Yugi had gotten halfway down the entry hall before Seto got inside, grabbing the stair rail to throw himself forward with the added momentum. The smoke from outside filled the room and Seto coughed through it while he ran to catch up, to drag Yugi back outside before he did something that would get them killed.
"Damn it, Muto!"
Mokuba was outside. Seto couldn't just leave him there without any means of protection. Anything could happen in the time they were gone. The entrance was still in sight, Mokuba growing hazy through the building smoke. He was fine now, but how long would it take for the guards to make it up the stairs or for men to flood out from the castle?
Seto's longer steps caught up and he reached for Yugi's arm to jerk him back, nearly sending them both down the staircase at their feet. "This is insane," Seto said. He didn't have the time to talk sense into Yugi when the plan had already gotten this far. There was no free time to stall inside when the helicopters could be arriving at any moment.
"You wouldn't leave Mokuba," Yugi said, scratching at Seto's hand until he let go.
"It can wait until we're safe."
"I'm going now."
"You don't even know where it is!" Seto shouted once Yugi had started running again. He turned to look back at the path to the doors, still clear aside from the smoke. Mokuba would never forgive him if he left Yugi to fend for himself, but at least Mokuba would be alive to carry the resentment.
It would take the guards from the forest several minutes to get up the stairs, and from the looks of the castle, no one was coming out the main exit.
Five minutes to get him back.
Yugi had thrown off the tracking device at some point which just left the cameras to track their movements. Hopefully, the men stationed in whatever monitoring room Pegasus had would have already abandoned their posts in search of safety. The castle might have been built high on the island, but the fires would cause a panic. No one would stay at their post during this.
Yugi ran toward Pegasus's office. Although it was probably the best place to start, it came with the risk of running into Pegasus. It would have been Seto's guess for where he would hide during the fire, that or his bedroom. But Pegasus's office was in his personal area, the section of the castle their bands rarely let them access. They didn't know the area well enough to search it quickly.
"Stop and let's think about this," Seto said with the intention of grabbing Yugi and dragging him back outside.
"Do you really think running into Pegasus's private rooms is the best course of action?"
"I know he's back here," Yugi said. He took another turn and threw open a door Seto had never seen behind. They didn't go in, but Yugi scanned the inside before moving onto the next room.
Seto groaned and knew he should go back, but he offered, "What are you looking for, exactly?"
"He mentioned a safe. And I'll feel him."
"You'll feel him," Seto said bitterly, checking the hall for guards. Seto was beginning to find their absence more terrifying than comforting. They should have run into someone by now. Pegasus typically kept guards on every corner. If they weren't around, then something else must have been going on.
They worked down the hall and through all of Pegasus's private rooms, all the while, Yugi insisting, "We're getting closer. I know we are." The safe probably wasn't in plain sight. They were wasting time by not taking time in each room to look for a safe that might have been hidden.
"In here," Yugi said from across the hall. "I think he's in here."
Seto went over and followed Yugi inside what looked like a private library and work space. A desk in the corner appeared well-used, covered in papers, sketches, and books. But the walls were covered in bookshelves that could have easily hidden a safe.
While Yugi searched, Seto went to the window to try to make out how much, if any, progress had been made on putting out the fire. The smoke rose too high and bellowed too thick for Seto to see through clearly. They wouldn't be able to see the helicopters until they were very close. They might have to wait to hear them, but half the point of staying outside was to catch the rescue's attention before they landed. That would never work. If the guards were all waiting on evacuation, then the helicopters might go first to wherever they gathered, since they would be the larger group.
But Seto could see the balcony from the window. Mokuba, Téa, and Duke all stood together, alone, talking about something that involved pointing out to the flames. They were still okay. Seto had a bit more time.
Seto left the window to walk over to Yugi, who had found a safe tucked behind a false shelf. It had a dial lock and they had no combination. Seto glanced in either direction in case Pegasus had left the combination written down somewhere. He hadn't.
"What was the code for Devlin's room?" Seto asked. If Pegasus assumed they wouldn't find one code, then he might have used the same combination twice.
"It will need another number. Wasn't his anniversary in April?" If so, it might just be the year he needed. After so long getting to know Pegasus, Seto felt confident he could figure out how long ago she had died.
"That sounds right."
Seto nodded and started working through the timeline. Pegasus had been twenty-four at Duelist Kingdom. He wanted to say that Pegasus had been married at seventeen. So twelve years ago? Seto might have been off a year or two, but not enough that he would need to make more than two or three guesses at most. And that was assuming Pegasus used the same number twice. It could have been anything—her birthday, a holiday, first date, anything.
No, Pegasus wouldn't have thought they would have gotten this far. Having separate codes would have seemed a frivolous security measure. Seto stepped forward to start on the code, turning each number carefully. He turned the year last and waited for the telltale click to follow. It came. The safe door opened.
But the Puzzle was in pieces.
''No. No, no, no." Yugi pushed Seto aside to grab the pieces and hold them to his chest. "He broke it I can't get this all back together right now."
Seto surveyed the damage. About half of the Puzzle was still intact, the rest in loose pieces. The chain was still in place, so Seto took the completed part and hooked it over Yugi's neck. "Pocket the rest of the pieces," Seto said. He didn't wait on Yugi to react before taking the pieces and shoving them into his own pockets. They didn't have time for Yugi to come to the realization on his own.
"We have to go," Seto said, grabbing Yugi's shoulder to drag him out to the hall, only to stop when he spotted guards at the far end. They both hung back out of sight, and while Yugi messed with the Puzzle, Seto tried to figure out a way around them. They were at the wrong end of the hall, so running back the way they had come wouldn't be a problem, it was just being seen.
They couldn't have been guarding anything. Seto guessed that they were scrambling for something to do and had just ended up there while working through their next step. Maybe if Seto and Yugi waited a few minutes—?
They didn't have a few minutes.
"Where do we go?" Yugi asked.
"Give me a second."
Seto peeked into the hall again to see that they hadn't left. He ran his hands through his hair and took three breaths, in and out, in and out, in and out, and made himself think. What were the odds that the guards were looking for them, or that in a fire, they would actually make an effort to restrain them? It couldn't have been that great of a chance. Everyone should have been in fight or flight. It had to be flight. These men would not risk themselves for Pegasus's justice.
But they were inside and safe from the flames. If the men wanted an excuse to go underground, dragging down two prisoners would be a perfect excuse.
"We'll have to run for it," Seto said. "Don't look back or stall. We'll get outside and figure out the next step there."
"I have to put it together."
"That's something for the trip home. Move or I'm leaving you here."
Seto checked the hall once more before sprinting out, listening for the guards' shouts to try to tell if they were being followed. Yugi's footsteps and heavy breaths overshadowed most of the other sounds, but Seto did hear the guards—"Over there"—and that made him pick up his steps. If he ran ahead, the guards might catch Yugi, but Seto didn't have much confidence in his hand to hand combat abilities at this point. It had been too long with too little exercise, and they had weapons.
Throwing himself down the staircase, Seto checked behind him while he turned for the second half of the flight, spotting Yugi a few feet behind but not the guards. They had been farther down the hall, but it would only take seconds for them to catch up.
And there had been guards coming up the stairs from the forest. They would have already gotten to the balcony unless they were called back down to help with the fires. He hadn't meant to stay inside with Yugi that long. Thinking of Mokuba being left outside urged Seto's feet to move even faster, although it put more distance between him and Yugi.
The large, open doors leading to the balcony came into sight and Seto saw Mokuba through them, talking animatedly to the two guards Seto had seen coming up the stairs behind him. They weren't standing close enough for the guards to touch Mokuba and it didn't look like they were making an effort to grab him. Mokuba kept gesturing to the open air over the edge of the balcony, which likely was a reference to the fire.
He glanced over when Seto broke out into the open, crossing the balcony to stand with him.
"What's going on?" Seto asked.
"They should go hide. Tell them, Seto. Tell them that if they don't want the police to know they were involved, they should go down to the dungeons and wait until this is over."
"We don't know your names or your faces well enough to turn you in," Seto said. "He's right. You could get away with this."
Until Seto told the incoming rescue party that there were people hiding in the dungeons. But Mokuba had a point. The dungeons were extensive enough that there was a chance of staying hidden even if searchers went down and combed through.
"Take those satellite phones," Mokuba said. "You can call for help once we're gone."
The guards exchanged a glanced that had to mean, I'm in if you are, and before they could step off, Téa screamed.
Everyone turned to the castle where Pegasus stood in the doorway with a gun to Yugi's head and a hand twisted in the chain for the Puzzle, choking him. He dragged Yugi out of the castle and to the side so no one could reach them, not that they would with the gun.
"This is very impressive, Kaiba-boy."
Pegasus pulled Yugi farther away while Yugi grabbed at the chain and tried to give himself an inch of space to breathe. Without a hand to gesture to the destruction Seto had caused, Pegasus had to settle for an exaggerated look at the amount of smoke wafting around them.
With the force of Pegasus's eye, Seto allowed Pegasus to direct his stare, but with that came the most relief he could remember feeling. Helicopters were coming toward them.
"Such a shame that this is how it has to end. You're quite the devious liar."
Pegasus kept backing away, and Seto realized where he was headed. "Pegasus, don't."
"Don't what? Do something rash and reckless?" he asked, getting closer and closer to the edge of the balcony where Seto had threatened himself in the duel with Yugi. They all moved forward like staying close would keep Yugi from the fall.
Seto's gaze flickered up to the helicopters, still too far away, just shadows of black through the smoke. Unless they had seen messages on the beach, they might start with the fires unless Torra had just requested an evacuation. That had to be what she wanted since putting out a fire without access to hoses would be too difficult. Evacuating meant finding everyone through the smoke and then finding a place big enough to land.
"Don't hurt him!" Téa shouted, taking another step forward only to stop when Pegasus used the chain to force Yugi's gaze upward. If he had the air to cough, Seto was sure Yugi would have gotten out more than dry rasps.
"Oh Téa dear," Pegasus said, stepping up onto the balcony with some difficulty, almost having to lift Yugi up with him. "—You shouldn't have given me a reason."
"When did you ever need a reason to hurt us?" she pressed, but Mokuba stepped up and put a hand on her arm to make her stop. With the chaos surrounding them, the high winds, and the width of the balcony which Seto knew from experience wasn't much for two people, Pegasus didn't need them to force his hand when there was already a chance of an accident.
"So what, Seto? You've ripped my world apart once only to make another go of it?" Pegasus said, nearly shouting over the wind.
"You had to know this was a possibility."
"I offered to let him go! I made a sacrifice for you!"
"Pegasus. Step down from the ledge. We can talk about this," Seto offered. He watched the helicopter in his peripheral to gauge how much longer they needed to stall, how long they had to keep Yugi alive before Pegasus acted.
"You make yourself so easy to believe," Pegasus said, pressing the gun more harshly to the side of Yugi's head. Yugi squeezed his eyes closed in response, but they fluttered open when Wheeler's shouts came from inside the castle. Heads turned that way only long enough to see Croquet leading Wheeler out, hand to his shoulder and gun to his head, and another guard following with Bakura.
"What wrong, Seto?" Pegasus asked calmly. "Did you think they were safe out there?"
Seto almost asked how Pegasus had done it, but there wasn't any point. It had to be the dungeon tunnels running under the island. One of them must have gone to the beach. That hardly seemed to matter. The helicopters were in sight but Pegasus had a gun that probably held all eight rounds. Even without Croquet's weapon, the two guards still standing behind them, or the guard holding Bakura, Pegasus could kill them all.
"Come off the edge," Seto said, raising his hands in surrender. "Look around. This shouldn't be how it ends."
Pegasus glanced behind at the steep cliff below. "You made your final stand here. It only seems fitting this is where I make mine."
Final stand meant being ready to die. Pegasus standing on the edge was his way of conveying that he was making the rules, that death would be the only way out of this. He just as easily could have threatened Yugi from the castle doors, but the position was a larger threat than the gun.
Wheeler and Bakura were pushed a few steps out onto the balcony, but still close enough to the castle entrance they could be drawn back inside in a moment. They had been caught, which meant that the incoming help might not have seen any call for help other than the fire.
"Then what?" Téa snapped, shaking off Mokuba's hand. "Where do you go from this?"
"We go back inside. Permanently."
He wanted to keep this up.
He didn't want to kill them.
But Seto had no doubts that he would.
"You know that's not—" Seto started, but was cut off by Mokuba.
"Okay," he said, holding a hand out in front of Seto to keep him from walking any closer, and also to put himself at the front of the group as if to be their spokesperson. Though if Pegasus took the shot, it put Mokuba as his next target, which Seto couldn't allow.
"Tell us how you want this to go," Mokuba continued. "That way we don't do anything sudden and you don't have to hurt Yugi."
But it was Seto Pegasus glared at, standing directly across from each other. "Sweet Little Mokuba," Pegasus said, gaze on Seto, "I wanted this to go how it had been. You were free to go. You should have just taken my mercy."
"You're right. I saw this as a chance for Seto to come with me. I understand we made a mistake."
The first of the helicopters were close enough for Seto to see the blades and the most obvious of the details on its surface. All the pilot and anyone inside had to do was recognize them and Pegasus would be ruined. But Yugi would die. Maybe all of them.
Pegasus noticed the helicopters and Seto knew in that moment there would be no going back inside. At this proximity, people inside had to be able to see the gun, that Pegasus was threatening Yugi on the edge of his castle. Depending on the rescue party, Seto could have been recognized, Yugi too.
And Pegasus wouldn't surrender the people he held to blame.
"Let's be honest about who was really at fault for Duelist Kingdom," Seto said, even though Mokuba tried to stop him. "Yugi won. I kept the technology from you. It's the two of us you need to keep. The three of us will go inside together."
The laughter that followed had Seto worried it would send both Pegasus and Yugi, still struggling to breathe, over the ledge. It didn't sound amused or genuine, but full of disbelief and madness, animated enough to shake their footing.
"You'll come inside with me, Seto? You too, Yugi-boy?" Pegasus said, leaning down to speak almost cheek to cheek with Yugi. "That's so sweet, trying to backpedal out of destroying my home and besmirching my wife's memory."
The helicopters came around, flying past the balcony, most likely looking for a place to land or surveying the extent of the damage. It was the first time Seto realized they might not be able to see what was happening through the smoke bellowing through the air, rising high up above their heads and collecting in the sky like clouds. But there wasn't any more time to stall. Pegasus knew this was the end. The helicopters circled in search of landing ground, loud over their heads.
"Please," Mokuba said, gaze held high and attention seemingly locked into the middle space between Pegasus and the ocean behind him. He shoved Seto to the side—hard—and sent him stumbling closer to the castle entrance. "We hear you," Mokuba continued, taking a step forward that moved him off to one side.
"Do you? Do you hear me? Then what am I telling you, Little Mokuba?"
Mokuba nodded once for a reason Seto couldn't explain and moved forward another step. He was within several yards of Pegasus by this point and Seto tried to match his step, to put himself closer to the gun.
When he looked from Mokuba back to Pegasus, he saw the helicopter directly behind him. It wasn't as steady as Seto would have liked it to be, but the man standing in the door with the gun didn't seemed phased by the slight adjustments he would have to make. Mokuba had pushed Seto out of the gun's line of fire.
If he shot Pegasus, they might both fall back.
Mokuba was going to make a grab for them.
"I'll lie for you," Mokuba said. "I'm sure Seto will too. This wasn't your fault. You were just trying to do what you thought was right. What was right."
Pegasus leaned forward, bending Yugi at the waist, but giving him a moment to take a heavy breath.
"Is that right? You'll lie for me, Kaiba-b—"
The echo of the gunshot cut the word short and Mokuba sprinted forward to grab Yugi and pull him forward, bringing them both to the stone ground rather than plummeting back over the cliff. Yugi's breaths were the next thing Seto heard, having run forward himself to get the gun out of Pegasus's hand.
There was no point in his effort.
The shot had gone in the back of his head and out his good eye.
Mokuba didn't hesitate by staring like Seto did. He worked Yugi away from Pegasus and the stream of blood that guttered down. Yugi scrambled back to Téa, who Seto had forgotten was standing there, falling into her arms in half hug, half support, while Devlin came up at their side.
It was Mokuba who looked back when Seto couldn't take his gaze off Pegasus. "The guards ran," he said, then stepped closer to Seto to make room for Wheeler and Bakura to join the semi-circle around Pegasus.
The winds beat smoke into Seto's eyes and filled his lungs. The air had grown hot from the fire and stifled every movement, slowing it down and making Seto ache. None of them could do anything but hold their attention down on the man who had held them prisoner for a year, watching the blood pool spread.
Mokuba slipped his hand into Seto's. Both of their palms were burned, and Seto was certain Mokuba felt the same stinging sensation when they squeezed at the same time. But feeling it and focusing on it were two incredibly different things.
"Good riddance," Devlin said. He nudged Pegasus's body with a foot as if to prove he was actually dead. "Bastard had it coming."
"He was in mourning," Mokuba said.
Téa nodded dully.
"He was insane," Devlin insisted.
"Eccentric," Wheeler said, and although his voice had the forced inflection of a joke, none of them managed to laugh.
❤ Thanks for reading. ❤