Disclaimer: The Arcan Blades DO NOT own Yu-Gi-Oh. We DEARLY WISH WE DID.

A.N.: Thank you very much for everyone who reviewed! Thank you so much for the support! Comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated and I'd be very glad if you constantly review, to tell me how the chapter went.

Waah, it's been a long time, huh? Aheheh…my bad. I will make no excuses. The fact that I update just now sucks and I know it. Aheheheh…heh… at any rate! I hope you will all forgive me and I hope with everything I've got that you like this new chapter! (bows) I must say that I enjoy working on this again. XD

As always, flames will be laughed at, etc. etc.. Read and Review!!

There is something wrong.

The voice came booming across the emptiness that he saw. The emptiness obtained matter, and took shape into the same hall that he had once seen—nothing more than a crack of light.

A banner of three dragons flashed by—but only for an instant.

"…our royal houses, coming together at a grand union for this Empire…" nothing more than an echo.

He looked up to see his father, quite pale and still, clutching him by the sleeve of his robe, bringing him towards the light. Where was this place? Why does it hold so much shadow in contrast to the halls beyond it—which he recognized to be his home palace's own. He turned to his father again.

Before he could speak, the veiled form of his royal father stopped his pace and spoke. Show me your hands, he said without speaking.

He dropped his eyes to his white hands.

Jagged scarlet ran over them. They were searing. Something had burned into his hands. Inwardly, he could feel them burning through, but as his father touched them, he felt no pain from the contact. This burn was hurting him from inside.

His father pulled the long sleeves of the robe over his hands.

"Do not speak of it," he was told, as his father touched his lips and in a blaze of grey light, sealed them. He could not speak. "Until they heal—you are not to speak. Now come."

His father put a hand on his shoulder, his eyes intent towards the door.

"It is the beginning of the end."

And in the darkness, he heard a laugh. A cruel laugh of a man anticipating blood.

Little prince. Wake up!


The prince sat up with a gasp, cold pinpricks raging over his body, but the instant he gasped a hand was clapped firmly over his mouth, another gripping him tightly on the wrist. "Shh!!" he was staring into Seto's blazing blue eyes. He stared at him with his own, wide with fear.

"Three knocks," Seto murmured so low it was a wonder he heard them. "Let's go."

Ryou went from still sleep-stunned to wakefulness in a moment, once he realized what Seto meant. Across him, Mokuba was creeping already towards the door of the room, creeping closer to the exit, and using every means necessary not to cross upon the square of blue moonlight that was thrown in from the window. By all means was he not to breach that light. Doing so risked exposing them to the danger outside.

A shadow darted sharply—a mere flicker—across the square of light and everyone in the room froze. Mokuba raised stricken eyes to Seto, and from the dark doorway, Lynette swallowed hard. That rapid shadow—of wings streaking past—meant the enemy was too close.

Lynette had given them plenty of warning. She had been awoken by a sound in her sleep, and had been stunned to see the silhouette of a woman creeping on a rooftop not far from the inn, outside the window. She fled in silence, and knocked the signal of three times to the travelers' door. The Emperor's people were descending in town.

Seto slowly released Ryou from his hold. "They're here…" the Dueler murmured. He nodded to Mokuba, and the boy crept toward the door again. Outside, the sound was as though wayward birds, for one reason or another, were flying across the sky, and settling upon the silent town. But had they been birds, there'd been nothing to worry about. These peoples were far more dangerous than that.

Mokuba managed to cross to the door in silence. Seto and Ryou now followed towards the doorway, creeping in silence, and every eye fastened upon the window or, to the two with their backs to it, the square of moonlight it cast into the room. Slowly, both crept closer to the door, and were now within inches of the square of moonlight. They would've taken one more in, when the light was broken again, and everyone froze.

A body had dropped with a crouch onto a small terrace just beyond them. Slowly, that body rose, long hair spilling down the back, and long claws clattering noisily on the wood, and armor gleamed in the light. Mokuba was staring wide-eyed in terror at what he saw outside the window.

A Harpy was looking around, preening her glossy feathers absently as she did.

Ryou closed his eyes to steel himself. Harpies were the some of the finest trackers in the Empire. If they were sent out to find something, it was likely they'd find it—dead or alive. He felt Seto's grip on his wrist tighten. The Dueler seemed to be getting tense.

Though if it came right down to it, tension was only a part of what Seto was feeling right now—the rest of it was mounting anger. The Emperor was making some rather vicious moves, to allow a fleet of harpies to descend like this on Rheingold, especially at dead of night, where the townspeople were oblivious to what could happen to them should they stray outside. On the other hand, the Emperor's persistence was getting amusing.

Well now… Seto snorted inwardly. Looks like we really made him angry.

As long as they made no noise and did not break the moonlight, they shouldn't be found so easily. Harpies found prey the way many night-hunters did—detecting movement, and then swooping down for the kill. Seto inwardly berated himself for forgetting that harpies were indeed one of their bigger hindrances, especially since they intended to cross the badlands—and that was their territory. He should've expected them to be sent.

Mokuba was staring at him with a, "What are we going to do?" expression of partial panic on his face. The harpy had not left the terrace, and didn't seem likely to from where she was preening her feathers for a moment. And unlike with most predators, keeping still and pretending you're not there is not likely to save you from a harpy. On the contrary, stick around long enough and they were likely to scent you.

Ryou touched the Dueler's arm, making the latter look at him. Ryou carefully reached into his pouch bag and draw out a shining green amulet. He motioned to the harpy, proposing that they take it down. Seto gave him an incredulous look, and Ryou just gave him a "what else choice do we have?" expression and a shrug. Seto shook his head. If they take down that one harpy, the others will likely notice and come swooping. Ryou frowned whispered, "Trust me!"

"I said no," Seto hissed, glaring at him.

The harpy looked up. Lynette and Mokuba hardly dared to breathe. Mokuba turned to the two still in the room and shot them a, "stop it!" glare.

Seto's hand tightened on his own amulet as the harpy now turned her head towards the inn, her long red hair gleaming in the moonlight. No one in the room moved.

Without warning, she streaked right across and into the window like a deadly whirlwind, shooting with ease right through and landing onto the wooden floor. Lynette and Mokuba leapt backwards, falling into the hall and Seto pushed the prince back, gripping his sword and making ready to slash at the harpy.

Ryou had other ideas. He clutched at Seto's shoulder with his free hand, and whipped the spell amulet towards the harpy. In a green flash, the magic slammed right into the harpy before she could even make a sound and everyone gasped to see that a great sword had struck her, embedding her right into the ground. She turned a startling shade of grey and did not move.

The blaze of magic dissipated and Ryou shakily lowered his arm, white as a sheet, while staring aghast at the harpy. At the next instant, Seto had grabbed him and pushed him out of the room and into the hall. "What did I tell you?!" he hissed.

"She was in the room!" Ryou protested.

"And now all the rest of them—" Seto glanced to the window; there was nothing there yet, but he could hear wings flapping and coming closer. The magic had undoubtedly sent them investigating, "—are coming for us!"

"Shall we, then?" Lynette grabbed Mokuba by the arm and went rushing down the hall with him, with Ryou and Seto following them. As they headed for the stares, the light from the windows told them all they needed to know as they flickered with the shadows of harpies rushing past. In a matter of minutes, the Rheingold sky would be full of them, and if anyone else in town wakes up and sees them there was bound to be a riot.

As they hurtled down the stairs, Seto stared at Ryou and the fact that he was still holding the amulet he used earlier. It was still glowing. "What are you doing?" he demanded.

"I can't let go," Ryou answered, wide-eyed. "It's the spell that's keeping the harpy upstairs down! She can't attack us nor defend herself as long as this amulet is active. Father said I'm not usually supposed to use this, but—"

"That's for a reason!" Seto answered as they reached the ground. Such an amulet could only be powered by whoever is holding it, and it would eat away at Ryou's energy for as long as it was active. He didn't know how long the prince would last or how much energy it took to use it but it only meant that they had to get far away from this place before it lost hold.

He glanced out the windows and saw no less than three harpies on a rooftop. Either way, they had to get out of here anyway.

"What's the fastest way out of the city?" Seto rounded on Lynette.

The girl shook her head. "A high wall and two great gates are the exit to the badlands. But they're closed at this time—naturally. And I doubt they'll let us fly!"

"Are there no guards or soldiers in this entire city that no one has seen those things?!" Seto hissed to her, looking indignant.

"I daresay there are," said Lynette, no means put off by Seto's tone. "They should be informing the Duke now." She took a pause and then groaned just audibly. "He's not going to be happy."

Seto followed where she was looking, and frowned. He had been seeing the great marble edifice at the highest part of Rheingold that he found to be familiar in spite of having seen it last a very very long time ago. He frowned and tightened his hold on Ryou's wrist.

I wonder if that lunatic is still in there… Indeed, Seto was quite sure that the resident 'lunatic', if he was the Duke of Rheingold, would not be happy about what is going on.

Normally, no one in their rational minds would dare fling themselves upon the Duke's chamber doors and begin knocking without stopping—like an endless volley of wooden booms into the silence of the marbled hallways. But as Leonhardt von Rhein—but Leon to everyone who liked him—made it clear to himself as he did this, he was certainly not in his rational mind most of the time, much less this time.

"Come on, open up, open up, open up!" Leon knocked steadily, his face white as a sheet and glancing apprehensively all the while behind him. He uttered a muffled cry as a sharp shadow went flying past one of the big bay windows. He increased the intensity of his pounding. "Aniue! Come on! For goodnessakes!!"

The door was flung open so suddenly that Leon fell crashing into the lush cool carpet. He looked up, spitting out lint, at the tall shadow that now covered him. His tall, ferocious, but still rather beautiful brother, the Duke of Rheingold, Siegfried von Rhein, wearing a silk dressing gown, was there and now glowering at him with all the force that can be mustered of a man who has been very abruptly woken from deep slumber. "And just what—"

This was as far as Siegfried got before his younger brother flung himself upon his legs and held there as though he were drowning, looking badly frightened."Aniue—Aniue, there's—there's—!"

"What ails you?" Siegfried asked in disbelief, trying to peel his brother's arms off him. "Leon! You get up from there and tell me—"

"Harpies!!" Leon gasped breathlessly, pointing wildly at the windows and olive-gold eyes wide. "Harpies, for goodnessakes—harpies! Outside—in the sky—all over the place!"

Siegfried had to forcibly push back the shock that had traitorously passed through him. "Harpies—?! Impossible!!" And with that, he shook Leon off—who scrambled out of his way—and strode furiously to the hallway windows. There he stood, hands pressed onto the sill, looking out at his rich land that fell below his massive rose gardens. At first, all he saw, as his eyes adjusted, was the empty silence of the night filled mostly with the navy sky and clear stars that glimmered beyond the moonlight.

A moment later a harpy went roaring past just by his white roses.

Out of sheer reflex, Siegfried leapt backward and nearly slammed into Leon who had come up behind him. "I told you," the younger one exclaimed breathlessly as he gripped his brother's robe. "I told you!! They're practically at our house—they're all over the rooftops, all over the roads—"

"All over my land!!" Siegfried exclaimed furiously and he went storming back into his room. He caught the rope that was just by his bed and gave it a pull. A deafening peal of bells resounded through the house, and Leon knew that the sound would effectively wake all of their servants and guards. The problem with Rheingold was that it was all so rich and comfortable and—by the protection of the Rozen Mountains—thought to be so impregnable that all security was lax. This was a wake-up call for everyone.

Leon had already run off on his own, eyes trained to the windows as the shadows continued to flicker wildly past. He kept his eyes on their patterns as they swept over the town. There were about two dozen of them leaping all over the rooftops and swooping over the sleeping heads of the Rozen peoples. He flew down the great staircase and down the ground floor halls, heading for the small side door he frequently used to escape his brother's watchful eye, and instantly went skidding to a stop at the cliffside, staring.

To his right side, the side of the duchy he had been previously staring at, the harpies continued to leap and swoop as though they were patrolling or searching for something. However, there was a clump of them on the far side that were moving relatively more carefully, as though they were following a scent—predators preparing to swoop on their prey.

But something else bothered Leon. He knew that side of town. He made friends with many of the kids there. He wondered if they were all right. He glanced back to see if anyone was looking for him. It would appear that everyone was too preoccupied with the idea that there were harpies in general for them to remember that they should be keeping an eye on him.

Leon pulled his gloves on securely and fastened his pouch of summoning amulets tight on his belt before he carefully descended the slope, heading to where he could see the harpies beginning to circle.

And from their vantage point on the other side of Rheingold, at the lower cliffs of the Rozen Mountains, two heavily-armored figures stood, the one in black armor with his hands over his chest, while the other, more slender, in gleaming bright purple metal armor, had her hands to her hips. They watched impassively as the harpies scoured Rheingold for their elusive quarry.

One of the most powerful of the harpies, in their air with an impressive height and the moonlight flashing off her beautiful gleaming feathers, now came swooping down to the pair on the cliff, dropping to a kneel before the woman as a sign of obedience and respect.

"Did you find anything?" asked Mai imperiously, not breaking her gaze from the rooftops.

"Not yet, mistress," answered the harpy. Though she was speaking, her lips were not moving. She merely spoke to Lady Mai through the mind's voice. "However, we have heard a gong resound through the Duke's mansion."

Mai made an irritated sound. And because of this, Jounouchi looked at her with a frown. "What is it?" he asked, unable to hear what the harpy had said.

"We can safely assume that Duke Siegfried will soon be sending out his men, and it would also be safe to assume that he will find this an outrage," Mai muttered, looking annoyed. "Did I not warn you that it might've been wiser to first send an envoy to him before sending out my harpies?"

Jounouchi snorted. "That flamboyant heap of ruffles and roses that Rheingold calls a duke would sooner throw a fit than allow his 'beautiful' duchy to be 'tainted' by the harpies. And besides, he is only a duke. We are here under the commands of the Emperor. Surely, he's not an idiot to try and oppose that."

Mai turned to the harpy now and spoke to her. "Any sign of the Dueler and the Prince?"

Before the harpy could speak, another one, this time with bright green hair cropped short and riffed feathers, now came flying to Mai, her eyes gleaming. "Mistress," she said, her voice laced with restraint excitement. "A burst of magic drew us. One of our sisters has been impaled onto the floor by a sword. It looks as though it might have come from a magical amulet."

"What?" Mai looked up, startled. She frowned. "Take us where this magic came from."

Jounouchi began to grin. "We've found them."

And he turned behind him.

Waiting there, at the grounds around the cliff, were at least fifty more harpies among two platoons of the Emperor's men, all under Jounouchi's command, given to him expressly by the Emperor for the search and capture of the Dueler Seto. He glowered down at them and lifted his sword as a signal to them—the signal to move.

And as the army began to move, Jounouchi drew out a summoning amulet and smirked at Mai. "You lead. I'll take care of them."

"The ground is…moving…?" muttered Mokuba as he was staring at a pebble on the road that was rattling slightly. He was lying on the ground, an ear pressed into the earth, and staring at the rattling pebble from a crack at the door. It rattled in beats—as though something big was clomping towards them.

From where they were breathlessly hidden in a tavern stockroom, Ryou peered out the dusky window in an attempt to see what was going on outside. Two harpies were now creeping into their inn, now abandoned but still within sight. He gasped. "What about the Lynette and the horses?" he asked, eyeing the girl who was crouched behind the inn, the reins of the horses in her hands.

Seto cursed under his breath as he pulled Ryou down away from the window. "Keep out of sight. Let's just hope that those winged amazons aren't intelligent enough to notice them."

"I don't understand," Mokuba said, looking concerned. "How is it that there's so many of these harpies?! Aren't they just creature summons?"

"If there's anything Countess Mai is good at, it'll be multiplying her creatures," Seto muttered in answer as he affixed his armors securely. There was no way they were escaping this without a fight.

"It'd take quite some energy to keep them all around, wouldn't it?" Ryou said, looking pale.

"I don't think she'll be able to attack very powerfully," Seto answered, glancing to the windows. "If she was alone, I'm sure we can take the harpies if they stormed at us—they can't be that powerful if Mai's using most of her energy to keep their numbers." His expression darkened as he too began to now notice the sound that Mokuba was talking about.

"But that sound…" he muttered, "…means that she's not alone. The Emperor's sent someone with her."

"It sounds like an army," Mokuba said apprehensively.

Seto now glanced out the windows for an instant. And even from where they were, he was not able to miss the fact that something large, purple-bodied and hulking was making its way through the Main Road of Rheingold. It was a giant man, with two pairs of heavily muscled arms, face a mask of wildness. Seto flattened back to the wall, making sure not to be seen.

"What is it?" asked Ryou, clutching his amulets.

Seto drew his sword, eyes glinting and preparing for battle. "A Summon." He clutched his amulet bag, glaring at the sight of the monster. The Emperor wasn't playing games anymore. Allowing his men to use such a powerful summon right in a town, Seto was sure that it only meant that he intended to recover him and Ryou, dead or alive.

Cards in this chapter:

Ryou's card:

Sealing Sword of Dead Spirits

Mai's cards:

Harpy Lady

Harpy Lady's Sisters

(and all the other harpy stuff she's got, I assume)

Jounouchi's cards:

Maximum Six

So it looks like things in Rheingold are getting a bit tense! Versus an army of a hundred men, harpies, Jounouchi and Mai, plus their summons, even Seto and Ryou might be in over their heads! Siegfried doesn't seem to be in a very giving mood 

either. Looks like the adventurers are in deep trouble: if they are forced out of Rheingold now, there's no surviving the badlands or the desert. They seem to need some help—and I can safely say it's on its way! Please review!