Author's Note: Hi guys! It's 2016 now and this fic is well-over seven-years-old. I'm astounded by the constant support and wonderful fans of this little plotbunny that's evolved into something much bigger than initially planned. Thanks for taking the time to click into it and having a look. xxx
Walking through a dream, I see you.
The crowds had been gathering outside the KaibaCorp building for the past two weeks with more and more news crews arriving every day. The story had leaked outside of Japan and spread worldwide like some kind of epidemic. The Japanese news crews had been joined by their European and American counterparts; all eager to cover the story that had swept the globe in a matter of days.
"So you're actually going through with this?"
He didn't answer Mokuba's inquiry; he didn't have the energy to. For a fortnight now it had been press conferences in the mornings, board meetings all day, an interview in the evening and back to the mansion to finish some work, fall asleep at his desk for two hours, then morning time again and more press conferences. To be honest, he was running on non-existent energy and just about ready to burn out.
"Leave me alone."
He groaned as his brother prodded his arm, wanting an answer he refused to give. Seto Kaiba kept his heavy eyelids closed and leaned his head against the desk, wanting nothing more but to sleep for days on end and not wake up to this hectic paparazzi buzz of a life. Besides, he didn't want to give an answer; the whole ordeal was out of his hands and that annoyed him more than anything. Another push on his shoulder, which Seto deftly ignored, hoping Mokuba would lose interest and disappear for a while with his girlfriend, Rebecca Hawkins.
It was still hard to believe the boy even had a girlfriend; it seemed not that long ago he was just a little kid who tagged along with his older brother – Mokuba was now a fully-fledged teenager with a girlfriend and social life. Another push to his shoulder from the frustrated younger male; a bit more forceful this time, earning a murmured answer at last.
"Haven't you got homework to do?"
"Seto, you're getting married!"
Ugh, that word again; why was the whole world suddenly transfixed with his personal life when marriage was mentioned? Now fully awake, Seto groaned as reality to rushed back; if Gozaburo wasn't already dead, he'd kill the old codger all over again for this mess he'd landed him in. It wasn't enough just to ruin his life when he was alive.
With little all else to do, the elder Kaiba brother shrugged his shoulders; an action he had never been familiar with in the past, and yet had grown accustomed to in the last few weeks. Mokuba had grown tall, almost rivalling him at this stage, and gone was the long shaggy mess of ebony; the youth now sported short black hair that made him look older than his sixteen years. He'd grown a lot in the last three years.
"What choice do I have, Mokuba?"
The blue eyes looked tired as they stared up at him; Seto was genuinely looking for an answer and that made Mokuba feel uneasy – his big bro had a solution for everything. This was all their step-father's fault; just when you thought life was back on track, the old man managed to mess it all up from beyond the grave. Seto had turned twenty-one those two hectic weeks ago and with that milestone birthday had come the reading of Gozaburo Kaiba's will. Neither Kaiba brother had known of the existence of the old man's will, nor had Roland or Seto's secretary; the man had entrusted it to a Tokyo-based lawyer years ago, giving instructions on when it should be released. And of course Gozaburo would demand that the will be made public; no way for them to bury it and pretend it didn't exist. Everything had been fine until the lawyer had read out one of the specifications towards the end, initiating the arrival of all the news crews only days later.
"Seto will marry the heir to Ashbrook Estates, Kisara Ashbrook. The engagement will commence upon the reading of this will. Denial of this stipulation will result in Seto Kaiba being denounced of the name Kaiba, and his assets forfeited to the Schroeder family of Germany along with the Ashbrook Estates. In this event, Ms. Ashbrook will marry Zigfried Von Schroeder."
Though he could barely remember the occasion, being only a small child at the time, Mokuba recalled being at a large-scale function at the Schroeder castle. Gozaburo had spent the night speaking with two other men, one pink-haired and the other a bright blond. It was only now, eight years later, Mokuba realized what the conversation had been about that night – arranging the marriage of two mere children.
The past two weeks had been spent pouring over the many legal papers connected to the will; even Seto's adoption papers had the clause written into the small print. More scrutinising had revealed the same clause in Mokuba's papers too. So no marriage meant that their adoptions were null and void. It didn't mean that KaibaCorp would be taken from them; any shares 'gifted' to them by Gozaburo when they were younger would be forfeited to Schroeder, which would most likely result in a sharp drop in stock-prices and a possible attempt at a hostile take-over. Thousands could lose their jobs worldwide if KaibaCorp buckled, but marriage was a big deal too.
"But it's not just your life you could ruin, bro; you have to think of her aswell."
With that, the youngster patted his brother on the shoulder and exited the study. Seto had always been a pillar of answers and unfazed cockiness, but the teenager couldn't bear seeing his brother so out of sorts and backed into a corner like this.
The sound of knocking was what woke him from his accidental nap. Roland was standing at the door of the elaborate study, hidden eyes locked onto his employer. Seto silently cursed himself for falling asleep; there was so much to be done and organised within KaibaCorp, let alone in his own life at the moment.
Not wanting to hear of how another reporter had tried to get into KaibaCorp or a fangirl onto the mansion's grounds, Seto stretched and spoke the first words that came to mind; he knew nothing about this girl, except for what the newspapers were circulating and some buried memory of years ago.
"Roland, tell me what you know about Kisara Ashbrook."
The head of KaibaCorp security thought for a second or two as his boss stifled a yawn. The question was anticipated in the very least; wouldn't she be the lady of the Kaiba Mansion soon?
"Mr. Kaiba, sir, she's a year younger than you, niece of Jonathon Ashbrook and heir to the family estates-"
"I know all that, Roland. Humour me for a second."
Another few seconds of silence, during which thoughts were re-organized once more and then hesitantly spoken by the uniformed man. He didn't like talking about someone not present; it felt disrespectful in his opinion, but if Mr. Kaiba asked.
"Intelligent and articulate, sir. A young woman with a peculiar beauty, but painfully shy it would seem."
With that nod from the CEO, Roland took his leave; whatever he had intended to tell Mr. Kaiba had vanished from his mind and could wait until later.
Seto Kaiba heaved a heavy sigh as he typed the woman's name into the search engine on his laptop, thousands of images being returned in a matter of seconds. Mokuba was right about ruining two lives, but what could he do? If he declined the marriage then not only would KaibaCorp be in jeopardy to that idiot Schroeder, so would the Ashbrook Estates; they needed this wedding as much as KaibaCorp did thanks to that damned stipulation. Gozaburo and Jonathon must have foreseen the trouble and hype an arranged marriage would cause; if no wedding happened then KaibaCorp assets would be forfeited to Schroeder and so would the Ashbrook Estates, along with their heiress. Though he reckoned he had no choice in the matter, Seto felt guilty for the girl; she had no choice whatsoever, being thrown about from company-owner to company-owner.
Kisara. He had seen her before. In a world where social-media and the spotlight found targets in every second person, he was unsurprised that such an affluent and influential family would ring a bell of recognition for him.
You must not ... be captured by the shadows ...
Running a hand through his hair and growing utterly frustrated with this whole dead-end ordeal, Seto stood from his desk and headed for the door; he needed some fresh air.
Thousands of people would be out of work if this thing didn't go ahead in the foreseeable future. Ruin two lives, or thousands? With the way the economy in Japan and Europe was going at the moment, he really had no other option. With another groan, Seto looked back to the picture on-screen. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad? She was intelligent and attractive, but he doubted she knew much about the workings of a business.
A trophy-wife, was that really what he was signing himself up for? A person to leech from his accounts, occupy herself shopping and attend events on his arm? Somehow he doubted it; the blue eyes and colourless tresses seemed to speak of a hidden intelligence, and a sorrow. A sorrow most likely for this whole sordid affair their guardians had set up years ago.
A/n- I hope you guys liked this first chapter and thanks for taking the time to read it! xxx
1st Revision - 12/January/2011
2nd Revision – 18/June/2015
3rd Revision – 17/May/2016. I tweaked a few little things that were bothering me and inserted a few new lines here and there to better link up with the later chapters.