A/N: Written for a 78 Tarot LiveJournal writing challenge community, using 40 – Five of Cups as a prompt. Concrit is greatly appreciated.
Warnings: none, this is 100 percent worksafe.
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the intellectual property of Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies. No ownership claim is being implied with this, no profit is being made from this, and all the creative rights to the characters depicted herein belong to their original creator.
She hadn't changed all that much, Seto thought, remembering their first meeting. She still had the same long white hair, the same wide eyes; even the clothes she wore seemed to be no different from all those years ago. He, on the other hand, had changed significantly. No one would have ever been able to recognise that poorly-clad boy in this young man in regal clothing. She hadn't recognised him.
That's why he'd sent for her in the evening. With most of his regalia discarded (it wasn't proper to walk around the palace without them), Seto stood on the balcony of his quarters, lost in thought and old memories. The appearance of his guards interrupted him and he returned to his room to allow them in. Two men entered and they brought Kisara along, shoving her to the ground, ordering her to bow down to the High Priest. She made no sound and one of the men kicked her in the shin before Seto could stop him. The icy glare the priest sent him forced him to refrain from any further violence, and the following order made them to leave. The guards bowed respectfully and exited the room, pulling the door closed behind themselves. Seto had learned long ago that for some guards the order to not lay a hand on someone meant nothing. And, as he'd seen on more than one occasion, such men were the most effective and prided guards of the palace, responsible for the royal family's safety.
Kisara was still on the ground, though she'd lifted herself a little to lean on her hands. Her head was hanging low, face downwards to not look at royalty, as it was forbidden for commoners and was a punishable action.
"You may stand up."
Her shoulders jerked a little, but she slowly did as told. Her head still remained bent, and her gaze – downcast.
"You may look at me."
Seto was quite annoyed with these formalities, but the first important thing he had learned upon assuming his position was that he couldn't approach commoners as their equal. It made people scared, mistrustful, and – above all – made them consider him weak. His high status meant that he always had to address people of low class from his heights lest they rebel against the royalty. He could never forget his current identity; no matter that he'd been just a commoner himself once.
He didn't like using this form of address with Kisara, but this manner of speech had been driven into him for the duration of years and he'd almost forgotten what it was like – to be a part of the poorer class. He frowned.
"Do you not recognise me?"
Shivering a little, Kisara shook her head slightly. She didn't know what to answer; what would have been the right answer to such a question, even. She knew who he was: the guards had mentioned it several times in jeer. But she got the distinct feeling that he hadn't asked her of his status.
"It is hard to recognise a person if you are not looking into his face," Seto pointed out dryly. There was a fair distance between the two of them, but even then he could feel the anxiety radiating from this girl.
Kisara swallowed and looked up briefly, her gaze stopping somewhere around his chin before she looked down again and shook her head. No, she didn't recognise him. Seto snorted in slight contempt. He remembered her as more daring back then, but life had apparently changed her. If not so much on the outside, then definitely on the inside.
As much as Kisara loathed this situation, a part of her wanted him to just get on with what the guards had told her. She wanted it to be all over already. Nevertheless, she jumped when Seto suddenly approached her. His had lifted and she flinched away from it. Her body tensed, expecting a hit or something worse, but Seto only gripped her chin firmly and forcer her head up. She looked at his face for a split second and hastily turned her eyes to the side.
"I believe I gave you my name then," he said, recalling the events of that night years ago when he freed her from the crate of slave traders. While being so close to her, he noticed that she was trembling. Seto scoffed and released her. "I will not hurt you."
It didn't look like she believed him.
"That night when a boy helped you escape," he began tonelessly. He had been forbidden to speak about his past with anyone. "That was I."
Stilted, proper speech: a habit he could never grow out of, not after all these years of priesthood. Oh, how he hated himself right now for being so far away from the boy of that night.
Kisara looked at him again, hastily and not quite believing his words. Once again, she turned her gaze away. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. It was nigh impossible to recognise the bare-footed boy from that time in this royal persona. Though it really didn't matter to her because this, obviously, was nothing more than to request to return his favour – either of saving her all those years ago, or just a day ago. Looking at him the way he stood before her now – but never raising her eyes higher than his chest – she felt nothing but tiredness and maybe a little bit of disgust. Though whether it was for herself, for this royalty, or the situation in its entirety, she couldn't tell and didn't even care to find out. Self-analysis was something people of her rank didn't do.
"Shall I take it off?" she asked in a low voice, hands already reaching for the hem of her dress.
For a moment Seto was so stunned that he couldn't formulate a coherent thought. His eyes followed the coarse fabric riding up, uncovering her unnaturally pale thighs. She must have spent most of the time in some shelter or somewhere underground, Seto thought distantly, otherwise her skin would have been just as tan as everyone else's. And then his mind snapped back to reality.
"No," he snapped fiercely; angry because she'd assumed that he wanted… He couldn't even finish that thought, disgusted with himself and with the situation building.
Kisara hesitated for a moment, startled by his outburst and confused because he had refused. No one before had done that. She let go of her dress and the fabric fell back down. She didn't know what to do next and just standing there was becoming awkward.
"I don't want…" Seto struggled with himself to make it clear that he didn't want sexual favours from her, but the words didn't want to come past his lips. To be honest, he didn't even know what he'd expected from this meeting; what he'd even wanted to say to her, meeting again after all these years.
Giving up on the situation, he called for his personal guards and ordered them to take Kisara away to her room while he returned to the balcony, cursing himself and this world for the ways it made people's lives twist. He'd met Kisara again, but what good had it brought him? He almost wished to have never known her. Almost.