Heart of a Champion
Three teens exited the jilted warehouse. A fright had engulfed a small group of adolescents upon their arrival to a dissipated building overrun by smoke. They grew panic-stricken that their small buddy refused to relinquish his most prized possession. But here he was, Puzzle in hands, within Tristan’s grasp. His sealed eyes and burnt face probed his wellbeing.
“It’s ok,” Joey assured to the tiny assembly. “He’s all right.”
Their brief relief returned to high-end stress hearing Yugi’s rough cough. Although salvaged from his possible flaming death, he needed medical attention.
In the background sirens blared. People in yellow heavy jackets and black hard helmets performed their best to quell the growing flames. Workingmen yelled out to each other. Water blasted from their timeworn hoses. One had checked in with the students in school uniforms. Seeing three adolescents covered in burns with one passed out, a firefighter waved over, signaling for an ambulance. The emergency personnel immediately followed their routine.
A crew of men took the teen from his group. They then rushed towards a white van.
“They’re taking Yugi to the hospital!” Joey observed aloud for his friends. “Let’s go with him!”
“Wait, Joey!” Tristan instructed.
Before the blonde took his leave, he paused. His face expressed his anxiety and his impatience since the ambulance needed to leave immediately.
“You go with Yugi,” Tristan insisted, trying to explain his idea quickly. “Tea and me need to tell Mr. Muto what’s going on with Yugi. We’ll meet you there.”
Joey nodded. He turned forward and raced towards the white van. He placed one foot on the bumper and held onto the door for support as he jumped inside. The wheels of the vehicle began to move just as the door behind him closed, leaving the remaining students as they dashed off in the opposite direction. He gawked at the sight of his own buddy wearing an oxygen mask over his mouth.
“Kid is breathing fine,” one of the medical personnel noted to another.
“His heart rate is a little high.” commented the other.
“Hey!” Joey protested. “He’s not a kid! He’s a high school student like me!”
He snatched his blue jacket and flapped it robustly as he added stoutly, “Can’t you tell by our uniform?!”
The two adults stared at the blonde, a little dazed at the statement.
“Almost to Domino Hospital!” the driver yelled to his members. “We’re about three miles away!”
The workers at once returned to moderating the petite teen in need of medical attention. They attempted to remove the chain and upside down pyramid from him. They were unsuccessful. They couldn’t pry the treasure from the unconscious young adult; it was similar to a mother clutching her child.
“Here, lemme try something,” Joey insisted in a calmed state. He grasped the reason behind his friend’s refusal to discharge the pyramid—the strong bond between teen and spirit.
With granted permission from the medical team, he leaned forward and gently placed one hand over the steel band and the other across the gold metal. The hardware had cooled since its liberation from the fire. He averred to his friend in a controlled voice, “Yug, let me hold on to this for a bit. I’ll be careful with it while you get help. You’ll get it back soon; I promise.”
Yugi released his treasure.
Joey gathered the loose chain and reeled himself back into his spot.
The two men turned impress by the act. They had witnessed powerful acts between family and friends when danger struck. They proceeded to disinfect the markings found on Yugi’s hands.
Joey returned his devotion to his friend. The mumbles from the employees and the sirens on the outside began to drown out as the tall teen reflected his long day. “I actually got to school on time. I waited for Yugi and everyone else, but all I saw was Tristan. I didn’t know something like this was going, but I had a bad feeling in my chest. I rushed out immediately once Tea explained what had happened.”
He turned his eyes towards the Puzzle. “Yugi risked his life for this. He refused to leave it rather than save himself. Why was it stolen in the first place? Was that really Bandit Keith when me and Tristan first busted in? What was going on?!”
He looked directly at his small companion. He eyed the boy taking in his oxygen, demonstrating that his physical form was assenting to its automatic needs. He watched as the mean cleaned the cherubic face tarnished with burns. He briefly viewed the medics’ mouths move with instructions and notes to one another, but he heard no voices. He clinched his fists in between the chain enquiring his friend’s painful hacks.
“Come on, Yug.” he prayed wholeheartedly. “You gotta be ok. You’re too strong to be taken down like this.”
His heart pounded as the wheels below him burned the pavement.
Tea held fretfully the Puzzle between her hands. She waited anxiously for the results of all her friends. Because Joey and Tristan had been inside the fire, they needed a remedy for their own injuries. Denied the chance to return the Puzzle to the original owner, the blonde had relinquished the treasured pyramid to the brunette while he received his treatment. She had no contact with the lethal flames; a little shaken, perhaps, but she was well. She paced the tile floor a bit, her mind overwhelmed with deleterious thoughts and nerve-racking emotions.
“I can’t believe I let Yugi go after that maniac by himself! He was all alone while I went to go get Joey and Tristan. And even when those two went into the burning building, I stayed behind. I didn’t do anything. What kind of friend am I?!”
She gazed at the item she now held. “I’ve known Yugi since elementary school. I used to be the one who would stand up for him whenever he was picked on. Ever since he solved the Millennium Puzzle, he certainly has changed. It might be because we now know that inside this pyramid lies a soul within this. Yugi went after that phony psychic to save the Puzzle and his friend. He even stayed inside while that warehouse was on fire.”
She clamped her sorrowful blue eyes as her volatile heart rushed. She had gone to draft assistance while Yugi was alone. He didn’t have the Puzzle with him, so he had no help from his other self.
Her attention divided upon hearing a pair of double doors with circular windows open. She spotted Joey and Tristan, each one having one or two bandages over his face. Despite the stressful situation, their demeanors remained pastoral.
Her voice brimming with gratitude escaped her. “You two are ok!”
She ignored social conventions regarding indoor volume while brightly squeezing the metal in between her smooth palms. Her lips slightly curved upward as her large eyes relaxed. She had grown concern about the tall teens after they ventured into the old building. Though their own relationships had started out shakily, their bond grew as another adventure brought them together.
“Yeah, we’re fine.” Joey nodded as he rubbed the back of his head, his tone even.
“Nothing a little rubbing alcohol wouldn’t fix,” Tristan added, still a little grimace from the rubdown.
“At least one of those nurses was hot.” the blonde grinned slightly.
Tea smiled a bit. She forgave the remark hearing her companion’s typical attitude return.
“So where’s Gramps?” Joey asked, placing one hand in his pocket
“He’s doing paperwork right now.” Tea answered with her eyes switching to the tile flooring. She couldn’t disremember the concern that drew out of the old man upon hearing news about his grandson. But he gave no qualms about the event; he quickly drove them over to the hospital without question.
“Any word on Yugi yet?”
The adolescents turned quiet. Around the sterile room were other people waiting for information about a love one. Everyone had to wait in a small room while beyond the doors lied patients receiving treatments for some type of ailment. The teens were unsure of how their little companion was fairing. Their heads turned upon hearing the doors open. They saw Yugi’s doctor.
“How’s Yugi?!” they all yelled at the same time.
“He’s all right,” the doctor informed, accustomed to caretakers inquiring about their injured relatives. “But he has quite a few burns, especially around his hands and face. His face had been exposed to a close range fire, and his hands appeared to have been touching something quite hot, metal.”
The students cringed a bit. Their eyes fell onto the item held between Tea’s hands. They grasped that their friend had acquired such markings from conducting the metallic pieces belonging to the Puzzle. He repudiated to drop the searing shards for his own life, and he continued to work with them despite its immediate consequence.
“He’s still recovering from his heatstroke,” the professional added. “So he’s still unconscious.”
“Heatstroke?” Joey questioned.
“A heatstroke can happen when the body has been around heat for far too long.” Tea explained.
“That makes sense,” Tristan nodded. “He was around fire for some time. We had to snatch his deck and break free his puzzle pretty quickly.”
The female adolescent grew staggered then troubled for her friend’s wellbeing. A stack of cards implied he had been dueling. An arena was inside, yet no one knew who the opponent was, if he was interested in the Puzzle and needed to challenge Yugi to win it.
“Can we see him?” she requested, longing to see her friend.
“He’s still unconscious at the moment.” the hospital employee answered. “As you are not family, you’ll need to wait until he’s cleared to be seen.”
“What do you mean not family?!” Joey yelled enraged. “We just risked our lives for him! We went with him to Duelist Kingdom to save his grandpa! He jumped in after me after I dove into the sea to save his Exodia cards! He gave up his winning money for me to give to my sister! I say we’re closer than your average family here in Domino!”
“Joey…” Tea whispered, her eyes expressing her crestfallen deportment. While others in the room heard his antagonism, she picked up his pained tone. She was aware of the truth behind the stories. She accepted the genuine bond that had grown between the two.
“Those are the hospital’s policies,” the professional explained resolutely, unsure how to take the teen’s stories but inured to people’s ire. “And too many visitors at once can cause an overwhelming stimulant environment for the recovering patient.”
“But—” The blond’s incensed quelled when Tristan positioned his hand on his shoulder.
Tea solemnly watched Joey lowered his head and sighed. His capricious eyes soon fell onto the pyramid held between her hands.
“Can you at least now give Yugi his puzzle?” he appealed to the worker in a controlled voice. “I’d promised he’d get it back soon.”
The honey-colored orbs met with ocean blue. Tea grasped the importance of the entreaty, so she handed over the Puzzle. She set one hand over her chest as she watched the doctor leave, entering into the double doors anon to where the injured lied.
“I sure hope Yugi’s ok,” the girl prayed to herself, knowing a future battle was brewing.
Yugi’s diminutive body rested against the clean bed with sterile sheets placed on top of him. The nurses and the interns had changed his charred uniform to a set of clean light blue pajamas with aligned gold stars. A mask was placed over his face to sanction his lungs to take in fresh oxygen. In between his hands was the silver chain connected to the Puzzle, the item that he desperately placed together despite the sweltering atmosphere.
The spirit of that ancient item roused from his reclusive void. His connection with his partner atomized with the Puzzle pilfered. He returned to the world once all the shards became connected again, an act that could only be completed by one soul. He arrived in time to see his partner’s life imperiled as the flames consumed the once established snare.
“Yugi…” he whispered, able to use his voice anew, discursive ideas flowing from his individual mind.
He had at last reconvened with his friend again. His brief reunion cut short when the teen was admitted to the hospital. Knowing the doctors were performing their best to ensure the teen’s physical status, he needed to investigate his partner’s mental wellbeing and emotional stability. Since the Puzzle was completed once more and was in the hands of the chosen vessel, Yami ventured from his private domain to his partner’s.
He found his devoted companion in his Soul Room, growing elated. The awoken teen was attempting to preserve his balance as he stood on his feet. However, recovering from his misadventure, Yugi lost his poise, prompting Yami to dart after him. The darker half arrived in time to catch his lighter half; Yugi fell backwards and landed in his arms.
Yami remained motionless, waiting a moment to ensure his partner’s safety. He soon saw the adolescent unlock his large eyes. He smiled upon those acquitted eyes landing on him. The teen in his arms shifted positions as the two embraced each other.
“I’m so glad you’re safe!” they both shouted in unanimity. Their voices stirred with joy reverberated over the room demarcated with innocence.
Yami pulled his partner away from him. He studied him, euphoric that he was alive. His heart beat proudly. While the Puzzle had been stolen, the teen chased after the man. And Yugi had stayed to repair the Puzzle after it had been shattered. The young adult never abandoned a friend to save his own life despite the pleas from everyone, including the spirit that inhabited the relic.
He whispered in full gratitude, “Thank you, Yugi. You saved me.”
Yugi’s effervescent attitude at once altered. He lugubriously changed his view towards the ground. He had been praised by a strong soul, yet his emotions didn’t mirror the heroic recognition. He whispered dejectedly, “I’m sorry…”
“Sorry?” Yami responded befuddled as he blinked. “For what?”
“It was my fault that the Puzzle got stolen today.” Yugi explained in a weak tone, one soaked with misgiving and repentance. “I though it would’ve been a good idea to have had the Puzzle with a chain instead of the rope since everyone wants to get their hands on it. I didn’t think through of what would happen after handing it over to Bandit Keith. None of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for me.”
With the two souls bounded together, the spirit analyzed his comrade’s plight.
“Yugi, I want you to understand this situation,” Yami assured in a caring tone. “You handled yourself on your own for this. You accepted the challenge of Duel Monsters to save the Puzzle, to save me. Our monsters were there for you. You came up with strategies on your own. You defeated Bandit Keith’s monsters while he was under someone’s control, who was cheating, I must add.”
“Maybe, but most of what I played were monsters in defense mode.” He sealed his eyes with penitence as he whispered, “I had even lost Dark Magician.”
“Yet that didn’t deter you from playing. You believed in our deck. You outwitted some tough monsters and powerful magic cards.”
The teen stared at the ground. He acknowledged his adroit tactics, yet the game had gone unfinished. He had doubted himself during that match, wishing his friends were present to give their support. He questioned his own skills, pondering if they would have been enough.
Yami sensed the growing pain in his companion’s heart. He understood he needed to work with a new angle. He took his partner’s chin and drew the boy’s eyes towards his own.
“This whole journey was frightening,” he admitted in a bucolic attitude. “I was lost in a dark void after the Puzzle had been shattered. I had no contact with you or anything else in this world.”
The Puzzle bearer noted the voice he was receiving. He commiserated with the loneliness that formed after the Puzzle came apart. He was sentient of his friend’s abhorring of his soul sinking in that tenantless state. He held back his own speech as he gave his attention.
“Despite my own revulsions, I was more concerned for your safety. I was afraid you would be lost forever after that fire had started. But once you had solved the Puzzle once more, at the cost of you standing within a burning building, I believed fate had smiled on us.
“However, I was a bit shaken to see the Puzzle had not been freed. To handle that situation, I needed to calm myself down. I told myself this was a game.”
Yugi kept his focus on his darker half’s eyes and recognized the truth held within. The two pooled a fear for each other’s existence, each one wanting the other to survive. He grasped the importance of the innovative outlook. Games were their life; it cleared their minds and brought great joy into their hearts; it wasn’t a method to toy with serious events.
The former ruler who could have been lost forever perceived he caught his friend’s responsiveness. He proceeded his elucidation. “After I gained a new view, I solved the predicament in freeing the Puzzle from its prison. I managed to reach Joey and guide him with instructions.”
Yami saw his tactics failing; he needed an original reason to ascertain his partner’s emerging courage.
“Yugi, when you had first completed the Puzzle, I had little idea of who I was. You know I cherish our time together and all that we had shared, especially with our adventures held at Duelist Kingdom. I am here now because of you, with my memories still within my heart. There must be a reason why I managed to retain my memories of you and everyone.”
“It must have been because I solved the Puzzle faster after it shattered.” Yugi guessed softly. “It didn’t take me another eight years, and you were only gone for maybe an hour or two.”
“Does time dwindle friendship?” Yami posed.
The teen with tri-color stared at his darker self, unable to form an answer.
Yugi sat against the metallic headboard on his loaned bed. A clear mask remained over his features to assist his breathing. His body intact with medication to relieve his pain at last gained consciousness in the real world.
To one side of the room was a window with open, white curtains. On the opposite end was a closed curtain to maintain privacy. Behind his bed was an A/C machine that hummed occasionally, blowing fresh, cool air into the compact room. His pillow was small and flat, and his sheets were a stonewashed blue. His face carried two bandages, one directly on his cheek and the other closer to where his gold bangs dropped. He noticed he had been changed from his burnt uniform to a set of clean pajamas that he owned.
“I guess Grandpa brought these here,” he mused to himself quietly. “I hope this problem didn’t give him too much of a scare.”
Being examined by nurses, he didn’t give any extra remarks, only answering questions regarding his circumstance. In addition to his physical help, he had been deemed well. The mask around his face had been removed, and he showed no signs of aliment; his coughing had ceased.
“Does time dwindle friendship?” Yugi repeated to himself once alone. “My bond with everyone seems to have grown thanks to time. What is something that lets friendships fall?”
He stretched out his cramped fingers. His eyes met with the Puzzle, the item that he negated to renounce. The relic remained in place, traveling from person to person until it had been reunited with its chosen vessel; a promise kept. He rubbed his hand against the Puzzle that lied in his lap, brainstorming scenarios.
“I gave that phony psychic the Puzzle because I wanted so much to find out more about the Puzzle. I went after him when he stole it. I dueled him for it because I couldn’t lose it. I stayed to solve it because I wanted to see Yami.”
He positioned a hand over his chest. Tears came to his eyes. His heart ached recalling the shards spreading across the floor. He had devoted eight years into solving the Puzzle the first time; he didn’t wish to control the shadows or hold any power, for he only longed for friends. And he longed to be with one he had formed a great network with, not just because of destiny, but because of their candid friendship.
His mind soon formed the faces of his other companions. Each one enforced a contribution for him in his troubles. His heart pounded anxiously. He had fallen unconscious due to the swarming heat and his lungs layering with smoke. He was lost in knowing their physical wellbeing and their emotional condition.
“I wonder how they’re doing. I sure wish I could see them.”
The door on the other end of the room opened, interrupting his thoughts. He spotted his friends entering. His heart beat widely as his smile grew.
“Guys!” he bellowed with happiness. “I’m so glad you’re all ok!”
Joey, jubilant to finally visit his friend, cracked with a proud grin, “Come on, you didn’t think a little camp fire would be enough take us down, did you?”
“And to think we forgot the marshmallows,” Tristan remarked as he handed the small patient his deck.
Yugi appreciatively accepted the stack of cards. He gazed upon his trusted deck of monsters and his prized puzzle. His treasures had been rescued; his companions knew what mattered to him, and they performed their best under pressure for him.
“Thanks for all your help, guys.” he praised with earnestness. Despite seeing the teens’ exultant stances, Yugi sensed something negative inhabited their spirits. “Guys, is everything ok?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t they be?” Joey asked, trying to shroud his concern.
“Well,” Yugi replied. “It’s just that today… I know none of us expected for things to have turned out the way they did.”
His eyes drew onto the chain he recently added. “I know I didn’t.”
Tea watched her companion somberly. A fear brew into her heart, and she believed she needed to voice her trepidations. “You went after someone who wanted the Puzzle. You were just given back your deck, which means you were dueling. That warehouse was abandoned, so there shouldn’t have been any electricity to have run that dueling arena.”
Yugi faced his childhood friend. She had given a deep observation, and her eyes showed her disquiet character.
“I know,” he acknowledged. “I had to duel a brainwashed Bandit Keith for the Puzzle. He was the one who challenged me in the first place, and he was the one who smashed the Puzzle and started the fire.”
The room drew silent. Since the man who specialized with a machine deck had been controlled, someone was now plotting a deadly course for the Puzzle bearer to take. They could only hope he didn’t need to go alone, but they struggled with ideas of how to support him—Their endless giving spirits became troubled seeing how they almost lost a good friend.
Yugi looked around his room, seeing the once bright faces turn gloomy. He was truly ecstatic to see them well, and he was happy to have had their assistance in a manner only they could provide.
“Does time dwindle friendships?”
“Maybe friendships fall if people allow them to.” he mumbled to himself. He had proof in front of him. His friends tracked him down after his disappearance. His friends helped him out of the fire. His friends waited to hear about his recovery and see him, and now his friends were standing beside him. And his friends permitted him to finishing his Puzzle and freeing it, a heroic gesture that touched him and his other half.
“You say something, Yug?” Joey asked, referring to his buddy’s incoherent mumble.
“I’m glad to have had your help!” Yugi happily declared. “I couldn’t have made it out without any of you. Tea went to go get Joey and Tristan and call for help. Tristan grabbed my deck so I wouldn’t lose that. And Joey helped free my Puzzle. I’m really glad that you guys have been there for me and Yami, and I know we’ll be able to pull through whatever comes our way.”
The group smiled, blissful that their actions mattered.
Yugi looked at his Puzzle. The gold glistened from the natural light entering the room. He briefly glanced around, proudly seeing Joey, Tristan, Tea and Yami. All his friends fit together like a puzzle. Their performed actions were that for their friends, even if it meant putting themselves in peril. He smiled in gratitude for the wish he had.
“We made it through today because we all have the heart of a champion.”