Walking seemed to be the only way to clear his head.
Yugi looked up at the sky. The sprinkles of cool water coming down didn’t bother him. Flashes of heat and dry weather made him grateful for the damp air. It was his favorite time to take walks, when there was just a light rain or a soft breeze on a cloudy day. It took his thoughts off the heat.
Took his thoughts off him. Seeing Atem again was nice, working with him in a duel again even better. Having the mental link back, if only for a moment, was the best feeling in the world. Adrenaline from fighting Diva was running high, and just being close to his other made him feel like he was soaring.
That was six months ago. Diva was back in Egypt and completely sane with Sara and Manny making sure things stayed that way. Malik promised to keep an eye out for him too. And Atem…was back in the Afterlife. The Puzzle and Ring were gone. Hidden again or destroyed, Yugi didn’t know. The other Items were scattered as well.
Everything seemed to move on. Tea still went to New York to become a dancer, she was doing well in her classes if her texts were to be believed. Tristan somehow found his way into doing security jobs, his first- and only, if his employer had any say- job was bodyguard for Duke. The two getting along just fine, so long as Serenity wasn’t around.
She was doing fine too, having transferred schools to be closer to her brother now that he was old enough to be a legal guardian for her. It took a lot of convincing, but her mother finally caved. Mokuba had a hand in it, Yugi was sure. The younger Kaiba was glad to have someone familiar in his classes.
Ryou was working at the museum. Part-time guide, part-time translator. Bakura had left more than scars on the flightier part of their shared soul, Ryou could read the hieroglyphs like they were plain English, bringing his language total to three.
He wasn’t the only one, though the second one saw the dead language as more of a curse. Hearing Seto swear in a combination of five languages was always amusing. It led to creative contracts to sign as well. Clauses written in ancient script were still binding so long as the two they pertained to could read it. And since the elder Kaiba wanted a partnership with the Game Shop- which took Yugi’s grandfather by surprise and ‘please Kaiba don’t give him a heart attack’- everything was written in their shared languages.
Not to mention Kaiba had sole rights to producing Persephone once Yugi was ready to take it into beta. There was a lot to work to go before that happened however. Yugi was grateful for the space and technology to work on it, but it was slow going.
Technology was Seto’s thing, magic was Yugi’s. And getting Persephone to work without the Shadows was a snag they hadn’t fixed yet. Not that Mokuba and Joey minded.
The blond had joined Seto and Yugi at the top of the dueling ranks, winning every competition that he entered without the other two, even ending a duel with Seto in a draw. The CEO couldn’t ignore him then, and didn’t. Instead, he offered Joey a spot as a beta tester for new duel systems and games. He and Mokuba were the only two who couldn’t use Shadow Magic allowed to test Persephone.
Upgraded duel systems were a perk of the two working with Seto. The one Yugi had used ended up being a beta product. The newest one rested on his left arm, the system fit snuggly on his shoulder. It was like Seto’s, but smaller. It wasn’t meant for dueling only, but for actual combat.
They thought with the Ring gone, and most of the Shadow’s sealed away again, things would be normal. But paranoia had Seto reluctantly creating a few systems for combat. Time with him and Mokuba told Yugi just how much Seto actually hated real fighting and combat. But if there was a chance of another Game happening, he didn’t want to rely on the past to save them again. Not when his own creations could channel magic and assist in summoning.
He created five systems. The blue one that never left his arm, the pink one that Yugi wore, and three more in silver, gold, and green. One for each living person left who could call upon and use the Shadows.
It was well worth it, to tell Seto just who else could use the magic, if only to see the look of horror and despair on his face. Ryou he understood. Malik was a given.
Yugi took immense pleasure in being the one to tell him the fifth was Pegasus. How else could he make the cards?
It was a bit sad, Yugi realized as he stopped underneath an awning as the rain got harder. Once, there were many people who could wield the magic the Shadows had. But that number had dwindled down just to a literal handful. The secret was easier to keep that way, he had to admit. And with one of them being the leading figure in holographic tech, it was easy to pass off any slip-ups as a test.
There were no tests though. Yugi figured it was best described as a bridge between dimensions. Their dimension; a plain, magic-fearing world. And the dimension of Duel Monsters; magic filled and mythical and full of so many reminders of fear, happiness, pain, love.
Yugi cheated sometimes. They weren’t supposed to use magic often, but he knew the others broke that rule too. It wasn’t too uncommon to see Kaiba taking a nap using a white scaled paw or flank as a pillow. Kisara- the dragon never protested the name and Seto even put a damn collar on the dragon with that name on it- seemed to prefer the large expanse of guarded land around the mansion to her own dimension nowadays. Her brother and sister were happy to travel between dimensions, never choosing a favorite.
Ryou feared the power at first, having a Dark Necrofear as a silent guard would set anyone on edge, Yugi guessed. She never did any harm though, and soon enough he grew used to summoning her, if only for company.
Malik had the hardest time. Giant scorpion-like monster sightings were becoming normal in Egypt. His magic was wild, and even with Ishizu’s assistance, he had a hard time controlling it.
Yugi smiled softly to himself as the wrist system glowed, a familiar magician materializing next to him.
“Yugi! Again? You’re going to catch a cold!” Her arms were crossed, pouting and shivering slightly at the cold weather.
“Sorry Mana.” It wasn’t Mana, not Atem’s Mana at least. But calling her Dark Magician Girl all the time was a bit much, even she agreed. And the name did fit her. “I just needed to get out for a bit. I closed the shop early.”
“Be glad it was me and not Mahaad.” Another somewhat familiar name, but a completely different Dark Magician than Atem’s best friend Mahado. “He’d take you right back there.”
“Hey, I got out of the rain when it got harder.” Yugi protested. “It was just sprinkling when I started walking.”
“He’d still take you home in that. The worrywart.”
Yugi laughed lightly, leaning closer to Mana. They had been with him the longest, yet another parallel between him and Atem that the others noticed before he did. “You’re the one who’s gonna catch a cold.”
“Well someone had to check on you. You refused help today in the shop!”
That was Yugi’s cheat of the rule. Working at the Game Shop was fun, but during times when there were no customers, it could get boring. The first time he used Shadow Magic, he hadn’t realized it until Kuriboh was bouncing on his head to get attention. A second Kuriboh, one with wings, was fluttering shyly beside his Kuriboh. He welcomed the newcomer with the same warmth he always did. And soon enough he had two puffballs bouncing around.
When a customer came in, they were still bouncing on the counter. Yugi passed it off as new holoforms from Kaiba Corp, and word spread, bringing more customers.
So…he asked a few others if they wanted to come and visit. It was a learning experience for everyone. The Duel Monsters got to see how humans acted in everyday life with their own eyes, and Yugi learned just how loyal his deck was to him.
Even when he protested, most would help around the shop. Tidying up, stacking boxes in the back room, the Magic girls even did promoting for the shop. Kiwi and Berry had the most fun with that.
Gandora was the only one to miss out on that. The temperamental dragon was far too big to be summoned in the small shop. Not that he was left out however, Yugi did summon him in Kaiba Corp before. He was no bigger than Kisara, and got along well with the Blue Eyes dragons. He was just protective of Yugi, more so than even Mahaad or Silent Magician.
“There was nothing there today.” Yugi said. “Whoever came would’ve been bored out of their minds like I was.” Rainy days always led to fewer customers. It was the first day in a while that it had rained.
“But you were all alone. Isn’t grandpa on another trip?” Mana questioned.
Yugi nodded. “He is, for another week or so. Pegasus may extend that though.”
“To try and find the other Items?”
“Yeah.” Yugi looked down. It hurt, so much. Knowing the Items were there, knowing how they were made and what they meant and making the mental connection that the Items meant Atem. So Yugi volunteered to stay behind when Pegasus asked him or his grandfather to go to try and find the missing five. His job was easy, a translator and overseer. He was sensitive to magic too, being around Atem and Yugi so much.
If they were there, Solomon would find them.
“You can still call one of us so you aren’t alone!” She hugged him, out of comfort and trying to steal body warmth. Mana blinked them, as if suddenly remembering something.
She said something quickly in a language Yugi didn’t remember, and the air around them warmed to a pleasant temperature. Seeing her version of magic always made Yugi smile more. There was so much to learn about it, and he would learn as much as they could teach him.
“I will tomorrow. Promise.”
“Tonight.” Mana said. “The twin terrors are driving Celtic up a wall. Either you’re gonna summon them or he’ll find a portal and toss them.”
“Tonight then.” He agreed. It was easier to sleep with the two Kuriboh, he had to admit. They were like cats, snuggling close to him and keeping the nightmares away.
As the rain began to let up again, Yugi decided to walk back to the shop, Mana walking with him. “I love how we can walk out here without suspicion.” She commented.
“Well, cosplayers aren’t uncommon in Domino.” Yugi shrugged. “You look like a professional.”
“Because I am.” She giggled. “Who better to cosplay me than me?”
Yugi nodded in agreement, but something made him stop walking. The air felt different. “It’s not supposed to storm…” It wasn’t the same feeling as when it was going to.
Mana felt it too. “Master,” Yugi grew more alert, she only ever called him that if there was danger near, “I can feel Shadow Magic.”
“Shadow Magic? Ryou? Seto?” He asked.
“Neither. It’s not the other two either.” Her grip on her staff tightened. “It’s new.”
New? Yugi thought. How? “Impossible. The magic’s sealed.” But he could feel it too.
There was a flash down one of the alleyways, and Yugi was running to it before he knew he had even moved. Mana matching his steps.
What they found was not what Yugi expected to ever see.
It was small in comparison to Kisara and Gandora, a body of silver-colored metal curled in the alleyway. The dragon gave a mechanical hiss, staring down a bulky man.
“Cyber Dragon…” Yugi breathed out. How? That card, Pegasus had the only three! No…he said they were missing.
One of the missing cards found its way into the alleyway, and someone had summoned it. Out of protection? Or did that man summon it?
Not taking chances, Yugi’s duel disk whirled to life, bringing another into the alleyway.
And not a moment too soon, the man moved forward with what Yugi thought was a knife. “Mahaad!” He called out, wanting the Dark Magician to stop the dragon.
But the dragon didn’t attack. It curled up tighter, and Yugi saw the real culprit of the summoning.
It was the man who was in the wrong. The Cyber Dragon was curled protectively around two children! It hissed, daring the man to come closer.
A loud firing sound rang in Yugi’s ears. That’s not a knife! The man was pointing a gun, not at the dragon, but the kids. “Stop him!”
As soon as the order was given, Mahaad had the man slammed against the wall, a magic attack rendering the gun useless. The dragon’s hissing grew louder with the magician’s approach, but Mana was quick to try and soothe it.
“Do not worry. We won’t hurt the little ones.” She kept her movements loose, trying to seem unthreatening. “Cyber, what’s happened here?”
More mechanical hissing, Yugi wondered if it could speak like the others. He knew only a few of the dragons could. None of his dragons were capable of it, though Kisara spoke human languages as if they were ones she were raised on. Red Eyes was another capable of speech. Cyber Dragons however, Yugi knew only of their existence, and nothing more.
“Who the fuck are you freaks?” The man spat, struggling in Mahaad’s hold. “I was paid good money for this job, I’m gonna see it through!”
Yugi felt cold hearing him speak. “And what job would that be?” He moved closer to Mana, putting himself between her and Mahaad. The two of them, and the dragon, were able to hide the kids from the man’s view. “Who paid you?”
“Like I’m gonna tell some kid that.” He growled. “Maybe I should take you back there. You’d fetch a fair price.”
“You won’t be taking anyone anywhere.” Yugi walked closer, ignoring Mahaad’s worried glance. This man- no, he wasn’t a man. Yugi didn’t need to hear more, though it seemed the creature wanted to spill more and dig his grave deeper.
“Want to bet brat? I’ll finish those two freaks off like I was paid for. Those “magic” dogs, wouldn’t even make good bitches when they grew up! Better off dead, and I’m willing to help them get the-“
Mahaad’s hold on his shirt, arm across his chest, was useless as the Game started. Once afraid of it, Yugi could understand Atem- no, Yami’s reasoning for inflicting such heavy Penalties in that moment. The creature was frozen against the wall and Mahaad backed away, taking position beside Mana.
“I heard from Tristan that the cops were trying to break up a trafficking ring. Seto was planning on getting involved anyway when he heard there were children involved. I’m sure he won’t be too mad about this Game.” Yugi’s eyes narrowed, the eye of Anubis appearing on his forehead.
To be facing a creature who would do anything to children like that, a Penalty Game was fitting. He had lost the Shadow Game by losing his gun to Mahaad, and the Penalty was Yugi’s to give. So many possibilities flew in his mind, each one more sinister than the last.
It was the price to pay for calling upon the darkest part of the Shadows. But Yugi was Light, a Hikari, as Bakura would snarl. He called it out like a curse, called both Ryou and Yugi that. It kept them sane from the madness of the Shadows, a blessing.
“No one will miss you.” He raised a hand, waving it away from the others, and the shadows moved in. Their victim screamed, and the dragon answered with hisses, curling tighter around it’s charges and hissing even louder to block out the screams. With a snap, everything turned quiet. Yugi hadn’t expected the screaming, he didn’t want the kids to hear that.
The kids. Yugi turned around. Mana could get no closer to the dragon, and it actually snapped at Mahaad when he tried. “Guys, back off a second.” Yugi said, walking forward slowly. “Cyber Dragon.”
The dragon focused on him, and Yugi let a little more magic out. Atem had told him, before he left….
“Aibou, my time as Pharaoh is over. Though it may mean nothing to this world, in others, the title belongs to you.”
Would the dragon recognize it? “I do not mean you or them any harm. We wish to help. May we?” He held out a hand to the dragon. It was still raining, and Yugi was beginning to get concerned.
He relaxed as a cool muzzle was pressed into his hand. The dragon lowered its head in submission. “Thank you. For protecting them, we can take over. You should rest.”
With a soft light, the dragon disappeared. It was then they got a good look at the two children it protected.
Mana gasped lightly. They were young, the oldest couldn’t be more than eight. The younger, less than five, Yugi guessed. “What did you do?! Why did you send Cyber away?! How?!” The oldest glared at them with open hostility and wariness.
“It’s alright.” Yugi said, bending down to be at eye level with him. “You’ll exhaust yourself if he stays here for too long. You summoned the Cyber Dragon, didn’t you?”
“It was both of them.” Mahaad commented. “Shadow Magic is coming from them both.”
The child looked from Yugi to Mahaad to Mana, pulling the younger one closer as he cried almost silently. Yugi looked back at the magicians and nodded. He could handle things with just Mana. Mahaad did look intimidating with his stance and outfit.
In the same soft light that the dragon disappeared with, the Dark Magician was gone as well. Yugi heard one of the children gasp and looked back at them. “I can summon Duel Monsters too.” He said. “You’re safe with me.”
“…Cyber called you Pharaoh.” The older said, trying to soothe his younger brother. They were cold, wet, and hungry. Yugi’s gaze softened as he looked at them.
“That’s what I am.” It was the first time he recognized the title himself. “I’m the Pharaoh, bound to protect those of the Shadows. And that includes you two now too.”
“He’s a very kind Pharaoh, like the ones from Egypt history!” Mana smiled.
The boy looked confused at that. “Egypt?”
He doesn’t know world history…then again, I only knew because of Grandpa’s stories at that age. Yugi thought. “Where are your parents?”
He seemed to withdraw, blue-gray eyes narrowing again. “Mother is….not here. And, he sold us. Because we could summon Cyber and the others.”
“Others?” Yugi was angry at hearing what he said, but kept it down. Showing anger would make him withdraw more. “Other Duel Monsters?”
“Yes…” The answer was hesitant. And that was when Yugi noticed the smaller boy was holding something.
A deck! They had a stack of cards with them.
“Cyber kept bringing cards to us.”
“I get it.” Mana whispered. “Cyber Dragons keep to themselves mostly, they’re closer to other Cyber and Machine type monsters. But they’re still dragons, which means they’re insane hoarders. Kisara and her siblings hoard anything technology, Red hoards magma rocks and food, Gandora loves stuffed animals from this world.”
Yugi felt that obsession was his fault. “So this Cyber Dragon hoarded cards?”
“And these two children.” Mana said. “Cyber didn’t say your names, could you tell us please? We want to help you.”
“Who are you?” His eyes moved to Mana.
“Oh!” Yugi reached into his deck holder. Though he didn’t need the cards, it was more comforting to have them. “Here, this should clear that up.”
He held out the card of the Dark Magician Girl. The boy looked at it and nodded slowly.
“I’m Zane…and this is Syrus.”
Yugi smiled softly, putting the card away. “Zane, I want to help you two. You’re both hurt, and this weather isn’t good for you. Will you two come with me and Mana?”
Zane seemed to weigh his options. Stay in the cold alleyway, risk being found again, or go with this person Cyber called Pharaoh. It was a clear choice, though one he made hesitantly.