"Pack your possessions in fifteen minutes or less," came the crisp command. It was the first time Seto Kaiba had spoken to him directly. He sounded just like he did on the videos, if a bit harsher. "If you are not gone in twenty, security will arrive to dispose of you."
Imori replaced the phone on the hook, hand trembling.
But what had Imori done? It was all Kaiba's fault – if he'd just given Imori that raise, Imori wouldn't have been strapped for cash. And if Imori hadn't been strapped for cash, well, he wouldn't have been tempted to go to the press, would he?
Everyone but Imori, that's how it always was. Puny, overlooked Hajime Imori, always the first to show up and the last to leave. The studious high school twerp whose tests all the bullies would copy. And how was he repaid?
Imori stood and looked over his desk.
He didn't have anything worth taking.
The bookstore loomed over them.
"Jeez, there are so many," Jou groaned. "It's like we're back to square one. What kind of books does she even like, anyway?"
"Um, smart books," Honda suggested.
"But would we know one if we saw one?"
Yugi laughed. "It's okay! We know some other things she likes, right?"
"So we can find books about those things, and it's two birds with one stone," Jou realized. "You're a genius!"
"Okay," Honda said. "Then let's split up. I'll cover dance. Yugi, you take clothes, and Jou…"
Jou was already in the romance section. "Haha, guys, you'll never believe what this one's about!" he called across the store.
"Jou, we're looking for something she'll actually read!"
Honda nudged Yugi. "Yuug, is that your cell ringing?"
"Oh!" Yugi pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. A little Kuriboh charm jingled as he flipped the phone open. "Hello? …Oh, Anzu, I was just thinking about you!"
A cashier glared at Yugi. He grinned apologetically and backed out of the store.
And so, with their cherubic multi-hued conscience absent from sight…
"Honda, Honda! I thought it couldn't get any worse than the three-headed, four-breasted alien, but look! Look at this!"
"Oh my God, and she's wearing a tutu! Hey, wait a sec-"
"Who else do we know who likes tutus?"
In that moment, Jou and Honda could have been mistaken for brothers: they had cultivated the same impish grin.
"It's a book," said Honda.
"It's about dance," said Jou.
"It's got girly romance and stuff."
"Wait a minute, does she like girly romance?"
Honda shrugged. "She likes Yuug, right?"
"Ya sold me," said Jou. "Quick, let's buy it before the kid gets back."
The cashier – Akagi, if his name tag was to be trusted - was a twitchy young man with bushy eyebrows. His trepidation was palpable as he watched the duo approach. Jou smacked the book down onto the counter. "We'll buy this," Jou announced.
"Um," said Akagi. He scanned the book, glanced at its cover, and quickly looked away. Twitch, twitch. "Will that be all?"
"That's it," said Honda, rummaging in his pocket. He produced a sheaf of bills, and counted through it. "Here you-"
"Honda! Jou!" Yugi cried, rushing back into the store. "Emergency!"
"Oh, damn! We've gotta go!" Honda grabbed Jou by the arm and started to pull. Jou stayed planted where he was. Akagi looked between the two, eyebrows betraying his befuddlement.
"Can't we buy it first?"
"Well, she can't read it if we end up failing to save the world," said Honda.
"You've got a point," said Jou.
"It'll be here later."
"Yeah," said Jou, looking at the cover again. "It will."
"Would you like me to h-hold onto it for you?" said Akagi, in a surprising display of initiative.
"Could you?" said Jou, surprised. "That'd be great, thanks."
Akagi took the book. "Your name?"
"Jou," said Jou. "Super-Jou."
Honda sighed. "Let's go, hero."
Yugi was sitting on a bench just outside of the store, jiggling his small leg impatiently. He shot to his feet when Jou and Honda emerged. "What on Earth took you so-"
"Where are the bad guys?" interrupted Honda.
"It's not Bakura again, is it? I hate dealing with that guy."
"Are we going to Egypt?"
"Uh," said Yugi. "Oh. Oh, sorry. It's not about the world this time."
"What?" said Honda.
"Maaaaan," said Jou. "We coulda bought that book."
Honda sighed and held up his hands. "Yugi, let's talk about this emergency thing first."
"Right," said Yugi. Now that he'd been given his chance to talk, it seemed that he wasn't sure where to begin. "Um, it's… well…"
"What is it, little buddy?"
"It's Kaiba," said Yugi. "Um, Anzu told me that she was watching the news, and … um … it seems like Kaiba's been secretly developing this game for a while now." Yugi fidgeted. "Um, a dating sim. About boys in love. You know, with each other. And she said-"
Honda scratched the back of his head, nonplussed. "Dude, is that really an emergency?"
And then he followed Yugi's eyes – to Jou.
"That son of a bitch," said Jou, taking a step back. "Of course. Of course."
But, now, what was he supposed to do?
Jounouchi had ditched the gang, taken a few turns to throw them off, and was now hiding out in a bathroom stall. He figured he had about ten minutes – the mall wasn't exactly a labyrinth, and Honda was his ride home.
His first thought, his gut reaction, was to just call Kaiba up and rip him a new one. Screw tact – that son of a bitch!
If he'd learned one thing from Yugi, though, it was to think about the next turn, too. What would Kaiba do? Now that Jou's previous unease had been proven justified, he had no way of knowing Kaiba wouldn't just hang up on him. After all, now that the secret was out, there was no reason to keep Jou happy.
The cell phone in Jou's lap rang. He drew a sharp breath – but, no, they'd finally figured out that Jou had snagged Yugi's cell phone before he ran off. Honda, the tiny screen read. He fumbled with the buttons.
Busy tone sent.
"What should I do?" Jou said quietly.
"So, wait, what's going on?" Honda demanded, snapping his phone shut. "Why isn't Jou picking up?"
Yugi kept walking, his brightly colored head bobbing through the crowd. "We've got to find him! Before he does anything stupid!"
"Why would he? What's going on?"
"Anzu says that Jou and Kai-" Yugi paused, glanced warily around, and rephrased. "She says that Jou and our friend were seeing each other. And that's where Jou's been going every week, to his place."
"That's crazy! Wouldn't he have told us?"
Yugi looked back at Honda and raised a tiny eyebrow.
"…Okay, I guess not," Honda admitted.
Yugi continued. "So we've got to find Jou before he hurts you-know-who or himself, or gets mobbed by the media. Or all three. Anzu's on her way, by the way."
"All right," said Honda. "Would it be quicker if we split up?"
"Usually it would, but I don't have my cell phone," Yugi said sadly.
Honda frowned. Sure, the mall wasn't exactly a labyrinth, but Jou still had plenty of places to hide before he snuck out.
"Hang on," Honda said. "Jou can't go anywhere. I got him here, remember?"
Yugi perked up a bit. "Right!"
"So… where would he be?"
They passed by a narrow hallway and rounded the corner. Yugi frowned, deep in thought. "Well, I guess the most obvious place would be… the bathroom?"
"Right. So that's out. What's the next thing he'd think we would think of?"
"Probably the toy and game shops," Yugi said. "And the arcade."
Honda and Yugi looked at each other.
"The bookstore! He doubled back!"
"Son of a bitch," Honda grumbled, grabbing Yugi by the arm and pulling him back the way they'd come.
Seto Kaiba sat silently on the couch next to his brother. He fingered the cell phone in his hand as Mokuba turned off the television.
"Seto? Are you okay?"
Kaiba flipped the phone open, and then closed it again.