there was no other explanation. She had gone so many years unable to make a single acquaintance, and now suddenly she had three fantastic friends. Surely it was the power of her wish that had brought them all together? She would never let the puzzle go, it was more than just her most treasured item now.

A feeling of contentment, of agreement almost, suddenly tingled up her arm and spread to her soul. She stared at the ancient item in surprise. It had almost felt…'But that's just silly.' There was no way the puzzle had caused those feelings to course through her. Still, she couldn't shake the disturbing idea that those emotions did not feel like her own. It was an odd sensation to describe, and didn't make logical sense. How could she feel emotions so clearly, like they were her own, but not have them actually feel like her own?

Jonouchi suddenly slung an arm around her neck. "Oh man I'm so excited! You're da best!" He extended an arm in front of them, moving it to the side with his hand flourished as if he were displaying some great scenery she couldn't see. "Just imagine it Yug. Jonouchi, Duelist Champion of the entire world!"

"Wow wow wow, you have to at least win a duel first…." Honda shook his head. Sometimes Jonouchi was just beyond help.

"Eh, all in good time, just you see!"

Anzu laughed. "Well, at least he dreams big."

Yugi smiled weakly in agreement.


Once school was finished the four of them set out together, hitting up the Corner Shop Yugi had mentioned to see if any new cards had arrived. It was a creepy old store, filled with strange items and an even stranger Shop Keeper, but it often housed the random rare card for Duel Monsters so Yugi made a point of frequently stopping in on her way home. The place was dusty, and dirty. Barely any light managed to filter through the grime-covered windows. The smell of mold and stale air permeated, and the light that did come through illuminated many dirt particles floating around. She always made a point to breathe as little as possible whenever she stepped inside the shop. It seemed her three friends were similarly affected.

Anzu sneezed. "This place is disgusting." She muttered, rubbing her arms. "And creepy. Can we leave yet?" The store seemed empty, the desk that housed the till vacant. The shop keeper must be somewhere in the back, tending to stock.

"No way! Not until I get a look at these cards!" Jonouchi pressed his face greedily against the glass display box where numerous Duel Monster cards sat in stands atop red velvet cloth. "C'mere Yug, see any dat you think I should get?"

Honda peered around curiously examining a random vase that had strange symbols on it. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and traced one with his finger. "Huh. Wonder what it means?" The vase suddenly tipped precariously and he hurriedly caught it before it fell over completely. Anzu gave him a stern look and he laughed weakly.

Yugi began to walk over to Jonouchi when the Shop Keeper suddenly appeared from a room behind his desk, a dusty drape falling back in place which separated the room from the main shop area. He was an older man, tufts of white hair spilling from his odd rounded dark green top hat. He stood tall, posture straight, his somewhat outlandish dark green suit pressed neatly free of wrinkles. In his hands was a strange old box. Surprise lit his features briefly as his eyes fell upon the teens, until they rested on Yugi. He studied her silently, expression unreadable and his apparent interest disquieting to the young girl. He had seen her many times before and never was bothered by her presence in the past. Then he grinned, and it reminded her of the Cheshire Cat. She felt an involuntary shiver travel down her spine. "That's an interesting little trinket you have there, child." His voice was quiet, but confident. He gazed upon the puzzle around her neck with barely contained curiosity. "Where did you get it?"

Yugi clutched her treasured item closer to her chest, feeling unexplainably perturbed at his attention to it, and a bit rankled by the use of the word 'child'. "My Grandpa." She answered shortly, not meeting the Shop Keeper's gaze. It was too intense, too focused, and once again she had the odd sensation of being prey. Just like with Ushio her gut was screaming that she needed to get far away, but to leave now would seem very strange. Unconsciously her fingers brushed along the surface of the puzzle and she felt her nerves calm somewhat, reassured as always by its touch.

"Yo shop keeper guy, I'd like ta see some of these cards here, if yea don' mind?" Jonouchi suddenly spoke, drawing the intense stare of the Shop Keeper away. He seemed startled by Jonouchi's presence, as if he had forgotten anyone else was there. "Yes, of course. Do you have a particular card in mind?"

Jonouchi sent her a pleading look, and reluctantly she stepped closer to him, and the Shop Keeper who now stood just in front of him behind the glass case. "Remember you need some magic cards, so let's see if he has any of those." She instructed, peering at the many different cards on display, purposely avoiding eye contact with the Shop Keeper who had gone back to resuming his disturbing study of her. A card suddenly caught her attention, and she pointed at it. "How about that one Jonouchi? It's called Scapegoat. It's a great magic card to have when you need to buy yourself some time to figure out a counter strategy."

Jonouchi rushed over and all but bumped her out of the way in his haste to see the card she had mentioned. "Oh cool Yug! That sounds just like somethin I need!"

"Jonouchi! Watch it!" Anzu snapped, steadying Yugi who had almost toppled to the floor from the contact. Honda sent him a glare. "You're worse than a child!"

Jonouchi grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."

"It's ok. I think that card would really compliment your deck though, so you should get it." Yugi smiled at him, and Jonouchi turned back to study the card in serious contemplation.

"You're quite familiar with Duel Monsters then?" The Shop Keeper suddenly inquired, eyes flashing as Yugi unwillingly looked up to his face. Quickly she looked away. "Not really."

"What are yea saying Yug? Don' sell yerself short!" Jonouchi gave the Shop Keeper a confidant smirk, "My bud here is one of da best there is!"

Yugi did not want any further attention, especially from the Shop Keeper. She bit her lower lip, an unconscious nervous habit. "Jonouchi stop, that's just not true."

"Sure it is! I only learn from da best after all." Jonouchi grinned cheekily at her, thinking he was doing her some grand favor in boosting her confidence. She felt like throttling him. She did not like the gleam that entered the Shop Keeper's eyes when he had asked her the question. The urge to leave was growing into an almost panicked desire the longer she stayed within the shop. Something wasn't right, and she trusted her instincts. They all needed to go.

The Shop Keeper smiled that Cheshire grin again before setting down the box he was holding. "Well then, I have something I think might interest you." He opened the lid, and curiosity got the better of her, so she found herself walking over and peering inside. Resting on a cloth of bluish black velvet was a single Duel Monster card, the rare and hard to obtain Dark Magician. Her eyes widened and she couldn't help the rush of excitement that seized her, "Where did you get this? I've been trying to find one for ages!"

"I won it in a game." He explained, closing the lid. "I'm not willing to part with it easily though, the price will be high."

Yugi felt herself deflate. "Oh of course, I imagine it costs quite a bit."

"More than you can ever imagine." He agreed, voice soft, dangerous. "But, I'd be willing to Duel you for it."

Before she could even speak Anzu clapped her hands. "Oh Yugi you should do it!" she gushed, smiling brightly. "You're amazing, I'm sure you'll win!"

"Yea Yug! What do yea got ta lose?"

Honda nodded, "I'm with the idiot on this one." Jonouchi growled at him, "Hey! I'm right here!"

Yugi looked to the Shop Keeper, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "What do you want if I lose?"

The Cheshire cat grin returned. "Your puzzle. This card is quite precious to me, so I would require something quite precious in return."

She wasn't surprised. Something did bother her about the answer though. "How…how did you know it was a puzzle?" Or that it was something precious to her? Just because she wore it didn't mean it had any type of sentimental value. Now that it was completed, her pendant looked more like a gaudy fashion accessory than a puzzle. Unless you knew before hand, it wouldn't be obvious.

He shrugged. "I saw the lines on it and assumed."

She glanced down at it, trying to decide if what he said seemed truthful. Maybe to the casual observer it wouldn't be obvious, but the Shop Keeper had been staring at it intently for some time now. Perhaps he had figured it out? Either way, it didn't matter. "Sorry, but I refuse. Thank you for the opportunity." She would never bargain her treasure in a game, no matter how confidant she felt in her capabilities, or rather…how confidant her friends felt in her capabilities.

"Wha? C'mon Yug this is your chance to get a really rare card, for free! Yea can't just pass that up!" Jonouchi whined, placing his hands on both her shoulders. "You might never get a chance like this again!"

"Yugi said no Jonouchi, so that means no." Anzu stepped over to her, grabbing one of Jonouchi's arms. "She doesn't want to gamble the puzzle away." Yugi flinched at Anzu's words, her eyes darting to the Shop Keeper to see if he had caught the slip. She was still dressed as a boy after all, and looked very much like a boy. She didn't want this creepy guy knowing otherwise, but it seemed another vulnerability of hers was now laid open for his scrutiny.

"Gah whatever. Fine, I'll just buy that Scapegoat card and den we'll leave."

Honda sighed. "You really are just like a child…"

Yugi felt her unease deflating somewhat at Jonouchi's comment. They'll finally be able to leave this awful shop soon.

"That's too bad." The Shop Keeper sighed, picking the box up and moving to put it away. "I was eager to face a worthy opponent. It's been a while since I Dueled anyone with skill." From the corner of his eye he watched her.

"I'm not willing to risk my puzzle. It's my most precious treasure, too precious to lose." She explained, feeling the need to get across just how important this item was to her. "I won't let anything happen to it." Her tone was protective, with an edge of warning.

The Shop Keeper bent down, setting the box onto an old dusty shelf behind his desk. "I don't doubt that for a second." He somehow sounded almost threatening, and she felt a chill creep up her spine when his eyes flashed up to study her once more. "Important things must be guarded carefully, after all."

Jonouchi paid for his card, a giant grin on his face once he finally held it in his hand. "Oh man this is awesome!"

"Can we finally go now, please?" Though Anzu didn't say it out loud (since the Shop Keeper was actually present this time) her creep factor was through the roof and she was done with this place.

"Yeah yeah." Jonouchi pouted as they all turned to leave the store, shooting Yugi a look. "Since someone isn't gonna be Dueling for an awesome card, I guess we got nothin left ta do here." Then he smiled at her. "But I don't blame yeah, dat puzzle der really is your most precious thing eh?"

She smiled in return, staring down at her pendent with a fond expression as they walked. "It is. It's not worth losing."

"Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me." The Shop Keeper's voice drifted over to her, and she felt herself stiffen. "Will you be coming back for more cards soon?"

She turned to look at him, trying to mask her unease. "Yeah, probably." 'No, so much no.' If she had it her way, she would never walk into this shop again. She was disturbed to see the Shop Keeper had that Cheshire grin back in place. His eyes grew dangerous, but the smile never slipped as he nodded, "Then, I'll see you soon."

Needless to say, she felt very relieved to hear the door click shut behind her.

"Well that was a waste of time." Anzu griped, letting out a discontent sigh. "I didn't find anything for my niece." She looked at the three of them with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, but I really need to get her a toy. Her birthday is tomorrow, so I gotta bail to try and find something."

"Speak for yerself, I wouldn't call it a waste of time!" Jonouchi held up his new magic card with uncontained glee. "Just look at this baby!"

Anzu waved away his enthusiasm, "Yeah yeah we're all very happy for you and your new card. Do you need some alone time together or something?" She laughed at his indignant blush as he spluttered in embarrassment.

Honda looked at his watch, eyebrow raising as he assessed the time. "Well guys, I promised my sister I would babysit tonight so I need to get going too."

Jonouchi glanced at Yugi. "I guess if everyone is leaving, I should probably go too. Can I walk yea?"

Yugi felt herself deflate, she had thought they would all go somewhere after the shop, like to a fast food place to eat and chat. She had been really looking forward to the idea of spending time like that with her new friends, but perhaps their relationship hadn't quite reached that level yet. Just because she felt comfortable with them, didn't mean they saw her in the same light. They probably didn't want to spend all their free time hanging out with her anyway. 'Stupid.' She forced on a smile. "Nah, I'm ok Jonouchi really. I need to grab something first before I head back and I wouldn't want to keep you." She sent them all a wave, "Thanks for coming with me to the shop, it was fun!"

Anzu smiled at her. "No problem, but er…next time we'll go someplace less creepy together, ok?" She then laughed and with a quick wave she was gone.

Honda nodded, "Anytime." He then shot Jonouchi a look "I'd maybe take Jonouchi up on his offer though. I'd walk you myself but I'm running late, sorry." Then he wave and left as well.

Jonouchi eyed her critically. "Are yea sure Yug? I don't feel right not walkin yea home…" The memory of the attack with those two cloaked weirdos was still fresh in his mind, and it seemed Honda's as well. The recent break in at the school not instilling him with much confidence either. He felt they hadn't saw the last of those freaks. "C'mon, lemme walk yea home."

She backed away from him. "No no, really I'll be fine. My place isn't that far away and I need to grab er…some…" Here she blushed, not believing she was about to play this card, but desperate to get him to back off before he noticed her mood, "Er…womanly items, and I'd really rather you not be present for that."

Jonouchi blushed beet red, and suddenly found it difficult to look at her. "Gya! I mean er…yes! Dat is ta say- Yea do dat on your own, no problem." He scratched the back of his head awkwardly, Brooklyn accent in full force with his embarrassment. "If yer sure."

'Can this get any more awkward?' She laughed weakly. "Yes, I'm very sure. I'll be fine."

He crossed his arms. "Alright den, I'll see yea 'round Yug. Text me when yer home." Then he turned and walked away while she waved at him, her earlier smile firmly in place. Once he was out of sight, it dropped and she sighed depressingly. She really didn't want to go home yet. Her eyes fell on the mall just across from her, and she shrugged internally, 'Might as well go enjoy myself while I'm out. Not like I've never shopped alone before.'


She had stayed out later then she anticipated, unable to face the silence of her empty home. It was always hard for her to go back there when her Grandpa was away for more than a few days. The empty house often tormented her with soft echoes of happier times. She had only moved in after her parents had passed, but she had visited her Grandpa often when her parents were both still alive. Many happy memories were created within those walls. Now that they were gone, those same memories became painful reminders of their absence in her life.

She had sent Jonouchi a text long ago saying she was home. She felt bad lying to him, but she didn't want him to worry either. It wasn't his job to tend to her insecurities. She may look like a child, but she refused to be treated like one. His concern was touching, but she could take care of herself. The memory of the two cloaked figures suddenly sprang to mind, but she pushed it away. She would not allow herself to live in fear because of one random incident. She likely hadn't even been their real target anyway. The more she thought about it, the more she felt like that freak occurrence had been a misunderstanding. Those cloaked strangers had a clear item in mind they were looking for, and she had nothing of value. They probably mistook her for someone else.

Feeling more resolved about that notion, she exited the current shop she was in with the intention of heading home. Though she had no school tomorrow since it was Saturday, she still didn't feel like staying up too much later either. That odd fatigue she had over the last few days hadn't dissipated, though it was now less extreme. The door closed behind her with a gentle chime, and she rubbed her hands together as the brisk night air kissed her skin. With a slight shiver she watched as a wisp of her breathe puffed out in front of her. It was surprisingly chilly. Glancing around, she noted that the streets were empty, which was odd. With a shrug she decided that most people were probably just not willing to brave the cold. Good thing she lived close by.

The sound of another door closing suddenly had her looking to her left, just a bit down the street where the Corner Shop sat. She felt the air in her lungs freeze as a Cheshire grin met her gaze. The Shop Keeper stood, eyes trained on her as if he had expected to see her standing there the moment he went outside to lock up. She felt like a deer caught in headlights, unable to move as he gradually made his way towards her. A sudden jolt of energy spurred her to action, and hastily she turned away from him, walking fast in the opposite direction.

Originally her first instinct was to head home, but then she realized that may no longer be the best course of action. She could hear his footsteps echo hers, a patient predator stalking his prey. He wasn't even making an effort to be discrete in his pursuit. If he was following her, the last place she wanted to lead him was straight to her front door.

But where to go then? The police station wasn't exactly close by, and if there were going to be people out the place she was in would have been the most populated. Her only options for now were to keep moving, and hope she came across someone before he decided to try whatever it was he was going to try. He didn't seem to be in any hurry. Maybe she was being too paranoid? A quick glance behind her had her dropping that idea. He was still staring at her, casually walking, and speeding his pace ever so slightly to make sure she stayed within sight. All the while that Cheshire smile never left his creepy face. Why did he have to smile like that? What did he want?

Her eyes glanced down, to the puzzle around her neck. 'Would he really do something so drastic, just to get this?'

A haunting whistle suddenly cut through her thoughts. She glanced behind her to the Shop Keeper, who now seemed to be skipping with every other step as he pursed his lips to a tune she had never heard before. It was a strange disconcerting rhythm and went well with his strange disconcerting persona. 'Why can't he just leave me alone?' Fear pumped through her heart, and her fast-paced walk turned into an all-out run as she tried to get as far away from the Shop Keeper as possible. She rounded a nearby corner, and came to a screeching halt.

The Shop Keeper was standing there, five feet down the road. "Here little kitty." He purred, "Do you want to play with me?"

Sheer terror coursed through her veins. There was just no way this was happening; how did he get in front of her? She risked a quick peek behind her, half expecting to see a second Shop Keeper making his way over, but the sidewalk was empty. Her eyes turned to focus on him as she took a cautious step back, hating how her legs quivered. "W-What do you want?"

The Shop Keeper laughed. "I want that Duel. Look, I even brought the Dark Magician." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the card, the shiny surface flashing because of a nearby street light. "So, are you going to play with me little kitty?"

Her breath hitched, fear and panic making her dizzy. She suddenly felt lightheaded. 'Oh my God, I'm going to pass out right in front of his creep!' It was the last thing she wanted to do, and something niggled at her that with all the adrenaline coursing through her, it shouldn't be happening. Yet it was. Before she knew it, she was swallowed by the night.


He opened his eyes and stared at the Shop Keeper with cool anger. "And if I say no?" Mentally he double-checked that Yugi was successfully under his sleep spell. He sensed there was something more dangerous about this man than just the usual. He couldn't afford to have her waking up and interfering this time.

The Shop Keeper tilted his head. "Oh, who is this now? Was the kitten too scared and ran away?" Then his expression turned dangerous. "I'm afraid it isn't a request. You will duel me if you ever plan on seeing tomorrow, little Yami."

'Yami?' The term was strangely familiar, and he felt a shift inside his memories. Before he could ponder on it he sensed something, a disturbance in the Shadows. Eyes wary he glanced around as the air became thicker, and the night became darker. "What are you doing?" He demanded, posture tensing.

The Shop Keeper laughed. "A demonstration. Either accept my request or be lost to the darkness. I'm sure you'll feel right at home, but your other you…I wonder how long she'd last?" His Cheshire grin spread across his face again. "What is she telling you right now? Is she saying how scared she is, how she wants to go home?"

He kept his face neutral, but inwardly was disturbed. This stranger seemed to understand their situation a little too well. It was disconcerting, since he didn't even understand his and Yugi's situation. How did this man know so much about them? It irked him further to realize the Shop Keeper was likely saying these things on purpose, just to create the very effect it was having on him.

"Oh? Don't tell me…she doesn't even know yet, does she?" The Shop Keeper laughed again and clapped his hands. "This is going to be such a lovely time."

"Enough talking! Fine, I accept your challenge. Let's Duel!" His eyes narrowed and he pulled out Yugi's deck. He had become quite familiar with the game having paid close attention to Yugi's and Jonouchi's duels at school. He couldn't explain it, but he found the game captivating. It felt…familiar. He even found himself strategizing along with Yugi while she played.

The Shop Keeper bowed his head. "Excellent, I knew you'd see it my way." Then he spread his arms out and the world around them began to fade away. Two grey tables materialized, one in front of each of them. "I warned your other self, and I'll warn you now, Yami of the puzzle. The price is more than you dare imagine in this Shadow Game."

His eyes widened. "A Shadow Game?" As far as he knew from his limited recall, only those who possessed a Millennium Item could call upon the Shadows. He shifted uncomfortably as the darkness swirled at his feet, and the once quiet streets of Domino City faded into blackness. It definitely felt like a real Shadow Game, and if that were indeed the situation, things were more dangerous than even he anticipated.

"The rules are simple. We each start with 2000 life points. Anytime a monster gets attacked, your light takes the hit. The first person who reaches zero life points loses the game, and the light forever. Winner takes the spoils." The Shop Keeper raised his eyebrows, "Any questions?"

He narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean by light, what light?" He didn't like the purposely obscure use of language, especially not in a Shadow Game.

The Shop Keeper dipped his head, as if conceding he asked a good question. "Ah yes, let me explain a bit more then. Every soul has two parts to it, a light and a darkness. In this game, we will kill off that light."

"You're sick." He spat. What kind of deranged human would want to risk living the remainder of their life with nothing but the darkness in their heart for company? It would be a cursed existence, a half-life filled with nothing but endless pain unescapable even in death. A soul full of darkness doesn't make it past Ammit after all.

"Do you accept the terms?"

He scowled, "It's not like you've left me with a choice."

"Then let's being." The Shop Keeper smiled.


The first thing she noticed was the cold, and the next was the suffocating weight. It was a force so heavy she felt as if her very soul was being crushed. Even the air felt thick, and she found it difficult to breathe. It was as if just existing took more energy than she could bare to give. Consciousness was slowly seeping into her, and voices were starting to drift in.

"-meaning of this!?"

"I told you the price of this game would be higher than you knew."

"She was not part of the terms we discussed."

"Of course she was, you just failed to realize it. Now are you going to make your move, or shall I assume your lack of play means you forfeit the match?"

She frowned only recognizing one of the voices, and it was definitely not a voice she wished to recognize. The fear from before, previously forgotten as she collected her thoughts, came rushing back. With a startled gasp she opened her eyes.

Darkness. It was everywhere. So intense that nothing else existed. That alone made her wish she was still passed out, but things grew weirder as her gaze focused on the person standing below her, off to the side. He looked so much like her, if she were truly born a male that is. In front of him was a simple grey table, and the same table also sat in front of the Shop Keeper. 'Wait, why is he below me? What's holding-' She looked above her head, shifting her hands and finding that strangely she couldn't move. Panic shot through her. There was nothing physically present binding her hands, and yet they were suspended above her head as if she were dangling from an invisible chain in the air. Just where was she, who was that guy who looked so much like her, and why was he facing off against the Shop Keeper?

"Yugi I promise you, I will protect you alright?" It was her doppelganger speaking, his eyes, so much like her own, intense as they watched her. 'He knows my name?' She didn't know how she felt about that. 'This must be an awful dream, right? It has to be!' She struggled some more, growing desperate and frustrated when nothing seemed to work. "Why can't I get down? What's going on here!?"

The Shop Keeper purred at her, "Aw, little kitty. Did you really think we'd play without you here?" He tsked and shook his head. "That wouldn't be very nice, now would it?"

"Don't speak to her!" Her doppelganger snapped. He then turned back to her, face softening but still serious. "It's called a Shadow Game. I don't have time to explain everything, but just trust me, ok?"

She gazed at his face, studying him closely. She literally had no idea what a Shadow Game was, or if this was even real. The Shop Keeper was a creep though, and so that left only him for her to turn to. Anyone who looked so much like her couldn't be evil, right? "Ok, I trust you."

He smiled. "Good. Now let the Duel begin!" and drew a card.

Her eyes widened in surprise. 'They're playing Duel Monsters?' That realization struck another notch in the 'this must be a dream' category. If she had been confused before, she was completely baffled now. Somehow Duel Monsters was going to determine her fate. She just hoped this lookalike played as confidently as he talked.

"I play Kuriboh in Defense mode! And then I place this card face down on the field and end my turn." He placed the two cards onto the table in front of him. There was a swell of something, as if an energy existed within the darkness. Before her very eyes Kuriboh materialized in the space between her lookalike and the Shop Keeper's tables, as well as the facedown card.

She blinked, staring at the creature in complete shock. It looked so real, even its fur looked textured, like she could actually reach out and touch it. Was it real? Then her eyes narrowed. 'Wait a second…That's your opening move?' She felt her heart sink. Who played Kuriboh as an opener? It was a useful card if used correctly but typically it wasn't the first monster played. She noticed her doppelganger's back stiffen, and frowned, wondering what set him off.

'I'll have you know, it's rather distracting to hear your critique. Please, just trust me.'

Her body went completely still. That voice, his voice, she heard it clear as day yet his mouth never moved. 'Did you just…?'


She suddenly found it was more difficult to breathe, not that breathing here was ever an easy feat. Her heart beat a thousand miles a minute. Sheer panic coursed through her. How was this possible? Why was this happening to her? She must be crazy. That was it, she must have completely lost her mind. 'I'm actually in a mental hospital and this is just a very realistic delusion'. She almost felt giddy at the idea, her mind teetering dangerously. The shadows pressed in on her, and her earlier panicked suffocation began to grow in earnest.

'Yugi please calm down. I promised I'd protect you, remember? Everything is going to be alright but you need to relax and trust me.'

A wave of calm suddenly swallowed her, and she distinctly realized it did not generate from herself. Like an external drug was feeding through her veins, she felt her heart slow to normal and her breathing gradually evened out. The weight upon her soul lessened as her nerves began to settle, the Shadows backing away. 'What did you do?' Her eyes were wide as she stared at him, but he wasn't looking at her. He was completely focused on the game.

"How boring. Maybe I should have made it so that little kitty played instead?" The Shop Keeper sighed with a pout, drawing a card. "Please do try to make this a bit interesting, will you?"

"Just make your move."

"My, so serious all the time! As you wish then, Yami of the puzzle." The Shop Keeper picked a card from his hand and smiled. "I'll place this card face down, and then I'll play Peten the Dark Clown in attack mode!"

Yugi blinked, her mind whirling as she watched the game unfold. "Yami…of the puzzle?" She mused aloud, gaze turning to regard the man who looked so much like her. 'Just what does he mean by that?' Her eyes drifted down to the puzzle around her neck, and it was then with a start that she realized for the first time both her and this stranger were wearing the same one. 'Where did he find an exact copy of my puzzle? What is a Yami?'

'Don't worry about it. That's…just my name, Yami. Or at least, it's a name I've gone by in the past.' The strange man, now known as Yami, replied and she found herself feeling frustrated. She couldn't stop herself from thinking, much like she couldn't keep her heart from beating, yet this Yami had access to her every thought. He also seemed to somehow have influence over her emotions, which completely terrified her. How could she trust anything about herself now? Had her earlier trust in him been influenced? It felt like a complete invasion, like she was losing the very essence of herself to a foreign entity. She didn't like any of it one bit. 'Stay out of my head!'

'Sorry, it can't be helped.'

She didn't like that answer, either.

"Now attack my monster, use Bloodlust Slash!"

Yami smirked. "Not so fast, you've fallen into my trap card! Reveal facedown card, Sakuretsu Armor!" The facedown card suddenly flipped up, revealing the Trap Card Yami had just called out. "It destroys any attacking monster instantly."

The Shop Keeper shrugged as Peten burst into light and vanished from the field. He placed the card into his discard pile. "Makes no difference to me. I activate Peten's special ability and banish it from the graveyard. This allows me to summon a new one instantly from my hand." He placed another Peten card back on the field, and the Dark Clown Monster materialized from the shadows once again.

Yugi felt her stomach churn at the swell and release of magic. For some reason, wherever they were, it made her physically ill. Sweat beaded on her brown, but she couldn't move her hands to brush it away. Breathing remained difficult, and that strange pressure intensified the longer time drew on. Just what was wrong with her?


Yami inwardly winced at the pull of pain he felt emanating from Yugi. For some reason the Shadow Realm seemed to affect her more acutely, the strain gradually breaking apart her very soul. He needed to finish this game quickly. Why she was even forced out still remained a mystery to him, one he was very displeased about.

"Tick tock, little Yami." The Shop Keeper jeered, eyes traveling up to gaze upon Yugi. "Little kitty there seems to be having a difficult time, playing in the Shadows."

Refusing to be baited he drew a card, relief coursing through him upon realizing it was a mid-level monster card. His opener had been a mere stall for time, the cards in his hand not very useful. Now things would get more interesting. This foolish man would regret ever threatening them! "I play Nanobreaker, in attack mode! Its special ability means your level 3 monster card is destroyed instantly."

"Yes, but no damage gets inflicted to my life points. What's the use in destroying my monster if you never actually hurt me." The Shop Keeper shook his head, "And, with my card's special effect, I can just keep summoning it back to the field after I banish it from my graveyard. Rise again, Peten the Dark Clown!"

Yugi gasped out, another wave of pain dancing across their connection to him. He risked a look at her, concern growing. It seemed every time a new monster got summoned the flaring magic chipped away at her. It was as if the very Shadows themselves caused her pain. While he found the place uncomfortable, and the drain on his energy to summon creatures definitely had its own unique toll, he was not directly affected by the Shadows like she was. They seemed hungry for her, as if they wanted to snuff her out, like she didn't belong here with them. He didn't understand why.

He needed to figure it out, and soon.


Yes, this one took a bit longer to get out. I'm not very familiar with the actual game Duel Monsters, so I tried to find a Beta who was. Unfortunately, no one replied to me -_- So I tried throwing together the Duel scene myself by googling random crap. I apologize if my limited understanding of the card's special effects was incorrect. I am also following the rules of gameplay laid out in Season One (for now, until things get changed later like they did in Battle City), so that means only 2000 life points and no special rules for summoning high-level monsters.

On that note, if anyone familiar with the game wants to help bounce out ideas for Duel scenes, please let me know. I am desperately trying to find someone to help me with that aspect of my story.

As always, I love all the feedback, I read every single comment you guys send (even if they are in a different language, I use google translate to decode them hahaha!). So as always, *insert whiney plea for reviews*. They are my bread and butter! I hope you enjoyed the Chapter :)