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The Unnamed One

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Hi everyone, PeruLo speaking!

It's been a while since I posted anything here but now that I finally got some time, I'll be more frequent here and hopefully update daily.

Alright, I better start telling about the whole idea of this story: this is essentially my retelling of Hades and Persephone story but with Yami and Yugi in main roles as Hades and Persephone respectively. The work will have some elements from the famous Webtoon "Lore Olympus" but most inspiration is drawn directly from the myth itself. 

As for the setting, it's in the semi-modern world where gods still have a big power over humans and many people still worship them in the hope they'll be in their mercy but you'll find out more about it later in the story and how the whole system works. Aside from the Hades and Persephone myth I also threw in some other myths like Eros and Psyche, Artemis and Orion, Aphrodite and Adonis as well as Egyptian myth about Sun's journey through the Underworld (all credit for giving me this idea goes to Overly Sarcastic Productions on YouTube).

Gods themselves are both from Greek and Ancient Egyptian mythology so I'd like to see how many gods you manage to recognize in this little story of mine. 

Beware of some warnings though:

!!!There will be boyxboy smut somewhere down the line as well as boyxgirl!!!

!!!There will be gore and violence!!!

!!!Some major characters will die!!!

Still, I really hope you'll enjoy your stay here and that you'll be willing to review my work! 

See you soon in first chapter...

 

Chapter Text

- What's our next destination, Mandrake? – Yugi questioned as he slowly floated on the chilly breeze, far up beyond the clouds so that humans wouldn’t notice him. It was a real miracle the Chief god Seto allowed him to use the sky as his mean of transport, but considering Anzu negotiated, Yugi felt silly for even considering he wouldn’t get permission.

- The forest near the Capital! I think that’s our last stop for the day! – tiny turquoise-haired fairy chirped while jumping on Yugi’s shoulder, the young got giggling at her cute actions.

- Oh thank the heavens, I don’t think I can fly any longer! – another, pink-haired fairy with long pigtails, landed on Yugi’s other shoulder and huffed with exhaustion, two more fairies soon catching up to them.

- You’re always complaining, Lilybell! Why did you even want to become Yugi’s servant if this is hard for you?! – brown-haired fairy in a cute pink dress, Lycoris, scolded the youngest one, Lilybell hiding behind Yugi’s spiky hair with a yelp.

- Stop chatting all of you, we better descend. – the last fairy, the one with short purple hair, Rhodode,  said in a serious tone, Yugi giving her an apologetic look as he slowly started losing height.

- I hope this wasn’t too much for all of you, we really went all around the main continent today.  – the young god said in a tender tone, him and his tiny companions soon entering the puffy clouds, their coldness making Yugi shiver.

- Don’t worry, master! Lilybell just likes to complain but we’re really happy to serve you in any way we can! You have a very important task after all! – Lycoris said as she flew next to the god, her tiny wings quickly soaking with water as the five of them entered deeper and deeper into the clouds.

- That’s right! You’re very diligent and make sure spring comes to every part of the continent and that takes a lot of time and precision! – Mandrake continued her friend’s thought the quintet very close to the lower parts of the clouds.

- And your ritual during Spring Equinox was marvelous! I wouldn’t want to serve under anyone else other than you! I know other fairies feel that way too so don’t hesitate to ask us anything! – Rhodode finished, causing Yugi to chuckle shyly, giving a tender smile to each of his tiny attendants.

The group soon exited the mass of clouds and quickly descended upon the vast forest that surrounded the huge city of Capital, its high towers and shiny buildings catching the young god’s eye as he continued to float on the breeze.

Since his domain was mostly connected to earth and nature, he never really had a need to go to the city like some other gods did and the only time he actually came to town was when he needed to welcome spring along with Anzu and other earth gods two weeks ago.

Before the sky disappeared in the branches of tall trees, Yugi caught a glimpse of a tall hill in the middle of the town, five shrines shining in their full glory.

The memory of his first visit to the Capital was still so vivid, all of his senses recalling the excitement he was feeling when he had to participate in the Spring Equinox ceremony. There were so many people in the shrine too, everyone cheering and throwing various sorts of flowers at him as he chanted the spell he had to memorize, his power slowly spreading across the whole continent as the flower buds got pushed out of the ground and trees regained their beautiful green color. All earthy gods looked at him with proud eyes and clapped as he finally completed the task he was destined to do for over a hundred years, Yugi himself being overwhelmed with the fact he finally got to perform his duty as a spring god…

Still, his frail body didn’t allow him to patrol over the whole continent as fast as he wanted. Sometimes, if he found himself in the same place as some other earthly god, he’d be able to sense their concerned gazes on his back, especially if he ran into Akiza or Fubuki…

But he was slowly getting better. He was getting stronger.

He will be able to perform his duty properly next spring. For sure…

- Master, over here!- Lilybell called out as Yugi landed on the cold ground, the forest lively and breathing despite there not being a lot of light piercing through the branches.

- Alright, let’s do this. We need to return before dark. – Mandrake reminded, the young god immediately feeling a slight sting in the back of his heart.

- Is lady Anzu preparing us something special for completing the mission? – Lycoris questioned, her eyes already glowing at the mere thought of something sweet.

- I’m not sure, she’s full of surprises. – Yugi said with a reluctant chuckle before speeding up on the forest trail, the sound of the upcoming train not so far away piercing his ears. Better be careful so humans don’t see you…

With this thought, the spring god continued to run through the forest, the train tracks already in sight as a bullet train passed by. He quickly jumped up in the branches, now using them as his hiding spot as he continued to travel towards the middle of the forest and its oldest tree.

This continent has always been known for its almost never-ending spring and summer and mostly because of Anzu and Yugi who took care of withholding those two seasons so the humans could prosper. Fubuki, who was the god of winter, didn’t really mind only having high mountains in his jurisdiction considering he really disliked humans, but Yugi still felt bad that he couldn’t use his power to its full potential, especially because of young god knew how powerful Fubuki actually was.

Maybe I’ll be able to convince Anzu to give him at least one month of real winter…

- Oh, it’s old Sylvan! – Rhodode exclaimed as the quintet finally approached a vast clearing in the middle of the forest, a huge tree with ever-red leaves rising to its full glory.

Yugi landed at the very bottom of the tree, his small hand leaning onto the trunk and gently caressing its rough surface.

- It’s been a while, my friend. – he whispered, a sweet smell that filled his nose feeling rather nostalgic…

- Are you ready, Master? – Mandrake questioned, four fairies also having their hands against the trunk. Yugi just nodded and closed his purple eyes, a wave of strong energy suddenly bursting out of his body, causing a circular wave to spread across the whole forest.

Through these vibrations Yugi was able to feel every plant and every tree in that forest, making sure they were developing steadily and that no one is deprived of anything. If he was to feel someone being late with their bloom, his job was to help them by giving them a little of his energy…

- Oh, I sense something… on the far north… - Yugi noted with his eyes still closed, sending out one more wave just to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.

- That’s a young wisteria tree! It’s late with its blooms! – Lilybell noted as everyone removed their hands from the trunk, Yugi already rising in the air and disappearing between the trees.

Their trip to the said tree wasn’t long, mostly because Yugi made sure they hurry up as he saw the sun slowly descending upon the horizon. I better not be late…

- I think I see it! Right by that cave! – Lycoris exclaimed as the quintet came to a sudden stop, the forest suddenly going quiet as they slowly landed next to a small wisteria tree. Not only did it not start to bloom, but it also didn’t even have leaves on its branches.

- Oh, you poor thing... – Yugi whispered as he approached the frail tree, his hand being able to close against its thin trunk. – Don’t worry, I’ll help you.

With one deep breath, Yugi let out a delicate wave of energy directly into the tree, its leaves suddenly growing and small, deep purple buds appearing on the branches.

- Rhodode, Mandrake, can you please move branches of those bigger trees so this little thing gets more sunlight in the future?

- We’re on it, master! – the fairies said enthusiastically before flying off, causing Yugi to chuckle once again.

But as he removed his hands from the tree, he couldn’t help but look at the cave located not so far from the tree, nothing growing around it except for moss that covered the ground around it. That whole part of the forest was unusually quiet too, no chirping of birds on the branches or sounds of insects crawling across the ground. As if everything had run away from there...

- Help me! Someone, please help me!

Yugi winced at the sound of someone’s voice, the far echo making him walk towards the cave.

- Master! Where are you going?! – Lilybell exclaimed, catching the attention of the other three fairies.

- Haven’t you heard this? Someone is in this cave and needs our help! – the god reassured, the look on his companions’ faces being rather puzzled.

- Master, we didn’t hear anything-

- Someone help me, please!

- Here it is again… -Yugi muttered through his teeth, his heart ramming against his chest as his steps continued to carry him towards the cave. – Stay here if you’re scared, I’ll be back in a moment.

The four fairies exchanged reluctant looks but still decided to follow their master, their tiny wings carrying them directly into the cave after him.

Yugi smiled with gratitude as he continued to walk towards the darkness, a sudden feeling of his skin stinging disappearing as soon as it had appeared, leaving the young god confused but still determined whoever was stuck in that dark cave.

- Hello?! Can you hear me?! I’m here to help you! – Yugi exclaimed, getting nothing but his own echo in response, the coldness causing an icy chill to go down his spine…

***

- Lady Mana! Lady Mana!

The blonde-haired goddess almost jumped out of her skin as two of her attendants burst into her chambers, the look on their faces making it seem as if they’ve been chased by something.

- Lemon? Apple? What’s the rush? – she questioned in a concerned tone, approaching the sorceress in a red suit. – Has one of the monsters escaped again?

- No! Someone just passed right through the barrier!

Mana frowned.

- Impossible, that barrier is designed to keep both humans and gods away. – she said in a stern tone before raising her staff, the shell-like ornament on top of it glowing with blinding light.

- Oh for the name of all upper gods… - Lemon mouthed as the three of them observed a small figure dressed in dark blue robes roaming through the upper parts of the Underworld, his tiny companions shivering with fear as they went deeper and deeper.

- He looks just like-

- Silence, Apple. – Mana commanded in a warning tone, both sorceresses going silent after being stared at by their mistresses’ green eyes. – I will go talk to him, you stay put and observe the situation. No one can know about this, alright?

The magicians nodded, letting their leader pass through and exit into the dark hallway lit with blue flames on every wall, the steps of her iron boots echoing the air.

How is this even possible?! Who is that boy?! And why does he resemble...

Deep growling interrupted goddesses’ string of thoughts, her green eyes looking up at a huge black dragon with glowing red eyes.

- I’m sorry, baby boy, but you have to let me through. This is really important. – she said as she patted the beast’s cold foot, the dragon still steady on his position as he growled back.

- I’ll bring you some delicious pomegranate if you let me in.

The dragon went completely silent for a moment only to reluctantly move away from the huge black door, Mana raising her staff and swinging it in the air, the door opening only a moment later.

- How many times have I told you not to disturb me while I try to rest?

Mana immediately bowed deeply to her master, his deep voice causing the blood in her veins to freeze in an instant.

- I am indeed aware of that rule, my master, but this is really important.

A deep sigh and a slight shift on the throne caused the goddess to wince slightly but she knew she couldn’t look at her master until he allows it.

- What is it?

Mana gulped, the voice deep as an abyss barely allowing her to think straight and to speak without stuttering.

- Someone had just entered the Underworld and passed by the barrier. What are your instructions?

The silence filled the room, Mana only being able to hear the sound of her own heartbeat as she believed it’ll burst out through her chest.

- Just let them be. They’ll die soon anyway…

Chapter Text

- Master, I really think we should turn back... – Lycoris said in a shaky voice, the quintet barely being able to see what’s only a foot in front of them in the darkness of the cave.

- Just a little bit longer, they have to be somewhere around here… - Yugi insisted, his legs slowly getting heavier as he continued to slowly walk through the dark tunnel, unsure how long he has even been in that cave to begin with.

- But we haven’t heard of them at all for a while! If that person really was around here, I’m sure we’d hear them call out to us in a clearer voice. – Rhodode reminded, landing on Yugi’s left shoulder where Mandrake was already resting, all four fairies huffing and puffing as their wings refused to work.

- Let’s maybe try another path? – Mandrake suggested, the young god stopping dead in his tracks as he felt how heavy and relaxed those small creatures on his shoulders became.

Despite not being able to see, Yugi rose his hand and gently patted them on the head with his index finger, a sting of guilt piercing his heart.

- I’m really sorry… I dragged you into trouble again and all because I’m so stubborn. – he whispered, suddenly rather away from how freezing cold the air around him was. – Let’s head back and look around the cave, maybe I made mistake…

Four fairies agreed in quiet voices and Yugi slowly turned around while keeping his hand on the cave wall, making sure he doesn’t trip in that pitch darkness.

But as he walked, he could only feel his legs becoming even heavier than before, the young god not remembering their way back being this long. Was he ever on some type of crossroads in these tunnels? No, that couldn’t be, he just walked straight so he should just continue to do just that…

Just straight forward.

Forward.

And forward…

And…

- Master! Lilybell had just passed out! – Lycoris suddenly shrieked, Yugi’s heart stopping for a moment as he crouched in the middle of the tunnel and opened his hand, a green light sparking all around him.

After providing himself with a bit of lighting, he put the little pink-haired fairy in his palm and touched her face with his finger, noticing she was shivering and her skin was stone-cold while the flowers in her hair all started slowly withering.

- She’s losing power, we better get out of here fast. – he said in a calm voice as possible, his whole body suddenly starting to shiver. – The rest of you just make sure to keep resting until we reach the exit. We’re almost there.

- But what about you, master? You look really pale! – Rhodode noticed, her own complexion not looking the best.

- I’ll be alright, you four are now important. I may not have much power inside caves due to lack of plant life, but I’m here to protect you until we reach the surface and you’re able to recover. Just concentrate on resting, alright?

The fairies nodded in unison as they held on tighter on Yugi’s robes, the spring god now using his small green light to illuminate the path even though he could clearly feel his energy rapidly leaving him moment after moment.

It was as if the walls of that very cave started to suck all the magic out of him, wanting to leave him there to die…

No way am I going to let that happen, not ever!

Yugi picked up the pace and marched through the hollow tunnel, the darkness seemingly continuing into infinity, his body slowly giving in to his weakness.

But then, clear as day, he was able to see blueish light just around the corner.

Relieved, the spring god ran towards the source, expecting to find the exit He and his little friends have entered that maze-like cave but his knees almost gave in as he observed the sight he ran into.

There, in a vast clearing of the cave, with blue crystals shining all over the walls and ceiling, was a garden of pomegranate trees, their leaves being black instead of usual green while the huge fruit growing on them was completely white.

Yugi could feel his energy returning slightly as he jumped into the garden, small streams of crystal clear water emerging from the ground and running towards the deep creek in the middle of the clearing, all the trees seemingly leaning towards the water.

- This is so… - Mandrake mouthed, her voice shaky and weak.

- Strangely beautiful, I know… - Yugi concluded her sentence, noticing how none of the other fairies had anything else to say.

Only then was he able to properly see his shoulders and he almost screamed with fear.

All four of his fairy companions were passed out and sprawled over his shoulders, their tiny hands still gripping onto his blue robe as if their life depended on it.

- No, no, no, no, no, for the love of Uppers, NO!

The spring god quickly but gently picked all four of his companions and ran to the nearest tree, lying their tiny bodies against the cold trunk. The color seemed to return to their faces rather quickly and their breathing became even and deep but Yugi knew he had to find his way out as soon as possible and under any circumstances. These pomegranate trees were only temporary solutions to restore all of their energy…

The young god gritted his teeth as his shaky legs carried him towards the middle of the clearing, near the creek. He hated himself for dragging his precious companions into this mess and all because he was steadfast in his wish to help whoever was calling for help out there but right now, he had to swallow his pride and call for help, even though he tried to convince everyone he’ll be just fine on his own despite his frail disposition.

He probably won’t be allowed to go alone on missions for a long time after this, but right now, that wasn’t the most important thing.

He needed to call Anzu for help.

With a deep frown on his face and tears of frustration running down his face, Yugi kneeled in front of the creek and put both of his hands onto the ground, sending out a strong wave of magical energy through both the earth and cave walls, his voice carried on that very same energy towards the surface.

Anzu, help me! We’re stuck in a cave!

But just as he could feel the waves reaching the surface levels, his energy was suddenly cut off without explanation, as if something has automatically blocked it, both his energy and his message evaporating into thin air.

Yugi gasped and tried to catch his breath but still tried to send out the same message two more times, both times resulting in the same predicament.

In the end, he wasn’t even able to take a deeper breath and not to feel pain in his lungs, his whole body hurting and burning as if he had a fever.

- Damn it all! Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!!! – he yelled as he hit the ground, his tears soaking the earth he was kneeling on.

He really was the most useless god of them all, always causing inconvenience for everyone and always making everyone worry even when he tried to do his best not to bother anyone. He really was the worst…

She should’ve never woken up from his slumber…

No… You can’t think like that, not now…

You have to bring the fairies out… then you can loathe yourself as much as you want.

With a frustrated growl, Yugi forced himself to raise on his shaky feet and reach the nearest tree, one pomegranate fruit right within his reach. He tried to use magic to open it but his body became so weak he couldn’t even properly absorb the energy from it even if he wanted to.

He then bashed the fruit against the tree, the pomegranate bursting open and revealing it’s bloody-red berries and enticing sweet smell. Yugi quickly picked a few berries from the inside of the peel, stuffing the sweet fruit into his mouth and swallowing it, the sweet taste overtaking all of his senses.

Were pomegranates always this delicious?...

The young god just continued to scrape the berries from the inside of the peel, realizing he had eaten the whole thing before he even became aware a bit of his strength has returned, his brain now functioning somewhat normally as he tried to think of the strategy to get the fairies out of the cave.

As he approached his little friends, he could see they were still sleeping soundly but he knew that as soon as he moves them away from the trees, their conditions will only worsen. Maybe I can use another pomegranate or a few of them to keep them stable until I find the way?

How many would I need-

- Mistress, someone is here!

Yugi froze as he heard a high female voice, not sure whether it was safe for him to move or not but he instinctively shielded his sleeping friends, his purple eyes slowly rising only to see a pale-looking blonde woman in yellow and black robes, long beetle-like horns on her head and a wooden staff with a glowing citrine at the top of it and a blade at the bottom.

The woman smiled at him and crouched down, her golden eyes directed at the fairies Yugi was shielding.

- Is it another lost soul? – another pale woman appeared, her attire being rather similar to the first one’s but only in red color instead of yellow, her red hair tied in a long pigtail that fell over her shoulder. Her staff had a butterfly-shaped ruby on top of it and the same type of blade, her horns a tad longer than her companion’s and her face makeup much more intense than seen in her blonde friend.

- I don’t think so, he seems very alive to me. – the blonde said in a cheerful tone. – What are you doing here, boy? Did you somehow wander into the barrier?

- Don’t tell him that, idiot! Who knows what he wants! He maybe looks harmless but-

- That’s enough, Light, Fire.

Both women straightened up immediately and cleared the way to another woman who slowly emerged from behind the tree.

And from just taking one look at her, Yugi knew she was indeed a goddess.

Still, something about her aura and her whole appearance made Yugi’s skin crawl. She was rather pale, just like her two attendants but her robe was rather different from theirs: she was dressed in all black and her cloak had orange ornaments all over it, the spring god noticing a shape in the middle of her chest that reminded him of an open eye. Her hair was long and dark green while her bangs were longer in the middle of her forehead while towards the sides of her head they became shorter.

She wore a rather cold and stern expression as she looked down towards Yugi and his unconscious friends, the young god barely being able to stay still after locking his eyes with hers, those light blue eyes surrounded by nothing but blackness…

- How did you end up here, boy? – she asked in an even and stern tone, Yugi trying to utter a word as soon as she spoke but his throat just tightened and no voice wanted to come out…

- I… I heard someone… calling for help and… I entered the cave and… ended up here…

- Wow, you’ve entered here from the surface!? Impressive! – the blonde commented, a stern glare of her red-haired companion making her go silent.

The goddess then crouched down and patted each of the fairies on the head with her elegant finger, her eyebrows twitching slightly before her eyes locked with Yugi’s once again.

- You’re a spring god, right? Yugi?

- How did you-

- Only you would have flower fairies as companions as you’re the only one who controls plants. We better take care of you before we send you back. I’m sure my master will be willing to listen to your story as well.

As the goddess tried to pick up Mandrake, Yugi instinctively denied her access, causing her to chuckle.

- Don’t worry, nothing will happen to them, I will ensure them to my ladies, they know some crafty spells.

Yugi still hesitated to move away but after looking towards the two sorceresses who gave him a reassuring look, he reluctantly moved away, the goddess picking up all four fairies gently and handing them over to her attendants: Mandrake and Rhodode to the blonde and Lycoris and Lilybell to the red-head.

- Can you walk? – the goddess asked, offering her hand.

- I think I can- Yugi said as he tried to rise up, his knees giving out immediately, causing the goddess to catch him and lean him on her taller body.

- Just go slowly, alright? Step by step. – she said as the eye on her robe started glowing, her hand resting briefly on his forehead before pushing him slightly forward, Yugi feeling somewhat refreshed.

- What did you do?

- It’s just a spell for freezing time, it will slow the effect this place has on you until we reach our destination.

Yugi nodded in understanding, noticing two sorceresses doing the similar thing to his fairy friends with that difference that all four fairies became contained in a floating bubble, their faces so peaceful and relaxed as they slept.

- Thank you so much, uh…

- Carly. My name is Carly.

Yugi’s eyebrows rose, remembering hearing her name from Anzu before, right after she had returned from one of the grand meetings on the Sacred mountain.

- You’re the goddess of witchcraft?

Carly chuckled, the two of them slowly being left behind by Light and Fire as they entered another section of the cave, this one illuminated by purple rocks.

- I see my reputation even reached the Upper realm. No surprise there, Anzu can’t stand me.

- W-why is that?

- Well, I’m the only god of this domain that’s allowed to go out freely even when the meetings don’t occur and mostly due to the nature of my job and jurisdiction. I need to collect a lot of plants and soil for my crafts so it’s only natural the chief of earthly gods despises me. I turn her pure creations into something evil… according to her words, at least.

The young god lowered his head, a sense of incredible shame washing over him as they continued to walk.

- No need to feel that way, my boy. That’s the beef I have with Anzu, that has nothing to do with you. Just focus on your recovery, alright?

Yugi nodded and continued to follow her lead, suddenly noticing the crystals disappeared from the walls of the cave and many torches burning with blue fire started illuminating their way.

Another wave of chills washed over Yugi’s body as he started understanding some of Carly’s words, some parts of her sentence stuck in his head.

I’m the only god from this domain that’s allowed to get out freely…

This domain… she’s a goddess of witchcraft so she serves…

Yugi almost passed out as the realization his him like a lightning, his stomach twisting and turning inside of his abdomen as he found it impossible to move forward. Carly noticed his predicament but didn’t utter a single word, her expression becoming stern and serious again.

I’m… I’m in the Underworld….

And now, I’m about to meet… to meet…

- The master of the Underworld, yes. – Carly finished his thought, the young god going as pale as a sheet. – The Unnamed one…

Chapter Text

Yugi wasn't exactly sure for how long he had been walking whilst leaning on Carly's weight, the goddess not even being bothered by him imposing a certain burden on her body.

Even though their path has been illuminated by those cold, blue flames, the young god didn’t even dare to look around, the vast spaces of Underworld and sounds of aching souls slowly descending to their forever resting place via the huge black river causing him a great deal of discomfort.

Still, the air around there wasn’t as bad as he was lead to believe by Anzu’s stories, if anything his lungs seemed to breathe in a lot of fresh, cold air that immediately cleaned his mind clouded by worry for his little friends.

Everything around him was in the color of black marble and obsidian with traces of gold here and there, that blue light acting somewhat soothing for his nerves, his eyelids suddenly feeling rather heavy…

- The Master will see you now, are you capable of standing on your own? – Carly suddenly asked, making the god wince slightly upon hearing her deep and even voice.

- I-I think I’ll manage. – he stuttered, once again avoiding the eye-contact with those deep black pits on the goddesses’ face. – D-do I have to act in a certain way when greeting the king of the Underworld?

Carly seemed rather taken by that question, an amused chuckle escaping her lips.

- I never really thought of it and neither did he I think… Just make sure you’re calm and speak politely. Oh, and make sure not to show any weaknesses in front of him, especially if you’ll look at him in the eyes. He tends to… latch on those weaknesses quite a bit if you know what I mean. But he won’t get offended by almost anything.

Yugi nodded, feeling as if a huge burden has risen from his chest.

But then his throat squeezed once again as he noticed a huge door right in front of them, Light and Fire approaching a huge black dragon with red eyes without any fear, their small hands patting the beast’s head while throwing those same white pomegranates into its huge jaws.

As soon as the huge beast was fed, it had obediently moved to the side, letting two sorceresses to pass and even bowing when Carly passed by it, Yugi’s eyes stuck on the dragon for a moment longer before entering the chambers, its size being both intimidating and mesmerizing to the young god.

- Her Excellency, goddess of Witchcraft! – Light suddenly called out as she walked towards the right side of the huge hall with a throne in the middle, Fire heading into the opposite direction and stopped, Carly stopping in the middle of the circle just so she could make sure Yugi was able to stand on his own.

After removing her hands from around him, the goddess moved more forward, now in a perfect line with her two attendants as she looked up towards the throne. It was a rather majestic throne, white as ivory as various gemstones and gold were scattered all over it, a human skull resting on top of it.

Yugi gulped, just now realizing how dire his situation might actually become.

 But all of his thoughts stopped as he heard an ominous and strong rumbling as if a door that he couldn’t see has been opening in a very slow manner.

And then, after a few moments, a majestic figure emerged from behind the throne, everyone in the room including guards, sorceresses, and Carly getting down on their left knee and bowing their head, Yugi being unable to move as he gazed at the newcomer.

His hair was almost completely the same as his own with three golden highlights adding more volume to his already rather majestic hair. His skin was bronze-gold in comparison to Yugi’s pale complexion and he seemed to be more built than the spring god. He wore a similar robe as Carly only his was decorated with far more golden details and ornaments, his ears, neck, and hands covered in heavy gold jewelry while the upper part of his robe revealed most of his muscular torso while the loose lower part flew behind him despite there being no wind around. One final detail complimenting the king’s overall look was long, a marine blue cape that made his whole appearance even more intimidating yet beautiful and elegant.

But what had smitten Yugi the most were the newcomer’s eyes: big yet sharp, their bloody-red shade enough to send anyone into a state of absolute panic with just one twitch of his eyebrow, his gaze omnipresent, sharp and calculating, his appearance complimenting the intimidating and absolutely powerful aura that was enveloping both the king of the Underworld and the entire room.

The god then moved, Yugi just then realizing he’s staring like a smitten child and he averted his eyes, hearing the moving of his robes as he sat at the throne and leaned to the side, his whole posture now showcasing his obvious disinterest.

- Report, Carly.

Yugi felt his knees going weak once again but not because of exhaustion.

That voice… deep as the darkest abyss yet so alluring and-

- Yes, your Majesty. – the goddess spoke, interrupting younger’s thread of thoughts, Yugi being able to feel his face burn all the way to his ears. – While I’ve been searching for supplies for my next spell, Light and Fire informed me there was an intruder in the Pomegranate garden. There I found a spring god, Yugi, trying to keep his four flower-fairy companions alive.

- Hoo~ Interesting… - the king of the Underworld spoke in that deep voice again, causing yet another shiver to go down Yugi’s spine. – What do you have to say, little god?

Yugi was at first too consumed by his sensations to hear the question but as he heard Carly’s coughing, he immediately straightened up and locked eyes with the king himself, that same weakness returning to his legs.

The king himself frowned upon making that eye-contact, his posture straightening up in his throne as the spring god slowly approached the middle of the hall, standing next to Carly.

- So? – the king prompted, Yugi very aware of how tight his throat had become once again.

- Pleasure to make your acquaintance, your Majesty… - the spring god said in a shaky voice, his knees barely being able to withhold a small bow. – I’m really sorry for trespassing and I will not try to diminish my ignorance in any way but I do have to say this: I had no idea that cave was the entrance to the Underworld and on top of that, I’ve heard someone calling for help so I went in to check…

- And you just so happened to pass by a powerful barrier designed to keep both gods and humans out? – the king questioned further, his red gaze causing Yugi’s stomach to twist and boil inside of his body. But he refused to break the eye contact…

- I didn’t even feel the barrier there, please believe me…

There was a short moment of silence in the hall before the king chuckled in that deep voice of his, causing Yugi’s face to burn up again.

- Not only are you quite a looker but you have no fear when speaking to me. It’s obvious Anzu raised you.

Does he know Anzu?...

Well, of course, he does! He’s also a chief god as she is-

Once again, Yugi’s thoughts were interrupted by the king suddenly standing up from his throne, causing everyone else to kneel and bow once again, leaving the spring god almost completely paralyzed with surprise.

- I have to contemplate what to do with you, you’ve trespassed after all-

- Your Majesty! Can I please have one small request?!

And almost immediately Yugi regretted his decision of speaking up at that very moment.

Not only has he interrupted the king’s speech but he also raised his voice at him, the god’s slightly enraged side-glare and gasp of everyone in the room speaking for themselves.

- Your options are limited, spring god. – the king growled, now turning completely to face Yugi in his full glory, the younger almost forgetting what he was about to ask…

- Can you… can you please bring my attendances back to the surface? The Underworld has drained almost all of their energy and if they stay down here any longer, they’ll die. I have no problem with staying here and waiting out my punishment, they only followed my orders. Please, your Majesty!

The king frowned but it was obvious his eyes had softened a little, a deep sigh echoing the throne room.

- Carly, can one of your girls take care of that? – he eventually spoke, Yugi letting out a sigh of relief.

- I’ll have Light and Fire bring them to the Upper realm right this instant, Majesty. Rest assured.

The king nodded and smirked slightly, his red gaze locking with Yugi’s once again. The spring god chuckled at that gesture, his body suddenly feeling as light as a feather as the smile spread across his face.

Good… girls will be alright… that’s good…

With those thoughts on his mind, the young god was barely aware of his body losing all of its strength, his knees completely giving out as he started falling backward, everyone’s voices muffled in his ears as he felt as if he was flying.

And before he could fade into nothingness, he saw that beautiful red gaze hovering above him, a strong pair of hands gripping his weak body.

It’ll be alright… everyone… will be alright…

***

The next thing Yugi was aware of was a strong scent of incense tickling his nose, his eyelids still feeling so heavy he was unable to lift them at all a few moments after regaining consciousness.

- Oh, I see you’re awake, young one.

Yugi’s eyes immediately shot open as he heard an unfamiliar female voice right next to him, a female figure in a white cloak with a clear aura of a goddess standing over him and smiling tenderly, her blue eyes giving the younger a weird sense of reassurance.

- W-where am I? – he asked in a weak, raspy voice, his whole body still so weak he was completely unable to lift even a finger.

- In one of the guest chambers in the Underworld, you’ve fainted while in the audience of our king. – the goddess explained before reaching down and caressing Yugi’s forehead, all the pain suddenly disappearing from the god’s body.

- Oh my… I’m really sorry… I should apologize for my rudeness to him as soon as possible-

- Don’t stand up, you still need to regain some strength, you were unconscious for two whole days after all.

Yugi could feel his heart sinking in his stomach, an instant state of panic enveloping his entire body.

- I have to go back to the Upper realm, quickly-

- Did you hear what I’ve told you, young one?! You’re too weak to move! You need to rest!

- But Anzu will-

- Ishizu told you to stay put so better do as she says.

Yugi went silent as another voice, male this time, reached his ears, the young god suddenly aware of yet another powerful presence in the room.

- No need to yell at him, Mahad. He’s just confused. – the goddess said in a calm voice, finally being able to convince Yugi to lay back down, the newcomer holding some kind of a jar in his hand before handing it to Ishizu.

- This is the ointment you asked for. I know it’s not my specialty, but I did my best. – the god said a tender voice, earning a smile from Ishizu as she removed the lid.

- It’s perfect, thank you very much. – she said in the same calm tone before dipping two of her fingers into the liquid and rubbing it all over Yugi’s face and forehead, the pleasant scent of something fresh yet sweet overpowering incense in the god’s nose.

- You two… you’re the goddess of magic and clairvoyance, Ishizu? And you… are the god of funerals and mummification as… as well the god reaper of the souls, Mahad?

- Ohoo~, I see someone has done their homework. – Mahad chuckled, his face softening slightly. – I’m glad at least someone says my name with a little grain of respect in their voice. Let me tell you, humans won’t ever do it.

- W-why is that? – Yugi questioned, his reaction making both gods chuckle.

- Well, none of the Underworld gods are really dear to the human race if we’re being completely honest. If anything, they fear us and want to avoid us as much as possible. If there wasn’t for funerals and such rituals, I can guarantee humans wouldn’t even worship us.

The spring god’s eyebrows folded upwards, his mind completely unable to grasp such a concept. Why wouldn’t you worship a god?!

- Your reactions are adorable indeed, just as his Majesty had said. – Ishizu noted through a giggle, Mahad only nodding in agreement.

- H-he said that? – Yugi stuttered, just a memory of those red eyes making his face burn up once again.

- Indeed. He said he never had anyone faint before him and smile, let alone interrupt his speech. Not only are you cute but you have some guts. – the god commented through an impressed smile, Yugi feeling a sudden urge to hide under the covers and never come out.

- I wonder what kind of punishment will be bestowed upon me, I really did mess up this time around.

- Well, we have good news for you. – Ishizu said with a smile before putting a jar she was holding next to the bed. – The master said he won’t punish you at all considering your circumstances and as soon as you recover your strength, you’ll be allowed to leave.

Yugi’s eyes widened, not sure whether he had heard it right.

- R-really? A-am I still dreaming?

Two gods chuckled again at his reaction, Ishizu now standing up and straightening her white dress that reached her ankles.

- No, that’s indeed the truth. – Mahad reassured. – And we never question our wise master’s decisions. We just make them into deeds.

- Rest well, alright, Yugi? I or one of my attendants will come to check on you in an hour. The ointment I’ve put on you was made of jasmine and some pomegranate juice so it’ll ease your pain and restore your power after two more usages. It will also make you rather sleepy so try to get some rest.

Yugi nodded and relaxed on the bed, watching those two gods as they opened the door to his chambers.

- Oh, thank you! Both of you! Very much!

The gods glanced at him one last time and finally exited, Yugi letting out a deep sigh of relief after this turn of events. Who would’ve thought the gods of the Underworld were this nice? Everything Anzu had told him was nothing but negative…

Still, he knew he’ll have to explain himself to his guardian as soon as he returns to the surface tomorrow, knowing his punishment will come in another form. But at least, his little friends are safe and sound back in their garden.

Yugi shifted under the covers, the sweet scent of ointment mixing with the intense smell of incense as he started closing his eyes. And in that very moment, those red eyes flashed in his memory, their gaze so vivid it made young god’s skip a beat for a moment.

Stay calm, my heart.

You… you’ll probably never see him… ever again…

Chapter Text

After almost an entire day of traveling and his wings feeling so heavy he could barely flap them anymore, Johan was more than relieved after seeing the Sky Shrine was only a few yards away, Ruby and Amber sharing his enthusiasm.

- It seems as busy as always. – the huge mammoth noted as a small carbuncle rode on its head, already half asleep.

- No wonder, we’ve been away for quite a while. Things have not settled since the Spring Equinox and I’m sure all sky gods still have a lot of work to do. – Johan said with a chuckle, preparing for landing as he slowly reached the biggest of five floating sky islands, this one having a majestic white shrine in the middle of it.

- I hope mistress will give us some time to recover, this wasn’t an easy task to do. – Ruby complained as he slouched over the mammoth’s head, two animals sighing at the same time. – What was she thinking, sending us all the way over the ocean just to make sure this one couple doesn’t get a divorce because of their mutual infidelities. Really makes me wonder about her logic sometimes.

- Don’t say that in front of her, Ruby. She might throw you off the floating island. – Johan warned with a reserved chuckle, really hoping his mistress wasn’t listening for that particular conversation.

Once the young god finally landed on the pearly white marble of the main Sky Shrine, he let out a loud groan as his wings literally started dragging across the floor while his arrow case and a long bow seemed to have over a tone.

He really needed a proper rest…

- Let’s quickly find mistress and report our findings. I’ll then stay behind to talk to her a little more so you two can join the others back home.

- Roger! – Amber and Ruby in unison, the trio heading deeper into the shrine.

As expected, the main shrine was completely swarmed with various gods and their servants, all of them submitting their reports in order for the chief god, Seto, to eventually evaluate them and tell them what they needed to work on.

Johan greeted every single god and god attendant he ran into, all of them greeting him with a warm smile before continuing with their duties, the young god thankful for their consideration. He really must look like a dead man walking…

- So you say you’ve beaten that huge whale-like beast all by yourself, huh?

- Zane, I’m not joking here! That thing was absolutely huge and had a deep purple stomach! I have no idea why it darted at me but it got what it deserved. I’m sure merfolk will thank me later for a delicious meal.

Johan paused for a moment before rounding the corner, seeing two very familiar gods only a few feet away from him.

- Oh, Mai’s little boy has returned. – the taller one with dark green hair said, his black coat floating behind him as he turned on his heel.

- What’s up, my friend?! Wow, you really look like shit! – the shorter one of orange spiky hair and tattoos all over his face embraced the younger around the shoulders, Johan barely being able to hold in his yelp of pain.

- Good to see you, master Zane. Master Crow.

- Always so formal with us, loosen up a little! – Crow said through laughter, his hand smacking Johan right across the back and between his heavy wings. – I know we’ve been created a bit earlier than you, but your power isn’t to be messed with.

- True, especially considering you’re Mai’s errand boy. I’ve never really pissed her off while we had a fling but I know that whoever is brave enough to piss goddess of love will be handled by your Lust arrows.

Johan chuckled embarrassingly at Zane’s mention of his and Mai’s “fling”, remembering so many occasions when he walked in on them on accident and regretting for having such a good memory.

- Congratulations on your win against that monster, master Crow. – turquoise-head changed the topic, his whole body trembling in fear as Zane just looked at him. He’s not the god of war for nothing…

- Ah, so you’ve heard?! Thank you, thank you! It wasn’t easy, but I turned that huge whale thing into delicious sushi even though I didn’t have conventional weapons to fight him. Luckily, my flying booths really served their purpose and my Blackwings were wonderful!

-Really impressive, especially for a messenger god. – Zane said in a patronizing manner, earning a cold stare from the shorter god.

- I’m the god of thieves and merchants don’t forget those two details. You maybe are buff and feared, but I know how to play dirty.

- Right, right, I’m sorry~ - Zane said in the same tone while giving a light pet on Crow’s head, the war god being fast enough to move away and walk away before the other punched him directly in the gut. – I’ll go see Fubuki, I need to let off some steam.

- Yeah, leave it to winter god to cool off your horny ass! – Crow yelled back, the other god already disappearing around the corner, a chilling scream of Zane’s Cyber End Dragon piercing the sky. – Can’t believe his attitude, honestly. No one appreciates me around here!

- Thank you for your hard work, master Crow. You’re always diligent and right on time. I hope everyone else realizes it soon enough. – Johan said in an overly sweet tone, hoping the other god won’t pick up on underlying mockery, and luckily, he didn’t.

- You always know what I want to hear, no wonder Mai loves you so damn much. – the messenger god gave Johan an embrace so tight the younger god was able to feel all of his bones cracking. – You better go, though. She seemed really pissed about something and I think your presence will soothe her nerves a little.

Oh no…

- Alright, I’ll be seeing you around, master Crow!

With a heartfelt wave, Johan departed even deeper into the main shrine, towards the hot springs where the goddess of love and beauty usually spent her spare time, Ruby and Amber following close behind. After reaching the huge light pink door with two harpies guarding them on each side, he nodded as a sign of greeting and the winged beasts let him inside, the smell of roses immediately attacking god’s nose.

- Mistress, I’m back!

- Ah, Johan! Perfect timing! – Mai exclaimed from somewhere in a huge steam cloud, Johan being unable to see her at first. – Come closer, I’m dressed.

With his face now pale as paper, the young god stepped deeper into the hot springs, now being able to see his mistress sitting in hot water while two rather muscular women brushed her wet hair and scrubbed her back, her body covered in a white bathing cloth.

- Pleasure to make you acquaintance, mistress Mai. – Johan said with his head low whilst getting down on his right knee, both his arrow holder and his bow now resting on the floor in front of him.

- How many times have I told you to stop being so formal with me? – the goddess said in a scolding manner. – I may be your mistress, but don’t forget I’ve raised you for these past five centuries. I don’t want my little brother to be intimidated by my presence.

- I’m sorry… - turquoise-head said in a small voice, barely being able to pick himself up again, his wings even heavier due to the humid air surrounding him.

- So? How was your trip? Did you manage to handle everything?

- I did. The couple will now have a long and happy marriage and will not think of infidelity ever again. I’ve used my strongest spell, as you requested.

- Good. I spent a lot of patience getting those two together because the woman asked me to. I hope she now understands she can’t play me as she wishes. – the blonde said with a huff, a few of her luscious locks slipping down her shoulder and into the water. – Your little friends may go, I have some private matter to discuss with you.

Johan nodded and waved Ruby and Amber to leave to his own chambers, two animals soon followed by the two muscular women who have been tending to their mistress.

- Come, sit closer to me.

Turquoise-head obliged, soon enough seated at the edge of the main pool, his tired feet dipped into the hot water, his leg muscles feeling rather refreshed almost instantly.

-I know you’ve just returned home but I need you to do something for me as soon as your strength is restored. – Mai said in a stern and rather annoyed voice, the goddess now bringing her elegant hands up to her lips. – You know how much I hate when people play with my power like they have a right to it, right? And do you know what I hate even more?

Johan gulped.

- When… when people refuse any kind of love in their life?

- Exactly! That’s my smart boy! – she said proudly while slapping the god’s painful thigh, Johan barely holding in his yelp once again. – Why would anyone refuse love?! It’s a wonderful thing and I don’t believe there is such a thing as a person who will never be loved! As for this case, this one prince really struck a nerve with me.

 - Why is that?

Mai went silent for a few moments, her hands now crossed over her chest as she splashed the water around with her legs like a child that was throwing a tantrum.

- I have to admit… that lad truly is beautiful… and I hate to admit to be a tad envious of him but this wouldn’t be an issue if he didn’t insult the meaning of romantic love and me along with it. Imagine, he said “I don’t need love, I don’t care about it! I just want to travel and make friends!” The audacity!

Johan’s eyebrows curled upwards slightly as he could already guess what his mistress will ask of him, already praying for that poor man’s life…

- So, as you can guess, I want to take small revenge on him. – the goddess cackled sneakily before raising her purple eyes and locking them with Johan. – The spell doesn’t have to be permanent or long-lasting at all, but please make him fall in love with something ugly and gross! Just so I can get a good laugh from it.

Johan’s frown deepened as he looked away, now really regretting the fact he rushed to Mai’s aid when she was this upset.

But he couldn’t really reject her…

- I… It might take me some time to find something gross but alright… I’ll tell you when everything gets ready. – he eventually responded, utterly defeated under her intense purple glare.

- Wonderful! I’m counting on you to entertain me in that regard! – she chuckled before letting out a long sigh and sliding deeper into the water. – You may go now, you look like one of those hideous gods of the Underworld. Take a bath later, it’ll ease your pain.

- Yes, mistress. Have a lovely day.

With a bow and every inch of his body burning with pain, Johan excused himself from the hot springs and headed towards the exit, Sapphire already waiting for him there.

- What are you doing here, friend?! – Johan questioned with a wide and delighted smile as he caressed the Pegasus’s mane.

- Amber and Ruby mentioned you’ve been flying for a long time so I figured I should come and pick you up. You better go straight to sleep after taking a bath, alright, master?

- Of course! – Johan responded as the Pegasus lowered himself so that the tired god can ride him, the two of them soon taking off towards the fifth floating island.

But despite this nice gesture by his attendant, Johan couldn’t shake off the feeling of uneasiness with his next task. He really loved Mai not only because she was willing to raise and protect him after the Rebellion and he was grateful for all she had done for him, but sometimes her requests were…

… so not god-like.

Prince, whoever you are, please forgive me for making you into her puppet. I’ll try to make it up to you… somehow….

Chapter Text

- Your Highness. Your Highness... Your Highness... YOUR HIGHNESS!

- HOLY SHI- Judai exclaimed as he jumped from under his duvet and landed on the floor, his bottom hurting from impact. – Alister! Don’t yell so much first thing in the morning!

- It’s almost noon, your Highness. – burgundy-haired man said as-a-matter-of-factly as he approached huge windows on the right from the prince’s bed, a simple click on the remote control opening the curtains and letting the sunshine in. – Besides, I’ve tried waking you up by normal methods, but as you know, nothing really works when you sleep like a log.

Judai groaned as the sudden light blinded him, his body slowly picking itself back onto the king-sized bed. His head was buzzing and he was still unable to open his eyes properly but still picturing his bodyguard making the most annoyed face ever as he brought in the tray with breakfast into the prince’s room.

- Is my schedule booked today or am I allowed to waste some time? – Judai questioned as the smell of delicious food tickled his nose, making him completely awake instantly.

- You have to perform a lot of duties today, sire, I’m terribly sorry. – Alister said in a rather sarcastic but still respectful tone, a huge tray of food suddenly laid in front of the prince as the burgundy-head recited the breakfast menu. – For today, our cooks have prepared two types of rice balls, some potato croquettes, mini sausages, fried egg rolls, and ham. For dessert, they prepared a plate of pancakes with syrup and vanilla ice cream along with some fresh strawberries and hot chocolate as a soothing beverage.

- Man, this is the only reason why I love my position in this shitty country… - Judai commented as he drooled over the food, chopsticks already in his hands. But before he could stuff any of those delicious appetizers in his mouth, Alister cleared his throat and clicked on his watch, the holographic image of Judai’s daily routine popping up in front of him, already giving the prince a headache.

- Alright, let me introduce you to your duties today whilst you eat. After you finish your meal, dress up, and wash up, you have to go through your list of fan letters as well as the letters lady Blair has sent you. After that, you have math and literature classes after which you need to attend lunch with your family in the main dining room. After that, you have sword fighting practice with your siblings and then….

Judai completely turned off his mind at one point, not even delicious rice balls in his mouth being able to snap him out of this numbness he was feeling.

Every day was the same in that castle and he knew Alister was only doing his job but the young prince sometimes really wished he’d lay off a little with this “duties come first” rhetoric. He maybe was the most unimportant member of Yuki royal family, but his life was indeed such a hassle…

- Are you listening, your Highness? – burgundy-head questioned in a scolding tone, Judai being able to feel his tense gaze on the side of his face.

- I heard it, yeah, I know. Every day is the same. – brunette commented before finishing off all the rice balls, his chopsticks now flying towards fried egg rolls. – I was so damn naïve to think that after I turn 18, things would’ve been different but life only became more complicated.

- Everyone’s life in this castle is busy, my sire. – Alister reminded. – We all have duties to perform or else our kingdom will stagnate and we wouldn’t be able to evolve. Remember, we already have a big autonomy when it comes to some decisions, but most of the rituals and laws of our country are directly tied to what gods decide is right or wrong. If we want to get more independent, we need to work even harder.

- I get that but… - Judai chuckled bitterly before chewing on the fried egg, his brown eyes looking up at Alister whilst his head rested on his hand. – To think a family outcast like me would have anything to do? I don’t even have any position in the court and yet I’m always booked.

- You maybe don’t have an official position like your three older siblings but remember one thing, your highness. –  the burgundy-head ‘s face softened slightly as he sat next to his master. – You’re this family’s most beloved member, at least when it comes to public opinion. If it wasn’t for you, your charm, and your happy spirit, I think the general opinion of the royal family would be nothing other than negative. It’s your job to keep your subjects happy and satisfied just by your appearance and behavior. So don’t you dare say you don’t have any duties because I’ll punch your noble face, sire.

There was a short pause between the two males before both of them burst into laughter, giving each other a fist bump.

- If you weren’t my childhood friend, I’d consider closing you for threatening the royalty. – Judai said jokingly as the older one stood up, his usual mask of seriousness already back on.

- I’ll keep that in mind, your Highness. I’ll leave you to eat now. Remember, meet me at the library at exactly 12:30. Don’t be late!

- Yes, mom! – brunette said as his bodyguard departed, the prince continuing to finish his enormous breakfast before getting off the bed and heading towards his personal bathroom to take a shower.

Less than a half an hour later, Judai was ready for a new day, the black slim suit and red cape being his usual attire when attending his duties. As he walked down the wide hallway, guards and AI greeting him with a deep bow as he’s pass next to them.

- Ju-da-iii~

A wide smile appeared on the brunette’s face as he braced for the impact, someone literally jumping on his back and almost throwing him forward, their legs wrapping around Judai’s waist.

- Good morning, Julia! – the prince chirped as he allowed his sister to ruffle his fluffy hair, the girl then jumping in front of him and giving him the tightest hug. – What’s with this? You’ve seen me yesterday evening.

- Just let me pamper my little brother a little, okay? You have enough of a shitty life here so I’m trying my best to treat you properly. – the woman said with a cheerful tone, Judai returning the embrace almost immediately.

Whenever he’d look at Julia, it was like looking at his own image in the mirror but only in female version: she was almost the same height as he was, the top of her hair was caramel brown while the lower part was darker in a brown shade, their eyes having the same shape and same color. The only differences between them were the fact that Julia’s hair reached her hips and she’d usually tie it in a loose braid, she had bigger lashes than her brother and she had the obvious feminine body and gentler facial features. Plus, she was almost 22 years old. Their royal gowns were also slightly different, the upper part of Julia’s attire being slim while the lower part consisted of a long and fluffy skirt, their capes having the same red shade.

- Heading to answer your mail? – she questioned as they proceeded to walk down the corridor, Judai sighing at the reminder of his daily schedule.

- Yeah. I’d try to slack off but after Alister’s intense lecture and the threat of being punched in the face, I have to make sure I perform my duties diligently.

- I should buy Alister something, he’s taking really good care of you. – Julia noted with a chuckle, earning disapproving stare from her little brother. – Just make sure to read through all the mails properly, alright? Don’t just answer with “Thank you for your support” like you always do. Fans want to feel special.

- Okay, okay, I get it. – another sigh, Judai now raising his hands and knotting his fingers behind his head as his steps widened. – I don’t really understand why I have to answer those emails. And why the hell am I still obliged to message Blair? I thought we were done thing.

- Well, she’s still hoping to become your wife once she too comes of age in two years. I guess she just hopes you’ll change your mind.

- Never. I don’t need marriage, I thought I’ve made it clear to her. I just want to see more of the world. It’s so boring being kept behind these walls all the time but I guess I couldn’t expect another outcome, I am the black sheep of this family after all- OUCH!

- Don’t you dare speak of yourself in such a manner ever again, Yuki Judai! I know father and those two older idiots don’t show it, but you mean a lot to us! To me! I really want you to do whatever your heart desires, but while our father is the king, I guess we all have to perform our duties. Do you think I enjoy the position of financial advisor?! Hell no! But it’ll keep brothers and father quiet so I do what I can.

- I guess you have a point… but I still stand by my word. I will NEVER get married! I don’t need love!

Julia chuckled before patting her brother’s back.

- Don’t say it too loudly, you never know if any of the gods are listening. They might smite you with lightning or something.

- I’ll have them try! – Judai said cheekily, he and his sister finally reaching the library door. – Alrighty, I’ll be off. Good luck with your meeting, Jula!

- Thank you, I’ll need it. See you at lunch, Judai~

Siblings waved each other goodbye before going their separate ways, Judai feeling rather rejuvenated as he entered the library, his bodyguard already awaiting him next to one of their many high-tech computers.

Alright, time to perform my duty!

***

Even though four days have passed since his return to the Sky Shrine, Johan was still able to feel some of his muscles hurting, especially the ones around his wings. Thankfully, he had good company…

- So what’s your task this time? – Sapphire questioned as the two of them slowly descended upon the Capital, the highest tower of royal palace already in sight.

- I have to make the youngest prince of Yuki royal family fall in love with something gross because he insulted his mistress by saying he doesn’t need love in his life.

Pegasus only shook his head and continued flying through the chilly night breeze, the full moon shedding a beautiful silverfish light over the lively city.

As they were nearing the palace and its main and tallest tower where Johan was informed prince’s bedroom was, the young god felt more and more guilty, especially because the arrow he had cast a spell on was ready for usage as soon as he enters the room. Finding a gross monster wasn’t exactly an issue, especially with mountain trolls and goblins that lived in misty valleys of the continent, but Johan still felt incredibly bad for causing this type of distress for Yuki family.

But it was still his duty and he owed Mai a lot…

- What floor did you say? – Sapphire suddenly spoke, interrupting Johan’s thread of thoughts.

- The top floor, I think…

- Wow, it’s like he’s a princess trapped in a tower. Poor kiddo… - the horse commented as he flapped his heavy wings, raising both himself and Johan higher up and towards the top floor, the god noticing there were not even any lights in the hallways of that tower.

Damn it…

- Can you take over from here, boss?

- I’ll be fine, don’t worry. – Johan said with a reluctant smile before flapping his own wings and lightly landing on the window of the prince’s room, arrow and bow already in his hand, ready to be shot. – Go and make a few circles around the city, I’ll be done soon.

Pegasus nodded before disappearing in the sky, Johan letting out one last sigh of regret before going through the glass window and quietly landing in the prince’s room, his hands already getting into a position for shooting an arrow.

But then, a light breeze moved the curtains, and a bit of moonlight pierced into the bedroom, Johan gasping slightly after seeing a glimpse of the prince’s sleeping face.

The young god could feel his heart racing in his chest and a sudden urge arose from the pit of his stomach, an urge to take a better look at the prince…

No, I’m not here to look, I’m here to cast a lust spell…

No means no, Johan…

Ah, damn it.

With a quiet snap of his fingers, the young god materialized a tiny turquoise ball of energy, its gentle light being enough for Johan to take a better look at a sleeping prince.

He was dressed in nothing other than black briefs and a dark gray t-shirt, half of his body half uncovered whilst the other half was still under the duvet. He was slim and of seemingly average height, his fluffy hair spread across the pillow as his chest rose and fell in a slow manner. His facial features were noble yet juvenile, delicacy and elegance radiating from his entire body despite sleeping in such a silly position.

Still, his face seemed somewhat tense as his long lashes resting on his creamy white cheeks, his mouth slightly agape. He just seemed so vulnerable and fragile, like the most precious doll.

And for some reason, Johan couldn’t take his eyes off him.

He could feel his heart racing even more as he got closer to the prince to take a better look, brunette’s sweet scent causing the god’s body to boil from inside out. He could feel his wings trembling and his throat becoming drier, an urge to embrace him and lay next to him almost completely overtaking the turquoise-haired god of erotic love.

Have I pricked myself with one of my arrows? What, in the name of Underworld, is happening to me?!

But Johan didn’t have any more time to answer that internal question, the prince shifting slightly on his bed with the most adorable groan god has ever heard from anyone, turquoise-head now very aware of the way other’s eyes were slowly fluttering open.

Panicked, Johan shut off the small light in his hand and literally launched himself outside the window without a sound, suddenly being short on breath. Pegasus immediately came to his aid, staring at his master’s completely red face.

- Boss?

- We’re leaving.

Confused, Sapphire followed the young god as they ascended towards the clouds, not even the whipping of the high winds being able to cool Johan down.

- Did you manage to do-

- I won’t do it. I can’t, Sapphire.

Pegasus didn’t seem to be too surprised about that sentence, his dark eyes closing as they finally caught enough height for both of them to just float on the wind stream, far above the clouds. Johan then pulled out the enchanted arrow, breaking it in half and throwing it into the air, the material slowly dissolving in the night sky.

- What will you tell Mai?

Johan paused for a moment as he observed the moon, completely sure Aigami is laughing down at his utter defeat in that situation from his silver throne.

- I’ll tell her… I still have to find a beast that will be of good use for her plan. That will buy me some time…

With those words the duo continued to travel through the sky, Johan still unable to get that prince’s sleeping face out of his head…


END OF ARC 1: FLOWER OF THE UNDERWORLD

Chapter Text

It's almost been a week since that young spring god has arrived in the Underworld and during all that time, the king of the darkest domain known to men couldn't figure out what was the deal with that whole incident at all.

At first, he wasn’t sure whether to believe Yugi’s story of “accidentally stumbling upon one of the side entrances to the Underworld” but after consulting all the gods that lived and worked in his domain, including those that were sealed away in the deepest parts of that realm, he realized the young god may not be lying after all.

With almost fifty files flying around him in a digital form, the king of the Underworld scanned all the accounts of the witnesses in the past ten years and most of the said reports regarded someone entering the Underworld by accident. They did have similar breaches through the barrier almost two centuries ago, but with Mana’s spell of protection, this current barrier was almost completely impenetrable.

The only fault of the current barrier, however, and according to Mana’s report, was the fact creatures with a smaller amount of magical energy could still enter it whilst not being completely pushed back like a god would or to be incinerated and burnt alive as a human would be. To them, passing through the barrier seemed like passing through an electric field that only pricked their skin a little.

However, this only counted for creatures such as fairies, nymphs, or sorcerers.

How, in the name of the Upper realm, did an actual god end up passing through that barrier?...

The Underworld let out a loud sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose, a single swing of his hand shutting down all the files floating around him. And after a moment of not moving, the god turned on his heel and approached his working table, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

As he sat in his comfortable chair and leaned back, the king closed his red eyes and tried to recount as much of his first meeting with Yugi as he could…

But as soon as those huge and slightly sharp purple eyes occupied his mind, the king found himself smiling ever so slightly, immediately cursing himself for putting down his shields even for a moment.

Still, it was just so fascinating how similar to one another they actually were. The king could clearly remember the way Yugi’s hair had an equal level of spikiness as his own but the ends of his hair were in much gentler, purplish-pink color compared to his reddish-pink. He didn’t have additional three gold highlights and he didn’t have additional smaller tufts of hair. His skin was so pale and his whole frame seemed just so fragile, almost as if he was a beautiful doll made of glass.

And despite all of those gentle characteristics and obvious fragility of someone who should be considered a rather powerful being, especially because he had a godly status, there was still a glint of something rather spiteful in his eyes, the determination he radiated catching the king of the Underworld off-guard.

But there was something else the monarch remembered in connection to Yugi and that, luckily, had nothing to do with his angelic appearance and radiant beauty.

His level of magical energy was way too low for him to be considered a god.

Before he and his subjects withdrew to the Underworld by a mutual agreement between him and the chief god Seto, the king of the Underworld knew pretty much all the gods that made the entire pantheon, most of them created during or right after the big Rebellion.

And even those born later, who naturally had lesser amounts of magical energy, still radiated power to rather extreme levels.

The king knew for the fact Yugi was probably the last god to be created and become part of the pantheon, but until six days ago, they’ve never seen each other in person so he couldn’t be sure whether this theory of his was right or wrong.

Still… there were two possible reasons for his magical energy being so low.

The first possibility included his very specific field of influence, that being spring and everything related to it. But even with that very specific power, gods like Fubuki who also had power over winter still showcased much higher levels of magical energy compared to Yugi.

Then, the second possibility was almost certain-

A sudden knock on the door of the king’s study interrupted his thoughts as he straightened up in his chair.

- Come in. – he commanded, his voice deep and resonating.

- You sent for me, your Majesty? – Mana questioned as she peeped through the crack in the door, her intense green stare making the king chuckle.

- Yes, come on in. And do not worry, you’re not in trouble.

With an obvious sigh, the blonde goddess entered the workroom, her face immediately brightening up. Still, as soon as she stepped in front of her master and bowed to him with her left hand over her chest, an air of seriousness and professionalism enveloped her entire being.

- What can I do for you, Majesty?

- I assume you’ve heard we have an unexpected guest here in the Underworld, you’re in charge of the protective barrier after all.

- I’m very aware of Yugi’s presence, your Majesty. I apologize for disappointing you-

- It has nothing to do with your failure. – the king immediately cut off her apologetic speech, the goddess lowering her head even more. – You said it yourself, you’re still working on a sufficient enough barrier to keep out other magical creatures and in Yugi’s case, there was nothing you could do. Still, I have a task only you can complete.

The goddess tried to contain her proud smile, knowing she still had to act professionally in front of her king.

- Whatever you desire, your Majesty, I’ll do it.

- Very well… - the king said through the chuckle as he intertwined his fingers. – Take a look at these files. Those are collections of all the incidents when a magical creature walked into the Underworld whilst bypassing the barrier. Do you notice anything interesting?

Mana rose her head and started speed-reading through the five files presented to her, her eyebrows furrowing very quickly.

- All the accounts say they’ve heard someone calling for help and after trying to check who it was, they ended up passing through the barrier.

- And can you guess what Yugi had presented as his reason for entering here?

Goddess’s eyes widened this time around, now understanding her task.

- Alright, your Majesty. I’m on it! – the blonde exclaimed before doing another, deeper bow. – I’ll have Berry and Chocolate go with me but before that, I’ll ask Carly for some shape-shifting potion so no one suspects us breaking the agreement.

- That’s what I like to hear. – the king said through another chuckle before leaning back into his chair, a rather murderous expression appearing on his face.  – You’re dismissed. I hope for some good news soon.

Mana nodded and immediately exited the king’s workroom, her wand already shining with a bright golden light as she summoned her sorceresses. And all the king of the Underworld could do at that moment is sit and wait…

***

- Thank you so much for all the things you’ve done for me. Lady Carly. Lady Ishizu. – Yugi lowered down on his right knee before the two goddesses, the trio currently standing only a few feet away from the exit from the Underworld, the same one through which the young spring god had passed through almost a week ago.

The two goddesses chuckled upon his gesture, Ishizu approaching him and patting his shoulder.

- No need to treat us with so much respect, it’s our duty to help our own kind. – she said in a calming voice.

- It’s so amusing seeing you greet us with the Upper bow, too. You’re simply too adorable.

Yugi’s purple eyes shot up in a panic, convinced he had just offended both of them with the way he greeted them.

- I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do it! What is the right way to greet you-

- Yugi, calm down. – Ishizu spoke again through giggles. – She’s just teasing you. You don’t need to know those things since you’re not part of the Underworld so I’m sure no one will be offended by your showcase of respect. Still, thank you very much.

The spring god nodded and blushed with embarrassment, two goddesses exchanging amused looks before Carly spoke once again:

- Make sure to tell your guardian only the best things about us. We don’t want to feel her rage in any way, shape, or form, especially now when she constantly tries to banish me from the Upper Realm.

- I will, for sure! – Yugi responded with an adorable smile, leaving two goddesses speechless once again.

But the fact was, Yugi didn’t really remember most of his stay in the Underworld. He was mostly focusing on his recovery and was only sleeping after putting an ointment Ishizu and Mahad made for him whilst Carly usually ventured in the human world to get him food and drink he liked. In other words, he was spoiled so much he was sure he’ll never want to leave that realm again.

But he also knew he couldn’t test the patience of the Underworld king, especially not after their brief meeting six days ago.  Every movement of his body or every frown of his eyebrow clearly showed he had a lot of patience but that he was not to be tested by anyone unless they wanted to face their untimely demise.

And despite this intense and dangerous aura, Yugi’s heart would still skip a few beats whenever he’d remember the gaze of those piercing red eyes…

- You better go, young one. The sun will start setting very soon and I’m sure you have a lot of duties to perform. – Ishizu reminded, snapping the spring god out of his trance.

- Oh… right. – Yugi said in a somewhat melancholic tone, causing two goddesses to exchange looks again. Still, once he showed them his radiant and adorable smile, their hearts fell right in place. – I’ll be going then! Thank you once again and I’ll try to give back the favor!

- Good luck, young one.

- Keep working hard.

With one final wave, Yugi turned around and sprinted towards the exit, his chest both feeling light and somewhat aching as he closed the gap between his body and the light. Time to go back to real world…

But none of them expected the thing that happened next.

As soon as Yugi came near the invisible barrier, a powerful magic field launched him back into the cave, terrible rumbling echoing the cave as the god landed with a grunt, both Carly and Ishizu staring at the barrier, speechless from shock.

- W-what just happened?! – Yugi exclaimed with confusion as Ishizu helped him get back on his feet, Carly immediately charging forward and passing through the barrier without a problem.

- It’s just like when a god tries to enter the Underworld without permission… - Ishizu mouthed, a panicked expression flying over her face. – Maybe we should ask Mana to turn off the barrier for a moment-

- Not possible, Ishizu. – Carly reminded as she returned to the duo. – One of the rules we absolutely have to follow is that the barrier can never, ever be lowered, not even for a moment. Also, Mana is not here, she asked me for a shape-shifting potion in order to start some kind of investigation in the Upper realm.

The other goddess’s eyebrows furrowed and she started walking back and forth, completely out of ideas on how to help Yugi.

- We need to contact his Majesty. – she eventually said, Yugi’s heart skipping a beat again even though his whole gut has been filled with nothing but utter panic.

- We can’t! He may get angry… - the spring god said, but Carly was the one to calm him down this time around by embracing his shoulders.

- It’s the only way, Yugi, We maybe are gods of the Underworld, but only our king knows all of its secrets. He’ll know for sure.

Yugi gulped as he observed Ishizu raising her hands so they were in the same level as her necklace with the same eye symbol all the gods possessed somewhere on their robe, the piece of jewelry suddenly shining a blinding light.

- What is it, Ishizu? Has Yugi returned to the Upper realm?

- Your Majesty, we have a problem… - the goddess said in a calm voice, a deep sigh on the other side giving everyone present a small heart attack.

- Say it. – the king growled, Ishizu gulping herself before elaborating.

- For some reason… the barrier won’t let Yugi pass into the Upper realm. It has the same effect as when a god tries to enter the Underworld without permission.

There was a long and tense silence, the three gods only being able to stare at Ishizu’s necklace whilst on the edge of their nerves.

- Yugi? Speak to me.

The spring god immediately felt his knees growing weak as the king said his name, his feet carrying him a tad closer to Ishizu in hopes his voice will be more audible.

- Y-yes?

- I have to ask you a very serious question so be honest, alright?

Yugi felt his heart drop in his stomach, his skin becoming even paler than before.

- I will.

Another long silence ensued, the next few words resonating in Yugi’s mind as if someone yelled in his ear:

- Have you eaten anything that grows in the Underworld?

Chapter Text

Yugi didn't even remember how he had returned to the throne room in the Underworld, his mind hazy and filled with many self-loathing thoughts. And the king’s voice that echoed in his ears didn’t make his situation any better.

By eating those pomegranates, fruit that grows in the Underworld, you’ve become one of us, Underworld gods and you won’t be able to leave until the next time the barrier lowers, which is Summer Solstice.

The spring god clenched his teeth, his tears only a few moments away from spilling, frustration literally eating him inside out as his whole body trembled, Carly having to tap him on the shoulder in order for him to continue walking.

Why was he so useless and stupid? Why did he have to insist on helping whoever that was who called for help? Why didn’t he just turn around and went home after healing that wisteria tree?

Anzu and others are probably going crazy with worry, who knows what they’ll try to do just to bust me out…

- Yugi? – Ishizu’s voice suddenly snapped the younger out of his self-loathing mess of thoughts, his eyes already teary as he looked up at her. – Come, his Majesty will see you now. If you need anything, Carly and I will wait here.

- Y-you won’t be coming with me?! – Yugi said in a shaky and quiet voice, his heart falling even deeper into his gut.

The goddess just shook her head and gave him a gentle push, the red-eyed dragon immediately letting him pass as he let out a long and intimidating growl. Yugi felt his body shaking even more as he walked down the throne room, the intimidating presence of the Underworld king already floating in the air around him.

- I-I have arrived, your Majesty. – the spring god said in his shaky voice as he lowered down on his right knee and forced himself to look at the floor. He could clearly hear the king’s slow but loud footsteps, the sound of his robes flying in the cold air giving the young god chills.

- Rise, I don’t need to be greeted in the same way as other Upper gods.

Yugi cursed himself again as he quickly shot up and looked towards the ivory throne, the king’s red eyes staring down at him mercilessly.

- I’m t-terribly sorry, Your Majesty-

- Keep quiet and follow me. – the king said with his deep voice, his hand waving for Yugi to come up the stairs and follow him behind the throne.

Yugi immediately complied, trying his best not to trip over his own robes or feet as he quickly followed the king of the Underworld.

But when he had reached the top of the stairs and looked behind the throne, he saw a small door leading to a narrow and rather dark hallway, a familiar glint of blue light reaching from deeper inside. The spring god gulped as he stepped inside, only the sound of the king’s footsteps being the thing that led him through the darkness.

And eventually, he finally caught up with him, passing through another door behind which shined a warm, white light.

Once his eyes adjusted to the light, Yugi saw a huge crystal ball in the middle of the room, the king of the Underworld already having his hand only a few inches above its surface.

- Do you know what this is? – the king asked, his red eyes locking with Yugi once again as his expression remained unchanged, stern and threatening.

- Y-yes, Voice of the Future. It can be used to foresee future events and communication if one has enough magical energy to make it work…

The other god chuckled at his response, Yugi unsure whether he had said something wrong or if his Majesty was just amused by his fear.

- I assume Anzu possesses one of these, am I right?

- Correct… - Yugi furrowed his eyebrows, not really sure where the older was going with that question.

But instead of giving him an immediate answer, the king just moved away and waved his hand towards Yugi, the god immediately approaching the crystal ball.

- There is enough energy to make a contact but don’t make it too long.

- W-what do you mean?!

- You have to speak to Anzu, right? She’s your guardian so it’s only natural you tell her about the turn of events. – the king noted sternly,  his eyes sharpening for some reason.

- T-that means-

- Yes. - the older smirked slightly. – You can stay here until the barrier gets down.

Yugi’s heart immediately skipped a beat as he heard those words but he could also feel his chest getting a tad lighter, at least one worry lifted off him at that moment.

With a nod, the spring god rose his hand in the same way the king had only a few moments ago, the crystal ball starting to flicked as he tried to reach Anzu’s own Voice of the Future.

And it didn’t take long for someone to answer his calls.

Suddenly a small orange sheep with light green horns and equally small cat of dark blue coat and purple bow around its neck appeared in the reflection, their eyes glittering almost immediately upon seeing Yugi.

- Little master! – animals exclaimed with their squeaky voices, causing the spring god to chuckle.

- Nice to see you again, Sheep and Cat.

- Where have you been, little master?! We’ve been worried sick about you! – Sheep asked before being pushed to the side by the Cat:

- Lycoris and Rhodode said you’re trapped in the Underworld! Have they done anything to you?!

- No, no, I’m alright, see? – Yugi turned around, making sure little furballs were able to see him before returning to the call. – Can you please get Anzu? I need to speak to her urgently.

- I’m on it! – the Sheep exclaimed before disappearing, the Cat being the one to withhold the connection.

But when Yugi heard those familiar quick and light footsteps, he could feel the blood in his veins freeze for a moment.

- YUGI?! – Anzu exclaimed through the crystal ball, her pretty face distorted in worry and frustration as her light green robes with pink details floated around her, showcasing she’s barely having her powers under control.

- H-hi, Anzu…

- Has he touched you?! Did he trap you there?! I’ll have Kraken or Saber-Tooth get you! No, even better! I’ll have Akiza bring you back with Black Rose!

- Anzu, please slow down! – Yugi pleaded, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest as panic slowly enveloped him. – No one had trapped me here! Ask any of my four fairies! We walked here on accident!

- You may think so, but that bastard is full of tricks! I wouldn’t be surprised if he hypnotized you after sensing how low your magical power is! I know you’re irresistibly cute, but I will NOT forgive him for kidnapping you!

- Anzu, stop! – the god pleaded again, his eyes tearing up once again. – I’m seriously fine! Everyone’s been so good to me for the past week and I’ve recovered completely from the loss of my powers! Ishizu and Carly were more than willing to send me home…

- Why didn’t they then?! What kind of lie did they try to sell you?!

 Yugi bit his lip, unsure of how he should break the news to her, but in that very moment, the young god was able to feel that red gaze on him, all the panic suddenly disappearing from his body as he took a deep breath.

- They didn’t sell me any lie… I made a huge mistake and… I ate pomegranate that grows in the Underworld. It was out of desperation and I was out of options. And before you say anything, barrier threw be back-

- I know about that, Yugi… - Anzu’s voice suddenly became deadly serious, the coldness of her tone sending shivers down Yugi’s spine. – Did he feed it to you? He did, right?!

- Alright, I’ve had enough. – the king suddenly spoke with a barely audible growl in his undertone, the image of his face appearing in the ball as well, Anzu going completely pale upon seeing him.

But then, her dumbfounded expression exploded with absolute rage.

- YOU SON OF A BITCH! GIVE YUGI BACK TO ME! LOWER THAT LITTLE BARRIER OF YOURS AND LET HIM OUT! HE CAN’T BELONG TO YOU! – she yelled through the crystal ball, Yugi having to close his eyes. – You just want what is mine, don’t you?! You’re still angry and this is how you take your revenge, right?! Why Yugi of all things?! I swear I will hunt you down and kill you with my very own hands! GIVE HIM BACK TO ME!

Yugi had a feeling he will pass out, his breath becoming shallow and his hands becoming shakier by a moment.

But after looking towards the king of the Underworld and seeing his unphased expression, Yugi held his breath through a tense silence that arose between him and his guardian.

- You done, Anzu? – the king said in an even and calm voice, his tone so velvety and beautiful.

The goddess was left dumbfounded once again only to chuckle bitterly and brush her brown hair with her hand.

- You’re still so cheeky… curse you.

The king discretely rolled his eyes before getting a bit closer to the crystal ball, his eyes becoming so sharp Yugi could swear they could slice the hardest rock.

- If you’re done, then let me elaborate a few things for you because it’s obvious this youngster here is terrified of you.

Anzu was about to explode once again but the king prevented that from happening by hitting the ball, sparks shooting out on the goddess’s side, and frightening her two tiny servants.

- Firstly… - he spoke in that same voice, Yugi only being able to observe the situation with his mouth agape and his purple eyes glittering slightly. – No one trapped Yugi here, he walked in here unfortunately and that’s not the first time something like that happened.

Anzu once again tried to speak, her blue eyes literally burning with rage, but the king clapped his hands this time, completely muting her out.

- Secondly, it's true I’m known as his closest spawn, but trust me, only He can control people’s minds and I’m rather content with the powers I have. In addition, I don’t even want to have anything to do with the Upper ones in the first place, why the hell would I want to bring Yugi here?

The goddess seemed to finally go quiet, her expression mostly returning to normal but Yugi was still able to see the frown of her brows and a few veins jumping out on her forehead.

- And finally… - he spoke as he had gotten even closer to the ball, a cheeky smirk appearing on his face. – Because you specifically requested for us Lower ones to have limited access to Upper realms, you won’t be able to see your dearest Yugi at least until the Fall Equinox.

Yugi frowned this time around, his questioning eyes locking with the king’s only to receive a reassuring glance.

- What did you just say, you disgusting spawn?

The king only chuckled at her insult, his smirk widening even more as his red eyes literally started glowing.

- Remember? Fall Equinox is the only time when the godly court cases may be held and knowing you, you’ll probably try to discredit me and make Seto punish me in one way or another. So, I’m giving you enough time to prepare for your case and until then, I’ll keep your little plaything right here with me. At least he’ll get some rest from your controlling tendencies.

Yugi could see how much Anzu wanted to yell and scream again, but knowing what the king may do to shut her up, she just took a deep breath and directed her enraged blue glare right back at him, her eyes also glowing intensely.

- Be it your way then… - she finally said through her teeth. – But if I find out that you’ve ever laid a finger on him… not even your dearest Underworld will be able to save you. I’ll kill you with my very own hands and then feed you to my Frightfurs for breakfast.

- I’m looking forward to our case, Anzu. Have a nice day in the Upper Realm.

With those words, the king of the Underworld squeezed his hand and the crystal ball completely shut off, leaving him and Yugi in complete darkness.

Yugi was still so taken aback by what he had just witnessed that he didn’t even realize the other god had approached him and only when he felt his cold but strong grip around his wrist did he realize he was slowly taken back to the throne room.

The two of them walked in silence as the spring god tried to slow down his breathing and heart, his cheeks suddenly on fire.

- I’m… I’m really sorry for this… She usually isn’t like this even with the gods she fought with… - Yugi said in a small voice, his purple eyes having to focus on the floor so he wouldn’t trip.

But the king didn’t say a word to that and instead continued to lead the younger towards the light behind the door.

Once the two of them finally reached the throne room, Yugi bowed deeply once again, two tears escaping his eyes and landing on the black marble under him.

- I’m really sorry! I wasn’t of any help to you and you only got yelled at. I’ll accept any punishment for every insult she has bestowed upon you-

- Yugi, stop talking and raise your head.

The spring god immediately complied, expecting to see absolutely furious king of the Underworld, but instead of that, a hand landed on his head and started ruffling his golden bangs.

- Don’t worry about this, I’m used to get that kind of treatment, especially from her. – the king said in a softer tone, his eyes and all facial features becoming rather tender as their eyes locked once again. – From this point on, you’ll be treated as our dear guest so please feel free to have a tour, there are many god attendants who would want to meet you. And if you need anything, I’ll try to get it for you.

Yugi could feel his whole face heating up, his heart ramming against his ribcage for a different reason completely.

- T-thank you so very much… - he said in a shaky voice, the king chuckling before removing his hand and turning around.

- You’re free to go. Don’t forget, nothing here in the Underworld will hurt you. I’ll make sure of it.

Yugi nodded as he rubbed the place on his head where the king had touched, his daze broken for a moment when a small realization hit him.

- I’ll make sure to learn how to greet you properly, Your Majesty!

The king looked behind his shoulder, an amused smile present on his face.

- I’m looking forward to it, Yugi…

Chapter Text

It's been a long while since Judai had last visited the Obsidian shrine that was stationed at the very left on the Shrine hill in the Capital, probably around five years. He didn't really remember much of his visit back then, mostly because he’s been bawling his eyes out after the loss of his mother, but that very shrine awoke some unwanted tension in the young prince’s heart.

But this had to be done…

- You can come in with me, Alister. – the brunette nudged, his complexion unusually pale. But the bodyguard just shook his head, his tender silver eyes quietly giving him the support he needed.

- I don’t think it’s appropriate of me to hear your prophecy, your Highness. – burgundy-head added, Judai just nodding in response before turning around and continuing to climb the set of black-marble stairs, his bloody-red cape floating behind him on a spring breeze.

As soon as he entered, the scent of incense and lit candles enveloped the prince’s nose, the dim-lit inside of the shrine making it seem as if the shadows are dancing all over the walls.

- Your Highness.

Judai jolted slightly as two priestesses approached him and bowed, their long black robes with an eye symbol on the chest pooling around them.

- What brings you here, your Highness? – the taller one, brunette with her hair up, asked, her expression stern but respectful.

- I… I came to the medium… and to see my mother for a few moments. – Judai explained, finally revealing a small bouquet of white lilies in his hand.

- Certainly. – the shorter one said as she put out her hand, the prince giving her a special black card which had to be scanned upon every visit to the shrine. – You may go now, Your Highness. I’ll be waiting for you in front of the royal crypt and lead you to the medium once you’re finished.

Judai nodded and smiled at two priestesses before entering even deeper into the shrine. His footsteps echoed mostly empty hallways, only a few priests and priestesses crossing his path as he took the left corridor, towards the crypts. For people that could afford to choose the Obsidian shrine as their final resting place, many types of post-death rituals could be offered and priests and priestesses were always making sure the graves were maintained properly even if the family doesn’t visit often. Those who didn’t have the money for the special ritual would usually end up being buried in the graveyard that was located right behind the shrine.

But royal family enjoyed their own type of luxury as a huge mausoleum was built especially for its members inside that very shrine. The protocols of the burial ritual were very strict and most of the members of the royal family were mummified and their bodies preserved in the glass coffins but it wasn’t an obligatory practice.

Judai’s mother, however, never wanted to be mummified.

When the prince finally approached a huge white mausoleum inside that dark and dimly-lit building, two AI guards greeted him before the automatic door opened and he slowly entered. Without looking around the mausoleum and catching a glimpse of his ancestors that looked like they’ve been plunged into an eternal sleep, Judai quickly darted over the silver floor and approached the wall on the very opposite side of the door, a place where urns were stationed.

The prince smiled lightly as he approached the most recent urn placed on that wall, the name and the dates of birth and death of his mother shining on the wall in their gold glint. Judai moved the urn slightly and placed the bouquet of lilies next to it, noticing how there were no recent food offerings or scented sticks anywhere in sight.

The brunette just shook his head before reaching into a small bag he had brought with him and taking out vanilla-scented sticks. After lighting three of them and placing them in the holder, he offered a small prayer for his mother’s soul, hoping she’ll be able to hear him from the Underworld.

- Long time no see, mom. – he finally said after putting hands behind his back. – I’m sorry that no one visited you in a while. I’ll be sure to come with Julia next time, she’d love to bring you some fried shrimp as an offering. But today she was busy sorting out Jun’s mess…

Judai chuckled, that very scent of vanilla causing his eyes to water slightly.

- I really… really hope I’m contributing somehow to this family, I don’t even know if you’d approve of my current lifestyle. But I’m doing my best… - the prince sighed before chuckling slightly and scratching the back of his head. – I’m sorry, I don’t want to bum you out. All I wanted to say is that I’m doing well! And Julia and I miss you every day…

As his own sentence got cut off by a new train of thoughts, Judai shook his head and offered one final prayer before taking a few steps back and smiling at the name of his mother written on the wall.

- I’ll see you soon, mom. Love you.

With those words Judai had swiftly turned around and literally ran out of the mausoleum, not wanting for his emotions to take him over. He still had an urgent business to do…

As he finally exited the mausoleum and greeted AI guards, Judai noticed that short priestess that took away his shrine card smiling politely at him before offering him another bow.

- Shall we? – she asked and Judai nodded, the priestess leading the way through the long hallway.

Soon enough, the duo reached the main hall and Judai was able to see the entrance to the shrine but he knew he was supposed to continue walking into the right corridor, a place where small temples for god worship were stationed. All the small temples had a guardian spirit that was most likely the god’s attendant and every entrance had the same eye symbol drawn on the floor at the entrance.

Judai never really went to any of those temples so he didn’t know what to expect but he knew at least one among quite a few Underworld gods were worshipped regularly...

- We’re here, Your Highness. – the priestess stopped in front of the second temple to the left, the same scent of incense now becoming even stronger. – Have you brought the offering for the great goddess?

Judai nodded as he took out three citrines and showed them to the priestess, the woman nodding politely before giving further instructions:

- Once you enter, you must first throw the offering into a golden plate stationed in front of the medium’s throne. Once the blue flames swallow them, the medium will ask you a reason why you’re there. From that point on, just follow their instructions and when you’re finished, offer a small prayer to the great goddess while saying her name out loud at the end.

- Understood and thank you. – the brunette smiled politely before taking a deep breath, his eyes suddenly falling on a small scripture on the floor, right under the eye symbol.

Thy shall now enter the sacred grounds guarded by the Great Goddess of magic and clairvoyance, Ishizu, mistress of Grave keepers.

The prince gulped slightly as he entered deeper into the small temple, immediately noticing the medium sitting at her throne silently and calmly, a black jackal mask covering the upper part of her face and head whilst her beige and black robes shone slightly on the dim light of blue flames.

Judai quickly approached the said golden plate and threw three citrines inside, the blue flames engulfing them almost immediately as they rose almost to the ceiling, making the brunette jolt and step backward.

But as soon as the flames died down, Judai realized the medium was right in front of him, the woman being shorter than him for a whole head.

- What future shall I foresee for thy? – she questioned in a silent but pleasant voice, Judai regaining his composure before explaining his situation.

- Recently, I mean… about one week ago, I started getting this sensation that someone’s watching me through the window of my bedroom. I never saw anyone but I could swear I felt someone’s eyes on me as I sleep. Can you tell me if I’m wrong and what will happen if someone really does watch me at night?

The medium nodded and reached for the prince’s hand, now looking into his palm as a gently white light radiated from her own hands. Judai could feel as if the light is tickling him but he knew he couldn’t giggle at that sensation.

- There indeed is someone watching thy. – the medium eventually said, sending chills down Judai’s spine. – But they have no malevolent intent. From what I see, they are only interested in protecting thee.

- Can you see who that is?

The medium squeezed Judai’s palm a bit harder, the prince barely managing to hold in a yelp, the slight now becoming stronger.

- For an unknown reason, I cannot see their true identity but I can see it is someone very powerful… like a beast or a monster even.

- But you said they have no ill intent? Should I be worried about the future?

- No. – the medium answered immediately, their tone more than convincing. – Thy may even find their company rather pleasant.

Judai was left there completely stunned, his heart ramming against his ribcage as his fear suddenly transformed into curiosity. A monster that has no ill intent… and I’ll take a liking to them?!

- Are thy unsatisfied with the prophecy? – the medium spoke suddenly, the prince realizing they have silently returned to their small throne.

- No, not in the slightest! If anything, I’m relieved. – brunette said with a chuckle as he noticed even the medium had smiled under her mask.

- I am delighted to be of assistance to you. But do not forget, this is all because of the Great Goddess Ishizu, mistress of Grave keepers. I will now ask thy to offer a small prayer as a sign of gratitude to her divine power.

Judai nodded and got down on his left knee, remembering he was to worship Underworld gods differently from the Upper Gods.

But as he prayed out loud, he knew his mind will only be filled with his mysterious visitor and his heart will not rest until he finally meets eye to eye with them, even if they were a hideous monster…

***

That same night, Judai turned in his bed to face the window, unhappy about the fact the moonlight didn’t shine any illumination on his curtains, making it almost impossible for him to see whether there was someone outside or not.

But that little inconvenience didn’t mean he’ll stop in his attempt to meet this mysterious creature that apparently looks over him.

After his return from the Obsidian shrine, he didn’t tell about his prophecy to anyone, not even Alister or Julia but mostly because he didn’t want them to worry or try to talk him out of his plan. Judai himself was well-aware this situation had a certain level of risk but knowing that his mysterious visitor didn’t have malicious intent, made the whole thing a tad easier to plan out.

And now the prince only needed to wait for his visitor to come again and hopefully not fall asleep…

Judai was barely able to keep his eyes open once his digital clock showed 2 AM but he just slapped his cheeks and continued to lie down in his bed, determined to stay awake until the morning if needed.

And then, only a few minutes after the 2 AM rolled around, a sound of a distant but very prominent flapping sound reached his ears. The prince forced himself to remain in the horizontal position so that the visitor wouldn’t notice he was still awake but that sound sure did become louder with every passing second.

And once the flapping became so loud Judai was convinced the creature is in front of his window, the brunette squinted his eyes, noticing a very faint shadow of… huge wings?!

The sound abruptly stopped as a loud clank echoed the bedroom as if someone had just landed outside the window.  

Judai slowly crawled out of the bed, hoping his visitor wasn’t able to see through the curtains, and slowly approached the window, a thick fabric covering the windows suddenly floating in the air as the prince noticed a pair of feet in white boots and black trousers landing in his room.

- Who’s there?! – the brunette suddenly blurted out, immediately cursing himself for speaking too soon.

He could hear a clear-as-day gasp as the feet disappeared from the prince’s sight and the wings started flapping once again.

- Wait! – Judai commanded as he jumped on up and reached the window. – Who are you?! Why are you looking after me?!

But as soon as he reached the window and removed the curtains, the stranger was gone, only the flapping of wings being heard deep into the night.

The prince angrily hit the window frame, cursing his own curiosity and fast wit, hoping this little shenanigan didn’t scare his mysterious visitor off.

A monster, huh?, Judai thought with a chuckle, his heart once again ramming against his chest.

What monster would have wings that huge?...

Chapter Text

Mai marched back and forth in her pink suite high up on the Sky Shrine grounds, her nerves rather tense and for a very good reason.

As she looked into a huge fountain in the middle of the suite, the light pink water bubbling at the bottom as the small waterfalls made a relaxing sound, she could clearly see all the couples that asked for her blessing or even assistance in their relationship trouble but also a few humans she really took a liking to because of how incredibly beautiful they were, both male and female.

She was more than happy to help each and every one of them achieves what they wanted, those who strive for eternal love being her absolute favorites, but despite everything else going smoothly, the blonde goddess still couldn’t stop frowning at one particular figure showing up in the pink water.

She sat down on the white marble and looked into the face of a young prince of the Yuki family, his days continuing as usual as it seemed, not even a glimpse of a lustful craze in his brown eyes.

Johan is sure taking his sweet time…

Mai crossed her legs as her white robes pooled around her on the floor, remembering how strangely her little underling started to behave ever since he first visited the Capital in order to enchant the prince.

That very night more than a week ago, Johan claimed he wasn’t happy with enchanting an arrow with a troll love potion and he wanted to look for something nastier but that it’ll take a longer time.

Mai agreed to wait at the time, but she soon realized patience was not one of her virtues. Especially when it came to that disrespectful prince who believed he didn’t need love in his life.

It’s like spitting in my face, that little prick!

The blonde angrily kicked the water, the prince’s reflection dissolving and pink drops flying everywhere. She then stood up and stomped around the suite, two harpies guarding the door only watching her every move.

And then, suddenly, Mai chuckled.

She quickly returned to the fountain and made the waterfalls stop, the water soon becoming calm and reflective like a real mirror.

- Show me my favorite boys.

The water started bubbling up again before revealing faces of two rather masculine men, one being shorter but with rather spiky brown hair and obligatory sunglasses tucked in his bangs whilst the other was tall, blonde, and had a rather silly expression on his face.

The goddess smiled as she eyed the two men, a resolution sinking into her mind.

- Darlings! – the blonde called out, blue-haired and orange-haired harpies immediately flying to her side. – I’ll be leaving the suite for a while, I need to let off some steam.

- Are you going to see Master Zane? – the blue-haired questioned as she observer Mai disappearing behind the paper wall, her robe soon falling on the floor.

- He’s with that frigid maniac Atticus, I’m not his favorite anymore. – she answered with a huff, the other harpy then asking a question:

- Then… are you going to see Master Jack?

- That crazy idiot?! Please, right now he must be dead drunk and sleeping under some tree. – Mai retorted, a faint pink glow slowly enveloping her behind the paper wall. – Besides, even though we work great together, he clearly said I’m not his flavor of woman. HOW RUDE!

Two harpies looked at each other before the first one opened her mouth to speak again only to be stopped by Mai stepping out from behind the paper wall, her attire consisting of a light pink sleeveless top, short purple leather skirt, and matching leather jacket as well as knee-high black boots.

- And before you ask, no, I’m not going to Bastion. He maybe is my fiancé, but there is no fire there, it’s an obvious thing. What a shame, he really has no taste. Are you done with your interrogation?

Harpies gulped and bowed to their mistress, her steps echoing the suite as she reached the door.

- Take care of everything here, alright? I’ll wave to you from the Mortal realm…

***

 - Joey! Here you are, mate! I’ve thought you’ve gone home!

The tall blonde man turned around and closed his locker as he saw his two friends approaching him, his work uniform still on him.

- Sorry, had to take some meds for my headache, it hurts like a bitch the whole damn day. – he said before sitting on one of the benches, both of his friends already looking pretty worried.

- Did you eat something bad? I told you not to stuff your face before work! – the taller brunette, Tristan, scolded the guy, Joey just shaking his head.

- Did you have a nightmare again? – the other one, Valon, asked as he sat next to the blonde, his blue eyes piercing right through Joey’s skull.

The blonde just chuckled at that question before leaning forward and looking at the floor, his headache slowly subsiding.

- You really know me well. – he said with a grunt as another painful flinch almost split his head in half. – It’s just so frustrating. It’s obvious my brain is trying to remember something from before I was thirteen but honestly if my head is going to continue to hurt me this much, I don’t need those memories.

Two brunettes exchanged looks before Valon hit the other across the back, making him fall on the floor.

- No need to be so dramatic, mate. The science is developing quickly these days, I’m sure they’ll find the way to make your headaches go away and your memories return eventually.

Joey just directed the brunette an annoyed look before picking himself up and starting to take off his blue overalls.

- But you never know! – Tristan said in a very excited tone. – His memory loss may not be easily handled just by medicine as you said.

- Whatcha mean? – the blonde’s eyebrows furrowed as he stripped down only to his underwear, a smug expression suddenly appearing on Tristan’s face.

- What if your memory loss has been caused by none other than gods?! Then, only they can lift the spell!

Both Joey and Valon looked at the brunette rather dumbfounded before bursting into laughter.

- I mean, I know I’m considered to be an idiot, but really?! – blonde said through giggles. – Gods stealing my memories?! Please, I’m nobody! Why’d they want anything to do with me! They only see me as someone who will worship them.

- But, ya know Joey, Tristan may have a point! – Valon pointed out in a mocking way. – Didn’t you say you’re able to sense the presence of gods before?

- Oh shut up about it! I was drunk as an ass when I said that! – Joey retorted as he finally started dressing up in his casual clothes, his attire consisting of a white t-shirt, jeans, gray sneakers, and a green jacket.

- Still, you could argue alcohol gives you some sort of power, yeah? – Valon continued to mock the other, almost earning a batch of keys to the head.

- Shut your smart-ass mouth and let’s go I’m starving.

The trio soon left one of many changing rooms in the factory complex, the guys greeting the workers of the night shift that were slowly incoming. It took them a good ten minutes of fast walk to finally exit the huge facility, the wing they worked at specializing in creating physical material of the magic that fueled the planet and that was the essence of all living things on that planet, including the gods that basically ruled over them.

- You think we’ll be able to get some time off during summer? I know we’ve just recently returned from our leave during winter, but my hands are so full of blisters I have no idea how long I’ll be able to work. – Tristan complained as they checked at the reception and greeted the security guard, the sound of busy streets acting like music for Joey’s ears, especially after a long working day.

- Depends on your work, smart guy. – Valon retorted whilst walking with his hands behind his head. – The more you work, the more you’ll be liked by the section boss and he may be merciful enough to let you have a few days of leave.

- But make sure not to bitch about your blisters, ya know sick leave is also counting as days off. – Joey scolded jokingly, unable to do anything else when it came to their particular predicament.

Tristan could only groan at their answers, the blonde feeling the same amount of pain and annoyance as his friend.

- Why wasn’t I born in a royal family!? I’m working my fucking ass off and get only bread crumbs while those assholes get to live in that fancy palace and do nothing but bitch every single day!

Valon swiftly hit the other brunette across the head, a few people looking their way as they slowly entered the shopping district of the Capital.

- Do you want us to get in trouble, idiot?! – the shorter brunette whisper-yelled. – If they land your ass in prison, you can bet it will only get worse from there so shut the hell up and do as you’re told.

These two sentences caused Tristan to completely flip out in the middle of the street, two brunettes immediately starting a fight as Joey pretended not to know them. He was aware they didn’t like each other very much for various reasons, but arguing in the streets was even too much for Joey’s standards.

And while getting away from the arguing pair and crossing the busy intersection, the blonde sighed relief as he realized his headache has finally subsided, leaving his mind to think more clearly… particularly on what he was supposed to eat that night: ramen, okonomiyaki, curry or some roasted meat.

I could really take all four in All-You-Can-Eat buffet but I’m kinda short on cash and the next salary is a light-year away, Joey thought as he whined internally, his eyes flying around all the restaurant and buffet signs and brain simply not being able to comply with the wishes of his stomach.

 But as soon as it seemed he’ll finally make a proper decision, Joey felt a very faint chill going down his spine, something compelling him to look into the alleyway only a few feet away from him.

- Oh come on, baby girl, you’ll have a great time with the three of us.

- I told you I’m not interested, you pesky mortal. Now move, I’m looking for someone- HEY!

Joey picked up the pace and was clearly able to see three rather big guys ganging up on a short blonde girl in a purple outfit, the tallest guy grabbing her wrist while the other two tried to grab her waist and head.

- Joey? What’s going on?

The blonde was only faintly aware of Valon’s voice in his ears as he took off his jacket and threw it at Tristan, adrenaline rushing into his body almost instantly.

- That girl’s in trouble… - he muttered as he dashed forward, the darkness of the alleyway almost completely swallowing him up, both Tristan and Valon running after him.

But no matter what those two had tried to tell him, there was no coming back. He will help that girl…

Chapter Text

- Don't try to resist, dolly. You know you'll like it... -  a tall and rather stinky man said as he tightened the grip around Mai’s wrist, the goddess clearly feeling other two guys waiting for the opportunity to latch their filthy hands onto her once the opportunity arises.

- I said let go… - the blonde said in a rather threatening voice, her purple eyes piercing through the man’s skull as she tugged at the hand that was holding her in place, the man almost losing his balance.

- Hohooo~ You have claws! – the man said with the most disgusting smile Mai had ever seen on a human being, the goddess feeling vein popping up on her forehead.

But in the next moment, her blood froze for a moment upon seeing a short but shiny blade being taken out of the man’s pocket, his two companions letting out a hyena-like cackle. – But we’ll, unfortunately, have to trim those claws so behave yourself if you don’t want me to ruin your pretty face, understood?

Mai remained silent for a moment before smirking cockily.

Alright, playtime is over…

- And what if I say I won’t? – she said in a deep and threatening voice, already feeling her purple eyes illuminating in the darkness of the alleyway, all three men taken aback by what they were seeing.

But before the goddess even managed to snap that man’s wrist in half, she caught a glimpse of someone familiar in the corner of her eye and decided to go with a different tactic…

- HELP ME! SOMEONE, PLEASE HELP! – blonde yelled and started kicking and screaming, somehow managing to make tears roll down her eyes despite not feeling helpless.

- Get yo’ dirty hands off her, ya scum! – a familiar blonde man yelled as his fist landed directly into the tallest man’s face, making him tumble backward and take his two friends down with him.

- Hey, that’s Maya! – other familiar brunette exclaimed, his form immediately crouching next to “shocked” woman, Mai having to hold in her own cackle before looking up at her two saviors.

- Valon! Joey! Oh my god, I’m so glad you’re here! – the blonde cried out before leaning into the brunette’s chest, his strong hands wrapping around her almost immediately.

- It’ll be alright, Maya. We’ll protect you now… - he whispered, the goddess catching a brief glimpse of Joey’s envious expression.

That’s right… fight for me, that what I like…

But then those men started picking themselves up, their pissed-off expressions making Mai immediately realize what was about to happen…

- Look out, Joey! – she yelled out desperately, the blonde man turning around right away with his fists raised and a stern expression on his face.

- It’s rude to interrupt other people’s fun… - the tall man hissed, the pocket knife shining in his hand while his friends got into a position.

Joey snorted, a cheeky smile appearing on his pretty face.

- You should learn how to treat ladies if you want to have some fun, as you say… - the man said before spitting to the side, Valon soon getting to his side. – Come at me, assholes!

- Maya, move to the side, this’ll be ugly… - Valon warned, the goddess complying while still having her façade of a scared little girl.

The fight soon broke loose, fists and feet flying all over the place, punches landing on various body parts on both sides, the alleyway echoing with painful groans and a sound of fists hitting flesh. Still, Mai was pleased to see her boys were slowly but surely winning, not even caring for the third guy that had appeared behind her and prepared to get involved himself.

Now all she needed is to cheer them on a little and they’ll completely annihilate those cunts-

Goddess’s eyes picked up a change in a formation from the ugly trio, two shorter guys swiftly ganging up on Valon while the tallest guy charged at Joey at full speed, his blade faster than blonde’s movements.

The night air vibrated with the sound of Joey’s yelp as the knife slashed right across his chest, Valon still being too busy with the two guys to jump to his aid while the third guy just wasn’t fast enough to reach him.

As Mai watched one of her favorite humans stumble backward, right into his friend’s arms, the goddess clenched her fist and dropped the innocent act altogether.

This isn’t worth it…

Mai then raised her hand, three perfectly formed white pearls appearing between her fingers.

I now bestow a curse upon thee so that your bodies do not move until the next dawn. No one can recall this curse but me. BEGONE!

In the next moment, three pearls flew through the air and landed directly onto the foreheads of her assailants, their hard surfaces digging deeply into their skulls until the skin absorbed them completely.

And just like that, three men completely froze, their stone-statue posture causing them to fall on the cold asphalt with a painful groan. The trio of her saviors seemed really surprised by that turn of events but at least now they could take care of the important thing…

- Guys, are you alright?! – Mai put on her innocent act once again, immediately rushing to Joey’s aid, his white t-shirt stained with his own blood, an open wound clearly visible.

- What the hell just happened?... – the taller brunette questioned as he looked at completely stiff bodies of their assailants on the ground, Valon quickly checking his blonde friend’s vital signs before hissing.

- LATER, Tristan. We have to take him to the hospital, pronto!

- R-right! – the other brunette nodded before helping Valon carry Joey across the alleyway, Mai following closely behind them, giving one last dirty look to those three filthy rats.

It’s all your fault for ruining my fun tonight…

***

- Fucking shit, Joey! You should really lay off ramen for a while! – Tristan whines as he and Valon brought the blonde inside of his apartment, Mai already turning on the lights and making the couch somewhat comfortable to lie on.

- Steady now, boys. – she instructed as two brunettes slowly lied their friend on the cushion, Joey grunting upon impact.

- Ow! Do I look like a sack of potatoes to you?! – he complained, his complexion rather pale.

- Hey mate, you’re not the only one who’s hurt, ya know? – Valon hissed at him, the bruise on his left eye becoming more visible ever since they returned from the hospital but at least his lip wasn’t bloody anymore.

- But I did get slashed across the damn chest! – Joey continued to whine while Mai put a blanket over him, her purple eyes looking down at him scoldingly:

- Doctor said it’s only a surface wound and that it won’t even leave a scar if you let it heal properly. – the goddess sighed before sitting next to him. – But you still have a mild concussion so better take care of yourself.

With those words, the goddess ruffled Joey’s thick bangs and he leaned into her gentle touch, Mai very well aware of Valon’s envious stare.

- Alright, I’m beaten and it’s pretty late. I think I’ll head home… - Tristan yawned and stretched his arms, completely unaware of the tension that arose between the trio.

- Yeah… I think I’ll go too. -  Valon muttered as he pulled his sunglasses out of his pocket and put them in his bangs.

- Wait for a second! – Mai called out. – I have to make it up to you somehow for saving me. How about we order takeout and after that, you go home? I’ll order you a taxi and pay for all the food, how does that sound?

Two brunettes exchanged looks, Tristan obviously all for it but Valon’s hesitant gaze was what worried the goddess the most.

- You don’t need to repay us for saving you from those scumbags, it’s a natural thing to-

His calm and collected speech was immediately interrupted by his very own stomach grumbling loudly, making the short brunette blush while Joey and Tristan chuckled mockingly.

- Come on, don’t be shy. – Mai winked at the brunette with the sunglasses, his face becoming flushed right away. – It’s not our first time eating together in the middle of the night…

- Where’s the flyer from that fancy restaurant, Jo? I’m craving something delicious but greasy. – Tristan once again interrupted subtle flirting, causing Valon’s slightly annoyed expression.

- It’s on the fridge, moron, as always. – Joey grumbled as he turned away from the goddess, Mai immediately picking up on the change of his tone.

- Can we leave him to you for a few minutes? – Valon questioned as he turned on his heel, the goddess giving him an affirmative nod before him and Tristan disappeared into the kitchen.

- How are you feeling, Joey? – Mai asked, ruffling his hair again. But this time around, he moved away from her touch.

- I’m fine, leave me alone.

The goddess was left dumbfounded for a brief moment before bursting into quiet laughter, causing the blonde to look up at her.

- Are you sulking, Joey Wheeler? – she asked through the giggles, the man turning away from her again just like an angry child.

- Why do you even care, go and talk to Valon some more, it’s obvious you like him more! – he said in a quiet voice, making the goddess giggle even more.

- Now, now, I’ve told you already… - Mai said as she leaned on the man’s shoulder, his body trembling for a moment boosting goddess’s ego. – I love both of you very much and I can’t choose one over another, especially because both of you have done so much for me in the past year.

Joey moved slightly, his warm brown eyes locking with goddess’s purple ones for a brief moment.

- Well, you’re the one always getting in trouble, like you don’t know how big city works or…

- Or what, Joey? – Mai pressed, leaning even more against the man’s body, making him shiver once again.

- Or how men react when they see a gorgeous woman like you… - Joey muttered, his face red from nose to ears.

The goddess chuckled again before planting a single peck on man’s cheek, Joey literally hiding under a blanket after that gesture.

- I sometimes forget about my appearance, yes… - she muttered as she straightened up on the couch. – But I’m really glad I’ve met both of you. Hanging out with the two of you makes me really relaxed and I cherish every moment.

- Oh right… - blonde peeped from under a blanket, Mai suddenly getting an urge to pinch his cheeks. – You said you have a stressful job… but you never went into details.

Goddess sighed and adjusted a blanket covering the blonde and also made sure his pillow was positioned properly.

- Well, it’s kind of classified… but know I work with lots of people and that isn’t very simple… especially if you have to handle their own problems for them. So being with you and Valon on occasion… really makes me happy.

Joey smiled before closing his eyes, his expression so serene and sweet.

- Well, you do the same for me and Valon… - he said as he slowly drifted to sleep. – Our life ain’t easy but… but seeing you and being with you… really is important for both of us…

With those words, Joey fell asleep, causing the goddess to chuckle once again. And just then, she became aware of quite a heated argument in the kitchen, Valon insisting for them to order ramen with their fried chicken while Tristan insisted on spicy noodles.

Mai stood up, more than ready to sort out the mess that was ensuing in the kitchen but before she took off, she looked at Joey’s sleeping form one last time, a tender smile appearing on her pretty face.

You really are my favorite human…

Chapter Text

Yusei had just finished his prayer and stood up back on his feet, the small temple enveloped in a sweet scent of roses as he looked up at a statue of a short-haired goddess with bow and arrow, her expression stern and focused yet noble and beautiful as small bushes of various roses grew at the statue’s base.

- Have you finished, sire? – a small fairy of whiteish-blue hair flew up to the young man, her robes floating all around her as she tried to stay in one position so that she could keep a proper conversation.

Yusei smiled tenderly and bowed his head to the fairy.

- I am, thank you for having me again, Angelica.

- I shall escort you then! – the fairy chirped and soon enough, the two of them were on their way through the entrance of Rose temple and down the hall in the bigger shrine, a few priests and priestesses crossing their path.

- You’re here quite often, sire! Is there a reason for it? Are you intending to do something that requires my mistress’s assistance? – Angelica questioned once they reached the foyer of the Earthly shrine, the pillars holding the main structure being decorated with season flowers while the dark emerald color gave a feeling of cold sophistication yet divine presence to the whole building.

- No, nothing like that. – Yusei responded before adjusting the bag on his shoulder. – I just feel at ease here. It’s been rather stressful in the Research facility lately so I need any relaxation I can get.

- Oh! Then I am indeed glad you have chosen to spend your time in presence of the Great Goddess! I am sure her Excellency will find it most pleasing!

Yusei smiled again before bidding the small fairy adieu, his feet quickly carrying towards the exit of the shrine. On his way down two sets of stairs, the young man greeted various people, mostly farmers, and florists from outside the downtown area, who came to visit the shrine in hopes to appease gods of the Earthly realm. Plus, the spring was in full swing right now, people just wanted to be on good terms with the gods…

Raven-head soon exited the shrine grounds and reached the parking lot at the very bottom of the Shrine hill, his eyes very briefly flying towards the Obsidian Shrine located on a completely opposite side from Earthly Shrine.

Mental note: bring more offerings for both mother and father next time you come here…

With that thought on his mind, Yusei jumped on his red chopper and started the engine, aware that he needed a miracle if he wanted to arrive at the Research facility in time.

As expected, noon wasn’t exactly the best time of the day to travel through the city but Yusei didn’t really get easily mad at the traffic jam, at least until no one tried to pick a fight with him…

But as he waited to finally start moving again, the raven-head looked up at the sky, its clear blue color soothing his tired eyes while a few clouds traveling over the horizon made the whole sight even more breath-taking.

He sure enjoyed spring the most, not only because nature was finally awakening from its winter slumber but because his favorite goddess got a lot of attention from people all around the country and mostly because of her connection to wildlife and forest.

But even though Yusei liked to see Akiza’s temple being visited more frequently and many offerings people have left for the pretty goddess, he sometimes still missed those quiet moments where he could just spend time in front of her statue and let his thoughts ease up a little…

A sudden honk caused the young man to jolt and he immediately sped up as the traffic jam cleared up a little, Yusei using the advantage of driving a chopper to bypass some rather troublesome places on the road. He was still late but at least not too much…

Ten minutes later, raven-head parked his chopper in the underground garage of the Research facility, his feet quickly carrying him towards the elevator where he pulled out his white coat and put it on, all emotion draining from his face as soon as he reached the wished floor.

- Welcome, Dr. Fudo! – the receptionist greeted the young man with a smile on her face, Yusei only giving her a polite nod as he sped up towards his study, aware he still needed to change to a different pair of shoes before entering the lab.

- Late again, sir?

Yusei stopped in his tracks as he heard a familiar and joking tone, his face softening slightly as he saw his green-haired intern.

- I’m sure you know where I was, Fujiwara.

The young man nodded before handing Yusei a stack of papers neatly folded in an envelope, raven-head barely managing to suppress the urge to roll his eyes.

- More reports I assume?

- Unfortunately. – Fujiwara said in a sympathetic tone. – The whole complex is soon going to be visited by the king and his family so the boss wants to make sure research of magical material goes as planned and considering you’ve taken over the job from your father, they expect you to report every little detail.

Yusei sighed before sending Fujiwara off to help Rafael in the lab until he too graces them with his own presence, already seeing the following week will be really fun…

***

It was almost 5 PM when Yusei exited to the facility’s small botanic garden for a break, his back feeling rather stiff and his eyes becoming itchy from being slouched over the research table for two hours straight.

- Mind if I join you?

Yusei’s eyebrows rose as he heard a familiar, deep voice, a man that was almost double his size and with short blonde hair soon standing next to him.

- In need of some fresh air, huh? – the raven-head questioned with a chuckle as the two of them entered deeper into the garden, the sound of birds chirping in complete contrast with the loud murmur of the Research facility.

- Well, I did spend more time in the lab today compared to you, boss.

Yusei chuckled apologetically while not really changing his facial expression.

- Sorry, sorry, I was visiting my parents and I had to pay a small prayer to Akiza.

- You should really set up a tent on shrine grounds, you’re there almost every day. – Rafael joked whilst putting the hands in the pockets of his white coat.

- Not a bad idea but I don’t think that’s allowed, especially because some gods have a certain type of temper…

The taller man just shook his head with a tired chuckle.

- As expected from dr. Fudo’s son, you really do know a lot about the gods and their habits, as if you’ve met them all in person.

- Oh, I wish I did. – Yusei said jokingly. – It’s mostly because of my father’s detailed notes. He did dedicate half of his life researching those entities so my adoration for them was only given.

Rafael just nodded affirmatively, the duo finally reaching their favorite place to relax during their break: a small stone bench right under the plum tree that was in full bloom, its white petals flying on the gentle breeze.

Yusei literally dropped onto the stone surface with a painful sigh, his back not feeling any better even after taking a little walk. He could feel Rafael’s worried gaze on his temple but he decided not to react to it in any way.

- Have you been doing that “other research” again, my friend? – the blonde suddenly asked, quietly enough so no accidental bystanders could hear him.

Yusei refused to show any type of reaction to that question but his dark blue eyes still locked with Rafael’s, their gaze sharp and scolding.

- Yes and I might finally be able to find something useful, especially after going through father’s notes again. It may take me some more time, but I’m getting there.

Rafael returned an equally sharp yet worried gaze, his defeated sigh and eventual headshake showcasing his understanding of how stubborn his boss was.

- I would really like if you’d just stop with that. Not only are you putting yourself in danger by going against everything this facility preaches and researches but you may also endanger people who are not even aware of what you’re doing.

- What, you’re afraid for your position? – Yusei asked in a sharp tone, the blonde wincing slightly at that sudden shift in the atmosphere.

- No, I’ve already told you I’ll do everything to help you but I’m still worried. Just remember what happened to your dad ten years ago, this may really be a huge gamble and if they come after you, it’ll all be for nothing-

- I won’t let them scare me into not doing the right thing. – Yusei said sternly as he crossed his fingers and leaned forward, his gaze focused on nothing in particular as he tried to contain sudden seething fury in his gut.

A tense silence rose between two friends, Rafael unsure of what to say next only to start chuckling, leaving raven-head slightly confused.

- You really are like Dr. Fudo…- the blonde said through giggles. – I remember when my own father brought me here for the first time, I’ve never seen a man so passionate about his work before, especially when it came to his undercover research.

Yusei chuckled this time too, an image of his father suddenly flashing before his eyes.

- That’s why I don’t want for all of that to fall into ruin. Even if I end up suffering the same fate he did, people will understand why we need gods… and why distancing ourselves from them will only end up badly for all of us-

- Dr. Fudo!

Two scientists immediately straightened up on their seats and pretended to talk about the plans for the rest of the day as Fujiwara suddenly appeared from around the corner, his expression rather puzzled and somewhat flustered.

- What’s up, intern? – Rafael teased, the raven-head only giving him a scolding glare as he stood up and approached the third scientist.

- What’s the matter? Did something happen in the lab? – Yusei questioned calmly, making sure to appear assertive to obviously distressed Fujiwara.

- N-no, nothing like that, I swear! – green-haired man grabbed Yusei’s shoulders and shook him slightly. – B-but here is someone who came to see you, Dr. Fudo. I wasn’t sure what to do since they said they’ve been here before and that they could enter without a problem but I was still worried someone will scold me for letting a member of the public in here so I brought them here-

- Slow down, Fujiwara! – raven-head said through a confused chuckle, now really curious about his visitor. Unless…

- Well, bring them in here since you’ve already let them inside! – Rafael prompted, causing the green-haired man to nod and disappear around the corner yet again.

But as soon as he had returned with the mysterious visitor, Yusei could feel his face slowly softening and a tender smile appearing on his lips.

The girl was much shorter than Fujiwara, her burgundy-colored hair being quite an eye-catcher, especially in the surroundings of the botanical garden. She wore her high school uniform while her expression showed sophistication but also cheerfulness, her light brown eyes locking with Yusei’s almost immediately.

- Aki! Welcome back!...

Chapter Text

It was a hot summer night in June when the young goddess of Hunt, Akiza, flew across the forest in her chariot pulled by three tiny rose dragons, her eyes sharp and noticing every single movement in the trees or under them.

Humans had another one of their parades, this time to pay their respects to the mistress of all gods and goddesses, mostly in hopes she’ll keep their families together and the young mothers happy and strong.

A goddess such as Akiza, while not being directly connected to this ritual, still had a job of making sure there were no misdeeds or not following the ritual traditions. But she was only one of the other ten gods with this task…

The burgundy-haired goddess finally caught a glimpse of small lanterns, a dimly illuminated path lead by a long procession of people opening under her chariot. Everyone was in their high spirits, laughing, singing, and praying, the sight of small children running around in their white and blue robes causing the goddess to chuckle a little.

Still, she had to warn her little animal friends.

With a single swing of her right hand, Akiza sent off a strong wind across the treetops, her ears clearly picking up the sound of many little critters and other, larger animals running across the forest grounds, most of them moving away from the procession or hiding.

No one shall hunt or hurt a soul in this forest tonight.

- We should move. – the goddess whispered to her three dragons, the small creatures grunting and yelping in agreement as they flipped their wings and started moving the flying chariot again, Akiza not even having to snap their harness.

But then, an ear-piercing explosion caused the goddess to wince and almost lose the balance in her vehicle.

She could hear the song and laughter subside for a moment as the procession halted their advancement towards the Indigo temple but aside from a few moments of silence, it seemed as if nothing happened to the people under her.

But where was it then?!...

The burgundy-haired goddess looked around the dark horizon illuminated only by Aigami’s moon, her eyes not being able to pick up anything unusual for a moment…

…until she noticed a huge cloud of black smoke rising from somewhere in the downtown.

Akiza’s eyebrows furrowed, unsure whether she should abandon her current post and check out what had happened but a huge part of her was all for staying in the current position.

Should I call for Aster or Shizuka? Maybe Ryo? They were supposed to be in this area…

Goddess frowned deeper as the scent of burning metal and rotten wood slowly floated her way, her whole body becoming uneasy.

That would be the smartest decision but… I’m the only one with a chariot…

Akiza looked towards the huge black cloud once again, now noticing the bright orange flames slowly dancing in the night as the sirens of emergency services roared through the city. And not even them will be able to reach that place in time…

With a single swing of a leather harness, the burgundy-haired goddess directed her dragons towards the burning mess, her heart threatening to jump out of her chest. What the hell is this feeling?! Why am I concerned about something that’s not my domain?!

But despite those thoughts, the only thing the goddess could do was ride towards that hellish fire, the air around her soon engulfing in that suffocating burning smell and smoke whilst the sparks flew all around, making the air incredibly hot.

She eventually landed her chariot on top of a building only a few blocks away from the explosion site, aware that she’ll have to reach the place on foot.

Akiza put the seal of invisibility on her chariot and quickly jumped into the air as her feet flying her across the various buildings as she heard many humans yelling down on the road. She soon landed right across a huge building that has slowly been swallowed by large flames, firefighters, and ambulance evacuating people of the research facility nearby.

 Seems like I worried for nothing-

- Help… someone… please….

Akiza felt shivers run down her spine as she heard a faint, croaking whisper, her head automatically turning towards the highest floor of the building.

And as she cursed her incredibly good sense of hearing, the goddess launched herself right into the flames of the top floor, the barrier keeping the fire at bay but only for a short period of time.

She slowly walked through the burning corridor and tried to resist the urge to immediately jump out of the building as her skin became hotter and hotter, but the more her mind told her to run, the louder that plea for help became in her mind…

- Where are you?! – she called out, immediately hearing the same croaking sound from her right.

The goddess took out one of her wooden arrows and shot at the door, the force of her launch causing the door to immediately dislocate and fall flat onto the floor of the apartment that was not yet engulfed in hellish flames.

And there, she saw a man laying on the floor, his bottom half squished under a huge metal cabinet.

The goddess rushed in as the man barely managed to raise his head to look at her, Akiza only then noticing he was laying on top of someone…

- Take him… - the man croaked in that same desperate voice the goddess heard in her head, her chest immediately tightening as her heart dropped in her stomach.

Akiza crouched down, her eyes now moving from a small boy with grayish spiky hair and yellowish highlights, his tiny body lightly pushed away by his father. The goddess pulled him up completely, just then noticing the boy was unconscious and that he had a huge slash on his left cheek that was still bleeding.

- Stay here, I’ll come for you… - burgundy-head whispered as her eyes locked with the older man’s, his neck and body obviously too weak to even move anymore.

- Well, well, who’d think our little Akiza would be saving humans!

The goddess winced and jumped back, the little boy still in her arms as she looked up towards the metal cabinet that was still in tack despite the upcoming flames.

- Zane! – she whisper-yelled, feeling her barrier is slowly starting to weaken. – Are you responsible for this?!

The god of war just shook his head, his usual cheeky smirk causing Akiza to frown even deeper than before.

- Not at all, I’m just here for the bloodshed and chaos. It’s my domain after all. – he said before looking down at the man crushed under the metal cabinet, his eyes now barely open as he looked at his son in the goddess’s arms. – But this might be a problem, don’t you think?

- What are you talking about? – Akiza’s voice shook, the pit in her stomach only widening as she felt the urge to run.

- Well, you know our law forbids us from helping humans in our godly forms, right? Interfering with human destinies is strictly forbidden! – Zane said in a theatrical manner, imitating their leader before bursting into laughter.

- You wouldn’t… - the goddess hissed, her hands gripping around the small boy’s body as she slowly backed away.

- Oh, I won’t tell a soul! Here! – the god of war jumped onto the floor and made a small X sign on his shoulder, the symbol shining for a moment before disappearing. – I give my word I won’t tell anyone if…

- If? – Akiza pushed, her barrier almost completely dissolving around her.

- If you leave this man here to die. – the green-haired god said with the same smirk. – It’s his time anyway, at least that’s what I’ve heard from Mahad.

Akiza could feel her eyebrows folding upwards, her vision suddenly becoming blurry as she adjusted the grip around the unconscious boy in her arms. After a short pause, she wiped her tears with her hand before nodding, her chest heavier than ever.

- Good girl! Now go! Genie is on her way here and you don’t want any more witnesses, do you?

- What about the boy? You don’t want him? – the burgundy-head asked with a stern expression but a shaky voice, her body automatically shielding the unconscious child.

Zane just shook his head and chuckled.

- It’s not his time yet so I guess it doesn’t hurt that you picked him up. – with that word, Zane turned around and crouched next to the dying man, Akiza watching as the last bit of light slowly disappeared from his eyes. – Go, goddess. This building will soon go boom.

Burgundy-haired goddess immediately launched herself towards the window in the room, the wood under it acting as a strong enough springboard for her to jump onto the building across the street, the grip on the boy not loosening for a moment.

It took her only a few minutes to reach the place where she had left her chariot, aware of the fact that the little boy started wiggling slightly in her arms. But luckily, one of her attendants was already waiting for her orders.

- Mistress! – a small male fairy with a blonde bob and dark green outfit called out in a frenzy but as soon as he saw Akiza holding a human child, his face went completely pale.

- Don’t ask questions, Laurel. – the goddess said in a stern voice. – Open the portal to the temple and put the boy there, under the statue. The Shrine hill will soon be filled with people, someone will help him.

The blonde fairy took one look at the unconscious boy but nodded nonetheless, his wooden staff decorated with laurel leaves and with a yellow lantern on top soon glowing more intensely as the portal opened before them.

Akiza then put the boy down as Laurel made him levitate and flew with him into the portal, the goddess alone once again with her three dragons.

And as she observed the building before her slowly burn down and the absolute chaos that was ensuing on the ground, the goddess of hunt covered her eyes, warm tears rolling down her cheeks…

***

- Long time no see, Aki! – Rafael said with a chuckle as a short woman approached him and Yusei, a school bag in her hand accompanied with one more paper bag.

- Indeed. – burgundy-head said before turning to Yusei and smiling. – I hope you’re not overworking yourself as usual. You know I’ll have to be stricter with my scolding.

The man chuckled, his expression clearly softer compared to his usually serious face.

- I’m trying not to do anything reckless because I know you and Rafael will have my head. – he said through a giggle. – How was school?

- Same old and boring. Not a problem for a model student. – the girl said with a wink, now clearly feeling the third guy, Fujiwara, literally on a brink of exploding from anxiety. – Don’t worry, everyone here knows me, you won’t get in trouble. – the girl assured.

The man visibly sighed with relief, causing the other three to chuckle.

- Did you bring us something today too? – Yusei asked as he noticed the paper bag in Aki’s hand, the girl blushing slightly before handing him the bag.

- Some baked pork buns with sesame on top and three types of donuts, just to give you some energy during a long workday.

- A-are you going to share that, boss? – Fujiwara asked, causing his raven-haired senior to chuckle again as he accepted the bag.

- Of course. Aki always brings a lot of food, so much that both I and Rafael don’t manage to eat it all in one day.

The girl chuckled at that compliment, taking a better look at Yusei as he kept talking to his colleagues.

He was almost triple the size of his scrawny self when Akiza found him, especially in the height department, the scar left by that huge slash now covered with a yellowish mark that reached from the bottom of his eye down to the cheek and ended at his chin. His shoulders were also much wider and his voice became deeper, the goddess only then realizing how grown-up her portage had become…

But just as the girl was about to say something, she felt a slight vibration inside the pocket of her school uniform, her time with Yusei cut short once again today.

- I think I’ll have to leave you now, boys. – the girl noted with a sad expression.

- Mom again? – Yusei asked with a chuckle before patting her on the head and saying: - Go, you have a job to do.

Akiza just pouted adorably before moving away, her cheeks flushed slightly.

- Make sure to eat all of it! I’ll have exams soon so I won’t be able to come as often! – she said as she started to walk away, Yusei giving her a nod and waving at her, causing her heart to flutter once again.

- Don’t worry Aki! And good luck with your exams! We’ll eat these with gratitude!

Akiza smiled widely before backing around the corner, her face still slightly flushed as she ran back into the building and across the hallway, making sure other humans couldn’t see her as she reached the exit. And whilst the invisibility shield was still on her, the goddess of hunt ran across the street and towards the central park of the city, Yusei’s face being the only thing in front of her eyes.

Even though she’s been visiting him in secret or in her human form as much as she could in the past ten years, only today did it dawn on her that the little boy she carried out of the burning building might not need her protection anymore.

But despite his obvious maturity and seriousness, Akiza could feel her chest filling with joy whenever Angelica would say her favorite human had visited her temple, her urge to see him again only growing minute by minute.

But that urge couldn’t be fulfilled as often as she wanted, especially not with what has been happening recently…

Akiza finally reached the place shrouded in the invisible barrier inside the huge park, her school uniform dissolving and revealing her burgundy robes as her chariot and two of her attendants waited for her arrival.

- What’s the status Cananga? – she asked a green-haired male fairy with a white beret on his head, the man adjusting his glasses before looking at his staff.

- The monkey monster is currently on the outskirts of a desert about 100 miles away from here. Lady Shizuka and Master Ryou are waiting for your arrival before charging into the battle.

- Will you be able to make a portal, Jasmine? – the goddess then asked a small fairy with silver hair and cloaked with a light-indigo robe.

- No problem, Mistress! We’ll be there in a moment!

Akiza nodded before boarding her chariot, her three rose dragons on stand-by. And soon enough, Jasmine’s staff started glowing in almost blinding silver light, a huge portal opening right before the trio. The dragons immediately charged forward, the two fairies barely having time to grab on their mistress’s robes before being pulled into the portal.

Soon enough, they have arrived at the place of the future battle, the first thing grabbing Akiza’s eye being a huge monkey-like creature of obsidian-black skin and glowing yellow marks all over its tail, head, and body.

- Lady Akiza, over here!

The goddess turned her head before jumping off her chariot and sending it away from the battlefield, a brown-haired goddess in light pink and yellow robes coming her way.

- How come the two of you are in charge of this battle? – burgundy-haired goddess questioned as the third god, the one with shoulder-length white hair and in turquoise and blue robes joined them.

- Other gods have other important business and besides, both of us were nearby doing our own things so we were ordered to take care of it. – Ryou explained.

- And we called for you because we knew you’re an excellent fighter, unlike the two of us… - Shizuka said in a small voice only to be patted on the head by the older goddess, her warm smile soothing the brunette.

- Don’t say that, you’re a goddess! You’re freakishly strong so don’t ever doubt it. – she said with a determined voice, her brown eyes locking with Ryou as well. – Shall we send this abomination back where it came from?

- Yes!

- We’re right behind you, lady Akiza! – Shizuka and Ryou exclaimed, determination clear in their eyes.

Burgundy-head then looked towards the creature, Cananga and Jasmine soon standing by her side as Shizuka and Ryou also called fourth their own attendants: brunette for a bunny-hybrid girl in an emerald-green jumper and a crescent moon covering her eyes while her white and long ears floated on the wind as she gripped onto her hammer. Next to her was also a woman of short hair and in a night-blue tuxedo, horn-like blades being attached to her back as the same crescent symbol covered her right eye.

Ryou was also joined by two fairies, the first one being a small chubby man with beard and mustache and dressed in orange robes and with a huge paintbrush in his hand while next to him stood a small boy of brown hair, small red horns on top of his head and with a huge crayon in his hand, his yellow robes floating on the desert wind.

- Come, White Rabbit, Black Sheep! – Shizuka called out before jumping in the air as the white-haired god also yelled into the distance:

- Thunder! Sun!

- Yes, master! – the two fairies exclaimed before jumping after their master, all of this commotion attracting the look of a huge, monkey-like monster.

- Let’s do this… - Akiza mouthed before sending off Cananga and Jasmine, a bow and five arrows already in her hand…

Chapter Text

Yugi's eyes slowly fluttered open only for his sight to be greeted with gentle light of blue flames that have illuminated his own chambers in the Underworld. But as he slowly rose up and rubbed the sleep away from his eyes, he realized he didn’t have much choice of what to do while staying there.

He did go into every single approachable part of the Underworld, remembering all the stories Mana, Mahad and Ishizu had told him as well as remembering a few sealed-off areas or locked doors which the trio of gods told him to never even approach, let alone open.

And considering the fact he was just a guest at that place, it would be rude not to listen to the word of his hosts…

Yugi slowly stretched out his limbs on a huge bed, the only undergarment on his body being a thin robe that covered his hips and upper parts of his thighs. He then quickly jumped off the bed and approached an enormous wardrobe built into a stone wall of his chambers, countless dark robes acting as his substitute clothes in case his original robe wasn’t ready for him to wear in the morning.

But luckily, as always, a single royal-blue robe stuck out among the rest, and Yugi chuckled before grabbing it and putting it on, the scent of incense with his regular jasmine scent.

And before he could properly adjust the robes, a familiar sound of small mechanic doors next to his bed opening grabbed his attention, the spring god smiling upon seeing the breakfast someone had to fetch from the mortal realm for him.

He quickly approached the table and lifted the metal tray, the scent of delicious food making his stomach growl. There was some rice seasoned with sesame seeds, fried egg rolls, fried meatballs, potato salad along with broccoli, peas, cherry tomatoes, and apple for dessert, a glass of milk resting next to the two golden plates on the tray.

As he ate, he realized it’s been almost a whole month of him being forced to stay here in the Underworld. But it honestly feels like an eternity…

Yugi mentally slapped himself for thinking that. He shouldn’t be feeling ungrateful, everyone’s been treating him so nicely during his whole stay there. But still, no matter how much he appreciated everyone’s hospitality, to think he had to spend five more months in the Underworld made his chest sink…

After finishing the rice first, Yugi decided to eat the meatballs but not even their delicious scent and even better taste could make his mood any better.

Even though the Underworld was a massive realm, there were still so many places he didn’t have access to, and not because someone told him it’s their domain and he’s not welcomed there but rather because those areas would be extremely dangerous for an Upper god like him to visit.

He still did have some time to chat with the gods he had already met during his first days in the Underworld but those meetings weren’t as long as Yugi wanted them to be, mostly because all of those gods still had their domains to take care of and were busy with their duties and serving their king.

To demand anything more from those wonderful gods would be a sign of disrespect, especially if he wanted to ask for… his company.

After finishing the last of three meatballs, Yugi put down the fork and sighed heavily, his appetite completely gone.

Ever since that incident with Anzu and their little banter, Yugi had barely been able to see the king of the Underworld. The young god would always feel his presence, especially when touring the Underworld in the first few days of his visit and the times when they’d actually end up in the same place, the only thing Yugi could do was to pay the king a timid glance or a discrete wave, the king always making sure to greet him back.

Being so close to him yet so far… it wasn’t enough.

Yugi groaned before his head landed on the table next to the silver tray, the dishes clanking against one another upon impact.

He really was the worst. Did he think the king of the Underworld will be there just to entertain him?! He is a leader of his domain! He doesn’t give a damn about you, Yugi…

As always, you’re just a useless nuisance-

A sudden knock on the door caused the young god to wince and straighten up, ignoring the intense pulsation on his forehead.

- C-come in! – he called out, a familiar head soon poking out.

- Sir Yugi? – a sorceress of pale greenish skin said with a smile, her green hair and robes floating around her as if there was a breeze gently pulling them around, her huge staff glowing gentle emerald light. Her eyes quickly widened as she noticed the half-eaten breakfast, the spring god already panicking internally. – Do you not like the food I brought for you?

- No! No! I mean, YES! I love it! – he insisted. – Everything is really delicious, I just don’t have much of the appetite today, that’s all.

- I can still go and fetch you something else if this isn’t to your liking-

- NO! – Yugi jumped forward and bowed to the sorceress. – Wind, it’s alright, really! I promise to eat everything later. Thank you so very much for bringing me food today!

- Sir, you don’t need to bow before me. – the sorceress chuckled before tapping his shoulder, the god immediately shooting upwards, his cheeks flushed.

- D-did you need me because of something? Can I help somehow? – Yugi questioned, hoping to change the topic before he drops dead from embarrassment.

- Oh! Right! – Wind opened the door wider, four small see-through spheres shortly floating into the bedroom. – Whilst I was on an errand, these ladies said they wanted to meet you.

Yugi frowned only to notice four small bodies literally jumping up and down inside small spheres, the god recognizing the four fairies almost immediately.

- Master! – a small blonde fairy in an orange dress exclaimed before bursting her sphere, her small body landing on top of Yugi’s head.

- You’re alright! You really are! – the one with a tiny top hat and peach-pink hair exclaimed through tears as her small body embraced the god’s left cheek, making him chuckle with embarrassment.

- We were so worried because of what we heard! – the third one said, her blonde hair tied up in buns on top of her head whilst her green and black fluffy skirt floated around her.

- Looks like these Underworld gods take good care of you! – the last one said with an amused chuckle, her long lilac hair flying behind her as she landed on Yugi’s right shoulder.

- I hope you weren’t this rude towards Ms. Wind, hm? – the spring god asked with a rather stern expression, all four fairies letting out surprised yelps before hiding in his spiky hair. – Candina! Nightshade! Narkissus! Corobane! Behave, please!

- We’re sorry! – the quartet said whilst still being hidden behind their master’s hair, Wind letting out an amused chuckle before nodding and theatrically saying:

- I accept thy apology!

- I-is this alright? Are you going to get in trouble because of this? – Yugi asked with a worried expression, the sorceress playfully shaking her head.

- Mistress Carly knows about this and I’m sure his Majesty will also approve. – she assured. – Just make sure to bring them near the exit by dusk so they can return. While being in those spheres, they “charged” their magical energy and should be able to spend some time in the Underworld. Also! I made them small talismans to prevent their powers from leaking too early.

- You mean like a spell Carly used on me when I arrived?

- Something like that but my magic is no match for my mistress. – Wind said with a wink before greeting the quintet and going about her business.

- You know I’m a little disappointed in you guys… - the spring god said in a stern tone and through an adorable pout, his little fairies letting out another yelp.

- WE’RE SORRY! – they exclaimed in unison, causing Yugi to burst out laughing.

- You better be! – he said through giggles. – Do you want to share some of my breakfast with me? There is a lot of food from the mortal realm delivered to me daily.

- YES! – the quartet exclaimed, Candina immediately noticing the half-empty tray and leading the others towards it.

Yugi could only watch them with amusement, thankful this day won’t be the same old boring as the others…

***

- Are you really sure everything’s alright, Master? You look rather pale… - Nightshade asked as she flew next to Yugi, the young god giving her a tender smile before tickling the top of her head.

- I haven’t seen the sun in the past month, it’s normal I’m pale. But… - he said with a long sigh. – It’s something I’m responsible for because I ate those pomegranates back then. I should’ve thought of a better way-

- But there was no better way! – Narkissus insisted, her small body preventing Yugi from walking forward as her angry expression caused the god’s eyebrows to rise. – You did that to save Lillybell and others! With no plant life down here, how were you supposed to help!? You couldn’t just let them die!

- I know but… - Yugi insisted, his purple eyes suddenly becoming darker. – If it wasn’t for me, this whole situation could’ve been avoided. I only made things more complicated for everyone, especially for the Underworld king who allowed me to stay here while I’m waiting for Autumn Equinox…

The quartet exchanged looks only to have Corobane join the blonde fairy in front of the god’s face, the lilac-haired fairy putting hands on her hips as she scolded:

- He’s very gracious indeed! So gracious that he didn’t even give you a proper garden!

Yugi chuckled nervously at her claim whilst glancing around, aware they were in the middle of a wide hallway where anyone could hear them.

- That’s true! – Candina agreed from the top of Yugi’s head. – You really love to take care of plants, especially the flowers that we were born from! King of the Underworld is powerful, I’m sure he could do something for you! What a terrible host!

- Hey, now. Don’t be rude, he let you in his territory. – Yugi reminded them in a stricter tone, his chest slowly squeezing as he continued to glance left and right.

- Well, such things need to be said, Master! You’re a spring god! What does he think you’ll need the most?! – Nightshade added, Yugi now feeling the vein on his forehead popping up as he tried to remain calm and collected.

He really didn’t need for anyone to hear this banter-

- But there are limitations, even for my power.

Yugi felt all the blood freeze in his veins as he heard that familiar, velvety, and deep voice from somewhere down the hallway, an ominous aura becoming even more prominent than usual.

The fairy quartet yelped in terror before hiding behind their master once again, the spring god clearly feeling trembling of their tiny bodies against his back.

And then Yugi saw him.

King of the Underworld walked towards him in all his glory, his dark robes hanging from his shoulders and revealing his chiseled and tanned chest, his red gaze giving the younger god shivers even from that distance. His slow steps echoed the empty hallway as the cape flew behind him, making him even more intimidating and majestic than he already was.

Yugi immediately got down on his left knee with his left hand over his chest, finally remembering the way he was supposed to greet all Underworld gods…

- I… I truly apologize for their rudeness, your Majesty. They don’t know how to behave in the Underworld so I plead you to forgive them and their foul mouths.

The king stopped just a few inches away from the young god, Yugi aware of another sudden yelp his fairy friends let out as the mighty ruler glared at them from above.

- I think they should be the ones apologizing. – the king spoke in that incredible voice again, the quartet immediately going in the deep bow before him, all the way on the floor.

- WE’RE REALLY SORRY! Please don’t harm our master! – they said in unison, a short pause ensuing after that very sincere apology.

And suddenly, the hallway was filled with the king’s amused laugh, Yugi only then noticing reached out a hand which finally made him raise his eyes.

- I would never hurt your master. – the king said through an amused chuckle, his red eyes luring Yugi into their depths until the young god felt as if he was going to drown in them.

The young god accepted the other’s hand, the king’s strong grip making him stumble slightly only to be supported by him, Yugi very aware of his face burning up like never before.

- I’m really sorry once again… - the spring god whispered, his whole body trembling as the king still held his hand and kept him close to him.

- Don’t worry about it, I’m used to such treatment from the Upper ones. – the older god literally purred close to Yugi’s ear, another wave of shivers instantly going up and down younger’s spine. - But I should be the one to apologize for not giving you a proper garden.

Yugi gasped before looking up at the king but before he could speak even a word, the older god looked down at the small fairies and said:

- This is the Underworld, little ones. People come here to die and stay dead. Not much is able to survive here and not even I am able to change that fact. Aside from those pomegranate trees you’ve probably heard of, nothing else is able to grow in the depths of this hell.

All four fairies lowered their heads in shame before flapping their wings again and rising in up at the level of king’s eyes, Narkissus being the one to speak up despite her whole body shaking in fear before the ruler’s might:

- It was ignorant of us to speak in such manner of you, your Majesty. We’re still very grateful for treating our master with your hospitality and we’ll be sure to never be rude in your realm ever again.

- You better. – the king said in a slightly threatening tone only to chuckle once again after seeing how pale the quartet became.

What goes around, comes around I guess…, Yugi giggled for himself.

- But even though I can’t give him a garden, I can still do this…

The spring god didn’t even have time to react as he suddenly felt a very light but prominent weight on his head, his four fairies gasping and squealing with joy.

The king then made a subtle motion with his hand, a mirror appearing right next to them only a moment later.

Yugi’s eyes watered slightly as he looked at his own reflection.

Every inch of his head and hair was ornated with all sorts of colorful gemstones, all of them creating a stunning flower crown whilst posing as different types of flowers. There were rubies shaped like roses, amethysts shaped like lilies, pink topazes shaped like cherry blossoms, pearls shaped like daisies whilst their emerald and peridot stems connected them all together, small diamonds falling from both sides of Yugi’s head.

- This is so beautiful… - the young god whispered, a tear rolling down his cheek only for it to be carefully wiped away by this incredibly intimidating king.

But despite that intimidation, Yugi couldn’t help but melt under the gaze of those warm red eyes…

- I know they aren’t like real flowers but this is all I can give to you, Yugi. – the king whispered. – If you want, I can make a whole Underworld cave decorated with these flowers and have you tend them. I know it’s not like taking care of the flowers, but at least you won’t be so bored down here.

Yugi blushed heavily once again. How did he…

- No, it’s too much for me to ask and you’re already busy enough-

Suddenly, a beautiful blue rose made only of crystals appeared in the place where Yugi’s and king’s hands connected, the young god gasping once again as he accepted the beautiful gift.

- I insist. That’s the least I can do for you… - the other god said with a tender smile, the sharp lines of his face suddenly becoming incredibly tender.

Yugi chuckled as he brought the flower up to his chest, a shy nod causing the king to chuckle amusingly once again. The younger suddenly felt incredible and light energy filling his chest, his heart threatening to jump out of his chest as a smile widened on his face.

Thank you, my king…

Chapter Text

- You may come in, Mana, you're not disturbing me. – the king of the Underworld noted whilst having his back turned to the door, his eyes focused on blue flames dancing in the fireplace of his study.

He could clearly hear the doors of his study slowly opening, the goddess of protection literally floating in without any other sound.

- Are you sure I’m not disturbing your rest, your Majesty? – she asked, the king too focused on the blue flames and their soothing light to even feel any shred of annoyance.

- Not in the slightest. – he assured. – Did you manage to find anything out?

There was a short pause, the king already knowing what the answer the goddess is going to give.

- We had some clues but unfortunately… we don’t really know what caused all of those creatures and… sir Yugi to enter the barrier so carelessly.

The king sighed before standing up from his chair, his red eyes locking with Mana’s the second his head turned towards her.

- Still, tell me all the clues you and your girls have found. Maybe I’ll be able to help you a little.

- B-but-

- Tell me. – he commanded in a more stern tone as he started walking around the room, the cape floating behind him even though he didn’t make any sudden movements.

The goddess hesitated but she rose her staff and waved it around, its golden glow creating a literal stack of papers on top of her master’s desk. The king whistled at the sight, an amused smirk appearing on his face.

- In short, all the incidents seem to be linked to the same area or the cave sir Yugi entered the Underworld. – Mana explained. – Berry managed to deduct that no magical creature or god could have been calling for help since there were no traces of any magical energy, not even on the place where sir Yugi entered.

- Could it be a human doing it? – the king questioned, his red eyes piercing through the goddess’s skull intently.

- Chocolate had the same theory! But unfortunately… - the blonde said as she lowered her head. – We weren’t able to prove that theory. And we looked around the area too! Carly’s ladies really helped us out but we were able to find nothing, unfortunately…

- What a mystery this is… - the king said in a somewhat amused tone, covering the slight annoyance he was feeling at his own inability to find anything out. And then there was that other thing that worried him, specifically tied to Yugi…

- Keep working, Mana. No matter how long it takes, find out the truth. – he ordered, the goddess immediately kneeling down on her left knee and lowering her head even more before her king.

- I won’t disappoint you this time, Majesty. – she said before turning around, the king clearly being able to see the resolve she was feeling in that moment.

- Oh, Mana? Can you do me one little favor before you leave?

- Yes! – she exclaimed, her green eyes glittering at the chance to redeem herself in any way possible.

- Could you please send for Crow? I need him to deliver a message to our big boss about something.

Mana seemed somewhat confused by that request but she eventually nodded, smile widening on her pretty face.

- I’ll send Berry to look for him and he’ll be here as soon as possible!

The king nodded and finally dismissed the goddess, now finally being left alone in his study to try and relax a bit more. He sat back at his chair, his red eyes once again focusing on flames that became slightly larger than before.

But no matter how much he tried to relax, one thing on his mind just wouldn’t let him be.

It’s been a whole week since his encounter with Yugi and his little fairy companions in that hallway and the king himself couldn’t believe what had come over him when he made that crystal flower crown.

The mere thought of that makes me want to hit my head against the wall…

But even though he clearly remembered an immense embarrassment he was feeling after the whole ordeal, he still couldn’t get that sweet smile and tears of joy the young spring god had shed after seeing his own reflection in the mirror, as if he believed he wasn’t worthy of looking beautiful or even being called beautiful…

And because of that very same sweet expression, the king of the Underworld made sure to create a crystal flower garden just for his young guest and it took him only a few moments to do just that. The older god didn’t really understand the appeal of the flowers he had created or did he consider them particularly valuable, but things did change once he showed Yugi his newest creation.

It’s needless to say the spring god was elated with the sight, his eyes flying all over the large cave as he approached every crystal bush and every single bud that was shining under blue lanterns.

And just by watching him run around that cave and let out shy gasps and giggles, the king of the Underworld felt his chest tightening for the very first time in his long existence.

If possible, he was willing to watch Yugi run around and laugh all day long…

But those thoughts didn’t matter right now, not when so many mysteries regarding his arrival and his very being were still hanging in the air. The king of the Underworld hated the fact he didn’t know many things about his guest, especially the reason for his low magical energy, but that’s something he’ll have to swallow his pride for in order to find out.

Especially if he meant to reach out to Seto…

The king sighed before closing his tired eyes, the cracking of blue flames in front of him being the only thing he heard before falling asleep…

***

You’re not a god at all! Look how weak you are! Ha ha ha!

Why do you care for all of those flowers, they’re worthless and ugly!

Oh, look! He’s mad because we’re stomping on them!

Crybaby, crybaby!

You’re crybaby god!

You unworthy…

Filthy…

Human scum…

Wah! His eyes are red!

Ow! It hurts! My legs hurt! Mommy!!!!!!

Die…

Die.

Die!

DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE!

ALL OF YOU SHOULD JUST-

***

- Ah! – Yugi yelped as he straightened up in his bed, his whole body trembling from head to toe whilst he tried to wipe the sweat off his forehead.

At first, the young god didn’t remember where he was exactly and an urge to cry upon seeing the darkness of his bedroom became almost overwhelming. But after seeing that single blue flame still burning next to his bed, Yugi tried to breathe in properly in order to calm down a little.

His legs were still shaky once he stepped onto the cold floor, his sleeping robes being the only thing shielding him from the sudden cold that had enveloped him. His breathing was slowly coming back to normal, but his heart was still painfully beating against his chest, threatening to burst any moment as the feeling of absolute dread continued to wash over him.

He had really hoped those nightmares have gone away once Anzu started cleansing his chambers back home, but the fact he had spent more than a month in a place like Underworld caused all of his fears to suddenly resurface in the worst possible manner.

Yugi just continued to walk up and down the room, his heartbeat slowly calming down and the feeling of coldness disappearing, his eyes finally adjusting to the darkness in the room. He wasn’t sure for how long he had been walking but he knew he won’t be going back to sleep that night, not after what he had just seen in his dreams.

So much blood, oh dear Heavens…

The god rubbed his eyes, hopeful to erase the images that were still flashing before his eyes.

He knew all of those scenes were somehow connected to the time he had spent regaining his strength after being born post-rebellion, but at this point, he wasn’t even sure whether all of those dreams were just tricks of his mind or something that had really happened.

Don’t worry, they’ll go away soon…

As Anzu’s gentle voice echoed in his head, Yugi gulped and sat back on the bed, finally being able to take a deep breath properly without feeling immense pressure in his lower chest.

But in the midst of his anxiety and his mind trying to play dirty tricks on him, the young god’s eyes fell onto the flower crown he was gifted one week ago.

He hurriedly scooted over to the bedside table and picked it up, the cold surface of colorful jewels somehow feeling very soothing and warm, as if he was once again being gazed at by those beautiful crimson eyes…

Yugi whimpered quietly before bringing the crown up to his chest, warm tears slowly starting to flow down his cheeks as he tried to call upon the image of the only one he wanted to see at that moment.

Help me, my king…

I’m so scared…


END OF ARC 2: LORE OF ATTRACTION

Chapter Text

- Sir, Misty is here to see you. – a man in a white lab coat noted as his boss kept looking at a huge screen in front of him, various locations around the Capital area and the whole continent showing up sporadically.

The man sighed as he heard light footsteps approaching, a woman with long black hair soon standing next to him.

- You don’t have to give me an official report, Lola. I already know you didn’t capture her. – the man said calmly but a bit of annoyance was still rather prominent in his undertone.

- But we did manage something, Sayer. – the woman noted before handing him the files, the man’s eyebrows furrowing upon opening them.

- Oh, so you managed to mark two Upper gods. – he said through a bitter chuckle. – Not so bad after all. But you know damn well who the two that I want are.

Misty nodded upon catching the files her boss literally threw at her, an urge to punch him square in the face being rather strong at that moment.

- We’ll make sure to mark or capture at least one of them once the opportunity arises. – she said through her teeth, not wanting for Sayer to see her annoyed expression. She won’t give him that satisfaction…

- You said that month and a half ago and what happened? That little adorable thing literally walked into the Underworld before your eyes. – the man shook his head as another chuckle escaped his lips, his eyes once again glued to the screen.

- It won’t happen again. Not with him or the one you want the most-

- Don’t even think you can capture great goddess of hunt that easily. – Sayer hissed, a mocking smile ticking the raven-haired woman even more. – Your best option is to mark her but considering your recent performance, I doubt you’re even able to do that much.

Misty bit her tongue and bowed down to her boss before turning on her heel and walking out of the research room.

- Next time I see you, I want to hear some good news, Lola! Think of Toby!

The woman had to stop for a moment to regain her composure, her silverish-blue eyes drilling the literal hole in the back of Sayer’s skull. But there was no way she’ll be provoked like this. Not when she was supposed to do her work and ensure the safety of the one she couldn’t protect before….

- I’ll make sure to bring you splendid news next time, sir…

***

 Judai turned on his bad for who knows which time that evening as his eyes would constantly wander towards the opened window, a hope of hearing the sound of those flapping wings not subsiding for even a moment.

Almost a whole month after that little incident with his monster-guardian had passed but the young prince didn’t want to give up on his hope of eventually meeting that mysterious figure.

He tried staying up every single night but as the days continued to go by, his tiredness got the better of him and he would just collapse on his pillows before he could even register any type of sound in the dead of night.

On few occasions, Judai could swear to hear those wings flapping near his window but at this point, he wasn’t even sure if that was just his imagination or his guardian actually came to check on him from time to time.

Still, this was the night he’ll make sure he’s not mistaken about those mysterious visits, and considering he had consumed an unhealthy amount of coffee and energy drinks during the day, he sure was thankful for his mind being so buzzed.

All he needed to do now was wait…

But as he turned his back to the window, he felt as if his eyelids have turned into brush paper, his eyeballs burning all over and begging him to close his eyes for only a moment. But Judai didn’t let his own body do as it wants, this was the night he’ll finally-

The brunette froze as he heard a rhythmic sound outside his window, the rhythm, and the volume being rather quiet at first. But as Judai concentrated on the sound more, there was no doubt it was exactly what he’s been waiting for.

After pinching his cheek and his arms to make sure he’s really awake, he slowly got out of bed and tiptoed towards the window.

The sound wasn’t getting louder, Judai letting out a frustrated sigh before clearing his throat.

Well, you asked for it.

- HELP ME! SOMEONE, PLEASE! I’M BEING TAKE- MPH!!! NGHHH!

Prince blocked his own speech with his hand, now going completely silent in expectations of what his mysterious guardian will do next.

For a very short moment, the volume of that flapping sound didn’t change but soon enough, his guardian had slowly gotten closer and closer, his feet soon landing on the edge of the window and Judai being able to somewhat see his guardian’s silhouette through the curtain.

- Do you see him, Ruby? – the man spoke silently, causing the prince to suddenly get shivers all over his body.

- No, boss. I’ll take a closer look… - someone answered in a high-pitched tone, Judai only then noticing a small creature on his guardian’s shoulder, a reddish light glowing on its tail.

The little guy jumped into the room and started sniffing and looking around, the prince knew he had to act quickly before the creature could alarm its master.

Without any warning, Judai launched himself at the curtain, wrapping his hands around his guardian’s larger body, and pulled him into the room, the guy grunting and trying to release himself from the brunette’s grasp.

- GOT YOU! – Judai exclaimed as he hurriedly tried to remove the curtain from his wiggling guardian, a grin of satisfaction beaming on his face as his heart pounded against his chest.

But just in the moment when the curtain finally came off, Judai’s eyes closed… and he wasn’t able to open them again.

- What the-?! – the prince grumbled, trying to use his hands to open them forcefully but his eyelids just wouldn’t budge.

- Very clever using your own safety as a way to lure me in. – the man with wings spoke again in that slightly higher but velvety voice, Judai able to feel his closeness even with his eyes forcefully being closed shut. – Remember this as the last time I even came near you-

- S-STOP! – Judai yelped as he panically grabbed onto what seemed to be his guardian’s robes, the man stopping dead in his tracks immediately. – I’m… I’m sorry for doing this but I had to! You didn’t want to come near me after I called you out one month ago!

The man hesitated, the brunette aware of the shift of his body and him turning to face him, a scent of something sweet and refreshing suddenly invading the prince’s nose.

- It’s because I’m not supposed to come near you that I ran away… This whole situation may end up bad, especially for you…

- But not because you’ll hurt me, right? – Judai asked, daringly coming even closer to this mysterious stranger that he couldn’t see despite being only a few inches apart from him. – I’ve been to the oracle of goddess Ishizu, she told me you don’t have the intention of hurting me!

The man hesitated again, Judai suddenly becoming very aware of the sound of the other’s heart thumping rapidly in his chest and his short breath.

- That indeed is true… - he spoke again, the prince only wanting to get even closer to him. – But it’s the best to stop here. I won’t be coming again-

- PLEASE DO! – Judai pleaded once again, aware of how desperate his tone was. But it didn’t matter, he just had to keep this stranger near him…

- Why are you so desperate, your Highness?! – he raised his voice, causing yet another wave of chills to run down Judai’s spine.

- I think you know… - the brunette said quietly, his throat suddenly becoming dry. – If you’ve been observing me for a while… you know my situation.

A silence suddenly arose between them, Judai slowly leaning forward and putting his forehead on what he assumed was his guardian’s chest, the prince rather surprised at how chiseled and firm they seemed.

- No one has to know about this… But just keep making me company sometimes. – brunette pleaded again, his voice becoming rather shaky all of a sudden. – This is the first time in a long while that something has given me so much rush and excitement… and if you disappear, my life will once again become a dull mess.

His guardian remained silent for a while, now causing Judai to frown and push the man lightly against his chest. But then, the man with wings spoke again:

- Alright…

And with that and a discrete chuckle, the stranger picked the prince up and literally tossed him on the bed, Judai now unable to even get up from the mattress he literally became glued to.

- Now get back to sleep, I saw your eyes are terribly red. – the man said before tossing a blanket over the brunette’s body, the sound of his footsteps moving away causing Judai to panic.

- Will you really visit me again?! – he asked, his guardian stopping for a moment to answer:

- I promise, I will.

- Then… how should I call you?! – the prince asked one final question as he heard the man climbing onto the window as his wings started flapping again, his voice now only a faint whisper.

- Jesse. Call me Jesse.

With that the man flew away, Judai finally being able to open his eyes and rise from his bed. As he quickly dashed towards the window in hopes of catching the glimpse of a stranger with a beautiful voice, he had a feeling as if his heart was going to burst.

But all he was able to see was a clear night sky as the moon smiled down on him, the refreshing breeze slowly calming the prince’s nerves.

So, Jesse, huh?

Judai chuckled before his knees gave out and he literally leaned his whole body on the window, his gaze getting lost in the distance whilst a discrete smile shone on his face…

Chapter Text

- Took you long enough to answer my call, Crow. – the king of the Underworld said through an ever-present smirk as he held a hand above a black envelope, a seal in the shape of an eye soon glowing on top of it before disappearing.

- Contrary to your belief, your Majesty, I do have a lot of work. – the orange-haired god answered, his body bowed in front of one of the Big Five whilst resting on his left knee.

- True, you need to oversee all the thieves and con artists doing their job, right? – the other god said with an even wider smile before handing Crow the envelope, the younger god letting out an amused snort before stuffing the letter into his bag.

- They can take good care of themselves, don’t worry. – he winked before getting back up on his feet, his flying boots ready to take off. – By the way, are you being nice to our little Yugi?

- Your little Yugi? – the king’s left eyebrow rose at that question. – I didn’t know you Upper gods doted on him so much.

- Are we talking about the same god? I mean, have you ever interacted with him?! He’s so sweet and adorable! – the orange-head gushed.

The master of the Underworld just rolled his eyes at his reaction, swiftly turning his back on the younger god before he could say anything unnecessary.

- So, this goes to our Chief god, right?

- Yes and it’s urgent. I’d like to get his response as soon as possible. – the king said in a rather sinister tone, his smirk only widening after hearing Crow’s gulping.

- I’m afraid master is somewhat busy with overseeing all of our work and creating thunderstorms up North but… I’m sure he’ll make some time to answer your letter.

- He better, unless he wants a heap of dead souls swarming his precious continent.

Crow gulped again, causing the king to chuckle in his deep tone.

- No need to be so concerned, this is a standard talk between us leaders of five realms. – the older god reassured, the orange-head still not so sure what to believe.

- Alright, I’ll see you soon! I don’t like this place one bit… - the god-messenger said as his feet slowly rose up from the ground, the black wings around his ankles suddenly getting bigger.

- I figured, it’s too cramped for you down here, birdman.

Crow just grinned before bowing one last time to the king of the Underworld and finally flying through the door, his companion Blizzard eagerly awaiting his return before both of them disappeared down the hallway and towards the Upper realm.

The king was finally able to sigh properly, the act of scaring the living daylight out of Upper gods having an almost revitalizing effect on his two-millennia old self. But the only thing Crow didn’t really like was a possibility of a huge dispute between two members of The Big Five, mostly because those arguments usually resulted in a major mess and even more restrictions.

Well, he did learn it the hard way when I and Anzu had our little… thing.

With those happy thoughts in mind, the king of the Underworld felt his body becoming somewhat heavy and painful, not even his godly self being able to hold out much without a proper sleep every once in a while.

He quickly checked up on everyone’s activities both in the Underworld and in the Upper realm, his gods and their little goons being busy as usual, especially due to the dusk being right around the corner which only meant they had to babysit the Sun Bark again…

Well, he didn’t have to worry about that task, at least not yet.

The king then finally decided to call it quits and he snapped his fingers, all the blue flames illuminating his study going out at the same time, leaving him in complete darkness. He then closed his eyes and let his whole body dissolve into nothing but shadows that traveled all around the Underworld, quietly, creepily, secretly…

The trip to his own chambers wasn’t a long one, mostly because no one was allowed in that part of the Underworld unless summoned which ensured the king the rest he needed from time to time. But on his way there, he had to pass guest chambers…

And just when his eyes looked towards the corridor where he had put his young guest, the sound of intense sobbing and whining entered his ears.

The king frowned as his shadowy form instinctively headed towards the source of the sound even though he already recognized the voice.

And less than a moment later, the king of the Underworld found himself inside Yugi’s chambers.

The darkness was enveloping every single inch of the room, not even a single torch illuminating the space around him. Still, the king was clearly able to see the young god’s sleeping form on the bed.

Or, better say his restless form.

The spring god was spasming and shaking violently, his eyes squeezed shut as the tears rolled down his temples and soaked the pillow under him. The veins on his neck jumped out as he battled whatever nightmare he was having, his hands gripping onto the bedsheets. His sobs and quiet yelps and whines made the king frown as he finally materialized inside, an urge to sit next to him and shake him up only growing stronger by the second.

But then, images started appearing before the king’s eyes.

Twisted, contorted, and unclear, all possible shades of blood invading his vision as the distant screams of desperate humans echoed in his ears, the god’s jaw clenching at the sudden invasion of his senses.

Is he projecting his thoughts? But he’s not supposed to do that, he’s the Upper-

- S-stop… - Yugi whispered as another sob escaped his lips. – Don’t t-touch them… No!

The king observed him for a moment longer before his red eyes started glowing, all of those images and sounds finally disappearing from his mind as he approached the bed and sat next to the younger.

- Yugi, hey! – he said in a determined tone, both of his hands grabbing onto the younger’s shoulders as he shook him. – Wake up!

The spring god’s body tensed up, even more, his expression contorting into an image of pure terror and desperation.

And then he hissed:

- Die… you all should die…

- YUGI!

The sound of the king’s strong and piercing voice literally shook the younger god awake, his purple eyes puffy and red around the edges as he confusingly looked around as two torches turned on.

- M-Majesty?... – he whispered as their eyes locked, his complexion as pale as the Death itself.

- Shhh, it’s alright, you’re awake now. – the king said in a much gentler tone as he slowly rubbed Yugi’s shoulders, the god visibly relaxing. – You’re safe now.

Silence was then cast upon the two, the king not wanting to move away from the younger in case he needed something. But for some reason, Yugi refused to look at him in the eye again…

- I’ve inconvenienced you again, haven’t I? – the spring god whispered, his head still facing away from him.

- I just happened to pass through here and I’ve heard you sobbing so I came to check on you… - the god admitted whilst removing his hands from Yugi’s shoulders. - But never mind that… can I ask you something, Yugi?

The younger immediately turned his head to face the other, his expression showing he was on the brink of crying once again. But then, he bravely nodded, ready to take all the consequences…

- How come you can project your thoughts to me?

Yugi’s eyebrows furrowed slightly as he slowly sat up in bed, the king releasing just then the younger had nothing covering his torso.

- What do you mean?

- When I entered here, I could see your nightmare clear as day, or at least, I saw what you were seeing. I didn’t know you had such an ability…

- I didn’t. – the younger reassured, his eyebrows frowning even more as he tried to understand what was going on.

- Oh? You didn’t know you’re capable of such a thing? – the king pressed. – It’s usually something only Underworld gods are able to do-

- I swear I didn’t know! – Yugi exclaimed, his smaller hands instinctively grabbing onto the king’s and squeezing them. – I that nightmare… now that you saw it… I’m sorry…

It was the king’s turn to frown this time around but he didn’t remove his hands from the younger’s grip.

- What was that nightmare, if you don’t mind me asking?

The spring god shook his head as his eyes broke the contact and lost their focus, his body suddenly relaxing.

- I’m not sure myself what that is… - he admitted. – I assumed it was a distant memory of mine but Anzu kept convincing me it was just my mind playing tricks on me because I tend to overthink and worry too much. But at this point, I’m not sure what to think anymore…

The king stayed silent for a moment as he revised what he was told but as he tried to press for more answers, the expression on Yugi’s face was a statement enough that he didn’t really know what was truly going on either.

- Well, this does seem serious… - he eventually stated before giving Yugi’s hand a light squeeze. – Do you want to go back to sleep?

- I would want to but… - Yugi hesitated as his cheeks turned a bright shade of red.

- But what?

- I’m scared to fall asleep… I don’t want to see that nightmare again.

- Then I have a solution for you. – the king said with a confident smile before sliding off the bed and clicking his fingers, one of the torches turning off as he lightly pushed the younger onto the pillows and pulled the blanket over his body. – I’m going to put a sleeping charm on your forehead. Your mind will be empty and you’ll be able to have a peaceful sleep but only tonight.

Yugi’s lips immediately widened into a tender smile as he closed his eyes and nodded.

- You’re really nice to me, your Majesty. – he stated through a small voice. – I was so afraid you’ll do something horrible to me when I first arrived but you… you were just so good to me.

- Don’t say that in front of other gods, I have to keep up my reputation. – the king scolded playfully before both of them chuckled at the same time, the older now putting his index finger on top of Yugi’s head.

And as the eye symbol appeared and then vanished from the younger’s forehead, the king sat on the edge of the bed again, his expression incredibly tender as he smiled down at the spring god.

- I’ll stay here until you fall asleep, is that alright?

Yugi nodded before closing his eyes, his body instinctively scooting closer to the older god.

And not even a few minutes later, younger’s breathing became deep and even, his body slowly relaxing under the covers.

The king then absent-mindedly removed the golden bangs from the younger’s face, observing his gentle features and adorable face. With another smile, he tucked the bangs behind younger’s ear before standing up and turning off the other torch, the room soon bathed in complete darkness once again.

But as he took one last glance at Yugi’s sleeping form, his curiosity only grew stronger.

This youngster truly was a mystery, not only to the King of the Underworld but to himself as well, so many secrets hiding in that little mind of his.

Seto, I sure hope you’ll answer my letter soon, the god thought before turning back into his shadowy form and floating away, leaving Yugi to his peaceful slumber…

Chapter Text

- I'm late, I know! – Judai exclaimed as he literally barged into a huge dining room in the royal palace, all of his family already sat at the table to have their evening meal.

- I wonder why you were late… - Jun, the eldest son of the family, mumbled in his chin before returning to the soup in front of him, Judai pretending as if he didn’t hear a thing.

- Come, the main course hasn’t been brought out yet, you’re just in time for the best part. – Julia said with the same tender smile on her face, her bodyguard Axel already moving a chair next to her from the table so her little brother could sit.

- Aren’t you forgetting something?

Judai froze in the middle of lowering down to the chair, his eyes flying briefly towards his father who had sat at the top of the table. His face was as sharp and cold as always, his dark brown hair being the only feature the youngest prince had inherited from him…

The younger straightened up and then lowered his head, his hand in the middle of his chest.

- It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, father.

The king seemed satisfied with that kind of a greeting, a silence enveloping the dining room as the youngest member of the family sat down to eat as well.

- I hope all of my children had a successful week. How have your tasks been going? Jun? Juno?

The twins’ faces literally beamed as they were called out by their father, Julia discretely rolling her eyes at their reaction.

- I’ve been observing our soldiers training this week, I’ve indeed learned some valuable lessons from the generals-

- And spent a little fortune on buying new equipment for the royal argyle, right? – Julia questioned with a spiteful smile on her face, her older brothers shooting her a dark look before Juno answered instead of his older brother:

- That’s why you’re here, dearest sister. You’ll eventually become minister of finances, you better learn how to ensure money for the needs of royal family.

- Oh, I’m doing just that. – she retorted. – Problem is: my big brothers have no idea what counts as royal needs and what’s military’s business.

- You don’t understand it, Julia. New equipment means gaining respect of the soldiers and generals which will ultimately lead to them pleading loyalty to me once I become a king-

- People are not going to respect you if you keep trying to bribe them! – Julia hit the table with her fist, Judai trying his best not to giggle at the whole scene. – Soldiers aren’t idiots! They can see a meek person when they see one-

- You will NOT speak of me like that! – Jun suddenly exploded, his tall figure arising from his sit. – If I remember correctly, I’M the first-born of this family and I have all qualities needed to be a proper ruler! Even I or Juno were to die, you would never get the right to sit on that throne and do you know why? You’re just a weak femal-

- SHUT UP! – Judai also rose from his seat, not intimidated by his older brother in the slightest as they had a stare-off from opposite sides of the table. – You will not speak to her like that!

The twins were baffled for a moment only for Juno to eventually chuckle and say:

- Who’s a meek man now? Trying to hide behind your big sister because you know you can’t win against us. Well, let me tell you, this little alliance of yours will not benefit to you at all. Jun and I are perfect match-

- WHO SAID I WANTED TO WIN AGAINST YOU?! YOU ALWAYS ONLY THING ABOUT THE THRONE! – the youngest continued to shout, Julia noticing king’s expression was becoming tenser and tenser by a moment.

- Throne is the only important thing in this family, whether you like it or not. – Jun retorted before sitting back down, his little brother following soon after but neither of them broke the eye-contact. – Our father started the new age and I’m going to continue it, strongly and proudly. Our main goal now is to show those gods what we’re made of.

- Well, maybe they’d need a better specimen to see what human kind can actually do… - Judai said in his chin, the twins clearly hearing every word.

- You mean someone like you? – Jun said through a mocking chuckle. – Please, you’re just a pest-

- Enough of this already!

All four jumped as the voice of their father echoed the dining room, their heads automatically lowering.

- All of you need to learn how to behave during our joined meals, this is not the way to behave in the presence of your king.

- Yes, Highness. – siblings said in unison, Judai suddenly feeling his throat squeezing tightly.

- I’ve assigned each of you a certain task after seeing where your talents and affinities lie and I expect you to work together if you don’t want to bring this kingdom to ruin. – the king continued, his expression remaining as cold and stern as ever. – As for your personal disputes, I expect you to handle them away from everyone else.

- Yes, Highness. – the siblings said once again, Jun being the first one to say something after this scolding session:

- But father, may I ask you something?

- Go ahead.

- Can you please put Judai in his place. I don’t want to worry about his behavior when I’m this busy with my duties.

- Why not put him in his place yourself? You’ll be the next king after all.

The youngest felt his chest literally closing in on him, his breath becoming shorter and shorter as his vision slowly became completely red.

- Well then… - the eldest said with a proud voice. – There isn’t much to say really. Among the four of us, me who is a great fighter, Juno who has magical affinity and Julia who has brains to back me up, Judai is the only one that isn’t in the royal equation. And unfortunately… - he lowered his voice and hissed, every single word echoing in Judai’s mind: - Your pretty face won’t help you go through life unless you want to sell that beauty of yours, little brother.

Judai immediately stood up from the table and looked at everyone, barely being able to hold back his tears of frustration.

- I’ll be excusing myself. I’ve just lost my appetite. – he muttered, aware that only Julia tried to make him stay but to no avail, as Juno added:

- Truth hurts, huh?

With those words still echoing the big dining room, Judai pushed away the chair and swiftly walked out the door, not even paying attention to confused Alister who was soon right behind him.

- Y-you’re already done with your dining, Highness?

- Yes… - the brunette muttered, the sob stuck in his throat as he rushed towards his room, a wish to fall asleep and not wake up for a long time being the only thought in his mind…

***

After long two days Johan was finally able to visit the young prince again.

As he slowly descended upon the sleeping palace, his attendants not with him that night, he wondered what Judai has been up to in these past days and whether the tension between him and his family died down a little bit.

Still, the young god had his own worries to think about.

It’s been almost two months since Mai had tasked him to curse Judai with a lust spell but all Johan managed to do up until now was convince her that he’s still looking for a suitable monster for this task.

But at this point, it became rather obvious that he’s only dragging the whole thing and all he could do was to avoid his mistress…

The young god finally reached the lonely tower of the royal palace, his heart pounding against his ribs as his body trembled all over, Judai’s room already in his sight.

Back when the young prince had managed to capture him in that curtain, Johan believed it was the worst thing that could possibly happen but after making that promise, he was obligated to come and see Judai again.

And so one visit turned into two, then three… until Johan started visiting the prince every single night.

He knew he was supposed to meet the prince for only a short period of time but as they would start talking, the time would just fly so fast and the god wouldn’t want to leave. They would always find something to talk about and for both of them, it was always fun.

But tonight, thing were to be different and Johan realized it as soon as he landed on the window of his friend’s room.

-Your Highness? – he called out only to see a small figure huddled underneath the window.

-Oh, Jesse… - the brunette said with a somber tone, Johan’s heart now painfully pouding.

-You don’t sound well. Should I come back another ti-

- No! – Judai jumped on his feet, their eyes locking even through the curtain. – I just… won’t be as fun as I was these other days…

The god let out a worried sigh before stepping into the room, the curtain still hiding his appearance.

-Alright, I’ll just make you a silent company.

Judai smiled somberly before sitting on the floor in front of him, his eyes darkening once again.

For a long time, the two of them remained silent, Johan now sitting in the window frame and letting the full moon illuminate Judai’s beautiful but saddened features.

-Sometimes I really wonder why I had to be born, especially in this family…

Johan could feel that painful pounding again but he decided to remain silent, especially now when the prince needed another person to listen.

-Like, I know… - Judai continued. – I’m well aware I’m not a great fighter like Jun, or am I able to wield magic weapons like Juno… or am I smart like Julia. All I have is this useless, pretty face… Maybe Juno is right, I’ll end up selling myself once I’m finally thrown out-

-That’s not true, your Highness! – Johan suddenly exclaimed, causing the prince to jolt. – As you said, you maybe aren’t like your siblings, but you have a character and charisma that brings people together. Believe me, if it wasn’t for you, people wouldn’t even like the royal family.

-I don’t know...

-But I do! You mean so much to people! The way you’re so relatable, funny and the way you’re so familiar with your subjects… everyone loves you so much. And I…. – Johan stopped for a moment, realizing he had just crossed the line, but it was too late to turn back. – I can’t even imagine life without you anymore… I know you didn’t see my face yet and that we don’t know each other that long but… these visits and talking to you mean so much to me and the last thing I want to see is you being sad…. But I just want you to know that I’ll keep listening to your complains, no matter what….

Another moment of silence arose and Johan slapped himself internally for really going overboard this time around.

But then, Judai moved forward.

-Can you please embrace me?

-A-are you sure, your Highness?

-Yes… - the brunette reassured. – Here, put that spell on my eyes…

Johan hesitated before finally casting a spell of sealing on other’s eyelids, now finally being able to remove the curtain. And as soon as he did, Judai leaped into his arms and locked his hands around his back, quiet sobs slowly crossing human’s lips.

The young god could only return the embrace, Judai’s scent of hazelnut and his fluffy hair causing his heart to do all sorts or jumps inside his chest but with every sob and tear, the god’s chest would tighten even more.

-Thank you, Jesse… - the prince whispered, seemingly not wanting to let go of Johan ever again. – I… I have the same feelings about you… Thank you for caring for this foolish prince…

Johan chuckled and ruffled the other’s hair before planting a gentle kiss on his temple.

-You aren’t foolish, Highness.

After that, the two of them remained in that position for a long time, so long that Judai eventually fell asleep against the god’s chest. Johan then proceeded to carry him into the bed and tuck him in, admiring his serene sleeping face before biding him a quiet adieu and flying away, the sealing spell lifted as soon as he left the castle.

And as he flew over the sky, the young god couldn’t stop thinking about how sad his friend was. No one is supposed to treat him like that.

No one.

Chapter Text

Yusei finally exited the Research facility at roughly 7 AM after a long night shift.

As the daylight literally burned his sensitive eyes, his headache continued to peak and he felt incredibly weak, his legs barely being able to carry him forward. It probably wasn’t the best idea to use a chopper today…

With that thought in mind, the young scientist whipped out his phone and ordered a cab while also greeting the security guy stationed at the exit to the main parking lot. And now, after exiting the facility, he only had to lean on the wall and wait for his ride.

Ever since he took over the work of his father, long night shifts weren’t really uncommon, especially considering he was the leader of the Research facility despite being only 22 years old. Aside from experimenting with various weapons and magical materia for the royal family and the army, he also had to oversee the disposal of useless or dangerous materia from time to time and night shifts were specifically reserved for that type of work.

And even though last night’s cargo wasn’t necessarily dangerous, it was of no use to the new machinery of royal army. Those types of long-range cannons could only be operated by hand but with advanced technology, those weapons ended up dumped on the East coast, in one of its many caves where no one will ever find them. Honestly, what a waste…

The cab soon pulled up next to the young man, an auto-piloted vehicle giving him enough time to nap a little after typing in his address.

And as soon as he closed his eyes, Rafael’s and Aki’s words started echoing in his mind:

You should really drop this… research of yours, it’s endangering you and you’ll fall really ill because you don’t sleep enough.

Are you okay, Yusei? Have you gotten thinner? Why are you so pale? Don’t tell me you’re not eating the food I bring you!

Raven-head chuckled quietly as he remembered the girl’s adorable expression when she was scolding him, his face then tensing up as he remembered what his co-worker had told him.

Yusei was very well aware of the risk he’s been putting himself into, but after observing the way the current king was running the state and the propaganda the future king, Jun Yuki, was preaching, things would probably become even tenser between humans and gods once he sits at the throne.

The politicians and royalty were already leading successful propaganda that humans should stop believing gods to solve all their problems and almost half of the population believed there was no future if they continued to follow those powerful beings “who will only subjugate them”.

The scientist understood this mentality, especially when it came to certain gods who were known to be rather ruthless towards humans, but he didn’t believe a total ignorance of gods’ will was the solution either, especially after seeing scientific proofs that gods indeed helped humans gain prosperity in the past two millennia.

There just had to be a way to make gods and humans work together so that all of them could benefit. Humans had to understand how little they were compared to the gods who controlled elemental powers and magic of their world while gods had to understand humans need them to be more relatable and understanding of their problems.

And his secret research was to prove this very point, to make a bridge between humans and gods…

But, according to the ideology of the current king, he’ll be proclaimed a traitor and sent to spend life in prison if they found out he’s working for “gods’ favor”.

But he did agree in one regard with Rafael: he needed to take better care of his health.

- I wish to change my location. – Yusei suddenly spoke to the cab, the robot voice immediately answering:

- Where do you wish to go, sir?

- Shrine Hill, please.

- Right away, sir.

The car made a sudden stop at the pedestrian crossing and waited for the lights to change before taking a different road, Yusei already being able to see the hill from the vehicle.

This trip was much shorter and he was out of the cab not even five minutes later, instructing his ride to be on stand-by until he concludes his business in one of the shrines. And once he finally entered the sacred grounds, he headed straight forward, towards the Indigo Shrine.

The largest shrine of the complex accommodated most gods of the pantheon and its main mistress, goddess of motherhood and family, Kisara, was guarding the main entrance, her majestic statue exuding absolute beauty and godliness even though her figure was just made of marble. Yusei stopped for a brief moment and bowed to the queen of the gods before entering the shrine, priests, and priestesses dressed in white or indigo robes walking around in a busy manner, barely having time to greet the newest visitor.

The slight murmur of quick footsteps and other visitors’ chatter caused Yusei’s headache to worsen but he decided to get over it and do what he intended.

Once he passed an enormously long foyer, Yusei stepped into the right hallway, the temple he wanted to visit at the very end of. He could see many worshippers in other temples but luckily, the last temple had only one person waiting to enter.

The young scientist stopped behind the older woman and patiently waited for his turn to enter, paper money already in his hand. However, it took him another half an hour before he could finally enter, his head threatening to literally split in half.

Then finally, it was his turn.

- The next visitor may enter! – a female voice called from the temple’s interior, Yusei barely registering it was his turn. And as he walked across the dark purple floor, the words written in white fonts on the floor caught his attention.

These ground guards He who helps the ill and protects the healthy, great god of medicine and healing, Kalin.

- Good morning, sire! – the same female voice called out again, Yusei only then seeing it was coming from a rather small maiden of pink braided hair and in a pink nurse uniform. But what caught his attention on her the most was her… dragon tail?

- G-good morning. – the scientist stuttered whilst still observing her clearly dragonish features, the temple maiden chuckling at his reaction.

- I am called Nasary and I will be at your service today! – she chirped, causing Yusei to smile back at her. – What can I do for you, sire?

- I’m… I’m looking for something to restore my strength a little. I just came from a long night shift and my head is killing me.

- May I take a look at your wrist, sire? – Nasary extended her hand, the man immediately giving her access to what she asked. She then proceeded to just watch at Yusei’s wrist for a rather long period of time before saying in a worrying tone: - My good sire, you are in a really bad shape.

- Am I terminally ill or something? – raven-head asked in a calm voice as possible, suddenly feeling his heart dropping into his stomach. But then, Nasary just chuckled and shook her head:

- No, nothing like that, sire! You are just really exhausted. I can see your immunity is low which causes your headache and even though you have not caught any flu yet, this type of shape is asking for it.

With that, the temple maiden let of his wrist and headed towards a huge stack of shelves behind the altar, soon returning with a small sapphire stone.

- I shall now restore your energy but remember to pay better attention to your sleeping schedule and eating habits-

- Nasary, let me do it.

The maiden immediately moved away and bowed deeply to the newcomer, Yusei slowly raising his head to look at the man only to be completely taken aback by his rather angelic visage.

The man was taller than Yusei, dressed in similar robes as all priests of this temple with the only the exception that he carried a rather large spiral symbol in the middle of his chest, the crest representing all gods related to the Indigo shrine. His hair was reaching a little under his shoulders and was colored a very light shade of blue while his eyes seemed to be light brown with a very prominent shade of silver in them.

-I’m sorry for barging in so suddenly, sire. I have just arrived and thought to help Nasary a little. – he said as he accepted the sapphire from the temple maiden. – My name is Kyosuke Kiriyu, the main priest of this temple.

- It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. – Yusei said as he bowed his head slightly, the priest nudging him to give him his hand so he could start the treatment.

- Oh, Nasary was right, you’re one exhausted individual.

Yusei chuckled as the other man lightly lied the sapphire on top of the scientist’s wrist, the small stone soon starting to glow.

- I’m told that by my coworkers and friends all the time.

- Why aren’t you taking care of it then? If it wasn’t for this little stone, you’d faint. – Kyosuke noted as the light of the stone started to become stronger, the raven-head already feeling new energy revitalizing his entire body and his headache slowly disappearing.

- I will but… I just have a lot of work in the Research facility.

There was a long pause between the two men whilst the whole treatment lasted, the stone soon stopping to glow and Kyosuke picking it back up.

- I see you a lot on shrine grounds and always next to the Earth shrine. Why is that?

Yusei frowned slightly but after sensing how rejuvenated he started to feel all of a sudden, he decided to answer for gratitude’s sake:

- Oh, I worship the goddess of the hunt a lot. I’ve had this tradition to go to her temple whenever I can considering I was found there ten years ago after my father… disappeared in an accident.

Kyosuke’s face suddenly softened, the other man refusing to say anything more.

- How much is this? I’ve got only paper money to offer-

- No need for offering, I’m sure the great god will understand.

- What? Leaving a temple without an offering? Isn’t that disrespectful?

Kyosuke chuckled before slightly closing the gap between the two of them, his expression suddenly becoming sharper.

- Just make sure to pay us a visit again. Who knows, maybe this temple will become your new favorite worshipping place.

Yusei chuckled before bowing to the priest and greeting Nasary who still stood there with her head down.

- I’ll have that in mind next time I’m in the area. Thank you very much for restoring my energy, Sir Kiriyu. – the scientist said before turning on his heel and exiting the temple, seeing a new line has been formed in front of that very temple. Wouldn’t you know, I was just in time…

But whilst Yusei was absorbed in his little triumph, he didn’t even notice a pair of silverfish-brown eyes following his every movement with absolute concentration, the owner of that gaze hopeful to engrave their name not only on the man’s neck but into his soul as well…

Chapter Text

- Sir Yugi?

The spring god turned his head as he heard a familiar female voice calling out to him, his hand just about to lower down from the last crystal bush he was checking before heading back.

- Oh, Wind! Is something the matter? – he questioned, noticing how fidgeting the green sorceress was.

- No, everything’s fine. I have just been called by mistress Carly, we’re having another venture into the Upper realm so I just wanted to inform you. – she explained. –But you don’t need to get out of the garden because of that, that’s not what I meant! I can send someone else to be your escort through the Underworld.

Yugi frowned slightly before his tender smile returned, his hand subconsciously moving towards the lower bush that imitated white lilies, the coldness of crystals soothing his nerves.

- No need for that, Wind. – he said in a sweet voice, his eyes not even looking towards the sorceress.

- Are you certain? It’s still not late-

- Hey, Wind?

- Y-yes?

The young god turned his head slightly before chuckling, now finally turning his whole body towards her.

- It’s almost two months since I’ve descended to the Underworld and it’s been almost a whole month since I’ve been visiting this crystal garden. I think I’ll be able to return to my room on my own.

Wind stepped back for a moment, her green eyes lowering as she gripped onto her staff.

-I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to offend you, sir-

- You didn’t offend me, don’t worry. – Yugi immediately responded in a tender tone, his gaze softening. – You’re just carrying out your mistress’s orders, no one can blame you for that. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright on my own.

The sorceress slowly rose her head and locked eyes with the young god for only a moment before she hesitantly stepped out of the crystal cave.

- Are you sure you don’t need an escort, my sir?

Yugi nodded determinedly, reassuring the green sorceress before she disappeared out of his sight.

The spring god then turned around to take one final look at his beautiful, artificial garden, the warm light of all various crystals soothing his tired eyes as he unconsciously touched his forehead, whether his Majesty will visit him again that evening to cast a sleeping charm on him.

The young god could feel his cheeks getting hot all of a sudden as he shook his head, his heart suddenly pounding rapidly.

Even though he had promised himself not to inconvenience anyone anymore, there the king of the Underworld was taking care of Yugi’s sleeping habits, the spring god only giving him one more worry.

But as his mind started going down the hole of self-loathing and insecurity, the king’s deep voice suddenly echoed in his ears:

You’re not a nuisance.

Yugi put his right hand right onto his chest, his heart not showing any signs of slowing down. I better get going, the dinner will be served soon…

With another shook of his head, the young god greeted the crystal flowers the same way he did with the flowers in his Upper garden, his feet soon carrying him through the cave’s exit and down the all too familiar complex of hallways. On his way to the lower parts of the Underworld, he greeted a few henchmen of the gods he was already familiar with, all of them rushing to finish their errands.

But as soon as Yugi arrived at the main hall that was the main starting point of all other hallways in the Underworld, a sudden, intense pain pierced the front side of his head, his eyes suddenly starting to itch incredibly.

The young god stopped dead in his tracks and tried to rub off whatever was causing the itching, his head still hurting.

And the next time he had opened his eyes and looked around, the young god felt rather compelled to look to his left, towards a very secluded but still visible door that was stationed right next to the place he was currently standing at.

As soon as his eyes would lay on the said door, the headache he was feeling would seize for a moment but as soon as he started moving forward, the pain would prevent him not only from moving but from thinking as well.

With painful grunts and moans, Yugi once again looked towards the secluded door, remembering the king’s warnings not to approach it under any circumstances, not even when he was escorted by someone.

And usually, he would pass by that door without any trouble, most of the time not even noticing them lurking in the shadows.

So why did he suddenly feel so compelled to enter?...

The spring god made two more attempts of moving forward, what by slowly inching his way from there, what by dashing towards the end of the hall, but every single time that bloody pain would literally stop him from moving, his eyes now watering and threatening to literally leak out of his head.

And once Yugi looked towards the door again, he felt his consciousness fleeting even though he was still standing firmly on the ground as if an unknown force was forcing his soul out of his body.

And in the next moment, the young god realized he was slowly walking towards that damn door…

***

The king of the Underworld was sitting in his study and reading through reports all of his gods had delivered to him that very morning when he heard a familiar blaring sound at the back of the room.

The god immediately stood up and reached the fireplace where the blue flames were going absolutely crazy, the king making a waving motion in front of in order to see what was going on. I swear if it’s another lost soul-

The king felt all the blood leaving his head as he observed the image presented in the flames.

There, in the middle of the Beach of the Lost Souls, stood Yugi, huge tears rolling down his eyes as he looked around as a huge amount of souls tried to grab at him, his robes slowly being torn apart as soon as one soul would get a hold of them and pull them.

- MANA! – the king yelled with a growl, the goddess of protection almost immediately storming through the door.

- What is it, Majesty?! – she exclaimed only to be violently dragged across the room, the king forcing her to kneel in front of the blue fire.

- Why. Is. He. THERE?!

- I… I don’t know, my king! Carly’s girls were supposed to escort him today, I-

The king let go of the goddess’s head and moved away, his eyes shining in flaming fury as he pushed away his working table to the side.

- Get Carly here as soon as possible. – he growled even deeper, two red pits slowly being swallowed by the same blue flames that started swirling around the king’s body. – Whoever is responsible for this will get a piece of my mind…

With those words still echoing the king’s study, he disappeared in the vortex of flame, his power transporting him to the lower part of the Underworld, right onto the Beach of Lost Souls.

- Stay away! Let go! – the king heard Yugi’s desperate screams as he literally crashed down not too far away from the young god, afraid that the impact of his landing could somehow hurt the other.

- YUGI?! – he exclaimed, just now realizing how panicky and loud his voice sounded.

- MAJESTY?! – younger responded instantly, the whimper much clearer in his voice.

- Get down! – the king warned before making a huge swing with his left hand, all the souls gathered around the young spring god now running away into the pits they’ve crawled out from.

The king was then finally able to see his young guest, crawled up on the dark sand and shaking, his whimpers stinging the older’s heart.

- Why the hell are you here?! – the king hissed as he crouched down next to the spring god, his strong hands gripping onto Yugi’s shoulders and shaking him. – Haven’t I told you not to come here?! You could’ve been torn to pieces!

The young god didn’t resist at all as the tears continued to roll down his face, his expression becoming more and more distorted as pure despair washed over his delicate features.

- I’m sorry… - he mouthed through whimpers. – I… I couldn’t stop myself… I felt as if someone was controlling me… I knew I shouldn’t come here…. I’m so sorry, my lord…. I’m so, so, so sorry…

Yugi’s voice soon died down and melted into unintelligible babble, his whole body now shaking under the king’s arms. The older god himself was still shivering from head to toe and his chest was filled with so much anger but after seeing the younger was literally breaking down in front of him, he knew he had to calm down as soon as possible.

- Hey, Yugi. – he said in a quieter tone, his hands now raising from younger’s shoulders up to his cheeks. – Look at me, please.

The spring god listened immediately, the king’s heart dropping in his stomach upon seeing how puffy and red his eyes were, the tears still forming in their corners.

- I’m sorry for yelling at you… I shouldn’t have in this situation. – the older continued, his thumbs wiping away every single tear that came their way. – But what do you mean by “controlling you”?

The younger god shook his head as his stare became blank and disoriented, his grip around the king’s wrists becoming rather strong.

- I don’t know… when I reached this part of the hallway… immense headache and itching of my eyes… they wouldn’t let me leave… and then, the next thing I knew… I was down here, surrounded by all these dead souls…

The king frowned upon hearing the testimony, more questions popping up in his head but he knew he first had to get Yugi out of there.

- Can you walk? – he questioned in as tender a tone as possible, the younger nodding immediately whilst still leaning onto the king.

- I think I can…

- Well, we can’t take our chances. – the king muttered before crouching down.

- Wha- OH! – Yugi yelped as he was suddenly picked up and carried across the beach and towards the set of stares that were the actual entrance to that area.

At first, the king could feel the spring god fidgeting slightly in his arms, his eyes looking everywhere else but at the older’s face only to eventually relax and lean onto the other’s chest.

- What is this place anyway… - Yugi asked as they reached the top of the stairs, the king making sure to double-check the lock as he closed the door behind them.

- It’s a Beach of Lost souls, a place where people with no coins end up after they die.

- You mean… they can’t pay the boatman? – younger asked only to get a firm nod in response.

- Those souls… - the king sighed as he continued to carry the younger across the hallway and towards the guest chambers. – They are wandering aimlessly on that beach and as long as someone doesn’t show them mercy and gives them two coins, they’ll continue to roam with no purpose or goal, trapped in their misery. There are more and more souls trapped there each year, mostly because people stopped believing in funeral rituals… and because of that, we choose 100 souls to be spared each year because it seems no one else would show them mercy…

Yugi’s face suddenly dropped and he hid his face in the king’s chest again, causing the older to chuckle slightly.

- Is that why they came so close? Did they think I’d give them coins?

- No, Yugi… - older responded in a quiet, very sweet voice. – They felt your energy and the fact that you’re a spring god and therefore a fertility god, god that causes new life to sprout every year. Your energy was something they all wish for and that’s why they appeared so violent. Whenever one of us goes there, no one even looks at us.

The spring god tensed up in the other’s arms, the king realizing they were finally in front of Yugi’s chambers.

- I’m sorry once again… I did something stupid and inconvenienced you again… - the younger whispered as soon as he was sat down on his bed, the king sitting right next to him and ruffling his hair.

- Don’t worry about it, what’s important is that you’re alright. – older reassured before caressing Yugi’s cheek one last time. – Try to get some rest and when you feel better, tell me in more detail what led you to enter that door. I don’t believe you did it out of curiosity after so many warnings-

- I DIDN’T! I SWEAR ON MY GODLINESS!

The king chuckled again, his chest feeling lighter all of a sudden.

 - I believe you don’t worry. – he said with a smile before opening the door. – Now get some sleep. I’m going to get to the bottom of this strange occurrence, I promise.

Yugi nodded and let his body fall onto the bed, the king’s heart now in place after seeing his little visitor safe and sound. But there will be some major explaining to do, especially on Carly’s and Mana’s part.

Whoever’s toying with guests of my domain will regret their very existence…

Chapter Text

- What's the status? – Misty questioned one of the computer engineers as she observed a purple seal on the big screen.

- In about five minutes' time, the seal will be broken, Miss Lola. – he responded, his eyes not once leaving the screen or his hands stopping their movements over a keyboard.

- And what does that mean for our mission? – she pressed, a sudden gush of cold air making the hair on her shin rise.

- The giant will be awakened in about 24 hours and our guess is that the gods will notice him pretty quickly.

- Good to know.  – raven-haired woman noted before looking at her own computer screen. – I’ll dispatch one unit to observe the fight and then-

- I see you’re finally back to business, dearest Lola.

The woman froze for a second, taking a few moments to put on an expressionless façade whilst her gut started boiling almost immediately upon hearing Sayer’s voice.

- I’ve never left the business, Sir. – she answered after giving her boss a polite bow, the man’s eyes now also glued to the big screen.

- Oh~ So it’s the giant’s turn. Do you think he’ll capture me the one I want?

- It’s possible, sir.

Sayer chuckled at that answer, Misty just wanting to get out of that room as soon as possible. But luckily, her Unit was already on the move so all she needed to do is excuse herself…

- Alright, I have big hopes for this guy. – Sayer said after a long moment of silence. – But whichever god ends up being marked, it doesn’t matter. Akiza will eventually still be in my possession.

Misty grinded her teeth before giving her boss one final bow and heading towards the exit of the room, not even expecting Sayer would want to tell her anything else-

- I also have big hopes for this action, Lola. Don’t disappoint me. Remember, He is watching every step we make.

The woman felt her stomach sink even deeper in her gut, the feeling of absolute terror washing over her as she barely continued to walk normally. She knew Sayer was mentioning Him just to get under her skin and to scare her, but she wasn’t going to show him those words have affected her in any way.

She just wanted to complete her end of the bargain and leave that wretched place. She didn’t care how many gods were hurt in the process, all that mattered was her freedom.

And her brother’s safety…

***

- How are things with your family, your Highness? – Jesse questioned as he sat on the other side of the curtain, Judai right on the opposite side of him.

The prince chuckled at his concern, an image and sensation of their embrace last week only making his heart pound slightly faster in his chest.

- There will never be peace in this household but… I guess I’m just getting used to all of it by now. – the prince admitted, slowly inching a tad closer to his still mysterious guardian.

- I’m sorry you have to go through that, Highness. – Jesse sighed, the prince seeing another opportunity to get even closer. – But at least, you have Lady Julia by your side.

- Yeah, that’s true. – Judai said as a tender smile appeared on his face. – If it wasn’t for her, Alister and Axel… well, I’d probably gone mad a long time ago.

- You wouldn’t, you’re a strong young man, your Highness. – the stranger reassured.

Brunette chuckled again, his body yet again moving even closer to Jesse who seemingly didn’t have a clue of what the prince was doing.

But Judai couldn’t resist the temptation. Ever since they have embraced one week ago, something has changed.

Even though he was in the middle of an emotional turmoil and even though there were huge tears of frustration rolling down his face, the prince couldn’t forget the way those strong hands wrapped around him… or that sweet and fresh smell his mysterious guardian exuded.

He just had to come closer…

- But you know what? – the prince said in a slightly quieter voice.

- What, your Highness? – Jesse questioned, a slight shiver audible in his voice.

- If it wasn’t for you also… - Judai’s voice turned into a faint whisper as he was only an inch away from his guardian, that same alluring scent reaching him even from behind the curtain. – I don’t think I’d be able to go on.

- You’re exaggerating, your Highness.

Judai chuckled as he leaned on the other’s shoulder through the curtain, Jesse visibly flinching but not moving away.

- Will you stop calling me that? I thought we were closer, no need to use formality with me. – Judai reassured a tense silence cast upon them.

- Then… - Jesse mouthed before gulping loudly. – What should I call you?

Brunette chuckled again, his hand now landing on the upper part of the other’s back, Jesse flinching at the touch once again.

- Call me by my name.

- J-Judai… - he mouthed, the sound of his own name suddenly awakening something feral within the young prince.

- That’s more like it… - he mouthed as he leaned in, even more, Jesse moving away slightly before warning:

- J-Judai, if you keep touching my back, my wings will come out and I’ll strike you on accident!

- Come inside, then.

Another silence arose between the two, Judai very well aware of his own shallow breathing and immerse heat that had just enveloped his entire body.

- I cannot, Judai. – Jesse mouthed determinedly. – This is a dangerous situation…

- Why? – the prince asked, now leaning all of his body weight on the other’s back through the curtain. – Even if you are a monster, I don’t care. I love everything about you so far. Your voice, your caring nature… your presence. So there is no need to hold back…

The man behind the curtain remained silent as the prince continued to caress him over the fabric, his body trembling on every part Judai would touch.

- That’s not the point, Judai. – he finally mouthed, his sweet voice now deeper than the ocean. – It’s not about holding back, I’d be breaking the rules… because ever since I’ve seen you on the first night, I knew I could not be trusted in your presence.

The prince chuckled seductively, his hands now going lower than before, making Jesse flinch.

- We’re both rule breakers so what’s the problem? – he said whilst blowing onto the other’s ear, the warm air reaching Jesse even through the curtain. – Use that spell on my eyes again, I don’t need to know what you look like. Just touch me…

There was another moment of tense silence, Judai clearly feeling the other’s whole body seized movement for a minute or two…

…only for his own eyes to be forcefully closed shut, his body landing on the floor under the window. And only then did the prince become aware of those familiar footsteps coming his way.

Judai chuckled before he started moving away on all four, reaching for his bed clumsily but successfully only to feel Jesse’s warm body against his back.

- Where do you think you’re going, Highness? – the mysterious stranger whispered in brunette’s ear, Judai’s whole body starting to tremble violently as even more of the other’s body leaned against his back, something hard soon rubbing against his bottom.

- Wow, you really can’t be trusted around me, huh, Mr. Monster? – brunette chuckled again before his body was literally tossed onto the bed, Jesse soon getting a grip against him, one of his hands wrapping around Judai’s torso whilst the other went in between the prince’s legs.

- And you better take responsibility, Judai. – he whispered again and right into the prince’s ear, brunette letting out a small moan as Jesse’s hand wrapped against his own throbbing member that was still concealed by his briefs.

- T-there~ - the prince moaned as his hands reached backward and locked into Jesse’s rather fluffy hair, brunette now feeling other’s hand reaching under his t-shirt and grabbing one of his nipples between his fingers. – D-don’t pinch~!

- A little whiny, are we? – Jesse chuckled, his lips soon all over prince’s neck, the gentle suction and twirling making Judai let out a much louder, hungrier moan, his hips subconsciously rubbing against the other’s throbbing member.

- Jesshe~ - the brunette slurred as his hips continued to move and his legs only grew wider apart, the other’s hand now having enough space to start moving. – Touch mine! M-moreee~

- As you wish… - the stranger chuckled as his grip around the prince’s member tightened, the briefs now halfway down brunette’s hips.

Jesse’s pace was merciless, his hand reaching every part of the prince’s erection only to have his index finger tease the top, brunette barely being aware of anything that was happening around him. He could just moan and grind even more against his guardian’s own hardened member that was still trapped in his robes, the other’s grip around his body barely allowing him to breathe.

- Ahhhh~ I f-feel… s-sho weird~ mmmm~ - Judai moaned, his eyes tearing up and rolling inside his head despite them being forcefully closed shut.

- Judai~… - the other moaned into the brunette’s neck, his teeth nibbling gently against the gentle skin of his neck as his grip around the prince’s body tightened, even more, his hand only picking up the pace which rendered Judai almost completely immobile as his body twitched, tensed and relaxed under the other’s caresses and touches.

- Prince Judaiii~ - he let out another moan only to have brunette grind even more against his hips, the prince now only being able to moan and yelp in pleasure as his head started spinning, a familiar warm feeling forming in his lower stomach.

- Jesseeee~ Mmmmmm~~- he moaned as he barely managed to turn his head. – I’ll soon- hngh!! Mmmm~~~

- I know… - the other responded through a breathy whisper, his own hips now shaking and moving against the prince’s naked bottom.

- K-kisshh me~~~ - Judai pleaded, his hand desperately gripping against the other’s hair only to have the pair of hot lips literally swallow him up, Jesse’s tongue immediately invading his mouth.

The prince moaned, even more, his breathing becoming even more troublesome as his lower half started twitching violently, Jesse picking up the pace even more and sending brunette into a sense of absolute delirium.

And then, Judai yelled into the kiss, barely being able to breathe as he released himself all over the bedsheets, his body suddenly feeling incredibly weak.

But Jesse still didn’t stop kissing him, those hungry, demanding kisses soon turning into gentle and caring movements as the other caressed prince’s body with care, Judai only vaguely aware of his guardian’s still existing erection.

- Jesse… - he mouthed as he continued to kiss the other, his body relaxing more and more until the prince felt he’ll lose consciousness very soon. – W-what about-

- Shhh… - the other said into brunette’s lips before continuing to kiss him. – It’s alright, just relax, my dearest prince…

Judai had no strength to defy him at that moment, gentle kisses soon turning into pecks until the prince’s movements finally seized, his consciousness soon plummeting into darkness.

Still, the brunette was vaguely aware of the fact the spell has finally been lifted off his eyes, a glimpse of shiny turquoise hair invading his vision before he fell asleep…

Chapter Text

Yusei slowly pulled up to the shore, leaving his chopper on one of many parking lots reserved only for the beach-goers during the summer but currently, it was almost empty.

As he took off his helmet, a scent of sea and light spring breeze caressed his face and ruffled his spiky hair, the young scientist not remembering when was the last time he got the day off like this. And even though he did promise himself to work on his… other project, the weather was just too nice to be wasted on him sitting in the house.

The raven-head then started walking slowly, his eyes constantly glued to the sea under his feet. and despite feeling rather energetic, he still wanted to savor this moment of tranquility he had gotten from coming to the coast on his own.

That little charm priest Kiryu used on him really did him wonders but Yusei was also aware he had to take proper care of his own body so that he wouldn’t have to visit Kalin’s temple again, especially not after seeing how needed that god really was.

This was definitely time for some changes…

- Oh, Mr. Fudo?

Yusei flinched slightly as he heard someone calling out his name in the distance, the male voice seeming rather familiar…

And as he turned around, he wondered whether he had just been thinking out loud again.

- Priest Kiryu?! – he exclaimed, the blue-haired man slowly strolling towards him, the casual attire giving the young man a completely different vibe from when Yusei had first met him.

- Kyosuke, please. – the man chuckled as he came up to the raven-head, the two of them exchanging handshakes. – What brings you here?

- Ah, it’s my day off so I thought I’d spend it in nature. The weather is so nice…

- Mind if I join you on your stroll? It just happened to be my day off, too. – Kyosuke said with a smile, the other not having the courage to reject his offer, not when the priest was so polite.

- Sure, I’d be glad to have a company. – Yusei responded as they slowly started moving again, an awkward silence arising between them.

The raven-head would glance at the priest every now and then, noticing how sharp his facial features were and just how luscious his blue hair was. Back at the temple, he seemed rather ethereal, as if he was some sort of a deity but today he just seemed like an extremely good-looking male model.

- You’ll make me blush if you stare at me so much. – the bluenette said through another chuckle. – Do I have something on my face?

- Ah, no! I just thought you’re rather good-looking for a priest. I usually just see young priestesses in… well, mostly in the Earth shrine. – Yusei admitted, causing the other man to laugh.

- It’s obvious you really don’t spend a lot of time in other temples. – Kyosuke said as their eyes locked. – A lot of priests and priestesses are young, especially ones who work in the Indigo shrine. For some temples, the youth is mandatory, especially if you have to work for the goddess of love and beauty.

It was Yusei’s turn to chuckle this time around, remembering how busy and in a rush all the priests were in the Indigo shrine.

- I hope Kalin takes good care of you, I’ve heard he’s a very beloved god.

- I suppose. A lot of people need our services, blessings and rituals, and they always choose them over visiting the hospital, not realizing we can only give them advice and heal some minor injuries or health issues. We’re not real healers. We’re here mostly to help and protect the real doctors who perform their roles diligently.

The raven-head nodded in understanding, noticing a slightly annoyed undertone that had crept up in the priest’s speech.

- Well, you did help me a lot so I’m really thankful for that. I feel so much better after that treatment. Thank you again.

Kyosuke started beaming again, his hand suddenly grabbing Yusei’s.

- Are you taking proper care of your body? Sleeping enough? Eating enough and quality food? -  he questioned, his face only a few inches away from Yusei’s.

- Wow, you’re really enthusiastic. – the young scientist chuckled nervously as he nodded. – Yes, yes, I’m trying to do my best with sleeping and eating. I was thinking of maybe starting some work-out, my lab assistant promised to be my gym partner since he’s a regular there.

-Good to know. – the man said with that same smile, not even thinking of letting go of Yusei’s hand. – But you can still come and visit the temple whenever you like! We’d be happy to have you! For any type of health issue you have, just come! I’m sure his Grace Kalin will help you!

Yusei suddenly found himself stepping backward, the young priest suddenly being way too close to his face, his grip literally making the raven-head’s fingers numb.

- I- I’ll see when I’ll be able to come… - he responded whilst trying to pull away from his hand.

- But… you’re on the Shrine Hill every single day, always going to the Earth Shrine… - Kyosuke mouthed, Yusei finally finding an opportunity to pull away his hand.

- I’ve told you already, I’ve made it a habit to worship Akiza. It calms me down when I’m in her temple…

- Just because you were found there as a child? – the priest questioned, all life suddenly leaving his tone. – She hasn’t really done anything for you, why does she deserve such devoted worship? Kalin would have definitely treated you better if you were his follower-

- Please stop. – raven-head said in a determined tone, his blue eyes piercing literal holes on the priest’s face.

- But I’ve said the truth, right? – Kyosuke pressed further, but his new attempt was quickly cut off.

- I’m aware gods aren’t supposed to interact with us in their godly forms but I know she watches over me and not only because I was found under her statue after my father was in an accident. I just feel grateful to her for always watching over me and her presence makes me incredibly calm and content. And the smell of roses is my favorite scent in the whole world…

Kyosuke suddenly turned his back on Yusei, reminding the raven-head of a child that was about to throw a tantrum. Why does he care so much, anyway?...

- If you wanted to hang out with me, you could’ve just ask- What the hell is that?

The priest slowly turned around as he noticed Yusei slowly inching towards the edge of the seashore, his eyes glued at the black shadow slowly inching towards them on the horizon. The young scientist could only vaguely see blue marks all over the creature’s body, his heart suddenly squeezing inside his chest.

- You need to hide. – Kyosuke whispered as his own eyes also glued onto the same view. – Now.

- B-but-

- No buts, Mr. Fudo! – the bluenette exclaimed as he started pushing the other down the cliff and towards one of the caves. – You won’t make it to town if you take your chopper now! Your best option is to hide, away from the monster!

- H-how do you know that?! What the hell is that thing?! – Yusei questioned whilst trying to resist the pushing, but the priest was just too strong for him.

- I’ll explain later! I have to quickly summon his Grace! This is something only gods and their attendants can handle! Please, trust me!

The scientist then finally stopped resisting and allowed the other to push him onto the beach and towards the huge cave, his eyes constantly glued to the giant monster that was only becoming bigger on the horizon…

***

- How have you been, dearest Akiza? – Asuka questioned as she and the burgundy-haired goddess strolled through the main Sky temple, one of many meetings of Sky and Earth gods finishing only a few moments ago.

- Busy as always at this time of the year. – she admitted, her shoulders suddenly feeling rather stiff.

- But I still see you have time to visit your favorite human, hm?

Akiza jumped, rather aware of how red her face suddenly became, the other goddess only chuckling in response.

- D-don’t say that to others, especially not my brother. He won’t leave me alone after that… - she said sheepishly, the blonde goddess making a small cross sign on her left shoulder as a sign of a deal.

- I’m really happy to see you’re more interested in humans, you were so against the gods that spend a certain amount of time in the mortal realm but look at you now, always visiting that young scientist-

- Asuka, please! – the burgundy-head cried out, causing the other goddess to giggle again. – Everyone says that just because you’re the goddess of wisdom, you know when to stop teasing people, but why is it not the case with me?!

- You’re just so cute when flustered! – blonde admitted, embracing the other goddess in a playful fashion.

But just as Akiza meant to push her away, heavenly trumpets started roaring all over the place, both goddesses now on standby. The burgundy-head then noticed two fairies flying their way, one having light blue hair and wooden staff coated in rosemary while the other was much smaller, her pink bob floating in the air.

- Rosemary?!

- Tutu?! – goddesses called out their respective attendants, Asuka being the first one to step out. – What’s going on, Tutu?

- A huge monster, your Grace! – pink-haired fairy exclaimed, the googols on her eyes becoming blurry from her heavy breathing.

- Other gods have just dispatched to their own missions so it’s only the two of you left! – Rosemary explained, two goddesses exchanging looks before coming to a silent agreement.

- Tutu, call for Natasha and Benten, I’ll be waiting for them at the location. – Asuka instructed her attendant, a golden spear and shield already materializing in her hands.

- Rosemary, call Marjoram and meet me in the mortal realm. – the burgundy-haired goddess said as she heard the sound of her wooden chariot approaching, Akiza immediately jumping into the vehicle as the dragons kept moving.

The two goddesses soon descended upon the mortal realm, more precisely, towards the East coast where the monster was sighted, at least according to Tutu and Rosemary. The flight was short, Akiza already being able to see the creature even through the clouds.

But once she finally reached the lower part on the horizon, a movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention, her head turning towards the beach.

- Yusei… - she mouthed as she recognized the man being pushed into a cave even from that distance, the goddess frowning almost immediately upon seeing who was with her favorite human.

- Is that Kalin? – Asuka questioned as she squinted her eyes, her two fighters appearing by her side.

Akiza didn’t respond, her chest suddenly feeling very tight as her guts started to boil, the goddess not even noticing Rosemary and Marjoram appeared next to her.

Why the hell is Kalin with him?...

The third god that was still on the beach looked around for one last time before transforming into his true form as the two dragons soon joined him as he flew to meet the goddesses, the giant monster already too close to the shore.

But in that very moment, Akiza couldn’t care less about the monster.

In one swift move, the goddess climbed onto the edge of her chariot and leaped forward, her punch landing right in Kalin’s face. The god yelped with surprise, his silverfish-brown eyes filled with instant resentment.

- What was that for?! – he yelled only to have one more punch flying his way, this one luckily not landing anywhere on his body. – Aren’t we supposed to fight the monster?!

- What do you want with Yusei?! – she growled, Kalin appearing slightly baffled for a moment.

- I haven’t even touched him, you idiot! – the god reassured, his voice showcasing his annoyance. – The man is so loyal to you it’s not even healthy!

- But you wanted to do something with him, didn’t you?! – Akiza pushed, thorny tentacles suddenly emerging from the sea trying to grab onto Kalin’s legs but the god was fast enough and strong enough to block her attacks.

- Don’t act like a lunatic! I won’t touch him anymore, I promise! He sure is cute but-

- WATCH OUT!

Both gods looked up before leaping into different directions, the giant’s hand soon landing into the sea and producing a massive tidal wave that hit the shore in all of its might, Akiza barely being able to see a few feet in front of her because of tiny drops in the air.

- Will you two finally stop with this quarrel and concentrate?! We have bigger issues here! – Asuka scolded, all of the present attendants nodding in agreement.

Both Kalin and Akiza nodded at her statement, the two gods shooting last glares at each other before flying up to have a better look at the monster.

- It seems it’s from the same family as that damn monkey… - Akiza said through her teeth, noticing strikingly similar lines to the ones the monkey monster had on the skin of the giant, these lines emitting blinding blue light.

- Does anyone have any idea where these come from? – Kalin questioned as the trio made sure they don’t get noticed by a giant eye in the middle of the giant’s head.

- It does seem familiar… - Asuka whispered before shaking her head. – But we won’t have time to think about it now. We have to strike it in the weak spot, that is, in that huge glowing circle in the middle of its chest.

As soon as the goddess said that the giant swung its enormously large hand and almost grabbed all three of them, Akiza seeing this task won’t be as easy as when she, Shizuka, and Ryou fought the monkey monster.

We must disable those hands first., Asuka said through a mental link. Each of you has to attack one hand, I’ll look for the opening to strike the weak spot and not get noticed.

The two gods nodded in agreement before calling forth their attendants, Kalin going for the left hand along with pink dragon Erde and purple dragon Fluss while Akiza returned to her chariot and took out her bow and arrows, Rosemary and Marjoram already striking at the giant’s right arm.

The creature started yelling in pain, its hands soon becoming an uncontrollable mass of energy that was just flying everywhere, making it almost impossible to hit him. Asuka continued to fly around the giant, but every single time she and her two fighters would get even a  little closer to it, they’d almost get squished by the huge legs.

And godly weapons and powers didn’t seem to work on this behemoth either.

Whenever Kalin would strike the blue stripe on the giant’s arm, the skin would regenerate immediately and similar happened to Akiza, her arrows literally becoming sucked into the blue light.

Why won’t you just DIE?!

Akiza prepared to launch three arrows at once, finally finding the spot on its arm that might be vulnerable but as she caught sight of Kalin again, her anger started boiling up again, messing up her field of view…

- MISTRESS! – two fairies exclaimed in a total panic, the burgundy-haired goddess only then noticing a huge foot was about to hit her.

- AKIZA! – Asuka and Kalin yelled before leaping to her rescue, but nothing could be done. She’ll definitely be hit-

A loud explosion suddenly echoed the bay, the giant starting to yowl in pain as their balance was lost, Akiza just then noticing its foot was literally pierced with some king of a huge projectile and set on fire, the giant’s regenerative powers seemingly weakened.

What the…

As her eyes followed the trail of smoke towards the shore, the goddess’s heart skipped a beat as she was Yusei on the beach, six loaded cannons ready to release their fire on the monstrosity. Her human friend didn’t even stop to look at what was going on but the fact he was so frantically running from cannon to cannon to hit the giant’s legs told her enough.

- Now it’s our chance! – Asuka exclaimed before she, Natasha, and Benten blocked the hand attack from the giant, Akiza doing the same with the other arm. – KALIN, GO!

- TAKE THAT YOU DISGUSTING FUCKER! – the god exclaimed as he and his two dragons released all of their firepowers on the monster’s glowing weak spot, the giant letting out one final cry of pain before plummeting into the sea, back first, its black body soon losing the blue glow and disappearing under the ocean waves.

The gods could only observe the scene in shock as they breathed heavily, Akiza only vaguely aware a faint blue light was bathing Kalin before it had completely disappeared.

And once she turned towards the beach again, her eyes locked with Yusei even from that distance, his reserved smile and thumbs up causing her heart to go absolutely crazy in her chest.

- Well, he sure has guts. – Asuka said with a chuckle as she observed the silent interaction between the two.

- We’d definitely be screwed if he didn’t use those cannons, that damn genius. – Kalin noted, the burgundy-haired goddess barely aware of their words.

 She could only look at Yusei, hoping that he was indeed alright after that whole ordeal but still smiling thankfully to her dearest human.

And in her worry and infatuation, the goddess didn’t even notice the fourth party observing everything from beyond the clouds, his smile promising a rather sinister future for both her and Yusei…

Chapter Text

- Your Majesty?

The king of the Underworld rose his head from the reports he's been reading up until now, recognizing one of Carly's girls just by her voice.

- Enter, Water.

The door opened immediately, a rather tall sorceress of blue skin and wavy blue hair entering the king’s study, her eyes low and her body trembling slightly but visibly.

- Master Crow’s just brought a letter for you. Mistress Carly said this is to be urgently delivered to you. – she said before handing him a light blue envelope with a dragon crest in the middle, the king chuckling at her deep bow.

- I’m glad to see you girls and your dearest mistress learned how to behave properly after that little scolding session… - he said, a barely noticeable growl present in his undertone. –But there’s no need to be scared of me if you keep doing your job diligently.

- Yes, Majesty. – she responded whilst still not raising her head to look at him, her hand clenching onto the wooden staff.

- You may go now, keep working hard, Water.

The sorceress nodded and quickly exited the study, the king of the Underworld letting out another amused chuckle before turning all of his attention towards the letter he had just received.

It took you two months just to respond to my letter. Asshole…

With those lovely thoughts on his mind, the god tore open the envelope only to see a blank sheet of white paper, the inscriptions soon appearing before his eyes in a deep blue font, Seto’s manner of responding causing the king a new level of amusement.

When you come to the meeting during Summer Solstice, take what you need and go. Stop bothering me.

Seto, Chief of the Gods and of the Sky Realm

 - It’s always such a delight exchanging letters with you, asshat. – the king chuckled before crumpling the paper and throwing it into the fire. He’s a living image of Rex, I swear…

But at least, this meant some type of progress. He’ll have to take off on his journey in the Sky Realm in only one week’s time and mostly because The Big Five will have the meeting that’ll probably take place for days, especially if he and Anzu start with their usual bickering.

And since Yugi’s in the Underworld, those meetings could be stretched out for a whole damn week…

Still, he knew what he was looking for and Seto can bet he’ll turn the White Library upside down just to find that one particular scroll…

Another knock on the door of his study interrupted his train of thoughts, the vein on his forehead popping all of a sudden.

- Yes?! – he asked with a slightly higher tone, the pause on the other side of the door making him even more annoyed.

- I-It’s me, Majesty…

The king’s heart dropped in his stomach as he heard that gentle, male voice, the hesitant tone making him quietly facepalm himself before slowly opening the door, his features softening the moment he laid his eyes on the spring god.

- Yugi… - he mouthed, the younger god barely being able to keep his composure. – I’m sorry, I just had a stressful day…

- I can come next time if you’re busy, Majesty-

- No, no, come in. I’m glad to see you. – the older said as he opened the door wider, Yugi carefully entering the study while looking around at every little detail.

And only then did the king of the Underworld notice a rather large item the younger god was holding, it’s round shape being concealed with a white sheet.

- What do you have there?  - the older asked after both of them found a place to seat, the atmosphere still rather awkward between them, the spring god not even wanting to look the other in the eye until asked this question.

- Oh! – Yugi exclaimed before putting the item on the table, the sheet removed in one swift move.

The king frowned, a black egg with a few rubies carved in it looking somewhat familiar.

- Lady Mana said I should ask you the permission to keep it and raise it once it hatches. – the younger said in a cheerful voice, his eyes glued to the shiny egg.

The king took a better look at it, picking it up for a moment just to make sure he’s been right about the type of creature that was about to hatch from it.

- Where did you find this?

- H-how did you know I’ve found it? – Yugi asked, his purple eyes suddenly becoming wider.

- Because this is Gandora’s egg. – the king explained after putting the egg back down carefully. – That’s a type of dragon that’s born from the earth itself and it doesn’t have a mother. Its body is made of iron and crystals entirely and they are usually born once every two centuries or so. I’ve had about nine of them over the past two millennia. Most of them have turned into different types of dragons after a certain period of time but I did have one Gandora that became Dragon of Destruction and… well, things didn’t end up well.

Yugi lowered his head as he heard the last part of the other’s explanation, his face suddenly going pale as a ghost.

- But these dragons indeed need someone to take care of them, at least until they grow into their full size after six months. – the king reassured. – So I have no problem with you taking care of it.

- N-now I’m not so sure I’ll be able to… - the younger mouthed, his voice unnaturally quiet. – I don’t want to be the cause of its demise… Maybe it’s best to leave it to you-

- Yugi?

- Hm? – the younger finally locked the eyes with the king, the older god ignoring a sudden pickup in his heartbeat.

- That last Gandora ended like it did because I didn’t have enough patience to properly teach it and that’s why it became wild and unpredictable. – the older explained, his red eyes becoming even warmer as he looked at the spring god. – But I do believe that you have what this type of dragon needs. I know you’ll give it all of your love and care and you’ll see how devoted the dragon will become to you.

- You think so? – the younger asked with a tender smile, his expression lightening up.

The king only nodded in response, his hand lightly pushing the egg back into the other’s arms. The spring god accepted it carefully and wrapped it into the white sheet as if he was cradling a baby.

- I’ll try to do my best… I really will, I won’t let it become naughty. – Yugi said through an adorable chuckle, the king only being able to lean on his own hand and observe him, completely unaware of his own smile. – When do you think it’ll hatch?

- Soon, it’s only a matter of days. It’s pretty heavy. Probably before I return from the meeting of The Big Five.

- Oh… so it’s that time of the year again. Summer is finally here…

The king frowned at the younger’s sudden change of tone, Yugi’s eyes losing focus for a moment.

- Well, I wish you a safe trip, your Majesty! – he said cheerfully before literally bolting out of the chair and running towards the door. – And… I’m sorry. If Anzu tells anything bad to you, I’ll make sure to compensate in some way-

- It’s not your job to apologize for her actions, Yugi. Besides, our bickering has become normal over the past millennia, I don’t even expect anything else from her.

The spring god’s gaze lowered again, his eyebrows pretty low as he clenched onto the egg against his chest.

- Still, I’m sorry… - he whispered before opening the door and greeting the king with another beautiful smile. – I’ll see you then! Goodbye!

- Goodbye…

As the doors closed, the king leaned back in his chair and let out a deep and exhausted sigh, just now remembering he had to take care of so many things before he takes off to the Upper Realm.

But at least, he managed to see Yugi…

But why would Gandora get born at this time of the year? I hope nothing bad happens…

***

About a week later, Yugi sat in his chambers writing another letter to his little fairies when a flame above his head started going crazy, a sound of something hard cracking making him stand up.

But as soon as he looked at the egg inside a small glass box, the spring god leaped forward, taking it out and placing it right onto the bed, not even caring whether he’ll dirty the sheets.

- Oh my goodness, here you are… - he whispered as his heart went crazy in his chest, his eyes glued at the parts of the shiny crystal that were slowly breaking off, the movement rather prominent on the inside.

The king really was right, the dragon will really hatch while he was away… but upon that realization, Yugi felt a sudden wave of panic wash over him.

What if he really screws up with this little dragon? What if he causes him to become destructive so that the king will have to eventually subdue it? Will he be able to take care of if properly?!

He never really knew he’d adopt a baby dragon-

A small roar came from the cracked egg, the movement becoming livelier as the parts of the crystal shell continued to fall all around, reddish fluid spilling all over the bed. And then a small shiny leg peered out, the chick trying desperately to wiggle its way out…

Yugi carefully pulled against the top part of the egg, making a big enough opening so that he could see the dragon’s tiny head, its blurry red eyes staring directly at him. But this was the only help he could offer, the little guy was supposed to hatch mostly on his own…

- Come on, little guy, you can do it… - the god rooted the chick on, the movement only becoming livelier and small growls and grunts becoming louder as the moments passed.

And then, with a single kick of its other leg, the egg crumbled into pieces, the tiny dragon letting out a shriek that almost pierced Yugi’s ears.

The chick started looking around almost immediately, its small legs barely being able to hold him up. Still, its curiosity was rather obvious as it looked at everything that was placed in that room, Yugi letting it take in its surroundings as much as possible.

But then, their eyes locked for a moment, a small dragon almost running into the spring god’s lap, its tiny head burying into Yugi’s blue robes.

The god chuckled as he noticed his vision was becoming blurry, his hands closing around the little creature and he picked it up, the small dragon sniffing him and rubbing its cold metal nose against the god’s cheek, causing Yugi to chuckle.

- You’re so adorable…  why are you so cute?! – Yugi squeaked as he embraced the little guy tighter, making sure he wasn’t hurting the dragon. – Oh… I have to say Lady Mana that you’re hatched… you must be really hungry.

The dragon growled adorably again, its claws latching onto Yugi’s robes as he stood up and reached the emergency button placed next to his bed, alerting whoever was listening to come to his chambers as soon as they could.

- Welcome to this world, little Gandora… - Yugi whispered as he cradled the dragon in his hands, the chick relaxing in the god’s arms and letting out a sound similar to purring as its claws wouldn’t let the blue robes even for a moment.

- I really hope… I really hope I’ll do good… but I’m glad you’re here. – the god chirped again as he smiled down at the drowsy chick, its metal body getting calmer by the second until it eventually fell asleep in Yugi’s arms, like a real baby.

The god smiled tenderly as he continued to walk around the room, his mind completely emptied from the doubtful thoughts he had only half an hour earlier.

Now all that was important was that tiny, new life resting in his arms…


END OF ARC 3: MOON KNOWS MY SECRETS

Chapter Text

Yusei sat in the Research Facility garden, his eyes not rising from the notebook he'd been writing in for even a moment. In his left hand was a half-eaten yakisoba sandwich while his second hand continued to write notes for the meeting he had later in the afternoon.

As the first days of July rolled around, the weather became almost uncontrollably hot, almost as if the great goddess of agriculture was fuming from inside out and all of it was reflected in the weather. But luckily in this very garden, all the trees have been providing enough shadow, especially the taller ones so sitting there was the best option.

And yet not even that incredible heat could avert Yusei’s attention from the incident that had happened one month ago on the East Coast.

After seeing that huge giant thing and being shoved inside the nearest cave on the shore by priest Kiryu, he couldn’t believe his own eyes once he saw three gods descending from the heavens to fight the creature.

And among them, of course, was Akiza, even her angry face looking divine and beautiful in young scientist’s eyes.

But soon after the fight had started, it became rather obvious three gods needed more help than what they had on their hands, the giant regenerating so fast that the trio couldn’t even make a dent.

And that’s when it came to Yusei: he was at the damn East Coast, the place where the Facility had dropped off those old-school cannons that weren’t of any use to the military anymore.

With all of his strength and speed, the young scientist somehow managed to push three cannons out of the cave, thankful for his training of firearm usage two years ago. He managed to load them just in time to zap the giant into the leg, his eyes returning to the scene just when the creature was about to strike the hunt goddess.

He managed to tick off two more cannons which gave the godly trio an opening to finish the creature off, Kalin being the one to finally kill it and push it back into the depths of the sea.

Yusei continued to play that whole incident in his head even one month later, the whole situation seeming more and more disturbing the more he remembered it and more information he had learned from the web and classified science data.

Various monsters fighting the war against gods wasn’t anything new, especially if one looks at ancient texts, but those battles were much more common in the first five centuries after the world’s creation, when a great master of beasts, Roman, was still alive…

And in recent months, two more monsters similar to that giant one have appeared, various gods going into battle with them. The data Yusei managed to look over didn’t say much, just the location, description of a monster, and the god that had put an end to its life the raven-head couldn’t ignore certain coincidences in all of those incidents.

All of the monsters appeared in seemingly unpopulated places around the continent but they were all at the same distance from the Capital. Moreover, it seems that gods didn’t get the immediate signal that the monster has appeared but only a few days later when a monster was on their way towards the Capital. And when it came to defeating the monster, there always had to be three gods battling it with one of them giving a final strike, with the exception of Crow, messenger god, who just so happened to pass by the area where a whale monster had just awakened.

So many things didn’t seem right in that whole situation. One might think monsters were just acting crazy on their own but considering the pattern of attacks, that couldn’t be the case.

The second possibility was that Roman was still alive and is only creating monsters to mess with other gods and have them “train”, as the old scriptures have said, but not even that seemed likely, mostly because he would always be present next to his awakened monsters and would monitor their movements so they don’t fatally wound gods.

These monsters were definitely aiming for the kill…

Yusei frowned as he felt cold sweat running down his back and he finally put the pen and the notebook down, his notes finally completed. He quickly finished his sandwich and drank the rest of the water before standing back up, ready to return to the lab.

With another yawn the young scientist walked down the path under the orange trees, their gentle scent only causing him to become sleepier. He knew he promised Aki, Rafael, and everyone else that he’ll start taking better care of himself, but ever since that incident on the East Coast he couldn’t stop himself from adding one more research to his two already existing projects, all three topics being equally important.

And he’ll definitely get to the bottom of this monster incident-

- Oh? – Yusei gasped as he took a turn to the right, noticing a man in rather stylish clothes standing under one of the cherry trees in the distance, his eyes glued to its leaves and delicious fruit hanging from it.

Still, the lack of a lab coat told raven-head he definitely didn’t belong there.

- Sir? – he called out before coming closer. – What business do you have here?

When the man turned to look at him, Yusei was literally frozen in the spot for a few moments, not even believing how beautiful the man was: his silver hair reached his shoulders and aside from a few locks near his left eye, the majority of his face was clearly visible. His skin was pale and perfect, his eyes a lighter shade of blue that still seemed as deep as the ocean. He was shorter than Yusei by a whole head but his slender figure and powerful aura could clearly be felt, his stance proud, beautiful, and unwavering.

- Did you say something? – he asked before taking a step forward, Yusei just then remembering what the situation was.

-Uh… I asked what business do you have here? – the scientist repeated, aware the man came even closer to him than before, a sudden scent of magnolia washing over him.

- I was just watching at these trees, they are so well-tended. Why? – he responded innocently, confusing the scientist further.

- But you’re not supposed to be here, sir. – raven-head explained. – This is the garden of the Research Facility, only employees are allowed to come here.

The man’s face immediately went blank at that information before he started laughing, covering his right eye in embarrassment.

- Oh my… - he said through a chuckle. – I saw the door to the garden was open so I thought it was public, I’m really sorry!

Yusei had to chuckle at that reaction, the man looking even prettier when he was smiling so widely.

- It’s alright, would you like me to escort you out, sir?

- Yes, please! – the man responded enthusiastically, embarrassed giggle still slipping from his lips. – I’ve spent quite some time here, I don’t even remember where the exit is.

- Come with me, sir-

- Please, call me Edo. Edo Phoenix. – the man said before he caught up with the young scientist. – It’s weird if you call me that way when we’re probably the same age.

- A-alright, Edo… - the taller responded, the scent of magnolia becoming even stronger now when the newcomer was walking next to him.

- You said this is a research facility? What are you guys researching? Something in connection to plants or something?

- No, no, we’re a royal research facility, we test and produce weapons for the royal army using magical materia and the newest technology. – Yusei explained with a chuckle, other’s amazed expression amusing him no end. – Are you not from the Capital? Usually, all our residents know about this facility.

- Ah no, you could say I’m just a tourist… - the man averted his eyes, his voice becoming somewhat quiet. – I’m actually from… North!

- Really?! Why in the world would you want to come all the way here?! – the scientist questioned, Edo still refusing to return him the gaze, their destination in sight.

- YUSEI!

Both men stopped dead in their tracks as they heard a deep male voice calling out, the raven-head immediately becoming alerted.

- I’m here, Rafael! – the man yelled back, his colleague soon emerging from the tree line, his expression rather stern and tense.

- You need to come back to the lab, now! It’s a huge emergency! – Rafael said frantically, not even paying a glance at Edo who only stared up at him.

- Give me just a moment. – raven-head responded before turning towards his guest and patting him on the shoulder. – This is the back entrance, it’s usually locked to make sure not to make the same mistake twice.

- Thank you, Yusei. – the silver-head responded with a smile, the sound of his own name making the scientist’s heart skip a beat for some reason. – Can I come to visit again? Not in secrecy or anything, just for hanging out?

- Sure… just ask for me at the front desk.

- Yusei! – Rafael called out again, his voice stronger than before.

- I’ll see you, Edo! Good luck on your way home! – the raven-head said before waving the shorter man goodbye and now finally running after Rafael, the heat only causing his lungs to become tighter than usual. – What’s the rush? Did something explode?

- No, this is the problem of the whole state, not just this lab… - the blonde responded, his voice almost turning into a growl.

Yusei frowned and picked up the pace, the duo soon arriving in the lab where most of the staff was gathered before the big screen, anxious chatter and a few whines clearly audible in the air.

Raven-head rose his eyes towards the screen, seeing the breaking news broadcast. Oh no…

- Good afternoon citizens of the Capital and the whole state. – the woman on the screen said calmly, her expression completely blank as she read out the following news: - Shortly after 4 PM today, the royal palace has been invaded by around twenty members of the extremely left party that pledges complete loyalty to the Pantheon.

Even though the royal guard and military managed to subdue all of them in a record time, there have been casualties.

His Highness, Daisuke I, has been assassinated…

Chapter Text

- Your Highness, it's time.

Judai nodded before getting up from his bed, Alister opening the door for him as his black cape flew behind him, the prince’s expression completely blank.

- How are you, sire? – the bodyguard questioned, his usual casual attire switched with a black suit and black leather gloves, something all male members of royal guard had to wear when someone of the royal passes away…

- I’m fine, don’t worry. – the brunette responded immediately, his usual royal suit squeezing him more than usual, especially around his neck.

- But your father-

- Alister…

The duo stopped just before the elevators, guards bowing to the prince before opening the double door for them.

- I’m really fine. You know I didn’t have any special relationship with my old man… he was basically just my employee, nothing more if you look at it from a different perspective. – Judai elaborated once he and his bodyguard were alone inside the elevator. – What worries me more is what’s going to happen next… now that Jun is probably going to take over the throne…

A silence arose between the duo, burgundy-haired man nodding with understanding.

- Whatever happens, know that I’ll follow you, sire. – he eventually said, evoking a small but meaningful smile from the prince.

Their ride to the bottom floor lasted shorter than Judai would expect and the moment he exited the elevator and saw his older sister in a black dress and black veil over her face, he could feel his heart jumping into his throat.

- Come, Judai. Twins are waiting. – she muttered, her voice raspy and deep. Judai obliged immediately, Alister and Axel following right behind.

The hallway leading to the main meeting room was filled with his father’s portraits, black ribbons decorating their top-left angle while all servants, all in black, bowed to them as they have passed by. The whole palace was eerily quiet which only caused the brunette to become more fidgety, his heart beating painfully inside his chest while his stomach churned.

Let this be over quickly…

Siblings eventually reached the meeting room, their two older brothers already waiting inside, Jun’s dark brown hair slicked back and his regent crown being placed upon him.

- Take a seat, you two. This won’t take long. – Juno said in a commanding tone, his hand instructing all other servants and bodyguards to leave the room. – This is a family matter so if you don’t mind?

- Come, Jula. – Judai called out for his older sister, moving a chair for her. She accepted the invitation without hesitation, the younger just then noticing how puffy her eyes were under that veil…

- Welcome, my dearest siblings. – Jun started once everyone was seated around the quadrate table, Judai already getting the urge to hit him square in the jaw. – As you know, our palace’s been under attack not even three days ago and unfortunately… our noble and brave father had fallen by the hands of those rebelling pigs that still wish to be completely dependent on the mercy of gods.

- I don’t think the last part of the sentence was necessary-

- Julia, stay quiet. Your future king is speaking. –Juno scolded, the youngest only being able to shoot a sharp look to both of his brothers before Jun continued:

- As I was saying, even though this moment is indeed tragic and our father had left far too early, I do believe the four of us will be able to lead our state towards the brighter future, where we will only continue father’s dream of becoming a strong force without any divine help.

Judai bit his tongue, that same urge to hit his oldest brother in the jaw only becoming stronger the more he talked.

- And I have to inform you of one decision I’ve made as a regent and, hopefully, a future king of this state. It will be the first showcase of our strength and the proof that this incident and this loss didn’t scare us.

- Oh, what now… - Julia muttered again whilst leaning forward against the table her hand disappearing behind the black veil as she laid her palm over her forehead.

Jun chuckled at her reaction and locked eyes with his twin, the final nod between them causing Judai to hold his breath.

And then, the regent rose his chin high and took a deep breath, a prideful smile appearing on his face.

- As a sign of rebellion against the gods, our father shall not be buried or cremated by usual funeral rituals which require godly assistance. We shall bury him in the royal garden, in a massive mausoleum. No need for priests or priestesses, just us saying our last goodbyes to our dearest father.

Judai’s mouth literally fell agape upon hearing those words, his sister tired of the act and raising the veil off her head, her brown eyes drilling holes into Jun’s skull.

- Are you an idiot? – she muttered with a cold tone, the twins about to scold her for her language before Judai rose from his seat and yelled:

- You are completely mental, Jun! I know you don’t give a damn what gods think, but some boundaries are there not to be crossed! You cannot leave our father without a proper funeral! That’s the closest to heresy it could get!

- And since when do you care what gods think? – Juno mocked. – All of these years you just keep saying you make your own destiny and that you don’t need godly guidance but look at you now, all fired up around the decision your regent, your future king, has made-

- But this is a different matter! – younger pressed, his voice only becoming louder. –If you piss of You-Know-Who, we’re literally going to be fucked! He might even annihilate our whole damn family! Do you have a fucking death wish?!

- MIND… - Jun hit the table with his fist, causing everyone to wince. – Your language in front of your future king, Judai. You’re lucky I even let you stay here-

- Oh, if you keep doing this type of shit, I will gladly move away! I don’t want my head to be put on a skewer because my brother is a selfish, egotistical maniac who thinks it’s a good idea to get in the fight with one of the most powerful gods!

- Who are you calling-

- ENOUGH ALREADY! – Julia exclaimed as she stood up, three pairs of widened eyes looking her way as she continued to speak. – Judai has a point so at least try and consider it, Jun. These types of changes have to be implemented slowly or people will riot and you’ll really draw the rage of all gods towards yourself and this family which can only lead us to ruin and not prosperity that you spew on about. Reconsider this decision, I beg of you…

A tense silence enveloped the meeting room only for Jun to chuckle, his brown eyes looking at both of his younger siblings as if they were just the trash on the side of the road.

- Like it or not, this is the king’s decision and if you don’t like it, you’re more than welcomed to leave. I’ll gladly sign your expulsion from the Yuki family. But remember… - the oldest hissed. – If you really wish to abandon me, you become enemies of the state…

Both Judai and Julia were left rather stunned, the youngest barely suppressing the urge to strangle his brother, but before any of them could even react properly, Jun stated:

- The meeting has ended and the private funeral preparations are continuing. You are dismissed.

- JUN! – two younger siblings yelled after their regent, Jun only replying with a chuckle:

- It’s “Your Highness”! Remember that little detail!

With those words the twins have left the meeting room, Judai still in a state of shock from what had just ensued.

- This won’t be good… oh dear gods, this won’t be good… - Julia muttered after slumping onto the chair, bodyguards soon entering the room with confused looks on their faces.

Judai could only feel one emotion in his body at that moment and that was most definitely fear. Fear of the consequences that will be brought by enraging the Unnamed one…

***

The king of the Underworld was finally on his way back to his domain, three weeks of absence being more than enough for him. Meetings were tiresome and boring, as per usual, but Anzu’s killer aura only complicated a lot of things, so much that the king had to ask for a separate seat so she wouldn’t kill him with a hidden needle or something.

But his little venture to the Library was definitely worth all that suffering and boredom, especially because the scroll he’s been looking for was so easy to obtain and read.

And the whole scripture revealed some rather interesting facts, particularly about his own creator and the times he started “having fun” while the king was imprisoned…

Everything made sense now: the reason why Yugi’s energy was so low, the reason why he was seemingly led to the forbidden places in the Underworld, the possible reason for his nightmares…

And of course, the reason why the king himself took such a strong interest in him…

All of it made sense now.

But I don’t know whether Yugi knows about these facts, the king thought, the smile immediately being wiped off his face upon remembering spring god’s crying face.

I’ll have to approach this topic carefully-

The king stopped in mid-air, his red eyes being able to see one of the entrances to the Underworld even from that height, but the commotion and ruckus coming from underground made him frown deeply.

He quickly dematerialized and found himself in front of the Underworld entrance in a matter of seconds, Berry being the one to let him inside through the barrier and alarm the whole kingdom that their monarch has returned.

And immediately upon his arrival in the black-marbled hallway, Mahad ran to his aid, his expression contorted with nervousness.

- Mahad? What’s going on? – the king questioned once the funeral god approached him, the taller god breathless and unable to speak for a few moments.

- We have a big problem, your Majesty… - he eventually muttered. – The current regent of the Yuki family, Jun Yuki… he refused to give his father a proper funeral!

The king was left speechless for a couple of moments before his red eyes darkened, his voice becoming as deep as a growl.

- Explain.

- The king Daisuke… he died four days ago in a rebellion and attack on the royal palace… and so, as I always do, I sent one of my girls to observe the soul for forty days before it descends to the Underworld… and Pottarie heard the meeting of the four royal heirs. The regent apparently doesn’t want to bend to the traditions and will bury his father in the mausoleum built in the royal garden. He won’t even call for priests… and all because the young future king wants to be independent of the will of gods…

Another moment of tense silence ensued, the king now looking around with his brows risen but his eyes dark as the pits of hell.

And eventually, the king laughed, his deep laughter echoing the hallways of the whole Underworld, everyone stopping dead in their tracks upon hearing it, Mahad himself feeling shivers going down his spine.

- I thought to leave this matter to you to handle but how can I miss the opportunity to SHOW OFF MY POWER?! – the king exclaimed, a crazed smirk appearing on his face as the shadows started gathering around him, his laughter becoming deeper and deeper by a second.

Mahad went down on his left knee, bowing before the immense power of his master, cold sweat rimming down his face as he respectively asked:

- Your orders, Majesty.

The king chuckled with amusement, his red eyes literally glowing in the dim light of the hallway.

- Open the Red Chamber. Let the Sky Dragon have some fun…

***

Later that afternoon Judai was running around the palace and gathering his belongings, ready to outsail through the main door that very evening. He even asked Julia to come with him and save herself from the infinite wrath that was about to be bestowed upon them, but his sister remained adamant about wanting to convince Jun to change his decision, at least until nothing happened.

- Highness! – Alister stopped the brunette in the middle of the hallway, a few books in his hands showing he was also ready to leave. – Please come and look at the sky…

The prince could feel his blood freezing in his veins as he entered the library and looked through the massive window, his breath stopping for a moment upon seeing the black clouds and a vortex that was slowly descending upon the royal grounds, purple thunder hitting trees and towers all over the place.

- It’s begun… - Judai muttered. – We need to hide-

- Oh… my gods… - Alister gasped as a huge head of a red dragon appeared in the middle of a vortex, its double mouth letting out a bloodcurdling and earthshaking shriek.

The dragon then started descending, its long body seemingly never really leaving the safety of the clouds. But as soon as its head turned towards the palace and Judai looked into its massive yellow eyes, his instincts went into overdrive.

- Alister, come. We need to get out of the palace…

Without any questions the bodyguard followed his master as they dashed through the hallways, the servants and other employees becoming more erratic and frightened as the dragon came closer to the palace, its terrifying shrieks causing Judai’s eyes to tear up.

Eventually, the duo managed to reach the huge royal garden, Judai seeing all three of his siblings in the corner of his eye but his attention was completely on that huge dragon to even consider looking at them properly.

The beast soon flew over the palace, causing complete disarray and panic as servants ran all over the place. Judai only then noticed a bright light coming from both of the dragon’s mouths, its head-turning around as if it’s looking for something…

- Oh shit… - Judai muttered as he threw himself on Alister and yelled. – EVERYONE GET DOWN!

People listened to him without hesitation, even his two idiotic brothers, and not even a moment later, the dragon shot two beams of energy out of his mouth, his power completely erasing the South Tower, the same tower where his parents’ bedroom was…

While still feeling electricity in the air and as the small particles of glass and cement flew around the air, the sparks flying everywhere and panicked voices and screams filling his ears, Judai rose his eyes and locked the eyes with the huge dragon, the beast seemingly looking directly at him.

LISTEN WELL, ALL OF YOU.

Another wave of chills ran through Judai’s whole body, his whole being paralyzed with fear as he kneeled down before the dragon, the deep and divine voice reaching his ears making it clear who was speaking to them…

IF YOU CONTINUE BEING STUBBORN LITTLE THINGS, MY LOVELY DRAGON WILL CONTINUE ERASING YOUR PRECIOUS PALACE PIECE BY PIECE

TODAY, THERE WERE NO CASUALTIES BUT YOU BETTER RECONSIDER WHOM YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR OPPONENT.

- WE’RE SORRY, YOUR GRACE! – Judai yelled while still having his head bowed before the beast, the deep voice turning into an amused chuckle that vibrated through the ground, sending even more people into a state of panic.

FARWELL UNTIL TOMORROW, PESKY LITTLE FLIES!

Another wave of laughter echoed the horizon as the dragon shrieked and started flying away, its massive body causing wind so strong everyone had to hold onto something so they wouldn’t end up being blown away.

Judai just wanted to stay laying on the ground and cry like a little baby, the image of that huge dragon still flashing before his eyes. What do I do, what the hell do I do?!

- Master, are you alright? – Alister called out, his strong hands being able to pull the prince back on his feet, Judai still unable to say anything understandable.

And then he saw his sister running his way, her expression pale but determined…

- Judai, you need to come with me tonight. We need to take care of this as soon as possible.

- W-where are we going? – the younger stuttered, his ears still filled with the shrieks of that dragon.

- To the Obsidian Shrine. We need the audience with the King of the Underworld…

Chapter Text

The moon was already high up in the sky when Judai and Julia finally reached the Shrine Hill accompanied by only Alister and Axel, black cloaks over their heads, and an ordinary car preventing the members of a wide population from recognizing them.

As soon as they approached the now closed fence of the sacred ground, a few security guards prevented them from advancing but upon seeing in whose audience they were, they quickly opened the door and alarmed the main priest of Obsidian Shrine, a whole line of priests and priestesses lined at the entrance upon their arrival.

- This way, your Highnesses. – the priest said quietly, Julia giving a silent sign for their bodyguards to remain behind.

- We saw what had happened to the palace today, are you well, Highnesses? – the priest questioned, Judai very aware of everyone’s curious gazes piercing the back of his head.

- As you can see, we’re alright. But we’re here upon an urgent business so can you please get on with the summoning ritual? We really need to speak to His Grace. – princess said in a somewhat scolding tone, the priest walking next to her lowering his head almost instantly.

- Certainly, I apologize, your Highness.

Once the group reached the heart of the Shrine, all gathered priests gathered in a circle around an already lit and quite big fire, the royal siblings getting the instruction to remain away from the circle until His Grace doesn’t appear.

- Now we shall start the summoning ritual! – the main priest proclaimed, everyone else already quietly chanting a prayer as he switched to a language Judai didn’t know, the prince’s heart suddenly jumping in his throat.

He could feel his whole body going into some kind of a meltdown as his stomach churned and churned and his head was buzzing, his eyes noticing every slight change in his environment whilst the sound of quiet chanting seemed like screaming in his ears.

But he knew he had to bite his tongue and do this.

After the attack, his older brothers continued to give “moral” to the palace staff, most of them becoming reassured with their empty words whilst the smaller portion of those who had witnessed the dragon’s attack just decided to book it out of the palace. And, honestly, Judai couldn’t blame them…

The idiocy of his brothers, especially Jun’s, knew no bounds and the youngest only wanted to beat him to a pulp so he’d understand how everyone’s been feeling and how frightening the whole experience was. But if he was to use force, he’d definitely be forced out of the palace and Julia would be left completely alone to battle a war against those two cretins.

Judai was convinced that nothing could stop him in his wish to help Julia achieve whichever plan she had, but after sensing the sinister aura inside that shrine and the way his chest started tightening as the prayers and chants became louder, he just wanted to run away from there.

Add to all of that still fresh memory of that huge dragon literally wiping out an entire palace tower and before he knew it, the prince was trembling in fear as the huge flames before his eyes slowly started changing their color…

- Judai.

The prince turned his head towards the voice, just now aware his big sister had taken his hand into hers, her grip so reassuring…

- Just trust me, alright? We’ll arrange something… - she whispered, the light of flames on her face suddenly changing to a cold blue…

- How can you be so sure? – younger muttered, aware of how shaky his voice was. – You saw what… what He’s capable of…

- Well, we did disobey his orders and intentionally ignored the tradition. It was expected… but both of us are here to fix what Jun and Juno… well, fucked up, pardon my language.

Judai chuckled at her sudden awareness, remembering the way she was spewing all possible insults towards their brothers after the attack…

But his joy was short-living, the blue flames suddenly roaring even higher, the prince just then becoming aware of the shape of someone’s body appearing in the fire.

- Come. – Julia pulled the younger, Judai not being able to look away.

Soon enough, the Unnamed one showed up in all of his glory: his body created of only blue flames that threatened to burn anyone who came even a little close, a portion of his godly yet sinister energy carried over through the huge body of fire in front of them. His hair was majestic as the prince remembered from the books he had read and his expression was that of a true ruler: unwavering, stern, and calculating.

And yet, the only thing Judai could really stare at were those red eyes in the middle of a face made of blue flames, their color almost sucking him in…

- Get down. – Julia whispered before lowering her body before His Grace herself, the prince only then remembering what his true position in that whole situation was.

He quickly kneeled onto the right knee, his head bowed deeply as he tried to gulp, his throat squeezing completely-

- Left knee, Judai… - his sister reminded with a strict whisper, brunette barely being able to switch legs without falling over.

- Adorable little flies, aren’t you?

Everyone gasped as His Grace’s deep echoed the shrine, the ground under Judai’s feet literally shaking, causing his heart to almost burst out of his chest. So, this is how it is to be in presence of one of the Big Five…

- Why are you bothering me at this time of the evening? You know even gods need their rest. – His Grace mocked, every syllable coming out of his mouth causing Judai another minor stroke.

But he still grinded his teeth and spoke, now kneeling on both of his legs and lowering into dogeza position before the mighty god.

- We’re here… to ask for your forgiveness, Your Grace! – he exclaimed, barely managing to prevent his voice from shaking. – We apologize for the ways our regent, crown prince Jun Yuki, had offended you!

A deep sigh echoed the shrine, Judai feeling a cold breeze wash over his bent back.

- And why did you, the younger siblings, have to go in their place? – the god asked, boredom very clearly audible in his voice. – I’m aware you don’t want your precious royal palace to be destroyed, but it’s not my problem. If you didn’t want to enrage me, you should’ve given your father a proper funeral.

- We’ll try… we’ll try to convince them to do exactly that, Your Grace! – Judai reassured, his voice cracking at the end of the sentence.

Now a chuckle echoed the vast space of almost empty shrine, the brunette very well aware of the fact that his pleas mean nothing to the mighty god.

- You would’ve done that up until now if you meant it. – he said in a sinister tone, Judai unable to even utter a single word. – They are the ones that need to be taught a lesson and if that means burning that palace to the ground, I’ll do it-

- Your Grace! – Julia suddenly spoke up, her younger brother’s soul almost leaving him due to the fact she had just interrupted His Grace whilst he was talking. – May I make an oath to you, Your Grace?!

There was a tense silence in the shrine, Judai very well aware of the priests’ side gazes as they awaited their master’s reaction.

Then an amused chuckle shook the shrine, the prince’s eyes widening as he became aware of the flames getting closer to him and his sister, Julia not even flinching once the god’s face was only a few inches away from hers.

- I’m listening, rude princess.

Judai could clearly hear his sister gulp, her face covered in a light layer of sweat, but her brown eyes did not waver.

- I swear with my life… tonight, I will make my brothers change their decision. I don’t want for my father’s soul to be damned in the Underworld… - she took a deep breath before adding: - He wasn’t… much of a father… but no one deserves this type of neglect…

Another tense pause ensued, Judai unsure of how he was supposed to react to that whole situation only to notice an X-like symbol appearing on his sister’s shoulder, its faint glow soon fading away.

The god in flames then chuckled, withdrawing away from her and gave both siblings one final glance.

- I think it’s pretty clear who should rule this little kingdom of yours. – he said as the flames started returning to their old, yellowish-orange color, the god’s voice slowly fading away. – I’ll be waiting for the fulfillment of this oath, your Highness!

With that the King of the Underworld completely disappeared, leaving everyone in a daze and disbelief.

- We’re leaving, Judai. – the princess suddenly said, not even paying priests a second glance as she marched towards the exit of the shrine.

- H-how are you going to convince them, Jula? It’s almost midnight and there is very little time until sunrise-

- I’ll think about it in the car… - she said in a cold tone, Judai feeling shivers going down his spine.

It wasn’t like her to act this way, she’s always trying her best to make him feel safe and sound, even when he didn’t deserve it. But considering one of The Big Five had just put his oath sign on her shoulder, nothing else could be expected…

- I’ll help you! However, I can! – the prince exclaimed right before they reunited with their bodyguards, his sister paying him a short but warm glance before her expression turned back into a mask of coldness.

The ride home was quiet and tense, neither Axel nor Alister having guts to question sibling what had ensued inside the shrine, Judai’s eyes constantly glued to his big sister as her eyes stared into the distance through darkened windows, every emotion drained from her expression.

The prince clenched both of his fists, frustrated with his own performance in front of the mighty god of the Underworld, wishing that he wasn’t always such a good-for-nothing, not only as a prince but as a brother as well-

Don’t say such things about yourself, Judai.

The prince flinched slightly, hopeful no one had noticed his sudden confusion. He then looked around, a familiar voice echoing in his ears causing his heart to skip a beat.

Jesse?! Where are you?!

I’m near, Judai, don’t worry. Look into your pocket.

The prince frowned only to notice a very faint glow in his left pocket, his hands automatically flying to grab whatever was inside only to pull out two beautiful gemstones, one topaz, and one amethyst.

When you need them, just throw them on the ground. They’ll be your weapon.

With those words, Jesse’s voice faded away and he wouldn’t respond no matter how many times the prince had called for him. But in all of that commotion, Judai had gotten an idea...

- Hey, Jula?

- Hm?

- Can you pull out your sword when we come home?

***

About an hour later, as the clock just showed midnight, crown prince Jun was ready to go to bed, documents regarding the restoration of the damaged tower and father’s small funeral being his only concerns at the moment.

The whole palace’s been in chaos and his irresponsible siblings had just disappeared right after that dragon departed. How am I supposed to lead a mighty kingdom when my subordinates don’t-

- Hey, Jun?

The crown prince frowned as he heard his twin’s voice from the other side of the door, unsure why he was still up. He quickly got up from the chair and approached the door.

- Juno? Did something happe- OH MY GODS!

The moment Jun opened the door to his office, a huge white tiger jumped on him, it’s yellow eyes ferociously staring at him as its huge paws held him down. He only caught a glance of his brother being held by Judai, a dagger pressed to his neck as the huge pink cat with an amethyst on its collar held Juno’s robe strongly in its jaw.

- Wha-what’s the meaning of this, you little-

- I didn’t think you’d be so scared of a tiger, big brother.

Jun froze for a moment as he finally noticed his little sister, still in her black dress but with a sword drawn and pressed right against his head.

- What are you doing, Julia? Do you not understand the situation you’re in? – the eldest warned, the tiger growling at those words before pressing onto his chest even more.

- No, do you understand the situation you’re in? You better do as I say or neither I nor Judai will hesitate to chop off your heads. – the princess hissed, her expression remaining cold as the cold blade got pressed against her brother’s neck.

- Y-you wouldn’t do tha-

- Well, there was news that the palace was attacked yet again today, right? There are still no reports of casualties but… that can always change.

Jun could feel all the color leaving his face, his eyes finally locking with Julia’s as panic washed over his expression.

- You’d really do that? To your own brothe-

- You’ve left me no other option, it’s a matter of survival at this point, big brother.

The crown prince looked around the room once again, looking for a way to escape this dire situation and have the tables turn on those two traitors. But there was no opening at all, those two beasts kept him in line with every movement of their sharp eyes…

- So? What’s it going to be? – Julia pressed, her blade cutting into the skin of Jun’s neck and he hissed in pain.

- Alright, alright! What do you want?! – he finally exclaimed, a contract shoved in his face only a moment later.

- Sign the papers for a proper funeral, we’ll hold it in two days' time in the Obsidian Shrine. Father wished to be buried next to mother and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. And this… - Julia whipped out another piece of paper. – Is proof that you will try to hurt neither Judai nor me after this little incident. If my little brother even misses one strain of his hair, I’ll make sure to summon these two beasts to cut you open. Do we have a deal?

Jun grinded his teeth and nodded, not believing what his weak siblings made him do. He was completely humiliated while those two outcasts beamed with confidence and self-worth. You damn bastards…

Chapter Text

- Has everything been settled, Mahad? – the King of the Underworld asked, a small blue flame burning in his hand flickering slightly as his subordinate’s voice echoed the room:

- It has, your Majesty. The funeral was handled properly, Pittore was the one leading the ceremony and is currently bringing the king’s soul to the Underworld along with Pottarie. I’ve heard from Shadi that the judgment of his soul will ensue shortly.

- So the rude princess really did fulfill her promise. – the king chuckled, still remembering the way the human princess returned his own intense gaze right back at him. – Has the Crown Prince been present at the funeral?

- He was your Majesty, but the ones leading the ceremony and speaking to the people who came to give their condolences were princess Julia and prince Judai.

- Chicken until the end I see, I wonder how she managed to convince that stubborn idiot to go with her way… - the god rubbed his chin, amused at the fact that Mahad didn’t really know how to respond. – Anyway, good work, as usual, Mahad. It was really worth bringing the Sky Dragon out for a stroll.

- Indeed, your Majesty. You sure showed those pesky humans. But my master! Please rest a little, you’ve been working really hard these past few days! – the other god pleaded through the blue flame, the king letting out another amused chuckle before responding:

- I will, Mahad. You may go now.

The king soon closed his hand, the flame going out immediately upon that gesture and the king stood up, his back hurting slightly and his neck rather stiff.

It was still too early for him to go and rest in his chambers and he also couldn’t go just anywhere, he’d only disturb other’s work with his presence. Then there is only one option…

The king smirked before turning off the lights in his study and exiting to a wide and windy hallway, the scent of incense soothing his nerves. He proceeded to walk down the hallway only to suddenly hiss in pain, his hand automatically flying towards his lower back that was always covered with robes and the cape.

He gently rubbed that area, every single scar feeling insanely hot under his fingers and the itch didn’t seem to calm down. You’re bothering me too much these days…

Once it became evident the itching and burning won’t stop, the king sighed with defeat and transformed into his shadowy form, his presence slowly creeping across the walls of the Underworld towards his initial destination. At least in this form, he could give this uncomfortable pain a bit of rest…

His trip lasted for quite a while, the king well-aware of the way everyone winced as he passed by even though they couldn’t see him, a smirk spreading across his face after noticing their slightly panicky expression. But he had to be nice, everyone’s been working diligently so there was no need for him to tease them.

And finally, after getting into lower parts of the Underworld and encountering many of his subordinates, the king reached the biggest cave in his realm, familiar growling, roaring, and grunting acting as a lullaby to his ears.

But one other sound made king’s eyebrows lower, the male voice coming from the cave definitely not belonging there. Don’t tell me…

The god slowly regained his usual form and took a deep breath before entering the cave through a narrow entrance, his red eyes immediately widening at the sight.

- Gandora, don’t be mean! – Yugi scolded the small dragon that was literally jumping all over Sky Dragon’s huge head, the beast not seeming to mind it in the slightest as it lied completely still on the ground.

The king chuckled, seeing the dragon of destruction for the first time since it had hatched almost a whole month ago. The reptile was barely reaching Yugi’s waist at that point but the king knew that beast will continue to grow at a very fast pace and will soon barely be able to fit into that cave.

Still, as he watched his young guest watch over the dragon with concerned but loving eyes, the king knew he had made the right decision when he allowed Yugi to keep that egg…

The Sky Dragon suddenly stood up and roared loudly, Gandora falling off its snout and landing on the rocks. The red dragon then proceeded to literally jump forward and soon its enormous head snuggled into the king’s, the god giving his friend a firm pat on the head.

- Oh, your Majesty! – Yugi exclaimed, his purple eyes widening with surprise as Gandora whined and cried in his hands.

-I see you’re a regular here, Slifer isn’t really trusting towards strangers. – the king commented as he finally descended deeper into the cave, his pet dragon following his every step.

- Mana told me about this place and we came here first time with Red-Eyes only a few days after Gandora got hatched. I didn’t really know what to expect when I saw how big Slifer was, but it looks like he likes this little guy. – Yugi explained, his baby dragon finally stopping to whine as the god started rubbing its metal belly.

- He does have soft spot for small and adorable things indeed. – the king said with a chuckle before sitting on one of the rocks and letting out a deep sigh of relief, Slifer wrapping around the rock in the next moment, careful not to knock Yugi and Gandora with his huge tail.

- Do you come here often? – Yugi asked from below, his voice echoing the empty cave.

- Come up here, Yugi. No need to be away from me in this place. – older noted before making a slight motion with his hand, causing Yugi to start levitating in the air. The younger yelped in surprise but chuckled once he realized he was slowly ascending towards the rock, his body slowly but surely lowered next to the king.

- T-thank you… - the spring god stuttered as he averted his eyes, his attention seemingly completely on Gandora that started squirming in his arms and clawing at the front of his robe.

- You asked whether I come here often, right? – the king said through a chuckle, just then noticing a light tint of blush on younger’s face. – I do, especially if I have a lot of work and don’t have time to sleep in my chambers. This place makes me relaxed and charges my batteries how humans say.

- I get it, this place really is special and not only because dragons live here… - Yugi chuckled as well, the dragon in his arms slowly calming down as the god rocked back and forth. – But what I wanted to say was… uh… good job with that whole problem with the royal family. Slifer sure showed them that they need to pay you respect…

The king’s expression suddenly changed, remembering the way he decided to showcase his anger and his gut suddenly started churning, the god unable to look towards Yugi this time around…

- Hey, Yugi…

- Hm?

- Do you… are you afraid of me now that you know what I had to do in order to teach those humans a lesson?

There was a short pause, the tense silence almost causing the king to pull away from that conversation but then the spring god spoke, his tone even and soothing:

- I’m not afraid of you at all at this point. I’m now aware that many stories I’ve heard about you were either blatant lies or were overly dramatized facts… I know you had to do this not only to teach them a lesson of respect but also to save the king’s soul. Was it pretty? No, but was it necessary? I think so.

The king chuckled again, their eyes locking for the first time since he had descended into that cave.

-I’m glad at least you don’t see me as the main bad guy of our pantheon… - he said quietly, his facial features softening because of every single movement Yugi would make.

- I don’t believe there is a completely evil god. Sure, some of us are arrogant, some of us are selfish, some of us don’t care for humans, but I don’t think anyone is blatantly evil, or at least I haven’t met a god that is.

The king held in another hiss of pain after hearing those words, the image of his creator suddenly flashing before his eyes. His scars started itching once again but he managed to prevent himself from rubbing them again, not wanting to worry Yugi…

- I’m also sure not a single god is born evil… even if their creator wanted to form them to become despicable… - he muttered through his teeth, guilt nesting in his chest as he was unable to look at the other god in the eye. – But gods can become… corrupted, by many means.

The king could feel Yugi’s gaze on the side of his face but this guilt prevented him from even attempting to look at the spring god at that moment, wishing he never looked at that damn scroll…

- Have you seen someone who became corrupted? – the younger asked, the dragon finally falling asleep in his arms.

- You could say so… - the king responded, his gaze lost in the distance. – But no one from the current pantheon so you don’t need to worry. Despite my disputes with most of the Upper gods, I know for the fact they are good guys with certain flaws. And if I have to take the role of a villain just because I’m doing my job, so be it.

Once again silence enveloped the cave as Slifer slowly inched his way towards his master, this adorable gesture causing the king to chuckle and pet his huge head again.

- I’ll make sure to change everyone’s opinion of you once I return to the surface! I promise you that, your Majesty!

The king was caught completely off-guard with that little promise, a burst of laughter following soon after it.

- There is no need, Yugi. No one will believe anyway, they’ll probably think I’ve put some kind of spell on you or something.

- Trust me, I’ll do it! – the spring god insisted, his face inching dangerously close to the older god now.

The two of them just stared at each other for a few moments before Yugi pulled back with his face red as a tomato, just then realizing how close they actually were.

- I’m s-sorry, I’m being very rude towards you-

- It’s alright, Yugi. – the king said in a tender tone, a discreet smile appearing on his sharp face. – I’m glad that you’re the one who believes me so that’s enough for me. Be aware that humans will always fear death and that’s why I’ll always remain the primary villain for all of them. But I also have to keep up my reputation to make sure humans never disrespect me or anyone else in the pantheon, everyone knows I have the means to force insolent humans into obedience.

Yugi remained silent for a few moments, Gandora snoring loudly in his lap only to then note:

- I… I don’t really agree with the philosophy of subduing humans using fear but I’m guessing old habits can hardly be changed. I still hope we’ll manage to get closer to humans sp we can create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership. That’s at least something I’m hoping for…

The king just stared at the younger god, not even being able to get angry at him for blatantly admitting he didn’t agree with his own rhetoric. It was obvious he didn’t experience any maliciousness from the human side and maybe, just maybe, things were better that way.

Still, as they continued to sit there in silence and observe the movements of the two dragons, the king of the Underworld knew he will have to find a better timing if he wanted to talk to Yugi about that scroll.

What the spring god will find out from it will probably rock his whole world but at least, he’ll know why so many strange things were happening to him and will hopefully be able to see the world from the perspective of the older god.

But this guilt he was feeling will probably prevent him from telling Yugi anything, this innocence of his being something the king of the Underworld wanted to cherish as long as possible, no matter what…

Chapter Text

Sayer was looking through the documents Misty had delivered to him earlier that day when his office phone ran loudly, making him frown deeply.

- Haven’t I told you not to disturb me?! – he hissed into the phone, the man on the other side yelping in response before saying in a shaky voice:

- B-but you have a call from the outer line, Sir…

Sayer’s frown deepened even more as he gulped, a cold chill running down his spine in that very instant.

- Connect it. – he commanded as he put down the documents, his heart stopping for a moment as the line transferred.

And then, an almost out-of-worldly male voice spoke to him with a slight hint of amusement, Sayer feeling a light layer of sweat covering his entire body…

- It had been a while, Sayer…

- I-indeed, your Excellency… - the man stuttered whilst trying to control his voice. – How are you feeling? Have our efforts made you feel any better?

The one on the other line let out a deep sigh, burgundy-haired man tensing up at the sound.

- I am tired of waiting, Sayer. You better make sure to capture more of them… and soon.

- W-we are doing our best, Excellency, but it takes time for seals to wear off so that monsters can-

- But are there not other methods, Sayer? – the voice spoke with more amusement, the man barely being able to stay still on his seat. – Just think about it… there have to be humans that are truly loved even by higher gods… just think…

Sayer gulped for the second time, the drop of sweat rimming down his temples as he barely managed to keep his voice steady.

- I’ll look into suitable vessels for you, Excellency. I can assure you of the success and soon…

- I shall take you on that word, you know my patience is running slim by a day…

- I’m aware of it, yes. But rest assured, soon, suitable candidates will be brought your way.

The voice on the other line let out an amused chuckle only to go dead in the next moment, Sayer only now being able to breathe properly, his whole body shaking and sweating as if he’s been running a marathon.

After taking a moment to compose himself the burgundy-haired man jolted out of his seat and grabbed the phone, this time dialing his Operation team.

- You called, Sir?

- Send Misty here as soon as possible, I have a new task for her…

***

- INCOMING! – Bergamot yelled before floating away to the side, a giant snake-like creature arriving from the depths of the ocean whilst trying to grab him.

But as soon as the creature turned its head to face him the red-haired plant fairy smirked, five arrows landing along the line of the snake’s spine.

The snake shrieked as it tried to drop down into the ocean again, but this time around Marjoram waved her staff and literally froze the snake in mid-air, the great goddess of hunt soon approaching her to pray on her rose-dragon chariot, five arrows ready to be shot.

With absolute precision, Akiza used her remaining five arrows to shoot the snake-like creature into the head, heart, and lower spine, killing it in a matter of seconds.

- UP! – she yelled out, both of her attendants waving their wooden staff which ultimately threw the snake into the air, Akiza now leaping off her chariot with nothing but a single black sword in her hand.

Her movements were faster than the lightning as she used the limp body of a creature to jump and run, cutting the flesh of the beast in the process into beautiful pieces which were caught by her attendants lower down, the goddess continuing her run until only the bones of the fish remained.

And with a single whistle whilst she was falling in mid-air she had summoned her chariot, three dragons catching her just in time before her body touched the water, Marjoram and Bergamot clapping whilst still keeping all of the meat on a huge sheet above the sea.

- As impressive as always, Akiza. Bravo!

The goddess smirked and stopped the chariot as a powerful male voice echoed the bay, the water next to her starting to gurgle all of a sudden.

- Thank you very much, Master Manjoume. – she said as she observed one of the Big Five arriving from under the ocean waves, his black hair being as majestic as ever while his long, dark blue robes floated all around him and his trident shone in his hand. – I hope this will be enough for the month.

- It definitely will. – he said whilst still looking at the amount of meat he had just gotten. – I’ve received a lot of offerings from mortals this year, I better keep my promise and deliver only quality meat.

- Do you need help in distributing it, Master? – the burgundy-haired goddess questioned, Manjoume not even looking at her as he shook his head.

- Don’t worry about it, these guys will do it. – he said whilst pointing towards the water, four heads suddenly appearing from under the surface. – Go to those plant fairies and take an equal amount of meat into your bubbles. Neptabyss, your jurisdiction this time around is the East coast. Diva will take the South coast, Abyssdine will take the West coast and Abysshilde will go to the North coast.

- YES, SIRE! – the merfolk responded almost immediately, all four of them disappearing under the waves once again.

Akiza chuckled at their reaction, seeing how despite the great master Manjoume had a reputation of being a major hassle for everyone, the one could still see deep respect in his attendant’s eyes. And the goddess could understand why: as a master of sea domain, he didn’t have any other gods to serve under him and he pretty much had to rule the entirety of the planet’s oceans on his own along with his Mermails. It definitely wasn’t an easy task…

- Do you need me for anything else, Master Manjoume?

- No, just go already. I’ll make sure to send some fish to Anzu, she better be grateful. – the god grumbled, once again not paying Akiza even a glance. The goddess pouted only to get an idea of how to take a little revenge on him for this rude behavior.

- Then, I guess I won’t carry your greetings to Asuka…

Manjoume almost immediately turned around and looked at the goddess, grabbing both of her hands in a pleading gesture whilst his light brown eyes literally sparkled.

- No, no, DEFINITELY carry my greetings to Lady Asuka, I’d be glad if she accepts them and pays my non-important existence even a little thought.

Akiza chuckled slightly, her chest filling with a sense of victory.

- Your existence definitely isn’t non-important, Master Manjoume. – she assured whilst shaking his hands and pulling them away. – And why don’t you come to the Sky Temple to see her every once in a while. We have been spending a lot of time together recently…

The god looked away once again, burgundy-head noticing his entire face turned red as he stuttered:

- That's a very good idea, Akiza, I’ll have to take some time in my schedule for that… but still, if I don’t manage to come and greet her, please do it in my stead, alright?

Akiza shook her head, already tired of the same excuse the Great Manjoume always used just so he wouldn’t have to face Asuka on his own. He maybe is among Big Five but still…

- By the way, I’ve been hearing a lot about these strange monsters appearing out of nowhere. Does Seto have any idea where all of them came from? – the sea god suddenly asked, leaving burgundy-head slightly flabbergasted.

- Well… I’m not really sure, I’m not that close to the Chief’s family, Master Manjoume. – she explained. – But as far as I know, no one really understands why they’ve started appearing now of all times…

Manjoume turned to look at her once again, his brown eyes now sharp and smaller than before.

- Just to make it clear, it’s not my fault. I know Roman created my domain and I know I’m responsible for attending his resting place, but I can assure you, if he’s been the one that’s acting out, I’d know-

- No one is accusing you of anything, Master Manjoume. – the goddess reassured once again. – As I said, there hasn’t been any news or clues but I’m sure our Chief will definitely look at these incidents and do research if he sees anything suspicious.

The sea god seemed assured but Akiza really wished to go now, the grumpy look on the other god’s face only promising more similar discussions.

But then her eyes rose towards the horizon and the blood in her veins froze.

- Master Manjoume… - she mouthed, her hand moving on its own. The raven-head followed the direction of her hand only to growl in anger and grip his trident stronger in his hand.

- What the actual hell is going on here… - he hissed through his teeth before waving his trident down, the ground under the surface shaking violently as he yelled out:  - COME OUT! ABYSSNOSE! ABYSSTRUGE! ABYSSPIKE! ABYSSMANDER!

The four mermen appeared from under the waves almost the next moment as their master’s voice echoed the wide bay, Akiza grabbing onto her black blade and summoning Bergamot and Marjoram to come closer.

And during that whole time, her eyes weren’t moving from a creature of jet-black skin that was only coming closer to them. Just like the previous two monsters she had faced, this one was enormous in size and had green glowing stripes all over its body, this monster shaped like a giant lizard. It shrieked loudly, making both gods and their attendants cover their ears, Akiza convinced her eardrums are going to burst.

- I’ve heard you’ve fought two of these! – Manjoume yelled over that monstrous shriek. – I expect your full assistance!

- Of course, Master Manjoume! – she responded in the same way, her hands already glowing with gentle white light, all of her energy now directed towards Marjoram. Her attendant just stopped in her tracks, her black dress soon getting a beautiful shade of white and her wings becoming larger and covered in golden leaves. – We’re ready!

- After me! – Manjoume commanded as he literally bolted forward, his war cry making chills go down the goddess’s spine.

Her hands automatically flickered the harnesses on her dragons as they carried the chariot across the horizon, a heavy feeling landing in Akiza’s gut. It was only the two of them this time around with five attendants…

Alright… let’s do this…

***

The whole ten days after the assassination and the dragon attack at the royal palace, Yusei finally had some time to breathe. He parked his chopper at the usual spot at the bottom of the Shrine Hill and took off his helmet, the early July evening finally making it easier to breathe in this horrible heat.

The young scientist greeted the security guards at the entrance, his gaze directed towards the Earth Shrine as he made sure offerings for the hunt goddess were still in a small bag he had brought.

Even though all the ongoing projects in the Research Facility have been halted until the new monarch is crowned, Yusei still had to make sure everything was going as always, making sure his employees weren’t overly stressed over the happenings in the state and making sure to keep all the experiments steady. It did require a lot of energy, especially once most of his employees started coming to him for comfort and warm talk, Yusei couldn’t lie and say that didn’t make him tired.

Still, whilst having his lab crew by his side, he knew he’d be able to do anything. But there was also another person that made his work days slightly better…

Ever since their accidental meeting in the Research garden, Edo’s been coming by almost every day, bringing his department snacks, drinks and other things so all of them could recharge in a way. He’d also be the one Yusei would talk about how exhausted he really was and Edo would always be willing to lend an ear, raven-head catching himself staring at the other’s beautiful face from time to time.

But on the other hand, there was a problem with Aki…

Ever since that time he had witnessed that fight on the East coast, his young friend started coming less and less only to completely drop out of contact about three weeks ago. Yusei knew she was probably busy with school work since the summer holidays were about to start, but it still wasn’t like her, she’d always at least call or leave a small note to him.

He knew he shouldn’t meddle in someone’s personal business, but Aki was really dear friend to him and he only wanted to know she’s alright…

Yusei finally reached the top of the stairs of the Earth Shrine, a scent of elderberries floating in the air as the priests and priestesses ran around, preparing for the upcoming Harvest Festival. The scientist quickly moved out of their way and headed towards Akiza’s temple, the box of scented sticks already in his hand-

Yusei stopped dead in his tracks as he noticed a faint green light coming from the temple, Angelica’s yelp making him dash towards the entrance.

And the moment he looked towards the huge statue in the middle of the temple, the man’s blood froze in his veins.

- Sire Yusei! – Angelica exclaimed, tears rimming down her face as she flew around the unconscious body of a familiar girl of burgundy hair, her school uniform torn in places, and a huge claw mark bleeding across her back.

- What happened here?! – he questioned as he leaped inside and took the girl in his arms, Aki’s face filled with blue bruises and scratches all over. But despite her injuries, it appeared she was only unconscious…

- I-I don’t know! – Angelica exclaimed. – The girl just appeared there out of nowhere! Will she be alright?!

Yusei checked his friend’s vital functions, sighing with relief upon hearing her heart bearing steadily in her chest and her breath being even.

- I think she will… - he muttered as he carefully stood up with the girl in his arms. – But I’ll still take her to hospital. This seems really serious.

- Please do! And tell me how she is when you can! – the small fairy yelled after them as Yusei picked up the pace, making sure Aki was as comfortable as possible in his arms.

But even though he knew his friend was alive, his chest still started squeezing as his throat dried, the man praying he could come to the hospital as soon as possible. There was no way he’ll let anything more happen to Aki…

Not when she appeared in the exact same place as he did ten years ago…

Chapter Text

Akiza slowly regained consciousness, the afternoon sun stinging her eyes mercilessly as she looked around the already familiar bedroom in the attic.

Still, the sound of birds chirping just outside her window brought a smile onto her face, her whole body feeling much stronger compared to yesterday when she barely managed to teleport to her shrine in her human form. She could feel her powers have almost completely returned and her body slowly started to wake up, itching for movement and she’d probably already be up if there wasn’t for two certain things…

Firstly, the back of her neck was stinging like crazy, a small area just under the start of her hair being literally on fire. The goddess didn’t understand the reason for it, remembering the exact moment when that damn lizard got her in the back, but she was completely sure that when she plunged her sword into its chest, her neck was completely fine.

And the second reason was-

- Oh, you’re awake, Aki!

The goddess sat up in the bed, pretending to still be in pain as a familiar man climbed into the bedroom with a tray of food just for her.

- How are you feeling? – Yusei questioned after putting the food next to her bed, his body slowly lowering onto the mattress next to her. – Are you in pain anywhere? Do you need anything?

- I’ve told you I’m fine. – burgundy-head said with a chuckle whilst discretely fixing a shirt her caretaker had given her, making sure all of her risky parts were secured. – Doctor said I’ll recover in a few days and that wound on my back is not hurting anymore.

- Still, please keep resting. – the man said with the same stoic expression he always wore but Akiza could clearly see the way his blue eyes looked at her, his concerned gaze looking for any abnormality on her body or in her behavior. – You really have me a scare yesterday, you know? What happened?

The goddess hesitated, pretending as if her head started to hurt all of a sudden.

- I… I’m not sure. I think I took the wrong path when going home from the club activities and I ended up being chased by a bear… I think. – she lied through her teeth, avoiding his gaze in fear he’ll catch her in a blatant lie.

- A bear? This close to the city? – he questioned further only to completely drop the topic the moment she hissed in pain again, immediately jumping to fix her pillows. – I wanted to call your parents to let them know what happened but I realized I didn’t have their contact or anything. Can you give it to me? Who should I call?

- Don’t even bother. – the goddess lied again. – Both of them are on a business trip until the end of the month and when they are, it’s pretty much impossible to get in contact. Don’t worry about it.

When a silence arose between then, Akiza finally looked towards the man again, noticing his worried gaze but he only sighed in response whilst shaking his head, clearly giving up on arguing with her at that point.

- You’re really a tough kid, let me tell you that.

- Says someone who spent most of his childhood at the orphanage. – the goddess reminded, a mischievous smirk appearing on her lips. – I’m not nearly as tough as you are so don’t think I’m someone special just because I can do my own laundry or cook myself dinner for a whole month.

Yusei chuckled before leaning forward to check her temperature by putting a hand on her forehead, the goddess well aware of the way her heart skipped a beat the moment they made that small contact.

- Do you need anything more? Are you bored? – he asked before standing up, Akiza only then noticing he’s dressed in his home outfit: a dark tank top, skinny jeans, and slippers.

- I’ll eat first and if I need anything, I’ll call. – she said with a smile. – Aren’t you going to work?

- I took three days off just to make sure you’ll be fine so I can send you home without worry.

-Oh… - the goddess gasped, realizing how serious he must be about this whole charade if he was willing to abandon his precious job for her… - Well, at least now you can rest a bit. Promise you will!

- Alright, I will. – Yusei said through a chuckle before leaving her alone to eat, the sound of his footsteps going down the ladder to the lower floor being the most soothing sound the goddess had ever heard.

Then finally she looked towards the trey Yusei had brought in the room with him, an overwhelmingly pleasant scent causing her stomach to growl. There was a single bowl filled to the brim with fried rice consisting of some chicken and green onion, a pickled radish on top acting as a discreet but cute seasoning. On the side there was a small plate filled with cookies shaped like stars and with smiley faces on them, causing the goddess to smile tenderly.

She quickly picked up the bowl and dug in, the very first bite making it seem as if she was floating on clouds, but without her chariot. This must be what a real Heaven feels like…

But as she continued to eat, her eyes fell on her wrist, a small crystal engraved in her skin reminding her that all of her attendants must be worried sick about her, especially Angelica and Bergamot. But they were at least able to feel her energy so that had to put them at ease, she wasn’t dead at least…

They just needed to wait for three more days, that’s all…

Akiza soon finished the whole plate of rice and took a sip of marshmallow tea Yusei had probably brought earlier, ready to start eating those cookies but then the doorbell rang, causing the goddess to flinch and freeze for a second.

This energy, she thought before slowly throwing her feet off the edge of the bed and standing up, her ears peeled for any sort of unusual sound.

She could clearly hear Yusei walking up to the front door and opening them, a familiar, clear-as-day male voice causing the goddess to frown deeply.

Why the hell is he here?!

Akiza slowly walked over towards the attic ladder, her magic making the usually creaky door open with ease as she slowly descended into a closed-off hallway, two male voices conversing causing her gut to churn.

- I was worried when I didn’t find you at work today so I came by, I thought you’ve dropped from exhaustion.

- That’s very kind of you, Edo. Thank you! – Yusei responded immediately, élan in his voice causing the goddess to panic.

- But you seem fine, why aren’t you working? – the other man asked.

- Well, I took three days off, something urgent came up-

- Uh, excuse me… - Akiza said in a small voice as she limply walked into the living room, her brown eyes locking with the newcomer’s deep blue ones almost instantly, sparks flying the moment they recognized each other.

Akiza?!

Well, hello there, brother…

- Aki, why are you up?! – Yusei said in a scolding manner whilst jumping to her air, his strong arms supporting her every movement.

- I’ve heard you had a guest so I didn’t want to bother you, I just need to use the toilet… - she explained in a weak voice, her gaze always returning to the silver-haired man who was now drilling holes in the side of her head with his gaze.

- Come, I’ll help you. Edo, can you wait for a moment?

- Sure… - the man responded, the telepathic conversation continuing as the duo disappeared in the other side of the apartment.

Stay away from Yusei, you hear me?

Watch your tongue, little sis. You’re the one spending time with this human-

As you can see, I’m in my human form, he doesn’t know who I really am. As for you, I know what you’re planning. Once again, stay away from Yusei.

What are you on about-

Don’t play dumb, the goddess shot the last dark look her brother’s way before disappearing around the corner. I know you were watching back when I, Kalin, and Asuka were battling that giant.

Aster, this human… belongs to me.

With that, the telepathic bond was broken and Akiza thanked her caretaker for bringing her to her destination, the goddess shutting herself into the bathroom in order to hear how this drama will unfold.

- Sorry, I’m taking care of a friend. She’s been attacked by some wild animal and I’ve found her sleeping in the temple of Akiza-

- Doesn’t she have parents to take care of her? – the god responded in a venomous fashion, Akiza knowing what kind of expression he was wearing at that very moment.

- She does, but they’re unreachable due to their business trip. But her wounds aren’t as serious so she’ll hopefully be ready to leave in a day or two.

- She seemed completely fine to me. – Aster said through his teeth before completely changing the tone of his voice. – But since you’re free for three days, that means you can spend some more time with me, right?

The goddess grit her teeth as she heard Yusei chuckle, an urge to hit the door almost becoming overwhelming.

- That’s a great offer, but I’ll have to decline any absences from the house.

- I can come by with some snacks if you want, we can have a little date-

- Edo, I’m sorry. – Yusei said in a gentle tone, Akiza barely being able to hold in her giggle. – Aki’s been the only thing on my mind since yesterday and I just want to make sure she’s alright. We can still arrange that kind of thing once she leaves-

- So she’s really more important than I am, huh?

Duh, idiot…

There was a short moment of silence before Yusei responded in a rather reserved tone, Akiza unable to even picture the way his expression changed.

- Look, Edo… I’ve known Akiza for the past three years and she knows pretty much all about me and despite being four years apart in age, she’s really important to me. And so when I say I have to stay behind to look after her, I mean it. If you can’t understand that, then maybe it’s best for you to leave.

Akiza covered her mouth with a silent gasp, not believing her ears. And during the ensuing tense silence between two males, the goddess was only aware of the fact her heart was about to break her ribcage.

She could hear her brother stomping towards the front door and leaving with a bang, not even saying a word to Yusei, but this little ordeal filled the goddess’s heart with so much joy she could jump around the room for days. And not because Yusei chose her over Aster, oh no…

Yusei was the first human she encountered to be able to battle her brother’s charms that he relied on so much in everything.

Well, brother, this mortal finally put you in your place…

Chapter Text

- Already awake, Gandora? – Yugi said with a chuckle as a small dragon jumped onto his bed, the spring god putting down the book he's been reading for the past hour or so.

The dragon jumped right into his caretaker’s arms as soon as it saw he wasn’t holding anything, its cold metal body acting like a complete contrast to the somewhat damp air around the spring god, the summer in its full swing even in the Underworld.

- Now, now, no need to be so hasty, I know you’re hungry. – Yugi chuckled as he carefully got off the bed and headed towards the exit.

Ever since his little dragon companion has hatched, Mana and her attendants would bring fresh fruit from the Upper Realm every single day, Gandora eating more and more as the time passed. The spring god was more than thankful for their assistance, but he still felt as if he could’ve helped them in some way.

But it seemed one thing was good in that whole situation: Gandora was a playful little dragon and was obeying Yugi’s every command, its main weakness being the scolding of his caretaker.

The duo soon arrived in the room a few doors away from their own, the smell of fresh fruit of many varieties already invading spring god’s nose.

- Go on, time to eat. – Yugi said as he put the dragon on the ground, the little one immediately running towards a huge basket filled with apricots, peaches, and plums while in the bowl next to it were blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, the god wishing to take a bit as well.

As he observed his little dragon eating with absolute joy on its face and loud growls of contentment, Yugi leaned against the wall and let the coldness go through his skin.

It was already mid-July and the day of Autumn Equinox and the trial was coming closer and closer. He heard from his little fairy friends that Anzu was still pretty pissed about the whole thing, which could explain why the summer was so hot this year as well.

But if Yugi had to be completely honest, he didn’t want to return to the Upper Realm, at least not yet. The god himself wasn’t sure why that was the case, but the mere thought of returning to Anzu made his stomach churn, especially after witnessing that exchange between her and the king of the Underworld more than three months ago.

And yes, the main reason he dreaded that wretched trial was the absolute certainty that Anzu and the king will be in the same room or, even worse, will be seated close to one another considering they were both part of the Big Five.

If I could return without that trial, I’d be more than happy… just so Anzu wouldn’t get in his Majesty’s face…

Oh heavens, I don’t want them to meet and argue, especially because of me-

A knock at the door made the spring god jump, Gandora emerging from a half-empty basket to look towards the sound.

- Sir Yugi, are you there? – a familiar female voice called the god out, Yugi sighing with relief.

- I’m here, Lemon! What’s wrong?

- Oh nothing. His Majesty wants to meet you when you have time, he has to give you something.

The spring god frowned as his heart literally stopped inside his chest for a moment, the whole physical reaction followed by an unexplainable wave of heat that suddenly enveloped his body.

- I-I’ll be right there, Gandora is eating so-

-Oh, no! It wasn’t an order, Sir! – Lemon reassured from the other side of the door. – You can come whenever! He’ll be waiting for you near the Dragon Cave.

- D-did he says what he has to give to me? – Yugi questioned further, his heart ramming against his ribs in an insane rhythm.

- He didn’t say a word. – the sorceress said with a chuckle before greeting the spring god and going with her work, Yugi barely being able to hold his composure.

Ever since their encounter in the Dragon cave more than two weeks ago, he hasn’t been able to see his Majesty at all and the younger was convinced he had said something that had made the king really mad. He just didn’t know how to interpret this sudden summon…

Gandora soon finished the bowl filled with berries, the dragon jumping back into its caretaker’s arms with a full stomach and satisfied purrs, but even that usually relaxing sound didn’t help Yugi soothe his nerves nor did his heart stop pounding.

The duo was soon on their way, Yugi unaware of how fast he was going until he had arrived at the entrance to the Dragon Cave while barely being able to take a proper breath, his legs aching from running.

He quickly entered the cave, his purple eyes observing his surroundings until he noticed a familiar figure with a black cape, the king’s eyes giving him shivers as soon as he gazed upon the younger.

- Woah, what’s the rush? – he asked with an amused chuckle, Yugi only then realizing he’s been running towards him like a total idiot.

- I-I- Sorry! – the younger bowed before the other, hopeful ha wasn’t acting rude once again but the king only chuckled again, his hand soon leaning on the other’s shoulder.

- You’re probably overthinking again, Yugi. – he said in that beautiful, rich voice. – You haven’t done anything wrong, I just wanted to show you something that’ll make your stay here even more interesting.

- I.- how did you know I was worried?! – the spring got shot the question, not even aware of how red his face was at that moment.

- You’re pretty easy to read. – the king said with an amused smirk plastered on his face before he offered his hand to the younger god. – Shall we?

Yugi took the other’s hand without hesitation, the coldness of it soothing spring god’s nerves almost the same moment they’ve touched. The king then led the way towards the other side of the dragon cave, Slifer completely unbothered by their presence as Gandora tried their best to wake the huge dragon up but to no avail.

The trio soon entered a small and dark tunnel, a scent of fresh flowers and ground immediately hitting Yugi in the face. That very combination of scents caused his chest to feel nostalgic, the image of his garden back home flashing before his eyes.

And then he saw it, the light at the end of the tunnel as the king of the Underworld led him confidently forward, the trio soon arriving at the small but highest section of the Underworld.

Yugi gasped at the sight, his eyes tearing up from the amount of light and colors that have blessed his eyes. Even though the cave was small, it got enough natural light from the huge opening in the ceiling, a small waterfall filling the underground lake with fresh water. On the shores of that small lake were all flowers Yugi could imagine: from tiny white lily bells, red-as-blood spider lilies, daisies, daffodils, nightshades, to the bushes of azalea, lavender, roses, one single wisteria tree protecting them all from the wind and strong sun.

- This… - the spring god gasped as he stepped onto the green grass, tears rimming down his face as his knees gave out, Gandora immediately jumping into their caretaker’s face with a concerned growl.

- Do you like it? – the king asked as he kneeled next to him, his expression slightly tense but confident as always.

- Yes… yes, I love this! – the younger exclaimed with a wide smile whilst the tears still ran down his face, Gandora’s gentle licks making him chuckle. – B-but how?! I thought nothing can grow in the Underworld!

- This position is kind of special… - the king explained as he pulled his body more into the shade. – Because it’s right below the surface level of Upper Realm and because of sunlight, flowers can be grown here if tended every day and if they are protected from the elements, hence why I asked your little fairy friends to bring me a wisteria tree and the seeds of all flowers you grew in your garden. This is the place where the barrier is the thinnest so your fairies will be able to come by more often and will have a place to regenerate their powers.

- B-but is that alright?! What if someone unwanted enters here and-

- Yugi. – the king cut his sentence off whilst taking the younger’s hand into his. – I’ve taken care of it, Ishizu is a master of illusions, no one will know this is an entrance to the Underworld. You’re free to enjoy your time here with your little friends until the trial.

The spring god could feel his face becoming hot again as he quickly pulled away his hand to wipe the tears that were still rimming down his face, a joyful chuckle echoing the cave as he smiled brightly at the king.

- Thank you… thank you so very much, Your Majesty…

The king let out a satisfied hmph before leaning back onto a rock, Yugi still unable to believe he had actually gotten his own little garden in the middle of the Underworld. And he always wondered how it’d be to raise wisteria-

- Ow… - the king hissed in pain suddenly, causing the younger to look his way with wide eyes, seeing the other got rubbing his lower back hidden under the black robes.

- What happened? Are you hurt somewhere, Your Majesty?! – the spring god questioned as he scooted closer, their eyes locking for a moment.

- I’m fine, don’t worry. – the king muttered with a smile, but Yugi was still able to see his eyebrows twitching slightly.

- I’ve seen you doing this back when we were in Dragon Cave that day but I didn’t want to question it… - the younger said in a quieter voice, now getting even closer to the king. – But now I’m worried. Did something happen while you were in the Upper Realm?

The older snorted at the other’s curiosity and worry, his posture relaxing slightly before he said:

- It’s just my old scars acting up again, that happens every few years or so and it’s usually for no reason. I’m not in pain, they’re just itching and burning slightly and it’s a nuisance.

-Scars? – Yugi’s eyes flew towards the other’s back, trying to see anything through those black robes and causing the king to giggle again. – Did you get them during the Rebellion?

The king stopped chuckling for a moment, his face freezing in an emotion the younger had never seen before, but as soon as he noticed Yugi was still next to him, the king gave him a tender smile and explained:

- No, actually… - he sighed before standing up. – These are scars from my imprisonment.

With that, the king turned his back on the younger and reached for the clasps and jewelry that were holding his cape in-tact, the heavy black fabric soon dropping onto the ground. With another swift move, the king loosened the laces on the front side of his robe so that his lower back got completely exposed as well, Yugi gasping once again at the sight.

Every single inch of the king’s back was covered in long, deep scars as if someone’s been using his back as a chopping board, but the one scar that shocked Yugi the most was the one covering the entirety of his lower back and stomach, clear traces of chains carved deep into the god’s bronze skin.

The spring god stood up instinctively and came closer, his eyes tearing up again as he got a closer look at those scars, but his hands also couldn’t help but hover over them, not once touching them.

- Who… why… who did this to you? – the younger whispered, two tears rolling down his cheeks as he imagined the immense pain the other god must’ve been put through to get these scars.

- I… don’t really want to talk about it… - the king responded before turning his head slightly to the side, his red gaze causing Yugi’s heart to skip a beat again. – But you can touch them if you want. I don’t mind.

The younger could feel his face becoming hot again but the moment he lied eyes on the scars again, his vision became blurry, his hands carefully caressing every inch of the king’s back, making sure to gently touch every single scar.

- Your hands feel nice… - the king suddenly said, a smile audible in his voice. – Nice and cold, as if you’re completely erasing the burning of those scars…

- I’m glad I could help… - the spring god said with a shaky voice, all of this being way too overwhelming for him at that moment. – But I… I can’t understand how someone could do this to you… you must’ve been in so much pain…

- I’ve already forgotten about it, don’t worry. – the king reassured, his voice warm yet deep. – All of those moments are really blurry, to be honest. I don’t remember much but crucial details, which is probably for the best. He wasn’t exactly keen on torturing me just physically but mentally too…

- He who? – Yugi asked as he picked up the cape, their eyes locking for a moment as the king turned towards him and returned his robe to its usual state. He could see a shadow fly over the older’s face but whenever their eyes would meet, all the spring god was able to see was the warmth of those red eyes.

With a sigh, the king put his cape back on and started his story:

- Dartz. The god who had created me…

Chapter Text

Are you awake, little Yami?

Who gave you permission to sleep?

We're going to have a long, long chat...

The young god snapped out of yet another one of his nightmares, at first confused at the amount of light surrounding him in that moment.

But then he remembered: he wasn't in the cave anymore...

He slowly sat up, aware of the burning feeling on almost every inch of his body. Only then did he notice his right eye has been closed off with a bandage, that entire side of his face hurting like crazy.

But even that numbing pain wasn't even close to the one he's been feeling on his entire abdomen and back, the god being convinced his skin was about to peel off and he’ll die horribly. He could see even though the bandages they put on him he was still bleeding, especially around his waist, where the chain was…

- Oh, you’re awake! – an unknown female voice exclaimed as she entered the room, the god just then realizing he was actually laying inside a massive tree.

He took a better look at the woman, barely being able to pick on her godly energy as his eyes tried to adjust to all that light. As she sat next to him, the god took a better look at her: a very pretty young goddess of short brown hair and bright blue eyes, the essence of another ancient god coursing through her veins…

- What happened? – the young god asked, convinced his vocal cords have just been ripped out of his mouth after the intense burning engulfed his throat.

- You’re safe now, don’t worry. – the goddess said with a warm smile before laying a wooden bowl next to the other god’s bed, a scent of roses and coconut suddenly enveloping the air. – Seto managed to find you in time.

The god blinked and looked at her, her sweet smile causing him to tense up, that whole situation seeming just so unreal. I must be dreaming again…

- Was I… hanging as always? – he asked, that burning sensation in his throat causing him to cough.

The goddess hesitated to answer at first, soon inching closer to the other god with a wet but warm towel in her hand, the scent of roses and coconut acting rather soothing.

The god pointed his free red eye towards the goddess for the first time in those few moments, the brunette tensing up for a moment before reaching for the god’s back and starting to rub the towel against his irritated skin. And it actually felt good…

- Seto isn’t a very wordy individual, especially after he started collecting us all… - she explained with a monotone voice, avoiding the other’s gaze. – But you were apparently hung upside down with a golden chain, in the middle of Cave of Screams.

The god was silent for a moment before chuckling bitterly, his eyes suddenly tearing up as he remembered a sudden rush of light while he was still upside down and somewhat conscious.

But despite that blur and dizziness, the god still remembered a tall man with blue eyes and short brown hair reaching out for him from the bottom of the cave and carefully cutting his chains…

- What’s happening outside right now? – the god finally asked, the brunette just being done with rubbing his back with that scented towel, fresh bandages soon securing his scarred skin.

- We’re trying to locate Dartz so that we can end him once and for all. He even took out twin creator gods…

The god frowned at that information, not really surprised by that turn of events, especially after noticing how unhinged his own creator had become in the past year. He’s become rather… creative in his punishments…

- Is Yubel alright? – the god asked, the brunette wincing slightly at the mention of that name. – You should be able to feel it, right? They’ve created you from their liver after all…

The goddess hesitated once more only to let out a tender chuckle.

- They are alive and well from what I can sense… but they won’t help us at all. If they still had a heart then maybe but with my sister, Kisara, being created from it… they don’t have a sense of empathy anymore.

This information caused the young god to chuckle this time around, happy to know not only his creator was a piece of shit…

- How many gods are there currently? – the red-eyed god questioned, barely allowing the goddess to look at the wounds on the front side of his abdomen.

- Only five of us. – she said in a quiet voice. – The one created from the brain of the god of creation, Seto; the one created from the eyes of the god of beasts, Manjoume; the two created from liver and heart of god of night, Kisara and Anzu…. And you. You who is created by the master of all gods and the lord of time and space…

The god chuckled again, happy to know his name or the organ of his origin still isn’t known to anyone. Dartz may be a tad paranoid considering what he used me for…

- And what is your plan? Just try and defeat Dartz on your own? – the god questioned cynically, earning a little frown from the goddess.

- Seto is still thinking about how to do it but considering no one knows how Dartz thinks, we can’t exactly predict his moves.

- So you need me for it, huh? – the god scoffed as his wounds continued to sting mercilessly despite that remedy the goddess has been putting on his skin for the last few minutes.

- We really just wanted to pull you out of there. You need to focus on your recovery now-

- You all better start searching for the other gods because… I know for the fact there are quite a few of them dormant in the domains of your creators.

The goddess gasped at that information, a strange glint appearing in her blue eyes.

- Please… tell me more. We have to save everyone!

***

 - So Anzu really did take care of you, your Majesty? – Yugi asked as they were sitting back under that rock in that little garden, Gandora finally sleeping soundly on its caretaker’s lap.

If the king of the Underworld had to be perfectly honest, he had no idea why he’s been telling Yugi about his very first memory after escaping captivity from Dartz’s hands. He’s been guarding all of his secrets so firmly, not even his closest associates knew his real name or about his creation, but this little god just did something to him, something that made him simply irresistible in the king’s eyes.

The older frowned at that thought, remembering the scroll he had read whilst in the Sky Shrine. It must be because of that…

But no matter what it really was, the king just couldn’t resist the gaze of those warm purple eyes.

- Yeah… - he finally responded, suddenly too shy to keep eye contact with the younger. – I’ve told Anzu and I have history. But to be honest, all of that seems like a distant memory, past life, maybe even a dream… the two of us have spent way too long hissing at each other for those initial months to hold any value at this point.

- She’s still very much like Anzu you’ve described in your story. – Yugi reassured with a chuckle, the king only then realizing he’s moved closer, their shoulders almost touching. – What happened then? Did you manage to find other gods?

- We did, in record time. You could say I was the compass to their destinations and, little by little, the current pantheon has been awakened. Some of them awakened right before the rebellion and some awakened right after it as you did.

- I didn’t awaken immediately. – Yugi said with a chuckle. – For more than millennia I’ve spent just floating in the void until the day I finally came to this world and it took me a few centuries to gain my power and strength to even stand, let alone use my abilities and perform my duty…

- I remember hearing about you. – the king chuckled before their eyes locked once again. – Such a precious little god with a heart of gold but a body even more fragile than one of the human. You really had it rough.

- No, I was just being useless, that’s all.

The king shook his head, resisting the urge to look away.

- We all had our own paces of creation and maturity. The fact you took longer than anyone else is nothing to be ashamed about, especially because you’re taking care of such an important season as the Spring is. So I’d say you took your time but for a good reason.

The younger chuckled before rubbing his face against Gandora’s sleepy snout, the dragon not even flinching at that contact.

- The me three months ago would never believe that I’d get this inspired and happy by the words of none other but the unnamed king of the Underworld. I’d be terrified. – the younger admitted before his expression became serious and he looked away. – I… I’m sorry! I’m really getting out of tact but that’s all because of this garden and the story you were willing to share with me. I’m just so thrilled.

- I understand, Yugi. – the king said in an even deeper voice, his body now moving closer to the younger as his hand leaned on the younger’s, causing him to look back up towards the older. – To be honest, I feel similar to you. I don’t feel the need to guard myself anymore or to put on a mask of intimidation I usually have to wear in order to maintain my reputation and that’s… that’s something I love about our time spent together.

The two gods could only stare at each other for who knows how long, the sound of flowing water from the waterfall being the only sound both of them were able to hear. The king soon realized the younger was slowly inching closer towards him, his eyes closing slowly.

Just let him. Let him do it. See what’s really making your heart so restless-

- Wah! – the younger exclaimed as Gandora suddenly jumped in his face, Yugi chuckling as the little rascal knocked him down.

The older held back the urge to hit the rock behind him and chuckled at their adorable play, not believing what he was willing to allow only a moment ago.

- Looks like its hungry again. – Yugi informed as the dragon climbed all over him, his adorable smile and flushed cheeks making the king smile tenderly.

- Let’s feed it then. Once you’re finished tending to Gandora, you can return here and take a closer look. – the king suggested before getting up and offering a hand to the other god, Yugi smiling back at him as brightly as the sun in the sky.

- I will!


END OF ARC 4: CUTS, BRUISES, AND NEW BEGINNINGS

Chapter Text

- I'm sorry for being this late with my duties, your Majesty. – Mai said with a slight bow as the goddess of long, bluish-white hair walked up to her, a discreet but delicate crown of white gold and a few blue jewels sitting on top of her head.

- I’m not Seto, Mai. I won’t yell at you if you work at your own pace. – the goddess said with a tender voice, her blue eyes able to captivate even the goddess of love and beauty herself. – Still, I’m glad to see so many people decided to get married in the first half of the year. You and Johan are really doing an amazing job.

- Thank you, your Majesty. – blonde responded, bowing deeper this time as she heard her queen chuckle yet again.

- Where is Johan, by the way? I haven’t seen him at all in the past month. Is he on another mission?

- Ah, about that… - Mai chuckled nervously before averting her eyes, a statue of a huge white dragon seeming like an appropriate thing to look at at that moment. – I’m not really sure what’s happening. He’s still performing all of his duties but isn’t that present anymore. I’m guessing he doesn’t need me anymore… - the goddess lied, aware of her queen’s piercing gaze.

- I’d like to know if I can help in any way, I’m worried. – the queen noted with a smile, Mai aware of a slight demanding undertone of her voice. Better play this safe…

-I’ll look into it, your Majesty. But as long as this absence of his doesn’t affect his job, I guess I don’t have to worry. – blonde said with a smile, the queen finally relaxing her stance and returning the smile at her. – Do you need me for anything else, Majesty?

- Yes, can you make me company while I walk towards the Library? Everyone must be busy at this time so I don’t want to bother them unnecessarily.

- It’ll be my pleasure, Majesty! – the goddess responded, the two of them soon leaving a Marble theatre where the goddess of family and motherhood who was also a chief of the human realm, Kisara, usually performed her duties.

The two goddesses walked down the wide and bright hallway that connected all the rooms and chambers in Sky Castle, a quiet murmur of many gods and their attendants putting a smile on Kisara’s face.

- You seem different as well, Mai. – the queen suddenly noted, the other goddess giving her a confused side look.

- How so, Majesty?

The white-haired goddess scratched her chin and pouted slightly before starting to explain herself:

- I don’t know… You’ve always radiated whenever you’d enter the room but this time around, you’re literally glowing? And not just your appearance, as if something really good had happened to you recently…

Mai frowned slightly before Joey’s face flashed before her eyes, her lips widening into a tender smile without her realizing it.

- Was I right? – Kisara questions slyly, the other goddess just then noticing the queen was only a few inches away from her face. – Has someone new tickled your fancy?

- Ah… well, he’s not really new… - the goddess explained, aware her face must’ve been completely red by now. – He’s a human I tend to visit frequently… and he’s not my favorite because of the carnal pleasures, I just like being near him…

Kisara tilted her head at that explanation, soon letting out a mischievous chuckle.

- That’s nice to hear. But make sure he doesn’t realize who you really are. You know our rules.

- I always make sure not to reveal myself, Majesty, do not worry. – Mai reassured, a strong wave of embarrassment suddenly washing over her. – But I don’t understand how I could be glowing? I’ve literally watched over him for the past five years.

- Well, maybe now that you’re visiting him more frequently did you notice something charming about him, no?

The blonde stopped for a moment, not really sure in her own feelings anymore. Ever since that encounter at Joey’s apartment three months ago nothing similar happened: Mai would usually just come by to say hello, drink or eat with them outside but would never really have time to spend multiple hours with neither Joey nor Valon.

Plus, she liked both of those humans equally, why did Joey’s face just suddenly pop up in her memory. They didn’t even do anything special…

Could the queen be right?

- I’m here, thank you for escorting me! – the white-haired goddess suddenly chirped, snapping Mai out of her thoughts.

- I hope I was of use to you, your Majesty. – the goddess bowed deeply before the other one, Kisara giving her a smile before opening the double door in front of her, blonde being able to see only a glimpse of his royal Majesty and the way his serious and cold face instantly softened as soon as he saw his wife…

Strange how love can change a person, both human and a god.

Mai was indeed the goddess of romantic love and beauty, but there was still one thing she never really understood about her domain: when do you actually start loving someone?...

- What am I hearing, goddess? You’re in love… again!?

Mai’s expression immediately tensed up and she had to hold back really hard in order not to roll her eyes.

She swiftly turned around with the fakest smile she could muster, Aster’s pretty face making her urge for violence stronger and stronger by a second.

- And I see you’re still snooping around other people’s business, the god of beauty and music?

The silver-head snorted before leaning against the wall, Mai being taken by the beauty of his side profile for only a moment.

- I’ve learned this from the best one, am I right, your Excellency? – he retorted, his blue eyes stabbing her right in the middle of the forehead. – So, which poor soul is it this time? You’ve already used almost all available gods who were willing to fall before your feet so now you started hunting humans, huh?

Mai rolled her eyes this time around, barely being able to contain her anger at the younger god and wishing he wasn’t so beautiful, she’d be less sorry if she was to punch him square in the nose.

But two could play this game…

- It’s none of your business when it comes to the list of my lovers, I don’t even report that to Johan who is my personal assistant. You know why? Because I do what I want. – she said before closing the gap between them, her face getting really close to his for a few moments as she hissed: - By the way, is it true you were rejected by a human despite your beauty? Even better, you were rejected by a human devoted to your little sister, right?

Aster’s expression darkened that very moment, the sparks flying between the two gods as the tense air gathered around them, causing the castle to vibrate ever so slightly.

But then the younger god averted his eyes and leaned even more on the wall, all amusement drained out of his face.

- Fair enough. – he eventually muttered, Mai straightening up and flipping her luscious hair in a sign of victory.

- I’m a pro after all. – she chuckled before turning away from him and walking back towards her chambers, her fists still itching slightly from not punching that little shit.

But he was at least put in his place. Serves his sorry little ass right…

And while celebrating in her head and walking across the marble floor in a victorious manner, the goddess didn’t even notice a tall figure appearing behind Aster as he whispered something to it, his sinister gaze promising nothing but future trouble…

Chapter Text

Joey exited the factory after a double shift he had to take that day, every single joint and muscle in his body burning with exhaustion. It was already evening as well and third-shift workers were slowly coming to the facility, the blonde not envious of them at all.

- Heya, Joey!

The man turned his head as he heard a familiar voice, Tristan soon wrapping his hand around the other’s shoulders in a playful manner, making blonde grunt.

- Wow, someone’s cranky today.

- Spare me, I had to do double shifts today. – Joey complained, barely being able to shake off his friend’s arm.

- So Valon still hasn’t come to work, huh? – the brunette asked, a shadow of concern washing over his face. – Some nasty flu that is.

- I’ll be going to visit him tomorrow, I need some sleep now. I think I’m going to faint.

- Tell him I said hi! And make sure to go straight home, okay? No staying over at the restaurant! I won’t be coming to pick you up!

- That happened once! – Joey retorted as his friend continued to walk towards the factory, his cheeky grin making the blonde even more cranky and annoyed. – And you’re not my mom!

With that lovely exchange, the two friends parted ways, Joey soon making it to the main street where he had to walk two more blocks to reach the bus stop. Considering it was a humid summer night, it was a real nightmare walking along with many people on the street, but at least, once he boards the bus, he’ll be right in front of his apartment complex in less than half an hour. He could take a little nap…

As he stopped along with other people at the pedestrian crossing, he pulled out his phone and texted Valon, his friend not being very wordy with his messages ever since he caught that nasty flu.

Mutt: Yo! R u still alive? Need me to bring you smth tmrw?

As the lights changed the blonde quickly crossed the road, deciding on what he should order for takeout that evening. There was no way he’ll be cooking or staying in some restaurant, his body wouldn’t be able to take it…

Spiky: More meds… and smth home-cooked. I feel like shit. Don’t cook tho, I don’t wanna stomach bug too.

Joey chuckled at the message, glad to see his friend was returning to normal. He’ll probably be back to work in no time so Joey wouldn’t have to work his shifts as well…

But as the blonde stopped and leaned against one of the restaurant buildings to type in the order for takeout and write a small list of what to buy for Valon, someone tapped him on the shoulder, the man’s irritable demeanor about to explode on whoever that person was.

- What the… don’t you see I’m…. busy. – Joey‘s anger evaporated almost immediately as he saw the guy next to him, his whole being literally taking his breath away.

He was much shorter than Joey but even the blonde could see how much attention he was attracting from everyone around them, people of all ages and genders passing him second and third glances as they walked by. His silver hair was shoulder-length and his blue eyes reminded him of the cleanest and deepest sea, his pale skin seeming so delicate and smooth. He wore a neat white button-up shirt and sleeveless gray suit jacket, his pants matching the color of his hair whilst his shoes were black without even a scratch on them, the guy looking as if he had just walked out of the cover of some fashion magazine.

But there was something else that caused Joey to shiver slightly. This aura again…

- Oh, sorry. I was just lost and thought to ask you for directions but I’m sorry to bother you… - the guy said in a polite manner, his disappointed expression causing the blonde to panic and exclaim:

- I’m sorry to you! I’m just really cranky, I wasn’t supposed to yell! – he said with a bow. – What do you want to know? I’ll help if I can!

The guy smiled cheerfully and pulled out his phone, a location to some sort of café being already written into it.

- I tried to look for it by myself but I failed miserably. Do you think you can help me, Mr. …

- Oh, it’s Joey! Joey Wheeler! Nice to meet ya! – the blonde said through a nervous chuckle while offering his hand to the other, the man immediately shaking it with the same bright smile.

- Edo Phoenix, nice to meet you…

***

Mai had just returned to her chambers to relax a little after a long day and inability to locate Johan once again when she noticed one of her attendants, Paladin, looked at something in the pink fountain, her expression seeming rather puzzled and concerned.

- What’s the matter, girl? Is something not going according to plan with our couples? – the goddess asked before stretching her arms, her bones cracking one by one.

- No, nothing like that, Mistress. – the blonde responded before motioning her master to come closer to the fountain. – Isn’t this one of your favorite humans?

Mai frowned and rushed towards the fountain, the pink water showing a rather unexpected sight:

Joey sat in some kind of café and chuckled at something his date had said despite looking as if someone had just run him over with a truck but what ticked the goddess off in that very moment was the identity of the man next to him.

The goddess growled with frustration and splashed the water all around the marble floor, Aster’s stinky aura reaching her even through the fountain.

- I’m going down. Send the girls after me in case we have to fight for real. – she hissed through her teeth before disappearing behind the changing paper wall, Paladin yelling after her:

- But isn’t that against the rules?! You’re not supposed to fight the other god-

- JUST DO IT! DON’T ARGUE WITH ME!

The woman winced at her mistress’s loud voice and soon disappeared from the chambers, leaving Mai to change in peace and transform into her human form.

What the hell is Aster doing with Joey?! Is this some type of a joke?! How do they know each other?!

I swear, I’m going to kill that little shit…

Not even a moment later the goddess stomped across the floor in her high-heeled lilac boots, the sound of flapping wings following her entering her ears as she dematerialized and descended upon the city, intense anger flowing through her veins.

You’ve chosen a wrong goddess to mess with, little Aster…

***

 - So you’re working at a factory, huh? No wonder you’re so well-built. – Edo stated before taking a sip of his caramel macchiato, Joey choosing a small glass of beer as he tried to position his neck so it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

- Well, thanks. – the blonde chuckled while rubbing the back of his neck. – But we don’t do much physical work, we mostly stand in one place all day. I do work out though, whenever I can.

- At least you’re putting in the effort. – the silver-head said in his smooth voice, a little wink causing Joey to fidget in his seat. – And sorry for making you stay with me. I really wanted to come here with someone but considering I’m visiting alone, I didn’t know whom to ask.

- Are you here for a job or something?

- You could say so… - Edo responded while looking away and smirking mischievously. – We could meet up once again if you’re for it. Tomorrow I’ll be free.

- Uh, sorry. I have to visit a sick friend so I have no idea how long I’ll stay-

- I can wait. – the man said in a quieter tone whilst leaning against the table, his hand soon laid on top of Joey’s. – You seem really fun, I really want to get to know you better. I know no one in this town.

- I… uh… - the blonde could feel a blush creep on his cheeks, his body completely freezing for a moment as he tried to think of a clever way to respond. As if his aura is making my head all mushy…

- What the fuck are you doing, you little shit?

Joey froze for another reason this time around, his head slowly raising only to see pissed-off Maya hovering above their table, her purple eyes shooting literal fire as the murmur in the café died down a little, all the eyes directed at them.

- Uh, Maya… - the blonde man said with a shaky voice as he pulled away from his hand. – Can I explain?

- I wasn’t talking to you, Joey. – she retorted before her eyes shot towards Edo, the guy not seeming phased at all by her presence or the fact her face was only a few inches away from his at this point. – I was talking to this little piece of shit.

- Y-you know each other? – Joey stuttered, discretely signaling the waiter to prepare the bill for their drinks, his ear still listening to a quiet but threatening tone of Maya’s voice:

- Did you really think I wouldn’t notice? Seriously, how petty do you have to be to barge in on other people’s business, huh?

- I just wanted to check what this guy of yours is all about and why are you fawning over him so much, especially after that tasteless reminder from earlier. – Edo responded calmly, not even paying the blonde man a second glance. – And to be honest, I don’t see the appeal. The guy’s so dumb and boring.

- HEY! – Joey exclaimed with annoyance, very aware of the intense aura that started to gather around Maya at that very moment. – Excuse me for not being up to your standards, pretty boy! You shouldn’t even try to approach me!

- But making her mad is so much fun~ - silver-head noted with a cheeky grin, Joey seeing that it was time to take this fight outside.

- Let’s go out, both of you. – he said as he literally pulled Maya out of the café whilst putting the money for drinks on the bar in the process, giving baristas apologetic look as he led the arguing duo outside.

- Why did we have to get out? I didn’t even finish my drink~ - Edo whined before leaning against the wall in the back alley, Joey shooting him a dark look over his shoulder as he tried to hold Maya back.

- I suggest you get away from here, pretty boy, especially considering that if the two of you start fighting here, you’ll cause mass destruction.

The duo went pale at that very moment, their eyes shooting up at Joey with confusion and shock.

- Yeah, I know you’re gods. – he said quietly. – Now please get away from each other, I don’t want to be the cause of any type of colateral damage.

- How did you-

- It doesn’t matter, Edo! – the blonde nudged further. – Or whatever the hell is your actual name. Just go and leave her be to calm down. You’ve done enough today.

The silver-head frowned and after a tense moment of silence stomped with his foot against the ground in frustration before evaporating into thin air, leaving Maya and Joey alone and embraced in the back alley in the middle of the shopping district.  

- How did you even know, Joseph? – the girl asked as she leaned further into his chest, the man chuckling cheekily before admitting:

- I had my suspicions since the day I’ve first met you, but considering you’re so good at concealing your godly aura, I wasn’t so sure. Today, however, it wasn’t concealed at all and neither was Edo’s.

- But you regular humans shouldn’t be able to sense us! – she whisper-yelled, their eyes locking as Joey smiled down at her tenderly, her puzzled and upset face looking somewhat adorable.

- I’m not a regular human then. – he said through a cheeky but quiet chuckle. – I don’t remember a lot about my childhood, but I know I’ve always been able to sense other gods or similar entities. But knowing I’d probably be called crazy, I kept it a secret. Now I’m just glad my feeling about you was right.

The goddess’s eyebrows curled up as she tried to hold back tears of frustration, her enticing scent causing Joey’s head to spin.

- This might become dangerous, Joseph… - she whispered whilst tugging at his shirt. – If you know my identity, then-

- I won’t ask questions. – he reassured whilst tightening his embrace around the goddess. – You’re still Maya to me. I don’t care which goddess you are, I’m just glad to have met you. And no matter your reputation, I’ll always be happy to see you.

The man felt two hands locking around his waist as Maya pulled him even closer into the embrace, Joey chuckling mischievously as he stood there with her, away from the looks of any people coming up and down the street.

He could feel three pairs of eyes watching over them from above, a blue feather falling on the asphalt next to the two of them, but he still knew they were safe and protected. And even though he still couldn’t believe his suspicions about Maya’s identity have been proven true, he was more than happy she came to his aid once she saw he was about to be used by that little pretty boy.

Looks like I really have the protection of my very own goddess, he thought before squeezing Maya even tighter, not wanting to ever let her go…

Chapter Text

Yugi had just finished watering the last bush of roses as he noticed the dusk was slowly setting upon the horizon, the gentle shades of pink and orange making his little garden almost glow in the dim light.

The spring god smiled, his heart feeling somewhat calm at that moment as he listened to the small drops of the waterfall on the dark green leaves, the soothing scent of roses reminding him of home.

Still, his mind remained restless and for one very specific reason…

- I better go back… - he noted to himself before putting down a small bucket he used, his feet swiftly carrying him over the grass and towards the set of rocks leading out of that particular section of the cave.

As he went down the narrow hallway, the images of the most recent nightmare just wouldn’t leave his head: so much blood, people screaming, his own chest tightening.

But there was something else that shook him to the core in that nightmare. There… was a voice he had never heard before…

- Yugi?

The young god winced upon hearing a familiar, deep voice, his purple eyes immediately noticing the king of the Underworld at the very entrance to the Dragon cave.

- Y-yes, Majesty? – the younger asked as he dashed towards him, relieved someone came in just the right moment to save him from his own thoughts. – Is there something you need?

- It’s not really something I need, it’s more of a matter of whether your want to do it or not. – the older said cryptically, a sly smirk on his lips causing Yugi’s heart to start racing.

- Be more specific. – younger said though an adorable chuckle as he followed the monarch out of the cave, their footsteps echoing wide hallways.

- You know there are sections of the Underworld that are closed off for most of its inhabitants, right?

- Yes, one of them is Beach of Lost Souls… - Yugi reminded, another unpleasant memory playing before his eyes.

- Well, there is one section I’d like to show you and tonight is a perfect opportunity. – the king said in a serious tone, his red eyes darkening for a moment before he spoke again: - But I have to warn you, it might become dangerous unless you don’t follow my instructions.

The spring god felt his heart skip a beat in excitement, his whole body becoming fidgety as if he was a young boy who was promised to go on a massive adventure.

- I’ll follow whatever you tell me! – he assured, instinctively grabbing onto the king’s hand and squeezing it, causing the monarch to chuckle.

- Very well. – the older said in his beautiful raspy voice and pulled Yugi by the hand, not breaking the contact once as they continued to walk towards the main hallway. – Have you ever heard about Sun’s journey?

- Yes, I did. – Yugi said proudly. – It’s the time Marik spends flying over the horizon on the back of his golden falcon, giving this world all the warmth and light it needs. I’ve seen him a few times myself. He looked too majestic.

The king chuckled, his expression turning mischievous again.

- Did you know Marik also passes through the Underworld on his journey?

The spring god gasped at that information, his wide purple eyes causing yet another chuckle on the king’s part.

The pair soon appeared at the very end of the main hallway, a few doors away from the ones that led to the Beach of the Lost souls, the usually locked and bound crimson door now wide open with six guards on each side, making sure no one uninvited could pass.

The king nodded at them, the guards promptly clearing the way for him and Yugi as the younger’s heart jumped right into his throat, excitement threatening to consume him whole. They then descended down a set of wide crimson stairs, a sound of splashing water echoing in spring god’s ears.

But before he could even utter a single question, his eyes widened upon a rather majestic sight: at the very bottom of the stairs there was a wide canal filled with crystal clear, sapphire-shade water on which a golden bark rocked left and right, it’s light both eye-catching and soothing, just like the setting sun.

Yugi then noticed a few gods standing at the very edge of the riverside, all of them familiar for the young god except for one: a tall man of slightly tanned skin, spiky turquoise hair with front locks slightly longer and decorated with similar gold jewelry the king of the Underworld wore on daily basis. The newcomer was dressed in dark gray robes, the aura around him being noble, sophisticated, and mature.

But what really took the spring god aback were the color of the god’s eyes: they were bright, golden orbs, able to pierce into anyone’s soul and see all of their secrets…

- Nice to see you again, Aigami. – the king suddenly spoke, the two gods exchanging smirks before the turquoise-head got down on his left knee whilst putting his left hand over his heart, just like everyone used to greet the monarch of the Underworld…

- I see you’re in good health as well, your Majesty. – the god spoke in a profound and calm voice, Yugi only being able to stare at him as he rose back up on his feet and their eyes met. – Ah, young Yugi. I wondered why I haven’t seen you at all over these past three months. So you were here.

- Y-you know about me, lord Aigami? – the younger questioned, now understanding that he had already heard the name of that god somewhere before…

- Well, as a god of the Moon and knowledge, it’d be bothersome and strange if I didn’t know. – Aigami noted with a mischievous smirk. – I’m the one who keeps records on all of you gods, after all, I have to know everything you do.

The spring god was taken aback slightly, his body instinctively pulling away and hiding behind the king, causing Aigami to chuckle before the monarch of the Underworld shot him a dark look.

- You’re here for business, Aigami. – the king reminded, the other god immediately clearing his throat and pulling out a stone table with a single handprint engraved on it.

- Correct, I apologize, your Majesty. – the turquoise-head said in that same serious tone, soon offering the tablet to the king. – You know the procedure.

The king just nodded and put his palm onto the tablet, the handprint fitting him perfectly. The tablet then started to glow in silverish-white light only for it to die out after only a few moments.

- With this tablet, I now bestow upon thee the care of the Sun and its bark as it travels through the Underworld. May His Light appear before us in another dawn.

The king nodded and gestured towards the other three familiar gods to approach him, Aigami slowly fading away before their eyes.

- Leaving already, my friend? – the king asked in a mocking manner which elicited the chuckle from the moon god, his golden gaze falling onto Yugi one last time.

- I have to guard the night sky until Marik returns. Take good care of him. – the god said as his voice slowly faded away, his figure soon disappearing as if he was never there, leaving Yugi slightly in a daze.

The spring god only then noticed which three gods the king was currently talking about as he suddenly became aware of their very specific conversation:

- Are your girls in their positions, Mana, Mahad?

- All present, your Majesty. – blonde goddess stated with enthusiasm and respect, the taller god only nodding before adding:

- I’ve also delivered the Teleportation key to him, just as you requested.

The king nodded before turning to Ishizu, Yugi only then noticing a small golden key hanging from her neck alongside her usual necklace with an eye symbol.

- I’ll be expecting you in the Seventh Kingdom at midnight. – the king said, the goddess nodding almost immediately upon receiving his order.

-I will be there to aid you and my brother, Majesty. The Great Serpent won’t even come near you.

The monarch nodded with a slight smile on his face before dismissing the three gods, only Mana following him and Yugi as they walked towards the golden bark and boarded it, the spring god having to be really careful in order not to lose his balance. He had never been on a boat before…

- Mana, can you please pass one of the keys to Yugi? – the king spoke once they were on board, the same small key soon wrapping around the spring god’s neck as the blonde goddess tied it with a smile.

- W-what does this do?! – the younger questioned, eliciting a chuckle from Mana and a serious tone from the king who looked him directly in the eyes, Yugi’s whole body trembling for some reason.

- If, by any chance, the situation becomes dangerous, call out the place in the Underworld while holding onto that key and it’ll bring you there immediately. Ishizu has a key that can teleport her two times but yours can only do it once. Can you promise me you’ll leave if things become serious?

Yugi hesitated, his heart suddenly dropping in his stomach, but not because of the supposed danger that could be bestowed upon him…

- And you? – he asked. – Will you be alright, Majesty?

The king seemed slightly surprised by that question only to smile tenderly and nod, his hand gently ruffling younger’s hair.

- I’m used to this, nothing that’s in Twelve Kingdoms has the ability to surprise me.

Yugi sighed with relief upon hearing that, soon putting the key into his robes and smiling back at the monarch.

- Then I promise I won’t be in your way if things become dangerous. I’ll leave as soon as I don’t feel safe.

- Good. – the king said with a satisfied smirk before gesturing for the servants to untie the boat, the bark seemingly going completely on its own.

- I’ll be stationed at the front of the boat to oversee the journey. You and Mana may enter the cabin where Marik sleeps and keep an eye on him. He’s a very heavy sleeper so not even the strongest rocking of the waves will wake him up.

- H-he’s sleeping? – Yugi exclaimed which only caused Mana to chuckle again.

- Well, he is the Sun after all. During the day he uses a lot of energy to keep us warm and in light, he needs to re-charge, so to say. And since the Underworld is the realm where light has no real effect, Marik is able to completely relax and have a good nap while we take care of him. It’s one of the few contracts Upper Gods actually allowed us to have with them and Marik himself is very grateful to us, not only for guarding him as he sleeps but also because he can see his sister at the very end of his journey through the Underworld.

Yugi gasped silently once again at all of this news, realizing how wrong of a conception he had not only of the Underworld king and the gods that work for him but about the Underworld as a realm as well.

Anzu told him nothing good lives under the earth’s surface, but then there was the god of the sun himself who had found his resting place down there every single night…

- And his Majesty goes with you every night? – the spring god questioned, now seeing the older god was already overlooking their path over the blue river.

- No, this is not the usual setting. – Mana explained as they slowly approached the cabin. – It’s usually me and Mahad who go through the Underworld with Marik but when we notice the Great Serpent might be just a little… too enthusiastic per say, we call his Majesty for help. He’s practically the only one who can keep it at bay if everything else fails and we can’t have that huge thing attack the bark. It’d be a disaster. So this usually happens once a month.

Yugi nodded in understanding as he entered the cabin, Mana literally pushing him inside first. The young god could feel that same excitement but also slight anxiety slowly creeping on him, unsure of what he’ll see that very night in the Underworld.

But, at least, he knew his Majesty will definitely be alright…

Chapter Text

Yugi slowly entered deeper into the cabin, the bark rocking gently on the waves of the blue river. Mana closed the shutters on all of the windows, making sure the god resting in there got every moment of peace they were able to afford.

But even in that pitch darkness, the spring god became aware of a very gentle glow coming from the bed in the middle of the cabin, prompting him to come closer. And even on that rather dim light, Yugi was able to see Marik’s every feature: he had equally tanned skin as Ishizu, Mahad and the king did, his sandy blonde hair acting in complete contrast to the shade of his skin. His face seemed sharp but relaxed in his deep slumber, his body wrapped in nothing but a simple, baggy white t-shirt as his body completely relaxed under the duvet, his breathing deep and even.

- It’s strange, isn’t it? – the goddess asked with a chuckle, Yugi only then realizing he’s really been staring at the sun god. – The way his whole being shines even in the pitch blackness of the Underworld. Talk about the powerful energy.

- He seems so serene… - the younger noted, noticing how the sleeping god didn’t even wince despite him and Mana speaking in a normal tone.

- He knows he’s safe here… and he knows he won’t incinerate anyone just by being close to them because of the way Underworld functions. – the blonde said as she fixed Marik’s pillow, the god grunting in response before rolling over to the side and taking a deep breath. – You know the best that each god has some sort of difficulty in their jurisdiction or power. Well, Marik has to make sure to keep his glow under control or it’ll literally burn people alive. I don’t know if anything ever happened, but that could explain why he almost never interacts with anyone except for those meetings in the Sky Temple.

Yugi’s eyebrows curled upwards, suddenly feeling bad for the sun god. He had such an important task on his back yet that very power prevented him from interacting with anyone except for his winger dragon…

- We’re here.

The duo winced as they heard the king’s voice in their heads, Mana literally dashing out of the cabin to meet her master at the front dock. Yugi followed after her, just then realizing the bark had come to a halt and in front of a huge golden door. And the moment the spring god joined the other two at the front, a familiar face landed on the railing, her yellow armor acting as an only source of light in that cave.

- Welcome, Lemon, first guardian of the Night. – the king said in a stern but welcoming tone, the sorceress landing onto the floor in order to properly bow to him.

- It’s exactly 6 PM. – Lemon spoke in a similar, very professional tone, giving Yugi only a warm glance before she continued to speak: - You shall now enter the Watercourse of the Sun. Let’s have a safe trip together.

The two gods nodded before splitting up, Mana returning to the cabin, the king remaining at the front while Lemon flew to the back, grabbing the huge paddle Yugi only then noticed. She then started paddling slowly and steadily, the spring god only then realizing she was actually the one moving the bark forward.

The door in front of them suddenly rumbled, the golden obstacle opening the path for them at once. Yugi could only see the cave became darker as they slowly rolled in, only a few flashing red lights appearing every now and then on the horizon. He slowly walked around the bark, trying to notice anything else in that darkness only for a fire to appear only a few inches away from his face, startling him and making him trip over his own legs.

But before his body could even touch the ground, a strong pair of arms grabbed onto him and pulled him back up, the familiar glow of red eyes giving the younger god a sense of security.

- Careful now. – the king said before returning to his post. – Make sure not to go too close to the edge. These snakes don’t really know how to aim.

Yugi frowned at that explanation only to see yet another shot of fire appearing a few feet away from him, the spring god only then noticing a red snake with a widened mouth looking back at him.

- Those are-

- Fire-breathing snakes, yes. – Lemon yelled out as she continued to paddle, the god quickly coming over to her.

- D-do you need help with that? – he asked, noticing her every grunt as she’s rise the heavy wooden paddle.

- No, don’t worry, sire. – she reassured. – I do this every night, I may seem small and fragile, but I have my ways. Thanks to my magic, this thing isn’t that heavy.

The spring god nodded in understanding only to catch a glimpse of two other snakes breathing fire next to them, the red glow of their scales causing Yugi’s heart to drop.

- How come there are so many snakes here? – he asked absent-mindedly, not expecting to get an answer.

- These were actually a gift from Lord Bastion. Many of these guys help him craft the weapons in his shop and he had a few hatchlings to spare. Plus, it seems they prefer this cold cave rather than the Sky Temple. It’s weird for a snake not to want the warmth provided by the sun, but considering these guys are literally breathing fire, I guess they use the shadows to cool themselves up.

- You know so much about them… - Yugi said with a chuckle, observing every single snake that came into his view as the bark continued its journey.

- This is my domain of protection, I have to know. – Lemon said with a wink before pouring her whole concentration into paddling again, Yugi scratching the back of his head in embarrassment for even doubting any of Mana’s girls.

The rest of the journey went on peacefully and with no interruptions, Lemon being able to bring the bark to the next, brown gate before they came to another halt. The sorceress quickly greeted Mana and the king in the same place she first landed only to use one of those keys to dematerialize out of the cave, her complexion seeming rather pale once Yugi took a final look at her.

- Will she be alright? – he asked worryingly, eliciting a chuckle from both of the gods.

- Don’t worry, she needs a good rest. She’s a big girl. – Mana reassured, the younger’s chest feeling somewhat more relaxed.

But in the next moment, as Yugi rose his eyes again, a new face flew onto the bark, her tall figure bowing down before the two gods. She was a pretty young sorceress with round glasses resting on top of her nose, her long and wavy sandy blonde hair falling down her back as her greenish-silver uniform pooled around her. The sorceress then stood up with a help of her wooden staff, the king speaking in the same stern tone as with Lemon before:

- Welcome, Genie, second guardian of the Night.

- It’s exactly 7 PM – Genie spoke in the same way, giving Yugi a passing but a tender glance. – You shall now enter the Ur-Nes. Let’s have a safe trip together.

But even after those familiar words, the spring god noticed no one has returned to their station as before, Mana being the one to move the bark with the help of her own staff. Genie, on the other hand, turned towards the front of the bark and looked up, a sound of loud hissing prompting Yugi to follow her gaze.

And as soon as he saw three pairs of golden eyes Yugi could feel a cold shiver running down his spine, three snakes slowly lowering their huge heads to meet the bark.

- Who goesssss there?  - the first one hissed right into Genie’s face, the sorceress seeming completely unfazed by the whole encounter.

- We are guardians of the Sun bark, we as for your permission to pass. – the sorceress said in a confident tone, the spring god only then noticing no one was making any types of sudden movements, his body completely paralyzed with fear and uncertainty.

- And the passsssssword?  - the second one hissed, Genie moving her staff slowly only to hit the wooden floor with it three times to get serpents’ attention, her voice louder than before:

- We request your permission, great lords Aka, Ki, and Mido.

The snake trio retreated almost immediately upon the sorceress saying those words, their huge bodies returning on top of the gate as they slowly opened, allowing them to pass.

Once the doors closed behind them, everyone visibly relaxed, even the king as they slowly returned to their usual posts, Genie taking over the paddle in the back.

- Good job at not moving there, Yugi. – the king said briefly while only sparing the younger a glance. – Those three are truly splendid guardians but because all three are blind we have to make sure they know it’s us. Otherwise, one breath from either of their jaws can literally melt us, that’s how strong of a poison they possess.

Yugi gasped at that information, completely baffled by the fact Genie acted so calmly in front of them despite all three snakes literally being in her face.

- Are there any similar encounters like this? I don’t want to mess up… - he asked, now feeling the king’s gaze on him.

- No, not really. Once we do come to a dangerous place, I promise to warn you. This part… I forgot about it and I’m sorry…

- D-don’t apologize, your Majesty! Everything ended up being okay so there’s no need for it! – Yugi exclaimed and moved away, very aware of the fact his face was slowly turning into a tomato. He could hear the king chuckle mischievously but still decided to rush to the back and meet the new sorceress properly.

- You must be Sir Yugi, right? – Genie said in a calm tone as she lightly waved her staff in front of the paddle, her eyes so focused on her magic.

- Y-you know about me?

- Yes, of course! Master Mahad told my coven a lot about you! – she said with a smile. – You really are as adorable as he had told us. No wonder everyone likes you so much.

- T-thank you for saying that… - the god scratched the back of his head yet again as his face became even redder than before. – Can I h-help you with something?

- No need, just sit back and relax. We’ll soon reach the middle of Ur-Nes. It’s rather lively and there’s a lot to see here.

- Really? Are there more dragons or something like that? – Yugi asked as his chest started to fill up with excitement, causing Genie to chuckle again.

- Not really, but here you may be able to see souls of the dead, more specifically, all the human monarchs that ruled this continent over the past two millennia. Ur-Nes is their final resting place where they get to spend their eternity doing things they love the most. That is if Master Shadi deems them worthy of coming here.

- So, it’s like a place where good people go?

- Yes and no. – Genie explained further. – You see, Ur-Nes is mostly reserved for those people that have to be remembered by history, be it because they were monarchs or because they discovered something that helped the civilization. Because of their contribution and the fact they still managed to be decent humans in life, they are rewarded with their stay here, where they’ll never be forgotten.

And as soon as that explanation landed in Yugi’s head, the bark passed around the corner in the cave, revealing a majestic blue lake in the middle of an enormous cave, a beautiful city built in white appearing on the shore. The spring god rushed towards the edge to get a better look only to see the main square swarming with many souls, their clothes varying from ancient robes to modern-day attire. Most of the souls still had their crowns on their heads but there were also a few who wore plain clothes but their aura shone in a bright white, showcasing their importance.

But what caught Yugi’s attention the most was a couple walking on the shore, their hands intertwined as they conversed and chuckled. The man wore a crown representing the current royal family of the continent while his short, chocolate-brown hair ruffled in the breeze. The woman, on the other hand, was dressed in a peach-pink dress that was both delicate and simple, her caramel brown hair tied in a long, loose braid.

- That man is the newest addition to Ur-Nes. – Genie explained through a chuckle. – Apparently, he was so happy to see his wife again after so many years that he started crying even in his ghostly form. And you can see how much they’ve missed each other.

- That’s a beautiful story… - Yugi said through a tender smile, his eyes remaining on the couple as long as he could see them, his eyes occasionally glancing towards the king of the Underworld at the front of the bark.

He never lost his proud stance, his red eyes scanning the environment in search of any kind of danger or anomaly, the god literally taking Yugi’s breath away…

The rest of the journey through Ur-Nes was uneventful. Yugi had a lot of fun observing the souls having their best time in the afterlife, happy to see that even despite all the hardships they had to endure before they still found an appropriate closure.

Genie left the bark just in time as the bark approached the dark red gate, the sorceress looking similarly to Lemon when she left: her complexion pale, her cheeks hollow and her eyes half-closed, indicating the amount of energy she had used to move the bark.

But then another familiar face appeared on the bark, her small figure in red armor bowing to the two gods just like her predecessors did, the king speaking to her I the same stern and professional tone:

- Welcome, Apple, third guardian of the Night.

The sorceress then stood up and gave Yugi a discrete nod before saying her own lines:

- It’s exactly 8 PM. You shall now enter The Watercourse of the Only God. Let’s have a safe trip together.

With those words everyone has returned to their usual posts, Apple taking over the paddle in the back as the red gate opened a path for them.

And almost immediately, Yugi was able to see a literal river of souls occupying both banks of the blue river, a long line leading deeper into the cave.

- What is happening here? – the spring god questioned, the king immediately giving an explanation:

- This is the kingdom where people get judged by the gods and other creatures after they leave the mortal realm. Based on their actions in life and their current state of mind, they are either directed to Ur-Nes, Procession of Images, Hidden, or Mouth of the Cavern.

- Are those all the realms we’ll pass through tonight?

- That’s correct. – the king said with an amused chuckle. – But in this realm lives a god I’d really like you to meet. Besides Mahad, he’s been one of the first Underworld gods to serve me and has taken on a huge burden of judging the souls of the dead.

Yugi’s eyes widened slightly as his heart started to beat faster, that same excitement from before enveloping his whole being. But before he could even say another word, a deep voice called out from behind the two of them.

- I’m glad to see you here again, your Grace.

The spring god winced before turning around, noticing an amused expression on the king’s face. And there, in the middle of the bark, stood a tall man in white robes, bald head and the same eye symbol on his forehead, his turquoise eyes able to pierce right into someone’s very soul. He bowed down onto his left knee to greet his king just like everybody else, the king approaching him swiftly and literally pulling him back up.

- Thank you for having me in your kingdom as well, Shadi. – the king said in a tender tone before the two of them exchanged a hearty handshake, Yugi only being able to watch them in astonishment.

- And who is this? – the taller man asked, his eyes shifting towards Yugi.

The spring god winced again before bowing down to Shadi, his voice rather shaky as he spoke:

- M-my name is Yugi, the god of spring from the Earthly realm.

- Oh? Interesting to see you Uppers down here. – Shadri remarked before patting the younger’s shoulder. – But it’s nice to meet you, Yugi. As you may have heard, I’m Shadi, god judger of the dead and god of justice and law.

- I d-did hear of you, Lord Shadi. I know your role is very important. – the younger said in a still-shaky voice, the king being the one to interrupt a slightly awkward situation.

- Stop teasing him, Shadi, I wanted for his trip to be enjoyable.

The other god chuckled and gave Yugi another friendly pat on the back.

- I know, I know, I just needed to see what he is made off. Everyone’s been talking about him so you can guess I was intrigued.

- Just make sure not to go overboard with your subtle teasing, alright? – the king said in a scolding manner before giving Yugi a reassuring glance. – How have things been down here? Anything you need to report?

- Not really, it’s pretty much the same as usual. We get dozens of souls here on a daily basis and my three assistants are doing a splendid job. – Shadi said in a confident manner before walking over to the edge of the bark and looking over towards the riverbank, his turquoise eyes suddenly locking with Yugi’s. – Would you like to see how we judge the dead?

The spring god instinctively got on his toes and approached the edge carefully, his eyes glued to the line of souls waiting for their judgment. He nodded shyly, eliciting a chuckle from both Underworld gods.

- You know that the boatman brings all the souls here, that is, the ones that have a coin to pay him. Once they arrive here, we measure their hearts in three parts.

The bark slowly approached a greenish arch where Yugi noticed two rather large beasts sniffing the soul of an older man before them. One beast looked like a giant, golden-coat dog with wings and silver armor covering its head and legs while the other looked like a fiend from someone’s worst nightmare, its fur bloody red and black horns and sharp teeth causing everyone to tremble.

- This is the first station, a Station of Forgotten Heart. Here Phantasos looks in people’s childhood memories and weights what events in their childhood shaped the lives they’ve lived. If we get a soul of a child, we usually send it directly to Procession of Images because most of the time the youngster didn’t have time to do something vicious for which he’ll need our judgment. Those two beasts you see are good and bad embodiments of Phantasos, Friend, and Foe, and depending on the outcome of their judgment, the soul gets a small stamp: golden if the wage leaned towards the Friend and red if the wage leaned towards the Foe.

Yugi continued to observe the two beasts as Shadi gave him the explanation, noticing Phantasos Foe had just given that old man a red stamp, the soul soon passing through the green arch.

Their next destination was a purple arch where two female spirits stood, one having long green hair, green and white robes as well as holding a wooden staff with a glowing blue stone on top of it while the other’s hair was wavy lilac, her uniform being a combination of purple and dark red while her huge scythe intimidated everyone who stood before her.

- This is the second station, a Station of Choices. Here, Ikelos looks at the person’s life and their decisions to see how many choices led to someone’s happiness or demise. As you can see, Ikelos also has two forms: Mara, who searches for bad decisions, and Sprite, who searches for good decisions. And just like in the previous station, Ikelos decides which stamp the soul is going to get after the wage.

Yugi observed as Ikelos Sprite gave a soul of a young woman a golden stamp, the spring god noticing she already had one from the previous station which made his chest feel somewhat at ease, at least for the woman.

The bark continued forward only to reach one final, blue arch, where two knight-like spirits were stationed: one was in full silver armor with blue details as his pretty face and blonde hair enchanted everyone who’d look at him while his partner completely hid his face under a sinister black armor, a huge sword at his side and a sinister grin acting like a complete contrast to the other knight.

- This is the third station, a Station of Last Resolve. Here Morpheus looks into what lead to people’s deaths and what’s the state of their mind when they have left the mortal realm. Black Knight is responsible for bad emotions while White Knight watches over good emotions, the two of them also giving souls a stamp at the end.

- And what happens once they get all the stamps? – Yugi questioned, eliciting yet another chuckle from Shadi.

- Then they come to me for their Final Verdict. I look at their whole life as a whole and look into what my three spirits have sent me about each human while also taking their stamps into account. And once I decide whether the human has lived a proper life, I send them to their final resting place through one of the Four Gates.

- So much work… - Yugi commented as he continued to look at the riverbank, his fascination with the Underworld gods only growing bigger the more they traveled. – You’re doing such an amazing job…

- Why, thank you. – Shadi chuckled before suddenly dematerializing right in front of Yugi and reappearing on the riverbank. – I’m glad I got to meet you, Yugi. But now I have to return to my post. There are a lot of souls waiting for their judgment.

- Um… thank you, Lord Shadi! – Yugi exclaimed as the bark continued to move. – I loved listening to your story!

- Do come again, little spring god! And take care of our king!

Yugi was slightly taken aback by that last request but upon seeing Shadi’s knowing wink, he could feel an intense blush creep up onto his face almost immediately. Luckily, the king didn’t seem to notice.

- How do you like this journey so far, Yugi? – the older questioned as they continued to look over the edge, Yugi himself not sure how to explain these feelings rising in his chest.

But there was still one thing he was sure of:

- I love everything about it. Thank you for bringing me…

Chapter Text

Another hour passed by and Yugi once again observed a similar exchange between seemingly exhausted Apple and a newcomer Pittore, a sorceress of pinkish-blonde hair and in green robes, her metal staff being much bigger than her. The king of the Underworld spoke to her in that same professional tone as she stood up before him:

- Welcome, Pittore, fourth guardian of the Night.

-It is exactly 9 PM and you shall now enter the Living One of Forms. I hope we have a safe journey together.

Yugi nodded to a young sorceress as she smiled at him, the spring god only then noticing no one was going to their usual posts as the beige-colored gates started opening the path. The king then walked up to him and he offered his hand, Yugi directing him a confused look.

- Hold onto me tight, alright?

Yugi nodded even though he didn’t understand what was about to happen but then, in the corner of his eye, he noticed Mana standing next to the cabin with her staff raised in the level of her eyes as her lips uttered a quiet incantation.

And then Pittore ran up to the front of the boat with her staff raised high up in the air, the river under then suddenly starting to lose volume and strength. The sorceress then yelled out:

- Come forth, the black snake of the abyss!

Yugi was blinded by a strong, orange light coming from Pittore’s staff, suddenly aware he wasn’t standing on the firm floor anymore but was, in fact, floating while holding onto the king’s hand tightly.

- Wha- what’s happening?! – he exclaimed, feeling the king’s hand around his waist as they continued to float in mid-air, a bark slowly transforming into a huge snake while the cabin turned into a huge golden sarcophagus that slowly landed on top of the serpent’s back, Mana using more of her magic to keep it in place as the snake started moving.

- The river disappears in this part of the Underworld so we need to use a different means of transportation. – the king explained as Yugi and he slowly descended on top of the snake’s back, the coldness of its body and the slippery nature of its scales making it almost impossible for Yugi to stand.

- Th-this is … interesting… - the spring god said in a shaky voice, the king chuckling at his reaction before helping him to sit down, Yugi only then noticing Pittore was standing on top of serpent’s head as if she’s taking the wheel of some kind of vehicle.

- It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, I know. – the king admitted, his hand still wrapped around Yugi’s waist as their bodies rocked with every movement of a giant serpent. – But this won’t be for long. Once we pass the Hidden, we’ll be back on the river again.

Yugi nodded as he leaned more against the older god, fear of slipping down and getting lost in that dark tunnel they were passing through. And that was his first time actually being in such close proximity to a snake of that side. It was rather intimidating, to say the least…

- I… never thought I’d be riding a snake… - Yugi eventually said with a nervous chuckle, the king’s red orbs giving him a worried glance. – It truly is interesting!

- You don’t have to pretend to like this. – the older said in a quiet voice before slightly tightening the grip around Yugi’s waist. – I can feel you’re trembling and I understand. This isn’t something you’re used to, especially with a beast this big. You can leave if you really can’t take this.

- N-no, I won’t leave! – the spring god exclaimed, their eyes locking for a few moments. – I mean… yes, I’m scared, but mostly that I’ll fall off and inconvenience you. I’ll get used to the snake…

The king chuckled again as he tightened the grip around the spring god, even more, making sure to completely eliminate his main fear. Yugi smiled secretly, suddenly feeling as if a huge boulder has been lifted off his shoulders…

- Marik really doesn’t sense any of this? – the younger eventually asked as he noticed that golden sarcophagus in the corner of his eye, Mana not moving away from it even for a second.

- No, nothing. – the king replied. – It was strange to me too, but if you take into account how much energy he uses whilst acting as a literal sun of the Upper Realm, you can guess he’s literally drained once he comes here. Never, in two millennia that we do this, have I ever seen him awake on his arrival.

Yugi chuckled at that response, still thankful to the sun god for making sure they were provided with the warmth of his light every single day. Truly, what an admirable task…

For the next fraction of the journey through that realm, nothing else really happened. The snake slowly crawled through the wide, dark tunnels and was occasionally praised by Pittore, the sorceress doing a remarkable job in keeping the serpent calm and careful.

And then, suddenly, the tunnels of the cave completely disappeared, a wide space opening before them as a huge and deep ravine appeared from the darkness, a familiar face floating above that even darker abyss.

Chocolate quickly flew over towards Pittore who seemed rather pale at that moment but was still able to hand over the ownership over a huge snake to her colleague. Chocolate quickly bowed to the two gods who were now standing on top of the snake’s back, making sure she keeps a strong grip on the serpent as she and the king had already known exchange:

- Welcome, Chocolate, fifth guardian of the Night. – the king said.

- It’s exactly 10 PM. You shall now enter The Hidden. I hope we’ll have a safe journey together.

Yugi slowly stood up on top of the snake’s back only to almost fall over when the serpent’s body started moving again, the king catching him just in time.

- Hold onto me tight, this will be a deep dive. – the king warned before using a bit of his magic to literally glue Yugi’s feet for the snake’s back, securing his position at least a little. – Make sure to stay on alert. We’ll now be entering his domain.

- His? – the spring god questioned in the same tone as his confusion and fear continued to grow but that still didn’t stop the snake from plummeting deep under the ground.

And as they dived deep into the darkness, Yugi was suddenly able to hear blood-curdling screams from down below, chills running down his spine almost immediately. He then noticed greenish lights at the very bottom of the ravine as a few smaller lakes filled with boiling black liquid came into view, the spring god barely being able to see what was going on.

The snake then landed on the ground in that very cave only for Yugi to realize there were five such black lakes and each of them had its own guardian of sorts: all of them in traditional robes and with some type of weapon in one of their hands while in the other they held a torch of green fire, the screams coming from various souls that were randomly ducked into the boiling lakes as their captors showed no signs of emotions on their faces.

- W-what is this place?... – the spring god questioned in a shaky voice as he grabbed onto the king’s robes, but before he could get his answer, a terrifying cackle came from above as a dark shadow flew over them.

- It’s a pleasure to see you again in my domain, Your Grace.

The king seemed unfazed by a clearly bitter accent of the unknown man and so were Mana and Chocolate. But Yugi still wanted to know who was speaking to them and he looked up… only to catch a glimpse of two red eyes staring directly back at him from the ceiling of the tall cave.

The spring god swallowed his own scream as the man plummeted down and softly landed onto the moving snake, Yugi only then being able to get a closer look at him: his skin was as tanned as the king’s was, the god wearing nothing but a white robe that covered his hips as the red cardigan was draped over his wide and muscular shoulders. His hair was reaching under his shoulders and was snowy-white, a complete contrast to the deep redness of his eyes and a deep scar going down his left cheek, a terrifying smile making the spring god shiver and freeze.

Yugi was already familiar with the red eyes, but these… these were nothing like the king’s. Despite their seemingly warm color, the young god was able to see a rotten soul on the inside, the dark shade of his irises being as deep as this very abyss…

- Back off, Bakura, you’re scaring him. – the king said in a threatening manner as he stepped in front of Yugi, the other only letting out that same cackle before turning around and taking a stroll up the snake’s back.

- Well, it’s not my problem you’ve dragged a little Upper god to my domain, I can do whatever I want here, remember? – Bakura looked over his shoulder, that sinister grin never leaving his face. – Those were your exact words, your Grace.

- And have you forgotten one other thing? – the king spoke again, in an even deeper voice than before. – I’m still your king and you have to obey my orders. And if you want to duel me here where you have home-field advantage, bring it on. We both know how that’ll end.

The white-haired god huffed and made a full circle around Chocolate who did her best to ignore him, soon returning to the king and still scared Yugi who instinctively pulled onto the older’s robes as Bakura inched closer.

- Fine, fine, have it your way. I won’t even look at that puny little thing holding onto your robes. – the god retorted, Yugi only then noticing a similar key Ishizu had around her neck. – What are you looking at, huh?

- I… I’m sorry! – the spring god said before looking away which only elicited that sinister cackle again, Bakura taking a hold of the key around his neck and swinging it right in front of younger’s face.

- You dearest king may be all talk, but he needs my help, that’s why he keeps me here. – he snarled before directing his sharp gaze directly into Yugi, the younger being able to feel terror slowly flowing through his veins. – But, this is a tad rude of me, no? If you didn’t know, I’m Bakura, the god of traitors and deserts and also a ruler of this magnificent place.

The spring god gave him a little nod which made Bakura cackle again, the king speaking up again in his commanding voice:

- How has the work been lately, friend?

- Oh, splendid! – the god exclaimed while clapping his hands, pointing towards the nearest lake where a woman in a red kimono used her spear to nudge a few souls into the boiling black liquid. – It seems there have been more traitors as of recently, especially with everything that’s been happening within the royal family:

- T-traitors? – Yugi questioned, once again aware of the other god’s red gaze directly on him.

- Exactly, little god. – white-head hissed. – This is a domain reserved exclusively for all kinds of traitors. There is no way out of here once you’re dropped through the Fourth Door back at Shadi’s. And my job is to punish and torture these people for all eternity. People can only pray they manage to atone for their sins in life, but most of them don’t make it…

Yugi felt that same shiver go down his spine again, especially after seeing the way Bakura’s lips curled upwards upon hearing another wave of terrified screams and pleas for mercy.

- Don’t worry, these people didn’t deserve anything less than this. – the king reassured. – All of these people have done some terrible things which lead to many people’s misfortune or even the deaths of innocents. Don’t feel remorse for any of them.

The spring god nodded before closing his eyes, trying to completely ignore the screams and the whole sight, knowing that the king was in the right.

- Well, it was nice meeting you here, your Grace, but I still have some job to do. – Bakura said as he suddenly started levitating above the snake, his robes floating around him which only made him look more sinister.

- Be sure to be on time, idiot. Last time your tardiness almost cost us an important life. – the king spoke in that same cold tone again, Bakura only clicking his tongue and waving his hand before disappearing in the darkness, Yugi only then being able to breathe properly.

- I’m sorry for that, Yugi. It wasn’t my intention to spook you. – the king said as he once again took hold of younger’s waist, his eyes soft and apologetic. – He usually doesn’t pay us any attention but I guess he saw the opportunity to mess with you.

- It’s alright… - the spring god said before finally being allowed to sit down, the spell on his feet finally lifted. – I should’ve expected something like this, especially after hearing those screams.

The king sat next to him and ruffled his head, a tender smile appearing on his face.

- But now we have to finish one more task before we exit this kingdom and I think you’ll find it rather fascinating.

Yugi’s heart skipped the beat in that very moment as the giant serpent continued its way through the cave still filled with screams, the snake soon entering a narrow tunnel that led upwards, the spring god not even being able to see a foot in front of him… that is until a tiny, rather warm green light appeared down the tunnel.

The gang stopped by that very part of the cave, Chocolate doing a small motion with her hand which nudged the tiny source of light to land on her hand.

- Look, Sir Yugi! – she whisper-yelled, the spring god inching his way closer to her as his eyes glued to a small light source.

And only after that moment did Yugi realize that Chocolate was actually holding a shining, green scarab beetle, its wings producing a quiet buzzing sound as it greeted the newcomers.

- Hey, little fella! – the spring god waved at the insect, the scarab rocking back and forth happily.

- This is lord Khepra. – Chocolate explained. – You could consider him as Marik’s personal wake-up alarm.

- Oh? How so?

- You’ll see in no time. – the sorceress said with a knowing wink before handing the little scarab over to her mistress, Mana slowly walking up to the golden sarcophagus and placing the insect on top of it, the light soon disappearing from sight.

The rest of the journey was uneventful as the snake slowly inched its way towards the exit of the ravine and appeared in front of the giant burgundy door, Chocolate being ready to call it a night as she noticed another sorceress Yugi has never met before: she had a short red hair with goggles on top of her head and was dressed in a white shirt and red short pants along with brown boots that were decorated with a lot of belts, her huge staff reminding the spring god of a weapon of sorts with all of its screws and paddle wheels attached to it.

She soon landed on top of the snake’s head and bowed to the king and Mana, the older god muttering already familiar words:

- Welcome, Schmietta, sixth guardian of the Night.

- It’s exactly 11 PM and you’re about to enter Abyss of Waters. I hope we have a safe journey together.

Upon saying those words the gates behind them have opened, Yugi suddenly aware of a sound of rushing water in the distance.

- Brace yourselves! – Schmietta suddenly screamed out, the king immediately grabbing onto Yugi’s hand as they flew up in the air. – Great Sun Bark, come to us once again!

With that incantation, the huge black snake hissed and glowed bright red, its shape slowly changing from a serpent to an already familiar bark. And in that very moment, Yugi noticed a familiar blue river right under their feet.

The bark landed into the water rather slowly, everything back to normal just as it was at the beginning of the journey. Schmietta took over the paddle in the back while the king stood at the front, Mana once again disappearing into the cabin to guard the sun god and check on his condition after that rocky journey on top of the snake’s back.

But even though the return of the bark filled Yugi with so much more confidence and security, he noticed they’ve entered into a rather arcane cave: it seemed as if they were sailing in a huge canyon while the cave ceiling that was adorned with various crystals made it seem as if the one’s watching the actual starry sky.

But it was the sight on top of the cliffs that made Yugi’s nerves rather tense…

All the way through their journey, Yugi was able to feel thousands of eyes on him, murky silhouettes of many souls looking down at the bark while their glow seemed to obtain more of a grayish color.

- Who are they?... – the spring god whispered, not expecting to get an answer, but the king soon approached him and explained:

- Souls of those who have been forgotten by the world.

- Forgotten?! What do you mean?

The king chuckled bitterly as he also looked up at their dull expressions, his voice becoming slightly warmer as he started to speak again:

- In the past two millennia, there have been many humans that have died on this planet… and you know that a person may remain in a good part of the Underworld only when someone pays them respects. Well, these people have no one in the mortal realm who would pay them respects, either because all of the people who have known them have died as well or because they were purposely forgotten. They could come here from all of the realms except Ur-Nes and I think you already know why.

- So… there is no one to remember these people anymore? – Yugi asked in a shaky voice only to see the king shake his head.

- Many people try to make an impact on the world so they’d be remembered by everyone even when they’re dead, but very little of them manage to do so. These souls have been here for so long they’ve even forgotten their own names. And it is truly a horrible fate to have… but that’s how it is.

Yugi took another glance at the souls of the top of the cliffs, his vision slowly becoming blurry. He quickly wiped off the tears that were about to spill only to feel the king’s hand around his shoulders, his warmth only making the younger more emotional.

- I know it’s sad… but that’s how everything in this world of ours is. Not everything has a happy ending or is everything fair.

Yugi nodded as he leaned into the touch, his eyes still glued to those poor souls.

- I know…

Chapter Text

- Yugi, take out your key.

The spring god winced as he heard the king's deep voice next to him, his eyes looking up at him only to see older's whole body had tensed up. The younger then looked forward, noticing a dark blue door ahead of them.

As soon as they came to a halt and Schmietta changed places with another sorceress Yugi had met before, Kiwi, two other faces have appeared on the bark, surprising Yugi.

- Welcome, Kiwi, seventh guardian of the Night. – the king said in a professional tone before the sorceress bowed to him and immediately went to her post at the paddle without even saying the usual chant, his red gaze soon turning towards the two gods that have just appeared: - Goddess of clairvoyance and magic, Ishizu, and god of deserts and thieves, Bakura, we are in your care.

The two gods bowed before their king at the same time, Yugi more than surprised to see a completely serious expression on the thief king at that moment. What is going on behind that door?...

- Everybody, take your spots. – Mana reminded as she jumped on top of the cabin, her trusted staff already in her hands.

Ishizu stepped right in front of the door of the cabin while Bakura hid in behind the cabin, his red eyes peeled for anything unexpected. The king remained at the front, his stance even more majestic as he rose his chin and frowned deeply, the gate before them slowly opening.

- Can I ask you something, Majesty? – Yugi suddenly asked in a small and shaky voice.

- What is it?

- What is happening behind that door?

The king gave him a side-glance before returning his attention to the river in front of them, a cold air hitting the bark the moment they passed the gate.

- The great serpent. – the king said shortly. – Apophis.

The spring god shivered at the mention of that very name, all the stories he had heard from Anzu, Jack, and Akiza overflowing his mind.

- One… one of Lord Roman’s pets? – he asked, getting only a nod in return.

- Correct. This beast couldn’t be controlled even by its creator, its appetite for the flesh of gods forcing Roman to drop it into the Underworld only a day before his own death. I managed to keep it at bay with magic and with help of other methods, but… Apophis is very vengeful and has sight on only one thing…

A tense silence ensued between the two gods, every single sound and creak of the bark causing the spring god to flinch slightly. Still, Yugi was the one to finish the sentence:

- It wants to eat Marik, right?

The king chuckled briefly, his eyes never moving away from the walls of the cave they were sailing through.

- I see Anzu didn’t lie to you about everything. – he said in a slightly mocking tone. – That can be because she helped binding it to the Underworld, she knows how truly terrifying Apophis is. And because it is so powerful, I need both Bakura and Ishizu to assist in fighting him every night: Ishizu because of her powerful magic and Bakura because of his binding spells. And tonight, I’ll be the one to chain that snake up…

Yugi could feel shivers run down his spine as the king said those words, his gut squeezing so much he thought he’d vomit that very moment.

- So, please, promise me… - the king said before directing his eyes towards the younger one last time. – You’ll leave if things become dangerous, alright? Apophis will definitely try to attack you.

The spring god hesitated as he gripped the key around his neck, giving the king one final nod before he joined Ishizu and grabbed onto one of the pillars next to the cabin.

It didn’t take them long to approach yet another clearing in the large cave, Yugi unable to even see the ceiling in there. Then another gust of cold air washed over the bark, Ishizu muttering:

- It’s here.

Not even a second later, two large yellow eyes appeared from the darkness, a loud hiss causing Yugi to look towards the ceiling only to be left paralyzed at the sight of the great serpent.

Apophis was truly the largest snake the spring god had ever laid his eyes upon, even larger than the snake this bark had turned into, its jaws so wide it could easily swallow the whole bark in just one go. Its body was large and long, the obsidian-black scales shining in dark red every time a speck of light would hit its slippery skin.

Yugi’s grip around the pillar tightened as well as everyone else’s stance, the young god aware that if he makes any movement at all it’d be enough of a provocation for Apophis to pounce. Still, he knew the Underworld gods were ready…

- GO! – the king suddenly yelled before launching his body upwards, golden chains appearing in his hands the moment he started flying through the air. Mana also pounced and so did Bakura, the thief god now having two flaming swords at his disposal while the goddess turned her staff into a large scythe.

The trio started attaching the snake relentlessly, Apophis not giving them many opportunities to strike it, at least not in weak spots. With every slash they’d inflict on its body and with every kick, the snake was only becoming more and more railed up, flapping its tail around and hissing like crazy as the river under the bark started becoming wavy and unsteady, Kiwi barely managed to keep it up float and on course.

Yugi was completely paralyzed as he observed the fight, his eyes flying from one god to another, their swift moves making the whole situation even more unpredictable. Mana was constantly running up and down the snake’s back while Bakura repeatedly tried to slash it across the mouth and snout, barely avoiding being impaled by those huge fangs. The king himself was constantly trying to slow the snake down, the golden chains in his hands now glowing in bright golden color which burned the snake’s skin every time they’d touch it.

But Apophis wouldn’t give up so easily…

The spring god suddenly became aware of Ishizu’s quiet chanting right next to him, her whole body suddenly starting to glow in the same light as her younger brother back at the cabin when Yugi saw him. The younger could clearly feel her magic levels rising, now realizing what she was actually doing-

- THE TAIL! – Mana suddenly yelled, Yugi’s purple eyes turning just in time to see a large, scaly tail was about to hit the bark from the side.

He instinctively closed his eyes and blacked out for a moment, clearly hearing the king’s desperate scream:

- YUGI!

But, the next thing the young spring god knew… was the fact he himself… had stopped the tail just before it literally halved the bark in half. With his own hands…

Yugi’s vision became blurry and reddish as he held onto the scaly tail with all of his might, Apophis hissing and growling in pain as it tried to retreat. But Yugi didn’t want to let go.

He had no idea what was happening or how he managed to stop a serpent that big, be he was doing it. He had to continue doing what he was doing… because… because the bark was in danger…

- KEEP GOING! – the spring god yelled out, completely unaware of the fact his voice became deeper and raspier. But despite their flabbergasted expressions and momentary confusion, the trio continued to strike at Apophis who was currently immobilized…

Just a little bit longer, Yugi thought as he squeezed against the snake’s tail even more while pushing it away from the bark as much as possible, not even aware he was levitating on his own. I must… buy Ishizu time…

- I now call for thee… - the goddess suddenly chanted loudly, her voice echoing the cave. – Serpent of light, the one who protects the Sun itself. COME, MEHEN!

The river under the bark started simmering even more only to reveal an equally large, cobra-like snake, its greenish-golden scales acting like a complete contrast to Apophis. Two serpents hissed at each other, Mehen shielding the bark with its body before launching at the other snake, biting it right into the throat.

Apophis yowled in pain and started struggling, giving the trio enough time to hit it in the weak spots and restrain it, Bakura using his own spell to bind Apophis in a particular place while the king started wrapping the chain around the snake’s entire body, Yugi finally being able to release the snake’s tail.

The spring god then literally dropped back onto the bark, all strength leaving his body that very moment. He could hear someone calling out to him, but in that state, he was unable to even keep his eyes open, let alone look around to see who it was.

But, at least, the bark was now safe…

***

- Yugi? Hey, Yugi?!

- He’s waking up!

- Yugi!

The spring god slowly blinked, his body hurting all over as he realized he’s been sat against something hard, the first thing he saw being those warm, red eyes of the Underworld king…

- Welcome back! – Mana exclaimed with teary eyes and a wide smile, even Bakura giving the younger a smug smile while Ishizu looked down at him proudly.

- What happened?... – the younger god asked as he slowly sat up with the king’s help, soon realizing he’s been leaned against the cabin door on the bark, the river under them being calm as they continued to sail smoothly.

- We won against Apophis. – the king said in a gentle tone before wiping sweat from the younger’s forehead, his touch feeling incredibly pleasant. – And it’s all thanks to your help.

Yugi frowned then blinked, suddenly remembering he actually managed to stop the large snake’s tail from hitting the bark… but how?! How was that even possible?!

- You really surprised me, Spring Fairy. – Bakura noted before straightening up and taking out his key. – I thought you were just brought here for sightseeing, who would’ve to know our king wanted to use you like this.

The king only gave the thief god a sharp look before the white-head clicked his tongue and rubbed the key between his fingertips, bidding everyone adieu before disappearing into thin air.

- How long was I unconscious? – the spring god questioned, deciding to not push the further explanation on the incident, at least until his memories stop being so murky.

- Until we left the Secret Cavern… I mean, Apophis’s domain. – Mana explained. – Now it’s past 1 AM and we’re in a domain called Sarcophagus of the Gods.

- And I’m the one driving you, Lord Yugi!

The spring god winced slightly before turning his head, noticing a magenta-haired sorceress in a black lacey dress and with lots of jewelry decorating her head and hands.

- I’m Edel, a pleasure to meet you. – she said while continuing to paddle, Yugi giving her a polite nod and a smile.

- Is something happening in this domain? – he asked, everyone chuckling at his concern only to have Ishizu sit next to him and say:

- No, this domain is for us gods to rest up a little before we head back to our jobs. See those four little lights?

Yugi turned his head only to see four specks of pink, green, orange, and blue light only to hear the baaing of the sheep in the distance...

- Those rams are our escorts through this calm domain, making sure to keep our presence hidden in case Apophis decides to come after us. But that never really happened.

Yugi nodded in understanding, chuckling a little upon realization they were being led by actual flying rams but then he winced as the king stood up and approached the front of the boat again, taking his stance once again.

- He really got a scare of his life back then… - Ishizu noted. – When he saw the tail was about to hit the bark…

- Because the bark was to be destroyed?

- Yes and no. – the goddess said with a knowing smile. – I know it seems unlikely, but he really didn’t want for you to get hurt. Once we bind Apophis, he rushed to your aid and put you to rest here. Even though he didn’t show it, I could still feel his fear for you…

Yugi embraced his own legs as the goddess explained all of those things to him, his face suddenly starting to burn as he hit it in his knees. Ishizu only chuckled at his reaction before ruffling his hair, the younger god then asking her a question to avoid the talk about this topic:

- And how are you? Did Mehen do his job?

- He always does. – she said proudly. – But I also have to thank you for shielding the bark.  I wouldn’t be able to protect the bark in that moment.

Yugi smiled at her words, realizing the real meaning of her words before giving a single glance to the cabin door behind him.

- May I ask you something, Lady Ishizu? – the sprig god suddenly asked, his tone quiet and tender.

- Go ahead.

- I’ve heard you and Lord Marik are brother and sister. How come you’re so close despite being so far away from each other?

Ishizu was taken aback by the question only to chuckle a moment later.

- I guess that is a strange occurrence, huh? Considering you only know Akiza who is not on good terms with her twin despite the two of them being in contact all the time.

- Yeah, I guess. – the spring god chuckled. – Only thing I know is that most godly siblings, aside from Lady Asuka and Lord Fubuki, aren’t really on good terms with each other for some reason.

- There indeed are many reasons for that behavior indeed. – Ishizu said before leaning against the wooden wall of the cabin. – But in the case of me and Marik, despite many circumstances working against us, we still managed to pull through. As you know, sibling gods are born from the same materia but other “ingredients” that decide our power are different. In our case, materia used for our creation was the sacred soil of the Great Desert in the South and both Lord Dartz and Lord Rex participated in our creation. Because I was given powers of clairvoyance and magic by Lord Dartz, I happened to be born just before the Rebellion and matured quicker while my brother was born in midst of it and only matured once the Rebellion was concluded. And despite this, I ended up being his primary caretaker and he really warmed up to me.

- Then how come you ended up in the Underworld? – Yugi asked, noticing the goddess’s expression became somewhat somber.

- Well… after the Rebellion concluded, I helped Marik to unlock his full power and he was soon assigned as a literal Sun for this world. At the time, the dispute between Uppers and us started to grow and the king eventually pulled everyone with dark elements to the Underworld. I was meant to stay in the Upper Realm until this one incident… - she said before rolling up the sleeve of her white robe, Yugi gasping at the sight of a vicious burn scar in the shape of a hand.

- Is that-

- Yes, Marik’s burn. – she said with a gentle yet somber tone. – He didn’t do it on purpose either. He was already used to controlling his power before other gods, but, it turned out that us gods created with the dark elements by Lord Dartz aren’t… as resistant to his power as the Uppers are. Marik was so frightened and angry with himself when he burned me he insisted I get away from him and so I ended up in the Underworld. But despite that, once it was decided he’ll be traveling through the Underworld every night, I saw the opportunity to look out for him even if I can’t interact much with him, just to show him that little incident doesn’t change the fact I cherish him and love him as my little brother.

Yugi could feel his vision becoming blurry, his hands automatically trying to wipe off the tears which only caused the goddess to chuckle again.

- I’m sure… he’s also happy because you’re guarding him… - the spring god said in a shaky voice before swallowing a sob, Ishizu paying him one final glance before turning her head away and closing her eyes to rest a little.

- Thank you for thinking that, Yugi…

Chapter Text

The next hour soon rolled around as the bark approached an enormous amber door, much bigger than the ones they've passed so far.

With Ishizu gone back to her work in the upper parts of the Underworld, Yugi was yet again caught seeing another guardian of the night, Edel away as two new guardians joined them on the boat. Both of them were unfamiliar to the spring god, the ginger-haired sorceress being dressed in a turquoise armor similar to all Mana’s girls as her staff seemed to be bigger even than her boss’s while the other was dressed in a body-tight black outfit as she clenched onto a giant sewing needle, both of them bowing to the two gods of the Underworld before them.

- Welcome, Valkirya, the ninth guardian of the Night, and Haine, the tenth guardian of the Night. – the king spoke in the same professional tone, both sorceresses giving Yugi a polite nod before Valkirya spoke:

- It’s exactly 2 AM and you’re about to enter Procession of Images.

- Around 3 AM we’ll enter the conjoined jurisdiction called Abyss of Waters-Lofty of Banks. – Haine added. – I hope we have a safe trip together.

With that, Valkirya flew to the back of the bark and started navigating, the huge amber door opening the way for them. Mana disappeared in the cabin again as Haine stepped in front of the door to wait for her turn to drive the boat, Yugi finally feeling the strength has returned to his body.

- What is this realm about? – he asked once he stopped next to the king, suddenly becoming aware of a quite loud sound of people chattering.

- This is the place where regular, good people come to spend their afterlife. To remain in this realm it is crucial to-

- To have someone paying them respects, right?

The king chuckled at younger’s sentence, his expression softening once again.

- It always surprises me how fast you learn. – the king stated. – Some families are very strict about paying respects even to their far ancestors hence why some souls have remained here for thousand years already. In this particular part, Procession of Images, souls come to collect whatever their living relatives have brought to them as an offering.

Yugi peeled his eyes for what was about to arrive on the horizon, the bark soon entering a long and wide stretch of the blue river. On both banks, there were small altars where various souls came to pick up various items or food, the air around them smelling like a mix of various scented flowers or ceremonial sticks. The spring god was amazed with how many souls were present there and whenever one of them would take the offering from the altar, their prominent silhouettes would lighten up with a wide smile. Yugi could feel their peace and tranquility, this place offering them a true rest from the vicious world of mortals.

As the bark sailed around the corner, the spring god noticed a couple at one of the altars, the man wearing a long white coat while his dark hair was spiky and rather shabby, a woman next to him dressed in an office uniform and with her brown hair neatly tied in a bun on the back of her head. Both of them chuckled as they picked up a package of sanshoku dango as well as a bouquet of roses before longingly looking towards the surface only to disappear in the next moment.

- Their son is still in the mortal realm. – the king explained. – I remember when both of them came here in the Underworld. The woman arrived here fifteen years ago after a tragic terrorist attack on her office building while the man arrived ten years ago after shielding that same son from a fire in their apartment building.

- That’s horrible! – Yugi exclaimed. – Is their son alright?!

The older chuckled and ruffled the other god’s golden bangs again before answering with a tender smile:

- Don’t worry, he’s doing just fine. I’ve heard he’s a strong youngster. And apparently, he comes by to leave an offering once every two or three days.

- He’s making sure to keep a memory on them alive… - Yugi commented as he tried to hold back the tears once again. But after observing so many souls with smiles on their faces, he just couldn’t help the overwhelming joy and one tear rolled down his pale cheek. – We’ve seen so many things tonight… it’s fascinating, scary and wonderful. All of you… are doing such a huge task and we Uppers are only badmouthing you…

- We’re used to it. – the king said with a chuckle before crossing the arms behind his back. – No one really likes what we do but someone has to do it. And I know I’m able to give a safe place to the souls that deserve it, at least for a while.

Yugi nodded as he wiped away the tears. As much as his guilty conscience continued to eat him up, he couldn’t hide the lasting positive effects those gods have left on him and after seeing how serene all of these souls were, his adoration for them, especially the king, grew even more…

The whole sail through this part of the Underworld was smooth, Haine switching with Valkirya at exactly 3 AM. The riverbank became narrower yet again only for Yugi to see all of the souls that he had observed for the past hour appear on the shores with various flowers they have received from their living loved ones and with smiles on their faces.

And as soon as the bark passed by them, each and every soul threw a flower at them, specifically on the cabin where the sun god was sleeping. Yugi chuckled as the flowers and petals flew all around him, even the king cracking a smile and waving at the souls who looked at him with absolute gratitude. The spring god caught one bright pink rose only to realize it was thrown by the same couple he had observed only an hour ago. He locked eyes with them for a moment longer only to bow to them and smile, the pair clearly stunned but delighted because they were noticed by one of the gods.

And as the next hour passed by, the sun bark was filled with various flowers, Yugi willing to take the task and arrange them in small bouquets around the boat. The boat soon came to another halt as another obsidian black door appeared before them, the spring god noticing everyone tensing up once again while they greeted Valkirya and Haine who was replaced with a short sorceress in a white dress, with long blue hair and with a glass staff in her hand.

- Welcome, Madam Verre, eleventh guardian of the night. – the king said in a stern tone, the sorceress doing the usual protocol before saying:

- It’s exactly 4 AM. You shall now enter Mouth of the Cavern. I hope we have a safe journey together.

The black gate opened almost immediately as everyone had returned to their posts, extreme heat and a sound of even more blood-curdling screams enveloping Yugi’s ears.

But this time around, he only got closer to the king, his face trapped under the mask of stunned and expressionless shock.

- You don’t have to ask, I’ll tell you. – the older god said in a more tender tone, his hand embracing Yugi around his shoulders. – In this realm, fire demonesses are torturing those worst of the worst. Bakura is responsible for thieves and traitors, but this realm? The rest of human scum, such as murderers with intent, greedy ones, manipulators, molesters… everyone who caused a great deal of physical, psychological, and emotional damage to another person or people and who weren’t able to see their own sins…

For some reason, unlike the last time he encountered similar tortures in the fifth kingdom, the spring god felt eerily calm, the color of lava in many small pools where various souls screamed as demonesses breathed fire on top of them only causing his body to become colder, his vision becoming reddish again…

- Are you alright? – the king’s voice snapped him back to reality, the spring god giving him a slight nod before closing eyes for a few moments, his normal vision soon returning. – You may stay inside the cabin if this is too much for you-

- No, I’m fine, really. – Yugi reassured, the king’s touch around his shoulders being the only thing the younger was able to feel in that moment.

- Ohoo~ Who did you bring to me, little Yami?

The spring god winced as a strong, rather ambiguous voice echoed the hellish cave, both gods looking to their right at the same time. Yugi went pale in an instant as two huge, different-colored eyes stared back at him.

- Do you know who this is, Yugi? – the king asked in a stern voice that was still filled with respect, the spring god taking a better look at the enormous individual.

They were sat against the right wall of the cave, flames of that hellish realm reflecting in their turquoise and yellow eye as the third one opened across their forehead, their skin being pinkish red shade while certain parts opened to show their brown muscles and tendons, their fingers long and decorated with long, gold claws. Their body was covered in a black robe, both female and male characteristics prominent in their body shape as well as their gray-blue colored hair and their blue lips which hid sharp fangs, huge, meaty wings spreading in their full glory.

That’s when it clicked.

- It’s an honor to meet you… - Yugi immediately said as he got on the floor, his forehead touching the floor of the bark. – Lord Yubel, one of The First Four.

- Ohhhh! Someone did their homework!  - the ancient god said with amusement before tapping the spring god on the back of his head with their index finger, the king being the one to pull him back up. – Looks like even little experiments such as you have the decency to still pay me respect-

- Your Grace. – the king interrupted before bowing to the older god. – How have you been? It has been a whole month since I sailed through Your realm.

- Same old, little Yami. Same old. We’ve been getting some really interesting souls as of recently. Oh, how many bad things have they done! – Yubel said excitedly as the bark slowly continued to sail. – Little Sun is soon going to wake up, right? Did Apophis shake him up nicely?

- It tried but now it’s bound for the next week. – the king noted with a mischievous smile only to get petted by a huge god himself.

- A spitting image of that bastard, indeed. But I like you more.

The king nodded with another smirk present on his lips, Yugi somewhat stunned seeing the older god being so obedient to someone else. It was certainly a side he never thought he would see, that almost childish side of him…

- Keep going, little Yami. You still have one last thing to do, no? It was nice seeing you, too, little Bringer of Death.

Yugi blinked in confusion as the bark continued to sail, his brain not being able to understand what the reasoning for getting a nickname like that was. Did Yubel mistook him for someone?...

- Don’t worry about it. – the king spoke in that rich, collected voice again. – Their Grace enjoys giving everyone silly nicknames that usually don’t have anything to do with their powers. She gave Asuka the nickname “Little Headsplitter”. Silly, right?

- Very… - the spring god said through the chuckle, trying to ignore the ancient god’s voice still echoing in his head.

Yugi didn’t remember most of the journey through the eleventh kingdom, his memories blurry from intense heat and all of those screams that kind of melted together. But once he saw Madam Verre was about to leave as Mana took over the paddle, the spring god knew they were finally at the end of their night journey.

- It is exactly 5 AM. – Mana spoke in a loud voice as white-as-snow gate appeared before them. – We shall now pass through The Gates of Dawn. Brace for impact!

Yugi grabbed onto the railing of the bark as the door opened, the river becoming narrower than before as its blue color slowly faded into purple than pink, then red, orange, and finally yellow, the water coursing faster and faster more they continued to sail. Even the king had to keep his balance using his magic and both of his hands against the railing as they continued to rush forward, the spring god catching a strange golden-green light in the corner of his eye only to realize the whole cabin in which the sun god slept started glowing…

- Steady… - Mana said loudly, a familiar screech coming from their right, Yugi noticing a long, deep red body. – JUMP!

The spring god could feel his body being lifted from the bark and flung through the air by the king, all three of them landing onto Slifer’s back a tad painfully, but successfully.

- What’s going on?! – he asked, seeing the other two gods carried proud expressions on their faces as the king said:

- Now observe: the birth of sunrise.

Yugi’s eyes glued to the now flying sun bark, its wood literally dissolving and transforming into a huge, golden bird, its screech being enough to shake the ground. It flapped its wings towards the second pair of white gates as the river plummeted into a waterfall, the spring god only then noticing a figure on top of the bird’s head.

- Good morning, Master Marik! – Mana called out, the other god looking at them with his bright, lilac eyes as his own shine became stronger, his shabby sleeping clothes transforming into a beautiful, white robe.

- Good morning! Was I a nuisance?! – he called out as he halted his beast for a moment, the king being the one to respond this time around:

- Not at all! We hope you had a good sleep! See you again in a month, at least as far as I’m concerned!

Marik grinned at those words and directed his golden bird to fly further, the white gates now opened and revealing dark-blue morning sky as Aigami awaited for his rival at the very edge of the doors. The sun god waved at him only for Yugi to notice Ishizu standing next to the moon god, Marik’s expression brightening even more upon laying eyes on his older sister.

- Thank you for guarding me, sister! – he called out before dropping a glowing item towards her as he passed through the gate, his light coloring the sky into beautiful shades of the early morning, the bird letting out one final screech before they flew away.

Yugi’s eyes returned to Ishizu who was now smiling and holding a sunflower between her palms, Slifer slowly taking guardian gods out through the Gates of Dawn, allowing the spring god to see the morning sky for the first time in four months.

And the only thing he could do was sit there, on top of a huge red dragon, and smile widely, this whole experience being something he’ll cherish for all eternity.

Not only because of various kingdoms he saw in a 12-hour journey, not only because of the people and gods he had encountered but also because he got to travel with the one who protected him all this time…

Chapter Text

Judai slowly regained consciousness as he became aware of a rather overwhelming but satisfactory pain in his whole body, especially his lower abdomen and legs. The prince could only chuckle at the memory of a rather steamy night he spent with his beloved guardian, the darkness behind his eyelids telling him the dawn still wasn’t breaking. How long was he asleep anyway?

Did Jesse leave again?...

The brunette slowly opened his eyes, every single muscle in his body sore as he slowly sat up, realizing he’s covered in nothing but a thin sheet, the room still having that seaside scent in the air. The window was still wide open as the sky slowly became lighter, the prince slowly throwing his legs over the side of the bed as he tried to stop the room spinning around him.

But despite the condition his body was in, Judai couldn’t be happier. He and Jesse were truly a perfect match no matter who was topping and the prince could only wish he never had to leave-

- Mmm…

The brunette froze at that sudden sound before shaking his head, convinced he must’ve been hallucinating or something like that. There was no way Jesse would stay here this lon-

Then a slight shift on the bed behind him caused the prince to spring up and turn around, noticing another body sleeping on the other side of the bed even in that pitch darkness. And the intense scent in the air clearly showed who it really was…

- Holy crap… - Judai mouthed with excitement, not sure what was the right thing to do.

Up until that point, Judai has never seen his lover’s face, and mostly because of that damn spell Jesse would put over his eyes whenever they were about to interact face-to-face. He only knew the feel of the other’s body and the sound of his voice.

And now, with magic completely lifted from his eyelids and with his guardian still fast asleep on the bed, the prince couldn’t resist the urge to finally take a peek at the other’s face.

The only problem was: how would he do it without disturbing Jesse’s sleep?

Despite his painful lower abdomen, the brunette made a few steps around the room while thinking what the best thing to do was, immediately taking his phone and turning on the bedside light out of the equation. He needed a small source of light but not strong enough to beam right into the guy’s eyes…

Oh, right! Candles!

Judai quickly scooted over his bedside table and then quietly opened the lower drawer, an already used candle and a lighter still inside. Thank god for that recent power shortage…

With an excited grin on his face the brunette lit the candle and tip-toed towards the other side of the bed, his lover still asleep as it seemed. And even under that tiny light, Judai noticed something about the man in his bed, or rather, the creature in his bed…

He shone the light upon the other’s face, the prince completely breathless once he took a look at Jesse’s features: his face was beautiful with a masculine touch, especially in his jawline. That fluffy hair Judai would feel under his fingers shone on the dim light in its turquoise color as the bangs covered the other’s still closed, long-lashed eyes. His neck was thick and firm, his chest and abdomen consisting of fines muscles in perfect proportions as if he was a sculpture made by the gods themselves. His hands and legs were long and equally as perfect, creamy skin with a light tan seemingly made of pure gold…

Brunette barely managed to move his eyes away from the man, his heart thumping in his chest as if he had encountered Jesse for the very first time in that very moment.

But upon noticing Jesse’s attire next to the bed, Judai frowned before crouching down, noticing a sealed arrow holder and a long, elegant bow.

Suddenly, the words of the oracle started echoing in his mind:

There is someone very powerful watching over you, it seems it’s a monster.

Seems like a monster?!, the prince thought as he picked up the bow, his fingers brushing against the small scripture on the inner side. And even though his gut was telling him what was really going on, he still had to be sure. Wings, the way he’s been behaving all this time… and now bow and arrows?!

He must be…

The brunette’s eyes adjusted to the shifted light of the candle, now clearly being able to read the short scripture on the bow… only to feel his heart drop in his stomach.

God of lust and desire, the master of attraction and diamond among the gods.

Johan.

Judai literally sat down upon reading those lines, his heart ramming against his ribcage as he let the bow fall on the ground. So many questions were spinning in his mind at that moment: was this all a trick of one god who wanted to use him? Were all of his feelings just an illusion? Why him? Why would he help him so much?!

But even with so many negative questions and with his mind telling him to get the hell away from that… god as soon as possible, the memory of all of their times together, and the fact Johan purposely hid his identity…

Judai just couldn’t help but give Johan one last glance. That one glance will be enough…

If I am under his spell, I shouldn’t be affected at all…

But as soon as the candlelight shone upon the sleeping face of a beautiful god, the young prince could feel his chest squeezing and his body becoming hot once again, his heart threatening to exit through his chest.

There was still a doubt in his mind, believing this god of lust and desire was able to use his magic on him even while being asleep, but Judai didn’t want to listen to that part of his brain, not in that moment…

Not when he, once again, started to fall in love with his guardian…

The god suddenly frowned and winced, the brunette taking a step back with a confused expression, only then noticing a drop of wax has fallen onto Johan’s arm-

Oh no…

The god’s eyes fluttered open, Judai panicking in what to do for a moment only to be smitten with the bright green color of the other’s eyes, the moment of their gazes locking making the prince completely paralyzed with shock and incredible desire.

But he could clearly see the shadow of panic washing over god’s face, his voice shaky as he called out:

- J-Judai? How come you’re awake?!

- I… Uh… It’s almost dawn and… I’m sorry, I just wanted to see what you look like. I…

- SHIT! – Johan exclaimed as he literally jumped out of the bed and used his powers to manifest his robes onto his body, bow and arrow case already on his back as his majestic white wings appeared from his back.

- D-do you have to go somewhere? Did you oversleep-

- I can’t see you anymore, Judai. – the god said coldly, not even looking at the other.

The brunette felt his heart stop for a moment as he watched the god leave, his body moving without him even knowing. He latched onto Johan, locking his arms around him firmly as he demanded:

- What the hell do you mean?! Why can’t you see me anymore?! What did I do?!

- You found out who I am, Judai! – the god responded in an equally agitated tone, the shake in his voice hinting at upcoming sobs. – I SHOULDN’T BE HERE WITH YOU, I’M A GOD!

- I DON’T GIVE A DAMN! – the prince pleaded, not willing to let go for even a moment even though Johan started dragging both of them across the room and towards the window. – You don’t understand… Johan! All of these months… I lived to meet you… you brought joy into my life. I thought… you might be using your magic on me… but after remembering how much you helped me… listened to me… I knew it wasn’t the truth. I knew that this… this feeling and this desire I have for you… I know it’s all real…

The brunette heard a pained sob from the other only to be violently pushed to the ground and kept there by an invisible, already known force as he watched Johan climb onto the window frame, his green eyes filled with tears.

- Our feelings don’t matter, Judai… - he muttered through tears, the expression on his face literally breaking Judai’s heart. – I had a mission to do… and I failed… because I fell in love with you. I was supposed to ruin your life because my mistress said so… but I disobeyed and decided to come to you despite a clear taboo stating that we as gods weren’t allowed to change human’s destiny, especially me… who is a minor, insignificant god. If I don’t leave now… you’ll be in danger.

- Johan… - the prince pleaded as he watched his lover spread his beautiful wings, the sky behind him slowly becoming lighter.

- Forget about me, Judai. I’m begging you…

And with those final words, Johan let himself fall out of the window, a sound of flapping wings marking his departure. Judai was soon free of his invisible shackles, the pain in his body not even comparable to the one he was feeling in his chest.

In agony he ran up to the window and yelled into the sky, warm tears rimming down his face:

- JOHAN!!!!

***

Mai was just about to head out on her morning walk around the Sky Temple before checking on her human projects and their love affairs when she heard a desperate sobbing in the chambers next to hers, her heart dropping as she recognized the voice.

She quickly dashed out of her chambers without giving her harpies or warriors a second glance before bursting into Johan’s room, all of his seven attendants gathered around him as the sobbing intensified.

- What’s happening here?! – she asked only to have seven animals wince at the sound of her voice and bow down to her, revealing their master with his face in his hands and his body seizing with intense sobs, the young god slowly becoming short of breath as he wept and yelled.

The goddess stopped for a moment, a familiarity of this scene hitting her right through the heart. She composed herself as much as she could as she slowly strolled over to her minion and sat next to him before calling him out with a gentle tone:

- Johan? What’s the matter?

The turquoise-haired god paid her a side-glance before trying to wipe away his tears, the sobs preventing him from speaking a normal sentence.

- Sorry… sorry, mistress… - were the only words he was able to utter before completely turning away from her, Mai’s heartbreaking even more upon seeing his efforts to stop crying in front of her.

- Is it about that prince? – she asked in the same gentle manner, the god immediately turning towards her with terror in his eyes.

- H-how-

- I guessed that might’ve happened… - she said before moving the bangs away from his pretty green eyes, two more tears rolling down Johan’s cheek. – As soon as you become so distant and you didn’t complete my order even after five months, I guessed that prince must’ve cast a spell on you, too. Bud judging from his and your behavior, I can see it wasn’t a simple fling either.

The god stared back at her with a stunned expression only to shake his head, the heartbreak written all over his pretty face.

- I… I’m sorry for disobeying… but, I can’t keep seeing him anymore… I’ve… committed a taboo… I don’t want him to suffer… because of me…

Mai nodded in understanding before pulling the younger into a tight embrace. For a little while, Johan was able to resist the urge to cry again but as soon as he leaned on the goddess’s shoulder and wrapped his own hands around her, intense sobs returned and warm tears started soaking the blonde’s robe.

The guilt washed over the goddess as she patted the younger on the back, knowing full well she was half-responsible for his heartbreak, especially with that foolish order of hers…

But this was alright. This way, both Johan and that little prince will be spared divine punishment and no one else will know about this aside from them.

She will definitely make sure that no harm comes to Johan, especially because she pushed him into the whole mess…

Chapter Text

- Master Jack, are you sure we don't have to summon more fighters? – a tall, masculine man in white armor asked as he flew through the air with two of his comrades, their master just a few feet away from them.

- Are you doubting my ability to fight those beasts, Buffalo? – the blonde god questioned while whipping his attendants with a fierce look of his purple eyes, the trio immediately lowering their heads.

- Not even in the slightest, your Grace. – the larger man, Boar, said quietly while giving his comrade a scolding look, the small group of fighters continuing to fly through the dense forest and more on the West.

Jack sighed in boredom, hating the fact that everyone, even his Mistress, Anzu, was so preoccupied with preparations for Annual Fall Equinox that they didn’t even bother to come down here and deal with this new monster. During this time of the year, Jack had a lot of work with all wine parties and grape harvest, his blessings and his flames crucial for the good outcome for many people’s businesses.

But no, because his big boss was paranoid, he had to take over the fight with Roman’s leftovers, as if they didn’t have actual battle gods to handle those things…

Still, it’d be stupid to defy His Highness Seto, the guy could smite you with his blue thunder if you even dare to disobey. Plus, this was Jack’s opportunity to prove to him he was really just paranoid.

- I think I see the monster! – the third man in black and red armor, Bear, exclaimed as they came to a clearing in the forest, the closeness of West shore visible even from that point.

And even great Jack had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath upon seeing the size of that monster: it has a shape of a giant bird of a very long and thin beak, its black body decorated with complicated and glowing orange stripes that all assembled in one place on the creature’s chest, a mere flap of those huge wings causing trees to be ripped out of the ground.

But the worst thing of the whole sight was that incredibly high and painful screech the creature would occasionally let out, its body rocking back and forth as if it’s trying to get rid of flies that occupied that huge body…

Jack frowned as he noticed a fast movement on the bird’s back, his knee-jerk reaction being to come even closer. What in the…

- Aim for the stripes, Dark! Past! AIM FOR THE DAMN STRIPES!

That voice…

- Brotherhood of fire fist… - the blonde god said in a commanding tone, the trio yet again lowering their head in expectations of his orders.

- Yes, sir!

- Start preparing for the formation. – he said in the same tone as they finally landed only a few feet away from the bird. – Boar, go under the tail and try to strike it from down under. Buffalo, hide in the trees in front of the beast and try to aim for its eyes. Bear, circle around the thing, and try to find the opening to strike one of the stripes.

- Sir, yes, sir! – the trio exclaimed before disappearing right before the god’s eyes, Jack now being able to concentrate on his search for this one, very particular goddess…

He moved fast, not allowing the bird to even get a good look at him, his illusions giving him enough time to circle around the creature and avoid being hit by one of those huge wings. He could still see a sorceress of purple hair and in purple robes as well as the one in black robes and with a cloak over her head, their swift feet and their powerful staffs giving the bird quite a bit of pain.

But where is their mistress?...

- Looking for me, little Jackie?

The blonde god stopped dead in his tracks as he heard that familiar, mocking tone, his purple eyes raising ever so slightly to meet the goddess’s form, her slender body seated on a large branch of a tree as one of her hands still held the barrier around the beast, making it unable to move an inch forward or backward.

Those dark and dead eyes of hers were always something that fascinated the other god, her powers being rather strong despite having such a handy jurisdiction and being born after the Rebellion. He had never seen her out of her black robes, but the real shape of her body was still visible to Jack and he simply couldn’t resist chasing after her every time they’d be in the same location.

Despite ill blood between the two of them, Jack was still unable to take his eyes off her…

- Shouldn’t you pay me a bit more respect to your senior? – the blonde asked in a similar mocking tone before hissing in pain.

Upon looking down at his own hand under the robes, he could see a small burn, the goddess’s other hand still able to smite him despite her other, much bigger job.

- I’ll never pay any respect to you Uppers, especially likes of you. – she said coldly, once again averting her black eyes from him. – Besides, you must be here on order, like a good little puppy you are, am I right, Jackie?

- And you’re not, eh? – the blonde cooed before coming a little bit closer to the tree goddess was sat on. Carly chuckled and clicked her fingers, causing another burn to appear on the god’s hand, Jack enduring it this time around.

- When it comes to matters outside of the Underworld, we’re allowed to do whatever we want. – she scoffed. – Our master is very generous.

- Why are you fighting then, eh, little witch goddess?

Carly sent him another death glare before clicking her fingers even louder, Jack now yowling in pain as his whole palm went ablaze, a pretty serious burn left in the flame’s place.

- This thing destroyed my yearly supply of mistletoe potion that was stored in these parts. I’m pissed.

- That explains this fiery treatment… - Jack said with a chuckle before materializing right next to her on a branch, their faces now only a few inches apart. – Would you like me to land you a hand, little witch goddess?

An intense staredown ensued, Jack convinced for a brief moment that the two of them were the only creatures in the world, his whole soul being sucked into those black and lifeless eyes of hers…

A high-pitched screech awoke both of them, Jack suddenly well-aware of the fact that a long beak is going to impale him if he doesn’t move fast enough. Fucking shit, I won’t make i-

A sudden thug on his robe pulled the blonde god down onto the ground, the tree he and Carly have been sitting on just a second before literally exploding in their faces. Jack landed onto the ground much more gently than he could expect, suddenly well-aware of the goddess’s body on top of his…

- Looks like you need a landing hand, huh? – she said through a mocking smirk before standing up and whistling through her teeth, her two attendants retreating as the bird started to take a flight, Jack only then noticing the barrier Carly’s been holding up all this time was gone…

- Girls, we have to regroup. You may need to go for Earth and Every even. Only they’ll be able to handle flying at this point-

- We’ll do it, Carly.

The goddess looked at the blonde, her stare colder than any blade.

- This is my prey, I’m going to kill it. Don’t you dare to meddle-

- I won’t interfere with your killing. – Jack assured. – I’ll just help you bring the bird down. It’s because of me you had to lower the barrier…

Carly frowned as they stared at each other for a moment longer than needed, the goddess eventually scoffing and pulling away with Dark and Past.

- Let me see what you can do, Jackie…

The blonde chuckled before taking a flight himself, now finding himself face to face with a huge bird, its glowing, orange stare giving him the creeps.

- HIT IT, BOYS! – he called out only to have three sets of flames hit the bird from three different directions: bear-shaped, red one into the side, boar-shaped, purple one right into the stomach, and buffalo-shaped, blue one right in between the eyes.

The creature screeched once again but not even those three attacks were able to make it come crashing down. They needed a more dramatic approach…

- Boys, formation 1! Send it! – the god called out again as his own hands turned into literal, burning lava, red fireballs forming on top of his fingers.

His three attendants made a triangle right under the bird before starting to chant, their colorful flames soon turning completely black. Buffalo then yelled out:

- Fire Formation 1 – DOMEI!

The conjoined flames shot up, right into the bird’s stomach, making it lose height and unable to flap its wings properly, Jack then landing a total of six fireballs right into the creature’s face.

But the bird still refused to go down.

- HIT IT AGAIN! SECOND FORMATION! – he yelled in frustration, the lava on his hands now reaching up to his shoulders, many smaller fireballs now turning into a huge one which he launched right into the bird’s beak, now enabling it from letting out that obnoxious screech.

The trio on the ground now started running in circles, their black flames now turning bright blue and dissolving into smaller, explosive balls. Then, Bear yelled out while still running:

- Fire Formation 2 – GYOKKOU!

The flame balls swiftly dug deep into the bird’s wings and stomach, the creature finally stumbling enough to lose height, trees in its way causing it to come crashing down. The trio on the ground moved out of the way just in time as Dark and Past jumped forward, their staffs casting a powerful binding spell that kept the bird down.

Carly then emerged from the trees and jumped on top of the bird, finding a perfect place on the back as she materialized an insanely long blade which soon pierced the bird and slashed it into its weak spot. The beast tried to free itself desperately, but that final blow from the witchcraft goddess killed it for good.

Jack soon landed next to her, noticing a suspicious amber glow on the back of her neck only for it to disappear in a literal blink of an eye. He knew his white robes were burnt all the way up to his shoulders, but that didn’t matter.

He still completed his promise to the goddess…

- Who would’ve thought, you Uppers can sometimes be helpful. – the goddess mouthed as she looked down at the lifeless body under her heels, the bird already starting to dissolve into the black dust that swayed on the wind.

- I hope that means you’ll be a tad less cold towards me, little witch goddess… - blonde said quietly as he took one of the goddess’s dark green locks into his hand, Carly swiftly punching him in the chest with a small smirk on her lips.

- Don’t provoke me, Jackie.

With those words the goddess literally dissolved in a thick mist along with her attendants, disappearing out of Jack’s sight. He could only chuckle and take in last traces of her scent remaining in the breeze, the softness of her hair still lingering on his fingers.

- Hope to see you at Equinox, little witch goddess…

Chapter Text

- Gandora, wait for me! – Yugi called out as the now bigger dragon pup jumped around the corner, their way towards the Dragon cave especially hard today. – Gandora!

But the dragon still didn't listen to his caretaker one bit, the pup rushing forward and entering the cave as the Slifer greeted him with loud but gentle growling, the smaller dragon already all over the other one.

The spring god soon caught up to the mischievous dragon, not even the sight of him playing carelessly with the larger dragon able to put a smile on his face. Today, Gandora’s been especially lively and didn’t listen to a word Yugi said…

- GANDORA! – the god yelled, making both dragons stop dead in their tracks.

Unsure at first of what to do, the smaller dragon exchanged looks with Slifer only to get beckoned to immediately come up to Yugi’s leg, Gandora now lowering its wings and head as it stepped in front of its caretaker.

- How many times do I have to call you and say no, huh?! – Yugi continued to yell in the same tone as before, Gandora lowering its head even more as it started sobbing and whining. – If I say WAIT, I mean FUCKING WAIT! I know this is your home, but it’s still Underworld! Something seriously bad can happen to someone who’s reckless, believe me, I know from experience!

Gandora slowly lifted its head and was met with Yugi’s rather terrifying frown, his expression tense in anger as he tried to rub off that damn reddish color that suddenly invaded his vision.

But then, the spring god let out a deep sigh and lowered his head himself, words leaving his mouth before he could even think about them properly:

- But again, why do I even bother explaining anything? You’re just a stupid dragon…

The moment that last sentence crossed his lips, Yugi gasped and crouched down to apologize to Gandora, but it was already too late: the pup was shedding huge tears of anger and sadness, its high-pitched sobs echoing not only the Dragon cave but the whole tunnel in front of it.

The little dragon then jumped onto Slifer’s head and continued to cry, not even allowing Yugi to touch him.

- Gandora, I’m sorry! – the spring god said in a pleading manner, but the little pup didn’t want to listen, even the huge red dragon turning his head away from the god. – I didn’t mean it like that, I swear! It just came out of my mouth! Please, believe me! I love you very much!

Still, the black dragon completely refused to listen as Slifer took it on the other side of the cave, blocking Yugi’s way with its enormous tail. The spring god could only observe them as he could feel his vision becoming blurry, that damn redness finally gone…

- What just happened here?

Yugi winced and turned around at the sound of a familiar, raspy voice, the king’s confused expression causing his guilty conscience to eat him up even more…

- I… uh…. – the spring god tried to explain as he wiped away his tears, frustration mixed with despair squeezing his throat and making him unable to speak properly. – I said… something mean… to Gandora…. And he’s rightfully sulking….

The king continued to look at the scene with confusion written all over his face only to fly into the cave and offer Yugi a hand, the two of them soon sat on that high rock in the middle of the cave.

- I need you to calm down first… - the older said in a soothing voice, his red eyes only causing Yugi’s eyes to become blurrier. – And then tell me what happened. And from the looks of it and Gandora’s bawling, this seems serious.

Yugi nodded as he let a few tears roll down his cheeks as he tried to even his breathing, his throat taking its sweet time to become functional again.

- I… I’m unusually frustrated today for some reason… - the spring god eventually started. – Actually, it’s not just today… for the past few days, I’ve been really irritable… The things that I’d usually brush off, especially if it has anything to do with Gandora, really annoy me for some reason… and today I snapped at him…

- Go on…

Yugi gulped heavily before embracing his own legs, suddenly unable to even look the king in the eyes. I was the one to ask you to give me permission to raise that dragon, and yet, I’m causing trouble again. I truly am a useless piece of work…

- I… I told him he is a stupid dragon…

The king closed his eyes and lightly shook his head as the tense silence between them ensued, Yugi’s urge to cry overtaking him as he himself started sobbing into his knees. His chest only felt even more painful as he felt the king’s eyes on him, knowing he must’ve indeed thought he was a complete failure…

But instead of standing up and walking away, the king only came closer and ruffled the younger’s spiky bangs, causing Yugi to look up with his eyes puffy and tears still rimming down his face.

- Tell me one thing, Yugi… - the older said in that same soothing tone, his hand still remaining in spring god’s hair as their eyes locked. – When did you notice this irritability? How many days has it been?

Yugi frowned with confusion as he started thinking, the answer seemingly rather clear all of a sudden.

- I… I guess after we returned from the Sun’s journey... – he admitted, the king once again closing his eyes for a moment. – Now that you mention it, I didn’t even notice it until recently when it really started bugging me… and this damn reddish tint I sometimes have in my vision… as if my world literally turns red whenever I become frustrated…

- As I thought… - the king said mysteriously as he turned away from Yugi and crossed his fingers, his gaze lost in the distance.

- W-what do you mean?! – the younger panicked, now taking the initiative to get closer to the king. – I-is this how Upper gods start to behave when they spend too much time in the Underworld?!

- It’s more than that, Yugi. – the older said in a somewhat sinister tone before their eyes once again locked. – And it’s not my place to tell you everything about it, I think you should discover it on yourself. But a few things, I can tell you, just to make you a little less upset… especially now when you’ll participate in the God’s Council in three days during Autumn Equinox.

- Not your place to tell me what? – Yugi said in a shaky voice, his tears now completely dry as the sadness in his chest got replaced with absolute panic. – What is going on? Tell me whatever it is! Please, your Majesty!

The king chuckled before turning to face the younger, his gentle gaze returning as he reached out to caress Yugi’s cheek, the spring god leaning into a soothing touch of his cold hand.

- It’s not my place to tell you everything, but I do know the way you’ll find out the whole truth, especially if you return to the Upper Realm after the Council, at least as far as Anzu is concerned. – he said in a somewhat somber tone. – But I can assure you… this is something to be expected considering your origin and the way you were developed as the youngest god in our pantheon.

- M-my origin?

- Have you ever wondered why you weren’t losing your power in the Underworld despite being part of the Upper, Earthly Realm? How you were able to sustain your energy just by eating food from the Upper Realm? Why you were “dragged” into the Beach of Lost Souls? Why you weren’t disturbed by Mouth of the Cavern? Why you were able to hold Apophis so effortlessly? And in the end, how you even managed to enter the Underworld?

Yugi’s head started spinning, aware that the king knew the answer to every single question he had just lied before the younger.

And then, the memory of that conversation they had more than two months ago, in his little garden in the Upper Underworld, suddenly appeared before his eyes, the king’s words echoing in his head so clearly:

There are good gods… as well as the ones who become corrupted with power. Which leads them to destroy other people’s lives…

- Tell me more, your Majesty… - he pleaded as he grabbed onto the older’s hand and squeezed it, the king obviously fazed by that sudden movement until he eventually let out a sigh of defeat.

- Yugi… Many of your memories as well as your true powers… have been sealed away. I could feel it on the exact day I’ve met you, I just couldn’t put my finger on it right away. But on the day I’ve left for the Council of Big Five during Summer Solstice, I’ve looked through the Library and found the exact scroll that tells of your origin, written by Aigami himself.

The king of the Underworld then pulled out a small ring made of obsidian with a tiny sapphire on the top, Yugi allowing him to put it on his right ring finger.

- Once you arrive at the Sky Temple, go into the Library. This ring will lead you to the scroll you need to read. It’s really important to me that you find out about what you really are by yourself, with only small assistance. Promise me, you’ll look into this by yourself?

The spring god looked down at the ring, his face suddenly becoming flushed as he nodded, many different emotions making it seem as if his chest will explode any moment now.

- But at least answer me one thing, your Majesty… - the spring god said as their eyes locked once again. – How did you know my powers are sealed?

- Simple. – the king rose his right hand with his index finger sticking out, a dim golden light starting to emit from it. – Only the Big Five have the ability to seal away memories and powers, it was very easy to trace Anzu’s handwork. And not only were your powers sealed but your memories too…

- Could it be why-

- Why you see those nightmares? Yes, that’s exactly it. – the king used his other hand to raise Yugi’s chin, their faces in very close proximity to one another, his glowing hand now leaned on the younger’s forehead. – That night I put a sleeping spell on you… I could see your dreams because you manifested them to me on accident… but I could also sense Anzu’s seal. I know why she’d seal away your powers, but whatever happened in your past obviously needed to be sealed away, at least according to her…

Yugi felt the same frustration and anger that’s been plaguing him for the past month suddenly raise again, his head feeling as if it’ll explode any moment. Why would you do this to me, Anzu?...

- Is… is my weakness and fragility… also connected with my sealed powers?

The king only nodded as he removed both of his hands before leaning his own forehead onto the younger’s, all anger seemingly seeping from Yugi’s body into the body of the other god, his frustration slowly disappearing as two more tears rolled down his temples.

- You were alright up until now…but in the Underworld, you got in touch with your sealed powers and because you don’t have enough strength to break the seal, your emotions start to boil over. You know, subconsciously, that they’ll soon overflow and because of the inability to break the seal, you became irritable and frustrated.

Yugi closed his eyes for a moment as that same guilty conscious returned to haunt him, making him hate his own existence for taking his unknown frustration on little Gandora…

- Your Majesty?

- Yes?

- You said… only the Big Five have the ability to seal away powers and memories? – Yugi said as he leaned even more into the older’s touch, their lips only a few inches from each other.

- That’s correct… - the king whispered, his breath tickling Yugi’s lips as his face flushed even more and his body became hot.

- Does that mean you can break the seal too?

The king opened his eyes and moved slightly away, his brows frowned as he was about to speak, but the spring god prevented him by pulling his hand and putting it on his forehead again.

- Let me see my memories, your Majesty. Please… I don’t care about my powers, I’ll continue living without them just as I did for the past centuries… but I have to know what happened…

The king averted his eyes for a moment as he contemplated what to do only to eventually lock the eyes with Yugi again, his red eyes burning…

- Alright. – he said before shifting his hand and pointing the right index finger directly into the younger’s forehead, a green seal suddenly glowing in the middle of it. – Are you sure about this?

Yugi nodded before closing his eyes, ready to tackle whatever he was about to see. It was finally time for him to take the wheel of his own life.

No one else will tell him what to do or how to do it, even under the pretense of protecting him. He will now be in control and this ring he was given is yet another proof of it…

Chapter Text

Yugi slowly opened his eyes as the bright but gentle light of the sun caressed his rather pale skin, the spring wind causing him to shiver slightly. As he straightened up, he could immediately feel the pain in his legs and arms, his fragility causing him quiet but obvious frustration.

- Had a good nap, master?

The young god smiled as he heard Candina’s voice, the small fairy landing onto his shoulder only a moment later.

- I did, but the fact I have to nap every so often is kind of…

- Frustrating, right? – the fairy responded as the young god picked himself up and tapped the dust off his robes. – But don’t worry! Lady Anzu promised you’ll soon be able to perform godly duties! You know she sent the letter to our king and I’m sure he’ll give you a great jurisdiction!

Yugi chuckled and scratched the top of the fairy’s head, the small creature giggling at the gentle touch.

- Where are the other-

- MASTER YUGI! HELP ME, PLEASE!

The young god could feel his heart dropping into his stomach upon hearing Lilybell’s desperate yells, his feet moving even before he was able to process what he was doing. He dashed towards the small garden that was gifted to him by Anzu, Candina flying right next to him, as he heard unknown, child-like giggles.

- Why are you screaming so much?! Do you want me to squish you?!

- It’s so small! Do you think it can swim?

- Let’s try! Look, there is a fountain! Maybe it can even breathe underwater.

Yugi could feel his skin crawl as he picked up on the children’s conversation, sinister connotation in their voices causing him to run as fast as he could, completely disregarding his fatigue and painful limbs.

Once he finally barged into the garden, he saw a group of six children around the carp pond right under the blooming cherry blossom tree, the tallest among them holding terrified Lilybell in his hand as the burgundy-haired boy nudged him to dunk the fairy into the water.

- W-what are you doing?! Release Lilybell! – Yugi demanded as he tried to catch a breath, Candina instinctively hiding behind her master.

- Who’s that? – the smaller girl asked as she hid behind a taller girl.

- Is he a fairy too? Where are his wings? – the girl questioned, Candina being the one to respond instead of Yugi.

- How rude! My lord is a god! Have some respect! And release Lilybell at once! My master ordered it!

Children remained quiet for a moment, their leader soon bursting into fits of hysteric laughter, the others following soon after.

- HE?! A GOD?! – the boy mocked as he continued to giggle and closing the distance between them. – You’re even shorter than me! There is no way you’re a god! You look just like that fairy: like you’ll piss yourself any moment now!

- I asked you nicely… release Lilybell… - Yugi said with a shaky voice as the boy came right face to face with him, his snarky giggle only causing the young god to frown deeply as his vision suddenly started to redden.

- And what if I don’t? – the boy hissed before reaching forward and pulling onto Yugi’s bangs, the sudden movement catching the god off-guard as he was wrestled to the ground while Candina was caught by one of the girls. – We won’t listen to a crybaby god!

. Crybaby god! Crybaby god! Crybaby god! – the children sang as they crouched next to the pond and immediately dunked both Candina and Lilybell under the surface, their small bodies trying so desperately to get to the surface.

But children only dunked them deeper, giggling and laughing…

- NO! LEAVE THEM ALONE! RELEASE THEM AT ONCE! – Yugi cried out only to be bashed across the head by the tallest boy, temporary vertigo taking over him.

- Shut the hell up, crybaby god. Look, your friends will soon become little mermaids… - the burgundy-haired boy said with a creepy smile, Yugi suddenly aware his whole vision became completely red.

- Release them… - Yugi suddenly hissed, his limp body on the ground causing the two boys next to him to giggle as the taller one swung the wooden stick to hit him again…

….only to have a thorny tentacle pierce through him from behind, the bloody tip exiting through his stomach.

All children stopped for a short moment, this shock giving small fairies enough time to get out of their grasps and catch some air, the terror soon washing over their faces.

The children promptly started screaming as their friend fell to the ground and started convulsing while coughing blood, everyone now moving as far away as possible from the young god lying on the ground.

Yugi soon picked himself up, a new strength fueling his body as his pale skin became consumed by black veins and ivy branches, huge, wooden wings exiting his back as his own bones cracked.

And yet, despite this immense pain, he was currently feeling, his face remained blank, only the red eyes surrounded by pure blackness staring at the remaining five children as the black tears rolled down his face.

- I’ve told you to release them… yet you refused to listen to a god.  – he said in a deep, hellish voice as his hands transformed into long, wooden nails, the wall of thorns and ivy growing over the entire garden, blocking children’s escape route.

.- WE’RE SORRY! – everyone cried out desperately as they scooted into the corner, even their burgundy-haired leader paralyzed with fear.

But none of it fazed Yugi at that point. He just continued to stare at them blankly…

- Those who are willing to hurt other living beings… are no better than trash on the street… - the young god said in the same sinister tone, now raising both of his naily hands. – Die. All of you.

With that, long thorny tentacles emerged from the earth and picked up the children upside down, the long thorns digging deep into their ankles and stomachs. The screams echoed the small garden, Yugi suddenly showing a sinister and sadistic smile.

- Die, die, die, DIE, DIE, DIE! YOU ALL SHOULD DIE!

- YUGI! WHAT’S GOING ON IN THERE?!

….Anzu?

***

- AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!! NO! – Yugi exclaimed before grabbing his own head and pulling at his own hair, the Dragon cave echoing as tears yet again started rolling down the young god’s face. – NO, NO, NO! MAKE IT STOP, I DON’T WANT TO WATCH-

- It’s alright, Yugi…

Someone’s strong hands suddenly wrapped around him, a sweet yet muscular scent filling Yugi’s nose as he buried his face deep into the shoulder of the king of the Underworld, those screams and sights still haunting his memory.

- I can’t believe it… I killed them… the carnage… oh heavens, no… - the younger wept as he grabbed onto the king’s robes, his whole body shaking at the mere thought of what he had done more than ten years ago.

- Those children didn’t die, Yugi.

- W-what?! How do you know?! – the spring god questioned before straightening up, his vision still blurry from tears that were still rolling down his face. The king reached out and wiped every single tear, his red eyes remaining gentle through that whole ordeal.

- There is no exact explanation of what had happened in your scroll, but I could guess what type of ordeal it was. And so I checked Mahad’s files from the date written on the scroll… not a single child died on that day or in the week after that.

Yugi sighed before leaning onto the king’s shoulder again, still feeling breathless as his heart threatened to explode.

- Thank goodness…. – he whimpered, the feeling of the king’s gentle hand on the back of his head being extremely soothing. – Was that… my true power? The hidden power?

- Probably.

- I knew Yubel didn’t call me “Little Bringer of Death” for nothing…- he whispered, those damn desperate screams still invading his ears. – I remember waking up after that ordeal… everyone was there, assuring me nothing serious happened. And I mean everyone: Anzu, Akiza, Jack, Fubuki…

- They were all probably all called so they could restrain you. And they were probably the ones who brought the children to the hospital…

- Thank goodness they did… Damn it, what have I done-

- Don’t feel bad about it, Yugi.

- Huh? – the younger looked up again only to meet a known, fierce redness of the king’s eyes.

- I mean it. – he persuaded. – They almost killed your little friends. Even though I’m said to be the main villain of this damn pantheon, you know damn well I hate those who hurt the other creature in any way. And even though they didn’t die by your hand, I’ll make sure that, once they arrive here in the Underworld, Yubel and their demons never let them have peace…

- Yes, but still… doesn’t that also make me a killer? Someone who harmed another person? – Yugi asked as he looked down at his hands, his fingers feeling incredibly filthy.

- You’re a god, Yugi. – the king reminded. – Even though we’re forbidden from meddling with human destinies, humans are also forbidden from disrespecting the god, especially if they’re face-to-face with them. This was divine punishment. If you weren’t able to do it, Anzu would.

- I guess you’re right… - the younger said as he wiped away the last two tears. – Still… this hidden power of mine… I’m scared, your Majesty…

- That is normal. – the king assured before wrapping his hand around the other, bringing him closer. – This guilt you’re feeling… it won’t go as fast as you think… and the only way I can ease that feeling for you is telling you that you never killed anyone. Once you discover about your origin, I’ll be sure to help you control this power as much as I can because hiding it from you did more damage than anything, especially with that… incident.

Yugi nodded into the king’s shoulder, suddenly feeling incredibly exhausted. But then, Gandora appeared out of nowhere, the small dragon now snuggling into his caretaker’s lap. Both gods chuckled as the dragon and the spring god embraced.

- I’m sorry, Gandora… I promise I’ll never be this mean… I love you very much.

The dragon cooed into the god’s neck and started purring before positioning itself on top of Yugi’s legs and falling asleep. The spring god chuckled again as he scratched cold, metal scales on the pup’s back, the king not taking his eyes off the two of them for even a second.

- Feeling better? – he asked before closing the distance between them once again, Yugi aware he’s seriously close to his ear now.

- A bit… but it’ll take me some time to accept what I’ve done…

The king nodded before leaning his own head onto the younger’s temple.

- And I promise to help you as much as I can. And also… - he said in a barely audible whisper, the next part of the sentence causing the spring god to widen his eyes and say:

- B-but that was your-

- Shhhh… - the king said as he said with a mischievous smile before planting a gentle kiss in the corner of Yugi’s lips. – Let it be a secret between the two of us.

- A-are you sure? – the younger stuttered, his brain turning into a steaming mush, the lingering feeling of the king’s lips so close to his causing his heart to go out of control for a whole different reason.

- Of course. Use it whenever you feel like you can’t take the pressure anymore. I’ll hear you… wherever you are.

Yugi remained stunned for a short moment before rushing forward and finally connecting their lips, the king letting out a small chuckle before he returned the kiss to the younger and grabbed the back of his head, bringing them closer.

And with that… their secret pact was sealed…


END OF ARC 5 - RIVER THROUGH THE MIND

Chapter Text

After more than five months of waiting, the day of Autumn Equinox has finally arrived.

As they traveled through the sky with the help of the king's powers, all Underworld gods seemed unfazed, eager even to meet the Uppers after more than half a year. Their trip wasn’t overly long but they still needed to be cautious. They were maybe allowed to step in the domain of other gods on the day of Equinox, but they had a very specific route they had to take…

Yugi, on the other hand, couldn’t stop thinking about his meeting with Anzu and the others. He was still under Underworld’s jurisdiction until proven otherwise, but there was no doubt in the young god’s mind that Anzu will try to get to him even before the verdict is out.

The spring god tried to take a deep breath, his chest becoming painful and tightening, even more, the white clouds above his head causing his whole body to tense up.

Aside from not knowing what awaited him once he arrived at the Sky Temple, this’ll also be his first time meeting most of the pantheon. When he started to perform his duties earlier that year, the Spring Equinox had already passed and he missed his chance to attend with other gods from his domain.

But his current circumstances were even worse than before, not because he was protected by Underworld gods but because of how other gods may treat them…

Yugi winced as he felt someone grab his hand, soon realizing the king was flying right beside him. The older smiled at him discreetly, causing Yugi’s whole face to go completely red.

Only three days have passed since that kiss they have shared and the spring god still couldn’t believe that had actually happened. He actually kissed the fearsome and cold king of the Underworld… and not even once has he thought it was wrong, the hot feeling around his lips and the feeling of the king’s hand on the back of his head still so fresh in his mind.

And that very gesture only caused the spring god to get even more worried. He still had to process what had happened and he had to examine his own feelings in that whole situation… but he didn’t want to leave.

Not now. Not in a week. Not ever…

- Oh, I see it! – Mana suddenly exclaimed as Yugi’s attention shifted towards a huge floating fortress above the clouds, its whiteness only stinging him in the eyes.

- Please, behave, Mana. We didn’t come here to argue. – Mahad warned, causing the blonde goddess to look at him with a pout.

- But Zane started it last time! He always has to be a smartass-

- In the formation, everyone. – the king interrupted their banter as they soon landed on the main floating island, the monarch’s majestic form and piercing gaze making everyone bow with their left arm over their chest.

After everyone picked themselves up, Yugi observed them as they formed pre-decided pairs: right behind the king were Mahad and Mana, Shadi and Ishizu following after them and Bakura and Carly at the end of the line, all of their stances proud, sinister and strong.

- Onward. – the king commanded again as he started walking, the spring god following right after him.

- Do you always enter the Sky temple like this? – the younger whispered, the king only sparing him a side glance and a nod.

- It’s not necessary, but I like to have gods from my jurisdiction behave appropriately. – he said in an indifferent tone. – And I apologize in advance for my lack of emotion from this point on. I don’t like it, but I’ll have to put up with many gods and their little… problems in connection to our presence. This, unfortunately, includes my usual, cold expression.

Yugi nodded with understanding, getting slightly further away from the king as they walked.

- I know… but don’t worry Majesty. It’s only a day. I can get through it.

The king chuckled before regaining his usual serious face, the younger god only then noticing someone standing at the entrance to the council hall.

The gods then slowly ascended the stairs, Yugi being more and more taken by the beauty and radiance of the goddess standing in front of the gate, her welcoming smile, shiny bluish-white hair, and light blue robes with dragon symbols literally making her glow.

- Oh, you’ve arrived! Did you have a safe trip? – she asked, her sweet voice adding to Yugi’s infatuation even more.

- We did, your Highness. We apologize for our tardiness. – the king of the Underworld said with a gentler tone before bowing to the goddess with his right hand over his heart only to raise back onto his feet and kiss the other’s hand. – You’re as radiant as always, Queen Kisara.

Yugi’s jaw almost dropped to the floor. That… that was their queen?!

- Don’t flatter me, Majesty. – she said with a giggle. – You look just as good. Now go on, Seto will get cranky if I keep you all to myself for too long.

The spring god moved out of the way so that all other Underworld gods can pay their respects to the queen, the youngest being rather smitten with the fact that everyone carried the same, gentle expression when bowing to her and kissing her hand, even someone like Bakura who turned into a literal puppy in front of Queen of gods.

And Queen Kisara also didn’t hesitate to give everyone a compliment or two, always asking about the safety of their trip before giving them a bright smile.

Then, it was Yugi’s turn to greet Her Highness.

- Oh, you must be little Yugi! – she exclaimed as the younger god bowed to her and kissed her hand. – Destiny truly has strange ways of surprising us. I’m glad to see you’re with this crowd though.

- I-is that so? – Yugi chuckled nervously as the goddess ruffled his hair.

- Definitely! Yami sees you as his equal and respects your free will, it was obvious from the way you were walking. Anzu didn’t even want to bring you to Spring Equinox!

The spring god could feel his heart tightening at the mention of his former guardian, the more he heard about her many decisions, the more his feelings towards her became indifferent.

- Well, I’m glad to be here and meet you, Your Highness! You’re as lovely as I heard! – the younger eventually said, causing Kisara to giggle.

- You’re as sly as all of the Underworld gods. Now go on, I still have to wait for Earth gods and Manjoume, they’re always arriving at the party late, like some pop stars.

With that, Yugi gave one final bow to the queen of gods and followed the Underworld gods, Carly waiting for him at the door.

As they walked down the huge corridors towards the main council room, Yugi couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the colors and soothing atmosphere in that building. The ceiling was high and the walls were painted with murals of the clouds and various types of dragons, the white one with blue eyes being the most majestic one. There were also murals of all the sky gods, Yugi immediately recognizing Marik, Aigami, and Lady Kisara.

Is the king’s mural somewhere around here, too?

- Yugi! I’ve finally found you!

The spring god stopped dead in his tracks as he heard a familiar male voice, feeling both relieved and on edge because he knew that if Fubuki was there, then Anzu was close by too…

The young god turned on his heel with Carly still by his side, her ominous dark gaze following the brown-haired man in a light blue robe, the scent of snow suddenly filling the air around them.

- It’s good to see you, Lord Fubuki. – Yugi said with a bow only to have the older god pat his shoulder and embrace him, the coldness of his body being somewhat soothing.

- Glad to see you’re still in one piece, my little friend.

- We’re not fiends, you know, Lord Fubuki… - Carly retorted as she stood next to the spring god, a tension suddenly becoming so high Yugi had to move attention to something else.

- How is everyone, Lord Fubuki? Are they already here?

- Yes, they are. Anzu was stuck in a conversation with Mai and Aigami but is trying to get to you before the meeting starts. That’s why I came beforehand, just to check if everything is okay.

- As you can see, I’m completely fine. – Yugi assured while holding the older god’s hand. – My time in the Underworld was filled with nothing but happy things, all of the gods making sure I had everything I needed until this very meeting.

The brunette exchanged gazes with Carly, the goddess having a very discreet but cocky grin on her lips before she turned around and nudged Yugi to follow her.

- You can tell that to Anzu. I’ll see you during the trial. Now I have to join everyone. – the young god said with a radiant smile, leaving Fubuki somewhat flabbergasted for a moment only to have him chuckle at the sight, noticing the life has returned in his little friend.

Yugi soon entered the main council hall, his eyes widening once again as he saw a huge, ancient theatre-like complex with four sets of seats positioned in a semi-circle, the height and wideness of the whole room making the noise that much louder. He followed the Underworld gods towards the far left set of seats, black ribbons tied around the seats that were intended for each god. He sat in between Mana and Mahad while Ishizu, Shadi, and Carly sat right behind them, Bakura not wanting to associate with anyone at that point so he took a far top left seat and raised his legs up with a loud yawn.

Yugi had to chuckle as the gods that were seated in the room looked their way, the young god noticing many gods were seated at the third, closer left part of the theatre, indigo color indicating their connection to the human realm.

At the very bottom sat three young-looking gods, the middle one being the shortest and the prettiest with his blue eyes and semi-long gray hair, a sinister-looking god with dark green hair and in black robes seated to his left while the tall one with light blue hair and golden mark on his face sat to his right. Behind them sat a very beautiful, blonde goddess who seemed to have friendly banter with the trio in front of her, a turquoise-haired god seemingly rather listless.

Behind them sat three other male gods, the one in the middle with spiky orange hair and marks on his face being the loudest while the god to his right, the one in dark red robes and with his brown hair slicked back, tried to hush him. Yugi then also noticed a god sitting to the far left, his face and hair color bearing an incredible resemblance to Bakura…

And at the very last row sat two more goddesses, the one with dirty blonde hair dressed in full battle armor and light pink robes while the other, brown-haired and shorter one, giggled to something the other goddess said. Yugi smiled as he observed their interaction, aware that he wasn’t familiar with neither of them but still enjoying the positive buzz.

The door to the theatre then opened as even more gods entered, the spring god feeling his heart dropping into his stomach as he saw a familiar quartet who headed to the set of seats right next to the Underworld gods.

Fubuki only gave him a small wave before sitting in the very last row, away from everyone else. Akiza nodded at him with a tense expression on her face and Jack didn’t even seem interested in him, his purple eyes looking for someone else in the crowd of the Underworld gods.

Following Earth gods entered the gods of the Sky realm, Yugi recognizing and giving a small nod to both of them. Marik smiled widely as his shining presence stopped all the talk in the room for a second while Aigami have him a cheeky grin before following his companion towards the far right set of seats.

And upon observing all of these gods, Yugi realized one thing: where are the Big Five?

But he didn’t have to wait for an answer for too long as the big door at the very bottom of the theatre opened, revealing four figures whose presence made everyone stand up, the spring god only then noticing the king of the Underworld was among them.

He was the first one to enter, his overwhelming presence and sinister glare of his red eyes causing everyone to start murmuring despite their obligation to pay him the same amount of respect as to the other members of the Big Five.

Then entered the god Yugi assumed were master of the Sea realm, his turquoise robes, and trident only adding to his already radiant presence. He shook hands with the Underworld king and sat next to him without hesitation, the spring god happy to see their interaction.

And then she entered, the one Yugi loathed seeing through the whole arrival ceremony.

Anzu was still as majestic as he remembered, a brown armor above her green and pink robes only adding to her grace as her brown hair floated in the breeze, a golden laurel crown on top of her head.

The moment she entered and spotted her little protégé, her blue eyes widened but she managed to stay composed, promptly shooting a venomous glare at the king of the Underworld as she sat at the furthest seat, as far away from him as possible.

But it was the royal couple that had stolen the show at the end of it all. Yugi already knew Lady Kisara had a presence and beauty that could literally end all wars but her husband was powerful in another type of way: whilst towering over her for more than one head, his stance upright and proud, he still held onto her hand to gently as he led her to her seat, the goddess getting onto the chair next to Anzu. Both of them paid a small greeting to the ruler of the Underworld, the dark monarch seeming rather amused by their presence as well.

But as soon as the king Seto turned towards the rest of the gods, the air literally left the room, the silence being so tense as he paid a glance to every single god present in that room.

- It is time for another Council to start. I am happy to see so many of you joined us this time around, even with one new face among the Underworld gods.

Yugi instinctively bowed with his right hand above his chest, feeling everyone’s eyes on him. He could feel his whole body shiver as he straightened up, the king Seto speaking yet again in his strong voice:

- Let’s not waste any time. We have important business to discuss throughout the day. And above all, I expect you all to behave appropriately if you don’t want to floss my dragon’s teeth after his dinner. Clear?

- CLEAR! – everyone responded in unison, Lady Kisara giggling discretely at her husband’s words.

- Now, the first matter. – the king spoke again once the silence returned to the room and everyone sat back down. – We need to decide on the new heir of the Yuki family…

Chapter Text

- Ryou, step out and explain to the Council why you didn't accept the new king candidate from the Yuki royal family. – the chief and the king of all gods, Seto, commanded before sitting down on the middle chair, the council officially starting.

Like every other, god Yugi turned his head to look at the seemingly young, white-haired god that had just stood up and walked to the middle of the theatre, the aura around him being rather pure despite his uncanny resemblance to Bakura.

- I greet you all, gods of Five Realms. – the white-head spoke once he took his position, bowing his head to the Council and then turning toward five chiefs, giving them a deep bow. – As well as you, my lords and ladies, especially my king and queen.

Kisara smiled encouragingly before standing up and saying in a professional and profound tone:

- Explain yourself, the god of kings and protector of children, Ryou. Why is Jun Yuki no good to be a king?

The white-haired god took a deep breath, Yugi noticing his hands shaking slightly despite the two of them being a good distance away, but once he spoke, his confidence was undeniable.

- Many of the Upper gods may not be aware of the situation, but I’ve heard about the dispute that had taken place two months ago, right after his royal Highness had passed away, leaving the country to his four children and the one who was presumed to become his heir, Jun Yuki. Apparently, prince Jun didn’t want to go through with the regular funeral ritual until his younger siblings, Princess Julia and Prince Judai, literally forced him to comply by drawing swords at him and his twin brother, prince Juno.

A loud gasp echoed the theatre, a loud murmur startling Yugi for a moment.

- What do you mean, he didn’t want for his father to have a proper funeral?! That’s downright heresy! – the blue-haired god from the Human realm spoke up, everyone else agreeing to his statement, Ryou and Kisara only nodding their heads.

- And how do you know for that fact, little Ryou? Can that information be trusted? – the god sitting next to him, the very beautiful one with silver hair, spoke this time, Ryou only shooting him a dark look before answering:

- Lord Aster, you do know I have a twin brother in the Underworld, here present Lord Bakura.

The called-out god just rose his hand with a smirk, Yugi noticing a very subtle but still noticeable eye roll from the other white-haired god standing in the middle of the theatre.

- And I know what you’re going to say, Lord Aster: Underworlders cannot be trusted, but despite his personality, I’m positive my older brother would never lie to me. None of them would, especially when it comes to violating the rules of their own realm. The King of the Underworld himself had to undertake drastic measures in order to make them comply. – Ryou explained further only to have the god sitting next to Aster speak out:

- What, by pulling that red beast out of the basement and destroying half of the royal palace? – he said with a chuckle. – I’m no stranger to scare tactics and I have to say it was a quite amusing sight to see, but still a rather shady way of asserting authority over humans, don’t you think?

Few other gods nodded at what the green-haired god said, their response causing his smirk to grow wider. Yugi frowned at that statement, happy to see most of the others weren’t so on board with what’s been said, but at least the king himself didn’t seem to be bothered…

- That’s rich coming from you, Zane. – the king suddenly spoke in his deep-as-abyss voice, causing the theatre to go silent immediately. – You really think I don’t know about your escapades and “shady ways of asserting authority”? If you want to play this game, I’m all for it but don’t come and whine to me when you lose and end up with punishment because you were “having too much fun”.

The spring god had to hold in his giggle as he saw the god of war frown and sigh in defeat, his relaxed stance showcasing the older god’s victory.

- You’re really not fun at all, your Majesty.

- Can you shut your mouth, Zane? Ryou was talking! – Kisara scolded, the green-haired god straightening up and nodding in compliance. – Please continue, Ryou.

- Thank you very much, my Lady. – the white-haired god gave his mistress another deep bow before clearing his throat and proceeding to explain the situation further. – As I was saying, what prince Jun had tried to do is absolutely unacceptable on many levels and not just disrespectful to the Underworld laws but to us as gods as well. Still, since we are forbidden from meddling with human destinies unless asked directly by humans, I thought I wouldn’t have much say in the matter and that I’ll just have to give my blessing on the coronation ceremony. But then…

- They came and asked for the date of the coronation in your temple, is that right, little brother?

Yugi could once again feel shivers go down his spine as he heard Bakura’s voice, the younger only giving him a stern look before nodding:

- That’s correct. All four heirs came to me one week ago to ask for both the blessing and the date of coronation… and I… - the white-head took a deep breath, his voice slightly shaky. – I refused to accept Jun Yuki as the new king candidate.

Another loud gasp echoed the theatre, Kisara once again being the one to shush everyone and ask an important question:

- Has this happened before, Ryou? You not accepting the king candidate?

- In the past two millennia.. it did and only twice.

- And what was the outcome of those situations? – the blonde goddess in battle armor asked, her gaze sharp and perceptive.

- During the first one… I didn’t accept the king because of the way he treated his children and servants, the straw that broke the camel’s back being when he accidentally drowned his own son in the lake. Since the kingdom didn’t have another heir, once I refused to give my blessing as the god protector of kings, a completely new royal family had to be chosen among the nobility. In the second situation, the prince who was supposed to be a king raped a woman and I refused to acknowledge him as a royal heir, his younger sister automatically inheriting the royal crown.

- So in both cases, humans were the ones who handled the situation after you refused to give a blessing. Why can’t the outcome be the same in this situation? –Kisara questioned but instead of Ryou, the blonde-haired armed goddess answered instead:

- Because there are two good choices, am I right?

Ryou smiled before nodding and explaining further:

- That’s correct, Lady Asuka. I wouldn’t acknowledge any of the Yuki twins, mostly because of their involvement in the whole dispute, my brother implying that it was even prince Juno’s idea to even try this idea out.

- That sounds like Juno, alright. – Ishizu suddenly spoke before rubbing the bridge of her nose. – He’s a really gifted mage and has been relying on my power a lot, but I cannot deny his cunning and sometimes vile nature.

- And Jun is too stupid to think of such a plan. – Zane also spoke, both gods sighing at the same time upon realizing what kind of people worship them the most.

- But princess Julia and prince Judai are both suitable candidates in my opinion. Princess is intelligent and caring but stuck dealing with business no one wants to do while prince Judai is incredibly empathetic and approachable, his charisma definitely being his best quality, especially if we talk about returning the folk’s faith into the royal family.

Lady Asuka nodded at the younger’s statement with a smile, Yugi only then noticing the turquoise-haired god sitting in front of her had started paying attention, his eyes lighting up every time Ryou would talk about the prince…

Is prince Judai the one who worships him the most?

- But as you all know… - Ryou continued to speak, his voice becoming slightly quieter. – I cannot tell them whom to put on the throne, that’s direct meddling with their fate and the fate of their kingdom. So I’m asking you: how should I handle this situation without meddling?

The theatre was once again filled with murmurs, every god seemingly having a good idea on their hands only for all of them to be shushed by the king Seto raising his hand.

- Your Highness?! – Ryou exclaimed as the brunette stood up, Yugi only then noticing how much taller their king was compared to the white-haired god.

- Suggest them a game. Let the luck decide who shall be the new monarch.

- Seto?! Isn’t that too… too easy?! – Kisara exclaimed as her lips shaped into a barely noticeable smile, the goddess clearly amused by the whole turn of events.

- Why not? Ryou said he has no problem with either of them becoming the next ruler so what’s the big deal? It’ll be exciting for us and for them.

The white-haired god chuckle before bowing to his king, Yugi being able to see immense relief on his face.

- You always save us with great ideas, Your Highness. I’ll have Cloud deliver the message to them as soon as possible. It truly will be a fun ordeal.

The king only let out a proud chuckle before sinking back into his chair, Ryou wrapping up his part of the testimony by greeting everyone and getting back to his place among the gods of the Human realm.

- Now, we need to discuss something minor but still, I want to hear more details. – the king Seto said suddenly before getting in the middle of the theatre, his blue gaze moving over towards the king of the Underworld. – Come on, Yami.

- Do I have to?

- Get your ass here or I’ll drag you out.

The other god let out an exhausted sigh before getting up and standing next to the brunette, Yugi amazed by their drastic height difference but an equal amount of power both of them wielded.

- Alright, you all know that in the past five months there have been sightings of some strange monsters all around the continent and a few of you present have actually fought the said monsters, am I right?

Several gods nodded in agreement, the king continuing to speak shortly after:

- From all the reports I’ve gotten from Crow, Shizuka, Kalin, Akiza, and Jack, it is obvious these monsters all came from the same source, mostly because of the obsidian-black color of their skin, their size, power, and the fact they are all having the same weak point. I’ve also noticed a pattern of their behavior, not really touching humans but making sure the gods notice them after regaining full strength. I may be reading too much into this, but these appearances really give me headaches and avert all of you from your actual jobs.

- I don’t really think it’s that deep, your Highness. – the orange-haired god with spiky hair spoke up. – The whale-like monster I fought wasn’t even that tough.

- Speak for yourself, dumbass. Those things are a real pain. – Lord Manjoume finally spoke, his snarky remark causing a few gods to giggle. – I’m the only of the Big Five who actually encountered those fuckers and if it wasn’t for Akiza, I’d probably be squished by that lizard. I want to say I was strong enough to fight it myself, but this is not a laughing matter.

- I agree with Seto and Manjoume. – the king of the Underworld then spoke, once again causing the theatre to go into complete silence. – My theory is that these are probably leftovers of Roman’s pets who went on a rampage, but I cannot deny the fact there is a pattern and their power is insane, Carly was drained after her recent fight with that hummingbird-like monster.

- What’s your suggestion then?

Yugi winced as he heard the voice of his former caretaker, the bitterness in Anzu’s voice being undeniable.

- It’s not my suggestion but Seto’s. – the king explained before locking his eyes with her for just a moment. – And if you want to start spitting venom at me, at least wait until it’s the time for the trial.

- Enough, you two. I’ve had it up to here with your constant arguments even while we were still in the same realm. I don’t want to listen to it again if I don’t have to. – Seto scolded, both gods going quiet instantly as Anzu looked away sulkily.

- What is your suggestion then, Your Highness? – Ishizu questioned in a calm voice, bringing the discussion back to the right path.

- I’ve had a short meeting with Yami before the council and we decided to create charms for all gods present on this council. Their primary use is to detect any type of foreign energy in case another monster appears and one of you has to fight it. That way we’ll know if someone’s meddling with these creatures or they’ve just woken up from a long, long nap.

The king of the Underworld then held out his hand as exactly 27 black and white paper charms appeared before him, each god getting one only a second later, including Yugi.

- Put it on either your weapon or your hand if you don’t have it. Once gets in touch with the monster, if there is any foreign magical energy, it’ll explode and send Seto a signal which he’ll be able to trace to the source of it.

A few gods frowned upon receiving the charm but complied anyway, especially after being confronted with their king’s cold gaze. He’s really worried about this…

And so is His Majesty.

- That concludes this part of the Council. – the brunette said in a louder voice. – We’ll all have a short break because we have another important thing to discuss and decide, particularly in regards to the newest face on our council.

Yugi froze as he felt everyone’s eyes turning towards him, a cold sweat suddenly breaking onto his skin as his heart dropped into his stomach, not believing he was so close to the moment he’s been dreading for the past month.

- I shall see you all later. Council dismissed…

Chapter Text

- How are you feeling, Yugi?

The spring god winced slightly as Ishizu sat back next to him, her turquoise eyes staring right back at him as a tender smile slowly spread across her face.

- Ah… I don’t really know… - Yugi chuckled sheepishly, well aware that his body had completely tensed up, his stomach churning and twisting as his limbs slowly turned cold and numb. – I’ve never known how the godly trials are supposed to be… so I don’t really know what to expect…

- We didn’t have many of them if that’s what you’re wondering. – the goddess explained, her voice tender but clear. – I can count those instances with fingers of just one hand and usually, gods who get punishment verdict end up being alright after everything is said and done… so if you’re worried that someone might be hurt at the end of this, don’t be. I know both Anzu and His Majesty can handle whatever is thrown at them, they’re part of the Big Five after all…

Yugi nodded with another sheepish chuckle, what the goddess has been saying being only the part of his worry.

He had no idea what Anzu had up her sleeve. Up until the point he accidentally descended into the Underworld, the young god was convinced his caretaker was only overly protective of him and that she’s truly been doing everything to make his life easier.

But as he interacted with the Underworld gods more, as the more things started coming to the surface, he wasn’t really sure anymore, especially after seeing how much hatred and grudge is present between the king of the Underworld and the agriculture goddess.

Yugi wasn’t sure what was real and what was fake anymore, especially in connection to Anzu and her intentions. And this cunning, bitter person he’s been seeing throughout the whole duration of the council… wasn’t someone he wanted to interact with ever again.

Especially if it meant he’ll never see his Majesty again…

- Alright, has everyone returned?

The spring god flinched again as he heard king Seto’s voice, all other gods standing up as he took his throne in between the other four members of the Big Five. He took his time to scan the theatre with his blue orbs, soon sitting back down after seeing no one was missing or late.

- Now we’ll probably have to discuss the most important part of this equinoctial council, mostly because after the Spring Equinox six months ago, a certain…incident has happened.

As the king paused, the theatre was engulfed in a loud murmur which only caused Yugi to grip onto his own robes as if his life depended on it.

- Before I explain everything to the council, I’ll ask three participants to come forward and stand in the circle. – the king said in a louder tone than before, grabbing back everyone’s attention. – The goddess of agriculture and the chief of Earthly Realm, Anzu, please come forward.

The brunette shot up from her seat almost immediately, her blue gaze flying between the Underworld king and Yugi, causing the young god to literally wish the ground would swallow him at that moment.

- Yami, the King of the Underworld and the god of wealth, please come forward as well.

The dark monarch stood up without hesitation, his seemingly relaxed posture, and elegance in every move easing the tension the spring god has been feeling in his chest and gut, his red gaze completely indifferent to Anzu’s intense and venomous stare.

- And Yugi, the god of spring and the youngest god of our pantheon, come stand in the circle, in between these two but still far enough. – Seto called out the younger’s name, Yugi feeling as if his soul will leave his body right that moment.

He slowly rose up and walked down towards the center of the theatre, his legs so shaky he had to make sure he was stepping onto his full foot so he wouldn’t fall over, his palms sweaty and cold as the snow on the mountain tops.

And once everyone took their stance Yugi became aware of how loud whispering and murmuring has become in his ears, his eyes starting to itch as he felt so many pairs of eyes on him, and not even the king’s warm, red gaze was able to calm him down.

- Now to give everyone a context as to why this particular bunch has been brought out. – the king stood up and started walking around the trio, his gaze ready to pierce anyone who dared to act out of the line. – Five months ago, here present spring god, Yugi, has accidentally descended into the Underworld and due to certain circumstances couldn’t leave the said realm until the restriction of movement has been removed for the next Equinox. We’ll first hear what Anzu has to say, Yami’s defense, and then Yugi’s story.

The murmur lowered down as the brunette stepped out, her gaze pleading to everyone in the council to trust her and only her story as Yugi tried to remain calm.

- My friends and acquaintances, you all know how much I cherish Yugi and how much effort I’ve put into raising him to become a full-fledged member of our pantheon… only to have him snatched away by this bastard here.

- Mind your language, Anzu. – Kisara scolded. – What do you mean “snatched”?

-  I mean exactly as I said, your Highness! – Anzu said with her head rose proudly and her voice echoed the theatre. – You all also know how much tension there is between me and the Underworld king… there is no doubt in my mind he’s in some way affected Yugi’s wish to come to the Underworld. He was created from His core so most of his powers are basically copied to the Underworld king, mind-control being one of them. I’ve known Yugi for over millennia, there is no way he’d descend to the Underworld of his own will or that he’s so ignorant and stupid to do so. I’ve taught him well.

- Why would he do such a thing? Being the Underworld king isn’t as easy as you think. – Manjoume asked the question this time, Yugi resisting the urge to nod at that statement.

- Because he hates me. He hates all of us for driving him away and into that hellhole he calls home! – the brunette said dramatically, the spring god grinding his teeth and biting his tongue at the same time. – No matter how much all of them claim to love their home, I don’t believe either of them would willingly choose to live down there. And so they all decided to take their revenge on us by taking the seemingly weakest link in the chain and framing it as an accident.

The murmur filled the air as the silence arose between the trio, Yugi noticing how indifferent the Underworld king seemed to all of Anzu’s statement, making the younger god wonder whether he should worry or be happy about it…

- Is that all you had to say, Anzu? – the king Seto eventually asked through a sigh, the brunette whipping him with an annoyed glare only to nod and return to her spot.  – What do you have to say about this all, Yami?

- Four words: she’s spouting absolute bullshit.

Laughter exploded through the theatre, easing the atmosphere a little and drowning Anzu’s attempt at complaining.

- Majesty, I’ll also have to ask you to mind your language. – Kisara noted through a discreet giggle, the king nodding with a smug smirk on his face.

- I do apologize for my rudeness, I better explain myself properly. – he said as he turned towards the whole council. – Just like Manjoume said, being the king of the Underworld is a tedious and very tricky role to have, mostly because of the whole logistics and work that goes into it. Even if I wanted to take revenge on Anzu, which I don’t, I certainly wouldn’t be so petty as to try and manipulate one of her precious underlings, especially not a god. And to answer the other part of her accusations, surprisingly, I did in fact inherit a lot of powers from my creator, but mind-control isn’t one of them.

Yugi could hear a few sarcastic chuckles and notice Anzu’s distrustful gaze on the king, but neither did Kisara or the king Seto allow any of those to take flight and ruin his testimony.

- How do you explain Yugi’s descent to the Underworld then? – the king asked, the dark monarch locking the eyes with the spring god for only a moment, that gaze somehow making Yugi’s chest slightly at ease.

- It was strange to me at first, mostly because the barrier risen around the Underworld doesn’t allow humans or gods to come in, but he did, and after he, apparently heard someone calling for help directly from the cave that leads to the Underworld.

The murmur became louder once again, Yugi not being able to hear any specific theories, but it all died down once the queen asked her question:

- Did Yugi tell you this? And why does Anzu claim you kept him there against his will?

- Because he ate the white pomegranate on accident. And yes, this very fact has been told to me by him and in my presence.

- Oh just stop lying, Yami! – Anzu exclaimed. – YOU gave him the pomegranate, admit it! Those trees grow so far down in the Underworld there’s no way Yugi’d survive getting to them.

- But he did, ask him. – the king said with that same smug smile as his eyes briefly locked with Anzu’s. – As for the reason he managed to survive that long… don’t you think you have some explaining to do as well? Yugi’s time in the Underworld turned out to be rather… revealing, according to his own words as well.

Anzu immediately backed up and returned to her spot again, the deep frown on her face causing Yugi to intensely stare at her face as if he’ll be able to read her mind if he stared long enough.

- May I ask you one more question, your Majesty? – Kisara said after a long pause.

- Of course, Highness.

- Lady Anzu mentioned you bear a grudge against her and thus you wanted to take her fledgling away from her. Did you ever do anything against his will? Remember, you vowed two millennia ago that would never lie when asked a direct question.

It took Yugi a moment to notice a glowing cross-like mark on the king’s left shoulder, the dark monarch not hesitating to say his next words:

- I would never even think of doing anything against his will, let alone hurt him. Underworld isn’t a place for someone like him but I tried my best to make his stay there as comfortable as possible. And, in a way, I started understanding why everyone cherished him so much…

 Those very words caused a strange shift inside the spring god’s chest as the sudden heat overtook his cheeks and his heart started ramming against his chest, his eyes unable to move away from the older god.

- It’s almost as if little Yugi cast a spell on his own if you know what I mean… - someone behind him said but they were quickly shushed by lady Kisara’s stern gaze.

- This turn of events is rather interesting. – the king Seto eventually noted only to move his blue gaze towards Yugi, that same tense sensation and coldness of his limbs returning to him instantly. – Would you like to tell us what happened, Yugi?

The spring god nodded before taking two steps forward, making sure not to look at either Anzu or the king of the Underworld.

- What his Majesty had said is all true. I’ve been finishing off my spring god duties one day and I suddenly heard someone calling out for help and it seemed the plea was coming from that very particular cave. I did pass through the barrier along with my four companions, Lilybell, Mandrake, Narkissus, and Lycoris, who will all confirm that what I’ve just said is true. We wandered for a long time and because those four started feeling weak from lack of power, I managed to find the pomegranate garden and restored my own power by eating one of the said fruits, not knowing what they were at the time. Lady Carly eventually found me and that’s when they started treating me as a guest. They even allowed me to explain everything to Anzu immediately upon regaining my strength.

- Oh? – Seto gasped dramatically before giving a brunette goddess an intense stare. – You didn’t share that little information. Can anyone confirm this is true?

Yugi looked behind him, noticing both Jack and Akiza have risen their hands, the blonde god saying:

- The call really did happen, your Highness. Both of us were present as they spoke.

- And did you explain to your caretaker what was really going on? – Kisara asked the next question, Yugi nodding frantically before responding.

- Yes, of course! But she wouldn’t listen to me! – he exclaimed. – Please, don’t do anything to the Underworld gods, they’ve been treating me so well and have all been so helpful. And the king… he always made sure I wasn’t in any sort of danger and even… even helped me regain some of my locked memories.

The whole theatre went completely silent as Yugi’s heart dropped deep into his stomach, Anzu’s words carving into his memory like a seal:

- He did a what? What locked memories?

- Yami? – Seto said in a serious tone, the king lost for words for a moment. – What did you do exactly?

Oh no…

- Some of my memories were locked away by Anzu! Memories of me… of me almost killing a group of children after they tried to drown Lilybell and Candina.

- Yugi… nothing like that ever happened, what are you talking about? – Anzu said in a rather calming tone, her seemingly caring gaze riling the young god even more.

- Don’t lie to me, Anzu! I’ve seen it all! Even my powers are locked away by your seal! What are you trying to pull here?!

- Do you see, everyone?! He said he didn’t inherit the mind-control powers, but we all know he can plant false memories into anyone’s head! Don’t you see he’s the villain here?! He manipulated Yugi!

Yugi felt as if he was going to pass out as he heard everyone’s whispers and murmurs again, the remaining trio’s doubtful looks and the king’s silence not helping the situation.

- We both know it’s not true… - the dark monarch eventually said, a growl clearly audible in his undertone. – But you’ll continue this charade just so you can get a revenge on me for rejecting you-

- SILENCE! – Anzu screamed in his face. – You even managed to avoid your own vow on this! That’s a true, cunning ruler of the Underworld for you!

- Lady Anzu, it’s time to stop.

The whole theatre went silent as the god of the moon, Aigami rose on his feet and gained everyone’s attention, causing the goddess to go completely pale.

- Have you forgotten about the fact that I’ve written the scroll of Lord Yugi’s birth and his life up until his descent into the Underworld. Not even I’m sure what had happened, but there is a possibility that what he’s saying is true. It’s written in the scroll.

Everyone gasped and started whispering once again upon this testimony, Yugi suddenly getting an idea.

- I can prove it! I know about the scroll! – he exclaimed as he showed his obsidian ring with a sapphire on top. – I was given this ring by his Majesty so I’d be able to find my own scroll in the Library. I’m sure it’ll lead us to it! We can see whether he really did manipulate my memories or it all really happened.

- Good call, I’ve already forgotten where I’ve stored it. – Aigmai said as he headed towards one of the exits from the theatre and beckoned Yugi to join him, the Big five following soon after and so did the rest of the gods.

Their trip to the Library was short but also the longest few minutes of Yugi’s life, every single sound seeming like an earthquake in his head.

And then his sapphire started glowing, a thin blue line leading everyone towards the goal… only to be confronted by one of Aigami’s attendants, a muscular man in a white slim suit bowing to his master before asking:

- Is there something you need, my Lord?

- We need Yugi’s record, move. – the moon god ordered, but the man only shook his head and continued to block the way.

- I’m afraid you can’t take a look at it, my Lord.

- Neos, what’s going on? - Aigami asked in an annoyed tone as the rest of the council arrived at the scene, all gods now watching the situation unravel.

- Just before the council, this particular wing of the Library caught on fire because of someone’s careless treatment of the holy flames. We tried to save everything we could but the scroll you’re looking for…

Neos then extended his hand, Yugi’s vision becoming red for a moment as he saw an empty sapphire-blue scroll holder.

- … has been completely destroyed.

Chapter Text

As the Equinox Council came to an end and all of the gods exited the main theatre, Mai pinched the bridge of her nose with a sigh. She usually enjoyed drama at these types of gatherings, but that whole Anzu-little Yugi-Yami dynamic really made her stomach churn, mostly after seeing how blank the spring god’s expression was after they’ve returned to the council.

- You think Yugi will be alright?

The blonde goddess barely managed to hold in an urge to jump, Johan appearing literally out of nowhere with his almost ghostly-pale visage.

- I don’t know… - she commented as they walked down the hallway. – It really didn’t seem like he wanted to go back with Anzu. Even Yami seemed shocked once Seto brought the only logical verdict.

Johan frowned and lowered his head, his voice barely audible:

- But it was so obvious what was going on… and their connection, you could feel it too, right, mistress?

- Of course, I could… - she said with a chuckle. – But as much as I hate the fact they have to be pulled apart due to lack of evidence, this is something we shouldn’t be meddling with, especially because two out of the Big Five are having such an intense beef it could cause a literal hurricane.

The turquoise-haired god nodded in response, not saying anything from that point on, making Mai spare him a regretful glance. Still no progress with you either, huh?

But as they were about to step around the corner, Mai noticed a familiar young goddess hidden behind one of the white pillars in the main Sky Temple, her hand beckoning the blonde to come closer.

- Johan, you can go on. I’ll see you in the morning, alright?

The younger seemed confused for a moment but after also noticing the young goddess hiding behind the pillar, she nodded knowingly and flew away. Mai then slowly walked up to her, noticing the goddess’s rather fidgety demeanor.

- Shizuka? – the blonde said with a gentle voice. – What’s the matter? Do you need a favor?

- I… uh… w-well… please don’t get angry with me, Lady Mai.

The goddess chuckled before putting her hand around the other’s shoulder, feeling the brunette’s body tensing up.

- It’s impossible for you to do anything to make me angry, so don’t worry. Say whatever is in your heart!

Shizuka locked eyes with the older goddess for a moment before taking a deep breath and whispering out:

- I… I know you’re visiting Joey Wheeler and that… you and Lord Aster almost caused a fuss two months ago…

Mai was frozen for a short moment only to have her brows frown as she looked down at the brunette, not noticing any malevolent intention in her expression or any hidden meanings in her voice.

- And why do you know it? – she asked in a cautious manner, the goddess jolting slightly at the sound of her voice.

- W-well… I… I also visit him… quite frequently… but I’m not… coming close to him… - Shizuka admitted as she fiddled with her hands before grabbing onto the robes that started gathering around her waist. – Back when that happened, I… I followed Lord Aster and him into that café and… saw everything…

The blonde goddess grinded her teeth and tightened a grip around the girl’s shoulder slightly but still tried to contain herself as much as possible. But then, Shizuka took her hand and pulled her towards the central fountain in the main Sky Temple, the older being speechless for a second.

- And before you ask, Lady Mai: I’m not following him because I like him… - the brunette admitted as they finally reached the fountain and she sat down, Mai reluctantly following through.

- Then why? – she probed, the younger goddess now looking her directly in the eyes.

- Because he’s my blood brother.

For the second time in only a few minutes, Mai was left completely flabbergasted, not sure how to react and not to draw the attention of the gods that still remained in the shrine. So, instead of exclaiming a loud what?!, she scooted closer to Shizuka and whisper-yelled:

- H-how the hell?! He’s a human! How’s that possible?!

Shizuka chuckled at her question before looking away, her fingers intertwining as the sound of flowing water in the fountain filled the tense silence that arose between them.

- I know, right? But that’s how it is. I myself don’t know much about it and how we managed to be related, but I do know that me and Joey were sort of an… experiment for Master Dartz.

- An experiment?

Brunette nodded, her face tensing up for a moment before she turned towards Mai and said in a barely audible whisper:

- This is not well-known information… and please, don’t spread it, I’ll get in trouble. But because you’re so close to Joey… I think you should know what’s really going on.

- I mean… I course I won’t tell anyone, I’m just intrigued with how such an occurrence is even possible! What did that bastard do to you two?!

Shizuka bit down onto her lip before looking away, a long moment of silence washing over them once again.

- As I said, I don’t know all the details… but apparently, after the Rebellion, when you, remaining gods, went out to look for us that weren’t born yet, his Majesty Seto and her grace Anzu had found Lord Dartz’s secret… laboratory, I suppose? There was me, laying in my own shell, another god that was taken care of by Anzu… and a frozen human embryo.

- What the actual hell.,.. – Mai gasped silently. – What did he want with the embryo?!

- Apparently, he was experimenting with his power right before the rebellion and wondered… if he could get a god-human hybrid. And so he used some of Yubel’s essence and light materia to first create me, a full-fledged goddess, and then inject that same substance into an unborn human embryo. I know all of this because his Highness Seto and her Highness Kisara had told me about it once Joey was born and I felt his presence-

- But wait, how the hell is he alive?! That’s been two thousand years ago!

Shizuka chuckled at the older’s pushiness, her expression, and tries to hold down her voice lightening the mood a little bit.

- The embryo has remained frozen for those two millennia, the king didn’t even want for my brother to be born, not after such… cruel way he came to be, apparently. Twenty three years ago, someone had stolen the container with the embryo and, apparently, a human woman unable to conceive naturally got injected with this very embryo and my brother was born nine months later. – the brunette chuckled before she brought her hands up to her face, Mai only then noticing tears rolling down her face. – I can’t even explain to you the joy I was feeling when I felt another life being born with the same materia in him I also possessed… and despite what their royal Highnesses said… I was happy to have a brother… even if he was trapped in a human body.

The blonde slowly closed the distance between them and gave the other goddess a warm and gentle hug, her hand rubbing circles on the other’s back as she continued to silently sob.

- But, Shizuka, it’s not forbidden for you to go and see him, if you take the human form that is… - Mai reminded with a silent voice while coming the other’s long brown hair, Shizuka soon shaking her head:

- For me it is. I’ve committed a taboo seventeen years ago and… I’m physically pushed away from him by a seal.

- What the… why?!

- Well… I had a habit of sneaking into the garden of the house Joey had grew up in and when he became a little older, I’d disguise myself as an even younger girl so we could play together… but one day, I prevented a very serious injury from happening, his sixth sense for detecting gods has been awakened, his parents spooked and I had a stern talking-to from their Highnesses… who forbid me from contacting him ever again. Even his Majesty the king of the Underworld had to send in Lady Ishizu to erase Joey’s memories of me…

Shizuka’s sobs only intensified, the older goddess now fully leaning on her as she made sure no one could see them.

But to think that someone was actually condemned in such a way because they violated a taboo… and it wasn’t even for selfish reasons either, Shizuka only wanted to have contact with her brother…

- You know, when I heard you are close to him, I was happy… - the brunette muttered. – Despite your reputation… the way Joey looked at you and behaved around you… it gave me peace, I could see he was content with the world… So I stopped you to ask you... please keep looking after him for my sake.

Mai smiled tenderly before giving the younger goddess another warm embrace and handing her a handkerchief to wipe away her still running tears.

- I can’t promise anything, but as long as he’s with me, he’ll be safe.

Shizuka chuckled sweetly, the two goddesses exchanging a few more words before parting ways, Mai’s head still spinning from the information she had just received. She knew from the beginning Dartz was an irredeemable bastard, but to use his own living creations for experimentation… now that’s beyond terrible.

And because of such a decision on his part… siblings have been torn apart, literally unable to get in contact ever again.

And even if she was to do something to help Shizuka and Joey meet again… who knows how both of them will handle it. I better not meddle with this…

I have a promise to keep…

***

Judai was just lazing around in his bed when he heard a light knock at his door, the prince not even caring for his disheveled look as Alister and Julia walked in.

- Heya, little bro! – the princess said before sitting onto his bed, the younger only giving her a smile and a wave in response. – Cheer up a little, I bring you news from the temple of Ryou!

- Oh? Has he decided he’ll be dismantling this good-for-nothing royal family? – Judai said sarcastically before throwing himself back onto the mattress, his sister slapping him across the leg.

- It’s not his job to do that and be a little bit serious now. This concerns you as well.

The younger groaned when he was pulled back up by Julia, the princess eventually needing Alister to assist her.

- Ow! That hurts! – Judai yelped as his bodyguard grabbed him against the shoulders and sat him up, the brunette slightly disturbed by the calmness and quietness the other man was exuding. – What’s with that, Alister? You usually always have something to say.

The burgundy-haired man only clicked his tongue at him and turned to Julia, his voice as emotionless as his face:

- I’ll be waiting in front of the door if you need me.

The princess nodded and directed all of her attention to Judai, the younger following his bodyguard with his eyes until he closed the door shut.

- What’s with that jerk? Is he sulking because I’ve been in bed most of the time or something?

- Well, I wouldn’t blame him. – Julia retorted before crossing her arms. – I knew you were lazy but this is a new level-

- I’m depressed, okay? I have no motivation for anything and I just want to sleep. Not even egg sandwiches can make me feel better… but you don’t care about it, do you?

- I do care, Judai, but this is important. – Julia said before scooting closer to her little brother. – Let’s make a deal: first let’s discuss state business and then tell me what is bothering you, deal? I’ll try to help you.

The prince hesitated for a moment only to nod in acceptance, Julia sparing him a cheeky grin before turning back into her serious tone:

- Well… his Grace Ryou considers both of us worthy candidates for the throne and he wants us to play a game of our choosing in which we’ll decide on the new ruler. He’s fine with either of us.

- I don’t want to. You should be the ruler.

- Judai! This is a serious matter! No matter what you want or don’t want, we still need to have an official, approved duel! That’s the wish of the god in charge of protecting the kings!

- I get it all but… you’re so much better choice than me. Look at what I do: I spend all my time in bed because I got dumped…

The princess was dumbfounded for a moment only to let out an exhausted sigh.

- So it’s a lovesickness, huh? What happened?

Judai pulled his legs up to his chest and leaned on his knees, his vision becoming blurry all of a sudden.

- I can’t tell you much… but we had a secret relationship in which I couldn’t know his true identity… and once I realized who he was, he ran away because he’d apparently “put me in danger”.

Julia paled the moment she heard those words, the younger immediately shooting:

- He’s not a criminal! I promise he’s not! It’s just kinda… confidential…

- A celebrity? Actually, whatever, I don’t like the sound of it! No true relationship should be hidden from others because of fear! Then you don’t start a relationship!

- It’s kinda complicated, Jula…. I started understanding his fear, especially considering the laws he lives under… but it still feels as if my heart’s been ripped out of my chest and squished on the day he left. I… I just don’t know what to do and how to escape this misery…

The princess looked down at her younger brother, her expression soon changing from the tensed-up one to the tender one, her hand ruffling Judai’s fluffy hair.

- How about you ask the gods for help? That can’t really make anything worse, right?

Judai’s eyes widened slightly as he remembered Johan’s true identity. Johan… the god of Lust and a love shooter… a god who works for Mai, goddess of love…

And Johan… also had a temple in the Indigo shrine…

- Sis, you’re a genius! – the brunette exclaimed before he bolted into the princess’s embrace, Julia barely being able to breathe. – How about this: I go to the temple for advice today and then we talk about that duel, what do you think?!

The older chuckled before once again ruffling Judai’s hair, not sure in which way her advice helped him exactly. But to see him smile again after almost two months… it was something precious.

- Alright, it’s a deal.

Chapter Text

Once all of the gods have returned to the Underworld, the heavy atmosphere was carried over the entire realm, even Bakura being out of smart things to say.

But despite trying to keep his composure, the king of the Underworld could feel his heartbreaking at the sight of Yugi’s blank expression, his round purple eyes completely empty and robbed of any kind of joy whatsoever.

- So… this is my last night in the Underworld… - he muttered once the duo reached the guest-chamber, Gandora already fast asleep in the corner of the room.

- For now, yes. – the king spoke in a quiet, gentle voice after closing the door. – But you don’t need to worry. Seto will not let this go easily. Anzu only managed to worm her way out of the situation due to lack of evidence against her-

- I really hate her…

The king was baffled for a moment before walking up to the bed and sitting on it next to the younger god, Yugi already on the verge of tears.

- I understand your feelings, but knowing her, she probably has a good reason for such-

- Stop trying to defend her, Majesty. – the younger persisted. – She framed you as a villain once again… and used my slip of the tongue to ruin us both… and for what? A beef that you two have for the two millennia…

- I could’ve probably done something more to prevent this… - the king noted in an exhausted tone, looking away from Yugi for a short moment. – Maybe, if I reached out to her first-

- Stop trying to make excuses for her! – Yugi snapped as he grabbed the older by his shoulders, surprising the king with the strength he showcased. – She kept silent about my still unknown origin, about the incident where I almost killed a group of children! Probably manipulated the minds of my fairies… and she still doesn’t want to take responsibility for any of it! I don’t want to go back!

The king sighed again before shaking younger’s hands off of himself and going in for a warm embrace instead, Yugi breaking down in that very moment as he leaned his face onto the other’s wide shoulder.

- I don’t want you to go back either, Yugi. Especially not like this… - he whispered as the younger continued to weep, his grip against the older’s robes tightening more and more. – And I’m frustrated I can’t do anything to help you because of our restrictions… but please, have faith in our king and queen. They’ll help you however they can… and you’ll soon be free. Free to decide whether you wanted to remain in the Earthly realm… or here, with me.

Yugi straightened up for a moment, his eyes red and cheeks puffy, only to close the distance between them and initiate a slow, intimate kiss, his hands holding onto the older for his dear life.

- I’m sick of this… - the younger said into the kiss as the tears continued to flow. – But I’ll believe you… I won’t give up on this…

- Good boy…

After a few more pecks, the two gods just remained in each other’s embrace for a while, Yugi slowly regaining his composure as the king’s scent occupied his every sense.

- I’m… I’m afraid she’ll try to mess with my brain again once I go back… - the spring god admitted. – I still have her seal on my full power… and she may even put a new spell on me-

- She won’t. – the king responded in a confident tone, his hands bringing the younger even closer. – We, as the Big Five, maybe are able to cast the seals on someone’s powers and memories, but considering Anzu’s domain, her power is limited. Sure, she can make the whole earth burn if she so wishes, but she can’t manipulate someone’s memories like I can to an extent. She can only cast seals and only once if we’re talking about the god like you.

Yugi sighed with relief before leaning onto the king’s chest and remaining silent for a while, the older’s cold hand on the back of his head feeling incredibly soothing.

- And even despite Anzu’s presence, aren’t you happy you’ll see your little fairy friends again? How about Akiza, Jack and Fubuki? Did you miss them?

- I did… - the younger admitted. – The grape harvest will soon come to an end and then… we’ll have to take care of the apple harvest too… even though the spring is over, we still have a lot of work to do.

-  Will you be helping Fubuki with the winter preparations?

- Don’t you know? – Yugi said in a rather bitter tone. – Because of Fubuki’s relationship with Zane, Anzu forbid him from ever making it snow anywhere on the continent. Apparently, Zane caused a lot of trouble for Anzu during that war that happened hundred years ago and since then… they’re not on good terms. But Fubuki refused to give up on Zane and retreated on mountain tops about fifty years ago… I barely see him except when it’s time for Equinox council…

The king of the Underworld shook his head at that information, seeing it wasn’t only him who was under constant fire from the agriculture goddess.

- What a power couple… - he said jokingly. – Did it affect humans in any way?

Yugi nodded as he now slipped down and leaned onto the king’s thighs, his eyes still slightly red but no tears were flowing anymore.

- There has been one company… that used to produce very delicious wine made from grapes that are harvested during snowy December… I tried it; it’s incredibly sweet and delicious. But after that penalty fifty years ago… that company closed down. And I can’t even remember what snow feels like…

- So she keeps terrorizing you guys, as well… - the king commented as his hand started rubbing calming circles onto Yugi’s shoulder while his other hand got buried in his golden bangs. – That whole Rebellion must’ve really changed her… when she took care of me, she was somewhat sweet and caring…

- What actually happened between you two?

The king bit his tongue for a moment, not sure whether it was his place to speak about it, but after seeing Yugi laying on his thighs and looking up at him, remembering this could be their last night together, he sighed and said:

- She nursed me back to health after I was rescued from the Cave of Screams. We also fought together on the front lines against Dartz and his lackeys on a few occasions… but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I refused to give her my true name…

- Your name?

- Yes. – the king leaned back a little, his hand still buried in younger’s bangs. – You see, unlike other gods, my real name isn’t known to many, mostly because it has a certain magical ability to teleport me wherever the person who called me out is. The downside of that is: wherever I go, creatures start dying, my very presence in the mortal realm being sort of toxic for everything around me. And even though only the royal couple actually knows my name, they know that they can only use it when there is no other option. My name unlocks my absolute power and I decided to only give it to those I trust the most.

Yugi gasped at those words, a realization finally sinking in.

- S-so-

- Yes, she was angry because I didn’t trust her enough to give her my name at the time. – the king said before winking, his hand now sliding over to the younger’s face as he gently caressed his pale cheek. – I didn’t really see it as a big deal at the time… but she did take it personally. And I was fine when she suggested for my movements to be restricted to the Underworld, we can’t risk my powers causing the carnage… but then she turned onto my subjects and that’s when it really became nasty.

The spring god nodded in understanding, his eyes closing shut for a moment as he got on his side, not raising his head from the king’s lap for even a moment.

- Now I understand why you told me about the soul corruption and gods that fall in the trap of their own desires… this was truly a wake-up call for me…

- I’m sorry you had to experience it the hard way-

- No, it’s fine. – the spring god insisted. – Now I know not even those I cared about can be faulty and do nasty things… I’ve learned my lesson.

The king let out another sigh as he caressed the younger’s head, Yugi closing his eyes and scooting even closer to the older god.

- May I… ask you one thing, your Majesty?

- Yes, of course.

- Can you… can you sleep next to me tonight? I don’t want to be alone…

The older smiled tenderly before leaning forward and giving Yugi a gentle kiss on the temple.

- Of course… but do you mind if we stay like this for a while longer?

- Not at all… your lap is the best cushion.

Both gods giggled before the silence enveloped the dark bedroom, the two of them trapped in their own thoughts as the minutes passed by mercilessly, their time running shorter and shorter.

But there was one thing both of them knew: there is no way they’ll give up on fighting. Not even if it was the last thing they’ll do in their lives…

***

- I guess that’s it then, huh? – Mana said with teary eyes as she and all other gods except Shadi and Bakura came to the main gate of the Underworld to see Yugi off, the spring god giving them a tender smile before bowing down to all of them, with his left hand above his chest.

- It was a pleasure to be in your care and I’ll never forget your hospitality. You really made my stay in your realm worthwhile and I hope we’ll see each other again soon. And look after Gandora for me... I hope she's not mad I had to leave.

The Underworld gods exchanged looks and smiled back at the younger god, each of them giving a warm embrace to him.

- She's a big girl, she'll wait for you. - Ishizu said after she and the younger exchanged the embrace, the spring god feeling a bit more at ease about leaving his dear dragon with them. 

And when the king’s turn came, the dark monarch firmly embraced the younger before placing a gentle, yearning kiss on his forehead, causing Yugi to blush all over.

- Stay well, Yugi. And if anything happens… you know what to do.

The spring god nodded and got up on his toes, pecking the king on the cheek and stepping away, the older now being left in a daze as he reached for his own cheek with a tint of red covering his nose.

- I’ll see you all soon… I promise.

With those words, Mana opened the barrier and the spring god stepped onto the cold ground, the wisteria he helped so many months ago now just a naked tree, ready for hibernation over winter months. Yugi turned, giving everyone one last wave before turning and leaping into the forest, five familiar faces soon emerging from the trees.

- MASTER! – Narkissus, Mandrake and Nightshade exclaimed before flying right up in Yugi’s face and hair, their whimpers of joy causing the young god to giggle.

- I’m back… - he whispered as he gently held them close to his face, rubbing their heads with his fingers. – Have you been behaving?

- We were! We prepared everything for your return! – Mandrake exclaimed, the other two nodding enthusiastically.

- Welcome back, Yugi.

The young god rose his eyes only to see the goddess of the hunt in her full glory, a tender smile present on her face as she ruffled Yugi’s hair.

- Happy to see you, Akiza. Have you been well?

- I have and now I’m even better. We really missed you. – the goddess said with a cheerful tone as she took younger’s hand to lead him forward. – Jack is busy at the moment but he’ll be back by the sunset. He wanted for you to try some exquisite grapes humans offered him yesterday.

- I can’t wait! – the spring god exclaimed, only then noticing his former caretaker approaching them, her blue eyes cold and never-changing.

- Welcome back, Yugi. I really missed you! Have you been-

The younger stepped back and rose his hand, his expression as blank and disinterested as if he looked at the stone under his foot. In a cold tone, she muttered:

- Don’t come any closer to me, Anzu. I really don’t want to see you right now…

Brunette’s expression fell for a moment only for her eyes to start burning, her voice shaking slightly as she asked:

- Did he tell you something about me? You do realize I only want the best for you-

- Akiza, how are your roses? Did you get any pretty ones this year?

The burgundy-haired goddess was caught off guard for a moment but she still giggled nervously and responded:

- Actually yes! I’ve recently planted a bush of beautiful lilac ones. I’ve put them in your garden so you can enjoy them as well.

Yugi smiled at the goddess, completely ignoring fuming Anzu behind his back as he grabbed Akiza’s hand and pulled her this time around.

- I can’t wait to see them…

Chapter Text

As the sudden rain started pouring, Joey exited his small kitchen and entered the living room, barely managing to close the wide window before any of the raindrops came down on his dragon figurines. With a sigh of relief, he returned to the kitchen, the last bits of fried chicken almost being done.

But before he could take care of the salad for his dinner, a doorbell rang, making a blonde frown. Who’d come here on Sunday?

- Just a minute! – he exclaimed before turning off the stove and taking out fried chicken, not even aware he still wore an apron around his neck. – May I help y- Maya?!

- Hello, masterchef! – she said with a giggle while trying to shake off the raindrops from her luscious hair, her whole outfit soaking wet.

Joey couldn’t help but stare at her curves, clearly feeling his cheeks going ablaze. But luckily, there was something else that took his attention…

- What’s with that box? Got something for me?

- Actually, the delivery man was about to enter and bring this to you so I picked it up. – she admitted as the man finally let her into the apartment, the blonde immediately taking off her soaking knee-high boots. – It’s from someone with the same last name as you-

- Oh, must be mom! – he exclaimed as he snatched the box out of her hands, Maya’s act of taking off those booths causing the man’s gut to boil on the inside. – Make yourself comfortable, please. I’ll bring you slippers and two towels!

- You’re awfully enthusiastic. Did you expect me? – she giggled with a wink before taking off her purple sleeveless jacket, now only wearing a black, crop-top and purple short pants.

- N-no, I just have to be a good host… what brings you’re here anyway?! – he said from the kitchen before returning to the narrow hallway and pulling two towels out of the tall wardrobe, handing them over to the girl with a face red as a tomato.

- I had… some business to attend and I got caught by the rain. Your house was close so I thought I’d drop by.

- I thought goddesses aren’t bothered by the rain. – he joked before disappearing in the kitchen again, the lightning soon striking in the distance and making them both jump. – Looks like your boss is pissed for some reason…

- I don’t blame him… - she muttered as she leaned onto the entrance to the kitchen, her hand lazily wiping away the raindrops from her hair. – A lot’s been happening lately and we’re all kind of on the edge… but I can’t tell you more.

- That’s okay, I don’t want to risk being smitten by that nasty lightning-

Another thunder struck pretty close to the apartment this time around, leaving both of them speechless for a moment before they both burst into laughter, Joey only then noticing his guest must’ve been freezing…

- D-do you want me to borrow you something to wear? You’re trembling…

The goddess seemed surprised by that suggestion but eventually chuckled and said:

- How thoughtful of you. Sure, but only until my stuff dries up.

- Wait here a second, I’ll bring you something… - he said as he slowly passed by her, their chest touching for a brief moment before the man disappeared into the hallway, the goddess well-aware of her heart going crazy in her chest.

As she waited, Mai entered the kitchen and noticed he must’ve just been in the middle of preparing his lunch, a whole stack of freshly-made fried chicken on the stove next to the still-boiling egg, rice cooker wide open with steaming rice inside and a bag of vegetables on the opposite side. I really know how to pick the time…

- Here, this is my biggest hoodie. It’ll cover you completely once you undress. – he said as he handed her the blue pile of fabric, the goddess giggling once again after bringing the clothing close to her chest and nose.

- You just wanted to undress me, huh, Joseph?

- What?! I… I mean… well, your clothes soaking wet and I don’t want you to get sick- I mean! I don’t even know if you gods can catch a cold-

- You’re rambling again. – she said with another giggle. – Don’t worry, I’m just teasing you. Be right back.

With the girl gone from his sight, Joey leaned onto the counter and let out a loud sigh of exhaustion, his heart about to give out from the sheer amount of charm and sex appeal the goddess was radiating.

But there was no time for lazing around. He had a guest at home after all!

A few minutes later the goddess exited the bathroom, wearing nothing but a large blue hoodie while carrying her wet clothes in her hands. Joey had to stop for a moment and take a breath after seeing her in such attire, her legs looking even more attractive than usual…

- Kitty got your tongue, Joey?

The man shook his head and focused on setting the table for the two, well-aware he must be even redder than before.

- S-sorry... – he stuttered only to hear her giggle again, the man quickly thinking of something, anything to say before he dies from embarrassment… or a nosebleed. – There’s a drying rack in the corner next to the window. You can put it there and position it next to the heater, it’ll be dry in no time.

The goddess did as instructed, Joey once again disappearing into the kitchen to finish up the lunch and finally be able to cool himself off a little.

- Sorry for barging on your lunch, now I feel embarrassed. – the girl said once they sat at the table with the meal in front of them and Joey filling up their bowls with rice.

- No need to feel like that, Maya. I was about to spend lunch in front of the TV so you saved me today. I got to interact with someone. – he said with a cheeky grin before giving her another bowl filled with chicken broth and cooked carrots, the goddess sipping the warm substance with pleasure.

- Don’t you go around with Valon and Tristan on days off? You say you usually have the same shifts and the same days off.

The man stopped for a moment while giving both of them their share of fried chicken, his expression suddenly becoming rather tense.

- Well… we do usually do that… we eat something together or go for drinks… but as of recently, Valon’s been acting kinda… weird.

- Weird how? – the goddess questioned with her eyebrows frowned while accepting the salad bowl filled with shredded cabbage, cucumbers, and one half of a soft-boiled egg.

-  I don’t know… - Joey muttered before picking up his chopsticks. – I’ve told you Valon had a pretty long sick leave this summer… over three weeks and no one knew why he was feeling like that. Both I and Tristan went to visit him almost every day and everything seemed fine. But when he returned to work… I dunno, he became a real jerk.

- But aren’t you always bickering?

- Yeah, but not like this. He intentionally says things that hit below the belt and seems like he always wants to pick a fight, be it verbally or with his fists. Tristan would always ask him to join us for dinner after the shifts are over but he’d always say he has to stay in longer or would just spit a random insult… and he wouldn’t talk to either of us about it. It’s really frustrating to the point I want to beat him up to a pulp hoping that will bring him back to his senses…

The goddess frowned even deeper at that information, knowing that this trio maybe bickered a lot but when it mattered, they’d always work together and support each other. Valon maybe had a loud and foul mouth, but she knew he was a good guy who cared for his friends.

Maybe she should take a look at what’s happening with him-

- Let’s eat, I don’t want to worry you about this any further. It’s our problem-

- Sorry, Joey, but it’s my problem too. Have you forgotten I’m also a part of your gang despite being of divine origin? I also want to help… in any way I can.

The blonde gave her a tender smile only for that very smile to turn into a cheeky grin, Mai suddenly aware he’s holding a piece of fried chicken in front of her face.

- We’ll make a whole plan later, now eat! – he insisted, the smell of the fried meat causing the goddess’s stomach to growl loudly which only prompted her to open her mouth and take a bite, aware she must be red all over.

They continued to eat in silence for a while with only an occasional comment on the food, the plates and bowls soon empty and cleaned.

- Do you want a dessert?

- Sure, I’d love to. – she said with a smile before becoming serious again, her voice lowering as she asked: - And your headaches? How have you been?

There was a short silence before the man returned to the dining room with a package he had gotten earlier, the wrapper already off and revealing a pink box filled with… cookies?

- I’ve been okay, I still have them occasionally but they’re not as bad as they used to be. – he said before taking off the cardboard lid and offering the box to the goddess, Mai giggling at heart, star and flower-shaped cookies with colorful icings and other sweet decorations.

- These are so cute, do you have a sister or something? – she poked after picking a star-shaped cookie with white and pink icing, the raspberry flavor literally exploding in her mouth.

Joey giggled reluctantly before taking another star-shaped cookie, this one with yellow icing, and put it whole in his mouth.

- These are actually made by my mom, she loves baking and is sending me these types of things occasionally, she lives only an hour away from here. – he said absent-mindedly, his eyebrows suddenly frowning as he hissed in pain. – Ah, here it is. Headache is back…

- Why now?! – the goddess questioned innocently despite knowing the cause of his pain but also conflicted about how to behave… especially after her talk with Shizuka three days ago.

- Have no idea… am probably missing fresh air, that’s all… I sometimes also have these horrible headaches whenever I dream about a brown-haired girl in a yellow dress… and in that dream, both of us are always little kids and we play tag or karuta… pretty weird, huh?

- Maybe and maybe not… - Mai said before putting her hand on his forehead, his face slowly relaxing as she drew the pain from his head. – Maybe you should visit the Indigo shrine soon, maybe the gods in it will be able to tell you what’s happening.

-Good idea but which temple should I go to? Is there a god in charge of dreams?

- There is, actually… her name is Shizuka, I’m sure you’ve heard of her.

Joey thought for a moment before hissing in pain once again, his voice trembling:

- A… a goddess of dance? Didn’t know she’s in charge of dreams too…

- Not many people know it, but it’s her jurisdiction. She can tell you if your brain is only projecting something from the past or… if you have to look out for the dreams because some events may come true. It’s less likely, but you won’t know until you ask her.

Joey chuckled again before leaning into her hand even more, their breaths mixing and Mai feeling his warmth on her face.

- That’s a true goddess for you, always knowing little secrets us mortals aren’t supposed to know.

Mai chuckled at that comment before taking a heart-shaped cookie with lilac icing and offering it to the man, Joey biting into it enthusiastically.

She maybe did hint at her young friend’s name… but it was up to destiny and Joey’s own decision whether he’ll actually visit Shizuka’s shrine… and whether he’ll recognize her…

***

Mai finally exited Joey’s building in the early evening, the stars already lighting up the sky as the rain clouds completely disappeared, the fresh scent of the rain on the ground being rather soothing.

Despite her best efforts, Joey continued to have a pretty strong headache throughout her visit, and the only thing she could do was sit with him on the couch and holding her hand on his head, the man soon falling asleep in her lap.

In those quiet moments, the goddess of love wondered whether Shizuka’s been observing them and whether she was happy with what she’s seeing... and also whether she approves of the fact Mai’s drastically affecting Joey’s destiny, despite the taboo.

She told herself she’ll be more careful when around her favorite human, but every time Joey would speak to her, her composure and her resolve would completely melt away, those brown eyes of his casting some kind of spell on her. The power he had over her was somewhat scary…

- Mistress?

The goddess frowned upon hearing a familiar female voice in her head, barely managing to keep her voice in.

- Paladin? What’s the matter?

- We have a special request for your appearance in the temple.

- Didn’t I say I won’t take such requests-

- It’s prince Judai, Mistress…

Mai’s jaw dropped on the floor for a second only for her to start laughing hysterically in the middle of the street, not caring for the people that gave her confused looks. Well, would you look at that…

- I’ll be right there, Paladin. Make him feel comfortable…

Chapter Text

Judai tapped his foot as he waited for any kind of response from the love goddess, the gentle pink color of the stone under his feet stinging him in the eyes for some reason.

The prince never thought he'd need an audience with the Mai of all gods, but after trying to reach Johan in his own temple for four days straight, he knew he had to take drastic measures. He just hoped all of those speeches and thoughts of not needing love won’t come and bite him in the a-

- Bow down, mortal. Her Grace shall now appear before you. – the tall blonde lady in tribal clothes spoke, the prince immediately lowering down to his right foot, the right hand above his chest.

The light breeze soon washed over him, the scent of lavender evading his nose. He could feel his body tremble, but not in the same way as when he was near Johan. Although Johan too was a god, the presence of a love goddess cause the brunette to sweat profusely, his heart dropping in his stomach.

She’d definitely be able to crush him if she felt like it…

- Raise your head, mortal prince. – a deep, sophisticated female voice spoke to Judai, the prince feeling chills run down his spine.

He shakily stood up, the breath stopping in his throat once he lied eyes on the goddess before him. She was slightly taller than him, her luscious blonde hair falling down her back as her curves and seemingly soft skin were rather noticeable under and above her pink robes. The air around her was alluring yet threatening, Judai gulping once he locked eyes with her even for a moment, their purple color causing him to fidget with his hands.

- I- I’m honored to be in your presence, your-

- Don’t lie, Yuki Judai.

The prince paled at her words, the goddess’s eyes sharpening as her aura shifted again, now radiating nothing but annoyance.

- I know you’ve been disrespecting my line of work ever since you became a teenager. Honestly, your words really hurt me. – Mai noted before getting closer to the brunette, her lavender scent now stinging the prince’s nose and eyes. – I thought it was quite a shame, you’re a true beauty and almost perfect. Your face is pretty and symmetrical, your body has a perfect ratio of everything and your personality is appealing… yet you refused to yield to the feelings of love. What a true waste.

The goddess then reached out and caressed the prince’s face, Judai, gulping once again as his skin crawled at her touch, her long nails tracing the line of his jaw until her index finger stopped right above his Adam’s apple, applying slight, stinging pressure.

Judai tried to mutter an apology, but her finger on his throat itched his need to cough so he remained silent. He didn’t need to cough at the goddess’s face…

- I know you’re sorry, you wouldn’t be here otherwise. – she muttered before removing her hand and turning around, Judai grabbing his throat and trying his best to hold in his coughing. – So, why did you ask for my audience?

The brunette’s mind was blank for a moment, questioning whether this was really a good idea considering how angry the goddess was… but then Johan’s sleeping form flashed before his eyes and he frowned.

Judai then took a deep breath and bowed in his waist to the goddess, his voice loud and audible:

- Please let me see Johan!

There was a moment of silence in the temple of the love goddess before Mai burst into fits of laughter, Judai barely being able to control the trembling of his body as his hands balled into fists.

- And why in the world would I do that? Are you aware of the fact the gods aren’t allowed to interact with humans outside their temples? Why not ask for an audience with him, hm?

- I already did but… - the brunette stuttered, very aware of the goddess’s mocking tone. – But he refuses to see me. Every single time.

- Oh, what a terrible predicament. – Mai sighed with fake concern, the prince biting his tongue with annoyance. – And why do you want to see him?

- I… I… I fell in love with him… - Judai said bluntly before closing his eyes, expecting to get struck with something over the head. But instead of it, he was greeted by nothing but silence once again…

- Are you sure he didn’t use one of his arrows on you? they’re pretty powerful if he uses the right kind of magic-

- I’m sure he didn’t! – the prince insisted, his back hurting from staying in a bowed position for so long. – I… I’ve seen all of his arrows… and while he was in my presence… he never used or had the bow on him. I’m sure… these feelings are real… it’s not magic…

Another long silence arose in the temple, Judai suddenly feeling a strong force lifting his upper torso and causing him to straighten his back, the bones cracking and causing a wave of pain to rush down the prince’s body.

- You really piss me off. – she muttered as the brunette rubbed his lower back, her gaze ablaze as she shot all the hatred the prince’s way.  – First, you disrespect me and my very existence and when I send Johan to mess you up with a stupid troll curse, you render him useless just by your presence. You’ve caused me nothing but annoyance and anger this whole damn time.

A troll curse? Sending Johan to…

Oh…

- It was because of you. – Judai said in an expressionless tone, his whole body suddenly going numb as he stared at the blonde goddess. – It’s your fault Johan ran away from me… why he cried so much and why he was so afraid… It’s all your fault.

Mai stared at him for a short moment in disbelief before materializing in front of him and grabbing him by the face, Judai grunting and grasping onto her wrist once she lifted him in the air.

- Don’t forget where you are, foolish mortal. I could turn you into ashes just for this so you’ll never see Johan again… but it’d still be a waste to just kill you off, especially because you’re willing to go through these lengths just for him. It really flatters me.

The prince grunted again as he flapped his legs in the air, the goddess finally releasing him and letting his body fall limply onto the floor, Judai’s face still burning on places where she dug her nails into his skin.

- So you’ll have to prove yourself worthy of Johan. – the goddess said before turning around, a pink envelope suddenly appearing in her hand. – Even though he’s my underling, I consider him as precious as a little brother. If you really mean what you said, I’ll arrange for the two of you to meet.

- R-really? – Judai said with a frown, not believing a word the goddess had said.

But then the blonde faced him again and with her right hand drew a glowing, cross-like marking on her left shoulder.

- I swear on my godliness that I shall let the two of you meet if you pass my tests.

The mark soon faded away and for whatever reason, the prince could feel she’s telling the truth and really meant what she had said. So he picked himself up and extended his hand, the goddess handing him the pink envelope.

- Inside you’ll find your two tasks. If you complete them in two days’ time, I’ll allow you to see Johan. The first task is already written inside and only when you complete it and bring what is requested in this temple will the second task appear. Have fun.

With those words, the goddess literally disappeared in a wall of smoke, the muscular blonde woman in tribal clothes being the only one in the temple with the prince.

- Do you need anything else, good sire? – she questioned with a bow, completely ignoring the exchange she had just witnessed.

- No, thank you. I’ve seen everything I needed to see…. – the brunette muttered before greeting the oracle and exiting the temple while gripping onto the pink envelope.

Her whole behavior really pissed Judai off, so much that he had to fight the urge to break something despite being on the shrine grounds.

And still… this was his only way to see and talk to Johan again.

As the curiosity got the better of him, the prince opened the envelope and unfolded the paper, neat golden letters evenly spread across the page.

- Oh you gotta be kidding me… - Judai muttered with a suppressed anger as he rubbed his eyes and stuffed the paper in the back pocket of his pants, not even aware a pair of round red eyes observed him from the distance.

That woman… is definitely mad…

***

Early next morning, Judai exited one of his family’s luxurious jeeps, the icy wind hitting in the face despite it being the end of September. But, he had now entered the territory of Northern Mountains, the kingdom of snow god, Fubuki…

- You can go, Alister. I’ll contact you once I finish everything.

The burgundy-head only nodded and sped off, Judai shaking his head at his friend’s behavior once again. He then proceeded to unpack his climbing gear, hoping he still possessed the skill to climb the main mountain… and that he won’t be attacked by any of Fubuki’s attendants that were guarding that area.

Once he was all set, the prince took out the pink paper from his bag, the wing almost blowing it away as he checked the first order.

Bring me one of the diamond scales of one of Fubuki’s dragons.

The brunette cursed both the goddess and himself before putting on the ski goggles and covering his mouth with a thick cloth. This is for Johan… remember, this is all for Johan…

You have to see him…

- Stop right there, Your Highness!

Judai froze in the spot, thinking he’s already been caught by one of the snow god’s attendants… but then a beautiful white horse with wide wings and blue horn entered his view, the creature landing gracefully right in front of him despite the strong winds.

The horse then bowed its head and spoke again, stunning the prince even more:

- Please let me accompany you to the top of the mountain, Lord Fubuki is expecting you.

Judai shook his head and pinched his cheek only to then touch the horse’s snout and the horn, their solid forms almost causing him to faint.

- H-how do you know where I’m going?! – he blurted out eventually, the horse responding to him almost immediately:

- One of my friends, Ruby Carbuncle, has overheard the ordeal in the Temple of Love goddess yesterday since Lord Johan’s temple is right next to hers. He insisted we help you with your tasks.

Brunette’s heart skipped a beat for a moment, Johan’s name causing his eyes to water slightly.

- D-did Johan-

- No, he doesn’t know about this. – the horse explained. – But he wouldn’t want to leave you alone in this predicament and considering Lady Mai didn’t specify in what kind of way you’re supposed to complete the tasks, we’re here to assist you. We know our Lord would want to help you however he can.

- W-won’t you get in trouble?

- Not at all, Your Highness! Unlike our masters, we apprentices can interact with humans as much as we want! So please hop on! Let’s not keep Lord Fubuki wait!

Judai was frozen for another moment before laughing joyfully, his feet soon springing him up as he landed on the horse’s back. The creature then spread its beautiful white wings and took flight, strong winds blowing around the mountain suddenly subsiding.

- What’s your name? – the prince asked through his mask.

- It’s Sapphire, your Highness!

- Wait, are you one of-

- One of Crystals? Yes! I’ve heard from Cat and Tiger you’re quite a fighter! It’s my pleasure to help you, Highness!

- Johan is really happy to have all of you. You really seem to know him well…

Sapphire, noticing the prince’s somber tone, chuckled before saying:

- You’ll get to know him as well as we do, don’t worry, Highness. I’m sure he can’t wait to see you again.

With those words still lingering in the air, Judai was finally able to see the top of the mountain, a beautiful icy construction lit with light blue lights as the soldiers made completely of ice guarded all entrances.

Still, once they landed, all those soldiers bowed deeply to them, Judai jumping off the Sapphire’s back and landing in an ankle-high pile of snow. He exclaimed as he felt some of the cold substance entered his climbing booths, someone’s giggle causing him to straighten up.

- And you thought to climb my mountain while being so sensitive, huh?

Before Judai stood a rather beautiful god, his shoulder-long brown hair swaying in the cold wind as his whiteish-blue robes covered almost every inch of his body, long sleeves reaching the ground.

- My lord… - the prince said before getting down on his right knee before the snow god. – Thank you for seeing me this morning.

- I’m delighted to help you, especially if it’s going to annoy Mai. – the brunette said with a giggle before whistling loudly through his fingers, the mountain top starting to shake violently as ear-piercing screeches echoed the air.

The next thing Judai was aware of was the fact three enormous ice dragons stared down at him, one of them having three heads while the other two were smaller and had only one head.

- Now choose, whose diamond scale do you want? Brionac’s, Gungnir’s, or Trishula’s?

- W-won’t ripping their scale hurt them? – the prince asked in a small voice, causing Fubuki to fall in fits of amused laughter.

- Not at all! They have several layers above their skin and they’re losing their scales on this mountain all the time. You just need to choose.

Judai looked at the dragons again, not sure what the best choice was considering all three were majestic and beautiful, their enormous bodies shining on a dim light of the clouded sun on top of that divine mountain.

- I cannot choose… all of them are so beautiful… - he admitted, eliciting a joyful chuckle from the snow god as dragons, one by one, lowered their heads so the prince can pet them.

- You’re one of the few people to say they’re beautiful. Actually… the only human who ever said it… but the second person overall. – the god noted before letting out a much quieter whistle, all three dragons lowering their heads once again.

Fubuki then ripped out scales from all three dragons and combined their scales in a single, shining icy crystal before handing it to Judai.

- I hope she’ll be satisfied with this beauty. – the god said sarcastically before giving a gentle pat to all three of his dragons.

- You’re not on good terms with the goddess of love? – Judai asked out of curiosity, Fubuki letting out yet another amused chuckle before running his hand through his own hair.

- You could say she’s somewhat angry that I took away Zane from her. She hates losing, especially on the love field, but this time around, the god of War actually chose someone who understands him. This is just my gratitude gift from both me and Zane. Say I greeted her.

Judai chuckled this time around, happy to see he wasn’t the only one who disliked the goddess for her rather bratty behavior. He then looked at the ice crystal he received, that piece of cold substance bringing him closer to Johan.

- I’ll make sure to pay you some respects, my Lord. I owe you my life.

- No need to be so dramatic, mortal. Now go and get your love back. Trust me, it’s worth it if he’s the one right for you.

Judai smiled cheekily under the mask before stuffing the crystal into his backpack, ready to see the next task he had to complete.

Be prepared, Johan. I’ll be next to you very soon…

Chapter Text

Judai arrived at the temple ground later that day, the sun already setting above the Capital as the rain clouds started to gather more and more. He quickly dashed out of the car and up the stairs of Obsidian Shrine, Alister right behind him like an ominous shadow.

Once the prince reached the entrance to the shrine, he took out an already crumpled piece of pink paper, his second and final order from Mai written down with those damn gold letters:

Bring me a piece of Ishizu’s beauty. That way, I can finally surpass her.

The brunette rolled his eyes even harder than when he first saw the message after bringing the dragon ice crystal into Mai’s temple, not believing how shallow that goddess truly was.

But again, I’m doing this for Johan. So bite your tongue…

- You wait here, Alister. I’ll soon be back.

- When did Her Grace tell you to come? – the burgundy-head said in a monotone voice, not even looking at his master.

- In around ten minutes… but I’m too anxious to wait any longer. See you soon, I guess…

With that Judai entered the Obsidian shrine, the priestesses already expecting him and leading him towards the temple of Ishizu, just like that time seven months ago…

The prince’s stomach churned as he noticed goldish light coming from the temple, the priestesses excusing themselves before leaving the man there completely confused. The hell? Are they not allowed to see the godd-

- You may enter, young mortal.

Judai froze for a moment as he heard a divine female voice echo the corridors, an invisible force seemingly pulling him towards the temple. He allowed this sensation to take over him and crossed the entrance line to the temple, his eyes falling on an already familiar oracle with a jackal mask covering half of her face... and another figure standing right in the middle of the room.

The woman slowly turned around, Judai once again completely mesmerized by her ominous beauty: her skin was slightly darker while her eyes were big, sharp, and colored in all shades of turquoise. Her whole body was covered in beige robes that still showcased her figure, her hair covered with a long veil and her neck, ears, and hands decorated with golden jewelry, most notable being a seemingly heavy golden necklace with an eye pendant in the middle. Her stance was straight and graceful, her intuitive gaze looking straight into the brunette’s soul.

And at that moment, the prince understood why the goddess of love and beauty wanted a piece of her aura so much…

After finally snapping out of his daze, the prince remembered he had to greet the goddess properly and barely managed to remember he was supposed to kneel down on his left leg, holding his left hand over his chest.

- I am truly humbled by your quick answer, Your Grace, I do hope I did not bother you with my request.

The goddess chuckled before coming two steps closer to him and saying:

- Do rise, young mortal. No need to fear me so much.

The prince rose back on his feet, his eyes still looking elsewhere as he could feel Ishizu’s gaze piercing through his skull.

- So Mai really did command you this, hm? What was the occasion? Remember, don’t try to lie to me. – the goddess warned before she put both of her hands in front of her chest, a golden light suddenly forming between her palms.

Mesmerized, Judai almost forgot to answer the question, but with one shake of his head, he uttered:

- I… I fell in love with someone close to her and… she promised me she’ll help me see him if I complete two tasks. I do know about the taboo and it was me who asked for her assistance.

- She dodged that one pretty well, I see. – the goddess spoke before closing her eyes to focus all of her energy into her palms, a shape of a small, black box soon becoming prominent. – I should probably ask you more about this person you like so much, but you’re not here for interrogation.

The tone of her voice made chills of discomfort run down the prince’s spine, well-aware he’d said way too much and hoping Johan won’t get in trouble for it…

After that exchange, the duo remained silent as the goddess added finishing touches to her spell, the small box with the eye symbol on it soon handed over to the prince with great care.

- This is what you asked for. Make sure to hand it over to Mai and carry it with a lot of caution. If it spills out, you won’t get another one. – Ishizu warned, the prince nodding enthusiastically and bowing to the goddess.

- Thank you so very much, Your Grace. I didn’t think you’d want to help me right away…

The goddess chuckled again before patting the brunette’s fluffy head, her voice becoming slightly more sinister as she noted:

- I think both me and Fubuki share the sentiment about her. It is so fun to see her upset over the smallest things. The fact we made your situation easier will only annoy her so don’t think so highly of us. We maybe are divine creatures with a lot of power, but we share a lot of emotions with you humans and it’s sad… that many of the gods seem to forget that little fact.

Judai rose his head and locked his eyes with hers for the first time that evening, not believing the words coming out of her mouth and the amount of self-awareness this goddess showcased. So, there really are gods like this…

- Go now, young one. The sooner you bring this to her, the sooner you’ll see your beloved.

The brunette giggled as he could feel the blush creep up his face, giving the goddess one final deep bow before dashing out of the temple, making sure he held onto the box with absolute care and firmness.

Once he exited the Obsidian Shrine, Alister was right where the prince had left him, his expression seeming sort of listless as he stared at the rising moon that was soon to be covered by clouds, the thunder rumbling in the distance.

- I’ve got it, let’s go to Indigo Shrine! – Judai said victoriously, his voice seemingly snapping the bodyguard out of his daze.

The duo was soon on their way, the prince aware of the obvious distance Alister continued to keep between them as they walked almost completely empty shrine ground, priests preparing all five of the sacred buildings to be closed down for the day.

- You know, I’ve wondered… - the brunette suddenly said as they continued to walk. – Why are you so huffy all of a sudden? You barely even talk to me nowadays. I know I’ve been lazy and everything, but you usually kick me out of bed and tell me to move my ass, but now you don’t even do that. Did I really make you so mad that you don’t care anymore?

Judai waited for the answer while continuing to walk and when the pause prolonged, the prince stopped and looked behind him, noticing his bodyguard wasn’t following him.

With a frown, the brunette returned a few steps, noticing Alister held his head down while his shoulders became stiffer and stiffer, his hands balling into fists.

- … you don’t understand. – he muttered in a hissy tone, prompting Judai to ask:

- I don’t understand what? – he said before lowering his tone and coming even closer to his friend, his hand soon leaning on his shoulder. – Talk to me, Alister. We’re friends, right?

Another long pause ensued, a flash of lightning hitting nearby and lightening up the night for a second, Judai only then noticing a turquoise glow in his friend’s silver eyes.

What the…

- We are friends, but… - Alister muttered with a shaky voice, a single tear rolling down his face. – You’re in the way.

Judai didn’t even manage to wrap his head around those words before his friend made a move, his hands being quicker than a blink of an eye.

The burgundy-head locked eyes with the prince for only a moment, Judai seeing his irises became completely turquoise and glowed in the darkness, as the sound of a small box opening sent chills down his spine.

And in the next moment, Alister jumped away the greenish mist exiting the box Judai was holding and blocking his vision and entering his nose.

- Wha- WHY- - were the only words the prince was able to muster before his body became completely numb and paralyzed, his eyelids forced to shut as all the energy left his body and the world faded into black.

Why… is this happening?...

***

As the prince’s body fell limply onto the ground, Alister slowly walked up to him and covered his mouth, making sure none of that green mist enters his nose.

A sleeping mist, eh? Didn’t expect less from my little Ishizu, a voice in his head spoke again, the burgundy-haired now completely unable to resist it and its orders.

As the mist finally cleared up, the man crushed the box under his foot and headed off towards the exit of the holy grounds, making sure no one saw him. And even though a small part of his brain screamed at him to go and get Judai, his body completely ignored those pleas.

You did well, mortal. Like this, you’ll be closer to see your little brother again…

- My… little brother?... – the burgundy-head muttered as he entered the woods surrounding the shrine grounds, warm tears now rolling down his face despite his expression remaining blank and his eyes still glowing turquoise.

That’s right. With your help, I’ve eliminated one of those who might interfere with my plan.

Now, take care of the princess and the other two princes.

Thus, the human kingdom will be no more…

- Yes, master… - Alister muttered as he continued to walk through the woods, not even bothered by the heavy rainfall that suddenly started…

Chapter Text

- How's unlocking of the last seal going, Lola? – Sayer said into the phone while walking through the vast forest that surrounded the Capital, him and his goons looking for a very specific tree…

- We’re still unable to locate it for some reason. Looks like the Great lord of Beasts intentionally hid it so well. – Misty answered from the other line, her voice sounding as cold as ever.

- Don’t say that, it’ll make me think you’re unfit for the job. – the burgundy-haired man said with a cheeky grin, the sinister undertone not escaping neither Misty nor the people that walked behind him.

After a short pause, the woman responded:

- We’ll make sure to find it as soon as possible. But looks like the three puppets we have chosen will all soon be making a move. Apparently, A1 will soon take care of the royal family. We’re still waiting for R2’s and V3’s responses.

- That’s good news indeed. – Sayer said with a chuckle as he noticed the forest road completely disappeared, the woods becoming denser from that point on. Still, without any hesitation, the man proceeded forward, causing his goons to exchange looks of worry and confusion before following after him. – I’ll talk to you later, we may be on our way to discovery.

- Roger. – said Misty on the other line before hanging up first, causing Sayer to chuckle once again. Her annoyance was just so cute and useless…

- I don’t think we can go any further, sir. It’s getting harder to walk. – one of his goons noted as he struggled to pass the thorny bushes blocking their way, Sayer seeming completely unfazed by his surrounding before hissing.

- If you plan on abandoning the mission now, you may as well never return to the HQ. I’ll make sure someone disposes of both you and your useless belongings. So watch your mouth from this point on.

The man just lowered his head and continued to walk, their leader completely ignoring his crew’s hisses of pain. This forest wouldn’t be like this if there wasn’t something important up ahead. And now, when his operation near its completion and with only one seal unlocked, he couldn’t take any chances or slack off.

No one knew how much time had passed as the group of armed men marched through the dense forest filled with various plants that were there just to inflict pain on whoever was touching them. But then, the clearing finally arrived, Sayer feeling an incredible sense of euphoria once he laid his eyes on a little wild garden.

Oh… don’t tell me…

With a sinister smirk, the burgundy-haired man entered deeper into the garden and stopped next to a large cherry blossom tree, all of its leaves turning all possible shades of yellow as the light but a cold breeze blew them away one by one. The pond was still there, colorful carps swirling under the surface as they tried to catch whatever was eatable at that time of the year.

- What are your orders, sir? – the same goon from before questioned, Sayer giving the garden one last good look.

- This little garden seems to be somewhat untended. Don’t you think we should help tidy it up a little?

***

Yugi was finally free from duty that day, the grape harvest almost coming to an end. And despite the fact he was away from Anzu most of the day and spending time with Jack in his temple, he still couldn’t shake off her stare off him no matter where he’d go.

He could as well be paranoid about her presence but considering what he had found out about her, the spring god wouldn’t be surprised if she literally stalked him all day and every day despite having her own duties to attend. But her constant presence wasn’t the only problem…

- Welcome back, master! – all fairies said in unison as Yugi landed near his garden, the god giving each of them a light pat on a forehead and a tender but tired smile.

- Did you have a good day?

- Have you eaten anything?

- Can we prepare you anything?

- Do you want to take a bath?

- Or do you want to go to sleep immediately?

- What do you have to do tomorrow?

- Whoa, whoa, girls… - the spring god said through a chuckle, already feeling his left eyebrow twitching. – Don’t bombard me so much, I don’t know what to answer first.

- Sorry! – all fairies answered once again in unison before Lilybell reminded:

- We’re just trying to take care of you the best we can, we missed you a lot!

- Yes! And it’s better if we tend to you instead of Lady Anzu!

- Nightshade, don’t say that! – Candina scolded, the other fairy immediately covering her mouth.

Yugi remained silent for a little while, his expression almost unreadable as he stared into the grass under his feet.

- So, that’s how it’s going to be from now on, huh? – he eventually muttered before turning away from the garden and heading in the opposite direction.

- W-where are you going, master?! – Lilybell asked again as she and Nightshade flew after him, not expecting him to raise his voice so much:

- Do I really have to tell you everything?! Will you also start possessively protecting me?! Will you eventually put me in a cell so I can’t escape?!

- Master… - Narkissus mouthed as all other fairies stopped dead in their tracks for a moment, Nightshade being the one to speak up this time around:

- We just missed you very much, master… we thought we’re helping and we just want to make your life easier-

- THEN LEAVE ME ALONE! – Yugi screamed as he turned towards his fairies, his vision reddening slightly as he looked at their shocked faces.

But then his heart stopped for a moment as he locked eyes with Lilybell and Nightshade, their complexions suddenly becoming gray.

- M-master… - both of them mouthed as their wings literally turned into dust and their little bodies started to fall, other fairies trying to save them from a painful impact.

- NO! – Yugi yelled as he leaped forward and caught both of them in his hand, two fairies unable to even utter a word as their bodies slowly disintegrated. – WHAT’S GOING ON?! I DIDN’T MEAN IT- NO!

But it was too late.

Both Nightshade and Lilybell smiled up at their master whose vision became blurry as his chest tightened so much he was unable to breathe, their bodies soon turning into dust.

- NOOOOOO!

Yugi’s bloodcurdling scream echoed the forest, causing everything to stop for a split second only for him to get back onto his feet and look at his remaining fairies with fear.

The garden… I have to see the garden…

The spring god dashed across the grass and entered a small ivy passage, the remaining fairies following him without uttering a single word, their faces paled and tense from shock.

And soon enough, Yugi realized what had actually happened once he stepped the foot into his garden, all people swarming around stopping as they noticed the young god.

There were around six men dressed in black and armed with shotguns and other different weapons, bushes of lily bells and nightshades torn out of the ground and stepped on multiple times, the plants killed on impact by the people who stood on top of them.

But before his rage was able to consume him completely, in his reddened vision, Yugi caught sight of a tall man in a beige trench coat and with burgundy hair, the young god being able to recognize those vile eyes anywhere, anytime.

- You… - the spring god hissed, already feeling his blood boiling.

- Oh? Long time no see, little crybaby god. From your expression, I assume you remember me. – the man spoke with a confident tone as he carried the most disturbing smirk Yugi has ever seen. – Those scars on my ankles still ache, you know? And it’s a shame to see you’re not tending your little garden as good as you used to-

- SHUT UP! – Yugi growled before he felt his whole body going ablaze, his own bones cracking and breaking before his wooden wings were released, black veins and ivy branches spreading all over his body and swallowing his original blue robe, his eyes turning black around irises while the red consumed the usual purple. His hands, once again, became enlarged as his fingers became long, wooden nails, the wall of ivy blocking all the entrances and exit to that specific area, Yugi not allowing even his fairies to enter.

- Wow, you’re as magnificent as ever. – the man said with genuine astonishment before his disgusting smirk returned, all of his goons yelping with fear before backing into the corner, the tubes of their weapons all pointed at the enraged god.

 - This time around, I’ll really kill you… - Yugi said in his deep hellish voice before raising his hand to block the flying pullets, the black blood spilling out and dripping onto the grass, causing it to rot instantly. – Maybe then you’ll learn not to come here anymore…

The spring god then spread his wooden wings and launched enlarged thorns towards the people that were shooting at him, some of them being able to dodge the storm of pointy ends while the others were killed on impact, their throats, chest, and heads completely smashed by the large wooden structures.

And yet, that burgundy-haired man only continued to look at him with that disturbing smirk as his goons desperately tried to fight the god off, this very gesture causing the spring god to become even more furious.

And so, without any words, Yugi started carnage.

He was hunting down every single man that tried to hide within the garden, black tears spilling down his cheeks as his whole body burned with pain so intense he believed he’ll die any moment now.

And yet, he wanted all of them to perish. For causing him so much anguish…

For killing two of his precious friends…

For defiling his garden…

For this pain, he’s been feeling…

I want you all… to burn in hell! Along with me…

And yet, a small glimmer of desperation was still burning in the young god’s heart, the mask of coldness he was wearing causing his chest to literally rip apart as a very small, barely audible thought flew through his mind.

It hurts…

Please help me, your Majesty…

It hurts… Atemu…

Chapter Text

Despite feeling this sensation only twice in his life, the king of the Underworld knew exactly what was going on as soon as his heart literally stopped for a moment, an intense pain causing him to stop dead in his tracks and grab onto his own chest.

- Majesty?! – Mana and Mahad exclaimed in unison upon seeing their master heaving in pain, the sweat breaking on his tanned skin.

But as soon as the two gods approached him, the dark monarch slapped their hands away and used the wall as support while drawing deep, painful breaths.

- Don’t touch… My power… - were the only words he managed to utter as the intense hurt didn’t stop swallowing his chest, the king now feeling his heart turning into an all-consuming black hole as his dark power started pouring out.

- Come, Mana. – Mahad commanded while pulling onto blonde’s upper arm.

- B-but-

- NOW, MANA! – the older said on the verge of hysterics, the goddess unable to do anything else but comply, leaving her master alone in the massive hallway.

But that was for the best… the fewer living souls near him, the better…

With a few massive gulps, the king of the Underworld allowed the pain to swallow him whole, his bronze skin slowly turning oily, black shade, the substance swallowing him from the tips of his fingers and toes. His red eyes started glowing on the dim light of blue torches, the white space around his irises soon also swallowed by the complete blackness, his whole body soon consumed into thick, unmoving obsidian color, his robes dissolving and melting into the skin of his torso while only a thin piece of cloth remained to cover his lower regions.

And only his scars, those deep, chain-carved scars, started glowing in a shade of gold, allowing the poisonous miasma to spill out of the god’s body even more than usual.

Once he finally regained his true form, the king of the Underworld took another deep breath and closed his eyes, his body dematerializing and teleporting over the spaces and realms, reaching the place where his name has been called out…

And the moment he landed, the dark monarch immediately recognized the place from his vision, the whole garden now covered with a layer of freshly-spilled human blood, the leaves, and grass glistering on the dim light that barely entered the cocoon made of poisonous ivy.

And then the king saw Yugi.

The young god was crouched over a completely mutilated human body, his wooden claws repeatedly stabbing still warm and steaming flesh as there was soon no place on the poor man’s body to stab anymore.

And despite the carnage, his true form made him do, the younger’s expression remained unchanging, blank, and adorned with black tears that didn’t stop flowing.

The king instinctively reached for the younger god, but the moment his obsidian-black hand touched Yugi, he yowled in pain, the fresh burn mark on his shoulder causing the dark monarch to hiss panically.

- Yugi… Can you hear me, Yugi? – the older tried a different tactic while making sure to remain in one spot, already seeing that his poisonous miasma was taking its toll on the grass and carp pond.

The young god winced and stopped with all of the motions for a moment, his crimson eyes looking up at the king of the Underworld with a blank expression on his face. And still, the older could swear he had seen a glint of recognition on those eyes filled with black tears…

- Yugi! What’s going on?!

- Did that happen again?!

- Come on, we have to break that wall…

The king of the Underworld could clearly hear Anzu, Jack, and Akiza on the outside of the ivy cocoon, but before he was able to utter a single word, Yugi swung his hand and attempted to stab him straight through the chest with his wooden, clawed hand. The king was quick to dodge but he didn’t have many places to land… unless he wanted to risk hurting one of those flower bushes…

He can’t do this alone.

There was only one way…

- Anzu! – the king called out before launching towards the ceiling of the cocoon, only one touch of his hand being enough to make a sizeable hole in the ivy wall.

Soon enough, he was face to face with the brunette goddess, her blue eyes only focused on the scene inside of the cocoon and Yugi’s pitiful appearance as he tried and tried again to stab whatever was moving in his close proximity.

Without any words exchanged the goddess of agriculture entered the cocoon before the walls of ivy closed again under Yugi’s influence, the king speaking once again in his deep voice:

- Remove his seal, Anzu…

- B-but that will only-

- DO IT! That damn seal is the reason for all of this! – the king exclaimed in a shaky voice while going right up to the goddess’s face, aware his miasma was toxic for even a god of her caliber. – Remove it.- he hissed again, the desperation and demand in his voice finally being enough to convince the goddess, two tears rolling down her cheeks.

The brunette then waited until Yugi noticed her and spread his wooden wings again, wishing to impale both gods with huge, flying thorns.

Anzu then rose her hands  in front of her chest and started chanting the spell, the ground under her soon gaining the bright green glow as the magic circle appeared, the wind picking up inside the cocoon as her voice became louder and louder:

- By calling upon the powers of Mother Earth, I now dispose of thy seal. Powers of darkness and earth, spill into this world!

Almost instantly Yugi fell to his knees with a loud scream, his back glowing in the same manner as the seal under the goddess’s legs. The youngest was then swallowed by a void of swirling wind as his body started spasming and seizing, the king having to use all of his composure and self-control in order not to jump to his aid.

But, soon enough… everything stopped.

The cocoon of ivy disintegrated as soon as the winds stopped blowing, the late afternoon sun revealing the carnage Yugi had left behind. Akiza, Jack, and little flower fairies soon reached the scene, their expressions frozen with horror upon seeing the horrific scene.

But the only person the king of the Underworld was concerned for at that moment was the young spring god who was still kneeling in the middle of the garden, his true form still on display but those black tears no longer flowing.

The king slowly landed next to the younger, unsure of what he was supposed to do in order not to hurt the younger or anyone else in the process, the poisonous miasma still spilling out of his body.

But in the next moment, it was Yugi who made the first move and jumped up, latching his hands around the king’s neck and not wanting to let go.

- Y-Yugi! – the older exclaimed while grabbing the other god by the upper arms. – Move, you’ll get burn-

His words were cut off by a deep, demanding kiss Yugi had planted on his obsidian-black lips, the king panicking out of his wits as he realized his beloved will be completely exposed to his miasma. At this point, he’ll…

But nothing was happening…

Yugi’s skin wasn’t burning… he wasn’t getting dizzy… he didn’t start coughing out blood…

There was only a raw, unbridled urge to be close to the older god, Yugi’s hands pulling them even closer together as the king slowly relaxed, realizing miasma had completely stopped spreading…

Unsure of what was really going on, the king finally locked his hands around the younger’s waist and returned the deep kiss, neither of them even caring for the several pairs of curious eyes looking their way.

- You came… - Yugi mouthed into the other’s lips, their kiss finally broken as the younger started weeping heavily, his head soon burying into the king’s obsidian-black chest. – I was hurting so much… I thought I’ll die… they all… wanted to rip off the bushes… kill my fairies…

- Shhhh… slowly… steadily… - the king whispered as the two of them slowly sat onto the grass, the dark monarch giving a very subtle nod to the remaining fairies to approach their master.

- Master Yugi… - Narkissus said with tears in her eyes, the spring god immediately raising his head and opening his enlarged, wooden hands to them.

- I’m so sorry… - he wept as his little companions landed in his palms, all of them crying without holding back. – I couldn’t protect them… and I did something horrible… I’m so sorry for being such a useless master…

- You’re not! – Lycoris exclaimed before jumping into his face and rubbing her head against Yugi’s nose. – You made sure those bastards didn’t get any of us… and… and… even though Lilybell and Nightshade…

The little fairy completely broke down and so did all of her other friends upon mention of those two names, the king unable to do anything else but offer a shoulder to cry on for both Yugi and his little companions.

- What now? – Akiza asked in a somber tone while still observing the carnage left behind by the spring god, her brown eyes directed at the king of the Underworld rather than her own mistress.

- Will you be able to clean up the bodies? – he asked in a professional manner only to have both her and Jack nod, both gods looking down in defeat. – I’ll contact Mahad and see who’ll come and collect the souls. For the rest, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do-

- Then it’s a good thing we’ve arrived now, don’t you think?

Everyone’s heads shot up upon hearing a familiar and commanding male voice only for all of them to lower onto their right knees in the next moment, the king of the Underworld rising to his feet in hopes of shielding still crying Yugi and his little fairies.

- You’ve spared me the dilemma, your royal Highnesses. – he spoke in a deep, still shaky voice, aware both Seto and Kisara are looking at him with surprise.

- If you’re looking like that, I can only imagine what really took place here. – Seto eventually noted before giving a look to the six human bodies scattered around the small garden.

- We better start with this, Seto. – Kisara noted before flying over to Yugi and kneeling down next to him. – How are you feeling, dear?

Upon hearing the queen’s soothing voice, the spring god looked up as his tears continued to flow. Confusion and fear washed over his face only to have the blue-haired goddess smile at him tenderly and pat his head, causing Yugi to start sobbing even more as he accepted her hand to stand up.

In the tense silence, the queen and king of the Underworld exchanged knowing looks before she took off with the youngest god among them, leaving her husband to deal with the rest.

- What are your plans now, Seto? Will you take this to trial? – the dark monarch questioned as he approached the king of the pantheon.

The tall god gave one final glance to the garden before locking the eyes with the agriculture goddess, his sharp gaze causing her to wince.

- I think Anzu first has a few things to explain to us, especially the youngest member of our pantheon. How does that sound?

***

About an hour later, after the sun had finally set behind the horizon and Aigami had pulled out his beloved moon to shine down onto the Capital, Yugi was finally strong enough to enter Anzu’s quarters, eyes of all present gods locking with his as he entered in company of his remaining fairies.

- How are you feeling, dear? – the queen of the gods asked while wearing her signature tender smile, Yugi still feeling rather ashamed to even look at her.

- My back and hands are still painful… but it’s getting better.

- You’ll get used to it, we all get like that when we use our true forms. – she explained before tapping the empty spot on the wooden bench next to her, the spring god hesitantly lowering onto the cold wood.

- I suppose you can guess why we called you here, Yugi?

The spring god winced slightly as he heard king Seto’s voice, the younger completely unable to look up and face him.

- It’s alright, Yugi. No one will do anything to you. – Atemu’s soothing voice caused the younger to gulp as their eyes locked for only a moment, that little confirmation giving Yugi enough courage to nod and respond:

- You… you want to discuss the happenings that have occurred earlier in my garden.

- In a way, yes. But I primarily want you to hear something from your caretaker’s mouth.

Yugi’s eyes instinctively flew over to Anzu, the goddess not looking at him at all at that moment. The younger frowned, realizing she had never averted her eyes from him in all of the two millennia they’ve been living together…

- Anzu? – he called out in a shaky voice, the goddess turning her head even more to the left, completely avoiding his gaze.

- There’s no sense in running anymore, Anzu. We all know what’s the reason for all of this and now little Yugi also deserves to know. – the king Seto said in a strong, commanding voice, causing the brunette to frown deeply before turning back towards her portage, her blue eyes completely void of any type of emotion.

- You… you wanted to know about your origin, right?

Yugi felt his heart drop into his stomach before nodding his head, his throat suddenly becoming unbearably tight.

 The goddess then chuckled bitterly before looking towards the king of the Underworld with emotion the spring god was unable to even read, the tears starting to gather in the corners of her eyes.

- You already know that… you’ve been found last out of all the gods in this pantheon… but we didn’t find you in a regular place like all other gods… - the brunette said in an emotionless tone as she cracked her knuckles, her face becoming as pale as a ghost. – Upon the conclusion of the Rebellion, Dartz’s secret laboratory was discovered… in there, slept two gods: Serenity, the goddess of dance and dreams… and you. At first, we thought you’d awake rather quickly after leaving that laboratory, just like Serenity did… but you remained asleep for the next hundred years… I volunteered to take you in since I’ve already finished with creating my own realm… and Akiza, Jack and Fubuki were already busy with creating their own…

The goddess stopped in order to gulp, tears rimming down her cheeks.

- Continue… - Yugi demanded, not even feeling guilty for seeing the older goddess cry.

- Even after you woke… I thought you’d be the part of my jurisdiction with your affinity to the plant magic… but I could still feel something sinister coming from you although you didn’t seem to be aware of it yourself. – Anzu said in a shaky voice before grinding her teeth and taking a deep breath. – I then… went to Aigami since he had all the notes Dartz had kept in his laboratory… I can’t even explain to you how shocked I was when I found out the truth-

- Stop beating around the bush, damn it! – Yugi exclaimed, feeling his own eyes filling with tears of frustration. – What the hell am I?! Tell me!

Anzu proceeded to look at him in the eyes for a long moment before chuckling bitterly, her body completely relaxing after that.

- In those notes… it was stated you were one of Dartz’s final experiments. – she said in a cold voice. – He merged Yubel’s materia connected to Earthly realm… and possessed it with a demon materia from the Underworld...

Yugi paled instantly as everything started to sink in, all of those strange happenings suddenly making sense.

- So, I’m…

- Yes. – Anzu confirmed. – You’re a hybrid god. The one who has Earthly essence… but the soul of a demon. You’re both… the Underworld and the Earthly god.

God of Spring… and the Bringer of Death…

Chapter Text

During his whole life, Yugi knew something about him was abnormal.

The way his powers rapidly changed, the way his own mindset changed, the way he thought wasn’t worthy of being a god and a member of the pantheon… it all made sense in that very moment.

And although hearing those exact words from Anzu’s mouth had left the young hybrid god completely mind struck and speechless, he had finally understood why Atemu insisted on keeping this a secret despite knowing the situation.

He needed to hear it with his very own ears from the person who raised him. He needed to see with his own eyes what effect his very existence had caused among those who knew.

If he didn’t see it and hear it for himself… he probably wouldn’t believe it.

For who knows how long the young god sat beside the queen of the gods, unaware of what’s going on around him, not even looking at anything and anyone in particular.

His mind was in complete disarray, various instances from the last seven months constantly playing in his head over and over.

- Tell me, Highness… - he eventually said, causing everyone present to go silent as king Seto locked his eyes with the younger’s purple ones. – If you knew what I really was… why haven’t you told me?

- The answer is quite simple. – the tall god explained while whipping the agriculture goddess with his cold stare, Anzu only being able to look down in her intertwined fingers. – Only the Big Five, excluding Yami, knew what you really are, plus Aigami because he’s our main librarian. And to be frank with you, we had no idea what types of powers you’d have. I confided in Anzu to monitor your growth without realizing she’s been sneakily manipulating you behind my back and once I finally understood what was going on, she already erased all traces of anything ever happening.

Yugi frowned deeply before two tears filled with frustration rolled down his cheeks, the young god completely unable to look at his caretaker at that moment.

- And on top of that, you’ve seen me for the first time during this Autumn Equinox… - he muttered, Kisara nodding in confirmation while rubbing comforting circles on the younger’s back.

- From the way Anzu behaved we could smell something was going on but due to lack of evidence we couldn’t exactly do anything, it was against the law. And, sorry to say this, but your little… incident came at the right moment. Add to it that Aigami finally managed to find his old, scrapped notes from which he could tell what had happened fifteen years ago in that same garden. – she explained, her dark blue eyes incredibly comforting for Yugi at that moment. – And believe me, if we knew your powers are waking up the way they did, we’d find the way to include in the pantheon even earlier.

- But because of Anzu’s seal, you only ended up boiling over the breaking point which caused the whole mess. – Seto finished his wife’s sentence, the hybrid god at a complete loss for words at that moment.

No one said anything for the next couple of moments, Yugi believing he’ll snap under the pressure of his recently returned memories and of the images of the crime he himself had committed today, Anzu’s face before his eyes only being the straw that broke the camel’s back at that moment…

He… wanted to disapp-

- Yugi?

The young god winced once he became aware the queen wasn’t sitting next to him anymore and instead, a cold yet familiar hand took his, warm red eyes staring directly at him with the gentlest glance the hybrid god had ever felt.

Atemu smiled tenderly at him before bringing his pale hand to his own lips, planting a light but a warm kiss on the younger’s skin which only made Yugi’s heart flutter in his chest.

- I know it may seem hard and unbearable, but believe me… - the king spoke before drawing their faces together and leaning their foreheads against one another. – All of this will pass… you just need time to accept it all.

- Was… was it like this for you?

The king nodded with a bitter chuckle, his other hand now caressing the younger’s soaked cheek.

- You can’t change what had happened in the past but you can work towards bettering yourself now that you know the whole truth. – the older explained as they finally drew back from one another, their hands still intertwined. – And no matter how much time you need, I’ll help you whenever you need me. Just call my name…

Yugi nodded and smiled from the heard for the first time after five whole days, the king giving him a light pat on the head while his own smile widened.

- Come on, Anzu. Time to go with us to the Sky Temple. – Kisara suddenly said as she offered the brunette her hand, the goddess accepting it without hesitation as her eyes seemed blank and her stance became slouched.

- Can I ask you something, Anzu?

The agriculture goddess winced as she heard Yugi’s voice calling out to her, the brunette slowly turning around while giving her former protégé a weak, blank smile.

- Yes, what is it, Yugi?

- Why did you do all of this? Why me?

Anzu seemed slightly baffled by the question for a moment only to chuckle bitterly before lowering her eyes again.

- I… I really wanted to protect you, ever since you had awoken. I’ve seen you as my little brother even though I was so much older than you. – she explained in a shaky voice, tears rolling down her cheeks and falling onto the grass under her feet. – But when I realized what you really are… I panicked. I didn’t want you to leave me ever… and your powers… they’ve just drawn you to the Underworld… to him… I just couldn’t bear to lose something else by his hand…

- I didn’t take anything from you… - Atemu objected immediately, Anzu being quick on her response as well:

- Yes, you did. You’ve taken away my trust and my love… and now you’ve taken Yugi too… But at least I know you’re not a complete monster… you have him your true name after all… - the goddess said weakly as even more tears continued to rim down her cheeks.

Yugi then slowly stood up and walked up to the brunette, neither of them speaking or even showing any kind of emotion… only for the younger to surprise everyone when he slapped the goddess across the face.

- You maybe did take care of him… but for that, he doesn’t owe you a relationship… or his real name. – the hybrid god hissed as his face distorted in a mask of suppressed rage. – And if you’ve only been honest with me from the start and allowed me to grow like everyone else… none of this would happen. I’ve loved you like my own mother… yet you almost ruined me. And all because you were afraid to have your heart broken again…

Anzu was left completely paralyzed as her right cheek started becoming redder by the second, the goddess unable to utter a single word.

- Come on, time to go. – Seto nudged quietly while dragging the brunette by the hand, Kisara greeting the remaining two gods with a discrete wave before all three of them departed into the night.

Yugi then just kept standing there, in the middle of Anzu’s quarters, and just cried.

For his own pitiful destiny… for Anzu and her inability to let go of the past… for everyone he had ever hurt… for Lilybell and Nightshade…

He… just cried…

***

Later that night, Yugi held a little funeral ceremony on a nearby lake, his company being only his remaining fairies and Atemu.

Once the full moon was exactly above the clear water, the young god entered its depths with the remains of a lily bell and nightshade flower bushes in his hands, other fairies carrying tiny floating candles in their hands.

He then slowly placed already dead plants into the water and kneeled down into the cold embrace of the lake, only his upper body remaining above the surface as he offered a small prayer to the god of the Underworld. The fairies then proceeded to release the candles one by one which, along with the discarded plants, slowly floated towards the middle of the lake… and stayed there.

Shiny, unmoving, and fleeting, just like the life of their two companions they have lost earlier that day…

- May we meet again… and farewell. Lilybell and Nightshade… - Yugi whispered through tears, almost unable to keep his composure at that moment.

But as soon as he felt his resolve shattering into pieces, Atemu was right by his side with a helping hand to offer, the two gods soon retreating back to the shores of the lake, the silence between them only filled with the chirping of crickets in the distance.

- Is it… is it true that souls of the attendants, animals, and other creatures have a way to exit the Underworld? – the younger asked suddenly, the king of the Underworld ready with an answer right away.

- That’s correct. You know that blue river we used to travel through the Twelve kingdoms? In those murky waters lay thousands upon thousands of such souls. I’m sure Lilybell and Nightshade are in there somewhere and are waiting for their turn to exit through the Last Waterfall. It may take a while, but they will come back to you.

- That’s good… - Yugi muttered before embracing his knees and looking towards the candles floating on the lake, his little fairy companions making sure each and every little light remains upfloat for as long as possible. – But what will happen to me now? I’m so confused with all of it…

- This may just be my guess, but… I don’t think you’ll see any consequences for killing those people in the garden.

- How so?

- Remember what I’ve told you when I unlocked your memories? About how those children disrespected the god and almost killed the fairies? In our law, whenever a human does something to gravely insult a god, be it by tarnishing their temple, killing their familiar, or trespassing to their sacred grounds, there will be no consequences because humans themselves have violated the law so even killing them is understandable on god’s part. And I cannot tell you not to feel bad about all of it… but I just want to let you know that you’re safe. No one is going to blame you for the things you have done.

- That somehow… feels unjust… - Yugi whispered, not even noticing the older had scooted over, much closer to him. – I don’t like the idea of killing anyone… but considering the way I came to be, it’s no wonder I’m a killer by instinct-

- That would mean all us Underworld gods are also killers by instinct, am I right?

- What?! N-no! I’d never think that! I-

- Then stop saying it for yourself. It’s an order. – the king smirked before poking the younger god on the forehead with his index finger, causing Yugi to chuckle.

- Oh, right… I’m also your underling now… since I can both go to the Underworld and remain here…

- You could say so… but I’d much rather have you as my honored guest rather than a subject of mine…

- W-what? – the younger stuttered for a moment before grinning cheekily, suddenly feeling adventurous. – What are you implying, Your Majesty?

This time around it was the older god that was at a loss for words, light pink shade slowly creeping onto his cheeks and top of his nose.

- All I’m saying is… you’re always welcomed in the Underworld… not just by me but everyone else… but… but I’ll be especially happy if you’d decide to pay us a visit… I’m sure Gandora would be happy too…

The king then averted his eyes and started fiddling with his fingers, causing Yugi to pout slightly before inching closer to the older and giving him a peck on the cheek.

- Then I’ll come to visit as soon as things become less crazy here on the surface… - Yugi promised, his head now resting on the other god’s shoulder. – And thank you… for coming to my aid today…

- No, thank you for stopping my miasma so quickly. If it wasn’t for your powers, as it seems, consequences would’ve been much more severe… - the king paused for a moment before leaning down and pecking the other’s forehead. - … and I wouldn’t be able to sit like this with you. So don’t ever say you’re useless again, hear me?

Yugi giggled before nodding in confirmation, the pair then going completely silent as they stared at the full moon.

And, for the first time in months, Yugi felt as he could finally breathe with ease, his heart beating in unison with the older god that was sitting right next to him…

Chapter Text

Julia marched through the hallways of the palace, her head spinning from spending the whole day in the library and talking on the phone. Ever since her younger brother went to the temple of the Clairvoyance goddess one week ago, no one has seen either him or Alister.

The princess lost all of her nerves at that point, not understanding how it was possible for a human of her brother’s caliber, who was so beloved and known amongst the common folk, to just evaporate into thin air like that.

She ushered her older brothers to help in the search, Jun even mobilized a special investigation unit, but nothing.

Judai has wiped off the face of the earth…

The princess suddenly stopped dead in her tracks in the middle of the hallway, the lights dimming out subtly as her body tensed up.

- Come out, I know you’re watching me. – she muttered, her hands clenching into fists before hissing the name: - Alister.

The tall man then emerged from the shadows, the brunette not even turning around to look at him. And yet, the sound of a blade being drawn from its sheath made her skin crawl and her blood freeze in her veins.

- Interesting choice of weapon, you know I’m good at close-range combat. – she said through her teeth, trying not to make any sudden movements as she could feel Alister slowly creeping up on her.

And once again, he didn’t utter a single word.

- SAY SOMETHING, YOU FUCKER! – Julia exclaimed as she swiftly turned on her heel and avoided the blade of a short sword aimed directly at her throat, her feet launching her into the air before attempting to land right onto Alister’s face.

The man was faster though, using a similar technique to leap into the air and make a backflip, avoiding the strike of her heel.

Only then has Julia noticed how pale that man was, the shape of his face, and everything about him being so uncanny it made the princess’s skin crawl once again. That was her friend… and at the same time, he was somebody else.

Somebody who looked blankly through her, glowing turquoise eyes radiating pure bloodlust and urge to kill…

The brunette giggled bitterly before taking a battle stance, ready to go at him without anything else but her fists.

- Did you kill Judai the same way? Where is he? – she asked in a shaky voice, barely being able to hold in her emotions.

Once again Alister didn’t say anything, he just launched at her with full force, the blade of his short sword seemingly awaiting Julia at every corner as soon as she tried to avoid it. She heard the sound of a blade cutting through one of her locks, a strain of dark brown hair falling onto the floor behind her.

Was he always this good in combat?

Also… why blade? If he really wanted to kill her, he’d use-

- You all must disappear… - Alister suddenly uttered through his teeth, the princess barely avoiding the blade to pierce straight through her eye, the sword cutting another lock of her hair in the process.

- Is that so? – she said before squatting and leaping through her opponent’s spread legs, leaving the burgundy-head slightly puzzled for a moment. Just enough for her to make her own flip forward and yell: - NOW!

At that very moment, five guards lead by Axel jumped out of their hiding places and launched themselves at the familiar attacker, Alister giving rather severe injuries to all of them only to have Axel finally pin him down to the carped and throw his blade away. in the process of deeming him immobile, he also pulled out his trusted twin guns, Julia frowning in frustration upon picking them up from under her feet.

- You claim you want us all to disappear yet you refused to shoot me… - she whispered before coming up to the man bound on the floor, her expression blank except her frowned eyebrows. – What’s going on?

Once again, Alister remained silent, Axel ordering his men to pick the tall man up so that he can properly talk to the princess.

Julia’s vision slowly became blurry as she pointed one of the guns right into Alister’s head, her voice shaky and her blood boiling.

- Where is Judai?

Again, no response.

Frustrated, the princess removed the safety lock from the gun and aimed again, confident she’ll be able to shoot him right in between his eyes if he continues to mess with her-

- He’s coming… - the burgundy-head suddenly muttered, one of his eyes turning their regular gray color for just a moment, a single tear falling from that same eye. – The end…

Julia lowered the gun and frowned even deeper, so many questions swarming her mind as she felt her gut churning and her heart beating painfully against her chest.

- Where is Judai? – she persisted only for Alister to lock their eyes together, both of his orbs glowing that sickening turquoise color again.

- Out of your reach… - he said coldly. – In the embrace of the Underworld…

It took every bit of Julia’s self-control not to shoot him in the mouth in that very moment, but upon locking the eyes with her own bodyguard, she just angrily launched both guns across the hallway, a blood-curdling scream of pure wrath echoing the palace.

- Take him away…. – she said quietly, not even wanting to look at Alister as he was taken down into the dungeons.

- Are you hurt anywhere, Highness?

The brunette winced upon hearing her bodyguard’s deep voice, her mind still in a state of disarray. She only managed to shake her head, those words Alister uttered before telling her about Judai still echoing in her ears.

- Axel…

- Yes, Highness?

Their eyes locked once again, even the stoic man like Axel taking a step back upon seeing the shadow of terrifying realization in her eyes.

- Gather all the palace staff as soon as possible. – she said in a raspy voice. – We have to prepare the palace for acceptance of our citizens and… immediate evacuation.

***

Yusei was shaken out of his thoughts by his phone buzzing in the pocket of his lab coat, his eyebrows frowning upon seeing the number on the display.

- Edo? – he said into the phone, her tone both curious and dismissive.

- Working until late again, huh? – the man chuckled into the phone, the young scientist not giving him anything in response. – Can I see you briefly tonight?

- Why?

- I… well I wanted to apologize for my behavior that day… I was really annoyed by the fact you’d ditch me for someone else… but I realized I was really being a brat. – Edo admitted in a slightly sheepish voice, the raven-head still not sure whether to believe him or not. – Plus, I have a surprise for you. I think you’ll like it a bunch.

- Is that so? – Yusei chuckled in defeat, knowing that his own curiosity had just gotten the better of him. Again. – I have to work for about half an hour more. Is that alright with you?

- Sure! Take your time! I’ll wait for you in the botanical garden, by the main lake.

Yusei frowned upon hearing the place of their meeting but before he could even question Edo’s decision, the line on the other side went dead. The raven-head then put down his phone, even more, perplexed than before.

Half an hour came and went like nothing, Yusei finally finishing that tedious task of putting all variables of his current study into the computer before closing it down and heading towards the dressing room, the empty laboratory seeming rather spooky at that time of the night.

He was in and out fast, his usual biker attire unusually tight against his skin that night. He quickly walked through the empty hallways, the cleaners and the security guard greeting him at the exit as a few light bulbs flickered, taking Yusei’s attention for apparently no reason.

Upon exiting the facility, he headed towards the main exit from the property, the lively sounds of the city’s business area not subsiding despite it almost being midnight. He tucked away his phone and motorcycle keys into his bag and waited on the pedestrian crossing with a group of other people, the botanical garden being in his field of vision already.

Taking a quick glance at the digital display on one of the business buildings, Yusei saw he was really late for his meeting with Edo, but he was hopeful the man wouldn’t get mad at him. He needed to apologize for his behavior after all…

Once he reached the entrance to the botanical garden, however, Yusei felt a light static once he grabbed the metal knob, causing him to flinch in response. He still persisted on entering and immediately upon stepping his foot into the treeline, he could swear the air pressure had just changed drastically, the whole area suddenly becoming incredibly hot, especially for the beginning of October…

The raven-head then proceeded to walk through the dark garden, a blueish mist enveloping the whole area, making Yusei frown deeply.

I know it’s late but… should it really be this quiet?

- Why did you call me here, brother?

Yusei flinched at the sound of a familiar female voice before stopping dead in his tracks, attempting to determine the source.

Isn’t Aki supposed to be home? Why is she here at this hour?

Also… brother?!

- Now, now, no need to be hostile, sis. I just wanted for us to have a friendly duel. You know, like in old times, before things became… complicated.

Yusei’s mouth fell agape as he tip-toed towards the edge of the treeline, the bush of rosemary giving him enough coverage as he peeked his head towards the clearing in the garden, right next to the biggest lake.

There stood two very familiar people: Aki, still in her school uniform… and Edo, in his signature gray suit, his expression as cheeky as ever as he looked at the girl.

Do they know each other?! How the-

- You’re the one who made it all “complicated”, remember? – the girl suddenly hissed before pulling out a huge wooden bow from somewhere Yusei couldn’t see, her expression becoming sterner by the second. – How many times do I have to tell you to get your hand off the things that are mine and mine alone?

- Hey, it’s not my fault Yusei is so cute. – Edo noted, the bow also suddenly appearing in his hands, his being made of pure gold as it shone on the dim moonlight.

- Find yourself a new boy toy, Aster. I’ve saved him and helped him out his whole life. You really think I’d just let you waltz into his life and make him miserable? – Aki said through her teeth, a sheath filled with arrows no strapped over her shoulder as the burgundy glow started emitting from the ground she was standing on.

- And you think that gives you the right to call him your property? – the man said with a mocking chuckle. – And then I’m called selfish. Plus, the fact you helped him so much is against our law-

- ENOUGH ALREADY!

Yusei winced out of his daze once the strong wind filled with rose petals started whirling through the garden, the man’s eyes completely glued to the girl he thought he knew everything about.

Once the wind subsided, there stood the very goddess Yusei had worshipped for as long as he could remember: her burgundy hair much wilder and with a metal pin holding her bangs, her burgundy robe decorated with golden details hiding and revealing parts of her body at the right places, her majestic aura only amplified by the stance she took before pulled the string on her bow, arrow aiming directly at Edo…

- Sto-

Another whirl of wind enveloped the garden, this one with a silverfish glow and as the familiar scent of magnolia tickled Yusei’s nose. The arrow flew directly into that whirlwind before completely burning away like a straw of grass.

And then, another majestic god revealed himself: his face was even more beautiful than in his human form, his blue eyes piercing everything with their intensity. His robe was silverfish with blue details, half of his chest revealed for the whole world to feast their eyes on. The laurel crown on top of his head only added to the whole picture, leaving Yusei mesmerized for a moment.

But then the man remembered: these two… were actual gods.

Gods who… had deceived him all this time.

Yusei could feel his fists clenching as he debated on what to do next, not even wanting to look at either of them at that moment. So… all of my life, I-

A sudden crackle of the dried leaves put Yusei on full alert as he looked behind him into total darkness, unsure as to why he was so on edge at that very moment. He was feeling as if he had seen something he shouldn’t have… despite knowing that what both… Aster and Akiza were doing gave him the reason to be mad…

With a sigh of relief, Yusei gave the two gods one last glance, both of them preparing to shoot their bows at the target that was suddenly placed above the lake. Just like in the legend… they really do like to compete like this-

A pair of strong hands suddenly wrapped themselves around Yusei’s body, the man unable to even scream for help as the white rug got pushed into his face.

And as soon as he could smell the substance on it, the raven-head felt his consciousness fading away, his body slowly going limp as he fell onto the large body behind him.

As his eyelids closed shut and he faded into blackness, Yusei heard the sound of something falling onto the ground as the scent of magnolia and rose mixed in his nose, aware that those two gods won’t come to his rescue.

Not this time at least…

Chapter Text

Akiza shot her fifteenth arrow through the target floating above the lake, her brown eyes side-looking towards her twin brother as he snorted and shook his head.

- Not willing to give up the victory that easy I see… - he said nonchalantly before shooting his own, golden arrow through the center, his smug smile only causing the goddess of the hunt to boil even more on the inside.

- Same could be said for you, brother. – she spat, readying her sixteenth arrow. I can do this all night-

- There you two are!

The two gods lowered their bows and frowned at the same time, Jack emerging from the forest with an unusually tense expression. His indigo robes were somewhat disheveled and covered in dirt and leaves.

Akiza would chuckle at that appearance of his, especially considering his need to look immaculate at all times… if it wasn’t for one crucial detail in that whole picture.

The burgundy-haired goddess approached the taller god, her eyes directed towards the bag he held in his hands. Jack noticed her gaze and allowed her to take his hand, snatching the dark cloth from his hands and looking through it.

- Where did you find this? – she asked in a threatening tone, her brown eyes shooting right through the blonde’s skull.

- Easy there, harpy. It was here behind the rosemary bush, laying in the mud. I wouldn’t usually pick it up but my talisman started reacting to it.

- Why are you even here? – Aster questioned as he joined them, Jack already in process of combing his spiky hair and patting the dust off his robes.

- Didn’t you feel it? Another monster has appeared right around the corner so I jumped to the opportunity to go and kill it. I don’t know if anyone else went there before me but I came here to ask for your assistance on it because you were the closest.

- Oh? Okay, I’m in. I’ve never fought one of these monsters everyone’s rambling about. Might be fun. – silver-head said cheekily before sheathing all of his retrieved arrows and putting the bow against his back. – What do you say, Akiza? Wanna make this monster your third?

But the goddess just remained silent as she dug through the bag, finally retrieving a black leather wallet. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears as she opened it and looked for the driver’s license, not even hearing what her brother and Jack were saying.

- Oh no… - she mouthed upon pulling out the document. – This is Yusei’s…

- Who’s Yusei? – Jack questioned, noticing the male god went completely pale all of a sudden.

- Why would this be here? – Akiza wondered, panic slowly overtaking her chest. – You said your talisman started reacting to it? How so?

- Pull out yours and you’ll see. – the blonde directed while not even looking at the goddess, his purple gaze directed at Aster who averted his eyes from both of them. – Do you know something about this, my friend?

Akiza’s head shot up as she looked at her twin, her own face going pale at the sudden realization.

- You’ve told him to come here, haven’t you? – she mustered while clenching the bag and the wallet in her hands until her fingertips were on the verge of bleeding. – ANSWER ME!

A short pause ensued, Jack’s gaze going between the siblings in rapid succession, a discreet smirk on his lips showcasing his amusement with the whole situation.

- Oh, did he try to take away one of your mortals again, Akiza? – the blonde probed. – The same trick as always I see…

- Almost the same, yes… - Akiza said in a cold tone before grabbing her brother by his silver locks, the god yelping as he was thrown onto his knees with his neck arched backward and the burgundy-head being only a few inches from his face, her eyes burning with intense anger. – But this time… he made sure I don’t feel his presence… unlike before, when he’d attack me and force me to defend myself and the mortal… sneaky, sneaky….

Jack whistled at those words, Aster being able to do nothing but grip his sister’s hand still buried in the back of his head, his pretty face distorted in pain.

- Isn’t it right, BROTHER?! – Akiza yelled right into his ear, causing him to spat:

- SO WHAT?! HE DESERVED TO SEE THE TRUTH! Don’t play saint! You’ve deceived him all his life and have even caught feelings for him! A MERE MORTAL!

The goddess yanked Aster’s head, even more, her nails digging deep into his skull, causing him to yowl in pain while Jack shook his head in amusement.

- This is only getting more and more interesting. – the blonde stated before becoming serious again. – I won’t comment on either of your relationships with that Yusei guy, but one thing is pretty obvious: because of your petty, Aster, your little mortal was obviously caught in our business and looks like he’s captured by someone who’s in control of the beasts.

The goddess finally released her brother’s head by throwing him into the muddy ground, two of her attendants appearing from the portal behind her with terrified expressions on their faces. Akiza didn’t say anything and only handed the bag to the little fairy with a blonde bob, his taller, red-headed companion locking the eyes with his mistress.

- Follow the trail of this energy and lead us to Yusei and that monster. Can you do that?

- Yes, mistress! – both fairies exclaimed before removing the barrier Aster had put up more than half an hour ago, the duo now flying upwards while making sure no mortals could notice them.

- You’re just going to barge wherever Yusei is?! Without any plan?! – Aster called out, his sister not giving him even a glance as her rose dragon chariot appeared out of nowhere.

- We fought these monsters without a plan before, what’s the difference now? – Jack said with a smug expression before he himself started floating. – You can stay here if you want, I don’t think your little sister even wants to see your face right now.

The silver-haired god clicked his tongue as his own attendant, Dark Angel appeared next to him to cast a flying spell.

- We found the trail! – Laurel called out, Akiza not wasting any time to whip her dragons into motion, the chariot flying across the cold night sky.

She could feel her bow vibrating on her back, the talisman she received from the king and the monarch of the Underworld already sending signals to the Sky Temple about the energy they sensed. She could also hear Jack and Aster bicker behind her, but she didn’t have any time to waste.

Yusei… Yusei was put in danger because of her naivety… despite going through similar events before… she still didn’t learn her lesson.

And now, her favorite mortal was paying the price…

***

The first thing Yusei was aware of was a blazing headache in between his ears, his eyelids rough like sandpaper, and his whole body hurting, from toes to his scalp. He could hear an annoying sound of unknown devices buzzing directly next to his ears as his vision remained blurry for a few more moments before he even attempted to look around.

And only then did the raven-head realize he was bound to a pipe, his bottom placed onto the cold and firm floor in… some kind of facility?

- Finally awake I see…

Yusei felt his skin crawl as he heard a familiar, masculine voice to his right, the urgency of spinning his head in that direction causing him nausea.

But despite his headache and a temporary loss of focus, the young scientist could still recognize the tall and muscular silhouette above him, the man’s spiky blonde hair and tanned skin only averting the attention from his glowing, turquoise eyes.

- Rafael? – Yusei said in a raspy voice, his brows frowning as he pulled onto his restraints. – What’s the meaning of this?

The man just crouched next to him, his lab coat still on him as he observed his colleague with an almost blank expression, the uncanny feeling of it all sending shivers down Yusei’s spine.

- I’ve told you many times before… - the blonde spoke while removing bangs away from Yusei’s forehead. – Don’t mess with something you’re not meant to know. And look at you now…

Rafael let out a disinterested chuckle before standing up and heading towards the glass door, raven-head only then realizing this was some kind of glass prison, similar to the ones he had seen in the royal palace while on tour as a teen.

- You didn’t answer my question. – Yusei demanded, yanking onto his restraints stronger than before, the cold metal carving into the skin of his wrists. – What is going on?

Rafael clicked his tongue before turning to face his friend again, his expression as blank as the empty blackboard, the younger man completely unable to read any thoughts from those glowing turquoise eyes.

- I need to keep you here until everything is resolved, that’s all… - he muttered while crossing the arms above his wide chest.

- Everything? What everything?

The blonde chuckled again before approaching him again and crouching down, his large finger flicking onto Yusei’s forehead as if he was a disobedient child.

- The real master of this world shall soon return and cleanse the world of all of its vermin… even the gods of the current pantheon. – Rafael explained, his expression stuck in a moment of a sadistic smile. – And because you were such an ally of those pests that rest above the clouds, I needed to remove you. Master doesn’t need any interference, especially not from a spoiled brat like you…

Yusei grind his teeth before once again yanking onto his restraints, attempting to strike Rafael with his foot but the man was faster than him, literally dematerializing towards the entrance to the cell.

- What damn master?! Fucking wake up, Rafael! This isn’t like you! – the younger exclaimed as he attempted to release himself with brute strength alone, a hiss of pain soon escaping his mouth as the metal restraints cut into his skin.

The blonde just turned his back on Yusei and typed in the lock password, his last words said with so much venom the raven-head froze for a moment:

- You know nothing about me. Now stay put and maybe you’ll live to see the morning…

With that Rafael left him all alone behind the bulletproof glass, Yusei growling in anger as he once again yanked at his restraints, soon becoming aware of his own blood dripping down his hands.

- FUCK! – he exclaimed as he relaxed against the wall, looking around the room for anything that will allow him to somehow slip out of this damn prison… but aside from the beeping of surveillance cameras and buzzing of the electricity aggregate, nothing else was in that damn cell.

And worst of all, he had lost his back, probably when Rafael knocked him out back at the botanical garden.

Botanical garden…

Yusei allowed his head to fall limply against the wall, the firm hit on the wall causing his vision to blur once again.

With all the commotion and happenings of that night, the young scientist had completely forgotten about the fact that his young friend, Aki, was in fact the goddess he had worshipped all of his life. But now that he thought about it, many things started to make sense: how she never mentioned her parents or school work until he’d question her about it, how she’d always meet him in the facility garden… how it seemed she was always more concerned about him even though he believed she was in high school…

Yusei chuckled bitterly before closing his eyes, his eyelids burning with intensity as he got the urge to rub them. But at that moment even the smallest yank caused him a great deal of pain so the raven-head concluded it’d be the best not to move an inch… at least for now.

As the moments passed, the man could feel his chest becoming hollower and hollower upon the realization he literally had no one else to rely on. He needed to find a way to survive that night on his own.

Without godly help…

***

- Holy shit, that’s a big-ass spider… - Jack muttered as they flew over to the facility in the middle of the woods on the northern border of the Capital.

A gigantic insect had the exact same glowing stripes all over its body, their glow reminding the blonde of blood that coursed through his own veins. The time when he fought that huge hummingbird suddenly flashed before his eyes, remembering how it was only him and Carly fighting that battle…

- Do you two have any idea on how to defeat it? – Aster called out, forcing the god of wine to snap out of his daze and the thoughts of the green-haired witch goddess.

- Just strike it in the weak spot, that glowing orb on its chest… - Akiza explained without even giving her brother a glance, her chariot quickly descending into the forest, a little further from where the spider was located.

- That’s it?! Aren’t these supposed to be super dangerous?!

- That’s the thing. – Jack explained with a sarcastic smile plastered on his face. – You have no idea about their fighting style… but you can be damn sure they’ll defend their weak spot with everything they have.

The silver-haired god frowned but Jack decided to follow Akiza’s example as he whistled into his fingers, two if his attendants emerging from an indigo-glowing portal on the ground. As soon as they noticed their master has descended on the ground, both men bowed down to him, Jack looking for Akiza.

- What’s the plan? – he asked, aware of Aster also landing behind him.

- Bypass that huge bug and bust Yusei out. – the goddess said through her teeth before drawing three arrows along with her bow, the short fairy with blonde bob returning Yusei’s belongings to her. – You’re sure he’s inside?

- Absolutely, mistress. I can feel his energy. – the fairy said while frantically nodding his head, the goddess not even sparing him a glance as her hunting instinct activated, target in the line of her sight.

- Good. Bring Rosemary and Marjoram here as soon as possible. That'll be a dangerous fight.

- Understood! – the blonde fairy said before disappearing in the portal of burgundy light, the other two called fairies soon emerging from it to assist both their mistress and red-haired fairy who remained.

- How many attendants do you have? – Akiza questioned as her eyes finally locked with Jack’s and Aster’s but only for a moment.

- I have Cardinal and Caribou here. They can perform complicated fire formations just fine. – the blonde god explained, Aster hesitating with his answer for a moment.

- Plasma will be enough for this fight… - he eventually muttered, Jack just chuckling at his bratty behavior.

- Alright, then time to charge… - the goddess commanded as she shot out all three arrows without hesitation, her attendants leaping into battle as soon as the tiny blades buried into the spider’s obsidian-black skin.

- I don’t want to be left behind… - Jack mustered before jumping out of the bushes and landing right in front of the spider, the insect instantly spitting huge puddles of venom and web in hopes to hit him.

The blonde god was fast and agile but he was still thankful for his attendants’ white and purple flames that prevented anything from hitting him. he ran around the spider’s body as fast as possible, noticing in the corner of his eye that both siblings attempted to slide under the bug’s belly in order to hit it in the weak spot.

But that damn vermin was the smart one, constantly spitting sticky webs and moving its legs so neither Aster nor Akiza could even come near the weak spot. Jack also attempted to surprise-attack it as he observed its body, but it seemed the damn spider was also rather aware of his presence as well, constantly trying to crush him with one of its gigantic legs. It’s good to have so many eyes I see…

Upon arriving at the back of the spider’s body, Jack once again tried to slide under it but the spider quickly turned its ugly head and almost pierced the god’s body with its back leg. The god quickly changed his footing and shot up in the air, completely flying over the spider… only to notice the back entrance to the building…

Upon landing, the blonde god looked for the back door again before forming a huge fireball with his palms. But as he threw it in an attempt to melt open the metal barrier, the spider shot another one of his webs, this substance much thicker and stickier than the ones it had used before, forcing the blonde to flee to safety.

As soon as the god entered the safety of the woods, his hypothesis proved to be true…

- THAT SPIDER IS GUARDING THE DOOR! – he exclaimed, causing both Akiza and Aster to look at him with surprised expressions only to leap back into the battle once the thought had settled in.

After few more strikes, all fighters have retreated back into the tree line, all of them breathy and with sweat dripping down their faces.

- See? It’s not attacking us when we’re here… not at all like that hummingbird I fought.

- Nor the giant and the lizard… - Akiza added as her lips turned into a thin line, her eyes glued to the monster that still stood in their way.

- What now then? It’s obvious it’s not a threat to us so maybe it’s not that urgent?

- Are you an idiot? Yusei is inside! – the goddess reminded, her eyes finally glancing towards her sibling after who knows how long.

- I know but still! He’s just a mortal! Who the hell knows if he’s still al-

- DON’T! – the goddess exclaimed before shoving her index finger right into Aster’s face. – Finish that sentence. He’s alive.

- And besides, this is a perfect opportunity for the king to trace the origin of the force that had awoken it. It’s more than just protecting humans of the Capital and our own butts.  – Jack explained, happy to see this won’t be a boring night after all.

Aster remained silent for a couple of moments before sighing in defeat and asking:

- What are you planning?


END OF ARC 6: CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Chapter Text

As the time continued to flow, Yusei grew more and more agitated in his cell. He could hear rather loud crashing sounds coming from somewhere outside, muffled noises that reminded him of banshee screams freezing the blood in his veins. He shifted on the floor, his behind already completely numb from the firmness of the metal under him.

Once again, he examined the room. Aside from starkly white metal walls and security cameras in every corner, there was nothing else in there, the hallway with glowing turquoise lights visible through the glass door. Metal restraints that kept him immobilized could only be unlocked via a certain password and were otherwise indestructible… unless the one had a limb or two to spare.

At that point, Yusei was completely sure that Rafael, of whoever else was charged with looking after him via the security cameras, would see if he even attempted anything so he didn’t have much choice but to remain still.

And yet, his chest only grew tighter with every moment he spent in that cell, his heart hammering painfully against his chest as the feeling that something bad was going to happen washed over him. He didn’t understand why he was thinking that way or towards whom that fear has been directed, but he just couldn’t remain still.

With all of his possibilities lost, Yusei resorted to the very last option: he’ll have to break both of his wrists…

But just as he yanked the restrains with the full strength of his arms, the pain swiftly piercing his skin and making him hiss, a sound of electric interference filled the room only for all four cameras to simultaneously explode. As their scrapped parts clanked across the floor, Yusei’s eyes widened as the burgundy light filled the cell, the magic circle appearing in the middle of the metal floor.

The man closed his eyes, the light blinding him so much he was able to see the stars even with his eyelids shut, but soon after that, a familiar scent of roses filled the room.

A few moments later Yusei raised his head, his vision still somewhat blurry and spotted, but he could still clearly see a female silhouette hovering over him, a familiar burgundy hair and the robe of the same color causing his body to both relax in relief but also for his chest to tighten.

- Are you alright, Yusei? – the goddess asked before crouching next to him, her hands grabbing the restraints almost instantly. – Oh dear heavens your wrists are bleeding-

- Why are you here, your Grace?

The cold tone of the man’s voice and the averting of his eyes caused Akiza to stop dead in her tracks, her face expressionless as her brown eyes looked at him pleadingly.

- To help you get out, of course. It’s my fault for dragging you into this whole mess… - she admitted, Yusei giving her a side-look.

- I thought gods could never make mistakes… - he said sarcastically. – And… it’s mostly Edo’s- I mean, Aster’s fault… He summoned me there to…

- To witness your little friend Aki transform into a goddess you have worshipped, I know. – Akiza said with a bitter chuckle at the end, the goddess being the one to avert her eyes this time around.

- You sound like this has already happened before… - Yusei noticed only to have the burgundy-head nod in a similarly bitter fashion.

- It did… a few times. I had my favorite humans in whom I’ve believed… and then my brother would just snatch them away after they witnessed our quarrel, showing them I’m “not suited to be worshipped because I’m a little brat”… - she explained. – But with you, it’s even worse. I’ve been actively involved in your life since that fire… and I’ve deceived you by giving you a false identity. This time, it’s understandable if you’d want to completely cut ties with me as my worshipper…

The goddess then proceeded to fiddle with the restraints again, her gaze completely avoiding Yusei’s as she cast the same spell that had disabled the security cameras, the young scientist soon being free to move.

He stood up with a loud groan and arched his back, making his bones crack loudly before stretching his arms and legs. Akiza gave him a faint smile before reaching the mechanism for opening the glass door, doing the same thing in order to open them forcefully.

- Come on, we need to get out through the basement, Jack and Aster have their hands full right now. – she explained before attempting to grab Yusei’s hand only to hesitate and eventually take a few steps forward, leading him through the corridor.

The raven-head followed her instantly, grabbing onto her hand and wrapping his cold fingers around her delicate, soft skin.

- I’m still shocked and hurt by everything I’ve found out tonight… - he said with a stern tone, Akiza bravely locking their eyes together in expectation of vicious scolding. But instead, Yusei gave her a faint but tender smile, his voice softer than before. – But you’ve still saved my life. Both tonight and during that night. For that, I’ll always be grateful to you, Your Grace.

The burgundy-haired goddess appeared stunned for a moment before letting out a loud sigh of relief, her smile saying more than a thousand words.

She then pulled the human by the hand and led him through the corridor until they eventually reached the set of emergency stairs.

- You said lord Jack and lord Aster have their hands full… with what exactly? – Yusei asked as they ran down the stairs, a single led light illuminating their way on each floor they’d pass.

- Remember that time when we fought a huge giant on the East Coast? Well, another similar creature appeared right in front of this facility. Looks like it was guarding you.

Yusei felt a chill run down his spine, remembering that giant monster with glowing blue stripes all over it. If such a thing was so close to the city, then so many people will be in danger if those two gods lose-

- They won’t lose. – Akiza assured. – They maybe aren’t directly connected to the combat jurisdiction like Asuka or Zane, but they know how to handle themselves. Plus, they have strong attendants.

- But we need to reach the town as soon as possible. People might need help evacuating if such a creature is so close… - the raven-head said in a concerned tone, the goddess squeezing his hand in reassurance.

- We’ll be in town soon. I’ll help you however I can-

- I don’t think that will be necessary, dearest hunt goddess.

The duo stopped dead in their tracks as they heard an unfamiliar male voice come from the speakers in the emergency stairway. Akiza immediately stepped in front of the young scientist, taking a guarding position despite not knowing where to look.

- What do you want, human? – she asked in a commanding tone before linking mentally with Yusei, the man now able to hear her voice in his head as if she’s been talking to him out loud.

If they attempt anything, tear the talisman I’ll give you. It’ll teleport you in the woods outside.

- B-but-

Don’t argue! Just do it!

The raven-head discretely accepted the paper talisman and prepared to tear it apart only to have the same man speak through the speakers again.

- That’s cold of you, goddess. I’d much prefer you call me Sayer instead. After all, we’ll be spending a lot of time together from today onwards.

- What do you mean? – Akiza hissed, her bow and one arrow already in her hands.

But as soon as he heard those words, Yusei could feel his heart sink deep into his stomach as the realization hit him like a truck.

And in that very moment, the burgundy-haired goddess screamed in intense pain, her body completely paralyzed as she slumped onto the floor, her limbs tense and unmoving as her eyes widened in horror. She convulsed and tried to catch her breath, Yusei only then noticing a glowing green bark on the back of her neck.

A lizard…

- You really thought you’ve just been defeating those monsters, huh? – the man said through the speakers again before laughing maniacally. – Now you’ll join the rest of your fellow gods from the pantheon. We even captured the god of wine! His win against Uru was magnificent!

Akiza groaned and tried so desperately to at least raise one of her fingers, but the seal only glowed stronger on her neck, making her completely glued to the floor via invisible force, causing her even more pain.

- Your Grace! – raven-head crouched down, unsure of what he was supposed to do, what he could do, but the goddess just looked up at him with an intense glare, the words she shrieked through pain engraved in the man’s memory.

- RUN NOW!

Yusei hesitated as his vision blurred before raising a talisman and tearing it in two, the magic swiftly sending him through space with the last vision of the goddess of hunt trying to catch her breath on the floor as the green glow consumed her.

The man soon landed in the middle of the woods, tears of frustration rolling down his nose as he hit the ground under him with cold wrath. I couldn’t do anything… I couldn’t help her…

All because I’m-

- Yusei!

The raven-head immediately jumped back on his feet and turned around, kicking the god of beauty square in the jaw, not even caring if he had disregarded the rules and insulted the deity.

This was all his fault, after all.

Aster just fell limply on the floor, his eyes widening in shock as he reached up for his jaw. When their eyes locked, his calmness annoyed the living heck out of Yusei, his fist tingling in need to punch him again.

- Alright, I deserved it… - the god muttered as he picked himself up, still not removing his hand from his face. – But like it or not, you’re stuck with me.

- I can tend to myself just fine, thank you… - Yusei hissed only to have the other click his tongue a few times and reveal his right shoulder, a faint light shaped like X slowly fading away.

- I know you can, but I made a promise to Aki that I’ll bring you home safely. – he said with a somber tone, his eyes darkening for a moment. – And I’ll fulfill my little sister’s promise even if you try to kill me.

Yusei continued to glare at the silver-haired god but remained silent this time around, his chest still tight upon remembering the pain the goddess was experiencing swiftly before he teleported.

- Come, Dogma. – Aster said in a commanding voice before removing the hand from his face, slight swelling of his right cheek being the only indication someone had even touched him.

But Yusei didn’t have any time to observe the god further as a huge, demon-like creature appeared before him and draped him over its shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The soon took a flighty, Yusei yelping in surprise and horror as the forest under him became smaller and smaller.

Then a familiar sound of sirens echoed through the night, yet another chill running down the man’s spine.

- This is princess Julia speaking. I would like all of our citizens to gather their most needed necessities and find their way towards the royal palace. We’re in a state of an emergency. In the palace, you’ll have secured a bed and a meal. Come to the royal palace as soon as possible.

 - So they’ve caught up on it, huh? – Aster muttered, still loud enough for Yusei to hear despite the howling winds up in the sky.

- Caught up on what?! – he demanded whilst positioning himself on Dogma’s shoulder, his eyes once again locking with Aster’s.

- Looks like there’ll be another war, especially with these creatures roaming so close to the city. – Aster explained. – I’ll drop you off to the royal palace and then go see what my boss has to say-

A loud, bird-like shriek then pierced the night sky, the sound being even louder than emergency sirens that were still blaring all around the Capital. Both Aster and Yusei froze for a moment before looking up, towards the source of it.

- Holy mother earth… - the god breathed in shock.

Above them flew an enormous, bird-like creature, its skin being the same color as all of the creatures that have been defeated so far, its stripes glowing deep purple color. This thing was ten times bigger than the giant Yusei had seen on the East Coast and the mere sight of it caused his heart to stop for a moment, a light layer of cold sweat coating his entire body.

The bird shrieked again before flying even higher, above the clouds, both Aster and Yusei only then noticing someone on top of the bird’s head, their long, mint hair loosely tied in a ponytail while their white robes glowed in the moonlight of the October night.

- No, no, no, no, NO, NO! – Aster exclaimed in panic while still immobilized with shock, his eyes so wide Yusei was convinced they’ll pop out of his head.

- What is it?! Who’s that?!

- Our calamity… - Aster uttered. – The First God and our creator… Dartz…

Chapter Text

Seto always took great pride in his intellect and the ability to trust his own gut feeling, the king of all gods not being satisfied with mediocre results someone would try to present to him just to calm him down. On so many occasions, his gut feeling prevented a lot of bad things from happening in the past, earning him the respect for the whole pantheon he ruled over, even from the gods that weren’t really satisfied with the way he was handling things.

The god of thunder was convinced he’ll come out victorious this time around as well.

As soon as Jack, Aster, and Akiza started fighting that spider monster, both he and Yami were able to feel the strong magical energy weaved in the attacks of that monster, Seto recognizing it immediately.

Upon a very clear realization of what was going on, the god of thunder called upon his three white dragons, readying everyone in the case of an emergency attack.

However, this time around, he miscalculated.

His gut feeling was right but… his timing was terribly off.

The moment he took a flight along with his wife on two out of three white dragons, the whole sky fell silent upon seeing a massive, bird-like creature already landing itself on top of the Sky temple’s roof, its master looking down on every god that came out to help.

Seto could feel his heart jumping in his throat as his blood went cold, an unknown feeling of uneasiness and utter panic filling his chest. The silence where only the howling of the wind predicted the outcome of that surprise battle as even Kisara couldn’t move her eyes away from the terrifying sight.

- How adorable…  - Dartz said through loud, ground-breaking laughter before starting to levitate above the rooftop, the huge bird screeching in response. – Almost the whole pantheon is here… but wait! Seto! Where are my children from the Underworld, hm?

The god of thunder gripped the harnesses latched onto his dragon, bobs of sweat slowly running down his temples.

- What the hell do you want, Dartz?! Aren’t you supposed to be sealed away?! – Manjoume yelled as his huge kaiju-like monster roared in agreement, the ancient god only giving him a light smirk before clicking his fingers, that one little movement being enough to break off one of the towers on the Sky temple.

- Watch your mouth, junior. Your creators maybe did get tired, but I didn’t. – Dartz hissed before waving his hand and throwing the huge tower at the sea god, the kaiju hitting it with its tail and smashing it into million pieces. – You’ve ruined my plans two thousand years ago and just look what happened to the Earth? These little pests overpopulated my precious, untouched world.

- Wasn’t that your plan?! Why did you create humans then?! – Kisara called out as her own dragon growled and roared along with her, Seto noticing her deep frown and darkness looming in her blue eyes.

- They were merely an experiment, useless vermin I was about to discard once I got tired of them. – Dartz responded with a chuckle before flying up and once again landing on top of the bird’s head, the creature letting out yet another blood-curdling roar which caused all of the present attendants to yowl in pain, including three imperial dragons. – But why should I explain anything to you? You’ve been overly in love with humans to understand my intentions, dearest Kisara. But there is one way which will allow you to save your precious vermin….

Seto growled under his pain before whipping the harness of his dragon and flying forward, much further than anyone else. As the other gods observed his actions with tense readiness, the god of thunder and storms flew up to Dartz’s level and gave him a piercing, loathing glare.

- We will rather die than ever join you. You’ve caused so much suffering for everyone… and there is no way that I’ll allow it again! – the brunette proclaimed with nothing but determination in his voice, Dartz obviously baffled by this kind of spite.

But then the ancient god chuckled, his tone making it seem as if he had just faced a rather minor inconvenience.

But Seto could feel his heart stop for a moment as he mentally linked with every single god present in that night sky at that moment.

This was it…

- Then perish.

- FORWARD! – Kisara was the one to let out the loudest war cry the king of the gods has ever heard, every single creature and god flying towards the bird and its master in unison.

For a brief moment, as they flew next to each other, Seto nodded at his wife and continued to give out orders through his strong mental link, trying to stay focused amidst many different thoughts suddenly invading his head.

Then, the battle has begun.

With the help of another one of his dragons, Seto called fourth the biggest cluster of storm clouds he could muster, flashes of lightning and thunder hits striking all over the bird’s body. The creature took a flight, Dartz not even bothered by that sudden rush of electricity around his body. Instead, he raised both of his hands, causing an entire floating island to break into a million smaller but deadly pieces. He then directed those smaller projectiles towards the gods that attempted to strike him, Zane going all out with the help of his many cyber dragons, Kisara using the speed of her dragon to utilize quick and precise blows to the bird’s lower region, near its weak spot. Asuka called forth all of her stronger warriors, Vrash launching powerful projectiles that destroyed the majority of smaller projectiles.

Marik and Aigami worked as a perfect team, sun god’s winged dragon making sure to deem one of the bird’s wings immobile while moon god’s ancient fairy dragon cast a short-lasting freezing spell which allowed his second, stardust dragon, to make a deep dent in its back with its glowing attack. Manjoume wasn’t too far behind as his kaijus avoided all the massive missals Dartz tried to throw at them with unimaginable speed, one of them even able to strike at the spot where the ancient god stood only moments before the collision. Fubuki’s ice dragons worked perfectly with Zane’s cyber dragons as they attempted to hunt down Dartz whenever he’d try to settle down somewhere, the ancient god only giving them a dirty look, as if they were disobedient children that needed to be punished. Bastion, Ryou, Johan, and Mai used their attendants to finally knock down the massive bird, its body crashing against the main Sky temple and breaking it into pieces.

But even with that much firepower, Seto knew what the outcome will be.

Too many of his comrades were missing… and due to his mental link, he couldn’t summon his ultimate weapon-

- Alright, this was fun. But it’s time to say good night.

Seto’s heart skipped a beat as he heard Dartz’s voice in his head, his mental link instantly broken as he looked up, the sky literally opening with a single raise of the ancient god’s hand.

Then Dartz started transforming: his body growing to the same size as his pet bird while his skin turned obsidian-black, his miny-colored hair becoming dark green and free of its restraints. Glowing marks appeared all over his body and his eyes changed from their regular yellow to dark turquoise, the space around his pupils growing black as well.

And then, he swiped with his hand again, that one movement enough to literally knock every single god that was near him out of the way.

- NO! – Kisara exclaimed as she could only watch as the majority of the gods in her jurisdiction literally got swiped like a swarm of flies, their bodies flying towards the earth at rapid speed before painfully crashing into the ground along with their battle beasts.

But there were two gods that didn’t even manage to escape the ancient god’s grasp, their bodies limply hanging from his obsidian-black hand.

- Oh dear heavens…. MARIK! RYOU! – Aigami shrieked before being forcefully drawn away by Kisara’s powers, the goddess now standing all alone in front of Dartz’s true godly form, only her dragon being there to aid her.

- KISARA! – Seto exclaimed as pure panic shrouded his judgment, completely forgetting about the fact that he was the king of all gods and that he was supposed to command this attack.

He swiftly whipped two remaining dragons to aid the goddess but was met with an insanely strong and unbreakable barrier. The brunette panicked even more as he tried to fly around it, but there was no use. Instead, he could only help the third dragon exit through a hole small enough for it to pass only for the barrier close in on him.

Despite being the king, Seto was never able to break his wife’s barrier. And this… this was her last resort.

- You can’t do this, Kisara! Listen to me! – the king yelled desperately before their eyes locked for a brief moment through the barrier, her always present tender smile and warm eyes now becoming blurry in the brunette’s vision.

It’s alright, Seto. Just go and leave us.

- NO WAY! – he protested as he struck the barrier with lightning despite knowing it won’t do anything to break it. – We… we must keep-

You must live, the goddess scolded in his mind. You’re their king… only you can bring this war to an end. Only you. Now go and tend the wounded.

The thunder god could feel tears run down his face as he watched his wife disappear in the cloud of rubble, her barrier still intact and obviously too much for even Dartz to handle at that moment. With a frustrated growl, Seto hit the barrier one last time before whipping his dragon and flying away.

I’ll come back for you… and I’ll kill that bastard with my very own hands.

I know you will…

***

 - There he is! – Yugi exclaimed upon seeing one last familiar face that needed to arrive, his little garden in the top sides of the Underworld suddenly seeming overly suffocating.

- Mana, open the barrier. – the king of the Underworld said out loud despite being connected to the blonde goddess through a mental link. And, soon enough, silver-haired god landed on the soft grass along with his two ghoulish attendants, one of them carrying… a human?

- Am I the last one? – Aster questioned whilst catching his breath, his knees barely holding him up at that point.

- Looks like it. – Atem responded before leading the way through the garden and up the narrow passage through a rock, not even sparing a glance towards the human that ended up being entangled in this whole war-of-the-gods mess.

- Yami! What should we do about the boy? – Yugi called out before coming closer to the taller man, giving him a polite nod.

- Bring him in! Just make sure to hold his hand, looks like you’d be able to nullify the Underworld energy for him. – the king responded before disappearing through the rock along with Aster and his two attendants.

- So this is the Underworld? – the man asked once Yugi pulled him by the hand and led him forward, the two of them soon appearing in the Dragon cave. – I thought it’d be much more different…

- We share the sentiment, but you’ll see. This place isn’t a hellhole many people make it seem. – Yugi said through a chuckle. – Just make sure not to let go of my hand, alright? We don’t know what might happen to a living person in the Underworld so I’m here to keep you safe.

The man nodded in understanding and bowed lightly, his aura incredibly calm despite his disheveled look and still fresh cuts on his wrists.

Yugi proceeded to lead him out of the Dragon cave, the man gasping in astonishment upon seeing Slifer and Gandora, and although the hybrid god was happy to see his enthusiasm, he knew they had to move quickly…

- What is happening, your Grace? If I may know… - the human suddenly asked, their footsteps echoing the wide hallways of the cave.

Yugi hesitated, not sure how much he was allowed to reveal, but considering their current position and Atem’s approval of a living mortal walking through his domain, he decided to be honest with the lad.

- We don’t know much ourselves but… looks like one of our creators has awakened and is looking to “recreate the world according to his image”… or so we heard from our king. – the hybrid god explained right before they reached the crossroads of the tunnels, Yugi choosing the one on the far right. – Looks like the Sky temple, the home of Human domain gods and Sky domain gods, has been completely destroyed… and a lot of the gods ended up being captured. Many other gods and attendants are injured, too, but because Kalin was among the ones who were exposed for the Monster seal, he ended up being captured as well, hence why we have limited resources of healer gods.

- Monster seal? – the man questioned with slightly widened eyes. – I-is that what took out Akiza?

- Took her out? What do you mean? – Yugi stopped in his tracks upon hearing those words, feeling as if whatever that human had to say was way too important to just brush it off.

- I… I’ve been captured by some kind of organization… I suppose they are connected with the Ancient god… and Aki, I mean Akiza came through to save me along with Aster and Jack… but as we were running away, some guy, Sayer, used some kind of seal shaped like a lizard to immobilize her and capture her…

- A lizard… - Yugi mouthed as the realization slowly started to sink in, his hand gripping onto the man’s hand even tighter. – Come on, you have to tell this to our king…

The hybrid god then pulled the man by the hand as they started running through the tunnels, soon reaching the main hallway and Atem’s throne room. There, Ishizu, Mahad, Bastion, and Mana attempted their best to patch up the wounded, Yugi rather disturbed upon the realization that only Fubuki made it back out of all the gods in the Earthly realm. Luckily, the charms he had created with Atem’s help really did prevent everyone’s powers from leaking out in the Underworld so they had one worry less…

- So it is true… - the man gasped as they passed next to the wounded, Zane and Aigami giving them a rather tense glance as they walked past them. – Even gods can be vulnerable if they’re met with a threat so big…

- Of course. – Yugi chuckled bitterly. – When you break it to the lowest level, we and humans are pretty similar. We get hurt, we mourn, we get tired… but we also grow, learn and eventually find closure.

The man nodded in understanding as they walked up towards the throne and behind it, soon stepping into a narrow passageway that led to the small hidden room where the crystal ball was stationed.

There stood Atem together with Manjoume and their king, whose face looked completely drained and pale as he was lost in thought. Asuka and Aster also joined them, Yugi noticing a pretty sizeable cut above the goddess’s eye.

- Aster filled me in on a situation. Looks like you’re stuck with us. – king Seto spoke in an almost sinister tone, the man seemingly not minding it at all. – What are you called?

- Yusei Fudo. I’m a scientist at the Royal Magical Institute.

- And I’ve heard you’ve witnessed the capture of one of our comrades, correct? – the goddess of war strategy spoke to him in a calm voice, Yusei only nodding with a long face.

- Yes… it was Akiza, the goddess of hunt and wildlife… but from what I’ve heard and collected the data, I assume there are more mysterious captures, right?

- Precisely. – the king waved his hand above the huge crystal ball, soon revealing faces of six gods only to have Yusei’s eyes widen slightly. – Crow. Shizuka. Kalin. Akiza. Carly. Jack. All of them mysteriously disappeared five hours ago, their attendants reporting strange seals appearing on their bodies before they were swallowed by a turquoise portal. From what Aster told me, the place you were taken might be the place where they keep all of them… and if not, there might be just enough magical energy to track them down. So every little detail you remember would be of great help.

Yusei nodded only to look towards Yugi who approvingly squeezed his hand. With that, the human took a deep breath and said:

- One of my colleagues… Rafael… he’s been supposedly working with this organization… if you find him, maybe you’ll be able to track their HQ faster… he also said something about “me not fouling great god’s plan”.

All of the present gods frowned at his words only for the king of the Underworld to chuckle cheekily, his deep voice filling the tiny room:

- So he’s using humans as his goons, I see. Makes sense. – he then walked up to Yusei and despite being slightly shorter than him, was able to assert his dominance completely just by a single glance from his red eyes. – I can see why you’d be in Dartz’s way… you’re willing to work with gods even though you have been hurt by them before… You could greatly affect his plans…

- What are you planning then? Use Yusei as your bait or something? – Aster intervened only to be stared down by Seto.

- I’m fine with it. – Yusei noted. – I… if I can do anything to help and release Akiza… anything…

Yugi and Atem exchanged looks before the king of the Underworld patted human’s shoulder and turned towards Asuka, her determined nod kicking everything into motion.

- Yusei? – the goddess called out. – We’ll need your help with something…

Chapter Text

- Everyone, please gather up if you can stand. We need to say a few words. – Seto called out as he exited the small hallway hidden behind the throne, the entirety of the pantheon now standing before him… well, those members of the pantheon that have remained.

- As you can see, we were forced to flee our home and I’m not proud of it… - the king said in a slightly shaky voice, but after a very brief pause and cracking his own knuckles, the brunette continued. – But that doesn’t mean we’ll surrender without a fight. Thus, we have developed a plan of three stages which we’ll execute as soon as possible. It’s not just our well-being at stake, the well-being of our worshippers is as well threatened, if not more compared to us.

The gods nodded and murmured in agreement, Johan feeling incredibly restless as those specific words his king had just spoken had finally sunk in.

The royal family was still out there… Judai was still out there…

- In order to make this plan succeed, however, we’ll only have to tell you about your tasks little by little, as we complete all the steps. That way, according to Yami, it’ll be harder for Dartz to put together the complete collage of our intentions. – the king Seto explained before giving a brief word to the king of the Underworld, Johan feeling a slight chill go down his spine as his red eyes scanned the room.

- Even though Dartz cannot attack us now, partially because he needs to “recharge”, there is a danger of him absorbing some of your comrades purely in order to restore some of his previous divine power. But from what Yusei had told us… - the god pointed at the tall human standing behind them all, causing a few of the other deities to gasp in surprise. – Looks like this organization that is helping him also plans to experiment on the captured gods. I hope you understand the state of urgency we’re under.

The crowd murmured in agreement again, Asuka being the next one to speak:

- With all that said, three initial tasks have been decided: firstly, we need to make sure to protect the humans however we can. I need a group of gods that are willing to check on the city and the continent and offer humans some of their attendants that can protect them, we promised to do such a thing when mortals pledged their loyalty to us. – she reminded. – That second group will also be in charge of finding more vessels for Dartz, their main distinguishing feature being glowing turquoise eyes.

- Why would Dartz want human vessels? Isn’t he an almighty god? – Zane snarled despite still in process of healing from his injuries, Manjoume being the one to whip him with his glare and say:

- They can pose an inconvenience for us too, moron. Because of one of them, Jack and Akiza got captured.

- And apparently… - Asuka cut in while sending Manjoume a grateful smile, making the sea god blush. – These vessels are on a mission to “eliminate” any human that could be of use to us in our battle. Rafael, one of the vessels, tried to capture Yusei but he’s here with us.

- What are other objectives then? – Ishizu asked, Johan noticing her obvious unease. No wonder, her little brother got captured…

- The second one is to guard the Underworld as our base. – Asuka explained. – The barrier around it is already strong but we still need a group of gods to stay here in case something happens. And lastly, we need a group of gods that will go on a rescue mission but with Yusei’s help.

- Isn’t that nice, now we have to be assisted by a mere mortal… - Aigami spat only to have a very light electricity wave run down his back, causing him to lock the eyes with his king.

- At this point we need any help we can get. Plus, these are direct orders from your king. Will you disobey them, king of the moon and knowledge?

The turquoise-haired god frowned in embarrassment and frustration but eventually shook his head, allowing the council to finish their thoughts:

- Considering the rescue mission is the biggest and the most dangerous one, we’ll need six gods to perform it while the others will be directed towards the other two missions. Once you decide on which mission you’re willing and able to go, notify any one of us through a mental link. – Seto finished before lowering his voice, his expression becoming more sinister than before: - And you better be aware that I’ll be joining whoever is going on a rescue mission…

There was a short moment of utter silence in the room before everyone walked away and gave the whole situation a thought.

Johan, however, already knew which mission he wanted to take and he really hoped it wasn’t too late to take any action.

I want to go to the human realm, your Highness…

***

About an hour later, Johan landed in the back garden of the royal palace, the very first thing to meet his eyes being a strangely large amount of people grouped around different parts of the outdoor terraces and the garden, maids, and butlers running around with blankets and water bottles while other servants set up a food stand and a large screen so the folk can follow the news.

The god transformed into his human form and gripped onto eight stones in his pocket, trying to blend within the common folk. Despite an obviously dire situation, a few people still gave him a glance and Johan couldn’t decide whether it was because of how lightly he was dressed for that time of the year or because of… well, his entire aura.

Still, he couldn’t be bothered to stop and contemplate this; he needed to find someone, anyone from the royal family…

After entering the wide hallways lined up with emergency beds and mattresses, the young god took a deep breath before trying to trace an aura somewhat similar to Judai, an aura any member of his family would have.

At first, he couldn’t sense anything, his heart sinking deep into his stomach as he thought of the worst-case scenario.

But then, a very faint tingle vibrated in between his ears, Johan immediately following the trace through the hallway, into the large foyer, up the two sets of stairs, and finally, into the ballroom.

There was an even larger crowd of people huddled together and in an obvious state of panic and confusion, but the presence of a woman with brown hair and in her royal gown still managed to ease at least some of the folk’s news.

Johan had to stop for a moment as he entered the huge room, not believing how much Judai resembled his sister, not just in appearance but in mannerisms and expressions as well, although princess Julia possessed somewhat of a rougher, sharper aura which made her both approachable but intimidating.

The god quickly moved around the room until he was right next to the princess, the only one to notice him being a dark-skinned, muscular man that stood right at the princess’s side. He shot Johan a dark look before flashing his gun, the god bowing lightly with his hands joined in front of his face.

- May I help- Oh my gods, it’s you! – the princess suddenly whisper-yelled as she noticed the god standing next to her, Johan unsure what to make of her wide eyes and mouth slightly agape.

- I’m who? – he asked with a nervous giggle, the princess then taking his hands into hers.

- You’re Jesse- I mean, Johan!

The god looked around himself, relieved that no one had caught up on their conversation, before dragging the princess and her bodyguard to the side.

- H-how did you know? Did Judai tell you?!

- That too, not many people have turquoise hair. – she said with a giggle. – But you also have that kind of… aura I guess? Something I’d expect from the god of lust to have.

Johan could feel his cheeks going ablaze before he shook his head and gripped onto the princess’s hands, the air between them suddenly turning tense and somewhat somber.

- If you know who I am, then you also must know why I’m here, right, princess Julia?

The brunette’s eyes widened again before her head lowered slightly, her expression suddenly drained of any sort of joy.

- I’m afraid I can’t help you, your Grace. – she said in a shaky voice, her expression turning into a tense mask of repressed emotions. – I haven’t seen my little brother in more than a week and… I’m afraid the worst had happened… at least from what Alister hinted…

Johan felt as if someone had just punched him in the stomach, all the color draining from his face as his hands fell limply against his body. That can’t be true…

- Alister as in… his bodyguard? – the god pressed, his expression suddenly turning dark, making Julia wince.

- Y-yeah, he was the last one to see him alive… but because we didn’t find his body or anything, we don’t even know if that happened. It’s like he’d just disappeared…

- Can I go and talk to him? Where is he? – turquoise-head asked with a frenzy in his voice, his heart painfully ramming against his ribcage.

- Down in the dungeons. He attempted to assassinate the princess as well as masters Jun and Juno. – Axel explained before handing the god a key card, Julia nodding in agreement. – Use this to open his cell. We couldn’t get anything from him but maybe you’ll be able to.

Johan accepted the piece of plastic with his shaky hand before giving a grateful nod to the duo, his other hand reaching into his pocket.

- Please take these, your Highness. – he said before laying two small crystals in Julia’s now opened hands, one amber and one topaz. – I assume you’ll know how to use them. I guarantee they’ll protect you and your people.

The brunette looked down at the shiny stones with astonishment before bringing them closer to her chest and squeezing them in her hands, her brown eyes slightly teary.

- Thank you, your Grace. – she whispered. – And please… bring me back my brother. In any shape or form.

Johan nodded before squeezing the princess’s hand one last time and then leaving the ballroom, now not even wanting to disguise as a human anymore. Instead, after following the aura on the keycard he teleported straight to the dungeons, right in front of Alister’s cell.

And it was in that very moment that the small talisman given to him by the king of the Underworld and Yusei started glowing, the golden shade illuminating the dimly lit hallway.

Don’t tell me…

Johan passed through the bullet-proof glass and was now right in front of a restrained bodyguard, his head slumped down while his hands were tied up against the wall.

The god slowly shook him, not getting any response. That prompted Johan to slowly raise his head and see he was really out of it, his consciousness completely gone despite his eyes being open and glowing that sickly, menacing turquoise color.

There was no doubt now at all, Alister was one of Dartz’s vessels. And he must’ve already completed the part of his task…

- Ju… dai… - the burgundy-head suddenly croaked, tears starting to roll down his cheeks.

- What? – Johan hissed before roughly cupping the man’s head. – What are you saying?! Where is he?! TELL ME! WHERE IS JUDAI?!

But Alister gave him no response once again, his glowing and teary eyes now closing on him.

And just as Johan felt the urge to smash the man’s head against the wall, a brief vision appeared in his mind: Judai, holding some kind of a black box. It was then forcefully opened as the green smoke came out of it, knocking the prince down instantly as his limp body fell onto the ground.

The turquoise-head let go of the other man’s face and moved back a few steps, his knees ultimately giving out as the tears started rolling down his face, Johan unable to even weep at that moment.

So Judai really was dead… and all because this man got possessed by Dartz…

The god could feel his head spin as more and more tears rolled down his face, his heart so painful and his throat so dry he believed he’ll drop dead then and there.

But he still knew he had a task to complete, and upon finding one of the vessels, it was his duty to bring him back to the Underworld. He owed it not only to the entire pantheon but to Judai too. He had to make sure this man sees proper punishment.

With a single click of his fingers, Alister’s restraints were off and he was immediately paralyzed by a freezing spell, a small turquoise portal opening under him. Johan then stood up and followed the man through the portal, his expression completely blank as tears continued to roll down his face…

Chapter Text

Once everyone’s been sent on their mission, the king of the Underworld retired to the Dragon cave for a momentary breather, the role of consoling Seto not being on his list of priorities at that moment.

Especially not when his creator had risen from the grave… literally.

As the Underworld ruler entered the massive cave, two dragons inhabiting it rose their massive heads and growled in a subtle greeting, the god chuckling at now full-sized Gandora coming to meet him.

Ever since Yugi left the Underworld, the king of the Underworld made sure not to make any mistakes in raising that fine dragon as the hybrid god had definitely put a lot of work and dedication into his care. And even though it’s only been about two weeks that Yugi was gone, it was obviously still young Gandora really missed its initial parent, not even wanting to sleep in Yugi’s chambers now that he was gone and wanting to have another dragon as a companion in order to cope.  

- Now you must be overjoyed, eh? – the god commented before scratching onto the dragon’s cold, metallic head, the beast growling in agreement before it made way for Slifer who also yearned for some affection from its master.

But even at the time he wanted to remain relaxed and focused only on his precious pets, the king of the Underworld just couldn’t ignore the creeping feeling of panic and terror that now, in this silent moment made its way up to his spine and hit him right at the back of the head.

The god bit his lip, his breath becoming shaky as he leaned onto Slifer’s head with his own forehead, feeling his whole body tremble at the mere thought of Dartz being out there, rampaging with one of Roman’s beasts…

And I was violent and unstable when I suggested throwing him into Tartarus…

 With a long sigh, the god sat on his usual spot, the rock that was high above the ground in the middle of the cave, the growling and snarling of his dragons acting as enough background noise so he wouldn’t have to hear his own thoughts.

As a creator god, it was impossible to kill Dartz, not only because of his strength but because of the cosmic imbalance itself.

The whole pantheon knew they had to keep him alive or at least forcefully put him to sleep, but they all underestimated the true power of that first god, Atem knowing he had to pull through with his plans to completely seal him away in Tartarus when he had the chance. That way, it’d be much harder for him to reach out to humans and… well, make this whole mess.

But no, he had to listen to Seto, their king’s pride ultimately leading to the whole problem. The ruler of the Underworld knew that the thunder god was also very aware of his mistake, but he’d never admit it.

And hopefully, once all of that was over, the current ruler of the gods won’t even protest with sealing Dartz away, maybe even pulling him apart in order to prevent his awakening ever again. He kidnapped Kisara after all…

But there was another problem Atem was worried about.

Two millennia ago, the Big Five and additional few gods that were born right in the middle of Rebellion somehow managed to defeat Dartz, but not even that would’ve been possible if not getting the additional help from other creator gods: Yubel, Roman, and Rex especially.

And even though they have won, the world was in disarray and the twin gods had lost so much of their powers they had to lay dormant until this day in order to make the world flourish again while Yubel hid in the Mouth of the Cavern, never wanting to be involved with any god except for Atem.

If it wasn’t obvious already, they couldn’t count on the help of their creators anymore… and the narrow limit of their current options only annoyed Atem further.

Do you finally understand there is no escape, little Yami?

The king of the Underworld could feel his heart stop for a moment as he shot up, looking around the cave frantically before sitting back down and starting to tremble, his entire body covered in sweat as his chest squeezed and his throat went completely dry.

It can’t be…, he thought, swallowing the horrified whimper.

It can’t-

- Yami?

The sound of Yugi’s voice literally shot the older god back to reality, his limbs still trembling as he slowly turned his head to look at the hybrid god standing at the entrance to the cave. He could clearly see the concern in those beautiful purple eyes, but he couldn’t afford to make Yugi worry, especially after everything that’s been happening around him recently.

- Wanted a break too, huh? – the king purred out, aware that his voice was about to crack if he said anything longer.

Yugi just nodded and entered the cave, soon sat next to the older on the rock as both Slifer and Gandora got all up in hybrid god’s face, nuzzling their huge heads into him and almost causing him to fall.

And still, despite what happened just a moment ago, a mere look at Yugi’s flushed face as he tried to hold his balance and pat both dragons, his sweet laughter echoing the cave, the king of the Underworld was able to feel at least a tad safe and managed to convince himself it was all just an illusion.

- It’s pretty crowded in the Underworld now and making so many talismans for everyone was really tiring… but I’m glad they work and that I’m useful. – the younger said through a nervous giggle once the dragons left him alone and returned to their play, Atem drawing closer to him on instinct. He always smelled so good, like spring flowers… - But are you okay? You look a bit pale and you’re sweaty…

The king hesitated for a moment, remembering his own promise to himself from a moment ago which ultimately made him swallow his words.

- I’m fine… just overwhelmed with everything. I never had that many gods on my territory so my mind went into overdrive. I just need to cool off…

Yugi nodded again but the concerned look in his eyes hasn’t disappeared, causing the other god to get even closer to him and peck him on the lips, now completely grasping the younger’s attention as he blushed all over without moving away.

The hybrid god then rose his hand and caressed the other’s cheek, the warmth of his hand soothing Atem even more as he once again closed the gap between them and captured younger’s lips into his own, the kiss deeper and more passionate than before. The dark monarch could feel Yugi fidget under his touch, his body slowly becoming hotter as their lips continued to move in a perfect rhythm, neither of them even caring for the presence of the dragons at that moment.

And whilst Atem knew nothing beyond that point would happen, he still hoped to ease his way out of the conversation and his own paranoia. He didn’t want to think about Dartz or anything else at that moment.

He only wanted Yugi…

***

- Valon! – Joey screamed who knows which time as he slammed his fists against the entrance door, the majority of that particular, almost run-down building already being evacuated.

The blonde clicked his tongue in frustration before dropping his own traveling bag onto the floor and giving the wooden door a few more strong bangs, his fists producing such a strong sound even the floor started vibrating.

But nothing. Valon was nowhere to be found.

- GOD DAMN IT! – the man exclaimed before hitting the heavy door with his foot, the sudden pain causing him to hiss and crouch down.

The issue about the evacuation was given about six hours ago and aside from spending all of that time packing up the necessities and trying to at least somehow make sure his apartment stays intact, he’s been in contact with Tristan who had already landed in the royal palace.

And upon his arrival, the brunette notified him of Valon’s absence.

Joey tried to contact his friend probably a million times over the course of that tense night and now morning, but it was as if Valon had simply vanished, never to be seen again.

And still, even though he knew he had to go to the palace as soon as possible, especially after various reports of a huge black bird flying around and destroying buildings, he knew he couldn’t just leave Valon. He will drag him out if needed…

Joey winced upon feeling his phone vibrate in the back pocket of his pants, his painful hands barely being able to fetch it and slide over the screen.

- Did he come?! – the blonde asked into the phone, not even saying hi to Tristan.

- Nah, I’ve been looking all around and been standing on the main checkpoint. Nothing. – the man said on the other line. – You should really come here, they’ll soon close the gates. Apparently, the princess will send out Special Forces in search of survivors tonight.

 - I’ll try to come on time… but first I need to try something.

- Joey! It’s not worth it! He’s only been acting like an asshole this whole damn ti-

The blonde hung up as he could hear his best friend go on a tangent, but he didn’t have time to listen to that. Not if he wanted to bring both himself and Valon to the palace before the gates close.

The man immediately started going through his bag, trying to find a small pocket knife that was just thin enough to enter the keyhole at the door. And just as he had fetched it from the bottom of the bag, he could hear those damn emergency sirens again, the sound alone making his skin crawl.

- This is the last call to all civilians to come to the royal palace. Waking outside is dangerous. Please, if you want to remain safe and sound, come to the royal palace-

- Yeah, yeah, I get it, damn it… - Joey uttered before discarding his jacket and crouching in front of the door, his mind only focused on breaking the lock-in that moment. – I’ll go but not without this son of a bitch…

- Son of a bitch who?

Joey froze for a moment as he heard a familiar male voice behind him, a wave of relief washing over him instantly.

He swiftly got up onto his feet and turned around only to face incredibly pale and sickly-looking Valon, his usual light blue eyes now seemingly having a distinct shade of green in them as well. Instead of his usual biker outfit, he wore a huge hoodie and jeans, hopefully, to conceal his slightly skinnier body.

- Why aren’t you answering your phone!? – Joey asked with a shaky voice before grabbing his friend by the shoulders.  – Take the most necessary stuff and let’s go! We need to reach the palace in less than an hour-

-I’m not going.

A silence was cast upon the two of them, giving the brunette enough time to reach for his door and casually unlock it, not even bothering to comment on the fact half of his lock was broken off.

- What the actual fuck?! – Joey suddenly spat as he grabbed Valon by the hoodie. – What do you mean you’re not going?! What kind of bullshit is that?!

The shorter man just looked at him with a blank expression and empty eyes, his very aura giving Joey chills. But then he spoke, his voice slightly higher and shaky, the only indication that he’s been affected by what’s going on.

- I’m not going, Joey… - he whispered. – Something… something weird’s happening to me and I don’t want to be near you… or Tristan… or anyone else.

- I FIGURED THAT MUCH! – blonde yelled in the other’s face as he frowned deeply and tried to hold back the tears of frustration. – But if you think that’ll stop me from taking you out of here, you’re mistaken! You’re true trash but you don’t deserve to die!

Valon stared at him blankly for another couple of moments before he started laughing maniacally, the sight sending another wave of chills down the blonde’s spine as he released the other from his grip.

- You really don’t understand, do you?... – the brunette coughed out as he leaned against the door. – I… I meant it. There is this voice in my head… that’s telling me to kill you on the spot… and on occasion, I almost gave in… the voice knows that I hate you from the bottom of my heart…

Joey could only look at his friend with a stunned expression, his mind refusing to believe a word he said.

- You could’ve told us…  even if you hate me, I’d try to do anything to help you, even find you a proper doctor for that condition-

- OH WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME?! THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH MY BRAIN! – Valon shrieked as he literally jumped on Joey and grabbed him by the shirt, his eyes now literally glowing in that damn turquoise light. – This feeling is real! It’s not imagination or any mental disorder! Someone’s trying to manipulate me… and because they know I hate you for stealing… for stealing Maya away, they use that as leverage against me… they want you dead…

- Is that the reason for your selfish behavior?! Because I “stole” her?! We didn’t even kiss for fuck’s-

- But you did hug her in that alleyway… like a lover would… - Valon said in a shaky voice as he tightened the grip against blonde’s collar, causing Joey to gasp for air. – Don’t try to deny it. I know how it goes…

- Why… didn’t you say anything!? To me? To her?! You know she’d listen-

- WHAT GOOD WOULD IT MAKE!? IT WOULDN’T MAKE THIS HATRED GO AWAY! – the brunette once again spat in Joey’s face before pushing him against the stair railing, the blonde confused and mortified at the brute strength Valon had just displayed. He knew he was strong, but Joey was always stronger and bigger… what was going on?!

The blonde tried to rip away the other’s hands, but Valon just wouldn’t budge, his face slowly going from a mask of calmness into a distorted and sadistic smile, his left hand swiftly grabbing Joey by the neck and squeezing.

- You should’ve gone away… now I can’t stop it… - the brunette hissed through that sadistic grin, tears slowly rimming down his face as his eyes glowed even more, Joey not even being able to take a shallow breath.

He’s going to kill me… he really will.

With that thought in mind, blonde used the last ounces of his strength to grip Valon’s wrists and literally rip his hands away from his throat and shirt, a sharp pain caused by other’s nails causing Joey to take yet another step back…

Right over the railing.

In a state of panic, Joey tried to grab onto the metal fence, but his momentum was too strong and his bottom literally slid over the edge, the blonde now plummeting down several floors.

Whilst in mid-air, Joey could clearly see Valon’s old expression return, his hands reaching over the railing in last desperate hope to prevent his friend’s fall. But it was too late… No one could help him.

And, in the next moment, Joey could feel intense pain pierce his entire body as he landed on the ground five floors underneath, head first.

But after the initial rush of bone-breaking pain, the blonde’s body went completely numb as he lied there and looked into the far ceiling of the building, a feeling of something wet under him making him extremely cold. He couldn’t move, not even a muscle as his voice got stuck in his throat, inability to breathe properly causing him to panic for a moment… only for his vision to slowly become invaded by nothing but unmoving, soothing whiteness.

And as his consciousness slipped away, Joey could hear Valon’s cries from all the way down, a faint smile spreading on his face as his eyelids closed shut…

***

After not finding neither Valon nor Joey in the royal palace, Mai knew she had to make an additional trip to both of their apartments in order to find them.

Joey’s apartment was already deserted, the goddess noticing her favorite human must’ve been in a hurry by the several pieces of clothes still hanging from half-opened wardrobes. This gave her a sense of relief as he had obviously taken the warning and headed for the royal palace, but she still needed to check up on Valon as well, not even her godly powers allowing her to see him in a long time as if he’s been purposely avoiding her.

But as soon as she landed in front of the brunette’s apartment building, Valon’s bloodcurdling scream froze the blood in her veins.

Without even caring to conceal her godly aura while being in her human form, Mai rushed into the building, her heart beating so fast she was sure it’ll burst.

But the sight in front of her made the goddess stop dead in her tracks, her whole mind blacking out for a moment.

There, in the middle of the ground floor, sat Valon with his shaky hands covered in freshly spilled blood, his hysteric crying and yelling being ten times louder in the goddess’s mind.

But what really gave her the final punch was the body the brunette was weeping above.

Joey was laying there, the pool of blood quickly spreading around him as the back of his head looked unnaturally flat, his hands and legs, although lied neatly against his lifeless body, still showed a certain amount of unnatural angle, a single trail of blood rimming down his cheek. Mai could clearly see blue hand marks around the blonde’s neck, the shape of thin and elegant fingers clearly visible.

- Valon… - Mai said in a dead voice, the cold wrath overtaking her in that very moment. – What have you done?

And as the brunette turned around and looked at her with that unnatural glowing stare, the goddess could feel Yugi’s talisman glow inside her back pocket, all the pieces of the puzzle finally coming together in her mind.

With a scream the goddess grabbed onto Valon’s neck and rose him up in the air, the urge to squeeze the life out of him barely containable as her godly form started appearing, her body glowing in a bright shade of pink as her irises completely disappeared, her nails digging deep into brunette’s neck.

- I’ll tear you to pieces…

Valon didn’t say anything and just hung limply from the goddess’s hand, his tears still flowing as Joey’s blood-soaked deep into the skin of his hands. The goddess then swiftly discarded him by throwing his body against the wall, knocking him out instantly before kneeling down next to Joey’s body, her heart squeezing in pain upon seeing how lifeless his warm brown eyes were…

I’ve got to do something… there is still time… I have to-

- There’s no use, Lady Mai.

The goddess instantly turned around only to see a small magician in overalls and with her hair tied in ponytails floating above the ground, a glowing orb of light hovering above her tiny hands.

- Pottarie… - Mai whispered as her vision blurred, the little magician lowering her head and offering a small prayer for the man who had just lost his life.

.- I shall safely return this pure soul to the Underworld. – Pottarie said in a quieter voice. – I am really sorry.

Mai couldn’t say a word after that, knowing that she really couldn’t do anything at that point. Nothing to protect neither of her favorite humans… she was too late.

The goddess remained sitting there for a moment or so longer, her own body going completely cold in the silence of the abandoned building. Then, she clicked her fingers, summoning the pink portal while raising Joey’s body gently with her flying spell. Two harpies then emerged from the portal and bowed to their mistress, waiting for her orders.

- He’s one of the vessels of Dartz. – she muttered through still-flowing tears. – Take him to the Underworld.

The harpies nodded and swiftly grabbed onto still unconscious Valon before dragging him through the portal, the goddess and Joey’s body following soon after.

And as she traveled through time, her expression completely blank aside from heavy tears she’s been shedding, a very clear, angering realization slammed at the back of her head:

This was all her fault…

Chapter Text

- Your Majesty? – Mana peeped her head through the crack in the door, the king of the Underworld just standing in the middle of his study and watching the blue flames dance in the fireplace.

The god just looked over his shoulder, his red gaze glowing in the darkness which made the blonde wince slightly.

- Any news from the Vessel trackers? – he questioned before completely turning towards the door.

- Actually, yes. – Mana said with a gulp. – Mistress Mai and Lord Johan found two other trackers and brought them here. Bakura is keeping them in separate cells and one of Yugi’s talismans was given to each. They… still seem to be in a delirium of sorts.

The king just frowned deeper, knowing exactly how his creator was controlling them. But with that very knowledge came an obstacle too: until he knows what Dartz had promised those two, he won’t be able to help them.

And in the worst-case scenario, he might have to keep their souls in the Underworld for all eternity…

- But there is something else, too. – Mana spoke again and just as it seemed that she’ll explain everything then and there, she stopped herself and frowned, ultimately saying. – Actually, please follow me. I’ll explain everything on the way. Things might escalate if you don’t do something.

Atem frowned even more as he dashed after the blonde goddess, the sound of shouting reaching even the hallway in the deep Underworld where his study was.

- What’s this ruckus?

- Well… - Mana hesitated as her master walked past her.- It looks like that along with vessels, Mai and Johan had also brought two casualties… I don’t know much about it, but it looks like those two humans were in some way important to both of them. Lady Mai even delivered a dead body here-

- She did what? – Atem asked in a low, sinister tone, his eyes glowing deep, bloody shade of red. – What was Mahad doing? Now we’ll have a love goddess collect the dead for us?!

- N-no, it’s not like that! – blonde panicked. – Pottarie collected the dead soul as always and placed it in the Third Kingdom! But Lady Mai brought the body too! Even asked for a talisman so the body wouldn’t decompose. But his Highness Seto says you better take a look at him… it seems important.

The king of the Underworld growled under his breath before dematerializing and emerging once again in the middle of his throne room. All the gods that have remained in the Underworld were stood in the circle as the shouting intensified, Atem only then being able to distinguish what was being told.

- TELL ME WHAT YOU DID!? WHERE IS JUDAI?! – Johan exclaimed as his massive wings twitched and swung around him, causing a cold breeze to run through the massive room. Mai was just stood a few feet away from him, her face pale and her expression blank, purple eyes void of any kind of emotion.

- Why do you think I know-

- DON’T PLAY DUMB, MAI! – the turquoise-head used his mistress’s first name for the first time in ages, the sound of it even causing Mai to look up for a brief moment. – Lady Ishizu AND master Fubuki told me you’ve given Judai some kinds of tasks! All of it so you’d reach out to me on his behave… WHAT’S THAT ALL ABOUT?!

The blonde goddess remained silent once again before letting out a bitter chuckle.

- You really have nerve, yelling at me in front of everyone. As if you don’t know what had just happened-

- DON’T CHANGE THE TOPIC! – Johan screamed once again, his wings swinging forward this time around, causing the blonde to stumble on her feet from the strength of the wind. – All of this… our meeting in the royal palace… my fear of committing a taboo but not being able to be away from Judai… my abandonment as he learned about my identity… and his disappearance… it all started because of you! Because your stupid, godly pride couldn’t stand someone who didn’t want to get involved with love! So you forced us to meet… and nothing good came out of it… My presence… caused Judai to-

- You don’t know if he died. – Mai said in a louder tone, her expression slowly tensing up as the rage started to eat her up. – And you think I don’t hate myself for doing all of this?! But, guess what? My involvement with humans actually caused Joey’s death… I’ve carried his dead body here! You have no idea how-

- It’s always about you, isn’t it? – Johan said in a cold, emotionless voice as his green eyes filled with nothing but disgust as he looked at his mistress, the young god obviously giving up on any sort of argument. – How hard it is for you… how you’re feeling… Well, let me tell you something: you’re right. Your egotism and self-importance caused the death of that human you love so much. You have no one to blame but yourself.

When Johan turned away from her, Atem could quite literally see the string that had connected them for centuries finally snapping, so many heavy feelings and toxicity between them it was probably a futile effort to ever try to patch it all up.

And that’s why falling in love with a human is taboo in the first place…

- Johan? – the king of the Underworld called for the young god, the turquoise-head immediately looking up at him with confusion. – You don’t know what happened with the youngest heir of the Yuki family?

The god’s eyes widened for a moment before he lowered his head and shook it, his whole body tense.

- No… Lady Ishizu was the last one to see him alive… and I think one of the vessels has something to do with his disappearance… but I don’t know what happened…

- Then come with me.

Atem then proceeded to lead the younger god outside the throne chamber, a quiet murmur of other gods slowly fading away as they walked a few feet down the hallway. The king then pushed the heavy double door and entered a huge, circle-shaped room with an empty marble altar in the middle of it. Yugi was still in there, the crafting of protective charm for the two bodies lying there being complete.

And the moment Johan lied his eyes on the right altar, Atem could clearly hear the sound of his heart breaking.

- Judai… - he mouthed as he approached the lifeless body of his lover, his hands lightly covering over the brunette’s pale face before he sobbed loudly, his head landing right onto the prince’s chest.

Yugi just moved away from the altars and grabbed the king’s hands by default, the older clearly seeing tears in his eyes. He also took a brief look at the blonde laying next to Judai, every single bone in his body clearly broken as the blood strains entered his clothes and hair, his skin slowly acquiring grayish shade…

- He’s not really dead, Johan. – Atem suddenly said, the younger god raising his head in confusion as the tears continued to flow.

- H-how? His heart isn’t beating… - the younger said before his voice cracked.

- It’s Ishizu’s sleeping spell. – the king noted before he slowly approached the altar and the prince’s body, his hand gently turning brunette’s head to the left. – See this tiny green powder on his eyelashes? That’s Ishizu’s strong sleeping spell. If it was used on a god, they’d just sleep for a couple of weeks… but it can actually kill a human.

- H-how did that happen?

- Apparently, Mai asked the prince to bring her a piece of Ishizu’s beauty. – Yugi also approached the altar, his voice much more soothing and calm as he spoke to the confused Johan. – But Ishizu wanted to play a little prank on Mai so she put the spell in the box Judai was carrying. From what she said, she told him not to ever open it because it’s dangerous for him… but Alister was the one who opened it and caused this mess.

Johan grit his teeth as his hands turned into fists, a low growl exiting his chest.

- I should’ve killed him when I found him…

- I can guarantee you, he didn’t want to do this. – Atem said once again, not even giving the younger a single glance. – But because Dartz latches onto his trauma, he was able to overtake his body easily. And since Judai is obviously a crucial resource for the gods, primarily because of his charisma and his connections with you, he was in the way.

The king’s cold voice caused even more tears to spill from Johan’s eyes, Yugi patting him on the shoulders with support before shooting Atem with a scolding stare.

- I’ll try to see if I can revive him… but I don’t promise anything.

The god of lust rose his head almost instantly and just stared at the older god for a moment, a faint smile spreading across his face. Atem could see hopelessness in his gaze, but at least those words of reassurance managed to calm him down.

- We’ll leave you two alone. – Yugi said in a gentle voice before beckoning Atem to follow him outside. – When you’re ready, come back to the throne room, alright?

Johan just nodded before all of his attention turned towards the body of his lover, another wave of tears soon starting to flow as the two other gods left the room.

- I know you’re annoyed, but at least try to understand him. – the hybrid god said in a scolding manner. – He lost someone he loved to such a tragic accident and you couldn’t at least say the words in a gentler tone.

- It doesn’t concern me. He committed a taboo therefore this whole mess is his and Mai’s fault.

- And what if you lost me to something like that? How would that feel?

Atem stopped dead in his tracks as the younger spoke those words, the hybrid god shooting him with a rather dark, judgmental look, his usually adorable round eyes now acquiring reddish color around irises and sharpening up.

- I… I’d want to kill someone… - the king admitted before lowering his head, now wanting to slap himself for such behavior earlier.

- Thought so. – Yugi said with an exhausted sigh before turning around and heading back towards the throne room, leaving the older with his own thoughts for a moment.

In all of that madness and the fact his own realm got occupied by so many gods at once Atem understood his own nerves were slowly loosening up, but Yugi was right. Despite the obvious taboo and rule-breaking, both Mai and Johan were hurting, their beloved humans now in the hands of Death that snatched them away so instantly which ultimately escalated in that ordeal in the throne room.

He better apologizes to both Yugi and those two later-

You won’t have time later, little Yami.

The Underworld king froze once again, that cocky yet sinister voice in his head causing him to completely stop breathing as if he was hit in the gut. He could feel his knees becoming weak as his whole body once again became tense and shaky, his stomach turning upside down.

- Where are you?! – the king yelled frantically while turning around in all directions, bobs of sweat rolling down his temples as Dartz laughed maniacally inside of his mind, that very sound threatening to make Atem’s eardrums burst.

Much closer than you think…

- NO! – the god covered both of his ears, now crouching on the floor like a scared child, his vision slowly becoming blurry and his eyes itchy.

- Yami!?

- NO! DON’T COME NEAR ME! – the king yelled, not even recognizing the voice that called out for him or the steps that slowly closed the distance between them. – You can’t be here…

- Yami, it’s me! Yugi!

The older god suddenly felt incredibly weak as he let his body to fall onto his knees, Yugi’s sweet scent entering his nose as the other god embraced him tightly and slowly ruffled his own golden bangs. And whilst Atem’s heart was still painfully hammering against his ribcage, hybrid god’s mere presence managed to call him back to reality.

- Can you hear me? – the younger asked in that sweet, gentle voice, his purple eyes once again looking at him with the utmost affection. – What’s happening, Yami?

- Yugi… I-

- What’s the meaning of this, Aigami?! Why did you bring Anzu here?!

Both gods paled the moment they heard the goddess’s name and they were back on their feet quicker than a blink of an eye, their hands intertwined as they ran back to the throne room, the majority of the remaining gods staring daggers at both the moon god and the goddess he held tight in his grip.

- Let me explain first before you tear me to shreds, okay? – Aigami said with an exhausted tone, Anzu not even saying a word, her head low in shame. – As I was checking on the humans in the area, I stumbled upon the apartment complex our king had put Anzu in after her penalty started. Even though she was stripped of the majority of her powers, she still wanted to help somehow. I didn’t want to bring her here initially, but she was adamant. And since we’re short on the gods and attendants who can actually heal, she’d be a useful asset even with her basic powers and inability to engage in combat.

The gods started murmuring only for Mana to exclaim:

- But she’s a traitor! She hurt Yugi so much and hid his true origin from him! Who knows if she’ll try something again.

- That’s why someone should always survey her movements. – Asuka suggested. – As Aigami said, the majority of her powers are sealed away by king Seto and only the other member of the Big Five can undo it. And since Lady Kisara’s been captured and the king and Lord Manjoume are out on a rescue mission, we’re safe. And I’m sure his Majesty the king of the Underworld won’t undo her seal-

- You can be absolutely sure of it, Asuka.

All heads turned towards the source of that familiar deep voice that could freeze anyone to their very core, Atem squeezing onto his lover’s hand as hard as he could, Yugi instinctively hiding behind him upon facing his former mistress.

- What’s your verdict, my king? – Mahad asked as he bowed to the dark monarch, Atem taking his time at glaring at Anzu for a moment or two before answering:

- Let her stay. We need all the help we can get. But be sure to always keep an eye on her. Attendants, gods, she can’t be left alone for even a moment. And especially… - the king hissed as his red eyes glowed. - … not when she’s near Yugi. Is that clear?

Everyone nodded or murmured in agreement, Mana taking the goddess over along with Lemon and Apple who were helping out the wounded. Anzu rose her head briefly, her blue eyes both showing perpetual sadness but also a glint of gratitude, Atem choosing to completely ignore it as he turned his head.

What a cruel ruler you are, little Yami. Is that the way to treat your dear comrade?

The king’s eyes widened once again, but before he could react in any other way, his chest was swallowed by intense pain, the sensation rendering him completely breathless as he grunted and fell down on his knees.

He couldn’t hear anyone from that point on, all the sensations from the outside world drowned by this overwhelming feeling of his soul literally being swallowed by a dark abyss and trapped deep within it, his body not belonging to him anymore.

Then, the flashes of his time in the Cave of Screams appeared before his wide eyes, the pain of his scars aching all over again as he let out a desperate scream of terror and confusion, his consciousness back in that darkness and hung upside down.

Welcome back, my little Yami…

Chapter Text

- Yami?!

The moment Yugi's high, slightly panicky voice called out for the king of the Underworld, every single head in the throne room turned towards them, Mahad, Mana, and Shadi paling all of a sudden.

But the hybrid god couldn’t peel his eyes off his lover, especially after seeing him spasming and tensing up in pain, voiceless groans leaving his mouth as he gripped onto his robes, his breathing slowly becoming more hoarse and shallow.

- What’s going on?! Yami?! Talk to me! – he called out as more and more gods and attendants carefully came closer only to have Anzu yell:

- MOVE AWAY FROM HIM!

The wave of confusion exploded the throne room, perplexed murmurs echoing in Yugi’s ears as he frowned, not wanting to trust her words. He instinctively grabbed onto the older’s shoulders, a wave of cold shivers running down his spine upon feeling the burning sensation on his own palms, noticing the entirety of Atem’s right side was slowly consumed by that obsidian-black, cold and toxic skin.

- This is Dartz’s energy! – Anzu warned again. – I maybe lost my powers but I’d always recognize this aura. We need to move!

The majority of the gods only continued to chat confusingly as their bodies instinctively moved away from the Underworld king, but it was obvious the Underworld gods were able to connect the dots as well.

They were Underworld’s subjects after all and… their realm was slowly swallowed.

And yet, despite feeling this deep and sinister feeling in the pit of his stomach and as the tears of frustration started rolling down his face upon not being able to do a single thing to help the god in front of him, he still refused to move an inch. There was no way he’ll move away…

- R-run… - Atem suddenly breathed out, his voice deep and vicious. – Yugi, run…

- NO WAY IN HELL! – the hybrid god yelled hysterically through the tears, barely hearing Shadi’s sudden order.

- You’ve heard the goddess! We’ll evacuate into the Night Kingdoms! – the god commanded. – Gather all of your attendants in their crystals or items you use to summon them! Mahad is going to show you the way! Mana and I will raise barriers! We need to protect the dragons and vessels!

The slight commotion in the throne room soon turned into a stampede as all the remaining gods gathered theirs and other’s attendants, Mahad and his remaining girls leading them all towards the far left corridor, Mana sufficiently sealing the passage with a high-level barrier.

- We need to go, Yugi! – the blonde goddess called out as she worked on a barrier on the other corridor, where the bodies and the Dragon cave was, Shadi’s frown only deepening as sinister laughter started echoing the throne room.

- Looks like you’re too late…  - the voice said, but in a much quieter manner, as if the ancient god was standing in that very room.

And it took Yugi a brief moment to understand what he’s been looking at after his own brief blackout.

Atem was now a few feet away from him, half of his body covered in that obsidian-black skin while his right eye shone sinister turquoise surrounded by only abyssal blackness, the darkness, and poisonous miasma spreading more and more until it eventually enveloped the entirety of the floor.

Mana and Shadi exclaimed once miasma touched their bare skin, Yugi looking around in panic anger as the feeling of helplessness enveloped him, only then seeing Atem was still fighting against his possession. A small chunk of his body was still its regular shape and color, his crimson eye bloodshot and teary while his mouth distorted in a sadistic smile.

- Leave him alone! – Yugi screamed at the ceiling. – LEAVE US BOTH THE HELL ALONE!

- Now that won’t work, my little masterpiece. – Dartz spoke through the king’s mouth, now only a small portion of Atem’s face still showing that familiar, tanned skin Yugi loved so much. – I have to catch up with my little Yami. It’s been so long. But if you really want to join us, I’d be glad to take you-

- DARTZ! – Atem pulled through for just a short moment, huge tears rolling from his still red eye. – LEAVE HIM ALONE! YOU ALREADY HAVE ME!

- Yami… - the hybrid god was only able to breathe out, his body paralyzed with fear, frustration, and helplessness, the younger so well aware that he was no match for the being that was in front of him.

For the longest time, Yugi believed the Big Five were the most powerful gods on Earth… but Dartz was on a whole different level.

Powerful, unyielding, sadistic, vicious, and cruel… able to do whatever he desired.

He was no match for him…

He… couldn’t help Atem…

- YUGI, WE HAVE TO GO NOW! – Mana exclaimed, bringing the younger back to reality. She managed to open the barrier for Shadi to pass, the god coughing and falling on his knees from the amount of miasma he had breathed in.

And once again, Yugi was unable to move, his heart literally shattering as he observed the god he loved so much being swallowed by his own darkness.

- R-run already!

But Yugi still didn’t want to move, not even after realizing miasma was stinging and burning his own skin, something he managed to deflect before. But there was no way he’ll just leave Atem there….

- I SAID RUN!  - the king of the Underworld yelled, the entirety of the throne room now shaking and crumbling under miasma that even started climbing onto the ceiling.

The hybrid god then felt a surge of energy literally push him towards the barrier Mana opened again, the two gods passing through it while barely keeping miasma out. And only then, when he was out of darkness’s reach, Yugi could feel unbearable itching in his throat and lungs, irking him to cough.

- A-are you okay, Yugi? – Mana crawled up to him, the goddess herself feeling the consequences of miasma poisoning.

But as her small hand touched his back and started rubbing his back to soothe his irritated lungs a little has Yugi realized what he had almost done…

- I’m sorry… - he said in a shaky, almost inaudible voice, his vision completely blurry from the tears that started dripping onto his hands. – I almost… I’m so sorry… I couldn’t move… I didn’t want to leave him…

Mana only embraced the younger around the head, the hybrid god clearly feeling the trembling of her own body as she cried silently with him, that little sensation only sending Yugi into a bigger sobbing fit, his weeping echoing the empty corridor as the miasma only continued to spread outside barrier.

- We’ll save him… - Shadi murmured as he finally picked himself up and looked beyond the barrier, into purplish-black nothingness. – We weren’t ready for this… but he won’t let Dartz win. He just won’t…

- Of course he won’t… - Mana reassured before wiping away her tears and standing up, immediately offering her hand to Yugi. – But we have to make sure to come and help him as soon as possible before the others return from the rescue mission.

The two male gods just nodded, Yugi still unable to stop his own tears as he allowed Mana to lead him down the cave corridor, back to the others…

***

So, how does it feel? Being back here again, my precious Yami?

- Leave me alone. – Atem murmured as he floated in the endless darkness of his own mind, his body upside down as the feelings of chains binding him only continued to cut into the skin of his hands and waist.

But it’s been so long! I want to catch up!

- Fuck off. Just because you’ve captured me doesn’t mean I have to be your little puppy. And the fact you wanted to touch Yugi…

Ooooh, so he means so much to you? Bravo me! Isn’t he a wonderful little creation?!

- YOUR LITTLE EXPERIMENT ONLY CAUSED HIM CENTURIES OF TORMENT AND SADNESS-

Atem’s tangent was interrupted by his chains tightening even more, the sharp golden edges drawing his blood very quickly.

Watch your tongue, Yami, Dartz threatened in that familiar, sinister voice, causing Atem’s body to become paralyzed once again. Look at all of this on a positive note: once I consume you all, you’ll be able to see your little lover again. But for now, be a good boy and do as I tell you.

Atem had to chuckle at that statement, forgetting this particular, rather shallow part of Dartz actually still existed.

Out of spite the king of the Underworld spit into darkness, his red eyes glowing with murderous rage.

- Not even when you kill me and eat my entire body… not even then shall I bow to scum like you…

Chapter Text

- How are you feeling?

Yugi rose his head upon hearing a familiar female voice, Ishizu handing him a glass made of black crystal, a see-through liquid of a rather sweet scent shimmering inside.

- What’s that? – the hybrid god asked before bringing the glass up to his lips.

- Elixir will help ease miasma poisoning. Mahad is the one who made it originally, but Anzu perfected it with additional ingredients so it can also restore your strength.

Yugi hesitated, his purple eyes locking with Ishizu’s for a moment. The goddess chuckled at his tense expression, her hand on his shoulder calming him down almost instantly.

- Don’t worry, Shadi and Mana had the same thing I gave you and they said they felt better almost instantly. – she assured. – Besides, I don’t see how Anzu would try to poison someone in a situation like this. She’d have nowhere to run.

The younger nodded in understanding before finally taking the sip of the liquid, the taste being unexpectedly bitter in comparison to its sweet scent. But as soon as the healing beverage hit his stomach, Yugi could feel his strength slowly restoring, his lungs becoming clearer as it became easier to breathe and move his limbs again.

After draining the liquid in his second gulp, the hybrid god put down the dark glass, suddenly becoming aware of the commotion in that small space on the shores of the blue river. Considering Shadi had to lock the doors of the night in order to keep dead souls from leaking out, the gods that remained in the Underworld had to stay in that enclosed space, their attendants forced to rest inside their summoning crystals in order to preserve space. He could feel the pressure in the air, aware it wasn’t just his nerves that were on the verge of snapping.

But, compared to the others, Yugi had a reason for feeling this guilty…

- Mind if I sit next to you? – Ishizu questioned again and the younger shook his head immediately, moving to the side slightly so the goddess could sit. – I know we’re all on edge, but you seem in worse shape than all of us.

- Always noticing things like this, huh? – Yugi said bitterly before his expression fell again. – I hate… I just hate the fact that I couldn’t save him… I could just watch as he got more and more consumed by his own darkness…

Ishizu didn’t say anything for a while, her blue eyes focused on something the younger couldn’t see. But eventually, she sighed and said:

- All of us could say it, especially me, if you take into account I’m supposed to be clairvoyant.

- Supposed to be? B- but you’re a goddess!

Ishizu chuckled before raising her hand and ruffling the other’s golden bangs, her eyes filling with a shadow Yugi had never seen before.

- I am… but I can only see certain fragments of the future and that’s mostly based on the perspective of the person I’m in contact with and on their state of mind. For example, I can’t tell you how the other person feels about you because I’m stuck in your perspective but I can see future events from your point of you. All I can do is warn you and guide you on the path I think is right. – the goddess explained as she instinctively rose her hands. – When Marik was born, I was elated with having a younger sibling of whom I could take care of… but I could see we’d end up being separated as our powers continued to grow. In most cases, people can affect their destiny by simply doing the thing opposite of what I see, but sometimes these “instructions” on what to do in order to avoid destiny are extremely vague. I didn’t understand my visions at the time and… I didn’t do anything to stop Marik from accidentally burning me.

Yugi could feel his eyebrows curling up, remembering Atem’s tale about those two unfortunate siblings. And yet, despite now knowing this limitation of Ishizu’s power, the younger didn’t really understand why was she saying all of that to-

Oh.

- Have you seen some visions about our future? – the hybrid god asked, his heart dropping in his stomach once she nodded.

- As soon as you arrived… I could see you’ll stay with us for a while.  – she admitted. – But I could also see our king joining hands with you while you took your ultimate forms as if you were in the middle of a ceremony of some sort.

- A ceremony? Our true forms? – Yugi questioned, the memories of the aftermath of his second blackout playing before his eyes, realizing both he and Atem obtained their true forms at that time. – What does that mean?! Could you see this was going to happen to Yami?

Ishizu shook her head.

- Not even I was able to sense Dartz’s return, especially in this way. – she said in a calm manner before locking eyes with Yugi, the intensity of her gaze making the younger wince slightly. – But from what I saw back then… as well as now, I know you’ll be the key element in saving us all.

Yugi remained speechless for a long moment, his mind overwhelmed from the number of questions that he could ask the goddess, but just as he opened his eyes to speak, Ishizu’s necklace started glowing.

- Oh, this is my call… - she noted before standing up and straightening her beige robes. – I have to pick up Yusei. He and Oracle have just completed their task

The younger panicked for a moment, his hand reaching out for her instinctively, but upon seeing her tense expression and remembering that she’ll soon be joining the rescue squad on the surface, he pulled away from his hand, giving the goddess a warm smile in goodbye.

- Good luck and… I hope you and the others bring Marik and the other captured back to safety.

Ishizu nodded and returned a tender smile before fading away, the hybrid god praying that she had arrived at her destination safely.

Only then did Yugi look away again, noticing everyone had calmed down and chose to spot to wait for the news from the rescue crew. But then, he noticed a goddess of dirty blonde hair and equipped with armor talk with the brown-haired god in red robes, their gazes side-eyeing Yugi from time to time.

The hybrid god frowned, not sure what to think of it all but then the goddess rose her hand and beckoned him to approach them. Yugi’s frown deepened as his feet carried him carefully over to their side of the river, the young god not even realizing he managed to jump over the entire river in the process.

- Greetings, you must be Yugi… - the goddess said with a welcoming smile before offering her free hand, Yugi constantly eyeing her massive spear. – I’m Asuka, goddess of battle strategy, wisdom, and handcrafts. This is Bastion, god-sword smith and master of tools.

The god nodded as his name was mentioned, Yugi barely being able to return the gesture as the confusion continued to eat him up.

- D-did you need anything from me, my lord and my lady? – the younger asked in a shaky voice, evoking a giggle from both gods.

- No need to be so reserved. – Asuka said before patting his shoulder. – We just wanted to compliment your talisman-making skills. It’s impressive that such a small ornament can negate so much power that Underworld inflicts on us uppers.

The hybrid god could feel his face becoming hotter, a blush of embarrassment slowly creeping onto his cheeks.

- W-well, I-I’ve only learned it recently… I’m happy to know they work though! – he admitted, relieved due to a slightly less tense atmosphere.

But then Asuka’s face became serious, causing Yugi to wince for the second time in a short period, the goddess beckoning him to come even closer, her voice but a whisper:

- You know, we’re instructed by other Underworld gods to stay put, but I think I know the way how we’ll save the Underworld and its king.

Yugi’s heart skipped a beat at those words, the younger noticing the other two gods exchanging knowing looks.

- The reason we called you here is of course because we can’t do this without your power of negating other gods’ powers. – Bastion explained. – If you agree to this, we’ll let everyone here know what we’re about to do so that they can help. But… it won’t be pretty.

- T-tell me! What was the plan?! – Yugi whisper-yelled, both Ishizu’s words and the image of Yami slowly being swallowed by darkness latching onto his memory.

The goddess came even closer and whispered the plan in its briefest form, Yugi now feeling the blood freezing in his veins as her words slowly sunk into his mind.

He eventually moved away, his eyes wider than before as he eyed first Asuka then Bastion, feeling all the warmth leaving his limbs for a moment.

- Is there really not any other way? – he asked in a cold voice, his undertone only slightly shaky.

Both gods shook their heads, Asuka explaining further:

- You can still refuse… but our plan was to win the Underworld back before the rescue squad returns today at dusk. We can always rely on them to try and fight the Underworld king in his ultimate form and with Dartz’s power inside him, but I’m afraid it’d be too late for his salvation. – she said bluntly. – And I know you’d do anything to save him… would you not?

Yugi grit his teeth as his hands squeezed into fists, frustration slowly eating him up from inside out.

- H-how is that going to save him? I have to-

- Don’t underestimate him, Yugi. – Bastion said with a knowing smile. – He’s not a part of the Big Five for nothing. And if you manage to pull this off with the tool I’ll make you, we’d be able to return your beloved realm under the king’s control without any problem.

Yugi could feel his chest closing in on him, his vision slowly becoming redder and redder… but in his heart of hearts, he knew the two gods were right.

His power was already proven to work… and if they guaranteed he’d have more chances in succeeding than not, he was willing to take the shot. Atem… Atem would do the same for him.

Hell, he did the same for him when he went berserk… it was time to return the favor and protect him instead.

- Alright… - Yugi whispered before wiping his tears away, his eyes turning reddish-purple as he smiled at the two gods in front of him. – Let’s do this…

***

- Are you sure you’ll be alright on your own?

Yusei turned around after a somewhat rough landing, Dogma not ever giving up on his policy of carrying him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Luckily, as soon as the goddess of clairvoyance, Ishizu, appeared, she insisted on her own attendant to carry Yusei halfway so the man didn’t feel half as nauseous as the first time he took a flight with Aster’s attendant.

Now, the four of them stood at the back entrance to the facility at the North entrance to the city, the eerie silence of the Capital making the shivers go down Yusei’s spine. The signs of a fight with that huge spider were still pretty visible, but at least the body was gone…

- I have this big guy with me. – Yusei said before pointing towards Dogma, the fiendish creature only puffing in annoyance. – Besides, didn’t you say there are some problems?

- Yes… - she said before lowering her head, frustration pretty clear on her face. – Apparently, this facility is empty so we have to use our tracking in order to find the others. I don’t know how long it’ll take considering the beast seals they’re wearing, but we’ll try our best.

Yusei nodded in understanding, his hand instinctively grabbing onto a tiny black key decorated with a single rose crystal that he had just hung around his neck, the cold metal incredibly soothing against the rough skin of his hands.

- Do what you have to do, I’ll be waiting here. – the man said in a small voice before giving the goddess a sheepish smile. – If… if I can help in any way, just tell me.

Ishizu nodded and waved him goodbye before disappearing before his very eyes along with her attendant, Yusei feeling incredibly tired all of a sudden. Eventually, he just slumped on the floor with his legs crossed, the ground under him causing him to calm down a little. He then fetched out his phone, its screen shattered from all the commotion it had endured in the past twenty-four hours, but at least he was still able to see what time it was.

7 AM… and yet, the sky was so dark as if it was the middle of the night.

 I guess that happens when you kidnap the sun, Yusei thought with a snort, not believing he had the nerve to make jokes in that situation. All he had to do now was wait-

- Who’s there?! – Dogma growled as his massive wings spread widely, the creature attempting to intimidate whoever was behind them.

Yusei shot up and hid behind the creature’s massive body, only then noticing a figure peeping from around the corner, right at the entrance at the abandoned facility.

- Who are you? – the man called out confidently, the figure not moving at all. – Just tell me the truth, if you don’t mean me any harm, this guy won’t tear you to shreds.

The figure then suddenly moved and exited the safety of the shadows, Yusei only then noticing it was a woman. She was slender and tall, her eyes piercing blue color while her jet-black hair was long and floated on the cold wind of the morning. Despite her unchanging expression, the man could see her gulping…

- What are you doing here? Why didn’t you evacuate? – Yusei asked after coming out of his own hiding, the woman’s eyes not moving from Dogma.

The silence prolonged between them until the woman eventually rose her hands and looked Yusei directly in the eyes:

- If you want to know where your friends are kept, better allow me to come with you. – she demanded. – I have some of my own things to handle with Sayer.

- Sayer?

- Yes… - she said in a shaky voice although her eyes continued to stare at him with intensity and desperation. – That son of a bitch plans something nasty for your dear gods… so if you want to reach that place, I have to be your guide…

Chapter Text

- Do we really have to do this, Highness? – Aster questioned as he glared daggers at the woman Yusei had brought, the king of gods only giving him a stern look.

- Do you have a better idea, smartass? – he hissed. – It’s obvious the facility is abandoned, I expected as much. But what pisses me off is the fact we couldn’t find any clue on the other locations so this woman will be more than useful to us.

- If I may… - Misty stepped out, Yusei rather impressed with her bold decision to speak to the king of the gods so freely, but her pale complexion and slightly shaky fingers gave out her anxiousness. – If I help you find Sayer… can you find my little brother for me?

- Little brother? – Yusei questioned, noticing how Zane and Aster rolled their eyes.

- This bullshit again? – the god of war groaned before disappearing into the tree line, where the rest of the rescue squad waited, only Aster and Seto remaining on the clearing with two humans.

The king of the gods locked his blue eyes with Misty’s, the woman wincing slightly as her eyebrows got stuck in a tense frown. Their staredown lasted for about a few moments when the tall god said:

- Toby? He’s keeping him hostage?

Misty lowered her head as her hands squeezed into fists, the woman clearly on the verge of either crying or anger outburst. But eventually, she nodded, leaving Yusei slightly flabbergasted upon the realization the king had probably used some of his powers to find that out.

- Fine. You have my word.

- R-really? – Misty’s head shot up, her eyes wide but still suspicious. – How can I trust that?

- Like this.

Seto then rose his left hand and drew a little cross-like shape on his right shoulder, the symbol glowing a soothing blue light before disappearing into the god’s skin. And for some strange reason, both Yusei and Misty knew the king really will keep his promise.

- Now, tell us what we want to know. – Seto commanded, his gaze becoming sharper and colder.

The raven-haired woman hesitated for a moment only to pull out a small notepad and bashed ink pen that could barely function. She then crouched down and wrote a few cryptic words and numbers in four rows, Yusei suddenly feeling cold sweat break onto his skin.

That’s-

- Here. – Misty got back onto her feet and handed the king folded piece of paper. – I’m aware you guys will probably be able to pass through without needing to use passcodes, but I recommend you to use them so you’d be detected later rather than sooner.

- Oh? So he’s ready for us? – Aster said as he side-eyed Misty, Yusei finding it slightly amusing as to how tame he acted in the presence of king Seto.

- More than you think. – the woman chuckled bitterly. – Why do you think he’d make the lead research facility in our country his HQ after everyone’s evacuated. Plus, having a guy that used to work there helped him greatly in putting up various traps and sensors just so he could detect you guys. So I recommend you to pass through the guards with your powers, then change into human forms before entering by using the first two passwords, the first one being for the outer gate and the second one being specifically for the lab. Once you reach it, make sure to disable cameras. The last two passwords will allow you access to the ventilation system if needed as well to the basement. Bear in mind, even though I know the location, I don’t know how to navigate the building so you’ll have to navigate your way blindly-

- That won’t be necessary… - Yusei intervened before taking the paper from Seto in order to check the passwords. – Remember, I was the main scientist of this laboratory. I know the building inside out.

Seto chuckled victoriously before receiving the paper from the human and hiding it somewhere in his robes, Aster only then realizing what was actually going on.

- If that’s the case, then I have a plan. – the king said in a cunning manner before disappearing in the tree line to call for others.

- Thank you for this info… it’s rather surprising, to know my workplace is now turned into a dungeon for gods that were captured. – Yusei noted before shaking Misty’s hand, noticing the woman’s rather restless expression as her eyes glittered with tears that started forming in the corners of her eyes.

Yusei panicked as he fiddled through his pockets in search of tissues, but Misty only giggled at his behavior before wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

- Do you think you’ll be able to find Toby in there? I’m sure he took him there during the evacuation…

- I have a few ideas on what places he could use… and I don’t have a magical way of making my vow, but I’ll assure you I’ll help in the search for him in any way I can. – the man said with a tender smile before patting Misty’s shoulder in a calming manner. – You better wait until six in this building. Then head to town, apparently, the princess will send out search parties for people that still didn’t evacuate. Go to the palace and someone will bring your brother once everything’s settled.

Misty nodded and shook the man’s hand before retreating into the safety of the abandoned building, a grateful glimmer in her eyes putting a determined smile on Yusei’s face. He then joined the gods in the woods, all seven of them now having summoning crystals on stand-by.

- Before we go, Yusei… - Seto called for the human without even turning to look at him. Soon enough a long wooden stick was thrown at Yusei as the gods moved slightly away, revealing an empty and dry ground. – Draw the building’s layout. I have a plan of attack, I just need to know where to position everyone.

The raven-head nodded and squatted, his hand drawing the facility from memory the best he could. And although these gods expected so much from him, Yusei didn’t feel pressured by their intense gazes.

There was someone he wanted to save and a promise he had to keep. There was no time to feel embarrassed or doubtful. He… had to do what he could…

***

The first thing Jack was aware of was an immense headache that almost split his skull in half. Then, there was burning on the back of his neck, a type that was between painful and annoying so that the one had a constant urge to scratch that specific spot.

But as he reached for his neck, the god realized he couldn’t move. Not even an inch.

Blonde’s eyes shot open in an instant but as soon as the dim light hit his eyeballs, he groaned quietly, that head-splitting headache returning to mess with him. It took a few moments for it to subside and he slowly opened his eyes again, the breath stopping in his throat as he examined his environment.

He was inside some kind of round glass container, with both his legs and arms stretched to the maximum upwards and downwards, making every movement incredibly uncomfortable. The room behind the glass was mostly dark, with a huge monitor at the opposite wall which flashed images of facility cameras. He was vaguely aware of other similar glass containers on the right and left side of him, but the manner in which he was restrained really restricted his movements, even if it was just his head.

Jack tried to recall the events before he passed out, his mind not being able to understand what was really going on.

I was assisting the twins in fighting that hideous spider. I stabbed it and then… what?

The blonde grit his teeth in frustration as he once again tried to pull at his restraints, his joints stretching out painfully. How was that even possible?! He was a god! He was supposed to at least be able to use his power-

Don’t even try it, Jackie.

Blonde froze for a moment, a voice in his head rather familiar.

Carly?, he called out with his mind, his head trying its best to look around and see in which container she was stationed. What’s going on here?

Beats me, the witch-goddess answered immediately, her voice vibrating with frustration. But I know two things: these containers keep us from using both our powers AND calling for our attendants. Believe me, I’ve tried it all. We’re pretty much at someone’s mercy.

Oh screw that!, Jack protested as he yanked at his restraints once again, the painful hiss leaving his mouth almost immediately. How the fuck is this possible?! I’m damn powerful and here I’m turned into dead meat that just waits for someone to swoop in and eat me!

He could hear Carly’s chuckle in his mind, his own frustration slowly growing as he barely managed to count the containers, his blood freezing in his veins upon seeing the mistress of his realm, Kisara, also being among the captured.

It’s not just you, Carly noted, the blonde finally being able to see her on the far left, her dark eyes locking with his despite the distance. But stay on alert. We may not be able to do much, but at least we can try and awake others. Whoever’s involved in this… and these marks that we have on our necks… it smells of some bad curse.

Oh, of course, you’d know it, Jack said sarcastically only to receive a death glare from the goddess. I’m sorry but… I’m just so angry… I hate this…

Just stop whining then and help me out, Carly said in a scolding manner, her usually stern expression filled with deep wrath. Try to make a mental link with everyone here… we’ll probably be able to craft some kind of plan… buy ourselves at least a bit of time.

You’re just deluding yourself, sweetheart, Jack groaned in his mind, causing the goddess to look away from him.

At least I’m trying to do something, I’m not whining about my terrible destiny, she scolded again. Besides, if you wish to have any chances with me, prove that you’re a god that’s ready to die trying to do everything he could. That way… you’ll have no regrets.

The blonde was slightly flabbergasted by that sentence but all of a sudden, he felt incredible spite raise in his chest, hardly admitting Carly was right in everything she said. He was not the type to give up…

But just as he attempted to form a mental link with Crow that was in the container right next to his, huge sliding door of the room opened and a tall man with burgundy hair and a huge scar on the right side of his face entered, his eyes glued to all containers as he turned on the bright lights of the lab area.

Wait, that guy…

- Rise and shine, sleepyheads! – the man exclaimed with eccentric claps, his expression having a rather unnerving smile plastered on it. – It’s playtime! Don’t make me wait or I’ll get really mad~!

You know him?, Carly questioned, her dark eyes following the man’s every move.

Yeah, Jack admitted as he bit into his own lower lip, barely managing to keep in his rage. That guy… caused Yugi to go berserk…

Chapter Text

- What's the meaning of this, you sleazy fucker?! – Jack yelled through the thick glass, hating the fact he couldn’t even move his limbs let alone conjure a proper spell. – First, you try to mess Yugi up, and now this?!

- How do you know I haven’t been doing this under the Great One’s influence, hm? – the man said before flashing the blonde god with a creepy grin, that scar on the right side of his head only making him look more hideous.

- You take us for fools or what? – Jack spat. – I’ve seen Dartz’s possessions before, you’re just a twisted little fucker!

- Now I’m hurt, of greatest god of wine and madness! – burgundy-head said in a theatrical manner, even falling down on his knees with his hand leaned onto his chest. – I thought you gods are here to protect us, humans…

- Majority yes…

Jack turned his head to the right at the familiar female voice, his eyes widening upon seeing Akiza in the same position as himself, those sharp brown eyes of hers shooting daggers at the man that was still sat on the floor of the massive lab.

-… But not the likes of you. – she continued, her voice containing nothing but contempt, a growl clearly present in her undertone.

- What do you want with us, mortal? – the queen, Kisara then spoke, every restrained god, including Jack, wincing slightly upon hearing her quiet but intimidating tone.

The man was also taken aback slightly before letting out a rather amused chuckle and getting back on his feet. He then walked up to the third container to the left, everyone being able to feel Kisara’s power slowly building up despite the goddess being unable to use it at that moment.

- This is just fascinating… - the man said as he scratched his chin, his eyes glued onto the restrained queen of gods. – I know I didn’t capture you, your Highness, but to think the Great One would bring me such a splendid gift. You’re a truly magnificent creation… I don’t even think I’d survive if I was to touch you…

Kisara just frowned at those words, refusing to show any other type of reaction to his sleazy tone and hungry gaze. Jack once again tugged at his restraints as he could feel everyone’s rage skyrocketing as the man got closer to their queen.

The man then put his hand onto the glass of Kisara’s container, his palm quickly wincing back as the electricity struck him, the goddess’s bluish hair now starting to glow.

- Answer my question, mortal. – she commanded as her eyes flashed light blue, a small crack appearing on the glass of her container. The man froze for a moment only to start laughing maniacally, his feet slowly carrying him over to the huge monitor at the opposite side of the room.

- This is wonderful! Just so wonderful! – he said as he typed something onto the keyboard, Kisara letting out a painful yelp as her body started spasming, the goddess’s body soon limply hanging from her restraints.

- WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL HAVE YOU DONE!? – Crow screamed as Shizuka yelped with tears in her eyes, the young goddess immediately attempting to literally tear herself out of those restraints.

- Oh once you die… you’ll wish you’ve never lived in the first place… - Carly growled as the glass of her own container started breaking only for her to be knocked out by the same method, causing Jack’s blood to boil even more.

- Are you going to continue with this or am I suppose to continue torturing your precious queen? – the man side-eyes all of them, that disgusting smirk even wider on his lips.

Jack could only continue to thug on his restraints, the feeling of absolute helplessness enveloping every fiber of his body. He was completely useless, not even being able to use his brute strength to break out… how humiliating…

- At least answer her last question? – the god-sun, Marik, spoke in a calm manner, Jack unable to fathom how he could keep his composure in a moment like that, but after looking into the god’s eyes, the blonde could clearly see his deep wrath slowly boiling to the surface.

- What was it again… - the man scratched his chin before turning towards Marik, that confident and sleazy smirk still prominent. – OH! What do I want with all of you? That’s a story, my friends, I’m not sure whether you want to hear it or not!

- You can bet we don’t… - Kalin uttered only to have the sun god shoot him a scolding look.

- Make it short. – Marik commanded, the man showcasing a slight pout at the god’s words.

But eventually, he brought one of the chairs into the center of the lab before casually sitting on it and crossing his legs.

- I would’ve started with the events of my childhood, but since the great Marik doesn’t want to hear it, I will really have to comply. – burgundy-head said as he theatrically sobbed, making every single god in that room even more angry than they already were. – But my fascination really did start in my childhood… oh, how much I’d enjoy if we managed to capture that crybaby god… but then I saw how much power was in that little body of his. And even though he had slashed my ankles and I’ve spent over a month in the hospital, I was still so fascinated.

Jack’s eyes widened as he heard the man’s story, soon realizing what event he was describing. He turned his head to the left and his eyes met Akiza’s, the hunt goddess having the exact same expression as he did.

This guy…

- But that day wasn’t only the start of my true purpose in this world, oh no… that was the day I was taken care of by the goddess of all goddesses! – the man said as he spread his hands wide, his eyes shooting directly at Akiza.

- I didn’t take care of you because I wanted to… - the goddess hissed. – I was only fulfilling my orders…

- And yet you carried me so gently in your arms! How could a man be able to forget something like that!? – the man said through that maniacal laughter again.

- Sayer… - the goddess hissed again, the burgundy-haired man getting up from the chair while clapping theatrically.

- Bravo, my beautiful Akiza! You’ve remembered my name! I’ve told you we were made for one another! – he giggled. – I’ll make sure to treat you like a good pet should be treated: with absolute respect and minimal punishments.

- A pet? – Shizuka mouthed, Jack now feeling his skin crawl.

- What are you planning, you sick maniac? – Crow said in light befuddlement although all of them could kind of guess what was this all about.

But it seemed as if Sayer didn’t hear their questions at all, his feet carrying him across the lab as he waltzed with himself, the same smirk still plastered on his face.

- I’ve always wanted to know… just how much such powerful creatures like gods could really endure. Is there a limit to their power and their mental capacity?  How can humans actually hurt them? Why are they on such a pedestal even though they’re so similar to us? I’ve always wanted to know… - the man said absent-mindedly -  And then… the Great One spoke to me one day… he promised me to give me all of the gods I desired… that I could do anything I wanted with them. He gave me so many opportunities to snatch you all… and all of it for a very little price…

- You’ll let him eat us once you’re done… - Kisara said through the moans of pain, her body still so weak she could barely lift up her head. – As he is now… he can’t survive without consuming our godly energy… at least until he takes over the planet…

- Exactly! – Sayer clapped again. – But depending on how all of you behave, I might be willing to keep you all a bit longer than needed…but there is still one goddess I will never get rid of…

In that moment the man walked up to Akiza’s container and literally stuck his hands and face onto the glass, the goddess only being able to close her eyes upon seeing his disgusting grin.

- You’re so cold towards me, goddess… - he said through another fit of laughter. – You really think someone like Yusei Fudo would be able to love you as I do? He doesn’t even like you anymore-

- DON’T YOU DARE SAY HIS NAME OUT LOUD, YOU IMPUDENT, SELFISH WRETCH! – the goddess literally screamed in his face as the glass on her container also started cracking, the strength of her voice visibly surprising Sayer as he tumbled backward and landed right on his ass.

But the silence didn’t last for a very long time as he once again started giggling, more maniacally than ever before.

- Oh, don’t worry… neither of you will be able to remember any of your past lives once I’m done with you…

Sayer then stood up and approached the massive keyboard once again, Jack only then noticing a big red button in the middle of it.

- You see… I know that if I let you out of these cages, you’d tear me to shreds. So, I asked for the Great One’s assistance in creating these very special little chips…

- What chips? – Ryou spoke for the very first time since the beginning of this ordeal, Jack clearly hearing the shakiness in his voice.

- You’ll see soon enough.

Sayer then casually opened the cap that protected the big red button before lightly pressing it, a mechanical noise unnerving everyone in the lab. Jack started looking around only to see four tubes appearing in four different containers: Kisara’s, Marik’s, Ryou’s, and Akiza’s.

- Time to start testing. – the man said before turning around and pushing a smaller red button under the main one, the one on the far right.

Kisara yelped in pain as the thin tube pierced the skin on the nape of her neck, the goddess letting out a loud scream of pain as something got injected into her. Others could only observe her agony, her beautiful face distorting in pain as the skin around the tube started turning black.

But then the goddess’s hair started glowing again and the electricity took over her entire container, the tube eventually breaking into million pieces and her skin soon returning to normal. Kisara gasped as the pain subsided, her blue eyes glaring at Sayer who could only fathom a slightly unimpressed expression on his face.

- So you’re too powerful for this one, heh? - he said after shrugging his shoulders. – Glad to see there is still room for improvement. NEXT!

The man swiftly clicked the other small red button, the tube soon jammed into the back of Marik’s neck. The god let out a similar type of scream as the queen earlier, the injection having the similar effect on his skin as his body started spasming.

But soon then after the tube literally melted away as Marik’s hair also started to glow, the heat being so strong inside his container it almost melted the entirety of the glass away. Still, once his skin returned to normal and the chip was destroyed, the sun god limply fell over in his restraints, the light layer of sweat covering his face.

- Oh damn, I have to make them sunproof now. – Sayer commented again as his fingers hovered over the other two red buttons, ready to push them-

The door to the lab suddenly opened as a tall, muscular blonde man with glowing turquoise eyes entered the room, his expression showcasing a slight disturbance as he walked up to Sayer and whispered something to his ear.

- Oh my… thank you, Rafael. Better go take cover.

The man nodded and ran away from the lab as soon as possible, Sayer once again falling into a fit of laughter before pressing some other buttons on his keyboard, those few clicks bringing an entire ceiling platform down.

- I’ll also have to take cover, my friends. Looks like others are here to bust you out. – he said as he collected his jacket. – But don’t worry, they’ll have proper entertainment.

The man then slammed his hand onto the remaining two red buttons, the tubes simultaneously piercing both Akiza’s and Ryou’s necks as Sayer climbed onto the platform. He didn’t take his eyes off Akiza as she yelled and twitched in pain, the darkness spreading around her wound.

The human soon disappeared somewhere in the upper part of the lab, Jack knowing their rescuers were running right into a trap as his purple eyes observed both of the gods transforming in front of his very eyes.

Then, a loud rumble shook the entire building, a familiar, dragon-like cry making everyone close their eyes as Kisara mouthed with utmost horror:

- Blue-eyes…

Chapter Text

Even though the king's plan initially worked, Bakura never believed they'll really manage to enter the facility completely unnoticed. And as soon as one group climbed into the ventilation system and the other descended into the basement, the alarms started blaring.

And even though Dartz’s lackeys tried their best to put up appropriate traps or barriers to keep everyone away from whatever was hidden behind all of those doors, Bakura found it embarrassingly easy to breach through those defenses, not only because he had Shogunsaga with him all that time but also because of his Underworld origin.

And at that point, it was obvious why Dartz would want only the gods of the Upper Realm. His own creations, which were gods connected to darkness and death, knew how to see through his little illusions and tricks.

- Stop. – Seto suddenly rose his hand and stopped in the middle of a wide and dimly-lit hallway, a blue crystal clenched in his fist. – Listen.

Bakura resisted the urge to click his tongue and tried to be as quiet as possible, Zane and Fubuki next to him attempting to do the same thing while also staying in close proximity to one another. The god of traitors chuckled quietly, resisting yet another urge, this one being to tease and taunt them.

But then he heard it, clear as day.

A familiar, high-pitched scream of agony and pain.

- We’re barging in. – Seto commanded as he pulled out a huge spear in the shape of a dragon head, the massive weapon created of sacred white gold, before opening his hand and sending the blue crystal forcefully through the floors as it started glowing with blinding blue and white light.

Bakura could only signal to Sunsaga to get ready as he also brought out his own weapon, a short sword attached to a chain, the other two gods also preparing to get their beasts out.

- Will others be able to enter? – Fubuki questioned, a massive crystal snowflake with sharp edges already in his hand.

- They have Ishizu with them just focus. – Zane scolded, all three of them wincing as an ear-piercing cry of a dragon echoed the air.

- Now! – Seto commanded again, everyone already in motion as two more dragons followed after the blue-eyed one.

With little to no effort the group of four gods and their beasts breached the door to the now half-ruined laboratory, the sound of electricity occasionally heard over the sound of falling metal plates and dragon roars as Brionac and Cyber Twin Dragon busted their way inside the room.

And they didn’t have to wait long for the other party to appear, the powerful attendants announcing the arrival of their masters through the vents: Aster, Yusei, and Dogma busted their way from the right side, right beside the massive, now broken monitor, Manjoume and his sea turtle kaiju coming from above as the massive creature created only additional damage to the lab, while Ishizu along with a jackal-headed priest exited from the left side, her form slowly materializing through the golden sand.

- Seto! – a muffled female voice called out and everyone started turning their heads, not even their enhanced eyes being able to see through that amount of dust in the air.

- Kisara?! – the king called out as he entered deeper into the lab. – Where are you?! Speak to me!

A tense silence then ensued as everyone, even the massive dragons went quiet, only for the queen to exclaim a chilling message:

- Get away from here!

In the next moment, a strange, almost incoherent growling and mumbling ensued as the dust started clearing up, revealing the sight that even caused Bakura’s heart to shrink inside his chest.

At the very opposite side of the doors, they have just busted were two slouched figures, almost unrecognizable but also recognizable enough to make everyone gasp with horror.

The one on the left had their skin obtain dark green shade as veins of ivy and rose thorns covered the majority of their body as massive thorny tentacles exited their back, the sound they were making so crackling and loud Bakura was convinced their bones were breaking with every movement. A signature burgundy hair with much longer locks and with no metal clasp in the bangs was now floating around them as their once brown eyes turned a sickly shade of turquoise rounded with deep red.

- AKIZA! – Yusei and Aster could be heard at the same time, the sound of their voices making the mutated goddess shriek in surprise before she used her thorny tentacles to literally make a hole in the ceiling and run away through it.  

The duo didn’t hesitate to follow after her, Seto calling after them a bit too late.

But the god of traitors just couldn’t tear his eyes away from the other figure that stood to his right, the sight of them almost making his heart shatter.

Their skin was now golden with blackened limbs, the mouth completely sealed off as the golden but thorny crown sat at the top of their head, making them bleed. The robe almost completely disintegrated, revealing the god’s fragile body and many blackened scars he had gotten in his and Bakura’s various fights over the centuries.

But what really took the god of traitors out were the other’s eyes, those round, sweet brown eyes now completely whitened and soulless, massive golden limbs emerging from the god’s spine and making the same cracking sound.

Fucking hell, Ryou…

- We’re so fucked… - Manjoume mouthed as everyone finally noticed the massive glass containers where the others were held, Seto not wanting to waste any more time on all of this.

- Don’t just stand here, time to move! – he commanded before looking at everyone. – Manjoume, take Fubuki and chase that freak that Akiza turned into. Try to do everything in your power to bring her back, understand?

- Yes, sir! – the two gods said in unison before departing through the massive hole in the ceiling along with sea turtle kaiju and Brionac, barely avoiding the stabbing from Ryou’s golden limbs.

- Zane and Bakura, take care of Ryou! I’ll join you as soon as I help with busting everyone out of these containers. Ishizu, start breaking that damn glass!

- Yes, Highness! – the trio said in unison as Bakura got into a fighting stance, not wasting any time as he jumped forward.

Ryou expected him and immediately blocked the attack of his blade with one of his golden limbs, that horrible crackling sound making Bakura frown and chuckle at the same time.

- You’ll have to do better than that, little brother. – he commented before jumping backward using Ryou’s other limb, just barely missing the stab.

Zane and Sunsaga charged into the battle, but not even they were able to find any sort of opening to even lay a finger on Ryou. He was in control of every angle and every single one of his additional limbs.

Bakura clicked his tongue as he became vaguely aware of the glass containers slowly opening, Ishizu and their king doing their best to bring everyone out before they got squished or stabbed. Those in the worst condition were Kisara, Carly, and Marik, the three gods not even being able to stand on their own, while Jack, Crow, Shizuka, and Kalin were just slightly wobbly on their feet as they helped the others.

- You think you can break those seals?! – Marik asked as he clung desperately to his older sister, the sun god barely holding back his power so he doesn’t burn her.

- Manjoume should be able to do it… - Kisara noted. – Those are marks used with the energy of his creator…

- Let’s take you back to the Underworld first, alright? – Seto said in a quieter, incredibly gentle voice as he cradled his wife in his arms, Kisara only shaking her head as she looked towards the battle happening before her.

- Take out the chips…. – she said before hissing with pain as she lowered her head and removed locks of her long hair to expose her neck. – They tried… to turn me and Marik into that… Please, you have to help them, Seto!

Both Seto and Ishizu gasped upon seeing the two punctuation wounds as the stares the two of them shared could only be described as murderous.

- How many of you can still fight? – the king asked, Jack raising his head as he helped injured Carly to sit up and lean on him.

- I can, I just need my crystals.

- I can too. – Crow said through his teeth before extending his hand and spearing his palm, a leather bag soon appearing in his clutches.

- I can too. – Shizuka noted. – I’m maybe not too strong but at least I can help to guard the ones who have to be evacuated.

- I can too but I think it’s better for me to look after those three. – Kalin said as he immediately started examining the punctual wounds and other injuries. – Take my crystals and my girls will help those in need in the Underworld.

- Alright, Kalin, Shizuka, and Ishizu will go with the injured. Jack and Crow, you’re coming with me to the roof. Looks like Akiza will be a much bigger problem-

- Highness? – Bakura suddenly spoke as he walked up to the queen and kneeled next to her, Kisara only being able to look at him. – Did my little brother get the same chip in the same place?

The goddess just nodded before closing her eyes and leaning in Seto, the god of traitors clenching the weapon in his hand before literally launching himself back to battle.

- Watch it, idiot! – Zane called out as mutated Ryou sent his limbs to stab the newcomer, but Bakura saw it coming and blocked every single attack, his eyes dead-set on his brother’s nape.

Can you keep him busy? Use Sunsaga however you can, the white-haired god said through a mental link, Zane only frowning in response before answering:

Better finish this off quickly, asshole.

Bakura could only chuckle as he latched onto the edge of the hole in the ceiling, the only place where Ryou’s limbs couldn’t touch him. His eyes then focused on the other’s nape once again, just then noticing a huge, blackened spot filled with rotting veins.

Allowing yourself to be manipulated like this, I’m truly disappointed, the god snarled in his head as he dropped down just in time when Zane, Sunsaga, and the twin dragon attacked Ryou from all three sides, keeping him as busy as possible.

Fuck you, Bakura.

The white-haired god could feel his heart stop for a moment as a male voice responded a mental link he didn’t think was possible to achieve, Bakura almost allowing one of the golden limbs to stab him as he descended. But luckily, his weapon-wielding reflexes were a bit too quick for that.

As he landed behind his brother, he had to move away immediately as the same limb started chasing after him, clearly noticing his intentions.

I’m a weakling, I know, Ryou cried again, so why are you even here? Why are you helping? Haven’t I always been I nuisance to you? Just kill me and get it over with, you’ve always wanted to do it anyway.

Bakura shook his head before sliding from under the golden blade, the thing unable to turn so fast to follow him. The king of traitors then finally jumped up and pointed the tip of his blade in his brother’s nape, a slash deep enough to pull out infected tissue but shallow enough to not reach the spinal bones.

Idiot, he said in his mind as everything went quiet for a moment before Ryou’s possessed body literally just collapsed.

You maybe are useless, he continued as he shook the black goo off his blade, everything going silent as Ryou’s additional body parts slowly turned into dust and fell on the floor, the god’s original body now lied across the lab floor with only the remnants of his old robe covering him.

The white-haired god swiftly took off his red coat and squatted next to the other before gently lifting his brother’s body, careful not to touch his still injured nape. After wrapping the younger in the red fabric, he lifted him up and put his hand over Ryou’s eyes, feeling the coldness and trembling of his entire body as he fell into a feverish frenzy.

But you’re still my little brother, Bakura finished as he carefully floated above the ground with the younger in his hands, surprised with how much gentleness he was able to actually hold onto Ryou.

No one is allowed to hurt you like this, not even me.

With those last thoughts, the god of traitors broke the mental link to ensure Ryou’s maximal relaxation, Kalin already waiting for the two of them at the exit of the lab.

- Can you make sure he is safe? – Bakura asked as he handed the younger white-head to the god of medicine, Kalin nodding reassuringly as a dragon girl with long black hair appeared next to him and checked on Ryou’s condition.

- I can guarantee it. Now take care of Akiza and come back alive.

After that the injured and their protectors departed, their movements fast but careful in order not to disturb the patients.

- Why can’t they just teleport to the Underworld? – Jack questioned as the remaining gods took a few moments of rest, Bakura being the one to answer him this time:

- Something happened down there. My link to that realm is broken…

All Upper gods frowned and became restless, but before any of them were able to even have a proper freak-out, the white-haired god rose his hand and said:

- Let them handle it. Ishizu knows what she’s doing and this little detour is just enough time for those down under to handle whatever problem had arisen.

- How can you be so sure?! – Jack asked, the king being the one to answer this time around:

- Because both Yami and Yugi are capable of it. Now let’s move, we have another freak to take care of.

Bakura only chuckled at that command, picking up on a clear doubt in the king’s undertone within that very last sentence. But he still stood up and took out his weapon again, ready for the hopefully last battle of the day….

Chapter Text

- AKIZA, STOP, PLEASE! – Yusei called out before his voice gave out, Dogma not being able to fly fast enough to reach the mutated goddess.

- Don’t rush so much, you idiot! You don’t know what she can do! – Aster warned as he followed right behind the duo, but the raven-head just ignored and gripped the chains on Dogma’s armor tighter, begging him to go faster.

The entire chase lasted for who knows how long, Akiza dodging every single obstacle that was in her way, the pieces of the building falling all around them as Seto’s dragon literally obliterated what was previously Yusei’s workplace, the human feeling the tears gather in the corners of his eyes as everything he knew started crumbling to dust.

But the mutated goddess didn’t stop despite his pleas, soon finding her way up towards the roof, five floors above.

Akiza literally removed the entire metal roof and stopped, her turquoise eyes glaring at her chasers.

- Akiza, what happened to you?! – Yusei demanded as he landed on one of the thicker support beams, Dogma still remaining in the air and shielding him from any possible stay missal. – Speak to me!

But the goddess gave no response, her eyes only continuing to drill a hole in the front of Yusei’s skull. The human was aware of Aster’s near presence as he and Plasma landed on some of the lower beams but didn’t come closer, the silver-head’s cautious eyes trying to predict his sister’s next move.

And then… Akiza rose her right hand in the air, the thorny tentacles springing to life as more of them emerged from her back.

- Go away, puny mortal.

Only a second later three pairs of those tentacles flew Yusei’s way, Dogma managing to scoop him in a nick of time. The raven-head was completely paralyzed with shock and understanding of what could’ve just happened, feeling those gathered tears finally spilling over.

- STUPID! – Aster screamed as he also jumped in the air, three more of his goons soon appearing beside him and trying to stop as many tentacles as possible. – THAT’S NOT AKIZA ANYMORE! WE HAVE TO FIGHT HER!

Yusei could feel his face tensing up in intense anger as the heavy feeling of helplessness sunk his entire chest, a quiet growl clearly heard from the human’s mouth, surprising even Dogma.

- They did something to her… - he muttered through frustrated tears as he continued to fly around the battleground, Akiza now going in a full-blown attack against her twin brother. – She’d never do this… not even to you…

- If you plan on helping me, then do it! – Aster barked as he barely managed to avoid the attacks, his attendants getting a pretty vicious beating from those thorny tentacles. – Otherwise, fuck off out of here!

In that very moment, the silver-haired god was grabbed by his ankle and pulled up, one of the thorns digging deep into his leg. Aster screamed as he shambled and struggled in hopes of releasing himself, but Akiza only ended up smashing him against the still untouched part of the roof, rendering the other god completely immobile for a moment.

- Hey, mutant!

Yusei looked up only to see a familiar white dragon of crystallized skin and long body, the creature shooting a beam that froze Akiza’s feet for a moment, the dragon’s master right beside it.

- Fubuki… - the goddess growled as she literally tore herself away from the icy shackles, the sound of breaking bones freezing the blood in Yusei’s veins.

- Oh, so you remember me and my baby? – Fubuki said with a cheeky smile as he silently prepared Brionac for yet another attack. – Then I guess we have to render you immobile as soon as possible. That chip won’t take itself out…

Chip? What chip?!

Zane told me, Fubuki’s voice suddenly rang in Yusei’s head, making him jump in Dogma’s arms. The two of them exchanged looks even on that crazy distance as the god barely managed to remove Aster from harm’s way as Brionac and now Blue-eyes continued to attack the rampaging goddess.

Apparently, they implanted some chips in their necks. Marik and Kisara resisted it but Ryou and Akiza went coo-coo bananas. That thing needs to come out.

The raven-head frowned even deeper only to be flown away even further because Akiza decided to attack them as well. Only from that distance and that angle was Yusei able to see what the winter god was talking about.

In the middle of Akiza’s thorny neck and all those ivy leaves that tried to shield her nape from any sort of real strike, Yusei saw a swollen bundle of blackened veins, the growing bundle leaking with some kind of see-through liquid.

Ignoring the way his heart literally stopped for a moment and caused him uncomfortable pain, Yusei pulled out a small black key that was still hanging around his neck.

- Let me fall, this won’t be nice… - he commanded as Dogma tried to protest, but as the man’s dark blue eyes locked with the creature’s, Dogma had no other choice but to comply.

And as Yusei could feel his body plummet through the cold air, he brought the key up to his lips and kissed it, reciting a small chant Ishizu told him about.

- I call for thee, the dragon of darkest and most beautiful bloom. Please, help me take my vengeance…

A huge beam of purple light then pierced the air, the ground under the building shaking and splitting apart as a massive beast emerged from its depths. The dragon’s beautiful, rose-petal wings spread wide and it took a flight, catching Yusei in the process as he latched onto the creature’s massive head. Dragon then released a deafening shriek as it joined Brionac and Blue-eyes on the roof, its own thorny tentacles being faster and stronger than Akiza’s.

And the moment the goddess lied her eyes on the dragon, her movements ceased for a moment, a glimpse of her old, brown eyes flashing as Yusei blinked, the human now even more determined to save the goddess that kept protecting him and loving him for all those years.

- Do you recognize it, Akiza?! – he yelled as the dragon blocked every single attack of the mutated goddess, the frustration visible on her possessed face. – If I was only a puny mortal, how could I ride this dragon?!

- B-black… R-rose… - the goddess muttered as she was on the dragon’s eye level, her tentacles still trying to break through the beast’s defense. – My d-dragon…

- That’s right… - Yusei said with a smile as even more tears rolled down his cheeks, noticing Fubuki was handing injured Aster over to Zane who then disappeared in the building’s rubbles, his attention than returning to the mutated goddess once again. – We can help you… you won’t be hurting anymore. Just trust me and Black Rose…

Various emotions flew over Akiza’s face but the one that came and remained was deep, seething anger as she screamed towards the sky, even more tentacles emerging from her back as a few of them dodged the dragon’s own thorny wall.

But Black Rose hasn’t even started, only one dragon’s cry able to send a rain of razor-sharp dark petals that slowed her down, accompanied with three whips of the tentacles that slammed Akiza into the side the building.

- Akiza! – Yusei exclaimed as Black Rose picked her limp body up, her mutated powers still putting up a fight. The man almost broke down in tears as he looked at her exhausted and hurting form, her own tears now rolling down her temples and forehead.

- Hurts… hurts… Black Rose… - she whispered as she reached out to touch her precious dragon but winced once Yusei grabbed her hand and brought it up to his lips.

- Be patient a bit more, Aki. It’ll be over soon… - he said in a shaky voice, clearly seeing a small tentacle reach from Black Rose and dig deep inside the gooey black bundle on Akiza’s neck, the goddess hissing and squirming in pain.

- It hurts… hurts! – she coughed out, Yusei not once letting go of her hand. – Y-Yusei… Sorry… I’m sorry…

- Aki… - he mouthed, his own hand now reaching to touch her teary face, the chip finally pulled out and disintegrating in the air next to them. – You did well, Aki… I’m so proud of you…

The goddess smiled for the first time that day, her eyes closing for only a moment as Black Rose slowly ascended back towards the roof while carefully lowering its mistress into Yusei’s arms. Once they reached the roof, Fubuki waited for them along with Seto and Bakura and their attendants, the battle seemingly over…

Yusei then slowly put Akiza on Black Rose’s back and jumped down, his legs shaking so much he was convinced he won’t be able to make a single step even if he tried.

But he was happy. It was finally over… Akiza was finally released from that damn chip and hopefully, they’ll-

- WATCH OUT! – Fubuki screamed as he jumped towards Yusei… but it was too late.

The moment Yusei’s eyes turned to the right, he could clearly see a man of burgundy hair peering through the cracks on the roof, a huge shotgun aimed directly at him.

But before the raven-head could even make his legs start moving, the man opened fire, a sadistic smile plastered on his face.

The first shot was the most painful as it hit the middle of Yusei’s stomach, but the rest of them lost their intensity as the man tumbled backward. He reflexively grabbed onto his abdomen but the rain of bullets just kept hitting him.

Fubuki was the first one to shield him, the god grunting in pain as a few bullets hit his arm, but the majority of them were blocked by his flake-like weapon. Seto was the one to disarm the man with a strike of lightning, literally taking him out for a few moments as Bakura went down to collect him, Yusei feeling an incredible sense of relief upon seeing that play out.

But then his legs finally gave out and he fell backward, the intense pain that was piercing his abdomen and hands blending into one intense sensation which quickly turned into numbness.

He felt his head hit the support beam under him and the next thing in his now murky field of vision was Akiza’s crying face, her own wounded hands bringing the man closer to her as all the sound suddenly disappeared from Yusei’s surrounding.

Why… are you crying, Aki?, he wondered as his vision slowly became whiter and whiter, a faint smile appearing on the man’s face.

A chilling scream pierced the air.

- YUSEI!!!!!!!!!!!

Chapter Text

- YUSEI?! CAN YOU HEAR ME?! YUSEI! – Akiza screamed as she barely managed to hold onto the man's body, the wound on his stomach looking worse than she originally anticipated.

Both Fubuki and Seto were at their side and helped lower them on the ground from the rooftop, dragons still screeching as Bakura brought out the perpetrator, his shotgun literally smashed into pieces.

- Let me try something… - the winter god said as his hand hovered over Yusei’s bleeding stomach, the blood slowly transforming into crimson crystals around the wound.

- Your effort is futile. – Bakura said as he landed on the ground and slammed the burgundy-haired man’s body against the earth as if he was a sack of potatoes, knocking him unconscious.

- SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH! – Akiza barked as she observed Fubuki’s actions, knowing her own powers were too weak at that moment to help in any kind of way.

Bakura only shrugged his shoulders and observed the whole situation, his very presence irritating Akiza.

- Why not try and do something instead of just watching, you selfish bastard?! – she retorted again, but all white-haired god did in response was chuckle bitterly while shaking his head.

- He reeks of death, even you’d be able to smell it. – he noted before approaching Yusei’s unmoving body still leaned against Akiza’s legs. – This bastard knew where to shoot-

- JUST… - the goddess of hunt grabbed onto Bakura’s wrist and twisted it, causing the god to chuckle again at the sudden pain. – Just shut your mouth…

- Sure, I will. But looks like we have a visitor…

Everyone present frowned only for Akiza to realize all of the dragons have now landed around them and went silent, Black Rose lowering its head as it let out a deep, somber growl.

That’s when Akiza saw her: a small girl dressed in green overalls and with her long, dirty blonde hair tied in a loose braid. Despite her sweet exterior, the girl carried a reserved expression on her face as she approached Yusei and looked up at the goddess.

- You’re-

- Pittore, yes, my Lady. One of Mahad’s reapers. – the girl said as her small hand hovered over Yusei’s mouth, a small speck of light soon emerging from his pale lips.

- No… - was all Akiza could mouth as she observed the small grim reaper carefully handle the floating light in her hands, her face progressively becoming sadder and sadder. – You can’ take him…

- I’m really sorry, my Lady. – Pittore bowed before the goddess before floating away. – I shall preserve this soul in the Underworld. I can assure you he’ll be taken care of.

Akiza’s body was suddenly overtaken by the strong urge to tear that speck of light from Pittore’s hands, her eyes slowly turning a deep shade of burgundy, but a cold hand then leaned on her shoulder, causing her to wince. The goddess then looked up, Fubuki shaking his head with the same sort of expression Pittore was wearing, causing her vision to get blurry.

The goddess then fell into complete despair, her entire body shaking and tensing up as loud sobs and whimpers escaped her lips, her hands embracing Yusei’s head as his body continued to limply lean on her.

In that moment she didn’t care for her divine power or taboos,  the man she vowed to protect with everything she had and whom she adored with all her heart… was now dead because she was unable to fulfill her duty.

This failure… caused her to lose the most special person in all of her two-thousand-year-long life.

- Before you go… - Seto suddenly spoke, Akiza barely being able to registrate it as Fubuki continued to hold his hand on her shoulder, his cold touch somewhat soothing. – I’ve heard from Ishizu something’s happening in the Underworld. Can you elaborate?

Pittore stopped dead in her tracks for a moment, the shadow of terror flying over her face. Still, she responded:

- The Ancient God Dartz managed to possess the body of the King of the Underworld… the remaining gods are hiding within Nightly kingdoms and they’re fine… but we all need to find a way to enter the Underworld on our own. The two best options are to wait for the matter to be resolved… or for all of you to find a way to teleport inside the Underworld on your own.

- That son of a bitch… - Bakura mouthed as he heard the reaper’s warning, Seto immediately swooping in with giving everyone their tasks:

- Alright, then we’ll have a different approach. I will go search this building for a child I promised to find and Fubuki is coming with me while Brionac and Blue-Eyes keep guard. Bakura, take everyone else back to the Underworld. You live in The Hidden, I assume you’ll be able to teleport them safely?

- I’ll try… - the white-haired god grumbled. – But with two injured, it’ll be a hell of a hassle-

- Please allow me to remain here, Your Highness.

All the heads turned towards Akiza as she gently put Yusei’s body down and stood up, the power once again surging through her body, mostly because of the presence of her precious dragon Yusei brought to her. Fubuki immediately intervened:

- Aki, don’t be ridiculous! You’ve just survived the transformation-

- Are you sure you won’t slow me down? – Seto asked, cutting the winter god completely.

Akiza only nodded determinately, her eyes still teary and itchy, but she refused for that to slow her down at that moment.

Then, the man Bakura brought with him grunted on the ground, his consciousness slowly returning to him. And the moment the goddess of hunt and wildlife noticed him, she could feel her blood boiling in her veins.

- Highness…

- What is it? – Seto questioned carefully, his hand signalizing everyone to step aside.

- Would killing this piece of shit count as a taboo? – the goddess asked as she slowly closed the gap between her and the burgundy-haired man on the ground, a sudden calm claiming chest amidst the intense fury she was still feeling surging through her.

The man could only look up at her, his eyes widened in horror and confusion as his scarred face slowly started to distort, Akiza feeling a tingle of joy in her stomach as she looked him crawl on the ground like that.

- Not really. – the king of the gods responded. – He did orchestrate this kidnapping and tried to use chips to possess you… which can count as a violation of several rules.

- Then if you’ll excuse me…

- W-wait, goddess! – the man pleaded as the tears rolled down his face, his hands grabbing onto her disheveled robes. – I only wanted for us to be together… please don’t do this to me-

Akiza just rose her leg and hit him with all her might, causing the man to fly into the nearest wall. He grunted on impact and fell limply onto the ground, his coughing swiftly interrupted by terrified screams as Black Rose picked him up and strung him upside down.

With a completely straight face the goddess approached the crying man and grabbed him by the jaw, her voice deep and sinister:

- Not only did you capture me and caused pain for our beloved queen… but you dared to touch the god that was like a little brother to me… and you killed the man that was most precious to me in all aspects. Remember, what I do to you today is nothing compared to what the Underworld demons will be doing to you for the rest of eternity. This… is just a little taste of that torture, Sayer.

The man continued to squirm and plead as the goddess moved away, her hands once again signaling her dragon to get moving.

The beast didn’t need to be told twice.

In a few swift moves, Black Rose wrapped her tentacles around all of Sayer’s limbs, huge thorns digging deep into his flesh as he screamed. Once his voice was at its absolute crescendo and his face was basically unrecognizable under the mask of terror, the dragon just pulled out every single one of his limbs and additionally squished them and turned them before throwing them on the ground like pieces of trash, blood splashing and gushing everywhere.

And even as the man’s screams ceased and a few drops of blood landed on her face, Akiza kept the straight face and empty eyes, as if she was just strolling down the street. Black Rose then roared loudly instead of its mistress, expressing her true, deep grief for the loss of Yusei.

- Can you collect this soul as well, Pittore? – the goddess asked as she used her robe to wipe the blood off her face, the small reaper already holding another, a rather less shiny speck of light in her hands.

- He will get what he deserves, my Lady. Lord Bakura and their Excellency Yubel will be sure of it.

- Good. – Akiza nodded as she turned towards the other gods, noticing their reserved expressions except for Bakura who was wearing a little impressed smirk on his lips.

She then slowly approached Yusei’s body and picked him up only to walk up to Fubuki and gently pass him into the winter god’s arms.

- Please take him to the Underworld. Once all of this is over, I’ll hold a funeral ceremony properly.

Fubuki just nodded as he called for Brionac to return to him, his weapon also sheathed as he gained permission from the king of the gods to accompany Zane, Bakura, and Aster back to the Underworld.

- Keep Black Rose outside along with Blue-Eyes, you never know what might happen. – Seto instructed as he literally blasted open a hole in the bloody wall of the building, the two gods casually walking inside, Akiza now having her wooden bow and arrows at hand.

- Who are we looking for? – she asked as they strolled the empty hallways with their weapons on stand-by, unsure what might be lurking in those rooms.

- A brother of the woman who involuntarily worked for Sayer, apparently he kept the boy captive in order to keep her working for him.

- What a piece of shit… - the goddess mouthed as they finally found a huge hole in the ground that she made in her possessed state, her neck still tingling with pain. – If I knew this would’ve happened, I could’ve killed him when he was still a child-

- What’s done is done, goddess. Focus on here and now. – Seto scolded as they slowly descended into the deep basement. – Yusei said they might be keeping him in the storage for biohazardous materials, apparently, that’s the only space in the basement that needs an authorized key card from only chosen people in order to enter.

- Guessed that much… - Akiza mouthed as they turned to the left, their feet bringing them right to the massive door with a huge warning sign on it. – Are we breaking in or…

- We can’t take our risks. – Seto noted as he pulled out a key card, Yusei’s name on it causing the goddess’s breath to stop in her throat. – I vowed to bring the boy alive and that’s exactly what I’ll do. Besides, that’s one of the last promises your dearest made before he passed.

Akiza nodded and stepped aside as the king swiped the keycard over the scanner, the door opening without much difficulty.

And immediately upon entering the goddess heard sniffing and sobbing.

- Is anyone here? – she asked with her bow drawn, Seto not far behind her as they found their way through the mountains of sealed metal boxes filled with dangerous materials.

- O-over here! – the boy’s voice called out from deeper in the storage, both gods sighing with relief upon hearing him.

And as they approached the place where the voice came from, Akiza noticed another movement in the corner of her eye, her arrow immediately pointed towards the suspicious target.

- Who’s there?!  - she called out commandingly, any sound or movement ceasing. – If you don’t come out, as soon as my boss takes the boy out, this whole building will blow up along with you and me. So I’d suggest you cooperate!

As the silence prolonged, Akiza looked slightly to the left only to see Seto already carried the visibly frightened boy on his back, the two gods exchanging nods before the king departed with the child.

Another movement then took the goddess’ attention and she drew her bow, ready to shoot… only for her heart to turn cold upon seeing the man in front of her, his massive body completely slouched as his turquoise look pointed towards the floor.

- Rafael… - she mouthed as the rage slowly overtook her voice. – I should kill you now and here… you’re partially to blame for all of this, after all.

- Do as you wish, goddess. – the man said in a somber voice. – I’m sure Yusei will be thrilled with that-

- YUSEI IS DEAD! DON’T YOU DARE SAY HIS NAME EVER AGAIN! – Akiza screamed, not even caring for the obvious shock and paleness that flew over the blonde’s face. – Yeah, that’s right. The man you worked for, Sayer, shot him like a dog. This, on my robes?! This is his blood!

Rafael could only look blankly in front of himself, his knees finally giving out as he fell down in front of the goddess.

- I didn’t want for that to happen… - he whimpered as he squeezed his hands into fists. – I just wanted to see them again… he promised he’ll bring them back…

Akiza frowned at his mumbling, putting her anger into the back of her head for just a moment.

Despite everything, Rafael was still one