Amane looked pale. Well, a whole lot more pale than she usually looked at least. Her lips were set in a firm line, and if he had to hazard a guess, he would say that she wasn't paying a bit of attention to the conversation going on around them. If anything, she was biding her time.
For what, he wasn't too certain. Part of him was very sure that she was waiting until all the attention was elsewhere, so she could leave unnoticed. Part of him, however, didn't want to even try to fathom a guess; that part of him was still reeling a bit under the news that there were gods who walked the world, who were very much like human beings, and who were being killed off.
Amane looked like nothing more than a woman in shock right now, and it was perfectly understandable. There was nothing he wanted less than to break the news about Malik to her and Bakura.
Speaking of Bakura… He was sitting on the other side of Amane, an arm wrapped tightly around the back of her waist, holding her tight against his side. Despite how stiffly she was holding herself upright, he could almost see that she was leaning against Bakura for support.
It was a lot like she was tightly holding onto the hand he had offered her, for reasons he hadn't been able to fathom at the time. She was taking all the help she could get for now. When this war council was over, though, he didn't want to know what it was she was going to do. It wouldn't be pretty, and it probably would not be good for the continued lifespan of the daevas who had attacked Malik.
He hadn't been present for the first war council. No one had said a word to him about leaving this time, though. He had done his best to relay all the important information he had picked up off the daevas at the café outside the tourist shop, but there hadn't been a lot of information there. Well, that had been what he had thought. The reality was proving to be something entirely else.
There were a whole lot more gods here this time than there had been only last night. He was doing good to remember even some of the names that had been tossed about. He remembered Vivian and Rebecca and maybe Shadi, but the rest of the new ones of them were utterly and completely unknown quantities to him.
This wasn't going to be enough gods to fight the daevas. He understood now what Bakura had meant: about how powerful the daeva were, how they had easily destroyed entire pantheons, how they could just as simply wipe out the human race. While he found he didn't give much of a damn about humans, for the daevas to get to them, it would mean that they had gotten through Bakura and the rest of the gods-and that he wasn't ready to deal with. He wasn't ready to lose Bakura.
A pragmatic part of himself informed him that it was very possible. After all, how many pantheons of gods had there been in the world? How many had been wiped out? How few remained? And how many contingency plans had been made for when they, the final gods, were gone, besides Amane's brothers and father? They were already prepared to lose. If they lost, it would mean he would lose Bakura… but at least the world would be ending before he could mourn him.
And that was damn fatalistic, even for him. He had never been the most optimistic of people, but this was damn dark for him. Why couldn't he be more like Yuugi and be stupidly optimistic about their chances?
He wanted to believe that they would all make it out of this alive. He wasn't exactly going to hold his breath in hopes of it, though. No one here was that hopeful for such a good outcome… except Yuugi.
Well, maybe Yuugi had enough optimism for all of them. He rather doubted it himself, but there was still half a chance of it, that they wouldn't all die horrible deaths.
As much as he and the war god had not exactly hit it off to begin with, he still hoped that Malik had not died a horrible death. He hoped that it was quick and maybe even clean. As far as he was concerned, that was probably the best that could be hoped for.
One of Bakura's hands squeezed his arm lightly. He glanced down; it was the arm that was around Amane. A glance up showed that both death gods were watching him carefully. There were a thousand questions in Bakura's eyes, not the least of which being if he was all right; Amane's eyes bore the faintest stamp of concern underneath all the miles of sorrow that was much more plainly visible.
He had deliberately not told either of them everything that he had overheard from the daevas. He couldn't bring himself to do it. He didn't particularly want to think about it himself, as horrible as it had been. Even the part of the daevas' discussion that was the more… tame was still talking about ripping the war god to pieces.
He hoped that was not what they had done to him. Of all the options he had overheard the daeva discussing, that might have been the least painful, though… and that was horrid in and of itself.
"So it's agreed then." It should have been a question, Kaiba thought to himself idly, but with Atemu saying it, the phrase was most assuredly a statement… or perhaps 'pronouncement' was the best way to phrase that. Either way, it cut the fugue that had been in control of his mind. "We take the fight to them before they find their way to us."
"You do of course realize that we're hopelessly and completely outmatched, don't you?" To some surprise, that bitter summation had come from Mai. It seemed so very out of character for her that he had to do a bit of a double take. "We're going to die horribly."
Somehow he was very certain that, if Ryou or Yuugi had turned up for this war council, Yuugi would be making some kind of rousing speech about how they were going to persevere, they were going to come through on top… or some such stuff. As far as he was concerned, it was just as well that the younger man wasn't here. He wasn't sure he had it in him right now not to hit Yuugi for commentary just like that.
Jounouchi pushed himself to his feet, drawing the attention at the table to him. "I don't know about everyone else here, but I would rather die fighting these bastards and be able to look my kin in the eye. It has to be better than staying here and hiding. Come on! We're supposed to be gods! What are we doing hiding from a fight?"
"Surviving," Bakura put in both pragmatically and simplistically. "There aren't enough of us for a war."
Mai was nodding. "If we march to war right now, we are going to die. What will that accomplish? What purpose will that serve?" She sighed, raking a well-formed hand through nearly perfect blonde hair. "We will all die, and the world will be poorer for it. At least it will be for the few hours it would have left before it's destroyed."
It seemed for a long moment that they were about to plunge right back into that same argument that had been making the rounds lately, since he had gotten back as a matter of fact.
Instead Amane sat forward and spoke. She made it look easy to capture the attention of the entire room. "We take the fight to them. It's like Ragnarök; we know the horrors that are coming, but we have no choice but to join in the fight as well. We may all well die," she acknowledged to Mai, "but it is the future we are running towards. It's the future we have to live with. And it's the future we have to hope to survive in. That's all there is to it."
Really, what more was there to say? This was going to suck in a hundred different ways, so they might as well get it over with and die in the ways that best suited them. From the little reading he had had a chance to do, he had rather formed an opinion of the Old Norse religion as being a bit fatalistic, but now he was getting a real idea of just how much so it really was.
Movement at the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he glanced over in time to see Atemu making his way to his feet, pushing him upright next to the table. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with Hela… with Amane on this. We take the fight to them. We probably will not win. A lot of us are probably going to die trying, if we all don't. But we take the fight to them, and we do it. We have the element of surprise on our side, and we have our listeners.
"We all have our reasons for being in this fight. Some of us are here because we've seen the horrors these things can do, that they have done to our friends and our families. Some of us are here to fight because it's in our natures. We all have our reasons to be here. Most of all, though, we will march to war with these creatures because it's the right thing to do.
"We all accepted a charge a very long time ago regarding the humans. They may not worship us any longer and so we are weaker than we have ever been before, but we must fight for them. It might well end up being like the Ragnarök Amane spoke of: we might be destined to die in this fight, but I know I, for one, still intend to march onto the field of battle."
"It's all we can do," Bakura spoke up, just barely loud enough for him to hear, even just sitting a little bit down the long table from him. The others in the room seemed to be having no issue with it, so maybe it was just a human versus god thing. Again. He leaned as close as he dared, as best he could without jostling Amane. "All we can do at this point is fight and die. We cannot keep hiding in this realm forever: sooner or later, they're going to find the entrance and that'll be all she wrote. They're getting closer by the day, so let's get it over with. Let's do our best to kill them ourselves… before we die horribly."
Atemu looked nearly as impressed and confused as he felt himself, but neither of them was going to give voice to that, at least not just yet. Instead, the shorter god nodded slowly. "We march first thing in the morning. Go now and prepare yourselves as you best see fit."
And somehow, that managed to end the debate that been going on for hours: Atemu and Bakura agreeing on something. One by one and in whispering groups, they filed out of the room, leaving Kaiba, Bakura, Amane, and Atemu behind… and even Atemu was headed towards the door.
He did pause on the side of the table opposite Bakura to comment quietly, "I never thought I would live to see the day when you would agree with something I proposed, Bakura."
The white-haired god snorted inelegantly. "Don't get used to it. Desperate times sometimes call for very desperate measures." He sighed. "But I do actually agree: we can't wait any longer. Most of the places Seto overheard them discussing are actually ways into Annwn."
Atemu frowned. "There certainly are a lot of ways into your realm, Bakura," he commented, and Bakura rolled his eyes heavily in response.
"This used to be the Fairy Realm, Atemu. Of course there's a lot of entrances. Just about anywhere in the United Kingdom where the veil between the worlds is a bit thin, there's going to be a way in here. Be happy: there could have been a whole lot more."
"I would be happy, as you say, if you were to tell me you had one more ace up your sleeve you can pull."
And Bakura sighed again. This time the sound was much more resigned than it had previously been. "I really don't. I was hoping we'd have the Fair Folk to help us on this. I was hoping we would at least have one war god left to help us in the fight. At this point, all we can do is try to take as many of them with us into death as we possibly can, before we have to launch our endgame."
Launch their endgame? He almost winced when he remembered: Amane's father and her blood brothers, the gigantic wolf and the snake that encircled the earth. It was like the ultimate fallback plan: if they all died, the monsters of Ragnarök would destroy the earth and everyone on it.
"If it comes to that," Atemu returned slowly, "it will be a pleasure to die in battle with you, Bakura." Cautiously, as if he was worried about it being bitten or something, he extended a hand.
Bakura stared at it a long moment before taking it. "I can't say I'll be glad about it, but between the two of us, we'll give them a slice of hell they won't soon forget."
And that was apparently as long as the two of them could get along, if the way they dropped one another's hand like it was burning them was any indication. Or if there was anything to be inferred from the way Atemu all but dashed out of the room like he was being chased… or how Bakura almost immediately started wiping his hand off on his pants.
"Okay, now that was just gross," he complained miserably. "Remind me never to shake hands with that bastard again. I don't know where he's been. Ugh!"
He almost repeated Ryou's comment: about if too many more people tapped Atemu, they would hit oil or something. Instead, though, he found all his attention on Amane as she too pushed her way to her feet. She looked steadier than she had earlier in the meeting but probably twice as distant.
"I need to get myself ready," she declared, meeting neither of their eyes. "I will see you on the field of battle tomorrow, Brother."
Bakura nodded in agreement, and Amane swept out of the room. He bit his lower lip for a moment before he finally commented, "She's going to do something stupid."
The white-haired god nodded again slowly, his eyes still fixed on the door. "I have no doubt about that."
"What do you think she's going to do?" Because Bakura was her pseudo-brother. Presumably, he should have a better idea what Amane was up to than he did himself.
"I just hope she isn't going to get her brothers or her father." Bakura winced slightly. "That could be... bad."
Given his luck, that was probably exactly where Amane was heading. It would damn the entire world, but it would be better than what would happen if the daevas got to them first.
There was no way he was going to leave Bakura's side tonight, not when this could well be the last night the planet existed, the last night they might ever have together. He didn't want to admit to it, but that might have been the saddest thing he had ever thought. How had he managed to get so attached so quickly?
He rather suspected that the answer had a lot to do with the fact that Bakura had been the first person aside from Mokuba to not treat him like he was mad or a menace or something of that like. He was the first person to treat Kaiba like he mattered, like he was important, for reasons other than what was in his brain and wasn't tainted by the voices he heard.
He had been in Annwn for just two days, and already he thought of it as home. In part, that was because of how welcome he had been made to feel by its inhabitants, but also and mostly, that was because Annwn was where Bakura was. He didn't want to leave; he didn't want to lose this.
"Come on," Bakura intreated, giving his hand a light tug. "Let's head to bed."
It was said so simply, like they had been doing this for years, not days, and he followed the words as easily as if he had been doing so for years as well.
Halfway to the door, he drew up short, stopping in place. Before Bakura could ask the question that was written large on his face, he asked quickly, "Mokuba is going to stay here tomorrow, right?"
The white-haired man nodded. "Of course. Yuugi and Ryou too, for that matter." He stepped closer, running one pale hand along Kaiba's cheek. "I would prefer you stayed as well," at that, Kaiba started to frown, "but I'm selfish. I want to keep you with me until the end." He sighed softly. "And more than likely, that will be tomorrow. There's no way we can win this."
He bit his life, worrying it as he tried to figure out how to say what it was he wanted to. "I want to be there. I want to be with you until the end, if it's tomorrow or in a thousand years."
Bakura laughed shortly. Somehow, though, there was a trace of humor in it. Kaiba wasn't too sure he would be able to find anything funny for a bit, even if he wasn't particularly skilled at that to begin with. "I like the sound of a thousand years. Let's see if we can't work that out somehow."
30 December 2013
I think I poured my heart out enough in the last author's notes. I don't have anything else to say.