“Seto!” The young boy threw open the office doors, rushing to his brother’s side.
“Mokuba–? What is it? What’s going on?” Seto rose, immediately scanning the boy for any signs of injury. After a split second, he realized to his exasperation that Mokuba was excited, not afraid. He breathed a sigh of relief and slumped back down into his chair while the other bounced beside him.
“Aha... sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out.” He said, trying to look apologetic, but at the same time unable to stop grinning. “But is it true?”
“Is what- oh. Yes, it is.”
“He approved the project?” It was more of an exclamation than a question. “How’d you pull that off?”
Seto took a moment to pause something on his computer, rotating the chair towards Mokuba and leaning down to explain. His brother’s enthusiasm was making him feel a little giddy himself.
“Gozaburo said that something like this would give Kaibacorp good publicity. He’s right, of course. I made sure to bring that part up when I was talking with him. Who knows. Maybe he’s finally starting to realize that environmental problems actually affect him, too.”
“When are we gonna get started?”
“I want to start getting things done as soon as I can hire all the right people for the job. Space exploration isn’t something that can be accomplished by a dozen or so people.”
“As long as I can help some way...”
“Of course you can,” Seto said seriously. “I trust you more than anyone else in the world. Searching for habitable planets won’t be easy- and I’m sure there will be plenty of monsters out there who would love to get their hands on our resources for the wrong reasons. We have to keep our guard up.”
Mokuba nodded. “Especially with Gozaburo.”
“You’re right. I’m still shocked at how easy it was to get that much grant money. I hope I’m wrong, but... the whole thing doesn’t sit right with me. I wouldn’t put it past that creep to try something.” He sneered. “But unfortunately for him, we’re not as dumb as he thinks we are.”
“We’ll just have to be extra careful. But it’ll be worth it, don’t you think? We’re gonna use all this money to really help people!”
“I agree. If we can actually find a way to use Gozaburo’s money for saving the world instead of making more of his war machines...” Seto couldn’t help a small smile. “It will be more than worth it.”
The smell of waffles in the air was the first thing Yugi noticed when he woke up in the morning. There was a sink running somewhere, too, probably in the kitchen, and birds calling outside the window. In fact, it was so peaceful that he found it nearly impossible to open his eyes yet. He needed just a little more time in the soft warmth of his bed– their bed, really.
Had it been almost a year already? Living with Téa felt like a dream. Their combined incomes allowed them to stay in quite a comfortable two-person home, considering they were living in San Francisco. They still had rent to pay every month, though, since neighborhoods as nice as theirs didn’t come cheap.
“Alright, rise and shine!”
Yugi rubbed at his eyes, finally allowing himself to wake up and take in the sights around him. His girlfriend was in the doorway, dressed in a suit jacket and pencil skirt.
“Téa? You look like you’re all ready for work...” He mumbled.
“I am. It’s already 8:30, Yugi.”
His gaze shot over to the alarm clock, its screen clearly reading that yes, that was the correct time, and yes, he needed to get moving. He rolled out of bed and frantically made his way to his dresser.
“Why didn’t you wake me up earlier? Work starts in thirty minutes!” He whined, pulling out the first work-appropriate shirt he could find.
“Because I was busy making a nice, homemade breakfast like the amazing girlfriend I am.” She walked over to him, where he stood half-naked. She gave him a playful kiss on the cheek. “I’m gonna head out, okay? You won’t be late if you take your motorcycle, which you always do anyway.”
“Yeah, yeah...” He awkwardly shuffled into a pair of pants. Téa was already making her way out of the room. “I love you!” He called.
“Love you, too! Waffles are on the table!”
Yugi hummed to himself in contentment and finished getting dressed. He then took a minute to eye himself in the mirror. Despite being in his twenties, he had scarcely any scruff to show for it. And though he’d long since finished growing, he barely passed the 5’2” mark. At least people didn’t mistake him for a high-schooler anymore. Usually.
He walked into the kitchen, devoured Téa’s waffles as fast as he could (which were delicious, as expected), and stepped into his work shoes. The last thing he did before leaving the house was put on his helmet– although having so much hair made it a bit difficult. “Alright,” He told himself, “Let’s do our best!” Gripping the handlebars, the motorcycle whirred to life, and he took off down the road towards his job.
Riding places by motorcycle always made Yugi feel cool. He didn’t know how to do any fancy tricks, and he certainly never broke any laws– but it was the principle of the thing, a sort of rebel image. His clothes matched, too. Sometimes people were surprised when his personality didn’t match his edgy taste in fashion, but there wasn’t much of a reason for his style besides that he liked it. He felt more confident this way, more like himself.
The building he worked at was massive, towering dozens of stories into the sky. Thank God for elevators, Yugi thought. He entered, taking in the familiar and refreshing scent. It was a very modern-style building comprised of mostly glass walls to let the natural light in. When he reached the top floor, his boss greeted him and presented him with the day’s assignment. Investigative journalism was truly exciting. Yugi loved nothing more than to meet new people, learn new things, and most importantly– discover the truth.
“You’ve brought a lot of corrupt people to light, Yugi, and we really appreciate that,” His boss said. He was an older man, with a small mustache that was slightly darker than the rest of his graying hair. “You’re not afraid to stand up for the little guy. But this time, we want you to do something a little more simple.”
“What is it?”
“We’ve got you an interview with Mr. Gozaburo Kaiba, CEO of the Kaiba Corporation.”
Yugi’s eyes widened. “That’s not simple at all! Well, there’s so much there to work with that I could–“
“Hold on, son. He requested this interview specifically.”
“Wait, what?” His excitement slowly faded. “Why would he do that?”
“Says he wants to put a few rumors to rest. I’m sure you’re aware that one of Kaibacorp’s scouting rockets crashed in Egypt the other day.”
“He’s going to talk a little about his inventions and the wonders of modern science, as well as assure everyone that what happened was an accident. Just smile and nod, maybe ask a little about his weapons or something. Kiss his ass.”
“But that guy... you know, I think there’s something wrong with him.” Yugi replied, glowering. “If even half of what I’ve heard is true, then he’s really a horrible person. You can just tell–“
“Yugi, please. He’s a very powerful man. This isn’t our kind of territory.”
“But– that’s the whole point of what I do! Haven’t you heard about all the allegations towards Kaibacorp? I can’t be all friendly with him if I don’t know what he’s really like.”
“You can and you will. That’s your job. Just get it done and you can move on to some other scandal, okay? It’s tomorrow at noon. Don’t make any kind of... scene.” He waved his hand.
Yugi sighed. “...Yes, sir. I’ll try.”
He spent the rest of the day attempting to plan out questions, possible follow-up questions, and feeling frustrated that this was his life. He was all too relieved when his lunch break arrived and he could take a breather.
He decided to stop at a deli to eat, scrolling through the news on his phone while waiting for his bagel sandwich to be ready. Out of curiosity, he looked up what major news outlets had to say about the crash. Apparently, all of the astronauts onboard had died immediately after the impact. The ship had been one out of many sent out for Kaibacorp’s mission to discover planets near Earth that may be suitable for human life. Yugi scrunched his brow. Surely no weapons manufacturer could be this good of a person, right? Most corporate higher-ups like him didn’t seem to care much about the future of the planet as long as they weren’t around to see it. As long as they don’t have to clean up their own messes, he thought. He angrily finished off his sandwich, wiping his chin. It was about time to head back.
Later that day, when he was back home and comfortable, Yugi tried to imagine what his mom might tell him in this kind of situation. She was a confident lady who always seemed to know what to do. The problem was that parents always seemed to give conflicting advice. Which one was he supposed to do, “pick his battles” or “follow his heart”? How was he supposed to tell what to do and when? He groaned, burying his face in-between the couch cushions.
“What are you doing, weirdo?” He heard Téa say a minute or so later, her voice muffled. He emerged back to the surface.
“I dunno. The pressure on my face helps me think.”
She looked up and to the side, as if pondering the statement. “Fair enough.” She shrugged, and her expression quickly turned cheerful. “Hey, you remember what tonight is, right?”
“Yep! Do you mind if I pick the restaurant this time? A new Italian place just opened downtown.”
“That sounds perfect!”
At the thought of dinner, Yugi realized just how hungry he was. In all his anxiety, he’d forgotten to have his usual afternoon snack. Not only would this be a chance to take his mind off of things, but maybe he could ask his girlfriend for advice afterwards, too.
Unsure of how formal the restaurant would be, Yugi opted to go in wearing a nice pair of slacks. His sleeves were rolled up just below his elbows- it was the kind of outfit one would wear at a job interview, but not necessarily a fancy wedding. He held out his elbow for Téa to link arms with. She laughed and obliged, and they walked out together.
Téa had a perfectly good car, but Yugi drove her downtown on his motorcycle anyway. It was cliché for sure, using such an excuse to snuggle up, but neither of them minded. The wind felt nice against their skin, and the city lights looked pretty at night. They passed bright convenience stores, neon signs, and lit-up billboards. The atmosphere of the restaurant had a similar glow once they arrived.
Low light fixtures over every table cast the lobby in a dim, colorful light. As they stepped inside, tasteful jazz music was playing over the radio. The two glanced at each other, both suddenly feeling a little out of place. Yugi hoped they weren’t underdressed, but the waiter at the front didn’t bat an eye at them. The couple was escorted to a booth meant for two, and they took their seats.
Upon looking at the menu, it wasn’t too expensive.
“At least they show you the prices, right?” Yugi chuckled.
“Yeah. It’s not so bad to treat ourselves like this once in a while, anyway.”
Téa looked amazing tonight. Her black, velvety dress suited her curves perfectly, and the thin necklace she wore only added to the elegance. Yugi thought she almost looked like a Hollywood actress from the golden age.
“...How long have you had that?” He blurted out.
“Oh?” She blinked. “You mean the necklace? It’s not super special or anything– I got it before we even moved to America.”
“Really? I wonder why I don’t recognize it.”
“I don’t wear it that often... It kind of reminds me of home, though.” She twirled the pendant between her manicured fingers. He had to squint to see it clearly, but there was a charm on the necklace shaped like a small pyramid. “Sometimes I miss our friends back home. I know it’s silly, but wearing things like this makes it feel kind of like they’re... with me.”
“It’s not silly,” He reassured her. “We haven’t been here for very long, but I understand how you feel. And I’m glad that you trust me enough to talk about these things.”
“You know... emotional things? I mean, I might not always be very helpful, but I can always listen.”
“You dork...” She grinned. “We’re dating. Of course I tell you about that stuff.” Leaning in, she added, “And make sure you tell me when you’re stressed, too, okay? Don’t be afraid of bothering me, because that’s just silly.”
“Oh...” He glanced down, remembering his predicament. “Yeah.”
Téa picked up on Yugi’s mood shift almost instantly, but before she could say anything, the waiter arrived to take their orders. They hadn’t spent much time looking over the menu, so they each just quickly chose something that sounded good.
“I thought you didn’t like alfredo, Yugi.”
“Well, I don’t really like the frozen kind, but that’s because none of it stands up to my family’s home cooking.” He licked his lips. “Nothing I try to make can even compare, but since this place is so fancy, they might just come close.”
The previous conversation had been forgotten, and the pair continued talking until the food arrived. Even though they’d known each other for years, it seemed like they always had something to talk about. Whenever Téa was passionate about a subject, her eyes would light up, and a rush of confidence showed in her voice. Even if he didn’t know what she was talking about, that alone always made Yugi listen.
After dinner, the conversation turned work-related again– and this time, he was able to share the burden of his mind. His girlfriend nodded as he explained, acknowledging his points without speaking until he was done. She put a lot of time and thought into her responses, a habit that Yugi realized was likely adopted from her profession as a lawyer.
“Yugi... Your sense of what’s right and wrong is one of the reasons I love you. But I don’t think you should confront Gozaburo Kaiba.”
“Have you forgotten about the case? I’m technically working for him right now. Or, well, I’m working for people that are helping him. Believe me, I have my grievances about it, too. But sometimes we have to make sacrifices, you know?” She sighed. “It doesn’t feel right to you. I get that. But if you just hold yourself back, you’ll be able to help more people that need it in the future. I don’t trust all my clients by a long shot, but I defend them anyway because the people that are innocent make it worth it.”
“I get what you’re saying... It’s just not fair.”
“I know. Just don’t let it get to you, okay? Be smart tomorrow.”
“I will.” Yugi promised.
Later that night, long after Téa had fallen asleep, Yugi was still up, browsing news stories on his phone. He’d tossed and turned for about an hour before finally accepting that he probably wouldn’t be getting his eight hours tonight. Everyone was telling him to do the same thing, and it made sense, but that didn’t mean it was the right option. His eyes were starting to burn as tiredness struck. He was exhausted, yes, but not sleepy. Maybe he’d try to go to bed again anyway and figure something out in the morning.
But just then, Yugi had an idea.