"I don't need a builder."
The newly appointed Meijin Kawaguchi the Fourth scowled at the engineer being presented to him. If he had to guess, he’d say the engineer was close to his age, nineteen or twenty. The top two buttons of the man's PPSE uniform were undone, and his blond hair was a riotous mess. The so-called builder looked as if he had rolled straight out the company dorm's bed.
"Give him a chance, Kaiba-kun," Mutou Yuugi nettled and clapped his hands together. "You can't do everything yourself."
Kaiba Seto glared harder at the PPSE administrator and snapped, "Your career is never going to go anywhere as long as you keep taking these pathetic strays under your wing,"
Yuugi's job duties were a little bit of everything— ranging from paperwork and rights management to what could only be described as "herding cats" when it came to managing the team that higher-ups at the company had unloaded on Kaiba. In the last month since Kaiba started at the company, Yuugi had introduced him to no less than a dozen builders to fill the empty slots and transfers on the Works Team. He may be the closest thing that Kaiba had to a friend, but Yuugi was beginning to get on his nerves.
Meanwhile, the blond yawned and didn't even try to cover it up. Kaiba turned his glower back on the engineer, but he didn't flinch. The standards at Gunpla Academy must have taken a nosedive since Kaiba graduated.
The blond slung a lazy arm around Yuugi's shoulder. "If his majesty doesn't want to make use of my skills, it's his loss. Doesn't matter if he wins or loses the world championship, I get paid either way," he drawled. His tone and diction were rough— a lower middle-class upbringing and meager education at best.
Kaiba laughed. "Are you suggesting that I need your help," he sneered for emphasis. "To win?"
The other man shrugged. His nonchalant attitude was beginning to really piss Kaiba off. "Just calling it like I see it."
"Clearly, you're blind then," Kaiba balked. He turned with a swish of his long black trenchcoat and walked away.
Kaiba gritted his teeth and yanked the right control orb. He could feel his Gunpla jerk to the left before righting itself. Next, he thought to himself, deploy the double beam sabers from weapon slot two, close the gap, and cleave the remaining Zakus into halves.
"Simulation battle ended."
The hologram of the cockpit faded away and the field dropped, allowing the Plavsky particles to dissipate naturally.
"You either need a Gunpla in a higher weight class or you need to stop driving yours like a tank," someone declared from the other side of the room.
Kaiba jerked back in surprise. It was nearly midnight— the last of the team left hours ago. He enjoyed having the testing room all to himself. The constant hum of background conversations drove him to distraction. He didn't appreciate someone— anyone intruding on his private training sessions. His hackles rose when he saw just who it was.
"You shouldn't be here," he sneered at the PPSE builder that Yuugi had introduced days earlier.
"This says otherwise," the other man said while waving his company ID badge.
Kaiba noted the name, "Jounouchi," and filed it away for future reference. If Yuugi liked dealing with paperwork so much, he'd file an official complaint tomorrow. "So you were spying on me then."
Jounouchi huffed in frustration and blew a stray bang out of his eyes. "Dude, I'm on your side. I just wanted to see you, y'know, in action."
"And your feedback's unwarranted."
Jounouchi capitulated, throwing both hands in the air as he spoke, "Okay, fine, it was just friendly advice. Cuz your modified Phenex weighs half as much as the Double-Oh Quanta that you used to pilot. I know you want to make an impression at your first world championship, but there's no point in forcing yourself." He then quickly backed out of the room.
Kaiba picked his Phenex off the table and turned it over in his hand twice. Jounouchi wasn't wrong, but it wasn't an insight that Kaiba would have expected from the man. The builder acted all blase, but he had known what Gunpla Kaiba previously favored— suggesting some research on his part. Like a hammer on a nail, he struck at the heart of the issue that Kaiba had been wrestling with. It showed far more promise than any of the other builders previously touted before him.
Maybe he had been too quick to rush to judgment.
Jounouchi wasn't in the workshop with the other builders. His assigned work surface was pristine except for the wads of crumpled paper swept into the corner of the desk. There were no stray crumbs or any other telltale sign of lived-in-ness that the other work tables boasted. It appeared that he hadn't been here for quite some time.
After another hour of searching, Kaiba finally found him in the cafeteria. Jounouchi was seated at a table by the window with a sketchpad in front of him and the end of a pencil clamped between his teeth as he stared out the window.
Kaiba scowled as he dropped into the seat opposite of the man.
"How can I help you today, Meijin-san?" Jounouchi pulled the pencil away from his mouth and flashed a toothy grin.
Might as well get straight to the point then. Kaiba slid his package across the table, which stopped when it hit the edge of Jounouchi's sketchbook. "I want to see the finished product tomorrow."
Jounouchi lifted the model kit and studied the picture on top, before opening it to rifle through the contents inside. "Interesting choice, the Ghirarga— but it's not the most popular model. And tomorrow? That's not much of an advanced notice. You also dumped a load of custom parts not in the specs on here."
"The point of this exercise is to see how you work under pressure."
Jounouchi pulled out the parts piece by piece, sorting them into separate piles as he went. When he reached the bottom of the box, he looked up with an eyebrow quirked. "What? No instructions?"
Kaiba sat back and smirked. He had no use for a builder without imagination.
"Fine by me, I like to make it up as I go along," Jounouchi shrugged, sounding a bit too cavalier. "And the paint job?"