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Chapter 14 - Cora

"Her eyes were Cobalt red
Her voice was Cobalt blue
I see no purple light crashing out of you
So just walk on in..."
--The Sisters of Mercy, Ribbons

Téa waited for the grey mist that had settled in around her to turn into a black out, but it never seemed to get any further than a grey mist. She began a gradual ascent into lucidity, which was fine except for that now, she was back to feeling the crippling pain and soul-numbing cold. She pushed herself off of Cora and sat upright, trying to stop the violent shaking that had suddenly taken hold of her; she knew enough about first aid to realize that she was going into shock.

If that sword didn't kill me, she thought, this shock will...

"Téa."

The voice that spoke her name just then didn't sound like it belonged on earth. It was musical, magical. It was Cora.

Téa's insides dissolved at the sound, and she slowly turned to face the being that she had braved this sword to protect.

The eyes struck her first. No pupils - only a jade green iris dusted with a sheen of silver frost. They looked at her from beneath a sun-drenched waterfall of shining, silver hair that caught any light and sent it spinning off into rainbows of colour. Her skin was the colour of pearls, and seemed to have a perpetual glow.

No wonder Yami loves her, Téa thought despairingly, I'll bet she's never had a pimple in her life...

"Come here," the crystal voice commanded.

Obediently, Téa moved towards her, forgetting for the moment how weak and injured she was as she was caught up in the uncanny beauty of this Queen of Hearts. Cora looked to Téa like something beautiful and enchanted, something pulled from the pages of a fairy tale, a glittering Snow Queen that any child would follow...

But the longer she looked into the frosty green eyes, the more she became aware of a ... distance - an inhuman coldness - that marked Cora different from herself, Yugi, or even Yami. She remembered Professor Snow saying once that the ancient Egyptians didn't trust the Shadow Spirits, and though at the time she had wondered why, she understood now. Cora was a spirit: bodiless and unfettered, chained by a body that didn't belong, coming from a world where words like 'warmth' and 'friendship' were as alien as love. Téa knew then that Cora loved only because of her bond to Yami, and that her bonds to the Game and to justice were only by magic, and that, though she may love Yami in return, her love for this world went no further.

Apprehensive now, Téa stopped her advance. But by now, she was close enough to touch the prone Queen of Hearts, who just then pushed herself up into a sitting position, and placed both of her delicate hands gently against the ghost sword protruding from her shoulder. She bowed her head and whispered softly: "Mena."

Téa felt a surge of power melt the sword in her arm down like hot wax. The sword shimmered, and Téa watched it lose substance and dissolve before her eyes. The dry-ice cold immediately lifted, and she began to feel warmer.

Téa's vivid blue eyes blinked into Cora's silver-jade, her mouth hanging open like an unhinged screen door.

"Th-thanks," she finally stammered, regaining control of her jaw.

Cora said nothing at first, her steady, silver-green gaze boring through Téa like a spear.

"You care for your friend," she finally stated.

Téa didn't know what to say in reply to this, and so remained silent.

"I know you certainly don't care for me," Cora went on, a cold and measuring half-smile on her face.

"H-how do you mean?" Téa's reply came quickly this time - too quickly. She tried to place her eyes anywhere but at the frosty stare of the Queen of Hearts, and they ended up landing on the battling Yugi and Bakura. Téa gasped softly. Yugi looked so tired... like he was in so much pain...

"Samekh could not keep you bound," Cora's cold observation interrupted Téa's thoughts. Téa started, and turned to Cora. She was still watching her steadily with those intense eyes. Téa wished she'd stop - it made her uncomfortable.

"That's his name?" Téa asked, giving voice to the anger and fear she felt so strongly against all of these shadow-spirits. "Samekh? The thing that's inside Bakura?"

"He is no thing," Cora replied. "He is a wizard. Like Yami is a wizard. But Samekh wields Dark Magic, while Yami wields Light."

It's all dark, Téa thought viciously, glaring back at the twisted, evil Bakura.

"Magic is magic," Cora said softly. "It is power. Power that can be used for good, or for evil. Yami has chosen long ago to use his power for good, whatever the cost."

Téa shot a look back at Cora. I didn't say anything, she thought. Cora had answered her thoughts. Just as she had read her own feelings of mistrust against her.

"It's a gift," Cora smiled grimly, once again reading her like an open book. Téa conjured up a frosty look of her own, which she flung at Cora. She didn't like the thought of being on display to this cold, distant spirit-girl.

"Why couldn't Bakura hold me?" Téa asked abruptly.

Cora's eyes moved to Yugi and Bakura.

"He's always hated Yami. His hatred makes him foolish. He's wasting his power, and he's growing weaker because of it."

Cora's green eyes were suddenly regarding Yugi with a fierce pride. "He was never as strong as Yami," she said.

It was then that Téa realized that Cora's spirit eyes didn't see Yugi fighting there at all. She saw Yami. And he fought this Samekh, not Bakura.

"Yugi's there too," Téa reminded her defensively. "He's strong. And brave."

Cora turned to Téa and regarded her approvingly. "Yes," she agreed, "he is."

"In fact," she continued, her voice taking on a cold sharpness, "the only thing that is weakening Yami and Yugi right now... is me."


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