Chap. 14 Rekindle
For a stretch of time, the Temple’s rigid silence was only disturbed by the faint choked sobs of Akefia as he continued to hide himself in Ishizu’s shoulder; all the while she remained silent and did not open her eyes once as she gently stroked his back.
After several long minutes, the sobbing slowly faded out and the silence of the Temple returned once more. Ryou, who stood like a ghost in the temple room, remained where he was as he watched the almost surreal scene play out before him, the whole occurrence so much like a dream as he felt the whirlwind of intense, furious emotions that were not his own whittle down to pure anguish…. The sensation almost hollowing.
When at last silence deafened everything, he cautiously made his way up the steps, his heart thumping away rapidly as the still lingering emotions wore heavy in him, “I-Ishizu…?”
Ishizu carefully looked up at the sound of Ryou’s soft voice and smiled at him. Ryou blinked as he noticed the Thief King was no longer moving nor sitting up at all, but rather was slumped against her, breathing still ragged, but solidly sleeping, his face mostly hidden in his mess of fluffy hair, “It’s alright Ryou…. He’s asleep…” she whispered gently as not to disturb the older male, “We can’t stay here, Ryou. He…. I don’t think it good for him to wake up in here later…” she managed, his furious yet anguished words still echoing strongly in her head.
Ryou shifted at the look in her eyes and the still aching sensation in him before he nodded, “Right. I’ll go get father... it’ll be easier if we move him with a stretcher or something.” Ishizu nodded in agreement,
“That’ll be good… I’ll stay with him…. in case something happens again.” She replied, slowly easing Akefia down to rest on her lap as she shifted to sit in a more comfortable position.
“You’ll be ok….?” Ryou inquired as he turned to leave, to which Ishizu nodded assuring,
“Of course… now hurry. The sooner the better.” She replied, to which Ryou sprinted away, his heart racing away along with his thoughts.
Ishizu was growing increasingly worried as they day dragged on…Akefia had been moved out of the Temple with surprising ease, not once had he woken up during the move or at all the entire next day and night… everyone, including Ishizu who had explained the situation, had become worried that the shock had been too much. It was a partial relief when he’d finally opened his eyes… but the vacant look about them and his unwillingness to move even as his stomach pleaded quite loudly for him to do so had dampened the relief considerably…
“Akefia… come on. I’ve brought you some food…” Ishizu calmly urged… to her frustration no response came from the Thief, his eyes still gazing out almost sightlessly at the ceiling of the tent, “Akefia… please… Answer me. You need to eat or you’ll lose your strength…”
As if in response, the Thief’s lips moved ever so slightly, a faint murmur dancing off of them.
Ishizu perked. It was barely more than a whisper, nearly nothing… but he spoke! She shifted closer to him carefully, “Akefia? I can barely hear you. Please… you have to eat. You’re body needs something. Come on, You have to eat.” she urged holding the dish out to him, To her confusion, Akefia’s head shifted to the side away from her, “Ah? Akefia? Please…. You’ve gone too long already! Please just eat a piece of bread if nothing else. You’ll get sick otherwise….”
“Leave me be woman…” Akefia managed shallowly.
Ishizu blinked, “Akefia…..” She paused a moment before setting the dish aside, “Please… if you don’t eat you could go into shock and you could die way out here.”
“Then let me.”
Ishizu deadpanned in shock, her eyes wide, “What did you just say??”
“Let. Me. Die.”
Ishizu’s eyes widened even more at the still otherwise unmoving male, nothing in his expression betraying some sick joke he might be playing at, “Don’t you dare talk like that!!” she said sharply, a clear note of worry in her words, “Don’t you DARE Akefia!” Ishizu tensed as Akefia then slowly flipped over, his back to her signaling he was not to be deterred.
Ishizu stared in shock at the Thief as he once more fell motionless… stunned that of all people in the world, The Thief King himself would even think of surrendering in such a way…. But as she did so she couldn’t help but think that at some point she might have put herself in the same position… Thinking back before Atem had finally taken away the burden of the Tombkeepers, Ishizu had spent countless nights crying… dreading the results of the impending doom that awaited her brother. Any way she saw it, through vision of the Millennium Necklace or of mind… she saw herself all alone. Her brother gone… stripped of his soul by the demon that had clearly taken root within him…devoured by the shadows. The very thought that she would be left to the world with no family was too much to bear, so she resolved to join him in the afterlife to spare such a result.
Was that his pain? She had managed to overcome her nightmare…. But Akefia… his was a cold, pure reality. His goals had long since been set in stone and lost to the sands of time. He had nothing left. Whatever he’d seen had broken him.
“Whatever you think my return may have brought… you can send your fear to the grave with me.” Akefia continued, still refusing to look at her, his pride still holding enough not to let her see his defeat,
Ishizu blinked confused at his words and was about to speak when he continued, “I know why you “helped” me…” he muttered, almost spitting the word helped, “it was simply to gauge how much a threat I posed. How much of the Ring’s power I apparently had….” He muttered, lightly gripping the sheet under him before limply releasing it again as his spirits were once more cast down, “I never did… I never had any of it… I never had anything……. I was dead to history these 5000 years… lost in darkness… I just as well should have just been swallowed by it… I should have just been left in my grave.”
Akefia’s voice trailed off, fading out to once more be replaced with silence as those memories cut freshly back into his mind, clawing like a deranged lion torturing its already tortured prey.
Ishizu could only watch as Akefia fell back into an uneasy silence, for once unsure what to say to his words. In all honesty he was right about her help in the end. At first it was her purest intention to help, but once she acknowledged who he was… it became a matter of duty to ensure he was no more a threat than a common man…. Looking at him, she could see he was no such threat. But what of now? What he was saying... The Thief King, the very enemy of her Pharaoh, her very clan, was falling apart and condemning himself to death… her gentle heart and sense of duty made for fierce combatants….
A faint shift as the tent flap opened and fell back alerted Ishizu to a visitor. A glimpse of white told her it was Ryou Bakura, and she could only shift as he stood beside her.
Ryou looked from Akefia to Ishizu, a worried look in his eyes, “He’s not doing well… is he?” he said softly, already knowing the answer. Ever since Akefia had woken up, the same strange hollow emotion that had begun back in the Temple stuck to him, an irritating sensation as he could not pin to anything, although weak depression came to mind. To say the least, Ryou failed to sleep well at all. Today was no different really, but something felt more wrong than it had since he’d been brought back down from the Temple… something foreboding…
The ebony haired woman closed her eyes and shook her head as she crossed her arms uncomfortably, her words soft and hollow, “No… he isn’t.”
Ryou gave only a glance at the man, trying to read the distressed look lingering about Ishizu and the thick pressing tension in the air, “Is there anything we can do? The plane will be here in another two hours or better. Can he hold out until we get him back to the hospital…?”
Ryou’s eyes widened as Ishizu sighed and once more shook her head, “I’m not sure Ryou… He…. He refuses to eat…and his responses… aren’t good.”
Ryou shifted in surprise, “eh?! He spoke? So he’s snapped out of it…” he paused, suddenly apprehensive as he noted the look in the Egyptian woman’s eyes, “What... did he say?”
Ishizu looked on at Akefia for a moment and then to the floor, “He’s giving up.”
Ryou froze entirely, staring at her, “W-What?”
She looked at him, her eyes soft yet remorseful, “He’s decided he wants to die. And he won’t budge from that decision.”
Ryou’s eyes widened, gazing at her like a deer caught in the headlights, completely stupefied by her words, “He… Decided….?? Why?”
Ishizu shifted as she bit her lip, “I told you when we came down what he’d said in the Temple… he knows how he “died”. He believes that he was used, that everything he ever did was orchestrated from the beginning and that all his endeavors were in vain…” She took a deep breath, trying to find some manner of explaining before continuing, “I don’t know the Thief King’s history other than he was the Pharaoh’s greatest enemy prior to the Great Darkness… all I know is that from what you told me of the Shadow Game... He may well have been another pawn to Zorc in reality. He might not have been doing anything of his own accord from the beginning…”
Ryou deadpanned, his heart picking up rapidly as the thought he’d been timidly nursing the past week crept forward in his mind, “Why would you say that?”
Ishizu suddenly cut Ryou off before he could continue, “Ryou. I… i’m not certain that WAS Akefia in the Ring… or at least wasn’t in control.”
Ishizu looked at Ryou, the look in his eyes something akin to shock… perhaps betrayal. But she had to voice it, “You see… He himself said he has memories of being in the Ring. But they feel wrong to him; like they weren’t exactly his. It frustrated him because even though he saw them, they wouldn’t trigger any form of recollection in him. He said it was like he was watching someone else’s memories…” Ryou felt himself begin shivering slightly, from what exactly he couldn’t place as Ishizu spoke, “In all… he only truly recalls how he died. Anything else he seems to refuse to acknowledge as his own… It’s very confusing……. Ah? Ryou? What are you-”
Akefia lay on his side, staring at the rippling tent wall as he listened to the voices behind him. Voices he couldn’t damn well understand… but what did he care? A very fleeting rush of anger swept him by as he clearly caught the name “Atem” in the midst of their babbling, but for the first time in his life, it died away like a half soaked ember, he didn’t care… give it another day or so and it wouldn’t matter. Maybe then he’d join the rest of his village in the afterlife… hopefully they would make right of his suffering somehow. Understand what had happened… forgive him for his failure…
Failure. Why did that word send such a strong surge of anger into his belly suddenly? More importantly, why did it feel like it wasn’t-
Akefia’s thoughts were interrupted as he felt a hand on his shoulder. But it wasn’t a gentle touch, more like a hard grasp as he was basically yanked onto his back. Despite the clearly hostile motion, he didn’t even have time to truly wince a fist connected with his cheek, eyes wide as he felt the fresh stinging sensation of the blow, jarring his thoughts and making him lie there completely stunned.
Slowly he shifted to look and stared up at the white haired boy standing over him, shaking as he cradled one fist in the other and looking like he was on the verge of tears. Next to him, a clearly startled Ishizu stood hand partially over her mouth in shock at what she had just seen. The older silverette simply stared, completely stunned silent as he gazed back at the boy.
“I don’t care if you can’t understand me… You listen!” Ryou managed as he began to tear up, voice shaking, “I was scared for my life because of you… I had nightmares… I couldn’t eat… I couldn’t sleep… and you… you’re no-….” He bit his lip to stop himself, his uncertainties still too strong to cast down and yet too strong to let alone, “Don’t you dare give up you jerk! If I didn’t give up even after everything that happened… then you shouldn’t either!!”
The room resumed silence and an unbearable tension as Ryou stood in an odd mix of fear at what he had just done and a feeling of empowerment as The Thief King stared back up at him like a deer in the headlights, completely confused as to how to react. The role reversal might have been amusing in some fashion had the situation been different, but instead it was simply dumbfounding. As he watched, the look Akefia wore shifted into a strange confused expression along with a rather resurrecting gleam flickering into his eyes; a look he wasn’t sure to welcome or fear.
‘I…..understood that?’ Akefia thought sluggishly in confusion as he rubbed his still stinging cheek with the back of his hand. By what manner it had happened Akefia hadn’t a clue, but he’d somehow managed to understand the boy. Though the boy had clearly been speaking in his native tongue, somehow for a brief moment, the boy may have well been speaking Egyptian to him… that and the peculiar sensation he knew as determination was still lingering in his belly. Determination that felt odd because it wasn’t his own. Even as he realized this he felt it dying away, shifting into a sensation he had long ago shunned and only felt during vulnerable nightmares. And as he paid the odd sensation his attention he watched as the boy who had the remarkable spike in guts to strike him shift in time with the alien emotions. The fact was strange, haunting even. Like he’d felt it before. But where? He racked his brain for answers… and was once more met with that frustrating haze.
For a moment Akefia felt himself dip again, but curiosity and something about the familiarity perked his intrigue. It was something hidden in the mist of memories that were not his own... it felt important. Something he needed. And what he needed, he wanted. In only a split moment of that revelation, Akefia began chuckling as the fire in him began to rekindle. He looked up at the boy and grinned, Ryou visibly paling as he did so, the fact only mildly satisfying to the Thief, “Boy… you must enjoy the pain of fear… You have me in the position to easily be done away with, I myself willing to let myself whither and you insist to let it slide? Heheh… So be it then.”
“That’s enough Akefia!” a sharp voice announced, drawing the thief’s attention to the clearly irate woman in the room, “He’s trying to help you!” Ishizu scolded, appalled by his harsh words and disregard of his unnerving Ryou.
Akefia merely looked back at her, “I know what he was doing…” he replied as-a-matter-of-factly to the now confused Tombkeeper before once more flicking his eyes back to the boy who swallowed nervously, “and I’d like to know why…. Amongst other things…”
Before anyone could speak further, Akefia grimaced sharply as his stomach screamed for his attention, to which he took a shaky breath and tore his gaze away from both, “I’m hungry…” he muttered stiffly.
Ishizu gazed at the Thief King for only a moment before slowly smiling in relief despite herself as the thief resumed his usual stubborn display to hide his weakness and turned back to the meal she’d offered earlier, deciding that she’d be angry with him later. She looked to Ryou and smiled, “It’s alright Ryou. He’s just being…well… him.”
Ryou took a breath and smiled back faintly, “It’s alright…I kind of expected as much…” he replied as Akefia unceremoniously tore into a sandwich, not caring what exactly it was. Despite the fact that he was relieved the crushing alien depression had dissipated, Ryou found himself beginning to shy from his own inner demons… Had his selfishness been the right thing?