Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nothing.
Author's Note: This is what happens when you sit in front of a computer and just write.
A special thank you to my beta, who helped me with the title when I was permanently stuck. Also, thank you for those who reviewed Darkness and Light and all those who reviewed Perceptions.
This is my first attempt at first person narration. Enjoy.
Edited to fix up the format.
The life of Seto Kaiba. How grand. How majestic. Everyone thought so anyhow. That was all to the life of a rich, powerful billionaire. Right. As if I didn't know what my own life was like. Did they have any idea on how hard I work to keep my company mine? Somehow I doubted it. But along with corporate espionage, there was also Mokuba and his welfare to consider. Bet they didn't think of it when they were busy envisioning themselves in my place, wealthier and more influential than their punitive minds could imagine.
With distaste and disgust, I regarded the smarmy group of businessmen swirling glasses of white, expensive wine and giving grandeur and artificial speeches. How tiring and absurd this evening was, and how I wished I could just stride out of here, in several quick paces, the long length of my purple trench coat flowing out like it always did. I definitely knew how to make a dramatic exit. Or an entrance. Unfortunately making an exit was not in the plans. Forging tenuous and back-stabbing alliances and making false conversation with enemies were the goals for this evening, and the great Seto Kaiba always achieved his goals. No matter the drivel he had to go through to get it. I mentally glared at the surrounding people.
At least Mokuba wasn't here, I thought, as I sipped from the wine glass I had grabbed from a passing and winking waiter. There was no ambiguity as to what he offered, but the 'party' must have been getting to me more than I thought since I was even considering on agreeing to his silent proposal in order to distract myself. If I was in the right mind, the idea wouldn't have even occurred to me. Playboy I was not, but celibacy held little appeal as I lessened the time spent defeating professional fighters and trainers and found myself with extra unspent energy. No doubt Yami gave himself the credit for my...taking the side of good. Bah. The contemplation of such a thing was giving me chills. Best to backtrack and focus a bit more on my present environment.
Just in time apparently, as Doma Hirato, CEO of BetaCorp, the largest manufacturing company of hardware and software computing systems, came gliding my way with a self-satisfied smile that beamed he had the means to do what ever he wanted, even if it meant desecrating your great grandmother's grave, and body language that told you he would only talk to those with so and so zeros in their bank accounts. I held in my smirk and held out my hand, wondering if Hirato can feel the strong antipathy I was radiating.
Why, hello Kaiba. I hope you are enjoying this celebration party. The end of an economically successful year is always something to savour. He shook my hand slowly, levelling his hard grey eyes into mines.
Greetings, Hirato. I gave him a slight nod in agreement, but didn't say anything else. As usual, I was glad my reputation for direct negotiations and short, blunt conversations had proceeded me. It did for many others as well, and it was no uncommon knowledge that nothing deterred Hirato when he had set his sights on something. I concluded he had a vague dream of taking over KaibaCorp. Narrowing my blue eyes in amusement -- as if I would ever let him take what was mine -- and giving him a glimpse of steel, I pulled my hand from his grasp and waited. It didn't take very long. After pleasantries detailing about the finer things in life -- the weather, money, wine, money, ambition, money, the future and, oh, money. Did I mention that? -- Hirato finally got to his point. Surprise, surprise; it was about money. Only this time, it involved me and KaibaCorp.
Kaiba, I will be straight with you. I have seen the success of Duel Monsters, the game invented by Pegasus, and the holographic duelling system you created to enhance the gaming experience. Very unique marketing idea, I must say, he said in afterthought. Those duelling discs must have sold out, and it never hurts for the creator to be so...involved.
I raised a dark eyebrow, but kept silent on the matter. Flattery had never worked on me, and neither did insults. Far be it for me to interrupt a failed attempt at manipulation though, so I let him continue. It wouldn't hurt and perhaps I may learn something new. Those who talked quite a bit, say quite a bit. A weakness in itself, but it could also reveal more flaws.
I myself had hoped to do something of a kind. You see, Kaiba, he said confidentially, I have plans to reinvent BetaCorp's image. Hirato paused, trying to subtly gauge my reaction.
I see, I said neutrally in response, keeping my interest inward. Many companies seek to keep their stocks up by appealing to their given demographics, so it really shouldn't be a surprise to me. However, I sensed an unknown edge in Hirato and I didn't like it.
Yes. It's a marvellous idea, wouldn't you say? He looked disappointed, but continued. My interest skyrocketed.
For years we have dealt with domestic computers, laptops and all kinds of hardware and software. We are essentially Japan's equivalent of Microsoft. And at this, he couldn't help but offer a smug, blinding grin. However, while sales have been better than ever, research suggests they could be better. It would seem that while computers and whatnot are very popular and useful, the youth -- and spenders -- of Japan increasingly turn to games for their entertainment, and I find that I want to enter the market as well.
Hirato looked straight at me. I propose a merger, Kaiba. One that would dominate the technology market.
Much to my surprise, I couldn't find any words to respond with. I was indecisive, and this hastened the scowl that would soon replace the bland expression on my face. On one hand, a merger entailed a broader market with -- I calculated -- at least a thirty percent increase in net profit. On the other hand, I would have a business partner; something I didn't, and wouldn't ever, want. After that annoying attempt at ending my life, I made sure the demise of those five board members were approached in such a way that I would be immensely satisfied with the results. Messing with me was dangerous. Messing with what was mine was just deadly. I have no mercy in me, let's put it that way.
I will consider your proposal, Hirato. The words seemed to leave my mouth without my knowledge, and I grew terse at my indecisiveness.
That is all I can ask of you, Kaiba.Of course. I gave a nod, a clear dismissal. As predicted, Hirato relaxed further and gave a semi-sincere smile. He turned to leave just as I spoke, I'll be in touch, and while we were mere acquaintances, I knew he was vibrating with the rush of success. I grew disquieted, torn by a conflict of advantages and disadvantages. Hirato was possibly less bloody than my old and useless board, but it was clear he was no less ruthless than I. This merger could be a lethal mistake.
After that, I gave the people around me less of my attention. They were not at all engrossing, and I had no more patience remaining to spend any more time listening to self absorbed conversations and manipulative digs. I wanted to go home.
Hey big brother.Hi Kaiba.
I halted, blinking at the scene in front of me. My night of quiet and relentless contemplation seemed to be over as I sighed at the sight of Yugi Motou and my little brother Mokuba sprawled on the gigantic white couch, eating popcorn and watching movies. A quick glance told me they had been playing video games earlier but not without some company. Yugi and Co, of course. Who else would Mokuba invite over that were not extremely afraid of me? I wouldn't say they all liked me, since it was apparent that the overgrown puppy has, shall we say, unresolved hostilities.
was my reply, and I turned away from the lounge.
Okay, Seto, Mokuba yelled out, and I smiled briefly. Mokuba had a gift for deciphering Setowordsandgrunts, a difficult and sometimes incomprehensible dialect known only by a population of one –
I stopped again in the doorway of my room, only half heartedly annoyed because I was getting cranky and tired. And when that happened, I usually ended up punching someone out or just plain ignoring them. Since the figure making himself at home on one of my large, comfortable armchairs was none other than an ex-Pharaoh and spirit to boot, option one was out. I put all my will into ignoring said Pharaoh while I pulled off my clothes and grabbed a black silk robe. He, in turn, made no move to look into my direction and that only served to raise my ire. I was just about to make a scathing remark when he interrupted me.
Your move, he said evenly, with only the barest trace of amusement. The glare aimed at him spoke volumes but my feet, despite my command, moved towards him. What was the world up to when Seto Kaiba couldn't even make his own body move where he wanted to? I growled to myself. There was no answer forthcoming as I sat on the opposing and matching armchair, and looked at the game pieces set on my very own chess board. My chessboard. Never his in all our history of haunting and being haunted. But then, was he not just a spirit with no earthly possessions? He even lived in Yugi's Millennium Puzzle for Christ sakes. I guess I can't blame him for using my property. But I sure as hell can blame him for not leaving me alone though.
There's no time limit. I replied stubbornly, glaring at him again. He held up his hands in supplication but I knew better as I eyed his badly hidden smirk. I didn't say anything else, instead opting to move one of my black pieces. I had always preferred the black pieces. White symbolised many things; none of which represented me in any form. Black though, was a colour I had something in common with.
The game went on for a while. Time literally flew by -- as cliché as it sounds -- and I admit I enjoyed it. Only to myself of course. The thought of that spirit knowing would have annoyed me to no end and destroy what sense of goodwill I managed to gain. To my surprise, I spoke more than monosyllables. To my shock, I told Yami about the proposed merger. To my utter disgust, I gave him the details about my irresolution. His response assuaged some of the edgy irritation I felt at all these revelations I seem to be broadcasting like a fucking weather channel and I relaxed somewhat. As relaxed as I could get anyway.
It's your decision Kaiba. Not anyone else's'. He paused. I admit, I'm surprised you would even consider it.
I narrowed my eyes and he hid a smile. Didnt do a much better job than last time though. was all I could manage. I waited; he didn't disappoint.
It isn't as if you are a psychotic, control freak of a tyrant. Not at all. Bastard. He didn't even try to hide his smile-smirk this time. Control freak? Who the hell was he calling a control freak? I wasn't the one who had been the embodiment of a god three millennia ago.
As if he couldn't read the insults I was thinking at him, he continued. Well, some might think so. But they don't know you at all. Heh, heh. I mean, of course not. My point is, and here he lost his mischievous look-I'm teasing-you tone, KaibaCorp is wholly yours; you've fought a long and hard battle to make it so. I didn't think you would want to share, even if a merger may give you more wealth and power.
His words were indeed true. Gozabora, at first, was just a means to give me and Mokuba a better life, but his teachings ruled me from there on and I could envisage nothing else other than having, and owning KaibaCorp as was my right. It had been my purpose for so long, I didn't think I would have another. And now when an enterprising offer has been made, I grasp confusedly at either option. My mind settled and lost some of its tension immediately. For a strange reason, one I would rather not think about at this moment, Yami's confidence and his knowledge of me was like a soothing balm. My soul eased and I lost my scowl. Though I made no move to reply, opting to let the subject drop, we finished off the game in a calm, heartening silence.
Morning came, rousing me from a surprisingly deep sleep. I had left for bed, intent on mulling over my decision but fell into slumber not long after. Yami had vanished back into his Puzzle and, I assume, to one of the many guest rooms Yugi was in. Apparently Mokuba had invited him to stay overnight, citing the lateness of the hour as an excuse. I would have thought nothing of it had I not witnessed some disturbing behaviour from Mokuba recently. It would seem that my darling little brother, who had once spent many hours on new and exciting video games, has decided to play an altogether different game. A matchmaking, Cupid-like type of game. Needless to say, I was less than amused. Matching up various people – although he has only been eyeing Yugi's friends so far -- by interfering in their lives was alright with me. Not my business. But sooner or later he would set his sights on me, thinking he was doing me a whole world of good, and driving me crazy in the process. A crazy, homicidal Seto Kaiba was not meant to be seen by vulnerable mortal eyes. Not if said insane Kaiba were in reach of said eyes.
I climbed out of bed, shaking off the last visages of sleep and went into the bathroom. It would do me no good to face Mokuba and Yugi at less than my best. Who knew what they were up to?
Breakfast was a casual affair. I had one of the many subscripted newspapers opened as I ate from my plate of eggs and bacon while Yugi and Mokuba chattered on in a low, conspicuous volume. I didn't want to know.
Unexpectedly, Yami was there too, munching enthusiastically along as if he hadn't eaten for years. Which could be the truth, now that I thought about it. He enjoyed his meal in silence, now and again glancing over at Yugi and Mokuba's direction, listening. I gave them no notice, preferring to read the stock market. I took my time. There was no rush this morning as there was no school. And no school meant extra time for KaibaCorp. Like always. Weekends signified hours spent poring over documents and going over financial statements. Sometimes, if I was very lucky – like a certain puppy called Wheeler – I would have time to work on my tech projects. School work was usually completed during the school days. It wasn't as if the subject matter was all that difficult anyway. Once you've run a company, Advanced Physics was, as they say, a piece of cake. Good cake, since I enjoyed the simplistic nature of Physics.
The shuffling movement and the sudden halt of voices caught my attention. I watched from the corner of my eye as Mokuba hurriedly put away his finished plate and urged Yugi to increase his speed. As Yugi tried to keep up, Mokuba gave an exasperated sigh and crossed his arms, tapping his feet impatiently. The stance was familiar, and I couldn't keep a hint of fondness from appearing on my face.
He eyed me warily, gauging the tone and inflection of that one word. I hid a smile, and beckoned him to stand near me.
Yes, big brother? he questioned. Ah. Big brother. He knew I was going to say something he didn't like or wasn't going to heed.
Now Mokuba. Don't take this the wrong way, but try not to couple Yugi with someone he doesn't really want. I said, not looking up from my paper. Not that I really care, but I don't need that yami of his nagging at me. This time I gave him The Look.
He didn't even blink before saying cheerfully, Sure. Okay. Can we go now?
I sighed. I forgot The Look had long since been fruitless against my scheming little brother. Well, that was a Kaiba for you. Uncompromising and stubborn when faced with obstacles; only Mokuba simply ignored you until you gave up while I glared and forced defeat through threatening means. I even felt a small amount of pride, despite our different approaches.
Yes. Go. I narrowed my eyes. But just remember, I'll sic Yami on you if he starts ranting on me.
He rolled his eyes. Sure. We're gonna go now, k? Bye!
I grunted and turned back to my paper. Obviously Mokuba was at that age where fear was just a minuscule droplet of water in a river of excitement.
I blinked, finding the person I least expected to be unmoving, sitting complacently across from me and finishing off the last bite of his food. I stared at him in silence. Unfortunately he stared back. And then, we were in a staring contest. A fucking staring contest. My dignity was forever traumatised by this pettiness.
Finally, I grew too annoyed to continue. I had my standards, you know. Yes. What?
he replied innocently.
Don't what me, you – ghost. Ha! Take that. I knew he hated being called a mere ghost. He was, after all, the Pharaoh of the blah blah blah. I lost interest after the third rant.
He turned away and crossed his arms, and simply waited me out.
Double damn him.
I said with irritation, uncomfortably trying to lessen my caustic tone. He smirked.
Too bad he could make himself solid or not by will alone, because it has become my dream to strangle the living – make that dead – daylights out of him.
Ignoring my thousand watt glare, he at last unveiled his thoughts. Oh nothing. Just wondering if you made a decision yet.
Oh? Care to share? He blithely leaned forward.
I gave it another go. I have – decided against the merger. I took a deep breath. This sharing business was problematical.
I didn't really want to spill everything, but he did help me last night when I was troubled and at my weakest. I supposed it was the least I could do.
That's good. And then he stood up. I knew you would make the right decision. For yourself.
I squinted. It would appear that he was not at all astounded by my revelations.
I have to go now. Yugi's having some trouble, he frowned and then began fading.
I sighed and wondered how long it would take for him to come back overly protective and argumentative even as I prepared myself for the influx of migraine inducing aggravation.
Hello, I would like to speak with Hirato.
Yes. Tell him it is Seto Kaiba.
I know. I've thought about your proposal and have decided no.
No. That's my final answer.
Hirato. It does not matter. There will be no merger.
Yes I know the benefits. Yes. I know.
That's my final answer, Hirato. I cannot be persuaded. I have to go.
Are you threatening me?
Well, Hirato. Listen, and listen well. Threaten me or mine and I promise you, you will not live to see another year.
Ever wonder about my dearly departed adopted father?
I pressed end, and then immediately dialled another number.
This is Seto Kaiba. Increase the number of guards. Yes. Full security alert.
Hirato didn't have a chance in hell.
When Mokuba came back, alone, I was overlooking BetaCorp papers and taking a sip of coffee every so often. In other words, I looked prepared for a sleepless night and an even more tiring morning. By then, no doubt the only thing fueling my body will be adrenaline.
Hi Seto, Mokuba called out as he passed the open doorway of my office, hefting around a large amount of food.
His day had obviously gone well from the looks of it. He seemed to have finished selecting various treats and was currently chomping on some chocolate biscuits. Upon entering my office and seating himself on one of the couches, Mokuba began arranging an assortment of junk foods on his tray. I shook my head and made a mental note to remind him to brush his teeth.
Since I see no angry spirit trailing behind you, I assume everything went well?
Oh yeah. Definitely. You should've seen the look on Yugi's face! He was blushing so much!
Yeah. And he and Tea were pretty comfy too. A crunch followed. Boy was Yugi surprised. Embarrassed too and kinda obvious about it but oh well. Then there was this really, really long pause and I had to roll my eyes because they were being so silly so I left them all alone. Mokuba took a deep breath, before carrying on. Anyway, they're now on a romantic date thanks to me. And Yami didn't look upset when I saw him so don't worry, big brother.
Mokuba knew how to really talk, and once you got him going, anything short of an earthquake wasn't going to make him stop. I love my little brother but sometimes, he really needed to slow down. Unfortunately, I was about to make him carry on for the first time and I blamed it all on that stupid spirit.
I was never worried. Then, discomfited I added, What happened to that ghost anyway? just so Mokuba became too distracted to refute me on my rather dubious claim. Nobody ever said I was a genius for nothing.
Oh, he sorta just faded away. Mokuba shrugged, then gulped down a glass of chocolate milk. I think he went into Yugi's Puzzle but then, wouldn't that be sorta like hanging around Yugi? You think Yami can eavesdrop on Yugi? Oh, I don't think he does even if he could. He's not like that. For a three thousand year old guy, he's pretty cool. Don't you think so, big brother?
Uh huh. What?
Feeling too relieved over Mokuba's distraction, I hadn't listened well and now I wondered inanely if I had just agreed to do something for Yami.
Yami. You just said he was cool. Mokuba said, as if I should have known. Damn. There was no back tracking now.
Hn. Yes. But don't tell Yami that, okay? I tried to sound enigmatic, like we were the only ones who shared this secret, but probably only managed to make myself appear unbalanced.
He gave me a weird look. Uh, sure, big brother.
I sighed. What was with me and sighing today? Must be an allergic reaction to constant aggravation. For a moment I flashed back on a real and more dangerous irritation. Hirato. To tell or not to tell, that was the question. Not telling meant not warning Mokuba of the threat, and no warning meant Mokuba would be extremely annoyed by the constant surveillance of the extra security – something he would never tolerate since he was in the throes of being Cupid. I decided caution would be the best plan.'
He turned all his attention towards me, immediately recognizing the tone of my voice. I have increased our security. There'll be some guards with you tomorrow, I said awkwardly, caught between reassuring and calm, and somehow sounding informative and cold instead.
Okay, big brother, he said softly but firmly. He knew what was left unspoken and I finally let out a breath of relief, tension gently decreasing. I smiled and Mokuba went back to his food, already chattering again about the coolness of living for three thousand years, though shouldn't that be existing? Cause he never really lived right?
Watching Mokuba while he slept used to comfort the small, lonely boy who had been thrust into a strange new world by his big brother. It used to sooth him as he slumbered, and at times, I might even read to him. Not from children's books or anything like that, Mokuba had insisted, childishly stubborn, and half amused, I would grab the new edition of Othello. Mokuba would then crinkle his nose in distaste, and shake his head, hair making a mini tornado. Giving him one of my rare, teasing smiles, I put Othello away and took the worn, crumbling copy of The Secret Garden from the back of the well-polished, antique bookshelf. The ending was his favourite part.
These days Mokuba didn't need me to watch over him. I just do.
And looking into his peaceful, joyful face, the way his cheek pressed tightly against his pillows and knowing it would leave faint red lines in the morning when he woke, listening to the whooshing sound of his breathing, in tune with the vulnerable rise and fall of his chest –
I knew I would never change it for the world.