This was a sudden idea, inspired by the quotation you will see following this notice, and I have decided to turn this into a collection of sorts, if my inspiration continues. My aim here is to shed as much light on the characters of Seto and Mokuba Kaiba, and of their interactions with any number of the other members of the Yu-Gi-Oh family, as I can. Each of these stories, as I have them currently planned, will be self-contained, but will also be a part of their own particular version of the universe; that is to say, they are connected, yet they are not.
I have attempted a collection of this sort twice, but only the first—"Best I Am," from Bleach—has been successful. I hope that this becomes the second success, and that you—whomever my audience might be—will find it enjoyable.
That's enough for now, I think. Let us continue, shall we?
It was his eyes.
More than anything else about him, she thought, it was his eyes that she found most unnerving, most intimidating.
Joanna Lorwell had moved to Domino City four years prior, at the insistence of her sister, and one of the first things she had learned about it was that it was big. Having never lived in a "big city" before, she had found it both intimidating and exhilarating.
The first thing Jennie had done when Joanna had moved was to act as her private tour guide, showing her the ropes: there was the huge, almost ostentatiously extravagant amusement park, called "Eyes of Wonder". There was the local community college, Westridge, home to the most celebrated planetarium in the state of California. There was a mall the likes of which Joanna had never known could exist, so mind-bogglingly huge it felt like its own city in and of itself.
And, of course, there was the orphanage. This had been the place Jennie had been most excited to show her big sister, because it was there that she worked. It had once been just the same as any other orphanage; nothing special about it. But just before Jennie had begun working there, the place had undergone a transformation. Rebuilt from the ground up, it was now closer to a resort than anything else; a library, a pool, a gym, a cafeteria with better food than most restaurants, and perhaps most remarkably, a private bedroom for each child, with separate quarters on the top floor for the staff.
"It's beautiful, Jo," Jennie had told her over the phone when first she'd gotten the job. "This place makes me wish I were an orphan! And everyone's so wonderful. It's like a vacation here."
The Domino Children's Home had once been a run-of-the-mill establishment, but was now heralded as the perfect example of just what an orphanage should be.
And here, sitting in front of her, was the man responsible for all of that. The single man who had personally designed every ride in that amusement park; the man who had funded the best science department of almost any school in the country; the man who had hand-picked every staff member of the orphanage he had rebuilt.
But all Joanna could think now was that he was frightening.
She should have been honored; she should have been flattered. She should have wanted to shake his hand – to hug him, even! – for all that he had done for her city, for their city. But Joanna wanted only for him to leave as soon as humanly possible before she bolted from the room herself.
This man's full name was Seto Sasaki-Yagami Kaiba (although not many knew that) and Joanna was his brother's seventh-grade English teacher. She had called Seto here, to her classroom at East Rivers Middle School, personally. Seto was the only man Mokuba ever spoke about in reference to his parents, and Joanna hadn't dared risk asking after his mother and father for this meeting.
She was glad now that she had decided to be cautious; now she knew – upon a bit of research – that the reason Seto Kaiba had put so much time, effort, and funding into the Domino Children's Home was because he and Mokuba had once taken up residence there; their parents had been dead for over a decade.
In her research, Joanna had come across something else. She had never been able to understand why the public opinion of the great Master Kaiba of the Kaiba Electronic Gaming Corporation was so universally negative. She had only ever heard of his achievements and of what he had done for his community; and when she had found that she would be teaching such a great man's little brother in her own class, she had been excited.
Young Mokuba had been shocked and delighted when he'd discovered that Joanna admired Seto, and had assured her that he was wonderful. And despite the seriousness of this meeting, she had been secretly giddy about it.
But now she understood.
It wasn't that they looked particularly dangerous, or violent. It wasn't that he looked angry, or frustrated, or even impatient (despite the fact that he had been here, leaning against one of the students' desks, for three full minutes and she hadn't said a word yet).
He was paying complete and total attention to her, as if this meeting were a matter of such grave importance that absolutely nothing mattered outside of it.
Joanna had been in the spotlight to some degree for most of her life, having found that she much enjoyed having others' eyes on her. But there was just something about the cold severity of Seto Kaiba's glinting cobalt stare that made her nervous.
Aware for the first time that he was growing impatient (it was subtle; just a faint twitch of his statuesque face to betray it), Joanna quickly gathered her thoughts and cleared her throat.
"P-Pardon me, Mister Kaiba," she said, standing up from her chair. "I understand that you are Mokuba's legal guardian, so I was right in bringing this to your attention?"
"Yes," he said. His voice was curt, sharp, with no pretense of anything but business. Even the twitch of impatience was gone. He was simply stone.
"Well..." she began, unable to think quite properly with his eyes upon her (which, she would find out later, was a problem for most people), "...Mokuba is a fine student. He does his work well, he's dedicated, and he hasn't missed a single assignment so far. So...I was especially surprised that he would do something like this."
She took a few sheets of paper from the bag on her desk and slid them over toward him. Seto took them without a word, and began to read them so quickly that Joanna blinked in surprise.
"I assigned a book report over the two-week break recently?" she said when she had recovered. "Those are two of them: your brother's and Connor Brinkley's."
Seto glanced up at her and raised a thin eyebrow. "...Mokuba wrote both of these," he said quickly, handing the essays back.
"You...knew about it?"
Seto shook his head. "No. But it's obvious."
Joanna cleared her throat again, sitting down on her chair as an excuse to move. "Yes, well...you're right. I suspected. Connor isn't very good at essays, you see, so when he turned this in, I knew it wasn't his work."
Seto crossed his arms.
"When I asked Mokuba, he denied it. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. But Connor eventually told me the truth, and...well, I thought you should know about this."
At this last bit of information, Joanna thought she saw the ghost of a smile cross the man's lips, as if he were pleased. But before she could even be certain she had seen it, his face was completely impassive again.
He regarded her silently for some time, arms still crossed, before finally asking:
"What score did he receive?"
Of all the questions he might have asked, this was one she had never thought of. She had expected him to be angry, probably at her for daring to imply that his brother was helping someone cheat. She had expected him to be defensive, or shocked, or if she were extremely lucky, apologetic.
Seto did not move a muscle. He repeated, "What score did he receive?"
"I...I don't understand the relevance of...why would you...what...? I gave him a zero, Mister Kaiba. Both of them. I don't allow this sort of conduct in my class."
But Seto did not accept that answer.
"What score..." he said, as if speaking to a slow-witted child, "did my brother...receive...?"
It wasn't a threat, but it almost sounded like one. Joanna couldn't for the life of her understand why the question mattered, but eventually gave up and said,
"...One hundred. On both of them. I'd probably have given him extra credit, actually. He's a gifted boy, your brother, and I'm sorry to have to do this to him. But Mister Kaiba, I hardly see why that matters to you."
She thought she saw a hint of mockery on his face now, but Seto didn't say anything. He simply nodded, and turned to leave. Joanna felt compelled to stand again. "Mister Kaiba, this is a very serious matter! You're treating this too lig—"
Then he looked at her, and the words died in her throat.
"You have done your part in this, Miss Lorwell," Seto said. "I will deal with Mokuba's misconduct. This will not be a concern of yours unless I fail."
Again, Joanna blinked. "I...I'm not quite sure...what you..."
"Do not concern yourself," he said. "There is no need."
And he left the room.
And Joanna Lorwell suddenly felt as if she were the one taking matters too lightly.
Mokuba thought that one of the biggest reasons that Connor Brinkley was his friend was because, out of all the students of his English class, he thought that Connor was the only one with the decency to feel bad about what had happened with their book reports.
"I'm sorry, bro," Connor had said. "Really. I...I didn't think this'd happen. But...thanks for sticking up for me."
"It's all right," Mokuba assured him. "No big deal, really. We made a mistake. It's not like we're gonna get arrested or something."
He smiled, which Connor seemed to appreciate, but inwardly Mokuba was close to panicking. He didn't have the faintest clue when Miss Lorwell would tell Seto about what had happened, but when she did...well, he didn't want to think about it.
He'd known it was stupid, but Connor had seemed so desperate that Mokuba hadn't been able to help it. He couldn't just do nothing, and...well, before he knew it, he'd offered to just write Connor's report for him.
"Really?" Connor had cried, looking like he'd just realized Christmas was coming. "Oh, man, you're awesome! You ever need a favor, you just tell me. Anything. Oh, thanks, Mokuba, you're the best friend ever!"
They had met in the beginning of the year, having been seated next to each other. It wasn't often that people saw Mokuba for anything but his brother's...brother. It was so rare to have someone talk to him without any ulterior motives that Mokuba had latched onto Connor with a fervency that bordered on fanatical. And he hadn't had the heart to call it off after seeing his new friend so happy.
Mokuba knew his brother would hit the roof. Seto didn't believe in charity as a rule (although he had given his fair share of donations, and some – like the orphanage – hadn't been just for publicity purposes); something like this would fry him.
"Hey...you a'right, Mokuba?"
Jumping a bit, Mokuba turned and was about to answer, until he happened to look up at the front porch of Connor's home, to which they'd been heading since leaving school.
Seto was standing there, arms crossed, and leaning against the wall beside the front door.
Mokuba went pale as a sheet.
Connor's mouth fell open.
"Good afternoon, boys," Seto said shortly. "How was school?"
Seto wore his usual poker face, making it hard to discern anything about his mood; hard for normal people, anyway.
Mokuba suddenly found that his tongue had forgotten the proper motions to produce coherent speech, and his legs weren't faring too well, either. He felt shaky, and was torn between running away and begging for mercy.
But then he realized his brother wasn't looking at him.
Seto's eyes were centered on Connor.
"Connor Brinkley," Seto said, and it wasn't a question. Connor nodded, anyway. Responding to his friend's terror, Connor looked like he had just been sentenced to be hanged, and Mokuba didn't think he felt any better for not being in the line of fire just yet.
"Your English instructor has informed me that you turned in an essay written by my brother. I don't think I need to explain my presence here any more elaborately than that."
Connor flinched. "Uh...n-no, sir. I...I u-understand."
"You know the severity of what you have done."
Another flinch, and he lowered his head, his blond hair covering his eyes, as if hoping he could escape Seto's stare. He nodded. "Y-Yeah. It was...it was dumb, I know. I just...I...I don't know. I was stupid."
"You took advantage of a friend's generosity."
"You cost that friend what would have been a perfect score because you didn't do your own work, choosing instead to cheat."
Mokuba frowned, but said nothing. He didn't dare.
"P-Perfect score?" Connor looked up, looking surprised and newly guilty. "He...he got a..."
"Miss Lorwell informed me that she might have given him extra credit, had this not happened. Because it did, she is giving both of you a zero for the project. You've tarnished your friend's grade and your own, out of simple laziness."
Mokuba couldn't help but notice that Seto kept referring to him as "your friend" instead of "my brother," and thought he understood why.
"I...I know. I know I did. I should have...I should have...ah, jeez, I..."
"Mokuba has extended a friendly hand to you, Connor Brinkley," Seto said. "He has been faithful and supportive. You took advantage of him. You know this, do you not?"
"You let him shoulder the burden that you were responsible for, and it cost you both. That is not only dishonest. It is traitorous."
Connor flinched yet again at that last, damning word. Mokuba suddenly felt an urge to defend him, but one look at his brother's face stopped him short.
Seto moved forward, stepping between the pair and stopping with his back to them. "You have twenty-four hours to explain this to your parents, Connor. I suggest you do so, before Miss Lorwell does it for you."
He glanced at Mokuba.
"I'll be back at five-thirty."
And that was all he would say.
Mokuba stared after him as he walked to his car.
"...Why did you give him the lecture?" Mokuba asked Seto that evening on the way home. "Why not me?"
Seto didn't answer for a long moment.
He kept his eyes straight ahead, and Mokuba began to wonder if he had even heard. But then he said, "Because, Mokuba, you can recover from this easily. He cannot."
"He's not stupid, Niisama," Mokuba said, voice sharper than usual.
"I never claimed that he was," Seto replied. "But if he was desperate enough to accept the assistance you extended to him, then it is obvious to me that he is not nearly as gifted as you are. I don't need to lecture you, Mokuba. You know what you did. You did him a disservice just as much as he did you."
"I just wanted to..."
"I know," Seto said, and his voice was soft. "He's your friend. You wanted to help him, and there is nothing wrong in that. But you allowed him to use you as a crutch. He wouldn't have learned anything from that except how to continue to exploit."
"He wasn't exploiting me, he—"
"Yes, Mokuba, he was. Don't interrupt me."
Mokuba flinched, and realized that he hadn't quite gotten off the hook. He lowered his eyes. "Yes, Niisama. Sorry, Niisama."
"Help him to understand, help him to succeed. These are things a friend should do, Mokuba. What you did was gave him an excuse. You had good intentions, but that does not matter now, does it? It did neither of you any good, did it?"
"You are just as guilty in extending the offer as Connor was in accepting it."
Mokuba hung his head.
Seto stopped at a red light and looked at him. Putting a hand on his brother's shoulder, he said, "I'm disappointed, but I understand. You wanted to do a good thing. But I hope you understand that you weren't doing him any favors. You were crippling him. Do you understand, Mokuba?"
Mokuba nodded miserably.
Seto ruffled the boy's hair. "Good. You'll have a tough time making up for this, but I know you can do it."
Mokuba nodded again, and when he finally looked up, he realized that Seto was smiling. Glancing out the windshield, he further realized that they were pulling into the parking lot of a movie theater.
Mokuba stared. "Wha...huh?"
"You may have broken the rules and lost any points you might have received," Seto said, amusement flashing in his eyes, "but you did write two A-grade essays. Now come on. We'd better be quick if you want to pick out anything to eat before the showing."
Mokuba continued to stare.
And when he got out of the car, he hugged his brother tight enough to knock the air straight out of him.
"I'm not sure, Jennie," Joanna said from the living room as her sister scrounged about the kitchen for something to eat. "He...he kind of scares me, honestly."
"Scares you?" Jennie laughed. "That man scares everybody! He's supposed to scare people! He's a businessman. And anyway, that has nothing to do with anything. You met Seto Kaiba! You know how many people in this city pay thousands just to do that?"
"Is he really that popular?"
Jennie laughed harder. "The man's an icon! He took over his father's business when he was fifteen! He's rich, young, and cute...if you can get past the whole scary thing. And besides, he gave me a job."
Joanna chuckled. "I suppose. But I'm not sure if he really cared all that much. I mean, he...he listened, and he didn't try to deflect or anything like some parents do, but...I dunno."
"Don't sweat it," Jennie admonished as she came back into the living room and handed her sister a sandwich. "You said it yourself; the kid's your best student. Things'll work out. Besides, anybody who knows anything about Seto Kaiba will tell you he takes everything about his brother seriously."
Joanna quirked an eyebrow, "Are you a stalker?"
"No. I just read. You know that boy's been kidnapped, like, four times? Last time it happened, I hear Kaiba beat the guy into a coma. Got off, though. Not surprised. Who'd convict him, I mean, really?"
The doorbell rang, and Joanna got up to answer it. "I suppose I'm thinking too much on this, but...I just don't think he..."
Nobody was at the door, but there was an envelope on the porch. She picked it up, took out the contents, and found a few sheets of paper, aptly titled "Book Report," with Connor Brinkley's name scrawled messily at the top of the first page, and the current date beneath it.
Joanna blinked several times.
"What was that?" Jennie asked. "You don't think he...what?"
"I...think I might have misjudged him."
You may have noticed by now that the majority of my work with Seto focuses on his parenting. This is an important part of him - perhaps the important part of him - as evidenced by something very particular. At the end of the two-episode duel between Seto and Pegasus during the Duelist Kingdom storyline, I found the expression on Seto's face when he discovered that he'd lost to be very powerful and significant. This was the first episode of the anime that I saw. Later, when I watched the duel between Seto and Yami on Pegasus's balcony, the feeling that that particular facial expression was touched on more metaphorically, with the hallucination Seto has wherein Mokuba is sinking into the dying body of his Ultimate Dragon, crying out for help. And again, his facial expression is particularly powerful.
This, and any number of other scenes, has led most of us (I hope) to understand that Mokuba is the most important person in his life. The dub even clarifies this when Seto tells Yugi at the end of Duelist Kingdom that, "He means everything to me." Thus, I am convinced that Seto is especially serious about raising Mokuba right. This first portion of my new collection (again, I hope) shows a part of that, and will likely set the running theme.
Those of you who might have read "Earning an Accolade" may remember that I work under the assumption that Seto's surname before his adoption was Yagami. This, of course, came from his father, Kohaku (yes, a nod to Inuyasha, I confess). His mother's name, I have further assumed, was Sasaki Yuki, before she married Kohaku. Thus, having decided not to give Seto a middle name, I have given his full name as Seto Sasaki-Yagami Kaiba.
I have further assumed, as I have in all of my Yu-Gi-Oh work, that Domino City is in the state of California, in the United States of America, instead of in Japan where it is originally. This is for two reasons: one, the dub gives credence to this, and I watched the dub long before I discovered the original Japanese version, and two, I live in California. This makes it a bit easier for me to put this city into a realistic context.
I think I've ranted long enough for now. I'll see you soon. I hope you enjoyed this introductory chapter.