This is an old piece that I thought I'd lost forever. Turns out, it was on another computer. This piece was an experiment as I worked out the kinks in my characterization of Yami as presented in my other works: "The Gambler's Debts," "Cemetery Dance," and "Cult of the Dragon King." It's been mentioned in these stories that I prefer the character from the first two volumes of the manga, and the Season Zero anime, than any other version.

The original Yami was a vigilante. I might call him a combination of Marvel Comics's Frank "The Punisher" Castle and the Saw franchise's John "Jigsaw" Kramer. You know…with magic. With that in mind, I wondered…what did Yami think of how the Big Five treated the Kaiba brothers during the Duelist Kingdom storyline?


"Good evening, gentlemen."

There was something about the tone. Something about the lilting, almost friendly way the voice just...echoed around the room. They called themselves men. They called themselves powerful. And so they didn't like to admit, even to themselves, that that voice frightened them. They said nothing aloud, of course. They simply looked at each other, in their expensive suits and their imported leather chairs, with their mugs of gourmet coffee and their obscenely expensive fountain pens.

All just a part of the dance.

Just a part of the mask.

It wasn't the voice they had expected. It was deep, yes, and it was powerful; it was dark, and angry, and even a touch insane. All this they had expected. But it still wasn't the voice they had expected. Not quite. It had the arrogance, and the confidence. What it didn't have was the relentless control. This voice was somehow unraveled. Unhinged.

The man who stepped out from the shadows of the eastern corner of the room was not Kaiba-shachou. It was the Mutou boy.

He wore tight black jeans, a studded belt with a wide buckle. His black shirt was sleeveless, and he wore a collar that matched his belt. A myriad of bracelets jingled on his wrists, and there was a silver ring on the middle finger of his right hand, which he twirled with his thumb.

He wore black work boots.

With his spiked, black-and-crimson hair and his wild blond bangs, he should have looked every bit like the J-Rock punk cliché. But somehow, he didn't. Something about his face, about the way his lips curved into a feral facsimile of the smirk Kaiba-shachou so often wore, gave him an aura of authority. So like Kaiba-shachou's, and yet so unlike it at the same time.

For the first time, Kaiba-Corp's Big Five began to understand how this boy had managed to defeat Master Pegasus Crawford.

Oka was first to recover. He adjusted his glasses and said, "You don't have clearance to be here, especially at this time of night." He tried to sound nonchalant and confident, but it didn't work. None of them could quite reconcile the fact that he'd made it into the building in the first place. One of Kaiba-shachou's specialties was security, and the man was only a hair's breadth from absolutely paranoid when it came to that security.

And stood Yugi Mutou.

"Yes, well, we all bend the rules sometimes...don't we?" Mutou asked in a voice that was almost a purr. "You have your ways of playing the system...I have mine."

"What, exactly, do you mean to imply by that?" Oshita dared to ask, and he did a better job of hiding his apprehension than Oka. Not that it made any difference to Mutou, who simply gave him a look slathered with disdainful incredulity and dark amusement.

"Tell me, is it an inherent trait, this willful stupidity?" he asked. "Is it something about people like men, and all the others I have visited? Is it uncontrolled? Do you have to pretend you don't know why I'm here? Because honestly, it's getting to be rather old hat by now."

"What...?" Diamon began, but choked to a stop at the way Mutou seemed to snap his neck, like a coiled viper, to stare at him with blazing eyes so like Kaiba-shachou's that—if not for the red-wine color, and the height difference—he might have thought his employer had simply decided to try out some popular fashion that fit his own age bracket for once.

"What do you mean by that?" Mutou mocked, in a sing-song voice that seemed to warble. "What are you implying? Why are you here? What are you going to do, what do you want, I have money, please don't hurt me, I don't know what you mean..." He shook his head. "All the same. Like it's all choreographed. Like you're all actors in a traveling theater troupe, playing out the classics. Like you're all trolls under the bridge, stewing in your own inbred stupidity until you forget which hole you're supposed to breathe through."

As he stalked about the table, looking on the surface like he was doing nothing so much as taking a stroll around a park fountain, Mutou's right hand flew out and slapped Otaki across the face just as he was about to speak. "Shut up," he snapped, in a cold, emotionless voice that—yet again—reminded them of Kaiba-shachou. "We all know you're big men, and you won't stand being talked to like that. That's beautiful, but seriously...enough. You're only as important as your audience allows you to be, and I'm hardly interested in playing to your egos tonight. Tonight, you're the audience. And judging by your faces...I'd say I'm rather important."

He smiled brightly, and this time he reminded them of Mokuba-fukushachou. The golden boy.

The shift was frightening.

"That's good."

"The unfortunate thing for you"

Mutou was cleaning under his fingernails, leaning against the door, and he heaved a great, theatrically bored sigh. Their eyes were riveted. He looked up at them, and they all leaned away from him. "...I've taken something of a liking to your employer. His performance on Crawford's island was inspired."

He stood straight and began pacing again.

"You know, that's one thing. I don't know that I noticed it until you five,'s something. Kaiba doesn't put on a mask. He doesn't pretend, he doesn't act like he doesn't know. When he's done something to deserve retribution, he expects retribution."

"Is that right?" Oshita asked, trying desperately to gain the upper hand.

Mutou grinned. "Yes. I'm sure he expected you to pull a stunt like this. I'm sure he was waiting for it. What he didn't expect...and honestly, I don't think I blame him...was bringing the boy into it. Tactful, I suppose. It worked. Or...would have. Still, it says quite a bit about your collective sense of decency. Sacrificing the Athenian to the Minotaur simply because good King Minos demands it of you. Such obedient little soldiers you are. I suppose you simply didn't envision Theseus coming along quite so soon."

They stared.

Mutou sighed again. "Was that too theatrical? Should I tone it down, do you think?" He looked at them, eyes wide with innocent curiosity. "What can I say? I'm a born performer. It kind of comes with the territory. Maybe you know about that. You're dishonest, avaricious, soulless manipulators, after all, aren't you? Ah—none of that indignant rage, now. The time for that has long since passed."

"You're confident," Oka snapped. "What is it that you plan to do? What do you think you can do to us?"

"Well,'s rather simple," Mutou said. "Law exists to bring order to the world. Law dictates rules of conduct, and tells us what we can or cannot do. But for people like us..." He gestured to them, then to himself, "who live outside the parameters of is somewhat simpler. I can do...anything I like to you."

Mutou's face shifted. Gone was the playful sadism.

He was now simply psychotic.

"You see...I made a promise to your vice-president. The Athenian, if you were following the metaphor. It takes a lot for me to make a promise, you know. But once I pledge loyalty to someone...well. Let us just say that I take it seriously. You see, to some of us, honor amongst thieves is still alive. I may be a gambler, but...I have standards."

Mutou winked as he cracked his knuckles. "I only hurt people who deserve it."

Mokuba was holding his brother's hand as they walked through the hallway.

Normally, Mokuba carried his brother's briefcase. Tonight, Kaiba held it, in his other hand. The way Yami understood it, this was Mokuba's way of carrying out his duties as vice-president. Since Seto did not allow his brother to take part in the work due his position, Mokuba had taken it upon himself to be Niisama's secretary, and performed any task that might help Seto, no matter how menial.

Yami guessed that the memories of Duelist Kingdom were still too fresh in the Kaibas' minds, though, and they still needed the comfort of touch more than the comfort of routine.

The gambler smiled.

It was a nice picture.

"Is there any point to asking why you're here?" the elder Kaiba asked. Mokuba flinched, and looked around for a few seconds, looking scared. Yami stepped out of the shadows of the corner, and put on a pleasant face. The boy was obviously still on high alert, and there was no point in making things worse for him.

"I came here looking for you, actually," Yami lied smoothly.


"I simply wished to offer a few suggestions," he said. "In regards to your Duel Disk system, that is. Nothing that cannot wait, I suppose. But, I found myself in the neighborhood, and thought I would have a better chance of speaking with you here than if I tried to contact you at home." He shrugged.

"Mm. Well, your suggestions will have to wait."

Yami bowed his head. "Of course. It was worth a try. I suppose I should get home. Mom is probably worried. Grandpa tries to tell her I'm getting old enough to handle a night out on my own, but...well..." He glanced at Mokuba and winked. "Parents can be protective."

This caused a small smile to grace Mokuba's face, and he almost looked like the boy Yami remembered.

As he passed by Seto's left side, Yami whispered something: "...I wouldn't let your brother into the conference room, were I you. It seems your board of directors...didn't want to risk facing you directly. Good luck replacing them."

Seto blinked, and turned to watch his rival as he sauntered down the hallway.

Yami turned a corner, and disappeared.

"Hey...Niisama?" Mokuba asked. "Does Yugi seem...different?"

Seto looked down at his brother.

"We all of us seem different. Crawford made a living out of having that effect on people."

Mokuba frowned. "You think it's...about Pegasus? Really?"

"It's as good a guess as any."

"...I guess so."

They kept walking. Instead of heading for the elevator, Seto spoke to a few employees, checked with security, went through the motions and tried to look normal, even as he thought about what his rival had told him, what it meant, and most importantly...

...The fact that he knew Yami was lying.

They didn't do a damn thing to themselves.

"Niisama?" Mokuba asked, when they were on their way out to the parking lot again. "I thought we were know. Give the Big Five what for. How come we're leaving already?" He sounded disappointed. No doubt he had been looking forward to seeing his big brother lay into the stuffy, arrogant jerks who had used him as a bargaining chip, and Seto couldn't really blame him.

But he knew what Yami's warning had meant.

And he knew that he had to listen.

"I don't have the stomach for dealing with them right now," Seto said vaguely. "Don't worry, kid. This will end soon. But it will end on my terms. Not theirs. I don't intend to walk into their hands. Not again. Now let's go home. I need to make you up some dinner before you get it into your head that a Snickers bar constitutes a meal again."

Mokuba smiled.

Seto smiled back.

They left the building.

When the bodies of the Big Five were found the next morning, Seto was never even suspected. It was impossible, people said, for a human being to have caused such mutilation.

They were right.