Disclaimer: So, I don't own Yugioh. I don't own anything, really.
A/N: I suppose I have an apology to make. It's been quite a while since I actually saw an episode of yugioh, or had any direct contact with the cannon whatsoever, so it is more than a little likely that this portrayal contains inaccuracies. For instance, I don't know for sure how Isis's necklace-reading procedure works, (I don't know if that topic is ever covered) so I just made it up, hopefully my guess wasn't too off. I imagine that this takes place during battle city, probably on one of the first nights that they are in the big, snazzy, hot air balloon. The title comes from the song "Une Année Sans Lumière" by Arcade Fire, which I also don't own (though I wish I did, that would be totally awesome).
Her best visions always came at night. When the rest of the world was silent, restful, their energies were moderated. As opposed to the daylight hours, when the thoughts and feelings of everyone in proximity would assault her delicately balanced mind from all directions, halting her concentration, the night was peace.
There was something special that came from being the only one awake at odd hours of the day or night, as if the world had ceased turning for everyone but her, she alone was the one who could feel the ground below her feet and chart the progression of the celestial bodies. When the world was silent, and only her mind was in operation, there was a loneliness to it, a feeling akin to being the only living being in a graveyard, that only she could comprehend something no one else would understand, simply by thinking and living when they were not. While their spirits were in suspended animation, she continued to learn, to see, to know.
Isis gazed out into the infinite inky blackness that had somehow been compressed into the area of her small window, shrouding her shoulders in the thick and downy blankets that she had brought with her, prepared ahead of time, as always, for the discomforts she knew she would experience during her travels. Yes, peering into the future had its distinct advantages. With the assistance of her Millennium Necklace, Isis had been able to discern with absolute clarity the image of herself hovering hundreds of feet above the ground, shivering from the harsh, cold air that was unceasingly released by the zeppelin's grossly insensitive air conditioner because, apparently, for all his intelligence and foresight, Seto Kaiba had never learned what the comfortable temperature for the human body should be. Well, one disaster averted.
Even if the now oh-so-famous Kaiba blimp had not been regulated to maintain a near-freezing temperature at all times, the blankets were still a pleasant addition while Isis did her stargazing. Despite all the advantages the nighttime world had to offer, its major drawback was the cold, an icy indifference that permeated the deepest depths of the soul as if it had been doused in cold water and threatened to eat all the life out of any room. Her quilts and shawls were sometimes all she had to save her soul from evaporating into the darkness that expanded forever in all directions, posing questions that could never be answered and at times threatening to upset the very course of human progression. It would eat her alive if she let it, absorb her mind and her soul in its encompassing shadows and annihilate all that she had worked for, that she was still working for.
After all, bringing about the future is a profession that requires constant vigilance, there are no holidays, no retirement benefits, and very little, if any, thanks. The people of the day, they had no idea how lucky they were, to be able to sleep and dream, to be able to end any project that they had started whenever they chose, while she had to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders, like an Atlas whose duty it was not only to maintain the present, but pave the way for the future. Her place was the earth, she was its mother and its protector, its savior from the mistakes it would surely make without her gentle guidance, but the night sky was an indomitable force. It had no center, no logic, no purpose, unless she assigned one to it. It was only through her understanding, her powers, that it could serve any function at all.
That was why she liked to see the night compressed into that small square. The chaos was condescend to two dimensions, a flat little plane that she could acknowledge or disregard as she chose with the flick of a plastic window shade. It was her subject now, and she could not be its inferior when she controlled it. It was gratifying, too, to see the world that was her home so far below her. All the homes were dots, the lives of those in them reduced to fragments of her imagination that could choose whether or not to develop, the essence of their structures reduced to points of light on her retina. Being high up made everything look so simple, as if when one clean and graceful sweep, all its conflicts could be reduced to memories of a distant past.
Looking out that window reminded Isis how far she had come. From a little girl, condemned to dwell below ground, forever in ignorance and darkness, to a woman who could scale heights, albeit with the aide of modern technology, that she would not have previously dreamed possible. The Isthars, a clan bound to ritual for centuries, could now finally assert themselves in the divine order, with Isis leading the way to freedom and prosperity for the eternity to come. This was her role; she had been granted the powers of the Millennium Necklace in order to bring these events to pass, to give the people of the planet the light that would save them from ignorance forever, the power that she could use to save herself. She was a servant to her powers, but also their queen.
And these powers required concentration to properly wield. After all, being the prophet of the future was not a job to be taken lightly, and Isis was not one to underestimate her responsibilities. With the combination of ease and elegance with which one handles a priceless jewel that they have become accustomed to and know themselves to be incapable of breaking, Isis unlatched her necklace and cradled it in her gently cupped hands. She ran her fingers over the smooth, warm metal. How many mysteries this entity had witnessed, how much power its mere possession had wielded over the centuries, all the visions that she could witness while she possessed its magic! Everything was as it should be when she held her necklace in her hands, preparing to divine its messages, the universe quaked beneath her eminence, it feared her power to overcome it, to see where no mortal eyes were meant to see.
Crossing forbidden boundaries, there was a thrill to it, a budding excitement that she never tired of. She gazed at her prize adorningly, as natural in her palms as if it had built to their specific dimensions, which, in a way, it had. The only difficultly in utilizing the powers of her necklace was that the process was extremely trying. It required a very precise and delicate balance of the mind, similar to that attained by those who attempt to hold two contradictory but both equally correct ideas or philosophies in their heads at the same time and endeavor to make them correlate. There were not many that would be prepared for such as task as the one Isis faced while she divined her answers to events of which she did not fully comprehend the questions behind.
But her mind was unlike that of the masses, she could merely give a glance to a stranger in passing, and if she desired, foresee their downfall, their triumphs, their loves, and their losses, without ever knowing the man's name or anything about his character. She knew where they were going, and she knew that they needed her. Without her shepherding, they would fall, they would fail, they would falter, and that would bring destruction to them all. So it was with a heavy heart too that Isis turned to her task at hand, conscious at every moment of the importance of her duty to the fate of mankind, but ever comforted by the her complete confidence in her abilities to avoid failure.
With one final breath, deep and unwavering, she closed her eyes and changed her mind. There were winds in her room now that did not come from that blasted air conditioner, winds that blew from the distant (or sometimes, not too distant future) that gently caressed her face, blew through the strands of her hair, caused her eyelashes to flutter and her skirts to rustle in the breezes of eternity. Images of the future flashed by her in a wild whirlwind, she caught glimpses of a few blurry, dreamlike images, but they passed her by, she was not yet meant to see those. This was the part of the process that she had no control over. During these times, it was not her duty to ask questions or make demands as to what she was or was not prepared to see, she put her faith in the gods to select an image that was suitable for that specific occasion. Her job for now was passive, to wait. The interpreting, and the sharing, by far the most important part, would come later.
It was in these moments that her mind was most likely to wander. Occasionally, it took minutes, if not hours, for an adequate picture to come through, and even to the most astute mind, that could be rather dull. Especially in her younger and more impatient years, Isis's mind had been tempted to falter, often resulting in images that bore flaws and led to her great embarrassment, but she would like to think herself past such foolish mistakes now. Her mind was now a finely-tuned instrument, processed as delicately, functioning as deftly as a respirator but with as much ease as a swift gavel.
The future raced by as if it were expecting a prize for its efforts at some finish line that was somewhere over her shoulder. The movement made her mind dizzy and weak, like she had suddenly arisen after an extended period of sitting, and it now felt like it was hovering several inches over the base of her neck. And it was warm, the constant activity during this part of her meditations always made her mind run like a clock, and infinite number of notches and cranks combining in a seemingly unreasonable and unpredictable way, but all working together to produce one singularly insignificant, but all-important task, conducting the progression of a second hand around its face.
Yes, her mind was warm with the exertion, but her body, that was different. Usually, while attaining the messages of the necklace, Isis became completely unaware of her physical being, she would lose all sensation in her bones, muscles, skin. But this time, something was different. Starting with the very lightest layer of her skin and working its way down to the marrow of her bones, Isis could feel, if only slightly, her own tangible presence. She, before she could think to do otherwise, wrapped her cloaks and such more snuggly around her shoulders, and drew her limbs slightly closer together to help retain their warmth. If only the man in charge of this operation didn't demand that his subjects function in such unreasonable cold. Perhaps it was one of his many stratagems, an attempt to shatter the concentration of his opponents by simulating in them the claustrophobic feeling of being locked inside an icebox.
But regardless of whatever reasoning had convinced Kaiba that 13 degrees was the proper setting for his compound, it was besides the point. Now she had to start all over, how difficult these things could be. She re-centered herself, but not with difficulty, being interrupted by her own petulant thoughts was doing nothing for her peace of mind. But she had to overcome such minor difficulties all the time, it only challenged her strength and, inevitably, made her look all the stronger for her inconveniences.
The snapshots of time began to pass again, this time a bit swifter than previously, as if the gods had a sight that they were itching to show her and simply couldn't wait to showcase their creation with all the pride of a child displaying a treasured piece of (usually very poor quality) art work. The only difference was, Isis was much more the student to her gods than the teacher, and the smiles that would cross her lips upon seeing her slice of the world to come would not be feigned.
The colors came first. They were relatively muted, drab grays and blues, very sterile and Spartan. Then she could smell, the scents were strong and thick, but very human. And they were stifled somehow, like these close, intimate fragrances were restricted by a lack of fresh air. Not musty, but lacking the organic and deeply variable and vivacious feeling of the outdoors. She could hear, softly at first, and as meaningless as if every sound created by humans or nature had been translated into a foreign language that she was incapable of comprehending, just a slur of sounds with no distinct meaning attached, but it came progressively clearer the longer she listened. There were voices, tremulous and murmuring, she could make out very few individual words but could, as if in a dream, sense the general meaning by the tone. There was vulnerability, but it was revealed grudgingly, and in some way, that hesitance made it seem slightly insincere.
She could make out two voices, but vaguely, as if they were being played on a poorly tuned piano through which the original masterpiece was barely distinguishable. But there they were, and one of them was especially familiar, it carried all the recognizable stresses, rises and falls of the air through the throat and melodious strumming of the vocal chords that she could distantly recognize it as her own, but with effort.
The other senses, she developed those as well. It was unusual (in fact, she could not remember a recent occurrence) for she herself to be so actively involved in her own premonitions, so her presence opened the doorway for a novel flood of sensations that she was previously unfamiliar with. She could feel her own body, leaning heavily in the huge mass of darkness that blocked out of most of her vision. With slightly more attention she could gain more detail, she could feel the folds of the stiff fabric pressing itself into the smooth skin of her face, but it was not offensive. It was warm, a warmth that was as permeating as the cold had been. It was warmer than any blanket, because it reached beyond her skin and made her eyes sparkle and her checks flush in pleasure. Without consciously being aware, the present Isis wrapped her arms tighter around her shoulders, trying in vain to keep the feeling from vanishing. It was not her place to become involved in her visions, but seeing as this one did personally involve her, she thought she could make an exemption. She didn't want it to end, how sweet it was to be surrounded it warmth when the real world was so cold!
As painful as it was, she had to take the final step. With a little bit of regretfully employed concentration, she stepped back from the intimacy of the scene in order to take in the full scale of the image. And how wholly surreal the picture was, a sight she would have deemed impossible without a second thought had it not been there, shamelessly displaying itself as irrefutable fact in the projections of her mind, the sight of herself being tenderly embraced in the arms of Seto Kaiba. In her shock, Isis lost her connection to the otherworldly, and instantly snapped back into reality.
It simply wasn't possible. That man—if the word could even be applied to him without a slight twist of irony—she had deemed incapable of feeling any emotion besides his own immature desires for power and control that had been his downfall so many millennia ago, though he would forever be closed-minded enough to deny it. She would not have believed it if she hadn't seen it. However, seen she had, and now she could only act. After all, the seeming impossibility of something did not necessary forbid its existence in reality or its ability to come to pass if given the proper dedication or belief. And as a prophet, her job lay in believing, in making the impossible attainable, in bringing dreams to a world that lacked the imagination or dedication to invent anything on their own. She had to put personal prejudices aside, she was, after all, working for something beyond herself, something that she had no jurisdiction over, a force that she could only obey.
Well, if she had to, she would. While she might not be able to understand each individual step of the journey or the meaning beyond it—it was not her place to understand such things—she could unwaveringly implement the decrees of the gods, and she had to have faith that each segment would add together to form something great. Destiny was an often incomprehensible thing, full of subtleties and shades of purpose that were invisible to everyone except the ones who created it, but there was always a purpose, she knew that much. So, as much as she might detest the idea, her and Kaiba's destinies were clearly intertwined in a way that she would not have otherwise predicted. She forced her mind to squelch its doubts, action was what was important, not thoughts, and certainly not fears.
But she did fear, now she feared. The confidence that she had in the judgment of the gods was something that Kaiba clearly lacked, what if he was to deny the role he was to play in the fate of the world once again? This time she had no powerful cards with which to tempt him, no dazzling shows to put on that would leave his dazed and uncertain, wandering the endless streets and hallways of Domino hardly knowing which way was up or who he really was. All she had was her truth, a truth that she knew he would never believe. And what if she was to fail? What if he turned her away, cold and rejected, to the cold hands of the gods who would not fail to reprimand her for her failure? She shuddered at the thought. No matter how difficult it might have been at times, she was no Cassandra, she had never failed to convince someone of what destiny had in store for them, no matter how long it took. And Kaiba, no matter how stubborn his façade appeared, would come to see the light, just as they all did with a little persistence.
Nevertheless, it was a daunting task, and one that she did not take lightly. Drawing the image that she had foreseen to the front of her mind once more—she had snapped out of her vision so suddenly that she had forgotten to take in the time and place—she focused in the setting of her vision in order to determine when to strike. The drab colors that she had initially seen were walls, bare, but somehow familiar. In fact, the whole room had a slightly familiar feel to it. The simple furnishings—even more minimalist than she would have given Kaiba credit for—were similar in overall character to the furnishings in her own room. Examining herself, Isis could see that she donned the same robe that was wrapped around her shoulders currently, not to mention the same dress and shoes, her hair was still down as well. In the background of the scene, she could see through a distant window, it was night. Tonight. As in, right now.
That didn't help at all. Usually, there was a fair amount of time to make preparations, to focus, and there was usually enough time for her to complete her task with ease and elegance. But tonight, she simply wasn't prepared for that. Why would they give her a vision so close to the time that it was supposed to come to pass? Didn't they know what kind of emotional and mental commitment it took to insert herself into the future, to change the course of history? Why, of all times, was she given a vision that she had only a matter of minutes to prepare for?
Desperation seized her, it started in her skin and quickly shot inward, putting her soul on edge and her mind in a state of panic. Her mind was filled with the darkness. She was afraid, as much as hated to admit it. Afraid of what would happen should she fail. The doubts that she had expelled from her mind just a few moments previously now came rushing back in full force, prepared to wage an all-out assault on her confidence and stability. She shuddered and tried to brush the self-reprimands away, but they refused to budge from the comfortable corridors of her mind.
And they wouldn't. Not until she proved them wrong, once and for all. What difference did it make, if there were doubts? The press of time only gave her the chance to display the full scope of her talents. Every great visionary faces unfavorable circumstances, and this would be hers. Defeating the arrogance and ignorance that was Seto Kaiba would only serve to prove her powers to the gods, so show them just how talented she really was. That was all it was, a friendly challenge, they were testing her. She would disprove their theories about her abilities, they would be so surprised when they saw how much she had overcome to fulfill their will. She was their eternal servant, but that didn't mean she was so far below them.
It was when she reached this resolution, to continue with her program despite the impediments, that the real satisfactory part started. Even more so than when she had been attempting to acquire her vision, Isis channeled the essence of her being, as if she were trying to fit it through the eye of a needle. She would be herself no more, lacking an identity in the traditional sense of the word. She was now a vessel, a diplomat for the infallible forces that ruled over the earth.
Hardly aware of her actions—for individual movements were unimportant in the wider scale of the universe—and with the absolute certainty that always came to envelop her when she let the will of the gods dictate her actions, she left behind the physical realm of her poorly heated room and entered the hallway, going the way that she knew would to her to Seto's quarters, despite the fact that no living being had ever given her directions. She had no idea what she would say or how she would behave when she reached him, but that was unimportant.
What was important was that he would believe it, he would hold her and love her as the vision had predicted, that she would convert him and make him understand, and she would make the wishes of the gods come true. Through her he would feel the love that she knew the gods had for him and his destiny, no matter how fiercely he denied their presence. They were cold and dead to him, but through her, he would experience their eternal benevolence.
She passed a large and impressive bank of windows, certainly installed to give the zeppelin's residents a chance to take in the awe-inspiring view. They would look down at the ground so far below them, and marvel at the achievements that mankind had made that enabled him to fly above the birds and soar over the clouds. Greatness, flying was no longer an impossible dream assigned only to heroes and gods, it was a feat they could all accomplish without so much as a second thought, until they looked out that window and could feel like conquerors. They were gods on earth, no wonder Kaiba had wanted his tournament to be in the sky, a sky that was now contained in the grasp of man. That man, he would conquer heaven if given the chance, and would turn it into one of his battlefields. He would build a staircase, and let that sacred world be adulterated by humanity. And that was the man she was facing, the man who would vanquish the gods, then have a laugh about it.
Isis felt the familiar rush of joyous attainment as she knocked on his door. The same feeling had rushed through her bloodstream when she had taken him to museum, when she had shown what his destiny really was. He had scoffed at her, emulated cool indifference, that he didn't care whether was the sky was up or down so long as he could get hands on a new and powerful card. But she believed his true reaction was the opposite. She could see him, loosing sleep (even more than usual), haunted by dreams that he could not explain and hearing the voices of the past bounce off his walls, with not being able to determine their source. That would drive him insane, not being able to tell where they came from, not being able to reason it away. He would ransack the place, tearing in apart atom by atom if he could, but he would never be able the origin of the voices of the past, a past that he so resolutely would like to dismiss as impossible or unimportant. Well, here was his destiny, quite literary knocking at his door, waiting to open his eyes.
"What do you want?" Isis knew he was trying his best to not make the "greeting" sound false, but she could hear quite clearly in his voice and see through his attitude that anyone who would have attempted to commit the heinous crime of knocking on his door would have received exactly that response. He had probably been preparing it in his head before he answered. She raised her eyes, slowly, to meet his face. He did not look very pleased, that was certain, but she was there to change that. She let her eyes rest on his face, covered in the pale skin that led her to believe that he didn't get outside very often. There was a bulging look to his eyes as well, as if he was not used to looking at things that were more than a few inches from his face, and the strain of seeing her now was slightly painful. "Well, what is it? I don't have the time to stand here waiting for you open your mouth."
He was feigning indifference again, but Isis could see in the slight shifting of his body that he wasn't used to be looked at so directly and for so long, and the feeling of being put underneath a microscope was driving him insane. Making as if he was about to shut the door, Isis snapped out of her reverie, and gently placed herself between the door and its frame.
"Kaiba, despite what you may choose to believe, the gods have laid a path for you that you are destined—" He silenced her with an aggravated look.
"Look, lady, I don't know what kind of fantasy you're living in, but I'm about to join your lunatic convention. I only agreed to listen to you because of what's in it for me, so you might as well shut up about your destiny and crap, because you're only wasting both our times."
"Kaiba," seeing that her previous tactics were clearly not going to work, she decided to change course, "have you ever felt lonely?" He only looked at her, and that was enough, he was about an instant from throwing her out. All she could do was continue. "Certainly you must have. A life of constant competition, it will only leave you alone in the end. You will alienate everyone around you, and you'll, you'll, fade…" This wasn't working, he wasn't weakened by her attempts, only annoyed.
"If you're trying to appeal to my sympathy, it isn't going to work. I have no intention of joining any pity-party." He was closing the door on her, she had to act quickly. In the one instant that she had before the chance for her to fulfill was over, she flung herself, with help from a power she had never before used, into her vision of Seto's past. She saw the labored hours of studying in the cold, lonely, hours of night, where ghosts are the only company, that he had spent as a child, with the same fear of the dark that she had felt just a few minutes previously. He liked to pretend that his fear was no longer there, but if she had to, she could draw it out in him again.
"Seto," she made her voice even more serene than her usual tones, and delicately placed her hand on his wrist, "Don't try to pretend that I don't know how you feel. I too, fear the shadowy corners of my mind. I have been afraid that it would take me, too. But I found my way out of the darkness; I can lead you, if you would just let me."
He stiffly removed her hand from where it had been slowly snaking its way up his arm. Doing his best to avoid simply calling security and having her removed—he wanted to finish this matter with as little fuss as possible—he could only manage to reply, "I don't what planet you're living on, but it has a population of one. Now kindly leave before I have you thrown out."
"Seto, how much clearer for you can I make it? I know that you're frightened! For the first time you're beginning to see something beyond your own existence and it's intimidating. But, Seto, I've experienced the transformation, too. I can help you, I can show you the way to the truth. You'll thank me." With these words, she resolutely pushed back the door and grasped wildly at his quickly retreating hands and shoulders. "Do you think that you're the first to fear the darkness, to live every moment knowing that you're not merely yourself, but a servant to something infinitely powerful? Just a small piece, insignificant on your own, floating in a sea of things you can't understand. And it's all you can do to make sense of it, to find an answer. It's terrifying, but if you knew how to do it…" her words failed her, now all she could was plead with her wide, beseeching eyes, praying that something in her vulnerability would connect with his. There was a long pause where she could see him consider, weaken, falter, take down the barriers that he had so long ago installed in an attempt to protect himself from what he feared.
"You, you, know…? You have answers?" Gone was the icy exterior, Seto regarded her with a mixture of wonder and reverence. She nodded kindly, gently allowing herself to inch closer to him.
"I, I know how to not be afraid anymore," she subconsciously traced her necklace with her fingertips, "I have answers, I have all the answers. All that we think is real, it's just a part of something infinite and enormous, but that doesn't mean we can't understand it."
They were now nearly nose to nose, eyes glistening, Isis wondered if he saw the mysteries that she saw in the stars in her eyes. "It's just that, for the past few days, I don't know what to believe anymore…" He shuddered slightly at the shoulders, and when she placed her hand there, he didn't shake it off.
"Seto, I know what to believe. There is truth in this world, let me show you." He slowly lowered his head until their lips met, instantly filling her with the warmth that she had felt earlier and wanted to hold onto so desperately. The warmth was in him, the folds of his clothes, his arms, his chest, and especially his lips. Their embrace stretched on, with each moment filling her with a new fear, its inevitable end. So, this is what the gods desired for her, these moments that were blessed for them both. This is what oblivion felt like, it was fantastic. Here, holding each other, the darkness that terrified them both so would never find them. And just as instantaneously as the warmth had infiltrated her soul, it was gone. Seto had made the lines of body rigid once more, his skin to his soul was cold to her. She looked up to him in bewilderment. "Seto, what is it…?"
He only smiled smugly down on her, all the while disentangling himself from her longing grasp. "Exactly how gullible to do you think I am?" He laughed softly. "Now, as I said before, please get the hell out of my room before I have you disqualified."
And just think, if Seto had set the thermostat just a couple of degrees higher, that whole ordeal would never have happened! Hopefully I got there characters down right, I tried as best I could (I especially tried to emulate Eric Stuart's speech patterns, but I was doing it from memory). And, dear me, I do have to apologize for my terrible skill when it comes to writing romantic scenes, it doesn't come at all naturally to me, and I'm afraid it might be a bit awkward.