Title: Summer of '69
Pairing(s): Seto + Yami, Noa + Mokuba, Jou + Mai, Yugi + Anzu, Malik + Ryou, Rafael + Valon + Amelda
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. The Golden Breed is a film by Dale Davis. "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" is performed and recorded by Styx. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: "How can there be such a sinister plan, That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man"
Status: 11 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/
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Summer of '69
Ch. 9: The Golden Breed
* * *
And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it
How can you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me
How can there be such a sinister plan
That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man
- "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)", Styx
* * *
For a moment, a fragile silence settled on top of the Blue Eyes Fortress. Siegfried has just sprung his trap, but it hadn't sunk in yet. No one could really believe it. Leon... nice, polite little Leon was...
"I can't believe it. He's Siegfried's brother..." Mokuba mumbled to himself. He and Noa had taken a liking to the redheaded teen, had treated him as a friend, had thought that he had felt the same way... what a mistake! Had it all been just an act? Mokuba thought he was a better judge of character than that.
Noa didn't want to believe it either. After all, he was the one who had first befriended Leon. He felt partially responsible for what was happening. Frustrated, Noa leaned over the balcony, demanding, "Leon, is he telling the truth?!"
Leon stood stock-still, his head bowed slightly. He didn't respond. He honestly didn't know what to say. Although he had agreed to his brother's plan and knew that sooner or later his true identity would be found out, he hadn't expected Siegfried to just out him like that. It seemed a bit premature. He had probably done it to force Seto's hand, to increase the likelihood that Yami would accept the challenge whether he wanted to or not. But now everyone knew...
"Go on Leonhard, answer the question," Siegfried urged.
Leon tried, but couldn't find his voice to answer, so he simply gave a hesitant nod, aware that all eyes were on him. Mortified, he kept his own eyes fixed on the ground.
"Shit," Noa snarled, taking a half step back. For a moment he considered going down there and taking Leon out himself, but Mokuba's hand touched his elbow, stopping him in his tracks. The black-haired teen shook his head. Escalating the situation wasn't going to help.
Sensing that everything was at a standstill until he announced his intentions, Yami pushed away from the railing and took a step towards Siegfried. He tilted his chin up, glaring at the taller man. "I accept your challenge," he said, loud enough for Isono to hear. Seto's chief of security in turn reported back to the spectators, who began applauding in approval once they'd gotten over their initial shock. At least they'd be treated to a good duel, even if it wasn't the one they originally came for.
Siegfried stared back at Yami, amusement and confidence in his turquoise eyes. "Excellent. I look forward to your defeat."
Well, at least the German wasn't easily intimidated, but Yami couldn't think of many other positive things about the man standing in front of him. "I wouldn't be so cocky if I were you. You haven't won yet," the former Pharaoh told him, his voice clipped.
"Neither have you," Siegfried smugly responded.
"I'm the King of Games. I don't lose," Yami retorted arrogantly, smirking at the sudden fury welling up in Siegfried's eyes. Before Siegfried had a chance to fire back, Yami laughed as well and waved dismissively at him as if he were a minor annoyance, heaping more insult upon injury, and turned and headed towards the stairwell.
Incensed, Siegfried spun around and screamed at Leon, "Prove him wrong! Crush him completely!"
Leon shivered a little at the hate in his brother's voice, but once again, he nodded helplessly. He felt like some sort of bobblehead doll, just nodding stupidly at everything. But the entire situation was so far out of his control he didn't know what else to say or do.
It felt to Leon like it took Yami an agonizingly long time to walk down the two flights of stairs to the arena floor, though in reality, less than a minute had passed. Yami approached Yugi's platform and accepted the Duel Disk Yugi handed him right off his forearm. Leon frowned a little. Since Yugi had already initiated their duel, his deck was still in the Duel Disk. Yami was going to have to use Yugi's cards. It wasn't going to be a fair duel at all.
As Yugi walked away, taking Leon's shot at the world championship with him, Yami got on the dueling platform and nodded at Leon, who finally set his deck into his own Duel Disk, and then at Isono, who announced the start of the match.
It was Leon's move first. The teen drew his five cards, summoned Forest Wolf in attack mode, then paused to consider his opponent. Despite having spent some time with Yami and his friends during the past few days, he couldn't help but feel like he hadn't seen the real Yami until now. At least, he hadn't felt... intimidated before. Not that Yami was any taller than him, or that much older. And he was quite slender, and dressed kind of funny - slim fitting black bondage pants, a yellow and black slashed sleeveless shirt, a collar with Seto's name on it decorating his throat. But to see him standing across the dueling field, just staring silently at him with those unusual eyes... that made the difference. Yami's gaze was so intense... unwavering in focus. He had the look of a sharp-eyed predator who had zeroed in on his prey. So despite his slight stature and unconventional appearance, he exuded the sort of confidence and presence that commanded attention as well as respect.
Leon swallowed, and finally ended his turn. Just a few moments earlier, he'd thought that Yami was going to be at a distinct disadvantage. But now he wasn't so sure about that... Certainly Yami didn't seem worried at all as he summoned Berfomet, which allowed him to special summon Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts as well. The addition of a Polymerization card fused the two together to form Chimera the Flying Mythical Beast, which took Forest Wolf down plus knocked out a 300 point chunk out of Leon's life points.
"All right, Yami!" Yugi yelled in approval of Yami's opening move. If he couldn't duel, then he'd do the next best thing - cheer as loud as possible for his other half.
Seto looked over, realizing that he'd forgotten about Yugi after he'd agreed to switch places with Yami. He shouldn't have let that slip his mind. He owed him an apology after all... it should've been Yugi's moment to shine in the tournament's spotlight, but instead, Yami was out there. It reminded him of how the two of them used to be, back when Yami was merely a spirit, only appearing for the few brief minutes that it'd take for him to duel...
Seto grimaced. He hated to think about that sort of thing. At least this time, Yami wouldn't vanish when it was all over. Past is past; get over it. Besides, he had an apology to deliver.
He cleared his throat to get Yugi's attention, waited for the violet-eyed man to turn to him, then in a very low voice, said, "I am sorry you got caught up in this, Yugi."
"I... underestimated Siegfried," Seto admitted, his jaw tight with distaste.
"I guess we all did," Yugi mumbled back.
The brunette shook his head slightly. "But it was my responsibility to make sure this tournament went smoothly, and look what happened! You should be down there, not Yami..."
"Well, at least I won't lose my title today," Yugi joked, trying to lighten the mood a little, but upon seeing Seto's eyes darken in anger, he amended that, saying, "I was just kidding. Sorry."
Seto nodded, satisfied with their exchange, and turned his attention back to the duel in progress. It was Leon's turn, and he had played Little Red Riding Hood in defense mode. While she didn't seem outwardly powerful, like most of his monster cards, she came with a special ability which was triggered when Yami's newly summoned Obnoxious Celtic Guardian attacked and destroyed her in the next turn.
"Thanks to Little Red Riding Hood's special ability, when she's destroyed, I can summon a four star warrior monster straight to the field. So I choose Forest Hunter. His special ability allows him to remove one beast or beast-warrior monster from the game. So say goodbye to your Chimera."
Yami watched as his Chimera was eliminated by Forest Hunter's arrow, then ended his turn. He still didn't seem all that ruffled by the way the match was going, the expression on his face more curious than upset. Not that he wasn't angry about the turn of events and how they were affecting both Seto and Yugi, but he wondered... just how involved was Leon in Siegfried's plans? Was he an integral part, an active participant even... or more of an afterthought since Siegfried's original plans had gone awry? He needed to know; it'd help him come up with an appropriate course of action.
"Tell me, Leon. Why are you really here? When you said that you wanted to duel Yugi for the championship... was that just a lie?"
Leon began shaking his head. "You don't understand. Yugi's my idol... You don't know how many of his matches - and yours - I watched. I wanted to be just like you guys. I've waited all my life for the chance to challenge Yugi for the title of world champ..." Faltering, he lifted his jade green eyes to the balcony, then with increased resolve, Leon continued on, "I know I'll probably never be able duel publicly again, but... this is for my family. My brother's counting on me. I'm not going to let him down."
For a moment, reality blurred, and Yami swore that it was Mokuba standing across from him, not Leon. That realization sparked a sort of protectiveness in him - he didn't want to hurt Leon, but he still had to beat him to put a stop to Siegfried's scheming once and for all. Perhaps his experiences with Seto, Mokuba and Noa would be an asset here... "But is this what *you* want?"
"It doesn't matter. I WILL beat you. I have to!" Then, as if suddenly remembering he was in the midst of a duel, Leon drew. "Enough talk! I play Iron Hans, and his special ability allows me to summon an Iron Knight to the field as well. Next I play a magic card, Iron Cage. It allows me to send one monster to the graveyard for one turn."
"Aw, crap," Jou muttered. Yami only had one monster on the field. It was obvious what was happening next...
But Leon had other plans. "I'm sending Iron Hans to the graveyard," he called out as he discarded the card, "which increases Iron Knight's attack power by 1000! Iron Knight, attack his Obnoxious Celtic Guardian!"
Yami grunted as his monster was destroyed, then scowled as he lost an additional 1200 life points from Forest Hunter's attack, bringing him down to 2500 life points.
"Man, Yami's off to a bad start!" Honda yelled.
"Maybe he's just not used to playing with Yugi's deck anymore..." said Bakura, but Yugi shook his head.
"No, he knows what he's doing," the little violet-eyed duelist explained as Leon ended his turn. "But this is no ordinary duel, and there's more than just the mere outcome at stake. We just have to have faith in him."
Sugoroku nodded, then added, "It really is too bad Leon's playing for all the wrong reasons. He's very talented. He definitely could've been world champion someday, but now he's thrown away what possibly was his one and only chance."
"What are you talking about? Who cares about being world champion? My brother is about to become the new King of Games!" Siegfried bragged.
No one bothered responding as that would just be fuel on the fire, though Seto was sorely tempted to give the pink-haired man a piece of his mind. Yami was far from being beaten. Siegfried was stupid for underestimating him like that. Besides, Leon was hardly playing to the best of his ability at the moment. He looked distracted. And, as Yami would say, his heart wasn't with his cards.
Conversely, despite having the handicap of playing blind with Yugi's deck, Yami seemed fairly comfortable with the pace of the duel and the cards at his disposal, and was bringing his A game. The ex-spirit had used his turn to play Queen's Knight, destroying Forest Hunter and taking another 300 point bite out of Leon's life points before setting a card face down and ending his turn.
Leon shrugged off the damage he took as he drew another card. "First off, thanks to my Iron Cage, Iron Hans comes back from the graveyard. And that means I get another Iron Knight. Next, I'll play Spinning Wheel Spindle."
"Oh no, that card is bad news!" Rebecca said. She remembered taking a look at it when Leon had handed it to her during their duel.
"Are you familiar with the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty? Well, say good night to your Queen's Knight. Spinning Wheel Spindle is going to send her to the graveyard for three turns," the redheaded teen explained as Queen's Knight collapsed and disappeared from the playing field. "Now Iron Hans, attack his life points directly!"
"Activate Mirror Force!" Yami countered, springing his trap. All of Leon's monsters were instantly destroyed, much to the relief of Yugi and the others, who cheered the move.
Seto couldn't resist giving Siegfried a verbal jab. "New King of Games, hmm? Thanks to that Mirror Force, he doesn't even have any monsters left."
"He hasn't even begun making his move," Siegfried snarled back, though mentally, he was chiding Leon for being so careless.
Leon was thinking along similar lines as his brother. He'd seen what Yami and Yugi could do... he should've known a devastating trap was waiting for him. But he had more tricks up his sleeve; he wasn't done yet. "I play Water of Life. This lets me summon one monster from my graveyard, and I choose Iron Hans, which of course brings back an Iron Knight as well!"
"His deck is very well constructed. He's already making up for what he lost," Ishizu commented as Leon's turn ended and Yami's began.
Yami drew, then called out, "I play Pot of Greed, so I'll be drawing two more cards." A few quick movements of his hands, then he smiled. "Thanks to Pot of Greed, I just drew Watapon, which can now move directly to the field thanks to its special ability. Next, I sacrifice Watapon to bring Dark Magician Girl to the field!"
Even though they were dueling for high stakes, Leon's eyes lit up at seeing Dark Magician Girl. "Wow, this is so awesome! She's one of Yugi's most famous cards... but, I'll have to destroy her to win..."
"Not this round," Yami assured him as Dark Magician Girl's attack burned a hole straight through Iron Knight. "I end my turn."
Leon nodded, drawing, his eyes widening a little in surprise. "Well, I guess I'm playing Pot of Greed too." He drew twice more in succession, then an even more startled look flitted across his face. The Golden Castle of Stromberg... He remembered Siegfried saying, "It's a very special card" and "Think of it as a lucky charm." Was that one card really going to turn the tide of the duel in his favor? Should he play it?
Suddenly hesitant, he stole a glance upward and caught Siegfried's barely perceptible nod. His brother knew what he was holding. And he was counting on him using it to win. Leon's fingers tightened on the card's smooth surface. He imagined Siegfried standing beside him, encouraging him... guiding his hand. Well, here it goes... "I'm sorry, Yami, but this card will seal your fate. Go, Golden Castle of Stromberg!"
"Woah, what the hell is that thing?" Mokuba asked as a huge golden castle thunderously rose up behind Leon, dwarfing him. The crowd gasped at the awesome sight. Even Leon turned around, seemingly shocked by the castle's appearance.
At the same time, Noa's laptop beeped once in warning. Alarmed, the green-haired teen excused himself and quickly stepped aside to a quiet corner, flipping it open, dreading what he might find, but the system was still running with nothing obviously amiss. The battery's not running low, so was it just a hiccup in the signal strength? But I wonder...
Noa looked up, as did everyone else on the balcony, as Siegfried let out a haughty laugh. "Well, what do you think of that, Herr Kaiba?" he managed to say, grinning like a maniac as Leon continued on with the duel, activating the card's special ability to summon Cinderella to the field, in attack mode.
"How did you get that?!" Seto demanded. He vaguely remembered that there was a tournament which had offered that card as a prize... but beyond that, his mind was too fatigued to dig out the details.
"It was from one of my European tournaments," Pegasus offered, inserting himself into the conversation. "The winner was a masked duelist who called himself Violett Rose." He looked over at Siegfried. "So the mask has come off now, has it?"
Siegfried grinned and bowed with a flourish. "It was truly an honor to win such a special card from you, Herr Crawford," he said sincerely.
Pegasus wasn't impressed with the German's flattery. "I never intended for that card to be played. We decided it was too unbalanced during the test phase, so I never finished developing it." He turned to Seto. "Your Duel Disk system should've rejected it..."
"... but it didn't," Seto growled, watching in alarm as Yami lost 300 more life points to Cinderella's direct attack thanks to the effect of the Pumpkin Carriage she summoned using her special ability. He glared at Siegfried as his mind struggled to understand what was happening, a rush of adrenaline suddenly making things clear. "Was this your plan all along? All your little hacking games... You've been planning this the entire time, distracting me with obvious problems so I wouldn't notice the card limiter being deactivated."
Siegfried smirked broadly, and it looked like he wasn't going to bother responding to the accusation, but then his ego got the best of him and he said, "Even if that were the case, what are you going to do about it? Disqualify my brother? Invalidate the duel? Tsk tsk... you'd be breaking your own tournament rules! And how disappointed the fans would be if that were to..." His voice trailed off as he realized his words were being broadcast over the park's speakers. Apparently someone had turned on a microphone on the balcony. At first he thought it was Seto, but the brunette was looking around for the responsible party too.
"No, I'm not stopping the duel," Seto said slowly, his gaze settling on Noa and his laptop. He gave the green-haired teen the briefest of nods. Nice job, Noa. "Illegal card or no, Yami will win."
Noa returned Seto's gesture, tilting his head ever so slightly for a moment. "That's right. The whole world already knows you're a cheater, Siegfried. Now they know your brother is one too," he taunted, his fingers still on the keyboard.
"Ah, smart boy," the pink-haired man cooed, applauding Noa's efforts at stymieing him. But it was already too late... the Kaibas just didn't realize it yet.
"Wait, what?" Leon suddenly asked, catching wind of the conversation on the balcony. "I'm not a cheater..."
"You sure are. That's an illegal card," Noa said nastily.
"No way! My brother wouldn't do that to me!" Leon yelled back, but still, he twisted his head around again to look at the shimmering castle behind him. An illegal card... there's no way!" "He's lying, right? Siegfried?"
"Don't worry about it," Siegfried responded casually. "Just keep dueling."
But from beside him, Pegasus shook his head. "That card was never meant to be used," he said gravely, as Leon's eyes widened in horror. "I'm sorry, but Noa's right."
Leon's hands shook. I'm a cheater? He looked back up at the balcony, at his brother. Siegfried just shrugged in return, as if it were no big deal at all. Leon was flabbergasted. He'd have done anything for his family - Siegfried had to have understood that - but to cheat... there was absolutely no honor in that. What have I done? "How... how could you, Siegfried?!!"
"What? You said you wanted to help me, didn't you? I just had to guarantee that you'd win. Your victory is the only thing that matters."
"But... I thought you believed in me! I thought..." Leon faltered momentarily. "I gave up my dream of dueling Yugi for you. Don't you care about that at all?"
"We all have to make sacrifices sometimes," Siegfried responded coldly.
"But he's your brother!" Mokuba protested, outraged. It was bad enough that Siegfried was ruining everything that Seto had worked so hard for, but to see Leon being dragged into the mess when all he wanted was to help his big brother... "How can you do that to him?"
"And why do you care?"
"Because Leon deserves better from you! You're his big brother. He obviously looks up to you, and yet, you tricked him into doing this!" Mokuba yelled.
Yugi nodded. "And because..." and he looked around the balcony, at all the familiar faces looking grimly back at him, "because Kaiba's our friend, and he's worked hard to make this tournament happen, and we're not going to stand by and let you ruin it like this."
Yami looked up at Yugi's and Mokuba's words, turning away from the duel momentarily to address the group on the balcony. "Well said." Then he focused his attention on Siegfried. "Your actions here have tainted this duel and dishonored your family. Even if Leon wins, it won't mean anything."
"You're just upset because I've outsmarted you and your boyfriend..." Siegfried began saying, but Leon suddenly cut him off.
"No, he's right, big brother. I... I can't do this. I won't disgrace our family's name any further!" He quickly plucked a card out of his hand, slapping it down and activating it. "I play Mystical Space Typhoon - and I'm targeting the Golden Castle of Stromberg! If I'm going to duel, I'm going to do it honestly. I don't need to resort to using an illegal card!"
"You tell him Leon!" Rebecca cheered in admiration as the castle was surrounded by an enormous vortex, but when the wind finally settled... "Why wasn't it destroyed?"
"Huh?" Leon spun around, shocked. "It's... still there!?"
Siegfried sighed dramatically. "Ah... my dear little brother. I was afraid you might change your mind. So I made sure my plan would come to fruition with or without your cooperation." He sidled a glance at a furious Seto. "Haha, you thought you had me all figured out, didn't you, Herr Kaiba? But you weren't quite correct in your estimation of me. Did you think I'd hack into your databases simply to strengthen one card? As if that would be be worth the effort."
"What have you done?" Seto hissed as Noa's screen suddenly lit up with all sorts of flashing warning messages.
Siegfried laughed. "Don't bother, boy," he told Noa as the teen struggled with his computer, "it's far too late to do anything. You see, as soon as the Golden Castle of Stromberg was activated, the most deadly virus ever constructed was released into your computer systems. It's already destroyed most of your dueling system files by now..."
"As if I don't have backups..." Seto said. "Noa, initiate the anti-virus programs."
"We're already on it, Nii-sama, but nothing seems to be working thus far!" Mokuba reported, having fetched up his laptop as well to assist Noa in combating the virus. Both teens were working furiously, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to stay on top of the problem. Seto considered taking the two of them to the control room a few floors down so that they could work on a terminal instead, increasing their efficiency, but he was loathe to leave Siegfried running loose, causing more havoc...
"Tsk tsk tsk..." Siegfried shook his head at the younger Kaiba brothers. "Of course I compensated for both your backups and your security measures. It was easy enough for me to bypass your firewalls. And now, the virus has begun propagating itself into every active Duel Disk currently connected to the system. As long as the card stays active, it will continue to infect Duel Disks each time a user logs on. Of course, the clincher is, the Golden Castle of Stromberg is unbeatable. I've made sure of it. It cannot be destroyed by monster, spell or trap cards..."
Upon hearing that, Leon made a small distressed sound. As much as he hated the thought of surrendering... "I'm... I'm sorry. I never would've played this card if I had known..." He looked at the Duel Disk strapped to his forearm, at the Golden Castle lying on the duel field, glimmering maliciously. "I just wanted my brother to be proud of me. I wanted to help out my family. That's all..." His hand drifted over his deck. "But now I have no choice..."
Siegfried rolled his eyes. "Don't be so dramatic, Leonhard. Even surrendering won't destroy that card. It'll stay active even after the duel ends, no matter who wins. The only way to stop it is for the opposing player to destroy it during the duel, but since that is impossible, thanks to me..." He turned back towards a seething Seto. "Well, as you can see, even if you try to recover the information, each time an infected Duel Disk is activated, you'll lose everything all over again, except for the Golden Castle itself of course. And so on and so forth. Ingenious, isn't it?" he asked, gloating. "It will take you weeks, months even, to recall all the infected Duel Disks, and to replace them with new ones. In the meantime, your entire dueling system will have to stay offline. Pegasus will have to turn to me to keep Duel Monsters going during that time of... crisis."
"As if anyone would buy YOUR version of MY Duel Disks? I bet most people would rather play the old fashioned way than buy your crap!" Seto yelled. But if Siegfried was right... Kaiba Corp. would take a hard hit indeed.
Then, a calm voice inserted itself into the argument. "It wouldn't even be an issue, Kaiba," Pegasus said smoothly, crossing his arms. When Seto turned questioningly towards him, he added, "I have no intention of changing our business arrangement. So even if it took months, or a year... you have my word that your contract with Industrial Illusions will remain intact. I would not be willing to negotiate any sort of contract with Schroider Corp., considering the circumstances."
"You wouldn't have a choice!" Siegfried insisted.
Pegasus' good eye darkened, and he stepped closer to the German, dropping his voice so that the microphone wouldn't pick up what he was saying. "Don't think you can threaten me. And don't think you can threaten my friends. If what it takes to stop you is Yami finding a way to destroy that card, I assure you, he will."
Siegfried simply laughed it off, though inwardly, he was stunned by Pegasus' pronouncement. He'd been caught off-guard. He hadn't expected Pegasus, a businessman whom he held in high regard, to let his emotions interfere with business decisions. But, he'd deal with that later. Once Seto was out of the way, surely Pegasus would come around to his way of thinking. "He may be the King of Games, but this is no longer a game..."
Seto merely grunted. No, it was no longer a game, and yet... Yami, can you do it? Is there a way to beat that card?
Every card has a weakness. I'll figure it out somehow. Don't give up, Seto!
Never. The brunette CEO knew his lover's word was good; he'd take down the Golden Castle one way or another. Then he glanced over at his younger brothers. Since Yami was working on dismantling Siegfried's virus from the source, that meant that it was up to the three of them to stop the virus from doing further damage on the other end. He really had no choice; they'd have to patch into the mainframe from the terminal to have a chance of isolating it. And he definitely needed Mokuba and Noa's help... there was no way any one of them could do it alone. But first, he had to call security, so that...
"You go do what you gotta do. We'll keep an eye on the asshole for ya," Jou asserted. He tossed his head at Siegfried, then thumbed his nose.
Seto's brows beetled. "What?" Had he heard right?
"What what? Just go! That virus isn't gonna take itself out," Jou responded.
"Yeah, we've got you covered, mate," Valon chimed in, his eyes flashing. Beside him, Rafael nodded in agreement.
"Good luck, Kaiba," Amelda added, and several other voices joined in with similar encouraging remarks.
Stunned by everyone's support, Seto slowly inclined his head in thanks, then turned to his brothers. Siegfried may have been stupid enough to underestimate the importance of his brother in his plans, but Seto wasn't so foolish. "All right you two, come with me. Let's show Siegfried what the Kaibas are really capable of."
A slow smile spread across Mokuba's face, which was echoed on Noa's as well. "You got it, Nii-sama!"
Buoyed by his brothers' enthusiasm, Seto waited until both teens had gathered up their laptops, then, flanked by the pair, he turned and headed for the exit, his coat billowing in his wake.
* * *
May 9, 2007