Ahoy hearties! Sorry I'm tiny bit late but OMG was this chapter hard to write! I wrote, deleted, then rewrote, then re-deleted, then re-rewrote... You get the idea. Hopefully, I managed to bring you the necessary angst and feels!
'Nough excuses, lets get to business!
When she saw me burst into her bedroom, with Yugi passed out in my arms, my mother's already pale face drained of blood. She told the maid to fetch the doctor immediately and for me to lie the little Shayee down on her bed. She then asked to see my hands but I didn't wait and hurried to my father's office.
The throbbing pain was impossible to ignore, as if my flesh was still being consumed. Still, it was the last thing on my mind. Every heartbeat was like another dagger in my chest, every breath I took like inhaling of sulfur, and tears of pure pain stung my eyes. At the time, I was almost certain Yugi wouldn't survive the night.
How could've I've been so stupid? How could I have believed that man-skin wearing demon? I was a fool to believe I could trust him. It was too late for regrets. And yet the fury flowing within controlled every one of my movements. When I reached the office, I slammed the door open, adding a bruise to my shoulder.
Gozaburo was there, speaking with that fat snake, Gansley —probably about the mission. Both had the audacity to look at me as if they didn't know why I was there. Of course, neither bothered to ask about my present state.
"And where have you been all evening?" the man who called himself my father dared to ask.
"Where do you think?" I shouted at the top of my lungs, marching towards him. "We had a deal! You were to get the orichalcum and leave them be, you greedy son of a—"
My exhaustion kept me from reacting in time and a slap from his bear-sized hands sent me to the ground with little effort. The sting on my cheek added to the excruciating pain, and to my humiliation, I felt the tears fall out. Never had I been less in control of myself and cared so little.
"Is that how you address your father, you ungrateful child?" he said with his unnervingly calm tone.
Pushing myself up to my elbows —my hands aching even more— I clenched my teeth at him. "All you had to do was take a hostage and they'd have complied. You didn't have to kill them and burn everything to the ground! You said you wouldn't hurt them, you lying bastard!"
A kick in the stomach forced the air out of my lungs, making me curl on the ground like a worm, coughing and gasping. Everything in me screamed not to push it, but the raw anger had taken over completely. Of course, I was yet no threat to him.
"I said as long as we get what we want, I'd have no need for extreme measures." The bear hand grabbed a handful of my hair, and forced me to look up at the devil. "And who are you calling a liar when you're the one who has been keeping secrets?"
"What…are you talking about?" I forced out.
Gansley —who'd gone to close the door— threw me an irritated and condescending glare.
"They fought back. Those monster's eyes turned blue and they decimated half of our men with their bare hands. I understand now why they're called the devil race. Omitted something in your report, young lord?"
"Are you going senile, old man, or were you just drunk?" I spat back. "They were harmless!"
The two exchanged a look I didn't understand. It seemed they were serious. Gozaburo released me, then told Gansley to leave. The fat cripple left without a word and soon as the door closed behind him, my father turned all of his attention to me.
He waited for me to pathetically try to pull my beat up self up before grabbing me by the scorched collar and pushing me against the shelf. Trying to get free with my wounded hands only served to accentuate the pain.
"You really knew nothing of this? You know what will happen if you lie to me, boy."
"I observed them for three weeks. I studied and watched their every move, just like you told me to. Everything I saw was written in the report."
We stared off for a while, I, refusing to blink and him, eying me with mistrust. Finally, he sighed and released me. Then, he took something out of his pocket. A small vial filled with transparent liquid. I didn't pay it any mind as he smiled at it like a madman.
"Well at least, it wasn't a complete failure," he went on. "And we did the people a favor by getting rid of these abominations for them."
The smart thing to do would've been to keep my mouth shut, but the pain and anger still held my reins. Images of the time I'd spent on the island flooded my mind, and I wanted to puke when they intertwined with those of tonight.
"I did everything you asked. All you had to do was follow the plan I made. You were supposed to let them be. We had a deal!"
"A deal?" Gozaburo chuckled in his mustache, like he did every time he wanted me to know he had the advantage. "The only deal I recall, is the one where you are to do what you're told and nothing unfortunate happens to your mother and brother."
In an instant, my body froze up. The one reminder of why I bowed to this devil's will in the first place extinguished the fury instantly, replacing it with cold apprehension.
"Do you know how fragile a newborn child is, Seto?" The devil's words slithered into my ears. "Accidents happen so often. And how do you think your dear mother's fragile heart will be able to handle losing someone else?"
I wanted to spit out everything I thought of him, but the thought of him putting his hands on Mokuba and our mother only allowed me to clench my teeth and look down in submission. The devil closed the distance between us to come whisper in my ear like the snake he was.
"Don't you ever forget, Seto. You chose your family over them. You are not exempted from any of this."
Since the moment I began working for my step-father, I've been expecting my comeuppance. The concept of fate has always been nonsense to me, but I now see that it was all perfectly planned. Having my sins exposed to her like this —by another Shayee survivor no less— makes it all diabolically fitting. But I could never have anticipated how harrowing it would be to see her heart shattering before me.
Yugi still holds my head in her shaking hands, staring at me without blinking, her face outstretched with horror and disbelief. I know she's still waiting for me to defend myself. As usual, she's so easy to read. Thunder rumbles above our heads and just as droplets begin falling, tears of realization fill her eyes. Her lower lip begins quivering and her breaths become jarring.
I bite my inner lip 'til I taste blood. Looking away and hiding like a coward is not a luxury I can allow myself to have. No more than I'm allowed to show regret or give excuses. What I did, I did knowingly and willingly. I'm not exempted from anything.
I find myself regretting having ever gotten attached. But that too, was meant to happen. So that I may be judged by the one I've betrayed, deceived, and who'd yet managed to worm her way into my heart.
Yugi looks down first, hers hands slipping from my head to my shoulders, gripping my shredded shirt. The urge to take her in my arms swarms me but I can't take away her tears anymore. My own chest tightens. I take this moment to look at Mokuba.
"Seto," he says, his eyes as wide and dumbstruck as Yugi's. "That's… not true, is it?"
I return him the same look I gave Yugi. Unlike her, he's never been in Gozaburo's good graces either. Yet I never expected him to put two and two together by himself like he had, two years ago. He swore he'd help clean our name and make the world a better place. But he too, was as naive as her. To not even question my involvement in the macabre affairs of our so-called father, and always seeing me as the perfect brother.
My stomach nearly turns. I expected everything. To be burned alive, torn apart, fed alive to starving rats… be it in this life, or the next. But my retribution is simpler and yet far more horrifying than all of those put together. I'm to watch those two crumble and then, die, knowing I've left them in pieces.
A fitting punishment, indeed.
I glance at the people around, watching in silence. All look at the pathetic scene with pity and bitterness, reminiscing over similar memories most likely. Everything makes sense now. I know exactly who they are and why they gathered. They never were ordinary sea rats.
Slowly, Yugi raises her head. But as I was expecting to find her face reflecting the hurt and confusion within, I'm faced with a much worse sight. Her traits are twisted by anger and betrayal, her skin reddening with growing fury, and her eyes, displaying the profound despair of a torn up soul. Every muscle in me tenses up enough to put dangerous pressure on my bones, as I contemplate the fruit of my gravest sin.
Murderer, her eyes scream.
In an instant, the hands that were gripping my shirt are around my throat, like the talon's of a hawk on its prey. She breathes with her mouth open, gasps punctuating her arrhythmic breathing just as her hands tighten, slowly cutting off my airway. It's as if she is choking herself simultaneously.
The sob-like gasp escaping her torture my ears, and thus the decay of the one I'd tried to save began. Who was I trying to fool? Till the end, I'm meant to be her tormenter. And she, my executioner.
Quickly, my body begins shuddering at the lack of hair. But I will my slowly agonizing self not to fight back. I cannot deny her this righteous punishment. So I close my eyes, having seen enough.
No hellish scourge that awaits me on the other side can be worse than the sight of her like this.
The memories I've never forgotten flow in my head. Excruciatingly slowly. This time, the flames are a thousand times more vivid, and screams loud enough to make my temples burst. And the faces. I can see the faces torn by fear and despair so clearly. I know all of them. It's as if I'm there again, standing helpless in the middle of death and screams.
Then I see Seto, also standing in the middle of the flames as well, staring at me with empty eyes. It was him. It was always him.
I can't feel the air entering me, as if my ribcage is slowly crushing my lungs while the tension of my body burns like a furnace. The wildfire of my fury hurts and moves me, as would a noxious version of the Stream.
Your fire took everything from me. So mine will burn you completely.
The poisonous Stream sets me ablaze, and I'm suddenly on him. So that the fire scorching me can devour him too. I want him to burn. Burn until there's nothing left of the monster who took everything from me.
No flesh, no bones, not even ashes.
I expect him to writhe, to scream, to struggle at my burning touch… He only closes his eyes. And a tear rolls down his cheek. Though strangled grunts escape him, he shows no sign of struggling and a swarm of confusion drowns out the flames.
Why is he giving up?
Then, a familiar hand wraps around my wrist. In an instant, the flames vanish. I'm back on the Millennium, knelt down in front of the mainmast. Atem is by my side, throwing me a saddened but ever-determined look.
"Don't," he tells me. "Not by your hands."
My hands… I look down to see them clutching Seto's neck and my nails sunk into his skin. Becoming fully aware of my doing, I immediately loosen my grip. Seto inhales deeply before a fit of coughing shakes him. I stare at my trembling hands, horrified. What have I done?
You were passing righteous judgement, my inner fire hisses.
The noxious burn suddenly returns, growing from the pit of my stomach and spreading to the rest of me. An urge to finish what I've started strikes me. A part of me craves this revenge. Craves his agony and death. The screams ring in my head again, fanning the murderous desire. Will they stop if I give in and end this?
But my eyes meet Seto's again, now unblinded. I see regret. I see pain. I see guilt. Why? Is he not a remorseless devil? Did he not cause the demise of my people without a flinch? If he was wearing a mask all this time, why is the Seto facing death now the same one I called brother and savior?
It doesn't matter. He took everything from you. He deserves to burn.
The burn rises to my chest, making my insides curl up and my heart gallop in my chest. Simultaneously, imminent fright sets in. If I let it take over, I'll…I'll… I take my hands back and get to my feet, backing away from the cause of my fury.
"No… That's not right," I let out, speaking to the fire within.
What could be more right? He took everyone away. He took Grandpa. Mama, papa, Yusei, Yuya and everyone else.
The faces of my loved ones appear to me, twisted in pain and agony, and the void splits my chest again, reminding me of my loss. A furious headache assaults me when the burn reaches my head. I bring my hands to it in a futile attempt to appease the migraine. The intense pressure seems to want to crush my brain with my own skull. I still hear the screams. Yet the clear side of my mind rewinds, showing me younger memories.
The one when Seto pulled me from under the burning beam. His promise to keep me safe forever. His being by my side every day while I was recovering from my burns, holding me when the pain of my body or the ache of my soul were too much to bear, and begging me not to die… Was that not Seto as well?
It was an act. He's the reason why. He's unforgivable. And he tried to keep you away. He'd have used you and tossed you away once you became unnecessary.
But what of the Seto who left everything behind to come find us? Leaving his company, his work, his very ship to search for us in the middle of nowhere? The one who'd laid down his sword to save me? There are more questions to be asked, more truth to be found…
Why does it matter? It will not erase the blood on his hands. His agony is cheap compared to what he robbed you of. In fact, you should take something back.
Without willing it to, my head turns and my eyes land on Mokuba. The center of Seto's world, the one person more dear to him than anyone. That, I know for certain. If he were to be hurt, so would Seto.
A jolt of panic strikes me sending a painful vibration throughout my body, as I realize how dangerously close to spiraling out of control my thoughts are. Me, hurt Moki to get to Seto?
The Shayee were innocent too. They didn't get spared for it. It's all he deserves.
"No," I say, turning away and shutting my eyes. "No, no, no."
I'm sure I must seem like a madwoman to everyone around. They can't see the monster I'm fighting. I never thought it possible to be the prey of my own bitterness and resentment. But it's there, trying to consume me and push me over the edge.
Like a sentient swamp of scorching hot quicksands, it slowly tries to swallow me up. I try to push it away but the abyss of misery and sadness weakens me. It's like trying to hold together a cracking vase crumbling from all sides. And the more I push back, the more painful the migraine becomes. So much so that I fall to my knees once more, writhing and groaning in pain.
Make him watch. Make him beg. And then burn him.
The familiar voice calling me is like a ray of light, piercing through the cacophony of screams. Atem is carefully approaching, seemingly unalarmed by my state. His eyes, however, display only empathy. Because more than anyone, he knows this monster I'm fighting. But I'm slipping and it terrifies me.
"Help me" I beg, in between two heavy breaths.
In a few moments, he's by my side and I find myself in a tight embrace. My arms reflexively wrap around his torso and my hands grip his shirt like my very sanity depends on it.
"It burns," I say in a semblance of a whisper, still gasping for clean air.
"I know, love," he replies, tightening his hold and pushing my face into the crook of his neck. "I know."
Just as he does, the smells of the sea and dried fruit fill my nose, chasing that of ash and burnt flesh. The void then fades, washed away by a fresh sensation similar to relief. The flames begin backing away slowly, taking the anger and fury with them. It all retracts to the pit of my stomach, concentrating into a muddy mix of negativity, but burning hotter than before.
You know this to be righteous. You know this is what you're owed.
I try pushing the burn away again, knowing that as long as it's here, I won't be able to think. I won't be able to trust myself. Using all the strength the presence and touch my kinsman gift me, I will with all the remains of my shattered heart for it to vanish.
He deserves it.
He should burn.
Suddenly, a bulging sensation rises to my throat and a strong nausea hits me. I push away Atem just in time before emptying my stomach on the deck, vomiting a thick mud-colored substance. I don't recall having eaten anything since yesterday but never have I been sick to the point of returning black bile before.
The burn in my throat and the sight of the viscous substance is unsettling and yet, the screams and the vengeful voice have stopped. I can breathe properly, as if my ribcage had finally liberated my lungs.
My thoughts slowly regain clarity, but though the resentment and fury have gone, they left behind the sorrow and the void. I feel so weak, both in mind and body. I stay on the ground, on my four shaking limbs, afraid I'll fall if I make the slightest movement. A new flow of tears streams down my face. The clouds above our heads reflect the ones plaguing my mind with eerie perfection. And one question remains :
Why was I betrayed?
Before I can began to think clearly, Atem pulls me up to my feet, gently. I have to hold on tight not to fall again. The ruby irises have so much tenderness and pity in them and yet, are still dried of tears. He gave me the same look during our last duel. Bitterness pinches my heart as I wonder how on God's good earth he endured this dark inner fire at such a young age.
"How did you survive this all on your own?" I let out with my broken voice.
In returns, he smiles. A smile void of any joy or amusement. "What part of me makes you think I have, love?"
The answer both tramples on the shattered pieces of my heart, and hits me with realization. Was he still caught in that puppeteering Stream I nearly fell prey to? Is that why he thinks himself unsalvageable? Because he yielded to it all those years ago?
"Carrot," he calls out.
The red-head leaves the mass to put one of my arms around his neck and hold my waist to support me. Once he's sure I'm in good hands, Atem releases me. He brings a hand up to wipe away the tears under my eyes before leaning his forehead against mine.
"Forgive me, for putting you through that," he apologizes and then, pulls away. "I'll end this now."
Fright hits me once more as he pulls away, and in a desperate reflex, I grab his sleeve. As I feared, the look in his eyes when he looks back at me is darkening with hate and toxic resolve. There's no doubt he's ready to spill blood.
"Wait," I say, my eyes darting from him to the mainmast ceaselessly. "I have more questions, I…There's more I want to ask him. I have to…I'm mean, I need to…"
I realize what little strength I have left when a mere tug on his part is enough to make me let go.
"Worry not," he says, diverting his gaze from mine. "I will relieve you of this burden."
With rapid pace, he heads for the mainmast, readjusting his grip on his blade, and another ominous premonition reaches me. If I let him do this, I'll never be able to reach him again. That fear summons the residue of strength I have left, and I detach myself from Carrot-top. I catch up to the captain before circling around him, grounding my feet, and pushing my hands onto his torso to stop him. But somehow, I can't bear to look him in the eye.
"Please! I have… more questions."
I can feel his heart pulsing under my hands, frighteningly steady. Mine gallops like a runaway horse as my mind desperately attempts to find a way out of this impossible fate. How do I stop this?
Atem's chest rises before an irritated sigh escapes him. "It matters not. No matter what he tells you, it won't change the fact that he has the blood of the Shayee on his hands."
"You're wrong," I insist, shaking my head. "There's more to this, there has to be—"
"He's still in your head, is what it is."
The accusatory tone makes me look up and I meet the crimson eyes with black shadows dancing in them. It's the emptiest I've ever seen them. It terrifies me.
"You're not to blame for this," he goes on, the light in his eye gradually getting choked by the black shadows. "Twelve years of lies and deceit won't go away so easily. But we can start by eliminating the cause."
With that threatening sentence, he eyes Seto with silent wrath. He's right. And cleansing twelve years of hate and anger won't be any easier. My words won't reach him, even if I beg. The resentment makes him deaf even to me.
"Step aside, Yugi," he says. "I'll set you free once and for all."
After my promise to save him, I thought I'd have time to extinguish the black flames, to dry out the noxious Stream. But with the sudden appearance of his prey, the hope I saw is being burned away and torn to shreds right under my eyes. Out of the two of us, I'm not the one on strings. But I have neither the time to talk sense into him, nor do I have the strength to hold him back should he force his way through. I turn my prayer to that voice that always guided me, even when I didn't know who it belonged to.
Grandpa, what do I do?
But just as Atem is about to walk around me, a hoarse chuckle reaches our ears, grabbing the attention of everyone on the deck. I turn around to find that a worrisome smile has stretched across Seto's face.
"I knew you were naive beyond humanly possible," he said, looking at me, "but this is just pathetic. Even when the truth stares you right in the face, you still can't see it? I can't believe you're my ward. You disappoint me, Yugi."
I stare back, incredulous. I don't know this person speaking to me. Seto has always been brutally honest and not one to beat around the bush. But never needlessly cruel. Could it be… that I have been fooled all this time? That this… is the real him? My insides twist painfully at the thought, and I feel the urge to retch again.
"Then again," he goes on, fresh blood still dripping from his nose, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Your whole devil race was like that as well. Dense and naive."
"Finally showing your true colors, are you, Kaiba?" replies the captain in my stead.
"Please," scoffs back my guardian. "I'm not so pitiful as I need to hide behind my own pet."
"Mind your tongue, baron," warns Atem, his voice dripping with resentment. "Else I will remove it for you."
To my surprise, Seto laughs that dry laugh again. "Do you think I'm afraid of pain, devil? That I'll go crying and begging for mercy like a woman? Unlike my buffoon of a father, I have my pride. From the day I decided to play this bloody game, I was ready to gamble everything away."
No. It doesn't add up. That's not you. But… do I even know the real you?
"Seto," says Moki, a look of absolute disbelief in his eyes. "What are you say—"
"Quite obvious, wouldn't you say, little brother?" The scorn in Seto's voice just keeps accentuating. "Useless things get discarded. The only reason you're still breathing is because I needed a watch dog for her."
Those cruel words and that sadistic smile make my heart contract painfully. I know Moki feels the same. Lightening strikes closer than before and thunder claps louder. The light rain becomes torrents as the tension in the atmosphere thickens with every passing second. I can see the bodies of the crew members tense up, and the bloodlust intensify exponentially. But none compares to the one emitting from the captain of the Millennium.
"You dare call us devils when even your own blood is just another pawn to you?" he says. "Your precious pride has led you straight to your doom, and will lend you in hell once I take your life, you miserable creature."
Again, against all odds and sense of self-preservation, the baron throws Atem another glare full of pride and a provoking smile. "And if you'd had any, you'd have burned and died with the rest of your people. They do say cowards live longer."
Realization and horror both grab a hold of me at the same time, sending confused shudders throughout my mind. He's intentionally aggravating Atem, which is far from a wise decision. And it's as if he wishes for Mokuba and I to resent him. But those eyes I've learned to read so well through the years…I know I saw regret in them.
Wait. A boy speaking words of regret…
"Since it is pain you wish for, demon, then pain you shall receive."
Atem's wrath-fueled words pull me out of my daze. Like a typhonic wind, he walks passed me, making a bee-line for the mainmast. But I now know two things for sure; if he kills Seto, I will never reach him again. And half of my family is about to die. That bit of clarity is enough to finally summon my heritage to me.
My heart floats. Freshness spreads from my chest to all of me. The pain and the shivers are silenced.
Just as Atem raise his blade over Seto's head, I rush forward, so fast that the rain drops prick my skin like needles. Everything seems to slow down around, as I throw myself over Seto just before the tip of a cold blade penetrates the back of my shoulder. The Stream renders me numb to pain, but I can tell the wound isn't too deep. The strike was held back at the last moment.
Immediately, Atem pulls back his blade. I don't have to look at him to know the kind of expression he wears. The tension in the atmosphere has shattered, replaced by a thick fog of utter confusion as stunned murmurs travel around the deck.
Even Seto —who's heartbeat is pulsing rapidly against my chest— seems paralyzed.
"What are you…" he whispers in my ear.
There's so much I want to tell him. How furious I am with him. How badly I want to slap him. How torn my heart is. How happy I am to see him. How scared I am to lose him. But before any of that, I must save him. So I keep my answer brief.
"You owe me an explanation," I whisper back. "Don't think for a moment I'm letting you take the easy way out."
"Yugi." I can hear all the betrayal and infinite sadness in the voice calling my name behind me. "What are you doing?"
I don't turn around, fearful of facing his wounded eyes. When have I become such a coward? I only loosen my grip on Seto, and keep my eyes on him as I answer my kin.
"Something has been bothering me," I tell him. "You said you returned to the island about a week after the attack. Was the island still smoking when you got back?"
A few seconds of silence go by, feeling like an eternity.
"What are you on about?"
"Please, answer me."
"It wasn't. Though the scent of burnt corpses was enough to choke on even from a mile away," he adds.
So I was right.
"You're not the boy from Ishizu's prophecy," I let out. "A boy with red eyes, watching a smoking island in the distance, speaking words of regret. That was the vision she had. She said the boy was crying. Anyone who cries has red eyes."
"Where are you going with this?"
Get up Yugi. You have to face him for this.
The Stream has given me full control over myself but it still takes a tremendous effort to get myself up to my feet and turn around to face him. His face, at first red with fury, quickly turns to shock when he sees my blue eyes. The eyes that mean that Seto —despite all I've learned— is still very dear to my heart.
"It's him, Atem. Seto is the boy from the vision."
As expected, the captain's eyes light up with fury again, and he clenches his teeth like a growling dog. Crushed under the pressure of his own anger, the usually collected Shayee snaps.
"For God's sake, what does it matter if he is or not? That scum that you're protecting is the reason for our people's agony and massacre!"
Even the Stream can't prevent bitterness from pinching my heart like never before. I see all the pain and hurt on his unhidden face, and that split in my chest feels wider than ever. I know my actions have fanned the dark flames in him.
"It matters because it means he's been harboring that regret for over twelve years," I reply, holding back new tears. "It means there is more to this story. I have reason to believe he didn't do this willingly."
We stare off. I force myself not to look away as I can see the whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotion tearing him apart from the inside. I hold my breath, praying that somehow, my words reach him even through the flames.
"You said it yourself," I tell him, taking a few steps closer. "No matter how much blood you spill, nothing will be returned to us. Please, don't taint yourself anymore."
Please, listen. I beg you.
But my heart nearly stops when the muscles of his face relax and he regains an expression I haven't seen in a while. The mask of pride and arrogance has returned as well as the eyes displaying nothing but scorn.
"So you're choosing the assassin of our people over your own kin."
It's not even a question. Like he hasn't heard me at all. And just like that, I no longer have a choice.
"No," I reply, the heavy rain washing away my tears. "I choose the way of our people. To protect my kin, my blood and my soul. In all of their forms."
Letting my body guide me, I snatch Drainer from his belt before sending my elbow into his stomach. The strength of the Stream forces the air out of his lungs and he tumbles back a few feet before falling on one knee to catch his breath.
I stay where I am, my vision blurring with more tears, and the orichalcum blade in my hand. He looks at me, sadness and anger dancing in his ruby irises.
"I swore I wouldn't let you decay anymore," I say. "You're the one who has been strung up and puppeteered by hatred and anger for far too long. And I refuse to let them take you."
I quickly wipe my eyes, before assuming a fighting stance, saluting with my tiny blade.
"If you want him, then you'll have to go through me."
Be honest, how many of you saw that showdown coming?