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Chapter 6 - Corruption

"Walls
Trapped within
Yellow eyes
The cutters
Drooling face
Rips apart
Cuts to the heart..."
--Skinny Puppy, Tormentor

Bakura's stomach dropped sickeningly at Yugi's obvious accusation. What did he mean, hit him with a stick? I... hit Yugi...?

Yugi was watching him, now. He tried to keep the panic from his face as his mind furiously raced to Saturday night. What was he doing Saturday night? Where was he...?

...but he... couldn't remember...

No, he thought, a vise of fear squeezing his head, not another blackout...

Then he felt the familiar, unwanted chill up his spine and across his brain.

It doesn't matter... he doesn't matter...

Voices... voices again...

Please, he begged the voice, please... not again...

But the voice pressed in on him, overpowered him, and he once more felt the dizzying descent: falling... falling into oblivion...

Yugi... please... help me...

* * *

Yugi wasn't sure what happened just then, but he thought there was a sudden chill that passed between them, and the dark eyes in the face of his friend seemed... darker, somehow. Yugi felt a tug inside, a warning tingle he thought might be Yami, or maybe even something more primal - like a sense of fear or foreboding - and he had the distinct impression that he wasn't even talking to the same person, all of a sudden, like the person standing in front of him was someone he didn't know - and shouldn't trust.

Stop it, he told himself, this is Bakura - he's my friend...

...I think...

Bakura turned his face away, as though he was ashamed.

"I'm sorry, Yugi," he said quietly. "I don't remember much about Saturday night."

"What do you mean, you 'don't remember?'," Yugi frowned. "How could you not remember hitting me over the head?"

Bakura looked distressed.

"It's my Millennium Ring, Yugi," he said, a miserable tone to his voice. "Sometimes... it just... takes over. I... I black out, and I don't... remember things. There are big gaps..."

Bakura's face was still turned away, and the feeling of heaviness was still nested firmly in Yugi's stomach. The Millennium Ring glinted darkly in the dusty sunlight filtering in from a tall, narrow window in the middle of the hallway. Yugi found himself staring at it again.

"H-how do you mean, 'it just takes over'?" Yugi asked falteringly.

"You know, Yugi," Bakura replied, his eyes suddenly shooting up sharply to Yugi's, "just like your Puzzle does to you."

"My puzzle doesn't do that, Bakura," Yugi said. "I don't have blackouts..."

Even as he said the words, conversations he had had in the past were playing back in his mind:

"Yugi, what was it you did to that guy that day?"

"I don't know, Téa. By the time I came to, that mugger was already on the ground. I don't remember a thing about it..."

...and again, more recently:

"Yugi, you mean you don't remember anything you did? Anything at all?"

"Yes... I mean... I remember I was really angry..."

But that was a long time ago, Yugi told himself.

But he couldn't lighten the weight that was now growing cold inside his stomach. And he couldn't stop the feeling that if Bakura's Millennium Item was doing this to him, what was stopping his Millennium Item from doing the same to himself?

And even though he knew Yami, what did he really know besides one memory?

"You know, Bakura," Yugi said unsteadily. "If your ring does stuff like that to you, why do you keep it? Why don't you just... get rid of it. I mean, if it's controlling you..."

Bakura stood upright, his dark eyes boring into Yugi.

"It's the power, Yugi." Bakura's voice had suddenly taken on a strange timbre - one that Yugi didn't like at all. "Can't you feel it, too? You, of all people, must understand!"

Bakura's eyes dropped hungrily to Yugi's Millennium Puzzle. Yugi felt his insides begin to writhe like some large and unpleasant squid.

"It's not true, Bakura," Yugi could hear the tremor in his own voice. "It's not the same..."

"Sure it is! Of course it is! It's why you love the Puzzle, Yugi! I know! It... it's like some sort of... rush. When you play the Game, when the power comes... it fills you. Controls you. It's... like you're... bigger. Like a god..."

Yugi's insides were roiling, now. He looked away from the disconcerting intensity of Bakura's night black eyes. He's wrong, he told himself. I'm not the same...

...am I...?

"Of course, Yugi, if you were to break the hold your puzzle has on you," Bakura said suddenly, looking hard at Yugi, "I might feel that I could... possibly... break the hold of the Millennium Ring.

"Of course, if you can't," Bakura looked away from Yugi's terror-stricken eyes, "how could I ever feel that I could have power over this? I mean, you've always been so much... stronger than me, Yugi."


* * *


"Yugi! What are you doing?"

"Huh? Oh! Oh...I'm sorry Grandpa!"

Yugi immediately began to remove the twenty-four Egyptian Duel Monster Playing Cards he had just mixed up in the large box of Monster Mania Collector Cards.

Grandpa expelled an exasperated sigh.

"Honestly! Ever since Téa came back from that dance competition, you've been walking around in a fog!" Grandpa barked.

Yugi flushed. "No! That's not the... I mean..."

"Never mind, Yugi! I don't care who- or what- the reason is. Just why don't you get out of here and sort whatever-it-is that's on your mind out with whoever- or whatever- is causing it, before you get back to work tomorrow?"

"But Grandpa! Closing..."

"I can handle it, Yugi. And probably a lot quicker than I could if you were helping. Just go!"

"Are you...?"

"OUT!!"

Yugi exited the rear of the store and climbed the stairs to the apartment. It was no use arguing with Grandpa now. And it was just as well that he thought that Téa was the reason for his distraction. How could he ever tell Grandpa - who always thought that the Millennium Magic was so wonderful and so special - that the very magic he had given him as a gift was the cause of the destructive change in his friend's character?

As he closed the door of his room behind him, the familiar shiver rippled through him, and the glow that only he could see illuminated the gold of his puzzle. This time, the spirit of Yami shimmered and stood before him.

Like a reflection in a dusty mirror, the daunting figure of the young magician was startlingly similar to Yugi himself. Yugi was never sure if this was because Yami had become a part of him, and so had taken on a resemblance to him, or if it was because he had actually looked like him when he had occupied a body of his own. Either way, from the red-gold hair to the violet eyes, Yami was like an older twin of himself.

But the figure of Yami, which had usually brought comfort and a secret sense of wonder, this time only heightened the disquiet inside Yugi, and Yugi actually had no desire to see Yami at all. Of course, Yami could sense this, and his sharp, dark eyes regarded Yugi gravely.

"Don't trust Samekh's words..." Yami began.

"That wasn't Samekh," Yugi reminded him bitterly. "That was Bakura."

"No, it was not," Yami replied softly.

"How can you be so sure?" Yugi snapped back with sudden vehemence. "I think I know my own friend when I see him..."

"I have eyes that you do not have, Yugi."

"Really?" Yugi said sourly.

"Yes," Yami said delicately, as though he knew (and probably did know) the distress Yugi was feeling.

"So, you're saying that he can be Bakura, and then he can be Samekh, in a second? Without me noticing anything?" Yugi was trying so hard not to shout.

"Yes, Yugi. You know that..."

"No! No, I don't! And even if he could, you're saying that Samekh can just... just... take over? What's that all about? Can't Bakura stop it?"

"No, he can't," Yami replied softly, concern rising behind his eyes.

"So, you're saying that he's just taking over, whether Bakura wants it or not?"

"Samekh is evil," Yami reasoned. "He lusts only for power, and he will do anything to get it..."

"But Bakura is my friend! You can't make me hate him, Yami! We've been friends for... for... well, since we were kids! Since before we knew there ever were Duel Monsters, or Millennium Items, or anything! We..."

Yugi broke off. A dark anger was expanding in his chest.

"I'm not asking you to hate him..."

"And what makes what you do to me any different from what Samekh does to Bakura?"

Finally, the fear found its voice. And with it, the dark mass of anger followed.

"You're just as power-hungry as the rest of them!" Yugi lashed out blindly, wanting to hurt. "You're all the same! Listen, you guys had your chance at life! You had it thousands of years ago, but instead of dying like everybody else, you found a way to cheat death and save all your crap like some computer virus until somebody like me, or Bakura, could come along and bring it all back into our world so you could wreck it just like you did yours! Who do you think you are, waltzing back into the world and taking over people's lives? What right do you have to ruin more lives than you already have? Huh?"

"Yugi," Yami whispered, his voice stricken, "that's not true..."

"The hell it's not!" Yugi shouted, tears now filling his eyes, blurring the already flickering apparition of Yami before him. "I didn't ask for this! Bakura didn't ask for this! We didn't ask to be thrown into the middle of some ancient Egyptian power struggle! We don't want you here! And you don't belong here!"

Yugi's hands were fumbling with the heavy chain around his neck - the chain that held the Millennium Puzzle.

Yami watched Yugi's hands - saw what they were doing.

"Yugi," Yami said again, his violet eyes moving slowly back to Yugi's tear-streaked face. "It was always your choice..."

"Yeah. You're right," Yugi's voice had dropped to a shaking whisper. "It is my choice. And so is this!"

Yugi was holding the puzzle in his hands. He could feel its weight, feel its smooth, flat sides, only the ridges of the puzzle pieces marring the smoothness of it. It felt warm, as though it was somehow alive, as it probably was...

Yami was still watching him, his face expressionless, in no way revealing the great sorrow Yugi could see so clearly in his eyes, and feel so sharply in his heart. But he pushed it down, forced it behind his anger, let his anger fuel him as he raised the puzzle over his head and flung it with all of his might against the far wall.

A metallic clatter marked its destruction as the puzzle splintered into its many pieces, and the image of Yami, whose eyes had never left Yugi's face, dissolved into nothingness...

Yugi stared for a moment at the place where Yami's image had stood, blinking and blinking as tears kept falling from his eyes. There, he thought, get lost and leave us alone.

He turned and stalked out of the room, leaving the shattered puzzle glinting darkly on the floor.


* * *

 

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