Chapter Four

When everything makes no sense

 

"What do you mean, we can't enter the forest yet?!" Marik stormed at the black haired woman as she stood resolutely before him.

Ishizu crossed her arms stubbornly and made no answer. Her navy blue eyes sparkled with defiance, because she knew she had the upper hand in his situation ... and she knew he knew it too. The very thought infuriated him.

"It's been nearly four months, Ishizu! And every time I ask you, you just say 'we can't enter the forest yet, my Per-aah-of ' ... I'm sick of it!"

Slifer pushed her fuzzy hair out of her eyes so that she could the woman in the face, to see how she reacted to Marik's outburst. She herself was shivering inside. If her father shouted at her like that ... she'd be running for the hills for sure!

But she felt deep inner respect when the black haired woman just calmly pulled a veil over her nose, then said, "I don't feel like speaking to fully grown man who acts like a little boy. So please calm yourself ... then I will speak ..."

Marik looked as if he dearly wanted to smack Ishizu around the mouth. And his hand twitched toward his Millennium Rod. He had to pull his fingers away though. He knew that this female Vampyre was far more powerful than he. And if he wanted her help, he'd have to do things at her pace.

Unless of course, he wanted to give up the chase on his two disobedient servants and just go home.

 

For a moment, the idea seemed almost tempting. But then he thought about how it would look to his other servants ... and if he did return home, he'd have to be chasing every astray slave like an undignified cat, instead of just sitting like a fat cat on his throne, passing out orders.

Besides ... he couldn't wait to see the look on Seto Kaiba's face when the realisation that his brother was gone forever sank in. And that his dear 'Sly' had done it.

So Marik restrained his hand, but glared daggers at the woman.

 

"Fine ... then explain why we can't enter the forest just yet ..."

"My father is the oldest Vampyre there ever was to exist. He expects us to attack ... and to be quite honest with you ... he's far superior to me. He serves no one but himself. And that's what has got him through so many millions of years, my Per-aah-of. He expects me to come with my revenge soon, and I have to wait till he settles himself down a bit with your two servants."

Mari scowled, but bit his tongue off a scathing reply, "But then, if he serves himself, why is he helping my slaves?"

"He helps them because he is bored. Pure and simple ... there is nothing honourable in what he is doing, Marik. He is doing it because he's been in that lonely old forest for too long, and he seeks excitement. He isn't doing it because he particularly wants to help our slaves, my Per-aah-of."

"Our slaves?"

Ishizu's eyes seemed to burn into Marik's skull. She didn't dignify his question with an answer, but turned around and began walking toward the nearest pub in the village they'd stopped by in. And Marik felt a tic shudder above his right eye.

She'd see. One day he would no longer need her, and then he'd find a way to control and kill her - painfully. She wasn't going to get away with being insolent to him. He was the Pharaoh! He deserved any respect he could get. So her retreating back infuriated him so bad he literally had to hold himself back from attacking her right now.

"Daddy."

Marik looked down at his Slifer. The only person in the world he felt he could rely on right now. And as he looked down into her slitted purple eyes and idea surfaced into his mind, and he reached slowly for his Millennium Rod. He didn't want her to see the movement. Slifer may only be a near seven year old, but she could be formidable if she wanted to. And Marik didn't want to attract attention by provoking a fight from her.

"What?"

"Why do you let her defy you like that? I'm just asking." she added quickly, afraid of being hit into next week. She kept her expression neutral, afraid that any show of an emotion he didn't like might cause her unnecessary pain.

"Because she's stronger than me, my dear. And because we need her. For heaven's sake girl, use your brain."

"Sorry" she grunted, placing her hands on her hips and turning her head over to the pub where Ishizu had disappeared into. No doubt to find some drunk person to feed on. Slifer wished she could ever watch Ishizu at work, but the woman had never let her.

 

Marik touched the bronze surface of his Rod (God, that sounds bad O.O!!) and encircled his fingers around the handle. But he tried to look at Slifer with his eyes displaying as little as hers were. If he looked too crafty, she'd suspect something. And if he looked too innocent, she'd also suspect him of trying something.

"You should learn to use your wit, child" he said serenely, feeling a breeze tug at his hair, "Else you'll never last as long as I have. Look at your grandpa, he was clever and still he perished. You have to be the most crafty in order to beat the best."

Slifer's eyes flickered downward for just a split second, then she brought them back to her father's face, her eyes still professionally blank. She scratched away a piece of her hair, "Daddy, what exactly made you better than Aunty Te'a and my grandpa?"

"I was not only more powerful, but my brain was better than both of theirs put together, Sly."

"I see ..." she looked wistfully over to her left, as if she were looking at something that reminded her of better days. But really she was just acting. And when Marik lunged out with his Millennium Rod, she dodged and grabbed it out of his hand. Slamming her fist into his belly so that he fell backward, totally stunned at this unexpected attack from his own flesh and blood.

"What was that you were saying about overcoming the less intelligent, daddy?" she grinned, flipping the Millennium Rod into the air and catching it again.

Marik grunted, clutching onto his stomach fiercely. He looked up at his near seven year old daughter with his eyebrows raised as he tried to breathe in air that felt like cement. "You ... forgot ... one thing ... my child ..." he wheezed, a smirk finding itself on his lips as he continued to struggle for air.

"I forgot nothing!" she stormed, raising the Rod above her head and summoning the power to control her father with it.

 

Marik's eyes, which were blank as it was, now went even blanker than before. So that the pale purple seemed to be nothing but a hollow pool of nothingness.

Slifer smiled. No longer did she care about her father's welfare. He'd taught her how to play this mind game. And she was going to play or - as he put it - perish.

But she felt her father's mind slipping out of her control. She struggled valiantly to keep her grip. But it slid out of her clutches like butter. And her father's very much alive eyes - if not still vacant looking - were staring back out at her.

"As I said before my dear" he said complacently, as if carrying on a light but interesting conversation they'd been having, "You forgot that I have the Power of the Pharaoh now. You're pathetic Yami power is nothing compared to mine. Even with your Rod power adding to that."

Slifer growled, but could find nothing to say to defend herself and hope to stop him from hurting her. She'd had precious few seconds of controlling him as it was. And now she simply refused to punished for it. No way in hell.

"But I'm proud of you, my dear" he said softly, taking her completely by surprise, "You fought me with your all, as I've always taught you to do. And for that, I'll let you keep the Millennium Rod. I don't have much use for it anymore anyway. Just remember, next time don't fight me unless you're 100% positive you can destroy me. Remember that, Sly. Otherwise next time, you won't get off so lightly."

 

"What were you going to do to me with this?" she asked coldly, her eyes - which looked just as vacant as her father's did - turned to flint. She looked like she wouldn't be out of place as an Ice Queen.

"I was going to control you, child. What did you think?"

"I know that, you fool" she said impatiently, "But why did you want to do it?"

Marik stood dumbstruck, had she just called him a fool?! Then he bared his teeth and growled at her, "I was going to make you try and use your childish wiles to persuade Ishizu to take us into the forest ..." he grabbed onto Slifer's wrist and pulled her close, "And the next time you call me a fool, you'll regret it."

Slifer recoiled, her eyes slitting down meanly, "Yes sir" she said, turning her face away and toward the pub. Desperately wanting to see Ishizu at work. She'd never seen someone drain blood before, and it sounded quite fascinating to her.

 

Turning around, Slifer saw a huge muscled man walking down the street. She wanted to get her first practise with her new toy on him. Since he looked powerful, he might be good to try on. To see if her mind could beat his. She just hoped he wasn't one of those big dumb apes who were too easy to mind control.

She raised the Rod, feeling Marik's eyes on her the whole while, and she concentrated on the man's mind. She saw the pupil of the Rod flash and then she was in the man's brain. She knew everything about him. His name, his age, the books he liked to read, his secret fantasies.

He was a proud man, she gathered, who loved his muscles and thought that they would bring him more girlfriends. Slifer wrinkled her nose at this <As if! He looks like a stupid gorilla to me> she thought.

She used her own mind to wrap around his and force him back. For a minute it was quite a hard struggle. But when she accepted the Rod's power with her own, it was all too easy. And the man's brown eyes lost all their vitality. Leaving an empty shell of what he once was, looking back at her.

"You did quite well, Sly"

"Can I take him with us? He could be useful."

Marik considered it for a moment, then shrugged non-commitedly, "If you want."

Slifer grinned happily, and before she could restrain herself, she lurched forward and threw herself into her dad's arms. Wrapping her little arms around him and squeezing tight. Resting her head against his chest.

Marik looked a little taken aback, then a ghost of a smile appeared on his lips. Not a sly smile either, mind you. But a fond smile, a loving smile. It wasn't a full blown smile but it was there. He draped his arms around her shoulders and hugged her back.

"Thank you, dad"

"That's alright."

"If you want, dad ... I could still try and persuade Ishizu to take us into the forest ... without you making me your Mind Slave."

Neither one mentioned that this whole embrace thing was extremely weird for them. For although Slifer had a small bit of affection in her, Marik had hardly anything. But still, it was kind of nice if he thought about it. She was his daughter, and he was her father. And the thought suddenly had far more weight than it'd ever had before. That day, the two of them bonded as they never had before. Though it wasn't all that long for almost seven years of distance.

"No, we'll wait ... just as Ishizu says, Sly. I don't think you'd change her mind anyway."

 

Slifer turned her head toward the huge man she'd uncaptured. His name was Orion Roberts and he was 35 years old, though he looked both old and young at the same time. Judging by his eyes, she'd say he was a thousand years old.

She placed the Millennium Rod in the waistband of her shorts, but still felt that it was connected to her mind. It took hardly any effort to control the man anymore. It was just like having an extra body of her own. Except they both shared the same thoughts, because now he was no longer himself, but just another par of her.

She broke out of her father's hug and walked toward Orion, almost unable to believe that she was the one who was controlling this man. Almost like he was her creation. Like her son.

She looked up into the big man's face, leaving Marik behind - who still looked kind of stunned. He just stood there with his face half-amazed, half-shocked - and she touched the side of the big man's neck with her small fingers. He didn't flinch, but just stood there like a enourmous henchman.

Her grin grew more evil. She was going to have fun with this guy ... (Author's note: NO, not that type of fun! Jeez! You're more dirty minded than me!) he'd be like a cool bodyguard to have. Not only because he could protect her, but because he was herself - therefore he'd do whatever she wanted him to. 

 

With a sharp twist feeling that wasn't painful but felt weird, like having a tiny bread crumb stuck in your throat, Slifer made the big man(whose name was Orion of course but she preferred referring to him this way) pick her up in his arms and walk heavily toward the pub door. She looked back over at Marik as if asking for permission, but he was staring at the wall with the shocked look still on his face. So she smiled and just carried on.

"Oh put me down you big ape" she muttered, though really she didn't have to say anything, for her mind was what did the work.

She brushed her finger almost lovingly across the top of the Millennium Rod. She was sure going to have fun with this baby. She could control entire armies of people if she wished! Her power was almost limitless!

Yes, well, her father and Ishizu and this master of Ishizu's might be a problem. But Slifer would sort them all out later on, if she had to.

The big man placed her down on her feet and she took his hand, walking boldly into the pub, where she saw Ishizu sitting silently in the darkest corner, staring down into the dregs of her glass. Her eyes looked so sad ...

Slifer felt a twinge of pity. Her purple eyes widening in earnest as she stood silently in the entryway. One hand held loosely at her side and the other still clutching at her Mind Slaves hand. She looked up at him and then back down at the woman.

<Well ... I might as well do her a favour. Maybe she needs someone to talk to ... and she wouldn't notice Orion's eyes in this light - would she?>

"Okay big guy ... go on up to that woman over there and strut your stuff" she smiled up at him, and his stern looking eyes looked back down at her, though without really seeing her.

He looked just Ishizu's type, Slifer reckoned. He may look stupid at first glance. But his entire face was actually quite proud and stoic. His nose straight and on the narrow side. His eyes sharp but not mean, his upper lip was thin, whilst his lower one was slightly thicker. His had a high forehead and black eyebrows that almost perfectly matched his black hair that was mostly buzzed off, but a little longer than the army look.

Ishizu was proud, clever, stern and slightly arrogant. And this man looked almost exactly the same. All it took was some work on Slifer's part. And Slifer was clever too. She had the average brain power of an adult by now, if not more. Though at the same time, she was slightly naive.

No matter though. She would try and do the black haired woman a favour.

 

"Go on then, you aren't shy are you?" she said, her lips stretching into a smile, "Go cheer Ishizu up, you big bear."

Orion took a step toward the woman, and Slifer ducked under the bar, hiding in-between some man's feet, lurking by his boots as she peeked out at the woman, whose eyes looked so tired and old. Ishizu lifted a hand up to massage at her temples, not noticing the big man next to her until he spoke.

"Rough day?"

Slifer tilted her head to the side as she spoke through Orion, she forgot that two voices would issue from his lips. But it wasn't awfully noticeable. Especially as Slifer's voice was very soft and Orion's was much louder and more gruff. So if Slifer was careful, Ishizu wouldn't notice.

Ishizu looked up at the man and managed a small, thin-lipped smile, "It's okay, as days go ..." she whispered, her navy eyes lurking into his eyes so long that Slifer grew nervous that she'd suspect something.

"Could've fooled me" Orion said, and Slifer had to strain a bit to get that blank look off his face. Facial expressions were hard, especially when you were talking at the same time, but she managed to twist his face into a smile to meet Ishizu's, though it did look a little strained, "Could I have a seat?" she made him ask.

Ishizu pondered at this for awhile as if the question were life threatening, then she nodded, lowering her eyes back down to her glass, "Go ahead."

Slifer was relieved that she could have awhile of silence as she  made Orion sit down. Talking and trying to make him look human at the same time was difficult, and in silence, Orion could look as blank as she wanted, because Ishizu wasn't looking at him anyway.

 

A more genuine but sly smile was shot in Slifer's direction by Ishizu, so that the little girl jumped. And a voice sounded in her head, <Very sweet of you, Sly ... but you forget that I'm not a simple human. I could sense you inside him from the start>

<Damn ... couldn't you have pretended to be happy to see him and play along>

A laugh sounded in Slifer's head, <Play along? That is human nonsense to please others ... and I'll have no part of it. Take your Gorilla away from me>

<But I got him for you, Ishi ... I really did ... you're hungry aren't you?>

Slifer didn't move from her position under the bar, and she watched Ishizu give a jerk in her chair as she threw her head in Slifer's direction again, <How would you know, little girl?>

<You get agitated ... it's very noticeable. Even dad noticed ... I swear>

<Ahhhhh ...> Ishizu's face remained serene but the voice in Slifer's mind was faintly amused, <But you're wrong, I'm not hungry ... I'm agitated, as you say, but not hungry ... so you can take your gorilla away from me and do as you like with him>

<If you weren't a Vampyre, do you think that he would have been a convincing man?>

Another trilling laugh burst into Slifer's mind, yet the Ishizu staring at her glass still looked solemn, <Sly, your gorilla had blank eyes and two voices. And it may not be noticeable to a child. But to someone like me or someone like the man you're sitting under, would notice ... trust me>

<Spare me no pain> Slifer grinned nastily and Ishizu's head once more turned in her direction.

<Slifer, you have to learn from your mistakes. If you were a normal child, I would have told you that the gorilla made a lovely man. But you're not a normal child, and you have allot to learn in a short space of time. I have to teach you as much as I can during these few short years>

 

Slifer was suddenly seized by the scruff of her neck by the man above her and thrown onto the bar table, "Here! What're you doing under my feet, little girl? You were trying to steal from me weren't you? Well, I'll just teach you a lesson then!"

Before she had much chance to even grasp the suddenness of the situation, a searing pain went through her head as the man grabbed her up by her hair until she was in a kneeling position. Obviously he was slightly tipsy, or else he would've noticed that the girl was none other than his EP.

Slifer glanced over at Ishizu in a panicked way, but the black haired woman just stared back at her, her gaze clearly said 'Handle it yourself, like a true Earth Princess'

And it was true. Why should Slifer be afraid of normal humans. She was not only a Yami, but the most powerful Yami on Earth, besides her father. And she could only get stronger as she went. This drunk poopall who had her hair in his grasp would regret the day he'd entered his mother's womb.

"Get your hands off me human. I have no interest in stealing any of your pathetic possessions."

Ishizu ordered another drink at the bar, then went back to her seat next to Orion, who was staring at the wall vacantly.

"She's a cheeky little rascal isn't she?" the man looked over his shoulder at his mates, who gathering round thick and fast to see if any action was going to happen.

Slifer smirked, now totally confident that this stupid mortal wouldn't get in her way. In fact, she might just humour him for awhile. She looked into the man's tired blue eyes with scorn.

He wasn't an old man, as she'd thought at first. But he looked exhausted and haggard, and blonde stubble spotted his chin. He had a small nose, but it was also a wide nose that was perfectly straight and narrow. He had very thin lips and gaunt cheeks. He was probably in his late twenties or early thirties, Slifer reckoned.

Men were easy targets. Always so controlled by their emotions.

"Let go of me, I said"

"Make me."

 

Slifer tossed back her shaggy blonde hair with an almost snobby air, making him let go of it. She pulled the tresses down into a neater position and sat down on the countertop, "There you go, now what are you going to do."

"I'm going to beat you senseless for trying to steal from me, that's what I'm going to do."

"Hey ... wait" came the voice of a teenage boy who didn't look of age to drink, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Otesu ... she's the EP."

"What?!" the man, (Otesu, it seemed) spun around and stared her in the face, then his face cracked into a smile, "Where's your daddy now, princess?"

"Outside ... and once my manservant beats you to a pulp, The Pharaoh will deal with you. Now do you understand that I'd never steal from you?"

"Manservant?"

"Orion!" Slifer called, and with a sharp twist in her mind, she made the big man stand up. But before she could bring him over, Ishizu clutched onto his arm, "No, Gorill - ... Orion ... don't make a scene. Princess Slifer can take care of herself!"

And in Slifer's mind, she heard Ishizu say, <Take care of him with your power, child. Not with your Mind Slave>

 

Slifer was now angry. Ishizu had no right to rule her life! None at all! And with another furious twisting of her brain, she made Orion wrench his arm out of Ishizu's grasp and walk away from her, "I serve the EP" he said, supposedly to Ishizu, and his double voice made everyone in the room shiver. Because everyone knew that controlling was a part of The Pharaoh's speciality, and she was his daughter. She must have this big man under her control.

Otesu whirled around again to stare at Slifer, "Wait ... I didn't mean it princess ... I was only joking."

"Ah ah ha ha ha ha ha ha, heh heh heh heh heh heh HA HA HA HA HA!" Slifer doubled up and clutched at her stomach as she rolled onto the bar counter. Her eyes were as cold and cruel as Marik's ever were. And deeply amused, "Oh you pathetic little man!" she grabbed him by the scruff of his collar so that her nose was squished against his, "Do I look stupid to you? Well, I have more mind power than all of you put together!"

"I'm sorry, ma'am"

"Shut up!" Slifer slapped him across the face with her small hand, "I've killed a man before with my bare hands, Otesu-san. I can do it again."

There was a collective gasp from everyone in the room, as Ishizu's voice forced itself in Slifer's mind again, <If you use the Gorilla to help you. I will personally punish you and make sure you never mind control anyone again>

<Shut up you fool!>

Ishizu twitched, <Slifer, don't turn into a repetition of your father. It can only bring you pain.>

<I said, SHUT UP!>

 

Otesu jerked convulsively at the violent expression of an adult on a little girl's face. He tried to pull away but she sent one of her feet straight up into his crotch. Kicking him with all the power she could muster in her little foot.

It was a goal! She got him straight where she wanted to get him. Otesu gave a sort of yelpy scream and collapsed to his knees. Slifer grinned across at Orion as he stood there, she made him restrain a hysterical woman in her fifties. And the EP had the sneaking suspicion that the woman was Otesu's mother.

"You think you can laugh at the EP you wretches?!" she threw her head back and laughed like a loon. Her eyes were wild and ferocious. She looked positively demonic and she threw herself down off the bar counter and landed with her bony knee in Otesu's groin once more.

The man's face went white and when he opened his mouth to scream, no sound came out. Slifer giggled, he looked like a balloon about to pop. "Don't you ever underestimate me, all of you" she grinned, "Just because I'm six years old doesn't mean I don't pack a powerful punch."

 

"No! Please! He's my son! He's my son! Don't kill him, my Earth Princess! Please!"

The woman's blue eyes were slightly more faded than her son's, but you could see that she bore a striking resemblance to Otesu. Slifer stared at her coldly, her lips formed into a merciless thin line.

"Life is hard, you old bitch. You might as well learn that here, because when I rule the world, everyone will remember the pain and destruction that Slifer Ishtar caused. I will not be mocked ever again as I was today ... everyone will know that Slifer will not be tampered with."

"No" the old woman whimpered and had to be held up by the barman. Her greying hair fell in her face as her bony hands clutched onto the poor man. Her pale blue eyes seemed far more alive but also terrified, "He's my son! Have mercy ... he'll never come in your way again."

"I'll do you one favour. I won't make him suffer first. How's that?"

The woman didn't seem to think this was fair at all, and immediately began shrieking again for mercy and such nonsense. Slifer felt a tic shudder above her right eye and it took all her control not to kill the old fart right here and now.

"Shut up" she said through gritted teeth, "Unless you want me to murder everyone in the bar ..."

But the woman refused to shut up. She wailed like a goddamned banshee until Slifer felt she was going to go insane. Crouching low, she withdrew a dagger from her boot and stabbed Otesu in the throat. She was sprayed by blood all in her face but she didn't mind. It tasted nice, like copper and salt, and also of victory. These people had dared to mess with her, and now they must pay the price.

And she'd kept her word too. Otesu didn't suffer, because in the few seconds it took for the old lady to realise that her only son was gone, he'd eyes had clouded over in death, and it actually shocked the old bat to silence. She fell to her knees at her son's side and grabbed his wrist, feeling his pulse, and her face drained when she felt only silence when once life had throbbed.

 

"You ... you killed ... my son" she whispered softly, as her pale eyes clouded over in despair so that they looked as dead as her son's did. She buried her face in her hands, but no sounds escaped her, and Slifer guessed that she was just trying to block out the truamatic sight of blood bubbling and frothing from her offspring's throat even though he was clearly dead.

"You screamed ..." Slifer hissed in a deadly low voice, "When I told you to shut up ... remember what I said I'd do if you did that?"

The old woman didn't even appear to hear, she was clutching onto Otesu as if the old bat thought she could make him live again. Slifer looked witheringly down at everyone in the bar, then she grinned ike a maniac, "Sorry folks ... but this is last day that'll you'll see a beer."

For Slifer'd seen a glinting metal object in Orion's pant's waistband. This would help her destroy everyone in the bar with no sweat included ... or at least most of them.

 

"Orion!" she yelled, and with her mind she made him reach for his gun and throw it Slifer. The little girl caught it with both hands, cocked it and tightened her fingers on the trigger.

It was time for some fun.

 

* * *

 

Yes, Mai Valentine was five months pregnant. And not showing as of yet. But she was told that she would start to show quite allot when she nearly hit the six monthmark. And yes, she was still scared half out of her mind. Scared of the baby, scared of Marik and his daughter, scared for the people that were close to her heart, like Seto, and Bakura, and even Duke. For she and Duke had become as close as you could get over the past few months.

Right now, she was sitting between both Bakura and Seto, with her feet trailing in the water and her eyes downcast. None of them had spoken for quite a long time now, for almost an hour of silence, because when they did, Mai did not join in. Her violet-blue eyes were far away. A dreamy expression had stolen over her face as soon as she'd sat down and put her aching white feet into the stream.

Her ethereal blonde hair shone in the little sprinkles of light that came through the trees from the moon, and hung mostly in her face. Mai now slept during the day, just as the Vampyres did. And to tell the truth, she didn't mind at all. She liked night time, which seemed far more mysterious and magical to her. Especially when she sat beside the stream, and silver shafts of light sprang off the water.

But today, Mai didn't feel so good. Especially since her day started with seeing the bottom of the toilet bowl as she emptied her breakfast into it. Duke had not been sympathetic, but worried. He said how unusual it was for woman to have morning sickness beyond her first trimester.

She herself wasn't that worried. She had faith thst God couldn't possibly give her a deformed or handicapped child. After he'd given her hell for almost seven years, he surely couldn't do this to her. Her son would be the healthy little half brother of Slifer's, and the only son to the Pharaoh.

 

Bakura got to his feet in the middle of her thoughts and stretched. His muscles looking like live eels under his skin, wriggling their way up his body, "God, I'm as bored as shit ... can't we go and do something exciting? Like kill us some frontier zombies?"

Seto rolled his eyes, "You can't sit still for two seconds, can you?"

"It's been hours!" Bakura wailed, "I can't take it anymore! All this silence and no action, only staring for endless minutes at water!"

Mai looked up at him, her curtain oif angled hair swinging out of her face, "If you have a good enough brain, you won't ever be bored."

Seto's mouth twitched, but he made no comment of his own. But lowered his head to his lap so that neither of them could see his face contort in an effort to stop himself from laughing at the look on Bakura's face. He twisted it in anguish, then drooped his mouth and pulled his eyebrows to the side so that he looked like the object of pity. Maybe some people would try and comfort him, but to Seto, it was just funny. And Seto never laughed.

No ways would he laugh at this. Mai would think he was anal or something.

Bakura foolded his arms and made goo goo eyes eyes at Mai, "Mai ... baby ... sweetheart ... princess ... darling ..."

"Don't even think about it" she said calmly, examining her toes with vaugue interest as she lifted them and allowed water to trickle down her leg.

 

Unfortunately, Mai wasn't as refined and poised when her labour began 3 months later. She was the worst patient any of them had ever seen. And one would have thought that she was used to pain, because Marik always was quite willing to give it out in large doses.

But, apparently her pain threshold was abysmal. She landed Seto with such a thwack to his face with her foot, that he was almost knocked out cold. She fought against Duke and Seto when they tried to hold her down so that poor Bakura could have a check and see what the hell was going on down there. A job that he detested, and made his face go slightly green.

"I don't know!" he said desperately to the other two, "All I see is ... EWWWW!" he staggered backward and landed on the wall and covered his eyes, "I'm scarred for life. Devlin-sama! You take a look, or I'm gonna puke all over her legs!"

Seto's face twisted in disgust. He suddenly actually felt something for Mai, the poor creature who was being looked after by boys who didn't know what the hell they were doing. And discussed her labour as if it were a gross thing, instead of a miracle of birth or something like that.

He betted that if Mai hadn't been in so much pain, she'd have been red with embarrassment, but she was too busy fighting the two that held her firmly to the ground.

"Look for ... uhhh ... a head or something" Duke said unhelpfully

 

Bakura peeked through his fingers.

"I don't see a head! Can I go now?"

"No" Duke tried to look serious, "You're supposed to poke your finger inside her and see how dialated she is"

"Ewwww, grooooss! I'm not shoving my finger in there!"

 

"Ugh" Seto lost all patience. He knew something about birth, not much but more than these washouts did. And though he'd kept quiet so that he didn't have to be the one to do the job, he supposed he'd have to or else Mai might be in serious trouble, "Get out of my way and hold her down" he said impatiently.

Bakura moved to her front end with fast relief as Seto tried to help. Ignoring the unfeeling baboons who called themselves all great Vampyres.

"Listen to me, Mai" he said softly as her contraction ended, "I don't know how long your labour's going to be ... it's been going for four hours now ... and it varies for all women. So I want you to take Bakura and Duke's hand on the next push and don't fight them? You understand?"

She nodded numbly, her face all pale and sweaty from exertion, "It hurts so bad. It hurts, Seto. I can't help it."

"I know ... and soon it'll be over ... wait a moment" he put his thoughts purely medical and did his best not to shut his eyes, then he brought his two fingers back out and said thoughtfully, "I think that's about ten centimetres now, Mai. It won't be long."

She didn't have time to reply, for the next moment she was screaming again. But at least she'd listened to him this time, and grabbed onto Bakura's hand. And Bakura looked almost ashamed, but still very relieved as he held her hand and ignored the fact that she was squishing it to death, he pushed her hair out of her face.

 

"Get up now Mai" Seto said seriously when the contraction ended, helping her onto her feet in a crouching position, "It helps if the baby is pushed downward, alright?"

She clung onto him desperately as if she thought he could fight the pain away for her, and strained with the next contraction to push her son out.

Her head whirled and she got dizzy, black spots appearing in her vision. It felt as if she were trying to force her insides out it was so awful.

"Ahh ..." she gasped, as that pain ended at last after a minute or so, "Seto, I can't do this. I just can't"

"You have to, Mai. Think about your son, think about how a new life is going to be here. Think about what you're going to name him."

"Lucian" she whispered, but she staggered as her head whirled even more.

"No!" Seto shook her slightly by the shoulders, "You're nearly there! Don't pass out or I won't know what to do! Your baby may die!" he didn't add that Mai might also die. Because he wasn't sure that making her panic was the best idea right now.

 

Both Bakura and Duke gazed on with respect as Seto took the whole thing over even though his knowall on having babies was restricted very badly. And he didn't know what to do if the birth was breeched or anything like that. But luckily for him, it wasn't. And he could sort of help with the bits of knowledge he'd aquired over the years from here and there.

Duke knew lots about nearly everything but women. When it came to them he didn't know naff all, especially not complicated things like birth and icky things like that, he knew it. And as for Bakura, he was a tough guy and could fight off armies of the dead, undead and alive. But when it came to seeing the blood of a friend, he didn't have much gut for it. It made him want to hurl, as he'd said earlier on.

 

But Seto was not restricted by such childish setbacks. As far as he was concerned, Mai needed support, not to be thinking of herself as gross or 'ewww' or anything like that. These two morons didn't know shit all and should keep their mouths shut and stay out of the way. Because they knew nothing about what she was going through.

 

But when the whole mess was over, the afterbirth out. The baby washed and Mai sunk back onto the pillows with a disbelieving look on her face as she examined her son. Thrill danced through her as she looked down at him, her arms were shaking, and the pain almost forgotten totally.

"He's so perfect! Look at him! Look at his tiny little fingernails!"

Lucian had a fuzz of blonde hair creeping over his head. And no one could tell as of yet whether it was Mai's blonde hair or Marik's. And his eyes were a nondescript blue that most babies had. The colour could always change later, Seto knew.

Otherwise, he looked like the average baby. And he howled even as he came out, not having had to be smacked to get him to breathe. He was just screaming right from the start and he moved his arms and legs groggily as if he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with them.

Bakura thought he looked like a pile of wrinkled, solid red jelly. But didn't say so out loud, because he knew he'd be instantly rebuffed. He had the idea that all newborns looked this way, especially when they weren't fully Yami. And he'd probably look better later on - hopefully.

"He's gorgeous, Mai" Duke said tiredly, placing his hand in hers and smiling, "And he's yours ... you created him."

She looked down at him as if with new eyes. Up to now, she'd been thinking of the boy as Marik's, not her own. And though she had known it, she hadn't thought of his exactly that way before. And now that someone had slapped it in her face, it was hard to ignore.

 

"You're right" she murmured, looking at Lucian's pale blue eyes that were not so noticable as the baby had them screwed up as he squawled his frustration out.

Yami Bakura approached them, looking allot better now that the actual birth was over and Mai could be "decently covered" with a blanket so that he could speak to her without feeling slightly nauseous.

"He'll be great when he grows up" Duke said seriously, "He'll be able to defeat his big sister if we train him hard so that the weak human side of him can be overcome"

Duke took the now screaming baby out of Mai's arms and held him up so that he could take a better look at him, "You won't be alone, Mai"

"Except when she's actually delivering him" came Seto's bitter voice from behind them.

Yami Bakura's face went pink, but Duke's face stayed totally unreadable as he turned to look Seto in the face, "I've never been to a birth before, human. But that doesn't mean I don't know a hundred more things than your puny mind could ever handle.

Seto's eyes went hard, cold and cruel, "It took you your millions of years to learn what I learnt in my lifetime, Vampyre"

"Oh?" Duke's mouth curled into a sneer.

"Stop it, you two" Mai said softly, reaching for Lucian and holding him in the crook of her arms until eventually the warmth of his mother calmed his wails and eventually placed him into an exhausted sleep. For people didn't often realise that birth is just as truamatising and stressing for the baby as it is for the mother, and could result in a good few hours of sleep.

 

Yami Bakura scrached the back of his beautiful white hair, then looked up at Duke with his eyebrows raised, "You're going to train him?"

"Yes" Duke murmured, "We need him to have any chance of defeating Slifer and her father."

"But ... I have ... something to tell you master" Yami Bakura whispered urgently as Mai snuggled down into Seto's arms to sleep. Bakura watched her eyes droop and finally she slumped into the boy's lap, leaving Seto with a slightly stunned and half catatonic look on his face.

"What is it?" Duke turned away from the two humans to stare Bakura in the face, he could tell that his sire's seriousness was only brought on by how serious the situation must be, especially as Yami Bakura was hardly ever serious. Not even when he was battling against beings that could destroy him.

"Your daughter, my master. Remember she said that she was sworn to murder you before she left the Forbidden Forest to find a way to do so?"

Duke's lips thinned.

"Pharaoh Marik and the EP are perfect targets. Especially since ..."

Duke cut him off, his eyebrows knotted together in worry, "Ishizu will no doubt try and help them to get into the forest, making them think that she is actually helping them to track down these two" he gestured toward Seto and Mai, "When really she is just using her power combined with theirs to defeat me."

"Yes, master"

Duke looked even paler than before as this news sank in, "But then even with the half Yami boy ... we are no match against two full blooded Yamis and a Vampyre"

"We have allot of time to plan, my master."

Devlin turned his head sharply, his black stringy hair swaying into his great big green eyes, "What makes you think that? She can enter the forest at any time."

"Yes, but you know Ishizu. You always taught her to be fully prepared in battle. And so I think that's what she's gonna do. She'll be like a mother to the EP, and she'll train her until that child becomes a full grown bloodthirsty Yami. So we have time to think of something. Years in fact."

"I don't like this, sire. I don't know how we could possibly ..."

"Shhhh ..." Duke put his hand to his temples, massaging lightly and trying to think past his worry, "I can think of only two things."

"Well, I can't think of anything at all." Bakura said with a shrug, his eyebrows raising slightly.

"I'll give them to you, and you see if there's one you like better"

"Shoot"

"Either we try and take the EP away from Pharaoh Marik and train her to be on our side ...."

"I don't think that'll work. That child's devoted totally to her father."

"My sire, the second option is totally up to Seto and Mai. So if they refuse, we'll have to revert to plan one at all costs."

 

But when the two Vampyres turned to look at Mai and Seto, they were both asleep in each other's arms. Lucian dozing in the crook of her arms, all their breathing coming out as one and  making them seem like a family that were close and loved each other. Though, closer to the truth, the reality was less charming. She and Seto would never be. Even if they did love each other as more than friends (which wasn't necassarily true) because love wasn't an option in this situation.

But was it ever an option? No,of course not. But here, the tangle that all of them had gotten their lives into had to crush love out of it. Love would collapse the semi-secure pillar that they'd managed to make for themselves.

Duke's sad, ancient green eyes surveyed them in silence for awhile. Because to him, they were both beautiful. With the young one in-between them. If you looked at them closely, you saw something magical that you didn't often get to see, and even less got to appreciate it because of their age or the way their mind worked.

The fact that they all breathed in unison was enchanting all on its own. Rise and fall, rise and fall of their chests as they gently slept.

Mai's head was rested against Seto's side, her angled hair falling in tufts across her face. The light from the moon shining across her left cheek and her left eye, making the whole side of her hair shimmer ethereally as if it were moving. Weaving through Duke's eyes and making tears sparkle there for a few moments as he watched. Seto's head relaxed on top of Mai's hair. His own hair also flopped down in his eyes.

But his hair didn't twinkle or shimmer with mysterious light. His hair was half enveloped in darkness. Threading about the strands as if it were sewn in. Hardly any moonlight reached him, except for a hint of a glow that made some of the shadows recede a bit.

A wind blew in, rustling both their hair and making the light and the shadows bounce and slither along them like graceful snakes or coils of fire.

"They're beautiful ..." Duke whispered, wiping more tears from his face. His throat was raw, and he felt an inside gratefullness at being able to cherish moments like this. Since they seemed so infinitely rare.

"Yes ..."

 

Duke looked over at his childer and saw that Bakura was dry eyed and unmoved. And it struck Duke how odd this seemed to him, when the beauty of three simple people effected him so much, yet did nothing to his childer. "You don't think they're beautiful." it wasn't a question.

"I don't see the way you do ... father"

Duke's face paled and he turned slowly around to look Bakura full on in the face. Never before had this one ever called him father before. Always master, or Devlin-sama, or Duke. But never father. It'd always been Ishizu who called him that.

"Did you just ...?" Duke couldn't finish the sentence. But he didn't really have to, for Bakura nodded and smiled in a bitter and despairing way.

"I've been with you for almost five thousand years ... I guess you've earned the title by now."

Before Bakura knew what was happening, Duke had drawn him into a fierce hug. And though Bakura had never been one for hugs, this one was different. It was filled with gratitude and fatherly love. And happiness, Bakura could sense the savage joy coursing through his master.

"I've waited so long to hear you call me that."

"Well ... yeah ..." Bakura said uncomfortably, his dark brown eyes looking wary and suspicious of the rare display of affection. Since Duke was normally about as soft and loving as a piranha. Maybe it was something in the humans that had softened him over the months, Yami Bakura didn't know, but he didnt like it either. His master wasn't supposed to be a big softy. He was supposed to be just as mean and ruthless as Marik was, or else their plan would fail.

"I think we should beg those two to become immortals.  I doubt,  I mean highly doubt that we'll ever get our hands on Slifer - ever."

"I know that" Duke said wearily, letting go of his sire with disappointment in his big green eyes, "But we cannot force the Seto and the girl to become what they don't want to be. So if this is the case, where we cannot convince them to become immortals ... Slifer is our only option then."