Notes: The characters aren't mine, the story is, and sibling cuteness abounds! I got this idea when I was watching the last three Noa's Arc episodes, and it wouldn't leave me alone until I sat down to write it. I'm quite proud of it.
Siegfried adjusted the controls in the booth, his eyes narrowed in frustration. It would not take much more and he would have the roof open. Then those running to the captive helicopter would be able to get free—most importantly, his younger brother Leonhard. He had agreed to help Yugi and the others on their quest only because he wanted to save Leonhard, who had been taken prisoner. Otherwise he would not have found it worth his time.
He could hear them yelling over the intercom as they ran down the hall, heading for the helicopter. Automatic lasers shot out at them from the walls, and they yelped and cried out in surprise. The camera he had been watching them on had been shot out, so the audio intercom was now the only means of communication with them.
"What's going on there?" he yelled back, trying to hack into the program that controlled the lasers and shut it off. He listened desperately, wanting to hear Leonhard's voice and to be reassured that he was safe. Mentally he cursed as the computer denied him access to the program.
"What's going on?" Joey's frustrated voice screamed at him. "What does it sound like! They're trying to fry us here! Why haven't you turned off these stupid things, you pink-haired freak!" He sidestepped the lasers frantically, nearly falling over in the process. Tristan grabbed him before that could occur, dragging him in the direction of the stairwell.
Siegfried's lip curled in irritation. "Because the computer has locked me out, you foolish clown!" he retorted, struggling to find an alternate way in. It isn't as if I am doing this on purpose! Generally he was skilled at keeping his temper in check, but he had less than a minute to get rid of all the obstacles in the way of the helicopter, including opening the roof. After the minute was up, the bomb in the building would activate. He had wanted to find it and shut it off, but that had proved impossible. So instead he had to concentrate on making sure that the group got out of there safely with his brother.
"Elder brother!" Leonhard called, rolling under another laser and pulling Mokuba with him. His heart was racing. He knew about the bomb that was about to go off, and he knew that Siegfried would not get out in time if he did not leave the booth immediately. Even then, the chances of him being able to flee in so little time was unlikely. He felt tears coming to his eyes. You came for me, he knew. You came because of me!
Siegfried was relieved to hear his brother's voice. He smiled softly just as he managed to break into the computer's backdoor. Quickly the program was accessed and the lasers turned off. Now he heard a collective whoop of joy.
"Yeah! Now we're in business!" Tristan declared. "We just have to find that stupid helicopter!"
"The staircase is to your right," Siegfried replied, downloading a map of the building. "Using the elevator is too risky. It could shut down while you're in it, and I don't have the time to get you out." Several locks of his pink hair slipped over his shoulder, but he was too occupied to bother pushing them back. "Go up three flights of stairs and then open the door on the next landing. The helicopter should be there." The doorknob rattled and he knew that his hiding place had been discovered. It would not take long for whoever was there to break through. Then they would attempt to turn on all of the obstacles that Siegfried had finally finished deactivating. "Hurry!"
"Alright!" Yugi said in determination. "Let's go!" He looked to Téa, who was already running toward the stairwell door with Mokuba and Joey in hot pursuit. He, Tristan, and Leonhard quickly followed.
"You have to get out of there!" Leonhard pleaded as he ran after the others into the stairwell. He could hear static crackling over the intercom and he swallowed hard. Would this really be the last time he would speak to his brother? He tried to choke back a sob. Why couldn't I have been stronger? he bemoaned silently. I was able to hack into a computer and let my brother know that I'd been taken here, but that's all. I couldn't even get away! They caught me again before I could. And now . . . now Siegfried's probably . . . he's probably going to die!
He dashed up the stairs as fast as he could, trying to block out the memories of going up the staircase right before his duel with Yugi at the end of the Grand Prix. But they came anyway, and he remembered Siegfried handing him the Golden Castle of Stromberg card. He remembered how Siegfried had deceived him about it. He hated those memories. That's all over now! he screamed. Why can't I forget about it? I know Siegfried hurt me, but he didn't mean to! He's changed since then.
"I will leave," Siegfried said finally, his voice quiet again. Most likely very soon now. He heard the doorknob rattle again. Muttering to himself, he pulled up the security camera video of what was happening at the enclosed helicopter pad. Seto appeared on the screen, fighting with several of the guards. He dove under one's upraised arm and then turned, delivering a karate chop to the man's shoulder blades. With a grunt the guard fell over. Not skipping a beat, Seto half-turned just in time to kick another approaching man in the stomach.
Siegfried frowned, looking bored. "You had best finish up your little game, Herr Kaiba," he told him then. "The others are on their way up."
Seto growled, hearing Siegfried's voice on the intercom. "Oh I'll be ready," he snapped. "But I don't see the roof opening yet!" He delivered a knockout punch to the last man's jaw and ran for the helicopter, climbing onboard and adjusting the controls. "You'd better finish up what you're supposed to be doing!"
Siegfried typed hurriedly into the computer, struggling to get it to recognize his orders. But no matter what phrasing he used, the computer refused to acknowledge it. Instead it loudly proclaimed that time was running out to evacuate.
As the others were running up the stairs, Mokuba gave a cry of shock as the stair he had just stepped on caved in without warning. As he began to fall through the opening, he quickly reached up and gripped the edge in desperation. "Help!" he screamed, feeling panicked. He did not want to descend, but the others did not have the time to stop and retrieve him. And yet of course he knew that they would not leave him.
Immediately Joey and Téa reached down, grabbing Mokuba's wrists. "What the heck!" Joey burst out indignantly as they pulled the boy up. "How'd that happen!" His brown eyes flashed in anger. "That idiot up there must be messin' with the controls!" He had never found a reason to trust Siegfried after the Grand Prix, and he was not happy that the businessman had been asked to come along. It would have been better for all of them if they had just gone their separate ways for their missions, he was certain.
Mokuba bit his lip. "I don't think Siegfried caused it," he replied, turning to look at the stairs ahead of them. "He wants us to get out of here with Leonhard. He's not gonna do something that would make it harder for us to do that." Taking a deep breath, he cautiously stepped on the next stair. When it did not break, he grew confident and continued running up. Joey and Téa exchanged looks of confusion over what had caused the other stair's collapse before following after the boy.
Siegfried, meanwhile, was having his own problems. The door had been broken in and two angry employees for the company had presented themselves. While Siegfried was not much use at physical fights, he had succeeded in painfully twisting one man's arm and then in bringing a wooden crate down on the other's head. But the one whose arm was twisted refused to give up. He dove to the computer and typed in his own orders. Then the removable metal stairs began to collapse in the stairwells, the laser beams were reactivated, and the bomb ticked on.
"Twenty seconds to explosion," the computer droned emotionlessly. "Evacuate immediately. Repeat, evacuate immediately!"
Blast! Be quiet! Siegfried yelled in his mind as he tackled the man from behind. The man yelled, grabbing a crowbar as they went down.
Seto slammed his fists down on the control panel furiously. No matter what he did, the helicopter refused to start. He was not certain whether it had been tampered with, whether it was being controlled by the computer mainframe, or if it had simply conked out. "I won't let my brother die here!" he vowed darkly as he searched for some way to get the helicopter to come to life. "Work!" In addition, it was almost impossible to concentrate with the noise of the alarm going off all around him.
"What's the matter?" he finally demanded of Siegfried. He could hear scuffling sounds over the intercom and realized that some of the guards must have broken in. Don't screw this up, von Schroider! he thought angrily. After adjusting the levers, he again tried to start the vehicle. The helicopter remained silent.
The stairwell door burst open then and Yugi and the others ran in. They looked around at the flashing lasers in horror. "We'll never be able to get to the helicopter in time!" Téa moaned, keeping Mokuba and Leonhard close by her. Her heart was racing. Would all of them die here? Would their missions to rescue Leonhard and to get away with vital information concerning the company's nefarious actions all prove failures? No! she cried. We can't fail!
"Maybe we could crawl under the beams," Yugi suggested finally. "If we kept close to the floor, we might be able to make it out!"
"Anything's worth a try, Yug!" Joey exclaimed, his eyes widening as he narrowly missed being hit with another laser that flew past.
"Well, hurry up!" Seto called to them impatiently from the helicopter. He looked over, his eyes locking with Mokuba's for a brief moment. Somehow they had to escape.
The creaking sound he suddenly heard did not please him in the least. When he looked down, he saw that the floor of the building was beginning to open up. Everything in here was operated by the computer. Even if the bomb did not destroy them, they would all fall through the missing floor!
For one last time Seto struggled to activate the helicopter. Miraculously, this time it started. The blades began to whirl around on top as it became airborne. He flew low around the top of the room, keeping an eye on Mokuba and the rest. They were still crawling under the lasers, but the floor was rapidly moving backward. In a few seconds, there would only be a ledge!
"Ten seconds to explosion. Evacuate immediately! Repeat, evacuate immediately!"
Siegfried struggled to get back up, clutching his left shoulder. His arm hung useless at his side. He had injured his shoulder during the fight with the guard, though he was not certain what was wrong. It did not seem broken, so perhaps it was just dislocated. Or maybe it was just temporarily numb from the blows sustained. Siegfried did not have time to worry about it, though he was concerned about how he would quickly type anything with his other hand. He happened to be left-handed.
He sank back into the chair, grabbing the mouse with his right hand and finding that he could click Cancel to erase the orders that had been given. On the screen, he could see the lasers lifting and the floor ceasing to move. Leonhard and the others were able to get up and grab onto the rope ladder that Seto was sending down.
Siegfried set to work struggling to get the roof to open. He had almost had it right when those sentries had entered. As quickly as he could, he typed out the commands with his right hand and pressed Enter. This must work! There is no time left! He watched, relaxing as he saw the roof finally begin to creak open. "Now, get my brother out of here!" he ordered over the intercom.
Swiftly he got up from the computer and ran out of the room and down the hall. Over the intercom, he could hear Leonhard screaming for him as he boarded the helicopter. Siegfried knew he would never make it there in time. He was not even trying. But if he could remember the alternate way out, and if it truly was a way out, then perhaps he would have a chance. . . .
"Elder brother! Elder brother!" Leonhard's panic-stricken voice echoed up and down the corridor. Siegfried's heart clenched.
"You have to leave, younger brother," he said softly as he opened the panel he had remembered about and ran inside.
Even as he was speaking, the rope ladder was being pulled up and Seto was heading for the open roof. But Leonhard was still leaning out of the door, his hazel eyes filling with tears and anguish as his magenta hair blew about in the breeze. "I don't want to lose you," he choked out in German.
Siegfried continued to run down the corridor, the child's voice echoing all around him. There was a ten-second delay on the explosion after the bomb would hit zero, but he doubted that would be enough time for him to get out. He could only hope that Leonhard would. "Leonhard . . . forgive me," he whispered. Forgive me for the times I never spent with you. . . . Forgive me for how foolish I've been. . . . Forgive me for never being the brother you should have had. . . . Forgive me for leaving you.
Mokuba and Téa pulled Leonhard inside as the helicopter left the confines of its prison.
Leonhard collapsed to his knees, his heart leaping into his throat as the building burst into flame. The helicopter was barely far enough away that it escaped being blown along by the force of the blast, but it still swayed slightly and Seto growled, trying to right it.
Around him he could hear the others whispering. "Who'd have thought the guy even had a heart, after the stuff he pulled," Tristan muttered. "I mean, he used his brother during Kaiba's tournament. But now he'd give up his life to save him?"
"Pretty weird," Joey remarked. Leonhard could feel the teenager studying him. "I wonder what the kid's gonna do now." His voice lowered further, but Leonhard could still hear. "I feel really sorry for him."
"I do too," Yugi agreed quietly. "But come on, guys. No one's all bad. And . . . well . . . I know that Siegfried really loved his brother. I don't think he meant to hurt him during the Grand Prix."
There was a brief silence. "Yeah," Joey conceded at last. "Maybe you're right, Yug."
No longer able to control his tears at all, Leonhard burst into sobs, his shoulders shaking as he gripped the legs of his shorts. Siegfried was dead then. His brother was dead. Leonhard could hardly stand the pain that had taken hold of his heart. So many thoughts were crashing through his mind. He remembered his feelings of loneliness gathered from so many years. He remembered how he had just wanted to do something to help his brother and the company, so he had gone along with Siegfried's plot during the Grand Prix, even though he had not liked it. The tears fell harder, splashing on his clenched hands.
Siegfried had embraced him at the end of the Grand Prix. That act had seemed to mark a change in the man's behavior. He had tried to pay more attention to Leonhard and involve him in the various things that were happening. Leonhard had gone with him when they had made the business deal with Pegasus. They had grown closer again, just as they had been when Leonhard had been very little. And now he was gone. Leonhard felt his heart breaking.
Mokuba bit his lip, feeling terrible as he watched his friend cry. What if that'd been Seto in the building? he asked himself, shuddering at the thought. What if I was in Leonhard's place? What if I knew that I was going to be all alone, just like Leonhard is now? But then he clenched a fist. No, he would not have been alone, even if something horrible like that had separated him and Seto. His friends would have rallied around him. And Leonhard definitely needed a friend now. Mokuba just hoped that he would not say the wrong thing. Slowly he knelt down next to the magenta-haired boy.
"Hey," he said softly, laying a hand on Leonhard's shoulder. The other child jerked in surprise before looking up at him. Mokuba tried to collect his thoughts. "I'm really sorry," the younger Kaiba said helplessly. Sadness and sympathy shone in his blue-gray eyes. "I know how awful I'd feel if anything happened to Seto. He . . . he's my best friend in the whole world."
More tears slipped from Leonhard's eyes. "Always be grateful you still have him, Mokuba," he replied finally. "Siegfried . . . he . . . he's gone now. . . . And all I want more than anything is to have him back! I just want him back!"
Mokuba shut his own eyes tightly. "I know," he said softly. To his mind came memories of how different Seto had been before Gozaburo had came along. Sometimes he had even been cheerful. But that Seto was no more. He had been replaced by the cold, calculating businessman that he had become. But he was still Mokuba's brother. Even though he was not the same as he had been when Mokuba had been younger, and the boy sometimes wished that Seto would smile more and be happy again, he was still immensely grateful that Seto was still with him.
Leonhard gazed out blankly at the destruction before them. "He really loved me," he said brokenly. "No matter what anyone said, and no matter what he did, my brother loved me."
Mokuba looked out as well, feeling sobered by everything that had happened. "Yeah," he replied then. "He did. He really did."
Businessmen collect many enemies over the years. Some are jealous rivals, wanting to drag their competitors down. Some are those within the company who wish to run it themselves and eliminate whoever is currently in charge. And some retaliate when the businessmen begin poking into things that they supposedly should not.
Such was the von Schroiders' problem when Siegfried began investigating a suspicious business deal that had been proposed to him by a struggling gaming company that was trying to open in Domino City. The further he poked and prodded, the more absurd the company sounded. Many things that should not have been ignored had been utterly swept under the carpet—instances of malfunctioning merchandise, defective machinery, and employees who disappeared without a trace whenever they threatened to "blow the whistle." At last Siegfried shook his head and decided that a business partnership with such a company would not be to his benefit, and so he rejected the offer.
But the company would not hear the end of it. Angrily the CEO called for the abduction of Leonhard von Schroider, Siegfried's younger brother. Then ey would force Siegfried to bend to their wishes. And if he still would not, then they would kill both brothers. After all, Siegfried really knew too much to be allowed to stay alive. It was not unknown to them that Siegfried had been hacking into their computer mainframe.
As for how Yugi and his friends had also gotten involved, Téa had taken a temporary job at the company as a receptionist in order to earn a bit of money to pay for her dancing lessons. Quite by accident, she had stumbled across several confidential files that told about many of the problems that Siegfried had already discovered from his research. Immediately she had gone to the others with news of her discovery and they had decided to investigate themselves after the police failed to find anything suspicious at the company.
Siegfried narrowed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Leonhard had been gone for over a day now, and there had been no word on where he was or how he was. But Siegfried was certain that Gaming Inc had taken the boy. That explanation made the most sense. But what he wondered was why there had been no communication from the company. If they truly did have Leonhard, then it seemed to Siegfried that they would want to announce it to him. And so he did continue to harbor doubts. Perhaps the suspicious business had not taken him after all. But if that was so, then where was he?
That was when suddenly his laptop screen went black before shifting into what many computer programmers had dubbed "The Blue Screen of Death." He frowned, coming to attention and wondering what had gone wrong now, but then the picture on the monitor seemed to reset itself back to what was normal. He raised an eyebrow, but then stared as a word processor opened and a message began to type itself out.
Elder brother! They've got me!
Siegfried stared, stunned by the communication. Was this truly from Leonhard or was it a cruel joke? His brother was certainly capable of hacking into computers, but if he had been kidnapped, would he actually have access to one? Before he could think what to do, the message continued.
I think it's that company that wanted to do business with you. They have me locked in the building, and I can see that I'm on the sixth floor of a really tall building. There's a small window, but it's tinted and I guess only I can see out, without others being able to see in. I can see the KaibaCorp building nearby, so I must be in Domino City. I don't know for sure, because they chloroformed me or something and I woke up here. But I heard a couple of them talking. They took me to get at you! They . . .
And then the message cut off, as if Leonhard had been interrupted.
Many thoughts went through Siegfried's mind then, but first and foremost was the need to get Leonhard safely away from the ruthless animals that had taken him. Siegfried was certain that they would not stop at anything to get at him, including actually hurting his brother. Leonhard could be getting hurt right at this moment. Siegfried did not want to think about it. He stood up, determined to immediately fly out to Domino City. He would not let Gaming Inc get away with this, and he would certainly not be a pawn in their game. That was something he would never do. They would regret the day that they had ever tried to play games with a smart, angry businessman such as Siegfried von Schroider.
The telephone rang as he was about to leave his home office and give the butler instructions for readying his private jet. With a frown he snapped up the receiver instead of waiting for a maid to answer. "Hello?" he said distractedly.
"Ah, Herr von Schroider," came the smooth purr of an unfamiliar voice. "It's so good to catch you at home. We haven't been able to reach you for the last day or so."
Siegfried's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Who is this?" he demanded.
"I forgot to introduce myself? Really, where are my manners. Well, my name is Antonio Giovanni, president of Gaming Inc." Siegfried could almost see the man's wicked smile. "It's such a shame that you don't want to do business with us. So I brought your brother here for a visit, hoping that he would try to make you reconsider." Siegfried heard a soft click, possibly from a cigarette lighter.
The younger businessman felt hatred welling up in his heart for this person. For the company to try manipulating him was bad enough on its own, but using his brother was an unforgivable offense. "And why are you so interested in SchroiderCorp in the first place?" he asked, quietly seething.
"Oh come now, you can't make any guesses?" Giovanni sneered, enjoying the angry tone he could hear in Siegfried's voice. "Well, it doesn't matter right now. But if you refuse to cooperate with us, I'm afraid I can't guarantee the safety of your brother. And don't even think of calling the police or any such thing. Some of my men are watching you twenty-four seven. I'm watching you, too." He gazed at the images the hidden camera was sending him and was satisfied. He had infuriated the pink-haired businessman.
Siegfried clenched a fist. "I will not be manipulated in this way!" he retorted hotly. "Leonhard is not something that you may use as your bargaining chip to do whatever you please!"
"Is that a no? It really isn't wise, my friend." Giovanni leaned back in his chair, the wide, white teeth gleaming in the darkness of his office. "The boy tried to get away from our hospitality, but he just can't seem to. We find him wherever he goes." In the background, Siegfried could hear the sounds of a struggle, a loud thump, and then Leonhard crying out in pain. Siegfried was sickened.
"Leave him alone!" Siegfried yelled indignantly. "He is only a child!" He could not stand to hear the boy suffering any sort of agony, especially when he knew that he could do nothing to help him.
"Oh, but he's something much more than that," Giovanni purred. "He's your brother, and it looks as though my calculations were right when I determined that you truly do care about him, in spite of what you did to him during the Grand Prix. Really, you and Seto Kaiba have more in common than you would like to believe." He knew these comments would only anger Siegfried all the more, but that was what he wanted.
"That is none of your business!" Siegfried retorted. He despised being compared to Seto Kaiba, but for now he had bigger things to worry about. He refused to be manipulated, and yet at the same time, he wondered if he would have to pretend to go along with the plot until he could get to Domino City. His mind raced frantically.
"Listen to me," came the smooth reply. "I'll give you eighteen hours, starting right now, to make your decision. Be wise, Siegfried von Schroider! Think of your brother, not of your pride." Leonhard could be heard moaning in the background as Giovanni abruptly hung up. Siegfried was left with a dial tone and a need for vengeance.
Quickly he turned away, heading out of the office as he had originally intended to do. He yelled for his butler to call his pilot and ready the plane, and then began swiftly packing. He could be at Domino City with plenty of time to spare. Then he could find a way to break into the building and rescue his brother. He would solve this problem himself, without the aid of police or anyone else. The thought briefly crossed his mind that perhaps he was walking into a trap, but that was a risk he would have to take. Antonio Giovanni and Gaming Inc would never know what hit them.
Seto Kaiba was annoyed when Yugi came to see him at KaibaCorp and briefly described what Téa had discovered about the Gaming Inc company, and even more annoyed when Yugi mentioned that they wanted to investigate.
The young businessman frowned, turning a pen over in his hands as Yugi concluded. "That's ridiculous," he snorted. "You'd have no idea of what you were getting into." And he wondered why Yugi had come to tell him all of this, anyway. The boy would not be doing it to receive advice. And he would know that Seto probably would not particularly care about knowing.
Yugi swallowed. "Well," he said sheepishly, "that's kinda why we were hoping you could help, Kaiba." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I thought maybe you'd know something else about this company—who runs it, what happened to the missing employees, why the machinery is defective. . . ."
Seto grunted. "I don't," he said flatly. "I haven't bothered to study on what makes them losers. They're doing even worse than von Schroider's company, and from what you've been saying, I can see why." He frowned, leaning forward on his desk. "At least he has the intelligence to make sure that his machines are operating the way they should. And he doesn't try to sweep problems under the carpet."
Yugi sighed. Figuring that it was hopeless to continue the conversation, he turned to leave. "Well, thanks anyway . . . I guess," he said slowly.
Seto muttered something unintelligible.
Before Yugi could leave, Roland burst into the room looking worried. "Mr. Kaiba!" he cried. Both Yugi and Seto turned to look at him.
"What is it now?" Seto growled in annoyance.
Roland looked reluctant to even say, which he was. He knew that Seto would not be pleased with this information in the least. He was not extremely happy about it himself. "Sir, Gaming Inc has been buying up shares of KaibaCorp!" he said then, wincing as he did. This had the potential to become the Paradius disaster all over again. And neither he nor Seto especially wanted to relive that experience.
Seto leaped out of his seat. "What!" he burst out in disbelief. "How would a tiny business like that even have the money or skills?" This seemed too much of an absurd coincidence to even be true. Yugi had just been asking him about the company, and now suddenly he had a reason to be interested. Seto instantly thought of the trouble with Paradius as well, and he knew that the last thing he wanted to do was to see it repeated. KaibaCorp was still just recovering from that fiasco. If another were to happen right now, it could cause irreparable damage.
Roland mopped at his brow with a handkerchief. "I'm sure I don't know, Mr. Kaiba," he replied then. "What do you want to do?"
Seto's eyes narrowed. "I want to pay them a visit," he decided. "Calling on the telephone would only give us the run-around. I want to go straight to the top and find out what the CEO has in mind!" He looked at Yugi. "But I don't need you and your peanut gallery coming along. None of you have had any experience with business-related things. This is the big league. You'd only make it necessary for me to get you out of your predicaments when I need to be solving this mystery. So if you want my advice, stay out of this!" He sat back down at the desk to look up whatever information he could on the small gaming company. As far as he was concerned, this conversation was over. But he had the feeling that Yugi and his friends were not going to give up. They never did.
Yugi sighed. "Alright, Kaiba," he agreed then, knowing it was hopeless to protest. "We won't get in your way. But we still did want to do some investigating ourselves. Maybe we could help. . . ."
"There's nothing you could do that I couldn't get done myself," Seto retorted.
"Well, if that's the way you feel. . . ." Yugi saw Seto nod curtly. "I'll go then. . . ."
Yugi found that he felt somewhat depressed as he left the KaibaCorp building. Seto was still as aloof and cold as ever. Yugi supposed that Seto would never change, but he still wished that the other boy would be willing to accept their offer of friendship. And yet in another way, perhaps Seto had. He did help Yugi and the others out when they found themselves in disastrous predicaments. It was just that he chose not to hang out with them and do such things as go to the arcade or duel for fun. Seto felt different from them, even though he was physically around the same age. And Yugi supposed that what he truly felt sad about was that Seto had been forced to grow up too fast. But that was something that he could not change.
When Yugi went back to the game shop and reported to the others what Seto had said, the others were not surprised. But that did not stop Joey from being annoyed.
"It's just pointless to even try to talk to that guy!" the Brooklyn boy cried indignantly. "I mean, we all know he's just a rich snob who doesn't want people of lower classes gettin' in his way!" He fell back against the soft couch, crossing his arms and glaring angrily at the floor.
Tristan sighed. "Why do you even bother?" he asked Yugi from his position next to Joey.
Yugi sighed too. "I don't know," he said, plopping down in a chair. "I was hoping he'd know something that he could tell us that might help." He rubbed his eyes.
"Well, since he didn't, what are we going to do now?" Tristan wanted to know.
"I think we should go there anyway," Téa spoke up firmly. "I still work there, so I can make sure that all of you get in." She looked at her friends for confirmation. Whether or not Seto could or would help, she was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. From her findings, Gaming Inc was a dangerous company that cared little for the safety of its employees, and she wanted to bring them down.
"I'm in," Tristan said.
"Me too!" Joey cried, leaping up. "Heck, we don't need Kaiba. We can do this on our own!"
Yugi nodded slowly but still looked apprehensive. "It would really help if we had someone with us who's skilled with computers, though," he mused. That was another reason why it would have been useful if Seto had been willing to help.
"Eh, we'll manage," Joey muttered, already halfway down the stairs.
"I hope you're right, Joey," Yugi said softly as he, Tristan, and Téa followed. Somehow he had a bad feeling about this.
It was when they were nearing the company building that an oncoming taxi nearly ran Joey down when he walked out into the street. The blonde dove out of the way and fell onto the grass of an island, yelling angrily at the cab while his friends called to him in concern to make certain he was alright.
Siegfried looked back in disbelief and annoyance as the taxi parked up the street. Was that the same loud-mouthed, short-tempered teenager that he had defeated in the Grand Prix? He had the sinking feeling that it was. And that was the last thing he was in the mood to deal with at the moment. He had to rescue his brother, not to deal with that clown's antics. Quickly he paid the driver and stepped out, willing himself to be smooth and calm in this situation. Casually he brushed his long hair over his shoulder.
Joey, who was now in front of the building with Yugi and the others, turned and glared at him. "What's the big idea of almost running me over?" he yelled indignantly, and then simply gawked. The others stared as well.
"Wait a minute!" Yugi gasped. "I know you! You're Siegfried von Schroider!" None of them had seen the businessman since the events of the Grand Prix, though they had heard mention of him in the news every now and then. Recently he had closed a business deal with Pegasus in an effort to save the company, which was still not back to even its former glory. Siegfried was often laughed at by the media and called a washed-up has-been (and worse), but he always pressed on anyway, seeming to ignore their comments (even though he probably actually did not).
"You probably tried to run me down on purpose!" Joey said hotly.
Siegfried sighed, shaking his head, and then gave a quiet smirk. "You will have to forgive that poor cab driver," he replied. "You see, he just has not mastered the art of stopping on a dime when foolish clowns run into the middle of the street without first looking both ways. Actually, you should be thanking him because he managed to avoid striking you."
Joey gave another angry yell and tried to lunge, but was held back by the others. Siegfried was unimpressed.
"I'm sorry, but I really don't have time to deal with you today," he said then, moving to walk past them. "I have more important matters on my agenda. But if you ever wish to suffer another terrible defeat, as you did during the Grand Prix tournament, we will have to set it up some time." Sometimes he even amazed himself with how calm he could appear to be. Usually he truly was calm in reality, but now it was a facade. He knew Giovanni's men had been hurting Leonhard, but he had no idea how severely they had taken it. The child could be laying in there, bleeding on the floor and in terrible pain. He could not stand to think of it.
"Excuse me," Téa said over the sounds of Joey's anger as she noticed the direction in which Siegfried was heading, "but are you planning to go to the Gaming Inc building?" She had decided that it would be wise to change the subject, and she wanted an answer to this question anyway. Not that she expected a straight answer from Siegfried, but she was concerned. What if he was working with the company in some way and they would have to contend with him along the way? He could be a formidable opponent when he put his mind to it.
"He's probably workin' with them, the jerk!" Joey muttered, finally calm enough to not need restraining. He pulled free from Yugi's and Tristan's grip, trying to reconcile himself to the fact that Siegfried was mysteriously here in Domino City and that he would simply have to deal with it.
He was not expecting Siegfried's reaction. Suddenly the man was standing in front of him, his sea green eyes boring into Joey's brown orbs. He looked close to murderous. "I may have done terrible things, Herr Wheeler," he hissed quietly, "but never place me in the same category as the demons behind this company." He remained there for another moment to glare at Joey in silence before stepping back.
Joey let out a breath he had not realized he had been holding. He had rarely, if ever, seen Siegfried angry to that degree. He discovered that it had actually made him nervous. He muttered angrily to himself, annoyed that he had let the "pink-haired freak" get to him.
Tristan frowned. "Listen, Téa asked you a simple question," he said to Siegfried. "Just give her an answer!"
"It really isn't any of your business," he replied, flipping his hair back. "I could ask the same thing of all of you, since you are all standing near Gaming Inc's skyscraper."
Yugi sighed, knowing that Siegfried had a point. "Please tell us," he implored, afraid that they were making a scene so close to the building. "We do have a good reason for asking." Suddenly something else occurred to him and his eyes widened. "Where's Leon?" he exclaimed.
Siegfried's eyes flickered, and the worry within them was obvious, but he refused to answer. Instead he turned away, but not before the teenagers had seen how upset he truly was.
"Yeah, where is he?" Tristan chimed in.
"Did you leave him behind so you wouldn't end up using him again?" Joey blurted out. Yugi and Téa frowned at him.
Siegfried was nearly seething. What right did these youths have to come plying him with questions, most of which they had absolutely no right to ask, when his brother could be suffering greatly right at that moment? The facade of calmness would not work this time. It had already faded away.
Yugi bit his lip. He had seen the agony in Siegfried's eyes that the man refused to speak of, and he was the first to realize that something was very wrong. It was not like Siegfried to drop his mask. Yugi had only seen that happen a couple of times towards the end of the Grand Prix. He swallowed hard as he stepped forward and slowly laid a hand on Siegfried's shoulder. The man nearly jumped a mile, and Yugi's friends stared at the short boy in confusion.
"Siegfried, something happened to Leon, didn't it?" Yugi said quietly. "Is that why you're here—to save him?"
Siegfried stared at him. How had Yugi figured that out? Or maybe he was merely making a lucky guess. But it seemed a strange one to make out of the blue.
Taking Siegfried's expression and his silence to be a confirmation of the truth, Yugi continued. "Did they take him?" he asked. "Is that why you said that we shouldn't compare you to them, because they took Leon?" He was certain that he was right. It all made sense now—Siegfried's abrupt appearance, his strange behavior, the worry in his eyes. . . . Siegfried truly loved his younger brother, in spite of what had happened during the Grand Prix. Yugi had been convinced of that when Siegfried had tearfully embraced the boy at the close of the final duel.
"Yes," Siegfried finally admitted, his voice quiet and weary. There was now not any trace of the arrogant, obnoxious side of his personality. Even if for only a brief moment, he looked tired and vulnerable. But then he regained his composure and turned to step away from them. His voice took on the calm, smooth tone they remembered as he spoke again, even though inwardly he was in turmoil. "So if you will pardon me, gentlemen and Fraulein, I must be on my way."
Téa hesitated before stepping forward as well. "We're trying to stop Gaming Inc too," she said quietly. "Maybe . . . we could help each other. . . . And . . . we want to help Leon, too." With that she and the others began to explain their story to Siegfried.
He listened, not extremely interested. They had found out what he already knew about the company. And he believed, as Seto did, that there really was not anything to be gained from working with Yugi and his friends. He supposed it might be useful enough to have some other people around who could fight in case of an attack from Gaming Inc's security, but he did not know how good Joey and Tristan were at fighting, and he doubted Yugi's and Téa's abilities.
"We thought that we could really use your help," Yugi said now. "I mean . . . you are good with computers, and we thought it'd be helpful if we had someone along who knows how to work them. Téa said there's lots of weird security devices in there, even though the machines are defective." That seemed to say that Gaming Inc most definitely frowned on intruders. Yugi wondered what else they were hiding besides the broken machines. "Anyway . . . they probably need computers to work, so someone would need to shut them off. . . ."
Siegfried sighed. He really did not have time for this. But he supposed that Yugi had a logical point about the security devices. He had studied blueprints of the company on the flight over, and it appeared as though the company heavily relied on technology, making it all the more strange that they did not take good care of their machines. "If you do not get in my way," he said at last, "then perhaps we could work something out." Perhaps they even could be useful, he hoped, and serve as distractions while he rescued his brother. Getting Leonhard back was the most important thing above everything else. If Yugi and his friends wanted to play detective, that would have to wait until after his brother was safe.
Now Yugi's eyes narrowed and he clenched his fists. "But now you've given us a more important reason to go there, Siegfried," he said firmly. "Leon is our friend!" He had not expected things to take this turn, but most definitely he wanted to help rescue Leonhard, and he was certain that the others would feel the same way.
Joey frowned, not certain at all that Siegfried could be trusted. Yugi surely had not thought this through. It could not work to anyone's advantage, except perhaps Siegfried's—and Joey did not want to merely be a pawn used by a ruthless businessman, no matter what the reason. "So . . . you're gonna help us?" he said suspiciously, before Siegfried could reply to Yugi.
"You are going to help me, Herr Wheeler," Siegfried replied with an arrogant toss of his hair. "Among other things, you and the others will create diversions when needed. If I come with you, you will play by my rules."
"WHAT!" Joey cried indignantly. "No way am I gonna take orders from you, Siegfreak!" He looked to Yugi. They surely did not need Siegfried along. He would control the entire mission and most likely would not care about their safety. And Joey had to admit that his pride did not take kindly to the idea of Siegfried giving him directions. The pink-haired German annoyed him more than Seto Kaiba, and that was saying something.
"Well, then I will be on my way," Siegfried smirked, moving to leave them.
Yugi bit his lip. He did not think it wise to refuse Siegfried's help, even if he insisted that he lead them. It made sense, anyway. Siegfried probably knew the most about the company and how it worked. Besides, he knew that he did want to help, no matter what were Joey's feelings on the matter. They could not ignore the fact that Leonhard was in trouble. "Wait!" he cried then.
Siegfried paused. "Yes?"
"You must know more about Gaming Inc than us," Yugi said, clenching his fists worriedly. "I promise we'll do what you want. And even if no one else will, I'll . . . I'll trust you." He knew that they would have to in order for this to go successfully. They could not go through the mission being suspicious of what Siegfried would do to them. Yugi knew that they would have to trust that Siegfried would make sure to get all of them out.
"Yug! You don't know what you're saying!" Joey scolded.
Siegfried glanced at Yugi slightly in surprise, ignoring Joey. Then he shrugged. "Very well. Then come along." He headed toward the building, not slowing down to wait for Yugi and the others. They hurried to catch up.
"I can't figure this weirdo out," Tristan sighed.
"I think he knew all along that we needed his help," Yugi said. "And . . . I don't know, maybe he was hoping that we'd want to help Leon and say so."
"Hoping?" Joey said incredulously.
Yugi nodded. "Maybe he wanted to know that Leon has friends," he suggested.
"Whatever," Joey muttered. "It's weird." He's weird, Gaming Inc's weird, us working with Sieggy is weird. . . . He just hoped that he could stand to work with him and not lose his temper. He also hoped that Yugi knew what he was doing. Trusting Siegfried was a mistake, Joey was certain. Leonhard had trusted him during the Grand Prix, and Siegfried had betrayed him. There was no guarantee that it would not happen again. Why would Siegfried feel any sort of loyalty to any of them? He would probably sacrifice them all if he thought it would help him.
Siegfried had intended to get into the building by using his wrist device to foul up security so that they could enter through a backdoor, but since Téa had been working there, he decided that she and her friends could enter through the front and it would not look suspicious. He, on the other hand, still planned to use a back entrance since he was not planning to conform to what Giovanni wanted. If he entered through the front door, it might appear as though he was going to submit to Gaming Inc's plans—and that would never happen. He would show them that it was very foolish to have picked a fight with him.
Téa felt nervous as they waited for Siegfried to break in through the back entrance. She tried to appear calm and collected as she sat behind the receptionist's desk and sorted through papers and files, but she was certain that her heart was pounding. This mission was going to be very dangerous. And though she trusted Yugi, she was not certain that she trusted Siegfried. But surely, she hoped, if he was here to save his brother, then he could not be all bad.
"Try to act natural, guys," she hissed, mostly to Joey and Tristan. But it seemed that she did not need to worry. They were wandering about the lobby, commenting on the strange statues and modern art. Yugi laughed softly, rubbing the back of his neck.
This was the scene Seto found before him as he entered the building. He snorted and rolled his eyes, but he had to admit that he should have fully expected to find Yugi and the others there. Not wanting to blow whatever cover they had managed to obtain (in case others were watching on security cameras), he walked up to the desk and looked at Téa coldly. "I'm here to see the CEO," he announced. All eyes turned to look at him.
Téa bit her lip. "He's on the tenth floor," she directed, "and he has his own private receptionist." She had never spoken with him, not even over the telephone when people did come for meetings with him, and she found that somewhat odd. But then it seemed that so many businessmen were eccentric in their actions. "I could call up there and see if he's in. . . ."
Seto grunted. "Don't bother," he replied. "I'll find out for myself." With that he brushed past them and headed for the elevator.
Joey glared after him. He was always annoyed when Seto ignored them, though this time he supposed he could understand the logic behind it. I bet he'll blow a fuse if he finds out we recruited that pink-haired freak to help us, he thought to himself. From Tristan's expression, he was thinking the same.
"Man, I hope those two don't end up meeting while we're in here," Tristan muttered. "That's a disaster waiting to happen!"
Both Joey and Tristan jumped at the sudden voice that had come from behind them. They were standing in front of a stairwell near the back of the area, the door of which had opened a crack. Siegfried was looking out at them, smirking slightly at their expressions.
"You should really be more careful about what you say," he remarked. "You never know who might be listening in." He gestured inside. "Come."
Joey's eyes narrowed, but at last he went to the door and entered. The other three followed. Siegfried led them up the stairs to the next landing, locking the door behind them. "Now, since I have disabled the security in this part of the building, I have reset the cameras so that they play back footage from the previous two hours," he explained. "Unless those watching the videos are paying especially close attention, this deception should not be noticed." And even if they did, it would take a while before they would figure out the cause. Siegfried was not concerned about that.
"Did you find out where Leon is?" Yugi asked hopefully.
The man's eyes narrowed. "No," he admitted, "but I doubt he would be in plain sight." Though he did wonder if Giovanni was keeping Leonhard in his office. He intended to hack into the security cameras on the higher floors and see what was being recorded. The first priority would be to see if Leonhard was indeed in the office. If he was not, then Siegfried would check in other places until he found him. He expressed this plan to the others, adding to himself that he would create chaos throughout Gaming Inc's network. Not only would that serve as a good distraction, but he felt that they definitely deserved it after what they had done to Leonhard.
Joey muttered angrily. "This could take ages!" he remarked. Naturally he wanted to find Leonhard, but the longer they remained there, the greater the chances became of Siegfried using them for something or another. He was certain that he would not ever trust him on this expedition and still felt a certain disbelief that Yugi had said that he would, but then he supposed that was usual for Yugi.
"Not necessarily, if you will cooperate," Siegfried replied pointedly. Joey frowned at him.
Seto burst into the office once the receptionist told him it was alright. Giovanni was calmly at his desk, going over papers. But when he looked up, Seto could only stare at him in disbelief. This was a twist he had not expected. The person sitting before him was none other than his hated enemy, the Mafia don Del Vinci. He narrowed his eyes.
Del Vinci smirked up at him. "Ah, Seto Kaiba, my nemesis," he remarked calmly. "Don't tell me that you didn't realize I was behind this."
Seto growled. "The last I'd heard, you were tucked safely away in a prison cell," he retorted. But he had wondered if there was a connection when he had heard the man's name given as Antonio Giovanni. Del Vinci had used the "Giovanni" alias in the past, though Seto had not thought that the man would use the same pseudo name again.
"I have a good lawyer," Del Vinci answered, setting the folder aside. "But let's get down to business. I knew that buying stock in the company would get your attention." He leaned forward over the desk, lacing his fingers together.
Seto glared at him angrily. "What do you want?" he demanded. The urge to cause bodily harm to the man who had more than once tried to kill Mokuba was almost overwhelming, but Seto struggled to keep his temper down. That would not help things here.
"What, you ask?" Del Vinci opened the folder and placed it in front of him, for Seto to look at. "As you may have noticed, Gaming Inc has been a struggling company. But if it aligned itself with some of the major gaming corporations, or even bought them out, then that would solve its problems. So that is what I've started to do. And I know exactly how to twist my fellow businessmen's arms around." With that he also turned the monitor to face Seto, and he could see a security camera image of a magenta-haired boy trying desperately to find his way out of a locked room.
Seto stared in disbelief. "That's Leonhard von Schroider!" he declared.
"Of course it is," Del Vinci grinned. "His brother owns the top gaming company in Europe, or he did anyway, until the stocks and reputation of SchroiderCorp began to fail following the Grand Prix. (And of course his company was never as successful as yours.) I tried to generously offer a partnership, but he refused, so I had to resort to force."
Seto snorted. "At least von Schroider's smart enough to do that much," he said. "A partnership with your pathetic business would only ruin whatever hope he has left of dragging SchroiderCorp out of the rut it's in." He regarded Del Vinci suspiciously. There had to be some deeper reason for what was going on. Surely this nonsense was not just about the profit. Seto figured that Del Vinci wanted to ruin him, but he did not know that the Mafia don had a reason to hate Siegfried. "What's really going on here, Del Vinci?" he demanded now, his eyes narrowing.
The man got up from his desk and came around, placing his hands behind his back. "Well, you know how far I carry grudges, Kaiba. My loathing of you goes back several years now. And while Siegfried von Schroider did not do anything personally to me, his father did!" He gave a firm nod. "The first time I was trying to enter the business world, the elder von Schroider bought out my small company and uprooted me from my position as CEO. Of course, such is the business world." He shrugged. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to stand for it. Everyone who has irritated me in some way eventually gets theirs." What he neglected to mention was that this latest attempt to get revenge had not entirely been his idea. There was someone else pulling the strings in this venture, but Del Vinci would leave his enemies to figure that out later. The story he had given about wanting to boost Gaming Inc's reputation was completely false. He could not care less about the company. It was only a front.
Seto rolled his eyes. "Every time you try to enter the business world, someone always knocks you back down. Did you ever think that maybe there's a reason for that?" Without waiting for an answer, he continued. "And I don't think von Schroider is going to be happy about you taking his little brother. I know he hates being manipulated. He likes to be the one doing the manipulation—though I doubt that even he would go so far as to abduct a kid."
"Oh, I know he's not happy about it," Del Vinci sneered. "He's in the building right now." At that precise moment, the security alarms went off in many parts of the building and garbled messages began scrolling across the screen. But instead of looking angry, Del Vinci's eyes gleamed wickedly. "You see? Who else could cause so much chaos in such a short amount of time? When I realized that security had been turned off on the lower floors, I knew that he must have arrived."
Seto was not impressed. "So you wanted him to come?" he realized. This was looking very bad. He wondered if Del Vinci had completely lost his mind because of his desire for revenge on those he hated.
"Of course. And I wanted you to come, as well, Kaiba." Del Vinci laughed. "After what happens here today, it won't matter if Gaming Inc fades into the shadows. It's part of a larger company, a secret company that will soon rule supreme. But you won't be alive to watch it happen." He would escape, but his enemies would be stranded here. What they did not know—yet—was that there was a bomb in the building, set to go off in ten minutes. The explosion would be blamed on faulty machinery and everyone involved would disappear. All of the company's important files were safely at the computer mainframe that belonged to the parent company. There would be no great losses. If any of Gaming Inc's employees were trapped here during the blast, Del Vinci could afford to lose them. The main ones had already left.
"What do you mean?" Seto demanded.
Del Vinci merely laughed as the laser beams activated and prevented Seto from following him through a trapdoor. "You'll find out," he replied. "But meantime, I think there's something on the computer that you'll want to see!"
Seto was about to respond indignantly when a cry from the direction of the monitor made him immediately turn around. Mokuba was there on the webcam, with Leonhard! He stared. His brother had not been there a moment before! "Mokuba! What do you think you're doing?" he demanded. Had Del Vinci taken him again? In any case, this was extremely dangerous. Seto was certain now that Del Vinci was going to try killing all of them, somehow. Why did Mokuba have to be here?
Mokuba shook his head. "I came to find you, Seto!" he cried, his blue-gray eyes wide with panic. "When Roland said you'd gone to Gaming Inc, I tried to find out stuff about them, but I couldn't, so I hacked into the system! That's when I saw that they had Leonhard. And I found out that the company boss is Del Vinci." He swallowed hard. He could not stand that man, and he had come to Gaming Inc not only to find Seto but because he was worried that Del Vinci was planning to do something terrible to Leonhard. Mokuba could never forget the horrible things that Del Vinci had done to him.
"Mokuba found me trying to escape through the ventilation shaft," Leonhard explained. He was not certain who Del Vinci was, but Mokuba had told him enough terrible things about the man that he had become alarmed. He had the horrible feeling that all of this had been a trap, as Siegfried had suspected.
"The both of you need to get out of here!" Seto retorted, placing his hands on the desk as he leaned forward over it. "The way he was acting so smug, he must have something planned. My guess is that he doesn't want me or von Schroider to get out alive. And if he could get rid of you two, it would be all the better for him."
Leonhard was horrified. "My brother is here?" he gasped.
Seto nodded. "According to Del Vinci, he is." The sound of the wailing alarms was getting on his nerves. "Do you know where you are?"
"I think it's the sixth floor," Mokuba said slowly. He was certain that he had caught sight of a number six on a nearby stairwell door. "There's about twenty floors altogether, isn't there?" But there was not any time for Seto to answer. Mokuba gasped as the door suddenly was thrown open and several company guards were standing there, ready to attack.
Seto clenched his fists, seeing this on the webcam. "Leave them alone!" he yelled, his eyes flashing. The only response was that one of the lackeys raised his gun and shot out the camera. Snow immediately covered the monitor. With an angry growl, Seto turned away and ran for the elevator. He had to get to them before they were hurt. He had to wonder where Siegfried had gotten himself to.
Leonhard gaped at the fierce-looking men as they came closer. This was something he had not had to worry about in the past, though Mokuba had had experience. But Leonhard was determined to not let them get him again. They had taken him by surprise before, but now he would get away. He had to. And of course he would not leave without Mokuba.
"What do you want with us?" he demanded.
The one who had broken the camera just glared at him. "You weren't supposed to get away," he scolded. "We'll beat the both of you, and maybe that will give your brothers something to think about." As they tried to advance, the boys darted away around a thick partition. Upon seeing several monitors along the top of it, Mokuba got the idea to shove them down and into their attackers' path. Leonhard helped him do this as they ran along, but it did not deter the guards for long and only served to make them angrier. They cursed and fired their guns at the boys as they sidestepped the falling monitors.
That was when several more joined the fight.
"Heads up, you freaks!"
Both Mokuba and Leonhard turned to stare in disbelief as Joey and Tristan ran through the door, punching and kicking at the thugs. Yugi and Téa quickly followed and went over to the boys, hoping to lead them safely out of the room.
"What are you guys doing here!" Mokuba exclaimed, blinking up at them.
"It's a long story," Téa sighed, wondering what Mokuba was doing here.
Leonhard grinned, happy to see Yugi again. He could not really focus on the reunion, however, because they were now running from the guards that Joey and Tristan were still trying to overpower, and he was worried about his brother.
"Are you okay, Leonhard?" Yugi asked him in concern. He thought he saw a bit of blood on the boy's shirt, but he was not completely certain that he was seeing right. It was hard to tell what he was seeing when they were all running madly to reach the door.
Leonhard nodded. "I'm fine! It's really good to see you again, Yugi, but I wish we were meeting under better circumstances. . . ." Then he bit his lip and looked at Yugi worriedly. "Have you seen my brother? Herr Kaiba said that he's here. . . ." He hoped desperately that Siegfried was not hurt. He did not know how he would stand it if anything happened to his brother.
"He is," Yugi assured him, "and he was fine when we left him." Siegfried had rendered unconscious the men who had been manning the computer console on the second floor and then had taken over, directing Yugi and the others to the sixth floor—where he had discovered Leonhard via the camera (before it had been destroyed). Meanwhile he had set about making certain that the security devices on the other levels were turned off. Unfortunately for him, it was a struggle to manage this—as the computer system had a mind of its own and kept resetting security. So now Siegfried was trying to hack into the mainframe and shut things down from there.
Joey yelled angrily as he was grabbed and thrown to the floor by one of the men. Then he got up, glaring, and made certain to trip one who was chasing after Tristan. The other boy nodded in thanks and punched another before following Joey out the door. Quickly they tried to slam the doors shut before their enemies could recover and make it there as well. Yugi, Téa, and the boys turned to look, but Joey yelled for them to keep going.
"We've got it!" the blonde declared. "Just hurry! We came to help rescue Leon, after all." He grinned a bit before shoving hard at the doors with Tristan's help.
"Well, if you're sure," Yugi replied slowly. They hurried around a corner.
Siegfried looked over the various data and information on the computer and frowned deeply. According to this read-out, there was a bomb somewhere in the building, and it was going to go off in five minutes. He tried several times to find out where the location was, but each time he was locked out and the computer froze. At last he decided that he was only wasting time. They needed to get out as soon as possible. The longer he tried to find information on the bomb's whereabouts, the less time there would be to escape.
Noticing the intercom system, he switched it on. On the computer screen, he could see Yugi and his friends running down the hall, with the boys. He let out a sigh of relief, seeing that Leonhard was safe. But he knew they were not safe yet. When the computer had froze, the security devices had activated again. And now he could see that the exits going down onto the first floor were all blocked off. The only way out would be through the helicopter pad. He would have to guide them there.
He wondered then if he would die. He knew it was a possibility. But what would happen to the company if he did? More importantly, what would happen to Leonhard? Would he be able to stand it if Siegfried died? The pink-haired man tried to push such thoughts out of his mind. No matter what happened, he had to save his brother. And these people had been helpful. If he could not make it out, then they had to get Leonhard to safety.
"Listen to me!" he yelled over the intercom. "There is a bomb in this building. It's going to explode in five minutes. You have to get out of here right now!"
Joey looked up abruptly, hearing Siegfried's voice. Seeing the intercom, he glared at it. "Say what?" he burst out. Please tell me that's not true! he yelled silently. How would all of them escape within five minutes? That was simply not enough time!
Leonhard was aghast. "Elder brother! What are we going to do?" he screamed, a new panic welling up within his heart. This was a very real danger. And what if . . . what if something happened to Siegfried? What if they all got out except him? He swallowed hard, not wanting to think about that any longer.
Mokuba was having similar thoughts about Seto. He was now the only one whom they had not seen or heard from since finding Yugi and the others. Was he alright? Had he heard Siegfried's warning? What if he could not escape?
"Stay calm, Leonhard," Siegfried answered softly. "I'm going to guide you out. I've seen the blueprints of the building, and I'm looking at a map right now. The quickest way out, from where you are right now, is to go up to the roof. There's a helicopter there." He studied the map in another window. It almost looked as if it was detailing a strange corridor on the second floor that sloped downward, through the first floor, and on underground. Idly he wondered if that was another way out. But there was not time to find out. Later on, after everyone else was safe, perhaps he would venture in there himself—since by then there most likely would not be enough time for him to go up to the roof. If the passageway went underground, it might provide shelter from the explosion.
"But where's my brother?" Mokuba cried, not able to control his panicked feelings. "We can't go without him! We can't!"
Siegfried growled inwardly, but he knew Mokuba was right. They could not leave Seto. And even though Siegfried despised the other businessman, he did not want to be responsible for his death—especially when there was Mokuba to think of. Mokuba was around Leonhard's age, and he loved his brother very much, just as Leonhard adored Siegfried. "I'm certain he's fine," Siegfried spoke at last, and he believed that was true. "Start going up to the roof by using the stairs and I will try to find him." He searched quickly through the cameras' pictures until he found Seto on one that was located on the eighth floor. He was just finishing defeating several men who had attacked him.
Seto now glared at the webcam. "I got your message, von Schroider! I hope you know that my brother is safe." On his way down to the sixth floor, he had been intercepted by not only many of the guards but some of the security devices as well. He was highly annoyed by the delay and could only hope that Mokuba and Leonhard had been able to get away from their attackers.
"He is," Siegfried replied, "but don't try to find him. Go to the top floor and the others will come to you. You have less than five minutes to get out!"
Seto snarled. "Fine. But you'd better get out yourself, if you don't want your brother to be sad." He kicked another guard that had suddenly appeared and then ran for the stairs.
Siegfried narrowed his eyes, watching Seto run into the stairwell. "I will worry myself about getting out, Herr Kaiba," he retorted, though he knew that Seto was not actually worried about him.
A laser beam shot past Seto and he had to hurry to dodge it. It grazed his arm anyway and he hissed in pain, though he knew he could not stop to tend to it. "You'd better do something to stop those things," he snapped. "Otherwise none of us will get out!"
Siegfried knew his rival was right. He typed desperately into the computer, trying to shut the devices off again, all while speaking to Mokuba and the others on the intercom.
"Your brother is safe, Mokuba," he said. "He is going to the helicopter on the top floor. How far up are you?"
"We're at the twelfth floor," came the reply. But the higher they went, the more obstacles were placed in their way, even there in the stairwells. Mokuba worried that they would be stopped before they could ever reach the top. And indeed, this did happen when they arrived at the seventeenth floor—which was shortly before the bomb began counting down the final minute.
"But what about you?" Leonhard cried in horror as they continued to run.
"Don't worry about me, Leonhard," Siegfried said quietly. The clock on the computer hit four minutes and swiftly proceeded with its countdown. Siegfried set about attempting to open the roof as he listened to the timepiece ticking in the background. His first attempts all failed, and he only managed to get the roof to cooperate in enough time for Yugi and his friends and the Kaibas to all get out in the helicopter with his brother. As he soon found himself running down the corridor he had discovered on the map, he was certain that he would die.
His life flashed briefly before his eyes. He saw how close he had once been to Leonhard. He saw his father and endless tutors, pushing him to work hard—all so that he would be better than Seto Kaiba. He saw his father laying dead and being taken away by the medical examiners after he had shot himself. He realized then that his hatred of Seto and KaibaCorp had increased tenfold after that.
He saw himself, driven by his anger and pain, to try destroying KaibaCorp during the Grand Prix with his viruses. He had made Leonhard help him, and yet the boy had still forgiven him. After that, he had tried to be a better brother. But now he would be leaving Leonhard. It was not his own choice, but it would happen anyway.
The explosion shook the building viciously. Siegfried went flying forward from the force of the blast, striking his head hard against a piece of metal. His world darkened.
Leonhard curled up on the sofa in the living room of the Kaiba Manor, his knees drawn up to his chest. Mokuba had told him that he could stay with them for as long as he needed to. Leonhard did not want to impose, but he was so grief-stricken over the day's events that he was tempted to take them up on the offer. It seemed horribly ironic, that the death of his brother would draw him close to the brother of Siegfried's rival.
His shoulder ached. He truly had been injured when Del Vinci's men had beaten him, but the wounds were not serious. His heart was aching far worse.
He closed his eyes, fantasizing in his mind. He saw Siegfried standing before him, smiling softly. Then he was running toward him. Time slipped away and he dove into the man's embrace, forgetting that Siegfried was supposed to be dead. In this world, he was not. Siegfried held him for ages, until Leonhard drifted into a weary and happy sleep.
In the real world, Leonhard had indeed fallen asleep, hugging one of the pillows at the end of the couch. Tears slipped freely from his eyes as he dreamed a dream that he could not have.
The door opened quietly and a tall, worn-out figure stepped inside. He paused, surveying the room, and then went over to Leonhard. Gently he reached out with a shaking left hand, brushing the sleeping child's tears away as he wearily sank into a chair near the couch. "It's alright now, Leonhard," he said quietly, pushing Leonhard's hair back. "It's alright."
"Elder brother," the boy mumbled, clutching the pillow.
Siegfried smiled. "Yes. I'm here."
"You can't be," Leonhard trembled under his touch. "You . . . you were killed . . . because of me. . . ." He was in a state between awareness and unconsciousness, reality and fantasy. He was no longer in his dream, but he could not be experiencing reality either. The reality was that Siegfried was dead. He would not be able to reach out and touch his younger brother, wiping away his tears and brushing back his hair.
"I'm not dead," he replied, laying a hand on Leonhard's shoulder. He was badly bruised and cut, but he had managed to escape the worst of the blast. He had barely made it into the underground tunnels before the bomb had detonated. The force of the explosion had knocked him several feet ahead in the metal tunnel. Then he had struck his head against the hard side and had fallen unconscious, not reviving for an unknown period of time. When he finally had came to, he had wandered aimlessly through the tunnels in a daze before finding an exit. Then he had found his way back into the city and had determined where Leonhard probably was. Though it did not please him to enter his rival's house, he had anyway, because of Leonhard.
"You're not?" Leonhard froze suddenly, waking up completely. His eyes flew open and he gazed up at his brother in awe and disbelief. This could not be real. It was too wonderful.
"I couldn't be speaking to you if I was," Siegfried replied, the soft smile still playing on his lips as he ruffled the boy's hair affectionately. Only Leonhard ever saw him smile genuinely. Everyone else saw only the obnoxious, arrogant smirk that he wanted to show them. Siegfried did not tend to display his kind side for others to see. He did not find it necessary.
Leonhard reached up, grabbing hold of his brother's hand. "Elder brother," he whispered reverently, the tears glistening in his eyes. This time they were tears of happiness. This was real. He had so many questions he wanted to ask, but they were all irrelevant at the moment. The only thing that mattered was that Siegfried was alive.
Sobbing with joy, he leaped into Siegfried's arms and threw his own arms around the man's neck, just as in the fantasy. And Siegfried held him close.