Disclaimer: I don't own any Yu-gi-oh characters or plots.
Note: Reviewer responses are at the end of the chapter this time.
The tournament hall was in a converted ballroom on the lobby level of the hotel. The lobby floor was huge. The bank of elevators Seto chose was far from the front desk. The only other person in the elevator with them was Angus. He and Seto spoke low voiced to each other on the ride down. Serenity pretended an interest in the seam of the elevator doors. Her hand brushed the fabric of her gown. She really should have changed, she thought dully. A party dress was hardly appropriate attire for being handed over like a sacrificial lamb to a pack of murderous kidnappers.
At the floor above the lobby, Angus left the elevator, leaving them alone. Serenity could feel Seto looking at her, but didn't turn around, and when the elevator doors opened on the lobby, she stepped out and waited for him. He took her arm and pulled her to the left, away from the registration area. She stole a glance at his face. It was set, determined, but also completely calm. He was back to using what she'd dubbed to herself as his 'poker playing' face. It was so like Joey's game playing expression that she felt her heart lurch within her.
She'd most likely be joining him soon. She couldn't delude herself that her life was anywhere near as important as Mokuba's was to Seto. Mokuba was his brother, and Seto would do anything for him. That was exactly as it should be, so why did it hurt so much?
They came to the doors leading to the tournament hall. On placards in front of them were signs in English, Japanese and several other languages proclaiming the tournament matches start and end times. The first two pairs of doors Seto tried were locked, but the third opened easily. He pulled the door back and stepped aside for her to walk through. As she came level to him, she paused and whispered softly, "I want you to know, whatever happens, I understand. I love Mokuba too."
Then she was past him, taking care not to look at his face. He followed closely behind her, taking her arm as he had when escorting her to and from the dinner earlier that night.
It seemed, she reflected dully, like that dinner had been a lifetime ago.
The tournament hall was mostly dark. Someone had left maybe a quarter of the available recessed ceiling lights on so there were little pockets of light in the dimness. The room had square tables with pairs of chairs scattered around the middle. Areas for spectators were partitioned off with dark colored cords around the outside rim of the tournament area. Seto unhooked a cord and ushered her through past the tables and toward a dais at one end of the room with a long table in the middle. It was presumably where the judges and moderators would be seated. The table did not take up the whole dais. Someone had tried to counter the austerity of the hall by placing patterned folding partitions behind the table with fake vaguely tropical looking plants at the sides. Over the tops of the partitions, Serenity could see the top lintels of another pair of doors, one on either side of the dais.
They were half way across the room, weaving their way between tournament tables, when a voice with a Japanese accent, spoke.
"That is far enough."
A young man, familiar looking, dressed in a tuxedo, stepped out from behind the partition, and walked slowly, insolently, to the center of the dais. Following him was the largest, strongest, Japanese man Serenity had ever seen. He was built like a tank; head set on shoulders any linebacker in the NFL would have been proud of, with legs the width of tree trunks. With one of his hands he grasped the shoulder of Mokuba, who was walking, just barely, under his own power. Even at a distance in the dim light, Serenity could see that the child was weaving, hardly able to walk a straight line. He'd been drugged.
She let out a little sound of involuntary sympathy, and felt Seto's hand tighten on her arm. She looked over at the tuxedo clad young Japanese man on the dais, who'd stepped deliberately into a patch of light, and recognized him.
"Yoshi Takahashi" she breathed.
He heard her, and, there was no other word for it, preened. "You brought the woman. Good."
"I brought her." Agreed Seto, and pulled Serenity in more closely to his side. "What do you plan to do with her?"
Takahashi laughed, crossed his arms, and lifted his chin. "What you could not. I plan to get the secrets Joey Wheeler left behind."
"What secrets?" asked Seto quietly.
Takahashi uncrossed his arms and leaned forward to hiss. "Don't take me for a fool, Kaiba. I know your research into the Minoan game. You're close to finding out what the game was really for. I, too, read the article on the inscription. 'The power to rule over the earth' wasn't it? Whatever that power is, I want it, and with the girl I will get it."
"You're the heir to one of the richest companies in Japan. Why bother with an ancient Minoan secret? Your father would give you ask for, and someday you'll rule his company. What more could you possibly want?"
Takahashi's face twisted. "What do you know about it? You got your father's company when you were in college! You never had to wait for power. I'm sick of waiting. I won't wait. With the secrets of the Minoans, perhaps I'll start my own company. Perhaps I'll take my father's company instead of waiting for him to hand it over when I'm 'wise enough to handle it'".
Takahashi snapped his fingers. The large man walked to the edge of the dais, pulling Mokuba with him. "You're stalling for time. It won't work. I have your brother. You have the girl. We make the trade now."
"How do I know you'll hold up your end of the bargain?" asked Seto.
Takahashi flicked a hand toward the sky and looked bored. "I want the girl, not the brat. When I have her I'll leave. Oh, and I expect you to lose to me at the tournament tomorrow."
Seto's voice grew low, intense. "What makes you think I won't go to the police?"
"Because you stole her in the first place." Takahashi smiled.
Serenity gasped. How could he have possibly known that? At her gasp, Takahashi shifted his attention to her.
"She is not so stupid as I had heard. Already she realizes what you do not." He moved toward the left of the dais. Behind the partition, Serenity saw the top edge of a door open and close.
"While you have been so cleverly stalling for time, I have been merely indulging you." He stopped and grinned broadly. "Meet my new chief of security, and his assistant."
From behind the partition, Angus and Fergus stepped onto the dais. Both had guns in their hands, and Serenity saw with a shudder, that there were cylinders attached to the barrels. Silencers. Any shots fired in the tournament hall would not be heard by anyone in the lobby.
"Ah" Seto's reaction to the sight of his trusted security chief was an angry, indrawn breath. He also squeezed Serenity's arm hard.
Takahashi laughed again. Serenity was beginning to really hate that laugh. "So you see, Kaiba, you are really out of time and options."
Seto took a step forward, ignoring the barbs, and set his sights on Angus. "I hope he's paying you well."
Angus opened his mouth to speak but was pre-empted by Takahashi, who stepped directly in front of the Scotsman to answer for him.
"Of course I'm paying him well! Do you think I rely only on my father for money? My mother's father died last year and left me his fortune. It may not be what I will get on my father's death, but it's more than sufficient to pay double the salary you pay! - Plus a bonus for assisting me in getting the girl. Added to what I've already paid for information about your little investigation into Gustaf Larson and your computer program to decipher the game chip codes, I will have bought their loyalty for several lifetimes over," said Takahashi smugly.
"If you have to buy it, it's not loyalty."
"Pretty words," sneered the Japanese boy, "but not practical. Now hand over the girl."
"Wait!" Seto's voice was sharp, commanding. He stepped left, pulling Serenity with him, so that he could look around the Japanese man to see Angus. "Where is Liam?"
"Dead." Angus dropped the word like a rock into a pond before Takahashi could interrupt.
"You killed your own man?" Seto posed it as a question, but it was really a statement, a cold, contemptuous statement.
Angus didn't bother to reply. He didn't look at all sorry or embarrassed either. Serenity found that incredible somehow. She hadn't killed anybody, and Seto's words weren't even directed toward her, but that tone of voice had her cringing in reaction.
"Actually, it was the one called Finn, I believe, who killed him." Takahashi moved left as well, causing Serenity to realize that he was purposely blocking Seto's view of Angus again. The man was absolutely insane about being the center of attention. If he wasn't so dangerous, and completely without morals, she would have found it pitiful. "Oh and by the way, if you were counting on a particular wounded soldier to help you, I wouldn't."
In the darkened audience area at the back of the hall, something moved forward. Finn, his head wound gone, trudged through several pools of light to mount the dais and stand with Angus and Fergus.
"I am very happy to have Mr. Finn on my security team." Bragged Takahashi. "I understand he is very skilled in interrogation. It is amazing how much pain he can generate. He is supposed to be a master at it. I look forward to viewing his work." Takahashi turned and bowed slightly to Finn who inclined his head in acknowledgement.
It was as if Takahashi was discussing viewing a painting or a sculpture. That was when Serenity knew they were beaten. Takahashi wasn't like a normal human being. He was everything she'd mistakenly thought Seto was – cold, pitiless, uncaring, and supremely selfish.
"Now," Takahashi turned back to Seto. "Send the girl to me, and Tanaka here will send your brother to you once she reaches us."
Takahashi's mouth opened and closed, rather like an unattractive fish, thought Serenity inconsequentially.
"I will not hand a woman over to be tortured." said Seto with finality.
Serenity wrenched her arm from his grasp, and ran around a nearby table, keeping it between her and Seto. He'd grabbed at her as she slipped away, but hadn't caught her. He started around the table, but stopped when she spoke.
"Don't. I'll scream. I'm the only one here with nothing to lose by alerting the police and everyone in the lobby." She shifted to face the dais. "If you want me, you have to release Mokuba first."
Takahashi's face grew ugly with anger. "You will learn your place, woman. You do not dictate to me."
"If you want me, set Mokuba down. I'll start walking, we'll pass each other mid way. By the time I reach you, he'll be with his brother. Just like they do it in the movies. You do watch movies don't you?"
"Hmmm." Takahashi appeared to be thinking it over. "The movies? You Americans are obsessed with movies." He sneered, and continued. "As you say, the way they do it in the movies."
"Fine, but you have to drop your weapons."
Once Serenity realized the extent of Takahashi's sociopathic personality, it was easy for her to second-guess him. He might just be arrogant enough to let Seto live so that he could beat him in the tournament tomorrow, but he had no real reason other than that to keep Seto alive, and even less reason for allowing Mokuba to live. There was also that computer program Seto was running. How could Takahashi be sure that Seto wouldn't discover the secret of the Minoan game independently? Even if he had her, and a copy of the program, he wouldn't want any competition in getting the secret. She couldn't count on his desire to humiliate Seto overcoming his need for attention, for being first in everything.
"No!" Angus' response to Serenity's demand was quick, and a mistake.
Takahashi turned quick as a snake and reprimanded him. "I make the decisions. I say drop your weapons."
Reluctantly, Angus and Fergus let their guns fall, and Finn took his out and dropped it on the dais as well. Serenity heaved a sigh of relief. She'd given Seto and Mokuba a chance. She had no illusions. Once she reached the dais, they'd just pick up their guns and try to shoot Seto and Mokuba, but Seto was fast. Maybe he could reach the door with Mokuba before they could shoot. It was what she was counting on.
Takahashi snarled an order at Tanaka, who lowered a groggy Mokuba down to the floor from the dais, and stepped back. Mokuba rubbed his eyes, saw Seto, and started forward instinctively, but slowly. Serenity took a step forward for every one Mokuba managed, to show good faith.
She flinched at Seto's soft voice, but kept going.
"You don't have to do this."
Mokuba tottered, and nearly fell, grabbing a nearby chair.
"Yes I do," she stole a look over her shoulder at him as Mokuba regained his balance. "Besides, I was going to die anyway, remember?" she whispered, and took another step as Mokuba did.
They met in the center of the tables.
"Serenity? Is the dinner over?" Mokuba asked, blinking at her and swaying.
Ignoring Takahashi hiss of impatience, Serenity knelt by Mokuba, and hugged him.
"Yes, honey. The dinner is over, and Seto's back. You go to him, as fast as you can, OK?" She pulled back, saw him nod solemnly, and stood, looking back over her shoulder so she could take a step when he did.
She was almost to the dais, and Mokuba was almost to Seto when it happened. Angus dropped to the floor and grabbed his gun.
"What are you doing?" shouted Takahashi "I did not tell you to…"
A shot rang out, and a hole appeared in the middle of Angus' forehead. Tanaka dove for his boss, covering Takahashi's body with his own, and nearly smothering him in the process.
After that, things happened very fast. Serenity had whipped around to see where the shot had come from. She saw Seto throw himself over his little brother, and drag him under a table. Another shot, coming from under a nearby table, hit the dais where Finn was reaching for his weapon. Finn screamed, and jumped back, his hand bloody.
Fergus rolled off the dais and tried to dodge around the side, but there were men there suddenly. Japanese men in suits, with those little microphones in their ears, and they dog-piled on Fergus as two others jumped out from behind the partition and grabbed Finn.
It was like a "Men in Black" convention, thought Serenity hysterically. She was still standing near the dais, waiting to get shot. Everyone else seemed to be getting shot, why not her? She sensed movement and turned to her right to see a distinguished looking older Japanese gentleman in a tuxedo walk slowly, ponderously around the fake tropical tree and onto the dais. He stopped by where Tanaka huddled over Yoshi Takahashi and stared down with a look of such sadness on his face that Serenity was shaken from her inertia, and stepped back.
'He should be smiling,' she thought to herself, trying to place him, and then she remembered the last time she'd seen him, at the dinner. He'd been smiling then. He was Takahashi Senior, the man who owned one of the largest electronics firms in Japan. He was Yoshi's father.
The senior Takahashi glanced up at her kindly, then turned his gaze past her. Serenity swiveled to see what he was looking at and saw Seto, rising from the floor where a sobbing Mokuba clung to his arm. She also saw, beyond him, the tablecloth on one of the tournament tables flip up. Dan, grasping a hand gun in his right hand, crawled out from under it and knelt, holding both hands in the air as one of Takahashi senior's black clad security men rushed over to him, and took the gun from him. Judging by the smoke rising from the gun's barrel, Dan was the one who shot Angus and Finn. But why was Dan under the table in the first place? How had he known to be there?
"Mr. Kaiba. I thank you for your phone call. It looks like I was just in time." Takahashi had a much stronger accent than his son, but his diction was perfect.
Seto stood, and placed an arm around Mokuba's shoulders. "I didn't doubt it for a moment, Takahashi-San."
The older man smiled sadly. "My son will be dealt with. He will not bother you or anyone else ever again."
Serenity gasped; she couldn't help it. Was he going to kill his own son?
He heard her, and glanced at her, evidently guessing what she was thinking from her horrified expression. He smiled sadly.
"My wife spent her last years in an asylum in Switzerland. It has the best psychiatric care in Europe. Over the years we have developed quite a relationship with them, and my company has funded several of their studies. Yoshi will be cared for very well there."
"Oh." It was a lame response, but all Serenity could come up with.
"I am sorry, Takahashi-San." Seto said formally.
"It is I who must apologize to you. If there is ever anything that my family can do for you, Mr. Kaiba, you have but to ask."
Distracted by the noises coming from underneath Tanaka, Mr. Takahashi said something in Japanese that had him rolling off Yoshi Takahashi, and pulling the gasping, coughing young man off the dais and out of the room. Yoshi'd had the wind knocked out of him by Tanaka's tackle.
"There is something you could do." Seto said reflectively.
Takahashi senior lifted his gaze to Seto. "Name it, and it is done."
Seto turned his head toward Dan, who'd put his hands, fingers linked, on top of his head and was still kneeling on the floor, watched by one of the men in black who held his gun.
"My man killed the traitor on my security team and wounded another. This could cause him certain legal difficulties. I would appreciate any assistance you could give him in this matter. I wouldn't like to lose such a valuable employee to the Tokyo judicial system."
Takahashi sighed. "For better or worse, the police in this country are not like the police in yours. Things can be….arranged. By the time the tournament is over, your man will be cleared of all charges, and the dead man will be just another statistic in the unsolved crimes of a very crime ridden city. I take it you would prefer the two others to be…incarcerated?"
Seto nodded curtly. "That would be most satisfactory."
"Then there is nothing more to be done here tonight. Konnichi-wa, Mr. Kaiba." Takahashi said something quietly in his own language to his security team, smiled again at Serenity, stuck his hands in his pockets, and walked around the partition. His men followed, with Finn and Fergus in tow.
The last black clad security man tried to hand Dan's gun back to him, but Dan waved it away. The man nodded, spoke to him quietly in English, and gestured to him to follow Takahashi. Dan nodded soberly and began to move toward the dais.
"You can trust Takahashi's lawyers." Seto called to him. "Hurry back when you're done. I need you back on my team."
Dan nodded. "Thanks," he said, and continued on, but Serenity thought his step was lighter than before.
Then they were gone. Mokuba's crying had degraded to the sleepy hiccoughy stage. The lights were still dim, and most of the room left in patches of darkness. It was, Serenity decided, surreal. Soon, she knew, the police would come, the lights would be turned on, and the investigation and questions would start. Then, remembering what Mr. Takahashi had said about the police, and what the mayor had said in his speech quite blatantly about how fiscally advantageous the tournament was for his city, she decided that perhaps the lights would brighten only long enough to clean up the mess.
Seto took Mokuba by the hand and led him to where Serenity stood. As she'd twisted back and forth between Seto and Takahashi, following their conversation, a piece of her hair had fallen across her cheek. Seto reached out and gently smoothed it back, concentrating on it as if it were a crucial move in the Minoan game.
"I told you, you didn't have to do that," he said chidingly.
"Yes I did." She repeated her earlier words. "I didn't know you had a plan. How did you…?" She lifted her hands helplessly; unsure of which part of what he'd done she wanted to know about first.
Seto took a breath, and began. "I started getting suspicious about Angus when he said Murphy had told him our meeting was changed the night someone tried to shoot out my tire. Then Murphy conveniently disappeared. I was already uneasy when I'd asked him to arrange a meeting between me and your brother, and the same afternoon Joey was killed in an accident. Then there was Larson's death in the hospital. It seemed as though someone was determined to thwart me at every turn. When Mokuba was…" Serenity saw Seto's hand tighten on his brother's, "taken again. I knew it had to be Angus."
"Because he was the one who didn't want Dan hired on the security team, and tried to change my mind when I chose him to replace Murphy on the team going to Japan. Everyone else on the team had been hand picked by him. Besides, Angus had been pressuring me to interrogate you more forcefully. He was nearly desperate about it, and he's never been desperate about anything before. Taking Mokuba was an act of desperation. He knew I'd hunt him down and kill him if he ever did anything like that. He had to be acting under someone else's orders. On the way to Japan, I had my financial staff investigate, and they found substantial deposits from Yoshi Takahashi to Angus's Swiss bank accounts. I pretended to be suspicious of Dan, and to give him busywork while Angus was listening. Then I went to the bathroom and called Yoshi's father on his cellphone to tell him of my suspicions. Takahashi lives on the far side of Tokyo. He asked that I stall his son until he could get his team here. So I did."
Serenity was reeling with all the information. "Why didn't you tell me?" She was appalled at how hurt she sounded.
"From the time Mokuba was kidnapped, he never left me alone with you, and as one of my few remaining bodyguards, I had to make him think I still trusted him and wanted him by my side."
"Oh." It seemed to be her day for lame responses. She looked down at Mokuba, who was practically asleep on his feet, leaning against his brother. It reminded her.
"What will happen to Dan?" She resolutely did not look at the body still lying on the dais. Instead she looked into Seto's eyes, and saw an expression there that she was shocked to realize was jealousy.
"He'll be fine," said Seto gruffly. "Forget Dan." he commanded, then stepped forward, put his arm around her waist, and kissed her thoroughly.
When it was over, she was breathless, leaning helplessly against his chest. He kissed the hair at her temple, and held her.
It was decision time. Serenity found that she'd already made hers.
"The Minoan game was a template for sound weaponry." She spoke into his neck. Giving in seemed easier somehow if she didn't have to look in his face.
"The game board was like a map. The gamechip's markings corresponded to different board maps and each chip was like a whistle. I think each one had a different tone, for different types of weak spots in the earth's crust. Remember those wall paintings in museums of those big long horns the Minoans had? Everyone thought they were for ceremonial music, but Joey thought they'd somehow mapped out weak spots in the tectonic plates – floors of volcanoes, rifts in the earth, stuff like that. Then they'd go to the weak spot and blow the horn with the particular tone that would cause that plate to shift. They could control earthquakes that way, by knowing where to sound the tone, and what tone would make that particular plate shift. Joey thought they tried to wipe out the island of Thera, their trade rivals, that way but messed up and caused a tsunami which wiped out their island as well. That's the secret."
Seto's arm tightened around her, and she felt his breath against her forehead. "Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because I trust you. Because I think I've fallen in love with you."
She pulled back a little to look at him. "But I'm not telling you everything, you know. I promised Joey I wouldn't, and even if he was wrong about you, a promise is a promise. He gave my the mathematical formula that converts the game board and chip inscriptions to actual map coordinates and, I think even sound tones, though he hadn't guessed that the chips themselves were whistle simulations of the tones. So even if I love you, I'm still not telling."
She lifted her chin defiantly, and thought of the other piece of the puzzle Joey got from Larson. The real Minoan gameboards had been multilayered, set in wooden trays, probably to signify the exact depth of the earth's weak points. The wooden trays all decomposed the instant oxygen hit them, but Larson had seen them in the moment he entered the Minoan chamber, and he'd never forgot, and told Joey about it.
Seto regarded her seriously for a moment. "Even if you love me," he repeated softly, "I wouldn't want you to break your promise. Besides, we get enough earthquakes without causing more. If Yoshi Takahashi has done nothing else, he showed me insanity of wanting power for power's sake. That's somewhere I don't want to go."
He placed his hand on top of Mokuba's head.
"I almost lost my family today because of this secret." He said reflectively. "I don't think it's worth it." He looked back at Serenity.
"Keep your secret. The only ones left who know about the program and my suspicions about the game are dead now or will be in jail or an insane asylum by the end of the day. Except for you, of course."
"So you're not going to kill me or put me in jail or an insane asylum?" she asked, knowing that she was teasing him, actually teasing Seto Kaiba.
"No, to keep your secret safe though, I think I'll have to marry you."
"What did you just say?" asked Serenity wonderingly, not sure if she heard correctly.
"Marry me." It was a demand, urgent, serious, and it woke Mokuba.
"What's going on?" he asked complainingly, pushing back from Seto's side to look up at him.
"I'm asking Serenity to marry me."
Mokuba wrinkled his nose. "Well it's about time! What took you so long?"
And that was how Serenity Wheeler became engaged to Seto Kaiba. Despite having to be interviewed by the police, Seto did end up playing in the Tokyo tournament. Yoshi Takahashi withdrew from the tournament amid rumor and wild speculations. Seto refused to comment when reporters asked him for his reaction to Yoshi's withdrawal.
He made it almost all the way to the top, beating the new kid, Bobby Taylor, and Kenji Kanazawa (who made it to third place), but lost to Yugi Moto, who played his heart out.
Used to the way Joey would get depressed after a defeat, Serenity asked Seto if he minded losing. Seto merely looked at her, and taking her hand, pressed it flat against his chest.
"I deserved to lose. Yugi Moto won because he gave his whole heart to the game. My heart was already lost, to you."
A/N: I know, I know, the ending was overly sentimental and completely OOC for Seto, but I couldn't resist. As for the Minoan Game secret, I sincerely doubt that blowing horns near tectonic plates can cause them to shift, but it makes for a great theory about why the Minoan civilization declined. Sound wave research has been done with weapons applications in recent years, however the sound waves generated from these devices are directed at humans, not the ground. So the Minoan Game's secret is just science fiction, and not very probable fiction at that.
Notes to Reviewers:
Blu.lotus – Why thank you! I don't know about deserving more reviews, but I'm very grateful for the ones that I do get. I'm glad you enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story, and I hope the ending didn't disappoint you.
Sakurelle – Just for you, I updated before leaving for vacation at the end of the week. I just couldn't leave you in suspense over Mokuba.
Bluedragonflyofdestiny – I know, poor Mokuba always gets to be the means by which enemies get to Seto, but at least he made it out alive. I tried to bring out the familial bonds as much as possible in my story, because I always thought it was really cute how Seto tried to be so aloof in the anime series, yet he always had a soft spot for his brother.
IrethAncalime3791 – Ack! You guessed the traitor in your last review. Sigh. I guess I was a bit transparent. I plead 'it was my first fanfiction' as my excuse. P.S. You're welcome for the review!
B.E.W.DwarriorPrincess – Sorry, I don't have a sequel planned. Since I'm marrying off Seto and Serenity at the end of the story I sort of planned to leave it at 'and they lived happily ever after'. Plus, I've been mostly writing Rurouni Kenshin fanfics for the past year so I'm horribly out of practice at Yu-gi-oh stories.
Jean-Luc Lover – Ack! Like IrethAncalime3791, you too guessed my plot twist! Sigh. I've really got to work on being less predictable. I hope you liked the ending. P.S. I read your profile, and I'm so with you on hating Quarterly Tax Returns – (I also despise Car Insurance Payments too)
WolfDaughter – Your instincts were right about Dan and Angus. I hope the ending wasn't too predictable! Thanks for reading. You're a real trooper to muddle through my non-RK story, especially since it was my first fanfic and I didn't really know what I was doing.