Yami awoke to warmth and sunshine. He awoke to the sound of birds and the caress of something soft beneath his form.
And he awoke to the realization that his Aibou was nowhere in sight.
Yami sat up abruptly, taking in his surroundings with a quick flash of his crimson eyes. He was lying on sand that appeared nearly as white as the snow he had seen fall on Domino in winter, the sun beating down upon his form. Peering straight ahead, he could see a mass of trees sprouting, and birds flocked above the beaches and through the branches of the forest, singing the songs that had awakened him.
But where was Yugi?
Rising swiftly to his feet, Yami was burdened suddenly with a weight he had no expected. His shoulders slouched, his vision blurring momentarily, and he staggered, catching himself on legs that shook with the weight of his body.
Yami's crimson eyes widened in surprise and he looked down at the ground. There was a deep impression in the sand where he had been laying; the kind of impression only a physical force could make upon the world.
Yami swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly very dry.
He was… he was…
Unwilling to believe it, to jump to conclusions, Yami reached up and placed fingers tightly against his neck.
He received something he had never expected.
A true pulse.
"I'm… I'm alive?" he whispered, his voice staggering drunkenly from his mouth in a mixture of utter shock and mild horror. "H-how?"
Then, his world abruptly jumped, spinning to face a problem on the opposite spectrum; a problem that somehow still connected adamantly to this new discovery.
Where was Yugi?
Yami's eyes were studying the sand, seeking answers in the endless dancing grains that had traveled far across the oceans and surely knew more than he. It was while studying these grainy philosophers that Yami saw the piece of paper.
He found that it was perched quite lovingly on top of a familiar stack of cards. Yami scooped the cards delicately into his hands, brushing sand from them as one might brush tears from the face of a child. He made certain that the cards were tucked carefully into the slot on his belt before he turned his crimson gaze to the note, opening it with an eager sort of dread.
His breath caught at the message, written in a sharp, mocking hand that screamed at him in an obvious warning to danger.
I have your light.
If you ever want to see him again, you will follow the path that makes its way well-known to the eyes of those who are meant to see it.
If you care not for his safety, feel free to dawdle. His blood will only taste sweeter, tainted with fear and knowledge of your betrayal.
You have three days, Pharaoh.
Yami crinkled the letter tightly in his tan fist, closing his eyes tightly as images of Yugi's pale, sweat-drenched face flashed before his mind's eye. All he could hear were Yugi's shaky breaths and the whimpers calling out for aid.
"THAT'S MY PIZZA, YA JERK!"
Joey flew into consciousness, reaching out for an imaginary foe trying to steal away his imaginary pizza, loaded with imaginary pepperonis, sausage, peppers, olives, mushrooms…
The blonde shook his head wildly to drive out images of the sadly non-existent food. Swallowing a mouthful of drool, Joey finally realized that he was not where he was supposed to be.
Though, he wasn't complaining.
"Dis is weird," he commented to the air, rising to his feet.
He blinked in surprise when the ground moved beneath his feet. "Ugh…" he groaned, lifting a foot out the rapidly-sinking mudhole in which he had found himself. His shoes squelched loudly as the mud tried to keep a tight hold on him. "Ferget it!" he snarled at the mud, as though it could understand him and be frightened by his tone or raised fists.
Taking a leap toward the nearby fallen tree, Joey swore loudly when his foot slipped from his shoe. Balancing on one foot, he glared back at the mud which had a tight hold on his foot's apparel.
"Dis sucks," he muttered to no one in particular, getting on his knees on the moss-covered log and reaching out for his sneaker. "When de hell did I get dressed, anyway?"
He only had time to release a small string of swear words after the moldy, long-dead tree crumbled beneath his unfortunate weight and he collapsed heavily into the hungry mud.
Tea blinked in surprised when she opened her eyes to find herself no longer in her bedroom. She raised her aching hand to her face to find that a thorn had dug its way into the back of her hand, rather than the claws of her social-hungry cat, as she had expected.
Plucking the thorn from her flesh, Tea flicked it back into the bushes beside her and chanced a more elaborate glance around. She obviously wasn't in Domino – that was pretty easy to see straight off.
Getting to her feet, Tea bit her right index finger in habit as she thought. She was in a forest; a very thick, unfamiliar forest. She identified some of the vegetation as being familiar, which calmed her slightly, but there was concern blooming deep within her gut. Question prattled in angry fear through her mind. Not just the simple where was she, how did she get her, what was she going to do – they existed within her flustered mind, but other thoughts danced there, as well.
Why was she here?
Tea bit back the desire to mentally kick herself in the head. Why, indeed.
But, of course… she sighed. Tea wasn't stupid. Obsessive over the need for friendship to a point that made her seem crazed, sure, she'd admit to that. She had her reasons, though, and none of them were either stupidity or insanity.
This just seemed… typical.
Vaguely, she wondered if the others were here, as well. If she found any of them, she'd know immediately that there was something behind this that related to Duel Monster and the Pharaoh.
Hell, what didn't?
A moan stole Tea's thoughts from her in a sudden rush of panic and she spun to face the sound. She bit back a distressed cry of fear at the creature staggering toward her, bulbous folds dripping brown toxins that coated the ground like slime, reaching toward her with thin, dead arms like those of a half-eaten creature of the undead.
Tea retreated with a staggering, fearful step and her fingers found the end of a thick stick just behind her. Gripping it tightly, she abruptly swung it with all of her strength at the creature, finally letting out a terrified shriek that echoed in the forest around her like a death knell lingered around a flock of ravens.
Tristan hated getting up.
This was one of the reasons that he hated school.
He had just found another reason to hate waking up.
He was suspended in the air by the back of his shirt.
Tristan prided himself in being a tough guy. He'd handled himself against a number of bullies, and most knew not to mess with him, because he was always good and ready to kick someone's ass if he thought they deserved it.
However, Tristan was also dismally aware that he was human, mortal, and completely unable to fly, no matter how hard he flapped his arms.
For this reason, he felt absolutely no shame in screaming at the top of his lungs when he looked to see the ground so far below him it was blurry.
"Oh, shut up!"
The voice startled Tristan into silence, prompting him to turn his head in an attempt to catch sight of whatever held him.
That whatever turned out to be whoever.
"Uh… Ryou, what are you doing?" Tristan asked, fear forgotten in his confusion.
The white-haired boy rolled his eyes and made a scoffing sound. "Idiot," he snarled in a very unlike-Ryou manner. "I'm not that weak little friend of yours."
"Oh… Bakura?" Tristan asked rather unnecessarily. He suddenly felt like screaming again, only this time louder, longer, and with many "mommy-please-help-me" shrieks added.
That sound again, a characteristic roll of the eyes. "No, halfwit, I'm the God of Childbirth! Yes, you damn twit! Bakura tightened his grip on the collar of Tristan's shirt. "It's about damn time you woke up. I wasn't planning on holding you all day."
"Um… well… why did you…" He trailed off, unwilling to make the spirit of the Millennium Ring angry.
"I didn't," Bakura admitted angrily, though he sounded mildly disappointed. "Some damn bird grabbed us both. You were still asleep. I took care of it, though." He smirked evilly, cherishing the memory and the taste of the blood.
"Oh… er…" Tristan swallowed as the dark eyes returned to glare at him. "Th-Thanks, I guess."
Bakura's eyes narrowed and Tristan flinched involuntarily. "I didn't save you," he snarled, "so don't go thinking I'm soft." Tristan shook his head wildly. "I wanted to know if you knew where my host was."
Tristan blinked. "Your… host? Ryou?"
Bakura growled menacingly. "I haven't inhabited the body of any other boys," he snarled. "You and others have made certain of that." Tristan swallowed hard. "But yes, Ryou, seeing as you need clarification."
"But don't you… you know… live in him?"
"I live in the Ring, you halfwit!" Bakura snarled. His eyes narrowed darkly and he seemed to consider dropping Tristan. Instead, he pulled him up slightly, but not far enough for him to touch solid ground. Tristan bit back a whimper of fear, once again spotting the ground so far below. "As it is, I've no idea where the Albino is." A dark look flashed across his face; an emotion inhabiting his eyes that Tristan couldn't and didn't want to place. "He's not in the Ring… he's not here at all… but how could that be…"
Tristan remained silent as the spirit of the Ring muttered to himself. He didn't want to anger the homicidal maniac, as he valued his life dearly and actually did want to graduate High School.
Bakura released a snarl of rage at his confusion, before abruptly jerking Tristan up to solid ground. He released the boy's collar, leaving the brunette to cough and gasp for air after being choked by his shirt.
"B-Bakura!" Tristan gasped. "W-Wait!"
The tomb robber stopped, turning his head only slightly to see the brunette staggering to his feet. "What, halfwit?" he snarled.
"You're going after Ryou?" he asked uselessly.
Bakura's eyes narrowed in impatience. "As much as it pains me," he admitted, "my host is a rather necessary liability."
"But you're… you're here now," Tristan admitted hesitantly, looking at Bakura. The boy's grip had been tight on his shirt. There was no doubt in his mind that the spirit of the Millennium Ring was no spirit any longer.
Bakura's glare was sharp, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "Keh!" he declared finally, turning and walking away, not viewing Tristn as worthy of his time. "I have my reasons," he murmured.
Tristan frowned, but followed after the "spirit." He didn't know Bakura's reasoning and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. He was concerned about Ryou, though, for the kind Albino put up with far more shit from the tomb robber than anyone should have to.
Bakura glanced darkly at him momentarily, but didn't say anything as he followed. Tristan kept silent but kept pace with the white-haired tomb raider, remaining constantly a few steps behind. When he found Ryou, if he found Ryou, Tristan would be there to make sure he didn't do anything to his "host."
Standing half-buried in darkness, the boy chuckled, white hair cascading down his back. There was an inhuman gleam in his eyes and a dangerously-wild smirk on his lips. "Yes, yes, keep coming," he called, watching the proceedings of his prey. "Come a little closer, my friends. It will all be over soon."
Lying on his back in midair, suspended by magic, Yugi's face was as pale as though he were already dead, his lips a dangerous blue. Sweat rolled down his flesh and his eyes were dark and sad.
"Yami…" he whispered. "Yami… don't… don't come…" His eyes closed in tired sorrow. "It's… it's too late… anyway…"