Pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. Those are the seven deadly sins.

Might be an interesting thing to keep in mind while reading, though unrequired. :)

Contest Fic, Season 9.75, Fifth Round: Stoicshipping (Seto KaibaxPriest Set)


One measly piece.

The child shifted the golden item in his hands, causing it to glint, the only source of color in the darkness aside from his dull, blue eyes. He ran his fingers over the edges, listlessly wondering how the metal could reflect white when only black surrounded him.

"Penalty game! I've shattered your evil-filled heart, Kaiba!"

A memory murmured in the background, reminding him of the reason he'd been sent here, but failing to impress him. The child snorted with cynical myrth, unaware that the puzzle piece in his hand was the only remnant left of his heart. He frowned down at it disdainfully, not seeing the use for such an insignificant, tiny item.

Clearly, he needed the other parts to complete the puzzle, but he had no desire to waste his time on such a pointless task.

Especially when that Yugi Moto assigned him that pointless task. He didn't want or need anything his enemy gave him. Seto's eyes narrowed with a murderous intensity that looked incredibly out of place on his childlike features. Angrily, he lifted his hand to throw the item as far as he could–

A cold hand stopped his own and grasped his wrist. He automatically turned toward the stranger, trying to yank his arm away from the unwanted touch, but the grip only tightened.

Looking up into the face of his captor, his own eyes met a matching pair of blue. If not for the other man's tan and foreign clothes, he might have thought he was looking at himself; or perhaps he was, but a delirious version he had created in this nightmarish void.

"Let go," he commanded, his eyes flashing furiously. After a brief moment of fruitless struggling, Kaiba stopped his efforts, recognizing that the other man had the advantage. As long as had the body of a child, he could only wait for an opportunity.

Nonetheless, Seto felt his temper flare as the other stared down at him in disgust, the other man's lips twisted down with an air of superiority. No one was superior to him.

"Pathetic," the man stated curtly, strengthening his grip even more. Kaiba clenched his jaw, refusing to show any discomfort even as he silently steamed at the comment. "You've lost to the darkness. The Pharaoh was far too generous to give you a second chance."

Seto didn't answer right away, taking a moment to calculate his response as he studied the man disparagingly. With the combined height and features, the other really did look eerily similar to him as an older teen. Of course, at the moment the similarities were much less noticeable, as Kaiba currently had the appearance of an elementary schooler.

"Who are you?" he spat at last.

"I am Priest Set," came the unenthused reply. "And I am here to help you find the pieces of your heart."

"I don't need your help," Kaiba retorted defiantly, not knowing what nonsense the man was referring to, but not caring. He met the priest's eyes with unnerving confidence, glaring hatefully up at the taller teen. Anyone else would have flinched back, but Set merely twisted his lips down in distaste.

"Nor do I want to give it," the priest said flatly. "But as my reincarnation, I must save you in order to save my Pharaoh. Though it might be against my better judgment. I'd find much more satisfaction in banishing your wretched soul."

"Reincarnation?" Seto repeated in scornful disbelief, skillfully hiding his confusion over the second mention of 'the Pharaoh'. "This dream is ridiculous. You expect me to believe this nonsense?"

"Believe what you will, but yes, you are my reincarnation. A weak, pathetic copy. I would never sell my soul to the darkness."

Set released the child's arm roughly, shoving it away and forcing Kaiba to take a step back to steady himself. The priest reached into his robes, pulling out a golden staff that matched the puzzle piece still grasped in the child's small hands.

"We are wasting time. Prepare yourself," Set warned unsympathetically. "Reconstructing one's soul is not a quick, easy, or even painless task."

The staff in his hands glowed brightly, blinding Kaiba even as the rod stared at him with the ominous eye carved deeply into its surface. The shadows that had surrounded him since his arrival dispersed, but the replacing scene was even less welcoming.

He had returned to KaibaCorp.

-i-r-a-

"How many times do I have to watch this?" Kaiba snapped, finally at his wits end. He'd lasted a long time given the disturbing content of the nightmare, but his patience had limits. "This is a waste of time."

Set watched him impassively, barely acknowledging the echo of his own words thrown back at him. He only nodded in the direction of the ghostly memories that were speaking, sobbing, screaming.

"Today, KaibaCorporation is mine," the boy in front of him declared, even as his future self watched the memory with irritation. "And you were the one who showed me how to take it."

"I regret nothing, if that's what you're trying to get at," Seto spoke over the words, glaring angrily at the priest a few paces away. "I was abused in the name of education, in that man's hell. That monster of a father deserved to die!"

"It looks like you've won this game, Seto!" the man in question laughed in crazed defeat, his eyes wide with insanity. "And in every game, the loser's death is unavoidable!"

Glass shattered as Gozaburo jumped and fell to his death, the broken pieces scattering around Kaiba's feet. The people in the memory faded, but the room and glass remained.

"Defeat means death," Seto hissed, staring out the window as he clenched his fists. The memory had ended early; in previous replays, he'd been forced to listen to the panicked chaos that ensued, and the sirens and people screaming below the building.

"You were playing a game with high stakes," the priest spoke apathetically, the first words he had given since they had started watching the same moment over and over. "But what were you playing for? Did you make the price worth your sacrifice? Are you content?"

Kaiba glowered, his face distorted with fury in a way that no child's ever should. "I didn't kill him to find happiness, or any of the ridiculous satisfaction you might find in your secluded fantasy world. I killed him to live."

"You killed him for revenge. But if you look deeper into your past, you might find a worthier purpose. It might give you a reason for that life, instead of wasting it in anger."

"My past is nothing but hatred and anger!" Kaiba abruptly snarled, slamming his fist down on the table beside him with as much force as his small hands could manage. "Even after I took my revenge, I was filled anger. It keeps me alive, and gives me something to fight for when there's nothing else."

Set met his gaze steadily, an unblinking battle of will as he seemed to calculate his response. The world remained frozen around them, the conference room hauntingly empty. The meeting table sat waiting, its chairs still pulled out and ready to be used by the new president and his snake-like followers.

"Nothing?" he finally asked. He spoke quietly, unlike his usual confident tenor. "Not even for the one who allowed you to live, standing by your side even when you betrayed him and showed the vile wickedness in your heart?"

"Nothing," Kaiba shot back immediately without a thought. He turned to look out the window again, not even the slightest artificial breeze ruffling his hair. "And nobody."

Even as he kept his jaw set defiantly, however, he considered the priest's words. Seto had once fought for a small boy, he knew, whose life he had prioritized even before his own. A time long ago, when he actually had succumbed to weak emotions such as happiness and brotherly love.

He turned towards Set with narrowed eyes, but before he could speak, a piece of broken glass dug into his heel as he stepped down.

Automatically glancing down at the item responsible, he stilled when he realized that it wasn't glass he had stepped on. Instead, a small, golden puzzle piece glittered up at him, and he leaned down to pick it up.

Holding the item up to the window, the piece shone beautifully despite the unpleasant setting.

He barely heard the condescending 'well, it's about time' from behind him, too absorbed in the single thought that had caused the strangest, most ancient emotion to stir ever so slightly within him.

Mokuba.

-s-o-c-o-r-d-i-a-

Those pathetic, clingy eyes… like a dog's. He'd felt them on his back for years.

And after a while, he had given up acknowledging them. Not because he particularly hated his brother, but simply because he couldn't be bothered to humor him. He knew he should, but then again, Seto was now a CEO. There was no one to tell him what he should do, so he grew less and less inclined to spend time with Mokuba.

"Big brother, look! I have some new capsule monsters-"

The words floated over his head; instead, he focused on the computer screen in front of him, not glancing up or even feigning a hint of interest. Mokuba paused, waiting for a response that Kaiba had no desire to give. Nevertheless, the boy continued, albeit with a disappointed slump of the shoulders.

"Answer him."

Seto continued to type on his laptop, although his attention had successfully been captured. Mokuba had been chattering for what felt like days—although he knew logically it couldn't have been more than a few hours—but the priest hadn't spoken at all until now. After a leisurely pause of deliberation, however, Kaiba chose not to reply.

Mokuba animatedly asked if Seto wanted to play chess, and was ignored again.

Set's originally impassive expression darkened, his eyes flashing dangerously. Kaiba continued to type, but from the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer of accompanying gold.

He jolted in his seat, a stab of pain crashing his mind as another soul took control of his own. His lips involuntarily began to form words that were once his own, but no longer.

"Let's play a game of chess, Mokuba."

Kaiba fought strenuously against the cold presence suddenly controlling his mind, but froze at the expression his brother made at the simple phrase. Never mind the countless amount of time Seto had neglected the boy; Mokuba smiled brightly, as though...

His brother had just returned from the dead.

Seto couldn't break free from the intruder in his mind, but by then, he'd realized who to blame. His thoughts lingered on the priest behind him, lacking the control needed to turn and glare at the perpetrator.

"Mokuba," he spoke, or rather, Set spoke through Seto's lips. He dexterously set up the chessboard, sitting down in front of the white army. "Let's make a bet."

The boy mimicked the action, sitting across from him, although his eyes widened at the proposal. "A bet? What would it be?"

Seto's mouth twitched up into a relaxed, pitiless smile.

"If you win, I die," Set proclaimed, taking the first move and lifting a pawn. Kaiba temporarily halted in his efforts to regain his mind, waiting with fascination for the other half. The priest certainly knew how to make things interesting, he would give him that. "If I win, you'll no longer be my brother."

The younger child across from him stared agape, before shaking his head vigorously. "No! Seto–"

"What are you doing?" Kaiba managed to speak across his thoughts, although he was unsure if the other could actually hear him. The priest lifted his chess knight gracefully as he skipped Mokuba's turn while the boy sat, unable to move as the time limit to take his turn passed over.

Set answered. "I'm winning."

The priest gave an unconcerned smile of satisfaction, waiting with cruel patience as the time limit passed again. He listened indifferently to Mokuba's protests and tears, mercilessly pressing forward with the same languid disinterest Kaiba had reacted with just moments earlier.

Seto felt his temper flare. This game wasn't fair sport, or even entertaining. It had no challenge, and moreover, he disliked someone bartering his life under conditions he had never agreed to.

And perhaps a smaller part of him also thought that an outsider had no right to treat his brother with such disrespect.

He fought furiously against the priest who held the key to his mind, he would not lose

"Stop!" he shouted, finally breaking through. The nightmare fractured, the fragments dispersing as the darkness returned. The only piece that remained was the white king he held in his hands, and as he looked down at it, the object morphed into a jagged golden item.

"There might be more light in your heart than I initially assumed," Set spoke as he reappeared beside him, seeming mildly surprised by the fact. He had returned to his own body, and one eyebrow was minutely raised, idle speculation coloring his tone. Kaiba studied the puzzle piece in his hand, comparing it to the other two he held. His heart pounded, but he forced himself to answer coolly.

"I wouldn't bet on it," he drawled, his small, childlike hands toying with the items in his hand.

He couldn't help but smile, though, as he fit the new piece with the oldest. And although it went unnoticed, Set gave a smile of his own at the surprisingly innocent satisfaction in the other's eyes at the humble victory.

-a-v-a-r-i-t-i-a-

His brother had once given him a Blue Eyes White Dragon.

It was a meticulously drawn card, clearly recognizable even with the haphazard coloring and questionable line work. That wasn't why Seto had treasured it, although he knew his brother had worked earnestly. Instead, he had treasured the reason.

The gift-giver had made the card for a simple but deeply honest motive: he wanted to cheer up his brother.

Kaiba had grown wary of such childish concepts over the years, however, and as time passed, his insatiable connection with the monster grew dangerous. He wanted the dragon, the real dragon, not the sentimental imitation his brother had drawn. He became obsessed.

His greed consumed him, and then it consumed others. Money, threats, death. He'd acquired them all.

And he thought the priest understood. They'd watched the memories, and when Set had watched Kaiba's former self, his expression darkened but gave no other disapproval. He watched as the CEO used his assets to drive collectors bankrupt, make mafia connections, and coerce one man to the point of death.

"Even you admit that the dragon's power didn't belong in the hands of those incompetent losers," Kaiba said caustically, observing the last owner of all, Yugi's grandfather. The old man begged pathetically, but he hadn't hesitated. He'd ripped the monster in half.

Set hissed under his breath, but the child beside him just laughed.

"Only three monsters of a kind can go in a deck," Seto declared. "So I only needed three. By letting a fourth exist, I would have risked it being used against me."

"You disrespect her spirit," the priest said, aversion clear in his voice. "I'm surprised the dragon still fought for you after that display."

"Please," Kaiba said sardonically, scowling over at the other. "If you're going to start talking about that 'heart of the cards' absurdity, I've heard more convincing lies from a preschooler."

"I cannot blame you for your obsession with the Blue Eyes White Dragon, because that fault lies with me," Set asserted, shaking his head. "But if you don't control your fixation, your soul will degenerate into a monster of its own."

"If you think I believe a word you say, you're sadly mistaken," Kaiba scoffed, irritated with the constant mentionings of souls, monsters, and magic. This was only a dream, and in reality, they didn't exist. He wouldn't acknowledge them if they did exist.

"I said already that you are my reincarnation," Set stated matter-of-factly. "Whether you believe me or not, I am from ancient Egypt, a priest who served the Pharaoh. My duty was to judge the lives of 'shadow monsters', the souls of fools who lost themselves to the shadows. We would entrap them to prevent them from doing further harm."

"So? They're pathetic weaklings who lost their way," Kaiba stated imperviously. He dismissed the Egyptian nonsense, deciding for the moment that a dream wasn't worth arguing with.

"They weren't always weak," Set replied, and they both watched as a dragon formed before them. "Unless you're calling yourself weak."

Seto looked up sharply, but his gaze returned to the dragon as the beast morphed. A young girl with startling blue eyes walked up to him and gave a respectful bow, holding out her hand. He scrutinized it for a moment, before reaching out his own and letting her drop a golden puzzle piece in his hands. His fingers closed around the item, and glancing up, he caught a glimpse of her smile before she returned to her spiritual form, giving a mighty roar as she turned away.

"It seems you've been forgiven," the priest said with a tinge of reluctance. "Though it seems you've learned nothing."

Seto gave a taunting smirk, sneering up at the man contemptuously. The priest wasn't looking at him; however, instead watching the dragon with a deep look of regret and guilt. As though he held the responsibility for Kaiba's transgressions, and for the lives destroyed to acquire the card.

The victorious smile faded from Seto's lips, and he glanced down at the piece in his hands with a slight frown. He preferred it when the priest fought with him; the grief in Set's eyes seemed out of place in his normally arrogant expression, and the lack of defiance irritated him. He'd grown used to priest's unusual audacity, the unique conviction that both fascinated and aggravated him.

The man fought for justice and love, but this was the first time Kaiba had witnessed even a moment of weakness. It was a doctrine he'd scoffed at before, and yet he felt no triumph.

He disliked seeing the proud man so uncharacteristically dispirited.

-s-u-p-e-r-b-i-a-

In a strange twist of irony, Kaiba now found himself watching over Set, the roles oddly reversed.

Even more oddly, he found himself following the priest around ancient Egypt. And much to his irritation, he discovered that the mysterious 'Pharaoh' that Set so often mentioned turned out to be Yugi's pretentious look alike.

"How can you serve him?" Kaiba hissed, crossing his arms.

The priest didn't answer at first, intently listening to the Pharaoh, who was currently addressing his counsel. They stood in a spacious, well-lit chamber, and the almighty king sat regally upon his extravagant, golden throne. The CEO scowled, the features of his adolescent face grimacing at the sight of his enemy standing above them. He had aged a few years, perhaps thirteen or fourteen now, although he wasn't overly ecstatic by the change. The priest was still significantly taller than him.

"I respect him. My place is beside the throne, not on the throne, and that is where I'll stand," the priest declared eloquently when the Pharaoh paused, nodding his head to the king in question. Yugi nodded in return, though he seemed not to have heard either Set or Kaiba.

"You respect him?" Seto repeated mockingly, incredulity entering his tone. "If you're this close to the throne but never even attempt to acquire it, then you're either an idiot or have no pride."

Set turned to meet his gaze, and Kaiba was glad he had finished speaking as he unwillingly tensed at the quietly blazing stare.

He knew the realm he found himself in was merely an extended, disturbing dream. But the priest's presence, and the immense fighting spirit surging from him, like a pulse of fire...

Whenever he met the other's eyes, he could only ever think that the man was no illusion.

"Admitting respect does not equate to forfeiting pride."

Set released Kaiba from his penetrating gaze, returning his focus to the Pharaoh. The teen found his own pride injured by the response, irritated that he'd been acknowledged for barely more than a minute. He leaned back against the stone wall behind him, considering how best to regain the other's attention.

And he found he did want Set's attention. As much as he aggravated Seto with his preachings against evil, he also knew that despite his own taunts, the priest was intelligent and not easily influenced.

Similarly, Kaiba was well aware that the priest did have a sense of pride, and if Set didn't find his insults worth defending against...

It meant the priest thought himself so far above him, his ego would go undamaged by any insult Kaiba gave.

"That Pharaoh is worthless," Seto spat angrily, gesturing to the king above. He had knowingly replaced the king with Yugi, deciding if this was his dream, he could make his own assumptions about the ridiculous creations. "He acts like god, but he never did a thing to acquire his power. He was born into greatness, and never had to rise to it on his own!"

Set glanced over again, but this time Kaiba carefully made sure not to flinch, not even internally.

"You could overthrow that cur and rule over these nobodies," he continued, narrowing his eyes as he glared right back at the priest. "They wouldn't stand a chance."

Set gave out a long breath, a cross between a sigh and an irritated snort. Still, he answered more patiently than expected.

"I would sooner be a peasant in a world still shining with hope than a king in a world full of darkness. Sacrificing the life of a friend is not something to be proud of."

"Friendship? You're a fool," Kaiba said emphatically, leaning his head back and closing his eyes with a cold smile. "If you rely on others, they'll only let you down."

Silence followed, and Seto listened to the conversations surrounding them, spoken in a dead language he somehow understood. Another man was asking Set a question, but the priest didn't offer a reply. The CEO felt the ever present heat of Egypt suffocating him in the darkness, but he still didn't open his eyes.

"Long ago, my father nearly succeeded in killing the Pharaoh so I could ascend the throne," Set said quietly, the first words Kaiba had ever heard the man speak with even a hint of hesitation. "Killing to further his own interests is something he would do, and I would not. If you ever realized your motives are no better than your stepfather's, would that make you proud?"

Seto's eyes shot open, but the priest had disappeared along with Egypt, and the warmth as well.

For the first time in a long while, Kaiba's heart pounded as he clenched a new piece of it in his hands, wondering if he really had turned into the monster who had taught him how to live.

-i-n-v-i-d-i-a-

"Why is he always stronger?"

The question always went unanswered.

Seto tried combination after combination, strategy after strategy, but no matter which he picked, he could never win.

Yet Yugi did. Effortlessly, smugly, pretentiously. He hated him. He wanted that eminence, that ability; no, he already had them. But Yugi's surpassed him, and he wanted the unshakable confidence that no one could defeat him, because he was the best.

He was the Prince of Cards, not the King of Games. He was the former duelist champion, and second only to Yugi.

He wanted Yugi's title, and so he hated him.

"I'll kill him," he muttered savagely, glaring as the memories of his enemy kept distorting and reforming, replaying his losses and then jumping back to remind him of the lead up.

"I'm helping you defeat the darkness so you can aid the Pharaoh in his journey," the priest told him sharply, but Seto refrained from turning to respond. He could care less if the man disapproved. "Not so you can murder him."

"I have no desire to serve him," Kaiba snapped fiercely. Or anyone, for that matter, but particularly not him. He resisted the urge to throw the golden pieces in his hand at the ghostly apparition of his rival, the pompous smile mocking him from the shadows. The pieces were forming a sphere of sorts, the shape slowly becoming distinguishable as he gathered more parts. From the current situation, however, it seemed the puzzle might remain unfinished.

He couldn't understand why Set was so willing to slave away for Yugi, to the point that the only reason the man was helping him was for the supposed Pharaoh.

Exodia appeared before him, and he watched angrily as he lost again.

"You might win, if you didn't rely on your hatred to fight," Set drawled condescendingly as they both watched the monster destroy him.

Kaiba snapped. The nightmare was affecting him; he'd reached the end of his patience, and his resentment finally took over. He turned, lashing out at the only one he thought he might hate more than Yugi. He stood no chance against the priest in a battle of only strength, but he was no longer hopelessly small, either. He forced his adolescent body forward, lithely snatching the golden rod from the priest's robes and breaking free from the hand that grasped for his wrist.

Growling in determination, he swung the rod around, and pointed its tip at Set's throat.

"If you kill me," the priest stated, a wry and arrogant smile gracing his lips. "I'd have preferred it be with cards."

Seto pressed the staff forward, the sharp end pressing into the surface of the man's skin. Set didn't flinch, however, merely leaned away with a look of mild distaste and anger.

"If you're helping me only to help my enemy," Kaiba hissed, wanting the priest to flinch away in fear before he killed him. "Then you're mine too."

Set's eyes still maintained their resolute apathy, so calm, a yawn would not have seemed out of place.

"It's true I decided to help you only to fulfill my duty to the Pharaoh," he proclaimed unashamedly. Seto nearly drove the staff through his throat at that moment, but the man continued before he did. "But I did so with little optimism in your recovery."

"I'm not interested in recovery," Kaiba said matter-of-factly, tightening his grip on the rod.

"No, and I was not interested in you, at first," the priest answered. "But for all that you reject hope, you've captured mine."

Seto's hand drew back minutely, startled by the remark. The priest immediately took the opportunity to reach up and swiftly knock the rod out of his hands, and the item clattered to their feet.

Kaiba looked down at it blankly. He could have driven the rod through Set's throat before he'd been disarmed, but...

Instead, the man placed the second-to-last piece of the puzzle in Kaiba's hands.

If the priest would admit that Seto had captured his interest, then he could admit that the man might have caught his own.

-l-u-x-u-r-i-a-

Seto Kaiba had lost.

Again.

"You're cheating," he spat at last, slamming down his cards as his hated companion played the winning move for the fourth time in a row. A strong one, too, although Seto grudgingly admitted he had been out-strategized, as well.

Actually, no, he wasn't quite ready to admit that yet.

"You really are a child, if you're accusing me of cheating simply because you cannot lose with honor."

Kaiba seethed at the response, even more so when the priest gave a smug grin of supremacy. For all his preaching of gracious losing, the other man didn't seem to place much importance in the grace of winning.

Then again, neither did he, but at least he didn't play under a false pretense. The priest might claim to be fighting the darkness in Seto's heart, but no matter what the man said about his honorable intentions, Kaiba thought he was enjoying his victories far too much for his motives to truly be pure.

They wordlessly started yet another match, and the priest and his reincarnation drew their cards. Their table was the only object in the darkness, and regardless of how hard Seto tried to peer into the black oblivion, he couldn't find a trace of color or light no matter which way he looked. The shadowy surroundings from before had returned, and Set's memories had faded and been replaced with a simple card game.

Even after his defeats, however, Seto absolutely refused to give up. Defeat was the same as death, so as long as he was still alive, Kaiba concluded that he hadn't yet lost, and he wouldn't lose until the moment he couldn't keep fighting. Set humored him, for whatever reason, although he couldn't tell if the priest was impressed or unmoved. Moreover, Kaiba was unsure why he himself cared which the other felt.

Shaking off the thought, he grinned savagely at the card he drew. The priest narrowed his eyes, and Kaiba's grin widened. "Prepare to be crushed by the ultimate strength of Blue Eyes White Dragon!"

He threw his head back as he laughed recklessly at the rush of power, the sound surprisingly deep. He had grown again in this nightmarish world; he now estimated his age to be between fifteen and sixteen. His appearance was more adult than child, being tall for his age and with an unusually mature face, but traces of his youth remained in his eyes and lips.

"You served the Pharaoh when you could have taken the throne for yourself," Seto sneered as the dragon materialized in front of him, its scales piercing the darkness. "I'll teach you that power is everything."

"You can't win with power alone," the priest replied, unshaken by the CEO's deliberate, callous taunt. Kaiba laughed again, appreciative of the fact that no one had ever taken his purposefully insensitive comments so readily, as though they were expected.

And they should be. After all, tossing someone the key to your heart was the same as giving them the ultimate power. He knew that the priest was well aware of this, and he reveled in the fact that Set had given it to him, anyway.

He wanted more.

Kaiba won that round, and he flaunted it without shame, jeering at the other man long after he dealt the finishing blow. Yet the response he received was far from satisfactory; Set clearly hated that he lost, but he was far too proud to show it.

"Boasting is the privilege of the winner," Set simply muttered, although Kaiba found the resulting, brooding frown rather rewarding. "I'll keep quiet and step down for now."

And no matter how Seto tried to provoke him after that, he would receive only a glare and tensed shoulders. He quickly found that this reaction failed to appease his ego, and so he challenged the priest again, and one more game rapidly became a dozen. Set was unsurprisingly competitive, and at times, Kaiba didn't even initiate a game.

They fought viciously during their matches, but they also spoke, and grudges rarely lasted. At the moment, they half conversed and half argued over whether the dream was real. The priest maintained that the Pharaoh had given Seto a second chance by shattering his heart, but the teen refused to even consider the possibility.

"Let's pretend for a moment that I believe Yugi really did send me to this poor excuse of a nightmare," Kaiba said scornfully, making it perfectly clear that he didn't. "What does that make you? My 'light', or the 'goodness in my heart'?"

The priest laughed out loud, the sound harsh and abrupt. "Is that what you think? Then you're not nearly as intelligent as I gave you credit for. You should have paid attention if you wanted to know; I don't like repeating myself."

"I refuse to believe that I'm your reincarnation," Kaiba drawled the word derisively, knowing immediately what the other was referring to. He leaned forward on the table, pressing his weight onto his elbows. "If anything, you're just a complex illusion my subconscious created."

"What makes you think I care what you believe?" Set shot back, lowering his cards so he could meet the teen's eyes. "You won't remember this when you wake up, regardless."

Seto stilled, before letting out a bark of laughter that held no real amusement.

"Now I know you're full of it. If I don't remember any of this, then all of your so-called lessons were completely pointless– not that they were successful in the first place."

He was met with silence as the man placed several cards face down, nodding at him to take his turn. The darkness suddenly felt oppressive, its aura overflowing into their secluded sanctuary. Since the priest had arrived, Kaiba had barely noticed the shadows; he had been partially serious when he'd asked the mocking question of whether or not Set was his 'light'. But now they seemed to press in on him, threatening to consume his very soul.

He was acting senselessly, he knew, but he blamed his subconscious, beyond caring.

He told himself that this was only a dream, and that no one besides himself would ever know how he stood, leaned across the table, and grasped the priest's robes and yanked him forward.

"If this truly is my heart–" he hissed fiercely, but abruptly cut off, never finishing the sentence. He could only stare in confusion, utterly lost in his own blue eyes, except he knew without a doubt that they weren't his. His nose wasn't touching the other man's, but he was still close enough to feel the other's breath, and he knew that even he could never create someone so complex.

If this was truly his heart, then he felt an irrational desire to imprison this priest in its jail; the one point of light in a soul consumed by darkness.

"Your brother needs you," the priest said flatly, reaching over and grabbing the puzzle that Kaiba had placed beside the table. It was missing a single piece, and that was the piece Set now held in his hands. He forced the smaller teen's fingers around the golden item, and fit it into place.

"This is your final test." The priest looked old, in that moment, with a sense of loss in his young face that Kaiba had no hope of comprehending.

But the man still had enough energy to give an insidious smirk, and to close the gap between the two boys and roughly tug Seto's face up to meet his own. He pressed their mouths together for the briefest of moments, just long enough to taste and give a sharp bite before releasing him just as quickly.

"If this is your subconscious," the priest sneered, still smiling wickedly as he brushed a finger not-so-gently across Seto's lips to wipe away the blood. His hand trailed down his neck and rested on the teen's chest, right over where his heart would be. "Then your desires are disturbingly corrupt."

Seto Kaiba stared with wide eyes, unable to manage a reply when there was so much to make sense of. After several long seconds of shock on his part, and a mixture of melancholy and amusement on the part of his priest, he opened his mouth to retort.

The world fell apart even as he spoke, however, and his words were forever lost to the fading darkness.

He woke up at last, and as his eyes opened painfully to the curtained sunlight, his lips moved instinctively to form a request, but he couldn't remember for whom it was for.

Lifting a hand to his mouth, he muttered, "don't leave", so quietly that not even the startled and quickly-turning-hysteric maid heard.

"Kaiba-sama is awake!"


-u-l-t-i-m-av-a-l-e-

Author's Note: When Yami does his 'mind crush', Kaiba's heart shatters. For this fic, I made it break into seven pieces: one for each of the deadly sins. There was one sin I didn't write a section for, however, which was the 'last piece' Seto started out with. He had it in the beginning, without having to face any of his inner demons.

I'd be impressed if you can guess which section was which. :P

Here's some hints (and answers, if you go back and look at the latin page breaks).
-Wrath (Latin, ira)- anger and hate. This can result in revenge, or if aimed at the self, suicide.

-Lust (carnal "luxuria")- originally just meant desire. So while people usually think sex, it could be lust for power or money, as well. Or maybe a person.

-Greed (Latin, avaritia)-the excessive desire and pursuit of material possessions, especially by violence or manipulation of authority.

-Gluttony (Latin, gula)- is a sin because the excessive desire for food withholds it from the needy. Could then be interpreted as selfishness.

-Sloth (Latin, Socordia)- a failure to do things that one should do, from either laziness or indifference.

-Pride (Latin, superbia)- a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self.

-Envy (Latin, invidia)- discontent towards someone's traits, status, abilities, or rewards, and the desire to covet those abilities.

-Ultima Vale (Latin, "farewell for the last time"). Usually said when someone's about to die, but I used it as a title since Kaiba says goodbye to Set for the final time, but as he wakes up. Ohhh, irony.

...those definitions are a mix of me and wikipedia, by the way. I like the way it worded some of them. :P

Oh, but I'll answer any questions, since I think some of them are pretty subtle, or tend to overlap. I'd be really interested in hearing first impressions, though. :)

Please review? :D