Yeah, here you go. I'm not dead (yeah, a shame), and I hope those who've been following this story are still alive, too.
No excuses. Just know that I've started college (though that fact has nothing to do with this late update. I'm just lazy. Yay).
But really, you wanna know why I've been stagnant for the past (almost) 10 months? Half of it's mainly due to laziness, but the other half is because of me having yet another one of my fandom-obsession phases.
I'm being sucked in by the Naruto fandom (try to pull me back XD). You'll be pleased (I think), to know that I have yet to contribute anything to the fandom because I'm being held down by you YGO people. Yes, you have that much of an effect in my internet life.
I ignore all the urges for me to sit down and write an Itachi (if you're a fan of him, give me a shout :D) fic by reminding myself that I have TNS still in-progress (and my own fics that are probably on the verge of decomposition right about now).
But now that I've updated, I think I could let myself go for a while.
Hmm, let's hope you won't kill me by the end of this chapter.
Voldemort was impressed by the boy's ability to maintain his composure. His eyes were wide, true, and there was definitely fear reflected in that frigid stare he was struggling to keep (there was only one man who could match his gaze, and Voldemort intended to kill him soon enough), but his face was controlled and carefully made blank. This Seto Kaiba, it seemed, had a firm hold of his emotions. To meet Lord Voldemort's stare head-on is a commendable feat.
Amazing, really. Especially for a muggle.
He decided to see just how far his prisoner could stretch his control.
A small gust of air was the only indication that Voldemort had moved. Seto had not even blinked, yet he missed the course of action that pale-white hand took. All his eyes registered was a blur of black. The next thing he knew, the wooden tip of Voldemort's wand was pointed between his eyes, just barely touching his sweaty skin. Seto felt like someone was pointing a loaded gun at his head.
Voldemort did not miss the repressed jolt of shock that seemed to reverberate through Seto's frame. His malicious grin widened a notch.
"Now, now," Voldemort said in mock-comfort, "You don't need to be afraid, Mr. Kaiba. Fortunately for you, I need you alive for the moment."
Seto said nothing in return. He only stared straight ahead, trying in vain to ignore the other's wand aimed point-blank at his brain.
"What do you need from me?" he said evenly. He felt a bit proud at succeeding in keeping his voice level, as if unaffected by the whole situation in general, when in truth, he was shaking inside.
"Hmm, direct to the point. I suppose it is what one could expect from such a professional businessman such as yourself," still grinning, Voldemort withdrew his wand, stepped back a few steps, and turned around casually. Seto had to stop himself from letting out a sigh of relief.
Only minutes into their first meeting and the boy was already showing signs of fear. Voldemort could sense apprehension and unsettlement bubbling beneath Seto's carefully controlled façade. Unseen to his captive, Voldemort smirked. As impressive as Seto's front was, it was inevitable that he'd give in sooner or later. And then, those Items of dark power would draw closer to his grasp. His victory would start when Seto Kaiba divulged the facts that he needed. And Voldemort was determined to make Seto sing.
"Information, Mr. Kaiba, nothing more," he said, still facing away from Seto "If you comply without myself needing to resort to less than civil methods of persuasion…I could have you back at home, safe, and with your little brother as soon as tomorrow."
Seto felt worry and anger boil inside him at the mention of Mokuba.
"I know nothing about your world. One of your people has already contacted me, and he went away empty-handed. What makes you think now will be any different?" he said bluntly.
This caused Voldemort's brow to rise in curiosity. He faced Seto once more. "Oh? And who might this person be?"
Seto snorted, his fear momentarily subsiding as he recalled the absurdity of his meeting with Dumbledore. "An old man, ancient, must've been senile as well. His name was Dumbledore, if I remember correctly. Like you, he broke in without permission and tried to persuade me to come with him."
A brief silent pause, and then to his surprise, Voldemort started to laugh. Apparently, something about what he had said greatly amused him. "Ah! My dear old teacher. Clever…how clever of him to seek you out. But how foolish of him to allow you to escape his grasp so easily," his eyes twinkled with twisted glee, "I wonder what he's thinking now, seeing as I have you. The fool must be regretting not whisking you away by force. But I suppose that will always be Dumbledore's flaw…and that's why I can defeat him."
The other's red eyes caught his again, and Seto felt himself freeze. Even the slow rise and fall of his chest seemed to be trying to make itself even less conspicuous.
"And that's why our conversation will yield more productive results," Voldemort moved towards him, and Seto felt fear rise within him again. "Do not compare me with people like Dumbledore, Mr. Kaiba. I have less patience," now that he was close enough, he raised one hand and placed all five fingers on Seto's forehead, splayed out. "Whether by your own will or mine I will get what I want eventually. In truth, I could pull out all your thoughts, your memories, should I desire…"
Seto felt Voldemort increase the pressure of his fingers on his head. It took all he had to restrain his urge to thrash around just to get those horribly, inhumanely,cold fingers off.
"In this instant, at this very moment…"
He wouldn't lower himself to screaming. So Seto settled for closing his eyes, mentally preparing himself for some unknown torture. What would it be like, he wondered, for someone to start tearing through your mind? He preferred not knowing the answer to that question, yet it seemed that he was about to find out, whether he liked it or not.
Seto gritted his teeth.
A second passed.
He felt the tips of Voldemort's fingers shift slightly.
Will he be conscious throughout it all? He hoped not. But judging from what he'd seen so far, this Voldemort seemed to enjoy making his victims squirm. He expected the dark lord has a fondness for torture as well.
Three seconds. Still nothing. What was taking him so long?
"Now…" drawled Voldemort's voice. Seto braced himself.
He felt the fingers leave his skin.
"I'll give you some time to think, Seto Kaiba."
'W-What?' he was absently glad that he did not voice that thought. Even in his head, his voice sounded weak and pathetic, and most of all afraid.
"I would be happy to invade your mind. But unfortunately, forcing entry into one's head tends to leave…severe damage that will likely hinder me from extracting all the crucial information I may need. It will be much easier, for both you and I if you'd just tell me willingly."
"Tell you…willingly?" Seto repeated numbly, mind still muddled by the stress of the moment.
"I have a nice stock of Veritaserum, so I can be assured that all you tell me will be the truth. I'm being very considerate, giving you this much of a choice in the matter."
Still caught in a daze, Seto barely registered Voldemort striding away. The words he spoke next still rang clear in his ears though. "You are an intelligent man, Mr. Kaiba. I actually find it quite a shame that you're a muggle…" he sighed, "Such potential wasted. Nonetheless, I trust that a mind as sharp as yours will have no trouble in choosing the best course of action…"
Voldemort seemed to blend in with the background until he was lost to Seto's vision.
His voice spoke for the last time, "We'll talk again soon."
Then he was gone.
The air was significantly lighter, it was as if Voldemort caused such pressure to bear down on his surroundings and Seto was finally free of it. He exhaled, deep and long, his breath shuddering.
'Damn it…damn it…' he shouted mentally. 'God…I don't think I can take any more of this…' he grimaced. He felt a twinge of self-disgust. How weak it must be of him to cave in so easily. Sure he had so far revealed nothing to Voldemort, but to see how pathetic his state is after such a short and relatively uneventful encounter with the dark lord was very unnerving.
Voldemort had yet to cause him any form of pain. All he had done so far was threaten, give subtle hints of what could be waiting for him should he prove to be a hassle. And yet Seto felt like he was just about to give in.
In fact, he was a bit thankful for the chains securing him on his spot, otherwise he would've crumpled to his knees when Voldemort had his fingers spread across his head.
'Get a grip…calm down,' Seto told himself, 'Think. Use that brain of yours…there must be some way to escape from here,' he looked down at his chained body and shifted experimentally, trying to at least free one of his arms. The cavern echoed with its rattling, and Seto was not at all surprised to see that no amount of struggling was going to yield results. All he succeeded in doing was make his limbs sore, not to mention adding a nice collection of red scrapes and bruises from all his movement against the rusty chains.
"Ah…this is disappointing. Not another bony one…"
Seto froze immediately. The voice, whoever it was, was too close for comfort. Did Voldemort send one of his subordinates to watch over him? If this was so, then he would have to bid goodbye to all hope of escaping.
"A shame…why couldn't that meaty one fail instead?" the complaining continued.
Deciding that he had nothing to lose, Seto gathered up a bit of courage and demanded, "Who's there? Show yourself!"
A few seconds of silence followed that nearly convinced Seto that he had been imagining things. But the voice spoke again, "Oh, he hears me, does he? The stringy, bony…"
Feeling confused and slightly offended, Seto repeated with a tone of irritation, "Stringy and bony?" Honestly, are these people aiming to humiliate and demean him as well? He gritted his teeth in frustration. He was about to once more demand that the hidden person show her face (for by the voice, he judged the owner to be female) when something slid in front of his vision that very nearly made the fear he felt in Voldemort's presence return.
He was looking into the yellow eyes of a green serpent. The snake was so close that Seto could've counted the scales on its head if he wanted to. Another inch or two and his nose and its snout would've been touching.
At this point, Seto could not conceal his fear. He unconsciously reasoned that this was an animal, and there was no point in hiding something that it could find out by its heightened senses alone. Maybe this was another one of Voldemort's mind tricks, something to 'aid' in his decision-making perhaps.
The snake had yet to move, its lidless eyes staring at his own. Seto's love for dragons did not extend to their belly-crawling relatives. With nothing else to do, Seto resorted in trying to convince himself that the impossibly large snake was a mere hologram, or at least, a figment of his surely more-than-disturbed imagination as of the moment.
However, the sensation of a tongue flickering against his cheek sent all his hopes flying out the window. The reptile had leaned forward just slightly, and was examining him.
"Oh, you hear me," the voice spoke once more, Seto was shocked to see that it seemed to be coming from the animal in front of him. He must be losing his mind, he concluded numbly; snakes didn't talk and they even lacked the requirements to make speech possible (even if they, for some reason, could understand human language). It was scientifically impossible.
But this particular snake seemed to be taunting him by speaking again, "This is surprising. I wonder if my master knows?" for some reason or another, Seto sensed a slight change in the snake's expression. The way it had tilted its head slightly to the side gave Seto the impression that was adapting a thoughtful look.
"Why can you talk?" Seto said, barely above a whisper. "What freakish creature are you?" since he cannot make any sense of the situation, Seto resorted to hoping that it could answer his questions for him.
The snake almost seemed to laugh. It had drawn its scaly head back, fanged mouth opening. "The freak is you, skinny human," it said with obvious amusement, "You're speaking my language. Didn't you know?"
"W-What? What language? I'm speaking plain—"
It laughed again and slid out of his vision. When Seto felt something crawl up his leg and torso, he couldn't help but shudder. The texture of smooth scales met the back of his neck as the snake settled itself comfortably around his shoulders. He tried not to think about its body wrapping tight around his throat.
"Calm yourself, human. Your fear is not needed. I have lost any of the little desire that I had of eating you," the snake positioned its head by his ear.
Seto debated whether he should ask why.
Probaby sensing his confusion, it continued, "Not only do you look less than satisfying for a full meal, but let's be honest…" it extended it's neck and came back fully in Seto's field of vision, staring at him once more with those unsettling slitted-pupil eyes, "it would be rather difficult to eat something that talks back. I rarely share my master's desire for torture. If I had my way, I'd just eat those disobedient servants and be done with it, but he prefers to toy with them first."
He swallowed, the inside of his throat felt dry. "So you're…you're what? That Voldemort's pet?"
"Oh, I'm much more than a mere pet of 'that Voldemort'," its mouth split into a semblance of a grin. "I am Nagini. You could say that I am his closest companion."
Seto remained silent. Learning that Voldemort also had snakes doing his bidding made him dread the dark lord's return even more. Not only did the man look snake-like, but he seemed to have a fondness for them as well.
Nagini appeared to be muttering to herself, "Another unfulfilling meal awaits me. I had wished that fat one to have failed. Unfortunate for both you and I that he's managed to blunder his way through."
He found this interesting. "You seem to prefer that your master's plans fail. Aren't you on suppose to be on his side?" he ventured to ask. The talking snake, this Nagini, still unnerved him, but it was unlikely that she'll harm him. He judged this by Voldemort saying that he needed him undamaged and alive, as well as to the snake's apparent dislike for his lack of body fat.
"Oh, do not misunderstand me. I am loyal to my master…but I have my own interests as well. I am a snake after all," she flicked out her forked tongue. Seto fought the urge to cringe as it tickled the shell of his ear. Seto felt a newfound abhorrence to the family of slithering reptiles. Not that he has ever been fond of them before. In fact, he had more or less avoided any contact with snakes in the span of his short life.
Seto tried to compose himself. He found his mind working. If what Nagini expressed was true (and not some sort of act to lure him into a trap), then the present situation could be taken advantage of. He struggled to keep focused as Nagini started moving, circling around his head once more.
This snake, he thought, is still just an animal. Clearly it has shown intelligence, but the fact that it's not human, that it's driven by its own needs and instincts instead of goals and ambitions stayed true. Nagini's preference that she have a filling meal as opposed to her master's subordinates (and therefore, Voldemort's plans) succeeding can attest to this.
His previously troubled eyes cleared by the time Nagini had her whole body coiled around his shoulders.
He opened his mouth to speak, praying that he would speak the right words.
"Am I really that unappetizing?" he asked flatly.
Nagini paused in her movements and gave him a look. "You, dear boy, would not even be worth an appetizer once you're in my belly."
Seto nodded submissively. "And this…meaty one you seem so keen in devouring…"
"He'll fill me up wonderfully. I would probably need nothing to eat for a month," a hungry look was apparent in her eyes.
With a bit of effort, Seto continued their considerably unsettling conversation. "It is truly a shame then, that you'll probably never get to eat him."
"Yes. If only you hadn't let yourself be caught so easily, I would be feasting on his flesh by now," she said in a tone that seemed to suggest that this was all his fault.
"If I may give a suggestion for your…predicament…" there it was, he said it. If Nagini rose and took the bait…
Nagini did not reply at once. Seto had to endure her scales scraping around his neck as she maneuvered herself at a certain distance in front of him to have a full view of his face. A little more than half of her body was still on his.
"And what is it that you will suggest?"
It took him a moment to answer, "If I had escaped…your master will put the blame on the man in-charge of me and my capture," Nagini's eyes seemed to narrow though she seemed quite interested, he took this as a good sign and continued, "If I were to get away, you will get to have your desired meal after all."
Seto tried to maintain his composure when he felt the snake's length tighten ever so slightly around his neck. He immediately started doubting whether this was a good idea, or if he'd just quickened the pace of his death.
"Are you implying that I should release you, just so my stomach will be satisfied?" she asked accusingly.
Seto, without looking away, and just succeeding in keeping his voice from shaking, said, "Yes, I am."
He half-expected Nagini to bite him after his blatant admittance. And sure enough, the snake quickly slid her head close, eyes glinting. 'Idiot, idiot, idiot! Of course she wouldn't betray Voldemort! What the hell were you thinking?!' Seto braced himself for pain.
What he got instead, was the now-familiar sensation of Nagini's tongue flickering on his skin. He had to cross his eyes, since she had her snout on his nose. Seto refrained from expressing his discomfort.
Her eyes were genuinely amused. "A bold proposition to make, Seto Kaiba. Too bold for a supposed muggle such as yourself to make…but nonetheless impressive."
Seto said nothing, but dared to hope.
"I do not doubt that my master will have his victory soon enough. But it troubles me to think how sparse my meals will be when that time comes," she mused, "I suppose it will matter little if I hinder his plans just a tiny bit for my own ends," she bared her fangs. Seto's eyes widened and he jerked involuntarily in his bindings, trying to get away even when he knew very well that he could not.
Nagini struck, fast and sure.
Seto stopped moving.
The chains around his body fell noisily.
"W-What…?" this time, he couldn't hide the signs of weakness in his voice.
Nagini slithered down his body, coming to rest on the stone floor. She eyed him, "I see the logic in your proposal. My master, as close as our bond may be, cannot read my thoughts. He cannot tread through the mind of an animal and hope to grasp an understanding of it even with his dark power. So I am safe from blame in your 'escape'."
She started to smoothly crawl across the room, Seto could only stare after her dumbly. He could hardly believe what had just happened.
Nagini gave him a sideways look. "Don't dawdle. Follow me."
Not knowing what else to do, Seto did. He stood up, wincing at the soreness of his stiff limbs. He glanced at the chains that just moments ago had held his body, focusing at the section Nagini had bitten through with unnatural ease. He did not want to think of the alternate scenario wherein those deadly fangs would've sank into his body instead.
He started to walk forward, following the green snake in an absent-minded way. He refused to think about where Nagini could be leading him, or what was in store for him next. He even refused to think about the possibility that she was only leading him on, and that he will come face-to-face with Voldemort in a matter of minutes.
But Nagini only took him to the other side of his dungeon-like prison. Seto squinted his eyes in the dim lighting, and was surprised to notice an empty fireplace. He did not know what to make of this and so just kept walking until he was but a couple of feet away from Nagini's coiled body.
The snake appraised him for a moment before turning her head towards a small pot beside her. Seto followed her gaze.
"This is Floo Powder. Grab a handful, step into the fireplace, and voice out your destination before throwing it at your feet. I personally abhor this method of traveling, but it's fast, and obviously, that's what we need right now."
Seto did not even try to question how a pot of dust could be a mode of transportation. He reached out and grabbed as much of the powder his hand could carry, and stepped into the fireplace.
Nagini watched him. "Hurry now, muggle. Or we will be found out."
He gave a slight nod. "Domino City, Japan," he enunciated clearly and released his hold on the floo powder. The emerald-green flames that shot up afterwards shocked him more than he was willing to admit. And for a moment, he worried that Nagini had tricked him, and he had unwittingly burned himself alive.
Then after a few seconds of blurs, the feel of rapid spinning, and utmost confusion he felt his face smack down hard on the surface of a wooden floor. He did not recognize the unfamiliar strangers rushing towards him (thankfully, from what he could somehow discern, they were Japanese), but he didn't particularly care as well.
"Dear, dear, too few of you have made any progress since our studies of the tarot," Professor Trelawney sighed in disappointment. "The rarity of those gifted with the inner eye these times worries me."
The majority of the class shifted uncomfortably on their seats, wondering if this meant that they should expect failing marks by the end of the term, or that their professor was merely acting like her overly-dramatic self.
"Now, I am hoping for better results on our new lesson. Meditating is a fairly simple, not to mention a relaxing task…"
Ryou barely heard Trelawney's words. He had his cheek resting on one hand as he gazed at his textbook. An outsider would've assumed that he was doing some intense reading, when in actuality he was having a very heated conversation with himself (in a manner of speaking).
/You're stressing yourself out over nothing, Ryou/ was his dark's simple reply when he expressed his strangely troubled feelings.
Ryou was unconvinced, /You seem awfully tense today as well, I noticed/
Yami Bakura refused to be cornered, /Your emotions are leaking, that's why/
Outwardly, Ryou frowned as he and Yami Bakura continued their conversation. Really, his dark side was giving him too little credit when it comes to finding things out. Ryou could admit that he had a tendency to be clueless most of the time, but he would be a fool to ignore the constant restlessness of his mind.
/You're probably just excited about this whole…Christmas feast thing/ Yami Bakura said offhandedly.
/I am/ Ryou admitted, /But that's not it. And why in the world would I be stressing about Christmas?/
The other only mentally shrugged.
/Our minds work in different ways, Ryou/ he said, /You can't expect me to understand all of your weird personality quirks/
Now that was just low, Ryou thought. Yami Bakura smirked when his other self unwittingly sent it through their mind link.
/Well, at least this is the last day of classes. Maybe the Christmas break will help me feel better/ he mumbled.
/You're probably stressed by all the last-minute schoolwork your sadist professors have been handing out/ Yami Bakura said. But though he maintained a casual and light tone in his words, Ryou had reminded him of a rather unpleasant fact. If tomorrow's the start of the students' break, then that would mean…
/What?/ Ryou asked, a bit confused.
Yami Bakura felt like smacking himself for the words that he had thoughtlessly let slip in their shared mind. He recovered fast enough, though, /Tomorrow's the start of your vacation/
/That's right/ Ryou said skeptically, /So…?/ he was certain that Yami Bakura's voice held some sort of dread when he had spoken.
Before anything else could happen, Ryou was jarred back to the real world by Professor Trelawney's voice.
"Mr. Bakura, are you alright?"
Ryou blinked a couple of times before realizing that Trelawney was standing in front of his table, concern apparent in her magnified eyes. A quick glance around the room showed the class adapting meditating positions, Ryou realized that he was the only who had yet to move. Yugi along with Harry and Ron even had their eyes closed already (though Ryou noticed with a hint of amusement that Ron appeared to be at the verge of sleep, judging by the way his mouth was slightly ajar). He had come a bit late in class and so had to chose from the few seats available, which is why he ended up sitting at the other side of the room.
"I…pardon me, professor," he said apologetically, he gave her a sheepish smile. "Just a lot of things in my mind, sorry for spacing out."
The concern did not leave her eyes. Ryou was without a doubt the one with the most potential in all of the classes she had; it troubled her to see him so pre-occupied. She'd seen many cases where potential seers have been lost, and did not want to lose such talent as Ryou's that easily.
"Oh, it's perfectly alright, dear," she said gently. She regarded him for a moment, "Mr. Bakura, would it be alright if I speak to you in my office…say, tomorrow? I believe I have a nice collection of books that you'd find interesting. They could take your mind of the things that seem to be troubling you."
"Oh, well…" Ryou hesitated. For some reason, he felt Yami Bakura become unsettled, though the tomb robber seemed to be struggling to keep this to himself. What was this about? He resolved to question his other self about this later.
He was about to refuse when the feeling suddenly vanished and he noticed the expectant look Trelawney was giving him. "…I suppose I can find the time," he said with a smile. She then left him to join his other classmates in meditation.
Yami Bakura gritted his teeth in frustration, and clenched his fists, letting bouts of worry, and dread—everything he had been fighting to keep from Ryou, out in torrents in the confines of his soul room.
'That was too close,' he thought.
He had originally planned to spend the entire day by Malik's side tomorrow, after hearing how the other boy felt about his birthday. But it seems that he wouldn't be able to. Not with this teacher-student appointment Ryou had scheduled with that batty professor.
He had promised to keep Malik's birthday a secret, so obviously, telling Ryou was not an option. Doing so would only lead to questions as to why he's so keen in spending time with Malik on his birthday. Ryou knew him well enough that the typical, "Well, he's my friend after all," reply would only serve to make things even more suspicious than how it was.
Though he guessed there was some truth in that statement. He wanted to keep an eye on Malik since it was obvious that his friend needed someone to distract him from the terrible memories the day awakened, and Yami Bakura knew that he was the only one that Malik will accept in his company.
The true, more important reason however, is that if there was one day that would be the most likely for Malik's dark side to return…then it was without a doubt tomorrow. He wasn't entirely sure of this of course, but he would be a fool to just let the day slide as normal and not worthy of caution.
But if he wanted Ryou to remain oblivious, then he would just have to sit his meeting with Trelawney out. The second they're done, he'd assume control and seek Malik in whatever crevice the blonde might've dug out to mope or something.
Yami Bakura only wished that that would be the extent of what Malik would be doing in his birthday. Hopefully, the third, and most dangerous dark side of their trio will not be given life a second time.
Just to reassure you all. I'm feeling that the next chapter will come along faster. Because, this is the part I've been waiting for even when I had yet to takeover White Angel's work. You can say that it's the part I've been dying to read and write about since the beginning.
It's gonna be so deliciously evil :).
Also, I'd like to address any issues you may have about Nagini. I know very well that there are some inconsistencies with her in canon and how she was described here (as well as her bond with Voldemort). This is due to the fact that all the events of this story have been finalized BEFORE Harry Potter 6 and 7 were released.
Now…to make up for the long wait. I'm posting the link to my profile now.
Here: /u/1151680/dolphinabottle. If you can't get through by the link, just search my username or something XD. I just had this realization that whenever someone must be nagging for the story to be updated, they'd go to White Angel, and it felt kinda unfair that she has to suffer the consequences of my super special awesome slow updates by herself. Now you can nag me (and her)! And I could reply to your reviews by PM, a bonus. Feel free to drop me a word or two.
Besides, I think I've remained unnamed for long enough.
And you'd be able to see my how I write without the pressure of the epicness of TNS.