DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: *Text* indicates thoughts or a mental conversation between a light and a yami.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: In this chapter you meet five original characters. Evien, Nyc (pronounced Neek), Avril, Rina and Callie. Yes, I know that's a lot, but I have a reason for including each and every one of them, I promise ^_^ There is also a reason why I've only given a physical description of Evien... I've lost the file where I had my notes about the girls so I'll describe them in the next chapter ;-_-
It was shortly before dawn on the day of the start of the Domino City Treasure Quest Tournament. At such an early hour, most of the inhabitants of Domino were sleeping soundly, but there were several scattered around the city who were wide awake and eagerly anticipating the week ahead.
The tournament was to run for seven days, and it promised to be a great deal of fun, not only for those duelists good enough to be participating, but for the tens of thousands of Duel Monsters fans around the world who would be watching the action from the comfort of their own homes via Kaiba Corp's satellite system.
The rules had already been announced. Only the standard dueling rules would apply, and each player would begin each duel with a life point tally of 8,000. Players also had to use the same deck throughout the entire tournament, except that they were allowed to switch in any cards that they won along the way. But what made the tournament different from any other was the way in which it would progress.
Domino City had hosted a major dueling tournament before, Kaiba Corp's Battle City Tournament, and the organisers of this new event had taken a few leaves out of Seto Kaiba's book. The dueling arena was going to be all of Domino, rare cards would be received as prizes, and the participating duelists would be using an upgraded version of the same portable Duel Disk system that had been used in Battle City. Also, at the end of the tournament, the final eight duelists would battle each other to determine the ultimate winner. But there were a few differences too.
In the Battle City tournament, there had been hundreds of duelists participating and they had needed to duel each other. The winner of each duel had received their opponent's rarest card, but also a special locator card that, when six were gathered, guided the fortunate few who managed to get that far to the location of the Battle City finals.
In the Treasure Quest Tournament, only the top sixteen duelists in Japan were competing and, although they would eventually duel each other, for most of the competition they would be dueling against special judges. There were thirty-two such judges in all and they were located in fixed points around the city. At the start of the competition, each duelist would be given a clue to the location of one of the judges. After that, they had to follow the clue, find the judge, duel and win. If the duelist won, they would receive a rare card as a prize, but they would also receive another clue. If they lost, they would have to duel again, until they won. Only by winning could they proceed to the next duel. Each duelist had to win five duels before they received the final clue, which would lead them to the location of the finals. They had four days to get there, but that didn't mean that everyone who made it on time would go through to the last stage of the competition. Only the first eight to arrive at the final location would be allowed to proceed.
So, to go through to the finals, a duelist would not only need to be able to win five duels as quickly as possible, but would also need to be able to solve the clues to get from one duel location to the next! That promised to be a challenge. Although some of the participating duelists were excited at the thought of testing themselves aside from their dueling instincts, a few of the others weren't too sure about that part of it. One or two had even grumbled about it being nothing more than a waste of time. Still, rules were rules, so they had no choice but to go along with it!
There was one other rule, to keep things fair. For the first day of the tournament, and during the finals, the starting time was eleven o'clock. For the second, third and fourth days of the tournament, the duelists were only allowed to begin dueling, or following their clue, at nine o'clock each morning. They had to finish at five o'clock each afternoon, when they were to return to wherever they were staying for the duration of the tournament. The only exception was if they were in the middle of a duel at the time. In that case, they were permitted to finish the duel before going home for the night.
So, as the sun began to rise over Domino City on the first day, sixteen duelists waited eagerly, and in most cases impatiently, for eleven o'clock to come.
Yugi bounced out of bed before the alarm even stopped ringing. As he started getting ready for the big day ahead, he heard a soft chuckle coming from behind him.
"Yugi, there is no rush. We have several hours yet until the contest starts."
"I know, but I want to make sure that I wear the right thing, so it could take me a while to decide!" The boy turned to smile at his darker-half as Yami lounged on the bed, still in his pajamas. As always, the sight sent a shiver of delight up Yugi's spine.
They really were Yami's pajamas.
After a few weeks of trying to persuade his light that he didn't need his own pajamas for when he went to sleep in his physical form, Yami had finally given in and gone shopping with Yugi. The sleek dark blue satin pajamas had been the first item they'd bought, after Yugi had caught Yami stroking the fabric in fascination. The Kuriboh plushie that currently had pride of place nestled between the bed's two pillows had been the second item, for a similar reason.
Yami shook his head as he noticed his light's sudden distraction. "Yugi. Yugi!"
"Huh? Oh… What is it Yami?" The boy was back to his usual cheerful attentiveness, although there was now a faint tinge of colour darkening his cheeks. Yami sighed and gave his light a stern look. Or as stern as he could make it when he was really rather worried.
Yugi hadn't been the same for the past few weeks. He had never been so easily distracted before, but the spirit was unable to find any reason for the change. Whenever he asked, Yugi just found a way to avoid answering. That also was not at all like his light.
"I hope you are not so distracted once we begin dueling, Yugi. This will take both of us. Especially once we reach the finals and have to face Kaiba." He pulled a face at the thought.
Yugi chuckled and nodded. "Don't worry, Yami. Kaiba won't beat us. I won't let you down."
Yami smiled back, relieved. "You never could, Yugi." He stretched and sighed. "I suppose I had better get up also…"
Yugi grabbed his clothes. "Oh no… you are not getting the bathroom first! Not after last time! It took me hours to clean up the mess!"
As his light hurried into the bathroom, Yami frowned and called after him. "That was not my fault! How was I to know that you were only supposed to twist the lid of the powder so the holes were uncovered rather than take the top off entirely? As for the toothpaste, I wasn't expecting it to come out with such… force."
Seto Kaiba had been awake before dawn, getting in a few hours work on his computer before the tournament began. He planned to do that every morning during the competition, as well as every evening. Most people would have found it tough trying to run a company and participate in a week-long dueling competition at the same time, but Kaiba was confident that he had it all under control. He had well-trained people exactly where he needed them to be in case anything went wrong, and he was certain that they would contact him if, and only if, his presence was urgently required. Besides, it wasn't like he was going to be completely out of touch. As well as his daily checks, he expected to have at least a day or two free while he waited for the other finalists to arrive at the last location.
He knew he'd be the first to arrive. After all, with his deck containing three Blue Eyes White Dragons, there was no way he could be defeated! The judges would be scrambling in the dirt in no time at all. As for the clues… Kaiba silently scoffed at the idea of any clue possibly confusing his superior intellect. Besides, he and his little brother had lived in Domino for years and they'd completely mapped every square inch of it for the Battle City tournament. He knew where every landmark and otherwise notable building was! He even owned a few of them.
At nine o'clock, Mokuba bounced into the office with breakfast and Kaiba took a break. As they ate, Mokuba chattered excitedly about the tournament, with Kaiba managing to get a few words in whenever his brother paused to eat.
Although outwardly Kaiba appeared to be completely calm, inwardly he was almost as excited as Mokuba. To him, the contest represented another chance to reclaim his title as the world's top duelist from Yugi. This time… this time he would defeat Yugi and that irritating alter-ego of his and then everyone would know that he, Seto Kaiba, was the best duelist in the world!
Joey was leading a crawling and collared Kaiba on a leash through the school cafeteria when a jangling sound woke him from his extremely pleasant dream. He groped for the ringing phone as he blearily opened his eyes.
"Mwha?" The sweet sound of his little sister's voice brought Joey awake instantly. "Oh, hi Sis! Yeah, I'm awake. What's up?" A broad grin appeared on his face as his sister wished him luck for the contest. "Thanks Serenity! That's just what I needed to hear! Knowing you're cheering me on will really help! Yeah, I'm looking forward to the chance to kick Kaiba's..." He suddenly noticed the time. "Uh, I have to get ready Sis. I'll talk to you tonight. 'Kay. Love you too. Bye!"
As soon as he put the phone down, Joey scrambled to his feet. "Aw man… I can't believe I slept through my alarm! I'd better get a move on or I’m gonna be late!" He paused as the last image from his dream flashed through his mind. "It was worth it though." Another image from an earlier part of his dream came to him and his grin turned into a grimace. "Mostly. I probably shouldn't eat pizza right before bed. Speaking of… time for breakfast!"
With a cold slice of pizza in one hand, Joey was soon searching under his bed for his other shoe.
Bakura quietly got up, careful not to wake his light as he got dressed. He and Ryou had stayed up later than they should have. It was his fault. He'd been too excited about the contest to sleep and so he'd kept Ryou up most of the night working on new strategies to use against the Pharaoh and Kaiba. It had been nearly two o'clock before he'd turned to speak to Ryou and found him stretched out on the bed, sound asleep. Bakura figured the least he could do was let his light sleep in for a bit. When he got to the kitchen though, he was tempted to wake Ryou up.
*I've robbed tombs, I've had my soul sealed in an artifact, I know most of the fiends and ghouls in the Shadow Realm personally, I came out of Yami's soulroom with my sanity… Shadows, I've even survived being a chibi! How hard can it be to make a few pancakes?* he thought to himself.
Ten minutes later, Bakura crunched his cereal and made a mental note to keep Ryou out of the kitchen until he'd had a chance to search through the Book of Secret Arts for a spell to remove extra-sticky pancake mix from the ceiling.
Ten minutes after that, Ryou's soul was woken by a startled yell. He sat up and blinked, confused for a moment before he realised that he was in his yami's soulroom. Remembering the night before, Ryou figured that he must have fallen asleep. Since Bakura wasn't there, it was probably morning. Which meant that his yami was currently in control of his body.
As Ryou made a mental note to avoid the kitchen until his yami had a chance to clean up whatever mess he'd made that he didn't want his light to see, Ryou tried to work out what had woken him up. There had been a loud noise. Like a… "Oh dear. A yell isn't usually a good thing to wake up to…" Ryou muttered to himself as he opened his mind to let his yami know that he was awake.
Bakura had been very careful not to do anything to disturb his exhausted light's sleep. He hadn't even ranted in his mind when he'd had his little pancake incident. He'd just been congratulating himself on his thoughtfulness when he'd opened the bathroom cabinet and found himself face to face with one of the few things in the world, or the Shadow Realm for that matter, capable of giving him nightmares. All thoughts of not waking his light flew from his mind at the sight.
"Ryou! I thought you said you'd put that cursed rubber duck of yours somewhere else!"
Isis raised her cup of tea to her lips and sipped it, enjoying the sweet herbal taste of chamomile mixed with the tart tang of orange as she ignored the sounds of chaos coming from the rest of the apartment. When the kitchen door suddenly opened, she tensed for a moment before relaxing again. "Odion."
Odion eyed his adopted sister, looking as nervous as he ever looked. "Ah… Isis…"
"The answer is no. You were the one who gave them breakfast and you were the one who decided that they would need their strength today, so gave them extra-large helpings of it. Now, you can deal with the consequences."
Odion turned several shades paler. Isis was fairly certain that she heard him mutter 'Oh Ra…'. Her lips curled up into a smug smile as she sipped her tea again.
"It serves you right. You know perfectly well what happens when you give either Malik or Marik too much sugary cereal. Giving it to both of them at the same time… Even without the Millennium Necklace, I could have told you that would be trouble."
Mai groaned softly. "Oh… Joey…" The ringing of her alarm made her stir. She sleepily reached out and turned the irritating sound off. As she blinked herself out of her extremely nice dream, she suddenly realised that she was hugging one of her pillows. She also heard the sound of someone laughing. Blushing, Mai sat up. "Now I remember why I don't like to share hotel rooms…" She muttered as she looked over to the girl leaning in the doorway. Mai tried to scowl, but since her cheeks were still burning, her expression wasn't exactly intimidating. "It's not funny!"
Nyc managed to stop laughing, but she was still grinning. "Yes it is!"
She strode across the room and dropped down onto the bed beside Mai, eyeing the older girl with a mix of fondness and amusement. There was also a gleam of devilry in her eyes that made Mai edge away rather nervously. Nyc's grin widened. "I've known you for a couple of years now, Mai, and this is the first time I've seen you so worked up over a competition. At first I thought there was something about the prizes that attracted you, but now I understand."
"Understand? Understand what?" Mai blinked at Nyc in confusion.
"It's not the prizes you're attracted to. It's one of the other participants." Nyc laughed as Mai gasped and instantly started to deny it, even as her blush confirmed it. "Joey… hmm… the only Joey in the competition is Joey Wheeler. I hear he's pretty good. As a duelist, I mean. Although you could probably tell me how good he is in… other areas." Nyc quickly ducked the pillow Mai threw at her.
"It's not like that! He… I… We're just friends! That's all!" Mai glared at Nyc, questioning her decision for what seemed like the hundredth time for ever agreeing to share a suite with the girl. She'd forgotten how annoying Nyc could be. She was just so… observant! Nothing got past her! Mai wondered how she'd ever thought that she could keep her crush on Joey a secret with Nyc around… Then an arm slipped around her shoulders. Mai looked up in surprise as she was hugged.
Nyc smiled gently, all signs of her earlier teasing gone. "So… he's one of the ones who got past your defenses huh? I guess I owe him some thanks."
Mai frowned at her, but didn't pull away. "What are you talking about? Thanks for what?"
"We've known each other for… what? Four years? But it's only been in the past two that you've let us be real friends. I noticed the change in you that first tournament we were both in after you came back from Duelist Kingdom."
Mai looked away, remembering what had happened there. She was surprised, and rather ashamed, to realise that Nyc was right. Before Yugi, Joey, Téa and their friends had shown her what true friendship was all about, she had always pushed people away. Including Nyc. "I'm surprised that you kept trying, considering how many times I told you to get lost."
Nyc laughed. "I don't give up that easily! Surely you know that about me by now!"
It was Mai's turn to laugh. "I'll say! I found that out the hard way, more than once!" She smiled at her younger friend, remembering all the times they had dueled against each other. "I'm just glad that you and I don't compete in all the same duels, otherwise I probably wouldn't have the ranking to get in to today's contest!"
"Plenty of contests for everyone!" Nyc grinned. Her smile faded slightly. "I'm still not convinced that the ranking system was the fairest way to determine entry into this tournament though. I mean… sure I've won enough minor tournaments to qualify for it, but I'm nowhere near Yugi and Kaiba's league."
Mai put her arm around her friend, as always surprised at how easy it was to do such a thing. Two years earlier, she wouldn't have been able to force herself to do it. Now… she actually wanted to. "Hon, stop selling yourself short. You and I both know that's not true. I've seen the way you battle, remember. You can't fool me. I know you go easy on most of your opponents. Truth is, sometimes I've wondered why you stay on the minor tournament circuit. I mean, it must be boring for you to face duelists that aren't even half as good as you. There's no challenge in it! You should be dueling in the bigger tournaments, like I do! Not only do you get better opponents, but you also get better prizes." Mai winked and grinned as Nyc burst out laughing.
"Trust you to say that!" Nyc shook her head, her smile fading as she considered how to reply. "To me, every duel is a challenge no matter who it's with. There's no such thing as an easy victory, there's only lucky victories. Even the most inexperienced duelist can have luck on their side once in a while. I've dueled against kids who had real potential, they just didn't know as much about their cards or how to use them as I did. After I've dueled them, I've seen them thinking over their battle, and where they went wrong, and I know they've learned from their mistakes. It feels like I've helped them become better duelists, you know? I like that idea. I think that's one of the things I love most about this game. Sometimes you learn more from losing than you gain from winning."
Mai smiled. "I know what you mean. I've seen that a few times too, in duelists I've beaten. I've been on the losing side of it too. I know I've learned a lot from my defeats and you're right… I'm a stronger duelist because of it." The two friends shared a smile before Nyc got up.
"Well, that's enough for me. It's way too early in the day for philosophy. Besides, we have more important things to think about." She could barely keep herself from bouncing.
"I knew it! You're looking forward to encountering a bit of a challenge for a change!" Mai grinned.
Nyc laughed. "A bit, but actually I'm more interested in seeing the others." Her eyes gleamed with excitement and just a hint of something like mischief. "I can't believe we all qualified!"
Mai looked thoughtful. "Hey that's right. The other girls made it through too. I just realised… I know everyone in this contest. Except for that guy… What was his name again?"
"Evien. Evien Sanders." Nyc had been crossing the room but now she stood still, her back to Mai as she softly spoke the name of the final duelist in the competition.
"Yeah! That's him!" Mai looked at her friend curiously. "Didn't you say you know him?"
"Yeah. We've met. Can't say I liked him though." Nyc turned around. Mai was surprised to see how serious she was. Nyc was usually cheerful and unfailingly optimistic. Now she looked… solemn. "Watch out for him, Mai. He's trouble. He'll try to charm you, but don't let him fool you. The only person he has any feelings for is himself."
Mai regarded Nyc thoughtfully. "You sound like you know that from personal experience."
Nyc nodded. "In a way. He's never tried it with me, because he knows I can see straight through him. But he tried it on a few friends of mine. He hurt them. Badly."
Her hand rubbed the thin silver bracelet that she always wore around her left wrist. It was an instinctive gesture Mai knew well. Over the years it had become sort of a trademark with Nyc. She did it when she needed confidence, or reassurance, or a really good strategy, or even when she was just deep in thought or remembering something particularly painful. Like she was at that moment.
Mai nodded. "Thanks for the warning. I'll keep my eye on him." Nyc nodded back.
"We'd better start getting ready."
"Yeah… it's only four hours until we have to be at the tournament opening. Which is being held in the park in front of this very hotel." Mai grinned.
"You're right, so it would really look bad if we were late. I get the bathroom first!"
Nyc laughed as Mai tried to beat her there. Once in the bathroom though, with Mai safely on the other side of the door where she couldn't see her expression, Nyc leaned against the door and took a shuddering breath. "Evien. So we're finally going to meet again. This time… I will defeat you."
Weevil Underwood and Rex Raptor stood in their underwear, locked in a glaring match as they argued.
"I wasn't born yesterday! I know you looked through my deck while I was asleep!" Weevil snarled.
"Oh yeah? Prove it!" Rex crossed his arms and smiled smugly. It wasn't an easy look to pull off since he was only wearing black boxers with the Sword Arm of Dragon printed on them, but somehow he managed it.
Weevil whipped out his deck and pointed to it. "I put a hair in between two of the cards before I went to bed last night. This morning, it was gone! Ha!" He glared at Rex who blinked in shock.
"You did what? Man, and I thought I was paranoid." Rex shook his head.
Weevil glared at Rex some more. "Paranoid! You dinosaur-loving idiot! If I were paranoid, the hair would have still been there this morning! That's not paranoia, that's my not trusting you not to look through my deck! Which is exactly what you did!" He stamped his foot, although the action didn't have quite as much impact as he intended since he was only wearing a pair of neon green boxer shorts with pictures of the Perfectly Ultimate Great Moth all over them.
Rex eyed his rival thoughtfully. "I don't know whether to be impressed that an idiot like you thought of doing that or insulted that you don't trust me."
Weevil growled… sounding rather like an angry Kuriboh. "Don't trust you! Of course I don't trust you! Why would I? You looked through my deck!" He stamped his foot again. It didn't have any more impact the second time.
"But I hadn't done that before you trapped it," Rex pointed out. "So you had no reason not to trust me. That hurts, Underwood." He made a show of looking saddened but Weevil suddenly looked as though he'd just won a duel against both Joey and Yugi at once.
"Ha! You admitted it! You admitted that you looked through my deck!"
Rex shrugged. "I never denied it. By the way, here's your card back." He tossed a card at Weevil, who caught it and blinked at him in surprise, and something that looked a little like worry.
"Huh? My card? What are you talking about?" He shifted nervously as Rex looked steadily at him.
"The card you slipped into my deck while I was asleep last night. Did you really think that I wouldn't look through my deck for a final check as soon as I woke up this morning?"
Weevil spluttered as he turned red. "I… don't know what you're talking about!"
"Uh huh. I suppose you don't know how my strongest monster card got shoved under the bed, either. What, did you think that I'd just count my cards so you switched your Parasite Paracide card for my strongest monster? Which, by the way, you would have had to look through my deck to find." Weevil backed away as Rex moved slowly towards him, suddenly looking panicked.
"Um… ah… er… I… Oh, is that the time? We're going to be late for the tournament!" Weevil made a run for it and managed to escape into the bathroom. Rex sighed.
"Underwood, you idiot, do you really think that's going to do you any good? It's not like you can avoid me forever. We're sharing this room for the whole contest, remember?"
Espa Roba woke up to breakfast in bed, courtesy of his brothers. Touched, he smiled as they joined him. They had their usual happy meal, all chattering away as they ate, although it was clear that part of Espa's mind was already on the duel that was starting that day.
After breakfast, Espa held his youngest brother on his lap and looked around at his family. "Thanks a lot guys. It really means a lot to me to know that you're going to be cheering for me all the way."
The younger boys looked at each other and grinned. "Group hug!" they suddenly chorused. Espa yelped as he suddenly found himself tackled by all of his brothers at once.
"Hey! Get off me!" he laughed as they proceeded to hug him. Knowing there was only one way to stop them, he grinned and started tickling them. Within moments, the group hug became a tickling competition.
Fifteen happy minutes later, with all of his younger brothers panting in contented exhaustion, Espa looked around the room and blew a feather off his nose. "Okay, own up, who started the pillow fight? Whoever did it is going to have to clear this mess up!" When his brothers all collapsed in laughter, he remembered.
"Oh… yeah… I started it…"
Dawn rose over Domino City, greeting three young duelists as they leaned against the balcony of the hotel room they were sharing. They all sighed softly as the city before them was bathed in the first light of day.
"Beautiful," Avril whispered, her usual seriousness softened by the sight of the sky streaked with the delicate pastels of dawn.
"I've never seen anything so lovely," Rina agreed. The colours were reflected in the windows of the city's skyscrapers so it looked as though the whole city was painted in the gentle shades.
Callie's attention was on the nearby river, the water glistening with the sun's rays. "Look at how the water sparkles!" She leaned forward and sighed happily. "Life doesn't get much better than this!"
Rina grinned and nodded. "Yeah. Who would have thought that the three of us would be standing here, with all of Domino City in our sight and a tournament ahead of us? This is going to be great!"
Avril smiled, but her eyes retained their usual hint of sadness. "It will be, yes. Provided that we succeed in our goal," she added very quietly.
"Don't worry, Avril. We won't forget why we're here." Rina slipped her arm around her friend's shoulders and hugged her. "He's powerful, but we'll defeat him. I know it."
Callie nodded. She was on Avril's other side, so she slipped her arm around the older girl's waist. "I feel it too. Everything's worked out so far. We just have to trust in each other, and in our cards."
Avril's smile grew as she put her arms around both of her good friends. "Thank you. I know you're right. I just can't help worrying. We've come so far… but we still have a long way to go before we can put our plan in action. There are so many things that we don't know. So many things that could go wrong…"
The girls stood together in silence, gazing out over the city in the growing light as they thought over what they knew was coming. Callie was the first to break the silence.
"At least we're not in this alone."
In a classy hotel room in the heart of Domino City, the blonde haired young man asleep in the large bed stirred. His steel-grey eyes snapped open and his thin lips twisted into a cruel smile. The day had finally arrived. He lay there for several minutes, savouring his plans as they ran through his mind. Satisfied that he had thought of every possible scenario, he turned his attention to the day's tasks and got out of bed to begin his daily exercise and bathroom routines.
Two hours later, at exactly nine o'clock, he sat down to enjoy his breakfast. The omelet was exactly how he liked it and the toast was crisp but not burnt. He had to admit, the hotel's room service was excellent… except… He sighed. Why was it that every single hotel he stayed at always used those fussy little foil-wrapped packages of butter? Didn't anyone in authority know how hard it was to open them without getting butter all over your fingers?
As he ate, he studied the paper for any sign of his quarry, but he soon threw it down in disgust. "Nothing! I can't believe it! He has to be here somewhere, but I've been in this city for over three months and I know no more now than I did when I arrived! How could he possibly be here without making himself known? I've laid every conceivable trap for him and he hasn't come near even one of them! I was sure that last one would be irresistible to him. He must have known that I was waiting for him… somehow…"
He brooded about it while he finished his breakfast, and a thoughtful look soon replaced the sulkiness. "Still… even if he was able to sense my traps, he'd never expect me to go against him so openly. He'll be there today. Once I find him, I'll be able to make my preparations for his final defeat." The young man began to laugh, a deep laugh with an edge of malevolence to it that would send a shiver up the spine of anyone who heard it.
"The countdown to destiny has begun and the fool doesn't even know it! By the end of the tournament, I will have him and his Millennium Item in my grasp and then I will be invincible. The whole world will kneel before me!" Evien Sanders smiled at the thought.