(A/N): This is catchup day for me, pushing stuff out of the old elljay archives. Anyways, this was a long over due request from September from pjsan at LiveJournal.
Leave it to the former King to ignore directions and insist that he could find the duel arena himself in the huge stadium. Now the reporter that had tagged along with him was left alone in the correct hallway, and Jack was who-knows-where.
"Maaaaaaan! How am I supposed to write an article about the former King's duel in the stadium if he isn't in the stadium to begin with?! What a mess of a scoop..."
Carly fretted and worried and flailed to herself as she continued down the hallway. "Maybe I can get to the stadium first and get someone else to find him, knowing me, I'd probably get lost if I tried-ooof!!!"
She was shaken out of her thoughts when she felt herself impact with something-it was shorter than her and sent her sprawling to the ground, glasses flying off her face in a spectacular fashion, the loss preventing her from making out what exactly she bumped into (which also seemed to have toppled to the ground).
"A-ack! M-My glasses! I can't see without them!" two voices cried out simultaneously.
"H-huh?" one voice said.
"You lost yours too?" said the other.
"Y-yeah, sorry about that. I was kinda distracted..."
"It's fine, it's fine! No damage done, see?"
"Oh, great...hey, I think I found mine!"
"Oh good! I think I've found mine too...wait..."
"These aren't mine..."
Carly squinted through the too-small lenses (who used glasses like these anyways, they were small enough to be perfectly useless...), managing to make out a small, somewhat childish face framed by blue hair. Large eyes were hidden by an even larger pair of glasses-her glasses!
"Hey...you don't look half bad with my glasses on..."
That got a laugh from the smaller...boy? He certainly seemed short enough to be so. It was a contagious laugh, one that sent her into her own fit of hysterics as she laughed alongside him.
"Same to you, miss!"
"Hey, wait...I've got a camera on me...do you mind?" It was a question asked on impulse-as a reporter, she liked to capture any moments that were memorable...even if she wasn't technically reporting.
"Sounds interesting. Go for it!"
And with a flash and a snap, a picture was taken, which the two looked at once they finally exchanged their specs.
"Oh, this one's a keeper!" Carly exclaimed with a cheery grin, still laughing.
"You'll have to send me one, miss..."
"Carly. Carly Nagisa. What's the name I send to...?"
"Oh, okay...wait, Marufuji?! As in, the sponsor for this Riding Duel tournament?!" Carly was left (mostly) speechless-although she wasn't entirely sure whether her surprise was from meeting with the big name behind the tournament so soon...or because this person she had mistaken for a child was actually several years older than she was.
"Yeah, that's me."
"W-wow...b-but what are you doing here? A-Aren't you supposed to be at the opening ceremonies?"
"Those don't start for a while. I know the building enough that I can get to them on time...after all, I was the one who commissioned it to be built."
Sho nodded, before giving the girl a closer look.
"That's a press pass you have around your neck, isn't it? Shouldn't you be in the spectators' hallway, not the challengers'?"
That remark left her flustered and rushing to explain herself.
"Well, I came here with one of the challengers-but he got himself lost! Now I have to find him...awww, maaan, I completely forgot about Jack!"
"Jack? You don't mean the infamous Jack Atlus, do you?"
"Then that shouldn't be a problem. Come this way."
"E-eh? Alright...but what's going on?"
Sho grinned at her, the expression surprisingly rather childish for someone of such prestige.
"I'm the one in charge of this place, remember? We'll just take a little trip to my office and request that someone find this Jack for you. He shouldn't be too hard to find, hm?"
That got a laugh out of Carly.
"No...he's someone who practically demands attention!"
"Well then, problem solved. It'll be easier for you to wait in one place for him, and perhaps get an interview while you're waiting?"
"Yeah, thanks...w-wait, an interview?! With you?!"
"Certainly. I don't think a reporter such as yourself would turn an opportunity like this up, would you?"
"N-no, of course not...but I thought that you had refused a lot of the interviews that came up before about this...everyone thought you were just being distant..."
"Well, everyone has their priorities. As much as creating a well-known league was a dream of mine, my niisan comes first and foremost. When he's ill, all my attention is diverted to him."
Ah. Marufuji Ryo, the older genius brother who had taken a downward spiral after graduating from the same Duel Academia his brother had attended. He was cripplingly ill, she knew that...everyone knew that.
"Indeed. Here we are."
The office was surprisingly simple...a desk, a chair, a file cabinet and shelves...and every single one of those things were littered with figurines and plushies and posters of all sorts of Duel Monsters. It rather looked like a child's room (and somewhat like her room, except she never could and probably never would afford so much merchandise, as much as she wanted to) instead of a private office. Carly looked around in awe, before one figurine caught her eye in particular.
"Ah! The super rare Black Magician Girl figurine that was given out as a lucky prize draw in the tours of Yugi's deck! I can't believe you have one!" She didn't mention that she herself had once had one...but that was traded away for the sake of information on the Arcadia Movement. She didn't regret the trade...not too much, anyways. She didn't notice the amused look that Sho had sent her way before he answered.
"It was a hard find, yes. I was quite the fan back in my days in the Duel Academia. Still am, actually." He chuckled a bit at her gaping mouth as he pressed the button on the intercom at his desk. "Security? Find the tournament participant Jack Atlus and bring him to my office, stat." He then sat down in the chair behind his desk, reclining and clearly at ease as he motioned Carly to the chair in front.
"Well, I expect it won't be long until your friend is found. This would be a good time to ask questions, wouldn't it?"
Carly seemed to start when he addressed her, before suddenly nodding and pulling out a pad and paper.
"What prompted you to start this tournament? You mentioned it was a dream of yours...what inspired it?"
"Well, I had always idolized and looked up to my niisan for a long time. I thought that I wanted to be just like him...but events in Duel Academia helped me to change my mind. While I did inherit his deck, I worked on it to improve it, and made it my own. I chose to take my own path even while following my brother's footsteps. It's a bit silly explaining it this way...but that really is how it happened."
"Events? You're not talking about those mysterious happenings, are you...?"
The questions continued in this vein for a few minutes longer, before being interrupted by a loud ruckus from outside and the door being kicked open mere seconds later.
"WHO DARES SEND SECURITY AFTER THE KING? I CAN ESCORT MYSELF JUST FINE!!!"
And Carly abandoned the interview in favor of fussing over the angered duelist: assuring him that he wasn't in trouble, that it was her that asked for help finding him, and chiding him slightly for going the wrong way. Sho couldn't help but watch in amusement at the conversation between the two, grinning almost impishly when the loud, intimidating man actually seemed somewhat tamed during the confrontation with her.
"Jack Atlus." Well, that got the taller man's attention. "I look forward to your performance in the Riding Duel Tournament."
"The King never disappoints his audience! It is natural that you would be looking forward to it!"
"Of course." The two set off to leave, but not before Sho called out to the reporter. "Carly."
"Y-yeah?" She turned back, curious.
Sho reached into a drawer and pulled something out, before heading up to her with one hand held tightly closed.
"I look forward to seeing your article as well."
"Y-yeah, sure! I'll make sure you get one delivered specially!"
"I appreciate that. Here's something for the trouble." He opened the palm of his hand, leaving her to gasp in surprise.
"I got lucky more than once, it seems."
"Oh wow...but are you sure you want to give it to...me? After that trouble I put you through?"
"It wasn't much trouble at all. Anyways, I wouldn't be much of a host to let you leave without a token of some sort."
"W-wow, thanks so much!" Carly gleefully took the second super-rare Black Magician Girl figurine from Sho's outstretched palm, placing it carefully into a pouch on her belt before waving him goodbye. "It was nice running into you, Marufuji-san!"
"You can call me Sho."
"A-ah, right! T-Thanks, Sho! Come on, Jack!" And she took off down the hall without another word. Jack made to follow her, but not without glaring somewhat at the diminutive older man.
"Hmph. I suppose I should thank you for taking care of her."
"No need. She's a good girl. Perhaps next time you should listen to her directions, Jack." Sho gave the taller man an impish grin, to which the other returned with a somewhat angrier scowl."
"Come on, Jack! You're late enough already!" Carly's voice from the other end of the hall seemed to remind him that he was rather close to punching out someone who was of great enough importance to cause problems if he did continue with his current thoughts. Instead, he harrumphed before turning around (rather flamboyantly and huffily) before striding down the hall after her.
Sho watched, chuckling somewhat as his face now started to reveal the nervous tension he had been feeling after the taller man's reaction.
"H-heh, he's tall...rather loud and scary too...he's almost worse than niisan..."
"Who's almost worse than me, Sho?" questioned a dark blue haired man who had rolled up in a wheelchair behind him, taking the short man by surprise.
"H-hey, don't startle me like that..."