Notes: Before certain people read this chapter, they should go have a look at the minor revisions I made to chapter 18 and take stock of the note at the beginning of that chapter, because I do not wish to repeat myself.
At the last possible moment, Alister dove out of the way. Then he, Valon, Raphael, and Marik all ran forward and restrained the Mafia don from behind and at the sides. Valon eventually got into an arm-wrestling contest with Del Vinci as they struggled over the knife, but finally the Australian got the upper hand by hitting a pressure point on the man's arm. Del Vinci cried out in pain as his limb went numb. The knife soon dropped to the floor, where it was picked up by an annoyed Joey.
"I don't particularly wanna get stabbed again," Valon remarked hotly, glaring at Del Vinci and having the longing to simply give him a knockout punch. Then they'd be able to get him tied up and go on to look for Seto and Mokuba. Atemu had discovered the door leading to the roof and figured that it was the only place where Seto could have gone.
Mai blinked at Valon. He was stabbed? She could see the blood from the makeshift bandage through the brunette's torn jacket, but she hadn't ever imagined that Valon would have been stabbed. There's no end to the trouble he gets himself into.
Alister pressed down on the back of Del Vinci's neck, causing the man to go limp and start to crumple to the floor in unconsciousness. Marik and Raphael managed to hold him up, regarding him darkly. Then Valon smirked, removing Del Vinci's tie and beginning to tie him up with it.
Marik let go now, looking toward the door that led to the roof. "There's no telling what might be going on up there," he said quietly, clenching a fist. "If Mokuba's up there, nothing good will come of it." Without waiting for the others, he ran up the stairs and out onto the roof. Téa called for him to wait, but in vain.
Raphael assisted Valon and Alister with getting Del Vinci tied up. "That took a lot of courage," he said low, looking at Alister, "not to shoot him." His eyes narrowed darkly. "But I won't deny he deserved it." He was relieved that Alister had made the decision that he had, though he was certain it must have been a rough mental struggle to finally decide upon it. Even if he had intended all along to keep Del Vinci alive, Alister must have surely been tempted to pull the trigger when the gun had been in his hand.
"Yes," Alister growled, "he deserved it." He stood up slowly, not offering any more conversation. This was not the time. Perhaps later he would talk with the others about what had happened, if he felt like it. But right now he certainly didn't. There was still another child in danger.
Seto was aghast and angry when he reached the roof and saw the sight before him. Indeed, Mokuba was here, being tightly restrained by three ninjas near the edge. Gozaburo was standing nearby, watching with approval. Upon hearing the door to the roof open, the ghostly businessman turned around to face his stepson, snow wildly blowing around them.
"So! I knew you would come, Seto," Gozaburo growled. "It was predictable. Right now nothing is more important to you than your precious brother!"
Seto was not pleased. This was the third time he had encountered Gozaburo in the past twenty-four hours—and it was certainly the worst of those three times. "I should have known you'd have him," he said darkly. "Gozaburo, let my brother go!"
Mokuba had also looked up as soon as the door opened, his blue-gray eyes going wide with both relief and worry. "Seto!" he cried, struggling against the ninjas. They only held him tighter and forced him closer to the edge.
"Look at you!" Gozaburo cried in annoyance, ignoring Mokuba. "You're not even concerned about your—my—company. You never even bothered to attempt to find out if everything is going well with it at the moment! And I happen to know that some of Del Vinci's gunmen were in the infirmary earlier and made quite a scene." This was true, and all of the KaibaCorp staff was going mad because Seto could not be located to be informed about it. Already local tabloids were speculating on whether Seto had possibly been killed in the incident and if his employees were simply being unwilling to tell about it.
Seto's eyes narrowed angrily. Of course he was concerned about his company, and he knew he'd never gotten there so many hours earlier when he had been attempting it, but right now Mokuba's safety was worth more than ten KaibaCorps. He told this to Gozaburo in no uncertain terms. The man wasn't surprised by this attitude and wanted to take advantage of it.
"If that's the way you feel, Seto, you shouldn't mind handing KaibaCorp back to me—where it belongs." He regarded his stepson with a look filled with both accusations and triumph.
But Seto wasn't impressed. "How would you expect to run my company now?" he retorted. "You don't have a mortal body!" His expression only became darker. "And besides, I've worked hard to make that company what it is and to change it from the weapons empire it once was. I wouldn't give it to you."
"Then it seems you're not as adamant about saving your brother as you tried to claim!" Gozaburo cried, looking to Mokuba for his reaction.
But the child's eyes were narrowed as well—and at Gozaburo. "Seto doesn't have to be manipulated by you, Gozaburo!" Mokuba burst out. "Of course he's not gonna let you have KaibaCorp! I . . . I wouldn't want him to do that . . . not even for me. . . ." His voice dropped lower and lower and he stared down at the snow-covered roof. It may all be true, but Mokuba didn't really want to be thrown off the roof either. Still, he knew Seto would never let that happen to him. He had perfect confidence in his elder brother.
Gozaburo looked back to Seto. "And concerning the problem of my lack of a body, Seto—that could be easily solved." As his steely gaze continued to unfaze the teenager, the meaning of his words was unmistakable. Either Gozaburo was saying that he wanted to possess Seto . . . or that he wanted Seto to keep running the company, but only the way that he, Gozaburo, wanted it done. And since Seto would never do the latter, Gozaburo must mean the former.
Seto regarded him with disgust. "You've got to be kidding," he snapped. "I have my dignity and my pride. I won't allow you to tell me what I can or can't do in order to keep my brother safe!" Even as he spoke, he tried to look about for a means of escape. If he managed to get Mokuba away safely, what then? And how would he even get his brother back safely? The ninjas were holding onto him and not about to let go.
What was that sound he could hear in the near distance? Idly he glanced up into the sky. It almost sounded like a helicopter. Briefly he entertained the idea that it was one of his company's helicopters, but then quickly dismissed the idea as far-fetched and impossible. Most likely it was merely one of the vehicles that always passed over Domino City at various hours of the day and night.
During the split second that Seto was thus occupied, Marik burst onto the roof. "Mokuba!" the Egyptian teen cried in alarm, instantly taking in the situation. He looked at the ninjas furiously and then at Gozaburo before looking back to Seto and wondering what the other boy was going to do about this.
Shortly Téa and the rest of the group also burst onto the roof. They regarded the sights with abhorrence, but were all reluctant to step forward and try to assist until they knew what it was that Seto was planning—as they could tell from his narrowed eyes and deep frown that he was postulating something.
Alister clenched his fists, hating to see Mokuba being lifted up almost to the level of the railing. If the ninjas were to suddenly release him, he would fall! Kaiba, do something! he mentally yelled.
Gozaburo continued to ignore the presence of anyone on the roof besides himself, Seto, Mokuba, and the ninjas. "Well, Seto," he demanded, "what will it be? Will you save your brother and lose your company—or will you lose your brother to save your company?"
Seto looked at him with hatred. "You wouldn't allow him to drop," he said finally. "He's too valuable to you." He took several steps forward, praying that he was right. It was possible, he supposed, that Gozaburo would determine that he already had his answer and therefore, had no need to keep Mokuba. He was taking a chance on a lot by assuming otherwise.
"I thought he was," Gozaburo retorted, "but it seems that you've proven what you truly care about the most—and that it isn't him!"
At that moment, Seto, Marik, and Alister all ran forward at once and over to the ninjas. While Marik and Alister tackled the ones at the sides, Seto punched the third and grabbed Mokuba away—leaping over the railing in the process. "You have your answer, Gozaburo!" he screamed, his trenchcoat flying out behind him.
For a split second everyone was too stunned to do a thing. What had Seto done! But then they saw him and Mokuba—both safely on a rope ladder hanging from the helicopter that Seto had seen only a few moments previous.
"This isn't over, Seto!" Gozaburo yelled furiously, glaring up at him.
Seto half-turned, glaring right back as his bangs blew about in the wind and fell into his blue eyes. "Oh, it will never be over," he retorted darkly. Téa wondered exactly what he meant by this.
"But for now it is!" Atemu cried then, stepping forward to banish Gozaburo while Marik and Alister were busy clobbering the two ninjas and rendering them senseless.
Before the Pharaoh could attempt at doing what he was planning to, a wild, raucous cackle echoed throughout the skies. Instantly everyone raised startled, confused gazes to the dark grey clouds that were the source of the snow that continued to flutter down around them. No living entity could be seen, but abruptly from the clouds came streaks of lightning which jabbed down upon the roof and almost electrocuted many of the people there.
"What's happening?" Téa screamed, her blue eyes wide with alarm.
"It's gotta be that freak from earlier!" Joey retorted, pulling her out of the way of another blast. He couldn't forget Runihura or his battle with Shadi. Obviously Runihura was someone to be reckoned with, and even though they couldn't worry about him right now, he wanted to make himself known.
Gozaburo yelled in anger as one of the bolts struck him. Of course, it couldn't really do any damage, since he was no longer mortal, but it was just one more aggravation to add to the list. Obviously he wasn't going to win tonight. He looked at Seto and Mokuba furiously as he vanished.
The Kaiba brothers were in for another surprise. As they climbed into the helicopter, they were greeted by none other than Pegasus.
"Oh, hello, Kaiba-boy!" the silvery-haired man greeted Seto nonchalantly. "It's a good thing I arrived when I did, isn't it." He smiled in self-satisfaction, crossing his arms and leaning back in the seat.
Seto and Mokuba both just gaped at him. "What are you doing in a KaibaCorp helicopter, Pegasus!" Mokuba cried at last.
Roland then came over to them from the cockpit. "Mr. Pegasus was the only one who knew where you both might be, sirs," he replied sheepishly, hoping that his employer wouldn't be irritated with him for bringing the other businessman along. Pegasus had contacted him from the hospital with the information during the time when Roland and the other staff members at KaibaCorp had been worrying over where their boss might have gone, then had invited himself along on the helicopter.
"That's fine then," Seto grunted. He didn't really care at the moment that Pegasus had came along. He was still too angry at Gozaburo to really be irritated over that fact.
"We need to get the others," Mokuba said now, looking out through the open door at the group still on the roof. "If they havta go down through the building, they'll probably run into more of Del Vinci's goons!"
"Very well, then," Pegasus said smoothly.
Seto grunted. "I make the orders around here," he retorted, giving Pegasus a side-long glance. "But fine. Go down and retrieve them."
"So grouchy, as usual," Pegasus commented with a mock pout.
As the helicopter descended, the sounds of police sirens could be heard in the near distance. And when Mokuba looked down, he could see a group far below them out on the sidewalk. He breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone had made it out and would be alright.
The officers who had been assigned to investigate the strange goings-on at Julio Industries were stunned and appalled at the sight that greeted them at the front doors—over fifty children were crowded around a small group of teenagers and adults. And at that moment, the doors opened again and a second party emerged, led by Ishmael and his cronies—and Seth. They had separated from the others long ago, suspecting that more children were being held captive in another part of the building. And sure enough, another twenty-five to thirty children were with them.
"Hey!" Tristan called, smiling in relief when he saw the officers and praying to high heaven that these were not among the ones who were crooked (but Duke didn't seem worried, so Tristan supposed the policemen were on the level). The hazel-eyed boy was clutching a mild shoulder wound. Indeed, they had been attacked more than once on their way to find the exit, but they had managed to come out on top in the end—though most of them has sustained various injuries. And thankfully, none of the children had been harmed any worse than they already had been.
"What's been happening here!" one of the officer exclaimed, recognizing several of the children as ones who had been listed as Missing over the last few days. Why were they all here now? It seemed strange and ironic that they were all outside Julio Industries, a toy company.
"It's a long story," Tristan replied.
"And that's putting it mildly," Duke added.
By the time the police had gotten statements from everyone, arrested Del Vinci and his minions, and were sorting out which children went to which home, and after the injured had been treated by KaibaCorp doctors, it was very late and all of our friends were highly exhausted.
Seto was now going about, talking to the employees there and getting the details on the earlier attack by Del Vinci's men. They had gone all through the infirmary, apparently having been searching for Alister to take him back to Del Vinci, but upon not finding him they had left without harming anyone. Seto was annoyed at the incident, but relieved that it hadn't been any worse than it had been. He intended to sue Del Vinci for that as well as for everything else.
"Man," Joey groaned, "I can't believe all of this happened in just a couple of days! It's crazy!" He slumped down in a chair at the KaibaCorp infirmary, looking around blearily at the others. He felt as though he could sleep for days. And when he glanced at the nearby wall clock, his mouth dropped open as it cheerfully announced that the time was three-thirty in the morning.
"Oh well," Yugi smiled, "let's look on the bright side. We actually did get things solved before Christmas, Joey!" He leaned against the wall, tired but relieved. They would be able to have a peaceful, happy Christmas now—and more importantly, all of those poor children and their families would be able to.
Marik glanced over at them idly as he conversed with Mokuba. The child was overjoyed that everything had worked out well and that his brother was back safely. And he was grateful to Marik and to Alister for helping Seto to fight the ninjas and rescue him.
"It's your birthday, isn't it, Marik?" Mokuba chirped.
Marik blinked in surprise. He hadn't told anyone about it, but it was true that today—December 23rd—was his birthday. "Well, yes," he admitted. But he had never done much to celebrate it in the past. To him, his birthday wasn't really that special of a day. It marked the anniversary of when he had received the scars on his back—and of Yami Marik's birth as well. Usually Marik's birthday went by without much acknowledgement of the date—well, on Marik's part at least. Ishizu and Rishid always tried to do something special for him, which he appreciated.
"Are you gonna do anything for it?" Mokuba persisted.
Marik shrugged. "I don't know," he said slowly. "Ishizu will probably fix a special breakfast."
"Well, we should do something, too," Mokuba said brightly.
Marik smiled, but offered no suggestions. He would let Mokuba figure something out.
Valon yawned, blinking his blue eyes as he came out of the examination room. He had been injured the worst of any of them, but it seemed that he would survive. Right now the doctor had recommended rest, and he wasn't about to argue. After that experience, he was anxious to go home and sleep. Even so, he looked around, hoping to see Mai again before he and the others left.
He was rewarded as the blonde woman came over to him. "You never did tell me what it was you'd found," she remarked quietly after telling him that she was now going to leave.
Valon smiled a bit, leaning in closer to Mai. "What I found," he said softly, looking into her confused violet eyes, "is somewhere I belong." She didn't push him back, so he took the opportunity to kiss her gently on the lips before pulling away. He wanted badly to add, And you belong with me, but he knew that she didn't see things that way and so he kept silent on that thought.
Mai stared at him, watching as he turned and limped back over to Raphael and Alister, who were both waiting for him. Somewhere I belong. . . . She repeated Valon's words in her mind over and over. Yes . . . that was true. He had found a place where he belonged—with the other two former Doom members. They cared about him and wanted him to be happy. And even when they had all been with Doom, that had been apparent. Mai couldn't forget how angry Raphael had been when she had snapped at Valon and treated him cruelly after he had jumped off the balcony to save her during her first duel with Joey. Valon was probably like a younger brother to the two older bikers, someone to be looked out for and protected.
Did she have anything like that? She used to feel as though maybe she belonged with Yugi and Joey and their friends. But then again, she had always felt a bit like an outsider in their group. It had seemed to her that no one really understood her or what she was suffering . . . until Valon had come along. But she didn't really feel like she fit in with him and his friends, either. There was a mutual dislike between her and Raphael and Alister, though it hadn't been quite as apparent on Alister's part (since he rarely made his feelings known unless he was extremely passionate about an injustice). And Valon loved her in a way that she simply didn't return. . .
Do I have somewhere I belong?
She realized she didn't know the answer.