I wrote this piece in order to work out some personal emotional…issues over this weekend. In the spirit of that, I dedicate this short story to the memory of my grandfather, who passed away at the age of 70 on Friday, May 20, 2011, at 7:41 PM. Grandpa was a grizzled retired Marine who probably had no idea what anime even means, much less what it is, but I feel it to be the only proper thing to do.
So while you read this, think of a man who fought for his country, who held up the ideals of the United States of America with honor and courage, and who loved his family even if he didn't really know how to express it properly, until the end.
He sat with his head down, almost between his knees.
He did not dress in obscenely expensive suits, but he did dress well. Especially for his age. Today he had selected black pinstriped slacks and a violet button-down shirt. He'd elected to wear the KC belt buckle, in spite of everyone telling him it clashed with just about everything he wore. He'd long learned not to care what people thought. He liked it, and that was enough.
A tiny little music player was in his hand, and he clicked through playlists until he found it. Booming bass guitar and snapping drums assaulted his ears and made him forget where he was. What he was. Everything. A crunching, whirring guitar riff joined the cacophony, and everything slid into place with the opening melody. It wasn't the sort of music that normally visited the sterile silence of the mansion and gleefully murdered it, and so he used the headphones. It felt more respectful.
The music soothed him. There was a certain hypnotic sound to it, delicious in its oddity, so vastly unknown. He was, perhaps, behind the times, but he hadn't ever had much of a chance before. He didn't like such popular music. He found it to be rather crass.
He was breathing heavily, and his body was starting to move more fluidly. Eventually, as the song reached a higher vibrating intensity, he began to bounce on the balls of his feet, sending jabs and hooks at the air. As the gravelly, hauntingly familiar voice of the vocalist rang out in his ears, he leaped into a flying kick, landed and spun on his heel, hopping up and spinning his entire body in an airborne roll, pushing off the ground with one hand and popping back up onto his feet.
Finding a grin, Mokuba Yagami Kaiba straightened his shirt, adjusted his collar, and strode out of his bedroom with a spring in his step. Gone were the sneakers and athletic shoes he'd worn in his youth; they'd been replaced by polished, gleaming dress shoes that clicked authoritatively on the hardwood floors of the estate. The staff saw him coming. A maid bowed deeply. "Good morning, Master Kaiba," she said.
"Morning, Kelly," Mokuba said, his voice not quite as deep as his predecessors', but smoother and more energetic. "How's your aunt doing?"
Kelly beamed at him. "All better!" she declared. "The antibiotics did their magic, and she's coming back home this afternoon."
"Excellent," Mokuba declared, grinning. "Doctor Wilkins came through, then, did he?"
"Oh, absolutely," Kelly said. "She said that he was wonderful. Attentive without being creepy. A hard balance to strike in the medical profession. Well…according to her, anyway. It seems like she's been conducting an experiment. You know, she's had six doctors in the past five months."
And so it went as he continued down the hall, greeting the people whose living revolved around keeping him comfortable, looking effervescently happy as each bowed and smiled to him in turn.
Then he made it to the room.
Drawing in a deep, steadying breath, Mokuba turned the knob and stepped inside. The room was nondescript, just like any number of rooms in that hallway, but it was perhaps the most important room on the grounds. He only trusted certain people to even set foot in it. Any number of would-be workers had been fired for entering this room without permission. When it came to this room, he was as much a tyrant as the man who'd called him a son. Just as much a tyrant as people feared he'd become in all things.
Two people were in the important room. One was dressed smartly in a sharp, pressed, dark suit. The other was standing in front of a mirror, staring. The smartly dressed one glanced at the door and bowed. "Mokuba-sama," she said.
"Kiko," said Mokuba, his smile softening, somehow dimming. "Stop talking like I've taken over. How often do I have to say it?"
Kiko bowed. "My apologies, Bocchan." She rose, the smile still on her face, and she reached for the headphones and music player when Mokuba took them off. "I'll be back to check on him in an hour. He's having a good day today."
Mokuba nodded. "Thanks."
And she left.
Mokuba approached the other figure. "How are you feeling, big guy?"
Seto stared blankly at the mirror, mouth slightly parted, his sharp face soft and inattentive. His hands were strangling his tie as he struggled to right it. For a moment, a ghost of his old scowl met him, and he grunted with irritation.
Mokuba smiled. "Here, Niisama. I'll show you again." And he took the tie from his brother's fumbling hands and smoothed it out. "You cross it over here, see? Then turn it back. Now, you flip it upward like this, and it tucks back down this way." He smiled up at his brother, who was still an inch or so taller than he was. "Do you remember the rest, Niisama?"
Seto mumbled something, took his tie and tried to finish the knot.
He eventually got it so mangled that his fingers were trapped, and he let out a murderous moan of fury. Mokuba ran a hand down the man's cheek, still smiling. "Shhh...it's okay. It's all right, big brother. No need to get frustrated. Here. Let me set it right for you." Seto grunted again. "Oh, hush. You just let Mokuba handle it, okay? No worry. We can practice again tomorrow. Now...see? Cross, turn, flip, tuck. Now, this way. See? Now it looks right, doesn't it? Just like those clip-ons I used to try to get away with when I was little."
Mokuba grinned at his brother, grey-violet eyes twinkling. "Remember my fifth birthday? I wanted to wear a suit, and Miss Hannah got me a clip-on tie? You got all offended and found a real one, and taught me how to do it. This is the same knot you taught me, Niisama. See? Now we just flip it again, and tuck it down, and just slip it in there...voila! There you go! You're looking sharp today, aren't you?" He winked. "I'd better watch out. You might just steal Ren away from me, if this keeps up."
Seto grunted, but he looked pleased. He even managed what might have been a nod.
Mokuba kissed the man's cheek, then his right temple. "I love you, Niisama," he said. "You take care of yourself today, okay? Kiko will be in to check on you. If you need anything, you just call for somebody. We're all here to help you, okay?"
"Ngh," declared Seto.
"Good. I have to go now. I'll be back later." He waved, and saw his brother twitch a hand like he wanted to reciprocate. Blank blue eyes that had once held all the spitfire of an angry dragon stared at him as he left. "Love you, big brother," Mokuba repeated, then slipped out and shut the door.
I'm not used to writing a Mokuba older than 11. Nor am I used to writing a Seto who isn't in control of himself. Nonetheless, this story unfolded the way it did without much influence from me. I write organically, and tend not to question my instincts. Those instincts told me how their relationship was going to unfold this time around.
The song to which Mokuba was listening in the beginning of the scene is "Lowlife," from an upcoming album by Theory of a Deadman, and was another inspiration for this story. I will be updating regularly, and it will last for 8-10 chapters.
I'll see you next time, everyone.