So we are back to normal updating times! Minor warning for this chapter: if you are a bit squeamish, skip the end of this chapter. There is a small gorey scene and if you're easily upset and/or triggered by implied torture and bodily mutilation, then skip it. It's fine but I feel the need to give the warning anyway.
Anyway, hopefully this trend will continue and I hope you enjoy this chapter!
To avoid confusion:
Words Yami speaking mentally
Words Yugi speaking mentally
"Words" Characters speaking Japanese
"Words" Characters speaking Ancient Egyptian
"Words" Characters speaking Arabic
"Words" Characters speaking Akkadian
Yami had been oddly silent since second period. He had wandered off somewhere and returned looking a little shell-shocked, almost as if he had forgotten that he was in spirit form. If Atem noticed, he didn't react, instead merely putting away the board and pieces of their Senet game. It had been interesting, and he wondered if he would be able to borrow the board and entice Yami into a game later. It would probably be nice for the Pharaoh to play something familiar that wasn't Duel Monsters. But that couldn't happen until he started talking to him again.
They were currently sat in the dungeons, focusing on Potions. The Professor turned out to be one Professor Snape, who Harry had been rather vocal about the night before once described to him. Yugi found that he could see why. The man seemed to pick on his new dormmate a lot, although it was odd that he seemed to keep an eye out for… something. Yugi wasn't sure what and he attempted to poke the Pharaoh once more to elicit some kind of reaction from him. This time, Yami did respond, sitting in spirit form on the empty bench next to him. Unlike the others, there had been an odd number so Yugi had gotten a desk all to himself. Kaiba had been unwillingly dragged into being partners with Hermione, despite the House differences, Harry was sharing with Ron and Atem and Akhefia were sat together, although it seemed Yami's look-a-like was preventing Akhefia from deliberately blowing his cauldron up. Marik appeared to be taking great delight in tormenting Malfoy.
My apologies Yami said, watching Yugi work. Your teacher from this morning mistook me for… ah, him. Yami vaguely gestured towards where Atem was working and it was odd, seeing the Pharaoh like this. Usually he appeared similar to Yugi, dressed in the same clothes that Yugi was, but in this school, he looked more like Atem than ever, dressed in what must have been his kingly apparal, his skin the same tan even if he was translucent in this form. It was interesting for him, from an archaeological standpoint, but he supposed if the Spirit didn't know it would be something of a shock. It was also odd that Yami seemed unable to say Atem's name.
Oh, I wondered. Yugi paused, concentrating for a moment on ensuring the mandrake roots he was cutting were identical. Are you sure you're alright? You've been off since we arrived.
I'm certain Yami said, giving him a reassuring smile. I did at least manage to find out that only a certain few are able to see me and presumably Ryou's dark side as well. Although… Yami trailed off as the teacher suddenly loomed over his table. Yugi jumped, blinking up at him as the man leaned over his cauldron.
"Potions," Snape said, a slight sneer on his face, "requires full concentration Mr Mutou." Was it his imagination or did the Professor's eyes flick over to where Yami was sitting? Could the Potion's Professor see him? Yugi wasn't sure how to answer that when, suddenly, he was saved by a loud explosion from behind Snape. The man in question turned swiftly on his heel, barking as he went, "Kheti!" Akhefia was standing rather nonchalantly by his smoking cauldron. Or at least what was left of it.
"Yes Professor?" he asked innocently. Snape's face contorted in fury, and Yugi noticed that quite a few Gryffindors were leaning forwards, waiting for something. The Potion's Master swept over to the ruined cauldron, picking up a vial or two of unused ingredients, his face slowly becoming a blank mask.
"Is there a reason you decided snake fangs were a required ingredient in a Shrinking Solution?" he asked almost delicately. Akhefia's face was just as innocent-looking as before, although he had somehow managed to explode his potion without catching either himself or Atem, who didn't look particularly pleased to have to clean the desk. Diabound popped it's head out from under Akhefia's collar, tongue tasting the air.
"Is that what were we making sir? I'm sorry my English is a little rusty on the reading side." Snape gave him a long penetrating look and the Slytherins seemed to be holding their breath over something.
"Detention Mr Kheti, where you will learn to brush up on your English," Snape said silkily, waving his wand at the mess. It disappeared as the teacher swept away in a billow of black cloak, snapping, "the rest of you have ten minuets to finish your potions and have them on my desk in time for clean up!" The effect was instantaneous. The Slytherins immediately jumped back to work, whispering among themselves, with Malfoy looking particularly displeased. The Gryffindors were sulking, muttering angry words under their breaths and Akhefia was looking triumphant.
What do you think he achieved with that stunt? Yugi wondered, speaking loudly enough mentally that Yami would hear him. The Pharaoh was watching the teen with narrowed eyes, enough so that Akhefia turned and winked in their direction.
I believe that he just gathered himself some followers while distracting the teacher from questioning you about me Yami mused out loud, seeming to consider the other boy's actions. And by the looks of things, he wasn't alone in the planning of that. Yugi blinked, turning to look at their table again, even as he added the last ingredients to his own potion. Snape had already swept over and banished Harry's, he didn't exactly want the same treatment. Atem, too, was working on his potion, but oddly enough, the older teen had seemingly palmed the remaining snake fangs off the table. It seemed that it wasn't just Akhefia he had learnt from.
The two of them almost ran from the classroom afterwards, Atem off to their DADA class, while Akhefia was already pestering Marik and Kaiba on their way to Herbology. Yugi didn't fail to notice the dirty looks they were gaining from one Draco Malfoy but not from the rest of the Slytherins.
I think you might be right Yugi murmured, joining Harry, Ron and Hermione on their way out.
The underground temple was cold at night, colder even, than the desert above. Most took refuge within their own homes at this time of night, but one man slipped through the corridors. It had been a short ritual the past few nights, to clear the air of the Shadows that were stirring, ever so slowly, in preparation for their king's return. The torches on the walls flickered as he passed, but this didn't trouble the man in the slightest. He had roamed these halls for years- a little darkness was nothing when one spent the majority of their life underground.
Upon reaching the temple, he knelt at the alter in prayer. The temple was not as grand as it ought to be. The depression within the country and the incoming waves of new religions over the years had left the bigger temples destitute. Even now, most of their people had forgotten their roots and the true gods as their ancestors had known them. It was appalling to the man that they could forget their heritage so easily, and yet lay claim to artefacts they no longer remembered how to use. It had been the job of the Tomb Keepers to preserve this heritage, to upkeep the role of the High Priests amongst others. That his family had been so blessed by Pharaoh Set, to ensure that this heritage persevere even throughout the hardest of times, and keep the deceiver, the Akkadian witch away.
He reached the alter and knelt in prayer, whispering to the God Ra to watch over his children lost in a cold land, so far from his healing light. He prayed for them to be strong, even while they were under attack from forces that thought themselves superior to Mages taught the delicate art of the Shadows and studied under the many scrolls left to them and salvaged from the great fire at Alexandria. A fire that may have been started by them in the first place. After all, one could not have this kind of power falling into the hands of the Romans- the folly that had been Alexander the Great and his Macedonian forces was lesson enough to attest to that. Others, too, were praying here and he could see from the corner of his eye, Ashayt with her head also bent in prayer at the foot of the statue of Seth. Not unusual for a member of the infamous Thief Court.
She jumped after he approached her, but unlike others, simply nodded her head to acknowledge his presence. Months spent ferrying herself and three others across the harsh desert, only to be found half-dead of thirst by the Tomb Keepers had hardened her and earned her a respect that was unparalleled by the others in her group. Not that that meant much.
"Have you checked the fortifications? Without Akhefia here, it is your job," he asked. She scowled fiercely at him, her eyes blazing with hatred.
"I am aware. No signs of an attack by this 'Lord Voldemort', although we caught a few of his followers scouting the old temple." She paused, the corners of her mouth twitching into a gruesome smile. "Don't worry, we returned them to their master. However, they may be missing a few… pieces." He grimaced at the thought but, in times such as these, one must use every available resource. They no longer had Prince Atem's vast magickal reserves to help with upkeeping the wards, nor the Magician's help. Mahad had left to follow his prince, taking his apprentice with him. Not even the white dragon had stayed here, no matter his pleading on the matter. Surely, it would only be a matter of time until the witch made her move- not even death had stopped her terrible crusade and it had cost their young king his life.
It had nearly cost Egypt so much more.
Ashayt left him to his prayers, not even bothering with any parting words and for that he was grateful. Respect she might have from others for her grim determination and fierce loyalty, but he had always found her grating. Not to mention she had brought… scum into the Clans. It was bad enough that his presence had been found once again, that their prince had given him a pardon was near… unthinkable. He loved the prince dearly and wished the best for him, but sometimes, Atem was just too unyielding for his own good, especially when it came to those he saw as friends. He couldn't blame him, the poor boy had too few of them and, of those he had, far too many had already been dead for thousands of years. Kneeling now in front of the statue of Horus, he prayed for the healing of the prince, his continued health past even when the scribes stated he would not live. The signs were there, had been even before he had left, and he prayed that he would not die there, in a strange and foreign land so far from those who loved him.
"So typical, to find you here," a voice stated, breaking the silence of the temple. He started, his prayers broken off as he looked around. The temple was suddenly deserted, the other worshippers either gone or taken, he didn't know. The only other person in the room was a man with long green hair and oddly coloured eyes. One a soft golden brown, the other a startling green. There was no way to determine his age- there was an ethereal agelessness about him that was completely unnatural and the lump of green rock about his neck, carved with a six pointed star, only furthered this vision.
"Who are you?" he demanded, alarmed by the man's fluent Coptic. It was rare to hear it spoken by outsiders. The man gave a smirk as he stepped forward, inspecting the carving of Horus.
"No one of importance. But you," the man glanced sideways, eyes narrowed slightly, a smirk on his face. "You haven't changed one bit. Akhnankhamun." A chill ran down his spine. No one dared speak his name, it was heresy to see the Pharaoh as anything less than a god on earth.
"What is it you want?" Akhnankhamun asked, wary now. This was no mortal man, no friend of theirs. The man before him seemed to consider him for a moment.
"Many things, however none that you can help with." There was a pause and then the stranger smiled, dark and cruel. "But there is something you can give me. After all, we both know how this plays out don't we? The penitent father prays for absolution, desperate to spare the son of his sins yet failing anyway." Akhnankhamun shivered and took a step backwards, away from this creature that was almost stalking him.
"You know nothing," he spat, angry and afraid. He would not let anything happen to his son! He had failed him in his past life, he would not do so again. Not to the Thief, nor the witch or Necrophades and certainly not to this man.
"Don't I?" The man's smile only became all the more vicious. "Perhaps a history lesson? Or, to be in line with your people's customs, a game?" He raised an arm, showing the Duel Disk that had appeared there, although like none he had ever seen before. Unlike the Kaiba Corp design that was so close to a diadhank that Akhnankhamun had wondered who had designed them, this one was shaped more like a weapon. An axe or, more chillingly, a scythe.
"I will accept a game with you," Akhnankhamun said. "But I will choose. And when I win, you will leave and never return." The stranger's smile grew.
"I can agree to that. And if I win, I shall have your soul."
The voice was there again, echoing around the room. It was probably just sleep deprivation- he had been working through the past couple of nights so that he could have a proper conversation with Mokuba at a reasonable time of day and keep on top of his work. Seto Kaiba had never been called a slacker. However…
"Set. Set, please…" He hadn't been called that since both he and Mokuba were little. It was the way his father pronounced his name, never adding the 'o' their mother had added to the name. "Set… You have to warn him!" The voice was getting more frantic, and Kaiba decided that it was truly time to get some sleep if he was tired enough to be hearing voices. He ignored the fact that the voice was familiar, despite never hearing it before. He ignored the tingling sensation in his fingers, the warmth in his heart and the faint glow from his deck, sat as usual on his bedside table. Climbing under the sheets, still fully dressed in his uniform sans the robes, he stubbornly closed his eyes against it, fully turned away from the deck.
It's nothing more than an illusion. In a few hours the sun will be up and you'll be going down to breakfast where you can phone Mokuba. There isn't anything calling to you. The words might have been more convincing had he not witnessed the odd number of things that had occurred today. Like Atem's clear trouble sleeping from the night before, brushed off the next morning. The stupid ghost that followed Yugi that he'd been adamant was nothing more than a figment of his imagination until forced to go to this school. The way Akhefia shifted throughout the school, manipulating their house to his way of thinking and cutting off the bigots from the rest. The way Professor Snape held a mask firmly in place, so well that the students truly believed that such acts were the man's true form.
Kaiba knew illusions and masks. He himself had worn one, right up until the Spirit of the Puzzle that Yugi had named 'Yami' had Mind Crushed him. It had forced him to put things back into place that he hadn't wanted to look at. To go back over that meeting, all those years ago, meeting his cousin for the first and only time. As his eyes slipped closed, he could almost visualise it…
Egypt was hot. He had never really appreciated how hot, until coming to the country and he was already irritated by it. He hadn't been CEO of Kaiba Corp for too long and he had one more loose end to wrap up before he could truly break all ties to his past. The twelve-year-old straightened in his seat, enjoying the sensation of power this gave him. At last, he would finally be rid of the family that had cast he and his brother to the wayside. It didn't matter that the relatives that had squandered their inheritance were on his mother's side- his father's family, too, had abandoned them. Just much earlier.
Roland, the man he had hired and a capable security manager, opened the door, ushering in two people. The first, a red-head, clearly new to this job and wide-eyed at the place he had been brought into. Next to him, was a shorter boy with long hair in an annoyingly familiar three colours. If it hadn't been for a slightly different bone structures, eye colour and skin tone, this boy would be a twin to the annoying little runt by the name of Yugi Mutou in the school the investors had forced him to go to. Red eyes were watching him closely, almost too closely for any twelve-year-old. Both sat in the chairs set out for them, Roland leaving without having said a word. Seto liked that about the man.
"So, you are my cousin Set," the boy said, his voice only a few decebels lower than that of the runt. Seto scowled, not liking this boy presuming to call him by his father's nickname. He had buried it, and he was not going to let this boy run this meeting.
"It is Seto Kaiba to you. Set Menes is dead," he stated clearly. The red-head looked alarmed as he turned his stony gaze on him. "And who is this idiot?" he asked with a sneer.
"B-Bill Weasley," the man stammered, looking in over his head.
"Bill is no idiot, just new. He is my… tutor in subjects that you wouldn't be interested in," his cousin stated. "And what does Seto Kaiba want from us?" Seto narrowed his eyes- this boy was just as intuitive as himself. Why couldn't all investors be like him?
"That you have no right to us. And you can tell your father that too." All he got from that underlying threat was a raised eyebrow. His cousin seemed unfazed by tactics that had had business tycoons sweating in their seats.
"I see." The boy got up from his seat, tugging at Bill's sleeve. "Then we shall follow your wishes. Come along Bill." Seto got the distinct feeling that he had let him down in some way and it oddly made him feel guilty. But no, he was not going to let this boy get away with that. The only person who could be close to him was Mokuba; this boy had done nothing to earn that kind of recognition!
"I'm going to need a name!" Seto called out to them. "So I know exactly who to blacklist," he said, giving the boy a cruel smirk when he saw the raw hurt in the other boy's eyes. There might even have been a glimmer of tears. He received a scowl so fierce he almost recoiled, while the red-head- Bill- frowned, looking disapproving.
"Atem." And with that he was gone in a swirl of cream robes and flying hair. The choked sound of that single spat word haunted Seto for hours after they had left and he couldn't understand how. The meeting hadn't gone anything like he had imagined and why did he get the feeling that his cousin, this Atem, had been hoping for something else? Some other offer from him? But what could some archaeologist's son in the backwaters of nowhere want from him? And where the hell had he learnt to bargain like that? Seto had only recently himself mastered the art, realising that the best way to get what he wanted was to act like it was in his grasp already.
But this time, it felt like he had let it slip away right through his hands…
Kaiba sat upright in bed, the old feelings of guilt and bitterness still stuck somewhere in his head. He mentally growled, shaking the last remnants of the dream away, taking note of the sunlight streaming through blue curtains. He didn't know how all of their rooms had windows and he didn't much care- sunlight meant it was daytime and that meant that he had work to do. After the disaster that had been the day they arrived and the complete non-sequitur of the day before, he was determined to put these stupid feelings behind him. So what if he had disappointed his cousin? Atem and his family had disappointed him, he had no right to make Kaiba feel this way. He had meant what he said that day: Set Menes was dead. There was no bringing him back to life.
Kaiba angrily stripped, washed and changed into fresh clothes, readying himself for the day. It didn't matter that it was still too early, there was plenty of work left to do on his laptop even if he did have another pointless History of Magic lesson that day. It had been arranged so that he only had half-days on Fridays in the case that he might need to leave for the weekend. It didn't really matter to Kaiba since he would leave when he damn well pleased, but he had allowed the Headmaster to feel as if he had had some control over him. It would help in the long run when he pulled the rug out from under him later about how he had no control over any of them and that this school was not only ridiculous but also dangerous for its students.
A couple of hours later, Kaiba was heading downstairs for breakfast along with the other three. After an awkward start, Marik seemed to be warming up to Akhefia (no doubt due to the other's propensity for chaos and violence), while Atem was quiet. Unlike the day before though, it wasn't subdued, merely content. No doubt his cousin was amused by the two ruffians planning on terrosising the blonde idiot some more that day, concocting some non-magical scheme for when they finally met the toad of a teacher. Rumours were that she had already given Harry detention for speaking out of turn and that her classes were not only dull, but useless as well.
Well, if those two wanted to cause chaos in that political mess, who was Kaiba to stop them? Atem certainly wasn't.
He eyed his cousin, even as they sat down, trying to put together the image from his memory and the young man now. There was something that Kaiba couldn't quite put his finger on as different about him. The aura around him was the same, he was still as calm and collected as ever but those brief flashes of emotion were gone, any softness given by leftover baby fat long since gone from his face. In fact, Kaiba would even say he looked a little drawn, as if he wasn't eating properly which didn't make much sense when one considered that he ate well enough at meal times. It wasn't an obvious unhealthiness, but for someone who had seen him before, it was there.
At the moment the three idiot Gryffindors and Yugi joined them, the post was just coming in. Amongst them was an owl with a letter from Mokuba- no doubt his brother was excited to use this archaic form of communication despite the fact that they had technology that enabled them to talk every day- and a falcon that carried a rather large package. It dropped it right in front of Atem, who looked startled to see it there.
"Shehbui?" he stated, startled, at the same time the voice from the night before screamed "Set, don't let him open it!". Kaiba, near defened by a scream no one else could hear, was far more concerned by the dark staining on the packaging. A rather distinct staining that could be nothing good. He reached out to stop his cousin from opening it here at the table, for some reason following the woman's voice, but it was too late. Atem had already pulled the string from the package, letting the paper, and subsequent cloth wrapping fall away and out rolled a severed human hand. Atem immediately recoiled, his face filled with a horror that Kaiba had never seen but had felt only once before. Akhefia swore in what must have been several different languages and there were several shouts of disgust from around the table.
Kaiba was the first to reach for it. He had seen that the hand held something, a note of some kind or another. He gently tugged it out, trying to touch the hand as little as possible. The skin tone was a deep tan, the fingers covered in golden rings. It didn't take much for Kaiba to guess where it had come from. He quickly scanned and read through the note, handing it to his cousin to decipher while he studied what had been sent with it. Atem took it with a hand that shook almost imperceptibly and Kaiba pretended not to see. The second object the hand had held was a card, supposedly a Duel Monsters one but the effects box was blank. It was green, denoting it as a spell card but that wasn't what caught his eye about it. It was the image.
In the centre of the card, caught as if behind steel bars constructed of a glowing six-pointed star, was a man who shared the same facial structures and eye shape as Atem. A man, who was staring in horror at a stump raised to his face level and Kaiba swallowed heavily, exchanging glances with Akhefia even as the teachers swarmed to the table, the words of the letter ringing in his ears.
To the victor goes the spoils. I will have your soul next, Pharaoh. The Serpent King.
Ah Akhefia, you just have to manipulate the situation for your benefit. It's why you're so fun to write :). Also, I'm sorry that I've spent the last couple of chapters on one day- don't worry this is the last chapter like that and I'm going to be skipping some time over the next couple of chapters because, while this story does move at a snail's pace, it does need time skips too ;)
So, next elephant in the room. I reiterate my point from Harry last chapter: some of these views are not my own. Case in point: Akhnankanon (yes I spelt it differently). The way I see it, you can see moments of these views in Ishizu and Marik's flashbacks of their time spent underground. Their father is blatantly ostracising Odion for merely being an outsider. So, it made me very uncomfortable to have to write from that perspective but it must be done. It also made me uncomfortable to have to re-read it because, goddamn it Akhnankhamun why you have to be so discriminatory! And it's not that bad (unlike some of what the Ministry gets up to later) but I felt like apologising the whole way through writing it and then reading it. However, before someone goes 'why did you do it?', it's due to the fact that I'm trying to write a character who, not only is forced to grow up in a secular environment, but also has memories of how things used to be, what actually happened in the past. And then, trying to put that into a 'modern' context, which was hard and I had to think 'what would Atem's dad really be like through all of that?' And the answer is... not great. He's not actively a terrible person, he's just bigoted like the pure-bloods in Harry Potter and frustrated that his son is having none of it. Add to that, that Akhnankanon in Yugioh is not as pure as we think- look deeper than 'Akhnadin created the Items', Akhnankanon let him go out there and create his own worst enemy. Unintentionally, but he knew his brother had the Millennium Spellbook, knew that it required a sacrifice of some kind and that these Items would be powerful. And let him go anyway. Ancient Pharaohs did not have the same moral compass as we do today.
So my apologies if anyone is particularly offended. They are not my views, they are the characters and hopefully I have made that clear enough in the explanation.
So, hello Kaiba, it's the first time we've had your perspective. It was interesting writing him and having his reaction sort of hard to write because Kaiba's seen gore before- I am going with the manga's killing of Gozaburo by committing suicide. And jumping out of a window is not a clean death. And also, it's happening to someone he doesn't want to admit he cares about- writing it required many read throughs. And again, apologies for the mildly graphic imagery.
Anyway, hopefully I haven't put you all off and I'll see you next week!
UnformalSorrelle: Hi, thanks for reading and reviewing and I'm glad you found it interesting! Hopefully still so!
Nozomi Higurashi: Aw thank you! And thank you for reading the notes it's nice to know that someone is! XD Hopefully this is just as interesting as the last few even with the swift dive into the deep end!
Fireking492: Haha, you have no idea I really am! It is one of my few skills that I am proficient in along with procrastination ;) Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter too xx