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Mutou Manami was seven when her father vanished. Her father had dropped her off at school- something he did everyday since she started kindergarten. She could still remember him hugging her tightly before the school gates and whispering "I love you, Mana-chan" into her ears.

He failed to turn up again at the end of the school day. An hour after that, her mother had to cancel her dance class to pick her up after the teachers called. Neither did he come home later that night, or the next day, or any other day over the next eight years of Mana's life. The police turned up nothing but cold leads; driving Uncle Kaiba mad with their "incompetency." Private detectives hired at home (by Uncle Kaiba) and abroad (by Uncle Jounouchi) didn't fare any better.

Mutou Yugi, the former Duel King, had vanished without a trace. Until her fifteenth birthday...

Mana found the package deposited on their doorstep when she returned from school. It was simply addressed to the Kame Game Shop. Though Mana and her mother continued to live above it, the shop itself had been closed for the last eight years without her father.

Her mother, who was home early to prepare for Mana's birthday party, regarded the package with more suspicion than most people would at a box with no return address.

"Aren't you going to open it?" Mana found it hard to contain her excitement. "It's probably Uncle Jounouchi trying to surprise me or something! He promised me something good since he can't make it this year."

As her mother pulled out a box cutter, the doorbell rang. "Just go get the door, Mana-chan."

Mana rolled her eyes at her mother's suspicion, but did as she was told. She smoothed out her hair before answering the door. "Good afternoon, Bakura-san, Malik-san. Please come in." Her attention quickly focused in on the shopping bags Malik was carrying.

"Don't stare at them too hard, they might burst into flames," the Egyptian teased.

"How's school?" Bakura asked as they began climbing the stairs.

"You asked me that when you saw me last week," Mana pouted. "Okaa-san, Bakura-san and Malik-san are here!"

Her mother didn't answer her, or immediately call out greetings to her friends like she usually did. She was sitting at the dining table and staring silently at the opened box in front of her.

"Oh, what is it?" Mana bounced forward and peering into the open package.

The only content was a golden talisman laid in a bed of packing peanuts. It was a pyramid with some type of eye motif. As soon as she looked at the eye, her thoughts became fuzzy and uneasy- leaving a sick feeling in her stomach. There was nothing else in the box; no card or letter.

Her mother blinked furiously before speaking, "Bakura-kun, Malik, it's...it's..."

Mana suddenly realized her mother was on the verge of tears. "Okaa-san, what's wrong?"

Both of the men stepped forward to look into the box before paling simultaneously.

"Oh my god," Malik mumbled.

Mana kept looking between all the adults in the room. Something about the atmosphere had changed, but she wasn't sure what. "Someone please tell me what's going on?"

No one would answer her question. They only stared at the pyramid in the box, but no one would touch it. A few minutes later, Auntie Shizuka and Honda-san arrived. Her mother snapped out of it and quickly ordering the children downstairs to look through the game shop's leftover inventory. Mana protested. Hoshi, who had always been the more perceptive one, simply grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the room.

-x-x-x-


Her birthday party did eventually take place later that night, but there was a noticeable tension the entire time. The box and its content were also nowhere in sight when she and Hoshi were called back upstairs. The adults gave Mana her presents with smiles, but they seemed forced. Their minds seemed elsewhere.

It wasn't until everyone else left that her mother sat her down on the couch for a talk. Mana watched as her mother caress the golden pyramid, but made sure to avoid looking directly at the eye. It made her feel sick for some reason. Her mother held the pyramid up by the chain attached to it.

"It's upside down." Mana muttered.

"It belongs to your father." Mutou Anzu said, and the pain was clear in her voice.

For an instance, Mana was seven again. Her father had just pulled away from their hug and the large eye on his golden pendant winked in the morning sun. The feeling of her father's love came rushing back, filling her body with its warmth and gentleness. Her body ached for it, just as she knew her mother ached for it.

-x-x-x-


The arrival of the Millennium Puzzle (she had to eavesdrop to even learn its name) seemed to invoke more worry than hope in her mother, aunties, and uncles. Everyone treated it like a sacred relic or a harbinger of doom. She just didn't know how serious it was until Uncle Jounouchi showed up two days later after walking out on his movie shoot in London. Her mother's behavior were particularly worrying. Whenever Anzu thought Mana wasn't around, she would talk at the Puzzle as if it would answer her back eventually. While peeking in on her mother one night, Mana had even saw her sleep with the Puzzle resting on her pillow.

Mana began wondering if all the adults in her life were going insane.

While her mother was busy with an emergency at the dance school, Mana took the opportunity to study the Puzzle closer. She pulled it out of the top drawer of her mother's nightstand. She glanced at the family photo on top of her mother's nightstand. Her father was wearing the Millennium Puzzle around his neck. After a few more seconds of consideration, Mana pulled the chain over her head and settled the large pyramid pendant on her chest. It was of significant heft, but not overly heavy. She walked over to the full-length mirror on the other side of the room and studied her reflection.

"Okaa-san always did say I took after Otou-san in terms of looks," she said to herself.

Mana couldn't help but smile after she puffed up her long strands of magenta and black hair. She could pass for a dead-ringer of her father in his high school years if she tried.

"I wonder if Okaa-san will let me keep it. It's not like it's going to just tell us where Otou-san is."

She turned the side of the pyramid up and looked down at the eye. It no longer made her feel sick, but she could feel something else happening in the back of her mind. She shook her head to try and shake off the feeling that something was riffling through her thoughts. When she looked back up in the mirror, she screamed. Behind her, a ghost with her father's hair and eyes glared at her.

It floated closer and growled, "Who are you?"




Now I can go back to trying to work on the epilogue and the first story in 5200 Miles To Go.
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Alecto Perdita

June 2015

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