Two Months Later

One, two
One, two, three, ow

The hot spray of the shower struck my back as I bowed my head, letting the hard jets dig into my skin turning it at once a bright red while also reducing my muscles to a wonderfully butter-like consistency. Steam filled the air, thick and heavy, making it so that every breath I took filled my lungs with warm moisture that helped soothe away the last remains of stiffness from my sleep.

Wake up, kids
We got the dreamers disease
Age fourteen, they got you down on your knees
So polite, we're busy still saying please
Frienemies, who when you're down ain't your friend
Every night we smash a Mercedes-Benz
First we run, and then we laugh 'til we cry

'One of the benefits of jailbreaking the anime's soundtrack is I always get good music when I shower,' I thought to myself, finally deciding it was time to get out and seize the day. While my new found wealth meant that honestly I didn't need to do anything other than be a lazy little sloth my mind was not one that handled being in idle for long. I needed to stimulate it, to keep it from eating itself. Thus the shower was turned off and I stepped into the foggy bathroom proper, snagging two plush blue towels; one going around my shoulders and back like Lando's cape while the other covered up my manly bits. 'Wonder if the anime would censor it with a bar or something if I tried to step out in public?'

But when the night is falling
You cannot find the light (light)
You feel your dreams are dying
Hold tight

Walking over to the mirror I grabbed the hand towel and ran it over the cloudy surface, revealing my reflection. I smiled as I took in the image before me… and the thick circle beard that finally adorned my face.

"Well… hello there," I said, greeting myself. At last I was feeling like my actual self again.

You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give

It was so very odd to think about, the idea that I could be trapped in a strange new world, in a body younger than my own, doing things I had never done before… but it was a beard that gave me comfort. But it did. I had grown it out when I'd quit a job that I hadn't enjoyed and it had taken years to get it just how I liked it. But now it was… me. Remove it and I was someone else. Younger, naïve, not ready for the world and the dangers it posed. It was my mask, my cape, my cowl. With it I felt strong and powerful.

I stroked my chin and nodded before padding out into my uncle's apartment.

I'm comin' home, baby
You're tops
Give it to me now

My uncle had left early that morning, telling me he had far too much work to do at his network to lounge around like I did. Honestly I think he was annoyed that the cast had finally been removed from his leg and he had no excuse to work at home. That left me all alone meaning I was able to walk into the kitchen in just my towels and grab breakfast, pouring out the dry Mini Wheats and microwaving a cup of hot coco while flipping on the news, the music slowly fading out as I did so.

"Convenient," I muttered to myself as I sat down at the counter and watched some report on a new gaming store that was going to be opening up next month. Only after the fact would I remember that it was Duke's store but since I really didn't give a flying fuck about Dungeon Dice Monsters it was an easy pass for me. "A lot has been a pass for me," I said quietly between bites of cereal.

When we'd returned from Duelist Kingdom I'd parted ways with Yugi and his friends, missing out on the chance to see Rebecca… mostly because I couldn't figure out an excuse to hang out with the teens. It had been okay on the island but it was creepy to have a grown man being buddy-buddy with a group of kids and I didn't feel like getting accused of going after Thirst Trap Tea ('mental note: never call her that again'). Of course if memory served not much had happened after Rebecca so I really wasn't missing out on much. Besides, I had been dealing with my own things; one didn't suddenly become a millionaire and not need to deal with paperwork. I'd gotten myself a good financial advisor (though when I'd called my dad and brother they'd offered to help me invest the money; apparently they were playing the stock market now in this world) to make my money work for me and while I had done some work for CCN eventually my uncle had admitted he just couldn't send me out to cover things because I ended up, through no fault of my own, making the story about myself.

Because my little trip to Pegasus' island had made me someone everyone in Domino wanted to talk to.

"And in legal news," the TV said, the plot convenience fairy deciding to spread her pixie dust at that moment, "Maximillion Pegasus has finalized his plea deal with investigators concerning the Duelist Kingdom Incident. Mr. Pegasus, as part of the deal, has turned over new evidence concerning the attempted hostile takeover of Kaibacorp. Fariza Nightingale reports."

I turned out the reporter as she covered the latest development; for me this was all old news. When my uncle's security team had stormed Duelist Kingdom they had managed to take Pegasus alive, though despite my warnings he'd still ended up facing Yami Bakura in a Shadow Duel and losing the Millennium Eye at its conclusion. Of course the wily bastard had actually decided to spin that to his advantage, crafting a tale about how he'd been double crossed by the Big 5 and attacked, losing his eye in the process. Since only the finalists of Duelist Kingdom knew that he'd already lost his eye the world had reacted in shock and horror at the vicious assault and that had earned Pegasus a ton of good will.

And a public willing to listen to the bullshit Pegasus whipped up…

~One Month Early~

"I am a simple man," Pegasus said, his voice soft.

People had seen the head of Industrial Illusions in many ways but never had they seen him looking so utterly vulnerable. He was barely sitting up in his hospital bed, having regained some of his strength but still clearly on the road to recovery. His skin was pale and his hair pulled back in a ponytail, which gave the gathered reporters a perfect look at his bandaged face. A thick pad lay under the gauze where his left eye had once been and though the wrappings were clean and clear everyone was imagining the blood and gore that must lay hidden underneath. While he was wearing rather expensive pajamas these were not the elegant suits that all were used to seeing him wear. He looked tired and worn down and pitiful and whoever his consultant was deserved every dime he charged because he understood what people wanted. Yes, there was something wonderful about seeing the mighty come crashing down. But after that? People loved a redemption story.

"I have always wanted to just make everyone happy. It is why I turned my family's wealth towards the creation of Duel Monsters… it was a chance to bring joy to the world." He smiled but with his face wrapped as it was it was harder to do so and thus made the smile all the more pitiful. "I suppose that has also made me trust the wrong people. I believe that all in the world are as I am, hoping merely to bring joy and light to others. Oh, they might not be as open as I am about it…" he shook his head in mirth only to wince, reaching up and touching his temple. Cameras flashed to catch the image; a ploy if ever there was one but everyone was eating it up so why bother calling it out? A lie may be a lie but if it served a good story could it not be forgiven?

Pegasus let out a sigh, rallying his strength. "Pardon me for that. I was merely thinking of Seto Kaiba. He is much like me, though I know even he would deny it. He prefers the image of aloofness and coldness… to be expected, considering his age. And yet… he has taken Kaibacorp and refocused it from war to the enjoyment of children. If there is one true regret I have in all of this it is that my failure to see the truth in others and their actions has caused one who like myself merely wishes to make others happy so much pain.

"I was lied to by the Big 5. They fed me fabrication and by the time I realized what they were truly seeking to do it was too late. I was in too deep and all I could do was try and dig my way out of the mess I had created. And for that I am sorry. For the pain I caused Seto Kaiba. The trauma I unintentionally caused Mokuba Kaiba. The fear and panic that I bred in Edwin Chaos that made him believe me to be a monster… no. No, I mustn't say it like that. It makes it seem like I blame him for his actions when in reality I should be thanking him. His threats to go to the police… they are what finally opened my eyes to just how many horrible things I had done without even realizing it. So thank you Edwin… thank you.

"I swear that I will do all I can to make things right. That I will correct my mistakes. And just as importantly I will make sure that the Big 5 are brought to justice!"

Cameras flashed once more. Reporters gave breathless commentary and analysis on what Pegasus had just said.

And in the shadows of Domino City's institutes of power the ones pulling the strings quickly scrambled to change alliances and alter plans.

~MC~MC~MC~

'A few greased palms, a goodwill tour out of the country for a while, and Pegasus is already back to being seen as a golden child.' I shook my head. 'I'd be disgusted if it weren't so fucking impressive.' It was the strange dichotomy that existed within me: I hated liars but also admired them. I wanted people to be honest with me, to tell me how they truly felt and not dick around with me… but if someone told a brilliant lie I would applaud and praise them.

"Just admit it," I muttered to myself as I put my bowl in the dishwasher, "you just like being in the know."

What had helped Pegasus out more was that no one pushed for him to face harsher punishment than fines and some public apologies. Yugi had stayed quiet as there was no way he could actually prove that his grandpa's injuries and condition had been caused by Pegasus. Plus Yugi was the forgiving sort, willing to turn any enemy into a friend. Honestly if Zorc had admitted he saw the error of his ways Yugi would have given him a handshake even before the dark god of doom could wash the blood off his talons. As for Mokuba he was much the same and he'd even pointed out to me, when I asked him about it, that Pegasus had been rather kind to him. Yes, he'd made his castle Mokuba's prison but it had been Kemo and the rest of the Big 5's goons that had actually grabbed him, threatened him, and hurt him. Pegasus had been polite, saw to his needs, and even expressed concern when he'd learned that one of the goons had hurt Mokuba's wrist during the kidnapping.

'And Seto?' I thought as I walked back into my room to change into my clothes. 'I think he just wants a rematch and he knows he can't get one if Pegasus is in jail!'

While Pegasus had gotten off with a slap on the wrist the Big Five and their forces hadn't been so lucky. Pegasus had quickly turned over evidence to the government of Japan and apparently had managed to cover his tracks well enough that all his worst sins got pinned right onto the Big 5. My uncle had been vicious as well when it came to the board members; he had no true beef with Pegasus and while I hadn't said I wanted the man off the hook I also hadn't pressed him to go after the creator of Duel Monsters. He was fine with letting him go but the Big 5 were a different story. The arrest of Kemo alone had been played around the clock and all his Talking Heads and Opinion Hosts had been given orders to ruin everyone else involved in the kidnapping. Renard had given an interview before he headed out of the country to inform everyone about the bounty that had been placed my head (and on Seto and Yugi) and that had only fueled my Uncle's rage.

The pictures of the healing burns on my arms from PaniK had sent him on the warpath.

Within a few days the Big 5's names were mud and the court of public opinion were calling for a lynching. The media (which I understood now more than ever that my uncle completely controlled, at least in Japan) played me off as a saint who risked his life to protect a young boy from a group of corporate backstabbers. The history of them betraying first Gozaburo and then Seto only made the situation worse; the fact that Gozaburo hadn't been seen since the first hostile takeover only causing the rumors to grow and swell in size and strength. No amount of bribing or fancy legal footwork were going to save them.

Which was why everyone hadn't been at all shocked when their bodies had been found five weeks ago.

The doctors were still confused as to how they had died but there was no question that the men had committed suicide in order to avoid facing punishment. Only I knew the truth: the Big 5 had staged their deaths and put their minds in the VR world, awaiting the moment when they could swap bodies with someone else and each begin their lives anew. It was worrisome but yet another one of those things that I couldn't actually take care of myself. Not at this stage.

'Though that doesn't mean I don't take precautions.' I looked over at my computer as I got dressed, which I had already 'locked' with the Millennium Key, using its magic to make it virus proof (and that had been a fun time test driving that out, especially when my Uncle had walked in to find me casually browsing the filthiest of porn sites I could find on the internet in this world… I would never look at Pot of Greed the same way again… and yet I still couldn't fucking curse).

"Sir?"

"Jeebus!" I cried out, leaping into the air and looking around wildly before taking a calming breath and turning to the stupid intercom system my uncle had set up in the apartment that I kept forgetting about. "Yes?" I said, hoping my voice didn't sound as squeaky on it as it did in my own ears.

"The limo has arrived."

"I'll be down in ten." I threw on a pair of brown dress shoes and yanked on a cord blazer, looking myself over before giving a nod. I might have considered getting more dressed up for this event but knowing that Kaiba would be wearing his normal dark clothing I figured that I could get away with business casual… or college professor, whatever you wanted to call dark jeans and a thick t-shirt under my more dressy clothing. Grabbing the new custom deck box I'd had made a few weeks back (which held all four of my decks) along with my wallet I took the elevator downstairs and stepped into the waiting limo, heading off to make my life more complicated.

~MC~MC~MC~

"Remind me again why we have to do this?" Seto complained as he walked through the halls of KaibaCorp.

His assistant, a woman named Kiko, didn't even twitch at the way he dismissed all the work she had put into the upcoming press conference. "Both takeovers of Kaibacorp came because the CEO was seen as weak-" Seto grit his teeth at that assessment, since he had been the CEO during the second attempt, "-and thus the Big 5 saw a chance to pounce."

"But the Big 5 are no longer a concern," Seto said firmly. While he would have preferred to see them arrested for their crimes and for once actually face justice for their actions he was willing to accept their deaths as a fair trade; it meant that they wouldn't ever bother him or Mokuba again and that was good enough for him. Honestly if they had just come after him he'd have probably fired them and given them severance packages. But they'd gone after Mokuba and now knowing just how much they had done to his brother beyond what Pegasus wanted had made them his number one target.

"But that doesn't mean that there aren't others that might make a move against you. Plus there are our business partners to think of. The markets don't like risk and uncertainty and you nearly losing your company has caused that. This will show that things are stabilizing. Which you will need with your move to shift Kaibacorp away from weapons manufacturing."

"Very well," Seto said dismissively. As much as he hated this dog and pony show that he was being forced to put on if it meant that he was able to achieve his dream for his company that he was willing to go through the motions. He had sworn the first night in the orphanage that he would do all he could to bring joy to children throughout the world, so that they might never know the pain he'd known. He donated to charities, was on the board for several groups like Make A Wish, and had invested in schools in poor nations. Anything to give the little ones the one thing he could never get back even with all his money: a childhood.

'And changing Kaibacorp is the cornerstone of all my plans,' he thought as he stepped into the elevator, Kiko right beside him. 'Gozaburo thought only about money and didn't care in the slightest what his actions might do to others. I refuse to become like him. Everyone thinks I'm mad doing this but I am going to prove that games and entertainment can be even more profitable than missiles and tanks!'

"Here are your notes for your speech, sir," Kiko said, handing him some notecards as the elevator opened and they emerged onto the ground floor of the Kaiba Corporation's Domino Headquarters. "I did my best to mimic your own style of vocalizing, so that it felt natural."

"I assume that means its short and to the point?" Seto huffed. "I have projects that I need to still work on." His assistant merely nodded and Seto let out a grunt of acceptance before moving to stand outside the door while Kiko went to make sure everything was ready for him. 'This is a waste of time. Why do I even have a PR Firm on commission if they expect me to do all their work for them?' He adjusted his dark jacket, making sure it was straight, while his mind drifted to all the projects that were awaiting him.

First off there was his new Duel Disc. While the first version had worked well enough at Duelist Kingdom it had also shown the limitations. Having to recall it each time in order to add a card, thus causing monsters to appear and reappear, was time consuming and ruined the emersion of the duel. His latest version combined the larger dueling platforms with his duel disk system to create a far better experience… or it would once he got the final kinks worked out. As an inventor he always felt he could make something better. Tweak the power output of the projectors to get a longer lifespan on the batteries. Reduce the weight. Strengthen the frame. Already R&D were pressing him to finish up with the prototype so they could begin mass producing it, warning him that he needed to be done in 2 weeks if he wished to keep to his timetable. He wanted the Duel Discs ready for purchase by the summer, as that would be the perfect time for people to go outside and try them out. He understood also that in the end he'd never make that deadline; rather what would happen would be that one day someone would arrive, take the Duel Disc away, and he'd have to accept that the first mass produced version wouldn't be 'finished' to his liking.

Then there was his new rules for Duel Monsters. Duelist Kingdom had shown him that there was so much untapped potential in the game and he wanted to evolve it and truly make the game a cultural phenomenon. Make is more complex and faster, so that one wrong move could ruin everything while also making it that a duelist with a bit of cunning could turn things around in an instant. He already had sketched out some ideas, like a Tributing system, but he still needed to work out the bugs. For example he found the duels ended far too quickly with his 'Attack Directly' rule and he was thus experimenting with different life point amounts to try and make things more balanced…

'And then there are my decks,' he thought to himself. He had been startled when he'd arrived back from Duelist Kingdom, thinking that he wouldn't have to interact with Pegasus for a long time, only for a package to arrive from the man a week later. At first he'd assumed it was a trick and gotten security (HIS security… newly hired and vetted to make sure they were loyal to him) to check it over only to learn that the package contained, of all things, two decks. 'And what decks they are,' he thought, a rare smile slipping onto his features.

The first, the ABC Dragon Deck, was a machine deck that focused on combining monsters together; not like fusion but rather machines linking together to create even stronger machines. The deck was fast and tough and he'd spent hours testing it against his dueling computer to understand exactly how it worked. He would have done more with it if it weren't for the other deck that had come from Pegasus: a new Blue Eyes deck.

Blue-Eyes Alternative Dragon. Maiden with Eyes of Blue. Several new fusion monsters. All of it had been so shocking that Seto had been rendered dumb by it for several minutes, only awaken from his stupor by Mokuba's excited declaration that Pegasus had sent HIM a deck as well. It was a good deck, one that Seto was rather impressed by, but still… his new Blue Eyes deck, especially when he'd added a few rare spells and his original three Blue Eyes White Dragons to it… there was nothing else like it!

'With that deck Yugi won't stand a chance against me!' Seto thought to himself with what was, for him at least, glee. 'An actual win, with no excuses and claims that I cheated my way into a victory! Everyone will have no choice but admit that I am the one, and only, King of Games!'

The images of him defeating the boy that had disgraced him with his first loss improved his mood just enough that he found himself willing to actually go through with this foolish press conference.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Mr. Parker, Kaibacorp's head of public relations, called out to the gathered reporters as Seto walked onto the stage that had been set up and took a seat near the podium. The lobby had been converted into a pressroom, with folding chairs lined up before the stage, flags with the Kaibacorp logo dangling behind the podium where Mr. Parker stood. The man was one of the few remaining leftovers from his step father's time at the company that Seto had no plans on sacking even after the Big 5's betrayal. The man was damn good at his job and had shown the proper amount of detachment, to the point that Seto, when he'd asked Mr. Parker what his first name was, had been informed by the thick-set man that 'he didn't want to get chummy with his boss'. Seto had appreciated the fact that the man had no interest in trying to act like a mentor or a father figure to him and as such kept him on. And would continue to do so; Mr. Parker was great at his job.

The reporters continued to murmur to themselves and Seto fought the urge to clear his throat and get them to shut up; he'd been warned plenty of times that such acts would always look bad. He didn't care what the tabloids said about him, as only fools cared about such things, but he did care about his company. And if keeping his company stable meant resisting the urge to call the reporters a bunch of load-mouthed idiots with no impulse control then he'd do just that.

'And if it means going through with this deal…' he thought to himself.

"I know that there have been many questions concerning the state of Kaibacorp after the events of Duelist Kingdom. We have called this press conference to clear up everything, remove the baseless rumors and gossip, and unveil so of the new and exciting avenues we will be moving towards in the future."

Seto tuned the man out for the most part; he had no need to really pay attention to what he had to say, seeing as he already knew all about it. He'd been the one to iron out the final wrinkles in the entire situation that Pegasus had created.

When the fop had made his deal with the Big 5 he had begun to tie Seto's company up tight with his own under the assumption that soon he would be in charge of both anyway. So why deal with the headache of two different companies when he could just have one massive one with several large divisions? He'd never considered what would happen if Seto got through Duelist Kingdom though… and that was where the problems had arisen. He'd returned to Domino to find that Kaibacorp as he knew it no longer existed. Rather there was the currently unnamed merged super-corporation of which he now held a controlling interest in.

At first he had sought to detangle himself from Industrial Illusions, wanting nothing to do with the company. He'd set his lawyers on it only to get a surprise meeting request from suits from II. With Pegasus in trouble with the law the lawyers for Industrial Illusions had decided that have the stabilizing influence of Kaibacorp and Seto Kaiba were the perfect thing to save their company. They wanted him to keep the companies merged and agree to work with Pegasus to keep things running smoothly.

He'd naturally laughed in their faces though he doubted that Mr. Parker would be mentioning that in his rundown of the events.

What had changed his mind was when the lawyers had informed him that as part of the deal Pegasus, fearing losing everything with the government breathing down his neck and plenty of rivals circling waiting for a moment to pounce, had agreed to a one-way only information and product share. That meant that Pegasus couldn't get his hands on Seto's hologram tech… but Seto had access to Duel Monsters.

Likenesses. Designs. Information.

Suddenly his dreams for Kaibaland seemed so… small.

"Mr. Kaiba will now say a few words concerning the new power structure for Kaibacorp." Mr. Parker said, getting his attention. "Mr. Kaiba?"

Seto nodded and stood up, making his way to the podium while glancing down at the notes that Kiko had given him. Short and to the point and without any flowery language or false cheer. Perfect.

"I have always believed in improving things. Making them better. I am not satisfied by simply accepting something that works well. I want it to work better. And to do that means taking risks. It is how I have been successful in all aspects of my life, be it as a duelist or as a businessman. And it is time that Kaibacorp began to behave the same. The Big 5, as the Kaibacorp board was known as, were a relic of our past. Old men with old ideas. And just as Kaibacorp is now run by the young so too should those that advise me be young and daring as well. As such I am-" he paused, the notes saying "proud" and there was NO way he was saying that, "-here to introduce the first of the new Kaibacorp board of directors…Edwin Chaos."

The older man walked out, the photographers snapping pictures and the reporters calling out questions as Chaos walked out, giving a polite wave before taking Seto's spot at the podium. 'That idiot better not do anything to ruin what we are trying to achieve here,' Seto thought, gritting his teeth. 'What am I saying? That showboat can't help but cause a scene.' He looked at Kiko, getting her attention before looking back at Chaos. 'When that idiot screws things up we better be ready to-'

"Thank you Mr. Kaiba," Edwin said, his voice projecting out enough that he didn't actually need the microphone. "I know that many of you are going to go through my life story with a fine tooth comb, trying to figure out why I am now in the position I'm in. The truth of the matter is… there is nothing I've done that's prepared me for this." He paused, letting them get a few more shots in before continuing. "But there was nothing in Seto Kaiba's history that would show that he would be able to create holographic projection technology so groundbreaking that it makes the wildest dreams of the science fiction writers look like the blandest fan fiction. There wasn't anything in Maximillion Pegasus' background to suggest that he could take a few ideas cribbed from the tombs of Egypt and turn them into a cultural phenomenon. And on a personal level… there was nothing in my past to suggest that I'd come within spitting distance of winning all of Duelist Kingdom… or that the winner would be like me: someone who had never competed in a tournament.

"Life isn't about what it says in the notes your research aides find while combing through school records. It is about your brains and your guts and frankly I have plenty of both." He smiled, giving a light shrug. "That said… a wise man knows when to step back and let smarter men take the lead. Just because I am now on the board that doesn't mean I'm going to begin butting my way into things. Mr. Kaiba has shown he knows how to run Kaibacorp… while I can't get into all the things that are coming I can say that they will blow the world's minds."

Seto had no idea what Edwin was talking about, as he'd never let the man see into his private plans, but the silver tongued devil knew how to spin a tale so convincing even Seto was beginning to believe his stories.

"I'm just the guy that happened to impress the right people. I will advise Mr. Kaiba… but I will NOT be the Big 5, believing that because I own some stock or I am given a small bit of power that I should be the lord and master of this company. It already has one… a fine one. I just want to do all I can to assist. Thank you."

And with that Edwin moved to sit down next to Seto, ignoring the calls from the reporters. Instead he merely stared straight forward, projecting calm and quiet strength while letting Mr. Parker do his job.

"I didn't realize you could actually keep your mouth shut," Seto said under his breath finally as the press conference broke up. The two of them remained seated, however, just in case someone wanted to snap one last picture. It was frustrating but Seto knew that Kiko was watching and he wasn't in the mood to waste time bickering with her.

"I didn't realize that… darn, there isn't something to mock you over at the moment." Edwin kept a pleasant look on his face. "Listen, I get it. You don't like me. You don't like a lot of people. But you REALLY don't like me because I took advantage of you in a vulnerable moment. Twice. Though I would remind you that you'd have done the same thing."

Seto didn't respond… mostly because the fool was correct.

"But two points in us playing nice with each other: first and foremost we have the same goal when it comes to Kaibacorp: make money making joy rather than corpses."

"And the other?"

"Seto!"

He turned, an actual smile no matter how small it might be, forming on his lips as his little brother ran up to him.

"Edwin!" Mokuba said, just as excited. Edwin shot Seto a look, the unspoken comment made and he conceded the point. While he had thought that the moment they were done with Duelist Kingdom Edwin would drop Mokuba the older man had instead remained in touch, visiting when he could and talking with Mokuba via text and video chat. Seto of course monitored all of this, as he'd be a fool to let a stranger be around his brother again, but Edwin had only shown kindness to his brother. Offering him advice, talking about his day, and a few times even taking him out into Domino proper(with a full team of security, of course) so Seto could work. While some might have chalked this up as some sort of plan to get on Seto's good side Edwin had no need for that; the man was now a multimillionaire and Pegasus had made sure Edwin's control of Kaibacorp was rock solid. He didn't need to play nice with Seto… and yet he still befriended Mokuba.

"Hey. How are things?"

"Great! I've been going over my deck like you said, trying different combinations of monsters and spells." Mokuba bounced up and down like a puppy on a sugar high. "Seto helped me out with a few ideas for combos as well."

"He picks things up quick," Seto said, giving Mokuba's shoulder a squeeze. The two of them had been spending a lot of time recently going over their decks. Not just Mokuba's but Seto's as well. He'd remembered Edwin's jab about not giving Mokuba the final Blue Eyes and wanted to make up for that. Mokuba's Ice Barrier deck was an interesting one… it didn't fit how he liked to play but Mokuba picked it up quickly. While he wasn't good at teaching him how to actually play the game, leaving that to the Dueling Computers, but he could talk strategy with his brother and just the night before they'd spent 3 hours going over their decks, debating pros and cons of certain cards.

"Well that will make things easier for today," Edwin stated. "I thought we'd do some tag team training on one of your platforms, give Mokuba a feel for working with another duelist."

Seto scoffed at that. "I prefer to duel alone…" Mokuba looked up at him and Seto finally sighed. "But I suppose it doesn't hurt to be the best at everything."

"Thanks Seto!" Mokuba exclaimed.

"You remember the rules?"

His brother rolled his eyes at that. "When you aren't around Edwin is in charge but only if he's rules don't supersede your own."

Seto nodded. He'd informed his security team a week ago that Edwin had earned the right to act as Mokuba's guardian when he wasn't around. The man might be a snake but a serpent that protected his brother was one he could handle. "Good, because I have some final work to do on a project and I won't be done until this evening. Head back home if I don't leave a message for you, understand? Straight home."

"Aw, come on Seto! I can handle myself."

It was Edwin that spoke up though. "Mokuba, listen to your brother. There are plenty of people who are still gunning for your brother. You don't want to be used as a weapon again him."

"I guess…" Mokuba said morosely, scuffing his shoe against the floor before perking right up. The resilience of youth.

Seto made his goodbyes before heading up to his lab. His brother was in good hands and that freed him up to finish up with the VR project he'd been working on before Duelist Kingdom.

~MC~MC~MC~

"…all about levels then?"

"For your dragons, yes," I said as Mokuba and I left the dueling arena Seto had set up at Kaibacorp. We'd just gotten done doing a few tag team duels against the computer, including out last one where the computer mimicked two Pegasuses: one using a toon deck and the other a Relinquished deck. Mokuba had run his Ice Barrier deck while I had been play testing my Lair of Darkness deck; that had surprised Mokuba but I'd pointed out that I knew how my new Endymion deck worked and needed to figure out my other decks if I wanted to be as good with them as I was with that one.

"And they really that different?" Mokuba asked before their duel.

"Very. Endymion has mastered the power of magic so that he and his followers can become magic itself… and then reform to become their selves again. For them everything is about spells. But my Lair of Darkness deck… Diabolos is the lord of lies and tricks. Spells are too straight forward for him. He prefers traps. And taking what doesn't belong to him. It is an entirely different mentality and I need to get used to it."

"It still seems odd to be able to summon monsters from my Extra Deck without needing Polymerization."

I shrugged. "It's called Synchro summoning. Just one of many new ways to bring out powerful monsters." I still didn't know the ramifications of all I had done that last day in Duelist Kingdom but I was willing to bet that it wasn't going to end well. Or at the very least cleanly. "And I think you better get used to that because from what I hear a lot of people are going to be using it… and other ways to duel."

I still had no idea what I had done but somehow a lot of duelists had suddenly gotten deck upgrades. Rex had won a districts tournament using a new Dinosaur deck containing Soul-Eating Oviraptor. The World Legacy cards had begun popping up when some duelist in Europe had decided to create a massive scavenger hunt by hiding them in all the biggest cities in the continent and challenge duelists to find them. Mako had sent me an excited text that there were Legendary Fishermen cards that he was convinced held the souls of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Mokuba had confided in me that Seto had gotten not only a new Blue Eyes deck but an ABC deck and that is what had finally made me realize that this was all my fault and I'd somehow power crept the entire game.

'And how the world is trying to deal with all this is… interesting.' Links existed but the arrows honestly didn't matter with the summoning of other monsters save other links. Pendulums could become spells but only in the far left and right part of the spell and trap zone. And all the cards had the summoning sickness that prevented them from attacking the first turn they came out-

"Mr. Chaos?" a voice called out as Mokuba and I stepped outside to get some fresh air. We turned and I raised an eyebrow as a familiar face walked up to us.

Not a welcomed face, considering how many times she'd dragged me to her precinct for an interview, but a familiar one nonetheless.

"Detective," I said, nodding at Yuri Gardner in greeting. "What can I do for you?" 'Please not another interview, please not another interview, please not-'

"I need to just go over a few things with you," she said before letting out a sigh. "I'm annoying you, aren't I?'

"No..." I trailed off, seeing the looks both her and Mokuba were giving me.

"You have the same look my brother gets when dealing with-"

"People?" I asked Mokuba.

"Yeah," he said with a bemused grin.

Yuri let out a sigh again. "Mr. Chaos-"

"You do that a lot around me, you know."

"What?"

"Sigh. I wonder why that is."

Mokuba grinned. "Because you can be a jerk?"

"Could be that." I glanced at Yuri and, deciding to live up to my 'Devil' nickname, flashed her a leer and asking, "Well Detective? What is it you've come to ask me about. I assure you I'm an open book. I never lie-"

Mokuba began to cough at that and I shot him a glower which only make him gag all the more as he tried to stop himself from laughing and crying at my comment.

"I think I'll leave Mr. Kaiba's amusement at that falsehood to speak for me," the detective told me, shooting me a look that instantly made me wonder how Lucifer and Richard Castle didn't turn into mewling whimpering balls of embarrassment when glanced at in that way.

"Sorry but this is getting old," I said, stuffing my hands into the pockets of my blazer. "I mean it's been two months and it feels like every other day you guys are dragging me into the precinct to answer yet another round of questions. And that is if things go swimmingly. Usually you want me to just repeat again what happened at Duelist Kingdom. I'm getting sick of the reruns."

"We just want to make sure that we have all the details in place."

It was, to my own surprise, Mokuba who snorted dismissively at that. "More like you want to trip him up in order to make this all go away."

"Not me," Yuri said as we walked along the Kaibacorp Headquarters' campus. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing nicely and honestly it was making me think of the weirdness of weather in this world. Unless it was a plotpoint I'd noticed that I didn't actually feel temperatures like I would in the real world. The sun could be blazing but unless it was a plot point that we were having a heat wave I could wear long sleeves and jeans and not sweat. Just like during the cold snaps we'd gotten in the last two months I could get away with a thin coat and just be fine. It made sense… hard to explain that Seto had to ditch his iconic white coat while walking around Egypt because rich boy was feeling toasted but still it was odd.

'And useful. Opens up a lot of options for what I can wear during Battle City.'

Yuri drew me out of that thought before my mind could wander. "You have to understand that your accusations have caused a great amount of concern and everyone in the police department wants to make sure that we handle them properly."

"And by that you mean with the Big 5 dead all the heat is coming down on your department for covering things up," I told her. Yuri winced at that. "Don't deny it… you wouldn't have worked with my uncle if you thought the police were actually going to handle things."

"I wanted to make sure people were safe. But that doesn't mean-"

"People are never safe so long as corruption remains," I told her. "How many people have faced punishment because of what happened to Mokuba? And the cover-up?"

Yuri scowled at that. We both knew the answer: not enough.

The public loved a good scandal and my uncle was a vengeful man. With the Big 5 'dead' it thus fell to the Domino Police Department to take the brunt of his rage and the blood lust of the public. The security forces weren't that interesting as they were just nameless goons in suits, save for Kemo who I was rather proud was getting called 'Sally' by the papers thanks to him snapping about me when pressed on too many times during his arraignment. But the Domino Police? Oh, that was a juicy story that made all the media salivate and the populous scream for more. The mere fact that an aide to the police commissioner had one daughter on the island and another who had not only first uncovered the kidnapping plot but then been forced to work with my uncle to stage a rescue while the reported crime rotted away on a desk and the security forces were let off with a warning? Oh, that was a spice tale that everyone was gobbling up.

I felt a stab of guilt as I remembered just who else had been affected by the public's demands for justice. "I'm sorry about your sister." Yuri and Tea's father had been put on unpaid leave and according to my uncle the man was done; assuming he didn't see jailtime no police force would hire him on. And that meant Tea had been forced to deal with not only her father and his shady dealings but her own hopes and dreams radically being altered.

Joey had been the one to tell me about it all, the two of us having patched things up when I'd visited Serenity during one of her pre-operation hospital stays. He'd stammered an apology about what he'd said about my mom and I'd made clear that I would forgive… this time. But he only got to make that mistake one and he'd be wise not to make the same error again. After that we'd texted on and off for a month… nothing major, mostly me looking into Serenity's care and Joey asking my advice on what to do with the prize money Yugi had given him in order to keep it safe (I'd talked him out of lotto scratchers… dear lord that boy had a gambling problem). But one day the conversation had turned to Tea.

"It's bad," he'd told me the last time I'd seen him in person, when I'd treated him to lunch after Serenity's latest check up and he looked like he needed something to boost his spirits. "Tea's tryin' to hide it but money suddenly became real tight. Tristan's quietly paying for her meals when we go out to eat and she turned down offers to go to the movies or anything else. Yug said she's looking into scholarships now for dance school cause now she can't afford to just pay for it."

I'd quietly made it known to my investment guy that I needed my money to grow as I might need to pay for some college classes-

"Tea is strong," Yuri said, waving off my concern. "And dad… he got himself into this mess, despite what some at the precinct might think."

"I wondered why we weren't heading back over there," I muttered as Yuri led us back into the main building. We all fell silent before Yuri finally stopped before a door that led to one of Kaibacorp's smaller labs. "Uh… ladies first?"

"I'm not doing the interview. Someone from downtown is."

"Oh." That surprised me; Yuri had been the one to interview me for the most part, part of her punishment for going off the book to invade Duelist Kingdom. I'd been interviewed by other cops when things had first gone down but after a while it was only Yuri as all the other officers learned how annoying I could truly be when they kept me waiting for far too long. I'd been polite… I'd been respectful.

At first.

But when it became clear that the cops were interested not in the truth but any information that could first protect the Big 5 and then themselves… I'd had no problem with making their lives a living hell by being a smart little asshole. Rambling on, making jokes, treating the whole thing as a game. They didn't want to do their jobs… why should I help them in that endeavor?

"Do me a favor then and keep Mokuba company, would you? I think this might get rather boring and no reason the both of us should suffer."

"I don't mind-" Mokuba began but I waved him off with a smile.

"I do. Besides I can use you as an excuse to cut the meeting short." With that I gave him a wink before entering the room.

~MC~MC~MC~

'Why am I still doing this?' Yuri thought as she led Mokuba away from the room. It was a question she'd been asking herself a lot recently. 'Why bother being a cop when no one wants me to actually do my job?'

Ever since she'd returned from Duelist Kingdom she'd felt like her life had become a series of trials designed by a sadist to torture her. A constant swirl of conflicting feelings and events. She was praised for breaking the case open and revealing the sins of the Big 5 and Pegasus… and hated by her fellow officers for revealing the deep rooted corruption that existed in the Domino Police Department. To the press the higher ups said they would clean things up. Behind the scenes she was sent to work a desk and isolated from everyone else. People she'd thought were her friends scorned her while the scum suckers in the media suddenly became her only allies. The man she'd gone to the island to save had decided that having his company nearly stolen and his brother kidnapped wasn't that big of a deal and he'd let Pegasus slide.

'And then there is dad,' she thought bitterly. 'He always told me about the law and justice and how important it was but now? God…' She took several breaths to calm her nerves and yet the dark knowledge of just how deep her father was in the corruption of the police stung. It was… so much worse than she'd ever expected. It seemed like every day a new report was coming out revealing another scheme he'd been a part of, another crime he'd helped to sweep under the rug, another criminal he'd called friend just because they wore a suit instead of a ski mask.

And worst of all she'd tried to save Tea… and in the end may have ruined her life.

'At least she's talking to me.' That gave Yuri a bit of comfort. 'She may not blame me… but that doesn't mean I don't blame myself for all this.' Yuri had been afraid after the hammer had begun to press down on their father that Tea would blame her for it. She wouldn't have blamed her… everyone else was blaming her for what was happening, even herself and she knew her father was guilty as sin! But Tea had made clear to her, after the two of them had gone through a very rough and awkward lunch, that she never blamed her for anything.

"People are to blame for their own actions," Tea told her, swirling a steak fry in some sauce left over from her chicken sandwich. "They might try to shift the blame to others or create excuses for why they did something but in the end they are to blame. Even if we forgive them… that doesn't mean they aren't to blame." She grew quiet at that and Yuri wondered just what their father had been saying to Tea when she wasn't around. What excuses and claims he'd made. "The only way you can truly make up for what you've done is to first admit that you did do something wrong."

'I should have accepted Baptiste's offer to join his security team.' She shook her head though at that, the reason why she'd refused when he'd first offered after they'd captured Pegasus and found her sister popping up in her head: she didn't want to find herself enslaved to a rich man like her father had been. Kipling Chaos might have seemed like a decent man but she was willing to bet that to her father the Big 5 and Pegasus had seemed like decent folks as well. All it took was one time plunging your hands into the waters to find that the bottom was mud.

"Why are the police meeting Edwin here?" Mokuba asked her in confusion as they moved towards the stairwell. "Why not at the station?"

"They have an appointment with your brother and this was just easier," Yuri told him.

"No they don't."

"Pardon?"

"They don't have an appointment. Seto is in his lab working on a project."

Yuri shrugged. "He probably didn't want to worry you…" She trailed off as her mind caught up with what she'd just said. "No… other people would hide things to spare your feelings. Your brother-"

"He'd tell me," Mokuba said firmly, daring her to disagree.

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, (Oh lord)
And I've been waiting for this moment, for all my life, (Oh lord)
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord, (Oh lord)

Yuri looked back the way they'd come, tendrils of ice wrapping around her stomach and clenching down hard. Somewhere in the distance she could hear music playing, dark and moody. "Mokuba, stay here." She began to go back the way they'd come and honestly wasn't surprised the young boy was hot on her heels. Stopping by the doorway she pressed her finger to her lips before leaning around slowly to stare into the room, her position making it that neither of the men inside could see her or Mokuba. One was Edwin, who was slowly pacing the room. The other was- "Dad?"

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am

"-you want to stick with your story?" her dad asked, his tone light and friendly but carrying an edge she recognized all too well. It was one he'd used many times when she had done something he didn't agree with and he hoped that if he just played at being her friend she'd come to his way of seeing things. That hadn't worked when she was 8 years old and just had to have a GI Joe instead of a Barbie and it didn't work now.

"Very much so," Edwin Chaos said casually. "It's the truth."

"But what is the truth, Mr. Chaos? Eye of the beholder and all that."

Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies.

"Yes yes," the younger man said and Yuri could hear him rolling his eyes. "History is written by the winners and all that. But from where I am standing… I'm the winner and thus my truth is going to be the only truth. Funny, that." He continued to move around and despite the tense situation and her horror that her father had figured out how to use her to do some dirty work Yuri couldn't help but feel annoyed because did that boy ever STOP flapping his lips or bouncing around like a pixie on a sugar high?

'The Guardian Devil?' she thought, thinking of the name the man had apparently given himself yet everyone used for him (or a variation of; Pegasus called him the silver-tongued devil while the elder Kaiba called him a serpent). 'More like the manic cherub.'

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, (Oh lord)
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, (Oh lord)
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life oh Lord, (Oh Lord)

"Do you have not respect for order?" her father asked.

"You do remember my last name is 'Chaos' right? Names have powerful meanings."

"I only-"

But Edwin cut him off. "One could say I'm an Agent of Chaos. Just like they could say that being a Gardner means you like sticking your hands in the fertilizer so long as you get something sweet for yourself."

Yuri winced. Her father was a proud man and wouldn't take kindly to such disrespect.

Well I remember, I remember don't worry
How could I ever forget
It's the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep this silence up

"Things run a certain way in Domino. There is an order to it. We don't like people that rock the boat. You doing this to the Big 5-"

"Do you ever refer to them individually?"

"-Seto Kaiba ruining my friend Gozaburo -"

"Or is it only by the nickname for all of them?"

"-it causes so many problems. So… so many problems. For so many people. You and Seto Kaiba thrive on that, don't you? Ruining people for your own gains." Her father shook his head in mock sympathy. "Its too bad I wasn't able to get here in time to stop Seto from attacking you."

No you don't fool me
The hurt doesn't show, but the pain still grows
It's no stranger to you and me

Her father's arm twitched, something metallic flashed, and Edwin's body went stiff as her father drove a knife into his stomach.

"The Big 5 send their regards," he hissed, viciously twisting the blade before ripping it out and readying to slash at Edwin's throat.

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh lord
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, (Oh lord)

Mokuba screamed something, Yuri wasn't sure what. All she knew was that caused at once her father to freeze up while also freeing her from her paralysis. That changed everything as it gave Yuri the seconds needed to leap into the room, extending the collapsible thin baton she always kept on her person and bash it across her father's face. He reeled back in shock but Yuri didn't give him a chance to react before she swung again, a violent CRACK! filling the air before he fell down to the floor, out cold. Yuri stood over her father's form, panting, baton hanging limply in her fingers as her mind raced over what had just happened.

I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, (Oh lord)
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh lord

"EDWIN!" Mokuba screamed, once more snapping her out of her daze. Yuri turned to see Edwin had stumbled into a wall, clutching at his stomach. His skin was already pale while his shirt was growing dark and then he was falling, Mokuba crying out in horror. Yuri rushed forward, catching him as he fell, her mind racing as she went over her training from the Academy on what to do with stabbing victims. There was just so much blood and in that moment it felt like she'd never seen blood before.

"Mokuba, I need something to press against the wound to stop the bleeding!" Yuri snapped and to the boy's credit he stopped crying out and began to run around, focusing on that task. 'Good… good… can't deal with a panicked child and Edwin at the same time,' she thought as she ran through her options. Her father had been vicious, twisting the blade to make the wound larger before ripping out the knife. That was actually the worst part, for if he'd kept it in then Edwin would have had a better chance. Skin was elastic and would actually seal around a blade to help stop blood loss. But now there was nothing to plug the wound and the blond man was bleeding out right in front of her. 'Only one wound… we have a chance…'

There was a RIP! and Yuri turned to see Mokuba had actually managed to tear off her father's shirt. She would have laughed if in any other situation but instead she focused on taking the garment and pressing it to the wound, Edwin hissing in pain.

"This… this is bad," he got out.

"It's okay. Just a single stab wound," Yuri assured him.

But Edwin was shaking his head. "Da… Da Vinic Code."

"What?"

"Book. Curator is shot-"

"This is different."

"-in the stomach. Bile and acid begin to leak out… long, slow, painful way to die." He shut his eyes and hissed as Yuri applied more force, her hands sticky from the blood. "And there's too much blood. He… he hit something."

"You don't… he might have missed-"

"He didn't." Edwin's face screwed up tight and when he opened them again tears spilled down his cheeks, all confidence and bravado gone as he looked at her and whispered, "I'm scared."

That admission actually helped Yuri. It forced her not to panic and instead slip into the role of cop. She'd been trained for this. This was her job and she was good at it! "Don't be. We're going to get you help and you'll be fine." She turned towards Mokuba, the boy having turned away from them and gone over to a large piece of machinery, looking it over. "Mokuba, I need you to call for help."

Edwin squeezed his eyes shut, fingers wrapping around her wrists, clinging to her. "Our father, who art in Heaven…"

In the back of her mind Yuri found herself startled that the 'Guardian Devil' was apparently religious. But there he was, doing the Lord's Prayer. "Mokuba-"

"Seto!" Mokuba finally cried out and for a moment Yuri thought that the businessman had shown up. That would be a godsend; Seto Kaiba wouldn't panic. He would help her take control and get things handled. But there was no one there, just her and Edwin and Mokuba and the-

"Oh," she said as she saw Seto Kaiba laying in the machine, still and unresponsive. 'Please… please tell me my dad didn't murder Seto Kaiba.'

But then Mokuba spoke up again. "He's in the VR pod… I can't get him out though!" Yuri twisted to get a better look, Edwin crying out as she shifted her weight before returning to his prayer. "He's locked in!"

What the hell? "Leave him," Yuri snapped. "We can help him later. Edwin needs us now! If we don't get someone here now he's going to die."

Mokuba started at that before shaking his head. "There isn't a medic on staff… Seto is doing hiring…"

"Of course he is," Yuri grumbled. She pulled one hand away and went for her radio. "This is Yuri-"

All she got was static.

"Dad." Of course he'd done something to her radio! "Mokuba, we need to get someone here, now. We're running out of time. Find someone on staff and have them call-"

"Time?" Mokuba said, eyes flickering with inspiration. "Time! We can get him time!" He ran over to her and began to tug on the man's shoulder, Edwin shuddering and the compress shifting causing blood to begin leaking from the wound again. "Come on!"

"Mokuba, we need to leave him here-"

"No!" Mokuba said firmly and in that moment when she met his gaze she saw his brother in him. The forceful power to dominate all. "Seto designed these VR pods to put people into stasis, that way they could explore the world he'd created without needing to eat or sleep. It's like cyrogenics… completely stops everything."

Yuri blinked at that. "Seriously?"

"Yeah! He told me all about it!"

The detective bit her lip. It was a risk… she didn't know if it would even work. But if it did then it would buy them time to get medics here. Because right now-

"If… if I get a vote?" Edwin said weakly. "I vote 'not dying'."

Yuri swallowed. "Open the pod."

Mokuba scurried forward while Yuri lifted Edwin up, forcing his hands against the wound and commanding him to apply pressure. Every step seemed to take an eternity, the distance stretching out like miles when it was only a few feet.

But finally they reached the pod and Yuri settled Edwin down, pulling back as Mokuba pressed a button and a clear shell closed around the pod while a metal half helm covered Edwin's eyes and ears. Mokuba had snagged a deck from Edwin's belt and put it into the machine because of course the device required a scan of a duel monsters deck.

"Edwin!" Mokuba suddenly exclaimed. "If Seto is trapped in there you might get trapped too!"

The man managed a weak smile. "I'll tell him you said hello."

Mokuba pressed the final button and there was a brief flash of light and suddenly Edwin went as still as a corpse. For a moment Yuri feared that they'd taken too long and he'd bled out but then a computer on the side of the pod beeped and Edwin's vitals popped up.

"PLAYER SECURED."

Yuri sagged in relief. The wound wasn't bleeding out any more and while his vitals were still in the danger zone he'd just gotten the time he needed.

"Mokuba?" she got out. "Could you please now call security and tell them we need a medical team here? Edwin will still need to be looked over once we get him out."

"Right!" Mokuba said quickly, hurrying off.

That left Yuri alone to walk over to her father and slap a set of cuffs on him before slumping down on the floor, pressing her blood-stained fists to her head before letting out a scream.