Hey you, wake up.
Yusaku woke up gasping for breath, the sterile white of the room he had spent what people told him were months – he had missed his birthday during that time – still stuck firmly on the back of his eyelids. The orphanage was silent in the middle of the night, with even the most insomniac of the kids and caretakers completely asleep, so Yusaku deduced it must’ve been past two o’clock in the morning.
Silently, he slipped out of his bed, still dressed in his day clothing unbeknownst to the caretakers who would’ve scolded him harshly for it, tugged on his shoes in total darkness, and after a little fiddling with old, creaky hinges he had sneakily slathered with oil the previous night, snuck out of the building and into the darkness of Den City.
For anyone else, Yusaku thought idly as he walked down the route he had memorized a month ago, this would be an absolute foolishness – what seven-year-old would want to roam the streets at night, when they had no one they could return to? Not for him though – after the Incident, as he’d come to call it, he learned the darkness wasn’t his enemy.
How did he know that?
One: He had been stuck in a completely white room, whose lights never seemed to shut down, only dimming when he was supposed to go to sleep – ergo, light was not something good.
Two: When people were around him in the light, they always seemed to pretend it was all going to be alright, and then talked the truth in the darkness, about how he was not trying hard enough, how impossible his case was, how he might never recover – in conclusion, people lied in the light.
Three: The Voice, his precious person, came from outside the white room, which he had glimpsed when the rescuers got to him as a room of total darkness – so if the Voice preferred dark, so would Yusaku.
In his musings, he wandered down the streets of Den City, just skirting the edge of what adults called the ‘bad neighborhoods’, to arrive after what seemed like days at the walkway overlooking the sea. He had heard from one of the kids in his class this place was called ‘Stardust Road’ - a place where moon would make a silver trail on the dark sea.
“My friend saw it once, and she says it’s so pretty,” the girl who was telling the story to her friend sighed dreamily, unaware Yusaku was listening nearby. “Like someone painted the darkness with silver light.”
“Ooh, that sounds pretty… too bad you can only see it by night, right? There’s no way you can see it without your parents...”
Hearing that, Yusaku grew interested. If this was a situation that could only happen during night, surely it would be okay? Yes, there would be light, but with so much darkness, Yusaku was sure he was going to be safe – after all, darkness was his friend.
What he didn’t know, was that he was lucky – that day was one of the nights when the Stardust Road appeared both early in the evening and extremely late in the night, due to moon’s short time in the sky, so as he approached the edge of the walkway, Yusaku was treated to the endless stream of glittering gold lights scattered across the silvery surface of the sea that slowly bled into dark indigo.
Pretty, Yusaku thought to himself as he leaned on the railway. He was not yet tall enough to look over the barrier, yet watching though the metal bars was still more than enough to take his breath away. The moon was huge and so close, its silvery light painting the sea haphazardly, as if someone just dumped a bucket of silvery paint on the dark indigo surface – he had seen the other kids do stuff like that, and this was much prettier than what they’d managed to make – and Yusaku felt happer than ever.
Here he was, swaddled in the darkness, with the moon giving the softest and prettiest glow to light it up – if everyone and everything in the world had this light, Yusaku wouldn’t mind it nearly as much as he did right now.
“Hey, you, what’re you doing here?”
The voice… it was The Voice! Was it possible…
Yusaku jumped and whirled around, pressing his back to the beautiful scenery, and searched for the source of the voice. After a few seconds, he located it: a boy, a little taller and probably older than him (then again, Yusaku was very bad at guessing ages) was standing underneath the nearby street lamp. Dressed in what looked like a fancy pajamas, the boy’s silver-white hair was everywhere – almost as if he had been lying in the bed moments prior – and Yusaku’s heart jack-rabbited. Was this his precious person? Was this The Voice?
“Hey, I asked you, what’re you doing here? It’s late.”
Well, there was one sure way to find out.
“I have three reasons; one, I heard this place is pretty, and I wanted to check it out.” As he spoke, Yusaku kept a close eye on the boy’s behavior, and the boy did not disappoint: his eyes widened, and his back stiffened. It was him! Everything in Yusaku sang, and he had to force himself to finish his thought process – he wanted to hear his precious person acknowledge him himself. “Two: no one cares where I am, as long as I eat, am present at evening and morning calls and go to nice lady for talk. Three: I’m not scared of the dark, and I know nothing will hurt me while I’m in it.”
The boy looked nauseous, and Yusaku’s heart dropped. Had he said something bad? Had he hurt his precious person in any way? He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he was the reason this person was hurt, not after everything he had done for him…
“It’s you,” the boy muttered with a hint of despair. “Three… you still remember that. What’s your name?”
“Fujiki Yusaku,” Yusaku replied, still not understanding why his savior was sad. “Why are you sad?”
“I-I wanted to save you, all of you,” his savior said, and Yusaku was alarmed at the sight of the tears. “First Spectre and now you… I have never saved any of you.”
“You did,” Yusaku vehemently disagreed, carefully walking over to his savior. “You gave me a way to live – three things. Three things to go on. Three things to live for -”
“Three things to defeat your enemy,” the savior finished, and Yusaku’s knees nearly gave out. He was so close to his savior, to his precious person, and they were both free. “Three thing to come back home to… but you didn’t come home, did you?”
“I have,” Yusaku replied bluntly. He was home – he had found his savior, and nothing else mattered. “I found you.”
His savior looked as if he would cry again.
“I… I can’t be your home – I was the one who got you stuck there in the first place!” he cried out, and Yusaku’s mind froze. That was impossible, unless… He did recall meeting a boy on the street, who invited him to play Duel Monsters with him, and after that he woke up in the white room, and the boy’s name was –
The boy nodded, still looking as if he was in pain, so Yusaku did what he saw other kids in the orphanage do to their friends when they were sad: he placed his arms around his savior loosely and leaned closer to him.
The boy – Ryoken – stiffened at first, and then cautiously wound up his arms around Yusaku, and Yusaku couldn’t help but melt in Ryoken’s arms. They were warm, and calm, and with how taller Ryoken was Yusaku was pretty much squished in his arms, cocooned in the nest of warmth and darkness.
“Why are you hugging me?” Ryoken asked, voice thick with an emotion Yusaku could not pin down.
“Three reasons.” It all made prefect sense to Yusaku, but apparently Ryoken didn’t see it that way, so Yusaku would have to show him. “One: you’re my precious person, the one who saved me and helped me live.” Yusaku heard Ryoken choke on his breath slightly, and anticipating his rebuttal he continued. “Two: you were sad, and I don’t want you to be sad. Three: I just wanted to be close to you.”
After that came a long silence, until Ryoken sighed, removed his arms, and tilted Yusaku’s chin up.
“You and Spectre… you two really don’t blame me for what happened?” Yusaku viciously shook his head – of course he never blamed him! “There are three reasons why you should. One: I was the one who got you noticed by my father, who then took you in for experimenting.” So it was his father, Yusaku noted. “Two: I watched you for six months, struggling and not actually helping you until you looked all but dead. Three: I had tried to save you, but I failed – you are not free yet.”
“I wasn’t free until now,” Yusaku admitted with a soft smile. “I always knew you weren’t rescued with us, so I couldn’t feel free.”
“Are you… are you telling the truth, not just to make be feel better?”
“I don’t lie,” Yusaku shook his head. It was dark, and he was of that darkness, and darkness never lied. Obfuscated – a word he’d found while idly perusing a book he definitely shouldn’t have – and told in partials on occasion, yes, but never lied.
Ryoken sighed, bowing his head.
“You said you don’t have a home?”
Yusaku shook his head. The orphanage wasn’t a home, never was.
“Maybe...” Ryoken bit his lip. “I can take you in, but you’ll have to disappear – no one will know about you.”
Yusaku frowned, thinking it over for a moment, before nodding.
“I don’t have anything or anyone I’d miss.” And he didn’t – everything he needed was standing right in front of him, a promise of the future where white room will no longer haunt him as much, because his voice will always be nearby to break him out.
His own silver Stardust Road given human form was there, and he wanted Yusaku close. What more could Yusaku ever ask?