Ugh... using the game dialogue for Muffy and Griffin is so difficult. A lot of it is bland and some of it needs to be seriously reworked. I transcribed everything for the purple heart event and even I was cringing at some of it. Expect a few more changes than last time.

Summer 28 brought with it torrential rains. It was a dreary Monday by anyone's standards, but it didn't dampen Ryou's resolve to do what he thought was the right thing. He felt insanely guilty for taking so long to reach this moral conclusion. It shouldn't have taken him so long. A thief was a thief was a thief. Nothing would change that. Not alluring blood-colored eyes, not an oh-so-touchable body, and certainly not the siren's voice with its tongue of liquid silver.

Oh, lovely. He was waxing poetic about a common crook. This wasn't good...

Ryou shook his head, expression sour. He needed to wash his hands of this, and he was pretty sure it was Griffin and Muffy that had spearheaded the last thief-hunt. He would just go to them, and they would know what to do about it. Griffin was good at giving advice anyway. He probably had quite a bit of experience, running the bar and all. It just... it just made sense to Ryou.

He tossed the last of his handful of grain to the birds that clustered at his feet and he gave them one last fond smile. There, the chickens were taken care of for the day. The rain meant he didn't have to water anything, which was good. It made his day nice and simple. Well, except for the whole 'ratting out the pretty thief'.

Not petty. Pretty. The way those hips swayed when he walked... Oh, that had to be illegal.

Ryou clenched his hands into fists. No! No more thinking about him! He was done! No more thoughts about Thief King Bakura!

He stormed out of the barn and onto his land. The sky refused to let up its downpour, and he felt himself brightening with every bucketful to land on his shoulders. He loved rain. It fed the land and revitalized it as Ryou himself could never do without tiring himself to the point of no return. Rain was life, cleanliness.

But it was also damp and miserable to stand in all day, so Ryou didn't tarry long out in it on his way to the Blue Bar. It wasn't open for business this early in the day, but the owner should be inside at least, taking shelter from the inclement weather.

Ryou ducked under the eave of the doorway, wringing out his clothes and his hair before knocking lightly on the door. It swung open almost immediately, and Ryou was met by the sight of a very fretful-looking Muffy.

"Oh, come on, out of that rain," she chided, pulling him inside. She nodded very seriously at him. "You came at a good time. We just received a notice from Thief King Bakura."

Ryou could feel his eyebrows lift with surprise. Coincidence? Or fate...?

"What did it say?" he asked.

"'I'm going to bless your bar with my presence at midnight for a drink. Thief King Bakura.' He certainly loves himself," Griffin said. Ryou glanced up and saw him lounging against the bar. The note was on the counter beside him, and Ryou picked it up. The message was inscribed on fine, heavy paper in black ink.

The colors were stark against each other, a sort of monochrome that was very like Bakura himself.

The silvery hair, the pale skin, the black and white clothes... Why, the only thing that had any sort of color on him were those sultry crimson eyes! And Ryou couldn't forget that perfect, pale pink rosebud of a mouth...

He dug his fingernails into his palm. Bad Ryou. Bad, bad Ryou. Do you need to go back in the rain? His hair was already cold and clammy on his skin and his clothes were making him shiver. But there was a fire going inside, and it was slowly warming him. Inside was good, he could behave.

He unclenched his fingers and tuned back into the conversation in time to listen to Muffy say, "And sending a notice of his arrival makes me think he's quite confident. I kind of like that."

Yes, the confidence was appealing. But it wasn't the only thing...

"Anyway," Griffin said pointedly, "he is a thief, so we gotta corner him."

Muffy snapped out of her daze first. "That's right. We'll make him pay gold for that drink!"

"That's not what I meant," Griffin groaned.

"I'm kidding!" Muffy laughed aloud. She took the note and looked at it again before discarding it back onto the countertop. "Hey, Griffin, what if Ryou helped us catch him? Three sets of eyes are better than two, and he said the other night that he'd love to help out!"

"I suppose that would work. Do you have some time tonight, Ryou?" Griffin asked.

"Please?" Muffy begged. "We could really use your help to catch that arrogant thief."

Ryou smiled. "I'd be glad to help." Even better, he could just catch the thief himself! He didn't even have to bother telling them about the silly pond thing! And anyway, what sort of sneaky thief tells someone that they'll be going to the same place every evening? Certainly not a good one, and seeing how cocky Bakura seemed to be, he had to have a certain amount of skill to back up his bold assumptions..

Bakura probably wouldn't even visit that pond anymore. It was just a silly pond, anyway. Ryou nodded.

"Thank you, Ryou. We're depending on you," Muffy said.

Griffin sighed. "I hope you don't mind. We really do appreciate it. We need you here before midnight, if you can."

"I can," Ryou said. He inclined his head faintly. He was done here. All he had to do was come by later tonight, and that thief was as good as done for. No more Thief King Bakura taking people's things and hailing himself as a King of the stars.

He paused for a moment at the doorway, reluctant to step out into the rain. Maybe an umbrella would be a good thing to find before it got to be too late in the day, he decided. He stepped out into the deluge and smiled. All good things would come tonight, surely. With a warning ahead of time, there was no way this thief would catch them unaware!

He hummed to himself. The mines seemed like an excellent way to kill time, so he headed up to the dig site to hunt for ancient valuables. Time melted away, and before he knew it, it was late.

He waved goodbye to the chief archaeologists, Carter and Flora, and headed back up to the bar. The sky was still grey, but rain had stopped falling at the very least. It made the walk to the bar much more tolerable. When he arrived, he tapped lightly on the frame, and Muffy's wavering voice called out through the door.

"Ryou, come on in!"

He entered with a smile. "How did you know it was me?" he asked.

"Are you kidding? You're the only one in town who knocks first. I'm glad you came, though!" she said.

Griffin grunted to himself. "The Thief King's not here yet."

"Good," Ryou said. "I plan on catching this thief myself!"

"That's the spirit," Griffin told him. Muffy laughed.

Ryou glanced around the room. "Are you cooking anything?" he asked, pointing to the back room where the kitchen was set up. A faint aroma was filling the room slowly, and smelled vaguely familiar. What was that smell?

Muffy figured it out first, humming, "Mmm, smells like curry."

"Yes... that smells sooo good!" Griffin echoed.

"So you aren't making it?" Ryou pressed.

Muffy shook her head. "Nope. It smells... almost like it's coming from outside."

"Ryou, can you stay here while Muffy and I check it out?"

Ryou nodded. "Not a problem."

Griffin beckoned, and Muffy followed him out of the bar. It was silent for a moment, and Ryou found his gaze wandering slowly around the room. Every little thing was typical and usual, something so standard and usual that everything seemed at the same time unusual.

The drinks, with their odd names, the Morning Mist and Fall Colors and even the Bodiaid and Okuhattan. The drink tumblers, bottles, glasses and more that were stacked up on the counters. The counters with their grains running perpendicular to the wall.

How many times had Ryou been to this bar for an evening glass of Fresh Breeze? It was sweet and refreshing and what the rain was to his crops- a breath of fresh air and revitalizing life. So many times...

He dragged a carefree finger along the rough counter.

"Heheh. We meet again, my darling Ryou," Bakura called, and Ryou flinched. Bakura had taken him completely by surprise again.

Ryou turned. A smile spread very slowly across Bakura's face. Predatory, hungry. Charming. How?

"Do you believe that fate has drawn us together?" Bakura asked. It was the same silky, roughed velvet tone as before. A purr. A growl. A lilting accent that was foreign and yet felt so very like home.

Ryou felt his hands quiver slightly. "I'm here to catch you," he said as levelly as possible.

Bakura seemed slightly put-out by Ryou's refusal, face blank. Finally, a small grin broke out. "...Heheh. Being chased after by beauties seems to be a curse of mine."

"Are you always like this?" Ryou asked.

"Always resolutely charming? Of course," Bakura laughed. "Heheh. Anyway, I wonder if you could just hold still for a moment," he said.

"I don't think-"

"CHICK BEAM- FIRE!" Bakura yelled, holding up a small, oddly-shaped weapon.

All of Ryou's limbs locked. A strange wave of warmth washed over his body, flowing over him like settling into a hot spring. Everywhere the heat touched, he found he couldn't move. It was paralytic, like a poison that stung and yet didn't sting at all. He was frozen! Completely motionless!

He struggled and tugged at the imaginary bindings. Because that's what they had to be, right? Imaginary? He could see nothing on his arms, feel nothing holding his legs locked tight in place. Why couldn't he move? The warmth pervaded down to his fingertips and toes, burning like fire. He was frozen by the heat.

"Heh heh, just relax. You'll be able to move again in a while," Bakura chuckled. He vanished from sight and began to riffle through the cabinet. Ryou couldn't turn to look and see what he was doing, but it was fairly obvious that he was digging around for something specific. There were sounds of glass bottles dragging along wooden shelves and clinking against one another where they ran out of room. Ryou gnashed his teeth in frustration. He couldn't move a muscle. Well, that wasn't necessarily true, he could move his jaw. He opened and closed his mouth, trying to work past the stiffness in his jaw. After a silent moment, Ryou figured he could talk.

"Why are you a thief?" he asked. It seemed like the most pressing question at the moment. He wasn't sure whether or not Bakura would answer, but he got a quick reply. It surprised him slightly, in fact.

The "I don't know," was paired with Bakura's usual chuckle.

"It's just for fun?" Ryou asked. He could almost hear the grin that had to be on Bakura's face.

"Heheh. That might be it. And that might not be it," he laughed. "Heheh. You want to know more about me, don't you? I can tell. But if I simply tell you, it'll take the mystique out of our relationship."

Wait, relationship? Ryou would have been frozen in place by the statement if he'd been able to move in the first place.

But Bakura wasn't finished. "I know, my lovely Ryou! If you can catch me, I'll tell you anything you want."

"I just have to catch you? That's it?"

"But of course, beautiful. That's it. Not that you ever will!" Bakura teased. "Many have tried and none have succeeded."

"Then I'll be the first."

"That's the spirit!" Bakura laughed.

"That's odd. I could have sworn that great smell was coming from here," Ryou heard faintly.

"Yeah, let's go back to the shop," another voice chimed.

A hand fell on Ryou's shoulder, and he forced the stiff muscles to turn and look. Bakura was grinning impishly at him, russet eyes gleaming in the low light. A bottle was clasped in the long fingers of his left hand. "Sorry, but I'm a bit pressed for time. I'll see you around, Ryou," he practically purred. He leaned down and a curtain of silver covered Ryou's eyes.

Something faint and warm brushed the corner of Ryou's mouth, feather-light against the lips and cheek. A hand on his chin pulled his head up just as Bakura pulled away. Warmth flooded his cheeks, but it wasn't from the paralytic beam of magic. The last thing he saw was Bakura's alluring smile and then the back of his head as he darted out the window.

The door swung open slowly, and Muffy and Griffin walked into the bar. He could only stare, dazed for a moment, before recovering enough to speak.

"B-Bakura! He- he was here, and I, well, he, I mean-"

"What? The Phantom was here?!" Muffy cried. Ryou nodded as best he could, but the effect was noticeably robotic.

"Are you okay, Ryou? You look... odd," Griffin said.

Ryou grimaced. "Some sort of... thing. I don't know. Like a ray gun. He pointed it at me and I couldn't move!"

"Wait! You were paralyzed by the Phantom's magic spell? It's only supposed to work on girls," Muffy said.

Ryou blushed in embarrassment. "Then why can't I move?" he cried, squirming in place.

"Sorry Ryou, but you're kinda girly. Maybe he fixed it so it would work on you, too?" Muffy asked.

Griffin sighed. "That's the Phantom for you. His gears are always turning. He probably did do something to it."

"I'm sorry, Ryou. We just left you all alone."

"And I'm really, really sorry," Griffin agreed. "Thanks for the help today. Get a good night's rest, you should be back to normal tomorrow morning."

Ryou frowned but nodded again, shuffling awkwardly out of the bar. There was a strange hollow feeling in his chest. His limbs were stiff and refused to work properly. Whatever it was that the thief had done to him, Ryou didn't like it one bit. He'd heard of magic before, but always because of sprites, the Witch Princess, and the Harvest Goddess. never in the hands of a normal person, and certainly not in the hands of a thief to be misused for evil.

But why had he brought it? That... Chick Beam. It would have certainly been handy when they had met at the mansion, not that he'd really needed it, to freeze Ryou and Lumina. But he hasn't used it then like he had now. What had changed? Why had he brought it now rather than then? Robbing the bar after leaving a note ahead of time made the situation riskier, but if Bakura thought he would fail, Ryou doubted Bakura would have attempted it in the first place. Was it simply because the bar was a higher-risk target and he needed a backup plan?

Ryou shook his head. That couldn't be it. He had lured Muffy and Griffin out of the bar. They we're the ones who were the threat, not Ryou. But the spell had been used on Ryou, not them. And why was that vain thief a thief in the first place?

He rubbed his hands together to get feeling back into them. This was becoming a problem. Clearly Bakura would continue to steal from Ryou's friends and neighbors for as long as he was free to do so, and it was equally clear that stopping him was going to be a challenge. But that still begged the question- did Ryou really want to bring Bakura to justice? Did he really?

He'd met the thief all of three times and each time had made his heart stutter and skip around in his chest like he was some foolish schoolgirl. Either he had a serious medical issue or he was in lo- No! No, he was not in 'the l word' with a thief. Sure his knees got weak when he was around, and it was impossible to breathe, and his voice got squeaky...

Oh, no, it was love, or at the very least extreme infatuation. This wasn't, couldn't be true! There was no way Ryou would ever even remotely like someone as awful, as depraved, as promiscuous as Bakura. Ryou was good! He was hardworking and honest! He would never do something like this normally.

This wasn't him! It shouldn't have been like this, but it was.

Inconceivable, but his heart ached the more and more he thought about it. Stabbing pains ran through him every time the name Bakura so much as crossed his thoughts. Guilt flooded through him as he recalled the declaration, that bold statement that he would catch Bakura. He would catch this cocky, narcissistic, beautiful thief when no one else had. He couldn't suppress the flush that boiled up into his cheeks, bringing his trembling fingers to lips.

And after Ryou had said that, Bakura had... he had... kissed him. Him! Ryou wrapped his arms tight about himself, partially as comfort and partially to stave off the chill from the damp air. Why? Why him? He had to know. Shivering, and not entirely due to the cold, Ryou walked home quickly, unable to stop thinking about it.

Perhaps... no. It just wasn't possible. Bakura wasn't attracted to him. Ryou was just a poor little farm boy who rarely, if ever, got days off. His life was ruled by the weather, the ever-changing seasons, and the long hours he spent every morning slaving away on his crops to make them grow big and strong. Bakura had no reason to like him. Biting his lower lip, he let himself into his house and changed into soft cotton pajama bottoms.

He needed a long night's sleep.