Summary: How much failure and loneliness can a person take before they just retreat…within themselves? Life's not easy, not even for Kaiba Seto. No one, not even his brother, has understood just what he felt when growing up, or how much he held inside, and so no one understands him now. But, when there is a chance for him to finally let out his true past, to finally let everyone know what he went through, what will his choice be?

Author's Note: Through research, psychologists have surmised that our bitter tastebuds are so strong because they used to be a way of survival. Long ago, through evolution, those with the ability to taste bitterness survived because poisonous foods commonly have a bitter taste. This way, prehistoric humans would not eat the poisonous food because of its bad flavor, or if they did eat it, they would spit it out again.

"Niisama" is big brother in Japanese—the formal way. The informal, cute way is "oniichan." It is like the difference in "Father" and "Daddy."

This chapter and story is dedicated to The Fifth Champion, a dear friend who has helped me along with my writing and has been waiting to see this dedication for too long. Thanks for always encouraging me and being there to see me through hard times! It is the thought of people like you reading this that really urges me to continue working even when the world crumbles (yes, I'm always melodramatic).

Prologue

If anyone had bothered to ask me if everything was all right that day, I would have scoffed at their question and not graced it with a reply. When wasn't I fine?

Such an inexistent person would have shrugged and continued on their way, forgetting me as efficiently as I had already forgotten them. Yes, the idiots of the world always seem to flock to me…that would have been my last thought on the matter. The last thought I would have allowed myself on the matter. And, I would have gotten back to worthwhile pursuits in my life, such as going to my office.

Usually, my mind managed to stay on task well there, but there were always a few items that managed to attract its attention.

If ever there were something I regretted, it was the sight of the briefcase next to me in my office. There they were, the wonderful cards I had worked so hard to collect, yearned so desperately for years before, struggled ceaselessly to make something of myself in order to deserve and pay for them. The cards had never let me down. No, not the Blue-Eyes White Dragons. They were unbeatable. But, somehow, I had failed them.

Thus they would sit beside me, travel everywhere with me, but their coldly accusing stares were more than I could bear. I didn't duel anymore. I may have pretended work was more important than dueling, but I couldn't hide the truth from myself. I didn't deserve to duel anymore. Dueling was reserved for those who succeeded and won. I had failed three times. Twice to Yugi, once to Pegasus. And, if it counted, once to Dartz. But, technically, since Yugi still won that duel, I didn't officially lose.

True duelists would always keep going, always strive to be better. I don't deserve to be a true duelist. Sometimes, defeat must just be accepted. It doesn't do to strain for a reach that will never happen. To lose is to die, as someone important once taught me.

So, I ignored their malevolent stares and sat alone at my computer each day. As close to death as I cared to get at that time.

On a typical day, being still and silent for hours, getting pages and pages of work completed was natural. People could come in and hesitantly ask a question, and I would snap out the answer before they'd hardly started. Usually.

Yet, today, the sounds of the office had snatched away my attention as I traveled up to my solitary room…tapping of keys, clicks of the mouse, ringing of the phone, beeps of the intercom, voices from workers, and ticks of the clock.

Usually, such sounds fade away as the mind delves completely into the work mode on the journey to my office. They become simply another part of the atmosphere, and when all those sounds enveloped me when I was somewhere else, the work ethic would grab me with its intoxicating addicting clutch and only relinquish me after long hours had passed.

This day, for some odd reason, the computer screen was blank in front of me. Charts and notes I could have been looking at. Business associates I could be mailing or calling. Even underlings I could be warning. But, I wasn't doing anything but sitting there.

Slipping into the accustomed facial expression my stepfather had granted me with his teacher, I just stared at the screen, listening to the sounds around me. Even if walls and closed door blockaded the area between me and everyone else even if there were floors to shut me out, today I heard them.

Chatter.

Tapping.

I tried to focus on a single sentence, even a single product. More work was always begging to be completed. I shouldn't have been struggling like that.

Steps.

Ringing.

Couldn't anyone ever be silent? How was someone supposed to work in such an evironment? Now, the method of Chinese water torture, dropping liquid steadily onto one's head, revealed its process and usefulness to me. Such a personalized study of the torture was enough to drive a person mad within a day.

Clicks.

Sighs.

The page before my eyes was still empty. Completely forgotten. I didn't know why it was this day of all days. I couldn't have explained what came over me or why my thoughts took such a turn. At least, I couldn't right then.

Beeps.

All the milling of sounds went through my mind and softened until just one remained. One that was within the very room I was in and within my very heart and soul…One frightful, constant, steady sound:

Ticks…

Chapter 1

My mother died when I was five. There should probably follow some paragraph of remorse on how her death traumatized me to the extent of never allowing me to grow close to anyone again. Perhaps, such an explanation would include a hypothesis of why I'm overall such a cold-blooded bastard. Surely, some psychologists would see my later actions as a complete result of such an experience and claim me innocent of my own actions today. At least, I'm sure some self-righteous American idealist would take a look at my history and see reason to bring me to trial against any who despise me in order to prove that yet again, everyone is a victim and cannot be in control of their actions. A Nation of Idiots. (1)

Then again, maybe her death did include some reasons for the above. But, I'm not the best one to talk about for that. I don't really remember her.

However, I do remember what happened because of her death.

My mother's death devastated my father. Any person believing in romantic love would find this plausible and even desirable. But, this was an uneasy predicament because my mother had left behind my little brother. Most of the time, stories of self-sacrificing suicide, such as Romeo and Juliet, leave out that little factor. My father, however, did not catch the change in plotlines. He remained steadfastly true to the romantic ideals of aged European males long rotted away from the earth and knowledgeable in their decomposition that their own ideas had ceased to be of use. Those who knew death was but a short span away learned their wonderful glorification of the downward path was, though they never dared admit it, incorrect. Death was not so delightful. Hypocrites. But it did not stop those of weak intellect in following their example.

In other words, my father was unable to take care of my younger brother, and I was left to do it.

I think it was because of this that Mokuba's required connections to a living, warm body shifted to me instead of someone more common for the role. Instead of his mother, Mokuba turned to me. Instead of his father, I was the one searching fruitlessly for ways to amuse him and hopelessly attempt to make him stop crying. Sometimes, such actions of utter calm solicitude to his needs were because of an odd sense of responsibility that had developed as my remaining parent ceased to do the requirements to be remotely considered for that name. More often, it was because of a growing headache.

Back then, I know I didn't understand all of what I did now. Maybe, it was because of my new responsibility that I developed some cognitive reasoning early. Thus would the experts in certain fields triumphantly turn towards their opponents and claim environment over hereditary. Such fools would look the other way as such adversaries rejoiced to hear me claim that perhaps my new responsibility brought out the inherited trait sooner than most. Regardless of the ongoing battle between various psychologists, there was a spark of pride when I discovered just what habits made the squealing miniature adult close his mouth for at least thirty minutes. And, from then on, I was in control. Had my father stepped in once more to regain not his primitive role—that would have been chasing and tracking beasts for energetic properties and considering anything moving within a proximity of one hundred feet as a threat—but a newer one developing from circumstances, I could have relinquished it without protest.

Still, he never did.

Therefore, I do know from later research that what proceeded was completely ordinary. Infant attachment. I was Mokuba's "mother" because his father had decided the dead had more important bonds to share with him.

Sometimes, in amusement, I regard my brother as a more primitive life form than the species Homo sapiens. It seems his attachment was just waiting around for someone to approach him that he could love, making it all appear more like imprinting than anything else. Yes, imprinting. The way many birds wait for the first large object to come into view after hatching to follow around and consider "mother." Sometimes, that needed "mother" ended up being a human or a dog, and after the initial sighting, the birds forever attempted to do whatever their "mother" did. I know Mokuba's not like that. But, our circumstances helped form him into a closer brother than most families would have. Or so I conjecture.

In a certain perverse way, it was a blessing, some would say, that Mokuba did not connect with my father and pour out of his tiny being his complete trust and utter affectation. For, just three years later, my father was gone, too. Then again, it was not as if he had ever so much as tried to be a sentient being in our lives during the interlude. His was a living death before his body faded in one climatic burst of glass, gore, and speed.

Regardless of his personal choices, that was when I became a man. It didn't matter that I was eight years old. I was simply an adult. Now, I had to be Mokuba's "father" as well. Already being his mother, the last step wasn't too difficult. Besides, my biological kin had never believed me to be anything but his parents.


"The strain was too great on his mind. We'll run some tests, see what happened. But, there's no telling if he will ever come out of this state he is in."

Cold, crisp, the doctor's words fell to deaf ears.

"You're wrong!" Mokuba said sharply. "My brother would never lose his mind, never! He's smarter than anyone! And he knows what will happen if he stays this way," the boy added softly, hand going to the card locket around his neck.

"Yes, as to your personal arrangements…the social workers are on their way." The doctor glances away from the stricken face. "It's just how things work. As your legal guardian and being unable to function, Mr. Kaiba can no longer keep you with him. But, if your brother ever comes out of this state with little damage, you'll be able to reside with him once more."

The boy ignored the words and looked into the small room, begging with his shining eyes that his brother would do something. Something besides stare blankly at the wall. But the eyes, once Mokuba could even try to see into them, were dull and reflected his own look back.

"Please, niisama. Please."

Behind him, the footfalls of two sets of neat feet, one set clicking heels, came to a halt. It was obvious they were exchanging glances with the doctor, and the young Kaiba could guess what the doctor was trying to convey to them. Probably out of sympathy, or rather, out of a reason disguised as sympathy, a heavy hand rested on Mokuba's shoulder suddenly, heating it unnaturally.

It was the woman who spoke, "Kaiba Mokuba, I'm here to pick you up. The doctors informed us of Mr. Kaiba's predicament. Perhaps you want to say goodbye?"

The woman was looking at the doctor for permission, and while he had the look why-did-you-tell-him-that-when-his-brother-won't-even-notice-him-you'll-just-break-the-kid's-heart the doctor said nothing negative.

As the door was being unlocked, the boy shrugged off the male social worker's hand and waited. Then, the gaping hole just biding its time before it, too, could swallow him, Mokuba went into the room.

Though there was a loud snick—louder because of the silence within—as the door clanged shut, the young man within did not react. There was not even a brief blink to clean the eyes going dry from the small wind both the moving boy and door had caused.

"Seto…" Desperate for some sort of reaction, Mokuba grabbed a limp hand and held it in both of his own.

Some ways, the young man's state was worse than a coma. At least, in a coma, there was a reason for no reaction. But like this, awake and aware but doing nothing…it was as if he had given up on the world and everyone in it. Including his younger brother.

There had been no damage to any part of his brain that the tests showed. Whatever had happened occurred because of an outside force, a non-biological factor.

"They're taking me away. I won't be able to come see you anymore. So," he said blinking rapidly, "I want you to know that's why I'll be gone. It isn't because of something else. I'll always be there for you, niisama, even if I am miles away. Remember that!"

Hand trembling, he placed it over his brother's amulet, wishing a different hand held the necklace instead of his own. Then, from a tap on the window indicating haste, Mokuba dropped the lifeless hand and hugged his brother one last time. But, it did not feel right because there was no return hug.

Cold, forlorn, not even his shoulder retaining the unnaturally hot feeling, Mokuba allowed the two social workers to lead him away.


(1): A book under the title of A Nation of Victims includes stories and descriptions of pathetic American lawsuits that won money. A good example is of the person who sued and won for coffee not having the label of "hot" and he was burned.

Please review, and thanks for those who do. Maybe you're confused right now, but read on and questions will be answered.