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entrusted hopes and fate-bound regrets

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Maybe it's the experience of five hundred years that sits in the back of Nasch's mind, maybe it's Kamishiro Ryouga's memory of the past year; one thing is for certain: He has learnt to read Vector's expressions.

So when Yuuma grabs Vector's hand, Nasch warns him of Vector, because Kamishiro Ryouga is still there and he can't afford to lose Yuuma after having had to lose everyone else—

(after having had to lose everyone he betrayed and hurt Yuuma for)

—after finally beating Vector, thinking things would be better now.

(They aren't.)

Nasch can barely hear Yuuma over the wind, over Don Thousand trying to absorb them all, but he does hear Vector trying to drag Yuuma to hell with him.

"Let's do it, Shingetsu."

Nasch wants to scream, but the words get stuck in his throat when Vector lets go, and this expression in Vector's eyes—

Nasch hasn't seen it before. Which means it's sincere.

But—

"Kattobingu da, ore!"

Yuuma catches Vector's wrist yet again, pulls him up and shoves him in Nasch's direction before losing his footing and—

"Yuuma!"

And then it's both Vector and Nasch screaming, and Nasch barely registers Yuuma throwing the key and his deck in their general direction and Vector catching them.

"Sorry, Astral."

And Yuuma makes eye contact with Vector, smiles and—

"Goodbye."

~*~

Vector is different when he has actual regrets.

Nasch never thought he'd say it or believe it, but Vector, the way he is right now, is a lot like Nasch himself.

Dedicated to a fate his own decisions and other's hopes have condemned him to.

Mizael is gone, now, and so is Kaito; and the weight of Numeron Dragon in Nasch's deck case is hard to bear.

(Nasch figures it's the same for Vector with Hope, because he keeps touching it and the key.)

"Don't misunderstand me." Vector draws his opening hand. "I hate you. But this isn't about whether I hate you or not, anymore."

"It's about Yuuma." Nasch doesn't say it, but he does understand this sentiment.

Right now, it's not about the fight between Barian and Astral world, anymore, either.

It's about those who have fallen and a chance to bring them back.

We'll settle the score afterwards.

~*~

They're pathetic, both of them.

Vector came to terms with dying recently, Nasch has been working towards his own death for the last hours; they're the wrong ones to be standing here, given their lack of will to live.

But they're both alive,Yuuma is the one who's dead; and Don Thousand is a force beyond their imagining.

Astral gave them an opportunity to destroy Numeron Network before returning to the key. He's unwilling to cooperate more than that, now that Astral world itself is doomed for sure and Yuuma is dead.

(Nasch didn't bother lying. He has no reason to give a damn about Astral world.)

Maybe it was foolish to think we could—

"Nasch."

"What?"

"Yuuma would be disappointed if he saw you looking that pathetic."

"Tch. You should look at yourself first, bastard."

"Is that so? Then.. Barian's Chaos Draw!" Vector stops mid-motion as he sees the card, his eyes widening, and Nasch laments his own lack of a mouth because he'd love for Vector to see his smirk right now.

"Something wrong, Vector?"

"That card— since when?"

Nasch shrugs, but it's barely visible. "We're on one side now."

"You're getting soft."

"Says the one who summoned Hope on turn 1."

"Tch. I activate Rank-Up Magic — The Seventh One!"

Nasch swore to protect the Barians.

That includes you, Vector.

~*~

Even with the combined effects of their Chaos Numbers, they ended up with an empty field and Nasch has no cards in his hand to block the incoming attack.

He somehow wonders if this is fate, too.

Like his meeting with Yuuma had been.

(He's sure that he's hearing Vector whisper an apology to Yuuma.)

"Ryouga. IV would turn in his grave if he saw you like this."

It feels like it's been a century since Nasch heard that name, heard that voice; and maybe it's a hallucination and he'd dead already, but—

"Shark, Shingetsu! You two can't just give up like that. Kattobingu!"

"Kaito?!"

"Yuuma?!"

In the bright light, Kaito and Yuuma are standing; dead all the same yet speaking to them, and Nasch— Ryouga?— remembers words that were spoken a long time ago—

"Hope and the future."

Vector nods, slowly, and Nasch can see him reaching out for Yuuma, but Yuuma just smiles, shaking his head. "You can do it."

And Nasch's extra deck is glowing. Kaito gives him a look; Nasch doubts it's friendly, but definitely understanding, and Nasch takes the card out.

"Numeron Dragon—?" Nasch doesn't feel like he's the right one to wield this, but he's not in the position to object. Yuuma's and Kaito's fates ended on this day, but they entrusted their hopes to him. "I activate Number 100: Numeron Dragon's effect!"

~*~

There's something about tag duels that makes you bond.

Nasch doesn't appreciate it right now, because as Don Thousand disintegrates and his power is absorbed into Nasch, he remembers his fate.

Protect Barian world.

Sure, he bonded with Vector; sure, he risked his life for him in this duel.

But now they're back to where they were before Yuuma died: Mortal enemies.

(Because Nasch can't trust Vector to fix the world the way he needs it to be fixed; because Nasch can't trust Vector to bring Merag and Durbe back)

So he sighs, avoids looking Vector in the eye and goes, "Are you gonna put up a fight or do I have to beat you up again?"

"What? But Nasch, you—"

"You have all the remaining Numbers."

"Oh, so that's how it is." Vector laughs and it sounds fake. "Should've expected it. Did I rub off on you? With the backstabbing, and all."

Nasch can't laugh right now, and he's glad to not have a mouth. "Maybe."

"Alright, I'll duel you. For Yuuma's dream."

"I don't remember you ever doing something for someone else."

"I hate being indebted to someone. Also you deserve a beating for that attitude." Vector readies his duel disk. "So, where did the whole 'hope and the future' thing go, Ryouga?"

"You're the last thing in the way of achieving it," Nasch hisses.

And he's sure Yuuma would want him to trust Vector, but there's no way Nasch can.

(At least not now.)

"Duel!"