I freely admit that I have suffered from the horrible yet common writer's disease called I-promised-updates-and-then-life-started-and-then-it-took-me-months-to-finish-this-story-itis. I'll stop promising that it will get better; however, I have finally pulled through and finished my translation of Melzart's story Appearances. First an(other) apology to her, but hopefully she'll understand the disease just as well as I do, and to any readers who believed my 'it will get better' diatribes. But enough of this.

Enjoy the last chapter of a story that took quite a while to finally end up finishing. Funnily enough, the story leaves lots of potential plot points unanswered, but I guess you'll have to fill in the blanks... for now :)

Yugioh belongs to Kazuki Takahashi, and the story Appearances belongs to Melzart.


Chapter 27

The Horrible Hobgoblin

Then Naomi had awoken; she could do nothing against the past that had not ceased to haunt her until then.

The sun pierced through the coldness outside to warm the bedroom.

And it was odd. Odd how her entire being was now resting in an abnormal state of semi-quietude, as if she had raised the white flag.

Well before she opened her eyes and feeling the sudden flood of light, it was simple words – calming her soul with the sweet music which took her out of the arms of Orpheus. It was the almost inaudible tapping of Kaiba's fingers upon his laptop.

There is, when I refuse to say I love you, more love than there is any poem, any amount of words. If you see me shed a bohemian tear, which came to my eyes from my heart, it is because I am thinking of you…

It's like that, happiness isn't geometric, I don't have any plans for you, I don't know how to do it walking straight…

Don't say you want me if I can't promise you anything - it's because I want everything, perhaps, and I will not suffer. Step by step, I speak blindly, I fear all of those words regaining their colour when I ask you them. And I see the dreams hesitating again to mold to the outline of your body. And I smile despite myself - until now, I thought I knew myself a little. I threw everything out the window to better understand myself in your arms…

Give me the time to love you without thinking beyond,

You smile at me and fall silent, yet you don't understand

Give me the time to find my footprints

Because I forced you to look, I'm a tad scared of myself

Scared of myself… it's not anything else

You tame, I submit

The faded shadows behind me

Fear of what? Fear of the future which slides between my skin and my desire when I lose myself on the edge with you.

Fear of what? Very simply, to recognize that everything is here, maybe, and that they are falling around you.*

Seto had also been up for a short period of time, never having developed the ability to sleep for long periods of time. He hadn't lost, however, the ability to work like a maniac on his damn portable PC which he drug around everywhere as if it were his car keys. However, he hadn't managed to distance himself from her, seated as he was at some sort of improvised desk at the foot of the desk, glancing at her every now and then, personally assuring himself that her sleep would not be obscured by any dark clouds.

Then the little harsh noises, almost inaudible, stopped as she opened her eyes, Kaiba setting his PC a bit farther back upon the surface of the desk before getting up to approach his own side of the bed that he had left a few hours previously.

He wouldn't miss the opening of her eyes upon the new day that was beginning for the world.

And then the smile. Peaceful, somehow, mutual although neither knew why.

"Sleep well?" he breathed as he bent affectionately over her face to kiss her forehead.

The question which stood in for the most pure of ways of saying 'hello' did not have to be clarified, which made her smile even wider, knowing that paradise could not be softer or more beautiful than opening her eyes upon that magnificent being.

Without missing a beat she wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing him against her in a tender accolade which was soon reciprocated as Kaiba placed his hands on her hips and pulled her out of the covers, lifting her against him.

"Yes, thanks," she said.

There is, when I refuse to say I love you, more love than there is any poem…

Kaiba redoubled his ardor in holding her against him. All the better if he managed to make her forget, albeit modestly, her worst memories, and bring her the slightest sense of happiness.

In his eyes, nothing had as high a price as making her happy.

"It's quarter to eleven, still time to eat breakfast," he said quietly, although he wasn't exactly hungry.

You are my only food, I hunger only for you… she thought as she politely wriggled her way out of his grip.

"Really?" he asked as he managed to look her in the eye.

Visibly she had forgotten for several seconds that Kaiba had heard, as he had always, her most secret thoughts. And the question clearly indicated to her that he had, once again, followed her train of thought.

With an almost thrilling rush of bashfulness, she surprised herself at the violence with which she reddened.

"Hmmm…" he murmured as he once again took her back into his grip, touched by the sincere belief she had expressed.

She couldn't help a confused grin from blossoming over her lips.

"We have the same favorite food," he whispered as he leaned in to kiss her again.

She felt as if she could faint again. As if she could no longer fight it like she had before. As if she would never be able to fend off again in the days to come.

Strangely, destiny, or luck, had decided that there was indeed a future written out for her, although she knew none of its promises. Actually, there was one that she was indeed sure about – that, in the brightest star in the sky that she could see, His Name was deeply engraved in brilliant letters. She couldn't see beyond it.

But who cared, as nobody could see beyond it.

And it was already more than enough; the thickest fog dissipated in the arms of Seto Kaiba.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm scared. And I have been for too long," she responded without daring to look at him.

Naomi had finally gotten up, gotten ready, dressed in her eternal choice of the colour black, her grief still not about to leave her. But something had changed in her behavior. A determination, a wild determination.

She seemed lost in the void beyond the windowpane as she saw, for the last time, little Molina, with whom she was so infatuated. Didn't she make her remember her own daughter?

All of those long months egotistically hoping that nobody would show any interest in adopting her, in distancing the two of them. And it had finally happened. A guy. That guy. And she hadn't done anything to stop it. Worse, she hadn't seen him come with his fake manners filled with such a cruel variety of courtesy.

Instead, she had used the last second to flee, far from Seto and far from the grief, which had only roared back even more maliciously when she found herself again in her native country.

She wouldn't have said it. But there, on the frozen earth at the foot of the oak tree, she had wanted to die. Of cold.

If it hadn't been for Seto, maybe she would have succeeded.

Et voila. He was there now. And things seemed to be on track to ameliorating. His mere presence would of course never suffice to bring back her daughter. But it was, at least, a salve for the heart. Everything that he had done when he had already known the truth he had done for her alone. And he was there. Always there. And everything came flooding back into her memory – how could anyone have guessed, or known, how he had done what he had?

How to struggle against the evidence? He wasn't ready to let go.

He had come to take her with him.

And so she would return.

It was too late to save Alexandra, deceased for four long years already.

But it wasn't too late for Molina.

Yes, she would return, knowing she would have to roll up her sleeves and work even harder. She was going to fight tooth and nail to take her back, out of the trap which never should have caught her.

"Scared?" Kaiba repeated, trying to analyze her thoughts.

"I should have stayed… and fought."

Molina? Is she thinking about Molina?

Kaiba's face told her that he hadn't understood her exactly. But he would have sworn, on the contrary, to have understood the meaning of her words far too well.

"Seto… if that guy…"

But she momentarily stopped herself, believing it useless to burden him with any further torment. This was a personal fight that she shouldn't discuss with him; she should keep all of it to herself. Seto had already done enough. Plus he probably had lots on his to-do list. Better not to add to it.

"I think he's dangerous."

"I'll deal with it," he reassured her.

"No… you don't understand – "

Yes I do! I understand fine.

"… I couldn't do anything for M-… but…"

This time Kaiba stepped in front of her, softly laying his hands upon her shoulders, thus obligating her to look at him.

"Stop, Naomi! Don't you think you've suffered enough?"

She shook her head, demonstrating her refusal to forget, to pardon herself.

"Naomi," he whispered.

His features hardened.

"If you want to fight, I'm there with you! You can ask anything of me. But… just stop this now!"

Fine.

He was right.

Especially at the outset of a battle, it was no time to pity oneself on one's bad luck, not the time to show one's weakness and be frightened. On the contrary. She had to ramp up the ardor and wield any and all aggressiveness which could influence her adversary. Show them all of her boldness. Not let on the damage that they had caused her, the gravest being to the heart.

But she wasn't going to inform Kaiba of this; this battle she would do alone, without his help.

Suddenly she felt herself straighten, more determined than ever, although the menace which roiled between the two Kaiba brothers which she could still sense still hung in the air.

"You have a strategy?"

Kaiba gave her a sarcastic smile.

In reality, he hadn't one, principally due to his ignorance about their newfound enemy. But the knowledge would come to him.

What disgusted him consisted of the half-obligation to comply to the man's demands and return his prisoner to him. Somehow or other, and now that Naomi knew, he had no choice but to submit. It was true that his heart lifted at the sole thought of remembering his promise to make that vermin endure the worst possible torment until the end of time, however.

Now he couldn't keep that promise any longer.

So be it.

He would fight now, too.

Yes, in the heart of that country of snow, Naomi had finally opened her eyes.

. . . . . . . . .

"From here, we'll be able to see the whole town," she murmured to Seto and Mokuba.

Naomi had selected a particular restaurant for dinner. She had only been there once before. And as the place had left an indelible mark on her memory, she had brought them along this time, hoping they would be equally impressed with the view.

The restaurant and bar– the Astral, as it was called - was one of the best gastronomical and touristy experiences of the city; it was on the top floor of the Concorde Hotel, 600 feet** in the air and featured both the ability to turn three-hundred sixty degrees and bay windows around the circumference of the room. In this way, while tasting the succulent food the restaurant had to offer, clients also had the ability to see the entire city, their eyes able to lose themselves amongst tens of miles of views all around as the restaurant slowly turned to show them both the river cutting through the heart of the town and the mountains in the distance beyond. And the evening was no less magnificent due to the luminosity of the panorama.

Of course, Seto was not exactly impressed, although the view pleased him to such an extent that he wouldn't let himself show it. On the other hand, Mokuba expressed a much more pronounced enthusiasm, still under the discreet amused grin of his older sibling.

Naomi had dealt with everything up until then, and now all that was left was to order off the menu or select the buffet, whichever tickled the Kaibas' fancy.

"Madame… messieurs," the server nodded in greeting as he walked towards their table. "Have you chosen your menu? Would you like a drink?"

Naomi smiled at him while giving him the signal to wait momentarily, giving herself time to translate, as the language barrier prevented the two brothers from personally asking what they would like to eat.

She turned back towards them, mouth already open, but she shut it in shock as she heard Kaiba's voice speak up.

"Je vais prendre un café pour commencer…"

Naomi froze in her chair; Seto Kaiba was speaking in perfect French! How could it be that she had never before heard him speak a single word of it?

Stupefied, she stared at him as he continued.

"Mokuba?"

He decided upon a soft drink.

"And," Seto continued in French and well aware of how shocked Naomi was, "mademoiselle?" He could barely contain a self-satisfied smirk.

"Coffee please," she responded, still too astonished to know precisely how to react.

"Good," Seto said. "Come back in a few minutes."

As Naomi waited for the server to leave, she noticed that she wasn't the only one aghast at the table – Mokuba was staring at his brother with large eyes.

"Seto!" he nearly shouted, extremely proud of his brother.

Kaiba's smile burst forth, and he looked at Naomi impatiently, anxious to hear her verdict.

She tilted her head, herself proud and deeply impressed, but above all, ashamed that she had never searched for such a skill before in the arsenal of the powerful CEO.

It was crazy how much Kaiba loved her confused smile.

"So…" she nearly whispered in her native tongue, "may I know exactly how long you've known French?"

"A couple of months…"

A couple of months? What? Is he mocking me?

"I learn very quickly," was all the excuse he gave.

What?

Could it be that he had even learned the language during the period of time that they had known each other? Did he do it just to surprise her at some point in time? Even with all the work that he dealt with for his company, had he taken the time to so assiduously learn such a difficult language?

Apparently so, given the evidence. And she felt even more proud than before.

Always, it was for her. What other reason was there?

She sighed lightly, this time greatly moved by the amount of generosity that Kaiba had exhibited. His eyes were still trained upon her.

"...And…" she continued, "…Do you have any other surprises in store for me?"

This time Seto leaned towards her so that he could whisper in her ear.

"It's very possible, I'm afraid."

His smile – which was already beginning to show – let her mind run wild. Maybe there were even to be things she had never expected.

All the better if this major distraction – like all the rest to follow – succeeded a little in making her forget the bad days, horrid moments in her existence.

. . . . . . . . .

In a shanty bar in a poor part of town, a man already drunk off of several beers was busying himself with flirting with the barmaid as she set down another pint in front of him. He apparently had the quite annoying habit of reaching for the butt of any waitress who had the misfortune of skirting by him. A dirty man, but a regular customer.

So much so that one could potentially believe he lived inside of it.

But the thing that was beginning to harass the employees above all else was the arrogant, almost aggressive manner in which he addressed them. None had dared to interact with him on a personal level since one of them had found herself stalked and almost attacked after her shift was complete. Of course, as there had been no other witnesses, the young woman had feared for her life. Little would have stopped him from possibly continuing into sexual territory if someone hadn't shown up and helped her call the cops. The furious boss hadn't pressed charges but instead decided to give him a second chance, and he now menacingly watched over the moves he made.

It was a night like any other until the arrival of several men dressed completely in black, sunglasses shadowing their eyes despite the lack of light in the place, and physically built like armoires.

It had already been several seconds since they had interrupted the normal activity in the bar.

The fact that they looked like police had had such an impact on the staff that they did nothing upon their entry but suddenly fall utterly silent.

The man was reaching again towards the posterior end of another waitress when he suddenly felt himself be brusquely lifted out of his seats by one of the brutish suits.

He wouldn't place his hand on anybody else that night.

Oddly, as if they were in synchronization, none of the men said a word as the looked at the man; they didn't even bother scanning the other customers for someone who might forcefully wish to accompany him.

It was obvious: they were here to snatch him away. Nobody else. And that's what they did as they left out the back door of the bar, and moved into the alley behind it.

The man barely had time to step down off the final stair before he was violently thrown into the concrete wall in front of him.

"Looks like you like to brutalize women," said one of them spitefully, spitting in the man's face and then slapping him hard.

And it was there, in that deplorable little alleyway where nobody would normally dare ever adventure, that he received the most pain he had felt in his entire life.

He was literally floating in a pool of his own blood when a hand yanked his hair, sopping wet from the viscous fluid.

Then, before blacking out, one of the men – the same from before – crouched down to show him a photograph.

"This is for the little girl."

He again received an avalanche of kicks, probably cracking the majority of his ribs, leaving him so bruised over his entire body that he now knew that he was incapable of the slightest bit of movement, even lifting a pinky finger.

Nobody would ever recognize him. Someone would eventually find him right where he deserved to be: in the trash.

. . . . . . . . .

Kaiba seemed so insistant upon scrutinizing the horizon that it seemed as if his eyes wanted to grab the entire city and hug it close to him.

"Where's the bathroom, Nao?" Mokuba asked.

"Oh, it's over there by the door, remember?"

"Of course I do!" he said, laughing childishly. "It's just…"

His eyes lingered on the platform, still slowly rotating. But the absurd idea of losing them upon leaving the room still wouldn't get out of his head.

Naomi saw his worries with no difficulty whatsoever. Hadn't even she thought the same thing the first time that she had come to this restaurant?

A soft smile spread across her lips.

"Don't worry, it's impossible to lose you. We'll still be here."

His response was a stupefied grin that then turned to one which showed his own annoyance at his ignorance.

His need driving him forward, he didn't waste any further time walking towards the center of the circle.

From Kaiba's left sleeve came a very discrete blip, a signal he had a new message. Upon investigation he found only four letters: DONE.

"Thank you," Naomi murmured, suddenly pulling him out of his concentration.

"For what?" he asked as his head rose to look in her direction, taken by the fear that she should comment on his lack of attention.

Very affectionately, her mouth closed in on his ear.

"You do good things for me," she breathed before distancing herself once more.

Neither one of the two was very demonstrative of their emotions in public. Thus each respected the other's personal space, keeping their intimacy for when they were alone.

Kaiba's returning smile was quite frank. Everything was going well now. And Naomi was here. Even better, she would be staying.

Why was there that sudden desire to kiss her, ignoring the shocked or angered glares that would result?

Again Kaiba had to fight against himself to not give in to his desires, and, having perceived something in particular several seconds earlier, got up to leave the table.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," he said as he turned to walk away.

He came back, however, even before Mokuba had. Naomi had barely begun to look out the large window beside her when he sat back down again.

"You really want to make me happy?" he breathed, leaning in towards her.

"Um… maybe?" she responded, not knowing what he was about to ask of her.

A large stride or two away from their table, in the middle of the restaurant – the only part of the place that wasn't spinning – Kaiba had noticed a large black piano, and as someone had begun to play it to add some sort of atmosphere or distract the clientele, he had allowed himself to ask if Naomi could take the stage, if even for one song.

Even if he had never said anything beforehand, he liked her voice, the same one that had succeeded in capturing his full attention ever since the very first night that he saw her.

Moreover, it seemed like an eternity to him since she had sung anything. Too long.

"You want to sing?"

"What?"

Seto Kaiba asked her to sing? He asked her? This request alone was enough to somewhat disconcert her – as if, just like always, he could read into the depths of her soul and knew better than anyone her most primary of desires.

"No…but…er…" she babbled, conscious that she hadn't sung a single note in months.

Seto hurried to reassure her.

"Yeah, it'll be fun, I'm sure of it."

That ended the conversation.

During the next intermission, Mokuba came back towards them and Naomi stood to take center-stage on the platform that was so cramped it could only hold a piano and its bench.

"What's she doing?" Mokuba asked as he watched her take a seat.

"I think it's time you learned a little more about your sister-in-law's talents," Seto remarked contentedly.

Sister-in-law?

Both seemed surprised by the sudden use of the term.

Mokuba's smile exploded across his face while Seto, realizing that he had said too much, hid his own by bowing his head.

She hadn't even opened her mouth and there was already a furied talk. Envious looks, also, which indiscreetly stared at her but which Kaiba chose to take no offense towards. After all, wasn't he the one that sent her there?

Even if he didn't speak the language, he would have easily understood their words, avid with desire, hoping to more than visually explore her thin frame.

Which, while subjecting him to all possibly jealousy on his own part, gave him a certain pride in being the only one to whom it belonged.

The show was now on, Naomi knew, as the spotlight fell upon her.

She sighed softly, principally due to the provoked nervousness inside of her after not having performed in so long. Also, if she dared to admit it, due to the fact that Kaiba had made the demand out of nowhere.

But when she thought about it… maybe, most of all, it was due to her feelings, woven into the song that she had chosen to sing.

Then the piano came to life under the musician's fingers.

"He drowns in his dreams

An exquisite extreme I know

He's as damned as he seems

More heaven than a heart could hold

And if I tried to save him

The whole world would cave in

Just ain't right, no it just ain't right

Oh and I don't know

I don't know what he's after

But he's so beautiful, he's such a beautiful disaster

And if I could hold on through the tears and the laughter

Would it be beautiful...or just a beautiful disaster?"

There was no doubt in Kaiba's mind at this point that the song was chosen to personally address him, given the smile they were sharing as she sang; tender, yet simultaneously discreet.

Eyes peeled, and aware that the moment was far more personal for both Seto and Naomi than anyone else in the room could understand, Mokuba sat in admiration of her sensual yet powerful voice.

He was not alone in melting under her graces; everyone in the room was beginning to stand and crowd towards her and her song.***

"He's magic and myth

As strong as what I believe

A tragedy with

More damage than a soul should see

And do I try to change him

So hard not to blame him

Hold me tight...baby hold me tight

Oh and I don't know

I don't know what he's after

But he's so beautiful

He's such a beautiful disaster

And if I could hold on

Through the tears and the laughter

Would it be beautiful...or such a beautiful disaster?"

The mere thought, each time, made her smile almost nostalgically as a flood of memories came over her, from when they first met to the diverse dangers that had threatened them and ostensibly continued to brew right under their noses.

But the fact remained that Kaiba was a magnificent being, despite the circumstances, despite all appearances.

Kaiba refused to show the immense happiness he felt at being the addressee of such a song. Crazily, though, it touched him greatly. Crazily, he would do anything to be alone with her at this precise moment, his body desperately aching for her company.

"He's soft to the touch

But frayed at the ends he breaks

He's never enough

But he's still more than I can take…"

But her stare, now suddenly returned, no longer left any room for doubt. Wasn't she in the middle of admitting her attraction to him, her profound respect and admiration?

Did he know, now, that she would follow him to the ends of the earth, against anything and everything?

Definitely. Yes, he knew.

"He's so beautiful… he's beautiful…"

Is that what she thought of him, at least in part?

She hadn't even finished singing before the applause thundered throughout the room. Many of the patrons were hooting and calling out to her, something she wasn't even ready for, and she hastened to join the Kaiba brothers again.

. . . . . . . . .

Kaiba refused to leave that night, saying that one more night wouldn't change anything in the danger that faced them both; on the contrary, perhaps he felt more free in this country, both cold and brimming and warmth. Something completely beyond reach.

Besides, the bed had become so cozy since he had shared it with Naomi. Actually, no matter what the nation, it certainly wouldn't change the sensation of her against him. He did appreciate the peacefulness of the place, however.

Above all – and he had predicted this as well – Naomi had to confront the last of her demons before turning her life completely around as he took her with him.

It was not going to be the easiest to fight; he was conscious of that. But she had to. For her own good. For the good of them both.

Besides, wasn't he by her side?

. . . . . . . . .

It was sunny.

But the day was proving to be somber and would mark, Kaiba hoped, Naomi's seemingly interminable nightmares.

They would have to go back to the cemetery before leaving for a better future, more serene, more pleasant.

The idea to make Naomi forget her little girl had never crossed the CEO's mind. It was, after all, an impossible task. Even he would never have been capable of doing so, even with the greatest of superhuman forces that he often seemed to possess. It was equally the reason for which Kaiba had ordered, and largely continued to pay for, the white flowers that now decorated her tombstone, every day of every week. A gesture that, he again hoped, would touch Naomi's heart without invoking any memory in particular. Didn't the generosity come from sincere compassion, at any rate?

But that morning, on the way to the airport, something else was destined to occur.

As he didn't foresee that either one of them would soon return to this land of snow, he thought it good to make at least a decent goodbye.

He wisely waited until Naomi had gotten out of the car and had walked some distance into the graveyard before he climbed out himself. Quietly, he was going to stand behind her tree, very discretely. Just in case.

He knew she was fragile. And that was more than enough to worry him.

Especially now.

. . . . . . . . .

Why had Seto insisted upon her return here?

Nothing had changed since the last time she had been here, two days earlier. And a soft snow was again falling onto the frozen earth.

But something was no longer the same.

Something that looked to her like footprints in the snow, apparently freshly made. They were even accompanied by very small red blotches, scattered here and there around the tombstone. As if someone had waited there longer than was strictly necessary.

Carefully, she bent down to examine one of the red spots and easily recognized it to be blood. The person was somehow hurt; she needed no diploma to figure that one out.

But why had Seto insisted so much that she come back?

"Naomi…" murmured a dark voice behind her, paralyzing her on the spot as she immediately recognized to whom the voice belonged.

Without any sudden movement, she slowly stood, but did not turn around to look at the nightmare, the phantom.

Richard.

And then all of the horrible memories flooded back into Naomi's mind, and she held her breath now, as if already expecting the abuse.

It was so far away. But it was weird how everything had broiled back up to the surface.

Frozen in fear, she began to tremble, her eyes tearing up as if she had been flung back in time and she had once again become that young, defenseless girl.

"Filthy bitch… I finally found you… after all these years," he continued.

She still didn't turn around. She could do anything but look at him.

You're just a ghost… you'll disappear… just disappear… she repeated to herself, shaking like a leaf, a tear beginning to roll down one of her cheeks.

Behind the tree, Kaiba balled his fists in rage. He hadn't left her life the previous night because of this – the final confrontation he knew to be unavoidable.

But why couldn't he deal with him himself?

From this distance, he could feel all of Naomi's terror and distress, and she hadn't moved, suddenly oh so vulnerable.

But she was so strong.

…if you touch her… I'll kill you with my bare hands.

Trying to not close his eyes under the strength of the ire, he pleaded that she would at least react, even if he would never let the bastard cause her the slightest bit of harm.

"So… it's your friends who came to see me last night, you cunt," he hissed as he slowly approached her, despite his irresistible desire to jump upon her and beat her until she pissed blood.

Just like the good old days.

And everything was ready, especially the solitude of the place, which he obviously wouldn't observe. Nobody was around. Nobody to help her.

Yeah. He would kill the mother above the grave of the child, ending his work. Besides, his life was over, having become nothing but a shadow amongst the masses. So why hold back? Why hold back on this bitch who had ruined his life but managed to escape so unharmed?

Was it difficult for her to breathe, fearing that he might touch her? Yes. Air was already no longer circulating in her lungs, condemning her to only gape instead of speak. Funny how she shook. With fear, and anger.

"You gonna look at me when I'm talking to you, bitch?" he shouted as his arm shot out towards Naomi in an attempt to whip her around.

In a reflex she ripped herself away from his grasp, despite the terror that had washed over her. But she had succeeded in doing this one thing – a sign that the martial arts lessons had doubtlessly done a number on her.

I'm gonna kill him… kill him… kill him… Kaiba thought, barely restraining himself from walking out from behind the tree and marching right up to him.

But he was suddenly relieved when he saw her dodge his gesture.

It was nothing less than pure torture to not be able to fight in her place and chase the demon away forever. He would know exactly what to do.

But he had to wait to see the results. To know if she was strong enough to fight.

Maybe it wasn't his own fight, but Seto was ready for anything. He would never permit that animal to harm her. He had done so much already.

So thus Kaiba feared for the worst. He understood too well Naomi's current fragility in the face of her troubling past which had without warning sprung back up in front of her.

If he had been able to avoid this 'encounter' – he would have been able – they would have returned to Japan with the doubt in his mind that she still was hiding demons deep inside of her; ones that would be ready to surge out at any time, at the opening of a door or at the drop of a word. It was why he had deliberately pushed her to fight back.

Maybe, he thought, it was the greatest thing he could have done for her.

If only the fear would flee, for just an instant, he wouldn't worry as much.

Naomi had finally turned around, more by the order that she had been given than the will to see his destructive person; she wiped her face rapidly, conscious that otherwise it would be to show him weakness.

She was still shaking, and her eyes were trained to the ground.

Why had Seto put her in this painful, horrid situation?

"You spoiled my life! You're nothing but the dirty piece of shit who killed my daughter!" He shrieked as he began to walk towards her.

His daughter? His daughter? What right does he have to –

"Gah! I have nothing but disgust for the dirty fucker that you – "

WHAM!

Naomi had at least found the courage to hit him so hard he fell back a few feet.

She had begun the fight. Maybe it was what he had been waiting for. He rushed towards her.

No! The bastard - !

Kaiba felt like a seething volcano, unable to digest all of the insults that she herself had managed to withstand.

It was not difficult to understand just how badly she had been treated beforehand.

But then a reaction that he hadn't been expecting practically made him jump and doubt any idea that he had had that this would be a good idea.

Naomi had started to run like a madwoman, prey for a predator who remained more or less on her heels.

Good god… Do something, Naomi! You're stronger than this…grrr.. Naomi! Kaiba thought, almost at the verge of giving up hope.

Roland, waiting near the car, seemed to show an equal amount of repugnance at the scene and seemed to want to try to help somehow in the dramatic spectacle. Kaiba shot him a signal to stay back and not move.

Grrr… he doesn't have any control over you… kill him if you want… just do something, Naomi!

The cry of Kaiba's heart, torn between the urgent need to protect her and to let her act alone, perhaps was secretly heard – she stopped running, and finally turned to face her adversary.

"Enough!" she burst out. "Stay away from me!"

Seto! Seto!... I know that you're there… I know nothing can happen to me if…

Her face, before so frightened, was now flushed in the color of rage as she stopped him in his élan with a solid punch to the face, stunning him for a few moments.

And as predicted - she knew him all too well - the red tinge to her face darkened, developing into a fury. She wasn't about to stop there.

She might have hit him harder this time, but it wasn't enough to knock him down.

"You filthy whore!" he roared as he raised his hand to backhand her again. The maneuver, followed by each swipe in succession, she avoided by ducking from left to right, like some sort of boxer.

But it was amazing how terrified she was despite the appearances. So much so she was even asking herself how she could be reacting so fast.

Her body would not allow her to take even a single hit.

No more than her soul would allow itself to be soaked once more in another splash of blood.

And Kaiba wasn't too far away; she knew that.

"I hate you!" she screeched, hitting him with a powerful kick backed by the force of her anger.

This time he fell backwards into the snow, only to just as quickly clamber back up.

"Looks like you've learned how to defend yourself a little, bitch."

This time Naomi would not accept the slightest insult.

The times had changed.

"You have no fucking idea, you bastard," she snapped back as she readied her next blow, more determined than ever to finish this once and for all.

"Come on, get up! Get up!" she continued to shout, kicking him in the face as he struggled to stand again. "You wanna fight? Get up and come get some, you piece of shit!"

Seto audibly sighed behind the tree, calm once again inhabiting him. He was convinced that she could pull through now, that the worst was in the past.

What he had dreamed of for months he finally saw before his very eyes: the realization of this very sweet revenge.

"I said get up, you motherfucker! You like a fight? I'm right here! I'm waiting!"

He tried desperately to touch her but never succeeded - Naomi, her body completely awash in outrage, was too strong, and her eyes saw not him but the infamous night where her daughter had been ripped out of her arms by the groveling heap of a man now at her mercy.

She hit him on all sides, and could have killed him from the sheer force behind her blows.

He had been brought down to Earth, and could hardly move any longer.

She found no pity for him.

A new kick, this time in the side.

"You like that?" she roared as she both violently attacked him and asked him if he enjoyed her returning the favor.

The kicks continued to rain down upon her victim; there was no doubt that she was letting loose years of bridled up horror and suffering. Even her face had been contorted beyond recognition by the hatred.

But then two firm arms suddenly began to hold her back, stopping her from taking further advantage of the man on the ground.

Kaiba.

"Shhh… shhh… it's okay… it's over…"

She wanted to keep on accosting the bloodied thing sprawled in the snow. But Kaiba fought back, tearing her away and bringing her back with him.

"Look at me, Naomi… look at the bastard…" he whispered, trying to calm her. "He'll never hurt you again. Never. Just look at the man…"

This time Naomi managed to master her anger, there in Kaiba's arms, whose eyes were firmly trained on the detestable man. He wouldn't deny that he'd love to hit him himself if he were to try to stand. But Naomi was beginning to breathe in a slightly more controlled manner, and that was more important.

"You knew about him… too?" she managed to say.

"Yes."

Quietly, she separated herself from Kaiba and walked past him, heading back towards the limousine. She then stopped.

"Thank you," she managed.

Then she kept on walking. She had defeated the worst of her demons, proving that she no longer feared him. That never again would they find themselves on the same path, and it was to remain like that for good.

"Don't mention it…" Kaiba said, a half-smile on his lips.

He waited until she was some distance away before approaching the victim and bestowing upon him his final verdict.

"As for last night, that was me, you filthy pest. If I left you alive, it's only so that you'll remember."

More contemptuously than ever, Kaiba spat in his face and then bludgeoned him with a firm kick in the gut. The man contorted in pain even further.

Then he left the scene.

Naomi was safe.

Naomi was better now.

They could finally live a bit more at peace – she had conquered her old demons, and that had been Kaiba's most ardent of wishes.

And yet so many things were waiting for them upon their return to Japan.

Yes. So many things.

Other battles.

Other demons.


*The song Peur de Moi, by Patrick Bruel, off of his album Juste Avant, translated for reader's convenience.

**Original story claimed 185m, which is more like 606-607 feet. There is an Astral restaurant/Concorde hotel in Quebec, Quebec, Canada, hence the French which is spoken later in the chapter.

***Just mentioning, if it's a rotating restaurant, the crowd would be rotating around her, unless there was a crowd on all sides, or if the crowd continuously walks to stay in front of her. O_o this is weird.

Beautiful Disaster, by Kelly Clarkson.