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Exchange with consequences

Chapter Text

So, I had arrived at Domino High. As a precaution, I had ironed my blue school uniform several times and checked it for its correct seat. I knew that in Japanese schools a great deal of emphasis was placed on correct and noble behaviour. In addition, I myself was and am still very accurate in terms of my appearance. So, in a good mood, I entered my new school almost a little euphoric, with short shaved hair, raised at the tips.

In my home country, I had already occupied Japanese as a free subject at our teaching institution for four years, so i was able to communicate to some extent. Domino High was much larger and more animated than my own school. Snarling groups of students romped around the school yard. I didn't pay any attention. I was probably too uninteresting. Anyway, I walked loosely into the school building, my backpack trained. After a short search, I also found the secretariat, where I signed up.

A certain Mr Yamamoto, I estimated him to be about 50 years old, smiled kindly at me. His white shirt stretched a little at the belly, and the tie looked a little too tight for it to be comfortable. Nevertheless, he made a lot of effort for me and was very nice. After i registered, I was assigned class 7b and given a timetable. With a short description and best wishes for the coming year, on the part of Mr. Yamamoto, I set out to my class.
Once there, I opened the door and sampled my new classmates. About 20 girls and boys mumbled around on the tables, chatting with their seat neighbors or typing on their smartphones. But my interest aroused a group that had spread out a Duel Monsters board and apparently dueled.

Around two boys, and I valued the little one much younger than me, the other, about the same age as me, a grape of people had gathered. One of them was black-haired, with a very daring, jagged haircut, deep green eyes and a cube pendant in the ear. Next to him stood a girl with brown, short hair, blue eyes, slender figure and a broad, warm smile on her lips. Next to her, a closet of a guy watched the game, compared to my little one at least, also with brown hair, a pointed hairstyle and intertwined arms. Finally, the group was completed by a white-haired boy who was standing behind the larger, blonde teenager and seemed to give him any instructions.

"Ah just the flap Bakura, I can do it myself!" The blonde stared concentrated at the leaf in his hands and seemed excited to think. "Man Joey, what's going on? You don't have traps or magic cards on the field, and my Dark Magician is still well hidden in the protection of the magic hats."

The younger boy, with a daring hairstyle, a mish-mash of blond, pink and black, stared at his opponent, whom he had called Joey, and shook his head. His petite, almost childish-looking figure was compensated by a mischievous, calculating look, which made me doubt my assessment of his age. "So? Then watch Yugi... Red Eyes Black Dragon in Attack Mode. To do this, I equip him with the Dragon Claws, which increases his attacking power to 3,000 points. This makes him stronger than your Dark Magician. And now I'm attacking the far-right hat." Smiling and above all curious, I approached the group, but I still took care to keep the necessary distance.

Yugi shook his head only with a smile: "With that you activated my trap card, power of the mirror. Your attack is diverted to your red-eye and destroys it. My Dark Magician now leaves the protection of the magic hats and attacks your life points directly. You lost." Incredulously, Joey stared at the board. The group around the two Duelists erupted into a roaring laugh. The big brown-haired guy patted Joey on the shoulder: "Next time, Joey." The girl was just smiling, while the black-haired boy and the white-haired boy each had a skewed grin.

The door behind me opened, and a young man, brown-haired, slim, tall and with a look that could freeze the blood in your veins, entered the class. He held a school bag in his right hand, while his left hand was in his pocket. Wordlessly, the stranger walked past me, to the group, which obviously belonged together. "Well, Wheeler? Lost again? What was it this time? Did you put a leg up for yourself, or did Muto boot you out with one of his sleight of hand tricks?"

A sweet smile appeared on the bandage of the brown-haired man, and his voice dripping with mockery and ridicule. "Ah, you're out there, Kaiba. Who of the two of us made it to the final, you or me?" Joey jumped up furiously, still holding the remaining four cards in his right hand. "Who among us has crouched at my feet, like the lap-dog which he is, hm? Defeating you is about as difficult as taking the lollipop off a toddler, whereby..." The grin became a little more pointed and his tone so disadeous that everything in me pulled together.

"I think a toddler is more resistant than you, Wheeler, or should I call you a bait?" With a ugly expression on his face, Kaiba left the raging Joey behind and walked calmly to his place. "At some point..." Joey growled as he gathered his deck. "Don't worry, Joey. Kaiba is not invincible either, and you did very well today." The black-haired man with the cube earring patted him on the shoulder and then went to his place, just as the rest, with the exception of Yugi, Joey, and the brown-haired closet, did.

Hesitantly, I approached and swayed discreetly, which brought me the attention of the troupe. "Hey, please excuse me if I get involved, but I thought the part of your duel that I've heard is great. That with the magic hats was refined, but also a gamble. Daring but very effective. But the idea with the dragon claws was not bad. A little more luck for the red-eye, and it would have caught the Dark Magician."

The three guys looked at me in detail, but then smiled, especially Joey. "Jaaaa, Yugi is just a lucky mushroom, but at some point I beat him, right, Tristan?" The brown-haired giant next to Joey just laughed and patted him on the shoulder before going to his place. As I walked by, Tristan nodded at me.
"And you are?" Yugi smiled kindly at me as he and Joey cleared the board.
"Me? Oh, my manners, excuse me. My name is..."

It was at that very moment that our teacher entered the classroom and it suddenly became quiet. Mr. Nakashima, a 60-year-old, hapless man with shaken, already graying hair, was unanimously welcomed by the class. Smiling, he meant coming to him, and so I was there. The class greeted me as well as the teacher, noting that "Kaiba," as joey called him, was dealing with more profane things, such as sorting his pens.

So that had to be the CEO of Kaiba Corporation. Something about him fascinated me; Was it this cold, cool kind, or his self-assurance? On the other hand, I was very disgusted by his behavior towards this Joey. I was then assigned the place next to Joey, and I was preparing for the first hour, Japanese. Relatively quickly I realized that I got along very well with my neighbor. He seemed a little chaotic, but overall, he made a very nice and friendly impression on me. During the break I was introduced to the other people. Tea, Yugi, Tristan, Duke and Bakura greeted me warmly, and we focused our conversation on Duel Monsters.

"Insanity, so you're the legendary Yugi Muto? You defeated Maximilian Pegasus in the Kingdom of the Duelists? And you're Joey Wheeler, the one who made it to the semifinals?" I was really a little flattened. Of course I had been following the news, but with us it was such a thing with the transmission.
"Yes, Yugi won, but I made it damn hard for him." Grinning, Joey punched the smaller Yugi in the shoulder, which he commented with a rub of the hit spot. "Well, I can pack up. I wanted to challenge one of you to a little duel afterwards."
Joey and Yugi curiously looked at me: "Oh yes? You play too?" Joey seemed to x-ray me enthusiastically with his looks.
"A little, yes. In my school class I was the best, and I mostly won." Joey seemed to want to reciprocate in his euphoria as his gaze darkened. The mood of the whole group was suddenly in the basement, and a look over my shoulder also explained to me why: Behind me stood Seto Kaiba, a derogatory smile on his lips.

"Another one who wants to join the kindergarten? The fact that you and Wheeler seem to harmonize so well allows conclusions to be drawn about your abilities as a Dueling Man. Probably just as much a disgraceful rivet as the bait." There was something in my stomach. Before I could answer, however, Joey just snorted furiously.
"Oh yes? Bet that he'll put you on the cross effortlessly, Kaiba?" Bakura, Tristan and Yugi slammed the air sharply, while Tea slammed his hand in front of his forehead. "You seem to have a lot of confidence in the newcomer, Wheeler. But I have little hope when I think about how he watched you and Muto play your amateurish game." Kaiba's nasal wings bloated a little, and the ridicule in his voice was unmistakable.

To give me up with you, is also too boring for me. I could defeat you blindfolded, on the other hand..." The Kaiba Corporation CEO's gaze fell on me, and the grin widened: "Maybe I should teach him a lesson so that you can finally get Wheeler when it's time to keep your mouth shut."

My heart slipped into my pants, and everything went way too fast for me. I knew the stories about Seto Kaiba and I got dizzy at the thought of having to duel with him. My first day would end in disaster. On the other hand, I just had to refuse.
"Clearly, he's dismantling you, Kaiba. Just tell us when and where!" Joey had put his arm around me and waved his right hand, which was clenched to the fist, in front of Kaiba's face.
"Man Joey, just the flap! You only get David into trouble on his first day!" Tea's voice was strict and energetic. She had her hands shaved into her hips, and her gaze was more than poisonous.
But Joey seemed to skillfully ignore that, as did my own pleading gaze. I had failed to speak for some reason. "If he loses, I clean your whole house, flash blank, in a maid's elevator."
A quiet sigh behind me made me guess that this feud probably did not exist until today. "No, Wheeler, I need a babysitter for Mokuba next week. You are perfectly suited to this, simply and poignantly, whether the fact that you and my brother are spiritually on one level, and I do Mokuba wrong with it."
It was only now that I noticed that the whole class was staring at us, which only made me bleach even more. "All right, and if he wins..." Joey's voice had received a combative undertone. 'It's impossible. If he wins, you have a wish free, Wheeler. We meet in fifteen minutes in the schoolyard." So Kaiba turned away and fished his smartphone out of his pocket while typing a number while walking.

"Joey, are you totally mad? Kaiba will disassemble David. Even Yugi took luck to defeat him." Bakura sounded serious and anxious, while Tristan grabbed Joey by the shoulders and shook it neatly. "Didn't we even talk about thinking first and then talking?"
I sighed only softly until I felt a hand on my shoulder. Yugi smiled kindly at me: "You're not the first, nor the last one to lose to Kaiba. Just believe in you and make the most of it."
I bit my lips: "I'm going to make a mockery of school. I was neither a national nor a regional champion. There is also something at stake here. If I'm bucking it, Joey pays for it."

It was the same and Tristan who had a fierce battle of words before he was shaken up again by his larger friend: "Don't worry, Joey is used to it. We also have the biggest slack of the school in front of us." Joey fought back to the best of his ability, but now it has seemed more like a friendly row. "Cancellation is not in it, is it?" My gaze wandered towards Yugi and Tea, both of whom shook their heads down. Of course, you can, but Kaiba will you up forever, even more so than Joey might. I just sighed and nodded as I reached into my uniform and pulled out my deck.

Arriving at the schoolyard, half the school had already gathered, while Kaiba stood in a grape of admirers and fans. He had a silver metal case in his right hand. Flanked by Joey and Yugi, with Tea, Duke and Bakura in the shadow of the wind, I staggered towards my opponents with trembling knees. Joey had since apologized to me and assured me that it wouldn't matter if I lost (what else should he have said?). In vain, my eyes were looking for a table with a game board. Kaiba just opened his suitcase, approached me, and held a construction that he called a duel disk. "Here, take, I'll briefly explain how it all works."

His voice was derogatory, but at least free of ridicule and mockery, for now at least. After he had brought me closer to the virtual duel system, Kaiba went back to his place and our spectators took a few steps back. I did the same to the CEO, laced the disc around my arm, and waited with a pounding heart for my opponent's first move. When a huge, muscle-packed combat ox with his axe appeared in front of me, I almost got into my pants. The thing seemed so real as if it were not a holographic image. I had the unpleasant feeling of even feeling the warm breath of the bull being.
"Well what is? Already overwhelmed?" There he was again, the mockery in Kaiba's voice. Hesitantly, I looked at my sheet. None of my monsters were good enough to face the ox at the moment, so I decided on a defensive strategy.

After a good ten minutes Kaiba had fused the rabid rider out of his battle ox and the mystic rider, and pushed me completely into the corner with a "Stop Defense" card. I only had a quarter of my life points, while my opponent wasn't even attacked. It all seemed so pointless to me while Kaiba played his game with me, to cheers and the laughter of his fans. I had to pull myself together to not howl. My first day in Domino City was doomed to failure.
"Hey, don't get caught!" From the background, I could hear Tea's voice.
"Yes, age, go, you still have a chance!" That was Tristan.
"Well come on, we believe in you!"
Joey had put his hands on his mouth when he called me. Duke and Bakura also cheered me on.
"Believe in yourself, and believe in the heart of the cards!" Yugi suddenly sounded so serious, and seemed totally different, somehow grown up. The pyramid-like pendant on his chest really struck me for the first time.
"You can beat Kaiba's monster, I know that." Yugi had casually pushed his right hand into his pocket as he stared at me. Somehow, the crowd behind me encouraged me. "Will that still be something today? I still have something to do..."

Kaiba's voice forced me to look forward again. Suddenly my grandparents came to mind. In front of my spiritual eye, I saw both of them smiling on my lips as they nodded at me. As if by itself, my hand wandered to my deck and I pulled out the next card. Finally, I had something in my hand that could defeat Kaiba's monster. Grotesquely, it had been a gift from my grandparents for the seventeenth birthday. With a thin smile on my lips, I placed my next card on the Duel Disk.

From a cone of light, which seemed to contain all colors, a black scaly creature materialized. The dark skin plates slowly fought their way out of the wafting light, while horns and claws joined the rest of the figure. With a deafening roar, one of my most powerful monsters appeared and made the transition from the virtual to the real dimension. It seemed to me that the earth was trembling as the dragon's claws touched the ground. My Red Eyes Black Dragon stared at the hybrid of taurus and centaur as he spread out the wings. The fan base of Kaiba gradually fell silent, and for a brief moment I could see amazement in the traits of my opponent.

"Interesting. How does someone like you get such a rare card? On the other hand, Wheeler has also had his thrown after, hence..." The CEO had his arms crossed in front of his chest and seemed both disinterested and absent.

"Insanity! And now let's go, show it to the lubricating lobe!" Joey's euphoric voice behind me strengthened me a little more. At the same time, the others in the group joined in his call and cheered me on.
"Red Eyed Black Dragon, Inferno Firestorm!" A huge bright red fireball formed in the mouth of my dragon, which was crisscrossed by black lightning. With a deafening sound, the Red Eyed Black Dragon spit the energy ball towards the rabid rider, who dissolved into the air with a cry of death.

"Beginner's Happiness" was Kaiba's comment, putting the next card on his Duel Disk. "Rude Kaiser in Defense Mode."
In front of me, the armored lizard warrior materialized, his hands raised in defensive posture. My little ness, pushed the trap card attack cancel into the slot of the disk and ordered my dragon the attack. The Rude Kaiser, like the Rabid Rider, was eliminated by my red-eye. Kaiba smiled disparagingly as he drew the next card: "Time to finish this game."

With a sound that caused my blood to freeze in my veins, my worst fear came from the virtual depths. Roaring, white, shiny scales appeared, protecting a dragon body that let my heart slip back into my pants. The legendary Blue Eyes White Dragon stared down at me and my red-eye. His nostrils bloated a little while I felt i had shrunk inside. It was only with great difficulty that I was able to repel the urge to slap my hands protectively over my head. Fear gripped me, even if it was only the holographic image of a painted map. I slowly closed my eyes and breathed in and out in panic.

"Now, my beloved beast, attack! White lightning attack!" I heard the crackling of energy and the scream of the dragon, turning my head to the side. My red-eye, my favorite card, all my heart, would be immediately wiped out, trampled by his big, mighty brother. Meanwhile, Kaiba's fan base cheered again.

"Your face-down card!" Yugi's voice ripped me out of my mind.
True, I had a trap card! "Cancel attack! ""
Slowly I opened my eyes and saw a bright white flash fizzle out in a kind of swirling energy field. I was saved, at least for this round.
"You are just delaying your defeat, Garden Dwarf. Nothing in your mischievous deck can take on my White Dragon." Kaiba's voice was even more derogatory than it already was.

"Don't listen to him, believe in you and your cards! Focus."
There she was again, Yugi's calm but earnest voice. How did he want to know? He didn't even know my deck. Something nevertheless led me to confidently reach for the next card. There was again this feeling from before, but this time stronger. In front of my spiritual eye, the group appeared behind me. Each of them offered me their hand. I took a deep breath through my new achievement. In credulously, I stared at my freshly drawn card. I actually got what I needed to be at least on par with Kaiba.

Inspired by Yugi's words, and the cries of the clique behind me, I sought the gaze of my opponent for the first time since the beginning of the duel. Seto's ice-blue eyes were filled with ridicule, arrogance and coldness. Fittingly, he had put on a grin, which did not bode well.
"Let's go, make your move, and then you join your friend Wheeler as a new dog."
How could you be so narrow-minded and derisive? Slowly, I pushed my card into the Duel Disk and took a deep breath: "Maybe my Black Red-Eye Dragon is too weak to wipe out your White Dragon with an ice-cold gaze, but it's strong enough to take it on."
My index finger pressed a button on the Duel Disk and the face down card I had just played released its contents.
"I'm going to see my Red Eyed Black Dragon with the Dragon Claws, which gives him an attack bonus of 600 points. He has as much as your Blue Eyes White Dragon."

My voice was surprisingly calm, and I felt a certain amount of satisfaction as my Red-Eye was fitted with two huge silver claws. Roaring, my monster blew up and spread the wings. His red eyes sought the gaze of his white brother, as my grey-green ones with those of Kaiba did.

"Hammer! Top draw!" Joey's voice almost overflowed with enthusiasm.
Finally, I dared to look over my shoulder, and I could see the whole group smiling, even Yugi, who nodded appreciatively to me. In doing so, I turned my attention back to the duel. Kaiba had his arms crossed in front of his chest and seemed to look at both me and my Red Eyes Black Dragon.

"Luck. You've got a stalemate and you're looking forward to it?" A mocking grin spread on the CEO's moves.
"I'm playing the Shrink Spell card, which costs your monster half of its Attack Points." In credulously, I stared at my red-eye, which shrunk to half its size before my eyes.
"White Lightning attack." Kaiba's voice was as calm as ever, while I saw the ball of light flashing in the mouth of the White Dragon, which was so similar to his little brother's fireball.

"No. Red Eyed Black Dragon. No!" Helplessly, I stretched out my right hand in the direction of my dragon as he breathed out his life in the shining flash of light of his white counterpart. The life point display on my Duel Disk dropped to zero. I had lost. In disbelief, I stared at the empty space in front of me, seconds before my favorite monster had lived. "Projected" I corrected myself internally. Kaiba approached me slowly and complacently, extending his right hand. Wordlessly, I pulled the Duel Disk from my arm and handed it to him.

"You've held on longer than Wheeler." With that, the CEO left me again, packed the Duel Disks into the metal case and proudly in the direction of a black limousine that had parked at the entrance to the schoolyard. My knees gave way, and it got dark around me.

Chapter Text

It was dark around me. Judging by the feeling, I lay on a soft bed. I was also covered, as I could see from my bare legs, which snuggled up to fabric as I moved them a little.

"He comes to himself!" A female voice ripped me out of my dim sleep. I heard from her tone that she was very excited. "Joey, Yugi, Tristan!" Once again, this familiar voice – I had heard it where before. Where was I? at home? No, it couldn't be, my apartment was uninhabited, apart from me.

The back of chairs eventually led me to open my eyes slowly. It took me a few moments to get used to the bright light of the sun shining through a large glass window next to me. Carefully I tried to protect my eyes from the sun's rays with my hand and looked around. A clean, almost sterile room. was probably just my domicile. By now I could feel an unpleasant pulling on my right hand, which came from a catheter. I was apparently in a hospital.

"Hey, bro, how are you?" Slowly I turned my head to the left and looked into the faces of Yugi, Joey, Tristan and Tea, all of whom seemed both anxious and relieved at the same time.
"What's going on?" My skull was buzzing, and as I tried to get up, a stinging pain on the left side of my chest passed me.
"After your duel with Kaiba, the excitement has probably knocked you out. You became unconscious and pulled a few scratches on your face and cracked a rib, at least the doctor said."
Joey's voice had added a very soft and guilt-conscious undertone, and I could see him lowering his gaze and his deer-brown eyes covered by his lids.

'It's my fault. I've run through my nerves. This big-kotz just made fun of me too many times..." Driving i stretched out my left hand and reached for Joey's arm, which ripped him out of his moments of guilt.
"It is okay, Joey. He makes a very cool and strict impression on me. Far too controlled and confident. You act like the exact opposite; chaotic and lively. I can well imagine that there are frictions. Don't worry, yeah? I could have just said no, or gave up before he punched me in the ground."
My corners of my mouth moved up a little before I pulled my hand back. Joey stared briefly at the place that had encircled my hand, only to nod smiling.
"Go clear. But you did well, everyone finds that by the way."
Yugi, Tristan and Tea nodded at him.
"The whole school talks about your duel with Kaiba, and that you have accepted the challenge." Tristan grinned awkwardly and punched me against my shoulder.

"It was a single disgrace. I couldn't do anything against Kaiba, and when he summoned the Blue Eyes White Dragon, I was like I had to get into my pants." I didn't know why, but I felt I could trust the four at my bedside.
'It's totally normal. When I first tried Kaiba's new dueling system in the Kingdom of the Duelists, I felt the same way."
My right brow involuntarily soared as I modeled Joey. Then I had to grin involuntarily.
"Pissed?" I reaped loud laughter and a played sour look from Joey.
"Say, David, may I ask you what?"
Yugi looked up curiously at me. I nodded narrowly at his question.
"Where do you get a card like the Red Eyes Black Dragon?"
Then the wind blew, I understood. Kaiba made a similar remark in our duel." My grandparents gave it to me for the seventeenth birthday, just before my grandpa fell seriously ill."
Yugi lowered his gaze a little before I hurtily continued: "He's doing better now, otherwise I wouldn't have participated in the exchange program. He had a stroke and has been a little restricted with his right half of his body ever since. Patience and practice, however, cure him again. When I go home, he's certainly top fit again."
I had to smile involuntarily when the picture of my grandparents reappeared in front of my spiritual eye.
"You're very attached to your grandparents, hm?" Tea's soft voice ripped me out of my thoughts and let the spiritual image fizzle out.
"Yes, I love them very much. They are actually the most important people in my life. They always looked after me when I was little, and today I'm trying to do the same. They then pushed me to the exchange program because they knew how much I wanted it."

My gaze wandered to the left, to a small side table, where, along with an aluminum jug, a few glasses and a tray of food, a deck of cards piled up. Slowly I reached for it and instinctively pulled a single card out of the deck and turned it over. I gently stroked my thumb over the image of Red Eyes Black Dragon.
"I don't care about the power of the card, or the rarity. My red-eye belongs to me because it was given to me by my grandparents. That is why it hurt so much to see him die."
I suddenly realized how scared my story had to be. So to hang on a map, and then to sack because a holographic image was destroyed, was a little sick. When I looked into the eyes of my visitors, however, neither ridicule nor rejection struck me, on the contrary: Yugi and Joey smiled appreciatively at me, while Tristan and Tea had leaned on the railing at the end of my foot.
"I can well understand that. My grandfather is similar."
Surprised, I looked at Yugi, who carefully reached for my right hand and gently pressed it.
"You put your whole heart into the fight, we noticed. You believed in your Red Eyes Black Dragon and he believed in you. Duel Monsters is much more than just a simple card game. Those who value and treat their creatures well, believe in themselves and in their deck, will be rewarded, believe me."
Yugi let go of my hand and brushed a stray strand of hair from his face. How this crazy hairstyle could last in the first place was a mystery to me.
"I was also devastated when Kaiba smashed my red-eye." Joey stretched his arms a little, with the T-shirt slipping over his belly button, allowing me to look at a hinted six-pack.
"Where are Duke and Bakura?" I looked inquiringly into the round.
"They're just getting your homework and apologizing to the teachers."

I got stomach pains at the thought of what trouble I would blossom if I fell out on the first day.
"Don't worry, we've already sorted it all out. The doctors want to keep you here until the middle of next week. As long as we bring you the school documents and go through them together with you. Mr. Nakashima wishes you a good recovery."
Tea gave me a cheerful smile and pushed himself up from my bed frame. "People, you really don't have to do that."
I was admittedly a little confused. We didn't even know each other for a day, and yet the clique around Yugi made an effort around me. Was that usus in Japan?
"No problem, bro. We like to do this for our friends."
Tristan did the same to Tea and pulled his smartphone out of the inner pocket of the brown coat he was wearing. Had he just told friends? I slanted my head a little when the other three suddenly had their phones in their hands.
"Let's go, don't feel like that! We need your number."
Joey looked at me and held my own phone. We exchanged our numbers, and I also got those from Duke and Bakura. Powerless, I put my smartphone aside and draped my red-eye back on the deck of the card.
"Then thank you, folks."
Hesitantly, I stared from the tray to the group. My stomach was screaming. My arms felt infinitely heavy at one time, and only chopsticks were included.
"Someone is hungry."
Joey grinned broadly and pushed the food tray onto my belly, while Tea and Tristan rushed out of the room.
"Where are they going?" I asked, looking after them.
"Duke and Bakura would have to be come up with your stuff. We made up four."
Joey pulled the chopsticks apart and drove them into a bowl of sticky white rice. I acknowledged his action with a questioning facial expression. Did he want to steal the food from my nose? Instead, he practiced grabbing a lump of rice and holding it up to me.

"The nurse told us that we can't stay for more than an hour. We're already three here, and they've told us that if you wake up, you'd be relatively powerless.'
Yugi sat down at my bedside while I squinted at the lump of rice.
"Well come on, open your mouth. The rice doesn't get any better if you let it dry in the air."
Joey probably always had a stupid saying in stock. Actually, it was my way of countering accordingly, but I was neither after it, nor did I dare to let my thoughts circulate so far. Wordlessly, I opened my mouth and got the first bite of rice. It was pleasantly soft and did not taste bland at all. When I swallowed the lump down, Joey was already waiting with the next one in front of my food hatch. Silently, I took my sacrament, or was better fed. Secretly, I was glad that I was taken away from work, because I noticed how everything became a little too strenuous for me. The broken rib also hurt for quite a while. When Joey scratched the last rest out of the bowl, I rattled:

"Duke and Bakura get my stuff, did you say? How do you know where I live?" That was indeed an aspect that interested me.
"It was easy. After we brought you here, we found the note with your address in your wallet."
True, I had noted down the house number and the street as a precaution in case I got lost. Actually, this was completely unnecessary, in today's virtual age, where every phone replaced navigation and GPS, but I was sometimes just a little old-fashioned.
"So you stole my apartment key?"
I laughed softly, but soon was punished by my cracked rib.

"We just cracked up your door. It was easy."
Duke suddenly stood in the room, a sports bag under his arm. Bakura's white head of hair popped up next to him, and seconds later I heard the door to my room closing and Tea and Tristan completing the group.
"I'll send you the bill, yes?" My dry response was commented on by Duke and Bakura with a broad grin. Joey poured some tea into a glass and held it to my mouth. Gratefully, I sipped on the drink and licked my cracked lips as he took the vessel from them.

"Joey? I'm sorry I messed it up, and you have to mime the babysitter now." I felt guilty. Even though Joey was actually to blame for the misery himself, he had placed a lot of trust in me. It could have been, of course, that he simply acted faster than he had thought.
"No harm done. That's fine. I am used to taking care of Mokuba from time to time. That's how I enjoy the latest games."
Joey grinned broadly and placed the glass on the table next to my bed. "But we have to go now, otherwise the ward nurse will be even more angry."
Somehow, I was a little disappointed. I really liked the bunch. "Clearly, folks. Thank you, for everything." I nodded to the grumble.
"We'll be back tomorrow, with the homework." Yugi waved goodbye and the round then trotted outside. Tired, I closed my eyes and fell asleep with a smile on my lips. The first day had thus not been a complete fall.

The gang actually kept their word. Just in time at half past four they snowed in, brought me the tasks, and made them together with me. After the work has been done, we chatted for a while. I learned that Joey was really the chaot I thought he was at first.

Tea was a gifted dancer, hoping to eventually go to New York, to a prestigious dance school. She was also able to bake excellently, as the chocolate cake she had brought with her on Tuesday proved to me.

Tristan showed me some photos of his bike. I only heard words like Honda, displacement, cubic and cylinder. My interest in such technical aspects was admittedly limited, but I had to admit that he made an excellent figure on his motorcycle. I was even allowed to preview, with the others, some clips he had shot in his spare time. Jumps over jumps and car tyres in a warehouse, slalom parkours and riding on the rear wheel were just a few exercises he had filmed.

Yugi turned out to be a very quiet and reasonable contemporary. Especially in math, he seemed to be an ace, which seemed very convenient to me. I still hate math sanity today.

Duke told me about his specially developed game: Dungeon Dice Monster. It sounded similar to Duel Monsters, but then it didn't. Duke also had its own game store, which impressed me a lot. He could hardly be older than me, and had already brought it to something.

Bakura seemed rather shy to me. He mostly stayed in the background and was more inward-looking. But when he laughed, it was an infectious, bell-bright laugh. But it wasn't that I just took it. I was relatively good at English, so I was able to learn and practice with them. Joey, in particular, seemed very happy about this; English, by his own admission, was "his Achilles heel." The same game was repeated day after day until Sunday.

It was eight o'clock in the evening and I was just typing around in my phone. My parents and grandparents, as well as my friends at home, had of course got wind of the incident and had all been worried about me. It took a while to calm everyone down. Then there was Joey, who had just photographed his text in English. Some of his formulations seemed almost criminal. I tried to make amends without confirming the teachers' suspicion that Joey had secretly solved someone else's task. (Mrs. Fujisa, our English teacher, had asked Joey before class the day before yesterday who would help him, because his English would have improved so much in his homework, in such a short time)

Lost in my mind, I corrected some sentences, brushed out others completely when the door to my room opened. Quietly, she was pushed back into the castle. Silence. I looked up from my phone and tried to peer around the corner, which made it impossible to look at the door.

"Is someone there?" Continued silence. I wasn't completely overwhelmed. It was already ten o'clock in the evening, the visiting time was over and the light in my room was off. A sister would have turned up, or at least turned on the light. Nervously, I groped the light switch next to my bed and pressed the button. The reading lamp on my side table plunged the room into an unsympathetic semi-darkness. Someone actually emerged from the shadow.

Tall and slender. The ice-blue eyes patterned me from above, literally, as the figure slowly approached me. Seto Kaiba wore an ornate bright white overcoat, black shirt, tight black trousers and high boots that made almost no noise. The CEO had his arms crossed in front of his chest when he arrived at my bedside. The view was still like on Monday at the duel: condescending and cold. On the other hand, something indefinable had been added.

I instinctively locked my phone and put it on my stomach while I stared at Kaiba inquiringly. "How do you get here in the first place? It's after ten, and the visit time ends at seven."
The company boss slanted his head a little and then smiled narrowly: "Rules are there to be bent."
Interestingly, this time he sounded almost a little amused, but that sounded honest.
"Ah yes? What leads someone like you to me?" The thin smile on Kaiba's trains disappeared as quickly as it had come.
"The whole school talks about you. You would have told me to stand up and not pinch my tail." There he was again, this derogatory, disgusting undertone.
"Of course, we both know that this is all just talk. You were lucky, no matter what Muto and the kindergarten try to intellicity." His attitude, the way he expressed himself – I was sure that a Seto Kaiba was used to him being followed.
"Was this your first duel with holograms?" The undertone had disappeared again. I was admittedly a little confused, but I tried not to let it tell me.

"Yes? We don't have anything like this. We usually put the cards on the board and leave it with the imagination." That was also true. Kaiba commented on my words with a derogatory sound.
"Medieval - a people of goat herders and pig breeders."
How quickly could you change from reasonably tolerable, too unsympathetic, and back again?
"Did you like it?" I nodded a little and tried to hide his biting side slaps.

"So you saw your Red Eyes Black Dragon like this for the first time?" Now he sounded interested and almost sympathetic again.
"Yes" was my succinct answer. What was the guy looking for here at ten o'clock in the evening? Didn't he have anything else to do but to push my superiority in?
"What was it like for you?"
I actually wanted to answer bitingly, but something in me kept me from it. Instead, I was drawn to the truth: "It's hard to put into words. My favorite card, to see the centerpiece of my deck in front of me, was incredible. When he spread the wings, I felt safe. His imposing figure, then the sound, when he roared. When he destroyed the monsters, there was briefly a sense of superiority, of calm and strength in me."

Kaiba watched me closely as I spoke. Something seemed to interest him. When he stared at me silently for a while, I continued: "Of course he was mischievous next to your Blue Eyes, but nevertheless, I somehow believed in my red-eye. When he missed the dragon claws, I suddenly felt for a few seconds the same as he was with his big brother."

In my last sentence, Kaiba raised his brows. I was already expecting a saudummy comment about "equal eye level", but then was disappointed.
"Big brother?" Kaiba's fingers tripped around on his upper arms as he spoke.
"Yes. This may sound silly, but I believe a little that the Red-Eye was inspired by your White Dragon. Like siblings. The big brother takes care of the little ones until he is fully grown. If it is a threat, they fight each other. In the end, however, the two of them get together again and stand side by side, back to back, only to then concentrate their strength."
The words just bubbled out of me. Kaiba thought anyway, I was a full idiot, what did it do when I disclosed my thoughts to him? Maybe he would leave soon?
"Is Red Eyes Black Dragon the strongest monster in your deck?" Kaiba's gaze wandered to my deck of cards at the side table.
"No." Which was, I wouldn't tie Kaiba to the nose.
Wordless, and before I could protest, Kaiba reached for my deck and fanned it up. "Interesting. You have some really rare cards. The Red Eyes Black Dargon, the Summoned Skull..." Kaiba went through my entire deck muttering. "A Dark Magician laughs at me from the corner."
The CEO slanted his head a little. "But it looks different from Muto's." I looked over the edge of the map and looked at the mirrored version of my map. The cover was adorned by a Dark Magician with his arms crossed. In his left hand he held a green wand, in the frame of which a greenish ball shimmered. His red armor covered most of his body, with the exception of the tanned hands, the pupilless eyes and the white hair that framed his face.

"Mh, that was probably a special edition." Kaiba nodded slightly and pushed the deck back together: "But the rest of your cards are just rubbish. Your monsters are miserable, your trap cards are poor and so are your magic cards. No wonder you lost."
In me, the anger rose a little. What did the guy want? Insulting me even more than i already do?
"Just hoping for a few monsters is a dangerous gamble, Little."
I had to stand up to the urge to jump up and shake Kaiba properly.
"Oh yes? And what about the legendary White Dragons? Your trademark? Isn't your tactic just about these three cards?"
Kaiba commented on my question with a terse "no" before he returned the cards. "I am a Duelist without blemish, without flaws and without weaknesses. I can do without my beloved White Dragons."
Something about his formulation made me stupid. I noticed that I thought similarly about my Red Eyes.
"At any rate, our duel has landed in the local press. Not that I would be interested, but Mokuba noticed."
Mokuba was the little one of the Kaiba brothers, I knew that. "He wants to get to know you. Wheeler probably told him about you and adored you."

The CEO twisted his eyes a little: "You would have beaten me. Perfect nonsense, but children are easy to influence. You're dismissed Wednesday?"
How did he know that again? I could hardly imagine that one of my friends Kaiba had set my release date.
"Yes?" My gaze darkened a little. The guy also thought he could just push everything and everyone around.

"All right. You will be picked up at three o'clock. The driver will pick up your luggage and then bring you to us. Mokuba usually stays awake until ten. Play with him a little bit and then you will be brought home."
I shook my head in disbelief. At three on Wednesday I would go where?
"Um, I'm doing what?"
Kaiba raised his eyebrows a little bit, as if I had asked a very stupid question. "You will deal with my brother. If you do it well and he likes you, and it's not just a whim of him, you have a good chance that you can get your disgraceful pocket money."
With that, Kaiba turned around and left my room, without further words. I let myself sink into the pillow. I had to dream. My vibrating phone, and a desperate Joey, who desperately needed the correction for tomorrow, confirmed to me that this was not the case.

Chapter Text

I left the hospital at three on Wednesday. My cracked rib was reasonably well healed, and the scratches on my face that my friends had reported had also subsided. Yugi, Joey and co also visited me for the next few days and learned with me. I hadn't told them anything about my visit. On the one hand I was a little uncomfortable, especially towards Joey, but on the other hand I was also curious what would await me. The ward nurse handed me the discharge certificate and wished me a nice day; my journey home was already organized. I was tempted to ask how she wanted to know this, but then decided differently. Kaiba hadn't lied.

My belongings had already disappeared from my room. So I left the hospital and actually, in the driveway to the building, there was a black limousine. A middle-aged man with a moustache, sunglasses and a classic driver's cuff waited outside the back door. As I slowly approached the car, he opened the door for me and told me to get in.
"You're my, um, driver?" It was a little ridiculous to ask if the guy in front of me really belonged to Kaiba, who else should send me a limousine? Nevertheless, I was new, and still cautious.
"Yes, Mr. Kaiba wants me to bring you to the property."
I nodded slightly and sat in the car. The door was closed by my unnamed driver. The interior was classy, just as I thought it was appropriate for Kaiba. White leather covers nestled against the dark interior cladding of mahogany and cherry tree. In the drink holder was a large cardboard cup in which a bright, clear liquid was prickled in front of it. Next to it, on one of the seats, stood a dark brown paper bag, from which a familiar scent rose. Clearly fast food. I looked forward, and the tinted discs slowly went down.
"Mr. Kaiba instructed me to get you something to eat on the way out. Please buckle up." With that the disc went up again, and I did as I was told.

Curiously, I grabbed the paper bag and looked inside. Exactly my taste: chicken nuggets, chicken wings, fries and raspberry bags. Carefully I put the handy straw, which had been clamped next to the cup, into the intended slot and pulled neatly. Lemonade. I always ordered when I was hungry. How did the driver know this? Chance? Hardly. For now, I was content to satisfy my hunger, and began to clean the food carefully. Actually, this wasn't my way, but I had the hospital food, after the rice some dishes had come, which I liked less, enough, and besides, the chauffeur asked me to eat. I stared thoughtfully outside, watching the traffic. I was curious to see how Kaiba would live; securely in an imposing property. I should be right in my guess.

Just over half an hour later, the limousine crossed a cast-iron gate, which closed right behind us. A huge green area, was only interrupted by the asphalted path that led to the estate of the Kaibas. The road was flanked to the left and right by cherry trees, which had to develop a magnificent splendor in the summer. The terrain resembled more like a park, which was crisscrossed by a labyrinth of hedges and shrubs. I was convinced that a whole legion of gardeners had to be brought in to mow the lawn alone. The door was opened and allowed me to view the Kaiba estate up close.

Heavy marble columns supported a canopy made of the same material. The building was huge. Smoothly ground granite steps led to a huge, double-winged door. Two silver door knockers, both in the form of a dragon's head, protruded from the solid wood, but were probably more ornamental than intended for proper use. The bell next to the door, which seemed state-of-the-art, along with cameras aimed at the entrance, at least made me assume that Kaiba was going with the times. Slowly I got out of the limousine and took my garbage with me. The chauffeur told me, shaking my head, leaving the paper bag and the cup in the car.

"Sure? I mean, um, so, I don't want to make any circumstance." The whole situation was very unpleasant for me, especially since I could imagine that Kaiba was as friendly with his staff as i was with his classmates.
"No, there are cleaners for that. Go in, you're already waiting for you." I nodded briefly, thanked me, and then climbed the stairs. Extremely nervous, I pressed the bell. The cameras fixed me for a few moments, then, finally, a quiet roar sounded and the door jumped inward, as if by ghost. Just as I entered the huge entrance hall, the door behind me closed again.

Huge glass windows, which broke the light of the sun into a crazy collection of colours, were emblazoned left and right in the walls. Two potted palms each stood on one side of the stairs, which eventually forked in two directions. The floor was also made of polished granite, which was so polished that I could see my own reflection. Some doors on the ground floor liked who knows where to lead. Just when I wanted to examine the carvings in the stone railings made of black wood, someone drew attention to himself by means of a roar.

"Mr. Kaiba is already waiting for you. If you like to follow me?"
The woman in front of me was at most two years older than me, had long, dark blonde hair, light blue eyes and wore a servant lift. She looked very sweet to me, and probably wasn't from Japan either.
"Um, of course." Silently, I followed her through a tangle of corridors and rooms. We also passed the kitchen, where at least three people screamed at each other about dinner. We stopped in front of an unadorned door.
"Enter. I wish you a nice evening."
A hinted knicks later, and accompanied with a friendly smile, the maid had already disappeared. Hesitantly, I opened the door and entered the room.

Contrary to my expectations, the room offered me insight into the world of a young teenager. Posters of sports cars, Duel Monsters and some superheroes immediately caught my eye. A huge four-poster bed, covered with a black duvet, stood on the left, in one corner of the room. An open wardrobe offered me a view of a collection of branded clothing, whose rough price estimate made me dizzy.
A gigantic flat-screen TV, with a diagonal that was certainly twice my height, had been mounted between two large glass windows. In the middle of the room was a couch on which a 13-year-old boy was squatting. The raven-black mane fell untamed over his back. I could see a short, straight nose, a slightly darker complexion and a necklace on his side profile that looked like the back of a Duel Monsters card. The teenager was talking to someone, his smartphone on his ear, when his gaze fell on me.

"I have to stop; I will see you tomorrow!" The little one jumped over the couch and walked towards me. He was wearing a black hoodie, jeans and blue sneakers.
"Hello! You have to be David." Smiling, he reached out to me.
"Um, yes, that's me." I grabbed his hand and shook it.
"I am Mokuba, I am happy to meet you."
My eyebrows went up a little bit. So that was Seto Kaiba's little brother. Interesting. I had imagined Mokuba differently. "Same, Mokuba." I was a little inconclusive. What did the little one want from me?
"Sit on the couch, I get something to drink."

With that he had already disappeared into a side room, and I could hear the clattering of glasses. I decided to follow Mokuba's wish, planted myself on the couch and put my hands in my lap. After a short time, in which I could discover besides a brand new game console with top games, a bookshelf and a desk, the young Kaiba came back into the room and held me a glass of Coke. Thankfully, I sipped on the Coke and watched Mokuba curiously as he did the same.

"So you dueled with my big brother? Right on your first day?"
I nodded slightly. "Yes, more or less. Let's say it wasn't entirely voluntary.'
Grinning, the teenager placed his glass on a table in front of the sofa.
"Yes, Joey told me all about it. You seem to be pretty good. Seto thought you could become something."
On the last sentence I swallowed the coke and started coughing. "What?" In credulity, I stared at Mokuba, who grinned amusedly and offered me a handkerchief from a box on the table. I snorted vigorously and repeated my question again.

"Kaiba said something?" That was probably a joke. But for some reason I didn't trust Mokuba to hide me.
"That you have potential. After his visit to the hospital, he spent an hour on the phone in his study. Our artwork department is now fully utilized."
Mokuba sipped on his coke again and offered me a bowl of chips, from which I used freely.
"Aha? With what? A European who is almost eighteen years old, who is being trapped in his hospital bed?"
My interlocutor shook his head with a laugh: "Your idea with the Black-Eyed Red Dragon and the Blue-Eyed White Dragon, you slow-thinking!"
My what? Overwhelmed, I scratched my forehead and grabbed a few chips again.

"The next Kaibaland will be designed entirely in the spirit of the fraternal gang. We have already prepared and commissioned some attractions. The Black Red-eyed Dragon and the White Dragon will probably make up the majority, but there are still some surprises."
I only understood station, but nodded as if I had come along. "Hey, say, do you like to chuck?"
An ice-cold change of theme. "Yes, from time to time?" Mokuba grinned enthusiastically, grabbed me by the hand, and pulled me out of his room. "Then come along. Except Joey, no one plays with me."

Now it could only become dangerous. I was expecting the worst. We crossed some corridors again, met maids, butlers, waiters, chefs and probably even stamp lickers. Eventually I was dragged into an unadorned, empty room, which, apart from a wooden table and two extraterrestrial-looking glasses, contained nothing. Mokuba closed the door behind us and then pushed me towards the glasses.

"We still have a good hour to eat. Let's try Seto's latest invention!"
I couldn't quite share his euphoria when I thought of the White Dragon hologram.
"Here, look. You push the monster card you want to embody into the slot and then put on the glasses." Mokuba pointed his finger at a small bulge at the edge of the glasses, which corresponded exactly to the dimensions of a Duel Monsters map.
"Any card?"
The little one shook his head: "No, it still has to be humanoid. Dragons, pure animals and abnormal animals fail."
Mokuba, meanwhile, pulled out a metal suitcase under the table, which must have escaped me at first, and opened it. I had never seen so many cards in a single heap.
"Can I use my own?" Instinctively, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my deck.
"Of course. I'll explain the rules to you right away. Just slit your card and put on your glasses." Mokuba targeted a card, pushed it into the slit and put on his glasses. With a queasy feeling in my stomach, I did the same thing, stowed my deck back in my pocket, and put on my glasses. For a few moments it was black, but then...

Chapter Text

I stood in the middle of a huge arena that reminded me of the Colosseum in Rome. The ground was covered with sand, and a huge area was limited only by high stone walls, with an almost infinite mass of spectators. They cheered and screamed, raised their hands, threw popcorn at each other or poured canned soda into themselves.

The whole thing seemed so real that I briefly wondered if I was really in a game. I looked at my hands and could see that they looked unusually dark. My arms, like my legs, were covered in red armor, and in my left hand I held a green stick.
"Cool, you chose the Dark Magician! I didn't even know the issue!" Mokuba's voice briefly ripped me out of my fascination. Where had the little one stayed? In front of me was a huge, muscle-packed guy in dazzling silver armor. Two spikes protruded from his arms, as well as from his helmet.

The face of my supposed competitor reminded me strongly of Mokuba, who looked similar to the map Elemental Hero Neos to confuse.
"Seems like that." I folded my arms in front of my chest, just as my black magician did on the cover of my card, grinning awkwardly. "So? How does it work now?"

Mokuba also grinned and quid, "Okay, you're now allowed to pick three from a virtual list of cards. One of them is a magic card, a trap card, and the third is a monster card."
In front of me appeared a grid of maps that moved from top to bottom. Some of them were familiar to me, others completely foreign. After I made my selection, the cards disappeared again.
"Okay. First of all, we play at the easiest level of difficulty. Our avatars, the cards we have selected, play only a small role. It is now mainly a matter of we hit us. You're already coming in. Those who are the first to have no more life bars have lost."
I just wanted to inquire about the rules a little bit, so Mokuba was already storming towards me. He had placed his two hands close together, and a white energy ball seemed to flicker in it.

Before I could react in any way, my opponent stretched out his hands; the ball of light swelled towards me and hit me in the chest. The force of the attack hurled me a bit through the air. Mentally, I was already preparing to fly on my snout as my feet elegantly touched the ground and made sure I could stand. A glance at the virtual life bar above me indicated that I had already lost a little life.
"Wow, that was crazy. You didn't take any damage at all."
I fixed Mokuba for a moment before I grinned. "Unfair. I don't even know what to do."
Elemental Hero Mokuba laughed loudly and put his hands back together. "Find out. It took Joey three games to check it out."
The next energy ball would cost me life again, I wouldn't let that happen this time. Instinctively, I stretched out my right hand and concentrated. It was a game, and because I didn't have a controller, it had to be different.

In fact, the surroundings were briefly deprived of all colors, was only a mish-mash of black and grey, before the sound of shattering glass could be heard. Mokuba's attack passed me by, and he had actually lost life energy.
"Class! You got it. It is, in principle, quite simple. Imagine how you attack or conjure, and your thoughts are transformed. But watch out, the whole thing costs energy."
I noticed the second, blue bar under the life energy. Mine was almost empty, the one of Mokuba untouched.
"Don't worry, the energy fills up again over time. By the way, you can use your cards whenever you want, but only once. You just have to think about it, as you did with your attack. At some point, it's going to be a by itself."
With this, the elemental hero Neos stretched his right arm into the sky. This darkened, and a thunderstorm evaporated. Thunder and lightning filled the surroundings as the sand of the arena was stirred up. A flash of lightning struck Mokuba, who seconds later held a huge sword in his hands, his blade wetted by lightning.

This had to be the lightning blade. I had seen the card before with a friend in a duel. Mokuba turned the gun over his head before storming towards me. Before I saw it, the blade went deep into my shoulder and was immediately pulled out again. It smelled of burnt flesh, and my armor was broken in the place that had been hit. The wound looked anything but appetizing, but I didn't feel any pain. It had taken a lot of life energy.
"Come on, fight back, that's boring!"
Mokuba picked up both hands to the next blow and I lifted my stick to block the sword. I actually succeeded, but my life energy was still deducted.
"I used a power up. You are weaker than me. You still lose life energy."
I sighed softly and pressed the sword from me. Hard to play with a teenager, but somehow, I liked it too.
"Ah, like Joey. Time for me to kick you in the butt."
Mokuba slammed his sword into the ground with both hands, while the energy bar above his head began to lose weight. That couldn't mean anything good. I swirled my stick around and aimed the tip at Mokuba's temples. Just before my gun touched him, I suddenly stopped. I couldn't move anymore. A kunai with chain had wrapped around me and tightened. Mokuba grinned broadly, holding the chain in his hands.

"Just fell! Now I have you!" A jerk on the chain forced me to my knees. At the same time, a deafening roar filled the arena. From the dark storm clouds, a winged creature slowly peeled, which I identified as the Curse of the Dragon.
"That's it for you, David!"
Mokuba moved even harder at the Kunai as the dragon's curse approached in a dive. I pulled on the chain, but couldn't free myself. Suddenly the pressure subsided and my opponent reached for his sword. With a jump to inhuman height, he landed on the head of his dragon, which had already opened his mouth. It glowed bright red in his throat. I turned my head to the side, closed my eyes and wished to have a shield, armor or anything to protect. Seconds later, I heard the roar of fire, the scream of the dragon's curse, and a cheering crowd.

"There is no such thing! You would have to be dead!"
Mokuba sounded a little disappointed. Slowly I opened my eyes and looked around. The sand below me had become smooth and I could see my reflection in it.
I really likened the black magician to the hair, apart from my face. A black, swirling sign surrounded me. The Kunai had fallen away from me by now. "This must be a special skill of the Dark Magician. Your energy bar is completely empty, look!" In fact, a look at my energy bar confirmed Mokuba's statement. He hovered over me while his dragon stared at me hostilely.

"No matter, I'll throw you out of the game right now!" With a joy in the voice, which almost made me smirking a little, Mokuba ordered his Curse of the Dragon to attack again. I decided to take my legs in my hand and sprinted away. I could hear the crackling of fire, and a Mokuba complaining loudly that I should stop. Behind me it was raining flames, and I was desperately looking for cover. There were some stone pillars nearby – my chance to rest and take a break! With a pike jump I rolled into the protection of the next column and pressed my back to the cool stone. The pain from the wounds had probably been omitted, but other aspects such as endurance and exhaustion had been carefully implemented.

"Get out now! Don't be a fear bunny!" Gradually, Mokuba became a little unsympathetic to me. He seemed to enjoy grilling me. Something flashed near me. Slowly I stretched out my free hand afterwards and suddenly a loud "pling" sounded. The arena shook and a bright circle of light was created around me. "Sacrifice support cards?" asked a loud, female voice. It had to be a Secret or something.
"Yes, I want to sacrifice my support cards!"

Mokuba meanwhile raged, that would be unfair and a naughty thing at all, it wouldn't count and thought about me with a few words, with fraudsters being the most common. My shape changed. My rod deformed into an elegant longsword, while the red armor of the Black Mage was transformed. My back was adorned with a black cape, and my hands were covered in heavy plate armor. "Ritual Summon completed - Dark Magician Knight in the game." Again, the women's voice. A glance at my data showed me that my energy bar was full, and covered with white lines. Now I probably had a chance against Mokuba.

Confidently, I stepped out of my hiding place. The wind of the thunderstorm whipped me in the face with rain. My cape blew behind me and the crowd briefly fell silent, only to burst into roaring cheers. Mokuba stared at me briefly stunned from an elevated position, before a bright glow formed again in the mouth of his dragon. I turned my sword so that it was with the wide side in front of my face. The swarm of fire that struck me was broken at my blade and rained down left and right of me. My life energy had remained untouched.

Mokuba's mouth was open: "Insane!"
The polished metal of my weapon showed me a mirror image that I didn't even know: I seemed more grown-up, more mature, more confident. Shortly the face of my Dark Magician appeared, who nodded at me with a smile, and then made room for my face again. Was this also an intended feature?

At one time, I felt like I knew what to do. My free, flat hand wandered over the sword blade and it lit up brightly. Time to take revenge on Mokuba. With one sentence I was already in the air and landed on the skull of the dragon curse. A targeted kick into the pit of the stomach carried Neo-Mokuba from his companion's back before I turned the sword and rammed it into the back of the dragon with both hands. Jaulting and screaming, the monster lost height as I propelled the weapon deeper into its flesh. Black lightning twitched along the blade, attacking the Dragon's curse. With a dull Soundslid the creature across the sandy arena floor before it disintegrated and I stood on my own feet again.

My gaze wandered to Mokuba, who embraced his lightning blade with both hands.
"Impossible! I never lose!"
He was already storming towards me. I confidently raised my sword and effortlessly blocked the attack. Lightning danced along our weapons as I pushed myself toward my opponent. The stalemate seemed to go in my favor. Mokuba's facial expression told me that he was also aware of it. The spectators burst into a deafening cheer as I slowly pushed my opponent to the ground, our blades still crossed.

"You didn't even use a power up!" Mokuba sounded almost a little desperate.
"Power ups aren't everything as it seems." Suddenly I reduced the pressure and stepped back a few steps. I stroked again with my free hand over the blade, which was again surrounded by black flashes. My energy bar was still not scratched.

Mokuba meanwhile rappelled up and stretched his lightning blade to the sky. Lightning encased the sword before he let it bounce head-on from above to the ground. An arrow-straight line of lightning shot towards me. I did the same with my gun, and a similar reaction, only in black, was the result of my actions. When the two bundles of energy met, there was a deafening thunder. Mokuba's attack was split in the middle by my own bundle of lightning and hurled it at the opposite arena wall. Confidently, I slowly made my way to my opponent. My energy bar was still unchanged. I stretched out my free hand and judged it on Mokuba's sword. With a jerk I clenched my hand to my fist, which caused the weapon to split into a thousand pieces. The clouds slowly dissipated, and when I arrived in front of Neo-Mokuba, it was bright again.

"Are you giving up, Mokuba?" He stared at me briefly and then put his hands together.
"Don't fight without a fight!"
In his hands, an energy ball formed again. Quickly I let my blade push through the energy ball and slammed the sword into my opponent's chest. Almost without resistance it slid to the booklet in my opponent, who stared at me with big eyes.
"And the winner is the Dark Magician Knight!"
The women's voice had spoken again. Mokuba left his head hanging while the entire arena was filled with the cheers of the spectators.
"Magician Knight, Magician Knight!" I smiled broadly and was admittedly a little proud. "The food is ready in five minutes. Please hurry up, otherwise it will be cold." Suddenly the spectacle faded around me and I stared down at Mokuba, the real one, the human Mokuba. He pulled the glasses off his head and packed the card back into the metal case. Hesitantly, I took off my own glasses and looked at the door.

One of the servants, a young man of about twenty-five years old, stood in the doorway and had probably taken us out of the game.
"It's good, we'll come!" Mokuba's voice sounded, contrary to my guess, enthusiastic.
"Wow! You made me look quite a fool! Now I know what Joey meant."

I grabbed my Dark Magician back into the deck and watched the little one out of the corners of my eyes. He seemed to burst with energy and joy.
"So you're not angry with me because I beat you?"
A violent shake of the head on my part made me smile. "It was a lot of fun anyway." Mokuba grinned broadly and then nodded to the door. "You're certainly hungry, aren't you?"
Admittedly, my stomach growled, so I nodded truthfully. My little groupie, as he made his way to the dining room, led me to a large room with a huge plaque that would have accommodated at least thirty people. But it had only been covered for two people. Likewise, there were only two chairs on the board, where chairs would have been the wrong word: huge, throne-like formations in which you could sleep well and gladly if you wanted. The chair back was gigantic, and was provided with two white dragons each, each with greening to each other.

"Impressive" escaped me, while Mokuba pushed me on to a chair, and then took the next one next to me. "Mh, Seto has a fondness for his dragons. Bring the food in!" As if on the cue, a horde of people came into the hall, each armed with a tray, cutlery or drinks. I opted for fresh lemon lemonade, a clear soup with noodles, beef steak with fries and herb butter and as dessert vanilla pudding. Mokuba and I talked excitedly about the game over dinner, and what could be improved.

"We are still unsure, especially by name."
I was just scraping out the bowl of pudding as the army of staff prepared to clean up.
"Mh, how would it be with Virtual Duel Monster Fighters, or Duel Monsters Arena?"
My interlocutor just nodded enthusiastically as I drank my lemonade. A glance at the huge clock in one corner of the room told me that it was just before ten.

"I had you prepared the guest room next to me. Feel at home! Tomorrow you will go to school." I was a little perplexed. Mokuba had said this with a matter of course, as if he had expected me to stay.
'I can't accept that, Mokuba. I'm running home.'
He just raised his hands defensively: "Nonsense! You'll also be on the road for at least an hour, if not longer! Come, I'll take you to your room!"
Somehow, I couldn't knock off the little one's wish. So, I thanked the staff and was taken back by the hand.
"Next time you duel with Joey! It has now become quite good. Of course, far away from me, but at least..." Mokuba just chatted about it as I pondered his words.

Next time. We stopped at a door that he pressed open. I was left with the air. The room was absolute madness. A huge four-poster bed stood on the wall, flanked by two window panes, similar to those in Mokuba's room. Wardrobe, books, televisions, furniture; everything seemed expensive, huge, custom made or just forbidden noble.

My gaze fell on the bed linen and the pillows, on which a Red Eyed Black Dragon was hung up.
"Ah yes, look, even that with the bed they did. Very neat. The bathroom is over there on the left. Toothbrush and shower is ready, you can also bathe if you want. PayTV is in it, and you can also watch the latest movies in advance. If the protection of minors is in it, the code is one, four, seven, three, one. Sleep well, I'll pick you up tomorrow at seven, then we'll have breakfast together!" I was completely baffled. Something couldn't be right here. Did I dream? A gentle pressure on my hip made me look down.

Mokuba hugged me. Moment time, he did what?
"That was really cool, David. I like you!"
Ah yes, that was based on reciprocity, if I was honest. I decided to gently press it as well.
"I you too, Mokuba."
Slowly he broke away from me and then went to the door: "Sleeping equipment is in the bathroom. Dream what finesse! If what is, I'm next door!"
So the door fell into the castle and I was alone.

What was going on here? I was too tired, and too full to think again. I was finally able to do that tomorrow. Yawning, I staggered into the bathroom, whose inventory probably cost half of a condominium. Sleepy, I jumped into the shower (although the bathtub was tempting to smile at me), brushed my teeth and slipped into a pyjamas that, amazingly, suited me exactly. My sports bag had been placed next to the bed. Carelessly, I threw my clothes over the bag and lay down in the fluffy sheets. I grazed after the remote control and turned on the monster of TV. With raised eyebrows, I realized that the station was German in nature. When zapping it turned out that in addition to the Japanese channels, also those from my homeland were received. I chose an old, satirical court show, which I had watched many times as a child with my grandparents, and fell asleep smiling. Overall, it had been a beautiful day. Strange, but beautiful.

Chapter Text

"Wake up!" A dull pain in the pit of my stomach, combined with Mokuba's voice, ripped me out of my sweet slumber. Sleepy, I opened my eyes and stared into the teen's face, who had made himself comfortable on me. Mokuba was already dressed ready.
"Aaah, did you jump on my stomach, or what?"
A question that was answered with a broad grin.
"Joey and Seto always are woken up the same way!"
Tired, I rubbed my eyes and yawned a little.
"Is Joey actually here more often?" Mokuba nodded slightly: "Yes. He takes care of me when Seto is away. That's how it's become naturalized.'
I slanted my head a little: "Despite the fact that they seem to hate each other like that?" That was, in fact, suspicious of me. Joey had told me in the hospital about his relationship with Kaiba, and I would have had to lie if I had a good word.

"Ah, they just do so. Secretly, Seto respects Joey. A little at least."
Hard to imagine.
"Dress up, breakfast-time!"
Mokuba jumped down from me and stormed out of the guest room. Well, if he woke Kaiba like that, it might explain his mood at school a little bit. I scratched my stomach a little bit and then swung my legs out of bed to make myself fresh. Fifteen minutes, and a proper shower later, I was led back into the dining room. Actually, the table top should have bent, so much food was standing around. Traditional Japanese breakfast, along with English and local cuisine. I sat down on one of the two chairs again, and pulled up a plate. Mokuba was already at breakfast.

"Well slept, David?"
This energy, which the little one exuded, was almost a little repulsive.
"Mh. The bed is very pleasant." My gaze wandered over the board: "Where is your brother, Mokuba?"
My question was answered with a shrug of the shoulders.
"Probably already in the company. Seto rarely has breakfast with me."
I nodded vaguely and coated my roasted whole meal toast with butter and honey.
"Your stuff is already stored in the car. You're at school at eight o'clock, promised." Mokuba's voice sounded almost a little wistful, and his gaze reminded me of a small, sweet dog.
"Say, David?" I didn't like the sound at all, it was so lurking. He clearly wanted something from me.
"Hm?" I chewed on my toast and used the teacup to interrupt eye contact. "Will you be back the next few days?" Apparently, I was able to do very well with children, or at least with Kaiba's little brother.

I scratched my freshly shaved neck and then smiled: "I have one point more than you, in your game, Mokuba. It would be unfair to deny you the possibility of revenge."
His face suddenly brightened, and seconds later I had the little teen on my neck again, which pressed me.
"Great!" I pushed my breakfast aside to prevent major damage to the tablecloth, and reciprocated the hug gently.
"No problem, Mokuba. I also enjoyed yesterday."

That was true. Although it was a little exhausting, I had somehow already closed the little Kaiba a little in my heart. As an only child, I also enjoyed the fact that someone was so concerned about me and was enthusiastic about me. Do you think he treated his brother the same? After breakfast, Mokuba took me to the door, we said goodbye intimately (with another hug), and I was actually taken to my school. My school bag was already packed, along with a snack consisting of the things I liked.

"I'll bring your belongings to the apartment. I will present myself to the property manager and get the general key, then you can keep your own."
Yesterday's driver closed the door behind me, bowed briefly and then drove off. One thing you had to leave Kaiba: he had really organized everything perfectly.

Suddenly I heard someone call my name. Yugi, Joey and Tristan ran towards me waving.
"Hey, David! Won the lottery, or what was that?" Joey punched me against the shoulder with a grin.
"Long history, something for the lunch break. What do we have in the first hour?" I rubbed my neck embarrassed. Actually, I wanted to keep my visit to Kaiba, especially opposite Joey, a secret.
"History. Today, the Edo period is on the agenda." Yugi smilingly stroked a strand from his face.
"Oh man, not again." Tristan twisted his eyes, which made me burst into a laugh. The next hours until lunch break were relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that Joey wanted to analyze my duel with me for the twentieth time. When it rang for lunch, I cleared my school bag and sighed inwardly. Now I had to let the cat out of the bag.

Arriving on the roof of the school building, I opened my tupperbox and pulled out two bacon breads, a cream cut and muesli bars, sharing the latter with the group. Tea had joined us by now.
"The fine gentleman is doing well today, hm? First a limousine with chauffeur, then cream cuts... have you given up a rich girlfriend, or what?"
Joey, like Yugi and the rest, ate a mug of ramen. "Mh, no, Me..." Should I really say it? What if someone was angry with me? They all didn't seem to have such a good relationship with Kaiba.
"Spit it out." Tristan sipped on a cup of green tea and leaned against a wall with his back. "Kaiba visited me in the hospital." Silence. I was stared at by everyone for a few seconds before dozens of questions swirled at me.

So, I told my new friends the whole story from the front, and when I finished, I came up with a question: "Where is Kaiba?" The CEO hadn't actually been to the school.
"It only comes on Mondays and Wednesdays. The rest of the time he is busy running the company." Joey devoured the last remaining ramen and put the empty cup next to him.
"Strange. This is not usually Kaiba's kind." Tea sipped from her tea cup and tapped her chin thoughtfully. I just shrugged my shoulders helplessly.
"Mokuba wants me to visit him again the next few days."
Grinning, Joey scrubbed my hair. "I can imagine that. If you've really beaten him, he won't want to let that sit on him.'
Afterwards, we dealt with other topics, such as school material, recipes for cakes and chocolates, as well as a story of Yugi, as he confronted one of Pegasus' eliminators without fear.

The next few days were quiet and uneventful. Kaiba did not appear all week, as joey predicted. Mokuba hadn't come forward either, so I spent the weekend at home. Joey and Yugi visited me on Saturday. Together we went to the game shop of Yugi's grandfather, Solomon Muto, who turned out to be a very friendly old man. Curiously, he looked at my deck, and was especially impressed by my Dark Magician. Yugi showed me his own, and we decided to fight a duel, which I lost at home (perhaps also because of Joey's constant heckling, I had to play much more aggressively).

On Mondays Kaiba really honoured us with his presence. Of course, he was completely indifferent to his surroundings, as usual. We just admitted our school supplies, and I shouldered my backpack when I heard Joey's voice: "What is count douchbag doing here? A verbal battle, or what does your presence honor us?"
I sighed softly. How could Joey watch out for Mokuba, and even like him when he hated his brother so abysmally? On the other hand, I didn't like Seto Kaiba very much either, but Mokuba has.

" I'm not here because of you, Wheeler. My time is too precious to waste with you."
Joey snorted quietly and I could see a vein coming out at his temple as I turned around. "So, why then?"
Kaiba nodded in my direction. "Little one? Do you have a moment?" He actually wanted something from me. Probably that I shouldn't visit Mokuba again, or he wanted to charge me for the ride and the food.
"Hm? What is there?" I avoided looking Kaiba directly in the eye. Instead, I fixed the clock to the wall behind him. "What are you doing on Wednesday at 3 p.m.?" Wednesday at three, no idea?

"Nothing but going home, why?"
The CEO raised his right brow a little before reaching into his uniform and pulling out a business card. "Here." He pressed the business card in my hand, grabbed his school bag and went outside.
"Aha. What am I supposed to do with it now?" Together Joey, Yugi, Tristan, Tea and I examined the business card. Kaiba's company logo adorned the right corner and an address was noted on it, along with a phone number. Kaiba's full name was in front of the number.
"The thing is worth a small fortune."
I looked at Tristan, who had whistled quietly.
"That's Kaiba's private cell phone number. There are enough people who would sell their own mother for it." Yugi reached for the business card and turned it around with my hand. "Look, there's something there!" I looked at the back of the card and actually told me to show up at the address at three o'clock.

"Should I go?" I was a little queasy. Kaiba behaved so weirdly, or that was perfectly normal for him.
"Clearly. If he gives you the card. Besides, I think I know where that is." Tea described to me exactly the way to the specified place.
"It would have to be a recording studio. They grew up because Kaiba sponsored them." A recording studio? For what? Thoughtfully, I pushed the business card into my pocket and then arranged with the three of them for a coffee in the local shopping center and a subsequent, extensive game tour.

As we put things in our school bags together on Wednesday, I stared at Kaiba's business card, lost in thought. After some hesitation, I had decided to go. He had also not been to school today.
"If something seems weird to you, just call. Tristan and me are right there."
I nodded to Joey gratefully. It reassured me a little to know both within reach, thinking about the word "right" with quiet doubts. In any case, with the help of public transport, I reached the address described at ten to three.

Tea wasn't entirely wrong with her presumption. Judging by the billboards and the illuminated advertisement, it was really a recording studio, which probably specialized in the field of computer and console games. In addition to sound and image technology, they also took care of programming and development of software and games. Slowly I walked to a large glass door and rang at the phone.
A female voice said, "Yes, please?"
I once again compared the address of the business card with the house number and then replied: “Excuse me, but I have a business card from Mr. Seto Kaiba here. I was ordered here at three o'clock."
There was silence for a few moments before a roar of the door prompted me to enter.

I was greeted by an old man, about seventy years old, who shook my hand kindly. In addition to his clothes, suit, white shirt with black tie, I felt a little underdressed in my school uniform with backpack. Mr. Takeshita, as he had imagined, meant to follow me to his office. Admittedly, I was a little overwhelmed with the overall situation. Why was I here in the first place? Before I could ask my question, we had already arrived at a spacious office with a projector, a screen, a large desk, a computer with multiple screens and several filing cabinets. With a friendly smile, Mr. Takeshita meant to me to sit down. He intertwined his fingers and put his hands on the table.

"Mr Kaiba should be right here."
I slanted my head a little bit. "What is it about if I may ask?"
Until now, I didn't feel that they wanted to alienate me, or that Kaiba somehow wanted to retaliate for the duel and the talk. "A few formalities, nothing more."
Aha, formalities. The door opened and Kaiba came in, with a middle-aged woman who had a folder clamped under her arm.

"Ah, Mr. Kaiba. We have just spoken about you. Nice to see you."
Mr. Takeshita got up, bowed, and pointed the chair next to me. The CEO nodded briefly and sat down next to me, with his accompaniment, on the vacant seats. Now I was finally confused. Kaiba slammed his legs, folded his arms in front of his chest, and nodded at Mr. Takeshita, who pulled out several sheets of paper under his desk. These had been stitched together with a paper clip. Smiling, he pushed the stack at me.

"Mr. Kaiba would like to offer you, like myself, that you participate in the console porting of "Duel Monster Arena." The console porting of Duel Monster Arena? The game that me and Mokuba played? "Mr. Seto Kaiba, as well as his deputy, Mr. Mokuba Kaiba, want you to synchronize the Dark Magician. We would also be quite right, as would Kaiba Corporation, if we were allowed to use your face on the cover of the game. Of course, you can also help to develop the figure. We've already come up with some suggestions about the cover."

Kaiba nodded to the woman next to her, who stood up, opened the folder in front of me, and laid it on the table. I curiously scrolled through the folder and tried to process what I had just been told. In fact, the folder contained beautiful concept drawings of the Dark Magician, which had been modelled on me in figure and face shape.
"Of course, we would pay you appropriately." I looked up from the drawings. "Pay?"
Mr. Takesthita nodded and looked at Kaiba, whose corners of his mouth wandered a little upwards.

"You give us all the rights to your character, attitudes and voice, but you get five percent of the revenue, in the form of a condominium."
I pushed the folder aside and inspected the pile of paper in front of me. A multi-page contract, to be judged by the heading.
"A small condominium for my face on the cover and my voice?" I actually lived for rent in a small two-bedroom apartment. My parents came up with the cost, and it sounded tempting to spare them. I could also resell them when I returned home.

"We expect sales to be in the seven-digit range. Your condominium would, of course, be appropriate. The price of housing in Japan is exploding, and Mr. Kaiba, like his finance department, believed that property was currently the best home-safe investment. Since you are not yet of legal age, we will keep the apartment in the possession of Kaiba Corporation, and then transfer it to you over time. Until then, you will be contractually guaranteed a perpetual right of use."

My knees were softened. The guy had just said something about a very large number and my percentage turnout. I was miserable in the percentage, but even I could roughly agree that it would probably no longer be a small apartment. "What is the catch?"
Mistrustful, my gaze wandered from Mr. Takeshita to Kaiba, who stared expressionlessly out of the window.

„There is none. You are contractually excluded from any losses. If expectations are not exceeded, in terms of turnover, you will be paid a percentage of the resulting profit, in the form of a life annuity."
There had to be a catch.
"That was Mokuba's idea, not mine. I wanted to engage someone else." Kaiba's voice was as cool as ever, and he didn't seem to think it necessary to look at me while speaking.

"How does this look like in terms of time? I've got school and so on.' I casually began to read the contract. "Mr. Kaiba has sent us her timetable. We would start on Wednesdays and, if necessary, on a Saturday at 4:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. at the latest, it's over."
I looked at Mr. Takeshita in doubt. It still seemed very suspicious to me.
"Clause 32 allows you to withdraw at any time with compensation, for work done, should you be dissatisfied. Termination shall be effected without further consequences for you."

In fact, Clause 32 really said exactly what the man before me had said.
"Well, in these circumstances, I suppose."
Smiling, Mr. Takeshita handed me a pen, and I signed with my name.
"Very good. We will send you a copy of the contract with the post office. If you choose another cover, we would be ready for today."
Gradually, nothing surprised me at all. Either the dear God wanted to give me a rich gift, or I had just sold my soul and myself.

Wordlessly, I pulled the folder back in and scrolled through the concept drawings. I lingered longer in one picture and had to smile involuntarily. It showed elemental hero Neo, who had Mokuba's facial features, and the Dark Magician Knight, with my side profile. Both had crossed the blades, while in ornate letters "Virtual Duel Monster Arena" and among them "Personalize, fight, destroy" were written.

"Ah yes, this picture. Mr. Mokuba Kaiba had included it in the shortlist."
I briefly stroked my finger over my own painted contours before nodding. "I think that's a good thing."
Mr. Takeshita nodded, nodding, pulling the folder away and taking a note on an apparent smear sheet. Kaiba got up, nodded briefly to the head of the recording studio, and left the room with his companion.
"Well, we'll sort out everything else next Wednesday. I was happy to meet you."
I shook Mr. Takeshita's hand perplexedly and was led outside by him. With a friendly smile he said goodbye to me and suddenly I was alone. It had gone dark by now.

Chapter Text

I fished out my smartphone, picked out Joey's contact and called him. After a short time, he also went to his mobile phone: "Yeah?"
Hesitantly, I was like, "Hey, Joey, David here. Do you remember the offer from you and Tristan?"
Shortly there was a silence. "All right?"
I nodded only vaguely until I realized that he could see it badly. "Yes, Joey. all right. Could you still come by and go home with me? It's dark, and I'm not quite sure how to get home.' I felt horribly stupid. I was kind of uncomfortable, and I didn't want to be alone.

"Of course. Just wait, I'll be there in just fifteen minutes."
Sighing, I pushed my smartphone into my pocket and leaned against the house wall of the recording studio. Had I just signed this contract? That was crazy. If it really all went smoothly, and I would have fun with it, I would have been looking after it for the next few years. To give away the apartment would bring in a small fortune, and if not, then I had a holiday home in Japan. Fifteen minutes became twenty, twenty-five. By now, the streetlights had been tackled. I didn't want to go back to the building. I just wasn't after it. In addition, the fresh air was good for me. After half an hour, Joey finally appeared in the pale light of a lantern.

"Sorry you had to wait so long. My bike had a plate, and my father..." Joey paused in the middle of the set. I looked at him inquiringly. "Nothing, I just couldn't get earlier." With a throwaway hand movement, the blonde chaot signaled to me that he probably didn't want to talk about it.

"Mh," I replied, pushing myself off the wall.
"What was going on? Tell me!" My friend could hardly hide his curiosity. We made our way together towards my apartment.
"Kaiba and Mokuba, and the boss of the company, want me to be on the cover of Kaiba's new game and sync the Dark Magician."
Joey slanted his head a little and presented me with his open mouth. "How now? No shit?"
I nodded. "In addition, I am allowed to participate in the figure and will be involved in the turnover."

Played offended, my interlocutor pushed the lower lip forward: "Mokuba didn't ask me if I wanted to synchronize the Flame swordsmen. Besides, it doesn't look like the douchbag that he's doing something good to someone."
In fact, that was also one of my thoughts. "Well, so if everything goes smoothly, then I get a condominium for participating in the project. The guy said something of a smattering of mouth, and had no idea what.' Embarrassed, I rubbed my neck.
"And what sum are we talking about?" Joey put his hands in his pockets and watched me.

"Five percent of a seven-digit amount." My friend probably thought about judging the expression of his face and opened his eyes.
"That's a lot of money. There has to be a catch."
For my part, I put my hands in my pockets: "I thought that too, Joey. However, the contract has a termination clause, which allows me to cancel at any time. I don't know what Kaiba rode either. Mokuba's influence?"

Joey shook his head: "No, I don't think so. Mokuba likes me, too, and I wasn't asked."
Amused, my corners of my mouth wandered upwards: "You've never beaten him as devastatingly as I have." My cheeky comment was rewarded with a sore shoulder and a grinning Joey: "Don't be conceited, otherwise we'll duel two times."

In the meantime, I felt very stupid that I hadn't told Joey about my stay with Mokuba. He was my sweetheart from the whole clique around Yugi, and we understood each other brilliantly. Even his cheerful, carefree manner – that's what I liked about him. "Mh, you're talking to the master of Virtual Duel Arena. My face is the one of the Dark Magician and the Dark Magician Knight."

Joey gave only a quiet "pff" of himself, and played off insulted his head up. "I already see it in front of me – after the game is finished, you don't know us anymore, because you're soooo famous."

Gentle, almost cautious, I kicked him hinted against the shin.
"Idiot. You know that for yourself that I'm not like that!"
My buddy rubbed the hit spot and grinned a little wider: "Well, we've only known each other for over two weeks." He was, of course, right. On the other hand, it felt like we knew each other forever. The rest of the way to my apartment we talked about Duel Monsters and I was rewarded with one of Joey's numerous duel stories. Arriving at my door, I pulled out the apartment key and locked it.
"Come on a little bit. Limo and chips are probably the least you can do, for the fact that you're sledging to the studio because of me."

Joey followed me into my small but fine home. Of course, it was not comparable to Kaiba's estate, or even just the guest room, but I felt comfortable and safe in my own four walls.
"Sit on the couch. I think I’m running some kind of anime or something. I'm right there.' I threw my school bag into the corner, slipped out of my shoes and disappeared into the kitchen. As I prepared chips and orange lemonade accordingly, I could watch Joey plant himself on my sofa and grab the remote control. I placed the bowl with chips and our two glasses on the small table in front of the couch and leaned back. Joey zed his way through the program and stopped at a documentary about farm animals in agriculture.

"That's what you're watching?" Smiling, I buttoned up the jacket of my school uniform.
"It's called education." There was a sniped comment on my tongue, which I swallowed down. "Does it bother you if I just change my dress for a short time?"
A brief shake of the head from a joey staring at the TV made me disappear into my bedroom, where I moved. The uniform was paired with a tight black T-shirt and short dark sports pants. Barefoot, I left the room and closed the door behind me. Joey raised his right brow and whistled quietly as I underwent a more accurate pattern.

I looked down at me for a moment and shook my head with a laugh: "That's just convenient." With a smile on my lips, I sat down next to Joey, resting my feet at the edge of the table. I put my left arm around the angled knees while my right hand reached for the chips. My gaze was on the TV, where some oxen were just stretched in front of a plough to plough around a rice field. I shrugged briefly as my and Joey's hand touched each other. We had probably both followed the documentary too captivated, and had put our handles in the chip bowl. For a brief moment, a pleasant tingling spread in my hand. As soon as the feeling had come, it had subsided again when Joey shoved a load of chips into his mouth. I shook my head slightly and sipped on my lemonade. Maybe I was just a little overdone in sports.

'You said you'd do a lot of sports, didn´t you? I mean, you look at it, but out of pure curiosity, what are you doing? Skiing?" My interlocutor was still looking at the TV as he spoke.

"Mh, no. I hated skiing as a child. Now no bad jokes about Alpine dwellers and their connection to transport." I had already had to listen to these sayings enough. "Hm?" Joey nocturnally crushed another load of chips and stared at me inquiringly.

"Not so important. I like to run, train with the dumbbell and with my own body weight. I've never been that gym man. In winter I like to go cross-country skiing."
The blonde sipped on his limo and then grinned: "Ah yes, ski not, but cross-country skiing already?"

I twisted my eyes a little: "There are worlds in between. My father encouraged that. He was once a gifted cross-country skier. In the school team I was always in the top five, and highly coveted when it came to the relay competition." My hand wandered back to the chip bowl and used it.

"Mh, I had suspected something like this a little bit. Veins on the forearms and calves indicate regular activity. I myself like to swim and love floor gymnastics." There was something. Joey once told me that he had finished first in the regional competition in swimming.

"That's what you look like. Apart from the fact that I rather believe that you are keeping afloat with your beatings." Grinning, I chewed up a few chips while Joey turned off the TV.
"Clearly. Someone has to watch out for the dwarves and women of the group, i.e. you, Yugi, Bakura and Tea." Yawning, Joey stretched out and then got up.

"You can also sleep here, Joey, I have an air mattress lying around somewhere. In addition, tomorrow we will only have a double lesson of history, then Japanese, double lessons in English and art. You left most of the stuff in your locker."
Joey shook his head: "Get stuck. I'm right at home.' He slipped into his sneakers and tied his laces.

"Where do you actually live? Just around the corner, or what? Then I could visit you."
Joey's facial expression hardened for a moment, and I felt like I had said something wrong. "Mh, maybe another time. Do you have a go with me, Duke and Yugi to go to the Arcade Hall tomorrow? They're supposed to have got a new beat em up."
Should I continue asking? He quickly changed the subject when it came to his home. "Clearly. What are Tristan, Tea and Bakura doing?" Joey straightened up and slipped into his blue jacket, which matched his white shirt.

"Tristan probably has something going on with a girl, Tea could never really get excited about the arcade hall and Bakura has a visit from his father. He's here for a few days, and then he'll have to go back to England.'

I nodded slightly: "Okay. Then until tomorrow at school, Joey, and thanks for picking up today?" Joey made only a throwaway hand movement. "Not for that. Good night. See you tomorrow. You can retaliate in English, agree?"

Grinning, I accompanied my buddy to the door, wished him a good way home again and finished behind him. Why did he react so strangely when I approached him at his home? Tired, I stretched out, and then fell into bed.

The next days were characterized by school and leisure activities with Joey and Co. I was unsure whether I should question him, or someone from the clique, preferably Yugi or Tristan, about his home. Joey's gaze had put me off a little bit. On the other hand, we have only been acquaintances or friends for 14 days. Perhaps he would open himself? Time passed anyway, and when it was Wednesday, I packed up my belongings in a hurry.

"Do you have ants in your pants, or what's going on? Too late for a date?" Tristan watched me grinning as I quickly threw my utensils into the backpack.
"Today is my first working day as a voice actor." Overall, the phrase 'working day' seemed a little exaggerated to me. A voice actor had to undergo a well-founded education and had a distinctive voice. I had only been lifted into this position by luck and a portion of vitamin B.

"You can do it easily. Joey is almost a little jealous. He would have liked to have synchronized the Flame swordsmen." I sighed softly and lowered my gaze. Was he eaten up? Tristan must have guessed my thoughts, because I felt his hand on my shoulder: "Hey, Joey gives it to you, just like us." He gently pressed and I smiled involuntarily. "And now cut off, not that you're late!"

An hour later I was already in the building. A young receptionist led me past countless rooms until we got into a large, spacious room. This was illuminated by the sparse light of some lamps, which revealed the view of a large glass pane, behind which three people sat. One of them was Mr. Takeshita, the other a grinning Mokuba and the third a complete unknown. The receptionist left me again and I headed towards the door that led behind the glass door.

"Stay calm in place and go to the desk in the middle of the room."
The stranger was probably the recording studio manager or had no idea what. In any case, he had given me the instruction, which I also followed.
"You can adjust the microphone as you like. We have already prepared a text, which you will please work on together with us. On the screen in front of you, the corresponding scene is played simultaneously so that they get a feel for the emotions."

I nodded briefly and flew over the text. It was a smorgasbord of heroic sayings and parts of dialogue. "Well, let's start. Be calm and concentrate." In any case, the supposed leader was extremely friendly. It took a while, and I had to speak many parts of the dialogue several times, but overall they seemed very satisfied with me. "We are ready for today. We will continue next Wednesday.

I nodded and detached myself from the desk. The whole thing had been quite exhausting. How could anyone do it all day? It was definitely fun.
"Top, David. If we continue to work at this pace, we will be ready soon." Mokuba's voice almost overflowed.

"Do you think?" I doubted his assessment a little. "Clearly. Next week again, and then a few more times and then we are done! In between, you will come to the development department and bring in suggestions! You've got to visit me this week," she gushed.

"Um, okay?" Mokuba just nodded eagerly and pulled me out by the hand.
"It's best to do the same. I have a surprise for you!" I smiled a little tormented. The last surprise was actually enough for me. We reached the Kaiba estate short time later – Mokuba was finally picked up in a limousine as Kaiba's deputy.

Chapter Text

Mokuba led me back to the room we had visited the last time. This time, however, it was not empty, but equipped with glasses with a well-known face. "Joey" got away with a smile. The blonde chaot was actually standing in the room, a grin on his lips. "Man, you're late." A little confused, my gaze shuttled back and forth between Mokuba and my friend.

"We've built in some elements, and a kind of story mode. Joey and you should try it out once and then give a feedback, as a kind of beta tester." How old was Mokuba again? 13 years? Hard to believe. His behavior was sometimes similar to that of a professional businessman, or at least what I imagined.

"Um, okay? What awaits us?" Surely the jump into the cold water again. "Joey should already know the scenario, it will be new to you. Put the glasses on and off!" Mokuba smiled and then closed the door behind him. Joey and I were alone. "Where is he going now?" Questioning, I stared at little Kaiba.

"He monitors everything." Joey pulled a card from a pile next to him and introduced it into the designated slot. "Well." With a queasy feeling, I did the same to my friend and then put on the glasses with him.

Seconds later, I found myself in a completely new environment. High stone walls surrounded me. Torches in basket-shaped, metallic brackets provided a sparse light and plunged the new scenario into an eerie semi-darkness. The floor had been carved out of a dark marble. Behind me, a gigantic fall grid blocked the way into an impenetrable blackness. Rustling, the fieping of mice, the drop of water on stone and disturbing moaning filled the narrow passage in front of me. The scenery was impressive.

"Yugi would have chosen the same avatar, with his Dark Magician looking different." I shrugged. Next to me was suddenly Joey, or at least someone who had appropriated Joey's voice. The figure near me was about the same size as my friend, but otherwise seemed completely alien. An unadorned blue fabric tunic with trousers was interrupted by an orange overskirt in the hip area. Two sapphires had been attached in a yellowish metal frame just above the knees, and threw the sparse light of the torches back at them. The grey overboots were also held together by means of such a construction. Orange metal shoulder plates made the supposed comrade a little wider than already. The helmet, made of the same material as the shoulders, had to be insanely heavy. Two metal zigzags emerged from the head guard and ran together towards the chin. Joey's face and part of his blond hair came out under the helmet and let me breathe.

His avatar seemed to be brimming with muscles that had been pronounced in the tight-fitting blue fabric armor. If he had such a character in reality, then he was certainly one of the girl dreams of Domino High. Even more impressive than Joey's figure was the two-handed, which he held loosely surrounded with his right hand. The orange blade originated from a silver handle; whose parry rods had the same shape as the spikes on the helmet. A single word in Kanji had been cut into the blade, which I could not decipher in the semi-darkness.

"If you're the Dark Magician, we'll get through the dungeon." Joey pushed his blade into a loop on his back and began to wipe around in the air with his right hand. "Look for your three cards, and then we'll get started." Self-assured and decisive, as described by Yugi in his duels. That's how I actually imagined the Flame swordsmen , one of Joey's favorite cards. I nodded slightly and did the same to him.

In front of my eye appeared the grid of cards, from which I chose three. "So you've done this before, Joey?" He nodded hinted and then folded his arms in front of the muscular chest: "When you're done, we'll get started. You go ahead, Mokuba has turned the difficulty level up."

I didn't know this kind of my friend at all, but on the other hand, what do you want to know about someone's traits in just over three weeks? He wasn't rude, but he was clearly the leader of our team. After a short hesitation, I set myself in motion.

"Don't worry, I'm right behind you. The labyrinth is certainly filled with traps, and I am weaker than you." His voice was soft, almost a little reassuring, as if he had noticed that I was feeling uncomfortable. Overall, this was very contrary to his previous appearance.

"How do you know we're in a maze, Joey?" Our steps echoed on the walls, as did our voices. No matter who designed this environment, he had created a creepy atmosphere. "Because I know Mokuba and have been to a similar place twice."

Admittedly, I was a little irritated by the inimitable tone in which Joey told me about his supposed outings, but on the other hand I knew only a fraction of the clique's experiences. I just wanted to say something, so Joey meant to be still with the index finger on my lips. I peered into the semi-darkness in front of me. We stayed in place while Joey released his sword from the bracket and took both hands. For my part, I couldn't see neither anything suspicious, nor was it possible for me to hear anything unusual, apart from the ambient sounds that had accompanied us all the time.

"What's going on?" Joey shook his head frantically and suddenly pushed me aside. A bright, shrill scream made me put my hands on my helmet-reinforced ears. What was that in God's name? "Salamandra!" Joey's voice echoed in the aisle and broke through the screaming that almost robbed me of my senses. An unnatural heat flowed through the air, while my teammate's sword blade lit up brightly. Fire surrounded the tip of the weapon, and I could have bet to recognize a dragon's head. The whole aisle was bathed in bright, shining light.

"And boom!" Joey had the flame blade slammed down towards the wall, where I had been just before. The screaming became an octave higher before it fell silent completely. A few moments later, I realized the reason for this: the flame warrior's sword had eaten into a distant humanoid, claw-reinforced something. The slimy body protruding from the wall had been split in the middle. Glowing red eyes, of indefinable numbers, stared at Joey badly. The claws had made the creature attack. The smell of burnt meat rose in my nose. With a ripping, unpleasant sound, Flamesword men Joey pulled the blade out of the monster, which slipped limply on the wall and hit the ground with a dull sound.

"Duck yourself!" Before I knew what was happening to me, Joey had pulled out again with the gun. With both hands he had the sword describe a semicircle that was right within my radius. I rushed to my stomach. I could feel the stinging, burning heat of the blade through my armor as the weapon hit resistance just above me. A shrill sound and a dull clapping could be heard. My teammate swirled around and held up the weapon. Steel bounced on steel, and I could see from my position a narrow, blond figure, who crossed his blade with the flame-sword fighter in a light leather armor, armed with an unadorned one-handed man.

"Flamesword Attack!" Joey's sword blazed with a hiss, and then pierced his opponent's torso. The pointed-eared warrior sank to the ground groaning. His sword blade had melted and dripped on the cold marble. Again, the smell of burnt flesh filled the room. With a clatter, the useless arms handle fell out of the elf sword fighter's hand. "Next. There's enough Joey for everyone!"

Snorting, the blond-haired flame warrior turned around and destroyed the next elven sword fighter with a targeted attack. Sighing, the enemy tilted backwards and dropped his weapon to the ground. "Man, Joey..." Slowly I pushed myself up and breathed deeply. For my taste, the whole thing was a little too real. Joey lowered the sword a little after his massacre.

"At three, you take a side step and then attack." What had happened to the friendly, sunny Joey? "One, two, three... Chain boomerang!" At the last second I threw myself to the side and hit my back hard against the stone wall. A kunai with chain flew past me and wrapped a huge spider of good and happy two meters in size. The orange abdomen was bloated and the front claws were provided with sharp tips. Hissing, the eight-legged man was surrounded by the chain-bumper, whose end Joey held with his right hand. Slowly, the supposed Flameswordmen pulled back his fist-cuffed hand and forced the spider to its knees.

"You've got to get it done. Jirai Gumo neutralizes any strengthening effects. When I attack, I'm too weak." Joey had no idea what he was asking for. I was a panicked arachnophobic. Paralyzed, I stared at the birth of a nightmare in front of me. The hissing, as Jirai Gumo fell in the trap; I could not bear this sight. Trembling, I sank to the ground and squeezed my eyes. Putting the card on the field was quite okay, it was just painted, but the cattle in front of me seemed so real, so real. Fear shrugged my whole body. I was paralyzed, the hissing of the virtual spider in my ears.

'I can't hold it for a long time. David, what's going on?" Joey sounded strained. I wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. It wasn't fun anymore. Dueling with Mokuba was okay, but that... "Breathe deeply through. You just need to stretch out your left hand and say Black Magic Attack. Trust me! I'm here!" Joey's voice mingled with the hissing and screaming of Jirai Gumo. Salty tears ran down my cheeks. That was just too much. How could you quickly remove these damn glasses?

"David? Do you hear me? It's okay if you're scared. Everyone is afraid of something. But running away is not a solution." Screaming in my wine cramp, I pressed my hands to my ears. I wanted the spider's sounds to stop, the gurgling and hissing, and her staring gaze, which had briefly fixed me, disappeared from my memory.
"Just trust me. Do what I told you! Don't let me hang, we're friends, aren't we? I hold to you and you to me. Come on, let's face the fear together."

Joey believed in me that way. Why? Was he like that with Yugi, Tristan and co? How could he be so fearless about one monster after another? "If you don't help me, we lose, and..." My friend's scream instinctively made me open my eyes. I could see Jirai Gumo, who had wrapped the front legs around the chain of the kunais. Joey was ground down on the ground. The sword slipped out of his left hand, which now lay around the chain on his wrist. Slowly he pushed his legs forward and resisted his opponent's move.

"David, please. We can stop immediately, but that is not the solution. You have to face your fears, believe me." Panicked, I looked back and forth between Joey and the arachnid. It was like looking through a veil. Everything was blurred and blurred. Only a few meters left and Joey would become virtual spider food. "You're disappointing him again. So far, he's been a good friend to you, hasn't he? So, you repay him?" Then there was a voice in my head. She was calm and deep, quiet and reprehensible at the same time. Of course, the vote was right.

In front of my mental eye appeared Joey, who smilingly entered the rice in my mouth, a Joey who picked me up from the recording studio. The same Joey who was lounging on my sofa. Our hands touched as we reached into the chip bowl together. The pleasant crackle when our fingers met. This crackle, I could feel it again in my hand. It was pleasant, inspiring. Both impressions, fear and tingling, fought for the upper hand in me. What was going on?

"Dark Magic Attack!" With a sound, not dissimilar to that of shattering glass, Jirai Gumo splintered into a thousand pieces. The entire body of the spider had been torn in pieces. I stared at my trembling right hand, which pointed flat out in front of me to the empty room where the virtual monster had been seconds earlier. Joey pressed his feet. Moaning, I closed my eyes and lowered my head. How stupid was that? Getting in your pants in front of a virtual something? I was a selected rivet. I had disappointed Joey again, my friend who placed so much trust in me.

"Hey David, look at me." I could feel Joey's hand on my shoulder, which gently pressed her. I was embarrassed to see him. I had let him down, again, and I was ashamed of that. Long, fine-grained fingers gently pushed my chin up and prompted me to open my eyes. I looked at a smiling Joey. In his roe-brown eyes I could see the light of the torches in the aisle. But there was more.

"I'm damn proud of you." How was that? "You're scared of spiders, aren't you?" This soft undertone, paired with the soft fingers on my chin, Joey's gaze and his, if only virtual, defined body in the armor; I enjoyed the touch, his smile, how he looked at me. "That was really brave of you. I know how much it costs to overcome to face up to his fears. Hesitation is not something you have to be ashamed of. When I was younger, I was also afraid of them.

The blonde's smile became a little wider and softer. In any case, it had a calming effect on me: "I overcame my fear when I had to take one away. My little sister was afraid of things, even more so than I was. Love can sometimes make you be quite brave." Love? The word echoed in my head again. "Or friendship, as it is right now." Joey's hand wandered down to my free arm, where he pulled briefly and helped me to my feet. "Have you calmed down a little?" My buddy gave me a scrutiny look.

"J-Yes, Joey. All in o-order. Sorry, I'm sorry." I stuttered a little, which again embarrassed me. "You don't have to apologize." Joey went to his sword, pushed it into the loop on his back, and then inspected the Kunai with a chain on his wrist. "Wow, I've been roasting a lot. It is good that Salamandra is a permanent strengthening. Now it's more stuck with you. Except you want to stop." On the one hand, my friend sounded relieved and then worried again. I couldn't put it down.

"No, let's move on." Did I really say that? Just over two minutes ago I wanted to finish the game in panic, and now? I didn't recognize myself. Didn't I want to disappoint Joey?

"Cool. I'll give you a milkshake afterwards. Come on, let's kick the guys in the butt!" Joey's grin was contagious, because although I was still shaking like aspen leaves, my corners of my mouth lifted up a little.

Chapter Text

"So, you're also panicked about spiders?" After a short break, during which I was able to calm down a little more, Joey and I had marched off again. "Have, and yes." My friend nodded affirmatively to my question. "We were once home alone when Serenity called for me in panic. A spider crawled into her room and crouched on her desk. I myself also had giant shot in front of the cattle, but Serenity as she wept and sobbed, and pressed herself on me..." Joey shook his head, lost in thought.

"Serenity is who?" I thoughtfully looked at the blond Flameswordmen, who was groaning at the chain bump on his right hand as he walked. "Did I say before? My little sister." Did he have that? True, there had been something with love.

"You have a little sister? You didn't tell me anything about it." I thought Joey and his father were alone. Tristan once mentioned something, but only fleetingly. "Mh, I did. That is why I fought in the Kingdom of the Duelists." Just as I was about to ask, Joey raised his head alarmingly. "Do you hear that?" I listened hard and couldn't hear anything. Nothing at all.

"No, it's quiet. Too quiet." I only noticed now that only we made two noises. The other background noises, such as the constant drop of water or the fiepeping mice and rats, were silent. "Exactly. That's a bad sign.' I could see How Joey looked around in the narrow aisle. We had not yet reached a fork; perhaps he had made a mistake with the labyrinth?

"Until now, the whole thing was far too easy. If Kaiba really took his old game as its basis, it is..." Old game? Irritated, I looked over to Joey. What was he fascinated by? Hadn't all this been reprogrammed here? That would at least explain why Joey seemed to know himself so well.
The whole complex around us began to vibrate. Dust poured from the ceiling, and both Joey and I struggled to keep ourselves on our feet. The scraping of stone to stone made me listen. I looked over my shoulder and could see a wall rising behind us. The same spectacle was in front of me. "Just like in the duel back then! They're trying to separate us, for sure!"

Before I knew what was happening to me, Joey had already pressed his back on me and taken his sword into both hands. Broad-legged, he took a combative stance. "Concentrate! I'm sure we'll be attacked right away!" The voice of my team-partner hardly drowned out the loud change of spatial conditions. I was more looking for races, in the only direction that we had left. To my right, a gang had appeared. "Sure, that's a good idea Joey? Look, there's a way to go next to us," I yelled at my colleague. "Trust me!" Trust. Again, Joey demanded that I just follow him.

"Do it. He's been watching over you so far, haven't he?" Once again, the foreign voice. This time, too, she was right. The two of us were a good team. So why should I hesitate? So, I spread my legs a little and breathed deeply, directing my staff into the aisle in front of me. The walls around us were moving. Where there was a passage before, cold stone laughed at me and vice versa. Only the walk-in front of me was still free. The game was repeated for a while, until Joey and I each led a path into the blackness. Then there was silence again.

"And now?" Questioning, I looked over my shoulder. Joey hadn't changed his attitude by a millimetre. "If everything doesn't deceive me, a Labyrinth tank would have to appear right away." His voice was as calm as ever. He probably had his feelings better than me, or was he just used to this form of virtual reality.

“That means?" My little one turned their attention back to the gap in the masonry in front of me. "That we get work." In fact– a metallic rattling could be heard in the distance? The Labyrinth tank? "Last time we ran away; but this time we are prepared." Joey seemed to be talking to himself. I was about to say something when a bright yellow light, like car headlights, appeared in front of me. With difficulty I was able to resist the urge to hold my hand in front of my face. In fact, a blue, metallic vehicle with a red drill at the top raced towards me. I could feel Joey's back muscles tighten; we were so close together.

My left hand had pressed so tightly around the Rod of the Dark Magi that the knuckles came out white. This was no different than it was with Mokuba back then. Besides, I was the most powerful card in my Duel Monsters deck. What should happen to me? I turned the rod a little and then stretched it out, towards the Labyrinth tank.

"Salamandra!" Joey's voice made me pause. With a deafening sound, something exploded behind me. Dust and smoke clouded my view and forced me to cough. At the same time, the Labyrinth tank was still approaching our position. I tried to orient myself a little bit. There it was again, the light. Confidently, I stretched my rod up and black flashes crackled at the pearl in the bar frame. "Dark Magic Attack!" The labyrinth tank in front of me must have suffered the same fate as Jirai Gumo. With a sizzling sound something cracked and I gave myself to the next coughing fit. They could have saved themselves, virtual reality back and forth. I briefly wondered what would happen if you suffocated in here when I realized that I couldn't feel Joey's back on me anymore. Panicked, I turned around and could see my friend strapping his sword on his back.

I didn't recognize this Joey at all, or hardly. He didn't even seem to have gotten out of the concept. "Everything about you?" I nodded in a wheezing, before the flame-sword fighter pulled me into the aisle from which his opponent had come.
"W-Why not the different way, Joey?" He just muttered something quietly and pulled me behind him.

After a short time I was able to walk again somewhat myself, and the smoke had subsided. Silently, I followed my friend, who stopped in front of a piece of wall. We had reached a dead end. I expected Joey and I to return. But the blond-haired swordsman didn't even think about it. Instead, he began knocking down the walls. "Joey? Shouldn't we turn around?" My friend shook his head slightly when I asked. "Purposeless. The labyrinth is changing. It has to go on here." It was on my tongue to ask how Joey knew that we couldn't go back when I had to partially agree with his presumption.

"Look at it, Joey, the wall next to me." I pointed to the polished stone wall next to me. Very thin cracks could be seen on the surface. Flameswordmen-Joey inspected the wall next to me in detail. "Votes. Then let's go."

With a jerk, the virtual warrior pulled his weapon and embraced it with both hands. I could feel this unpleasant heat again, which bored through my armor. How Joey could withstand this up close was a mystery to me. A swirl of flames danced along the sword blade, like a huge orange-red snake, which bites itself into the tail at the end. With enormous force, Joey began to hit the wall. After a short time, his action already showed the first effect: the masonry began to crumble. The hot blade devoured itself into the rock and slowly crushed it. An estimated ten minutes later, Joey had created a pass for us.

"You see me impressed, and that rarely happens to me." How did he know where to look? If I really drew the conclusion, then the pass had to be in a different place with each new game run. "Little thing, come on. I bet Kaiba was hiding a secret somewhere." Carefully I climbed behind Joey through the opening. The scraping of stone to stone behind me revealed that we were forced to move on. For safety reasons, I turned around and scanned the repaired wall. The cracks had disappeared, as was the opening.

"The walls have changed again. There is no way through now. Help me." I looked at Joey, who was standing in front of a cell door. Through the lattice bars I could see something glowing. Wordlessly, my friend raised the weapon over his head again and slammed it on the door with full force – nothing happened. He repeated the same game with his heated flame blade. Several attempts later, Joey finally gave up. "No chance. I think we need a key." For my part, I have now looked at the door more closely.

"Not necessarily, Joey. Look." In my execution, I pointed to the hinges. 'That's useless David. If I can't get through with my flame blade, you can't enter the door." I knelt down and groped the cell door a little bit. "Raw violence is not always the best solution. Help me." I checked my staff. The material was feather-light and yet looked so robust. I suspected a special metal or something like that. Who in the virtual world would give in to such quirks as the composition of their weapon?

"Slide your sword with the wide side through the lower opening of the grid." I did the same with my staff on the right. Joey's face brightened and was finally filled with a broad grin: "You want to unlock the door, don't you?" My nod earned me an appreciative smile from my teammate.

"Okay, I count to three, then we lift the thing. Ready? One, two, three!" At the same time, we put pressure on the ends of our weapons. Exploiting the leverage, the door actually slipped out of its hinges. With a loud clatter, the piece of metal fell on the hard-stone floor. Our efforts were actually rewarded. In the left corner of the room, something was glittering in front of him. "Get yourself. You deserve it." Joey nodded in the direction of the supposed secret.

"No. Think about it. You have already roasted two of your support cards because of me. Take it." A brief, entered silence followed before Joey approached the secret and examined it. A spinning Duel Monsters map was surrounded by a silvery glow. "Cool, I can choose a magic card." At least for something I was using, it went through my head. "Which support cards did you actually choose?" Admittedly, I was a little surprised by the question.

"Hm? As a spell card, the Dragon Claws, as a Trap Card undo attack, and as a Monster Card..." I couldn't finish my sentence, so Joey said to me, "The Red-Eyed Black Dragon." He drew this conclusion with such determination that I shook my head in amazement.

"No? I thought you were going to pick him?" The helmeted head slanted a little: "Do I have, but what did you choose?" I smiled narrowly: "I actually wanted to push your Red-Eye so that we have an outstanding companion monster with us. I have the Summoned Skull." Joey's face brightened to my confusion. "Then decision is simple." His grin was almost a little scary.

"Is she? Why?" The Flameswordsmen made only a throwaway hand movement: "You'll see that later. Let's go." Wordless, but curious, with some questions on my tongue, I followed Joey along the narrow aisle until we could see a bright light. Finally- the exit.

Chapter Text

I was happy too soon. Joey and I stood in a large, circular room. The walls were made of dark stone. A sea of torches illuminated the area we were in. Again, the marble was, I assumed at least that it was marble, so polished and polished that it threw back the light of the flames. Overall, it was almost a little unpleasant to stare directly into the brightness. In front of us, a huge, handleless door had been carved into the stone. Above the passage into the supposed freedom were three characters, each circular and arranged in a perfect triangle to each other.

"What does this mean?" I pointed my index finger at the strange words above the door. Despite all the effort, I could not read the signs. I doubted that they were Japanese characters at all.

"Let's hope they're not what I think they are." Joey took a deep breath and inspected the room in detail. Arriving at the door, he carefully knocked them off. The characters glowed from the very first touch. A multitude of voices seemed to speak at the same time: "Whoever wants to go through the gate to freedom must answer!" Joey sighed softly and returned to me, looking at the characters in more detail.

"The tests are difficult, but the solutions are fair. Be righteous and wise, trust your ingenuity and courage." For my part, I was fascinated and thrilled. Finally, nothing to fight for!

"We probably lost." My teammate sounded a little dejected. When he noticed my questioning gaze, he clarified his statement: "This has nothing to do with skill, or skill. These are usually such cunning questions, and especially when they are already asked in such disgusting rhymes." Joey's sigh echoed in the large room.

"Quite quiet Joey, let's just try, right? You said earlier to not give up. Besides, I'm not bad at things like that. In the worst case, we simply failed, but at least with the knowledge that we tried. Your words." I had to smile as Joey nodded at me with a smile. It's a great feeling to be able to motivate him.

"Well, we'll face the questions!" My friend's voice was as confident as ever. I stood next to Joey and folded my arms in front of my chest. From the corners of my eyes, I could see him looking down at me for a moment. When I wanted to make eye contact, he quickly turned away and concentrated on the door in front of us. Had I done anything wrong again?

The voices did not let me continue my thoughts, because we were already asked the first question: "In the community I am strong and firm, alone a weak child gives me the rest. What am I?"

Joey mumbled after the words had faded: "That's where it starts. Who knows?" I smiled narrowly and looked up at the signs. "You're the link of a chain, aren't you?"

For a few moments there was silence, then the strange words glowed again: "Right. A chain link alone is useless; many can hold even the heaviest loads."

My answer was rewarded by a euphoric Joey who patted me on the shoulder. "Respect, really. So fast, above all. I think we've got a real chance.'

Triumphantly, I nodded and waited for the second question.

"If you don't see, you see me. But when you see me, you don't see me. What am I?"

Admittedly, this was a little more difficult. My grandma always entertained me with such riddle rhymes as a child. The solutions were often very simple, and I had heard many. He also seemed familiar to me, but I did not want to think of the answer immediately.

"Do you have a clue?" Joey looked at me for help.

"Hm, I think the answer is very banal. Maybe even hidden in the room?" I let my gaze wander, which could not see anything unusual, except the torches and the dark marble, which was illuminated by the glow of the fire. Fire. Dark. Bright. Of course! The solution was indeed trivial.

"You are the darkness. If it is so dark that you don't see anything, you will see you. But if it is bright, and you can see something, you are gone!" The signs glowed again.

"Born out of love, I wrestle them down through iron blows. I am a creeping poison that all too often mixes with excessive passion. The wrong ones often fall victim to me, although love is even purer than with you."

I had never heard this rhyme before. Dozens of words shot through my head, all inappropriate. Greed, hatred, anger, desire, revenge – none really wanted to fit.

"An idea?" I shook my head discreetly when asked from Joey.

"The words that come to mind don't fit. Those who love are not greedy. Hatred can be born out of love, but doesn't usually seem creeping. Anger just as much. Revenge is fast, usually at least." I tapped my chin thoughtfully. What was born of love, but creeping, and it also catches the wrong ones? What was meant with passion? But desire? But desire has never been a sign of purity. Unconsciously, I set myself in motion and walked away from the room. Joey stayed in place, looking at me.

"Tristan's first love always liked this shit. Once he tried to impress her with such a rhyme, but then he was fully entrenched with it. Something with a coffin, or something, was the solution. The guy next to her then laughed and Tristan was totally jealous because he solved it right away. She was totally back and forth from the guy, he thought at least. It was just her big brother." After the little anecdote, I paused and stared at the signs. That was it!

"Joey you are a genius! I know the solution now!" Laughing, I slapped my flat hand against the helmeted forehead. "Of course, quite simply. Jealousy! It is born of love, because those who love are often jealous. It also often hits the wrong people. Jealousy can be seen as excessive passion. It often manifests itself in a creeping way."

Again, the signs glowed and Joey confidently raised his fist. "Yes! We're through!"

I had to smile involuntarily. Beneath the rough surface of the Flameswordsmen, the leader whom Joey mimed, was still his old, carefree self. I liked this I so much. He seemed almost a little childish.

"Yes, jealousy has often hit close friends and relatives. That is the final question. If you answer them correctly, you will come to the end, but if you speak wrongly, your defeat will fill entire books.

Joey lowered his hand and pushed his lower lip forward. "What's the shit supposed to do? There are three signs and we have answered three questions correctly. Let's get out!" I amusedly raised the corners of my mouth.

"I am black, he is white, both throats are infinitely hot. He loves me, I love him, we are both an unbeatable team. Back to back we fight until at the end of one of them the other is crushed like an animal. Strong and weak, big and small, the white of us will be the winner. Who am I?" I sighed with relief. This riddle was actually a bottomless naughtiness. Without special knowledge, it was impossible to guess the solution.

"You are Red Eyes Black Dragon!" The signs glowed again.

"That's wrong! I'm a brother! It was just a parable! Your failure will now mean your end and the Guardian will herald your next existence!"

The ground around us began to vibrate and shake, barely that the voices had ended. I stared at the three signs that detached from the wall. "Forces of Thunder, Water and Wind, Sanga, Suga and Juga begin – the Gate Guardian appears, will destroy you, and remove from any stories!"

I swallowed heavily when the three characters began to rotate. One was encased in yellow flashes, the second was surrounded by wind pants and the third was surrounded in a vortex of water.

"Joey? What is it?" Slowly I backed down until I arrived next to my friend.

"The Gate Guardan. One of the strongest monsters in Duel Monsters. We have no chance on our own." As Joey spoke, the three characters pushed each other and their respective elements bonded. From an interplay of thunder, water and wind, the gatekeeper peeled himself, staring grimly at us. He clenched his claw-shaped right hand briefly to his fist, only to get out of it. Joey pushed me aside and grabbed the monster's arm with his chain bump.

"Don't touch. The thing is far too stro..." With a jerk, the gatekeeper broke the chain and pulled out. Joey was thrown through the room in a high arc and landed a piece next to me. Climbing his sword slipped over the marble floor and hit the wall.

"Joey! " In one sentence, I was with my friend, who was screamingloudly. His eyes got bigger and I quickly understood why. Behind me, a deafening roar rang out, followed by a loud roar of thunder. Sanga and Juga, the elements of thunder and wind, joined forces and fired a thunderball at us. Joey tried to push me aside, but I resisted. This time he wouldn't have to pay because of my stupidity. At least not yet.

"Cancel attack!" In front of me appeared an energy field consisting of red and white rings. This absorbed the goalkeeper's attack and sent the Thunder ball to the next dimension. Shortly, the monster stretched a little up and slanted the supposed head. Then water bubbled out of Suga's mouth and quickly flooded the room. Now I panicked. I was a miserable swimmer and wouldn't be able to keep myself afloat for long. There was also Joey, whom I was supposed to save from virtual drowning. Suddenly I could feel something around my hip. A look down revealed that Joey had put his right arm around me. The water was already up to our knees.

"Don't worry, I'm got you. Time to kick the idiot in the butt!" Strangely, I relaxed in Joey's arm. I hated water, apart from showering or drinking. As a little boy I had once fallen into the nearby creek and almost drowned. Since then, I have avoided being in the water. I leaned my head against his chest and closed my eyes. If the situation had not been so grotesque, I would undoubtedly have enjoyed it. But, wait a second, why? That wasn't right, wasn't it?

"We need something really strong to defeat the Gate Guardian. I know how, but I need your help, David. Teamwork?"

My support? I opened my eyes again and noticed Joey holding us both afloat. For my part, I didn't have any solid ground under my feet, and I doubted it was different with Joey. Someone or something must have closed the gate behind us through which we had entered the room. How else could the water have accumulated?

"Hm? Is the Red Eyes Black Dragon with the Dragon Claws strong enough to turn off the gatekeeper?" What was going on with me? I felt such a tingle again at the point where Joey touched me. I couldn't feel his fingers through the armor, but the performance alone was enough to make my heart tap faster. Or had I gradually panicked again?

'No, he's not. But we have something stronger in our hands. Summon your Summoned Skull and watch." Joey was completely calm. Somehow it even seemed as if he was happy. Funny. Was he going through now? In any case, I wanted to fulfill his wish.

"Okay, then – Summoned Skull, come forth!" In fact, just seconds later, a skeleton-like, horned figure appeared above us, hovering. The arms, legs and chest as well as the face had been interspersed with muscles. Meat, like an ordinary person, was completely missing. The fingers were actually claws and a pair of wings spread out behind the monster.

"Fabulous. Just like back then. Red Eyes Black Dragon!" Next to the Summoned Skull, my favorite monster appeared. Both hovered over us, side by side, looking at the gatekeeper. He paid no attention to our companions. He was probably too focused to drown us. Why didn't the thing attack again? Was he afraid I could still have an attack cancel card?

"I'm now playing my Fusion magic card and combine my Red-Eye with David's Summoned Skull to call the Black Skull Dragon!"

What? A vortex appeared in front of us and sucked both monsters into it. Before my eyes, our creatures merged into a single, huge monster. The Red Eyes Black Dragon black armor plates were crossed by the bones and purple muscle flesh of the Summoned Skull. The horns grew inwards and were replaced by curved, downward-running tips. Although it should have been repulsive, with greenish grey flesh, a huge, tooth-reinforced mouth and these bat-like wings on the back, I liked mine, no, our monster, but very much. He was a product of our team and reminded me strongly of my red-eye, but seemed more powerful, more imposing. Unlike Kaiba's White Dragons, I didn't fear him either.

"Put your dragon claws on it and then it's over." Joey ripped me out of my mind.

"I'm using my magic card, Dragon Claws, to strengthen our Black Skull Dragon!" Faster than I could think, I had already used the support card more personally. With a smile on my lips, I watch the Black Skull Dragon miss two metal claws. His mighty roar was more imposing and terrifying than that of the Red Eyes Black dragon, but I wasn't afraid. I actually enjoyed it. That was our monster, and it would bring the gatekeeper to its knees. I also suspected that the Black Skull Dragon was stronger than my Dark Magician. This allowed me to look at the most powerful monster in my deck.

"Okay, you have to trust me now. Open your eyes and take a deep breath. Black Skull Dragon - Melted Inferno Fireball!"

Before I could react, Joey pushed us under the surface of the water. Panicked, I struggled for air and clutched his arm. I started fidgeting and writhe. A loud bang could be heard above us, which even caused the water to shake. I was still searching for air. My lungs filled with fluid and I felt like I was drowning again. My movements became weaker, slower. That's it. As a child, so hopeless. But that wasn't quite true. I drowned in the arms of my friend, my best friend. Strangely enough, I even had to smile. Silently, I breathed Joey's name into the cool wet that surrounded us before it turned black around me.

Chapter Text

I woke up again in an extremely soft and comfortable bed. As a first thought, a new hospital stay shot through my head. What had actually happened? I remembered the game, the gatekeeper, the Black Skull Dragon, and Joey holding me tightly in his arms. Joey! Suddenly I was squatting in bed. I wasn't in the hospital, that much was already clear. Apart from the hospital rooms in Japan, it had changed abruptly in just over two weeks and I had become a class patient. But that was not the case; I recognized the guest room of the Kaiba estate, where I had stayed last time. I even wore the same pyjamas as I did then. How did I get here? But much more important was the question of what was with Joey. Panicked, I looked around the room. Had nothing happened to him? How did he fare? Did he have a blackout like me?
I quickly found what I was looking for. Joey sat next to me, on a chair, arms crossed in front of his chest. He was obviously dozing. Sighing, I let myself sink back into bed. Good luck.

Suddenly my blonde friend was a little excited and yawned extensively. When his gaze fell on me, he suddenly seemed awake: "David! All okay with you?" I slanted my head and then nodded weakly.

"Yes, I think so. What happened?" Joey got up and poured a black liquid into a glass that was next to my bed. "You fainted. I carried you outside, so into the exit, then the level was over. In reality, however, it also somehow devoured you. You're folded up. The doctor thought it was a kind of psychosomatic shock or something. The confrontation with Jirai Gumo, then the confrontation with the water."

Joey gently put his fingers under my chin and lifted it up a little so I could drink decently. Greedily, I moistened my dry throat with cool lemon iced ice. "They are now tightening the warnings on the game boxes, and before VR can go into series production, they will reconsider the mechanics. We were very worried, Mokuba and I." Slowly my friend put the half-full glass down and put it on the table next to us.

"Mh, Joey, I'm so sorry. We couldn't even finish the session properly. I have already disappointed you again. I've been completely wrong with the puzzle." I guilt-consciously lowered my gaze. That really gnawed at me. Then there's the shame of being folded away like a fear bunny. Gradually he would probably have the muzzle painted full of me. I wasn't reliable, not at all, on the contrary: until now I had only seriously disappointed Joey and Co. They had to think anyway that I had a bike off. To collapse twice in a month somewhere, that was unusual and especially annoying for the environment. I wasn't an old man, on the contrary: I was actually vital and sporty. I was also doing well, at least in my opinion. But such virtual monsters could bring me to my knees.
A loud sigh sprang out of my throat: "Joey? I understand it when you, Yugi, Tristan, Bakura, Tea and Duke have the muzzle full. I'm just giving you trouble, especially you.'

"David? Look at me." I did not want to respond to this request. His dejected expression would give me the rest. The deer-brown eyes, which had been so beautiful to look at in the glow of the torches, were interspersed with disappointment and dislike. My chin was gently pushed upwards again. Joey actually seemed disappointed and kind of sad. I tried to break out of his grip in shame, but he was able to prevent it with gentle force.

"David, we've only known you for over a month. You dueled with Seto Kaiba on the first day and did well. You took Mokuba's heart by storm, helped me in English, hanged out with us, and so on. We all like you as you are, with all the nooks and crannies that we know few of so far. But we don't care, believe me. You were very brave when you destroyed Jirai Gumo. But I've already told you that. You also solved the puzzles quite simply; the last one was artist's pitch. I couldn't even get one over the stage, in the triple time." His voice sounded a little brittle. Disappointment or dislike, however, was not apparent.

"Why do you sound so weird, Joey?" I slanted my head a little bit, and finally he let me go. As soon as his hand left my chin, I already missed the feeling of his fingers on my skin. Something was completely wrong with me. Or with Joey? With both of us?

"Because it doesn't seem to go into your thick skull, that you are a wonderful friend, and we like to have you around us. Your jokes, your dry humour, your helpfulness. David, we're glad you're part of our group, really. Everyone likes you, we, Mokuba, Yugi's grandfather, the teachers; do you think everyone is lying to you? If I'm honest, it hurts me that you think so of us. No, it hurts us."

There is no doubt that I had a knack for denying the obvious. "Let's go, say something, do something! Do you want him to disappear, sad and hurt?"
Who or what was this voice? My conscience couldn't be, that would probably use my own familiar tone vibration. Or? Hesitantly, I reached for Joey's hand and placed it between my two palms. Of course, I couldn't embed them - he was bigger than me, and had also missed the bigger extremities, but I could at least try. Why did I do this? In hindsight, I would call it instinct. Joey, at least, looked at me a little surprised.

"Joey? I'm sorry I'm such a donkey, especially to you. At the time, I had a shot to tell you about my visit to Mokuba, or about Kaiba's offer with the dubbing. So far, you have always kept to me, just like the rest. You've always come to the hospital, you've visited me, you've been at school. What do I do? Talking some shit that obviously doesn't correspond to the truth. I am damn grateful that you are my friends. Hang out with you and Tristan in the arcade hall, cheer Tea dancing, chat with Bakura and Yugi about Duel Monsters and Egypt, or just pretend I've figured out how Dungeon Dice Monsters is going when Duke wants to explain the rules to me; I appreciate that. I wouldn't want to miss a second, even today."

I gently pressed Joey's warm hand before continuing: "I was really scared of pagans twice today. Once the spider, then that with the drowning. As a little boy, when I was five or six years old, I fell into the nearby creek while playing. I hate the feeling of being underwater. I also swim badly. Today, however, it was different. When you put your arm around me, I felt safe, safe. Until I dived, I was calm err and quiet as never before. Then I was really panicking. On the other hand, I didn't think it was so bad, because, you were with me, and I trust you blindly from now on, promised?" Joey's facial features became so infinitely soft and gentle when I finished speaking. Smiling, he pressed my right hand, which was down.

"That's what I wanted to hear, Champ. I'm proud of you, all of us actually. Mokuba, by the way; he wanted to have the game canceled for quite a while before, out of concern for you. Until recently he was also here and waited with me until you woke up. Tomorrow, maybe you should calm him down a little at breakfast and make it clear to him that it was your decision to continue."

I nodded slightly and smiled narrowly. "Okay, then we'll keep it that way. Who actually moved me?" I didn't really like it when someone was fumbling around me, unless the person was particularly close to me. Accordingly, I was concerned about the thought that someone wild stranger had taken me out. My belongings had been placed on the floor next to my bed side, neatly folded.

"That was me, and before you ask: No, I didn't touch anything under the belt. You wear the same boxer shorts as before our test out. The doctor also said you should rest today. I'll leave you alone so you can sleep, okay?" Joey wanted to get up, but I kept him unconscious. My hands were still around his. Questioning, my friend stared at our hands first, then at me. After a short time, the bigger of us slanted his head.

"Joey? Would it be okay if you stayed here today, so if you stayed here today? It's certainly late, and besides, I don't get that out of the skull with the spider. When I'm alone, I feel like something like a crap animal crawls around somewhere, and then I can't sleep. I know it's a lot of...

Joey's index finger sealed my lips. Smiling, he shook his head. "What have we just discussed? Of course I will sleep here. I just move and brush my teeth. Don't get too wide, okay?"

So I let go of Joey, who disappeared into the bathroom next door. That with arachnophobia had been only half the truth. Something in me wanted him around. If it hadn't been so silly, and if I had ever felt such a tendency, the most obvious thought would have been that I would have got caught up in Joey. But that was impossible. On the one hand I liked girls, on the other hand I had been raised by my parents strictly religiously, with the influence of my grandparents. I wasn't homophobic or anything like that, not at all, but certainly not gay either. Something was not quite right, however; the situation was weird. It was impossible to put them into words.

Joey came back from the bathroom. Except for a short black track pants, he was completely naked. In the light of the moon, which shimmered through the window panes, the muscles of his torso were visible. That was the first time I saw Joey like that. The veins on his forearms and biceps stood out due to his light skin. Between the pectoral muscles rested a narrow, thin necklace with a golden pendant in the shape of a heart. Joey also had a much more pronounced six-pack than me. His calves also had these veins. Overall, he was certainly to be described as a forbidden pretty boy. I regretted a little that I was denied the view of the end of the V-shaped, trained pelvic area by the black training pants. I shook my head and stared at the ceiling. What a thought. He was a close friend, nothing more. Luckily, Joey didn't seem to have noticed my reaction, as he threw himself into bed without further comment and crawled under the blanket.

"Good night, David, if what is, wake me up, yes? Mokuba will pull us out of our feathers tomorrow, for sure." With this, the blond-haired man was already dozing away, or he could very well mime a sleeping person. His chest lifted and lowered evenly. Joey's breath was quiet. The sight of my sleeping friend was really biting. His mouth was a little open and caught me smiling involuntarily and getting a little closer to him. Would he wake up if I touched him?

"Hold the edge and finally get sleep." I roughly tore my strap and listened to my bad conscience. That was certainly my inner voice, because I knew it well, better than the other. I turned my back on Joey and pulled the blanket to my chin. If this continued, I wasn't so sure if I felt more for Joey than just friendship. Unthinkingly, I fell asleep exhausted.

Chapter Text

Contrary to Joey's prediction, I woke up before Mokuba could wake us up. The look at the digital alarm clock next to me revealed that it was only six o'clock. Accordingly, it was still dark or dull outside. I was still able to examine my sleeping friend closely. In his sleep he had probably freed himself from the ceiling and let me look at his body in detail. This time not just fleeting and crude. Something in me stirred at Joey's sight.

I had to face the urge to remove a stray strand of hair from his face. He was so peaceful - I couldn't get enough of this picture. His longing, wiry figure, the pectoral muscles, the six-pack, the wide, defined shoulder blades. If I had been a girl, I would have done everything I could to get a date with him. My gaze wandered along his body and stopped just above the hip area. The training pants had slipped a little. Yesterday's distinctive, trained V was even more evident. How unfortunate that I didn't see it anymore. I shook my head vigorously and tried to turn my thoughts into another direction.
My eyes wandered to Joey's face and became entangled in his lips. He had opened his mouth again only one gap wide. Annoyed, I bit my lower lip. Why did I suddenly long to kiss him? His soft, delicate lips can be felt on mine. Quietly sighing, I let myself sink back into the pillow and closed my eyes. That was not normal, I became aware of that at that moment. That didn't really suit me at all. I wanted to have children, at least one, a pretty girl as a girlfriend, a big house, a good job, a family. I never thought I wanted to do the same with a boy. What would my parents say? My grandparents? First of all, what would Joey say?
Slowly I opened my eyes again and looked over to Joey. He was still asleep deep and tight. He even sabbed a little on his shoulder. I gently stroked my index finger over the saliva thread, which had formed between his mouth and the shoulder blade. My heart pounded to my neck. I was afraid that he would wake up from it. My chest was in danger of breaking. Should I continue? Touching him? Again, I bit my lips. Maybe I would stop thinking like that if I ventured on? Could dislike arise? It was a big risk, but on the other hand it almost made me mad to be next to him. With trembling fingers, I touched Joey's neck bend.

His skin was so infinitely soft and delicate. Slowly I stroked across his chin, cheek along and removed the disturbing strands of hair from his face with a soft smile on my lips. He rarely seemed as peaceful, as carefree as he is now. Even though I liked his chaotic, warm-hearted manner, sometimes I felt like he was playing us something, wearing a mask. But this was the real Joey. Carefully, I put my hand on his forehead and stroked my thumb over it. What was going on with him? Did I worry too much? A head where no one was needed? I had never come to ask Tristan why Joey had blocked so much about his home. Was that what weighed on him? Dispute with his father? Was the apartment so dilapidated that he was ashamed to invite friends? The blonde-haired man shrugged briefly and rattled, only to continue to sleep quietly. Good luck; My heart had just slipped into my pants. How should I explain to him what I was doing? But I couldn't stop either.

Tenderly, I stroked his arm, over the hard, trained biceps, the defined forearm, until I reached his hand. Gently I draped mine on his, and had to smile involuntarily. It was such a nice feeling to be so close to Joey. Was that love? If you stopped your brain for touching someone? Could love be wrong? Especially if it felt like that?

Quietly sighing, I released my hand from his own. Sleeping was no longer to be thought of anyway. In hindsight, I make a fool of myself asking Joey to sleep with me. That robbed me of the last nerve, at least now that I was reasonably rested. Instead, my gaze fell on a square something that was to my right on the bedside table. I tried quietly to reach for it. It was hard and felt like a booklet or a folder. I pulled the object into the moonlight and recognized an ordinary ring block, provided with cardboard. Great was to read "Joey Wheeler". Should I take a look inside? Drew Joey? Did he write? Thousands of questions shot through my head, sometimes mixed with the wildest theses. Maybe it was even his diary? Curiosity eventually overwhelmed me; with pointed fingers I scrolled through the individual pages.

First of all, I marveled at a pencil drawing, which was more than just exactly elaborated. Yugi and Bakura grinned at me, everyone as if he were just in front of me. Both had put their arms around their shoulders and gleamed. For me, who was graphically completely untalented, the drawing had a corresponding effect.

The next page adorned Tristan on his bike as he just jumped over some tires. The motorcycle, Tristan in his suit and helmet, even the boards of the ski jumps – the moment had been perfectly captured. Joey had extraordinary talent in my eyes. I had never noticed this in art lessons – there my friend was usually just scribbled around on his paper without any desire.

Tea dancing, Duke as he just threw two dice, then Kaiba, who stood smiling behind Mokuba (at least that must have come from a pure fantasy of Joey – I had never seen Kaiba smile), the whole gimpink in front of a Christmas tree; each individual page had a detailed scene, neatly worked out and despite the lack of colors, the picture burned into my mind. I was even given a glimpse of Joey's little sister Serenity.

The drawing revealed a girl of just over 15, at most 16 years old, with shoulder-length hair and a sugar-sweet smile. The same smile That I liked about Joey. Her eyes were half closed, but I suspected that she had inherited her brother's iris color. Overall an extremely pretty and sweet girl. At home, I would certainly have invited her for a coffee. Could she draw as well as Joey? Lost in my mind, I scrolled through the next scenes until I reached one, which completely captivated me.

On one side stood Kaiba, in the school uniform of Domino High. He had a duel disk on his arm. This confident, amused grin on his features – Joey had captured that perfectly. His gaze was as stinging as it was real. In front of him, a Blue Eyes White Dragon. The sheds broke the light of the sun and threw it back. The dragon's claws were spread, as were his wings. A white flash of light was already growing in the tooth-reinforced mouth. I remembered the scene well, because I had experienced it myself. My focus was on the other figure that Kaiba faced. It was smaller than him, but wore exactly the same uniform. Two buttons were open at the collar at the top and bared a shirt with a familiar logo: two bows that intertwined – exactly the shirts I wore.

In fact, Joey had drawn me! My graphic counterfeit also had a Duel Disk on his arm. Even the veins on the back of my hand were visible. The uniform flickered a little in the wind, which ripped my hair apart. The scene seemed even more real than the previous ones. He had captured everything on me, the pattern of my sneakers, how I bent my fingers, the one strand of hair that I never got completely smoothed... In front of my drawn I, the Red Eyes Black Dragon piled up. Unlike his white counterpart, my monster's scale slabs swallowed the sunlight and stopped giving it away. Both dragons were the same size, had taken the same attitude – even the power up of the dragon claws had been thought of. An energy ball also flashed in my protector's mouth. Madness!

The next drawing was also about me. I had my mouth open, while a stranger's hand gave me rice with two chopsticks. The scene in the hospital. I looked at my face: some scrapes could be seen. My hair was uncombed and the tips covered the mole on my right forehead. Did I really look so happy? In the picture I literally beamed. I had only known Joey and Co for half a day. Or was it a whole? Lost in my mind, I flipped over.

On paper, Joey and I, he as a Flameswordmen, me as a Dark Magician. We both had taken off our helmets; our hair looked ragged and messy. Our weapons were also completely missing. Instead, Joey held me in his arms. Apparently, I snuggled up to his chest. My hands were draped on his, resting just above my belly. I bent my fingers a little bit and it looked like I was stroking over Joey's back of the hand. My friend looked down at me from above, his chin bedded on the back of my head. He smiled happily; his eyes half closed. For my part, I had his head pressed against him and replied with a smile. Our gaze crossed clearly.

There was still something to be seen about the two figures. It took me a few moments to realize what he had painted: two dragons. One of them was clearly the Black Skull Dragon, the other the Red Eyes Black Dragon. Both touched each other with a wing, which formed a heart in the interplay.

I caught myself pointing my fingers over the picture. What was going on with me, with us? Why had Joey drawn this? We both seemed so happy, so free. Just him, this honest flash in his eyes. Slowly my gaze wandered over to my friend, who had turned to me. His cheek was on his hands and he was dozing peacefully. Should I wake him up? Joey? Did he feel that way? Would he get angry because I was sniffing around in his block? Wouldn't it be better to talk to Tristan first? He was, after all, his best friend. Or with Yugi? On the other hand, how would they react? Brain-spinning? False hopes? I was totally unsure at that moment. The drawing was clear, in my view at least. Could you get something like that in the wrong neck? Why did he say nothing? Was Joey shy? I honestly couldn't imagine that.

Quietly, I put the block back to its previous position and let me sink into bed. I rubbed my eyes. Why was it all so complicated? Why did I feel that way? In the last hour, I had only struggled with questions to which I would not receive an answer anyway. In silence, I decided to take Tristan aside. He was Joey's best friend and would certainly calm me down. I liked Tris. He was a little quieter, more organized than Joey, but just when it came to the gamble, he was in no way inferior to his blonde counterpart.

Just when I was trying to doze away again, someone ripped open the door. An unpleasant pressure on my belly, in combination with a shrill "Get up! Good morning" made me groan inwardly. Mokuba really had a talent when it came to unfavorable times. Joey seemed to think the same way, because unlike me, he moaned audibly.

"Man, Mokuba, how many times have I told you that an alarm clock is enough. You don't have to do waking me up yourself." With a broad grin, the little one threw himself over me and Joey, making a movement difficult to impossible.

"You're such a morning muffle Joey! How are you David? All okay? Have you slept well?"

Sighing, I answered each of his questions. Within five minutes, both Joey and I were awake. Together we got rid of the little troublemaker by rolling it into the blanket and then making ourselves grinning fresh. Should he fight his way free on his own! Minutes later, after brushing and dressing teeth, our bed was orphaned. Mokuba had probably already gone for breakfast

"Well then we want to." Joey nodded down with a grin. I watched him casually grab his block and throw it into his school bag. "Are you not hungry, or what?" Should I say something? No, right?

"Of course, hunger like a wolf. Let's hurry before Mokuba plasters everything on his own." Giggling, we headed towards the dining room.

Chapter Text

The board had again been richly covered, as it was last time. Three throne-like chairs had been pushed together. I grabbed a whole meal toast and covered it with honey, while Mokuba and Joey talked about our session yesterday. Kaiba was nowhere to be seen. He had probably already retired to the company, or was otherwise somehow busy. Mokuba ripped me out of my mind.

"Hey David? How do you feel? We were very worried yesterday when you collapsed outside. The doctor said you couldn't have come to terms with two shock experiences in a row."

I quickly swallowed my bite of toast and then rattled me. "Yes, all right. Don't worry, Mokuba." It was on my tongue that he could have switched off earlier, but why should I blame him unnecessarily? Everything had gone well again, so I had a look at Joey's drawings. Overall, the evening had been productive. Today I would claw Tristan.

“Sure? So, if you say it, okay. But it was quite good that this happened to you yesterday, so we can put some hints in it and consider whether we will not delete one or the other monster card after all."

I nodded absently and bit off my toast again. How should I do this with Tristan today? If I really told him that I had been tinkering with Joey's stuff, there was a real chance that his best friend might well get sour. Of course, I would also be barred from drilling, finding out what was going on with Joey. He wasn't strange or unkind, but he was a little strange. He had shunned our eye contact in the game, then looked for it again in reality. I was admittedly confused.

We had breakfast ready, and I spent most of my time busy with myself. Then Joey and I were farewelled by Mokuba, who clutched us as if we would never get to him again. We waved to him from the limousine that took us to school. Our belongings had already been brought into the car as a precaution. I could have gotten used to this service permanently. So, Joey and I were taken to school and warmly welcomed by our friends. We talked about the session the previous day, Duel Monsters, the sell-out in a shop nearby (where Tea desperately wanted to go), and other trivialities.

When school ended at about 4 p.m., I was consciously comforted. Tristan and Joey were just doing their things together under my watchful gaze when someone slapped the table with their flat hand.

"Well? Where are we spiritual today?" Tea beamed towards me. I was breathing in a calm era. She didn't seem to have noticed anything. Or did she? Female intuition could expose you very often. I had the experience that women had a much better ability to observe than men.

"Mh, sometimes here, sometimes there. What´s the matter?" Tea slanted his head a little: "Do you want to go shopping with me today? I still need a strong carrier, and someone to advise me on the selection. The guys are all a little bit, let's call it useless." I didn't really have a buck on that. Mentally, I saw myself as a pack donkey loaded behind Tea, my face buried between a mountain of bags and bags.

"Well, well, why not?" I had an idea. The only female person in the round would surely have noticed changes to Joey. In addition, Tea had her nose stuck in almost every stuff. She would certainly understand my curiosity more than Tristan. Especially if Joey was really gay, he would probably talk to her rather than his best friend, a boy. "I'm just putting in my stuff, then we'll go, yes?" Tea rewarded me with a warm smile.

Just over two hours later, I was really mutated into a pack donkey. But it was nowhere near as bad as expected. Tea carefully chose her clothes. In addition to two bags of shoe boxes, I dragged two more with tops and trousers behind her. But we had also found something for me. A compression shirt for physical education (I had shredded my old one at training, it was already five years old), a short beige trousers and a white cardigan.

"Where I look at you, do you actually have a tuxedo?" Tea's question got me out of the concept. Why should I have a tuxedo with me? My own prom was still a year away, and for other ceremonial occasions I had leather trousers and a shirt, which I didn't wear.

"No, why?" I slanted my head and thought tea with a questioning facial expression. What the hell did she want from me? Her ominous grin did not bode well.

"In a good 14 days, the prom is the higher classes. Besides, you will need one for the christmas ball anyway. Come along, no rebuttal! I know exactly where we get something for you!"

Prom, christmas ball? What? I just wanted to answer when Tea pulled me behind her. With difficulty I was able to keep the purchased utensils with me. The last time she was so energetic was at the dance competition in the shopping centre. We stopped in front of a small shop, which, fittingly, had been provided with a needle and thread on the advertisement. The display included tuxedos, dresses, bridal fashion and so on. A loud ringing when the door was opened made our entrance clear.

A young man, in his mid-30s, with short black hair, a white shirt and dark trousers greeted us with joy. Judging by his nature, he already seemed to know Tea. Besides, it wasn't a Japanese, he was more of a southern, I would have typed on Italy or Greece. The dark complexion also didn't really want to fit into the other flair of the people outside.

"Chris, that's David. David, that's Chris Esposito, the tailor of my trust." I nodded briefly at the stranger and then carefully put down the bags. It was only now that I noticed how insanely heavy the boxes were. Chris shook my hand smiling, baring a perfect white dent.

"Chris, we need a tuxedo for David, for prom and Christmas, you know." Tea underscored her movement with a spinning hand gesture. I felt a bit like a coffee trip where you had to buy something.

"Ah yes, well. Do you have any ideas?" Chris looked at me in detail and then pulled out a tape measure from his shirt pocket. Carefully, he began to take my measurements.
"Well, I don't. That was Tea's idea, after all. Maybe just something simple? To borrow?" I had no idea what such a tuxedo would cost, only that they were usually expensive. In addition, I did not want to spend my monthly pocket money on a piece of clothing that I would wear at most twice a year. My phone vibrated, and the sound told me it had to be Joey. I had given him my own text message song.

"May I have a quick look? I think that is important. Besides, Tea decides anyway." Chris nodded at me with a smile and then paid attention to Tea, who already confronted him energetically with her ideas. A glance at my display revealed to me that it was actually a message from the blonde chaot.

"Hey David! All okay with you? Listen, in 14 days is the prom of high school. We go there every year. Would you have bock? There is no need for female accompaniment, I, Yugi, Bakura and Duke don't have a girl with us, and with Tristan we don't believe it until we see it. If you need a tuxedo, we can safely borrow something where."

Interesting. Was this actually planned by the crowd, wasn't it? I couldn't resist a smile when I said, "Ah yes. So that's why Tea cut me. We are currently in a shop for tuxedos. I'm already afraid of trying it out, even more so before the price. But basically, I would like to go. What about the cards?"

Someone gently pressed my phone up, which made me look up. Chris seemed to have a keen interest in the inside of my smartphone case, which had just folded backwards. Inside were my ID card, credit card, library card, e-card and Kaiba´s business card. The latter was examined in detail.

"Where did you get them from? The things are worth a small fortune. Are you on hobnob with Mr. Kaiba?" I was almost tempted to say that at that moment the greed was visible in the eyes of the seller. The yen signs were just missing.

"Not directly. I'm something like the um, carer of his little brother, Mokuba. He actually gave it to me because I'm working as a voice actor for his new game." Silence, then Chris' face brightened.
"You are working on a project by Seto Kaiba? Really?" I nodded vaguely. What did he want? In the background, I could see Tea, who had to stop laughing. What was going on here?

"Interesting. I suggest something to you: you could mention quite casually the next time you are with the Kaibas, or work with them, that you bought your tuxedo here. For that I will grant you a big discount." Was Kaiba really so famous? Above all, why was the guy so keen on it? Then it dawned on me. It was all threaded by Tea. She knew this with the business card, and had certainly incited Joey to write to me at that very moment. What an intelligent girl!

"Of course he does. Let's pick something, Chris. You're waiting here now, David.' With the salesman in tow, Tea disappeared into the back of the store. I couldn't resist a grin. She was smart, she had to be let.

A quarter of an hour later, they both came back, loaded with things that made me feel bad about the price. Chris assured me every time that they were absolutely affordable, of excellent quality, and so on. He really wanted to bring his stuff to the man. I opted for an outfit that James Bond had worn at his best: a white jacket with a white shirt, black bow tie, a white gilet, and black patent shoes. I liked it, although Tea and Chris thought I should definitely choose a black jacket. In the end, I was told to buy both.

When paying, our salesman also kept his word: I was allowed to bleach the fumble for about 300 Euros, which would have cost the pants alone. With a broad grinning Tea and an exuberant Chris in the back, who wished us all the best, and reminded me to point out his shop at Mokuba and Seto, we left the store. Tea drove me to a small café where I ordered a raspberry frappé. My female companion opted for a simple latte macchiato.

"This you have planned finely. I've rarely come to clothes so cheaply. This saves me the purchase of a suit next year."

Tea sipped on her mug with a grin. "Women have a hand for cheap fashion. You're welcome. It's good that Joey played along."
I pulled neatly at the straw of my drink, only to then rattle myself. "You, Tea? You're relatively familiar with the guys. Contrary to Joey's text message, does he have a girlfriend?" Actually, I wanted to start the conversation in a very different way, but the question was squeeled over my lips before I really thought about it.

"No, he didn't. Joey didn't really have a girlfriend yet. Yugi and Duke didn't either. Bakura is a little swarm of girls, and Tristan stands on someone from our class. Why are you asking?" Now I had opened Pandora's box. I didn't like the lurking look of Tea at all.

"Just like that. I'm just curious if I'm the only guy in the round without girls." I still had to work on lying, because it was easy to see through such a blunder. I pulled back at the straw so I didn't have to look at Tea directly.

"Ah yes - I can calm you down. They are all solo. On Valentine's Day he often gets chocolate, but so far, he has never tied up, or even brought a girl into the round." Of course, the rite with home-made chocolate. We didn't have that. "That's why you don't ask, don't you?"

Was I so easy to see through? Should I let the cat out of the bag? Tea would drill anyway until something unexpectedly slipped out of me. "Well, I browsed into Joey's drawing block yesterday. He painted you, Kaiba, then me." That with "us" I pinch myself for the time being right. Tea's reaction would determine my further action.

"Let me guess - not really with his permission, hm?" Her grin made me breathe a sigh of relief. So she understood my curiosity. Sure, it was Tea, after all. I answered her question only with a succinct nod and gradually finished my frappé.

"Well, the sign block is actually a kind of sanctuary. Not even Tristan is allowed to go in there. The question burns on my tongue, what exactly you saw in it, but on the other hand, it is possible that Joey then tears my head off. Did he draw a girl?"

Well, she didn't seem to care about tearing my head off, or she had only noticed it pro forma.

"Well, I think you and his little sister. But nothing more. Yugi and Bakura, Duke, Tristan with his bike, and me in my duel with Kaiba. How is it that he can draw so well? In art classes, you don't really notice anything about it."

Tea put her mug down and put her hands on top of each other. "Joey only draws when something really concerns him. In art, he has a hard time inspiring himself for something. He showed us some sketches a few times. For us, he draws from time to time, but mostly inconsequential things. So relatively inconsequential. The back pages are taboo, especially since he changes the blocks regularly." Tea's eyes flashed mischievously. She had certainly been peppered in Joey's blocks "without permission".

"Should I address to his works? He had left the block on my bedside table. I couldn't sleep anymore, and..." Tea didn't let me finish my sentence at all.

"The curiosity was stronger, hm? It is a sensitive issue. With me, he's completely rested. On the other hand, it's also unusual for Joey to let him lie around openly." My counterpart tapped his chin thoughtfully. "You can say, that you have seen the block? You don't have to tie him directly to his nose that you looked in, right?" That cunning grin – Tea was a sly old dog.

"Well, you're one to me, Tea." I grinned broadly, only to get serious again: "But something else. Do you know why Joey reacted so strangely when I approached him about his apartment?" The grin from Tea's features disappeared instantly. She started playing around with the mug.

"But you don't know it from me, okay? Joey should tell you that himself, but he's too ashamed of it." Now I became audible. What was going on? Did Joey have problems? Something wasn't right. Hastily nodding, I promised Tea to hold my flap.

"Joey's father is an alcoholic. He grew up with it, according to his own statement, it doesn't burden him anymore, but we know him better. You too. Joey said straight away that he can't hide it from you forever after you've talked to each other.' Now I understood.

"What's embarrassing to him? I mean, he can't do anything about it. Besides, where is his mother?" Tea shook her head slightly.

"He's really supposed to explain that to you. Nor are we quite sure, and this is kept silent. We have some guesses, but he doesn't even open up to anyone when it comes to that, not even Tristan."

At the back, she signaled to me that I shouldn't drill any further. Well, I had become a lot smarter now, and yet I was back at the beginning.

We drank and then headed home. I brought Tea's belongings to her and then went to my apartment. On the couch, I remembered that I had forgotten to ask Tea about the medallion around Joey's neck. Should I ask him myself? Sighing, I buried my face in my hands. I was clearly thinking too much.

Chapter Text

I had finally decided against asking Joey about the medallion. It was very private, and I had already sniffed around in his stuff. So, the next few days were relatively uneventful. I continued to synchronize the Dark Magician, also worked on the moves, wrote some lines myself. Overall, I was very satisfied with my work. I was also actively involved in the testing process. So, I was one of the first to play exclusively on the latest game from Kaiba Corporation. Kaiba himself behaved towards me, as he did the rest of the clique around Yugi (to which I now also counted), cool and distant. My growing relationship with Mokuba as his "brother replacement", besides Joey, did not change anything. In any case, it was that, besides the school stress, I almost forgot about the prom.

"Hey David, you didn't forget that tonight is the prom, right?" Joey ripped me out of my thoughts that had just turned around him. He hadn't heard of my nightly "slip", but I was wise enough not to tell him anything about my trip into his artistic world.

"Hm, oh that's today? I don't even have a ticket; I don't think I'm going.' It was just a little too tricky for me. We might have been drinking something, and if I missed the critical point, I might be able to do something stupid.

"We already have it all. I'll pick you up at seven. No rebuttal." Joey's voice had adopted a commanding tone, which I preferred not to contradict. Sighing, I surrendered to my fate – if he meant absolutely.

With a queasy feeling in my stomach, I checked the seat of the fly. Overall, I liked my evening wardrobe extremely well. The jacket was tight, but not uncomfortable. I felt sporty, despite the chic clothes; just like James Bond. The ringing at my door made me distance myself from my final fine-tuning. Handwringingly, I opened for Joey, who grinned at me. He was dressed in a fine black silk shirt, a silver tie, black jeans and sneakers. He casually wore a parka in his right hand.

"Wow, what do you look like? Tea has clearly understated this. I almost feel a little shabby."

I rolled my eyes and punched Joey against the shoulder, only to slip into my shoes and lock them off. I carefully stored the key in my pocket and nodded to my friend. "Stand you, Joey. A number smaller, and you'd rip the shirt while bending." I didn't know why, but I was a little bit like a bloke. Apart from that: Joey should not notice any of my insecurity regarding my feelings.

"Mh, I've probably grown a little bit since last year, or something. Tea said it would be excellent for me. That's how my muscles would come to the fore." Joey grinned broadly and slipped into the parka as he walked. It was only now that I noticed how cold it was outside. "Don't you get too cold, just in a jacket and shirt?" I could hear the worry in my friend's voice. I shook my head in a hurry.

"If I'm too cold, you'll freeze. I've been on the road at zero degrees with shorts, don't worry. How is that going today?"

Joey shoved his hands into the pockets of the parka and raised his shoulders: "Just like a prom. We chat, dance, and so on."

I nodded slightly and put my hands into my pockets. The time until we reached the school, we spent time talking about Duel Monsters. When Joey mentioned that his Flameswordmen and Yugi's Dark Magician had always been a good team, I felt a small stab in the chest. Had it been perhaps just a drawing to express our good cooperation?

There was a lot of activity at the school itself. The big gym was like being replaced. A huge mini-bar with non-alcoholic drinks, the dance floor was well attended, the light dimmed, and a DJ put on atmospheric music. Joey gave up his parka at the dressing room, and then we mingled with the crowd, looking for our friends. After a short time we discovered Tristan, Yugi, Duke and Tea.

"Where did you left Bakura?" I yelled into Yugi's ear. He signaled to me that he was going to be a little offside. Joey and Tristan had gone out to get us drinks. Tea had forced Duke to dance with her.
"It's quieter here. So: Bakura has become ill. He ate something bad. But I shall greet you from him." Yugi smiled awkwardly. The little one in his dark blue suit looked somehow totally alien.

"It's a pity, do we visit him the days?"

My punk friend nodded slightly before shouting: "Tea spoke to me because of Joey and you." Joey and me? I raised my eyebrows in amazement? I had some comments about Tea going through my head, and none of them were particularly nice. Did she really have to involve Yugi?

"Don't be so surprised. Tea is my best friend. Anyway, we'd all be a little grateful if you could examine something." Yugi rubbed his neck and lowered her gaze a little. Excuse me? I should examine? Why? Above all, why hadn't they done this long ago?

"Yugi? Don't you think I'm the wrong person for something like that? You and Tristan, you two are his best friends, not me. You know him longer, and you are certainly more empathetic than I am. How do you even imagine that? He also blocks me."

My interlocutor was just beginning to say something when he paused and closed his mouth again. Next to us, Tristan had appeared, carrying three glasses in which an orange liquid swelled. O-juice, my guess.

"Are you talking to David, Yugi, about our subject?" Tristan held a glass for me and Yugi, which we both accepted thankfully. I decided to let them speak first. Above all, I was curious why I should take care of an obvious secret of Joey.

"Mh, I'm just there." Yugi sipped on his glass. "Maybe you'll explain it to him better?"

Tristan crossed the edge of the glass with his thumb before looking at me: "Joey is an excellent actor, as you may have noticed. Behind the cheerful, friendly facade, he has buried something that is slowly coming to the surface. We suspect it has to do with his father."

I slanted my head a little bit. Questioningly, my gaze shuttled back and forth between Yugi and Tristan. Everyone knew that his father was an Alki, and that he could not always be so cheerful, that also seems logical to me. So, what was going on?

"People, why don't you let the cat out of the bag? We're friends, aren't we? Stop pushing around, I can't have tat." I sipped on my orange juice and folded my arms in front of my chest.

Yugi breathed deeply: "We believe that Joey may be mistreated by his father, or at least has been. Have you never wondered why he didn't want to talk about his home? Why didn't he have a girlfriend? Who visited you the most and the longest in the hospital?"

The story seemed a little abstruse, in my eyes. Their assumptions seemed very baseless, and I personally did not believe that Joey was mistreated. I had not noticed any haematomas or behavioral problems in him. Sure, he was a chaot, but overall, he always came to school, you could rely on him, he did his homework and did regular sports.

"People, seriously: Joey doesn't seem like someone who is being mistreated. It has a very chaotic way, but, otherwise... He seems to be actively doing sports, the homework is usually done to some extent and he comes to school regularly. After our session he slept with me in the room, since I didn't notice any wounds or anything else. Apart from that, you two have never had a girlfriend, any more than I have. It is also clear to me that he does not invite anyone home; if your dad were an alcoholic, you wouldn't greet us with timpani and trumpets, wouldn't you?"

My interlocutors sighed softly. Tristan pulled his smartphone out of his light blue jacket and unlocked it. His thumb wiped over the display until he arrived at the desired object in the gallery. Wordlessly, he held my phone. I put the O-juice on the small table next to us and went through the list. It took my breath away.

"Where did you get that from?" I looked up from the display to Tristan and Yugi, who watched me with a worried eye. 'It's not possible, I should have noticed.' I rushed through the gallery again and blinked several times: In fact, the pictures were still there, and I probably didn't dream either.

"Tea once spiked into his block, like you, she told you. The back pages are completely taboo, and you haven't gotten that far. She photographed it and then showed it to me and Yugi. Then we wanted to talk to Joey. He's completely rested. We had never argued so badly. The next day he came to school completely contrite and wanted to reassure us that he had just stumbled badly while jogging."

I bit my lips. This had probably been a lie that was more than a flimsy one. I looked at the pictures more closely. They showed the upper arms, shoulder blades, chest and leg area of someone, over and over covered with abrasions and bruises. The whole body resembled a single battlefield. Joey had to print out the pictures and stick them in his block. Each picture had been neatly repainted. Those drawings, which did not deal with the injuries, showed Joey squatting on a bed, his arms wrapped around his knees. His face as he cried. Another showed him and his sister stretching out their hands to each other. Both were children, and were pulled away by one hand on each arm. I gave Tristan his phone back.

"Mokuba called me a fortnight ago. Have you looked at Joey's bed side?" I shook my head. Why? What was Joey's bed side about me?

"She was totally smeared. Joey somehow covers his bruises, be it with any cosmetics or anything else. You went into the bathroom first, didn't you?" This time I nodded. Then the penny fell – Joey had really taken much longer than me.
"Joey didn't have any stuff with him. Tristan, I mean, that would be pure madness."

The brown-haired giant pushed his smartphone into the inside pocket of his jacket" "You spent the night in a property where probably even a person is responsible for refilling the toilet rolls. The rooms are in perfect condition. There was certainly some make-up in the bathroom in case Kaiba should entertain female guests."

It all sounded too fantastic to be true. "His other appearance? His clothes are always reasonably clean. According to his own statement, he trains regularly, which can also be seen? He doesn't let the school grind."

Yugi sipped on his glass: "This is also a mystery to us, if we are honest. The fact that he likes to train is related to the fact that he knows the owner of the gym and is allowed to clean up for free. Then he's away from home for a while. His grades are also at the lower average, if you're honest, and that's not because he's overly stupid.'

Let's say they were right, why hadn't any of them done anything yet? I didn't even know Joey for two months; he had experienced much more with the clique than with me. His best friends just told me that he had to gnaw at massive problems – I didn't catch it, to be honest.

"Let's assume you're right. What should I change? Joey won't open up to me if he hasn't done it with you. If he admits it, what happens? He's not yet of legal age, he can't live alone, he doesn't have a job - it wouldn't change anything.'
Yugi and Tristan finished their juice at the same time. They were a well-rehearsed team, they had to be left to do that.

"If he indicates it, it may be possible to obtain that the age of majority is accepted beforehand. He really seems to be doing everything on his own, with the school, with the household, and so on. I don't think it's going to fail.' Yugi tripped nervously on the spot. "Besides - Joey likes you, he really likes you. He hangs terribly on you, we know that. You haven't pushed him to anything like us. He trusts you. Believe us."

There was more. I was just trying to hook in when our conversation surfaced next to me. Grinning, he put a hand on my shoulder. "Well, folks? How long do you want to take our James Bond Junior? Time for us to go dancing!"

Yugi and Tristan laughed before we marched together on the dance floor. Passing by, as Joey chatted with me distractedly, they both threw a serious, almost pleading look at me. Involuntarily, I nodded. I also hung on to Joey, and to the group; moreover, I was able to refute their assumptions.

The rest of the evening we spent dancing and partying exuberantly. At least that's what I did – the conversation with Yugi and Tristan still haunted my head. I was worried. What if there was really something about their guesses?

Chapter Text

We were standing outside - it had already gone dark. Joey had taken his parka and had already slipped into it. A short conversation about the ball (Kaiba hadn't let himself be seen, why?), and some dry comments from Joey about the female inventory later, we headed home. Me and Joey had to go in the same direction, while the rest took a different path. So how am I supposed to tickle Joey out with his dad if it was true?

"How did you like the ball?" My friend had put his hands back in the parka bags and staggered beside me. His gaze seemed glassy, almost a little absent. Was he afraid to go back to his apartment, to his father?

"Very good. I danced with Tea a little bit, and gave Tristan one or two tips regarding the girls. You?" Mentally, I was still talking to my friends about Joey.
"Also, but this year was less off than usual. Now it's off to the feathers and sleep out tomorrow." Joey didn't sound very convinced in the last movement. I had an idea.

The next few minutes, until we arrived at my apartment, we talked about the English essay, which had to be delivered on Monday. Joey asked me to give his text the necessary finishing touches. Overall, he said, he has improved significantly since he got to read correct versions. Arriving at the door, I pulled the keys out of my pocket and locked them up.

"Say Joey, don't you want to stay with me today? It's already late, and also cold, and as it stands, the weather doesn't last long. With your luck, you either get into the rain or it snows." I knew I was playing high. But if he stayed here today, I would be able to stretch out my feelings very carefully.

"Mh, no, I don't even have things to sleep here." Joey rubbed his neck, tightening the collar of his parkas around his mouth.

"I have a few oversized shirts to sleep with, so it certainly suits you one. Besides, I think I'll be able to find a pair of jogging pants in your size. Come on, give yourself a jolt. If you stay, we could go to your essay tomorrow, right?" I could see it rattling in Joey's back of the head. He seriously considered accepting my offer. With gentle force, I pulled him by the arm into my apartment and finished behind us.

"You stay here, basta. See it as a small thank you for the problems you've had with me lately." My blonde friend's features were hard to interpret. Would he stay? With my breath stopped, I waited for his answer.

"Mh, you're right. Thank you, David."

I grinned with relief. It was easier than i thought. "I'm looking for some clothes out of you now, yes? Where the bathroom is you know – in the freezer there would still have to be ready-made pizzas if you are hungry. Feel at home."
So, I patted Joey on the shoulder and disappeared into my room. I could hear him opening the zipper of his parka, opening the fridge, and the TV playing the title tune of an anime. Meanwhile, I put on a black T-shirt and skinny track pants in my closet, which I brought outside. Joey was lounging on the couch and was fumbling around his tie button.

"Oh my gosh, these fucking ties - what idiot invented them in the first place?" Despite tugs and tears, he could not free himself. I smiled slightly and put Joey's stuff on the sofa, only to sit in front of him.

"Not so crude, otherwise you just fuse them out. Let me." Again, our hands touched as I pushed his handle aside. I could feel this tingling again, which dominated my fingers. Joey watched my actions with a strange expression on his face, which turned into a broad smile after the knot was loosened.

"How did you get it so quickly?" The blonde pulled the tie off her neck and draped it next to his sleeping clothes. "Just practice. I'm just moving quickly, yeah? Put your stuff on the couch, and I would advise you to occupy the bathroom in front of me, otherwise you will wait a long time.” With a grin on his lips, Joey grabbed his clothes and disappeared into the bathroom.
"There would still have to be packs of fresh brush heads in the left drawer. Take one and make the colored ring on it, then we know which one is yours."

My friend briefly knocked on the door as a sign that he had understood. I got more comfortable clothes, in the form of a white T-shirt and short black track pants. I hung my belongings neatly in the closet and then went outside. Joey had to be swayed out of the bathroom for a short time, because his belongings were messy on the couch. Smiling, I folded the shirt, the pants and grabbed his tie on top. I stuffed his black socks into each other and completed the dress package by draping everything on the parka. The throbbing of water made me listen. Did he really shower? But that was daring, if my friends were really right: I had nothing to hide his supposed spots.

I went to my kitchenette and inspected the package, which I hadn't opened today. The senders were my grandparents. In the cardboard box, which had been neatly laced, there was, besides a photo of the two with greetings, a thin glass bottle with a straight neck. The clear liquid made me smile. The label with the inscription "Bilberry, 2008" confirmed my suspicion. The two had actually sent me blueberry schnapps, or blackberry schnapps, as we called it at home. My grandfather had once received one for his 80th birthday. The taste was excellent. In addition, blueberry schnapps was the most expensive local alcohol I knew. The bottle must have cost a small fortune."

"What is this?" Joey stood next to me, drying his wet hair with a towel. T-shirt and trousers matched him to some extent. Curiously, he inspected the bottle.
"Mh, a gift from my grandparents. Came today by post. Liquor from home." I cleared the box while my friend looked at the glass bottle intrigued.
"You drink?" Joey crossed the label with his thumb, then his gaze fell on the photo. "Are these your grandparents?"
I nodded and stood next to the blondes: "Yes, these are my grandparents, and yes, from time to time. If the liquor is old and not burned like garbage, then it usually does not burn. It also tastes great in tea."
Joey stared at me in disbelief. "What, in tea?"

A light came on me. In Japan, the rules on the purchase of alcohol were stricter than in Austria. Joey had probably sipped on a beer, but nothing more. That's why he was so fascinated - liquor was something high-percentage. "Of course, liquor tea. I drink it sometimes when I'm sick, or I've got a flu, or something.”
My friend stared at the cork of the bottle. I could see the curiosity flashing in his eyes.
I shook my head laughing: "Get up if you want to try."
Joey seemed inconclusive. Should he, or shouldn't he? I took the decision from him – with one hand I reached for the bottle and took two glasses out of the cupboard with the other. Carefully I uncorked the bottle and sniffed at it. The smell was unmistakable – alcohol mixed with the fruity note of blackberries. I filled in a small amount in each of the two glasses and carefully corked the glass container again. Grinning, I held Joey's glass.

"Don't worry, it's very little - try." Suspiciously, the blonde looked into his glass and swung it a little. Sniffing the scent of the liquor. I smiled and finished my drink. It did not burn, had a fruity note, and yet the alcohol was tasted out. A delight.
Joey did the same to me and then wheeled, just to hit himself on the chest. I laughed loudly. For him, it was still awkward, even though the crowd was so small. My first liquor, apricot, had also caused me to have a coughing fit.
"Congratulations, Mr. Wheeler. So you're a full-fledged man." Joey had me pat on the back. He was still crying, but seemed to calm down.
"B-Bro, you drink the stuff? You didn't even shrug. Woah. How can you mix something like this into the tea?"
'It's diluted in the tea, and you don't usually make very little of it, for the simple reason that it's warm faster. You get drunk quickly if you don't pay attention."
Joey licked his lips and patted himself on the chest again: "Can you do something like that, David?"
I raised my eyebrows. "Of course? It's simple. Why?"
My friend scratches his chin: "Do you make us which one? I mean, I'd love to try and..." He bit his lips. Why was he pushing around like that?
"You know you're not going to get away with it? I don't want to be said that I've made you swarm, Joey. A hangover is not something desirable." After my first liquor, I had thankfully given up another dose.
"Mh, if you drink one, I drink one too. I also have that ahead of the others. Foreign spirits." Joey grinned awkwardly and then thought of me with a dachshund look.

"Well, I'll make us one. But don't complain to me afterwards, and woe you cook the stall full of me," I sighed and gave me a beating. I didn't think it was a good idea, but I had warned him. My friend literally smiled and then went back to the couch. Meanwhile, I tipped chips into a glass bowl and made my way to tea. A good fifteen minutes later, it was finished and had drinking temperature. Joey's was extremely thin and had, if anything, only the approach of the liquor flavor. Mine was a little stronger, but still far from a decent liquor tea. I left the bottle on the counter and brought Joey his drink.

"Caution, is still hot, and don't drink too fast." The blonde sniffed and then sipped on the cup. A quiet smear indicated that he was probably much happier with the mixture than with the pure alcohol.
"That's good. It tastes a bit like blueberry and a bit of alcohol, but mostly after tea." I nodded with a smile, grabbed a few chips and drank as well.
We watched another movie together and during the commercial break I apologized briefly – the toilet called. When I came back, Joey seemed a little swayed, but had already drunk his tea. He would sleep well today.
"Time for bed, big one, hm?" I looked into my cup and tipped the last rest away. Confused, I licked my lips. I didn't remember him that much. Shrugging my shoulders, I turned off the cup. I probably didn't tolerate as much as I used to.
"Mr. Wheeler? Off to sleep!" I stunned Joey, who blinked hard.
"Of course, off to bed." Tired, he rubbed his eyes and got up.
"I'm just going to the bathroom - go to the bedroom, I'll come right away." Said done. When brushing my teeth, I had trouble keeping my eyes open. What was going on? It was unusual. I almost felt drunk. But I had also made mine relatively thin. No matter, it was time for bed.

In my bedroom there was an interesting sight. The mattress for Joey was yawning emptiness, while my own double bed was already occupied. The blonde had spread on the left side, his eyes half closed. The sight was irresistible.
"Well, did you confuse the beds?" I smiled amused.
"Mh, give peace." Joey sounded sleepy.
I myself noticed how the tiredness drove me into the bones. I lay down in bed next to Joey and turned off the light. After all, we had already spent the night next to each other.

I was just looking at Joey's question. Actually, I was dog-tired and now Sure to see a hangover myself tomorrow.
"Are you tired?"
What a stupid question? I was once again, with an approving undertone.
"Very tired?"
I felt like I was in a group of children, where people were constantly asked when they were finally there. "Yes, yes. I think I caught a little too much. Don't worry, I'm still usable for English tomorrow." Slowly but surely, I also found it difficult to speak. Damn, what was going on? I really hadn't mixed that much into my tea.
"Have you ever been in love?"
I sighed softly. He had probably reached the point where one became either sentimental or sour. Joey had apparently opted for the former.

"Mh, I was. Twice so far. With butterflies in the belly, the pounding heart, the stuff." Actually, it had been three times, and probably he was there, but to admit that was very daring. Besides, I was still not quite sure of myself; or did not want it to be true.
"How did you show them?"
Now I was a little surprised. Why the hell did they ask such questions at two o'clock in the morning? I was more likely to expect him to ask me about my first time, or how to make brides clear.
"I gave them a poem, the second a bouquet of flowers, and a necklace."
"Do you regret it?"
I shook my head slightly: "No, even though it has become nothing both times. I just regret having always pinched myself a little bit, being late."
"How would you do it today?"
There was a slight conjecture in me. "Are you in love, Joey?" The light of the bedside lamp dazzled me and I sighed inwardly. I was able to buckle my sleep for the next few hours. My friend's entered gaze spoke volumes.
"Who is the lucky one? Do I know them?"
My friend nodded lightly and pulled his legs to his body. He strapped his arms around his knees and placed his chin on it. "Mh, very good, I think." The otherwise so self-assured Joey suddenly seemed very small and shy. I sat down a little bit and rubbed my eyes.
"Okay, is it Tea? Or the hot exchange student from Lyon?"
Joey just shook his head when I asked. Somehow, he seemed depressed.
"Hm, one of our teachers?"
"No, none of them. I, shall I show you the person?"

My goodness, he could push around. I had grown a small stone in my stomach – on the other hand, I was happy, so I was able to mentally remove Joey from my supposed emotional world. If he had a girlfriend, I would somehow get rid of that strange feeling. "Clearly."
"Well, close your eyes."
Complicated was no expression. Sighing, I did as I was told. You could also pick a picture next to me on his mobile phone.

At one time, something quite tenderly my mouth would be fond of me. My lips were wetted with the taste of alcohol, chips and mint. On my cheeks I could feel hands, no fingers, caressing me there. Was I asleep? I opened my eyes and could see Joey kissing me. The feeling of his soft, delicate lips on my own as our nose tips streaked – I had the impression that my heart had to stop. I could feel his warm breath on my skin, which gave me goosebumps. Very slowly Joey broke away from me and lowered his gaze ashamed.

"I think I'll get my stuff and..." I reached for his arm with my hand and pulled it to me. Our lips touched again. For a moment Joey stiffened and stared at me with big eyes, only to fall asleep in my arms. My right hand was buried in his hair, while the left one clawed his neck. I soaked up his fragrance while I was getting up a little bit. I gently pulled him on me and could feel him snare his arms around my back. My whole body was shaking. I hadn't imagined the kiss with Joey so intensely. My lips burned like fire, demanding more, as did my spirit. Very carefully I broke away from Joey and looked at him seriously. The next moment I regretted this decision. It was a sweet agony not to be able to feel his lips any more, and yet, the desire to feel them again made my heart bounce and my pulse racing. Joey's gaze again showed embarrassment. Had I done anything wrong? The characters misinterpreted? Could such a thing be misinterpreted at all?

"What is it?" I asked cautiously.
Joey completely broke away from me and crouched in the tailor's seat, evasive lye rising my gaze. 'It, me, it shouldn't have been like that. You're drunk.'
At the last statement, I raised my eyebrows irritated: "You too?"
The blonde just shook his head: "No, I'm not. I poured the tea in between, and added a little more to you than you were on the toilet."

He had what? Why? That's what I asked him. My friend started snailing his fingers: "I was hoping you were so drunk that you have a blackout, or something. Then I could have asked you without risk what you think of my feelings."
I sighed softly and reached for Joey's hand, only to weave my fingers with his. I tenderly stroked his thumb over his back of the hand. "Fool. You tell me something of trust, and do you even have a shot? Why?"
The blonde just looked at me in disenthusiasm. I could feel the veins coming out on his hand: "Did you know what I was doing? Filled you up, kissed?"
I laughed softly. "Yes, I did? Joey? Do you also know that I kissed you the second time?"
Confused, Joey blinked only to sigh with relief: "So you're not angry with me?"
A shake of the head on my part made him visibly relax.
"No, I'm not. The timing is only a little unfavorable, because I can still keep my eyes open. You should have mixed less alcohol into my tea. A suggestion of kindness – we sleep now, and discuss the whole mater tomorrow, if I have a reasonably clear head, yes?"
I could hear my friend breathing. He rushed under the blanket and pulled me over, which I acknowledged with a pleasant sound. For now, I enjoyed the moment and fell asleep with a smile on

Chapter Text

I didn't wake up until late in the morning. Sleep drunk, I grabbed next to me. The side of the bed was empty. Where was Joey? Was he cut off? Was it all just a dream? I got up and breathed through with relief when I could hear the clattering of dishes in the kitchen. Quietly moaning, I let myself sink back into bed. My skull was buzzing. I owed that to my friend. I squeezed my eyes and massaged my temples. In my bedside drawer was a vial of peppermint oil, which I smeared on my forehead. The headaches should disappear from this. Humming, I headed towards the living room, from which it smelled wonderful.

Joey stood in the kitchen and, judging by the smell, had just fried eggs with bacon. The water in my mouth ran out. I had a medium-heavy hangover – greasy food was now exactly what I wanted. In addition to the meal, it was mainly the blonde who deserved my attention. He was still wearing the same T-shirt and training pants from yesterday. When he cooked, he seemed extremely immersed. Tired and yawning, I took a seat on one of the chairs around my dining table, and supported my left foot on the edge of another armchair. That must have been called to Joey's plan, because he turned around.

"Good morning, sleepyhead!" With a broad grin on his lips, he turned the bacon strips around in the pan. My face was slightly sour.

"If you had mixed less in, I wouldn't be sitting here with a headache." It had indeed been a little unnecessary, but I couldn't be angry with him. Why? He had definitely had a shot, and he had been brave enough troy at least

"Mh, if you had been more careful, it wouldn't have happened. I had to make sure you really fell out. You still look good for that. I'm also doing well again. Promised." Joey shoved a plate of several strips of bacon, three fried eggs and toasted bread under my nose. I also got a kiss on the cheek.

The latter compensated me neatly. The feeling of his soft lips on my skin – my skull poked a little more, but it was worth it.
Joey sat down on the chair next to me and watched with a smile as I shoveled breakfast into me. After the sport, or when I was crapulous, my appetite could take on unimaginable dimensions. Even O-juice conjured Joey out of nowhere. Greedily I devoured the food and rinsed it down with proper juice.

"Well, judging by your eating habits, did you like it?" My friend's smile was more than broad. He seemed to like, or at least impress, the fact that I had eaten like a pig.

"Mh, a compliment to the chef. Was really good. Where did you get that stuff from? I certainly didn't have bacon at home.'

Joey laughed softly: "You can also go shopping."

I finished the next glass of orange juice and pinched myself, only to look at my interlocutor: "But light me up now, yes? Why didn't you say something earlier? Above all, when did you start banging yourself into me?" I deliberately didn't use the l-word. If Joey was really shy, I didn't want to get to the point too quickly.

"Mh, honestly? I don't know, David. You were sympathetic to us, me, from the beginning. As you helped me in English, you more or less fearlessly went into the lion's den to Kaiba. No idea." Throughout the speech, Joey had lowered his head.

"I actually know it very well. When our hands had touched in the chip bowl when, you picked me up from the dubbing studio, I felt such a pleasant tingling in my fingers. It was only fleeting, but intense. How you took care of me, both in virtual reality and outside; something in my head seems to have clicked. It's different than it used to be. I feel, I think, attracted to you both physically and mentally."

Joey subtly blushed my words. He nasled around his fingers and continued to avoid any eye contact with me as he said, "Aren´t you embarrassed? I mean, you seem to be standing on girls too."

Inside, I had to smile. He said exactly what I secretly asked myself. It wasn't embarrassing to me, it wasn't awkward, it was just a little different than I had imagined. Joey was a lovely boy who was very helpful and loyal to his friends. If he acted only half like that as a boyfriend in a relationship-technical sense, then I could count myself lucky.

"I'm honest with you: I didn't necessarily imagine meeting someone here for a firm bond, even less that it would be a boy. You are the first one I feel like. I don't think it can be wrong to love someone if it feels like that. Do you remember the night you slept with me? After my collapse?"

Joey nodded vaguely, following the grains of the table with his fingers. I found his behavior sweet. On the one hand, he wanted to say something, but on the other hand he did not seem to dare. My upbringing was marked by the principle of "honesty is the best policy". I behaved accordingly – at least to some extent.
"That's when I wanted to kiss you for the first time. The way you were lying next to me, topless, that almost killed me. You've been sabbling a little in your sleep. I could have watched you doze for hours."

My friend's face brightened. He was even more blush, but gradually seemed to understand that I felt just like him. The color on his face was actually quite good for him.
"But we don't even know each other for two months. Maybe you're wrong about me? I don't want to have a purely physical relationship.'

"Joey... I could say the same thing, right? Maybe I'm a brutal rivet in terms of relationships? What if I need a devoted partner, or am quickly jealous? Have you ever thought about it? Maybe I like to argue, or am I unfaithful?" I could see Joey's gaze lowering again.

'I don't think so. You haven't presented yourself like that before. Even if, I would accept it, I think, because I love you." With each word, his voice had become quieter, until it was just a whisper.

I had to smile involuntarily. He had actually said it: He loved me. By now I was sure I loved him the same way. I put aside my doubts about the reaction of my environment for the time being. Gently I reached for Joey's hand and pulled it on to my lap. I put my arms around my friend's belly and put my chin on his shoulder. From the corners of my eyes I could see him bludish a little more.

"Joey, no one is worth accepting everything. I once thought I had found the perfect girl. She was pretty, had a sweet voice, was a little naive, but seemed loving and tender. She was also my best friend's sister – I was sure I had found the girlfriend of the girlfriends."

Joey snuggled up to me. His fingers stroked the back of my hand as he closed his eyes. I couldn't imagine him concentrating fully, but he seemed to be listening. So, I continued.

'But that wasn't the case. She didn't want me. In the beginning, I pushed it on my appearance, so I started to train. Then I pushed it because of my way of life, so I bent over. It went so far that I almost got sick. Grief and pain almost tore me apart. I paid a high price for my love. With my best friend, the contact has broken off. My former circle of friends distanced themselves from me. Without the people at my school and my grandparents, I would probably have gone crazy. There were days when I begged not to wake up. Long speech, short sense – promise me that if you're sure and we're trying to make it, you're not bending, okay? I love the Joey Wheeler, who is sitting on my lap, with all sorts of nooks and crannies."

So I bent down a little bit and gave Joey a kiss on the cheek. My lips moved upwards to his ear. The goosebumps he got in the process testified that he had to please him. I quietly shouted to him, "Have you listened? I love you, Joey, completely."

Joey sighed relieved, or was it excited? In any case, he relaxed in my arms. He was clearly breathing more calmly. Nevertheless, some questions burned on my tongue, of which I had to ask at least one.

"Joey?" Carefully, I continued as he hummed quietly. "Know the others about your... Inclination?" At one time, my friend opened his eyes. I had probably asked too quickly, or too stupidly. His gaze seemed almost a little panicky. He shook his head.

"No, they don't know, and they shouldn't. No one should know about it."

That amazed me a little. The reaction was fierce, in my eyes. But I didn't want to destroy the beautiful moment. So, I just nodded and stroked Joey calmingly over the neck and through his hair.

"Okay, then we keep our conversation for the time being, right? Officially, we are good friends. Unofficially, we see how it develops, agree?"

The relief was written in my friend's face. Wordlessly, he nodded and calmed down again. The fact that he was so frightened seemed completely absurd to me. It didn't really fit Joey. Scaring his thoughts, I awkwardly grabbed him under his knees and armpits, and carefully lifted him up.

"Hey, what will it be?" Joey clung to me with a laugh as we headed for the couch.

"Give my catalyzed body a little rest and rest, yes? As much as I love you near me, with time you get damn hard." So, I unloaded an amused Joey on the sofa and sat down next to him. I blinked several times.

"Are you tired?" His voice sounded guilt-conscious.

"A little bit, but it's possible. Look into the TV while I take a short nap. We've still got to work out your English essay, right?" I yawned extensively and scratched my cheek. Next to us was a blanket, which I threw over myself. Joey watched me and made a glimpse.

'You don't have to blame yourself, all okay. I've woken up with far worse hangovers, don't worry. A little sleep, and then I'm fit again!" My words did not have the desired effect. The blonde-haired man shook his head only slightly.

'That's not it... I." He hesitated to complete the sentence.

"Hm? What then?"

A glance at his hands, which were restless on his knees, made me understand. Smiling, I put my head in his lap and turned my face to the TV, mumbled into my blanket. Joey smiled, clearly.

As he zapped through the program, he carefully stroked my hair and over my neck. I snuggled up a little more to Joey and enjoyed the touches. The headache slowly ebbed away and I dawned away. I had never had such a worthwhile hangover.

Chapter Text

Sleepy, I rubbed my eyes. The TV was still running. Was Joey also nodding in? A glance up showed me the opposite. My friend was immersed in his block, a pencil in his hand. He probably drew again. At the sight of the block, I was left fluffy in my stomach. Joey didn't even know about my little espionage.
"Mh, I was actually hoping to be woken up with a kiss." Played smouldering, I pushed my lower lip forward and looked at my supposed pillow. This smiled awkwardly and immediately fulfilled my wish. Our lips touched, very fleetingly, but it was enough to get me fully awake.

"Well, some fitness again?" Joey immediately returned to his work.

"More or less. My skull is still buzzing - what are you doing?" Played curiously, I sat up and stripped off the ceiling. I yawned extensively. Joey held the block under my nose. The drawing showed me and Mokuba how the latter had made himself comfortable on my lap. The young teen literally beamed. My arms were placed around his chest and I smiled relaxed.

"How did you get to the scene? Besides, where can you draw so well? What you produce in art classes is far from that." I sat down next to Joey and snuggled up to his shoulder, looking at the artwork in detail. It was perfect again, in my eyes at least.

"Mh, art lessons are shit. We constantly draw such rot as flowers or fruit, or other crap. This is something else. The teacher doesn't beef all the time. Mokuba once told me that he had dreamed of something like this. He really seems to like you."

I smiled amused. I had already noticed that Mokuba was hanging on to me, but that he also dreamed of me – interesting.

"You know that this is suspicious of price? I have two left feet when it comes to art. I don't care about drawing at all. I hope Mokuba didn't tell Kaiba, otherwise I have a real problem."

Joey put his drawing utensils aside with a grin and gently pushed me back into his lap. Once there, he stroked me over my forehead and hair tips. I sighed softly and enjoyed the petting session.

"Mh, don't worry, no one is pushing between Kaiba and Mokuba. The two always stick together, no matter what. You're just a little looser than Seto. You also have more time."

"You too, right? I mean, he seems to be more than just attracted to you. Joey here, Joey there." Quite casually I tried to reach for the drawing block, but was stopped. Joey slapped my fingers and shook his head.

"You don't need fingers to look." He was still grinning, but it seemed very set up.

"Is it good - did you traced the Mona Lisa, or what are you hiding in there?" Joey suddenly got serious and folded the block. He hurriedly forced paper and pen into the sofa scribble next to him, out of my reach.

"Nothing that would be for your eyes – at least not yet. A surprise."

I pulled up my brows: "A surprise? You know you just made me more curious with it?"

"I know, that's why I raised it." Joey grinned broadly and honestly again, only to kiss me on the forehead.

When he wanted to loosen up again, I snored my arms around his neck and pulled him back down to me. This time I kissed him, more intimately, more passionately than the last tentative attempts. I nibbled at his lower lip. Seconds later, he opened his mouth and woven our tongues into a fiery dance. The kiss became more intense and violent. My right hand wandered up to Joey's hair, and clawed into it. I could feel his breath on my skin, irregular and warm. His nose wings bloated, just like mine. None of us wanted to break away; fully exploit the moment. Eventually I gave up after separating our lips from each other.

"How is it that you can kiss so well? I'm not your first boyfriend, am I?" I slanted my head a little bit and looked at Joey, who slowly rose. His entered gaze was enough answer. "And? Who was the lucky one?"

"Don't you want to know."

"Wanting yes, apparently allowed not. Joey, it's okay if I'm not your first boyfriend. No matter who it is, it doesn't bother me, certainly not." I put my hand on his cheek in my words. "If you want to tell it, you'll tell me, okay? I don't want to push you to anything." His voice, his demeanor – from one moment to the next, he seemed vulnerable again. I am a little concerned about this constant change.

Joey nodded weakly and then stroked his lips over my fingertips. Each one was covered with a soft, tender kiss. Did he feel guilty? Enjoying the feeling of being so pampered, I waited until my friend finished his caresses.

"Joey? Apart from the fact that we still have to edit your English essay – do you want to stay here today?" I deliberately asked the question cautiously and omitted any hints at his home. On the one hand I liked his closeness, now even more than already, on the other hand I wanted to create a kind of retreat for him, if the conjectures of our friends really were true.

"At some point, I have to go home, David. Otherwise, someone will be suspicious. Besides, I have nothing to put on here except your two borrowed things." I rolled my eyes.

"Earth to Joey - I'm also a guy? I'm already finding some clothes. Also, can you dismiss it as a learning visit? We make your essay, pull a movie in later and then go to bed? Nobody thinks anything of it – everyone knows that we are good friends. You can call your father and tell him he doesn't have to worry." I stopped the air. How would he react now?

His gaze hardened, only for a brief moment. Then he shook his head with a smile: "He's not worried. This isn't the first time I've been out longer. If it really doesn't bother you?"

I punched Joey against the shoulder with a laugh. "Mh, clearly it bothers me - that's why I offer it to you. Besides, now that we're together, it's totally unusual and annoying when you're near me. Admit it, you hoped I would ask you, right?"

A confirming nod and a fleeting cheek kiss later, I pulled myself up and stretched. "Then you've been writing a piece of paper, and I'm looking for some things for today."

Said done I also stood in my bedroom and scoured the wardrobe. My choice of clothes for Joey was really limited - he was bigger and wider than me. Nevertheless, a wide-cut red T-shirt, which for me was still at the limit of the wearable, and a wide, short training pants I could still find.

Back in the living room, Joey sat bent over a piece of paper and sighed softly. The hair on the back of his head stood off a little, as if he had scratched himself several times. "Well, you look desperate - what's going on? Can't find a topic, or what?"

"What did you write? I don't like essays, certainly not in a foreign language, and then without the subject matter." Frustrated, Joey threw pen and paper on the table and let himself sink back in the chair.

"A fictional story. It is about a young knight who is in love with his liege´s wife. She loves him too, but not so. Both are close confidants, and he protects her wherever he can. Finally, she brings the longed-for heir into world and breaks his heart with it, because there is now no turning back. He is also decently educated - he made an oath. The dichotomy between morality and feeling, promise and weakness is examined in more detail."

Joey slanted his head: "Like King Arthur? Lancelot and Arthur's wife? How long is this thing? Can I read it?"

I nodded with a laugh: "Of course you can read it. In the folder under the TV magazine, to your right. On your question - a little maybe. Lancelot is one of my favorite characters, you really recognized that. The knight is also inspired by him, but differs significantly. It's more of a kind of distant love - he would never put her in danger, especially not to direct her husband's wrath at her."

The blonde reached out to the TELEVISION newspaper and pulled out the red quick stitcher. He eagerly scrolled through the folder and then began to read. "The tale of Sir Andir" I started to preheat the oven and make two ready-made pizzas as dinner.
"He's cursed? What is he suffering from?" Joey turned to me and sat upside down on the chair. He draped his arms on the back.

"He's a werewolf. Andir can control it very hard. The beast is constantly fighting with him inside." A glance at the digital clock on the oven showed me that we had to wait a good ten minutes.

"He must love her very much if he would even give her his own child. Why isn't he eloped with her? She seems to love him too."

"Because he swore an oath. If you swear or promise something, you have to stick to it. That, at least, is my principle. Moreover, it would only put them in unnecessary danger. His lord is strict but just, and he appreciates Andir for his abilities. He's doing really well.'

Joey shook his head: "But he's constantly suppressing something, right? I mean to see that with the werewolf, then his worshippers in someone else's arms..."

I nodded slightly: "Yes, you may be right. It's also hard, but he puts himself back because he loves her idolatrous. Her child is half the person for whom he feels unconditional devotion – so he must also protect the little one. He also loves what she loves."

"Then he would have to love the lord, wouldn't he?"

"You may be right here, too. Andir likes him too, but he's not sure if the marriage was right. Of course, he would never admit that, but a part of him has played with the idea of eloping, yes." The beeping of the oven signaled to me that I could get our dinner out of the pipe.

"This is not a short story, is it?" I shook my head at Joey's question. "He's not Lancelot, he's you, aren’t he?" This time I nodded and packed the pizzas on two large plates. "The one girl, right?" Again, I nodded. That he could combine so quickly and was so sensitive astonished me. "Was it really like that?"

"No, Joey. Many things are, of course, fictional, the werewolf, the dialogues – in real life we have spoken little to each other, me and she, at least in the end. But the core is true, or was once." With a smile, I put his food in front of him and sat down next to him. "Sponge over it, now I have you." So I gave him a smudge on the cheek, which put a smile on Joey's face.

"I have an idea. After the meal I go to the bathroom and shower extensively. Meanwhile, you write your essay and I read about it, agree?"

Joey sighed softly and shoved the first piece of pizza into his mouth. "You're good, I don't even know a subject..."

"Of course, you know one thing. You could write about a team." Smiling, I chewed a piece of salami pizza and watched Joey ponder.

"Team? Football or what?"

"Mh, I was thinking more of the Dark Magician and the Flameswordsmen as they fight their way through a labyrinth of dangers." Joey seemed to like my suggestion - he was beaming all over his face.

"You are a genios, David! I'll do it right after dinner." We quickly devoured our sacrament and I crumpled into the bathroom. Just before I closed the door, I could see a euphoric Joey through the gap, who put a smile on my face. I had never seen him so eagerly. The pen seemed to fly over the paper and his face was clearly dreamy.

Chapter Text

When I came out of the shower, with wet hair, I could see Joey putting the pen aside. He examined his work in detail.

"Already done?" I was a little surprised. In that time, not even I would have finished an essay. Joey's English skills were significantly lower than mine – so it should have taken longer for him.

"No, I'm just rereading your story. I've already buried my ideas somewhere. I can't put it on paper. Is that the whole one?" My friend's deer-brown eyes rested on me, filled with curiosity.

"If I'm to be honest, no." I put on a fresh T-shirt and slipped into the track pants I had taken from the bathroom. "Why are you asking?"

His gaze did not bode well and I was already sighing inwardly. He would certainly drill, just like everyone else. He wasn't interested in the story behind Andir, it was about me, my story. He, like everyone else, would shake his head, teach me, and then make my mistakes.

"Where do you have the rest?" When asked, I slanted my head in amazement. I was expecting a very different question. So, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out a blue folder. This was provided with some stickers – mainly figures from computer games. Wordlessly, I gave it to Joey and sat down next to him. He also immediately opened the folder and roughly scrolled through the pile of paper.

"It's too long for me to read this now. How is it that you wrote so much? That must be at least 100 pages, if not more." I answered his question with a shrug of the shoulders. I had begun to process my thoughts in a story. A lot of things have been easier for me. It was fun and at least in this fictional world, I could decide for myself what happened to my character.

"Can you give me a rough outline? So just about your main character? " I nodded and pulled the folder in the middle, so we could both look at it. Slowly I scrolled back to the cover. "The story of Sir Andir Lancley" was emblazoned in capital letters on yellow paper. Page 1 had been marked with a drawing. A pencil sketch of a young man in his early 20s. He wore short hair, which had been left a little longer on the left and right, so that some strands hung in his face. The paint had been blackened with the pencil. High cheekbones protruded under the splendor of hair. A straight nose fit perfectly into the picture. His eyes were half closed while Andir smiled.

An athletic figure was covered in a vest with embroidery and buttons in the chest area. The trousers were matched to the top. High lace-up boots completed the image of a young man from stand. He had put his hands in his pocket.
I muted to the next page. This showed a huge, humanoid-looking wolf on two legs. Its ears were laid out. The eyes had only very narrow, thin pupils. The wolf wore a pitch-black plate armor. A sword dangled on its right, while a huge rectangular shield protruded from its back. The beast had opened its mouth. Saliva threads wetted the razor-sharp teeth in the monster's teeth. Its hands were deformed into claws – the feet to paws, which protruded unprotected under the foothills of the leg rails.

"Before you ask, a friend of mine painted that. She can draw well and wanted to make me happy."

Joey examined the drawings in detail, scrolling forwards and back again from time to time, finally nodding. "Mh, she really has talent. Is this him? Andir?"

"Yes, that's Andir. He was born in a small forest village south of the king's capital. His parents are a crippled, retired army officer and a scoundraid from the local tavern." I paused as Joey pulled me on to his lap. My questioning gaze was acknowledged with a kiss in the neck bend. His hands rested on my belly. "Tell more."

"Monsters live in the forest village. Ghosts, undead, werewolves, a warlock and so on. Andir was drilled from an early age to join the army to succeed his father. This was strict and ruthless. That has shaped him a lot. His mother, on the other hand, was loving and tender with her son. She taught him to read, taught him singing lessons, encouraged him to write— in short, the opposite of his father."

Joey listened attentively. His gaze was gentle and tender. I could feel him embed his chin on my shoulder. "Mh, and how did he become a werewolf?"

"The village has a kind of militia or civic defense. This tries to protect the village to some extent. In fact, some plants grow in the forest, which are indispensable for the royal court. There's also a quarry nearby, which's why it's so tempting for people. Otherwise, they would surely have moved away long ago. In any case, Andir's father forced him into this bourgeois army. There he saved the life of a comrade and was attacked by a werewolf. The village alchemist then instilled in him a medicine that allows Andir to control his animal self to some extent."

"Your father was strict with you while your mother idolized you?" Joey's complacency was quite remarkable when you consider how he was sometimes on the line.

"Yes and no. I don't even know my real father. He left my mother before the birth. When I was about four years old, my mum married my stepfather. He behaved very ambivalently when I was a child. On the one hand, I experienced a lot of love, and was often showered with gifts, then again it was incredibly coarse, almost cruel. My mother was different." I paused in the story and bit my lips. Should I really tell the truth?

"How different?" Joey stroked my stomach and snuggled up to me. I could feel his hair on my neck. He was so close that I could smell my shower gel, which he had used.

"My mum is an alcoholic, Joey. One of the heavy varieties. She sometimes staggers through the house, disassembles the stall, mobs everyone, and lies that the beams bend. Then she's lovely and nice again - I think she sometimes regrets what she does in while plastered, when she's clear in her head again." Contrary to my expectations, Joey didn't get cramped. Even the petting units did not stop. Only a gentle pressure on my abdominal area signaled to me that he had listened.

"I didn't want to completely recreate Andir. That would have cost me too much strength at the time, at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Today I can talk about it in a very different way. I've become used to getting along with her.'

"And your father? What does he say?" Joey raised his head and looked at me with a neutral expression.

"We can't do anything. I do not know what the legal situation is here in Japan, but there is really nothing we can do at home. She does not want to be helped, and we do not want to drop it completely. My grandma in particular suffers greatly from the situation, which is why I try to distract and comfort her."

"Mh. I am sorry to hear that. It's always hard, especially since we all know how much you're attached to your grandparents. I think you are a great support to them, just like to me." With these words I could feel his lips in my neck. My whole body was shaking and I got goosebumps. Actually, I was always a little depressed when someone heard about the story – but this time, amazingly, not.

"Half as bad, I got used to it. Besides, how am I a support for you?" Would he get out with the language now? That his father was also an alcoholic? One of the brutal sorts? That he beat him, didn't control himself?

"By being there. It's different with you than talking to Tristan or Yugi. The two are hard to put around, but you just haven't been there that long. You can look a little more objectively into things – I also love you." It was the last sentence that made my heart jump. How four words could be so beautiful?

"What's the stuff, Joey? I don't really know much about your environment. You have a little sister, don't you?" My question was answered with a nod.

"Yes, Serenity. She is two years younger than us and one of the most important people in my life. I would protect them with my life if it were necessary without flinching. She doesn't like to burden others and often eats her grief into herself. But she opens up to me."

I had to smile. Joey's eyes had gotten a glitter, a mixture of longing and love. "I can understand you well. If you're only half a good brother as a buddy, she's done a stroke of luck.'

Joey pushed his fingers into the open spaces between the mine and weeded them together. "I wish I could have done more. In the Kingdom of the Duelists, I fought for her – to allow her to have eye surgery. The intervention was more expensive; only the prize money has saved her eyesight."

Joey's voice began to crumble. Gently I pressed his hands and leaned back, putting my head to his chest. "You sound wistful, Joey. What is it?"

"Our parents separated when we were little. My mother took Serenity with me while I stayed with my father. She now lives in America and has her place of life there. We often make phone calls, write to each other, such things. But it can never replace physical contact."

Was it? Longing for his sister? That's why he was sometimes so depressed, so absent, so funny? I bent down stairs and gently kissed him in his neck bend. After that, I snuggled up to him again and closed my eyes. "Did the operation work?"

There was silence for a short time. I could feel Joey cramping. "Yes, she did. Serenity looks dazzling again. But it does not change the fact that I am missing it. I'd love to visit them one day, or vice versa."

"What is the problem? I mean you're 17 years old, almost of legal age. You can sit down on a plane and fly to the States? You probably have a passport, don't you?" I opened my eyes and could see him staring glassy towards the TV.

"My mother doesn't want us to meet, just like my father." He hastily released a hand from our entanglement when he noticed me watching him. With the back of his hand, he wiped his eyes and muttered something of "having something in the eye."

Gently I broke free from the hug only to sit upside down on his lap, so that our faces almost touched each other. I draped both hands on his car and shook his head. "Joey, you can cry, show feelings, sometimes be bad at it. Especially towards me. I love you because you are as you are. You don't have to suppress your emotions." To underline my words, I kissed my friend. I felt Joey relax instantly. Slowly I broke away from him again, only to kiss myself on his cheeks and to catch those tears with my lips that had got lost from the corners of my eyes.

"We can think of something, promised, Joey. I am there for you, and I stand behind you no matter what you do. You don't have to have secrets in front of me, you have to do anything on strong man. This is not good for you, and unnecessarily worries me. Do you promise me that?"

Joey nodded and once pulled his nose up noisily. Then he grabbed me under my legs and lifted me up.

"Ehm, where are we going, Joey? Not that I want to denounce this kind of locomotion." I couldn't suppress a quiet giggle, especially as Joey grinned again.

"You see right away." We were already heading for my bedroom.

Chapter Text

I woke up in the late morning. Joey had carried me to bed and we had fallen asleep, cuddled close together. Even now he had his right arm wrapped around me. I turned around carefully and could watch my friend stare at me. The smile on his lips was warm and wide. Involuntarily, I pushed myself up a little and kissed him gently.

"Good morning, Joey - did you sleep well?" I made myself comfortable on his chest and snuggled up to the fabric of the T-shirt he wore to sleep.

"Mh, better than usual. That's probably up to you."

"I'm usually a moron when it comes to the place. A double bed is not enough for me alone – it surprises me that you have not been pushed out. Are you sleeping badly, Joey?" I deliberately tried to ask the last question very casually.

"It depends on the constitution of the day. I can't complain either - you were good.' He kissed me on the forehead and grinned at me.

"If that's really the case - Joey, could you bring a few things from you next time?" My question was answered with a skewed look on the part of Joey.

"How? Why? So, stuff? You mean clothes?" I nodded affirmatively. It rattled in his head; I was sure of that.

"Joey, if we're together now, at least unofficially, that means you'll visit me more often. I don't have many things in your size anymore. You also have your peace and quiet here. I mean, if you're at home or something. I used to want that many times - a retreat. Don't worry, I don't fade anything."

For a few moments Joey didn't react at all, only to nod and push myself tightly. "Thank you. You don't know how much that means to me."

"I don't have to - I love you." So, I stole a kiss and snaked myself out of the hug. "What do you think of it if you've ever gone to the bathroom? I'll have breakfast right away and then look through your essay."

Said, Joey had already crumpled into the bathroom. My hopes had been fulfilled: he had left his mobile phone. I slipped over to his bed side and grabbed my smartphone from the bedside table. I snapped the reading lamp and held the display in the light cone. The rest was child's play – Joey's unlocking pattern was clearly visible. One of the reasons why I used only fingerprint anymore. Seconds later, I was already in his contacts looking for a certain number. While scrolling, I pulled out my own phone and unlocked it. A glance at the door and strained listening revealed to me that Joey was probably in the shower.

"Well come on, where are you?" Luckily, the common terms such as "sister heart and sister" were as early as Serenity. In fact, I found it – he had saved her with "Serenity <3", which made me smile involuntarily. I hastily saved her contact, closed Joey's apps and then put the smartphone back in place. After that, I went to breakfast.

We spent the afternoon together. Joey's English essay was very successful in my eyes. He had the usual flaws (especially grammatical) but the retelling of the scene with the riddles was very lively. Overall, he seemed to have enjoyed working. My praise encouraged him even more. At about 15:00 Joey packed his stuff.

"Sure you want to leave? You can stay even longer." I watched my friend slip into his shirt and button it up.

"Even longer? Well, it's been two days, haven't it?" His grin seemed a little lopsided, which I corrected with a kiss on the corners of my mouth.

"Don't do it, you liked it. Apart from that, this was your first, high-percentage alcohol you consumed." This time I was rewarded with a fleeting kiss.

"Mh, I still have to work on lying. Yes, it was really very nice. I'm glad you feel the same way, David. The last time I had such heartpal in the Kingdom of the Duelists in my duel against Yugi."

"Well done again, hm?" I asked, smiling, and snuggled up to my friend one last time, only to open the door to him. "Get home well, yes? Write to me when you've arrived."

"Of course. Until tomorrow!" With that, Joey raised his hand to say goodbye and he was gone. I closed the door behind him and sighed softly. I was already missing him. A look outside told me that the weather was likely to last. So, I crawled out my sports gear, made an isodrink and then left off. My pulse watch beeped briefly and then fell silent. I had run in. With the headphones in my ear and the playlist I set on my smartphone for my sports program, I enjoyed the cool air of November. Autumn was my favorite time. About twenty minutes from my apartment there was a large park where I usually did my rounds. The trees had meanwhile discolored and plunged the scenery into a colorful spectacle, with everything likely to have withered next week. When I was running, I always got my head free. That was the case this time too. In the time I was doing sports, I was all me – I didn't have to think, I didn't have to process anything, I just had to go through my program. I really enjoyed it.
My playlist was interrupted by my phone ringtone. A glance at the display showed me Mokuba as a caller. What did he want, especially on a Sunday, to the late afternoon?

"Hey Mokuba! All okay with you?"

"Hi David. What are you doing right now?" I knew this undertone from Mokuba. Either he was bored and he wanted to be entertained, or he needed something.

"I'm actually running in the park right now. Why? Is there something?"

"Um, yes, you might still be able to do so today, so if you have time..." My little friend was pushing around. I rolled my eyes a little - why not blurt things out?

"Spit it out, what is?"

"Well, well, I don't really want to discuss that on the phone. Can you get something in an hour? I'll also send you someone to pick you up. And, could you pack a few things? If it becomes late so you can stay with us." I sighed softly, but then nodded.

"Sure, I hurry, okay? Until later." I could hear Mokuba's relieved breath. He said goodbye to me and I made my way back.

About an hour later I stood, freshly showered, with a backpack, in front of the Kaiba estate. I nodded thankfully to my driver and headed towards Mokuba's room. I knew the way by now. I napped around the ribbons of my white hoodie a little bit and then knocked on the door. This was hastily torn open, and I was pulled in by the arm.

"Hey, not so hasty. Did you shoot whom, or what's going on?" I asked, laughing, as Mokuba slammed the door open. He really must have eaten something bad if he behaved like that. His room was the same as usual, with the exception of the desk, which was not littered with notebooks, folders and books. On the contrary, the work surface seemed extraordinarily empty.

"I need your help," he began without hesitation. At this start I couldn't help but raise my eyebrows. My help? For what?

"You need my help, Mokuba? What did you do that your brother can't box you out?" I put my backpack next to the sofa, slipped out of my shoes and sat on the couch, my hands tied together on my legs.

'Seto isn't suitable for that, Joey either. No one else comes to mind except you." Well, it couldn't be Duel Monsters. Mokuba also planted himself on the sofa and nervously nailed his necklace in the form of a Duel Monsters card.

"Well, what's it all about?" I was admittedly curious. So, I didn't even know the little whirlwind. Normally, Mokuba sprayed with energy. Today he seemed different, nervous, bubbly, almost a little depressed.

"There's a girl in my class, Sakura. She's having her birthday next week, and I don't know what to give her. I like her, really, so, not like a friend, not only, but..."

"You fell in love, hm?" I smiled at my question, because Mokuba blushed instantly. Of course, Kaiba and Joey, two of his closest companions, were not the right choice. The former was an ice block, and, except for his little brother, probably felt no affection for anyone, while Joey had presented himself as "virgin" in terms of girlfriends. His classmates and friends were also a little too young, and at that age it was rather embarrassing for a teenager to talk about girls with boys of the same age. After a short period of silence from Mokuba, I poured some coke into two ready glasses and held one to my little friend.

'It's obviously difficult at that age. You're nervous, you're afraid that you'll make yourself a monkey, or that she's laughing at you. If it calms you down, that doesn't change in later years. The jump into cold water is never pleasant." I laughed quietly at whether my own words, which gave me a poisonous look from Mokuba. "I sound like an old man." So, I put the glass aside and pushed my fingers back into each other. "How did you imagine that, Mokuba? You go, give her a gift, and then?" A baffled twitching with the shoulders on the side of the black-haired man followed.

"Hm, tell me a bit about Sakura, okay? Then we can think about a suitable gift together." I was sipping on the coke again, while Mokuba had suddenly found his voice again.

"Sakura is as old as me, has brown hair, grey eyes, a girl. She's smart, funny, pretty, talented.' I listened to the hymn of praise for Mokuba's swarm with a smile and completed his list with: "So, a magical girl." The little one literally glowed in his face. "Does she like you?"

"Well, so, somehow." Mokuba rubbed his neck as he continued: "She invited me to her birthday party next week. We stay with her, and all her friends are there too. Also a few boys of the class, and therefore..." Somehow I found it almost a little cute how he behaved. That didn't suit him at all.

'You're already thinking you want to give her something, and maybe hint a little, but not too much that you love her very much. Above all, you don't want to stand in front of the guys as a softie, hm?" Mokuba nodded violently at my statement.

"I can put myself in your position. What do you think of it: You write down to me what Sakura likes, like nibbling, reading, what movies she likes to watch, and so on? I then tinker with you and we get another little thing that we pack nicely."

Mokuba slanted his head in disbelief: "Tinkering? Why? Aren’t we just buying something expensive?" Why, I was expecting this statement?

"A gift depends on the gesture, and the thoughts behind it, especially when you like a girl. Sakura is certainly happier if you have invested time yourself than if you just slammed her into some expensive stuff." That was a little lying, because at that age you had more pleasure in expensive things than in my years, but I left that out. At some point, the little one himself would come up.

„Gut, dann, machen wir das so, okay?“ seufzte Mokuba resigniert.

"Okay. I'll come back to you tomorrow after school, then we'll take care of it right away, yes? Now it would be appropriate for me to make you feel good. Do we play a round? Have you eaten yet?" The black-haired man's face brightened.

"No, only in just over an hour gives something to eat. I also owed you a revenge from the last time – but this time we play something different, without virtual reality." Ten minutes later, Mokuba dismembered me several times in a pointless first-person shooter. When he played, he was the old one again. He insulted me, with every kill on my part, that it was mean, unfair, and a piggy, and rejoiced when he could blow my skull away. Later there was food (rump steak with wedges, herb butter and fresh lemon lemonade) and another extensive session in which I lost again before I went to my room with Mokuba. He asked me the fourth time, what information I would absolutely need in order to be able to make the perfect gift.

"Ah Mokuba, what comes to mind. You know Sakura better than I do, and you want to make her happy, not me. Just sit down and think. The rest is a picknick." I went to the bathroom, with my burdock in tow, and brushed my teeth. He snorted for a good two minutes until he gave me a firm hug.

"What is it for? Bad conscience, because you slammed me into the ground like that, right?" I spat out, hurriedly cleaned the toothbrush, and then answered the hug. Although Mokuba was sometimes extremely strenuous (unlike his brother still an angel), the little one was very close to my heart.

"That you help me. I can't ask Seto, he just has the work, the company and his next duel in mind. He has no time for girls at all." He was really cute. "It is okay, Mokuba, we're friends, aren't we? Friends hold on to each other. We're already doing it, we've promised." So, I grabbed him under the knees and threw the little screamer, who protested loudly, into bed, only to pull the blanket over his head.

"Let me out," he laughed bell-brightly, while I struggled to keep my little protégé under the blanket. "This is revenge for awakening the last time." We continued the game for a while, devastated the entire bed until I was wheezing and laughing, Mokuba on me, almost lying in the mattress.

"I give myself up, you won." Grinning, the little one descended from me, only to sit next to me in the tailor's seat. "David?" he asked, with a very elongated I. He wanted something again. "Hm?" I muttered.

"Do you know that I really like you? Like a big brother, almost like Seto. Of course, you are not like him, quite different, but also then again like him." Well, I didn't want to be compared to Kaiba, but I was very moved by his statement.

"I also love you, Mokuba. You're a brutal tormentor at times, but otherwise hard to do.' With that, a pillow was knocked on my head again, and we fought a second, violent pillow fight until we sank exhausted into the mattresses.

"I don't think I can walk an inch anymore," Little-Kaiba quid, spreading his arms. I felt the same way. "Same. Sick, your stamina."

"Do you mind if I sleep here today?" He wanted what? Sleep in the same bed? Why? Then his words echoed in my head: "Brother, like Seto, but not. Seto works, Seto has the company in mind..."

"Get your stuff, pull yourself around, brush your teeth, and don't get too wide afterwards, yes?" Quietly, the little one jumped up and fell out of the room. I looked at him with a smile and moved in the meantime. Mokuba came back, dressed in an oversized red T-shirt and skinny jogging pants. My little one wore shorts and an orange shirt.

'No more conversations, I'm so tired, and we'll both have to go to school tomorrow. Don't wake me up to seven, and don't be a place pig, yes?" So, I dropped myself into bed and turned my back on Mokuba.

"Well," I heard it in an annoyed tone before he wished me a good night and turned out the light. A short time later, I could feel someone slung his arms around my upper arm and clung to it. Smiling, I closed my eyes, so Joey had to feel when it came to Serenity.

Chapter Text

Contrary to my threats, Mokuba had already woken me up at about six o'clock. An annoyed look at the digital alarm clock next to me told me the actual time.

"So, what are we to do for Sakura, David?" I snorted angrily. Why the vulture had to be discussed at six o'clock in the morning. Now we couldn't do anything anyway – besides, school was still on the plan before. I rubbed my thumb and index finger over my eyelids. "Mokuba, it's six o'clock in the morning. Sakura doesn't run away from us, any more than her gift." I yawned loudly and looked to the left. The black whirlwind was next to me, and studied me thoroughly. "Do I have something on my face, or what's going on?"

"No, but how did you get the muscles?" A glance down revealed to me that I was lying in bed without a body, and the ceiling only reached well up to my hips. I had taken off the T-shirt at night; I was always too hot when I slept anyway. "Training. In sport, you get your head free." Mokuba then nodded sympathetically: "Mh, I know. Seto always says that." I slanted my head a little bit. Kaiba and sport?

"What sport does your brother do?" My roommate then grinned: "Karate, judo and swimming. Seto is a natural talent. He's already won a few prizes.” It was on my tongue that they had been given to him rather, because otherwise he would have destroyed some livelihoods, but I left it with a nod. "I go to the bathroom, make myself fresh. When is breakfast available? At half past eight?" My question was answered with a nod. I swung myself out of bed, scratched my chest, and then staggered into the bathroom. I spent the next half hour with an extensive shower, cleaning my teeth, shaving and hair styling. Once back in the room, I could see Mokuba typing nervously on his phone.

"What's going on? Is there anything with your brother?" Meanwhile, I slipped into my black jeans and white hoodie. The teen shook his head: "No, Sakura wrote to me." It was sixty-five at six o'clock – which half-normal person sent messages at the time? "And what does she write?" I decided to give my backpack now.

"Whether you come, her big sister finds you hot. I wrote to her." The backpack fell out of my hands. Please what? I shook my head and stared at Mokuba in disenthusiasm: "You did something?" I didn't like the mischievous grin on the little one's face at all. Did he want to couple me, or what was going on? "Mh, Mei goes with you to class. She's a little shy. That's why she asked Sakura to ask me if I could take you with me. So non-binding." I snorted disparagingly. Non-binding – but otherwise he was still doing well? "You probably are off your rocker, Mokuba. I've talked about five sentences with Mei so far, apart from what do you hope for?"

The grin on Mokuba's trains gave way to a form of entry mixed with guilt: "I don't want to be alone. I'm more comfortable when you're there and keep an eye on me.' But that was far from a reason to get me on a date, which it would undoubtedly be. Moreover, I was not particularly keen to supervise children, which would undoubtedly amount to it. "Why didn't you date your brother with Mei?" I whispered annoyed, peppering the backpack on the bed. "Because she's not on Seto. Besides, he certainly doesn't have time, and he's not the sociable guy for parties unless he has to go" was Mokuba's response. I was in the mood to explode.

"Aha, and what if my girlfriend gets angry?" Again, this broad grin on the lips of the smaller Kaibas. "I asked Tristan, who said you didn't have one. Ah come on, give yourself a jerk, David, please." The grin turned into a begging dog. Tristan I would wash hid head neatly. I also had to explain the misery to Joey if I let myself be really wide-ranging to go. "Ah you are mad, Mokuba." He reinforced his dog's gaze a little bit and I was sighing: "Okay. But she is not to say anything to Mei yet; I don't want to be class number one today."

So I shouldered the backpack and went outside, to the dining room, where breakfast had already been prepared. Silently, I smeared butter on my toasted wholegrain toast and sipped on my cocoa. Mokuba arrived a good ten minutes later and was conspicuously quiet. I didn't break the awkward silence either - should he just notice that he had built crap. After breakfast we dressed and went outside. A limo was already waiting and took me to school. On the ride, Mokuba repeatedly tamed nervously on his jacket. Somehow, I was sorry, even though I was still extremely angry. Kaiba probably rarely had time for such problems, and besides, this was probably his first time in love. I would have been happy if someone had helped me back then. So, I sighed inside and gave myself a jolt.

"Mokuba? I have end at 4 p.m. today. What do you think of it when you pick me up, we go to my apartment for a short time, I get the school supplies there for tomorrow, and then we get a gift for Sakura?" My little comrade-in-arms's face brightened. "Really? Are you no longer angry?" I didn't want to make it that easy for him. " I'm still pretty pissed off, but I promised you to help you with this. I keep my promises." The car stopped, and I could see the Domino High schoolyard through the tinted windows. "Until later, Mokuba." So, I opened the door and got out, but was then held back by the hand.

"Hey, David, it, I'm sorry, yeah? I didn't want to push you or anything like that, but it would be really cool if you were there. Please don't be angry with me anymore, yes?" I didn't know why, but the anger was smouldering at that moment. Smiling, I scrubbed the little one's wild hair mane: "Already okay, forgive and forget. After all, we're a team, aren't we?" I held his hand to the high-five, and we clapped each other. "Until later, yes?" Mokuba nodded happily and closed the door. A moment later, the limousine drove off. I briefly looked at my phone – I still had a good fifteen minutes to move and go to class.

"For a change again slept in a decent bed, little one?" Kaiba's voice ripped me out of my mind. Where had he come from? He was already tightly dressed, and had casually thrown his bag over his back. "Must feel like a kingdom compared to where you're home." This arrogant, smug and condescending undertone almost brought me to the white glow. "Not all of us can be born with a golden spoon in our mouths," I countered bitingly. Seto's lips curled a little: "Well, I could tell you that I've worked hard to get that wealth, by stringing together clever moves, but that would probably exceed your intellect."

If he had told me in the same tone that I was mentally at the level of a banana, it would have been fitting. I pinched myself with a comment and set myself in motion. Should he slip my hump. "Well, but what do I expect from someone who is a close friend of Wheeler?"" Kaiba seemed to enjoy stinging. In any case, he walked loosely beside me, and basically mocked everything, my clothes, my style, my gait... When he arrived at the door still did not hold the flap, the thread of patience ripped me

"If you can do everything so well, I'd think about why my little brother wants me to go on his first date with him, not you. If you still haven't checked it, Kaiba, Mokuba would be quite happy if you didn't sour in the company all the time. If you think I'm going to need alms, or would like to spend the night in a proper bed, which probably some star architect from California has designed – no, you cut yourself. I don't have to eat from golden plates, or afford dozens of stamp licks. I am with you because of Mokuba, because I like the little one, and unlike his big brother, I care a little about his emotional world."

So, I angrily opened the door and staggered towards my class. To my astonishment, Kaiba did not follow me. Looking back and showing my interest in this way, my pride did not allow. Angry, I moved and entered the class with a sour face. Tristan, Joey and Yugi were already besieging my place.

"What do you look like? Poorly slept?" Tristan's broad grin, combined with boxing against my shoulder, didn't exactly help brighten up the mood. "Mh, babysitting. Thank you also for your generous information to Mokuba. I've got a date with Mei this weekend.' Yugi and Tristan looked at each other, only to laugh loudly. Joey's face was illegible, which made my heart slip into my pants. "Honestly? Did it work? Mei usually makes everyone blink. Even Hayato, and he usually gets everyone around." Very thin ice on which Tristan was moving.

"Apparently. This is only alibi-like to help Mokuba out of the pinch. I don't want anything from her.' I avoided looking at Joey and churned out my English papers. "Do you have no eyes in your head, or what's going on? Mei is absolutely pretty. I'd wrestle with a grizzly if I could go out with her.' Yugi then shook his head: "Man, Tristan, if David doesn't want anything from her, he doesn't want anything from her. It was also a stupid idea." I sighed softly and reached for my phone; Joey's gaze still evasive. I hurtily typed a message.

'It's nothing, Joey, certainly not, I promise you. I just want to help Mokuba a little bit. I drink something, watch the little one as he poses with his flame, and then disappear again." Contrary to my hopes, he did not reach for the vibrating mobile phone in his pocket. The appearance of our English teacher caused the grape around me to swirl around her places. Where had Kaiba actually stayed? He would probably be on the phone with Mokuba right now, and fold him up properly. Inside, I turned on a fool – firstly, that I had lost control of Kaiba, and secondly that I had chatted this up with Mei. A glance over to this one, which gave me a shy smile, caused my mood to drop to a low point. What had I just broken into?

I spent the rest of the day with a silent seat neighbor who, despite reading the message, didn't say a word to me. When the bell finally rang and we finished, I grabbed Joey and pulled him onto the boys' cloister. "My goodness, Joey, what's going on? You make a face like three days of rainy weather." I knew that this statement would not change anything.

"What's supposed to be? Nothing is wrong." He clearly avoided looking me in the eye. My anger at Mokuba, Tristan and Mei just grew immeasurably. But I was most angry with myself. "Joey, please, listen to me briefly. That with Mei is nothing, I promise you. It's just a matter of helping Mokuba a little after Kaiba lets him hang. It's questionable how I treated him, just before school." Kaiba had not turned up. I was mad. The last sentence at least ripped Joey out of his lethargy. "How, you've kindly jumped around with Kaiba? What did you say?" I hesitated briefly.

"Well, that he should take care of Mokuba, and I don't depend on his wealth. I am with them because Mokuba has grown close to my heart. Gradually I understand how you have to deal with Serenity. Joey, please, trust me, I just love you." So, I stood on the tip of my toes and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. To my astonishment, he did not block. After a short time, we broke up, and Joey seemed a lot more relaxed.

"I don't know what drove into me." He drove his way through his blond hair mane. I could see a subtle hint of red on his cheeks. "I would say you're jealous, hm?" So, I stunned him with a grin on his nose. Joey replied with a grin: "Does that seem like this, hm?" Shortly afterwards, I was pulled into his arms and kissed intimately. I slowly closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of being so close to Joey again. A gap wide I opened my lips to allow his tongue to open. My hands automatically moved up, beating around Joey's neck. His fingers stroked my back, only to grab me tightly and turn around. I could feel one of the sinks in my back while Joey challenged me to a fiery tongue kiss. Now I dared to open my eyes again a gap wide. My friend had closed his own and leaned fully into the kiss.

The sudden vibrating in my pocket made us pause. I sighed angrily. Joey broke away from me and nodded in the direction of my smartphone. A glance at the display showed "Mokuba." "Let's go, go." Joey stood in front of a mirror and straightened his hair. I followed his request and wiped my thumb over the green button to receive the conversation.

"Where are you? We've been waiting for over ten minutes?" Mokuba sounded nervous and annoyed at the same time. Had his brother not spoken to him yet? "Hm? Oh yes, right, sorry Mokuba. I just had something to do. I'm coming.' So, I quickly got up and turned to Joey. "How I hate something like that - always at the most inappropriate moments."

The blonde-haired man just grinned and nodded towards the door: "Get off." In passing I gave Joey another kiss on the cheek and then stormed outside. In fact, the black limo was waiting outside the school. I rushed to the door and opened it. Mokuba sat there, his right leg placed over his left and his arms crossed in front of his chest. "You haven't heard of looking at a watch, haven't you? Finally get in, we have something to do!" In silence, I already congratulated Sakura if she really got involved with him: he was clearly more girl than her, even though I didn't know Mokuba's worshippers yet.

"Don't have a cow, okay? You want something from me, not me from you." His facial expression darkened a little while I was getting in. "Where are we going now? To my apartment, just pick up some things?" My question was answered with a shake of the head from the little diva. "Aha, and where then?"

A roll of Mokuba made me smile: he was at least committed to Sakura. "We're going to the mall now." He casually pulled a folded note out of his pocket and held it in front of my nose. "Everything that Sakura likes, doesn't like, likes to do, and so on," he said. I unfurl the smear sheet and started reading it. Mokuba had an extraordinarily beautiful writing, which he had to be left with.

"Her favorite animal is a penguin, seriously?" I quid as my eyes scurried across the list. "Better than Mei's - a giraffe" came from my little companion. Overall, the list was not particularly surprising. Sakura liked sweets, especially chocolate, strawberries, she liked to drink peach ice cream, her favorite color was green. Mokuba's swarm drew in her spare time, was sincere, honest, pretty (it had been noted three times), hated encoders, insects and math. I could understand the latter all too well. So, I folded the note and handed it back to Mokuba. He must have stared at me all the time, judging by his focused gaze. "Can you make something out of it?" About five minutes ago, he almost went to my throat, and now he sounded good and pleading again. Teenager.

"Of course, we're already getting there. Let's get the stuff first and then see, yeah?" Mokuba nodded and a few minutes later we arrived at the local shopping center. Little Kaiba instructed the driver to park nearby and wait before we made our way to the mall. Inside, we rattled off some shops until we had everything that I thought was important. Throughout, Mokuba behaved extremely affectionately and kindly, almost a little over-the-top. There was no criticism of my selection.

"Do we have everything now?" I gave Mokuba the substantial amount of cash I had paid with. "Mh, I think so. If we go back to the car, I will explain to you roughly how I imagine Sakura's gift. But in the end, you have to decide, it's your girlfriend, not mine." So, we trot to the exit, where the driver was already waiting for us. (Mokuba had safely informed him with his mobile phone) When the car rolled off, I and the black-haired man looked into the two bags I had taken with me.

"Strawberry chocolate, a plush penguin, pencils, brushes, a drawing block, and a card. Okay, I can get that. What do we want with the rest? The basket, the artificial grass and especially the plush giraffe?" I smiled amused.

"Without a gift for Mei to show up also comes a bit stupid. She likes green, doesn't she? If we put everything in the basket, equip it with artificial grass, and then neatly cover it with gift wrapping paper, she will certainly be happy." Mokuba's face suddenly brightened. "You're awesome!" At his euphoria, I shook my head: "No, the most important component is missing – the personal touch. I have one or two ideas, but I need a little help. You should think about what you want to say to Sakura by now."

Now the little one blinked insecurely: "What do I want to say to her?" Somehow droll – on the one hand so innocent, and then in love. Had I been like that at his age? I don't know anymore. "Mh, I'll help you too, don't be afraid." As if on the cue, the car stopped in front of the Kaiba estate.

Chapter Text

"What about my stuff? Mokuba? Why didn't we drive past my apartment?" I stared out the window in horror. I didn't have clothes to change, and my school supplies for tomorrow were also at home.

"Stop hyperventilating – we've already had everything you need brought into the guest room. key and so on." With that, Mokuba stormed outside and left me in the limousine in disbelief. How, post key? Did the little poison gnome actually have a key to my apartment? For the time being, however, I decided not to take the time of our chauffeur longer than necessary. I rushed outside, carrying bags and a backpack with me.

Inside, Mokuba was already waiting for me, who, without a friendly greeting on his lips, hustled into his room. I followed him, but at least I nodded from time to time. Once inside, the door was thrown into the lock and my bags were taken away.

"What am I to give her personal now?" Mokuba was impatient. He was clearly nervous. The celebration was on Saturday – besides, I had promised to support him in the project? I pushed the matter of the key aside. Instead, I went to my little friend, squatted in front of him, and put my hands on his shoulders.

"Quietly, Mokuba, we'll get there, promised. I have already done this two or three times, and it has always been a success, at least, so far that the person said to have been very pleased about it. You are also pretty, adorable, intelligent and friendly. Sakura would be stupid if she didn't get involved with you." My voice was soft and gentle, but still audible.

My grey-green eyes sought contact with Mokubas. He smiled, clearly. Then he fell around my neck and pressed himself firmly on me. Admittedly, the whole scenario surprised me a little. After the first moment of confusion, I hugged my little protégé tightly. "Shhh, its good. Calm down. I am also near you on Saturday, promised. We're a team, aren't we?" So, I broke up a little and smiled cheerfully at him. "As a team, we also stick together."

Mokuba then nodded violently and wiped the sleeves of his striped shirt over his eyes. "Of course, we are a team, you and I, like Seto and I." On the one hand, it affected me that Mokuba thought so, but on the other hand I didn't necessarily want to be put on a par with Kaiba. My stomach pulled inwardly as I thought of this morning.

"Let's get to work until there's food, right?" We carefully loaded the bags on his desk and I got a second chair. Mokuba meanwhile sorted the things and got the pen and paper.

"Okay, we have several options. An informal message that we attach to the map, a poem or a love letter. The latter is of course extraordinarily direct and could get it wrong if you have only been friendly with Sakura so far. Poems are well received by the girls because they signal your interest in them, and also show that you are willing to think about them. The formless message is the safest, but also the most impersonal, in my view. It's a bit of a mixture of poem and love letter – if we equip the content beautifully, even such a simple text can convey a lot of sensitivity." During my suggestions, I sorted things as I thought it would be and began to lay out the basket with artificial grass.

"What would you do?" Mokuba was petty and unsettled. I had to smile involuntarily. He seemed to be very trusting in me on the subject.

"Well, I've done this with the poems so far, which has been very well received. The girls were also seventeen and sixteen, a little older than Sakura. The love letter is to be set apart at your age because I don't think Sakura can capture what you want to tell her. Let's stick to the text, hm?" Meanwhile, I draped the penguin in the middle of the basket and slanted my head a little. We had chosen a model that could carry something under the right arm/wing. Carefully I pushed the two bars of strawberry chocolate into the space between the limb and body of the penguin.

"O-O-Okay, what am I supposed to write now?" A side view revealed to me that the little one with trembling fingers held the pen just above the paper. So, he would only spoil the letter. How could I reassure him? I thought for a moment and remembered my grandparents. They had always taken me on my lap and then solved the homework with me. Carefully I reached over to Mokuba and lifted him, who stared at me in disbelief, to my knees. With my left arm, I held it just above the navel, while my right hand carefully placed around the Seine holding the pen.

"Quite quiet, okay? I'm still there, and we're writing that together now, agree?' Contrary to my expectations (Mokuba was a bit older than me was then), he did not resist the treatment. The opposite was the case: I noticed him slowly relaxing.

"Let's start with the salutation, hm? How about: Sakura, first of all Happy Birthday?" The little whirlwind pulled the note over to us and then nodded, only to lean against me with his back, slowly and as if stung, writing down my words. I envied him for this typeface. The black mane of hair was a little in the way of me, but with a little uplift it was possible to observe him closely in his work.

"Good, and now?" Mokuba put his head in his neck and looked up to me with anticipation.

"Hm. I would write about your friendship now. How long you know yourself, and how important she has become to you in this time." I didn't want to put everything in his mouth. It would undoubtedly have been noticeable if the text did not wear its style.

"We've known each other for two whole years now. In that time, I got you as a friend, and I am happy when we meet. We chat with each other, have almost no secrets in front of each other and are otherwise a great team." Mokuba was still looking up at me, expectantly.

"If we change get by winning, and chatting with "talk about everything with each other," it sounds good." The little one then slanted his head a little: "But we don't talk to each other. That would be a slick lie."

"A little exaggerating is quite okay. If you don't like it, of course you can have a chat – Sakura is your girlfriend." I felt Mokuba's hand moving again. Very carefully I had him work, and used my freed hand to deal with the gift, a little awkwardly, one-handed.

" That would be done. What now?" A scrutiny glance made me fold the chin down a little bit. In addition to my griffonage, Mokuba's typeface seemed really exorbitantly beautiful, almost flawless.

"Okay, that part is important now, because you talk about your feelings. I would say something like: In time I also realized how much I am attached to you, Sakura. You are always there for me, make me laugh, stand by me when I am in a bad mood; that's very special for me." The teen nodded eagerly and immediately continued to write. In the meantime, I was able to take care of the further arrangement. I pushed the pencils through the narrow holes of the basket, so that they framed the penguin centrally in the middle. I put the brush in the artificial grass and leaned it against the plush toy, so that it looked like it was holding it.

"I would like to write now that I find her very pretty, and I like how she laughs and likes her drawings." Gradually, he thawed. This was important and, strangely enough, filled me with a little pride. Did he blossom like that because of me?

"Okay. When you see Sakura, how do you feel about, what do you think about?"

"Well, actually, so – to the school trip, where we are located together with the others in the meadow. Our hands have touched each other and it's been so weird.' He had become quieter as he was speaking, and a subtle redness adorned his colored cheeks. Smiling, I nodded and gently pressed him.

"Okay, you don't have to be embarrassed. It's nice that you think of her like that. I would put it this way – When I look at you, I think of our school trip, the meadow, and our hands touching each other. I felt something that seemed weird at first, but I think now I know what it's all about. I'm probably banged up. Bang into you, your appearance, your being. I could listen to you for hours as you laugh, watch you draw. Sakura, you are not only a good friend, but you have also taken a place in my heart, filled a gap that would never have closed otherwise." Now I could see Mokuba stiffening on my lap. "Don't you like it?"

"But, well, fine, I think it's very nice." Again, the pen flew over the paper and put my spoken word into action. Something had taken him out of the concept, and I was admittedly curious about what that might have been. On the other hand, Kaiba was his brother, not me. If it really burdened him, Mokuba would talk to someone.

"Now I would write something like, "I hope you feel similar, and understand why I'm telling you all this. Not a day goes by when I don't think of you, Sakura. Thank you for being there, and thank you for being such a great friend. I love you very, very much." The words from my lips seemed a little strange to me. I consciously tried to adapt a more childish style, which, judging by Mokuba's contented facial expression, also comes to me.

He even wrote the greeting "your best friend Mokuba" without my instructions. The basket was now ready. "Wow, I'm very proud of you, as you can be, Mokuba. This is really a beautiful text, and will surely please Sakura. We didn't lean too far out of the window, but get to the point. That will go smoothly, for sure. But now I need a picture of Sakura and your permission."

"Why?" Mokuba looked at me curiously and put the pen aside.

"Joey can draw very well. I would like to send him a picture of Sakura, which he should repaint with one of you. If you're not embarrassed, of course."

The little whirlwind hesitated briefly, but finally nodded and fished his mobile phone and a small paper bag out of his pocket, which was clearly not part of our purchase. "What is that, Mokuba?" With pointed fingers, I turned the paper bag around and stared at him inquiringly.

"Can you hang that around the penguin's neck? You don't laugh, promised?" Mokuba tapped around on his smartphone as I reached into the bag and could feel something hard. Carefully I pulled out the gift and examined the piece in detail. It was a silver bracelet, with a pendant in the shape of a heart. The idea was more than sweet. Was he so nervous about that?

"That's really nice, Mokuba, really. The idea is great." I hung the penguin, very carefully, the arm chain around my neck and then nodded contentedly. "Do you like it that way, or do you want to change something?" Mokuba put his phone back in his pocket and examined our joint work in detail. "Woah, that looks perfect. Where do we give the letter now?"

"Lean him in front, at the feet of the penguin. A little cellophane round it off well, I think. My head of creativity and graphics couldn't have done better." I knew this voice all too well, and it caused an icy shiver to run over my back.

Chapter Text

"Seto!" Mokuba jumped from my lap and fell directly into his brother's arms. He even smiled a little for a change, and put his hands around the little one. Even today, the older Kaiba wore the white coat with the striking cut, the high boots and the black shirt, along with black pants.

"Well, what did you prepare for?" With Mokuba in the embrace, the CEO pushed himself forward and examined our joint work in detail. "That's for Sakura, you know, from my class." The black-haired boy, albeit reluctantly, broke away from Seto and posed next to the present. "I got help from a specialist." Grinning, he nodded at me. I wondered how long it would take for Kaiba to explode and throw me out of the house. After the stand-up this morning, I was surprised that I had not yet been picked up by the police.

"Expert? Interesting." I could feel Kaiba's icy gaze on me, which, thank God, redirected to the present a few moments later. The company's chief executive stood next to Mokuba, put a hand on his shoulder and lowered his head a little. Now they would come back: suggestions for improvement, criticism, comments and mocking insults.

'It looked impressive from afar, but it's close - you've both shown a lot of attention to detail. I wonder why I am still working with the moron head of department. So, the gift for Sakura is ready?" Mokuba shook his head, ran to the table and held the text to Kaiba. A derogatory remark would surely follow. The CEO read the message several times.

"Your girlfriend will surely be happy, Mokuba." Excuse me? No damn stupid statement? What had happened to the CEO? Instead, Kaiba carefully folded the note and carefully leaned it against the penguin. He then clapped his hands and bluffed towards the door: "Well, what are you waiting for? You are not paid for standing for rum. Pack it up neatly, and woe betide you, you're even beginning to change something about the gift." His voice was freezing cold and exclaiming. In the door frame appeared a slim middle-aged woman, with dark brown, long hair and a friendly smile on her lips. How one could not pull a face at all after the nice invitation was a mystery to me. "Of course, Mr. Kaiba. I will take care of it personally. The gift is ready for collection no later than tomorrow." With this, she took the basket very carefully and carried it outside, a bow to us later.

"Who was that, Seto?" Mokuba looked up curiously to his brother. However, this question also interested me. Certainly, an employee, just as he had folded it up. "One of Japan's most renowned designers and decoration specialists. I have to support my little brother in his first attempt to conquer a girl." How quickly a mind could change – madness. Less than a minute ago, he had brushed the woman down, and now he was so loving with Mokuba; That Kaiba was capable of such an emotional form of affection astonished me. The little one hugged his brother intimately again, only to then look at me. "Crap, now we have forgotten the picture!"

I waved my hand: "That's not a problem – we have to ask if Joey has time and leisure. We can still attach the image to the packaging outside. By the way, we also left the card out. It's an extremely intelligent move -that's not how it's standard." I grinned abruptly. The whole thing had gone a little too fast for me.

"Wheeler should help you? How? Standing next to Mokuba to show the girl that at 17 you can be a bigger idiot than at 14?" At least she was back now, the derogatory way that drove me to the white glow.

"Joey can draw very well, and Sakura also paints." I swallowed the rest of the biting comment and pulled out my phone. In fact, Mokuba had sent me a picture of Sakura. She was really sweet for her age – sweet in the sense of a child.
Without going into Kaiba's further tirades about Joey's inability, I sent Joey the photo with a message: "Hello Joey! Attached a picture of Mokuba's flame, Sakura. She likes to draw and I would have a request to you (of course only if you have time and desire): Could you paint her and Mokuba together on a picture together? Your talents are outstanding, and Mokuba would agree. Miss you already! David" I had deliberately renounced a more intimate salutation like "treasure" or "favorite" because I didn't know who might still be able to read Joey's news. So, I put my smartphone back in the pocket of my black jeans and looked at Kaiba and Mokuba.

The elder had wrapped his arm around the younger one, while both stared at me. Did I have something on my face? "You have to like Joey a lot when you smile like that when you write to him." I felt caught by Mokuba's words. Did the big Kaiba at least have anything to do with it? Judging by his motionless facial expression, he does not care. "Who says it was Joey at all? Besides, he's my best friend here. When you call, I don't pull a face either." With an over-wide grin, I tried to overplay the situation. Did I really beam so obviously?

"Nevertheless, the cook is done with the food. Once you've completed your private executions, we could go down." Kaiba's voice was free of ridicule and mockery this time. He nodded at me only briefly and, pushing Mokuba in front of him, went outside. Did he really care about his brother in general? My grumbling belly made me forget this question for the time being. I rushed to the dining room. There, as last time, the throne-like chairs had been erected. Three pieces had been neatly placed in such a way that at the top of the table someone could look forward to a neighbor. Contrary to my expectations, the CEO did not sit on the "chief chair", but to the right of it, Mokuba in the middle, so for me the left side remained.

As an appetizer, we were given a clear beef soup with pancake strips and chives. The main course consisted of a steak with rosemary potatoes, roasted onions and herb butter. To crown it, we were given the best cardinal cut I had ever eaten in my life. In short, these were all my favorite dishes.

"Did you like it, David?" Mokuba had mainly talked to his brother during the meal, which seemed extremely relaxed. I slanted my head a little and then nodded: "It was great. But these were not typical Japanese dishes." Little Kaiba just grinned and nodded his head to his brother: "Thank to Seto. He made it going today." I watched Kaiba carefully scrape the last remnant of cardinal cuts from his plate. Was this a gesture of kindness? How did he even know all this?

"There is no need for thanks. You have done something for Mokuba, it is the least I can see. I hate being in someone's debt.” While speaking, he didn't think it was necessary to look up from his plate, but it was enough to amaze me. "Thank you" it came hesitantly over my lips. Kaiba didn't pay any further attention to me.

Mokuba yawned extensively and stretched. "Man, I'm tired. But it is clearly too early to go to sleep. Do you still feel like beating yourself up with me for a round of virtual, David?" I nodded lightly, not letting Kaiba out of sight. What was going on with him? "But no more than an hour, Mokuba. You're at school tomorrow, and I don't really like it when you're hanging out in front of the TV all the time.' With that Kaiba got up, wiped his brother's hair and went outside. Seconds later, I was pulled by the hand in Mokuba's room, where we had some hair-raising duels in a Japanese beat'em up (I lost high). An hour later, it knocked on the door.

"Mokuba, time to go to sleep. Brush your teeth, and then off into the feathers. I'll come back, yes?" Mokuba sighed annoyed, but then nodded. He fell around my neck and pushed me tightly. "Thank you again, David! I love you!" He stormed into the bathroom. The last sentence, did he really say that? He loved me? How dear? Like a big brother?

Kaiba was still standing in the door frame and watching me. "You are extremely lucky that Mokuba is so attached to you. Normally I would have made the day hell for you, after your smug remarks this morning. However, a meeting and a phone call with Mokuba prevented this. But don't overdo your luck, little one. We go to school together tomorrow, so be on time and don't embarrass me." Kaiba left the room.

What was going on with this family? One was affectionate and droll, almost to love, while the other was a mixture of an ice block and an ass with light moments. Sighing, I went to the guest room, where I had actually been provided with pyjamas and underwear. Finely folded were also an anthracite-colored hoodie with white ribbons to adjust the hood, grey pants, as well as my toothbrush and some other utensils for an overnight stay on the desk. I didn't want to know how that person got to the stuff. Confused, and with a stinging headache, I jumped briefly into the shower, only to then throw myself into my pyjamas and fall into bed. Casually I turned on the TV (there was a cartoon from my homeland, and also in German), and looked at my phone. Joey had answered me.

"Hey David! Sure, I can do. This is Mokuba's flame? I had imagined it very differently. Friday you have the picture. Greet the little ones of mine. Sleep well and dream something fine! Joey - who also misses you." I caught myself smiling at the last sentence. It was really obvious that I had at least more than friendly feelings for Joey. Until Kaiba had strapped that, however, a little time would pass, I hoped at least. I fell asleep while watching TV.

Chapter Text

When my phone alarm clock rang at seven o'clock, I moaned annoyed. I had been woken by the TV at two o'clock and had fallen asleep again at four o'clock. Especially since I wasn't allowed to be too late today – Kaiba could be trusted to let a stand. Sleep drunk I peeled myself out of bed and jumped into the shower. After the hair styling and the oral hygiene, I slipped into my things, packed the other clothes in my backpack and went with this to the dining room. Kaiba was already sitting there, who had overturned his legs. His face was hidden behind a newspaper. Should I wish him a good morning?

"Finally, we don't have time forever. Mokuba also said you'd have to talk to this Mei." I slanted my head a little and sat down on the chair next to Kaiba. Why talk to Mei? Why did Mokuba have to tie it to his brother's nose in the first place? I was uncomfortable thinking that Kaiba also thought I had a date with Mei. Silently, I coated a wholegrain toast with butter and honey, and poured myself a cup of cocoa.

'She seems to have liked you quite a bit. Taylor tried desperately and faded. Devlin once said that she had invited her for a coffee, which I doubt, but let's leave it in the room." Kaiba's tone was casual and disinterested. He flipped his newspaper and sipped his coffee from a cup. "This will make you the talking point of the class – Mei Haybara has never chosen a boy."

I swallowed my bite down and moaned annoyed. 'But I'm not on Mei, in no way. My primary interest is to keep an eye on Mokuba, nothing more. After the birthday party, we go home immediately the next day." At least that's how I imagined it.

"There are now several options that could support your decision not to trade with Mei. For example, another girl, a secret swarm, you're asexual- or gay." Kaiba calmly listed various possibilities why I wouldn't stand on Mei while I disgruntled my cup of cocoa in my throat. What was it about him, with whom I "related"?

"Well, I'm actually one of them. As long as you don't forget it with Mokuba, everything is in good order. Haybara's games are tiring anyway - you'll see." With that, the CEO put his newspaper aside and tipped the last remaining coffee into it. "By the way, we've made some changes to the Dark Magician. You should take a look at the setup in the near future."

I rinsed my toast with cocoa and swallowed loudly: "Changes? Why?" Kaiba's lips curled a little: "Mokuba thought that the Black Magician and the Flameswordmen could merge together because you and Wheeler seem to be such an excellent team." His voice had taken on a biting undertone. I kept my mouth shut.

The ride to Domino High turned out to be quiet. Kaiba was on the phone with someone from the company while I went through the vocabulary for English again. Contrary to my hope, Mokuba had not come with us. When I asked where he had stayed, Kaiba explained to me that his brother's school was in the opposite direction. As the car stopped, the CEO nodded briefly to the driver, who had lowered the partition. I thanked him and then got out as well.

In the schoolyard there was already a lot of activity. Kaiba shouldered his bag and just left me standing. It had really been nothing more than a pure carpool (at his expense). Somehow, I regretted that he and I didn't get warm together. At least for Mokuba's sake, we should get together. I couldn't see my friends anywhere else, but someone else. I got sick with the giggling of the girl group around Mei. To be honest, that was still outstanding.

"Good morning, David!" the chorus of girls screamed unanimously. I raised my hand and wanted to move on wordlessly when someone held me by the arm. A look down bared fine, dainty fingers. Mei smiled shyly as the whole group approached us. From me I did not open a conversation, so I used the time to look at the girl in detail.
She was 16 years old (I knew she would be 17 at the Christmas ball), had long, dark brown, silky hair, almond green eyes, a light complexion and a cute stub sane nose. Her figure was slender. I couldn't say much about the style of clothing, because she always wore the school uniform in my presence. Overall, Mei was certainly a pretty girl. But my interest was elsewhere.

"Um, David? My little sister said you'd come to her birthday party with Mokuba Kaiba on Saturday, is that right?" A loud "Ooooh" could be heard from the background. Somehow, our viewers in the background annoyed me massively. What was it really about these snake geese, where I went?

"Yes, Mei, it's planned that way. Mokuba asked me to do so. Why?" I didn't tie the story with the "supposed" date, which I already knew about. Probably the Mei fan club already knew about it.

"Okay, because it's going to be late, and my parents are both on business. You can stay quietly with us. The way back is long, and it is certainly dark until the rattlesnake gang is scurled into bed." I narrowed my eyes a little to Mei´s subtle hints. What would it be like when it was done?

"Um, as far as I know, I sleep at Mokuba´s estate. We go home after the celebration. Sorry, but thank you for the offer." I smiled apologetically and gently pushed her hand off my arm.

"Well, but that's not why I want to talk to you." My forearm was quickly clutched and I looked sweet with a sugar- sweet. What came next? I slanted my head and looked at Mei inquiringly.

'It's christmas ball soon and we usually need male accompaniment. Tristan Taylor said you weren't in a relationship, so I wanted to ask you if you might want to go with me?" Her undertone revealed that this was not a question, but an order. Mei was probably used to dancing to her whistle. The girls' round behind her meanwhile tussled hard.

'I don't even know if I'm going there at all. But thank you for the offer." I tried to make a gentle and apologetic smile. No, I didn't have a buck to go with Mei.

"Oh, you'd rather go with Joey Wheeler, don't you?" My smile froze instantly. How did she mean that? Going with Joey? Her sugar-sweet smile became a little wider. Did she know anything? That could mean trouble, and also bring Joey quite deep into the misery.

"Why would I rather go with Joey, Mei?" My eyebrows went down and I had to pull myself together, not to drive them properly. Maybe I just overreacted? The girls' chatter had stopped immediately.

"Well, because he's your best friend? So non-binding. Makiko has also asked him if he goes to the ball with her. It would be cool if we showed up for four." Why had Joey done something like this? Was that a bluff? A thousand thoughts went through my head. Above all: What was going on with Mei? I still didn't know if she knew about Joey and me, or if it was just a coincidence. The emphasis on "best friend" gave me a flabby feeling in my stomach.
"Hm, I ask Joey if he's really going, Mei, agree? If that is the case, then we can agree at the celebration." So, I broke her off and calmly staggered into school. Behind me, I could hear screams and laughter. Who would I wash my head to first: Tristan? Joey? Or both at the same time?

In class, I let myself fall annoyed on my chair. Kaiba gave me a knowing smile, while Tristan looked at me with anticipation. "If you try to couple Mei and me again, Tristan, I jump out of the window screaming." I snorted my school documents for geography on the table. He looked at me completely without understanding: "Did it work?" He beamed.

"Yes, it has. I go to the christmas ball with Mei Haybara? Satisfied, or do you still want a transcript of the conversation?" Tristan boxed me against the shoulder: “Wow!" I bit my lips and pinched myself some, more than just inappropriate comments. My gaze wandered towards Joey, who strangely had a great interest in the cover of his booklet. Actually, I wanted to fold it according to all the rules of art. Two days ago, he had made me another scene because of the thing with Mei, and then he just went behind my back with some girl to the ball. I wasn't jealous, I was just disappointed that he didn't tell me.

"Ah just leave me alone for today." I stared at my booklet in disbelief until Tristan had finally left. Joey still avoided looking at me. By now Mei had turned up in the classroom and had subtly shouted: "Hey, all listen!" Suddenly, she had caught the attention of the class. What madness came now? "To the guys in the class – I now have someone to accompany me to the Christmas ball. You can save your requests!" She groped her arms and giggled amused. Under the table, I clenched my hands to fists. I continued to stare at my belongings, praying that the hour would begin soon. With the zealous help of Tristan, I had maneuvered myself into a mess that was not in sight. What should I do? I had to endure at least Mei until Saturday to find out what she really knew. Finally, our teacher entered the classroom. With that everyone hustled into their seats and I was redeemed for the time being. I kind of bent down for the next few hours, next to a silent Joey and a Tristan, who congratulated me on this feat in detail every five minutes.

After school I went to the boys' cloister and splashed cold water in my face. Mei had been besieged for the last few hours, who her companion was. Tristan had at least been smart enough to keep his mouth shut. Yugi, Bakura and Tea had joined in, while Joey had constantly stared guilty at his things. I held my hands at the edge of the sink and watched the drops of water drip from my chin. How should this continue? What did Mei know? What would she do with this knowledge? Should I tell Joey?

"David?" A soft, hesitant voice ripped me out of my mind. I could see in the mirror my blonde friend, who had put his hands in the pockets of his uniform. His facial expression was best described as suffering. I had never seen him like that. He was shaking all over his body, and I could have sworn that he had wet eyes. "All right?"

"What do you think?" I breathed deeply and pushed myself off the sink. Lost I drove through my hair and leaned against the white tiles of the toilet room. "You could at least have told me, Joey, nothing more." An astonished look on the part of my friend followed. "Or what did you believe? That I don't react like you do with me and Mei?"

"No, not, but... Don't you understand? I mean, if I had turned up without a girl, or rejected Makiko, that would have been weird, wouldn't it?" Wouldn't it be. There were enough people who went to the ball on their own. That was a more than flimsy excuse.

"I understand you, Joey. Very good. You have a reputation, don't you? You have to preserve that?" My voice was extremely calm. When I asked, Joey nodded off relieved. "It's okay as long as you trust me and vice versa, yes? After all, I must inevitably maintain your reputation too." I broke free from the wall and stood on the tip of my toes to kiss Joey. I snaked my hands around his neck as I pushed him against the wall next to the front door. My kiss was reciprocated intimately. Joey's hands lay around my back and pressed me firmly against him. Why did I react when I was actually angry? His image was important to him, his reputation – and he didn't know about my guess as to whether Mei and her knowledge. That was better, for now. We broke our lips, only to give each other a "I love you." Involuntarily, a smile appeared in Joey's features. I was curious to see how long it would last.

Chapter Text

Joey had kept his word - we had a picture of Sakura and Mokuba in our hands. It was beautifully drawn. The little black-haired man beamed, his arm placed around his supposed girlfriend, who seemed just as happy. I really had to praise my friend's drawing skills - they were extraordinary. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought of a real snapshot. Kaiba's designer had also done a lot of work. The present had been extraordinarily packaged. Under cellophane, printed with blue stars, the gift was well hidden. The slide gave an idea of what it was, only to inspire the worst curiosity even more. Mokuba and I had glued the drawing and provided it with a small name card.

"Well, are you ready?" My little friend nervously swayed up and down the seat of the limousine that took us to the birthday party. Unfortunately, I couldn't share his euphoria – I still had Mei's words circling around my head. "Go with Joey Wheeler". Was this just a coincidence, or had she deliberately chosen this formulation?

"Hey David? All okay?" Mokuba stunned me, which ripped me out of my mind. "Hm? Oh yes, of course." I forced myself to a crooked grin and scrubbed the little one's hair. "You should be nervous, huh?" My grin was widely replied: "Oh what, it's going to go wrong, besides, you're there, aren't you?" In fact, nevertheless, I had a very nasty feeling about it.

"Did Sakura really say nothing about a dress code or something?" I was thinking of a themed party with costumes or something. Mokuba shook his head: "No, she hasn't. We should come as always." I nodded slightly and sighed inwardly. I just wasn't comfortable with the whole thing. Even at a themed party, I probably wouldn't have dressed any other way. I wore an anthracite-colored hoodie with white ribbons, to adjust the hood, over a white T-shirt, black jeans and my black sneakers with the white stripe on each side. Mokuba hadn't dolled himself up either: a black hoodie, jeans and sneakers.

When the limo stopped, I opened the door with a pounding heart. I already regretted not having cancelled at the last moment. Mokuba hopped out of the car as I got out of the car with my backpack (including sleeping clothes for me and the little whirlwind) and the present. I hadn't been able to convince him to go home to him after the party. The track was almost too far to run at night. So, I had to spend the night in the lion's den.

We crossed a gravel driveway that ended in front of a huge house. The facade was made of white wood. The stair railing leading to the front door was also made of this material. Overall, the house made rather the impression of a small villa. That would at least explain where Mei's more self-style came from. Mokuba rang, and I shouldered my backpack. In the background I could hear the limousine driving away – so I was more or less on my own.

Just before the door opened, I pressed the gift into Mokuba's hand and placed my own on his back. He seemed visibly tense by now. "Don't worry, it's going to be, otherwise you'll still have an ace up your sleeve." This conjured up a cheeky grin on the little one's lips, which also stopped when a girl appeared in the doorway. This had to be little Sakura – she at least resembled the girl in the picture, and from Mokuba's photo, down to the smallest detail.

"Moki!" She stormed toward him, and snored her arms around him. He answered the hug in a storm, and both seemed like a snarled mass of people whose beginnings and ends could no longer be discerned. "Hey Sakura! Happy birthday!" In these words, the girl broke away from him and examined the gift in detail. "You are mad, Moki!" I was quietly praising, which brought me the couple's attention.

"Moki? That's cute!" My grin was rewarded with a kick against my shin by Mokuba. "Shut up!" After this he turned again to his swarm. "Just ignore him." Sakura just smiled and bowed: "You have to be David. Mokuba has told me a lot about you, as has my big sister. Come in - Mei is already waiting for you." If she had kicked me against the other shin, I would have been happy about it. Mei was already waiting - well, great.

With this we entered the house, which was furnished exactly as I had imagined: overpriced, noble and stacked with pointless junk, only to show that one had money like hay. Music and a roaring horde of children could be heard from the neighboring room. Bravo – that started with babysitting already.

"Come, Moki, let's go to the others. David? Mei is up." With this she pulled her companion by the arm (who gave me a broad grin) into the supposed living room, while I stood in the hallway and would have preferred to smash the door with my skull. If I was lucky, it was really just a bluff by Mei at the time, and I was able to crumble into one of the guest rooms relatively soon.

Slowly I climbed the stairs to the upper floor. I was deliberately groaning. Where was Mei's room at all? This question was immediately clarified – at the end of the hallway there was a huge sign: Mei – with a cheesy heart as a point above the I. Quietly I stepped in front of the door and then knocked loudly. As soon as I had withdrawn my hand, Mei opened the door and fell around my neck.

"Hey! You've come really!" She seemed totally over-turned and her voice almost overflowed. I let the suggestive cuddle pass over me and nodded only slightly. "Mh, here I am." I reached backwards, to a side pocket of my backpack and pulled out the plush giraffe, which I had bought together with Mokuba in the shopping center. I held it to Mei, who stared at me first with the plush toy, then with big eyes. "How did you know that?" She pulled me by the hand in her room (interestingly, just like Sakura's boyfriend Mokuba) and gave me a glimpse into her world.

Mei's room was exactly what I expected from a girl: clean, neat and kitschy. It was huge, compared to mine. A double bed with pink duvet, pink wallpaper and a white carpet floor were completed with a couch in a grisly purple, a huge flatscreen and some posters of some pop stars and swarms of girls. Congratulations - childish was not an expression at all. The only normal thing was probably the cupboards and the desk.

"Just throw your stuff where, yes?" She carefully draped my gift next to some other stuffed animals (a considerable collection of teddy bears, giraffes and kittens), and then jumped up again. Somehow, I would have understood it well if no one wanted her to be a friend, not the other way around.

"Well come on, sit down. Do you want to drink something?" I put my backpack next to the couch and pretended to be, "Mh, water if you have." Mei pushed her lower lips forward and pulled out a plastic bottle from one of the countless cupboards. "I got you something from your homeland." From my homeland?

The bottle adorned the inscription - "Almdudler". This was the herbal lemonade that I had always been allowed to drink with my grandparents as a little boy. Another coincidence?

"Um, woah, cool. Thank you, Mei." I rubbed my neck and smiled tensely. How grotesque was this situation, please? Above all, what did she have in her or her insinuated? I watched the brown-haired woman fill the limo into two glasses and then parked it on the glass table in front of the couch. Then she joined me on the couch and looked at me expectantly.

"Is there anything? Do I have something on my face?" I reached for my glass and sipped on it. "No, but I've never had such an exotic friend. We will be the dream couple at the christmas ball." I swallowed my drink and struggled not to weed everything out through my nose. What had she just said? Her silly giggling, which followed my coughing fit, made me mad.

"Exotic friend? Few? Mei, how do you come to the fact that we are a couple?" I wiped the sleeve of my sweater over my mouth and nose. In me, the assumption began to germinate that Mei was on the one hand a very good actress, as far as the naive, shy girl was concerned, and on the other hand I was probably not the first boy she treated in this way.

"Are we not? Of course we are." She had already climbed on my lap and put my hands around her belly. I immediately released the forced clutch and pushed it away from me. "No, Mei? I don't know you?" Well, the presumption had been confirmed – she was wrong in the garret.

The brown-haired woman, however, did not let herself be fooled at all, on the contrary. She just grinned sugar-sweet and shook her head: "You're going to do that. I know you well enough, and I know more about you than you think." Her voice had now become freezing cold. I could feel my heart beating to my neck. What did she mean by that again? Attack or defense?

"You don't know me at all, Mei. We live at the other end of the world, and I've only been here for a good two or three months. I also am interested in Mokuba, not you." I wiped the last remnants of lemonade from the corners of my mouth again with my fist and stared darkly down at my interlocutor.

"Mh, my little sister is also on Mokuba, you don't have to worry. Besides, you are wrong, I know you very well. Only the boy who confronts Seto Kaiba fits me and my reputation." Was she really so conceptual, or did she just do so? She concealed her defining, self-aggrandizing and domineering manner by her naive, sweet demeanor. I realized that.

"Then you should ask Yugi, who has already defeated him once in a duel." I disgruntledly reached for my glass again and sipped on it. I couldn't look Mei in the eye. With difficulty I brought my sentences over my lips without a trembling voice. I bode ill.

"Mh, I'm not on little punks. In addition, the Tea is running behind. You, on the other hand, are different. Everyone at the school knows that, even Seto's little brother, but most of all, Joey seems to have understood that, hm?" She grinned smugly as I became chalk-bleached. Another hint – this could not be a coincidence.

I calmly turned off the glass and rattled myself: "Yes, Joey is my best friend, you can say so." I decided to do play stupid for the time being to find out how much she really knew.

"Oh, come on, David. The boys' cloister isn't the best place to go around, hm?" She wrapped one of the bands of my hoodie around her finger. "You have two ways in my eyes to shorten the whole thing."

I swallowed heavily and watched her play her little game. Had she listened in front of the toilet? Really? Did she know that me and Joey were a couple? How should I react? What would she ask of me to keep her mouth open? I could feel the cold sweat on my forehead.

"Either you mime my friend at school, and also in your leisure time, or you don't do it." At the last word, she pulled a little on the tape and forced me to look at it. "Which of course would mean that I bust you and your friend. Evasions are pointless – Joey Wheeler doesn't want it to get public, that he goes with the new exchange student."

The bitch was surprisingly well-informed. She blackmailed me, and she was completely mad in my eyes. Why all this? What did she get from it? The situation was no longer grotesque: it was sheer madness.

"Why?" it came quietly over my lips. I couldn't say more. How should I explain it to Joey? What would it look like to mime Mei's friend? What had she imagined in her sick imagination?

"I need someone for the christmas ball, and you're exotic and pretty enough that the whole school will envy me. You don't have to worry about more." She got up, took me by the hand, and pulled me out of the room. "We should go downstairs and deliver the cheerful message Mokuba, huh? My sister is certainly happy too!" As she walked, she woven her fingers with mine.

Inside, I balked, but what should I do? She knew our secret, and she would talk it if I didn't dance to her tune. Even without evidence, I assumed after the action that Mei probably had some, the rumors would be enough to put Joey in a predicament. Besides, I would probably lose it completely. When I explained everything to him, there was still a hint of a chance that we could find a solution. Any.

Chapter Text

Disgust shredded my body, starting from the hand that held Mei´s encircled. I wanted to break free, run away, or just scream at her – couldn't and above all not be allowed. Joey had made it very clear to me that none of us should know. I was forced to play this cruel game. Desperation spread within me. How far would Mei really go?

She opened the door, and child noise hit us. A group of boys and girls had sat in the living room (my guess had been correct), in a circle around a bottle. Bottle turning - typical. During our brilliant performance (just as Mei had opened the door, it was no wonder that we got the attention of the crowd) all eyes suddenly rested on us.

"So, you finally made it! Great! I'm glad, Mei!" Sakura jumped up and fell around her sisters’ neck. It became increasingly clear: Mei manipulated her environment to get what she wanted. She must have either faked something for her sister, or she had to be in glove with her. Mei finally released her hand from mine, and I breathed relived.

Mokuba approached me grinning and punched me against my hip. "Yu did it quickly. I've probably chosen the right person to guide me." How wrong he was. But I didn't want to spoil the evening for him, especially since judging by his face, it had to work well with Sakura.

"Of course, you see." With a half-hearted smile, I ruffled my little friend's hair. Then I bent down and whispered something to him: "Don't forget it, kissing later. Very careful and patient. She certainly hasn't kissed anyone yet.' With that, I straightened up again, and could see a subtle hint of red on Mokuba's cheeks.

Mei grabbed me by the arm again and went outside. Over her shoulder, she cried, "At twelve, you make the light, and no mucks. Mokuba, your belongings are in the guest room. Good night." I could hear the excitement in Mei's voice. Why was she nervous? She already had everything she wanted, did she?

We staggered back to her room, where I was pushed uncomfortably onto the couch. Mei closed the door behind us and grinned unashamedly. "So, now we are undisturbed." Inside I sent all the prayers to heaven, that something might happen. Something to stop these madmen from me. A call, a knock on the door or a meteorite smashing through the roof of the house.

The brown-haired woman approached me, and sat down with her face towards me, on my lap. She spread her legs a little and pressed my head into the sofa. Before I could react, I already felt her lips on mine. They were neither warm nor soft, like Joey's, on the contrary: I found them cold and greedy. My whole body stiffened and I pushed the girl away from me.

Mei wasn't smiling anymore. At that moment I could probably see the real Mei Nakamura. She looked serious, didn't stimulate a muscle in her face, didn't even shrug. Like a statue, she looked down on me, only to speak with a demanding, threatening undertone: "Either you join in, or tomorrow the whole school knows about you and Joey." So, she bent down again and kissed me again.

I felt so helpless, so powerless. What was I to do? Again, the disgust shrugged my body, this time from the lips. This girl was totally crazy, or on some insane revenge trip. Worst of all, I had to go along, otherwise I would lose everything – and in Joey's case, that was already very likely to happen. Like the lion and the lamb, except that I was not the lion.

"Once again, finally join in." Mei had loosened up briefly, only to kiss me again. Her wet, obnoxious tongue skipped over my closed lips. She had put her hands on my neck and back of the head, pressing me. Mei's gaze was bare of all warmth and tenderness. It was freezing cold, demanding and threatening. Once again, she probably wouldn't "ask" me.

I opened my lips a gap wide. Her tongue immediately tangled with mine. Mei's fingers in my hair pulled roughly at them, while the other hand was comfortable from the neck to my chest. I wanted to scream, push them away, run away, preferably all at the same time. She disgusted me. In front of my spiritual eye appeared Joey, who smiled, gave me the rice, took me in his arms. The only thing I could do in this situation was to cry silently. Salty tears ran down my cheek as I answered Mei's request and reciprocated her kiss.

This supposed lovemaking was cruel. Mei was cruel. With a single fact, she had brought me to my knees, made me more helpless than a toddler who was taken away from the lollipop. Again, and again the question of why ghosted through my head. What had I done to her? What had you done to Joey?

Her lips finally detached from mine, only to look at me asking. "What?" I asked quietly and looked to the side. There was something evil attached to these eyes. I had expected a lot of it, but not with it. This blackmail, as it touched me, grossly forced me to fulfill her wishes – I would have preferred to have died, so helpless I felt.

"Let's take off your sweater, and your shirt if you're wearing one." Again, I silently followed her command. Mei inspected me briefly, only to stroke my fingers over my chest. Their touches made me shudder, but not with excitement, but with disgust. Her nails scribbled over my skin, leaving a fine trail of blood.

"Better than expected. Really, I had a a point." I suppressed the next tears as she took my hands and placed her back just above her butt. A little further up I could feel the handle of her bra. No, I wouldn't do that. That was too much.

"You are a softie, that's for a long time. But for my purposes you are completely satisfied." Mei slipped off my lap. I exhaled with relief and bent over for my stuff." No, you won't need more than a maximum of a pair of sleeping pants. Let's go, get ready to bed, I'm tired." Their tone was commanding, commanding, and did not allow any rebuttal. Even if I had objected, it wouldn't have changed anything. I had to submit, for now at least. So, I grabbed my backpack and moved into the adjacent bathroom. There I closed the door behind me and slipped along it with my back. I buried my face in my hands and wept silently.

How should I get through all this? Joey would hate me, even if I did it out of love for him. Mei had me in her greasy claws and would make me fidget. Outwardly, I had to perform perfectly, I wasn't allowed to let anything matter. For my friends, I would be the hero – the boy who had torn up Mei Nakamura. For the man I loved, along with my grandparents, I would be a monster.

Desperation germinated in me. I felt like I was then, with my best friend's sister. To see her in someone else's arms, to see her kissed, snuggled up to her boyfriend; I am almost broken in ward. Grief and pain struggled in me for the upper hand and part of me had wished to die. There were moments when I had hoped to fall into eternal sleep. How sweet did the cold blackness of the afterlife seem to me then?

"Are you ready? Mokuba was already there to get his stuff." Mei knocked on the door and ripped me out of my mind. I had to be strong and I wasn't allowed to show weakness, not again. I would not leave her with that satisfaction. I slipped out of my clothes, brushed my teeth and wiped the remaining tears from my eyes. I wouldn't make it that easy for her. Dressed only in my short track pants, I left the bathroom, the backpack trained. Mei was already in bed. The duvet covered her body, but flashed a pink strap top. Although she was quite a beautiful girl, Mei disgusted me. Trying quietly and raised head I walked to the empty bed side, put down my backpack and lay down in bed.

"Don't get too wide, don't wake me up and don't snore you." This allowed mei to feel Mei's hand on my chest, which created an unpleasant feeling in my body. I still didn't get quite smart about her actions - she was either a snarled psychopath, or she couldn't decide. I decided to try to sleep at least a little, which I finally succeeded in doing.

Chapter Text

In the middle of the night I could feel a pull on my arm. It wasn't bright yet, so I finally concluded that I had slept only for a few hours. A careful glance at my mobile phone display at the bedside table told me that it was only three o'clock in the morning. The pulling intensified. I felt uneasy: I could imagine who had awakened me.

"Are you awake?" Mei asked me in her sugar-sweet way. If I hadn't met the monster next to me in detail, it would have been reasonable to assume that she would really be worried about me, or at least show a little compassion.

"Yes, now. What's going on?" I was already afraid of the answer. The girl next to me couldn't be anything good. Her sick imagination had surely spun together some madness to torment me. But I still couldn't understand the reason for their actions. My little ness was certainly not directly responsible for their behavior, so it had to have something to do with Joey.

"I wondered if you were bored." It was three o'clock in the morning and she had forced me to bed. This question seemed a little grotesque about the situation we were in. On the other hand, I did not want to annoy Mei; if I played along to some extent, I could perhaps survive this nightmare halfway unscathed.

"Mei, it's three o'clock in the morning. I'm tired and I want to sleep." My tone was calm and determined. I pinched the rest, only hoping that the bitch would leave me alone. However, I already suspected that this idea would not be more than wishful thinking.

'But I'm not tired, at least no more. I'm bored. I have an idea of what we could do." In the semi-darkness I could catch a glimpse of her face. The moon lit up the room a little – she even seemed almost innocent.

"Torment me even more than I already had been, hm?" I didn't say this out loud, but instead I decided on a more diplomatic option: "Mei, seriously. I'm tired, really. In addition, the others are certainly already asleep."
"No matter, the guest and children's rooms are one floor above us." Before I could protest, I felt her hand slowly wandering down my chest and belly button to my workout pants. Just above the waistband, she lingered and slowly pulled on the ribbons. Reflexively, my hand rushed down and encircled her wrist.

"No, Mei. A lot, but not that. I am still a virgin, and I will not lose it to you. Ask what you want, but don't force me to do it." Unconsciously, my voice had taken on a harsh tone, which was acknowledged with a silly giggling.

"Virgin? Don't feel like that. Either you do it voluntarily, or I force you. I also know you're not completely gay.' With these words, she got out of my grip and had her hand swipe over my workout shorts. I bit my lips. I was bad and also used to howl. Was it really worth it? To cover Joey, because he was ashamed? Why? For a brief moment, anger arose in me because of my friend, which soon turned to pity and love. I couldn't even give that to him. Instead, I decided to direct my negative emotions to their culprit: Mei.

"Only if you have rubbers here, Mei. I don't want to turn on a child." I calmly turned my head to her and slanted it a little. She nodded with a grin and pushed herself out of bed. She really only had a pink strap top and a brief on. I had an idea. I reached for my phone and called up the recording function. Mei had disappeared in the bathroom and had turned on the lights. I had little time. I quickly pressed the button to start the recording and put the phone aside, just in time: Mei had already appeared in the door, a silver piece of plastic paper in his hands.

"Sure you want to sleep with me, Mei? The first time should be something special." I deliberately put everything on a map: if she acted as I expected, Mei would regret forcing me to have sex.

"Me with you? You probably don't have a choice," she replied, laughing with amusement. "I'm also curious how you're in bed and whether you can keep up with Kiyoshi." Inside, I breathed a salight. I didn't need more. But the most difficult part was still to come.
Mei came back to bed and turned on the bedside lamp. Kneeling next to me, she stroked me around my belly button with pointed fingers. I pinched my eyes and stared to the side in shame. Although the touches disgusted me, I could not resist the physical allure. Something wet pushed into my navel, which made me quietly sway and pull my stomach in. She probably used her tongue, which was crowned with success after a short time. My shorts cramped me awkwardly, and I could feel my penis getting stiffer and harder. Actually I should have enjoyed it, but with Mei – I hadn't imagined my first time. Carefully I opened my eyes and saw them, kneeling above me. Her hair covered her face and tickled my skin. Slowly I raised my right hand and pressed the record stop button of my phone. She hadn't noticed anything - good.

"Let's put it behind us before I forget." So I grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her up to me. "You don't seem to be such a softie, hm?" Her smug manner reminded me strongly of Kaiba, which only infuriated me even more. This would be the first and the last time Mei Nakamura wanted to sleep with me. I just wasn't allowed to overreact, not yet. "Give the rubber." In fact, without further resistance, she handed me the preservative that I unpacked. I had never had anything to do with it, but that things were idiot-proof by now, I was convinced of that.

Carefully I ripped open the paper and pulled the training shorts up to my knees, only to strip them off completely. I could feel the redness in my face while Mei stared at my stiff penis. Contrary to my expectations, I was not ridiculed for size or something like that. Slowly I pulled over the rubber. It was a strange feelin, like a second form of skin. Mei got rid of her clothes and had her naked body patterned for the first time.

I could have hit it much worse. She had a good figure, voluptuous breasts and, like me, was free of any hair. However, I did not want to torment myself any longer than I needed to, and I wanted to put an end to this theatre quickly.

The next turn came from Mei. Almost tenderly, she put her hand around my penis as she knelt over me. From one moment to the next I was surrounded by a soft, pleasant warmth. With great effort and self-control, I was able to suppress a quiet sigh. The feeling was pleasant and yet it disgusted me. If that was really sex, I could imagine other, better things. Mei bent over me and began to gnaw at my neck as her pelvis slowly moved from top to bottom. This constriction, combined with the warmth, my tension and the unfamiliar situation made me almost insane. I didn't want to enjoy it, but I did, even if only for a few seconds. Mei's hair stroked over my torso and her quiet moaning almost made me lean against her. But I didn't want to do her that favor under any circumstances. Instead, I looked to the side and tried to make a wistful, disgusted look. After a short time, I could feel Mei's movements slowing down.

"So, a softie. Kiyoshi was clearly better than you."

That's what I was waiting for. I grabbed her by the shoulders and rolled with her across the bed to her side. I was lying uphanded and stared into her surprised face, which immediately turned into a greedy, obnoxious grin. "Or not? Have I offended you, hm?" She had in fact, but I didn't care at that moment. Instead, I bent down, very close to her face. I gently stroked my lips over her cheeks, slowly towards her ear. Mei writhed under me and clearly enjoyed the supposed game. A quiet, suppressed groan glows on her lips. I whispered in her ear, "Mei? If you have the Red-Eye on a short leash, you should never let it go." So, I got up and grabbed her wrists. I squeezed both together effortlessly while covering her mouth with my free hand. Her eyes widened in horror when she noticed the helpless situation, she was in.

I spread her thighs with my legs a little, only to take the lead. With firm and hard shocks, I pushed Mei further and further into the mattress. I could feel her hot breath on my fingers as she fidgeted and fought under me. Another advantage of my existence as an athlete: her uplifting was easy to suppress. More and more firmly and harder I penetrated Mei. She bent over while I felt something wet on my fingers: she was crying, clearly. The feeling in my loin area I faded as best I could.

"Well? Am I better than Kiyoshi? Do you like it? How is the role swap, hm?" I bit my lips until they were bloody to suppress the tingling of my penis. I wouldn't be able to last a long time, but I didn't want to. Mei bent over and threw her head back and forth, strenuously trying to push me away from her.

"You are cruel, Mei, more cruel than you can imagine. Should I stop? Really? Shall I? Should the softie stop?" Mei nodded tightly as she continued to try to free herself. I found it hard to speak calmly: "I'm far worse than you. I've endured a lot more than you, Mei, and I'm better at these games than you. I'm going to dress up now and spend the night in the guest room. You're not going to upset me any more, you're going to get me done?" So, I stopped, quietly wheezing, and slipped out of Mei. I let go of her wrists, followed by her mouth, only to slip out of bed and reach for my shorts.

The Japanese girl wheeled heavily and sobbed softly. Her gaze was hateful. "You will repent of that to me. You raped me; you bastard!" Although it should have made me look horrible in front of myself, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. "I don't have. I have the proof on my phone – you said in a big way that you were forcing me. Actually, you abused me." I couldn't pinch a smug undertone as I reached for my phone and slipped into my shorts. Mei became chalk-bleached, staring at me first, then at the smartphone in my hand.

"Don't even think about it. We are even. I will keep quiet about your blackmail, or the whole Domino High will learn, as will your parents, that you are probably one of the greatest bitches at school. Ironically, how the situation can develop, hm?" With a narrow grin on my lips, I slanted my head and stared at her as confidently as she did to me earlier. She briefly held my eye, then crashed into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

I sighted. My gaze did fell on the bed sheet – it was covered with dark spots. A glance at my loins made me look back and forth between both objects. I pulled the shorts down a little bit and slowly stroked over the rubber, which creased because the erection subsided. Clearly blood. Contrary to her words, had she also been a virgin? Had I been so rude? At the moment, I felt like I was. I pulled the shorts over again, grabbed my belongings and left the room.

On tiptoes I sneaked along the hallway and up the stairs. Arriving at the top, I could see light shining from one of the rooms. The door was a gap wide open and a quiet could be heard. Carefully I pushed the barrier and recognized Mokuba, who was sitting on the bed. What was going on? I supplanted my experience of just now with all my might.

"Hey, little one, what's going on?" Mokuba jerkily ripped his head up and then looked to the side. He was ashamed. "I'm just in the toilet, okay?" I hurriedly squeezed into the guest cloister and got rid of the rubber. I carefully knuckled it down in several layers of toilet paper, cleaned myself (which brought little relief to the disgusting feeling), and buried the toilet paper ball deep in my backpack. I didn't want to leave the preservative here – you couldn't know what Mei was doing with it. When this was done, I went outside and placed the backpack next to Mokuba's bed.

Carefully I sat down next to him and watched the black-haired man for a while as he sobbed. I could imagine what was going on. Mei had probably also lied on this point. Instead of saying anything, I pulled the little one into my arms and gently stroked his chest, which was covered in an oversized black T-shirt. Suddenly he turned around to me and I could feel the tears on my skin. His long, black jogging pants rubbed awkwardly over my knees, which I ignored for the time being.

"Hey, Champ? What is going on? Does Sakura already have another?" The loud sobbing followed by a violent tremor confirmed my suspicions. I knew how much it hurt. I gently stroked his hair and pressed him firmly on me. His stream of tears didn't want to dry up. 'It's not a shame to cry, I know how hurt it hurts. It will also hurt tomorrow, and next week. Do you want to talk about it?"

Mokuba shook his head: "I-I want to go to H-house, a-but you want to stay with Mei b-, and besides, h-has no chauffeur service today." I sighed inwardly. It would be a long night. It was late, and the next public transport was only running in just over three hours. I wanted to leave here too. I gently put Mokuba down at the bedside and pulled my belongings out of my backpack. I slipped into shirts and shoes, got up and clawed the little one's clothes together. I hastily stuffed everything into my backpack.

"W-What are you doing?" Mokuba rubbed his eyes. I threw his jacket at him and shouldered my backpack. "We go home, to you." My decision was clear: the little one would not stay here, any more than I did.

"But e-It's a good two hours walk, and I can't and don't want to run that far." I just shook my head. It was certainly ass-cold outside, and I would pay it dearly, but that was shitty to me at that moment. "Put your jacket on and put it in your shoes." I checked my backpack again while Mokuba followed my instructions. Then I shoved my arms under his knees and behind his back and lifted him up. As I walked out, I turned off the light with my elbow and went down, while the little one clung to me wordlessly.

Arriving at the door, Mokuba opened it, only to pull them back behind us. I was right: it was really cold, and little Kaiba was extra weight, but I wouldn't leave him there, nor would I stay there. So, I made my way towards the Kaibavilla, with luggage and junior CEO on my arm.

Chapter Text

It snowed weakly. I was already cold after five minutes, and Mokuba's weight was noticeable, but I couldn't and didn't want to go back. Besides, it was best for the little one when he was far away from Sakura. My breath formed a cloud over our heads as Mokuba continued to cling to me. He had stopped crying, which calmed me down. Although I felt really dirty myself, I was more concerned about my little protégé than about myself.

"Mokuba? Do you know that I am very proud of you?" In the pale light of the lanterns that illuminated our path I saw the black-haired one looking up at me and carefully wiping his jacket sleeve over his eyes. "I couldn't cry when my first great love gave me a basket. I ate it into myself, I was bitter, angry and inexhaustible. My environment suffered a lot from the situation, even more so than I might." Reflexively, I pressed the little one firmly on me and stroked him over the shoulder. This had a nice side effect: his jacket was well lined, both inside and outside.

"S-Seto thinks you shouldn't show your feelings because it's a weakness that you can exploit." Mokuba's voice was brittle and the sentence chopped off, but reasonably understandable. "It isn’t, Mokuba. Those who show feelings process them. You did everything right. Everyone shows their emotions, even your brother." I was already shaking all over my body, and we were only about fifteen minutes on the road; but the conversation distracted me a little bit.

" Sometimes yes. Especially since you are often in the house with us. He takes me in his arms every now and then, sits down at my bedside and takes his time, no matter how much stress he has in the company." In response to his words, I had to smile involuntarily. Kaiba had taken my words to heart. "I think Mokuba, that your big brother can actually be a very lovable, tender person – at least to you. Besides, if he doesn't have time, do you have another brother, hm?" I smiled at Mokuba's confused facial expression. "Listen, Mokuba. I am seventeen, and I have no siblings. Before you, I didn't even know what it was like to have someone so fond of loving. Although you are sometimes a little tormentor, I wouldn't give away for anything in the world. If you want, I can also be something like your big brother. Of course, not as Seto. He has more money, knows you better, takes care of you and is certainly a great brother, but a second one maybe doesn't hurt, right?"

The next half hour felt there was silence. I had probably said something wrong until Mokuba moved in my arms. "Mh, I love you, David. I'd be happy if you were my big brother." His right hand clawed into my shirt and the little tormentor snuggled to my chest. Somehow his words filled me with pride, and made me almost forget the bibbing and the cold that haunted my body. "I'm happy about that, Mokuba. When we are at home, you shower hot and then go to bed, yes?" Mokuba just nodded and held on to me.

With my bundle on my arms and on my back, I stumbled through the snowy backdrop of Domino City. The shops had all already closed or were closing. I almost couldn't feel my fingers anymore, and my legs had also become numb. Despite these circumstances, I kept staggering and smiled unconsciously. Mokuba had fallen asleep. The little one had grown to my heart. I really loved him, not like Joey, or my grandparents, but different.

When we finally reached the gate of the Kaiba estate, I sighed with relief. Ten minutes longer, and I would probably have frozen. Awkwardly, I pressed my elbow against the button of the intercom. I hoped someone else would be awake.

"Who has the naughtiness to disturb at such a late hour?" Kaiba's voice fumed toward me. Why was he still awake? Did he not have service personnel for it? "It's me, with Mokuba on my arm. It's ass-cold - would you please open up?" A second later, the goal swelled and swung inwards. I hurried up the driveway where Kaiba was already waiting for us.

"What do you look like? Is there anything with Mokuba?" The first question was usually poisonous, the second worried. His gaze also reflected the latter. "Sakura gave him a basket, so I came back with him. He's asleep right now, that's all.' The CEO nodded wordlessly and closed the door behind me. "He should maybe take a hot shower and drink something warm." The bundle in my arms moved discreetly. Contrary to my expectations, he didn't wake up, he just turned a little bit.

"Let him sleep. Do you bring him up to his room?" Kaiba's voice had become extremely friendly at one time. I didn't understand the world anymore – first Mei and now that. Was everyone spinning through today? "Clearly. I put him to bed and would stay here if I could?" Again, I was disappointed: the brown-haired man just nodded and I almost thought I could see a smile on his lips.

"The guest room is free, but I don't think you'll be in your own bed." I blinked and looked from the big to the little Kaiba and back again. "You're not jealous?" Seto shook his head slightly: "No, I'm not. Don't think about it, but Mokuba told me about you. How you took care of him, and that he likes you very much. That made me a little bit... rethinking. I don't have to have you near me, and I wouldn't call us friends, but my little brother connects us. I've already accepted Wheeler in my house as a regular guest, and he's much more annoying than you.'

"Well, then, I'll put the little one to bed." Kaiba nodded again and turned away. "I want to talk to you tomorrow anyway." With that he had already disappeared in the shallows of the villa.

Slowly I climbed the stairs and sneaked into Mokuba's room. I carefully draped him on his bed and looked down on me. My shirt was wet of melted snow and sweat. I was shaking so much that I could only suppress a rattling of my teeth with difficulty. How tempting the duvet in which Mokuba had mumbled seemed to me.

"What´s up? Do you want to take root?" The little whirlwind grinned at me cheekily. When had he woken up? "N-N-No." I slipped out of the shirt and shoes. I didn't think a shower was beneficial: I was too cold, and then suddenly hot water on the skin could only intensify the burning. Instead, I climbed into bed and cuddled up to the ceiling. A little bit more, and it would get warmer.

My little companion suddenly cuddled up to me. I slanted my head and was rewarded with a smile. "You have to be totally cold, I'm warm..." Somehow it was extremely cute and sweet of him. "Thank you." The burning on the skin subsided and I snared my arms around the little Kaiba.

"Sleep now, it's already late and besides, we don't want to spoil all day tomorrow, don't we?" Mokuba shook his head: "No, I don't want to. Good night, David. Love you!" I smiled again: "I you too, Mokuba. If you can't sleep, calm down the TV, or wake me up, yes?" My offer was answered by a quiet, regular breathing. He really had to be done. That was good: I wasn't able to sleep at the time. Cuddled in my nest of blankets and Mokuba, I fell asleep, and forgot today – at least for a few hours.

Chapter Text

"David! Wake up!" Quietly moaning, I opened my eyes and stared up to a ready-to-go Mokuba, who seemed extremely excited. Tired, I drove through my face. "Man, do you have any idea how tired I am? I was allowed to carry you and the backpack through half the city." Annoyed, I sat down. "What's going on?"

My little friend just pulled excitedly on my arm. "We have a problem, Seto wants to talk to you. Dress up, right away!" Aha, the Kaiba Corp had a problem. Great, but what did it do to me? "Mokuba? I don't really care about business problems of yours," I replied subtly annoyed to the actions of the black-haired man. He just pulled tighter on my arm. "It's something with Joey!" At one time I was awake.

"What, with Joey? What's going on?" In the question I got out of Mokuba's grip and hastily slipped into my things, which were still a little wet from the previous day. "Seto should tell you, come now!" Barely in my shoes, I ran after Mokuba, who led me to the entrance hall of the Kaiba estate. There stood Kaiba, Yugi and Tristan, who seemed to talk animatedly. The former turned around as we tapped our steps.

"Ah yes. As I see, we are complete." Seto waved at me and I looked into serious faces. "Guys, what's going on? Where is Joey?" I asked with a trembling voice. I imagined the worst scenarios. An accident, he had been attacked, such things just. "Your little friend seems to want revenge for yesterday," Kaiba replied in an extremely calm voice. His gaze seemed indifferent, only on his lips lay a cool, amused smile. "How, my little friend? What? Mei?" I stared unsafely into the round. What had the girl been up to, especially: What did Joey have to do with it?

"Well, it is so. Stay calm, David, but Mei and Joey are in virtual cyberspace, a kind of game that Kaiba once developed," Tristan began cautiously. Everyone, with the exception of Kaiba, seemed to dodge my gaze. "And?" I asked impatiently. I was beginning to run out of patience. "Mei wants you to log into the game, otherwise she'll do something to Joey," Tristan continued. I just laughed derogatorily: "Folks, this is a game. Joey should just log out, and the madman is then put into the madhouse by the police?"

"Well, the little one took out the fuses and modified the game a little bit. Like, I don't know myself yet, at least you feel, judging By Wheeler's screams, the pain really. Also, as an administrator, I can't log in. If she kills him in the game, he may die in reality." It was only with difficulty that I kept myself on my feet. I was black edled by a short shot. Strong arms caught me and moments later I looked up to Tristan.

"Joey's screams? What do you mean by that?" Panicked, my gaze wandered over to Kaiba as Tristan lifted me up again. "Let's say she sent us a message. You alone should come into cyberspace if you want to save Wheeler," the CEO replied in a monotonous voice. 'We're already working to force them out of the game, but it takes time. If you get to their position, I can retaliate accordingly. I will attach a tracer program to your avatar, which I insert under the signature. With this I can help you indirectly and, in the end, bend the whole thing straight." I only understood station. Tracer thing, signature, what?

"What if you just turn off the juice? Turn off power and so on?" I clinged desperately to every small possibility, with my hopes beginning to fade with every second: Kaiba was quite intelligent and could have dealt with such an obvious one in depth. "This would have the same effect as an in-game death. We have already notified the authorities and they will support us, but nevertheless you will have to go in and save Wheeler. But we will give you an advantage." The CEO smiled disparagingly and meant to follow us with a nod.

"I know that's a lot to ask, David, but please, try to save Joey. We are always with you, in our thoughts and with our hearts." Yugi put his hand on my shoulder, as did Tristan. Mokuba trotted silently next to his brother. "If I miss, I'll go on it, don't I?" I asked quietly, my head lowered. Entered silence signaled to me that I was probably right.

We arrived in a futuristic-looking room. The floor and walls had been laid out with aluminum panels. A huge computer stood in the corner, to which dozens of screens were connected. It flashed and beeped from directions. In the middle of the room was a kind of capsule. It was equipped with a glass pane, snow white and connected to the computer by a thick cable. I could also see a shaft in which you had to put a card, like with the glasses, but there were more slits.

"Well, then Muto and Taylor should explain the plan to you while I take care of the settings." With this, Kaiba sat down at the computer and started typing wildly on the keyboard. Mokuba followed him and dodged my gaze. My attention was suddenly turned to Yugi, who was rattled.

„So, we don't know exactly what to expect in there." Yugi put his hand on my shoulder. Somehow, he seemed different than usual. His voice had become deeper and calmer, his grip harder and in his eyes, determination burned to a degree I had never seen before. Inevitably, I had to stare at the comical, pyramid-like puzzle around his neck.

"Take out your deck and focus: Which card does your heart hold?" My heart? This was probably not the time for such games, nevertheless: Something about Yugi led me to comply with his request. I fanned my deck and breathed deeply. With my eyes closed, I pulled out a single card. A pleasant tingling went through my fingertips. "As I had imagined," Yugi smiled mischievously and nodded at me. I held my Dark Magician in my hands. "I was actually thinking of my red-eye." I turned the card between my hands. It almost seemed as if the Dark Magician was nodding at me.

"The Dark Magician believes in you, like you in him and your red-eye. He will support you and be with you, just like all of us. Tea and Bakura will follow suit. Listen to me – we're going to merge you into one of the most powerful Duel monsters, with the power of friendship. You contribute to your Dark Magician; I give my Buster Blader and Tristan his Fusion Card. Kaiba will bring you into the game and you will fight your way to Joey." I lifted my gaze and noticed everyone, except Kaiba, staring at me.

"I know it's weird, but believe in you, and the heart of the cards. We also believe in you." Tristan smiled at me. "You just have to get to Joey, David. Mei leaves you to Kaiba." I nodded at Yugi and breathed deeply. Then I approached the capsule and pushed my deck back into my pocket. I kept the Dark Magician between my fingers. Tristan and Yugi followed me, each with a card in hand. The capsule opened with a hissing sound.

"Move the cards in now, the fusion card in the middle." We did as hot and colored light shredded the boards of the black box, which marked the card slot. I calmly climbed into the capsule and watched the glass pane close above me. "We believe in you and are always with you, don't forget that." Mokuba, Yugi and Tristan raised their hands and waved to me, as did Tea and Bakura, who had just stormed in the door. I could see Mokuba crying.

"It's not your fault, Mokuba! We're bending that right now, believe in me!" That made me black in front of my eyes.

Chapter Text

I was in a large, circular hall that seemed to be made entirely of glass. Every angle, any small, had been covered with mirrors. My reflection stared towards me from dozens of directions. I saw... different.

My hair had become brown and longer. Strands of it hung out of my helmet, which still had the characteristic curvature of the Dark Magician. My skin color had changed from white to a kind of gray-green. My corners of the eyes were lined with a black border, and two straight lines, which were just down, made it look as if I was crying.

The armor on my body had to be extremely heavy. Black-blue armor plates were punctuated by golden lines and ornaments, separating each individual piece of plate from each other. Green, circular gemstones adorned various parts of the second, metal skin.

In my right hand I held a rod that seemed more like a halberd than anything else. The sharp side had been forged wavy, and at the foothills had been decorated with golden tips.

I had to admit that I seemed more like a warrior than a magician, but I liked this figure. My facial expression reflected determination. I had the metal handle firmly clasped. For some reason I was sure That I would win, no matter what obstacles Mei might put in my way.

"Mahad." A quiet whisper permeated the room. The voice was soft, friendly and familiar. I'd heard them where before, just where? "Mahad." Once again, the whispering wandered, seemed to come from every direction and yet from none. I looked around, but I couldn't see anyone. Was that a trick?

"Where are you?" My voice was broken a thousand times and thrown back. My own echo almost made me mad. How could it be that the foreign voice did not trigger the same effect? I struggled to suppress the urge to keep my ears shut, which would have been a little pointless given the helmet.

"The blood of Mahad, the flesh of my flesh." I sighed loudly. That was pointless. Probably just a cheap trick from Mei. I decided to ignore the voice for the time being and look for a way out of prismatic prison. A closer look showed no outcome. Somewhere, however, had to be a light source, otherwise it would have been eclipse in the room. On the other hand, I found myself in virtual reality – natural laws did not necessarily have to apply here.

Carefully, I took a step. The mirror-smooth floor was solid and showed only the ceiling above me. A glance up told me that it was exactly the same there. There had to be a door or an exit somewhere.

"Part of the whole, part of Mahad. The mirror of the soul, a part of me." I rolled my eyes annoyed. This whispering something wasn't exactly helpful. "Break one, break everyone." Should I smash the mirrors? Was that what the voice wanted to tell me?

I uttered a loud scream that forced me to press my hands to my helmet in a senseless gesture. My reflection had disappeared, instead a young man, about twenty years old, with brown hair and an oriental touch, was in every single prism. This face, which stood out under the white hood with the golden tiara...

"You have already shown yourself in my sword blade!" A smile appeared on the trains of the dark-skinned man. His demeanor seemed so sublime. His attitude, his facial expressions – even when he smiled, he seemed awesome.

"You really recognized that, David? I've been watching you for quite a while." The whispering; he had been that voice! "I am not a being of this world; I exist outside of it. You don't know me, but I know you."
Kaiba had a very strange sense of humor. His own creations refused to pretend to be artificial intelligence. But something about the stranger almost made me believe in his words. "Who or what are you then?"

His smile only broadened and he folded his arms in front of his chest. "I am your ancestor, you in another life." Now I had to suppress a quiet laugh. Reincarnation? This contradicted my upbringing and my faith.

"We don't have much time. Your friend is being held here, and his time is running out. I can help you if you let me." I slanted my head. I should accept help from a wild stranger? What if it was just a trick by Mei?

"Let me help you merge with you, just for this one fight." There was something in me. I blinked hard. Pictures flickered in front of my spiritual eye. A huge palace in the middle of a desert, stone tablets, a glittering golden ring with an eye surrounded by a triangle.

"What's going on with me?" I asked myself, reaching for my head. Something went wrong here and I felt like it wasn't part of the game. "You remember, don't you? To the palace, to the games of shadows..." What was the guy talking about?

"I have neither time nor leisure, Mahad, or whatever you are. What do you have of helping me? Joey doesn't care about you, and for the last 17 years you haven't bothered with your reincarnation." Sure, it was mean of me, but I ran out of time. I didn't want to know what Mei was doing with Joey.

The brown-haired man just smiled and shoved his hands into his white robes. 'That's not true, but we don't really have time to talk. The pharaoh will enlighten you. Should we work together?" The Pharaoh? What? I felt like I was really talking with a kind of spirit.

"I."" Why did I hesitate? My answer should clearly be 'no'. This wild stranger something in front of me was... so familiar. His smile captivated me. "Yes, if you help me save Joey, you can demand what you want." Did I really say that?

"I don't ask you to do anything." Mahad just nodded and closed his eyes. Every single mirror suddenly became shining bright only to break with a loud clatter. Quickly I covered my eyes with my free hand. What was going on here?

I felt a pleasant tingling, starting from my heart. It was like someone was near me, looking after me, protecting me. I sometimes felt when I was praying in church. Was it possible that this spirit...? No, or is it?

"We are now one for a short time. I take control, up to a point. Don't worry - just trust me." Strangely, Mahad's words in my head actually calmed me down.

After Lowering my hand, I was surrounded by a horde of elven sword fighters. Each one had already raised his blade, or waited for his backman to make room for him.

Cold, white marble was emblazoned where the mirrors were still hung. Mahad had done a lot of work. But how should I cope with these things now? I could safely turn off a few, but so many?

"You are no longer just the Dark Magician; you are now the Dark Paladin. Your ka is my ka, and thus also that of the Dark Magician. I think we should shorten the whole thing." Mahad sounded so more self-confident, so convinced. Was he aware that we were facing a horde of opponents?

Before I saw myself, my legs were self-depressing and let me slide up. I hovered over my opponents, who gathered under me. My left hand stretched out and a black energy ball, interspersed with lightning, formed in the inner surface of this. A brief twitching of my limb sent the ball on its way. Precisely the bullet hit in the middle of the room and also caused the ceiling and floor to break. Glass rained past me, bounced off the armor, only to finally splinter on the white stone floor.

A chorus of death cries underscored the scenario with a certain sense of strangeness. An ice-cold shiver ran over my back, while the elven sword fighters simply dissolved in nowhere. Neither weapons nor clothing were left. Was that really me?

"Of course, you were. There's more in you than you think." My fear, my nervousness, everything fizzled out after this sentence. Mahad was right: I had really been able to do that. "Could I always do that? Did you just awaken my skills," I asked the thought voice in my head. "Yes and no. You grow in your tasks. Your deepest desire to save your friend has allowed me to get in touch with you directly. That's why I'm here and I can communicate with you."

This time it was me who slowly let himself sink to the ground. Elegant and gentle, my feet touched the ground. The circular room looked completely empty without the mirror cabinet, cold, colder still than before. "Trust yourself and your abilities, and no opponent will be able to do anything to you."

I nodded to myself, lost in thought, and looked around. In fact: A huge stone door, embedded in the spread mouth of a white dragon with an ice-cold view, had appeared. Two sapphire-blue eyes stared down at me and shimmered eerily. To the left and right of the door, two claws had been cut out.

Slowly I approached the supposed exit. "What should not be should not be. You are unclean, unworthy to go on." The voice that echoed from the door was neither dark nor deep, on the contrary – it was bright and annoying. Mei.

"She plays with you, wants to keep you away." Mahad was probably right. "Open this door Mei." I was sure she could hear me. Bell-bright, smug laughter bounced at me from everywhere and nowhere. "Other wishes?"

I stared at my left hand, then at the door. My gaze rested on the sapphires in the eye sockets of the White Dragon. The longer I stared at it, the more intensely the duel with Kaiba came back to my mind. How terrifying the beast had built up in front of me, the flash of light in his mouth.

I wanted to step back, to back down, but a gentle pressure in my back kept me away. The scene changed: Joey, as he grinned, wrapped his arm around me, how our lips touched for the first time.

I slanted my head a little and my features hardened. I wouldn't run away, no, I would face my fears. Nothing, not even the Blue Eyes White Dragon, would keep me away from Joey. I had enough. Enough of people who wanted to determine my life, enough of Mei's blackmail, her condescending manner.

Wordlessly, I stretched out my left arm. The flat hand pointed to the door, which lacked any handle or keyhole. Only the slits on the side of the door frame gave us any idea that there was a portal, an exit in front of me. Instinctively, I bent my fingers towards the palm of my hand.

With a deafening sound, the white marble in front of me broke. Cracks formed, only to then jump up. Stones and debris flew past me as I took my first steps unimpressed. Whether Mahad existed real, was just a computer program, or represented the ghostly form of one of my previous lives, I felt safe, safe, and, above all, encouraged – I would not fail.

Chapter Text

Behind the portal was a gigantic hall. Black stone had been laid on black stone, while someone had inserted huge windows of colorful glass into the masonry. Torches lit up the room and the moon broke in the prism of the individual slices of burnt sand.

Every single one of my steps left an echo. My shadow blew up beside me, a silent companion who kept disappearing, only to reappear. Where did I get back in here? But more important was the question: Where were Mei and Joey?

A dark red carpet led from the foot of a pitch-black throne to me. Golden embroidery had been incorporated at the edges of the fabric. To the left and right of the imposing seating area stood two clay jugs, from which blazing flames raged. The armrests of the throne had been equipped with two warriors, each of which crossed their swords.

It was only on closer inspection that I noticed that I was not alone. Someone sat on the throne. A figure in pitch-black armor. A long red ponytail emanated from the back of the ornately designed helmet. The warrior's visor was of a color that was neither yellow, nor golden, nor green. I couldn't see his face. Shield and sword were made of exactly the same material, with exactly the same color constellation. The warrior's right leg rested angled at the foot of the throne as he stared at me motionlessly.

"That's the... this is the Black Luster Soldier, isn't it?" I slanted my head and promptly received a reply. "Yes, he is. An extremely powerful monster." Mahad's voice in my head confirmed my suspicions. "Have I... I have any chance?" I knew the strength of the Soldier of the Black Light. "If you don't doubt" was the answer of my invisible companion.

I stared into my opponent's empty-looking visor, patterning the helmet, its entire appearance. Fear crept out of their darkest corners of my being. If Joey could die here, so could I. What if I was too weak? The spear in my hand trembled; No, it was me who was shaking.

„You have to believe in yourself." I looked around, but I couldn't see Yugi anywhere, whose deep voice just gave me courage. "You can do it, I know, and so do you! Don't give the darkness and the shadow power over you."

"Trust the pharaoh, David. He wouldn't lie to you. He knows you can, just like me. You are the Dark Magician, the Dark Paladin – you are one as I once were. Breathe deeply and listen to your heart." Mahad's calm voice echoed in my head. I nodded in spirit and closed my eyes. Consciously calm, I breathed in and out.

Warmth flowed through me. At one time, it was easy for me to get around my heart. Around me it had become completely white. I was in nowhere. There was no beginning or end here. Just a white, infinite void. Gradually, as if out of nowhere, my friends joined them. Yugi, Tristan, Tea, Mokuba, Bakura, Duke, even Kaiba. Behind them appeared Mahad, who had sunk his hands back into his robes. My parents, even my grandparents and my friends from home – all were gathered here. They believed in me, I felt that, they gave me strength.

With a jerk I opened my eyes. The Black Luster Soldier had risen from his throne and slowly approached me. I wouldn't fail. Joey and I would leave this nightmare in one piece and Mei would be held accountable. Nothing in this world could separate us.

"Well come and get me!" I grabbed my spear with both hands and shifted my stand a little. Slowly my opponent picked up speed and stormed towards me. I turned the gun a little bit and prepared to fend off his attack.

Metal bounced on metal. Sparks were spraying when the curved sword hit my spear handle. The force of the attack made my arms tremble and a stinging pain, crawling up from the fingertips. Kaiba was right: I felt something this time.

With a jerk I pushed my opponent back and created some distance. I turned the spear a little bit and let it sink. The weapon glowed green and I picked up diagonally from the bottom left. My spearhead cut through the air and a greenish shimmer of energy detached from the blade. Crackling, my attack hit the Black Luster Soldier, who seemingly effortlessly beat him aside with his shield.
Again, lightning-fast attack followed, which I could only parry with great difficulty. Slowly my legs gave way and I was forced to my knees. His sword blade kept pressing on my own weapon. In the direct measuring of strength, I was clearly inferior. "David, concentrate," I said to myself. Somewhere the fighter had to have a weak spot.

My eyes fell on the warrior's leg armor. It was worth a try. Slowly I pushed my right foot between the soldier's spread legs and came dangerously close with my back to a point where he either had to crack or break. When my leg had moved far enough into the open gap of my opponent, I quickly pulled it back. My boot became entangled in the warrior's armor, causing him to stumble.

I slipped back and breathed deeply. It hurt every bone in my body. In the long run, I wouldn't be able to sustain this fight. My opponent had already caught himself again and did not even allow me to think again.

Sword thrusts slammed onto me, which I parried after a fashion. My opponent's movements became faster and faster, while he literally pushed me with his back to the wall. Magic wasn't an option right now - I was too close, and I honestly had no idea what I could do. Mahad, strangely, remained mute when I asked.

Purple flames engulfed my opponent's sword blade, which suddenly effortlessly split my stick. The weapon penetrated my defense and immediately devoured my shoulder. With a loud cry of pain, I dropped the halves of the weapon. Blood poured out of the wound and I became nauseous.

I had never felt such pain. The cold steel burned like fire and I smelled the stench of charred meat. Was it? My end? With a smoldering sound, the Black Luster Soldierpulled the blade out of my shoulder. Involuntarily, I grabbed the wound and fell to my knees.

"He will make it." My eyelids became heavy and I heard voices. They debated about me, then passages in a foreign, incomprehensible language. Pictures passed me by. Deserts, pyramids, a horrible battle. The sky had darkened and a monster of black nothingness had piled up in front of me. I could see a dark-skinned, older-looking Yugi, at his side a girl who reminded me strongly of the Dark Magician Girl. They all wore weird clothes, robes, coats. Soldiers marched behind them, armed with curved swords, spears and wooden shields.

Someone hovered at the top of the trough. On closer inspection, I recognized the Dark Magician, the one Yugi owned. But his face seemed strange. I recognized Mahad and... Me? The image seemed to change from second to second. Once he, once me. The scenario faded and bright light dazzled me.

The glow was made from a triangular, golden pyramid, in the middle of which a frightening-looking eye had been captured. The construct had been inserted into a ring, which had five elongated, pointed pendants. At least I knew the eye: Yugi's puzzle looked exactly the same at its core.

In front of me I could see the Black Luster Soldier, who had risen his blade to the final stroke of grace. My trains hardened again. If I had to go here, I would take him with me.

I squeezed my teeth together and clenched my two hands to fists. The pain in my shoulder almost robbed my senses. I just had to concentrate and give him a single, deadly blow. Black flashes surrounded my hands. Now or never.

I stretched out both arms. Immediately, the lightning flashed over to my opponent, who uttered a marker-shattering scream. The sword and shield fell to the ground clattering as I slowly rose. The energy flowed unhindered from my fingers and forced the Black Luster Soldier to his knees.

Bending and screaming, my opponent threw himself back and forth on the stone floor. The smell of burnt meat rose into my nose. The shouting mutated into a high scream and my opponent rolled towards the carpet, where his body kept bowing under my attack.

"Stop, David, it's enough." Mahad's voice had adopted a sharp, demanding undertone. "I will destroy this thing here for good before I go into my next existence." My voice sounded strange, deeper, strange. Did I really say that? Why did I enjoy inflicting such pain on this virtual being?

"Remember why you're here. Don't let darkness win power over you." Darkness? Power? Yes, power. I had just tasted it, and I enjoyed it. No one would decide more about me, force me to bow to his will.

Again the ring appeared in front of my eye and made my opponent's screams quieter and duller. "Don't be manipulated, David. The ring no longer belongs to me, not even to you. He's evil.' What did this strange ring please have with...? I shook my head. Why was I really here? The desire for power and strength that just consumed me was weakly fought by another feeling: love.

Instantly, the lightning ebbed away. The wounded body of the Soldier of the Black Light lay in front of me. Parts of his armor had disintegrated and made me look at blackened and reddened skin. The helmet had slipped off his head. I recognized these traits, so soft and vulnerable. My eyes widened as I realized what I had done.

Chapter Text

„J-Joey?" In fact, I could clearly see his face. Blood dripped from his nose and turned the cold stone floor under him red. His blonde mane was covered in red strands and he had his eyes closed. The cheeks showed severe burns. Joey's condition was generally deplorable. He had clearly dislocated his left hand and I wasn't even sure if he was still breathing.

"Joey?" His name echoed again through the dark castle walls. Was he just unconscious, or dead? Had I killed him? Was it my hand that sealed his fate? At that moment I only realized how much I loved Joey.

His confession of love, how I had cuddled up to him, how he had fed me rice. The laughter when I made a joke. His soft delicate lips that mixed with mine. The face he made when he thought. Should all this have been taken away from me? Why? Why was fate so cruel? Had God forsaken me?

Tears ran down my cheeks as I died a little more with every step, I dragged closer to my loved one. Could this only be a mirage? No, I felt it - that was Joey, my Joey. Why hadn't I spoken to him? Perhaps he would have given in, made our relationship public?

He still didn't move. The pain in my shoulder almost made me mad and robbed me of the last strength, besides the image of my love lying in front of me covered in blood. My knees were banging on the hard-stone floor as I put my head in my neck and cried out all my grief and frustration.

"Why? Why are you so cruel? No matter who or what is responsible for it, take me! Get me and keep him alive. I implore you, please!" The desperation in my voice echoed a thousand times. However, my plea was not answered. No higher entity moved; no deity had pity on me. Fate did not want to swap our places. Mahad, too, was silent.

In hellish pain, I managed the last distance to Joey, slipping on my knees. My wounded shoulder left my arm dangling helplessly on the side. Carefully I turned the blonde in armor on the back. My tears dripped into his face and mixed with blood and soot. I gently stroked Joey over the cheek with my thumb and put his head in my lap. "Please, come back, Joey. I love you. I want to be with you, be happy, experience ups and downs." I shook him in despair, but he showed no reaction.

No, it couldn't be. It was just a game. You just had to pull the plug or press restart and everything would be fine again. We would squat laughing at school, play together in the arcade hall, I cheer him on in a duel against Yugi...

My eyes were burning like fire and I couldn't feel my left arm anymore. The blood loss would soon give me the rest. What was dying like? Would I see Joey again? Would he be nasty to me? Sobby I bent down and put my lips on his own. My last moment should be his.

"What is it like to watch as what you love dies, hm?" Mei's voice slowly made me catch my attention. Above me, the perpetrator of all suffering squatted in a nothingness of air. She carried the dark magician's cleavage and grinned cheekily at me. The ironic undertone could hardly be ignored.

"Why? Why Mei, didn't you just take me? What did Joey do to you?" I turned my gaze back to my lover's damaged body and tenderly stroked his hair. The last remnant of color slowly gave way to him from the face. I had to watch helplessly as the last rest of life dripped out of him.

"You?" Mei laughed coldly and overturned. "Did Joey never tell you that we were once a couple? He went out with me? I have been his great love? Until you've come!" The contempt could hardly be ignored. He was sweet, really. Joey took care of me and also respected that I didn't want to make our relationship public. It would have been too less for my parents. I was very happy with him until you came!"

Should I reply? It was pointless. Revenge on this scale? For what? "Damn Mei, if you really loved him, could you have just disposed of me? Let me disappear? Why him?"

The girl put her face on a fray that reflected disgust and hatred. "You should have seen him. The glitter in his eyes when he told me about you." Mei snorted contemptuously: "His feelings for you. He would like you; he would even love you. Do you think I'll let myself be served? Lose to a boy?"

I just shook my head in dismay: "Mei, this is not a game. You have two people on your conscience, do you realize that? You once loved judging according to what you said. That was all your plan, wasn't it? First, to drive a wedge between Joey and me, and when that didn't work out, did you switch to more drastic methods?"

"No, that wasn't the plan right now," Mei shook his head and sank down next to me and Joey. "But it's very convenient for me. Only your whining and crying still bothers me. Putting it in Kaiba's shoes makes the whole thing even more spicy – officially it will look like an accident with the game."

I put my hand on Joey's chest and tried hard to flash away the tears. "Kaiba has already notified the authorities." Again, this cold, marker-shattering laugh. "Look at me! I just have to help out a little bit." Mei floated back to lofty heights and swirled her magic wand around.

"That's what we're here, we're three." Her magic wand tip was bathed in a bright white light from which an ever-increasing shape slowly formed. The torches in the room were almost blown out and a cold wind rose. One, two, no, three dragons seemed to peel themselves out of the light. The deafening roar that followed made the walls tremble.

"Kaiba's favorite animal should give you the push of grace! See and tremble – the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon." I was wrong. A single, huge white dragon with an ice-cold gaze had materialized. Three grim heads stared at me and Joey. This being was even more terrifying than the Blue Eyes alone. This had to be Kaiba's most powerful monster.

I felt so empty. I didn't even want to defend myself anymore. Why? I had stunned it, and thoroughly. Mei had probably won. Hopefully we weren't disfigured in reality so that we could take proper care of our funeral. Powerless, I let my forehead sink on to That of Joey. "I love you," I breathed to him as a bright white ball of light formed over us. In a few seconds I would see him again. Could dying be so bad? Not for us, but for those we left behind.

My grandparents, my parents, our friends, Joey's little sister Serenity. I never got to call her. Putting my plan into action. Hopefully Joey would understand. I forgive myself that I had spiked into his phone.

"A little brazen when you ask me to summon my monster." The ball of light over us was extinguished and I could hear the roar of feet behind us. "What did you think, Nakamura? That you can lock me, Seto Kaiba, out of his own game?"

A look backwards opened up to me Kaiba, Yugi, Tea, Tristan, Bakura, Duke and Mokuba. Each of them was dressed as in the real world. "We will put you down!" Tea raised his right hand and everyone else, except Kaiba, did the same. "For our friends!" the choir cried unanimously.

"How then? I summoned one of the most powerful Duel Monsters. You have lost even if you attack together." Mei slowly let himself sink to the middle head of Ultimate Dragon and stroked it over the head, which he acknowledged with a pleasant growl. "Not even you can stop me now, Seto Kaiba."

"Don't be too sure." Kaiba had his arms crossed in front of his chest as the group behind him began to glow. Each individual was bathed in a dark blue light. The earth around us shook. The walls slowly collapsed. Stones and debris scurried down.

"Look and marvel, Nakamura. You face a power that dwarfs even the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon. Tremble in front of my invincible hero - Obelisk the Tormentor!"

Blue dust was stirred up. The small particles slowly formed into the silhouette of a gigantic being. The ceiling broke in two as a hurricane-like wind swept through the walls. Thunder-roared, the masonry trembled.

"Dragon, go, attack!" Mei's voice went down in the roar of the wind. The ground broke up next to me and Joey. A large crack permeated the entire hall and eventually broke it apart.

"Because no one is going to sit down with our friends." Yugi's deep voice drowned out the entire scenario. His pendant at the neck lit up brightly. He emerged from the light and stood next to Kaiba, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

A marker-shattering scream outside the castle could be heard. The roar even eclipsed that of the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The sky was completely darkened and a monstrous, snake-like, red something peeled out of the flashing clouds.

The being that Kaiba had introduced as Obelisk to the Tormentor was now in front of him, or rather above him. The face was a single, grinning frat with red eyes. A blue gemstone shimmered in the crown-like forehead. The monster's skin was rock hard and blue. Sharp spikes stood out everywhere and the back was lined with a kind of broken shield halves or rudimentary wings.

To this huge warrior, who easily towered over the building, was joined from the air by an even larger red dragon with two mouths. A blue gemstone also towered in his skull. The never-ending tangle of his body snaked through the room, covering me and Joey. I could hear a roar and an energy ball hitting, which produced a brutal gust of wind. Me and Joey were pressed against the supposed middle part of the snake-like dragon creature.

"Time to punish you, Nakamura. No one touches my little brother's friends. And now, Obelisk, let go – destroy this brat and let revenge prevail!" The dragon's body blocked my view and so I couldn't see what was going on.

A deep rumbling filled the surroundings and the air crackled. The earth's quake increased and rocks, as well as debris and rain, were stirred up. The dragon covered us with his body.

A gigantic pressure wave and a blue flash hit the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon. Obelisk the Tormentor sunk his fist in the monster with Mei, who screamed agonizingly. With a loud bang that almost robbed me of my senses, we were immersed in a mushroom of storm clouds. Lightning played around us and the dragon roared loudly. I couldn't see my hand in front of my eyes. Then it turned black and Kaiba's laughter echoed in my head.

Chapter Text

I was bedded on a soft, gentle ground. There was someone lying next to me. Carefully I opened my eyes and recognized the guest room of the Kaiba estate. I looked at the person next to me. The bedside lamps had been left on. A stone fell from my heart: Joey lay there, free from any injuries and the like. Carefully I pushed the duvet down a little and stroked it over the bare shoulder. I only wore short track pants myself, and I suspected that Joey was similar.

This one actually stirred under my touch. "Joey?" I gently breathed at him. His eyelids opened and I was stared at with big eyes. "David? How?" Before he could ask further, I put my lips on his own and kissed him tenderly. We both closed our eyes almost simultaneously and just let ourselves fall. All the pain and sorrow of the last few hours seemed forgotten. At last we were reunited.

I enjoyed the feeling of feeling Joey. After some time, we broke up again and I put my arms around his chest, attracting him to me. "I thought I'd lost you for good," it came quietly out of my mouth. "To see you lying in front of me, damaged, that broke my heart." I gently stroked his lips over his ears.

„I put you in unnecessary danger," Joey whispered, cramping in my arms. I understood what he meant. "Shhh, you don't have, Joey" I reassured my friend and snuggled up to him. "It wouldn't have changed if you had told me about Mei and you," I said, waiting in vain for an answer. So I went, "I hope you're not angry with me, Joey."

He finally moved and turned his face to me. His eyes were glassy and he struggled to hold back his tears. "Why should I be mad on you?" I felt his hand on my right cheek and smiled weakly. "Joey? I almost killed you, inflicted unspeakable pain and torment on you." Contrary to my expectations, my friend shook his head: "No, I have you. I knew you were strong enough to defeat me. It was just bad to see me sing the sword in your shoulder. This cry, your face with it..." Joey's voice had become brittle and, in the end, he fell silent.
"She controlled you, didn't she?" I asked, and was fed a wordless nod. 'Then it's not your fault. Stop worrying if you couldn't prevent it." Carefully I let my right hand wander down and weeded my fingers with those of Joey. "We are a team, a couple - we are one. Our love survives everything." My words put a thin smile on my friend's lips.

"May I ask you something?" His voice was nothing more than a breath of pain, and she was in pain and sorrow. Joey's smile was instantaneous. I nodded and stroked his thumb over the back of my hand. “She said you'd slept with her. Is that true?" He avoided looking me in the eye when I asked.

"Would you believe me that I did it for you?" Now it was I who lowered his voice. “She blackmailed me; she would make our relationship public. I was afraid of losing you. It all happened so fast. My hatred of her grew with every second, until I gave her exactly what she so desired."

I could see the disappointment in Joey's eyes. I had pulled the floor from under his feet. "Joseph Wheeler" I began, and placed his face between my hands: "I just love you, you and no one else. Please forgive me this one mistake. I didn't want it and I only managed it because it was for you." My apology sounded even more stupid than in my head. Joey still avoided looking for eye contact with me. I just hated Mei more.

Carefully I detached myself from Joey and threw the blanket, which covered us both, in the direction of our feet. I was right: both my boyfriend and I were completely naked, apart from short black track pants.

"What are you doing?" Joey asked me, bewildered, as I began to pull my clothes off my body. "If I couldn't give you what I wanted to give you, Joey, then at least I'm trying to make up for it now." Just before my shame would have been exposed, Joey stopped me. My questioning gaze was answered with a shake of the head.

'But I don't want it that way. It should be something special. Love is not shown by trying to give in to each other in a way. All good." So, he smiled a little and kissed me with his warm, soft lips on his forehead.
"Are you in pain Joey?" I asked, looking at my loved one in detail. At first glance, nothing was visible. On closer inspection, however, I noticed something: Some bruises were now visible. Was that? No, because then I should have had some.

"A little, nothing dramatic," he answered my question and dragged me into his arms. For now, it was best to leave the story in the room. He would open up to me. Sometime. Sure. I snuggled up to Joey and looked up, his deer-brown eyes resting on me.

"For a brief moment I thought it was out with us. What were these things that Kaiba and Yugi summoned?" I asked, trying to direct the conversation to a topic in which Joey was far superior to me: Duel Monsters.

"Explaining this is complicated. In any case, they are two very powerful, hard-to-control monsters." The glow in Joey's eyes was indescribable – he was back in his element, happy like a child, that he could teach me something. I was very happy to see my treasure blossom so much. "More powerful than my Black Skull Dragon?" I drilled further and stroked his arms.

"Much more powerful," Joey confirmed my guess. "Why did we be put into a bed together? Not that it would bother me, but that's unusual, even for close friends.' My friend did an ice-cold change of theme. "Hm? I don't know? Maybe..." I had a pretty bad thought. Had they watched us? Did everyone know about our, or rather, Joey's secret? "So you know?" I could literally hear my loved one's heart racing, feeling it hammering his chest, every second.

"Sch, that's not said yet, and even if: We shouldn't have any secrets in front of our friends, Joey." I turned awkwardly around in the hug and then kissed his neck bend. Joey's body stiffened instantly, only to fall asleep again. Slowly my lips slipped upwards and mixed with his own. I gently nibbled at his lower lip and snaked my arms around his neck. My closeness was good for him, so it was the other way around. Hesitantly, I ended the kiss and tenderly nudged it with my nose tip. "You don't have to be ashamed of anything. Today, it is normal to be attracted to the same sex. We will certainly get some slanted glances, and at school we will be beundered a little, but with our friends on the side, that's not a problem."

The blonde-haired man actually smiled, albeit narrowly. "I'd love to share your optimism, David, but..." I interrupted him by putting my index finger on his lips. "We'll think about it when it's done." Smiling, I let myself be pulled on Joey's torso and bedded my head on his chest. Seconds later, we were again enveloped by the ceiling, which I had stripped off before.

"I love you," I breathed at him before sleep overwhelmed me. It had been a busy day, but I had some important experiences. Our friends stopped by us, and even Kaiba had made it clear that we did not exist completely outside his sphere of interest. That was good, because I needed something more from him.

Chapter Text

I blinked as the sun shining through the window dazzled me. Joey had wrapped his arm around me and was still asleep. Carefully, I snaked out of the hug and rubbed my eyes. How long had we slept? Judging by the digital alarm clock, it was already ten o'clock. But my eyes fell on a small table cart, which should have broken down under the weight of food.

Freshly squeezed orange juice, sliced bread slices, fried bacon, sausages, as well as fruit in all variations, rice, sushi, pudding and coffee had been brought into the room. My stomach grumbled loudly. I had a bear hunger.

"Mh, the way you stare at the food, you might think you haven't gotten anything between your teeth for a week," Joey laughed, stretching out. My little grin grinned awkwardly and gave his loved one a kiss on the cheek. "Good morning, Joey. Slept well?" I asked, sitting down in bed.

"Like a stone. It's probably your company's fault." Just as I was about to get up, his arms were around my stomach and held me back. "Treasure? I'm hungry, really," I smiled and leaned backwards. The euphoria faded a little when I could see the bruises on Joey's left chest, right shoulder and upper arms.
"What do you want?" asked the clasp and, with me in my arms, moved to the edge of the bed. Once there, he stretched out his right hand and reached for the plate with the fried bacon strips.

"To get in, jap." But Joey held up the plate and stopped me from getting up with gentle force. "Make my eyes open, I have an idea," he grinned mischievously. That soft, sweet smile on his lips – I loved it so much. Sighing, I closed my eyes. "My goodness, Joey, I want to have breakfast, not play any games."

A moment later I could feel his lips, which surrounded mine very delicately. It tasted strange, unfamiliar, but good. I couldn't classify the taste at first, and yet, he was very familiar to me. Joey's tip of my tongue pressed my lips, and I could then feel something strange in my mouth. Carefully I groped the foreign body with my tongue and was finally able to identify it: bacon.
Joey broke away from me and smiled relaxed as I chewed my breakfast. "How do you come up with such an idea? I have bear hunger and you keep me with such a small portion at the bar?" I smouldered after swallowing the bite.

"Don't feel like that! There's enough!" Joey pushed me back into bed and grabbed a grape. It had disappeared in his mouth soon after, only to be shared with me again shortly afterwards. We repeated the game with the apple clefts, as well as with the plums, another strip of bacon, a slice of bread and a lime slice.

The more often and longer we exchanged so physically, the more I had to concentrate on hiding my arousal. I was already breathing flatter and angled my knees a little bit to deny Joey the view of my erection. Even with the disturbing bruises, I couldn't see myself fed up with my friend.

Joey's right hand rested on my chest as he slowly slid with his left over my belly, down to my training pants. I wanted to stop him, wriggle me out of the last kiss, but I couldn't. I wanted it this time. His fingers nestled around the waistband of the pants, only to disappear into them. I soaked up the air sharply when I could feel Joey's soft, tender fingers in my pubic area. Each of his touches left a burning on my skin, which made me beg for more.

His lips left mine, only to grope down. Tenderly he stroked with the corners of my mouth over my neck bend, my chest, down to the navel. Meanwhile, the hand in my pants didn't move. It was a sweet agony to wait to see what next step he would take. My heart pounded, I was cold and hot at the same time, and inside I pleaded that he wanted to free me from the cramped track pants.

When he kissed my belly button, only to sink my tongue in it, I couldn't. My body bent under the touches of my loved one and I bent, only to stretch his stomach towards him. My lower lip was already bloody because I was trying to suppress a groan. His blond mane, whose hair tips stroked my skin, his wet, hot tongue, which groaned me in one of my most sensitive places: it was all so different, so much more beautiful than with Mei. What would I have given that this moment would never have ended? It seemed so surreal.

"Close my eyes" Joey asked me. I did as I was told and could feel him slowly pulling his training pants down to my knees. His hands stroked over my thighs, my bald-shaven area of shame, only to come to a halt just above my masculinity.

I felt like a prisoner in my own body, torn between education and love, decency and passion. Should I stop him? I wanted to have the first, really conscious (and above all voluntary) sexual contact with someone I blindly trusted whom I loved.

"You love him, you know that. He's a part of you. What went through your head as he lay in front of you, on your knees, and you thought you had lost him forever?" The voice in my head. Was she right?

A hail of sensations bounced down on me as something warm and moist ensnared encompassed my penis. The desire overwhelmed me, and I let myself fall. I was sure at one time that it was the right thing to do. Right to surrender and love, for a moment. How could it be wrong to give someone a piece of himself when you loved him so much?

My fingers clawed into the duvet as the tingling slowly spread across my body, starting from my penis. Every muscle, every single nerve strand mixed with my sensations – everything worked together while my brain was suspended.

His lips, which almost moved to my penis root, only to disappear from there again. The cool wetness that his saliva left on my penis, only to heat him again. I wanted to open my eyes, watch Joey, but it was impossible for me. The more often and longer, the more tender and loving he picked me up with his mouth, spoiled me, the more I had to concentrate, not to shout out loud and give in to the tingling. It was not possible to put it into words.

"J-Joey, stop, I can't n-long," I breathed, stretching out to my friend's mouth, contrary to my words. Instead of quitting, he increased the pace. I threw my head back and forth on the bed. "J-Joey, p-please, n-not!" I pressed out, only to give in to the wishes of my body. I grabbed the blanket, clawed myself into the fabric, and stiffened like a board. My toes bent involuntarily, just as my legs were stretching, my pounding heart pounded against my chest, and I was quietly moaning.

In the 17 years of my life, I had never felt that way. That with Mei had been weird, all, but not nice. Those moments here were different. My feelings, my existence, everything was there for Joey right in that one moment. I forgot everything around me, the room, any caution or shame - there was only him and me.

I put my head in my neck and breathed Joey's name, whose mouth still surrounded my masculinity. Breathlessly, I opened my eyes and could watch Joey kneel in front of me, pushing my legs apart. I couldn't see his face because of his hair mane, but it wasn't necessary. He had swallowed.

Neither a sound of choking nor disgust had been heard. Why didn't he just stop? Joey stayed that way. What was going on? Hesitantly, I stretched out my hands and straightened up. I put my fingers under his chin and pushed him off me. My body was crying out for more, for more Joey, who passed me by, but he had something that I realized.

In fact, he cried. Why? He hastily lowered his gaze and kept his lips closed. Had it been unpleasant? Did it taste so disgusting? I pulled my pants over and covered his wrists. After he had disclosed for a few seconds, I got up and stood on the tip of my toes. My lips touched his own, who had assumed a strange, salty taste.

Shortly Joey stiffened, only to fall back on the bed with me. He opened his mouth, and something dribbled into my mouth. It took me a moment to realize what it was. Joey's right arm rested around my back, while my left hand removed a strand from my face. I should have been disgusted, but that wasn't the case. A piece of me, had mixed with a piece of Joey. My seed and his saliva had become one, and we both shared the other.

I swallowed the part that snaked along my throat, leaving a strange, salty and indefinable aftertaste. I buried my right hand in Joey's hair and I kissed him passionately. Our tongues fought with each other again, and none really wanted to give in.
We had done something that required trust and security, the belief that the other was the right one. I at least felt that way. My head exploded almost to the emotions of joy, love and happiness that I felt. Every second of fighting, fear and pain had been worth it.

When we heard the door, we broke free and looked at the entrance at the same time. Yugi, Tristan, Tea and Mokuba stared at us, each for himself. They all seemed unsurprising, rather amused and relieved. What did they notice?

Chapter Text

We hastily wiped our mouths. Did they notice more than just the kiss? Both Joey and me, the blush rose in our faces.

"Well, you don't have to stop because of us," Tristan grinned and was immediately rewarded by Tea with a shoulder boxer. "To make it easier for you, we've known it since yesterday. Just as David reacted, what he said, in VR, it was obvious that you were two more than just friends." Yugi smiled awkwardly and brushed a strand of hair from his face.

"People, seriously, can't you knock at least?" Joey quips, pushing himself a little behind me. "We could have locked up, hm?" I whispered softly, staring at my friends. Now it was out. Would any jokes come now? Someone preach something of "unnatural" and "false"?

Before I could see it, Mokuba smirked and pushed me into bed. "Yesterday was sooooooo cool, David. How you fought, how you fought Mei! Yugis and Seto's performance was cooler, of course, but you did really well." I raised my brows and struggled to defend myself from the little torment. Meanwhile, Joey, with a sour face, rushed into the bathroom.

"Have you been watching us all the time, or what?" I asked, skilfully throwing Mokuba on the other half of the bed, only to fall on him and push me into the mattress. "Yes, we have. Yugi and Kaiba would have come earlier, but the signal was still too weak." Tristan watched us with a smile. "So, it doesn't bother you that Joey and I..." I started, but then was immediately interrupted by Tea: "No, don't do it, on the contrary. We are looking forward to seeing you." I pushed Mokuba aside, struggling, and slid to the bathroom door.

"Um, folks, could you leave us alone again? We're coming down, okay?" Everyone, even Mokuba, nodded unanimously and gradually left the room. I got up and knocked carefully against the bathroom door. "Joey?" I asked cautiously. No answer. Once again, my hand poked against the dark wood, again I was denied an answer. "Joey, hey, get up" I gently asked my friend to break the barrier between us. When he didn't answer again, I pushed the jack down and wasn't too surprised when I realized the door was open.

Joey sat on the tiled floor; his legs angled. He had wrapped his arms around his knees. He did not respond. Quietly, I closed the door behind me and locked it. Should I say something? I didn't want to leave him alone. How would he react to my touches?

I sat down next to Joey and leaned against the bathtub with my back. What was I to do? It tore me apart to see him like that. Was it so bad that our friends knew?

"Are you ashamed of me?" I asked him quietly. Finally, he showed a reaction. His cheeks were wet and his eyes reddened. He had probably cried quietly. "Would you rather have been with Mei? Would she have married, had children with her?" My questions triggered something in Joey, because he shook his head violently.

"Why are you embarrassed that our friends know about us? Do you doubt our relationship, me?" My friend opened his mouth and closed it wordlessly. "Joey? You're scared, aren't you? What? That you no longer think of you as a tough guy? You get laughed at, teased? What will your father, your mother, your sister say about this?" I lowered my gaze because I didn't want to see Joey. I was playing up poker and bluffing a little bit, but I didn't care at the moment. He should finally come out with the language.

"I, I... no" it came from my friend. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me, David. I love you, really. I am not ashamed of you. Serenity will certainly be completely infatuated with you, and I don't care about my mother's opinion. It's just..." With this, silence returned. I shook my head. "You don't trust me enough that you want to tell me what's straining you."

Fingers delicately encased my chin and gently pushed it upwards. I saw in Joey's reddish-brown eyes, which were still a little reddened. Slowly, our faces approached. Both nose tips swiped each other, only to make room for our lips, which tenderly connected. After a short time, he broke away from me again and kept the eye contact.

"I promise you to reveal it in the near future, yes? Just not today. I don't want to spoil that day. At least in front of my friends, I don't have to disfigure myself anymore." His answer was only partially satisfactory. On the other hand, it was a great step forward that he even considered not to be in front of our friends (which would have been a little pointless if their information would have been a little pointless).

"I want you to promise me one thing, Joey" and thumped him with my nose tenderly. My blonde friend nodded, "Everything you want." I had to smile involuntarily. He didn't even know what such an offer could mean. "No matter what oppresses you, fogs your thoughts and banishes your beautiful smile from your lips – I love you, and I stand behind you." I kissed him gently.

My hands wandered to Joey's muscular back, on which they came to rest, with their fingers spread. He changed his position into a kind of tailor's seat and pulled me on to him. This time there was neither lust nor desire – it was about trust and security.

I snuggled up to my loved one and soothed his smell with my nose. I faded the bruises for the moment as best I could. Joey slowly pushed himself up and bedded me on his arms without ending the kiss. We left the bathroom tightly wrapped up. Joey unloaded me on the bed and broke away from me. "We should get dressed and go downstairs, huh?" When he asked, he removed a strand of hair from my face and kissed my corner of my mouth. I nodded and we quickly pulled up to go downstairs.

Chapter Text

We went downstairs to the dining room, where the crowd was already expecting us with a broad grin. Only Kaiba had limited himself to eating his steak. Two chairs were still empty on the richly covered table.

Joey pulled me on my arm to one of the armchairs, only to sit down and plant me on his lap. Astonished, I looked at him, which he did only with a shake of the head. I should be right. I rushed to the plate and piled up wedges, steak and vegetables.

"Why did you keep it secret for so long, guys?" Tristan was just squeezing a piece of sushi. I looked back at Joey, who told me to eat. "Because something like this is embarrassing, even today, Tris. I'm a tough boy, and not a..." Joey was interrupted with laughter by his friend: "What? An idiot? A softie? Come on, Joey, as if that would interest anyone. We live in an enlightened time and no longer in the Middle Ages."

I ate my meal in silence, with Joey clawing me on the stomach. He wanted to settle it on his own, so I limited myself to stepping in if necessary. "Despite this, we will be looked at in a skewed way. We will be one of the main topics of discussion at school. What do we do in physical education?"

Kaiba swabbed off the corner of her mouth with a napkin and overturned her legs. "You're the number one topic of conversation anyway, Wheeler. Not a week goes by without you delivering any embarrassment. You shouldn't worry about that. Also, since when does it bother you to strike first and then talk to defend your masculinity and honor?"

Kaiba skillfully dodged my fork with the sliced meat that Joey threw at him. "A little more respect in my house, okay? Forever your little friend will not be able to protect you either. At least stand by him, you've given him enough trouble."

I could feel Joey's chest on my back, which rose and lowered at irregular intervals. He'd probably snap off right away. Gently Draped my hands on his own, which still caressed my belly.

"Yugi, may I ask you something?" Tea had just chatted with her little friend, who was looking over at me. He nodded, smiling, "Sure, just ask." Why did this voice, this Mahad, call him pharaoh? What was this weird ring all about?

"Do you know a Mahad?" I slanted my head a little and Yugi's smile got a little wider. "This explains your affinity for the Dark Magician. Yes, I know Mahad, or rather a part of me. Did he show himself to you?"

Kaiba snorted derogatorily: "These fairy tales again. Reincarnation, Magic, Shadow... everything ridiculous." The CEO pushed his chair back and got up. “You can stay here today, but don't be too loud. I have to prepare for the next company meeting." Kaiba quietly closed the door behind him and we were among us, apart from Mokuba, who also followed my conversation attentively.

"Yes, no, so..." I struggled for words. "You can think of me as a fool now, but someone has appeared to me in VR, a young man with an oriental touch. He wore old, weird clothes and seemed so familiar. He introduced himself to me as Mahad."

Yugi nodded lightly: "Yes, Mahad was a high priest of Ancient Egypt and a good friend of the pharaoh of the time. He transferred his life essence to the Dark Magician, and created it in the first place."

I sighed softly. Just like everyone else, with the exception of Joey and Mokuba, they probably believed Yugi's story. Was I surrounded by madmen? I was wrong myself because I wanted to believe this crazy story.

"Was it so easy to fight? I knew instinctively what to do? It felt right. I felt... free." Yugi nodded again. "Yes, your energy and that of Mahad are probably one. You are his reincarnation. Actually..." My little friend's gaze lowered and Bakura also looked to the side.

"What's going on?" I asked, raising eyebrows. Had I asked or said something wrong? "Well, do you see my necklace?" Yugi held up the pyramid-like thing. "Yes, of course. An extraordinary jewelry. I've always wanted to ask you where you got it from." With a quiet clatter, the millennium puzzle returned to Yugi's chest. "This is one of the millennium objects. There are seven of them. I own one, just like..." His gaze slid to Bakura, who seemed a little embarrassed.

"Next? This beautiful accessory can do something?" You could hear the impatience in my voice. "Each item has a special property. Pegasus possessed an eye with which he could look into the spirit of his opponents. There is also the rod, the necklace, the key, the scale and..." I finished his sentence: "A ring, right?" Yugi nodded. "Yes. For now, be content with the fact that they are extremely rare and valuable items. The ring is... different from the rest."

This was again one of the moments where fact and reality fought against faith and madness in me. An eye with which I could look into someone's mind? That was ridiculous. Judging by the eyes of my friends, however, they believed this weakness.

"We'll talk about it later, okay? Kaiba has a huge indoor pool that we should try out as a matter of urgency." Yugi just winked and I made my way back over my food.
"Wow, you're competing with Joey in terms of appetite and manners," Tea smiled. "Let me be, I'm hungry," I countered, continuing my eating cap a demotion undeterred.

After the meal, we went to a white-tiled room that actually contained a swimming pool. Everyone, even Joey, was splashing in the water. However, he kept his T-shirt on, with the reason ingenuity: "When it sticks, it only stimulates the imagination even more". We played a round of water polo, with Mokuba, Joey, Yugi and me forming a team against Duke, Tristan, Tea and Bakura. The latter seemed a little absent, but tried not to let it be noticed. Our team lost sharply, but we countered with a round of "diving" of the others.

After the free afternoon we went to do homework for English, Japanese and history together. Mokuba, meanwhile, moved into his room. For dinner there was fried rice, fish and noodles. We avoided any conversations about yesterday and preferred to focus on other things, such as Tristan's latest stunt video, Bakura's confession that he had been snubbing a parallel-class girl, and Tea's ideas for the Christmas ball. Throughout, Joey either held my hand, stroked, or otherwise touched me somehow. At least in front of our friends, he wasn't embarrassed.

"Man, I'm tired," Tristan yawned and stretched out extensively. Duke nodded: "Me too. It's already late." A glance at the clock revealed that it was just after eleven. "Are we going to get people, hm? Tomorrow is school-free. I got a text message that something was wrong with the heater." Everyone looked at Tea unanimously. "Man, Tea – then we wouldn't have had to do the homework today." Joey insulted his lower lip. "It doesn't hurt you to do your work a little earlier, master of procrastination." My friend's questioning facial expression made me smile. "She thinks you're pushing everything in front of you."

We all laughed loudly when Joey complained about what Tea was taking out. He has yet to complete every task. After Tea's counter that this was usually too late, I was pulled out of the room by a smoldering Joey. "Good night, folks. Until tomorrow!" I waved to them, only to be cut into the room.

Joey and I brushed our teeth and talked about Duel Monsters before we slowly clawed away in bed, mumbled into the ceiling, and tightly squeezed together. "I love you, Joey," I whispered to him. His regular breath told me that he was already asleep. I agreed with that.

Chapter Text

A loud scream ripped me out of my slumber. Sleepdrunk, I looked to the side and saw Joey, who panicked. He ripped and scratched, threw himself around in bed and kept yelling that someone should stop tormenting him like that.

I shook my head to get awake, turned on the bedside lamp and reached for his wrists, which I held tightly enclosed. "Joey? Hey, Joey! Wake up! All right, just a nightmare!" In fact, my friend opened his eyes and stared at me. Fear and sorrow were reflected in his brown iris.

"Hey, darling. You had a nightmare," I said, immediately letting him go. Carefully, I stroked my friend's forehead, which gave way to his panicked facial expression a little. "Stupid horror movies" muttered Joey half-heartedly. I sighed softly. It hadn't been an ordinary nightmare.

"Joey? Sure, it was just a horror movie?" My fingers tenderly stroked over his cheek, which was damp and glued to sweat. "What else should it be?" the blonde asked with a half-hearted laugh. There were a few things that came to mind. "Sweetheart? You've been so weird this morning. What's going on?" I consciously carefully tried, by means of voice and gesture, to move the finger slowly to his sore point.

"It's nothing, it was just..." Joey hesitated to complete the sentence. What was going on? I sat down and pulled my friend into a hug. My right hand stroked calmingly over his shoulder. "Is it because of your father?" I asked, and was promptly rewarded with silence. For the next few minutes, I decided to just signal to Joey that I was there, would listen to him if he wanted to talk to me.

After a while, the blonde-haired woman sobbed quietly and wiped his hand over his nose. "It, is, me..." My little one stopped the air just to take the words out of his mouth: "He's abusing you, right?" Joey nodded violently and turned his head away as he said, "He drinks, then he beats me, threatens me, blames me for separating him and my mother..." Finally, it was out. Yugi and Co were right.

I continued to put Joey over my shoulder and put his head on my chest. Warm tears ran down my skin to the bedsheet, which captured my friend's manifest feelings. "Are you wearing your bruises?" I asked quietly. Then there was silence again, which was broken shortly afterwards by another sobbing.

"Sh, all good. We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.' My hand, which caressed his shoulder, wandered upwards to his blond head of hair, which I gently clawed. 'I know it's difficult. You love your father, and yet he is so cruel to you. These accusations, they gnaw at you. You probably hear them day after day, week after week. You are to blame for everything that has gone wrong in his life."

Joey's fingers clawed into my chest, tried to find a foothold there, but just slipped and left a small wound with his nails that burned. He seemed like a drowning man desperately looking for a stop. The stream of tears became stronger and the salty liquid mixed with my blood, which only intensified the burning.

"He once said it would have been better if my mother had aborted me. I am a loser, a failure, a rivet. If I were to at least go to buy, I would be useful in the beginning," Joey pressed out ticked off. I sighed softly. This hurt, especially from one's own parents, or at least one parent.

"Sweetheart?" I asked cautiously, shoving my hand under his chin. With gentle pressure, I forced him to look at me. His crying, reddened eyes hit my grey-green irises and it broke my heart to see him like that. "My mum said something similar to me. It's hard to deal with, I know, but it's not true. You are a wonderful, pretty boy who is humorous, intelligent, friendly, honest, reliable, open-minded and helpful. Your father is looking for a valve. He needs someone to whom he can blame the Black Peter, so that he does not have to take responsibility. Your mother and Serenity have moved away, only you are left."

Joey shook his head violently and tried to escape from my hug: "He's my dad. I have to make him proud." I bit my lower lip to say nothing wrong. To throw his father on his head, his father his drunken do-nothing, which belonged to his legs, so that the alcohol dripped out of his mouth, so that he was sober at least once, would not have been conducive. "Joey, darling. Your father, when he is drunk, is no longer himself. Believe me, my mother is similar. Please calm down, yes?" With that his resonation collapsed, and I was able to pull him back into my arms.
After a while he stopped crying and the stream of tears dried up. His breathing became calmer. "Are you a little better now, darling?" I asked, and was fed a quiet "yes." 'It doesn't have to be embarrassing to you, especially in front of me. Talking helps, at least in the beginning."

Slowly I bent down to him and kissed him gently on the lips. Joey stiffened and pushed me away with his hands. "Let me, I want that... I... if my father finds out with us, then..." I had to control myself now so as not to let go of a scolding tirade on the old Wheeler. That's why Joey didn't want it to be public, that me and he were a couple.

"He won't know, he's promised," he said. I tried to hide my disappointment. Joey wasn't standing by me, to us, and most of all he had just pushed me aside because of his father. Carefully I reached for his hand and weeded our fingers together. This time he did not block, on the contrary. His fingers knocked over my hand and pressed it tightly. "I'm sorry that I reacted so harshly earlier." I shook my head violently and pulled him back to bed with me. "Nothing happens."

My thumb stroked over his back of the hand and I didn't take off the lights until Joey fell asleep again. He had avoided talking to me further or reacting in any other way. It was hard for me to imagine the inner struggle between recognition from his father and love for me. But one thing I was aware of was that I didn't want to lose Joey, at least not because of an alcoholic.

Chapter Text

The next morning was quite uneventful. Joey was like a substitute. Nor did we speak about his attack yesterday. I didn't want to harass him, because he was able to shut up every moment again. So, we dressed and went to breakfast, where Kaiba dropped the next bomb.

"What? Why should David and I have to testify? Do they have any damage, or what? We are the victims, and Mei the perpetrator!" Joey quipped, sparkling Kaiba furiously. He sipped calmly on his coffee. I had lost my appetite, but unlike my friend, I remained reasonably calm.
My right hand grabbed under the table for his and gently pressed it. "I understand it, of course, but is there no way around it?" I asked. Kaiba put his morning newspaper aside and shook his head. "No. I, too, will have to make a statement. After all, it was my software that was abused here. It is being played out on the back of Kaiba Corporation, and I cannot allow unneeded statements on your part to tarnish the company's reputation."

Joey shook off my hand and gave Kaiba a poisonous look. "So, the company is more important to you than the well-being of your friends?" The last word prompted the CEO to curl his lips amused. "My friends? I think you're a little wrong, Wheeler. You are tolerated, and David quite acceptable. You are Mokuba's friends, not mine." I sighed inwardly. Joey would explode again.

"So? Then, then... Shove it, Kaiba!" My friend stormed out of the dining room, and I was honestly glad that the others had all moved to learn. So only Kaiba and I remained. He just shook his head when I wanted to go after Joey. "Was that really necessary?" I asked the CEO with a sigh, sipping on my cocoa.

'He's been getting a little bit defiant lately. You seem to give him confidence. Moreover, he must have realized that a conflict with me, in my house, is rather pointless. In the past, Muto and the kindergarten should have held him back; today he can do it alone." Kaiba placed his coffee cup clattering on the saucer and leaned on the table with his elbows. He shoved his fingers into each other and watched me force myself to take a bite of toast.

"We will, of course, go with a lawyer and prepare for a proper trial." I coughed loudly and patted myself on the chest. "Trial? Why?" I asked without understanding. I had figured that out, but why did we have to be present at a trial? "We will act as witnesses, or rather you. Don't worry, my name and the reputation of Kaiba Corporation are also at stake. I'm not letting you down, especially since Mokuba would never forgive me if our newest family member was in trouble."

I dropped the whole grain toast on my plate and slanted my head in disbelief. "Pardon?" I asked, and was rewarded with an amused smile from Kaiba. "Mokuba told me about your night march." I swallowed heavily. Mokuba had what? With this I was able to smear my request to Kaiba completely into my hair. Probably sooner or later he would somehow make my rest of my life hell.

"I'm honestly a little bit fascinated by you, little one." He had used my name earlier, which had been a brief ray of light. Now he had moved back to "Little One". I did not understand Kaiba, and could not foresee or interpret his actions. So, I decided to stay silent and stare at the crumbs of my half-eaten breakfast. "Mokuba likes Yugi and Wheeler, but he be dotty about you. The dog sometimes seems to exert his bit of brain before he acts and you have beaten yourself very well in virtual reality." Kaiba slammed his legs on the chair and changed his position only briefly to have a sip of coffee.

"If you become a reasonably passable duelist, we might even understand each other. The brown-haired man stared at me for a while before reaching into his jacket pocket and shoving a white envelope. The envelope slipped over the polished table and stopped right in front of me. "What is that?" I asked.

"An invitation," he replied succinctly. I rolled my eyes. "For?" I drilled further and had to try not to give in to the flickering curiosity, and to tear open the envelope immediately. "For the tournament on Christmas Day. Pegasus decided this year that a kind of partner fight should take place." Partner fight? Pegasus? Did he mean Maximilien Pegasus? 'I still don't trust him for a millimeter. It's probably just a shamble again, but there will be enough people of rank and name who want to invest horrendous sums if we win." We? Did I hear correctly?

"Who do you mean by us?" I asked, turning the envelope over. In a finely clean handwriting, my full name "David Pirchner" had been written on the cover. "You and me." Kaiba sipped on his coffee again and didn't let himself look into the cards when I looked at him completely disenchanted. "Jokes are not your strength," I replied nervously. The CEO raised his mouth a little: "I don't make jokes."

I was sighting loudly. Did everyone except me have a brain damage? Did I dream? "Take Yugi? After all, he's one of the best, if not the best, duelist?" I asked, clinging to the last straw to knock out Kaiba's offer.
"Muto is not suitable. Winning with him is not art. It would also damage my reputation as a Duelist if I let myself down to fight side by side with Yugi. You are unknown and new." I shook my head. "Kaiba, that's not possible. I'm sorry. I'm not a professional like you. With luck, you don't always rip a good place."

"You play with me, so you can't lose. In addition, Muto has agreed to practice with you if my methods are too unpleasant for you." I let my head hang and sighed loudly. "Do I have a choice?" Kaiba shook his head and bent his fingers a little. "Of course, you don't have." I bit my lips. Of course, it would be exciting to fight alongside a real legend, maybe even to win, but on the other hand Kaiba would rip my butt open if we lost.

“I do it, but only on one condition." My voice trembled a little. The brown-haired man raised his eyebrows. "Yes?" he asked calmly, drinking his last rest of coffee. "You pay for a flight and a stay in a hotel for the Christmas holidays." Now he would go to my throat, call me an ungrateful smuggler, rub his superiority under my nose. "In the holidays is the tournament, you and Wheeler will..." he started, but was interrupted by me. 'I want to make it possible for Joey to see his sister at Christmas. Serenity and he are inseparable, as I have seen, and he suffers greatly from the distance."

Entered silence. Kaiba looked at me for a while and his ice-blue eyes had the unpleasant effect that they seemed completely expressionless. "Agreed. She and Wheeler can spend the night in the guest wing over Christmas and the holidays. I'll be on a round-trip flight."

My heart took a leap. He really promised me! Madness! A little bit more, and I almost fell around his neck. "I think you should take care of your friend now, or he comes up with stupid ideas." Kaiba pushed the chair back and got up. "These days we will inspect your deck. If we win, I will allow you to choose from all my cards." I was alone with that. On the one hand stunned, on the other hand happy.

Chapter Text

I went to the guest room and quietly pressed the door. Joey had thrown himself on the bed and looked annoyed. His head was on his hands and he stared bluntly at the ceiling. Kaiba's words must have been hard for him, as was yesterday's eruption. I could understand his state of mind.

"Dalring?" I asked cautiously, pushing the door behind me again. By now I was used to addressing Joey in this familiar form. He actually moved a little and answered my question with a quiet "hm?".

I sat down at the edge of the bed and tenderly removed a strand from my friend's face, which made him smile. "Is it because of yesterday?" I asked. Joey shook his head: "No, because tomorrow." I sighed softly and stuck another strand of hair behind his ear. "Is it so bad for you to love a boy?" Inside, I bit my lips. My tone clearly betrayed disappointment.

"Me, no, yes," the blonde began, then sat up annoyed. His fingers encircled my right hand and gently pressed it. "No, it isn't. It's wonderful to spend time with you. I'm still a little scared.' Joey's gaze seemed tormented. "If that comes out, my dad finds it out, then..." My friend did not finish the sentence, but simply shrouded himself in a closed silence.

"I can continue to mime one of your best friends in public if you want to, but you should be aware that this is not a permanent solution," I said softly, pulling Joey to my knees. He actually put his head in my lap and sighed aloud: "I know that myself. I'm just torn.” I automatically stroked my loved one over the forehead and watched him close his eyes.

"Joey, I'm going to be behind you on whatever decision, but don't expect to be able to sustain this shaky construct of lies that is already crumbling." His facial expression was cramped in my words. “It's not something you should be ashamed of. We live in the 21st century, in a time of enlightenment and modernization. Just because it was once frowned upon, it doesn't have to be frowned upon again."

Joey just buzzed and turned a little bit in my lap. "Darling? Something else. I don't know how you celebrate Christmas, but I probably won't be there.” Suddenly, the blonde opened his eyes and left me with a disappointed expression: "So I'm forced to celebrate with my old one again this year?" I blinked perplexed lyrised his words. This ambivalent behavior towards his father was a mystery to me.

"No, you don't have to," I smiled and stroked Joey over the cheek. "You will spend your holidays this year far away from your father. I hope your gift brings you joy." My lips lay on Joey's and stole a fleeting kiss from him. "What do you think?" he asked curiously, and sat down.

"That's a surprise," I grinned. The blonde smoldered and folded his arms in front of his chest. "You won't know sooner, Darling," I smiled and let myself sink into his lap. Joey stroked me over my chest and neck, leaving a pleasant tingling in the touched places. "Are you going home?" he asked, without interrupting his actions. "No, Joey. I will participate in a partner duel with Kaiba." My friend slanted his head. "Long history. I don't do it entirely voluntarily, and I don't know what he expects from it. He was so nice to help me with your surprise."

"You and a duel?" my friend grinned, prompting me to half-heartedly punch him against the shoulder. "What does that mean?" I asked, played off. "There are better duelists than you," Joey replied, grinning even wider. I rolled my eyes, "Mh, you, right?" An eager nod on his part made me mutter something of "vain peacock" and my hands snaked around his neck. Slowly our faces approached and we kissed again, intimately and tenderly.

This sense of security and closeness seemed to become stronger with every kiss, every hug, every touch and tenderness we exchanged. At least that didn't seem to regret Joey. After some time, we broke up again and I looked into the deer brown eyes of my friend. "I love you," I breathed to him, which was rewarded with another kiss.

"I too," he answered afterwards, and placed his right hand on my belly. His left hand supported my head. "Serenity would certainly eat a fool at you," Joey smiled. The glitter in his eyes was beautiful. How soft and sad he was expressing his sister's name; I was sure that Serenity and I were the most important people in his life. "So? Do you think?" I smiled, snuggling my back of his long, slender fingers.

"Absolutely. You look good, you're intelligent, you have an enchanting smile..." Joey began to list some of my merits until I put my hand on his mouth with a laugh. "Usually people want something from me when they smear honey around my mouth." The blond-haired man responded something subdued by my spread fingers, which only made me laugh all the more. "Mh, and you me too," I grinned. Joey got out of my muzzle and giggled: "I'm just going to save with compliments in the future. They seem to be something commonplace for you."

Playfully, I boxed Joey against the chest. "Are you expecting me something, darling?" I asked. The soft, tender look, combined with an eager nod, made me melt away. Joey was really more than just sweet. "Just don't worry about tomorrow, okay? I'm there, as are Tristan, Yugi, Tea, Mokuba and Duke. We all stick to you." With these words, I also straightened up and took Joey by the hand.

"Where are we going?" he asked, stunned, as I bugged him toward the exit. "Enough liquor ice crumble for a day. Time for us to do something decent." My proposal turned out to be a round of Duel Monsters with Tea as a partner, while Joey and Yugi formed a team. Tea and I lost, of course, but Yugi said we both did really well. Tristan and Bakura criticized all of Joey's moves, prompting him to make some angry swearing- tirades that made us all laugh.

The rest of the day we spent in the swimming pool of the Kaibas, where Mokuba finally provided us with company. After dinner we moved to the rooms. Kaiba himself had not honored us all day long.

Tired I let myself fall into bed after brushing my teeth. I wasn't really nervous because of tomorrow. Kaiba was in it, so we would be left alone. Besides, I still had the voice recording of Mei.

Joey had made himself comfortable next to me and pulled me into his arms. I snuggled up to his body and smiled happily. This time he was wearing a shirt that was far too big and long jogging pants, while I fell asleep, wearing only short track pants. Joey's regular breath told me shortly before hand that he had probably had a similar experience.

Chapter Text

The millennium ring lit up in my dreams. It was as if my soul was being ripped out of my body. I screamed silently at the pain. It was dark around me. Was that still a dream? If so, someone just tore me apart. I couldn't think clearly. A sting, starting from my heart, crept through my whole body.

Just as suddenly, as the pain had arisen, he had already disappeared. The blackness around me slowly gave way. At first, I could only see blurry schemes. Gradually, the picture became clearer and clearer before my eyes. Am I still dreaming?

Icy winds swept across a tent city. The white tarpaulins fluttered because of the air, which she wanted to pull out of the earth, together with the posts. A wooden palisade barricade had been erected around the camp. Cleanly sharpened tree trunks had been lined up.

The sky was cloudy and grey. Soon it would start to rain. However, the hustle and bustle of the camp did not let itself be deceived by the impending storm. Dozens of men in heavy plate armor ran around, shouting at each other. Some lined up to get soup from one of the giant copper boilers, whose open fireplaces were maintained by the maids with scarce need.

Horses were growing in the distance, and you could hear the relentless hammering of metal on metal. The smiths worked without ceasing to get the soldiers' equipment ready. Their lord left nothing to chance. They would go to war, they knew that.

"Impressive, right?" asked Mahad, who had appeared next to me. I blinked hard and nodded. Where have I been again? "The England of the 15th century – at the time of the Wars of the Roses" my oriental friend answered my silent question. I pulled up my right brow. "Why we are here is complicated to explain. It will be revealed throughout history. Come on." Mahad smiled at me and told me to follow him.

"Mahad? Don't the others see us?" I asked, watching a soldier walking just past me. My question was answered with a shake of the head: "No, we are going through a common, earlier memory. Nothing we do here affects the past."

Coat of arms had been hung neatly on large wooden beams. They were snow-white, with a pitch-black swan in the middle of a yellow shield. I liked the coat of arms, because it included my favorite colors. Mahad laughed softly and entered the only black tent that thronged in the middle of the camp.

Inside, the ground had been trampled flat. To our right was a small table with ink barrels and spring, along with some parchment rolls. On the left, some cards and letters had been spread over a huge wooden slab. In the middle of the room stood a hooded chair made of white wood. I had to rub my eyes and tweak myself: Had I gone astray?

A boy, a maximum of 16 years old, knelt in front of the throne-like piece of furniture. Someone who could have been my twin looked down on him. The same pale skin, the same dark blonde hair. His grey-green eyes rested on the boy as he listened calmly to what he had to say. His body was covered in a black plate armor, whose shoulder armor represented two heads that I was very familiar with.

„That's..." I started and Mahad nodded amused. "You recognize the skull of the Red Eyes Black Dragon, hm?" In fact. The contours, the spread mouth, even the teeth – a masterpiece of blacksmithing. My former self had put the armored fingers into each other and shook his head in the process. "Henry’s request is impossible to fulfill. Not even I can beat the Earl of Derby, let alone take on Christian Rosenkreuz. I have to disappoint him." My twin's voice was a little deeper than mine and also more powerful. He did not tolerate any rebuttals, as we could see.

"But without you, the battle is lost, Milord. We will never be able to land here. The rightful king relies on you!" The boy's voice sounded dismayed and pleading. Slowly it dawned on me. "That's me, or rather we? Do you just want to tell me that we were fighting for King Henry and the Lancastrians at the time of the Wars of the Roses?" Mahad confirmed my question with a nod of the head.

"Nobody can defeat Rosenkreuz´ beasts. Henry demands the impossible. Moreover, I do not want to be drawn into this war. King Richard personally did not put any obstacles in my way, and I dare not animate the Knights of the Rose against me." My counterpart's eyebrows went down and his facial expression darkened.

"You should only beat King Richard's army in Bosworth and clear the way to Stonehenge. Please, Milord, King Henry will fulfill every wish that..." My former self snorted contemptuously: "What I want is impossible to accomplish, boy."

"Maybe I can, Elias du Lac, from blood of Lancelot du Lac." A voice from the entrance prompted all present to follow their sound. A serious-looking Joey had smashed the tent tarpaulin aside. He was wearing armor that looked suspiciously like that of the Flameswordsmen . The two-handed sword on the back, as well as the helmet on the belt, confirmed my suspicion.

Elias' face darkened even more. He sat up a little in his chair. "Henry must be desperate to send you. What do you want, Christopher Urswick? To betray me again? To take everything away from me again?" Only now could I see the sword with a green blade on the side of my former self.

"A reconciliation, Eli," Christopher whispered brittlely. Something seemed to depress the former Joey. With a harsh hand movement, the messenger was dismissed and Elias' shook his head disgusted. "To show up here is not to be outdone in disdain and dishonesty, Chris. I ask you again: What are your true motives?" Both used the short form of their names. They were probably familiar with each other.

"Forgiveness" came quietly from Christopher, pulling a small casket from his belt. It was made of pure gold and the millennia eye was emblazoned on the lid. "Nothing you can offer me could make me forgive." In Elias's eyes, however, curiosity flashed.

"King Henry sends me with best regards." Christopher approached his interlocutor and knelt in front of him, humbly holding up the casket. His gaze wandered toward Elias' boots. This Chris looked just like Joey when he had done something bad. Elias again was my reflection when I couldn't hide my interest from something.

Slowly, my former self stretched out his hands and took the casket. Carefully, the lid was removed. Several cards had been stacked on blue velvet. Elias stopped breathing and a glow came into his eyes, which meant more than just joy.

"Do you know what you just did, Chris?" my counterpart asked, without looking up at his supposed treasure. "I know, Eli. Please forgive me. I have betrayed the King and Jasper because of you." Betrayed? What did he mean by that? Who was Jasper?

Elias crossed the top card. It looked much more rustic than today's Duel Monsters cards. Parchment or linen was the material on which a monster unknown to me was emblazoned, or part of it.

"The power, all of England, no to conquer the whole world. You bring them to me. Why?" Elias looked up from the map and saw Christopher, who was still kneeling, in front of him. "Because I trust you; we trust you." The blonde dared to look up and could see a smile on the trains of his interlocutor.

"What keeps me from destroying Rosenkreuz´ first and then the two kings? I'm just holding on to what Jasper and you were looking for. If I add the last piece, nothing will stop me." Elias' voice had become cold, as had his smile.

'We've got to stop him. Mahad, we, you, me, we're insane! If what this Elias says is true, then..." My ghostly companion put his hand on my shoulder and shook his head with a smile.

"I" was Christopher's quiet answer. The smile on Elias's features disappeared. His facial expression was hard to interpret. I would have described it with a mixture of surprise and pain. "I stopped feeling like that five years ago, Chris. Your betrayal made me cold." The dark blonde sounded sad, almost sad.

"I know, Eli. Please, forgive me. If you still feel anything for me, then..." Christopher Urswick broke off his sentence as Elias turned his head to the side. He cried, and that was mute. His grey-green eyes reflected a pain that had to be unbelievably large. "Tell your king, I will do what he wants," said the black-armored knight in an astonishingly firm voice.
Joey's likeness nodded silently. He visibly struggled not to say anything, but eventually bowed and disappeared from the tent. Elias grabbed his chest and silently gave himself to his tears and sorrow.

"What did Christopher do, Mahad?" I followed my Egyptian leader, who also went outside. "Both were very close once. Christopher Urswick used his closeness to Elias to rob him. Family possessions, as well as Elias' heart, were gone in the end." I swallowed heavily. "That, but it doesn't have to happen in the present, doesn't it?" Mahad shook his head: "No, of course not. Every existence is different. It is your choices that determine your life." I nodded in relief. "Will the two come back together at the end?" My companion smiled sadly: "You will see that too. Come on."

Chapter Text

The scene had suddenly changed. Mahad and I were on a wide, grassy plain. The area was surrounded by snow-capped mountains from two sides. On the one hand, the army of Elias du Lac had gathered, on the other hand, King Richard III stood with his army.

My ancestor was numerically hopelessly inferior. His men made a determined and robust impression, but he could never make up for the imbalance of power. Elias sat on a pitch-black stallion. The animal's skull had been fitted with brown leather protection. The young du Lac had wrapped the reins around his right hand. This time Elias wore a black cape with red lined on the inside. His helmet had the shape of a Black Eyes Red Dragon skull, which spread his mouth.

King Richard wore a silver plate armor under his coat of arms skirt, which was adorned with a white rose. His horse was snow-white and had a black leather guard on his forehead. Overall, both leaders took nothing of impressiveness and awe. The struggle at this level would determine the fate of England.

Both broke away from their armies. No one seemed in a hurry to seek confrontation with the other. I could see a joyful smile from Mahad's corners of my eyes. He seemed to be looking forward to what was to come.

"What leads you into the plains of Bosworth, Elias?" the king asked, reining in his horse. His black opponent did the same to him and took off his helmet. In the eyes of my ancestor, regret but also determination was evident. "You, my king." Richard smiled amused. "So, you have finally decided to take sides?" The young lord nodded in the affirmative when asked yes. "Yes, Her Majesty. I'm going to turn to one side."

Richard's smile became even wider. Its white cape fluttered in the burgeoning wind. "It honors you to know the truth, Elias. You will be richly rewarded when it's all over." My ancestor lowered his gaze a little: "I'm not acting for materialistic reasons, Milord, you know that." Confusion spread on the king's face: "How do you mean that?"

Elias' voice was quiet, and she sounded humble, almost pleading: "I offer you the possibility of surrender, Richard of Gloucester. Give yourself up, and nothing will happen to you and your husbands. You have my word." The king laughed, putting his head in his neck: "Is this your seriousness, Elias? You? You stand on the side of Henry? After what they have done to you? Your house, your lands – all just a shadow of yourself." Richard pointed his flat hand backwards, to his soldiers: "How do you intend to stop this army?"

"Forgive me my king" were Elias's last words, before turning his horse around the reins and pushing back to his men. He left behind a visibly confused king. "Men!" the black-armored knight shouted to his soldiers as he rode towards them. "You have served me faithfully. I have no doubt sway from any of you. Your motives are noble, your devotion to me unbroken and you all fight with a fire in your heart that the king's men cannot even dream of. Will you follow me into this battle?"

The soldiers stretched their weapons to the heights. Pikes, halberds, swords, and morning stars were stretched out to heaven. "For lord Elias, for the house of Lac!" the men cried unanimously. At the same time, they began to stamp on the floor in sync with their boots in time. Like a mantra, the hymn of praise to Elias was relentlessly repeated. The young lord dragged his horse around again and stared, high up at Ross, at Richard and his soldiers. "For King Henry!" cried the inheritance of the house of du Lac, raising his sword. The green blade shimmered in the face of the sun. He put on his helmet and kicked his horse in the flanks.

Ordered, the men followed him into battle. King Richard remained in the middle of the plain, while his soldiers rushed forward screaming to protect their master. In the back rows, the Yorks' archers put themselves in position. They docked synchronously, stretched and let go of a hail of arrows that obscured the sun.

The soldiers of the swan knight moved close together and held the shields over their heads. Elias, meanwhile, drove his horse, straight toward the king. Some of the archers attacked the young lord, but he slammed their arrows aside with the sword. His cape blew in the wind, leaving the hail of arrows behind.

Screams could be heard, as well as cheers and the splintering of metal. The first arrow salvo had done far less damage than I had suspected. Some of the soldiers had fallen to the ground, but most of them were still standing. It was still a mystery to me how my ancestor wanted to win this battle. Richard, meanwhile, still didn't move.

The archers again docked, again a hail of arrows, while the king's men came ever closer towards Elias. He could not possibly stop the entire opposing force on his own, just as he could not bring down the king. His soldiers were too close.

Next to the king, two shimmering stone monoliths suddenly appeared. These glowed and deformed. My ancestor continued to hold on undeterred to the king. Slowly, creatures peeled out of the boulders, which were covered with flesh and skin.

"That, these are Duel Monsters," I exclaimed in amazement, pointing to the king's two guardians. To his left stood the Empress Judge, to his right the Battle Steer, with a skewer in the monstrous paws. "Yes, the game of shadows was also known in England.

In addition to Elias, the Summoned Skull and Panther Warriors' commissioner peeled himself out of nowhere. Both kept up effortlessly with their master's horse. Gradually I realized what was being played here. Men in both rows fell to the ground. "They sacrifice their men to summon the monsters!" I was horrified.

The Summoned Skull grabbed the Empress Judge in flight and ploughed himself with her as a battering ram through the king's ranks. The Panther Warrior used the Battle Steer´s skewer as a springboard, only to pull a chain boomerang off his belt. Again, some men of Elias went to the ground, while the weapon snarled around the snarling fighting bull. He was thrown into the king's soldiers with full force. Panic erupted among Richard's men. The monsters no longer only fought each other – the first soldiers also fell under the attacks of the Panther Warrior and the Summoned Skull.

"You have failed, Majesty" were Elias's last words before he held up the sword with his right hand. It was as if time had stopped. Richard couldn't believe his eyes. His men paused just before their king, while the young du Lac took the final blow. It was suddenly so quiet.

I could hear the horse's snorting as the earth was whirled up by his hooves. The wind that whistled Elias around his ears went through the marrow and leg. As his fingers cramped around the sword handle, the whole body stiffened, ready to end the king's life. The inner conflict that raged in my ancestor. He was torn between duty and something else. Joey appeared in front of my spiritual eye.

As in slow motion, Elias turned his wrist a little. His sword arm wandered backwards in riding. He stopped the air. Just before Richard, he suddenly turned the gun again. The flat side of the green blade hit the king's face. Bones broke, and blood shot out of his nose. The fur of the mold turned red and it rose to the hind legs in fear. With a dull sound, the silver knight struck on the ground. He held his hands to his nose, which could not stop the burgeoning blood flow.

Elias, for his part, raised the flat left hand, and both the Panther Warrior and the Summoned Skull stopped their grisly work. The Battle Steer and the Empress Judge had meanwhile solidified to stone. There were dead or wounded soldiers everywhere. Some would remain crippled for the rest of their lives. A chilling chorus echoed across the plains of Bosworth. Cries of pain and the plea for redemption mixed with whimsy and crying.

Elias restrained his horse and steered it around Richard in a large arc. His two monsters rushed in, covering the back of their master. but this was not necessary: the king's soldiers did not resist. Their master had been cut down with a single blow, while his summoned monsters had been completely destroyed.

The young du Lac held with his horse next to the king. "Do you give up, Richard of Gloucester? I won this fight, as did the war. Surrender, and I give you my word, that you may spend your last days peacefully on a remote island." The king snorted contemptuously and took the plate gloves off his face. The metal was greasy and red. Blood chunks had stained the armor, and also did not stop at the coat of arms skirt. The once bright white rose gradually turned blood red.

"You didn't win anything, Elias. See for yourself!" the king laughed, pointing behind his opponents before sinking his head into the grass. Elias followed the finger pointing and his breath stopped.

The horizon had turned dark red. In the sky you could see monsters. The Dark Magician, the Red Eyes Black Dragon, the Karbonala Warrior, the Magician of Faith, the Millennium Golem, the Citadel Whale, the Ancient Tree of Enlightenment, and the Harpy Sisters tried to keep the Blue Eyed Ultimate Dragon at bay together.

Elias ripped the reins and kicked his horse again in the flanks. "Withdraw, men. That's an order!" he shouted to them before disappearing toward the fighting monsters. His own creatures were swallowed by a pentagram and disappeared.

Chapter Text

We accompanied our former lives by floating silently beside him. I had spared myself the question of how this could be – Mahad would have answered anyway only with an amused smile.

Elias drove his horse without ceasing. Foam had already formed around the animal's mouth. Reiter and Ross seemed unwilling to give up. My ancestor had since taken off the helmet and the sweaty hair tips stuck to his forehead. His cape fluttered in the wind, which became stronger and stronger. A storm eats.

The roar of the Ultimate Dragon echoed across the plain. One burst of light after another left the tear-tooth-tested mouths of the monster. Still all the other monsters had managed to dodge. But they wouldn't last long, I was convinced. In the distance, stone monoliths were visible, which had been arranged in a circle – Stonehenge.

"I'm not going to lose again, which was so important to me," Elias muttered, which went down in the raging storm. The grass waved under the winds, which it tried desperately to resist.

The closer we got, the more tense the young swan knight became. His muscles cramped, I could feel that. His gaze hardened, just as Christopher kept ghosting around in his head. By now I was sure that they were a couple. "Your guess is correct - you've fallen for each other before." Mahad nodded gently.

"What did Joey, I mean Christopher, steal from us?" I asked, while Elias drove his black stallion in stop. "Can't you think?" Mahad smiled. I looked at my former self, then the Red Eyes Black Dragon in the sky, who was desperately fighting the Ultimate Dragon. "The Red Eyes!" it fell to me like scales from my eyes.

"Yes. The Red Eyes Black Dragon was one of the best-kept treasures of the House of du Lac. Christopher was therefore also a close friend of King Henry. His military strength has increased considerably as a way of betraying us." I nodded at Mahad's remarks. That is why Elias wore armor modelled on the Red Eyes Black Dragon. Probably that's why I liked this card so much. My gaze fell on the golden casket on my twin's belt. "What then did Christopher give him? I mean, the Red Eyes can't have been, it's fighting with the Ultra Dragon." Mahad lowered his gaze a little and became serious: "Something very, very powerful. A monster that is extremely difficult to summon and even harder to control. The House of du Lac had four parts of it, the king's uncle one."

The roar of the monsters had become almost unbearable. I wondered how Elias couldn't forgive her face with this noise. His face was petrified. Why had he not captured the king? This war should have end with him, shouldn't it? "Mahad? Can this monster defeat the Ultra Dragon?" I asked. The Egyptian nodded lightly: "There is nothing that could not defeat this monster. Its destructive power is immeasurable. Only those who are pure in heart can really lead it." I swallowed heavily. I didn't like the tone in which Mahad spoke.

The closer we got, the more we could see from the fight. The ultimate Dragon seemed unscathed, while all the other monsters were badly struck. The Harpy sisters had to cling to the Red Eyes distancing dragon's back, while the Dark Magician and the Magician of Faith sought shelter in the treetop of the Ancient Tree of Enlightenment.

Also, the people behind the monsters were gradually recognizable. Joey, Yugi, Bakura, Tristan, Tea, two unknown men, one dressed like a fisherman, the other wrapped in robes like Mahad, and a blond-haired woman. They all stood together and shouted some orders to their monsters.

On the opposing side sat a young man on his horse. He wore a shiny white armor on his body. Shoulders and helmet represented a distinctive dragon's head. Two wing-like extensions had been forged at the back. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest, while his mold danced restlessly back and forth. This amused laughter, so full of self-assurance and dissent. Then there is the armor. "That's Kaiba, isn't it?" Mahad nodded: "Yes, this is Seto Kaiba in a previous life."

"Rosenkreuz" called Elias and stopped directly at the former Kaiba. He turned around in the saddle and slanted his head. "What are you doing here? Where is the king?" asked the white knight. By now, all the monsters of my friends had gone to the ground and landed the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The three heads stared grimly at their opponents. Lightning shrugged from their nostrils and mouths.

"The king is defeated. Let go of your act of madness." Elias restrained his horse, which amazingly could still stand. Both riders were almost at eye level and stared grimly at each other. The former Kaiba took off his helmet and bared a cynical smile. He resembled his current counterpart on the hair.

"Who is to stop me? Henry and his friends?" Rosenkreuz put his head in his neck and laughed. His gaze was freezing cold. "My Knights of the Roses are just waiting for the command to put down this ridiculous invasion for good. I haven't needed it yet.'

"Well, then I will compete as King Henry's champion. Christian Rosenkreuz - I call on you to have a duel. The winner determines the fate of England." A roar went through the ranks of Joey and Co. I could see Henry smiling, just like Christopher. "So formal? What would stop me from first crushing this bunch in front of me?" asked Kaiba's previous life. "I," Elias replied calmly, getting off the horse. He put on his helmet, drew his sword, and attached the black shield to his left hand.

"You or I, as you have always wished." Rosenkreuz laughed loudly and also let himself slip out of the saddle. "Whether you win or not, Elias. Soon the Earl of Derby will appear with his men. Your plan has failed." This guy had the same disgusting demeanor as Kaiba.

"Well, then at least give me the opportunity to compete with you one last time." Elias tilted his head and pulled the cloak over the casket. He probably wanted to hide them. "Well, as you wish." Kaiba also drew the sword and shield. His blade was blue, like the eyes of the White Dragon, and a white rose had been hammered into the shield.

Both struck the signs with the sword blades and bowed briefly. Elias' black cape with red lining fluttered in the wind, just as the white cape with blue lining by Christian did. The scene reminded me of my duel with Kaiba – Red Eyes vs Blue Eyes.

The first exchange of blows took place so suddenly that I was scared back because of the squealing weapons. Both opponents crossed their swords and fought each other. With a jerk, they broke free and let the signs collide. Their movements were absolutely synchronous. One countered the attack of the other and vice versa.

Elias ducked away under his opponent's next sword blow, only to thunder the shield against his chest. Christian, for his part, stumbled briefly, but quickly regained his balance, only to get out of the top. My ancestor repelled the attack with the shield and steered the sword blade to the side. He pulled out and forced the other knight to dodge the attack.

The monsters of Henry and co gradually recovered. Only now did I see the soldiers lying around. Some had a red rose on their chests, others a white one. Probably the "victims" needed to summon the monsters. Duel Monsters in this form was not only disgusting, but also inhumane.

Christian took a break and used the ensuing force for an attack. Elias lost his balance and fell on his back. With certainty of victory, the White Dragon Knight stood over his opponent and began hammering with the sword on his shield. Both fighters were already breathing heavily, yet each of them fought back.

Elias took advantage of his opponent's next pick-up to stab. The green blade scraped along the helmet of Rosenkreuz and left a scratch. Christian paused, which my ancestor used to slide backwards and fight his way back to his feet. The former Kaiba drove his hand over the hit spot and smiled. "You are truly a formidable swordsman, Elias. I haven't had that much joy in a fight for a long time."

"I can give the same back, Christian." Elias was visibly exhausted, as was his opponent. This show of strength would not last for a long time. The crucial mistake had to come soon.

Rosenkreuz stormed towards his opponent, deceived with the shield and took off with the sword. Elias ducked just under the blow, but he hit his helmet. He flew from his head in a high arc and rolled right in front of the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon´s feet. The monster had behaved surprisingly calmly.

Christian, however, did not let go of the Red-eye knight. Again and again he attacked and pushed my ancestor on the defensive. Elias almost didn't come to the attack. His parades were still clean, but they slowed down from time to time. One last desperate swing with the sword and Christian's helmet flew away.

The sweat was on both opponents' foreheads. They crossed the blades again and reached a classic stalemate. None of them gave in. Both faces were ionic and obsessed with a victory. The Ultra Dragon raised his head and roared loudly. In the distance, fanfares could be heard.

"This is the army of Thomas Stanley. You lost, Elias. This is your end!" Rosenkreuz thought he was confident of victory. I couldn't blame him either. An army and then also the Ultra Dragon.

"You have lost, Rosenkreuz! Your puppet will be destroyed, as will everything you stand for!" Elias pushed Christian away from himself and took a deep breath. "Disappear from here - this is my fight, not yours!" I could see confusion in every single one of mine, or rather, of Elias' former friends, except for Christopher. He seemed sad.

"Go! This is your chance!" Elias took a few more steps back, circling the wrist of his sword arm. Henry and the others slowly retreated. The Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon snorted and fumed. Kaiba's ancestor laughed again: "What madness have you planned, Elias? Nothing can stop the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon. Especially since I still have the army of Thomas Stanley and also that of the king at my disposal."

Elias slammed his sword into the ground and grabbed under the cloak. He pulled the casket off his belt and opened it. With his right hand, he took out the five cards and threw them into the air. Instead of the wind moving them away, they pushed themselves over each other, only to take a firm place. Gradually, green lines spread from the cards they connected.

"The power to change the world" cried my former self. Kaiba's laughter froze as a circle formed around the cards. A pentagram had appeared and surrounded the parchment pieces. Gradually, the circle grew larger and larger. "Impossible!" screamed Rosenkreuz, dismayed, as he staged a step backwards.

The pentagram waivered and then lit up green. First an orange hand reached out of nowhere, then a second, along with two legs. The clattering of chains could be heard. With a jerk, the limbs tore the shackles they held. In the end, a gigantic head peeled out of nowhere. He connected with a muscular torso and the remaining limbs.

"What, what is that?" I asked anxiously. No matter what it was, this monster was even more terrifying than the Ultra Dragon. "An ancient beast; so powerful that they had to be split into five parts and banished. Exodia can even take on the ancient gods." I swallowed heavily and watched the Exodia torment her from her prison. She was taller than the Ultra Dragon and grinned mockingly at it.

It started to rain. The drops were blood red. The grass, the ground, just everything seemed to drown in the liquid. Elias got down on his knees and leaned on his sword knob. He seemed to have aged by years. His hair greyed and gradually turned white. Wrinkles formed on his face, furrowed through the youthful face. The young man had become an old man. His voice was brittle when he said, "Exodia - destroy my enemies. Forge a country worth living in. I ask you, listen to my pleads!"

Christian's eyes had grown larger and bigger. The army on the horizon had also stopped. The former Kaiba jumped on his horse in panic and gave him the spurs. The Ultra Dragonraised his head and roared loudly. Gradually, more men appeared on the hills around Stonehenge. They all carried Duel Monsters with them. I could see the giant moth, Zera the Mant, the Machine King, the Gatekeeper, dozens of zombies, the Two-headed Thunder Dragon, a giant Penguin Warrior, and the Bikuri Box.

The Ultimate Dragon meanwhile bent its heads down. The middle one took Elias and sunk his teeth in his body, while the others pulled on his skull and legs. He had to endure indescribable torment. Mahad had put his hand on my shoulder. Blood dripped from the beast's teeth. Bones broke under the ton-heavy force of the dragon's jaws.

At one time, the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon dropped from Elias. He rolled out of his middle mouth and came up on the ground with a dull sound. Under him a pool of blood formed. The other monsters stormed down the plane, and I realized why.

The Exodia had finally moved. It grabbed the Ultimate Dragon with its right hand and crushed his three necks effortlessly. The creature roared, only to then freeze to stone with a shrill scream. "Ex-Ex-Exodia – obliterate" Elias breathed before his head fell to the side powerless.

Exodia put its monstrous hands together and formed an orange energy ball. The ground around us withered instantly, while the wind literally began to devour everything. Horses and horsemen of the Royal Army were thrown through the air. The other monsters struggled to maintain their pace. The energy ball between the curved fingers of the Exodia grew larger and bigger.

It silently pulled its right arm backwards and then pushed it forward with full force. The pressure wave, which was followed by a huge orange wave, uprooted trees, ripped entire boulders and boulders out of the ground, and ploughed a path to the army of the white rose.

The energy strip became wider and larger. Everything in its path, whether flora, fauna or people, it simply passed; destroyed by pure power. Men screamed, only to fall silent shortly afterwards. Their bodies, their armor, any hint of their existence was simply erased.

The Duel Monsters simply disintegrated into dust, which dissolved seconds later in nowhere. The Exodia rattled everything away. When the attack subsides, the area was bare. It looked like a fire had been burning. Black, dead areas stretched for miles across the country. Exodia pulled out and also smashed the petrified Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon.

Its steps made the earth tremble as she turned around. It had not lost its sneering grin. Its stared down at Henry and his companions, who had retreated to a cliff.

Elias' fingers twitched weakly. His monster slowly moved toward the group. With last strength my former self pulled up on his sword. His fingers clasped the sword handle. In this state, he could have been estimated to be in his mid-80s, and just before he died. He closed his eyes. His whole body trembled as the Exodia came ever closer to his allies.

With a jerk, Elias pulled his weapon out of the ground, turned and threw it with both hands toward the monster. Immediately afterwards, he collapsed. The blade glowed green in flight. With a crackling sound, its eats herself into the back of the Exodia. It clenched her hands to fists and stretched her skull to the sky. The cards reappeared, around which the monster's chains snaked. Slowly the creature solidified to stone, only to be completely sucked into the parchment pieces.

The blood-red rain ebbed away, just as the sun fought its way back to the firmament. The five cards returned to the casket next to Elias, as if by ghostly hand. With a quiet sound, the lid closed.

The group around Christopher and Heinrich stormed in. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry than the previous one. They were also the first to reach Elias. Christopher immediately fell to his knees and placed his head on his lap, while Henry knelt and made an entered face. Tea looked at my ancestors briefly and shook his head sadly. "He's out of my reach." Christopher nodded and lowered his head. His fingers crossed over Elias' cheek.

He actually moved. A faint smile had formed under the blood-encrusted face. He opened the blood-stained eyelids fluttering. His face was wet by Christopher's tears, which mixed with the blood on his skin. "Ch-Chris?" asked Elias. His voice was no longer a breather. The blonde cried silently and nodded only, as a sign that he had heard him. "P-Please forgive me. P-pass well on it." A new nod was the answer, paired with tightly squeezed eyes.

Slowly Elias turned a little and let his gaze circle again: "P-promise me, t-that we don't quarrel in the next life, yes?" His voice became weaker and weaker. Yugi aka Henry nodded with a smile, and the rest of the group did the same to him. "I-I love you," the young lord du Lac quipped before closing his eyes forever.

Chapter Text

In the distance, a clapping could be heard, coupled with steps that came closer. All the blackness surrounded me while I felt like I was falling. Panicked, I tried to cling to something in the emptiness. "Mahad!" I cried desperately, but my companion was gone. Had the blackness swallowed him?

The steps became louder. They seemed to come from everywhere. One foot was placed exactly in front of the other as the clapping increased. An amused, cold giggling joined the chorus of noises. I knew this voice, and yet it was alien to me. What happened here again?

I was angry at one time. Why couldn't I explain myself. Nor, to whom. Mahad, this stranger? I had had enough of all this crap. One memory chased the next. I was ripped out of a reasonably regulated life to deal with any madness. Any fool thought he could put me in the way or explain to me what to do.

From the shadow came a familiar figure. "Bakura" I asked in credulously. My friend seemed kind of weird, nasty, almost crazy. The Millennium Ring literally clung to his tin-like sweater. The cylindrical tips on the sides all pointed at me, while the eye glowed in the middle.

"So did little Mahad finally find his liaison with Joey's former existence?" Bakura's voice was distorted, alien, almost eerie. "Bakura? Are you okay?" I asked again, unconsciously retreating a few steps in the all-encompassing blackness. “I'm not Bakura, I'm a part of him. An evil spirit, locked in the Millennium Ring." Inside, I sighed as the anger in me increased.

"Well, spirit - what do you want from me then?" I asked. Anger and fear held the balance. I didn't like anything about the guy, he wasn't Bakura at all. "The Millennium Ring remembers you, your time as its wearer. It is no longer fully functioning – with your soul as a victim, it will surely do so again." My soul?

"Hey, I think we could sort it out differently, right? I mean, what if I told the ring that I don't want it anymore?" My offer was dismissed with a mocking laugh. "No, I don't think it's going to work," my counterpart smiled coldly. With every step this Bakura spirit came to me, I also retreated one at the same time.

"You can beat him, trust me," Mahad said in my head. The relentless pounding of my heart calmed down a little. So, I wasn't completely alone. "Is Mahad whispering something to you right now? That you should defend yourself?" Bakura grinned mockingly. "You weren't able to stop me 3,000 years ago, and you were much more experienced than you are today." With every second the guy spoke, I found it harder to concentrate.

"Ah, the shadows are already pulling at your soul. Not for long, and you will completely dissolve and pass away in nothingness." That sadistic undertone – that was not Bakura. He was probably not a human being at all. I blinked hard. I got dizzy. My eyelids became heavy.

"Come on, fight! Believe in yourself!" That wasn't Mahad for a change, that was... "Joey?" I breathed his name in disbelief. "He won't be able to help you, just a few more moments." My concentration was waning more and more. It was like being tired and feeling more and more intense.

"I don't want to be without you, I want to lose you again. Please!" Fine fingers stroked over my shoulders, only to shake them abruptly. A pleasant warmth emanated from the touched places combated fatigue. That was Joey, I was sure. I had to smile involuntarily. The blackness gradually gave way.

"How is this possible? You are weak, a human being. No millennium object protects you!" the Bakura spirit screamed, dismayed, and looked around. I shook my head again. Was I completely twisted? I stood next to my body, which seemed ghostly, almost transparent. My traits seemed harsh, strict, and alien.

"I hear what you carry over your heart, Bakura. You robbed me 3,000 years ago. At that time you were nothing more than a graverobber and robber of the throne, who almost plunged ancient Egypt into a sea of darkness." My voice was more grown-up, older, with a strict undertone.

'You can't swap places with the boy, it's impossible. Without the ring you are powerless, Mahad," my interlocutor stammered and now backtracked. The Millennium Ring on his chest vibrated as my body moved. I got closer and closer to the golden gem, which caused Bakura to open his eyes.

Around us a wall of polished stone formed. This had been neatly stacked on top of each other. Strange signs had been engraved, illuminated by torches. Several columns supported the ceiling, while the evil spirit slowly moved with his back towards a narrow, rayless bridge.

"Do you remember this place, Bakura? Do you feel the despair in my heart that I once felt?" My lips moved by themselves. I was like a spectator who couldn't intervene myself. "Are you so fearless to make the ultimate sacrifice?" Just before Bakura, I stopped, who refused to back down. I could clearly see the panic in his face.

"When ba and ka mix, it arises, coupled with devotion..." Bakura interrupted me and screamed desperately. He grabbed his hair and pulled on it as he fell to his knees. "No, it's impossible! The ring, it doesn't obey me anymore!" Panicked, he tugged at the leather strap around his neck. What was going on here?

My body stretched out its right hand and slowly bent down to Bakura. With a jerk he pulled on the tape and freed its owner from the heavy load. With a weak smile, I hung over the ring, which immediately calmed down. The millennium eye stopped glowing, and the followers hung down limply.

"This time" began to speak my carnal shell, with a large stone plaque appearing behind me. "This time you will not flee." The stone tablet glowed. They had carved something in and provided some signs that I couldn't read. The glow spilled over onto my body and plunged into a bright light, forcing Bakura screaming to shield his face with his hand.

"It is time to return to the darkness from which you came, Yami Bakura!" I stared in disbelief at the place where I could still admire myself. I was still standing there, but... "The Dark Magician?" it burst out of me. This was exactly the Dark Magician Yugi called his own. Only the hair was brown and the complexion darker.
Almost sublime stood the incarnate Duel Monster, arms intertwined, as on the playing card pose. His gaze had become cold and hard. "Go down to the hell that awaits you and your master," the magician exclaimed grimly. His left hand, holding the baton, broke free from the entanglement.

"No! I'm not going to lose! Diabound!" Behind Bakura appeared a muscle-packed, silver creature with a wing helmet and wings that grew out of his shoulders. The abdomen continued rudimentarily and ended up in a snake, whose head hissed and fimmed. The poisonous teeth glistened dangerously in the glow of the torches. The creature put his arms together and a white lightning ball formed in between.

"I've been waiting 3,000 years for this moment. My sacrifice in the temple, my sacrifice for pharaoh..." Relentlessly, the Dark Magician pointed the baton at Bakura, who crawled backwards. Diabound screered the attack on his opponent. A cloud of lightning and smoke surrounded the Black Magician. Was he dead? Was I dead?

"Again, again!" shouted Bakura, whose fearful voice echoed. The monster followed its master and continued attack after attack. The magician could not possibly survive this. After a felt eternity, Diabound's silence stopped. By now there was nothing to be seen, and only the insane, mad laughter of the spirit broke the peace after some time.

Slowly, the torment dragged on. In the middle of the column of smoke floated the Dark Paladin, at whose chest the millennium ring glowed. His gaze was disdainful and focused on Bakura. He stared with big eyes at the Duel Monster. Lightning swireld the Dark Paladin. "Did you really think I hadn't learned anything?" asked the Ghost, which he acknowledged only with a fearful silence.

"Do you think I don't know why I died in England at the time? Couldn't recover? Your betrayal? It was you who threaded everything with Christopher. You urged him to rob me, to break my heart." The trains of the Dark Paladin hardened. "I could have been the pharaoh's most faithful servant. But you have taken everything from me, country, friends and love." The former Dark Magician slanted his head a little and continued: "I once had the power to shape the world, to change it, for the pharaoh, for Joey..." Joey? I slanted my head. The thing there, was that...?

"Now it's time for me to take it all back." The Dark Paladin swirled the bar weapon around in his left hand. The cutting edge was crossed by black lightning. With a jolt, he made a clean cut that split Diabound into two parts. Silently, the being shattered into a thousand parts. Yami Bakura cried out in pain and passed away, together with everything else, in the shining light that the Millennium Ring sent out.

Chapter Text

I woke up sweat-soaked in the guest room of the Kaiba estate. The faint light of the bedside lamp dazzled me. I had probably slept. No, that couldn't be true - I was in Joey's arms. He was ashen. "David?" he asked softly, brushing the sweaty strands of hair out of my face. I moaned softly. My head felt like he was about to burst. "H-Hm?" I answered weakly. My lips were cracked and dry and every bone in my body hurt.

"Sh, everything is good," my friend breathed, swaying me back and forth in his arms. I closed my eyes again and enjoyed the security. After a while I was able to speak quietly again. "J-Joey? What, w-what happened?" I asked. My throat burned like fire. Should I ask for water? Was I still dreaming? “Unfortunately, I don't know. You screamed like on the skewer and cracked violently. At one time you got hot, as if you had a high fever." Screamed? Cramped? "And then..." Joey broke off, which made me open my eyes fluttering. My friend made an entered face.

"You have this cursed thing now," he whispered, taking a deep breath. It took me a few moments to realize what he meant. In fact, the Millennium Ring rested on my bare chest, as if it had always belonged there. "How? What? It belongs to Bakura?" Joey raised his shoulders and answered dejectedly: "That's the same as with Yugi's puzzle or the other millennium objects. They choose their carrier, not the other way around." Slowly he let me sink back into bed, only to hold a glass of water to my lips. In my greed I swallowed myself. I tried to keep the liquid in my mouth. When I had calmed down somewhat, I reached for Joey's hand and pressed it tightly. The blonde avoided my gaze, but reciprocated the gesture.

„Joey? You believe it all, don't you? From the past lives, from these millennials, is that all real?" My friend lowered his gaze a little and nodded. "Bakura suffered greatly from the Millennium Ring." I wanted to calm Joey down, but I couldn't. If these dreams, these visions, even Mahad, were all real, then... "Darling?" I stretched out my hand slowly and trembly at him and placed it on his cheek. His eyes were full of sorrow and pain when he looked at me. "This ring, it, I think it belongs to me, not to Bakura. It reacted differently to me than to him." Joey nodded weakly and stroked my hair: "I hope so."

My arms wrapped around Joey's neck and pulled him down to me, with the help of him, where our lips met. I couldn't hold back the tears. It was all too much for me. What I thought weeks ago was fairy tales and superstition seemed to be real at once. I was a part of it, just like Joey and everyone else. We knew each other from before. Was it destiny to reunite?

Joey leaned into the kiss and stroked me on the back, leaning me to make this moment as easy as possible. So, Christopher had held Elias when he was dying. His traits seemed so happy at the time – apparently love had reunited centuries later. Carefully Joey broke away from me and smiled awkwardly while his thumb wiped away some of my tears. "Do you remember your former life, Joey?" A silent shake of the head on his part answered my question.

"Would you believe that it was fate that we found ourselves?" This time he nodded, with the smile becoming a little more honest and wider. "Yes, I believe in that. In this short time, we know each other, I have been happier than I have ever been before." Inevitably, I had to turn my head to the side to hide the blush in my face. Why didn't I know myself? "Joey? Do you promise to listen to me?" A quiet chuckle on the part of my friend made me continue to talk. "Joey, I saw today that we've met before, all of us. Even Kaiba. You and I, we, I think we've loved each other before."

Joey kept quiet and watched me quietly during my story. "Of course, we were called differently at the time. In England. Your name was Christopher and my Elias. But they separated years before my dream. This Christopher had betrayed and robbed Elias. Can you imagine what he took from him?" Joey thought for a moment and then nodded, "A card that connects us both, right?" I nodded. "More than that. He stole parts of a very powerful monster from him. One that was so powerful that it was impossible to control it."

My friend lowered his gaze again and stroked me over the back again. After a short period of silence, I continued: "The Kaiba of that time had pushed you into the corner with the Ultra Dragon. Christopher, no, you brought the cards back to me. After a duel with Kaiba I awakened the beast. She has wiped out everything, the enemy army, the Ultra Dragon. The sky darkened, and there seemed to be blood raining as life slipped away from me." I soaked up my deep breath and closed my eyes. I could remember details that I definitely hadn't experienced in the dream. "Slowly life gave way to my body. There were no soldiers to sacrifice. I didn't want you to die. I sacrificed myself. I couldn't fail.” Joey put his finger on my lips and prevented me from talking.

"I know this story." I opened my eyes and stared at my friend in confusion. "I myself have only fleeting scraps of memory, which I usually dismiss as nightmares. Yugi can remember his earlier lives. You died in my arms, as an old, weak man." It dawned on me why Joey was so closed at times. Carefully, I pushed his finger aside. "Joey – what happened then doesn't have to happen again today. We are still half children, have everyday problems such as school and stress with our parents. This story will not be repeated, promised." I pulled him closer to me and pressed me on him.

Joey hugged me as he pulled the blanket over us. "We have all promised ourselves that we will become friends in the next life. That is what happened. We have reunited. Kaiba is also part of our group, as does Mokuba. Don't worry and above all no accusations, okay?" I felt Joey's lips on my forehead before he knocked out the light. "Try to sleep now." I nodded mentally and fell asleep a short time later, exhausted, again.