Artemis rubbed his eyes and stared at the computer screen. It was late, and the rest of the house was dark. He was exhausted, but he didn’t dare fall asleep. As long as Kaiba had those files, the fairy folk were in danger. Holly was in danger.
He wasn’t sure why his mind had chosen now to have an attack of conscience. They’d been coming more frequently recently, and so far, Artemis was not enjoying the experience. He sighed wearily, and his fingers danced over the keyboard as he tried once more to hack into Kaiba’s computer.
It was hopeless. Kaiba was not so foolish as to make the same mistake twice. Not even a stray peep emanated from the laptop in his office, and the lab’s protections were still impenetrable. Without the spy bug, Artemis was blind and helpless. He hadn’t realized how dependent he was on the tiny mixture of fairy and human technology. It was a slightly humbling experience for Artemis; his success had been a mild miracle, hinging entirely on a mechanical device that he no longer had at his disposal. But only slightly.
Artemis turned around in his chair. Butler stood in the doorway.
“Hello, Butler,” he said wearily.
The bodyguard advanced into the room. Artemis was amused to note that Butler’s eyes swept the room instinctively, searching for traps and hidden assailants. “Why are you still awake?” Butler asked, coming to stand at Artemis’ shoulder.
“I’m trying to find buyers for the information we stole from Kaiba’s computers.” He pulled up a website that had been minimized at the bottom of the screen. “So far, these are the two best candidates.”
Butler glanced at the pictures with interest, leaning close to see them better. “Maximillian Pegasus and Siegfried von Schroeder,” he read. He fixed Artemis with a piercing stare. “What aren’t you telling me, Artemis?”
“I am telling you what you need to know!” Artemis snapped, patience worn thin by worry and lack of rest. He forced his voice back under his control. “Don’t pry into my plans, Butler.”
Butler sighed. It had been foolish to question Artemis, but he couldn’t help it. He truly cared for the boy, and the sight of his exhausted face had roused his concern.
“Very well,” he said, and turned to go.
“I…apologize for my manner,” Artemis said hesitantly. “I have not been myself lately.”
Butler found himself thinking that bad manners and a sharp tongue were very much like Artemis, but he didn’t voice the idea. “Sometimes,” he said quietly, “It helps to talk with someone.”
“I don’t depend on anyone but myself. No one else can keep up with me.”
Butler gestured at the computer. “You and Mr. Kaiba seem fairly well matched,” he pointed out.
Artemis gave him a sardonic look. “I’m sure we’d make great friends,” he said sarcastically. “I’ll just wait until he no longer wants to kill me.” Butler had nothing to say to that. Artemis sighed. “He got the fairy files, Butler,” he said softly after a moment of silence. “All of them.”
Butler stayed quiet, absorbing this new information. Artemis leaned forward, steepling his fingers on the computer hutch, staring at the screen. “I shouldn’t care about that, Butler. But I keep having these attacks of…conscience. It is most annoying.”
For the first time, Butler smiled. “It is part of being human.”
Artemis shook his head irritably. “It is inconvenient.”
Butler stared at him quietly for another moment, then laid his hand on his young charge’s shoulder. “I am with you, Artemis,” he said. “Whatever happens.”
“I know, old friend,” Artemis answered softly. “I know.” He pulled away from Butler’s massive hand. “Now let me return to my work. I must try to find a way to retrieve those files from Kaiba.”
Butler didn’t argue. He had pressed his luck a good deal already, saying as much as he had. But he didn’t leave immediately. Instead, he remained in the doorway, staring at Artemis and the lines of text streaming across the screen in front of him. When he finally left, an hour later, Artemis was still at the computer, fingers flying over the keys.
“Bad news, Julius.”
The centaur sounded so serious that Root didn’t bother reprimanding him for calling him Julius. It probably wouldn’t have any effect anyway.
“What is it?” he asked crisply.
“I’ve picked up more magical readings across the globe,” Foaly said tersely. “More Mud Men with magic.”
“How many?” Root asked, preparing himself for the worst.
“Four? This is turning into an epidemic!” Root’s face turned purple. “Where?”
“Two in Egypt, one in England, and one in Domino City.”
“Four,” Root muttered. It could be worse. Four could be dealt with. “Domino City? Isn’t that where…”
“Kaiba’s from,” Foaly finished. “Yep.” He cast a worried glance in Root’s direction. “Commander, the one in Domino City…the reading’s twice as strong as Kaiba’s. My sensors overloaded just trying to measure the power levels.”
Root’s face was grim. “Call Holly. Tell her she’s taking a trip to Domino City.”
Hours after he had started, Kaiba sat back in his chair. His eyes burned from staring at the screen, and his legs ached from their long period of immobility. But he ignored the discomfort; his eyes were still fixed on the last of Fowl’s files, his mind churning with the knowledge he had gained.
He briefly considered the idea that this was all an elaborate hoax set up by Fowl to play with his head. And discarded it. No one invented a lie as ridiculous as this and even remotely expected it to be believed.
But wasn’t that exactly what he was considering doing? Kaiba shook his head, as though to rid himself of his moment of weakness. Magic isn’t real, he told himself sternly.
But he couldn’t make himself believe it. He had changed, perhaps too much. Having your soul torn from your body by a millennia-old evil puts things in perspective. And despite evidence to the contrary, Seto Kaiba was not blind. Nor was he stupid. A tiny trickle of belief had been welling up inside him for months now, and only his overwhelming stubbornness had kept him from admitting it. Admitting he’d been wrong.
As impossible as it sounded, Seto Kaiba believed in magic. And here before him was proof. Proof of the existence of another species.
Won’t Mokuba be thrilled? He imagined his little brother’s excited response, and he couldn’t help but smile slightly. The thought of Mokuba was always enough to cheer him up. With an effort of will – something he had never lacked – he forced himself back to the problem at hand. Fairies existed. Magic was real. Now what?
I know what I would have done, not too long ago, he thought. He grimaced. Remembering how he had been before Yugi’s intercession still aroused in him a feeling of disgust.
Yugi…Gods, did that mean the rest of it was true as well? The Pharaoh, and ancient Egypt, the Millennium Items, and all the rest? Well didn’t that hugely complicate his life. Kaiba sighed and rested his head against the seat back, closing his eyes. Like he needed more complications.
Fowl’s files were open before him. Now what? What was he going to do with his newly-acquired knowledge?
His eyes snapped open. Before all else, he needed to make Fowl pay. He needed to make an example of him, to show the world why no one messed with Seto Kaiba. Surely, he hadn’t changed that much.
And then home. He missed Domino City, missed being in his own bed…at this point, he even missed going to school. He had precious few things in his life that made him feel…normal. This discovery wasn’t going to help.
He picked up his phone and dialed a familiar number. There were a few rings, and then a sleepy voice answered, “Hello?”
“Mokuba,” he began, and then glanced at a clock. What?! Four in the morning? Was it really that late? No wonder he was so tired.
“Seto?” Mokuba said, clearly trying to wake himself up. Kaiba could just see him rubbing his eyes, like he had when he was small. “What’s wrong?”
Kaiba hesitated. “It’s nothing, Mokuba. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Not so fast,” Mokuba said, sounding entirely alert now. “You don’t call at four in the morning and then hang up without an explanation.” There was a hint of steel in the younger Kaiba’s voice that reminded Seto uncomfortably of himself.
“We’re leaving Dublin,” he told Mokuba; there was no point in not telling him now. “We’re headed back to Domino City first thing in the morning.”
“You woke me up to tell me that?” Mokuba yawned. “Okay, I’ll get my stuff packed.”
“Sorry,” Kaiba said, slightly embarrassed. “I lost track of time.”
“You realize that you’ll have to explain everything on the plane, right?” Mokuba said with mock severity.
Kaiba smiled, a rare thing. “Yes.”
He could almost see Mokuba smile in return. “You know, Seto? I kinda like ordering you around.” He made his voice even sterner. “And right now, I order you to go to bed.”
Kaiba did his best impression of a nervous employee. “Right away, Mr. Kaiba, sir.” Mokuba giggled. Kaiba was still smiling as he hung up the phone.
A smile that faded as he began dialing another number.
“Necros, I have a job for you."