shiraume_fic: (Comfort Food: Chocolate!)
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Coincidentally, the 2014 Valentine's Day falls on a night of full moon. Not just any full moon, but the very first full moon of the year by the lunar calendar, which is celebrated in my culture.

Happy Valentine's Day! Just one more left to go -- the epilogue -- after this chapter. I hope you enjoy the last chapter of RE:Play.

Beginning of this fanfiction is HERE. You will also find more fic intro notes there.

RE:Play by Shiraume

[Written: 5/29/2009 - 12/31/2010]

IV. RE:Call

Chapter Twelve

“Lord Siamun! We can’t hold out much longer! Our weapons are meaningless against them, and almost half our soldiers have fallen. We must retreat!”

Isis bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. If nothing else, they needed to buy time for the queen and the court to barricade the Southern Sanctuary against the oncoming assault. This whole battle was a slow but inevitable retreat as the enemy continued to push them back, and they hadn’t a prayer of breaking through to the river. If Siamun was right in his guess, the pharaoh must had gone to face Bakura at Kur-Elna. But now, when they needed the power of the Three Gods the most, the pharaoh was across the river from them, with a vast demon army between the city and its sovereign protector.

And without the aid of the Items, the drain from using one’s Ka was crippling in a lengthy battle. Isis could feel the numbness in her fingertips, and knew she was only minutes away from collapsing. All of the surviving priest-mages who accompanied them were in a similar state, or already unconscious, drained nearly to death. But they were still clinging to their summoned Monsters, ready to fight to the death, every last one of them. If they could just hold on until pharaoh could be reached...if they could...

“Look!”

The western sky suddenly burst into daylight, streaks of fiery red-gold streaking the sky like a sun rising from the west, spreading eastward. A cry echoed through the air, and a shining blaze of flame swept across the field, burning a clear path through the ranks of the enemy, all the way from the river to the line of soldiers. Even before the flame died down, a gigantic blue hand lowered in their midst, gently setting down the pharaoh and his companions.

“Pharaoh!” Isis exclaimed, and heard her cry echoed from everywhere within sight. The pharaoh, even exhausted and injured, was looking fiercely determined, no sign of defeat or even fear. Yuugi, equally unwavering, was already drawing a card.

“Go get Seto,” Yuugi said calmly as a silvery light coalesced into the Silent Magician. The pharaoh looked taken aback, looking at Yuugi, who returned the look earnestly. “We can’t leave him to the Dark Priest. We need him.”

The golden phoenix reared back, and shot another burst of flame across the field, destroying another wave of Zorc’s army trying to close in on a group of soldiers. The writhing mass of darkness near the western edge of the field was coalescing into a clearer shape, and the pharaoh hesitated.

“Zorc – he will be at full strength soon. If I don’t strike now—”

“Atem, please.” Yuugi’s wide eyes pleaded with him, heartrending but resolute. “We can’t leave Seto to chance.”

“We can hold off the enemy for a little while, pharaoh,” Shaada reminded him, holding up the Millennium Key. Isis took the Tauk from Shaada and clasped it around her neck, its weight solid and reassuring.

“The people have been evacuated to the Southern Sanctuary, along with the queen and the rest of the court. All that remains now is to deal with the threat.” Siamun, to Isis’s surprise, was taking up the Scale himself as he reported to the pharaoh. “Seth is one of our best duelists. His help will be invaluable, if he can be returned to us.”

The pharaoh’s violet eyes slid closed, then opened, shining with a new determination. “Isis, take Karim’s body and that book to the Southern Sanctuary. Mana—”

The young priestess shook her head, short and emphatic. “I can fight. Besides, someone should go with you, prince.”

“There is no time,” the pharaoh snapped. “I can reach Seto on my own. Isis, do as I say. You’re in no shape to continue the battle.”

Isis lowered her head, shame and sorrow mingling in her heart. She hadn’t even had the time to digest the shock of Karim’s death. To be thrust away from battle like this, even to escort Karim’s remains, was painful.

“But prince—”

Mana again, protesting even a direct order from the pharaoh. Then again, the girl had never stood on ceremony even after her playmate became their sovereign. The pharaoh shook his head again, but his eyes were a bit softer. “Stay with Yuugi, Mana. For me.”

The pharaoh did not wait for Mana to nod her acquiescence, smoothly jumping on horseback, and with a last nod to Yuugi, was off toward the royal palace.

“This book is really important,” Yuugi said to Isis, and Isis blinked in surprise. “You have to keep this one safe. Please?”

Isis squared her shoulders. If both Yuugi and Mana were going to stay and fight, the least she could do was to complete the pharaoh’s order and return quickly to support them.

“I’ll be back as soon as I entrust these to the queen,” Isis promised them, this time allowing a soldier to help her mount the horse. Another soldier, having placed Karim’s body – hastily covered with a cloak – on a wagon, was waiting for her. Isis received the book from Yuugi’s hand, cradling it carefully with one arm. “Be careful.”

“You too,” Yuugi answered with a brief smile.

With a last look at the others, Isis spurred her horse to a swift gallop to the Southern Sanctuary.

~*~*~*~


Back in the future, in the modern Domino City, Japan, the word ‘fate’ had always seemed like a distant concept to Atem. Even when Ishizu had told him that fate had been leading him all along, that it was his destiny to uncover the secret of the tomb-keepers and face the evil god, he had been so focused on recovering his own past that the idea had paled in comparison, all but forgotten in the back of his mind.

But even with all the knowledge of the past events, he had been unable to change them. Not a damned thing. Everything in the past had happened exactly as they originally had 3,000 years ago.

And if fate indeed was forcing his hand, then choosing to face the Dark Priest without destroying – or at least sealing – Zorc Necrophades could very well prove a fatal decision. That had been the reason he’d hesitated, unsure his choice would not compromise both Yuugi and Seto. But he’d never truly been able to deny Yuugi anything, and could he, even knowing the danger Yuugi and his priests faced, truly leave Seto to the uncertain hands of fate? And it wasn’t Seth in that body, but Kaiba Seto of the future, who shouldn’t even be involved in this.

Atem did not slow down his horse as he approached the palace walls, charging straight over their tumbled-down remains. He made his way to the main hall where his throne sat without incident. The tainted presence of the Dark Priest was familiar now, recognizable even at a distance. Even if Atem hadn’t recalled the throne room was where he would find the Dark Priest and Seth, he would have been able to locate them.

Black lightning filled the air, and his horse reared in terror. Atem jumped off, pulling hard on the rein and placing a calming hand on its neck. Just then, he saw a flash of white, and his heart lurched, recognizing the figure in blue robe crouched on the floor, directly in the path of an attack—

“KISARA!”

—And a slender, white figure that ran to intercept the attack, taking the full brunt of it. The impact lifted the girl’s body clear off the ground, sending her tumbling to Seto’s feet, lifeless before she hit the ground. A white dragon, writhing in agony, was slammed into a waiting stone tablet, crackling white lightning extinguished harmlessly as the Monster was sealed. A normal extraction of Ka didn’t leave the host dead, Atem remembered explaining to Yuugi: the dragon was the Ka and Ba of the girl, fused together like Mahaad’s had been to form the Black Magician. Even as Seto scrambled to reach her, Atem could sense the gaping emptiness in her body, the living soul ripped entirely from its vessel, leaving nothing but a shell behind. The Dark Priest was dissolving, too, the darkness oozing out of the gaping self-inflicted wound, and Atem stiffened, realizing what he planned a second too late.

“Seto! Watch out!”

The dark energy engulfed Seto completely, leaving the Dark Priest’s body to crumble to the ground, abandoned. Atem cursed, feeling Mahaad close behind him, watching. Another stone tablet was ready, with the figure of Black Magician inscribed on its surface, but Atem knew just what they would be facing only moments later, when the Dark Priest took over Seth’s body.

Seto. Not Seth, but Kaiba Seto. The only opponent who had been his equal -- perhaps even a friend. So different from the friendship he shared with Jounouchi, but equally weighty in his heart. Yet Atem had never realized how much he relied on it until now. The person he was facing wasn’t Seto. It was a parasite, a darkness leeching on a soul he’d come to care for, even – and he could admit this now, at least to himself – love.

“Seto, can you hear my voice?”

Black Magician was preparing to attack the stone tablet, which would cancel the summoning magic that held the newly-born Blue-Eyes White Dragon to the Dark Priest’s command. Without even looking, he knew exactly what counterattack the Dark Priest would use. It didn’t matter; Mahaad couldn’t help him, not in this duel.

How could he reach Seto? Defeating him in a duel wouldn’t make a difference. Even if his Mind Crush had forced Seto to rebuild his heart at the conclusion of Death-T, he hadn’t been the one to change Seto. Or during the Battle City semifinal, when he’d finally seen deeper into Seto’s heart and saw the prison of hatred which kept Seto from reaching for his full potential as a duelist. Atem’s victory then, however, hadn’t been enough to convince him of that, either.

“Her death wasn’t your fault. You can’t let the Dark Priest win.”

The Black Magician’s stone tablet shattered, and Mahaad dissipated, unable to stay linked to him without the magic of the tablet. Even Mahaad’s worry caressing the edge of his mind was but a distant afterthought.

“You were able to put together your shattered heart and reclaim it from the darkness. You came back...for Mokuba.

“Break free from the prison of your mind, Seto. Come back.”

The white dragon reared, streaks of white lightning gathering in its mouth, ready to release its attack. The Dark Priest was laughing, triumphant and gloating.

“Come back to us. Please, Seto.”

The dragon’s mouth opened, crackling with magic. Any instant now, the destructive power of Burst Stream would rip through him. This was a gamble he should never have risked, not with Zorc Necrophades still at large, barely held at bay by none other than Yuugi. If Seto lost himself to the darkness that sought to ensnare his soul, Atem would die here and the whole world would be destroyed, left at an evil god’s mercy. It wasn’t right to put the safety of one person before the fate of the entire world, but... How could he have left Seto to face this alone? Yuugi would never have forgiven him. And, Atem knew with painful clarity, neither would he.

“Come back to me, Seto.”

The infinitesimal pause before the dragon’s attack released seemed like an eternity. Then, the magic dissipated while the white dragon held still, regarding him with eyes that held startlingly human emotion behind them. Paying no attention to the screams of the Dark Priest, Blue-Eyes looked directly into Atem’s eyes for a long moment. Then, like mist before a rising sun, it disappeared, both from the arena and the stone tablet.

Atem held his breath, nearly reaching for Seto, then recoiled the next moment, feeling the magic of Blue-Eyes White Dragon wash through Seto’s entire body. The dragon wasn’t in the physical world, but... Could it have somehow entered Seto’s mind? Ka and Ba, the dragon was Kisara’s soul. Was she able to touch Seto’s soul directly, to reach past the darkness keeping it trapped?

“Seto!”

He did not answer Atem, reaching out slowly to touch Kisara’s pale cheek. For a brief moment his eyes slid closed, face tight with contained grief. When he looked up, Atem let out a sigh of relief, recognizing the soul that gazed back at him from behind the blue eyes. Seto’s expression was too serious for a smile, but the darkness had been lifted from him. The next minute, Seto grasped the hand Atem held out, and Atem blinked, realizing he’d offered it automatically, hardly believing it was actually accepted. Slowly, Seto pulled himself to his feet, but did not let go of Atem’s hand.

“Are you all right?”

Seto looked at him with an expression that translated a sardonic question even without the raised eyebrow, and Atem pulled his hand back, suddenly conscious of the warmth spreading from the contact.

Or tried to. Seto didn’t let go, and Atem stood uncertainly, not sure what to say now that he had managed to reach Seto.

Dark lightning streaked across the sky , and Seto looked up with a frown. “Zorc.” He pinned Atem with a bright blue stare, and Atem barely kept from looking away, suddenly feeling like he’d been caught doing something gratuitously self-indulgent. “It’s not over. And you— You left Yuugi alone?”

“Yuugi wanted me to get you first.” This time, Atem looked away, unable to face the unfamiliar emotion in Seto’s eyes. “I wanted to get you first,” he admitted softly, looking down at their joined hands.

The next moment, he had to look up again, because Seto started pulling on his hand like Seth used to when they were children.

“Come on, then. Let’s go fry that bastard.”

It wasn’t a promise, exactly. And he was reasonably sure if – when he succeeded in defeating Zorc, he would have to move on to afterlife, and Seto and Yuugi would return to the future, where they belonged. Maybe it was just a whim of some indulgent god to grant them a little bit of time together. Maybe it was fate, showing the vicious side of its humor. Maybe.

But then again, maybe it was all worth it for this handful of memories just for the three of them. The memories that didn’t belong to Atem of the past or the Other Yuugi in the future, but to him, who was both.

Atem squeezed back, determined to treasure every moment to the end, and smirked right back.

“All right. Let’s go.”

~*~*~*~


The faint clink of chains faded, scattering in the air with the last of Exodia’s magic. Tears blurred his sight, and Yuugi didn’t dare look even when Mana gave out a short, piercing cry of grief and rushed to Siamun’s side. The Millennium Key, slipped out of Siamun’s hand, was at the edge of his vision, but he couldn’t look up, not at the Key or the old priest who lay unmoving in Mana’s lap not five feet away. Because if he looked now, he would want to just curl up and cry until the darkness and death rolled over them all. Yuugi lowered Shaada’s cooling body gently to the ground and pulled himself back on his feet. He was acutely aware they had no more covering Monsters save for the Black Magician Girl, and damage to this particular Monster would hurt Mana, maybe even kill her. Setting a trap card facedown, he drew another card, a spell card.

“Sealing Swords of Light!”

Swords of pure light rained down from heaven, pinning the vanguards of Zorc’s army in their places. It wasn’t enough to stop Zorc, becoming more solid with each passing second, or the rest of the army moving up from behind, but it could buy them just a little bit of the time they desperately needed. Yuugi held up the next card, a Monster card. The draw on his already drained magic was almost unbearable, but Yuugi forced himself to continue. His fingertips were icy, barely able to draw the cards.

“Red Gadget!” Which meant the Yellow Gadget was now in his hand, but covering Monsters alone wouldn’t be enough when the restraining hold of the Sealing Swords gave out. Yuugi’s chin rose, eyes hard as gems. Losing wasn’t an option here, not after he promised Atem he would hold back the enemy until Atem returned with Seto. “Red Medicine!” he called, and felt the chill dissipate from his body, just enough to call another.

“Lightning Vortex!”

A storm of lightning descended, burning away the demons and giving their soldiers a moment of respite and a chance to regroup. Across the plain, a fully solidified Zorc roared, another wave of dark energy spreading through the battlefield, reviving the dead demons. Yuugi took a quick, nervous gasp of breath. Time to find out if a trap could bind Zorc, even for a moment. He flipped the facedown card, pulling up all of his strength to force the trap into place.

“Curse of Hexagram!”

“Shadow Spell!”

Yuugi blinked, watching dark chains sail through the air just as the shining green hexagram array materialized around Zorc. The double binding wavered when Zorc struggled and let out a roar of fury, but held. The barbed red tail of Osiris curled around him protectively, and Yuugi nearly sobbed in relief as Atem and Seto jumped down to join him on the battlefield. Seto’s hand on his shoulder was warm and hard, settling down with a surety that was purely Seto. Atem was on his other side, eyes defiant and fearless, the Winged Dragon of Ra shining like a small sun above them. Atem was already holding up the Millennium Puzzle, summoning the third God Card by the name, ready to end this once and for all.

There was no time for doubts, to wonder if this was the right thing to do. To defeat Zorc here and now was to change the history forever. Seto’s hand convulsed, tightening over his shoulder, and Yuugi knew Seto was thinking the same thing. Would this truly allow them to return to the future, where their friends and family waited?

“Under the name of the pharaoh, I combine the powers of the Three Illusionary Gods, to call Horakhty, the Creator of Light!”

Ra, Osiris, and Obelisk turned into three columns of light, swirling together, becoming one—

The three columns separated, returning to the original forms of the Sky Dragon, Winged Dragon, and Great Soldier. For one moment that felt like an eternity, Yuugi stared, unable to believe it. Seto’s grip on his shoulder was painful now, but he barely felt it.

“Why...?”

Atem’s face, when Yuugi dared to look, was strangely expressionless, watching the Curse of Hexagram crackle and break. The dark chains of Shadow Spell were also unwinding, breaking away like rotted wood. “I think I know,” Atem finally murmured, voice quiet and reflective. “If my name was the only key, there was no reason I couldn’t have defeated Zorc in the past. I’d forgotten it wasn’t.”

Undoing the ancient seal of 3,000 years was impossible with your powers alone, Horakhty’s words came back to Yuugi like whispers of the wind. The spirit of your friends protecting you, and the bonds supporting you...those are the true power necessary to unlock the seal.

“Because Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun and Anzu...because they’re not here?”

“Ridiculous!” Seto’s grip tightened on Yuugi’s shoulder hard enough to bruise, and Yuugi reached for that hand blindly, his own hand equally tight around it. “After all this, we came all the way here just to repeat history?”

Atem actually smiled at him. “Whether or not that’s the case, we have no time left.”

“We’ve talked about this—”

“And it looks like you were half-right, Seto. It is a stupid plan. But this isn’t a lost cause.”

“Atem!” Seto’s tone was angry, but Yuugi felt a tremor going through the hand clenched on his shoulder.

“There is no guarantee it will send us back,” Yuugi said, voice wooden, words leaving his lips without any conscious thought behind them.

“But we can’t leave it like this, either.” Atem’s eyes bored into his, and Yuugi desperately wanted to look away, wanted to deny the icy grip of truth mercilessly squeezing his heart. It was either help Atem seal Zorc away, or continue fighting Zorc in what was very likely a pointless battle with no hope of victory. “Yuugi, I can’t do this alone.”

“Fuck this. I’m not Seth, and I’m sure as hell not going to let you do it.”

Yuugi realized with a distant sort of surprise that Seto has seized Atem’s arm with his free hand in what looked like a painful grip. A faint ghost of a thought whispered in his mind, that perhaps he hadn’t been the only one unable to let Atem go. If the Millennium Items could grant wishes, perhaps it hadn’t been just his wish they granted.

And this...this was the conclusion of that wish? To merely repeat history?

“I can’t let you go,” Yuugi whispered, tears choking his voice. They couldn’t let Zorc destroy Egypt, the world. Not when so many had already given their lives to protect the kingdom. But this – this wasn’t fair, that Atem had to sacrifice his soul to finish the battle again.

“I won’t be gone forever.” Atem firmly pulled Seto’s hand away to lace their fingers together, and reached for Yuugi’s hand with the other. “Please, Seto.” Seto refused to meet Yuugi’s eyes or Atem’s, glowering with anger bright enough to burn. Atem was patient, tugging them together until the three of them were in a tight little circle, standing shoulder to shoulder, until he could catch Seto’s reluctant gaze. After a long, long moment, Seto raised his face, and the strength of feeling startlingly clear in his eyes left Yuugi breathless. Had he not seen it, he would never have imagined Seto’s beautiful blue eyes, usually so distant and cold, could hold so much emotion behind them.

“You owe me a rematch. Don’t forget.”

Atem smiled and nodded once. Yuugi could find nothing to say, and looked back at Atem helplessly, blinking away the tears burning in his eyes. Atem’s smile turned tender, so achingly gentle, and Yuugi gasped, feeling his chest constrict sharply in small sobs.

“Aibou,” Atem called softly. “See you in the future, hm?” One step back, another, and then another, and Atem slid from both of their grasp, looking back at them with naked affection so rare to grace his face. “I only need a few moments. Be careful.”

Atem’s last smile was for Mana, who sat cradling Siamun’s body, uncomprehending, but instinctively understanding the magnitude of the situation. Her lips formed his name, but no sound escaped her.

With an earthshaking roar, the Winged Dragon of Ra surged upward, quickly joined by the Sky Dragon of Osiris, and the Great Soldier of Obelisk towering over the ground like a colossal mountain. When the three Egyptian Gods were gone, so was Atem.

“All this was for nothing,” Yuugi said bitterly, his tears finally falling.

“We will meet again, all of us, in 3,000 years.” Seto’s voice was fierce. Yuugi blinked away his tears, looking at the earnest blue gaze boring down at him. “This is the only way our future can exist. He knows it, and so do you.”

He did. He’d thought he had. But Atem was still gone and he’d let Atem go alone. “That’s not worth this. Nothing can be worth this,” Yuugi rasped, knowing Seto didn’t need this from him, but unable to stop himself.

“It is,” Seto whispered fiercely, “to me.” In shock, Yuugi stared at him. Seto’s eyes were pure steel. “Don’t you tell me everything we’ve done, everything that happened since he became a part of our lives...all that was for nothing. Don’t you dare tell me that, Yuugi.”

An arm closed around him like a steel ring, enveloping him in hard warmth, bracing him against the increasing gale that raised the sand in a wall of gold, engulfing everything. The magic was so thick in the air, they could almost choke on it. Then, a flash of light brightened the western sky, turning the night into day. The shockwave of magic that exploded from the west side of the plain swept across the city in a pulse of light, wrapping the entire city and beyond in a blinding blaze for an instant.

Then the light was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving only the silent night behind.

~*~*~*~


In the heart of the glowing sphere of magic, Atem stood nestled in the power of Three Gods, flowing through him like swift river-current. Outside, Zorc Necrophades raged like a roiling thunderstorm, trying to swallow him – and the power of the Three Illusionary Gods – whole. Atem could have smiled, if he had the time.

Somewhere along the way, between the battle in the future and the battle for the past, he’d forgotten why he started fighting in the first place. Even since he awoke in the future, he’d fought out of instinct, out of desire, and out of necessity. And maybe, he hadn’t actually wanted to stop fighting even when he went to the Temple of the Underworld to face Yuugi for their battle ceremony. Maybe, he hadn’t really accepted Yuugi’s victory in his heart because he wasn’t ready to stop.

He’d been able to fight because he had the strength, but his strength did not exist so he could simply continue to fight. His strength existed so that he could protect. He fought because he had something – someone – to protect. Three thousand years had made him forget: being at peace, letting go of his sword – it wasn’t about defeat or surrender. It was acceptance, that his first choice had been the right one. It had been a choice he made to keep his loved ones safe. It was the choice he would make no matter how many times he was given the chance.

Closing his eyes, Atem let the magic build inside him until it became a maelstrom of light, relaxing into the crackling, pure energy that was his own power. Delicate, sparkling threads of light wove through the darkness. So fragile, yet unbreakable as his determination, holding fast the darkness, embracing it like a lover. Feeling the golden net complete its circuit around Zorc’s presence, he drew it inward, towards the pulsing heartbeat of the Millennium Puzzle. His intent was focused and absolute, unshakable, yet his touch remained as gentle as a baby’s breath. Confused by the resolute yet soft hold of Atem’s power, Zorc’s own briefly faltered. It was all the opening Atem needed.

Letting all of his love and hope flood him like a tidal wave, Atem surrendered himself to their light, and let go.

END OF PART IV


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