Hello again, everyone!
I just want to thank you all for the views, reviews, and favorites! I really didn't think this story was that great and still, to some degree, find it lacking, but I'm really happy to hear you all are enjoying this! Thank you for all the support! You guys are fantastic, and it's exciting to hear all your theories as to what is taking place!
Chapter 16 : Revelations in Darkness
The corridor Seto and Jounouchi now found themselves in was surprisingly wide, yet the darkness still caused Seto to question how safe they really were. Jounouchi still held the flashlight, and the blonde waved it around a bit before pointing to their left. "Looks like we can head that way," he noted. Seto frowned, observing that the light seemed to be outmatched by the darkness. Still, the other way was only a dead end. It wasn't like they had much choice. To his surprise, however, Jounouchi pointed the flashlight back at him. "How is your arm?"
"It's fine," he automatically answered. Jou's eyebrows knit together in confusion, and Seto glanced down at his shoulder only to blink in surprise. Now that he could actually see the damage, he realized where Jou's questions were coming from. His shoulder was soaked in blood, and there was an evident tear in his shirt that revealed the cut. "Seriously, it's fine," he repeated, making his tone harsher on purpose. "I told you, I have dealt with worse."
"Yeah, well, probably not in such a fucked-up situation," Jou countered. "We'll find somethin' to put on it before we get out of here. You think a starred room might heal ya up?"
Seto shook his head. "I'm not sure, but you can leave the game through a starred room, and I cannot. I wouldn't bet on the room being able to somehow heal my wounds."
"Maybe your bedroom, then?"
"We'll figure it out once we complete this damn puzzle. No worries."
"Then let's get going." Jou nodded, and turning on his heels, he began walking down the corridor. Seto didn't like relinquishing control of the flashlight, but his arm was in a signifncant amount of pain thanks to the fall, and he figured it might be best to push himself as little as possible, even by not tensely holding their only source of light. Their footsteps echoed off the stone flooring as they followed the linear pathway, and Seto noted that the walls were also stone, though they were cut much smoother than the ground.
"Kinda a weird place to have a basement, don't'cha think?" Jou asked, his voice cutting through the silence.
"I'm choosing not to question the rationale of whoever designed this game," Seto remarked. "I'm done with that. A brothel with a basement means little to someone who kidnaps others with the intent of torturing and killing them."
"Ha, yeah, you're right about that." Soon the two came to an intersection, their only options being to go left or right. Pointing the flashlight in both directions, Jounouchi turned to Seto and shrugged. "Which way you wanna go?"
Seto frowned as he tried to remember the layout above. "We...fell in the southern part of the building, correct?"
"Left from the entrance?"
Jou looked around, as if contemplating for a few seconds, before blinking and nodding. "Uh, yeah! I think so!"
"Then let's head left. That will take us towards the back of the building rather than towards the entrance. If we're lucky, we may find the exit in a room that has the second card."
"Look at you, being all optimistic!" Jou chuckled and nodded. "But you got it!" Turning left, he continued walking, with Seto following close behind. "At least there aren't any ghosts down here, ya know? I'm not hearing anything."
Seto noted that too, and he felt his body become less tense with each step he took. It was a great relief not having to worry about the aggressive ghost upstairs. Unless, of course, that ghost uses the exit before we do and comes down here...
"Hey, what's that?"
Seto looked in the direction of the light. Hanging on the wall was a large scroll revealing a couple standing in a garden. The woman's long, black hair flowed in a poorly drawn breeze, while the man, dressed in villager attire, gazed directly into the woman's eyes. His arms were wrapped tightly around her, as if whisking her away. "It's just a scroll," Seto remarked. "There were many of them upstairs."
"Yeah, but it's also as close to a bandage as we're gonna get."
Seto's eyebrows rose. "A...bandage?" He watched in amazement as Jounouchi approached the scroll and ripped it down with one, swift motion. Tearing a large, long chunk of it off, he turned to Seto and stepped towards him. Seto instinctively took a step back. "Just what the hell are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" Jou exclaimed, chuckling at Seto's obvious discomfort. "I was gonna bandage your shoulder up."
"And how the hell would you do that?"
"Pretty easily, actually. Here, hold the flashlight." Handing it over, Jounouchi took another step towards him. Seto held his ground, curiosity getting the best of him. "The couple in the scroll might not like bein' separated," Jou rambled as he reached out and grabbed Seto's arm, "but they'll just have ta deal with it."
Seto watched with wide eyes as the blonde slowly, even gently, began to wrap the material of the scroll around his shoulder. The material was surprisingly soft, though a little stiff, and he could barely feel it over the fabric of his shirt. With surprising precision, Jounouchi wrapped the material twice around his shoulder before tying it just tight enough to stop the flow of blood. "There!" he exclaimed, his face beaming with pride as he took a step back. "That should help ya out!"
To say Seto was stunned would be an understatement. His arm already felt better thanks to the pressure. Letting his arm drop to his side, he slowly reached out and handed over the flashlight. "Thank you..."
"Ah, it's nothing!" the blonde exclaimed. "And now you got a pretty lady on your shoulder, haha!"
Seto blinked and glanced down. Indeed, Jou had torn off the side with the woman on it, and her face was visible. He shrugged and returned his attention to Jounouchi only to blink in surprise. "Jounouchi..." Jou immediately stiffened, most likely expecting a ghost behind him. Seto shook his head no. "There's no one behind you. But look..." Jou sighed and turned only to flinch.
Where the scroll had been...was now a doorway.
"Eh, what the?" Jou took a step forward and reached out. It wasn't a shutter door like the ones above, but rather just a plain, wooden door. He turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. "Yo Kaiba, hand me that flashlight." Seto did, and the blonde frowned when he pointed it through the new entrance. "Ahh, just another hallway."
"Still, it is evident we were not supposed to find this door," Seto remarked. "It might be better to head down this way than continue forward."
"Good point. Your arm feelin' better?"
Seto nodded. "Yes..." Thanks to you, as weird as that sounds.
"A'ight, cool. Then let's keep goin'." Jounouchi passed through the new doorway, and Seto mentally shrugged once more as he began following yet again. "I'm still tryin' ta figure out just what time period this game is set in," Jou suddenly remarked. Seto looked around. The corridor was exactly like the one they had just come from: stone walls, stone floors. He wondered if there would be another scroll hiding a doorway. "I mean, the buildings look old, these paintings are definitely old, and the outfits of the ghosts are kinda weird, but then again, you got this flashlight."
"And not a candle." He spoke before he thought, and Seto blushed when he realized how easily the joke slipped. Fortunately Jounouchi did not look back to see his face.
"Yeah, yeah, smartass. Not a candle. But ya know what I mean?"
"Again, I'm not choosing to question the rationale of this game's creator. This game was designed to mentally torture me, not to be historically accurate."
"Yeah, I guess you're right about that." Sighing, Jou muttered, "Man, it's gotta be gettin' late in the real world."
Seto smirked. "Got a date tonight?"
"Hahaha." This time the laugh was drawn out cynically, with Jou emphasizing each 'ha.' "Very funny, Kaiba. Unless you count the time we're spending together right now as a date, which, if you do, you clearly haven't been on one, then no, I don't have any dates tonight."
"For your clarification, no, I don't consider this a date."
"I'm surprised you even know that word," Jou remarked. "I would think, if you started datin', the whole world would blow up from the drama."
Seto frowned. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Dude, every time I go to a damn grocery store, there's at least two magazines with images of you on it. Those stupid gossip, ladies magazines or whatever. It's fuckin' annoying, seein' your face all the time."
"You think I enjoy that kind of attention? I wish I could keep the paparazzi away from my home. But there is only so much I can do legally, and I would rather have them focus on me than on Mokuba."
Jou nodded as he continued scanning the corridor with the flashlight. "Nah, I know. I know ya enough to know having people shove cameras in your face ain't your idea of a good time. I'm just sayin', if you went on a date, those magazines would implode overnight."
"I really don't understand why we're having this conversation," Seto noted, his voice lower than before.
"Meh, why not? We're just wanderin', and-hey, look! Another scroll!"
Seto's eyes widened as he caught sight of the second scroll. The image was designed in a similar fashion; however, this time it was two women who stood side by side in the garden. They appeared sisters more than lovers, holding each other's hand and gazing up at a butterfly on a large gathering of peonies. Jou immediately pulled it down, and both he and Seto flinched when only a stone wall greeted them. "Ahhh man," Jou complained. "Maybe this was the wrong way after all..."
"We still have some of the corridor to go," Seto noted. "Let's see if it leads to a dead end. If not, we can just turn around. I still don't hear any ghosts."
"True. Was just kinda hopin' we'd get outta here. I don't like how dark it is down here."
Seto nodded in agreement, and the two once again picked up their walk, examining the walls with the flashlight for any sign of an exit. "So Kaiba, while we're on the topic, and you're in a somewhat less-than-asshole mood, lemme ask ya. You ever been on a date?"
Seto's eyes widened immediately at the question. "And what business is that of yours?"
"It's not. You don't gotta answer if you don't wanna. Just askin' 'cuz frankly, I'd rather talk to ya than walk around here in silence. The darkness is creepy enough without hearing every damn echo of every noise. And for what it's worth, I've been on a date, so there, embarrassment factor outta the way. Unless, of course, you've never been on one."
Seto rolled his eyes. "Yes, Jou, I've been on a date before. Several, in fact."
"With different people? Or the same guy?"
Jounouchi's last word made him grind to a halt. Seto's jaw dropped slightly, and his eyes widened in absolute shock. Knowing he gave himself away before he even had the chance to think, he merely asked, "What...?"
Sensing Seto's halt, Jou stopped, turned, and blinked in surprise. "What 'what'?"
Seto bit his lower lip. "How..."
"How did I know you were gay?" Jounouchi said it incredibly casually, and to Seto's utter astonishment, he laughed. "A few things, really. For one, those trenchcoats. Dude, have you seen yourself in them? Now have you ever seen a straight guy walkin' around struttin' easily in those things? No, you haven't. Second, those magazines. I've seen photos of you at parties, not on purpose, mostly 'cuz I was super bored and there was some old lady in front of me, but you were with some pretty hot chicks. If you ain't bangin' 'em, and the magazines would know if you were, then you're pretty gay. Third, that photo in your room." Seto gasped, remembering the photo of Akume and him. "The way you panicked at me seein' it, it had to be a former boyfriend, right?" Seto merely nodded, swallowing hard. "Not that it's easy for others to pick up on that," Jou continued. "The way gays are discriminated against here in Japan, I'd say the majority of people don't know. So if you're worried 'bout that, don't be. And no, I'm not judgin' ya. It'd be pretty hypocritical to judge you on having a boyfriend."
"And why is that?" he hissed, his anger at being so easily caught by someone as dumb as the blonde mixing with his confusion at Jounouchi's laidback mannerisms. He was right, after all. Homosexuals weren't exactly treated on equal footing in Japanese culture. It was the reason he had to hide it so well...and the reason why so many things fell apart with Akume.
Jounouchi slowly smiled. "'Cuz I've had boyfriends, too. 'Cuz I'm gay, too." Jou chuckled and added, "Which is also probably how I knew you were gay."
For a moment, the two merely stared at one another, Jounouchi with a laidback, happy smile, Seto with an expression of utter confusion. So many thoughts collided in his mind that he couldn't form a sentence. This had all come out so fast that, for a second, he questioned if they even spoke. All at once, he was angry, confused, grateful, and relieved. He knew the blonde would never tell before he managed to utter the phrase, "If you tell anyone..."
Jou waved his hand. "Of course I won't. The only people I would tell are my friends, and they, well... They don't really know..."
Seto's eyes widened, and his eyebrows rose in shock at that statement. "You told me before you told your friends?"
"Well, you're gay!" Jounouchi exclaimed. "I don't know if you noticed, but no one else in that group is. Anzu is always tryin' ta flirt with Yuugi, and Tristan's datin' some chick he met at work. Duke and Serenity are a thing, now, too..." The way the blonde's mouth moved, Seto could tell he wasn't thrilled with the arrangement. He knew the feeling, remembering a girl Mokuba took out on a date during seventh grade. "So, yeah, no one knows. 'Cept you. Bet'cha feel cool now, don't you?"
Jounouchi shrugged. "It's whatever. I figured I'd tell 'em when the time comes. Not like they need to know now." He tilted his head slightly to the side and smiled. "Does Mokuba know 'bout you?"
Seto nodded. "He found out...when I started dating Akume."
"The blonde in the photo I kept telling you to put down."
"Ohh..." Jounouchi's eyes widened in realization, and he blushed slightly as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I, uh...see why ya didn't want me seein' that photo."
"Yeah. But that's when I told Mokuba."
"And he's cool with it?"
A warm smile crossed Jounouchi's lips. "That's cool, man, that you got that support. It's not that I don't think my friends won't support me, too, but... I don't know, it's awkward. Wasn't it when you told Mokuba?"
Awkward didn't even begin to cover it. With all the shit with Gozaburo going on, he had to worry about Akume on top of it all. To explain why Seto first fell in love with him, why he dated him, why he hid the relationship for over a year, and then why they broke up...explaining all that to Mokuba... He settled on merely stating, "Yeah, it was."
"Well, good for you for talkin' to him." Patting his good shoulder, Jounouchi chuckled and turned the flashlight back down the hallway. "And just for the record, I'll repeat that I won't tell anyone. That's none of my damn business, and I don't care who you're datin'. I didn't mean for this conversation to get outta hand, either. But I appreciate ya bein' honest with me."
Seto's eyes wandered from the blonde's face, to the flashlight, then back to his face. He slowly nodded. Jounouchi smirked. "Now that we had that good talk, let's get the hell outta here. I forgot how creepy this place was for a second."
Not knowing what else to say, Seto merely bit his lower lip, figuring it would be best to process what just happened before making anymore comments. Taking a step forward, he silently trailed behind Jounouchi, his hand slowly yet subconsciously wandering up to his bandaged shoulder.