It was early the next morning when Atemu decided that it was time for him to get the answers that he needed from his captive. With the realization that threats of humiliation worked better than physical punishment to loosen his captive's tongue he only needed use that to his advantage in dealing with him. Deceptively he went about his normal routine of bathing and dressing, ignoring the figure in the corner of the room. But when the guards came to escort him to the throne room he dismissed them with a command to have High Priest Seto fill in for him, giving the excuse that he did not feel up to presiding over court that day.
The moment the door was closed he made his way across the room to where his captive was watching silently, knowing that his ruse hadn't fooled the boy by the wary look in his eyes. Stopping within reach of the smaller demon Atemu crossed his arms over his chest and studied him thoughtfully. His captive eyed him back hesitantly. And then Atemu reached out, grabbing the chain to draw him close.
Yugi threw his hands up to ward off an attack before he could rethink the action. "Don't!"
"Don't what, little one?" Atemu challenged, smoothing the tips of his fingers over Yugi's pale face, even as the other flinched away from the touch. "Don't touch you? Do you expect me to believe that you fear me now?"
"I don't fear you."
Yugi shuddered even as he gave voice to the lie. He knew that the demon king could feel his heart pounding against his ribcage. He knew that if the man chose to force himself on him there was no way he could escape. But that didn't mean he would back down without a fight. Warm breath tickled his ear and he shivered, jerking away with a hiss. He had not let the demon beat him into submission, and he would not let him intimidate him with mere words.
"Lies," Atemu whispered against his ear. "You fear me more than you know. It is good for the soul – that fear – keeps one on their toes."
Yugi snorted, baring his fangs as he twisted away from his captor's hypnotic presence. It was all good and well for him to reflect on the demon's entrancing voice when he was secure in his own mind, but to even entertain the notion here in reality was nothing short of irrational, a death sentence. He was here on a mission. He was here to save his world, not to be a play-thing to a filthy demon. Having reminded himself of the mission he had given up on just last night Yugi jerked the chain out of his captor's grasp, stumbling as far away as his chains would let him, trembling fiercely from the contact.
The palm of his hand had tingled when he pushed away and Yugi gave it a curious glance before returning his gaze to that of his captor, refusing to break the stare down.
For a moment it looked as though the demon king would give chase, but a pounding on the door was his reprieve. The king swore harshly, commanding the person to enter. Another demon, this one tall, with a stately air, entered the chamber with an armload of what looked to be dark feathers, two others following him. Yugi shrank back to his corner as the demon king moved away from him, his eyes riveted to the contents of the newcomer's arms. Was that what he thought they were?
"I thought I had requested not to be disturbed."
"You said you wished to see them before they were mounted on the pillars." Seto countered in a bored voice. "Do you wish for me to bring them all to you, or will this suffice before I take your place in court?"
"So I did," Atemu replied, passively studying the objects in the other's arms and ignoring the dig about his shirking his duties for the day. "No, I do not need confirmation of all of them, only that the deed was done. Do with them as you will."
"As you wish." Seto bowed, shooing the others before him as he retreated from the room without even a glance in the prisoner's direction.
Curious, Yugi had moved in for a closer look at what was held in the blue-eyed demon's arms. He nearly gagged when he realized what the items were. Wings! Severed wings! Wide-eyed Yugi stumbled back into the corner amidst the pillows he was given as a bed. It was ghastly, the sight of the blue-eyed advisor and his minions as they toted the severed wings out of the room. He retched; feeling as though he would lose what he had not yet eaten. The sound carried to his captor and the man turned to study him.
"Why...?" Yugi croaked, unable to wrap his mind around the evidence of the other's cruelty.
Atemu shrugged. "It was necessary…your fault in a way, if you must know."
Yugi leapt back to his feet. "How can you blame that on me? I didn't do that! You-you're insane!"
"You're even being here in this dimension – let alone being in my private quarters made that a necessity." Atemu gestured back towards the door his advisor had disappeared behind. "What I want to know is who sent you?"
Yugi steeled himself against the other's studious gaze, putting on a show of nonchalance as he turned away. "No one sent me. What you see is what you get. Why? Did you think someone had to 'send me' to kill off another demon when I despise them so?"
Ruby eyes narrowed, catching the lie the moment it crossed his captive's lips. Somehow the boy had regained his courage after their confrontation of the night before. That wouldn't do. That wouldn't do at all. It was time for him to take charge of this little conversation before his own emotions got the better of him.
"Do you think I am toying with you, little one?" Atemu dragged the boy back around to face him. "I assure you I am not playing. Who sent you? You did not enter my domain of your own accord…you had help."
"Let me go!" Yugi hissed; the fear of their closeness evident in his wide eyes.
Atemu's gave a wicked smirk. All he needed to do was tweak the situation just a bit and he would have the answers to a couple of his questions without resorting to physical violence – which was not an option until Isis was granted more to her visions. He could have so much fun with this. It wasn't very often that he got to verbally spar with anyone other than Bakura or Seto. And his skills in the art of seduction had gone unused since the first attempt on his life was made. Perhaps he would get to use both before his time with his captive came to an end.
"Oh I think not, little one." He responded with a throaty purr. "You and I have much unfinished business to discuss...I would like to know more about you…so much more…"
"I doubt that." Yugi snorted, attempting to regain his casual attitude even as his heart fled into his throat.
Atemu's hand hovered above his face for a moment before the demon king sighed and dropped it to play with the chains on his wrists, as though disappointed. "Must you snow demons always read more into what is said? I do not speak with forked tongue, beautiful little one. I mean what I say."
"I am not a demon!" Yugi snapped, yanking his chain away from the other's perusal.
It was only by the smirk that crossed his captor's face that Yugi had any indication he had played right into the trap laid out for him. And then the king spoke.
"If you are not a snow demon…then what are you?"
"Go to the devil!"
Atemu nodded. "I could bring you to the seventh circle of hell…but I doubt you would fare any better than you have here, with me. Why do you not just answer the question? It is not that complicated. If you do not belong to the race of snow demons what do you belong to?"
"I belong to no one!"
"You weren't under the assumption that you were angelic…were you?" Atemu queried in a sticky sweet voice.
"I-I have nothing left to say to you." Yugi responded over his shoulder as he wandered back to his corner.
It was a calculated risk, turning his back on his enemy like that, but Yugi was praying that his captor would assume he was ready for another long silence. But it was not to be, as the demon king swung him around again, an unusually gentle hand to the side of his face, locking eyes with him.
"You are, are you not?"
Yugi fought the hold but was unable to gain his freedom. He remained tight lipped though as that hand wandered down his body, exploring his neck, his shoulders and on down to his bare chest, his heart racing with fear and another – unknown - feeling. The king released him and he stumbled back a step, his eyes still locked with those of his captor.
"I hate to be the one to inform you of your error, my demonic beauty, but you are in no way angelic. You belong to a race as blood thirsty as mine is. You are a snow demon. The evidence is as plain as the wings attached to your back."
"Doubt me if you wish, my little would-be assassin, but there is one way to settle this…" Atemu challenged, the smirk crossing his features becoming even bolder for every aggressive step he took. "Angels have a defense mechanism…are you in the least bit curious?" he questioned when Yugi backed into the wall behind him.
Yugi swallowed thickly. He knew that look. A smirk like that only meant that the demon king knew something vital; he had seen it while peering into reality – in the demon courtroom many a time over the past several days – when the defense was on its last leg and knew that the accused was not going to live to see the next morning. His eyes closed as the king advanced on him another step, putting their bodies in direct contact with each other. He would not let this creature see his fear.
Atemu came to a halt once they were chest to chest, one leg situated in between his enemy's. His face screwed up in a frown as he inhaled a most delectable scent, confused for a moment. And then it dawned on him that the little angel wanna-be must have raided his bath at some point in the near past. He shook off the thought. What did it matter to him?
"W-what would that be?" Yugi finally regained his voice, edging back from the other's curiosity, a steady glare despite the tremor in his voice.
Atemu blinked, momentarily lost. And then he remembered. He leaned in closer, whispering, "Angels…will fade, and disappear back into the Celestial Eternity, the dimension of the gods, if you will, should someone…shall we say, force them into sexual relations without love…the gods, it seems, do not like for their chosen people to be so abused…"
"What?" Yugi reared back, anger and fear warring for control of his body.
He trembled as the demon king ran a hand over his chest, down his stomach, rubbed himself against his thigh, assaulted with feelings and sensations he had never before in his life felt. And then he was released. Yugi dropped back to his bed of cushions, his legs unable to support his weight. He shrunk against the wall and closed his eyes, swallowing thickly, waiting for the torture to begin. With as shaky as he was feeling it would be best for him to let the demon king think he would submit, and then find a way to incapacitate him before he could do what he was planning.
In the meantime Atemu eyed him, a smirk crossing his face as if he could see the plan forming in Yugi's head. "Oh no, little one, I do not mean to try my hand now. You are entirely too hostile for my tastes. By the time I take you, you will be begging me."
That caught Yugi's attention and he bristled. "I'll never beg."
"That is what you think, my beautiful little snow demon. However, only time will tell." Atemu bowed before him, and then, with a whirl of inky wings was gone from the chamber.
Yugi shivered, settling back against the cushions to examine his chains again. He needed to free himself. And once he did he would kill this demon who tortured him with words and images of his defilement. He was not about to let his captor go through with his threat, there had to be a way out…somehow.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
Isis gathered the ingredients she needed, glancing every so often towards the closed door to the hall. Hopefully Malik would be here soon, she mused. She would need his help to convince Atemu's captive to trust them – and in convincing Atemu to agree to their plan. A couple of simmering pots sat on their burners in the corner of the room and every second pass through the vicinity she would stop and stir the contents, or add a pinch of powder or ground up leavings that sat beside the pots. She was in the process of whispering a complicated incantation when the knock she had been waiting for sounded at the door.
She bade Malik enter on her next trip around the room to gather the remaining ingredients, gesturing for him to take his place over one of the boiling pots. The moment he did she swept the rest of the leavings off the counter into her hand and brushed them into the iridescent purple liquid. A bright light flashed, nearly blinding the two of them before the liquid changed over to a gold-toned mass of thick tackiness.
"Almost finished with this one," she murmured. "If you could pour that into the bowl on the counter so it can cool I'd appreciate it."
He nodded wordlessly, picking up the pot and falling into the rhythm of silence that the two of them often had during the times they worked together. Isis was the first one to welcome him – actually welcome him – after he had been given his new position of Marik's slave as a punishment for attempting (and failing rather spectacularly) to kill Atemu. She had been the only kind visage in a sea of faceless hate and bigotry. And over the past two years he had come to respect her more and more for that reason alone.
She had turned his ingrained hatred for their species into a tolerance that eventually grew to trust, not just for her but for many of the other palace dwellers as well – Atemu included (for the most part). Feeling a pinch of the old shame Malik tore his mind from the past to concentrate on his duties as her apprentice. He would make up for his past crimes against the people he had grown to love. And hopefully help Yugi while he was at it.
"I will need your help, Malik." Isis' blue eyes were glowing with emotion as she turned to look at him. "This one is not going to trust me nearly as quickly as you did. You must convince him I mean no harm."
"Yugi is smart," he replied, discarding the empty pot without glancing away from her potent gaze. "But it's been a long time since I've seen him. He's had two more years to digest the poison that Pegasus has been spewing. I'll try though."
She nodded, turning back to the last pot on the burner. "Please see that you do. If the visions of two nights ago are correct the gods are using your friend and Atemu as the instruments to revert all the realms back into their original path…back to the path that they were set on before the interference. Atemu's – and Yugi's – cooperation is essential for this to come about."
"Then I shall try my best to make certain that this goes off without a hitch." Malik vowed solemnly.
A few silent words were murmured and the pot of roiling liquid did much the same as the one before it. Assured of her having made it right she poured the thick golden liquid into another bowl on the counter to cool. Malik tested the temperature of the bowl before him, and after deciding that it would do he dipped a small spoon into it, pouring the mixture into one of the vials and measuring its contents to the millimeter. Once finished he capped the final product and laid it down on the counter.
Isis followed the same process and before long there was a pair of vials sitting side by side, the product of nearly 24 hours' worth of work. The priestess gave a wan smile in Malik's direction, its presence proving that she alone had slaved over the contents' manufacturing.
"So now all we have to do is get them to drink it," he smirked.
"Yes, but that concept is a lot easier said than done," she reminded him.
"What exactly does it do?"
Flicking a stray lock of dark hair out of her face Isis fixed him with an unblinking stare. "The core mixture will free the two of them from the effects of the interference." When he merely raised his eyebrows she elaborated. "Your friend's personality will revert to what it should have been had the gods' detractor not held such an influence over his upbringing. As for Atemu, this will free him from the event that has haunted his life. Plus I added a touch of serum of truth to both mixtures, and a bit of a memory blocker to Yugi's to negate the effects of Pegasus' influence. Its effects should last a week."
"Err…couldn't that backfire?" he hedged.
Isis shook her head. "The path has been laid out before me in my visions. This is what we are to do, I am certain of it. The gods have maneuvered them into this position for a reason."
He shrugged. "Okay, if you're sure."
"Come," she picked up the vials. "It is time for us to pay a visit to Atemu – and your friend."
Malik followed her out of the room and down the halls toward the royal suite. He hoped that everything would go as planned but he couldn't shake the feeling that no matter Isis' visions they were all in for one hell of a ride.
They caught Atemu on his way from the throne room, Isis asking for a moment of his time. He eyed the pair of them warily for a moment before motioning for them to follow him as he made his way back to his chambers.
"What can I do for you, Lady Isis?"
The two vials appeared in her outstretched hand as she paced him down the hall. "I have before you the path that the gods have laid out, your Majesty. This shall help you attain the answers you seek without harm to the young one you hold in your chambers, and harm to yourself in the process."
"And this is supposed to aid me how?" He questioned.
"Atemu, do you trust me, and acknowledge that I would do nothing to jeopardize your rule?"
Atemu halted mid-step and stared at the two of them. His eyes flicked toward Malik momentarily before centering on Isis, unreadable. "I have faith in you…and since you trust him I shall pay heed to the notion that I trust him as well. What is it you need?"
"I need access to the boy. And I need for you to trust that I would do nothing to harm you."
Quickly, before he could protest she laid her plan out. Atemu's gaze alternated between the two of them as he listened intently to what they were planning. She came completely clean, acknowledging Malik's deception in the dungeons as well as giving proof that they knew his would-be assassin's name. As she talked he could see the hidden pitfalls, but he could also see the merit in doing this her way. Once she was done explaining he asked the questions that he had stored away while she was talking.
"First I need to know why Malik lied to me in the dungeons. Was the deed on him alone, or did he have guidance?"
"I instructed him to say naught of his familiarity with your prisoner, your Highness. It was unknown at the time if the boy was the one from my visions…and I sought to downplay their similarities lest the old hatred be revived in the palace. You may place blame solely on my shoulders." She bowed before him.
Malik, likewise, prostrated himself before Atemu, knowing that not only was his life on the line, but everything that he held dear in this kingdom as well. "I was scared, your Highness. I doubt I would have been able to speak up had she not told me to hold my tongue. I do not claim to understand the visions but I understand the bigotry that I still encounter to this day, and do not wish to have it rebound back on me with this latest attempt. Forgive me, I was a coward."
Atemu considered their words with a frown. "Very well, and now that your association is known you would have me trust you as though you never lied to me?"
Isis rose to her feet, Malik keeping to his place on the floor. "We spoke the truth at the soonest moment possible. Would you say for a fact that, had you known, you would not have Malik interrogated in your prisoner's stead for the answers that he will not give? Could you say the same for others in your employ? I am balancing my visions with that which I know of the real world. I am doing as best I can. Please forgive me my fallacy, your Highness."
Atemu sighed. "Malik, you may rise. Isis, you make a valid point, however, should the situation arise again I wish your full counsel – even if it need be in private. Very well, I trust you to know which path to take. What would you have me do?"
"Allow us to speak with your prisoner, to calm his fears. I need him to trust us as he refuses to trust you. Malik is the key to that trust, I believe. By my actions he has already helped re-form the bond with your prisoner that was broken when he chose to stay with us. But, from the moment we enter your chambers you need to obey my commands without balking – and I understand how hard a feat that will be for you."
Atemu laughed, resuming his pace as he led the way back to his chambers. "You ask much, milady. As you wish, I shall do as you say."
The trio halted before the double doors to his chamber, and Isis reached out for his hand. "Please believe that I have your best interests at heart."
"I do, but what if he asks or guesses at the failed ritual that I attempted to enact?"
"What ritual?" Malik asked.
Isis shushed him. "If he asks you may defer to me. Although you will be bound by the potency of the spell I have no such bonds. If he broaches such questions it would not be considered a lie to allow me to answer in your stead."
Atemu gave a regal nod. "Then let us do this, shall we?" as he opened the doors to his suite.
He quickly shut them again as something shattered against the door. The trio eyed each other, Malik dropping to his knees to peer around the door. He shot backward as another missile sailed by, this time missing its mark.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
Yugi heard the trio's arrival, their voices low and indistinguishable from beyond the door, and realized that his captor had returned. He was adamantly unwilling to let the demon king get the upper hand in this confrontation, and chose his weapons in the form of whatever was within his reach. He chose a small statuette, lobbing it across the room with all of his strength when the door moved to open. It shattered loudly against the wood, proving that his target was smarter than he thought as the man ducked to safety before it hit.
The next object in his reach was an uneaten plate of food, and the moment he saw another face peer around the protective barrier he sent it sailing. But that didn't even make mark as it flew past the door to bounce harmlessly into the corner of the room, splattering the walls.
"Enough!" A female voice shouted, and the third weapon in his hand levitated out of his reach.
Yugi stood slack-jawed, watching as everything that he could have used moved of its own accord out of the immediate vicinity. What witch-craft was this? He glared as a trio of people moved into the room, one of them holding their hands up in a gesture of surrender. And then his eyes narrowed even more when he recognized his one-time friend among his enemies. He folded his arms across his chest and shot the other a look of deep-seated loathing before turning his back to the room to stalk back into his corner.
"We only wish to speak with you, Yugi." The woman stepped further into the room with a hand held out.
Atemu raised an eyebrow. "I can make him talk, if you wish."
"No, your Highness, it is imperative that we begin dialogue with a small measure of trust." She replied.
Trust, Yugi thought. Not likely. There was no way he would trust any of them, let alone all three of them together. Silently he studied them, wondering what method of attack they would employ against him. The woman seemed to take his silence as permission to approach him, until he bared his teeth at her. Sensing, rightly, that she had come too far into his territory she lowered herself gracefully to the floor.
"We only wish to talk. There is more going on here than what we, as individuals, understand, and I wish for us all to be able to find the larger picture hidden within a situation that seems so simple on the surface."
He gave no reply, but that seemed to be the cue for his former friend to give the situation his best effort.
"Yugi?' Malik questioned softly. After a few moments' silence he inched closer and called again. "Yugi, please, just hear us out."
"Traitor!" Yugi spat, lunging. "You betrayed us! How could you?"
He barely missed snagging hold of Malik's shirt as the blonde backed out of his reach, but that didn't stop him from swinging wildly in hope that he would catch his former friend unaware. What he hadn't realized was that his captor had moved around behind him, catching him up in a crushing embrace, locking his arms down at his sides. A struggle for power ensued, Yugi losing to the demon king's greater strength. He bowed his head with a roar, waiting for his captor to acknowledge his acquiescence.
But the moment he did Yugi reached up and clawed the side of his face, knocking his head back. The look he was given in return froze the blood in his veins and he readied himself for an all-out war. The demon king cracked his knuckles, and reached out for him.
"Oh, you shall pay for that." Atemu snarled.
"Enough!" Isis pushed in between the two combatants, pulling her king away. "Atemu, come with me. I shall attend your injuries. Let Malik to talk some sense into him."
Atemu eyed Yugi warily, wishing to avenge himself for having fallen for that trap once again.
"Leave it Atemu." Isis caught hold of his shirt.
With that she towed the reluctant king out of the chambers, leaving Malik and Yugi to stare at each other from across the room. Both stubborn, they were unwilling to break eye contact for fear of being seen by the other as weak. Yugi thought of all the promises that were made, to him, to Ryou, promises that never came to be because their friend had joined the opposition. All the times he had worried, feared for his safety, for his life – and Malik had been safe all along.
"I never betrayed you…or Ryou." Malik began softly. "I've been searching for ways into Pegasus' kingdom from the moment I earned my freedom."
Yugi snorted, folding his arms over his chest with a glare.
"Yugi please, you've got to believe me!" Malik cried. "I couldn't make a portal direct, that would only bring his troops and I would be stuck right back in the same situation as you are. I was trying to find a way! And I was so close; another couple of months would have done it."
"Why did you leave us there with no word? We thought you were dead!" Yugi countered. "He told us you died, that you were tortured…"
Malik inched closer to his one-time friend. "Pegasus was trying to kill me. He had been trying for the six months before he sent me on this assignment. I questioned too much of what he did. I couldn't tell you, I didn't want you in the same situation. Ryou was safe at the time; he was too young to understand."
Yugi tried to glare at the person who had deserted him at such a crucial time, but all he saw in the other's eyes was a deep seated regret. Could he truly trust the person he had trusted all those years ago? Moisture leaked from his eyes, and he reached up to wipe it away, turning his back on his friend. Oh gods, this was so hard, he had wished to see his friend for so long after thinking he was dead. But to have him appear now, and on the side of the opposition – could he trust him?
"Yugi, Pegasus lied to you." Malik shuffled closer. "He lied to you, he lied to me, and he lied to Ryou – to all of the people of the kingdom Saaris. He is not the rightful ruler, and we are not divine. All of those rules he enforced did not pertain to our species. I know the truth now, and it is not what he preaches on."
Yugi spun around to refute his statement, but Malik was too close and the two of them tumbled to the ground, wrapped up in his chains. "Leave me be! You're lying!" He howled when Malik trapped him with his weight.
"I'm not lying, Yugi!" Malik pulled him up into his arms, wrapping him in his embrace. "I'm not lying…I'm not…He's the liar…"
The pair fought until their strength waned, Yugi the first to give in. He couldn't do this. He couldn't fight his friend, not for the leader that none of them had believed in in the first place. But he couldn't rid himself of the feeling that he was being played once again – and this time by someone he had trusted completely. As he sagged to the ground Malik pulled him into an embrace – the first time someone had voluntarily touched him with no more than kindness in a number of years. And it was that touch which broke his resolve.
Yugi stared at Malik, begging him to tell the truth. "Please tell me that all I know is not a lie…please!"
"Oh Yugi!" Tears formed at the edges of Malik's vision. "He lied to all of us. We're not divine…I've seen an angel before, and we're not it, there's no way we're it, I'm sorry. He's insane, the throne was not his and I can prove it…We just need to figure out who the true heir is. Atemu has an advisor, a snow demon like us, and he can prove that the real heir to the throne is still alive, trapped in Pegasus' castle. He's got the documents he stole when he escaped. The true heir is his grandson."
"No! It's a lie! He's in it for the gain!"
"No, Yugi…there's too much proof, too many coincidences to be just that." Malik responded. "I'll show you – as soon as I can convince Atemu to trust me with the papers. I promise you."
"But you've promised so much else…"
I'm sorry, Yugi…I'm so sorry." Malik replied. "If you knew how badly I wanted to get you and Ryou out of there…but you're here now, and together we can steal him from Pegasus. We'll find a way. We will."
"I do. Oh gods, Yugi, I promise you we can work together and get him out of there…"
Malik spoke of the information he had learned, and Yugi shared what little he knew of the few others they had been allowed to grow up with. Both commiserated on their friend, Ryou's, unknown fate, and they both acknowledged the fact that until Malik came up with his proof that Yugi was disinclined to trust him completely. But Malik had expected that, he knew what Yugi had been through at the hands of Pegasus. He was just happy to have his friend trust in him enough to speak with him. The rest would come.
He also knew that his friend was smart enough to realize that their ruler had not told the entire truth – that there were massive holes in the explanations that he gave – when Pegasus chose to acknowledge questions at all. The offer of information alone would prove to be too much incentive to a person who had always quested for more knowledge of his past, more knowledge of their people's history, of his own family's history.
"I promise that now that you're here I will protect you." Malik held him as he confessed his fears. "Isis is another person you can trust. Listen to me, little brother, please…she means you no harm. And when this is all over we can go rescue Ryou, but you need to help us with this. She'll explain more when she gets back."
"But what about –?"
"Atemu will not harm you, young one." Isis spoke from the doorway. She turned to the man beside her. "Is that not right, Atemu? The two of you will act cordially to each other until our task is complete?"
Yugi pushed out of Malik's grip upon the announcement of their return, scrubbing at his face as he paced away from the approaching pair. He didn't like this – not one bit. Malik had switched sides, yes, but what if he was telling the truth? And then again, what if he wasn't? But he had promised him proof. That had to count for something, right? He glanced back at the group, judging their expressions and locked eyes with his nemesis. The demon king's features looked as though they had been shot through with ice, his expression brittle as he glared at him. When he said not a word to her question Isis elbowed him in the side. But all he did was direct his icy glare toward her.
"Let him be." Malik demanded, rounding on Atemu with a glare of his own. "He's been through enough at the hands of Pegasus. He's young and he's scared, and he doesn't deserve this no matter what his crime was."
"I beg to differ." Atemu snapped. "That kid has once attempted to end my life and thrice attempted to cause me injury. He is old enough to reap the consequences of his actions."
"Not if he's been programmed." Isis stepped between the two. "Come, why do we not discuss this as a capable group of adults."
They all seemed to take a collective step toward the center of the room. Isis was the first one to sit; Malik planted himself next to her. They both motioned for the antagonistic pair to join them in the discussion. Yugi took another hesitant step in their direction, flopping down on the floor just behind, and to the right of Malik. And finally Atemu gave in, finding a place to sit next to Isis – where he could observe Yugi's every move.
Isis turned to look at their captive. "We need your help just as much as you require ours, Yugi."
Yugi was instantly wary. "What do you mean you need my help?"
She produced the two vials from her pocket, and held them out for his inspection. "They are a simple formula, a bit of serum of truth added to that of an enhancer. It will block some of the memories, allowing the two of you to return to what should have been had the gods not lost control over events of the past. You will be well compensated for your cooperation."
"He will?" Atemu snapped, surprised.
Yugi stared at her with an incredulous expression, certain that there was more to what was going on then what she was saying. "So, all I need to do is…what? And in return for doing this I get…what? The right to say when I get a beating?"
"All you need to do is drink this and trust that we are not trying to poison you." Isis responded in an exasperated tone. "And in return we offer you the same deal as Malik –"
"Wait." Atemu commanded. "I never said anything about giving him the same treatment as Malik. There is a wealth of difference between the circumstances, and he –" He pointed at Yugi. "Is a danger to my realm."
Isis leveled a glare at her leader. "He will be no such thing once he understands the truth, Atemu. I asked you to trust me on this, and you said that you would. Do you now go back on your promise or will you allow me to continue?" And then she turned in Yugi's direction. "Do you wish for me to continue as well?"
Atemu nodded curtly, and Yugi could tell that he was seething even though his expression remained the same as it was earlier. His eyes returned to the brunette woman on his left. She showed absolutely no fear of either him or her king as she gazed back at him serenely. He wished that he had some of the unshakeable composure she displayed. He studied her features for a moment before nodding his assent. Pegasus could condemn him all he wanted but he was interested in what she had to say, if only for the continuing unanswered questions concerning the ruler of his dimension.
"Our deal is this," she continued as though never having been interrupted. "You drink this and commit to our plan for this next week and in return you shall be given a new home and an apprenticeship in a field of your choosing. You shall still belong to Atemu for a period of time, until it is ascertained that you have adjusted to your new life – unless he wishes to give you to another – but that is nothing to worry over. It is merely a matter of where you lay your head and to whom you owe a measure of your time to complete chores. And while you are completing your apprenticeship we shall aid you in the recovery of your friend Ryou."
That last statement caught Yugi's total attention and he stared at her questioningly. "Why would you do that? Get Ryou for us, I mean."
Isis nodded in Malik's direction. "He has spoken of your dire straits many times, and I am of the opinion that you earn a person's loyalty by helping them where they cannot help themselves."
"You would really do that for me…for us?" And this time Yugi's gaze sought out his captor's.
It took Atemu a moment to answer, but he caught the look of hope in his would-be assassin's eyes – a look so totally foreign on a face that held nothing but contempt or fear for him since they had met. Its presence gave him an intriguing look into the mind of the person who had nearly killed him, and it reinforced Malik's claim that Yugi had, indeed, been brainwashed.
"Very well, if you do as Isis commands, and assimilate yourself well into our society than I shall find a way to free your friend."
Without a word Yugi snatched up the vial that Isis offered, and before she could even open her mouth to warn him of any side effects he popped the cork, put it to his mouth and downed the entire potion. Isis shook her head and Malik cringed; Atemu looking on in fascination when he dropped the vial, dropping to his knees as he gagged on the thick, tacky liquid.
"I was going to warn you that the potion is quite vile." Isis pointed out.
Yugi glared at her as his hands hit the floor. His stomach tied itself in knots, a heavy pain shooting up his rib-cage and into his throat. Gods, what did they convince him to do? Had he willingly consented to his own poisoning? He retched but nothing came up. And when he glanced up to call for help he could feel his eyes rolling into the top of his head.
Unconscious, he dropped to the floor. Malik casually rose from his seat and wandered over, picking him up and setting him on top of the pillows he had been using as a bed. He adjusted a blanket around Yugi's form before turning his attention to the group's remaining members.
"It is your turn, Atemu." Isis urged.
"Oh yeah, that scene inspired so much confidence." Atemu quipped. And yet he reached out to take the final vial from her hand.
"And you know that I would never willingly cause you harm." Isis returned.
He hesitated only a moment before pressing the vial to his lips and downing its contents in one swallow. Once he passed out Isis and Malik maneuvered him over to his bed and covered him up. Everything had already been prepared for this experiment. Seto would cover for the ailing Atemu during the time he was confined to his suite. They would keep a close eye on the pair over the next week to make certain that everything went according to plan.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~