And they were out in a breath of late-afternoon quiet under a few spare trees, skirting an older couple who’d taken over a parasol-shaded table with Dueling mats and twin scowls of concentration. Tree, lousy statue, tree – bush! Great, just break eye contact a sec and we are so out of here-
“Ryou.” Daniel’s plea froze his buddy before they could bolt. “Please. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Wrong?” Ryou gave the archaeologist a quiet smile. Convincing, if you hadn’t seen him cover for Bakura with it half a dozen times. “Nothing, really. I’m just… not as used to people as I thought. It’s a bit much, America. No offense,” he added with a swift glance at Joey.
“‘Ey, none taken,” Joey shrugged. “You’ll get the hang of it in no time.” Clue me in, Ryou. What the heck’s got you so spooked-
Gold glinted in the corner of his vision.
Uh-oh. Think I just found it. An Eye? Aw, please, tell me this guy’s not wearin’ another Item-
No. Not an Item. The golden glow wasn’t shaped right, didn’t have the right tang in his nose to be the Horus Eye that marked half the trouble he’d found in the last year. Something else.
But it is kind of like Kaiba’s, Joey thought, eyeing the there-and-not-there glimmer shining through Daniel’s shirt. It’s not a thing, it’s a magic mark. Ward, maybe? Smells old. And weird. Not-from-around-here weird.
Daniel gazed at them both, nodded slightly. “It’s good that my young acquaintance has such a thoughtful friend,” the archaeologist said in Japanese.
“Least I can do for a classmate,” Joey replied, shifting gears back to that language with a sense of relief. Maybe you speak it, but your buddy there doesn’t. I’ll bluff one guy over two any day.
“Ah.” Daniel moved into a comfortable distance. “You study together?”
“Class B, Domino High,” Ryou said warily. “Father moved to Domino City last year. Well, when he’s in Japan, at least.”
“Domino?” Blond brows flicked up, surprised. “Cassie – our niece – said that’s where the Battle City Tournament was held. Did Kaiba really shut down the whole city?”
“Nah, just had his stiffs work with the cops to block off a few roads when the Duelists got going,” Joey waved it off. “Kaiba had to burn through classes just like the rest of us on school days.” Though he kind of ditched school when Malik snagged Mokuba… okay, Wheeler, enough defense. Time to take back this little chat, my way. “So what’s a sort-of niece, anyway?”
“Oh… Cassie’s Janet’s daughter.” Daniel fished out a wallet photo of a wide-eyed blonde maybe a year younger than Tea, surrounded by Daniel’s odd foursome about to dive into a frosted chocolate cake. Cassie herself was huddled close under the chin of a smiling redheaded lady with dark brown eyes.
“Adopted?” Ryou ventured.
“Yeah. Janet took her in when her parents died.” The archaeologist shrugged. “We work together so much, we’ve sort of adopted her too.” He put the photo away. “So your father knows you’re here?”
“Oh, yes,” Ryou said brightly. “He’s quite glad I’m, well, as he puts it, associating with my own age group for once. I must say, he’s been rather impressed by the game.”
Two out of three, Joey thought, trying not to wince. Jack might set off every Trap-detecting nerve he had, but Daniel seemed like a nice enough guy. If you call running screaming from a Headless Knight bein’ impressed… I don’t know how you talked your way outa that one, and I don’t think I want to know. He knew firsthand the Millennium Ring could alter people’s memories, and Bakura had pulled way too many magical stunts for Ryou’s father to stay clueless without some kind of help.