I know. I'm sorry. It's been far too long.
Well, I graduated from high school, and it's finally finished now, anyway. This chapter was really difficult for me to write, and I'm not sure I did it very well. There's a lot of jumping, a lot of things that had to go in but didn't quite fit. I promise the next chapter (and there will be one more quickly than this one came!) will go back to my usual, wonderful organization (HAHAHA), but for now please bear with me.
I owe the completion of this chapter first to AirGirl Phantom, for jump-starting the writing and helping me plan; and then to Rick Riordan, for his lovely Kane Chronicles that gave me both the inspiration and the ideas to help me finish it after nearly a year of neglect…
It stared at him. It watched him no matter what he did or where he sat, tracking his movement with one cold, glaring eye. It was alive, in some ways- and he knew only too well that that was a very likely possibility- finding an escape even after he put it away, assuming once more that unblinking glare. Even the light stayed away, skirting from the brilliant golden surface that should have shined bright.
Katsuya Jounouchi hated the Sen'nen Rod, and he hated even more having to keep it in his house.
He couldn't complain, though. Yuugi had trusted him with the care of such a dangerous item, and Jounouchi would never let down his best friend. Yet though Jounouchi was pleased that Yuugi believed in him enough to simply hand him one of the most dangerous objects in the world and head off to another country, simply being in its presence made the blond a little (though he'd never admit it) scared. He had had bad experiences under the influence of the Rod, and though Jounouchi knew that its previous owner was not in any way as malicious as he had once been, surely, the blond thought, there had to be someone out there with the same ill will.
Jounouchi sat backwards on his chair, legs extended before him and arms folded over the backrest. As he stared at the Rod that mocked him across the room, Jounouchi lowered his chin onto his arms. Yuugi had been gone nearly a month now, and apart from that first owl that had crashed into Jounouchi's window before proceeding to beat him over the head, there had been no trouble in Domino. Jounouchi wondered briefly if all the trouble had followed the shorter boy to Scotland; danger had a habit of clinging to Yuugi, and there had been a surprisingly small amount of it in Japan since Yuugi had left.
"Where are you, buddy?" he murmured under his breath.
Jounouchi was jerked rudely from his thoughts then at the sound of shattering glass echoing from the kitchen. His apartment was small and the walls thin, so it was difficult to miss the sudden outburst.
"Where's my lazy son? Git to th' damn paper route—git—the damn money!"
Jounouchi leaped to his feet and threw his books into his schoolbag. He paused for a moment, giving one last lingering glance at the Sen'nen Rod, then shoved it in his bag with his school supplies and raced through the door, passing his hung over father on his way to the exit. "I'm goin', Dad," Jounouchi panted. "Keep your pants on. Don't forget water—see ya—"
He barreled outside, not bothering a glance over his shoulder as he ran to pick up the newspapers for his route. His bag bumped against his hip with every step, thudding dully against the bone as the weight of the Rod reminded the blond not to forget it. It was there.
"You brought what to school?"
Jounouchi winced as Anzu Mazaki knocked her chair over as she stood up in shock, eyes wide in accusation. "Look, there's nothing to get so worked up over! Yuugi brought the damn Puzzle to school every day, didn't he? And for wearing a giant block of gold around his neck, he was left remarkably alone—"
"Well, that's because he hangs out with us," Hiroto Honda supplied. Jounouchi made a noise of assent but flicked his friend's forehead anyway for interrupting.
Anzu righted her chair and sat down with a huff, angry patches of pink appearing on her cheeks. "That's not what I'm worried about," she hissed. "The Rod's not the Puzzle, Jounouchi. Yuugi asked you to keep it safe, not parade it around school—"
"I ain't parading anything!" Jounouchi exclaimed, indignant. "It's in the bottom of my bag, Anzu, and a hell of a lot safer than leaving it at home with no one but my father to look after that—you know that. I just—it's been calling out to me lately, like trying to grab my attention, see. I feel as though it's trying to warn me—"
"Hah!" Anzu kept her gaze fixed determinedly on the blackboard ahead, her jaw set firmly. "You know as well as I do that thing is evil."
"But only when used by the wrong people," Jounouchi said, his eyes suddenly gleaming as he looked at Honda.
"Yeah, Anzu, what if it wants—"
"No!" Anzu's head whipped sideways to glare at the two scheming boys. "Jounouchi, please—you can't—you have to understand. I know you do." Her voice was almost pleading now, and Jounouchi softened at her tone.
"All right," he said with a sigh, "I won't use it. But you can't deny that I can't leave it at home."
"That's true," Anzu said slowly. "I mean, it's been all right there for a while… but it's only a matter of time…" She frowned at Jounouchi's book bag as though trying to tell the Sen'nen Rod how frustrated she was.
Honda's voice was quiet. "Do you think it's a warning—that something's coming?"
None of the three spoke for a long moment, all turning to stare at the messenger bag that hid one of the most powerful items on the planet. It wasn't until the bell rang shrilly to signal the start of class that they snapped out of their solitary stupors. Jounouchi kicked the bag further under his chair, jerking when he found Anzu's hand wrapped tightly around his wrist.
"At least take it to Yuugi's grandpa," she hissed as the teacher walked into the room and began laying out her books on the desk at the front of the room. "If nothing else, he'll be able to think of something."
Jounouchi jerked his wrist free and scowled at the brunette, but he gave her a short nod of agreement. They could trust Sugoroku Mutou. But as much as each of the three friends trusted the old man, the "something" he suggested after the three raced to the Kame Game Shop after the last bell of school for the day rang had Jounouchi wondering if the old man was finally going senile.
"No matter how much you beg, I am not handing this over to that ass, and no matter how much we beg, he'd never take it, anyway."
Sugoroku was not deterred, and he folded his hands calmly on the countertop. "The Rod belongs to him, Jounouchi. Magical objects always respond to their true masters. And he has the resources to—"
"I am not trusting an item of this much power to Seto fucking Kaiba!" Jounouchi snapped, which caused Honda to hit him on the shoulder in reprimand for his tone. "Yuugi trusted me to take care of it, and I—"
"And yet you came to ask me for advice," Sugoroku reminded him mildly, "because you no longer feel that it's safe for only you to watch."
Jounouchi spluttered with helpless indignation until Anzu saved him. "In all fairness, Mutou-san," she said, "Jounouchi does have a point. Kaiba may understand the value of the Sen'nen Rod, but that may be just why he won't want to take it. But I do think…" She glanced nervously at her still-indignant blond friend. "I do think that we'll never know for sure until we ask. If anyone has the power and the resources to protect a Sen'nen Item, Kaiba would be one such person."
Sugoroku hid a smile as Jounouchi attempted to fudge his way out of the situation, but finally he ran out of excuses and quieted, fuming.
Seto Kaiba calmly shuffled a stack of papers on the desk in front of him before looking up at the band before him, raising his eyebrows. The teenaged CEO leaned back in his chair, placing the papers in front of him, straightening them without taking his eyes off his former classmates. "I simply have no desire to be involved in this again," he said. "It would be an expense of my resources, a waste of my time, and could possibly drag me into another of your nonsense messes with which I do not have time to deal. I'm busy. Leave me alone."
"Told you," Jounouchi muttered, and Anzu elbowed him.
"Kaiba-kun, we wouldn't ask if we didn't think it was serious," the girl pleaded. "We don't know what Yuugi is doing right now, and it's a highly dangerous item—you've seen what it can do."
"Well, you have a tendency to blow everything out of proportion," he said coolly, "and the properties of that thing are precisely the reason I would rather stay away."
"It belongs to you," Anzu said quietly.
Kaiba's eyes narrowed. "I am not some priest in a desert," he snapped. "Now get out of my office, and take the Rod with you. I don't want to see you back here unless you're here for a proper business deal with my company, which, judging by the brains the mutt in particular tends to exhibit, will never happen. Now."
Though smug in his victory at being proven correct in his predictions for Kaiba's actions, Jounouchi still gave the other an extremely rude hand gesture before stalking towards the door. Honda followed, hesitant, but Anzu stayed to give Kaiba a shrill-voiced lecture. "You should have learned your lesson by now, Kaiba-kun!" she demanded. "You know better! This is just—just—"
The brunet raised his eyebrows, his displeasure growing every second. Honda grabbed Anzu by the elbow and dragged her after him, slamming the office door as the trio exited.
"I don't believe him!" Anzu burst out angrily as they walked down the halls of the Kaiba Corporation building. "He's been with us! He's worked with Yuugi, he knows this is no joke, and yet he still—"
"Anzu, you were blind to think he'd immediately acquiesce to our requests," Honda said dryly. "He's a realist, a pragmatist, and is obsessed with his company and his success. Teamwork rarely means little to him if he can't gain something tangible."
Anzu scowled as she punched the button to open the elevator at the end of the hall. "Yuugi's helped him more than he deserves," she said, her voice high. "And if he'd just see how much he can accomplish when he…"
Honda and Jounouchi exchanged exasperated glances over the top of the girl's head as she continued abusing the CEO as the elevator doors slid shut and they began to descend. Silently they exchanged bets on how long her chatter would last, a tiny grin threatening to spread over Jounouchi's lips despite his (less-than-genuine) effort to keep a straight face and nod along with whatever the girl was saying.
They were halfway between the tenth and ninth floors when something happened that caused even Anzu to forget her frustrated tirade.
"…so talented but so stubborn," she was saying, "and one of these days it's going to be to his detri—"
The entire building shook, throwing the three friends into each other, smacking them harshly against the wall. Honda groaned as Jounouchi tried to struggle to his feet before another crash rocked the building.
"Wh-what's going on?" Anzu gasped, her face pale as she clutched her head.
"No idea," Jounouchi said, his brown eyes flicking from side to side. This time he was ready when the elevator shook again, throwing out his arms to protect Anzu from smacking into the elevator walls once more. The elevator had definitely stopped its descent; they were in limbo, stuck, at the mercy of the mysterious booming.
"We've got to get out of here!" Honda actually squealed as the wall behind him cracked. Jounouchi snarled, his face determined.
"Let me stand on your shoulders," he urged his partner-in-crime, "and I'll get us out through the ceiling. We'll climb up—I'll get us out. But we can't stay here."
Honda nodded, bending his knees so that Jounouchi could clamber onto his shoulders. They were both tall enough that when Honda straightened, Jounouchi could not fully uncurl his body. He pushed through the trapdoor in the ceiling, wincing as Honda stumbled with another shake of the building, but both managed to regain their balance. "I'm going to climb through," he said, gritting his teeth. "This isn't going to be stable—let Anzu up, then I'll help you."
Honda nodded, doing his best to brace himself against the rocking. Jounouchi pulled himself out onto the roof of the elevator, grabbing onto the supporting cables as he shifted to his knees and held a hand down to his friends. Anzu scowled and brushed a hand over her skirt. "Head down," she said sternly to Honda as he knelt so she could climb onto his back. Honda straightened, and Jounouchi took hold of her forearm and pulled her up onto her stomach.
"Anzu, anchor yourself to the cables," he said grimly, "and hold onto my ankles. We've got to get Honda out of there."
Anzu nodded, looping an arm through one of the wire cables before latching onto the blond's ankles. Jounouchi lay on his stomach and gripped arms with Honda, whom he pulled up until the other could grab onto the lip of the opening in the ceiling. Jounouchi shifted his grip then to under Honda's armpits: as the brunet used what upper body strength he could to pull out without any leverage under his feet, the blond assisted until all three lay on the top of the elevator car, grasping desperately at the metal cables so they were not thrown off into the shaft.
"….All right," Jounouchi said, jumping to his feet once he was sure Honda had regained footing. On top of the car, they were level with the doors on the tenth floor. Anzu looked dubiously at the metal doors.
"Um… how are we going to get out of here, exactly?"
"Luck," Jounouchi said with a cheeky grin, and he began kicking the doors as hard as he could. Indeed, luck seemed to be always on the side of the blond duelist: it wasn't long before someone must have heard the pounding on the doors, because before too long there was a ding and they slid open to reveal one of Kaiba's sleek-suited employees, a harried look on his face.
"Thanks, man," Jounouchi said, giving a two-fingered salute as the trio leaped out of solid ground. "I wouldn't recommend the elevators, though, they're a little unsafe, y'know." They ran past the now-confused-looking man and bolted towards the staircase and down the nine flights of stairs, through the now-packed and panicking lobby, and exploding out the doors.
Anzu's eyes grew nearly as wide as her head. "…Wh-what in the world—is that?"
A woman about the size of the Kaiba Corporation building stood just outside the main entrance, cowled in long white robes. It was difficult to see her face from their angle, but Anzu, Jounouchi, and Honda were able to see clearly that she was barefoot, and her skin appeared to be nearly black, as every inch of her was crawling with—
"Scorpions!" Anzu shrieked, throwing herself into Honda's arms and lifting her feet off the ground. She looked as though she was about to be sick, and even the two boys were grimacing.
Suddenly Jounouchi bolted, skirting the giant woman's scorpion-infested legs, breaking for free ground. He tilted his head back, trying to get a better glance at what was going on at the top of the building, but what he saw—though it explained why the skyscraper office building was shaking so violently—did not in any way answer questions. On the other side of the building, a bare-chested man just as tall was facing the robed scorpion woman, but his head was not that of a human; rather, his shoulders were topped by a giant, blue-feathered falcon head. The two were grappling, fighting over the spire of the building, and between them—a fly, compared to their giant sizes—was unmistakably Kaiba's helicopter, diving and darting as it tried to drive them away.
Something shimmered at the top of the building, and the unmistakable shriek of Kaiba's Blue Eyes White Dragon sounded as far down as the street as three of the dragons appeared at the spire before merging together. Jounouchi didn't know what that would do: though impressive to be sure, Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon was still only a hologram, and he didn't think holograms would have much of an effect on the giants.
"Gah!" Jounouchi yelped as he realized that many of the scorpions that had been swirling around the woman's feet were now spreading out in waves on the street, a huge number heading right for him. Frantic, he looked around, but there seemed to be nowhere for him to go, and they were approaching at a faster rate that he knew he could run. Still, Jounouchi tried to backpedal, though he succeeded only in tripping over his own feet and falling hard to the ground. A very un-manly squeal left his throat as he was immediately swamped in the crawling arachnids.
"You—you—things!" He grabbed at the bag at his hip that contained the Millennium Rod, trying to brush the scorpions away from it. "Stay off me, willya—don't go near the goddamn—"
Suddenly every one of the scorpions on him froze for a moment, then scurried away. Jounouchi's jaw dropped as he gaped, incredibly confused, until the giant woman slowly turned and looked down at him.
Scorpions seemed to explode all over her mammoth body, covering every inch of her robes as they seemed to eat her, shrinking her, until a human-sized pile of arachnids melted away to reveal the woman, now of human size, stalking slowly towards Jounouchi. Her black hair was braided and beaded, her eyes pupil-less and without whites, and her mouth, when she opened it, was pincers that slid sideways and made a terrible clicking noise. Jounouchi felt his voice jump an octave as he stuttered, unable to move as she approached. When she was only a meter away, he did the only thing he could think of and grabbed for the only weapon he had at hand: the Sen'nen Rod.
"Stay away!" he shouted as he drew it from his bag, intending to strike her with it. Instead a rush of power surged through his arm, nearly making him dizzy, and the golden item glowed so brightly that she howled and retreated. Jounouchi was so shocked that he nearly dropped it, but he managed to keep watching as she backed away from him, power and control continuing to rush so awesomely through his body.
Suddenly he understood how Malik Ishtar might have gone crazy from the power.
The terrible face warped until the woman's was like a normal human's; the only hint of her previously-arachnid face was that her hair was now topped by a lapis lazuli crown, nestled on top of which was one golden scorpion. She was almost beautiful now. Jounouchi lowered the Rod to get a better look, but the instant he did, her body once more erupted all over with crawling creatures, though this time she sank into the earth and vanished.
Jounouchi sat down, hard. He was pale, breathing heavily and shaking as he clutched the golden ax to his chest. Looking up, he saw that the falcon-man had disappeared, too, and Kaiba's helicopter appeared to have made its descent. He did not see Anzu and Honda, who were running towards him, until they nearly crashed into him.
"What was that?" Anzu gasped out, her face lacking any color. Jounouchi shook his head.
"I think," he said weakly, "we need to get hold of Yuugi."
At that moment Yuugi—or the spirit residing in his body—was grappling furiously with the furious spirit of the Millennium Ring. Yami pushed Bakura, angry that he had nearly injured his host, shoving the white-haired thief away from him. "BAKURA!" he roared, his crimson eyes flashing. "Don't you dare take your anger out on my partner, do you understand?"
"Oh, your host isn't the one who needs to worry, Pharaoh," Bakura spat, catching himself before he hit the wall towards which Yami had pushed him. "Ore-sama no yadunoshi had been feeling my wrath, and it will be a long time before I—"
He found himself gripped by the neck of robes, a snarling Pharaoh in his face. Usually the thief would have simply laughed him off; this time, however, he was too angry to do anything but dig his nails into the hand that twisted in his shirt. "You leave Bakura-kun alone," Yami said in a dangerously low voice. "I understand the implications of losing any Sen'nen Eye, but if you hurt him, I swear—"
"Get your self-righteous, puffed-up head out of your ass," Bakura hissed. "You think I want this body maimed? I have to live in it, too. He's lucky, really, that he has me here to watch over him. No, I care for a far different reason than you do, Pharaoh, but that eye is mine and it is not to be lost."
Yami let go of the other's shirt, taking a step back, though his gaze didn't leave the other's face. "Doesn't your own Item lead you to that which you want to find?" he snapped. "Can you not track it down?"
"You think I haven't tried?" Bakura yanked the Ring from underneath his shirt. It was glowing, the center spike pointing, but it shook violently and never stayed in one place long enough to follow. "Something is interfering with the magic."
Yami had nothing to say to that; he simply stared. Distantly he remembered being told their Duel Discs would not work at Hogwarts due to the high level of uncontrolled magical activity. Could the magic that drove the Sen'nen Items be interrupted by that same wand-channeled magic? Yet his link with Yuugi and his own source of power in the Puzzle seemed to be unbroken or uninhibited…
Abruptly he turned on his heel and stalked from the room.
"Hey!" Bakura shouted after him, anger rising once more in his voice. "The Eye is mine, Pharaoh, do you understand? Keep your holier-than-thou hands away from my belongings. If you so much as think about taking it, I—"
"Shut up!" Yami whirled, glaring more fiercely at the thief than he could remember glaring in a long time. "This is not about the Eye alone, Bakura, do you understand? That it's missing is cause for worry enough. That it's not only missing but people here are being attacked by its sort of magic is even worse. And all this is happening in a place with power we don't understand or know how to wield. We need help, and we need to trust those who do understand."
"You're not going to talk to Potter."
Yami didn't answer.
"Pharaoh." Bakura's voice was low, deadly, and quiet. "Even you—if you expose our secrets here—"
"We have no choice. We have to tell him. We need his help, he has to understand what's happening. His family's being affected by this, and he can help us. It's the right thing to do."
"Right, maybe, but not smart. And I like to wager my chances on smart."
"Let your host come back, Bakura."
"Are you telling me what to do?"
"Let your host come back! This is not your decision!"
"This has EVERYTHING to do with me and my decisions!" Bakura suddenly moved, catching up with Yami to slam him against a hallway wall this time. "You do not tell me how to live! You do not control me! You are not my king! That Eye belongs to me, and this power belongs to me, and that man will not know of this until I say so!"
"We do not have to tell him about you." Yami's tone was almost a sneer. "We do not have to tell him of your role in this, or even about the Eye. But people are in danger. He has the right to know more about these items. He nearly lost a son to their power once—"
"So he says—"
"And now he's lost a brother," Yami continued as though he hadn't heard the interruption, though his voice rose in volume. "He nearly lost more, including his own. Someone is targeting him. The Eye must be found, and who better to search than a man whose very occupation is to track and hunt down objects like it? He knows how to work this world, Bakura. See sense."
"The Eye is mine," the tomb robber snarled.
"And we will find it," Yami responded. "You are a fool to think I do not understand the importance of locating it."
There was a very long silence during which the two spirits glared at each other in the dark hall of the castle. The silence was broken only by a thud and a gasp that made the two jerk and Yami turn pale. "Someone's listening."
Bakura was ahead of him, pulling a knife he'd hidden up his sleeve and licking the blade as he crept in the direction of the noise. Yami, however, was more direct: he merely pushed past the thief and ran, stumbling to a halt when he nearly tripped over the very lonely-looking, very familiar black cat that appeared at his feet.
Yami stared down at it. There was something very, very strange about this cat, and it gave him chills. Its amber eyes were too piercing; they made even the confident Pharaoh feel on edge. Bakura ignored it. He stared down the length of the arched hallways, his eyes narrowed nearly to slits. Cat or no cat, there had been a person in the hall, listening to his conversation with Yami, and he was going to find out who it was.
Finally—as Yami stared down the cat—Bakura tore his eyes away from the hall he'd been inspecting. He glared briefly at Yami before melting slowly back into his host with a low hiss of "Don't think I'm not watching, Pharaoh."
It was Yuugi who caught Ryou when he stumbled forwards, shocked with the suddenness of regaining his own body. Both hikari were slightly shaken—Yuugi from witnessing the exchange that had just occurred, Ryou from the mental pressure under which he'd been for the past day. Glancing at his feet, Yuugi noticed the cat had vanished. He shook his head vigorously; he couldn't worry about vanishing cats at the moment.
"Potter," Yuugi choked, his lilac eyes wide. "We need to see Potter-sensei. It'll be okay, Bakura-kun. Mou hitori no boku will take care of things, and… and Potter-sensei can help. Maybe you just misplaced it in your dormitory, or with your things. It will turn up. Everything will be all right…"
Ryou nodded, but he didn't think Yuugi was right. The boys took solace in gripping each other to remain steady for a moment, then—still supporting each other—hurried as quickly as they could to Harry's office.
They were able to hear raised voices almost as soon as they entered the hallway in which the office was located. Yuugi and Ryou looked at each other, wordlessly agreeing with each other, then as quietly as they could crept along the wall until they could hear more clearly. At a good angle, they were even able to peer through a crack in the doorway to see what was happening inside.
Harry sat at his desk, pressing his fingers into his eyes until he saw stars, an attempt to drive off the headache that was quickly coming on as his son and niece stared him down. "I will not have this conversation," he was saying, his voice weary. "The topic is closed, and you will leave it."
"Dad, you're blind not to see it," James insisted, his voice urgent. "These people are not normal. They're not good for us. They show up here, and suddenly our family is getting attacked left and right! Bill's in St. Mungo's, Ron's suddenly working overtime, he and Hermione and Mum nearly suffered Bill's fate, but rather than finding it suspicious that this is all happening and Yuugi's the only one who seems to know how to beat it, oh no, they're given blind trust!"
"The Imperial School of Magic wouldn't take them." Rose continued the argument. "They're clearly not supposed to be a part of this world, their own country wouldn't trust them."
"I said, that's enough!"
Both teenagers quieted quickly, their eyes wide at Harry's sudden outburst.
"Yuugi just saved our family's lives," Harry said slowly and sharply, "at risk of his own. And don't you dare say it was a setup—if he had something against us, he had us right at his hands, and chose to save us instead. We all have secrets, James and Rose, and I will not force them to reveal theirs, but you will trust them—and me—until they show us any reason otherwise. Do you understand? I once mistrusted a man who gave off all the appearance of being evil, and trusted the one who gave off all the appearance of good, and it turned out to be a grave mistake. Son, I deal with untrustworthy characters and suspicion at my job every day. I know how to keep an eye out, and I know how to overlook lies. I will hear nothing more on this until you know more than I."
It was an indirect dismissal. Fuming at the brush-off, Rose turned on her heel and flounced towards the door, and James hurried after her. Yuugi and Ryou nearly tripped over their feet as they backpedaled, hurrying to get out of the way and look as though they were only just rounding the corner by the time Rose slammed open the office door.
She barely spared the duo a glance as she turned in the direction of the Gryffindor Tower, though her glance when she gave it was one of deep dislike and mistrust. Yuugi stared after her, his eyes wide and upset, but Yami pulled him away with a mental hand on his shoulder. "Don't let her get to you, aibou," he said calmly. "You can't win over everyone immediately, but being you, you'll get her soon enough."
Yuugi closed his eyes and nodded once before stepping up behind Ryou, who was already knocking on Harry's door.
"Come in." The Boy Who Lived sounded exhausted and strained, and Yuugi couldn't blame him. The Shadow Realm was designed to take the energy of every good-hearted person; he knew from experience its power was difficult to withstand, especially when one was unaccustomed to the place and loved ones were in danger.
"Professor," Ryou greeted quietly as the two boys entered, and Harry did his best to smile in greeting.
"Yuugi, Bakura. I was going to talk to you tomorrow, but I guess you anticipated me."
Yuugi glanced nervously at Ryou. "Well, we—had a thought," he said slowly. "We may need your help with something."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Really?" he said. "I guess we can help each other, then. I've received more disturbing news, and I highly doubt you will like it."