Summary: The night after the Doma Knights' disastrous encounter with Dartz, Rafael goes to the Kame Game Shop to seek out an old acquaintance... but discovers he may never find what he was looking for.
Note: Takes place after this RP.
Sugoroku had, for the past few days, found himself unsurprised at the intermittent comings and goings of his former student. Supposedly, Jounouchi enjoyed the wireless access from here better than in his own neighborhood. Though Sugoroku would never mention it, he wouldn't have minded hearing the company was far preferable to the loneliness of a one-man apartment, no matter how cushy the arrangements.
Equally unsurprised was he when Yuugi didn't come to visit. He had long become accustomed to his grandson operating on his own schedule, and had accepted it as just that - nothing more. It was no intentional slight towards his grandfather that made him spend hours on end playing video games, during which time Sugoroku was feeling particularly alone... it simply was the way Yuugi chose to live now.
Unsurprising, perhaps. But not without its share of heartache.
But he knew he had to be fair. At the moment, Jounouchi and Yuugi both had good reasons to be more withdrawn. As far as he could tell, whatever had happened with Jounouchi had also seemed to take a toll on Honda, and as much as he wanted to shake both of them by their necks and show them just how immature they'd been acting - particularly in regards to their journal entries - he knew they would only see when they chose to. In the meantime, Rebecca had just recently posted an entry declaring her participation in an Egypt dig... to which Sugoroku had nearly responded with a coronary to match her grandfather's, and he was fairly certain Yuugi would react the same way. Or at least try to spend as much time with her as he could before her departure.
Nevertheless, the game shop and the house to which it was attached had long felt empty without the sounds of Yuugi and his friends playing in the living room, or the smell of burning cocoa due to constant attempts to mimic his winning recipe (which he'd committed to memory and never written down). Somehow, it seemed a cruel thing now... that they would pop in and out so randomly, and not so much as mention any sort of nostalgia.
Stop it, he told himself, and he took up his broom and swatted at a dust mote on the floor. Depression is a common symptom among the elderly, and I've already surpassed that category. It's all in your head, along with any number of things... find something to do with yourself, already.
Ironically, trying to bury his head in work at the shop only led to more troubles for him. He was having a harder time focusing on the arithmetic for weekly gross income versus weekly net income, taxes, bills... and there had already been at least one occasion he'd put an extra zero on a check. The bank had not liked that one bit. And even the joys of customer interaction were falling off. He was old enough to be seeing his first customers' children entering high school, a time when "games are for kids". And anyone who wanted objects for sale, more often than not, wanted them now now now, and forget about chatting with the old fart behind the register.
The door's overhead bell jingled.
Sugoroku looked up to what he assumed to be his would-be patron. Already the requisite smile, greeting, and sales pitches were coming to the surface - until he saw the man who was stepping through the door.
Names and faces of out-of-towners had all blurred together over the years, but this was one face Sugoroku had perfectly good reason to remember. The last time he'd seen it, it had been wearing a pair of sunglasses in the middle of the evening. This man's fist had plunged straight through the plate glass concealing the Egyptian God Cards - which Sugoroku had foolishly left in the display case to tend to his cash drawer - and stolen them while his companions held the store owner back.
Sugoroku had not had his broom in hand then.
His grip tightened around the handle.
"Excuse me," the man said gruffly; his Japanese had a sharp and snooty-sounding accent to it. "I'm looking for the Pharaoh."
Sugoroku's ears had never failed him before - nevertheless, he was certain he'd not heard that correctly. "I beg your pardon?"
"The Pharaoh. I know he lives through the body of Mutou Yuugi, and last I was aware, this was Mutou Yuugi's home. I want to talk to the Pharaoh."
A customer that knows what he wants, a part of Sugoroku's mind commented wryly. Aloud, however, he said, "I'm sorry, Yuugi no longer lives here. For that matter, neither does the Pharaoh. I won't tell you where you can find Yuugi, and there's certainly no way you'll ever find the Pharaoh."
The man - the much, much larger man - adopted a sneer. "Is that so?" he said. "What makes you so sure I won't find him?"
The businessman in Sugoroku sensed an opportunity. "I'll answer that if you'll tell me how you and the Pharaoh were acquainted."
The massive patron crossed his arms across his chest. "Not interested in talking with you or anyone else but the Pharaoh about the subject on my mind this evening."
"Then you'll be talking to no one," Sugoroku advised, "because you're not going to find him, no matter how hard you try. It's no longer as simple a matter as looking up Yuugi's number."
The huge blond narrowed his eyes at Sugoroku for a moment, and the older man found himself straining to keep himself from holding his broom up in a defensive stance. The moment stretched itself out; the silence was palpable, until the large man spoke again. "We met in battle. More than once."
"That much, I gathered."
The sneer returned. "Did you. What else have you 'gathered' from my presence here?"
Sugoroku ignored the man's condescension. "You vandalized my store and stole three of the most valuable cards in Duel Monsters. At the time, you worked for Dartz, a manipulative tyrant that was... possibly still is... obsessed with the Pharaoh. And that's who you want to talk to. Not Yuugi, not Yami no Yuugi. So I gather you want to talk to him about Dartz. Would such an assumption be incorrect?"
"That's for me to know and you to discover on your own," the other retorted. "I told you how we were acquainted, now you hold up your end."
"Not so fast, my friend, you didn't tell me anything I don't already know or can't guess with some measure of accuracy. He came back here with God Cards in hand, and he had to go halfway around the world to do it; there's no way they were simply given back. Of course you met him in battle."
"Whether you like it or not, old man, I answered what was asked, not that I was obliged to. Now you tell me, what makes you so sure I won't find him?"
Sugoroku stepped back and offered the large man a smirk. "Because he can't be found."
The larger man narrowed his eyes further, until they were slits. "What is it you want from me?"
"You met the Pharaoh in battle. Not Yuugi, not Yami no Yuugi. Most people Yuugi's met have never had that particular misfortune." Sugoroku met the patron's gaze unflinchingly. "You did something. To Yuugi."
For the first time in this conversation, the huge blond blinked, and looked away from Sugoroku. "Yes."
Sugoroku crossed his arms. "It was you. You're the one who took Yuugi's soul."
He'd heard it from a broken Atemu the day it happened. Yami no Yuugi and this man - Rafael was his name, he remembered - had faced each other on a Texas plain, and in a critical moment, Atemu had wrestled total control of Yuugi's body to use that cursed Seal of Orichalcos. He'd meant for it to help win the duel. Instead, it consumed him and shut Yuugi out. He'd lost anyway... and in the greatest act of kindness Sugoroku could ever have imagined from his grandson, Yuugi let the Orichalcos take his soul instead of the Pharaoh's.
"Grandfather... I cannot tell you how sorry I am... I have failed everyone. All I can promise you now is that I will try to make it right, somehow..."
To Sugoroku's surprise, Rafael didn't try to deny it. "I am."
The older man watched Rafael for a long moment, then looked to the floor and resumed his sweeping. "Well, then. This is an occasion, indeed. Are you here to apologize?"
Rafael snorted and looked back up at Sugoroku with thinly veiled contempt. "I'm glad to see the customer service staff is so cordial."
"You broke into my store, destroyed my display cases, thieved valuable items from them, and sealed my grandson's soul away so that he could make a decent meal for an alien creature." Sugoroku glowered back at Rafael, his purple eyes smoldering. "I'm not Priam and you're not Achilles. You'll receive no kisses on the hand from me."
"I didn't come here for any kisses on the hand or references to Greek poetry," was Rafael's retort. "I came here to find the Pharaoh. Now, will you please tell me where he is?"
Rafael frowned. "I beg your pardon?"
"Also known as the Egyptian afterlife." Sugoroku rested his broom against the wall and draped his arms behind his back. "He's no longer of this world, friend. He's passed on."
A myriad of emotions crossed Rafael's features, none of which Sugoroku could expressly identify, but most of which seemed to be related to frustration, disappointment, and anger. Hatred, even... but not of Atemu. Of himself? he wondered.
"When?" Rafael asked quietly. "And... how?"
"Six years ago," Sugoroku answered. "As for how, it's a very long story."
Rafael stood there for a very long moment, apparently trying to absorb this information with as much grace as he could muster. Sugoroku watched intently. He'd not had interaction of this nature in his store in quite a long time... and in a way, he found it almost...
Rafael silently turned and headed for the door, his decision evidently made. Sugoroku called out after him. "Why did you want to talk to him?"
"It doesn't matter," Rafael answered, but he stopped walking. "If he's gone now, there's no point."
"No point in what?" The other man looked at the back of Rafael's head. "Looking for him? Living?"
Sugoroku tilted his head. "The whole debacle was seven years ago, friend. My impression was that Atemu forgave you in spite of what you did. If you haven't found further absolution for it by now, you never will."
"Not seven years ago. Last night." Then Rafael turned slightly, a morbidly curious look on his features. "Who's Atemu?"
"What happened last night?" Sugoroku returned.
Rafael's eyes narrowed. "Looking for another exchange of information, old man?"
"You can call me Mutou-san." Though he was much more stout than Rafael, Sugoroku's hardened expression brooked no argument.
Rafael appeared to ignore the statement nonetheless. "It's the Pharaoh's name, isn't it?" he said. "Dartz never told us his name... he simply called him 'the Pharaoh', and instructed us we were to do the same." He turned more towards Sugoroku. "But he probably told it to you, didn't he?"
"He didn't know it himself until the day of his ascension. Part of the long story. Which I'll tell you, if you tell me your story."
The Frenchman cocked his head. "Are you really so lonely, you'd ask a complete stranger to tell you about a personal problem just to hear someone else's voice?"
"Don't play amateur psychologist with me," Sugoroku said, in an almost teasing yet almost serious fashion.
"Do unto others, Mutou-san. At least, that's what a colleague of mine enjoys doing."
"I've heard of better rules than that one." Sugoroku leaned across the counterspace and looked at Rafael. "You go first. Then I'll tell you mine."
Rafael rolled his eyes. "This is ridiculous..."
The older man folded his hands atop the counter. "You wanted to talk. The man you wanted to talk to isn't here and you won't find him anywhere else. But that doesn't mean you have to keep a heavy heart."
"How do you figure I have a heavy heart about something?" Rafael sneered. "More amateur psychology?"
"Clearly you haven't looked in a mirror recently. It's all over your face and in your posture. Whatever you've got, it's a burden you want to rid yourself of. Plus, you wrecked my display cases and left me to pay for it - this is the least you can do to make up for it. So pull up a stool, young man."
Rafael found himself both annoyed by the old man's attitude, and intrigued by it. Clearly he wasn't afraid to say exactly what he was thinking - in Rafael's experience, age did that to most people, as well as give them a certain degree of coyness - but he had not yet said any of it in a condescending manner. The elder was giving him a measure of respect simply by speaking to him on equal footing and not from on high.
And in spite of himself, he took a step forward. And another. He sat down on the stool Sugoroku had indicated, and began to tell his story.
[OOC: Title/cut text courtesy of "Overburdened" by Disturbed.]