DISCLAIMER: If Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters belonged to me, Anzu would have a canon incarnation romantically linked to Atem in the past (and by that, I don't mean Teana). But isn't that what fanfics are for? =)
This was originally meant as a companion fic to an upcoming one-shot, Defeated. However, unifying their concepts into a cohesive theme didn't work out well. So I decided to develop the companion fic in a different direction instead, hence, this outcome.
By the way, Anzu's imagination sequence is a glimpse of a years-old vanishshipping fic I've planned before. I've always wanted to write it. But because I'm bad at frequently updating multichapter fics (if my Bakuten Shoot! Beyblade fics are any indication), by the time I get to the middle of the story, I'm afraid Yu-Gi-Oh! in its entirety would have been phased out.
And as a little trivia: Some of my Mou hitori no Yuugi/Atem–centric works are king-related, while most of my fics focusing on Anzu have something to do with dancing. Here in this fic, both concepts are merged for the first time.
The purely imaginative events are italicized, while I left all text showing the transition from reality to Anzu's fantasy as is.
By the way, this is a post-Battle City arc, pre-DOMA arc one-shot.
Well then, hope you'll enjoy! =)
IN THE PRESENCE OF THE KING
The waves rolled smoothly on the shore, then retreated and returned. Not a puff of white could be seen against the endless azure above the water, and the heat of the midafternoon sun manifested itself.
The heat didn't stop Anzu from strolling along the hot shore, though, a lavender beach scarf carried over her bare shoulder. She knew she should be with her friends now. This was, after all, the time to celebrate Yuugi's victory as the emerging victor of the Battle City Tournament. But she just couldn't bring herself to be in the mood for enjoying this outing.
As the breeze played with the tatter of her thin denim shorts and the strings of her wide black bandeau top tied around her neck, she looked once more around her. No one was following her.
Hopefully, the tracks her sandals had left on the pale brown sand wouldn't be identified as hers. After all, even though she had reached an isolated section of the beach, she and her companions weren't the only ones present in the beach itself. She would have walked on the shoreline so that the waves would completely erased her trail, but she wouldn't dare to risk losing her way back—and worrying Yuugi and the others sick.
Already it wasn't being fair to her group how distracted she'd been even before arriving at the beach, how the sand kept shifting to a deeper shade of brown, how she kept seeing only great pyramids from afar. And the heat…
Spoiling the celebratory mood was one of the last things she wanted to do. But she couldn't keep up with laughing along jokes and other means of pretense anymore. So while everyone else were too busy enjoying themselves to care, she'd excused herself to separate from them. There was no way she could explain to them her need to be alone—not when the overwhelming feeling inside her was too personal.
A few weeks ago, while on duty as a part-time waitress, Anzu had received a ticket to a musical from one of her regular customers, an intrigued woman who had been moved by her story about her part-time work and her dream to go to New York. The ticket was an extra one, supposedly for the woman's friend who unfortunately wouldn't be able to watch; rather than letting it go to waste, she'd given it to Anzu instead. The musical, performed only every five years, recounted the romance between a Pharaoh and a palace dancer. The story revealed that it took a long time before the Pharaoh reciprocated her feelings; but after that, he died in a battle to protect Egypt, and she was left alone.
Later, Anzu had a brief dream in which she was the dancer and Mou hitori no Yuugi was the Pharaoh. It was only after she woke up that the full weight of the present reality had sunk in: the young man she looked up to was a king. And not just any king: a Pharaoh, the ruler of one of the greatest and most advanced civilizations known in history. The strength of Egypt, the power who commanded armies. Might and greatness incarnate who determined who gets to live or die.
She should have known or at least suspected from that magazine photo she'd shown him during their "date," even from the image of the Millennium Puzzle alone, that he had his origins from an ancient kingdom. Anzu knew this reality should not have any bearing on their friendship. But how could she still see him as just the regular Mou hitori no Yuugi? No wonder he always stood dignified, fearless no matter the danger. His utmost confidence that she now understood awed her even more. It had always run in his royal blood, or should she say, burned in his royal spirit.
Along with awe emerged a sense of being honored. Mou hitori no Yuugi was a commanding presence to everyone, one who couldn't let the unjust go undealt with. Yet to the people close to him, he was a passionate champion, a fierce protector, a loyal friend. And the privilege of him, a ruler, being all these to Anzu was hers.
But at the same time, the overwhelming truth, enhanced by her recent dream, had humbled her. She had fallen in love with a king. He had risked a lot of himself and his power to protect and save his friends, especially her, but what could she really offer him of that same magnitude? What were her dreams of going to America next to his visions of prospering and guarding his nation? And here she had thought she was already working hard, what with juggling school with part-time jobs, while he at her age already bore on his young shoulders the burden of responsibility of leading his people.
As for being worthy of his affection… Anzu didn't expect guys like Jounouchi and Honda, or even Yuugi—any guy, in general—to understand her feelings, especially those realized in dreams. Just when she had thought Mou hitori no Yuugi couldn't be any higher…
It's weird how rather easily I accepted it the first time I learned about it. But now… Mou hitori no Yuugi was still here, but somehow, he was unreachable anymore. And she wasn't completely sure if the revelation of the stone tablets had affected his view of his surroundings, of the people around him.
When the dancer was mourning for the dead monarch, Anzu had felt her heart was about to break. The heavy air around the actress had echoed Anzu's nightmare in which, in a setting akin to ancient Egypt, Mou hitori no Yuugi ignored her pleas for him to not go while he ascended a long flight of stairs leading to a door that eventually separated them. The feeling of being left behind, of being alone…
But back then, Anzu hadn't known what was to come regarding the Nameless Pharaoh. This time, unfortunately, she knew exactly where he was supposed to go. If she could, she'd stay by his side for the rest of her life. But as Anzu continued to watch the heart-wrenching scene of the play, for a few seconds she saw herself on stage, in the exact state as the palace maiden. As hard as it was to take, it was a glimpse of what might happen between her and Mou hitori no Yuugi.
She magnified the burden inside me that I never thought existed. It's unbearable, so unbearable… This loneliness… She hugged herself, eyes half-lidded, lost.
What she had initially thought was just a coincidence turned out to be a revelation of something much more, and to deny it was pointless. That's right. I saw myself wholly in her. All the things she bottled inside, dancing with so much passion, with so much longing, with so much love.
Dancing for a king…
Her hands tightening their hold on her arms, she stopped walking.
I've been a tomboy all these years. Being tough, independent, and no-nonsense… but deep down, I know I can't be like this forever. I wish to drop it for a while and let the other side of me be. These things inside me just want to let go and dance for him. I would like to dance for him. I would like to dance solely for him, with so much loyalty, so much passion… Nothing else would bring her so much joy.
She had to face reality, though: Dancing for Mou hitori no Yuugi was something she would never be able to do, what with the timing of the situation regarding their search for his missing memories.
But what if, even in a mere fantasy, she were alive during his time?
She would have been a dancer, that was for sure.
But to dance before him in his court…
What would have happened? How would it have felt?
Driven by this notion, Anzu had researched ancient Egyptian dancers, dances, and music, and they had filled her for days. Even the museum hadn't been spared by her, but every excavated item had been about the rulers only. She'd resorted to libraries and the Internet, but without the information of the exact time the Nameless Pharaoh had lived, she hadn't been sure which information on the dancers she should follow. The brunette had attempted to master the closest reconstructions of the ancient dance, but somehow, they hadn't seemed to match the photos of the wall art she'd researched.
That left her with only one option: She was free to imagine the moves in any way she liked or deemed best.
It was indeed the best option, as her own craft was her only medium, just exactly how it was for the dancer who could only express her true feelings for the Pharaoh through her art.
Revealing my inner self to him through words might just hinder him. And expecting him to respond with the same feelings would be too much. But just the same, whether or not he's here, in whatever era, I can't contain it anymore. No, before he leaves, I must show it to him. I want to dance in front of him, and in his presence, he would see my worth in his life.
Would see only me.
Unconsciously, she took a slow step forward, and then another. Before she knew it, her right arm raised itself and made a sweeping motion in the air, the beach scarf in her hold following suit. A faint note of harp resounded somewhere… Then the soothing sounds of a lute…
And the next thing she knew, a rhythm of drums, hardly imperceptible at first, grew more and more audible until the crashing of the sea waves was no longer heard. Her heart beating the rhythm of the percussion, her blue eyes lost focus as she lost herself to the sand that belonged to another place, the music to another time. The sun was not as forgiving as it was a while ago, but she welcomed the heat stroking her exposed skin.
She had been orphaned at a young age when she was discovered by the lady in charge of the palace dancers, who also had been the prince's nurse, because of her talent. So she was raised near the palace to be among the would-be dancers to entertain the Pharaoh. But despite this purpose, she wasn't allowed to see the Pharaoh or his family until the time was right.
Through the stories of the lady, though, she learned about how both the Pharaoh and his son were good, kind, and righteous people. The Prince was about her age, and each day, she wondered about him and what would happen when she finally danced before him in time.
But along her wonder, her excitement grew. And she looked forward to her chance.
Anzu's eyes closed this time. She could taste the salt of her own sweat trickling from her temple, but it was as though the sensation belonged to an outside world. The tambourines, flutes, and hand clapping that she was hearing were dictating the tempo of her body.
No longer did she feel her bandeau top covering her chest but cool, white linen, the smooth fabric beneath her bare waist brushing lightly and freely against her tan legs. Overlaying the white was sheer azure linen that hugged her hips, accentuated by the fringes of the ornamental golden strap around it. A wide round patterned collar concealed the area below her neck.
Gold earrings hung at her ears; aurum bracelets and armbands adorned her arms. The tinkling of the shells of the anklet Shizuka had made for her earlier was no more as gold bands clung to her legs. Her beach scarf draped loosely on her arms now lengthened, lighter than before as it transformed into linen sash that emphasized her elegant movements. Long locks of chocolate hair sailed along every move as her feet, no longer sandaled, lightly touched the cold floor every now and then.
Artistically painted walls surrounded her. So did mud brick walls enclosing vast space, where she was among a group of dancers before the new Pharaoh, the person she'd been waiting for in years, on his day of coronation.
He noticed her, perhaps because she stood out as her lithe frame embodied the festive atmosphere of the occasion with her sprightly moves. Or maybe it was not her acrobatic motions that had caught his attention. Perhaps the bands in her hair weren't as tight as she had intended, because as he watched, her locks were slipping from their confinement. She wasn't aware of how fascinated he was with her that he singled her out and dismissed the rest of the troupe.
Kneeling in pure alarm, she bowed her disheveled head. "Have mercy on your unbecoming servant, Almighty Pharaoh, for displeasing you!"
"Displeasing?" He strode toward her. "How could such an offense be possibly done by a performer who is highly skilled…" With one smooth motion, his hand pulled away the remaining band holding her hair, to her shock, and her long hair cascaded around her. "…and very fetching?"
To receive such a compliment in place of punishment from the king honored her.
He left her band beside her, then assumed his throne again. "What is your name?"
She humbly bowed her head once more, keeping her smile of elation under control. "Anzu, at your service."
Still under her own trance, Anzu, with half-lidded eyes, bent down as she crossed her arms in front of her head. Straightening herself upright, she arched backward for a while as she swayed her arms and then clapped once before raising and lowering her leg twice. Suddenly, she threw the scarf away. The sheer fabric sailed to the ground far from her perimeter, but she was too immersed to care.
In her twirling, she was crossing her way to the shoreline until the weak waves reached her ankles. She continued to dance, this time in fluid motions, until the coolness submerged her to her hip. The blue waves splashed all around and on her, the water quenching her body thirsting for relief.
Bluish lotus flowers floated near the bank along the Nile, the water reaching her hip. She was among the reeds, playing with the water that somehow ended in dancing—she just couldn't help it—when the Pharaoh happened to be passing by from the other side. Riding on his royal boat, he had it suspended, his eyes fixed on her.
Her arms swayed in the air in smooth waves as she enjoyed herself with closed eyes, unaware of his presence. Her body whirling continuously, her hands scooped cool water along the way before holding it up high as though an offering to the sky, the water glistening in her hands before trickling down her arms. Then, she released it into the air, the drops gently showering her. Her body stretched and whirled again as she picked up a lotus flower floating nearby to bring it to her face. Tilting her head, she inhaled deeply, drowning herself in its sweet fragrance. As she resumed her dance, her movements were graceful, despite the resistance of the water. A few times she made imperceptible mistakes, but a mistake was still a mistake.
Yet he remained interested.
There would be times where she would practice alone outside at the courtyard, determined and dedicated to perfect her craft. And he would be secretly watching her from the nearest balcony whenever he couldn't sleep. One night, he went down from his royal chambers and asked her why she was practicing in the middle of the night when she should be resting.
"I want every step, every execution to be flawless for you, Noble Pharaoh, because you deserve nothing but perfection."
He was impressed by her dedication to him, and that effect she had on him grew with each night he watched her practice.
And so, all the dances presented before him were performed by Anzu with a troupe or in solo. Whenever he had time, he talked with her, usually after the performance. The more he knew her, the more delighted he became in watching her in her craft, always experiencing its burning passion and strength, regardless of its form. Fiery at times, soft and gentle on other occasions, exhilarating, wistful, beckoning—they were all her. Watching her dance always fulfilled him, and she would be rewarded by a deep sense of fulfillment each time she saw that her executions pleased him. Yet he who had the power to make anyone do his bidding would not touch her, not even in thought. A dancer's performance could only be enjoyed for as long as she remained pure.
One quiet night, under the full moon, he was so moved by her brilliant performance that, when he chanced upon her alone, he finally admitted to her the connection she could always make with him through her soul within bringing life to her dance. And this time, in the pinnacle and delicacy of the moment, she knelt down before him with an oath of dedication:
"I will dance before no one but you, my Pharaoh. May the day this oath is broken be the day my life would end as well."
But then came a day where after each performance, she would bow down to him politely but then quickly exit the throne room without meeting his face. And on the same night, she stopped practicing in the courtyard. And then the next night, and the night after that. She knew that the Pharaoh would be waiting, but she was half-expecting that he would give up after a few times so she could escape this guilt weighing her down. It was, after all, for the best of everyone, even for her own good.
But one starry night, Anzu couldn't take it any longer. She couldn't keep herself from the courtyard anymore. She had to be there, no matter what might happen to her. And so she headed over to her usual spot. But she wasn't counting on one thing.
The Pharaoh was already there.
"You finally came."
"I've been waiting for you. Not just tonight but for many."
It horrified her that she'd made her very highest authority do something so needless on her account. "Great Pharaoh, I deeply apologize for—!"
He stopped her from apologizing any further and kneeling down.
She bowed her head. "With all due respect, Mighty One, you should not have waited for me. I am not worth wasting your precious time."
"Your continual absences have left me restless. If you had not come this night, I would have summoned you to appear before me." He paused. "I just have to see your face again."
"As you wish." Yet she couldn't meet his eyes.
"You've been avoiding me."
She couldn't deny it, but she couldn't bring herself to admit it either. "Please do not take this the wrong way…"
"That oath you swore to me." His tone hardened, something he had never used on her before. "Was it then a mere statement of your own profession as a dancer?"
She looked up in panic at the doubt and misunderstanding. "No! I meant it with all my heart and soul!"
"Then why are you keeping your distance from me? I have treated you so well, have I not?"
She looked away. "If you may, please do not any longer treat me so."
His tight expression vanishing, he appeared bothered by her unexpected words. "What is making you say this to me?"
She couldn't look at him. Couldn't do anything and risk making everything seem like it was his fault. Or that she was blaming him.
"Look me in the eye and tell me the truth."
Against her will, disobedience. He could easily have her executed on the spot just for that.
But he didn't. Instead, he started reaching his hand to her shoulder but then pulled back. "Anzu."
The hint of frustration in the way he uttered her name was so hard to bear that finally she turned her head on him. "I do not deserve such high attention from you."
His eyes suddenly shifted expression. But just as quickly, the pharaonic mask was back in place again. "I give my favor to whoever deserves it. Again, tell me: Why are you avoiding me? I command you."
She was cornered. There was no other way but to do it. "Please forgive your servant, Pharaoh, for burdening you in my absence." Bowing her head, she continued, "Oh Great Pharaoh, I know I am not worthy to make such a request, but please…" Her bangs hooded over her eyes. "Let me… Let me…"
His forehead creased slightly.
Then she suddenly knelt down with her head touching the ground, shutting her eyes tight.
"Let me be under your protection."
He seemed disturbed by this. "Why? Who is he who is troubling you?"
"I cannot give names, Oh Pharaoh. I could only suspect. I'm deeply privileged with your unmerited favor on me… But I fear for myself that others do not agree with your ways."
"There is really nothing about me to be envious of. All I ever did was perform my duty. Secret sabotages, tactics to bring me fear—I tried to hold my ground against these. I have no right to question your authority, Pharaoh, to bestow your favor. But for it to cost my safety, my life…"
Emerging from the water, Anzu continued dancing, a clap of her hands for each interval maintaining her rhythm. On the shore, she laid down on her back and arched herself. Then, she stood on her feet, and her hands reached down to her ankles before reaching over her head. Upon stepping forward, her right foot raised itself to head level and then lowered, and then she turned around.
In her dedication, she suffered injuries. The king's day of birth came, marked by endless food and wine, livened by drums, the music of flutes and harps adding to the merrymaking. Yet she danced for him anyway. Ignoring her aching joints and the swelling of her ankle, she remained agile as she leapt and her body moved in elaborated styles. Her best was the only gift she could bring to the Pharaoh; anything less than that was unacceptable for her.
In her intense concentration, she didn't notice the goblet of wine in his hand forgotten, him watching her. Or that he already noticed her well-hidden pain yet despite saying nothing in front of his other subordinates, it concerned him. Once she finished, he summoned her to come to him.
She obeyed with her head bowed and knelt on one knee. "May you live forever, Oh Excellent One!"
He then took her chin with his fingers and lifted it to meet his face. Amethyst eyes held her gaze of wonder with intense seriousness she couldn't understand.
But then, much to her shock, he adorned her head with a beautifully crafted gold ornament with a precious stone visible on her forehead. A symbol of his favor. Then, he stood up and, before all his subjects in the palace, declared that he favored her as his personal dancer starting now. She would not be touched by anyone; any offense done against her would be as though done against the Pharaoh himself, punishable by death.
His announcement left her so stunned that she couldn't move at first. She knew why he had proclaimed such a thing, and she threw herself at his feet. "I am forever in your debt, my Pharaoh!"
But then he placed his hand on her shoulder, and she looked up.
"You are in debt to no one. This is what I want for you."
No one will lay a hand on you or harm you, Anzu. I give you my word. She could still recall his promise that fateful night. And she had believed that he would carry it out. "But as your personal dancer…?" she breathed in awe and disbelief. "Such an overwhelming way to grant my request…"
"This is more than just about that night. Anzu, no one else is more worthy to dance for me than you."
"You think too highly of me—"
"And you think too modestly of yourself when in front of me. Tell me, Anzu. Do you intend to lie to the face of Pharaoh again?"
L-Lie? She was taken aback. "I could never do such a horrible deed to you, Great Pharaoh!"
"You already did, though it seems you are not aware of it until now. You told me that very same night, there is nothing about you to be envious of for all you ever did was perform your job."
She did say that.
"But the truth is, you take pride in your skills yet you extend yourself beyond what is required of you. You push yourself so hard beyond your limit, not as a dancer but as you."
His words struck her to the core.
"And not with yourself in mind but someone else, someone who seems more valuable to you than your own self."
She opened her mouth to protest but then fell silent.
"So I was right. So then, Anzu, however you made that oath, I mean my own declaration in the same way."
Her eyes widened at first. But then, her shock melted into euphoria as she bowed her head once more. "You are kind to me, my Pharaoh. The great honor is mine."
Then he ordered his servants to tend to her injuries. As his first command for her, he told her to come back afterwards as she was relieved of her duties for tonight and was entitled to enjoy the feast with him.
Whenever Anzu performed, she would wear the headpiece. She would dance for him whenever he ordered her to. She would dance for him even if she didn't need to. She would dance for him to entertain him whenever he was bored, to lull him whenever he couldn't sleep. To raise his spirits whenever he was down, to relax him whenever he was weary, to calm him down whenever he was agitated or angered and nothing could appease him.
And when she was not performing for him, he would share his secrets and burdens with her while she listened very intently, wishing she could remove from his shoulders even just half of his heavy load.
On his part, it always pleased him to reward her so endlessly with his luxury, allowing her to bathe each day in an enormous clear pool of scented water just for her, to bask herself in perfume beyond being anointed and smoothened with sweet oils at her pleasure. Her bedroom would always be suffused with the rich fragrance of perfume of lotus blossoms that lulled her to a peaceful slumber each night; unknown to her, he did remember her delight with the flower in the Nile before. The best linen in all colors and their shades would be brought to her bed for her comfort in dancing, though she kept insisting that her usual clothes would be just fine.
"With all due respect, Anzu, I believe you should accept these," the handmaiden assigned to Anzu's needs said one morning, after Anzu had turned down again the latest brought fabrics.
"I appreciate Pharaoh's gifts, but all these linen…" She frowned. "It's too much for me, especially since I still have ones that I could still use. I do not want to get used to all the finery; it might just spoil me."
"I understand. But remember, you are no longer dancing before Pharaoh with a general audience. Just your superb skills are not enough, nor are your now soft look and sweet scent. Whenever you personally face Pharaoh, you must be pleasing to all his senses."
At those words, Anzu's heart sank a bit. "I see. So it is just all about meeting his standards then, after all." She looked down at the floor. "For a while, I thought…"
"…Nothing." Resignedly, she picked up a linen sheet of a rosy shade. "Well, if I wearing this is what Pharaoh desires…"
"It seems you have misunderstood my words, Anzu. Indeed, you have to be fit for the king. However, it seems that Pharaoh is not concerned about that or just content to see to your comfort. Rather, he seems to care about your own welfare. Looking out for you, you might say."
Those words were enough for her to wholeheartedly accept anything the king would bestow her from that point on.
Whenever he summoned her at his throne room, he would order everyone to leave so that he could fully enjoy the dance. She would not stop dancing until he told her to. And whenever he noticed her getting worn out, he would extend his hand and say, "Anzu, you seem tired. Rest here, beside me."
A king who would take care of me… A king who perhaps would dance with me, instead of just watching me…
"My Pharaoh, something seems to be troubling your mind," she said one afternoon as she was resting by his side. The throne room had been vacated for the Pharaoh's personal entertainment, as usual.
He said nothing, gazing ahead of him seriously.
She frowned at this. "If there is anything I can do that could be of help to you, anything I can do to alleviate you—"
She stopped. "My Pharaoh?"
"Stay close to me."
Her head bowed. "I am under your command, most willing to do anything you wish."
"This is not a command. However, from this day forth, you are no longer my personal dancer. Nor will you dance in my palace anymore."
His unexpected words threw her into great confusion and panic so much that it didn't even sink in to her how his words contradicted each other. Had she done something wrong without knowing it that he would cut off her lifeblood so suddenly?
Quickly, she threw herself at his sandaled feet, tears threatening her eyes. "Please do not let me be away from your presence," she begged. "I will not be able to handle it. I belong nowhere but in your service, Pharaoh."
"No, Anzu. Here is where you belong."
She lifted her head, expecting him to refer to the immense space before the throne. But instead, she saw him gesturing to the low seat beside him that she had occupied. Then had nothing really changed after all? She didn't completely understand, but as long as she would not remain away from her king… "I am at your disposal. Everything that I am, everything that I have—it belongs to you." She lowered her eyes. "I belong to you."
"No, you do not."
It crushed her to hear him deny her like that for whatever reason. But he was Pharaoh, and her earlier words bound her to accept his words as absolute truth.
But she wasn't expecting him to lay his royal hands on her bare arms to raise her and seat her back to the chair beside his throne. Nor that he would lock her eyes with such an intense intent gaze as he bent to her level.
"No, you do not belong to me," he uttered. "You belong with me."
She would have melted like heated wax if it weren't for him holding her steadily.
At that moment, she was completely at his mercy. In his power, he could have taken advantage of her complete submission to him. Could have seized her, weakened her. Could have done anything he desired to do with her for as long as he pleased, regardless of her feelings.
But he didn't.
Instead, without warning, he pulled her close to his chest, in his embrace. In his warmth.
"As I have said, this is not a command," he murmured. "You are no longer my dancer… and I am no longer your Pharaoh."
Her eyes widened. "Ph-Pharaoh…"
He pulled away to search her face.
Then Anzu felt his strong left arm carefully wrap around her open waist. Inclining his head to where her bare neck and shoulder met, he closed his eyes. Slowly, as though savoring, he inhaled her, as deeply as she had with the lotus flower before, filling all his senses with her rich, sweet, calming scent of the Nile blossom. He exhaled as a murmur of contentment, his warm breath tingling Anzu's skin.
Then as he opened his eyes and raised his head, the fingers of his free hand lift her chin to raise it to his serious gaze. Oxygen nearly deserted Anzu's lungs, and her eyes grew half-lidded as he leaned closer to her face. To her mouth.
"Be with me…," he breathed into her, "…Anzu…" He closed his eyes once more, and so softly, sweetly, gently enough to relax her in his hold, he enriched her with his—
The last thought had gone too far that it jogged the momentum of the almost real scene, and Anzu's movements began slowing down. Her cheeks flushed―whether from the heat of the sun or from her own thoughts or both, she wasn't sure.
Made me rich in his… Her fingers delicately touched her lips, which she could feel throbbing from the phantom pressure of his. The warm shade tinged her cheeks even more, but the color gradually disappeared. Finally, her movements fully ceased.
Who was she kidding?
The vast throne room began to fade away.
What kind of foolish fantasy was she holding on to?
In reality, a dancer is off limits to the king, isn't she? She'll never know him inside unless he grants her permission. But what king would want to show his vulnerability instead of his power? He had displayed a glimpse of that vulnerability before learning of his forgotten heritage, but would he continue to do it now?
I don't even know his name.
The ancient background fully vanished until all she could see was the boundless shoreline, until all she could hear was the splashing of water at her far side.
But a dancer could only dream, even when she performed. Even if it's impossible, I want to know everything about the king without his crown, even if he stumbles or grieves. And even so, I would be his most loyal servant… for he has already begun reigning over me. Her hand clutched the left side of her chest.
The king will never know this, I'm very sure. He has other things in his mind, and I'm not one of them. I've always come before his throne, but he never appears in front of me when I'm alone. Someone who seems to be him always takes his place in his chair, but I see the king only whenever I've left the court, my life already in someone else's dangerous hands. Right now, he's out, battling, seeking out pieces of hidden knowledge among personal labyrinths and stone tablets. But maybe, if I just stay here by the foot of his throne, if I just await him…
"Why did you stop?"
The sudden voice slammed her senses back to reality, and Anzu turned around in shock and then alarm. "Y-Yuugi!" Indeed, Mou hitori no Yuugi, donned in an open sleeveless hoodie and dark boardshorts, was standing several feet away from her, her abandoned scarf in his hand. How long had he been standing there? She had been completely sure she hadn't been followed by anyone.
"You haven't come back for a long time. Aibou was worried about you."
Anzu's brows knitted. "Then how come you're the one…"
He was silent for a while. "You might not understand, but…"
"Seeing you perform… something stirred in me. I…"
She held her breath.
"Nothing." He studied her. "What made you halt?"
"It's… I…" His question was supposed to come off as simple. But at that moment, it speared right through her chest, his gaze penetrating past her moist skin straight to her soul in probe of the answer. Suddenly, her hands flew to her arms to cover herself, she feeling vulnerable. Vulnerable at that she wasn't prepared enough to unveil herself before him, that he might not be prepared to watch it. That he might not understand what he would see or, worse, not like it at all.
The power of their exchange in his hands, her earlier persona remained fresh and alive, and she fell to her knees. Her hands landing on the sand before her, she bowed her head to refuse meeting his eyes, knowing that she had been caught in her exotic trance and off guard by his query.
But he seemed to mistake her action for he approached her and reached out her scarf to her. "Anzu, you seem tired."
Anzu's eyes widened before looking up. Her gaze followed the trail of his hand through his lean arm and finally to his concerned face. He stood tall as he looked down at her, the now late afternoon sun making his face seem majestic with its soft light.
He knelt down to her level to behold her face, then glanced at the set of rocks beside them. "Rest here. Beside me."
Her mind whirled. This had nothing to do with her present character anymore. Those words were real. But why would he say such right now? And he was just returning her scarf. But somehow, she sensed that it wasn't just the only thing he was extending to her. She couldn't help but wonder if all these had something to do with his earlier reaction to her performance. He couldn't have sensed her story…
Nonetheless, she accepted his hand with her own, and he in turn led her to the nearest smooth rock. Yet even as she sat down, he remained on his feet beside her. His actions didn't seem to have changed, but now they seemed regal in her eyes.
"What you just did…," he suddenly said. "It seemed different from what you usually do."
Anzu immediately turned to him. "You noticed?" All the times she had believed it was only Yuugi watching her in practices or accompanying her to auditions…
He stared ahead of him instead, his gaze growing distant. "My soul felt something there, felt restless. Passion. A pull that nearly, if not exactly, resembles what I felt when I saw the stone tablets at the museum. A connection. Like… something I haven't felt in a very long time, even though I have no recollection of it." He turned to her. "Anzu, I felt you."
Her eyes widened. His descriptions were disjointed. And yet somehow, he had been able to connect them all deeply to each other in such a brief time. Had she revealed too much? "Ph-Pharaoh…"
His eyes widened slightly.
And she was mortified at her mistake. How could she have said that? And audibly, no less?
So before he could interrogate her about her unusual way of calling him, she got up from her rock and walked a few steps ahead but could feel him watch her.
"Anzu, I felt you."
Those words refused to leave her mind. Her back on Mou hitori no Yuugi, her fingers ran delicately across her lips again. "How much did you…"
"I didn't see everything."
She fell silent.
"But I'd like to."
His low voice just right behind her, she silently gasped at his answer and whirled in shock—to find him barely a foot away from her.
And he was looking at her with that intense gaze again. "That is, only if you wish."
Her feet were still rooted to the shore, yet she was already soaring. But along her rising happiness dawned realization that dampened her spirits a little.
"As in the stone tablets, you say…" The breeze lightly blew her chocolate hair. "But then, I'll be making you recall a memory that doesn't even exist." Her eyes lowered. "If only I had lived back then…"
"Whether you live in another time, even if you exist in only a made-up memory…" He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Anzu, for me, any memory, anything with you in it is never false."
Her heartbeat quickened. "Yuugi…"
Releasing his hand, he stepped closer to her. "I want to feel your soul once more. Let me remember what the stone tablets couldn't show me." His hands clasped over her shoulders. "Make me experience fully everything that I have forgotten."
Anzu looked at him in near wonder, trying to resist the inclination of her fingers to brush her lips in front of him. But she wasn't able to stop herself. "Everything?"
His firm hands slid down to her arms and rested there, and the intense look grew even stronger. "Everything."
Words were simply not enough to express the overwhelming emotions his bestowed opportunity brought. Her body was not yet in motion, but the rhythm in her blood was begging to let it go.
But just as she was about to yield, suddenly she became acutely aware of her surroundings that she glanced around as he removed his hands, her forehead creasing. Coming here alone and ending up acting out her imagination yet without having to answer to anyone who might be watching her was one thing. But for someone to witness her now, even accidentally, in her very personal moment with the Pharaoh…
"Don't be troubled." His hand landed on her shoulder once more. "It's just you and me."
Anzu turned to him. Just you and me. If anything, the person she should be self-conscious of was not a mere outsider but he. But with his words and gesture, instead he reassured her.
"I didn't see everything."
She gazed around her one more time, as far as her eyes could allow her. The extensive hues of warm orange and yellow and cool blue above her. The sands that knew no boundaries. The glistening water that seemed to stretch forever…
"But I'd like to."
It was just her and her king, inside an endless throne room.
"That is, only if you wish."
She lowered her head, bringing a palm to her chest. "Only if it pleases you."
He sat on the nearby set of rocks, leaning his back against a towering boulder, his forearms resting on the smaller ones that flanked him. "Then…" He reached out his hand, motioning to the wide space before him. Inviting her to his presence.
"Would you dance for me?"
I hope you enjoyed reading this one-shot as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was summer here in my country; the intense heat had been very inspiring to my muse (very surprising, considering she comes alive usually during cold or rainy times). Despite all available information, sometimes I wonder how the ancient Egyptians could stand their arid environment on a daily basis.
So, how was the fic? Please leave a review on your way out. Thanks in advance. =)