So the response to last chapter wasn't exactly stellar; I think maybe it's because I didn't do a good enough job of explaining what the hell I was talking about. The bum-rush technique of writing complex plotlines is probably a bad idea. Heaven knows I'm not fond of the idea anymore.

Here's what I was driving at last time: there is a separate world, a separate reality, for every possible contingency that's at all possible. So, let's look at this with an example: in the manga, Noa doesn't exist. But in the second-series anime, he does. Essentially, what my theory means is that both of those worlds exist, and it's possible to "cross over" to the other. But it goes deeper than that. In the manga, Seto invents Death-T. In the second-series anime, he doesn't. Again, two worlds. And it goes on and on like that, until there are untold numbers of different worlds.

Seto saw, in his nightmare last time, one of those.

He will visit another relatively soon.

If it still doesn't make much sense, which I admit it might not, I'll reiterate that I'm revisiting this story now that the problem of a deadline isn't there. I'm recrafting everything from the ground up, and I'm currently sitting at about 18,000 words worth of material. I'll definitely make sure to spend time on this part of the story when I reach it, to make sure that I explain it properly.

For now, I hope that I've done a decent job of explaining my madness.

Shall we continue?


XLV:
Unholy Excavation


Noa's face was unreadable.

"...Somehow, that doesn't surprise me."

"Me neither," Mokuba said.

Seto turned the monitor back to face himself. "Mokuba said that it was my mummy that he saw in his nightmare. Isn't that right?"

"Uh-huh."

"He likely did that to frighten him," Sethos said.

"Indeed..."

"He wanted Mokuba scared, and you mad," Noa said. "It'll mess with you, and he knows it. The angrier you are at him, the more likely he'll be able to manipulate you."

"I've used that strategy myself," Seto muttered. "'Anger clouds the mind. Consequences cease to have consequence, and the survival instinct is taken over by the primal urge to kill.'"

"I'm not even gonna ask who said that," Noa said. "Chances are I've never heard of 'im. You gotta keep that in mind, Aniki. This guy knows you. You've gotta be ready for him to get under your skin. You gotta make sure you don't let him lead you by the nose."

Seto frowned.

"Lord knows you're good at keepin' yourself closed off," Noa said, "but remember that Shadi knows your weaknesses. He already targeted it once. Admit it or not, when he gave Mokuba that nightmare it made you act. He's already manipulating you."

"...I know."

"He's gonna do it again. He's gonna do what every other person – Crawford, Ishtar, me – who's out for you has done: he's gonna target Mokuba. You know he is."

"I know."

Mokuba was looking down at his lap, toying with the hem of his shirt. "I always cause you trouble, Niisama..." he whispered.

"Don't say that," Seto said. "It's not your fault people are idiots. Don't worry, Mokuba. I have no intention of letting this man go easily."

"Yeah, kiddo, don't be hard on yourself," Noa added. "People suck. You don't. Don't gotta feel guilty for that."

Mokuba smiled. "It's still true. You always have to come help me. People always hurt you through me."

Seto smiled back. "Hush. You know the reason for that."

"It's 'cuz big bwudder wuvs you diiiis much!" Noa sang mockingly, holding out his hands.

"You're off by a quarter-inch, genius," Seto muttered.

Noa's hands went limp, and he stared. "I...you...you've measured...I have no answer to that. You son of a bitch, I have no answer."

Seto smirked.

Mokuba's smile widened. "...Thanks, Niisama."

"Oh, sure, no recognition for me," Noa pouted, crossing his arms. "I'm just an outsider."

"I love you, too, Noa."

Noa grinned. "'Course ya do. I'm perfect."

Seto turned his attention back to the article he was reading, and stopped short only a few seconds in. He grimaced suddenly, and snapped his eyes up to Sethos, who was looking a window.

"...Damn it."

The spirit turned. "Hm? What is it, successor?"

"Yeah, whatcha find out?" Noa asked.

Sethos strode forward. "What is it?" he repeated. "What have you discovered?"

"Sethos...I have a feeling I know how you will react to this, and I suggest you take a deep breath."

Sethos raised an eyebrow. "What?"

He tapped the monitor. "Here. I haven't done much research on Menkaura specifically, only enough to know he was a pharaoh. But...there's something about modern civilization that you may not be prepared for."

"What do you mean? What about Menkaura?"

"His body was removed from his tomb and put on display in a museum in 1838."


XLVI:
Magnificent


"Kisara..." Jen repeated. "That's very pretty."

"Thank you," the girl replied.

"Do you know Seto, Kisara?" Darren asked. "You look like you recognize him. Perhaps you've seen him on television, or...?"

"Kay doesn't really watch TV much," Katie said.

"Yeah," Irena said. "I think she might've seen one show and, like, three commercials last year. And the only reason she watched that much was 'cuz we were. It's almost like she doesn't believe in television."

"I...I do recognize this man..." Kisara said, obviously confused. She looked back at the picture. "He...he calls to me. I...I know him. But I don't know...don't know how."

"Yeah, he calls to Katie, too," Irena said. "She's had the hots for him for years."

"I'm over that!" Katie protested.

"Yeah, but you still think he's hot."

"Well...duh."

Darren chuckled and rolled his eyes. "You guys never quit. You know how weird it is hearin' you talk that way about a guy I know? It's...surreal."

"No weirder than you being friends with the biggest celebrity in the frickin' state," Katie shot back. "You do know that, don't you, Daddy?"

"I've seen his face plastered on more tabloids than I can count," Darren admitted. "The quintessential bad boy. He's a number, he is. Obviously it works, too. Roped you guys in. Don't know why you bother, though. Ain't like he's ever gonna go lookin' for a girlfriend. I don't think he's ever heard of girlfriends."

"He's a loner," Irena said. "That's part of the appeal."

"And you know as well as anybody he's got a sweet side," Jen said, elbowing her husband in the ribs. "He's a wonderful father, and that's appealing, too."

"Right. Lemme guess, Jenny. You wanna divorce so you can go chasing after him, too."

"Of course."

"Father...?" Kisara asked.

"He's his little brother's legal guardian," Darren explained. "That tyke there, in the picture. Name's Mokuba. Nicest damn kid you'll ever meet."

"And absolutely adorable," Irena all but swooned.

"Cool your jets, Lolita," Katie warned. "He's liable to sue you or something."

"Oh, come on. You think he's a cutie, too. He'll be a heartbreaker when he's older. And I, for one, can't wait."

"All right, girls. Enough boy-talk. Aren't you both dating, anyway?"

"Well, not each other," Irena said.

"I'd hope not."

"Ben and me have an agreement," Katie said. "If I ever convince Seto Kaiba to go out with me, I get a freebie. And if Ben ever convinces Angelina Jolie to date him, he gets to die a happy man."

"Oh, that's fair," Darren muttered.

Katie shrugged.

"So whatcha think, Kay?" Irena asked. "You look like you're really into that picture, there. Got a new poster for your ceiling?"

Kisara didn't answer.

Her eyes continued to stray back to the picture, as if hypnotized. Darren thought it wasn't just the sort of fascination Katie and Irena thought it was.

There was something else, here.

"Well?" Katie pressed, crossing her arms and flashing a knowing smile at the back of her friend's head. "What do you think of our local heartthrob? Domino City's resident pretty-boy?"

"He...he's...magnificent."


XLVII:
Overstepping Boundaries


"WHAT?"

Sethos's voice thundered so loudly that Mokuba jumped. The spirit's face was so contorted with rage that he looked like a different person.

He, unlike his descendant, wasn't very good at holding in his anger.

"Calm down, Sethos," Seto said. "You're—"

"Calm?" the spirit snarled. "Calm? You tell me that someone committed such an atrocity to my brother and tell me to be calm?"

"S'been done to a lot of 'em, man," Noa said. "Mummification's a popular study—"

"DO I LOOK LIKE I WANT AN EXPLANATION?" Sethos exploded, whirling on Noa like a coiled snake. "Are people of your era so fascinated with the dead that all are put on display like prized trophies or are we Egyptians simply blessed with the honor!"

Mokuba was frightened.

Sethos looked as though he were ready to combust. Anger so white-hot that it boiled in his eyes had taken over his mind, and it was clear that he would not listen to reason.

"I did nothing to your brother," Seto said sharply. "It was not my idea to excavate his body for display. People of this culture are selfish hypocrites. They would rally against the removal of the dead from their resting places if they are our people, but since they were yours, the practice is accepted under the pretense of science and education."

Sethos's fury continued to mount.

"Do I agree with the practice? Of course not. And if this power is as potent as you tell me it is then I will make certain that every mummy on display will be put back to rest, and that no others will be disturbed. But I do not appreciate your lashing out at me for something I had nothing to do with!"

Sethos was silent for a long moment.

The crack of his fist slamming into Seto's jaw echoed.

"Do not dare speak to me like that, you impudent maggot!" the spirit hissed. "Do you understand nothing of what I have tried to teach you these past weeks? Whomever deigned to trespass on my brother's ground has forced him from rest! My Menkaura has been tortured for years and you sit here and tell me to be calm because it was not you? You speak from an ignorant society with no respect for the dead! You look upon Menkaura's memory and spit upon it!"

Seto, head lowered, rose slowly to a kneeling position. "...Sethos Yameth."

He picked himself up off of the jet's floor with deliberate slowness. His fists clenched at his sides. Mokuba couldn't help but shudder at the set of his brother's body.

Sethos, still livid, did not reply. His eyes were narrowed to slits.

Seto snapped his arm up, palm open, and Sethos was suddenly pitched from his position like a rag doll into his successor's claw-like grip.

Seto raised his head, and this time it was his eyes that glowed like twin suns seething and burning in his skull. Sethos's anger withered in the face of that heat.

He realized the mistake he had made too late.

"...You will never...never...strike me again..."


XLVIII:
Timely Interruption


Darren rolled his eyes. He had to admit he'd never heard "magnificent" used to describe his friend before. He wondered how often Seto himself had.

But at the same time, she didn't strike him as the typical raving fangirl. Darren had met several of those, and they all had that same blind fanaticism that proved from the first how hollow their affections were.

For some reason he really couldn't pinpoint, this girl's adoration didn't seem blind. Not in the slightest.

She looked like she was honestly in love with him.

And instead of making Darren wonder just how whacked-out this girl was, to be in love with a man she'd never met before, whose name she didn't even know, it just fascinated him.

"Told ya, Kay," Katie said. "Told ya he was gorgeous. And you didn't believe me."

"He is...familiar..." Kisara whispered. "I...I know him. How can I...? Why...?"

"He is a celebrity," Jennifer said. "You may have just seen him in public before. You can never tell where he'll be."

"I...don't know. I don't think I have...but I must have..."

That eased Darren's mind a bit. The part of his mind that kept telling him it was weird was at least somewhat satisfied that she knew it was, too.

"I can't guarantee he'll be all that civil, but...maybe y'oughtta meet him?" Darren suggested. "I can show you his home."

"Oh, I...I don't know..."

"Here, lemme call him first. See if he'd mind."

Darren stood up and walked over to the nearby phone.

"Don't worry," he said. "If he's too mean, Mokuba'll put a stop to it."

"...Mokuba will? But isn't he...?"

"Yeah. But he's the real power in that family; don't you doubt that."


Mokuba spent a good minute trying to figure out something to say while Seto and Sethos stared each other down. It was clear that Sethos was shaken by his descendant's display of power, but still incensed at his casual treatment of a situation he considered abominable.

Mokuba really couldn't blame him.

But he also knew that if there was one thing Seto didn't tolerate, it was being struck. By anyone. He did not allow it, and every time it had happened in the past, he had retaliated with force.

Noa finally groaned, and decided to take charge.

"All right, ladies, break it up. You're bein' idiots about this, and I think both o' you know it. Seth, you know without being told that Aniki wouldn't condone anybody hurting Mokuba, no matter what the circumstances, and fucked if I would, either. But you're talkin' to a man who doesn't believe in an afterlife, and it's gonna take a crap-ton o' convincing to get through on that one. A'right? Far as Seto's concerned, this one's it, and guys like you 'n Yami are anomalies that he's only now coming to accept."

He turned to Seto.

"Aniki, I want you t' picture some prick waltzin' into a cemetery and diggin' up Mokuba's body just for the hell of it. You wanna tell me that ain't gonna piss you off? We both know that's crap."

Both were watching him now.

"Not a damn thing we can do about this now, is there? It's been done, and it was done almost two-hundred years before we were born. Best we can do is keep on the course we're goin', and if there's a way to help Menkaura's spirit after that, then we'll do it. Right now we gotta bigger issue on our hands, and bitch-slapping each other isn't gonna do anybody any good."

Seto was about to answer when his phone rang.


XLIX:
Squad Clouds


Darren put the phone down. "...Huh. Not answering. Must be busy. Oh, well. I'll call back later."

Kisara seemed at least somewhat relieved by that. As entranced as she obviously was with Seto, she seemed decidedly intimidated at the prospect of actually meeting him.

Darren supposed he couldn't blame her.

Kisara seemed like a very shy girl, at the very least around strangers, and Seto Kaiba was hardly what Darren would call a social individual.

Someone as awkward as Kisara seemed to be would likely feel under attack in the presence of a man like him. Seto made no exceptions for anyone, and wouldn't sugarcoat anything when dealing with her. She'd probably run away from him.

"He usually answers you," Katie noted. "Must be something big keeping his attention."

"Yeah...must be."

To say that the phone broke the tension would have been a gross understatement.


Noa capitalized on the opportunity and said, "Yer bein' too loud. The Sky Police are onto ya. Better watch it 'fore they come in on their squad clouds and bust yer asses."

Mokuba burst out laughing.

And Seto sighed.

"I trust we understand each other."

Sethos sighed as well. "I...apologize, Seto."

Seto didn't reply.

Sethos hadn't expected him to.

He turned his back to the three brothers and took a deep, steadying breath. "...When you have succeeded...when the items and their power are in your possession and at your call...you will help him?"

Seto's hard expression softened somewhat.

"You know I will."

The spirit turned to look at Seto, and there were tears in his eyes. "...Thank you."

"Is it...is it really that painful?" Mokuba asked. "You...you said it was torture."

"I...I meant not in the physical sense, little one. Mentally...mentally I am sure he is in pain. His spirit...has been taken from the place where it has slept for millennia. He should be...left alone. For once, he should be left alone."

Seto shook his head. "If only it were that easy. What should happen is more than likely just the opposite of what will."

"...So it seems."

"Oi. Aniki." Noa picked up Seto's phone and tossed it to him. "Darren. Told ya the cops were onto ya."

Seto caught the device deftly and flipped it open. Indeed, the call had come from Darren McKinley. He raised an eyebrow and wondered what it was Darren had wanted.

He, and this was not something Seto was able to say often, understood that Seto wasn't a talkative person. At all. And so he very rarely called, and only when something worth calling about had come up.

He flipped the phone open and pressed the 'send' button to reply.

Darren answered on the third ring.

"Seto. Hey. You doing anything particular?"

"As it turns out, you've caught me at an inopportune time if you wish for me to do anything. I'm in Egypt at the moment."

"Oh...well, shit. Uh...right. Never mind the visit, then. Uh...Katie came home today, and she brought a friend with her. Girl from school, y'know?"

"Yes...?"

"And, uh...well, she thinks she knows you. But she doesn't know from where. I thought maybe TV or something, right? But she doesn't watch it all that much. I, uh...dunno. Just thought she might remember something if she metcha."

"What is this girl's name?"

"Kisara."


I fully acknowledge that I might be wrong about Menkaura's body. My research was shoddy at best when I wrote this version. I've taken a rather keen interest in Egyptology since this project began, though, and for my rewrite, I'm making sure that I have my facts straight. I can't make any guarantees for this one, though. My major source of information was Wikipedia. And we all know how reliable Wikipedia is, don't we?

If anyone has any info for me, please, pass it along. This project is a big one, and now that I'm working on making it what it should be, I want to make it perfect.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully this installment made more sense than the last.


THIS STORY HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED. ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE EVENTS DESCRIBED HERE SHOULD HEAD TO MY PROFILE AND TAKE A LOOK AT "CULT OF THE DRAGON KING," WHICH IS A MORE RECENT—MORE THOROUGHLY FLESHED OUT, RESEARCHED, AND BETTER PACED—VERSION. I APOLOGIZE FOR ANYONE WHO ENJOYED THIS PARTICULAR WORK. IT SIMPLY NO LONGER HOLDS TO MY STANDARDS AS A WRITER. I WILL KEEP THESE CHAPTERS ONLINE FOR ANYONE WHO ENJOYED THEM, BUT I WHOLEHEARTEDLY RECOMMEND LOOKING INTO ITS SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR.