I am so sorry for the late update! I am ashamed to admit that I completely forgot about this story between school and my other fanfics. Not to mention that this chapter fought me tooth and nail, but here it is and I hope you all enjoy it!
I don't own Yugioh or any of the spinoffs and I never will. But I do own Xaneria and Atlia.
Chapter 6 – Thieving Cat
Yugi glanced edgily around as he snuck out of his room in the slaves' quarters, closing the door silently behind him as he prowled away from the room, leaving the slave area and entering the Pharaoh's wing of the castle.
Night had fallen hours before and the entire palace had long since fallen asleep. Only the night guards would be up at such an hour. But Yugi didn't mind, he preferred the castle to be asleep. Less possible disturbances for what was to come.
It was dangerous, Yugi knew that his plan was beyond risky but he saw no other choice. If he didn't, if Atemu continued to rule as he did, then Xaneria and Atlia would be at war forever… it had to be done… there was no other choice.
If I had just consulted Judai then maybe…
Yugi shook his head. There was no way that Judai would have agreed to this… never in a million years. He growled quietly, the fur on his tail bristling. It was for Yami! There was no other option besides standing back and letting everything fall to pieces around them! Yugi pushed the unnecessary thoughts away, his footsteps silent as he stalked to the door to the Pharaoh's room. He cast a suspicious eye down the corridor before slipping inside. The chamber was dark and quiet, the only light coming from the waning moon, the only sounds those of the room's inhabitants.
Atemu and Yami were laying in the huge bed, Atemu on one side and Yami on the other. As much as Yami doted on Atemu during the day, he obviously didn't while asleep, if one was to judge by how far he was curled up from his 'lover'.
Yugi frowned, padding with cat-like steps to Yami's side. He ran a gentle hand through his look-alike's hair, smiling slightly as the dog pushed into the touch, rubbing his head against Yugi's hand.
"Don't worry, Yami." Yugi whispered. "We'll get you out of here. Just wait."
He stepped away from Yami, moving around to Atemu's side of the bed and stopping by his head. The Pharaoh was unusually peaceful in sleep; none of his usual arrogance was present in his face. But Yugi wasn't fazed. He knew what he had to do.
Yugi's eyes narrowed, steeling himself as he reached for the knife hidden under his shirt. The blade shone with cold fire in the moon's light, as if delighting in what was to come. Yugi lifted the blade high, preparing to drop it down and slash the pharaoh's throat open.
Atemu's body blurred before his eyes, and Yugi shook his head and rubbed his eyes. The Pharaoh's body didn't return to normal, still shifting and blurring dizzyingly before finally settling back as it should be. Yugi shook his head again, trying to clear his head and get rid of the vertigo that took him over.
Something flashed on the dresser, something gold and round and definitely not the Millennium Puzzle. Yugi frowned, lowering the knife and going to the table, his curiosity getting the better of him. What he saw made him freeze in fear and shock.
On the dresser sat the Millennium Key, Johan's Item.
Why…? Yugi's eyes widened, an idea forming in his mind. "Oh no…"
Yugi grabbed the Item and bolted out of the room, his previous mission completely forgotten as he heading down the corridor and into Judai's room. He muttered his thanks to whatever god was listening that the wildcat had shown him the way earlier. He moved quietly, aware of the other slaves sleeping in the room, to the brunette's bed.
"Judai!" Yugi whispered, shaking the other roughly. "Judai, wake up!"
Judai woke with a start, going from peaceful slumber to alert and ready for battle in an instant. He calmed when he saw Yugi, relaxing out of his fighting stance. "Oh, Yugi. It's only you."
"Judai! Something's wrong!"
Judai frowned, gesturing for Yugi to follow him before walking out of the room, the cat demon following close on his heels.
"Wait until we get Jehu and Johan before explaining." Judai said, heading down the corridor to Jehu's room.
"But that's just it! I think something happened to Johan!"
Judai froze mid-step. "What?"
"I was in the pharaoh's room just now, and I found this." Yugi held up the Key. "Johan usually has it at all times, so if Atemu has it then something's up."
"… Let's go get Jehu."
Jehu was standing in Johan's room when they found him, his eyes sweeping over the clothes scattered on the floor and the blood stains on the bed sheets.
"Jehu…" Judai murmured, moving forward to touch his fellow slave. Jehu slapped his hand away, glowing orange eyes filled with hatred.
"I'm going to kill that bastard. I'm going to cut out his eyes and feed them to my hawks. I'll make him suffer before he dies, and I'll have fun doing it."
Yugi shuddered, not used to seeing such hatred or hearing such venomous words. The Xanerian spy turned to the little slave, baring his teeth in a ferocious grin.
"What's wrong? Not used to seeing this emotion from one such as I?" he said in a condescending drawl. "You should, it's my job, after all, little lord."
Yugi's eyes narrowed, anger forming in the amethyst depths. "You will not address me in such a tone." He snapped. "I may be your friend, but I will not stand for rudeness. You would do well to remember that."
Jehu smirked, sweeping a low bow in Yugi's direction. "Of course, my little lord. But we are not in Xaneria, are we? You have no authority here, even if you are our beloved Pharaoh's slave."
"Jehu, Yugi." They both turned to look at Judai, whose brown eyes were blazing with barely leashed anger. "Fighting will get us nowhere. For now, we should figure out what happened with Johan."
"I already know." Jehu said, shaking the angry images from his head. "He's under arrest for treason. They've locked him away in the dungeons."
"Can you get to him?" Yugi asked, moving to sit on the blood-stained and rumpled bed. "Would you be able to get into the dungeons and speak with him?"
"Probably, I've snuck into better guarded places than the dungeons. This palace is a good example, but I'm not sure how close I'll be able to get to Johan." Jehu shrugged, staring curiously at the little cat-demon.
"See if you can get to him. And when you do, 'cause I'm sure you can, tell him this…"
The dungeons were strangely empty, considering that there was a prisoner within that was being charged for high treason. Jehu snuck down quickly and quietly, creeping stealthily past the 2 guard patrols and right up to Johan's cell.
The former Millennium Tiger was propped up against the far wall, his head down and arms slack at his side. He was still adorned with his priestly attire, complete with glittering gold jewellery and signet ring. Blood trickled down from a gash on his skull, dying his hair red and dripping onto his once-white clothes.
"Johan," Jehu whispered harshly, glancing around to check for guards. "Johan!"
"Jehu?" Johan's head came up, surprisingly clear eyes staring straight into Jehu's orange ones. "What are you doing here? If you're caught…"
"I won't be caught." The wolf's teeth were bared in a self-confident smirk. "It's been 5 years and I've still yet to even be brought under suspicion."
"Ha ha…" Johan sneered. "Just because you've gone for so long without capture it's no reason to gloat; and for your information, I was contacting Haou when I was caught. Unfortunately for me, a certain pharaoh in this palace doesn't respect the closed door rule."
"Why should he? He is the pharaoh. He's too arrogant to think that anyone in the palace would be doing something to act against him, until now of course."
"So, why did you brave the depths of the dungeons? Just to say 'hi'?"
"Nup. I've come to inform you that we're busting you out."
Johan's eyes widened, his jaw dropping in shock. "You're what!? Are you mad?"
"Maybe." Jehu smirked. "We've also decided that it's too dangerous to stay here any longer. The Xanerians are pulling out."
"And you didn't think it would be better to just leave me here? I'm not a Xanerian after all."
"We would never leave an ally to suffer when we know we can help him." Jehu winked before standing and moving away. "Just be ready. The plan will commence tomorrow night."
And he was gone.
The pharaoh takes me by the arm and leads me from the throne room, taking me into a smaller, more luxurious room just off from it. He shows me to a chair and directs me to sit down, taking a seat himself just opposite from me and calling for a slave to bring refreshments. I can't hold back the look of sorrow I send after the slaves, becoming more determined than ever to better their standing in life.
Atemu smiles and asks after my health and the health of my family; questioning what I thought of the city and palace so far and how my journey had been. I give short, courteous answers, never straying from being little more than civil and forcing down my anger.
"Pharaoh, may I request that we begin the negotiations?" I ask politely once he has finished his questioning. "My father wishes that we come to an agreement and return to peace before more blood is shed."
"Of course, Prince Yami." Atemu inclines his head, and I can't help but notice how he ignores the slaves as they come in baring our drinks. The woman holding mine kneels, holding the drink out with both hands with her head bowed low. I take it with at trembling hand, quietly thanking her as she shuffles backwards and bows out of the room with the other slave copying her actions. I can barely repress the shudder of revulsion as I recognise the fear they show for the pharaoh, and I can't help but wonder just how he has them treated.
"Now, what are the demands that you have for me?" Atemu smiles, swirling his goblet and making the wine within spin in a red whirlpool.
"We request that you take your troops from the wastelands as well as from within our borders and the safe return those of our nation that you have held captive." I begin, leaning back in my seat and try to put the slaves out of my mind for now. "We would like compensation for the damage and lives this war has cost. We all know that this war is about widening the Atlian borders; however we are unwilling to give up our land. Instead, we offer to invite Atlia into the Xanerian trade market, giving you a source of foreign products and payment for goods you provide us. The Xanerian trade system is some of the best around, and we would be honoured to have the Atlian's input, within reason of course."
Atemu smiles knowingly. "Those demands are what Xaneria want. What is it that you want? I can see in your eyes that something has been bothering you since you stepped foot in my palace."
I hesitate, taking a sip of my wine and staring into its ruby depths. "I want the slaves to be freed. Not immediately since the Atlian slave trade is essentially what keeps it going right now, but I would like for this country to eventually leave the slave trade behind."
"The slaves are something that we in Atlia have had for many centuries. Dissolving the system would be far from easy." Atemu says, placing his goblet on a table beside him. "Many in Atlia would go as far to say as we rely on the slaves. They would not easily be given up by many in my court."
"I know. It may take a long time, and many may not agree, but I personally believe that people shouldn't be bought and sold like property." I speak vehemently, and I know my eyes are burning with determination. "No country needs to rely on a trade that is so morally wrong. I'm certain that Atlia will eventually be able to break away from it too."
Atemu chuckles, rising to his feet and holding his hand out to help me up. "Come. I would like for us to walk around for a little while. Let's get out of this stuffy room and wander in the gardens."
I take his hand and am pulled to my feet, following him as he strides out of the room and down several corridors, leading me into the beautiful green gardens. Birds chirp and play in the water of a fountain, splashing and rolling in the cool water. Insects flit from flower to flower, the buzz from their wings humming in the air. It's peaceful in the gardens, calm and quiet with the city noise blocked by the high stone walls.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Atemu asks, moving to sit on the edge of the fountain. "This is my favourite place. It's a good place to think when something's on my mind."
"Yes, it is beautiful."
The sound of clashing steel jerks my attention away from my surroundings, making me turn and search for the violent sounds.
"Don't worry, Prince." Atemu chuckles and returns to my side, following my gaze to the source of the sounds. "They are just some of the slaves. Their place here is that of entertainment slaves, mock fighters in particular. Due to the strenuous nature of their tasks, they must practice every day to keep themselves in shape."
"Mock… fighters?" I murmur, staring at the two men fighting in a courtyard not far from where I'm standing. One of them is tall and broad shouldered, the muscles on his arms bulging under his dark tanned skin. His eyes and hair are dark, his hair cropped close to his skull and a scar running down one side of his face. Around his neck is a black collar with an elaborate lock, marking him as a slave and an entertainment slave in particular.
The other is shorter and leaner, but obviously muscled and talented with both a weapon and with his fists and feet. His hair is dark teal and spike back away from his face, his bangs flopping into his shining amber eyes. Around his neck is a collar matching that of his opponent, shining black in the glaring sunlight. His eyes flick to me and I am certain that they widen in shock, before his attention is drawn away by a vicious slash at his midsection. He avoids it by gracefully spinning out of the way, his own blade swinging down in retaliation.
I turn away, no longer wanting to see the end of the fight.
Atemu takes my hand and gently pulls me away, walking around the fountain and further into the gardens.
"So, Prince Yami." He starts, drawing me away from my thoughts. "What do you think would be the best place to start dismantling the slave system?"
And that's it for this chapter. The next one will become more active so look forward to that. please review and I'm sorry again for such a late update.