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Wings of Silver and White

By: Crimson Phoenix

 

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of the characters and locations affiliated with it. I do, however, I do own the story “Wings of Silver and White", all references to dialogue not originated by Konami.

 

DO NOT COPY MY STORIES!!

 

If anyone wants to post this story anywhere else, please just ASK and then give me credit for writing it.  Email CrimsonPhoenixRising@hotmail.com with any requests.

Chapter 1

Wet hair rustled with noise as a towel was vigorously rubbed over it. Afterwards, it was carefully dropped on the dirty wood floor, the one to have dropped it beginning to dress with their only set of clothes. Yugi shivered as he finished putting on his shirt, holding his arms close to his chest as he walked towards the blurred window pane, watching as the rain pounded mercilessly against the tired glass.

Life sucked. No, seriously, life was really, horribly terrible. He simply had to born into a poor life, with a poor past, with a poor character. He wished Jou was there right then. He hated being alone in that run down dump.

But no. Jou was out getting drunk right now. He knew Jou was trying to drink his life away, but he woke up every morning to cold, hard reality, and started to get drunk again. But at least Jou knew how to use a blade, and at least Jou was usually drunk enough to not feel any remorse after killing somebody.

It was cold. Winter was beginning to set in, and the heavy rains had come. Soon, they would turn into snow, and the lack of insulation in that rotten little apartment would become all too apparent. Yugi was worried. Of course, he always worried, but right now something was really nagging at him. The rain always seemed to do that to him.

The city outside looked dirty, the rain doing little to wash away the filth. It seemed nothing could ever get this side of the town to come clean, even if someone decided to douse the whole area with bleach, it would only taint the bleach.

He dropped his head, scratching just behind his ear. A nervous habit he had developed. God was it cold. At least leather seamed to insulate very well, no matter how old it was. Jou insisted that he wear it. The bad ass look was always safer than the poor, lost little boy. Not as many people tired to put a knife to your throat.

Yugi froze when he heard movement coming up the stairs outside his door. Voices he didn't recognize were yelling at each other, not worrying about being quiet as they trampled their way through the decrepit building. Oh, gods no...

The door knob jiggled. Yugi bolted to hide in the closet, closing the shuttered door as quickly and as silently as possible.

Three large men burst into the apartment, looking around warily. "Where's the damn shrimp," one of them growled. His buddies were walking around; poking through what little there was there. One picked up Yugi’s damp towel. The teenager cursed to himself. "Hey, somebody's been here," the man growled. "Either they're still here, or they just left."

Yugi held his breath, praying to any deity that would listen that they didn't find him. He knew they were out for his blood. Jou owed them money. And since they could never find Jou, they were going to get to him through Jou's only friend.

A man started to walk towards the closet, but left view as he drew closer. Yugi sighed a little. He had probably gone off to the bedroom.

But he almost jumped out of his skin when the closet door burst open. A nasty grin full of rotten teeth smiled benevolently at him. "Found you, runt." Yugi cried out when the front of his shirt was roughly grabbed and he was dragged out of the closet.

"No, please, I didn't do anything!"

"Guilt by association, twerp." A rusty blade was drawn and placed directly over the artery in his throat. Fear gripped his heart, and the familiar adrenaline rush began to take over.

It wasn't the first time something like this had happened. It couldn't have been, in order for Yuugi to still be alive to this day. Suddenly, all of his senses were heightened, and he took in where every body in that room was, and where his escape routes were.

Bingo.

Wriggling out of his only sweater, Yugi bolted to the door, winding easily around the thugs in the way. They yelled angrily at him, but he knew better than to look back. He ran for all he was worth.

The cold air blasted him as he rushed out the apartment complex door. The rain blasted him too, soaking his leather shirt and pants, and somehow managing to slip all the way down to his bones.

His pursuers were close behind. He could almost feel them pounding up behind him. Yugi huffed and puffed heavily as he ran on, his vision blurring horrendously with the icy rainfall. "Get back here, bitch! We're not done with you!!"

Damn it Jou, where are you...you're supposed to be able to fight them off for me...

Yugi started to panic when his path was suddenly cut short. A man hole in front of him seemed to collapse in on itself, leaving a seemingly black abyss directly in front of him. The chasm was too wide for him to jump over, too. His ears were bombarded with the thunderous booms of the thunder and falling gravel. He looked behind him. No good. Those thugs were so close, and there was now way he could weave around them now. The alley he had run down was far too narrow. Their sick grins smiled at him again. A flash of steel caught his eye. He turned back around.

This couldn't be real. No, it couldn't. The rain was clouding his vision far too much.

Then why did he fall when those shadows wafting out of the chasm caught his ankle and pulled him down?

"No!" He cried, clawing at the pavement under his nose as he was dragged towards the black abyss. He didn't want to die yet!

The thugs were so close now; he could see the pimples on their dirty faces. And those daggers looked so, so old. They looked to have been corroding for ages now.

Perhaps he should take his chances with the shadowy abyss. At least the fall would kill him quickly. The ones after him would spend a lot of time toying with him before they killed him, most likely.

Just as those dirty hands almost grabbed his arms, Yugi let go, and allowed himself to be sucked into darkness. Even their screams of anger faded away into the distance.

***

Yugi woke up groggy and cold...still. He registered that he was on a hard floor, smooth and unblemished. A floor that smooth had to be marble or granite, with how hard it felt. Also meaning that the floor was very expensive, and he was therefore in a place that cost a bit of money.

Boy was he not going to fit in.

He opened up his eyes, seeing that his assumption had been correct. He was lying down on a black granite floor. It sparkled with white and silver specks, causing it to look like a clear night sky. It was pretty.

The walls around him sparkled gold and silver, just pale enough to not look gaudy, but rather ethereal. Pillars and columns and monstrously high ceilings surrounded him. Alcoves holding statues of women he didn't recognize holding staves with symbols affixed to the tops. It was ominous in a way, and yet somehow comforting. They almost looked like guardians.

There were voices talking somewhere around a corner. Yugi froze instinctively, but calmed a little, only a little, when it didn't sound like the voices were arguing. That was strange. Voices always argued. Why weren't these?

Two men walked swiftly into view, conversing lightly with one another. Yugi couldn't understand the language. He'd never heard it before.

But he couldn't believe what one of the people looked like.

And, it seemed, that the other person could hardly believe it either, for crimson eyes looked at him filled with confusion. "Mentehu, nehstal aeyetah. Senashu me-ent ylaseh."

Yugi could only gape from his spot on the floor. Wow. It was amazing just how much of a deeper voice his duplicate had. And such darker skin, too. His duplicate was wearing clean white linens that clung greedily to his hips, wrapped lovingly around a muscular chest, and wore a blood red cape that billowed out behind him. Gold jewelry adorned his arms and neck and legs and waist. The only way Yugi could describe him was pretty. So very, very sparkly and pretty. "I'm sorry," he spoke. "I don't understand your language."

His duplicate and the other man looked at Yugi strangely. The one that looked so much like him walked up to him swiftly. Out of instinct, Yugi held his arms up defensively, curling in on himself. The other him stopped short, slowing his pace. Well, he doesn't seem to intend me harm...

The teen found himself gaping. How could he have missed such a blatant detail? Gods, he's wearing a crown. I'm so fucked.

The other him came very close, gently taking hold of one of Yugi’s forearms and pulling him up to his feet. Yugi realized now that his back was pressed against a wall. He didn't realize there was a wall behind him...

"Betehb kestuhna. Meyshyu ashaleh ne pyahna es ne."

Yugi shook his head, violet eyes wide. "I still don't understand."

The other him didn't seem to have a sense of personal space. He moved closer and closer, taking very critical looks at Yugi’s attire and hair, his eyes and face, his skin color and his height. The other him sniffed lightly, then hid his nose into Yuugi's hair just behind his ear. Goose bumps jumped up the teen's skin. Not really in fear, and not really in discomfort. He really didn't know what to make of the feeling, so he decided to push it off until later.

The other him hummed appreciatively. Apparently he smelled good. Yugi was just glad he got a shower before he was sucked into this strange, beautiful place.

The other him pulled back, looking at him with unanswered questions in his eyes. He looked to his companion standing quietly behind him. "Ksesune nehenta ehya mesta me tu yla. Kyesa." His companion nodded, walking off.

Yugi watched as the other him pulled a small vial from a pouch tied around his waist. Opening it up, he took a small sip, offering it to the one in front of him. The teen looked at it skeptically. It couldn't be poison, otherwise the other him wouldn't have taken any of it. Right? Or perhaps it was a trick.

The other him waited patiently. Finally, Yugi decided that if it was poison, at least he could die without any torture. And if it wasn't, then he had found at least one person he could marginally trust. He couldn't lose, right?

Right?

A pale hand shakily took up the vial, looking up silently for further encouragement. He received a warm smile. Yugi shrugged. What the hell. He downed what was in the vial.

It wasn't all that foul tasting. It was like that flavored water, with a faint hint of chalk behind it. He handed the now empty vial back.

"Can you understand me now?"

Yugi looked up completely surprised. "Perfectly. What happened?"

"That was a linguistics potion I gave you. I meet people often who don't speak my tongue, and try to keep a vial of it on me at all times."

"What's going on? Where am I? And who are you? I've never seen this place before, or heard of anything like it for that matter. How did I get here?

The other him laughed lightly. "One question at a time, please. My name is Atemu. You are in my...well, you are at my home. I for one do not know how you got here, or where you got clothing as strange and worn out as you have on, and what's going on is I just sent my friend out to make a contact for me. I know someone who will be able to answer more of our questions than either of us can. Now, tell me, who are you? And where are you from?"

Yugi looked around himself in wonder, unable to comprehend the amount of money and power one would have to have to live in a place like this. "My name is Yugi, and I'm from Domino, Japan."

Atemu frowned hard. "Never heard of such a place."

Where is your home located," Yugi asked.

"Sekesha."

Now it was his turn to frown hard. "I've never heard of such a place." Suddenly, another thought popped into his head. "And how did that potion work? Magic or something?"

"How else," Atemu asked him, confused.

Perhaps I dropped into another dimension...

"Your highness! She's here!"

They both turned around when Atemu's companion from before walked back in, another person in tow behind him. Yuugi's jaw hit the floor. Was she real? Or had she jumped out of some strange dream?

Silver hair reached down past her waist, billowing and shiny. Pale skin was wrapped up tightly in a glimmering white gown that was highly form fitting, a sparkling pendant that shined so much around her neck, Yugi couldn't really make out what it was. Crystal blue eyes looked him up and down, scrutinizing his appearance. "He's not from here," she spoke. "Or anywhere near here." She walked up to Yugi and looked at him very closely. He backed up a little bit in reply. Apparently, she had no real sense of personal space, either. "What happened to you before you ended up here," she asked. Her voice gave Yugi the impression that she was not in the mood to put up with any crap. It was all business.

"Well, I was running down the street, and a man hole opened up in front of me, and I swear, I'm not going crazy, but these shadows came up and sucked me in. The next thing I knew, I woke up here not understanding a word of your language."

She cursed in another language entirely. "One of those."

Now Yugi was very confused. "What do you mean?"

She looked back to Atemu, ignoring the question. "I swear the realm is getting a mind of its own."

Atemu simply shrugged.

She looked back to Yugi again. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen."

"Hm. Yes, that sounds just about right. Maybe a little old, but still in the right age bracket." She pulled out a deep purple velvet pouch that Yugi swore she hadn't had just a moment ago. She put her hand into it. "Step away from the wall and hold you arms out for me." She backed up a little, giving Yugi some more room. "Now."

The teen swallowed. He knew he really didn't want to get her mad. He walked forward a little bit and held his arms out. The woman pulled her hand out of the bag and threw a fistful of silver dust over his head and arms. Yugi sneezed a little, unable to help the response.

All three of the others in the hall seemed to look pleased.

"You have the Glow of the Gifted, child. This means you were indeed pulled here for a reason. You're just lucky you ended up here instead of some other place less desirable." The woman put her pouch away, and Yugi was again unable to see where it went.

"I was pulled here for a reason," Yugi repeated. "What do you mean? I'm confused."

"I'll explain it all later. Come. We must get back to the compound."

"But-"

She turned and looked at him harshly. Yuugi's rebuttal shriveled up before it was even spoken. The woman looked back to Atemu and his friend. "I'm sure I'll see you soon, Sire."

Atemu gave her a lazy wave. "I'm sure you're right." Yugi looked at him as they started to head down the hall. Atemu came up to him before he could completely leave, setting a hand on Yuugi's shoulder. "Don't take her too seriously," he whispered.

"I heard that," she retorted from ahead of them.

Yugi smiled, receiving a wink from his duplicate. "Good luck, Yugi."

The teen gave a weak smile as he left the other him behind.

The woman in front of him walked purposefully onward, not bothering to look behind herself to make sure Yugi was still following. It was obvious no one was going to hold his hand through any of this, which really came as no surprise to the young teen.

She led him around many turns and corridors and halls and walkways until they came to a large circular room. Again, there were numerous alcoves that held numerous figures of women standing tall, garbed much like the real woman standing before him, holding tall staves with symbols resting on top. All of them were distinct in their appearance, with individual hair and eyes and figures. He counted thirteen in all.

"So...what's really going on here," Yugi asked.

The woman sighed and turned to him, holding yet another pouch he had no idea she had. This one was silver in color. "Come here towards the center of this circle on the floor." Yugi looked down, seeing indeed a large circle on the sparkling granite floor, surrounded by in fact many symbols. If fact...they were the same ones on the staves of those women statues.

"Don't move a muscle," she said. Yugi could do nothing but reply.

She threw a sparkling crimson dust over them, muttering words he couldn't understand. He tried his best not to move, but oh how he wanted to look as a light from the floor caught the corner of his eye. The circle underneath of them was lighting up!!

Suddenly, all sense of feeling left him as his vision was blinded by a bright white light. Man, this place sure is strange.

When Yugi's sense of feeling came back to his muscles, he found his rump firmly dropped on the floor. "Ow," he moaned, attempting to stand and rub the sore area at the same time. The strange woman looked at him, standing tall with her arms crosses. "You get used to it, or you figure out how to overcome it."

Yugi scowled, and for the first time got half a grin from the woman. "Can I at least get some answers now??"

She gave him a hand up, and started walking again. Yugi followed. The area they were in this time was circular, much like the last room, with the same statues everywhere, but it was more gothic in appearance, and a bit darker in atmosphere.

"I am known as the Priestess, but Headmistress will also do. This is the Sekesha Hall Compound, a school of sorts to teach the Gifts of elements and sorcery. Sekesha is the name of this country, ruled by the Prince His Royal Highness Atemu. The planet you are currently on is called Assahiineh. The language you are speaking, whether you realize it or not, is called Asalyaseh, which when translated by an outsider who doesn't speak it is really a bunch of gibberish. It is a language comprised of magic, where thoughts are put behind that gibberish to convey a thought. Because of our abilities, it is far more precise in conveying thoughts and ideas that any other tongue ever created. Poor peasants can not speak it, and it is very sacred. Yes, that's right, even the cuss words are sacred, used mainly in curses."

Yugi gave a sheepish grin when she looked back at him.

"I am the Headmistress of this compound. My word is law within these perimeters."

Yugi was given some time to digest all of this information. "All right, that was helpful. But how did I get here? And why?"

"I can tell you now, Yugi, that you are not the first one to drop in on us, and you won't be the last. Those shadows were an extension of the magic always flowing in this realm. People who live in other dimensions grow talents that can be put to excellent use here, and are otherwise wasted elsewhere. It seems that this realm hates to see magick and elements go to waste."

"And I supposedly have some 'Gift' that your realm thinks can be put to good use?"

The Priestess nodded, her silver hair glimmering. "That's right. We're going to find right now just what kind of talent you have."

Yugi asked a question that had been bothering him. "What about the whole age thing? If I do have some talent, why wasn't I sucked up by a black abyss earlier?"

"Because Gifts don't appear until puberty or later. Twenty is the latest anything can develop, but it's rare that it waits that long to develop."

"Ah. And I just so happen to have landed in Atemu's palace then?"

"Like I said. You were very lucky. Many people wind up out in the middle of nowhere, or worse, in un-welcoming territory."

"Such as?"

"Oh, a vampire's home, or a tomb filled with zombies or worse..."

Yugi shuddered. He didn't want to know what 'wore' entailed. "Why does he look so much like me?"

"Why shouldn't he," she retorted. Yugi shrugged. After all, it was possible. This was a different dimension, after all.

Suddenly, the Headmistress stopped, gabbed a key from the folds of her dress, and unlocked a door that was so large, Yugi didn't even realize they had walked up to it. It looked more like a complete wall than a door.

It creaked loudly and groaned angrily as it opened. "Move easy," the woman warned. "There are several Obsidian Dragons hiding behind these doors. Only those accompanied by me can come through without pain and death."

Yugi swallowed, and only heard their labored breathing as they walked through, unable to see the massive beasts in the gloom beyond the entrance.

Was that a spark?

The doors slammed closed behind them. The Priestess seemed unaffected. She began to talk again, even as Yugi lagged behind in puzzlement. He couldn't see much of anything around him, it was so dark. She was the only light in the area, practically glowing all of her own accord. "Every Gifted in this world has a symbol pendant. It is like their seal and a type of guardian for them when things become hard. If your heart is corrupted by your power, you pendant will refuse to work for you. But if your heart remains good, no matter how much trouble you find yourself in, you will be saved from certain death. This pedant will also enhance your powers on a continual basis, and make sure that nothing goes out of control. Before these things started to appear, many a Gifted went rogue and had no control over it."

Yugi swallowed. "That's comforting."

The Priestess turned and continued to walk, and suddenly Yuugi could just make out another door in front of them. She turned and looked at him. "Walk up to the door. This is the element of water. If it reacts to you and opens, then this is the Gift that you have been given."

Yugi walked up to it, unable to make out the symbol that locked the doors closed. It remained quiet and still.

"Unreactive. We move on."

She turned around and walked in another direction, but Yugi was officially lost. "This is all security measures to make sure that nobody breaks in and steals, isn't it?"

"That's right. Those dragons weren't the only creatures hiding in this area. Don't ever get any ideas. Most corpses don't even make it past the first doors." She turned and headed down another area. Stopping, she stood next to another door. "Fire."

Again, Yugi walked up to it, and again, he received no response.

They went through the water and the fire, air and earth and some more bizarre ones that Yugi wouldn't have considered before such as dreams and even healing.

He was getting worried. So far, no responses. Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe he really didn't belong here.

But the Priestess didn't seem perturbed. She just kept on walking.

Yugi stopped when two forces he couldn't see tugged on either side of him. It was a little painful, a little ticklish, and very disconcerting. It was like someone was playing a tug of war game with him against another person.

The Headmistress stopped and looked back at him, seeing him rooted to the spot. She looked to either side, seeing two symbols lighting up. "By the Goddesses...I never dreamed. A double gifted!" She laughed, pushing him in one direction to his left. "Come on, we have two halls to tour. So very rare, indeed. No wonder those shadows sucked you up so quickly..."

Yugi had to shield his eyes as the door they were coming up to glimmered and gleamed. "The sorcery of light," the Priestess replied. "Impressive. So very impressive."

"Why's that," Yugi asked curiously.

"Well, it seems that you are a mage whose magick is mostly around light. Light is not really considered an element all of its own, simply because you have to be a mage in order to manipulate light. But it is a specialty that very few are Gifted with. However, your other Gift is that of shadows and chaos, and the two almost always conflict....so rare indeed..."

The hall they were walking down was littered with pendant hanging on little hooks. All of them were dull and lifeless, but for one sitting way down the isle, practically hidden from view. The Priestess picked it up and handed it to Yugi. The teen could see that it was the symbol of a crescent moon with a pentagram entwined within it. In the center was a beautiful, star-shaped moonstone that had eight points. Yugi put it on, feeling warmth spread through his limbs. If felt good to wear it.

"How do you feel?"

"Better. Just a little lighter, and certainly not as cold. I wish I had owned this sooner."

She nodded. "Good." She turned around and started to walk out. Yugi rushed to catch up. She sure didn't dawdle.

They headed towards the other door, and Yugi knew that this one was the hall of the shadows. The doors opened immediately for them, and Yugi felt that tug stronger than before.

The Priestess brought up a pendant that was glowing with crimson and bright green and royal purple shadows dancing around it.

It was the design of an eye. It was carved out of...gold? No, it was too pale to be gold. No, Yugi knew what it was carved out of. Electrum. An alloy of gold and silver. Yugi put it on, feeling even better than before.

"Now how do you feel?"

"More secure, and somehow more protected than before." He held it close. "I really wish I had this sooner."

The priestess looked at him pointedly. "Just what were you running from before those shadows pulled you here?"

Yugi shivered, suddenly remembering Jou and those thugs. What would happen to him now? "Certain death and some blades that made me need tetanus shot just looking at them."

She nodded. "I see."

Oh, no she didn't. "They wanted to kill me because my roommate owed them money, but if they killed him they wouldn't get their payment, but if they killed me, his only friend, it would let him know they meant business."

"I see."

He looked up at her defiantly. "I didn't come from a very nice place. I'm not expecting any better until I see it. So far, I've seen nothing but a really wonderful place, but I don't want to be heartbroken when the bottom of my world falls out."

"That's quite understandable, but you have to remember. Don't ever close yourself off from all people here. You're going to have a lot of problems. If ever you have any problems, don't hesitate to come and talk to me. I didn't get this job by bluffing and bullying my way to the top. For the past three thousand years, this position and that of the current ruler has been held by the most powerful individuals in the country. You have to be able to subdue a monster when teaching Gifts such as these. Otherwise, your pupil might surpass you and usurp your rule. Your law. Things are different when politics no matter rely on golden tongues and money."

Yugi nodded. She was a little arrogant for a reason. She had a good right to be. "Let's go, Yugi." He nodded again, following her out of those dark corridors. "Ryou, primarily a healer but also a light user, will show you to your room."

"Um," Yugi began, "how am I to pay for all of this? Surely this school costs some money."

"After your training is over, your will send a quarter of your pay to this school for two years after you've found a suitable job. There is always work for mages, and you will most likely be prized as a guardian of some sorts with your abilities. Healing and Chaos, what a better combination..."

Yugi rolled the response around in his head. "All light users can heal, can't they?"

"That's right."

Chapter 2

Yugi sat in his Magick’s History class, listening intently as the teacher stood in the front of the class, as mysterious as usual. There were so many anomalies and strange events that occurred in this country’s past, it wasn’t even funny. It was one of the classes that Yugi looked forward to most.

He wondered what the teacher was going to reveal to them that day.

“Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, Miss. Lapis,” everyone replied in unison. Miss Lapis was an interesting individual. She was, according to popular rumor, a werewolf slash vampire all rolled into one. Unlike the stereotype that Yugi was familiar with, however, werewolves could change shape at will, and were not violent by nature. Their human form just had an uncanny ability to growl surprisingly well.

“There is an old legend I would like to introduce to all of you today.”

Silence. She sure was one for drama.

“As most of you know, wings do not exist on any human like creature that we know of today. It is, for the most part, biologically impossible. However, there are the old stories of the Assai.”

Some of the people in the class sat with rapt attention now, looking enthralled.

“What do most of you know about these kinds of creatures?”

A girl three desks up from Yugi raised her hand excitedly. “Oh, oh!” she cried. “I know! The old stories tell of how wretched some of them were! Humans were direly jealous of their wings, and would hunt them down and trap them, cutting off their wings and selling them for a high price. The Assai turned warrior-like and went on revenge killing sprees. Eventually, they were all killed off, and those who did live hid their wings and assimilated themselves into society.”

The teacher nodded her approval. “That is, in short, the most correct history we know of them. Does anyone know where they came from?”

More silence. Apparently, no one knew.

“Then here is some news for you. Assai generally translates into ‘the sacred moon.’ Therefore, we can presume that these creatures indeed came from the ruins that have been found on the silver moon in the night sky.”

Yugi found himself oh-ing. Everyone talked vehemently about those ruins. Old myths and legends fascinated people here. They wanted to know everything about their past and these ruins were some of the only ones so far unidentified to any specific group or species.

Yugi was even more astounded to see that the only moon in the sky actually shimmered silver at night.

“It is also said,” Miss Lapis continued, “that the Moon Goddess created the Assai in her own image.”

Jaws all around the room went slack. Yugi was also learning about the resident religion here. Apparently, all of those statues he saw were in fact of the Thirteen Guardians, all goddesses from the different planets and in fact a star close to their solar system. Nine planets, which was a number Yugi was familiar with, and one moon, one sun, one star, and one daughter of one of the Goddesses.

The three most revered Guardians were that of the Moon Goddess, the Sun Goddess, and the Star Goddess, the three lights of their universe.

That close star in the night sky was very bright. It put Earth’s North Star to shame every night. When the moon wasn’t full, it was the brightest thing in the sky.

“It is even said that all Assai were in fact descendants of the Moon Goddess. However, we don’t have any proof for this claim.”

That didn’t matter. It was mentioned; therefore at least some part of it had to be true.

The teacher began to hand out some parchment sheets to the class, filled with a tiny scrawl. “I have a handout for you, and a large chart I will show you up front of how it is thought these wings might have looked on the Assai.”

Yugi was handed a stack from the boy in front of him, took his piece, and handed the rest back. He was amazed at the picture before him. It showed some transparent views of the human body, except there were the largest wings possible extending from the back. Muscle masses were shown wrapping around the extra bone structures jutting out from either side of the spine, just inside of the shoulder blades. He read one of the little notes on the page. It is said that, when stretched, the wings were exactly three times longer than the creature was tall. The wings extended one full body length above their body, and therefore doubled back until they touched the ground another two body lengths.

Wow. Those were some very large wings. Yugi raised his hand.

“What is it, Motou?”

“Well, wouldn’t wings that large be rather heavy for flight?”

“They were large, yes, but the bones were hollow much like birds’ bones. It was true in more than just the bones of the wing, too. The entire skeletal structure of an Assai was hollow.”

“Does that mean that they had a smaller amount of blood production?”

“Very good, Motou. That is true. In all mammal creatures the blood is made in the marrow of the bones, but since the amount of marrow inside an Assai was reduced by nearly three quarters, the amount of blood the body had was indeed smaller, therefore causing them to be much lighter still. Hence, flight was possible.”

Cool.

“Does anyone know how long they’ve been extinct?”

A boy to Yugi’s right raised his hand. “About seven thousand years.”

“Correct. Seven thousand years. In that time, there has not been another creature in recorded history that has walked this earth like a human that bore wings.”

***

Yugi walked out of his History class, surprised with the new information. How strange. With how much magic that was floating around here, no one had any kind of wings that were real. The only thing that even resembled wings happened when a mage created an illusion around themselves, and Yugi had not yet learned how to do that.

“That was some pretty amazing stuff,” the girl next to him commented. Yugi noted her short brown hair and deep blue eyes, recognizing her as a girl named Anzu, an air element user.

“I agree. This world just keeps on amazing me.”

She looked at him kindly. “You’re a drop in, aren’t you?”

Yugi had learned that this was the general term used for someone who was sucked in to their world by magick or a portal. “Sure am,” he replied.

“My crazy uncle claimed to be an Assai,” she remarked. “But he said his wings had been torn off. No one in the family believed him, but he sure had some wild stories about flight.” She shrugged. “But even my mum said that when the Goddesses died so did their high lineage.”

This world sure was different. Yugi was amazed every time he turned around. According to the religion, the First Twelve Goddesses were born from the planet, moon, or star they came from. The Moon Goddess, also known as Tranquility, was the only one to bear a child, the Thirteenth Goddess, and it was through this goddess that the royal line of Sekeshan rulers descended from. Supposedly, even the Prince Atemu was of this line, but it was over nine thousand years ago when the throne had first been erected.

The Goddesses were said to have lived a thousand years before they finally left their ‘mortal’ bodies and ascended to the heavens. But the Assai, supposedly created directly by the Goddesses from the clay of the moon, died out when their creators did.

Yugi couldn’t believe that these tales had stayed in tact for so long.

“It sure would be neat to see one, though.”

Anzu smiled brightly in agreement. “Hey, want to go and get some lunch with me? I know a great way to sneak into the kitchens. They hide all of the good teas and scones in there.”

“I’d love to,” he stated, feeling his stomach grumble loudly.

“Hey Motou!”

Yugi stopped, snarling where he stood. It seemed that even this world had its own set of bullies, and for some reason he was always a magnet for them. Do I just have this big sign painted on my forehead? Village idiot here, come and release some steam!! “Can I help you,” he asked dryly.

“Hey, we heard you’re a double gifted, eh? A pretty special pupil of the Priestess.” The tall fire user laughed hard, his cronies joining in the teasing.

“Stuff it, sulfur breath.”

The guy put his hands up in mock defense. “Wow, easy their tiger. Or perhaps we should say Assai Warrior. Oooooh.” He laughed again.

Yuugi’s lip curled up in a snarl. “What’s the matter, mutt, jealous?”

The laughter stopped. The group of bullies, about four in all, started to crack their knuckles. “You’ll pay for that, runt.”

Yugi stood his ground, ignoring as Anzu tugged on his sleeve. “Come on,” she whispered. “Just ignore them.”

“If you ignore bullies like these they’ll do nothing but continue to harass.” Yugi stated. He ought to know, for he certainly had a lot of experience in the matter.

Some bullies got bored. Some got obsessed. These were the latter.

Yugi watched as the upperclassmen started to glow a faint reddish orange. They were fire users, and they’d been in school long enough to develop their skills to a formidable level. Yugi was still clueless how to tap into his powers.

Anzu started to get nervous. Air did little good against fire but to fan the flames. If Yugi knew how to use shadows, he could snuff out the heat quickly and effectively, but he was still a novice, barely noteworthy of even lowly trickery. He had eight years of schooling ahead of him, and the bullies had six years up on him. They were almost to the master level.

Three teachers walked down the hall, conversing with one another. Immediately, the glow of flames died down, and the one to start the teasing, Hanabi, Yugi believed was his name, glared daggers in his direction. “We’ll settle this later, twerp.”

And with that they were gone.

***

Yugi sat on the window seat in his room, starring out the window. It was raining again. He couldn’t help it; he lowered his head and scratched behind his ear.

It wasn’t the act of scratching that made him feel somewhat better. No, he believed it was the ability to curl up and look like he had a good purpose for doing so. The scratching started when people started asking him why he was in a fetal position all of the time.

He always hated it when it rained. It seemed something bad always happened. He hadn’t always had these views. He used to like the rain. He would sit out in it for hours at a time in the summer.

But when he was six, and the rains came, and it washed away the blood of his murdered parent’s he was never really the same since. And ever since then, whenever it rained, he was forced out into it to hide from a threat, or run from it.

....or kill it.

He curled up tighter.

Nothing should happen to him right now. He knew he would be safe so long as he was here. The Headmistress swore to never let anything happen to him. As long as he was a student here, he was under her protection.

It was going to take a long time to get the paranoia out of his head.

A spark of light outside caught Yuugi’s vision. The trees seemed to be rustling about in a way that did not seem very tree-like, even in the wind.

His eyes widened when he heard a cry. He knew, the rain brought trouble. But, he couldn’t help that damned good streak his parent’s instilled in him at such an early age. He put on a jacket, bundled up, and ran out to see if he could help.

The faculty didn’t care if the students left. It was a lot like colleges back in Domino. You’re here because you want to be here. If you don’t then leave. We won’t bother with you; you can live a poor, meager life. It’s your own undoing. So Yugi had no worries about sneaking out as he walked down the halls, shadows hiding in the many corners.

The alcoves with the statues were never dark, though. Those goddesses always gleamed with a light of their own, and Yugi knew that it wasn’t from artificial lighting behind them. It was from the glow within the stone itself.

He was hit with a warm blast of rain as he opened the main front door. Thank the goddesses it was summer here in Sekesha.

But it sure didn’t stop it from being dark. Yugi ran out into the night looking for another spark of light, or a cry, or something to let him know where he was heading. He turned to his left and ran down towards the trees, peering through the darkness to see if he could spot anything other than rain and swaying leaves.

“Hey, Motou! What are you up to?”

Gods, why did he ever leave his room?

“What are you doing out here, twerp? Looking for the beating you missed earlier?”

Yugi spun around to look at the bullies that had harassed him earlier. “What are a bunch of pyros such as yourselves doing out in the middle of a rain storm,” he quipped.

“Practice, stupid. If we can put up with water, we can do just about anything.”

Shows how much you know, Yugi thought. He knew that aside from water, shadows were one of the fire element’s greatest weaknesses. Shadows snuffed. Hard.

Yugi began to back up a bit, no longer aware of just how wet he was getting, as the four of them started to walk closer.

“You’re a little over due for a beating, drop in. We’ll show you just what training to be a Gifted is all about.”

Before Yugi could react, tongues of flames grabbed the collar of his coat, and drug him forward. “We heard you were a Double Gifted,” his captor hissed, smiling. “Do you have any idea just how rare that is? No, of course you don’t, you’re a meager little drop in. Why would a runt like you get something that those born here can’t get? Hm? Tell me!” He shook Yugi vigorously.

“How the hell should I know,” Yugi screeched back.

“Why don’t we find out if it’s true,” someone behind him growled. Yuugi’s eyes grew wide when they began to rip off his jacket and his shirt, exposing his delicate pale skin to the blowing summer storm.

“I don’t believe it,” Hanabi seethed. “Shadow and light? You bitch!” He threw Yugi to the ground hard, causing him to become soaked in mud. Bands of hot fire wrapped around Yuugi’s neck and wrists, pulled him up until his chest was exposed, and locked him in place. He tried not to cry out as it stung his skin, but it wasn’t working very well.

“Let’s give you a little insight about this world, Motou. Here, pain is weakness leaving the body. You have to go through a lot of it in order to attain Adept levels. Why don’t we give you a little head start?”

Yuugi’s eyes grew wide in fear when a foot was planted on the middle of his back, and two hands grabbed at the skin over his shoulder blades, and pulled.

Hard.

Yugi screamed. Tears streamed down his face as those finger nails dug into his skin, feeling the warm liquid of his blood streaming down his sides.

One of the bullies got in front of him, and decided to start pummeling his chest with small balls of fire. “I’ll get those pendants off of you yet,” he yelled.

This was bad. He couldn’t stop screaming. It felt like white hot agony and pain and anger shooting through his chest.

The fire users watched, laughing, as their prey was being pushed through so much pain. This was how to have fun.

***

The dark figure watched the torture take place from the shadows of the many trees on the compound, anger filling his gut and red clouding his vision.

Bastards. They would pay.

He began to run towards them, watching as the skin of the young boy was pulled taught, nearing the tearing point. Blood was covering the bully’s hands at the moment, but all he could do was smile.

He’d pay.

But the figure found himself stopping part way as the skin on the boy’s back finally did tear off, and what emerged from him threw the bully off balance and onto his rump in the mud.

A blood curdling scream erupted from the boy’s throat.

Impossible. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t exist.

Blood at first. It was a shower of blood shooting out of his back. But slowly, as that shower grew ever larger in size, it wasn’t going down. The rain began to beat away some of the red, revealing a little bit of whiteness beneath.

Yuugi’s new wings hovered for a moment, shuddering with the strain. In a flash, they crippled in on themselves, blocking the rest of the boy from view. Yugi screamed again.

No. This was horrible. I’ll kill them! All of them!

The dark figure ran towards the group again at full speed. They were too shocked, looking at what they had just done, that they didn’t even have time to move as dark, glimmering shadows suddenly wrapped painfully around them, throwing them against the stone walls of the compound and binding them in place. They looked on in fear as a figure garbed all in black snarled at them, shadows dancing around him. “Do you know what you’ve done? Do you have any idea? Idiots! You’ll hang for this if I don’t kill you first tonight!” A blade of shadows extended from one hand. They waited for the blow.

“No!”

It was almost a relief to see the Priestess running up towards them, but their stomachs sank even lower now. She’d just torture them slowly first. “Don’t kill them! Leave the wretches to me. Take him to the Healing Ward. Quickly!”

The figure looked over. Yugi was sobbing miserably on the ground. Running over, he ran to the front of the boy, picking him up carefully. Every time a feather was moved, Yugi cried and sobbed, and shuttered with pain. “It hurts,” he cried, his voice hoarse.

“I know,” the figure soothed. “Come. We must get you inside and get your wings cleaned. Now.”

Yugi tried not to cry as he was ran inside, but again, he failed at that, too. “What happened,” he cried. “What’s going on?”

He didn’t receive much of an answer. Just more pain. So much so, in fact, that he couldn’t even see properly.

***

The priestess looked at the four in front of her, angrier than she could ever remember being. “What you have done is unforgivable. Do you have any idea what has just happened?”

Silence.

“Follow me.”

They didn’t have much of a choice. They were rather dragged behind her, still confined in what that dark figure had done to them.

“I don’t care what you think he is, or what you’ve found, what is important is that those wings were not meant to come out yet. Right now, they are as tender and soft as a newborn’s skull. If we don’t get the blood off of them, they will dry in place, and cause them to be crippled as they mature. His muscles are extremely strained, and any movement is a new torture session for him. And this is a pain that a healer won’t be able to block.”

They went inside, the big doors closing harshly and ominously behind them. Screams were emanating from somewhere a few floors up.

“I hope you’re happy with yourselves. You’ll be going before a court in a few weeks, as well. I’m sure the Prince will be happy to see to it justice is served.” She turned angry silver eyes on them. It was rumored that her eyes turned silver when she was very angry. This was the proof.

Yugi kept screaming upstairs.

Chapter 3

He felt like he was floating. He couldn’t really see anything, nor hear that well. Perhaps he had fallen asleep a long time ago, or perhaps it was just a few moments ago.

He did remember a lot of pain that now only seemed like a far distant memory. And he had this vague feeling that he should be angry about something...or perhaps he was supposed to be depressed right now...

He felt strange. And the only other thing he was able to register was something soft and warm was resting in his hand. It was a strange comfort, so he squeezed it, unable to register how hard he was squeezing.

He tried to groan a little bit, and realized that his throat was raw and swollen. Perhaps he ought to not do that again.

He’s.....ing....I’m going to....”

He couldn’t hear everything. He had a strange idea that the voice was right next to him, but it could have been a thousand miles away for all he knew.

Can’t let....him....before the....”

He tried to open his eyes, seeing only a flash of crimson. Groaning, he shut his eyes closed again. He wished he’d quite tumble, for he felt dizzy enough at the moment. There was no reason to make it worse.

He squeezed again at whatever it was in his hand. It was warm, and it seemed to send him right back to sleep again.

***

Yugi took a deep breath before he opened up his eyes fully, blinking as his pupils tried to adjust to the bright white smashed against his cheek.

He was sleeping on his stomach on a bed. His head was turned to his right, and sitting in a chair next to him was none other that the Headmistress, curled up and reading a book. She felt his eyes on her and looked over, her eyes bright and clear. “Good afternoon.”

“Noon,” Yugi asked. His throat didn’t seem to hurt that much anymore. “How long have I been out?”

“About three days.” She placed a white ribbon on her page, closed the book, and set it down on the bed to her left. “You’re really lucky, you know. We almost lost you.”

“Really,” he asked. “How?”

“Blood loss. Not to mention that your body went in to shock. Your organs began to shut down one by one.”

Yugi was confused. “Why?”

“It was a huge trauma for you! Others who have gone through the same thing have died, not to mention be permanently crippled.”

Yugi looked at his hand, seeing burn marks on his wrist. “I still don’t understand how that could cripple me. What happened?”

The Headmistress sighed. “Don’t sit up, but just look to your right, Yugi, as far back as you can.”

The teen complied, looking behind him.

Hell. No.

“It can’t be,” he whispered. “How? I’m not even from here...”

He saw a large wing extended across what must have been five twin sized beds, the feathers stretched out for drying. He moved his shoulder blade, feeling something there that had never been there before.

“You have a thirty three foot wingspan, Yugi.”

“Oh my god,” he whispered to himself. “But....why can’t I get up,” he asked.

She shrugged. “Go ahead and try.”

Yugi pushed against the bed with both his hands, feeling so much more weight on his back dragging him down. He cried out when a harsh pain shot through him, and he fell back to the pillow again.

“They’re still to tender to move yet. It will be three to four weeks before they’re strong enough to allow you movement.”

“I have to stay in here for at least three weeks?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Yugi sighed defeated. He was really going to fall behind in school. “What am I,” he asked.

“We don’t know for sure. Perhaps you really are an Assai, but like you said, you’re not from here. We have some researchers looking through the palace archives now.” She paused, taking a sip of tea. “Your attackers are going before the Royal Court tomorrow. The Prince will decide what to do with them.”

Yugi was still in shock. “How is it what they did to me triggered this to happen?”

“Trauma on the body, strain, and repeated magickal attacks on your chest. It forced your wings to emerge prematurely. You’re just lucky they came out all of the way. Had they not, it just might have killed you trying to force them the rest of the way.” She gave him a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry this happened to you. Those four fire Gifted have been causing trouble for years now. I just whish the last straw didn’t have to land on you.”

Yugi snorted. “It’s not your fault. I should have stayed in my room. But I saw that strange flash of light outside, and swore that I heard someone yell...I was worried if someone was in trouble....I should have known.” He missed the flash of emotion in the Priestess’s clear blue eyes, so he wasn’t able to make out what it meant.

“Well, now that you’re up, there are some people who’ve been waiting to see you.” She stood and somehow levitated herself over Yuugi’s wing, then stepped gracefully back down on the stone floor.

“There is? Who?”

“Just some friends.” She disappeared behind a door, and in her place stepped out two people. Yugi heard them before he saw them.

“Yugi? You’re awake? Gosh, are you okay??”

Two heads of white and brown hair crawled under his wing between the beds and in front of him brown and blue eyes starred back.

“Ryou! Anzu! You’re here?”

“Of course we are are, silly,” the girl chided.

“We’ve been worried sick about you,” Ryou replied, taking a seat in the armchair. “They say the whole compound heard your screaming a few nights ago.”

Yuugi’s face fell. “Oh, splendid.”

Anzu looked at him filled with worry. “The whole place has been in an uproar. The Prince was even here the other day, storming around looking for the four who attacked you. All of Sekesha wants to see you.”

Yugi’s face paled. “You’re kidding.”

Ryou shook his head. “Peasants and nobles alike have been sending you get well cards and candy and asking if you really are an Assai. The Priestess has refused to let any of that stuff in here until you can actually get up, though. She said you shouldn’t have to stress over it at the moment.”

Yugi scratched behind his ear. Damn that habit. “She’s right about the stressing. That’s exactly what I’d do. I don’t want to be a pitied national name. Or a national hero for that matter. I just want to get my schooling done. Besides, I can’t be part of an extinct race. I’m a freaking drop in!”

Anzu shrugged, daring a glance at the wing she sat in front of. “Assai or not, you’re still a world-wide phenomenon. You’re not supposed to exist. And it’s more than that, too. Somehow, the word got out of just how your wings came out. People want to see some blood shed for that. Bullying is not taken very lightly here, especially since it’s so easy for some magi to go out of control. And the Goddesses do not go easy on those who go against their Law of Peace.”

Yugi asked something that had been eating at him ever since he landed in the Palace. “Your religion is so old. Does the Goddess actually give proof of their existence?”

Ryou laughed. “Of course they do! The war Goddess Ahna always appears before her army as they’re lined up on the battle field. Eternity, the sun Goddess, rises in the shrines every sunrise and blesses the priestesses there. The statues of Tranquility glow whenever there is a mother near it giving birth.”

Yugi whistled. “That’s amazing.”

“The Goddess Kyana appeared at my father’s funeral,” Anzu stated. “She blessed the family with the air Gift. That’s the only reason I’m here. We used to be farmers.”

“Then....maybe I wasn’t born with these wings,” Yugi stated. “Maybe a goddess put them there.”

Both Anzu and Ryou shook their heads. “That wouldn’t happen,” Ryou replied. “The Assai was too sacred for them. The only thing they would do is make sure you didn’t die.”

That could explain how I made it, Yugi thought. Maybe that’s why I’m still alive.

“That doesn’t mean that Goddesses appear often,” Ryou spoke up. “Only rarely. They’re main connection with us is the statues. We don’t make those glows, the Goddesses do. And if the people who own a statue has defiled the goddesses name, the statue will no longer glow for them.”

“Certainly a good incentive to not act up,” Yugi replied. “I just sure hope they have a good sense of humor.”

“From what I’ve heard,” Ryou replied, “one of the best.”

Yuugi’s eyes started to droop. He was getting tired again. Good timing, too, for the Headmistress walked back in and began to shoo out the two who had dropped by to say hello. Yugi gave a weak smile as they said their goodbyes and left.

***

Yugi woke up again, noting the lighting in the room was much dimmer than last time. The Priestess was sitting next to him again, reading once more. “Good evening,” she replied without looking up.

“How long was I out this time,” he asked.

“Another day.”

“Ah. Better than three.”

She put her ribbon in place and set her book down. “You are getting better. Your healing sessions are much shorter now, and fewer between.”

“Sessions,” he asked.

“We have powerful healers here, myself included. We can’t let your muscles deteriorate because of a lack of use.”

“Hm.” Yuugi’s stomach growled viciously. “I’m really hungry.”

“Would you like some soup?”

He thought for a moment. “Why does it feel like I’ve been fed broth for a long time?”

She laughed a little. “Because aside from water, it’s the only thing we can get down your throat without choking you. You’ve refused to wake up for us.” A bowl of soup drifted her way, floating on a cloud of silver dust. “But this is a thick noodle soup. Some more substance for you. You should be able to sit up tomorrow, so you’ll be able to eat this tonight.”

Yugi nodded. “That will do.” He was able to marginally roll onto his side and push his head up, gratefully taking the offered bowl and drinking from it. A chunk of carrot and a noodle made it to his taste buds, and like all other food here, it was some of the best stuff he’d ever eaten.

“The trial is over,” she said out of nowhere.

“The trial,” Yugi asked. His brain finally kicked in. “Oh, right, that one....how it went?”

“Ugly.”

Yugi frowned. “That can’t be good.”

“People were furious when the Prince only sent them into exile.”

Yugi swallowed some more soup. “They were?”

“Of course, they did have their pendants stripped from them. And they were sent to the planet Ahna, of the war Goddess. It’s a desert planet with only thieves and murderers there. They won’t last long.”

Yugi tried to down the last of his food. “Do you think they deserved it?”

“They should have hanged,” she snapped, not looking at him. Yugi could sense her rage was placed elsewhere, not with him. “But perhaps death would have been too kind for them. But I can tell you, that by the time that gabble fell the statues were all glowing. The Goddesses, all of them, came down upon the four in a fury and swept them away. Instead of allowing us to fulfill their punishment, they couldn’t wait to get them off this planet.” She shook her head, taking Yuugi’s empty bowl away before he could even try to hand it back. Her silvery-white hair glimmered in the candle light. “Get some sleep, Yugi. You’ll have to wake up tomorrow and get some exercise.”

Yugi lay back down again, switching his head. His neck was getting sore.

“Sweet dreams.”

***

Yugi woke up once more, but this time there was a bright light spilling in through the windows. He registered a warm hand resting in his own, and as he opened his eyes, he saw dusky hands holding his fingers and resting gently over his burn marks.

“Atemu,” he asked.

The Prince had been sleeping in the armchair that was next to him, his head dropping off to his side as his chest rose and fell with his breaths. Crimson eyes blinked open at the mention of his name. Yawning, he smiled, not moving his hands from their resting spot. “Good morning, Yugi. I wasn’t expecting you up for another couple of hours.”

Yugi looked up at him curiously. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d come and say hi. My entire country is in love with you, I figured I’d better find out why.” His smile was warm, but Yugi just knew that wasn’t the only reason.

“And you show up before I’m even awake? Come on, I know there’s something else.”

Atemu yawned again, stretching one of his legs he had curled up beneath him. “Well, you’re right. There’s another reason I’m here. I was told you’d be able to move today.”

“Yes...”

“Well, that also means that it’s time to start your physical therapy.”

“Therapy,” Yugi asked. “And what does that have to do with you?”

The Prince frowned. “You’re not happy to see me?”

Yugi shook his head no. “No, of course I am! I’m just...shocked. Why would royalty pay such attention to me?”

“Yugi, apparently you don’t realize the magnitude of your situation.”

“It’s a little hard to grasp, yes. But that still doesn’t explain it.”

“Yugi,” Atemu started, “everyone in this country would love to have a set of wings. Not because of the wings themselves, but what is put behind those wings. You practically are royalty. Even if you’re not really an Assai, people see you as one, and the Assai are the pride and joy of the Goddesses. There were a lot of families ignored by the goddesses when the Assai died out. To be one now is would be considered being a deity in itself. This means that you can’t even go out in public without being followed and pursued. You have to learn how to hide your wings, and that could take a while.”

Yugi sighed. Atemu was still holding his hand. “What do I do?”

“You start your therapy,” the Prince replied. “And I’ll be heading it.”

“You,” Yugi asked. “Why?”

“You’re not very observant, are you,” he was asked. One dark hand was removed from Yuugi’s, and tugged at something that was a pale gold. Yugi couldn’t believe his eyes.

Pale gold wings sat almost transparent in the early morning sunlight, curled up behind Prince Atemu’s back. Blood red eyes danced with mirth in a smiling face. “I’m royalty, Yugi. And the royal family did indeed descend from the Thirteenth Goddess. And all of the Goddesses had wings. Mine are a golden color, because of my faint relation to the Sun Goddess. If you’re an Assai, you’re practically a cousin of mine, eighty thousand times removed.” The dusky hand went back to its resting place on Yuugi’s wrist.

“Why wasn’t anyone ever told of the royalty having wings?”

“Because of what happened to the Assai. We couldn’t risk our safety.” He looked at Yugi pointedly. “Because of how angry our deities were over your ordeal, I’m willing to be that you are an Assai, and I have a strong feeling that your parents probably fled to your world because of their wings, and tried to keep you a secret as well. It’s understandable that our planet would drag you back here.”

Yugi sat up part way, curled in on himself, and scratched behind his ear. “Oh, this is going to take a lot of getting used to.”

Chapter 4

Yugi looked on as Atemu stood up, leaned against the bed, and rested one hip on it. “I know you won’t be able to do much today, so all we’re going to start out with is sitting up. Are you ready?”

The teen sighed. “No, but I might as well try.”

The Prince chuckled. “That’s the spirit. Now, I want you to put your hands on my forearm. Should you start to fall, I’ll be able to catch you quickly.” Yugi complied, pushing his chest off the bed as he rested on his elbows. The Prince’s skin was warm under his touch, and he could smell a dark musk that lingered in his nose. The further he got up, the more Atemu was able to sit on the bed. Soon, there wouldn’t be any place for Yugi to fall but into his arms.

Yugi started to break out in a sweat as he pushed against his support to try and sit up. “Gahh...” He squeezed his eyes closed as his muscles began to constrict on him. “It hurts...”

“Easy,” Atemu stated. “Start bending your knees so you can draw your legs up beneath you. It will make it easier. Right now, you’re fighting your own weight.”

Yugi did as he was told. He actually began to feel his head become vertical, until his arms gave out, and he fell right into the Prince’s chest. Boy, did he smell good. What was the cologne he had on?

Or was it even cologne?

Yugi groaned, his muscles feeling weak and useless. “Owe...” he muttered.

“Does it feel like you don’t have much control over your muscles at the moment,” he was asked.

Yugi nodded, grateful when he was pushed upright the rest of the way. For the first time, he was actually able to look around the room he was in. It looked much like the rest of the compound, with the gothic structured pillars fanning out into the ceiling, tall windows so old they had a tint of yellow. He also saw for the first time that he had on a pair of white pants, similar to scrubs worn in hospitals, except for the fact they felt so smooth, so lightweight, and so fine, it just might have been possible to pull the whole garment through the hole of a needle. “It feels like my whole body has gone to sleep, and I can’t get it to wake up.”

“In a sense, it has. But unlike when you sit on your foot for too long and it starts to tingle, this is more like a deep sleep, and the only way to wake it up is by exercise.” Atemu held him at arm’s length.

Yugi looked at him and pouted. “You know you’re the one who’s mainly holding me up. I’d fall flat on my face right now if you weren’t.”

The Prince laughed. “I know, but it’s good for you to be up. Why don’t you try taking a look at your wings? You haven’t truly been able to see them yet.”

The teen turned his head to the side, seeing the limp and lifeless new appendage draped across the many beds. He knew it would probably hurt, but he simply couldn’t help it. Painfully raising a hand up to a mass of downy feathers, he touched to see how soft they were.

Whatever clouds felt like, he knew he put them to shame. And faintly, in the glimmer of the early morning sunrise, he could see a shimmer of silver lining under his wing. White on top, silver beneath. Even if those clouds above don’t have a silver lining....I do. He decided to stop when moving a larger feather caused him to wince.

“They are pretty, Yugi. You should be proud.”

Yugi scowled. “No I shouldn’t. These things are going to be a burden for me from now on. Continually trying to hide them, attempting to hide from prying looks and curious questions.... does the country know what I look like yet? Am I going to be hounded for the rest of my life because of these?”

The Prince, for once, gave him a sad look. “Most everyone in the country knows what I look like. It has been said that you resemble me in an uncanny way. If you play your cards right, and if you know how to handle those awkward situations when they arise, then it won’t be as much of a bother as you might think. Remember, Yugi; out of sight, out of mind. If you hide something from the public eye long enough, especially something they’ve never seen, they won’t remember you so readily. They might even forget. Life catches up with people eventually. As long as you don’t go seeking the fame, you can find ways to avoid it.”

Yugi rubbed his forehead, and out of force off habit found his fingers wandering to his hairline and behind his ear. “I sure hope you’re right. For my own sanity.”

The Prince chuckled. “Well, since you’ve worked so hard for today, you can have a treat.”

“And what’s that,” Yugi asked.

Atemu held his hand out to a table that was towards the front of the room, and motioned his finger as though he were summoning someone from across the room. Yugi turned his head as far as he could, finally able to see a bright red fruit drifting over on a silver cloud of dust. “You have got to teach me how to do that,” Yugi complained. “I had an itch on my thigh the other night, and for the life of me I couldn’t reach it. I know I saw a backscratcher hanging on the wall behind me when I first got a tour of this place. I really could have used it.”

The Prince laughed, allowing Yugi to fall back against him and handing him the fruit. “I’m not allowed to teach you any new magick tricks yet, you’re too weak. Maybe next week.”

Yugi pouted again, running his fingers over the smooth skin of the fruit. It was shaped similar to a pear, with a bright purple leaf on top. “So what is this, anyway?”

“This is fruit called dragon’s blood. Dragons eat these like crazy when spring time rolls around. It’s the only fruit that grows all winter long.”

Yugi took a bite, intrigued. The inside was a deep purple in color, with specks of lime green here and there. It was a bright citrus taste, perhaps a cross between a...a... Yugi grinned. “I know what this tastes like.”

“What’s that,” Atemu asked.

“Like a cross between an orange and a seven up.”

He got a strange look. “And those would be...?”

It was Yuugi’s turn to laugh. “Never mind. You’d have to try it yourself someday.” He finished the fruit, leaving only the large seed that was in the center and the stem and leaf on top.

Atemu shifted position, gently placing the teen back down on the bed again. “You should get some more rest, because tomorrow you’re going to try and stand up.”

“Oh, ambitious,” he replied, chuckling. “Thank you for the fruit. It was delicious.” He heard the flutter of wings as Atemu lifted over his wing and to the other side of the room.

“You’re more than welcome.”

Suddenly, Yugi felt weight added to the bed behind him, and heard a bottle cap pop open. “I’m going to put a balm on your back, Yugi. It will help with muscle strain and speed up your recovery.”

“All right.” He certainly wasn’t going to turn something down that sounded like a massage.

Just as the balm hit his skin and those warm, gentle hands began kneading his sore muscles, he thought back to something that his friend Jou had once said. Dude, if anyone you don’t know ever offers ya a massage, turn ‘em down. Ninety five percent of all massages end up in sex. And who knows what they could slip in yer drink then!

Yugi, sadly, fell asleep before he could indulge anymore on such thoughts. However, it did leave his unconscious mind to wander...

***

After three weeks of repeatedly trying to stand, repeatedly trying to move muscles that simply didn’t seem to be there, and repeatedly trying to pout his way into some much needed sunshine, he had made little progress in the way of the sunshine factor.

He had been asleep when the talk started, this he knew, and he also had a feeling they hadn’t intended to wake him. But what they also didn’t know was that when he was healthy he was an instinctually light sleeper. He’d learned to be one at an early age when he found out the boogie man truly did creep around your door at night with a rusty, bloody knife and a masked face.

Atemu was holding his hand again as he slept. He did that a lot. He could also feel the grip was tighter than normal, almost protective in a way.

And he didn’t sound too happy.

“Some fresh air would be good for him, you can’t deny that.”

“Yes, I know. But the risk factors are too high.”

Yugi kept his eyes closed and controlled his breathing. He’d also learned to do that at an early age, too. He found he had an incredible talent; he could hide under blankets and not be noticed, so long as he was still and quiet enough.

“You said when he could walk out of here he could get some sunshine. Why are you keeping him here?”

“Tell me you haven’t seen the commoners and magi alike lined up outside these compound walls. Do you really think that’s safe? To take him out there?”

“What about the open courtyard in the center of the compound? Why can’t you let him go there?”

“Because of the students there. He can’t leave until he can hide his wings.”

“You know that won’t happen for another month or so. It takes a long time to develop that talent.”

“Then you’d better start teaching him!”

It grew silent again quickly. Yugi could feel the tension in the room; he didn’t have to see the look on the people’s faces. He knew now that the Prince was arguing with the Priestess.

“You’re out of line, Headmistress.”

“And you’re infatuated, Prince.”

Yuugi’s stomach fell to his knees. Oh, this was getting bad. He’d had a feeling about the Prince since he first met him. It had been possible that the people of this realm had smaller personal space bubbles, but Yugi highly doubted it.

The Priestess had a lot of balls talking back to royalty, even if she was female.

“I told you of my foresight, Headmistress. I am looking at what is to come, while you are being blinded by fear and control issues.”

“I am worried about him! You, however, are worried about what lies between your legs!” Yugi felt the grip on his hand become tighter. “Damn it, it’s my fault he has these wings right now! I was the one he heard on that rainy night! I was stretching my own wings, allowing them to feel the rain and air since no one was supposed to be out, and it drew him out! It’s my fault he ran into those fire gifted! His wings should not have come out for another two years, at the minimum!”

“Blood or not, you have no right to speak to the ruler of your country in such a fashion! I don’t care what drove him out that night, it wasn’t intentional! You didn’t do it on purpose! Good goddesses, Aunt Lillian, stop being ridiculous!”

Aha. That explained her wings. She was royalty, too.

“I am sorry that your daughter was killed in this same way, but that doesn’t mean it will happen to Yugi too! At the very least let me take him to the palace gardens. He will be safe there, I promise you.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, Yugi thought. Sometimes, it really paid off to be able to feign sleep.

“Alone? No, I don’t think that’s such a good-“she stopped. Yugi could here the Prince snarling. “If you’re afraid I’ll steal his innocence, Lillian, why don’t you take him yourself?”

Silence again. Yugi hoped no blood was going to be shed anytime soon, especially over his sake.

“He’s been here three weeks. Why don’t you just go straight to the aviary? Give him some first flying lessons.”

The grip on his hand loosened. The Prince was holding his hand lovingly again. “I’m glad you see it my way, Headmistress. I’ll take him in the morning.”

***

The air was tense that morning as Yugi awoke. The Prince was still dozing in the armchair next to him, holding his hand like he always did. Yugi yawned, stretched his muscles, and began to sit up, causing Atemu to wake as well. “Good morning, Yugi,” he yawned. He looked like he’d received little sleep that night and Yugi knew exactly why.

“You look tired, Atemu. Rough night?” he asked innocently.

“No, no it was fine.”

Liar.

“We’re going to the aviary today, Yugi. You’re going to get some of your fist flying lessons.”

Yugi frowned. “Let me guess. Is it enclosed?”

“I’m afraid so. But as a treat, I can take you to the garden area afterwards. The roses smell beautiful this time of the year.” Roses seam to be a universal thing. Always the symbol of love. Oh, Yugi had to stop himself. He wondered if this was foreshadowing anything...

Goddesses above, was he actually anticipating something to happen? Did he even want it to? He supposed he ought to give it some thought now, just so that it didn’t come as a shock to him later.

And what did that cryptic statement from the night before mean? I’ve told you of my foresight, Headmistress...

“Atemu,” Yugi asked, standing up and doing his routine stretches.

“Yes,” the Prince asked, untying a velvet pouch from his belt.

“What is ‘foresight’?”

“Hmm? Oh, it’s the ability to tell the future.”

The teen touched one tip of his wing to the far wall. “How accurate is it?”

“It gives the viewer the ability to see the possible future as events lay right now. Being able to see which future comes about is the real talent.”

“Does that mean a lot of magi have foresight?”

“No, it’s rather rare.”

Yugi finished, and Atemu held out a hand for him. “Ready?”

“I’m ready.”

Yugi had learned that the large circular room he had first been brought to and transported through was in fact the, with the most original title Yugi could ever come up with, transport room.

It really didn’t sound all that exciting. And for the most part, it wasn’t. It was an ability most magi strived for decades for, and when there wasn’t the statue of all thirteen goddesses surrounding the magi, it was even harder, even dangerous at times to try.

The two of them headed down there quickly, Yugi making easy work of the steps. He’d even managed to jump off one of the beds in the healing ward when no one was looking, and only came out of it with a couple of bruises and a satisfactory smile.

Ryou, Anzu, and a boy Yugi didn’t recognize were standing in the hall talking with one another. Anzu looked over at him and smiled, waving her hand. “Yugi! You’re up! How are you?”

Two other heads turned his way, and the teen smiled. “I’m better! You?”

“You missed a good lesson in healing today, Yugi!” Ryou called. “I can grow bones back together!”

His heart sunk, and the Prince didn’t miss the slight frown that momentarily marred his face. Yugi brightened back up, though. “That’s good, Ryou! Keep up the great work!”

He kept waving goodbye until they were out of sight. Oh, how he really wished he hadn’t missed any class.

“Don’t worry, Yugi. You’ll learn it all.”

Yugi frowned, starting to focus on the knot that had been eating away at his stomach for a while. “Why do I have a feeling that it won’t be fast enough?”

Atemu frowned hard. He whispered something to himself, but Yugi heard what he said. “Probably for the same reasons I do.”

Chapter 5

Yugi stood at the entrance of the palace aviary, his jaw nearly unhinged. This place was more than massive, more than huge, it was simply gargantuan. The method used for measurements was not something he was familiar with, but as he sat calculating in his head what the Prince had told him, Yugi had a pretty good guess at the size of this massive room.

Room. Ha. More like a building.

The ancients had built it, with numerous prayers and helpful hints from the goddesses. It stretched from the far end of the palace out for nearly a mile. The walls were constructed out of solid white and peach marble stone. The walls themselves towered into the air almost three thousand feet. The inside was devoid of anything but a smooth floor of...what had Atemu called it? Nyanta? Yugi didn't know what it was supposed to be, but he compared it to contained mush. He could walked on it without sinking entirely, but it was obvious this floor was not meant for walking, it was meant for catching falling objects.

Or, more precisely, falling flyers.

And the commoners believed this was what? Some grand creation to show the power of the ruler? With no real purpose in mind but monumental consequence? To be remembered forever?

It was a training room. That's all it was. It was to teach the royalty how to fly, away from eyes that should not see them.

Yugi was still gaping.

"Impressive, isn't it," Atemu asked next to him. "Higher up, there are ledges to rest on while. Glides are easy, and that's what you'll start with right now. I'll fly you up there because your muscles can't support a flat ground take off yet. They will, though, and with the training program that has been in practice here for eons it won't take much more than a fortnight before you're physically fit."

"Impressive," Yugi asked. "Good gods, if the builders of Babel could have gotten a hold of the architects for this, there would be eight wonders of the world."

The Prince had learned that the myths of history of Yuugi's old realm were very different from his. He was curious about it, and frequently questioned about the past. Unfortunately for the teen, his old people had a sketchy past, patched together by heresy, gossip and ill placed documents. "What is Babel, Yugi?"

"There were a group of men who wanted to build a tower that reached up to the heavens. Supposedly, however, God became angry about this, and cursed the workers. None of them could understand each other, as suddenly they all spoke a different language. The tower crumbled under the encumbered work, and was never completed."

The Prince frowned. "That was cruel."

Yugi frowned too. "Yes, well, a lot of the myths of the gods where I am from don't have the best reputation for being just all of the time." He felt arms wrap around him, turned around, and looked up into the Prince's handsome face.

"Ready?"

"I'm ready," he stated. Powerful wing beats lifted the two of them easily into the air. Yugi watched as the ground grew smaller and smaller beneath him. He had never really been on large heights before, and therefore didn't know if he had any fear. However, when the thought hit him that he'd have to navigate the air space on his own, this high up, he became nervous.

Perhaps he was asking for trouble. In fact, Yugi was positive that he was. But for the life of him his curiosity would not leave him alone. So, for reasons beyond his comprehension, he acted. Slowly enough to still be considered innocent yet unsure, Yugi glided his hands up Atemu's back, digging his fingers into the soft linen of the Prince's shirt. He hid his face in the muscular chest, smelling that sweet, musky cologne the Prince always exuded.

He felt the arms around him grow a little tense, and then held him tighter. "You'll have to look down sooner or later, Yugi."

Hm. So far, his ploy seemed to be working. But was it really a ploy when Yugi found himself thoroughly enjoying the contact as well?

"Not yet, I don't. I'll wait until I'm on a solid piece of stone to sit on, then I'll look."

The Prince laughed, his diaphragm vibrating...oh, Yugi shivered when the term 'deliciously' shouted in his mind. And the Priestess was worried about Atemu acting up? She doesn't know me very well, apparently.

Wind whipped about his hair from those massive wings. Atemu's were larger than his, a fact that didn't surprise him, but still awed the teen.

After a while of their silent contact, Yugi gently moving his fingers over the soft cloth in quiet contemplation, he felt solid ground rise up to meet his feet. Atemu allowed his hold to release, stepping back and allowing Yugi to fully see the space around him.

The slab of black granite they were on jutted out from the wall about fourteen feet long and nearly twenty feet wide. Yugi walked towards the edge, slowly getting to his knees and the height below him felt like it was trying to drag him down. "Ah," he said, slinking back just a bit. "We must be a thousand feet high."

"Feet," Atemu asked. "Now there's a funny form of measurement. But yes, I suppose the equivalency is about right. We're about thirteen hundred staves high."

Staves. Now that, in Yuugi's opinion, was a funny form of measurement.

"You're not getting me off this ledge."

"Oh, I'd like to think otherwise. Just remember Yugi, when you're out keep your wings fully extended. They will catch the air for you and keep you in flight."

A foot shoved Yugi off the edge of the slab, and he began to plummet. "Atemu, you bitch," Yugi screamed at him. He heard rich laughter from above him. The teen's stomach had jumped up into his throat, and Yugi closed his eyes, feeling the air rush past him. Keep your wings fully extended...

Well, they were, surprisingly, pressed tightly against his sides. Out of fear and not knowing what else to do, Yugi unfolded them entirely.

For a moment, he stopped falling, and time seemed to slow. He was able to open his eyes, and saw the open sky in front of him.

But then the weight of his body pulled on his wing joints, and once again a streak of white pain laced across his vision. Yugi screamed, feeling his wings crumble in on him again. He started to fall again.

But just as soon as he started to fall, he found his face pressed against a strong chest garbed in linen, and felt powerful arms wrap around him and refuse to let go. He grabbed a hold of the Prince and didn't open his eyes until he felt them land once again on the granite slab. Atemu held him at arms length once they were sitting, the teen panting as his panic left him.

"Yugi, what happened? Are you all right?"

Yuugi winced, stretched one of his wings again. The joint was still a little sore, but he was beginning to think it was more of a jarring shock than the pain his confused mind made him think it was. "It hurt! It's like my body weight pulled at my wing joints, and it hurt. I wasn't expecting it."

The Prince gave a sigh of relief. "Well, your body was exactly crafted for flight, Yugi. Your bones, yes, but not your structure. You're wings have to be able to support your weight, no matter how it might try to jar them. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Shocked more than anything. It just...it seems kind of cheesy that those two little areas are the only things connecting me to what's keeping me air borne."

Atemu shrugged. "Yes, well, our whole body is like that. The brain is poorly protected in the skull, organs in your abdomen are only protected by a thin layer of skin and muscles, arteries in your neck are constantly exposed, and the playground is in the sewers. That's just the way it is."

"Oh, Atemu, that's a nasty way to put it," Yugi frowned. The Prince laughed. "Playground in the sewers," Yugi whispered to himself in disdain. "Make me thing twice before...yeah. Anyway. Back on subject."

Atemu chuckled. "Do you think you're ready to try it again? Prepared this time?"

Yugi sighed, resigning himself to the task at hand. "Yeah, I guess."

"And don't close you're eyes this time."

Yugi nodded, stood up, but looked behind him. "Don't push this time."

The Prince held his hands up defensively. "It's all on you. Just don't dawdle."

Yugi snorted. Turning back around, he touched his foot over the edge, pretending to be a diver ready to head straight into a pool.

Hey...there's an idea. Treat it like the high dive. One step back, two...and the leap. Yugi felt his feet leave solid ground, extended his wings, and braced for the pressure. It hit, but not as hard this time, and he felt himself actually start to glide across the way. He could actually see ledges scattered everywhere on the wall visible to him. The other end of the room extended for what looked like forever.

He flapped, and felt himself gain just a little more height. Perhaps he could get the hang of this. Yugi actually found himself enjoying the flight. Atemu flew up next to him, keeping easy pace with the new beginner. "Are you ready to try a dive," Atemu asked.

"A dive," Yugi asked.

"All you have to do is close your wings tight. You'll start to plummet. When you want to stop, open your wings up again. It's very simple."

"Hmm, well, all right." He looked down. Here goes nothing. He closed his wings, and felt his head start to fall towards the ground far below.

It was exhilarating. That's all there was to describe it. Yugi enjoyed the thrill that a sky diver does until he guess he was maybe five hundred feet above the ground, spread his wings wide, and started to fly again. This time, he wanted to climb, so he tried flapping as much as he could. The only problem was, he didn't realize just how taxing it was. With each pump he felt his energy slipping further and further behind him.

Atemu flew up next to him, noticing as Yuugi's eyes started to droop. "Atemu....I-I'm starting to get tired." His flight started to falter.

Atemu grabbed him quickly, but did not have time to turn around before they headed straight for a wall, and slid across a granite slab far below the one they'd first landed on. Yugi gasped for breath, trying his best to let his muscles rest for the moment, and noticed with a mild shock that the Prince was directly on top of him, catching his breath as well. Their faces were consequently mere inches apart, and Yugi was hardly abashed to meet his gaze. The Prince froze, feeling Yuugi's hand slide up his arm and clutch at his shoulder. Their chests were breathing against one another, and for the life of him he simply couldn't move.

Yuugi's eyes took on a lazy, sleepy look, reeling him in. "Why don't you kiss me already," Yugi asked him breathlessly.

He wanted to so bad it hurt. He didn't even have to do all the work; Yugi met him part way.

Yugi was surprised and delighted at the same time to learn that Atemu tasted a lot like summer sunshine and exotic spices. He didn't get addicted to much, but he was easily developing a need to taste him again later. Yugi squeezed tighter, feeling both of the Prince's arms wrap around him and hold him, if possible, even closer.

Atemu could hardly believe that Yugi tasted a lot like the dragon's blood fruit he so adored. Bright and fresh and sweet enough to leave one craving for more. He held on to his only scrap of self control as Yugi sighed and mewled appreciatively into their intimate embrace. And oh how he wanted to continue, but his breath had been stolen from him, and he found his lips leaving Yuugi's far too soon, lingering just above them as he tried to set his mind back in working order.

"Hmm," Yugi hummed happily. He gave Atemu a chaste kiss again, setting one hand gently on the Prince's face.

"Yugi," Atemu started, almost losing his voice.

"Hmm?"

He ran his fingers through the teen's inexplicably soft ebony hair. "There...there's three different ways we can respond to this, all with very different outcomes."

Yugi noted the pained look that marred that handsome face. Something was wrong. His brow knitted together in concern. "What's that?"

"To begin with, you have to remember that royalty can not do frivolous fraternizing. It's scandalous, and highly frowned on. Royalty can not date as the common people do."

Oh, shit. I knew I was getting myself in to trouble, but like this? Dear goddesses, what was I thinking? Yugi swallowed a little, waiting for him to continue. He nodded his understanding.

"The first option is to forget this ever happened. We walk out of here and pretend we never so much as looked at each other as...as the way we are now."

Yugi frowned. He didn't like that thought at all. "What are the other options," he stated, praying for a better way. Atemu noticed how Yuugi's grip on him tightened. For him, it was a good sign.

"Our second option is for you to go back to school and not mention this until you're training is over. Then, we can declare an official relationship."

"That's an awful long time to not touch you," Yugi whispered. "Eight years."

"And the third option is to declare betrothal now. Since your status will go from student to future co-consort, you will move into the palace, and receive private tutelage here."

So that's it, Yugi thought. It's all or nothing. Either take him now, or not for a very long time. He ran his fingers through Atemu's hair. "Not be with you for over eight years? I don't think I could handle that. It's too long, and too many chances to find ourselves sneaking out late at night." He indulged in a kiss again, once more happily accepted.

Suddenly, the Prince's face brightened, and he smiled warmly. "Then it is settled. You move in immediately. As soon as your tutelage is done, there will be a coronation ceremony for you."

"Coronation? As in, I'd actually rule with you?"

Atemu nodded. "That's right. Bondage with me includes a throne. Royalty can Bond for love, just as long as it's not a shady union."

Yugi scratched at his head curiously. "What good would I be at ruling a county? Goddess, I'd muddle through everything and muck everything up."

Atemu chuckled; silently relieved he wasn't in the least power hungry. "No love, you'd do fine. There are classes that would help you through a lot of Sekeshan politics. If it truly bothered you, you wouldn't have to do much, but it would give you the power to be with me as often as you liked."

Yugi smiled. "I think I can live with that."

Atemu smiled again well, giving him a soft, slow, deep kiss, this time allowing his hands to wander.

I know that he's in love with me already, but I'm still falling for him. Well, like in an arranged marriage, one gets married first and then starts to fall in love. We'd still be engaged, not even having 'tied the knot' yet. Good grief, this is odd, talking to myself about marriage to another male.

Speaking of which, Yugi was curious about something. They broke the kiss, and he voiced his question. "Atemu, people here won't care about gender?"

The Prince laughed. "Heaven's no, why would they?"

Yugi bit his lip. "What about an heir?"

His question was waved easily aside. "Oh, there's plenty of ways around that."

"And why do you call it a Bond? I'm familiar with the term 'marriage' or 'wedlock.'"

"Hmm. Interesting. Well, it's called a Bond because at the time of the ceremony, a spell is cast that gives us a telepathic link that can't be broken."

Yugi smiled again. "That sounds incredible." He embraced the Prince, a thought suddenly fluttering to the top of his mind. He chuckled, perhaps a little darkly.

"What's so funny," the Prince asked him.

"What's the Priestess going to say about this?"

Atemu's face paled just a little. "Good grief, I dead finding out."

 

Hello, my dear friends. I wanted to make a statement before we proceed with the next delicious chapter of this quickly becoming hot story.

They are moving a bit fast, ne? Really, though, I was finding it unavoidable. Atemu can’t play around even though Yugi obviously wants to. Like it was said, it’s all or nothing. Now remember, this engagement of theirs is going to last...oh, about five to six years. Yuugi’s training will move along a bit faster with private tutelage than if he goes to study at the Sekesha Hall Compound, where he’d be with many students.

Plus it wouldn’t do very good for him to be boinkin the Prince whilst going to a ‘public’ school, now would it? Imagine the looks Anzu would always give him....tehehehe.

We know that Atemu is direly infatuated, and for some strange reason can’t get his hands on Yugi fast enough. Yugi, however, likes to get into trouble quite a bit, and always tries to press his luck as long as it will bring him fun. This kiss, with Atemu needy and Yugi more than ready, was going to happen sooner than later. Anyway, Yuugi’s too damned horny to wait until his eight years would have been up at the Compound before finally being able to jump into Atemu’s bed.

And now, on to the story. Thank you.

Chapter 6

Yugi stood rigidly as he stared at the guard barring the way in front of the door. Sure, he was a little nervous looking up at them, but in all honestly, he was just downright intimidated.

A woman standing in full armor, tall and sleek with a grin affixed onto her pretty, full lips, a rather large sword dangling innocently from its holster on her side.

Yes, just a little intimidated.

She was pretty. Her armor was impressive, too. A full breast plate covered her bust and lower chest, and Yugi knew from looking at it that the metal wasn’t hastily pounded out because the owner just so happened to have rather prominent breasts. Oh, no. The craftsmanship was so fine, so painstakingly carved and crafted; it made Yugi wonder if it was difficult to find a breast plate in this country that was crafted for a male. Long leather boots rubbed smooth stopped above her knees, a linen kilt of sorts draping down to her ankles. There were also leather strips tied around her arms, reminding Yugi of what bird trainers wore for the foul that had rather large talons. The bird of prey could land easily on the trainer’s arm and not puncture any skin in the process.

She smirked down at him, her purple eyes dancing, her long blonde hair falling voluptuously behind her.

“Good evening, Mai.”

The guard moved her eyes from Yugi to the Prince standing next to him. “Good evening, your Highness.”

“How is the magistrate tonight?”

“Oh, not a happy camper,” she retorted. Yugi got the feeling that the woman in front of him could find just about anything amusing. “She has paper work stacked up to the ceiling.”

“Literally or metaphorically?”

“Literally.”

The Prince winced. He was simply grateful that he didn’t have to do all of that nasty book work. “Mai, I’d like you to meet Yugi. Yugi, this is Mai, the Cavalry Sergeant of the Seventh Royal Battalion.”

“Ah, nice to meet you,” Yugi extended a hand for a handshake, unsure of what to do. God, her sword looked so big...

Apparently people in Sekesha knew of a handshake, for she didn’t hesitate to take his hand in hers and give it a firm squeeze. “Hey, cutie,” she cooed, still with her half grin. “Why don’t you drop by my room before you head off to bed, tonight...hmm?”

Atemu cleared his throat, bringing the flustered teen over to his side. “Sorry, Mai, this one’s no longer free.”

She laughed, winking at the Prince. “It’s all in good fun, your Highness.” She opened up the door. “Good luck with the Magistrate, by the way, if she hasn’t fallen asleep yet.”

“Thanks.” Atemu pushed Yugi inside the door, and the teen heard it close softly behind them.

“Good friend of yours,” he asked, still a bit flushed.

“We grew up together.”

“Ah.”

The room they were in at the moment was nothing but a small little area with one bench against a wall, with another set of doors in front of them. Yugi saw papers stacked up next to the one bench, and some folders lying askew on the floor. “Oh, my,” the Prince frowned. “It’s even overflowing into here.” He opened up the next set of doors, and it took Yugi a moment to take everything in.

Papers. Yep. A lot of papers. Files sat stacked one upon another, nearly hiding a desk from view. Yugi could just make out the head of a woman sitting behind yet more stacks of paper on her desk, spectacles nearly falling off her nose and as she concentrated on a sheet that lay in front of her.

“Good evening, Miss Magistrate,” Atemu stated clearly, perhaps a little louder than normal.

The woman started muttering to herself, picked up the paper she was looking at, and put it in a tiny little box that said ‘out.’

“Isis,” Atemu spoke again.

The mentioning of her name seemed to jar her thoughts, brining her back to the land of the living. “Oh, Sire, what brings you here?”

“Rough night,” he asked.

“Oh, goddess, I get sick and the work piles up. Tax reforms, law proposals, court cases, press issues, scholars sending in one historical document after another, and it all has to be filed.”

“I’m afraid I have a little bit more paper work for you to do.”

Her face fell. “Oh?” she asked weakly.

“Declaration of Betrothal.”

She ducked her head under her papers and began sifting through a drawer that Yugi couldn’t see. “Declarations...declarations...war...treaties...aha, betrothal...” she placed the paper on her desk and started to fill out some names on the top. “His Royal Highness Prince Atemu has declared the act of be-“she stopped, looking back up at the Prince in shock. “Betrothal,” she asked. “Are you serious?”

“Quite.”

She nearly fell out of her chair. “Well it’s about time!” She laughed to herself, sitting back in her chair and patting her hand on her chest. “Good gracious, I thought the Goddesses might have taken away your ability to think about a co-consort! So tell me, who’s the lucky candidate?”

Yugi cleared his throat, walking up next to Atemu. Apparently, a stack of papers had been blocking him from view. “Good evening, Magistrate,” he spoke.

Her laughter quieted as she took a good look at the new person before her. He saw her mouth the words ‘It’s the Assai,’ but she didn’t say it out loud.

“This is Yugi,” Atemu stated. “The betrothal will last until his magi training has finished.”

“Yes...of course. One can’t take up consort duties without being fully trained. Indeed...” she smiled at him sweetly. “Hello, Yugi. It’s good to meet you.”

He smiled back.

She started to fill out the paper work. “Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise, I must say. Yes...the act of betrothal on this day, the day of...” her idle chatter quieted as she continued to write. Suddenly she stopped, looked at the nib of her pen, scowled, and dipped it in an ink well. “I’d save so much work if I didn’t have to constantly refill this damned thing...” she started scratching away at the paper again. “Hmm...Now. The Prince has the two rings with him that was bestowed upon him at birth, and will hence forth place one on the ring finer of his betrothal’s right hand, and the co-consort candidate will do likewise.”

Atemu did indeed have a small pouch with him, and out of it he extracted two silver rings, marked with a writing not even Yugi understood. The Prince smiled at him when he took his hand, pushing the ring fully on his finger. Yugi blushed a little, took the other ring, and put it on Atemu’s right hand. I must be going crazy...and for some reason I’ve just got to find out what he supposedly saw in his ‘foresight.’ I bet that would explain a lot.

“Splendid,” Isis stated. “And in five year’s time the official ceremony will commence. May you be fruitful and prosperous in the future to come? Signed Witness, the Royal Magistrate her Grace Isis.” She dropped her pen and began to blow on the page, encouraging the ink to dry.

“Thank you, Isis,” Atemu stated.

“No problem, Sire. All I ask is a small vacation once I get these papers whittled down.”

The Prince chuckled. “I’ll give you full leave to stay at the Highland Resort for a weekend.”

The woman’s face brightened up considerably. “Now there’s something to look forward to. Now get out of here so I can get some more work done.”

***

Yugi’s back hit the wall hard as Atemu continued to assault his kiss bruised lips. Eager hands wandered around his body, the Prince’s form pressing against him almost desperately.

Atemu’s sex pressed against his further as that that hungry mouth moved down to his neck. They were almost to the Prince’s bedroom, the door sitting only feet away from them. Yugi, although thoroughly enjoying every touch, was weary from the events of the day. Three weeks of therapy promised him normal movements, but it didn’t mean he had any kind of endurance yet. He sighed appreciatively when the Prince hit a very sensitive spot in the crook of his neck.

“Hmm....Atemu....ti-“ The Prince covered his lips again cutting off speech, his tongue claiming dominance in the teen’s hot mouth. So tired... He groaned when a knee was wedged between his legs. He was going limp with exhaustion, but Atemu didn’t seem to notice.

The Prince stumbled with him to the door of his chambers, fumbled with the knob, and finally got them in, still kissing the teen senseless.

Yugi barely heard the door close and felt himself pressed against a soft bed. Atemu broke their heated kiss and looked at him lustily, his voice husky as he spoke. “I’ll be right back.”

Yugi nodded, humming in agreement, and fell the rest of the way on the bed, feeling a soft down comforter covered in silk. Sighing in contentment, he barely managed to ease his head on the soft pillow, falling easily into the bed that now felt like clouds surrounding him.

Atemu came back, his jewelry removed, noticing a snoozing Yugi on the bed, his wings curled up tightly around him. His heart melted. He’d nearly forgotten just how tired he must be. His new lover was the picture of serenity as he lay there sleeping, a delicate smiling gracing his visage.

He leaned over and ran his fingers through Yuugi’s hair. “I love you,” he whispered, leaving a kiss on his temple. He climbed in to bed on the other side, pulling Yugi up into his arms. Yugi was facing him, his large wings falling off the edge of the queen sized bed. “Sleep well.”

***

Yugi woke up, feeling bright sunshine spilling over his previously sleeping form. He looked up, and saw an open balcony a few feet away from the bed. The glass doors were opened, letting in a breeze so delicious it was like breathing in wine. Some birds were chirping beyond sight, and vines from far down below were growing up and wrapping around the balcony railing, wild flowers blooming in its wake. Yugi pushed his body up from its resting position, taking in the space around him.

The Prince’s room was gorgeous. White and silver marble flooring met pale silver walls. Glimmering granite and basalt furniture, chests, and garden benches littered with silk pillows completed the area; a basin with water sitting on top of a long table was placed at the edge of the bed. Yugi scooted over, dipped his hands in it, and rinsed his face.

The bed was empty aside from him. The Prince was most likely up and getting back to work. He had taken a lot of time off lately, spending a lot of days with Yugi back at the Sekesha Hall Compound healing ward.

Speaking of which...Yugi supposed the Headmistress was out to get Atemu’s head today. She sounded angry enough the night before, but not even returning the teen that night? And not only that, but declaring betrothal? Yugi was sure that she’d be furious at the moment.

He really didn’t know why. So he had wings that were cruelly torn out of him. Okay. He was getting better. He’d learn how to hide them, safe at the palace away from prying eyes rather than in a public compound. What was the problem?

He got off the bed, and started to poke around the room. There had to be a clean set of clothes in there. Aha! There in the large cabinet, he was able to find numerous pairs of soft white pants, and a shirt that would fit around his wings. No surprises, really. Not if all the royalty had wings.

There was a bathroom adjoining the bedroom, and Yugi took the liberty to give himself a sponge bath and get clean. No point in soaking his wings. That would only make a dripping mess everywhere.

He walked back into the bedroom, surprised to see a tray full of food on a bedside table. Breakfast! His stomach rumbled angrily. He was really hungry.

Ten minutes later, with a full belly, a cleaned and dressed body, and a curious mind, Yugi opened up the doors to the bedroom chamber and walked out into the hall.

“Sire!”

Yugi whirled around, shocked at the title, and saw a male guard standing there. The guard bowed hastily, holding his sword holster at his side. “The Prince informed me that you’d wake up alone today, and asked that you be looked after until he returns.”

Yugi thought of a destination quickly. “I’m just going to the gardens,” he stated.

“Would you like an escort?” It was said as a statement, not as a highly polite question.

Yugi thought it best not to argue. “Sure, that would be nice.”

They started to walk down the hall, the guard slightly ahead. Yugi knew he didn’t know where to go, but the guard did, and led the way. “My name is Mahaado, by the way. I’ve been assigned to watch over you until you get to know the area.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mahaado. I assume you already know my name, but for the record, it’s Yugi,”

“I do, but I prefer formalities. There’s more respect in them.”

Hm. This was awkward. Yugi wasn’t sure what to say next. “How are the gardens this time of year,” he asked instead.

“Lovely. The perfume from the flowers is at their height.”

Well, that was good, at least he didn’t insist on being silent. “I haven’t been to the gardens yet.”

“You’ll enjoy it.”

They turned a corner, and suddenly Yugi heard something he that hadn’t hit his ears since before he arrived at the palace the very first time.

There were people yelling.

Mahaado walked on, not noticing for a while that Yugi had stopped and stole himself away behind an open door. Inside, the two people Yugi had been expecting to be going at it were nearly at each other’s throats. From his tiny slit of vision, Atemu looked angry, and the Priestess looked furious.

“Damn it, Priestess! He’s my lover, my betrothed, and I will help him decide what is best for him! You no longer have any jurisdiction over this matter!”

“And you, your Highness, are being a spoiled child! You go and propose to him just like that? What were you thinking?! Or were you think at all??”

“You speak as if I forced him into it! It was a mutual decision!”

“Like hell! You’re damned royalty! What did you expect him to do?! This is the last thing that child needs right now!”

“Damn it, Lillian! He’s not your dead daughter! He’s not going to keel over on us without warning! You have got to stop this!”

“I am putting my foot down, Atemu!”

“And you will not speak to the ruler of you country as if he were a child! I will remove you from your post at the compound if it so comes down to it, Lillian. Mark my words...”

“Sire!” Yugi almost jumped when Mahaado loudly whispered his name behind him.

“Gahh! Don’t do that,” he whispered back.

“You shouldn’t be listening in like this! It’s dishonest!”

Yugi scowled. “I’ll tell Atemu afterwards. He won’t be angry.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” the Priestess seethed; giving the Prince such a glare it could probably have lit him on fire.

“He’s mine. Leave him be. He’ll be safe here, receiving the best teachings possible. I’ve already got tutors on the way. Back off, Priestess! Or it’ll be your head!”

She let out a frustrated scream, storming out of the room. Yugi could see a white energy sizzling and cackling around her as she left down the hall, her anger near the bursting point.

Yugi looked back into the room, seeing the Prince resting both his hands on the table that had been between him and his yelling opponent. His head was bent low, and one hand went to his forehead. Yugi was about to go in and comfort him, for sadness and weariness seamed to make themselves evident.

A voice called from somewhere inside. Yugi had a thought that this room led to a series of even larger rooms further inside the palace.

“Your Highness? Ah, good. You’re not busy. A new law proposal from the city of Knatan.” A piece of paper was slipped under his face, and Atemu started to look over it.

“....and it is so proposed that henceforth all donkies, jack asses, mules, and bobbles gots be banned from sleeping in human bathing facilities? Good goddess, what are they going to come up with next?” The Prince walked away into an inner chamber, away from ear shot.

Yugi sighed, left his hiding spot, and started to walk again.

“You really shouldn’t have done that,” Mahaado chided.

The teen sighed in exasperation. “What is her problem? Good grief, it’s not like I’m being treated ill here or anything. I am really worried about those two.”

The guard pressed his lips together. “It is always hard dealing with relatives, especially when the juvenile can pass judgment on the elder.”

Their each other’s aunt and nephew. Yes, that must be awkward at times.

Yugi shrugged. “It should all work out, right?”

“One can only hope. And pray.”

As soon as I can get all the damned names right of the goddesses. Who am I supposed to pray to for what now? Gahh...

Chapter 7

Yugi stood starring at the expanse before him. He was finding himself starring quite a bit lately.

But the garden was so big. It had to have been the size of a football field, meandering paths and hidden niches with resting areas and fountains and bushes and trees....Yugi was nearly as overwhelmed as he had been at the aviary.

And green was everywhere. Colors ranging from neon green to a dark hunter and green-black shadows inside the bushes coated the area in a rich, life filled aura. Roses of the deepest reds Yuugi had ever seen bloomed everywhere, wild flowers of white and pink and purple, pastels and vivid highlights and blooms the teen didn’t recognize.

There was a strange flower that looked similar to a lily; however the curls of the petals flowed everywhere, wiping up into the space above them. They glimmered in colors anywhere from silver to gold to reflective platinum to bronze.

His breath was stolen away. “By the gods,” he whispered to himself. “This place is incredible.”

There was a wall of ivy that reached ten, perhaps fifteen feet into the air, and Yugi could see in a few slightly bare areas that it was growing up a marble wall, keeping out unwanted guests.

The guard next to him crossed his arms, pleased with Yuugi’s response. “The plants have been growing for ages beyond count here. The Goddesses made sure when they created this place that it would never die.”

“The Goddesses built this place,” Yugi asked.

“They built the whole palace. Not by hand, mind you. But by magick.”

It’s no wonder the aviary was made so big. It was probably meant to serve more than just one or two people at a time. He started to walk, taking his time to notice as many details as he could soak up. And the smells that drifted from these plants...surely this was the heaven that everyone dreamed about.

Yugi began to tread discreetly when he heard quiet sobs coming from somewhere around bush. He was walking on one of the many trails that were in the garden, still not far from the main entrance. He rounded the towering plant, leaves thick enough to act as a wall of its own, and saw a person sitting on the ground, their knees brought up and their head bent over them, crying.

It was the Priestess.

This was the first time Yugi had actually seen her express a rather human emotion. A frail emotion. He went and sat down on the bench that was next to her, extending his feet out in front of him. “What was her name,” he asked.

Her head jerked upwards, looking at the new intruder. What was in her eyes shocked Yugi immensely. She looked lost, her stormy blue haunted and forlorn. “Yugi! How did you...” she looked away. She was clutching something in her hand, holding it at her chest. She didn’t seem to have the heart to question him. Another tear rolled down her cheek. “Emerald. Her name was Emerald.” A sniff. “Rather fitting, really. She had her father’s eyes, and they were both such a vivid green...”

Yugi caught a glimpse of what was in her hand as she looked at it, using her thumb to push the object around a little. It was a locket, a little gold one with a dainty chain. Lillian sighed, resting her head on her arms as she draped them over her knees. “She had been your age and already five years into her training. She had developed young. She’d snuck out one night, there was a boy she liked...stupid little boy really...” she gave a weak laugh. There was no life behind it. “But he loved her so much he’d have jumped off the end of the earth for her. Someone...someone found her. Someone who wasn’t supposed to. She had telepathy, you know. She could call out to anyone she wanted to at anytime...it was one of her Gifts. She was a light user to. Like me.” She paused again, gathering the strength to continue. “I heard her scream so loud I jumped out of bed and nearly burst out of my skin. I found her quickly...she was still bleeding...Th-the person who found her was standing over her...a rusty bayonet in his hand. I knew he was getting ready to cut off her new wings. He got away before I could kill him...we never could find out how he got away, or where he was from, or anything.” Another cry of anguish bubbled past her lips, and she covered her mouth with her hand. “The healers and I worked on her for seventy three hours solid. One of her wings didn’t come out all of the way. We tried to pull it out, but it snapped. The trauma killed her. She never had a chance.” She looked ahead mournfully. “The boy she liked...Delyle was his name...he committed suicide the day after he found out.” She lowered her head again. “My husband became depressed...and lost in a duel to a second rate magi from a rival country, just because of stupid mistakes.”

Yugi was left speechless. No wonder she was a cold bitch. Her daughter was murdered; her husband...Yugi assumed ‘lost’ was another word for ‘killed.’ And it was no wonder her past was coming up to haunt her. “I understand where you’re coming from,” Yugi said. “I used to like the rain, a long time ago. It felt so good to just sit out in it and purposely get wet. It always made me giggle for no particular reason. But I learned not to like when it washed my parent’s blood down a dirty city drain.”

Lillian looked up at him, a little shocked herself. “What happened?”

“I don’t know for sure. I was only six. But, I remember running with my parents. They were both terrified, and there were men chasing us, yelling things at us I couldn’t understand. We had come up to a wall, and we finally stopped, my father turning around to fight them. My mother told me to run as fast and as far away as I could and never look back...there was a tiny opening near the bottom of the fence into an alley, I was the only one that could fit through. So I ran. I didn’t come back until the gurgling screams went away.” Yugi stopped, reliving the complete memory after so long of trying to forget. “I went back to them. Where else was I going to go? But...they were lying on the ground, unmoving, blood everywhere. There were feathers everywhere and I kept thinking ‘an angel must have come and rescued them they’re up in heaven right now, and the angel left some feathers from its wings. But I wasn’t here.’ So I sat down next to my mother, and I prayed and cried all night long for the angel to come back for me. But when I woke up in the morning cold, wet and hungry, I knew it wasn’t coming back. So I lived on the streets the rest of the time, my only friend a chronic drunk that at least didn’t care when he had to kill someone who tried to hurt me..... I lost faith and hope that night. I hear it’s two of the most precious gifts one can have...I forgot what the third was.”

“That’s love, Yugi. Love is the third.”

Yugi jumped when Atemu’s voice whispered in his ear, the arms wrapping around him keeping him from falling off the bench.

“Atemu,” the Priestess looked up. She couldn’t hold his gaze for long. “I’m...I’m sorry for acting the way I did. I haven’t yet come to terms with what happened to me and the ones I loved.”

“You probably never will,” the Prince replied. “But I don’t expect you to.”

Yugi allowed his weight to settle against the body next to him, glad for the warmth even though it was the middle of summer. Inside of him, it could have been winter for all he knew. “How long have you been there?”

The Prince hugged him tightly. “Since ‘I was only six.’”

Lillian stood up, wiping tears from her eyes. “Thank you for sharing, Yugi. I’d forgotten for a while that I wasn’t the only one who had a right to be bitter about something...” she looked ahead. “I’d better go. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Take a bubble bath,” Yugi suggested. “And light a bunch of candles around it. My mom always said it was good for the soul. It might help.”

She was silent for a moment, paused; and then gave him a heartfelt smile. “I’ll do that. Thank you.”

She turned and walked slowly out of the garden, not looking back.

Yugi turned his attention to the intense eyes starring at him. “Yugi-”

Then teen cut him off by placing a hand softly on his face, his thumb over both lips. “Don’t apologize. It won’t change anything. And please don’t give me pity. That’s an emotion that solves even less.”

Atemu laced his fingers through those on his cheek. “I wasn’t going to.” He moved in a little closer. “I wanted to tell you I love you.” He gave Yugi a soft kiss.

Yugi smiled, kissed back, and saw an opportunity to ask something he’d been meaning to, and find something out that had been eating at him. “Atemu..., when did you first fall in love with me?”

The Prince stopped, looking at Yugi a little surprised. Then suddenly his visage looked defeated. “You’ve been listening in a bit lately, haven’t you?”

Yuugi’s face said everything he needed it to. I deserve to know.

The Prince sighed, hesitant to start. “I was fourteen when I had the vision. It had been dark, and so cold, and I was completely alone and wrapped up in cold iron chains. I had cried in the vision when I thought no one would come, but then there was a tiny little light off in the distance that had grown bigger. Out of that light shimmering white wings were flapping, slowly coming towards me, and a person wrapped their arms around me and all of the chains melted away. A circle of white fire flared up around us, and I remember my body had been so broken, but the person held me close, and when I looked up it was your face I was looking into. You told me that everything was going to be all right, that you’d keep me warm in the shadows. Over again you said ‘It’ll be all right love, I promise. I’ll be with you.’” He stopped his eyes a little sad. “I was starting to become afraid that you never would show up. But here you are...wings and all. Yugi...I was in love with you before I met you.”

Well I’ll be damned. Atemu apparently hadn’t expected him to want to jump into the relationship right away, though. But Yugi just knew that he had added yet more fuel to that burning fire by his silent flirting in the aviary, and then his blatant request to be kissed. And even at the moment he looked defeated, as if Yugi would be frightened away by the sure intensity of the Prince’s emotions. He decided to quell those fears by giving Atemu a passionate kiss. “You remember,” Yugi stated breathlessly after pulling away, “that I’m still falling in love with you.”

The Prince smiled. “I remember, Yugi.” He could have almost laughed in sheer relief. “I remember.” He kissed the teen again, happy and desperate and needy. Yugi responded all too eagerly, turning himself enough to wrap a leg around the Prince’s waist. Atemu hummed appreciatively, happy to let his hands roam as they approached sensitive and rather explicit areas.

He delighted when Yugi gave a shocked gasp, the responding act of the teen to hold on tighter, his hands moving to return the favor.

Yugi gave a dejected moan when Atemu pulled away.

“I think I can get off early tonight,” the Prince stated, brushing his fingers through Yuugi’s hair. “But I’m afraid my lunch break is just about over.”

The teen frowned. “Get me all worked up, and here I have to wait.” He sighed. “All right. As long as I get you to myself tonight.” He kissed the Prince one more time. “I’ll see you then.”

Atemu hugged him, starting to get up. “I love you.”

Yugi smiled. “I’m falling in love with you.” His reply from the Prince was a good laugh. He watched as Atemu started to walk away.

“Until tonight,” the Prince yelled back, walking out of view.

“I’m holding you to it,” Yugi replied back.

Atemu left sight. Yugi sighed, now noticing that he was straddling the bench rather than sitting on it the conventional way. It was also then he noticed a person that had faded from view.

Mahaado cleared his throat, giving Yugi a leery glance.

“What,” Yugi asked indignantly.

“Nothing, Sire.”

He scowled. “You’re a horrible liar.”

“Never claimed to be good at it, Sire.”

He let the subject drop “Anyway, could you show me to the kitchen? I think I’m just about ready for my lunch too. I imagine you must be getting hungry.”

“No.”

Yugi shrugged. “Well, all right.”

The guard motioned his hand. “The kitchen is this way, Sire. Follow me.”

***

Yugi sat on the queen sized bed in the Prince’s bedroom, watching as the sun went down beyond the balcony railing. Although he had not seen any clocks in the palace, he still had some sense of time, and he also knew that in the summer there were more hours of daylight than in winter. If it had been back in Domino, it would probably have been nearing nine o’clock, or nine thirty perhaps.

Get off early. Yugi wasn’t sure what a full day’s length of work entailed, but he was pretty sure that Atemu was running behind.

The rest of the day had been rather dull. Mahaado had refused to take him to the library. The guard said it was restricted access, and he would need written permission to go in there from the Prince himself. It must have been some library to have that kind of limited access.

The teen looked up when the door behind him opened up, his spirits lifting just a bit when he saw Atemu walk in, closing the door softly behind him. Yugi smiled. “Hey there.”

The Prince rubbed his hand over his face, looking tired. “Hey,” he replied. He started walking towards the bathroom. “I’ll be right back.”

Yugi frowned. Well, this was romantic. He sighed, repositioning himself to sit cross-legged on the bed.

The minutes ticked by.

The teen frowned even harder when the sun had finally set completely, the stars above twinkling brightly. It was dark in the bedroom but for the moonlight pouring in from the half moon. Perhaps he ought to just go to bed. “Argh,” he groaned to himself.

“Now did you really think I’d forgotten,” that deep voice asked him from across the room.

Yugi tried to see through the darkness, but the Prince’s form remained hidden. He heard Atemu clap twice, and suddenly the entire bedroom was lit with the light of hundreds of candles burning. Yugi’s spirits started to lift again, his expression shocked. He knew all of those candles hadn’t been there earlier. All the more surprise. “I had sure hoped not,” he replied.

Atemu was standing next to the doorway that led to the bathroom, arms lazily crossed, and a smirk resting on his lips. He was completely stripped of his jewelry and linen apparel, now wearing a silk robe the color of milky silver moonlight.

“Are you just going to stand there looking delicious, or do I have to drag you to the bed myself,” the teen asked lightly.

The Prince chuckled. “Speaking of delicious...” he picked up a silver tray that was resting next to him on a table, and brought it over. “I brought some dessert up for us.”

Yuugi’s ears perked up. Dessert? He had never had that many desserts before. “What is it,” he asked, curiously looking at the contents of the tray as Atemu sat down next to him.

“Crepules. One of my favorite treats.” He pulled Yugi closer to him, picked up one of the forks on the tray, and picked up a small piece of it.

Yugi couldn’t figure out what it looked like it was made of. A small, thin pastry perhaps, rolled around a soft white substance, covered in a sauce the color of red wine with crushed berries in it. The fork was set in front of his mouth, and he took a bite.

Heaven invaded his taste buds. It was sweeter and softer than cream cheese, the berry sauce so perfect it caused him to moan and savor every morsel. “Oh....this is delicious.” He noticed another fork on the tray, picked it up, and returned the favor.

Atemu smiled as he took the bite offered him, Yugi accidentally allowing the sauce to slightly dribble onto his chin. Without thinking, he leaned over and licked it off, sealing the area with a tender kiss.

He couldn’t help the blush that dusted across his nose and cheeks when he noticed the look in Atemu’s eyes. The Prince chuckled a little, dipped his forefinger into the sauce, and placed a drop of it right on Yugi blush, also licking and kissing it away.

Yugi’s heart fluttered. So this was what it was like to fall in love. He could really get used to it. Atemu gave him a tender look, offering him another bite of the Crepules.

Yugi laughed when they were half way done with the treat, suddenly realizing that he was actually being romanced. His smiling face was the entire Prince needed to see. “This is so good,” the teen stated. “What’s in it?”

“It’s a cream that has been whipped and churned about a dozen times, sweetened only very lightly with sugar, and wrapped up in soft dough. The berry sauce is crushed raspberries and blackberries, with a small splash of white wine.” He gave Yugi another bite.

“I could get addicted to this.”

Atemu laughed. “This is the reason I was banned from the kitchen when I was ten.”

Yugi laughed too. And before he cared to admit it, the treat was completely gone. Atemu gave a dejected pout, causing Yugi to laugh again, and placed the tray on a bedside table.

The Prince came back, placing himself directly in front of Yugi, gently beginning to caress his face and arms. “Yugi, I have something I want to give to you.” He reached into the only pocket on his robe, pulling out something that glittered a little with a pale gold. To Yugi, it looked like a bracelet. “Yugi, there is a tradition that has been passed down since the throne was first erected over nine thousand years ago. All of the royalty, when they fell in love, took one feather from their wings and created a token out of it, giving it to the one person they would spend the rest of their days with.” He unclasped the bracelet, and Yugi could see the feather he was speaking of had a been bent to create a circle, encased in a braid that had been made of tiny little gold chains that sparkled in the candlelight. The Prince placed it on his left wrist, clasping it in place.

Yugi’s eyes softened. “It’s beautiful.”

Atemu sealed the offering with a kiss to the teen’s wrist. “It is a symbol that not only have I claimed you as my own, but that I also belong to you.”

Yugi leaned over dangerously close, bringing his hand up to Atemu’s face. “Thank you,” he whispered, and was the first one of the evening to initiate an intimate kiss.

The Prince wasted no time in pulling Yuugi’s body flush with his, one hand on the teen’s back and holding him in place, the other removing his clothes. The teen felt his shirt fall away from him, Atemu’s mouth moving down to his neck.

Yugi knew what the Prince smelled like. It almost made him drunk each time he brought his nose to that handsome body. But if something smelled that good, what would it taste like? He untied the robe around the Prince, anticipation swirling around inside of him as he allowed his hands to roam.

Atemu shivered a little when Yuugi’s tongue started to dance around his shoulder, small teeth nipping lightly every now and again at his collar bone. He moved forward, forcing the teen to lie down on the bed, and attacked his mouth again. Yugi was only too happy to help him with the removal of his pants, releasing a sigh of contentment when their bodies became flush again, no clothes hindering them this time.

Atemu started to really lose his self control when Yugi brought his knees up, now encasing his lower body between the teen’s legs.

The Prince was a little shocked when he actually found himself starting to lose the little battle inside of Yuugi’s mouth. Deciding on a little distraction, he started running a hand up the teen’s inner thigh, causing Yugi to gasp, lose control of the kiss, and be dominated once again.

“Atemu,” he moaned softly, his lips crushed again in a kiss. He pulled back a little, only a short opening for speech. “Don’t tease,” he pleaded.

“No,” the Prince asked. He started to move lower. “What about this kind of teasing?”

Yugi cried out when he felt warmth envelop him, Atemu’s tongue far more talented than he originally thought. His blood was rushing through him, and his body temperature started to rise. The hands that had been placed on his inner thighs kept him from involuntarily closing his legs. But Yugi found himself, instead, wanting to open them further.

The Prince stopped before climax could hit. He ran his tongue up Yuugi’s chest, stopping at the neck and below the ear, deciding he liked that area.

“Oh...hmm....tease...y-you oh! .....Mhmmm....you’re being mean...”

Atemu chuckled a little. “No, my love, I intend to make this night last for quite a while...”

Chapter 8

Yugi’s eyes fluttered open, hearing a bird chirp outside the balcony door. He realized the sun was barely up, the young rays just barely spilling past his shoulders. He turned his head to his side, a face slipping across his vision as Atemu’s sleeping visage greeted him.

He had fallen asleep on his back, Atemu having landed on top of him in exhaustion and wrapping his arms around the smaller form beneath him tightly. He had also left a knee wedged between pale legs.

Yugi realized in regret that he was sleeping on his wings, and Atemu’s weight was shifted to one side, meaning that the teen was going to have a particularly sore wing once he got up.

Not to mention what his lower back was going to do to him once he got up as well.

Oh well. It was more than worth it. Yugi tried to suppress the yawn that escaped past his lips, but he failed, his rising chest pushing against the Prince’s handsomely tanned body. It was then that the eyes next to him blinked open too, pushing haziness and sleep from their glowing depths. Atemu smiled at him, running his hand up Yuugi’s arm and to his face affectionately.

“Good morning, love.”

Yugi smiled back, his face becoming warm as he held the hand on his cheek in place, “Good morning.”

His mouth still smiled, but his eyes looked a little pained, “You know... it’s the first time I can ever remember saying that.”

Atemu’s eyes looked a little pained as well, not sure about what to say. He gave a weak smile in reply. “You were beautiful last night,” he whispered, placing a delicate kiss to Yugi’s temple.

“I feel like I’ve been whisked into a dream,” he continued. He held the Prince’s hand tighter, turning just a little to look his lover in the eyes. “Atemu...I don’t want to wake up.”

The Prince realized something was wrong as he heard that cracked whisper.

“I don’t want to wake up,” he repeated a little louder. His shoulders started to shake, the Prince pulled him closer, “I don’t want to wake up shivering and cold and wet because the roof leaks and hear Jou gasping on the bathroom floor with a hangover! I don’t want to feel the old dagger under my pillow and hear the neighbors yelling profanities at each other!”

Atemu wrapped himself around Yugi as much as he could, bringing his lips over to his ear. “Then don’t,” he whispered. “You’re not going anywhere, so long as you’re here.”

Yugi cried. “I don’t want to go!”

“My love, listen to me.” The choked sobs continued. “Listen to me! The only place you belong now is at my side. Nothing, nor anyone, can change that. Already there are spells in place ensuring your safety. The priestesses at shrines all over the city have been praying for us, and for you, and casting spells for your safety for weeks now. Not only me, and not only this palace, but this entire country is protecting you, Yugi. Word has already reached the outer cities of your existence.”

As shocking as this news was, Yugi held the Prince as tightly as he could. “Don’t let me wake up,” he pleaded. “I love you. I’ve fallen so hard...I didn’t even realize...”

Atemu kissed away those many tears. “Love...come with me.” He sat up, pulling the trembling form with him. Yugi did not pull his head away from that comforting shoulder he was pressed against until he felt a soft breeze on his skin. He looked up, realizing he had been guided out onto the balcony. It was the first time he’d ever actually been on it.

The Prince picked one of the wild roses growing on one of the vines wrapped around the marble railing, holding it up for Yugi to see. “Smell this, love.”

He sniffled a bit, his sinuses plugging with his tears, but complied, feeling the intoxicating fragrance wrap around his senses. Absolutely beautiful.

“How could that not possibly be real? How could your pain be a part of just a mere dream?”

Yugi shook his head. “This is no mere dream. This is a fantastical dream. So far out there, so real, I’m going to think it actually happened when I wake up. I’m so afraid all of this... and you... won’t be here tomorrow.”

Atemu suddenly realized something, and for some reason it shocked him a little. Everything here... and me...it’s all so precious to him. He treasures my love so much, it frightens him and he’s afraid what will happen to him if he loses it...he’s lost everything else before. To him, what’s stopping it from leaving now? Funny...he’d become so accustomed to thinking he was the one with the stronger emotions, simply because he had fallen in love long before Yugi did. He lifted up Yuugi’s chin with his thumb and forefinger, delivering a firm, warm kiss. He pulled away, looking into that pleading face that begged for the reassurance he needed.

“You’re not leaving, love. You’re not going anywhere, and you’re not going to wake up away from here.”

“But what if, Atemu? Some things aren’t supposed to happen. What if?

The Prince sighed. The fear was legitimate. But how would he quell it? He pulled away from Yugi, resigned as only one option came to mind.

“Atemu?”

The Prince extended his left hand, shadows beginning to dance up from his upturned palm. Yuugi’s eyes grew wide when a dagger carved of shadows emerged, Atemu now clutching it tightly in his hand. The Prince didn’t hesitate, nor did he blink, as in a flash of seconds he raised his right forearm and swiped the dark blade across his tanned gold skin.

Yugi gasped. “Atemu, what are you doing?”

The Prince held up his bleeding arm. Forcing the blade to disappear again, with his free hand he took a hold of Yuugi’s hand and pressed it against his bleeding wound. “Neshestenal ayana ayu. Eyahas ahy elentu est! Mehe nelamyenu nyanteh! Eyahasenu bestuheneh!”

Yugi’s hand started to tingle, then tickle, and suddenly he felt strange energy reverberate through his flesh. It was strange, and his first instinct was to pull away from the foreign feeling. The Prince’s other hand held his firmly in place, the blood trickling down both sets of fingers. What is he doing?

Yugi gasped when suddenly that strange energy shot through his entire system, shaking his bones and rattling him to the core. White flashed before his eyes, touched with blood-shot rubies and golden sun, and he found himself falling against Atemu’s muscular form. “What...what did you...” his breath seemed to be leaving him.

“A type of binding,” the Prince replied, pulling him closer. Yugi suddenly realized they were both still completely naked. Atemu’s form shook next to his own. “It is something that is not normally done. We are not bonded telepathically yet. That is conducted at the Bonding Ceremony. It’s the entire premise behind the occasion.” He ran his hand through the teen’s hair, and it was then the smaller noticed all of the blood was now gone. “Blood magick is dangerous and powerful, and no matter what it cannot be broken. Our bodies are now linked, Yugi. If any force were to take you somewhere, by default I would go with you, and vice versa.”

“No matter what?”

“No matter what... I’m sorry if I frightened you.”

Yugi sucked in a ragged breath, trying to calm his nerves. “That was bizarre.”

The Prince gave a weak chuckle. “I imagine so. Feeling magick the first few times usually is.” His body was still shaking. “I need to go sit down for a moment.”

Concerned, Yugi helped him walk back to the bed. The Prince dropped unceremoniously down, releasing a large breath.

“Are you all right?” the teen asked, concerned.

“I-I’m fine... just a little drained.”

Yugi kissed Atemu’s cheek, then climbed behind him on the bed and began to rub his shoulders. “I’m sorry for acting childish,” he said softly. “I just...I was just so afraid...”

“Don’t apologize, Yugi. There’s no reason to. It was a legitimate fear. All I did was put it to rest.”

He wrapped his arms around that trembling chest. “I love you. Thank you, so much.”

The Prince chuckled, this time with a little more life behind it, and turned around to wrap his arms around the one behind him. “You’re no longer falling?”

“I fell so fast I didn’t even realize I had it the bottom.” The Prince kissed him deeply, breaking off with two or three more chaste kisses. “We should get ready for the day.”

“I agree. Have breakfast with me?”

Yuugi’s eyes shined with warmth. “I’d love to.”

***

Yugi sat in the royal lounge, bored yet again. Mahaado was standing guard outside the door, like usual. Breakfast had been good, but the Prince had to get to work quickly. It seemed everything waited for his spoken word before taking action.

He flapped his left wing, which was the sore one, noticing the muscles were starting to feel a bit better. He’d make sure he slept on his side that night, rather than on his back. Atemu could function without any problems, but he knew how to hide his wings. It seemed once the appendages were out of view, they were no longer a hazard. But like he had been told, it takes a good deal of know-how in order to hide them, and he would need training before he could do so.

Yugi was just grateful no one in the palace starred. It seemed to be like an unwritten rule about the wings, and he supposed that many of them had gone through a similar experience with the Prince when his had developed. After all, the royalty had been hiding their wings for thousands of years here. Atemu had told him that he’d be confined to a certain are of the palace that was sealed off from the rest, where only royalty and the trustworthy that had been sworn to secrecy could enter. Each young royalty went through this, so Yugi figured the palace code had wing secrecy pretty well down by now.

The door made a click noise as it was opened up, and Yugi looked up from the couch he was on to see Mahaado looking in on him. “The Prince sends word, Sire, to meet with him in the main hall.”

Atemu had time to see him? Yugi felt his heart flutter inside his chest. He found it doing that a hell of a lot more lately. “I’m coming.” He got up and followed his guard out the door.

Yugi wondered how on earth they ever managed to find a name for each room. The palace was a like a little city unto its self, with hundreds of inhabitants. Women who mended and wove and crafted clothes for royalty, nobility, and the army, leather craftsman who fashioned anything from protective gear to saddles to boots, cooks and maids and court officials and councilors and representatives from the cities all over the country. The kitchen itself was more like four large rooms, two of them prep kitchens whilst the other two held the actual cooks with dozens of ovens and fires and cookware. That didn’t include the pantry itself, which was a large storage room with dried and perceivable foods, and then another room that was a cold storage.

And then there was the wine cellar. And goddesses above did the people in Sekesha love their wine.

And every person in the palace had to be fed.

So indeed it was amazing that someone could never find themselves lost in the vast expanse of this palace. The ‘main hall,’ actually stretched all around the entire palace that had been built in a circular format, the largest area at the main entrance.

With how big the palace was, it seemed surprising there was an area that could be considered a main entrance at all, even though there were still many other entryways that were heavily used.

The two of them rounded a corner, and the Prince’s smiling face came into view. Yugi smiled back, walking up and wrapping his arms around him. “Hi there.”

Atemu gave him a kiss on his temple and firm hug. “Hello, love. I wanted to introduce you to a couple of people.”

Yugi pulled away and, looking around, noticed two other figures standing next to one another. One was a female, this was without a doubt, but her skin was a pale blue, her hair golden, and she was tall with a quiet face. She also had...pointed ears? Her clothing was exotic even by the palace standards.

The other figure, a male, was extremely tall, with pitch black hair, dark skin, and fiery red eyes. He appeared to have an affinity for black, as it was all he had on.

“Yugi, these are your new tutors. Please meet Ayana, a Mystic Elf, and Daemon, who is in fact a dragon.”

The teen’s jaw dropped open, but he quickly covered his mouth. Manners were very important here, and he certainly didn’t want to offend. “A dragon? You...don’t look like one.”

The handsome face on the dark man smiled silkily. “You think so?”

Yugi watched as suddenly a huge shadow extended over his frame, the swirling mass of darkness in front of him growing ever larger.

It was a good thing the hall was indeed quite so large. Yugi could hardly believe how big the creature in front of him was. The dragon, pure black with gleaming iron scales, towered above him. A head was lowered to his level the size of a bus, and one bright red eye looked at him critically.

“Isss thisss more to your liking?” the voice half hissed.

He swallowed. Atemu saved him from having to comment. “Daemon is a red eyed black dragon. He will be your shadow tutor.”

The monstrous creature sunk back down to normal size, a man once again. “It’s nice to meet you,” Yugi stated, a bit of relief flooding his system. He was going to make damned sure he didn’t get that tutor pissed off. He looked over. “And...Ayana?”

The elf smiled at him sweetly.

He smiled back. “Then I guess you’ll be my light teacher. It’s good to meet you, too.”

“Pleasant greetings to you, too, young Sire.”

The Prince held up a silver key in front of Yuugi’s purple eyes, “The key to the royal library. Guard it well. You’ll need unlimited access from now on.”

He gave Yugi a kiss as the smaller took hold of the key, “I have to get back to work. You’ll be training with Daemon today. Ayana, Melu can show you to your room, if you don’t already know where it is.”

“I do, my Lord.”

The Prince grinned. “I had a feeling. Anyway, Yugi you’ll have the same tutor every other day. Good luck and I’m sure I’ll see you passed out on the bed tonight.”

Yugi gave a weak chuckle, “Probably. I’ll see you later.”

One more kiss; and the Prince headed on his way.

Ayana had only what Yugi could consider a mystical look in her eyes. She bowed to him slightly, amusement apparent in her glimmering gold eyes, “I’ll see you tomorrow at breakfast, Sire. Sleep well tonight.”

“All right.”

She left. Yugi turned his eyes over to Daemon, still a bit apprehensive. “Do you know where we go next?” he asked, scratching just behind his ear. Damn that habit!

“Of course I do. Follow me.”

***

Yugi walked out into a small hallway, slumping against a random doorframe and sliding to the floor.

Damn. Daemon had been trying to get him to learn how to actually tap into his powers. After about an hour of trying, the dragon had finally given him a small feel of the magick, like a little jump start. Once the teen knew what he was looking for, he easily found it.

Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to exert in moderation, so the practice room now had burn marks all over the once pristine marble.

And by the goddesses, was it exhausting using too much magick. Daemon didn’t seem upset about it. Rather, he seemed rather impressed that Yugi had still been standing afterwards. After more attempts of trying to control the shadows jumping out of his hands, and more burns and abrasions added to the walls, he was finally allowed to take a break.

He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, suddenly hearing voices behind the door he was leaning next to. He could here a couple of voices, both of them male, conversing with one another.

His eyes widened when he realized it was Atemu talking with another person. How is it I always stumble across conversations I was never meant to here? It’s not like I go looking for them!

You did what?” the other male asked the Prince. “I don’t know if I can believe this!

I didn’t have any other choice in the matter.

What do you mean you didn’t have any other choice? Your highness, a blood bond? Are you insane?!”

Yuugi’s ears really perked up now. That sounded a lot like what had happened that morning.

Screw the side affects for energy that you’re obviously going through now, but the problems that can occur with this? I can’t believe you just signed yourself away like that!”

You act like he’ll take advantage of it.”

Damn it, Sire, I don’t care how trustworthy he is. You bonded yourself to a novice. A novice! He can’t control a glow stick, how do you expect him to not affect you?”

I have plenty of shields in place. I’ll be fine until he’s a little more trained.”

You’re shields will do little good, Sire! You signed your body over to him, being the only one to spill blood. Good goddess, Atemu, you’re practically his slave!”

I know that!” the Prince roared. “I told you! I didn’t have any other choice!”

What happened to at the very least asking for a mutual bond? Or doing this the other way around? Well?”

I couldn’t put a sharp edge to his skin if I tried. He was already frightened enough this morning. Seeing him cry like that... it crushed me. Not to mention his worry was correct. Strange things like that have happened before. How many Queens have suddenly gone missing from their bed at night?”

Certainly not enough to warrant putting your own life at risk! I don’t care how trustworthy he is, my Lord, he can make mistakes, and do something to you he will come to regret.”

I have more faith in Yugi than that.”

Yugi was becoming highly confused by this conversation. Atemu? His slave? His body belonged to him? How? And how in the world could he injure the one thing he cared about most? He was getting a little worried.

Not to mention you can’t even reverse this. There’s no going back.”

That’s why it was this spell that I chose.”

Sire, you know blood bonds are classified under curses. Slave owners in other countries bind slaves to them all of the time, doing goddess-knows-what sick, horrible, twisted and sadistic things to them, and the slave can’t even fight back.”

This is not Queschtal!” This Prince growled angrily. “This is Sekesha! I’ll sign the death warrant myself for those sick bastards. And Yugi is a lot brighter than you’re giving him credit for. Believe it or not, he’s still your superior. I suggest you have a little more faith in him, for your own good.”

A sick feeling sunk into the pit of his stomach. Yugi had a feeling that Atemu was doing a lot of bullying to keep everyone at the very least quiet about his decision of betrothal. First the Priestess, and now this person. Who would be next?

Oh, damn, and his break was going to be over soon...

Chapter 9

 

Down to the earth, I fell

With dripping wings, heavy things won’t fly.

And the sky might catch on fire, and burn the axis of the world

That’s why I prefer a sunny sky,

To the glittering and stinging in my eyes.

“Daemon, what’s a blood bond?”

The dragon stood back as he looked at the chair in front of him, deciding he didn’t like the placement. He pushed the wooden furniture a little to the left. “Blood bond? Oh, yes, that’s a form of blood magick. Dangerous stuff.” He stood back again, tapping a forefinger over his lips. No, he didn’t seem to like that placement either. He shoved the chair a little further back. “Blood bonds are formed when two parties spill blood from their arms, legs, or neck. Contact must be made between the two, with a certain incantation to form the bond. It’s tricky, and should never be performed by anyone other than a Master or Adept level magi.”

“Why’s that,” Yuugi asked.

The dragon decided the chair was finally positioned properly, and started moving around a second. “Because of what can go wrong. If the bond is formed incorrectly, it can go too deep. For instance, if one person get’s a cut on their hand, the other will start to bleed. If one gets sick, the other will start vomiting or sneezing. This would be fine, except for the fact that blood bonds cannot be reversed. Blood magick, for the most part, is classified under curses because of this, and for the most part has been banned in this country except by written royal permission. Any who are caught doing blood magick are severely punished, even put into exile.” He pushed the second chair around again, scowling as he couldn’t get the placement right. “Then there’s the other kind of blood bond...”

Yuugi’s heart sank. “Which is?”

“It’s a one sided bond. Sick, dangerous, and painful. In a one sided bond, the one to have spilled blood is put at the mercy of the one who hadn’t. Their body is subject to whatever the dominant member of the bond wants them to do. You see, magick flows in channels, much like a river. In a mutual blood bond, the channels of magick have been equally opened up between the two, giving equal control. But in a one sided bond, the channel of magick only flows into the one who bled, therefore opening up their body to any magick the dominant party might allow to flow down that opened channel.”

Yuugi’s knees felt weak. “What happens if, say, the dominant is unable to properly control their magick? What would happen then?”

Daemon pushed the second chair one last time to the left, finally deciding that was a good place for it. “That’s also dangerous and fool hardy. If the one who can’t control their magick experiences intense emotions, such as anger, fear, depression, or acute frustration, they could lash out with their magick and not even realize it. And since that bond has been opened, that channel is clear, the magick will take the easiest path, and all of that misplaced energy will be sent to the recessive member in the bond. If the person is angry enough, they could even cripple the one to have bled.”

Suddenly, Yuugi felt sick to his stomach. He felt like he wouldn’t be able to stand much longer. How could Atemu have not told him? How could he have so much faith in a novice? After all, he’d been burning up the practice room all morning, what could have happened if he really did lose control? “Daemon....I-I don’t feel very well.” His back hit the wall behind him hard as he sought for the ability to remain standing.

The dragon looked at him in concern. “You don’t?” His intense red eyes studied Yuugi scrupulously. “I smelled it on you when you first walked into the main hall.”

Of course, dragons would have an acute sense of smell, wouldn’t they? Surely he’d have smelled the blood that had been freshly spilt that morning. Yuugi suddenly felt hurt. Why didn’t he tell me? Why? “He was the only one to bleed this morning,” he whispered.

“He....what??” The two chairs the dragon had spent so much time placing for Yuugi to practice magick on suddenly exploded into a thousand tiny shards.

Yuugi winced.

“Sire, perhaps it is a good idea you take a rest for the remainder of the day. You’ve been working hard, and the overload of shadow powers have made you slightly dizzy. It’s normal. I suggest you head down to the kitchens and request a whole apple and some caramel dip. It will help with your energy.”

The teen nodded, pushing against the wall to stand on his own. “Perhaps you’re right.”

“And don’t forget that paring knife now, all right?”

Yuugi looked up, nodding. Yes, a paring knife should do it....

“I don’t want to see you until you’ve rested.”

“You won’t. I promise.”

xxx

Atemu opened up his bedroom door, walking in and sighing in relief. It had been, sadly, an exceedingly long day, and he was glad that it was over. He wasn’t surprised to find it dark in the bedroom. He was expecting Yuugi to be asleep by now. However, he was surprised to see a dark mass sitting up on the bed, now just a mere shadow in the moonlight slipping in from the balcony door. “Yuugi,” he asked. “I thought you’d be asleep by now.” He closed the door and proceeded over towards a dresser, taking off the gold arm cuffs on his forearms.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

He stopped short, noticing how distant his voice sounded. The gold jewelry clanked lightly as it hit the marble surface. “Why not?”

“I know.”

Chink! Rings hit the marble dresser top unceremoniously. Chink, chink! Yuugi’s voice sounded hurt. Betrayed, almost. He turned around slowly. “What do you mean?”

“Bring some light in here.”

Atemu clapped his hands, and a few candles lit up around them. “Yuugi,” he asked softly again. He didn’t get a response; just a pat on the bed motioning for him to sit. This was going far enough. He needed Yuugi to speak to him about what was wrong. He walked over to the bed, sat down, and kicked off his sandals. “Yuugi, what’s going on?”

Deep purple eyes looked up at him, the face almost cute in its anger.

Almost.

“I know about the blood bond. The curse.”

“........oh.”

Yuugi nearly snarled. “Oh? Why didn’t you tell me? Atemu, I don’t want to have that kind of a relationship! I blew up a sofa and two desks today! What would have happened had that power went to you instead?? What if my frustration from earlier caused you physical harm?”

The Prince ran a hand through the teen’s soft hair. “You didn’t. I have more faith in you, Yuugi. Your control is much greater than you realize. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry.”

Atemu was shocked when Yuugi pulled away from his touch. “I’m not a child, Atemu! There’s no reason you need to shelter me from knowledge! Pain and those who wish to do harm, yes, but not knowledge! Don’t keep me naive and in the dark, Atemu! Gods above, don’t ever think there’s a fact or idea I won’t be able to handle! I can make an informed, sound decision on my own! I would never had told you to do this to yourself!”

“Yuugi, it’s all right! I’m not worried-“

“Well I am!”

The Prince watched as his younger lover brought up his right hand, a paring knife in his grip, and sliced through his arm before he could be told otherwise.

“Yuugi!” He looked at the thick blood trickling down pale flesh. The teen hadn’t even winced.

“This isn’t my first wound, lover.” Amethyst eyes bored into his, a power he had never seen before flaring to life. “I have never talked to you before like you were royalty, or above me, nor have you treated me like the poor child I was born as. Make us equal again, Atemu, or I’ll do it for us. I know the incantation, but only the goddesses know how my limited tutelage will screw it up beyond repair.”

The key to the library. I gave that to him this morning, hadn’t I? Every fact and fantasy ever concocted in this world rests in that massive room. He found the curse all on his own...

The eyes that looked back at him reflected the red in his blood. Atemu simply nodded at him, using a hand to cover the fresh wound, and the other to hold the back of the arm. He repeated the same incantation from before, and like before Yuugi felt the foreign energy buzzing around within him.

It was different this time, however. This time it hurt. Now, it felt like small wires as thin as gossamer were pulled painfully from his very marrow, rushing in a wave of erratic energy towards the hand on his cut wrist. His body started to shake, his breath all but leaving him. The pain caused a thread of panic to rise in his throat, anxiety now starting to weave a deadly hand around his throat.

He felt his wound stretched shut and healed, and knew the spell was over. Immediately he sucked in a breath, then two, then with his next released a choked cry, falling into the Prince’s warm embrace. His body hurt, and he felt nearly as weak as the first time he’d awakened with his new wings.

“I am so sorry, darling. I didn’t want you to have to go through that....” Those lithe arms held him firmly and lovingly.

Yuugi gave a weak chuckle, his lungs now back under his control. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?”

Atemu laid him back down on the bed, still tangling his fingers into those ebony locks. “I love you,” he stated. “I...I hadn’t realized I was sheltering you like that. My first instinct is to bring you as little strife as possible. I never gave it any other thought except that I was trying to make you as happy as I could. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. I’m sorry.”

“In reality, Atemu, I have been exposed to more life than even you have. I have also learned that what you don’t know could kill you.” His head leaned into the soft touches, his consciousness slipping from him. But there was something he had to say, and something he had to get across. “And I love you, too. And we are equals, in every way?”

“In every way.”

“No more secrets, no matter how small, Atemu. T-there is nothing either of us should be hiding from the other.”

The Prince climbed into bed as well, pulling up the covers. He wrapped the teen up in a protective embrace, frowning as that slender body shivered with the chills. “No secrets, love. Forgive me.” A kiss to a pale temple. “Please forgive me.”

“Hn, silly. I....” Yuugi yawned. “I couldn’t stay angry at you.” He looked up at that handsome face filled with sorrow. “Not when you look so pathetic, at any rate.” He smiled, placing a shaky hand on the Prince’s face. His comment earned him a much needed chuckle.

Atemu pressed his lips against Yuugi’s softly, once again loving the taste. Yuugi, sadly, was too tired to respond, and his eyes were starting to droop. The smooth, warm lips against his left, allowing the Prince to whisper in his ear. “Good night, darling.”

“Darling,” Yuugi whispered, snuggling in place. “Hmm....that’s a pet name I’d have never thought to use....” His eyes closed completely. “Love you....darling....” his breathing evened out, and the Prince knew then that he was asleep. He held him even closer.

“I’ll never let you out of my life,” Atemu whispered to him quietly. “You’re more precious to me than anything. I will do everything in my power to keep harm from coming to you, and I know now that you are doing everything in your power to do likewise for me.” He kissed Yuugi’s forehead. “I don’t fear the shadows anymore. I’m no longer afraid of my own Gift, because of you....” Before he could ramble on anymore to himself, he too had fallen fast asleep.

xxx

The air around him seemed unusually warm, and there was an inexplicable softness brushing against his skin so delicate it put the fluff of clouds to shame.

Atemu opened his eyes, a yawn slipping past his lips. He noticed that both him and Yuugi were sleeping on their sides, Yuugi’s face hidden in the Prince’s chest. It seemed that, during the night, Yuugi extended one of his wings over the two of them without realizing it. It must had been there for a while, for the feathers had done an incredible job at keeping in their body heat. It was no wonder it had grown so warm.

Atemu smiled softly, pressing his hand flat on Yuugi’s back. He could certainly get used to waking up like that every morning. The skin under his callused palm was smooth and nearly as soft as the teen’s wings. He allowed his hand to glide for the moment, content as Yuugi slept away in his embrace.

Something under his hand caught his attention. There was a very thin line that seemed to trail around Yuugi’s slender back, running along the spine for a time and then zig-zagging back across it.

It was a scar. And, from the feel of it, a long, old, and very painful scar.

The Prince frowned. He knew Yuugi had been right the night before. It hadn’t been his first wound. But hearing and actually finding physical proof were too very different things.

It wasn’t right for him to have gone through such things. It wasn’t right at all. Why had Yuugi’s parent’s fled to such a world? Who were they? Where did they come from? Atemu wondered if they’d ever find all of the answers to their questions.

What was another thing too. Atemu knew that Yuugi needed him, but how was another. The Prince didn’t know if he knew how to love and protect without shelter. How else was he to protect Yuugi from harm? And he wasn’t sure how to ask without sounding contrite about the matter.

Life was all about learning, and the Prince was learning how to hold love just as his mother had taught him to do all those years ago.

He had been so confused when she told him what love really was. He remembered the time all too well.

A young boy was sitting alone in plant filled garden, the blossoms dying with the fall leaves. A chill breeze swept past, promising snow on the horizon.

He let another tear drop fall, angered at himself for his carelessness. How could he have let such a thing happen?

Sweetheart, you know crying about your problems doesn’t make them go away.”

Wet ruby eyes glanced up at the woman now standing next to him, lowering his head sadly as she sat down beside him. “I don’t get it, mama! I did my best to take care of him! I fed him everyday, and played with him, and put him away at night with lots of things to chew on and keep himself busy! Why did he have to fly away?”

The Queen brushed a rogue lock of royal purple hair dusted in silver behind an ear. “Atemu, you loved your bird just as any person loves another. I know you doted on him, and took very good care of him, but love, I want you to think about the first thing he saw when he woke up in the morning.”

He saw my room,” the young boy sobbed, hiding his head in his arms.

He saw the bars of his cage, sweetheart.”

So?”

The Queen lifted up her son’s chin, looking him in the eye. “Then you don’t quite understand love yet, me dear.”

Mama, what is love then?”

She smiled at him softly, her silver eyes glimmering. “Love is a handful of sand.”

Mama, what are you talking about?”

The woman looked at a potted plant next to the two of them, glad that it was a desert plant and drew a fist full of the pale gold dust, gently placing it in her son’s tiny palm. “Love is like a handful of sand. When you hold it gently and openly in your hand, it will always stay there. But the more you squeeze it,” here, she pressed his hand closed, allowing the sand to fall to the ground, “the more it slips past your fingers.”

Atemu understood now what she had told him. The bird he had so loved as a boy was confined in a cage, and he held on to it too tightly. It wanted to migrate like the rest of its kind with the coming winter, and at the first chance it got it flew away.

He couldn’t hold Yuugi to him too tightly, either. He couldn’t keep his new lover locked up in the safe confines of the palace walls. He would want out eventually. He would want to see what the rest of the world looked like, even though his love for Atemu remained strong and true.

He would do his best to not hold his lover back. If you love something, set if free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If not, it was never yours to begin with.

The feathers over his body ruffled a little, the muscles in the wings starting to stretch as the owner basked in a yawn. Yuugi’s eyes blinked open, and he moved his head up to stare sleepily at the Prince’s smiling face. Yuugi smiled back, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Good morning, aybu.”

The younger of the two blinked at him curiously. “Aybu?” he asked.

Partner, or companion.” He furrowed his brow. “Do you mind?”

“Oh, no, of course not!” He smiled brightly, giving Atemu a tight embrace. “Good morning, darling.” The body against his chuckled affectionately.

“Have breakfast with me?”

“I’d love to.”

The two of them sat up, relishing in a lingering good morning kiss. The Prince pulled away, brushing blonde bangs away from a flushed visage. “Love, I wanted to apologize again for what I did yesterday. I did not mean to keep you in the dark. The last thing I want to do is have you locked up and away from everything, even knowledge. Especially knowledge. I hadn’t even realized.”

Yuugi laughed softly, pulling lithe arms around his waist. “I already told you, it’s all right. I know you didn’t mean to. And really, you’re the first to have ever taken on a burden so large for my sake. Just....promise me something, Atemu.”

“Anything.”

Yuugi’s eyes got that lazy, half-lidded gaze, brushing his lips across the Prince’s lips, his cheek, and his jaw line. “Make love to me tonight,” he asked, his sound more akin to a plead.

His body motion was saying everything he needed it to. I need you so much now...

Atemu kissed him deeply, pulling Yuugi’s body flush with his own. “I’d love to,” he whispered as they broke apart. “I’d love to.”