DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
Tournament of Shadows
Chapter 11: More Answers and More Questions
by Shadow's Mirror
It was early afternoon on the fourth day of the Domino City Treasure Quest Tournament and the first round of the contest had officially finished.
Of the 16 top ranked duellists in the tournament, 8 had secured their places in the second, and final, round. The others were now out of the competition.
The next day would see a new duelling location, as well as new rules and a new level of excitement and anticipation among the competitors.
At least, that was what the organisers hoped for. So far, the tournament had not gone entirely according to plan.
On the second day of the competition, Domino City had woken to the news that four children had been found lying unconscious in alleyways across the city. With no visible signs of injury, yet still not waking up, officials remained baffled as to what had happened to them.
Later that day, the situation had taken an even darker turn when three of the tournament's competing duellists, Avril Kensington, Rina Price and Callie Logan, had all been attacked. As with the children from the previous night, the trio had been found lying unconscious in an alleyway. Although in their case, their physical injuries made it clear that someone, or something, had pushed them into the wall with enough force to knock them out.
The attack had put the three duellists in hospital, but it had also effectively put them out of the tournament.
All of the attacks had left a fourth duellist, Espa Roba, so scared for the safety of his brothers that he had withdrawn from the tournament that night, leaving 12 duellists vying for the 8 places in the finals.
Despite the problems, the tournament organisers had still been hopeful that the rest of the first round would remain exciting with wonderful duels and thrilling plays with rarely-seen card combos. However, while most of the duels had indeed been incredible, the most interesting parts had continually coincided with other moments that needed to be shown instead, so many of the best plays had ended up not being aired on the Live Show. Even the Recap Show, shown every night so the competing duellists could get some idea of what they were up against with each other, had been unable to show all of the best moments. There had been too many amazing plays each day to fit in!
The unpredictable nature of the Treasure Quest side of the tournament had also proven to be problematic. With each duellist having to solve a clue to find his or her next duel, most of the duellists had spent more time wandering around the city than duelling. Because of that, the Live Show had ended up becoming the Mai Valentine Shopping Show on several occasions, as there had been nothing more interesting going on.
On the bright side, those segments had turned out to be surprisingly popular with the viewers. Ratings had soared!
The fourth day of the Live Show had ended with the last duellists signing in after their final round one duels. The duellists were allowed to do whatever they liked after that until the start of the finals, the following morning, so there was nothing to show until then.
It wasn't as if anything interesting was going to happen before the finals started, after all.
At just past 4pm, Seto Kaiba pushed open the door and strode into the hospital room. He didn't stop until he was standing at the foot of the first occupied bed. He glanced around, taking in the other three beds in the room and the other two occupants. He frowned.
The girls all looked terrible. Aside from being black and blue with bruises on their faces and arms, they had bandages around their heads and Rina also had one arm bandaged and in a sling. They also looked rather tired.
"I am relieved you are all awake. Is this a bad time to speak with you?" His voice was unusually soft. He'd started off the tournament believing they didn't deserve to be part of it, but watching their plays in the first day's Recap Show had made him reconsider. They'd earned his respect, but he also held some sympathy for what had happened to them.
Avril smiled a little. "Thank you, Seto. We are better than we look, I assure you. Just a little tired and rather sore. We have had a steady stream of visitors this afternoon. The last ones left a short time ago. So if you wish to know what happened to us, then your timing is perfect, as we can speak openly."
Seto nodded. "That is what I was hoping for, yes."
"It was Giant Soldier of Stone." Callie looked very unhappy as she said it.
Seto blinked at her and arched an eyebrow. "You were attacked by... a card?"
"She means he looked like that. You know, a costume." Rina scowled in annoyance. "He ambushed us in the alley and knocked us all into the wall. He was really strong."
That made slightly more sense, so Seto nodded in response before frowning. "Why were you all there? I've been told your clues all pointed in other directions. The organisers had a list of which clues were given out to each duellist."
Avril nodded. "Yes. We were looking for our next duels when each of us received a text message. It was from an unknown number and stated that they had Nyc and would harm her if we did not immediately go to that alley."
Seto's frown deepened. "I see." Such an obvious ploy. He was surprised they had fallen for it so easily.
As if reading his mind, Avril explained their actions. "Callie is the most emotional of us three." She smiled fondly at the girl, who nodded in agreement. "She is also the most likely to allow her heart to overrule her mind. When she read the message, she immediately headed for the alley, not wishing for Nyc to be harmed."
Avril turned her smile on Rina. "Rina is the most hot-headed of us. The most impulsive and the one with the best instincts in any situation. The message made her furious that someone was using Nyc to get to us. However, as she headed for the alley, she calmed enough to realise that it might not be true. That it could be a trap. She also realised that Callie would not see it that way and was likely to do just as the message ordered, so she continued on to the location as well. Rina arrived shortly after Callie. She saw her entering the alley, however she was too far away to stop her. So she followed her in. They were still there when I arrived, a few minutes later."
"Why did you go there?" Seto frowned.
Avril winced. "Because I am the most egotistical of us." She shook her head slightly and held up a hand as Rina and Callie started to deny it. "No. I am. This is my fault." She looked steadily at Seto. "I was certain it was a trap. I called Nyc to confirm her safety, but instead of calling to tell them, I headed for the alley. I knew Callie and Rina would be going there. We three are strongest when we are together. I thought we could deal with whatever the situation was. I was wrong." She winces slightly. "I expected a challenge to a duel. I did not consider a physical attack on all of us."
"Not unusual. Most people wouldn't think of something like that." Seto shrugged slightly. He would have considered the possibility, of course, but he knew most people were not as paranoid as he was. "So you were attacked by someone strong, wearing a Giant Soldier of Stone costume. They knocked you all into the wall?"
"With one swipe of his arm." Rina winced as she shifted slightly, moving so her injured arm was more comfortable. "It felt like we were hit with a concrete slab. Or a giant rock arm."
"Rina was slightly behind us, Callie in the middle and I in front. He struck from behind, so Rina was struck first and hardest." Avril spoke softly and Seto nodded his understanding. "He broke her arm and we all have bruised ribs as well as mild concussions. We will mend, however. If it was an attempt on our lives, it was a failure."
"But it was a success if it was intended only to keep you from reaching the finals." Seto spoke just as quietly, his eyes watching the girls closely for any reaction to his theory.
Callie bit her lip and looked very upset. Rina frowned and Seto was sure he heard her growl. Avril sighed softly and nodded. None of them looked surprised. This was clearly not the first time they'd considered the possibility.
"That is the most likely explanation for the attack on us, yes." Avril quietly agreed.
Seto nodded. "How long will you be in here?"
"Until the day after tomorrow." Rina answered with a pout. "We'll miss the first day of the finals. Maybe the second too. It depends on what time we're released." She looked disgusted at the idea of missing even a minute of the finals.
"There is always the Live Show." Seto smirked a little at Rina's glare. "It should contain better coverage of the duels for the finals. It is my understanding that there will only be one duel held at a time, so there will be no conflict as to what is covered. Unlike with the first round."
Rena's glare faded and she nodded. "Thanks for the info. That's good to know. They did a really lame job with the Live coverage of the first round, from what we've heard. The Recap Show wasn't the best, either."
Seto nodded. "I agree on both counts."
He frowned slightly as a thought occurred to him and looked at the girls. "The Recap Show started off with equal coverage of all of us, however some ended up being covered considerably more than others..." He paused as Avril nodded, her slight smile catching his attention.
"You wish to know what we can tell you of Evian Sanders' duelling style. The others asked the same thing." Avril's smile was a little brighter at that. "True duellists. They mentioned that very little of his duels were shown on the show. It is understandable that you would all be curious about him." Her smile faded. "He is cruel and uses his monsters without compassion or hesitation. If he sees an opening, he will hit it with everything he has. Regardless of whether or not his own monsters will survive, if there are possible traps or spells set. He will also call monsters solely for the purpose of sacrificing them to bring out his stronger monsters. Most of his high level monsters require at least two or three sacrifices. He favours cards that allow him to place multiple monsters per turn and immediately sacrifice them. He also favours spell cards that enhance his attack strength. His trap cards are not used to protect his monsters, but rather his life points, usually from direct attacks. Beyond that, I know the same as you. Does that help?"
Seto nodded. "It helps a great deal. Thank you."
Avril nodded and looked steadily at him. "You are most welcome."
Uneasiness shivered down Seto Kaiba's spine at the serious tone of Avril's voice. He had a feeling that, at that moment, Avril was placing a great responsibility in his hands. It was clear to him that she wanted Evien Sanders defeated and out of the tournament and would do whatever she could to aid him in that, since she could not do it herself. In a burst of understanding, he realised that this was probably the girls' reason for entering the tournament in the first place. This was why they had worked so hard to make sure they all qualified for it.
To stop Evien Sanders in his tracks.
But stop him doing what, exactly?
When Seto left the hospital room half an hour later, he was no closer to working that out.
Over dinner that night, Seto Kaiba learned something interesting. Wheeler made a surprisingly good distraction for Mokuba.
The two of them spent the whole meal talking about the girls, the tournament, the duels, the poor coverage of the duels, Mokuba's day, that night's homework project, which shop sold the best desserts in the city and the meaning of life in general. Kaiba didn't have to do more than give the occasional nod of his head or quiet grunt to show that he was listening. He was able to spend almost the entire meal thinking over what he had learned that afternoon.
It made the decision he had reached earlier in the day seem like an even better deal to him.
As soon as Mokuba got up to go do his homework, Kaiba caught Wheeler's eye and motioned to the living room. Once out of hearing range of his little brother, he made his proposition. "Wheeler. Stay here for the rest of the tournament."
Wheeler blinked in surprise. "Huh? But I thought this was just while I needed to do all that running around. I can catch a ride to the finals with Yugi."
"This has nothing to do with transport." Kaiba motioned Wheeler to sit down on the comfortable black leather couch as he took up his usual place in the matching chair. He fixed the blonde with a steady look, his voice serious. "I believe Isis has been correct in her assessment of the threat against you, so far in the tournament. As long as Evian Sanders believed that you were no threat to him, then you were safe. Now he knows that he was mistaken in that assumption."
Wheeler frowned. "Then you think he was the one behind the attack on the girls?"
"I think it is possible that he hired someone to hurt them, yes. He did not match their description of their attacker and I have received confirmation that Sanders was on the other side of the city when the attack occurred."
"But why would he do it?" Wheeler's frown deepened.
"He was doing badly in the competition. He was well behind eighth place. By taking out the girls, who were all doing better than he was, he moved ahead three places. Four when the attack caused Roba to pull out. That took him straight into eighth place. It is not the first time something like that has happened."
Wheeler understood immediately. "He got into the tournament because Bandit Keith got caught breaking game rules, right? Otherwise, he wouldn't have made it in?"
"Indeed." Kaiba nodded. "I learned there was an anonymous tip off that caused the officials to look into one of Bandit Keith's duels more closely." The slight emphasis on 'anonymous' revealed his belief that it had been Evian Sanders behind that call.
Wheeler looked thoughtful, which was almost as much of a surprise to Kaiba as the blonde's next words. "Huh. I wonder if that's why Tokyo was so important to him."
"Tokyo? Important? What are you talking about, Wheeler?" Kaiba scowled at the blonde.
"Oh, right, you weren't there. Sorry." Wheeler shrugged slightly. "Me and Mai were still visiting with the girls when Raptor and Underwood showed up. They've been in more duels with the girls than anyone in the tournament, so the talk got around to a few of them. It was pretty interesting. Especially when they started talking about that tournament in Tokyo a few months back. Remember it?"
Kaiba nodded, frowning slightly as he recalled the night he had been studying the list of competitors for the current tournament and the picture of Evian Sanders that had disappeared by the time he tried to find it again, after Mokuba had interrupted his initial attempt to download it. The picture had been on the Tokyo tournament's website as part of their winning duellists announcement. "It was the largest of the remaining Duel Monsters matches before the rankings were determined for this tournament." Which would have made the points earned in it vital for any duellist hoping to get enough to make the ranks of the top 16.
"Yeah. Raptor, Underwood, the girls and Sanders were all there. As well as the main tournament, there were also just-for-fun duels and a couple of minor prize money matches. Raptor and Underwood were after the prize money. Avril and Rina were in the just-for-fun matches, to get some practice in. Callie was still short on points for a spot in the top 16. Sanders was the same. So only Callie and Sanders were in the main tournament. "
Kaiba nodded slightly. "I remember seeing their names on the participant list. What happened?"
"The smaller matches took place before and after the main tournament rounds each day. Sanders wasn't due to duel until day 2, while Callie was up on the first day. According to Rina, Sanders checked out the early smaller matches as well as the tournament duels for the first day. When the smaller matches resumed afterwards, he sought out Avril, then made a big show of 'accidentally' bumping into her. Rina saw the whole thing and she's sure it was deliberate. He had his eye on Avril the whole time."
Another nod. "She caught his eye with her duelling ability?"
"Maybe. Or it could just be that he'd seen her with Callie at the morning matches, so he knew they were friends. Callie's duel that day went really well. Raptor gave me a play-by-play of it." Wheeler whistled softly. "I wish I'd seen it. Sanders did. They saw him watching it. Rina thinks that's why he saw Callie as a threat to him in the tournament."
Kaiba's eyes narrowed. "He tried to get information about her duelling from Avril?"
"Not that." Wheeler shook his head slightly. "After he bumped into her, he offered to take her to dinner as an apology. Wouldn't accept no for an answer and said she could bring a friend or two if she wasn't sure of his good intentions. Rina said he didn't seem surprised when she and Callie went with Avril. He seemed pleased and was quite pleasant to them all. They had dinner and afterwards he danced with Avril." He frowned. "That's when he asked her back to his room. Avril didn't say anything more than that, but I got the feeling that he was pretty insistent about it. Anyway, she said no and walked off the dance floor, got Callie and Rina and left the restaurant, intending to head back to their hotel. He followed them out. Callie said he didn't say a word, but he was still smiling." His frown became a scowl. "He was right behind them when they got to the stairs outside. Next thing they knew, Callie was falling. She landed badly and sprained her ankle. Avril and Rina went to help her while Sanders stood and watched. As they were heading off, he thanked them for the great time and said he hoped Callie's injury wouldn't make her leave the tournament, as he couldn't wait to duel against her."
He looked at Kaiba, whose frown had also deepened while listening to the story. "Callie told the girls that night that she was sure she'd felt him push her while she was on the stairs. She was so scared of him that she left the tournament that night. Sanders made a second attempt at talking to Avril the next day and when she refused to speak with him, he told her that it was her loss and that some day he was sure she'd change her mind and he'd think about 'letting her bask in his glory at that time, if she got down on her hands and knees before him'." He quoted it carefully, just as Rina had said it.
"I see." Kaiba did not look at all happy.
"When Raptor and Underwood heard all that, they were about ready to go find him and call him out for duels. Avril calmed them down like a pro. I think she's had lots of practice with Rina. Mai didn't say anything, but she was pretty ticked off, too. I think she's hoping to meet him in the finals and take him out." Wheeler grinned just a little.
Kaiba nodded. "Most likely." He knew that was Mai's style. He'd witnessed a few of her duels in the past against men who had tried to come on to her. They had been short and very embarrassing for her opponents.
Wheeler frowned again. "I guess he's gone from doing his own dirty work to hiring it out, but why the costume? That's more than a bit twisted."
"True." Kaiba had thought the same thing when he'd first heard about it. "Perhaps it was a message in itself. So the girls would link the attack to the tournament."
"So, if they weren't hurt badly enough to keep them out of the first round, they'd be too scared to go on anyway?" Wheeler's scowl deepened. "Yeah. That makes sense." He looked at Kaiba. "Problem is, there's no way to prove it was Sanders. He'll get away with it."
It was Kaiba's turn to scowl. "He already has. His location at the time was known, therefore he has been completely cleared of all suspicion." He'd received a call about it from the head of his security team, just before dinner.
"Aw man, that stinks!" Wheeler leaned forward, his eyes locked on Kaiba. "So is that why you want me to stay here? You think he'll try and go after me?" His scowl shifted into a thoughtful look. Kaiba frowned at him.
"Forget any thoughts you may be entertaining about making yourself a target to draw him out. I already ran the idea past the head of my security team and he confirmed there was little chance that he would use the same method, so there would be no possible way of ensuring your safety."
Wheeler blinked, then grinned. "Aw. Why Kaiba, I didn't know you cared."
"Of course I care. If you were injured while my security team were guarding you, they would be publicly humiliated. I have Kaiba Corp.'s reputation to consider." He said it with a perfectly straight face.
Wheeler shook his head, still grinning. "Gee Kaiba, you're all heart." His grin faded. "But that is why you want me to stay, right? Because he's less likely to make a move if I'm here."
"Yes." Kaiba nodded once. "All of the others in the finals are staying with at least one other person, or have some other form of protection. You would have been the only one alone." He held up a hand to forestall the objection he could see Wheeler was about to make. "It was my head of security who determined that your father would be no protection."
Wheeler winced, then sighed. "Yeah. He wouldn't be. Dad would be more likely to accept money to keep me from going to the finals. Or beer. Everyone in the block knows he'll do pretty much anything for a beer." He looked disgusted, but also a little sad. "Okay, you convinced me. I'll stay."
Kaiba nodded. He'd been sure the blonde teen would see things his way. But what Wheeler had just said gave him something else to consider. As much as he did not want to say it, he felt compelled to ask. "Could someone get to you through threats to your father?"
"Yeah." The blonde nodded immediately. "He is my dad, no matter what he's like." Wheeler frowned, clearly not liking the idea of his dad being used in such a way. "That's a good point."
This would require some consideration. Or perhaps not. "I believe tomorrow your father will win an all expense paid trip to another town for a couple of days. Perhaps a hotspring."
Wheeler grinned. "He hates hotsprings, but he'll go if it's free. Thanks, Kaiba. I'll pay you back for this."
"No, you won't. I offered. It would be a different matter if you had asked me to do it." He did have his own reputation to consider, after all. "Besides, I fully intend to take advantage of your presence here, so it is a fair trade."
Wheeler's grin widened. "Oh really? How so? Fair warning, I don't do windows."
"You can keep Mokuba occupied while I look into the attack on the girls." The serious answer drove the smile off Wheeler's face. "If Sanders hired someone, there should be a paper trail. I only need to find it."
The predatory gleam in Kaiba's eyes was enough to make Wheeler shudder. "Deal. Kaiba... I'm really glad we're on the same side in this."
"Do not get too comfortable with that idea, Wheeler. After all, we are likely to meet in the finals, where I will ensure you face yet another humiliating defeat." Kaiba looked almost happy at the thought.
"Ha! Not this time, Kaiba." Wheeler did look happy. "I'm going to take out those dragons of yours before you know what's hit you!"
Both teens relaxed in their chairs as the conversation turned to their usual insults of each other's duelling. No matter what the rest of the tournament held, there was nothing either of them could do towards it, at that point. For the time being, they could simply be themselves and look forward to facing each other in the finals.
On the other side of Domino City, Bakura and Yami had just reached a similar point in their own discussion.
Ryou had invited Yugi and Yami to dinner on their way out of the hospital and the four had spent an enjoyable meal with no talk at all of the tournament. After dinner, they had watched the day's Recap Show together, then Yugi had gone to help Ryou with the dishes while Yami and Bakura talked quietly about what they had learned that day.
They had both been there when the girls had revealed the details about the 'Tokyo Thing', as Weevil had termed it. While it hadn't really surprised them, they had been disconcerted over how openly he had acted against Callie. It suggested that Sanders wasn't afraid of getting his own hands dirty. They knew they had to watch him during the finals.
The identity of the attacker also concerned them. Yami had the Giant Soldier of Stone in his and Yugi's deck, so he had tried asking him about it directly. The Shadow Monster's reply worried both yamis.
The Giant Soldier of Stone had been horrified to hear what had happened and had assured the yamis that he had not intentionally hurt anyone. However, he had rather shakily admitted to having no memory of the time during which the girls had been attacked. He had been walking through the Shadow Forest after a tea-time visit and chat with the Ancient Tree of Enlightenment. The next thing he remembered, he had woken lying in a clearing... half an hour later.
It seemed that someone had not only drawn him from the Shadow Realm into the Real World, but had commanded him to hurt the girls and then made him forget all about it.
After ending the conversation with the worried Shadow Monster, Bakura had looked Yami in the eyes and stated firmly, "It wasn't me. I can take memories, sure, but I didn't do this."
Yami had nodded. "I know. You had no reason to do so." He had then frowned. "But who would have both reason and means to do such a thing?"
Neither of them had been able to answer that.
Neither of them had been happy about either the question or their lack of an answer to it.
Late that night, the door to the hotel balcony slid quietly open and a figure slipped outside, after a quick glance over at the bed where the room's other occupant lay sleeping. The night was cold and the wind was up, but an oppressive heaviness in the air made the breeze unpleasant, rather than refreshing at all. The figure sighed softly and moved to the banister, peering out at the night sky. "Not even one star. This is not good."
"Time is running out." The wind almost stole the whisper from the shadows at the other end of the balcony. The figure didn't seem surprised at all that someone was there.
"I know." The figure was silent for a moment, then sighed again. "How is it?"
"The switch has not been discovered. The target remains unclear. However..." The whisper trailed off to a whimper.
"He grows impatient." It wasn't a question. The feeling in the air was unmistakable.
"Yes. Tomorrow. I cannot stop him." The whisper was so soft it could barely be heard.
"I know. Don't worry." The figure turned to listen as a rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. The shadows stirred and the figure glanced that way, silently scanning the empty balcony before turning to go back inside.
To be continued...