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The End of the Beginning

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His head and vision were fuzzy as the last of his Father’s soul left him, the world becoming clearer as if Kisara’s light was seeping out to the real world.

He lifted his head a little to see Atem, his Pharaoh and as he had been told not long before, though it almost felt like a lifetime ago, his cousin.

A hand was offered but Seto stood of his own accord; he was supposed to help Pharaoh not the other way round. And Seto never cared if his actions seemed rude.

Atem had never minded and even now he didn’t as he only chuckled softly, expecting that reaction from his Priest, but his expression soon turned into a sad little smile. “I don’t know if we can win, Seto,” Atem admitted into their silence, pressing up against Seto’s side, claiming some comfort from the touch.

Seto snorted indignantly. “You always win and you are foolish to lack confidence now when the God of all evil bears down on us bringing fear to your people.”

Atem shook his head a little. A compliment followed closely by an insult, of course. “Very well, you have made your point. Let us leave this place then.” The Pharaoh placed a kiss to Seto’s arm and made to walk off. His Priest was not in the habit of being pulled around, even by his Pharaoh, and Atem was not in the habit of jumping up to attempt to kiss Seto properly.

Seto caught hold of his wrist and tugged his Pharaoh back to him, ducking his head so their lips met, fingers sliding up to bury in wild hair. He bit at Atem’s lip, tugging when Atem groaned as Seto tried to make a point. “Don’t you dare do anything stupid,” he hissed in angry desperation. He knew the statement was futile.

 

Relief flooded his body as that monster, that evil God faded from existence, the light slowly coming back to the sky as Seto stared up at it, strewn over some rubble where he’d fallen. His body ached but didn’t hurt and taking a quick glance down he couldn’t see any blood. It seemed like he’d be fine.

That was when the whispers started. Small whispers of magic rushed through him. Atem? The presence of his magic was almost tangible and Seto pushed himself to his feet at the protest of his body.

The battlefield was worse than he thought, deep gashes across the land, but Atem still stood, was still alive, was still A-

The thought stopped abruptly as the rest escaped from him. His Pharaoh was fading away, or was that Seto’s weary eyes?

“My Pharaoh, what is going on?” he called to his cousin. He opened his mouth to call the other’s name but nothing came to mind. Like the space in his memory had been wiped clean. “No-“ Seto breathed.

His feet carried him forward. No, Pharaoh couldn’t do this. He was here, he was alive, he couldn’t fade, he couldn’t take all that he was with him! “Don’t you dare!” Seto snarled.

His cousin gave him a little sad smile. “I couldn’t do it, Seto. I must seal myself and Zorc. The time will come when I can defeat him and purge him from our great land once and for all.”

“You will fade from this world, from memory. Who will remember you when that time comes?!” Seto spat out; he was under no illusion that this kingdom would last forever - nothing ever did. The story would not last, time would pass and story would turn to legend and eventually legend would be long forgotten.

His Pharaoh only smiled. “I know you will.”

Seto growled and shook his head as his Pharaoh tried to distract him with flattery. He made to grab him, to shake some sense into him. Like he could stop his Pharaoh fading any more with his own hands. “I swear to you, I swear on my body, my blood, my very ka. I will be there when that time comes!” Seto declared, words heated, and they both knew that through sheer stubbornness alone they would somehow become true.

“I hope that the Gods allow it, Seto.” His Pharaoh smiled. “Please, make sure that these pieces are buried in my tomb; when they’re put together once more I am sure that these Dark Games will begin once again. And please, restore peace to this land. I know that… you will make a fair and great Pharaoh.”

The word hit him like a tonne of bricks. Pharaoh? Him? Impossible! “Then we have to duel again! I must win properly,” he demanded but really he was begging.

“You can see for yourself, Seto, that I hardly have the time for that.” Most of his Pharaoh’s body was gone by now, just his upper torso and head remaining. “I’m just a spirit now, my body will be lost to the sands of time.”

“And your name?” Seto demanded. “You can’t just erase that from my memory, it’s unfair!”

“I have to, Seto; names are powerful." He floated closer and ghostly hands reached up to rest against Seto's cheeks. Seto could almost feel the touch. "Promise me that you will erase it from everything. It can’t fall into the wrong hands.” His Pharaoh whispered, staring intently into Seto's eyes.

He wanted to tell him no, to defy him one last time, but the seriousness and pain in his Pharaoh’s voice made him nod. “Very well, my Pharaoh. I shall do as you order."

His Pharaoh smiled at him, drawing his hands back. “Thank you, Seto. I know we’ll meet again, some day.”

Seto reached out a hand as a last ditch attempt to stop him - why were they all leaving - but his Pharaoh vanished before him, the last few wisps of his image disappearing into the ether. He closed his hand around the last remaining essence of his Pharaoh, his cousin, his partner but the wisps slid through his fingers like the wind.

And then there was nothing remaining but the still warm pieces of the Puzzle, worn as a symbol of his Pharaoh’s status, now sticking out of the sand, glinting brightly in the sun.

Seto carefully knelt down and using his cape, he collected up every single, precious piece and began what felt like a long walk through the ruins of the city to what was left standing of the palace. His palace.

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Many challenges lay ahead of Seto and he was glad for his perceived demeanour as he swept through the palace, his jaw set and lips only a thin line.

He was actually thankful for the damage done to the palace. It had done a lot of his work for him when it came to erasing the Pharaoh’s name. There were still more carvings than he realised.

Each one brought a pang of guilt at burying his Pharaoh without a name. Each one brought back that little extra bit of a memory, a name he’d breathed like a prayer to any other God in weak, intimate moments. And then only sadness followed as he chiselled the name away and it disappeared from his mind once more as he cursed his nameless Pharaoh for doing this to him.

 

It was only Seto, Isis and Mana that saw their Pharaoh off so to speak. Or at least they were present to place the box of Puzzle pieces in his tomb where the King’s body should’ve been. Mana clung to Isis as she wept and Seto was glad she did not cling to him. He would not have begrudged her it but even Mana was a little wary of him, especially given his mood recently, and he didn’t think he could keep his face emotionless if she’d clung to him.

He needed the practice; for now he needed to be perfect, he needed to appear as if nothing affected him and only in the privacy of his own quarters could he feel and weep.

 

Kisara was also buried a few days after, he felt sorry for any Master of his dragon to follow who would never meet the gentlest of creatures who had possessed such colossal power but there was nothing to be done by dwelling on it. He knew her ka and ba had fused and been sealed, that there was nothing more for her, but still he prayed for her journey to the afterlife and left her with all the protection he could.

 

With the dead buried, his coronation complete and the Palace close to finished in its rebuilding it fell to him to organise the Millennium items. Knowing their origin, he couldn’t help but regard them with a small amount of disgust. But they were needed and would be needed so he kept the Rod and Isis kept the Necklace. Of course the Ring was passed to Mana and over time Seto took in the best Priests he was offered who passed the tests of the Items.

This was to be their last possession though; he already had plans for their protection upon his death. Some of the current tomb guard and their families would go underground and stay there to protect the Items until the former Pharaoh’s return.

Perhaps it was cruel but Seto had no doubt that the entire world hung in the balance of his Pharaoh’s fate.

 

Mana's fingers brushed over the cold surface of the Ring as it lay against her chest. She’d been so nervous about taking it, scared of the evil that she knew resided in it that her Master had kept at bay.

But apparently so could she, it certainly hadn’t burnt her from the inside out so she took that to be good.

She was still training her magic, more so than ever, but the great battle with Bakura and then Zorc had certainly been lesson enough; she’d advanced so quickly in those few days alone.

Mana still missed them greatly, even now a whole year later. She would often go to the Temple to visit Mahaado, even if it was just to sit in front of the stone slab that he’d been sealed in. She didn’t like to summon him too often outside of battle, not to mention he got grumpy about it.

The first time she saw him after the Prince had disappeared was a surprise to them both. She’d been sat in front of the stone, talking as if he were there as she studied, using her magic to create a light to read by.

Mana had squealed in surprise as the stone had begun to glow and she scrambled back as her Master appeared out of the stone. She stared up at him in surprise and Mahaado looked just as surprised as he looked around before his eyes settled on her.

He smiled warmly as his feet touched the ground and he set his staff down. “It’s nice to see you studying for once, Mana.”

She sniffed and scrambled to her feet, throwing herself at him in a tight hug, crying into his chest.

Mahaado’s smile turned sad as he wrapped his arms around her and held her close, fingers running through her hair as he murmured in a soft, soothing voice. He held her close as they sank to the floor, Mahaado gently tugging her into his lap. He rubbed her back and neither of them noticed the shadowy figure that had summoned the magician in the first place leave the temple.

 

Mahaado held her close as they talked long into the early hours of the morning. “I’m so proud of you, Mana.”

“Thank you, Master,” she murmured, hugging tightly as she knew he should leave now.

“I’ll see you soon,” he assured her, brushing her fringe back and pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead.

Mana beamed and nodded happily, unable to stop the pang of sadness as he disappeared, his image appearing back on the stone tablet. “I’ll see you soon,” she told it.