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Crook and Flail

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The last time Mutou Manami had seen her father, she was eight and being dropped off at school. Her father seemed so much larger then. Mutou Yugi looked so small in comparison now; his body suspended in a clear capsule and surrounded by concentric circles of magic runes. His eyes were closed, and the years had etched several prominent wrinkles onto his face. The power that hummed through the air was thick and smelled like honey. Mana's stomach lurched when she realized it was the scent of her father's...

She remained frozen as her mind tried desperately to process the situation before her, but Yami stirred within the Puzzle.

"Aibou!"

His wrath washed over her in waves, and snapped her out of the cold chill.

"Otou-san? Can you hear me?" She took a hesitant step forward and reached toward the bubble around Yugi. The capsule flexed under her fingertips and expanded out to close the gap between them. A shiver of static ran down her spine on contact, and she felt herself drowning.

"No, Mana! Don't touch it!"

She jerked back and pulled her head out of the expanding bubble. The surface of the capsule shuddered and distorted as it made one last attempt to reach her. Yami's spirit form was materialized behind to her with his arms hooked around her shoulders. There was the sensation of being tugged back even though she didn't physically move back.

"It's trying to draw you in."

"But what about Otou-san?"

"You can have him back when he's nothing more than a dried husk," a man covered in dark robes declared as he appeared at the top of the stairs. "Or you could trade places with him right now."

Mana recognized that the feeling of deja vu was not her own, but Yami's. A circular seal of runes around the Puzzle popped with a crackle of magic as the last gaps in Yami's missing memories of the last seven years filled in. The shadows around them stretched and writhed as the spirit relived his and Yugi's initial capture and the subsequent years of captivity.

Her hand covered her mouth to stifle a horrified gasp. "You've been using him as a battery!"

"His control over the Puzzle was a nuisance though. Even though you have not had as long as an exposure to the Puzzle's magic, you are young still. You would feed our great cause for many years to come."

Mana's entire body shook with anger. Her voice grew louder with every syllable passing between her lips. "That's why you sent the Puzzle to me. Because Otou-san rendered it inert, and you needed it."

The divide between herself and Yami was almost entirely faded now. She no longer knew where she began and the spirit of the Puzzle ended. Her childhood loss became one and the same with his spite at being caged and restrained. A storm of resentment and loneliness churned dangerously within them and threatened their control.

"Yes," he breathed with a slight hiss at the end and the peek of a razor sharp smile from under the dark hood.

The darkness around them exploded, and Mana relinquished control to Yami and the Puzzle. For the first time, Yami and she moved completely as one. Every fiber of her body thrummed with their dark magic. They strolled with purpose toward the creature that had prematurely ripped their happy family apart. Harmerty would not be subjugated or made fools of again- not twice.