Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Yu Gi Oh! characters, merchandise, whatever. (pout) There, I said it. Are you happy now?
A/N: This idea has been floating 'round my head for a while, and I thought all of you folks might enjoy it. (is excited) This is going to be fun!
Rating: T for violence, swearing, and a few other things. As I am not psychic (Psycho, maybe...), I don't know if I will need to raise the rating in the future or not. If I do, I shall.
The name of this story comes from a line of the song Away by the band Nightwish. "Away, away, away in time, every dream's a journey away. Away, away, to a home away from care, everywhere's just a journey away..."
After successfully writing a romance story, I can no longer deny the fact that deep down, I am a hopeless romantic.So, though nothing major will probably happen, if you think you see anything going on between Seto and Serenity, Joey and Mai, Yugi and Téa, and (in much later chapters) Mokuba and Rebecca, well, you're probably right.
Thanks to my friend Necro (necromancy14 of LiveJournal) for betaing this!
Let's get this show on the road!
"Many, many years ago, there was a mighty warrior. He was the bravest in the land, and, with is magic sword by his side, he traveled to many places, doing many great deeds. He had much renown, and villains would quiver at the mention of his name."
"But then he met the farm girl, right big brother? And they fell in love and settled down and got married and–"
"I'm getting there, kid. And you're getting ahead of yourself a little bit. He has to meet her before they can fall in love or get married."
"Now, do you want me to continue?"
"Good. Where was I? Oh, yes… There was also a beautiful peasant girl, who was raised on a farm in the country. Her family was very poor, but she was happy. One day, she was out for a walk in the woods, gathering mushrooms for her mother to make into supper, when she was kidnapped by evil men. Robbers, scoundrels, thieves the lot of them, they took her away to a place where she would never see her friends or family again."
"But big brother, you said that she was very poor. Why would they kidnap her if they couldn't get any money from her?"
"Er, well, she was very beautiful…"
"Erm… Never mind, kid. I'll tell you when you're older, okay?"
"…I don't understand."
"…Anyway, they took her away, and she was very frightened. She was sure that they would do all sorts of terrible things to her, and that she would be killed before the night was through."
"But then the warrior came in with his magic sword and saved the day, and all the robbers went crying home to their mothers! Right, big brother?"
"Uh… Yeah, something like that. And the girl was very grateful, and she thanked the warrior many times. And the warrior was astounded by her beauty, and for the first time in his life he wondered what it would be like to give up his wandering nature and settle down.
"He took her home to her family, who were also very grateful. They offered him any reward that he wanted, that they had the power to give, but he refused. They requested that he at the very least stay the night, and so he did. And he stayed for the next night, too, and the next, and the thought of leaving never crossed his mind.
"It wasn't long before he and the beautiful farm girl had fallen in love, and he asked her father for her hand."
"Her hand? Why would he just want her hand?"
"It's a figure of speech, kid. It means he wanted permission to marry her."
"Oh. Why did he need permission?"
"Because… I don't know. It's just the way things are done."
"Do you want me to continue the story or not?"
"Sorry, big brother. I'll be quiet now."
"All right, good. So, he asked her father for her hand, and he was given it gladly. He and the girl were married soon afterwards, and they were very happy. When their first son was born, there was much rejoicing in the village they had settled down in, and everyone was content."
"What was the son's name?"
"I thought you were going to be quiet and let me tell the story?"
"Oops… Sorry, big brother. Keep going."
"The son's name was Seto, and he was a very promising boy. He showed signs of great intelligence at a very early age, and he was always trying to lift his father's sword. Everyone was sure that he would become a mighty warrior, greater even then his father, and that his destiny would be grand.
"For a long time, everyone was happy. As soon as he was old enough, young Seto trained with his father everyday. He was determined to live up to his family name, and make his parents proud.
"When he was five years old, his mother had another child, a boy named Mokuba. Seto was very protective of his little brother, and he loved him very much. And for a while they were happy, and everything was good."
"Just for a while?"
"Yes. For soon, everything that they had known and loved would be turned upside-down…"
Seto shaded his eyes as he looked out at the fields in front of him. The sun was hot on his skin, and sweat dripped down into his eyes. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and focused his attention back on the field. His father had promised to train with him as soon as he was done helping the farmers plow the fields.
The small boy blinked in the harsh light, then grinned. His father had noticed him, and was waving in his direction. He must be almost finished. Seto raced off towards him.
He dodged around several of the other farmers, being careful not to get in the way of their plows. He had seen what the machines did to the land, and he didn't want to end up looking like a newly plowed field.
"Father! Father, are you almost finished?" he called excitedly as he neared the burly man.
"Almost son, almost," his father laughed. "I just need to finish this row, and then I'm done."
"Good. You promised to show me something new today, remember?"
"How could I forget? You've been reminding me all day!"
"Well, it's important!"
"Of course it is. Did I say it wasn't?"
"Well, there you are then."
"Well, hurry up!"
The man laughed again. He bent down, scooped his young son up, and settled him on his shoulders. "Yes, sir!"
"That's it, Seto, that's it. One, two, three, highblock, lowblock, jump and strike!"
Seto dropped back to the ground, landing in a crouch and swinging his wooden practice sword at his father's legs. His father blocked the blow with the long stick that he used when teaching his son. His own sword would have sliced the boy's weapon in half.
With a shout, Seto rebounded, leaping into the air and striking his father on his ribs. He was about to whoop in triumph when a sharp blow was delivered to his back.
He dropped to the ground, winded. His father grinned, kneeling down next to him.
He nodded, still trying to catch his breath.
"That was very good, Seto. You're doing an incredible job for someone your age. Just remember to keep your guard up. Don't let yourself become so engrossed in your achievements that you fail to see the sword aiming for your back."
The child scrambled onto his knees, digging the tip of the practice sword into the ground to help him regain his feet. "Right," he said, and raised his sword into the ready position. "Let's go."
His father looked at him, pleased with his determination. He turned to look out at the horizon. The sun was beginning to set over the trees, turning the sky a bright pink, tinged with orange. It was getting late; his wife would be worried if they didn't return home soon.
He turned to face his son again. "I'm sorry, Seto. It's getting late. We need to be getting back."
"Come now, you don't want your mother to worry, do you?"
The six-year-old scuffed his foot in the dirt, looking down at the ground. "No," he mumbled.
"Seto, listen to me," said his father, his voice gentle. "You can't spend every minute of your life training, son. You'll forget what you're fighting for in the first place. You need to take some time to relax, and enjoy life while you can. You never how long you'll be able to."
The small boy looked up at him. "I just want to be like you."
His father smiled. "I know you do. And you will be, and I'll be very proud. But in the mean time, you need to remember that there's more to life than being able to wield a sword. Never forget that, son."
Seeing the still-glum look on Seto's face, he added, "Tell you what. You and I can stay here and practice for as long as you want… But if we do, we might not make it back before your mother puts Mokuba to bed."
Horror spread on the little boy's face, just as his father had known it would. "But then I won't be able to play with him! I always play with him before Mama sings him to sleep!"
"Well, that's the sacrifice you've got to make…"
Seto was already racing towards the village. He stopped at the edge of the clearing that they used for their practices. "Come on! We don't want to be late!"
With a small chuckle, the warrior strode off after his son. He stopped to pick the boy up and swing him onto his shoulders for the second time that day.
"What do you think Mama's making for dinner today?" the child asked eagerly.
"Oh, I don't know. There's still some meat on that deer we brought in yesterday; maybe she'll make a stew."
"And apple turnovers for dessert…" Seto's eyes were glassy as he imagined the meal that waited for them upon their return.
"Mmm… That sounds good. Or maybe that special pie she makes, that'd be nice too, wouldn't it?"
Still happily fantasizing about the wonderful things that Seto's mother could cook, father and son returned to the village that they called home.
"Mama! Mama! We're back!" Seto's cries outside the hut alerted the woman inside of the return of her husband and son. She swept out to greet them with a smile, welcoming them back as she listened to her oldest child's bubbling chatter, filling her in on what he'd been doing during the day.
"–and then he finally finished plowing and he showed me something new for me to practice – it goes like this." The little boy hefted his practice sword and demonstrated the technique, leaping into the air and swinging the blade in an arc.
"That's very nice, Seto," she praised, making the child beam at her.
"How's Moki? Is he okay? Nothing happened while I was gone, did it? What'd he do today? Has he managed to walk yet? Is he asleep? Can I see him? I hope you didn't sing him to sleep yet, Father said you might've, but I still need to play with him, so can I? What's for dinner?"
She laughed. "So many questions! Mokuba's fine – just like he was when you left this morning. And no, he's not asleep. He's inside. And you'll find out what dinner is after you go wash up."
He raced off to do as he was bid, tearing around to the wash bin in the back of the hut. His parents watched his antics with proud amusement.
"He'll be a strong one when he grows up," his father said. "So eager to please us, have you noticed? So eager to be strong… He's got a great path ahead of him."
"So you've said. I just hope that his 'great path' is a happy one, as well."
He put his arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure it will be."
"Mama! Father! C'mon!" At the insistent prompting of their son, the two adults followed him inside their home.
Seto watched his mother gently tuck in the sleeping form of his younger brother, still humming a few bars of the lullaby she used to calm her children into sleeping. He smiled, tired himself, and lay back on his sleeping mat, shifting his gaze to the fire ablaze in the hearth. His day had been tiring, though no more so than any other day, and he was glad that he would finally get a chance to rest. The fire was a pleasant thing, crackling softly as its warmth seeped into his bones. He stared into it, mesmerized, and when his eyes finally closed in sleep, it remained burning in his mental eye.
It was fire that he fell asleep to, and it was fire that woke him. But this fire was not the same as the friendly blaze in the hearth. This was a raging inferno, which devoured all in its path.
He wasn't aware of what was wrong at first. A roaring sound had dragged him out of his weary sleep, and the air felt hot on his skin. In confusion, he sat up, looking around him. The air had a red-orange tinge, and sparks danced in his vision. He wrinkled his nose as an acrid scent reached his nostrils. It took his still sleepy brain a moment to figure out what was wrong, but then it hit him. Something was burning. Alarmed, he scrambled to his feet, looking wildly around for some sign of his family. The only one he could see was little Mokuba, still asleep in his crib.
Then he heard the scream. He didn't know who had made it, or where it had come from, but it was filled with terror the likes of which he had never dreamed. It came from somewhere outside the hut. He raced to the open door, running several yards outside before shock at the sight before him made him freeze.
The village was burning. Flames licked the tops of nearby huts, and a red glow had filled the night sky. Strange men with harsh voices, speaking in a language he couldn't understand, moved in and out of the inferno, shadows in the night. He was so transfixed by the horrors before his eyes that he never noticed the sword that swung for his head, its wielder intent on cutting him down…
…Until another blade intercepted it, the clang of metal on metal startling the boy into looking up.
Two swords were crossed in front of his head. One he recognized as his father's ancient blade; the other belonged to one of the harsh-voiced strangers.
"Seto! Are you all right, son?"
He looked wide eyed at his father's urgent soot stained face. He could see his mother standing behind him, but could only stutter, "F-father! W-what's happening?"
His father didn't have a chance to answer. His opponent shouted something unintelligible to Seto, and wrenched his blade away from the warrior. He slashed at the other man's chest; his sword was easily blocked. The villager locked his blade against the invaders, forcing him down. Slowly, he gained ground, and with an elegant jerk, Seto's father disarmed the other man. Not waiting for him to retrieve his weapon, thewarrior cut him down.
Seto stared in absolute horror. He had never seen his father kill.
"Father?" he asked in a small voice, barely heard above the roaring and shouting around them.
The man looked at him in sympathy, then whipped his head around as he heard the voices in the distance getting louder. More of the strangers were coming towards them. "Seto, get inside, son. Hurry!"
The boy took a small step backward, his mind in turmoil. He didn't understand what was happening, and he didn't understand why his father had killed the man now lying in a puddle of blood at his feet.
His father cursed at his hesitation, something that caused Seto to stare in surprise, in spite of the situation. He had never heard his father swear, either.
His father reached out and grabbed him, quickly passing him to his mother and pushing them towards the door. "Quickly now, get inside. You must hide!"
His mother, clutching her son to her breast, sprinted in the direction of the hut. Seto watched the shadowy figures swarm around his father. The warrior raised his sword, throwing himself into the fray. Seto could only watch in horror as a foe after foe swooped down on the man. His father's scream as a lucky blade found its mark, ending his life forever, would haunt the small boy's dreams until the day he died.
Which might not be that far off, he realized now. His mother had reached the hut, racing inside and slamming the door behind her, but they had been seen. Seto had seen the strangers start to come in their direction as the door shut them off from his view.
"Quickly, Seto, hide. You mustn't be seen!" his mother sobbed.
"But Mama, what about you?" he wailed.
"Forget me, son. There's no hope for me. Just hide, and don't let them see you. Grab Mokuba and–" She was cut off by a loud thump on the door. "Never mind. There's no time! Please, Seto, hide!" She shoved him deeper inside the house, and turned around to face the door.
Seto stared at her, feeling numb. He couldn't believe this was happening. He had just watched his father die, and now his mother was telling him that the same fate awaited her? And that he must hide, without even taking his innocent little brother with him, when he had sworn to himself and to the infant that he would always protect him?
"Hurry!" His mother's agonized cry forced him into action. He raced into the back of the hut, looking for a place to hide. He found the corner between the wall and the chair where his father would sit and smoke every night.
Just as he dove into his designated hiding place, the door, which had been being assaulted by the foreigners – for they must be foreigners, he knew no one else who spoke in such a strange dialect – splintered, admitting the men behind it.
Seto watched, unable to do anything, as one of the men reached inside, grabbing his mother. He squeezed his eyes shut, blocking out the sight, but he could do nothing to stop the screams.
Finally, there was silence. It seemed strange, after so many minutes of shouting. Even the shrieks from outside the hut had stopped. The only sound was the roaring of the fire, and the cruel laughter of the foreigners.
Slowly, Seto opened is eyes and peaked around the corner of the chair.
He had every intention of obeying his mother's last wish and remaining in hiding. And he really, truly tried. But the sight of his mother body, bloodied, dirtied, and tossed aside like so much garbage, caused a shout of rage to tear from his lips.
The men lounging in the doorway looked up, surprised. One of them came over in his direction.
Seto mentally called himself as many kinds of idiot as his young brain knew. They knew he was here. His parents' sacrifices would be in vain.
He didn't try to run when the foreigner stopped in front of him, smirking down at him and calling something to his friends. He didn't put up a fight when a hand reached down, picking him up by the scruff of his shirt and lifting him into the air. Resistance would be useless.
He was roughly thrown into the center of the hut. The air escaped his lungs with a loud whoosh, and he coughed. He forced himself to rise to his knees, looking around him.
There were perhaps five men inside or directly nearby the hut that he had once considered to be a shelter. The door hung on its hinges, worthless for its intentioned purpose. The flames outside the village were dying down. The smell of ash assaulted him, and he wrinkled his nose. He could barely see the still form of his father lying outside the hut. His mother, as he had already noted, lay tossed in the corner, blood forming in a small pool around her. They had died trying to protect him, and now he had blown everything by not being able to control his emotions.
He looked closer at the foreigners. They were all dressed in the same uniform, with a symbol he didn't recognize on every shoulder. Soldiers, he realized, though in whose service he didn't know.
One of the soldiers stepped up to him, looking down at him with a sneer on his face. He said something that Seto could not understand, gesturing around him.
The boy shook his head, not knowing or caring what he wanted. He said in a bleak tone, "Why are you doing all this?"
He didn't expect an answer, and so he was surprised when a voice from beyond the doorway said, "Because I told them to."
He looked in the direction the voice had come from. A tall man stood there, his gray hair and mustache cropped short. A red cape adorned his shoulders; the same symbol that every solider bore was emblazoned on his tunic. As he came forward, the soldiers fell back, making room for him. He was clearly someone they respected, even feared.
"Who are you?" Seto asked.
"You don't need to know that, little boy."
"Tell me anyway."
The man smirked. "Brassy, aren't you, kid? All right; you may call me Captain Gozaburo. I'm the captain of the guard for my lord of Draikren's Peak."
Most of this didn't make sense to the six-year-old, but at least he had a name. "And why did you order your men to attack my village?" He tried to keep the quiver of fear out of his voice as he spoke. The man had a terrifying presence.
"Because I was ordered to. My lord finds you savages to be so annoying… He sent us into exterminate you."
Seto gritted his teeth. Intimidating or not, this man had just insulted his people, calling them no better than animals, and it infuriated the boy.
The captain apparently saw this. He laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh, like the loud roaring of his father or the gentle, stream-like chuckling of his mother. It sent shivers downthe boy'sspine.
"You don't like that, do you, boy? Don't like the idea that your people are savages?"
"My people are not savages!"
"No… You're right. They're not. Your people aren't anything, anymore. We've successfully wiped them out of existence. Except for you, little boy. How is it that you managed to survive our raid?"
Seto didn't answer, staring stonily at the malevolent man in front of him.
"I suppose you are the son of the warrior who was defending this area a little while back. I must admit, he knew what he was doing. I haven't had a challenge like that in a while; I think I actually broke into a sweat before I cut him down."
The reality of what this man had just said hit Seto like a blow to his chest. This was the man who had killed his father!
Gozaburo saw from the look on his face that he had understoodand smirked. "Tell me, brat. Does this look familiar to you?"
He drew from behind his back a sword that was very much familiar to the boy. How many times had he tried to lift it, raise it into the air and wield it like a true warrior? How many times had he watched, entranced, as his father whet and polished its blade? The blue-tempered steel shown in the eerie light from the dying fires; the white hilt, made of a substance that Seto had never been able to identify, looked somehow wrong in the foreigner's hand. The sword, his father's sword, that had always somehow reminded the boy of a great, rearing white dragon, poised to strike, did not belong in the possession of this evil man.
The boy's blue eyes bore into the captain's; his voice held an icy chill that he hadn't known he could adopt. "My father's sword. It's not yours. Give it back."
This caused to man to break out into his bone-chilling laugh again. "No… I don't think I will…" He swung the blade experimentally. "This is a good sword. Better than my own, and that's saying something. I think I'll keep it."
Rage flared up in the small boy. He jumped to his feet and raced over to where his practice sword hung on the wall. He was mildly surprised that it was still there, ignored by the raiders, but he didn't take too long to dwell on the fact. He snatched the sword before anyone could stop him, turning to face the captain and leveling the shaft of wood at him. "Give it back!" he repeated.
The evil man laughed again. "What, boy, you want to fight me? Very well… Come boy, let's see what you've got."
Seto charged, emitting a loud cry. He remembered all the things his father had taught him, recalled each training session in their clearing, and summoned up every technique that had been drilled into his mind. He swung his sword, leaping into the air, crying out again. Drop to the ground, crouch, swing, leap again, slash, remember to watch your back, it was all in his mind. The captain evaded most of the blows, though several found their mark.
Seto had to be careful to avoid the sword as much as possible, he knew. The sharp blade would carve his own weapon into pieces. He dodged as much as he could, attacking whenever he had a chance, shouting his rage and his pain, until…
…The weapon shot out of his hands. Seto dropped to the ground, rolling from the force of the blow that had disarmed him. He hit the far wall with a loud thud, gasping for his breath, and lay still.
Footsteps caused him to look up into the face of his conqueror. The man was smirking at him.
"Not bad for someone your age, kid. Not bad at all… Too bad I have to kill you now. Tell me, which would you prefer…?" Gozaburo showed him two blades, one of them his father's. "Your father's blade? Or the one that I used to end his puny life?"
Seto stared at the swords, not answering. There was no proper answer to that. He was in despair. He had taken the gift of life his parents had tried to give him and effectively shattered it into a thousand pieces.
And then he heard the cry. His head shot around, searching for the source. His heart nearly stopped when he saw what had made it.
One of the soldiers, apparently bored with watching his boss toy with a child, had started poking around the remains of the hut. He had found Mokuba, somehow still sleeping in his crib.
The infant had been roughly grabbed out of the crib, awakening him, and was now dangling by one arm from the soldier's too-strong grip. The loud wails as he cried echoed slightly against the bare walls.
Seto's eyes widened in horror. They had found Mokuba! While he had been throwing his life away, they had found his baby brother, and were most likely about to put him to death.
With a strangled sob, Seto shot between the captain's feet. He hurdled towards the soldier, snatching his brother from his clutches, and raced towards what was left of the door.
Cursing, several of the ruffians tried to grab him, but he dodged every time. It was not just his own life on the line this time, but his little brother's, who he had sworn to protect.
With one last dodge and a burst of speed towards the door, Seto, clutching his baby brother to his chest, raced off into the night, soon pursued by the force that had torn his life to pieces.