The fairy council was in session when the lighting strips began to flicker.
“What is going on?” Councilman Brug barked into the intercom.
“I don’t know,” a pixie squeaked over the speakers. “All power levels seem to be nor…”
The floor beneath their feet began to shake. The lights were now guttering wildly, and the shadows created by them undulated strangely on the walls. One of them peeled itself away from the others, vaguely humanoid in shape, but with a form that flickered like fire. In the center of the thing’s forehead, there was a single golden eye.
“What is the meaning of this?” Councilwoman Vinyáya inquired angrily. “How did you get into the Council chambers?”
A pair of eyes opened beneath the first. These weren’t eyes in a traditional sense; they were empty pools of white light.
“You dare to challenge me?” the figure asked. Its voice was deep, commanding, angry… Vinyáya felt a shiver run down her spine. “After what you’ve done?”
“What are you?” Hagan whispered, mouth open and eyes wide with fear.
“I am the son of Pharaoh Aknankamon,” the creature said. “My name is Atem!”
The Shadows capered wildly, twining themselves around the figure in a mad parody of ecstasy. The fairies all shrank back.
“But perhaps,” the figure continued, “you would know me better as the Nameless Pharaoh.”
There was an outburst of muttering. Vox was frozen in horror. The Nameless Pharaoh? He survived?
“Tell me,” the Pharaoh asked, with those two words commanding instant silence. “Is this how you honor your treaties? Is this how you treat your allies?” Though the figure made no movement, the Shadows rose up around him, and the air was pervaded by the taint of his barely contained fury.
“Tell me,” the Pharaoh asked, in a voice of deadly calm. “how you ever hoped to survive once your bio-bomb had failed?”
Vinyáya finally found her voice again. “We have launched no bio-bomb,” she said. “And I have never heard of a treaty with a Nameless Pharaoh.”
“Really?” The Pharaoh’s voice nearly dripped with disdain. “I find that hard to believe.”
She’s telling the truth, Pharaoh, Yugi said. She really doesn’t know.
That’s not possible, Aibou. The bio-bomb was launched, and I remember the treaty being signed.
I know, Pharaoh, but she really doesn’t know, Yugi insisted. I can feel it.
Inwardly, the Pharaoh sighed. His aibou had an uncanny ability to read into people, an ability that had only grown stronger with time. He had no choice but to trust Yugi’s instincts. But it did leave the Pharaoh in a somewhat awkward position.
Vinyáya shivered as the Pharaoh finally looked away from her, empty white eyes sweeping the room. “Perhaps it was done without your knowledge.” His gaze fixed on one member after another, his gaze pinning each of them to their chairs, motionless like rabbits before an eagle. But here, the eagle judged them, stared into their souls, and released him, as he chose. The rabbits could do nothing but tremble and wait.
Vox could not breathe. He could barely think. This was power, devastating power far beyond Vox’s comprehension. He had meddled with forces he had barely understood, and now he was about to pay the price.
The Pharaoh’s eyes came to rest on him. Vox sat there, paralyzed. Please look somewhere else, he begged. Don’t look at me. I’ll do anything. Please…
Something nagged at the Pharaoh’s senses. Fear was pouring from this councilman in waves. Fear, and something else…The Shadows surrounded the fairy, teasing out the elusive emotion, invading his soul in their quest for answers. And then the Pharaoh knew.
It was guilt.
“You tried to kill me.” There was no emotion in that voice. No humanity.
Vox squeaked with terror, his face going chalk-white. “P-please,” he pleaded. “I…I didn’t mean…I…”
“I could forgive that.” The Pharaoh’s voice was deadly calm. “But what I cannot forgive…”
It was as though all warmth had been drained from the world. The Pharaoh’s anger roared up like a tidal wave, the proverbial elephant in the center of the room, impossible to miss. The golden Eye upon his forehead blazed with its intensity.
“Is that you tried to kill my friends.”
And that was all the warning Vox had before the Shadows sprang. He screamed and tumbled backwards, the Shadows pursuing him.
“Wait!” Vinyáya threw herself in front of Vox, holding out her hands as though to shield him.
“Get out of the way,” the Pharaoh said. His voice was still quiet. Still emotionless. The Shadows were shrieking their impatience in his Shadow-tuned ears. They swirled just inches from Vinyáya, held back by only a sliver of will.
“Who do you think you are?” Vinyáya demanded. “You think you can just barge in here and murder someone before our eyes?”
The Pharaoh’s eyes scanned the other Councilmen and a feeling of cold amusement wafted through the room. He did think so, and to Vinyáya’s eternal shame, he was right. The others were shrinking in their seats, showing no signs of coming to Vox’s aid.
But Vinyáya had never shrunk from anything in her life.
“Julius Root told me you were a good king,” she challenged. “That you wouldn’t misuse your power, and we should try the mind-wipe instead of killing you. But it looks like he was wrong.”
At these words, the Pharaoh flinched back as though struck. The Shadows coiled against him once more, and the anger faded slowly from the air.
“We will punish him,” Vinyáya told him, delivering a death glare over her shoulder at Vox. “But we’ll do it our way, not yours.”
For a long moment, he said nothing, and she thought he was going to reject her proposal. She tensed, though there was probably nothing she could do if he did decide to attack. Then he nodded.
“So be it.”
There was a sound like a door slamming, and then both the Pharaoh and the Shadows were gone. The lights came back on. Vinyáya sank to the ground, her knees trembling. Brug let out a sound something between a gasp and a sob.
At that very moment, there was a knock on the door.
“C..come in,” Vinyáya managed. She knew she should get up, but she couldn’t find the strength.
The door slid open, and Commander Julius Root walked in, holding a sheaf of papers. In a glance, he took in Vinyáya sitting on the floor and the white faces of the other Council members. His brow furrowed.
“What did I miss?”
The phone rang. Seto glanced at it, and debated not picking up. Mokuba was curled up on the couch, fast asleep. They had been watching a movie, but the past couple of days had finally caught up with Mokuba, and he had drifted off.
The phone rang again. Mokuba stirred slightly in his sleep.
Seto cursed the phone softly under his breath, then picked it up. He carried it into the hallway so as not to disturb his little brother, then put it to his ear.
“Mr. Kaiba.” Seto stiffened; the voice on the other end of the line was the voice of Ms. Cross.
“Yes?” he said warily.
“I’m calling to inform you that the Board has decided to drop its investigation.” Ms. Cross’ sounded positively disgusted with the news. “You will be allowed to continue your guardianship of Mokuba Kaiba.”
For a moment, Seto could not breathe. “W…what?”
“Do not make me repeat myself, young man,” Ms. Cross said sharply. “It seems that the allegations against you were simply slander.” She sounded like she didn’t believe it.
Seto had recovered command of his faculties. “As I told you all along,” he said briskly. “What has caused this…epiphany?”
“We received a phone call from our original source,” she said reluctantly. “He claimed that he had only wanted to damage your reputation and that this was all part of a personal vendetta. Once we find him, you will of course have the option of pressing charges.”
You won’t catch him.
“But be warned, Mr. Kaiba, we will be watching you.”
And with that ominous threat, she hung up.
Moving slowly, Seto put the phone back in the cradle, went into the bathroom, and locked the door. Once the door was safely locked, he slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. Powerful relief was mixed with powerful confusion.
Twenty minutes later, there came a knock. “Seto? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Seto said. His voice sounded thick, unfamiliar, choked with the strong emotions that were now swirling through him. “I’m fine.”
“Seto? Please come out.”
The worry in his brother’s voice finally compelled him to move. He dragged himself to his feet and opened the door.
Mokuba was standing there, his dark hair still ruffled with sleep. Standing there, looking at his little brother, Seto finally understood the full implications of that phone call. His heart leapt.
It’s over. he realized dizzily. Mokuba is staying here with me!
“Seto?” Mokuba asked again. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”
“Everything’s fine,” Seto said, dropping to his knees and folding Mokuba into his arms. “Everything’s…everything’s perfect.”
And there, kneeling on the floor of his mansion, holding his little brother in his arms, Seto did what he had not done in nearly fifteen years.