Blowing up one of Kaiba Corporation's buildings had not been one of Juudai's finer moments, and he could argue that he hadn't been truly responsible until he was blue in the face, but he was fully aware that Kaiba Seto didn't much like him. That was fine, if a bit disappointing. As long as he got the blame, it meant Saiou didn't. Even so, he'd hoped that after more than two years, Kaiba-san had forgotten about it.
Evidently not, judging by the letter he had just received. It had somehow reached him in the middle of the Bolivian rainforest just south of Santa Cruz, where he'd been looking for a rogue spirit. The letter had gone through a convoluted path that Juudai didn't even bother to understand, but if the messenger was to be believed, it had involved contacts within Industrial Illusions, O'Brien, several of his friends and even a spirit seer or two. All that effort for one letter. He wondered why they hadn't just called him, then remembered that he'd lost his cell phone in a confrontation with a group of overly ambitious mafiosi.
"Um, do you need a lift back?" the messenger asked. She brushed dreadlocks out of her face and gestured at the jeep she'd come in on. Juudai was momentarily distracted by the elaborate tattoo of a blue-green dragon curled around her biceps. It had nothing on Yubel, but he had to admit that it was beautifully done.
"No, I'll make it back before you do," he told her, swatting at a mosquito. Not even the powers of darkness were an effective insect-repellent. Maybe he should have brought Pharaoh along after all. Cats liked catching insects, right?
The woman shrugged and headed back to the jeep. Juudai waved when she took off, and waited until he was sure she hadn't driven into the nearest ravine before looking for the nearest spot to disappear. There were plenty. At least in a rainforest, he'd never be lacking for shadow, even with the sun at its highest point in mid-December.
"So we're just dropping everything?"
Yubel shimmered into view under one of the many, many, many nearby trees. This one might be a palm tree. There was no need for her to appear to have this conversation, of course, but she and Juudai both preferred talking face-to-face whenever they could.
Juudai frowned down at the letter. "Kaiba-san is asking for my presence. Urgently."
"I'm sure he can wait a bit longer."
Juudai looked at Yubel, then at the letter, and shrugged. They did still have a runaway spirit to find. And while it was unlikely to do much damage here... Well, might as well get it over with.
Their runaway spirit turned out to be a Giga Gagagigo. They stumbled into Kaiba Corporation's new building three days later, with Juudai sunburnt and exhausted from subduing the massive creature. It had been blinded, the poor thing, and Juudai following it had only made it more nervous. They had only managed to calm it down with a lot of help from Wildman. It had felt more at home in the rainforest than it had in its own world, so Juudai hadn't seen much use in taking it back. If Wildman was to be believed, the poor spirit had been hunted down by poachers. Juudai hadn't even known there were spirit poachers, and it was a revelation that was still bothering him by the time he got back to Japan. He'd definitely have to look into that.
Kaiba Seto was already in the meeting room when Juudai entered. His younger brother had chosen a spot on the windowsill and smiled when Juudai entered.
"Juudai-kun! Last time I saw you, you were just a little kid!"
The last time Juudai had seen Kaiba Mokuba, he'd been a young teenager. Now he was in his mid-twenties and stood as tall as his brother, his hair pulled back in a ponytail. Seto Kaiba hadn't changed in the least since the last time they'd met. Possibly there was a source of eternal youth somewhere. Another thing to check.
"I came here as soon as I could." More or less. "What's the problem?"
Kaiba Seto finally looked at him with ill-concealed impatience. At the back of his mind, Yubel bristled. Yeah, Kaiba-san wasn't going to like him again any time soon.
"My company has been going through some serious changes," Kaiba-san said. "Not all of them voluntary."
He gauged Juudai's reaction. From behind his back, Mokuba-san offered a sympathetic smile.
"I have been told," Kaiba-san continued when Juudai didn't react, "that you were not to blame for the destruction of my buildings. Be as that may, it was still a loss for the company, but we have decided—" he gestured at his brother and himself, "—to use the opportunity to renew our offices and bring new people on board to expand our R&D division."
Juudai nodded and sat down. If no one was going to offer him a chair, he might as well find one himself.
"So where do I come in?"
"We have hired a lot of new people. It has come to my attention that the screening process may not have been up to our usual standards." Kaiba tapped a pen on the table. "There have been a series of thefts. Nothing that stood out at first, mostly raw materials and parts. But it has become a pattern and we need to find out who is responsible. The last theft that we know of took place last week, the night of the 12th."
Why should we care?
Yubel's bewilderment mirrored his own. "I'm not sure I'm the right person to find a thief, Kaiba-san," Juudai said. "Maybe the police would do a better job."
Kaiba-san grimaced. "We believe the case would be more suited for your... special talents. The thief is suspected to have outside connections."
That didn't actually clear anything up. Juudai tilted his head.
"What my brother is failing to say," Mokuba-san cut in, "is that we believe those connections to be otherworldly."
Ah. Well, that explained a lot.
"Yes, thank you, Mokuba." Kaiba-san sighed and put his hands together. "Catching our thief has proven to be problematic, but we have narrowed it down to a couple of people." He grabbed a piece of paper and passed it on to Juudai. It held five or six names, all with a short description of the person in question.
"Most of these people are either new employees or interns," Mokuba-san said. "We don't know if our thief is on there, but they've all shown themselves to be suspicious in some way."
Juudai nodded and let his mind wander, his view expanding until it covered most of the building. He grinned. Well, that was interesting.
Leave it to Kaiba-san to put a building right on the weakest spot in all of Domino. Juudai shook his head. At least the weak point between dimensions wasn't as big here as it was at Duel Academia. Not entirely his concern right now anyway. He looked further. At least three people who weren't quite from this world and—he glanced at the list and indulged in some quick mind-reading. Yep, one of those people was on the list. Several people with very good shields, too. Juudai didn't prod any further.
Timothy Kant, the list read. It was as a good a place to start as any.
Juudai's first impression of Timothy Kant was a deep, pervading sense of loneliness.
They found Timothy in an otherwise-empty lab, scribbling down equations that almost immediately got smudged when his hand brushed over them. He glanced up when he saw Juudai enter, averted his gaze almost right away, and grimaced when he spotted the pencil smudges on the side of his hand.
"Yuuki-san," he said, "they told me you'd be coming." He got up when Juudai neared and held out his pencil-stained left hand, then thought better of it and switched to his right. Juudai shook it. Yeah, there was definitely something off about this guy.
He reminds me of Paradox, Yubel noted. Juudai squinted. With his short, blue hair and grey eyes, Timothy Kant looked absolutely nothing like Paradox. Still, he understood what Yubel meant. Timothy's aura was... displaced, much like Paradox's had been. Dimensional traveler?
"You're a long way from home," he said conversationally. Timothy smiled. It did nothing to hide the emotional turmoil rolling off from him in waves.
"Oh, not too far. I'm from Tokyo. I don't believe you live in Domino City either, Yuuki-san."
"I travel," Juudai replied. He tried for a quick prod at Timothy's thoughts, but hit a shield. Timothy had been taught to hide his thoughts, but his emotions were something else altogether. Juudai hid a shudder. This guy hadn't had a fun time.
It would be easy to finger Timothy Kant as the culprit, but he had met dimensional travelers before. Most of them weren't out to cause any trouble. If Timothy was just here on a sightseeing tour, Juudai wasn't about to stop him. He'd already learned some very harsh lessons about jumping to conclusions.
"So, you're interning here? What do you do?"
Timothy collected his notes and shoved them into a binder. Juudai caught a glimpse of a long series of complex equations and immediately decided he had better things to spend his time on. If he wanted a physics lesson, he'd ask Misawa.
And you wonder why no one ever let you do the accounting.
"Accounting isn't physics," he muttered. Timothy shot him a strange look.
"It isn't. Why do you—"
Juudai waved a hand. "Sorry, talking to myself. So, you're what, a scientist?"
"Mechanic, actually." Timothy put the last of his notes away and straightened up. He was a lot taller than Juudai. "But right now I'm working as an engineer. Working at Kaiba Corporation... It's a big opportunity. It gives us a chance to really change things," he said with almost desperate conviction. Juudai and Yubel exchanged looks. Timothy slumped a bit and smiled.
"I'm sorry, I get passionate about this stuff. I'm sure you know how it is." He sat down and looked up at Juudai, toying with a simple black pen he'd fished out of his pocket. "Sit down. I'm guessing you're here about the thefts?"
The only empty chair left was on the other side of the room, being used to prop up something large, complicated and undoubtedly expensive. Juudai didn't think Kaiba-san would appreciate him costing Kaiba Corp. even more money, so he hopped onto the table Timothy had been working at.
"Where were you the night of the 12th?"
Timothy shrugged, abashed. "Right here, actually," he said. "I worked through the night. There was a project I really wanted to finish, so..." He trailed off. Juudai grinned. If this guy ever met Misawa, they'd never see the outside of a lab again.
What do you think? Yubel gently curled a hand around his upper arm. No matter how good Timothy was at engineering, he clearly had no talent for seeing spirits. He continued to play with his pen without meeting Juudai's eyes, oblivious to Yubel's presence.
I don't think he's lying. Timothy Kant was hiding something, no doubt, but whatever it was, it had nothing to do with this. "We'll have to check the camera footage—Is there camera footage here?"
"Ask for Yori-san in security, she'll help you." Timothy sat up straighter and put the pen down, though he still didn't look at Juudai. Juudai hopped off the table.
"I'll do that." He said his goodbyes and was about to leave the lab when he thought of something. He paused in the doorway and turned around. Timothy was fiddling with the pen again.
"You should visit home soon. I'm sure your family misses you."
Timothy glanced up, his face briefly contorting into something ugly. He let out a breathy laugh. "Yeah, I'll get right to that."
Timothy Kant's story checked out. So did that of Vanessa Peterson, who spent a lot of time at work after a nasty breakup, and that of Yamahashi Kaori, who was waiting for Vanessa to notice her. Juudai left the latter with a pat on the back and a shake of his head. Their list was already down by three people, and he was starting to suspect they were on the wrong track entirely.
Yubel agreed. "We've been so busy looking for who did it, but we don't know why they're doing it."
Juudai took a bite out of his sandwich and swiveled in his chair. At two in the afternoon, the cafeteria was almost deserted. Only a few stragglers were still eating. A slumped-over young man spooned soup into his mouth, paused, and added another packet of salt. Juudai wished he could do the same to the sandwich.
"What did they steal again?" he whispered.
"Some iron, some glass fiber, a few pieces of equipment... Really nothing big," Yubel replied. She, unlike Juudai, didn't bother keeping her voice down.
"But that makes no sense." Juudai put the sandwich down. "Iron, glass fiber... That's not hard to get. Why steal it from Kaiba Corp.? That's just looking for trouble."
"Exactly." Yubel fell silent. Juudai stared at the blue-striped walls.
"Unless..." He bit his lip. "Unless that's not what's really going on. It sounds so stupid. Why steal something you can just as easily find in a store? If they're working here, they can't be that hard-up for money."
"You think they're covering up something else."
"Yeah. There has to be more going on," Juudai said. "Come on. We need to take a look at the camera footage again."
"We've been looking at specific people so far," Yubel said. The hallways were empty apart from the odd scientist. One of them, an older Korean woman, followed Yubel with her eyes when they passed. Another spirit seer.
"I don't think that's going to tell us anything." The only thing Juudai had learned was that Kaiba Corp. had an unusually high percentage of workaholics. With someone like Kaiba-san at the helm, that didn't come as a surprise.
Yubel nodded. "You might want to try checking out a few places. See where the camera doesn't come."
The security station was empty when they arrived. Juudai didn't let it bother him. Kaiba-san had given him free rein, after all. He could enter if he wanted to.
The camera feeds showed all of the main labs, the hallways and the big income hall. Yubel appeared next to him when Juudai was peering at his own image on a screen in the lower left corner.
"See anything?" he asked absently.
Yubel shook her head. "Nothing out of the ordinary. But if our thieves are smart, they'll stay out of range of the cameras."
"Which means they'd know where all the cameras are placed. Not the work of a bunch of newcomers." Juudai stared at the numerous buttons. Did he dare pressing them? Maybe he should just get Kaiba-san or Mokuba-san. He was just about to call them when movement on the lower left screen, the one that showed the office and the hallway around it, caught his attention. Yubel noticed too and disappeared from view seconds before an older woman entered the office.
"Good afternoon," she said. "May I ask what you are doing in my office?"
She was tiny. She also looked like she knew fifty ways to knock Juudai out just with the coffee cup she was holding.
"I'm Yuuki Juudai," Juudai said quickly. "Kaiba-san asked me to investigate the recent thefts.
The woman put her cup down with a heavy thunk. "He mentioned something about that, yes." She straightened up. "I am Yori Kamiko. I am in charge of overseeing security at Kaiba Corporation."
Juudai'd figured as much. Yori-san leaned past him and changed the video feeds, cycling rapidly through the labs and the cafeteria. "Can I help you with anything?" she asked.
"Yeah. We need to know where the cameras don't come."
Yori-san nodded pensively. "There are a few places. Did everyone on the list come back clean?"
"So far. You know about the list?"
"I made it." Yori-san said with a faraway look. "I must admit that I'm glad I was wrong. They're all very bright people and I would hate to lose them. As for your question—" she turned away from the screens. "There are a few places the camera doesn't see. Kaiba-san's office, for one."
Juudai waved a hand. Unless the thieves could turn invisible, their headquarters were unlikely to be directly under Kaiba-san's nose.
"There's also the basement. We haven't installed any cameras there yet."
"What's down there?" asked Juudai.
"Nothing, as of yet. Kaiba-san is thinking about opening another lab there, but it hasn't been built yet. This here—" Yori-san changed the image on the center screen to a dark, empty place that looked more like a construction site than a lab, "—is the hallway leading to the stairs."
Juudai smiled. "I think I might want to check that out. Do you want to come along, Yori-san?"
Yori-san bent over the computer controlling the screen, her face illuminated eerily by the glow. She grimaced. "I'm sorry, I have to be present at a meeting in fifteen minutes. I only came by to pick up my notes."
"Not a problem." Juudai waved goodbye and headed back to the end of the hallway, where the elevators were.
You think there's something in the basement?
"We'll know soon enough."
The basement was deserted. Nothing but gray, concrete walls, plastic that covered the entire floor, and a few lone spotlights that had all been turned off. Juudai didn't need them.
"No people," said Yubel, confirming what Juudai already knew. He sighed. This was starting to look like another dead end. They turned a corner and walked down the length of what would become a hallway once the basement had been turned into the labs Yori-san had talked about. Most of the rooms lining the hallway were completely empty, except for... Huh.
"Why would you install a steel door when nothing else is finished?" Juudai narrowed his eyes. Yeah, that was definitely a door. There wasn't a sign of life in the room behind it, but still. Time to check it out.
"Hane Kuriboh," he whispered. His partner appeared immediately. "Could you go take a look on the other side?"
Hane Kuriboh trilled and disappeared from view. He reappeared less than a minute later, visibly shaken, flapping his wings and chirping rapidly.
"Whoa, calm down! I can't understand you properly," Juudai told him. He'd caught something about a monster? "Is it safe to go in?"
Hane Kuriboh paused and managed a nod. Juudai nodded in return and exchanged a look with Yubel. "We're going in."
He didn't even bother trying the door. Why leave evidence that he'd been here? Instead he instantly moved to the other side of the wall. The basement was plenty dark enough for him to pull off that little trick.
It was equally dark on the other side of the wall, but the differences were immediately clear. There was no plastic covering the ground here, but solid tile. The walls were still bare, but several tables lined them. An emergency generator was whirring in the corner. Hane Kuriboh chirped urgently, and Juudai took his eyes off the computers next to it.
At first he thought he was seeing Amber Mammoth, trapped in one of Giese's cocoons.
It wasn't, but the monster could have passed for one of the Gem Beasts with ease. Juudai rushed forward and slammed his hands against the cocoon. The monster inside flinched violently. It must have been beautiful once, a large, elephant-like creature, its body inlaid with red gems. But now, one of its tusks was gone and the front of its face was scabbed over. Three holes remained where once there had to have been gems. It was solid within the cocoon. A forcefield, emulating spirit world conditions. Juudai suddenly had a very good idea what the thieves had needed all the equipment for.
"What have they done to you?" he whispered. The elephant drew into itself. How could they have—How could they have done this?
"Poachers," Yubel ground out next to him. Her anger was feeding his. "They're not stealing anything. They're poaching spirits."
"The Giga Gagagigo we found last week." Juudai turned around. "Hane Kuriboh, please go back to the deck."
Hane Kuriboh chirped in protest, but one look from Juudai shut him up. Juudai was not risking his partner to this, not to people who would hurt a living creature in cold blood. If he got his hands on them...
"But why here? Why right under Kaiba's nose?" Yubel asked. Juudai let out a bitter laugh. Of course. Of course.
"Because he managed to put his building right on top of the weakest spot in all of Domino, remember? Help me break this thing down." He took a deep breath and addressed the monster: "Don't worry, we'll get you out of here."
The monster only clenched its eyes shut. Juudai had to breathe slowly for several seconds before he felt capable of doing anything that wasn't destroying the entire room. Yubel nudged him and pointed him towards the base of the cocoon, where it was soldered to a large metal plate, too strong for him or Yubel to break through without hurting the spirit inside.
"There has to be another way. They would have to get it out to..." Yubel didn't finish that sentence. Juudai was very much not thinking about that. He closed his eyes until he was sure they resembled something like a normal color. When he opened them, the elephant was staring at them warily. It very carefully turned its head towards the computers lining the wall.
"Understood." Juudai walked towards the computers in careful, measured steps, Yubel right on his heels. He didn't know a lot about computers. His own laptop he mostly used to keep in touch with his friends and look up the occasional news article. But they were in the middle of Kaiba Corporation. Someone in this building had to have the skills to hack those things.
The steel door opened.
There was nowhere in the room to hide, but Juudai wasn't planning on doing so. No, he was very interested in meeting the people behind this little operation. He really would like to have a word with them.
The first person to enter was a tall blond man with a gun already out. Juudai quirked an eyebrow. Interesting, that. He was followed by another man and a woman, both
armed. They'd known he was here.
"You entered the wrong place, kid," the first man said, turning on the lights. Juudai tilted his head. Yubel had disappeared the moment the door opened. These people very likely could see spirits and Juudai knew how much Yubel appreciated the element of surprise.
"You knew I was coming," Juudai said. He disregarded the guns entirely. Fancy noise makers, nothing more. "So who's behind your little operation? Someone within Kaiba Corp., I take it?"
"None of your business."
"I have been appointed to investigate this case. I think you'll find that it is very much my business, especially," Juudai gestured at the elephant, 'if you insist on hurting innocent creatures."
Someone laughed, and Juudai knew right then that none of these people had any idea of who he was.
Oh, this was going to be incredible.
"You know," he said, "I met a Giga Gagagigo a few days ago. It was blind. With all that I've seen just now, I can't help but wonder if you know anything about that."
"That has nothing to do with you," the second man said. His voice sounded oddly hoarse, like he hadn't spoken in a long time.
"I really do think it does," said Juudai. If anyone noticed the light dimming, they didn't react. Fine, if that was the way they wanted to play it. "I met another spirit trapper once. He had a pretty similar set-up to you guys, actually. He died."
He let the last words linger for a few seconds, but they didn't seem to have much of an effect. Overconfident idiots. "Actually, no, he was killed. By the spirits he'd been torturing."
The blond man laughed. "Really? What's elephant guy going to do?"
"Ry!" the woman snapped. She hadn't relaxed her stance since they'd come in. Juudai zeroed in on her. She might be a bit more of a challenge than the other ones. "Orders were to get rid of him, not monologue at him."
And she shot. Juudai waved a lazy hand and the bullet bounced off the shield he'd created. That got them all moving. Juudai had been right in his initial assessment. The woman was by far the most dangerous of the bunch, coming at him from every angle she could think of. Juudai dismissed most of the shots immediately. He hadn't properly accounted for the two men, however. With none of the shots getting through, they'd decided to just tackle him. And Juudai was many things, but big wasn't exactly one of them. He took an involuntary step backwards when they rushed him.
Yubel, now would be a good time.
Do something about the lights first.
Element of surprise, right. Juudai dodged an attack, threw up the shield again to stop another bullet and got rid of the lights. In the confusion that followed, he made it to a reasonably safe haven, right behind the still-imprisoned elephant. Then he turned on the lights again.
The bunch of them had clearly seen enough monster spirits to not immediately be surprised at the sight of Yubel. They were taken aback enough to stop shooting, though.
"Elephant guy isn't going to do anything, no. You made plenty sure of that," said Yubel, venom clear in her voice. "I, however, might."
Would it be bad form to just sit back and enjoy the show?
The man named Ry was the first to shoot, this time. It had as little effect on Yubel as it had had on Juudai. Unlike Juudai, though, Yubel didn't keep still. She took to the air and had Ry disarmed before he could fire a second shot. Juudai got up, winked at the elephant who was now watching the fight with cautious fascination, and surveyed the situation.
Yubel, would you mind if I sent in back-up?
Scare them straight? Go for it.
"Hey!" Juudai shouted. He got the other man's attention, but the woman was focusing all her energy on Yubel, who was actually having some trouble pinning her down. "Remember that other poacher I told you about? Wanna know what he felt like when he died?"
No reply, but Juudai hadn't exactly expected one either. He channeled his energy straight into his deck, materializing Neos, then Featherman and Burst Lady, then along with them all the other Elemental Heroes and Neospacians.
"You guys been listening?"
Burst Lady nodded. "We've got some good ideas about what to do."
Juudai gestured. "Well, don't let me stop you."
The woman didn't wait for his monsters to attack; she aimed for Yubel, but the shot went wild when Sparkman tackled her. Juudai ducked, and the bullet went through the cocoon, missing the monster by a hair. It cried out in fear as the glass shattered. Not very bulletproof.
"Come here, quick," Juudai shouted at it. The elephant hesitated, but another shot gone wild made the decision for it. It hurried towards Juudai. The lesser of two evils, Juudai supposed as he wrapped his arms around it. He was the one keeping it solid now, his control not good enough to only materialize the monsters he wanted. He'd have to keep it safe.
The best thing to be said about the poachers was that they were still alive after his monsters got through with them. Somewhere halfway through the increasingly one-sided fight, Aqua Dolphin landed next to Juudai.
"Don't you think this is a bit overkill?"
Juudai tilted his head towards the elephant. "Do you?"
Aqua Dolphin's eyes narrowed as he took in the monster cowering next to Juudai. "No, I think you're right. Are there any more spirits?"
"We'll find out." Juudai took a deep breath. "Guys, I think that's enough. We do kind of need them alive."
"Pity," someone said. He thought it might have been Black Panther. His monsters disappeared one by one, leaving just Yubel, Hane Kuriboh, and Wildman, who quietly approached the elephant. The three attackers were all unconscious. Juudai sighed and began the laborious process of putting them in recovery position. Might as well make sure they were still breathing. He did need information. And there was still the case of the elephant.
It hesitantly looked around, unsure of what to do outside captivity. Juudai sighed. Such a beautiful creature.
"Hey, it'll be okay. I have friends who can help you," he told it. It was limping when it walked. Good thing those guys were already very thoroughly unconscious, or Juudai would have done worse.
He fished out his cellphone and dialed Mokuba-san. His call was answered within seconds.
"I've found the culprits. We're in the basement in a room behind a steel door."
"There are no doors in the basement," said Mokuba-san.
"Yeah, that's what we thought too."
Mokuba-san seemed to take that into stride. "Alright, I'll bring security."
"You know, on second thought, call the police instead of security. Trust me on that one."
Juudai ended the call. Only one more thing left to take care of.
Mokuba-san was waiting outside the conference room on the 39th floor, right underneath Kaiba-san's office. He looked up from his phone when Juudai stepped out of the elevator.
"The police are dealing with them," he said. "They, uh, might need a trip to the hospital as well. Do I want to know what you did?"
"Probably not." Juudai glanced at the heavy oak doors of the conference room. "Is Kaiba-san in there?"
"He's in a meeting. Do you need me to get him out?"
Juudai shook his head. "I'd rather go in, if that's okay. And I'm going to need police here too."
Mokuba-san tapped on his phone. It pinged, and he read the message with a thoughtful frown. "They'll be up in a minute or two," he said. "Is that okay for you?"
"That's fine. Do you want to come along?"
Mokuba-san smiled. "And watch you tell Nii-san? Wouldn't miss it for the world."
They entered the conference room together. Minimalistic design, glass tables, and a variety of people all with laptops and tablets that probably weren't even available to the public yet. Kaiba was seated near the front of the table, watching the speaker attentively. He seemed to be the only one. A young man shot up and barely suppressed a yawn when Juudai and Mokuba-san entered. The speaker stopped talking.
"Nii-san," Mokuba-san greeted. "Juudai-kun has just found our culprits. Domino City police officers have arrested them ten minutes ago."
Juudai glanced around the room. Yori-san was sitting a few seats down from Kaiba-san, listening attentively. She frowned at the mention of the police.
"Kaiba-san," she said, addressing Mokuba-san, "if I may so impertinent, why weren't my people called? I have been involved with this case since the start—"
Probably why they never found anyone.
Juudai snorted. All heads turned to him.
"I'll explain that in a minute, Yori-san," he said. "First of all, Kaiba-san, you should know you weren't dealing with thieves, but smugglers."
Kaiba-san lifted an eyebrow. "They were smuggling materials stolen from Kaiba Corp.? That doesn't seem very smart."
"Not materials, spirits. If you go down to the basement right now, I'm sure you'll find most of the stolen material. You were right in suspecting otherworldly involvement." Juudai paused. "Still, I'm left with a few questions."
Juudai grabbed a chair and sat down on it backwards. "See, when I went down to the basement, I was confronted with a few people who didn't seem very surprised to see me there. They were rather intent on killing me, I must say. "He sighed. "But of course, no one knew I was going down there..."
Stop it with the theatrics.
Oh, alright. Juudai couldn't suppress the slightest of grins. "Expect for Yori-san. I did wonder about that. Because I can believe that the place would be abandoned, but then for them to find me right afterwards and intending to kill me? A bit suspicious."
"Be careful with what you're implying, Yuuki-san," Yori-san said coldly. Juudai continued, undaunted.
"Who were you planning on framing, Yori-san? Timothy Kant? Vanessa Peterson? Maybe Yamahashi Kaori? You designed the list well. All people who had something suspicious going for them."
"I found no pleasure in designing that list," Yori-san hissed. She got up. Juudai chanced a look at Kaiba-san, who had not reacted yet, but was watching the proceedings intently. The rest of the people in the room seemed more confused than anything.
"Yori-san has been a valued employee of Kaiba Corp. for many years," Kaiba-san said mildly. "What is your evidence, Yuuki-kun?"
"I don't have proof," Juudai admitted, "but I have many questions. Kaiba-san, do your employees get access to weapons?"
"Of course not."
"Only security, I'm guessing. Funny how the three people down in the basement all had guns. I mean, you can't just walk into the grocery store and buy one. They're not easy to come by."
"Unless you know someone," Mokuba-san finished for Juudai. "Good show, Juudai-kun."
Kaiba-san sighed. "Yori-san?"
"I refuse to listen to this slander any longer." Yori-san said. She grabbed her bag and headed for the exit. "Kaiba-san, perhaps you shouldn't hire kids for important matters."
She threw open the conference door and ran straight into three police agents. Juudai smiled. "Of course, if you're not involved, I suppose you can tell these nice people all about it and they'll let you go once you've proven your innocence."
Yori-san turned to him with a venomous glare. But she wouldn't try to attack him now. That would only settle her guilt.
"Right, this meeting is over," Kaiba-san announced. He stood up. "Officers, please report back to me with the results of your investigation. Everyone else, please get out."
The meeting room emptied within minutes, leaving just Kaiba-san, Mokuba-san, and Juudai himself. Kaiba-san took a deep breath.
"When I ask you to investigate something, you don't do it by halves. You do realize Yori-san is one of my most valued employees, don't you?" he said. Juudai shook his head.
"I know, but you can't expect me to let this go. That spirit down there..." He clenched his jaw shut. Mokuba-san frowned.
"Why spirits? What do they gain from it?"
"Simple, Mokuba," said Kaiba-san. "I am willing to admit that monster spirits exist, but do you think the police force is? What do you think they'll be charged with?"
Comprehension dawned. "Theft, maybe embezzlement of resources. Illegally firing a weapon at most." Mokuba-san groaned.
"Can't poach something that doesn't technically exist," Juudai ground out. It was an awful reality. At most, they'd get a year in prison and they'd get off completely scot-free otherwise. "I'm going to make very sure they never pull anything like this ever again, trust me." He got up. "If you don't mind, I'll be going now."
"Seems like you've cost my company some more resources, Yuuki Juudai," Kaiba-san said, "but thank you."
That'd have to do. Juudai waved goodbye to Mokuba-san and left the conference room, Yubel in tow. They found Wildman outside, along with the spirit elephant. It startled when he came out.
"You okay?" Juudai asked softly, crouching down in front of it. "I have a friend who might be able to help you—" The elephant shook its head vehemently. No people. Right. "Well then, do you know a Giga Gagagigo? I met it a couple of days ago."
The elephant nodded cautiously.
"It's living in a forest now. No people around anywhere. What do you think?"
The elephant perked up and nodded, flapping its ears. Juudai smiled. One more trip to make and maybe then he'd stay in one place for a while.