The Past of the Present Future
by Daimeryan Rei

Word Count: 64.765
Genre: Action, Adventure, Shounen-ai/Yaoi
Pairings: Yami no Yuugi x Yuugi, Atemu x Mana, implied Mahaado x Atemu, Otogi x Shizuka, unrequited Anzu x Yami no Yuugi
Summary: Every world, every universe, has to obey the Great Timeline – that which holds all worlds together, directing them towards the right course of time. What if some of the timelines were disturbed, impacting events that could change lives and worlds?
Rating: PG -13
Warnings: Foul language, a little bit of violence. Major character death in alternate timelines!
Author's notes: Gratuitous use of artistic license *waves artistic license around*. Use of Japanese names (Téa = Anzu, Duke = Otogi, etc). Several timelines and alternate universes are (mentioned) in this fic, the most important one is the canon universe as we know it, one alternate universe, and one alternate timeline. Beta-ed by Ilene. Any mistake still left is mine to make. Written for the first YGO Novella challenge 2006. Feedback greatly appreciated. 

Timeline I, Khemet 

“Bring him to me!” 

The guards kept their faces emotionless as they shouted their confirmation of “Yes, Great Pharaoh!” Saluting, they bowed and moved backwards, only to turn around and leave the Throne Room when they were out of sight of the great Sun and Star, ruler over Lower and Upper Egypt, the Pharaoh himself. Showing your back to him was always a bad idea - the Pharaoh was easily offended at the slightest sign of disrespect, and one simply didn’t turn his back to the son of the Gods. Atemu, son of Akunamukanon, had issued the order to bring a thief to justice; in his position as Pharaoh he was justice, and he knew how to use it. While the other guards kept a close eye on everyone present in the grand room, Atemu leaned back in his throne, flanked by his six Priests who served as his counselors.  

Mana softly sighed, shifting her arms as if she was hugging herself. It always felt cold in this room, no matter how warmly she dressed, and with the average temperatures of the holy land of Khemet, there wouldn’t have been a need for a warm dress in the first place. Her eyes darted around towards her fellow Priests. They were all silent, awaiting their Pharaoh’s orders, trained to adequately and efficiently advise him, execute his wishes and demands, and guide him when dealing with state affairs. He hasn’t asked much for advice lately, she thought to herself. She knew about his workload and responsibilities, but it had been a while since he had listened attentively to the input of his counselors. Mana blew a wayward strand of thick, chestnut hair out of her face. Not for the first time, she felt completely superfluous and unwanted - she was just…standing there, as to complete the holy number of six: six Priests to form the Pharaoh’s Court. 

Karim was standing next to her, holding up his Sennen Scales. The Item was used to measure the evil in one’s soul - she wondered what would happen if it were to measure Atemu’s soul. No, the Pharaoh, she corrected herself immediately. No one thought or spoke about him with his first name. He’d given her his permission to refer to him with his first name though, but Mana hardly used it nonetheless. She was used to thinking of him as Prince first, and Pharaoh later…and no matter what they had been through, the friends they used to be and still were, she couldn’t tear down that thin wall. It was too intimate, and it all but made her snort. They’d shared their bodies, she’d seen him naked, she had wrapped her legs around his waist and begged him to take her, and still she refused to call him by his first name because it felt too intimate to her.  

Next to Karim was Akunadin, the eldest of the Priests, but certainly not the wisest. She didn’t like the man, not one bit. It wasn’t only for the Sennen Eye he was wearing, replacing his natural eye and distorting the left half of his face, but also for the lack of compassion, lack of empathy, lack of…everything she felt with him. He was reclusive unlike Karim, who adopted her immediately into their little ‘family’ of Priests, welcoming her even though she took the place of her teacher, not ready for full Priesthood herself. Akunadin had only smiled at her, a smile that had given her the creeps; maybe his Eye could see right through her to the core of her very soul, and that scared her. 

She heard noises from the entrance of the Throne Room, but wasn’t allowed to look up; all six Priests stood opposite of each other, aligned in front of the Pharaoh so he could consult them at any time possible. She hated these meetings; it wasn’t as if Atemu listened to them and valued their advice anyway. It was meaningless to stand together like this, easily discarded and dismissed at any point the Pharaoh saw fit. I want to think of you as the boy you once were, my sweet little friend who plucked plums for me from the tree. Mana swallowed bitterly.  

Shaadah was standing in front of her, firmly clutching his Sennen Ankh to his chest. He was able to measure the kaa in one’s soul, determining whether it was evil or not. He was a hardworking man, truly devoted and diligent, but she didn’t felt comfortable approaching him with her own worries and doubts. She knew he’d never mock her or belittle her in her face, but still… ‘neutral’ was the best description for any person like Shaadah.  

“I didn’t do it! Let me go!” 


Mana closed her eyes, heaving a frustrated sigh. The thief, struggling in the grip of the guards, violently protested against being dragged across the floor. He grunted when he was hit on the head to keep him silent; she hated this show of excessive force, and she knew already what was coming. It hadn’t been any different lately. Her eyes sought out Aishizu, her fellow Priestess wearing the Sennen Tauk. The woman was the living illustration of the Goddess, claiming beauty, brains, intelligence and unruffled composure…there was almost nothing that could disturb Aishizu, and her words were held in high regard by everyone. Mana caught her attention, throwing her a pleading look. She only received a soft, acquiescing smile in return. Aishizu knew what was coming as well, but she remained standing lifeless, hands limp at her sides. The woman had only one negative trait, as far as Mana could think of: her calm acceptance of everything. No matter how heavy the storm, no matter how drastic a consequence, no matter how violent, bloody, or extreme a situation, Aishizu would always calmly accept everything. Her Item allowed her glimpses of the future; a possible future, anyway, and the glimpses were always confusing and difficult to interpret. Ironic for someone as linear as she was, but she’d accepted even that with her calm and silent demeanor. 

The thief fell to the floor with a loud thud, grunting in pain as one guard planted his foot in his back to force him to bow. 

“Avert your eyes, scumbag!” 

Mana pursed her lips. She knew there was no use in looking at the last one of the Court, High Priest Set himself. He wouldn’t come to anyone’s rescue; the way he held a tight grip on his Sennen Rod was characteristic for the man himself. He had a tight grip on everything: his emotions, his speech, whatever situation, whatever circumstances. Nothing eluded him; nothing escaped his grasp or attention. She wasn’t sure if she was afraid of Set. No, not afraid…wary, maybe. With the exception of Akunadin, he was the last one she’d ever approach. Set was always busy of course, and his strive for perfection in everything he did was well-known. He was blunt and harsh in his judgment and actions, but one thing was undeniable: his loyalty to the Pharaoh was beyond questioning. Her lips quirked into a wry smile. There was only one whose loyalty went above all and everything, at least, so they had believed…she didn’t notice when her mouth drew into a bitter, scowling line. So they had believed. 

“State your crime, thief!” 

The man gurgled, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. He’d stopped squirming, though his hands tried to free themselves from the rough rope tied around the wrists. With a quick glance, Mana could see the chafed skin and felt horrified when seeing the angry red abrasions. Her mind was already providing her with herbal remedies, her vast knowledge of the healing art renowned throughout the Royal Palace. She shivered, trying to focus on nothing in particular, just staring in front of her until this ordeal was over. The coldness in the room wasn’t due to any temperature - it came from the man in the middle, sitting on his high throne; the man whose word was law, whose will was strong and rigid, and whose eyes had changed from attentive and compassionate to heartless and cold, so very cold. Mana lowered her eyes, her arms still shifting as it was hard for her to stand still and remain motionless like the others. It had already been years since she took her Master’s place, but she’d never been able to acquire the ability to resemble a statue while the Court was in session. 

“Speak up!” 

The guard pressed harder with his foot on the man’s back, the thief groaning in pain.  

“This is what you deserve, you lowlife monster!” 


The guard immediately jumped to the side, as the Pharaoh had spoken. He bowed and knelt on the floor. Mana couldn’t help but sigh in relief; no endless torture and screaming this time. She almost blinked in surprise as the next moment, Atemu rose from his throne. With a collective gasp, the six Priests took a step back to make way for him as he calmly descended from the small plateau, taking the five steps in a composed and slow pace. 

The thief dared to look up, nervously licking his lips, a shudder wracking his body. The Pharaoh himself was walking towards him…he was going to come face to face with the exalted ruler of Khemet, the veritable son of the Gods. Something he’d never imagined happening when reaching for the gold and jewelry when he was… 

“Robbing tombs,” Atemu spoke neutrally. His voice was low, but not deep; he spoke without volume because he knew people would make sure they would hear him. “What were you expecting to find there? Riches?  Treasures?” 

“Answer the Pharaoh!” the guard on his left side nudged him with his elbow, digging into his ribs. The thief grunted again, his lips twisting in a snarl.  

“Gold,” he finally spoke, “I was looking for gold.” 

“You were looking for gold,” Atemu repeated. “You trespassed in a holy sanctuary, breached sacred barriers and called for the anger of the Gods…for gold.” 

The man licked his lips again, his greedy eye trailing over the jewelry the Pharaoh was wearing - earrings, bracelets, rings, his dia dia’ankh, his crown…and the most magnificent piece of all, dangling from a cord around his neck: the Sennen Puzzle. Not a second later, he was backhanded forcefully, a yelp escaping him. 

“Tell me,” Atemu demanded, moving his arm back to cross it in front of his chest, just above the Puzzle. “Did you try to steal the gold to buy bread and water for your wife and children, or did you want to use it only to enrich yourself?” 

The thief pressed his face down to the floor again, angry red cheeks hitting the cool tiles, mostly because of the guard forcing him to keep his head lowered. 

“My wife and children!” he sobbed. “Great Pharaoh, they have nothing to eat! I had to…I had to breach the sanctuary, for my children would die...!” 

“Great Pharaoh!” The other guard fumed. “This man has been caught in the act, with objects and holy relics on him, trespassing in the resting place of our ancestors!” 

Atemu seemed to think for a moment, before he turned around and walked back to his throne, the six Priests silently waiting. Mana lowered her eyes again as he passed her – he always slowed down when he passed her, and she knew he would look at her, but she didn’t want to look back at him – and climbed the steps again. 

“Rise,” he simply said while he sat down. The guards hoisted the thief back on his feet, the man trying to glare defiantly. 

“For your word that your wife and children are starving, you certainly do not seem to have any trouble looking after yourself,” Atemu continued. “Your clothes are in excellent condition, your body does not show any sign of deprivation. I saw the look in your eyes when you lifted up your head. There is nothing but greed in your soul. Not even your kaa is worthy enough of extracting - your bitter feelings are misplaced. Life is not a free ride. There are chances, challenges and opportunities enough, and skills and knowledge are rewarded. You, on the other hand, thought you could make an easy fortune by following into another’s footsteps.” 

The thief growled, but didn’t object. Atemu barked a short laugh; this time the disdain was more than obvious. 

“The King of Thieves is dead. Did you really think that a simple, petty thief like yourself could claim his title? You will have to do far better than that, and even then, death will await you.” 

“You needed the Gods to kill him!” The thief suddenly spat. “And you-” 

“The Gods I rightfully command,” Atemu interrupted him, though the guards were already at the thief’s throat to silence him. “Bakura’s kaa was strong, and he was an admirable adversary in some ways. I will give him the honour and credit of being the first and only one to date to rob the royal tombs - but you, my friend, you did not make it through the antechamber before you got caught. You managed to steal some holy relics and a little bit of gold…” 

Mana’s heart sank. She barely realized she was digging her fingers into the fabric of her dress, the hood of her cloak suddenly weighing heavy on her. Atemu was about to sentence the man, and it wouldn’t be a surprise what his judgment was going to be. 

The thief himself shivered, the guards keeping their firm grip on him. There was no way out; even if he did manage to break free from the guards, there were more at the exit of the room, and they were all wielding spears and staffs. He would be dead before making it through the door. 

“Did you really want to follow in his footsteps?” Atemu asked, but clearly didn’t expect the other to answer him. “Very well then. You will follow him: into death. You will be drowned in the Nile, and let it be a consolation to you that the holy waters will take your miserable life...” 

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Mana still was unable to suppress the shudder when Atemu declared the death sentence. The thief was just that - a silly, greedy, petty thief, but he could pay for his crimes by working at the lands, in the mines, or at one of the large construction sites. Any thief could work off his debt and learn from his mistake, or so Mana thought. Besides, hard labour wouldn’t kill anyone. She lowered her head, feeling sick to her stomach. 

The two guards dragged the thief away, who erupted in loud curses and pitiful pleas, screaming about his wife and children. His cries ended abruptly, just barely outside the Throne Room; she suppressed another shudder. She had only the faintest of hopes that the man would die quickly out of fear instead of the anguish of fighting for the last gulp of breath…her mind couldn’t even grasp the concept of being drowned, and she was only thankful that she wasn’t obliged to attend the execution. Her breathing came in shaky gasps; it was impossible for her to stand still and to look in front of her as if nothing had happened. 

“Court dismissed,” Atemu said, tone of voice rather bored. The Priests seemed to loosen up a little and they all bowed one by one to him before leaving their respective places, about to devote their time to their usual chores and tasks. Mana heard the fabric of her dress rustle when she bowed to him, her hands neatly folded and her head lowered as she was taught to, and it was hard to believe that she once counted the days until she was able to wear the robes of a Priestess. They felt constricting and suffocating, instead of the prestige and rightfulness she always associated them with. Every Priest of the Pharaoh’s Court was wise, dedicated, devoted, strong and rightful…but why did it felt so wrong to be here? Because she was the only one without an Item – her teacher taking the Sennen Ring with him as he fled -  the only one still learning, the only one able to take his place…but unable to remove or cover up the stain he had left? 

Mana hurried to leave the Throne Room, glad that she could be away from the cold and the gloomy environment. Things had changed over the course of the years, and she knew who was responsible for it. She tried so hard to keep everything, to keep the Pharaoh himself, in balance, but she was slipping. She wasn’t strong enough for this; she missed her teacher and his guidance, not to mention his wisdom and patience. Mahaado…teacher. Why did you leave? We could’ve worked it out. Didn’t you trust me? Her hands clenched into fists, and the tears stinging in her eyes weren’t from sadness or grief this time. It was pure, unadulterated frustration and powerlessness - and she would’ve given everything in her power to make things right. Everything. Even her own life.  


She came to a halt, her large dress flapping around her ankles, the fabric rustling as the folds wrapped themselves around her body. The hood of her cloak slipped from her head, revealing her hair, the thick locks framing her face. She’d already recognized his voice. 

“Yes, High Priest?” 

“You’ll have to learn not to show your disgust so openly,” Set spoke as he walked up to her. She hated the man’s impossible height that made everyone automatically look up to him. His eyes were calm and open, and his words were slightly reproachful, not scolding. 

“He might be a lowlife, a petty thief, but he’s a human being,” Mana answered. “Working his debt to society off in one of the mines would be punishment enough.” 

“He did enter the antechambers of the royal tombs, Mana. You know how our Pharaoh feels about that…and how that weighs with his judgment.” 

“I know…but he’s supposed to judge fairly and with consideration, not by attaching his own emotions into the sentence. It shouldn’t be like this. There has to be a fair trial for everyone…” 

“The Phar…my cousin is a God,” Set dryly remarked. He held the Sennen Rod clutched to his chest, the golden Item faintly flickering whenever it caught a ray of light. “His judgment will never be questioned.” 

She showed him a faint smile, not wanting to irritate him. Set was extremely strict and straightforward; he simply said what he wanted to say, without sugar-coating his words.  He wasn’t one for chit-chat or idle conversations; though it was indisputable how hard he worked, it was also indisputable how honest and fair he was, be it very blunt most of times. Only recently it had become known that Priest Akunadin was Set’s father, and being the brother of the late Pharaoh Akunamukanon, that made the High Priest and the Pharaoh cousins. Set wasn’t the one to bemoan the fact that he could’ve been the actual Pharaoh; he saw his duty and obligations as his lifework and didn’t strive for any higher position then he was in now. Still, sometimes there was a faint glimmer in his eyes, harshness on his face and a little bitterness in his voice to be heard - maybe an old remnant of jealousy or envy, or maybe a hint of lament of not taking his chances after all… 

Set snorted, shifting his stance a little.  

“You know him better than anyone,” he continued. “He will not allow much to get to him, but if he does…the one to cross him in his beliefs and convictions has a very, very big problem.”

Mana shook her head, sending strands of her hair flying.  

“This is not the Pharaoh I know,” she said. “This is not the person I grew up with.” 

“He is my cousin,” Set repeated. “He was raised even stricter than me for his future duties and obligations as ruler and Pharaoh. He could not remain the same person you always knew, Mana. The burdens are heavy, the pressure is high. It is normal for people to change.” 

“It is his Puzzle,” she whispered. 

“Excuse me?” 

It didn’t elude her that the High Priest intensified his grip on the Sennen Rod. 

“Those Items of yours,” Mana said. “Mahaado knew there was something wrong with them, something evil…” 

“Do you still believe that coward’s words?” Set asked her derisively. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Set and Mahaado hadn’t gotten along. The High Priest wasn’t really friends with everyone, not even with his cousin, and he and Mahaado had been all but despising each other from the moment they met. To Set, only his own work and opinion mattered, as well as the state of perfection he’d achieved in everything he did - something he expected from his fellow Priests, and anyone unable to attain that level was by default less worthy. Since his flight from the Royal Palace, Mahaado had dropped to the lowest ranks of Set’s opinion; not that he was up very high in the first place. 

“My teacher…” she started, but immediately fell silent. He’s not a coward. He’s not! 

“There is a still so much you need to learn,” Set answered, “and learning how to see your ‘teacher’ in a different light than the pedestal you placed him upon would be the first thing.” 

“He had his reasons!” she hissed, unable to keep the strong emotion surging through her in check. She hated it when people criticized her former teacher, especially now that he wasn’t around to defend himself. Her fingers clutched again at her dress. He made a mistake by fleeing the Palace, and no one would let him live that down should they find him again…but she doubted the greatest spirit sorcerer of Khemet would ever be caught. It wasn’t for nothing that the Pharaoh’s troops always returned empty-handed from their search. 

“Like I said, still so much to learn,” Set looked down at her, tone of voice almost bored, just like Atemu’s has been. In some ways, the cousins resembled each other far more than they’d care to admit. She shook her head again. 

“He had his reasons.” 

“He was afraid of dying.” 

“Aren’t we all?” 

“No,” Set immediately retorted. “Especially if it is for our Pharaoh. No one could ever imagine that his loyalty was broken so soon when death was in his neighborhood. He disappointed every one of us, and our Pharaoh the most.” 

“I know,” Mana said, her voice low, apologetic. It was a big mistake, and she was sure it had contributed to Atemu becoming ruthless over the years. If Mahaado had been around, Atemu more than likely wouldn’t have turned out to be like this, the ruler people feared instead of respected, the emotionless Pharaoh that barely smiled. She couldn’t remember the last time he had held an open Court; both Akunamukanon and Atemu had been known for their desire to stay in touch with their people, their own nation. Holding an open Court would mean that everyone, no matter their social status, was allowed to visit the Royal Palace and ask for advice from the Priests and the Pharaoh himself. It all had changed, and she knew, deep down inside, that her teacher and his…bad decision were a great contributor to how Atemu was now. That, and that Puzzle. 

“Those Items,” she repeated, her eyes darting towards the Rod. “They all have a certain power over you. A compelling, corrupting power, and my teach…Mahaado knew that. It took him half of his heka to seal the evil in his Ring alone.” 

“If that is your way of explaining why he was so weak in his dueling with his kaa, then it is certainly a lousy one,” the High Priest said, unimpressed. “Mana, take it from me: Mahaado was a coward. He might have had his reasons, but he still left the Royal Palace, and his departure was disastrous for my cousin, only for the sentimental reason that he missed his friend. Your Master posed himself as a friend, but he did not think twice to discharge himself from all his responsibilities and obligations to leave his Pharaoh alone. I am glad though that my cousin saw in time what sort of ‘friend’ Mahaado was, and grew to be stronger from it.” 

“No, not stronger,” Mana objected. “Weaker. There’s no strength in sentencing people to death, no strength in cutting off all your emotions, no strength in losing oneself in darkness.” 

Set didn’t answer to that, but the expression on the High Priest’s face spoke volumes.

“I will leave you to your duties now,” he finally said.  

She bowed quickly, nothing more than a slight nod of her head really - usually the Priests didn’t bow to each other, but everyone made an exception for Set. She waited until his footsteps had died away until she all but ran through the hallway to her own room, throwing the door closed behind her. 

There was no knock on her door before it was opened; the burly guard was announcement enough for the one who was entering. Mana quickly rose from her chair, silently thanking the Gods for giving her the insight not to study Mahaado’s scriptures today; she doubted Atemu would appreciate seeing the writings of her former teacher strewn out all over her desk. 

“My Pharaoh,” she said and bowed for him. 

“Mana,” he returned, his voice warmer than before, and with a smile on her lips, she looked up at him. His eyes didn’t reflect the warmth in his voice and she quickly hid the disappointment she felt. It was too much to ask for. He lifted up his hand to stroke her cheek. His touch was gentle and she found herself leaning into it, believing for one moment this all could be honestly real. Someone who cared for her, someone who loved her and had interest in her, and saw her differently than she really was: Mana, not the Priestess, not the former apprentice, just…Mana. 

“Why did you leave my Court so hastily, Mana?” 

She shivered slightly when his hand slipped from her cheek to her bare shoulder. Her linen shenti was tied together in front just above her breasts, a golden jewel representing the holy scarab holding it into place. She knew it was his favorite kind of dress, and her cheeks colored darkly. Even now, after everything that had happened, she still wanted to please him, wanted to have his approval, while she lowered herself to nothing but a tool in his hands. She knew she wasn’t the friend to him that she used to be. Not because of her, but of how much he had changed…and still she longed for his touch, longed to feel his fingers on her skin… 

“My Pharaoh…” 

“In our private quarters, you are allowed to use my name, Mana.” 

She shivered again. It wasn’t as much as a reminder as a command, and she had difficulties addressing him with his first name - it created distance to her.  



“That poor man…” 

“He dared enter a holy sanctuary,” Atemu said, and he all but shrugged. “We cannot allow anyone to trespass into our ancestors’ tombs, Mana. Those who dare know of the risk they take.” 

“He didn’t need to die,” Mana objected, and leaned a little forward so their cheeks touched. He smiled softly, his other hand taking hers and gently stroking her fingers. 

Habeeba,” he said, lowering his voice. “Do you really think I would be merciful to anyone who dares enter the royal tombs? My father’s resting place has already been desecrated once. I will not stand for a second time.” 

“The King of Thieves is dead,” Mana replied, standing still as his hand trailed over her collarbone. “He no longer walks among us. I understand, Pha…Atemu…how you feel. mercy to those fools who think they can walk in his footsteps. Show them the errors of their ways, instead of sentencing them to death. You are the Pharaoh, the ruler of this nation - it is your duty to be merciful…” 

“I will not stand for it,” Atemu interrupted her, repeating his words. His other hand slid over her arm and shoulder, tracing her smooth skin. “I will not allow these thieves to roam free and think they can rob tombs unpunished.” 


He didn’t answer and tilted his head a little instead, brushing his lips over her cheek.  


Hesitantly, her arm came to rest over his shoulders, knowing that the curve of her breasts would adjust itself accordingly, creating the desired cleavage. Soon enough, she would feel his hands on them, stroking through the fabric of her dress until he got impatient and would rip it from her, exposing her to the light, exposing her vulnerability, and she hated herself for it…but she couldn’t live without his touch, live without him so close to her. She would live for the thought that she could make things right, that she could bring back the old Atemu she adored, the boy who believed in justice and fairness without showing off power or intimidation. 

“Ah,” she gasped, as the Puzzle suddenly pressed painfully in her abdomen.  

Without another word, he pulled away from her, hands tugging at the cord to take the heavy Item off. As usual, he put it on her desk, the piece of furniture easy to spot from every corner of her room. Mana bit her lip. She knew she had to feel proud and honored that he trusted her, that he felt at ease enough in her company to take off his ultimate symbol of power: the Sennen Puzzle. It wouldn’t take long before he would put it on again, though. This weight, this symbol that had been put on his shoulders far too early, was something he couldn’t live without. It made her feel sick to her stomach, how he couldn’t be separated from the Item, that he placed it so that he could keep an eye on it from wherever he was. He would still steal glances at it, even when his hands were all over her, his body pressing hers down on the bed. He would look at it when he touched her between her legs, making her squirm and arch her back to lean into his ministrations - he would look away from her. She felt like crying as he laid her down on the bed, large golden earrings resting upon her skin as he kissed her all over. Crying from happiness because she liked, no, loved the physical sensations, crying from the feelings of hatred because she abhorred the physical sensations at the same time, crying from the powerlessness she felt…but her body was already responding eagerly, so willing, and her mind went blank. As she surrendered completely to him, she only cried one more time for the loss of her teacher, the loss of her innocence, and the loss of her hope.


Timeline II, Alternate Universe: Domino City, Japan 

Jounouchi Katsuya rolled over in his bed, pulling the pillow under his head closer to him, snuggling into it. He shivered - it was cold in his room. Damn winter, he thought, smacking his lips. It was a school day, and his alarm clock would go off any minute; until he heard the loud buzzing sound, he was going to doze a little. The sound of breaking glass made him cringe and he pressed his head deeper into the pillow, as if to shut the noise out. I guess dad is up early this morning too. He groaned. 

The second his alarm clock started buzzing, Jounouchi swatted at it, almost shoving it off the small nightstand. He hated getting up so early, but school was the only place where he could relatively be, or feel, at ease. There was nothing his father or his environment could offer him here but empty cupboards, no heating, a slap to the face or a beer bottle to his head… 

Yawning, he threw the blankets off, shivering forcefully. Would there be warm water today? Jounouchi got out of bed, traipsing through his small bedroom to gather a towel and a bar of soap. It brought a small smile to his face - Shizuka had bought him the soap, as she would often buy small things for him. She didn’t mind that he’d put up a show of not being willing to accept it, that she really didn’t need to buy him things, but they both knew he needed it - his father didn’t care about a thing, and his job as a paperboy wasn’t very lucrative. 

He opened the door of his bedroom and peeked through the opening; his father wasn’t in the hallway. Probably not in the bathroom either - the man hadn’t taken a proper shower since forever, and he didn’t want to come across him in just his pajamas. Hell, he didn’t want to come across his father fully clothed. He was an asshole, a drunken jerk. Jounouchi squelched the train of thought. He wasn’t going to ruin his own day - it was a Wednesday, which meant that he got to see Shizuka later this afternoon! 

He forced himself to whistle all through the icy cold shower - darling father probably hadn’t paid any bills, as the lights weren’t working either; he would have to take a look into it later - and brushed his teeth, squeezing out the very last bit of the toothpaste. Damn. Jounouchi tried to fix his messy blond hair, gave up on it and spend a few minutes getting dressed, grabbing his schoolbooks and leaving before his father noticed that he was up in the first place. He didn’t feel like a confrontation, not today. 

Jounouchi slung his book bag over his shoulder. With a bit of luck, he’d brought the right books for today; he always stuffed a few without giving it a second thought into his bag. For his schedule, he depended on his best friend Honda Hiroto - when he wasn’t obsessing over Miho, the airhead of their class. Despite everything, Jounouchi smiled again. He may not be every teacher’s pet, but he didn’t loathe school. He liked the PE and the arts and craft lessons, he always liked working with his hands. The boring biology lectures, the monotonous history classes, not to mention linguistics and math…he shivered. Coming across a certain corner, Jounouchi slowed down, listening to the sounds. The Hirutani gang was notorious for hanging around here, and even though he was a member of the gang himself, he didn’t feel like a confrontation with them either. He wasn’t exactly proud of being a gang member, but found it difficult to leave - with most gangs, it was easier getting in than getting out. He usually kept away from the fights and the petty shoplifting, not wanting to build up a police record. After all, he did want a job later in life, unlike the other gang members. Jounouchi might be dumb sometimes, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew the importance of a steady job…especially for his sister Shizuka. He was the one who was going to take care of her; that was the least he could do. 

“Jounouchi! Wait up, man!” 

He didn’t cringe when recognizing the voice - it was Honda, not one of the gang members. Honda had always kept away from the gang, but he wasn’t exactly ‘innocent’ either - they both picked on younger students, especially the shy ones, in their own class. Jounouchi hit him in a friendly manner on the shoulder, by way of greeting him. 

“Hey man, what’s up for today?” 

“Bah, some chemistry test…Takahana-sensei really knows how to search out the most stupid assignments.” 

“Really?” Jounouchi couldn’t remember what the last chapter was about, let alone the most recent assignments.  

“Oh wait,” Honda suddenly recalled, “there’s supposed to be a transfer student coming in today.” 

“This late in the semester?” He groaned. 

Honda shrugged. “Yeah, obviously. The name’s Bakura or something.  I heard Sukimoto-sensei talk about it.” 

Jounouchi huffed. “School’s boring.” 

“Hey, are you going to see your sister this afternoon?” 

“Of course!” 

Honda fell silent after that, and Jounouchi shot him an impatient glare. He was very protective of his sister, and he didn’t need his best friend to go after her. Besides, didn’t he have Miho to make calf eyes at? It was tough enough already to keep the local playboy, Otogi Ryuuji, away from Shizuka. He all but gasped when Honda elbowed him.  

“Hey, it’s Mazaki.” 

Jounouchi groaned again. He didn’t dislike the girl, but to say that he did like her was an exaggeration - she was a bit pushy, that was all…and she’d been best friends with that Mutou kid. He snorted in remembrance.  Mutou Yuugi had been one wimpy, whiny boy, with his constant babbling about puzzles and games. He’d been the perfect victim for bullying, though - he always kept to himself, he was small and had the freakiest looking hair Jounouchi had ever seen. Yes, a perfect and easy victim…too perfect, as he’d left school permanently a few weeks ago, and Jounouchi was very certain their constant bullying had something to do with it. Not that he cared much; he cared only for himself and Shizuka. 

“Jounouchi, Honda,” the girl greeted them when she caught up with them, her uniform prim and proper, book bag slung over her shoulder as well. 

“Morning, Mazaki,” Honda grumbled, but she wasn’t one to be deterred. 

“I trust you two to have studied extensively for Takahana-sensei’s test, hmm?” she all but sing-songed, both their disastrous grades a public secret. 

“Chemistry’s stupid,” Jounouchi answered intelligently, stuffing his hands in his pockets. 

“There’s supposed to be a transfer student coming in today,” Anzu said. “In our class!” 

“It’s not that big of a deal,” he said, kicking a pebble away. “What’s with the enthusiasm? There are more exciting things I know of.” 

“Yes, like hanging out with your gang friends,” Anzu snorted, shaking her head. “Or spending all your time picking on younger students. You leave this new student alone, do you hear me?” 

“Who died and made you class president?” Honda asked as they walked through the large gates, entering school property. Anzu glared at him, but didn’t answer and suddenly waved. Honda blushed furiously; Nosaka Miho returned the wave and Jounouchi chuckled, knowing that Honda imagined she was waving especially to him

He stifled a yawn. School was so boring; he’d welcome any distraction by now, even the much-anticipated arrival of the transfer student. He knew he failed the chemistry test already, so there was no use of pretending to be interested in the rest of the chapters. Finally, just as he was about to start whistling out loud or annoying the rest of his classmates by tapping against his chair, the door opened and Nagobana-sensei entered, followed by a young, effeminate looking boy. At least, Jounouchi thought it was a boy, though his long, flowing hair was telling him otherwise at first sight. He was wearing the boy’s school uniform and not a skirt, so… 

“Class, please welcome Bakura Ryou,” Nagobana said, and the class rose obediently to bow before their new fellow student. The class president, Jounouchi always forgot his name, delivered a short welcoming speech to the white-haired boy who didn’t seem to be nervous, but not exactly at ease either. He grinned to himself. Yes, this Bakura Ryou was the perfect next victim to pick on. 

“Tell us about yourself, Bakura-san,” the class president said, smiling pleasantly. That startled the young man a bit, but he returned the smile quickly, if a little flatly. 

“My father works in the archaeological field,” he said, his voice soft. “He travels all around the world, but mostly to Africa, and Egypt in particular. He even brought me a pendant from one of his travels. Because he’s so often away, I live on my own.” 

A faint blush colored his cheeks, as if he was embarrassed to talk about himself. 

“Welcome, Bakura-san,” the teacher said again. “Now…let’s see where you can sit. Ah, there’s a desk free next to Jounouchi,” he pointed out.  

It raised a storm of protest from the girls, who already had set their sights on the polite and friendly new classmate, but he simply walked forward and took his seat next to Jounouchi. 

“Hello, Jounouchi-kun,” he said. 

“Welcome, Bakura-kun,” Jounouchi answered, showing him a lopsided grin. The teacher called for the girls to stop their indignant chattering and tried to bring the attention of the class back to the new chapter from the chemistry textbook. Bakura opened his book, using his pencil to take notes, each and every movement calm and composed. What a nerd. Jounouchi didn’t stop to wonder why the new student wasn’t seated at the spot where Yuugi used to sit.  

“Class, class, that’s enough,” the teacher said out loud again and turned around to write something on the chalkboard. Jounouchi exchanged looks with Honda, who was very amused that Bakura had been seated next to his best friend. It wouldn’t do Jounouchi’s social status much good if such a sissy would be associated with him. He almost rubbed his hands in anticipated glee, mentally going over their bullying methods.    

After lunch, Jounouchi skipped the rest of his classes, even though the prospect of cornering and bullying Bakura tempted him to stay. It was still Wednesday, and Wednesday afternoons were holy to him. Jounouchi took the bus downtown; he was saving his money for driving lessons, but his job didn’t enable him to save much. He usually bought something small for Shizuka as well; she was his sister, she deserved to be spoiled a little. Life was hard enough for her already. Jounouchi bit his lip. The disease that had taken away her eyesight had been so rare and difficult that only a very expensive operation had been the resolution - money that no one of the Jounouchi family had. Their parents had divorced when they were still little kids, and Jounouchi would never forget the moment that they’d been separated. The car driving off with his little sister crying on the backseat was a reoccurring nightmare. It had only been a year since they’d re-established contact; mostly because Shizuka had managed to reach Jounouchi without their mother knowing. Even though their parents didn’t want to talk to each other anymore, that didn’t mean their children wanted to cease all communication too. 

He got off at the right stop; from here it would only take him ten minutes to the gates of the institute where Shizuka would be waiting. Jounouchi hated the word ‘institute’. It was a school for disabled children, not for the mentally ill. Shizuka never used the word ‘institute’ either, simply referring to it as ‘school’. She’d wait for him every Wednesday afternoon at the gates so they could spend some sibling time together. Jounouchi suddenly halted, and turned around.  

Behind him walked an elderly couple, too engrossed in their own conversation to even notice him. He frowned. He had the feeling he was being followed. Could it be that someone from Domino High was skulking after him to keep track of his whereabouts? The school could expel him if he cut too many classes… but the guidance counselor he recently talked to about his behavior in class - the man hadn’t a clue what he was talking about, with his morals and family values - hadn’t mentioned anything about him skipping school. Great. If you end up being paranoid, who’s going to look after your sister, huh? 

Jounouchi eliminated that train of thought and quickly resumed walking - he wouldn’t want to keep Shizuka waiting. Ah, there she was; standing outside the gate as she did every Wednesday afternoon. 


“Onii-chan!” Her face lit up like a Christmas tree, a wonderful wide smile gracing her lips.  

Jounouchi hugged her firmly, lifting her up from the ground in his enthusiasm.  “Onii-chan! Put me down!” She giggled, wrapping her arms around him to return the hug. “You’re so strong! Have you been working out?” 

“Hard work only,” Jounouchi teased her back. He hated gyms with a passion - he got exercise enough from his job and running around at school. Besides, he had a fast metabolism; he wouldn’t get fat anytime soon. 

“What did you have in mind for today?” He looked at her face as usual, and got hit by grief and sadness, as he did every time he saw her. Shizuka’s eyes were so vibrant, so lively, such a beautiful color of hazelnut brown…they were sparkling with enthusiasm and excitement, and yet they saw nothing. It’s not fair! Her eyes simply stared into nothingness, and she’d seen the colors of the sky, of the ground, of his hair, of her own hair, of everything before…and he hadn’t been able to do a thing to stop the regressive disease from taking her eyesight. Shizuka never complained, never blamed him for anything. If only they had money…he would’ve sold his soul to pay for the operation. 

“I want to do a little shopping,” she said in return, her hand lifting up the tell-tale white cane with the red stripes. “And eat a little bit; I didn’t have lunch yet.” 

“I’ll buy you a sandwich,” he immediately said. He loathed the sight of the cane, but there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe, in the not so far future, if he had a job and enough money saved, he could look into the possibilities by then. Technology and medical science moved so fast nowadays, it could be very well possible that in five or ten years from now, there was an operation technique available that could give his sister back her eyesight. Until then, he was simply going to be the best brother he… 

“What, onii-chan?” Shizuka asked, startled as he suddenly pulled her to the right. 

“Sorry,” he muttered. Jounouchi looked over his shoulder. A woman was walking behind him, dressed in a dark blue business suit, juggling a cell phone, her purse and a notebook she was scrawling something into. For a moment, he thought she’d been a younger girl with chestnut hair, dressed in a dark cloak, walking far closer to him. That’s it. No more video games or watching horror movies before I go to bed. 


“Let’s go,” Jounouchi said, cheerful. “We can’t keep the sandwiches waiting!” 

“You and your food,” she giggled happily. “I keep telling everyone that you’re a bottomless pit, and no one wants to believe me.” 

“You’re establishing quite the reputation for me…” he said, though he chuckled as well. Shizuka moved her cane, her other arm hooked into Jounouchi’s, the ticking telling her where to walk.  

“I really could go for a nice sandwich right about now,” she said. “We worked so hard this morning that we all forgot about lunch.” 

“What did you do?” 

“Mostly computer work,” she said, lifting up her hand briefly to brush a wayward strand of hair out of her face. Out of school, she usually freed it from the simple ponytail or loose braid, enjoying her hair flowing freely around her face. “The new speech recognition software we received is quite difficult, but really handy once you get the hang of it.” 

“I’m sure you’ll do great,” Jounouchi answered, almost absent-mindedly. He realized that Shizuka was learning a profession besides the practical skills she needed to live her life with her handicap, and he didn’t want her to sit at home and feel unwanted in this society…but his natural protectiveness for her always acted up, even more so when they were together. 

“You know I’m going to take care of you, later,” he said. 

“Onii-chan,” she tilted her head, “I know that…but you do know that I can take care of myself, that I can make my own decisions? I may be blind, onii-chan, but I’m not completely disabled or incapable of living my life the way I want to.” 

She halted as he didn’t give an answer to that. “Onii-chan?” 

“It’s all my fault,” he said. 

“No it’s not,” her voice floated towards him. “Onii-chan…it’s no one’s fault. If you really want to place the blame, place it on me. I was the one to contract this disease.” 

“Don’t you ever talk like that,” he growled. “You couldn’t help that…” 

“And you couldn’t help it either,” she cut him off. “Onii-chan, stop beating yourself up so much over it. I’m in a very good school that teaches me everything I need to know, prepares me for a profession, and once I’ve graduated, I’m going to look for a job and live together in a house with you.” 

Jounouchi snorted, but not disdainfully. Buying a house together was one of their favorite topics of conversation. 

“That is, if Ryuuji wants to…” 


“He asked me to be his girlfriend,” Shizuka said, throwing her hair back and smiling at her brother. Her smile turned even wider, if that was possible - she showed her white teeth, her face all but glowing. 

“What did you say to that?” Jounouchi asked, though he already knew the answer. 

“Yes, of course!” 

“And he’s going to keep us from living together after we graduated?” 

“Of course not,” she said, still smiling. “Ryuuji knows how much we mean to each other. I would never give up my onii-chan for my boyfriend! We’re going to be one big family!” 

Jounouchi refrained from groaning out loud, to not dampen her spirits. She was on a first-name basis with Otogi, so it was serious, then…he would’ve to have a talk with the inventor of the Dungeon Dice Monsters game, and investigate for himself about Otogi’s intentions with his sister. If they were anything but honorable, he would let his fists do the talking. Shizuka chattered next to him, telling anecdotes about her school week, and he listened to her, wondering how her voice could be so cheerful and happy even though her life was so hard. She was strong…and here he was, moping about trivial things - though he wouldn’t call his potential brother-in-law a trivial thing. 

“What was that you mention about a wedding?” 

Timeline III, known universe: Domino City, Japan 

Pain. Excruciating pain. Moaning low in his throat, he tried to open his eyes. His head pounded, he couldn’t hear or see, and his limbs felt like they’d been broken…dead weight. He took a sharp breath as he turned his head a little; the sting of pain almost made him want to cry out loud. Better stay still and not move too hastily, he thought to himself. Where was he? It was dark, but not impossible to see. There was a little light, far in the distance…he moaned.  

All right, calm down. Think. What happened? Where am I? Can I get up? Shifting, every little movement agonizing painful, he tried to get up, but his body finally gave way and he fell down again, the world around him spinning. Not a very good idea. It wasn’t cold or warm, it wasn’t raining nor was the sun shining - where the hell was he? He wasn’t in immediate danger, so he decided to bide his time and wait until at least the headache had subsided. He waited and waited…until it dawned to him that he didn’t know why he was here, wherever ‘here’ was; that he didn’t know where he’d come from, or how he had ended up here. That he didn’t know who he was, what he looked like, what was going on, and this time he cried out in pain and fear, voice shrill and hoarse. Panic enveloped him and he cried out loud again and again until even the movement of opening his mouth to cry was too exerting for him, and he felt himself slipping away again.  

“No…. no….” 


“Yuugi! Anzu’s here for you!” 


Mutou Yuugi snatched up his Sennen Puzzle, a golden pendant shaped like an upside-down pyramid, and put the metal chain over his head. Satisfied, he looked into the mirror, checking the way the Puzzle was secured - he used to wear it on a rope, but recent events had proven that a chain would be far more effective. 

“I can’t believe it,” Yuugi muttered. 

“What, aibou?” A voice floated through the room, only audible to the young teen. 

“That so many people are after the Puzzle, mou hitori no boku,” Yuugi answered, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to speak to a spitting image of oneself in spirit form. 

“I am really glad that you have chosen for a more…ah, sturdier solution,” the spirit said, his crimson eyes resting upon his home - the Sennen Puzzle. Ever since Yuugi had managed to solve this mysterious puzzle, his spirit and soul had been reawakened. For what purpose or reason still eluded the both of them, but he had faith enough that someday it would become all clear to them. For now, they had their hands full on finding his memories; as he didn’t recall anything from his past, and that was the most logical thing to look for first. 

“Mou hitori no boku...” 

“Yes, aibou?” 

“You’re daydreaming. We have to go to school!” 

“Ah, yes, you are right,” he chuckled briefly and the next second he was gone, retreating back into the Puzzle. Yuugi smiled to himself. One day, we’ll find your memories, mou hitori no boku, and then you’ll know all about yourself and why you’re here. Until then, we’ll be friends and help each other. Slinging the book bag over his shoulder and storming out of his room, Yuugi almost ran over his mother. 

“Sorry about that, kaa-san!” 

“Were you talking to yourself again?” the woman asked, throwing him a suspicious look. 

“S-sorry.” Yuugi blushed.  

“You’re growing up to be exactly like your grandfather,” she said, shaking her head though she didn’t sound too sad about it. “Now, hurry up, don’t keep poor Anzu waiting!” 

“No, kaa-san,” Yuugi answered and threw her a smile before turning around and thundering down the stairs. He really should’ve gotten up earlier - there was no time for breakfast now. Yuugi opened the door, squinting his eyes at the bright sun. 

“Yuugi, over here,” Anzu waved, her voice clearly indicating that she wanted to be saved from his grandfather. Mutou Sugoroku was the proprietor of the Kame Game shop for decades on end, and besides his love for games he was pretty much renowned for his appreciation of the female bust size. Anzu was too polite to tell him to knock it off with glaring at her upper body and she heaved an audible sigh when Yuugi grabbed her hand and dragged her off to school. 

“Bye, jii-chan! See you later!” 

“Really, Yuugi, your grandfather…” Anzu started when they were well out of sight. Yuugi was now the one to heave a sigh. 

“I know, Anzu…he doesn’t mean it like that, really.” 

“He’s a pervert,” she whispered furiously. Yuugi blushed again, trying to find a way not to belittle his grandfather’s actions…but he couldn’t find any, because Anzu was right. 

“He really doesn’t mean it that bad,” he repeated, willing his blush away. Anzu was far too optimistic and cheerful to let it ruin her day, and started talking about an upcoming school performance. She loved to dance, and this year the students of their class had chosen to incorporate dance in their annual performance. Yuugi wasn’t really looking forward to it and hoped he could avoid all the dancing by simply volunteering to help with the costumes and the stage settings. Mentally going over their classes for today, he listened to Anzu talking as she was describing her costume and the dance she was studying. 

“I think red would fit you splendidly,” Yuugi said, blushing at the thought of Anzu in a form-fitting, long red dress. They halted in front of the traffic lights. Anzu was very excited about the performance, as her greatest dream was to go study modern dance in New York. Only her best and closest friends knew of her ambition - Anzu wasn’t the kind of girl to flaunt it in everybody’s face, but she sure loved this opportunity, no matter if it was only a mere school performance, to demonstrate her skills. 

The traffic light went green and Yuugi already took a step forward, still listening attentively to Anzu describing the costumes for the dance. His feet had barely touched the asphalt when he heard the girl screaming his name. 



“Wha…?” Yuugi looked up, realizing in a split second that a car was approaching him, fast. No doubt someone who had ignored all the red lights and was speeding up in the hope to win maybe a few seconds to arrive faster at his destination, oblivious to the pedestrians. Fear nailed him immediately to the spot, and he opened his mouth - to scream, to…what, actually? He was going to die - the car didn’t stop, wasn’t able to stop in time, it was only a matter of time before he would be hit, and pain would crush his body and the only thing he could do was staring at the headlights, stare at the lights coming at him. 

A flurry of dark brown and something akin to gold latched onto him, and instead of the expected pain he was all but lifted up and thrown to the ground, still painful, but anything was better than being run over. Yuugi felt his skin bruise and scrape, hearing the fabric of his school uniform tear and in the briefest of moments, he imagined his mother being really angry with him for ruining his clothes. 

“Ouch!  Ow ow ow!” He was undoubtedly bleeding, and his hands hurt - when Yuugi caught a glimpse of them, he saw nothing but blood and raw, red skin. Instinctively, he had put his hands forward to catch his fall; painful, but he’d survive. It took him a moment to realize that Anzu was still screaming his name, and that someone…someone was holding him at the waist. He tried to struggle, pain flaring through his body. 

“Easy, easy, my Pharaoh…! You are safe now…” 

Yuugi was flabbergasted. “What? Who’s talking? Anzu...?” 

An arm slipped around his shoulders, and he was turned around, eased down on his back on the ground, but he didn’t feel either asphalt or concrete…it was as if he was floating, being cradled like a baby. He looked up, though his vision was a little distorted, the shock of the near-death-accident still fresh.  

Dark eyes, chocolate brown with golden specks, stared intently down at him. 

“Pharaoh…Pharaoh, we finally found you!” 

That wasn’t Anzu’s voice. It was a female voice, but lower pitched and not panicked like Anzu’s had sounded just a moment ago. What happened? The approaching car…  

“It is going to be all right. You are safe now.” 

A male voice, distinctive, soothing, friendly yet distant. Respectful…in awe. Yuugi didn’t understand; why did they keep referring to him as “Pharaoh”? He wasn’t one…what was going on?  

“Ouch,” was the only thing he could mutter. 

“Mana, tend to his wounds,” the man said, the unspoken ‘please’ hanging in the air. Yuugi tried to make out a face, to see who was talking, but for some reason his vision was blurred. Concussion? But he hadn’t hit his head, had he? It had all happened so fast… 

“Yuugi, Yuugi!” 



He tilted his head towards the direction the sound was coming from, and he heard footsteps as well; Anzu was coming for him. She would know what to do.  He felt light-headed, and he didn’t know if it was from the shock or if he really had hit his head. He barely felt any pain though, just a slight stinging sensation, barely anything compared to just a minute ago - he felt so at ease all of a sudden that he wanted to fall asleep. 

“Yuugi! You scared me to death! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for saving him!”

Anzu’s voice was still panicked and excited at the same time, and he heard the thud of her book bag being dropped to the floor. 

Finally, she appeared into view - a blur of blue eyes and brown hair, and her mouth moved, but he could barely hear her. 

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Anzu held up three fingers, ignoring the man and woman next to Yuugi, as well as the curious bystanders. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest; she’d been so scared that the car was going to hit her best friend and she couldn’t have done anything to stop it. Feeling guilty and relieved at the same time, she focused her attention on the small boy, wanting to know if he hadn’t hurt himself too much. 

“Yuugi, answer me. How many fingers am I holding up?” 

“Fifteen,” Yuugi said and suppressed a groan. 

“My Pharaoh, do you not recognize me?” The male voice again, and Yuugi made a slightly irritated noise. He wasn’t a Pharaoh, and he wanted nothing but to close his eyes and sleep. 

“I’m not…” 

“Master, I don’t think he’s our Pharaoh…” 

Finally, someone who understood the situation. Master? She had a nice voice, that girl: determined, yet friendly and warm…a little like Anzu, but more…mature. He smiled as he closed his eyes, giving into the strange darkness that clawed at his mind, trusting his friend, and somehow those strange voices as well, that everything would be all right. 



Soft, cool pillows supporting his head. The silent rustle of a blanket, a damp cloth on his brow, and someone calling his name. Yuugi blinked a few times, trying to focus. 


“No, try again.” 


“Yuugi, you had me worried so much! Take it easy – no, no, no, don’t try to get up, stay down.” 

“Anzu...what happened?” He rested back, reveling in the cool pillows, blinking a few more times.  

“That jerk,” the girl growled, keeping her voice low. “He didn’t even stop to see if you were all right. He probably wouldn’t have cared if he had hit you anyway, too occupied with how fast he was driving…” She shivered. 

“I’m sorry,” Yuugi said meekly.  

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for!” Anzu stared dumbfounded at him. “You had every right crossing the road, our light was green! The other guy scared the life out of me - he drove so fast I couldn’t even see what kind of car it was.” 

“Too bad.” He heaved a small sigh, knowing that it wouldn’t be of any use anyway - the police wouldn’t be interested in a near-accident like this. Yuugi felt bad. He could still see the shock and the worry in her eyes, though she tried very hard to cover it up by tending to the damp cloth on his brow. 

“I’m really sorry for scaring you.” 

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said. “I’m glad you’re safe, Yuugi.” 

“Who pulled me out of the way?” He asked, faintly remembering someone talking to him, calling him “Pharaoh” and telling him that he was safe…Yuugi tried to sit upright, but groaned as a jolt of pain shot through his body. He fell back into the pillows again. 

“Lie down,” Anzu repeated, shifting the cloth on his forehead around. She bit her lower lip.

“I saw that car coming and I could only think of how it was going to hit you,” she said, her voice wavering. “I should’ve pushed you out of the way; I should’ve done something to save you!” 

Yuugi shook his head briefly out of habit, holding back another groan when the movement made his vision spin again.  

“Please don’t, Anzu. Don’t feel sorry, it wasn’t your fault!” 

The idea of Anzu pushing him out of the way and getting hit by the car herself was too horrible to imagine. She wanted to be a professional dancer – if she were hit and injured her leg, all her dreams would’ve been shattered. 

It started to dawn him that he wasn’t in his bedroom. He’d simply assumed he was at home; they hadn’t been that far en route to school. The colors around him were warm yellow and sandy brown, very much unlike the sky blue and light gray of his bedroom. When he – carefully – turned his head, he saw a wooden dresser, the golden knobs crafted to resemble certain animal heads. A small, embroidered piece of linen covered the dresser, protecting the wood from the porcelain water bowl on top of it. Anzu dipped the cloth into the bowl, squeezed it and put it back on his forehead again. 

“Where are we…?” 

A door opened as if to answer him, and Anzu startled, standing up from her chair and clasping her hands together, almost like a kid caught with her fingers in the cookie jar. A girl, slightly taller than Anzu, walked over to him, a warm smile tugging at her lips. 

“How are you feeling, Prince?” 

“Pr…Prince?” The confusion on his face spoke volumes, and his eyes went even wider when he saw the girl approach. Now that he saw her up close and personal despite his fuzzy vision, he blurted out: “Black Magician Girl?” 

Her smile grew wider, her eyes mirroring the warmth, her friendly face open and honest. Her large, round eyes took him in, examining him, and she shook her head briefly.  

“You are the Prince, not the Pharaoh,” she said and her voice sounded…dejected. Chestnut hair in wild bangs framed her face, her traits exactly as he remembered it from the card in question – which was absurd. No one could resemble a fictional person from a card game this well. 

Yuugi stared at her, noticing how she was dressed in a robe, almost majestically, that flowed around her body, loosely tied at the waist with an embroidered sash. The long sleeves hid her hands from view, just as the formless robe hid the outline of her body; the mass of fabric rustled around her as she sat down, reaching forward to take the damp cloth from his head. 

“I apologize,” she said. “It wasn’t my…our intention to meet you so soon. We were only wandering around…when we saw what was about to happen to you. Forgive us for acting so rash, Prince. We were only trying to do our best.” 

“I don’t understand a word,” Yuugi said, throwing a questioning look at Anzu, who wore the same baffled, confused expression. “I just want to go home, I don’t understand…” 

“Everything happened so fast,” the girl continued, ignoring his words. “My master wasn’t able to prevent you from hitting your head, but he did get you out of the way before any…more damage could’ve happened. You’ll meet my Master as soon as you have rested.” 

Yuugi frowned. Master? What was the girl talking about, and what was this “Prince” and “Pharaoh” thing? Shouldn’t he be in a hospital instead of with strangers? Out of habit, his hand went to his chest, fumbling around for… 

“Your Puzzle is close to you,” the girl said, eyes flickering over to the right. “Don’t worry, we won’t take it from you. If anything, we’re protecting you from losing it. You’ll need it, Mutou Yuugi. Prince.” 

“Why do you keep calling me that?” This was getting stranger by the second – if his head wasn’t pounding so much, he would’ve stood up and made himself scarce.  

“Because you are the Prince,” she answered, rising up from the bed, mattress squeaking. “There’s time to discuss this later. For now, you need to rest.” 

Anzu rushed immediately to Yuugi’s side again as soon as the other girl had left the room, closing the door silently behind her. 

“Who are those people? Why are we here?” He looked up at her, hoping that she would know the answers. 

Anzu gave him a confident smile, masking her own insecurity. “She told me to call her Mana, but she didn’t tell me how to call the man…the one that saved you. He was incredibly fast getting you out of the way of that oncoming car, but I’ll be eternally grateful for his quick action. She refers to him as ‘Master’, and he said ‘Apprentice’ to her once. He hasn’t spoken much but insisted taking you here, telling me that the ‘Pharaoh needed care and rest’. He said that they were the only ones able to give him that…” 

“I’m not a Pharaoh,” Yuugi protested. 

“I think they realize that by now as well,” Anzu couldn’t help but remark dryly, then she adjusted the damp cloth on his brow again. “If they would do us any harm, they would’ve done so already, Yuugi. I don’t know about you, but I feel strangely safe here…as if nothing can harm us.” 

Yuugi nodded, drawing comfort from her gentle touch, and sharing her sentiments. It did feel safe here, comfortable and warm, with no need for panic or fear at all. This strange woman, and her even stranger ‘Master’, hadn’t touched the Puzzle or tried to keep it away from him. From this angle, he could see it sitting on a stool, the heavy chain curled up around it.  

Anzu threw him a quizzical look. “Why did you say ‘Black Magician Girl’ to her?” 

It took him a few seconds to answer. “Because she looks like her?” 

“Yuugi, I don’t spend that much time looking at Duel Monsters cards. Not everyone can dream the game like you do.” 

He smiled a little sheepishly. “She looks the same but for the color of her hair… the way it falls, the way she looks, her eyes…” 

Anzu poked him gently. “I think you’re more than just obsessed with the game, Yuugi. Duel Monsters don’t come to life but during duels, and only thanks to the technology Pegasus used.” 

“Yeah,” Yuugi mumbled. Duelist Kingdom ended only a few weeks ago, though it felt like merely yesterday to him. The gaming tournament had made him more aware of his Other, the spirit of the Sennen Puzzle, or his ‘other self’ as he used to refer to him. Together they had won the tournament and freed their grandfather’s soul; a feat they couldn’t have accomplished without the help of their friends. 

If it weren’t for the high stakes of the game, Yuugi would’ve enjoyed the thrill of the duels, the holographic technology Pegasus had used to bring the Duel Monsters to life, the excitement of winning or losing…but in the end, Duelist Kingdom had taught him that evil forces were at work, unfriendly people who were after his Puzzle or his life, and wouldn’t stop for anything. 

“You better rest,” Anzu said. “I’ll go see if I can call our parents, all right?”  

Yuugi nodded, his eyes already sliding close. He was feeling a lot more at ease now that he knew where his Puzzle was, and she scowled a little. She didn’t quite always understand the bond between Yuugi and the Puzzle, but she knew about who was residing in the object. Yuugi’s Other. Straightening herself, she waited until his breathing steadied before turning around to leave the room. 

As the man had carried Yuugi to their dwelling, Mana had carried Anzu’s book bag, and she had been too busy fidgeting over the semi-conscious Yuugi to pay attention to it. She didn’t know where it was, and it held her cell phone - she needed it to call the others, who would probably be worried sick; it wasn’t like them to miss school. 

There was no one in the hallway, and delicious food scents wafted towards Anzu – was it already lunch time? She had lost sense of time ever since the accident; she hadn’t even taken a look at her watch, constantly guarding Yuugi. 

Who are these people? She was curious, yet careful. They had both been very adamant in taking Yuugi to their dwelling, insisting that they were the only ones being able to give him the right care and treatment – and Anzu had no choice but to follow them…not that they stopped her from doing so. 

“Lunch will be ready soon,” a female voice piped up behind her and Anzu almost screamed, turning around swiftly, head snapping. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to scare you,” the girl said and smiled at her. It was such a friendly and warm smile that Anzu was compelled to return the gesture, though hers was a little wary. 

“My name is Mazaki Anzu,” she introduced herself. 

“Mana,” the other answered, and left it at that. “It’s an honor to meet you, Mazaki Anzu.” 

“I thank you for your care,” Anzu decided to opt for the polite approach. “We really need to go home…our parents will be upset if we’re late.” 

“I understand, but the Prince needs to recover, and we will not let him go before we know for certain he’s feeling well again.” She didn’t say it in any threatening way – she was looking so open and honest to Anzu that the other girl understood it was genuine concern and care, not any malicious intent. 

“Why do you keep calling him ‘Prince’?” Anzu couldn’t keep herself from asking, curiosity burning. Mana’s face turned a little sad, and she was silent for a moment. Suddenly she moved her hand up, pointing to the open door leading to the living room. Anzu nodded in agreement and went ahead, stepping over the threshold and entering the large room, bearing the same colors as the bedroom - sandy brown, warm yellow and light orange. Her eyes immediately fell upon the man sitting in the corner, wearing similar robes as Mana. His were a dark bluish purple, and just as formless and covering the outlines of his body. He looked up the moment she entered the room, and she blushed a little. His gaze was scrutinizing, dark brown eyes with golden flecks piercing through her as if she was x-rayed. His chestnut hair was tied back in a loose ponytail and he was wearing something around his neck, obscured by the large folds of his robe. It looked like a golden collar to Anzu, but she didn’t inquire - it would be way too impolite, and she was more curious about them than their accessories. 

“Apprentice?” His voice was low and curt, but not unfriendly. 

“Master,” Mana answered, “Mazaki Anzu has the right to know.” 

“To know what?” she asked meekly. 

“The answer to your question,” Mana said matter-of-factly and smiled. 

Anzu blushed deeper, feeling extremely silly.  

“We are sorry to have caused this much confusion and grief,” the man said, though his intonation barely indicated any apology. “We will leave soon, as not to…” 

“Master!” Mana interrupted him. “We can’t leave, not now!” 

For a moment, Anzu thought that he was going to yell at Mana as he narrowed his eyes, a disapproving look on his face for being interrupted. 

“If we cannot find our Pharaoh, we have no business staying here.” 

“We’ve come so far, Master,” the girl pleaded. “We have found the Prince! He has the Puzzle – he must know where the Pharaoh is!”  

He remained silent, hands resting on the book in his lap. He’d been writing; next to his armchair was a small, low table with old-fashioned writing utensils. Anzu could make out a pot of ink and the small pieces of a material she couldn’t identify to write with; hadn’t these people heard of laptops?  

“It is our duty and responsibility to research each world for the presence of our Pharaoh,” he finally said. “If we cannot find him, the world is doomed and we have no business staying here.” 

“We found the Prince,” Mana objected stubbornly. “Master, we have to be careful in our research. We can’t condemn a world to a certain fate if we haven’t studied the circumstances and facts profoundly.” 

A very small smile showed at the man’s lips. “Very well, Apprentice. I am glad that you have paid attention after all.” 

Anzu still felt silly, having no clue where the two were talking about. She could feel the mutual respect between them, a bond that was so strong it was almost tangible. These two had been through a lot, she was certain of it; but they hadn’t given up, forging the strength of their bond with every experience. It was still difficult to grasp what was going on, and it astounded her why they referred to each other with ‘Master’ and ‘Apprentice’…her mind went back to what Yuugi had said. She had thought it was because of his concussion that he thought he saw the Black Magician Girl instead of Mana, but…Of course. Where the apprentice is, is the teacher…the Master.  

“You’re the Black Magician,” she stuttered. This wasn’t possible – this couldn’t be possible. People didn’t resemble fictional Duel Monsters, it was just a card game. As the man turned his head more towards her, as his attention had been focused on Mana, she was, however, very sure - the same stern look, the wisdom etched in his features, the intensity of his eyes.  

“My name is Mahaado, Mazaki Anzu,” he said. “I do not know this ‘Black Magician’ you are speaking of.” 

“Who are you…?” She was squeaking. 

“We have introduced ourselves. That will suffice.” He closed the book, indicating that the conversation was over. 

“Master,” Mana said, “they have a right to know. We have found the Prince, he has won the Duelist Kingdom tournament, and he’s wearing the Puzzle. We know Mazaki Anzu from other worlds…this world still seems intact.” 

“What other worlds?” Anzu asked, her mind racing about the possibilities. Mahaado stood up, setting the book aside, next to his writing utensils. He was quite tall, but not as tall as Kaiba - Anzu wondered why she briefly thought about the CEO. 

“If the timeline here is not broken, we still have a chance to make things right,” he nodded. “You are right so far, Apprentice. If we truly have found the right world, we can work from here to tie everything together.” 

Mana’s smile had become dazzling, and she clasped her hands together in excitement.  

“Really, Master? Have we finally found the right world?” 

“It looks like it, if our Pharaoh is present here,” Mahaado said. “We have to ask the Prince.” 

“Will we finally see him again? That would be incredible!” Mana sighed as if she was swooning over this Pharaoh, and Anzu was seriously thinking she was dealing with very mentally unstable people, no matter how friendly they were. 

Mahaado’s face was perfectly neutral, though Anzu saw something smoldering in his eyes. A certain hunger, a desire…this man was very dedicated, but she wasn’t sure to who or what. To this Pharaoh? But they kept referring to Yuugi as ‘Prince’…that might mean… 

“Are you talking about Yuugi’s Other? The spirit of the Sennen Puzzle?” Naming him like this felt strange to her, as she barely spoke to anyone about it, even between her and Yuugi. They hardly discussed it; all that Yuugi had told her was that the spirit had lost every memory he had, not even knowing his own name. He had helped Yuugi to get through Duelist Kingdom, and she could distinguish between the two of them if only for his voice…his confident, deep voice. 

“Other?” Mahaado turned towards her, gazing at her again. “The Prince knows…he has another personality?” 

“We simply call him the Other Yuugi,” Anzu said, a little meekly. “We don’t know much about him…he doesn’t even know much about himself. He has lost his memory…” 

“Gods protect us,” Mana said and laced her fingers together, lifting up her hands as if in prayer. “They have shown us finally the right path…” 

“Such pain.” Mahaado heaved a sigh. “He does not know, and I am not allowed to tell him.” 


“Apprentice. We have to ask the Gods for their blessings and strength, for we have finally found the right world. It cannot be any different. We have work to do.” 

Mana looked upset, her lips quivering and grimacing, while her eyes were shining with hope and fear at the same time. Finally, her face was set in determination, and she turned around to leave the room. 

“Wait…!” Anzu cried. “What’s happening? You were going to give me answers!” 

“They will be given,” Mahaado curtly answered and was about to follow Mana, when he suddenly halted. Anzu was about to ask again, when she suddenly noticed the same: Yuugi was standing in the door opening, a confused expression on his face. She closed the distance between them, standing next to his side as he held on the doorpost for support. 

“Prince,” Mahaado said and bowed his head, robes flowing around him. Mana made the same bow, her hands still clasped. 

“I’m just Yuugi,” Yuugi said, “and I’d like to know what’s going on.” 

“You need to rest,” the girl said. “My healing took your scrapes and bruises away, but not the pain in your head. You need to replenish your energy.” 

As if on cue, Yuugi’s stomach growled embarrassingly, and his face flushed. They were used to lunch at school, and he didn’t have anything to eat in his backpack. He’d completely forgotten about food, being in this strange environment, with these strange people who resembled the Black Magician Girl and…he didn’t want to think of it. It wasn’t possible anyway. 

Mana suddenly laughed, a pleasant sound. “I think we need to feed our Prince before we can talk any further,” she cheerfully said. “Why don’t you take place around the table? I’ll be serving you soon!” 

She left the room, laughing softly. Mahaado looked slightly embarrassed, and he quickly made a movement with his hand, showing Yuugi and Anzu out of the room. 

“If our Prince would follow me…?” 

The dining room was small, and the only light available was from a rather old-fashioned chandelier. Anzu liked the atmosphere; the heavy wooden furniture blended well with the soft yellow colors, and it struck her that none of the colors were outspokenly bright. It fit them somehow; maybe they would reveal later how they acquired all this.  

Mana came into the room carrying a huge bowl. She took off the lid and picked up a large spoon to stir through the food. It was bamya, a meat and okra stew with a very distinguished scent. Before tasting it, Anzu could tell there were lots of spices, garlic prominently, in the dish; curiously, she watched how Mana served Yuugi first, then Mahaado, then her and finally she took care of her own plate. There were small side dishes of pita bread and lemon wedges, and Anzu was thankful for the large pitcher of water in the middle of the table.  

“Eat,” Mahaado said and everybody picked up their utensils - and waited for Yuugi to start. He noticed the eyes resting on him, and with a faint blush, Yuugi put his spoon into the stew to taste a little. 

“I hope you like it, Prince,” Mana said, beaming at him. He returned the smile, taking a sip of the water. 

“It’s quite different than what I’m used to,” he said politely. Mana nodded, enthusiastically eating.  

“I like the fish here,” she said, “especially rolled up in the rice! It’s sticky, but very tasty!” 

“Oh, you mean sushi?” Anzu asked, barely refraining from coughing. The hot spices burned her throat and almost brought tears to her eyes.  

“Sushi, yes! There are so many varieties, and they’re all so nice!” Amusedly, Mana took a slice of the pita bread and nibbled on it. “The ones with the egg in it are…” 

“Apprentice,” Mahaado said and she immediately went silent, though she didn’t seem bothered by him cutting her off. 

The food was good, a little too spicy for Yuugi and Anzu, but it didn’t satisfy their curiosity. Mahaado didn’t seem to be willing to talk about anything during the meal, so it went by in relative silence. Mana passed the carafe of water, refilling when it was necessary - the twinkle in her eyes betrayed her amusement - and served tea and thick biscuits after she cleared the plates. Anzu wanted to help but Mana protested, saying that it wasn’t necessary. Yuugi wasn’t used to have tea directly after lunch, but he accepted the hot cup and inhaled the scent. 

“You speak Japanese very well,” he complimented as Mana straigtened herself and walked over to Mahaado to give him his cup. She looked over her shoulder, smiling brilliantly. It was obvious they weren’t from here – their dark skin, their eyes, the strange markings below it.  

“Thank you, Prince!” She said. “We didn’t need to learn the language, though! We pick up every language very easily. It’s just like our clothes; we can make them look like anything we want so we don’t stand out, even though the real clothes don’t change…” 

“Apprentice,” Mahaado interrupted her again. She looked a little annoyed this time, but bit her lip and remained silent. He wrapped his fingers around the cup and looked at Yuugi.  

“Prince, I once again offer you my apologies,” he said, taking a sip. “We acted a little rash, but we could not take the risk of you being hit by that machine.” 

“The car, yes,” Yuugi said. “I have to thank you for saving me…” 

“You do not need to thank me,” Mahaado said and his eyes went to the Puzzle, dangling from Yuugi’s neck. “It is my honor and my duty to watch over the Prince’s life.” 

“My name is Yuugi,” he insisted. “Please tell me why you keep calling me Prince. It makes me feel...uncomfortable.” 

“You’ve always been the one to see no difference in rank or status,” Mana said, and she laughed softly. “Modest and kind, gentle to the bone. The light in many lives, a good friend to all.” 

“It is because of your Puzzle, Prince,” Mahaado continued, leaving Yuugi to ponder Mana’s words. “That signifies that you were the one to solve it, after so many centuries. You are the wielder of its powers, the guardian of right, keeper of the shadow games.” 

“I…” Yuugi started. 

“When you solved it, the power of the Pharaoh was released and you inherited his soul,” Mahaado said, looking over the rim of his cup. “Tell me, Prince, Mutou Yuugi, about that other soul, that other person, your Other.” 

“How do you know?” Yuugi asked, his hands protectively cupping the Puzzle. Anxious, he pressed the Item against his stomach. Mou hitori no boku. They kept referring to him as a Prince, so by Pharaoh…they had to mean…his Other. They can’t take you away from me…he felt tired, the food satisfying his stomach and pleasantly warming him. His headache hadn’t gone yet, but he forced himself to ignore the pounding. It was so tempting… 

“What is the meaning of this?” 

Both Mahaado and Mana jumped up as if they were stung, throwing their seats backwards. Even Anzu jumped up, never having experienced the transformation from this close. She almost yelped, realizing at the last second that he was her friend too - she had nothing to fear. Anzu sat down quickly again, smiling a little sheepishly at Other Yuugi; he was definitely different from Yuugi. He had crossed his arms in front of his chest, sitting upright, posture far more confident and rigid than Yuugi’s. His crimson red eyes sternly looked at the other two in the room who stared at him, both their mouths open. 


Anzu’s eyes went wide as she saw Mahaado kneeling, sinking to the floor, gathering his robes around him as he went down, bowing his head. Mana looked at Other Yuugi with tears in her eyes, her face wearing a strange mixture of joy and grief, and she all but fell to the floor to kneel in a similar manner. 

“The Gods be praised,” Mahaado whispered, his gaze still averted. “We have found you. This world shall live.” 


Timeline I, Khemet 

The servants bowed to her in passing, but Mana barely paid attention to them. Her robes flapped around her ankles, the long sleeves covering her hands, her slender fingers curled into fists. The only jewelry she possessed was the golden belt, studded with lapis lazuli and ruby gemstones, holding the fabric. It had been a gift from the Pharaoh - Atemu - and every time she clasped it around her waist, it made her heart jump for joy, and plummet into an abyss the second later. It would never be the same again, would it?  

“Mana, where have you been?” 

She lifted her chin, taking the hood over her dark brown hair down, freeing the long strands from the confinement. 

“Priest Akunadin,” she said politely, looking him straight in the eye, pretending his left one was a normal eye, not a golden ball. “How does this morning find you?” 

“Quiet for now,” he answered, his voice slightly raspy. She had no idea about the man’s age; she barely interacted with him in the first place, despite having the same function as a Priest. Akunadin was the one keeping him in the background, observing, oh so sharply observing – and drawing his own conclusions, plotting to use his findings to his own benefit.  She could never think anything else of Akunadin but that he was constantly scheming something, crafting a conspiracy to overthrow the Pharaoh and have his own son ascend to the throne. It made her feel rather uncomfortable in his presence, as he had never showed any sign of sympathy or compassion – but it wasn’t her place to doubt the man. They had to form a unity of advisors and counselors, not to doubt each other. She quirked her eyebrows at his answer, but he didn’t elaborate. Instead, he walked along with her, his plain robe at ankle-length swishing through the air. A few guards passed them, spears in hand, and she unconsciously shivered, reminded of the thief sentenced to death. 

Akunadin was about to say something when they approached the familiar large doors of the Throne Room, the four guards outside staring at them with expressionless faces. One of the guards turned around to open the doors, and… 

“It is unheard of!” 

Both Mana and Akunadin exchanged surprised glances, unable to maintain their usual, neutral look. In the middle of the Throne Room, Set and Atemu were bickering, standing opposite of each other.  

“My Pharaoh,” Set said out loud, his deep voice easily heard in even the farthest corners of the room, “I admit that it is…unusual, but it certainly is not unheard of…” 

Aishizu was sitting in a kneeled position, hands in her lap, fingers laced together. Her eyes were closed – either she was in prayer, a trance, or very deep in thought. Mana assumed it was the latter, as praying in the Throne Room like this was very much out of place, and she wasn’t in a trance as her Sennen Tauk wasn’t glowing. 

Shaadah and Karim looked as if they had been scolded; both wore an unhappy grimace, eyes unreadable. It was something between the Pharaoh and Set – Mana could see they both were angry, though Set had managed to hide it better than Atemu. 

“Where have you been?” The Pharaoh barked as soon as he saw Mana and the elderly priest.  

Akunadin bowed immediately. “Forgive me, my Pharaoh, we were held up along the way,” he said. Mana bowed as well, inwardly surprised that Akunadin would even think of standing up for her. 

“You are late! Do not let it happen again!” he bellowed. “My cousin here has placed me in a terribly inconvenient position, and you slack off around the hallways!” 

Mana cringed. Atemu never referred to Set as his cousin unless he was really unhappy, but she didn’t need the tone or sound of his voice to determine that. The Pharaoh was all but red in the face – it would’ve been funny and something to tease him about if he weren’t the Pharaoh, able to condemn them all to death in a heartbeat. 

“My Pharaoh,” Mana started, relieved that her voice was soothing, exactly the way she intended it. “Will you please tell us what is wrong, so we can assert this situation and be of any help to you with our advice?” 

He snorted. “What is wrong? Wrong? The woman is wrong, that is what wrong!” 

Confused, Mana looked at Set. He had drawn his lips into a tight line, drawing all the blood out of them. 

“Kisara is not ‘the woman’, and she is not wrong,” he said, tucking the Sennen Rod in the crook of his elbow absent-mindedly.  

Kisara, Kisara…Mana remembered her: she was the extremely pale, white-haired, blue-eyed girl who’d been saved from being stoned in public. It was during a regular inspection of the city when Set, together with Shaadah, had stumbled upon the girl, dehydrated and exhausted. The citizens had been throwing rocks at her, terrified by her appearance. Mana had seen her briefly, when she was called for her healing abilities – there was not much she could do but have the girl have plenty of rest and take care of her dehydration. She had healed the cuts and bruises, and Kisara had been too exhausted to even muster up the strength to thank her. The Priestess could recall her pale skin and those startling blue eyes before they were closed. It was a certain beauty, yes, but so…completely different. No wonder the locals were terrified of her. 

“She can’t be judged on the color of her skin,” Mana said. “She can’t help the way she looks…” 

“She should not be here,” Atemu said, cutting her off. “She is like a white demon, infesting our society, corrupting my Court!” 

Mana still didn’t see the connection, and felt hopelessly inadequate. Master...! You could’ve calmed him down with a few words… 

“My son has every right to see the woman he has set his eye upon,” Akunadin spoke up, and a wave of gasps rippled through the Priests. Even Aishizu opened her eyes. The elderly Priest never referred to Set as his son in public – neutrality had always been the preferred course of action. The majority of them had crafted neutrality into perfection; after the initial shock, everyone bore the same, set-in-stone expression again. Except for Mana. 

“Set has every right to see the woman he likes,” she said, looking incredulously at Atemu. He was still red in the face, and her eyes went down to the Sennen Puzzle, moving with every heave of his chest. That cursed Item. She was so sure that because of the Puzzle, Atemu’s mind was blackened and hardened. The Pharaoh she knew and grew up with would’ve rejoiced for Set to have found someone he liked. 

“Thank you, but I can speak for myself.” Set straightened himself, using his height to his advantage, towering over the Pharaoh. Atemu didn’t step back; instead he looked up, eyes narrowing. 

“I will not have you associating yourself with a woman from outside our borders,” he spat. “We do not know anything about her background, she could very well present a danger to all of us – she is already tearing this Court apart!” 

“The only one tearing this Court apart is you,” Set spat back. “You are the one having a problem with this! No one objects to her being here but you. We have an obligation of hospitality…” 

“To our own people,” Atemu interrupted him rudely. “The whole town was over her, about to stone her out of fear. What effect do you think it will have if the girl continues to stay here? How will people think of their Pharaoh if he welcomes a white demon at his Court?” 

“The people will still think that you’re their God,” Akunadin spoke up again. “She’s not a white demon, my Pharaoh. She’s a fragile girl who had the misfortune to be born with exceptionally pale skin, and with white hair and blue eyes to boot. Why are we even discussing this? I doubt she represents any kind of danger.” 

“Are you objecting?” Atemu turned around, shifting his gaze from father to son. “Are you objecting to my words? This Kisara girl is not one of ours, and she will strike fear and unrest into our people. They were not about to stone her for nothing!” 

“She is my responsibility,” Set cut in. “I will take everything regarding Kisara upon my shoulders, and I will not stand for anyone abusing her, mistreating her, or speaking ill about her.”  

He pointedly looked at Atemu, who still focused his attention on Akunadin.  

“My son is taking every responsibility regarding to the girl,” he said. “We can either announce to the people that the great Pharaoh was as kind as to take her in under his roof, reminding the commoners that hospitality is a virtue, or we can remain silent and bleed this issue to death. This does not warrant the commotion you are causing about it, my Pharaoh.” 

Mana was glad that Akunadin was speaking up, but she noticed Atemu’s frown and his pursed lips, knowing that he was about to erupt. 

“I will not have any of it,” he said, turning around and stalking towards his throne. “I have a Syrian delegate here who will hear of this, simply because there are already rumors going around about the girl. I will not have any of these rumors spread outside the country, and I will not have any other heads of state think that I am weak and kind as if to give anyone food and shelter! I will do so for my own people, but not for strangers with an unknown background! Khemet will be strong and fierce, not weak and carefully tiptoeing around!” 

“She is not a demon, she is not dangerous!” Set exclaimed. Karim almost cringed, not used to his fellow Priest raising his voice like this.  

“She already has you in your grasp,” Atemu hissed. “Look at how you are reacting! You have never been this adamant in defending someone, and certainly not a girl.” 

“My Pharaoh…” Akunadin started, as Set took a step towards Atemu. 

“Enough!” He sat down on his throne, moving his arms to cross them in front of his chest. “I will not have this woman in the Palace. She can be moved to the servants’ quarters, and I do not want to hear one word about her! Set, you will have all the responsibility – if something strange happens due to all of this, it is your head that is going to roll.” 

“My Pharaoh...!” Akunadin protested, but quickly shut his mouth after one look from Atemu. 

“We will continue with the Court,” he said. “Unless anyone else has strange, pale floozies hanging on their arms? No? Fine. Proceed!” 

Mana was sure she could hear Set grinding his teeth all the way from here, and she quickly moved to stand behind Aishizu. Being close to the other woman always allowed her to draw some strength, and hopefully today the Court session would be without any thieves being sentences to death. She tried to catch Aishizu’s attention again, and the Priestess showed a soft, all-knowing smile. Mana hadn’t talked to her about Atemu’s apparent change; she assumed Aishizu simply wouldn’t have noticed much because she didn’t know the Pharaoh that well as she did.  

Heaving a soft sigh, she noticed Karim carrying a daunting load of scrolls, and she almost groaned at the thought that all of them had to be read out loud and listened to it. Half of these cases could be summarized very well, but Atemu insisted on listening to every detail – and truth be told, he had an excellent memory and knew to immediately spot any discrepancies and mistakes. As he picked up the first scroll, Karim send an apologetic smile to Mana and she couldn’t help but smiling back – he was a kind man, disgusted by Atemu’s earlier accusations and rude remarks. She was sure she could trust him, but she preferred to keep her own doubts of Atemu to herself; maybe one day she could talk about it, but not now. In time, she would be able to bring the old Atemu back, she was sure of it…and with surprisingly firm determination, she squelched every doubt about it. He will come back.  


The servants had set the large table for lunch; Set and Akunadin had immediately excused themselves and left the Throne Room before Atemu himself was able to protest. Usually they all had lunch together, an excellent opportunity to socialize and talk about mundane, less burdened things than state affairs and the threats of war. 

Mana walked next to Atemu as he went to the large table, the servants bowing as they finished putting the last of the dishes on. She saw the still warm, fresh loaves of bread, grilled fish, lots of fruit – dates and figs - jars of honey, some poultry in a sauce she couldn’t identify yet and warm vegetables. All the Priests took their own seat, waiting of course for their Pharaoh to be seated first. 

The atmosphere was shot, despite the dancers and the few musicians in the corner who were trying their best to alleviate the tension. Atemu didn’t pay attention to them, stirring with his fork over his plate until he all but mushed his food. 

Mana took pity on him. It’s not his fault. It’s the Darkness inside the Puzzle. Master knew about it…Gently, she reached for his wrist, placing her fingers on the golden bracelets. 

“My Pharaoh, you’re not eating,” she admonished, though very, very carefully. “Our ruler can’t afford to faint during the afternoon reports. It’s really delicious, please try some.” 

He pursed his lips a little, spearing a vegetable with his fork and eating it. Mana smiled at him encouragingly. For a moment, he looked just his younger self again, always moping and fussing when eating vegetables. 

Maybe all he needed was distraction. Not their activities in bed, which gave her still mixed feelings, but maybe a more permanent distraction. She knew she didn’t need to entertain the idea of becoming his wife. Not only wouldn’t it be accepted of a Priestess to get married, she had no illusions – only a very faint hope – that he would prefer simple, mundane Mana over the exotic princesses and women who threw themselves at his feet. He could choose from the most beautiful women; she didn’t stand a chance. A wife, a child…it would absorb his attention, take away the sharp edges of his life. Her hand went to her own belly, rubbing over it once. She knew of certain herbs that could…help her. An heir would please him, she was sure of it, very sure.  

“My Pharaoh…” she started, but at the same moment a servant girl took away her empty plate, bumping into her shoulder. Mana’s eyes went wide as soon as the girl touched her, gasping out loud. 

“Priestess…! My apologies,” the girl whispered, almost dropping the plate. Atemu’s fingers tightened around his goblet, and he would’ve thrown it towards her if it wasn’t for Mana quickly pushing his wrist down. To her own amazement, he allowed her to do so, and she looked up at the girl…and she looked into a mirror. 

She was looking down at herself. She was staring up at herself. Mana opened her mouth, but words eluded her.  

“Mana,” Atemu said. “Are you all right?” 

“Mana?” Shaadah, sitting opposite of her, worriedly put his own utensils down, eying her quizzically.  

“I’m fine, really, it was my fault,” she said, as the girl bowed for her and moved away with the empty plate. Confused, Mana stared at her own goblet. A masking spell. Someone in the Palace with knowledge of heka, and using it to mask her true face. Mana had seen right through the spell, looking at her own face. That couldn’t be possible – how could there be another person, looking exactly the same as she?  

“Mana,” Atemu repeated her name. “You look like you have seen a demon.” 

“I… I haven’t, great Pharaoh,” she mumbled. Her hand was still on his wrist, her mind faintly rejoicing that he hadn’t rebuked her.  

As the servants walked around to provide everyone with new plates and utensils, Mana kept an eye on them, but she didn’t see her look-alike anymore. Maybe she had worked too hard…? She had a lot of administrative tasks, and people called upon her constantly for healing and medicinal assistance. Nervously, she tried to eat something of her dessert, but she didn’t taste any of it. Mana tried to focus back on Atemu, who seemed to like the dessert drenched in sweet honey, but it was the only thing he really ate. He still didn’t mind her hand on his wrist, ignoring the glances of the other Priests; though it wasn’t really a secret that he slept with Mana, it wasn’t announced all over the Palace either. She withdrew her hand, unfazed on the outside that he didn’t say a thing about it, but at the moment she was more occupied with the strange servant girl than his quirks. She wanted to excuse herself from the table, but her own fear nailed her to her seat – she didn’t really want to think who could bring about to walk around the Palace disguising herself…with her face.  


The afternoon meal ended in silence.  Mana stood up from her chair, bowing towards Atemu and excusing herself. She immediately walked away from the table, leaving the others behind. She knew Atemu would probably visit her later on the day, probably angry about her sudden departure from the table, but she couldn’t care less at the moment. Not even her Pharaoh could keep her away from solving this riddle. 

It still hurt her, every day, how he had changed, and how he could get angry over a silly little thing like a woman’s skin color. What he had said in the Throne Room, to his own cousin…it was horrible, and no one was able to calm him down with just a few words like her Master had been able to, or Shimon. Maybe if he had been there…but the vizier had been ill and weak for quite a while now, and Atemu had discharged him from his services, the last honorable thing he had done to allow the man to spend the last days of his life in peace and good care. Atemu had never accepted a new vizier, and many had expected him to promote Set – the hallways of the Royal Palace had been buzzing with exciting rumors. In the end, neither Set nor any other Priest was promoted, and Atemu had never talked about appointing a new one. 

Mana searched through the hallways, knowing her goal. Now that she knew about it, she could trace the heka that had been used. She hadn’t forgotten any of Mahaado’s lessons, and her skill to recognize the magic had never been her forte, but from so close…? It was as if she had been slapped in the face. Why would anyone mask her face, what was her intention? Determined, Mana searched further, until the trail lead her towards her own bedroom. The audacity! Quickly, she opened the door and gasped for breath when she saw the girl standing by her bed. 

“Who are you!” She barked, spells running through her mind. She was able to defend herself, and she wouldn’t hesitate to throw a fireball at the other…her breathing hitched when she noticed the girl picking up the covers from her bed, gently smelling the fabric. Mana blushed furiously; housekeeping obviously hadn’t had the time yet to change the linens. 

“Just like I remember,” the other spoke, with exactly her voice. “Only I…have never been that close to him. I was just a kid. You really love him, don’t you?” 

“What do you mean? Who are you?” Mana came closer, hesitantly. Fear and unrest started to stir in her stomach; an ominous feeling of bad news, waiting to be told. 

“Who I am? Don’t you recognize yourself?” She pulled the hood of her cloak down. Most servants wore simple shentis, never with a cloak – her masking spell was really strong if she had been able to hide all her original clothing as well, as nobody had made any comment about it.  

“Your heka is…” 

“Familiar, right?” The girl put back the covers, her hand gently caressing the surface. “It’s yours, Mana. I thought you recognized it sooner, and I had to get close to you to make my presence known.” 

“For what? Why are you here?” 

“So many questions, so little time to explain,” the other Mana said. She looked at the bed, obviously slept-in.  

“Yes, I love him,” Mana admitted, vaguely wondering why she was speaking about it now. The Mana close to the bed allowed herself to smile, but it was a saddened, small smile. 

“It’s good that you do,” she said. “Because he has to die, and you will be the one watching him do so.”


Timeline II, Alternate Universe: Domino City, Japan 

Jounouchi hopped over the threshold of the class room, swaggering towards his desk. He was pretty early, early enough to miss Honda on his way to school. Oh well, his friend would arrive sooner or later - they only walked up together when they had the chance, not by some kind of agreement. Dumping his book bag on the desk, Jounouchi’s eyes darted towards the single desk at the back of the class. He snorted. He had no reason to be thinking of Mutou Yuugi; the kid had left school ages ago. He was always keeping to himself, him and his stupid games.  

Jounouchi’s standard grin widened a little. Yuugi had been easy to pick on, especially when he started bringing some golden box to school, which he called his ‘own treasure’. The idea of bringing a treasure box to school made Jounouchi almost howl with laughter. Who in his right mind would be such a girl, swooning over a gaudy box with some kind of puzzle pieces inside? He took out a few of his text books. Only once had he been able to take a sneak peek at that supposedly treasure box, and he’d been fast enough to swipe one of the pieces; he’d thrown that one in the school’s swimming pool, amused at the thought of the look on Yuugi’s face when he was about to finish his precious puzzle and noticing that he was one piece short.

Jounouchi shrugged as he plopped down. It wasn’t short after that particular incident that the Mutou kid had left school, mumbling something about helping his grandfather in his Game Shop. Jounouchi couldn’t care less and had been rather unfazed by Anzu’s prying, scathing death-glares. She’d been Yuugi’s friend all along, standing up for him - but Jounouchi was too much of a bully to understand the girl’s feelings about it. 

Other students came in, ignoring him for the most part. Jounouchi didn’t care about that either; he didn’t want that much contact with his peers either, and he had more important things to think about. Like his younger sister going steady with the town’s playboy, Otogi Ryuuji. The guy had his own gaming company, so he had money - which was a good thing, so he could at least support Shizuka and buy her pretty things. Pretty things she couldn’t see…he scowled. Jounouchi, you moron. 

“Hey, Jounouchi!” 

“Morning, Honda,” he said and shoved his seat backwards to put his feet on his desk.  

“Everything okay?” 

“Hey, more than okay,” Honda grinned. “We don’t have any PE-lessons for the rest of the semester!” 

“What?” Jounouchi sat up, eyes widened. Contrary to a lot of students, he liked PE; but then again, he liked being physically active far more than abusing his brains in class. 

“Yeah, something happened to Karita-sensei,” Honda shrugged, opening his book bag.  

“Apparently, he fell ill overnight and they had to rush him to the hospital. He’s in a coma, the loser.” 

“Honda-san, don’t say such bad things about Karita-sensei,” Miho admonished him, her high-pitched voice grating on Jounouchi’s nerves. He couldn’t see why Honda liked the girl so much in the first place - she simply looked and acted like a ditz to him. 

“Of course not, Miho-chan! I was just telling Jounouchi how bad it is, the poor guy,” Honda cooed and Jounouchi snorted, leaving his feet on top of his desk, hands folding behind his head. 

“Good morning everyone,” a soft voice floated towards them. Jounouchi didn’t even look up, already knowing it had to be Bakura. The boy gently pulled his seat backwards, barely making a sound and not commenting on Jounouchi’s left leg slung over his desk. 

“Heh, you must be particularly having a good morning, Bakura,” he said rudely. The other looked up, confusion written over his pale face. 

“Excuse me?” 

“Karita is dead.” 


“Jounouchi-kun!” Miho gasped, her eyes wide in horror. “Don’t talk like that!” 

Bakura seemed to pale even more, if that were possible - the shock draining all blood out of his face.  

“Wh…that can’t be…Karita-sensei?” 

The PE-teacher wasn’t very popular at school, especially because he liked to pick on the physically weak. Neither Jounouchi nor Honda had any problems with the man, but small, slender-built boys like Bakura were automatically his target. Bakura had had a personal encounter with the man, who had tugged at his hair and ridiculed his effeminate looks and long locks. Karita had demanded a buzz cut in the morning, and Bakura had tried to avoid the large, burly man as he didn’t want to comply with the ‘request’ - but now his problem seemed to be solved, no matter how grave the situation was. 

“He’s at the hospital, in a coma,” Honda added. “He fell ill yesterday, but nobody really knows what exactly has happened. 

Bakura sat down, all but gasping for air. “A…a coma…oh no…” 

Jounouchi threw him a quizzical look. Bakura looked upset, but not…that upset. As if he accepted the news without further ado, acquiescing immediately.  

“This whole town’s going to hell,” he suddenly said, leaning backwards in his chair again, rearranging his large feet on the desk. “You all have heard the news about the escaped convict and his hostage, right?” 

Miho nodded, eyes still wide, as a deer looking into headlights. There had been nothing else on TV but reports about the prisoner who held a girl hostage at a hamburger restaurant. He managed to escape after a few hours, but his hostage and a few witnesses ended up dead. Just like yesterday, the students were urged to go home immediately after school, instead of loitering around. Honda sat down as well, turning his chair to face the others.  

“Hey, Mazaki’s still not around?” 

“She’ll show up,” Jounouchi said, dismissing the girl the next second from his thoughts. “An escaped convict, and yesterday, when I was with Shizuka, I was being followed! This town’s going to hell, I tell you.” 

“Followed?” Miho repeated, frightened. 

Jounouchi nodded. “All the way during the bus ride to Shizuka’s school…when I picked her up for lunch, we were being followed. All the way.” 

“Did you see who it was?” Honda asked, tone of voice growling. If something happened to Shizuka or his best friend, he would be all too pleased to set things straight with his fists.  

“Not a clue. That was the strangest part.” 

“What do you mean?” Bakura asked softly, his fingers resting on the small stack of textbooks in front of him. 

“Well, I looked a few times behind me, and every time there was someone I was very sure of who wasn’t there before. I knew there was an old man behind me, for example…and when I looked around, there was this business chick in high heels.” 

“Sounds to me you have a very lively imagination,” Honda snorted. “You sure you didn’t smoke anything lately?” 

“Not when I’m going out with my sister, you moron,” Jounouchi retorted, throwing his pencil to Honda. Some other students looked up, but quickly looked away again when they saw it was Jounouchi raising his voice. 

Nagobana, their teacher, entered the class room and shut the door. All the students ceased talking and rose from their chairs to politely greet their sensei. 

“Sit,” Nagobana said, and it was clear the man was in a different mood than usual. Jounouchi sat down just like anyone else, refraining from flinging his feet on his desk this time. Nagobana didn’t take out papers or books from his large bag, instead remained standing next to his desk. 

“Class, you have all heard of the escaped convict,” he said. “We have issued the rule for all of our students to go home immediately after class because of this man roaming the streets.”  

“Unfortunately, he has struck again, holding a hostage to provide for his own escape. This morning, the police prefect has released details of the hostage - not to the public, but to the family of the victim…but because she was a student of our school, it affects us as well. Class, Mazaki Anzu was brutally killed by this despicable man.” 

A collective gasp went through the class, Miho immediately crying. Everyone looked at each other baffled and abhorred - even Jounouchi and Honda were aghast. Anzu? Anzu, from their class? The pushy, tomboyish girl who seemed to get along with everyone…? 

“I can’t believe it,” Honda said. Bakura looked gray instead of pale this time, fingers clenching at his books, almost tearing the paper. 

Jounouchi was dumbfounded. Not in a million years had he expect Anzu to die right now, at the hands of a convict, in a hamburger restaurant. What was she doing there in the first place?

Even though he didn’t care much for the girl, he wasn’t as heartless as to not feel sorrow and grief; he would never wish this kind of fate upon anyone. 

As the teacher continued about the family and the funeral process, Miho continued crying into her handkerchief along with the other girls; Jounouchi didn’t know what to think. His own ‘problems’ about being followed seemed absolutely nothing compared to this, and when Nagobana suggested they should continue the class in respectful silence, even Jounouchi was meekly holding his tongue.  


“It just can’t be right, man,” Honda said. He had said it twice before, and undoubtedly would say it a few times more. Jounouchi grumbled, slouching as he walked over the pavement. 

“I hope they catch him, and kill him too,” he snarled. 

“That won’t be much of a consolation to her family.” 

“No, true…maybe it’s some kind of consolation. Man…this is bad.” 

“Did you know Anzu was working at that restaurant? Burger World?” Honda asked. 

“No? She was working there?” Jounouchi raised an eyebrow. After-school jobs were against the rules, and he was one of the few allowed to keep his work delivering newspapers because it was his only way to pay for his tuition. 

“Apparently,” Honda answered. “She was at the wrong place at the wrong time…” 

“If she hadn’t accepted that job, she wouldn’t be.” 

“She was saving up for her studies,” Honda said.  

“What did she want to study then?” 

“Dance in New York.” 


Jounouchi kicked a pebble, not knowing why he felt so miserable. It wasn’t his sister…as long as Shizuka was all right, everything was all right…right?  

“I hope they catch him,” he repeated, “and kill him on sight. No one has the right to take one another’s life and-” 

His sentence was cut short as someone yanked at his collar. Before he could react, he was dragged over the ground, and he started kicking with his feet. 

“Let me go! Hey! Heey! Honda…!” 

Jounouchi flailed with his arms, trying to find support, something to hold onto, regaining his balance to start fighting. He moved his feet, dragging his heels. He didn’t hear anything from his friend, and a thousand thoughts spun around in his mind. Was he the victim of the escaped criminal now? Hirutani and his gang? Robbers? Jounouchi almost choked as the grip on his collar made the fabric of his blouse cut into his skin and he coughed out loud. Suddenly, he was released and thrown against a wall. 

Heavily coughing, he looked up, his eyes searching out his attacker. A tall man was standing in front of him, with eyes that drilled holes into his very soul. Every smart-assed response Jounouchi could come up with melted away - this man wouldn’t take kindly to that kind of response, that was clear.  

“Where’s Honda?” he managed to growl. 

“At least you are still thinking of your friend,” the man answered, voice low but composed.  

“That speaks to your honor, Jounouchi Katsuya.” 

“What do you want? Who are you?” 

He was ignored. Jounouchi clenched his hands into fists; he would jump up and nail the guy, as soon as the weird feeling in his legs would disappear. At the moment, they felt like lead; he had to shake it off of him before he could even think of a fight. 

“Where is the Pharaoh?” 


“The Pharaoh. Where is he? Answer me!” 

“Take it easy!” Jounouchi bellowed, confused. “I don’t know any Pharaoh. If that’s the name of some kind of thug, I-” 

“Do not even dare to think to talk about him like that!” 

Jounouchi gasped for breath as an invisible hand clenched itself around his throat. Fear clawing at his mind, he briefly wondered if he had gotten himself into something way over his head…Shizuka. I can’t give up! 

He brought up his hands, but found quickly nothing to pry off of his throat. Instead, that whatever that held its grip on him tightened it, and he coughed again, fighting for the next gulp of air. 

“What…what do you want?” 

“The Pharaoh. I want to know where he is. He is not in this world! How is that possible?” 

“I don’t know…what the hell you’re talking about!” Jounouchi cried out. He was not going to say ‘please’. But…Shizuka…who was going to take care of her if he wasn’t around any more? Otogi, who probably would exchange her for a new toy whenever his eyes fell upon another woman?  

“You are supposed to be friends with him.” The grip around his throat was loosened, and he took a deep gulp of breath, relieved. 

“I’m telling you, I don’t know anyone who goes by that name. Not in the streets, not at school...” 

The man took a step closer. Jounouchi was now better able to see him: a stern man, with chestnut, shoulder-length hair, weird markings under his blazing eyes, something akin to gold around his neck, and clad in a dark, purplish robe. Freak! 

“Hey man, I want to help you, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Stand up. Stand up!” 

With the force around his neck gone, Jounouchi found the strength to obey the man’s order, albeit grudgingly. He worked himself back up on his feet, coughing a few times, touching his throat. That was going to hurt even more later, probably a spectacular bruise. 

“Friends…if you’re talking about Honda…” 

“No. You are supposed to be friends with the Pharaoh. More so, you would give his life for him, as he would do for you. This world does not feel right.” 

Jounouchi didn’t bother to hide the irritation in his voice. “You could at least say ‘sorry’ for attacking me, man…” 

“Where is the boy with the Puzzle? Do you know him?” 

“A kid with a puzzle? Yeah, I know a kid with a puzzle,” Jounouchi said, dusting off the sleeve of his jacket. He had to pay himself for his school uniform; fortunately, it wasn’t torn. 

“Where is he?”

“Do I look like a fucking tourist office to you? ‘Where’s the Pharaoh’, ‘Where’s the kid with the puzzle’…fuck you!” 


Jounouchi snapped his head to the right, hearing a girl’s voice and his jaw went slack when he saw Honda, face blank and eyes lifelessly, walking next to a girl with similar thick, chestnut hair, the strands framing her face. 

“What the hell did you do to Honda!” 

“He is fine,” the taller man answered. “He will not remember anything of this, and you either, Jounouchi Katsuya. I only want to have some answers.” 

“Leave me alone,” he said, though half-heartedly. 

“You are an important link in this world,” the man continued, ignoring him. “What you can tell me is important…think about that.” 

“I can’t help you if I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered in reply. 

“Apprentice,” the man nodded at the girl. She snapped with her fingers, and Honda blinked a

few times. 

“Jounouchi? What the hell…?” 

“We’re captured by idiots,” Jounouchi growled. Now that he was standing upright and feeling better again, his hands were clenched into fists. He noticed Honda doing the same - like the buddies they were, they would face their enemies together. 

“Stop that,” the man said. “You do not stand a chance against us. Tell me all you know about the Prince.” 

“Prince, Pharaoh, whatever,” Jounouchi said before jumping, his fist high in the air to hit the man square on the jaw. His face already split in a devilish grin, a fight providing him with the adrenaline and a welcome distraction from the earlier events. He knew Honda was lunging forward as well, both their attacks aimed at the man, dismissing the girl as if she never existed. 

It didn’t take long for his grin to turn into a grimace, gritting his teeth. Jounouchi felt heavy and light at the same moment - light enough to leap through the air, fist aimed at the man, and heavy as lead as he wasn’t moving forward, not an inch. His brain needed a few precious moments to process the idea that he was frozen…in mid-air. Honda was next to him, aiming low at their supposedly victim; he too was frozen in mid-air, the only thing moving were his eyes. They shot back and forth rather panicked, and  Jounouchi couldn’t help but feeling extremely stupid. 

“Good work, Apprentice,” the man spoke calmly, as if he wasn’t facing two young boys floating in mid-air with their fists clearly aimed towards his face and stomach. The girl suddenly giggled, shifting around and revealing some kind of wand, her slender fingers wrapped around it.  

“Thank you, Master…!” 

“It is all right, please allow them the ability to speak.” 

Jounouchi found his mouth working again, and used his rediscovered ability immediately to fling a colorful row of expletives at the man and the girl, as usual followed by Honda. 

“Are you finished?” the man interrupted him after five minutes, understanding there wouldn’t be an end to it any otherwise. 

“Yes, asshole,” Jounouchi answered. 

“Fine. Realize I can take away your beloved speech indefinitely.” 

“What is it you want?” Jounouchi repeated, growing tired. “I don’t know any Pharaoh.” 

“My name is Mahaado,” the man introduced himself. “This is my Apprentice, Mana. The origin and existence of our powers are not for you to know, or any of your interest.” 

With a gesture of his hand, they were released from their frozen state and both Jounouchi and Honda fell promptly to the ground. 

“We are looking for the Pharaoh, and it is imperative that we find him, otherwise this world is doomed.” 

“Whoa, wait there, buddy,” Honda lifted up his hands. “I don’t know a Pharaoh either, and what do you mean, this world is doomed? That’s something out of a bad movie.” 

“I think he’s referring to Yuugi,” Jounouchi said. “He asked me if I knew a boy with a puzzle.” 

“Mutou Yuugi? The kid from school?” 

“Yeah! Remember when he brought that box to class? The treasure box?” 

“With the gold inside?” 

Mahaado looked at Mana and back to the boys again. “What is that about a golden box?” 

“That kid… Yuugi, he had a golden box with him. There were all strange markings on it, and it was rather small.” 

“What was inside the box? Pieces of the Puzzle?” 

“It looked like puzzle pieces…” Jounouchi hesitated. “I don’t know if it’s the puzzle you’re talking about.” 

“Do you know if he finished it?” Mahaado’s voice sounded urgent, yet…strangely hopeful. Jounouchi resisted the urge to stall the answer and scratch the back of his head. 

“No, I don’t know. The kid went…away. He left school, and I’ve barely seen him ever since. He has a Game Shop with his grandfather, here in town.” 

“If the Prince finished the Puzzle, there is still hope, Master,” the girl said, a smile showing on her face.  

“Yes, there is,” Mahaado said, and even on his face a very tentative smile tugged at his lips.  

“Maybe all hope is not lost after all.” 

Honda chuckled. “I severely doubt the kid’s been able to finish it. Jounouchi dumped a piece of it in the school’s swimming pool.” 

“Yeah, that was the most awesome joke ever,” Jounouchi grinned at his friend and would’ve given him a high-five if he hadn’t caught the look on both the others’ faces. 

Mana looked heartbroken, tears already glistering in the corners of her eyes. Mahaado drew his lips into a tight line, a cold, stony expression settling on his face. 

“You did what?” he asked, voice low and curt. 

Jounouchi cringed. Something was telling him that his most awesome joke wasn’t very well received. 

“He was so whiny about it,” he tried to defend himself. “Strutting around like a girl and prancing with a golden box, calling it his treasure! I only wanted to help him become a man.

Men don’t flaunt golden treasure boxes around.” 

“You idiot,” Mahaado hissed. Mana looked shocked, and Jounouchi wasn’t so sure if it was of his confession of throwing away the puzzle piece or hearing the other man calling him names. 

“Do you have any idea of what you have done?” 

“It was just a prank, lighten up,” Honda piped up. “The kid was a wimpy little...” 

“Honda!” Jounouchi yelled at him. 

“…girl,” Honda finished quickly, suddenly noticing how Mahaado had narrowed his eyes to mere slits. The girl looked aghast, her eyes saddened. 

“It can’t be possible,” she softly murmured. “We were so sure…” 

“What’s this all about anyway?” Honda said, trying to cover up his mistake. Mahaado didn’t answer but fixed him a glare that made the boy shift nervously from foot to foot. 

“This world is doomed. We leave now, Apprentice.” He made a brusque movement to the right, but the girl jumped in front of him.

“Master, wait!” 

“This is in vain, Apprentice.” 

“Master, please,” she said. “The Prince is here. We can look him up, and ask him where the Pharaoh is! If we fix the Puzzle, we can fix the timeline!” 

“Timeline?” Jounouchi repeated, dumbfounded. Honda shook his head, muttering something about ‘nutcases’ under his breath. Jounouchi wasn’t so sure about that. The two strangers spoke with such intensity, and were clearly very convinced of their goals. Whereas Honda already seemed to have forgotten about it, Jounouchi hadn’t - it had been the girl who had caught them with whatever it was in mid-air, and instinctively he felt that the man was capable of even more. Master and Apprentice. It had to do with Yuugi somehow; well, that wasn’t difficult to figure out. 

“I can bring you to the Game Shop, where Yuugi is,” he said, stubbornly ignoring the strange look Honda was giving him. Mana immediately brightened, seeing a new opportunity for hope.  


Mahaado scowled. “The Item should never have been broken in the first place…” 

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Mana answered determinedly. “But if we can find Prince, he can help us…!” 

“Very well, then,” Mahaado said, but his tone of voice didn’t hold much hope. He stared at Jounouchi, then at Honda. “After all, it is fair that the one will bring this world to its end, will do his best to help us stop the process.” 

“Hey!” Jounouchi protested. “What’s all this talk about a doomed world? If that has something to do with that puzzle piece…” 

“It’s just not some puzzle piece,” Mana said, slightly impatient. “We better talk to Prince.” 

“And pray that he is able to help us,” Mahaado added curtly. 

“Master! It’s Prince - of course he’ll be able to help us!”  

“Enough, Apprentice. Let us go, then.” He looked expectantly at Jounouchi, who coughed and took the lead, starting to walk in front of them. Honda caught up with him. 

“Jounouchi, what the hell is this all about?” 

“I don’t know, man,” Jounouchi answered. “But this is something different, something big.” 

“What do you mean?” Honda asked, annoyed. “Look at them! A guy and a girl in strange clothes, talking about the world being doomed - and you believe them?” 

“Yes,” Jounouchi said. He halted mid-step and turned towards his friend. “I believe them.”


“Because…because it’s too unbelievable to not be true.” 

Honda made a very suggestive gesture with his fingers close to his left temple. “You’re not serious, Jounouchi…did you fall onto your head again or something?” 

“Quit it,” he grumbled and whacked Honda on the head, but missed by a mile, as usual. When he looked to the left, he saw Mana and Mahaado standing, waiting patiently for him to move on. For one moment, but long enough, his eyes locked with the tall man – and he was reminded of the exact reason why he believed him. This man simply didn’t lie. Every word he spoke was true; even Jounouchi could feel it into the core of his very soul. He just knew this man spoke the truth, no matter how strange he looked, no matter how brusquely he behaved. Jounouchi swallowed, suddenly wanting his sister close by. He had an ominous feeling, and he wasn’t really sure if it was because of Anzu’s unexpected death, or the look in the man’s eyes.  

“Hey,” Honda spoke up. Jounouchi looked at him, faintly irritated as he was disturbed in his thoughts.  


“Whatever it is man, I’m coming with you,” Honda simply answered. Jounouchi couldn’t help but grin, feeling rather grateful. 

“Don’t get all mushy on me, you moron.” 

“Excuse me,” Mahaado cleared his throat. “We have a lot of work to do, if this world is worthy enough of any help to begin with.” 

“All right, all right, stop pushing,” Jounouchi said, resuming his walking pace. The GameShop wasn’t that far from here, and he was curious to what was going to happen. If that wimpy kid played a part in it, it could become very interesting. He would see Mutou Yuugi for the first time in years again. Heh, maybe the kid has grown in time, that would be really funny. Honda fell in pace next to him, and they both were silent.   


Timeline III, known universe: Domino City, Japan 

Hunger. Thirst. His stomach grumbled, longing for something to eat. He pressed his hands against it as if he could silence it; the hunger pains making him feel weak and fragile. How long had he been…there? In that small, dirty alley, lying with only his cloak to keep him warm?  

“Mahaado?” he said out loud, the name familiar on his tongue, but estranged in this world, this place, this…wherever he was. His head pounded, his stomach was eating itself, and his body ached all over. Where were his servants? His Priests? Where was…the sun? All he saw was cloudy, gray sky, started to rain. Soft, wet drops fell upon his face, and he blinked a few times. He wasn’t used to rain, not like this – when the Nile flooded, it was due to heavy rain storms, so much unlike this pitter-patter of drops. He shivered. He had to find shelter and some food and water before he would black out again. Why was he feeling so…vulnerable?  

There weren’t any of his guards or Priests around here, but he was independent enough to take care of himself. The Gods would never leave him alone, they would never abandon him in such a state of…despair. This wasn’t his homeland anymore, that much was certain. He took a few steps forward and hissed when pain shot through his foot. The fabric of his sandals was much too thin and soft for walking on streets; a particularly nasty piece of rock had cut right through it.  

Almost bewildered, he looked around; there were lots of trees and bushes in front of him, resembling a garden. Where there as a garden, there had to be a house. If only he could talk to someone, ask about what was going on… Shivering from the chilly temperatures and the rain, he quickly moved forward, ignoring the pain in his foot, crossing a small path to get to the other side - and promptly his way was blocked by some kind of fence. Confusedly, he touched it. Who in his right mind put a fence around his garden? He couldn’t identify the material; it had a gray, smooth surface and there was a sign attached to it, but he couldn’t read it. These kinds of hieroglyphs were so much unlike the ones he knew, that he was unable to make heads or tails out of it.  

He saw light in the distance, a faint, shaky light; there had to be people. The fence wasn’t that tall; he could climb over it if he was careful. The strange material was sturdy enough to carry his weight, even though it rattled dangerously as he started to climb it. People knew the use of bricks here, whatever made them use this to fence their gardens? These new knowledge would’ve been fascinating if it weren’t for him feeling so hungry and thirsty. He would’ve reveled in all these discoveries, but for now he only wanted food and shelter. Hissing again, this time in irritation as he heard his clothing rip, the hem caught in one sharp piece of the material - it wasn’t as smooth everywhere as he thought, apparently - he worked his way over the fence, landing in the middle of a few bushes. 

His mind was clouded with questions – how he had ended up here, what was going on, where his Priests were…shivering, he continued his path towards the faint light in the distance. 


“I would like to know what is going on.” 

“Pharaoh,” Mahaado repeated, his voice hitching. Mana looked up, her face lighting up. 

“We finally found you…we finally found you!” 

Anzu didn’t know what to say. She could very well recall the moment that Yuugi told her that he had, or rather felt, another personality inside of him. It all happened after he had finished that Millennium Puzzle he wore constantly around his neck, and when he has experienced ‘simple’ black-outs. The moment he told her and their mutual, best friends Jounouchi and Honda about it, she had dismissed it as something Yuugi was imagining, or rather fantasizing about.  

She didn’t deny that Yuugi had gone from rather reclusive and silent to more confident and courageous, but had chalked it up to him finally making friends and finding support and strength in their bond. He’d been bullied and picked on for so long, and though she tried to help him, she couldn’t be around him 24/7. After becoming friends with Jounouchi and by default, Honda, Yuugi had been much happier and confident. There were still things that happened around him that she couldn’t explain very well, and that Yuugi could go from confident to downright cocky, even arrogant, was something that had puzzled her, until she started to believe in his so-called Other. Mou hitori no Yuugi.  

The differences in appearance were minimal, and it was mostly his voice and different posture that made her aware of him. Duelist Kingdom had changed much between them, deepening the bond between the friends. Yuugi was Yuugi, Jounouchi had exclaimed, and Honda had agreed. 

She remained silent, staring at the Other Yuugi. His features were strained, masking his confusion and uncertainty about the situation. 

“I would like to know what is going on,” he repeated. 

“Pharaoh,” Mahaado said. “Now we found you, everything will be all right.” 

“This world is safe,” Mana mumbled. “Finally…” 

“Stand up,” he said, “Explain yourselves.” 

Mahaado stood up, followed by Mana, and they exchanged a quick look at each other before taking their seats again, silently. 

“Why do you keep referring to me as Pharaoh, and to my aibou as Prince?” 

“Because that is what you are,” Mana simply said. 

“Mana,” Mahaado interrupted her. “We have to be careful with what we say.” 

“Why is that?” Anzu asked. “What is it that you can’t…don’t want to tell us?” 

“It’s not up to us,” Mana said, her voice dropping from its previous cheerful tone to a lower, darker one. “We can’t disturb the timelines any more than they already are.” 

“With anything we say or tell you, the risk of disturbing or even destroying timelines becomes greater,” Mahaado continued. “This is the most intact timeline we have found so far, and we intend to keep it that way - only when it is intact enough, we can work from here to save the world…and other worlds as we know it.” 

Anzu’s face fell. She didn’t like all this talk about ‘saving the world’ and how Yuugi was involved in it…he and his Other, somehow. Hadn’t they been through enough already, when they had to make their way through the tournament at Duelist Kingdom, defeating Pegasus to free their grandfather’s soul? 

“I’m not sure what’s going on here…” She said. “Mou hitori no Yuugi?” 

He didn’t answer her, but not out of impoliteness; his attention was completely focused on Mana and Mahaado. 

“Timelines, other worlds. You bear uncanny resemblance to certain…inanimate characters from a card game, and your names are unfamiliar to me.” 

“You do not have your memory,” Mahaado said, his tone of voice somewhat hurt, even though he already knew. “That strengthens our belief that this truly is the right timeline, as it was supposed to be…” He suddenly gasped. 

“Master?” Mana asked, worriedly. 

“It…” Mahaado widened his eyes. “It is supposed to be like this,” he covered up the sudden disturbance. “How painful it might be, Pharaoh, at this moment you are supposed to have lost your memory. Do not worry, you are well on your way to recovering them.” 

“Can you look into the future?” 

“We know how the timeline needs to be restored, and we have a vague outline of what’s to happen next,” Mana supplied. She didn’t take her eyes from Mahaado, a light frown visible on her face. 

Anzu bit her lower lip. “What is it that will happen next?” 

“You know someone by the name of Kaiba Seto, right?” 


“He’ll be all over city soon, announcing his new tournament, called the Battle City Tournament. It‘ll be very important for you to participate in it, Pharaoh.” 

He shifted slightly uncomfortably in his chair. “We have recently won another tournament, called ‘Duelist Kingdom’. If there are answers to be found while participating in Kaiba’s tournament, I will do so.” 

“The Eye,” Mana said to Mahaado and he nodded, still obviously disturbed. 

“It’s…it’s not fair that Yuugi isn’t hearing all of this,” Anzu suddenly spoke up. “It’s important to him as well. We all promised to help you to find your memories, mou hitori no Yuugi, but it doesn’t feel right shutting Yuugi out.” 

“I am not shutting him out,” he defended himself. “He is tired, and a little upset from the events. I do not wish for him to get even more worked up.” 

“Yuugi might be upset, but he’s not too fragile to hear this. If this really is about the future, he has a right to know.” 

“Mazaki Anzu is right,” Mahaado said. “There is a way we can solve this.” 

“Master, no,” Mana objected. “It’ll take too much out of you, and we still have some…things to take care of.” 

“You will need to go to Khemet by yourself,” Mahaado replied. “You can make that jump on your own.” 

“But Master…” 


The girl muttered something under her breath, clearly unhappy with the decision. Shaking her head, she looked at Anzu, giving her a small smile. 


Mahaado rose from his chair again, taking a few steps back. He closed his eyes in concentration, bowing his head a little, right hand pressed against his forehead. A purplish glow surrounded him, and Anzu put her hand on Other Yuugi’s arm, fingers clenching at the fabric of his sleeve. He kept an eye on Mahaado, his hand cupping the Sennen Puzzle, as if seeking comfort in holding it. Still, he didn’t feel any reason to be alarmed - despite the things they were telling him, despite how they behaved, these two had showed no intention of harming him. He felt strangely at ease with these people, both calling forth a familiar feeling in him of safety and security. His train of thought was roughly interrupted when pain took over his body and he tensed up. 

“It is done soon, Pharaoh…my apologies for the discomfort,” Mahaado mumbled, barely audible enough to overhear. 

Anzu held on to Other Yuugi, slightly worried when she saw him clenching his teeth. 

“Are you all right?” 

“It…it feels like something is tugging…forcefully at me,” he managed to say before the purplish light surrounding Mahaado started to surround him as well, turning a pale blue. Anzu gasped, tightening her grip on him. Right in front of her eyes, Yuugi appeared, his body ethereal, basking in the pale blue light. The outlines of his face became clearer, and his eyes widened in surprise, his mouth opening soundlessly. Soon enough, the outline of his whole body was visible, duplicating his regular clothes - his standard school uniform - and his hair. With an unceremonious grunt, Yuugi was dumped on the floor, right on his rear, body as solid as before. 

Bewildered, he looked up at his Other, sitting on the chair and staring at him, crimson red eyes boring into large violet, both boys in their own body. 

“Mou hitori no boku!” Yuugi exclaimed, beaming at him. 

“Aibou,” Other Yuugi said, baffled. Anzu laughed softly, amused by both their bewilderment. 

“Master!” Mana cried out, interrupting their little reunion. She raced to Mahaado as he seemed to faint from the exertion. Other Yuugi and Anzu quickly stood up, while Yuugi scrambled to get up from the floor, rushing to the man’s aid. 

“I told you it would take too much out of you!” Mana scolded furiously as she quickly tucked herself under Mahaado’s arm, keeping him from falling over. She grunted as he leaned heavily on her. 

“ was worth it,” he said, voice a soft whisper. Mana looked a little remorseful, pursing her lips.  

“I know,” she answered. “I know, Master.” 

“You have to tell them,” he said. “What we were talking about…” 

“Later,” Mana answered firmly. “You’re going to rest now, Master, and then there’s time to talk. This timeline is intact, we have some leeway now.”  

She looked over at the others, flashing an apologetic smile. “It’s all right, it’s just…I’ll explain later. You better sit down and…get acquainted, or something.” 

“For as long as I am in this timeline, you will remain separated,” Mahaado said, smiling tiredly at both Yuugi’s. “It is an honor to offer some of my energy to keep the spell intact…” 

“Master, that’s enough for now,” Mana reminded him, her voice fondly yet respectful. She whisked him away by tugging at his arm, forcing him to walk out of the living room. They could hear her talking to her Master admonishingly about ‘working too hard’ and ‘never taking some time for himself’.  

Amazed yet happy, Anzu turned around to face the two Yuugi’s.  

“You heard it- you two are going to be separated as long as Mahaado’s here,” she said, clasping her hands. She addressed Other Yuugi who looked adorable when he was slightly confused, overjoyed that she finally got to see him without feeling guilty. Anzu had considered asking Yuugi one of these days, before all of this happened, to switch with his Other; and even though she knew he would do that for her, it would make everything…awkward. She’d fallen in love with his voice, the first time she’d ever heard him say “Let’s play a game”. Yuugi would step aside and still smile, but she didn’t want to hurt him. She would never forgive herself if she hurt her best friend. Now that they were both separated, this would make things so much easier. She blushed furiously at the thought. 

“Aibou,” he repeated, voice calm and confident as always, his hands moving over his arms as if he wanted to check his body was really solid. Yuugi himself wore a dazzling smile, feeling a little queasy due to the separation and the magic involved, but was generally happy to see his Other standing right in front of him. 

“This is so much better than meeting up in our soul rooms,” he said joyfully. “Now we finally get to see each other in the flesh.” 

“It is…amazing,” he said, now looking at his hands. “I…I forgot how it felt…” 

“We have to give you a real name now,” Anzu suggested. “We can’t go around referring to you as Other Yuugi all the time! Wait until Jounouchi and Honda hear about this - they’d love to meet you like this!” 

“Well, ehm…” Yuugi said, feeling a little weighed down by Anzu’s suggestion. Finding his Other’s name and memories was their quest together, something they talked about since the beginning when they were aware of each other’s presence. It didn’t feel right giving him just a name for the sake of being able to refer to one another. 

“Maybe Mahaado-san or Mana-chan know his real name,” it suddenly dawned on him. “They know him as their Pharaoh, right?” 

“I do not know them, aibou,” his Other answered. “I do not even know what they are doing here, or why he took the trouble of separating us.” 

“Yami,” Anzu said. 


“Yami,” the girl repeated, smiling. “Why don’t we call you Yami for now? Yami means ‘dark’, and your eyes are dark, like Yuugi’s are light. Light and Dark…” her voice trailed off.  

This idea had just hit her, but now she felt silly for suggesting it. She was met with two grateful smiles however, and she blushed again. 

“Yami is a suitable name for as long as this situation is at hand,” he said, followed by Yuugi.  

“That’s a great idea, Anzu! It’s a suitable name, indeed!” 

Yami sat down again, looking at both Anzu and Yuugi. “This is something incredibly extraordinary,” he said. “Never have I thought from the moment that I awoke that I would walk again in a body of my own.” 

“It must be so hard for you to not remember a thing,” Anzu said sympathetically. He nodded, leaning back into his chair. Yuugi sat down next to him, noticing that the biggest difference between them was that he wasn’t wearing the Puzzle, and Yami was - their separation hadn’t split the Item as well.  

“I do not know the reason why I was locked away in the Puzzle, or how it ever came to pass that I owned the Puzzle in the first place. My earliest memories are of Yuugi, on the floor and in pain, when that Ushio kid had beaten him.” 

“So far, we’ve learned that you’re a Pharaoh, that’s for sure,” Yuugi supplied helpfully. “We all want to help you with this, mou hitori no boku. You’ll recover your name and your memories…” And then what? He quickly killed that train of thought. He owed his Other - no, Yami, though it was hard to think of him with that name - so much already, for saving his grandfather’s soul… 

“I’m sorry.” 

All three of them looked up as Mana spoke. Her robes flowed around her as she went to the other side of the table. 

“How’s Mahaado-san?” Yuugi asked. 

“He’s resting,” she answered. “The spell, the jump here, it was all too much. After all, his heka is…depleting, and not what it used to be. I’m sorry.” 

“What are you sorry for?” Yami asked.  

She shook her head. “That I can’t tell you everything. I know that you want to ask me questions, I know what you want to ask… but anything I say or do, can disrupt the timeline like we said before, and we’ve come too far to have our work destroy by ourselves.” 

“Mana-chan,” Yuugi said, “will you please tell us what you’re allowed to tell? We don’t understand. Timelines, heka, jumps…” 

Mana showed a small smile. “Mahaado is my Master, and I’m his Apprentice…in magic, what we call heka. It’s how we called it in Ancient Egypt, and it’s what we use to jump between several timelines to correct them.” 

“That sounds…fantastic,” Anzu said. “Ancient Egypt…” 

“I don’t ask of you to believe me, though it would be nice if you would,” Mana said without any humor in her voice. She slumped a little in her chair, tiredness in her features. “There’s a constant factor in every universe and every world, to keep the coherence of life and events as they unfold together - a timeline. All these timelines are a part of the Great Timeline that spans more than millennia, indefinite, never ending, never beginning.” 

She looked at the others to gauge their reaction, heaving a soft sigh. “This Great Timeline absorbs the smaller timelines and assimilates them as a giant river that keeps on floating, so to speak. Not all of these timelines are the same as worlds are different and some events don’t happen as fate or destiny tend to meddle,” she continued. “It doesn’t really matter that much to the Great Timeline in its entirety, unless it’s an event that’s so important that any change to it alters the course of the timeline and affects the Great Timeline, throwing it off.” 

“I don’t understand,” Anzu interjected. “What kinds of events throw off a timeline, how can that even be possible?” 

“Certain events are determining a world - think of a certain person in a very powerful position, ruling his country. Or a war could happen, a force of nature changing a land, or something from the skies, like a meteorite. It’s not always something you can  control. In your world, dinosaurs are extinct because of a meteorite, for example. Sure, people are still discussing about it if that’s really the case, but fact is: dinosaurs don’t exist anymore. This is one of those pivotal events that has to happen in every timeline to be assimilated by the Great Timeline. If there’s a world wherein the meteorite didn’t have the same impact and dinosaurs would still exist, assimilation in the Great Timeline would throw it off.” 

“I think I understand,” Yuugi said. “But how are we involved? I mean, you said something about the Puzzle and releasing the Pharaoh’s soul…” 

Yami looked at Mana, his eyes examining the girl as if he wanted to catch her in a lie. What she was telling him went above his imagination, and he couldn’t shake her familiarity with the Black Magician Girl, let alone as if he’d knew her even before that. 

“Solving the Puzzle and releasing his soul is one of those pivotal events as well,” Mana said. “If it didn’t happen for some reason…” She paused here, a brief look of sadness in her eyes before she continued, “…there would be no one able to stand up against the darkness that’s about to threaten this world as we know it.” 

“Darkness…!” Anzu repeated, voice soft..  

“I’m sorry again,” Mana said. “But there’s still a path filled with trials and tests for the both of you. If you think you had it hard during Duelist Kingdom, you’ll be put to the test even more with the Battle City Finals that are about to come. You will have to fight for the God Cards, as those will unlock a great part of your memories…but only after you managed to win them, and I’m not allowed to divulge if you do or not.” 

“So you do know the Duel Monsters game,” Yuugi piped up, enthusiastic. “Are you the Black Magician Girl? Your resemblance…” 

“I’m not allowed to divulge that,” Mana whispered. “You’ll hear that a lot from me or my Master. If we tell you, we can alter the events of this timeline, and this is the most complete we’ve found so far.” 

Yami briefly nodded. “Mahaado mentioned something about Kaiba organizing this tournament, and as I told him, I will participate to win those God Cards. If there is Darkness to battle, we will win over it.” 

Mana rose from her chair. “I’ve got some work to take care of,” she said, her eyes resting on Yami before looking at Anzu and Yuugi. “Feel free to make yourselves at home here.” 

“We should really call home and tell that we’re staying here,” Yuugi said after a look at the large clock on the wall. “I should’ve been home by now!” 

“You can call home, but don’t invite anyone over, not even your friends,” Mana warned. “It’s for the best that as few people as possible know about it. If they are aware of what’s happening, they could inadvertently change the course of events, thus damaging the timeline.” 

“Oh…” Anzu was clearly disappointed. Jounouchi would probably be worried, as both she and Yuugi hadn’t shown up at classes today.  

“I’ll be back soon enough, and we can prepare dinner together,” Mana said, putting her hand on Anzu’s shoulder and gave her a friendly pat. “I’ll show you how to prepare real Egyptian Feteer Bel Asaag, that’s a pastry with meat! We’ll catch up later.” 

“All right,” the girl smiled at the magician, and showed her a smile again. It was a pity that she couldn’t call Honda or Jounouchi; they would’ve loved to talk to Yami in person.  

“Do you mind if I use the kitchen to make tea for us all?” 

“You probably have a lot to talk about,” Mana agreed, joyfully. “Please, go ahead. There’s plenty of tea and cookies to your tastes available.” 

She left the living room after that, head lowered while a million thoughts went through her mind. Had she done the right thing, had she told them enough to understand or too much to harm the timeline after all?  

“Mana-chan! Mana-chan, wait up, please?” 

She stopped dead in her tracks, hearing Yuugi’s voice behind her. Mana turned around, waiting for him to catch up with her, giving her an apologetic smile. 

“I’m sorry, this must be terribly rude, Mana-chan…” 

“Of course not, Prince,” she said. “What can I do for you?” 

Yuugi fidgeted a little. He wanted to tell her once again to please stop calling him Prince, but it would probably be futile. She was so used to call him with that particular title, that any attempt of him to make her stop would probably create an awkward situation.  

“Mana-chan, I was wondering…can I please know…can you please tell me mou hitori no boku’s true name? It’s…” 

“Something you’re dying to know,” she finished her sentence. “I can’t tell you, Prince, please don’t ask that of me.” 

“I’ll never tell him,” Yuugi pleaded. “I just want to know what kind of name he has, how his father used to call him…I can keep it from him…!” 

“No, you can’t,” she said, and her smile was warm and brilliant instead of admonishing or scolding. “You don’t have any secrets from each other, Prince and Pharaoh. I’m sure you’d try to keep it a secret, just as I’m sure he can get it out of you with looking into your direction with those eyes of his that make you go weak in your knees.” Her cheeks turned a dark red as she finished speaking, and now it was Mana who started fidgeting, plucking at her dress. 

“May I ask then, where you’re going to?” Yuugi said, his cheeks coloring as well. Mana had spoken not loudly, but loud and clear enough to get the meaning behind her words. 

“There are two timelines left at the moment that need our attention,” Mana answered, willing her blush to go away. “Two who are so deviated that they’d affect and harm the Great Timeline greatly…and that’s why we have to restore them, somehow.” 

“It must be very difficult work,” Yuugi whispered. 

“It is,” she immediately admitted. “There’s one in Ancient Egypt and one alternate universe… those are the last two.” 

“I’d love to see Egypt,” Yuugi said. “My grandfather has been there…he brought back the golden box with the Sennen Puzzle.” 

She nodded. “Yes, and that was exactly according to the Great Timeline,” she said. “You finished it in time and released the Pharaoh’s soul as you were supposed to do. The timeline in Ancient Egypt…” Her voice became thick. “Our Pharaoh there…is hard and evil. Things went wrong in that timeline, and he…he lived through it to become as hard and malicious as he is now.” 

“I…that’s extremely hard to believe…mou hitori no boku?” 

“I already said too much,” Mana muttered. “Forgive me, Prince. I have to go now…please join the Pharaoh and Anzu in the living room. As soon as my Master has rested, he’ll fill you in on the rest, if he chooses to…” 

He knew the conversation had ended, and he was never the one to pry. “I’m sorry,” he softly said, but Mana didn’t hear it as she walked down the hallway, entering another room and closing the door a little too loud.  


Timeline I, Khemet 

Atemu paced back and forth in his study. The Puzzle dangled, bumping against his chest angrily with every movement. How could his cousin be so stupid? A High Priest falling for a pale and white-haired…freak of nature? It was a conspiracy, he was sure of it. They would go after his most trusted advisors first, narrowing him down, forcing him into a corner. With all his Priests charmed, he would be all alone, vulnerable and defenseless.  

That white-haired demon was just the beginning. Set didn’t feel anything for her, he was just under her spell. He gritted his teeth. Though he commanded the Gods, the Pharaoh, the exalted ruler of Khemet, didn’t have the slightest bit of heka in his body. Not many knew that, assuming that their monarch was nothing short of a god himself, disposing over more than enough magic powers to rival the nation’s greatest spirit sorcerer. 

Mahaado. A faint, queasy feeling welled up inside of him and he put a hand against his chest, over his heart region. It hurt the most when he thought of his missing Priest, no, his Priest who ran away from him soon after the alleged King of Thieves barged into the Palace. It had taken a God to drive Bakura away, but not after he uttered the threat that he would go after each and every Priest to get their Sennen Item. Atemu sat down on one of the many chairs in his room, panting as if he had ran at least ten miles. Why did it hurt, physically and mentally, to think of Mahaado? Because he had cared so much for him, because he wanted to have him, to hold him in his arms, being held by him?  

“Great Pharaoh, are you all right?” 

He growled, having forgotten that Shaadah was with him. Even though Atemu could demand all the privacy he wanted, in general it happened to be that there was someone with him almost the entire day, be it one of his Priests or advisors, or a guard. 

“I am fine,” he snarled, not apologizing for his rude tone. He would wonder why he was thinking about Mahaado in the first place later. It had taken another calling of the Gods, Ra Himself in this case, to kill the thief. By then, Mahaado had left the Palace…and Atemu had thought, tried to convince himself that he had gone out to defeat the King of Thieves, to keep his Sennen Ring out of the man’s clutches…but Mahaado had never returned, with or without Ring, and the search expeditions Atemu had send out to find him had always returned empty-handed. 

“Great Pharaoh, about the Syrian delegates…” 

“What is it, did they leave?” 

“No, they didn’t,” Shaadah shook his head. “They have caught wind of the rumors, and are discussing how much they can use it to their advantage.” 

“I will not answer to any kind of blackmail,” Atemu huffed. “Besides, the affairs of my High Priest is none of their business.” 

“They will more than probably question his credibility in their next negotiations with you, Great Pharaoh.” 

“Just as I expected, and Set still does not see the problem. A white demon, I tell you!” 

“Great Pharaoh, Kisara isn’t at fault in this…” 

“Is this your way of telling me that I am at fault, Priest Shaadah?” 

The man flinched. “Of course not, Great Pharaoh! We’ll find a solution to this, just as your father always found a solution…” 

“My father is not here,” Atemu barked. “I rule this country now, and I will see to it that no demon, white-haired or not, will tear my Court and my country apart! I have dealt with thieves, kings, delegates, and this woman will not be the end of my reign!” 

“I’m sure it won’t come to that,” Shaadah said. “Please, Great Pharaoh. We have to remain calm in all of this. If we don’t solve this rightfully, our neighbor countries…” 

“Will mock us,” Atemu finished his sentence. “It is not my High Priest’s credibility at stake here, but mine and our nation’s as well. Women with blue eyes will bring disaster to this land. I am in charge of this nation - it will not fall at someone’s hands but mine!” 

“Great Pharaoh,” Shaadah spoke, “we can’t let ourselves be guided by superstition. The girl is unusual in appearance, yes, but I’m sure that…” 

“Enough about this woman,” Atemu cut him off. “How is my vizier?” 

The Priest was taken aback by the question, startled why his Pharaoh would ask about the elderly vizier right now. Since the man had fallen ill, Atemu had barely asked about him. 

“Shimon’s health is stable, fortunately. He’s enjoying his time without any obligations and duties, finally some time for himself.” 

Atemu barely nodded. “He deserves it. He’s been in service of my family for several generations. I could use his advice on this, though… but I cannot depend on everyone all the time. I have to make a decision in this matter.” 

“Great Pharaoh?” 

“Keep an eye on the Syrian delegates,” Atemu said. “I do not wish for them to send out messengers with news and gossip about…the recent events. I will talk to Set again and maybe go visit this Kisara woman myself.” 

Shaadah paled, but quickly bowed his head.  

“Do you think that is wise, Great Pharaoh?” 

He snorted. “After all, I have to see for myself the woman who can make my esteemed cousin go nuts in love. If he is just as diligent to her as to his duties, she will probably praise herself lucky that she has caught herself such a big fish. I will personally see to it that it will not be the case.” 

The Priest pursed his lips, briefly motioning at the guards, who curtly nodded with their head before guarding their Pharaoh, accompanying him out of his room. 


“I will watch him? Watch him die?” The Priestess’ voice was shrill. She couldn’t believe her ears. There was someone standing next to her bed, claiming to be her, showing impressive heka, telling her that she would watch her Pharaoh die? Both Mana’s cringed, from the sound of her voice as well as from the idea. 

“There’s no other way,” Mana said. She dropped the sheets and moved away from the bed. “His darkness…no, the darkness inside of him will only grow stronger with each passing day, each passing moment. He has fought so hard…I have to be thankful it hasn’t gotten that much out of hand yet…” 

“It hasn’t?” the Priestess barely refrained from shrieking again. “He’s nowhere near the friend I grew up with, the boy I knew my whole life! He’s cold, he’s distant, he uses…” 

“Your body,” Mana said. The Priestess abruptly shut her mouth, averting her eyes.  

“My body,” she whispered. 

“How…what does it feel like?” 

She looked up. “What? What do you mean?” 

Mana was the one to look away now, her hand fumbling with her cloak. Her hand trembled slightly. Her heka was depleting fast; she had had to uphold a masking spell to keep herself disguised from everyone but the Priestess, and she had made the jump between timelines.  


The Priestess spoke after a minute. “I’ll tell you…after you tell me first what you’re doing here, and how and why…he has to die.” 

“I don’t have much time.” Mana looked up again, at the Priestess, at her spitting image. She had always wondered what would become of her when she was just a little child, but after seeing so many worlds, so many realities, Mana knew more than enough. She was here to restore the Great Timeline, to save worlds from utter destruction, to bring alternate realities back from beyond control.  

“I’m Mana, I’m you, in each and every way. Undoubtedly you’ll have many questions…but I can’t answer them all. Some of the answers go above your belief, beyond your grasp and imagination.” 

“You’re telling me that, and still you have the nerve to bluntly watch him die?” 


“You’re talking to yourself.” 


The Priestess felt her cheeks redden. “If you know so much, you also know that I’m not a real Priestess. I’m only accepted into the Court by his…by Ate…by the Pharaoh’s command. To take the place of my teacher…” 

“Mahaado.” Mana heaved a sigh. She hated this situation, she hated the work she was doing, she hated this timeline…and she knew how much Mahaado hated himself. Almost irritated, she rubbed at her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. She had to remain focused. 

“How many of his studies are still behind? How many did you study for yourself?” 

“I didn’t have always the time,” the Priestess defended herself. “Besides, if the Pharaoh finds them in my room…” 

“I was afraid so,” Mana muttered. She hadn’t missed out on the Priestess’ earlier slip, that she referred to Atemu with his first name. “Very well. It will suffice to say that every world, no matter how small, is subjected to a timeline…and all these timelines are subjected to the Great Timeline.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

Mana shushed her. “Listen to me, please. In most of the cases, the Great Timeline is disturbed many times with little pinpricks; events that are not that important that they throw it off completely. However, there are certain events that are so drastic, so encompassing, that they influence the Great Timeline after all.” 

“What kind of events?” The Priestess asked, a little confused. She didn’t like it that she was listening so meekly, that she was willing to buy the words this other girl was speaking so easily. There wasn’t much she couldn’t do about it, though - it was fascination and curiosity that kept her latched onto the words spoken. 

“Epidemics, wars, earthquakes…in general, not the kind of happy events. They change the course of mankind, and that is why they have to appear in every timeline to keep the Great Timeline going, otherwise…the balance is thrown off.” 

“Where does…the Pharaoh fit in, then?” 

Mana wanted desperately to sit down, and she didn’t await her namesake’s approval for it - she flopped down on the nearest chair, drawing up her knees to her chest. 

“He was supposed to defeat Darkness…” 

“He did!” The Priestess all but crowed. “He defeated the King of Thieves, who had desecrated his father’s tomb, and he summoned the golden God to kill him…!” 

“That wasn’t the right course of events,” Mana objected slowly. She supported her head with her hands. “The King of Thieves had to be defeated, yes, but not before he had unleashed the great God of Darkness, Zorc Necrophades.” 

“The great God of Darkness…” 

“The Pharaoh was supposed to die in defeating him, and his sacrifice would’ve been the key to keep the timeline going as it was,” Mana all but whispered. “He wasn’t supposed to live longer, to absorb the Darkness in himself, to become the man he’s become now.” 

“You…you can’t be serious.”  

“I’ve seen enough worlds and realities by now to know how the Great Timeline goes…and there’s no place for a corrupted Pharaoh.” 

“It’s not his fault!” the Priestess cried. “It’s not his fault! If Maha…Master didn’t run away, he could’ve helped him, together, in defeating that Darkness!” 

“No!” Mana shifted in the chair, fixing the Priestess a stern glare. “Mahaado…couldn’t have been of any use. There was nothing in his powers that could’ve avoided all of this.” 

“You’re lying…you’re just some clever witch who’s telling lies to cause unrest…!” 

“I’m not lying. I’m not asking you to believe me, anyway. I’m asking you to help me, for I can’t do this alone.” 

“If you want any help of me in killing him, you can forget it. Leave here, right now, before I call the guards and have you taken to the dungeons.” 

Mana let out a dry laugh, a short chuckle. “You’ll change your mind, Priestess. You will, soon enough…and pray that it won’t be too late by then.” 

She had barely finished her sentence or her heka was depleted. Unable to keep her presence anchored in this world, Mana let it go, let herself go, allowing herself to be pulled back into the timeline that was at least the less damaged one. She left the Priestess behind in confusion and in tears, forcefully biting back her own. 


The guards had to quicken their pace to keep up with their Pharaoh; despite being small, Atemu kept a very fast stride. He had left his own room, walking down the large hallways and crossing one of the most beautiful lotus gardens known to mankind - though he didn’t look at it once - towards the servants’ quarters.  

“Great Pharaoh,” one of the guards finally spoke up, “are you sure you want to be here?”

Atemu looked over his shoulder, narrowing his crimson red eyes. The taller man gulped, but he stuck to his guns. “Great Pharaoh?” 

“Bring me to that woman,” he spoke. “I wish to speak to this Kisara myself. I ordered her to be brought to the servants’ quarters. Where is she?” 

The guards exchanged nervous glances. “Ah…we…we’re not really sure where she is, Great Pharaoh.” 

Atemu turned around, the movement so fast, his cloak swirled around. “What do you mean by that? Go get me someone who does know where this woman is!” 

“Great Pharaoh…” 


“Great Pharaoh, we don’t know someone who knows…” 

“We only know she isn’t here,” the other guard said, almost pleading. “The High Priest, Great Pharaoh, he wanted to make sure she was safe and sound, without too many people knowing…” 

“You idiots,” Atemu snarled. “I will have your heads for this!” 

Brusquely, he went past them and pushed them out of his way, the two guards looking horrified. They were supposed to guard him, watch his every step and keep him safe, but after his last words… nervously, they remained standing, considering whether to run if someone had heard his words, or to go after him and pretend nothing had happened. 

Atemu couldn’t care less, the guards already disappearing from his mind, anger running through his veins. Set had deliberately ignored his orders and kept the woman hidden now, hadn’t he? What was he thinking, did he single-handedly want to ruin the nation? He growled in annoyance when he realized that he didn’t know where Set’s quarters were. Another pair of guards came to help him, guiding him to the right hallway, up a few stairs until they reached the right wing of the Palace, housing all the Priests and their personal staff. 

Atemu didn’t wait for the guards to knock on the door, but already went through it, throwing it open as he entered. Sure enough, his High Priest was sitting at his writing table, startled at his sudden entrance. The young woman, Kisara, was lying on a sofa, comfortably supported by a healthy amount of cushions, covered with a thin blanket. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Atemu said out loud, ignoring the furious look on his cousin’s face. “Why are you ignoring my orders?” 

“I told you that I would take full responsibility for Kisara,” Set said, visibly suppressing his irritation.  

“Great Pharaoh, it was my own judgment that she was not safe in the servant’s quarters. I wished her close, so I could keep an eye on her.” 

“Do not hold me for stupid,” Atemu said, the same annoyance in his tone of voice. He tilted his head, looking at Kisara whose wide, blue eyes were…strangely hypnotizing. Forcefully, he averted his head, noticing the Sennen Rod lying on Set’s desk. 

“Great Pharaoh…” 

“I will not have her cause this much riot between you and me,” Atemu continued. “You are my most trusted and wisest advisor. I need you at my Court, head straight and mind clear of any foolish, corrupted thought.” 

Set lowered his eyes, briefly. “I thank you for your faith in me,” he said, “but my head is straight and my mind is clear. I am not doing anything different than I would usually do. I have taken care of the problem, or what is thought of as a problem.” 

“You ignored my orders.” 

“Great Pharaoh, it would have caused more of a ruckus if we were to house her in the servants’ quarters. She would be badly treated, and she needs rest, to find her strength again.” The High Priest kept his eyes on Atemu, carefully watching where he was going. Atemu moved towards the large desk, picking up one of the papers. 

“At least you are still working.” 

“But of course, Great Pharaoh.” 

Set’s attention on Atemu was briefly interrupted as he heard a rustling sound, of fabric being pushed away; Kisara tried to get up. The High Priest moved to help her, softly whispering to her to stay down and save her strength. 

“These are the latest reports about the national guard?” 

“Yes,” Set answered, slightly distracted as he supported the girl. “I have just received final reports from the captains.” 

“Very well. I want you to keep me informed about the mobility and strength of our army.” 

“Great Pharaoh?” Set turned around, confused. As far as he knew, there wasn’t a war going on. It was of course his duty to keep the Pharaoh informed about the state of his army, but he had never asked so specifically about it before. Kisara tugged at his collar. 

“It’s all right. I can stand.” 

Atemu turned away from the desk, hearing her speak for the very first time. 

“I did not know that you mastered our language.” 

“Exalted Pharaoh,” she said, her voice soft, but melodious, the title obviously strange to her. “I know the language.” 

“Kisara is native to our nation,” Set supplied. “She is not from another country…” 

The girl shook her head. “I’m a proud denizen of Khemet.” 

“How come you look so different?” Atemu demanded. He moved his arms, his right arm in particular, from resting against his back to his front. Set raised an eyebrow when he saw the Pharaoh with his Sennen Item - the Rod. He’d left it on his desk as he’d been working on the reports; he didn’t know why Atemu wanted to hold it right now. He already had an Item, the heavy Puzzle. 

“I don’t know,” Kisara answered and tried to bow, but the movement was too straining on her weak constitution and she swayed. Set quickly stabilized her, wrapping an arm around her to keep her upright. Stubbornly, she pushed his arm away from her as soon as she found her balance. She gave him a grateful smile, then she turned towards Atemu again, lowering her head a little.  

“Great Pharaoh, I don’t know about my parents. I have lived on my own for as long as I can remember. I want to thank you for your great hospitality and that I’m allowed to live here. I have always been on the run, out of fear, away from the hatred and pain.” 

“They say that if you look in your blue eyes, you will be cursed,” Atemu casually said. “Is that true, Kisara?” 

She looked a little dumbfounded. “There are many prejudices going around, mighty Pharaoh. I am sure that you, in the wisdom bestowed upon you, realize that many of these prejudices are false.” 

“Children’s fantasies and fairy tales,” Set added. “Kisara has been through enough. As soon as she has rested more, she will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.” 

Atemu held the Sennen Rod in his right hand, his left hand closing itself around the handle.  

“How long will that take?” 

“For her to rest?” Set asked. “As long as it takes, Great Pharaoh. She almost died from dehydration, she…what is that noise?” 

“Pharaoh…! Pharaoh!” 

It was another female voice, and both Set and Kisara took a step back, shifting towards each other. 

“Mana? What are you doing here?” 

The Priestess all but ran towards them, her eyes frantically glued to Atemu, examining him. 

“What is the meaning of this, Mana?” he asked, his hands still holding the Sennen Rod. Mana blushed, knowing that she’d been very rash in her actions. After her encounter with the other, strange Mana, the girl that claimed to be her and was her, and all her talk about the timelines, the Priestess wanted to see for herself that at least her Pharaoh was safe…and now she was standing in Set’s quarters, Atemu obviously alive, interrupting the discussion. She couldn’t back out with an excuse now. 

“I…I have to talk to you, urgently,” she said, bowing to him. “In priv…in private. Please.” 

“All in due time,” Atemu said. “I have to deal with another urgent matter first.” 

“I cannot believe that you still think this is a matter at all,” Set growled, fairly irritably. His sharp eyes were focused on Atemu, failing to have heard the sound of the dagger concealed in the Sennen Rod being unscrewed due to all the previous noise. 

“It is an important matter. You have forsaken my orders, you have shown that you are willing to take risks and endanger our nation by bringing this woman to your personal quarters…” 

“Please, Great Pharaoh,” Kisara tried to raise her voice. “If…if it’s such a problem, I better be going…I don’t want to be of any burden.” 

“You are not a burden.” Set firmly spoke up, not about to give in. “As far as I am concerned, this discussion has ended. There is nothing more we can say about this, and frankly, I…” 

“Silence!” Atemu had stepped closer, drawing up all his height as he stood in front of Set and Kisara. “I will not have you plunge us into a crisis just because you fancy a white demon.” 

“Stop that,” Set hissed. “Do not refer to her like that…” 

“Pharaoh,” Kisara started to talk at the same moment, “I can assure you, I will never…” 

Atemu,” Mana wanted to say, but her voice was frozen. Frozen in time, frozen in fear, frozen in that one second of realization settling in, of despair being born, of shells being removed from the eyes. She wasn’t believing what she was seeing, denying it in every fiber of her soul, every corner of her heart, but she saw it happening - the dagger being lifted, the expression on Kisara’s face changing from pleading to disbelieving pain, Set’s soundless cry. 

The girl fell to the floor, hands pressing against her abdomen, blood gushing through her fingers, staining her pale skin, coloring her dress. Weakened and fragile as she was, Kisara all but died at the moment she fell on the floor, the impact when hitting the tiles too much for her body to handle. Set immediately kneeled next to her, taking her in his arms, repeating her name. 

“Kisara! Kisara!” 

Plain disgust was written all over Mana’s face as she looked at Atemu, who calmly screwed the end cap on the Sennen Rod again, concealing the dagger once more. She didn’t see if there was any blood on the object, but even if there was, it wasn’t of any importance. He had killed her, in cold blood, not showing the faintest bit of remorse or sorrow… 

“How could you!” she cried out. Certain events that influence the Great Timeline. “You killed her!” The Pharaoh was supposed to die in defeating him, and his sacrifice would’ve been the key to keep the timeline going as it was.  

“You killed her!” He wasn’t supposed to live longer, to absorb the Darkness in himself, to become the man he’s become now. She had been lying. To herself, to everyone around herself, to all the Gods watching over her, to her heart, her mind, her body and soul. I’ve seen enough worlds and realities by now to know how the Great Timeline goes…and there’s no place for a corrupted Pharaoh.  

There was no one to help her now but herself - as far as she could muster up the strength to walk a new path, not this path of imminent destruction. Her voice kept repeating the words, each with increasing disbelief and horror. She wasn’t looking at Kisara on the floor, she wasn’t looking at Set who was shaking at her as if he could bring her back to life. I’m asking you to help me, for I can’t do this alone. No remorse. No guilt. His face was blank, bored maybe, and the Sennen Rod was still in his hand, his fingers simply curled around it. So much gold adorned his tan body, so small in statue and so tall in what he used to believe in - justice, fairness, equal chances.  

He wasn’t a Pharaoh. He was nothing but a monster. You’ll change your mind, Priestess. You will, soon enough…and pray that it won’t be too late by then. She cried out something unintelligible and turned around, running away from him as fast as she could. Set was calling for her, pleading for her to stay and to try to heal Kisara, even though he already knew it was in vain.  

She kept yelling “No, no, no!” as she ran through the hallways, haunted by ghosts, haunted by her defeat, haunted by herself. 


Timeline II, Alternate Universe: Domino City, Japan 

The quaint Kame Game Shop owned by Mutou Sugoroku was well-known all over town; the man had established a name in trading in the most exotic and wonderful games, both international and national. He was also rumored to own an exclusive, very interesting collection of ancient and rare games from all over the world, and excelling in every one of them. His grandson, Mutou Yuugi, who had inherited his knack for gaming, had gone to Domino High until he dropped out.  

Jounouchi suppressed the queasy feeling in his stomach as they approached the store, sticking out like a sore thumb between the surrounding gray apartment buildings because of its striking green and red colors. The store was combined with the house where the Mutous lived and was topped off with a roof that would fit a surrealistic painting. Whoever was responsible for the architecture had either been a genius or just plain drunk. 

“We’re here,” he announced superfluously as he opened the front door, a bell chiming happily.  It was small, the walls covered with posters announcing game tournaments or sales, display cases on the left and right, large bookcases filled to the brim with board games. The little room left was occupied by a giant counter, stacked with even more games and a large, old-fashioned cash register. 

There was no one behind the counter and Jounouchi walked forward, followed by the others - Honda, looking around like a kid in a candy store, and Mana and Mahaado sternly and silently taking in the surroundings. Jounouchi had never been in the store before, and was quite impressed by the amount of card games. He’d been lucky with blackjack and poker before, learning the rules while he was with the gang - he didn’t know much about the trading card games, though…he didn’t have any money to spend on them anyway. 

“Welcome!” It was obviously an elderly man who spoke, and Mutou Sugoroku entered the store from a door to the right; the bell had been loud enough to hear through the entire house. 

“What can I do for you?” 

“We’re here to see Yuugi,” Jounouchi said, showing a goofy grin. Even though the family resemblance was quite obvious - the hair, the eyes and the height - the man didn’t show any lack of confidence or self-esteem as his grandson had. 

“Are you?” he asked, his voice chilly. “He didn’t tell me he was expecting visitors.” His eyes went over Jounouchi’s and Honda’s school uniforms. “And certainly not visitors from his school. Jounouchi Katsuya, right?” 

“The one and only,” he grinned. 

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t throw you out,” Sugoroko growled. “It was because of you that he left school. Do you have any idea what you’ve done to him?” 

“The kid doesn’t have any character,” Jounouchi snorted before anyone else could say something. “Gramps, don’t take it so hard. He wouldn’t have stood a chance in the business world either, with his whining and yammering.” 

“Enough,” Mahaado cut in. “We are here to see the Prince, not to trade insults.” 

“The Prince?” Sugoroku repeated. 

“Yeah, these…people seem to think Yuugi is some kind of Prince,” Jounouchi snorted again, making a dismissive gesture with his hand. Sugoroku folded his hands on the counter, looking from one to another. 

“What is the meaning of this? If this is some kind of prank…” 

“Sir, please,” Mahaado said, “we would really like to see our Prince.” 

Suddenly, the elder man nodded. “Very well. Yuugi is in the storage room, helping me keeping the stock up-to-date. I will leave you with him, but the moment he wants you to leave, you will leave. Understood?” 

It was more aimed towards Jounouchi and Honda than to the others, but Mahaado nodded in return.  

“Storage room is on the left, immediately after you’ve gone through that door,” Sugoroku pointed them towards the door on the right. Mana thanked the man in passing, and went after Mahaado. Jounouchi and Honda followed her, both muttering something under their breath. 

The storage room was quite large, and chilly - the few wooden scaffoldings, crammed with cardboard boxes, made it difficult to see. 

“Hey, Yuugi!” Jounouchi hollered, ignoring Mahaado’s angry look. 

There was no answer, so Jounouchi repeated his words, joined by Honda.  

“Hey, Yuugi! Are you here?” 

Mahaado suddenly widened his eyes and Jounouchi showed his trademark grin. A familiar head peaked from behind the last scaffolding, large eyes even wider than he remembered. 

“Jounouchi-kun…Honda-kun! What are you doing here?” 

“We’ve come to visit you,” Honda said casually, enjoying how the small boy swallowed. Yuugi held a small box in his hands, but it wasn’t his golden treasure box; it was just a package of Duel Monsters booster packs. Jounouchi had heard a lot about the game, and was surprised to learn that there were even tournaments with great prizes. How anyone could ever get rich by winning game tournaments was a riddle to him, but apparently is was a booming market. 

“It’s nice of you to visit me,” the small boy said, trying to hide the disbelief that two of his greatest bullies had actually come to visit him. 

“What’s that you have in your hand?” Honda asked. 

“This? Oh, this is a carton of Duel Monsters booster packs, I was just checking up on the inventory,” Yuugi said hurriedly. He stepped back when Honda reached for the box, but he wasn’t fast enough and he grabbed one of the booster packs. 

“Duel Monsters, huh? Do you play the game yourself?” 

“We are not here for small talk,” Mahaado reminded them. Mana stood next to him, looking at Yuugi with a rather neutral look on her face, though her lips were still curled up in a smile. 

“Honda-kun, please don’t open it, those costs money,” Yuugi protested. Honda waved with the package in his face. 

“What if I don’t have any money to pay for it?” 


“Enough.” Mahaado stepped forward and took the package from Honda to give it back to Yuugi. Jounouchi snickered. So little Yuugi had barely changed after all. He was dressed in simple slacks and a shirt, wearing a gray vest over it. He was exactly as Jounouchi had seen him the last time, even his typical tri-colored hair was still the same. 

“How come you’re visiting me, Jounouchi-kun? And who are your friends?” Yuugi asked, putting the box on the small table behind him covered with paperwork.  

Jounouchi heaved a sigh. Only Yuugi would immediately assume that everyone around him was his friend.  

“They wanted to see you and didn’t know where to reach you,” he said, bored. “It’s about your puzzle.” 

Yuugi frowned. “What about it?” 

“Prince,” Mahaado bowed to him. “May I ask you where the Item is?” 

“Prince? Item?” 

“The Puzzle,” Mana spoke up. “Do you still have it?” 

“I do, but it’s incomplete,” Yuugi answered. A stubborn look appeared on his face. “I’m not selling it, if that’s what you want.” 

The girl smiled a little sadly. “No, it’s yours, Prince. We would like to see it, please.” 

“Why are you calling me Prince?” Yuugi tilted his head. “Haven’t we met before? You look familiar.” 

“We haven’t met before, but it’s not surprising that I look familiar to you,” she said. “All in due time, Prince.”  

Jounouchi whistled, amused. “I didn’t know you picked up hot chicks, Yuugi!” He immediately doubled over, gasping as he was punched in the stomach - while no one moved. 

Yuugi looked confused, Honda jumped up ready for action, and Mahaado growled. 

“You will not refer to my Apprentice that way!” He turned towards Yuugi again. “Prince, the Puzzle, if you please.” 

“It’s upstairs,” Yuugi answered, eyeing Jounouchi who tried to regain his breathing, meanwhile uttering curses. “I…I’ll go get it for you.” 

As he walked away, Jounouchi yelled at Mahaado. “Where the fuck was that for!” 

“I told you, I will not have you refer to my Apprentice that way,” Mahaado answered calmly.  

“It is sad to see how you turned out to be, Jounouchi Katsuya. I had hoped that this world was deviated from its course of anything else but you. You have always proven to be strong and faithful to your friends, and to see you as an ill-mannered, brusque cad is something I was never expecting to see.” 

“Hey, who are you calling a cad, you quack,” Honda protested. 

“I advise you to shut up,” Mahaado rudely told him. “You have both condemned this world to its demise, and pray to your Gods that something can be saved before the darkness strikes.” 

“Yeah, well, whatever,” Jounouchi huffed. “We’ve brought you here like good little lackeys, and you’ve found your precious Prince. Let’s get the hell out of here, Honda.” 

“You are not permitted to go anywhere.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“You are not permitted to go anywhere.” 

“Take a hike, you moron!” 

“Do not make me freeze you on the spot and deny you your ability to speak,” Mahaado said. “I do not have any qualms about keeping you in place here with every means necessary.” 

“What do you want from us?” Honda demanded. “For all your talk about the end of the world and doom, you haven’t explained anything, and still you’re holding us responsible for everything that has happened? You’re way out of whack, man.” 

“What is this all about? Could you please stop fighting?” Yuugi had entered the storage room again, carrying something triangular in his hands. “I could hear you all from upstairs.” 

“Yeah well, tall and lanky doesn’t want to let us go,” Jounouchi growled. 

“Is that the Item?” Mahaado ignored him, focused intently on Yuugi’s hands. The small boy put it on the table so everyone could see. 

“Yes, this is the Puzzle I got from my grandfather. He found it in Egypt, you know…but it’s not complete, unfortunately.” 

He moved his hands away and both Mahaado and Mana uttered a shocked gasp. The Puzzle was lying in front of them, perfectly in once piece…except for the missing center piece.  

“You never finished it, Prince…” he said. 

Yuugi blushed faintly, not used to being addressed like that, feeling embarrassed. “I don’t know how it’s possible…either it was incomplete when my grandfather brought it back from Egypt, or I’ve been careless. I’ve taken it a few times to school with me, maybe one of the pieces…” 

“…was taken away by someone who thought it was an awesome joke,” Mahaado completed his sentence, staring pointedly at Jounouchi. 

“I must’ve dropped it somewhere,” Yuugi said. “No one touched the box, I was the only one to carry it…” 

“Your kindness is great, Prince,” Mana said, her voice cheerful. “You always want to see the good side of everything and everyone, even if it’s not true. You didn’t lose the piece, it…” 

“If you want some kind of confession from me, yes, I took that stupid piece and threw it out of the window,” Jounouchi snarled. “Can we cut it out with the mystery thing and the stupid Prince stuff, and tell us all in little words what the fuck is going on?” 

Even Honda looked up from his friend’s outburst, and Yuugi blushed deeper, not used to the language. 

“Maybe it’s better if we all go to the living room and…talk,” he suggested. “I don’t even know your names, eh…?” 

“Mahaado,” he said curtly. “Mahaado and Mana.” 

“Mahaado and Mana,” Yuugi repeated. “Let’s go to the living room. Honda-kun…Jounouchi-kun…?” 

“Yeah yeah, we’re coming.”


The golden Puzzle rested on the coffee table, the missing piece a large black hole on the front. Mahaado kept looking at it, a disturbed expression on his face. Mana had gone quiet, her hands plucking at the folds in the fabric of her formless robes covering up her entire body. 

“It is as I feared.” 

Yuugi stared at the tall man, slightly uncomfortable. He had never known that Jounouchi had taken a piece of the Puzzle out of the box and thrown it into the school’s swimming pool; he had simply assumed that he was responsible himself for missing the last piece. 

“What now, Master?” Mana asked. 

“How bad can it be?” Honda asked at the same time. He didn’t see the importance of the gaudy piece of jewelry, thinking everyone made a lot of fuss about nothing. 

“How bad it can be?” Mahaado fixed his gaze on him. “The end of the world, that is how bad it can be. Prince was supposed to solve the Puzzle and inherit the Pharaoh’s soul.  

“Together, they would save the world from everlasting darkness. Now that the Puzzle has not been solved, the Pharaoh’s soul has not been released, which means Prince is alone…and the half of one soul cannot do the work of a complete soul.” 

“Gibberish. Just fucking gibberish,” Jounouch muttered. 

“Silence!” Mahaado snapped. “You have no room to talk, as it was you who caused all of this!” 

“How the hell was I supposed to know? All I saw was a whiny kid prancing around with his golden treasure box!” 

“Stop fighting, please!” Yuugi raised his voice, trying to drown the others out. Jounouchi cringed.  

“At least nothing about your voice changed. Sheeesh!” 

“Enough of this,” Mahaado said. “If the Puzzle cannot be completed, this world is doomed and we are wasting our time here.” 

“How can we complete it, then?” 

Yuugi frowned. “If Jounouchi-kun threw it in the swimming pool, I’d say it would still be there on the bottom…” 

“I don’t think so,” Honda shook his head. “It’s been months, and the pool has been cleaned in the meantime.” 

“The front piece is quite big,” Yuugi pointed at the Puzzle. “Certainly, when cleaning the pool, they would’ve noticed it?” 

“It’s too big to slip through a filter,” Honda added, vaguely wondering why he was even actively contributing to the conversation. The whole thing seemed weirder by the second. 

“I can call the school tomorrow and ask about it,” Yuugi suggested. “If anyone would’ve seen it, it’s Hashimono, the janitor.” 

“Very well, Prince,” Mahaado said, obviously content. Mana showed a brilliant smile. 

“See? I told you that Prince would find a solution!” 

“Could you please refer to me as Yuugi…please?” Yuugi said, blushing furiously. Both shook their heads, wearing similar all-knowing smiles. The small boy wished his blush would go away, feeling rather sheepish in the company of his visitors. 

“Fine, Yuugi here calls to the school tomorrow, everything’s fine and dandy, world saved,” Jounouchi said. He turned around with the intention to leave, even motioning to his friend. 

“Not exactly,” Mahaado spoke up, his voice commanding enough to make Jounouchi halt in mid-movement. “You still have a role to play, as you are responsible for this mess to begin with.” 

“I’d like to ask of you to repeat that a little more often,” Jounouchi answered in a bored tone. “I really do think you haven’t stressed it enough.” 

“I’m sure Jounouchi-kun didn’t mean it,” Yuugi said, smiling. “After all, he was trying to teach me to become a man.” 

Mahaado looked at him for a brief moment, then averted his head and stood up, rather brusquely.  

“We have to leave now, but we will return soon enough. There is still time, ironically enough.” 

“Where are you going to?” Yuugi wanted to know. “We have a guestroom…if you don’t have a place to stay…” 

“Thank you, Prince, you are too kind,” Mahaado thanked him. “We return to another world as that is the basic timeline as we know it, for now…a pure world which we use as a standard to restore the Great Timeline.” 

“Oh…okay,” Yuugi replied, slightly dumbfounded. He stood up as well, throwing a last look on the incomplete Puzzle and walked with his visitors to the front door; one floor down as the living quarters were above the Game Shop. Jounouchi and Honda followed, making rude gestures at each other to indicate what they were thinking of Mahaado’s words. 

When Mahaado and Mana were out of sight, Yuugi was very surprised to see Jounouchi and Honda still standing in the hallway. Wearily, he turned towards them, holding the door open.  

“Hey, Yuugi…” 

He automatically cringed, expecting a snide remark from the both of them. “Y- yes?” 

“Did you listen to the news today? About the escaped convict?” 

“I…I did,” Yuugi said, wondering why Jounouchi brought up that topic. “He’s still at large, and everyone is advised to go straight to home after work or school and to be extra careful.” 

“He killed one of his hostages yesterday,” Jounouchi continued. “Did you know…that it was Anzu?” 

Yuugi’s eyes went even wider. “Wh-what? Anzu? That’s not possible…” 

“I’m sorry,” Jounouchi said, and Honda nodded with him. Neither one of them had wished the girl dead. “I don’t think it means much to you, but I’m sorry. I thought you should know it.” 

“Th-thank you,” Yuugi croaked. Anzu had always been there for him, his friend since elementary school…and now she was dead? He spoke to her two days ago, on the phone, catching up…two days ago. 

“We’ve got to go,” Jounouchi said abruptly and brushed past Yuugi, all but pushing him out of the way. Honda followed suit, leaving the smaller boy with his sudden grief behind, thoughts already on other things instead of his former classmate.  


“Uwaaah…” Jounouchi stared at himself in the mirror, toothbrush sticking out of his mouth, raking his hands through his already mussed hair. It was a Friday, which was always good - Friday held the least classes, and it was the start of the weekend. Today was even a more special Friday, as his sister would come over and spend the weekend with him!  

Usually Shizuka went with her mother, but she had to work the upcoming weekend and since his father was gone for the next few days…Shizuka made her mother believe that she was spending the days with a friend - said friend was involved in the ‘conspiracy’ and knew how important it was for Shizuka to spend some time with her brother - and would wait for Jounouchi to come pick her up from the institute. 

His mind was pretty empty as usual. Negative thoughts never stayed long with Jounouchi as he simply didn’t care for a lot of things, or simply refused to spend any energy on it. He still felt bad about Anzu’s death even though it wasn’t his responsibility, and the whole issue with Yuugi, the Puzzle and Mahaado and Mana barely took any of his thoughts. So what if one piece of a stupid puzzle was missing? End of the world, he didn’t believe in that kind of crap.  

If Yuugi wanted to believe all that, more power to him, but Jounouchi Katsuya had other things to worry about. Like his paper route, getting past his dad without the man noticing him… his hand moved to the right and turned on the small bathroom radio. It was barely giving off any sound; the batteries had to be replaced. Jounouchi chewed on his toothbrush, muttering something, listening half-heartedly to the news as he searched for a comb. 

“Domino City prefecture is still in the dark about the death of American CEO Pegasus J. Crawford, who was found lifeless in his hotel room yesterday morning. Crawford, rumored to be in Domino for the organization of an international Duel Monsters tournament, bled to death as his left eye was brutally torn from its socket. According to…” 

“Bah,” Jounouchi gurgled, toothbrush still clenched between his teeth, as he switched off the radio. What was it with all these deaths lately? Domino City was large, but not as large as Tokyo, and crime was typically limited to a robbery or petty theft. Jounouchi grumbled at his reflection and rinsed his mouth, combing his hair at the same time.  

He met up with Honda on his way to school, catching up with some members of the Hirutani gang as well. They talked about how they had great fun in spooking people when impersonating the escaped convict, who still was at large. Jounouchi scowled, but let it slide; he wasn’t the gang leader and frankly, he couldn’t care less about the airheads. 

School was uneventful, even though Bakura was late for the first time. Jounouchi was amused at how the polite boy tried to search for excuses as the teacher scolded him for being late. Finally, the boy was allowed to sit, muttering something about anal retentive teachers and their unhealthy obsession with the clock. 

“What was that, Bakura?” Jounouchi asked pleasantly.  


“Man, you look like shit,” Honda said, subtle as ever. “What did you do? Party until you dropped?” 

“I couldn’t drag myself out of bed this morning,” Bakura complained, rubbing at his face. His bleary eyes looked red and irritated, and he was as pale as ever. 

“Hey, shut up,” another student hissed at them. This teacher was notorious for his lectures about behavior in class, and used every disturbance as an opportunity to launch in one of those lectures about respect for authority and the good values and morals of the previous generation. Jounouchi muttered a few curse words and was about to say more when the teacher looked his way, but remembered at the last moment that the teacher could send him away for detention…which would seriously clash with his afternoon class, so he shut up. 

At lunchtime, Honda inquired if Jounouchi had heard something from Yuugi about the missing Puzzle piece. 

“Huh, no, why?” Jounouchi scoured his pockets for money. He wanted to buy a sandwich as he was really hungry, and Honda biting into a very delicious looking one didn’t help much.  

“Hey man, do you have a few yen left?” 

“Lemme see…well, about that guy? Or about his precious Puzzle?” 

“I don’t even think he has my telephone number,” Jounouchi said, shrugging. “I don’t think it’s as important as that Mahaado fellow made it out to be. How can the fate of the world depend on one piece of one stupid golden Puzzle?” 

“Yeah, you’re right. Hey, what are you going to do this afternoon?” 

Jounouchi showed a happy grin. “Going to pick up my sister; she’s spending this weekend with me!” 

“Wow,” Honda said. “That certainly changes my plans. I’ve to baby sit my nephew this afternoon, mind if I come over? Maybe Shizuka-chan would like to hold him…” 

“No fucking way,” Jounouchi growled at him. “Leave that smelly kid at home!” 

“But Jounouchi…!” 

“By the way, my sister is practically engaged.” 


“Hey, stop shouting! Yeah, Otogi asked her to be his girl, and she said yes.” 

“Otogi? As in Otogi Ryuuji, the owner of the Black Crown?” 

“One and the same…” 

Honda balled his fists. “Shizuka-chan is clearly brainwashed by that guy! He’d never care about a girl like her! It’s probably one of his plans to make himself look good in the public eye!” 

“He’s rich,” Jounouchi said as if that was the most important thing. “He can pay for Shizuka’s care better than I at the moment.” 

Honda muttered something inaudible. “Otogi… I can’t believe it…” He dug deeper in his pants pockets, finding a few crumpled bills. “Here you are.” 

“Thanks, man.” Jounouchi bought himself the sandwich and greedily tore off the wrapper.  

There was only one hour of school left after lunch, and if he hurried, he could catch an early bus to Schizuka’s school. The sooner he got to see his sister, the better. 

Leaving Honda heartbroken after the news about his sister, Jounouchi rode the bus to the institute where he’d pick her up. Heh, he couldn’t imagine Honda’s troubles with girls - Miho had rejected him, and now he apparently had a crush on Shizuka. Jounouchi hadn’t laughed at his friend when Miho refused to go out with him, but he didn’t see the necessity of dating girls yet.  

He was too busy with his job, his school and his situation at home, not to mention everything involving Shizuka. Her future was more important; the girls would follow later. He grinned to himself, though his good mood dwindled rapidly when he noticed Shizuka at the gates of the institute with someone next to her. What the hell is he doing here? 


“Onii-chan!” She flailed with her arms in his direction, and he quickly embraced her, hugging her close. It hadn’t escaped him that she’d been holding hands with Otogi before he called out her name, and he shot him an irritated look. 

Domino City’s well-renowned playboy showed him a perfect smile and even a thumbs-up sign. He’d shared a few classes with Jounouchi before dropping out and resuming his education with private tutoring, as he’d been too busy with his store and game designing to follow the regular school program. Jounouchi disliked him; he knew enough of the guy to not see him as the perfect boyfriend for Shizuka.
“So, where’s your fan club?” he snarled at the other. 

“Onii-chan!” Shizuka sputtered, shocked. 

Otogi raked a hand through his dark hair, twirling a lock around his finger. “I’ve given up all the girls and fame to be with your sister, Jounouchi. Shizuka’s the best thing that’s happened to me in all my life, and who cares for some dumb fan girls when they’ve found true love?” 

“True love?” Jounouchi parroted. “Don’t make me laugh. You’re not the type to be swooned by even the concept of true love.” 

“Onii-chan, don’t fight,” Shizuka pleaded. “Ryuuji took the day off especially for us…!” 

“He did, huh? That’s very kind of him, but unnecessary,” Jounouchi answered rudely. “Come on, Shizuka, we’re going home.” 

“Not so fast, Jounouchi,” Otogi interrupted. “I promised Shizuka to take her to the park, and you’re…more than welcome to come with us. We can have dinner together in the evening?” 

He was about to say something scathing when he caught Shizuka’s hopeful and enthusiastic look on her face. Jounouchi wanted to protest, but it melted away as she smiled at him, nudging him a little at his elbow. 

“Oh, all right,” he grumpily agreed. Shizuka clasped her hands and chirped with joy. He could stomach Otogi’s presence for her and for her only.  

“Let’s go, then!” Otogi suggested. “We would’ve called you about our plans, Jounouchi, but since you don’t have a cell phone…” 

“Too bad, I presume,” he bit back, having already noticed that the other was wearing designer clothes. His paper job barely enabled him to pay for his tuition and the occasional sandwich. Otogi chuckled and possessively took Shizuka’s hand. The moment they started walking, Jounouchi looked behind him. Am I really getting paranoid? He didn’t have that strong feeling of being followed like before, but still… 


“Yeah…yeah, I’m coming.”  


It started to rain soon after they left the park. Jounouchi was bored to death, but Shizuka enjoyed it immensely. It made his stomach boil with helpless anger when seeing her so happy while she was listening to the sounds of everyone around her, her imagination filling in the missing images. It’s not fair. Damnit!  

“Onii-chan!” She kept calling him, trying to involve him and he grudgingly obliged - he wanted to make her happy, and if he needed to be Otogi’s best friend for it…so be it, but it wasn’t by choice. He didn’t like him talking about his business success and how everything seemed to come on his path at the right time. Meanwhile, Otogi kept holding onto Shizuka’s hand, and whenever he didn’t look, they’d exchange a quick kiss.  

Sickening, really, but Jounouchi shoved his hands in his pockets and decided to not give into his childish desire of beating Otogi up. The game designer suggested a fancy restaurant for dinner and when Jounouchi protested, he gallantly offered to pay for him. If there was something Jounouchi hated the most, it was charity, especially when it was ‘offered’ to him like this. He had no choice, though; he didn’t have enough money on him to pay for it himself, suggesting going somewhere else had Otogi’s veto and he didn’t want to escalate the situation. Annoyed, he went with Otogi and Shizuka to the restaurant. He was used to eating an awful lot of food, but as he didn’t want to run up the bill, he contented himself with a few sushi rolls. 

“Aren’t you eating any more, onii-chan?” Shizuka asked in surprise as he described his plate to her. 

“I’m not that hungry, Shizuka,” he said, the lie easily slipping over his lips. 

“Your sister told me about how much you can wolf down,” Otogi chuckled. “Are you really sure those rolls are enough for you?” 

Jounouchi glared at him. He was going to have a private conversation with Otogi later, oh yes. If there was one thing he hated even more, it was people rubbing salt in the wound. 

As soon as dinner was over, Jounouchi suggested that they go home, as it was getting late. Draping her coat around her shoulders, he waited for Shizuka to say goodbye to Otogi and he casually looked around. The restaurant was in the middle of a fancy shopping street, with stores way above his usual budget. The street lanterns were lit, the rain drizzling from the sky, and no one in sight but a few late shoppers and some people looking for a place to eat.  

Jounouchi narrowed his eyes.  

He hadn’t shaken that feeling of being followed completely, and wasn’t that Bakura he saw? He couldn’t imagine the shy kid from school in an area like this. The kid had told him he always went straight home after school, spending the rest of the day in the apartment his father bought for him. Jounouchi vaguely remembered Bakura telling him something about his old man being an archaeologist, but like so many other things, it had gone in one ear and out the other. 

Even stranger was Bakura’s company. Jounouchi couldn’t make it out from this distance, but there was another guy with him, with the weirdest hairdo he’d ever seen. It looked spiky, gravity-defying, and generally so absurd that he was convinced it was some kind of wig. The other had remarkably dark skin, an even stranger combination with his blond hair, and he was wearing some kind of metal around his arms and neck; as it was dark, Jounouchi couldn’t really see exactly what. Weird. Oh well, he’d just found something to pick on Bakura about the next Monday.  

“Onii-chan, are you coming?” Shizuka asked. 

“Yeah, sure!” he answered, looking over his shoulder once more. Bakura looked different. Something with his hair, but what exactly?  

“You know those guys?” Otogi suddenly asked. 

“One of them is in my class,” Jounouchi mumbled. “I don’t know the other one.” 

“They give me the creeps,” Otogi answered and he sounded serious. For once, Jounouchi didn’t mock him - they gave him the creeps too. He wondered briefly if it was Bakura who was following him. Still, if he did, the kid would be too smart to just show himself so openly like that, wouldn’t he? It simply didn’t make sense. Bakura didn’t say more than two words in a class, kept to the background and was even embarrassed at the notion of the fan club some of the girls had created for him. It just didn’t make any sense. 

“Let’s go home,” he said. Two against two, if it came to fighting. He didn’t have the slightest clue about Otogi’s fighting abilities, but Bakura would go down in a breeze - Jounouchi had seen him at PE, and the kid already keeled over when catching a ball. 

“Are you going to show us some movies, onii-chan?” 

He gritted at the ‘us’ in her words, which meant that Otogi would come along to their place. He didn’t like to show his apartment to anyone else. He’d cleaned a bit, but still - it was in a rundown neighborhood and no one cared about the maintenance. Shizuka couldn’t see it and probably wouldn’t care in the least, but Otogi would have more ammunition to shoot him down with. Grumbling, he stuffed his hands in his jacket once again and startled listing the movies he could show. One big advantage with the Internet was the availability of movies; Jounouchi didn’t care that he was downloading things illegally and he’d built up quite a library this way.  

Otogi added his two cents about the movie titles and promised Shizuka to tell her all about it if they’d ended up watching a movie. 

“We can also play a game,” he continued talking. “There are lots of games especially adjusted to the visually impaired. Card games, for example, or dice…” 

It was really getting dark now. Where was that bus stop? Jounouchi half-heartedly listened to Otogi, getting fed up with his smooth talk and Shizuka’s swooning replies. Three is a crowd, he thought bitterly, feeling immediately guilty that he wasn’t happy for Shizuka’s happiness. She was obviously in love with that guy, who was he to criticize it?  

“Shizuka, we can…” His voice trailed off. 

“What, onii-chan? I want to go home…it’s so cold.” 

“Too cold, actually,” Otogi muttered. They were standing still, in complete darkness. There wasn’t even a lantern pole to be seen, even though they just walked over a rather enlightened street. With no bystanders around to ask, Jounouchi felt it in his bones that something was very, very off. 

“Who’s there?” he suddenly cried out, startling both Shizuka and Otogi. The latter tightened his grip on Shizuka, who huddled in her coat, quietly asking what was going on. 


“Who’s there?” 

“We have to find the bus stop,” Otogi said, shooting nervous glances left and right. Shizuka hung onto his arm, her eyes blind to their surroundings, but instinctively picking up on their fear and anxiety. 

“Where are we? Are we lost?”  

“Poor little sheep.” 

“Who’s there?” Jounouchi asked again. He took a relaxed stance, moving his feet a little apart, balling his fists. He was ready for action whenever necessary. “Show yourself!” 

A drawn-out cackle was his answer, followed by a different, deeper, boisterous chuckle. The sound approached them, and finally he heard footsteps. Jounouchi braced himself. The footsteps sounded regular; no one was running towards them, and the darkness seemed to light up a little - as if it moved away from whoever approaching. 

“Poor little sheep.”  

“Bakura?” Jounouchi asked, flabbergasted. It was Bakura, and he looked creepily different.  

His hair was wilder, spiked up, the bone white strands pointing in all directions. He was wearing a simple light blue jacket with a blue and white striped shirt under it, combined with faded blue jeans. He should have been shivering from the cold, but the temperature didn’t seem to affect him. Jounouchi’s eyes went wide when he saw what else Bakura was wearing - some kind of golden pendant, brightly glowing, in the shape of a circle. The triangle in the middle of the circle bore a stylized eye similar to the one on the puzzle piece he’d stolen, and the prongs attached to the circle rattled faintly. 

“Look what I found,” he said slowly. “Bait.” 

“What the hell is going on?” Jounouchi demanded. “Why do you look so funny?” 

“Heh, he thinks you look funny.” The second person, the same Jounouchi had seen before, became visible, the darkness moving away from him as if he was parting a sea. It looked more to Jounouchi like the strange shadows were afraid of this person who casually came to stand next to Bakura. He was slightly taller, though that effect was exaggerated by his wild hairstyle.  

“Who are you people? What do you want from us?” Otogi asked. 

Jounouchi gaped at the boy standing next to Bakura. His sharp eye already caught the foreign object in the other’s hand; a rod of some sort with a sphere on top of it, carrying the same eye as on Bakura’s pendant. The sphere had a sharp wing on each side and the whole thing looked preposterous to Jounouchi - but the eye was disturbingly familiar, and he was starting to feel rather ill. Fuck I’m screwed. 

“Nothing,” Bakura answered. “Nothing but a few answers…then we’ll decide whether to let you go, to let you live, or to let you…well, die.” 

Otogi wrapped his arms protectively around Shizuka, who softly whimpered. She huddled close to her boyfriend, shivering. 

The blond stranger tilted his head and licked his lips rather vulgarly. “Mmm… pretty,” he said, his eyes locking on Shizuka. 

“Don’t even think about it,” Jounouchi said, growling. “You don’t scare us with your stupid trinkets. Go home, Bakura.” 

“Why are you so mean to Master Host? I don’t think so,” Bakura answered. “I’m not interested in you. You’re trivial.” 

“Master Host? What the fuck are you talking about?” 

“It would go above your head, so I won’t even try to explain it to you,” Bakura said dryly.  

“There are powers existing in this world that go way beyond your imagination. Look at you, pitifully waving your fists, as if you think you can do something that will hurt us?” 

“I’m damned good with my fists,” Jounouchi snarled. “Not many have walked away on two legs after I was finished with them.” 

“What’s taking so long?” The other spoke up. “You promised I could have them, Bakura.” 

“In a minute, Malik,” Bakura said. “First, I want my answers, then they’re all yours.” 

“Over my dead body,” Jounouchi retorted. 

“Yes, exactly…” The one called Malik looked very pleased with Jounouchi’s shown aggression, and licked his lips again. 

“The kid with the Sennen Puzzle. You know him. Where is he?” 

Yuugi? “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about…!” 

“You know him as Mutou Yuugi,” Bakura said, his voice dangerously edgy. “Master Host knows this via other classmates. They have seen him with the golden box. The Holy Container! Where is it, where is he?” 

“I’m not a fucking tourist office!” Jounouchi cried out, repeating what he previously yelled at Mahaado. It was a déjà vu, and his gut was telling him that it was a bad déjà vu. 

Otogi looked confused. “Mutou Yuugi? That kid from the Ga…” 

“He’s a nobody!” Jounouchi interrupted him, drowning his voice out. “If this is some kind of joke, Bakura, it’s certainly not funny! Now get lost before I get really mad!” 

“Do try your best,” Bakura answered, the light from his pendant still bright. “You don’t impress us, Jounouchi. Where’s the kid?” 

Fortunately, Otogi didn’t speak again, and Jounouchi shook his head.  

“He left school. I don’t know where he is. Too bad, you have to fucking find him on your own.” 

“Aww,” Malik said. “No cooperation?” 

Bakura hissed. “I need that Puzzle. You’re going to bring me to him.” 

“No way,” Jounouchi refused. “You can find him for yourself. Try a phone book.” He didn’t need the eerie glow of Bakura’s pendant and the shadows dancing on his face to figure out that something was terribly wrong with his classmate; he almost looked possessed. But even if he was, it didn’t matter; Shizuka was his only concern. He needed to protect Shizuka, he needed to get them all out of here. 

Bakura took a few steps forward, followed by his sinister ‘friend’. Malik chuckled low in his throat, both his hands on that strange object with the eye, holding onto it possessively.  

“I like it when they don’t cooperate. I can make them cooperate…” 

“Soon,” Bakura said casually. “Last chance, Jounouchi. You can get your friends out of here alive if you just tell me where the kid is…I only need his Puzzle…” 

I wonder what he’d say if I told him the Puzzle was incomplete. I don’t think he knows…He opened his mouth to divulge that piece of information, but decided against it the very last moment. Whatever he was going to say, they wouldn’t walk out of here alive. Bakura didn’t have any intention to have them walk away alive; Malik hadn’t protested against his words even though Bakura obviously had promised him some fun. 

“I don’t know where he is,” Jounouchi repeated and his hand went to Shizuka’s arm. If they needed to run, he would take the lead. He knew this area, even though it was harder to find his way around with this strange darkness…that seemed to come from the other two. 

“Fine, we’ll find them on our own,” Bakura heaved an irritated sigh. His lips curled in a devilish grin, showing a very sharp canines. “They’re all yours, if you want to have some fun.” 

“Run!” Jounouchi yelled, immediately turning around, grabbing Shizuka with him - and was frozen the same second.   

“Onii-chan!” Shizuka cried out. 

“Jounouchi! What’s wrong with you?” Otogi sounded panicked. Jounouchi tried to move, but he couldn’t. He had thought that it was for the better to run, as Bakura and Malik seemed to have powers - because of their strange artifacts or not - and from his experience with Mana and Mahaado, he knew physical force was futile. He gritted his teeth, the only thing he could do in his state, and was overwhelmed with an urge to…kill. That’s what you want. It has always been inside of you, a voice echoed through his mind. Give into it, Jounouchi. You know you can’t resist. You want to put your hands around her soft little neck. Look at her, bleating like a poor little lost sheep. Abandoned by her mother, her father, her brother. Won’t you help her out of her misery? 

Jounouchi found he suddenly had control over his body again, but not completely - like a puppet on a string, he awkwardly turned around again to face Shizuka and Otogi. 

“Jounouchi! What’s wrong with you, man?” 

“Onii-chan…Ryuuji, what’s going on?” 

Do you hear how she calls for him, not you? She doesn’t want you near. She calls him Ryuuji and she laughs at him, not at you. You hate him, don’t you? Oooh, he’ll be next…but first, he has to watch how his beloved dies. You want her to die, don’t you? She’ll sing for you, a beautiful song, as long as you want, as high as you want. 

“Jounouchi! What’s wrong with you! Get a grip!” 

He couldn’t resist. The voice in his head, this overpowering urge to feel flesh between his fingers, to feel the fear, to hear the cries…his body moved on its own, his vision was strangely unfocused, but still he could see everything. He realized he was moving towards Shizuka, hands reaching for her. My own sister! There was nothing he could do to stop it. He registered the abhorred look on Otogi’s face, who tried to yank Shizuka away, and he heard laughing, close to the left of him. 

“What’s gotten into you? She’s your sister! Jounouchi!” 

He heard a high-pitched scream, and then Shizuka’s voice, pleading. She called his name, finally she’s calling for me, but she’s too late, too late for everything. The voice all but sung in his head, urging him on. Jounouchi was aware that he was forcing his hands around her neck, convinced he was going to kill her, strangle her to death - and he couldn’t care less.  

There was this little voice in the back of his mind, howling, begging him to stop. She’s your sister. The one you swore to protect from everything and everyone... your whole future revolves around her. What are you doing! Was this Otogi’s voice, or his own? Why were all these voices in his head, and why was he listening to any of them? He was Jounouchi Katsuya, he had a voice on his own. He’d made his own decisions for so long, he knew who he was, who his friends were, who his sister was…and yet he was standing here with his hands around her neck. 

Too much noise. He wanted to cry and to laugh at the same time; he wanted to run away and stand still. Fight it! Otogi’s voice, that was for sure. She’s your sister! Your sister! My sister! His own voice chimed in, reminding him what he was doing. The third voice, the unknown voice was fading away, slowly, too slowly…he heard Shizuka cry, he knew she was prying at his hands, and yet it still felt as if he was detached, watching from a sideline. He could still hear the laughing, echoing in his mind, malice and venom dripping off of it.  

Whatever they had done to him, he wouldn’t give in to this - he was stronger than anything they tried to pull off, and Jounouchi forced himself to loosen his grip on his sister’s neck, horror overtaking his earlier urge to hurt and kill. No one… no one can make me hurt my sister! It was just in a blink of an eye, but the bloodcurdling scream he heard wasn’t his, nor Shizuka’s, and it broke whatever spell held him in his power. Jounouchi stepped backwards, almost tumbling to the floor.  

“Otogi!” he yelled. The game designer was holding his side, blood dripping over his fingers. Blood? He looked just as surprised as Jounouch was bewildered about the whole situation, and his mouth opened for another cry of pain, when suddenly his eyes widened and he fell to his knees. 


Shizuka  was crying, calling for her brother between sobs, shifting from one foot to another, literally left in the dark. She couldn’t see, couldn’t understand what was going on, and she kept prying at her own throat as if she could still feel Jounouchi’s fingers around them.  

“Delicious,” a voice spoke, drifting through the shadows. Jounouchi recognized it immediately - it was the same voice that had spoken in his mind. 

“Pretty pretty blood….too slow, too much noise, too short…” 

Jounouchi looked around him, eyes darting back and forth. This…supernatural darkness or whatever it was was still surrounding them, blocking anything from his view. Otogi was lying on the ground, the clothes on his back slashed open. He’d barely had the time to realize what was happening to him; whatever God there was, he had shown mercy to Otogi to have him die before the pain would settle in. 

Jounouchi had once thought that he’d witnessed his father die, as the man had slumped to the floor, collapsing into a heap. He’d been nothing but a kid at the time, a boy around seven, and he had bawled his eyes out. He learned soon enough that his father had passed out from too much alcohol and the next time it happened, he’d stepped over his father as he lay somewhere drunk on the floor. 

This was death. Otogi had died, stabbed to death…and when Jounouchi looked up, he saw Malik hovering over his victim, his artifact in his hand and…turned into a dagger. It was a sharp blade, and long enough to slash through clothing and…he didn’t want to think about it, but he was sure Otogi’s lungs had been punctured. Quickly, Jounouchi grabbed Shizuka’s wrists, trying to pull her close. She immediately started to fight, kicking her feet, too confused and too upset to recognize her brother. 

“How boring. You said you could keep them alive and torture them for hours, Malik!” 

“He was noisy. I hate the fucking noise! Shut the fuck up!” 

Bakura appeared again, his pendant still glowing. “Interesting that he could withstand the influence of the Rod,” he said, baring his sharp teeth again. “You would’ve proven interesting, but I’ve got other things to do. Have fun with them, Malik. Just don’t make a mess like you did with that blond chick, all right?” 

“She was feisty,” Malik said, grinning like a loon. “I like ‘em feisty…” He turned towards Shizuka. 

“You bastard…” Jounouchi wanted to say more, but suddenly Bakura backed away, looking around him as if he was hearing something. Even Malik stopped dead in his tracks, the dagger still in his hand. 

“What is it, Bakura?” 

“Something just entered…” Bakura looked confused and insecure for one split second, then growled. “Finish them off! We have to leave soon-” 

Before Malik could respond, something purple flew past him, knocking him over with such force that he lost his grip on the artifact.  

“Idiot!” Bakura yelled, slightly panicked, and his fingers clutched around his pendant. “You can’t get me here! Are you really that foolish, to challenge the one who rules the Shadows?”

Jounouchi wrapped both his arms around Shizuka, the girl going limp in his arms, tired of fighting.  


“Shizuka, we have to run,” he whispered. His view was blocked when the purple figure came to stand in front of him, his back turned. It was a humanoid shaped form, clad in some kind of armor, holding a tall staff in its right hand, pointing it directly at Bakura. It was distracting the other more than enough to forsake his grip on the shadows around them, and Jounouchi noticed how he could make out the faint outlines of their surroundings once again. There was the street, the pavement… he tugged at Shizuka. 

“We have to run, now,” he insisted. “Hurry, hurry!” 


“Shizuka, come on! We have to run, now!” 

“Ryuuji! We can’t go without him!”  

“He’s dead! Come on!” 

“Wh…” She couldn’t even protest as he forcefully dragged her away, tearing his eyes away from Otogi’s body on the street. He started to run, forgetting that Shizuka neither had his stamina nor could hold up with his pace, and he dragged her along with him. From the corner of his eyes he could see Malik lying halfway on the pavement, the dagger out of his hands, a few meters away. For a brief moment, Jounouchi considered grabbing it, but quickly decided against it. He couldn’t care less if Malik was dead or not, but he didn’t want anything to do with those strange items, the Sennen things as Bakura had called them…and Bakura was a riddle for another time, now he needed to bring them into safety. 

Jounouchi couldn’t think of any other place where they were safe than the Game Shop. No cop in the world would believe his story about his possessed classmate that wielded a weird pendant with an eye on it and teamed up with an even crazier kid who killed in cold blood. Not knowing exactly why he was running into that direction, Shizuka crying and calling his name as she was dragged along, but he knew he was safe there.  

“Onii-chan, I can’t…!” Shizuka suddenly let herself fall to the floor, her legs unable to carry her any longer. Jounouchi almost lost his grip on her hand and he turned around, gathering his sister in his arms. 

“Just hold on a little longer, please,” he begged her. The Game Shop wasn’t that far from here, and in his panicked and confused mind it was the only place sticking out to him. He didn’t even consider going to his own home nor to Shizuka’s - he wanted to go to the Game Shop, as if little Yuugi could protect them somehow. He would worry about everything later; they had to be safe first. 

“Ryuuji…” she sobbed. “Onii-chan, what happened? We have to go back for him…” 

“There’s nothing we can do for him now, Shizuka,” Jounouchi said, patting her on the shoulders as she clung to him. “Not now…” Not ever. 

“Is he…is he really dead? I heard him scream…it was horrible…!” 


“He can’t be dead!” She started crying loudly, more tears spilling over her cheeks. He didn’t want her to go into shock, and gently coaxed her along, pace above walking speed, to get her away from the scene as far as possible. They didn’t seem to be followed right now, for which he was extremely thankful - anything more happening this night and they wouldn’t both survive. He almost counted their steps, mentally calculating how far they were away from the Game Shop, and his relief was apparent when he finally saw the quaint building.  


Timeline III, known universe: Domino City, Japan 

Cold. Wet. His hair started to turn damp from the continuous drizzle of rain, and the wind tugged at his shenti, the fabric too thin for this type of weather. His cloak was all that was keeping him warm and he tried to wrap it around himself as much as possible. The slippers on his feet were already soiled by mud from the garden he was trespassing in, twigs snapping and leaves crumbling as he walked, searching for that weak light he saw earlier. 

The hunger pains were worsening by the second; he was using the last of his strength to even move, to put his one foot in front of the other, forcing himself with pure willpower to stand upright and walk. He was approaching the light, his thoughts wrapped in prayers to the Gods for food, dry clothing, people…if there were any people, he could ask them where he was, what was going on. Even if they didn’t know all the answers, they would be able to give him at least some kind of information, wouldn’t they? Pushing some low-hanging branches out of the way, he made his way through what he thought was a garden, finally ending up on some kind of path…a path filled with pebbles. Too distracted by the hunger pains to feel his hurting feet, he stumbled towards the light, which was shining from some kind of dwelling. 

It was made out of wood, the planks dripping from the steadily increasing rain. He searched for a door, finding it on the north side, and he banged his hand on the door, barely realizing he was crying out in his native language, to please open up. There was no answer. Desperately, he tried the door handle himself, and to his relief, it opened immediately. His luck would be more complete if he would find something to eat, and he smiled in deep gratitude when he saw the Gods hadn’t left him, after all. The shed - there were all kinds of tools here, and nothing indicated any inhabitation - was also room to a rickety table and a chair, and on the table was some kind of box and a strange looking goblet in screaming red and yellow colors.  

Quickly he went to the table, opening the box. There was bread inside, and forgetting all his manners, he hastily took a few large bites, so hasty that he almost choked. The funny goblet had a large cap onto it and when he took it off, its content revealed to be milk. Gratefully drinking, he sat down, relief evident on his face. He was so occupied by his food that he failed to notice two pairs of curious eyes, carefully watching him.  


Yami wasn’t so sure what he was supposed to be thinking. For millennia, he’d been trapped in a golden object, and for the first time since millennia, he had possession of a body again, able to walk and move around as much as he wanted to, to pick up things himself, to turn on the TV if he wanted to…he felt strangely naked despite being clothed, and strangely out of balance.  

After Mana had left and Yuugi rushing after her, apparently having forgotten something to ask, he had wandered around the apartment while Anzu had gone to the kitchen to fix them some tea, simply finding ways to pass the time and grow more used to his new body. 

Yami stood in front of the large bookcase, the large volumes on history immediately catching his attention. Was all this talk about timelines true? Did he believe them, those two who bore such uncanny resemblance to two monsters from a popular card game? He should believe them, after all he’d seen involving the Sennen Items - the memory of Pegasus and his Eye was still fresh. Curiously, he reached for a book and plucked it from the shelf, opening it. It felt so…heavy in his arms. 

“Mou hitori no…I mean, Yami,” Anzu said as she entered the study, carrying two cups of tea. It didn’t surprise her that he was standing in front of a bookcase, with a large book on Ancient Pharaohs in his hands. 

“Anzu,” he said, closing the book and returning it to its place on the shelf. “Ah, tea.” 

“I thought we both could use something warm,” she said. Her stomach was a little unsettled from the warm and spicy food she had for lunch, but it was nothing worrisome. She glanced out the window - it was raining. She moved to sit on the windowsill, patting next to her for him to sit down. 

“How do you feel?” 

“I feel…awkward,” he said as his fingers fumbled for the tea cup. “When I was still sharing aibou’s body, everything came so naturally to me. It is like I have to learn everything all over again.” 

“Still, it’s a great opportunity,” Anzu said, smiling over the rim of her cup to him.  

“That is true,” he agreed, blowing at the hot liquid. “I am curious as to how long this spell will remain, though.” 

“Let’s just…not think about that already.” She placed a hand on his knee, keeping her gaze focused on him. 

“You are right,” he said. “Let just think about the matters at hand for now.” 

“Are you going to run off to save the world again?” 

He looked a little quizzically at her, then down at her hand lying on his knee, but he didn’t comment on it.  

“If that is what is expected of me, I will do so, Anzu. I am here to find my name and my memories, and to save the world from destruction.” 

“You already went through so much,” she said, her fingers tracing idle patterns on the fabric of his pants. “And according to Mana, there’s even more awaiting you.” 

“If I am truly a Pharaoh…then I will face what is awaiting me with pride and dignity,” he said, sipping his tea. “I cannot sit down and watch idly while others do the fighting.” 

“You’ve already fought so much. Duelist Kingdom…” 

He looked at her, crimson red eyes unreadable. “I would not have gotten this far without you,” he said. 

“You’re a Pharaoh,” she said, smiling as she put her teacup down, barely emptied. “You’ll face whatever challenge that’s on your path and you’ll conquer them all.” 


He was about to answer, but Anzu had closed the distance between them and softly kissed him, her lips barely brushing his, tasting the tea he’d just been drinking. 


She immediately pulled back, cheeks flushed, and shook her head, sending her dark bangs flying.  

“It’s nothing, I just wanted to do that,” she said, immediately grabbing her cup of tea again to have something to hold onto. Yami brought his fingers to his lips, tracing the outline as if he wanted to seal her kiss into them. She lowered her eyes, waiting for the rejection to come.  

They’d never spoken about this with each other before…the few times they had interacted had been during Duelist Kingdom. He was occupied by the tournament, and she hadn’t found the opportunity to talk to him about this - the situation never adequate to pull him aside and talk to him in private.  

Had she just ruined any chance she had? Had she thrown away the rest of her own dignity by just kissing him out of the blue?  

As he remained silent, her hopes started to wither away. She took another sip of her tea, almost burning her tongue. It was too stupid to even think of.  

“Anzu,” he finally spoke. 

“No, Yami, it’s fine,” she hurriedly said, not looking him directly in the eyes. Shivering lightly, as if the temperature had considerably dropped, she remained sitting on the windowsill, enjoying the other’s company. As no other answer came, Anzu knew enough and she stared at her cup of tea, a silence settling over them, though not uncomfortable.  


Yuugi was on his way back to the living room when a door on his right opened and Mahaado came out, tugging at his robes as if huddling close to them. He looked troubled, but he schooled his face in a carefully neutral expression when he saw Yuugi. 

“Prince,” he simply said. 

“Mahaado,” Yuugi greeted him, “I hope you rested well?” 

He nodded affirmatively, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Yes, I was able to get a little rest. Has my Apprentice left you all by yourself?” 

“Mana-chan had work to do,” Yuugi said. “I was on my way back to the living room.” 

“Let us go there, it will be much more comfortable and warm in the living room than standing in the hallway.” 

Yuugi walked quietly with him, curiosity on his mind. “Mana-chan told us about two timelines that still needed to be restored,” he struck up a conversation. “She said one was an Ancient Egypt…” 

“She told you too much already,” Mahaado interrupted him, growling. He quickly bowed to him. “Forgive me, Prince. I thought that my Apprentice was aware enough of the situation to not divulge that kind of information with you, out of fear of…” 

“Not disturbing the timelines anymore,” Yuugi finished his sentence. “Don’t worry, she told me barely enough to even try to imagine what the timeline could be.” Our Pharaoh there is hard and evil. It was hard on him to believe it - but he blindly trusted Mana’s honesty, as he had felt safe and comfortable in both Mana’s and Mahaado’s presence. He believed them on their word, no matter how fantastic their stories might be. 

The tall magician clicked with his tongue, not amused at all, but he didn’t comment on it. Yuugi looked up at him, his eyes wide and questioning. Mahaado noticed, and a little reluctantly, he asked what Yuugi’s question might be. 

“I just…I just wanted to know what the other timeline was,” he said, suddenly halted as Mahaado made no further movement as to open the door to the living room. Yuugi blinked a few times as the other lowered his head, sighing gravely.  

“Prince, in that timeline, your Puzzle was never completed. That world is doomed.” 

“Oh…” Yuugi knew Mahaado was telling him too much already, just like Mana had said. His hand went to his chest to touch the familiar chain where the Item would be dangling from -  a shot of panic surged through him when he realized it wasn’t there until it dawned him that Yami was the one wearing it. Smiling sheepishly, he waited for Mahaado to open the door, but the words came softly as if he didn’t have any control over it. 

“How could that be? Jii-chan took the Puzzle with him from Egypt, and brought it to Domino, where I solved it…was it…was it because of me that it was never solved?” 

“I am sorry, Prince,” Mahaado said. “It was because of Jounouchi Katsuya, who took a piece of the Puzzle away and threw it into a swimming pool. As such, the Puzzle was never completed, denying the Pharaoh from coming into that world, and the events were twisted and torn beyond repair.” 

“Jounouchi-kun…” Yuugi was baffled. He could recall it all to well, the time when he still went to school with lead in his stomach and feeling awkward and outcast, way before he would be friends with the others. Jounouchi had been nothing short of a bully, together with Honda, and they’d picked on Yuugi a lot. One day, Jounouchi had mocked him and teased Yuugi about the golden box he brought with him to school, to solve the puzzle in it during recess. He suddenly made the link between him missing the center piece just before he was about to finish it - and how his grandfather had given it to him, telling him that a ‘friend’ had stopped by, soaking wet, to deliver the piece. Jounouchi had thrown it in the swimming pool? 

“If it is any consolation, Prince, he isn’t the same Jounouchi there as you know him here. Unlike in this timeline, he never left that gang of bullies, and never joined you in friendship.” 

“I can’t believe it…” 

“I am upsetting you,” Mahaado said. “Enough has been told. For everybody’s sake, I will not talk about the other timelines any longer. We…” His voice suddenly hitched. Yuugi quickly looked up as he’d been crestfallen about this other Jounouchi, aware of the magician blacking out for a moment. Just like before, he thought, before Mahaado had cast the spell to separate him and his Other…Yami. 

“Are you all right?” he asked. He could bring Mahaado back to his bedroom for some more rest, and he was about to suggest it when he forcefully shook his head. 

“I am fine, Prince. It is just…something about this timeline that sets me off every now and then. I do not know why…when we arrived here, I thought this was the untainted, perfect timeline we were searching for, so we could work from here to restore the others. Something is still…outside of this world and I cannot figure out why or what.” 

“Let’s sit down for a moment,” Yuugi urged him, afraid the tall man would fall over again. He hadn’t been resting for that long, and it was obvious how much everything was taxing him. Mahaado opened the door and they entered the living room. 

Yuugi beamed at Yami and Anzu who were sitting in the windowsill, enjoying a cup of tea. It wasn’t only for his own curiosity that he’d gone after Mana, but also to leave Anzu and Yami alone. He wasn’t blind; he knew what his best friend was feeling for his Other. His Other. 

“Mmm, tea!” he said. 

“There’s enough left,” Anzu said, returning a brilliant smile though it didn’t reach her eyes, and she jumped off the windowsill. 

“Oh, I’ll get it!” Yuugi reached the white porcelain tea-set simultaneously with her, but Anzu was a little faster, already holding the large teapot up. Lowering her head, she proceeded to pour two cups, one for him and one for Mahaado. Yuugi looked at her quizzically as she held her head angled away from him…was she on the verge of crying? 

When she handed him the cup, he noticed that Yami had come to stand close to him, whereas Mahaado sat down in his seat again. Anzu smiled rather faintly and went to bring him a cup, turning her back to Yuugi. 

Confused, he glanced at Yami. His Other’s expression hadn’t changed, not knowing what was going on, Yuugi went with him to the large table, taking a seat themselves. 

“I thank you,” Mahaado said as soon as Anzu handed him the cup. 

“You’re welcome,” she replied and refilled her own as well, pointedly skipping over Yami. She sat down as well, and the only sound for a moment was the stirring of the teaspoons. 

“Have you called home?” 

“Yes, we told them that we were staying at a friend’s for the night,” Anzu answered. “My parents don’t mind much, and Yuugi’s grandfather was fine with it as well. I texted Jounouchi that he didn’t need to worry, and that we’d tell him all about it later.” 

“He’ll be pretty mad if he knew what kind of adventure he’s missing,” Yuugi said, sipping his tea. 

“This is not really an adventure,” Mahaado objected. “My Apprentice and I will do the work of restoring the timelines, and make sure that nothing happens to you in the meantime.” 

“Mana left to attend to…some business,” Anzu spoke up, not knowing that Yuugi already had informed him. “I hope she will return soon.” 

“She will,” Mahaado said with confidence in his voice. “She is strong and she knows what she has to do to restore the timeline in question.” 

“And what is that?” Yami asked, as he saw an opening to learn more about these timelines and the situation at hand. Mahaado gave him a pained look, berating himself mentally for his slip of the tongue. 

“She needs to restore an Ancient Egypt timeline,” he chose his words carefully. “The jump to there is easier for her to make as we both have ties to Ancient Egypt, of course. It was not necessary for the both of us to go. She has to do this...alone.” 

“How sad,” Anzu said, not liking how Mahaado had spoken his last sentence. “Intervening so drastically, all alone.” 

“How can an Ancient Egypt timeline be disturbed? That is such a long time ago,” Yami said, exchanging a look with Yuugi. He didn’t pay that much attention to classes when they were at school, but by visiting the museum and listening to the history teacher as an exception, he knew that the era of Ancient Egypt had been at least three millennia ago. 

“Believe me, it is still happening,” Mahaado answered. “New worlds are born, old world are dying when they are completed according to the Great Timeline…and every world needs their pivotal moments when they start to take shape.” 

“And solving the Puzzle…or rather, me getting sealed in the Puzzle was such an event,” Yami said. Yuugi patted him on the knee reassuringly. 

“Exactly,” Mahaado said, sipping his tea, relaxing back into the large chair. 

“What went wrong so an Ancient Egypt timeline was disturbed?” 

The magician closed his eyes, placing the cup on the low table next to his chair. This was the question he’d been dreading, and really didn’t want to answer. He could tell them again that he couldn’t divulge this information, but this was his Pharaoh. He couldn’t deny him, and he had a right to know the truth; a right to know how his loyal servant had failed him utterly. I can live with his contempt. I cannot live with this heavy heart.  

Mahaado looked away from the others and abruptly rose to his feet, crossing the distance between his chair and the window, turning his back to them. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, his guilt too much to even try to look them, his Pharaoh foremost, right in the eyes. 

“In that time…” he whispered, voice wavering. “The Mahaado of that time fled for the consequences when he accepted his vocation for Priest. He fled the Royal Palace, forsook his duties and obligations and…” 

As he fell silent, the others remained silent as well. Yami had placed his hand over Yuugi’s on his knee, and they were both squeezing. Yuugi had taken Anzu’s hand to her surprise, rubbing gently over her fingers. She was thankful for the soothing gesture and would’ve shown him a grateful smile if she wasn’t so focused on Mahaado’s story, literally sitting on the edge of her seat. 

“I was a coward!” Mahaado barked, shaking his head furiously. “I fled from the Palace, abandoning my duties and my responsibilities, leaving the others to deal with the consequences. The Mahaado of that time...I despise him!” 

“But you are not him,” Yuugi said. “You are another Mahaado, the one and only Mahaado, who is restoring timelines and making up for another one’s mistake…” 

“I hate him,” Mahaado gritted through clenched teeth, ignoring Yuugi’s words. He stared out the window, watching the last colors in the sky as the sun settled, preparing for the night. “He should never have fled. It was his cowardly behavior that disturbed the timeline and caused such grief and horror.” 

“What happened?” Anzu’s voice could barely be heard. 

“When he fled, that Mahaado took the Sennen Ring with him and disappeared, out of reach, out of sight. The King of Thieves, Bakura, was supposed to get the Ring by battling him.” 

“Bakura,” Yuugi repeated, memories of Duelist Kingdom springing to his mind. I am a thief and a stealer of souls… 

“As Bakura didn’t get the Ring, he went back to the Palace to battle the Pharaoh,” Mahaado continued. 


“The thief was killed, and the Pharaoh survived.” 

“That’s a good thing, right?” Anzu heaved a sigh of relief, this time gently squeezing Yuugi’s fingers. He immediately returned the gesture. 

“No, unfortunately not.” Mahaado stubbornly stared out the window. “It pains me very much to tell this, but the Pharaoh needs to die to save the world. In his death, he will seal the darkness with him that threatened the world. As the Pharaoh continued to live, the Sennen Puzzle started to corrupt him. Slowly, very slowly, the darkness consumed him, attacking him starting with his heart. He was strong, my Pharaoh…he really was…but even those with the strongest of minds cannot hold the darkness at bay for so many years. As he…as he continues to live, he will become an instrument of darkness like Bakura was supposed to be, thus setting the timeline off.” 

“But now that the thief is dead, Mahaado can return to the Palace, right?” Anzu asked. “And stay with the Pharaoh?” 

“No, Anzu,” Yuugi said. “The Sennen Ring was supposed to be with Bakura, but he never got it, and thus he could never initiate the other string of events leading up to the Pharaoh sacrificing himself and sealing his soul and that darkness in the Puzzle.” He glared at the Puzzle around Yami’s neck as if he could burn the darkness out of it. Never in a million years would he have thought that the Item served evil as well as good; the notion horrified him. 

“That…that means that…you have to die,” Anzu said, widening her eyes when realization settled in. “You were supposed to die for Bakura to get the Ring, and the Pharaoh…” 

“We are already dead, my Apprentice and me,” Mahaado said. “What we are is a reflection of our strong willpower and our heka keeping us alive to make up for the mistakes we made and to correct the timelines. As soon as every timeline is restored, we will cease to exist.” 

“Oh no,” Yuugi gasped, and Yami looked shocked. 

“Even if I have to die to seal any kind of darkness, I would gladly do so to save the world,” he said fiercely. “As long as I am the one to die, not anyone else…” 

“No, Yami,” Yuugi said, voice hitching. Anzu blinked furiously a few times to keep her eyes from tearing.  

“It can’t be so! There must be something we can do!” 

“The Pharaoh was never meant to live long,” Mahaado spoke up, pointedly staring at the darkening sky. “Neither was I.” 

Both Anzu and Yuugi looked at Yami, who stiffened and straightened, sitting upright. 

“The Gods have decided,” the magician said. “Fate and destiny…and we helped them along the way.” 

Yuugi pressed closer to Yami, feeling absolutely miserable. He didn’t dare to ask what had happened to the Mahaado of that time, and looking at the man standing by the window, he understood what he meant by ‘helped them along the way’. The other Mahaado, how cowardly or faulty he had been, had paid for his mistake very dearly. Anzu was crying now, and he wanted nothing but to follow her example. This all had been too much to take, and why Mahaado had told him all this after all perplexed him, unable to see or understand the man’s guilt. 

No one really cared for how much time was passing at that very moment. Arms wrapped around their shoulders, trying to offer each other comfort, the three remained seated, whispering softly words of solace, hugging every now and then. As Yami sat in the middle and he was leaning on both of them, the Puzzle dangled in between, the Item gently rocking back and forth. Yuugi didn’t know whether to hate the Item or still be proud of it. He settled on gratitude after all, because if it weren’t for the very same Puzzle, he wouldn’t have met Jounouchi, Honda, and most of all, his Other, who was sitting next to him. 

Anzu was the first to break up their circle, if only for the cramped position she was in, her back aching from leaning forward for so long. She squeezed Yuugi’s hand for the last time before standing up and searching in her purse for a handkerchief, fiercely rubbing at her face.

“I’m…I’m going to freshen up,” she said to no one in particular, almost tiptoeing around Mahaado who still stood in front of the window, unmoving. 

Yuugi stood up as well, patting Yami on the shoulder. He kept an eye on Yuugi as he went through the living room to switch on the lights. Yuugi went to Mahaado, but when he saw that the magician was completely in a trance, eyes closed and hands folded, he decided to not to disturb him. 

“Mana-chan isn’t back yet,” Yuugi spoke softly. “Maybe I can find something to eat, or we can call for take-out?” 

“Very well, aibou,” Yami agreed and stood up as well, not about to let Yuugi do all the work.  

“Let’s go to the kitchen.” 

As they left the living room, Yuugi suddenly heard someone cry. Bewildered, he searched for the source - it was Mana, smothering her sobs against Anzu’s shoulder, a wet handkerchief in her hand. 

“I…I found her like this,” Anzu said, her other arm firmly around the girl to support her. “I was in the bathroom when I heard her, and when I went into the hallway she was standing there, crying…” 

“Mana-chan…” Yuugi walked to the girl, placing his hand on her back. She flinched from the touch, but didn’t pull away. Instead, she started to bawl harder, pressing the soaked handkerchief to her face. 

“Maybe Mahaado can help her,” Yami suggested. It was obvious that the girl was extremely upset, unable to even speak up, the tears flowing like a dam that had been broken. Anzu nodded. “Yes, we better go back to the living room…what were you doing out here, anyway?” 

“We were looking for the kitchen,” Yuugi said sheepishly. “To find something to eat…” It sounded childish and spoiled compared to Mana’s apparent grief. However, Anzu nodded again.  

“As soon as she’s calmed down, I’ll call for some take-out,” she offered. “We need our strength, and we don’t help ourselves if we starve.” 

They walked back to the warm living room, holding the crying Mana in between them, trying to console her. She had stopped wailing, but there was no end to the river of tears streaming over her cheeks; Yuugi quickly gave the girl his own clean handkerchief and took the damp one away.  

“Mana-chan…will you tell us what happened?” 

“I can’t,” she managed to say between sobs. Frustrated, Yuugi gritted his teeth. Whatever had happened, it had shaken her bad, and she didn’t deserve it at all.  

“You’d better sit down and take it easy,” he told her. “We bring you something to eat, all right? You’re not going anywhere tonight…you’re staying with us.”  

Mana moved her head a little, but he couldn’t figure out if she was nodding as she turned away from him to sit down. If she already had noticed Mahaado standing in front of the window, not looking up or around him, she wasn’t commenting about it. Instead, she gratefully accepted another clean handkerchief, pressing it to her swollen, puffy eyes. Yuugi stacked a few cushions behind her back in an attempt to make the girl as comfortable as possible. Whatever happened in Ancient Egypt, it was bad enough to make her upset like this. She leaned back, shivering. 

“I’ll go get a blanket,” Anzu said, despite the temperature being rather high in the room. Yami sat down next to Mana, and didn’t comment when she grabbed his sleeve. 


“Mana,” he spoke, keeping his voice low. “Will you tell me what happened?” 

“I’m not allowed to…” 

“I am sorry,” he said and that caused another flood of tears. Helplessly, he looked at Yuugi who also was at his wit’s end. Mana tightened her grip on his sleeve, fingers clutching at the fabric. Yami couldn’t do anything but to allow it; she apparently needed that reassurance, and he wasn’t about to pull away and upset her even more. 

Both Yuugi and Yami looked up as Anzu leaned between them, draping the warm woolen blanket all over Mana.  

“Poor girl,” she said. “Your loyalty…both yours and your Master’s…will kill you.” She looked incredibly sad as she spoke, and Yuugi’s heart almost broke. He reproached himself for not thinking about that sooner, for not seeing sooner what was troubling both of them. Master and Apprentice, Black Magician and Black Magician Girl. Loyal to their Master, the Pharaoh. Yami. 

“I found the anomaly,” Mahaado suddenly said, breaking the silence. Everyone but Mana startled, having forgotten about the magician who had been quiet in his trance for so long.

Mana looked up, knees drawn to her chest, wrapped in the blanket. 


“Apprentice,” he said. “He is here, and he is in danger. We have to go, now!” 

“Wait a minute!” Yuugi exclaimed, a hint of anger to his voice. Was Mahaado really blind to his Apprentice’s grief? The girl was tear-stricken and looked pale - she needed rest, not to run off to…wherever again! Yami backed him up, not moving from Mana’s side. 

“Wait, Mahaado! Who is here, and where do you have to go to?” 

“Our Pharaoh,” Mahaado said, and his smile was genuine, warm and happy. “I finally found him. He is really, really here!” 

“Another Pharaoh?” Yuugi looked dumbfounded.  

“Really?” Mana cried out, revived. She even tried to push the blanket off, wrestling with the the slips of the large, heavy piece of fabric. 

Anzu put her hands on Mana’s shoulders. “You better sit down and rest…” 

“No! If our Pharaoh is here…he’s really here!” 

“How…how can you be so sure?” Yuugi asked. 

Mana was tired, but her smile was worth a thousand watts as she spoke up. “Master can find our Pharaoh and his every incarnation wherever he is, no matter what timeline or world. We’re connected to each other, and even though it sometimes can take a little time, Master always finds him. Always.” 

“But how can that be?” 

“That has to wait,” Mahaado interrupted. “We have to go, right now! He is in danger, and if we do not save him, all is lost!” 

“We’ll go with you,” Anzu said, taking her hands away from Mana because she was unable to stop the girl. She immediately threw off the blanket, kicking at it. She rubbed her eyes, irritating them even more. 

“We will return soon enough,” Mahaado refused sternly. “We do not know how much we endanger this timeline as we speak by having you meet the Pharaoh. We already told too much…” 

“We are going with you, end of discussion,” Yami interrupted. “Whatever version of me or another Pharaoh is out there, if he is in danger, we must help him.” 

“You’re right,” Yuugi supported him, “we can help you! You’re both exhausted, and all this is taking such a great toll on you - we’ll help!” 

“We really do not have time for this…” Mahaado hesitated, his mind running about the possibilities if he brought the two Pharaohs and Yuugi together, in a public place…but it was late in the evening, and every second he discussed and deliberated this, was one second adding more to the danger closing in on his Pharaoh. 

“We go,” he finally gave in, but not enthusiastically. “Apprentice?” 

“I’m ready, Master,” she replied, clutching her wand to her chest. Both their determination was more than apparent and despite the earlier signs of exhaustion they both moved with considerable speed, and Yuugi, Yami and Anzu had to hurry to keep up with them. 


Timeline I, Khemet 

“…which concludes the General’s report.”  

Set’s voice was neutral, as always. It would take many years of knowing the High Priest personally to discern the small hint of disdain in his voice, the aversion only audible to those who knew him very, very well. Mana picked up on it, despite not being intimate friends with Set - she had spend more than enough hours in his presence at the Court to at least tell the difference in some of his tones of voice, the way he spoke his words, to know that the High Priest was a very unhappy man.  

Aishizu was standing next to her, breathing steady and easy as usual. Mana’s previous admiration for the woman had turned into irritation. The Priestess was just standing there, her eyes staring into nothing, her Tauk resting between her collarbones, accepting everything calmly as it came. Mana felt restless, wanting to do something, to scream something…but there was nothing that she could do. She was still a Priestess at Pharaoh Atemu’s Court, and she wasn’t allowed to leave unless she was discharged by the Pharaoh himself.  

Maybe that was the only reason why Set was still here, she thought bitterly. If he were to leave the Palace, Atemu would send out troops to bring him back, forcefully if need be, just as he had done when Mahaado disappeared - but where the magician Priest could shield himself with his heka, the High Priest wouldn’t stand a chance of hiding from the efficient army.  

“Thank you,” Atemu said, his voice lower than usual, calm and composed as if absolutely nothing had happened, as if he hadn’t killed the woman his High Priest had obviously cared for.  

It had only been two days since Kisara’s lifeless body had been taken away. Mana didn’t know where the poor girl was buried, and she didn’t dare to talk to Set about it. His face was as neutral and set in stone as always, but something had changed. His eyes were glazed, not in sorrow or sadness, but in anger and hatred. His movements were brusque and his words were clipped, and he seemed more impatient than ever.  

Akunadin, his father, had been silent as usual - but now it seemed like he didn’t speak at all anymore. Karim, Shaadah and Aishizu were just completing the Court; Mana couldn’t actually remember when the Pharaoh had asked them for their advice. 

Set rolled up the papyri, dropping them to the floor, uncaring. A boyish servant quickly grabbed the papyri before it could hit the floor and carefully stored it, making sure he didn’t anger or annoy the High Priest in the process. 

“May I ask what this is all about, Great Pharaoh?” Shaadah finally spoke, though he had trouble keeping his voice calm. They had been listening all morning to reports and accounts concerning the military: how many soldiers, how many spears and maces, how soon an army could be mobilized… 

“You may ask,” Atemu answered, his hands curled around the armrests of his throne. “I will answer you.” 

The Priest nodded, the fabric of his robe slightly creased. He moved a little forward to watch his Pharaoh speak. 

“The Syrian delegates have left soon after,” Atemu said, leaving out “the death of the girl”.  

“They were going to take this news with them, and I will not allow anyone to mock the grandeur of Khemet.” 

Shaadah visibly paled, and Aishizu looked up, her Tauk glowing for a brief moment.  

“You had them killed?” she all but cried out, startling the others. 

“No message will reach their homeland, no bodies will wash ashore,” Atemu said dryly, humoring Aishizu when he saw the Priestess getting upset. “Do tell me if your Tauk is able to see their bodies float when they are weighed down by rock and stone?” 

She shook her head, clasping her hands together. “It…it doesn’t show me anything, Great Pharaoh.” 

Atemu raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean by that? You are not able to use it anymore?” 

“I…I can’t,” she whispered, wringing her hands. “It’s been like this for a while, Great Pharaoh. I can barely catch a glimpse, and it’s more difficult than ever to interpret the images.” 

“What have you been able to see?” Atemu demanded, standing up from his Throne. Akunadin and Set both looked at Aishizu, curiosity and pity mixed on their faces.  

The Priestess licked her lips before answering, anxiety audible in her voice. 

“I have seen nothing but darkness, disturbing images of blood and despair,” she spoke, averting her head as Atemu walked towards her. “Torture, fire…a disturbing future that no one wants to be a part of…” 

“Is there a war coming?” Karim asked, keeping his voice low. Mana couldn’t believe it. Pharaoh Akunamukanon had worked so hard to bring this nation to peace, to have good alliances and relations with their neighbor countries, and his son…his son was plunging Khemet into an abyss of darkness, corrupted by his Item or not - this had to stop. If the two Syrian delegates were truly dead, Syria would demand an explanation, and if they weren’t satisfied with the answer…wars had been started for less, and Khemet was a great target for plundering and looting. 

“Interesting,” was all that Atemu said, standing still. He pretended to think for a moment, then smiled and nodded to Aishizu. “We will have to work very hard in the coming days. I have no doubt some…things will escalate, and I really do not want those images Aishizu saw to become true.”  

The mad glint in his eye belied his words, just as much as his voice; there wasn’t a single shred of fear or worry in it. He’s really going to start a war, and used poor Kisara as a pawn on a chessboard. Mana refrained from growling. Her Master used to point out that she more than once failed to see the bigger picture, but this time she saw it, as clearly as if it was imprinted on her retinas. He hadn’t killed Kisara to avoid any political conflict, but to start one. He was going to bring Khemet to its demise. …there are certain events that are so drastic, so encompassing, that they influence the Great Timeline after all. Epidemics, wars, earthquakes… She shivered. 

“Court dismissed,” Atemu’s voice suddenly rang out and she startled again. It dawned to her that she had been daydreaming and apparently missed out on more information, as Aishizu seemed to have calmed down and looked in front of her, composed as always.  

“Aishizu,” she latched onto the older woman, “Aishizu, wait!” 

She turned around. “Yes, Mana?” 

“Was that…was that all you saw?” 

“Wasn’t it enough?” she asked, surprisingly bitter. “I’ve always been able to see several possible futures, and the glimpses I caught were clear and peaceful - still difficult to determine their meanings, but there was no blood, no despair, no darkness! Since the…death of Kisara I haven’t been able to see any glimpse at all. As if there’s no future at all.” 

Mana fell silent. She tried to understand Aishizu’s words, comparing them to what the other strange girl had said, about the timelines, about how certain events were so drastic that they could even set off the Great Timeline. She wanted to laugh, the notion too crazy for words, and she looked over her shoulder to where Atemu was, catching him pushing a servant rather brusquely out of his way who was about to offer him some refreshments. The tray and goblets fell to the floor, clattering. Aishizu hissed, the sounds hurting her ears.  

“I need to go lie down,” she said, voice wavering.  

“Go rest,” Mana urged her, knowing that everything had been said. There was nothing more she could find in Atemu’s favor, no matter how frantically she’d searched for that one little thing, the tiniest hint of redemption. The Sennen Puzzle had corrupted him, twisted the goodness in his heart to evil in his mind, uncaring, unfazed, uninterested. Nothing, but absolutely nothing was left of the young man she once knew, the boy she thought she knew…and she realized that she couldn’t bring him back, not now, not ever. Khemet was at the brink of an all-out war because of his actions, he had estranged his Court, alienated his High Priest and everyone around him.  

Mana expected to be called after, but nothing was said and she left the Throne Room, her hands clenching at the fabric of her dress. The hooded cloak weighed heavy on her shoulders; it hadn’t protected her from the cold this time either. Cold, silent darkness…it seemed to surround Atemu, to envelop him further each passing day. Not only had his behavior started to reflect his personality, but also the people around him were beginning to get affected. Mana had heard about riots in the city, and even closer, small skirmishes between the Palace’s personnel.  

People reacted more violently and aggravated to something small - a misunderstanding or just simply bad luck - while the servants used to solve their own problems with resignation, the origin of the problem often not worth getting worked up over. 

The lunches with the Pharaoh and all his Priests together were also abandoned, though Mana didn’t have any illusion of the tension that would rise if everyone was together at the table. The atmosphere had already been ruined, the former loyal bonds broken beyond repair. As she hurried through the large hallway, Mana wondered if Set would be able to kill his cousin and take his Throne, his Puzzle and all his power for himself - or would he be corrupted by the Item as well? Maybe he was already corrupted by the Rod, but had he been able to withstand its influence?  

“It’s the Puzzle,” her own voice whispered into her ear, and the Priestess flinched. Next to her was Mana, looking like an ordinary servant to anyone else, but bearing the same face as the Priestess. She was thankful that almost no one at the Palace had enough knowledge about heka anymore to pick up on the girl’s strong signature; that would bring more questions than the Priestess possibly could answer. 

“I’m glad you’re back,” she said, honestly. “We need to talk.” 

“I know a little of what happened. Kisara, right?” 


“It’s all right. I know how this era is supposed to be, and everything has gone wrong so far. The course of events is throwing the Great Timeline off.” 

“Please,” the Priestess whispered. “Let’s go to my room.” 

Mana nodded, bowing and taking a little distance from the other woman. Not many would think strange things of seeing the Priestess being so close with a servant, but it would be frowned upon nonetheless. Servants were treated fairly well, but not familiarly. Carrying some blankets and other linen in her arms, Mana followed her alternate self to her room, the large hallway seemingly unending. She heaved a soft sigh. It had taken her some time to replenish her heka - fortunately, not much time appeared to have passed here. She barely recognized this Khemet, wondering not for the first or for the last time how it could ever be possible that only one man could make such a difference in the course of history, influencing the Great Timeline itself. And to think it was Atemu… 

Mana didn’t allow herself enough time to ponder. There was work to be done, and if she wanted to restore the timeline in the first place, she had to take this decision and work together with the Mana of this time, otherwise the world was doomed. 

The Priestess walked in front of her, opening the door as she soon as she reached it, her movements frantic. She was upset and all but started to cry when she was in her room. Mana wanted to take pity on herself and already reached for the Priestess - but decided against it the last second, and closed the door behind her. 

“It just can’t be like this,” the Priestess said. “It’s nothing like I could’ve ever imagined… have you seen him like this before?” 

“Not like this,” Mana shook her head, sending chestnut bangs flying. “I’ve seen a lot of different worlds, and not ever…have I seen him like this.” 

“Is it the Item?”

She shook her head again. “Not necessarily…not only the Item. More events have led up to this, and…” 

“Was it Master leaving?” 

“Mana,” she said, tasting her own name on her tongue, “we don’t have much time. If war breaks out before we’re able to repair the timeline, all is lost.” 

The Priestess rubbed at her eyes, a bizarre expression of grief and anger on her face. “If war breaks out, this world is doomed anyway.” 

“It’s not like that. We can prevent the war, prevent bloodshed and the downfall of this nation if we act fast…but I need your help, Mana.” 

“I’m…I’m not going to kill him.” 

Mana looked at the Priestess, trying to remain calm and not let the pity for the woman prevail. She had to do this, otherwise this world would be destroyed. She had the opportunity to restore the timeline, allowing it to be absorbed in the Great Timeline, and save Khemet, returning it to its previous glory.  

“I will.” 


“I will.” Mana looked at herself, the Priestess covered by her robes, dabbing with a little piece of cloth at her tear-streaked cheeks.  

“It can’t end like this,” she murmured. “The Pharaoh…Atemu…” 

“There’s no more hope for him or for Khemet, the whole world, if we stand around here any longer and allow the darkness to do its work and to throw everything off balance even more,” Mana said. She swallowed. “I’m not exactly happy with this either…!” 

The Priestess threw the piece of cloth at the floor. She’d seen and heard enough. If there really was no other option…the nation was a small step away from an all-out war, and Atemu from being completely absorbed by the evil shadows surrounding him… 

“What do I need to do?” 

Mana squelched the rest of her pity and remorse. This world needed to be saved, nothing else. She would be saved in the end as well - she and all her incarnations, if she did this just right. The Gods smiled upon her, urging her on to do her work, because even they couldn’t stop the course the events had taken, and they wouldn’t be served if the nation was at war and suffered too many casualties. They would be forgotten and abandoned, their shrines destroyed and their temples ruined, all of the darkness in one man.  


Mana had only time to take a brief look at the mirror as she heard the knock on the door. Her low-cut dress was nicely stressing her figure, and she tied the folds of the fabric just below her breasts, boosting them up a little. She accentuated her cleavage a little more by wearing one of the golden necklaces he’d given her - back in the time he had been gallant, kind and attentive…when he loved her for who she was, and not for her body. She didn’t know whether to detest herself or revel in the fact that he was coming to see her. Tangling her fingers in her hair, Mana tried to refrain from crying.  

Even now, even at this very moment, as she had witnessed his crimes herself, she was still thinking of how she could pleasure him, how his hands felt on her body. No matter how little she meant to him, how it was only physical contact and nothing more, she longed to feel him, to hold him, and to kiss him. Maybe, just maybe, not all hope was lost. If he came to see her, he still was interested in her, right? Maybe… 

The doors were opened and two guards entered the room before Atemu followed them. Mana turned away from the mirror, quickly looking through her room to check if she really had tidied up everything; after all, she’d held onto her Master’s documents and papers, and it wouldn’t do the situation much good if Atemu were to find them. 

He dismissed the guards, not even taking one look at his Priestess. “What is it that you had to send me that urgent message for?” 

“It…it has to do with what happened in the Throne Room,” Mana said, taking a step towards him. She waited until the guards had left the room before she reached for him, touching his elbow.  

“Hm? What do you mean?” 

“Aishizu…and her ability with the Tauk.” She searched for words. “How she panicked in the Throne Room.” 

“Such behavior certainly was not fitting for someone of her position,” Atemu said, his voice taking on a bored tone.  

“She predicted darkness and despair, Pha…Atemu.” 

Now he looked at her, a small smile tugging at his lips. For some reason he liked hearing her speak his name, but she couldn’t figure out why. Was it… a faint glimmer of hope… because deep down he cares for me? She knew what fate was awaiting him, and she knew she was lending it a little hand. Hesitating, she took another step closer, feeling nervous. She couldn’t go through with this. She couldn’t….Mana mustered up a smile, albeit a shaky one. 

“It has to mean something,” she said. “Darkness and despair, Atemu. Your father worked so hard to bring peace to this nation, to make Khemet to a safe haven for everyone, embracing different cultures…” 

“My father is dead,” Atemu interrupted her. “He has been dead for years now, and I have followed long enough in his footsteps. It is time that I took the path that was laid out for me. I have been ignoring my true calling for far too long.” 

“T-true calling?” She forced herself to come closer, feeling her heart plunge when he looked away from her again, even turning a little. Her hand was still on his elbow, and her fingers slipped from his skin. Atemu was staring out the window, the curtains billowing in the afternoon wind. She had especially chosen for this room because of the large window; not only was it a source of light during the day, it also offered a spectacular view of the gardens.  

She often had stood in front of the window, pondering about things - she couldn’t recall the last time when she had purely enjoyed the view.  

“You were talking about your true calling,” she said as she moved closer to him again, coming to stand next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. She had never done this before; it had always been Atemu who took the initiative. He still didn’t look at her, as if he couldn’t care less for her touch. Was it too late?  

“My true calling,” he repeated. “You will learn more about it soon enough, Mana. I am very busy at this moment…learning this calling on my own, studying the paths I have to take, preparing for what is about to come.” War. 

She swallowed, tasting bile rising up in her throat.  

“I know you’re very busy. I appreciate it that you came to see me so soon,” she whispered in his ear, moving so close that her breasts bumped into his back. That caught at least his attention, and he craned his neck to look at her. 

“You are very special, Mana, you know that,” he said. Her smile was dazzling brilliant. I want to believe it. He says so himself.  

“Yes, I know,” the words rolled over her lips by themselves. She leaned up to capture his lips and rejoiced when he returned the kiss, but only that - he didn’t wrap his arms around her, didn’t make another move. It was frustrating; he’d never hesitated or dallied before. She was here, all but offering him every chance and opportunity, and this time, the most important time, he was showing barely any interest. She drew out the kiss as long as possible, quickly latching onto his lips again after she took a deep breath. She had to appear not too eager, not too desperate - she only had to comfort him, make him feel at ease. Mana moved her hand up, towards his neck. It wasn’t that difficult to notice that he was tense; she broke up the kiss again, showing him a warm smile.  

“You’re very special too,” she said, and she meant it. Atemu tilted his head, almost curiously.  

“How long have we been together?” 

“As long as I can remember,” she answered, for that was the simple truth to her. Being brought to the Royal Palace by her parents who she had never seen again, she was raised and educated here - along with Atemu and Mahaado, until he was accepted into Priesthood.

Finally, his hands rested on her hips. Despite aging, she hadn’t grown much in height, just like Atemu. They were at equal eye level, and she stared right at his dark red eyes, narrow eyes, empty eyes. There was no love, no compassion, no kindness in those shallow, hollow windows of his soul.  

Suppressing a shiver, she kissed him again, heaving a soft sigh as she felt his hand traveling up her body, towards her breast. Her hands fumbled close to his neck, where the fastenings of his cloak were. Without a sound, she undid the fastenings and gathered the fabric, dropping it over a stool next to her. She placed her hands back on his chest, fingers trailing the cord of the Sennen Puzzle, waiting for him to put his hand over her. This time she wasn’t disappointed; Atemu put his hand over hers, his fingers touching the cord. He was going to take it off himself, not allowing anyone else to come close to it; and that was the moment she had been waiting for. 

He turned around, slipping the cord over his head, cupping the Item with his other hand to place it upon the stool where his cloak already was put upon. The Priestess held her breath as she stepped away from him as silently as she could, while the other Mana took her place. Atemu was standing with his back to her, carefully tucking the Item in the folds of his cloak. It was almost endearing if it wasn’t for the serious nature of the situation; she never had seen him this dependant on his Item. She knew the history of the Items, a history she couldn’t divulge if she didn’t want this timeline to be even worse off. It had to happen now…now or never, and if it never happened, she would condemn this world to total destruction. Atemu moved his hands up, searching for the clasps of the broad, golden collar around his neck. 

“Let me help you.” 

With a quick snap, she unfastened the collar and took the jewelry away, putting it on the stool as well. He turned around, eyes briefly darting over her, lingering around her chest area. Mana was similarly dressed as the other Mana of course, and she felt extremely self-conscious. She had worn short skirts and rather revealing dresses before, young as she was, but her taste in clothing had developed into a more conservative look over time. Standing in front of him, to be exposed completely if only he undid the knot just below her breasts…it made her breath quicken. With one tug, he could undress her, the fabric pooling around her ankles in one whim. 

She breathed a little nervously as he moved his hand, but he didn’t touch the knot. His fingers traced the golden necklace, its intricate design resembling falling leaves. It contrasted with her tan skin, the lapis lazuli and gemstones accentuating her collar bones. It was a small fortune resting around her neck, and he had given it to her. No, not to me. The other Mana. The Mana of this time, who is a Priestess and heartbroken.    

He kissed her, and her world seemed to shatter. It was a small kiss, just a kiss, but it was a kiss. All her life, she had wanted to kiss him. She had even prayed for it - prayed that he would look her way, prayed that the smile he send her meant just more than a smile. Atemu never had made her feel like a servant or an apprentice, he had always been her friend and her support. He had listened to her, laughed with her, joked around with her by hiding in large vases, tricking especially Mahaado into searching for them. He shared her sadness as she was wondering about where her parents were or why they abandoned her; he listened stoically to her temper tantrums if something went wrong and encouraged her when she tried to conjure a particularly difficult spell.  

This kiss…this was the kiss she longed for. She knew what awaited Atemu in every incarnation and in every reality, and she knew he wasn’t destined to become her lover. They would never kiss, never touch, never hold each other like that, and it had taken her ages to realize it and accept it. She had fantasized about a kiss from her best friend but had left it at that, knowing that the social gap between them was too big. He was a Pharaoh, a God, and she was just an apprentice, on her way to become a magician, maybe a Priestess. No matter their friendship, it just wouldn’t happen. Now she had the chance to touch and brush his lips…for the first, and for the last, time in her life. Mana had imagined it would be sweet, and gentle, something to enjoy - certainly not hard, rushed, impersonal, bored. He wasn’t feeling a thing for her; she was nothing but a convenient body, at his disposal whenever he wanted to satisfy his desires. She, just like her counterpart, refused to believe it; she simply couldn’t believe it. This was Atemu, the Pharaoh of Khemet, who had plucked plums for her in the garden. It just…wasn’t right. 

She wanted to cry, but she found she couldn’t. Her hand was moving towards her back, slipping between the folds of her dress. Her lips were still latched onto his and she keened low in her throat as he broke up the kiss, only to gasp when he attacked her neck. Tilting her head in response, exposing more skin, she used the swaying movement of her body to slip a magical dagger from the folds of her robe, wrapping her fingers around the handle. It burned, deep inside, the knowledge of what she was about to do and the sensations of the kisses, his ministrations, the responses of her body.  

It was a life she was going to take, no matter how corrupted he had become. It wasn’t his fault. That damned Item. Damned Fate! His breath was hot against her neck as he continued to kiss and lick the skin, sending shivers down her spine. She almost lost her grip on the dagger’s handle and she whimpered. She had longed to be in his arms. All these times, all these alternate realities, she had wanted nothing but to be in his arms, if only for a moment. One hand was on her hip, his other hand moved up towards her breast, fingers darting over the thin fabric, creeping towards the knot. 

“Mana,” he breathed, and his fingers plucked at the knot that held up her dress. She had taken great care in wrapping the fabric so she could hide the dagger from view, tying it exactly so that it would stress the curves of her body, ending up in front, just below her breasts to give them a little boost…she was attractive, pretty even, in that dress with the beautiful golden necklace, maybe even worthy of a Queen…but this wasn’t her Pharaoh. This was another man, some kind of monster, unlike the Atemu she knew and had known. He had killed, he was going to wage war…and all because of an anomaly in time. Master. She understood at that very moment how Mahaado must’ve felt and she almost choked, biting back a sob. 

“Mana,” he repeated, breathing more erratic, and he was about to take another breath when she struck. The magic dagger pierced his chest, sharp blade cutting through flesh and muscle, finding its way to his heart. Atemu’s lustful whisper turned into a stunned gasp, his eyes growing wide as the realization of pain settled in.  


Tears were running over her cheeks, but she didn’t sense them. Her vision was blurred from the tears, but his expression was painfully sharp to see, imprinting on her mind. Disbelief, pain, shock…she parted her lips to scream his name, but she couldn’t find her voice, just as she couldn’t find the strength to grab his shenti, to keep him upright. Instead, she let him go, her heart breaking, shattering into a million piedces as his questioning, confused eyes remained focused on her face as death settled in.  

He was dead before his body hit the floor, eyes glazing over during his fall, lips parted in surprise. Only a small amount of blood was visible on his chest, coloring his shenti a dark red. The magic dagger protruded from his body, blade covered in blood. A yellowish blue light started to shine, and Mana forced herself to concentrate, sobbing out loud a few times before she knelt next to the lifeless Pharaoh and grabbed the handle of the dagger to pull it out. 

“Forgive me,” was all that she said, and tried to avoid a fresh wave of tears. His soul was already escaping; there was no time for tears and sorry goodbyes. Mana turned around on her knees and grabbed the Sennen Puzzle from the stool. Quickly, she cast the spell to trap Atemu’s soul and guided it into the Puzzle, yelping out in surprise as it shattered once she was finished. Gods!  

Surrounded by the many pieces of the Puzzle, she leaned forward, supporting herself as she was kneeling, rocking back and forth as the tears streamed. Her mind replayed the events again and again, and she knew the confused, hurt look in his eyes as he died would haunt her for the rest of her life. Realizing she was still holding the dagger, she dropped it to the floor as if she burned herself. Her fingers felt cramped, her body tense and she hurt all over. Huddling into herself, it was hard to regain control over her breathing again. Her cheeks were wet, and tears dripped on her beautiful dress, blotting the fabric.  

“You…you did it,” the Priestess was close to her, and Mana hadn’t noticed that she’d approached her. “He…he’s dead.” 

“I…” She couldn’t speak. Voice hitching, she started to bawl. The dark soul already present in the Puzzle was scattered along with it, along with Atemu’s soul, scattered on a plane of existence almost no one was aware of. Three millennia would await them in which he would forget, and the darkness would brood to strike at him as soon as it would get the chance. When a boy, engrossed in games and puzzles, would piece it together and inherit the Pharaoh’s soul and become friends with him, searching for his lost memories. 

Mana composed herself, using a corner of the dress to rub at her face. The Priestess had put a hand on her shoulder as a way to comfort her, but the other woman bore the same heartbroken, sad and grievous look on her face. Mana leaned forward and closed Atemu’s eyes, her touch as gentle as possible. In death, he looked like the Atemu she knew and loved - his face serene, lips slightly parted, the man who had followed justice and peace for so long.  

“What…what now?” The Pharaoh is dead. He’s dead! Atemu… 

The Priestess pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes to keep from crying. Her whole body trembled, and she avoided looking at Atemu on the floor. Mana got back up on her feet, using the stool as a support. She wasn’t going to tell her namesake about Mahaado and how he would kill his counterpart. The Mahaado of this time would pay dearly for his decision to run away from the Palace, afraid of dying - but he would die, and he would still vow the same oath as he had always done. His soul would be the Pharaoh’s eternal servant, and there was nothing, not even the Great Timeline itself, that changed that. 

“Atemu is safe now, Khemet is safe. Set will ascend to the Throne.” The other Priests were supposed to die as well in their fight against the darkness, but their fate wasn’t a great influence on the timeline, unlike Atemu’s.  

“There won’t be a war,” Mana said and the Priestess nodded, relieved. “Your soul will be bound to your kaa, just like Mahaado’s.” 

“Does that mean I have to die now too?” 

“No, not now,” Mana shook her head. “Don’t be afraid. When your time is there, you won’t notice a thing…and remember, you will see your Pharaoh again, though he will not remember you.” 

“I’ll see him again?” the Priestess asked hopefully.  

“Yes, don’t worry,” Mana said. “No one will connect you to his death either - leave everything as it is and call for the guards. They’ll see the shattered Puzzle and will think that he died from the influence of the Item.” 

“What about the Puzzle…?” 

“See to it that the pieces are collected and put into a box. A golden rectangular box. As you’ll collect the pieces, you’ll know what text to put on the box. Make sure that it’ll be interred with him. It will be discovered three millennia from now.” 

“Unbelievable,” the Priestess said. “By the Gods…what have we both done?” 

“We have saved this world,” Mana said, but she didn’t sound victorious or joyous at all. The world was saved, which meant that it would be absorbed by the Great Timeline, dissolving into the other timelines. They had corrected a flaw, a mistake…but this world wouldn’t go under, it would live. The Puzzle would be discovered by Mutou Sugoroku, as the Ring would end up in the hands of Bakura Ryou, and then the fate of the world would be again at stake. But then, the Pharaoh would be there to save it, instead of destroy it.  

Mana felt that there wasn’t much time left. Her heka was depleting again, and she needed to instruct the Priestess. In short sentences, she instructed the woman to secure the Ceremonial Tablets from Atemu’s youth, and to go search for a young man from a tribe called Ishtar, living outside the city walls.  

The Priestess didn’t ask questions anymore. She felt herself calming down, reconciliation settling into her very soul. Maybe I just knew all along that this would happen. Something had felt so terribly wrong for so long now. Atemu was at rest, and memories of him would fade, leaving only the mementos from his youth instead of his harsh actions in his adult years. In a way, she felt grateful - she could barely live with the memories she had of him now, let alone a whole nation. He had been kind and loving…one day. And one day, he would be kind and loving again - and if he didn’t remember her, so be it. She could always try again, couldn’t she? 

“The portal,” Mana whispered. “I have to go now.” 

The Priestess nodded, clasping her hands together. Mana mimicked the movement.  

“Thank you.” 

“Thank you, too…” 

“Go,” the Priestess urged her namesake. “Go with the grace of the Gods.” 

Mana showed a small smile, knowing that she meant well. The Priestess was going to face a difficult time as it was, and it wouldn’t take long for her to find consolation with her inner kaa. Black Magician Girl. Her smile faded into a sad grimace, though the other Mana couldn’t see it anymore. They both weren’t girls anymore; they’d been through too much to be girls any longer. The portal closed around her, and Mana was taken away from the world of Khemet for good. It was safe now. As she was pulled back to the reality she came from, fresh tears spilled from her eyes. No matter that the whole world was a little safer; she couldn’t forget the look in his eyes. She had received her first kiss from him, and it had been heaven and hell at the same time. A thousand worlds caught in one kiss, and she had destroyed it. 

End of this timeline  


Timeline II, Alternative Universe: Domino City, Japan 

With his last strength, Jounouchi rang the doorbell. There was someone at home as several windows were lit; Jounouchi would even settle for talking to Yuugi’s grandfather, if only they were let into the house. 

The door was opened, and Yuugi looked up in surprised at his visitors. 

“Jounouchi-kun! What…” 

“Quick, let us in!” 

“Of course, come in! What happened? Who is…?” 

“This is my sister, Shizuka,” Jounouchi said, almost pushing Yuugi out of the way in his haste to get inside. Yuugi stepped aside, staring after Jounouchi. 

“Close the door!” 

Baffled, Yuugi did as he was told, his mind racing. “Jounouchi-kun, would you mind telling me…” 

“Who are these late guests, Yuugi-chan?” 

Yuugi cringed from his mother’s voice as she used the terribly affectionate suffix for his name, but neither Jounouchi nor Shizuka paid any attention to it. 

“Jounouchi-kun and his sister,” he said. “I think something happened…” 

“I think so too,” the woman nodded, putting her hand on Shizuka’s shoulder. The girl flinched and started to cry all over again. “She’s clearly upset, the poor thing…come with me, I’ll get you some tea.” 

She didn’t even protest as Yuugi’s mother calmly talked to her, soothing her shot nerves, and gently leading her to the warm kitchen for the aforementioned tea. Jounouchi in the meantime had regained his breath, and the look he threw at Yuugi was almost accusatory. 

“Would you mind telling me what’s going on?” Yuugi asked. “You look like you’ve been running from ghosts…” 

“Not ghosts, murderers,” he said, keeping his voice low, then forcefully bit his own lip. He was not going to cry himself - for watching Otogi die, for endangering his sister, for doing everything wrong. He raked a hand through his hair, obviously at his wit’s end. 

“Let’s go upstairs too,” Yuugi said. “Kaa-san and Shizuka-chan are in the kitchen, and jii-chan is in the living room…we can talk in my room.” 

Jounouchi wordlessly agreed and followed Yuugi up the stairs, to his bedroom in the attic. It was a rather spacious room, painted in sky blue and light gray colors, two bookcases full with games, a bed and a desk with a chair. Yuugi flopped on the bed, leaving the only chair in the room for Jounouchi to sit on, and he pulled it towards him to sit down. 

“What happened?” 

“Otogi was killed right in front of my eyes,” Jounouchi mumbled. 

“Otogi? Otogi Ryuuji? How…that’s horrible! Were you robbed? Who attacked you?” 

“Bakura and some guy named Malik,” Jounouchi said. He shook his head as if he could straighten out his jumbled thoughts that way. He should be at the police station, reporting the murder, describing Bakura, having him arrested…but this hadn’t been his classmate. This had been someone else, a monster, a demon, a devil. 

“No. The Master of Shadows.” 

“Holy crap!” Jounouchi fell from his chair, totally taken by surprise as he saw Mahaado standing in front of him, Mana on his left side. The girl looked disturbed, her face pale and blank. 

“I’m sorry Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said a little sheepishly. “I tried to catch your attention, but you were so lost in thought and mumbling out loud that you didn’t notice them…” 

“This won’t end!” Jounouchi cried out loud. “What the hell’s going on? I can’t take it anymore! My sister…” 

“Apprentice,” Mahaado said and the girl nodded, leaving the room immediately. The tall man sat down on the bed, Yuugi looking up at him as if he was welcoming an old friend back. Mahaado carefully arranged his flowing robes, ironing out the folds. 

“The Master of Shadows,” Jounouchi repeated. “What fun, he’s a classmate of mine.” 

“Bakura of Darkness is not your classmate. What you saw was the parasite in his body, the entity leeching off his energy and strength. Without his Host, Bakura of Darkness is nothing.” 

“He said something about Master Host…he and that other creepy guy.” 

“Other creepy guy? Jounouchi, you should go to the police…” 

“Police?” Jounouchi repeated, his voice shrill. “Do you really think they’d believe me?” 

Mahaado shook his head. “There is no force able to stop Bakura of Darkness but the Pharaoh,” he said. “It was his fate to meet him and defeat him.” 

“The Pharaoh…the Puzzle dude?” 

“Please refer to him as…well, it does not matter anymore.” Mahaado folded his hands. "Bakura of Darkness has manifested himself, along with Malik of Darkness. I had hoped there was more time, but fate has turned itself against this world. I was able to save you from both, Jounouchi, by summoning my spirit monster - but soon enough, even my strongest magic will not be able to do anything against the darkness those two will bring onto this world.” 

“Mahaado,” Yuugi said, voice pleading. “There must be something we can do. I called the school janitor, and he told me he’d never found something as the missing puzzle piece during his cleaning of the swimming pool, but there’s someone else who would.” 

“And who would that be?” 

Yuugi turned red, lowering his head. “Ushio.” 

As Jounouchi visibly swallowed and shifted nervously around on his seat, Mahaado quirked his eyebrow. 

“Who is this Ushio? He seems to provoke a rather…stressful reaction.” 

“Ushio is one of the hall monitors at school,” Jounouchi explained, feeling sick to his stomach. “He makes all the rules, and even the teachers are too afraid to stand up against him.” 

“And how exactly would he be the one knowing about the missing piece of the Puzzle?” 

“He knows about everything that’s going around school,” Jounouchi muttered. “He’s a veritable tyrant.” 

“I…I could simply call him and ask if he’d ever seen something like the missing piece,”

Yuugi offered, though his voice lacked any enthusiasm. Jounouchi shivered, not only from the thought of Ushio. Otogi dying, being killed in front of him, his panicked sister…he would never be able to shake these images for the rest of his life.  

“What the hell is going on…” he whispered. “Just what the hell is going on?” 

“This world is coming to an end,” Mahaado answered after a few minutes of silence. “The forces of Shadow are already at work, and there is no counterbalance to their power. You alone are not able to defeat it. We need the Pharaoh, only he is capable of stopping them.” 

“Isn’t there any other way to…call him?” Yuugi asked. 

“No, his soul is trapped within the Sennen Puzzle, and only solving the Puzzle will release it to join with yours, Prince,” Mahaado said. “I am very sorry. This timeline is too greatly disrupted to be a part of the Great Timeline anymore. It cannot be restored.” 

“Now wait a minute,” Jounouchi hissed. “That can’t be all my fault! Just because of such a little puzzle piece?” 

“There are many forces at work,” Mahaado answered him calmly. “You eliminated the force that was supposed to counterattack it, and yes, simply because of such a little puzzle piece. If you had never thrown it away, Prince had been able to solve the Puzzle, thus releasing the Pharaoh’s soul.” 

“Wait, wait,” Yuugi said. “What if I call Ushio now and ask him about it? If he has the missing piece and I complete the Puzzle still?” 

“It is too late,” Mahaado gravely spoke. “Malik of Darkness already arrived. He is another key figure in the battle that should have awaited the Pharaoh - but with him missing, the darkness inside Malik Ishtar has become his dominant personality, just like Bakura.” 

“You mean…there are more of these Master Host things?” 

The tall man pursed his lips, a momentary look of pity on his face, before he resumed talking.  

“It is too complicated to explain right now, and it defeats the purpose. With the death of Pegasus J. Crawford, Duelist Kingdom never came to pass, and now the Battle City tournament will never be organized, because the preceding events never took place.” 

“Duelist Kingdom…tournament…I don’t understand…”  

“Prince, you would have understood if the events had unfolded in the right chronology,” Mahaado said and stood up from the bed. “There is no point in explaining now. Like I said before, this timeline is too far disrupted to be restored. I am sorry. There is nothing I can do for you now.” 

“Master,” said a soft voice close to the door. 

“I know, Apprentice.” 

“Where are you going to?” Jounouchi shot up from his seat as Mahaado turned to leave. The door widened, and Shizuka entered, holding Mana’s hand.  

“Onii-chan,” she whispered. She looked calmed down and he closed the distance between them, taking his sister into his arms. She’d been in the shower; her hair was still damp, and she wore a different dress than before. Her cheeks were a little rosy and she trembled a little.  

“Sit down,” Jounouchi coaxed her, and she meekly sat down, her eyes staring at Yuugi, whose reddened cheeks seem to color even more. He didn’t know about her disability and thought she was simply staring at him, averting his head a little. 

Mana had taken Mahaado’s side, standing on his right, compassion on her face. Her eyes ware far too old for a girl looking this young; had she seen more worlds end like this? It just simply couldn’t end like this… 

“Where are you going to?” Jounouchi asked again, voice less demanding. Shizuka tightened her grip on his arm. 

“There is nothing we can do,” Mahaado answered him. “We leave. We have other timelines to restore - timelines who do have a chance to fit into the Great Timeline. This is hopeless.” 

“You can’t leave like this, please,” Shizuka suddenly spoke up, her voice pleading. Jounouchi was surprised by her words - judging from the way she spoke, she knew everything. He assumed Mana had told her, and his guilt almost ate him up alive. It all had started with him taking that piece of the Puzzle away… 

“I am very sorry,” Mahaado repeated. “You all have my deepest sympathies, but that is not much of a consolation. This world is doomed.” 

“You have magic powers,” Shizuka insisted. “You both travel through worlds and timelines, you see what happens…” 

“Yes,” Jounouchi said. “Yes, you travel through timelines! Take us with you!” 

“It does not work that way,” Mahaado refused. “We cannot bring you to another world. Not only can I not provide enough magic to open a portal to you all, we’d also bring foreign elements in another timeline, thereby distorting events and causing damage. We are here to repair and restore, not to shift around elements and endanger other timelines.” 

“Please, take at least my sister with you,” Jounouchi said. He couldn’t care less about himself. He wanted to make up for the guilt eating at him, gnawing at his heart and soul. If Shizuka is safe, not everything is lost. 

“I am sorry. Even though your sister does not contribute to the timeline, bringing her into another timeline would set events off that could have unforeseen consequences. I am not going to take that risk.” 

“What…I don’t contribute to the timeline?” Shizuka looked confused and hurt for a moment. “But onii-chan…” 

“Are you telling me my sister is expendable?” Jounouchi all but yelled. Mahaado narrowed his eyes, this time looking impatient. 

“You are all expendable,” he said, raising his voice. “The Puzzle came to Domino as it was supposed to. That means that all the events in Ancient Egypt, where the Pharaoh’s soul had to be sealed into the Item, have taken place according to the Great Timeline. It got disrupted in Domino, right here, when the Puzzle was not completed. Now that the Pharaoh’s soul has not been released, he is unable to protect you from what is to come. His task was to save this world from darkness and destruction. Even if you were able to complete the Puzzle now, you would be too late.” 

“It’s never too late!” Yuugi protested. “Please, we can do something to make it stop!” 

“This world is doomed,” Mahaado repeated. “The process cannot be reversed. I bid you farewell. We cannot uphold our presence that much longer.” 

“What is going to happen next?” Shizuka said, her voice wavering. Mana looked up at her Master as well, her eyes betraying that she already knew the answer. 

“I will not let this world fall to darkness,” Mahaado replied. “I will end this timeline before the forces of the shadows will obtain full power.” 

“Murderer,” Jounouchi hissed. 

“Onii-chan…is he going to…?” 

“As little consolation as it is…I know how you feel.” Mahaado didn’t elaborate, but nodded at Jounouchi. “You will know no pain or despair.” 

“Wow, great!” Jounouchi yelled after him as the magician went through the door, not even waiting for Mana. The girl looked at Yuugi and then made a curtsy for him. She was out of the room before anyone of them could say a thing. Shizuka turned her head towards Jounouchi, her lips parted in an unasked question. 

“They just leave like that,” he said, baffled. Yuugi slid off of his bed, putting on his house slippers. “What are you going to do?” 

“We can try to find the missing piece of the Puzzle,” Yuugi said, frowning. His face was set in determination. “I’ll call Ushio right now. You just wait here.” 

“Heh, as if we have somewhere to go to,” Jounouchi replied. He moved his hand up to brush a few wayward strands out of Shizuka’s hair. 

“What about kaa-san and tou-san…”  

“If this timeline truly ends…” 



Again that unasked question, and he knew what she wanted to ask but didn’t say out loud. Why the fucking hell did you throw that piece away? He knew why she didn’t ask it out loud. She already knew that he didn’t have an answer to it, and any answer would be a moot point anyway. 


No matter how late it was, almost close to midnight, Yuugi had insisted he could do this alone. “You and your sister have been through too much already,” he’d said when Jounouchi overheard him talking to Ushio on the phone. Apparently the hall monitor had seen the missing piece of the Puzzle - more so, he had it into his possession, and no, he didn’t think it was strange that Yuugi was all but desperate to come see it, even at this time of night.  

“I don’t want you to go alone,” Jounouchi had insisted. He knew he was too late in making up for everything he’d done, but he didn’t want to watch idly how this world was coming to an end, and how even more people were going to end up hurt because of him. He asked Yuugi’s permission to call his friend Honda, and Shizuka had insisted on going with him.
“We don’t know how much more time we have,” she said. “I don’t want to be another second away from you, onii-chan.” 

As they were on their way to Ushio’s house, Honda was completely brought up-to-date on the situation, balling his fists as he heard about Otogi. 

“Damn! These guys deserve to be punished, the murderers!” 

“They will be,” Yuugi answered. “When Mahaado ends this timeline, they will cease to exist too.” 

“How can you be so calm about this?” Honda exclaimed. 

“There’s nothing more we can do but to complete the Puzzle and see what happens,” Yuugi said, pointing at the object dangling from a rope around his neck. “Mahaado was quite adamant about it being too late, but maybe we can reverse the event before…it really is too late. I’m sure that when the Puzzle is completed, we have more chance of succeeding.” 

“Hm,” was all that Honda said. He was holding Shizuka’s hand while she held onto Jounouchi’s. He didn’t know where her cane was and he assumed that she had lost it during their confrontation with Bakura and Malik. As long as he warned her in time for any irregularities on the pavement, she went along with them just fine, even though fatigue showed on her face. It all didn’t matter much anymore. It all didn’t matter much anymore. Jounouchi didn’t even try anymore to squelch his feelings of guilt and misery. 

“Damn that Ushio,” Honda shivered. He and Jounouchi had bumped into the immensely tall hall monitor before, and barely survived to tell about it. The guy was a freak; everybody knew he carried a knife around because of all the enemies he’d made, even though no one dared to stand up against him. 

“I wonder why he doesn’t mind seeing us,” Jounouchi muttered. “He won’t be giving us the piece back from the goodness of his heart.” 

“Maybe if he hears our story, he’ll give it to us,” Yuugi said good-naturedly. Jounouchi would have howled with laughter before at this kind of comment, but for some reason Yuugi’s optimism was comforting. 

“Yeah, maybe he will,” he even said and fell silent as they approached the building where Ushio was living. Yuugi rang the bell, and the door to the building was buzzed open. 

“Fourth floor,” he said and they used the elevator for the way up, Shizuka tucked in between Honda and Jounouchi, leaning on the latter. 

The building was quite neat and well-maintained, and Yuugi pushed the door open to the large hallway. Ushio was waiting for them already, lifting up his hand at the door of his apartment. 

“Way too friendly,” Jounouchi whispered before they reached Ushio, who was wearing a wide grin. Honda gritted his teeth. If he hated something, it was being helpless, or even more, dependent - Ushio knew exactly that he held a major advantage and the best stakes of the negotiations. 

“Come in, come in,” he practically sing-songed. “Yuugi, so good to see you. It was a sad day when you left the school. Bullies are such a big problem! But oh - what do I see here? You are with your bullies? Tsk, tsk!” 

“Ushio-san, please,” Yuugi asked. “We’ve come here to see the piece of the Puzzle…do you have it, please?” 

“Of course I do!” Ushio’s eyes traveled over Shizuka, not understanding why the girl was here, but dismissed her from his thoughts the next second. “I always oversee the cleaning of the school’s swimming pool. You never know how lazy those pool boys are until you see them ‘work’…and I can’t have my fellow students swim around in an unhygienic pool now, can I?” 

“Ushio-san…” Yuugi said again. 

“My my…all right, here you are.” Ushio opened his large left hand, showing the center piece of the Sennen Puzzle, the all-too-familiar eye showing up front. Yuugi clasped his hands together, heaving a loud sigh of relief. Then, he reached for the piece…to which Ushio immediately closed his hand and withdrew it, out of Yuugi’s reach. 

“Two hundred thousand yen.” 


“Two hundred thousand yen.” Ushio showed a cunning grin. “Nothing in life comes for free, little Yuugi. I’ve done such a good job of watching after this priceless piece. I knew someone would come for it sooner or later, so I took great care of it. You wouldn’t want my efforts go without a reward, now do you?” 

“Ushio-san, it’s important we have the piece now! You can get your money later!” Yuugi pleaded. 

“It’s important, Ushio! The end of the world depends on it!” Jounouchi blurted out. 

“Ushio-san, please!” Shizuka followed suit. 

He bursted out laughing. “Oh, but this is great! This is excellent!” The next second, he lashed out, punching Yuugi square in the stomach. “What kind of fool do you think I am? I want to see the money first!” 

“Bastard!” Jounouchi saw Yuugi flying through the living room, the force of the punch throwing him a meter away, grunting in pain. 

Honda balled his fists. “That piece is important, man! We’ll bring you your money later!” 

“Two hundred thousand yen, and not a moment sooner,” Ushio barked.  

“You don’t understand - there’s no time for that! Give up the piece!” Jounouchi lunged for Ushio, hands outstretched to grab the other’s hand. 

“Jounouchi-kun!” Yuugi coughed, trying to get up again. Honda installed Shizuka in a chair first before following his friend, attacking the hall monitor with both his fists balled.  

They proved to be hardly a match, and it was purely their willpower to attack Ushio again and again, as the other used his sheer physical force to throw them away from him, hitting and punching. Yuugi still lied on the floor, recovering from the earlier blows. He hated how powerless he was, unable to do anything against Ushio’s strength, and his eyes fell on the incomplete Puzzle. This world is doomed. As if Mahaado was standing next to him and repeating it again. It can’t be! It really can’t be… 

Jounouchi hung on Ushio’s arm, mustering up all his courage and strength and bit him on the hand, teeth sinking in the flesh. As he cried out in pain, the hall monitor opened his hand, and Jounouchi pried the golden piece from his fingers, chucking it towards Yuugi. 

“Here! Catch!” 

Enraged, Ushio threw him to the floor, sending Honda in a heap next to him, using both his feet and hands to beat them mercilessly. Shizuka, unable to do anything, called for her brother and for Honda, panicked. 

Yuugi didn’t catch the piece, but it was thrown in his direction and it fell to the floor in front of him. Groaning from the pain, Yuugi dragged himself over the floor to grab the piece, his fingers closing around it. 

“Please. Please!” He thought to himself as he pressed it in the Puzzle, hearing a loud ‘click’.  

A bright light emitted and he closed his eyes, a wave of nausea engulfing him, his head seeming to split in two, pain and more pain, and he wasn’t himself anymore, he saw darkness and light and he felt anger and comfort at the same time and then there was nothing more. 

When Yuugi opened his eyes again, he saw Ushio lying on the floor, his hands furiously rummaging through a bag of garbage, throwing everything around himself. He was in the greatest ecstasy as Yuugi had ever seen someone before; he kept yelling “Money! This is great! There’s money everywhere!” 


“Don’t bother, Yuugi,” Jounouchi said. He looked horrible, he knew it - his eyes were half closed, his cheek was swollen, and he tasted blood in his mouth. Honda didn’t look any better, but he had a content grin on his face as he looked at the hall monitor reduced to child-like glee while he dug in the trash. 

“What…what happened?” Yuugi finally got up from the floor, blinking a few times. He really couldn’t recall the last few minutes, and Ushio had been his brutal, beating self before he blacked out.  

“We saw the Pharaoh,” Jounouchi said while he forced himself to get back on his feet as well, using Honda as support before offering him a helping hand. “He played a game with dear Ushio over there. A batsu game, and Ushio lost. He was punished.” 

“Eh? You saw…” Yuugi looked down at his completed Puzzle and suddenly smiled. “So Mahaado was right!” 

“Right all the way,” Honda said, turning around to lift Shizuka up and wrapped and arm around her as she clung to Jounouchi, keeping the girl comfortably close in-between the two of them.  

“Man, these Darknesses or entities or whatever they are, are pretty creepy,” Jounouchi said, lisping a little. It felt like his jaw was broken and all his teeth had been rearranged in the most painful way possible. “Though I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to team up with yours, Yuugi. He’s powerful, that’s for sure.” 

Yuugi simply nodded, unable to say anything in return. Even the power of the Pharaoh was probably not enough to stop the process and save the world this time. As Mahaado had said, too many disruptions… 

“Must we say Pharaoh to you now?” Jounouchi said.  

Yuugi showed him a genuine smile. “Pharaoh, Prince…I’m just Yuugi, and I would never demand of my friends to call me anything else.” 

“This world is coming to an end, and you’re talking about friends?” Honda snorted, but his voice lacked any malice. 

“Yes,” Yuugi said and beamed up at him. He cupped the Puzzle with both hands. “Thanks to you, I was able to finish this.” 

“You’re welcome,” Jounouchi said lamely. Silence fell - only the sounds of Ushio rummaging through the garbage and exclaiming “Money! Money!” every now and then were heard in the background. 

“So…what are we going to do now? Eat a burger before it’s too late?” 

“Onii-chan, it must be way past midnight,” Shizuka said, a hint of amusement to her voice.  

Honda checked his watch. “Half past midnight, it’s okay. I think there must be a fast food joint or two open at this time of hour.” 

“Don’t bother, guys,” Yuugi said as he looked out the window, pointing at the horizon. A faint yellowish light was visible, consuming everything in its path. 

“I guess that’s our end of the line,” Jounouchi said and Shizuka pressed herself closer to him.  

“Hey, Yuugi?” 

“Yes, Jounouchi-kun?” 

“Thanks, man.” 

“Thank you too, Jounouchi-kun, Honda-kun, Shizuka-chan…” A soft smile tugged at Yuugi’s  lips. He felt complete and, despite the situation at hand, at ease. There was another personality in his mind, he knew it, he could feel it. Mou hitori no boku. I’m sorry I never got to know you. There wasn’t any answer, but the presence he felt was sufficient. 


“It’s almost here,” Jounouchi said. “I’m sorry, folks. I really shouldn’t have…” 

“It’s all right,” Yuugi interrupted him. He didn’t want the last thoughts of any one of them be filled with guilt and grief. It was, in a way, fitting that their death would be caused by that strange light, eradicating this world from existence. Light and Darkness, and light always wins. Life was a game they had played, and in Yuugi’s mind, they hadn’t lost. Light always wins. He stared at the oncoming light with open eyes - it wasn’t blinding, it was…comforting. Soft yellow, like the sun, the rising sun in Egypt. As if he could feel a warmer temperature, sand between his toes, a soft breeze caressing his hair.  

Shizuka simply held on to her brother, unable to see the light coming. Honda held her hand as Jounouchi held her other hand, and together they held Yuugi’s hands. An unbreakable circle of friends…but too late in this universe. Mana and Mahaado looked at each other, watching the ending of the world from a distance, their magic enabling them to stay outside of time, unharmed by the event. Without another word Mahaado turned around, leaving through the time portal. After one more look, Mana left with him, as the world behind them ceased to exist. 

End of this timeline 

Timeline III, known universe: Domino City, Japan 

The food was simple, but nourishing - at this moment, he couldn’t have cared less for the finer taste of the dishes he was used to. There was even a napkin packed in the box, which he used for wiping off his fingers before he finished off the rest of the milk. His only regret was that there was obviously not any more food in the shed; he felt like he could eat a whole army’s worth.  

How long had it been since he had anything to eat before this? His earliest memory went back to breakfast at the Palace, and since then he simply drew a blank. Closing the box and screwing the typical cap on the goblet once again, he decided that he had to be thankful for the bite of food he had found instead of complaining. It was dark, cold and raining, and he had shelter, his clothes only torn at the hem and he’d had something to eat. Fortunately, his shenti wasn’t soaked, but slightly damp; he’d been inside before it started to really pour. His cloak could serve as a blanket, the fabric thick and comfortable enough to provide him warmth. There wasn’t anything resembling a bed here, but that was obviously too much to ask for from this simple shed. 

He looked around to see if he could improvise something to sleep on, but there was nothing that could serve as a makeshift bed, and he gave up on the idea. He was too tired and his feet hurt; the chair would have to suffice. He’d fallen asleep on his throne before, a chair wasn’t that different. In the morning, he would go out and find someone who could help him, as well as paying for eating the food; he didn’t have any money on him, but one of his earrings or regular rings would do. A Pharaoh would always respect his citizens and pay for what he took, even if it was simple bread and milk. 

There was someone fumbling at the door, the handle rattling. He turned his head around, surprised. Who could come here at this time of hour? Another lost person? How was he supposed to communicate, would they speak the same language as he? Straightening himself despite his sore feet - he really, really wanted to sit again - he waited for the visitors to enter. The door was pushed open, a gust of cold wind blowing inside, followed by a slew of raindrops. 

“What a shitty weather, fuck,” the tallest of the two spoke out loud, following by a loud burp.  

“You said it, Soyjo,” the smaller one said, huddling in his leather coat, his words mumbled by the ratty shawl wrapped around his head. He had stuffed his hands deep in his pockets, shivering again. No wonder he was cold - the man wore even rattier jeans, cut open everywhere, tucked in muddy, badly tied boots. 

“It’s a good thing we saw you going in here,” the one called Soyjo said. “A very good thing.

You wanted to take shelter for the rain too, huh?” 

He nodded, figuring from the intonation of the man’s voice that he asked a question, and his guess was, ten to one, that he was commenting about the bad weather.  

“Hey, cat got your tongue?” The small one closed the door behind him, shutting the rain and the wind out.  

“He’s not very talkative, Haruku,” Soyjo said, grinning. “Not that he want him to be. He’s not from here…you aren’t from here, are you?” 

“I do not understand you,” he answered. 

“Whoa, whoa! It talks! Jesus fuck man, is that a language or a disease you got?” 

Soyjo laughed, sounding like a mule. He took his hands out of his pockets, almost similarly dressed as Haruku; cut and torn jeans, combined with a sweaty, sticky shirt and leather jacket, steel-toed boots on his feet. 

“Who fucking cares, man, look at what he’s wearing! I told you that it was gold! And you fucking telling me that I didn’t see right! Fuck you, I’m taking that pendant of his!” 

“Hey!” Haruku yelled at his partner in crime. “Shut the fuck up, man! Equal share!” 

“I do not understand you,” he repeated, keeping his voice neutral. The tones in their voices were picking up, and he didn’t like it one bit - he had to remain calm and collected. He had to have faith in the Gods and in their infinite ways…he wasn’t sure if he was able to summon them in this world, but he could always try, and he had his Sennen Item…these two weren’t friendly, and the feeling that he was in danger increased by the second.


For some reason, Yuugi had thought of something more spectactular than running down the streets close to midnight as a rescue mission. Mana and Mahaado were both magicians, and he had imagined them flying or at least using some kind of magical transport; instead, they were running the hardest to wherever Mahaado had located the Pharaoh. Even taking a car would be faster and more efficient than running, and his lungs burned in his body, chest heaving from the exertion. Yami wasn’t doing much better, completely unused to intense physical activity like this. Anzu was running with, how else, the grace of a dancer; her steps were long and elegant, as if she wasn’t hurrying or running at all. 

“How…far…is…it?” Yami panted, stumbling every now and then and latching onto Yuugi’s jacket to keep him from falling to the ground. 

“I… Idontknow,” Yuugi blurted out in response, keeping his eyes focused on the two running in front of him. “I hope…itsnotmuchfurther!” 

As if he overheard them, Mahaado suddenly addressed Mana, not skipping a beat.  

“Apprentice, we better send our kaa in first, they are faster!” 

“Yes, Master,” Mana agreed and twirled her wand, a soft blue and a pale pink light glowing from its tip. They both halted in the middle of the street - fortunately, at this time of hour there were hardly any cars. Yuugi used the brief respite to catch his breath; wheezing, he took in large gulps of air, hands on his knees. Yami was next to him, mimicking his posture, panting as well. 

Yuugi almost forgot to breathe when he saw what the magicians were doing. Mahaado, enveloped in a dark purplish glow, and Mana, bathing in the blue and pink colors, were summoning their kaa - Yuugi couldn’t even ask what it was, but he understood the moment he saw the bright light. He could see it despite the brightness, two forms taking shape, all in a matter of seconds; when the light died out, two familiar monsters were on the field…so to speak. He smiled in recognition. It was like Kaiba’s holographic technology had come alive, rendering the images more lifelike than ever could be possible. Gaping, Anzu noticed the same, and she took a step closer to Yuugi, bewildered in what she had just seen.  

“Black Magician Girl, Black Magician,” Yami and Yuugi said at the same time. As the monsters had their back turned to them, they couldn’t see their faces, though Yuugi caught a brief glimpse of the Black Magician Girl’s face as she turned to look at Mana who had summoned there.  

Even though there were no orders given, the two kaa suddenly moved forward, flying through the air, but not yet out of sight. Yami was about to say something when Mahaado and Mana started running again, following their kaa. Yuugi was glad for the brief pause, ignoring his burning lungs as he sped up, trying to keep up the other’s pace. Anzu and Yami were close to him, and together they didn’t lose the two magicians one moment out of their sight. Despite the intensive running, Yuugi recognized their surroundings. If he wasn’t mistaken, they were heading for Domino City Park - this street was notorious for being blocked by double-parked cars from all the visitors during summer. The fence was visible in the light of the street lanterns; could the Pharaoh really be in the municipal park? 

Every kid knew the history of the city park. It was constructed in honor of the Emperor, in an attempt to imitate the design of the empiric gardens. While it used to be open only for the nobility in the earlier ages, nowadays it was a meeting point for almost everyone, from junior to senior. Every season had its charm, especially in the park: in the summer there were lots of dance festivals and street theatre, in the fall guided walks and barbecues. Lots of schoolkids were to be found at the large lawns, or close to the fountain where they threw in a few yen to make their wish. Some parts were gardens only, divided by theme: a Japanese garden of course, a French garden, an English garden.  

They finally came to a halt in front of the large main gate, wide open.   

“This is Domino City Park,” Yuugi said after he found his breath again, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice. The park was never closed; the local police made their rounds to chase away hobos or people who looked suspicious. The dimension of the park was far too big, though - it could very well be that there were still people hiding, or that a Pharaoh was lost in one of the gardens. Anzu caught up at him, looking just as confused as Yami.  

Mahaado and Mana were standing in front of the gate, both sporting a pensive frown.  

“What is it?” Yami asked, wanting to know what was going on. 

“I…I lost it,” Mahaado said. 

“Lost what? Where the Pharaoh is?” 

“He must be in here somewhere,” Mahaado made a wide movement with his arm, sending his kaa into the park, the Black Magician determinedly flying, his characteristic staff in his right hand. Mana seemed to hesitate, but sent her kaa as well, the young Black Magician Girl reflecting her hesitation and searching out her Master, following his trail. 

“He must be in here somewhere,” Mahaado repeated, impatience in his voice. 

“Master, try to concentrate,” Mana gently admonished. “You’re too tired. If you can’t concentrate well…” 

“Found him!” Mahaado barked, eyes widened in anxiety. “We have to hurry!” 


Trapped. No way out. He stood with his back against the wall, literally. There was no room to move in this small shed, occupied with tools and maintenance materials and equipment. He couldn’t reach for one of the hoes or shovels - if he made a movement, the other two would attack him. He knew enough to sense trouble, especially when it was so close to him, and these two oozed danger. 

“This is going to be fucking great, Soyjo, look all that gold!”  

“We’re going to have some great fun with you,” Haruku grinned, stepping forward. Greed was visible in his eyes; never had he seen so much gold before. All this jewelry was worth millions, and he wouldn’t have to have any more worries for the rest of his life. He was rich!  

That pendant alone would bring up such a hefty sum that he could buy his own deserted island. With all that money, he could bring some chicks and party till he dropped…and the gold on this stranger would provide him with whatever he wanted. 

“You’re a walking treasure chest,” Soyjo said, digging into one of his pockets and whipping out a switchblade. Clicking it open, he held it up, blade clearly visible. “We’re going to pry it off your dead body…we’re going to have so much fun…!”  

He cackled madly and took another step forward, cornering the other. This was so easy, like stealing candy from a baby! The other had nothing to defend himself with, was dressed strangely and obviously didn’t have any pockets to pull out a knife of his own. So easy, yes, so easy…and with all that money that gold would fetch, he could buy himself everything - houses, weapons, bitches…everything. 

“Please do not do this,” he said, keeping his voice calm, though it took him considerably much effort. He was exhausted, the adrenaline rushing through his body not enough to fend off the two thieves, both equipped with knives, the other pulling out his weapon out of his jacket pocket. They were after his gold of course, and he didn’t have the slighest illusion they would keep him alive in their attempt to get it off of him. “I can give you…” 

“We don’t understand your gibberish, not that it matters much.” Haruku showed him a devilish grin. “If you think that someone’s about to save you, forget it. You’re in a maintenance shack in a city park…tough luck, stupidhead.” 

“Get his stuff first, then we can have some fun with him,” Soyjo said. “I saw some rope here…” 

“Later,” Haruku licked his lips and moved forward, his knife firmly in hand, blade flickering in the yellowish light. 

The air was split by a primal scream, and a thousand knives appeared out of nowhere, imipaling the thieves the next second. Each and every one of the blades penetrated their bodies with a sickening sound of tearing clothes and flesh, boring into bones. Spitting out blood, death instantaneous, the two of them fell wordlessly to the floor of the shed, hands dropping their weapons. The Black Magician looked contemptuously at the lifeless bodies, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Mahaado hurried forward, barging through the open door, followed by Mana - both reached their Pharaoh at the same time. 

“Pharaoh! Pharaoh…” 

“Mahaado! Mana…” He opened his arms and the girl jumped into them, throwing him against the wall with the sheer force of the impact, hugging him close for a brief moment before she pulled away, looking at him in ecstasy. 

“We finally, finally found you! For real!” 

“Pharaoh…praise the Gods we found you!” 

Mahaado sunk to the floor, kneeling for him. “We have been searching all over for you…forgive your servants…” 

Yami and Yuugi stumbled into the shed, both widening their eyes simultaneously in surprise. In front of them, looking rather disheveled but the similarity was uncanny, stood another one…another Yuugi. His skin was dark and his hair was a little wilder, but the shape was unmistakable.  

“Stand up,” he said, obviously addressing Mahaado, who remained kneeling, unmoving. The Pharaoh leaned forward and tapped on his shoulder. “Stand up, my Priest. You have found me. Everything is all right.” 

“I failed you…” 

“No, you did not,” the Pharaoh said, straightening himself and looking over at Mana, returning her smile. He looked back at Mahaado who still lowered his head. 

“Stand up and look at me, Priest Mahaado.” 

“Yes, Great Pharaoh,” he whispered and he got up from the floor, forcing himself to look at his Pharaoh, only noticing how disheveled he looked. “What happened! Pharaoh, we’ll take you home immediately!” 

“Yes, home,” he said and Mana latched onto his arm, exclaiming “Home!” cheerfully. He trusted his Priest to tell him how it had been possible for all of them to end up here, but happiness about their reunion dominated the moment, and he didn’t want to distrupt that right now. 

Yuugi looked at Yami, smiling like a lunatic; he was so happy for the others to have found their friend. Yami nodded in appreciation, not insensitive to the happy emotions. He stared at the other, his third self as it seems, wondering if he really looked like this before…no memories were springing to his mind, nothing of all of this seemed familiar to him - except for the Sennen Puzzle, dangling from the Pharaoh’s neck. 

“Pharaoh,” Yuugi said, and bowed. Yami scowled a little, remaining upright. He refused to bow to himself, not even when Yuugi elbowed him. 

“Great Pharaoh, they are your incarnations of this time,” Mahaado explained to him, switching back to their native language. “This timeline is perfect - everything has gone as the Great Timeline has dictated it. The only thing off in this timeline was caused by your appearance, but now that we have found you, everything will be restored.” 

“I do not know what you are talking about,” the Pharaoh replied dryly. “I have been here since…a day, waking up in some kind of alley, wondering what was going on. I would appreciate it if we could…leave here?” 

“But of course!” Mahaado said, noticing by now that the lower part of the Pharaoh’s shenti was spattered with blood. He scowled at the thieves, mimicking the contemptuous look of his kaa that was still manifested and held itself up in the air, ready to attack or to defend according to his master’s wishes. 

“We go home,” Mana chirped, and pulled at the Pharaoh’s arm. He took a step forward to follow her, all but collapsing the next moment. 


“It is all right,” he said, getting back up on his feet again, limping. 

“Pharaoh? Your feet…” 

“It is all right,” he repeated stubbornly, sending his golden earrings flying as he shook his head. Mahaado grabbed the small chair he’d sat on previously, and forced him to sit down again. Mana knelt at his feet, taking the thin, soiled and torn slippers from his right foot first.  

“Oh! You’ve walked a great distance, didn’t you?” she said worriedly. 

“No, not that much,” he answered, heaving a sigh. 

“His footwear isn’t adjusted to these streets,” Mahaado added, switching back to Japanese again.  

“Can we help?” Yuugi asked, moving forward. Anzu had been strangely silent, watching the scene in front of her. Mana applied her knowledge of healing, casting a spell to heal the blisters and the abrasions on the soles of his feet. He wriggled a little. 

“That feels cold!” 

Mana laughed softly, not minding that casting the spell took almost the rest of her energy left. Her kaa had already dissolved, unable as she’d been to keep it up. She didn’t mind as Mahaado’s kaa was still present; his heka was much stronger than hers. 

“It’s all right,” she spoke up to answer Yuugi’s question, also changing back to Japanese. “He wasn’t really dressed for the occasion, and his feet got hurt from walking around on the street. We’re…not used to what you call that ‘asphalt’ of yours.” 

Yuugi nodded, noticing how Mahaado was standing behind the Pharaoh, supporting him, and how gentle Mana was with her spell, carefully taking care of his feet, using her heka to render his slippers spotless clean and whole again. The Pharaoh himself had gone strangely quiet, head lolled to the side, his hands resting in his lap as he was waiting for Mana to finish. When Mahaado picked him up as if he didn’t weigh a thing, Yuugi realized the other had fallen asleep. 

“We better return to the apartment now,” Mahaado said, keeping his voice low. Yuugi couldn’t help but stare at the sleeping Pharaoh in his arms, in every way similar to Yami except for his tan. 

“You look wonderful, mou hitori no boku,” he said, then blushed furiously.  

Mana was the first to break the slightly awkward silence, and her cheerful laugh cleared the sudden tension. Yuugi, Yami and Anzu were all red in the face; Anzu didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. She was extremely grateful when Mana came to walk next to her, keeping her head adverted at first. The magician patted her hand, and Anzu understood her as the other showed her a compassionate look. 

“Master cares for our Pharaoh a lot, as we all do,” she said brightly, stressing the words ‘a lot’. She looked years younger however; the joy of finding their Pharaoh had taken away a lot of her worries. Anzu nodded, not really happy with the situation but she understood enough of it to know that she would have to be content with ‘only’ being friends. As they walked silently, Mana and Mahaado exchanging some words in their native language every now and then, Anzu accepted just as silently that being friends with both Yuugis was important enough to her to fight for their friendship, and not allow it to be ruined with unreasonable expectations or ruined chances. A smile found its way to her lips and she kept in pace with Mana, the girl’s cheerfulness contageous. 

The lights were still on their apartment; no one had even thought of switching off the lights in their haste. Even the heating was still on; Anzu heaved a relieved sigh. It had stopped raining, but it was still chilly outside and she felt chilled to the bone. Yami shivered as well, since he’d run outside with nothing but his school jacket on. Yuugi took off his shoes, looking around for the house slippers. Mahaado had walked a few steps forward and turned around in the middle of the hallway, still carrying the Pharaoh. 

He heaved a soft sigh before he spoke. 

“My Pharaoh needs food, a bath and some rest,” he said. Mana nodded at his announcement, disappearing into the kitchen. Anzu trailed behind her, offering the girl her help with the preparations. Yuugi certainly hadn’t missed the ‘my’ Mahaado has used in reference to the Pharaoh; he had said it earlier, in the shed when they rescued him from the thieves. 

“We should not dally that much longer,” the magician continued.  

“How much time is there left?” Yami asked, moving towards Yuugi. 

“The other timelines have been…restored as it was fitting for them,” Mahaado said.  

“My…our Pharaoh here is the Pharaoh who was supposed…” He stared at Yami and Yuugi, shaking his head. “I can not divulge much more, I already told too much. As soon as we leave, I will cast one more spell, to make you forget what has happened. Your knowledge of all this could alter this timeline, and it was perfect how we found it….”  

He remained silent. Finally he said: “We have some time left. The rest of this evening.” 

Yuugi all but clinged to Yami.  

“This evening only?” 

“We have both depleted our heka, when we called forth our kaa,” Mahaado said. “We have a little left for our…jump back, but a lot of necessary energy will come from our Pharaoh here.”

“I didn’t know we had only this evening,” Yuugi said, looking distressed. The magician lowered his head. 

“I know what you are going through, Prince. It is however, important that we do not disturb the timeline anymore than we are already doing by simply staying here. The sooner we leave, the better…but I doubt that is the answer you were wanting to hear.” 

“Not really, no,” Yuugi mumbled. 

Yami searched out his hand. “Then let this evening be for everyone of us,” he spoke. “The way we want to spend it, with the ones we love and care for.” 

Mahaado’s eyes showed melancholy and he turned away a little, carefully with the Pharaoh in his arms, still asleep. He recognized the feelings between the other two all too well; a love that would never be really true and would never come to pass. They weren’t destined to be together, however harsh it was; it was the undeniable truth in their future. Yami was the Pharaoh, who was going to be sent back to the Afterlife sooner or later. So many trials and tests were still awaiting them, so much grief and sorrow as well as happiness and victory. Mahaado studied the face of his sleeping ruler. He had failed him enough, he wouldn’t fail him now, this evening, this one night they had together. He wasn’t afraid of what the morning would bring, even more so he was looking forward to it. Together forever. Past, present and future. An eternal servant.  


Time was a strange thing, Yuugi thought as he sat on the edge of the bed, fully dressed. Morning already, and he had hoped this night would never end. Not only for himself. He’d seen the love in Mana’s eyes, he’d seen the deep respect and love in Mahaado’s eyes. He’d seen the love in Yami’s eyes, and knew there had been love in his eyes, too.  

How could a night be so short, and so intense? How could he live with himself, knowing what he knew now? About timelines, other realities, other Jounouchis, Anzus and Yuugis who existed in other worlds, making mistakes, living, loving, laughing and lamenting all the same?

How could he live now everything would be turned back, and his Other would become a spirit again, losing his body for the second time? Yuugi had hoped to learn the reasons behind it all, the answers to his million questions, but he knew it was too late - he couldn’t ask them anymore, and if he could, they wouldn’t be answered. This morning…this morning, people would die, and they would embrace it with joy. 

Startled as he felt hands on his shoulders, he quickly broke into a smile when he saw it was Yami. Who else could be touching him at this very moment? 

“Aibou,” he said, cupping his face, “this is going to be difficult. When they leave…” 

“Shhh,” Yuugi silenced him. “One more kiss, please. They’re not going to leave, not yet.” 

There wasn’t an answer, just soft lips on his, and he couldn’t help but heave a sigh.  

“This shouldn’t happen,” he said when Yami pulled away from him, repeating the kiss on his neck.  

“It seems that higher forces than us have decided for it to be this way, aibou,” Yami said. “Fate, or destiny. Whatever brought us together, whatever made you solve the Puzzle after eight year, whatever invented that Great Timeline…it also made them, no forced them, to return to where they came from.” 

“But they came from nowhere, mou hitori no boku,” Yuugi said. “As soon as they…leave, they’ll die!” 

Yami nodded. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t, sugarcoat it. “They will die, but not in a way we see death, aibou. They will continue to live on another plane - Afterlife, heaven, however you want to name it…but it is something they believe in, and something that will await them, and they will be happy together.” 

“As long as they’re happy,” Yuugi said, but his voice didn’t sound very confident. He looked up when there was a knock at his door. 

“So early?” Yami said confusedly and looked at the clock. It was unbelievable that it was a regular school day, and Yuugi should’ve been sitting in his math class by now. He couldn’t care less at the moment. Time…had proven itself to be very strange and very fleeting, slipping through his fingers like sand, whisked away by the wind… 

“Too early, way too early,” he mumbled and stood up from his side of the bed. Yami followed him, standing up as well, the chain of the Puzzle rattling as he moved. 


“I know.” 

Yami pressed a kiss on his forehead, but made no movement to walk to the door. They remained standing, facing each other, bright violet eyes gazing into dark crimson ones. 

“We have to go.” 

“We can’t keep them waiting.” 

“This is horrible,” Yuugi whispered as he pressed down the handle of the door, opening it. 

“I know,” Yami said, repeating Yuugi’s earlier words. He felt nervous, light-hearted and burdened at the same time if that was possible; he couldn’t describe the feeling that ran through him. Was it because he was going to meet the other Pharaoh again? Or was it the inevitability of the situation…and that he would return to be the spirit of the Sennen Puzzle as soon as the magician left? 

“Good morning!” Mana waved at them as they entered the living room. They were standing close to the window where Mahaado had stood only yesterday - only a few hours ago. Yuugi swallowed, returning the wave. She looked different, and not only because of her clothes. The formless, dark purple long robes were gone; instead she wore a short skirt, combined with a top in the same color, a golden belt around her waist. Her eyes were sparkling, and her smile was brighter than before. The Pharaoh was standing next to her, the epitome of composed calmness, his hands next to his sides. His clothing was repaired and his jewelry shone in the early morning light. Mahaado wasn’t present yet - secretly, Yuugi hoped that their departure would be postponed, for whatever reason Mahaado hadn’t shown up. 

Anzu was in the other corner, also waving at Yuugi and smiling when he returned the wave as well. She’d been reading something, and she looked rested, yet anxious - her face was a little too pale, her expression too blank as to keep her emotions in check.  

“I hope you slept well?” the magician asked and she even winked. Yuugi blushed furiously, and the Pharaoh seemed to be very amused. 

“This has to be one of the most…eventful nights of my life,” he said, and Yuugi looked crestfallen when hearing the word ‘life’. If only they didn’t have to leave…he had hoped they could at least share breakfast together, but the table wasn’t set, even though the dishes from last night were cleared out. They had shared a very late dinner, Mana serving them quick and easy Egyptian dishes, but tasty enough to feed them sufficiently. Yuugi had never thought he’d sleep well with a full stomach, but he hadn’t gottten much sleep anyway, so… 

Yami chuckled when seeing Yuugi blush even deeper. For a moment, just this little moment, everything seemed to be perfect - just joking around, sharing a little fun, being together. Yuugi wouldn’t have minded if this moment did not end; he’d rather stick with his friends than send them off to wherever they were going…and in their case, going to somewhere no one could follow them. He didn’t even dare ask for Mahaado, as if that would burst this happy little bubble. 

Mana talked softly to the Pharaoh in their native language, while Anzu got up from her chair and walking over to Yuugi and Yami, only her strained movements betraying the tension she was trying to hide. 

Yuugi beamed up at her in an attempt to reassure her. He was glad that she’d been with him the whole time; she was his best friend, and that was something he was extremely grateful for. The moment he opened his mouth to ask her how her night had been, if she’d gotten any sleep, the door to the living room opened and Mahaado entered. 

“Good morning everyone, good morning, Pharaoh,” he greeted, his voice less tensed than Yuugi was used to. How could these people not be afraid of what was waiting for them? Did the Pharaoh know everything about what had happened? The way he was standing, he was one and all regal calmness, unfazed. He nodded at Mahaado, acknowledging his presence, prepared for anything. Mahaado already seemed to reach for him… 

“We don’t want you to go,” Yuugi said, voice loud. “There must be a way we can solve this, a way that will make everyone of us happy, that everything can be solved.” 

Mahaado withdrew his hand, turning around to face Yuugi. 

“I am afraid, young Prince, that is not possible, no matter how much we all want to,” he said. His robes were a light beige, generously flowing around his body, but not as formless as his previous clothing. The fabric was held up by a beautiful golden belt, and his hair was covered by a headpiece, also made of gold. Yuugi was fairly sure these were his clothes as he was supposed to wear all the time, in his function as a Priest. 

“All the timelines have to follow the Great Timeline, and all of you, and especially the Pharaoh, are a part of such an influential event that any disturbance could cause a major collapse in the Great Timeline itself.” 

“We know,” Anzu said, looking sad. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re overjoyed to see you all go, especially because we know what awaits you.” 

Mahaado nodded, the fabric of his headpiece shifting over his shoulders with every movement. The Pharaoh shifted on his feet, tugging a little at his purple cloak. 

“There is a battle ahead of me that I need to fight, and I am not going to lose,” he said. “The darkness will be sealed for millennia, and that is a victory worthy of my life.” He turned to Yuugi and bowed to him. “My strong vessel.” 

He went to Yami and bowed to him as well. “My strong self. We will all survive.” 

Yami finally returned the favor, bowing to him. “It was an honor to meet you.” 

That answered Yuugi’s unspoken question if the Pharaoh knew about everything, and though he was a little confused about his words about a battle ahead of him, it filled his heart with sadness that no more time was given to them. He would’ve loved to talk to the Pharaoh and learn from him and his culture, and to save him from impending death…or just that nothingness.  

Mahaado raised his hand, but not in a way to say goodbye. A light purple glow surrounded him for a brief moment, and then it was gone. It was the spell he told them he would cast; the spell that would make them forget what happened, or at least the information and knowledge they had gotten from the previous events. So little time, so much happening. 

“My Pharaoh, it is time.” 

The voice of magician sounded with longing, without a trace of fear or hesitation. The Pharaoh showed Yami and Yuugi a warm smile. 

“The Gods watch over you always.” 

Yami nodded simply in return, while Yuugi swallowed heavily. He couldn’t hold back the tears and desperately didn’t want to cry in front of his friends, in front of the Pharaoh, Mahaado and Mana who were literally going to walk to their death. 

“We’ll see you again, Prince, sooner than you think!” The girl waved, smiling as she never smiled before.  

“Farewell, Prince, Other Pharaoh,” Mahaado said, a hint of amusement at last. He took the Pharaoh’s left hand, and Mana all but latching onto his other, immediately opening a portal with the supplied energy.  

The Pharaoh looked over his shoulder as they stood in front of the portal, seconds away of walking through it. There was no fear on his face, only a very familiar smirk, and suddenly he moved both entwined hands up, as in a last greeting.  

Yuugi put up his hand as well, waving his last goodbye, unable to keep from crying. He didn’t want the Pharaoh’s last memory of him to be with tears on his face, even though he knew the other would forget it as soon as they went through the portal. Mana, Mahaado, the Pharaoh…they would all be gone, gone forever, dissolved into the timeline and into nothingness. They would simply cease to exist as all the timelines has been restored, their presence superfluous. The light absorbed them as they stepped through, the flowing cloak of the Pharaoh the last thing to be seen. The portal shone strongly after they passed, their bodies disappearing from sight. 

The bracelets around Anzu’s wrists clicked against each other as she was still waving, the portal slowly shrinking, the light still shining brightly until it disappeared suddenly, as if someone had turned off a switch. Silence was all that reigned in the apartment that seemed heavy with suppressed grief and pain, the last trace of lingering hope gone with the portal. 

“Aibou.” Yami said, his voice sounding strangely hollow. 

“Mou hitori no boku…” 

“Aibou, do you want to sit down…?” 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Yuugi whispered. 

“What do you mean, aibou? There is nothing you have to be sorry about.” 

“Yes, I do,” Yuugi hiccupped. “Look at me, crying all over. I didn’t want them to see me cry as they left…” 

He gently touched Yuugi’s shoulder, relieved that he was still solid. Yuugi needed some comfort, and hopefully he could give it to him before he would dissolve as well…he had no doubt that as soon as the portal was gone, Mahaado’s magic would end, unable to uphold his physical body. 

“Aibou, you remember what they said, do you not? There is still a long road ahead of us, a road wherein we will discover my memories. There are dangers ahead, but also good moments, and we will learn from it…we will both learn from it.” 

“You…your other self didn’t even hesitate in stepping through that portal.” Yuugi rubbed at his eyes, hating that he couldn’t stop the flow of tears. Anzu dabbed at her eyes as well, using a handkerchief to absorb the flow of tears. 

“It was courage,” Yami said. “Courage we all share, aibou. You have been very courageous too, you know…when you stood up for your friends, when you gave people a second chance…it is a trait we all share.” 

“If it’s courage, why am I crying so much?” 

“Do you want to say that only girls are allowed to cry?” Anzu said, trying to make it sound like a joke. Yami showed a small grin. 

“Of course not. Tears are never a sign of weakness, you both know that. You are my friends, more than that - you are here.” He placed a hand over his heart. Anzu nodded, suppressing another sob. 

“Those battles and tests ahead of you took place millennia ago,” Yuugi whispered. “That was what the Pharaoh meant. Mou hitori no boku…” 

“Yes, aibou?” Yami said, leaning into him to put his hand on Yuugi’s shoulder. Both he and Anzu gasped in surprise when his hand went straight through Yuugi’s body, unable to touch him. 

“No, no, not now!” Yuugi cried.  

“With Mahaado gone, the spell can’t be upheld any longer,” Yami sighed, the look on his face devastated. Anzu stared at him, her mouth moving as she couldn’t find the words. He was dissolving in front of her eyes, his solid body becoming more and more ghost-like by the second. 

“Please don’t leave me!” 

“I am not leaving you, aibou…we could not be closer…” 

“You’re right…” Yuugi looked up, rubbing at his eyes again. He was done crying - tears wouldn’t bring his friends back, and tears wouldn’t change the situation. He forced himself to watch as his Other, Yami, disappeared, wearing the same smirk as the Pharaoh when he stepped through the portal. The Puzzle fell to the floor, his body too far gone to support the weight. Yuugi reached for the Item, grabbing the thick chain and putting it around his neck again, the weight immediately familiar against his chest. A hand was on his shoulder - Anzu’s. Gratefully, he looked up at her.  

“Is he home again?” she asked, a little sheepishly because she referred to the Puzzle as his home. Yuugi beamed at her.  

“Yes, he is,” he said. Just as the weight of the Puzzle, Yami’s presence in his mind was familiar. It would be hard living without it, as that day would be inevitable as well, but as far as Yuugi was concerned, that day would take a long time to come. Time again. Anzu smiled nonetheless. She suddenly turned her head to the right. 

“What is it?” Yuugi asked, cautious.  

“I thought I heard something,” she said. 


“No…look, Yuugi!” 

She didn’t have to point at anything in particular, as it seemed all of the furniture and objects in the living room started to decay and rot. Dust settled over the couch, chairs and the large dining table, the walls looked gray and dirty, with the wall paper torn and peeled off. The book case was empty, only a few volumes, dusty and crumbling, left behind. The paint was chipped, large flakes falling down from the ceiling. 

“I guess that was the last of their heka,” Anzu said. She looked up at the ceiling which showed large black circles, as if someone had been smoking there at exact the same place for ages. 

“I guess so too,” Yuugi agreed, feeling sad. All those beautiful things, gone, withered away, just as time would take everything away. We will forget in time, he reminded himself, but we won’t be forgotten in time. 

“We better go,” Anzu suggested. “Ah…my book bag!” 

He had to suppress a short laugh. “Is mine there, too?” 

“Yes, they’re both here,” Anzu said, pulling out the two heavy bags from behind the dusty, moldy chair she had just been sitting in only moments ago. Yuugi took his bag from her, flinging it over his shoulder. 

“Come on, everyone will be so worried,” he said. 

“Especially Jounouchi! He’s going to give you an earfull when he hears all about this…” 

“I’m sure he will!” 

They left the living room, not surprised to find the hallway in the same state of decay. Carefully, they moved past the large gaps in the carpet, avoiding touching the dirty walls. Yuugi reached the front door first, and rattled at the doorknob. It broke off as the door swung open.  

“What the hell?” 

He immediately took a step back, almost bumping into Anzu, as the tall man towered over him. “Hey kids, get out of the way! These apartments are going to be demolished, what the hell are you doing here?” 

“Nothing,” Anzu chirped, “we were…just curious!” 

“Curious, my ass,” the man answered rudely. He tugged at his utility belt and took out a hammer. “Get lost!” 

Anzu had to giggle, dragging Yuugi with her as they searched for the elevator of the building, which looked dilapidated in broad daylight. A large crane was next to it, and construction workers were all over the place. Yuugi looked over his shoulder a few time, being stared after by the man that had ‘caught’ them, but he wasn’t really looking at the man - he was looking for a last glimpse of Mana, Mahaado, or the Pharaoh…but there was nothing to see, there was nothing that remained of them, and finally he turned his head around and looked forward, if only to see where he was going; a lot of rubbish was on the floor. 

They avoided a few other construction workers on their way down and left the building, Anzu looking around to discern where they were. Not that extremely far from the park, as their run from yesterday evening had proved. She pointed westwards.  

“That way to school, Yuugi,” she said.  


She shifted her book bag from one hand to another, walking along Yuugi on their way back to school. Obviously lost in thoughts, she stared in front of her, her hands loosely on her back. Yuugi’s thoughts drifted off as well, subconsciously worrying about his Other and searching him out in his soul room, wanting to know if he really, really was there. 

“Mou hitori no boku?” 

“Yes, aibou?” came the immediate answer. 

“Will we ever know if they succeeded in repairing the timeline?” 

“The Great Timeline they were talking about was out of danger with the timelines they repaired…and with the Pharaoh they found in this universe, everything was rectified,” his Other pondered. “I guess that if they really did not succeed after all, this world would either come to an end right now or they would return, to try to restore it.” 

“I would love to see them again,” Yuugi whispered. “Mou hitori no boku…” 

“Yes, aibou.” 

“About last night…” 

“About last night,” he repeated, some amusement to his voice. “What is it you wanted to talk about, last night?” 

“Hey, are you blacking out on me again?” 

“Whu-what?” Yuugi blinked a few times. 

“Keep your attention to traffic young man,” Anzu mock-scolded him. She lifted up her finger, tapping him on the nose. “I don’t want to see you getting almost hit by a car once again.” 

“You’re right about that,” Yuugi said a little sheepishly.  

Anzu reached for him, grabbing his hand and dragging him over the crossing. “Come on, it’s green now!” 

She laughed contagiously, and he laughed with her. Their memories started to fade during the last spell Mahaado had cast. As they ran to the other side of the street, time twisted and turned one more time, a small ripple in the universe of timelines, to return to a calm, smooth pattern as the Great Timeline moved on, all in due time. 


“Yuugi! Anzu’s here for you!” 


Mutou Yuugi snatched up his Sennen Puzzle, a golden pendant shaped like an upside-down pyramid, and put the metal chain over his head. Satisfied, he looked into the mirror, checking the way the Puzzle was secured - he used to wear it on a rope, but recent events had proven that a chain would be far more effective. 

“I can’t believe it,” Yuugi muttered. 

“What, aibou?” A voice floated through the room, only audible to the young teen. 

“That so many people are after the Puzzle, mou hitori no boku,” Yuugi answered, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to speak to a spitting image of oneself in spirit form. 

“I am really glad that you have chosen for a more…ah, sturdier solution,” the spirit said, his crimson eyes resting upon his home - the Sennen Puzzle. Ever since Yuugi had managed to solve this mysterious puzzle, his spirit and soul had been reawakened. For what purpose or reason still eluded the both of them, but he had faith enough that someday it would become all clear to them. For now, they had their hands full on finding his memories; as he didn’t recall anything from his past, and that was the most logical thing to look for first. 

“Mou hitori no boku...” 

“Yes, aibou?” 

“You’re daydreaming. We have to go to school!” 

“Ah, yes, you are right,” he chuckled briefly and the next second he was gone, retreating back into the Puzzle. Yuugi smiled to himself. One day, we’ll find your memories, mou hitori no boku, and then you’ll know all about yourself and why you’re here. Until then, we’ll be friends and help each other. Slinging the book bag over his shoulder and storming out of his room, Yuugi almost ran over his mother. 

“Sorry about that, kaa-san!” 

“Were you talking to yourself again?” the woman asked, throwing him a suspicious look. 

“S-sorry.” Yuugi blushed.  

“You’re growing up to be exactly like your grandfather,” she said, shaking her head though she didn’t sound too sad about it. “Now, hurry up, don’t keep poor Anzu waiting!” 

“No, kaa-san,” Yuugi answered and threw her a smile before turning around and thundering down the stairs. He really should’ve gotten up earlier - there was no time for breakfast now. Yuugi opened the door, squinting his eyes at the bright sun. 

“Yuugi, over here,” Anzu waved, her voice clearly indicating that she wanted to be saved from his grandfather. Mutou Sugoroku was the proprietor of the Kame Game shop for decades on end, and besides his love for games he was pretty much renowned for his appreciation of the female bust size. Anzu was too polite to tell him to knock it off with glaring at her upper body and she heaved an audible sigh when Yuugi grabbed her hand and dragged her off to school. 

“Bye, jii-chan! See you later!” 

“Really, Yuugi, your grandfather…” Anzu started when they were well out of sight. Yuugi was now the one to heave a sigh. 

“I know, Anzu…he doesn’t mean it like that, really.” 

“He’s a pervert,” she whispered furiously. Yuugi blushed again, trying to find a way not to belittle his grandfather’s actions…but he couldn’t find any, because Anzu was right. 

“He really doesn’t mean it that bad,” he repeated, willing his blush away. Anzu was far too optimistic and cheerful to let it ruin her day, and started talking about an upcoming school performance. She loved to dance, and this year the students of their class had chosen to incorporate dance in their annual performance. Yuugi wasn’t really looking forward to it and hoped he could avoid all the dancing by simply volunteering to help with the costumes and the stage settings. Mentally going over their classes for today, he listened to Anzu talking as she was describing her costume and the dance she was studying. 

“I think red would fit you splendidly,” Yuugi said, blushing at the thought of Anzu in a form-fitting, long red dress. They halted in front of the traffic lights. Anzu was very excited about the performance, as her greatest dream was to go study modern dance in New York. Only her best and closest friends knew of her ambition - Anzu wasn’t the kind of girl to flaunt it in everybody’s face, but she sure loved this opportunity, no matter if it was only a mere school performance, to demonstrate her skills. 

The traffic light went green and Yuugi already took a step forward, still listening attentively to Anzu describing the costumes for the dance. His feet had barely touched the asphalt when he heard the girl screaming his name. 


Her hand grabbed him at the collar of his school uniform and yanked him forcefully back, out of the way of the onstorming car. Yuugi yelped in surprise, stumbling and falling on his ass as she let go of him. 

“People are driving like crazy around here,” she muttered, looking at the car disappearing around the corner, honking for good measure. She reached for him to get him back up on his feet. 

“Phew! If it weren’t for you, I would be roadkill by now!” Yuugi dusted off his school uniform, glaring at the direction in which the car had disappeared to. 

“If you didn’t have me to look after you,” Anzu quipped. She smiled. Yuugi adjusted his backpack and returned her smile. 

“Come on, let’s go.” 

Anzu had picked up the conversation about the school’s performance again and Yuugi listened to her, enjoying her calm voice and her enthusiasm for the dance. His own thoughts wandered away just a little, and suddenly, something… or rather someone, to the left caught his eye. It was a man, sitting behind a wooden table, a crystal ball in front of him. He was dressed in a large, formless robe, masking a great part of his face. 

“Hey kid, want to know the future?” 

“The future?”  

Yuugi wasn’t really sure. He wanted to know the future, that was for sure - he wanted to help his Other, the spirit of the Sennen Puzzle. It had just been a few weeks since they won Duelist Kingdom and it had become pretty apparent that people were after him and the Puzzle. Maybe…a glimpse in the future could help him out?  

“Are you sure?” Anzu asked, scrunching up her face. Whoever was sitting in front of a dark alley with such weird clothes and a crystal ball in front of them was pretty weird in her book, but if Yuugi really wanted to, it couldn’t hurt, could it?  

“Can you really see the future?” Yuugi asked, slightly incredulous. 

“But of course,” the man answered smoothly. “But I need something personal of yours…your pendant perhaps?” 

“Yuugi…are you sure…?” Anzu asked again. She knew that there was something about the Puzzle, and not only because of Yuugi’s other. He hesitated, not sure whether he could trust the man or not. It took him a few minutes, but then he beamed at Anzu, his good-hearted and kind nature prevailing. He would have to have faith, not only for now, but also in the future. He would find his Other’s name, his memories, and help him as much as he helped Yuugi in retrieving his grandfather’s soul. He would trust, he would have faith, in what was to come, and what Fate - and time - had all laid out for him.  

He took the chain from his neck, missing the satisfied grin on the man’s face. A glimpse in the future wouldn’t hurt. He would do anything to help his Other, and his faith and hope was more important, even if he was about to be fooled. He would remain positive, and believe in himself and the goodness of mankind. Yuugi handed the Puzzle over to the man, unknown of the series of events he would set off with this simple gesture, events that would test him, his friends and his Other, in deepest darkness and hopeful light.   

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