I really had some difficulties writing this for two reasons. The first is that there is one major plot in this, and two minor plots. This is for the simple fact that since Battle City is over, loose ends need to be tied up. The other is that although Cadeline is a blank slate as a character, I wanted her to be portrayed realistically. The orange Black Magician card Yugi won from Pandora never appears later in the series, so I formed my own theory about why this is so.
"Okay, I think that's everything," Yugi murmured to himself as he scrolled down the list, its words standing out to him in bright blue ink. Battle City had only just concluded, Yugi and Jonouchi's duel having commenced the previous day. Due to the tournament running longer than she had thought it would have, Shizuka had managed to convince her mother to allow her to stay with her brother a while longer. Her pleading had allotted her that day in itself, the first half of which Anzu had taken advantage of in order to give her a tour of Domino City. Now that that day had ended, though, she had to return home on the train. Shizuka's departure would not only give a sense of sadness to Jonouchi, who would sorely miss her, but it would also mark the end of the time Yugi and his friends had to spend together outside of school.
Battle City had cut into a couple of their school days, and the make-up workload was not something to which it would be worth looking forward. As a result, Anzu suggested that the four hold a small going-away party for her before she had to leave, to which Shizuka inquired as to whether Otogi or Ryou could also attend. Mai, although her company would have been welcome, had already gone off on her own path. Honda had quickly leapt upon the possibility of Otogi's interference, saying that he was probably busy making up for lost time on marketing his Dungeons and Dice Monsters game. Anzu and Yugi had been ready to correct him when Shizuka, although a little disappointed, had agreed that Hiroto was most likely right. Jonouchi, on the other hand, had not chosen not to say anything, since he was much more relieved about having to deal with keeping only one potential suitor for his sister in line, as opposed to two. Thankfully, the remaining probable partygoer, Ryou, was available to spend time with them. After incurring such a tumultuous time at Battle City, some quality time with his friends was well-deserved.
Yugi, Jonouchi, Honda, and Anzu had taken it upon themselves to bring something for the party. Anzu was taking care of delivering an order for a small-sized cake, Honda was getting drinks and snacks together, and Yugi and Jonouchi had split the decorations up among themselves. A few packs of streamers, and one of deflated balloons, complete with twist ties, sat upon Yugi's bed next to him. The room's digital clock displayed that it was just fifteen minutes after eleven. He still had a couple of hours before he would meet up with the others at Anzu's place, their selected venue. Sunlight streamed through the window above his head.
Placing his list aside, Yugi rose from the bed to stretch luxuriously. He had finally found a peaceful night of sleep, which had eluded him, and not without reason, for the last few days. Frowning, he spared his closet, his jacket draped over one of its knobs, a glance. Hidden inside a bag that was obscured from view by the closet's two flimsy doors were the newly-acquired Sennen Tauk, Rod, and Ring. Yugi, although somewhat thankful that such powerful objects were no longer going to be used at the expense of himself and his allies for the time being, didn't feel particularly comfortable with having them in the same room as him. This especially went for the Sennen Rod, which he would much rather have cast from him, as opposed to holding it.
That wasn't to mention the stir that had been kicked up in the aftermath of Battle City itself. Things were looking to be rather grim for duelists at the moment. Walking over to his desk, he took the current day's newspaper, which was sitting on top of it amidst a few scattered papers and pencils, and failed to hold in another groan. The front page revealed Seto Kaiba, who was standing regally astride one of his company's helicopters, his finger pointed in the air above him. The photo itself wasn't new, having been taken from a still-frame of a recording the night he had announced the Battle City tournament. Splashed above his head in bold ink was the headline "Police investigate alleged human endangerment charges in Duel Monsters event." The accompanying article itself was rather simple in message, but more complex in delivery. It revolved more around sensationalizing KaibaCorp's continuing history of bad press, and the controversy surrounding the game of Duel Monsters itself.
A few names of duelists that were assaulted during the tournament appeared, as well as the locations of a few incidents during Battle City. However, his, Jonouchi's, and Anzu's brushes with death on Domino Pier, and the horrors of the Battle City finals, had not been written due to lack of credible witnesses. On the other hand, the accounts of sending two men identified as Seeker and Pandora off to the hospital, (and the morgue shortly after), had been listed. The events of taking men called Strings and Mask of Light off to the hospital were also written. Following were mentions of a few back alley brawls over cards, and the (thankfully non-fatal) destruction of one of the top windows of a major office building. Not surprisingly, the article went on to say that although KaibaCorp was being held responsible for such occurrences, the CEO was not available for comment. Completing the story were a few interviews, two of whom were with non-dueling inhabitants of Domino City, and a third with a minor duelist that had competed in the tournament. Although the duelist argued that the tournament itself was purely for entertainment purposes, and that KaibaCorp's security had kept the participants safe (for the most part) during the competition, her argument was clearly being overthrown by the other two interviewees. They were insisted upon the tournament having been nothing but a nuisance, and the game being a bad influence on the young.
Feeling Yami's presence beside him, Yugi muttered, "I have a feeling this will only get worse," tapping the paragraph about the casualties the tournament had taken, he added, "And this part makes my skin crawl, especially since Kaiba saw Pandora's body after our duel. You'd think that he would've at least called off the tournament for a day."
"I would have been surprised if he did," Yami replied in a dry tone of voice, "since he considered stopping to give Ryou proper medical care optional during the finals."
Yugi scowled at that. "Yeah, if it hadn't been for Shizuka, he wouldn't have even given Ryou that." Turning to look at Yami, who was leaning against the side wall, his arms crossed as he stared at the newspaper in Muto's hand from an angle, Yugi commented, "I can't imagine how he would've run Battle City, had you not banished the darkness from his heart."
The pharaoh lifted his head in thought. "True, but that did nothing to diminish Kaiba's unhappiness, as we could easily see during the finals."
Dropping the newspaper back on his desk, Yugi sighed. "You know, at the end of Duelist Kingdom, he was happy to see Mokuba again. When he told me that we would meet in the dueling arena again, I was actually looking forward to it. Now, I can't look back on our last duel without feeling bitter."
Holding up a pointer finger, his friend responded, "Don't forget, Kaiba had a year between Duelist Kingdom and Battle City to think on the losses he incurred against Pegasus and us." Pausing, he rubbed his eyes. "Not to mention the fact that the one victory he had against us during Duelist Kingdom wasn't exactly legitimate."
Jamming his hands in his pockets, Yugi muttered, "I thought that he spent that time rebuilding KaibaCorp after Pegasus tried to take it over, but that wasn't his only focus." Resting his back against that of the chair, Muto remarked in a distant voice, "When I was a little boy, I remembered how mad I used to get when my dad had to go away on business trips. It seemed like every time I wanted to get together with him, he had to leave." Yugi sighed. "But Mom and Grandpa always told me, 'let flow in the water.' If my dad didn't care about us so much, he wouldn't have gone away on these trips to support us. We would have time to spend together again, so it was better to forgive and forget. When I got older, things got rougher in school," he rubbed the back of his neck, "as you well know, and to tell the truth, that proverb gave me a little help at getting through it until things got better."
Yami straightened up at that, his arms falling to his sides. Yugi raised his eyes at him. "The closer we come to unlocking your past, the more friends we make, and the stronger we become." Yami dropped his head, shaking it. "And the more Kaiba wishes to bury his past, the further he falls to his flaws." Yugi glanced back over at the party supplies as Yami said that. "However," he added, "he deflects a little of my ire because of why he wishes to leave it behind."
Muto grimaced, finding that he agreed. Seto had lived in the shadow of a cruel war monger, who had not, for any moment of his tight-fisted existence, allowed the boy forget it. "This," he reached behind him to put his hand back on the newspaper, "won't be a problem for him for him to deal with, we both know that, but these were still people's lives."
Leaving his position at the wall, Yami walked over to stand before the desk. Turning his head, and following his gaze, Yugi noticed that he was looking down at the Battle City handbook, its title partially hidden under a stray paper. "We read over this a few times before the tournament begun," Yami murmured wistfully, "and one of its listed rules that we found most irritating was that we couldn't interrupt a duel unless Kaiba declared it illegal." Bringing his hand, which was tilted vertically, down on the table, he elaborated, "Case in point, the duel on Domino Pier." His hand turned sideways, his fingers rising up to resemble a spider's legs. "But, what this article made me realize was that the rule was a form of protection for the duelists." Yugi raised an eyebrow. "If a participant in tournament had attempted to intervene in any of those duels that had gone wrong, he or she could have been held liable for its consequences."
"Okay, but why didn't we get in trouble?" Yugi asked, going along with his theory, "Most of the events the article listed happened because of the duels that we were involved in."
Yami turned his head, his violet eyes gleaming in the change of light direction. "Because we were doing what we were told. Kaiba's employees took care of the Ghouls after Malik was through with them, and I don't doubt that KaibaCorp will probably pay for the building's damages. All we did was win each duel, and according to Kaiba's jurisdiction, all were legal."
Yugi shook his head. "That doesn't make up for the backlash that happened because of this tournament," taking his weight off the back of the chair, he hooked an arm around the top of the seat, "Kaiba's been a businessman ever since he was twelve. He had to have known that this could have happened."
Yami's fingers collapsed into a fist. "I agree that it doesn't, but without Battle City being structured as it was, the Ghouls would not have been as easily attracted to it as they were."
Before Muto had time to think on this, he was interrupted by his name being called from the floor below. "We'll talk later," he remarked to Yami, who vanished with a nod of his head.
Heading down the stairs that led into the Kame Game shop, Yugi found his grandfather speaking with a stranger, who was standing at the counter. The newcomer was female, and of medium height. Her short blonde hair was tucked behind her ear, her dark brown eyes contrasting it. She was clad in a light-colored, short-sleeved shirt, a skirt, and heels, her purse flung over one shoulder. Her one elbow was propped up on the counter, and a worried expression was on her face. Sugoroku, who wore a serious look, listened intently to whatever she happened to be saying at the time.
Yugi managed to catch part of what the woman was saying. "So I thought—" She broke off, turning quickly as he cleared the bottom stair. Facing her head on, Yugi felt a very odd sense of familiarity, as if he had seen her before, although he could not recall a memory of meeting her.
His grandfather also turned, and gestured at him, declaring in a proud voice, "My grandson, Yugi Muto."
The woman started forward, holding out her hand. He shook it with a friendly smile, although he was still confused as to how he had known her. "Pleased to meet you, Yugi, I'm Cadeline Fleming."
"Oh," he whispered, causing to tilt her head to the side out of surprise. Her mention of her own name brought back a few memories, although not necessarily good ones. He saw the silhouette of a seated lady behind a thick curtain, and he heard her ex-lover raving about how his boss had presented her as a perspective trophy to him, should he win his duel with Yugi. He also saw how that same magician had yanked her out from behind the curtain, the woman revealing herself to be nothing but a doll when her head fell off. Yugi smiled reassuringly. "Nothing. Sorry about that."
"Yugi, Miss Fleming here wanted to ask you a few questions concerning the Battle City tournament, if you have time," Sugoroku explained.
He nodded. "Yeah, sure. You can come upstairs and have a seat, if you want."
"Oh, I don't want to be intruding upon your privacy," she responded sheepishly, holding up a hand in front of her face, "if we can discuss it on this floor just as easily, that's fine with me."
Yugi looked back over at his grandfather, who had picked up a broom that was resting against the side of the counter, and begun to sweep out the store. "Well, we might get a few customers coming in, and that wouldn't be fair to your privacy, either."
Cadeline glanced over her shoulder at the open door behind her. Turning back to him, she gave him a studious look. Yugi didn't necessarily feel comfortable with her gaze. It made him feel as if he was on display. What made him feel differently, however, was how one free hand kneaded the strap of her purse, as if she could barely stand still. She was clearly nervous. What only added to the already self-conscious feelings he had was his consideration that his choice in dress probably wasn't helping anything. The last person she wanted to look at right now was someone wearing leather and chains. "Well, I suppose," she finally replied in a careful voice.
Motioning for her to follow, Yugi headed back up the stairs. "I hope this is okay," he offered, indicating his living room's couch and chairs.
"It's fine, thank you," Cadeline replied, removing her heels, and positioning them near the stairwell.
"Do you want anything to drink?" Yugi asked, placing one of his hands on the banister, "I'll be glad to get you something."
"No, thank you," she declined gently, and Yugi invited her to sit where she pleased with a sweeping gesture. Cadeline selected the couch. Taking off her purse, she pushed it to the empty space beside her. Yugi took one of the chairs. She sighed, folding her hands over her knees. "I should tell you why I am here, since I am probably cutting into your time with my intrusion."
He waved his hand. "Don't worry, you're fine."
She gave a slight smile and a thank you, but the former was short-lived. "Yugi, I'm not from around here, and this card game you play was not of interest to me. You must understand that although I had heard about this Battle City tournament that you had won, I really didn't learn of it until it was over."
Yugi frowned. "Yeah, the newspapers really picked up on it."
"That's why I wanted to get the chance to speak with you." Cadeline waved her left hand a few times as she spoke, attempting to speak more on the subject with her body language. Yugi noted that no ring was upon it. Although he knew where this was going, Muto decided against jumping the gun. He hadn't expected to meet her of all people, and given her current state, he might accidentally startle her even more. He couldn't help but wonder, though, what made her so nervous. The broken doll formed in his mind's eye again, and he barely resisted the urge to gulp at its implications.
She leaned forward, a lock of her hair falling out from behind her right ear. Pushing it back in place, she explained, "The news yesterday gave the results of your tournament, and considering that was basically an overnight sensation, it was extremely hard not to know of it. The news talked about you quite a bit, for obvious reasons." Inclining her head to the side, Cadeline raised an eyebrow, "Although I will say that you did look a tad different on-camera."
Unbeknownst to Cadeline, Yami chuckled, and Yugi nearly failed at preventing himself from rolling his eyes. "Not that that's a bad thing," she added quickly, waving her hand again, "I like how you look in person." Yugi smiled warmly at that.
"It was mentioned a few times who you dueled against in the tournament, and it is because of one of those listed names that I'm here," kneading her hands, she asked, "Your second duel was against a man named Pandora, right?"
He nodded his head. "Yeah, that was him."
She sighed, closing her eyes. "Yugi, the job that I used to have wasn't necessarily a proper one, but it was still something I greatly enjoyed. I was an assistant in a popular magic show, and the magician for whom I worked," her voice cracked, and she had to swallow before continuing, "was also my fiancée. Pandora was an old stage name he had taken when we were first beginning our act." Before he could reply, she continued, as if on the verge of tears, "I know this sounds far-fetched, but I got a call that same day to identify a man who had been dead on arrival at the Domino City hospital. The staff member who called explained to me that a few pictures of me had been found on his person, and his only given name was Pandora."
That was it. She couldn't take it anymore. With a quick "excuse me," Cadeline tugged the zipper of her purse open to dig for tissues. Rising, Yugi sympathetically placed a hand on her shoulder, a gesture at which she flinched in surprise before looking back over, a tissue dabbing at her eye, and seeing that it was only him. Truth be told, he wasn't sure what to do. He understood that Cadeline had come looking for closure, but he wasn't very keen on telling her about seeing the product of Pandora's dive into madness.
Taking his hand off her shoulder, he decided that allowing her to calm down was the best way to start. Yugi backed up to sit down, while Cadeline straightened up, her tissue catching her tears. "If you want to freshen up later, the bathroom's down the hall," he mentioned.
She sniffed once. "Thank you." Curling an unused tissue into a ball in her other hand, she went on, although it seemed be more against her will, "The staff on hand explained to me the circumstances he was in before he was brought to the hospital." She smiled sadly. "That's what led me to you. A news article had mentioned that you lived with your grandfather, who owned the Kame Game shop, and it had a picture of the shop. I decided to see if I could speak to you today." Dropping the unused tissue on her lap, Cadeline sighed. "The first thing I want to say to you is that I'm sorry for how he—Pandora—mistreated you. Apparently the circumstances surrounding your duel weren't valid?"
Yugi looked down at his knee, which his fingers were draped over. "You could say that, although KaibaCorp's probably cleaned it up by now."
She bit her lip, leaning forward in concern. "Were you hurt in any way?"
He shook his head. "Thankfully, no, and I saved Pandora from hurting himself, as well."
Her hand flew to the side of her face, and she bent head back down. "No, no, no. I—I'm sorry you had to see that. He—well, I—" she broke off, raising her head, "I won't make any sense unless I start from the beginning."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded her head. "Yes. If I don't, I'll never get over this. I just wish…"
She suddenly stood up, the tissue falling to the floor. "No, I shouldn't have come here. You're too young to be exposed to this!"
Yugi stood as well while she grasped blindly behind her for her purse. Holding out his hands before him, he exclaimed, "Wait, Miss Fleming, please!" She turned back to look at him, the end of her purse strap in one hand. He only had one shot at it, now that he had her attention. With a sigh, he lowered his eyes. "My grandpa, the man you met downstairs? Last year, he came close to dying, and we were so afraid of losing him," he broke off with a soft cough as tears welled in his eyes, "especially me. But he did recover."
Cadeline's gaze slowly changed from terrified to sympathetic, her purse strap slipping through her fingers to fall back onto the couch. Wiping at his eyes, Yugi continued, "Those were the worst days of my life. I know that sixteen isn't very old, but if it meant that much to you that you searched for answers, then I promise I will do the best I can to give them."
Cadeline blinked rapidly a few times, and stood stalk still, as if lost. She softly nodded her head, taking one of his hands with both of hers. Yugi allowed his other hand to fall to his side. "I'm sorry to hear that about your grandfather," she whispered.
He smiled. "It's okay."
She squeezed his hand. "All right, I'll stay. But please, promise me that you will tell me everything." Yugi swallowed, and Cadeline sighed at that. "You proved you can take what I said to me, now let me do the same."
He hesitated before nodding his head. She let go of him, and Yugi returned to his spot as she bent to pick up the fallen tissue. "Did he talk about me?" Cadeline asked quietly.
He nodded his head. "Yeah, he told me about how you were his assistant, and you were engaged, until something went wrong."
She put her head in her hand. "The accident. That was the worst day of my life." Her voice was muffled. "I still don't know what caused it. Everything was just fine before the show started. We double checked the equipment before going on stage, so nothing should have happened. It was a freak accident." Cadeline was vocally silent afterwards, but her contained sobs spoke for her.
"Maybe I should have just let her leave," Yugi mentally remarked to Yami, "This really looks like it's doing more harm than good."
Yami's reply wasn't immediate. "Yugi, remember, she lived with Pandora during one of the hardest moments of his life. It will take her a while to continue. Be patient." Seconds stretched into minutes. The student's fingers clutched the side of his leg.
At last, she composed herself. Raising her eyes, which were puffy at this point, she apologized, "Sorry you have to see me like this," with a short laugh, she added in an attempted lighter tone that only strained her voice, "I'm usually a much happier person to be around." Yugi smiled and nodded, but said nothing. "Did he talk about what happened after the accident?" She asked, dabbing at her eyes again.
"Yeah, he did," he responded quietly, "He really regretted driving you away."
Cadeline stared at the coffee table in front of her, and refused to utter a word. Her hands had fallen to the edge of the couch, grasping onto it. Finally, she whispered, "Oh, Naoki…" Yugi tilted his head to the side, although he had already guessed the significance of that name. She lifted both hands, and pushed her hair out of her face with a gasp to regain her breath. "Naoki was Pandora's real name."
She closed her eyes again. "He mentioned it to you in passing, I understand why, it didn't concern you, but what actually happened…It…" Her lip quivered, but she pushed herself on, "It destroyed everything we had built together over years in such a short amount of time." She reopened them to look at Yugi. "I didn't care how he looked; what mattered to me was that he was alive. We could still have our life together," the intensity and volume of her voice grew significantly, "but Naoki was such a stubborn man. He saw his wounds as his failure in being not only a magician, but in being a man, as well. He was one of the best at the time, but when that was taken from him, it also took away any sense of life he had in him." Cadeline absent-mindedly tugged at her sleeve. "He never let me forget that." Dropping the fabric, she elaborated, "If it's all right to you, I'd rather not go into all that was passed between us."
"I understand," Yugi replied, settling more comfortably against the back of his chair. Summarizing a past event was one thing, but picking over every single detail was too personal.
"We were all right for the first few days after he woke up. I thought he was going to pull through it, but neither of us could leave it alone." Cadeline rubbed her temples. "I told him that the police had investigated the stage, but they had unfortunately found nothing. I thought I was helping; he'd want to know what happened. But it just made things worse. He became obsessed as a result of me bringing it up."
She groaned. "If I could take it back, I would, and I don't just mean the police report. I—I got tired of Naoki talking about what happened over, and over, and over. I couldn't take it. I told him that it was done. We couldn't take it back." Spreading her hands as if clenching an invisible object between them, she whispered, "How could I have been so stupid? His magic was his life, and I was yanking him away from that. No matter what would happen, no matter how well he performed, everyone would always remember his accident, yet he couldn't, he wouldn't stop. It was his passion." Dropping her hands, Cadeline frowned deeply. "I could never be a replacement for that, but I couldn't bear to watch him go out there on stage again. The way he was talking, he wasn't going to wait for his wounds to properly heal before his next act."
The memories of Jonouchi and Anzu during Duelist Kingdom were recalled to Yugi. He could almost feel Jonouchi gripping the collar of his shirt again in an attempt to snap some sense back into him, and he could nearly hear the electric whirr as Anzu had ascended to the dueling arena in an attempt to battle Mai for his honor. Granted, it had been different then. Yugi's loss against Kaiba had rocked his confidence in a different way, as opposed to Pandora's tragic misfortune. Yet, oddly enough, he found he could still relate a tad to the deformed magician. Dueling, and much more broadly-speaking, gaming, had been, and still was, the greatest talent Yugi had to his name. Then again, the difference lay in the same place, and it split him apart from not only Pandora, but Kaiba, as well. It wasn't that Yugi had failed at something that he was good at; it was that he had nearly failed his grandfather by succeeding. Had he allowed Yami to attack at the time, his friends would have turned their backs on him for his unethical conduct, and in the long run, would not have been there to save him during the shadow game with Pegasus.
Cadeline balled up the other tissue she held, having stopped shedding tears by now. "I didn't notice a hidden difference that was between us until then, magician and assistant. I really only saw the glamorous side of it, the excitement of being involved in something that dazzled the crowd, and enjoying it with someone I loved. Naoki, on the other hand, saw it as something far greater than that, as I have told you." She folded her arms. "And that's when the personal insults started. We called each other terrible things we would never have even dreamed of saying before, and accused each other of things we would never do." Raising the pitch of her voice to a mocking tone, Cadeline exemplified, "'Oh, I know what you've been doing. I saw you talking to that stage hand. Your new lovely assistant doesn't have one of these, does she?'" She held up her bare left hand, the top of it facing him, her voice back to normal. "I certainly don't have it now, do I?"
"But," she lowered it, "even those didn't make me leave. After we'd fight, and I had time to think on it, I'd realize that neither of us meant what we said. It was just a pity that whenever I tried to talk about it with him, it'd just degenerate into another fight."
"What did you do, then?" Yugi asked, leaning forward.
Cadeline smiled sadly. "Whatever I could to try and make things better without saying anything. Since we were both out of work, I actually had to get a real job. It was boring to sit at a desk all day, and do nothing but file papers and greet strangers, but I learned to live with it. I decided that if we spent some time apart, we wouldn't as easily get on each other."
"Unfortunately, since the burn wounds had damaged more than his face at the time, although the majority of them were healed by the time you two met, Naoki still couldn't do as much as he wished to. We still had money from our performing days, but so many things got in the way after the accident that it was drained away quickly," the tissue disappeared into her fist, "He was never into the magic business for the money, but the fact that he couldn't support us was still a nail in the coffin."
"But you tried to do what was best for both of you, didn't you?" Yugi asked in an attempt at optimism.
"I did, but it still got worse. Naoki began to disapprove of my being away from him, and now I understand why. With his calling gone to him, he had begun to lash out against the only other thing he held dear to him."
"Why?" He pressed, "You were all that he had left. Why did he continue to mistreat you?"
"He still felt physical as well as mental anguish, although the former was less so. When he was in that amount of pain, he wanted me to feel it, too." She touched the side of her neck. Yugi worried for a moment that maybe Pandora had tried to assault her, and she was touching a scar, but she only massaged it. "And feel it I did," she dropped her voice substantially, "He—he told me that I was killing him by being away. He even offered to finish the job himself one day, since, in his mind, I had neither the strength nor integrity to do so."
Yugi let out a breath. "He accused you of that?"
Cadeline nodded her head. "When he—Naoki said that, it hurt much deeper than anything he had said or done to me before," she placed the back of her hand beneath her nose, "I had stood with him, although I hadn't always shown it, and to hear that…" Her shoulders heaved. "But maybe I shouldn't have given my engagement ring back to him. His wounds had healed up as best as they could have by the time I had, but he still needed help."
"Did you try to get it for him?" Yugi asked.
"He refused to go," Cadeline replied simply, "And I didn't want to even picture him being dragged to a clinic, or worse."
"But," her tone changed from reserved to aggressive again, "looking back, I'm angry at myself for not doing so. Had I, he wouldn't have attacked you." Yugi was at a loss for words. Although Cadeline might have been right, she had her reason for not following through with it.
"I didn't talk to him for a very long time after that, although I did receive some odd messages on my phone…" Her voice trailed off, an odd expression on her face.
Silence passed between them, and Yugi realized that it was his turn to speak. "I think I might have an explanation for those."
Cadeline looked confused for a moment, and then asked, "It had something to do with the duel, didn't it?"
Yugi nodded his head, although he was conflicted about what to say. Cadeline, although she wanted to know what had happened, would probably find him to be less than sane after hearing the full story. She had been versed in a type of magic, but that "magic" itself was nothing more than a collection of slight-of-hand and attention differentiating tricks. He would tell the truth, but he would have to make up parts of it as he went. "When Pandora challenged me to a duel, it was because at the time, he was working for a—collector, I guess is what you can call him," grasping onto the Sennen Puzzle's chain, he held it out, "What I'm wearing around my neck is an exotic object my grandfather found when he traveled the world. This collector, named Malik, wanted objects like these, as well as rare Duel Monsters cards, to become wealthy on the black market." Well, it was kind of true. "Those cards may not seem like much, but they fetch a high price."
Cadeline's voice was filled with disappointment. "Naoki turned to crime to make ends meet?"
Yugi shook his head before continuing in a regretful tone, "Pandora wasn't in it for the money. He, well, he wanted you back, and this was what Malik promised in return. See, even though Malik wasn't as rich or powerful as he wanted to be, he still had a good bit of influence."
She gasped, her hands covering over her mouth. "He tried to kill you because of me?!"
Yugi's hands flew up. "No, because Malik told him he could have you back. It wasn't so much you yourself that got him to do what he wanted, but it was the fact that he could get something back that he used to have." Yugi felt a sense of sadness suddenly wash over him, and his breath, as a result, caught in his throat.
"I'm sorry," Yami quickly apologized, "I didn't intend for you to feel that."
Cadeline seemed to not have noticed Yugi's reaction, being too deep in digesting this new information. He took the downtime to reply to his friend, "You're fine. Just sometimes I forget how strong our bond is sometimes."
"And I wasn't there for him to claim," she whispered, "But it doesn't matter whether I was. He was intending to murder you." She rose to her feet, and grasped his shoulder with one hand. Falling to her knees, she whispered, "I can never apologize enough for what was done to you."
Yugi blushed a little at how she was touching him, but that quickly faded away at the pleading look in her eyes. The image of that crazed magician faded away with it. Some things were better left unsaid. His hand brushed up against his card holster. Perhaps not all things. "Cadeline, can I give you something?" He asked, "It belonged to him, and I think it's better now that you have it."
Her hand dropped off his shoulder. "What is it?" She asked, although her tone, understandably, suggested that half of her would much rather not see it.
"It's okay," Yugi reassured, "It's just a card he had in his deck. It was his best one. The rule of the tournament was that if a duelist lost, he or she had to give up his or her rarest card, and that was it." Cadeline carefully got back up on her feet to wait while he took out his deck, and thumbed down through it in search of Pandora's Black Magician.
"We never used this card since we won it from Pandora. We hadn't even needed it during the Battle City finals," Yugi explained to Yami, "And we already have our Black Magician to help us."
"Fair enough," he agreed, "Perhaps it might also tell her something that would have been too painful to say." Yugi got his point a moment later, when he found the orange-clad magician staring back at him with an almost maniacal expression. It was the polar opposite of his purple-wearing rival, who was calm and reassuring in the face. After tucking his deck back in his holster, Yugi held out the card to her, which she gingerly took with a soft word of thanks. She was silent as she stared down at it, her expression betraying nothing this time.
"Maybe he still had some decency in him," Cadeline murmured, "He could have just killed you, but he played a fair game against you, instead. I'll never condone what Naoki tried to do, but…" Yugi knew better than to break her heart by telling the truth on that one. Had it not been for the traditions of ancient Egypt, and the power of shadow magic, the scenario would have occurred quite differently. Raising her eyes, she asked, "Could I please ask you a question?"
"Go ahead," he replied invitingly.
"If this Malik wanted that object that you wear so much, why do you still wear it? Why not keep it somewhere safe?"
Yugi smiled, grasping its chain with one hand. "Despite what I've told you, more often than not this has proven to be a good luck charm for me. Grandpa and I are close, and nearly losing him reminded me of that. Whenever I wear it, it feels like he's with me."
She nodded in understanding, the hand holding the card falling to her side. "I apologize if it sounded like I was talking down to you. I was just curious."
"No offense taken," Yugi replied as the sound of voices drifted up from the floor below. The shop was receiving business again. The background noise seemed to cause a change in her, although it was easy to miss. Cadeline's eyes stayed on Yugi. Her breathing was normal, and she hardly moved, save for a raising of her shoulders.
"Thank you for your time, Yugi. I think I've taken up space here long enough," she gathered her tissues and purse together before depositing the card safely away in her wallet.
He held out his hand, which she took. "I'm glad I could be of help."
"I'm not very sure we'll see each other again, so I hope this isn't too awkward," she murmured with a blush, dropping his hand.
Yugi hid a small smile by turning to glance over the side of the banister. It seemed like anyone he met nowadays would appear later in his life. It fell just as soon, and he turned back to see her adjusting her purse's strap. Then again, she had been through enough already. He hadn't managed to stop himself in time. "You'll be okay out there?"
Cadeline chuckled. "Thank you for your concern, Yugi, but I think I can take care of myself."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "Right, sorry."
She smiled as she put on her heels again. "Have a nice day."
"You too," he returned as she descended the stairs. Yugi stood for a few moments in the middle of the room, knowing very well that by now, if he didn't get ready to leave soon, he would be late.
"Do you think that she'll ever figure it out?" Yugi inquired to Yami.
Yami sighed. "For her sake, I hope she does not."
Turning, Yugi walked back in the direction of his room. "It's strange how different she really is from how Pandora described her in our duel, but I guess that's just how he saw her." The hairs prickled on the back of his neck. That made the doll fit extremely well.
Yami shared his thoughts. "But that was all he saw: a doll. Whether or not Malik had even attempted to kidnap Cadeline, neither option would have done Pandora well. We already saw his illusion being shattered by the doll's head falling off. Even if Malik had offered him the real person, he would have had to have kept her mind under control the entire time. She would have been devoid of the traits Pandora had valued in her."
Yugi shuddered before tugging on his jacket. He quickly changed the subject. "I have a feeling that the news story about Kaiba is probably going to be on everyone's mind."
Yami chuckled. "Jonouchi will probably have something interesting to say about it."
Yugi agreed with a laugh of his own as he picked up the party supplies. The broken doll disturbed Yugi's mind once more, but he pushed it away. It was nothing more than a passing nightmare. For right now, he was more concerned with (and looking forward to enjoying) what type of cake Anzu was bringing in order to wish their friend farewell.