The Perfect Role Model?
There was a problem in the Kaiba mansion. The problem, however, was not immediately evident. Only through the sighs and changings of position of one boy did the problem reveal itself. Finally, Mokuba sat up and glared vehemently at his school bag.
"I hate math. Maybe Seto can help me…" Mokuba threw his legs over the edge of his bed and padded down the hall.
A few goons in black silently watched him pass. Otherwise, all was still and quiet. Until he got to his brother's work room, that was.
A constant tapping shot out into the air like individual bullets aimed precisely at a target. Knowing Seto, they would all hit in the bull's-eye. Carefully, Mokuba poked the door open in order to fit his head through. As quiet as he was, however, his brother did not bother to turn; instead, only asking, "What's the matter, Mokuba?"
Well, he was not anxious to answer with how poorly he was doing in math. After all, Seto excelled in it and taught himself now since the school did not have as highly qualified teachers as was needed for him.
So, Mokuba went broader, which was still true. "I'm sick of school."
The typing stopped.
'Well, I got his attention. That might be a good thing. But it could be bad…' Mokuba thought to himself worriedly, biting his lower lip. His fears were confirmed when his brother swiveled on his chair to give his little brother his full attention. That rarely boded for something good.
"You need an education, Mokuba. You can't make it in this world without one."
Greatly daring, Mokuba said, "Yes, I can. You do…you always miss school…" Right away, he knew it was the wrong thing to say.
Seto frowned. "I already have an education. I was taught years ahead of those slackers, so if I miss a few days now and then for work, it does not matter. Besides, you have to get through the basic material still. It is not like you had it all early when I did from Gozaburo."
Mokuba focused on the ground where he was scuffing a shoe pretending his eyes were not about to water.
'What right do I have to think I am finished after all my brother has done? He slaved for Gozaburo…was tortured. If I want to be his brother, I should have to go through the same ordeal. I don't want to bring my brother down because I was not educated enough.' He knew his brother was not blaming him for anything, but Mokuba still could not help but feel pressured to succeed and do well. His brother was a genius, after all, so why wasn't he?
He continued thinking, 'So, I know why everyone wanted Seto. I always have. I just pretended I didn't care. Most of the time, I don't. But now, it seems he is disappointed in me. I have to do well for him, even if it kills me.'
In a small voice, still not looking up, Mokuba said, "Sorry, Seto. I didn't mean to bother you…" Swiftly, Mokuba crept back down the hallway to his room.
There was a problem in the Kaiba mansion, though it was not immediately evident. Through a thick silence and lack of movement, the problem portrayed itself. Eventually, Kaiba gave up staring at his screen, saved his work, and went out.
His brother's room was closed, but he tapped once and went in. Inside, he found Mokuba surrounded by books and papers. Science, English, history, French, and math were all in easy reach, the math open. On a piece of paper filled with cross-outs and pencil erased three times, Mokuba was scrawling out what he hoped was the right work. He was so involved he did not hear his older brother enter.
"Is everything all right, Mokuba?" Seto asked cautiously, not wanting to startle him.
The boy was still startled. "Hmm!" He whirled around, scattering erasers and pencils to the floor. "Oh, I am just doing my homework." He turned back to his work, opening the text to try to puzzle out the instructions and lesson once again.
'Seto likes people who can solve their own problems. I won't ask him for help. Maybe then he'll be proud of me. Besides, I owe it to him to not be a bother. I have already been one for years. He stayed with me when no one wanted me. He shouldn't have. He could have been with a family that would see his skills as talent and helped him along to the best of their ability. Instead, Gozaburo got him and used his ability, all right, but in a way that did not let any more than was necessary out. I am always holding him back. Not this time.'
Uncertain, thinking his brother was lying to him, Seto did not know what to do. In the end, he decided Mokuba would talk when he was ready. "All right then. Good night." He closed the door once more, going back to work.
Placing his head in his arms, Mokuba held back the same tears that had threatened him before. "I will be strong, Seto. I will be just like you. No matter what, I won't ask you for help." Determinedly, trying to forget the quail of his heart, Mokuba began rereading the chapter of math. And he still had an English paper to write.
So it continued. Mokuba hid the truth from his brother, and Seto did not think Mokuba wanted to talk to him about it. Never asking the problem, the CEO sensed nothing odd in the mansion, continuing to work as he normally did. But, to Mokuba, that just showed how much more he had to work.
'Seto sees work as the most important thing. I have to keep working or he'll never appreciate me.'
Last night, he had only gotten four hours of sleep, but he tried to hide how tired he was. What hurt was how easily he hid it from his brother.
"I'm going to school early to study with a teacher," he said, watching Seto's reaction through bleary eyes.
Eyebrows going up, Seto answered, "Well, I'm glad you know how to take responsibility for your own actions. Your teacher is there as a vassal of information, so use him." This comment hid, however, the slight sinking within him that he would not admit to himself—that his brother was asking a teacher before him.
Grabbing his bag and blinking to stay awake, Mokuba headed out the door, calling back a faint goodbye. At least this way the boy would not bother his brother, whose work was far more important than Mokuba's schoolwork that should have been simple for him.
It was the fifth class of the day, but the seventh time a teacher was awakening him. His brother got less sleep than this every night! Mokuba should have been able to handle it!
"Mokuba, why don't you come talk to me?" His science teacher was looking at him worriedly.
With a start, the boy glanced around the room, noticing he was the only one left.
"N-no," he stammered, worried he was in trouble. If so, Seto would hear about this for sure, and Mokuba did not want that. "I have to go to lunch."
With a sigh, his teacher watched him leave as she shook her head. Maybe she should call Mokuba's brother. But then, it was just once. If it continued, Seto Kaiba would be getting a call no matter what.
Feet dragging, Mokuba trudged back home after school, hoping he had brought all his homework. Slowly, his befuddled, foggy mind recalled that he had taken every single book in his locker, so he must have it all covered. Now, he could study every subject and if lucky, get ahead in one of them.
Being tired beyond belief, Mokuba doubted that last hope. He would be satisfied if he finished what was due for tomorrow.
'No!' he told himself sharply. 'I have to do more than that to make my brother proud of me! Seto always does his homework early and reads entire textbooks. There is no reason I should not do the same. There is no reason I can't do the same. I had to get some intelligence, right?'
Immediately upon entering the house, Mokuba bypassed the kitchen where he usually went for a small snack and went upstairs. His door closed softly with a thud.
Seto, waiting for his brother in the kitchen, poked his head out. There were Mokuba's shoes at the doorway. But the boy had decided not to eat the carrots waiting for him on the table.
Softly, Kaiba went up the stairs, knocking on his brother's door.
"Everything all right, Mokuba? Aren't you going to eat anything?"
Mokuba's head was already immersed in a textbook. His brother's small knock had awakened him from falling into another nap. Not turning, he focused on the book's words that seemed to be swimming and crawling in loops across the pages.
"No, Seto. I'll just do my work."
Seto closed the door again, wondering at the change in his brother. Then, deciding having a boy who understood the importance of homework in the house was not a bad thing. Maybe Mokuba was really becoming mature.
Going to his own workroom, Kaiba thought no more on the matter as his fingers flew across the keys with ease.
All right. It had been four hours, and Mokuba had not emerged from his room once. Dinner was cooking and the delectable smells blew upstairs. Kaiba stretched, hit the 'save' button, and went to check on his little brother. A change was good as changes went, but it was odd that such a sudden one had overtaken his brother.
This time, Seto did not knock. Instead, he slowly opened the door and looked within. There was Mokuba, head bent over a book, seeming very interested in whatever he was reading. Deciding that if this change was surprising to him then it must be as difficult for Mokuba to maintain, Seto left. When his brother was through with seeing school as everything, he would stop studying so hard.
In fifteen minutes, a goon knocked on Mokuba's door, summoning him to dinner.
With a start, the boy jerked awake and saw with dismay that he had not gotten any farther in the book than he had when his brother first checked in on him. Groaning with a sinking heart, Mokuba called out:
"I'll just eat in my room! Bring me a plate."
The goon left to do as he wished.
Mokuba nodded with approval as he thought how much Seto would be proud of him for putting work before eating and playing.
That night, Kaiba ate alone. It was not much fun, and the food tasted colder and nastier than it usually did. But he said nothing. Mokuba would decide what was best for himself. At least the boy was still eating. Or rather, he was pretending to. As of then, Seto had yet to see the empty plate come downstairs.
'All right. Now that I caught up on my sleep, though it was a nuisance, I can work the rest of the night!' He looked over at his violin that he was supposed to practice. Yet, to him, practice was fun. Therefore, it was not work and could not be condoned. Mokuba had no time for fun.
He had finally finished the math problems from yesterday, but now he had a whole new set for tonight. Reading the text was hard work, yet it did help clear things up for him. Slowly, it was beginning to make sense.
As for his other subjects, he had finished everything due tomorrow. Now, he just had to study everything they had done since the beginning of the year. Hence, the reason for bringing home his entire locker.
First, though, he had to get through math. Asking his teacher about it had made it clearer while he was there. Now, on his own again, everything was as confusing as before. But math was something he had to do well at. Seto thought it was so easy, but for Mokuba, it was far easier to write a poem or draw a picture. Yet all that and playing his violin was off-limits. What good would such skills do for him later? To help run Kaiba Corporation, Mokuba had to know math, computers, and how to write proposals. Yet, all of that was seldom covered in a twelve-year-old's curriculum. So, if he ever had any extra time, that was what he would have to do: begin to study business.
'I know you'll be pleased with what I'm doing, Seto. I'll be just like you.'
At three in the morning, Mokuba finally gave in to the temptation to go back to sleep. As soon as his head hit the pillow, his mind ceased thinking and sleep overtook him as fast as a galloping horse.
Just two hours later, his alarm went off.
"I set the alarm?" he asked groggily. "Surely there's no reason to get up so early…" Then, with a start, he leaped out of bed. He had to do more work this morning.
First, he reviewed everything he had been studying yesterday, starting with math. Unfortunately, that was also where he ended. It seemed all he had learned had drained out his ears while he was sleeping, leaving him with nothing substantial at all.
At six-thirty, Seto called for Mokuba to come get breakfast. In dismay bordering panic, Mokuba stared at all he had promised he would do this morning. The multiple books leered back at him.
A small tap sounded at the door. "Mokuba, did you hear me? Come eat breakfast."
Mokuba's eyes were as wide as the oranges downstairs waiting for him. "I can't, Seto! I have to do some stuff first. I'll be down soon."
His brother remained firmly in the doorway. "Mokuba, breakfast is too important to skip. You can't have that much to do. Come down right now and eat."
The situation was too much for the boy. He wanted to cry from sheer stress. His brother was yelling at him to stop working, but work was all that was important to Seto! Mokuba bowed his head and slid by his brother. He would never please Seto.
"I'm sorry, Seto," he muttered, going downstairs.
Kaiba did not understand, so he said nothing.
Breakfast was eaten in silence though Mokuba was trying to eat as quickly as possible. At around seven-fifteen, they would leave for school. So, he had some time if he did not choke from gulping too much.
Uneasily, he looked at his brother when he was finished. Seto, sensing his anxiousness, sighed and told him he was free to do whatever he wanted. Mokuba practically dashed up the stairs.
There was so much to remember in so little time! What was worse was seeing something written in his assignment notebook. Quiz today. Yes, he had been studying for all sorts of quizzes. Then, as Mokuba tried to remember the material, his brain was bogged down with all sorts of other information from the beginning of the chapters instead of what was strictly on the test today. In great panic, he raced through his notes, hoping this was not a class he had fallen asleep in. Then, when his brother called for Mokuba to come down to leave for school, the boy jammed everything into his bag and raced down.
Breathlessly, he opened the notebook in the limousine, missing his brother's nearly-hidden disappointed look. So, there was to be no conversation this morning in the car. Mokuba was dropped off first and was in such a rush he forgot to tell his older brother goodbye. Shaking his head, Seto watched him going into the building with a heavy load of books on his back.
'I don't know what has gotten into my brother, but it can't last much longer.'
This time, Mokuba managed to stay awake all during class. But his memory was hardly improved. The quiz had been graded and handed back right away. From one of his favorite classes, science, he had gotten a 'D.'
Mokuba had never gotten such a low grade before. It seemed unfair to him that when he was working to grow smarter he began to do worse in class. There must be some mistake.
His science teacher told him to stay after the other kids left for lunch. Heart pounding, he slowly walked the plank up to her desk.
"Yes, Ms. Dojinschi?" The boy was practically holding his breath.
His teacher looked into his tired, worried eyes. "Mokuba, you fell asleep in my class yesterday; you never fall asleep in my class. And now, you have gotten the lowest grade yet. What is going on?"
"Nothing, ma'am. I'll do better next time, I know I will. It was just an accident. I didn't get all the notes when I fell asleep. But it will never happen again."
She sighed, letting him go after one last line, "Fine, but I hope you're right."
'What do I do? I can't tell Seto about this grade! He'd be so disappointed. But, is my teacher going to tell him? She didn't say so…' Mokuba bit his lip as he went outside to get picked up.
His worst fears seemed acknowledged when his brother was in the limousine. Most often, Seto was home before he was. Their schools did not start at the same time. Usually, Mokuba went early to school in order to practice orchestra. These last two mornings, however, had only been extra study time for him.
"Hello, Seto," he said cautiously. There was no way the boy could tell his brother about the grades if Kaiba did not bring them up himself.
"How was your day?"
Was this a trick? Mokuba debated what to say. Finally, he answered, "Just fine. How was yours?"
Kaiba did not look pleased. He was probably disappointed in Mokuba. He must know the truth. The boy still could say nothing about it.
"Boring. How about a game of chess this evening?"
Mokuba gulped, turning away. "I have a lot to do, Seto…" He could hardly bear to himself refuse his brother a game. Usually, it was the other way around.
Seto leaned back and fell silent, sighing. Somehow, Mokuba had disappointed him again.
Later, up in his room as the shadows lengthened, Mokuba struggled to hold in tears. He had to keep working. There was so much to study and practice. One could never do too much homework. Once the assigned problems were finished, there were others that he could do for more work.
"I will make my brother proud," he whispered to himself. "I deserve to suffer this little bit for what he suffered through for me. I don't care if it kills me first. I'm going to be just like him and a worthy vice-president of the company my brother worked hard to create. Maybe I can't do everything I loved like before, but I know I'll get used to it. One day, Seto won't be disappointed in me."
That was what Mokuba solemnly vowed. Then, forcing his brain back on task, he began to reread the new section in math.