He wasn't too sure what he had been expecting for when he finally met the other two listeners: Yuugi and Ryou. All he really had had to go on was that they respectively looked like Atemu and Bakura -- and that Ryou had turned Atemu down hard. Honestly, that wasn't nearly as impressive to him as the fact that Ryou had apparently run Atemu out of his own living area for the time being.
Having met Atemu now, he was willing to be quite impressed that Ryou had managed that without a freaking panic attack. Or maybe that part hadn't made it into the story the gods were passing around. It didn't really seem like something that would make it into the epic tales.
Of course, that was assuming that there was going to be anyone left to tell epic tales about all of this. The more he heard about the backup plan, the one regarding Amane's two older brothers, the less confident on everyone surviving this he started to feel.
At least they seemed to have hashed out the so-called fail safe enough that it didn't need to be brought up too often. Though, to be fair, the idea of having a plan of what to do and how everything was going to go down after you and all your allies were dead, it seemed a bit morbid to him. It seemed a bit self-defeatist to be honest, as far as he could tell.
But maybe that was just him. After all, he didn't have to worry about anyone but himself and Mokuba, much less the entire population of the planet. Frankly, though, that was something he really didn't even want to imagine. Taking care of his younger brother, changeling or not, was more than enough for him.
And yet here he was: getting ready to pitch in where he could in a fight that was way out of his weight class. Yeah, he must still be crazy, no matter what Mai -- Persephone, and wasn't that a head-trip -- had said before.
Still, there was no time like the present for flinging himself into the thick of this.
He took a deep breath and finally knocked on the door before him. Mai had guided him this far before turning and heading in another direction, declaring she needed to get back to the war summit before Bakura, Amane, and Malik decided to gang up on Atemu. Honestly, to him, it had sounded a lot more like she wanted to sell tickets to the event than try to prevent it, which in turn kept bringing him back to the question of why they kept Malik and Honda separated but not Bakura and Atemu.
Well, better men than he was had tried to decipher the inner workings of the gods and failed miserably. Who was he to think he could do any better?
He barely heard the door before him open, but there was no mistaking the cheerful (if slightly nervous) voice that broke through his reverie. "You must be Kaiba," it said. "Jounouchi-kun said you would be by."
Okay, intellectually, he had been expecting to see a resemblance between Yuugi and Atemu, given how much they were talking about that at lunch. Hearing about it and seeing it were two totally different things, though, he supposed, because he was feeling a bit shell-shocked looking down at the young man before him.
Jounouchi had definitely been right: Yuugi was a bit shorter than Atemu. Any idiot could tell that immediately. It was his eyes that were the most immediate and visible difference between them though. Atemu's were blood red and fairly shone with the power of the ages, while Yuugi's were a brilliant purple, a shade he would not have ever thought possible in nature, and appeared to be alight with naivety. No, not naivety: innocence.
Bluntly put, it was an amazing difference between the two of them, even with all the similarities between them. It was like comparing midnight and midday; as far as he could see, they were as different as light and dark.
Somehow, he recovered his voice before there was too much of a chance for him to appear crazier than he already was. "I am Kaiba, yes. You must be Yuugi," he returned.
And there it was again: that damned formality that immerged when he was nervous, and oddly he was right now, more than he wanted to admit to. And Mokuba had so gleefully informed him many a time that, when he started letting the formality out, he sounded like he had his head stuck up his ass.
From the way Yuugi was biting his lower lip, worrying with it back and forth, it must have been out with a vengeance. He probably sounded like he thought Yuugi was miles below him or something. Damn Gouzaburou for driving that into him.
Immediately, though, his mind rebelled against the very thought of going against his uncle. He successfully fought the urge to shiver at the thought, even though his body truly wanted to, as if in the memory of some long-forgotten pain.
Instead, hesitantly, he offered his hand. "Bakura and Mai said we should meet. It seems like there's no time like the present, right?" He held back a wince. That had sounded less like a question or even a gentle prompting than a statement, maybe even a demand.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Damn it, I'm no good at this," he muttered, barely aware he had said anything, at least until Yuugi grinned. "What?"
"I'm no good at meeting new people either." Damn, this guy was almost unnaturally shrewd, and he honestly couldn't say for certain yet if he liked it or not. "That's kind of reassuring. I hate feeling all socially awkward just because it's sometimes hard to tell if the voices I'm hearing are the people in front of me or the ones in my head."
Once more he had to fight the urge to react, this time to shake his head to clear it. He had known that both Yuugi and Ryou were listeners like him and Bakura had said that listeners tended to be schizophrenics, but he had never expected to hear it just blithely stated like that, like it was just a fact of everyday life. In a lot of ways, it was. It had been for him, so he would have to imagine that it had been for the other two listeners. He just couldn't imagine saying something like that, especially to a complete stranger. The mere thought of it was almost enough to freeze him up completely.
"So is it just the two of us?" Yuugi continued easily. "I could swear Jounouchi-kun said something about a third person."
"Ryou," he managed to get out. "The third person is Ryou."
"So let's go meet this Ryou." Without another word, Yuugi grabbed his arm just above the wrist and pulled him out the door. The second he closed the door after himself, though, he paused. "I don't suppose you know where he is, do you?"
He nodded, grabbing the map Mai had sketched out for him on a scrap of paper. From what he could tell, Ryou was still in Atemu's rooms, which actually weren't that far from Jounouchi's -- and wasn't that a saving grace? He had had enough already of getting lost in this place.
"Here." He offered it over to Yuugi with some degree of hesitation himself. First off, Mai had given that to him, not Yuugi, and moreover, he hardly knew Yuugi at all. He wasn't sure yet if he could trust him.
On the flipside of all of that, though, the people here had shown him incredible levels of trust for not knowing him, accepting him on Bakura's word alone that he was kosher; the least he could do was the same. And besides that, he was horrible with maps. There had been a reason for Mai to lead him here, besides this place being on her way back to the main hall.
Yuugi, it seemed, on the other hand, was an old pro at them. He took a few long glances at the hastily scribbled drawing, nodded once to himself, and started down the hall to the right, the opposite direction of the way Mai had gone. Never once did he release his hold on Kaiba's arm, and that was just a bit too weird. It was even too weird to shake the offending hand off. Instead he just went along with Yuugi's whim.
Something gave him the feeling that Yuugi was very used to his whims being indulged. He definitely hadn't been in a hospital with his schizophrenia, not with an attitude like that. Nope, somehow he must have remained with friends or family who went along with whatever he said.
Kaiba couldn't imagine such a thing. He didn't even really remember his parents, but Gouzaburou never would have permitted something like that. The man just wasn't wired that way, not with the way he had to control everything, whether it -- he -- wanted to be controlled or not.
He fought back another shudder, vaguely wondering where all this was coming from today, what had jarred it loose, when Yuugi dragged him to a stop in front of a door just like every other one they had passed. "This looks like it," the shorter man declared, looking up at him expectantly.
So it was going to be his job to knock on all the doors? Good to know. At least this was going to be the last one, barring them turning up any other listeners anytime soon. Frankly, he didn't think he could handle any more lookalikes, personally. The last thing they needed, after all, was someone wandering around looking like Mai -- or worse, Malik. The world just wasn't ready for that.
Pushing all of that aside, he tapped on the door. This time, he couldn't quite hold back a start at the snarled voice coming from the other side of the door: "I told you: you're not getting back in here."
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Yuugi glance up at him, fear in his purple eyes. No, he wasn't going to be the one indulging Yuugi on this one.
Instead, Kaiba called back, "We're not Atemu."
A few seconds later, there was the sound of someone scrambling on the other side of the door, almost like that someone had taken the time to not only lock the door, but block it off too. Atemu clearly must not have made a good impression, if Ryou was willing to go to all these lengths to keep the god away from him.
Eventually, however, the door opened, and he was faced with a near clone of Bakura. Again, Ryou was shorter, much like Yuugi had been in comparison to Atemu, and his eyes were a deep shade of chocolate brown. He hadn't thought of it until now, but Ryou's hair was also a good deal more restrained than Bakura's ever was. Of course, Bakura had a tendency that he had noticed to run a hand through his hair when he was thinking or nervous or upset; it wouldn't take too long before the hair just gave up on trying to be ordered.
But still, any way he looked at it, both Yuugi and Ryou were near perfect clones of Atemu and Bakura. How that could be, he had no idea at all, but then all this was well and truly beyond him.
What he had been thinking earlier had to still hold true though: if something was true for two out of the three listeners, then surely it had be true for the third one as well. So if Yuugi and Ryou looked like two of the gods, then there had to be one out there who looked like him. Or maybe that was, that he looked like. He wasn't too certain which one would be accurate, and he wasn't too certain he wanted to know anyway. It could prove important later, though, so he made a mental note to ask Bakura first thing when he saw him again.
That was, after he asked Bakura to lead him back to where he had left Mokuba with the hounds. It had seemed safest, since he knew nothing about these two. Gwyllgi was with Mokuba, so he would be safe, of that he could be certain.
Yuugi looked briefly nervous for a long moment, long enough that Kaiba was starting to wonder if he was going to have to come up with a way to start this conversation ball thing rolling once again -- and God, he was dreading even the thought of that -- but then he grinned brightly and held out a hand. "Hi! I'm Yuugi, and this is Kaiba." A bewildered expression on his face, Ryou accepted the proffered hand, shaking it limply. "You have to be Ryou."
Dark brown eyes cast down, locking onto the floor. "Y-yes, I'm Ryou. Pleased to m-meet you."
Okay, this was the guy who had thrown Atemu out of his own rooms? No way, just no way. He was too quiet, too soft-spoken to have tossed someone like Atemu out on his ass. It just didn't make sense.
"Can we...?" Yuugi prompted, nodding towards the rest of the room behind the door. Ryou had yet to move out of the doorway anyway, holding the door in front of him like some sort of shield.
At Yuugi's prompting, though, Ryou all but squeaked and flushed. While he wasn't nearly as pale as Bakura, he was still light enough that the flush building on his face and spreading down into his neck stood out brilliantly. "I'm sorry. Please, come in."
Yuugi was in the room almost as soon as Ryou had stepped out of the way, while he tried to follow at a more sedate pace.
At first glance, everything in this room practically screamed that it belonged to Atemu. What it was about it that did so, he wasn't too sure. It wasn't like anything in here was particularly opulent, to fit that manner that Atemu seemed to have, as if he was the ruler here.
Honestly, maybe that was part of the case. There were too few gods from too many pantheons. The ones who had survived so far seemed to be, from his limited research, higher ranking. There were too many people used to setting the rules and not enough left who were used to following.
After all, from what he had picked up, they had the Queen of the Underworld in Mai, the King of the Fairies in Bakura, and an All Father (which seemed to mean the ruler of a pantheon) in Atemu. Aside from those three, there was Malik who was surely a war god of some sort, Amane as another death god, and Jounouchi as some sort of a healer. Finally then, there were the ones he had only heard of in passing: Honda or Ahura Mazda and Varon or whoever his godly counterpart was.
If this was the entire revolution, then yeah, maybe Malik was right. Maybe they were screwed. Malik had been more descriptive when he said it though. If Kaiba was recalling correctly, Malik had phrased it as 'screwed blue'.
Surely, there had to be more people than just the ones he had seen or heard of. It just didn't make sense any other way. Either way, though, now suddenly the desperation to acquire listeners suddenly made a lot more sense. It was like it had taken meeting these two other men had finally brought the point home.
Glancing around a bit further, somehow he wasn't too surprised to see a small duffle bag tucked into a corner, while still within easy reach of the door. Honestly, Ryou's bag was very much like his own, the product of too many years being shuffled system to system. Suddenly, it made a lot more sense why he had been able to throw Atemu out. He couldn't say he had high hopes of befriending Ryou, not any more than he had for becoming friends with Yuugi. While he and Yuugi probably came from just too separate of backgrounds, he and Ryou probably came from too similar of backgrounds.
At least he was fairly certain that they hadn't been in the same institutions at the same time or anything. He was absolutely certain that he would have remembered someone who looked like Ryou, especially in light of meeting Bakura. After seeing Bakura, if he had ever met Ryou, the meeting would have damn sure stood out in his mind.
"Sorry," Ryou apologized, apparently to the room at large. "This was Atemu's place, and well..."
Kaiba bit his lip, having a quick mental debate before deciding it couldn't hurt to speak up. "If you want, I can introduce you to Mai. She can probably find you a place of your own in here." Almost as an afterthought, he added, "You as well, Yuugi."
Immediately, Yuugi waved the offer away. "Not a problem. I'm happy where I am."
Ryou, on the other hand, nodded. "Please."
"Jounouchi-kun was telling me that... well... that you and Atemu didn't exactly hit it off."
Ryou snorted inelegantly. "You could say that. He... propositioned me."
Kaiba couldn't help shaking his head, snickering to himself quietly. At the questioning look Yuugi sent him, he explained, "I've met Atemu. I have no doubts on that one."
"It was all but an engraved invitation to the party in his pants. No, thanks. For one, I don't -- I mean, that's not my scene. Not to mention, well, I think if too many more people tapped that, we'd eventually hit oil or something."
Yuugi shuddered, even as a grin grew on his face. "Now that's a disgusting mental image." He flopped down hard on a sofa that was a near match for the one Bakura had. "So what do we know about why we're here?"
Ryou hesitantly settled himself in one of the chairs, and Kaiba made himself comfortable leaning against the wall. It wasn't out of a desire to not be a part of this conversation, as one might have immediately thought, but instead it was just that nervousness flaring up again. He didn't really quite know what to do with himself.
Finally, Ryou spoke up. "I don't really know all that much. Atemu just sort of dragged me here and said I was going to help out. I didn't get all the details before... yeah... Then there was no one around to ask."
Yuugi raised both his eyebrows, though Kaiba couldn't tell if it was in concern or something else. Personally, the story between what Ryou was saying was concerning to him. He didn't think Atemu was the kind of man... god... to take someone against their will, but suddenly his comment about Bakura kidnapping humans took on a whole new meaning.
"Jounouchi-kun has told me a little. Apparently, there's a war of some sort going on. They think we can help out with it."
"What kind of a war?" came from Ryou. "And what are they?"
"They're gods, I know that much," Yuugi volunteered. "Jounouchi-kun is Dian Cécht, a healing god. I haven't had a chance to meet anyone else yet. I'm not sure why not."
"There's a war council going on." He almost looked around to see who had spoken, only stopping himself when he realized that the voice he had heard this time was his own. "They're working on what to do next, I think."
"Kaiba-kun?" Yuugi's voice sounded confused, but unless he was gravely mistaken, there was nothing but concern on the other's face. "It sounds like you know a lot more about what's going on that we do."
"When did you get here?" Ryou prompted.
It was only through years of self-training that he didn't fidget to find himself being stared at by the both of them like they were considering something. Years with Gouzaburou and then the orphanage and finally the hospital had broken him of that habit for the most part, even if sometimes it was more of a challenge than others. "Late last night. I've just been asking around where I can. Bakura's being telling me some stuff when he's free, and Mai's been filling in the gaps."
"So we each have our own god," Yuugi stated with no small degree of amusement. "This sounds like something out of a bad movie."
Mokuba would have said a bad romance novel, but he wasn't quite up to sharing that much with this group, not quite yet anyway.
"Well, you two might have your own gods, but I want a refund on the one I ended up with," grumped Ryou. "I didn't sign up for any of this. What are we even supposed to be doing?"
"Listening." Realizing quickly that the single word answer might have come off as snappish, he added for clarification, "The theory is that we should be able to hear the daeva, what the gods are fighting against."
"So why are they fighting?" It was back to Yuugi, he noted, as the smaller man sat up to look at him more clearly.
He shook his head. Despite how nervous he was currently feeling, he couldn't do like Ryou was and fix his attention on the floor, not right now. Instead, he focused on a painting -- or was that a mosaic? -- behind Yuugi's head, hung on the wall behind the sofa. "The daeva showed up and started killing them. It really looks like the daeva just want everyone dead, gods and humans."
"That's not good." If he looked out of the corner of his eye, he could see Yuugi chewing on his lower lip, worrying on it again. Sooner or later, he was going to hurt himself doing that. "No one knows why?"
He shook his head again. "It sounds like they're more trying to stay alive than find out the daevas' motives."
If the look on Yuugi's face as any kind of tell, then he was going to be trying to find out a motive at the very first opportunity he could.
"So," Ryou spoke up, "who all is here? What gods are we dealing with then?"
Okay, clearly, somehow he had become the guy with the info. He couldn't say he liked it too much. "I don't know everyone yet," he hedged, and Ryou only nodded encouragingly, so he sighed and continued, "but I do know a few. I know Atemu's real name is Perun. I know Malik's name is Ninurta, and Amane's is Hela. I know Honda is Ahura Mazda, and that Jounouchi is Dian Cécht. And I know that Mai and Bakura are Persephone and Hades. They mentioned a couple of other people, but I don't know anything about them yet."
The 'yet' was a given. He might not have had his brother's innate sense of curiosity, but all of this interested him. He was going to find out more, one way or another.
Yuugi's already wide eyes enlarged even further. His voice sounded relatively calm when he spoke though. "I recognize some of those names."
He wanted to comment that he had recognized some of those names -- and he had known next to nothing about mythology before he came here. Instead, though, he kept his mouth shut. There was no sense in antagonizing the conversation.
"Well, Kaiba," Ryou cut through his thoughts dryly, "it seems you know more about what's going on than either of us. Care to share?"
31 July 2010
And now I'm caught up to one chapter behind the next finished one: i.e., Chapter 12 is done and will be released once I finish Chapter 13. I'm right under 50k with 3.5 writing hours to go, so I'll be done with the official count shortly. The story itself, well, that's looking like it will be closer to 60k or 70k. If I can breach 80k, then I will rewrite it as an original and start shopping it around. We'll have to see.
Now, my feline muse and I must get that last 1600 words written.