I'm so incredibly sorry for the long wait! It's just that these days, school is completely overwhelming and leaves me with absolutely no free time! Forgive me!
Hopefully, this chapter will make up for any harsh feelings!
Old Man Warner had a lot to consider, and as he glanced over his watch, he realized that he didn't have much time to think about it.
Serenity was alive, and that just couldn't be. The rules of the Lottery were simple: Whoever retrieved the cursed piece of black-dotted paper would have to suffer a cruel death. Yes, it was barbaric, to some people at least, and yes it hurt to hurt someone who lived in town with you be it a neighbor, a classmate, a "special" friend, a family member, etc. But despite the pain (both physical and emotional) that it caused, someone had to die.
Ahh…but Serenity just had to be the loophole to all of that. In school, she was the one to always write essays, try to make speeches, attempt to hold rallies, all in an effort to dissuade the rest of the town from The Lottery.
She never once threw a stone. Silly girl. Didn't she know it was the most culturally important part of the town's history?
There was a legend that centuries ago, when there wasn't enough food, when someone needed to "leave", the Lottery was played. It kept the population under control. It was the most unbiased way to make decisions. No one dared to call it monstrous, well, until a certain point, at least…
There was a time where every town in the area played the Lottery, but slowly, each one gave up that tradition. It usually happened when the mayor of some town ended up stoning someone in his own family, or when people just couldn't throw a stone at yet another familiar face. They would beg the rest of the citizens to join them and stop this barbaric game from ever happening again. That wouldn't need much persuasion. The citizens of these towns were more than ready to give up the Lottery.
The last town, if Warner remembered correctly, was Domino, that city across the bay, and that had to be nearly two decades ago.
Warner sighed. Tristan wasn't hallucinating. Serenity really was alive. She was somewhere out there, riding around in a Rolls-Royce limo, according to Tristan's description of the night he saw Serenity. Warner himself had seen the limo. He knew that this wasn't a coincidence.
He also knew that no one in this little town drove a Rolls-Royce, therefore, he had to hire some…help.
And just as his wristwatch clicked nine o'clock, he heard a sharp knock on the door.
He walked over to the door and opened it to find his bandana-wearing, laidback nephew.
"Uncle Warner!" the man cried as he leaned across the doorway and put a piece of straw in his mouth. "You called?"
"You're an hour late, Keith," Warner said angrily. "I've got important things that I want you to take care of, now come in!"
Keith lowered his sunglasses to get a good look at his uncle. Since when was he so stressed? His uncle was one of the most collected people he knew, and that's what made him Keith's favorite relative. He followed his uncle into the sitting room and sat down.
"It's about the Lottery that took place a few days ago," Warner said before Keith could say anything. "And take that ridiculous rag off of your head while you're in my house, Keith."
"My bandana? No way! It makes me look like a-"
"Hoodlum. Now take it off. Good," Warner said as he leaned forward. "About the most recent Lottery-"
"Yeah, that girl who got killed, what's her name…Like Serena or something. She went to the same school as me, and it's a shame that she got chosen. She was kinda cute to be killed."
"Her name was Serenity," Warner corrected. "And I don't think she was killed."
Keith's eyes widened. "Of course she was! I was there, you were there; she fell into the bay! No one survives that."
Warner shook his head. "I'm positive she did, and that's why I contacted you and your private eye skills." Warner leaned in more, and likewise, so did his nephew.
"How can I help?" Keith asked. "I mean, if she did survive, and I'm not saying she did, she could've gotten anywhere. It's been like what…three days? And how do you even know she hasn't become fish food yet?"
"I'll explain everything later. Just tell me, do you still have that census on who owns what car in this area?" Warner asked as his eyes lowered.
"Sure. It's in my car-"
"Go get it," Warner ordered before Keith even had a chance to finish. So Keith went outside to retrieve the census and Warner couldn't help but smirk. It paid to have a nephew who was a private eye.
A few minutes later, Keith returned with a large, black binder in his arms and laid it down onto Warner's coffee table.
"How recent is this?" Warner asked as he greedily snatched the binder off the table and started flipping through its pages.
"About three years, and I still don't see how this will help," his nephew responded as he crossed his hands across his chest, obviously annoyed.
Warner mumbled something along the lines of "You'll see" as he flipped to the back of the binder, where everyone who had a car model that started with an 'R' was listed. Luckily, there were only a few people who could actually afford a Rolls-Royce, and this is what pleased Warner the most.
He scanned the list of addresses. The two that stood out the most were two CEO's named Maximillion Pegasus and Seto Kaiba, and the reason that they stood out was because they just happened to live in Domino, the city just across the bay that Serenity fell into.
"I want you to investigate these people," Warner said as he pointed to the addresses of the two CEO's. Keith took the binder from his uncle and looked at the two addresses.
"You want me to go to Domino?" Keith asked as his sunglass-covered eyes widened. "What's so important about these guys aside from the fact that they own a Rolls-Royce?"
"That's exactly why they're so important," Warner said. "It's about Serenity, and the fact that she's still alive…"
"Maybe I'm clueless, but I don't see the connection," Keith said as he twisted his bandana in his hands angrily. "Care to explain, before I go across the bay, what exactly it is that I'm looking for?"
"You're looking for Serenity, Keith. Need I spell it out for you?"
Keith was about to seethe with anger. "Uncle Warner, you're making this difficult. Will you just tell me how you know she's alive!"
Uncle Warner leaned back and a smile that could only be described as wicked graced his old face. "Well if you must know, it all started when I was nearly run over by a Rolls-Royce limo a couple of nights ago…"
"Ok, so I take him to the park, keep him away from the pink flowers because he likes to eat those, but let him play all he wants with the butterflies in the red flower garden because that really excites him?" Serenity asked as she wrapped Peewee's leash around her wrist and pulled the straps of the dog carrier-purse around her shoulder.
"Is that right?" Mokuba shook his head as he checked his collar in the foyer's mirror.
"No, you let him go near the pink flowers because those excite him, but make sure to keep Peewee away from the red flowers because he tends to try and eat all the butterflies there. Oh!" Mokuba turned around and watched as the little dog excitedly jumped at Serenity's feet. "Make sure that he stays away from the ice cream man. They kind of have a…bad history."
"Kay, I think I got it," Serenity said as she checked off on her fingers. "Pink flowers are ok; red flowers and butterflies are a no-no and so is the ice cream man."
"Exactly." Mokuba winced as he heard the limo's horn honking. "Thanks for doing this, I mean Peewee hardly gets walked by someone other than one of our maids and I bet he'd really appreciate someone like you."
"Someone like me?" Serenity asked as she bent down to pet the tiny little dog. Mokuba nodded as more horns from the limo pierced the air.
"You're more genuine than the maids who only walk him because they have to. You actually seem like-" Mokuba was interrupted by the incessant honking of the limo horn that this time, refused to stop. When the honking finally did stop a few moments later, Serenity smiled.
"Thanks, Mokuba. I think I know what you were trying to say."
Mokuba returned the girl's smile and then sighed when the limo's horn went off one more time. "My brother can be so persistent…" Mokuba's eyes suddenly widened. "Here, for your time." He pulled out his wallet and handed a wad of money to Serenity.
Serenity bit her lip. "Oh, no! Mokuba, you guys have been so kind to me. I really don't need—nor deserve—this."
But before Mokuba could protest, the limo's horn honked one last time, and the young boy was already out the front door. "Geez, Seto! I'm coming!"
Serenity thought that a nice, long walk in the park was exactly what she needed: quiet, relaxing, and very refreshing.
However, the restless mini-demon named Peewee had completely different motives.
"No, no, not the red flowers, Peewee!" Serenity pulled on the leash and hardly had a grasp on the little brown and white puppy. For a little puppy, he sure was strong. After Peewee had run all around the park, digging up worms and other little holes across the lawns, he was able to drag Serenity all the way to the ice cream man and leave him with a little…present.
"Come on! Work with me! No-not the butterflies! They don't taste good, Peewee, nooo!!!" Serenity was about to give up on the puppy who was snapping his mouth at the butterflies when a sharp whistling sound broke through the air.
Peewee's little brown ears immediately perked up to the whistling sound, and the little dog practically did a 180 as he turned around and ran to the source of the whistle.
"Wow, that dog responds to my whistling faster than you do, Joseph," Mai teased as she released her fingers from her lips, poking Joey with her other hand.
"Oh, what a cute little doggie you are!" Téa exclaimed as the little animal jumped up and down in front of Mai.
"Cute doggie for an extremely cute girl," Duke said as he appeared in front of Serenity. He took her hand and kissed it. "Lovely seeing you again. I see those injuries haven't healed yet." He pointed to the bandages still around her wrist.
"Well it's only been a day since we've seen her," Yugi reminded. "What's the little guy's name?"
"Peewee," Serenity answered as Mai picked up the dog. "And he actually belongs to Mokuba Kaiba." Joey let out a snort.
"I still can't believe you're staying there. Doesn't it seem kinda cold and empty, like a tomb? I imagine that's how Moneybags lives," he said as he crossed his hands over his chest.
"Joey, not everything is as hollow and empty as your brain," Téa replied. Joey simply snorted louder.
"So, do you guys have any plans for the day?" Serenity asked as Mai handed Peewee to her. The group of the older teenagers simply shrugged. The truth was, ever since summer started, they were really bored. The highlight of each other's day was visiting one another and walking, for what seemed like the billionth time, around Domino.
"Hmm…well, after I walked Peewee I was going to go to town and get some lunch. Do you guys want to join me? My treat," Serenity offered.
"That's very sweet of you, Serenity, but you don't have to pay for us," Mai said as Téa nodded, much to Joey, Yugi and Duke's disappointment.
"It's no problem, really," Serenity explained. "Mokuba gave me a 'thank you' for walking his dog around, and I'm sure that'll be enough for all six of us. Besides, Joey paid for my pancakes the other day, and this is the least I can do to repay him."
Joey's eyes seemed to light up at these words.
"Come on! If ol' Moneybags' is payin', can't we have lunch with her?" Joey asked Mai, who seemed to be making the decisions for the group. However, that wasn't the only reason he wanted to eat lunch with the girl.
Ever since the other day, when he had seen that heart-shaped birthmark over Serenity's elbow, he'd been on a mission: To uncover the most he could about this girl, because she could have been…
"Joseph! Are you listening to me?" Joey snapped out of his thoughts just in time to see Mai's angry, lilac eyes flashing in front of him.
"Sorry, Mai, did ya say something?" And this just caused Mai to jab Joey in the chest.
"Clean out your ears, Wheeler. I said come on." Mai glanced at her watch. "If we want to walk all the way uptown in time for lunch, we'd better get a move on."
"Actually, Mai, Mokuba gave me a chauffeur to drive around town…" Serenity trailed off as she pointed to the park's sidewalk where a sleek, black Rolls-Royce was parked.
"Hmm…I was wondering who owned that," Duke mused.
Joey looked like he was in heaven. "You mean we get a free lunch and get to ride in Moneybags' limo?" he rubbed his hands together. "Dis is great!"
"Listen, do you want to go to the Kaiba mansion first or the Pegasus estate? Make up your mind!" the cab driver ordered as Keith kept staring at the addresses he had to investigate. Was everyone in Domino this bossy?
Uncle Warner had made it clear in his story; Serenity was alive, she was in a black, Rolls-Royce limo, etc. What Keith was interested in the most was the publicity this case would give him. He could just imagine the headlines: Amateur Private Eye Brings Back Supposedly 'Dead' Girl. It all brought a smile to his lips.
But unfortunately, now that he had actually taken a train to Domino to investigate the two people he knew had a limo in this city, he didn't know where to begin.
"Well, which one's closer?" Keith asked.
"I dunno, the Kaiba Mansion, I think." The cab driver had calmed down, seeing that Keith was close to making a decision.
"Then that's where-"
"AMAZIN'!!!! NOW I KNOW WHY MONEYBAGS LIKES RIDIN' IN THESE SO MUCH!!!"
A limo, a Rolls-Royce to be exact, passed the cab that Keith was sitting in. Despite the yellow-haired idiot sticking his head out the window and screaming like a siren, Keith was sure that this limo had to belong to either Seto Kaiba or Maximillion Pegasus. They were the only two rich enough in this town to afford one.
"Actually, change of plans," Keith said as he watched the limo pass them by. The cab driver groaned.
"Where to?" the driver asked, annoyed.
"Follow that limo."
"Come on, Seto, eat something," Mokuba urged, holding up a forkful of pasta to his brother's face.
Kaiba grunted in return as he swatted the utensil away. Mokuba sighed.
"Ok, Seto, so this morning's meeting wasn't great, but what's the big deal anyway? I mean, sure, you have to get married and get a kid soon or else we'll lose KaibaCorp…but you're just about the right age. Besides, you have a city full of fan girls. Any of 'em will jump at the chance." Mokuba made it all seem so simple as he casually chewed his meal.
"I don't want to give into our stepfather's will. He purposely made it so that we could never run the company that we made successful," Kaiba reminded as he put his hand to his mouth, his eyes little slits.
"Not 'never', Seto," Mokuba reminded. "You gain complete, unconditional authority once you get a kid."
"I will not be dictated and be forced to have a family because of a piece of paper." Kaiba had to restrain his hands from tightening into fists. How dare Gozaburo think he can give Seto Kaiba, the one who revolutionized KaibaCorp, an ultimatum. He was not going to give in, and that was a fact.
"And by the way," Mokuba looked up at Seto started to speak. "The will never said that I had to be the one to get a kid. You can have a child born a Kaiba as well," the older one reminded.
"The will gives you three more years, Seto. In three years, I'll still be in high school. Do you want me to have a kid before I have a diploma?" Mokuba reminded, causing Kaiba's eyes to widen.
"Absolutely not! You're staying in school and making something of yourself. Don't worry about this will. I'll take care of it," Seto ordered as he pushed away the plate in front of him. He had suddenly lost any bit of appetite that he had.
"See," Mokuba said as the elder Kaiba leaned against his chair and stared anywhere but at Mokuba, "the way Gozaburo set it up, you have to have the kid, and he did that on purpose because he saw the person you became."
Kaiba looked up. "The person I became? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well," Mokuba started as a waitress came over and collected their plates, "You're not exactly the most family…" Mokuba trailed off. He had caught interest in something behind his brother.
"What?" Kaiba asked as he followed his younger brother's gaze. "Oh."
Behind him, at the entrance, Serenity had just entered and was being handed a menu by a waitress. But much to Kaiba's displeasure, she wasn't alone. Yugi, Mai, Wheeler, Devlin, and…that brown-haired girl whose name Kaiba never really learned, were with her.
"Should we call her over? She can eat with us!" Mokuba exclaimed excitedly. Kaiba's head snapped back at his brother.
"You want that as our company?"
"I was talking about Yugi and his friends," Kaiba explained. "Sooner or later she'll learn what losers she's hanging out with."
"Wow, I never thought I'd ever eat here," Mai said in awe as Joe pulled out a seat for her.
"Yeah, and at Moneybags' expense, too," Joey reminded as he sat down.
"Joey, Kaiba's not paying," Yugi reminded, pulling a chair out for Téa. "Serenity is."
"Of course, because Kaiba could never have a heart as big as she," Duke said as he pulled out a chair for Serenity. Serenity blushed at the compliment and sat down.
"Well, we should all thank Mokuba, really, I mean he's the one who gave the money to me," Serenity explained.
"Yes, but it's so sweet of you to take out to lunch, and to one of the fanciest bistros in town at that!" Téa gushed as she stared at the ornate surroundings.
The restaurant had several murals of Italian landscapes painted all over the walls with a beautiful, vibrant painting of clear blue skies on the ceiling. Several large plants accented the corners while large, rich drapes were placed over the fifteen-foot tall windows. There was even a violinist playing in one of the corners.
Tristan had promised that he would take Serenity to a restaurant just like this once they were married, and he would show everyone what a lovely wife he had. It brought tears to Serenity's eyes, but Serenity fought them away.
Just thinking about this made Serenity drift off into her memories. It was all less than a week ago that the Lottery had happened…but unfortunately, everything had changed…
"So, how long are you planning on staying?" Mai asked. Serenity looked up and broke out of her reverie. "Are you ok, hun?" she asked, realizing that Serenity had suddenly gone pale.
"I'm fine…I'm just…thinking of my hometown," Serenity said quietly. This caught the attention of everyone in the group, especially Joey.
"Where'd you say you were from again?" he asked in a serious tone that Serenity had never heard before.
"Somewhere not like here," Serenity responded. She suddenly felt something warm on her hand and looked to find Duke grasping her fingers.
"Well I for one hope that you don't have to go back anytime soon," he said, bringing her face awfully close to Serenity's. Serenity sweat dropped at his nearness.
"Eh…don't worry about that," Serenity said nervously.
"You're not going back anytime soon?" Duke asked eagerly.
"No…Can I have my hand back now please?"
"I thought I was done. He had 1500 life points and I had 300, but then, WHAM! I pulled out a polymerization and fused my-"
"-and it became this huge monster called-"
"-haha! You shoulda seen the look in his eyes-"
"Joseph!" Mai exclaimed in a voice to not disturb the rest of the people at the restaurant.
"What?" Joey asked, annoyed that Mai wouldn't let him finish his story. "Can't you see that Serenity wants to hear the rest of my story?" Joey turned to look at Serenity, but unfortunately, the younger girl had a glassy look over her eyes and looked as though she would fall asleep any minute.
"Apparently Serenity doesn't find Duel Monsters as interesting as the rest of us," Mai explained as she took a sip of her orange juice. Serenity looked up after hearing her name, flustered.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly as she rubbed the back of her neck. "I'm just really not into games." When she was finished speaking, she looked back to the five others she was eating with, but they were staring at something behind her.
Serenity turned her head, only to end up dropping her jaw.
"Sorry, Miss, I just wanted to tell you that your dog is about to come out of his bag," a large, muscular man with an American flag for a bandana and dark shades that completely covered his eyes.
"Oh," Téa said as she picked up Peewee's bag and realized that the little dog was desperately trying to undo the zipper from the bag, which only let him poke his head out from a small hole at the side of the bag.
"Poor thing. Thanks for telling us," Téa thanked. Serenity just kept staring at the man.
"Keith," Serenity finally had the nerve to say.
Warner's nephew. Warner, the man who ran the Lottery, his nephew. Keith, or Bandit Keith, as he liked to be called, was one of the rudest kids she had the displeasure of going to school with. He was probably one of the most avid fans of the Lottery.
Serenity wouldn't be surprised if he threw one of the stones at her…
"You guys have met before?" Yugi asked. Serenity started to rub the bandages around her wrist.
"In the park," Serenity explained.
"Ahh…yes," Keith said, going along with Serenity. "I met you at the park. Serenity, right?"
Serenity nodded dumbly as goosebumps rose over her skin. She didn't know that tables away, the Kaiba brothers were watching her.
"Who's that guy?" Kaiba asked, craning his neck to see over some of the tables.
"I don't know, but I think Serenity knows him," Mokuba responded as he watched Serenity converse with the man. Kaiba looked at his younger brother.
"I've never seen him before," he said.
"Maybe they just met," Mokuba offered.
Meanwhile, Serenity felt her world getting smaller. Warner's nephew was here. His nephew. No doubt this either meant Warner himself knew or that Keith was going to tell his Uncle soon. Either way, Serenity had to leave.
"Excuse me," Serenity said as she stood up. She knew Keith wouldn't make an attempt to grab her in such a classy restaurant, but she still speedily rushed to the bathroom, nearly knocking over her chair in the process.
Kaiba watched as she practically shoved open the bathroom door and ran in. Something's wrong.
Serenity turned on the cold water and splashed it onto her face. She looked up at the mirror and noticed that some of the redness had subsided. She tried to relax, but how could she?
Warner's gonna come for me. He's gonna find me and take me home and…
"Finish what he started," Serenity said aloud. She could feel the tingling sensation slither down her body. She looked around at the elegant bathroom: a few stalls, a couch, a couples of potted plants and…aha! A window at the very top of the room.
Serenity raced to the wall and looked up at the window. As she jumped up and down in hopes of reaching the window, she realized she had to be realistic. She stopped jumping and looked at the window. It was purposely designed to keep anyone from leaving, incase someone decided not to pay their bill or something.
"Damn," Serenity thought as she paced the room. If she went back outside, surely Keith would follow her or something. But she couldn't just leave…first of all, the window was too small, and second of all…
Her friends. In the couple of days she had known him, she had grown a small attachment to them. She didn't want to leave without saying a proper farewell.
And of course the Kaiba brothers…they were the reason why she was still living (quite literally). How could she just leave them without even saying goodbye? After all they had done for her.
Serenity stopped pacing. She had to deal with this now. She wasn't going to let some demented ritual from her old town follow her for the rest of her life. It wasn't truly living if she had to face this fear everyday.
She grabbed the large, metal doorknob of the bathroom door and took a deep breath. She looked back at the window. There's no way I'm gonna fit…
Would she have to tell her friends? Would they believe her? Would they comfort her? Would they turn her in?
"They wouldn't," she reminded herself. "They're not like that." And with that belief firmly in her mind, she opened the door.
As she walked outside, she could see the people at their tables laughing, eating, joking…their lives went on. Why couldn't hers?
And that's when she felt it, a strong hand grabbing her shoulder and pulling her into a pair of bulky arms.
"You've been awfully tricky, Miss Serenity," Keith whispered as he turned her around to face him. "You had us all believing that you were dead. Tsk tsk. Very naughty."
Serenity looked around slowly. She was in a small corner of the restaurant, near the bathrooms and the telephones. She had never wanted anyone to go to the bathroom more than she did now.
"K-kk-Keith!" Serenity stammered, her heart racing against her chest in a rhythm that had to be unhealthy. "P-please…don't do this. Don't continue that game. Don't follow your Uncle's footsteps. Anyone who believes that the L-l-lottery is worth playing is insane!"
Bandit Keith lowered his sunglasses to reveal his sharp, blue eyes. "Did you think my Uncle was just gonna let someone get away with this?" he hissed. "No one's meant to survive!"
"No one needs to know," Serenity reminded. "Please, Keith…" Serenity could hear the desperation in her voice. It made her sick.
"I wish it could be that simple, really, I do," Keith said as he put his arm around Serenity. He started to lead her out of the bathroom lobby. "If anyone asks, you're my girlfriend and aren't feeling well so I'm taking you back home. Got it?"
Serenity looked around nervously, waiting for Keith to lead her pass her friends' table. But Keith was too smart for that.
"By the way, we're going to take the back exit out," he explained. Just as he turned a corner, arm still firmly around Serenity's shoulder, he nearly bumped into a tall, young man wearing an intimidating trench coat.
"Excuse me," Keith mumbled as he walked past Kaiba quickly. Serenity turned her head slightly in an attempt to catch Kaiba's eye, but she didn't know that Kaiba was already ahead of her.
"You seem like you're in a hurry," Kaiba said as he watched the two walk away. "Everything alright?" Kaiba started following the pair, and Keith noticed.
Keith nudged Serenity in the shoulder. The two stopped walking and as Serenity turned around, the pleading look in her eyes was obvious.
"I'm his girlfriend. He's taking me home because I'm not feeling well," Serenity explained. Kaiba smirked and walked up to the man and Serenity, smirking so that the other people in the restaurant wouldn't get suspicious about the scene unfolding before them.
"I know what you're trying to do, and I'll have you know I can have you arrested before you take another step," Kaiba whispered as he came face-to-face with the man. The smirk never left his face.
"Hmm…you don't seem like a Maximillion Pegasus to me. I'm guessing you're Seto Kaiba?" Keith asked as his grip on Serenity increased. Kaiba nodded.
"You've done your research."
"She doesn't belong here," Keith responded. "I'm sure you know her story by now. Just save yourself some trouble and let me take her."
"So you can make her the next victim of your crude game? Forgive me, but I'll have to pass." Just the way Kaiba's icy eyes glistened as he said thism Bandit Keith knew that he had encountered a formidable foe.
"You don't know what you're getting yourself into," Keith spat. "This is beyond my control. I'm just trying to fix what's wrong. She chose the wrong piece of paper, she had to pay. Everyone who chooses wrong…deals with the consequences." Serenity cringed as she remembered.
"Since when does a game of pick and choose become a matter of life and death?" Kaiba responded, keeping his voice low. "Now, my brother is a few tables away, and at my signal, he'll find the nearest phone, which is conveniently right over there he nodded to the side, and he'll call the police, and unfortunately for you, I have the power in this town to make sure you never see the light of day again. Release the girl."
Keith knew when he was beat. He was in the middle of the restaurant and had one of the richest men in the town threatening him. Unless he wanted an all out scene, he had to surrender.
Keith let go of Serenity's shoulder, and as soon as she could, she ran over to Kaiba and stood behind him.
"Don't think that you've seen the last of me," Keith explained as he lowered his sunglasses. Kaiba simply snorted. He looked over at Serenity. "Enjoy your last few days," he whispered before turning around and walking away.
As soon as Kaiba saw that Keith had indeed walked out of the restaurant, he turned to Serenity and Mokuba ran up to the girl as well.
"Are you ok?" Mokuba asked. Serenity merely nodded.
"Come on, we're taking you home," Kaiba ordered. Serenity was in no mood to object.
She walked over to the table Joey and his friends were sitting at.
"Is everything ok?" Mai asked.
"Yeah, you were in the bathroom for a while," Duke said, but Téa ribbed him to shut him up.
Serenity realized that from where her friends were seated, they probably couldn't have been able to see her and Bandit Keith.
She took Peewee from Téa and gave her the money that Mokuba had given her this morning.
"That's for the lunch," Serenity explained as she pulled Peewee's bag over her shoulder.
"You're not staying?" Joey asked as he started to get up.
"I'm just not feeling well, and I actually ran into Kaiba who said he'll take me home," Serenity said meekly. She gave them all one final glance. "It's just so…nice to have friends like you."
Her friends, although a bit startled by the way she was staring at them with sincere gratitude in her eyes, said their goodbyes and watched her walkaway.
"I can't keep doing this," Serenity said as she leaned against the limo's seat. "I can't keep depending on you like some helpless nobody."
"We can't let them keep coming after you, either," Mokuba responded. "We're just trying to keep you safe."
"I need to start my own life sooner or later," Serenity reminded. "I mean, you guys are wonderful, but you're not my family…wait! My family!"
"What about them? Didn't they stone you?" Kaiba asked.
"No! That was Tristan's family…they took care of me ever since my adopted mother died."
"Adopted?" the brothers asked in unison.
"Yes! I was adopted, Kaiba! And I know from seeing my birth certificate that my mother is from Domino!"
"Joseph, can we please leave? It's so dingy in here," Mai whined as she stepped over the old boxes and antiques that inhabited Joey's attic.
"Mai, this could be the girl," Joey reminded as he looked through the attic using his flashlight. "I have to be sure."
"Joseph," Mai sighed, "Every new girl you meet you think may be your 'long-lost sister'. What makes Serenity so different?"
"She has the birthmark!" Joey reminded. Mai rolled her eyes.
"Always the optimist…"
"Aha!" Joey screamed, startling Mai as he ran over to an old chest. He dusted it off and stared at it as if it was going to give him all the gold in the world.
"What's so Aha about that?" Mai asked, extremely bored.
"It has all the papers from the day my baby sister was born," he said quietly.
"Fine, Joseph, but what are we going to do with that?" Mai asked. "It'll just tell us what we already know. Her birthday, her weight and height, her time of birth…how's that going to help us?" Mai asked as she leaned against a column of boxes.
"My mother named my sister before she gave her away," Joey explained. "Now, Ma never told me her name since it brought back to many bad memories…but she did tell me that there was a chest in the attic that had a copy of her birth certificate, and that means her name!"
Mai didn't have the heart to tell Joey that his sister's name was probably changed by her adoptive parents, so she remained quiet as she sat down beside him. "Open it." Joey nodded.
Joey cracked open the chest and dust came flying out at the two of them. He quickly fanned the dust away from him as he reached into the trunk and pulled out a stack of old papers.
"This is it," Joey said as he looked at them. But he didn't have to look far, for written on the first page, the copy of the birth certificate, was a girl's name.
"No way," Mai gasped, reading the name on the front page of the stack. Could it have been a coincidence? Serenity was the right age…she had the Wheeler heart-shaped birthmark, and now this…?
She glanced over at Joey. He was staring at the name with fixed eyes.
"Are you going to tell her?" Mai asked quietly.
Joey looked up from the papers and looked at Mai intensely. His eyes were shaking.
"I'm not sure if she wants to be told."
End of Chapter IV
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