Happy Valentine's Day, Kaiba!
On the thirteenth of February, Seto Kaiba put a new lock on his locker, which was a bit of a problem for the females of Domino High. With New Year's over and Christmas long past, there had been nothing more interesting to look forward to than the day when all Japanese schoolgirls concocted candy delights to give to the boys they were most fond of. Kaiba, with his fame, fortune, and brooding good looks, was a prime target for female affection. His fan club had been mobilizing for weeks in advance. They had singlehandedly cleaned out a grocery store of cocoa and confectioner's sugar. More than one girl pulled an all-nighter, trying to get that handmade chocolate just right, so that it would stand as a perfect testimony to her undying love to the lordly blue-eyed boy. Each one knew in her heart of hearts that her endeavors would be found worthy, and that Kaiba would at last see that she was meant to be his soulmate. If only they could get their tribute to him, he would surely find it worthy and bestow appropriate thanks.
But there were few, if any, who had the nerve to actually present their gifts to him outright. He might well have been handsome, intelligent, and all the rest, but he was not easily approachable. He seldom spoke in class, and did not, as a general rule, socialize. His lofty manner tended to make even his most ardent follower turn shy and silent when he looked her way. No, giving him chocolate face to face was just not going to work. That left the second-best option: put it in his locker.
Thus it was that when Jonouchi arrived at school on February the fourteenth, he found an unhappy young lady wrestling with the newly-acquired lock.
"Having trouble?" he asked.
"I can't get it open!" she wailed.
"That's probably the point," Jonouchi replied. "I know if I were him, I wouldn't want people going through my stuff. He's probably got his laptop or some junk like that in there."
"But it's Valentine's Day!" the girl protested. "I wanted to put my candy in his locker, but..."
Jonouchi shrugged. "Guess he forgot it was the big day, huh? Well..." He looked thoughtful for a moment before turning back to her with a broad grin. "Seeing as how I'd just hate for him to not get his candy on Valentine's Day, maybe I'll cut you a deal. Got any money on ya?"
"A little," she said, looking faintly puzzled.
"Fine. Gimme five hundred yen, and I'll pick the lock for you. Then you can put in candy or flowers or love letters or whatever."
The girl considered a moment, and then fished in her purse and took out a 500 yen coin. Jonouchi snapped it up, and then took a bit of wire out of his pocket and began tinkering with the lock. In a few seconds, it snapped open as easily as if he'd been using the proper key. The girl happily put in the bag of chocolate, and then skipped off happily. Jonouchi shut the locker and closed the lock again.
That was the first time.
A few minutes later, a second girl appeared, and Jonouchi was more than happy to offer her the same deal. After her came a set of three, who quarreled a while over the price.
"It ain't just for opening the lock," he told them. "You're paying for the privilege of puttin' stuff in this locker. C'mon, it's just 500 yen for a chance at Seto Kaiba! How can you say no?"
The girls debated for a few minutes before finally deciding that if they didn't cooperate with him, they would have to find the courage to face Kaiba head-on. They opted to appease the guardian of the locker and handed over the money.
Eventually, the rest of the crew - consisting of Yugi, Anzu, Honda, Otogi, and Bakura - wandered in and found him leaning against the lockers and looking pleased with himself. He'd collected a tidy pile of coins, and classes hadn't even started yet.
"Morning, Jonouchi!" said Yugi. "What are you doing here so early?"
"Being helpful," he replied. "I'm aiding the cause of true love and personal profit!"
"What are you doing, selling Valentines?" asked Otogi. "I guess you figured you weren't going to get any yourself..."
"Aw, shaddup. At least I don't keep leading on half the girls in school," Jonouchi shot back, but without any real venom. "Unlike some people I know!"
"I don't lead them on," said Bakura shyly. "They just follow me anyway."
"I wasn't talking to you," Jonouchi assured him.
"Well, you couldn't have been talking to me," Otogi replied. "I only have eyes for the lovely Shizuka."
"Forget it," said Honda. "You haven't got a chance."
"Neither have you!"
"So, what are you doing?" asked Yugi curiously.
"Opening this locker," Jonouchi replied. "Kaiba's put a lock on it to keep the girls out, but he didn't do a good enough job of it! I've already made five thousand yen, and school hasn't even started yet!"
"Don't you think he's going to get a little annoyed about this?" asked Honda.
"Nah. Who's going to tell him?" Jonouchi replied. He grinned wickedly. "Besides, it ain't like I'm eating his candy. Look at it this way: I'm saving those poor girls the trouble of having him blow up at them for trying to give it to him in person!"
"Well, you might have a point about that," said Yugi. "Remember what happened last year?"
"Do I ever," said Anzu. "That poor girl. She never knew what hit her."
"See? I get the money, they stay safe from Kaiba, and he gets free candy. I don't see how this could possibly go wrong,"
"Those are words of ill-omen," said Otogi. "But I guess if you want to risk it, that's your problem!"
"And I guess that if you're making so much money, you don't need any candy from me," said Anzu. "I got some for the rest of you guys, though. Here!" She fished in her backpack and took out a number of brown bags held shut with red stickers. "Sorry I didn't have time to wrap them up fancy, but the candy is good. I got it at that cute little place next to the coffee shop - you know the one."
"Thanks, Anzu. That was thoughtful of you," said Bakura.
"Mine is different," said Yugi, staring into his bag.
Anzu blushed a little. "Well, I... made that one myself. Just because... well, you know. I mean..." She looked down, realized she was still holding the last of the paper bags, and shoved it in Jonouchi's direction. "Oh, whatever. You can have this anyway. See you in class!"
She darted off, her cheeks still pinker than usual.
"Score!" said Honda, ruffling Yugi's hair playfully.
Yugi squirmed away. "Nah. She was just being nice, that's all. But it is almost time for class. Coming, Jonouchi?"
"In a minute. I'd hate to miss an opportunity. Don't worry, I won't be late!"
"Well, see you then, I guess," said Honda. "Don't get in trouble, okay?"
With that reassurance, Yugi and the others hurried off to their classroom. They found that Kaiba was already there, hiding his face in a book and trying to look invisible. Several girls were also there, and some of them were shooting looks his way and giggling before quickly turning away again.
"Hey, Kaiba," said Otogi. "Have you been by your locker today?"
"No," Kaiba snapped. "Leave me alone."
"But that lock you put on it - people are..."
"I don't want to hear it," said Kaiba. "If they want to waste their time trying to fight their way into my locker just to give me some stupid chocolate, it's their problem and not mine. I hate Valentine's Day and everything to do with it, so unless you have something intelligent to say, go away."
"Just drop it," Honda advised. "He's obviously not listening."
"Well, okay," said Otogi. "But don't say I didn't try to warn you!"
"Humph," was Kaiba's only reply. He looked pointedly at his book, leaving Yugi and the rest no choice but to ignore him and go to their seats.
Just as the chimes stopped ringing to announce the start of class, Jonouchi came rushing in, grinning from ear to ear. His backpack was jingling suspiciously. He flashed a victory sign to his friends, who just sighed and rolled their eyes. There were times when they all wondered about Jonouchi.
When the lunch bell rang, Jonouchi took his place next to Kaiba's locker once more, and soon had a queue forming up in front of him. In between bites of his midday meal, he performed a steady cycle of opening and closing: pick the lock, open the door, wait for a girl to deposit her tokens of affection, close the door, lock it again, start over. Somewhere along the line, people stopped questioning the sanity of locking a door just to unlock it again and simply went with the flow. Who were they to ask questions if this odd person could unlock the door to Kaiba's locker for them, and thereby give them the chance to unlock the door of Kaiba's heart? Word of mouth had spread rapidly during class hours, by means of passing notes and hushed whispers, and by now, everyone knew what the deal was. It was becoming something of a matter of honor: you weren't a real Seto Kaiba fan unless you had stood in line and paid your dues like everyone else. Anyone who even dared think about doing something unconventional, like giving him the candy face to face or slipping it into his desk, would be immediately pounced by girls who couldn't stand the idea that someone might do something different that might draw Kaiba's attention away to one admirer in particular. No, everyone was going to be on equal footing. And in the meantime, Jonouchi's backpack was steadily filling with coins.
"Come on, don't think I didn't see you do that!" he scolded.
A girl blushed furiously and put back the name tag he had been trying to remove from a rival's package.
"That's right. Play fair," said Jonouchi. "Everybody pays the same money and everybody gets the same chance. Don't try to pull any fast ones!"
The girl stepped away, and was replaced by the next girl in line, who handed over a handful of 100 yen coins and waited eagerly as Jonouchi reopened the door for her. She proudly slipped her bag of candy into place, and the door was closed and locked again.
"Hey, wait!" she said. "I forgot to put in my note!"
"You want me to open the door again, you have to pay up again!"
"But that's not fair!"
"That's the way it is, sweetheart! I'm not opening that door again for free!"
The girl grumbled as she scrounged up enough money to pay the fare again.
At long last, the bell rang that summoned everyone back to class again, and all the girls who had not yet had the privilege of depositing their gifts gave a wail of dismay.
"Don't worry, I'll be here after class, too!" he assured them.
Thus comforted, the girls hurried back to class, leaving Jonouchi alone. He stood and pondered a moment, weighing his options. Then he reopened the locker. It was piled nearly to the roof with bags and boxes and paper-wrapped packets. Pretty soon, there wouldn't be any room left for anything else. He stared at this monument to feminine hopes and dreams, before picking up half of it and shoving it in his backpack with the rest of his profits. After all, if he didn't make room, the rest of those poor girls would have noplace to put their candy. Whistling cheerfully, he zipped up his backpack and sauntered back to class.
The end of school came at last. Once again, Yugi and his friends found Jonouchi keeping his vigil by the lockers.
"You're cutting it awfully close, man," said Honda, as he opened his own locker. "Kaiba's going to catch you for sure."
"No, he won't," Jonouchi replied. "I have it on good authority that he's hiding in the library until everyone's gone home, so he won't have to deal with any of these wacky girls. I've got plenty of time to get away."
"Suit yourself," Honda replied. He peered into his locker. "Hey, I got some candy! And it's from Miho. I thought she was seeing someone."
"They broke up two weeks ago," said Anzu knowledgeably. "I guess she's lonesome."
"Huh. Maybe I should talk to her..."
"I thought you had a crush on Shizuka," Otogi teased.
"I did," said Honda, "but Miho was here first."
"Oh, come on! You'll take all the fun out of the game!"
"No playing games with my sister!" Jonouchi said. "Either you're serious about it or you stay away!"
"Did you get anything, Yugi?" Anzu asked.
Yugi looked. "What do you know? I did! But yours is still best."
"Does anyone have any plans for tonight?" asked Bakura. "Every restaurant in town probably packed tonight, but I've got some things at my apartment. You're welcome to come over, if you want."
"Count me in," said Otogi.
"I could go for that," Yugi agreed. "What about you, Anzu?"
"Fine with me," she agreed.
Honda was reading over the note that had come with his candy. "I think I'll try and see if I can catch up with Miho. You know, just to talk."
Yugi laughed. "Good luck with that, then! Tell us how it goes!"
"How about you, Jonouchi?" Bakura asked.
"Nah. I'm gonna hang out here a while longer, and then I've got some stuff to do at home. You guys have fun."
"Okay," said Yugi. "See you tomorrow, Jonouchi. Happy Valentine's Day!"
"Same to you! Bye, guys!"
Jonouchi watched his friends leave, thinking it was just as well. He'd have other chances to have dinner with them, but today was a special occasion. He waited a while longer, performing his self-appointed task for a few stragglers, assuring them that Kaiba hadn't checked his locker yet. At last, the final girl dropped off her confectionary gift and walked off. The hallways became empty and silent.
"It's okay!" he called. "You can come out now!"
A few seconds later, Kaiba himself stepped out of the computer lab.
"Finally!" he said. "I thought they'd never leave!"
"Yeah, no kidding," said Jonouchi. He wandered idly over to his locker and had a look inside. "Hey, there's some for me too! Wonder when they slipped that by me?"
Kaiba investigated the backpack Jonouchi had left on the floor. "Why is there all this candy in here?"
"Your locker ran out of space. If they can't put any more candy in, there's no use charging, right?"
"I suppose so," Kaiba agreed. "It looks like we made a good haul."
"Yeah, there must be nearly twenty thousand in there!"
Kaiba shook his head. "Astounding. People are unbelievably gullible. All that time and effort when I really couldn't care less."
"Hey, it ain't like you encourage 'em. If they wanna throw their money away on a hopeless cause, that's their problem, right?" said Jonouchi. "Anyway, you ready to pony up what you owe me?"
Kaiba nodded. "Half the profits and your pick of the candy. It's not like I really wanted any chocolate."
"I did all the work. I think I should get more than half," said Jonouchi. "My fingers are killing me from picking that lock all day, and I got in trouble with the teacher. I thought I'd go crazy from listening to those girls shriek at me all day."
"It was my idea," said Kaiba. He began shoveling chocolates into his backpack. "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't get anything at all."
"I guess you're right," Jonouchi agreed. "So, whaddayasay we go count up the loot, huh?"
"Might as well," said Kaiba. "Your place or mine?"
"Yours. Mine's a dump." Jonouchi zipped up his backpack and picked it up, grunting under the weight of the coins. He gave Kaiba a grin. "So, who're ya takin' out for Valentine's day, Kaiba?"
"That ain't the answer I wanted to hear. I worked through my lunch break for this, you know!"
"Oh, fine, whatever," said Kaiba. "Come on. The limo will be waiting for me."
"Awesome. I always wanted to ride in one of those," said Jonouchi. "So, we're doing this again next year, right?"
"Absolutely," Kaiba agreed, and the two of them left the school.