This was written in October 2020.
I wrote this for Yugioh GX Month 2020, which you can find alongside all the prompts on gxmonth on tumblr. I only wrote a couple of prompts since I was very busy at the time, but this was one of them. The prompt that inspired this was "for the glory of academia", but also works for the "cyber legacy" prompt (which focuses on the relationship between syrus and zane), and i didn't write anything separate for cyber legacy so do with that what you will.
This all takes place in the same universe as the original Righteous Justice, and takes place after the main Righteous Justice story. I thought out Syrus' part in this au (as well as Zane's) in detail and discussed it a lot with friends but never explored it in the main story so this was the perfect opportunity to dive back into it. I'm not opposed to exploring other viewpoints in Righteous Justice in the future, either. Not a guarantee, but not a definitely won't. So, here is "Hiding South in Ignorance".
Syrus glanced out the window. For the moment, everything looked peaceful. A few people were out and about, but as far as Syrus could tell, not a single person held a duel disk, or looked like they were disguising themselves. He couldn't help but breath a sigh of relief.
Long ago, it was Syrus' dream to attend Duel Academy. He wanted to become a professional duelist, and he was sure he'd have the skills to succeed after graduating, but...
Then he talked to his older brother, Zane.
Zane was already attending Duel Academy, so Syrus was sure Zane would have good insight on what the school was like. When Syrus asked Zane about his plans, Zane said only one thing: Syrus was too weak, not nearly good enough of a duelist to get in. Zane seemed to have no faith in Syrus. So, what was the point, then?
Those words in mind, Syrus changed his plans. He enrolled at a different high school, aimless for now but deciding to find a different goal to strive for. He was upset Zane didn't believe in him, but Zane's opinion still was important to him. Plus, since Zane was already going to Duel Academy, he was probably right, so Syrus' confidence in his dueling ability dropped like a Truckroid in the ocean.
That all felt like it happened a lifetime ago, but it really wasn't. It had been over a year, but in the scheme of things a year wasn't that long. Zane hadn't graduated yet.
Syrus wasn't sure what was happening around him anymore; rumors were spreading about Duel Academy about some project or something going on, but Syrus didn't know anything about that. What he had noticed, however, were the Duel Academy students roaming the streets. They often went after people trying to hide their appearances, seemingly trying to hide from something, or maybe someone. Maybe it was Duel Academy. Duel Academy students were seen dueling in the city more and more, and it seemed like the there were more people hiding all the time, too. At school, Syrus heard rumors that these people hiding their appearances were former students or staff of Duel Academy. That they didn't just leave, they'd had to escape. That they had formed some sort of rebellious group forming against Duel Academy.
But, well, Syrus was having enough trouble keeping up in all his classes. He couldn't keep up with the constant new rumors, or try to look into anything himself.
For now, though it seemed like there weren't any Duel Academy students doing...whatever they did around the city. No duels happening around him. The peace was nice for the short time it would last, and would make it a lot easier to focus on schoolwork. He had some homework to catch up on. Also, Syrus knew he was a horrible duelist. Zane had practically said so himself. He did not want to get caught in any of those duels that happened outside; he knew he would lose, and he did not want to know what would happen if he lost. There were rumors spreading about that, too.
Syrus sat down and put some homework in front of him. As he struggled through difficult problems, he couldn't help but think of Zane. They hadn't seen each other since Syrus graduated from middle school. How was Zane doing? What was his school life like? Did he have any friends? Would Syrus get a chance to meet them? One of his greatest fears was that he'd never know any of the answers to those questions. Would he ever see Zane again? Was there a chance they could become closer like they used to be?
He'd grabbed a snack partway through his homework assignment, but quickly realized it was gone already. He went to throw the snack's wrapper away, but he saw the garbage can was full. Time to take out the trash, then. He went outside with the bag. Currently, Syrus was renting an apartment because his school didn't have dorms (this apartment didn't put him very far from Duel Academy), so the apartment's dumpster was a bit of a walk. Still, it didn't take him long to get there and back. As Syrus returned, he looked at his door.
The door was left open. He'd forgotten to close it and lock it.
Even though it hadn't been long, Syrus felt nervous. He ran to the door as quick as he could, wanting to make sure nothing was out of place. As he reached the apartment, he shut the door behind him. He turned towards the living room, figuring that was the most obvious place to see if anything was broken or stolen.
Immediately, he saw two other people in the same room as him. Syrus squeaked as they both noticed him.
"It's okay." One of them held his hands up in a peaceful gesture. "I know it probably looks like we're trying to rob you or something, but I promise we aren't. It's okay."
"Then..." Syrus glanced at the person who had spoken, trying to stop himself from shaking (unsuccessfully). "Then why are you... Why are you here?"
"It's a long story, but I guess we've already brought you into it? Oh, where are my manners?" The person who had spoken before held out one of his hands to offer Syrus a handshake. "I should introduce myself. You can call me Bastion."
Syrus declined the offer. "I'm Syrus."
"Nice to meet you, Syrus." Bastion dropped his hand, seeming unoffended that Syrus rejected the handshake. "I wish it was under different circumstances."
You and me both, Syrus thought.
"I'll keep it brief—"
"We're putting our trust in him?" The other person asked. They were holding one of Syrus' homework assignments. Syrus stared at them. Bastion whispered to them to put it down, to which they complied. "He could turn us in." They looked at Syrus. "Uh, yo, my name is Jaden, by the way." They didn't offer a handshake.
Bastion sighed. "It doesn't really matter what he does now, I guess. We're already here. He deserves to at least know why."
"Right, why you're in my apartment."
"Yes. The main thing you need to know is we, uh, used to be at Duel Academy. We didn't want to be there anymore. Duel Academy wants us to go back, but we don't really want to. They keep sending students to find us, and we were just running away from them. We saw your door was open, and, well, it's easier to hide when you aren't out on the streets? I promise we won't be here long, we just need to—"
"He could still turn us in to Duel Academy," Jaden pointed out. "I thought you didn't want to go back?"
"And you do?" Syrus was so confused, he couldn't keep his mouth shut. Didn't Bastion just say they both didn't want to go back?
"He's still undecided," Bastion told Syrus.
Jaden stared at Syrus. Syrus found it hard to maintain eye contact, even more than he usually did with most people. Jaden shrugged, then looked out the window. "Whatever he decides to do, we can deal with it. But it's cool. I trust your judgement, Bastion."
Syrus turned his attention back to Bastion. "I'm really out of the loop," he admitted. "Is something happening with Duel Academy? Why are people trying to leave? Why are they trying to get those people back? Isn't it just supposed to be a duel school?" Might as well try to get a firsthand account while he could. Ignorance really wasn't bliss for him right now; he'd rather know what was going on himself, even if only so he could stay out of the situation as much as possible.
"It's supposed to be a duel school. It used to be just that. It's sort of expanded beyond that? I was never a student there, but they brought me in to work on a project I never wanted to be part of. So, to make a long story short, here I am."
"I guess that makes sense." Syrus nodded, then looked at Jaden. "What about..." His words died in his throat. Jaden was still undecided, right? But then, why did he leave in the first place, if he wasn't sure?
Before Syrus could think how to phrase what he was trying to ask, Jaden cut him off. "They're nearby."
Duel Academy was nearby?! "What if they come in?" Syrus stared down at the floor. Was it suddenly hot in the apartment, or was that just him? "I've seen people dueling outside recently, are they from Duel Academy? Will I have to duel somebody? I-I can't, I'm not any good, I..." Syrus couldn't duel anyone, especially from Duel Academy. He wouldn't stand a chance. He hadn't dueled since...
Jaden looked at Syrus, eyes widened with surprise. "Are you sure that's true? That doesn't seem right. I get the same feeling from you I got from Bastion when we first met. You just probably haven't dueled anyone recently."
"I don't...it has to be true...I'm not..."
"The same feeling from me?" Bastion stared at Jaden. "I thought you thought I was..." He shook his head. "Now isn't the time." He turned to Syrus. "We won't ask you to do anything for us. If a duel is demanded, we'll step in. If someone comes in and doesn't try to duel you, we will get out of here a different way, so they can't connect you to us and give you any trouble."
Less then a minute later, there were footsteps outside Syrus' door. He squeaked. Bastion nodded to Jaden, and the two of them quietly walked away to sneak out the back entrance. After the two of them were out of sight, the front door was forced open. Syrus ran towards the door and looked up to see...
Standing now in the doorway, Zane seemed talker now than he had the last time Syrus had seen him; Syrus wasn't sure if it was that Zane was actually taller, or if it was just because he was so intimidated by Zane. Syrus knew Zane was with Duel Academy. He could never tell by uniform what school someone was from, yet Zane wasn't dressed like anyone Syrus had seen around his apartment. Zane's uniform was different from the last time Syrus had seen him in, too, even though Zane had been a student at Duel Academy then as well. Syrus wasn't about to act like he knew anything about Duel Academy's uniforms, though.
"I haven't seen you since..." Syrus couldn't even get a full sentence out, the words just kept getting trapped in his throat. He wasn't even sure how he felt, seeing Zane again. Happy? Upset? Well, last time he'd seen Zane was when he told him... Right now, he knew he felt scared and inadequate for sure.
Zane glared down at Syrus. "You're still pretty close to Duel Academy." He looked around at what he could see of the apartment from the doorway. "Do you really think you can transfer in later or something? Do you really think you're good enough to do that?"
Syrus tried not to squeak in response. "No, I...I know better than that. It's just... My school is nearby..." It was mostly coincidence. Syrus hadn't realized when he enrolled at his school how close it was. Once he found out, though... the feelings Syrus had about Zane were very mixed after Zane told Syrus that he would never have what it takes to succeed at Duel Academy. But even with that, Syrus found some comfort with not being too far away from Zane. No matter wat, if Syrus ever were really in trouble he was sure that Zane would still try to help him (...he hoped).
"Sy." Zane closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Even if you aren't enrolled at Duel Academy, you still do not get it." His hand fell back to his side as he glared down Syrus . "At least it finally sunk in that you'll always be too weak to get anywhere at the academy. But it's not just the school. You're too weak to be anywhere near the school. Maybe this time it will sink in. We're fighting a war, Syrus."
" War?! " Syrus took a step back, unable to look away from Zane. "What is that supposed to mean?" Honestly, he could not remember anyone mentioning a war. Not Bastion or Jaden, who supposedly left Duel Academy, and Zane sure hadn't before now. He couldn't have heard Zane correctly. Really, how could a school be involved in a-
"It means we are fighting a war, Syrus." Zane rolled his eyes and scowled. "Our world is sick. It's sick and broken, and only the best of the best can fix it. Some people don't want to do that, so right now a war is what it's taking to accomplish that. Anyone who is weak is in the way. Some people who went to Duel Academy don't believe in fixing our world either, so this is part of the war zone now. As long as you're here, you're a liability and in our way."
Syrus didn't really understand what Zane was talking about. The world is sick? Somehow a war was supposed to fix that? Was this what all the duel in the area were about? But Zane said he was in the way, he was weak, so...
"What do you want me to do? Transfer somewhere else, move away from here? I can't do that! I signed a lease!"
Syrus looked down at his hands. They weren't shaking, were they? Definitely not.
"Then get out of it."
Syrus sighed. "Well, if you came all the way here just to tell me to leave, then I guess I can give it a shot..." That probably wasn't the only reason Zane was here, but he couldn't tell him Jaden and Bastion has been here , right? He told them he wouldn't. Besides, saying something could lead to a duel, and Syrus refused to be anywhere near that. He refused to risk getting involved in one. Zane was the best, so why would he need help from Syrus, anyway?
Zane frowned. "I hadn't even known you were here." Right. Zane probably didn't care where Syrus was, as long as it wasn't around him. " I was sent to chase after some Duel Academy traitors. I thought I saw them enter this building, but there's no way a coward like you could hide them, so this was a waste of time. "
Without even a goodbye, Zane turned around and walked away, leaving the apartment. Syrus was barely able to get himself to walk to the door and close it behind Zane, he was shaking so badly. Taking a deep breath, Syrus started to think over what Zane had said to him.
The back exit of the apartment was easy to find. Bastion had taken the lead in sneaking out by Jaden's request, and he trusted Jaden to watch his back. The two of them were ready to leave without a sound unless something bad happened, but when Bastion heard Syrus talking to whoever Duel Academy soldier was after them, any thoughts he had about leaving quickly vanished.
"Zane? I haven't seen you since..."
"You're pretty close to Duel Academy."
Zane Truesdale was the one chasing after them now? Maybe this situation wasn't as bad as Bastion had thought. They were completely out of sight from Zane or anyone who might be outside the front door, so Bastion turned to Jaden. "Hold on," he whispered. Jaden nodded, seemingly trusting Bastion's judgement.
Bastion leaned against the nearest wall and frowned. Syrus was talking to Zane. It sounded like they knew each other. Syrus had known nothing about Duel Academy's new mission but recognized Zane immediately. How was that possible? How could he know about Zane, but not about Duel Academy? One could hardly put one in a sentence without the other these days. In Duel Academy's hierarchy, Zane Truesdale was on par with Aster Phoenix; commanders of Duel Academy's army, well respected, extremely talented duelists. He was also known to be harsh and cold to those beneath them. From the sound of Zane's voice, Syrus couldn't be just be some friend Zane had outside the academy, because that was clearly how he felt about Syrus. Or, at least, that's what he wanted Syrus to think.
How Zane truly felt, Bastion had no idea.
See, Zane was actually a double agent. He'd been serving as one for quite a long time by working with the You Show Duel School, mostly by feeding them information from within Duel Academy's more respected circles. Zane truthfully did not believe in the academy's mission; according to Alexis, respect was one of Zane's most championed values, so how could he believe in the war effort when they showed it to no one? Yet, Zane still played his role at Duel Academy very well to stay out of suspicion. Bastion and Jaden would both be safe as long as Zane didn't see them. If Zane saw them, however, it would not matter that he was a double agent. He would show no mercy.
Which made it all the more confusing that Syrus knew Zane. Whose side was Syrus truly on? Had Syrus lied about being unaware of Duel Academy 's actions? Bastion did want to believe Syrus, but...
Soon, Zane started talking how Syrus was too weak to be a student at Duel Academy, and something clicked in Bastion's mind.
"Before I left Duel Academy, as we realized how much the school had already changed and how much it was still going to change, Zane and I were friends. We both have brothers, and he used to worry about his. He was younger than Zane, wanted to enroll in Duel Academy too when he was old enough, but Zane... As Duel Academy changed, with his brother was in the dark about it, Zane told me didn't want his brother to follow his footsteps there. He wanted his brother to be safe from the academy, he didn't want him to have to go through all this like we did. So don't let his attitude bother you so much. He has a heart, he has a lot of it, I've seen it for myself. He cares a lot about all of this. But he can't risk showing it. He acts like he does because, well, he has to."
Syrus had claimed to be a bad duelist. Zane seemed to think the same. But Bastion trusted Jaden's instincts about Syrus' dueling ability. Did Zane convince Syrus he was a horrible dueling to keep him safe? Was Zane acting like this to Syrus to protect him from experiencing the horrors of Duel Academy's new curriculum firsthand?
Bastion glanced out the back door windows. He wasn't sure how well Zane accomplished that.
Syrus was living within walking distance of the You Show Duel School.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed! Righteous Justice is one of my babies, it means a lot to me and I love it even though I wrote it so long ago. I still consider it to be one of the best things I ever wrote.