Lord of Chaos- Chapter One- Virtually War

"I'm tired of it! Why does the good side always lose!" Mai complained to her companions: Anna and Lana. Anna and Lana were her family, well sort of. They were two little twin girls that Mai had found on the street one day. She had taken them in and cared for them for the past year and a half, but now they were going to leave her to go to a newly found relative's home in Sidagen. "I don't know. Why don't you ask the evil side?" Lana suggested playfully. "Why don't you? You'll have plenty of time after we're gone and no longer in your hair!" Anna chimed in. The "evil side" was the Yorkists of France and England. So far, the Lancastrian forces were not fighting to their original plan. Mai was one of the Lancastrian force's top duelists, and she also one of their best spies. Her main jobs had been to sneak into Rosenkreuz Palace, where she had learned the art of bribery. Bribing servants was so simple an uneducated child from the slums could do it. All you had to do was promise them something of value- something they could make some extra cash with, or money itself. The ones that were motivated by self-righteousness were a lot tougher to control. They were appalled of bribery, deaf to blackmail, and ignorant of persuasion. That was when Miss Mai Beaufort of Pardia, England was sent to infiltrate the fortress of where Seto Kaiba lived, thrived, and controlled the superpowers of Europe. "Mai?" Anna looked worriedly at her friend. "Hm?" Mai snapped awake when Anna asked. "What were you thinking about?" "Perhaps a new way to sneak into Rosenkreuz Palace?" Anna and Lana excitedly spoke together. "No, nothing, just daydreaming." She answered sounding quite distracted.

At Rosenkreuz Palace, Seto Kaiba paced his bedchamber angrily, waiting for the evening report on the war in England. Even more so, he was waiting on the report on Mai. Ever since that encounter in Wales, when she'd broke into his political home, attempting to steal some documents on the technology the Yorkists were using, he'd felt miserable. He remembered with shame of his conduct and his stupidity of not thinking to capture her, instead of letting her go. Ever since, his heart felt like it had been through the wringer, and he had chased her, pursued and tracked her, to almost no avail. "Sir!" a young soldier burst in through the door, panting like a dog on a hot summer's day. "Yes?" Seto answered with clear annoyance. The soldier took painstaking care to be mindful of his master's mood. "Report on the front, sir. Miss Beaufort has been located across the Thames River, northwest side, in the ancient mansion, Daleford. Companions consist of two young girls, twins, leaving tomorrow morning, to Sidagen. War is going well, but Captain-" "I know how the war is going. Everyone knows. Dismissed." Seto snapped. The soldier saluted, and departed. He ran his fingers through his hair. "What am I gonna do?" he asked the empty room.

Mai began to scrub the bedchamber walls and dust the fine furnishings of Daleford Mansion. It was no easy job. There were 25 rooms to polish, scrub, dust, and wash. Though she really didn't have any obligation to do it, she felt it her duty to because she was using it, illegally. In her mind, it wasn't, since it was her families, and had been for generations, but the English Parliament didn't seem to agree. Her long blonde hair was tied into a severe bun and she wore an old maid's cleaning dress she'd found abandoned in a small cupboard by the laundry chute. Her deep blue eyes were big and beautiful, but always tainted with anxiety, worry, and pain. She thought of her poor sister Alexandra, and tears came to her eyes. She scrubbed the floor harder. Alexandra Beaufort had died from pneumonia in Edinburgh, when she'd been caught hiding and smuggling Lancastrian documents and papers. Shortly after being taken to Buckingham Palace to become a prisoner, she'd developed the illness and died, just after being taken to a better doctor in Edinburgh. Mai had only heard about the incident when she'd gone up to visit her sister and found that another homeless family had taken place over. She became worried, and searched the city, and eventually raced to Wales, in case her sister had delivered the documents she kept to one of Prince Yugi's advisors. One advisor heard she was in town and Mai met them at the public Rose Gardens, where she was informed of her sister's death, and a new assignment. She took it eagerly, wanting desperately to avenge her now dead sister. Then the boss himself, Seto Kaiba, had caught her in the act.

"Well, what have we here?" Seto smoothly and maliciously said. Mai stopped dead in her tracks. She could not believe her atrocious luck. At 2 o'clock in the morning, Seto Kaiba had seen her creeping into his home. She was in big trouble now. "A little night time snooping, my pet?" he added. She turned around and saw Seto standing in the doorway behind her. "It's nice to see you!" he smirked wickedly with a gleam in his eye. She could not speak. Now she was caught, and would more or less be thrown in prison for breaking and entering, and attempted robbery. Thinking of a plan would be impossible; it would be completely pointless to argue. Look at who had nailed her! The head guy in charge, no less! "Cat got your tongue?" he sarcastically inquired. "No, just collecting my thoughts. I've never been caught pulling a job in the spy business." She carefully chose her words. Upsetting this powerful man would not be the path to freedom. "If you're wondering if I'll turn you in to the police, then put your mind to rest. I won't, on one condition." He raised an eyebrow in question, or challenge. "I'm game." She spoke sparingly; knowing there was a trap in wait. "The deal is binding. No reneging whatsoever. Be my girl. Be with me. Come to me or I'll come for you. Please, love, I've chased you for so long." He spoke deadpan serious. He mentally slapped himself. That was no way to start off the bargain! He'd just poured out a portion of his heart, and he saw the look of utter shock, amazement, fear, disgust, and even the slightest twinge of amusement on her lovely face. "Are you mad?" she shakily asked. "Mad for you." He answered with complete smoothness and confidence. What a cocky jerk! Mai thought. "That was hardly what I meant and you know it! Your answer to the offer is a whole-hearted no! I'd rather rot to death in prison than accept any of your…revolting terms!" she furiously flung at him. "Don't speak so soon. Tell you what. I'll give you three days to think it over. You'll see it my way, in time. Balking destiny for too long never did any good for anybody. Keep me waiting for too long and I may not be able to hold myself back any longer." Grinning seductively with a matching wink, he started to turn away. "I don't need three seconds to give you my answer! And as for your little spiel about chasing me, you can just leave me the hell alone from now on!" she angrily stammered. "I've already told you that I can't. Since you're so set against me, I'd better set your thoughts in a different direction." Seto spoke gently. Reaching forward for her, he backed her carefully into a nearby wall, tapped a spot in the wall three times, and pulled her inside so fast she couldn't even think fast enough to utter a single word. "Let me go, Rosenkreuz!" she struggled in the circle of his strong arms. "My name is Seto Kaiba to you, Mai. Or later, when you know me better, you will call me some more endearing name, like say, darling?" he smiled amusedly into her flushed face, thoroughly enjoying her embarrassment. The secret room he had trapped her in was his bedroom, oddly enough. He had fashioned and decorated it himself, and only Elsa knew, except now Mai. There was a large four poster bed with curtains draped around it. The curtains and bed sheets were a rich, dark maroon. There were two dressers, both of high quality mahogany, four tables of the same, and a large and spacious bathroom to the left. The walls had paintings and family crests all over it, plus a whole corner full of pictures of Mai. Mai shuddered when she saw them. "Don't even think about it. It won't ever happen. I won't let it. So just back off, let me go, and set your mind to something else that's a better use of your time." She gave up trying to escape because every movement brought her against his muscled chest, and his desire. "I have no better use of my time. I need you, want you, pursue you!" he hugged her tighter to him, a look of something far more removed than amusement, but something she feared just the same. "You most certainly can. All those women…-" "Don't mean a thing at all to me. All you have to do is shake hands and you're related, married, partners, engaged, or old friends to the press. Most don't even clear the gate. Now, about your family history, though I know most of it. How old were you when your sister died? Nineteen, right?" he asked. Hot tears of fury and pain came to her eyes at the mention of poor Alexandra. "You have no right to even ask anything of the kind, much less Alexandra! Keep her clean name out of your filthy mouth! Just for the record, I was eighteen, not nineteen!" she turned away quickly. She would not cry in front of Seto Kaiba. She would not look like the vulnerable and soft woman at heart that she was. Seto immediately saw her tears and felt monstrous for acting like he did. He lifted her chin, and saw tears staining her cheeks as they silently poured down her face. "I'm so sorry! My behavior was inexcusable. Please forgive me!" he begged with pain across his handsome features. Mai felt humiliated. Letting him see her tears, then pitying her was inexcusable. Straightening, she spoke forcefully and with rage. "I am twenty-three years old, I live in an old mansion, I play maid and caretaker to the old house, I hide, spy, and work for the life of the Prince, my hobbies consist of studying, Dueling, reading, and giving charity when there's extra money, and defending my friends from the likes of you, I have no mother, father, sister, or any other relative, I love no one, and fend for myself. That's who I am. There. That's all you wanted to know, right? Did I leave anything out?" she informed him spitefully. Seto was thunderstruck. "Mai, don't be angry. Don't cry. I'm sorry. Will you please let me love you?" he begged. "I can't!" she struggled again. He became grim again. "Now back to what I was originally going to do." Seto then kissed her. It was a kiss that was anything but gentle, but anything but cruel. It was the possessive kind of kiss that said that each belonged to each other. It was the kind of kiss that scared Mai even more than Seto himself. It declared that Seto Kaiba was in love Mai Beaufort. He kissed her with mounting passion, a hand behind her neck, and an arm about her waist. He removed her hair tie and ran his fingers through her long hair. Mai pulled back jerkily but he clung to her. She slapped him and immediately wished she didn't. "Bastard!" she whispered breathlessly. "Filthy names don't suit such a pretty mouth." He whispered to her alluringly. "Well, filthy names suit you fine!" she countered, and then she thought of a way to escape his clutches. "You forgot some qualities on your list. You are innocent, sweet, vulnerable, soft, gentle, and perfectly available." He was attempting sweet talk. "I am most definitely not anything you mentioned, least of all innocent!" she angrily thrashed. "Our kiss was all that I needed to prove all of those, especially innocent. I'll let you go now. I'll be seeing you soon, sweetheart." Seto softly informed her and released her. Leading her through the doorway, Mai felt that he didn't intend on sticking to what he said, and made a run for it. He chased after, their footsteps making almost no noise on the carpeted floor. Catching her, he tried to bring her down with him to the ground. Her adrenaline kicked in and she slapped him hard twice, attempted a punch, missed, and ran out the window she came in. He didn't follow. Mai kept an even lower profile than usual and fled across England in hopes of evading him, knowing he would follow, praying he would give up. But now she knew the time for running was over, and the time for fighting just begun.

The next day, she went shopping at an old friend of hers shop. It had a quaint feel about it, and she liked that. Miranda had been her friend since she had first become part of the Lancastrian force. She had been her personal tour guide for a while, showing her all the ins and outs of working for the Prince. Her description of the job made it sound like it was the most boring place to work in all of Europe, but Mai knew she loved the job anyway. "Hey, stranger! Long time no see!" Miranda greeted her with a hug. "Miranda! I'm so glad to see you!" she returned the smile warmly. Miranda had recently left her position in the Prince's forces, and she had gone through the toughest days in her life to get where she was now. Now settled down with a husband and two sweet twin boys, she had become a very different person than her old self. More calm, less independent, and even a little more humorous than of her younger days. Not that thirty-eight is old, but just not so young. "Any news on the war that I should know about just in case I need my spy gear again?" Miranda joked. "Not much, just the usual. Fake truces, broken treaties, all the run-of-the-mill tricks. You know, you'd think they'd figure out by now that we won't fall for their time-honored tricks anymore. So much for intelligence. If they keep this up, they'll be losing this bloody war in no time at all!" Mai countered. An hour later, she emerged the little store with two small sacks on one arm. One had some food to stock the shelves with, and the other had three new dresses. Two for nice occasions, (like she ever went to any anyway), and one extra for everyday wear.

Two days later she received an invitation for the annual masked ball in London. The boy who delivered it informed her that it was critical she attend, or else someone very powerful would be angered immensely. The dance was to be held in three days. "Thank you very much. May I ask who this powerful person is?" Mai questioned the delivery boy. "I have no idea who it might be, ma'am. Thank you for your time." He turned and sprinted away. She went back inside and sat down in the parlor to read the invitation. Tearing open the royal seal of Richard III, it read-

To the recipient of this Royal Invitation-

His Majesty, Richard III has requested that you attend his annual masked ball. Attendance is required. Silver masks will be provided for your convenience, courtesy of His Majesty.


King Richard Slysheen of York III

Penned by request: Royal Clerk, Jonathan Clark

"Well, I'd better go." She sighed.

Seto paced the floor forcefully. There was only one hour left until the ball. A soft voice called his name from across the room. "Seto?" It was Beth, one of the many girls that flocked after him. Beth was dumb, careless, selfish, and just a pretty thing to look at that had a brain of fluff. "Are you there?" she asked again. Seto slid quietly deeper into the shadows. Beth shrugged, walked out, and closed the door. He breathed a sigh of relief. He couldn't wait until Mai was here.

Mai stepped outside in her new dress, waiting for the coach. She wore a silver dress, studded with diamonds and sapphires. Her long, golden hair was pulled up into a pirouette that was swept with ringlets and curls. A matching tiara, matching fan, white gloves, and matching small purse were her only accessories. For jewelry, she wore matching earrings and necklace. The coach picked her up and she watched as dozens of carriages passed by and stopped in front of Rosenkreuz Palace. Earlier, she had been informed that Seto Kaiba was in Spain to discuss business so he would not be here. She had been immensely relieved to hear that. Escorts were waiting by the steps, but her coach was dead last so there were no more. She didn't mind too much though. The carriage dropped her off by herself, and she slowly ascended the stairs. Then, as she neared the top, Seto stepped out from behind one of the columns. By God, he thought, how much more beautiful can a woman get? Mai gasped in surprise. "Why are you here? You're supposed to be in Spain!" she thundered as she turned to flee. "I live here. It's nice to know you check on me. Now why don't you allow me to escort you since you don't seem to have one?" he smoothly leaned over, captured her hand and pulled her to his chest. "The only reason I even came was because you wouldn't be here! I'm leaving!" she pulled free, shoved him back, and sprinted down the stairs. There was no coach so she ran on foot. Turning back, she him pursuing and gaining fast on her. His lithe muscles allowed him greater speed than even her swift body. He had a very determined expression on his face. "I'll catch you no matter how far you run!" he called after her. She put on an extra burst of speed. Her home wasn't too far away now. It was just over that hill- "I told you so, sweetheart!" Seto triumphantly grinned down at her. Mai was now lying on the soft green grass, just feet from the doorway of her mansion. Her home was the only one for miles around. Everyone else lived in town. Surrounded by forest, the mansion was nestled into it. A river flowed under the bridge to the house. They were alone, and completely out of sight of the road. "Let me go! Please!" Mai begged to him. "On one condition." He started stroking her hair away from her face after he pulled her hair free. It was a hypnotic movement, and Mai felt the effect. "Just let me go!" "The condition is that you don't run away from me again, at least not now. Deal?" "Deal, I think." She reluctantly agreed. He let her up and offered a hand. "I can stand up by myself." She icily told him. "Lets go inside and talk. Do you mind?" I mind greatly! she felt like telling him. "No, just keep your distance." She stepped away, then made a break for the door. She got in, shut the door fast, and locked it. There was no sound except for receding footsteps. She waited for ten minutes, then relaxed. "You can't run away forever, you know." Seto stood in front of her. Mai slumped in front of the door tiredly. "Why do you persist? Why must you cause me pain and trouble? Why?" she asked exhaustedly. He knelt and touched her face. Her eyes showed lack of sleep, anxiety, and agony. Tears pooled and spilled over, but she obviously did not care. She did not care how he got in. Seto said gently, "Mai, will you come with me? Will you tell me how to relieve your agony? I'm seeing it in your eyes, your heart, and my heart is crying for you." She shook her head but did not speak. Seto felt ashamed, torn apart, and agonized. Mai felt the kiss, but did not move. She felt him moving her light body to lie across his lap. His kiss became passionate, and she knew she was too weak to deny him. Her body became as limp as a rag doll, and he carried her upstairs. She pulled away and saw him slip a cloth out of his pocket. He pressed it to her face and she fell into a deep sleep, seeing no more.

What a lovely creature, he thought for the hundredth time. Mai was fast asleep on his bed, with her hair splayed across his pillow and her hands curled together just below her chin. Seto was lying right next to her, being careful not to touch her. He had lied there, just watching her, for half the night. She stirred and he watched intently. Her eyes fluttered open and she turned. A cat-in-the-cream smile appeared on her face, then disappeared as she saw him. "Good morning, love." He placed a hand behind her neck and kissed her gently. "What am I doing here?" she scowled darkly at him, batting him away forcefully. "I'll tell you later. Why don't you freshen up? I had Elsa bring all of your clothes from home. I must say, you don't spend much time on your wardrobe, do you? You have far less clothing than any woman I've ever seen does! My mother, the clotheshorse, would be shocked for years over it. I sent for breakfast just a few minutes ago, so I'll leave you now." He stooped and pulled up her coverlet and hightailed it out of her throwing reach. He heard her cursing him, and he hoped she would simmer down somewhat before he returned from France. Elsa passed by him in the hall and he asked her to make his guest as comfortable as humanly possible. "Anything she might want, she can have. Just don't let her leave the palace!" he commanded firmly to Elsa. "Of course, my lord." Elsa curtsied and went on to where her lord's female guest was angrily pacing the floor.

"Miss?" Elsa came into Seto's bedroom. Elsa was a plump old woman that had been serving for a very long time. "Miss? Are you there?" Elsa repeated. She peered around the deep maroon curtains to where Mai sat weeping, the bed in an uproar. Elsa was shocked. Mai looked up. Her eyes were red from crying and her cheeks were wet with tears. "Are you Elsa?" she asked quietly, like a small child. "Why, yes I am. Would you like a bath and a change of clothes, miss?" she smiled down at her and presented a stack of clothes. Elsa watched a smile play on her companion's lips. "I would like that very much, Elsa." Mai answered, regaining some of her former cheerfulness.

Elsa spent about three hours dressing her future mistress. While Mai had been bathing, Elsa went out to talk with Lord Seto. He informed her that Mai would soon be mistress of the palace, and that at all costs should inform him of anything the lady does that is unusual. "Do you understand?" he curtly spoke. "Yes, my lord. I will report on milady daily, more if suspicion arises." Elsa curtsied and returned to her charge's room, where Mai was finished bathing and was drying off. Elsa just loved dressing Mai and styling her hair, and she spent hours on it. "Your hair is so beautiful, Lady Mai!" she complimented Mai. "Thank you. Why are you calling me Lady? Just call me Mai, if you don't mind." She answered without looking, but Elsa saw suspicion looming in the other woman's face.

Mai stepped out into the sunroom on the fourth floor, which, she was informed that the fourth floor would be hers alone, other than the master's bedroom. Though she had not been pleased, it consoled her to know that her bedroom door had a key lock. "I feel like a doll, Elsa! How much did this dress cost, and why the hell do I have to stay here!" Mai thundered at the old woman as she hurried into the room. Elsa had just had another conversation with Seto, and Seto heard every word Mai had angrily thrown out. He had laughed hard, and walked away. "I thought you wanted to stay. I had no idea you wished to go somewhere. And Lord Seto prefers the ladies of the palace to dress accordingly. It's not my fault. Don't you like the dress?" Elsa put on a face of innocence and hurt pride. Mai instantly fell for the trick. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Elsa. I love the dress! But I want to go home. I never even came here of my own free will. Your master, well, never mind. It's too detailed and far too ridiculous. Would you take me to the gardens, if its not too much trouble? I'd like to pray for my sister, God rest her soul." Mai put on a sorrowful face for emphasis. The other woman's face softened. "Of course, Mai. Follow me." Elsa led her to the gardens and left her. The garden was filled with roses, carnations, daffodils, snapdragons, larkspur, zinnias, and blue bells. Mai wandered through the mazes of paths that led to fountains, elaborately carved benches under large weeping willow trees, and small shelters that held flowers and guarded against the rain that sometimes poured in cold sleet. The grass was cut short so that you could see everything around you, and you could see for miles around. Rose Gardens, as they were called, were world famous for their ability to bloom all year round. These Gardens were the private ones, the ones that were not open to the public. Private though they were, they were also the best tended and cultured flowers in the world. The gardens themselves were seated on hills and valleys, and you had to walk a long ways before you could reach a wall. It was said that it took years to build and cultivate the land, and Mai truly believed that. There guides along the way that told you where to go, and small flower houses that you could stop at and rest, or spend the night if need be. Estimated to be three miles long, the Gardens were open only to Royalty, or one of similar status. Mai hadn't actually thought she could get in, because she wasn't anything of that type. Obviously Lord Seto had something to do with her ability to access the Gardens. Stepping over a stray flower in the middle of the path, she walked over to where a little bench was hiding beneath a shelter of flowers and a waterfall. The waterfall was split down the sides where a large boulder sat lodged in the middle, and flowers hung off long vines. "I wondered when you would visit my gardens. I just flew in from France and Elsa told me you were here." Seto appeared from behind the bench as soon as she sat down and kissed her on the nape of her neck. She instantly jumped up in anger and fixed him with fierce eyes. "You have a lot of explaining to do and I have a lot of killing you to do. I'm going to give you two minutes to and then you will allow me to leave." She threatened him. Seto merely laughed. "Sweetheart, you have so much to learn. You're never going to leave, and you should get used to it now. Now, did you go look at your new room? I don't think it would look right if you slept in my room until we're married, do you?" he grinned at her. "Don't change the subject. I spent half the day in that room and when, may I ask, do you plan to send me home? You can't keep somebody hostage, it's illegal you know." She spitefully glared at him as she batted away his wandering hands that were caressing her gently. "You are already at home. Kidnapping is illegal, but a friend staying at another friend's house is most certainly not. Anyway, I can change the rules to suit my own purposes." "Come, it's raining." He gently took her arm and forced her to follow him through the stone passage he came from. "By the way," he spoke as he turned to grin at her. "I love the dress." She just scowled and allowed him to pull her along. It would do no good to anger the lion in his den. When he whipped her around a corner, he suddenly hushed her. Looking into his eyes, she saw concentration, like he was listening for something. He put a hand on her mouth and whispered in her ear, "Be very quiet and listen for any sound at all. I'll tell you later what this is about, just be quiet." Then voices echoed from the cave passage they just came from. She flattened herself against the wall and he did likewise, but not without crushing her to his chest. "Are you sure this is safe?" a pathetic sounding man's voice whispered. "Yeah, yeah, safe as can be. Big boss don' even know you're missin'." Another man reassured the first. "Are you really sure?" the first whined. "Just shut up and gimme the papers, Erik. I don't got all day!" man number two snapped impatiently. A rustle of papers followed as the man identified as Erik handed them over. Mai saw Seto grit his teeth, but didn't say a word. "Thanks, next time, we'll do it in another corner, okay? Just make sure you get the right stuff." The two men left and Seto waited until they were both of earshot to speak. "Follow me." He whispered to her. "Where are we going?" she whispered back fiercely without looking. "Where we can be alone!" he murmured as he hugged her tighter to his chest and rested his chin on her soft hair. "Your intentions had better be honorable. How can I trust you when you've proven over and over that you're dishonest and untrustworthy?" she asked with a look of innocence that she knew wouldn't allow Seto's conscience to do anything to her. He smiled at her, deep ice blue eyes sparkling. "Don't think that look of innocence is going to help you. I know you better than you think I do. But, if it will set your mind to rest, my intentions are purely honorable. Now will you follow me?" he asked, sounding a touch exasperated. Mai's face snapped back to normal. "I might as well."

He led her through the passage, keeping his arm on her hand. The passage was of stone, and had blocked off corridors all over the place. The farther he guided her, the more flowers there were. It was breathtakingly beautiful, once you went in far enough. Then there were small then large waterfalls just like the outdoor ones. Wrought iron gates and stone benches stood by and watched as they flew by. Creeping ivy grew on the walls, and silver frosted roses guarded gold replicas of hummingbirds, bees, and trees. Vases of bronze, studded with gems of all kinds, small tables of the same, and elaborate chairs fit for a king were hiding in secluded alcoves, candles in the center, waiting to be lit. It was a paradise in concealment, and Mai was awestruck with its beauty. They hurried beyond the halls and rooms of beauty and reached the largest chamber yet. The entrance to the chamber was disguised as a large rock, but if one looked closely to the left-hand side, you would see copper hinges, dyed to match the rock. Seto shoved on the right and an identification pad sprang up. He had paid dearly for this kind of high-class technology and had put it to good use. "Step forward and identify yourself and/or companions." The pad droned to them. Mai hadn't seen this kind of technology in months, and she was very impressed. Seto stepped forward and spoke his name. "Retina scan one," the computer continued in the same tone. A red infrared light glared into one of Seto's eyes and turned a full circle. A picture came up on the pad's screen along with, "Retina scan two," from the computer again. The process repeated. "Now place one hand on the pad and allow fingerprint scan to commence." The pad lengthened and he placed a hand on it. "Seto Kaiba. You may enter." The computer disappeared and the rock slid open just enough for one person to slip in. He pushed her in first and he followed before the door closed. Inside, it was even more so impressive. "How do you like mission control?" he joked. There were the same decorations as the corridors outside the chamber, but there were computers and camera TVs everywhere. In the center of the room, there were six seats with computers. Three people sat there, busily typing, scanning, observing, and filing papers. "It's… very impressive." Mai managed. "So you run your own observation system. How very clever. Is that how you managed to find me, harass me, then finally kidnap me?" She calmly but menacingly flared. "Actually, no. I have my sources, as do you. But mine are much more reliable, I assure you. Meet my private clerks." He called over the clerks and they seemed to be in a very solemn mood. "Hey, boss. Bad news on the front. Seems old Erik spilled the beans on your new holographic dueling system, again, and this time we don't have an ass-saver in back-up. I don't suppose you've got one in that thick skull of yours?" A tall man with blonde hair asked sarcastically. "Hi Rich. Yeah, we, that is, me and Miss Mai Beaufort, heard old Erik squeal to the same guy he squealed to last time. I think his name is Buck, right?" he shook hands with Rich. "Nice to meet you, miss. Now, about that plan. What the hell are we going to do with such a high-powered leak like that? I mean, Jesus Christ, he's got half the damned country in duelist lockdown, not to mention in mass fury, and thinking we're a bunch of power-hungry lunatics. Jimmy and I can only handle so much of his smart-ass remarks at a time." He nodded over at Jimmy Brick who was filing one of the cabinets. "That little devil needs someone to whip his skinny little ass!" Jimmy chipped in without even so much as a glance over to Rich. The third of the three was female, and her name was Delilah. Delilah was obviously acting secretary at the moment and she just kept typing and staring at the screen as she introduced herself. "Hi, Mai. I'm Delilah. Delilah Radberry. I'm sorry we didn't put together a party for you, but, well, we're busy saving Kaiba Co. Lord Seto will fill you in, now won't he?" she threw a sideways glance at Seto. "Sure." He grinned. Delilah was a middle-aged woman who looked like a toothpick turned sideways. Skinny as she was, she was as strong as a mule, and at times, as stubborn as one. Gray hair had dominated her once chestnut hair, and age had been unkind to her skin. Wrinkles showed around her eyes, and there were scars criss-crossing her arms and neck. She smiled slyly at Mai and Mai sensed a conspiracy between the four. Feeling left out, she asked Seto to get on with his story. "Okay, here's the deal. A while back, we developed a holographic machine that took dueling cards and brought their image onto the field. Then we discovered that instead of holographic attacks, they really did happen. We practiced in one part of the Gardens that was off-limits with a Dark Magician Girl and she destroyed half the flowers with her attack. The holographic machine was portable, and it fit on the wrist. One day after we tweaked the machine so that the attacks would not be reality, Erik discovered them. We had hoped Erik hadn't seen enough to blow it, but he had. You see this is illegal, so if he sold the information, we would be thrown into the stockade and our company would fall to him, unless someone intervened. No one will though, he's paid them off too well or threatened them. He'd seen us before too, except he hadn't been caught. I lied to him, saying that it was just holographic. But Erik had seen enough to know better. He swore he hadn't when they questioned him, but Rich and I didn't trust him. None of us trusted him, but what could we do about it? If they fired him, he would spill all he knew, and that would be the downfall of Kaiba Co. What Rich, Delilah, Jimmy, and I were creating was illegal as hell at that time and still is. Delilah did some searching and found a black market advertisement for information. After tracing the ad, we found it was Erik behind it. Before we could get the ad removed, somebody had already responded to it. Buck Deer, or so he called himself, is a rogue serial killer and hacker who did just about anything to get his hands on cash. Not only was he a tightwad, but he was filthy rich. Since the four of us couldn't keep a 24-hour watch on Erik, we decided to just track Buck, which was no easy job either. Buck has a habit of leaving burnt sticks wherever he went, or burnt cigar stubs. Threatening Erik's life, he squeezed out information whenever he could and however. Erik was playing for keeps, and he was too deep in the mud to get out when he realized. The Executives, as we four are known to each other, decided to call off the security watch and just hide all the important information concerning the holographic machine. We thought we were safe, until Erik somehow hacked the computers and pulled megabytes of documents out on the machine, copied them, and delivered them dutifully to Buck. Buck had a lot of power, and could nail the Kaiba Co at anytime the thought struck him. Jimmy was the savior, in the end. He fed Erik a load of phony stuff and Buck fell hard for the plot. Right now, Buck knows he was fooled, and he knows who was behind it. Erik was too stupid to know he was being played, but now the Executives are at war with not only the Lancastrians, but with Buck Deer too." Their faces were all dark. Mai took the time to observe the group more closely. Jimmy was pudgy and had a stout beard. Though his face was fat, his eyes were still big and green. He had wire glasses that glinted in the light every time he turned. Lumbering back to the computer, he turned and beckoned Rich with him. Besides being tall, Rich had a rather large disposition. Muscles flexed when he walked, and though he was larger than Seto, Seto was quite obviously stronger. Curly blond hair masked brown eyes, and he always had a suspicious look on his face, like he couldn't trust anyone, or anything for that matter. They all three dressed alike, in navy trousers or a skirt in Delilah's case, with black tops. Khaki canvas hats had the York crest on them, and shoes were kept conservative and tasteful. Delilah obviously spent little time on appearances, because her makeup and clothing were about as tasteful as a fish wearing a bikini. It just didn't match right. Rich was the pretty boy of the trio, and Jimmy was the casual office man. All were experts in their field, and masters in surveillance. Judging from Seto's attitude towards them, they were old time friends that he paid very well. Jimmy turned sheet white as they left the room, and both noticed. "Boss, you'd better come look. It doesn't look too good out there." He turned alarmed eyes onto them. Seto hurried over. "What the hell?" Seto's jaw dropped. On the big screen in the front of the room was the image of Erik in the servant kitchen, with two drinks on a silver platter. Both were shot glasses, filled to the brim with a clear substance. "Vodka." Rich whispered. "What's he doing?" Delilah asked, not sure of why everyone was serious. Then she saw a small white packet that was ripped open and lying next the shot glasses. Erik had a small spoon that he was using to stir some white powder into one of the glasses. "Zoom, Jimmy boy." Seto whispered. "Sure thing, boss. 75 zoom." Jimmy zoomed in on the little white packet. In red block letters the words, 'concentrated cyanide, highly dangerous, use with care' were standing out. "Zooming 200," Jimmy zoomed further in. "Oh dear God in heaven," Rich cursed. More letters came up that said, 'by order of black market, no marketing transaction may be placed without consent of the manufacturer, and, 'illegal product, use with discretion.' "Jesus, he's trying to kill Deer!" Rich whistled. "He'll never do it. That's why Buck Deer is so famous. Do you have any idea how many people have tried and failed to kill Buck Deer? He's an international legend. He'll take any job as long as there's money enough to keep his insane demands happy. Erik will be dead before he gets rid of Deer." Seto looked grim. "Okay, conference everyone. Mai, we'll call you in a minute." Jimmy announced. Seto gave her one long, penetrating look and then followed. She took the opportunity to think over her options. She could run and get away from him forever, or she could stay and fight. Checking the door, she looked at the interior locks and saw that she was on film. Scowling, she realized that the Executives could see exactly what she was doing. That's probably what they were doing now, making fun of her and seeing if she was good enough to be in their secret little club. She was a Lancastrian, not a damn Yorkist! She'd seen their little sly looks at Seto and she knew they were in on his plan to capture her. Humiliated, she threw one last look at the screens and shoved open the door, flying through the corridors, blindly. Each little detail seemed the same as she went this way and that, always ending up at the same table. Exasperated, she sat down on one of the benches and rested her chin on her palms. "Now look what you've done to yourself!" she cursed herself angrily. "First you get kidnapped, your fault, then you get humiliated in some absurd club, again your fault, and now you get lost in some fairy-tale world, also your fault!" she continued. She was so furious with herself she didn't even notice footsteps sounding in the hall. "What's a pretty little miss like yeself doin' in a godforsaken place like this?" a tough-looking man in baggy jeans smiled gap-toothily. He had piggish eyes and cash hanging out of his pockets. He saw her looking at the cash and he grinned. "One of those girls, eh? I'll pay you a thousand dollars if ya do a good job." She was so shocked she could only stutter, "Oh, no, I'm not one of those. I was just wondering if you ever get robbed with all that money out in plain view." Again he smiled. "Well, I never get robbed because of me good looks. And if you're not one of those girls then I don't got to pay ya. Come here little missy!" he smirked and reached out. She screamed and ran, praying she would make the right turn this time. She could hear his steps thundering behind her and the sound of his breathing. He was gaining fast and her skirt was slowing her down a lot. One of the tables that displayed animals of gold had a gold whip sitting on it. Picking it up, she hid behind one of the tables and waited. She heard gagging and crept out of her hiding place to see what it was. Seto was standing over the dead body of the man who was chasing her. He saw her and scowled. "What the hell were you thinking? Storming out of there and running like a scared cat on hot bricks. You could have been killed, raped, or both! This is Buck Deer!" he violently rushed to her, immediately putting his hands on his shoulders and shaking her. She held up the whip and proffered it pathetically. "I had this, you know. I was waiting beyond that corner to lash out at him. What did I do this time? Do I get my hands rapped for being a naughty girl? Did I upset the Executives? Hmm?" she sarcastically inquired. He was suddenly smiling. "As a matter of fact, you did. Delilah in particular. She thought you were going to be her new best friend, or daughter. Jimmy didn't really care, and Rich thought it was odd. You also upset me, not to mention embarrassed me. Speaking of you, are you okay? Did he hurt you in any way?" he spoke the last bit worriedly, now that he was no longer mad and knew that she was safe. He checked her over for broken bones, bruises, cuts, abrasions, anything that was even close to an injury. His face was tight with worry when he came upon a small scratch on her right shoulder. It was diagonal, and looked like she had ran through a thorn bush. It was actually three cuts overlapping into one. The cut slanted inward, and bled when he touched it. Mai winced. "How'd this happen?" he asked concernedly. "I-I don't know. It might have happened when I picked up the whip off the table. There's no need to worry about it. It's just a scratch. I can take care of myself. Nobody worries about me. Nobody needs to." She curtly informed him. Her blue eyes flashed angrily with challenge and spite. He saw this and watched what he said, knowing he would be dead in two seconds flat if he said the wrong thing. Gaze softening, he huskily spoke, "Ah, but that's where your wrong. Everybody needs somebody who worries for them, cares for them, and watches out for them. Even you. I've always wanted to be the one, and what I want, I always get." He smiled mischievously like his old self. Feeling her blood warm, she spoke fiercely. "Watch it, Rosenkreuz. You're on extremely thin ice right now." She threatened him, all the while becoming more frustrated as his smile grew wider. "I think it's high time I set your mind in the right frame. I want you, I'm going to have you, I'm going to keep you, and you'll learn to accept it." She didn't answer, but she landed a nasty roundhouse kick to his stomach, and made a break for the entrance that he had been guiding her to. She heard him growl angrily, and ran faster. The air was suddenly cleaner and the sky was blue and bright. Almost tripping over the bench, she lifted her skirts and sped around the mazes and fountains. Cutting through the flowers was impossible, because they were so thick and there were many bees that pollinated the ground flowers, which you would unavoidably step on. Up ahead was one of the larger waterfalls that spouted from a green, flowery, cliff. It was massive, and it was so wide that it went from one side of the cliff to the other. A vast lake surrounded it, and lilies floated gracefully. She decided to take a chance and dived into the flowers, where there was blessedly no ground flowers. From there she watched him as he ran by her. He stopped, and reached in his shirt pocket, where a cell phone was concealed. She caught snatches of words, like "post all guards," and, "look everywhere." Quite obviously he was setting the whole place on alert for her. After his little chat, he walked very stiffly through the Gardens, and she watched until she could see him no more. Then, she raced out of the roses and began to wade through the lake. The farther she went in, the deeper it became, and she hoped she would make it. When she was a little girl, her home had been in a forest. There had been waterfalls, but not ones as big as the ones here. Father had always told her that where there was a river, stream, or lake, there was always a cave nearby. In this situation, it was a waterfall, but she hoped the rule would apply here too. Her hair was now plastered to her head and shoulders, and her clothes clinging, sopping wet. She was tired and began to swim, because it was getting far too deep to wade anymore. Finally, Mai reached the waterfall and swam through. How lucky I am! She thought. Right in front of her there was a spacious cave that had flowers growing off to the side and a skylight. The skylight was a hole in the cave roof that led all the way up to the top of the cliff. Collapsing on to the hard ground, she fell instantly asleep. The next morning, she woke up to the sun streaming beautifully through the waterfall and into her face. Rubbing her eyes, she noticed a pile of fruit against the wall. They hadn't been there before. She got up and almost tripped over a fire pit on her way to the lake. "What the-?" she started when Seto came bursting through the waterfall. "That was extremely childish. I can't believe you did that. Talk about stupidity. Elsa was worried sick about you!" he swept her into a hug, then placed her on a blanket that he brought. Immediately standing up again, she tried to yell at him, but fell back on the blanket in pain. She couldn't speak without immense effort. "I was defending myself from you! How else can I escape you? You corner me, torture me, give me no chance to retaliate fairly!" she croaked at him with as much of her voice as she could muster. He instantly sat down with her and pulled her into his arms, blanket too. "You're ill!" he spoke worriedly, immediately warming her arms and drying off her wet body. "I am not. I just have a cold." She shoved his hands away from her and scampered away. He followed, "You are too. Here, let me help. You've got a fever, chills, and I'd bet my last dollar that your back feels like hell." He began again and brought her some fruit and a rabbit stew he made with the rabbit he caught. "I sent all the guards away, if that makes you feel any better. Drink this." He soothed and held a cup to her lips. She began to think that maybe life with Seto wouldn't be so bad. He truly loved her. But, she didn't love him. Or did she? Every time he looked at her, she felt her heart jump, and her blood warm. Since that night in his palace, she longed and dreamed for his touch, but her mind denied it. It was impossible. He suddenly looked in her yes, penetrating to her bare soul. "Might I ask what you are thinking about?" he asked softly, not looking away. "Oh nothing. I don't have to answer to you anyway, do I?" she met his gaze face on. "No, I suppose not. Would you mind if I dressed the wound on your shoulder?" he looked to her right shoulder, where the oozing wound from before was soaking through the sleeve of her dress. "I'll dress and look at it myself, thank you." She coolly informed him, with as much of a voice as she could muster. "Oh, come on. Would you just swallow your damned pride for just a minute? Say help me?" he demanded angrily, throwing up his hands. She braced herself against the wall and stood, yelling, "I don't need any help. If you want to help, you can leave me alone!" Worry instantly appeared on his face when she stood and spoke. "Don't do that! You'll only hurt yourself worse!" he thundered, then cradled her gently against his chest as her breath became labored and then she blanked out. He felt her body crumple weakly and he gently laid her on the blanket she'd awoke on. Kissing her gently on her forehead, he pulled out his cellphone and called Delilah. "Oh, of course. Even Erik won't know anything about it." She promised. "Thanks, this means a lot."

He peeled away the sleeve of her dress and looked at the wound. He took a sharp breath. It was crosscut, diagonally slashed to overlapping to make seven x shaped marks. Blood oozed, especially where the cuts overlapped. Delilah had

told him that the Rose Gardens had been locked down completely, and that Erik had mustered an interior army of immense size. She and the other Executives were watching very careful where they stepped because there were spies everywhere.

So, there would be no supplies coming through. Seto decided he would have to gather all the supplies from the night houses and flower sheds. The Executive mission control had enough supplies to live off for months, even years if rationed

properly. He knew this kind of cut was of poison flowers, but he knew that there were no poison flowers that grew in the Gardens. So somebody had either

planted them, or targeted her. He had to find the antidote flowers, and fast.

At least he knew of where a secret stash of supplies was, and where an antidote was. Poison flowers made it hard to speak, stand, and stay awake and alert. Her eyes fluttered open for a few minutes, then hazed over and closed. The poison

was faster than he expected. He pulled on his water slick and headed out, being careful to go through the back end of the cave. There was a passage that headed under the Garden and palace wall and connected to a secret hideout, just for these kinds of ambushes. He knew this would happen. The hideout had only one entrance, but had four exits. It was deep underground and he was the only one

who knew where it was, and that it even existed. He found his cache of medicine, one of several, that had food, drinking water, camping materials, everything a hideout in danger would need. This was small in comparison to what he had. He raced back to where Mai was lying, and pulled an antibiotic ointment out and applied to some to her wound. The cuts turned bright pink, then faded to white. She stirred and her hand reached for the cuts, but he stopped it. He gathered up their stuff, destroyed the fire pit, erased all tracks, covered all evidence of them ever being there, and picked her up, slinging her over his shoulder. Making sure everything was packed tight, he picked up speed and started running to the

hidden hideout. From here, it was about a day's jog, and he didn't relish the prospect of carrying Mai and the stuff, even though she barely weighed 120 lbs., sopping wet. Hours passed, and night came. He laid her down, and she awake. Still weak, she could only nod her thanks, after he convinced her that it was to protect her, because of the poisoning idea he thought of. She understood and ate, then fell asleep. He watched her sleep, and she curled up in a ball, mumbling words. Leaning closer to hear her, he heard her suddenly yell, then start crying. Her tears hit the ground and she hugged her knees tight, her bandage tearing open on her shoulder. She cried harder and he picked her up, cradling her and telling her to wake up. She awoke, and stared in his eyes, tears still brimming over red eyes. She gazed for minute, then continued crying. He felt her shaking, trembling, tears racking her body. He hugged her tighter, his chin on the top of her head. He let her sob, and whispered soothing words to calm her. He stroked her back, and her hair. Gradually her sobs calmed, and her tears slowed. He continued to whisper. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't outburst like that." She apologized and pulled away. He pulled her back, "It's fine. What I'd like to know is what's causing you to these… outbursts. If I could take away the pain, I'd do it, if only I knew." He tipped her chin up, looking into her eyes, and seeing deep pain.

She twisted away and scuttled to the far wall. "I don't your help, or your

sympathy. Just leave me alone. Just go away." She spoke like a frightened little

girl in a thunderstorm. Her eyes were hazy, and were staring into space, past him. He realized she was reliving something of her past. "Father!" she suddenly screamed, her face becoming extremely panicked, and seeming to struggle

against invisible bonds. Her wrists and ankles were together and she was fighting. She screamed again, this time Alexandra's name. Tears poured and she flailed wildly, and he let her, after trying to shake her out of it, but she was deep in a trance. She shrunk back against the wall in sudden terror, the whimpered as she seemed to be kicked. She cried out again, in pain, and fell over, hard. "No!

Father! Please, Father, wake up! Father! Alexandra, help me! Alexandra! The

heat is so bad! Please help! Alexandra! The fire! Help! Nooooo!" she sobbed and began to wail, weep, and rock back and forth, cradling something. Looking up,

he saw that her eyes were clear and aware, but she cried harder as he cradled her

in his arms, rocking her gently back and forth. He let her cry, and pieced together the odd pieces of the puzzle. He assumed that her father had died, no, been murdered, and that Alexandra had been attacked, in one way or another.

Obviously she'd been bound, and the killer had set fire to the home, or wherever they were. Alexandra was maybe knocked out, and Father was injured, or dead.

He was mortified, and he wondered whom the bastard was who had done this to her family. From what she had remembered, she had been lucky to survive. Probably Father had died, and she had somehow dragged Alexandra out. What

had happened to her was horrendous, no child should have to deal with that kind

of pain, have to suffer like that. She'd been through so much, no wonder she was such a cautious person, and very quick to defend herself, physically and verbally. She began to calm, and he bent his head down, and kissed her softly. She responded, lips becoming soft and pliant, and he took advantage, knowing he wouldn't be able to stop himself this time. He leaned her back against him, and

put his hand behind her neck and one to her back. She threw her arms about his neck and he deepened the kiss. He fought to open her mouth, and slipped his tongue through. She tasted of warm summer days, sweet red wine, and of long-denied want. Laying her gently on the blanket, he started to undo the ponytail she had swished her hair into. He caught his hands in her long and lustrous hair then buried his face in it. He returned to her lips and began to trail kisses along her jawline. Her hands riffled through his hair, and pulled him closer. Though she was four years younger than him, she was still a complete innocent. In a mass of arms and legs, he began to undo her dress buttons in the back, then pulled the

dress down to bare her white silk bra. Pleasures swirled through him as he tasted her when he removed it. She was beautiful, and he wanted her. His long trench-

coat presented a problem but he managed to shrug it off. She was an innocent, he must remember that. His mind was telling him not to ignore that piece of critical information, but he couldn't control himself. He had waited for so long to do this, to run his fingers through her hair, his lips on her body, and her complete submission. After her trauma, she was too weak to defend herself, and too weak

to resist. Mai felt absolutely terrible. How could she have let this get so far? She had to put a stop this. She seemed to be just waking up from a trance, hypnotized by him. She watched him as he kissed her lips, his eyes closed, and was again struck by how handsome, no beautiful he was. He was sexy, so cool, and it was

so odd to see him so gentle, ravishing, but so wild. Her hair was tousled, as was his, but she had to preserve her remaining dignity, or she would never live it

down. She shoved him away and stomped out the firelight so he couldn't see her redress. He would probably just love that. "What the hell?" he complained, seemingly awaking. He stumbled around in the dark, but didn't find her. She stayed quiet after dressing, then grabbed her blanket and curled up to sleep. She was just about to sleep when he crawled over. "What was that about!" he hissed, his dark eyes flashing angrily, with a flicker of pain. She got up on her elbows. "You didn't think I'd let you humiliate me so thoroughly! I'd sooner die! I was weak for a second, but now I've regained my strength. You may leave me alone." She curled back up. "Oh no, we're not finished. You're going to tell me what you relived and remembered. That scene with the fire, Father, and Alexandra. That's what's been bothering you, and you're going to tell me what it is." He reached for her wrist and dragged her up. "You're also going to tell me why you ran away from me. What is it about me that makes me so frightening? You run like a rabbit in a fox den, and you won't even give me a chance to love you." His grip

softened on her wrist and she took a deep breath. "I don't know why I'm trusting you with my personal history, but here goes."

She paused and brought her knees to her chest, eyes staring off into the distance. He watched her, concern all over his face. "In Pardia, Father, Alexandra, and I lived in one of those big penthouses, and Father had just struck a gold mine of a deal, or so he said. We took limos everywhere we went, even to the market. I though it was ridiculous, but Alexandra and Father loved it. I suppose it was the prestige. Alexandra would pick out these beautiful silk gowns for me that must

of cost thousands. Before, I'd had many friends. But when I started wearing

those expensive gowns and dresses, and limos to school, they all shunned me, calling me little rich girl, spoiled brat, all the rigmarole a rich kid has to put up with. Sometimes I'd go the bathroom or the cloakroom and cry to myself. Even

the teacher seemed to dislike me, and he'd always given me little peppermints

for being such a good student." Tears filled her eyes and threatened to brim over, but she wiped them away. Seto's eyes were pools of sympathy, and he leaned forward to console her, but she stopped his hand. "One day when I was in the cloak room, the new girl in my class came over and asked me why I was crying. I told her it was because of allergies. She said she didn't know I had allergies, and that she thought I was lying. I told her I wasn't, and she said I was a rich little girl liar. I cried harder and told her that that was the real reason I was crying. Everybody thought that I was a rich little brat. She told me that all her old friends did the same thing, and that she knew my father. We chatted for a little while and I found out that she was James Cartier's daughter. James Cartier was the head of circulation, money that is. He was one of the wealthiest people in the country, as was Father at the moment. He had struck a deal with Father, and they were now making a lot of money. Her name was Clara, and she was a manipulator, as I was to find out

later. She and her father came to out home one night, and threatened my father

not to tell anyone about their deal. They had an argument, and then Alexandra brought in some brandy, hoping to calm them down. Mr. Cartier told Father that his servants were rude and ill dressed, because servants shouldn't dress so richly. Father told him it was his daughter Alexandra, and then Cartier smashed the brandy bottle on our marble table, then slashed Alexandra's throat with it. She nearly died. They stood up and fought, but Father was a smaller man and was thrown against the wall." She choked up at this point. He reached over and urged her to continue. "Father tried to stand up, and then I came out of hiding from behind one of our bookshelves, because we were in the study. He called me a few curses, then threw me to the ground and bound my wrists and ankles with book tape. Clara was there, and she just laughed. She told me I got what I deserved. I spat at her, and she kicked me. Wench, she called me that many times." She shuddered. "Then Father was choked to death, and Cartier started beating up his body when he was dead. I pretended to be knocked out and he started a fire,

I don't know what with. Father didn't smoke. Clara kicked me again, and I had to bite my tongue in order to keep from crying out in pain. I dragged Alexandra out, when they left, and was going to go back in to get Father, but he was already

dead, and Alexandra wasn't yet. We lived on the street until Prince Yugi's

people found us and gave me a home, and Alexandra a job as a spy and informer. I followed." Mai turned away, and tried to stop her tears, failing miserably.

For the next three hours until daybreak, Seto held Mai and she cried until she

could cry no more. At times he cried with her, at times he just held her as her

sobs racked her body. They traveled on, and they reached the hideout at nightfall. It was hidden very well, and a silver line that made one long line marked the entrance. Seto tapped the silver line and the same process that happened with the mission control center entrance popped up. When he entered the door, there were six more processes to go through, each different. One was a skin sampler, another a blood sampler, and one was a hair sampler. The other three were different forms

of retina scans. Mai was awestruck when she finally entered the giant mission control. Steel walls shielded it from any kind of attack. There was a large counter, obviously made of marble, and there were mahogany barstools. Cupboards of the same surrounded, and a stainless steel sink sat in the middle of the cooking counter. The island counter was the large one. Off to the right, there were three rooms, and each had steel doors, with identification keypads on each. Straight ahead and to the left, there were more rooms, also steel. "Well, here we are. Go

to your right, down two doors, and you'll find your bedroom. It's programmed to your fingerprints, and mine, of course." He grinned. She glowered and looked away. "Would you like to eat something? You haven't been eating very much lately. I have many different foods here, and I checked and it seems that there's enough for five people to last for 25 or 26 years, and being able to eat as much as you want and what you want. There's a washer and dryer, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, armory, gym, storage closet, pool, spa, sauna, and even clothing that can fit any gender at any weight. So if you don't have a swimsuit," he smiled seductively at her at this point, "you can find one in one of the closets." "So sorry

to disappoint your little illusion, but I won't be here very long." She icily

informed him. "Well, that's too bad. Go get freshened up, and I'll have

something ready for you when you come out. Get one of those evening dresses.

I'd like to see you wear something nice, since you always wear such drab

things." He scuttled away to his room before she could argue. "I'll show him!"

she swore to herself. "I will!"

After her long bath, she wrapped herself in a towel and walked into one of the connecting rooms to the closet, or rather, her new wardrobe. Previously, she had sorted all the clothing that she liked and that fitted her to her room. Her blue towel was soaking wet, but at least it was staying in place, and her hair towel had a twist that made it stay, until you wanted it off. She gasped when she stepped inside. Seto was standing by one of the racks, and picking out a few dresses. "Get out!" she screamed at him. He calmly looked at her for a few minutes, then went back to picking out dresses and lifting them to the light. Mai stood for a few minutes in shock, then stomped to him and slapped the dresses out of his hands, making sure to keep herself covered. He gave her a completely innocent look,

then proceeded to pick up the dresses. "So long as I don't say anything to you, you'll have no reason to get mad at me," he informed her serenely. She knocked them out again. "Get out, don't touch any of those dresses, and don't pick out anything that I should wear. I do not obey you, and I never will. Go pick out your own clothing if you're that much into fashion." Mai stormed. He answered very controlled, "I don't have to obey you either, and I am most certainly not 'into' fashion. I just want you to wear something nice, considering you haven't given much concern to yourself in quite a while. You're always caring for somebody else, worrying about somebody else, and thinking about somebody else other

than yourself. Anyway, I bought these dresses, so I can do whatever the hell I

want with them. Go back to your bedroom and I'll be back with the dress you're going to wear." Realizing thee would be no use arguing, she rigidly walked back to the bedroom, streams of curses flowing out of her mouth, making sure he heard them. Seto only laughed when he heard them, then appeared in her room with a deep burgundy dress. It was fairly conservative, with a simple string of rubies around the waist and burgundy slippers. It was long sleeved, had a pearl drop

neck, and a slender waist. "Here. Wear this. It'll be perfect with your hair and

blue eyes. Supper will be in, say, half an hour?" he handed her the dress and escaped the room before she could give an opinion on the dress.

Half an hour later, Mai appeared in the burgundy dress and had her hair pinned up in a slip, to see Seto in a dinner jacket. He had dressed the table with candles, a fresh white tablecloth, and red roses. He rose when he saw her, and presented her with a rose. She sat down as he pulled out her chair, then replaced

it. "Do you like French cuisine?" he raised an eyebrow in questioning. Mai

nodded and decided that, for once, she would enjoy herself.

As they were finishing their raspberry Russian cremes, the atmosphere changed. The meals were done, the light dim, and the night falling. Mai rose, and thanked Seto for dinner and bid him good night after the automated dishwasher swept everything clean. The daiquiris in the beginning had made her feel somewhat woozy, but she had quickly recovered, though the fine red wine from the vineyards of Schmatsavoa had made her near ill. She had been meticulously careful to not let on anything of the sort, and she knew he hadn't noticed a thing. "Wait." He spoke softly. "Excuse me?" "Wait." He reached for her hand. "Will you dance?" he asked, not really giving her a choice. The music began when he took a remote from his pocket, and they began to slowly dance.

She was stiff in his arms, and fire was spitting from her suddenly tired eyes. Looking up was a challenge, so she kept her head down. Mai didn't want this to stop; it just felt so natural. Being here, in his arms, felt just right, and she felt safe, and loved, and cared for. When the music became softer, he pulled her very close and whispered, "Dear one, I love you so much it hurts. Why can you not let me care for you? Piccola, little one, what can I do to make myself less threatening? You regard me as a threat, as a fiend. You cannot bring yourself to allow your heart to think. I know how you feel, because I spent most of my life feeling that way. But I love you, I can make you happy." He said this and tipped her chin up. "I can make you love life again, be carefree. You can live your life happily, free from your pain, your past, if only you would let me. Why, piccola, why not? Am I such a terrible person that you cannot bear to be around me, not even for a few minutes, when I live only to be with you. My heart cannot stand this torture anymore. Will you give me a chance? Even a small chance? Just one chance to prove myself, and I will. Will you, piccola?" he looked into her eyes, gazing deeply in her sapphire depths, and her looking in his icy ocean pools. "Please?" he begged. Mai felt her heart break, but she could not turn her back on herself. But maybe, if she tried, it could work. No, she told herself, it could never work. I would never let it. But he truly loves me! And I just might love him! No, don't ever think or say that ever again! It is not true!

Do you hear me? Not true! You don't even consider it! You do not love him!

Now tell him what you're feeling! He watched her think, consider, debate, and then finally, he heard her answer. "I will give you one chance, and only one chance. Blow it, and you set me free, forever. No more harassing. Deal?" she spoke very seriously, very solemnly. He was overjoyed. "Deal!" he swept her

into a crushing hug, raining kisses all over her. "You will not regret your decision, Mai. I will make sure of that."

After Seto bid her goodnight, Mai lay awake in her queen size bed and thought about him, about his promise. "Brrrrr!" she shivered. The air had gone from reasonably chilly to frigidly icy. Rolling over in her extra blanket she had scrounged from the closet, she heard a knock on the door. She was too cold to answer so she threw a book at the door, hoping Seto heard it. "Mai?" he called worriedly. Mai slipped on her slippers wrapped the blanket tightly around her shoulders, and shuffled to the door. He pounded on the door, yelling her name. "Goddammit, let me in!" he bellowed angrily. She opened the door, indignation all over her face. "What do you want?" she asked sleepily, rearranging her blanket.

He breathed a sigh of relief, and took her by the shoulders. "Are you ok?" he asked. She shook him off with a glare. "I'm fine, as fine as one can be when

frozen to being barely able to move. I threw the book at the door, hoping I wouldn't have to get up." Mai fixed him with a glower, and he smiled, obviously relieved. "There was a break-in, sometime before we got here." The grim face reappeared. "Everything in my apartments has been rearranged and cleaned. Somebody was going through my personal effects, apparently searching for some of my documents. I also saw a shadow in the guest bathroom, the figure of a human being. We're not the only ones here. If he could get into my mini apartment, then he could most certainly get into yours. That's why I was so worried. I'm not going to say anything concerning the documents, because this character may have the place bugged, which is highly possible. Until we know

who this is and what we're up against, you are to stay by me at all times. Everywhere you go, you must have me with you. Are we clear?" he raised an eyebrow in question. She shivered and nodded, too tired to argue. His face became instantly concerned. "You're shivering! It must barely be 4 degrees in there!" he pulled her to him and began to warm her, rubbing her arms with his hands. It was then that she realized he wasn't wearing a shirt, just long bed slacks. His bare

chest was strong and muscled, and he was warm, very warm. Her head was right up against his heart, and she heard it beating fast. His hair was messy, but a cute

kind of messy, and he looked as if he hadn't been sleeping either. He stroked her hair back, then said, "I'll go check out your room. Wait here. You need to get warmed up." Nodding, she plopped down on one of the gazebo chairs that were sitting next to a hall table. His back retreated into the dark room, and then a loud, "Holy shit!" as he was suddenly hit with the cold of the room. He appeared back out in seconds, panting. "Good God! No wonder you were so cold! Somebody broke your heater and permanently turned your room to air conditioning. Looks like you'd better find another place to sleep, because that room is too cold for

even a bear in hibernation." He stopped at this point and a seductive smile crept onto his face. She immediately caught on. "Oh no. You're out of your mind if you're thinking what I think you are." She warned him with suspicious look. He winked at her and the smile grew. "Would you might like to share my bed? We could warm each other, every night." She paled and reached up to slap him, but

he grabbed her hand and kissed it, drawing her up. "You evil despicable man! I hate you! How dare you even suggest such a revolting thing! I will spend the

night elsewhere." She removed her hand and wandered off to the den, then to the bathroom, and everyplace else in the house. He followed. "Brrrrr! Is every room

in this place freezing?" she howled angrily. He stepped behind her and put his

arms around her, turning her around. "I don't know about you, but I'm pre-hypothermic and I'd like to get back to bed. My offer is still open you know."

She backed away, furiously stumbling away from him as he followed. "Never

you bastard!" she yelped as he swept her to him. He looked down at her. "Alright, you can sleep in my bed and I'll sleep on my lounge sofa. If I promise to be a

good little boy and keep my hands to myself will you sleep in there? I just don't want you to be frozen in the morning. Now that we've established that, will you now?" he searched her face, gaze softened, truth written in his eyes. She thought about it and finally answered, "As long as you keep to yourself." He nodded and led her to his room, and entered his code number and placed his prints on the keypad. The door slid open and revealed a warm and dimly lit room. Three doors broke off from the main one, which looked like a personal den. A pile of organized books sat one table, and tables that had computers sitting on them lurked in corners. Floor lamps lit each corner of the room, and an overhead chandelier lit

the whole. Only the floor lamps were on, and the miniature sofas were draped

with blankets. Soft, long, dark brown shag carpet gave the room a rather closed in room. White walls, wooden frames, and dark wood trims enhanced the effect. He guided her to the first door on the left, one of two, and entered a different code and three retina scans were initiated. The keypad confirmed recognition, opening the door to a room of similar style, except the walls were crème, and the wood was replaced by a more beautiful mahogany. Maroon drapes shadowed the bed, and a maroon coverlet was open wide. Slippers were on the floor, and she realized he was barefoot. How cold his feet must be! She thought. Mahogany dressers

guarded the walls, and the room itself, even with two feet of furniture on three sides, was massive. The bed itself was an extra king, and a large closet was on the right.

Crème shag carpet made for very comfortable walking, and two lounge sofas, two writing desks, and three computers compensated for the bed on the left. The room was indeed beautiful. Making for the lounge sofa, she was suddenly stopped by Seto. "You're supposed to sleep in my bed. I'm sleeping on the lounge sofa." He pushed her towards the bed. "I don't think so." She waggled a finger at him. "The guests sleep in the guest bedroom, but since they're all freezing, the guest sleeps on the next best. It's your bed, your room, so I'm sleeping on the lounge sofa. Good night." Elbowing her way past him, she snuggled into her blanket and turned on her side. "The only person who ever gets to tell me that is my mother. Go, or I'll make you." He threatened, and carried through his threat when she ignored him by carrying her to his bed. Trying to wriggle out of his grasp, he finally dropped her down on the bed, and joined her on the other side. "If you put it that way, then I guess I'll just have to comply. Anyway, if you look at the thermostat, the temperature is only dropping. We'll have to warm each other

some way. Don't worry, I won't pull any hanky-panky. Sweet dreams, love." He flipped the light switch and brought her to his chest under the covers so fast she couldn't even get out a single protest. From his attitude, she knew he was in no mood to fight her on the subject, so she just relaxed and allowed the warmth to seep into her icy bones. When it was apparent that both were warm, Mai noticed his breathing was ragged and fast. The air was becoming charged, and his grip on her waist tightened. Her head was resting in the hollow of his chest, and her legs conforming to his. Her back to his chest, his arm around her waist, and his chin

on her head was a perfect fit, and a very comfortable one at that. She felt quite safe, cared for, and wanted. She would have liked it had the situation been different. "Mai," he whispered hoarsely, his body becoming rigid and his body hot. "No!" she scuttled away. Reeling her in, he began to kiss her, deaf to her pleas, until she became soft and pliant, weak to his every whim.

He trailed kisses along her cheek, across her lips, and down her body. In a frenzy of arms and legs, Mai fought him off as best she could, before he finally trapped her beneath his body. "Mai, I'd give up all women for just one night with you. I haven't touched one woman since our encounter that night so long ago. Not one. Do you know how long I've known about you, about my love for you? When I first saw you, you were at Alexandra's funeral, eighteen, in a black dress, black hat with veil, and hair hidden with a black net. Beautiful woman, always. Your big blue eyes were red with tears and lack of sleep, and I knew you hadn't been sleeping because I'd had a surveillance cam run on you." She grimaced angrily.

He faltered, then continued. "Sorry. Previously, I'd already met you at the Rose Convent in Cornwall. Remember? You were defending Prince Yugi in his place, and you had the clear to do as you wished. I believe it was a three week convention, and all the representatives were gathered in the Wall Castle. Our rooms were right next to each other, and I was already falling in love with your spirit, your drive, and your will to fight. We were constantly at war, politically

and verbally, and I remembered I loved baiting you, testing how far you would fight, and how deep your loyalty to the Lancastrians went. Apparently, pretty far. Especially since they took you and your sister off the street and gave you a home. You were different then, quicker to flare your temper, and I could always read your thoughts, like an open book. If anyone even looked cross-wise at you, you'd slap them and give 'em hell. Sometimes I'd chuckle when I saw those poor men that tried to get a date with you. But then you would have caught me and I would be in a similar amount of pain. Surprisingly, you always kept your cool around me, as if you knew that I was not the one to mess with, to rile. Old Jack, you remember him,

was the one that told me why. You'd seen my past debate reviews, and how I'd creamed the competition. You knew that I always got what I wanted, and fought for it, unless it was unattainable. I drop those goals, but I always remember them, and if they become achievable, I pursue them again. It's how I survive. It may interest you to know that old Jack has died, and that I met with Yugi in France.

He has signed over your contract, so now you must either work for me, or be

mine. It's your choice, and either way, I'm going to have you. Working for me would only extend your time without me. You'll only be preoccupied. So what's your answer?" he grinned down into her furious and flushed face. "My answer is that you are an insane maniac with a mind that never quits. Now get away from me." She scrambled fiercely away from him and managed to slide off the bed when he recaptured her and cradled her. "I asked what your answer was." He softly reminded her. "You will not get your answer! Since you are so confident in what you are doing, you may tell me what my new occupation is going to be!" she screeched in his face, her expression contorting in fury. "I will receive an answer, or I will force you to marry me. Give me your answer, and I will leave this room without any further hassle to you." He smiled, a dangerous smile that could turn vicious in seconds. Mai scowled and balled her fists furiously. "Your answer is that I will neither work for you, nor be your little kitten to paw and dress as you like, when you like!" she tried to slap him, but missed as he caught her hands. Seto was smiling again. "I do not paw you, like a kitten anyway. That would be extremely vulgar. I caress you, like the lover I am and will be to you. If you think you will deter me with that meager defense, think again. Since you do not wish to choose, I will choose for you. You will stay here with me, until I can arrange for my army to rescue my castle, and my authority. At that point, we will reside in separate rooms for a small time, say four days, until you come to know me better. Though I know a lot about you, it seems that I do not know everything by a long shot. You seem to only know my bureaucratic personality. After the time is up, you will marry me. Either way, it would still end this way. Don't feel too bad for losing, Mai. Not everybody can win." He held her closer, and she yelped, "You promised you would leave this room with hassling me again!" Turning her face up to his, Seto's eyes twinkled mischievously as he said, "That was only if you gave an answer, and you did not. So I do not have to live up to that promise. Anyway, why would I keep a promise like that? That was a promise that even you should know I couldn't keep. What shall I do with you first, now that I have you right where I want you to be?" Mai wriggled harder, desperately trying to escape his embrace. "If I gave an answer now, would you free me and be on your way?" she pleaded. He held her tight and gave her a heart-stopping predatory smile. "Only if my life depended on it." "Well, it does now," spoke a mysterious voice.

"If you value your life, you will take leave of that bed and of that damsel's being. Now." A tall and dark clad youth stepped out from doorway, tack bombs at his feet. "Who are you and why do you dare intrude on a very personal conversation?" Seto thundered at the figure, immediately rising from the bed. "I do not have to answer you, you chaotic demon!" the figure shouted and stepped into the dim lamplight, and revealing short red hair. Mai felt instantly gratified and thanked the girl, "Thank you so much! I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't stopped this maniac!" Mai thanked, shooting a smug glance over to Seto, who was fuming silently. "What gives you the right, Beth, to go around sneaking into people's private affairs and life?" he sneered coldly and rigidly at the young woman now identified as Beth. Beth tossed her hair and flounced over in her tight fitting black suit. "Well, blondie here has something I want." "What's that?" Mai asked, clearly confused and already take to an instant disliking of the girl. Beth turned to her, a sadistic smile on her face. "The only thing you have of any worth at all, blondie. The Lord's heart, which I have fought gallantly for, and that I have failed at catching. You see, Lord Seto here has a harem of women following him, his every move, like a silly flock of geese. He'd pick out the blondes that looked as close to you as humanly possible, then, well, you know what he does." Beth laughed in her face. Mai felt her jaw tighten. "For your information, little red riding hood," There was a look of hostility from Beth. "I do not know what he did, I do not care, and my name is not blondie. I am Mai Marguerite Valentine Beaufort of the Lancastrian Forces of Prince Yugi! I will not stand here and be attacked by a brainless fluff who thinks she's important because she chases one man and desires to own that man. In addition, I do not own his heart, it belongs to himself, and if he chooses to let you borrow it for a while, well, that's his decision, not yours. If you'll excuse me, I will leave as fast as I can, as I have yearned to be free from him!" Mai gave one last stony look to Seto, and fled the room, shock and pain pouring from her eyes in rivers, which he saw very clearly and felt as if his guts had been wrenched out. "That's it! Leave now, you bitch, or pay the price!" Seto threw Beth across the room and sprinted down the hallway in search of Mai.

Mai flew back to her room and locked the door, then began to pack some clothing and bed items in a large duffle she found beneath the bed. Her tears stained what she packed, and she didn't want to feel what she felt for Seto, it was unreal. To love him, then find out that he had betrayed her, and then find that a woman named Beth lived inside his home and knew everything about what went on inside his castle doors? She could not bear it, the pain, the feeling of being tricked and lied to. She packed faster. Tearing off the burgundy dress and dressing in a skirt and blouse, she packed it in with the rest, just as a reminder of what had happened tonight, and that she should never forget again. She heard Seto pounding at the door, screaming her name, telling her it was lies, then she heard him activate the keypad. "Let me in Mai! She was lying! She was lying! It wasn't true! Please, give me a chance!" he cried out to her. Mai heard tears in his voice, but was not swayed. "You blew your chance, now set me free!" she cried back, her sobs mingling with her words, though she tried to hide them. The door suddenly slid open, and Seto charged at her, crushing her to him. Pleading with her, he begged her to allow him a last chance, that Beth was lying, that she now lay dead, and that he truly loved her with all his heart. "No, I cannot trust you. Once a mistake made, never twice made the same," Mai whispered sorrowfully. Seto turned her face up to his, kissing away her tears, "It was not a mistake, dear one, it was not. Don't ever say that. You can trust me. I love you, you know that. Don't let that cruel and heartless woman like Beth sway your mind, or your heart. You cry for what reason? You do not care for me, so what reason do you cry?" "I despise being lied and tricked! It makes me a fool, and that is one thing that I cannot bear no matter what!" "I have never lied to you about anything, especially my love for you. Darling, don't go, because this time, no matter how far you go, I will follow you. Please, my love, please!" he cried to her. She pulled away from him, and gazed deep into his eyes, seeing pain and sincerity in them. "Can I trust you?" she asked shakily, unable to look away from his hypnotizing gaze. He tightened his arms around her, and said, "I love you Mai, and you know you can trust me with your life." "How can I? You have proven to me that you aren't to be trusted, by lying and tricking me constantly, and for what? For the desire of getting me in bed, where you will use me, then throw me out like a dishrag. I will not be used like that!" she began to cry again, unable to stop herself. He shook her gently, and brought her close, his chin resting on her hair. "I will not use you in such a disgusting manner, and nor will I throw you out. I want you for keeps, I love you, and it is most certainly not just desire, though I do have a strong desire for you." Seto smothered a ghost of a laugh in her hair. "That does nothing to change the fact that I do not like you Seto," Mai spoke, her tears gone and her heart somewhat repaired. "I'm not quite sure if I believe that, and you never answered my question about why you were crying." He looked deeply into her eyes. Unable to tear her gaze away from his hold on her, she replied dazedly, "I did not because I cannot tell you the truth, because I would be betraying my honor." "Well since my honor is in top shape, and I have done some very awful things, you can feel safe to tell me anything, because anything you do cannot be half as bad as the beating my honor has taken. Come, tell me, cara mia." She took a shaky breath, "I cannot still, not only because of my honor, but also my sense of decency, and my self-value. Telling you would cause it to disappear, to evaporate, be destroyed, and I have lost far too much as it is!" his face became drawn as she looked down at the floor, gently stepping out of the circle of his arms. He caught her back to him, forcing her to look at him dead in the eyes. "Cara mia, I have told you many things, many sorrowful things of my life, and one thing that is good in my life. That one good thing is my life for you, and that love for you is what has kept me living, breathing, and chasing you."

A/N: I wrote this when I was NINE years old. No criticism is wanted; I just wanted to post this considering its been on my computer for what, six years?