“My big brother’s a better duelist than you’ll ever be!” Mokuba Kaiba shouted at the spiky haired duelist, his eyes sharp and grounded with determination. He would not let himself be put down by a cheat. Especially not a cheat who had tricked the whole world into believing he had trounced Mokuba’s idol.
“Mokuba, let’s be rational… please. We’re all friends here.” Anzu pleaded. Mokuba ignored her.
“Hey man, Kaiba ain’t that great a duelist.” Jounouchi spouted. Honda elbowed him in the ribs to shut the blond up, and Mokuba glared at him with rabid eyes.
“What’s that supposed to mean?! Not like you even deserve the right to judge, Jounouchi. You’ve never won a single tournament in your life! My brother won every tournament and even every single duel he ever fought until he came along and screwed everything up!” He gestured to the short gamer.
“Yeah, and that’s exactly what I’m--ngh!” Honda had elbowed him again, but Jou still refused to relent. “--what I’m sayin’. Kaiba met this little shrimp -- sorry Yug’, but you are pretty little -- who barely had his foot in the door of the duelin’ world, and he goes from top dog to no one takin’ him seriously practically overnight. That sucks, but dontcha think that if he were really that great, he oughta be able to wipe the floor with him at least once, even if Yug’ did get lucky and knock him out with Exodia their first duel? But since he can’t beat Yugi even after tryin’ -- how many times now? --”
“Shut up.” Mokuba cut in, voice dark. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” The young boy began shouting. “You’re wrong! My brother studies Duel Monsters. He works really hard on new strategies to stay on top of the game. And people do still take him seriously! Do you know how often it happens that we can’t get out our own front gate because there’s a swarm of fans blocking it who want his autograph? How many times has that happened to you, Jounouchi? Or even to you, Yugi?” He said the name like it was a filthy word. He got no reply. “That’s what I thought. So until that happens… Shut. Up. My brother will always be better than you.” He finished with the signature Kaiba venom in his voice.
“So he’s got fans. I ain’t convinced.” Honda had stopped trying to save his friend from his own funeral, and Anzu covered her face with her palm, likely trying to pretend she wasn’t watching this bold stupidity. Yugi just stared at the ground in front of the youngest boy’s feet, his face unreadable. “Kaiba’s famous for more than just dueling. But Yugi’s got plenty of fans and so do I. So who cares?”
“I do. Yugi relies on chance to win his duels, and from what I hear, Jou, so do you. Oh, I’m sorry. What is it you call it? The heart of the cards? You’re a joke!”
“Hey! Watch who you’re insultin’, you little snot! Yugi could beat your brother without the heart of the cards--”
“Uh, Jou?” Yugi sheepishly interjected, but Jou brushed him off.
“…or his puzzle.”
“Jou.” Yugi insisted, but still he was ignored.
“But you know what? Kaiba ain’t here right now, so you got no one to run cryin’ to. You gonna pick a fight out here all on your own, put up yer fists like a real man!”
“A real man, Jounouchi? You mean like the kind that threatens defenseless children? Yes, that seems quite manly to me,” came a bold voice from behind him.
“Kaiba!” Jou was surprised, but kept up the defensive stance he’d taken.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you, Jou…” Yugi mumbled, but no one seemed to hear him.
“Seto!” Mokuba sounded a lot less surprised and a lot more enthusiastic to see his brother.
“Hey man, he started in on us. He just comes in here spoutin’ off this garbage about--”
“I don’t want to hear it.” He interjected, one hand in the air to silence the blond. “I already know what this is about. You and your pathetic little group of friends seem to think my skills -- skills which I have practiced and mastered through grueling years of fighting my way to the very top -- amount to exactly nothing in the game of Duel Monsters, as though my reputation and fan base don’t speak for themselves.”
“That ain’t what I said.”
“Regardless, that’s how my brother seemed to have taken your remark. If you didn’t want to be misunderstood you should have made your point more clear. That is, if you had a point. I must have missed it if it was there. But I do believe I heard you say that Yugi could defeat me without any outside help? I’m willing to test that theory in order to prove my point.”
“Kaiba,” Yugi started timidly. “I really don’t think any of this is necessary. This all started as a misunderstanding…” Kaiba clearly wasn’t listening, so Yugi stopped talking. He was busy examining his little brother’s expression. He saw the grin split the young boy’s face, and nodded in determination. He wasn’t asking to play a friendly game. He was going to prove who the winner would be.
“What should I do, Yami?” Yugi asked his other self through their mental link.
“I’m not certain we have much of a choice, Yugi. Kaiba seems rather set on making this happen, and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble to fight him on this.”
“But Joey went and said… without the… without the puzzle. How can I beat Kaiba, of all people, without your help?”
“Relax, aibou. You have come very far with your skills. I am confident that you can win without me.” Yugi still felt unsure. “And if you still have doubts, my friend, well… what is the worst that may happen if you cannot defeat him? Kaiba will let it go to his head, but he will leave satisfied, no harm done. This is not an official tournament match, anyhow.”
“I guess you’re right. What choice do I have, anyway?”
“You’ll do fine, Yugi. You have my support, and that of all of our friends as well. So even though you may feel like you’re fighting alone, we will all be right by your side until the end.”
“Thanks, pharaoh.” Yugi said with more resolve. “Alright, Kaiba. If you want a duel, you’ve got one.” He added with a little less volume, “It’s just you and me this time.” He lifted the heavy chain from around his neck and handed his puzzle off to Jounouchi. The blond took it and stood off to one side to get a better view, between the two duelists taking their fighting stances on the walkway in front of the game shop.
“Get ‘im, Seto! Show them all who’s really the world’s best duelist!”
Kaiba flashed his signature smirk and loaded his deck into the slot on his duel disk, and watched with calculating eyes as his opponent did the same.
As Yugi’s life point counter sunk down to zero, an unfamiliar feeling washed over him. It was not the feeling of defeat, as Kaiba would have pointed out. Yugi had lost duels before; he knew what that felt like. This was not the same. This… emptiness, for lack of a better explanation, was not something he knew.
A strange light sprouted from near the middle of the makeshift arena the two duelists had just finished playing on, and it interrupted Yugi’s thoughts. He could just make out through his squinted eyes that the light was being emitted from his millennium puzzle, and wondered what that would mean. He noticed vaguely that across the arena, Kaiba was shielding his own eyes as well.
“So it’s not in my head. Yami? What’s going on?”
No answer came.
“Yami?” Yugi called again, though it was slowly dawning on him that he would not be getting a reply.
“What’s goin’ on? What’s with this light?” Jounouchi called. As he was still the one holding the puzzle, it was too bright for his eyes to recognize that the source was in his hands.
“It’s the puzzle, Jou. I think…” Yugi started, but was interrupted by his grandfather exiting the shop, shouting.
“Yugi! Do you understand what just happened?” The light had dimmed down to a soft glow before it finally disappeared completely.
“I think I’m starting to…” Yugi hesitated.
“Take a look at your playing field. Look where Jounouchi is standing, holding the puzzle.”
“Right in the middle.” Anzu noted. “But what does that mean?”
“In ancient Egypt--”
“Not this garbage.” Kaiba rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what that little light show was, nor do I care. I think I proved the point I came here to make. Let’s go, Mokuba.”
“Wait, Kaiba. It’s very important that you hear this, and understand what the two of you boys have just done!” Kaiba was clearly growing irritated, and Grandpa’s voice was growing horse from raising it. Mokuba, who hadn’t previously seemed to care much about anyone present aside from his brother, was now intrigued. Now that his brother had been victorious, proving him right, Mokuba’s anger seemed to have subsided. He glanced up at Kaiba, eyes shouting that they should stay and hear. Kaiba sighed, flicking his wrist out to check the time.
“Mokuba, you have lessons. This was a detour our driver hadn’t intended to make. Take the limo home and get to your schoolwork. I… suppose I’ll stick around to hear whatever bull these dweebs are about to try and sell me, and I’ll see you back at home tonight.” Mokuba looked put out, but his brother’s authoritative glare told him this wasn’t up for discussion.
“…Fine. See you tonight, Nii-sama.” He wrapped his little arms around his big brother’s waist in a quick hug and waved goodbye to him as he hopped into the open door of the limo, and it pulled away. Kaiba turned back to Sugoroku.
“Alright, let’s get this over with. Make it quick; my patience is thin.”
Sugoroku took a breath. “As I was saying, in ancient Egypt, wars waged over the millennium items were played much like this game you boys have just played. Members of the pharaoh’s royal court would defend against intruders trying to fight their way into the court by owning the items.”
“But Grandpa, we didn’t say anything about waging the puzzle to the winner!” Yugi protested, clearly distressed.
“I understand, Yugi. Though it was not intentional, having Katsuya hold the puzzle while standing in the middle of the arena at the moment Kaiba became the victor must have signified to the puzzle that ownership has shifted.”
“Signified to the… puzzle?” Kaiba mouthed the words, then scoffed at the old man. “You’re all insane. That hunk of gold is nothing more that just that.”
“Think what you will, Kaiba, but the fact still remains that this item, housing more power than any of us can understand, has now become your possession.”
“If that’s true, Grandpa, that would explain why I can’t hear the pharaoh.”
“I expected as much. The puzzle belongs to Kaiba now, and its powers have been transferred to him. The pharaoh will have to communicate through him. Kaiba, I understand you intend to leave, but you must take the millennium puzzle with you.” A pained expression crossed Yugi’s features upon hearing this, but he nodded in understanding.
“No thanks.” The billionaire rolled his eyes, unimpressed. “Keep it.” He turned in the direction of his car parked across the street. He slipped one hand into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around his keys.
Sugoroku called in a warning tone. “If the puzzle does not remain
in the hands of its recognized owner, we run the risk of it easily
falling into the wrong hands. Were it to be stolen--”
“Let me guess: if that happens, the whole world will be in danger!” The CEO mocked.
“I fear you are not taking this as seriously as is necessary.” Kaiba sneered, but Sugoroku spoke in a tone darker than the others had heard him use before. “And that, Kaiba, may be our undoing. If that isn’t enough for you to understand the importance of this event… well, just remember: If our world perishes because you refused to take responsibility, your brother Mokuba is going with it.”
“How dare you!” Kaiba seethed, clenching his fish at his side to restrain himself from assaulting the old man. “Mokuba may be the reason I came here, but he has nothing to do with--” Kaiba was cut off by the beeping radio hanging from his belt.
“Mr. Kaiba,” Isono’s muffled voice called. “We have a situation. Please return to headquarters immediately.” He growled.
“This has delayed me long enough!” He snapped. “If it will shut you up so I can leave, I’ll take it with me. But that does not mean I’m going to go chasing after ancient fairy tales just because you think it’s my ‘destiny’. I couldn’t care less about--”
“Mr. Kaiba, please respond.” Isono’s fuzzy voice came over the radio again. Kaiba pulled the small hand-held device off his belt and spoke into it, tone direct.
“I’m on my way. Manage until I arrive.” He held his hand out pointedly, obviously finished with the discussion. Yugi retrieved his treasure from Jou and approached Kaiba cautiously, cradling the item in both hands.
“Please, be careful with it, Kaiba. It’s very dear to me.” But Kaiba wasn’t listening. He lifted the golden item roughly by its chain and turned again to stalk off.
“I will be taking it back, Kaiba… when I can.”
Yugi thought he heard the man mutter “good” before walking away, but he couldn’t be sure. Sugoroku placed a hand on his grandson’s shoulder, but Yugi failed to notice.