Jounouchi stared down the long driveway that led up to Kaiba’s mansion. He had only seen pictures of the manor over the years he knew Kaiba. He checked his button down shirt before ringing the doorbell.
A bodyguard’s face appeared in the tiny monitor. “How can I help you today?”
Jounouchi held his detective shield up to the camera and said, “I’m Detective Jounouchi from the Domino Police Department. I’d like to ask Kaiba-san,” he winced internally at the honorific, “A few questions about a business associate of his, named Nakanishi Motoyuki.”
The screen went black for several moments. Meanwhile, Jounouchi wondered if he had already been added to some sort of blacklist. Maybe even a “shoot on sight” list, he thought in a moment of uncharacteristic black humor. A grating buzz sounded and the intimidating iron-wrought gates parted.
"Please make your way to the front door, detective."
While Kaiba’s staff was surprisingly polite, Jounouchi doubted the man would be nearly as accommodating. He clutched his file close and marched down the driveway. A dour-looking woman dressed like the help waited for him at the front door. She led him swiftly through a winding maze of hallways of dark wood-paneled doors and landscape paintings. It was quiet— too quiet for Jounouchi’s taste. The decor, though stately, felt sterile. It left Jounouchi with a strange itch crawling up his spine.
They came to a stop in front of a set of shoji doors, which was completely out of place compared to the rest of the mansion’s western aesthetics.
"Seto-sama is waiting inside," she said before retreating.
"What the fuck?" Jounouchi muttered under his breath. Better to get this over with.
The doors slid open to reveal a freaking dojo of all things. The floor was so scrubbed that he could both see his reflection in the wood and eat off of it. A sword rack with four honest-to-God katanas stood on the far side of the room. Out of respect, Jounouchi shed his loafers before climbing up onto the raised dojo floor.
In the center of the room, Kaiba was practicing. The hem of his hakama swayed back and forth as he moved forward to strike with his shinai and back into “water posture”. The stomping of Kaiba’s feet paired with his shout echoed off the walls. Even from behind, Jounouchi could tell that the arc of the slice was straight, fluid, and just insanely perfect form. Jounouchi didn’t approach and waited by the sideline instead.
When Kaiba finally finished his set several minutes later, he lowered his shinai, turned, and asked, “What do you want, Jounouchi?”
Kaiba’s imperious tone reignited Jounouchi’s previous annoyance. Jounouchi closed the gap between them in five brisk strides. He pulled out the photograph from the top of his file and thrust it in Kaiba’s face. “You never told us that you were at the victim’s apartment building on the night of the murder.”
Jounouchi kept his gaze glued to Kaiba’s face, searching for any emotion at all. Kaiba’s eyes drifted briefly to the shot pulled from the building’s surveillance video before snapping up to meet Jounouchi’s stare. He didn’t look nervous— not even the least bit concerned. He also didn’t seem surprised to see himself in the photo.
"It didn’t seem relevant."
Jounouchi flapped his mouth several times as he struggled to find the words. “It… it didn’t seem relevant? In what world is the fact you were in the victim’s house on the night of his murder ‘not relevant’? It makes you look like you have something to hide.”
"You mean it makes me look guilty." For a second, Kaiba almost looked amused by the idea.
Kaiba Seto is ruthless. They say he killed Kaiba Gozaburo, his partner had said with grim conviction.
Jounouchi clenched his jaw and spat, “Yes. What were you doing there? What did you two talk about?”
"That would be private," Kaiba folded his arms over his chest and added, "I didn’t kill Nakanishi."
"Not good enough, Kaiba. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth."
Kaiba laughed— harsh and breathy. That hadn’t changed since high school. “You? Bonkotsu? Help me?”
Jounouchi dropped the file, scattering the pages over the dojo floor, and grabbed Kaiba by the lapel of his hakama. Kaiba may have a few extra centimeters on him, but Jounouchi trained and went to the gym regularly. He pulled Kaiba close and growled, “I don’t know how to make you understand how serious your situation is. Right now, my partner thinks you have motive and opportunity. He’s going to the judge for a warrant unless I bring him something to convince him otherwise.”
Jounouchi shook him for emphasis, willing the situation to sink into the CEO’s thick skull.
"Let go," Kaiba growled. One hand shot up to encircle Jounouchi’s left wrist and squeezed.
Jounouchi yelped. The stinging blow against his calf caught him by surprise, and while he was mentally prepared for the next whack, that didn’t make it hurt any less. He ripped his hand from Kaiba’s grip and jumped back to put some distance between them. “You fucking bastard! What was that for?”
"I told you to let go. You refused. You were always terrible at taking orders, Jounouchi. It’s a wonder you’ve made it this far in your career."
Seeing red, Jounouchi ripped one of the other bamboo practice swords from the wall rack and charged. If that’s what it took, he’d beat some goddamn sense into Kaiba. His strike aimed at Kaiba’s right side missed when the other man sidestepped. They circled each other four times, searching for an opening in each other’s stance. Kaiba broke pattern first, lifting his weapon up and back to expose his chest. A “fire posture” and a trap— Jounouchi realized as he successfully whacked Kaiba in the ribs this time. In retaliation, Kaiba landed a teeth-rattling blow on Jounouchi’s right wrist, which was sure to swell and bruise later. Jounouchi gritted his teeth through the pain, but he managed to maintain his grip on the hilt. With a shout, he spun around to follow Kaiba and thrust up at his neck. As a lower dan, Jounouchi had never attempted this move before, but he had watched more senior practitioners do it a dozen times. Kaiba recognized the move too— his shinai met Jounouchi’s in a parry with a sharp slap of bamboo striking against bamboo.
"You know kendo," Kaiba said with eyebrows lifted.
Jounouchi bared his teeth in response. He consistently placed in the top ten within his grade at Domino PD. “I’m a third-rank.”
"And I’m a sixth. Let me show you how a tsuki-dare is done.”
Kaiba slapped Jounouchi’s weapon aside and struck like a viper. Jounouchi didn’t have time to react as his back hit the wall with the leather-capped tip of the bamboo blade pressed against his throat. They stared into each other’s eyes for several beats. The pressure on Jounouchi’s throat increased, forcing the breath from his lungs, but then Kaiba pulled away abruptly. Jounouchi stayed pressed against the wall, chest heaving and adrenaline coursing through his veins. He dropped the shinai and it clattered to the floor with a thud.
"You’re fucking insane," Jounouchi choked out moments later after he regained his breath.
Despite the sweat running down his face and neck, Kaiba’s shoulders rose and fell in a steady rhythm. He picked up the fallen sword and placed both his and Jounouchi’s on the rack. He kept his back turned toward Jounouchi as he said, “Go home, Jounouchi. The last person I want help from is you.”
Hands still shaking, Jounouchi collected his files. At the door, he couldn’t resist one final look at Kaiba’s proud and unbowed back and the rack of sheathed katanas at the front of the room.