CHAPTER TWO:

Slifer, The Sky Dragon

 

After a long eight hours of labour, Te'a collapsed against the dressing table, breathing hard. She heard Marik say something about it being a girl but she wasn't really listening. She now had to concentrate on delivering the afterbirth and didn't much care about the damned baby until she had it out.

"Messy business isn't it, sister?" Marik said calmly, holding the bloody baby in his now bloody arms, stained rouge. His white top was covered in mucus and blood as well. It wasn't very pleasant to look at him. But he didn't seem to be bothered in the least by it, he thumped the baby on her one foot until she took her breath in a loud squall and he completely ignores Te'a who was struggling hard to get rid of the irritating afterbirth when the urges to push had vanished.

"I think I'll name her Slifer."

"What?!" Te'a finally got the thing out and lay back, exhausted, "Why are you naming her after a God Card? For Christ Sakes!"

Marik ignored her and held the baby out in front of him, examining it with mild interest, "It isn't deformed, nor does it look retarded. Though that can only be decided on later on. If she is neither then it just shows how powerful we Yamis are."

Slifer's crying got even louder, she waved her tiny arms and moved her hands through the air helplessly, feeling cold and hungry.

"Check it out, sister! She has my eyes! Look!" he shoved the baby toward her so she could see. Indeed, the infant did have the same diamond shaped purple eyes as Marik had.

"I always thought babies were born with blue eyes" Marik said

Te'a was feeling distinctly grumpy now. She'd been through hell to deliver the dumb baby, she'd had to go through it all with no professional help at all. Only to give birth to it on the bathroom floor with her brother being able to see everything yet not even holding her hand when things almost got too painful to bear. Now he was talking about it when she was starting to get prickly pains in her abdomen from her uterus contracting back into shape.

Tenderly almost, (especially for someone who'd been ready to slice open Te'a's stomach and kill the baby) Marik put Slifer into the basin and ran lukewarm water and washed her with care.

"And she has my hair and my nose and chin!" said Marik, sounding absolutely delighted. Te'a looked up from her cramped space on the floor to stare at her big brother, who before now had only been a destructive influence on her life. It was almost a miracle to see him crooning over his only daughter.

 

* * *

 

"Why do you hate her so much Yami?" Yugi asked, lying on his bed and chewing on his pencil. He frowned as he looked at the apparent figure of Yami, who was scowling at the carpet as if it hurt him.

"All her life, Te'a has done ... terrible things." Yami said softly, small tears glistened in his eyes as he spoke, he turned away from Yugi "She did  kill her mom, she tried to kill Marik right afterward and she said it was because he was the guilty one. She's always blamed her brother for things - ever since she was little. And when she killed her mother ... it was just the last straw. I loved my mate very much, Yugi. More then anything."

"Why do you think it's her? She could be telling the truth."

Yami was silent. He looked at Yugi thoughtfully, "I know my daughter well enough to know what a good liar she is. Trust me, Yugi. She did it."

"Yugi baby? You up there?" came the voice of Mai

"Yeah, Mai" he said tiredly, sinking down on his bed and rubbing at his sore temples.

Mai came bouncing into his room, flipping her golden hair over her shoulder, "Yugi! Yoooogi! Guess what? I have a date with your cute friend! Isn't that great?"

"Yeah"

 

* * *

 

Slifer was bundled up in Marik's arms, dressed in a pink blanket. She held her dainty little hand up to your her father, trying to grab his fascinating splayed and puffy blonde hair in her fingers. Cooing as she never did in Te’a’s arms. Whenever she was placed in the care of her mother, Slifer would begin to scream her head off and try to kick her.

Marik grabbed Te’a’s arm roughly and hauled her along, “Come on, you lazy bitch! We don’t have all day to show our father our beautiful baby - do we?”

“He’ll hate you. He’ll realise it’s your fault - brother”

“I know that, Te’a. That’s exactly what I want, I want him to realise all these years he’s blamed you. And how his foe is actually far more powerful than he thought. If he doesn’t become suicidal then, at least he’ll be an easier enemy to handle.”

She looked up at him, shock registering in her eyes, “You never planned to kill Slifer then after all. That was just an empty threat and I should have run as fast as my legs could carry me.”

“Oh yes” he agreed, “Slifer was very important. But if you had defied me I would have killed her as well.. She isn’t so important really. I could give my father a heart attack without her”

Slifer wriggled slightly, her purple eyes wide and playful. She tried to grab Marik’s long tresses of hair in her grubby little paws. But ceased when he impatiently batted them away.

“Don’t do this Marik. Let daddy live his life and leave him alone, please. I’m begging you. Yugi never did anything to you, and he never would. You’re his favourite. His son.”

“Yes - and pretty soon. The both of you are going to be locked in one of my … caves with a couple of gurus. And you’ll be begging to get out - just begging Te’a! Begging to be let out to see the sun again! And I will bring dear Slifer up without you. She will be taught everything I know, and she will fight with fierce love for her dear father and a viscous intent as I make her fight innocent people.”

Te’a almost bolted. But found she just couldn’t. She couldn’t leave her father to the fate she should share with him. Her father was the one person she loved above all. Even her stupid daughter who wriggled and made a fuss when Te’a tried to help her or feed her.

Marik didn’t give Te’a another chance to consider running away. Because all of a sudden she felt his big hand curl around her frail wrist and clamp down on it tightly. Not letting her go, but dragging her ruthlessly along after him.

 

* * *

 

Yugi looked up as the doorbell rang. Then he shoved Mai out of the way and ran downstairs. He had a gleam in his eye as he reached out and yanked the door open. And there, standing now in the pouring rain, was that strange Te’a girl and a blonde boy that he didn’t recognise. The boy was holding onto a little baby wrapped in pink cloth. All Yugi could see of it was its arms waving in the air and just the tip of its nose.

The boy was clutching fiercely onto Te'a's wrist, as if he were afraid she was going to make a run for it. She was looking up at him with a pleading gaze. Her dark blue eyes seemed allot less cunning now. Now they were defeated and scared, more human than the last time he'd seen her.

"You must be Yugi Moto, the famous duellist" Marik said, smiling like a shark. He had no hand to hold out for Yugi to shake, because one was holding the baby and the other one was clutching tightly onto the girl.

"Yes" Yugi squinted out at him, feeling wary, "Are you Joey? The one Te'a told me about?"

"No, I'm Marik, and this is my sister - Te'a Ishtar"

"He knows who I am" Te'a said, seemingly calm. But Yugi could see different, she was far from her serene manner. Inside she was panicking. She widened her eyes when Yugi looked at her - as if trying to give him a clue.

 

The baby was making small noises, and almost a nanosecond later, Yugi had to endure a warrior-screech from Mai when she saw it. He her blonde hair fly past him (with the rest of her obviously) and she was making silly faces at the baby. Waggling her tongue in a comical way.

This did nothing to make Yugi's nerves any better. Te'a was still looking at him with her eyes open.

 

Marik pushed Mai off, so hard that she bounced off the wall and landed face first into the grass, her blonde angled hair splaying out all over the ground. Her arms lying limply, spread-eagled about her head. She didn't move.

 

"Hey!" Yugi tried to get to Mai, but Marik grabbed his arm and yanked him back, and before Yugi could retaliate, Yami Yugi had forced his way out. Disbelief set into his mind, his diamond shaped eyes wide with horror as he stared at his son. He collapsed against the wall, his hand clutched to his chest, clutching at the Puzzle. He didn't seem able to breathe as his eyes roamed around from Te'a, to Marik, then lastly - they rested on Slifer.

 

"You ..." he gasped, his large purple orbs for eyes filling with excruciating pain. His breathing got even more rugged and laboured with absolute total shock. He fell to his knees, gazing up at Marik, wincing so badly one would have thought the world had ended for him.

"She was telling the truth father" Marik said, cuddling Slifer to his chest, his manic grin mutating his face into pure malicious evil. He sank down to his haunches and put his hand under Yami Yugi's chin, lifting his face up till the dark purple eyes met his own light purple eyes, "The baby is mine. And I destroyed mother, and you blamed Te'a for all these years - how do you feel?"

 

Te'a cringed when she saw the sparkle of tears in her father's eyes. He didn't bother to even swipe Marik's hand away from under his chin, he didn't even seem to have the strength to get to his feet or breathe for that matter.

Te'a had Mai cradled in her arms, not being able to bear looking into his frozen face. He lowered his eyes from Marik's piercing gaze to look at Te'a. She tried to give him an encouraging and forgiving smile.

And that's when the mental energy that Marik had drained so quickly came running back into him. He reached up, grabbed Marik's wrist and threw him away from him.

Marik stumbled but caught his balance faster than Yami Yugi had suspected, for his fist flew into his father's face before the poor guy could react. And he felt his fragile jaw break under the pressure. Pain flared up the sides of his face and the jaw hung at a wrong angle.  

Te'a stared, but did nothing. Her mind had frozen and she did nothing else but watch as her big brother just hit and punched her daddy. Yami Yugi was doing nothing to help himself, his expression was as stunned as her own. He had no will, it was as if he were defeated, as if he were dead.

As if his soul was buried under an eternal heap of despair that Te'a couldn't help. She had never been the joy in Yami Yugi's life. His little Marik, his son - had been everything to him. She was nothing.

 

Marik straightened up, shifting Slifer in his arms, he looked down at his father with disgust, "You're pathetic, Pharaoh. You just can't stand being wrong. All these years, little Te'a has been telling you the truth - you just didn't want to see it."

Yami Yugi didn't answer, he looked crushed. He looked as if Marik had delivered the final blow to his emotional energy. He looked like the world had suddenly fallen on his shoulders to squish him mercilessly into a shadow of his former self.

"You deserve everything you get, dad" Marik said coldly, staring down at him cruelly.

 

"No" Te'a left Mai lying crudely in the dirt, her arms sprawled out above her face, lying on her stomach. Her lips slightly parted  and a trickle of blood running  down the wound on her head and sweat rolling down her brow.

The girl looked really pale and ill, but to Te'a, Yami Yugi was far more important then some stupid airhead who'd just helped her to talk to Yugi Moto.

"Shut up" her brother shifted Slifer up onto his shoulders. And she caught sight of her daughter's eyes - which were wide open and seemed just as cold and cruel as her father's were. The little girl stared Te'a down fiercely.

Yami Yugi got painfully to his feet, wincing. But Te'a was sure that when he looked over to her it was with more respect. And she was almost indignant. He'd better bloody well respect her after all these years of having to shiver in the memory that her own dad didn't want anything to do with her because of something Marik had done.

 

* * *

 

Slifer was six years old now. And she was like a female replica of Marik Ishtar. Her blonde hair spiked up all the place just as his did. Her eyes were wickedly diamond shaped and pale purple. She had his slanted pointy nose that tilted ever so slightly upward and his pointy chin.

It was almost as if Te’a didn’t make her, because Marik couldn’t identify one thing that belonged to Te’a, except maybe her forehead, which was more sloped than his was, and bigger. And to him, she was the most beautiful child in the world.

 

Here she stood before him, such a small little thing with her eyes wide and innocent. Marik would enjoy destroying that childish innocence in her and make her as evil and twisted as he himself was.

He fanned out all three God cards, looking at them with the same gloating satisfaction as he had when he’d thrown his defeated father into that cave with Te’a. Then used his power to seal away his only two family members left - besides Slifer.

 

Marik ruled the world, it was simple. He didn’t have to do anything but issue out orders and watch the little runt humans follow them blindly.

After years of trying, Marik had acquired all three God Cards and the Millennium Puzzle. And he now had the power of the Pharaoh burning in his fingertips.

 

“Daddy” Slifer murmured, getting down on her knees in a bow. Looking so humble and small at her father’s feet, her blonde hair falling in her eyes. Her eyes just like Marik’s except for the fact that his callousness had not entered them as of yet. Only her spark of light and goodness that had been roughly handled and controlled by him all her life.

 

She was the princess of the world, or so he liked to call her. And she was going to be beautiful when she grew up. And powerful too, if she ever learned to be less submissive and fight for things instead of crumbling before him, tears streaming down her pale face.

He looked down at her coldly, lying there with her nose almost touching in the floor in her desperate attempt to show him respect and get the love she’d wanted all her life.

She wore simple clothing. Nothing elaborate or intricate. She was a simple girl, and didn’t deserve anything until she could prove her full potential to Marik. And as of yet, she’d shown none of the special Yami traits that she was supposed to have.

 

Slifer wore ragged cut off jeans and a dusty white short-sleeved shirt that was so torn and holy that it might have been better if she’d just not bothered to put it on.

An orange bandanna kept the majority of her hair out of her face, though it made it even more spiky and messy than before. Splaying it out worse than a Christmas tree.

Her feet bore dirty sneakers that had a hole right in the front, showing the blackness of one of the woolly socks she wore underneath it.

 

Marik got up from his throne (his preferred way of showing who he was) and sank down to his haunches, staring down at his daughter with little emotion.

“Good girl” he whispered, “You reported to me on time this time. But, of course you knew the punishment to it if you didn’t”

She twitched, but didn’t let a flicker of her feelings show on her bruised and beaten face. She just stared at him with those wide scared eyes that made him think of a scared version of himself Which he didn’t like seeing.

Yes, the evidence of yesterday’s lateness. That was shown all over her legs. Long whip marks, most of them bleeding slightly from every movement she made. When she had to walk stiffly into the room, trying not to limp. Knowing that any sign of weakness brought down the wrath of Marik Ishtar - the ruler of the world.

“Yes, sir” she said, getting painfully to her feet, careful not to break eye-contact with him (another sign of weakness) and not to let a wince distort her features. The whip-wounds hurt badly, twinged every time she did anything. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t supposed to bear it.

 

“How were your lessons today?”

“They were good, sir” she said monotonously, having said the very same thing every day since she was three years old.

 

And just then, Mai Valentine walked in. And oh how the years had changed her. She was not the light-hearted person she’d once been, didn’t hug people anymore, didn’t sing in the shower, didn’t do anything that marked her as really alive.

She wore a silky, see through opaque pink dress, tied at the middle with a purple sash. Her hair was tied back in a controlled plait and every tuft of hair was tucked and pinned away, making her seem orderly and strict when in fact she was exactly the opposite.

She wore nothing on her feet but jewellery which jangled around her ankle as she walked.

Mai Valentine was now almost 24 years old, and she didn’t look anything like she did when she’d been seventeen.

Her eyes were still their vivid colour, and very pretty. But they lacked sparkle. They didn’t have the spirit and life and defiance they’d had before.

A see-through white veil went across her nose and ended at her chin. Just giving a hint of the features underneath.

Her pale slim and frail arms carried a tray with some sort of tea in the heaviest golden pitcher in Marik’s palace (yes, he now lived in a palace - lucky bastard) and her arms trembled under the weight.

 

“Ahhh …” he sighed, rising to his feet and leaving his daughter to shiver on the ground. “Thank you, my dear.” He didn’t reach out for the tray, but let Mai struggle with it, mild interest flickered in his eyes.

 

But Mai wasn’t defeated. Not yet anyway.

Sure, Marik had tried to beat submission into her for six years, even by using that damned Millennium Rod against her, duelling her in the shadow realm where everything was real and she was too dispirited to fight back properly, so she had to endure the pain of it before Marik would surrender the duel just to save her from the enveloping Shadow Ream.

Still it hurt. And it always hurt, but Mai had always been a fighter. Even if she’d been temporarily put out of action.

She still lost her temper every now and again. Just to show her master that he wasn’t in full control of her. No matter how he liked to think so.

 

Today was one of those days.

 

After trying fruitlessly to find a place to set the goddamned tray. Mai gave up and her vacant eyes suddenly flared with that old defiance and indignation. She hurled the thing at the wall, where the gold pitcher spilled its contents all over the marble floor.

 

Slifer gasped, pushing her small body against the wall, as if trying to make herself invisible. Her eyes wide with fright at the rage her daddy would be in now. He hated it when one of his slaves didn’t do as was proper, and could take it out on her at the end of the day.

She loved her father, no matter what he did to her. She would always try to do as he asked of her. Even at such a tender young age.

 

“Mai!” Marik’s voice whipped through the air like a pistol shot. And indeed, when Slifer dared to look over at him, he was smouldering in fury. His diamond shaped eyes narrowed down to slits, his gorgeous hair seemed to crackle with electricity.

But Mai was beyond reproach, her own eyes were blazing with hatred. She hated Marik, he’d taken everything that was important to her away.

Yugi Moto, trapped inside Yami Yugi’s body, never to be able to be free from that cave. Mai missed him so much it was like a constant ache.

Her life, her parents, her dreams for the future. All gone. All gone because one man had to be powerful. Had to have the power of the Pharaoh. Had to be better than everyone else.

 

“F-fuck you!” she was trembling in anger, furious tears of hate sparkled in her eyes, “I’m sick of doing your orders! There’s no more use for me here! You might as well terminate me, Pharaoh!”

Slifer watched in horror as Marik stormed over to the disobedient servant and grabbed her by the arm, jerking her firmly up against the wall. His teeth bared.

And yet there was no reaction of terror as he was used to from Valentine. She didn’t flinch, didn’t lower her gaze respectfully, but stared him down like a vulture.

Normally when he attacked her this way, she’d tremble and beg forgiveness, saying that she must have temporarily lost her mind.

But not this time.

 

Mai was no longer a sick little servant puppy, no more would she obey the Pharaoh like some sick dog. Max would be so ashamed of her if he’d still been alive.

But Maximillian Pegafag was no longer in the world. And she missed him too. He’d only been her boyfriend for a brief while before he’d been one of the millions to die. One of the millions who were not scared to defy their new Pharaoh.

But Mai had been petrified of death. Had shaken Max off when he tried to convince her to go with him to his death. She’d chosen, if not the easier route, the less fearsome one. And how she regretted it. She’d convinced herself that she was strong and that’s why she took Marik’s constant abuse. But now, she saw that her horror at the thought of death had just been more than that of her lonely and dangerous life.

 

Marik slapped her across the mouth, and still the usual reaction did not make itself apparent.

Tears rolled down her face. But not tears of fear, nor of anger. But of hopelessness and despair.

 

Oh, who could understand what it was like to be her if they weren’t her? To have everything solid crumble beneath your feet. To be controlled. To have to be constantly respectful, always conforming to the restraining laws that bound her dreams and made her no one.

“Kill me then” she said in a deadly whisper, “I dare you Pharaoh. I’m no longer afraid of death. So why don’t you stop being a coward and just do it! Kill me!”

Marik’s frown disappeared, much to Slifer’s surprise. And was replaced with his usual smirk. He leant forward close to her so she could smell his strong masculine breath and feel it too, just as Te’a had had to do all those years ago, when she still had some sort of freedom.

“I know what you’re doing, my dear” he said, grabbing her by the shoulders and forcing her up against the wall, “You want to get me so angry that I kill you quickly, that I kill you painlessly and just get your miserable pathetic life over and done with. Sorry, my sweet - but it’s not going to work. You’re my slave, and that’s what you’re always going to be.”

 

“KILL ME!” she screamed, sounding quite mad, “Don’t be suck a fucking COWARD!”

“It’s not working, princess”

 

Slifer felt torn in two as she watched. On the one hand, she loved her father more than anything in the world and would support him no matter what he did. But on the other hand, she’d known Miss Valentine since she was a baby, and the woman had been there for her when precious daddy wasn’t. Mai had given Slifer the most normal childhood possible. Tried to show her that love was not just cold and loveless as she’d grown up to believe.

She wanted to beg her father to spare Miss Valentine. But Marik hated his daughter to beg. From anyone else, begging was delightful, but from Slifer, begging was another sign of weakness. And he couldn’t stand it.

Slifer was supposed to follow in his footsteps, not be a little runt who whined to get what she wanted. She had to learn to stand up to him.

 

Eventually, Mai grew still in Marik’s grip. Breathing hard, she allowed a few strands of hair that had loosened to fall in her face, covering her red-rimmed eyes.

“Please” she breathed.

“Please what?”

“Please …… end it. If you don’t then I’ll refuse to follow your orders. I’ll never do as you ask. I’ll always defy you. I can no longer be your servant.”

She reached out a hand and tore off the veil, exposing her face to him. Then she threw it to the ground, showing him without a doubt that she truly believed she wasn’t going to be an object of his to own.

“Be reasonable princess” he said, still in that dangerously low voice, “Do as you’re supposed to do, and I might just forget this little … tantrum”

“Fuck you” she arched her back and spat in his eye, just the same way Te’a had done so many times when Marik had had her helpless. It had been the only way left to save her dignity.

 

And that’s when the barely controlled rage bubbling inside him exploded. No, he didn’t kill her. But he packed her such a wallop to her face that she fell over to the side, whimpering in pain but by no means defeated yet.

“You worthless CUNT!” he stormed, kicking her in the stomach twice with a hard metal-capped boot, watching with his anger only slightly mollified as she curled up into a ball, wheezing and gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

 

He wiped the spit out of his eye and flicked it at the ground. Watching as she coughed, barely able to suck air in, only able to breathe it out and not get it back in her burning lungs. Drool slipped unnoticed down her lower lip as she clutched her belly and prayed for everything to end.

 

“Yes, it hurts - doesn’t it?” he taunted, placing his boot on her long thin fingers, lowering his weight onto it and crushing them. He heard some of the bones break, “This’ll hurt even more. And this is what happens when you defy me.”

When she finally gasped in a load of air, she let it out again in a scream. A scream so agonised that it chilled Slifer to the bone. She wanted dearly to help the poor woman, but didn’t want to go against her father’s wishes.

So she just watched, her gut tightening with disgust and pity and horror. And if one had looked really closely at her light purple eyes, they might have seen how they paled to an even lighter purple and seemed to sink deeper into her face as she watched her father do what he did best.

 

Mai’s vision blurred as involuntary tears came to her eyes. She had to bite her lip hard to stop the shrill wail from issuing from her throat. But her features were contorted with pain as Marik continued to bear down on her fragile fingers with the full weight of his body wearing his metal-capped leather boots.

“Beg for my mercy” he said coldly,  “Beg and I may forgive you. Remain silent and you will be put through more pain than you’ve been put through in your life.”

But Mai Valentine had had enough. And if death was now the only option she had to get to freedom, then she'd suffer for it. Maybe she'd even see Max again. Or her parents, depending on whether they were alive or not.

Either way, she wanted to get out. Marik might put her through agony in order to do it. But she would endure it with as much pride and silence as she could.

<All I wanted to say was I love you and I’m not afraid> her mind garbled at her, and she closed her eyes, sweat gathering in little dots on her brow and rolling down the bridge of her nose as she rested her tired forehead against the floor.

<Pain!> her mind shrieked at her in a bright flash of red, <Pain! Pain! Pain! Pain!>

And then it didn’t even come out as a word, just as a panic signal <!!!! !!!! !!!! !!!!> but still she bore it. Gritted her teeth as silence surrounded her. She was determined not to utter one sound of protest from now until her death. Max would be proud of her. Finally giving in to death and being free.

 

She cringed at the memory of how she’d submissively bowed down to Marik Ishtar’s every whim. Done as he asked, served him like she was nothing more than a worthless slave.

But not anymore.

She was going to be free.

 

Marik finally eased the pressure off her delicate and highly breakable hand. And she breathed out in relief. Steeling herself for the next bout of pain.

She didn’t want to die. But she felt death surrounding her in the stink of what she felt was defeat. Or it would be defeat if she gave in. Right now it was just potential defeat, and she would not give in. For Max’s sake. For Yugi’s sake.

Her eyes dulled even more at the memory of Yugi Moto’s sweet smiling face. He’d been such a na´ve person, but also self-sacrificing, loving, helpful, open and honest.

He’d been the best friend Mai had ever had.

And now he was worse than dead.

 

“Give up?”

She  pulled herself up, resting the side of her weight on her uninjured hand. She gasped in a breath, leant her head briefly against the wall, then straightened up and spat at his feet.

She clutched at her side, gazing up at his now extremely murderous face. He was obviously trying to stop himself from killing her straight away.

Marik was good at delivering pain. All kinds, emotional, physical, mental. And he wasn’t going to give up this good opportunity to destroy someone. Since no one had dared defy him after his first year as Pharaoh.

“You don’t want to die, sweetheart.”

Sweat slid down the length of her nose and onto her upper lip. She was shivering all over and cradling her hurt hand at her side. Her eyes fevered and hurt. A tortured soul looked out at him.

But she didn’t say a word, she just stared into his face. Her face resigned to whatever fate had to deal out to her. She didn’t want to live, and yet she was so scared of death that it was taking all of her resolve not to crumple at his feet, grovelling and sobbing.

 

Slifer’s hand flew to her mouth, she backed away from the both of them. Tears threatening but not flowing. She looked down at her whip-wounds that would probably leave long white scars once they were healed. They looked so minor compared to what was happening to Miss Valentine. Sure they’d hurt, but she hadn’t had her small fingers broken.

<Daddy!> the thought of her dad doing that to her was unbearable. Yet deep down, Slifer knew that he was perfectly capable of serenely killing her. Even though she loved him so much it hurt.

<Daddy oh daddy> she covered her face in her hands in desperation. Her eyes clouding over, <daddy oh please daddy don’t daddy don’t it hurts daddy oh don’t>

 

Twinkly lights burst into Mai’s line of sight. And she thought distantly about how pretty they were. Maybe she was in heaven?

<Don’t be stu- no heaven- pid>

  Marik knelt down, brought her chin up.

He kissed her passionately. Savouring the fear, he could almost smell it. Mai Valentine was the most fun woman he’d ever had in a long time. Most cried and whimpered and got so very boring. But she had so much pride, so much dignity, it would be so intense when he finally cracked her. When he had her bawling like an infant and begging for forgiveness that she couldn’t have.

He broke the kiss finally, to see her expression. Her eyes may be slightly out of focus, but her expression was so delicious. He could have eaten it.

Both panicked yet at the same time, oddly calm and accepting. Small tears of failure ran down her death white face. She looked as if she were already dead.

 

Then, before he could start some real pain on her, he heard a soft voice from the corner and turned to look at his six year old daughter standing there in her ragged clothes, her blonde hair spilling over her orange bandanna. She looked unreal, Marik could have laughed at her.

“Daddy, no”

“What?”

“Don’t”

“Don’t what?” he grinned evilly, the bloodthirsty smile spreading over his cheeks.

“Please.”

 

Then he was striding across the room toward the little girl, he picked her up in his arms even though she was getting a little heavy, he said “Please what, sweetie?”

“Don’t hurt Miss Valentine, daddy. She’s not … in her right mind.” Slifer looked up hopefully into his eyes so like her own, only a shade darker, and knew by his barbaric expression that it was hopeless. He’d never do it. Not for her.

“You don’t want daddy to hurt naughty Miss Valentine?” he said in a mock baby voice. And it was this that told Slifer that he was flaming mad at her. And suddenly she wished she’d never said anything at all.

<Miss Valentine always stuck up for you when daddy was so very, very mad at me>

“Daddy” her voice quavered but grew stronger, she tried to be nasty like him but didn’t like the sound of them coming from her mouth, “Don’t be an asshole, dad. She’s just a slave. Why are you getting so worked up over someone so low? Maybe you don’t deserve to be Pharaoh anymore.”

She felt him go all stiff, and suddenly realised that trying to be nasty like him wasn’t the right tactic to choose unless she had the sufficient strength to back it up. And she was only six, and her self resolve wasn’t developed enough to convince her that she could do this. That she could stand up to her father.

Her dad was still someone she held in awe. She didn’t want to disagree with him.

 

"Sliferrr ..." Marik hissed, just like he did when he was very very angry. It sent chills down her spine. Her face must have looked stricken because when he looked into it, he seemed to become even more furious.

 

Mai Valentine didn't have the strength to get to her feet, she was trying to cut her wrists by sliding them down the wall roughly. trying to nick it on an uneven edge.

All she was doing was causing herself unnecessary pain and making her wrists raw and sore looking. Slifer stared out at her from her daddy's arms. Biting her lip anxiously.

"I'm sorry daddy" she said, lowering her eyes to the spotless marble floor. She tried to swipe away a piece of straw coloured hair but it just fell back into her face again.

 

With a sudden force, he threw his daughter to the floor. And it was so shiny that she went skidding straight across it at full speed, only stopping when her head crashed against the wall, causing bright lances of pain to sent bright circles dancing in her eyes.

"Get up!" Marik shouted at her, towering way above her height, a tic shuddering over his left eye as fury allowed him to get into his stride.

Slifer tried to get up, but her head whirled with dizziness and she had to fall against the wall, leaning heavily against it and trying to breathe.

"You're pathetic!" he slapped her face hard, a trickle of blood escaped the corner of her mouth.

 

Mai's eyes sharpened slightly as she looked apon the fully grown man beating apon his small frail daughter, cowering at his feet. Shaking all over.

She looked wildly around her for a weapon, any weapon, to use against the bastard.

The golden tray was the only thing she could see. It was heavy enough ... maybe a good crashing over his head would give her enough time to save Slifer and get the poor child out of here before the deranged Yami stole her life away from her forever.

If she succeeded in knocking him out. She would take the Puzzle away from him, and snatch the God Cards too - for good measure. Then maybe she'd have a reason to live, and feel proud of herself because she'd fought for the freedom not only for herself, but for the entire Earth.

<Come on! Get up!>

<It hurts so bad oh it hurts oh momma it hurts>

<Naff your fingers! Go help that kid!>

Mai blindly reached for the table and gripped on it with the hand that wasn't wounded. Her vision was doubled and she had to figure out whether the tray was to her left or to her right. Or if her mind was totally mistaken and it was actually in the middle.

She watched blandly as Marik forced his daughter up against the wall, no even allowing her much space to breathe. His nose was an inch from Slifer's, and he was talking slowly and carefully, as if he were afraid that if he spoke any faster, he would lose it completely and just strangle the child.

 

She couldn't hear what he was saying, because it was just too much effort. It took most of her effort just to keep from passing out. Never mind concentrating on the conversation of a maniac.

She was now on her knees, and reaching out for the tray, hearing Marik still whispering curses at Slifer.

<The poor kid the poor thing she's only a little girl oh how can he do that to her he's such a maniac>

Her mind was panicking. She felt sure that at any moment Marik would turn around and catch her. He'd be sure to kill her then.

And Mai suddenly realised that she didn't want to die. She wanted to fight. Hadn't it always been her dream to be a warrior? Well, now was her chance. She had to do everything in her power to right the world again. Just as Yami Yugi had always done in the past with Yugi Moto's help.

<Do it, grab it>

Her fingers brushed against the tray. And Mai fell forward onto her stomach, knocking out her air with her fingertips just millimetres away from the weapon she intended to use in order to de-brain Marik.

<Don't worry about air! Get the tray!>

She winced as she stretched herself forward as far as she could go. Shuddering with lack of oxygen and trying to gasp it in while making as little noise as possible. She had to do it.

 

She couldn't concentrate on what Marik was doing now. All her focus was single mindedly on that tray. It seemed so funny that an implement that she held nearly every day of her life would now be so far out of her reach.

 

She gripped the handle.

<Yes!>

Pulled the tray toward her.

<Oh yes!>

And that was when her mind went totally blank. Her eyes lost their pupils and were vacant and unseeing. All worries lifted from her head, everything was a big black infinite of her mind. And yet nothing at the same time.

She slumped on the floor, pain no longer apparent to her, nothing apparent to her.

She was outside the control of her own body, and only in a dim corner was the real mind of Mai Valentine. Weak and unable to fight against the Millennium Rod.

 

"You just don't give up do you?" Marik whispered, the Rod still pointed at her head as he controlled her mind, his right hand was clutching on the collar of Slifer's white shirt so that her face was turning blue. He'd hauled her up into the air and now she was just suspended there, helpless.

Marik snapped his fingers loudly, and a human Guru came running in. His face concealed by the hood of his cloak, which bore the Sacred Egyptian Eye.

The guru bowed down at Marik's feet and said nothing. His eyes shone down toward the floor, dull green in colour and yet so dead. The dead eyes that seemed to belong to most of Marik's personal servants.

"Take that wretched creature out of my sight and chain her up" Marik said imperiously, tucking the Millennium Rod back into his belt, "I will deal with her later."

 

The Guru picked Mai up as easily as if she were a rag-doll. She stared at Marik blandly, her expression blank and impassive. She slumped against the man's chest without a care in the world.

Nothing mattered to her until her mind was set free of the control Marik had placed apon it.

 

When she disappeared out of the room, Marik turned back to his cowering daughter with disgust. His pale purple eyes studying her seriously. He said in a tremulous voice, "If you don't learn how to behave like a proper  Earth Princess - I will disown you and you will be thrown out onto the streets with nothing!

The pain in her eyes got to him. No matter what, Slifer was the daughter of his heart - and he'd do everything in his power to turn her into a true EP. He'd stake his life on the line to do so.

 

* * *

 

Slifer almost crawled to her room, wincing every time one of the palace guards looked at her. She was terrified of going to her room and having to face The Man.

The Man was her tutor, and she had to treat him with respect. His name was Seto Kaiba - boastfully bisexual and one of the most fearsome people she knew.

He had piercing sapphire blue eyes, narrowed down to diamond slits whenever he saw her. He had a pointed, long, straight nose and a thin mean mouth.

He held authority on his shoulders. And just by the way he walked, one could tell that he was important. The EP's tutor, high ranked and rich.

His velvet brown hair often fell into his eyes. his shoulders were held straight.

Yet the most fascinating thing about him was his trench-coat, which swirled enchantingly around his ankles wherever he walked. And carrying that briefcase that sometimes was a briefcase and sometimes was a computer made to look like a briefcase.

 

His little brother was a nice guy. About seventeen years old now. He had a wild spiky mane of hair that went all the way down to his backside. And big innocent eyes that looked permanently surprised.

His name was Mokuba Kaiba, and he was the nicest guy Slifer had ever been allowed to meet. Sometimes, when he could get away with it - he helped her with her homework.

So different from his big grumpy brother who was in his middle twenties and very sour for it.

 

Mokuba had often told her that this was because Seto had once owned a huge enterprise called KaibaCorp, and he'd had to lose it to Marik's will. He hated it bitterly, even though he was still high ranked.

 

Slifer's small, skinny frame went shuffling reluctantly down the corridor. She looked terrified over having to see Seto again, and dearly wanted to be held in Mai's arms and comforted just as the woman had done three years ago, when Slifer had been half the age she'd been now.

<Maybe The Man won't be there.> her mind thought hopefully, as the door that lead to her bedroom door came closer and closer to her, as if it were walking towards her and not her towards it.

 

But Seto was there, typing really fast on his computer and frowning. His sapphire eyes narrowed down to slits as he concentrated on the screen. As clever as he was, he was really the best person to teach the EP her lessons. For Slifer had to be an intelligent person in order to help her father rule the world when she got older.

And Seto Kaiba was the best person to teach her this.

 

Slifer crept up to her bed and crawled onto it, knowing that when he finally did notice her, he'd take out his frustrating life on her and berate her for some misdemeanour that she'd done. But when he ignored her presence she stood up and made her way to her own bedroom door, carefully treading in case Seto should change his mind.

She wrapped her fingers around the knob of the door handle to her room and pushed it open. And stood in the doorway to her simple room.

 

Bare wooden floor, scrubbed clean by herself every day. The walls were empty of anything colourful too.

The bed was covered by white coverings, that she had to change every three days so that they stayed white and showed that she was a still an innocent little girl.

A dressing table and a chest of drawers stood next to it, and on the right next to the only furniture she possessed was a door leading to her simple bathroom.

She walked into the middle of the room and got down to her knees, searching under her bed for all her most precious items that she looked at almost all the time.

She pulled them all out and stared at them. One was her diary, written in Japanese instead of English because it was the one language she'd been taught that her father couldn't speak very well. She'd been writing in it only a year now. Since Mokuba had given it to her for her 5th birthday.

She rubbed the shiny cover and opened it. Filled with small writing in almost perfect cursive. Seto would have her write no other way. And in a way she was grateful for it, it looked so nice and fancy rather than the big print letters she'd written in when she first learnt to write.

Then she put it to her side. She didn't want to write in it yet because that meant reliving what happened to Mai. And she didn't want to think about that.

Next she wrapped her small hand around something Mokuba had given her about a year ago. It was the most valuable thing she owned. A golden statue of Osiris, grandson of the Sun God, Ra. And Osiris had his arms wrapped around his sister, Isis. The two were so entwined with one another that at first glance you could mistake them for one being.

Slifer knew all about Egyptian Gods. Not the God Cards specifically. But real Egyptian Gods that the cards were named after.

 

There was Ra, the ultimate male God. Then there was Hathor, otherwise known as Sakhemet. Hathor was the God that most female Egyptian people worshipped and gave offerings in order to help with fertility.

Then Ra's daughter, Nut had married someone her father disapproved of. So he placed a curse on her that said she could not have any children on any day of the year.

But another God, who was also secretly in love with Nut, he made 5 extra days of the year. And it was on those five days that Nut had five children.

The first was Osiris, then another boy Slifer always forgot the name of, then Seth, then Isis, then another God that Slifer had forgotten.

 

It was Mokuba who taught her everything about Egyptian Gods, because he'd always been interested in everything to do with Ancient Egypt.

Seto had never even touched apon the subject. He didn't hold with such nonsense.

 

Slifer slid onto her bed and placed the statue on her chest of drawers so she could look at it a little longer. Her eyes were round and shining. She loved Mokuba for everything he'd ever done for her. He was the best friend she ever had.

 

The door burst open just as Slifer was getting nicely into a good daydream about how nice it would have been if Mai and Mokuba were her parents. And how nice her life would have been then. Different.

"Sly!"

The Man was staring angrily at her lounging on her bed. His eyes seemed to crackle with electricity.

She immediately scrambled up clumsily onto her feet and bowed her head respectfully, "Sir?"

"Look at those dirty clothes!" he snarled, his pointed nose crinkled in disgust, "The Pharaoh would kill me if he knew I let you do that! Now with the slightest hint of fear in his voice, "So, Sly, please just go and have a bath and change before we have dinner with your dad."

"Sir" she agreed, then, "But what must I wear?"

 

"Anything clean" he responded. Then he hesitated at the door for a few more seconds, his eyes tired and sad. Sometimes she just felt sorry for The Man. Maybe he was just stressed like daddy was. Maybe he wasn't so bad.

That might be why he took out his frustrations on something as trivial as her clothes.

"Yessir" she said quickly, "I have lots of clothes to wear. Don't worry about it."

He nodded, and Slifer was sure he almost gave her the hint of a fond smile.

Maybe he really was a nice guy like Mokuba after all. After all, he had known her for nearly six years.

 

She watched as he closed the door. Then hurriedly stripped of all her clothes. She was glad to be rid of them anyway. The only piece of clothing she was never without was a bandanna of some sort. If she didn't have one, her hair went all over the place, like a damned Christmas tree.

Stepping into her bathroom, she turned the faucets on full blast because she was impatient to get into the warm water. Shivering, she looked at her bedraggled form in the mirror. Her pale face with the pointy chin and nose, the eyes that were just like Marik's except that they were still such kind, sweet, childish eyes that she might not possess for long. Soon, when her mind had been warped enough, they might turn into eyes of steel, cold merciless eyes just like daddy had.

She rubbed her nose and looked around her, down to her bare feet. She giggled when she watched her toes wiggling merrily up at her as if saying hello. One thing you could say about toes was that they were always there when you wanted to look at them. As if they were saying hi.

She peered into the mirror again, at the bruise smudged across her eye. Then the scratches she's sustained across her cheeks from when Marik was in a particular temper.

She sighed, and looked back at the bath, which was still filling up. If her life continued like this, she'd be really ugly looking when she grew up.

 

Her hair was in bad need of a wash. So she planned to wash it now, when she got in the bath. Her hair spilled over her shoulders, all light blonde and sticking up all over the place. She wished it was more like Miss. Mai's hair. Deep honey blonde and angled. Totally beautiful when left alone.

Slifer felt slightly sick when she remembered what had happened to Mai. And clutched her stomach desperately, falling to her knees and gagging. Her face even whiter than it had been before.

Daddy always said that when she was thirteen, she'd be able to wear clothes just like all the princess's did in book. But until then, he wanted to teach her what it felt like to be low and disrespected.

Slifer got up slowly and shakily. Still feeling weak.

<I have to mean and cold if daddy has to like me>

<But ... but ...>

<Do it!>

She put one foot in the bath-water and hissed in a small breath at the heat of it. Then sank slowly into it, right up to her nose, allowing the water to glide up her eyes, looking up at the ceiling from the distorted view from underwater. Breathing through her nose and allowing her mind to drift just like she liked to do. Her favourite part of the day in her eventful life.

She liked the peaceful time she could spend alone in the bath.

<I have to be mean ... just not to daddy>

<How? How? I don't know how!>

<Copy daddy. He'll be proud of me for once>

She squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to stop the awful and inevitable concept that she had to do what daddy wanted her to do. She was the EP, and as daddy always told her, she was stronger than the average human being.

So she would face this. She would do fine.

 

* * *

 

Mai crouched in the corner of the dungeon, her arms wrapped around her knees. Her eyes red from crying, still dressed in her immodest servant's clothing. She longed for Maximillian Pegasus, she knew he was way older than her ... but still she wanted him back with her. She couldn't do this on her own.

The door opened, and Slifer came in. Her clothes still just as simple as ever they'd been. A short-sleeved dress, off-white in colour and tied around her waist with a black sash. Her hair had another of those bandanna's around it, a blue one, that kept all hair out of her face.

The little girl bore a whip in her hands, and her face was determinedly blank. But when Mai looked deep into her eyes, she saw self-disgust and fear.

 

But Mai was more worried as to why the girl was carrying a whip than anything else. And why Marik was behind her, bearing a smirk and watching his daughter as she reluctantly walked toward Mai.

 

"You disobeyed the Pharaoh" Slifer said coldly, but shakily. Her voice was dull, as if she were reciting lines she'd learnt.

"Sly, honey, I'm your friend ..." Mai looked imploringly at her.

"Disobeying the Pharaoh is strongly prohibited, especially to - to lowly servants"

"Sly, please -"

"You shall be severely punished for this act of disobedience" Slifer said, still sounding like she'd learnt the words off by heart.

Mai gaped in horror. Had the girl been made into a Mind Slave?

But no, Slifer's pupils were still intact and her eyes very much alive though dull. The girl was doing this of her own free will.

 

She unravelled the whip. It was a willowstitch whip, and Mai had been hit with all kinds of things so she knew willowstitch didn't hurt as much as other kinds. But still, getting punished was never something Mai relished.

<I must be strong, I must fight, even if it takes years!>

Mai pulled her dress up over her head and bowed down before Marik with her bare back exposed to Slifer. If it was a servant's will, they could leave their clothes on. But then they'd just get shredded by the whip and they couldn't get new ones.

Marik looked down at Mai, with her lovely hair falling down in front of her forehead and trailing on the floor, her eyes fixed on him and showing no defiance. Because any defiance displayed would bring down ten extra whip lashes.

He grinned at her. How he loved to see people bowing down before him as that damned Yami Yugi had always refused to do.

 

Slifer raised the whip above her head, trembling all over. Her eyes weak and pained. She didn't want to hurt Miss Mai. Oh no, not at all. Mai'd been her friend for years, had helped and protected her, and even given her food when she was starving.

But Slifer was an EP, and she couldn't afford to let weakness drag her down. Daddy had told her that countless times.

Mai lowered her gaze away from Marik's. Remembering the painful memory of losing her duel against him all those years ago, and having been shut up in the Shadow Realm till Joey and his boyfriend Kaiba, had rescued her, or had tried to. It was really Yami Yugi who'd defeated both Marik and Kaiba and saved her from eternalation in the Shadow Realm.

 

Then the whip bore down apon her as Slifer lashed out, biting into her skin from her ankle all the way to her neck. Mai cried out, though she didn't really mean to. She'd been planning to be just how Seto Kaiba was when he got whipped, cold and unfeeling, determined not to let Marik know how he felt.

Arching her back in pain, she landed back down hard on her chin. And spat out blood on the floor, satisfied when some of it landed on Marik's shoe. Her eyes watered with pain and she curled her hands into fists. Willing herself to take the rest of this in silence.

She never had taken it in silence before. She's always cried and screamed and got very pathetic, much to the disgust of Seto Kaiba, who thought her to be weak.

 

And she saw Kaiba behind Marik, looking at her with that same withering glance he always gave her. And it made her grit her teeth in determination to make no sound. But when the next whiplash came down from Slifer, she didn't quite manage it in total silence. She didn't cry out as she used to, but a small whimper forced itself from her lips as fiery pain slithered its way down her spine.

She gasped in a new breath and blood drooled down her chin. Her bandaged fingers hurt from clenching her hand so hard and bright colours danced in front of her eyes. The pain was bright and horrible, Mai just wanted it to be over.

Tears found their way down her cheeks as the third lash was sent right down the length of her spine perfectly. She looked up at Kaiba through blurry vision, her gaze pained and almost defeated.

 

But Seto saw a new element to her eyes. She wasn't as willing to give in now. She had the fire of a warrior in those eyes. Although they were still hurt and scared, they were far more determined than they were the last time Seto had seen her.

 

As for Slifer, she found that this wasn't as bad as she'd thought it was going to be. In fact, she found she almost had a talent for it. She could get the lashings across the same place nearly every single time, and could wait for the pain of the last lash to get to its peak before whipping her again.

Fierce enjoyment entered her eyes. Who cared if Miss Mai was her friend? She was powerful, she could control this woman's pain to whatever level she wanted to. She was in total control and was free to do to Mai whatever she wished.

Her pale purple eyes clouded somewhat with some of the evil her dad possessed in his eyes. The cruel merciless gaze of Marik forced themselves down out from her murderous glare, as if her father lived within herself.

There was a spark of innocence still inside her, but with the first few dosages of pain she'd planted about Mai's shoulders had brought unto her a change. A viscous change. She found she knew why daddy liked to hurt people so much.

She liked it herself.

Who needed friends when they had power like this?

 

Marik stared at his daughter as she delivered the fourth lash across almost exactly the same place as she had the last time.

<Yes, she certainly looks different> he thought, seeing her smirk of pleasure,  <Maybe it's okay to give her extra privileges ... maybe I could get her some better clothes and move her into a bigger room ...>

<Don't go too fast, she's not entirely the way you want her yet>

 

Mai endured the next thirty whiplashes across her skin with silence. But her lip was now bleeding hard from the rough way she'd been biting it. She thought she was going to   pass out from pain, and wished that she would.

But the part of her that wasn't consumed by pain was filled with savage pride. She was going to do this. She was getting through the pain even though she could feel blood slithering down her legs and spine. A part of her was proud of the fact that she was at last standing up to Marik's will, however feeble she may be.

She was still doing it. And that was much better than her submissive ways that she'd adopted out of fear of her Pharaoh.

<Oh, Max would be so proud ...> her eyes watered, not with tears or pain, but with happiness. She was  finally worth something more than the accepting slave she'd been for so long.

She raised her head defiantly to look up at Marik, seeing his splayed blonde hair that was just as brutal as his daughter's was. A blonde Christmas tree shape of hair. And those pure evil and wicked purple eyes that sometimes had a pupil and sometimes didn't. It depended on his mood really.

 

When Mai had counted up to the last - or what should have been the last lash - Slifer raised the whip again just as Mai was getting up and brought it down viciously apon the woman so that she cried out in surprise and fell forward and hit her nose of the stone floor. More pain. Always so much pain.

 

<But I didn't count wrong! Sly did that on purpose!>

She cringed in case another one was coming, and when it didn't she got to her feet. Not caring that she was completely naked in front of the man she hated. When she got up she was far more exposed than when she'd been sitting down.

But she'd be damned if she put that bloody dress back on. She hurt all over and felt more trickles of blood down the backs of her ankles.

Shivering all over, she leant her side against the wall. Almost proud of herself for enduring most of it in silence. From now on, she decided - she would fight. She would get through this, and it didn't matter how many whippings and punishments she received. She was going to be defiant, she was going to fight Marik for all she was worth. And if she died, she'd die with honour.

She felt a sparkle of self-pride at this notion. Something she'd never felt before. She never realised how fulfilling it was to say that to yourself and really believe it. To know that she was going to die fighting. And she wasn't just saying it either, she meant every word. Marik was going to get hell from her.

 

But her when she turned to look at Slifer, her heart sank. The girl was standing there with the whip still in her hands, trailing on the floor. And she was staring up at Mai from under her eyebrows in the most wicked grimace Mai'd ever seen.

"Get dressed" Slifer said, grabbing the dress and shoving it at Mai's chest. Making the woman fall backward into the wall, smashing her injured back against it. She felt blood ooze down as it squished, and heard the slimy sound it made on contact. It made her feel slightly sick.

 

When she moved, she heard her ankle bands jangling against one another. The only thing was allowed to wear on her feet. She clutched her opaque dress and looked down at it in disgust. She hated the way everyone could see right through it, and the way Marik's Gurus sneered at her whenever she walked past.

The purple sash that tied round it dangled from her fingers, and she stared at it as if it were mildly interesting. But really she was thinking.

Absent mindedly, she pulled it back over her head. Ignoring the sharp stabs of pain and the way the back of the dress turned almost instantly crimson with her blood. She fastened the sash around her waist once more and looked up at Marik with a blank expression, her blonde hair half hanging in her eyes, almost as if she were defeated.

No, she wasn't going to be rash. When she was going to fight, she wasn't going to be stupid and call the Pharaoh names and rant and rave and try to kill him. That would only get her in trouble and would give Marik the satisfaction to watch her silent pain as she gritted her teeth and bore it down as she had this time.

She was going to fight him in every opportunity she got, but not obviously.

 

Marik grabbed her wrist unexpectedly, jerking her out of her thoughts of revenge. She gasped in surprise and tried automatically to pull away. But Marik, although small in other departments (NO NO! Not those departments, I meant like his scrawny body you fool! Jesus, how would I know what the size of his whang is?! Close that dirty mind right now! The rape scenes don't come till later, thank you very much o_O) had very big hands, though admittedly, he had beautiful long fingers that should have belonged to a pianist.

And Mai couldn't tug away. So she went limp once more and turned her expression impassive. The two of them stared each other down, the blue eyes meshing with his purple ones. Each of them determined to win the quiet battle of wills.

 

But Marik had had lots of practise at this sort of thing, so it was Mai who looked down first. But she didn't mind that much really. She even gave a secretive smile toward the floor as if she were sharing something with it. She may have lost now, but she had a serene calmness within her from finally facing Marik. And the satisfaction that she would no longer bend to his will and follow orders like a sick dog.

She looked up at Seto, and saw that he was giving her a faint smile. She knew that he was a bisexual guy, and though he was really grumpy, he still had his priorities straight. And he was just as dignified as Yami Yugi and Yugi Moto.

And his loyalty to his brother was really inspiring. The bond between them was obvious. If Seto didn't do something right and got himself punished, Mokuba would be right there with him, wincing in pain as if he himself were being punished.

Mai remembered once when Mokuba had still been a boy and Slifer had been just two. Mokuba was about thirteen at the time, and he'd really pissed Marik off by babysitting for Slifer when he hadn't been given permission. Seto had done everything in his power to change Marik's mind, and had finally succeeded by taking double the lashings apon himself.

He still bore the scars.

 

But then, not many of the Pharaoh's servants didn't have scars all the way down their spines and their necks and legs. But out of all of them, Seto had the worst. He was a brave guy, Mai'd admit that any day. The fact that he was a sore loser whenever he occasionally did lose at something mattered little in the real game of life. And he was one of the few people she respected. Especially since he was a better monster duellist than her, as much as it hurt her pride to admit it.

 

Marik still hadn't let go of her wrist, but she didn't much care. Her thoughts dwelled on little Yugi, whom she missed a real lot. She knew that he was probably with Yami Yugi - or rather, Yami Yugi was using his body (that sounded bad, but just because my mind is dirty, don't have one yourselves. It is a privilege allowed only to me in this thing)

"You gonna let me go any time soon?" she whispered to the floor.

He grabbed her bandaged fingers and squeezed them till she cried out in pain. Only letting go when she'd given him the satisfaction of showing her agony. She simply couldn't help it. Pain and Mai didn't go well together.

"Don't speak to me like that, servant!" he snapped, slapping her across the mouth so that her lip split sharply and blood trickled down her chin.

"As you wish" she agreed, turning cunning eyes up to him with a proud lift of her chin. Defiance sparkling in them and a calm smile playing across her mouth. She looked totally at peace with the world at the moment. Ignoring the sharp pain in her heart that cried out 'Slifer!' whenever she tried to think.

Thing was, Slifer was still standing behind her. The girl had hardy said a word. She seemed lost in thought, standing there like a female chibi replica of Marik. Her eyes shining with greed and brutality.

Her cheeks were flushed with triumph. She looked as if she'd just won some sort of victory and was entirely reformed because of it. And the thought of that sweet child just turning out to be a branch off Marik made Mai's heart ache, like a real physical pain in her chest. Slifer was only six. She had hardly any recourses in order to really fight off her father's mental assault. When Mai thought about it, she realised that she'd been stupid to hope that the girl would turn out any different.

 

How could she have? She stood as much chance of escaping the way she was brought up and her own natural evil nature about as much as Mai had a chance of being Pharaoh's wife.

"You've had your fun, let me go now please ... sir ..."

Marik nodded and let go of her throbbing fingers, "Just remember, Mai, you are no longer the free person you once were. I am Marik Ishtar, and I now rule the world ... so I can do as I want. Any more shit from you, and I promise it'll become worse and worse with each time you show me disrespect or disobey me."

Mai nodded meekly, "Sir" she conceded

Marik inclined his head, then walked toward Slifer and grabbed her by her upper arm. For once, the girl didn't protest but followed her daddy, the grin still hadn’t left her lips. She looked like a toddler who'd just discovered chocolate for the first time and was still relishing the thought of it.

 

Marik guided Slifer from the room, and Mai stared after them both with a vacant expression on her face. It was only when she looked up at Seto that she blinked and some life came into those disconnected eyes.

"Ssseto" she sighed, sinking to her knees and leaning her forehead against the cool wall, looking so small and helpless and being unable to know what to do. The pain was really starting to ache now, all along her spine. But she didn't care, she cared about that warped little girl who'd be beyond help if Mai continued to let her grow up to be a murderous female.

Seto Kaiba laid a hand on Mai's shoulder, but said nothing. His sapphire eyes were strangely beautiful and wise. Cynical and callous. But he wasn't so bad really, his ego was just the size of a house sometimes.

In fact, if he didn't have to look after Mokuba, he'd have died rather than serve the Pharaoh. He stayed on Marik's side only because of how much he loved his little brother.

 

"Seto ... I'm going to fight" she said in a voice of steel, her eyes sharpening and turning cold and merciless as Slifer's had been, she put her hands to the wall and pushed her face away from it, "I'm going to fight"

"I know. I could see it."

She looked up at him, and nodded, "But I don't really know how to start, Seto."

"I do"

"How?"

"I can't"

"Why?"

"If I die, Mokuba will be left all alone. And I'm all he has, Mai"

 

She considered this, getting to her feet and almost falling over as her back twanged with agony. She had to put out a hand to stop herself from falling over, and a small moan escaped her lips. She didn't mean to make a sound, it just happened.

But she recovered herself soon, and looked up at Seto, her blonde angled hair hanging in her face so that it was cast in eerie shadows, "Seto, your brother is seventeen years old. He can look after himself. Besides, even with you here for him, what kind of life does he have? He has to serve the Pharaoh and the EP. He'll live, Seto. But then he'll die. And he probably won't die happy. You know how The Pharaoh is. No one gets together for love anymore. People get together because he says that they're compatible. And people have to appeal to Matchmakers before they get married, and the answer is nearly almost no

Besides, Mokuba will have no life, whether you're there for him or not. So fight for him. And if you die, Mokuba will know that you gave it everything you had to give him what was rightfully his."

 

Seto Kaiba's face grew pained and he turned away, a deep sigh issued from him. Then he turned back to Mai and said, "I don't know if we can do it alone ..."

"We have no choice"

"The first thing we have to do is get The Pharaoh and his daughter free."