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Chapter 3 - Remnants

"Many is a word
That only leaves you guessing
Guessing 'bout a thing
You really ought to know..."
--Led Zeppelin, Over the Hills and Far Away


By the time Yugi and Téa had arrived at Téa's house, Yugi had to turn right around and walk back home to help Grandpa with the store. His reception at the store was none too warm, since he was fifteen minutes late, and the overall attitude did not improve much since for every dragging second of the day, he was completely distracted from his work. After a full day of admonishing from Grandpa, there was closing, cleanup and lockup. So, it was not until about 9:45PM that Yugi was finally able to call Téa.

He sat, nervously drumming his fingers on the kitchen table as Téa's phone rang once... twice...

Come on, he thought, be awake...

"Hello?"

It wasn't Téa's voice - it was her mother. Yugi's stomach did a kind of half-flip.

"H-hello, Mrs. Gardiner," Yugi pushed down the impatience, and tried to muster his best impress-the-grownups voice. "It's Yugi Moto. Is... is Téa there? I mean, is she still up?"

"Oh, hello Yugi," Mrs. Gardiner said in a happy sort of voice. "Yes, Téa's still up. Hang on a minute and I'll get her."

Yugi expelled a small sigh of relief. Then Téa was on the phone.

"Yugi?"

"Hi, Téa! Boy, I'm glad you're still up."

"Yeah, well, I had a long nap this afternoon, and I'm just not tired..."

"Good! Then how about meeting me at the park?"

"What, now?"

"Can you?"

There was a very pregnant silence, then: "Okay. What about the rest of the gang?"

This time it was Yugi's turn to pause. Then he said: "How about just you and me this time?"

Another pause.

"All right," Téa replied, "meet you there in five."

"Cool. See ya."

Yugi hung up the phone, and bounced out of the kitchen chair. If he was ever going to find out who had conjured the Soul Sucker at the last New Moon, he would have to start at the park. Maybe whoever it was had left some trace, some clue behind that would lead him to uncovering the identity of the conjurer. And once he knew who it was...

...well, he would cross that bridge when he came to it.

At least, Téa would be there to help him. Together, they should be able to come up with something. She was one of his oldest friends, and she always seemed to understand him better than anyone. And she was always there for him, even when it was tough for her to be there. She had followed him (and Joey) to the Duellist Kingdom, just so she could be there for him (and Joey). And she had always encouraged him...

In fact, she had even braved a duel with Mai Valentine, ruthless champion duellist that she was, just for him, he thought, his mouth quivering into a smile...

Anyways, Yugi thought, catching himself, she would be able to give him a hand out there. I mean, he couldn't do this alone, after all...

And so, after changing his t-shirt, combing his hair, and brushing his teeth, he put on his coolest jean-jacket and went to the park to meet Téa.

* * *

"All right, I'm about ready to give up."

Téa flumped down on the grass, expelling a long breath. The sun had descended into the trees, and the purplish hue of dusk veiled everything, muting the world into shades of grey. Yugi and Téa had searched all through their old campsite of a month ago, all around the area where Cora had been attacked by the Soul Sucker, at the base of the rocks where Yugi had magically healed Cora's body, all to no avail. Their search had brought them nothing but sore feet and heavy spirits.

"There has to be something here," Yugi said, frustration lending an irritated edge to his tired voice.

"Well," Téa replied, "it would help if we knew what we were looking for."

Yugi threw his hands up in the air. "I don't know," he said, "something. Anything. Evidence. I don't know! What does one use to conjure a Soul Sucker?"

Téa raised her eyebrows. "You're asking me?"

"Ideas, Téa, I'm looking for ideas."

"Magic Soul Sucker Conjuring Stuff," Téa suggested, closing her eyes as she arched her spine and tilted her head back in a stretch.

Yugi's eyes threw daggers at Téa. "Thanks," he said deprecatingly.

"Don't mention it," she smiled.

Yugi turned around and began sifting through the vast expanse of ferns fringing the woods that occupied most of the park. Téa dropped her head down to her chest, and heaved a heavy sigh.

"All right," she said resignedly, "I'm coming."

Hauling herself to a standing position, she looked up to see some gently waving fern fronds, but no Yugi. Dragging her tired feet, she stepped into the waist-high ferns where Yugi had just disappeared. She took a few running steps to catch up - and almost tripped over him. Yugi was crouched down, looking intently at something that lay beneath the green latticework of fern leaves. She crouched beside him with a dramatic flourish.

"Have you found your evidence, Mr. Holmes?" Téa asked in her best British accent.

"I don't know," he said seriously, bending down to have a closer look. Téa's smile faded, and she directed her eyes to the small spot on the ground where Yugi was staring.

There were three small bodies on the ground. Three small cat corpses.

"So, some cats died here," Téa commented uneasily, looking deliberately away from the grisly display. "What's the big deal?"

Yugi glanced sidelong at Téa.

"Three cats just happened to die here in a row?" he asked her pointedly. "After they all slit their own throats?"

Téa pursed her lips at Yugi, then took a second unwilling look at the small arrangement on the ground. Nearly skeletons, each one was almost completely decomposed, except for patches of dry skin and hair that clung stubbornly to the exposed bone. Each one was laid beside the next, as though they had been systematically placed there. They were all lying on their backs, and each of them had a wide, unnatural separation of the dry, shrivelled skin at the base of the jaw - a wide opening that stretched from one side of the neck to the other, almost like a massive second mouth. What was left of the patchy fur around each opening was stained a rusty brown.

They both stared at the small epitaph with growing unease. Téa turned away again.

"Yugi, these could have been here forever..."

"Uh-uh," Yugi interrupted. "Look at them. There's still some... uh... gunk."

Téa didn't want to look at them again. She was feeling a little queasy.

"Well, what does it mean?" she asked in a quiet, stricken whisper. "Someone has a really sick hobby?"

Yugi didn't answer, and instead pushed on into the trees, picking his way through the undergrowth, and parting the long, leafy branches with his hands. He didn't have to go very far, however, before he stepped free of trees into an area of low brush and patchy grass on dirt.

"Hey, did you know there was a clearing back here?" he shouted back at Téa.

"I don't think I've ever been back here," Téa replied, emerging from behind a slender silver birch tree.

"Wait a minute," Yugi suddenly brightened. "I remember this place! Me and Bakura used to come here when we were kids!"

"Really?"

"Yeah, we used to play Commando all around here," Yugi laughed softly. "He was always better than me at that game. I tell you, I could never hear him move through the trees. He'd be all over me before I even knew what happened."

"What's this all over the ground?" Téa asked abruptly, as her eyes dropped to the dirt and grass that carpeted the tiny clearing. The dirt was clumped and dug up in a wide circle, and there were patterns drawn at specific points around it.

Yugi's wistful smile faded in an instant. He remembered this circle. Remembered seeing one permanently inscribed on a stone floor in a candle lit room. Remembered making a similar one himself - the night he had conjured Cora...

No... not him...

Yami...

"Téa," he whispered. "That... that's a Spell Circle..."

"How do you..." Téa began, then her eyes dropped to the pyramid-shaped Millennium Puzzle swinging from the long chain around Yugi's neck. "Never mind," she finished.

Yugi suddenly had an eerie thought. Scrambling to the edge of the circle where the pattern had been half-drawn on the grass and half-dug into the earth, moss and rocks, Yugi dropped to his hands and knees and looked closely at the pattern, pointing the small flashlight he brought directly at a rocky patch of ground at the top half of the pattern. The pattern was a rusty, dark brown that did not look like paint of any kind.

"Téa," Yugi said quietly, "I think this is blood."

"I think we've done enough investigating, don't you?" Téa said abruptly. "It's getting really late, and I'm starting to get a bit creeped out..."

"You see what I'm getting at?"

"Yes, Yugi, but..." - she hissed out a small breath, her hands wringing nervously - "Spell Circles drawn in cat's blood? I thought this had something to do with all that Egyptian Magic stuff. I mean, didn't Ancient Egyptians like cats? Like, weren't they sacred, or something?"

Yugi shrugged, raising himself up to his knees. "I don't know, Téa," he sighed. "Maybe whoever-it-was that made this thought cat's blood would be... extra-powerful, or something..."

There was a short, uncomfortable silence.

"Well," Yugi said, "if they left these here, maybe there's more. Maybe there's something that could trace us back to the actual person."

Téa looked like she was about to answer, then her face sort of brightened into a slight, peculiar smile and she cocked her head.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

Yugi looked up at Téa, puzzled. "I came here with you, remember?"

Then in the next three seconds, everything turned topsy-turvy.

Téa was suddenly running at him, her face alive with fear, shouting "Stop! What are you doing?" And just about then, Yugi began to get the idea that maybe Téa wasn't talking to him, that maybe she was talking to someone else...

...but then there was a devastating explosion somewhere at the base of his skull. The whole world burst into a hundred thousand stars, and then went black.


* * *

 

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