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The Code doesn’t appear.

Nasch waits, one hand pressed over his deck where the other Lords’ souls are slowing burning out, like embers on the fire left uncovered, and waits. It’s over, the duel is over — Astral disappeared, recalled or dead, Nasch didn’t know — and Yuuma…

Yuuma’s body is lying a few meters away. Nasch is trying not to look at it, but he can’t stop himself: there’s no blood, no visible wounds. Yuuma’s even smiling. He could be be sleeping, and somehow that’s worse than if Nasch had hurt him, shed some of his blood, broken him so that the corpse looked the way Yuuma must have felt. He took the last blow so calmly. He didn’t beg, didn’t try to bargain — Yuuma just looked at Nasch, and didn’t look away, not until —

[“Shark,” Yuuma says, hand outstretched, and then the attack slams into his chest. He doesn’t fly backwards; he just crumples with a thud to the ground. His eyes, mercifully are closed, that all-forgiving stare that’s scarred Nasch finally gone.]

Nasch shakes his head to dispel his own guilt. There was nothing else he could do. And he’s won, and if the Code will only appear, so that Nasch can rewrite the universe already, it will have been worth it.

But the Code doesn’t appear. The Over-Hundred Numbers are getting colder. And around him Nasch can see things starting to disintegrate; the stones are cracking, the crystals shattering, the earth shaking, bright light piercing through. Far below he hears the screams, and far above: Astral and Barian and human, they all sound the same.

Nasch can feel the platform beneath him tremble. He should go, he thinks numbly, but where? There’s nothing left, nothing at all, Nasch has given up everything for the Code and his World. His hands are bloodied; they can never come clean.

And his hands are empty. No prize to show for all his sacrifices. Nasch looks at Yuuma’s body again — he looks so small, why couldn’t he have surrendered, what business did he have challenging Nasch — and waits.

The Code has to come, before the worlds are all broken, before Nasch falters —