|The Taste of Bitterness
Author: Caorann fridh Bronach PM
In a world filled by disregard, a child learns to adapt and survive. For Kaiba, survival meant abandoning dreams and a hope for comprehension, even from his brother. Mokuba must return to the orphanage, living out the pain again, but this time, alone.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - Seto K. & Mokuba K. - Chapters: 13 - Words: 39,148 - Reviews: 176 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 06-04-05 - Published: 03-08-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2297228
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Fourteen years of life had gone by during the course of twenty-seven days. Everything had been put into the correct place and reorganized. Like deciding what should be kept of a drawer filled with old paperwork, the cleaning was finally completed twenty-seven days after he started. The time had come to return. Hiding in the past wouldn't solve anything, and somewhere, deep within, Kaiba knew this.
The machine measuring his brain waves slowed as his return to consciousness happened. While he was not growing more vapid, he was getting control over what he thought about and just what he could handle, similar to when one wakes after intense dreaming in the REM sleep. Instead of processing all sorts of information inside, the brain was becoming aware of things outside itself.
The world existed.
Kaiba Seto had returned.
"The CEO is back!"
"Kaiba Corporation isn't going to be changed over to someone else, after all!"
So much news, so many different voices. Photographers turned up at the orphanage, reporters, social workers, and police officers. Someone finally learned Kaiba Mokuba was present.
Seto hadn't been happy when he learned Mokuba was at the orphanage. Especially that orphanage.
"Mr. Guy? He's had a grudge against me and all those 'affluently well-off' ever since my company took over one he worked at and…discharged him. But it wasn't my fault he was so old and not skilled enough to be marketable and get any better job than running an orphanage!"
Havoc, bustling, chaos, confusion…everything about taking Mokuba back to his brother was happening so quickly. The young Kaiba never even got to ask any questions. He heard his brother had awakened, and suddenly, the boy hurried after the man who told him that. Seeing Kaiba now was not at all difficult or anything to question. Mokuba was gone from the orphanage like a mayfly the day after it was born. Twenty-four hours of life, and so quickly, death.
Seto was awake…
Mr. Guy watched everything through narrowed eyes, and as he saw the little nuisance hastened away, he glanced down at his side. Behind the annoying Kaiba, staring sadly beyond the unsurpassable fence, was Jumi.
Jumi kept standing there next to the orphanage owner, tears coursing down his face as he watched his brother leaving. Even long after the older boy had left, Jumi stood there looking out.
Mokuba hadn't even said goodbye…
But that one thing was gone from Kaiba when he awoke.
He knew, deep within, that his brother had forgiven him. Seto didn't know how Mokuba found the courage to do so or even why. The young man had thought his brother forever lost—had tried to make him forever lost. Mokuba remained. He was what kept the shadows from forever feasting on Kaiba's soul.
And Pegasus had kidnapped him.
No…that was before, the other awakening.
That first day, when Kaiba stumbled shakily to his legs from sitting in a chair for so long, when he blinked back crust from his eyes and had to squeeze them shut to regain any sight, when he moved muscles that had practically forgotten how to function, he discovered something his brother had left him. And today, Kaiba discovered it once more just like that day long past…
Around his neck, on a cord, was a simple pendant of a Duel Monsters card. The odd pressure of it on his chest caused him to glance down, his hair falling into his face, the tendrils not exactly as well-trimmed as they would have been had the young businessman been awake for the passing days.
Then, shakily, one hand clasped the card and simply held it. To open it was too much of an effort and required too much coordination.
No question fluttered in his mind on who it had been from. Seto knew even back then that this was a gift from Mokuba. No one else would bother with him in the slightest. But even this gift from his younger brother was a surprise.
There, alone in his room, his body had forgotten its stiff control, and a warm trail of tears started in his eyes. Because no one was around, because it had been so long since he felt anything like this, because Kaiba was regretful of what was most certainly lost to him, he let them quiver on the border of his eyes and then cascade in a salty flood.
One splattered on the card he still held, and he slowly rubbed it clean once more. Then, slowly, hand trembling, the young man delved within himself for strength and fumbled to open the delicate clasp.
It was him. The purpose and dreamer of what Kaiba would make come true. Not the Mokuba of Death-T or even the Mokuba living under Gozaburo. No, it was the blithely blissful Mokuba of the orphanage where Seto, his older brother, had been the only one to give him a life goal and hope in the future.
Maybe he was still like that. Kaiba couldn't know. Kaiba didn't even know himself fully; how could he know another?
But there he stood, just resting his gaze in Mokuba's goofy grin and his heart in his brother's calm ease of playing chess back at the orphanage. Seto recognized the picture. Just because he was absent from this torn picture did not mean that he had forgotten what they were doing or what they felt that day. Kaiba could only hope Mokuba had not abandoned his picture to the garbage pile and completely given up on him.
Then, looking out of the window where the first beams of light slowly warmed him and caused him to finally see, one of the maids entered and gasped.
…But all that was from before. This was now. Kaiba gazed down at his little brother a little longer, the beeps in the background giving him a headache. He had heard enough simple beats or ticks or beeps to last him the rest of his life even if he lived forever.
"Wait, Mom!" Yugi glued his eyes to the screen and stared as one of the reporters with the same style of speech as all other reporters—voice going up and down in an attempt to make what happened every day sound utterly intriguing and new, flubs quickly covered like frosting over a misshapen pastry—spoke of the news that Kaiba Seto had awakened and was right then traveling home.
"For those of you just tuning in, this is breaking coverage on the awakening of Japan's highest businessman, Kaiba Seto. Apparently, unbeknownst to our country, he was in the hospital for a reason no one has yet released. You can see he looks a little pale and is moving a bit oddly, but nothing major seems to be wrong with him."
The camera showed Kaiba, scowling, slamming shut the door to his mansion, and Yugi let his mother turn off the television. Once Kaiba was inside, the young Mutou knew nothing would be bringing him back out for the cameras.
"I've got to call the others!"
Yugi's mother shook her head as her son bounded out of the room. No matter what Yugi was doing, he always had to be melodramatic and run as if the world were going to run out of gasoline before he finished whatever breathtakingly important business he had yet to do.
"Time for dinner yet?"
Mrs. Mutou pursed her lips and tightly shook her head as Suguroku moaned and went back to the shop. Her father might have been anxiously awaiting supper, but once he learned what they were having (completely healthy salads), the old man was going to lose his anticipation.
Faintly, Yugi's excited voice drifted back to her, and she suddenly smiled. Even if her boy was melodramatic, at least it seemed she had no reason to worry about him being depressed or angry.
In the stillness of night, in the loud common room echoing memories of Mokuba's voice, in the days dragging their feet and moping, sadly looking over their shoulders, Jumi asked the same question:
"Oniichan, why did you leave me?"
Unlike Mokuba, Jumi had no picture to remember his brother by. Alone again completely. And inside his mind, part of the subconscious conditioning, his mind was pondering what a mistake it all had been to overcome his shyness and dare to cling to another person.
Slow steps came toward him. Startled, worried they might by Mr. Guy's, he jumped to his feet and brushed away his tears. However, standing before him was not the orphanage owner but Ms. Dojinschi.
She gave a small smile at him. "Hello, Jumi. I came to visit you."
Giving no response, the child began to rub his finger in outlines on the ground. He remembered how Mokuba made him sand castles here before. Sand castles that he could break into piles of soft cotton and encouraging ideas. While the castles could break and lose their might, always the sand was constant, changing shape and adjusting to its life.
"How are you doing?"
Again, the small boy gave no reply.
"I bet you miss Mokuba."
The tears welled up once more, and the boy couldn't help it; Jumi nodded. "I just want oniichan," he whispered.
"You know," she said slowly, looking at the designs the boy was making—he still wasn't looking at her. "I teach Mokuba at school. I see him almost every day."
That finally caught the young boy's attention. "Can I see oniichan?"
"Well, you can, but I was hoping to ask you a different question as well." Smiling once more, Kaede asked, "Do you want to come live with me? I could be your new mommy."
"My mommy's dead," he whispered unintelligibly. He still recalled, very faintly, what his mother looked like. But the image was fogging more as the days went by. "How can you be her?"
"I wouldn't be her, Jumi. I'd be a different mommy for you. If you want to be adopted by me, that is. But I thought all the boys here were anxious to be adopted. I talked to Mr. Guy, already, so you don't have to worry about that." All the papers had finally been filled out completely once her decision at last had been made. Now, it was simply the boy's decision remaining.
The midnight blue-eyed child turned his serious gaze to her face. "I'd get to see oniichan?"
"We'd play games?" he persisted.
"All the time."
Teaching would be a strain on the role of motherhood. But she was determined to go through with it. Instead of hoping to make a difference on the countless faces that passed by her through the seasons, just giving her one year to affect them greatly, she could devote her life to this one boy who desperately needed help. Kaede longed to help him more than she feared to not act. Wasn't making some sort of difference, albeit smaller than perhaps another parent could make, better than leaving this boy to the chance that he'd never get adopted?
"Yes, Jumi." Her smile was addicting, and the boy began to grow one himself.
Taking her hand, he let Ms. Dojinschi lead him out of the walled-in buildings and through the heavy, tall gate.
They went to the outside world.
Inside, Yugi was talking with his friends as his eyes passed by one of them to look out the window. Kaiba and Mokuba were both walking by as if nothing had happened in those twenty-seven days.
Yugi, panting, ran to catch up with the CEO, leaving his confused friends behind. He gasped out, "Are you all right, Kaiba?"
With eyes only flicked back to glance out of their corners at the short teen, Kaiba continued walking. Most of the time, he wouldn't bother with a response, but this time, a different automatic growled answer emitted, "Of course I'm fine."
Yugi had stopped moving, and the seriousness in his voice caused Kaiba to even pause in his striding.
"No, I mean really all right?" Yugi's eyes held everything someone needed to have an excuse to pour out one's soul for. He would not mock Kaiba. He would even befriend the ex-orphan as he had tried so many times before…
The silence filtered across the air between them, growing stronger and more potent the longer it took for an answer to come forth from Kaiba's mouth. He so wanted to admit everything…
Tension oozed from the very pores of the silence and uneasiness was born on its reeking breath. Still, the CEO gave no answer.
Mokuba glanced up at his older brother, showing absolutely no emotion but love on his face. Even so, Seto was locked in some internal battle and unable to see his brother's kind face turned his way.
Yugi would understand. Yugi would listen. Yugi actually cared. And he wasn't required to, like Mokuba technically was. Yugi was simply caring about Kaiba and would commiserate on his experiences, would even keep it all a secret when Kaiba asked.
Still, the violet eyes were upturned and hopeful, welcoming and caring. Too deep and dangerous were such eyes as those, eyes that even the icy blue ones could find shelter and a "home" in.
How could there not be pain when others whispered behind Kaiba's back and called him cold and unfeeling? He knew that others despised him, and that their words were true.
Are you really all right?
No, Kaiba wanted to scream and shout, as he'd wanted to scream and shout for years. Always, bubbling underneath the surface was the desire to rage out what happened in his life as if it were some excuse, as if they could understand him because of it. They could. Kaiba knew they would if he ever tried to explain himself. And what would he say?
I've lived a blasted life full of problems and pain forever and there's no escaping it! Just once, just once, I'd like for someone to know of my sacrifices, of my real emotion, my real personality. Someone to believe in me and see me for who I am instead of who I portray on the outside to keep the company safe, keep my brother protected.
Kaiba opened his mouth, but he could not speak. Clearing it quickly, the young man clenched and unclenched his fists, about to hand over his very soul to this other young man so willing to share the burden and the pain.
But then, Kaiba's eyes passed over Yugi's head and saw something that made him stop, made the melting of his eyes freeze once more and lock away all the emotions that had threatened to break free of their golden chains.
The gang had finally caught up to Yugi, surprised themselves at seeing Kaiba after he was absent so long from school. They had arrived jut in time to hear Yugi's question. Jonouchi made a scoffing sound and turned away. "Kaiba doesn't want help…"
"Yes, he does, Jonouchi." Very quietly, Yugi was talking to his best friend, so low that Kaiba couldn't hear. "You just don't know how to hear it."
Jonouchi had no response but to shake his head and eventually make another slight scoffing sound. "If you say so. I'll be waiting back at the shop." Down the street with his slight swaggering walk, Jonouchi marched away, unaware of a glance filled with unspeakable emotion—never would this one give voice to envy—following him for a brief moment. Then, the frozen eyes turned back to Yugi.
Without dragging it on any further, Kaiba muttered in his usual cold voice, "I'm really fine, Yugi." Kaiba turned to his younger brother. "Let's go home."
If Mokuba hadn't been there, everything would have been different. And, because the mind speaks the truth when all other tongues lie, I know what my life would have been like if my brother hadn't been there: my life would have been far better.
My younger brother brought with him responsibilities and a repression of my own dreams all for him. My life became his life. So, my parents did not really have two children. They had one, for I had made it my place that I would make everything possible for Mokuba, any dream of his come true.
I had given up being my own self for Mokuba. Then, I had given up even being Mokuba's brother. I was, in fact, only an existence for Mokuba.
I cannot say which life I would prefer, for, undoubtedly, other aspects of my life would have changed had I not had my brother. And Mokuba was not all bad. He may have, technically, caused our mother's death, but I did not blame him for that. In fact, I didn't blame him for anything. I made what choices I would, and I know that what befell me was completely my own fault. That, in essence, the fact I had no life but my brother's was my own fault.
My life had been bitter, it was true, but the taste of bitterness adapted to my tongue and there it would remain. The poison wasn't so lethal to my embittered life, and I was able to build immunity to it. So, sacrificing one half-dead life to keep a different one clean and pure made perfect sense to me. And, in the end, as through my entire existence, that was all that came to matter: Mokuba's dreams and own life.
What hurt was how simple it was for my brother to go through life unaware of my sacrifices. And yet, had he known of them, they would have meant less.
There were times Mokuba's honest eyes had looked at my face before, and I thought he might have known…but no…he couldn't.
I can only hope, desperately believe, he doesn't know.
If he did know, if he ever understood exactly what I had done for him, he just might hate himself for it.
Or perhaps, he'd even hate me.
And yet, I'd rather suffer that than have him know my suffering had all been for him and make him feel guilty. Everything I had done would have been negligible then. To share the truth is to corrupt my brother, and so I stay silent. And still, sometimes, I wish and long so deeply to let him know why I act as I do, why sometimes I cannot smile or why I cannot easily tell him that I love him.
Such contradictions in my own mind became commonplace, and so it was that I was always, constantly, never ceasing to scream from my desire to be heard by someone. Anyone—especially the ranting friends of Yugi who gained such delight in mocking my way of life.
But my scream was always silent so my brother would never hear it. And I would refuse to let anyone hear my plea even to make my own life a bit more bearable. Those friends of Yugi's that I so loathe came just in time to stop me from doing something I would have long regretted. My life was my life.
No one will know the "why" in it. Ever.
The curse of such a tendency
To fall back on compliancy
I've given up trying to see
The reason no one noticed me
I stood always in the background
Making not a single sound
Keeping up the silent trial
To try to make you smile
I scream but no one hears
I wail upon deaf ears
In my mind I'm always weeping
I'm even tortured when I'm sleeping
But I can't ever complain
I must have gone insane
I've given all I own
And yet I'm still alone
I do all that I can
To try to help you stand
And all you give in turn
Is a glower meant to spurn
And yet I keep on going
Although I keep on knowing
I can't expect a thing
For me the birds won't even sing
Yet I've no feeling of contempt
Though you've naught made an attempt
To thank me for my actions
I'm just one of your distractions
I'll keep looking toward the light
And when the day turns into night
Perhaps while I am dreaming
I can stop my silent screaming