A/N: So...its been a while, hasn't it? The symbols are not exactly the same since the program uses doesn't like my arrows anymore. Italics mean thought and the new scene change is "0-0-0-0". That's easy enough, right?


Chapter 10: The Not Quite Calm Before the Storm


"Hey, I'm going to visit Lana! Anyone wanna come with?" Seto heard Chloe shout through the house. He continued to type on his laptop, pretending that he hadn't heard her statement. He also ignored the Kuriboh gazing pitifully at him. He heard her footsteps thud up the stairs and she opened his door. "Did you hear what I said?"

"Yes."

"So what's your answer?"

"If I did not immediately leap to my feet and run down the stairs or shout for you to wait for me, what do you think my answer is?" Seto said without looking up from his laptop.

Chloe glared at him. "A simple 'no' would have been sufficient."

Seto rolled his eyes. "Go on and visit your possessed friend without me. I'm not interested. I doubt she'd want to see me anyways, since I'm the reason she ended up in the hospital."

"Lana can be a forgiving person. God knows she gave Clark enough chances."

"Forgiveness is not the issue."

"The hell it isn't! Damn it, Ryuujin, it wasn't her and you know it! Stop acting like it was Lana who attacked you!"

Seto stood up furiously, taking two strides to stare down at Chloe. "Has Lang ever attacked you when Isobel possessed her? Has she?"

Chloe swallowed. "No. The only time I was around Lana when she was Isobel I was possessed too."

"Who was your victim?"

Chloe bit her lip. "Clark."

"Then he must be a better person than I am, to forgive you like that. But in my world, even if the person didn't know what they were doing doesn't excuse or condone their actions. I neither want nor need Lang's forgiveness, and I don't want to bestow my forgiveness upon her." He turned away from Chloe and went back to sitting on his bed and typing on his laptop. "Now leave."

Without another word, Chloe turned on her heel and left.

Seto continued to type on his laptop when he was interrupted by an "Owooo?"

He looked at the Kuriboh, who was staring at him, its eyes wider than ever and even glistening. The pair stared at each other for a good three minutes until Seto looked away.

"For the sake of the gods," Seto snarled underneath his breath as the Kuriboh squealed with joy.

0-0-0-0

"You know what's really weird? I remember certain events and I know this sounds crazy, but I swear to God that Ryuujin was speaking in a heavy Irish accent."

Chloe raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding."

"You think I could make this up? I swear he was using words like "brasser" and "doxie". I looked them up, and they aren't flattering Irish slang, I can tell you that."

"But he said that his grandmother was American," Chloe said slowly.

"That's a poor explanation if I ever heard one. He's at least half Irish," Lana confirmed. "If he can use Irish slang like he's been using it all his life, he's at least half Irish."

"Then why would he lie about his heritage?"

"When has he not lied? He lied about what I did to him, or at least he didn't tell you what I did to him," Lana's voice grew thick with unshed tears.

"Lana you didn't do anything to him. It was all Isobel. You can't blame yourself for this," Chloe reassured her.

"You didn't see him!" Lana cried, tears pouring down her face. "He w-was so scared. He was trying to hide it, but you could see it in his eyes. When she raised his knife, he was t-terrified. I-I didn't know what to do, so I tried, j-just a little bit, to use her magic. I just wanted to give him a ch-chance to escape, so I got him free. I made the fabric rip just enough so that he could run. And I deserved what he did to her—to me. You d-d-don't know what sh-she was going to do to him. She was going to—going to—oh, God," She broke off into a sob, hiding her face in her hands.

"Lana, it's not your fault," Chloe hugged her friend.

"No, no it is. If-if I had been stronger, she couldn't have taken over me. It's my fault, all my fault."

"Lana, you couldn't have been able to stop her."

"You don't understand! No one understands!" Lana cried.

"Lana, what am I not understanding? Please, tell me."

Lana hiccupped and took several deep breaths before she spoke again. "Chloe, Isobel gets all of her ideas from me. I had a crush on Ryuujin, and because I did, Isobel was attracted to him. It's all my fault. She told me that I 'would be able to fulfill my desires after all'. Oh god, oh god, oh god. It's all my fault."

"Lana, just because you had a little crush on that bastard doesn't mean that this instigated Isobel to be a psycho bitch. She's attacked people before."

"But not like this. Even those men she killed in China didn't suffer as much as he did. She wanted to break him, Chloe. She wanted to break him so that she could make him her little slave. And you know what the worse part is?" Lana's voice carried off into a whisper.

Chloe looked as if she didn't want to know, but she took one look at Lana's red and blotchy tear-stained face, tangled brown hair, deep shadows underneath her eyes, and trembling hands hidden inside of the sleeves of her hospital gown and asked, "What?"

"I think it's been done to him before."

It was clear that Chloe couldn't think of anything to say, so she just hugged her friend even tighter.

Just outside of Lana's door, Seto sighed heavily, squared his shoulders, and walked away.

He exited the hospital and continued walking down the sidewalk, heading for the park. He didn't want to go into the Sullivan's home just yet, and it was just chilly enough to guarantee that the parents and their children would be at home and the park would be mostly empty. He reached the tiny community park (it had a slide, a jungle gym, and two swings and a small sandbox) and leaned against an oak tree, gazing over the empty park.

"You suck at shadowing people. Here's a tip: when you see twigs, step over them," Seto spoke to the person behind him. "Now go away, Kent."

Kent stepped into Seto's peripheral view. "I'm not until you tell me what's going on."

Seto raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"

Kent moved until he was standing in front of the Duelist and crossed his arms over his chest. "Don't think I haven't put it together. You and Ryou are duelists. Chloe tells me that there have been Duel Monsters showing up here; although I have no idea how I've missed them. Chloe says that you dueled one of them. You even have one of the monsters living with you! Although, from what Chloe has told me, it seems to be harmless, even affectionate. This all seems to be leading up to something and you know what it is."

"Tell me, Kent, why did you want to search for the third stone?"

Kent's eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare try to change the subject."

Seto smirked. "You have your secrets, and I have mine. Good-bye, Kent." Seto straightened and walked past Kent, ignoring the teen's glare.

"My secrets aren't going to endanger innocents, Ryuujin! These are real monsters you're talking about, and people will get caught in the crossfire!" Kent shouted at Seto's back.

"That's not my problem."

He heard Kent take a step forward. "You son-of-a-bitch! How can you say something like that?"

"Easily. I just did." Seto turned and smirked at Kent again. "Good thing there's always someone idiotic like you around to care about them. I say that if they're not smart enough to get out of the way, they deserve to get hit."

Kent snarled and stepped forward again and Seto shifted his weight onto the balls of his feet until a voice stopped both of them.

"Ryuujin-kun, that's enough," Though the command was soft, it carried easily over the empty playground. Kent and Seto both turned towards the Occult Duelist.

"Now, he knows how to shadow," Seto declared.

"And you know how to pick a fight, Ryuujin-kun," Ryou sighed, exasperated.

"I was bored. He was right there. What else did you expect me to do?"

"Ignore him like you usually would?"

Seto inspected his fingernails, "Wasn't in the mood."

"Wait, were you guys meeting here or something?" Kent eyed them suspiciously.

Seto shrugged. They really hadn't, but if there was one thing he'd noticed being around Ryou and Yugi and his friends was that coincidence always seemed to group them together. If Seto were the type to believe in gods and religion, he would have said that Fate had forced them together. Of course, Seto, being who he was, dismissed this idea as complete and utter bullshit.

Ryou opened his mouth, probably to correct Kent's assumption that he had invaded upon a "secret meeting" when Seto narrowed his eyes slightly, making the white-haired teen shut his mouth.

"I believe you have somewhere to be, Kent," Seto said coolly. "Like the hospital to comfort your emotionally traumatized girlfriend who's just discovered that her 'other side' happens to be a bitch fond of S and M."

Kent lunged at Seto with a snarl and Seto flew into action, whipping out the Sennen Rod and quickly empowering it. He ducked Kent's punch and—using the Rod like a club—slammed the Rod into Kent's stomach, making Kent's breath fly out of his lungs. Kent stumbled back a step, clutching his midsection and coughing. Seto shifted his grip on the Rod, but before he could swing the object again, he felt a light but firm grip on his arm.

"That's enough, Ryuujin-kun," Ryou said, voice steady, but his shoulders were tense. Seto stared at him for a moment, and the shorter teen swallowed, but held his ground. Seto stepped back and replaced the Rod behind his back, and Ryou sighed and let his arm fall to his side. "I think you should go, Kent-kun." He was polite and firm, but he also didn't leave Seto's side and assist Kent as the teen slowly walked away with a nervous glance back at the pair.

"I think we've both frightened him for life," Ryou commented, his voice uncharacteristically emotionless.

"Good," Seto snarled. "Why are you here?"

"It just felt like the place to be. You?"

"Wanted to be alone. It failed miserably."

"Kaiba-kun, are you all right?" Ryou asked slowly.

Seto didn't bother to answer and Ryou sighed. They stood in silence under the trees, not looking at anything in particular. A cheerful breeze trailed through, ruffling their clothes and hair. Seto swallowed as he felt the shift in the breeze and the air grew colder. "Ryou, do you feel that?"

Ryou reached inside his pocket and pulled out his Deck, "Yes."

Seto did the same, holding his Deck ready in his hand. "Ready?"

"Always."

The icy breeze disheveled their hair, carrying with it the scent of magic and the whisper of anticipated bloodshed. Ryou shivered, hand grasping the first card on top of his Deck, ready to flip it.

Something moved at the edge of the clearing, hidden in purple shadow. A glint of orange and blue flashed at them, and both Duelists tensed. Suddenly both teens were blasted backwards as a Tornado Giant Bird (1100 ATK/1000 DEF) screamed out of the darkness, its orange and purple plumage as fiery as its temper. At its flank was the Mysterious Puppeteer (1000 ATK /1500 DEF), purple robes shrouding its figure and face as it clutched a hideously grinning wooden doll.

Seto and Ryou picked themselves up from the ground and both drew from their Decks.

"I Summon Masked Dragon!" Seto cried and swallowed, having half a mind to whisper a prayer. Summoning had gotten easier the more he had done it, but with Seto's minute experience, he never knew what might happen. The air shimmered in front of him and the Masked Dragon was there, its pearly white armor contrasting with the exposed pink sinewy muscle. It roared at the Tornado Giant Bird and snatched it in its teeth, shaking it back and forth furiously like a dog with a chew toy. At 1400 Attack points and 1100 Defense points, it easily defeated the Tornado Giant Bird as it shrieked in pain and then disappeared in a cloud of purple-black shadows.

"I Summon The Sealer!" Ryou cried, holding up a card. A man appeared in front of them, clad in a red Japanese kimono and a tall cap, clutching sealing scrolls edged in fire. Attack 1100, Defense 900, Seto thought. A Dark Magic Messenger with a three star level.

The Sealer held up his scrolls and threw them at the Mysterious Puppeteer, making its robes catch fire and the wooden doll burn to ash. The Puppeteer screamed in pain and disintegrated into purple shadows.

Even though it had appeared that the two Duelists had won, both did not dismiss their monsters as they crouched in anticipation of another attack.

They heard it coming before they saw it. Big clanking steel steps, and from the constant repetitions, it had more feet than two, or even four.

"It sounds like an insect," Seto murmured to Ryou.

Ryou's mouth twisted, "I hate bugs."

Seto raised an eyebrow at him and turned back to the clearing. He could see a glint of a shiny material that seemed metallic. A metal insect? His mental question was answered when it stepped into view. "The Steel-Clad Insect. Attack 2800, Defense 1500."

Ryou snarled something that sounded suspiciously like a curse and Seto raised the other eyebrow.

"You have a stronger monster right in your hand, right?" Ryou asked Seto. "Because I don't."

As soon as the words were out of Ryou's mouth, the insect moved forward and attacked Ryou's Sealer. Ryou cried out in pain and stumbled back as his Sealer echoed his movements and collapsed, disappearing into darkness. Paler than the Blue Eyes' ivory scales, Ryou swallowed hard and forced himself to straighten. "If you have a stronger monster, attack her now," the Occult Duelist rasped.

Seto looked down at his four cards in his hand. He had one monster that could beat the Insect; his Kuchika-Kakachiku, a Water category reptile. 2950 Attack points, 2800 Defense. Perfect. "I Summon Kuchika-Kakachiku!" Thunder boomed overhead and lighting crackled as the eight-foot scarlet, metal, and spiked monster appeared. Seto let out a long breath and clenched his fists, driving his fingernails into his palms. The pain kept him grounded, kept the blackness out of the edges of his vision. This was the most powerful monster he'd Summoned yet, and he was not going to pass out. The reptilian ran forward and slashed its claws down the insect's back. It let out a high-pitched whistling scream and crumpled to the ground, dissolving into shadows.

Seto waited for a moment with baited breath, trying to see if the Rogue Duelist was going to attack again, but nothing else came. She's probably had enough for now, and was probably weakened by my attack. With a wave of his hand he dismissed Kuchika-Kakachiku and put his Deck away. He let out another long breath and looked over at Ryou, who was still paler than was healthy.

"You're not going to faint, are you?" Seto asked.

"If you think I look bad, look in the mirror," Ryou laughed weakly. "Every single time, I forget how much that hurts. Especially when it hasn't happened in a while."

A seven hundred point difference shouldn't hurt that much. "How long has it been since you played the game like this?"

"Just me with no backseat driving? Never."

Because Bakura usually takes most of the backlash. "Why isn't he here now?"

Ryou laughed again, this time his tone was slightly bitter. "He said I needed the experience."

Seto was about to reply when he felt a niggling sense on the back of his neck. He whipped out his switchblade and whirled around, throwing it towards the figure hidden among the trees.

"Whoa!" Luthor's shocked voice came from the trees. "Watch it! I'd rather not get skewered tonight, please." He emerged from the trees, hands held up, Seto's knife gripped loosely in one hand.

"Then don't try and hide from me if you don't want to get hurt." Seto replied dryly. I don't sense any Shadow magic on him. He must have not visited his experiment in a while.

"I thought you'd be one to attack first and ask questions later," Luthor commented dryly as he handed the switchblade back. Seto tucked it away beside his Deck and eyed Luthor. The man was flushed and slightly out of breath, and not only from Seto's throwing skills, even though Seto had missed the man intentionally. Luthor had seen the Duel.

"How much did you see, Luthor-san?" Ryou asked quietly, having come to the same conclusion as Seto.

Luthor's gaze was steady. "Enough. I'm not entirely sure how you made those things appear out of thin air, but it was very impressive. In fact, those creatures looked a lot like the ones that have been appearing around Smallville and Metropolis recently. You don't know anything about that, do you?"

"You wouldn't believe us," Seto started to turn away.

"I've lived in Smallville for four years. Try me."

Ryou glanced at Seto, silently telling him that Seto could take the reins. Seto, meanwhile, was trying to concentrate through his weariness to sort his thoughts so that he could give Luthor enough information to satisfy him and yet still protect the mission. But now Luthor was just as involved in the mission as they were and if Seto didn't tell him anything, he would become a hindrance. He deserved to know, for everyone's safety. "Buy Ryou and I coffee and I'll tell you what you need to hear."

"Isn't there someplace less public where we can talk?"

"The Sullivan's home is about as private as the Talon. What about your apartment?" Seto asked Ryou.

"Father shouldn't be home," Ryou told them. "I'll call just in case." He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. After a few moments he hung it up. "Nope, no one home."

"Then I'll drive us there and stop at the Talon on the way. Sure you don't need more than just coffee? You both look like you're going to fall over if the wind blows wrong."

Seto slipped a hand into the pocket that contained his Deck and ran his fingers over the smooth surface of the cards. "It'd have to one hell of a wind, Luthor."

0-0-0-0

Soon they were settled comfortably in Ryou's kitchen, sipping their coffees and (in Seto's and Ryou's case) nibbling on muffins Luthor had bought for them. To be honest, Seto privately knew that he needed the pastry as much as he needed the Café Mocha he drank. Ryou had hissed in his ear that he'd needed a drink with more substance than his normal Americano and then had told Luthor to bring them both double-shot mochas, with extra chocolate. And two muffins.

"So, in the clearing, was that the game Duel Monsters?" Luthor asked.

"Yes," Seto answered.

"Don't you have to use those little contraptions to play those holograms?"

He called the Duel Disk a "contraption," Seto snarled mentally. His dragons' grumbles agreed with him. Seto pushed this thought away and chose his next words very carefully, "Yes. These monsters were not holograms."

Silence froze the kitchen.

"Are you saying that those monsters were real?" Luthor asked quietly.

"Yes. They were," Ryou told him.

"But-"

"Yes, it is impossible. And yet here we are, Summoning real monsters." Seto said calmly, gently.

Luthor took a deep breath. "How?"

There was a long pause before Ryou and Seto said, in unison, "Magic."

The dragons in Seto's head growled uneasily as they watched Luthor absorb this information.

"Magic. You're saying that you two can do magic. Real magic."

Seto swallowed. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, let alone believing it, "Yes. Ryou and I can do real magic."

"But I've met a witch. Her magic isn't anything like yours."

Gently, gently. "Who said that all magic was the same? Who said that there was only one type?" Seto asked him.

"Then, this magic, what type is it?" Luthor asked.

"Ancient Egyptian," Ryou said. "It's about three thousand years old."

"And it helps you make these Duel Monsters appear and fight. Why the monsters?"

"Ever look at the origins of the game, Luthor?" Seto smirked. "Pegasus J. Crawford created the game from stone tablets that were discovered in Egypt. Our magic is directly connected to the game."

"That's insane!"

Seto laughed, "Magic is insane, Luthor. It defies physics and the laws of nature. What else can it be?"

Luthor rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Okay, okay. Who was it that you were fighting? Apparently that person also has the same magic that you do."

"Yes, but we don't exactly know who she is. She's not even supposed to be doing what she's doing. She's a Duelist that has gone rogue," Ryou said.

"Gone rogue?"

"Duelists are not supposed to use their magic publicly unless they can disguise it in tournaments. They are not supposed to be attacking people with it unless they are Duelists. She's not bothering to follow the rules," Seto scowled into his mug.

"So, what are your roles? Are you some sort of Duel Monster law enforcement?"

Seto and Ryou looked at each other. "Erm," Ryou said. "Well, we've never thought of it that way."

"We're not official. We're just the people powerful enough to bring her down," Seto answered.

"But if you think about it, we are members of the highest authority. Well, maybe you are, Ryuujin. I'm not so certain about myself," Ryou grumbled.

"That isn't important. What is important is that even though we have been attacked by the Duelist, we are not her primary target. We're just powerful enough to capture her attention."

"Then who is the target? Why are you telling me all of this? It can't just be because I asked."

"No, it's not because you asked. If we didn't give you some knowledge, you would have put us all in a precarious and dangerous position."

"What do you mean?"

"You are the main target, Luthor," Seto deadpanned.

Luthor blinked. "That's impossible. I've never touched a Duel Monsters card in my life!"

"No, you haven't. But you've been dabbling in the magic of the game. I could sense it from a mile away. What kind of experiment are you running, Luthor?"

"That's none of your business."

"Yes, it is our business. You do not posses any magic and by using our magic you abuse it! You also have no idea what you are doing and that could cost you much more than your life," Seto snarled.

"Oh, really?"

"Gods, I hate idiots! Damn it, Luthor, our magic is not just connected to Duel Monsters! We deal in the most dangerous type of magic: soul magic! What do you think will happen to you if you fumble with something you have no control over and do not understand that can do anything to your soul?"

Luthor didn't exactly turn pale at the revelation, but he quickly took a sip of his coffee.

"Now, what were you trying to do?" Seto asked. "It'll make it easier if you tell us, because we will find out. It is our magic, after all."

Luthor 'hmphed' but spoke, "You're lucky I'm still here. I don't take kindly to being called an idiot, but in this circumstance, I'm willing to ignore that little comment of yours." Luthor paused, as if to consider his options and the pros and cons of telling Seto and Ryou about his experiment, sighed, and continued, "My team has looked at games all over the world: card games, video games, and even some martial arts. We're researching the science of predictability. Martial arts was a dead end because if someone is good enough, they can read movements in the opponent's muscles to predict their next move. But in card games, the players quickly learn to hide their emotions so as to not give themselves away, so the opponent has to rely on seemingly supernatural ability in order to beat them. We were just starting to look at Duel Monsters, how the players seem to know exactly what card they're holding and whether it'll help or hurt them. It seems as if it's an impossible game to play, with all of the cards to choose from to combine in a deck and the chance that the right combinations that you hold can defeat the opponent…I don't know how you do it. There was also an unfounded rumor that the creator of the game could actually read minds, but that's ridiculous."

"So you're studying predictability. Why? What's the gain?" Ryou asked.

Seto narrowed his eyes, "The military would pay a fortune if it worked. The ultimate strategy: actually know what the enemy is planning."

"You don't like companies that sell to the military?" Luthor asked.

"I don't like people that deal in death. It's a disgusting way to make a living."

"I only work to improve the military's defense."

"They say that the best defense is a good offense," Seto shot back.

"All right, all right, that's enough. Luthor-san can run his company any way he wants to as long as he doesn't do anything illegal. Ryuujin-kun, you have no right to criticize how Luthor-san runs his business," Ryou chastised Seto. Seto glared at him, but Ryou didn't back down. Finally Seto snorted and drank from his mug and Ryou swallowed and exhaled in relief.

"So, you're saying that because I'm running this experiment, I've made myself a target."

"Not necessarily. It's just made you easier to track," Ryou answered. "Especially since it's an abnormality."

"You can tell I'm not supposed to be exposed to this 'magic' just by looking at me?"

"It's more like we sense it," Ryou explained.

"Not that it's hard in a shithole like this," Seto grumbled.

"What do you mean?" Luthor asked.

"What he means is that to someone as sensitive as we are, this place is hard to live in. It has a lot of…qualities that wear us down."

"You mean the meteor rocks?" Luthor asked.

That's one of the reasons, Seto thought grimly.

"Magic, at least our magic, is terra based. Anything from space is considered hostile and must be destroyed. We're not exactly sure why, it's just how it is," Ryou said smoothly.

He's lying, Seto realized. He knows exactly why we can't stand the meteors. Why? And why didn't he tell me?

His dragons snorted in his head. Right, because he knew I wouldn't believe him.

"The same thing became apparent in my experiments. Whenever we tried to use the meteor rocks, they were destroyed."

"You should discontinue the experiments, Luthor. Magic, even with the most competent and experienced user is unpredictable and can have permanent and negative effects. Even if you succeed in your objective, there is no way you can duplicate the results. Ever."

Luthor crossed his arms and stared at Seto. "And why should I listen to you? You're just a kid."

Ryou's eyes widened and he scooted back from the table a bit. "Please don't break anything," he begged Seto. "My father would kill me."

But the expected explosion never came. Seto's eyes were like granite as he leaned forward, but his voice was very, very soft. "You should listen to me, Luthor, because I know a waste of a project when I see one. This one will lead you nowhere. Stay in science, Luthor, where the outcomes actually make sense and gravity is not a suggestion."

There was a long silence. "Fine. I'll cancel the experiment," Luthor finally conceded.

Seto straightened and took a sip of his coffee. "Good. Now, I believe this meeting is over. Watch your back, Luthor."

Luthor stood from his chair, "From whom? This Rogue Duelist? You?"

Seto smirked. "From everyone. Especially me. You may not believe it, Luthor, but I am not a 'kid'."

Luthor snorted, but left without another word. Ryou let out a shaky breath and collapsed back into his seat.

"I thought he was dead," Ryou commented to Seto.

"The last person that called me a kid ended up with his company destroyed, his bank account disintegrated, and was found lying at the bottom of Tokyo Bay with his throat cut. It wasn't my fault he was in knee-deep with the Yakuza. But, Luthor had better watch his back. He doesn't quite know how influential I really am."

Ryou shivered and Seto pretended not to notice as he finished his drink and left Ryou's apartment, heading to the Sullivan's residence.

0-0-0-0

Weary with exhaustion, Seto threw himself down on the bed in the room he was staying in. He was ready to "crash" as Chloe said when he remembered that he had to call Mokuba about the damned chemistry lab explosion. Groaning, he reached out in the direction of his bedside table, blindly searching for his cell phone. His fingers brushed against hard plastic only to knock the phone to the floor. Looking down at the phone, Seto sighed heavily and lethargically bent down and grabbed the phone and hit speed dial one.

"Moshi, moshi nisama," Mokuba's chipper voice reached Seto's ear.

"Mokuba," Seto replied, unable to keep the weariness out of his voice, especially when he was talking to his brother.

"Oh, did you find out any more intel on her?" Mokuba had clearly put together that Seto was tired because he had recently Dueled the Rogue Duelist.

Seto grinned. Most people paid attention to him and completely dismissed Mokuba, forgetting that Mokuba was the Vice President of Kaiba Corporation for a reason and not because of nepotism. Mokuba was just as smart as Seto was; he just didn't have all of the knowledge (which was perfectly fine with Seto). It meant that Mokuba spent all of his free time devouring books, improving his chess game, and learning at his own pace instead of the forced absorption Seto had been subjected to.

Thanks to Gozaburo's training, Seto knew a little bit about everything but hadn't been able to explore all of the aspects of the subjects he loved. Then again, if he had learned at his own pace, he'd be attending college instead of running Kaiba Corporation. Despite everything that had happened to him, he preferred the latter. "She's gained power, or she's using her better cards. Luthor also glimpsed some of the Duel."

"On accident or was it intentional?"

"He was attracted by the noise, but she may have been planning to attack him anyways. So far there have been two direct attacks on Luthor, one time where he had found an Egyptian incantation and then two seconds later I was attacked, and Sullivan has been in two situations where there have been Duel Monsters attacking me. There was also an attack on a security guard at LexCorp and an attack at a park that had been funded by Luthor. That's five for Luthor and two for Sullivan. This Duelist is definitely after Luthor, and it's been too coincidental for Sullivan. I'd say Luthor is the target while Sullivan is the secondary and less-important target. It could even be that her Shadow magic is attracting the attacks like Ryou's and mine are."

"But the Rogue Duelist is attacking you because you're a powerful Duelist. Sullivan doesn't even own a card, let alone a Deck! Is she powerful?"

Seto considered this for a moment. "She'd be good. If she worked hard, she could achieve Kujaku Mai's level. But she doesn't have a Deck," Seto commented to himself.

There was a thoughtful pause on the other end of the line before Mokuba spoke, "Nisama, what is the function of a Deck? Forget the game for a moment, forget the specific cards, just what is a Deck supposed to do?"

Seto frowned, thinking. "It's a tool," he said slowly. "It's a tool to enable someone to fight using their magic. It focuses one's abilities and channels them into performing a specific action. A Deck…focuses the magic and can even amplify it. Just like a Sennen Item."

"So, if Sullivan doesn't have a Deck, then her Shadow magic is unfocused. It's scattered…unevenly distributed and even wasted," Mokuba continued.

"That means that the Duelist couldn't possibly be attacking Sullivan because of her magic because her magic isn't utilized enough to attract attention. So, Sullivan has to be a target!" Seto summed up, his voice growing more excited as he solved the puzzle.

"But why?" Mokuba asked.

Seto closed his eyes. "I don't know. And the Rogue Duelist is getting ready for an immense attack. I can feel it. There's going to be an enormous Duel, and soon. In a couple of days, even."

"Well, the only thing to do when you face an unknown enemy is to prepare as thoroughly as you can and then challenge them when they least expect it."

"If they don't ambush you first," Seto grumbled.

"The best thing to do in an ambush is to counter as best as you can and pretend like you knew it was there all along to get the enemy off-balance," Mokuba told him.

"Good in theory but hell to pull in practice. Speaking of outbreaks of violence and destruction, I have a second reason for contacting you."

"Oh?" Seto could hear the grin in Mokuba's voice and pictured that his brother was thinking, 'This is gonna be good.'

"Due to a gross oversight on my part and an attempt of Sullivan's to get me involved in her homework, Bakura blew up the school's chemistry laboratory. In order to save him from charges and possible jail time so that he would be ready to combat the Rogue Duelist, I volunteered some of Kaiba Corporation's charity to rebuild the lab. Would you call the principal of Smallville High tomorrow? I said I would get her in contact with the Vice President."

"I'll have to squeeze her into my schedule, but yeah, I'm sure I can do it. So you saved Bakura's ass?"

"And I can just see my reputation spiraling down the toilet as we speak," Seto grumbled.

"Aw, nisama, if you just make sure everyone knows you had "ulterior motives" then your reputation is safe."

Seto did not like the tone of Mokuba's voice. "Are you accusing me of actually aiding Bakura because I wanted to? That I was being nice to a person who has wanted to kill me?"

Mokuba's voice sounded extremely smug when he replied, "Oh, no, nisama, not at all."

Seto wondered if Mokuba knew that he was glaring at his cell phone and tactically changed the subject, "The principal's number is (620) 348-7631. Goodnight, Mokuba."

He heard the smirk in Mokuba's voice as his brother answered, "'Night, nisama." Then, more soberly. "Good luck."

"Thank you." Seto hung up and shook his head. "Cheeky kid."

0-0-0-0

That morning, the Sullivans received a phone call at exactly 6:13 in the morning, right as Seto was heading downstairs to the kitchen, Sullivan-san was in the shower, and Chloe was tripping over a sneaker she had left in the hall the night before. Seto turned and raised an eyebrow at her as she lifted herself off of the carpet.

"Who the hell is calling at this hour of the morning?" Chloe grumbled and rubbed her eyes blearily as she entered her room to answer the phone. Seto could faintly hear her mumble a salutation into the phone and after a few seconds say, "Yes, this is Chloe Sullivan. Who is speaking?"

Seto went back to navigating his way down the stairs when something in Chloe's voice made him stop and frown. She sounded somewhat frightened and even panicked. Almost unconsciously, Seto leaned slightly in the direction of Chloe's room to "discreetly overhear" Chloe's side of the conversation.

"What do you mean you don't know where he is? He's a high profile criminal and has tried to blow me up and you don't know how he escaped or even where he is? He could be planning to kill me right now, and no, I'm not being paranoid because everyone knows that Lionel Luthor does not let a grudge go! What the fuck am I supposed to do now, just go on with my life and pretend that the next time I open my locker a bomb won't go off in my face?"

This was very interesting. Of course, Seto had heard about the infamous arrest of Luthor Lionel, father of Luthor Lex, who was the former CEO of Luthor Corp (known currently as LexCorp and—of course—run by Luthor Lex), and the trial that condemned him to serve a life sentence for killing his parents. What Seto didn't know was that apparently Chloe had done something to get her on Luthor Lionel's hit list. And now it appeared that Luthor Lionel had escaped from prison.

Seto didn't marvel at this supposed impossible task; a man with Luthor Lionel's power and influence would have little trouble arranging for his escape, even if he didn't have access to his fortune. Gozaburo had done the same thing, and in Seto's early days (when he lost his grip on his sanity) he'd followed his adoptive father's example. Before he could start reminiscing about past deeds and mistakes, Seto dragged himself away from the cobwebs of the past and paid attention to the present.

Chloe had been silent for a while. After another minute, she said, "Alright, fine….Yes, of course I'll tell him. What do you think I am, an idiot? I'll tell him right away!...Okay…Okay…Bye."

He heard the click of the phone being hung up and a long, heavy sigh from Chloe.

Seto was about to continue downstairs when he heard a soft "owoo" coming from his left. He looked to see it was the Kuriboh and it was looking at him with the most sincere and pleading expression Seto had ever seen (except for the occasional 'Bambi-eyes' Mokuba threw at him whenever his brother wanted something when Mokuba was certain Seto would refuse). Seto narrowed his eyes and glared at it. The Kuriboh only opened its eyes even wider. After a few minutes into the staring contest, Seto caved. Swearing at the monster underneath his breath, he climbed back up the stairs and headed towards Chloe's room to actually attempt to help her "talk about it".

"I can't believe I'm doing this. It's not as if I'm the best person to come to for advice," He glanced down at the Kuriboh tagging at his heels. It grinned at him with a suspiciously smug smirk that he'd seen whenever he'd looked at himself in the mirror. "Maybe you wouldn't look so smug when I send my dragons after you," he snarled at it. His threat was an empty one as soon as he heard an unmistakable trio of amused snorts. Nope, no help from his supposed "faithful" monsters.

Seto reached Chloe's room and leaned against the doorway, crossing his arms. Chloe sat very still on her bed, her hands clasped in her lap as she stared at the wall. She was far from the usual relaxed and attentive attitude that settled on her like a coat. Every muscle in her body was tense and her mouth was clenched so tightly that Seto marveled that he didn't hear enamel cracking. There were tiny lines around her mouth and eyes that Seto had seen on himself from time to time when work and life became too chaotic. Like right now.

The Kuriboh bounced in and pounced on Chloe's bed and the girl jumped, as if she hadn't heard the damned thing purring for the last minute and a half. She laughed a little and reached out with one hand to pet the monster and ran the other through her hair. As the Kuriboh climbed into her lap and closed its eyes in bliss as she scratched its head, she spoke to Seto without looking at him.

"Remember when I said that my curiosity would get me into some deep shit? Well, it did about four months ago. I discovered proof to Lex's claim that Lionel had murdered Lex's grandparents, and by Lex's grandparents I mean Lionel's parents, by arranging a mobster to blow them up in a warehouse. I then testified against Lionel at his trial and he's been out for my blood ever since. He even booby-trapped the safe house Dad and I were supposed to stay in. If it hadn't been for Lex, I would be in pieces six feet under. Of course, Lex didn't get off so lightly either, with the attempted poisoning and all, but we're all still here, right?"

She finally looked up at Seto with watery eyes, and Seto knew she was asking for reassurance and mentally cursed the damned Kuriboh.

"I'm not the one you should go to for comfort, Sullivan. I've never been in the situation you're in right now." That, at least, was the truth. He'd never gone through the legal system to illuminate the criminals in the business world; he'd just hacked his way into the mainframe and found a way to send the evidence to the cops that ensured that it didn't look like it was gotten from slightly-less-than-legal actions. And he always covered his trail. Chloe hadn't.

Chloe stopped petting the Kuriboh and it frowned but stayed in her lap. "But Marley tried to kill you, and you survived. You're not even the worse-for-wear from it! How did you do it?"

"Skill and—as much as I hate to admit it—luck. But the best way to deal with a hostile enemy is to treat them like a viscous dog: never let them know how afraid you are. If you can do that, you have a fighting chance." He raised an eyebrow at her, "And the best way to show that you're not afraid is to actually go to school today."

Chloe started, making the Kuriboh jump as well. "How did you-?"

Seto smirked. "It was written all over your face." With that said, he turned and resumed going down to the kitchen for coffee and breakfast, especially coffee.

0-0-0-0

It took Chloe longer than usual to get ready for school, especially since she had to alert her father about their predicament. Then the phone rang again, this time from Lex Luthor. He asked if the Sullivans wanted an escort to their respective destinations from Lex's personal security team. Sullivan-san and Chloe argued for a full ten minutes about this new development: Chloe insisting that she didn't need the escort because Lionel Luthor the Psychotic Businessman wouldn't dare go after her right now because even if the man was unstable he was still frickin' smart enough not to draw attention to himself just yet and Sullivan-san demanding that she would use the escort, damn it, because Lionel Luthor is a dangerous homicidal maniac and she should take as many precautions as she can and not be so stupid and careless. After this remark, Seto raised an eyebrow and mentally counted down from ten. He reached five just as Chloe started screaming at her father, saying that she wasn't stupid and it wasn't her fault that Lionel tried to kill her and maybe she had done some stupid things in the past but why didn't the stupid police just do their fucking jobs so she wouldn't have to be in this fucking situation!

They both stood in the kitchen, breathing hard and red-faced and Seto eyed them, wondering if one of them was angry enough to strike the other because the tension was mounting and Chloe's fists were clenched so that her knuckles were white and Sullivan-san's lips were very thin.

Then Chloe threw her arms around her father and they embraced tightly, Sullivan-san stroking her hair and Chloe mumbling into his shirt, "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry I got us in this situation, I really don't know how it ended up like this, it's all my fault, isn't it?"

"Not at all, honey. Don't you ever think that, okay? You were just trying to do the right thing, and sometimes they turn out like this."

Seto swallowed uncomfortably. He felt like an intruder, standing in the kitchen watching them hug and admit being scared and vulnerable and angry and loving like…like a family. He really wanted to get away from them. Right now. But he found he was rooted to spot and swallowed again, hard, because his tongue felt like it was filling his mouth and why couldn't he say anything to stop this damn family moment?

"I know," Chloe whispered.

"I wish you'd agree to the escort. It would make me feel better," Sullivan-san told her. Seto knew exactly what he meant, and it was the subject of many of the arguments in the Kaiba household.

"How about we don't do the escort, but I call you every time I go somewhere, hm? I call you when I get to school, when I'm about to leave, when I get home, stuff like that, huh? What do you say?"

Sullivan-san considered this for a moment, and then nodded. "Deal. And I'm taking the escort. And I'll call you too, so keep your phone off during school so I don't disturb you during class, okay? I'll just leave messages on your voicemail."

"Okay." Chloe and her father broke and she turned to Seto, sniffing a bit and blinking furiously. "You ready to go?"

Seto nodded and they exited the house. Seto noticed that despite her slightly trembling hands, Chloe's steps were firm and her head was held high.

0-0-0-0

When Seto opened his locker that morning, a note fell out of it onto the floor. It had clearly been slipped in through the small cracks in the locker, and Seto again reminded himself why he never used his locker at his brief time at Domino High. School lockers were too flimsy and easily broken into. He bent down and picked up the note, his eyebrows rising in surprise.

Ryuujin-

I have a proposition that you might be interested in. Meet me at the Talon at 4:00.

-Lex

"Intriguing."

Absentmindedly, Seto wondered if Lex met with all potential business clients like this…

0-0-0-0

"I'd like to make an offer to you," Luthor said smoothly as he sat at the empty seat across from Seto as the teen sipped at his Americano in the Talon. It was 4:05 and Seto wondered why the CEO had bothered to be late.

"What sort of offer is this?" Seto asked.

"You and Ryou Bakura are the best experts on Dueling, correct?"

"There are more, but you probably won't be able to contact them in time. While I may be an expert, I don't advertise as one." Keep to the cover, just keep to the cover as long as you can and until you are certain that you cannot convince someone to believe it, just drop everything and run like hell.

"But you know the game and the players?" Luthor went on impatiently.

"The good ones. It would be close to impossible to have information on every single Duelist in the world. Why do you ask?"

"I found out that while my father was in prison, Duel Monsters caught his eye, as well as the rumors surrounding it, some of which were proven to me yesterday. It's even rumored that he had the help of a Duelist when he broke out of prison. And, according to my injured security guards and your testimony, this Duelist seems to already have tried to kill me. Now, with your knowledge and my access, we can help each other. You can piece together who this 'Rogue Duelist' is and I can ensure that my security can make me as safe as houses when this person attacks. I need you and Mr. Bakura's help to look through my father's files and find out what we both need to know about this Duelist."

This was exactly the break Ryou and Seto needed, but Seto couldn't let Luthor know this. Seto raised his eyebrows. "So you actually believe us."

"I can't dismiss your claims. Those were real monsters, and my security had no toxins in their systems, so they couldn't have been hallucinating. And I know I certainly wasn't hallucinating when that ninja attacked me a few weeks ago or what I saw last night. Will you accept my proposition? I'll even pay you if you desire it."

"Forget the money, Luthor. I have no use for it. Yes, I will look through your files, although I am not speaking for Ryou."

Luthor grinned and shook his head, "You are the first teenager I have ever met that refuses to accept money from a billionaire."

"What about Kent?" Seto asked curiously. It seemed out of character for the Kents to take any form of charity, especially from someone like Lex Luthor.

"His family is too short on money to keep falling back on their pride, although it has been a long and difficult fight to get them to trust me."

"They don't trust you, Luthor. They never will completely trust you." Not as long as they can see your father's shadow in your eyes.

Luthor's mouth thinned and he narrowed his eyes at Seto. "You sure love to push everyone's buttons, don't you?"

Seto smirked, "It's a hobby of mine."

"Your little hobby is going to get you killed one day, Ryuujin. Pass on my message to Mr. Bakura," Luthor got to his feet and strode out the door.

Seto's eyes followed Luthor as he left the Talon. Dueling is the hobby that's going to lead to my death, not goading, he thought darkly as he sipped his bitter drink.

0-0-0-0

Ryou, of course, had been enthusiastic about the possibility of gaining more information on their Rogue Duelist, and they immediately made their way over to the Luthor mansion. The structure of the mansion and gray stones used reminded Seto of a 14th Century castle more than an actual mansion. When he commented to Luthor about this, Luthor nodded.

"It is actually a castle. Dad moved it over here from Scotland, brick by brick."

Seto stared at the castle for a moment and then at the flat, brown landscape of Kansas. It stood out like a diamond among garbage. He then tried to imagine the castle in its true environment of beautiful, rolling green hills and early morning mist and a few errant sheep. "What a waste," Seto murmured.

Ryou nodded slightly in agreement, "A pointless show of wealth."

Luthor either didn't hear their comments or didn't care as he led them inside the grandiose building.

They stepped into the mansion's grand entrance hall and Ryou blinked and softly whistled in admiration at the lavish decorations, but Seto didn't even spare them a glance. Luthor led them up the stairs and through some wooden doors. They walked into what looked like a sitting room. It was comfy, with plush red couches and dark carpeting and a marble statue that looked to be from ancient Rome on the mantle over the fireplace. Besides the intricate chandelier in the center of the room, the statue was the only light-colored object in the room. Dark colors and the red couches hide bloodstains that fabric cleaner can't get out. Seto thought darkly. It was the same reason Gozaburo's office's carpet had been a deep indigo, almost black. He walked up the stairs and also noted that the carpet was a deep scarlet. This place has an interesting history.

Luthor then led them into a large, yet comfortable study, complete with immense bookshelves, a pool table, grand piano, a television, stereo, more red couches, dark carpeting, a fireplace next to the couches, and a bar filled with bottles of liquor. Seto raised an eyebrow at this. Perhaps it was because he was underage, but every one of his offices was empty from any type of liquor. Gozaburo, however, always kept a bottle of scotch ready. Absentmindedly, Seto wondered where Luthor kept the coffee machine.

"The files on my father and his activities in prison are on the desk. If you want to have access to any other file, find me and I'll unlock the drawer if I decide you can view it. Agreed?"

"Yes," Ryou answered.

"If you want anything to eat or drink, there's an intercom on my desk that calls in an assistant. I'd also appreciate if you didn't touch anything in the bar."

Seto smirked, "Of course."

"Good," Luthor turned on his heel and left the study, closing the handsome wooden doors behind him.

Seto strode over to the desk and selected a group of files from the small pile, leaving the others for Ryou.

"Ever looked at police reports before?" Seto asked.

"Are they as monotone as the field reports of digs in Jerusalem?" Ryou asked.

"Worse."

"Wonderful," Ryou groused. "This is going to be a lo-ong day."

"It's going to be one hell of a useful day, you mean," Seto corrected as he sat down on the couch and began to read.

"That too," Ryou admitted, grabbing the rest of the reports and sitting on the couch across from him.

That's how the two Duelists spent the afternoon: reading through the reports, bouncing ideas off of each other, occasionally pacing and gesturing in excitement as they thought they had found another clue to the identity of the Rogue Duelist, sighing in frustration when it was revealed to be a dead end, and sipping from their respective mugs of coffee or tea and nibbling on some fruit salad and chocolate-chip cookies the cooks had brought in. They then had one of the housekeepers bring in a white board and some markers where they drew up a chart of the clues they had gathered.

"All right," Seto announced after they had read through the reports several times. "This is what we have. Luthor Lionel went to jail for the murder of his parents, who he arranged to have them blown up by a member of the mob known as Morgan Edge. Apparently after Luthor Lex found this out, Luthor had a psychotic break and was institutionalized. It is unknown whether this psychotic break was genuine or he was forced to take a drug that instigated a psychotic break. While in the institution, he undergoes an experimental procedure that erases several months of his memory, precisely the timeline where he learned about his grandparent's murders. Sullivan somehow cons Luthor Lionel into admitting his guilt into her voicemail and also testifies at his trial, along with Luthor. Because of their testimonies and a recording of Luthor Lionel admitting his guilt, Luthor Lionel is found guilty. He is facing an indeterminate life sentence at Metropolis City Penitentiary at 25 to life with no chance of parole and he has a failing liver with no cure. Right before the trial can get testimonies from Sullivan and Luthor, Luthor is poisoned and Sullivan and her father are nearly blown up. Luthor Lionel is suspected, but nothing can be proven."

"Of course," Ryou rolled his eyes. Seto smirked.

"They manage to testify at the trial, get Luthor Lionel behind bars, and everyone is happy."

"But-" Ryou added.

"However, Luthor Lionel's liver disease is miraculously cured and he's regained his full health. Therefore, his desire to escape is even more powerful than it was before. It also seems that, like his son, Luthor Lionel has a keen interest in the odd occurrences in Smallville."

"You mean all of the people that get mutated by the radiation from the meteor rocks."

A vein above Seto's eye ticked. "Yes. Of course, we cannot assume that this is just curiosity. There is another reason that drives Luthor Lionel's interest, but it is unknown. Perhaps he thought that it might cure his disease, but he is still interested in it after he's been declared healthy."

"And, according to his accounts—which should be frozen, mind you—there seems to be a few cents missing here and there. He's managing to bribe people, and probably for a variety of reasons. One reason could be to keep information that explains his interest in the alien happenings in this gods forsaken town or how he came into contact with the Rogue Duelist, assuming that he has."

Seto frowned. "There's no other explanation. He didn't finish the job of killing Luthor or Sullivan and wanted to ensure that it would be done. He wants revenge."

"Maybe he doesn't just want revenge, at least, not where Luthor Lex is concerned. It's always different when it comes to family, no matter how bad the relationship between relatives."

Seto tapped his finger on his knee, thinking. "Luthor Lionel grew up in poverty. He then fulfilled the American dream and made himself into an empire. Luthor Lex grew up in wealth. He never got to experience the poverty his father did, and it is well known that parents not only live vicariously through their children, but they also want to pass down the same lessons and values they experienced."

Ryou finished the thought, "But poverty can only be experienced through living it. Because Luthor Lex never experienced it, he couldn't learn one of Luthor Lionel's most important lessons. Eventually, Luthor Lionel grew frustrated."

"It's also rumored that Luthor Lionel's wife was a few cards short of a deck and there are also rumors that Luthor Lionel was unfaithful. Both can be valid. After all, looking at Luthor Lex's track record with women, who do you think he learned from?"

"In the business world Luthor Lex is ruthless, efficient, and merciless. Supposedly his personal life is the same. Let's assume for a moment that Luthor Lionel is the same way, if not more extreme. So, the Luthors have a horrible relationship."

Seto straightened in his seat as an epiphany hit. "Luthor Lionel despises his son."

"What?" Ryou asked.

"It's very possible to love and hate your child. If Luthor Lionel tries to live vicariously through his son and yet his son is throwing his own faults back into his face, Luthor Lionel will subconsciously hate his son. And now his son is freer than the wind while he's rotting in jail. This is more than just revenge; this is years of built up jealousy and rage."

"But why get a Duelist to kill Luthor Lex? Why not just hire a gunman? It's a lot simpler, easier, and less expensive."

"He's already tried with the poison attempt. It didn't work and Luthor Lex is going to be a lot more careful. Luthor Lionel had to approach this from a different angle, and if he is as obsessed with the meteor rocks as I think he is, he knows that somehow, Kent is connected to them. And what's the one thing that can interfere with the meteor rocks?"

"Magic," Ryou breathed. "By the gods, it fits! And who would suspect a game to be able to kill someone?"

"I would," Seto answered.

"It was a rhetorical question."

"I know. But still, I would have."

"So would I. But that's because we're biased."

"Anyways, we've gone over the background information, preliminary, and psychological aspects. But we still haven't solved the most important mystery. We still don't know who the fucking Rogue Duelist is!"

"And we can't trust the records of who visited Luthor Lionel in prison because he bribed people to keep information out!" Ryou threw the files down onto the coffee table in disgust.

"I can find out. But I need a computer."

Ryou looked around the study, which was absent of a computer. "And Luthor Lex didn't leave a computer in here because he doesn't trust us."

"Correct." Seto had considered bringing his laptop, but he didn't want to risk Luthor seeing all of his files that would have blown his alias.

At that moment, the wooden doors to the study opened and Luthor stepped in, carrying a laptop. "Someone call for a computer?" he smirked.

Seto narrowed his eyes, "I knew this room was bugged."

Ryou's eyes widened. "Bugged?"

"I could have been waiting outside the doors," Luthor suggested.

"With a laptop ready in your hands? I doubt it."

"You mean he was spying on us?" Ryou asked Seto.

"Of course. He probably has security cameras in every room in this mansion," Seto commented, taking the laptop from Luthor and sitting down on the couch. He turned on the laptop and quickly typed onto the prison's website. Luthor and Ryou moved closer to peer over his shoulder as he worked. Seto spared a glance at Luthor before continuing. Ryou, he knew, wouldn't have any idea of what he was doing, but Luthor's knowledge of computers might prove dangerous.

"If you hack in, can you erase your tracks?" Luthor asked as Seto went back to work.

"Of course. It's the first thing I learned," Seto scoffed at Luthor's ridiculous question.

A few minutes later he was accessing the prison's accounts and visitation records. Luthor whistled in appreciation.

"You work fast."

"I make sure to. You never know who could be working against you, so the only thing you can ensure is that you work faster than they do."

In just another minute, he was accessing Luthor Lionel's visitation records, the ones he and Ryou had looked at. He paused and turned to Luthor. "I have a question. I assume that you were able to get this far by yourself. Why do you need us?" Why do you need me?

"Because, if I was discovered, my father would recognize my style."

"Hackers have different styles?" Ryou asked.

"Just like painters."

Seto raised an eyebrow. "It's not as drastic as that. But I think there's another reason you needed us." With a few keystrokes he was in the original visitation records, the ones that hadn't been tampered with. "You didn't have the skill to do this."

Luthor's eyes widened as he stared at the computer screen. "How did you-?"

Seto smirked. "It's a secret." He scanned over the information, easily locating the missing time slots. "It seems that your father was visited by a major gaming company in China, GameWave Industries."

"How do you know?" Ryou asked.

Seto pointed a finger at a name under 9:03-9:15 pm visitor. "Zhi Jin is the vice president of the company. They're a competitor of Kaiba Corporation, the top game company in Japan," he added for Luthor's benefit.

"Why would a Chinese gaming company be visiting my father?"

"The same reason you're on a Rogue Duelist's hit list. Luthor Lionel is paying them enough money that they hired an uncontrolled, possibly unstable Duelist to kill two birds with one stone. Luthor's demands, and Duel Monster's reputation."

"Isis and Hathor! If Luthor-san and Chloe-san are killed by a person playing Duel Monsters, it would lose all of its popularity and credibility! Companies that support Duel Monsters could go bankrupt!" Ryou gasped.

"And then GameWave would sweep in and grab all of the customers Duel Monsters lost," Luthor finished.

"It's a brilliant plan," Seto mused as he closed down the site and neatly covered his tracks. He shut down the computer and handed it back to Luthor.

"If not insane," Ryou pointed out.

"Yes, but brilliance is often driven by insanity."

"It's rather far-fetched and expensive," Luthor frowned.

"Not really. Duel Monsters has been receiving bad press in the last few months, and if the Rogue Duelist is as unstable as I think she is, then GameWave and Luthor Lionel are not spending as much as they could be."

"Why do you think this 'rogue duelist' of yours is crazy?" Luthor asked.

"Her Deck is radically unbalanced. The cards don't fit or play well against the other. She has water monsters working side-by-side with fire monsters. Polar opposites don't achieve much when they're forced to fight together," Seto explained.

"Then why is she giving you such a hard time? Can't you just use this against her?"

"The insane are the worst people to fight. They're not logical, they attack when the wind changes, and they do anything to win. She has strong enough monsters that she could win by power alone if she utilized her Deck correctly. And she's intelligent enough to do that."

"She also has surprise on her side and she is able to attack over long distances," Ryou continued.

"Do you have any idea when she will attack next?"

Ryou shook his head. "We only know that it's going to be soon, it's going to be her last attack, and it's going to be big. Really big."

Luthor frowned. "How much damage can these monsters inflict?"

"The holograms themselves can produce shock waves powerful enough to knock someone off a tall building. With a real monster…think Godzilla. With a bazooka in each hand and an invulnerable skin," Seto said.

Luthor whistled. "Can't bullets stop them?"

"The less powerful ones, yes. But when it gets to 1000 defense points, you'd need a tank and ballistic missiles. When it gets to 2000, only other Duel Monsters can stop them," Ryou told him.

"That's some weapon you have under your belts."

Seto smirked and Ryou nodded. Seto's dragons rumbled in appreciation at the compliment.

"How powerful do these monsters get?" Luthor asked.

"I've seen one with infinite attack and defense points," Seto answered.

Luthor raised an eyebrow. "How did you defeat it?"

"I didn't. Someone else did."

Luthor seemed to catch the tiny hint of respect in Seto's tone. "Sounds like a worthy opponent."

Seto chuckled, "You have no idea."


A/N: Ummm, it's only been a few months? Hee hee...

Ok, so real life (which includes school and applying for colleges) got in the way, as well as my muse got lost when she was trampeled by a herd of lemmings and then taken as their sacrificial goddess. It was a rather uncomfortable set of circumstances involving nudity and Pokey that she'd rather not talk about. Ever.

I am very, very sorry for the delay and it probably will happen again. One must be patient with someone as frivolous and whimsical as I am.

About Luthor still being the bad guy and Chloe being scared of him, I think the Smallville producers are severel deranged for convieniently forgetting that Lionel Luthor confessed, was jailed, and then sentenced to death for the murder of his parents. How could all of the characters just forget that and start trusting Lionel again? I certainly don't and Lionel may be trying to change, but no one can really change as fully and quickly as Lionel has. It's ridiculous. So he's still the bad guy to me. Lex is getting to be the bad guy, and Chloe should recieve some of the consequences of her thoroughly stupid actions. I may like her, but she was still somewhat of an idiot, and a lucky one at that. The shows never talks about her father anymore, so I'm wondering how he's been affected. I also am not watching Smallville anymore because it's gotten ridiculous and thoroughly unbelievable instead of somewhat unbelievable and has immensly horrible acting. I've pretty much grown out of it. I'm still gonna write it, but I'm gonna ignore a lot of things and take more from the comics than from the show. The show's pretty much destroyed the comics and that upset's me a bit. Okay, maybe a lot.

Also, I'm almost done with this fic. I just have about two chapters to go and theyre sort of partly written (i wrote them looong before I started writing the middle so they have a lot of inconsistancies): the final battle and then the epilogue. it's going to be packed with lots of Dueling, which means lots of delays and painful writing for me because I can't write Duels to save my life. I suck at strategy and cards and this might possibly be the worst fandom ever for me to write...but it's the only one I can write. If there's anyone out there who would love to help me, I'd gladly accept any offers.