Hello everyone! My YGO fever doesn't seem to have passed so here goes! Inspired as you've probably guessed by Pirates of the Caribbean. I love pirates AU and so I thought I'd make my own.
July 7th, 1739
Everything burns around me. The screams have died already. I need air but all I managed to get to my lungs is the thick smoke that spreads along with the flames. Coughing tears through my throat, choking me and tears of pain and fear escape my eyes.
Mama. Papa. Where are you? I need you. It burns. It hurts. Please. Someone please. Help me.
Then, two arms wrap around me, lifting me into the air. But I don't know these arms. There too thin to be papa's. Too rough to be mama's. I don't know them, but I don't fight back. I can't move. My back and my arms hurt too much, like the flesh has molten off of my bones. The person carrying me moves quickly, until we're out of the smoke and we see the village burning to ashes. It's blurry. I don't understand what happened but I know. I know nothing will ever be the same. The boy pants heavily as we stare at the flames.
"I got you. You're safe now," he says, panting and filled with anger. The arms squeeze me tighter. "I swear. I won't let anything happen to you, ever. I swear on my life!"
May 29th, 1751
I finally open my eyes to gaze at the sea. The crystal blue waves of the Jamaican sea are crashing on the sand of the beach gently as the wind blows gently on my face. I like watching the ocean. It doesn't make the bad memories go away but it keeps me serene. I was so young when it happened. I don't remember much but the images of the fire are always so vivid. It's all I remember now. Everything else; my parent's faces, the village itself… It's all so foggy. The more I try to remember, the more blurry it gets. I sighed when I feel that pinch in my heart.
'It shouldn't be possible to forget things so important.'
Suddenly, Mahaad paws at the ground impatiently, pulling me out of my trance. I smile and pat the neck of my little bay horse.
"I know, I know. Sorry to keep you waiting."
As if he can understand me, he shakes his head and neighs. I know what he wants but I have to be sure no one is around first. I scan the beach and the sea; no fisherman or boats in sight. I glance at the road that goes along the sand. Clear. I can't help but grin and bring my hands to my head to remove my head scarf and free my hair. Who knows how long I have before someone shows up? I better hurry. I put my scarf in my pocket before readjusting my reins and kicking Mahaad to a trot that almost immediately turns to a gallop. He may be small but he's fast. So fast that the wind he creates with his speed makes my thick mass of hair fly. Nothing feels better than this. We gallop like this until we reach one end of the beach. There I stop him and take out the strange toy Moki lend me this morning. He bought it from a Polish sailor a few days ago. It's nice craftsmanship. It's made of nicely polished wood and has the shape of a triangle corner. It's apparently used for hunting birds. I wonder if my people used tools like this.
'No, Yugi, no. No more thinking about that.' I tell myself as I refocus on the wooden object. 'Time for testing.'
Mahaad doesn't even wait for my command and starts galloping in the opposite direction at full speed. Tying my reins in a knot, I let them go and raise a hand to calculate my trajectory. Now! I throw it as hard as I can. It spins and flies through the air ahead. I keep my eye on it and hold my breath in anticipation. Finally, it curves around, over the water and comes back at me from behind. I reach back and catch it but it scrapes my hand in the process. Ouch. Hurts more than I thought it would. But at least I managed to catch it and I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
"Wo-oh," I tell Mahaad, pulling on the reins. "You can slow down now, boy."
He slows down to a canter but no less. I let him run around a bit more. I know he's going to be locked up for a while without me to take him out. After throwing it around a couple more times, I put the boomerang back in my saddle bag. Closing my eyes, I let Mahaad lead me around however he pleases. I feel the sea wind in my hair. This is one of the only moments I can let it loose.
'God help me if Seto finds me out.'
He forbids me from showing my hair to anyone. I always have to wear wigs when we got out in public. No other human being in the world has tricolor hair like the Shayee. Mine is mostly purplish black mixed with some magenta, and golden streaks here and there. It is said that in the past, the Shayee were considered demons because of their hair. In truth, we were harmless. At least that's what I want to believe. Twelve years ago, when the massacre happened, I was only four. And aside from the flames, there's not much I can remember. If it weren't for Seto and the Kaiba family, I wouldn't be here today. There's no one I can ask questions to. I can't tell people who I am. That is my curse as the last living Shayee.
Suddenly, Mahaad abruptly comes to a halt and I nearly fall off. The bell of Domino's port town rings in the distance and a jolt of discomfort shoots through my spine. I curse myself for being so allergic to keeping a watch with me. I kick my horse to a quick canter and as he dashes onto the trail leading back to town, I stuff my hair back under my head scarf.
'Please let me be back before him, please let me be back before him…' I silently pray as I pick up my reins and urge Mahaad.
Seto Kaiba's anger is like a threatening thunderstorm. It hovers ominously over your head and you never know if the lightening is going to strike or not. I have only been on the receiving hand once, but it wasn't a pleasant experience. Oh and curse my luck, I still have to bathe and change too! Maybe Moki can buy some time if he's home. By the time we reach Domino, the town bell rings the half hour. I take a shortcut through the market place, nearly running into every stand I cross. Thank Mahaad's agility, we never cause too much damage. But we're quite infamous in that spot.
"Watch it, boy!" shouts old Tom, the shoemaker. "How many times've I told ye to keep yer damn horse away from here, ya lil' rascal?"
"Sorry!" I apologize without stopping. "I-It won't happen again."
I promise that every time, and I mean it every time, but every time, I'm late! All the merchants are used to see me go by. Not having much of a figure and am quite short, I'm often mistaken for a boy. That is the point after all, though I have become sort of a troublemaker for the merchants. Finally, we reach the stables at the back of the Kaiba mansion on the hill that dominates Domino. I usually take care of Mahaad myself, but this time, I gratefully leave him in Hobson's care. The old stable hand never asks questions but I'm certain he always knows what I'm up to. I thank him and quickly run up the stairs. I get to my room and shut the door behind me.
I jump and whip around to find Maria, the chambermaid, hands on her hips glaring at me. It appears she's been waiting for me.
"I didn't mean to be this late, I'm so sorry…" I begin.
"No time for excuses," interrupts the woman. "I've prepared a bath and clothes for you. Hurry and get out of these atrocities before the Master gets here. Hurry now!"
I don't discuss and run to the bathroom where I discard my sailor clothes and get into the rose perfumed, warm water. I quickly wash my skin, especially my feet. I can handle having to wear corsets and tight dresses and hairdos, but shoes are my one curse. I'm barefoot as often as I can. The downside is that now, I have to scrub, scrub, scrub to the point that the dirty skin comes off. Still, I carefully avoid doing the same to the skin on my back and arms. Glancing at the mirror behind me, I look at the old burn scars. They take up a large part of my back and upper arms. At this point, it's clear that they are never going to fade. More images of the fire flashes in my mind and I slap both my hands on my cheek to chase them. As if on cue, Maria comes back in after having taken my clothes away. She then proceeds to dump a bucket of cold water on my head.
"Aah! Cold," I say, shivering.
"Oh hush," she growls before mercilessly brushing my thick and awfully tangled hair. "If you didn't want to rush, you should not have been late. Honestly, must I have to remind you that whenever you disobey the master, I also get in trouble."
"I'm really sorry," I say, gritting my teeth as every brush stroke threatens to rip off my skull. "Wait, you didn't throw away my clothes, did you?"
"I most certainly would, if I was sure it would keep you from taking off like this. You need to remember that you are the ward of the Kaiba family, Lady Yugi. You have to start acting as such, especially now that you are at a marrying age."
I sigh quietly. Maria has been taking care of me ever since I got here. She's like a big sister and lectures like those always await me whenever I return from my little trips. I know she means well but I can't ever imagine myself as a proper wife. Ever since I was brought here as a child, I've received the same education as a noble lady. I've been taught how to read and write, to dance, to ride (like a proper lady, of course), to conduct myself in social gatherings, to walk in fancy shoes and tight dresses… I can do all of these things without effort now. But ever since the death of the previous head of the family, Baron Gozaburo Kaiba, I've barely gone out at all. If the former baron had a reason to keep me here and teach me all of this, I'm not sure Seto shared the same opinion. I can't remember the last time he allowed me to go out by myself.
"What have you done to your hair?" asks Maria, pulling sharply on a big knot. "I thought I told you to keep it attached whenever you go out riding."
"Sorry," I apologize again, "but it's not like anyone is going to see it. I always wear a wig when I go out in public."
"It doesn't matter. If you don't take care of your hair properly, it'll become impossible to untangle and you'll have to cut it all off. Besides, Masters Seto and Mokuba see your hair everyday."
"Tangled or not," I mutter.
Ignoring my comment, she then proceeds to wash my hair with an orange scented perfume. The smell is nice but I still prefer the smell of the sea wind. It's more familiar. Once done, she helps me get dry my hair and then lets me get dressed in a simple (corset free, thank heaven) dark blue dress and white slippers. I let my hair loose to let them finish drying properly and step out on the balcony of my room.
The view is great from here. I can see all of Domino including the port and most of all, the ocean in the horizon. Tomorrow is the day. I'll finally be able to sail it. It's been so long since I've been on a ship. I smile to myself just thinking about it. I don't know why the sea calls out to me this much. It's like a song only I can hear. Maybe because the Shayee used to live of the sea? Legend has it they were the first to conquer the oceans. No one sailed or fished better than them. The door of my room opens and Maria returns.
"The master would like to see you," she says very seriously.
"Am I in trouble?"
"I suppose you are about to find out. He is waiting for you in the music room."
Without adding anything, I make my way down the hall and the marble stairs. As I get closer, I hear the piano playing throughout the first floor. It's beautiful, without so much as one mistake. Yet I have trouble swallowing. Seto plays this particular melody whenever he's impatient or irritated. Calm down Yugi. He might just be preoccupied by his work. It wouldn't be the first time. I stop in front of the door and listen to him play for a bit, waiting for the music to slow down a little. I take a deep breath before knocking.
The music room is entirely white. The seats, the tea table, the curtains, the carpets, everything is pure white with golden decorative motives. The four large windows let in the sunlight making it shine brightly. It usually gives an air of freshness to this room. Only, a certain someone's irritation was causing the atmosphere to be heavy and uncomfortable. Seto doesn't lift his eyes off the piano or stop playing when I enter. I stand there like a stick, waiting for him to finish. Once Seto Kaiba started something, he never stopped until the very end. He has taken off his long navy bluecoat and tricorn, leaving him in his white shirt, waistcoat, cravat and pants. If it wasn't for his brown boots, he'd matched the room completely. I notice the bags under his eyes. Finally, he stops and stares at me.
"Welcome back," I say, awkwardly avoiding his gaze. "How was your trip?"
"Uneventful," he replied dryly.
He stands up and walks over to me. He's well over six feet tall but for some reason, he feels much taller to me. Being as short as I am doesn't help. I can't look away force myself to smile. He doesn't say anything but I know his eyes can see right through me. After a moment, he grabs a lock of my hair.
"Since when do you bathe in the middle of the afternoon?"
"I uh… I-It was really hot today…"
He doesn't let me answer and brings the lock to his face to smell it. I stiffen and hold my breath but he straightens up quickly. Only this time, his eyes are throwing daggers at me.
"Orange blossom with a hint of sea salt. Strange combination. The problem with thick hair like yours is that it's really difficult to completely wash away a smell once it's been imbued with it." He lets go and crossed his arms on his chest. "Tell me, should I fire Maria for trying to help you hide this from me?"
"She wasn't trying to help me hide it," I say. "She'd never lie to you. She just wanted me to be properly dressed for when you got back."
"And that just told me you were out riding on the beach again. Damn it, Yugi!"
"There was no one there. And I had my headscarf on, I promise."
"The entire time?" he asks raising an eyebrow at me, and the pause I take betrays me. "I knew it."
I give up. I don't understand why I still try to hide things from him. He knows me better than anyone and somehow I still thought I could fool him. Brilliant Yugi. I sighed, defeated.
"You won't let me go out without you and you've been gone two weeks. I can't stay locked up in here all the time. I need to breath Seto. I need to go out without hiding, if only an hour a day."
"So you've been doing this every day in my absence." Why does everything I say dig my own grave? My plea doesn't faze him one bit. "I'm seriously reconsidering letting you come with me tomorrow."
A jolt of panic strikes me and I grab him by the arms.
"No! You can't! You said when I turned sixteen you'd let me go on missions with you. You promised!"
"And you promised to behave yourself until then," he snaps back, pulling his arm free. "Now that I know I can't trust you, I don't exactly feel like taking you along."
"Enough. Go back to your room and stay there until I say so. Try sneaking out again, and I'll take Mahaad from you."
I don't get anytime to reply, he walks past me and leaves, slamming the door behind him.
The sun slowly sets and the view from my balcony is as breathtaking as ever, but all I see is the distance between me and the ocean. Maria brought me something to eat but my stomach is so tight, I can't swallow anything. My toes tap incessantly on the ground. The urge to take Mahaad and embark on the first boat I see hasn't left me since my talk with Seto. If I'd just been patient or at least more careful… Tomorrow was supposed to be the day. I can still feel it. The call of the sea, making my heart throb and pulling me towards the water. I've heard it ever since I was first brought here. At first going to the beach when no one was around was enough. But the older I get and the stronger the call becomes. It's been screaming in my ears for almost a year now. Sneaking out as much as I can to the port or the beach isn't enough anymore. Maybe the anticipation plays a part in this. I must go back. I just have to. Or I'll go mad.
'What am I supposed to do now? I can't wait another year for Seto to calm down…'
My planning gets abruptly interrupted when my door slams open and Mokuba barges in, not yet changed out of his school uniform.
"Yugi, are you there?"
"Out here, Moki," I call out.
Maybe he'll keep the thoughts away. The black-haired twelve-year-old steps out onto the balcony, and find me, sitting on the ground and laying against the wall.
"What are you doing down there?" he asks, sitting next to me. "It's not very ladylike to sit on the ground."
"You sound like Maria. I was just watching the sunset," I lie. "Did you want something?"
"Did you try it out? Well, did you?"
His eyes sparkle with excitement as I try to remember what he's talking about.
"What do you mean?"
"The boomerang, silly! I lent it to you, remember? Does it really curve in the air like the merchant said?"
"Oh, yes. I does. It's very impressive," I say. "No matter where you throw it, it always comes back to you."
I realize how much that sentence applies to me. A few years ago, there was a point when I asked Seto to tell me about the Shayee. He told me it didn't matter and that it was best to forget. I tried but no matter how much foggier my memories got, the sea never stopped calling out to me. To me, it's proof enough that I have to see for myself.
"You have got to be so excited about tomorrow! I'm so jealous. I still have to wait two years for Seto to let me go on a mission with him."
I open my mouth to answer but nothing comes out and something bitter pinches my heart. A small hand lands on my forehead.
"Are you sick? You don't look well," says Mokuba. "Is everything alright? Did something happen with Seto?"
Lying to Mokuba is as useless as lying to Seto. The intuition of these brothers is uncanny and runs in the blood.
"He found me out," I say, sighing. "He's not letting me go with him."
"What? But you've been waiting for so long! No, I don't believe it. He must've said that to scare you. He promised…"
"It's my fault. I should've known better than to go behind his back."
The youngest Kaiba heir makes a face before rising back up. "I'm going to speak with Seto, you wait here."
"That won't be necessary."
The deep voice makes the both of us nearly jump out of our skins. Seto is right here, standing in the middle of my room. He has that same cold look in his eyes as he did earlier. As I get back on my feet, Mokuba approaches his brother.
"Yugi's been waiting a whole year for this. She's been really patient."
"My decision is not up for discussion, Mokuba. You are supposed to be in bed right now."
"But Seto, it's not fair…" insisted the youngest Kaiba.
"I said what I said. Go, now."
The subject is clearly off the table. Seto never goes back on a decision. That little glimmer of hope I had that Mokuba could convince his brother is now dead. My little ally throws me a sad look before heading out. The instant he's out, Seto turns to me.
I do what he says reluctantly following him the now candle lit hallway. What does he want now? We head down to the first floor in complete silence. The message is pretty clear. What more does he want? Maybe tell me that from now on, I'll be monitored all day. Or that he's decided to take drastic measures and sell Mahaad. That last thought is the scariest. My little Arabian has been my constant companion for over two years now. He is my only freedom, or at least the illusion of it. If that is what this is about, then I'm ready to beg and cry. I silently pray that it's not that, while Seto leads me down to the underground floor. The sparring room? Why are we here at this hour? Of course no one is here, but the chandeliers are filled with lit candles. The large room is empty, aside from the set of practice swords mounted on an iron shelf in the back.
"Seto, why are we here?"
He ignores me and walks towards the shelf and grabs two swords before coming back to me and handing me one. I throw him a surprised look.
"You want to train now? I'm wearing a dress and I'm barefoot."
His expression doesn't change. "Your point?"
In other words, I don't have a choice. I sigh and grab the blunt blade. The Kaiba motto is 'ready for anything'. He'd have me fence in my nightgown if he really wanted to. When the previous baron was still alive, my upbringing was the same as any girl raised in a noble household. After he died, Seto decided to add fencing and swordsmanship to my schedule. Though I thought it strange, I enjoyed it so I never questioned why he was making me do it. I only understood later, when he started making me wear wigs and hide my hair whenever we went out that he was trying to prepare me for anything. As he always is. It's been a while since we've practiced together. Mostly due to the fact that Seto is overworked in this period of time. Sea transport and escort companies need to be on the clock during the summer. The young baron takes a few steps back and salutes, as one does before dueling. I mirror his movement.
"Why are we practicing now?"
"Because I say so," he replies.
He moves so fast I barely have time to step to the side. Seto is as good a swordsman as he is a shot. If I didn't half expect it, he'd have hit me, but I've practiced with him enough to know how he moves. No wasted opportunity. He doesn't give me time to breath and attacks again. I counter, pushing his blade out of the way and aim for his chest. As quick as ever he blocks, and pushes me back so strongly I almost tumble back. I regain balance just in time to duck and avoid near decapitation by practice sword.
"Your movements are sloppy."
"You try fencing wearing a dress," I say, frowning.
We circle around, both waiting for the other to make a move. He's testing me; I see it in his eyes. He's waiting for me to strike, but my dress will impede whatever attack I'll throw. So I stand my ground and wait for him to come to me. A semi-smirk appears on his face for a moment, telling me he's read my mind again. I brace myself and he's on me again. We exchange strikes for a while. Mostly he attacks and I counter. Being my size, all I can do not to get stepped on by average sized adversaries and giants like Seto is to be quick on my feet and wait for an opening. Which would be much easier if it weren't for this cursed dress and Seto's perfectly shielded stance. Even when I do spot an opening, he has no trouble countering.
'Keeping this up is only going to tire me out,'. I already don't want this match to go on any longer than it has to. 'I might as well use my trump card.'
I attack, he counters and pushes me back. I take a few extra step back and wait for him to come at me again. When he does, I switch hands and aim for his shoulder. Unfortunately, he steps to the side, grabs my wrist and pulls me towards him while his blunt blade slides on my throat. I stare in awe, still stunned by his lightening quick reflexes.
"Wow," I let out.
"While I encouraged you to use your ambidextrousness to your advantage, you should know better than to use a simple trick like that against someone who's been training you for the past six years. Or any experienced swordsman. I know you're smarter than that."
And he's scolding me now. My irritation grows. I'm not in the mood to fence or receive a lecture but since I know I'm to blame for this, I can't say anything. I look down at the ground as the little voice in my head tells me to be done with this.
"Are you listening to me?"
"What do you want Seto? You didn't bring me here just to give me a lesson."
There's a long pause, and I wonder if I didn't just step on his last nerve.
"I've realized something," he begins as he goes to the shelf to put back his sword. "No matter what I say to you, the moment I'll be gone, you'll be going behind my back again. Like you have this entire year, I presume."
All my muscles tense up and my stomach ties in a knot. "W-What's your conclusion?"
He comes back to face me, arms crossed on his chest. "Explain it to me. I can't get a grasp on this obsession of yours, and this is tiring. So talk."
I look up. He still has that intense expression but it's not cold. I sense a genuine need to know and I suddenly feel a wave of guilt inside.
"Twelve years ago, you saved my life," I begin, not sure where I'm heading. "Your family took me in. You've raised me to live in your world. But you also taught me how to use a sword, you hide me from everyone, you never let me take risks. I think you already know; I don't really belong in your world, Seto."
"What world do you belong to then? The Shayee are dead, Yugi," he says as bluntly as ever. "All you're going to find is a pile of ashes."
"I don't know. If it can help me remember some things, maybe I'll have some answers."
"Like it or not, you've become a rarity. Anyone curious enough would pay a fortune to have you."
"Going by your logic, I should just stay locked up here for the rest of my life." I take a breath before I finally let go of my secret. "You're going to think this is ridiculous but it's calling me."
"The ocean. I don't know how else to describe it. I can't wait anymore Seto. I need to see for myself. And if you are right, if there's nothing but ashes… then maybe that'll be enough for me."
I'm incapable of reading the look he gives me so I continue. "When I try to remember, all I see are the flames and all I hear are the screams. I can't even remember the faces of my parents, or if I had siblings or what my home looked like. I just want to remember something. Anything."
"The past is dead weight that you drag behind you," he mercilessly states. "If that's what it takes to make you realize that, then I guess I have no choice. Otherwise, you will end up doing something stupid."
My eyes widen in surprise and I feel a smile stretch out across my face. "Do you mean…"
He raises a hand to tell me to be quiet and interrupts me. "Three conditions. Firstly, you're going as Mokuba. That means you will be dressed as a boy and will keep your headscarf and tricorn on at all times. I don't want to see a strand of red out of place. Clear?"
I nod so hard, my neck hurts. But I'm too happy. "Thank you, thank you!"
"Focus, Yugi," he says, snapping his fingers. "Secondly, you'll be sharing my quarters. That is non-negotiable. No one will know you're a woman, I won't take any chance of someone finding out."
At the moment, there is nothing that can make me say no to anything. I can feel myself shake in happiness as the realization slowly sets in. It seems I'm still awake and this is reality.
"Lastly, stay close to me. Always. I want to know where you are at all times. If you break any of those conditions, I guarantee this is the last time you'll set foot on a ship in your entire life. Understood?"
I can't hold still anymore and wrap my arms around his waist, embracing him as hard as I possibly can. That's when the tears decide to fall out of my eyes.
"Thank you, Seto. Thank you so much." I repeat as my tears wet his shirt. "Thank you."
"I need an answer, Yugi."
"I promise," I say.
I expect him to tell me how unladylike and invasive what I'm doing is, but instead, I feel a hand on the back of my head. It's pleasantly surprising. For all the harsh words and strict conduct, Seto is far more gentle than Moki when it comes to holding me. It's no habit of his, but he never puts his hand on my back for fear of touching my burn marks, even though they've stopped aching a long time ago. And I'm reminded of the first words he spoke to me.
"I got you. You're safe now. I swear. I won't let anything happen to you, ever. I swear on my life!"
'I won't make you regret it, Seto. I promise. I owe you that much.'
What could go wrong? *insert evil laugh here*