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YGO! - Love Long Forgotten

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YGO! - LLF - Beginning Of The End (pt. 1)
by galateabellator, Mar 29, 2017, 4:42:26 PM
Literature / Fan Fiction / Drama

YGO! - LOVE LONG FORGOTTEN - fanfiction

PROLOGUE

There was no easy way to say it. She was contemplating on how to share the news… but nothing positive came to mind. In the end, she had to be blunt… because she couldn’t run away from it.

Her heartbeat was fast. She was sweating. She has opened the door and dropped her suitcase on the floor. After removing her black, leather high heeled shoes and her long, purple coat, she headed straight towards the living room.

PART 1 - The Beginning Of The End

In front of another door that separated her from her sister, Venus has stopped. She has leaned against the smooth surface and took a deep breath… once, twice… then pressed her arms onto the wooden door frame. She clenched her fists. Also, her teeth. Her long, black hair fell in front as she was bowing her head down, unable to make another move.

“I take it didn’t go well,” the soft voice came from the inside. Venus took another moment, then stepped in, still not quite able to fully face her - but she knew exactly how she must have looked like.

After all, they shared the same facial features.

Zelda was cozily leaned onto her favorite leather chair, with a notebook in her lap and a set of sketching pencils in her small hand. She was the creative one out of the two of them.

“You know, if you frown too much, that wrinkle will stay,” she teased, knowing that her sister was a worrier. She wanted her to laugh at least for a little bit.

“We are going to lose everything,” the older twin couldn’t break a smile even if her life depended on it. “We are going to bankrupt.”

Her sister has put the drawing away, on top of the table. The paper was filled with sketches of something from Zelda’s rich imagination – she was drawing yet another winged creature from several different angles, practicing perspective. Some point counts were sketched alongside. What will be the strength of this monster? 1700? 1800?

“V, If we are going to bankrupt - then we will. But it surely won’t be something that defines us.” Zelda made Venus look up. She was smiling warmly, like nothing major or disastrous has happened - and there was something very comforting and reassuring in that smile. Venus loved that about her. “Besides, no matter what, we aren’t really going to lose everything here. Are we?”

She has leaned towards Venus who was on the verge to burst into tears. She has hugged her.

“Not everything… but we are going to lose “Orion”. Probably our house too. We will have nowhere to go. The banks… won’t give us a loan because we owe them too much already. Father…”

“It’s all right, Venus. We can lose everything else as long as we don’t lose each other. Remember?

It’s been tough before, but we’ve made through. We will make it again.”

“As long as we have… this kind of debt… I am afraid not. No matter how hard we work… or how hard we try… it’s all in vain. We can’t correct the mistakes that father made, and sure as Hell can’t do a thing to save our own company at this point.”

“That loan,” Zelda said. “Maybe…”

“The banks won’t grant it. Our reputation precedes us,” Venus sighed. Then, she has angrily raised her chin. “And it’s not only our reputation that precedes us, but our competitors as well.”

Zelda knew exactly what this one was about.

“Kaiba,” her voice was still soft when she expressed her realization.

“Kaiba,” Venus’ tone was filled with bitterness and scorn when she confirmed. Despite having the same physical features, despite being an identical set of twins… the girls expressed themselves quite differently.

“We’ll find a way. Creditors. Loaners. Anyone will do.”

“We have already asked everyone. We are done. They are too afraid of that monster.”

“He can be terrifying. And cruel. It’s no wonder, really.”

“I hate it. I HATE how nobody is able to stand up to him! He is just a man! A single man… no, not even that, he’s a brat. Only brats behave in such an immature way,” Venus noted.

“Listen… at this point, we may have to consider it.”

“I refuse.”

“Maybe we can’t refuse. Maybe, and just maybe, we should sell it to him,” Zelda was trying to sound logical. “You know... name the price and be done with it all. He’s putting too much pressure. It’s exhausting to fight him, and to live this kind of life… so maybe it’s for the best if Kaiba… finally and definitely... buys Orion and adds it up to his own enterprise.”

Venus’ expression became a grimace of pure rage. “You. Can't. Be. Serious.”

“I am. Dead serious as well. Think about it. Kaiba Corp is already bigger. Stronger. Better organized. We used to be big, sure, and “Orion” used to be strong… but let’s just admit it… Kaiba is one Hell of a strategist, and he won’t stop until he gets his way. It goes without saying that he is far richer than us and can buy his way all through the top.”

“I won’t have it.” Venus tightened her fist and slammed it against the table. “He’s a vile, arrogant egomaniac and he’s going to destroy our lives just because he can. I can’t stand it!”

Zelda has softly smiled to her twin. “That pride will be the end of you some day. He can’t really destroy anything. We can start from scratch. I will draw some new models, you will program and distribute the holograms. Nothing is going to change.”

“It will.”

“Not if you offer him partnership… right?” Zelda suggested. “It’s fair to ask of it. We keep Orion, but work for Kaiba Corp. It’ll be in both of our interests.”

“He’s not into partnerships,” Venus mocked the very idea. “He’s too much of a snob.”

“It can’t hurt to try. Right?” Zelda offered. “If it’s too much for you… I will go.”

Venus lifted her chin. “No. I’d hate to give him the pleasure of thinking that I am too weak to face him on my own and just… hide behind you.”

Zelda cocked her head.

“You truly think he could tell us apart? Don’t be paranoid. Most of people can’t tell the difference. If I get into your grumpy, bossy mode, I bet he would never guess,” she teased.

“Most people aren’t like him, and he isn’t like the most of people. He’s a special kind of jerk, but also happens to be a very smart jerk. He can tell the difference between us. If he sees you… pretending to be me… he would just call me weak and take it as another one of my many weaknesses. So, no. I won’t hide behind my little sister. Any proposal that we have for ORION, I will deliver personally.”

Zelda has raised an eyebrow this time.

“Venus. You do realize that I am only fifteen minutes younger?”

Sometimes, Venus acted way older than she was supposed to.

“You are still younger. He’d still see it as me being a coward and unable to face him directly. He would mock me for sending you instead of going myself.”

“Why do you even care what he'd think? Never mind. Will you really go?”

Venus sighed. “If all other options fail. If I absolutely must.”

“It’s surely better than bankrupting,” Zelda smiled, “but hey, no pressure. I am sure some other options will show.”

Venus just looked towards the distant glass tower, with "KC" logo on it. She knew it was never meant to be easy - but to reach to him - she will have to take a long, hard road. The very one she never wanted to take in the first place.

But, for Zelda... for "Orion"... she apparently had to try.

Chapter Text

Part 2 - Perfectly Clear

--- V ---

I was sitting in the hallway, impatiently waiting for my turn to have a meeting with the infamous CEO of Kaiba Corp. The time was running out and I didn't want to waste any more of it in this corporation, especially not since I was in a very grim position and had to somehow ask for a favor from the most unpleasant person I've ever met - but I had to, and that was something that greatly hurt my pride. Just sitting there, being unable to come up with any other solution made me feel like I completely failed. In more than one way. But here I am, and here's what I have to endure in order to try and save what's left of my own heritage.

"Miss Tokiba... Mr. Kaiba is ready to see you now," his secretary announced, and I rose up from my chair, flipping my hair over my shoulder. I have brought my case and marched behind his employee, trying to stop my hands from shaking along the way. I mean... I wasn't afraid of him, or anything, it wasn't that... but situations like these made me extremely uncomfortable, and I had a slight case of anxiety. I wasn't... very social in general.

As I walked into his office, I have found my courage and reminded myself that it wasn't a big deal. Really, it hasn't been. He was rude to everyone, so I'll be no exception. I knew what I could expect from such an egoistical maniac that he was, and was famous for.

All his meetings were brief. He either liked people, or he didn't. No, to say "like", would be an overstatement - he tolerated people that he estimated he could have some kind of use of, or some kind of benefit that he could exploit. If he didn't find people useful, he wouldn't have employed them at all. He would just quickly disregarded and shun away anyone who couldn't contribute to his company. I had to leave an impression, and make an offer he couldn't refuse. The problem was... I didn't have that kind of offer. I was desperate. And being here only made me feel cornered in every way.

"Are you just going to stand there, Tokiba?" harsh, bossy voice mocked me up from the front. I approached his desk, and pressed my case firmly in my grasp. Kaiba was leaned back in his leather chair, leisurely and arrogantly posed as he was staring at me with those cold blue eyes.

We used to go to same school, Domino High, used to share classes and even the same desk... but I never felt that we could bond in any way. Surely, he was my classmate, but he was unbearable. Brilliant, but unbearable... and I couldn't say that we have established even remotely normal communication. He always acted superior to everyone, and me, being as proud as I was, felt frustrated by his behavior. It really pissed me off. It was like... I was a chair, or a piece of chalk, or some kind of... furniture to him in those times we didn't fight over every single thing we could have fought about.

"You know why I am here," I stated, facing him properly. I lifted my gaze to meet his own - a small, unnecessary and risky battle of sorts... a challenge of ours from the day we've first met. I was a thorn in his eye for several reasons. I used to be an heir of a large gaming corporation, and I was on his way for quite some time... well, all the time while ORION was a competitor to Kaiba Corp. All up until now.

"Let's assume that I do. What's your proposal?" he asked, and his tone suggested that I'd better make it quick.

"A partnership," I said. I regretted it the very same moment, because I knew how he'd react. He laughed, as if he was amused. It was a small, evil chuckle.

"A partnership?" he repeated. "So, it's finally come to that. Mighty Orion is finished."

Kaiba has risen from his seat and stepped behind his directorial chair, only to look through his glass window. Domino City looked amazing from that spot. Even in all my discomfort, I could see that much. His silhouette, as he was looking down on everything, was somehow powerful. Like he was... a King of some sorts. I didn't want to admit it, but it looked good on him. And it ticked me off more than it should have. I disliked his natural display of power.

"We aren't done, not by a long mile," I said, putting my case on his desk. "Orion still has much to offer."

He didn't even turn towards me when he spoke next.

"To whom?" he asked. "Your debts are enormous. I don't see how I could benefit from being your partner - quite on the contrary. I see a very bad, disgracious investment for myself. I don't plan on giving you a loan. You are desperate. My offer was to buy Orion, not to save your from the demise. I am not the savior type, and partnerships don't work for me. I want to be first in everything I do. On my own."

"Well, that is painfully obvious to everyone," I murmured.

"Not to you, apparently," his harsh tone suggested that I have might crossed the line. "Don't waste my time, Venus."

It was rare to hear him call me by my first name. We were never that familiar with each other. However, I knew that it wasn't about familiarity - it was more about him leaving the impression of someone who knows exactly who I am and how low I have stooped.

"I won't take much of it. Don't worry, Seto."

I've opened my suitcase.

"What I can offer, is this: let Orion be the partner company to Kaiba Corp. Maintain the name and its former reputation. It will bring you some benefit if people know that we are working together, because with Orion always comes the publicity."

"I already have more publicity than I care for. I still don't see how you'd help me."

"Here." I turned the case towards him and waited for him to turn around. When he did, he skeptically approached the case and looked into its contents, with unimpressed and scornful expression.

"Hm."

Something did catch his attention, though. He took the sketches that Zelda previously made, and gave me to look over. Dueling monsters of all shapes, sizes, types, and point counts... everything was right there in more than 50 pages. All the courtesy of my sister, and all still unreleased to the world.

"I take it that your artistic twin made these? She aspires to remain a card designer?" he mocked, but he kept looking at the pile. He looked carefully at very dragon-type monster, and flicked through every other design. The guy was clearly obsessed.

"All of them. And none of them were offered to Industrial Illusions, even at the time Pegasus was the strongest," I emphasized.

"These were never printed," Kaiba was slightly surprised, but strangely enough, was interested in Zelda's work. I don't know a person who wasn't - even Pegasus used to say that she was probably second best card designer next to his own few, including himself.

"Orion" used to be a partner to Pegasus' company, but emerged when Pegasus tried to take over, and steal our, then underdeveloped, but well-planned and half finished holographic technology - all in order to see his dead wife Cecilia once again. It was all quite sad, but we had to look after ourselves first, so we ended up the partnership and returned from California to Japan to try and renew and than expand our business further. That's when all the things went down - father got a large sum of money he wasn't able to return, and we were in vast financial problems ever since.

"What else do you have there?" Kaiba asked, casually leaving the designs on top of his desk, then crossing his arms over his chest. I dug deeper in my case and revealed my form of prototype of a dueling disk. Although Kaiba himself has made several of his own and used an advanced technology, I had to offer something up. The design wasn't done yet, and it was something I was still working on, but I didn't have enough time to finish it prior to coming to this meeting.

"A disk?"

He put it on his arm and pressed the button to release deck. It glitched and it didn't function properly, so he had to fix it manually. The area for cards was a bit narrow, but the deck slid well around the central part. There were still things to polish around, but in general, I was quite pleased with what I've done for such a short notice... until right now.

"You call this piece of trash... a dueling disk?" he venomously mocked.

"It's still under construction," I was now really ashamed, and felt humiliated.

"It's greatly flawed. I am surprised it functions at all," he almost threw it on the desk, and I felt enraged by the way he was treating it. After all, it was my idea. I've put my time and my nerves into that thing.

"I didn't have enough time to put it together..." I tried not losing my patience because I was still depending on this egomaniac. I was still acting nice.

"For an engineer, that's pretty pathetic excuse," he was cruel, but I expected him to be.

"I made it last night," I crossed my arms over my chest now. "Find me an engineer in Kaiba Corp that would make it out of nothing on such a short notice, and without all the necessary parts."

"I will make it in an hour," he stated scornfully. "Maybe in less than an hour."  

"I said an engineer, not you," I've pointed out, "so, take anyone who is not you and deprive them of all the benefits you are giving them here. Then you will see how capable they are, and only then you can compare them to me."

"I have made my own prototypes that excel Duel Rings in every way. My own discs will be spectacular, not some kind of disgrace like this piece of junk that you have brought to me. So why do I need you? Enlighten me, Venus."

"Give me the access to your mechanical department and I will complete this piece of junk in half an hour, you arrogant prick."

"You are saying you are that good?"

"You know I am that good. I was the second best programmer in our class, and I assure you I am more than able in perfecting my works if I have all the necessary resources, and equipment."

Seto sat in his chair, crossing his legs along the way. He leaned his head against the top and looked at me in way I couldn't explain.

"Let's duel," he demanded. "Each to its own. Use that crap to demonstrate me how it works. Show me in a duel."

"No."

He smirked. "Then we have nothing to talk about."

"No, we do. I am not here to play this game with you, I am here for my sister. I won't let something as serious as this to be decided by something so trivial as a card game."

Now, he was openly amused. No, he was pleased.

"The last defeat still hurts?"

It did. It left a sore taste in my mouth, and I didn't like to be reminded of how that last duel ended. It was just one thing more where he's beaten me over. And I hated it.

"I just don't want to duel you, Kaiba."

"As I said, we have nothing more to discuss. Leave now."

"You won't manipulate me into a forced duel just to prove yourself that you are a better duelist than me. You already are. You are one of the best duelists in the world, and I am well aware that I don't stand a chance against you. At least, not until I produce all those cards that I intend to produce. With or without your help. But when I do, you won't stand a chance against me."

"Sounds like a threat to me," he was starting to stare at me, in a way I didn't like. "And a challenge."

"Maybe it is. Maybe it's both."

I have taken the designs, and the prototype... and arranged them in my suitcase yet again. I have closed it and taken it away from his desk.

"Well then. It wasn't a pleasure, Kaiba. It never is with you. I am sorry I've even bothered."

I have turned on my heel, enraged by the whole situation.

"Let me stop that drama right there, Tokiba. You have a nag for it, so shut up and listen to what I have to say."

He has waited for me to calm down. I had to bite my own tongue to stop myself from insulting him.

"I won't accept the partnership. My offer is simple. Merge Orion with Kaiba Corp, and you and your sister can keep your previous jobs. She can be a card designer of my own, and you... you can be in the mechanical department, as director of the sector, providing that you can beat all other engineers into perfecting your own version of the disk and keep developing my own prototypes. If you show that you can live up to that task, you will have the position. I will allow for the sector to be named "Orion", after your own company, but that's about it as far as I am concerned. You will work under me, and it's not negotiable. I won't have people question the true ownership of the largest gaming company that exists in this world - and I intend it to bear the name of Kaiba. Am I being clear?"

I stood there, the suitcase in my arms, looking down at the most powerful man I've ever encountered in my life... and I wanted to cry. I wanted to break down, and beg, and scream, and throw a tantrum... for everything that I've been up to that point was about to disappear. However, I remained completely calm. Once he's set his mind, there was no convincing him otherwise. Of that much, I was very sure. So, I've responded in the only way I could.

"Perfectly clear. We have a deal."

And I've said it with the perfectly calm expression. Like my world didn't shatter. Like I wasn't suffocating on the inside. Because, there was still much that I had to fight for.

Like he read my mind, Seto Kaiba said, in his most strict and professional tone:

"Come sharp at eight tomorrow. We have a lot to do, and you have to prove yourself to me."

And so... I did. I was going to try to prove myself to the person I hated the most.

Chapter Text

Part 3 – Strong Sensations

--- V ---

I was having a really hard time with meeting his expectations. I thought I could work for him… but, it has turned out that I wasn’t as up to task as I wanted to be, despite all of my efforts.

I didn’t lack skills as much as I lacked time. Every single deadline was stressful and filled with complications. I knew I wasn’t ready… I just didn’t know in what measure. The first week was a real Hell.

I’ve barely accomplished anything (well, despite finishing the prototype of my disk… which wasn’t exactly the big contribution, but at least, it served as a required demonstration of competence that should have settled the problem with Kaiba at some level –the level where he decided that I could keep on working for him). But, everything since… was just too much for someone like me.

So, I was beginning staying overtime, even working two shifts, because people were very competitive and didn’t like me as a new addition to mechanical department. I have managed to find enemies before I’ve even tried to make friends. People in Kaiba Corp mostly seemed motivated with pleasing Kaiba, rather than forming functional teams that could bring results. I had trouble with adapting to the environment. Luckily, the Big Bad was on a business trip out of Domino, so I had some time to buy before he fired me. I was under pressure of what do with that time.

During my first week, I did have a bit of an unexpected help. From all people who could have done something…  it was Mokuba.

While I knew him from times that none of us was glad to remember, we were old acquaintances and we used to hang around as children. Much like me and Seto.

However, he is a far cry from what he used to be as that sweet, bright boy. Gozaburo turned him into something twisted… and cruel… which thankfully hadn’t reflect on Mokuba as well. So, the animosity I have developed for the older brother didn’t apply to the younger. The younger one was always likable.

“Venus Tokiba. Who would have thought I would meet you here?” he politely greeted me as we shook hands.

“Well… I myself find this very hard to believe.”

The personnel seemed interested in our relationship. I wonder how the stories will go this time.

“I have heard about your deal with Seto. How are you doing? Can you keep up?” he asked, overlooking the procedure of holographic development that I initiated. Turquoise, neon glow enlightened the room and was reflecting on the glass surface. Since the various monster projections were still under construction, the shapes were showing in pixels versions, but the concrete monsters were yet to fully form.

“Honestly? I am struggling. I’ve been frown upon ever since I’ve set foot into this sector. I am wondering whether he did this on purpose.” I tried to hide the bitterness in my tone. But, Mokuba knew just what kind of man his brother was.

“I doubt it. You will find all these people… long to impress him. That’s why they dislike anyone who is moderately good… and you are. And, while I know that he can be hard… I am sure he has other things in mind than making your own existence miserable.”

He grinned. He always believed in good in Seto. Something I was hardly able to fathom.

“Moki… he is giving me a hard time ever since we enrolled into Domino High. He is constantly demonstrating his domination and superiority… and not just comparing to me, but… to everything and everyone. To put it simply… your brother is an asshole.”

I was sure Mokuba didn’t hear this statement for the first time in his life. But, he couldn’t make people like Seto… nor he tried for obvious reasons. Seto didn’t need to be loved, and he couldn’t care less if someone like Venus Tokiba liked him or not. Even more so because we have known each other for years.

“I hate to bring this up, but… you aren’t the easiest person to get along with either,” the boy smiled again, no ill intention in his words. Moreover, he spoke the truth. Other than Zelda, I had no real friends.

People have usually approached me to gain something. Power, influence, connections even. Orion was really successful on the market and I was the CEO for some time. But, with the company’s downfall, I have lost all those people who claimed would do anything for me because of that supposed “friendship”.

But, screw that. As long as I had Zelda, I didn’t need anyone else.

Regarding Seto… I have tried, in my youth, to approach him and make friends with him. I appreciated how he cared for Mokuba… a feature I possessed because I had my own sister to care about. Not in the measure that Seto did for Mokuba, because Zelda was my age. We shared experiences, we supported each other. But, with Kaiba brothers… since Seto was older, he had a greater responsibility.

As I said… my father used to visit orphanages, but not because he was pious. He was simply there for the publicity. On one occasion, he went with Gozaburo, who was his business partner then. Me and Zelda tagged along, because father wanted to teach us a lesson in poverty and children who were not so fortunate as we were. I have learned another lesson back at the time.

To never treat others the way my father, or Gozaburo did.

Unsurprisingly, Seto despised my father… for being rich and boosting about it, for being indifferent and coming simply to indulge Gozaburo. Later on, he despised my father for cooperating with Kaiba senior, and helping him with mass weapon production. I have found out later on that father did it so because he was in debt… because he was weak… and Gozaburo was merciless towards practically everyone. Especially to those who owed him.

Ironically enough, Seto became cruel and merciless later on. He was surrounded by the types of people who always wanted to exploit him in some way, and kept disappointing him. I could understand that much. But, no matter what his past was… he doesn’t have do behave like a complete d**khead all of the time.

“Let’s be honest, Moki. Your brother despises me. He always will. I am a daughter of Tokiba Kenta. He doesn’t need additional reason.”

“I am sure he doesn’t despise you, V. He is just… being cautious around the others. I am sure you can understand that much.”

I tested another projection. The sound and picture seemed misplaced. Uneven. It was a failure, but Mokuba kept smiling.

“Listen… if I know anything about you… is that you are stubborn. If it doesn’t work, you will make it work. If you struggle for seven days, on the eight, you will find a solution. Venus… in less than two months, I am sure you will manage to lead this department.”

“Yeah, right… If I don’t get fired in two days or so.”

Mokuba watched as I was fixing the code.

“I am sure that won’t be the case. Kaiba Corp is an empire. Despite being difficult, Seto is smart and he knows… that engineers of your caliber are hard to find. He won’t fire you unless you make some… royal mess up. Don’t expect him to pat you on the shoulder. He will probably never praise your work. Moreover, he will be highly demanding and always unsatisfied, because he constantly longs for more. But… despite not saying it… he appreciates workers. Hard workers. People who make effort. So, I’d say he will not fire you just yet.”

I sighed. “I just wish I could be as sure as you are.”

I’ve set the parameters and added a card from her deck. The hologram buzzed, and the three dimensional projection showed a tall woman, in the white robes, with golden jewelry on her wrists, her ears, her neck… and her ankles.

The Empress was one of the most powerful cards in my deck. With 2500 attacking points, 2200 defense points and a special ability to steal 200 points from the opposing monster in each turn, the Empress presented the worthy opponent once when summoned. The side effect required of me to reduce my own life points for 50 points whenever I wanted to activate this ability. But, it was worth it... most of the time.  

The empresses eyes were glowing white, she had no pupils in hologram. Her long, raven hair was reaching her heels, but her face was covered with a veil. The golden Egyptian crown decorated the hidden face. But, even underneath the veil… it was evident that she was beautiful.

It was a decent, powerful card. Well designed. But, in duel with Kaiba… easily overpowered by the overwhelming strength of the Blue Eyes White Dragon. By all the three of them, fused into unbeatable monster. I refused playing with him ever since.

“She is beautiful,” Mokuba was looking at projection. “And your technology is really good. Almost as good as Seto’s own Virtual Simulator.”

“Thank you, Mokuba.”

I was typing, adding another layer of code. The Empress was gaining another layer of visibility, and was getting constructed in the more realistic way.

“It’s amazing,” Mokuba just wanted to encourage me, so I smiled softly.

“It still glitches. There are many components that need to be improved… but, at least… the projections of monsters are going to work. Still, I have a long way ahead. I need to work on projection of sensations. Of Attacks. And defense. Of all the sounds... images... everything.”

“I have no doubts it is going to be great! And I can’t wait until you finish!”

Mokuba seemed very enthusiastic about it all.

“Me neither.” Let’s just hope Seto doesn’t return and I get more time to work more on this. I was thinking… maybe if… I add another layer…

“By the way… how is your sister?” Mokuba asked politely.

“Zel is fine. Working. Making a bunch of new monsters as we speak.”

“Cool. I’ve been to her art exhibition a few weeks ago. She is doing an amazing work as well.”

“She will be glad to hear that,” I smiled warmly. I was so proud of her. It was nice of Mokuba to point her qualities.

“Say hi to your twin from me. I will see you two around!”

The younger Kaiba was receiving a phone call, so he had to go. He waved and left me with my work, but I was glad that I found at least one person I could talk to in this sterile place.  

*******

To be honest… the engineering was never my first career choice. I was good in Math and Physics, and I could learn Economy and Business because I forced myself to learn those… but what I really wanted to learn about… was history. World history, archeology, everything that had something to do with past. For a while, I was really into writing. I dreamed about publishing my own book. But, my predisposition for figures proved to be more effective… and brought more money.

Like Zelda, I used to possess a drawing talent. Unlike her, I never developed it so anything I draw today would be absolutely amateurish. Ridiculous. But, I sometimes drew for fun, and did it digitally so she wouldn’t be able to find it around the house. I had a special folder in my laptop and hid it with a password. Zel never snooped around my folders, so my horrible “art” was safe from public eyes.

I didn’t draw often, but when I did, those were the images from my dreams. A tall man in blue robes, decorated with golden jewelry, and a golden rod in his arms. A woman in white robes, with raven hair. In front of a stone table, carved in ancient symbols. It was always vivid. I always had strong sensations after dreaming about these scenes.

I often visited archaeological gatherings. On one of those… I’ve met a woman named Ishizu Ishtar.
My encounter with her was puzzling. I had a feeling I knew her my whole life, despite never meeting her before. When she spoke to me, I felt I’ve heard her voice a million times prior, which just wasn’t possible. Zelda admitted she had a same feeling too.

Ishizu… greeted us politely and was really nice. But, she seldom spoke in riddles. Everything about her was so… puzzling.

“I see you’ve managed to fix the projection.”

He appeared behind me, like some sort of a phantasm. He was dressed in a trench coat, equipped with his own suitcase. He was on a business trip… but he came back. I wasn’t glad to hear his voice, especially since I was daydreaming like this. It probably looked dumb.

“I need to work on it more, but yes. She is projecting without glitches now.”

His arms were crossed on his chest. He stepped towards the Hologram of my Empress. He was looking at her glowing eyes, at her long hair, at her chair, and arms on its handles.

“You were always fond of these… royal types, weren’t you?” he mocked, reaching for the face of the hologram.

“Like you are fond of your dragons. Everyone has a preference,” I shrugged my shoulders.

“Hm.”

His long fingers reached for her face. I felt something odd as they did… like his touch would stain her in some inexplicable way.

“Don’t,” I said. I just… didn’t want him to touch her.

“What did you say?” he asked, in that dangerous voice of his. It was to remind me that everything here… was his. All of his. Nothing was mine, not even this projection. The Empress… was…

“Don’t fire me,” I said. I didn’t mean to say it… but I’ve said it anyway. “I need this job. I know this demonstrates nothing in particular… but I need this job.”

I need ORION to reclaim its place. I can’t be fired just yet.

He looked down on me. Despicably. I felt miserable for baring my soul in front of this… jerk… but I felt I would crack under the pressure if I didn't. I was vulnerable. Honestly... what a mistake.

“No engineer of mine… managed to refine the holographic technology so accurately as you did now. And while you needed a week to complete this, you managed to do it well. All of the others rushed to make it to meet the deadline, so they presented holograms with more glitches and more flaws than you can imagine. This, although still unfinished, beats them all in terms of quality. Your Empress almost breathes in front of me.”

I shut the hologram down. He took my disk and examined the physical components. He opened it, and looked over the cables and the circuits, over all the mechanisms.

“My own Virtual Simulator had some faults in its initial, beta version. I completed it in a few days, but that’s when I’ve learned… that I appreciate the good product more than meeting a deadline.”

He shut my disk and gave it to me. It was rude, he handed it like I was his underling… which I technically was… but it was offending. Much like everything he says or does. Sometimes, I wonder how he manages to insult people and still function with them at the same time.

I was looking at him in a displeased way. I couldn't hide my resentment.

“What are you glaring for? If I fire you, it will be because of your attitude, not your lack of skills.”

As I have taken the disc from his grip, he squeezed it on his part before letting it towards me. His fingers touched mine. They felt surprisingly warm. His eyes were looking into mine, and I fought the urge to look away. It was too intense. But, I haven’t removed my gaze… nor my fingers. Neither did he. With him, everything was a battle of sorts.

“Must you compete in everything you do?” I asked.

“Why do you ask something which you already know?” he asked instead.

He grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him. He was so close I could see my reflection in his eyes.
My heart was beating like crazy.

“You work for me. Forget about Orion. This work… this technology… this disc… and you… are all mine.”

This possessive son of a... was he even aware... of that he was saying? My face was turning red.

“Everything but me… belongs to you,” I stated, still forcing myself not to avert the gaze from his blue eyes. He frowned.

“We shall see,” he released his grip and turned his back on me.

“What is that supposed to mean?” my voice was shaking as I asked. But, I asked nonetheless. I must be reading more into it. That's probably my own problem.

“That you will learn to substitute Orion with Kaiba Corp. What else?” he glared back at me.

Suddenly, I felt stupid for asking in the first place.

“I will never substitute Orion in that essential sense. Even when I am working for you. Orion can never be substituted. Never!” I was getting upset because the under-context was reaching for me. I would never replace Orion with his company because my company meant family. Kaiba Corp was just... a nightmare to me.  

“Stubborn fool. You better learn to adapt to KC, and adapt fast.”

He walked towards the exit. I was looking into his long, tall figure, wondering. Why must I read too much into everything he says? Am I being immature?

“Don’t just stand there, idiot. Come. We need to improve it and prepare it for a mass production.”

We… need to… what?

“A… mass… production?”

He was getting annoyed with my reactions.

“Let me say this slowly, so you can follow. We are mass producing these discs after I improve them. I want to use them for my tournament. I plan on defeating Yugi Mutou once and for all.”

So, he is going to modify them and present them as his own? Well. I was his for the time being. He was right regarding that part. Nothing here belongs to me.

“Your obsessions know no boundaries,” I murmured, following the long trench coat. He stopped.

“You aren’t even aware,” he exclaimed, and waited for me to follow along.  

The doors opened, and we walked out, side by side. For some reason, I felt really strange about it. It must have been some kind of stupid delusion, as I was aware… but for once, it felt rewarding. Rewarding because I almost felt like I was his equal.

I won't lie - despite my strong animosity towards him, I found that his approval meant a lot to me. Disgusting on my part, but that's how he affected me.

A praise meant a lot, it served as a boost up to my confidence.

I gave my best to look indifferent, though. He must never know exactly how much his opinion (still) means to someone like me.

Chapter Text

PART 4 – Ancient Visions

---- Z ----

I woke from a dream filled with sand, wind and stone. I could still feel the heat of the desert sun on my skin and the feeling of grains under my sandals. I remember walking, covered in layers of robes, dehydrated and tired. It wasn’t the first time I dreamed of such things. I also remember crying.

In my other dreams, filled with many visions of times that I certainly couldn’t have been a part of, I’ve visited the temples of old Gods. I have felt the ancient power from tombstones and hieroglyphs. Never in my life have I had experienced something similar.

I rose up from my bed, exhausted. With each passing dream, I almost felt like… it was all connected. The temple… the stone tables… the palace…

For the longest time, I wanted to know why all of my dreams were so vivid… and why they felt so real. I thought it was just my imagination, but my imagination, despite being colorful and rich, wasn’t exactly all that powerful. That real.

Moreover, I have never been to Egypt, despite travelling a lot, and many times. Somehow, the great pyramids, sand and sand dunes weren’t exactly my cup of tea. There was something unappealing in all of it.

I also had this strange feeling of detachment about the place that I’ve never been to... and it made me feel uneasy. I didn’t have a real reason for feeling that way, but I just felt it nonetheless. I didn’t necessarily dislike it… but I never had the urge to go there, unlike Venus.

She once told me that she plans on going. I wasn’t sure I was enthusiastic about joining her.
We were both born in Japan, but have lived in America… then returned to Japan again. It was when our father, Kenta, started having financial problems. We aspired to help him any way we could, but… not much could have been done about Orion anyway.

I kept telling Venus that she shouldn’t grasp of that dream so hard… the dream that was saving our company… but she was, and is still very burdened by this problem up to this day. In spite of all of my efforts to reason with her, and cheer her up, she doesn’t want to accept the simple truth. We have lost the company for good. And, in all honesty, I believe Orion is finished… and that Venus is pursuing the impossible hope of restoring it to its previous glory. It was sad… but she had nothing else to hold on to, and I couldn’t crush her hopes. Sadly, the reality will probably do it in my stead, but I am going to support her any way I can while I still can.

I feel we have lost the possibilities of restoring Orion, though… but saying it out loud would shatter her even further. Since that’s the last thing that I want, I try to encourage her in her plans of fighting for it, and finding means that could support her ideas. After all, I want to save Orion too, despite having even less faith comparing to my big sister. Seeing as it is, it’s my duty to cheer on her. I need to look positive in front of her, but it’s becoming hard. Everything is becoming hard ever since my last medical exam. It appears that symptoms of my illness are returning… but I can’t tell her that either. I am trying to fight it, and she doesn’t need to know if I can spare her. Although I’ve been taking medicament and started taking therapy, I am not sure how much longer I would be able to hide the signs.

However, I have a convenient coping mechanism. I am an escapist. I can easily find comfort in my work instead of facing my desperation. I’ve been drawing a lot recently, because my dreams deeply inspire me to do so. I’ve been dreaming of creatures… all sorts of creatures… and making card designs out of those images. Many of my dreams actually included strange monsters that I used as an inspiration for my illustrations of dueling monster cards. It almost felt like cheating, but… since I was intertwined with these strange dreams, I also wanted to make something out of it.

The drawings have been occupying my mind for some time, and I’ve been hardly dropping my pencils down. I’ve been keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t get desperate. Moreover, my recent work has been recognized and supported that much… that I was called to make an exhibition in a local art gallery of Domino. I will get some money for it… not nearly as much as I will get from Kaiba, who wants to buy out my designs and make cards for mass production… and distribution in game tournaments. Venus told me he wants to buy most of it, but I am reluctant about giving him all the best designs and not displaying my work in public. But, it will bring me the money, and it was a good start.

As I have already given some of my best designs to Venus, and they clearly caught the eye of Seto Kaiba (the man himself)... it seemed like I would have a bright future. Pegasus recognized my potential first, so it was probably natural Kaiba was informed about it and wanted to buy my illustrations out in order to get advantage over the market. Seto has become so powerful that he almost pushed all of his competitors out of the picture.

But, we were still struggling. I haven’t given Venus all of my best works - some of my best precious monsters simply weren’t for Kaiba Corp. They were for Orion, and Orion only.

I was just sad upon learning… that she chose to give the Empress, her most precious card, to Kaiba’s disposal and ownership. He could now decide just how many copies he would make… and offer to others for using.

The Empress was an intimate representation, really. Its design was based on how I saw Venus on the inside. As powerful, strong, confident person who was a good leader… and a fair ruler. Hence, the card was a strong representation, and made a very good battle opponent to other monsters.

She was to my sister what Blue Eyes White Dragon was to Seto Kaiba. Venus really shouldn’t have offered that card, but Kaiba probably asked for a high price when he made a deal with my sister. Just how much will she be able to keep up working with him? She was a prideful person. Hard to break. And he already bent her to her limits. My twin was having a really, really hard time with Seto, and I didn’t like the way he was treating her.

To think that we used to feel sorry for him and Mokuba when they were children. How the roles have reversed.

I have combed my hair, brushed my teeth and washed my face, still thinking about how to make Venus happier. I have started another design for her, sketching a new monster that she could use for any dueling she chose to do. I have also been searching for a way to find investors to renew the Orion, but so far, it wasn’t good at all. Orion was about to get merged with Kaiba Corp, and it was just the matter of papers at this point.

He will make a big deal out of it, I am sure. Kaiba’s publicity will go through the roof… and I am sure many reporters will try to get Venus’ reaction once it happens. She was the spokesperson and the CEO of our company, so she did all the public talking. Since the companies have been rivals for a while, it will make a great spectacle in Domino. But, at this point… it was evident who’s going to end up as a winner. Venus will have to take it as a champion… and so will , since I will have to make some public appearances too.

As I was thinking about her, my phone ringed. It was almost like telepathy. I’ve responded to my twin.

“Are you up, sleepyhead?” she asked. She sounded tired, and I felt a pinch of guilt as I was free most of the time and could do my work from home as long as I was meeting the deadlines.

“Yes, ma’am. I am going to the gallery later, so… we could grab a cup of coffee if you want?” I offered, more cheerfully than I’ve intended. I hoped I didn’t sound fake. But, I felt that she would reject anyway.

“Gladly. But… I am going to some boring convention with Kaiba. We are probably going to be late, so… don’t wait for me.”

“Staying late? With Kaiba?” I whistled. “Sounds promising.”

I could hear her laughing. “The only thing that is promising at this point is some kind of a nervous breakdown. That’s all I am going to get. And what you are going to get is a slap over your butt, for insinuating stupidities.”

I smiled as well. “On the contrary, it’s a very smart suggestion. You should have thought of it sooner, actually… being a smart-ass yourself and all. Because… if you marry Kaiba, you get half of his empire,” I had to tease, because the only thing we could do was laugh about our situation instead of crying or being moody.

“That asshole will never marry. I mean… who could endure his personality, even for his money? Let’s be honest… even the most promiscuous woman wouldn’t stay with him longer than two days. He is way too grumpy and arrogant.”

“I am sure you’d find ways to avoid him,” I laughed. “Think about Orion”.

“I do. But you could marry him instead and save me the trouble. He likes your designs, and you are much better with handling people… so you’d be the moreappealing candidate,” she said.

“Nah. You are right, no woman would sacrifice herself that much. Not even for Orion,” I gave up, but we were still laughing about it.

“Crap. I’ve got to go, he’s here. I will see you soon, Z.”

“Okay. Love you, girl.”

She ended the call. Venus was already good at her new job. Being an engineer for Kaiba had its benefits, aside the money. There was a certain quality in his work. After all, he was a genius. She will learn a lot working for him. He is successful, has good connections, and he is practically unbeatable. We can’t deny what it is. Indeed, he took his company very seriously, and it was too much in my opinion. After all, it was about toys, playing, about games. It was supposed to be fun. No man should take himself that seriously, not even arrogant, ambitious and successful genius with lack of common manners.

Venus hated his guts but had to tone it down in order to keep her job. How… humiliating for a person of her pride. There was not a thing she liked in Kaiba Corp, from stuff to decoration. The decoration of the Kaiba Corp’s building most certainly got on Venus’ nerves. Not because she necessarily hated the Blue Eyes White Dragon… but because Kaiba loved it so. The man was obsessed with the creature, and Venus started to dislike the representations of the said dragon simply because Seto forced it on everybody… and everywhere. All the time.

He was the proud owner of the three remaining Dragons, so it was kind of a big deal. I think my twin will never get over the fact that the said dragons beat her Empress in a duel. Venus wasn’t the type to lose, yet… Kaiba has beaten her in almost every field. She took it personally, despite my advice to try not to. He was a specific man. He was also very capable, so… to compete with him… meant constant and utter dissatisfaction with oneself.

My sister was a stubborn type. Even when she knew he’d beat her, she would still try and do her best. It was something I really appreciated about her. She always had to do the best she could… so she could say that she did all that was in her power, and not having regrets. The retreat wasn’t her forte.

Therefore… I knew that I should support her in taking the job and working for Kaiba. Despite the difficulty… she will do what she needs to do. It was a part of her character.

*********

I took a shower, freshened up and went to work. I was drawing robots – it was the latest commission I’ve got. It wasn’t very inspiring to me, but the topic was popular recently. The decks were selling, so the job was going well. It kept Orion alive for the time being… but, like I said… I knew we were finished.

We just had to admit that much. Obviously, Kaiba knew that much. It was just… a matter of time before we sign the papers to sell the company to Kaiba and merge with Kaiba Corp. Painful decision… but a necessary decision, I’m afraid. I was thinking a lot about it all… but Venus was having even harder time.

After I’ve finished making digital copies of my sketches, then coloring them in post-production, I went to the gallery to leave new works. After that, I went for a cup of coffee with Yugi. Tea has joined us soon. Tristan and Joey were a bit late, but we all went to have a lunch and spend some time together. They wanted to know about the exhibition and all.

“Zel… is it true? Is Venus working for Kaiba now?” Tea dared to ask what they all wanted to know.
I nodded, gazing towards the highest tower of the building where my twin was working two shifts. She was working her ass off. I’ve given her my work, but she still had to do the programming.

“Damn. Working for that snob must be terrible,” Joey glared at Corp’s tower as well. “Why did she go to work for him anyway?”

“Because… we are about to lose all.”

There was no point in hiding it.

“Damn… since your sister is a proud one, it must have been difficult to go there… and come to terms with that prick,” Tristan crossed his arms on his chest.

“She is handling it. I am sure she will do something about it all.”

Or her deal will be for nothing and she will get depressed. I would do anything to avoid that happening. My sister really deserved better than having to deal with someone like Kaiba.

“It’s really sad,” Yugi sighed. “I do hope you get out of your father’s debt. My grandpa really enjoyed working with you two. I hope you get in production again.”

“It was our pleasure of providing Solomon’s shop with decks. However… all the good things must come to an end, so… parting with Orion is surely just something we should finally do.”

“You are being very… conciliatory about it,” Joey remarked. “Don’t you care?”

I leaned my head on my palm.

“I do. It’s just… that I have been caring about it for so long that it just doesn’t matter anymore. I want to have a normal life. Not to constantly worry about things that I can’t change. I have tried pointing this out to Venus… but she refuses to let go. She loves the dream that Orion is.”

They wouldn’t understand… my inner conflict about it. But, Orion was a reminder of my father’s inability… of his carelessness… and his weakness.

I was greatly ashamed of Orion’s support of Gozaburo’s weapon production. Despite understanding my father’s reasons… he used our company for great evil and mass-destruction. It was something I will never be able to forgive him.

“Let’s change the subject and talk about something else!” Tea smiled. “For example… Zel… I love what you did with your hair. I also love your make up. It looks so cool!”

I appreciated her attempt to enlighten the mood. I didn’t do much about the make-up – I was always wearing a lot of eyeliner and a lot of mascara. I guess that, out of us two… I always wanted to look more mature because Venus, as my elder twin, grew to become quite bossy.

I naturally had a long, black hair, but I dyed ends in red. I just loved experimenting and I thought that I needed to look different if I want people to differ me from her.

Venus was never wearing as much make up as I did. She also never dyed her hair, nor was she planning to. Her clothes consisted of dark, purple trench coat, a white blouse and business-tailored, black pants. My own clothes consisted of… a lot of black leather, high heels and blue overcoats. I guess I needed a different outfits too so people would never mistake me for Venus.

Not because I didn’t like looking like her. Biologically, we were identical. It was our natural look. But… I wanted to be regarded as my own person rather than always being compared to her. And this experimental style was the easier way.

“Thanks, Tea. I really appreciate it,” I smiled to my friend.

“Have you sketched some new monsters?” Joey was interested. “Can you make me a dragon to piss Kaiba off? Will you make it stronger than Blue Eyes?”

“I would love to. However, the card will have to pass the committee.”

“There’s committee for cards?” Tristan raised his eyebrow.

“Actually, yes. Why do you think there are only three Blue Eyes White Dragons in the whole world?” Yugi asked.

“I don’t know. Why?” Joey was perplexed.

“Um, Joey…” Tea was about to explain, but Tristan started laughing.

“The committee decides which cards get distributed, you fool!”

“I knew that! I just wanted to make sure!”

“Yeah, suuure…”

“Guys…” Yugi finished his soda, “… have you heard anything about the new tournament in Domino?”

“There is one?” I’ve asked.

“You thinking about enrolling, ma gurl?” Joey smiled widely. “Cause I am about to cheer on you till the every end!”

“What about your loyalty to Yugi?” Tea asked.

“Yeah, why are you suddenly so fickle?” Tristan smiled.

“Well, I can support both. But, Yugi is a champ already, while Zel… well, Zel needs all the support she can get.”

“What if Mai enrolls?” Tea smiled sweetly. I laughed at that.

“Then, he will support hot blonde, how is that even a dilemma?” I said.

“Come on, guys!”

“Just kidding! We will support any of our friends... so count me in too,” Tristan pointed out at himself.

“I am about to kick everyone’s ass with my forbidden cards. Beware!” I've giggled.

“Don’t let Kaiba hear you,” Tristan smiled. “Or he will challenge you to an immediate duel just to prove he is better.”

“He would never. Venus has dueled him and he won. I doubt I would do better. He doesn’t consider either of us a worthy opponent.”

“I am sure you could beat him if you wanted,” Yugi smiled.

“Thanks, Yug. But, that guy is out of my league and I honestly doubt it.”

“I am sure you are just being too modest.”

He could be so sweet, our Yugi.

“I really love you are so supportive.”

“We can always play for practice, if you want,” he smiled.

“I will be glad to. We can do it tomorrow if you are up to it. Today, I have some plans so I won’t be able to.”

“Tomorrow it is. I will give you a call,” Yugi said.

“Thanks, Yug. You too, guys. Thanks for cheering me up. Let’s meet tomorrow as well, so we can duel for fun.”

“It’s a promise,” Joey winked.

“Indeed!” Tristan confirmed.

“It will be fun! If Venus gets some spare time, she can join us too. The more, the merrier!”

“I will try to get her out of that horrid place. See you!”

I waved at my friends, and took a cab and gave the address of Domino’s museum.

I didn’t tell the crew about my late plans. A visit to the museum was something I needed to do alone. There was an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts going on… and it was hosted by a woman that I have met sometime before. Her name was Ishizu Ishtar… and she owed me some answers since she left me with riddles the last time we spoke.

Chapter Text

PART 5 – Shameless Taunts

Warning: Rude language. This is Kaiba after all... and Venus isn't much better.

--------V---------

“Thank you for gathering on such a short notice. I have an important announcement to make, so please, listen carefully.”

I was speaking firmly, in my most serious and most confident tone… like a real CEO would. My board of directors consisted of nine members and everyone seemed nervous because they already assumed what my meeting was all about.

“Despite our best efforts… creative director Zelda Tokiba’s, as well as my own… Orion is, as you are already aware, facing a crisis that we can’t seem to overpass at this point. At least, not without help.”

Nobody said a word. No one knew how to help the company resurface without providing the large amount of money… the money they weren’t willing to invest either. They all had families. The riches they’ve achieved through Orion, were meant for them. Not to support the ruined company through financial means. Like any other, it was a company that could and would… be replaced. Although it has pained me to admit that much… it was the truth.

I was aware that any loyalty they’ve had… and the small amount they still have… is simply because they were hoping that I would find a solution prior their search for another jobs in similar companies.

I’ve crossed my arms behind my back, rising from my seat.

“That help won’t come from investors. Or Banks. Neither will… from loaners, because I was assured that, because of our debts, no one would invest in the company regardless of our quality. The only solution for now… is that we sell Orion. And that means that, regretfully, some of you will lose your positions.”

A sudden murmur was expected and I gave them a few moments to process this information.

“We are already losing,” the chief of the finances commented. “Personally, I’ve applied for another job. With all respect towards you… and your twin… I need to provide for my family.”

I nodded. “That’s understandable. I am sorry it has come to this.”

They seemed restless.

“I won’t prologue your agony. Five of you… were chosen. Four of you will have to switch jobs. The terms are simple: should you choose to accept the new arrangement… you will get new contracts. Creative Development and The Mechanical Development are to join the new company. Meaning… the holographic developers, designers of cards are maintaining their jobs. Sadly, the company that we are merging with doesn’t need our finance sector. There won’t be need for the law sector either, they have their legal procedures. They also don’t need our marketing sector and they don’t need our IT support.”

“How convenient!”

“Please. This was not my decision. If it was, I would have kept all of you.”

“Bullshit.”

I gave them another moment to get used to these news.

“Please, understand. They want to control all the money they invest in. Regarding the rest of you… I have managed to negotiate deals. You will get the same salaries and bonuses. You will also keep your working contracts… but the clause regarding your initial company will change. Orion… is merging with Kaiba Corp.”

That’s when the real dissatisfaction begun.

“Who wants to work for Kaiba anyway?” my chef of the economy asked. “We were working for Orion because we didn’t want to work for that monster!”

“Indeed! If you don’t remember, miss Tokiba, he fired me from Kaiba Corp before Orion hired me! What am I to do now?” the main lawyer asked. The rage got over him.

“You are selling the company, despite swearing you would never give the company away? There must have been some other solution, and yet… you are relying on Kaiba. Is the money so sweet, miss Tokiba?”

My marketing director’s disappointment was speaking through him. I was aware he was hurt and he talked recklessly. Nevertheless, it felt like a slap over my face.

“Sweet, Trevor? It’s all but. It’s bitter. I hate that we have come to this. But, I’ve asked you to propose an adequate solution. I’ve asked all of you, in fact. And none of you bothered to offer one. Tell me now. Do you have a better solution for Orion? I am all ears.”

“You know well how hard it is to get out of this situation…” Trevor uttered.

“Precisely. And I had to do something about it,” I’ve stated. “It was my only option.”

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown, huh?” the head of finances asked bitterly.

“I wouldn’t know, I never wore one,” I’ve responded, not allowing my anger to get the better of me.

“I am sorry for saying this, miss Tokiba… but I won’t be switching to Kaiba Corp. I want a peaceful working environment, not to be under constant stress. Even if that means I have to work for lesser amount of money. I am not a family guy, so I don’t depend that much on this job. But, like our colleague here, I’ve already applied for another position,” creative manager spoke next.

“I understand. I am terribly sorry… but I understand your reasons, Marco.”

Zelda will be sad to see him leave. He was one of the best colleagues to her.

“I… won’t be joining Kaiba Corp either, Venus.”

Of all people… I didn’t expect him to refuse his new position. Fukunaga was executive director of the engineering department. He was my replacement… and I could always rely on him.

“Hiroshi...”

“I don’t want to work for that man. He is unnecessarily cruel and takes things way too seriously. Despite my great love for Orion… I won’t be helping Kaiba if it’s up to me. That man has ruined my family. Unlike him, you had understanding for basic human needs. You were a good boss. But he? He is a slave driver, and I don’t want to be a slave. That aside… I’ve already had several other offers in Domino.”

I felt my heart sinking. He was a good engineer… and I was always more productive with him around. He made things easier. He was supportive. But, if he didn’t want to work for Kaiba… I couldn’t make him.

“This is a disaster,” someone said.

“We shouldn’t have waited this long. We should have left earlier.”

“Where is Zelda, anyway?”

“Zelda is currently in hospital due to health problems,” I’ve responded. “I am sorry, everyone,” I’ve looked at them, each one separately, and met their eyes. I gripped my seat, digging my fingers into the leather surface.

“Disregarding our ups and downs… you’ve been the best crew we’ve had. Both Zelda and me. We were happy to work with you and we are very sorry there wasn’t a better solution.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Well, you have your father to thank for all of this, miss CEO.”

“It’s easy for you to talk like that when you get to keep your job, Tokiba…”

“This isn’t easy in any way,” this was the point when I was starting to get angry. My tone became sharper. “Has it occurred to you… that you have put too much responsibility on me? That I have tried everything to save my father’s legacy? That maybe, and just maybe, you haven’t done all you could regarding your own jobs? Because, this is a company. Not a two-women managed establishment. You expect miracle without putting even a basic faith in the fist place.”

“You get to keep the job… don’t you? Both you and Zelda!”

Yes. Yes we do.

“Knowing Kaiba… he had a grudge against Orion. Why would he keep either one of you, or either one of us anyway? What kind of deal did you make?” she asked. I was hoping I’d avoid these kinds of comments. I was staring at her for a few seconds.

“I don’t like your tone, Miss Leith. What are you implying?” I glared at Claire, and crossed my arms on my chest. Her eyes were filled with resentment.

“I am saying you have hit the jackpot, Miss Tokiba. You get to keep your position, your sister gets to keep hers. Everyone knows Kaiba isn’t a generous man, and he is not doing things out of goodness of his heart. What benefits does he rip… from working with you?”

If looks could kill… Claire Leith would be dead.

“Say what you want to say, Claire,” I dared her.

“Everyone knows what I am saying,” the woman was starting getting embarrassed. Good.

“No. I don’t know what you are talking about. Say it,” I insisted. My blood was boiling out of anger.

But, Claire wasn’t going to back down now. She was too prideful.

“I am saying he is screwing you. Either you… or Zelda.”

I frowned and gave her the most contemptuous look I could make.

“That’s what you are saying?” I’ve raised my eyebrow. “Now. What about the rest of you?” I’ve asked. “Let’s settle this once and for all.”

No one else dared to vocalize their doubts, even if they had some.

“Well, Claire… I wasn’t going to bring personal matters of the board on board. But since you have started this topic, let me say… that not all business women or CEOs have to spread their legs in order to achieve something. Unlike you, both my sister and I were brought up in a way where we had to fight our way to the top. I am sorry if that method is unknown to the likes of you, who are sleeping with married men.”

“Oh, you had it so hard. Being daughters of Tokiba Kenta, living in luxury all your lives and all,” she hissed. She thought it was impressive to say it to my face.

“How ugly… the envy looks on you. And to think I’ve made a deal with Kaiba to keep you in development sector. I am truly a fool… having appreciating and separating your work from your amoral behavior. But, I won’t be tolerating that anymore. Consider your contract revoked.”

“Revoked? Because I’ve told you the truth? You are a bitch, Venus Tokiba.”

“And you are fired, Miss Leith.”

Claire was the first one to leave the meeting. She stormed out.

“All of you who are willing to keep your jobs and work under these conditions… I will contact you soon. There will be a procedure regarding the selling of the company and the papyrology will have to be dealt with. But, I expect Mr. Kaiba to enable and equip our offices soon. Be available through means of phones and emails so I can inform you when we start. Once again… thank you for your time and your hard work. Orion might be finished, but our work still isn’t.”

Surely, it wasn’t a pleasant meeting. Hell, it was barely bearable. I wanted to cry but had to stay focused on how I looked in front of them. As they were all leaving, I wondered… how things would work from now on.

Hiroshi Fukunaga approached me the last, putting his arm on my shoulder.

“Venus…”

“It’s all right, Hiro. I really… understand.”

“You have been the best boss I’ve had. It was a pleasure working for you.”

“Thank you.” I’ve touched his hand on my shoulder. “It was a pleasure of having you in my team as well.”

After he left… I couldn’t help but feel somehow betrayed… because we had the best working dynamics. It was just an additional shame… that I liked him privately as well. Hiroshi Fukunaga was a smart, relaxed guy, and for his soft side, I liked him a lot. I felt at ease around him and it appeared that he was fond of me too. I will miss him greatly in that… horrid place.

Really… what a shame.

------------------------------------------------------------

“I take it didn’t go well,” Kaiba was sitting at the back of his limousine. His chauffeur opened the door for me to get in but I refused, staying by the door. The rumors… have gotten to me after all. I was nervous just by being around him like that. The vicious tongues couldn’t wait… but to link me with Kaiba.

“It didn’t. What do you want?”

“Get in.”

“I will walk. Why are you here?”

He crossed his legs. “What’s up with you? Aren’t used to limos?”

“No, I really dislike unnecessary showing off if I can avoid it. That aside, I need to go to hospital. But, since you were driven all this way, let me inform you that I can’t get back to work for today. I thought about calling you… but I need to take rest of the day off.”

It was the first time that I have asked for something like that.

“Need? What you need to do, is get back at KC at once,” he said in that petty way that I hated so much.  

“I’ve worked overtime for two weeks now,” I’ve reminded him.  

“And you will be paid. But the job is still not done,” he said.

“I am not your slave,” I glared at him.  

He gave me one serious look. One threatening look.

“I said get in, Tokiba,” he seemed really pissed. Well… more pissed than usual. Royally pissed.  

“Listen…”

How could I tell him… that people were already talking? And, that by entering his limousine, parked near the entrance of my own company, meant he would only make the rumors worse?

“If I say it one more time, consider the deal off.”

Why hadn’t I guessed he would do something like this? It was just like him. I rolled my eyes as I’ve entered the car and rammed the door so hard that even he showed that he was disturbed by my savagery. I didn’t care. I was a savage girl once when cornered.

“Stooping to blackmail… is beneath you, Seto,” I’ve hissed.  

I took the seat opposite of him. To this… he just smirked with disdain.  

“And giving into gossips… is beneath you, Venus.”

I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond.

“Come on. Refusing to get into the car. Looking over your shoulder, and hoping no one would notice it’s me. Taking an opposite seat. I have never taken you for a fool, but you are doing everything in your power to reassure me.”

“You’ve concluded all that just from looking at me? You might be a genius, but you aren’t that observant. So, tell me… who was it?”

He smirked this time. He was actually satisfied I’ve picked that up instantly.

“Who was it?” I was losing my patience.

“Your IT manager. I needed to know just what kind of people worked under you… and how their reactions were during that meeting.”

“You’ve… bugged my IT manager?” I asked, completely disgusted.

“I didn’t have to. He used his own bug. I’ve simply made a deal with him. Paid him a good money as well. He wasn’t hard to persuade.”

I grabbed his collar. It was an instinct, I wasn’t thinking.

“You are a snake,” I was so angry that I’ve leaned towards him. Very deep, Venus. Very good.  

“Careful now…” he was still smiling in that ugly way… the way for which I wanted to punch him in the face.

“You are a damn controlling freak!” I was about to slap him. I hesitated… and he used that moment to grab both of my wrists.

“And you damn knew that much the moment you’ve entered my office. How do you think I manage to overlook a company such as Kaiba Corp?”

“By spying everyone?!”

“Occasionally, yes. For instance, when I don’t trust the board of directors that are about to join, I need to look into exactly what kind of people I am letting in. But, why are you suddenly so furious… Venus?” he asked. I was too close, I realized.

“Is it because of remarks of miss… Leith, was it?” he enjoyed seeing me so embarrassed.

“You… are…” A sadist. A manipulator. An asshole. A cockroach.

“I am whatever I want to be. Doing whatever I want to do. Because I can.”

He grabbed the nape of my neck, pulling me closer, looking viciously at me. I could have sworn that I was getting an arrhythmia, since my heart was beating so fast. I wasn’t supposed to feel this way, and yet… I did. Maybe it had to do something with Claire’s comments. Or maybe it hasn’t been her at all. Maybe it has been me. And maybe Zelda’s taunts weren’t all so… groundless.  

“You can be whatever you want… and yet… you chose to be an asshole,” I’ve whispered when our lips almost touched. It was so surreal that I wasn’t sure whether it was really happening… or if I was dreaming awake. He was always cold. Distant. Professional.

Never has he ever… given the slightest sign that he had this side. Was this his weird, twisted humor?

He smiled, letting me go. “Don’t look so scared. It doesn’t fit you.”

“You wouldn’t know what fits me or not.”

I’ve dug myself with that statement. It came out so wrong that he kept smirking, but thankfully, hadn’t made any further remarks. I leaned onto his bloody seat, still trying to process what was about to happen. He would have kissed me. He would. But, why?

He resolved my doubts with a simple statement.

“Relax, Tokiba. You aren’t my type. Never worry about spreading your legs to me… because I wouldn’t screw you even if you were the last woman on Earth.”

My, my… that was harsh. This won’t go the way he plans. To make it look like he was just teasing, and I almost gave in. Even if that was the case, I wasn’t going to let him embarrass me just because he spoke a few… lascivious words. But that’s all they are. Words.

“Even if you wanted to screw me and even if I, by some miracle, allowed you to do so… you still wouldn’t know how to do it. Don’t make it like it’s you who don’t want me. In this game of wanting, I’d end up having the upper hand.”

“Oh, really? What makes you so sure?” he asked.

“Because I would never give in to the likes of you. You are unbearable.”

He chuckled. “Since we’ve had this little chit chat and you’ve seen it’s not a big deal, are the rumors still going to be a problem?”

“No.”

“Good. Here.”

He handed me the suitcase.

“Is this…” I’ve opened it. My disc was finished. I was looking it, and I suddenly felt… how the whole torment with Kaiba actually had some point.

“The first one out of the first series of thousand that I’ve ordered.”

“And… you came just to show this to me?” I was puzzled.

“No. I came to give this to you. It’s your prototype. Perfected, and improved… but it’s initially yours. You have constructed the most parts. But, that’s not all.”

I’ve found a card in the disc. A simple card.

“It’s… the Empress…”

I was getting unreasonably emotional. Zelda has made that card for me… and… it was my most treasured card until I’ve given permission to Kaiba to use it as he wanted.

“The committee agreed to my decision,” he said, “Since your pathetic card is so pathetic… it shouldn’t be multiplied, redistributed and copied. The only sample in the world… will belong to you.”

I was overwhelmed at that point. I’ve actually teared up after hearing it.

“Why?” I asked.

“You worked hard. Contrary to popular belief, I do reward hard workers.”

“It’s so unlike you… to show kindness.”

He gave me the look.

“It’s not kindness. Don’t be dumb.”

“So… you will ask for something in return?”

“As what, spreading your legs?" he frowned. "No. But, I might ask you to duel me sometime soon.”

“Just so you could mock me again?”

“Even if simply for that very reason.”

He knocked to his chauffer, who opened a slider to hear from Kaiba.

“We are going to hospital. Make it fast.”

Chapter Text

PART 6 – The Hardest Thing

-------- V ----------

When I arrived, Yugi was still sitting next to her hospital bed. He was holding his Millenium Puzzle and seemed lost in thoughts. I have approached them and put my coat over the nearest seat.

“Yugi… thanks for keeping an eye on her in my absence. I really appreciate it,” I’ve said, putting my hand over his shoulder, giving him a small touch of comfort. Then, I sat next to her bed too.

“It’s the least I could do,” he said. “How did the meeting go?”

“As you can probably tell, it was… disastrous. But, we will have to get through all of this somehow.”

Zelda was breathing slowly, and steadily. She has stabilized, but it didn’t seem that she would wake up soon. This was similar to that other time before the Battle City… when she had an attack and couldn’t wake up for several weeks. It’s been a week this time, and she was still not recovering.

“Frankly, everything that seemed to bother me about Orion suddenly became less important… once I’ve received that call from Ishizu,” I admitted.

I was blaming myself for not having noticed the symptoms. They were there, despite the fact that Zelda seemed fine. Moreover, she acted like she was all right. She was working hard and she made several exhibitions. Nothing looked like it was out of the order. Obviously, I was too involved with working for the company and I have overlooked her needs. I was selfish, thinking that she would be all right, despite struggling ever since she was a child.

I was still in Kaiba Corp when Ishizu called. Upon hearing that my sister ended up in the emergency, I broke down and started to cry. Luckily, Kaiba wasn’t in the room to see it so I had time to vent out. I didn’t remain there for long, though… I had to catch a cab and go to hospital.

I called Mokuba to inform him about my absence and immediately went to visit my sister. Ishizu was there all the time. When we met, she told me that Zelda collapsed in the museum. She had an episode… and Ishizu has immediately brought her there.

“I can only imagine how it has been to you. We were quite surprised… because she was all right. It’s been… what, years since she had her last episode?”

“Yes. She was taking her medications and gave her best to think positively. You know how she is. Always a ray of sunshine for everyone else… except for herself.”

I’ve touched her hand. It felt a bit cold. I was looking at my twin, thinking how she seemed fragile in that moment. Like she was ethereal… made of glass. Her skin was unusually pale without all of her make up. Her long, thick lashes were closed… her thin lips firmly pressed, bloodless… and she didn’t seem like she was at peace at all, despite being sedated. That fact has really bothered me.

“Venus… I can’t help but think… that it’s my fault,” Yugi couldn’t look at me in that moment. I was shocked by his statement. He didn’t have anything to do with her state. So…

“What on earth are you talking about?” I was slightly afraid of hearing his response. Had he anything to do with this… I wasn’t sure how I would take it. I loved Yugi, he was a dear friend… but… if he had done anything to contribute to Zelda’s state… I wouldn’t be able to forgive him.

“Yami… and his departure,” he softly spoke. “She still can’t get over it. She is trying her best. She is forcing her smiles, and living her life… but his absence has really affected her more than she would ever be willing to admit. To either of us.”

Yugi was looking at her troubled expression as well. I almost felt relieved because of his explanation.

“Yugi… come on. We’ve talked about it. It wasn’t your fault.”

Yami and Zelda used to be pretty close. When we have all met in high school… the two immediately formed some sort of mutual understanding that was surpassing verbal communication. One always knew what the other was thinking. They shared perspectives… and had a very similar way of thinking. It felt like they’ve known each other for a long time… and like they’ve been friends forever.

My sister has always been more mature comparing to other people who were our age. Always seemed wiser and more opened to analyze and accept the world for what it has been. I am ashamed to admit, but, at times… I felt like she was the older one in terms of personality.

With Yami Yugi… she had some strange sort of growth that surpassed their age.

While I had a similar experience with Yami, who affected all the people he was involved with as a friend… I have never quite formed the bond that Zelda shared with him. The were on the same frequency, I guess. But now, with his departure… she was strangely detached. She was supportive, and she was cheerful… but I knew that deep down, she was mourning. I just didn’t know how much.

“Had I not won…” Yugi uttered, touching the Millenium Puzzle yet again…

“He wanted you to win. He wouldn’t have wished any other outcome. Yami… no, Atem… wanted you to give your best. You did. There’s nothing to regret now.”

Everyone probably knew… that Zelda liked Yami. She never said it, but when people are in love, it reflects in their eyes. When he left… the glow from her eyes disappeared almost entirely. No matter how many times she’d put the smile on her face, it was never the same. And, while I never doubted her strength… there were simply too many things that she had to burden recently. One of them was this big… sale of Orion. The other was her own, demanding work. She was working hard to gain money… but our inability to acquire the necessary resources was getting to her as well.

“When you think about it… the last time she collapsed, was when Atem was about to go to Egypt. To enter the Shadow Realm and uncover the memories of his past. Zelda simply… wasn’t able to take it,” Yugi noted. I nodded. It was really like that. She has gotten into a catatonic state… and was in it for about two weeks.

Back then… Yami has gotten away and she never got to say goodbye. She never got the closure. I knew it was haunting her up to this day, but again… I didn’t know just how strongly.

“We are all trying to move on,” Yugi admitted. “And we are all doing well. Tea, Joey, Tristan. Knowing we said our goodbyes, we had time to properly send him away and get used to fact that we have lost him forever. But Zelda… has never gotten her goodbye. Not in a real sense of that word.”

Yugi’s thoughts were insightful and truthful. I knew all of this, but… I was encouraging her to move on. I spoke to her a lot about how Atem wouldn’t want her to remain sad. He would have wanted her to find peace and to live the rest of her life a happy woman. But, she was struggling.

“She simply… wasn’t ready,” I’ve stated. She wasn’t. She knew, the moment they’ve gotten into the aircraft to Cairo, to explore Ishizu’s story… that she was going to lose him. And she wasn’t ready to witness his departure.

For all this time, I was convincing myself that she was all right. That she’s gotten better. That her condition has improved. But, in reality, it was just a matter of moment of when she’d give in to grief.

She was looking so young… my ever wise, and ever mature Zelda. But, she was just a baby sister that I wasn’t able to protect… not then… and not now.

It was eating me from the inside.

“I feel bad about her… because, whenever she looks at me… she is reminded of him. And I think… it causes her pain. So, it’s my fault, Venus… and I am terribly sorry.”

Yugi’s eyes were teary at this point.

He couldn’t help but feel guilty. They were all moving on, living their lives. Tea and Yugi have even recently acknowledged their feelings towards each other… and started dating. Despite Tea’s feeling for Yami… her affection for Yugi was always there too. They started out as friends, and now, they were something more. They wanted to give it a chance. Tristan and Serenity were also a thing. Joey and Mai were just about to happen… and everyone seemed to find some sort of happiness that simply wasn’t reserved for Zelda. They were all supporting each other, supporting Zelda too… in her restless pursuit of creating new cards. Like she would make some kind of homage to Atem through portraying his creatures and making decks that would honor his sacrifice.

My heart would always sink when I thought about it. She was missing him… and missing him dearly. I thought how I was supposed to know that all along… but I somehow preferred to believe that she would find another love, and find him soon. She has tried dating. She wasn’t going to be sad forever, or at least, she thought so. She was forcing herself to try and find someone else she would love. Alas, that didn’t end well because her heart… was reserved for the one that would never be hers. And it was Atem.

It was always Atem.

She regretted many things, regarding her relationship with him. She regretted her silence… for staying silent while he was still here. Despite my efforts to convince her to tell him, she never found the courage to tell him how she felt about him… because she knew it would be useless. It would be futile… to tell him something that would only burden him from uncovering his memories. That love… had no future since the very beginning.

It was the most terrible thing… loving someone who will never be physically by your side. That silence of hers now tormented her, keeping her angry with herself for not at least admitting it to him in order to get that relief. She had to live with it now. It was really… burdening.

“You have nothing to be sorry about, Yugi. You won. Fair and square. Zelda knows that too. She was blaming only herself… for getting in such a bad shape that she wasn’t able to follow him in the Shadow Realm. We both would have gone… but I had to stay with her. I had to support her. When she got into catatonic state, I feared I’d lose her forever. But, Yami… no, Pharaoh Atem… had to fulfill his destiny. They both knew… what he had to do. And she never, not even once… blamed you for his departure.”

Yugi was reflecting on this.

“He… said something before he left, you know. He asked me to take care of her. He knew you would, always being by her side, and all… but… he also asked me to protect her too. She was his cherished friend… so he wanted to make sure she was fine.”

I knew that as well. Yami… Atem… was really kind, and very considerate. That’s why I broke the one thing I never should have – the trust between sisters. I approached Atem and, on behalf of Zelda… I told him about what she was going through.

“Yami… before you go… I need to tell you something,” I started then.

If I tried to justify my unforgivable act… I would say that I was desperate. She was already ill… and she was bound to bed. I was about to lose her… because she was going to lose the person she loved. And I couldn’t allow it. Also, I couldn’t allow him to go before he finds out… about her feelings.

His purple eyes looked at me.

“Has she woken up?” he asked. He was already stalling his memory uncovering and… he would do it again for her. But, the time was running out. The world was in danger again.

“She will. Soon. I know it in my heart. But, before she does… I need to tell you what’s in her own heart.”

My mouth felt dry. I wanted to speak further, but I choked on my words.

“Venus… you don’t have to.”

“I need to. And, while it’s not my place to say this to you... I am sure that you are already assuming what I want to reveal to you.”

It was one of those decisions that weren’t mine to take. Still, I have taken it.

“If you go now… her heart may break. She… cares deeply for you. More than she would ever admit to anyone, but I know her. I know how she breathes. I know what her smiles mean. I know her soul. She…”

“I know,” he said. His clever eyes seemed saddened by that. “Like I also know she is not ready to face what is coming now. Not because she isn’t strong… but because she simply isn’t ready.”

“You sound like… you know something that the rest of us don’t.”

“I do. But, I won’t force her to face something she suffered for in the past. I recommend you don’t either. Both of you have been through ordeals that are better left buried underneath. Ishizu has told me that much. It’s not like I remember, and I am giving this advice because I know about it more than you do. I simply believe Ishizu. Some things are better left… the way they are.”

“So… you…”

“I feel the same about her,” Yami admitted, looking me straight in the eyes. I have rarely seen him that serious… and that sad. His firm attitude suddenly got softer, and his words were more soft comparing to his usual tone. “But, I am here on a borrowed time… and in a borrowed body. We don’t have a future.”

He took my hand with his own.

“There’s nothing I would have wanted more… than to remain by her side. But, I have to follow this path… and she needs to follow hers. She shouldn’t remain attached to a spirit from five thousand years ago… and I shouldn’t give her any reason to do so. But, know this, Venus… I want her to find happiness. Tell her that once she awakens.”

“I am sure she knows that, but I will tell her nonetheless. Forgive me for the courage to speak to you this way. She shouldn’t have told you this… since she didn’t want to tell you herself… because she didn’t want to trouble you. I did, because of my selfish need… to do something when she couldn’t. I am a bad sister… but you are a good friend. Thank you for telling me the truth.”

“It’s bitter truth… but… I am relieved you told me about her. I am relieved in knowing… that someone cared about me the way I did about them. I will always carry your sister in my heart… and I will always be with her in spirit. Still, tell her to find another. To live her life to the fullest. And, when she comes to the afterlife… we may yet meet again.”

“I am sure you will,” I whispered, squeezing his hand with my own. I’ve started crying, unable to hold my tears further. “I am simply sorry… she isn’t able to say goodbye to you now.”

“Maybe it’s for the better. I don’t think I would be able to say goodbye to her either.”

His eyes seemed teary, but Yami wasn’t the type to cry that easily.

“Thanks for saying that,” I whispered. “Thank you for your honesty.”

He has hugged me. It was short, and warming. He was like a sun… affecting people in the kindest possible way. I was still recalling his expression. The sadness of the inevitability that was about to happen. The next day, he left… and Zelda hadn’t wakened up for a long time after that.

Yugi, who was now standing next to me, grew to look more like Atem with each passing day. He was becoming even more confident, and more assured of his own strength.

“Yugi, I just wished… we could have gone with all of you. But, it is what it is. Now, we have to look forward and live the best way we can. For Atem… and for the opportunity he has given us,” I’ve stated.

He nodded.

“We are all trying. Even Zelda. I just hope she recovers soon.”

“She will. She is strong. Don’t give up on her just yet.”

I’ve hugged Yugi. He hugged me back.

“Never. Sorry for getting emotional… when you are the one who is affected more,” he said.

“Don’t worry. We are all emotional at this point. I understand. I also appreciate your concern for Zelda.”

“I hope she recovers soon. She has promised me a duel,” he smiled softly.

“Let’s stay positive. She will duel you soon… with the greatest duel equipment you are yet to see,” I smiled as well.

“You have finished the disc?”

“It’s in the production as we speak. Kaiba is about to start a new tournament soon.”

“Are you planning on applying?” he wanted to know.

“No. I enjoy dueling monsters… but being a professional duelist is simply not in the cards for me,” I joked about it.

“Both you and Zelda… are too modest. You are very good duelists. I think you should give it a try.”

“I find bigger pleasure in making and providing the technology for duelists instead. I am more of a duel enthusiast than I am someone who should be a professional duelist.”

“I disagree. Just because you were defeated by Kaiba… doesn’t mean you should give up entirely.”

Maybe he was right. I was dueling on a professional level prior to that defeat.

“I didn’t. I am just not tournament material,” I admitted.

“Well… I hope you change your mind,” he said, rising from the chair. “I have to go now… but I shall visit her tomorrow as well. If you need me to keep an eye on her since you are busy with your job, please call me anytime.”

“I will. Thank you for all the support, Yug.”

“Any time. Stay strong, V.”

When he left, and I was alone with my sister… I fixed her pillows and tucked the blanket around her. I’ve changed the old flowers from the vase, and opened the window so some fresh night air could get into the room. The lights of Domino’s nightlife were glimmering. I turned back towards Zelda.

She was so silent that I was afraid she’d stopped breathing. I leaned onto her to listen to her heart. It was slow. Her breathing was weak. As if she wanted to stop living altogether. The only time I was this afraid for her… was that time when Atem left.

“I know it’s been hard… but… come to me already. I can’t do this without you,” I whispered. “My life… has no meaning without you. Please… please. I need you more… than he does. Please.”

The tears were falling themselves. I was squeezing her hand.

“I am all alone… without you,” I kept whispering. “I know your heart still aches… but I don’t want to lose you. I know he is gone… but I am still here. Right here... so, don’t leave me alone in this world.”

My cell phone ringed in that moment. I had to inhale several times prior to picking up, because I was overwhelmed by emotions. Additionally, I was annoyed because he wouldn’t stop calling. So, I picked up.

“You really have no one else to call?!” I practically yelled over the phone.

“Can you attend the press conference tomorrow?” he wanted to know. “And she better be dying if you are talking to me that way.”

That way? What about his way, all the time? She better be dying?

I was so pissed by his comment... that I couldn't stop myself. The words just fell out of my mouth.

“You are a real son of a bitch, you know that?! Screw you, Kaiba!”

“Shall I take it as a no, then?” he asked. He was mocking me even now.

“You know what? Screw your conferences. Screw your money. Screw your tournament. I quit.”

I have ended the conversation, realizing only then... what I’ve done. My anger finally took over… and I wasn’t able to think straight.

And it was about to cost me everything.

Chapter Text

PART 7 – Asking The Impossible

--------V--------

I was still holding her hand when someone entered the hospital room we were in.

I lifted my head up, dizzy from napping. No one was supposed to visit this late. Still, some people seemed to have privileges that surpassed ordinary rules. He had enough money to bend them to his own will.

“I can’t believe you’d appear after that. What do you want, Kaiba?” I asked without even facing him.

He walked forwards so I rose up, trying my best to look confident. When I finally looked at him, I found a furious expression. His eyes were full of rage.

“You don’t get to quit Kaiba Corp…” he remarked, “…you get fired from Kaiba Corp.”

He came all this way to say that to me? Maybe because I wasn’t answering the phone. But again…

“Okay. If that will make you happier… consider that you had fired me instead of me quitting… and that I have acted all broken. Now… is that all?” I’ve asked. I was just so tired from crying so much… that I felt nothing he’d say could disrupt my current indifference.

Normally, I would have argued. It’s what he expected. But, right now… I wasn’t in the mood… and I didn’t have the necessary strength to fight him either.

He walked towards the bed where Zelda was lying. I stepped in front of him, blocking his way. He was definitely looking scornful this time.

“I am stopping the mass production of that disc. I am also cancelling the tournament,” he hissed.

“I imagined you’d do something like that. I knew your retaliation would be… according to my acts,” I sighed. He crossed his arms, judging, looking at me.

“Don’t think for a second that you’ll simply get fired, and that everything would just end there. You still owe me for the resources that I’ve put into the whole production. You owe me a debt… and you are going to repay it,” his tone was dangerous.

“How can I, if I am fired?” I asked.

“That’s your problem, isn’t it?” he mocked.

“Indeed.”

I was thinking about selling my own kidney at this point. Zelda would have laughed, telling me that I am being dramatic. And she would be right.

“Tell me something, Seto.”

The distance between me and him… was smaller and smaller. With each step that I’ve made.

“Why bother to come here… this late? Why bother to notify me at all?”

“I wanted to see your expression… when you hear that I am going to crush everything that you hold dear. Starting with your pitiful project. With your work. Your company. Everything.”

“I see. And, are you satisfied?”

The question seemed to irritate him. He wasn’t satisfied with any of my reactions so far.

“You really think you know me… don’t you, Venus?”

“At this point, I really think everyone knows you, Seto. Because… anyone with half a brain could tell that you’d get vengeful and mad... for whatever reason you choose. Other than Mokuba, you don’t care about anyone. You simply keep pursuing your own selfish goals without regarding others. I do get you… and you can behave like that because you are crazily rich. You are also a tyrant with enough power to terrorize people. In that regard, you are just like Gozaburo.”

He grabbed my face with his fingers. I would have sworn he would hit me in that moment.

“Well, that’s rich… coming from a daughter of Tokiba Kenta,” he made me look into his eyes.

“Whatever the sins of my own father are… he has never been as cruel, or as unfair as Gozaburo. You know that. You also take after your adopted father… not because you share his causes… for everyone knows you’ve taken the Corporation from him… but in thinking that you are entitled to violence simply because you have the power. You are stepping over people like they are mere insects.”

“They aren’t even... mere insects. They are simply means to my ends. If they are of no use to me, I don’t care what becomes of them. And that includes you as well,” his fingers dug into my chin. I grabbed his wrist with my own hands. I pushed his arm away.

“You will find out… maybe not today, but some other time… that you can’t get everything you want.”

I suddenly realized I was referring to how he couldn’t get everything… or everyone.

“There are a very few things that are out of my reach. Nevertheless, I will do everything that I can to reach them anyway. So, until that hypothetical day comes… you may watch me as I take everything that I plan on taking.”

“I won’t bother with following your further career anyway. I think I’ve had enough of you for a lifetime.”

He smiled. “You will still have to pay me.”

“You know I won’t be able to. The only solution I have is… that you keep on producing the discs. I would sell you all the rights… and that alone should cover up the expenses.”

“If they get popular enough, that is. That’s not good for my business. It's not going to bring me enough money. Hence... your debt stays.”

“Honestly… what do you want from me?”

“I wanted to hear your apology in person,” he said. “You’ve been emotional and you brought a rash decision that will significantly affect your life if you don’t correct it now. I am willing to ignore our last phone call… but you have to apologize for being imprudent… and for being immature.”

“Are you trying to ask me to return to Kaiba Corp and keep working for you?” I was shocked. “That aside… you were an asshole! What’s there to apologize for?”

“I’ve just elaborated. Are you dumb?” he asked me back.

“You are the one who should be apologizing… Seto.”

“For what, exactly? Being generous?” he asked.

“For provoking my reaction in the first place. What you are calling immature and imprudent, was a normal reaction, considering how Zelda… might really be dying. You were rude.”

He was watching her... a girl, sleeping with grimace of pain. It hurt me to see her so restless. I couldn’t even find comfort in thought that she might be at peace… for that expression solely attested to her discomfort.

“Always so protective of your twin. It almost feels like you are her guarding dog or something,” Kaiba mocked me. Mocked us. Well…

“I am her guarding dog,” I haven’t denied that much, “…so, be careful, Kaiba. I might bite.”

His smirk was menacing.

“I will take that risk. Now, I am expecting that apology, unless you want to end up in jail.”

“I may take that chance,” I was stubborn.

“And people keep telling me that you are a smart person. You have only proven to be a fool so far.”

Zelda’s breathing became slower. My heart sank.

“You are right,” I’ve admitted. “I am a fool. I do apologize. You were right to call me rash. I wasn’t thinking, so I offended the most arrogant man on the planet, without taking into consideration that he would probably fire me for bruising his ego. I hadn’t thought it through. Still, you will need me for holographic constructions, for development of technicalities, and I will need you for your competence and all your resources. We work well together, and I will dare say that I am good enough that you can partially rely on me without having to do all things by yourself. So, Kaiba… I kindly ask you to take me back. I don’t want to lose anything.”

“Right. Well, Tokiba, you better be ready for the commitment that I am about to expect from you. This is going to take all of your time… and all of your knowledge.”

“What do you have in mind?”

He had a motive behind this approach. I should have known he wasn't here simply to hear my apology. He needed something from me.

“Like I said. We are going to drop the production. I don’t need the tournament because I don’t need to beat Yugi. I need to beat the Pharaoh.”

He must have lost his mind. His biggest opponent was in the afterlife.

“Pharaoh is never coming back. You are insane. There’s no way to reopen the portal, his spirit has passed on. Isn’t that what everyone kept saying?”

“Oh, they are. But, that doesn’t mean they are right. She knows that much too,” he was still looking at my little sister.

“She doesn’t. She has lost hope of ever seeing him again. The tomb has collapsed… and all the Millenium Items are lost. Well… except for the Puzzle, which is still in Yugi’s possession.”

“I have sent a team to locate the tomb. They are searching for the current possible locations. I will find whatever items are left… and I am going to use the energy from what the others keep calling magic. I will find a way to bring him back… and you are going to help me,” Seto exclaimed.

“Why would I do that?” I have asked, not because I was about to refuse… but because I was about to accept. Whatever madness he was about to propose, I was about to get involved in with. For Zelda.

“Because you want her to reunite with him,” he responded.

Indeed. I nodded, and Seto continued.

“She wants to see him as much as I do… for whatever reasons she has. I do intend to duel him. And, as far as Ishizu Ishtar is concerned… your sister is the key to finding Pharaoh’s world without having to previously die to reach him in the afterlife.”

“But... how? Being key… in what way?”

“It has something to do with her having to be there to act as a key, or activate the key,” Seto was skeptic, but was also willing to do anything if it meant he could bring Atem back.

“Do you really believe that? You, of all people?” I was puzzled. “Nevermind. Listen… I won’t do anything that could endanger her life. I hope you know that much.”

“Zelda needs to open the tomb. That’s all. I am going to find all the Items, and I am going to use them to go to the dark side of dimensions.”

I needed a moment to process that.

“Seto, it’s impossible. I wish there was a way… but it’s beyond the laws of physics. You'd need an object that would have to travel really fast. Fast... as the speed of light itself. Or the speed of sound. Hypothetically. You'd need an object... that could carry you through the Universe by that speed. You'd need your own... space station. Or... an aircraft... no, a rocket... forget it. It’s beyond all the science! Atem… is dead. We can’t reach souls unless we have the energy that people consider to be a magic. He has transitioned! He is no longer in this world. Maybe you should leave it like that. I don’t want Zelda to die while waiting for the impossible to happen.”

“But, what does she want? Have you thought about it?”

He glared at me. I was taking her hand again, squeezing her cold fingers between my own.

“She is like this because she wants to see him,” Seto pointed out. I wasn’t aware it was so evident that even he could tell.

“Like a fool that she is, she is withering away. It’s probably from sorrow. She is like a widow, in mourning of the one that she had lost. A devoted weakling that would rather die… than live without him. So, I suggest you take my way... instead of waiting for her to die solely to meet him in the afterlife. I am offering you a different possibility - the one that involves science. She can meet him, and have her closure. She can finally say her goodbye, and I can finally beat him in a real duel.”

“You are… obsessed. It’s unhealthy,” I was really worried about his mental state at this point.

He was inexorable.

“Take it or leave it, Venus.”

“You say your people are locating the tomb.”

“They are.”

“But, you need Zelda to open it.”

“Yes.”

“She needs to be… awake for that. Doesn’t she?”

“I assume she does.”

“But, what if…”

I couldn’t say it. I wasn’t ready to say it.

“If she isn’t awake… you will have to do,” Seto remarked.

“What makes you thing that I can do something that she was supposed to do? We are twins, but we are not the same person. We don't have the same abilities. Nor the same purpose.”

Things were getting really weird.

“Ask Ishizu. It’s her fairytales that have brought this mess upon us all in the first place.”

Ishizu… why on Earth… is Zelda the key?

“As soon as you find the tomb… let me know. If she is awake… I will explain everything to her. And, if she isn’t…” I couldn’t look at him anymore without starting to cry.

“I will just get my helicopter and fly us all to Cairo. Ishizu can explain the rest on the way there.”

Seto was preparing to leave.

“What if this is all just a grand scam and we… can’t do anything? If we are risking… and wasting the resources… for something that can’t possibly be done?” I had to ask.

“It can be done. We will just have to find the right way. I will be expecting you at Kaiba Corp at nine. Don't be late."

Chapter Text

PART 8 – Black Sand Dunes

----------Z----------

--------back then---------


Ishizu was still smiling.

“I think you are finally ready, Zelda.”

She looked towards the stone tablet.

“Come… and take a look. Tell me what you see.”

Hesitantly, I walked towards the museum piece. The hieroglyphs were carved into a stone, just like in one of my dreams. It was pretty large stone tablet, and it presented many scenes… many that I was suddenly reading.

“You can tell what they are about… can’t you?” Ishizu asked. “I was wondering whether you would be able to read them.”

“I have never studied these… or the language… so, how…”

I was overwhelmed.

“Ishizu… what is this?”

“A story. Ancient story that you are very familiar with. A story that you were dreaming about… and a story that brought you to me.”

Ishizu pointed towards the hieroglyphs again.

“Come. Look further. Tell me what you see.”

The emotions completely took over me. It was more than I could handle at that moment. So, the last thing I’ve remembered… was falling into darkness.

--------now--------

I was never the one to chase after shadows… unlike my twin.

Regardless, I was taught to face my fears head on. Venus used to say that sooner we face our demons… the easier we surpass them. I wanted to live by that example she set for me. I won’t pretend that I have the same courage as my sister. I am merely doing what I can and not running away from the abyss when I see it. So, now… I am chasing after a shadow. A very specific one… the one that was shaped after the person that I have lost.

For some time, I was able to convince myself that I was fine with losing him. That I would be fine afterwards, because there’s nothing that time wouldn’t heal. Or, so they’ve said… everyone around me who ever tried making me feel better about it.

I really thought I was over it all – the loss, the pain, all the missing. I had a life in Domino, I had family, friends, even a few jobs here and here. I wasn’t supposed to feel this depressed just because he ceased existing in my world. It was supposed to be over… but apparently, I was having a hard time letting go. Probably because I’ve never said goodbye to him. Not properly. And it was eating me up inside, all the way to the core of my being.

Is it where I am, right now? Because, this darkness feels oddly familiar.

I am walking across the black sand… under a black, starry night. In the distance, an old, familiar palace is starting to show. It is some space that isn’t really a space… and time that transcends my comprehension of time. I am in some kind of dimension… maybe an astral plan, even. Wherever this is… it’s where I am finally able to meet him. It’s all because I have visited Ishizu… and saw that ancient tablet-stone that revealed everything that I needed to know.

I was rushing towards the shadow. The shape before me… was cloaked in fragments of this reality. As I walked towards him, I’ve reached for him. I wasn’t afraid… for there was no fear in death.

His eyes glisten as we finally meet on the highest black dune, in front of the palace… where his tomb resided. I finally understand how hard it has been for him. All of it. But, I also understand why it was so hard for me to go to Egypt with him in the first place.

I gasp as I stand before him. It’s emotional. It’s difficult. I want to say so many things… to ask a million questions… and yet, not a word comes out of my mouth. He understands, like he always did. My heart is bursting with excitement as he reaches towards me. He smiles, and it’s genuinely warm… but his eyes seem sad.

“Is this… real?” I utter.

He touches the lock of my hair, putting it behind my ear. It definitely feels real.

“Does it matter?” he asks me back. I touch his fingers. I shake my head. It doesn’t. All that matters… is that we are here. Both of us. We remain silent, as if we are afraid that this will end. He puts his hand on my chest… sensing my heartbeat. I am fighting the urge to cry… and yet, I am happy. Happy to see him, even if it’s like this.

“I tried, Atem,” I whisper. Our fingers intertwine, our palms lock… and he feels somewhat cold to the touch. I can’t breathe of excitement. My eyes are teary now. Something is in my throat… and I recall the bitter taste of sorrow.

“I know,” he responds, dragging me a bit closer so he can wrap his arms around me. His embrace is cold as well… but his hands feel gentle. I dig my head into his chest, unable to hold it any longer. I am crying. He keeps caressing my hair.

Under the black sky, on the black sand… the love of my life is holding me tight. It was all I’ve ever asked, so I never wanted to let him go. He plants a small kiss on the top of my head, and speaks warm words.

“Welcome back… Hemet Nesew Weret”.

--------- V ----------

Two weeks have passed, and I was becoming desperate. Zelda wasn’t getting out of coma; there weren’t any signs of improvement.

None of the doctors were able to determine how to treat her, despite their best efforts. Hence, I was harsh towards the medical stuff, regardless of knowing they were merely doing their job. I guess I needed to vent it out somehow… somewhere… and they were the closest outlet at my disposal. It wasn’t fair… but I couldn’t always be fair.

“How come you can’t determine what’s wrong with her? Why won’t she wake up?” I asked bitterly, unable to suppress my anger, or the tone of my voice.

“Please, miss Tokiba… we have already told you…”

“Nothing. You’ve told me nothing at all!” I stubbornly insisted, arguing with the doctor. I was behaving like a spoiled child, but I wasn’t able to think logically due to my own inability to help my sister.

“Please, miss. You need to calm yourself down…”

“Don’t tell me to calm myself down while she is dying!”

I have realized only then just how loud I was yelling. Yelling at those people who have done nothing wrong. The reason Zelda was in a coma… was beyond their comprehension as it was beyond my own. I was just unable to process that I may lose my little sister for good.

It was terrifying… to lose your mirror image. Your better half. We came to this world together; I couldn’t grasp the thought that I might have to live on without her. To live without Zelda… would be completely unbearable to me.

She was a sickly child, but she has never made me worry about her health this much. She has never been this ill. The only thing the doctors were able to tell… is that chemical imbalances in her organism led to this outcome. She was under so much stress, and probably in great pain… and I wasn’t able to see it.

I was so focused onto Orion… so obsessed by saving the legacy instead of paying attention to what was happening to her. Saving the company was something that I regarded more than health of my twin. And now, I felt terrible about it.

Doctor didn’t help with additional update of her state.

“Miss Tokiba… I am very sorry to inform you, but… your sister might progress to vegetative state. You need to prepare for that possibility.”

He was talking fast, as if he was trying to say it all at once… to get it over with as soon as possible. He wanted it to end quickly… to take all that anger that I could give him and be done with this all. With Zelda… and with me. But, upon hearing that, I was so overwhelmed… that I wasn’t able to react at all.

I was just staring through him… through everything… because I felt numb.

“Miss Tokiba…”

I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t accept what he was saying. I just… wanted to die that instant. But, I had to gather myself back. To act like… human. I forced myself to speak. It came out stiffly.

“It’s all right. You can’t do anything for her… just like I can’t. Thank you for all your efforts.”

I left the room, unable to look back.

--------------

I was spending most of my time in the hospital, by her side, unable to focus onto anything else. And I burned out.

The whole situation affected my work… my social life… and my psyche. I was frequently crying, and was absent-minded in front of other people. I was also avoiding my friends and colleagues because I felt like breaking down at any moment.

When I felt that I’ve reached my limit… that I wasn’t able to sit next to her bed anymore… I’ve returned to Kaiba Corp. I’ve immersed myself into work… so I wouldn’t think of how she was slowly passing. Without me. Leaving me behind. For what? For whom? Atem?

I wanted to delete the hologram that I was producing recently. It was an impulse, really… but luckily, I have resisted that urge. Destroying something that was so important to Kaiba was almost the same as committing suicide.

“Venus… are you busy? May I come in?” Mokuba appeared in my office. I just nodded, and he approached me, taking a seat. It was late at night, and none of the other personnel were around.

“I’ve heard about Zelda. I am sorry,” he said, and I fought the sudden rush of tears. I sighed, and kept staring at the monitor, hoping that he wouldn’t see how weak I was.

“I know, Moki. I know.”

I have returned to the module, nervously working on it.

“This damn hair. Do you know just how hard it is to mimic his stupid hairstyle?” I’ve asked.

“Seto made a similar statement,” Mokuba smiled.

“I have used Yugi’s image as a reference… but, somehow, everything I make doesn’t do him justice. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to him while he was still here with us,” I admitted.

“Or, he is simply a hard model to project. I mean… Seto has been having a trouble with it too,” Moki had to emphasize, like I didn’t know exactly how capable his brother was.

“Seto will figure it out in days once he sits down and dedicates enough time to it,” I’ve responded. “But, since he was so busy with buying his own, personal space station, he has left this task to me. And I am failing miserably.”

Mokuba smiled, and it was a sweet smile.

“You aren’t failing. You are just being too strict to yourself. That aside… it must be difficult… to work on something that is so… personal for you. I mean… Atem… and Zelda…”

“Atem has left and Zelda wasn’t able to tell him a proper goodbye. She couldn’t handle it. It’s been eating her up on the inside ever since… and… I wasn’t able to help her go through it. I was selfishly working on a way to save Orion instead. Look where it has brought me. I am your brother’s slave, and I have lost both Zelda and Orion. It’s my fault she is... going…”

“Stop. Don’t give up on her just yet. Zelda… is still alive. She isn’t letting go… so neither should you.”

He was sometimes so wise… beyond his age. I loved that about him. I sometimes wondered why couldn’t Seto be more like him.

“Zelda is turning into a house plant,” I have suddenly chuckled, filled with desperation. “She is withering away and all I can do… is burry myself in some kind of work because I can’t stand being next to her. Not while she is like that. You know… I’ve been talking to her. Begging her to come back to me. And all she’s been doing… is just… lying there… like a living dead… waiting for her own end. Selfishly… and stubbornly. Disregarding her twin. What kind of sister does that?!”

I was furious. I felt betrayed by Zel… and I was speaking from the pain. No one could understand this feeling.

“She doesn’t want to abandon you. She is just… unwell…” Moki uttered.

“I bet she wants to die so she could meet him in the afterlife,” I’ve said. “And I bet he is waiting for her, like he promised… like he said he would! He promised he would never…”

Wait. Where did that came from? When did he say that, exactly? I couldn’t recall. My head started hurting. I fought the pain and suddenly… I’ve seen things. Things that weren’t supposed to be there. A black sand dune… the temple… and a tall man in blue robes. I couldn’t see his face properly.

He was staring at me, strict, and threatening… pointing at some kind of sarcophagus. His lips moved, as he was shouting… but the sound wasn’t coming out.

“Venus?” Moki brought me to present time.

“Ishizu… I need to see her. It is happening… again.”

“What is happening?” the mockery of the tone indicated that Seto was entering the room. He came in the precise moment when I was having that strangest feeling.

“I think… that they are unlocking,” I’ve stated. Seto frowned, like he would make some sort of unpleasant joke… but he was looking at me as if he understood. Regardless… he said nothing.

“Venus, what are you…” Mokuba tried to ask, but Seto raised his hand to stop him from talking further.

They both gave me a moment.

“Unlocking?” Mokuba looked towards Seto, who smirked.

“Stupid mumbo-jumbo that dragged Yugi and his daft group to something they keep calling the Memory World.”

“She said that we used to be parts of that story,” I’ve exclaimed. “She told me that Zelda wasn’t ready to go through it… so she respected her decision. But now… the pictures are emerging… and I think that my memories are unlocking…”

“Yes. Ishizu keeps on insisting… that you also played a role in Pharaoh’s sacred mission of saving the world,” Seto mocked me now. “But, I don’t see how visiting the Memory World would make you wake your little sister up. If you think you could reach her there, you are a fool.”

“I believe that she is reliving her memories as we speak,” I’ve shared my opinion with the Kaiba brothers. “I believe it’s what’s keeping her away… and stalling her from waking up. I believe she is finally ready to face her past incarnation. I also believe that I am ready to face my own too... if that means meeting her and bringing her back to me.”

“Hah. So, you want to enter a trance… or something similar… just so you could watch an ancient Egyptian movie? Useless endeavor,” Seto was almost unbearable at this point. He approached my seat and took a look at Pharaoh’s construction that I was building digitally.

“I don’t care about that. I just want Zelda back.”

“Do you really believe she is in the memory world as of now?” Seto sat next to me and rudely took my keyboard in order to work over my own code. I ignored it.

“I have a hunch.”

“Bullshit.”

“Hey… you have relieved your own story,” I’ve reminded him. His fingers danced over the keyboard.

“It’s not my story. My Egyptian counterpart was nothing like me,” he hissed. I raised an eyebrow. What was his past self like? Well, the current Seto seemed to despise the whole topic of Ancient Egypt altogether.

“Was he nice or something?”

“No, he was lame. Whether the whole thing was truthful or not… I will not dwell in it. I suggest you to do the same and look forward instead of losing your time chasing some… Egyptian ghosts. Look ahead instead of looking back,” he noted. I stretched my hand to take the keyboard away.

“I was working on that. Give it to me.”

“You have gotten this all wrong. His eyes were sharper, and… wow. His hair is even uglier in your interpretation,” he was correcting the model before me so I rolled my eyes again.

“You sound like a fangirl. Do you like Pharaoh that much?” I teased.

Seto actually turned towards me… just to glare at me.

“I like precision. Something you obviously lack.”

“I was trying to make a joke, you asshole.”

He kept looking at me like I was a moron.

“You failed. Just like you are failing making his projection.”

“Do it yourself, then.”

“I am. Weren’t you watching closely?” Seto’s competitive nature really took away from his physical appeal. I was interested in the other thing, though.

“Say… did you really buy a space station?”

He smirked, arranging the stupid hologram in unbelievably easy manner.

“Already bought one. The arrangements are all in motion.”

I whistled. A space station… with satellites and all. That’s something to brag about.

“Just… how much money do you have?” I was honestly confused. He smiled.

“Enough to buy Orion a hundred times over,” he was petty on purpose.

“Why don’t you just go and buy the whole planet while you are at it?” I barked, enraged.

“I just might,” he responded, amused.

“Hey… Venus… what do you think your Egyptian incarnation has been, in the past? And… how was she related to the Pharaoh?” Mokuba was curious. I will admit that I was too. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to go to Egypt… unlike my sister, who didn’t like anything about it. I guess the suppression of her memories had something to do with the whole attitude of hers.

“She was a slave,” Seto raised his head from the monitor. “Very much like she is now.”

“Very funny, Kaiba-boy,” I’ve said. A slave. As he spoke those words, I’ve suddenly pictured a tall man in the blue robe. My headache intensified.

“What were you, may I ask?” I mocked Seto. “Let me guess… some sort of royalty?”

“I was nothing because I wasn’t there, remember?” Seto reminded me.

“But, you were. You are denying being in Egypt at all and calling reincarnation impossible and stupid. Yet, you are doing all in your power, wasting all your resources… just so you can meet someone from that time. You are contradicting yourself.”

“I will meet Pharaoh so I can duel him again. I am not interested in reliving the life of his priest and cousin whatsoever… because he is not me,” Seto insisted. “He was merely someone who looked like me, and that’s all there is to it.”

My heart skipped a beat. A priest… like that one from my dream. Seto? I laughed.

“A priest? You?” I’ve raised my eyebrow. “I don’t believe it for a second.”

“Hey…” Mokuba sounded a bit offended, but Seto didn’t.

“Neither do I,” he stated.

I could, though. The one I dreamed about… was awfully similar to Seto. I thought it was because I had that weird crush on Kaiba when I was younger… but, like all the weird crushes, it didn’t last for long.

Mokuba smiled.

“I am going now… you two, please… don’t kill each other until morning.”

“He constantly asks for it,” I’ve noted.

“You are hardly any better, Tokiba,” Seto casually kept typing.

“Good night!”

“Right. Good night, Moki,” I’ve said. Seto nodded to his brother. I still couldn’t let the topic of Seto’s past incarnation go.

“You’d need to be pure, sacral and profound in order to be a priest,” I noted stubbornly. “Are you sure you had the right incarnation?” I was teasing, of course.

“Like I said. He was nothing like me,” Kaiba scornfully claimed.

“He already sounds better than you,” I’ve pointed out bluntly. He glanced towards me as if he was checking onto something.

“Does he, now?” Seto fixed the last input and saved the data. “Here. Work this structure. Add more details. And, Venus… if you decide to go to that memory world… you better learn to astral project, because you won’t be keeping your job here if you are daydreaming.”

I sighed. “Are you sure you weren’t some slave-driver? With a whip and all that?”

“Positive. Would you like me to bring a whip now, though?” he asked.

I can’t believe I ever used to like him.

“Only if it’s in bed,” I retorted, shocking even myself along the way. I was too cheeky sometimes. I expected him to make some bitter comment, to humiliate me in some way, or say that he wouldn’t be with me even if his life depended on it… but he played along.

“Are you inviting?” he smirked. It was disturbing.

“Only if you are coming,” I pushed him even further, wondering where he would lose it.

“And what about people talking?”

“They are talking anyway.”

He smirked. There was something dangerous about it.

“You aren’t ready.”

I smiled back. For a moment, we were just letting that sink in. Then, I took my own trench coat, putting it on. I was about to go home and have some rest. I could joke with him like this because he didn't matter to me anymore. Right?

“Good night, Kaiba.”

“Like I said,” Kaiba shut the monitor off, preparing to leave the office himself… “you aren’t ready. Finish this tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Part 9 – Stars of Orion

--------Z--------

“Welcome back… Hemet Nesew Weret.”

As he spoke those words, warmth climbed into my cheeks. The kiss I was craving for so long, felt so good after I tasted his lips. Normally, we wouldn’t have done so… but, we missed the opportunity when he was still in the physical world. The fact that Yugi was his vessel… didn’t help either.

But, now… it was just the two of us, with a lifetime of memories that originated in Egypt, and somehow continued in Domino.

The second kiss was deeper, more passionate, and with every new touch, I craved him more.

“It’s good to be back… my King,” I whispered.

I remembered why it was so hard to say goodbye to him. Ishizu was right; I was finally ready to face my long forgotten past. Retrieving my old memories was easy in this place. Only by looking… and touching this phantasm that was Atem… brought it all back.

The whole life I once had… resurfaced like some strange, vivid agglomerate that started a plethora of emotions, bursting out. Just by being here… wherever this here was… evoked my past incarnation. A slave, a scribe, a servant and priestess. She led quite a life… and she was me.

It was a lot to take in. I didn’t know for how long I was remembering… it could be seconds… it could be hours. But, I felt that in this grey area that was neither the world of living, and neither the world of the dead… time was a relative thing. At least, for remembering if nothing else.  

“I am sorry it has taken so long… Atem…” the girl I once was spoke to her Pharaoh.  

“Everything happens in due time. You are here now, and that’s all that matters… Neith.”

He spoke my other name gently… softly… and I have missed that feeling. It didn’t feel strange, because it was entirely mine, like a second name that no one ever uses, but it’s still there. I was both Zelda and Neith… and I was okay with it. I wondered if Venus will feel the same when the time comes.

I recalled the past version of my twin as well. She achieved a lot. I was proud of her incarnation too… but it brought me a lot of pain as well. We didn’t always see eye to eye, for she was more rebellious and less tolerant comparing to her present self… but that unworldly amount of mutual love existed then just like it exists now. She will always be the closest person to my heart.

Regardless of my choices and mistakes. And regardless of her own.

 

But, Atem… was an entirely different kind of love. He was the love of my life. And he was staring at me, knowing that I know now, that I fully recall all that was once between us.

Atem slowly put his cloak off, and spread it over the sand for us to sit on. It was getting strangely warm for a place that was so cold upon our arrival… and I thought I knew why.

We both felt more alive than ever.

---------reunited------------

We were going to save all the talking for later.

We were busy kissing, exchanging caresses and touches, controlling wild heartbeats and slowing down our fast breathing - like most reunited lovers usually do. We were separated for thousands of years, so it might be completely natural to react this way… or it has something to do with general attraction that I have for Yami Yugi. Most likely, it’s both. It was almost unbearable to have him by my side, and not being able to touch him. Even when I didn’t know… what I know now.

We were closer than most. We understood one another without verbal communication. We were of like minds. Our story was cut short… but it was more real than some stories that lasted much longer.

Under the stars of Orion, on the black sand dunes of this shadow-world, Pharaoh Atem made love to me… and it felt quite real.

---------------

After some time, I was lying on his arm and he was embracing me while looking at the night sky. Covered by his cloak, we were gazing at small, dying stars, thinking about all the distant memories and knowledge we possessed regarding the stargazing. We were aligning pyramids according to the arrangement of stars. No wonder we were blooming as a civilization.

My Pharaoh was on top of it. I can't believe that people used to think that he was really a God. Maybe because he showed me that he was merely a human, just like the rest of us.

The first time we met... was when I performed a dance for him. Festivities were organized for his birthday, and I left an impression on the Pharaoh himself. Venus wasn't present then.

“I have known a girl. A slave girl, sold as compensation for a debt and given to a royal scribe. He took care of her as if she was his own child. He taught her hieroglyphs and soon presented her to the Court,” Atem smiled.

“I have known a Prince. A Prince who refused to take slaves as sacrifices for his future tomb, and allowed two girls to serve him other than being slaughtered for his glory. They both became  hemet-netjers. Pharaoh’s Priestesses.”

“And that’s how the story begins,” Atem was glad to see me fully-restored to my original self.  

“And how it was depicted on the stone tablet that ishizu exhibits in Domino as of now. Neith was Pharaoh’s royal scribe, also a sem priestess, bound to take care of the dead. Nephthys was a servant of Pharaoh’s hem-netjer-tepi, the High Priest, and was more profane, a wab priestess who took care of temples and archives. She later rose to position of cheryheb, a lector-priest, though the evidence of this was later lost due to tradition that only males used to be lector priests in those times.”

“Seth was competitive in nature. He didn’t like Nephthys for being better at it, since she wasn’t a native Egyptian. It offended him, in a way.”

“Do you think Seto... as Kaiba… will ever acknowledge that Venus was…”

“I am not sure. It’s for the better if she doesn’t get her hopes up,” Atem knew how bad Kaiba was.
 
“I am sorry for all the trouble… the torment… that I’ve put you through. I was selfish, unable to follow you when the others could. I wasn’t there to support you… because I was weak.”

“Neith. You have nothing to be sorry for. I never blamed you, not even once… you simply weren’t ready. It’s alright.”

He held me in his arms. I squeezed him, inhaling. I was too afraid to let go of him.

“Everything happens in due time. We do things when we are ready for them. It happened with my passing on… and happens with your passing by… at least for now.”

I pressed his hand against my heart.

“Passing by?” my voice echoed.

“I reckon you aren’t meant to join me here, not now. You are not supposed to die… just yet.”

He smiled. He intended for it to seem encouraging, but it was saddening instead. I pictured a giant hourglass, the sand falling through and filling the lower half. During spilling, it was merging with the dunes, reminding me of choice I had to make. The hardest choice so far.

“And yet… I am not feeling like living either. Gods know that I have tried… but they also know that I am failing.”

“Neith...”

“Don’t. You are about to say that I have many reasons for living, and you are right. I am not in favor of dying if I can escape it, and I strongly oppose suicide… but honestly, I am emotionally drained.”

“I see. But, you always shine so brightly. Don’t let that light be extinguished for… for…” he fought the urge to say ‘me’, but he knew it wasn’t all about him.

“It won’t be for nothing. I won’t ask for euthanasia, don’t worry,” I reassured him, half joking. “But, if it happens naturally… then, maybe I was long overdue,” I’ve pointed out.

“Zelda…” he tried to reason with my present self, but with less enthusiasm than before.  

“Listen… I know. Life is beautiful, for one. I have my twin, whom I love dearly and who makes everything more bearable for me. I also have friends, who are your friends too. They are so supportive and they are keeping the memory of you alive… and every bit as I do. Maybe even more so… and I appreciate it. I am also blessed with being able to bring dueling monsters to life through my art. I have a job, more or less. I count my blessings carefully. Knowing that many people don’t have what I have just makes me feel… unappreciative and selfish. But, then again, many people didn’t get to experience what I did. My illness included.”

I sighed. I found my courage. After all, I didn’t have time to be a coward once again and leave him without saying what I meant.  

“There are always losses and wins. The world keeps spinning, the life goes on. I am supposed to be looking forward to new experiences, but somehow… I don’t. You will say… it’s mourning. That I’d get over it. That I should, for my own sake, let you go. But, I am in a state of almost constant apathy. Don’t get me wrong… it’s not solely because I wasn’t able to say goodbye to you. I am doing it now. It’s not because I didn’t get to say that I have always loved you, or that I love you still, because I am also saying it now. I find comfort in seeing that you aren’t surprised, it must mean that I didn’t necessarily need to say it. You must have known it for a long time. Just like I am aware that you have tried to make your departure less painful for me in any and every way you could. I’m just tired… of constant waiting. I am living a life without the love of my life… and I am exhausted.”

“As Zelda… you may still love. Someone new. Somebody else,” he murmured. He always had to be selfless. So full of understanding and support. My precious King.

“Zelda... loves Yami Yugi,” I smiled through tears. I was partially sobbing, and trying to make myself stop. I wiped the tears away. “Just like Neith loved Atem. To her dying breath.”

I was running from Neith for too long, afraid of the pain of my past incarnation. I was having a double amount of it now, but I was ready to handle it.

“I know. I was always with you… in heart. You have never lost me. And, in all of lifetimes… I am sure… that I would love you to my dying breath as well. Just like before. Just like now. But, you can’t give up. The afterlife is not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere. Mahad… Mana… Karim and Shada… everyone is waiting. You need to fight for as long as you live.”

Atem hugged me tightly. He must have felt the same about our time here. He knew it would soon be over.

“That’s the thing, isn’t it? We are always… always missing each other. We are always shortly united, only to feel happiness, the bless that is love... just to be abruptly separated and torn from one another when the world asks you to save it.”

I remembered the exact moment that marked me and left a scar on my soul. A scar that I was carrying to all of my incarnations. His death.

“You sacrificed yourself to save the world. It was painful enough the first time. Having to relive it again… is hardly fair. I need, for once, to remain by your side. Be it in the real life… or the afterlife… I just want to be with you. I am tired of missing you.”

He touched my face again, caressing me softly. His velvet eyes were filled with sadness.

“As I am of missing you. For centuries… I lied dormant, dreaming of us. The pain of loss is well known to me. Still, I am prepared to wait more… for as long as it takes. No matter whom you love in this lifetime, I will always welcome you in my version of the afterlife. If not like my lover, then as my friend, one of my closest confidants and guardians of my tomb. Nephthys is welcome too. You don’t have to choose between the two of us. I would never ask of you to sacrifice more than you already have,” he said, reminding me of the aftermath of his burial. I made a difficult choice back then as well.

“You know me too well, Atem,” I pressed my fingers against his hand.

“She is too important. I would never separate the two of you.”

“I will never lose her. She will never lose me. I keep telling her that… whenever my seizures pass and I get out of coma. I am and I will always be by her side. Moreover… she is about to find everything out. About you and me… about Seth… Kisara… and about her role in his life. She will understand if the situation gets… too far. She will have Yugi, Tea, Joey, Tristan. I worry solely about how Kaiba intents to treat her. Despite her relation to Seth, which was not all good, she still could count on him. Seth was, at least, manageable to certain extent. Nevertheless, I am afraid that present-day Seto… might hurt her beyond repair.”

“You think she still likes him?” Atem asked.

“I think that she refuses to admit to herself that she does. The trouble is, she is genuinely annoyed by him. He constantly provokes her. He is difficult, and she is stubborn. She sometimes really despises him… but other times, she is in some… awe… when it comes to him. He impresses her with his intelligence, his capability. He is her type, but she would rather die than admit that to anyone else… but me.”

“Here's what I find out a bit strange. There was always something… different… about how he treated her comparing to others. Have you noticed?” Atem asked.

“I can’t tell that I did. He is a standard bully that taunts her, mocks her and humiliates her whenever he has a chance, so I don’t think so. Still… wait. He does sometimes tease her in a way you wouldn’t expect of him. He is provoking her in a suggestive way. I am starting to believe that he is not only testing her patience… or being simply scornful… but that he is estimating how far he might actually go with her. How much of his crap would she tolerate or something.”

“I think that he is aware that Seth in him… recognizes Nephthys in her. And, although he is giving her a hard time… I believe that she could soften him up a bit. I do believe he is fond of her in some… twisted Kaiba way.”

“Well said. He probably is… but I wouldn’t get my hopes up regarding him either.”

I was going to keep on fighting. Atem decided to wait for me… and I have decided to try to wake up, at least for Venus’ sake. Maybe we can pull this off somehow.

Maybe I can live up to those reasons to live.