I Remember

Someone said once that fate is cruel, that fairness holds no sway when it comes to fate. I think it was some ancient ruler from some far-off country, but history has never really interested me, so I never looked deeply into it.

            But that statement has held true for me every step of my life. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I must have done something. Maybe reincarnation is actually true, and in a past life I did something horrible, horrible enough to warrant punishing me through to now.

            That isn't fair, but like that statement says, fairness holds no sway.

            I was happy for a few years...up until I was about seven or so. But it was still hard. I'm a genius, they all say, but intelligence doesn't help when you're small, defenseless, and surrounded by ignorant people who don't like the fact that you're smarter than them.

            I mean, even as early as first grade I was set apart. I was the smart kid, the one who didn't need any help. So when I didn't understand something, or if I needed help, my teachers would always look at me and say

            "Oh. Seto, you're a smart boy. You'll figure it out. I have to help the other children."

            They always did it with this sappy smile on their faces, as if that statement was supposed to make me feel better. Yeah...that really helps, thanks...

            But at least then, I had my parents. Well, okay, I didn't really relate to my father much. He was nice, I guess, but he really didn't know how to deal with children. He was a workaholic, and that was all he knew how to do. At work, he could predict problems and solve them easily. Children are unpredictable, and he didn't like that.

            I guess he loved me, and I think I loved him, too.

            But my mother...

            It was my mother who helped me through all of it. She was a nurturer, she loved children, and she told me time and time again that she was born to be a mother. That she was...

            She always knew what to say to make me feel better, to help me see the brighter side to everything, to help me get along in a world that shunned me because I was intelligent.

            I was happy my first seven years because of her.

            But that – like everything else in my life, it seemed – wasn't meant to last.

            Mom gave birth to her second child, my brother, four months after my eighth birthday. But...it didn't work out the way she'd hoped.

            She gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy, my little brother, but not without cost. I still don't know why; no one told me at the time, and I don't really want to know anyway, but there were complications.

            Her last words to me were: "Be strong, my Seto. Be strong, and be someone important. Leave your mark on this world in any way you can. I'm sorry I can't be with you, but I'll be watching.

            "Take care of Mokuba. You know your father doesn't deal well with children. Please, Seto, take care of your brother. Love him, as I love him. Be strong for yourself, and for him."

            And I tried.

            I tried to be strong, and I tried to love Mokuba. But I couldn't get the thought out of my head that, if it hadn't been for Mokuba, my mother wouldn't have died. I didn't want to have such horrid thoughts about my own brother, but I couldn't help it.

            But I cared for him.

            I became Mokuba's parent. He didn't have a mother, and his father was hardly ever home. Father did do something to make it easier for me, though. He arranged for me to be home-schooled, so I could continue my education and still be there for Mokuba.

            It was hard, extremely hard. You try being a parent at eight years old.

            Mokuba learned to crawl because of me, he learned to walk because of me, he learned to talk because of me. I had no help from anyone. But by then I was used to that.

            For two and a half years, though, I still couldn't bring myself to love him.

            I remember when that changed.

            I was ten at the time. I had been trying to teach Mokuba how to talk. It wasn't going very well. He couldn't say anything other than "Oh" and "Ah," for the most part.

            And then, one day, I was sitting at the table in the living room, and Mokuba walked in. I turned and looked at him. And he said "Seto!"

            His first word...was my name.

            When he said that, the first real smile crossed my face since Mom died. I called him over, gave him a hug, and from then on things were different. I started to understand how Mom felt about children. Until that moment, I had started to lean toward Father's attitude.

            And when he said his first real sentence, "I love you," I found that I loved him, too. It took me a while, but I loved him, too.

            I began to finally think things would be okay.

            And then Father died.

            I wasn't hit as hard with his death as with Mom's, but it presented a problem: Mokuba and I didn't have a way to live without him. I was smart, but I couldn't very well get a job, not at ten.

            So Mokuba and I were sent to the Domino Children's Home. I don't know why they don't just call it an orphanage, like they used to, but...whatever.

            And, of course, problems arose there, too. I was surrounded by my peers, a genius with a three-year-old brother. How fun. So, the smart boy got shafted again.         

            Like in school, I was shunned and ridiculed because of my intelligence, and since Mokuba was one of the smallest children there, he was a target as well.

            Idiotic comments like "Can't you talk right, you little dumb ass?" and "Awww...does the baby need a diaper?" were commonplace around Mokuba. I would usually just glare at them and lead Mokuba off to some other corner of hell.

            And then the taunts weren't enough, and they decided physical abuse was more fun. And that's when I, being the responsible big brother I am, finally stepped in and defended him.

            Of course, when I decided to do that, I got in trouble.

            "Seto! I had thought better of you! Starting fights! My goodness, didn't you learn better than to do that!"

            Okay, never mind the assholes who gave Mokuba a black eye and nearly pulled his arms off; they don't know any better. They can't control themselves. They need our help more than you, Seto, because you can stop yourself. Blah, blah, blah, bullshit.

            We spent two years enduring that crap.

            Then he came along.

            Gozaburo Kaiba, owner of the Kaiba Corporation and six-time national chess champion. I think he proved just how naïve I really was. When I saw him, I thought "Hey, he's rich, he's powerful! He's our ticket out of here!"

            Sorry, Charlie, no can do.

            Gozaburo turned out to be worse than my real father. I was lucky – although lucky really isn't the right word – to see him an hour a day. I was pushed to my limits. I spent hours upon hours studying books bigger than I was, and if I ever fell asleep while studying – even if it was three in the morning – Gozaburo would scream at me for four hours, throwing books at me and telling me how worthless I was.

            I spent four years under that man's fist, and when he died a mysterious death on the top floor of the Kaiba-Corp building – it was mysterious, honest it was – I was made CEO of his corporation.

            Sixteen, and I was now the head of the largest computer software company in Japan. Convention after convention, conference after conference, contract after contract, that's all it is.

            One of these days I swear I'm going to drown in an ocean of ink and paper. I'll die in my office and no one will find me for seven years because they can't wade through all the damned paperwork.

            Sometimes, when it's past midnight and I still have forty-some odd proposals to look over and a project to finish, I wonder why I do it. Why do I go on like this? Why do I continue to push myself this far , why do I go on when it seems like it will never end?

            And it's usually at this time that I'll get a phone call.

            "Hi, Seto," Mokuba will say. "I just called to say goodnight. Try to get some sleep this time. I love you."

            I remember.

            This is why I do it. This is why I push myself, why I go on when it seems hopeless, why I rise against any opposition I come across.

            To hear those three words, those three simple words from the one person in my life who's never let me down, who's never double-crossed me, who's never abandoned me and who's never done anything to hurt me.

            I love you, too, my little Mokuba.

            You make me remember.