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Ryou didn’t especially like rain, at least not being out in it. Watching it rain, snow, whatever the weather wanted to do from inside, in warm and dry conditions, would always be preferable than experiencing it first hand.

Rain had been predicted tonight, but he’d presumed it wouldn’t come until after he’d finished chatting with Asuka. Normally when it rained here at all, it wasn’t until late in the evening. This batch of rain hadn’t gotten the memo and now the two of them were both soaked to the skin.

He raised one hand in a quiet farewell as she hurried down to the women’s dorm before he turned to his own dorm, looking forward to a hot shower and hot tea.

He hadn’t gotten far before he caught a glimpse of something or someone moving in the woods near the dorm building. Ryou’s eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out who could be there. It was too tall to be his brother – not that Shou would come around here anyway – and didn’t quite fit the body type of any of the second or third years he knew.

It was a familiar shape all the same, even if he couldn’t recognize whoever it was.

He moved carefully towards them. They shouldn’t be out in this weather. He didn’t believe that rains made one sick, but that didn’t make it comfortable to be out now.

He easily ignored the fact that he’d been out in it or that they were on a tropical island where rain tended to be warm anyway.

“You should be inside,” he said as he came into speaking distance. The other either hadn’t noticed him or didn’t care, turning toward him as the Kaiser spoke.

This isn’t a student. There was some leeway in school uniforms – Manjoume was a major example – but one point that remained clear was that one’s face should be visible at all times. All of one’s face, not just the lower part that this person’s mask revealed.

It reminded him of a dragon: the Red Eyes Black Dragon in all truth, though the mask’s eyes were blue instead of red. And the stranger stared at him, eyes flicking up and down as if in search of something.

Ryou held his head up high and gave the other his very best withering glare. “Who are you and what are you doing here at Duel Academia?”

“And who are you to ask those questions?” The masked stranger asked in return, a sort of dark and enchanting purring in his voice. Ryou didn’t so much as blink.

“I am the Kaiser of Duel Academia.” He wasn’t a teacher, but he still considered it part of his duties to protect this place from any sort of intruders, be they mundane or otherwise.

This one would be otherwise, without a doubt.

“The Kaiser,” the other murmured before he tilted his head to the left a little. The movement sparked a thought in the deeper recesses of Ryou’s mind. It was a long-buried thought, connected to images that he’d not wanted to think of for over a year now.

Ignorant to whatever was going on in Ryou’s mind, the stranger spoke again. “I think I remember you.”

That got Ryou’s attention even more than the way the other moved. “We’ve never met, have we?” If they had, he couldn’t remember it very well, perhaps not at all.

The mask tugged at more of those thoughts. He’d known someone who played the Red-Eyes Black Dragon, didn’t he? Someone lively and sharp, with a laugh that echoed like a bell.


“Maybe we have. Perhaps we haven’t.” The stranger shrugged. “You wouldn’t know either way.”

His words didn’t make any sense and Ryou had never had much patience with that which didn’t make sense. He stepped closer.

“Tell me who you are.” He would take this person to Samejima and get it sorted out like that if he had to.

Another flicker of thought stirred up: the strange sight he and Asuka had seen in the skies less than ten minutes earlier. He hadn’t seen a person up there, but the rain and the clouds and the dark made it difficult to tell what it was that he’d seen at all.

The rain itself kept pouring down, plastering his hair to his skin and soaking all through his clothes. Oddly enough, it didn’t seem to do much to the masked stranger.

In fact, when Ryou took a better look, the rain somewhat appeared to bend around him. He wasn’t exactly in a zone of absolute dryness; the ground underneath him remained soaked as ground properly should be. But his coat, his pants, everything about him, absolutely dry.

That couldn’t have been more unlike Fubuki. Fubuki loved the water, loved the rain, the ocean, swimming pools, and random glasses of water. This person gave off a sense of heat and flame that Ryou didn’t like a great deal himself.

“Now why would I do that?” The stranger wanted to know, giving Ryou another look down. “At least not without you answering a question of mine.”

Ryou raised an eyebrow. “What is it you want to know?” He made no promises about answering it. He would not betray the secrets of Academia.

“I want to know if you know anything about the Seven Stars, the Mythic Demons, or the Spirit Gate Keys.”

The mask’s eyes were blue, like chips of glass, but he could briefly see behind them, and those eyes were brown, piercing and as hot as a volcano. Ryou knew he’d seen eyes like that before, but not those eyes in particular.

Fubuki’s eyes were brown, but they shone with life and good humor, guiltless and pure no matter what he’d done – which was usually whatever someone wanted to accuse him of. These eyes threatened death to whoever crossed them.

Or something worse than death.

“No.” Ryou hadn’t ever heard of any of those. Not that he would’ve mentioned them to this stranger if he had, but he could answer truthfully in this case.

The masked stranger gave him one of the most penetrating looks that Ryou had ever experienced in his life. A small smile touched onto his lips, one that sent chills all through Ryou.

“Not yet, then. I’ll have to wait.” He gave Ryou another look, one searching and intense. “I am Darkness, of the Seven Stars.”

“Who are they?” Ryou didn’t think they were a visiting class from North School or any of the other branch campuses. From the looks of this one alone, they were trouble.

Darkness’s lips thinned. Ryou did not believe it was a smile. “You’ll find out soon enough. You’re very strong, Kaiser. You’ll be one of them, I’m certain.”

Ryou seldom liked it when people kept information back from him, especially if it would put Academia at risk. He took a firm step toward Darkness.

“What are you talking about?”

Darkness waved one hand. Ryou tried to move again, but none of his body wanted to react. He strained harder, but no matter how much effort he put into it, nothing at all happened. Darkness chuckled.

“I should be going. You and I will meet at another time. You might even be the one I duel.” Darkness’s smile was a thin thing that held no humor in it, only a painful hint of thoughts best left unknown. “One of them, anyway.”

He considered for a moment, head tilted in thought, before he reached out to set one finger on Ryou’s forehead. “But there’s no need to spread stories about me.”

Ryou tried to move back, but whatever bonds kept him in place didn’t let loose. A dark flash unlike anything he’d ever encountered swept over him and he found himself on his way to the Obelisk dorm, soaked as if he’d been standing in the rain for a quarter of an hour instead of sensibly heading inside.

He didn’t look back. Why would he? There wasn’t anything – or anyone – there to look at, and he wanted to get clean and dry and get that cup of tea he’d been thinking about.

Darkness remained in the shadows until Kaiser stepped into the building. He’d hoped that he could have settled the first match for the ownership of the Spirit Gate Keys quickly. Fighting against Kaiser would be interesting, when the time came.

In the deepest, darkest depths of his mind, where another soul slept in peace, that soul shifted a tiny bit, a soft murmur of an unheard question and the flicker of Kaiser’s face stirring into him.

Darkness sent Tenjoin Fubuki back to sleep. He wasn’t needed now. He wouldn’t ever be needed again.

But he himself did need to rest for a brief time, and the part of him that was Fubuki forever led his steps to the old abandoned dorm. He’d be back later, when it was time.

And he would face the Kaiser in battle, sooner or later.


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