Disclaimer: For the thirteenth time, I should mention that I do NOT own Yu-Gi-Oh!

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Here's some feedback to all you wonderful people out there who took some time to give me a review...

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Deena70 - (beams) Thank you. Glad to know that you also support Anzu.

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BlackBelt - Well, hey there again. You seem very happy nowadays...(looks at Anzu and sees her solemn face/deity is extremely disturbed)...

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Child Of The Dark Wolves - (O.O) Wow...I didn't know that my updates were THAT lacking..Okay, so I did..but that is entirely beside the point!! Anyways, I should be the one to thank YOU, saying as you're still here(which really says a lot). Thanks for the support!!

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Dustbunny3 - ...ehehehehe...Geez...Now I'm getting a lashing from my darn conscience...(sniff)

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Lady-Wicca666 - (smiles secretively) You'll just have to read, right?

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belle-fille1 - Glad to know that you share my unfortunate predicament. (sniffs pathetically) Poor Tea..Oh dear..Please offer her my condolences, will you? Oh, and might I ask...(looks around and whispers)...Where do you buy those pills? Is there any cure?..(then tries to imagine a hentai Seto then twitches convulsively..) ..That's just wrong...

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The Days of the Phoenix - ...ehehehehe..errr...Well, this chapter is a bit longer, and I strainly do emphasize on 'a bit'.

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Summers Death - (backs away slowly) Okay... Anyways, I hope that you'll get better soon!!

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Rutu - Wow..Eager, ehh? Well, don't let me keep you; go ahead!!

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Mystical Miyuki - Enjoyed it, huh? Well, hopefully, I'll be able to make it up to Kaiba in another fanfic.

Kaiba: (O.O) (turns green after hearing that from deity)

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Molly-chan the Anime/Game fan - Ahh...I really did miss your frying pan...(sighs wistfully)

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Shy-Lil-Dreamer - Looking for some action, ehh? Well, you'll see Anzu verbally sparring with them in this chapter a WHOLE lot.

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Rock in roll punker girl - Okay!! Got you there!!

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Anonymous - Oh don't worry. I've got half of THAT chapter done so only a few more renovations and then the chapter will be posted.

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Jou - Alright then!!

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Moon Struck Sea - Hope that this is 'soon enough'!!

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Gryphaena - Of course. Where would we be without those so called 'wonderful' tests?...(silence)..We'd be living in a much more wonderful world, that's what.

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TLC Kitsume - And here I provided you with more!! (now winces at her crappy statement)

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Ladyofthedarkoneandthedead - I updated, although I'm not too sure if it was exactly soon enough...(grins)

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Taichi Prime - Hmmm....well, thank you for the vote. And thanks for the complement!!

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"Blah" = Talking

'Blah' = Thoughts

-Was- = Emphasized Words

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Chapter Thirteen:

Salt And Vinegar

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She hated it. It was like sprinkling salt on an old wound. And then she thought, 'No, not sprinkling...' An apathetic smile tugged on the corners of her mouth, '..More like depositing the entire thing.'

Memories from before resurfaced and she fought against a bitter sneer. What ulterior motive did they have, prancing in here like they owned the place?!

She knew she was harsh, and she knew that she was exaggerating it; but Ra will be damned if she still didn't harbor any hatred for them after all of these years.

She watched with a keen eye, as person by person entered her home. And immediately, Anzu turned to present her current supervisor, Jounouchi, with a scolding glare. She mentally, and cruelly, might I add, laughed at his expense as he withered before her vengeful look.

'I should've known. I wasn't enough company for him, was I? And so he -had- to invite -them-...'

Unexpectedly, she caught one of her past acquaintance's eye and sent a mocking smile towards his direction, instantly rewarded by his frown.

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"She really is a bad hostess..."

Yugi frowned at the blonde and replied, "Well, what would you do in her situation? We came barging in her house without giving her or Joey any notice."

Mai daintily covered her mouth to muffle a yawn. "Really, Yugi, why are we here in the first place?"

Yugi smiled apologetically at her and said, "It was actually Ryou's idea. You know Anzu; she's almost as bad as Kaiba, what with her cold demeanor. Ryou thought about accompanying her for just a few moments-"

Tristen, who overheard half of their conversation, raised an eyebrow, "Trying to melt her heart?" He couldn't resist a snicker, "But Yug, since it's Ryou's idea in the first place, why are -we- here?!"

"To assist me in the process."

All three heads swerved to the direction of the voice and saw a very disheveled and bedraggled Ryou.

"What happened to -you-?!"

"I appreciate your consideration, Tristen."

Tristen let out a sheepish smile, "Sorry about that, but how come you're-"

"Wet?" Ryou squeezed some droplets of water from his white hair and proceeded to dry off his throughly soaked clothes.

"..Yeah.. And where are the others?"

Ryou let out a deep sigh, "There's a rather severe thunderstorm out there; how careless of me, not bringing an umbrella. Duke is working night shift and he's genuinely exhausted from work last night."

Mai placed a hand on her slim waist, "What makes us any different? We're hungry and not to mention -genuinely-, as you call it, on, guys!! We have to sacrifice sooner or later, right?"

Tristen turned to face Shizuka and courteously volunteered to take her coat when Duke suddenly happened to appear out of nowhere.

"May I?"

Shizuka blushed and smiled gratefully at him, presenting him her coat with no hesitance.

"How come -he's- here?!" Tristen raised an accusatory finger at Duke, directing his question to Ryou. Duke waved the offending finger away and gingerly placed Shizuka's coat on the coat hanger, responding, "Evidently, I decided that I'm not that tired anymore."

A grin grew on his face at Tristen's bitter expression.

"Anyways, we're here for Anzu, not to start another debate again, " Yugi said before any more arguments broke loose.

"Here for just one woman? What the heck is so special about -her-?!"

Shizuka frowned at Mai's open statement and watched as the lithe figure crossed the room, only to step in front of her.

"A-Anzu?"

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"A-Anzu?"

She instantly browsed through the group of people, responding silently to the person who dared to whisper her name, that person being a woman with an extensive amount of brown hair.

"Anzu?" She didn't whisper this time, but shouted her name clearly but softly, as if she were treading on hazardous territory. She shouted it with a strong voice so that everyone, everyone in the room heard her.

Silence.

She felt uneasy at the number of eyes that looked her way. Behind long, auburn strands of hair that once were bangs, she took shelter.

Minutes before, she examined each person throughly and her frown deepened even more so. There was no denying the feeling that she sensed now.

She felt... dirty.

She felt as if she were the only thing filthy and uncleaned in the room.

She wanted to get out of the damn room and into her bed where those silk sheets would be wrapped around her securely, separating her from the world outside.

But no... no. Ra just had to curse her with the unluckiest of luck and here she was, in the center of attention.

Ironic, isn't it? How she desperately wanted to be the center of it all, about nine years ago.

And how she despised herself for it now.

"..Anzu."

Her reverie came to an abrupt halt as his voice was perceived by her keen hearing. She pasted a smile onto her face and grinned widely at the man standing in front of her.

"Why, hello there. I haven't seen you in such a long time. It's such a pleasure to know that you still remember my name to this day."

She tried to keep the hint sarcasm out of her voice and continued to grin at him as if they were long time best friends. "So how is life treating you... Mr. Mouto?"

Yugi smiled uncertainly, "It's been great." A pause. Then, "How about you?"

Anzu closed her eyes just so that her thick eye lashes almost touched her pale cheek. "So and so. I trust that you're not having any... complications?"

His smile wavered, "..No.. No, I don't have any problems at hand."

Anzu nodded, not missing the slight pause, "Is that so... Very well, then... Would you mind reintroducing me to your... companions?"

"Oh!! No, not at all." He prodded the brown haired woman forward.

"Hi!! Umm...My name is Shizuka."

Anzu's eyes seemed to brighten, but whether it be for good reason or not, was unknown. "Ahh...I.. remember you from way back... in highschool.."

Her smile grew as she saw Shizuka's shoulders tense.

"...Oh!! And I vaguely remember you from that bus."

Shizuka's eyes widened but she stood her ground. "Y-Yes.."

But she was not finished yet..."Oh, but that comment was especially harsh..." Yugi had to blink twice to see that Anzu's tranquil smile was still intact on her face.

Anzu promptly pivoted to face Yugi who pointed to Tristen who reluctantly reintroduced himself.

"Ahh, yes. Tristen, huh?" She nodded and closed her eyes again, nodding again after that minor movement. "Hmmm...let's see... I don't particularly remember you.."

"..But... weren't you that one who played those stunts back then?" One specific memory of a bucket of ice cold water plunging onto her head, resulting in detention was spontaneously triggered in the dark recesses of her mind.

"..Yes, well... That was in the past... No need to bother over things that can't be changed, right?"

'I don't need an answer to that,' she thought subtly as she opened her eyes. After all, they say that your eyes are the window to your soul...

And right now, her expression showed that her past conclusion was incredibly false. She presented him with a haunting smile and advanced to the next person.

Before she could speak though, Anzu interrupted her with a finger to her lips.

"I -especially- remember you..." She placed careful emphasis on the word, 'especially', and circled the woman like a predator would a prey.

"Yes.. -You-.. are Mai Valentine." Anzu peered at her through half glazed eyes. "Am I correct?"

When she heard no answer, Anzu continued her circling, briefly reminding the blonde of a panther that was ready to pounce on its victim.

"Back then, your creativity was positively overwhelming. I really did adore all of those nicknames you made up from scratch...And the ones that weren't, were of no exception."

Anzu reached out for her hand and shook it, shocking every one of the occupants of the room. Mai grasped her hand away from the contact as if she were just burnt and shouted at Anzu, "Are you freaking mad?! What the hell are you doing?!"

She smiled sweetly, "I want to reconcile. But from watching your actions, it seems painfully obvious that the feeling is not reciprocal."

Again, she did not answer.

Anzu sighed dramatically, "I think that I've been mistaken again.... The feeling -is- mutual."

"Wha-"

"You hate me, don't you?"

The unexpected question came out of nowhere and for a moment, it seemed that Mai had no answer for that kind of question yet.

"Your silence is enough consent for me."

Shizuka stepped up and was about to touch Anzu's shoulder when the auburn haired beauty recoiled with a fierce kind of animosity in her eyes.

"Don't you dare touch me." She craned her neck to look at Mai, facade gone."For once, I thought that you would never rebel against me. But again, I'm almost glad that you did."

She stepped closer to the blonde woman, her voice rising an octave, "But you still haven't answered my question, have you?" She repeated it again, demanding an answer, "Do you hate me?"

Still... no reply.

Anzu chuckled softly, "No, I suppose 'hate' is a word too weak to describe it. Perhaps 'detest'? 'Dislike'? No, no...'Loathe', maybe?" She chuckled again, "Ahh, there are just too many words out there to count...But.."

The smile from earlier made another appearance on her face, "Judging by your extensive amount of creativity, and the admirable way you play with words, I'm positive that you'll be able to find some kind of term in your vocabulary that you'll approve of."

The tension in the room became almost suffocating and still the silence didn't cease.

"Not willing to answer me, are you? No problem. Well then, let's move on, shall we?"

Anzu brushed a stray strand of hair off her cheek as she meandered about, finally stopping to look at the pharaoh.

"Yami!! How wonderful to see you again!! Not in the state of matrimony, I see. My, oh My..." She glanced at Mai for a second, whose shoulders were slumped. "How's your affair with Mai going? Have you broke it off yet? Or was that moment in the courtyard just a fling?"

At the corner of her eye, she could see Joey stiffen and turn his back.

Anzu licked her dry lips and proceeded to taunt them, "Oh, but he doesn't know, does he?" She pointed to Joey and Yami's eyes momentarily widened.

"You know, pharaoh, things in the past will eventually resurface. You can't keep those secrets of yours hidden for long."

Her voice was overflowing with honey-coated sweetness as she targeted her next words to each and every person in the room.

"Tell me, what's your reason for coming here?"

"Anzu..."

This time it was Ryou who stepped forward.

"...Anzu, this. Anzu, that. My name has been spoken too many times. Don't you think it's overrated, Ryou?"

Shockingly, her voice beheld no malice for the white haired man.

"..I..."

He was rendered speechless temporarily.

"..You know, I'm so tired of this..."

The sentence came out with a twinge of fatigue and nobody said a word as the brunette deserted the Entrance Hall to retire to her bedroom upstairs.

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A Week Later...

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He softly placed a hand on her scorching forehead. She wasn't able to hold in the cough this time around.

Duke glanced disapprovingly at her as she half-heartedly brushed the offending hand away from her anatomy.

He breathed out heavily before taking the thermometer from her mouth. He sighed for the last time before departing from the compact room.

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"So...how is she?"

"...Her temperature is high."

"How high?"

"...One hundred and seven degrees."

He cursed quietly and watched as his multi-colored companion paced around the room with arms crossed.

"Yugi? You okay?"

Yugi attempted at a smile which ended up to be as feeble as his mood. "Yeah...I guess..."

Everyone tensed as the door creaked open, only to expose Shizuka and Mai. Yugi locked eyes with the blonde haired woman, inquiring of the bulky package cradled in her arms.

She avoided his gaze, requesting to see the patient in the room next door, shifting the fragile parcel slightly in her arms with an indecipherable expression on her face.

"...Please..It's.. It's imperative."

The doctor reluctantly complied with her wishes and stepped aside, as to not block her way. Mai nodded in gratitude and bracing herself, finally turned the knob that lead to the client's room.

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She observed her irregular breathing and clutched the package that much closer to her, as if it were her lifeline. Slowly but surely, her eye lashes fluttered open and spindly fingers reached up to rub her eyes. Mai watched as she blinked once more, ridding of the haze that seemed to occupy her eyesight too much, too often for her liking.

Several minutes flew by...

Mai acknowledged the pair of eyes that bore solely on her, as she stepped into the dim light. For a moment, only silence reigned, until Mai swallowed audibly and held the parcel out to Anzu.

"Here..."

Anzu's interest in the blonde women ebbed slowly away, as she scrutinized the inanimate object on her lap. She hesitantly but nevertheless undid the bindings that held the package together and the navy colored wrapping paper descended to reveal an extravagant sapphire vase composing of tiny crystalline fragments, complete with flowers; azaleas.

Anzu's hands quivered slightly and she slouched over the thick mattress to blink at Mai, her auburn hair creating a curtain that proved to be very effective when it came to hiding her facial expressions.

"...I heard from Yugi that you liked azaleas..."

Anzu closed her eyes, "That was back then..."

"Well, yes, but-"

"Why? Why do you even bother?"

"...I...I came to apologize."

Anzu frowned and bent to smell the flowers. "For what? Judging from my rather harsh sentiments some time ago, I see no reason for you to..apologize."

"No, I... I meant to apologize for what I did... years ago."

She raised a slender eyebrow and smirked, "Why now, then? Why not tomorrow? Why not a year from now?...Better yet, why not years ago? And what do you apologize for? You gave me special treatment, am I correct?" Her eyes narrowed as she continued, "So I see no reason for me to complain about it."

"..You've changed...a lot."

Sarcasm always was her specialty, "How observant of you."

She remained ignorant of her remark. "What happened to you, Anzu?...Remember when we were kids? You were always raving about wanting to be a dancer someday. To graduate in Juliard and be the best there was. But..."

"'But', what? I'm a CEO, right? I've come out as successful as when compared to if I were pursuing my dream of a being dancer. I am merely satisfied with my accomplishment."

"Accomplishment? Of course, that's an accomplishment, but is being a CEO really what you want to do for the rest of your days? And you said 'merely'. You and I both know that that's not enough for you."

"Then what shall you do about it, huh?"

"I should be the one asking you that question."

"You shouldn't be prying into business that doesn't belong to you. And why are you talking about my past goals? What's it to you? It's not like you're any close friend of mine."

"Your coldness will eventually swallow you whole. I hate it when you refer to things in the past. Why can't you just drop it?!"

Anzu opened her eyes and leaned against a pillow. "...Drop it?...Drop it?! You think that I can just 'let it go' that easily?! You and many others have made my life a living hell, for crying out loud!!"

"...I was jealous, okay?!"

Anzu turned to Mai, who stood up to face the window. "Jealous?.. Jealous of a teenage girl whose parents have abandoned her, whose friends mocked her, who attracted a goddamn illness?! Don't make me laugh."

"No..You don't understand. Back then, you were the 'perfect angel'. You were the very image of sublimity. You had the looks, you had compassion, grace, and skills. Everyone loved you; you had everything going for you."

"So you envied me enough to treat me cruelly?" She rolled her eyes.

"..Yes."

Anzu blinked in astonishment, "W-What?"

"That's right. -I- was the one who made up the rumors of you being a paid whore. -I- was the one who told the teachers lies that you were cheating on your exams. -I- was the one who persuaded everyone that you weren't worth being around with. Only to end up being your replacement; the one in the spotlight...-That's- what I came to apologize for."

"..So.. Now that you've tired of being in the so called 'spotlight', you've come to redeem yourself. That's low, even for someone like you."

Mai glared at her relaxed form. "Your apathy will be your downfall."

Anzu mindlessly picked a wispy petal off of a flower. "..."

"Look, I don't enjoy this conversation as much as you do. So, I'm sorry, okay?"

And she left the room.

Anzu picked two more petals from the flower.

"Even if she didn't go about it the right way, she really had good intentions. You are aware of that, aren't you?"

"...What are you doing here? Come to apologize for ruining my life too?"

"Touche', Miss. Masaki. No, I've got business to be done. I'll trust that I'll be seeing you in the next meeting when you're well?"

As the door closed behind him, Anzu looked down at the vase on her lap only to see one flower without any petals.

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End Chapter

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Deity: (sobs) It's near the end!! Only about one more chapter and then the story will be finished. (sighs) It's been a tiring eleven months.(Eleven? It seemed so much more though...) Anyways, have I told you that I love you people? Not in the love/love/relationship sense, but in the I-love-you-so-much-for-supporting-me!! sense. So please do another favor for me and review? Please?

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Our journey is nearing it's end...eheheh...

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deity of death