“Very impressive, Yugi,” I said to my closest friend, Yugi Moto, who had somehow just managed to defeat both my Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl with the powers of his Silent Magician.
The day before, we had only just saved the world from destruction by defeating Zorc the Dark One, who had intended on using the return of the Shadow Games in order to wipe out all life on earth. Now were competing against each other in the Battle Ritual which was to decide my fate. If I won, I would have to remain in this world, but if Yugi won, I would be able to return to the spirit world where I belonged. So far, it must’ve looked to his spectators, his closest friends, that he had the upper hand, but little did they know that I had a card in my hand which would win this duel for me.
“Although I was able to save my life points from destruction,” I continued. “Your magician succeeded in defeating both of mine. Now we each have two hundred life points left, so the end is near. This will be my final turn. You have fought bravely, but unfortunately, this duel will conclude with my victory. Thank you, Yugi. I know you tried everything you could to set me free.”
Yugi didn’t say a word. He just nodded in response, so I decided to just make my move.
“I activate this,” I went on, taking my chosen card from my hand and showing it to him. “The magic card, Monster Reborn!” Playing the card in my duel disc, a holographic version of it then appeared in front of me, facing towards my friend before being engulfed in a swirling wind. “And now, I shall resurrect Slifer the Sky Dragon!”
And with that, the wind, which had quickly risen around me disappeared, revealing my revived god monster, which Yugi had defeated earlier along with the other two, Obelisk the Tormentor and the Winged Dragon of Ra. Everyone watching gasped with surprise.
“Oh, man!” cried Tristan.
“He just brought back an Egyptian god!” exclaimed Joey.
“Slifer’s attack points are determined by the number of cards in my hand,” I explained to Yugi. “And since I’m holding four, he now has four thousand points!”
My spirit shall remain in this world, I thought to myself, thinking that with one of my Egyptian gods back, this duel could only end with my victory. I guess Yugi and I weren’t destined to separate.
As I looked on towards my friend, waiting for him to make is own move, I noticed that he just stood there with his eyes closed. At first I thought he was admitting defeat and that he would surrender. But when he opened his eyes again, I noticed the look of determination on his face the entire duel still remained. I must admit, I was confused as to why he was still willing to keep duelling. What sort of strategy could he possibly have that would save him from my Egyptian god cards a second time?
Just then, something on his side of the Field caught my eye. Looking up towards his Gold Sarcophagus which he had played earlier, I saw its lid start to slide open. “What’s this!?” I gasped.
“The card I hid inside that box is the same card you just played!” Yugi announced, as a bright light came from the sarcophagus, filling the entire chamber.
“Wait, but that’s impossible!” I heard Joey protest. “There’s only one Slifer the Sky Dragon card!”
He was right of course. There was only one card of each of the three Egyptian gods, and they were all in my deck. So Yugi couldn’t possibly have put it into his Gold Sarcophagus. Unless…
As the light from the sarcophagus began to dim, a card came out and I was soon able to see what it was my friend had placed into the gold box above him. Indeed, it was a card I had just played, but it wasn’t Slifer the Sky Dragon. It was… Monster Reborn!
“The card I buried was Monster Reborn!” Yugi stated. “And since the magic card you just played is the same one that I put in my Gold Sarcophagus, the effect of your card is negated, which means your Egyptian god goes back to the Graveyard! So this duel is still on!”
At that moment, monster slowly disappeared into thin air, leaving me once again without any monsters to protect my life points from another direct attack, the one which would end this duel and set me free.
“No way!” I heard Mokuba gasp. “He just defeated Slifer for the second time!”
“Of all the cards to put in that box, how did Yugi know which one to pick?” asked Joey, obviously surprised at how lucky Yugi’s guess was as to which card he ought to put into his Gold Sarcophagus.
“What do you expect? He’s the King of Games, dude!” answered Tristan.
“He must’ve had this planned from the beginning,” I heard Téa say sadly. “I guess after spending so much time with the Pharaoh, Yugi knew exactly what he would play.”
So it was true. Yugi really had come a long way since our first meeting, after solving the Millennium Puzzle. Knowing me all those years, when it was usually me who duelled for him, he must’ve played close attention to my strategies and worked out clever ones of his own to counter them with in this duel. It was official now; the once shy and timid boy really was the true King of Games. At that moment, I really couldn’t have been any prouder of my friend than I was at that moment.
This was the greatest duel of my life, I thought happily. It’s been an honour, Yugi.
Looking back towards my friend, I saw his determined expression had vanished completely. Now he was looking down towards the ground, his body shaking as if fighting to prevent himself from bursting into tears as a look of absolute dread now filled his large, lilac eyes. He must’ve remembered what the significance of this duel was and was very reluctant to call the attack on me that would win the duel.
“Go on,” I said to him. “Your move.”
But still Yugi didn’t even seem to hear me. He just continued to hyperventilate and I thought I could see his eyes beginning to shine with the tears he was fighting to hold back.
“I don’t get it,” I heard Duke say. “What’s Yugi waiting for? All he has to do is attack and the duel is over.”
“That’s just it,” Bakura answered. “Once the match comes to an end, the Pharaoh will be released, and we’ll never see him again.”
Yes, I now knew for sure why Yugi didn’t want to call his attack. He knew that by doing so, he would defeat me and I would be able to return home, something he obviously absolutely dreaded. He did consider me his friend, after all, and who would want to send their friends away forever?
As I saw tears coming to my friend’s eyes, I just smiled towards him, hoping to indicate that I would welcome his attack warmly.
It’s all right, Yugi, I thought. Proceed.
As if hearing my thoughts, Yugi immediately pulled himself together and looked up towards his monster. “All right! Silent Magician!” he shouted, a few tears falling from his eyes. “Attack his life points directly!”
At that moment, his magician leapt high into the air and pointed its staff down towards me, launching its attack. It sent a large orb of light hurtling towards me and when it hit me, I had to shield my eyes from the blinding light which now engulfed the entire chamber.
“Wait, so did Yugi win the duel?” I heard Duke ask again.
“If this attack is successful, then yes,” Ishizu answered him, and I was soon aware of everyone watching the scene in front of them, completely awestruck by what was happening.
However, it wasn’t long before the light slowly began to die away and I was able to take my arm down from over my eyes and turn back to face Yugi. I had only two hundred life points left, and Yugi’s Silent Magician had one thousand attack points, more than enough to wipe me out, thus winning the duel for him.
As the holograms around us disappeared, my friend just sank to his knees and began to weep bitterly. Even though his victory meant losing me, one of his closest friends, I still saw no reason for him to be on his knees, crying like this. This duel wasn’t just some ancient ceremony which would decide my fate. It was a test for both of us. For me, it was a test to see if I could accept defeat, since I had been victorious in almost all of the duels I had fought since my spirit had been awakened into this world. For Yugi, it was a test to see if he really was the better duelist and that he could now fight on his own. By defeating me, not only did he prove just that, but that he truly was the champion of the world, and no champion should ever celebrate their victory like this.
Wanting to comfort my friend, I walked up to him until I was right in front of him. “Congratulations,” I said, genuinely very proud of him. “Well done.”
But still my young friend didn’t respond. His tears just streamed endlessly down his face as he continued to stare down at the stone ground in front of him.
“Yugi,” I said, kneeling down in front of him and putting my hand on his shoulder. “A champion doesn’t belong on his knees. You’ve achieved a great victory for us both.”
“I-I was focusing so hard on playing the game,” my friend sobbed, barely able to get his words out. “That I forgot… what winning this duel would actually mean. By defeating you, I’ve sent you away… for good.”
“No, you have opened the door for me,” I said gently to Yugi. “Thanks to you, my spirit can finally be at rest once again. I’ll be back where I belong. Fate brought us together for a reason and we fulfilled our destiny.”
Yugi finally stopped crying but his tears still continued to fall as he looked up at me.
“We’ve protected mankind from the return of the Shadow Games,” I continued, bringing him back up onto his feet. “And we’ve both grown tremendously along the way.”
“I’m gonna miss you,” Yugi simply said to me.
“You do realise we’ll never truly be apart, right?” I said encouragingly to my friend. “The gift of kindness you’ve given me and the courage I’ve given you will remain with us, and that will forever bind us together.”
“Right,” Yugi answered, nodding.
Suddenly, the Eye of Wadjet on the door to the spirit world started glowing, and I could hear everyone gasping in surprise.
“Hey, look!” I heard Tristan shouting.
“What’s up with the eye?” Joey asked.
“Now that the Battle Ritual is complete, the Eye of Wadjet that guards the door to the spirit world has awakened,” Ishizu began to explain to my friends. “And the spirit of the great Pharaoh, which was trapped within the Millennium Puzzle for five thousand years is now free.”
As she spoke those words, I had turned away from Yugi and made my way towards the door. Now there was only one thing to do to in order for me to return to my rightful home.
“So this is it?” I heard Téa ask fearfully. Poor girl. Since getting to know Yugi and his friends, I had always known that she had a particular fondness for me, one which I regretfully could not reciprocate, though I still valued my friendship with her dearly.
“The time has arrived,” I heard Ishizu say to me at last. “Tell the Eye of Wadjet your name.”
Taking a second to prepare myself for what was to come, I finally spoke to the door in front of me. “I am the son of King Aknamkanon. My name is… Atem!”
And with that, the two doors began to slowly slide apart, engulfing the dark chamber with light once again as the path to the spirit world was revealed. Once the door was fully open, I began to step forward. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for for five millennia. Sad though I was to have to leave my modern friends behind, I knew that my spirit had no place in the world of the living, and that the afterlife was now my true home. At last, I would be able to see my old friends from the past again. Not the illusions of them I had encountered after going into the world of my memory in order to defeat Zorc the Dark One, but their spirits who had been waiting for me for five thousand years. My father, Aknamkanon, my three best friends, Seto, Mahad and Mana. But above all, I’d finally be able to see her again.
And then I froze.
She, just like everyone else, would undoubtedly be there waiting for me. Only, would she really have been waiting for me? Would she really want to see me again, after the way I had let her down five thousand years ago? Would I still have her love just like I did all those centuries ago, or would she now hate me for not being able to prevent her own terrible fate? Would our long awaited reunion be a happy one? Would she welcome me into the afterlife with open arms, or would she treat me with a cold indifference which could only be given by someone who had been horribly betrayed? I would now be able to spend an eternity with her, yes, but would I be able to consider myself in heaven with all the love and happiness which had blossomed between us before? Or would I feel like I was in hell from no longer having the deep love she felt for me? Could I really face her again, after all these years? After what had happened to her? After what I had failed to protect her from?
“Uh… Pharaoh?” I heard Joey ask behind me.
“Everything okay, buddy?” Tristan asked.
I didn’t respond. I just remained where I was, completely frozen and unable to take another step forward.
“Pharaoh…?” asked Yugi, concern in his voice.
“What are you waiting for, Pharaoh?” asked Joey again. “The spirit world’s right in front of you! As much as we really don’t want you to because you’re our friend, all you gotta do is walk through that door now, and your spirit can finally be free!”
Would it though? Could my spirit really be at rest? Would I be able to find peace in the spirit world after returning to her? Would the eternity that awaited me be filled with happiness or misery? Suddenly unable to face what was ahead, I started stepping backwards. I was then aware of Yugi coming up to me.
“Pharaoh, what’s wrong?” he asked me. “Why aren’t you going?”
Turning back to face my friend, I could clearly see worry in his eyes as he looked up at me. I then became aware of my heart starting to pound uncontrollably in my chest and my eyes began to sting, indicating that tears of my own were soon to come.
“I-I…” I stammered, a lump beginning to form in my throat. “I can’t go…”
“But why not?” my friend questioned. “I won the duel. I opened that door for you, so you should be able to go home now, right?”
I couldn’t bring myself to answer him. I could only stare down at him, suddenly overcome with a mixture of extreme fear and dread. Turning round, I saw everyone else staring at me, with the same confused and concerned looks on their faces.
“Yugi is right, my Pharaoh,” Ishizu said to me. “By defeating you in that duel, Yugi has finally set your spirit free. The door is open, my king. You can return home now.”
“It’s not as simple as that, Ishizu!” I snapped at her, taking her, and everyone else for that matter, by surprise. Though that outburst only served to horrify me as well. I wanted to apologise to her there and then, but no words could come to me. Looking around at everyone’s faces, I fought to keep my breathing from getting to laboured, feeling as though their questioning gazes only pressured me to explain my reasons for not being able to enter into the afterlife. But I just couldn’t.
“Pharaoh…” Yugi said to me again, putting his hand on my arm, causing me to turn back to him.
“Yugi…” I said to him, struggling terribly to fight back my tears that were threatening to fall at that moment. “I’m really sorry. I know you won me the right to return to the spirit world, and believe me, I really am thankful for that. But… I just don’t think I can go after all.”
“Why not…?” Yugi asked again, sadly this time.
“I just can’t!” I cried, not really looking at him anymore. “Please… just get the Puzzle and put it back on.”
“But, Pharaoh -”
“Just do as I ask!” I cut him off, unable to keep a couple of tears from escaping my eyes.
Taken aback by my reaction, Yugi thankfully chose not to question me any further and went over to the Millennium Stone, where he had placed all seven of the Items into before our duel began. Taking the Puzzle out of its own place, he put it back on around his neck as I quickly made my way over to him.
“Pharaoh, wait!” Téa called out to me. “If you go back into the Millennium Puzzle now, you might never get another chance to return to the spirit world!”
“I know, Téa,” I replied solemnly to her. Looking back towards everyone, I went on, “But I simply do not feel that I am worthy. Not because of the fact that Yugi defeated me in a duel, but because…” Just then, more tears fell from my eyes. “No, please, don’t make me tell you. I can’t explain it. Just… don’t make me go, please!”
Turning back towards Yugi, I could see bewilderment mixed with worry in his eyes. Closing my own eyes again, I simply muttered under my breath, “I’m… sorry…”
And before anyone could ask me any more questions, I just retreated back into the Millennium Puzzle, and therefore back into Yugi’s soul.
As I just stood there, completely dumbfounded by what had just happened, I noticed the light from the spirit world slowly begin to dim out of the corner of my eye. Turning to face the door which led to the spirit world, I saw that it had now started to close. I thought about reaching into my mind to try and persuade the Pharaoh to come back out of the Millennium Puzzle. However, I was just so shocked by his sudden change in behaviour that all I could do was stand and watch as the doors finally closed completely.
Looking down at the Puzzle which hung from around my neck once more, I couldn’t help but feel horrible for my spirit friend. I suppose I would’ve been glad that he would stay with us after all, had it not been for the way he had started panicking so suddenly, especially after the way he tried to soothe me over my sadness of the thought of losing him barely a couple of minutes before. And now, because of that sudden change which had seemed to come over him out of nowhere, he had missed what might have been his only chance to enter the spirit world.
What could have caused him to act this way? Did he suddenly remember something from his past? Something which the rest of us still knew nothing about? If he did, why would it cause him to change his mind about going home?
“Uh, guys?” I heard Joey ask. “What just happened?”
“Gee, I don’t know, Joey,” Tristan answered sarcastically. “Looks like the Pharaoh changed his mind about going to the spirit world and decided that he wanted to stick with his buddies after all.”
“No…” I said, shaking my head doubtfully. “It didn’t look to me like he had decided to stay with us.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Duke.
Looking back towards everyone, I answered, “I think he still wanted to go to the afterlife, but I think he remembered something from his past which made him too afraid to go.”
“I’ve never seen the Pharaoh so shaken before,” said Téa. “I mean, he’s usually so cool and confident, like he was just five minutes ago. But I’ve never seen him freak out like that before.”
Turning to the three Ishtar siblings, I saw that they too looked completely shocked, just like the rest of us. Though I could also see a hint of sorrow in their eyes.
“Do you know anything about this, Ishizu?” I asked the sister.
Ishizu just sighed and shook her head sadly.
“But you guys are the Pharaoh’s tomb keepers,” Joey said to them. “You knew all there was to know about him, including stuff in his personal life, right? Surely you must have some idea as to what could’ve caused him to freak out like this.”
“Well… perhaps we do have one idea as to why he could’ve acted the way he did so suddenly,” replied Marik sadly. “It’s just…”
“Just what, dude?” asked Tristan, getting a little impatient.
“It may not be appropriate to speak of it at this moment,” answered Ishizu. “Not with the state the Pharaoh is in right now.” Turning to me, she then said to me, “Perhaps, Yugi, it is best that you let him speak to you about it when he feels he is ready.”
I just nodded at her, not really knowing what to say.
“If you geeks are all finished,” said Kaiba in his usual cold tone. “Some of us have a business to run back home. So now can we all get out of this insane place and get back to our lives?”
“Kaiba!” Téa shouted angrily.
“Do you really have to be so insensitive all the time?” yelled Joey, before going to jump Kaiba like he usually does when my rival says something insulting, only to be held back by Tristan.
“Yeah, can’t you learn to think about other people’s feelings for once?” asked Duke, just as angrily.
“He’s right though, guys,” stated Marik. “Releasing the Pharaoh was supposed to be Yugi’s final task. There is no more that needs to be done here. So we may all as well just go home now.”
Just then, the whole chamber fell into silence. As much as I detested what Kaiba had just said, he and Marik did have a point. There really was no use of our being here anymore, now that I had defeated the Pharaoh in that duel which was supposed to send him home. I highly doubted that getting him to come out and duel me again would open the door a second time. Though would I really be able to get him to come back out anyway?
“Yes, he’s right…” I breathed sadly. Looking back towards the Millennium Stone, in which the other six Items were still placed, I went over to said stone, removed them from their places and put them back into my bag. I didn’t want to leave them all here unprotected for fear that someone might come along and take them and then come after me for my Puzzle. Who knows what chance I’d have against someone with the power of six Millennium Items in their possession. Standing up, I turned back to everyone and said solemnly to them, “C’mon, guys. Let’s go home.”
After saying goodbye to the Ishtars at Cairo Airport, the rest of us finally got on the plane that would take us back to Domino City. During the flight home, while all my friends just laughed and joked around me, I could only sit in silence, staring out of my window towards the field of clouds beneath us, unable to get the events of our last adventure out of my mind. Particularly not the way the Pharaoh started freaking out about not wanting to go to the afterlife all of a sudden. I had hoped that at one point during the journey, he would speak to me through my mind now that our souls had reconnected. But he never even said one word to me and I grew more and more worried with each passing minute.
By the time our plane landed at Domino Airport, night had already fallen, so after getting off the plane and leaving the airport, we all said our goodbyes before Grandpa and I took a taxi back to the Game Shop. It started to rain during the ride, so after we got home and got out of the taxi, though not before paying the driver, he began rushing towards our front door in order to get us in and out of the drizzle as soon as possible. I just walked slowly behind him however, still unable to stop thinking about the Pharaoh. Unlocking the front door, Grandpa finally let us both inside and turned the main light on. I just ignored the slight pain the sudden brightness had brought to my eyes as I immediately started making my way towards the back of the shop, where the stairs which led up to our apartment was.
“Yugi? Is something wrong?” asked my grandpa, having obviously seen the worried expression on my face.
“Huh?” I asked, looking back at him. “Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just… tired is all. It’s been a long and hectic adventure for all of us.”
“All right,” Grandpa replied, nodding his head. “You get off to bed then and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Thankful that he didn’t decide to bring up the fact that I was worried about the Pharaoh, which he obviously knew, I just smiled at him before starting to ascend the stairs. “Night, Grandpa!” I called back to him.
“Goodnight, Yugi!” he called back.
Walking through our dark apartment, I went into my room and turned my desk light on. After dumping my bag at the end of my bed, I immediately changed into pyjamas before slumping down onto my bed with a big sigh. As it turns out, I really was tired from the journey home. I laughed quietly to myself, hoping that the jet lag wouldn’t be too bad in the morning. Turning my light back off, I got under my covers and was about to settle down to go to sleep before I caught sight of the Pharaoh sitting at my desk, looking out of the window with a look of deep despair on his face.
“Hey, Pharaoh,” I said to him. “You okay?”
“Hm?” he asked, turning towards me. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired.”
Raising one eyebrow at hearing my spirit friend using the same excuse I did with my grandpa earlier, I couldn’t curb the urge to say to him, “But… you’re a spirit. Spirits don’t get tired, do they?”
As he looked back to me again, I though I could see a hint of annoyance in his expression at my statement, which I began to regret then. But the immense sadness in his eyes seemed to outweigh that, so he just sighed and said quietly, “Go to sleep, Yugi.”
Deciding that it would probably be unwise to push the matter further at that moment, I just settled back down. “Okay,” I answered sadly as I turned round to face the wall. “Goodnight, Pharaoh.”
He didn’t answer me. I had to admit, I wasn’t surprised, as I could tell that he was in no mood to talk at the moment. At first, I had trouble getting to sleep despite my tiredness, due to the thoughts that still continued to run through my head. I really wished my friend would just tell me what it was that was bothering him, what had made him change his mind about going into the spirit world all of a sudden. Unsure though I was of the cause, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was because he had remembered something, or perhaps someone, from his past that we still didn’t know about. Though whatever it was that was going through his mind, I was determined that I wouldn’t rest until I could help my friend with his troubles, nor would I give up hope that he would eventually summon up the courage to speak to me about it.
Soon, my eyelids finally started to grow heavy and I immediately allowed myself to drift off into a much needed sleep.