A warning up front: this is an OLD story. Anyone stumbling upon this piece of work should know that, first and foremost. I wrote this when I was 16, 8 years ago. I am of the opinion that it did not age well. I find myself guilty of many clichés and bad fiction habits. However, I keep it up here for two reasons: one, it shows where I started. This was the first multi-chapter work I ever put up on this site, and the first story to gain a substantial reaction. Connected to that, the second reason is that people like it. I still receive a review every so often, from someone who enjoyed their time with this story.

This website, and my work published on it, isn't just about me. It's about the audience. And if the audience enjoys itself, then it's not my place to remove an object of said enjoyment. I wrote this. And I may be embarrassed, but I'm not ashamed.

Enjoy.


If there were an award for being the least social of anyone on the planet, Seto Kaiba would win by a landslide.

It wasn't that he was shy; it was just that he considered his peers to be beneath him. No one who went with him to Domino High School every day could offer him any sort of intelligent conversation, and so he avoided them altogether.

He was a genius.

Not only that, but he was a six-time national chess champion, and the CEO of Kaiba-Corp, one of the world's hugest computer software developers. And to top it all off, he held a 4.5 GPA. So, he was a genius, he was a celebrity, and he was a billionaire.

Yugi Motou knew this and more. He was one of the very few people ever to get close enough to the stone-skinned business tycoon to learn more about him. Or rather, he'd gotten close to his brother, Mokuba.

Though Kaiba was a friend to no one, Yugi still considered himself a friend to him. So it was him, and no one else, that noticed the change in him over the past week. He noticed something wrong.

Kaiba was silent most of the time, but he did pay attention in class – that was how he got such good grades. He would answer questions when the instructor asked. But over the past five or so days, he'd been distracted by something.

He would come to class, sit at his desk, and sit still and silent as stone the entire day. His mirror-like blue eyes, usually holding either detached disinterest or cold disdain, had been completely blank of expression. In short, he'd been a zombie.

Yugi, always one to worry about his friends, had watched his reclusive classmate over the week, and there was never a change. It seemed like the only reason he came to school at all was through habit. He walked mechanically, ignoring everyone and everything.

This day, a Tuesday, at about 2:15, Yugi watched as Kaiba's limousine sped away from the school. Even when out of sight, he still watched, his mind whirling, trying to figure out some reason for Kaiba's change in attitude.

"Yo, Yug, whatcha lookin' at?"

Yugi jumped, turned around to face the speaker. It was Joey Wheeler.

Unlike Yugi – who was short, an even five feet, shy, and always putting together puzzles or playing games that involved using the mind – Joey was tall, athletic, and had a short fuse. The blond teen had a reputation of getting into fights nearly every day, for some reason or another.

Despite these obvious differences, however, the two were best friends.

"Uh..." Yugi answered.

Joey raised an eyebrow. "Ya look worried 'bout somethin'. What's up?"

Yugi looked back at where the limo had been parked five minutes ago. "Have you noticed Kaiba lately?" he asked softly.

Joey frowned. "Yeah. Same as always."

"So you haven't noticed. He's been...I don't know...just, out of it, lately. Never says a word to anyone, not even the teacher. I mean, if anything, he would have at least said something about the D- you got on the test last week."

Joey thought about this. Yugi was right. One of Kaiba's favorite pastimes was insulting him on his intelligence. "Yeah...I guess..." he said, "but...ain't that a good thing?"

"I don't think so," Yugi said. "It just doesn't feel right. I'm worried."

"Yeah, well," Joey shrugged, "let's leave it 'til tomorrow. I'll see him for myself. Let's just go over to yer grandpa's shop. He got a new shipment in yesterday."

"Yeah. Sure. Let's go."

He followed his friend down the sidewalk, looking over his shoulder every once in a while, still remembering Kaiba's haunted stare as he'd stumbled into his limousine. He tried to pay attention to what Joey was saying.

"...me last night."

"Huh? I...sorry. What did you say?"

"Serenity called me last night," Joey repeated.

Serenity was Joey's younger sister. From what he'd been told, Yugi knew that she'd had bad eyes since birth and was now – at fifteen – close to going blind. Specialists could restore her sight, but the procedure involved was expensive. Yugi and Joey had participated in a tournament for Magic & Wizards – an extremely popular trading card game – to try winning the money, but complications regarding the tournament's host – the creator of the game, Maximilian Pegasus – had left them empty-handed.

"Looks like she's gonna lose her sight, bro," Joey said with a sigh. "I can't save up the money for the operation in time – not with my job; I don't do much for yer grandpa 'sides puttin' away boxes – and Ma can't, either. She's screwed, man, all 'cuz that damn Pegasus wouldn't cough up the money."

"Joey, Pegasus almost died during the tournament," Yugi said.

Joey snorted. "Like I care. That cheating bastard deserved what he got."

Yugi decided to let it go. It was impossible to change Joey's mind about anything. He was as hardheaded as they come. He looked over his shoulder again, and this time he actually noticed something.

"Hey, Joey. Hold on."

He turned and jogged back to the object he'd seen on the grass by the sidewalk. It was a locket. He picked it up and looked at it. It was rectangular, 2" by 4". A chain, broken, was attached to it. It was light from the sun glinting off the chain that had caught his attention.

He opened the locket. Inside was a picture of a small boy, about five years old, with long black hair, dressed in a pine green shirt. He held a chess piece in one small hand. Joey came up beside Yugi and looked at the picture. "What's that, Yug?" he asked.

"This looks like Mokuba," Yugi said. "It must be Kaiba's. I've seen this around his neck a few times."

"Chain's busted. Maybe it just fell off his neck and he didn't notice?"

"No. It's kind of heavy. Kaiba would notice if the weight were suddenly gone. He'd have looked for it if he'd just lost it. I watched him leave school, and he didn't look worried at all, just blank, like I said. I'm surprised I didn't notice this..."

"What're you sayin', then, Yug, that he just...broke it, dropped it on purpose?"

"He must have."

"But...why?"

"I don't know." Yugi frowned. "I know he and Mokuba are close...he wouldn't just discard his locket for no reason...he must have been angry about something...I'm not sure..."

"Huh. That's weird..."

Yugi nodded, put the locket and broken chain into a jacket pocket. "He's long gone now...I'll give it back to him in the morning."

Joey nodded. "C'mon, man, let's get outta here."

As they continued walking, Yugi was silent. This was beginning to confuse him more and more...It just seemed strange. First the zombie act, now the locket. He wondered what had happened.

***

Solomon Motou was sweeping the front porch of the Turtle Game Shop when the two teens walked up. He glanced at them. "Hello, boys. How was school?"

"Boring," Joey muttered.

"Yeah," Yugi agreed.

"Well, come on inside. Joseph, I could use some help putting the new shipment on display. And Yugi, could you finish this for me?"

"Sure," Yugi said, smiling as he took the broom from his grandfather. As Solomon and Joey walked into the shop, Yugi began to sweep the dirt off of the porch. Once he was done with this, he tended to the small potted plants on either side of the walk. This took all of five minutes, and he walked inside the shop to help Joey and Solomon with the new shipment of trading cards and other novelties.

Most of the shipment was Magic & Wizards cards, which didn't surprise him. He helped sort everything out, put the boxes of cards on top of the counter, and in another fifteen minutes was sitting at the small table in the center of the shop, drinking a soda.

He and Joey played cards, talked about school, talked about girls, but the one thing they didn't talk about was Kaiba. In the back of his mind, however, Yugi still wondered about his classmate. He wondered what could have made him break his locket, and what could have made him so detached.

Unbeknownst to Yugi and Joey, a lone figure watched them from outside, through the window. He watched them until night fell. Chestnut hair fell into his eyes, but he did nothing.

Finally, after the shop closed and Yugi was asleep, the figure wandered down the sidewalk, toward no destination in particular. Twice he fell, twice he got up, without a single word.

Seto Kaiba was dead to the world then. He saw nothing, he heard nothing, he felt nothing. The blank, haunted stare that Yugi had seen in his eyes was still there, and wouldn't leave until he went to sleep that night.

Something was wrong. Very wrong.