He knew it was risky. Otogi continued to play even though it was a game he would most likely loose. He had to be careful, had to follow such vague, undefined rules. But who could blame him for wanting play? There were two such very interesting people in this game.

It wasn't as though the other three weren't interesting in their own ways. They were predictable, though, and thus didn't hold his attention for very long. Jounouchi would always resent him for a hurtful prank carried too far, no matter how much Otogi was sorry for that cruelty. Anzu would always remain the faithful support and lady love of the hero. Yuugi would always remain that hero; brave, loyal, and true.

Shizuka and Honda were much more interesting. The lone fact that the lovely Shizuka was related to Jounouchi was enough to pique Otogi's interest. Yes, she was rather like Anzu at times. She was always there to support her brother, always there to nurture even those unaware of her existence.

There were times, however, when Otogi had to wonder just how much of that innocence was true and how much a convenient cloak to hide under. He would catch the occasional flash of kind amusement from her when Yuugi would offer his coat to Anzu. The girl could also descend like one of Mai's harpies upon anyone who hurt her brother. (Otogi remembered with vague amusement the wilted look on the redhead who had rather rudely rejected Jounouchi's awkward advances.)

As for Honda... Honda was a riddle unto himself. He was still Jounouchi's friend, but had obviously been edged gently aside by Yuugi as Jounouchi's brother-by-heart. Yet the brunet remained with them and remained virtually untouched by the random twistings of fate that seemed to surround Yuugi. Other than the monkey thing, of course.

Otogi thought it was annoying at times the way Honda never seemed to make up his mind whether Otogi was a threat or a friend. A friendly conversation would be clipped short the moment Shizuka appeared. A truly innocent gesture would be pounced upon as improper and Otogi would find himself with an arm twisted behind his back. And the glares, the half-hearted shoves when he stood to close, the heated words...

...but there was the faint taste of a small frozen juice bar. Otogi could also remember mumbled apologies and a companionable arm slung around his shoulders. He could remember afternoons spent in the park in silence, the three of them sitting underneath a tree watching Yuugi and Jounouchi in yet another duel. Even the noise of Jounouchi's loud voice would fade eventually and it would seem to be only the three of them.

Only Otogi, Shizuka, and Honda.

Just the three of them.

So Otogi played the game. He continued to woo Shizuka and earn Honda's friendship. He continued even though two people so very important to him now could be hurt. Just play the game and see how far he could satisfy his curiosity before backing out. That's as far as he would take it. Just far enough. Win a kiss from the beautiful maiden and the brave knight. Leave them to one another and bow gracefully out of the picture.

There was no need to complicate things. Otogi didn't love either one of them, merely felt some odd sort of bemused affection. No need to jump to Honda's defense in the gym locker room, no need to search for some obscure poem about colors Shizuka would enjoy. No need to think of them at all outside of those little outings with friends.

Just a game. It was a lovely thing to say to that frightened part of him that didn't want to get hurt. Soft words to sooth the small child within that still didn't understand why Father wanted to dress like a clown all the time. It was easy to lie to himself and save the sincerity for Honda and Shizuka.

Just a game. It was just one that Otogi had no intentions of loosing.