Chapter 11 - Nemesis
"You're all by yourself but you're not alone
The climb seemed endless. When Yugi and Téa finally mounted the step that levelled onto the topmost floor, they found themselves behind several rotten, old crates that were stacked and strewn around the landing of the metal stairs. They navigated their way through the man-made maze, keeping as close to the wall as possible to remain in shadow, and almost tripping over an old red toolbox sitting open against the wall. The guttural coo of the odd pigeon gurgled overhead, but the lofty room was otherwise strangely void of avian life.
"Something must have scared them away," Yugi commented in a whisper.
"Something like that?" Téa replied, her whisper considerably more appalled.
Yugi followed her gaze, and his stomach made a sickening drop back to the bottom of the headframe.
There was a Spell Circle drawn in the middle of the floor. Enclosed within it was a shimmering silver figure - Cora. But she was not standing upright naturally. She looked to be suspended magically, for her feet hovered above the ground. Her usually regal beauty was twisted and maligned with pain, for protruding from each side, and from the right side of her chest were three ghostly, green swords. Her eyes were blazing with agony and fury at being held this way, and they were riveted on a slender figure that stood outside the circle, facing her. A figure that Yugi recognized - with a sickening lurch of his already collapsed insides - as Bakura.
The unmistakeable crown of shaggy, blonde hair, which in the muted light looked ethereally blue-white, was the most distinguishing feature they could make out. He was pacing the outside of the circle like a predator, his eyes never leaving the figure inside as he smiled a disquieting sort of smile, silent and devious. As they watched him from the shadows of the crates, however, they noticed something even more disturbing.
A glint of gold. Gold - where his left eye should have been.
"God, Yugi," Téa's stunned whisper penetrated his shock, "Yugi, didn't that belong... to Pegasus...?"
Yugi didn't answer. He knew it belonged to Maximillian Pegasus - still belonged to him, no matter whose eye it now rested in. The Millennium Eye.
Yugi involuntarily shivered. He could never forget that cold, soulless orb mercilessly piercing his mind, probing it like some sort of psychic rape - stealing his every thought and projecting it to Pegasus for his own personal pleasure...
And he knew now - with a devastating internal turmoil - that Bakura must have taken it from Pegasus the day they had all left the Duellist Kingdom together. Had probably had it with him on the plane, while Pegasus was left practically in a coma from shock...
No... not Bakura, he reminded himself, redirecting the anger growing and twisting within him, Samekh...
"What do we do now?" Téa breathed, snapping him back to the present.
"We don't do anything," Yugi answered flatly. "I'm doing this alone."
Téa inserted a pinky finger into her ear and made an exaggerated digging motion.
"Sorry, but I don't think I heard you right," she said carefully. "I thought you said you were doing this alone?"
"Yes, Téa," Yugi replied, "you heard right."
"N'uh-uh, I don't think so, buddy..."
"I'm not going to risk your life, Téa..."
"Oh, but it's okay to risk yours?"
"Listen," Yugi hissed, "I need you to stay here! If things get really bad, I need you to get help..."
"'Get help'?," Téa echoed, infuriated, "Get who, Yugi?"
"I don't know!" Yugi snapped back. "The police! The National Guard! Anyone...!"
"Oh, okay," Téa replied with blatant sarcasm, "I'll just walk up to the first cop I see and say: 'Oh, hello officer. Could you please come help my friend? He's over there trespassing on private property battling an evil spirit!'"
Yugi's face split into a small smile. He placed a gentle hand on Téa's shoulder.
"You'll think of something," he whispered, looking intently into the fiery, blue eyes. Téa glared defiantly back with surprising stamina, but ended up crouching obediently behind the stack of wooden crates, her arms crossed and her entire demeanour screaming her protest.
Then a chilling, hoarse voice sent a thousand spiders skittering down their backs.
"Hello, Yugi. I wondered when you'd finally show up."
Yugi felt the blood drain from his face. His and Téa's voices had barely gone above breath level. Bakura couldn't have heard them!
How did he know he was here...?
Yugi's mind was turning somersaults, as his focus narrowed to the Millennium Eye set unblinking in Bakura's face. Samekh couldn't have gained that much control over the Millennium Eye, he told himself. He was using the Millennium Ring - using it to control Bakura. He was working magic with Cora. This required too much magic, too much control. He couldn't...
"Don't bet on it, Yugi," the chill voice came again. "I may not yet have the prowess that Pegasus had developed, but you forget that I and those of my order created these items. True, being bound in one of them is a rather... disorienting process, as I'm sure Yami could tell you, but" - his face bent into a nasty smile - "I'm sure it will all come back to me very soon. Now, why don't you come out here and let me have a look at you, old friend."
There was a degree of threat to the patronizing request that gave Yugi no small indication that he would be exposed whether he walked out into the open or not. So, not about to risk exposing Téa, Yugi thrust his jaw out and forced his wobbly legs to step out of the protection of the crates into full view, as Téa's pale face retreated into the shadows behind him.
"So, Samekh," he said tightly, "how many cats did you kill to make that one?"
He nodded his head towards the Spell Circle enclosing Cora's tortured body. A disturbing, mocking laugh crackled into his ears.
"Very good, Yugi," Samekh's unnatural hiss slithered from Bakura's lips. "You remember my name. You know, I thought you had probably figured out the circle at the park the other day. I would have dispatched both of you meddling idiots back then, but after your squealing wench began to sound the alarm, I thought better of it. After all, this ignorant wretch's body would do me no good if it was convicted of murder, so...
"To answer your question, however: no, Yugi. I don't require ingredients of that calibre for this simple Spell Circle - I'm stronger than that. A Soul Sucker, though, now that's another matter..."
"Let Cora go," Yugi tried to sound threatening, even though his voice kept betraying him by shaking and cracking shamefully.
"Now, why should I do that, Yugi?" Samekh's voice crawled over him like so many stampeding bugs. "She's such a fun little acquisition. My very own voodoo doll. Let me demonstrate. Sefet Akh!"
Another glowing soul-sword materialized, reflecting green in Cora's fury-bright eyes for a moment as it hovered around her. Then it swung downwards in a wide arc, slashing into Cora's spine. She screamed, but Yugi couldn't hear it for the sudden blinding and deafening pain that cleaved into his own spine like an axe. Pitching forward, he landed on his hands and knees, with only one thought penetrating the fog of agony as his lifeless Millennium Puzzle swung dully before his downcast eyes:
How can I fight magic without magic of my own?
Yugi felt himself suddenly being lifted from the ground. Fighting uselessly against nothing, his eyes flew to Bakura in time to see him gesturing with one hand in his direction and mouthing words. Then he was moving faster and faster through the air, feeling his hair drag along the roof, seeing the ground whiz by below him...
Then the wall collided brutally with his back and his head snapped back against it with a crack that resounded through his skull, leaving his ears ringing and scattering stars before his eyes. He expected to fall down, but he found himself being propelled down with alarming speed. The ground impacted hard on his tailbone and a sharp pain shot up from the small of his back to the base of his skull. His jaw slammed shut on his tongue, and he immediately tasted the metallic tang of his own blood in his mouth.
Bakura - or whatever it was inside him - made a slow, deliberate advance towards him. Yugi sat still, glaring at the dark, unfamiliar eyes in the face of his friend.
"Where's your magic, little boy?" Bakura's twisted voice echoed through the clouds of dust floating in the darkened room. "Where's your Yami?"
Yugi tried to will the ringing in his ears to stop as Samekh's words struck home in a way that he could never have known they would. Yes, where was his magic? It was gone - driven away. He had driven it away by his own choice.
Oh, Yami, he thought despairingly, I'm sorry. I was so wrong...
"Come on, child," the quiet snarl resounded hollowly again, "show me what that little puzzle of yours can do. Or maybe" - he added darkly - "I can show you."
Again, Yugi watched in helpless dread as Bakura drew his hands together and slowly apart. A static, dark energy was growing between them. Yugi wanted to close his eyes, but defiantly refused. In desperation, he looked hard into the dark eyes that, somewhere, had to contain Bakura.
"Bakura," he said, deliberately trying to reach out with his voice, his eyes - trying to touch something in the memory of his friend. The magic between the slender, white hands grew. Yugi could feel it like some throbbing pressure in his ears.
"Bakura," he pleaded again.
The hands stopped moving. They seemed to falter.
A brightness of hope flared in Yugi's heart. Reaching harder with every last fibre of himself, Yugi spoke again - again used his friend's name.
"Bakura, it's me. Yugi. Please, Bakura, please don't."
Bakura looked at Yugi, and for a moment, it seemed as though a light went on inside his head, and for a moment, it was Bakura - really Bakura - that looked into Yugi's eyes...
...then Yugi could see a terrible conflict taking place behind the dark black eyes, something that took so much effort he could see Bakura shake. Slowly, as though some unseen force was against him, Bakura turned and faced the Spell Circle around Cora, then released the dark power between his hands. The black lightening spiderwebbed out and there was the sound of exploding crystal. The invisible walls enclosing Cora vanished, and the many swords piercing her disintegrated like so much shattered glass.
Cora fell forward into a heap. Yugi felt a grateful smile penetrate his face...
...then, Bakura's tortured black eyes flew to Yugi, and he whispered: "Run."
Yugi stood still, as though frozen in place. The smile on his face vanished as he realized the terrible strain so evident in his young friend's face. He was sweating, shaking uncontrollably...
"Bakura..." Yugi stammered helplessly.
"Take Cora and run, Yugi," Bakura whispered, his trembling increasing to almost seizure level, "I don't know how much longer I can do this..."
Yugi blinked. It seemed like his heart was turning itself into lead and was finding it harder and harder to beat. Then Bakura's hoarse scream shook him almost bodily.
"Damn it, Yugi, just GO! GO NOW!"
Yugi remained motionless for only an instant longer.
He turned and ran to Cora. He tried to lift her up, over his shoulder, but it was weight - dead weight - and he could not lift her. He heard a heart-wrenching sound behind him, from somewhere around Bakura's vicinity, and - frightened now - he turned in the direction of the sound.
He saw Bakura stagger backwards, his head bowed down as though he were under horrific stress. Then his head whipped around like a rag doll, his teeth clenched and his skin taut around his face in a ghastly rictus. Bakura was losing...
"Bakura!" Yugi screamed in desperation, "Bakura, hold on!"
But the eyes that turned in answer to him were not Bakura's.
He was gone. He was gone.
Yugi's eyes slammed shut against the tears stinging behind them. His friend was gone. Oh, Bakura...
But he suspended his remorse, and dragged his mind back to now. Now he was alone. Alone with a shell of Cora, and this... this... monster...
"Leave him alone!"
Téa's shrill scream echoed out from the darkness and Yugi's shocked eyes widened as she suddenly swan-dove out of the shadows, landing heavily on Bakura's back and almost knocking him down with the full impact of all of her 98 pounds. She clung to his back like a rabid monkey, clawing at his face until the Millennium Eye was in her hand and she flung it far across the room. Yugi heard glass shatter as it flew through a window.
But she had sacrificed her handhold, and Bakura, gaining a marginal balance, reached back and grabbed her sweater sleeve. In the borrowed strength of what possessed him, he flung Téa off of his back and threw her to the floor.
"Téa!" Yugi shouted.
Téa scrambled frantically, backing away from the darkly threatening Bakura.
"Téa, get out of here!" Yugi shouted hoarsely.
"I'm not leaving you here, Yugi - uuuhngh!"
Dark ropes of magic flew from Bakura's hands, and Téa was abruptly slammed into the floor. She lay flat against it as though some invisible weight was holding her down.
"Fine," Bakura interjected in a virulent whisper, his face sporting an ugly smile. "Stay. I'll take care of you later."
Yugi stared, still hanging on to Cora. If he had ever needed his Millennium Puzzle, it was now ...
...but the resonance of Yami remained dormant, and his puzzle still hung around his neck, as lifeless as Cora.
Oh, Yami, he thought, Yami, I know I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please. Cora needs you. Téa needs you...
Nothing. Yugi squeezed his eyes tighter, reaching, begging, pleading...
Yami, he thought, willing it to reach the magic he knew was there. Yami please... I need you. I want you back...
...please help me...
He could hear whatever-it-was in Bakura's body moving towards him, could hear the sick mockery of Bakura's voice laughing at him.
"Stupid boy," it said. "Stupid, stupid boy."
Yami, Yugi thought, shutting everything out, clutching Cora like some long-lost teddy bear, Yami...
Then, it was there - a ripple, a shiver...
He felt it: magic.
It was magic, and his heart leaped, raising a wave of goosebumps across his back and down his arms. Magic. It was magic. It was alive.
It was Yami...
Behind his eyelids, he was aware of the glow, knew his puzzle was glowing, pulsing to life with the power he had thought he would never feel again, had thought he never wanted to feel again. And, for something he thought he never wanted, it flooded him with immeasurable joy...
The power filled him, raised him, and he welcomed it, allowing it to take over as he smiled through the tears that stood in his eyes. He lifted Cora up off of the ground, cradling her as he had done it seemed eons ago at the last New Moon...
He looked through Yami's eyes at Bakura's face, and saw only an enemy - a sorcerer who had wanted nothing but his death. His death, and Cora's death...
But then Yugi took hold of the raging tempest of Yami. My friend is still in there...
And Yami answered him: I know - I will remember...
...but now, we must fight Samekh. As a wizard.
Moving two steps back out of the destroyed Spell Circle, Yugi watched through the eyes of Yami, which never left Samekh's eyes in the fury-twisted face of Bakura. He placed Cora gently out of its confines, and turned to face fully the enemy of them both.
Yugi then felt Yami's thought filter through his mind.
Brace yourself, he warned gently, this will hurt...
I don't care, he answered with all of his heart.
Then he saw words, felt them rise up into his mind - words he didn't know, didn't understand, but were a part of him now.
"Petekh!" he commanded.
Yugi felt the magic - Yami's power - boiling up inside of him, thundering through his arms and exploding out of his hands like a living waterfall. There was pain, then searing cold heat as it streamed out of his hands in electric liquid light. He could feel it strike Samekh, and he controlled it, pushing harder, then felt the impact through it like a conduit as Samekh was thrown against the far wall.
But then every pain he had felt earlier roared through him all at once. The sudden intensity of it overpowered him. Yugi's entire body buckled, and he fell to his knees.
"What... is this?" he whispered aloud.
The answer came in a pain-riddled cloud of thought from Yami.
It's Cora, it said, Cora's wounds...
"Well, well, well," the snakelike hiss of a voice penetrated the pain, "it seems that your little host has no idea of the amount of power you need to use to make magic."
Yami glared at Samekh with Yugi's violet eyes.
"But then," Samekh sneered on, "some of us use our power to keep others alive. That makes a really interesting bond, doesn't it Yami? You forget, I know the bond you and that witch share. I've seen you use it against me. And now, I will use it to my advantage.
"I seem to remember" - Samekh continued as his black eyes dropped to Yami's right arm with a nasty grin - "another wound that the both of you share. This should provide some especially exquisite pain."
No, both Yugi and Yami thought desperately, not the old shadow wound...