Summary: (AU) All Yugi wanted was to gain his freedom. All Atemu wanted was a good entertainment. All chance wanted was for them to meet and a circus was more than willing to help. YYY.
Pairings: (main) YYY, (sub) BR, SJ, MM
Disclaimer: I play the card game…with my nine-year-old brother. Other than the wins and the cards, I own nothing or Yugi won't be going around saving the world. They'll be happily lounging in each other's presence.
Note: I just can't get this idea out of my head! So I had to write it. Originally, the story plan was about the clash of two worlds: one that's advancing in technology, while the other in magic and Yugi, who comes from the first world, accidentally stumbles into the other but it sounded too cliché and I didn't have enough plot bunnies to back it up. And then, I saw my extremely heavy and costly script write of Mirror Mask (by Neil Gaiman) and voila! In came the circus! AND IT JUST FRICKIN' FITS! Like snap! It was there, flashing before my eyes like a vision. XDXDXD
I. The Greatest Show in the World
"Three tickets, please."
A jingle of coins bounced off the wooden counter. Soft pale hands quickly moved the money into the drawer beneath the table, grabbing three stubs of orange paper from the rolls of tickets near his elbow. With a smile, he pushed the tickets to the customer and said, "Thank you for buying! You'll definitely enjoy the show!"
The man blinked, staring at the tri-colored hair of the teen. He shrugged, ignoring the queerly dress young man who gave them the tickets. He muttered a barely audible "thanks" and turned to his wife and child, handing them the stubs he just bought. The child squealed in delight. She grabbed her parents' hands and dragged them to the long line formed at the entrance of the tent.
The money came and the tickets were bought. The cashier greeted each of the customers with the same enthusiasm. He glanced at the far end of the line and sighed. This was their best show yet. The people were lining up like crazy!
"Yugi?" A snow white head popped from behind the roughly drawn curtains that separated the selling stand from the main tent. The person went in, pulling along his long glittery silver cloak. He tugged at the strings on his arms and waist, pulling his cloak closer to the purple and gold silk tunic of his costume.
The teen glanced at the person who entered, "Oh, Ryou! You've got your costume already!" he beamed then turned back to the customer with the same bright smile, "Enjoy the show!"
"You should get out of those work clothes as well." Ryou returned the smile and then bowed slightly to the customer Yugi was serving. "You should get to the back of the stages. They're assembling the animals. They'll need you there." He placed a hand on the young boy's shoulder, "I'll take over here."
Yugi looked down on his front. He was wearing a simple worn-out green tunic and loose mud-brown trousers and shrugged. He'll wear his costume later. He turned back to the waiting customer and smiled. "But weren't you practicing your magic show?" He called to Ryou as he handed a handful of tickets to the plump lady in front of him. He smiled in amusement as he saw the little toddlers clinging to the woman's clothes, pouting with perfect puppy-dog eyes.
The young albino shook his head, "No, don't worry about that. I've practiced enough. Besides, who knows what kind of danger they'll get into without you calming the beasts!" he pulled Yugi out of the chair and sat quickly on the stool, passing the tickets to the next customer.
Yugi sighed, "Okay. I'll get going then." He stretched his arms backwards, tapping his back softly. Sitting on a stool and smiling for hours was starting to make his back fall asleep. "Thanks, Ryou!" he waved at the albino, who acknowledged him with one nod.
"I better get going then." Yugi whispered to himself, "I hope Jou and Honda don't get in trouble with the horses."
He was Yugi Mutou, a young man of 18 though most people would think 14. He was the Beast Tamer – oh, he would never use "master", the animals were his friends! – of the troupe. It was his job to make sure the wild animals behave. And they were surely wild. The ringmaster would never purchase a tamed animal. He'd rather have them "freshly caught".
"Jou…?" The loud and whining voice was muffled by the layers of cloth that made the backstage. An earth-shaking roar followed the scream, making Yugi jumped in surprise. He soon heard a couple of high-pitch screams – Must be Anzu and Mai…. – and another one of Jounouchi's calls of his name. Yugi quickened his pace, almost tripping over his nearly tangled legs.
Yugi turned to his left, eyes widening at the sight before him.
"YUGIII! HELP MEEEEEE!" Jounouchi wailed, his voice painted with panic. A long red slimy tongue was wrapped around his left leg, waving him the air like some little toy – and with the colorful and bright clothes he sported and his half-painted face made him look like a clown doll played by a…hydra?
"Put him down, Hera!" Yugi rushed to past the crowd of performers screaming at the both the serpent and Jou. With his small stature, he easily squeezed through the mob. He climbed over the remains of the fence where the horses were supposed to be and rushed to the wild beast.
He ducked the heads that swung across the air, snapping at anyone who came near, and ran straight towards the beast's stomach…or at least where he thought the stomach was…and started stroking the scales softly.
The once restless hydra grew calm. She slithered around Yugi, throwing Jou across the ground in favor of the pleasurable strokes of her tamer.
"Sshh…now, why did you attack Jou that way?" Yugi whispered in a soothing voice, "Jou is our friend." He scolded, flicking a finger at the snout of the nearest head. "Now go back to your cage and behave!"
The seven-headed snake flicked her tongue on the teen's cheek in what seemed to be an affectionate gesture. She turned one of her heads to Jou and hissed before crawling to the back of the tents and into her cage. She curled into a small coil and went to sleep as though nothing happened.
Yugi sighed. He turned to the dispersing crowd and scanned for his friend Jou. "What did you do now?" he placed his hands on his hips in an attempt to be intimidating but only looking cute, "Hera doesn't go crazy for now reason. Especially on you, Jou!"
"He couldn't get the horses to move so he used that 20-foot snake to scare away the horses." Anzu raised a brow and crossed her arms. She crouched down, letting the long sash across her waist flow around her like a skirt, overlapping the glittering tights that covered her body. "And for what? A little adventure? You should've waited for Yugi to come!" she slapped the blonde teen's head lightly.
Jounouchi frowned though it was barely noticeable with his colorfully painted face, "But we don't need Yug to always take care of them horses! I was only trying to help!" He ran a hand through his hair and pushed himself up, only to fall back again as a surge of pain trickled his spine.
"Hmm, that's nice of you to say." Mai appeared behind Yugi, wearing the same clothes as Anzu only that the colors complimented the said teen's own. "But if you really need a rush of excitement, we could always include you in our trapeze act." She winked at Anzu and the two girls started laughing.
The jester shook his head, "No way! I'm happy with my sweet, solid ground!" he kissed the earth generously as to prove his point, gaining a few more laughs from the girls and Yugi.
"But really, Jou, leave the animals to me. I know you're trying to help but I don't want you getting hurt like that again." Yugi extended a helping hand which was accepted with gratitude, "I'll fix the horses while you guys get everyone ready for the opening act, okay?"
"Okay!" The three gave the short teen a thumbs-up and then went to their respective jobs.
"You get dressed as well, Yugi." Anzu waved at the short teen before following Mai to the dressing tent.
Yugi waved back then turned to the horses, sighing, Maybe I should get all the animals to recognize Jou's scent or something. He always seems to get in trouble with them. He smiled as he approached the well-decorated horses with their saddles of sequins and feather headdresses. He rubbed the noses and necks of each horse, telling them to behave properly.
He looked up at the sky, looking at the soft glare of the sun behind the clouds. With one sigh, he rushed to the tents, muttering, "Better get ready now."
Anzu and Mai were trapeze performers though they sometimes performed dances if the ringmaster decided a different routine. Otogi would usually be part of their trapeze routine – he refused to participate in any of the dances. Jou, on the other hand, was the clown of the group with Honda as his partner…though they preferred to be called "jesters" instead, saying that they do not enjoy throwing pies at each other…pies that they'd rather eat.
Pushing the curtains away, Yugi entered his dressing room. His fingers brushed the leather gloves and silver chains that made-up his costume as he made his way to the mirror. Though his animals would never purposely hurt him, not all of them could retract their claws like the tigers and cats do. His only protection from them were the thick leather that his wardrobe consisted most of.
He untied the knot of his trousers then pushed the brown cloth of his legs when—
"Hey, did you see my knives?"
Yugi jumped in surprise, his legs getting tangled with his trousers. He fell down on the ground with one soft thud. With a bit of difficulty, he turned his head to the voice, "Oh. Malik." Of course. Who else would enter dressing rooms without as much as warning looking for knives? "No, I didn't see them anywhere."
Pale lavender eyes blinked, "You do know that you're lying upside-down half-naked, right?"
The once creamy white skin turned into a deep crimson. The short teen scrambled to sit up right, pulling his tunic down to his knees. Though his underwear covered his privates, he was still considered half-naked. "B-b-but you startled me! I was about to change when you came and I…uh…I fell." He bowed his head down in embarrassment.
A creepy laugh reached Yugi's ears. "Just kidding, Yugi." Malik closed the curtains behind him. He pulled the ends of the long red sash across his waist as he started to open every chest in sight, "Hey, did my favorite knife happen to sneak in here?" he peeked behind the trunk where most of Yugi's clothes lay.
Yugi shook his head, watching Malik's every move, noting the multiple array of knives and dagger tucked behind the sash that served as a belt for the creamy trousers of his friend. "No. I don't think they're here. Maybe you didn't lose them at all?" he offered, hoping that the knife master would soon leave his room.
Malik stood up straight, smoothing the slightly crumpled lavender vest that was placed over his long sleeved tunic that matched the color of his pants. He checked the little daggers that were hidden inside the thick leather braces around his wrist. He turned his head around, the necklace of daggers jingling as he did, and counted the knives behind his back. Lifting his black clad soles, he pulled up his trousers and counted the knives bound to his ankle with leather braces similar to that on his wrist.
"Where else…?" he whispered softly to himself, completely oblivious to the jaw-dropped beast master on the floor. "Ah, yes! Just one more!" His eyes lit up in joy as he sent a hand to the back of his neck, pushing his pale blonde hair to reveal the long knife held to his neck by the leather choker he was wearing…or at least there was supposed to be one.
"Oh…so you really are missing one." Yugi managed to say as he collected his jaw from the ground. I knew Malik had a lot of knives but I never knew he carried around this much.
"Yeah! And it was my favorite one!" A deep scowl appeared on the young man's face. "Anyway, I should let you get dressed already. The show will be starting soon. As much as I won't mind, I don't think a half-naked beast master would get us some moola. Maybe if it was the upper half instead?"
"MALIK!" Yugi pouted, his face going redder than it had been before.
The knife master laughed. He gave a sultry wave to the short teen before leaving the other to dress. Outside, he screamed, "HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO PERFORM IF I DON'T HAVE MY FAVORITE KNIFE!" Not that it mattered since his "favorite knife" changes every time he gains a new one.
With yet another sigh for the day, Yugi stood up, placing his trousers on the table under the mirror. He grabbed his leather pants and put them on with little difficulty. He slipped on his think leather shoes, pulled the straps so that it clung to his leg like the pants did.
He pulled off his worn-out tunic and grabbed a black long-sleeved one that seemed to shine in the light. His leather vest was strapped onto his chest with silver chains along with the leather gloves on each hand, protecting both his pale hands and half of his arms. A thick coat of, yet again, leather was placed over shoulders and head, covering his unique hairstyle. A mask was placed across his eyes, almost covering his beautiful violet orbs.
His eyes wandered to the leather whip on the chest and sighed. He never used force on his animals but the ringmaster wanted him to look like the typical beast master so he ordered him to carry a whip even if he would never use it.
"Nothing I can do about that." He grabbed the black coil and clipped it to the silver chain hanging around his waist.
A loud chorus of trumpets and drums called the young beast master to his senses. Yugi grew pale in panic. He quickly pushed away the curtains and ran through the tents until he reached the clustered group of performers. He squeezed his way through the crowd, to the pair of chimaeras that no one wanted to go near to. With one flick of his wrist, he released the chains that held the beasts to their places, earning a couple of nuzzles for his actions.
Another loud chorus of trumpets signaled the performers to get ready.
With a whisper of assurance, Yugi took led the beasts in the line, his heart beating faster as the line started to move. The rush of excitement was enough to make him faint. He hated having this animals in captivity but boy, did he love his job!
A flash of light attacked Yugi's eyes. He raised one hand to shadow his eyes, quickly spotting the ringmaster on top of the elevated platform in the middle.
Donning a sleek black top hat, the ringmaster spread his arms, his red coat shimmering in the abundance of the light. That smile that only scared Yugi aroused the crowd into a clamor of cheers. The ringmaster's visible eye, as one of them was hidden beneath his long silver hair – the hidden eye that Yugi saw only once in his life – scanned the crowd in pride. "Enter a circus of illusions!" He said in a voice coated in mystery.
The beasts Yugi were leading stood on their hind legs, roaring at the spectators. Yugi's eyes turned to the beasts. He raised his hands, calling the chimaeras attention.
"Welcome, to the greatest show in the world!"
- - -
Half-lidded crimson orbs watched seductive dancers twirl across the room, their golden clips and jewelry dangling in the waves of their movements like bells in the midnight sky. A yawn escaped his mouth, not even an effort was made to suppress such a rude gesture.
He grumbled, his eyes narrowing in annoyance as the dancer kept shaking their breasts in front of him. Some of the occupants in the room leaned forward, entranced by the graceful and passionate movements of the dancers but to him, they were simply a repeat of every dance whose purpose was to gain his favor through a harem of women that were ready to throw away their dignity for his…ugh…money and power.
He raised a tan hand slowly, as though to tease the tired and sweaty dancers, and then flapped his fingers, shooing the hard-working young ladies away.
The music instantly stopped and the women fell to the ground in exhaustion, eyes pleading for another chance but they were simply ignore with another flap of his hand. The dancers bowed low, muttering appreciation for his time that he was sure was wasted on such low class entertainment. With one more bow, the dancers left. Only when the jingle of their clothes were heard no more did he turn his head to the advisor at his feet.
"Are there any more?" he asked, his rich, low voice bouncing off the walls with authority that he had so much of.
The vizier bowed, "Yes, your highness, there's another group of dancers and musicians waiting to perform."
"Let me rephrase myself." He cleared his throat, "Are there better performers?" his finger tapped impatiently on the armrests of his throne, crimson eyes sending glares at the poor old man.
The man bowed lower, his shoulders shaking as he refused to meet the fiery red eyes of the king, "I-I-I'm sorry, your majesty. There aren't any left." He crouched lower for fear of the ruler's wrath but he wasn't harmed, physically or verbally. He lifted his head and barely caught the tri-colored hairstyle of their leader leaving through the curtains that decorated the arch leading out of the room.
A sigh escaped the adviser's lips. At least, nothing bad had happened to him…well, not yet.
"And yet another failure, Atemu?"
The king turned his head to the voice then smirked, "None of them are up to my standards, Kaiba." He fixed the long crimson cape wrapped around his shoulders, shrugging at the man standing at the doors of his room.
Seto returned the smirk. He approached his cousin, his deep blue robes flowing as he walked, "And that's after seeing every performer in all of Imperium." He said in a mocking voice, "Do you even have standards or do you just enjoy turning down every person you meet?"
Atemu snorted, "Of course I have standards! It's just that none of these so-called performers can even get halfway through." He crossed his arms, eyes wandering at the balcony of his room, and to the bright stars that twinkled in the deep velvet sky. "They're not…good enough."
The vizier rolled his eyes, "What is it you want? Have you ever thought that maybe it doesn't exist?"
The king glared at Seto. He sat down on one of the chairs, dropping his feet to a nearby footstool. "You may be my cousin but you are still below me. You're just one of my advisors even though I let you handle what comes in and out of my land…." His eyes grew big in realization, "Are you preventing the good performers from entering the capital?"
"What do you mean—?"
"Because if it was that prank I pulled at you, we were twelve."
"You know, the one where I dyed all your clothes in bright pink, including your hair."
"You mean you did that!" Steel blue eyes narrowed in anger. He raised a clenched fist in anger, ready to strike the young man in front of him, king or not.
Atemu cleared his throat, not a bit fazed by the eye-daggers his cousin was throwing at him, "We were twelve. And right now, we're perfectly capable adults of 20." He raised his hands, resting his chin on his intertwined fingers. "Now, if there's no one good enough within Imperium, I'd like you to make sure to check the other regions."
Seto slowly brought down his fist. He was going to settle his revenge later. For now, he has to act as the vizier in charge of trade. "What kind of show do you like?"
"Hmm…." Atemu smiled, eyes closed as he thought of what would please him, "I'd like you to bring me…." He chuckled, "…the greatest show in the world."
- - -
"Pretty please with a cherry on top?"
"Pretty-beautiful-exotic-grand-extra-extra please with caviar, cherries, strawberries and ice-cream for decoration?"
"NO, Mokuba. We are not going to let some group of vagabonds and rogues enter the capital just because you say so."
"But they're not vagabonds and rogues!" Mokuba pouted, his dark eyes watering with his infamous puppy-dog pout. He grabbed the poster from his pocket and held it in front of his brother, "They're circus performers!" he held the paper close to his face, pleading eyes looking over colorful poster.
Seto closed his eyes, not willing to fall victim to his brother's persuading powers. "Yes, circus performers! Who knows where these people came from or what they're here for? We're not going to risk the capital's safety for something…something meant for children!" he reasoned, "And how did you find out that the circus is planning on coming here?"
Mokuba dove to the pile of papers and parchment on his brother's desk, pulling a yellow-faded paper, smudged with dirt. "Here. You nearly threw away the request the ringmaster sent!" he threw the document to his brother's lap and knelt down, automatically using his puppy-dog eyes.
The vizier flinched. He turned his head away from his brother, busying himself with the wonderful rhythm of the tapping of his pen. Yes, wonderful. "You're 13 already, Mokuba. You are not a child anymore. You are an adolescent, you're on your way to being an adult. A circus is not an appropriate show for you anymore."
"Aww! But it's the greatest show in the world!" Mokuba pointed to the poster, "It says so in the poster! The GRRReatest show in the world!"
Seto snapped his eyes open. Now where did I hear that again…? , he closed his eyes, searching his memory for the same words but failing. "Mokuba, not this time. You cannot always get what you want. This'll be a good lesson for you." He slammed his palms on his desk, signaling the end of the conversation. "I have some work to do. Come back later." He twirled his pen between his fingers, eyes focused on the documents under his hands.
Mokuba sighed in defeat, dropping the poster to the ground. He took the document of appeal in his hands, reading the contents once again. All it needs is a seal…. Doesn't even need onii-chan's signature— , his eyes snapped open in possibility.
He turned to his brother with his most disappointed and teary face, "Okay…." He sniffed, "…I'll just leave now."
A sigh escaped Seto's lips as he heard the soft click of the doors closing. He looked up, shoulders relaxing in relief. He scanned the document in his hands and reached out for the seal placed at the corner of his table, just as it always had been. But all he felt was thin air and the brush of papers falling to the floor.
He looked up, searching his surroundings for the seal but failing to see even a sign of it. He took out a small piece of parchment and started writing, "I need to have that seal replaced." He snapped his fingers, calling his servants to do their job.
- - -
It was a normal and happy day for the circus – apparently, they were the only existing circus. The aftermaths of the previous war, left little people vying for a life of travel and entertainment. – and it was such a perfect day. Their most recent show gave them profits way beyond their normal rate, letting them buy newer clothes, better equipment, and more supplies.
"Pack your things now! Fix up!" Pegasus ordered, walking through the crowd of performers, "We're leaving soon!"
"But we've only restocked our supplies. Aren't we going to stay longer to pick up better equipment and clothes?" Mai placed a hand on her hip, tapping her foot in impatience. She, like many others, had been waiting to get better luggage. Living with such worn-out clothes made them look like a bunch of vagabonds and rogues instead of circus performers.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk." Pegasus shook his head, shooing away the blonde, "You don't need to do that here. Anything you want to buy, you can buy in the town we're going to."
The performers looked at each other, wondering what made the sudden change. They had never reserved what they could buy here for another town. The ringmaster never enforced it so why should he now?
"Excuse me, sir, where exactly is our next destination?" Yugi asked, stroking the feathers of the falcon on perched on his leather-clad arm.
"My, Yugi-boy, we are going…" Pegasus smiled, making the short teen turn away, "…to the capital!"
Imperium: Latin. Authority. Rule. Control. The power to command. And, in this fic, the name of Atemu's land.
- - -
I can't write in Jou's language He's hell.
Anyway, here's the line-up: Pegasus is the ringmaster. Yugi is the Beast Tamer. Ryou is the magician person. Malik is the knife-thrower person while Shizuka is his assistant or the one getting thrown knives at. Jou and Honda are the jesters or clowns. Anzu, Mai and Otogi are the trapeze performers. Keith is the muscleman person. It just fits. And besides, Pegasus rhymes with circus XDXDXD
So…how was it? A blast of something new? Or is my writing not good enough? Let me know what you think :)