Lost Souls Live Not Forever

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters (except for Alphonse and the maids) aren't mine, the story is, and this is sibling cuteness! There are spoilers for the end of the KaibaCorp Grand Prix mini-arc and for Von Schroider's past, but if you already know what happened or else don't care if you learn it now, this shouldn't bother you. Also, for some things I've added my own take, such as the fate of Siegfried and Leonhard's father. As far as I know, no one knows what happened to him after he was no longer the CEO. As for the timeline of the story, it takes place immediately after the Grand Prix and into the Pharaoh's Memories time-period. It ends shortly before the end of the final Yu-Gi-Oh episode, as you will see if you know about what happens then. In this revised version of the story, I have expanded on several scenes, as well as changing "Schraider" to the correct "Schroider." I have also adjusted ages to make more sense. Siegfried is twenty-two, while Leonhard is thirteen.

I'm a fool.

The pink-haired man leaned back in the exquisitely designed bathtub, his eyes narrowed. He had just returned to Germany from America the previous day, and it was just now fully dawning on him that he had caused extensive damage to his own company and reputation by his actions during the KaibaCorp Grand Prix. Everything had occurred so quickly and in such a whirlwind of events that he had not had time to truly think about it all before now. Now, when there was at last a lull in the action, he could fully muse over the experience and the consequences.

Of course, he had never intended for things to transpire as they had. Even though he had wanted Seto Kaiba to figure out who was behind the strange viruses, he had not intended to lose the duel between him and Seto and to end up disqualified. He had also not intended for Leonhard to refuse to help him any further.

I trusted him to do whatever I asked, because of how he idolizes me. I took him for granted. But he is a much better person than I am. And perhaps, he realized sooner than I did how useless my attempts to destroy the Kaiba Corporation were. I was still too caught up in my own obsession to realize how I was using him. I didn't realize the consequences of any of my actions. I could only think about at last bringing my company out from Kaiba's shadow and being recognized as the best. By destroying KaibaCorp, my gaming business would have been the main one. I never considered what would happen if my actions were discovered and halted, nor what the public reaction would be.

He clenched a fist tightly, stopping short of drawing blood. If anyone had been in the room at the time, they would have been stunned at the changes in his personality. The servants, as far as he was aware, knew him as the eccentric, arrogant, calm, and level-headed businessman and CEO of the Schroider company. They knew little or nothing of his burning desire to be the best, or that he felt that he was always living in Seto's shadow. They were probably just as stunned and appalled as everyone else had been at the news of how he had tried to infect KaibaCorp with the destructive viruses.

The board of directors were definitely not pleased. He had received several messages from them upon his return, ranging from demanding to know what he had been thinking to how they wanted to organize a meeting right away to discuss what they were going to do now. The Schroider company's reputation had been demolished overnight. It would take a miracle to set it back on its feet after this.

Leonhard's reputation has been damaged as well. I have heard it said that some do not know what to think about him now that they know his true last name is Von Schroider and not Wilson. But they should not think poorly of him. He refused to go through with my plan, and that was broadcast internationally. They are basing their views on his surname only. What have I done? What far-reaching consequences are my actions going to continue having? My brother doesn't deserve this. I never meant for any of this to hurt him!

He stared at his hands blankly, then off at the opposite wall. He and Leonhard had been close once. As children, they had happily played together and had been each other's best friend. But as the years went on and as they grew older, he was taken away for long hours to learn the principles and strategies of business. He had been being groomed to take over the family company, but not just that—he had been trained to make the Schroider company better than KaibaCorp because of how his father was displeased by the rivalry of Gozaburo's company. Knowing that Seto would one day inherit KaibaCorp, the man had intensified his own son's training. It had been drilled into him that he had to concentrate on that and only that. If he could not be better than Seto Kaiba, then he was not good enough for his father. He had longed to have time away from the grueling lessons that never seemed to end, but it had not been allowed. Leonhard grew sad and lonely without his brother around and eventually turned to dueling to entertain himself.

I never expected to be forced to take over the company so soon . . . but after my father had a nervous breakdown and was no longer fit to run it, there was nothing else I could do. I tried to change the company so that it was no longer a weapons manufacturer, but a gaming corporation. Then I discovered that Kaiba had done the same thing when he had taken KaibaCorp away from Gozaburo. And once again, I was in his shadow. My father always felt that nothing I ever did was good enough. When this happened, he was disgusted.

The business world is a cruel circus. He taught that to me . . . he drilled it into my heart and soul. And I taught it to Leonhard, but he rejected it. I wonder . . . is Kaiba still better than me? Would he resort to the tactics that I used? Somehow he doubted it. The underhanded measures that he had used had seemed to revolt Seto Kaiba. He could not imagine the younger CEO ever masquerading under an assumed name nor trying to infect a rival company's computers with viruses. Slowly he frowned. Seto had proven himself better than Siegfried Von Schroider once again, this time by what he would not do.

Slowly he climbed out of the bathtub, wrapping a towel around his waist. He dried at his long hair slowly with another towel, continuing to ponder over what had transpired over the past few days. He knew he had changed. He felt sobered by the realizations of what his actions had caused and likely were going to continue causing in the near future. As he ran the towel through his hair, he thought of how he often had his servants doing his every bidding, including drying his hair for him. Now he just wanted to be alone to think. Any interruption, even that of a servant, would be an annoyance right now.

He narrowed his eyes as he became aware that someone had just entered the room. The footsteps echoed off the marble walls, even though the person was obviously trying to be as quiet as possible.

"What is it?" he asked, assuming it to be one of the maids. "Didn't I say I didn't want to be disturbed?"

"I've come to talk with you, Von Schroider."

Siegfried frowned, recognizing the voice as belonging to the senior member of his board of directors, Alphonse Schneider. "You should have knocked," he said smoothly and arrogantly, continuing to dry at his hair and thinking that Alphonse had no right to barge into the room as he had. "Anyway, wasn't our meeting set for tomorrow?"

A growl was his answer. "I'm sick of watching what's happening to this company!" Alphonse yelled. "I've been with it since your father was the CEO, and it's been declining ever since he decided to begin a rivalry with the Kaiba Corporation! It's no wonder he ended up too incompetent to run the company—he became too obsessed with defeating the Kaibas, just like you! Only you have taken it much further. I can't believe how you disgraced us with your idiocy!" He stomped hard on the tiled floor. "Trying to put viruses in the entire KaibaCorp computer system? What in Heaven and Earth is the matter with you?"

Inwardly sighing, Siegfried turned to face him, still holding the towel he was using on his hair. Obviously Alphonse was not intending to leave any time soon. "Who are you to question me? I will fix it," Siegfried said firmly. "I brought this upon the Schroider company and I will set it right again."

The fifty-year-old Alphonse glared at him coldly with his flashing, beady, gray eyes. "Your father gave up and shot himself," he announced. "He lost faith in you all those years ago, and I've lost faith in you too. But you're not like him, are you? You're not going to kill yourself."

Siegfried was highly annoyed that Alphonse had brought his father into this. In spite of everything that the man had put him through, Siegfried still loved him somewhere in his heart. He was the only father he had, and he had wanted so desperately to move out from Seto's shadow and to be considered the best in his father's eyes. That had never happened. For years he had been fighting the ghosts of the past.

The problem was, there was no way to fight a ghost. They could not die, for they were already dead. They could not be captured because they would slip through every trap. His father's ghost lived in his heart, tormenting him at every available chance and reminding him that if he had only succeeded in what he had been trained to do, the senior Von Schroider would not have gone mad with despair and killed himself. Siegfried blamed himself for what had happened, though he refused to admit it even to himself. There was a lot that he refused to admit.

"No," he answered at last. "I will not. What good would that do? Then Leonhard would be put into the same position as I was before. He would be forced to take over the company, with my ghost constantly hovering over him." He set the towel aside, frowning at Alphonse before turning away slightly. "I have not even tried to have him trained in business yet, as you know. I believe he should be able to enjoy these years of his life." He paused. "Now I would like it if you would leave. I did not invite you here, and I fully intend to attend the meeting in the morning, if that is what you are concerned about."

Alphonse reached slowly into his suit pocket, ignoring Siegfried's last statement. "I'm the one who should be the CEO," he cried, his jealousy fueled by his anger and hatred. "Not you, you arrogant, conceited, pompous . . . child!" he finished at last, spitting out the word with disdain. "You had no idea what you were doing when you took control of the Schroider Corporation! And I don't have any more patience to put up with you and your infantile rivalry with Seto Kaiba! I actually know how this company should be run, unlike you and your pathetic family!" Siegfried turned to look at him in outrage, but he was not able to stop Alphonse from fir g the revolver he was clutching tightly in his hand. "I'm sick of being your subordinate!" he screamed over the noise of the bullet.

With a gasp the businessman staggered back, staring blankly at the blood that was dripping from his wound and to the floor. He shot me. . . . He found it hard to comprehend at first. His thoughts tumbled over themselves in a confused mess. He had trusted Alphonse to a certain extent, especially since he had been with the company the longest. He had expected disagreements and arguing after what he had done, but not such open betrayal.

Alphonse fired again, catching him in the chest once more. Though Siegfried tried to straighten up, he found himself crashing to the floor, his hair flying out around him. A third bullet went into his back and he hissed in pain, gripping at the marble tiles.

Trembling, he tried to look up at the crazed man standing over him. "I . . . I did not realize you felt so strongly about this as to commit murder," he remarked. The pain shooting through his body was incredible. He had not realized it was possible to physically hurt so much. His father had whipped him as a child, but never severely, and he doubted that being whipped could ever feel as painful as this. Blood came to his lips and he knew that his injuries were serious.

"Now you do," Alphonse sneered. "The story will be that you killed yourself out of shame, the way your father did. No one who could determine the truth shall have to see your body. Then I and the other board members will take control of the Schroider company and bring it to its glory. Leonhard will be publicly proclaimed the new CEO, but he will lead the corporation in name only." He held the gun out again to fatally shoot Siegfried in the head. Leaving him alive at all was too dangerous. He likely would not survive with his current wounds, if no one found him in time, but Alphonse would take no chances. He had led the servants to believe that there was commotion in several other parts of the manor, but they would realize that they had been fooled soon enough.

Siegfried barely managed to move out of the way as the gun was fired again. He felt it brush past his hair and graze his cheek, and inwardly he growled. He had known for some time that Alphonse held ill feelings for him, but indeed, he had never thought that the older man would take his rage so far. Was that what he himself could have become, if he had lived long enough to be in the business world as long as Alphonse had? Was that what the "cruel circus" eventually did to anyone's mind if they became involved? Maybe through Alphonse, he was being shown how he could have ended up, had he not realized it was fruitless to continue his attempt to destroy KaibaCorp. Again he struggled to rise.

Alphonse cursed, advancing again. "Give it up, Von Schroider," he ordered. "You know you're done for. Accept your death and get it over with."

Siegfried forced himself to weakly lunge, grabbing the older man around his legs and dragging him to the floor. Desperately he wrestled with Alphonse over the gun, aware that his wounds were steadily bleeding and that he was likely to pass out from blood loss before long. But if he allowed that to happen, he knew that he would die for certain. Alphonse would never leave him alive, especially if he fell unconscious and was not able to defend himself. Why doesn't anyone come? he had to wonder. Didn't anyone hear the gunshots?

Alphonse sneered maniacally, struggling to pull the trigger again during a moment when the gun was pointed at Siegfried's chest. In response Siegfried punched him with his free hand, dazing him just long enough to enable Siegfried to claim the gun and struggle to get up.

Again he was overwhelmed by the pain, including the new aches that he was feeling in his hand. It seems that I hurt myself more than I hurt him, he thought dryly. He simply was not used to physical fights. In the past he had actually never been forced to fight for his life in this way. And during this brief battle, he had ignored his protesting body and had only sought his own survival. But now the pain was impossible to ignore. He knew that he would not get far, but if he could just leave the room and get out into the hall. . . .

His vision blurred in front of him as he doubled over in agony, but still he struggled to move forward. He could hear Alphonse getting up behind him. His hand shaking, he fired the gun at the floor near where the older man was and heard him curse as he tried to keep himself from being shot in the foot. If Siegfried could just keep him away long enough. . . .

He took several steps forward, swaying violently. Quickly he reached out and grabbed the first pillar he came to, suddenly remembering what lay just below the tile next to it. There were several trapdoors throughout the building, and one of them had been installed there. The button that operated it was just across the room. If he could get Alphonse to step there at the same time he, Siegfried, managed to press the button, then the would-be murderer would be trapped in the tunnel below and Siegfried could have him arrested.

He turned, seeing that Alphonse was coming. He dove out of the way, barely succeeding in grabbing on to the next pillar right before Alphonse would have seized him. As he gripped the cold stone, he coughed into his other hand and then stared almost blankly at the redness coating it. Coughing up blood was never a good sign.

Narrowing his eyes, he grabbed the gun and turned to face Alphonse, who had been about to move away from the first pillar to attempt taking him by surprise. "Get back where you were," he ordered, shakily pointing the gun at the older man. Alphonse snarled, hating the fact that his nemesis had control of the gun, but slowly he stepped back onto the panel. Abruptly Siegfried turned, firing the final bullet at the wall. Even as Alphonse began to yell "What are you doing?" the panel opened and swallowed him, sending him falling down into the tunnel under the manor.

Siegfried let the gun clatter to the floor. He knew it was impossible to consider moving much farther. Still, he forced himself to walk and then crawl the rest of the way into the hall, slamming the bathroom door shut behind him. The hall was empty. There was no sign of any of his maids or butlers, but he cried loudly for someone to call the police. Feeling dizziness come over him again, and more insistently, he ended up crashing to the floor.

He had to wonder if he was actually going to die. What would happen to Leonhard then? Would the board of directors go ahead with the plan even without Alphonse to lead them, or would he even have a crafty lawyer who would manage to keep him out of jail? If Siegfried died, there would be no one to prove that he had been murdered—unless someone else found his body and found where the bullets had entered through his flesh. It would have been physically impossible for him to shoot himself in the back from that angle.

He closed his eyes wearily, listening for any sounds of anyone coming. What had Alphonse done with all of the servants? What if Leonhard had already been taken by some of the man's cohorts? Siegfried felt revulsion and horror at this thought, but he knew he could never get up again and go upstairs to find if his brother was still there. He was forced to lay where he was, barely alive.

Leonhard knew when he heard the shots that something had to be wrong. Paling, he left his room and ran down the long, twisting hall, screaming for his brother. All the way, thoughts tumbled over themselves in his mind. What had happened and why? He knew that Siegfried had been somewhat depressed and taciturn since they had returned to Germany yesterday after the KaibaCorp Grand Prix tournament had ended. He knew that the Schroider company's reputation was damaged now, thanks to Siegfried's actions of hatred and revenge, and that Siegfried was afraid that Leonhard's own reputation would be tarnished because they were brothers. Would Siegfried actually consider . . . No! Leonhard refused to believe that. Siegfried was not trying to kill himself. He was not like their father. Siegfried would not consider that the only way out.

But then . . . what was the explanation for the gunshots?

The boy felt dizzy as he reached the end of the hall and found the stairs, his footsteps echoing eerily as if he was in a mausoleum. When he went downstairs and nearly slipped in a puddle of blood, he cried out and grabbed for anything he could to support himself. He barely managed to grab at the wall before he would have lost his balance. His heart pounding, he looked around the expansive hallway, once again calling for Siegfried. This time he heard a weak reply.

"Leonhard . . . I'm over here. . . ."

The magenta-haired child ran in the direction of the voice, behind the staircase. His heart caught in his throat when he saw Siegfried sprawled on the floor, covered only by a towel around his waist and bleeding from several different, serious-looking wounds. One was in his back, where he could not have self-inflicted it. Leonhard had to admit that he was relieved to see that, though at the same time he of course was still horrified that Siegfried had been hurt at all.

"What happened!" he cried out, kneeling down next to his elder brother.

Siegfried struggled to rise and found that he simply did not have the strength. "Alphonse Schneider," he managed to say, shuddering as he coughed up more blood. "He . . . he broke into the house and did this to me. . . . I didn't realize what he was up to until it was too late. He and the other members of the board of directors have betrayed our family . . . because of me. . . ."

Leonhard shook as he reached for his brother, trying to see how badly he was injured. After a moment Siegfried tried to push himself into a sitting position, draping an arm around Leonhard's shoulders for support. "You should stay down!" Leonhard cried in protest. Siegfried sagged against him and the boy tried to steady him by placing an arm around him. At first Leonhard was not aware of the tears in his eyes, but when they spilled over he realized.

Siegfried closed his eyes wearily, his long pink locks falling around his shoulders and face. "I am . . . not going to live," he said quietly. Leonhard still idolized him, so Siegfried knew the boy would take this news hard, but it was the truth and Siegfried was not in the habit of playing things down for his brother's sake. He had always let Leonhard in on everything . . . even when he should not have. He narrowed his eyes, remembering again their recent misadventures during the Grand Prix and how he had wanted Leonhard to duel using the card that was infected by a virus that would disrupt KaibaCorp. "Whatever happens, you have to make certain that the board of directors are not able to go through with their plot. . . . Your life will be miserable if they succeed. . . ."

"Elder brother . . . no," Leonhard whispered, still trembling. "If you die, that will make my life miserable!" He could feel how limp and weak Siegfried was. It was hard for him to continue struggling to hold up his body. He knew that what the man said was likely the truth, but this seemed too treacherous to be true. At the end of the Grand Prix, the brothers had embraced and Leonhard had felt closer to Siegfried than he had in years. Now, on only the next day, he was finding that the man was dying due to a deliberate act of hatred. An eye for an eye . . . one act of hatred for another . . . but what Siegfried had done was not deserving of death. That was much too harsh.

"You've always looked up to me . . . but I . . . I haven't treated you as I should have," Siegfried acknowledged quietly, his voice taking on a rasping effect. "I'm not worthy of your admiration." Though the brothers had not been close for years, as children they had been almost inseparable. Siegfried regretted how far apart they had become due to the pressure he had been put under to keep the Schroider company running. If he had the chance to try again he would try to make it different—but such thoughts were pointless now. "I haven't treated you as any caring older brother should have. . . ."

Leonhard wanted to embrace him, and he would have, had he not feared injuring him worse. "No!" he sobbed. "That isn't true! You . . . you've always been my best friend. You always will be! Siegfried . . . you can't die! I'll call an ambulance and everything will be alright. . . ." He could not stand to see his brother in such agony. Even though the man was trying not to let Leonhard see just how badly pained he was, it was obvious. There was no way he could hide it.

"I'm afraid not," Siegfried replied as his vision began to slip out of focus again. This time it was worse than before. He could not fight the inevitable any longer. He only regretted that it had to be this way. His brother had been the only person who had loved Siegfried unconditionally, and Siegfried hated leaving him alone now. "Leonhard . . . I'm sorry . . . I am truly sorry. . . . Auf Wiedersehen. . . ." He barely managed to choke out his farewell before darkness claimed him.

Leonhard was frozen as the full weight of his brother's body crashed against him. He remained in the same position for what seemed ages, though it was only a few seconds. His only family, the person he idolized above any other, was dead. Slowly he began to tremble, tears running down his freckled face. "No," he whispered, cradling Siegfried close to him as the tears continued to insist on falling. "No, elder brother . . . no! You can't die . . . no. . . ." He could tell that the man had stopped breathing.

A terrible feeling of loneliness swept over the child as he buried his face in Siegfried's soft pink hair. He was alone now. Their father had killed himself, their mother had died a year or so ago from a severe case of pneumonia, and now Siegfried had been murdered.

The brothers happily ran through the manor that served as their home, playing tag and hide-and-go-seek and anything else that came to their minds. The servants watched them with amusement, stepping out of their way as they ran past. The few who had been employed in the Von Schroider family for many years gazed after the children with sadness. They knew what would happen when Siegfried was older, as it had happened to his father as well. The man had been driven to obsess over his company above all else, and in recent years, he had come to believe all the more that if he was not the best, it was not good enough. He was decidedly unhappy with the competition of the other weapons company, KaibaCorp, and old Helga in particular had noticed how he had been keeping longer hours at the family business than before.

"That poor child," she said softly, watching as Leonhard chased after Siegfried and playfully tackled him. "He's so happy now . . . but that will all change soon. What will happen to him then, and to his brother? I would hate to see them drift apart." Siegfried had recently turned thirteen, and Helga knew that his father would want to begin training him soon to take over the company. The man's own training had begun when he had been thirteen, and it was likely that he would pass that along to Siegfried.

Heidi, one of the younger housekeepers, blinked at Helga curiously. "Was Meister Von Schroider really like Siegfried as a child?" she asked her in awe. It was hard for her to even comprehend such a thing, but she knew that Helga often spoke of it. The way things were now, Siegfried and his father seemed like complete opposites.

"Indeed," the elderly woman nodded, and added with a sad sigh, "but I am afraid that Siegfried will end up just as Meister Von Schroider is now. This is what happens in business families, many a time." Sometimes she and her contemporaries would sit and talk about the business families they served. It seemed to Helga that the same sad story played out in all of them.

Heidi bit her lip. "But . . . Meister Von Schroider is so arrogant that he doesn't even think about his own family!" she exclaimed, making certain to speak low enough that only Helga would hear her. "I would hate to see Siegfried become like that. . . . He loves his brother so much. . . ."

Helga nodded sadly. "I would hate to see it as well," she replied. She supposed there was the chance that Siegfried would turn out differently, but she did not hold out much hope for him. And she knew how lonely Leonhard would become once the parents decided to start training Siegfried to take over the company. It was tragic for all involved.

The Von Schroider children tiptoed quietly past their father's home office door when they reached it. On the occasions when he chose to work at home, he always gave strict orders not to be disturbed. Siegfried and Leonhard had found out in the past just how serious he was about the order, as they had both been whipped for playing in the hall outside the office door.

Leonhard sighed, gripping at his elder brother's hand. "Why is Father like he is?" he asked then, blinking up into Siegfried's green eyes. He was too young to understand about business and how important it was to the man, and he wondered if all fathers were like theirs. It did not seem right to him, somehow.

Siegfried sighed too, ruffling the younger boy's deep magenta locks. "He has a lot of things he needs to do," he tried to explain. "And he worries about it."

Leonhard gripped his hand tighter. "But doesn't he want to be with us?" he wondered. Their mother was hardly ever around, either, as she was often gone to social parties. Most of the time the boys were left on their own, though even then Siegfried had been forced to attend various social and business events in order to see how it all worked. Actually, he was not that impressed. And the last thing the thirteen-year-old wanted was to ever end up like their father. He could not imagine that the man was truly happy.

Now Siegfried was not even certain how to answer his brother's innocent and important question. He did not feel as though he should speak for their father. "Of course he does," he said then. "He just . . . doesn't always remember it, I suppose."

Leonhard frowned. "Are you gonna havta run the company sometime?" He had heard their parents talking about it every now and then, and he always hated the idea. If Siegfried took over the business, then he would no longer have time for Leonhard, the child was certain. And they did not have any true friends, so Leonhard knew that then he would be all alone. He was certain that Siegfried would not even enjoy a life such as their father led.

"Sometime," Siegfried agreed. By now they had walked over to a window and were looking out at the scenery stretching across the family property. Leonhard had always loved and been fascinated by the dense trees and the stream that led to the nearby waterfall. He liked to pretend that it was the setting for one of the fairy tale stories he always enjoyed hearing. Siegfried often told him the stories at bedtime, and that was the beginning of his fascination with them.

"I don't want you to," Leonhard frowned.

"I'll have to, anyway," Siegfried answered in slight irritation. "It's my duty to the family." How many times had he been told that already? Any time he had expressed a desire not to have to run the company in the future, he had been slapped and told how he owed it to his parents and those before them. He had to carry on the legacy of the Von Schroiders. What his parents did not understand was that he simply did not think that the way his father was running the company was turning out to be successful. He wanted to run it his own way. That was his dream. He was certain that his way would be better.

The four-year-old Leonhard pouted. He had been told of their duty as well, but that did not mean he had to like it. "But you'll end up like Father," he protested. "Then you won't be around anymore. . . ."

Siegfried shot him a look. That was one of his worries as well, not that he was ever allowed to express it. At last he sighed, his shoulders slumping. "You're right," he admitted. "But . . . maybe it wouldn't have to be that way. . . . Maybe I could be different than him, if I tried."

"Really?" Leonhard chirped hopefully. "You'd try?" He bit his lip and looked down sadly. "I don't want to havta lose my best friend. . . ."

Gently Siegfried reached out and pulled him into a hug. "You won't," he said firmly. In the years to come, he would remember what he had told his brother and bitterly think how he broken his promise. Everything had happened just as Leonhard—and he himself—had feared. He did indeed become as his father was.

Things quickly began to change from that point on, and it was beyond Siegfried's control. Two years passed by. He was now fifteen, and for the last two years, he had been pressured to study business whenever he was not working on his school courses with his private tutor. His mother made certain that Siegfried kept to the tight schedule that had been set for him. He was not able to be with Leonhard much at all anymore, except on the weekends, and even those were being taken away from them. The weekends were when he was unwillingly taken to the social events by Frau Von Schroider.

Six-year-old Leonhard was ignored by most everyone, sadly. All of their attention was focused on Siegfried becoming the future CEO of the family business, so Leonhard had to play by himself. He had learned to read at an early age and had developed a love of books. He had devoured every fairy tale and fantasy story he could find. They reminded him of happier times when he had been with his brother, since Siegfried had told him the stories years before. His renewed interest in them had led him to Duel Monsters. He was still learning the game, but it was something fun for him to do during the long hours he spent alone.

It was so hard for him to ever get to talk to his brother now. Even when he would try, their mother would tell him that Siegfried was too busy and for him to stop bothering him when he needed to concentrate on his studies. Leonhard knew that his brother never got much sleep anymore, and he was worried about him as well as missing him, but he did not know what to do. There really was nothing he could do, except to accept life as it was for them right now, and that was something he did not want to do.

Siegfried assumed control of the Schroider company at age sixteen, after his father's nervous breakdown had made him unable to remain as the CEO. By the doctor's orders, he was supposed to stay at home and not have anything to do with business affairs, but Siegfried had the feeling that Meister Von Schroider would never agree to that. He was too obsessed with the company to forget all about it because a doctor told him to.

The board of directors, specifically Alphonse, had wanted to operate the company until Siegfried was eighteen, but he had refused. His father had entrusted him with the mission to make their company better than KaibaCorp, and that was what he would do. After all his years of being trained, he felt confident in his abilities to lead the business. And so he began studying information on both companies.

After much consideration over what should be done, Siegfried decided to change the Schroider business from weapon making to gaming technology. His father had been disgusted with him then, saying that gaming simply was not worthy of being the focus of their company. He had only grudgingly accepted it in the end because it was different than what KaibaCorp was doing. The board of directors, Siegfried remembered, had not liked the idea either. They had only gone along with it because he was over them, but he wondered now if they had started plotting then to someday overthrow him.

Then he had been told about Seto Kaiba having taken KaibaCorp away from Gozaburo and having turned it into a gaming company as well. He had been stunned at the news. He had thought that he had come up with an original idea that would benefit the Schroider company and make his father proud of him at last, but now this had happened. He had known then that Meister Von Schroider would hate him for this, but he had not realized the lengths the man would go to.

Siegfried searched through his emails, narrowing his eyes at what he found. Other than the occasional bit of spam that had sneaked through, all of the emails were queries as to what he was going to do now. He cursed under his breath in frustration. Blast it, he did not know what he would do! He supposed that the only thing there was to do was to continue in the vein he had been going in and try to develop better gaming technology than Seto Kaiba was going to. Certainly he was not going to change the company back to developing weapons.

He idly brushed several locks of his flowing hair away from his face. It had always been cut short when he had been younger, as his father had believed that long hair was unbecoming and unprofessional for a businessman. But Siegfried had let it grow out after becoming the CEO, perhaps partially in rebellion and also because he wanted to prove that he did not have to do everything his father's way. He did not feel that it hindered him at all. It actually looked quite nice and he felt more comfortable with it long.

Unfortunately, he did not yet realize how deeply ingrained within his heart his father's teachings actually were. But besting KaibaCorp was now becoming his obsession, just as it had been his father's. It seemed that the last few years of his life had been only about that obsession. He hated it. He hated what his father had passed on to him. And he hated KaibaCorp as well, for always coming out on top and for the CEOs always claiming that they were the best. It seemed that they did not even have to try hard at anything they did—it was always a success, just because it was KaibaCorp. But the Von Schroiders were always struggling, poring all of their attention and focus into what they were trying to accomplish, and their attempts still failed.

Upon hearing the door open, he looked up sharply to see Heidi standing there, looking uncomfortable and twisting her white apron. He frowned at her in confusion. "What is it?" he asked in annoyance. "I said that I did not wish to be interrupted."

She bit her lip, shifting nervously. "Meister Von Schroider," she said softly, "I . . . I am so sorry. I hate having to tell you this, but . . ." She trailed off, brushing the tears away from her eyes. "Your father is dead," she choked out at last.

Siegfried was stunned. "How?" he demanded, standing up so quickly that his chair tipped over.

Heidi shook her head sadly, giving him a look filled with pity and sorrow. "He . . . he killed himself," she reported.

Of all things Siegfried had expected he might hear, this was not one of them. He stared at her in disbelief, unable to comprehend at first. His father had taken his own life? Why? Because of the recent news about KaibaCorp? Siegfried clenched a fist. Yes, that had to be it. His father had not been able to bear yet another failure, when he had been counting on his son. Siegfried had failed him. Maybe, even, he had killed himself as a way of showing Siegfried how displeased he was. Siegfried would not put that past the man. "Was there a note?" he asked then.

She shook her head. "No," she replied gently, "but it was most definitely suicide. He . . . he shot himself in the head."

Siegfried fell back, nearly falling on the floor before he remembered that his chair was already residing there. Slowly he took a shaking breath. He had to calm down. He had to stay levelheaded in order to keep the company running. He would prove to his father that he could do it. Somehow he had to. He was certain that his father had killed himself partially because he was certain that the company was going to fail with Siegfried running it and he had not wanted to see that happen. He had always been so obsessed with the family business. Probably he had not left a note because he wanted Siegfried to believe that it was because of him that he had ended his life, without ever knowing for certain and always being in turmoil because of it. Siegfried knew his father hated him.

"Does Leonhard know yet?" he spoke finally after a long silence.

Heidi shook her head. "Do you want me to find him, Meister Von Schroider?"

Siegfried walked out from around his desk, trying to compose himself. "I will find him myself," he replied.

He narrowed his eyes as he walked down the long hall. It was because of KaibaCorp that this happened, he thought darkly. It was because of them and Father's obsession with being better than them! Well, I will prove to him that we are better. I will prove it to everyone! This was the true beginning of his own obsession, for even though he had already wanted to prove the Schroider company better than KaibaCorp, now his goal was being fueled by his pain and his anger over his father's death. Pain and anger are powerful emotions, and in the hands of one who is already embittered, they become even more powerful weapons.

Siegfried found Leonhard wandering down another of the long corridors, looking bewildered. He seemed to understand that something had gone wrong, but he was not certain what it was nor whom to go to in order to find out.

"Elder brother!" he cried, brightening when he saw the green-eyed man coming over. "What's going on? Is something wrong?" He bit his lip when he saw how somber Siegfried looked.

Siegfried looked down at him, laying a hand gently on his head. "Father's dead," he told him quietly. Even though he had been molded into the cold, ruthless businessman that Helga had long ago feared he would become, he still loved his brother. That was something that had not, and would not, change. He probably had more in common with Seto Kaiba than he would like to admit.

The freckle-faced boy looked up at his brother with confused hazel eyes. "Father's dead?" he repeated. "How?"

Siegfried was somewhat surprised by how well Leonhard took the news, but then the child had generally been rather quiet, and he had actually not gotten to know the man all that well. Mostly Meister Von Schroider had stayed either in his home office or at the company. He rarely even was home for dinner, and he had not seemed to care whether he was or not. In many ways for his brother, Siegfried decided, it was as if a stranger had died. Idly he wondered if it would someday be the same way when he himself died. He and Leonhard had been distanced from each other for years now, though when they did get a chance to talk it felt as if no time had passed at all.

Now Siegfried sighed, sitting down in the windowseat and gently pulling Leonhard down to sit beside him. "He . . . shot himself," he explained slowly. "He was . . . a man in turmoil. Most people who kill themselves are." There was no reason for Leonhard to know that Siegfried believed their father had committed suicide out of both shame and spite. Perhaps Siegfried was wrong, but he truly did not think that he was.

Leonhard pondered over this, looking as though he did not know what to think. Then he reached out, hugging Siegfried close. Perhaps he was more upset than even he thought he was. Or perhaps he understood how upset Siegfried was. Most likely, it was a combination of both.

Siegfried looked surprised at first, but then he smiled softly and held the child close. For a few moments at least, he was more at peace than he had been or would be for a long while. The hatred and confusion burned deep in his heart, and it would not even begin to be extinguished for several more years.

For the next months, Siegfried devoted himself to developing advanced gaming technology. He was very skilled with such things, and had often toyed with electronics for his own amusement, such as when he had hacked into the Kaiba manor's computer mainframe during the party when he had first met Seto. Now he was putting his knowledge to good use. He had decided to attempt creating a machine that projected three-dimensional holograms of the popular Duel Monsters game. Then he would present the idea to the game's creator, Maximillion Pegasus, and hopefully be able to make a business deal with him.

Day and night he worked on the plans, often not getting enough sleep—and sometimes, none at all. Leonhard would come into his brother's home office at times and find him slumped over his desk in complete exhaustion. The child was saddened to see that Siegfried was again ignoring his health, and he would hope that Siegfried would complete his project before too long and then be able to get a proper rest. He was also proud that Siegfried had come up with such an original idea, and he was certain that it would be a big success. Then, he thought, maybe the Schroider company would finally come out on top and Siegfried could abandon the rivalry that their father had started.

But such things were not meant to be, as Siegfried painfully discovered when he found out later that Seto Kaiba had been developing such technology as well and had already made the coveted business deal with Maximillion Pegasus. Siegfried was crushed, to say the least. He had worked hard for months, struggling with an idea that he knew was his own. He had kept it secret, not wanting anyone to get any ideas about stealing the idea for himself, but somehow Seto Kaiba had found out. Siegfried was certain of it. Seto Kaiba had been unable to think of anything original, so he had spied on Siegfried and had gotten hold of the plans. Any one of Siegfried's servants could have been the one who had actually made the copies of the plans and given them to Seto. It was too absurd that Seto had also had the very same idea as his own, Siegfried felt, so the only explanation was what he fully believed—that Seto Kaiba had deliberately stolen his idea.

The Schroider corporation all but faded into the shadows after that, as KaibaCorp's fame grew all the more as the result of the partnership with Industrial Illusions. Siegfried struggled to come up with other ideas to keep the company afloat, but he was only barely managing. This latest blow, with his idea that he had worked so hard on suddenly becoming KaibaCorp's trump card, sent him into reclusion for a while. He would stay alone in his office, pondering for hours on what to do now and hating how KaibaCorp was always looming in front of him, behind him, on all sides of him, taunting him and telling him that he would never be the best.

And from whatever afterlife his father had gone to, the man was still watching and hating to see Siegfried's failures. Siegfried could barely stand it. He would not have any peace. In the silence of the room, he could hear the ghost of his father still emotionally abusing him. Whenever he was there, he had to listen to the man's insults and accusations, though whether it was just the haunted memories of the past or actually that Siegfried's father's spirit was there was something that Siegfried did not know. But it made little difference to him. It felt to him as though his father was there, and for Siegfried, it would not have been any more real if he had actually seen the apparition.

"I trusted you with the company!" Siegfried would hear the elder Von Schroider yell in anger, and he would imagine his father slamming his hand down hard on the desk as he glared into Siegfried's green eyes. "It was my entire life's work, and when I was no longer fit to run it, it was your responbility to keep it running! Why did you change it from being a weapons manufacturer? If you had just left it as it was, then it wouldn't have clashed with Kaiba changing his company to a gaming corporation! You're pathetic. You've reduced one of the greatest companies in the world to this, this manufacturer of foolish children's games! Didn't you ever grow up?"

Siegfried would clench a fist and will the voice to be silent, but it would continue insistently in its torment.

"Now you can't even think of anything to do for the company! You've run of ideas, just like I did! Are you going to go mad, just as I did? Are you going to kill yourself? You might as well! No one would miss you if you died. You shouldn't have ever been born! You're a disgrace to this family!" Many of these things had actually been said to Siegfried when his father had still been alive. The years of intense training had been torturous for Siegfried because of how his father would berate him all the way along. Perhaps he had been taking his frustrations out on the boy, or perhaps he had thought that the verbal abuse would make his son stronger and angrier and more willing to prove him wrong. It had, indeed, made Siegfried angry and determined, but it had also scarred his sensitive heart. But of course, he would never admit to that.

In rage he shoved the materials off of his desk, letting them crash to the floor. He would not stand for any more of this. Seto Kaiba would not get away with stealing the idea that he had worked so hard on for months. Siegfried would take his revenge. The world should know what kind of a person Seto Kaiba truly was. Siegfried would make certain that they did.

The press wasted no time in getting hold of the story that Siegfried had been murdered by Alphonse Schneider. The tabloids published outlandish versions of the tale, each reporting a different motive for Alphonse and some telling different ways that Siegfried had been killed. One such paper said that he had been drowned in his bathtub.

The official newspapers told a more accurate version of what had happened. Alphonse had now been arrested and the other members of the board of directors taken in for questioning. It seemed that they had all been unhappy with Siegfried, but only Alphonse had wanted to go as far as he did. It was unknown what would happen with the Schroider company in the wake of these disasters. Neither Leonhard nor the company had released an official statement as of yet, so everything was left to speculation.

Mokuba Kaiba was stunned when he read the story in the Domino City newspaper. "Poor Leonhard," he whispered softly. He remembered the other boy from the Grand Prix tournament and had liked him. He could easily sympathize with him now. The pain of losing a brother could only be fully understood by those who also had treasured brothers. And inspite of what Siegfried had done during the Grand Prix tournament, Mokuba believed that the man did honestly care about Leonhard.

Seto looked up from where he was typing. "What about him?" he grunted.

Mokuba sighed sadly, bringing the paper over for him to see. "His brother was killed," he explained.

Seto growled, glancing over the story. "Well . . . that's the kind of thing that happens in the business world," he remarked then. "I'm sure we know what it's like to have a traitorous board of directors." He could sympathize with Leonhard as well. The child was alone now in a harsh world, something that Seto never wanted to happen to Mokuba. As for Siegfried, Seto had to think that the man had mostly brought this upon himself. If he had not allowed himself to become so obsessed with destroying KaibaCorp, he would not have angered Alphonse to the extreme degree. Though, Seto mused, Alphonse most likely would have eventually snapped anyway, no matter what Siegfried had done.

Mokuba swallowed. "Yeah . . . I know," he said slowly, and then abruptly came and hugged Seto close, grateful that he still had his brother.

Seto blinked, looking down at him, and then returned the embrace.

Leonhard sighed to himself, leaning forward until his forehead was touching the edge of the bed. He did not know how the press had gotten hold of the story so quickly, but he did not really appreciate the details of the family's private lives being broadcast everywhere. And what was more, all of the media was reporting it wrong.

Siegfried was not dead. True, he was close to it, but he was still struggling to stay alive. After he had fallen unconscious and then had stopped breathing, Leonhard had worked desperately to revive him. He had not been about to let his brother simply die without trying to save him. Then at last he had managed to get him breathing again and the medics had finally been called.

It had been such a long, treacherous week. . . . After the taxing events of the Grand Prix, all of this had happened. Leonhard felt completely exhausted. The doctors had had to do surgery on Siegfried to remove the bullets and to repair any damage that they had caused. Then he had needed a blood transfusion. More than once he had flatlined, but they had managed to bring him back. Leonhard just wanted it all to be over.

At least Siegfried was able to be home and not at a hospital. There most likely would not be a moment's peace at a hospital, but the Von Schroider castle was secluded and serene. Leonhard supposed that the fact of Siegfried not being in a hospital after the operation might account for part of the reason as to why the rumors were still flying that he was dead. The boy had to shakily smile in amusement as he thought about how stunned everyone would be when they found out otherwise.

He reached out, taking hold of Siegfried's hand with his own. The flesh felt cool and soft to the touch. Siegfried had rarely, if ever, engaged in heavy manual labor. What he did the most of with his hands was typing on the computer, designing plans for new company projects, signing documents—and picking roses from the various gardens on the property. He enjoyed frequently lounging around, and some might call him lazy because of it—but when it came to the company, he had always become serious and worked hard to do what needed to be done. Perhaps he enjoyed moments of relaxation because during the years when he was being trained he had never had the chance to loaf about.

"Elder brother," Leonhard whispered softly, "I wish you'd wake up. . . ." He allowed several tears to escape from his eyes as he continued to talk to Siegfried's limp form.

"I don't blame you for what happened during the Grand Prix. . . . You were angry and hurting. I know a lot of people think that you did what you did just out of selfishness and greed . . . but I know that's not true!" He sniffled, clutching at Siegfried's hand as if it was a lifeline. "You've never been the same after Father died. Well, actually . . . you've never been the same since he and Mother first started training you to take over the company . . . but you changed even more after Father killed himself. I don't understand everything that happened, but I know you've been hurting because of that. You wouldn't tell anybody . . . but I know it's true! I wish . . . I wish I could help you."

He felt Siegfried's fingers curl weakly around his small hand. The man gave a gentle squeeze before his hand fell limp again. Leonhard took hope from this act. Siegfried had heard him. He would recover. Leonhard had to believe that he would.

The next few days went by. Siegfried regained consciousness shortly after the incident when he had squeezed Leonhard's hand, and he had been steadily recovering since then. Leonhard had continued to remain close by his brother's side, ready to assist him when he needed it and sharing several enjoyable conversations with him. At first Siegfried did not feel like staying awake for long periods of time, but as he began to increasingly heal, he was able to be awake more often.

He was rather amused when Leonhard gave him the news that the media was all reporting that he was dead. "Really," he mused with an odd smirk, turning a rose around in his hands. "They so quickly jump to conclusions. Well . . . they shall know the truth soon enough." He was sitting up in bed, his long hair spilling out over the pillows and sheets. He had been brushing it several moments before, and had since set the brush down on the nightstand. Inwardly he continued to smirk, thinking of how annoyed his father would be at how long Siegfried had let his hair grow.

Leonhard, sitting on the edge of the bed, scowled. "It's not that funny," he scolded. "I . . . I thought you really were dead, elder brother . . . and then I worried that you would still die, after . . . after you started breathing again. . . ." He swallowed hard. "I . . . I don't want to lose you! Siegfried, you're . . . you're all I have." Pleadingly he looked up into Siegfried's green eyes. "And . . . I want us to be close again," he whispered, "like when we were kids. . . ."

Siegfried silently studied the rose before looking back over at Leonhard. "Well, I'm not dead, so that must say something." He reached over, laying a hand on Leonhard's shoulder. He wanted them to be close again, as well. Perhaps now it would actually come to pass. "I regret how we've drifted apart over the years," he admitted quietly. "I should not have let that happen."

The child looked at him in a bit of surprise before coming closer and giving him a careful hug before pulling back. "It's not your fault," he said softly. "You were so busy. . . ."

"That isn't an excuse," Siegfried answered firmly. "I should have made time for you." Idly and without thinking, he rubbed at his chest where the wound was.

Leonhard watched him for several moments before speaking again. "I was really scared," he said quietly, his voice breaking. It had been hard enough to watch Siegfried change as he had over the years without having the experience from several days before. Leonhard desperately hoped that nothing like this would happen again. "After what happened during the tournament, we came home and you ended up getting shot. It was terrible!" Tears glistened in his eyes, but he tried to brush them away. "I never wanted you to get hurt, elder brother!"

Gently Siegfried pulled the boy close, saddened that Leonhard had ever had to see him laying on the floor, bleeding to death. He was so grateful for his younger brother. And truly, if Leonhard had not been there to help Siegfried realize the error of his ways, Siegfried did not know what he would be doing now. "I was scared too," he replied just as softly, "but mostly for you. I didn't know what would happen to you if I died. And since we can't trust the board of directors any longer, I had to wonder what they would do if they found you." Siegfried was not as prone to hiding his emotions about some things as some others were, as evidenced by the fact that at the end of the Grand Prix he had fallen to his knees in defeat and then had embraced Leonhard with tears glistening in his eyes after the boy had told him that he wanted to support and help him with the company and with anything else he needed help with.

"Well, we don't have to worry about that now," Leonhard smiled, feeling happy and content. He knew that Siegfried was going to be alright now, and for that he was truly relieved and joyous. Inspite of the wrong acts his brother had committed during the Grand Prix, Leonhard knew that Siegfried still had goodness within him. It had just been buried under years of built-up hatred and pain. Leonhard hoped that now Siegfried would let his good side out more often.

Siegfried held him in silence for several moments before remarking wryly, "I suppose the company is completely shot." Even if his actions during the Grand Prix had not murdered the family business, it seemed to him that this additional disaster must have completely pushed it under. He had been near-death for several days and the board of directors had all been taken into custody. After thinking things through, he had decided to fire all of them and start over—if there was anything to start over with.

Leonhard shook his head. "We can still save it," he replied firmly. "I know there's going to be a lot of work to do when we go back, but if we work together I'm sure we can get it all done!" He smiled. "I want to help, elder brother."

Siegfried looked at him, seeing that the boy was serious. Slowly he smiled as well. "Then, after we reassure people that the tales of my death have been highly exaggerated, we should begin," he declared.

Naturally it came as an extreme shock to the business world and the public in general when a press conference for the Schroider company was finally called a couple more days later—by Siegfried himself. After all, everyone was still quite aware of what they had read and heard concerning his death. Now, suddenly, they were forced to believe that he had survived and that the media had been wrong.

In his statement, Siegfried acknowledged that Alphonse had tried to murder him, though he did not give all the details as to why this had been so. He said that the Schroider company was not finished yet and that he would continue leading it for a long time. And, just as he had expected, he was asked about the events during the Grand Prix. It would have been ridiculous to assume that no one would ask him about that.

"Herr Von Schroider," the reporter asked, "it's common knowledge now that you tried to infect KaibaCorp with viruses more than once during the Grand Prix tournament. This hasn't helped your company's reputation, as you well know. What do you plan to do to restore confidence in you and your company?"

He had been pondering for some time over what he would say once the situation presented itself. His first inclination was simply to toss his hair and arrogantly say that he had no comment to make on the subject. And yet, he knew how badly the company's reputation had deteriorated. The stocks had gone down, and most people seemed to have little confidence or trust in either the company or him. He supposed that if he made a short statement about the Grand Prix, it might improve the opinions somewhat and he might be able to regain some of the trust he had lost.

"Well," he said at last in his smooth, calm way, "I suppose that I won't use any more viruses." He gave a smirk, then sobered. "Before this little incident, there was never anything of . . . questionable ethics that occurred in connection with the Schroider corporation. I give my assurance that nothing of the kind will happen in the future." He glanced around at the reporters. "Next question?"

A perky, freckle-faced journalist piped up. "Herr Von Schroider, what does Seto Kaiba think about your future plans for the company?"

He felt his eye twitch slightly. Does Kaiba have to have an opinion on everything I do? he thought in annoyance. And why would I know what it is? "Shouldn't you be asking Herr Kaiba that?" he retorted calmly. The journalist blushed.

Leonhard, standing by his brother's side, had to grin. He was so relieved that Siegfried was recovering. The man seemed to be his normal self now, physically and mentally. He still was not completely up to par, of course, but if one was not standing right next to him, it would not be obvious that his wounds were still paining him.

The boy had to hope that Siegfried would remain as he was now and not become obsessed with destroying KaibaCorp in the future. Even just being obsessed with being better than KaibaCorp was dangerous. That original fixation was what had led to Siegfried finally being so overcome with his deep-rooted hatred and pain that he had wanted to destroy the rival company. Leonhard wished that he knew the full extent of his brother's heartache, so that he might be able to help him better, but he was certain that Siegfried would not tell him. He would have to be content with standing by his brother's side and being his support and help with anything he did know about.

Naturally the press conference did not help overnight to make things better. Some felt better toward Siegfried and the company, while others felt the same or worse. Siegfried was not especially concerned. He had said what he had wanted to say and had made it perfectly clear that he yet remained among the living. He returned back to the Von Schroider castle with Leonhard, feeling rather satisfied.

A couple of days later, when he was going through his emails, he found one from Maximillion Pegasus. Raising an eyebrow in interest and confusion, he clicked on it and was surprised to discover that it was an answer to the business deal he had proposed sometime back. According to the email, Pegasus had thought it over and was requesting for Siegfried to come talk to him about it. "This could prove to be quite interesting, indeed," was the way Pegasus ended it. "Plus, signing on his rival would be an excellent way to annoy Kaiba-boy."

Siegfried leaned back slowly. He had not expected to hear back from Pegasus at all, not after the Grand Prix. This was a surprise, and a profitable one if all went well. For years he had wanted to have a business partnership with Pegasus, but after KaibaCorp had taken center stage, it had seemed impossible. Perhaps some of his dreams would still be realized? He stood up, determining that he would go to America immediately. There was not any point in delaying the trip, especially not with the Schroider company in the condition it was in.

As he headed for the door, he encountered Leonhard hurrying in. The two brothers nearly collided with each other before Siegfried managed to reach out and gently grab Leonhard by the shoulders, bringing them both to a halt.

"What are you in such a hurry about?" he asked in slight amusement.

Leonhard grinned up at him. "Heidi says that you got an email from Herr Pegasus!" he announced. "A notice about it came in on the other laptop."

Siegfried nodded. "He wants me to come to America and discuss this business venture."

"That's great," Leonhard said sincerely, though his smile had weakened somewhat. He had spent so many hours alone in the castle while his brother went off on business trips over the years. He was not looking forward to it happening again, though he knew and understood how important it was for Siegfried to do everything he could to get the company back on its feet again. He just hoped that his brother would not push himself too far. He was still healing.

Siegfried smiled slightly, ruffling the boy's hair. "We should go as soon as possible," he said.

Leonhard blinked up at him in surprise and delight. "'We'?" he repeated.

Siegfried nodded. "You said you wanted to support and help me. Well, you can't do much if you stay behind." While he had been recovering, he had often thought back on what Leonhard had said to him at the end of the Grand Prix. And he knew how lonely the boy must have been in the past, while Siegfried was having to study hard to become the company president and then later, when he had actually taken on the position. There was no reason why Leonhard should not come with him on the business ventures. On the contrary, it would most likely be good for them both. While it was true that he had not wanted to start training Leonhard for the company already, if the child wanted to be involved, Siegfried was willing to let him. He would be happy to have his brother with him.

Leonhard responded now by hugging Siegfried. "I won't let you down, elder brother," he vowed.

"I know you won't," Siegfried answered. You never have. You have a strong, honest spirit, and I had no right to make you help me in my attempts to destroy KaibaCorp. By your refusal to continue following through with my plans, you showed me just how strongly you felt about your morals and that you were not going to let anyone, even I whom you idolize, drag you down to a lower level of standards. That in turn at last showed me where I had gone wrong.

He sighed inwardly. I truly did become as my father was. After all my determination that it would not happen, it still did. But I am not insane yet. I still have a chance to take this company out of the shadows. He looked over at Leonhard, who was hurrying off to pack for the trip. The magenta-haired boy was cheerful, in spite of everything they had been through and all the times he had been sad and alone. And he still loved Siegfried, even after the Grand Prix fiasco. This amazed his older brother. Perhaps, if the both of us work together, we can save the Schroider business.

Slowly he followed after his brother, still unaware of how deeply his father had wounded him by his suicide. In his heart, he knew that he still blamed himself, but consciously he did not realize it. Perhaps someday the realization would be forced upon him, but not today. He was more calm and at peace today. Maybe, he hoped, things would go right . . . for once.