Unforgiven

To see the outworkings of my masterpiece, you only have to look at the soaring KaibaCorp

towers that are gracing the skies right now. They are the monument to my existance, though

my tomb actually resides in the mind and the heart and the flesh of the weak and haunted

Seto Kaiba. He spits my name, I know, mouth scrunching up like he's bitten something rotten

and fights the urge to vomit. But, what he will never tell you is that he says my name with fear,

instead of something as shallow as dislike. No, Seto Kaiba always was too egotistical to allow himself

the luxury of simple emotions. He loved to hide the issues, fog the waters of serene clarity

with the distractions of his own issues, and in turn, drown. I never could harness that iron will in the direction

that might have saved him from all of that. Granted, the boy was strong, and oh, so clever. But, his

weaknesses, and refusal to erradicate them will one day be his downfall. I will be laughing then.

I remember the first time I lay eyes on Seto. He was led out by the hand of the social worker. A haunted waif of a boy, tall, and lanky,

with brown hair, and an air of suffering that repelled me. His features were sharp, but he was hunched over and wilted. I disliked him

instantly, but he was interesting. He held promise of something, but of what, I did not know then. The social worker forced him to stand in

front of me, and his eyes crept up uncertainly, before he hastily bowed his head, offered a limp hand for the shaking, and resumed his

slouch.

I think it was the eyes that I remember the most.Eyes of pure ice, calculating, filled with an eerie knowing, and haloed by such a young face. A man suffers much before he has eyes that harsh. A boy with eyes like that...was intriging, to say the least. I remember that his eyes slid over to the cowering child behind him, that had a thatch of unruly black hair. He clung to his older brother like a drowning man may cling to the mast of the ship. Seto was warily watching the prospective parents, his younger sibling only hanging on his arm and peering out from the shelter of his brother's shadow. Pathetic to me, but endearing to those who indulge in sentiment, I suppose.I was touring the orphanage, flanked by several associates, and fawning members of the press. It's rather sad, actually. Smile a bit, fling a bit of cash at anything aligned for the good of children, and shake a few hands. The publicity and the charity of customers equals more cash for me, if they view me as some saintly do-gooder. The hypocracy is not lost on me, but nor is it wasted. I despise children, but the photo opt was quite a pay off.

Men of lesser quality do not address me without cowering. The prudent scrape and promise, the stupid irritate me, and that boy was neither, so I did not know then,

or now, what sort of thoughts led him to stride so boldly up to my side with that calculating little smirk. I sure as hell know a scam when I see one, and at the

time...I assumed it was nothing more than child's play. It was one of the rare times that I was wrong. The boy had guts, even if it was the courage of the

inocent, or the foolish, when he challenged me to that chess game. I accepted his challenge, out of both idle curiosity, and the chance that he might actually win.

Of course, he was young, and that might have been a liability, if I didn't have plans to shape and mold him into how he needed to be...But, I digress.

And the wager? He and his younger brother be allowed to leave with me if he won. I promised a sizable donation to the orphanage if I lost. It was with a wink,

a sneer, and a handshake that the chess board was set up, and the crowd gathered around. The boy and I faced off.

His intellect was astounding, and he had the strategy of a well-seasoned general going to war when we actually played the game. He was a pawn then, and

now, though I allowed him to think, for a while that he had engineered his own deliverance. I still don't know why I let the boy win, but I do know that I was

interested enough in his potential to take him home, even with the burden of his little brother. It seemed a foolish gamble to pin an entire existance on the

outcome of a chess game, but I suppose the young Seto Kaiba thought he was winning a chance at a better life for himself and his brother. And, perversely,

it was. I let him move in for the kill with a tolerent smirk, and it was over with. I said nothing, only forced a paternal smile, and waved towards his rooms in a grand flourish for him to retrieve what little belongings he and his younger brother may have had, while I went to sign the papers. The orphanage had no more qualms about releasing him to me than a whore might have in giving away a kiss. It might have made me sad, were I kinder.

I remember Seto's eyes bulging at the bloated opulance of the limo, awe-struck and filled with stars as he politely held the door open for his brother, and cradled

him close, eyeing me warily, but joyfully. He thanked me, over and over again for adopting him and his brother and taking them both away from that place.

I could only smirk in answer. What a wake-up call the inocent always seem to have with reality. We ate a cold meal, as I recited the rules of the house, and

waved away the pawing, annoying embrace from the younger child, Mokuba. He was little more than an over-eager puppy, squirming excitedly as Seto glanced at

my growing scowl. Looking very troubled, he darted a nervous glance in my direction and gave his brother a stern whisper. Mokuba nodded, looking absolutely

stricken, but sat quietly and ate the rest of his meal with no more antics. Seto offered up a hesitant, apologetic smile and a hasty excuse which I dismissed with

a grunt and shaking of my head.

Later that night, Seto was summoned to my chambers. He stumbled in, held up by the maid, rubbing away the sleep from his eyes with such small fists, before

he stared up at me, with a yawn.

"Sir?" He asked, so timid, so inocent. I decided that his training would begin in earnest then, and started the first session with a harsh slap to the cheek. I hit the

boy so hard that he almost spun around completely. He gasped, shoved a palm against the violated red flesh, and gaped up at me, quaking.

"Tell me, boy. Why do you think I just slapped you? What wrong did you commit to earn that? Answer me, quickly, or that will seem like a kiss compared to the next one."

Seto only stared, clearly trying to decide if it was just a cruel jest, or if I was speaking the truth. I felt a twinge of pity for such youthful floundering, and helped the

boy with clarifcation by slapping his other cheek. He whimpered, and the tears fell down his cheeks, as he stared up at me stupidly, while I repeated my demand for

an answer. It was truly a pathetic sight, to see him crumple at just the veiled threat. Slapping him again would only trigger more hysterics, you see?

"Why is a needless question to ask, Seto, because there will never be a suitable answer for it."

There was no response from him but him cupping the red cheek with a quaking, small hand, and an a single tear. I gave him my harsh dismissal to go to bed.

He ran up those staire as if I were chasing him with a whip. Hmmm...the reaction to that made me smirk. It would prove amusing, if nothing else.

His training started the next morning, and it was every bit the harsh contrast that growing soft and sluggish in that institition I thought it might have been. I summoned the maid to wake them both, and sent the order for them to be dressed and ready for breakfast in 10 minutes. Seto emerged in 8, and had apparently

dressed his little brother, due to the hasty, mismatched shirt, and the panicked look as he dragged the younger kid down the stairs and into the dining room.

He had even attempted to wrestle some order to that thatch of black hair. When my eyes fell upon him, he stiffened, warily, and averted his eyes, as he smoothly stepped between me and Mokuba. How cute. The boy pictured himself to be shielding his younger sibling from me? I sneered at the thought, and was heartened to

see the fear turn his azure eyes even wider. Looking back on those first days...you would never know that my adopted son ever once had a childish inocence about him, would you? Would you ever believe that those glacial eyes that reveal nothing but contempt were once as open and flowing in tears as a summer stream? It's quite a testimony to how far I took him...how far I forced him to go, however unwilling.

Is it not the fractured bone that heals the strongest? Is it not the rock that's crushed destined to become the precious gem, given enough time?

Seto slank in, in much the manner of a kitten might that expected to be stomped on from an unwary foot. He had shoved his younger brother away, with an apologetic smile, as his eyes slid up to mine, warily. He soothed his brother's whining by promising to play some game with him later, then sent the boy upstairs

to occupy himself. Seto himself? His mouth twisted into a rather forlorn scowl when he saw the pile of books arrayed in a pyramid, my rather formidable hired tutor

standing over them, with cane in hand, and looking in the manner of a smug bulldog. My lips curled into a smile as Seto gave me a troubled, questioning glance.

He slid down into the chair, and nearly bolted in shock as the hired tutor...a man by the name of Smitherton, personally selected by me, slammed the book down in front of him along with the loud crack of a cane. It reverberated through the room like a gun shot and Seto did indeed look as if he had been shot.

Smitherton only barked the order to read, and Seto obediently opened the book, and cowered, his head bowed, and his entire frame shivering. I smiled at Smitherton, who gave me a confirming nod that my instructions- no mercy, no breaks, and certainly no coddling, would be carried out to my specifications. There was to be no alteration from the schedule unless it was approved by me.

It was the first of many. I had left them together for a mere nine hours, and came back to see Seto looking very strained and overwrought to my disgust. When I gave Smitherton a questioning glance and a raised eyebrow, he merely gestured with the cane, and I saw that Seto's back had been absolutely shredded from the blows.

The sweater had been ruined, and it hung down in a disgusting, tattered mess.

"What was this all about, Seto? What did you do to provoke such a beating?"

Seto looked up at me, absolutely stricken, and nearly sobbing. " I don't know, sir! Honestly, I don't know what I did! I'm sorry!"

With a grunt, I turned to Smitherton, and asked what the problem was, and he only gave me an oily smile. "Apparently, your adopted son has a bladder issue, sir.

He has been whining to use the facilities for the past six hours."

The boy looked up at me, and he was nearly urinating himself involuntarily when he saw my minute scowl of disapproval. To see those pathetic tears well up, as if supplicating me for mercy? the boy had yet to understand that I would not be showing him any.

If the boy couldn't control himself now, how could he stand up to the brutality of the world? I let him know in no uncertain terms that only infants and the

demented actually pissed themselves, and I would make sure that he would wear a diaper if it came to it. The reaction was one of stunned horror, and

outright tears that he swallowed back when I lay a deliberate hand across the cane and lightly smacked my palm with it. My pride soared when that

boy stood rigidly against the wall, with the tears still running down his face for so long without a whimper. He figited, and shot several panicked

glances at the clock, gritting his teeth to my amusement. I finally dismissed him, and watched as he scurried away towards the lavarotory. I smirked.

That day, the boy had learned that even the most primative urges could be subjected by the will, if you were disaplined enough.

And so it went. Soon, whatever will he had was subjected to my whims, and it was an interesting thing to see him so strong, and willfully caged. Every careful

barrier, he only grit his teeth, bent his neck to face down the books, and soon his intellect soared, phoenix high, and bright with fierce, brilliant promise. A few might

say that it was cruel of me to drag him into using his potential. Let those who wish to remain in their stupidity do so.

For the longest time, threatening his brother with punishment for Seto's misdeeds worked exceedingly well. It not only reinforced my belief in regard for others

being a weakness, it also introduced doubts and misgivings that I could not directly induce between them. Seto's certainty was slowly erroded by his own

torment about his brother's welfare. I hardly had to expell any effort in preying on that, either. Just the gesture of raising my cane over Mokuba's cowering back

or the veiled threat of him enduring for Seto's behalf was enough to compel instant, and normally, perfect obedience. Did Seto know he was being held an

emotional hostage? Did he understand that he was responsible for his own manipulations? He not only relished it, he made the silly bond he had with his sibling

a pathetic refuge from the world. The only time I ever saw the boy even emerge from that guarded, miserable shell, was when he was free with his younger sibling

to indulge in forbidden television watching, or even a game of cards. I allowed the clastertine visits, if only to garner more information about what transpired in that

boy's head. Seto never voluntarily divulged what went on in that skull of his, and I wasn't going to waste my time digging that out of him. But, the hope of seeing

Mokuba was fodder for maniuplation, and it made his breaking all the easier when the time came for me to take it all away.

I cannot honestly say at what point the fragile cords began to fray. There was no certain point when I had saw the facade of Seto's obedience slowly crack to shattering, there was no defining moment when it all fell to hell on account of that brat. Days melted to moments, months, years. Time slid by, as did his obedience,his training, his promise. The damn boy had potential, I'll give him that much credit. He never would have survived long with me if he didn't have some

glimmer of promise to redeem himself. At times, his brilliance swirled dark and unseen in his icy silence, or unleashed in a furious torrent, as a damn might break

the flow of normalcy for all his tortured undercurrents.

It got to be little more than a perverse dance, at times. I would trade blows for insolence, he would retaliate by glaring or silence. A comfortably predictable routine,that developed over the years. Long sessions with Smitherton, as Seto's youth wilted into cynical, calculating brutality, while his mind flowered into

soaring intellect that would eventually surpass my own, if he had only stuck to developing it. But, Seto proved himself to be a Kaiba, and blood will always out itself. Perhaps the boy had fewer choices than I had provided, I don't know. I didn't trouble myself with it then, or now. Nights spent in clastertine tears, curled up next to his little brother,as the tears ran down ignored, or scoffed at.

I was always wary of the day that Seto would finally emerge from his miserably contented slumber, and cast a distainful eye at the chains he had let me lace up his soul. I always knew that the day would come when Seto's will would emerge, and I would be left confronting the dragon that I had nurtured with nothing less than uncertain regard and cruelty. I set about creating somebody ruthless, calculating, hard, and resilent. Certainly, sacrifices were made along the way, and of course...

much of Seto was lost. I do not apologize for that. It was the means to the end, remember? I am sure my wayward step-son understood that, even if he never acknowledged it aloud. It was never spoken of. It was never needed.

Night had fallen rather swifly, I remembered. Colors, moments, all bled to fill the dark room of my office, as I stood in the balcony, staring out into the night and enjoying my god-like perch on such a small world below. I was thinking back to the moments of the day, allowing myself a rare indulgence of introspection. I hated times like that. The past always had a way of bringing out the most tainted parts.

Something inside broke that day, fractured the order of the disaplined structure, broke everything! And, yes, I was livid. Smitherton had filled me in on a new level of Seto's insolence. Apparently the boy thought himself bright enough to work ahead and actually finished all of Smitherton's work, leaving him nothing left to learn.

And Seto was very smug and disrespectful about it. I had noticed that my control had been wanning, but I had no idea that there was outright defiance until that night. So, I ordered Smitherton to bring Seto to me, and he promptly did so.

Time had changed my stepson. He towered over most people in intellect and actual height. He was on the verge of becoming a man, the deeper rasp of his voice, the gained inches in height, and the smooth grace that now complimented his movements were evidence of that. Smitherton brought him in, and I was taken back with some annoyance that Seto now towered over his tutor by a good seven inches. Seto only scowled at me as he shrugged off Smitherton's clinched fingers from his sleeve and strode forward.

"This again?" Seto seemed weary of the whole thing as he eyed me, levely. "Spare me the explanations of what I did this time, please. There's nothing left to do but get it over with, don't you think, step-dad?"

Now, Seto only grit his teeth, with a weary sigh, and almost out of habit, presented his back to me with resignation rather than fear. Now, rather than trembling

he faced the prospect of my punishments with indifference and boredom that did little to change his behavior. Sighing, he tore the fabric of his shirt with a loud rip and flung the tatters of silk into a heap. At my scowl, Seto only chuckled, bitterly. "What the hell's the problem, step-dad? It's not as if we can't afford another one."

The boy actually glanced at the clock and graced me with an exaggerated yawn, as he scornfully eyed the cane with a dismissing shake of his head.

"Get on with it, you bastard."

And Seto casually draped his long limbs over the back of the chair, as if he were lounging and not submitting to the beating of a life time. Then, and now, I don't know if it was Seto's dismissal of the pain, or the fact that he showed no fear or guilt, but smug certainty in his own ability to withstand my wrath that drove me onward. Arching the wood high, I brought it down over that straight spine with all the rancor I could manage. Seto did not flinch, did not grit his teeth, did not scream.

A good deal more blows and blood later, Seto was stoic and unmoving, not even bothering to lift his head, but I heard the grunt of deep pain and saw his spine bend as he turned to face me, with his searing eyes burning and his mouth curled in hatred. "Understand this, Gozaburo. I'm only enduring this because I don't want Mokuba to suffer for it. But I'm remembering every tear, every petty bit of venom, and I'm saving it. Saving it all as one great motivation to bring you down to the depths that you've dragged me. And on the day I've decided I've endured enough...will be the day that I send you to the hell you've created for me."

The cane slid from my slack fingers, the blood making the wood slick and sticky as I attempted a rather pathetic motion of wiping away the muck with the silk hankerchief. Seto's back was mottled red, and dripping, and he nearly tipped over as he struggled to rise. After two attempts of nearly falling, Seto only grit his teeth, and rose, straight, and tall, and completely indifferent to my snarl. He only shook his head in dismissal as he draped his bloody back with the expansive trench coat he had made the habbit of wearing when he became a teenager. Hastily, his hands slid to the buttons, as he fixed the material to conceal everything, glaring at me all the while. He stared down at me, silently blanching at the pain of the material gliding over his back, and I saw, for the first time, that he wasn't just in pain, he was in agony. His face crumpled for a brief moment, and then he shook off the volitilty of the violation with much practiced ease, before he only shook his head at me.

"I'm never going to become you, you cruel, vindicitve bastard. And I don't care if it costs me even more in the future to keep that promise. You not only lost control tonight, Gozaburo...you lost me."

Seto pivoted sharply, and swept out of the room,without so much as a backward glance. Without so much as an acknowledgement. And, the silence that followed, with its lingering promise, for the first time in a very long time...made me feel like weeping.