There were very few things Seto Kaiba appreciated more than an overwhelming victory at Duel Monsters. One of them was silence, especially the kind of silence that lingered in the late afternoons after a long day of work.
As usual the latest arrangement with a famous businessman had turned out to be a complete success. Sporting his usual unreadable scowl he had sent the last e-mail of the day noticing that the other occupant of the office still had to finish his work. The gently tapping of computer keys accompanied by the distant ticking of a clock were the only sounds echoing against the walls of the room. The late afternoon sun was obscured by thick and dark clouds, sign of an incoming storm and, mockingly, a reflection of the young CEO’s well concealed inner turmoil. Tiredness always made his mind unpleasantly drift towards the darkest recesses of his conscience.
Even before becoming the living symbol of Kaiba Corporation he had lived for the sole purpose of accomplishing his responsibilities. Nothing more. That was what everyone expected from him. It was easier to act like a machine. It was easier to pretend he didn’t feel. It was easier to believe he had died the same day his parents did. It was the only way to bear the burden society had imposed on him. As sad as it was, this was something he had to do. There was no loophole for him. The road had already been chosen and he did not have a said in it.
He blamed his stepfather for this.
Gozaburo Kaiba was a difficult man to please. Always demanding, never giving. Young Seto had learned it the hard way. Whenever he tried to impress the man, he was welcomed with an icy stare and an even less pleasant remark. This when the bastard was in a rather good mood. Physical punishment was even worse for his psyche. That pathetic excuse of a man had robbed him of his ability to function like a proper human. Whenever he was asked to complete a task he was supposed to do it flawlessly. No mistakes were tolerated and whenever he failed there was hell to pay.
And after some time his mind had started projecting this behavior on the entirety of his life, tricking him into believing there was only one way to respond: set an objective and achieve it without concern for emotional consequences . He was no longer able to prevent the whole dynamic from repeating itself over and over. He simply went on autopilot. Mockingly enough this behavior did not apply in situations that involved Mokuba. Whenever his little brother was the target of possible danger, Seto shifted back to a reckless teenager driven by the sole purpose of protecting his family. In those times fear and instinct dominated his whole being. This was extremely frustrating for a man who was not supposed to feel anything, who was not expected to.
So why couldn’t he be like everyone expected him to be? Why an heartless bastard like him was capable of feeling so much? Ah, the situation was truly hilarious! People should have pitied him, should have acknowledged him as the broken man he truly was but, no, they envied him and enjoyed calling him a soulless spoiled asshole. Let them believe it! It was easier that way. If he revealed his weaknesses his whole career would’ve been ruined. The façade he’d spent so many years refining needed to stay into place.
Like this he had always struggled to stay afloat, trying to survive through the challenges of everyday life because, even if his stepfather was now dead, his ghost still lingered in his mind, haunting him.
There were very few things Seto Kaiba dreaded more than an overwhelming defeat at Duel Monsters. Silence and tiredness were on top of the list. Because silence forced him to think and tiredness lowered his defenses. Silence required a clear mind to be truly enjoyed but his mind was a battlefield of thoughts.
The tall man gritted his teeth and tightened the hold on his already crossed arms. The clock was still ticking but the sound of computer keys had stopped. How much time had passed since he had lost himself in his own mind? Uneasiness started growing in the pit of his stomach forcing him to close his eyes for a moment but he tuned it out. He did not have time for this. He was too tired, too drained to possibly win a battle against his scattered thoughts.
He pinched the bridge of his nose exhaling a deep sigh and trying to ground himself, mentally going over all the tasks he was supposed to complete the following day. This was a makeshift method he used to calm down and collect his wandering thoughts. It always did the trick.
The distinct sound of a laptop closing definitely woke him from his deep reflection. His brother was now looking at him. Tired eyes that clearly should not have belonged to a boy of such young age were now focused on him. Under his younger sibling attentive stare he felt like crumbling. He couldn’t tell if Mokuba had caught a glimpse of his distress. He said nothing.
The raven haired boy smiled and that gesture alone was the only proof Seto needed to realize that, yes, even if most people liked to portray him as an heartless and selfish bastard, he was still capable of feeling affection for the one that meant the world to him. Gozaburo might have scarred him both figuratively and literally but he was never able to destroy the bond he shared with his brother. Seto had tried his very best to protect the little rascal for all those years and now little Mokuba was quickly becoming a cunning and responsible kid. It didn’t matter if he was the one paying the consequences as long as his younger sibling was safe. In the end he had turned out victorious against the old man.
He didn’t care if the world had kept watching as he had destroyed himself for the sake of responsibility. His brother was still there to remind him that, despite everything, he was still human. As long as they had each other, they were strong enough.
So he smiled back.