Completed: 05/15/2004
Modified: 05/17/2004

Here's a VERY ROUGH DRAFT of a short speculative one-shot fic about
how Seto Kaiba gets to be CEO of Kaiba Corp at the tender age of 14.
It's basically a character analysis of Seto, from a male OC's
point-of-view. But don't worry, there's absolutely no sex involved.

I would really appreciate your comments, and especially if you think
if this fic is interesting or merely self-indulgent maundering.
::massive sweatdrop::

SUMMARY: Gozaburo's dead, but Seto Kaiba is still not free to pursue
his own path and destiny.

Title: Moving Forward
Author: Madamhydra
Status: one shot
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: entire series (anime and manga)
Pairings: none

Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end) Yu-Gi-Oh! is the copyright
and property of its creator and legally associated parties. Used
without permission. Not for profit.

Note 1: I did some research Japanese and American family law
(especially in regard to adoption and emancipated minors), then
tweaked the information around for dramatic effect. So for the
purposes of this fic, just accept that the YuGiOh universe operates
with its own eccentric legal system, okay? ;;;

/ ... / represents flashbacks or remembered dialogue.

Moving Forward
An Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic by Madamhydra

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life

-- "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi

The two individuals gazed at each other across the exquisitely
polished coffee table. One, a plain, rather ordinary-looking
dark-haired man in his mid-thirties, was a Kaiba by birth, although he
tried very hard to forget it. The other, a slender fourteen year old
teenager with brown hair and sharp blue eyes, was a Kaiba by choice,
and had paid very dearly for that name.


Hiroshi Izumi -- born Hiroshi Kaiba -- was feeling grouchy and
irritable. He should've been in his office, busily packing for an
eagerly anticipated field trip to outer Mongolia. Instead, he was
sitting in a posh reception room on the top level of the Kaiba Corp
Tower and trying to figure out what to hell to do with his recently
deceased cousin's adopted children.

He was an unmarried wildlife photographer who spent most of his time
working in various remote areas all over the world. What on earth was
he supposed to do with a fourteen year old teenager and a nine year
old child?

The silent staring contest continued for several minutes until Hiroshi
finally pushed up his glasses and said, "I have to tell you that I'm
at a bit of a loss how to deal with this situation. I haven't seen
your father in...."

"My stepfather," Seto Kaiba corrected.

Hiroshi blinked, slightly taken aback by the cool, almost icy
precision in the teenager's voice. He had expected to confront your
typical rich, spoiled teenaged brat. What he got was a cool, polite,
very controlled young man who had a rather intimidating aura of
confidence and maturity about him.

Hiroshi cleared his throat and tried again. "Right. Your stepfather.
I was saying that I haven't seen your fath... I mean, your stepfather
since I was in high school."

Although it had been quite a few years, Hiroshi still had distinct
memories of his cousin Gozaburo, and none of them were particularly
pleasant. Gozaburo was incredibly smart, no denying that, but Hiroshi
couldn't stand his cousin's grating arrogance and over-inflated ego.
It reminded him too much of their mutual grandfather, a domineering
old tyrant who loved to run roughshod over everyone.

"I've been out of touch with the rest of the family for years, so you
can understand my surprise when I suddenly received a message
informing me that I was now the legal guardian for my cousin's two
surviving children. Adopted children, at that."

Seto's response was as cool and precise as before. "You are his only
surviving relative, with the exception of various third and fourth
cousins, two or three times removed. The Kaiba family tree is
exceedingly sparse," Seto observed with a slight shrug. "Which is
part of the reason Gozaburo agreed to adopt me."

"But surely you have closer relatives than me! The families of your
birth parents, for example," Hiroshi said hastily.

"Under the terms of our adoption, all legal ties to our birth
relatives were permanently and completely severed. Gozaburo made sure
of that. Therefore, you are the only 'family' we have."

Hiroshi raked a hand through his already rumpled hair, then said,
"Look, I'll be blunt with you, Seto. Given my work, I'm hardly in a
position to raise two children on my own...."

"I know." Seto picked up a thin folder, opened it, and said, "You're
a wildlife photographer. You're single, not romantically involved
with anyone at the moment, and live reasonably within your means.
You've spent most of your adult life travelling all over the world.
Your work is respected, and several of your pictures have appeared in
various prestigious international publications. The general consensus
is that you are well on your way to a very promising career." He
closed the folder and dropped it back onto the coffee table.

Hiroshi gaped at Seto, then sputtered, "You... you had me checked

"Of course. I like to know whom I'm dealing with," Seto replied with
a cool little smile.

For a moment, Hiroshi was speechless, torn between outrage and
reluctant respect. Then an odd sense of shame crept over him.
Between his rush to get packed for his next trip and his desire to
dump the unwanted responsibility for Gozaburo's adopted children on
someone else, he hadn't bothered to find out anything about his new
charges. The little he knew about Seto came from the rather terse
message notifying him of his guardianship and a short magazine article
about Seto's recent victory in some game tournament.

Finally, Hiroshi managed to say, "Well, if you know all that, then you
obviously realize that I'm hardly in a position to take custody of you
or your brother. Please understand that it's nothing personal, but I
think it would be better if I found...."

Seto raised his hand and said flatly, "That's good, because I have no
interest in remaining in yours, or anyone else's, custody."

Hiroshi blinked again. "But you need to have someone as your legal
guardian. I mean, you're still a minor!"

"Not necessarily. Not if I'm declared an emancipated minor."

"A what?"

"An emancipated minor. Under specific circumstances, a minor can
petition the court for a declaration of emancipation, and thereby
become entitled to the legal privileges -- and responsibilities -- of
an adult." Seto gave him another faint smile, but one that held no
humor. "In short, I will be able to take uncontested control of Kaiba
Corporation as its new CEO."

"That's ridiculous!"

"I am Gozaburo's chosen successor. That's why he adopted me and what
he trained me for."

"And you think you can do it? Run a multi-national conglomerate at
your age?" Hiroshi said sarcastically.

"I know I can." The words were spoken with such confidence and
determination that Hiroshi found himself half-believing it.

However, he said hastily, "That's beside the point. Surely before the
court agrees to this petition of yours, there has to be tons of other
requirements -- psychological evaluations, mandatory counseling...."

Seto said blandly, "I've already provided the court with ample
evidence as to my emotional maturity and financial competence."

A bit sourly, Hiroshi said, "I see. So, was this the only reason for
this meeting? To inform me of your plans to escape my custody as soon
as possible?"

"Not really. To finalize matters, I need the consent of my current
legal guardian. That's where you come in."

"You want me to support your request for... emancipation, was it?"

"Why not? You said it yourself. You don't want to be stuck with two
underage minors. I'm offering you the chance to get us out of your
hair once and for all."

Hiroshi frowned and said, "I was thinking more in lines of appointing
another legal guardian, one better suited to raising children."

Seto shrugged. "That is your prerogative, of course. At the moment,
I'm in no position to stop you if you choose to dump me and my brother
in someone else's lap, then simply walk away." He stood up,
straightening the sleeves of his white jacket. "In that case, there's
nothing left for the two of us to discuss."

Hiroshi gritted his teeth in annoyance at the teenager's dismissive
attitude. Damn it, HE was the adult here, not some errant schoolboy!
He suspected that Seto was deliberately provoking him, and yet he
couldn't prevent himself from rising to the bait.

"Look, I'm simply trying to be realistic here! I'm not running away
from you OR my responsibilities."

"No, of course not." But the bland smile Seto gave Hiroshi bordered
on a subtle smirk.

Hiroshi's temper rose another notch. "May I remind you that you need
MY consent to get this declaration that you want so badly?"

"No, I need my legal guardian's consent. At the moment, that person
happens to be you. But as soon as you turn me over to a new guardian,
which you seem so eager to do, then my legal status becomes my new
guardian's problem, not yours."

Before the conversation could proceed further, there was a quick knock
on the door.

Seto raised his voice slightly and said, "Come in."

A small boy with an unruly mass of black hair peeked cautiously around
the door.


Seto nodded once and rose to his feet as the boy entered the room. He
came to a stop behind Seto and eyed Hiroshi warily.

"My brother, Mokuba." Seto made the introduction crisply, almost
impersonally, as if introducing a casual business acquaintance. Try
as he might, Hiroshi failed to detect any apparent fondness or
affection in the teenager's voice.

As Mokuba hovered behind his older brother, Hiroshi saw the youngster
start to lift his hand as if he was about to anxiously clutch Seto's
sleeve, then abruptly drop his hand to his side. He was pretty sure
that Seto was aware of his brother's abortive gesture and its silent
plead for reassurance. But the teenager made no attempt to comfort
his little brother. Instead, he kept his attention focused on

Disliking Seto more and more, Hiroshi walked over to them, then
squatted down in an effort to look less intimidating to the youngster.

"Hello, Mokuba. I'm your fath... I mean, your stepfather's cousin,
Hiroshi. I'm your new guardian."

"Yes. I know."

Mokuba's response was polite, but hardly enthusiastic. Hiroshi didn't
mind. He could understand how nervous Mokuba must be about meeting a
total stranger, a new and unfamiliar authority figure in his and his
brother's life.

But even as he wondered what else he could say to reassure the
youngster, Seto said dismissively, "It's time for your swimming

Mokuba opened his mouth as if to protest, then hastily shut it as Seto
glanced over his shoulder at him. Hiroshi didn't have a clue what
passed between the two brothers in that brief look, but it did the
trick. The boy reluctantly nodded, murmured a barely audible goodbye
to Hiroshi, and trudged out the room. Seto followed his brother to
the doorway. He stood there, watching the boy disappear down the hall
before closing the door and resuming his seat on the couch.

Seto's high-handed behavior had done nothing to endear him to Hiroshi,
who snapped, "Was it really necessary to send him off like that? I
would've liked to talk to Mokuba some more."

"Why?" Seto inquired bluntly.

"Why? Because it would be nice to get to know him little better."

"What for? He's not going to be your responsibility."

"Of course he's my responsibility! As you are!"

"But not for much longer."

Something in the way Seto said those words that caused an uneasy
prickle on the back of Hiroshi's neck, but he forgot about it as Seto
continued smoothly, "I believe you intended to hand over all
responsibility for us to someone else as soon as possible. After all,
you have a career to pursue."

That was perfectly true, but Hiroshi didn't like the way Seto was
brushing him off, like a bug not worth noticing. In fact, it made him
feel decidedly pissed off. On one hand, he was sorely tempted to give
Seto what he wanted so he wouldn't have to deal with the kid anymore.
On the other hand, he hated the thought of being so casually dismissed
by a teenager less than half his age. He could play hardball, too.

"For the sake of argument, let's suppose that I change my mind and
decide to remain your guardian. It shouldn't be too hard to find
someone to babysit the two of you while I'm out of the country. Or I
could decide to stay in Japan. Either way, if I fight your petition
for emancipation, you're pretty much stuck with me, aren't you? And
there's nothing you can do about it."

Seto simply looked at him, then said, "Is that your final decision?"

He shrugged nonchalantly, somewhat annoyed that he hadn't rattled the
teenager as much as he had hoped, and drawled, "Maybe. After all,
there'll always be other trips, other career opportunities, if I want
them. It might be nice to settle down for a while, take some time out
for an extended vacation."

"And perhaps upgrade your lifestyle while you're at it?" Seto's voice
remained perfectly polite, but there was a cold edge to it as well.

Hiroshi shifted a bit uneasily. He hadn't been serious about his
threat to retain custody over Seto and Mokuba. He had simply intended
to show Seto that he wasn't going to be pushed around so easily. But
now he had the uncomfortable feeling that the game was going farther
than he had intended.

Even as Hiroshi hesitated, Seto said, "Is that what you want? Because
if it's money you're after, I am prepared to pay you very generously
for your cooperation. Far more than you will ever receive from trying
to take control of Kaiba Corporation for yourself."

At first, Hiroshi could only sputter in growing outrage, "You... you
honestly think that I would.... All right, maybe I am a bit selfish
for not wanting to get saddled with the responsibility for two
children. But I'm not a damn thief and I'm not after your damn
inheritance! What sort of person do you think I am, to steal money
from a pair of orphaned kids!?"

"It's been done before. And you are a Kaiba," Seto replied

Hiroshi's response was explosive. A sudden surge of fury propelled
him to his feet as he shouted, "I don't want anything from you, least
of all your company or your money!"

Seto's eyes had narrowed at the sudden movement, but he said nothing.
His face remained calm, almost mask-like.

Breathing stormily, Hiroshi continued in a furious voice, "I want
nothing to do with a company that profits from the misery of others.
Do you realize where all that money that you're so casually offering
me comes from? For generations, the Kaiba family has made its fortune
trafficking in death. I take pictures of animals, but I've seen what
people do to other people. And more often than not, they're using
this damn company's weapons to do it!"

Seto said nothing, his long brown bangs veiling his eyes. Except for
a single faint twitch of his fingers, the teenager remained silent and

That lack of response, Seto's apparent indifference or lack of
comprehension, only infuriated Hiroshi even more and he packed as much
scorn and contempt as he could into his next words.

"Or maybe you're so busy playing all your stupid little games to
realize the clothes you wear, the food you eat, and toys you play with
are all paid for with untold amounts of bloodshed and human misery!"

But as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Hiroshi regretted
saying them. Not so much what he said -- it was essentially the truth
-- but rather the cruel and spiteful way he had said it. That last
verbal shot had been entirely uncalled for.

Of course Seto had to know where the family money came from,
especially with Gozaburo training Seto to be his successor. But
merely knowing the source of the money and looking at numbers on some
financial report, that was a far cry from understanding the ugly
reality of his adoptive family's chosen trade.

Seto hadn't seen what Hiroshi had. Seto hadn't driven through burnt
out villages, listened to grief-stricken relatives wailing for their
dead, or watched the crippled children begging on the side of the
road. What could a teenager, surrounded by luxury and growing up in
peaceful and prosperous Japan, know about the horrors of warfare?

And even if he did know, what could that teenager possibly do about
it? As a minor, Seto was hardly in a position to simply walk away,
even if he wanted to. And it was abundantly clear that Seto had no
intention whatsoever of giving up the Kaiba family name or its

Hiroshi had to give his cousin Gozaburo credit for training his
successor so damn well, because from what he could see, Seto was
practically a carbon copy of his stepfather, right down to same 'do
anything it takes to win' sort of philosophy. The teenager was an
arrogant, domineering power junkie who cared about nothing except
getting his own way, with the questionable -- VERY questionable --
exception of his little brother.

But still, no matter how provoking Seto's behavior and personality
might be, that didn't excuse Hiroshi's own temper tantrum. For Seto,
buying whatever he wanted was probably second nature. And to be
honest, Hiroshi had been leading Seto on. With his playacting, no
wonder that Seto had assumed that Hiroshi was after money and/or the
company itself. How could Seto know that the Kaiba family fortune and
its source were such sore points for his older cousin?

He had spent most of his life trying to disassociate himself
completely from his family, going so far as to change his last name.
But it was times like this that reminded Hiroshi that try as he might,
there were things that he couldn't change or ignore, like the
explosive Kaiba temper.

Hiroshi exhaled heavily, took off his glasses, and rubbed his hand
over his flushed face.

"Look, that was way out of...."

Seto interrupted the apology, his voice calm and even, but
strangely... empty.

"At present, approximately 1,000 deaths per day worldwide can be
directly attributed to Kaiba Corporation weaponry and military
hardware, with the number of people seriously injured typically
running five to six times greater."

Hiroshi blinked and stared at him.

Seto continued in the same, uninflected tone, "Company reports
indicate that those numbers will probably double as the new
manufacturing plants go online later this month and make the latest
generation of Kaiba Corp's military hardware more readily available to
buyers. However, I consider those estimates to be extremely
conservative. The number of fatalities and injuries will increase by
at least 400% within six months."

"How could you possibly know that?" Hiroshi demanded, sounding
distinctly shaken.

"I know, because I helped to design those weapons and their software,"
Seto replied. He held his head erect, making no attempt to meet
Hiroshi's stunned gaze or evade it. His voice was steady and
unwavering, and his facial expression gave nothing away.

Hiroshi continued to goggle at Seto, a dozen different questions
bouncing wildly inside his head like startled bats. He eventually
managed to blurt a few of those questions out.

"YOU designed...!? But how...!? WHY!?!?"

Seto's answer was brief and concise.

"Because Gozaburo demanded it. And because I chose to comply with his

If there had been the slightest trace of pride or smugness in Seto's
voice or demeanor, Hiroshi would've been sorely tempted to let his
temper rip, despite Seto's age. But something about the stark
simplicity of Seto's reply stopped Hiroshi's anger and outrage dead in
their tracks.

He had expected excuses, some attempt to shift responsibility or
evade blame. But Seto had done nothing of the sort.

Hiroshi backed up a few steps, trying to get a better look at Seto's
eyes. He desperately wanted some idea of what was going on inside his
young cousin's head.

The move worked. Seto lifted his head and glanced in his direction,
following Hiroshi's movement like a wild animal tracking a potential
threat, and Hiroshi finally got a good long look into those blue eyes.

Hiroshi didn't know what he expected to see. Perhaps anger, shame,
denial, or perhaps no emotions at all. But what he saw overturned all
his preconceived notions about his adopted cousin.

On the surface, there was nothing in that intense blue stare except
grim determination and cold calculation -- the look of a person who
knew what he wanted and intended to get it.

But Hiroshi saw something else lurking under that intimidating show of
strength, buried so deeply that an ordinary observer surely would've
missed it.

Vulnerability. Pain. Guilt.

They were the eyes of someone wounded and haunted by his own
devastating knowledge and intelligence.

For some odd reason, Hiroshi's mind jumped back to a fishing trip
several years ago. The fishing at that isolated mountain lake had
been decent, but hardly memorable. But just as he made his last cast
of the day, he saw it -- a flash of a brilliant glimmering scaled
body. It swept like lightning under his boat, then vanished into the
mysterious depths of the lake as suddenly as it appeared. It could've
simply been a huge fish... or perhaps it had been something much more.

The flicker of vulnerability in Seto's eyes reminded him of that
creature -- no matter how brief or fleeting the glimpse, certain
things are both unmistakable and unforgettable.

Seto knew. He knew how the Kaiba Corporation operated and the
business it thrived upon. But more importantly, Seto knew exactly
what he had done when he agreed to help Gozaburo create better, more
efficient weapons.

He reached out toward Seto, driven by an instinctive urge to somehow
comfort the teenager. But as soon as he extended his hand, the blue
eyes narrowed and hardened. Any hint of vulnerability vanished,
replaced by a cold, deliberate watchfulness that was far more
disturbing than outright fear.

What had Gozaburo done to the boy to make him so wary of his personal
space? And in that instant, Hiroshi knew that Seto was the victim of
a war as vicious and destructive as any he had seen during his
travels. Hiroshi couldn't begin to guess at the sordid details, and
to his shame, he really didn't want to know.

Struggling to adjust to this revelation, Hiroshi hastily turned and
stalked over to the windows, thinking very, very hard.

He abruptly asked, "And knowing everything you do about the Kaiba
Corporation and what it does, you still want to take over as CEO?

"For the money and power, of course," Seto replied in a silky tone.
"So I can continue playing my games and buying new toys."

Hiroshi whirled around, planted his hands on his hips and snapped,
"And that's bullshit. You hate what Kaiba Corporation and your
stepfather stand for as much as I do, if not more!"

There was a brief flicker of surprise in Seto's eyes, but that was
almost immediately replaced by an oddly defensive hostility.

Hiroshi continued, "Oh, I don't doubt you want that money and power.
But there's other, much more important reasons, aren't there?"

Seto evaded the question, and said, "You've made it very clear that
you want nothing to do with Kaiba Corporation, so why are you so
interested in what I plan to do with it?"

"Because if I'm going to turn you loose on the world, I'd like to know
what happens to this bloody beast of a company!"

Seto was silent for a moment, then finally replied, "I intend to take
this bloody beast out of the weapons industry and transform it into an
entertainment empire."

"That's impossible!"

"It's very possible. I can do it, and I will," Seto said with

"But the Board of Directors and the stockholders would never
allow...," Hiroshi sputtered.

"As long as I continue to fatten their pockets, they won't complain
too loudly," Seto countered with a thin, cynical smile.

Hiroshi uttered a sigh and shook his head. "Well, I suppose that
partially explains the how, but it still doesn't explain the why."

"Isn't it obvious? I want the power and money that the Kaiba
Corporation provides, but I don't like how the company makes its
money. The answer is simple enough -- change the source of Kaiba
Corp's income. If you can't understand that, it's your problem, not

Hiroshi pondered that, then said, almost reluctantly, "But even if
Kaiba Corporation stops making weapons, some other company will simply
take its place."

"Do you think that I don't know that?" Seto's voice became sharp,
almost harsh. "I can't undo the damage already done. The weapons are
already out there. I helped to create some of them. Those weapons
will continue to kill and destroy human lives for decades to come."

Seto abruptly rose to his feet and walked over to the broad expanse of

"I can't change the past, but I can do my best to change the future.
Maybe my actions won't make a difference in the long run, but maybe
they will. At least I can say that I tried."

Hiroshi opened his mouth to say something, but Seto overrode him with
a sharp gesture. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not interested in saving
the world. I'm only interested in taking care of my particular part
of it."

Hiroshi studied him, then nodded slowly. "If anyone can do it, I
think you're the one." He paused, then said, "Look, I'm sorry about
what I said earlier...."

With a dismissive shrug, Seto said, "I'm not interested in an apology.
I'm more interested in your immediate cooperation."

Hiroshi understood Seto's impatience, his sense of urgency. Because
with every day that passed, the Kaiba Corporation churned out more
weapons, which meant more people would die.

During the last few moments, Hiroshi had come to a decision -- if Seto
was prepared to take on the monumental task of reinventing the
company, the least he could do was give the teenager the chance to do

He sat down heavily on the opposite sofa and said, "Fine. Just tell
me what I have to do with this emancipation business."

As Seto moved to the opposing sofa, he glanced at Hiroshi and said,
"Just one more thing. Mokuba's custody."

To his embarrassment, Hiroshi came up blank for an instant, then
grimaced. He had been so caught up with Seto that he had totally
forgotten about the younger brother.

"What about it?"

"I want it." Seto spoke the words almost casually, as if he was
asking for a glass of water.

"You want what?"

"Mokuba's custody."

Hiroshi thought about how busy Seto was going to be as CEO, the things
he would probably have to do in order to rebuild Kaiba Corporation
from the ground up, and thought most of all of the unmistakable
coolness Seto had shown toward Mokuba.

However, Hiroshi no longer made the mistake of assuming that Seto's
outward behavior was an accurate reflection of the teenager's
feelings. Instead, he asked as neutrally as he could, "Are you sure
about that?"


"If you don't mind me asking, why?"

"Because he's my brother, and therefore my responsibility. I promised
to take care of him," Seto said curtly, sounded a bit irritated by the
entire topic.

That little slip of temper piqued Hiroshi's curiosity. Why would Seto
so touchy about this particular subject, when even accusations of
complicity in war atrocities and profiteering in human misery barely
ruffled the teenager's outward calm.

Hiroshi sensed that he was missing something vitally important,
something that would help him make some sense of the conundrum that
was Seto Kaiba.

What had Seto said just a moment before?

/ I'm not interested in saving the world. I'm only interested in
taking care of my particular part of it. /

On the surface, it sounded like something any self-centered teenager
would say. But again, Hiroshi thought of the lake, and all the
mysteries it contained. Seto was like that lake -- there was so many
secrets hidden away deep inside him.

How had Seto phrased it? Taking care of his particular part of the

Seto had promised to take care of his little brother.

It was a sudden, intuitive, and perhaps irrational mental leap, but as
soon as the idea hit Hiroshi, he was certain that he had found the
key. The real reason behind so much of Seto's actions....

What could possibly drive someone as strong-willed as Seto into doing
something that he so clearly abhorred? It wasn't merely fear, or any
desire for paternal approval. It wasn't even the money and power.

For a moment, he simply stared at Seto, both dumfounded and awestruck.

"Bloody HELL. Getting adopted by Gozaburo, doing his dirty work,
taking control of the company.... Even your plans for restructuring
Kaiba Corporation. You're not doing this for yourself, are you?
You're doing it for HIM. For Mokuba!"

Seto froze, then uttered a sharp, scornful laugh. "Please. I'm not
that noble or self-sacrificing."

But in those blue eyes, Hiroshi saw a distinct flash of chagrin.
Although why anyone would feel embarrassed about trying to protect his
little brother was beyond him....

No. Seto was not feeling embarrassment. What he was feeling was
tension and apprehension.

Then as Hiroshi remembered his own experiences with Gozaburo, he
understood Seto's reaction.

Caring about someone made you vulnerable, and Gozaburo just loved to
ruthlessly exploit a person's vulnerabilities. If Gozaburo was
willing to treat Hiroshi that way, how much worse would it have been
for a child completely under his power?

No wonder that Seto giving him such a wary look. Seto knew all too
well the penalties for showing any sort of weakness. And even though
Gozaburo was now dead -- and good riddance to the bastard -- habits
and reflexes so painfully learned were difficult, if not impossible to
break. Too many betrayals, too many harsh lessons had taught Seto to
expect only the very worst of human nature. Seto probably expected
Hiroshi to use his concern for Mokuba as leverage against him.
Unfortunately, Hiroshi had the nasty feeling that any attempts at
reassurance, or offers of assistance or support only make the teenager
more paranoid.

Seto would never trust Hiroshi. He would always think of his older
cousin as a threat, a dagger perpetually poised at his back. First,
because Hiroshi was Gozaburo's cousin, and being a Kaiba by birth, was
the one person who could possibly unseat him from the position of
Kaiba Corporation's CEO. Second, as their closest living adoptive
relative, Hiroshi had the legal standing to take Mokuba away from him
at any time. And third, but not least, because Hiroshi had seen too
much of the real Seto.

So Hiroshi simply looked at his young cousin and said, "You know, I
think that's the first outright lie you've told me in this whole

Seto said nothing, but now that there was no need to hide his true
feelings from Hiroshi, Seto's blue eyes promised the direst
consequences for anyone who attempted to separate him from his little

And in the face of that overpowering resolve, devotion, and
dedication, Hiroshi was brutally honest with himself. He didn't have
the strength, nor frankly the courage, to stand in Seto's way. Any
attempt to force Seto into doing something he didn't want to do would
only lead to a destructive battle of wills -- one, Hiroshi strongly
suspected that he would lose. Because it was becoming perfectly clear
to him that there was nothing Seto wouldn't do in order to
accomplish his goals.

Seto intended to fulfil his self-imposed mission to take care of his
brother, no matter the cost, even if it meant climbing a mountain of
corpses to do it. And in a way, that's was exactly what he was
already doing. And every passing day, that mountain of bodies grew
steadily higher.

Confronted with that nearly elemental sense of determination, Hiroshi
yielded to the inevitable and prepared himself to give Seto the two
things that he wanted and would accept from his cousin.

He simply said, "You can have your freedom and Mokuba's custody. Tell
me where to sign."

Something in his voice or face must have conveyed his sincerity,
because Seto merely nodded and slid a folder across the table toward

"My attorneys are waiting for you next door. They will brief you on
all the legal requirements, handle the necessary paperwork, and
arrange for an interview with the Family Court judge. Normally, the
process would take several weeks, but the fact that you're due to
leave the country in four days, and won't be back for at least five or
six months will help expedite matters."

"Right." Hiroshi tapped the folder on the table, straightening the
papers inside, then quietly asked, "If I'd made a serious attempt to
interfere with your plans, would I have suffered a unfortunate and
fatal 'accident'?"

Seto said nothing, but Hiroshi could see the answer plainly in the
steady, unwavering stare of those piercing blue eyes. And Hiroshi
couldn't help wondering if the young man he was setting free would
succeed in achieving his dreams, or whether Seto would destroy himself
trying. And in that destruction, how many others would Seto take down
with him?

But it was far too late to divert Seto from his chosen course, too
late to save or even help him. Hiroshi had no hope of controlling his
cousin, and at this point, he seriously doubted anyone could.

And with that depressing thought, Hiroshi stood up to leave. But at
the doorway, he paused, then said, "Even if you succeed in making
Kaiba Corporation quit the arms business, as Gozaburo's successor,
people will still hold you responsible."

"I know that."

"They'll blame you for their losses, for their pain. They could come
after you looking for revenge."

"I know that, too." Seto gave Hiroshi a thin, humorless smile. "When
I chose Gozaburo, I accepted everything, the liabilities as well as
the benefits, that came with him."

Yes, Hiroshi acknowledged to himself. Seto knew what he was doing,
and would accept the consequences of his actions unflinchingly. He
asked for no quarter and clearly expected none.


Four days later, as Hiroshi sat on an airplane destined for Indonesia,
Seto's words continued to linger in his mind.

/ I can't change the past, but I can do my best to change the future.
Maybe my actions won't make a difference in the long run, but maybe
they will. At least I can say that I tried. /


-- newspaper article, 3 years later --

"July 19 -- A team of foreign medical personnel and photographers were
killed in the African town of Kawaka when they were caught in a
crossfire between rival factions. The eight men and one woman died
when a stray KB32 rocket hit their van. It is unclear which side
fired the fatal shot, since KB32 rocket launchers were used by both
sides in the skirmish. Although no longer manufactured, the KB32 is
still commonly used by military groups worldwide, but is especially
popular with guerrillas and terrorists because of its compact size,
superior accuracy, and deadly payload....

.... Among the dead was noted Japanese photographer Hiroshi Kaiba and
his wife, Dr. Elise Turano. Kaiba started his career as a wildlife
photographer under the name 'Hiroshi Izumi', but in the last two years
had shifted his focus to documenting and publicizing the hardships
caused by civil wars in various parts of the world. He met his wife
while in Central America...."

Keeper of Duo's Dark Side Duo no Seishi
Saitoh no Koibito Corruptor Extraordinaire
madamhydra (at)

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