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Title: Iwen (part 0 in the Colors of Heaven & Hell series)
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters
Characters: Mutou Yuugi & Yami no Yuugi/Atemu
Prompt: # 020, Colorless
Word count: 6.433
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Summary: (AU) To help provide for his family, Mutou Yuugi drops out of high school to work at his grandfather’s Game Shop. His life is pretty dull, with only his beloved game, Duel Monsters, to keep him company. When rumors of a tournament go around, he hopes to change his life for the better. The major participants will be the owners of the famous God Cards, including the mysterious Yami, a ruthless duelist with a dark, deadly past…
Author’s note: This is the prologue of a series of fics following the prompts of the Fanfic100 challenge @ LiveJournal, containing a color (red, orange, yellow, green etc...). The colors will be named in either Japanese or Ancient Egyptian (I’m not a native speaker, but I thought it fit the theme). ‘Iwen’ is Ancient Egyptian for ‘colors’. The entire series will contain fluff, drama, angst, some emo, waff, lots of friendship, strong!independent!Yuugi and dark!asshole!Yami (he’ll get better, sort of). Almost everything about the Duel Monsters game in this fic is made up by yours truly. I’m too old to learn the proper rules of the game, so I invoke my artistic license. Made-up first name for Yuugi’s mother: Sumiko. Please read in the designated sequence, starting with part 0. Feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated.


Key: ---------- = scene change





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Never in his life had Mutou Yuugi thought that he would miss going to school. Never. He wasn’t a prime example of a good student as he hadn’t liked sitting still for hours to listen to a teacher, and he was always caught up in playing games. Well, what else was new, when your own grandfather owned a Game Shop? Yuugi was far too busy solving puzzles and reaching next and higher levels in his games to spend time on his homework. He made sure his grades were good enough to pass, as he didn’t want to be held back. He didn’t want to disappoint his mother either, who always nagged him about his homework, insisting on a good education. Yuugi didn’t mind going to school in itself, as it meant he would see his friends every day: Jounouchi Katsuya, Honda Hiroto and Mazaki Anzu. Jounouchi and Honda were pretty much slacking off just like him, Anzu was the only one to take classes seriously.

Things had changed all of the sudden. When coming home one day, Yuugi had found his grandfather on the floor of his store, the Kame Game Shop. He couldn’t move and was in horrendous pain. Shocked, Yuugi had called the alarm number. His grandfather was taken to the hospital and after thorough examination, it was concluded that he needed surgery for his back. The surgery was complicated and very expensive, and the Mutou family didn’t have that kind of money… now the elderly man was at home, enduring the pain as best as he could. Working at the store was out of the question, and so Yuugi had taken his place. Without the income of the shop, there was no way to support the family, and the thought of losing their home was too much to bear. Yuugi had dropped out of school, much to the shock of his friends and classmates. His grandfather, Sugoroku, felt extremely guilty, which deteriorated his health situation, which in turn made Yuugi feel stressed. His mother, Mutou Sumiko, took care of the bookkeeping and general business administration. She tried to squeeze every yen to save up for Sugoroku’s surgery. The current economy was fairly stable, however, a visit to a Game Shop wasn’t a priority to many people and selling a couple of trading cards wasn’t enough to keep the household afloat. The financial situation was getting dire. Without enough customers, the store was going into debt, and then they wouldn’t be able to afford the surgery at all…

The days were long and slow. Once again, Yuugi had never thought he would miss going to school; he longed for hanging out with his friends and going to the arcade hall, or eating a burger at Burger World. He would trade his current job for lots of homework any time of the day. The Game Shop was so much responsibility and he was barely seventeen, too young to bear this much of a burden. It reminded him of his father who was ‘always away for business’, but conveniently forgot to send his paycheck home. Wherever the man was, Yuugi sincerely hoped that he was healthy and happy because he wasn’t the kind of person to wish ill on other people, it would be nice if he would send some money over, or at least express his sympathy, or whatever… not this continuous silence. It made him feel lonely; his father away, his mother busy, and his grandfather sick. This wasn’t what he had expected of life, this wasn’t what he had dreamed of.

The highlight of his day was when Jounouchi, Honda and Anzu dropped by. They had made it a habit to come to the Game Shop as soon as they were done with school. How pathetic could he be, looking forward to four o’clock, not because the work day was almost over, but because school was out? He listened to their stories about school like a drowning man reaching for his safety line. Yuugi checked his watch. It had been a slow day as usual and he had very few challengers left in Duel Monsters Online. It was his favorite game, a card game involving all kinds of monsters with attack and defense points, who could be strengthened (or weakened by the opponent) with magic or trap cards. Yuugi had learned the game from his grandfather, playing it as a board game first. Yuugi shut down his computer, anticipating the moment his friends would come through the door. He wasn’t disappointed; like clockwork, the huge doorbell chimed and his face lit up.

“Anzu! Honda-kun! Jounouchi-kun!”

“Hey Yuugi,” they greeted him exuberantly. Anzu put her bag on the counter and heaved a dramatic sigh.

“Busy day?” Yuugi asked.

“No, Thursday,” was all that she said. He made a sympathetic noise. Every Thursday, some of the classes were given by Chono-sensei, a capable but extremely rigid and strict teacher who disliked Anzu, simply because the girl challenged her austere, harsh conduct. It often resulted in Chono-sensei giving Anzu extra assignments, often tedious chores that had no educational merit at all. He patted her hand and she gave him a grateful smile.

“I think I hear your mother coming,” Jounouchi said and rushed over to hold the door, separating the Game Shop from the living quarters, open for her.

“Thank you so much, Jounouchi-kun,” she said, carrying a large tray with tea and snacks for the hungry youngsters. Honda took the weight from her and placed the tray on the large counter top; no customer would take offense. Yuugi poured the tea into cups while his friends talked to his mother. She enjoyed their stories about school and teachers, but she couldn’t help herself from looking at Yuugi every now and then. He knew she felt guilty about him having to drop out of school, but the harsh reality was that Mutou Sumiko had no idea about games or how to run a store, so the choice had been easy: Yuugi was going to continue his grandfather’s work, there was no one else better suitable for the job. After a while, she retreated to leave them ‘on their own’, and everybody grabbed a cup of tea, Jounouchi making short work of the dango (however, he left some for his friends, he wasn’t that impolite).

“Just one more day, and then it’ll be weekend,” Anzu said. “Do you have any plans, Yuugi?” She immediately blushed and apologized. “I’m sorry, I keep forgetting that you work on Saturday as well.”

Yuugi shrugged. Saturday was usually the most profitable day of the week as a lot of customers, in their free time, came to the Game Shop to browse the Duel Monsters decks, booster packs and other accessories. Saturday wasn’t different from any other day, just a lot busier.

“That sucks, man,” Honda said. “Working all the time.”

“Yeah.” Yuugi hid behind a cup of tea. He was happy with his friends’ compassion, but he didn’t want them to pity him. “What are your plans?”

“I have dance class,” Anzu said. Dancing was her ultimate passion and she had been talking about studying dance in New York ever since the first grade. “And a lot to do, of course.” She tapped on her bag, filled to the brim with homework.

“Yeah, Yoshiki-sensei really piled it on thick,” Jounouchi agreed, swallowing the last bite of the dango. “I’m not sure if I can get to it all.” He had his own job, multiple paper rounds, to pay for his tuition. Jounouchi had never expected to stay in school this long, figuring that he would be the first one to drop out, given his circumstances. The irony that his best friend ended up leaving school before him, couldn’t be more bitter.

“I’ll help you out, Jounouchi,” Honda was quick to offer.

“Please,” Anzu rolled her eyes, “when you two ‘study’ together, you both end up with bad grades!”

“That’s not true!” Jounouchi waved the empty dango skewer in her face. “Remember the last time we did a project? We had a 70 out of 100!”

“Barely, and only because Sakuma-sensei took pity on you,” Anzu snapped back.

“Guys, guys, don’t fight,” Yuugi said, even though it was innocent banter. “How about your exams?”

“Don’t remind me,” Jounouchi wailed. “Work, work, work and no play!”

“Talking about play…” Anzu said hesitantly. “We heard a rumor at school, from Otogi-kun.”

“Otogi-kun? I haven’t seen him in a while,” Yuugi said. Otogi Ryuuji had also been his classmate, and owned a game store as well. How he managed to combine school and his store was a mystery to Yuugi, but then again, Otogi had personnel to do the brunt of the work. “What kind of rumor?”

“He wants to host a Duel Monsters tournament,” Anzu said. Yuugi’s eyes lit up immediately.

“Really? That would be awesome!”

“We knew you’d be ecstatic about it.” Jounouchi winked at him. “We caught him talking about it to another student. He’s not ready to announce it yet, there’s so much organizing and planning he has to do!”

“I can only imagine,” Yuugi said. “It would be great, though! A tournament always boosts sales, and it’s been a while since we had one.”

“Whenever the tournament is, you should participate,” Honda said. “You’re easily the best player around.”

“I doubt that, Honda-kun,” Yuugi said, modestly. “The results in the online game don’t translate 100% into real-life gaming experience.”

“Nonsense.” Honda didn’t want to hear about it. “You’re the local champion, everyone knows that. In the tournament, you could tackle regional champions like Insector Haga and Dinosaur Ryuzaki, before moving on to the big fish.”

“Kaiba,” Jounouchi said. “He’ll be interested in a tournament for sure. When he hears about Otogi’s plans…” A moment of silence. Kaiba Seto was officially a classmate of theirs, but he didn’t show up at school at all, as he had his own business to run: KaibaCorp.. He was widely recognized as the national champion of Duel Monsters, with only one person ranking even higher.

“Yami,” Yuugi said.

“What?” Anzu sipped her tea.

“Yami is the absolute world champion and he owns one of the three God Cards,” Yuugi elaborated.

“Oh! I knew that the game was popular, but… world champion? God Cards?”

“That guy has won everything,” Jounouchi added. “If there was a Duel Monsters Olympics, he would take home the gold medal!”

“True.” Yuugi continued to smile; Duel Monsters was his favorite subject to talk about. He had seen a couple of pictures of Yami; he was a very camera-shy duelist, only a few photographs of him circulated online. A mysterious young man, with striking looks - strangely enough, almost similar to Yuugi’s. Yami’s features were much sharper, with a harsher jaw line, but it was mostly the hair: multi-colored spikes with golden bangs, framing his face. Yuugi would’ve never believed that there was someone else with a similar hairstyle until he had seen it with his own eyes. He wondered if he could ever meet Yami in person. If this tournament really were to take place…

“It seems that I have underestimated the game’s popularity,” Anzu said. “Would you like to participate, Yuugi?”

“What kind of question is that?” Jounouchi huffed. “Of course he would! He’s breathing and living that game as a true champion!”

“Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said softly, “results in an online game…”

“Nonsense,” Honda repeated. “Even so, if you were to enter that tournament, you’d pick up on the ‘real life’ game effortlessly. You have a natural knack for games, man!”

“That might be, but it doesn’t bring me much,” Yuugi said and hated himself the next second. Wow, what a way to be a sourpuss in the company of his friends!

“Don’t worry, Yuugi,” Anzu said encouragingly, “there are other ways to get your diploma.”

“Yes, I can always take classes online, or private tutoring,” he agreed. “For now, the store and helping out my grandfather is keeping me plenty occupied, though.” If he traded his hours spending playing Duel Monsters online for actual studying, he’d be done in a jiffy, or so he thought. Anzu was right, there were other ways to get a diploma, and he should be working hard to achieve it, not feeling sorry for himself.

“Enough talk about school,” Jounouchi said. “What are we going to do this weekend?”

“I have dance class on Saturday,” Anzu reminded him, “and I have to help out my mother.” She scrunched up her nose and imitated her mother’s voice. “’If you don’t learn how to fold your laundry properly Anzu-chan, you’ll never make your husband happy!’” The others laughed, but Yuugi caught the strange look Anzu gave him when mentioning the word ‘husband’. He couldn’t help but blush, he got red in the face so quickly and easily. Fortunately no one of his friends commented on it.

“I have extra baseball practice,” Honda said, “but we can get together in the evening? Clubbing, a movie, perhaps?” He looked at Jounouchi who was notoriously strapped for cash; paying for his tuition and most of his living expenses by doing paper rounds left him very little room to spend money on fun, frivolous things. His alcohol-addicted father hardly provided for himself or his son, so Jounouchi was always in a tight spot, financially. None of his friends wanted to put any pressure on him and Jounouchi didn’t like it when they paid for him, it made him feel guilty. But now he returned a dazzling smile.

“A movie would be great!”

“Are you sure?” Anzu asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. “Don’t worry guys, I’ve got it covered.”

“All right, but drinks are on me,” Yuugi said.

“I’m in charge of the snacks,” Honda added and the tone of his voice made clear that he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Jounouchi didn’t protest; he knew his friends had the best intentions in mind and they wouldn’t accept his protests anyway. They only had to settle on which movie they wanted to see and decided upon an action flick. Anzu checked her watch.

“I have to go,” she announced. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Yuugi!”

“See you tomorrow,” Jounouchi and Honda said their goodbyes simultaneously. Anzu could take care of herself, but it was a silent agreement that they walked her home, if only because their own homes were on the same route. Yuugi waved after his friends and as he didn’t expect any more customers for today as it was almost closing time, he busted out his broom and dustpan and started to sweep the floor. After a day at the Game Shop, the simple and monotonous sweeping movements had a calming, therapeutic effect on him. His thoughts drifted off to the Duel Monsters tournament. He was convinced that Otogi could put together such a tournament, but it was Kaiba who had the money and the means to pull it off: invite national and international players, display his uncanny virtual technology and accommodate all the facilities necessary to host the tournament into perfect detail.

Yuugi allowed himself to daydream a little bit. Some of the international Duel Monsters tournaments involved prize money. Wouldn’t it be great if he were to win a grand prize, so he could pay for his grandfather’s surgery? He could go back to school and Sugoroku would be healthy and happy to work in his store again. Not to mention it would solve the regular financial woes, as his father’s income was spotty at best; they simply couldn’t rely on the man coming through for his family. Yuugi continued to sweep until his mother called him for dinner.


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“Your friends didn’t want to stay for dinner?” his mother asked when Yuugi entered the kitchen.

“No, kaa-san,” he answered. It wasn’t uncommon for Jounouchi or the others to join the dinner table, but not today. Yuugi took his seat opposite of his grandfather, who supported himself with a pile of cushions. It wasn’t the best solution, but it alleviated his pain and he could sit upright for as long as dinner lasted. Sugoroku winced every now and then, as he was in physical discomfort but he tried not to show it, not wishing to be a burden on his family.

“How was work today?”

“Mediocre,” Yuugi said. He never lied to his grandfather, and certainly not about the Game Shop. Sugoroku didn’t check the books, trusting his grandson unconditionally, and Yuugi didn’t see why he should paint a happy picture when the truth was different. Besides, his mother, who was in charge of the household finances, would find out soon enough if he was telling the truth or not. He didn’t want to talk about money and changed the subject. “Jounouchi-kun told me about rumors that a Duel Monsters tournament is going to be held!”

“That weird card game with those scary creatures attacking each other?” His mother shivered in horror. “A tournament?”

“Kaa-san, it’s an awesome game,” Yuugi protested. “Jii-chan taught me the rules, and I’ve been playing it ever since!”

“You played games far too often,” she said sternly, reminding him of how she used to nag him about his homework, as he favored gaming over school… the irony wasn’t lost on him.

“Sumiko-chan, a tournament could mean amazing sales and profit for the Game Shop, as we carry the entire range of Duel Monsters cards and booster packs,” Sugoroku pointed out.

“Otogi-kun has a fair selection as well, but we have everything,” Yuugi beamed, unable to keep the pride out of his voice. His mother shook her head. She had no interest in games and it wasn’t a secret that she rather had her son operate a more respectable, honorable store or a supermarket instead of selling something that she considered a waste of time. Considering the fickleness of the store’s profits, Yuugi understood his mother’s position - but if she wanted a solid income, she should insist that her own husband send his salary home from whatever business trip he was on. Irritated, he stabbed his food with his chopsticks. Sugoroku detected the change in his mood infallibly and changed topics once more, as to keep Sumiko from rehashing her objections to gaming in general.


“Yuugi,” Sugoroku said when dinner was done and over with. “A moment, please?”

“Sure, jii-chan.” He put the last of the clean dishes away. “Something on your mind?”

The elderly man looked over his shoulder, checking if his daughter-in-law was out of earshot.
“She means well, you know that, don’t you?” he said.

Yuugi heaved a small sigh. “Yes, I know, jii-chan. I wish she wouldn’t see gaming as some second-rate occupation. Lots of people like playing games, and we’ve been able to sustain ourselves…”

“We’re barely scraping by, Yuugi,” Sugoroku interrupted him, albeit not rudely. “Sales have been declining due to the bad economy. Trading cards aren’t a necessity in life when you have little money to spend. Don’t give me that look, you know I’m right. And yes, I also know what you’re thinking.” Now Sugoroku heaved a sigh, a big one. “I’m not sure what my son’s doing, but if I could get my hands on him, I’d ask him what the hell he’s thinking…”

Yuugi arched an eyebrow, having never heard his grandfather swear before. “I haven’t seen him in so long, jii-chan. I’m almost starting to forget how he looks like.”

“No kidding,” the elderly man grumbled. “Even I have difficulties remembering his face. However, it’s nothing short but a scandal that he never contributes to his own family, for crying out loud. We could really use the money, and you’d be under less pressure. Believe me, Yuugi, your mother would love to scold you about your homework again. She’s devastated that you’re not graduating and I…”

“Don’t go there, jii-chan,” Yuugi said. “Don’t go there.”

“…am just an old man with back problems,” Sugoroku continued, ignoring him. “I should be working at the Game Shop, not you. You should have fun with your friends, and your biggest worry in the world should be whether you flunked that math test or not.”

“I’ll get my diploma one way or the other,” Yuugi said. “Don’t worry about it, jii-chan.”

“I do. Well, not about that diploma - but about you, Yuugi. I worry about you. You’re missing out on your childhood, just because I…”

“You didn’t ask for back pain. It could’ve happened to anyone. Would you rather have my mother operate the store? We talked long and hard about this, jii-chan, and we all concluded that the best solution was for me to quit school and take over the store.”

“I know, I know… I’m sorry. I wish things would’ve been different.”

“Me too.” Yuugi looked at his grandfather. “There’s nothing we can change about it now.”

He nodded. The guilt was tangible. “You’re right. I was just rambling.”

“I’m going to take a shower and go to bed early,” Yuugi said. “Shall I help you to your room?”

“Yes, please.” Sugoroku accepted Yuugi’s hand and carefully got up, avoiding any radical movements to spare his back. Together they made their way over to his bedroom and Sugoroku sat down, slightly out of breath due to the exertion. “Just one more thing,” he panted as Yuugi turned around to leave, “if that tournament’s really going to be held…”

“Yes?”

“I want you to participate.”

Me?”

“Yes. I know you can do it, and I know you could get very far…”

“Jii-chan, if and when a tournament is coming to Domino City, I have to work…”

“We’ll think of something.” Sugoroku wasn’t to be deterred. “Prop me up on a chair with some pillows and I’ll man the store, pain or no pain. It would be such a wonderful opportunity for you to get out there and be yourself, instead of working at the store six days a week.”

“It’s going to be okay, don’t worry, jii-chan.” Yuugi hated to see his grandfather worry so much. He wished he could do something to take his worries away, but it felt like his hands were tied. A little downtrodden, Yuugi bid him goodnight and went upstairs, to the attic. His bedroom hadn’t changed much over the years. True, his schoolbooks and backpack were out of sight, stored in the cupboard in his room and as he hadn’t been able to spend much time on them, his usual games and puzzles had also found their way to the bottom of the cupboard. He wasn’t an eighteen-year-old about to graduate, he was a high-school dropout who needed to work all day, otherwise his family had nothing to eat. His youth was slipping away from him and he didn’t know how he felt about it. He had never been a top student, but he had planned to go to college and to get a degree in gaming design and/or development. He certainly hadn’t planned to substitute his grandfather at the Game Shop.

Yuugi didn’t blame or fault Sugoroku. He wasn’t really angry at his father either. The only thing that mattered was to get money for his grandfather’s surgery; for his health and better quality of life. He took off his clothes, his mind already focused on a delicious hot shower and some soaking in the tub. This weekend was going to be awesome; he had a fun movie night with his friends to look forward to.


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A week later, Jounouchi, Honda and Anzu visited the Game Shop as usual. “Yuugi, we’ve got big news for you!” Jounouchi wore a grin reaching both his ears as he plunked his book bag on the counter.

“What is it? Don’t make me guess, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said, pleased at seeing his friends in such a good mood. Anzu and Honda mirrored Jounouchi’s grin.

“It’s not official yet, but that Duel Monsters tournament..? It’s coming to Domino City,” Jounouchi said.

“Really? Otogi-kun’s pushing his plans to organize it?”

“Not Otogi,” Honda corrected him, “but Kaiba.”

“Kaiba-kun?”

Anzu smacked Honda upside the head. “Men! Why don’t you give him the details?” She addressed Yuugi. “Kaiba got wind of Otogi’s plans and all but told him that he was going to hold the tournament,” she explained. “He said that he was far better equipped to be in charge of the organization anyway. But if I understood correctly, Otogi’s going to assist him.”

“I doubt Kaiba-kun needs any assistance,” Yuugi said. “He has a global corporation with enough manpower to pay attention to even the smallest detail.”

“Otogi got a business deal out of it,” Jounouchi said. It was obvious that he hadn’t wanted to tell this yet. Yuugi counted Otogi as a friend, but he was also an entrepreneur, and his Black Crown game store did better than Yuugi’s Kame Game Shop.

“I’d do the same,” Yuugi said good-naturedly. “If I had the chance to team up with Kaiba-kun, I’d try to get the best deal out of it, too.” He was more excited about the tournament being held than the missed business opportunity.

“I’m sure Kaiba will give a press conference soon to confirm the news.” Honda pulled a Duel Monsters starters deck from its display and waved it at Yuugi. “I don’t think you’ll be needing one of these, right? You have a ready-to-go awesome deck!”

“I build it myself over the years, yes.” His friends’ enthusiasm was contagious. “I mostly build it around spellcasters, Silent Magician in particular. They might not have the highest ATK all around, but with the right spell cards, you can boost them with powers beyond imagination!”

“You know, maybe I should learn how to play,” Jounouchi said. His extremely tight budget kept him from buying a starters deck and investing into cards, much to his annoyance. Anzu and Honda liked to play games in general, but not as much or as intense as Yuugi.

“I can teach you, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi offered.

“Keep an eye on the TV,” Anzu said. “Kaiba’s going to announce it all over the city.”

“I can’t wait!” Yuugi could barely contain his excitement. He restrained himself. “We’ve been talking about Duel Monsters only, guys. How are things at school?”

“Ugh, you don’t want to know.” Jounouchi pulled a disapproving face. “Karita had to pick on Bakura, of course.”

“Bakura-kun?” Yuugi had been wondering why Bakura Ryou hadn’t been in his circle of friends as of late. He was always included and liked to participate in their activities, sharing Yuugi’s love of gaming, especially tabletop RPG’s. “He’s not having an easy time at school, is he?”

“No, unfortunately not.” Anzu’s voice took on a worried tone. “He’s quickly overwhelmed and he allows people to walk all over him. He’s too polite to say ‘no’ to anything… we try to involve him, but he always declines. He looks tired.”

“I wonder what’s eating at him,” Honda said. “I asked, but he simply smiled and said ‘nothing’s wrong, Honda-kun, thank you for asking’, and he hurried away.”

“Weird.” Jounouchi scratched the back of his head. He recognized the behavior of a bullied person, as he used to be a bully himself, something he was rather ashamed about. “We should help him.”

“There’s not much we can do about Karita-sensei,” Anzu said. She shivered at the thought of confronting the burly PE teacher, knowing for humiliating students who didn’t match his ideal of superior physical fitness. “And if Bakura keeps rejecting us…” She was going to keep trying, Yuugi was sure of it, but friendship went both ways. There was only so much reaching out one person could do. If Bakura was in any kind of trouble, he could always ask them for help… Yuugi patted Anzu’s hand.

“I have his phone number. I’m going to give him a call, to let him know that he’s always welcome.”

“Of course he is,” Jounouchi added. “He belongs to our group.”

“We have to get going,” Honda said, pointing at the large clock over Yuugi’s head.

“Anyone staying for dinner?”

“Well…” Jounouchi’s cheeks colored slightly.

“You too, Honda-kun, Anzu?”

The others declined, but they agreed to go out for burgers and fries at Burger World next Saturday. After they had left, Jounouchi helped Yuugi to close up the store.

“Were you serious, Jounouchi-kun, about learning how to play Duel Monsters?” Yuugi asked as he locked the register.

“Yeah! It’s an awesome game!” He gave a thumbs up. Yuugi turned around and picked up the starters deck Honda had taken earlier from the display.

“Here you are.”

“What? No, no, I can’t accept that.” Jounouchi shook his head wildly, sending his blond bangs flying. “I can’t afford it right now. I’d love to, but it has to wait...”

“It’s an early birthday present,” Yuugi said, holding out the deck. “Please take it, Jounouchi-kun. I’d love it if you could play Duel Monsters with me.”

“I appreciate the thought,” Jounouchi said, “but even if I start learning the game right now, I’ll never be good enough to enter the tournament.”

“I’ll teach you,” Yuugi smiled at him, “and I’ll help you to build your deck. There’ll be other tournaments, and in the meantime, we can duel each other!”

“All right.” Jounouchi accepted the gift. “I’m curious as to what cards are in here!”

“Let’s open it up after dinner,” Yuugi suggested. “I’m quite hungry…”

“Famished!” Jounouchi rubbed over his abdomen. As if on cue, Yuugi’s mother called that dinner was ready and they hurried upstairs.


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The official announcement followed that evening. Jounouchi had stayed after dinner and watched TV together with the rest of the Mutou family, when the regular broadcast was interrupted. He almost choked on his tea when Kaiba’s face appeared on the screen.

“What the..!” he swallowed the last word.

“It’s Kaiba-kun!” Yuugi exclaimed superfluously.

“Isn’t he supposed to be in your class?” Yuugi’s mother asked, slightly confused.

“Just a moment, kaa-san,” Yuugi said. “He’s talking about the tournament!”

“… for KaibaCorporation to hold the first international Duel Monsters tournament, right here, in Domino City!” His voice echoed through the living room.

“Wow, it’s really happening!” Yuugi clasped his hands together in sheer excitement.

“Windbag,” Jounouchi muttered, directed at Kaiba.

“International duelists will be invited to join ‘Battle City’,” Kaiba continued. “Only the best of the best will participate in the top ranks!”

“Of course Kaiba will put himself in the top ranks,” Jounouchi snorted.

“He has a God Card, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi reminded him.

“He has a what?” His mother had never heard of it before.

“God Card, kaa-san,” Yuugi explained. “A very special card. There are only three of them in existence, and each one of them has very unique abilities.”

She pursed her lips. “I don’t get it at all.”

Sugoroku shifted in his seat. “I’ll explain the game to you later, Sumiko-chan, but now I’d like to hear what this Kaiba kid has to say.”

They all listened attentively to Kaiba’s announcement. The tournament was open to everyone and registration would be possible starting tomorrow, at a special designed website, no fee required. When the participants had battled it out until the ten best duelists remained, KaibaCorp. would broadcast the finals live throughout the city in HDTV. The rules and regulations could be downloaded from the site and the duelists had a month to prepare, then the tournament would officially start. Kaiba kept the best for last though.

“… the tournament will run on Solid Vision, KaibaCorp’s virtual and holographic technology,” he said, “to guarantee smooth gameplay and maximum experience and entertainment for everyone!”

“He sounds like a commercial,” Jounouchi grumped. Yuugi elbowed him.

“For the first time, KaibaCorp. hosts a tournament where the winner will gain more than just fame; he or she will also gain fortune! Third place will receive one hundred thousand yen, the runner-up three hundred thousand yen, and first place is good for five hundred thousand yen!”

Yuugi shot up in his seat. It was quite rare for Duel Monsters tournaments to have prize money attached to them; usually the local, regional and national championships were played for sports and honor. International tournaments however, were known for the amount of prize money that could be won; Yuugi’s mother still refused to believe that someone could make a living as a professional gamer, but even her mouth went agape when she heard the grand total. One hundred thousand yen… Yuugi didn’t know the exact costs of Sugoroku’s surgery, but he was convinced that this amount would be a very good start. If only he could make it to third place..!

“Amazing,” Jounouchi said. “I didn’t know that Kaiba wanted to host a tournament with prize money?”

“I think he might’ve done so to appeal to the international duelists,” Yuugi said. “They play for their love of the game, but it’s very appetizing to have a chance of winning a lot of money too.”

“You mean like those supermodels who’ll only get out of bed if they get ten thousand dollars?”

“Sort of.” Yuugi grinned. “Don’t deny it Jounouchi-kun, your eyes started to gleam too.”

“Man, the things I could do with one hundred thousand yen,” Jounouchi said, unabashedly drooling at the thought. “Pay off my tuition. Maybe even quit one of my paper routes, so I have more time to do fun stuff, and sleep in on the weekends.” He shrugged haphazardly. “Well, I’m too late for this tournament anyway. One month to prepare is too short, compared to the seasoned duelists who are going to participate. I’d only make a fool out of myself!”

“You don’t know how far you can get, Jounouchi-kun! If we start training tomorrow…”

“I love your optimism.” Jounouchi didn’t sound bitter, more practical. “I know it takes far longer than four weeks to build a custom deck, gain the necessary experience in tactics and strategy, and become a full-fledged duelist. Thanks for the offer, Yuugi. I’ll just start by opening up this baby.” He held up his starters deck.

The official announcement was over and the TV channel returned to its regular programming. Yuugi watched how Jounouchi opened up the small box and took out the cards.

“Let’s see, I’ve got Baby Dragon, Swordsman of Landstar… not bad! And hey, look, Gearfried!”

“That’s a powerful card,” Yuugi agreed. “Here, Flame Swordsman! Excellent, now you have two strong warriors in your deck already.” He sifted through the spell cards. Monster Reborn, Remove Trap, Polymerization… the most common, but very useful ones. “It seems that you’re quite lucky,” he handed the cards over to Jounouchi, “I don’t think you’d make a fool of yourself at all with this deck! Sure, there are more powerful cards, but it’s not all about strength or high ATK points. With the right spell and trap cards, you’re going to get far!”

“I can’t wait to start my training,” Jounouchi said. “Thanks again, Yuugi.”

“You’re very welcome.” Yuugi beamed at him. “But now I’m going to send you home, because it’s getting late and you have school tomorrow.”

“Yeah, you’re right! I’m off, then. Thanks for everything!”

Yuugi showed him the door and before he left, Jounouchi turned around and asked: “Are you really going to participate? I know your mother isn’t very fond of the game, or any game for that matter.”

“I’m not sure if it’s possible, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said, a bit subdued. “I have to work at the store. I can’t be in two places at the same time. It would be wonderful, though. I’d love to play, and yes, the prize money is an extra incentive, I’ll admit…”

“It would cover the costs of your grandfather’s surgery, I guess?”

“Yes, even if I win third prize, it would make things so much easier… but I don’t want to stare myself blind on money. We’re getting by, we’re doing our best.”

“I know you do,” Jounouchi said. He was about to say more, but he showed Yuugi a bright smile instead and left. Yuugi watched his retreating back. He was tired. Jounouchi was so energetic and he thrived on it, always feeling happy and loved in the company of his friend(s); but as soon as they were gone, it felt like a light went out. Fatigue hit him hard and he had to lean against the doorpost to muster up enough energy to get back upstairs.


“Yuugi-kun, you’re going to bed too?”

“Yes, kaa-san.” He expected her to comment on the announcement of the tournament, but she simply said: “Sleep well”, with a genuine warm and caring smile.

Yuugi went to his bedroom. He undressed himself slowly, his movements sluggish. His deck sat on the corner of his desk; he had taken it out of its drawer on the day Jounouchi had mentioned the rumors about the tournament. Now that it was official, his excitement and eagerness to participate had grown. He didn’t have much to look forward to at the moment. He worked all day, six days of the week, and he helped out in the household and taking care of his grandfather’s needs. He wasn’t dissatisfied and he wasn’t complaining but as of late, his life had been so… bland. As if there was no color in it, no extra swing or punch to it. The daily grind, starting early in the morning and ending late at night, again and again, over and over. It was almost hard to tell what day it was - his life had become that predictable, unsurprising, dull… he wouldn’t say ‘boring’ as Yuugi had enough to do, even if it was playing Duel Monsters online, but it dawned to him in what kind of rut he was stuck in, with no prospect of a change anytime soon.

Yuugi picked up his deck and shuffled the cards, a soothing gesture that always comforted him. Who knew, the upcoming tournament could bring some color to his life again. Winning any of the money prizes would be great, too… but his love for the game would come first, money or no money. Yuugi took a decision. Whatever happened, no matter how much his mother would protest, he was going to participate. He’d have to find a way to juggle the tournament and his work at the store, but he was sure he could figure it out. He knew he had his grandfather’s support; Sugoroku had been the first to suggest it. Relieved, Yuugi prepared for sleep. Tomorrow would be another day, a far less bland day. He had a goal to focus on and he wanted to make the most out of it.


-----------------------------





This entry was originally posted at http://the-goldenpath.dreamwidth.org/83958.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
ragnarok_08
May. 30th, 2017 04:37 am (UTC)
This was really good - I love it already!
the_goldenpath
May. 30th, 2017 10:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! There's going to be a lot of action in the next chapter :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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