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Chapter 9 - Strike

"In this world now I am undying
I unfurl my flag, my nation helpless..."
--David Usher, Black Black Heart


A tingling rainfall of physical sensation started deep within and spread until it had reached the tips of her fingers. Warmth followed, radiating through her and from her, and the awareness of heart beating and lungs breathing filled her with both exhilarating wonder and a stark awareness of her own fragility. Once again, Cora was solid.

For a moment she closed her eyes, relishing the feel of the cool breeze playing with her hair, the feel of the grass under her feet. She stretched: muscle, sinew, bone, blood. This gift - this body - was hers because of Yami, and it was both blessing to her, and curse to them both.

Yami.

The shivering brightness that slithered through her at the thought of even his name was part of the curse. He, too, felt it. Still felt it - even now, when he only existed in the body of a young boy - and that only shared, only when need demanded it. And now because of this, the boy, too, was at risk...

She thought of the young boy - his wide, innocent eyes filled with tears and remorse for the pain that he had been forced to share, forced to re-live with Yami. A memory he didn't need. Pain he didn't deserve...

No. It had to stop. How many more people would suffer because of this? She had heard the anger of the boy, had felt it. He deserved to be angry. He was right...

It had to stop.

Clasping her upraised hands, the cold, hard metal around the ring finger of her left hand jolted her into remembrance, and the silver-jade eyes opened to look at the white-gold magician's ring. The ring that bound her by magic to the Game, to Yami, and to this body.

Her gaze drifted to the twilight world around her, and there was stinging pain behind her eyes. Instinctively, she raised her hands to the pain, and found sparkling wetness tipping her fingers: Tears.

There was her answer. The answer that had been flitting in the recesses of her mind - the answer that she had not allowed herself even to consider...

...and just as she began to consider it, the devastating impact at the back of her head obliterated it again from her mind, and she collapsed into unconsciousness...


* * *

Téa sat pensively at the small, round table on the sidewalk patio of The Polar Dip Ice Cream Bar, staring at the empty chair across from her where Yugi had just been sitting. Her stomach was still sore, and she didn't know if she'd be able to handle the soda Yugi was getting for her. But from the looks of Yugi, she didn't know if he would be able to handle his, either.

Maybe she had been wrong, she thought, turning to look through the large, glass window at Yugi, standing despondently at the counter ordering their sodas, his Millennium Puzzle hanging heavily from the chain around his neck. Ever since Yugi had severed himself from the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle, she had never seen him so miserable. It was as though some large part of him had died...

She sighed, trying to dispel some of the awful feeling of foreboding that had clamped itself around her insides so securely. Maybe she had misunderstood how much the Puzzle had become a part of Yugi. What if they had become so intrinsically linked that the destruction of one meant the destruction of the other...?

At that moment, there was a very ironic sound of shattering glass loud enough to make Téa jump and spin around in its direction. It took a moment to see exactly what happened since everyone around her had done the same and she had to crane her neck to see around the forest of people. Then she gasped as her sore stomach dropped like a stone...

Crouched on the ground among the shards of broken soda glasses, Yugi was clutching his side, his face twisted in pain.

Téa flew to him in an instant.

"Yugi! What's wrong?"

"I... I don't know," Yugi winced, pain bright in his eyes. "It... it feels... terrible."

Yugi cried out again, one of his hands moving to clutch at his chest. Téa watched helplessly. Suddenly, there seemed to be a lot more people around them.

"I... I think it has something to do with Cora," Yugi whispered. He caught Téa's blue eyes with his own. "We... we have to get to the park."

"The park?" Téa echoed. "How are we going to get there, Yugi? It's too far to walk, and there's no way you could ride your bike like this..."

As if in answer, Yugi winced again, this time hunching over his other side since he had run out of hands to clutch at the pain.

"We'll just have to take the subway," he said through clenched teeth. "It's only up the street. Come on - help me up."

Téa helped Yugi stagger to his feet. Then, with Yugi leaning heavily on Téa, they pushed their way through the sea of staring, confused onlookers, limped down the sidewalk, and descended down into the subway.


* * *

 

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