Disclaimer: See previous chapters.In Enemy Territory
A/N: And here it is, the next update that I promised. It took a little longer than I thought since I had to rewrite more than half of it this weekend, but it didn't turn out too bad. Once again, that it due to Icarus and Yami Neko keeping me up all night. I don't know if it's possible or not, but I think they were excited about the catnip mice I got them for their birthday. Because as of Feb. 19, my two little furry annoyances have turned 2 years old. All grown up but they still act like brainless kittens sometimes, ah well. -.-
At any other time, the shimmering veil that keeps me locked in my cage would have prevented my passage. But with Yami at my side, I would feel nothing of the magic spell that so often kept me confined and others out of the cage. All he had to do was wave his hand once and the curtain disappeared as if it had never been. It was not that simple though. All it would take was another wave of the hand and the veil would return at Yami's leisure. Which was how things would go when he returned me to my cage at the end of the day.
That respite seemed like an eternity from now as we passed through the now unblocked doorway. Like always, Yami kept a semi-grip on his end of the leash as he used the other hand to lead me out of my cage and into the corridor beyond. I knew that he could feel the fear that was coming off me in waves, as it always did whenever I stepped out into the world again. Not surprisingly, he sent back amused and confident reassurance that all would be well for me through the link.
It was times like this that I actually wish that I had his confidence in these things. If I did, then I wouldn't have to deal with all the fear and confusion that I confront whenever I enter the world again. I would be able to look at the world beyond me with a straight and impassive face that at least gave me a semblance at having some dignity. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and all I could do was let myself be led to what might as well have been my execution.
Our journey after the doorway would go either one of two ways. Either Yami would use his shadow magic to directly teleport us to the throne room, thus making it an extremely short journey, or we would walk. If he chose to do the latter, then it meant that we were in for a long journey. One where I knew that I was going to the target of a great deal of well hidden ridicule and insults. Which meant that I was going to have to be more on guard than ever if I wanted to make it through this day unscathed.
For in the world beyond my cage, everyone desires my death and for me to feel pain. Everyone has their own reasons but it is enough to always make me wary. Not that I always had to really worry, even if it was by habit. For all those that wanted to hurt me, there was no real way for them to hurt me physically for the simple reason that Yami would not allow it.
First there were the many spells that he had placed upon me to prevent any harm coming to me. This included the one that he had cast to prevent me from harming myself and then a magical shield that would repel all possible enchantments. He had none that would prevent someone from getting me with a knife, despite the way that the first spell on me worked. But in place of a spell, Yami had himself as a protection for me.
He believed that since I was never let outside the palace and rarely left my cage to begin with, then there was no need to worry about a weapon being used against me. After all, as far as I knew, no human had ever managed to penetrate beyond the outer wall of Yami's palace. The defenses he deployed in order to protect his main base of operations was almost as thorough as the enchantments that he placed on me. The difference was that these were meant to either kill instantly or to provide slow torture for anyone who activated them instead of protection as they were for me.
That was how many unfortunates had met their end. All had had ideas of revenge and freedom in their minds when they had approached the boundaries of Yami's capital city. For them, if they were able to kill the Pharaoh that had caused the world such misery, then there would be a better future for everyone. Little did they know that as soon as they stepped into the city, then their fates were sealed. None of the humans who dared to venture towards the center of Yami's power ever left alive.
More than just spells saw to that of course. Besides that, there were also the Monsters that served as Yami's personal servants, soldiers, advisors, and bodyguards. These were creatures that always took their duties to their Master very seriously. If there was anything that dared to threaten him or what he had built, they would destroy it without a second thought. And these were the very creatures that we would be spending the entire day with once we reached Yami's throne room.
My feet started to drag a little as I thought about this. I was really starting to dread this day more than I already was. I was wishing with all my heart that Yami would suddenly change his mind and allow me back into my cage. It might have been a prison, but it was still somewhat of a haven from the things that we were about to face. But that was a grace that I would not have this day. I knew that like almost all the decisions that he made, Yami would stick by this one without hesitation and no argument on my part would change that.
The one thing that my unease did influence was how Yami would take us to his throne room. He easily sensed that I was becoming wary of taking the long way down, so he must have decided to teleport for my sake. At least that was the only logical conclusion that I could draw when the world around us suddenly went black. I felt deep chills running over my body for a few brief seconds, though I could also feel the warmth of Yami's hand in my own. Both darkness and sensation left almost as quickly as it had come, revealing a room that was designed after an ancient Egyptian palace. And it was occupied by none other than the large group of Duel Monsters that handled the smaller matters that occurred in Yami's kingdom.
At the sudden appearance of their Pharaoh, the entire group stopped whatever they were doing and bowed low with deep respect. It was the only time that anyone would ever see them in such a position. At all other times, the creatures that now stood around us would be at full alert and ready to tear into any that presented themselves as prey or opponent. But when it came to their Master, there was nothing that they wouldn't do for him.
Their loyalty to him ran as deeply as possible. They would easily go to battle for him, ready to sacrifice their own lives to help him accomplish his goals. No task was too immense or time consuming for them to ever refuse his commands. Anything to satisfy the one that allowed them to use their own powers without being restrained to the realm from which they were born into.
Yami met their attention with the usual amount of gratitude for their services and loyalty. This was always in the form of an almost gentle nod that he reserved only for his many servants. He knew how the Monsters felt about him and why, something he acknowledged without a problem. That was how he was, always willing to offer near kindness to those that were loyal to him and to offer dire punishments to those that dared to challenge him.
Me on the other hand, I came nowhere near receiving the sort of attention that Yami was getting. At the sight of me, the gathered Monsters either ignored me completely or shot angry glares at me when they thought that their Master wasn't watching. I had no illusions about why they were acting like this. As I had long known, they were just giving me their personal opinion of me while I was finally in their company. Basically, it was a way of letting me know that despite being the Pharaoh's hikari I was still nothing more than an ungrateful human.
I couldn't help squirming slightly as I felt a few of the colder stares at my back. Even if I knew and accepted what the Monsters felt about me, that didn't mean that it made things any easier to deal with. Nor did it stop me from wanting to turn and run away, ironically, to my cage as fast as I possibly could. In that way, I wouldn't have to deal with things that I was normally able to wallow in alone.
/And that is the reason why I brought you out today, little one/ Yami said to me, /It is because you have allowed yourself to become so melancholy that all you think about is feeling sorrow and misery. You need to be out more to understand that there is a great deal for you to live for and once you accept it, then there will be nothing for you to worry about./
That doesn't mean that I have to like it, Yami. I never liked being in the middle of a crowd even before we met I countered softly.
It was neither an insult nor was it a challenge. It was merely the truth and that was something not even the great Pharaoh could deny. Long before I had even been given the Millenium Puzzle, it had never been easy for me to fit into the crowd. Whether it was my appearance, short stature, or then shy personality, I always found it difficult to try and mingle with others. That didn't always stop me from trying of course, since like any child I would try to make friends among my peers. I never succeeded much, given the track record that I had accomplished by the time that Yami had come into my life. And that had been when I was among humans, so being among Monsters was definitely going to be harder to deal with on any level.
/Shush little one/ Yami ordered gently in response, /Now is not the time for you to be making a fuss or thinking about things like that. You know how to behave at my Court and I expect you to do so./
I made no further answer, either verbal or mental. All I did was duck my head in a sign of mock submission and keep my silence. It was the best way to avoid both Yami's wrath and making a scene. The latter I didn't care about, since the opinions of the creatures surrounding us made no difference to me. But the former, well, my opinion on that has long since been stated and not something that I would want to risk at this point.
Yami accepted my submission with a gentle smile. He sent his approval down through our link as he led me towards his throne. For once, I had done something right instead of screwing it up and giving myself more grief. A small consolation in my situation but one that was better than nothing. Especially since it was probably the only one that I would be getting all day.
While Yami seated himself on his throne and attached his end of the leash to one of the arms, I was forced to settle myself on a cushion that was next to it. The cushion was specifically placed there for whenever I joined Yami at Court for the simple reason that he wanted to keep me close. Even if he was among his own, Yami was still very possessive of me and wanted to make sure that I was always close by in case he felt I needed to be protected or whisked away. A treatment that for once, I wasn't going to argue with. Right now, as he always was in these situations, Yami was the only protection that I had against the Monsters that surrounded us.
To minimize the situation, I kept my silence and focused my attention solely on the platform that supported Yami's throne and my cushion. Experience had taught me enough that it would be unwise to attract any attention to myself. If I did, it would only bring those cold-hearted stares of disgust and superiority from the many Monsters who were around us. The same looks that I always received whenever Yami decided to parade me around the palace like some precious little trinket that no one had ever seen before or ever would again.
It was no mystery to me why they acted this way towards me. I knew that despite their unquestionable loyalty to my other half, most of his Monsters hated me. In their eyes, I was nothing more than a pathetic human who didn't appreciate the so-called gift that I had been giving by being the one person that Yami loved unconditionally. If they had had their way, I would have become just another plaything like the others long ago.
Then they would have searched for one that they felt was more worthy of their Master's affections, someone who didn't take his favors for granted as I supposedly did. Someone who would do everything possible to see that he was just as happy as he attempted to make me. Someone that wasn't some lowly human who had been chosen by Ra to bring about the return of their Master and his reign.
Despite how they felt towards me, I knew that none of the Monsters would dare to harm me in any way. There was a strict, unspoken code that anything that belonged to their Master was off limits to all but him. Anyone who dared to harm or destroy anything that the Master held dear, then their life was forfeit either by his hand or those that served him. It was how things had always been for them and how it would always remain.
That didn't take away any of the fear that I always felt around those damn bastards when I was forced to come to Court. Just knowing and seeing what they were capable of was more than enough to keep that instilled deep in my soul. That fact had different levels though, as my fear of each Monster is actually distinct. Some of the weaker Monsters, like the Kuriboh and Skull Servant, I feared out of common sense because they could bite and claw at someone to harm them.
When it came to stronger Monsters, my fear was for the amount of power that they radiated. Most of them just had this aura that practically screamed danger to everyone around them. The kind where you knew that it was better to just nod and agree with whatever they did or risk being torn apart in a heartbeat. The kind who didn't even know that a word like 'mercy' even existed.
Of these, there was one to be feared above all others. One that, as a child, had actually be my favorite card out of all the Duel Monsters. In that one Monster, I could see who I wanted to be but could never amount to. He was strong and powerful enough to protect himself and other and looked so calm and collected on the card which bore his image. There were few who could equal to or greater than him in power. And it was something that I admired him for. That was Monster was none other than the Dark Magician.
Knowing the Dark Magician in person however, is a much different matter than the naïve image that I had created for myself. It was true that the Dark Magician was a very powerful being, there was no doubt about that. But he was nowhere near being the kind and protective being that I thought that he would be. If anything, he was nearly as cruel and as calculating as the one person that he will ever call his Master.
There has been many a time when I have watched him wipe out his opponents with absolutely no sense of remorse in his actions. His eyes would remain as cold and impassive as a snowstorm as it cuts across the land with a fury unmatched. Those that are caught in his path are nothing more than insects whose sole purpose was to be exterminated. This attitude includes both his fellow Monsters and humanity, though definitely more for the latter.
I knew that he felt that all humanity was an inferior species that only had the sole purpose of serving the Pharaoh. Only under his rule could the species as a whole actually amount to anything useful. After all, if left to their own devices as they had been since Yami was sealed away in the Millenium Puzzle, humans would only squander away what the planet had given to them. That was not a fate that the creatures of the Shadow Realm desired for the Earth, even though they were not native to its soils.
If such a topic was among the things that Yami and his Court discussed today, I really never knew. I had long since learned to block out any conversation unless I heard any of my 'titles' mentioned. When that happened, I knew that it was in my own best interests to pay attention to what was being said. After all, there was no telling how such talks would affect me if I ignored them.
Thankfully, I was never mentioned in any of this session's topics so I didn't have anything to worry about. All I had to do was just sit quietly and make myself as invisible as possible. If I could pull that off, then I didn't have anything to worry about. Everyone else, with the exception of Yami, would continue on with their business as if I wasn't there. A situation that would ironically make the majority of those involved happy.
The only time when I was really acknowledged by anyone was when a tray of food was brought to Yami little bit before midday. It was laden with light foods like fruits, breads, and a few choice meats that were not meant to be a real meal. Instead, it was just something that would tide the dear Pharaoh over until after the Court session was over. By doing this, it helped to ensure that there would be as little distraction as possible so that more could get done.
Most of the time, Yami barely glanced at the food offered to him. He was one of those people who could go an entire day on a single meal without feeling any real hunger. Yami was never the first one that the food was offered to whether he ate or not though. That honor fell to me, since Yami had ordered that whenever I came to Court with him, all food was to be given to me first. He knew that I didn't have the same constitution as him and so required something in my stomach to keep me from feeling faint.
Most of the time, I would accept the food. I never ate much though. The best that I could ever force myself to endure was a few bites while the Monsters constantly glared me whenever Yami wasn't watching. Somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to eat anything among those that I could only consider my enemies. I mean, I was used to their hatred of me but most of the time, I never had to deal with it firsthand since I spent so much time locked away. When I was among them however, it seemed that things became a different story.
I suppose that there was still a small part of me that remember the hurt and fear that I had suffer at the hands of the many bullies that were once a constant in my life. When I was away from them, it was easy to tell myself that I would find a way to deal with them and that I would be okay. But when I was actually facing them, I could never bring myself to do more than try and get away as fast as I could. It was the only way that I knew to keep from panicking more than I already did and letting them know how afraid that I could feel at times.
I knew that some of the Monsters sensed my fear despite how much I tried to hide and I knew that Yami was aware of it as well. For the former, they simply enjoyed the fact that they were able to strike some fear into the one that abused their master's affections so much. The latter however, well, he just sent more reassurances down through the link and then urged me to eat more of the food that was offered to me so that I could keep healthy. He said that just like eating my other meals, he would not allow me to become ill just because I was being stubborn.
So when the food did come, I ate a little bit to keep Yami from scolding me again. I also continued to remain silent and seemingly ignore everything that was happening around me. It was like I just allowed my mind to almost drift off into nothingness as the hours stretched on without end while a small part of me that remained behind. A small part that was aware of when something changed in the scope of the world that surrounded me. A change that was about to bring what my life had become to a halt and either make it worse than what I already had or perhaps, just maybe, better than I had long since given up hope for.
A/N: Okay, there we go. As promised, this is the finished update that I promised everyone for February. I will try to have another one ready as soon as possible, though this time I can't give any estimations on when that will be. I can say that I should have the next chapter of Light's Sojourn ready is a few weeks since I already have most of the chapter written. I just hope that my professors let up a little on the projects so that I can have a little more time to write. But whatever happens, thanks for reading and I'll update again as soon as I can.