Some days I have this long argument with myself, about Yami and me and us. He frustrates me, infuriates me, and generally pisses me off. Sometimes I think the only things we have in common are our abilities and that we're both older brothers. There is so very little else we can agree on. On the other hand, though, I have never met someone who compliments me so well. We have to work harder together to reach any sort of conclusion on a regular basis, and that makes it all the more worthwhile when we do. He's a constant challenge to me.
And the make-up sex is always damn hot.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I want to wring his damn neck.
We hit another screaming match, and I walked out. I'm not proud of that. At least this time I didn't handcuff him to anything, though if I'd had handcuffs at the time, I would have been sorely tempted. As it was, I was tempted to use the chains from his pants to tie him to the desk. What? You learn a lot in three thousand -- I mean, twenty-something -- years.
So unless he comes groveling, which frankly I don't see coming in my lifetime, I'm working on this one alone. That's fine. It's not like I've never worked a case alone before. It's been a while, but I'll make it.
After all it took me to get off the Kaiba property, there's no way I'm heading back there after sneaking out of Kame Games. It's a bit too much like crawling back with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, and sorry; I'm not exactly big on that. There are one or two other places I can go to spread out and look this over, but in all honesty, if I can't get into the apartment, I probably will drag my ass back to Kaiba's before I set up shop in the library.
After the craziness of the last few years, can anyone blame me for wanting to set up in a ghost-free zone? The little bug guy isn't so bad, but I'm not chancing it today. I'm sticking to safe turf only today.
After what happened last Halloween, when I had to break into my own apartment on short notice, I've made a point to keep both its key and a spare set of lock picks on me at all times. So if I can get into the building, I can get into the apartment. The real question is, then, if I can get into the building.
Roughly a month ago, one of the few magic users I trust -- trusted -- got killed. Someone -- and we still have no idea on who did it -- used Mahaado's death to raise an entire cemetery. That was why I ended up invoking Zork: there were no other options left. When you really got down to it, Mahaado's death is my fault.
When we were at that cemetery, I think I remember hearing a woman directing the zombies, sending them after us. However, I'm not completely certain, and I'm not about to ask Seto, not and risk exposing all these gaps in my memory. That's one I'm going to have to figure out on my own, I suppose. There can't be that many female necromancers in Japan, can there?
Now if I was Mahaado's little sister Mana, I would put a gigantic mystical 'No Bakuras Allowed' anti-trespassing sign up, metaphysically speaking. I wouldn't want me near the building after causing Mahaado's death.
Mana's always been a lot nicer than me, though, and I'm able to walk in. Hell, the elevator doesn't drop me to a painful death nor electrocute me. I'm able to get off on my floor unharmed and incident-free, and no one even changed the locks on the apartment.
Now what's surprising to me is that the place looks... good. I would almost suspect Ryou of coming over and cleaning it, but I can account for almost everywhere he's been in the last two weeks. As far as I know, only one other person knows we still have the apartment, and that's the guy paying the rent on it. And yes, it would make perfect Treeboy sense to have a maid service come over to clean this place, when no one's lived here for over two years. We've already proven the need for a good bolt-hole, anyway. Still, I don't think this place was this clean when we lived here.
Anyway, there's no time like the present to start on this new job, and I flop down hard on the couch, spreading open the folder on the table in front of me. It's mostly photos of two people around Domino. I'm not seeing anything really special, I think sourly to myself, not enough to warrant all this attention -- at least not until I get to some of the clearer shots of the pair of them.
I know her. Hell, I know them both. It takes me a moment to place the man, because he's very out of place compared to where I last saw him. It's probably not too unreasonable to expect to see him in robes with a fake gold eye, because that's definitely Akunadin. He looks a lot different with two eyes. Maybe it's the modern clothes he's wearing, but I doubt it; I think it's the fact he has two eyes in these pictures.
The woman, though, is familiar in a way I can't quite place. I know her. I've seen her before. For the life of me, though, I can't place where. Somehow, I get the feeling that she didn't look like this the last time (only time?) I saw her: all long black hair and aviator sunglasses.
This is weird, though. Everyone in the dream world was someone I've known at some point in my life. Diceboy, for example, was part of the gang back in Tokyo. I think he's running it now, in fact. In the dream world, he became pretty much just another gamer and yet another person hanging off Mini Me's apron strings. Shizuka-pixie became little more than plot motivation for Kitty, and Mom was barely there at all.
But I don't know Akunadin. I might have kicked him around a bit in the dream world, but that was there and this is here. In the real world, such that it is, I've never laid eyes on him before. There's something there, something that should be so simple to figure out, but I can't place it.
I'm starting to think that thing took more than my memory. I'm starting to think it took some of my skills as well. Things that used to be so simple seem to have slid away from me. If this is where I am after going all the way to the third mark, then where would I be if I didn't have any of them, I wonder. Dead, probably, or still in that damned coma. Somehow I don't care as much as I think I probably should. Zork really did leave me messed up, I guess.
So I wonder what about these two has got Seth's panties in a twist? I mean, I know that I'm not digging either of them, but at least I know why: I've seen them both before, one of which is impossible and the other I can't remember where. But what has Seth so bothered about them that he wants me to check them out? That he suggested I take Yami with me to go investigate them? That he wants to keep them quiet from Seto? Too many questions and not enough answers... I don't like it.
A knock at the door interrupts my thoughts, and frankly, I'm almost glad of it. Almost, because no one knows where I am. I mean, I snuck out of Kaiba's place and I stormed out of Yami's grandfather's office.
Curiosity has always been one of my bigger faults, in my own opinion, so I hop up and follow the sound. It used to be that the brat would have had the door opened by now or have just left it unlocked in the first place, but there is a peephole in the door that never got any use before. It almost doesn't do me again good now, as short as the person on the other side of the wood is.
I'll be damned. Yami did deign to show up. I doubt I'll get the groveling I really want, but even this much is kind of impressive, for him at least. If one of my biggest faults is my curiosity, then his will always been either his arrogance or his pride. Still, he's mine, though.
He's just raising his hand to knock again when I open the door. "Look what the cat dragged in." And there goes my mouth ahead of my brain again.
Yami... winces. Holy shit, I managed to score a point off him? It's been a while since I was able to do that. "I," he starts then immediately breaks off, looking as uncomfortable as I have ever seen anyone look. Holy shit, just what exactly is going on here?
"You what?" At least I manage to keep some of the venom out of that, mainly because frankly I'm curious as hell.
"I... didn't come here to fight with you. I wanted to say I understand that you work for Kaiba. I shouldn't get so upset when you take jobs for him." He takes a deep breath, obviously uncomfortable. On some weird level, that would actually be hilarious if it weren't so weird. "I have no reason to feel jealous of Kaiba, and I know that. I just... Damn it, this all sounded better in my head."
You know, I'm totally counting this as groveling, I decide, and move aside slightly, so he can squeeze in the doorway.
I guess the ball is in my court to respond to that. Let's see if I'm as bad at accepting apologies as he is at giving them. "You're absolutely right that there's no reason to be jealous of Treeboy," I get out as soon as the door is closed. "I might work for him, but I love you." It still doesn't get any easier saying that. I don't exactly say this sort of stuff lightly, and he should know that.
"I know. Believe me, I do know that. It's just... When both Kaiba and your brother haven't exactly let me near you in weeks, it gets a bit hard to remember that."
"I'll deal with them on that." And that's not a threat. That's a promise.
"So what is this case Seth has you working on?"
This is our usual pattern of making up. One of us starts the fight, one of us finishes it, we play the avoidance game for a bit, then we change the subject. We have never once apologized for a single fight to date. That's probably just as well, since I'm pretty sure we both suck at it.
I wave a hand over to the coffee table and the folder of pictures still sitting open there. "Have a look. I'm not really making heads or tails of it." That's almost too close to an admission, but I'm letting it slide.
He circles the couch and lifts one of the photos, one of the ones where it's easy to tell who it is. This one even has both Akunadin and the woman in it, clearly capturing them in the middle of a discussion of some sort. The woman has a hand in her hair, clearly trying to keep the wind from blowing it into her face, and Akunadin is leaning closer to speak with her and try to avoid her hair flying in his face.
I suppose I probably shouldn't keep thinking of him as Akunadin. That was his name in the dream world, but that doesn't mean that it's his name here. Maybe they're people I've seen in passing that made it into the dream world. That would make sense, I suppose.
Or it would if it weren't for the way all the color is draining from Yami's face in a hurry. "What is it?" I finally ask.
"I saw both of them in the dream world," he answers, his voice little more than a shaky whisper.
I can't help perking up at that, even if it is probably bad news. If Yami saw them both there, then something weird is definitely going on. But it's a lead, and that's more than I had a few moments ago. "You did? I mean, I remember seeing Akunadin there, but her? Her, I don't think I saw at all."
"That's Vivian Wong. She's -- In the game, she was the Asian champion. She had this huge crush on Yuugi. But why would she be here?"
I curl up on the couch behind him, trying my best to make my tired body comfortable. It's harder than it sounds or should be, but finally I end up leaning with most of my body propped against his side and my legs half-dangling over the side of the couch. This way, I can look at the photographs with him, without having to move. We can call it laziness or efficiency; either one work by me.
"I'm not sure," I admit hesitantly. "Almost everyone else there was someone I know from here in Domino or knew in Tokyo. She's one of the only ones I can't place." I nod at the photo. "Him too. Akunadin, I mean. It's probably not his name here, but in the dream world, I mean."
"So, if everyone else was people you know," he trails off, glancing down at me, and I offer him a nod to show I'm following, "maybe they are people someone else knows."
It makes sense, but there is one thing wrong with the theory, I can't help sadly thinking as I shake my head. "It was my mind controlling the dream world. How could anyone else stick people in there?"
"It wasn't just you controlling it," he reminds me, voice gone almost gentle. "There was someone else too -- or should I say something else?"
Oh shit. Oh fuck. Why didn't I think of that? "Zork?" My voice is honestly not squeaking. Really. I swear. "You think Zork inserted them both into the dream world?"
"Maybe not them themselves, so to say, like it did with us. Our souls and all, I mean. It might have just been its memories of them."
And that makes entirely too much sense. I should have thought of that myself. But this does put a whole new spin on things. No wonder Seth wanted them looked into, if they could be old pals of Zork's.
A better question might be, though, how did Seth know that?
27 June 2010
Despite all my great hopes, it doesn't look like I'm going to have this done before July Novel Writing Month (JulNoWriMo) starts. My concentration and creativity have been shot, so it's been a huge effort getting even this much of a story out. That being said, however, I am going to try for one more chapter before JulNo starts. I figure I'm about 2/3 of the way through the story, if not to the word count I wanted, so I figure I'm coming along pretty well.
There is still some movement on the publication front. At this point, though, all I can say is that I will be making the announcement of what that is over the US Independence Day holiday weekend.
Thanks for sticking around, everyone! See you next chapter!