Chapter Five: A Cage for Two
Atem, Yugi, Joey, Tea and Mai watched hesitantly as the cursed King of Thieves paced impatiently near his chair on the far end of the long dinner table in the dining hall. Once and a while Bakura would glare at the clock or at the empty chair on the other side of the table with a full setting in front of it, but he didn't say a word until he finally stopped pacing and looked at the door, his eyes slits.
"Why am I still waiting?" he hissed angrily. "I told him to come down…why isn't he here yet?" he snapped at his servants.
"Try to be patient, Your Highness," Yugi advised worriedly. "Our guest is probably homesick…he did lost his freedom, home and family all in one day."
Atem nodded, but looked a little more reproachful toward Bakura's anger. "You're going to have to be patient with him, if you think he'll be of any help to you in breaking the spell…you can't order or bribe someone to love you."
Bakura growled angrily. "If I can't order or bribe, what do you expect me to do?"
"Well, you can start by standing up straight and showing some manners," scorned Mai. "At least try to be a gentleman, will you?"
Joey nodded. "Just think: if you show some love to him, and he shows some love to you, then poof! The spell will be broken! We'll be human again by midnight!"
"Don't say things like that, Joey!" chided Tea.
"Tea's right, Joey," Yugi assented. "Love takes time…and they have to be in love with each other, not just friends or boyfriends."
"But we don't have that kind of time!" Joey argued. "The rose is turning brown and wilting…Bakura will be twenty-three by the end of this year!"
"It's no use…"
The servants looked up from their conversation at Bakura, who, instead of looking angry, actually had misery in his blood-red eyes as he looked out the stained glass window.
"He could never love me…he's so innocent, unsoiled…and I'm…irredeemable."
There was a very awkward silence, before Yugi hopped on his pedestal over to Bakura and put a porcelain hand on his ankle in an attempt to comfort him.
"Your Highness, you're not irredeemable…you've made mistakes in your life, but you still have a chance to make things right before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose. If you had no hope of redemption, then why would Kisara have given you a chance to change?"
Bakura moved away from Yugi and closer to the window as if disliking his display of sympathy.
"You don't know what you're talking about, runt. That bitch cursed me because she knew I wouldn't be able to change and she wanted me to suffer…just like everyone else in this damn kingdom before they all ran away."
"So you'll give in to her?" Atem inquired, hopping over to Yugi and putting his arms around him while giving Bakura an irritated look. "I never knew you to be a quitter."
"That's because I am not a quitter!" snapped Bakura, looking away from the window for the first time in minutes and sounding angry.
"Then prove it!" Atem hissed. "If you're not a quitter, prove to Kisara and everyone else that you can change."
Tea nodded in agreement. "And you won't do that if you don't at least try to reach out to Ryou."
Joey, Mai and Yugi nodded as well. Bakura glared down at Atem for a long time, before he spoke again.
"I really should burn both you and your runt boyfriend for such disrespect…but I won't, because I think fire wouldn't be a suitable enough punishment and I shouldn't waste my brain energy thinking of something else when I have to work on breaking the curse."
Yugi smiled slightly as Bakura went back to his seat at the dining table. Even though Bakura was by nature a very cruel person, he sometimes masked gratitude and other more positive feelings by threatening or insulting them, simply because he didn't know how to express such feelings. Yugi hoped, however, that if Bakura started to open up to Ryou, maybe the pale albino could encourage those positive feelings to shine through.
Abruptly the handle on the dining room door rattled as the door opened. Bakura and the servants' heads all shot in its direction, but were disappointed by the entrance of Tristan and Seto.
"Er…good evening," Tristan greeted hesitantly.
Bakura had a very sour look on his face. "Well?"
Tristan flinched at the irritation in his tone. "W-well what?"
"Where is he?" Bakura hissed violently.
"Who…? O-oh, the boy!" realized Tristan, shaking so much his pieces of armor was clanking together. "Er…um…well…h-he's in the process of…um…circumstances being what they are, he…uh…"
Seto rolled his eyes at Tristan's behavior.
"What?" shouted Bakura.
"He's not coming," Seto answered in an immediate, dull fashion.
There was a very dangerous silence.
Then Bakura exploded.
The King of Thieves roughly shoved Tristan out of the way, slammed the dining room doors open and ran up the stairs toward Ryou's room. In alarm, his servants followed him, calling after him.
"Your Highness, stop!" barked Joey.
"Think before you act!" yelled Atem.
When Bakura reached Ryou's room, he slammed his fist violently against the door in three fierce knocks.
"I thought I told you to come down to dinner!" he growled fiercely.
Inside Ryou turned away from the door, his nose turned up in anger.
"I'm not hungry," he answered coldly.
Bakura looked ready to kill; Yugi tugged at the King's pant leg desperately.
"Please, Your Highness…try to be sympathetic to him-"
Bakura kicked Yugi away, his red eyes flashing dangerously, before he seized the doorknob and yanking the door off its hinges in a single inhuman motion.
Ryou was surprised by this movement and looked at Bakura in a mixture of alarm and repulsion.
The King of Thieves strode over and grabbed the pale bookworm's collar, bringing their faces close together and making their eyes lock, brown on red.
"Your Highness!" Tea cried.
"For such a pathetic weakling, you are being very difficult," Bakura whispered dangerously. "Tell me…are you suicidal? If you want to die so much, you should just say so and not cause me grief."
Ryou's eyes narrowed. "Are you unable to be considerate? If you want to remain cursed so much, you should just let me go and not cause me grief."
Tea, Serenity and Yugi gave gasps at Ryou's words; Mai and Atem were smiling, glad Bakura could finally be put in his place; Bakura's eyes widened fiercely.
"I'm warning you, boy…while you are in my castle, you'll obey my rules. First rule, I'm sure you remember, is to give me respect, and if you have problems remembering that, don't doubt that I can pound it into you."
"Because that's how you solve all your problems," snapped Ryou. "You're so immature you think that pain will get people to do whatever you want! I'm surprised anyone can tolerate you…your servants aren't still here with you simply because of loyalty!"
"What do you mean by that, you little wretch?" snarled Bakura.
"Haven't you ever considered that they feel anything less than contentment being here in this castle?" demanded Ryou. "Haven't you even once considered their feelings at all?"
"What crap!" the King of Thieves snapped. "What's the point of wasting your time thinking about peoples' feelings?"
"They think about yours!"
"I'm King! I deserve nothing but the best; they're just lowly servants!"
"That attitude is exactly what made you get cursed in the first place! Your servants are still with you because you're their only hope to become human again! They can't go out into the outside world either, but they didn't even do anything wrong! You changed them into what they are…they have every right to be bitter towards you…and yet they've stayed to help you break the curse because they know you can't do it alone! Can you honestly say that you would do the same thing for them?"
Bakura was silent for a moment, looking down at Ryou with his most deadly eyes. The servant onlookers were entranced by this conflicting exchange.
"You think you know anything?" the King whispered in a very cruel whisper. "You have no right to judge me! You have no idea what I've been through."
"Elucidate me," challenged Ryou.
Bakura's eyes flashed. "You have no idea what it's like to lose everything you have! You have no idea what it's like to lose all respect, all dignity…to be completely alone while in a room full of people…to be trapped in your own home…to be a…a…!"
"Prisoner?" Ryou finished as a sad murmur.
Bakura froze. It was very clear he had been going to say "beast," but at Ryou's interruption, his rising anger died almost instantly.
"Kisara is not trapping any of us here," Ryou continued quietly. "Kisara is not the captor here…you are…because you have the chance to change, but you're so selfish you won't even try so that your servants can feel freedom again."
There was a very long silence. Atem and Yugi exchanged a concerned look. Bakura peered at Ryou with unfathomable eyes, before he whispered at last,
"This is your opinion of me?"
"Yes," Ryou replied coldly.
"So you won't come down to dinner?"
Bakura finally let go of Ryou's collar, slamming his feet back against the floor without any protection so that Ryou's ankles and feet held a twinge of pain.
And with that, the cursed King swept from the room in an oddly mild way. Atem, Yugi, Joey, Tea and Mai followed him hesitantly out the door.
Ryou wondered for a moment whether his words had really made an influence on Bakura.
Those thoughts disappeared, however, when Bakura picked up the door on the floor, fixed it back onto its hinges and slammed it shut.
Ryou ran over to the door in alarm.
"Wait! What are you doing?"
"You don't eat with me, pretty boy," Bakura's voice hissed from behind the door as it locked with a click, "you don't eat at all."
"Your Highness-!" Joey and Yugi both tried to protest.
"BAKURA!" Ryou shouted, for the first time in their argument sounding very angry as he slammed the door with his fist. "YOU LET ME OUT OF HERE! LET ME OUT!"
"Not until you cooperate," growled Bakura.
"BAKURA, I'M SERIOUS!" Ryou cried. "LET ME OUT…LET ME OUT!"
But Bakura didn't listen.
Ryou looked around the room, eyes wide with the fear of a child. The walls were closing in…the darkness was strangling him…
'Not again…not again…!'
Images of being trapped in a dark room with no toys or life around it flashed through Ryou's mind rapidly in succession, sometimes accompanied by a deep, angry voice scolding bad behavior.
"GET ME OUT OF HERE!" screamed Ryou, pounding on the door again desperately. "LET ME OUT!"
Serenity watched in horror as the albino crumpled onto the floor by the door like a little child, crying and shaking in fear.
"Daddy…let me…out…Dad…let me out…"
It was as if Ryou were a little child trapped in a nightmare, detached from all sense and reality.