Author's Note: This fic was inspired by the prompts "Won't move on; stubborn" at 18Coda, "No man is an island" at 10 Inspirations, "Holy: to bathe in water so pure" at 20 Heartbeats, "Ocean" at 30 General, and "Seeking for you" at 30 Nights on LiveJournal. This isn't intended to be a romantic story, but can be a prequel to my Seto/Téa poem, "Missing the Lost Conqueror" Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, except for the villains. Thanks to LuckyLadybug for her help!
"Mr. Kaiba, I beg of you!" the disconcerted man pleaded before the stern CEO. "My company is on the road to ruin; can't you even consider taking a look at my game before you reject it!?"
It was a strange scene, a middle-aged man pleading before a young man bordering on the latter edge of his teen years, but it wasn't an uncommon sight to behold in the office of Seto Kaiba.
"I've taken a look at the proposition, and I don't feel that it's the direction that Kaiba Corporation wishes to go," Seto replied, his face expressionless. "Perhaps if you showed it to a different gaming company, they might be interested. But we're not, so kindly stop wasting our time."
"There wouldn't be as much prestige if one of them picked it up!" the man protested. "I need Kaiba Corporation to back it! That alone will pull my company up from the downhill road!"
"If you're that desperate, Mr. Atroman, you need to take what you can get from one of the other gaming companies. I can give you some contact numbers--"
"It has to be Kaiba Corporation!" Atroman insisted. "My game is worthy of the best, and it shall have the best!"
"If it really was the best, you wouldn't be in this situation right now, would you?" Seto asked. "I'm sorry, but the proposition and your record are both against you. And that is the end of this discussion."
"It's easy for you to sit there so arrogantly and stubbornly, isn't it!?" Atroman quipped. "You think you have the entire city kneeling down before you as though you're their king, don't you!? Well, let me tell you something, 'Lord Kaiba'… You will be brought down to Earth soon enough!"
"Are you finished?" Seto asked, not showing any emotion. "I have work to get on with, so if you're going to throw a tantrum, I'd appreciate it if you threw it outside of my office. I'm sure the others would like a bit of entertainment."
Atroman stormed out of the office, stopping to glare at Mokuba.
"And you're just the same way, too!" he roared at him.
Mokuba watched him leave, bemused.
"Let me guess…" he said to Seto. "You didn't accept his game?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?" the young CEO mused, tossing the proposition into the recycling bin.
"What was so bad about it, anyway?" asked Mokuba.
"Something had me suspicious; he seemed less interested in the fact that his game should be produced and more interested that we were the producers," Seto replied.
"And so you think that it's a ploy to ruin our company somehow?" asked Mokuba.
"Let me put it this way, little brother… It could be that it's of a poor quality, he could have infected it with a virus, or it could be some other thing intended to give us a bad name."
"And, of course, there's no way you'd ever let that happen, right?" Mokuba asked. He glanced out the window. "Well, there he goes… guess he didn't want to give a free show after all…"
"He already lost his dignity when he was in here," Seto replied, glancing down to see Atroman shaking his fist angrily at the office building. "But he still seems determined to lose more."
Atroman was a frustrated, callous soul. He had never had any difficulty in getting others to submit to his will in the past, but Seto Kaiba was different. A mere boy had dared to turn him away, when even the great Maximillion Pegasus had once given in to his demands.
He remembered the incident clearly. He had promised Pegasus that he could provide him with a stellar new game, one that he was willing to sell. Pegasus, newly instated as the head of Industrial Illusions at the time, had been willing to buy the game after taking a quick look at the summary.
What unfolded next was a waking nightmare for Pegasus. Atroman did deliver the promised game, but within days of its release, Pegasus was pursued by lawyers and media. Atroman had stolen the game from a company he had previously been fired from, where it had still been undergoing final preparations. And Pegasus had been kept in the dark about the matter. After all of the court cases and explanations that he in no way intended to steal a game under any circumstances, Pegasus was cleared of all charges. But Atroman had completely disappeared with Pegasus's money. The incident had been a terrible blow to Pegasus, one that he had only recovered from upon the highly successful release of Duel Monsters.
And that was exactly what Atroman had been planning to do to Seto Kaiba; the game he had offered Kaiba Corporation was not his, but the boy had been too smart to accept it. But Atroman was now far more desperate than before; his was badly in debt, and needed money. And he would have to be quick; if Pegasus ever received so much as a sign of his whereabouts, Atroman would know no end of Pegasus's vengeance. He would have to be out of Domino quickly, but he couldn't allow himself to leave without taking a sizeable amount of the Kaiba fortune with him.
But he could never outsmart Seto Kaiba. Atroman's eyes narrowed as he realized his only alternative: he would have to force Kaiba to give him the money. And he would also make sure that Kaiba paid for his insolence.
"The King of Domino will be dethroned," he vowed.
The next day progressed as any other. Mokuba had taken the day off; Seto had always insisted that his younger brother should periodically escape the pressures of working in such a corporate atmosphere. Mokuba was always reluctant to take a day off just like that, especially when Seto would still be remain there alone, but Seto always felt that it would be best if one of them could escape. And it would have to be Mokuba.
Mokuba was greeted that afternoon, en route to the arcade, by Téa, who was surprised to see him.
"I thought you'd be working," she said, which prompted Mokuba to tell her all of the things that Seto had said.
"He once said, 'Thanks to Gozaburo, I have never known youth, and what it entails, and I don't want you to suffer the same fate,'" the boy added.
"Well, it's nice that he wants you to enjoy yourself," said Téa. "But that's ridiculous that he'd tell you all of that and not follow his own advice. I mean, does he think it's too late for him?"
"That's Seto for you…" Mokuba said, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Well, I doubt he'd listen to a word I said, anyway," Téa went on, with a sigh. "But maybe he'd listen to you…"
"Oh, I'm way ahead of you," said Mokuba. "I already got him to agree to check out the latest video game releases with me after working hours."
"Good for you!" congratulated Téa. "I'm heading to the theater for dance practice, so I'll catch you later, then."
For Seto, it was business as usual that day; a few phone calls were made, meetings were attended, and stocks were on the increase (the Grand Championship had improved the company's standing, in spite of the von Schroeder fiasco). It was nearing the end of working hours; Mokuba would be expecting him to aid him on his quest for video games. Seto was bringing his work to a close; he was putting the final touches on the draft of another holographic simulator when his cell phone rang.
"Kaiba," he said, upon answering the call.
He had expected the caller to be Mokuba, reminding him that he should be getting ready to leave. But the voice which answered was unrecognizable. However, the words it spoke were unmistakable.
"We have your brother."
It would be pointless to command that Mokuba be released, so in the span of a second, Seto had tracked the location of the caller; the call was being made from an area of the city filled with old warehouses, obviously from a cell phone.
"Dare I ask what you demand for his release?" Seto growled.
"Everything's written out in a nice little letter we have waiting for you at warehouse 15," the voice replied.
"Typical," Seto thought. "The call is coming from warehouse 14; they plan to take the money and flee like the cowards they are."
He wasn't going to fall for their ploy; he would head directly to warehouse 14 and confront them directly. Printing out the GPS map from the call tracker, he headed out the office door after a quick word to Roland.
Arriving at his destination, the GPS map seemed to indicate that the call had been made from within warehouse 14. A running start forced the door open and granted him access to the interior. Tempted though he was to call out Mokuba's name, he knew that doing so would betray his presence, assuming that his crashing arrival into the door already hadn't.
The young businessman took off running. To stay in one place would draw his enemies to him, and he had to get Mokuba out of this warehouse before anything happened to him.
Row after row of merchandise was traversed, and room after room was searched, with no sign of anyone. Clearly, they were waiting for him at the next warehouse, though he was amazed that no one would have been left to guard this one… unless Mokuba was with them.
Seto tried calling Mokuba's cell phone, trying to determine if the ring tone was coming from somewhere nearby, but he heard nothing. He knew, though, that the lack of a ring tone was no reason to stop searching the place; the phone could have been off or broken in the struggle. And there would have been a struggle; Mokuba would never have come along quietly.
Happening upon a back room, Seto advanced in to inspect it. He didn't find Mokuba, but he found a whole hoard of unmarked game-related technology, transcripts, and invoices from other gaming companies concerning accusations of game theft and the monetary losses related to them. What astounded Seto was an invoice from Industrial Illusions that was dated nearly 25 years ago, written by a clearly distraught Pegasus.
But he never got a chance to read what it said. The door slammed shut, and Seto quickly looked back to see Atroman standing in front the door, blocking his only escape path.
Téa's dance practice had carried into the evening hours that day. But she didn't mind; dancing was what she loved, and she still had her dreams set on going abroad and becoming a professional dancer.
But she was surprised to see Mokuba enter the auditorium and watch her perform. She finished her practice, and spoke to him.
"I thought you were going to look at video games with your brother…?" she inquired.
"That's what I thought, but Seto hasn't shown up," said Mokuba, unable to hide his disappointment. "Something's strange. I got a phone call from him a little while ago while I was in the arcade… I couldn't answer it in there, so I went outside, but he had hung up by that time, without leaving a message. I think something must have come up, and he needs to work late."
"What!?" Téa asked, in disbelief. "He can't do that!"
"Actually, he can," said Mokuba, with a sigh. "I'm heading back to Kaiba Corporation and seeing what's going on."
"Well, you tell him that he's going to be in for it the next time I see him," said Téa. "I don't care if he is the CEO; he has no right to treat you like that!"
"Téa, really, it's OK," said the boy. "This isn't the first time, and it won't be the last. Don't worry about it."
"Well, I still say it's unacceptable, but if you're sure…"
"Yeah, I'll be fine!" Mokuba assured her. "I'll just drop by to tell him that I'm going to get the games myself."
"Teach him a lesson and buy three dozen of them," said Téa, with a smile. "That'll teach him!"
Mokuba responded with a very good imitation of his elder brother's smirk.
"Great idea!" he said. "And then I can tell him, 'Hey, if you had come with me, this wouldn't have happened'!"
And the two went their separate ways.
"Why am I not surprised that it's you…?" mused Seto, with a slight smirk, determined to maintain his confident tone (in reality, he was silently admonishing himself for ever falling into the man's trap). "I reject your game, and you counter by capturing my younger brother?"
"Not your brother, Kaiba," Atroman said, smiling coldly at the young CEO. "We couldn't even find the boy after he went off on his little vacation, though we thought we could still make use of your concern for him. We never wanted to capture him. You were the one we wanted, Kaiba. And now, we have you."
"Just like you had Maximillion Pegasus?" asked Seto, holding up the invoice still in his hand. "By the looks of this, it's no wonder he's so off-kilter today; you must have driven him to it. However, if you're hoping to reduce me to madness, you have another thing coming."
"I can see it in your eyes; you think you can take me out with your youthful strength and wit," snarled Atroman. "I'll teach you to respect your elders."
"Respect?" asked Seto, not bothering to hide his derisive laugh. "You don't deserve it."
He pushed Atroman aside and forced the door open, only to find a dozen of the man's burly accomplices waiting for him.
"We don't intend to try to drive you to madness," said Atroman, pleased at seeing the smug look disappear from Seto's face. "No; we're certain that your little brother will pay any price to see you released, just as you would do for him!"
Seto glared at Atroman; any other person would have cowered before the fierce, angry fire that blazed in his blue eyes. Atroman, however, was unconcerned.
"Now, then, Kaiba, you will take a walk with us to my yacht, which is waiting for us at the pier. You will remain there until your brother decides to give us a substantial sum of money."
"I've taught my brother many things," Seto replied, coldly. "And one of them is to never give in to an enemy's demands."
"Then I'm afraid that your future looks bleak. Now, when we walk, I don't want any trouble from you. If anyone you know happens to pass by, you will say nothing, except that you are heading to a very important meeting, and that my employees are your bodyguards."
"You wish…" Seto thought. Even now, his brain was hard at work devising an escape plan. Once he was in the vicinity of Clock Tower Park, he would make his move. A few judo throws would earn him his freedom. After that, and a quick police report, he would still have enough time to take Mokuba on his video game search.
The sun was rapidly vanishing beneath the horizon as Téa walked home. The last rays fell upon her face, and that was when she noticed, walking in the other direction, was Seto Kaiba, surrounded by several people. Instantly, her cheery spirit diminished as she remembered how he had gone back on his word to Mokuba.
"So!" she fumed, causing all heads to turn in her direction.
Seto noticed her and cringed. The situation was dire as it was; the last thing he needed was for one of Yugi's friends to get involved in it.
"Thought you'd hang out with these guys rather than you own brother!?" Téa demanded of him. "How dare you, Kaiba!?"
"Go away, Gardner; get out of here while you still can!" he mentally yelled at her.
"Who is she, Kaiba?" asked Atroman.
"Nobody," he said, trying to dismiss her. "Just a random fangirl…"
Téa's eyes widened in stunned rage.
"'Fangirl'…?" she fumed. "Seto Kaiba, I swear--"
"GET OUT!" Seto mentally roared, teeth clenched.
And, somehow, her expression faded; perhaps she had seen the air of necessity in his eyes, or perhaps she sensed that something was terribly wrong. But whatever the reason, her anger melted away, and something told her that she had to get to Kaiba Corporation and tell Mokuba about this immediately.
Not stopping to say another word, or even to explain her actions, she left, running.
Seto concealed the sigh of relief; but the encounter had put him at a huge disadvantage. Atroman would be able to deduce that Mokuba was waiting for him somewhere, and would probably send his accomplices to either Kaiba Corporation or Kaiba Manor if he, Seto, succeeded in escaping. He had no other choice; he would have to go along with his captors to the pier and hope that he could figure a way out from there.
Téa's first sight upon reaching Kaiba Corporation was seeing a very worried Roland speaking with a doubly worried Mokuba.
"Téa!" the boy exclaimed, grateful to see a friendly face. "Téa, it wasn't Seto's fault; Roland said that someone called in and told him that they had captured me, so he… went out to find me…"
"I just saw him," she said, horrified at what was unfolding. "He was with a bunch of people, and he acted as though he barely knew me…"
She trailed off and exchanged glances with the boy, and they both came to the same conclusion.
"Téa, what did they look like?" asked Mokuba.
She hadn't paid much attention to their appearances, but she gave Mokuba the best description she could come up with.
"That sounds like the guy that brought in the game yesterday…" said Mokuba. "He must be doing this for revenge… oh, what was his name…?"
He trailed off, recalling how Seto had discarded the game proposition into the recycling bin.
"Follow me," he said, and Téa obeyed.
"What am I supposed to do!?" asked Roland.
"Relay any phone calls to me!"
"You know, I hate to ask questions at a time like this, but what exactly are we doing in here?" Téa asked, as Mokuba led her to Seto's office.
"Trying to find some information on that creep!" the boy answered, emptying the contents of the recycling bin onto the floor. "Ah, here it is! His name is Atroman. Now all we have to do is search for him online so we can find out a bit more…"
He trailed off as the man's record showed up on the screen.
"That picture!" gasped Téa. "That's him!"
"I know," said Mokuba. "But look…"
"'Warrant issued for his arrest on multiple counts of money laundering…' Wait; that warrant was issued 25 years ago. You mean to tell me that they haven't caught him since then!?" Téa shrieked.
"Apparently--" Mokuba began, but he was cut off by his cell phone.
The two exchanged nervous glances, and Mokuba took the call.
"Hello?" he ventured. His eyes widened. And he pointed to the computer screen, mouthing, "It's him!"
He immediately tracked the call as Seto had done earlier that day, and discovered it to be coming from the pier.
Téa immediately grabbed the computer keyboard, not wanting to speak in case she was overheard.
"They'll be after you, Mokuba," she said. "Let me go there in your place. You head to the game shop and tell Yugi."
Mokuba knew that she had a point; it wouldn't be any good if Seto was freed, only to be captured himself.
"I'll try to stall him," Mokuba typed back.
With a nod and a prayer, Téa left the building.
Seto knew that as long as Mokuba was on the phone with Atroman, the boy would be safe. The CEO, however, was not as fortunate; he was still a prisoner of the madman. More than ever, he yearned to strike back at his adversaries, on alert for the slightest diversion.
"That'll be all," Atroman said, and he got off of the phone. He then turned to address Seto. "Your brother seems to be as stubborn as you are."
"Good for him," Seto replied, glaring at the man.
"But it's not good for you, though, is it?" asked Atroman. "I mean… who knows what will happen to you if the money doesn't come?"
"Will you stop the charade?" asked Seto. "I know why you're doing this. It's because you were nothing but a shameless thief when you were my age, while I run a successful company."
"How successful will it be when all that money comes to me?"
"You won't get it," Seto declared.
"Even if I don't, I'll still get something for all of my trouble," said Atroman. "Revenge, and the knowledge that I outwitted you. For you stand before me as a helpless boy who, mere hours ago, was the most powerful man in Domino, and now is nothing."
That did it. Administering a judo throw to the man guarding him, Seto once again forced Atroman out of his way and escaped to the deck. The night air greeted him.
But he was far from free; more of Atroman's cronies swarmed the deck, caught off-guard by his sudden arrival.
"Where did he go!?" Atroman roared.
Seto had made it to the roof of the yacht, where gravity would be in his favor, holding his own against those who attempted to capture him again. Had anyone beheld the sight of the young CEO, silhouetted before the full moon, one would have thought that a fiery aura was surrounding him as he glared at his former captors. The smirk was back on his face as the sea breeze blew his brown bangs about his face.
Téa, who had just arrived at the pier, froze at the sight.
"Kaiba!?" she asked, unsure if he as alright or not.
Seto glanced in her direction.
"What about Mokuba!?" he demanded.
"I swear to you, he's safe!" she vowed. And she was right; Yugi had called her moments ago to say that Mokuba had arrived, and that the police had already been called and were heading to the pier.
Seto gave her a silent thanks; no matter what transpired here in the next several minutes or hours, Mokuba would be alright. And that was all he needed to know.
Atroman's crew was quick to surround Téa, too, as soon as they realized that she was on Seto's side. And even though she hadn't taken any form of martial arts, she was still a dancer; that was enough to allow her to hold her own against the creeps, as Seto continued to fight back from his vantage point.
And then, at last, the welcoming sound of sirens filled the air as both police and media arrived on the scene, and the flustered henchmen began their retreat. Téa breathed a sigh of relief, and Seto let his weary muscles relax as he still stood upon the roof. But their celebration was too soon.
Neither saw it coming. Téa had glanced up, casually, and that was when she had noticed Atroman himself on the roof, approaching the unaware businessman from behind.
"Kaiba!" Téa screamed, but her warning came too late.
The force of the blow knocked Seto off of the roof, sending him crashing onto the deck. He landed upon his arm, and a huge wave of pain flowed through it.
"Of course it had to be the same arm that Anubis injured!" he thought, furiously, gripping it.
Téa was running over to him, but Atroman was already there, glaring at Seto with dislike.
"I know that they'll be after me in a matter of moments," said Atroman, as Seto struggled to get to his feet. "But I don't care anymore."
"NO!" pleaded Téa.
The second blow… Seto's fall over the railing… the splash of the water… the police handcuffing Atroman… it all happened in the span of five seconds, and yet it seemed to be playing out in slow motion. And through it all, Téa could do nothing but stand there and watch it all.
She leaned over the railing, staring at the water.
"Kaiba!" she yelled, frantically. "KAIBA!"
There wasn't a sign of him. Had he been unconscious when he had fallen in?
"Surface, please, Kaiba!" she mentally pleaded. "Please, you can't be…"
She didn't want to finish her thought, but as minute after minute went by without any sign of Seto, her hope vanished.
Her knees gave way as she heard the newscasters behind her began their report, already beginning to refer to Seto Kaiba in the past tense.
"Mokuba, I'm sorry…" she wept. "I let you down…" And then she began her apologies to Seto himself. "I'm so sorry I couldn't help you…"
Beneath the surface of the water, Seto Kaiba was once again fighting with all that remained of his strength; this time, he was fighting against the riptide that, within seconds, had pulled him away from the pier.
His muscles ached from the fall onto the deck, and he wasn't making any headway against the tide. And to make matters worse, one of his arms had been rendered useless. The current seized him as though Neptune himself held him in his fist.
The water seemed eerily silent all around him, but Atroman's words began to echo through his mind.
"…a helpless boy who, mere hours ago, was the most powerful man in Domino, and now is nothing…"
And the young man's eyes opened in rage and determination. Masking the pain, he fought back against the current, utilizing his bad arm as best he could. And, for an instant, he broke the surface. He soon went under again, but he had been able to breathe in the precious air that he needed. He had to continue with this routine, until the current weakened enough for him to fully escape it.
And so he did, trying to swim parallel to the shoreline. With each gasp of air he felt weakened yet strengthened at the same time. And, at last, after what seemed like hours of being carried by the current, he pulled free of the riptide. Neptune had released him.
He had no idea where he was now, but knew that he had to get back to Domino. And he would. He was Seto Kaiba, and he had just proved that there was nothing he couldn't overcome.