DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic came to me in a dream. I am therefore not responsible for any weirdness in it. Blame it on my subconscious.
The weather was warm and sunny, a perfect spring day, and Téa was out shopping and running a few errands. She was mentally going over her list of things she needed to get when her attention was caught by a poster she was walking past.
It was an advertisement in the window of an ice cream shop that Téa went to on occasion. This particular poster showed a little plastic cup filled with soft-serve vanilla ice cream. Téa didn't eat much ice cream, but soft-serve was her favourite and the picture made her realise just how long it had been since she had last had some. On a whim, she decided to make a quick detour.
The shop had changed hands recently and Téa hadn't been in there since the new owners had taken it over, so she was curious to see if it was any different. At first glance, it looked the same, except that there were different people serving. Quite a few different people. For a little ice cream shop, there seemed to be a lot of staff.
Téa pushed her curiosity out of her mind, reminded herself why she was there and went to the counter. The young woman behind it smiled at her. "Hello, what would you like?"
Téa smiled back, happily anticipating her treat. "I'd like some soft-serve ice cream in a cup please."
The waitress beamed at her and nodded. "One of our best sellers. I'll just be a moment." She started bustling around in drawers and then went over to the ice cream dispenser.
While Téa waited, several people came into the shop. Much to her surprise, none of them asked for ice cream. They all wanted hot-dogs, burgers, sandwiches or hot chips. Téa was even more surprised when they went away satisfied. Apparently the new owners had decided to make the shop more profitable by selling more than just ice cream.
"Here you are! That will be..."
Téa blushed slightly as she turned to the waitress. "Oh, could you repeat that please? I'm sorry, I was looking around. It's been a while since I was last in here."
The waitress's smile looked a little strained as she repeated the price.
Téa frowned slightly. Surely she had misheard. The poster had shown the price. It had originally been ten cents, but that had been crossed out at some point and twenty-five cents written instead. Even so, Téa had been prepared for that price to be old. But what the waitress had just said... No, she must have misheard her. "Um... could you say it again please? I'm really sorry. I thought you said seven dollars." Téa giggled, but her smile faded when the waitress just scowled at her.
"I did." The waitress pointed to the object on the counter. "That's how much that is."
Téa's eyes widened as she stared in shock at the large ceramic cup on the counter. The odd thing was, there was no soft-serve ice cream point that she could bite off for that extra bit of fun. She rose up on her toes to peek into the cup, then recoiled in horror. The ice cream, what little there was of it, was sitting on top of some pale liquid that smelled faintly fruity. "What... is it sitting in?"
The waitress frowned. "Fruit juice, of course." She pointed to the board behind her. Téa looked at it in confusion and the waitress sighed. "Third up from the bottom, last panel."
"Creamy Sweet: fruit juice with vanilla ice cream." Téa looked at the waitress and shook her head. "That wasn't what I asked for. I said I wanted ice cream in a cup. Like on the poster in the window."
The waitress blinked, then looked as if she'd just smelled something bad. "Oh, you mean the Junior Sweetness." She took the Creamy Sweet away.
Téa waited patiently at the counter, sure that the woman would bring her what she had asked for next. She watched as her waitress walked up to where the hot food was and spoke to a young man there. 'That must be where they keep the little plastic cups and spoons,' Téa thought. When her waitress began making the man a sandwich, Téa smiled. 'He must be in a hurry. It's nice of her to interrupt what she was doing to help him out.' Her smile slipped slightly when the waitress then turned and served another young man. 'Um... he was still looking at the board. What's going on? Is she angry with me for not offering to pay for that... thing she made me? But... it wasn't what I asked for.'
The waitress didn't return.
A group of people came into the shop and headed for the counter where Téa was standing. One of them pushed in front of her, giving her a rather painful elbow to the side in the process. Other waitresses came over and began serving them. Téa, always polite, waited for one of them to ask her what she wanted. But the other waitresses didn't even look at her. They served all the other customers, but left her standing there, ignored.
Téa bit her lip. She wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew she didn't like it. Timidly, she waved a hand. "Um, excuse me."
The eldest of the waitresses saw her and frowned. She came over to the counter. "Are you being served?"
Téa wasn't really sure how to answer that. "Um... yes... I mean no... The waitress who was helping me made me the wrong thing and she seems to have gone on to serve other customers instead of making me what I wanted." Téa blushed, rather embarrassed at having to tell such a thing. Surely it would get the other waitress in trouble and she really didn't want to do that.
The older woman frowned. "We don't do refunds or exchanges here." She shrugged. "What did you want?"
Rather hurt by the insinuation that she had been after a refund or exchange, Téa bit her lip. "She said it was called a 'Junior Sweetness'. It's on the poster in the window."
The older woman arched an eyebrow. "We only sell those to children. That's why it's called 'Junior'. Sorry." She turned away. Téa thought she heard her mutter 'what a cheapskate' under her breath.
Stung, Téa turned and walked out of the shop. She heard the waitresses laughing before she closed the door and her blue eyes flashed with anger. She glared at the poster that had started it all, then paused as she noticed something. She studied the poster carefully for several moments before walking off, humming softly to herself.
Although she wasn't vindictive by nature, she was not the sort of girl who allowed herself to be treated so shabbily, either.
Seto Kaiba pushed open the door of Sweeties and strode inside. His cold blue gaze scanned the room, ignoring the waitresses who were all making last minute adjustments to their hair and uniforms. The eldest of them stepped forward and smiled at him. "Welcome, Mr Kaiba. It's an honour to have you..."
Kaiba looked at her and he frowned. "Spare me the empty flattery. Where is the manager?"
The woman paled slightly at the impatient snap in his voice and nodded. "I will get him for you, sir. Right away." She hurried off.
When the tall, thin man came out of the back room, he was met by a very irritated CEO. "When I tell the manager of one of my subsidiary corporations that I will be meeting with them at a specific time on a specific day, I expect them to be there waiting for me when I arrive. Is that clear?" If glares had been physically dangerous, the man would have been in critical condition within three seconds.
"Y...Yes sir. I'm sorry, sir. I was just... You said you wished to examine the accounts so I was just getting them ready for you." The man smiled, but the expression didn't reach his eyes.
Kaiba frowned at him. "Yes, I do not doubt that for a moment." His voice was low and he was obviously not at all happy with the man's response. "Before I examine them however, I wish to make an announcement to all of your staff."
The man nodded. "Of course, sir."
As he studied the staff, Kaiba's frown deepened. When he spoke, his voice was very soft. "When I first bought this store, two months ago, it was a simple ice cream shop. Its equipment was a little outdated and it only stocked a few basic flavours, so it was not making a great deal of money. What it did have, however, was a name for fair prices, friendly service and happy customers. I paid out a great deal of money for that alone, because a good reputation is the most valuable asset a business can have." He looked around to make sure they were all listening.
"When I took it over and put Mr Fujigawa in charge, I gave him a budget and one single instruction. That he was to make this place profitable. I will admit that he has done so." The manager puffed his chest out and smiled in smug satisfaction, but Kaiba wasn't finished.
"It was an oversight of mine that I gave too much credit to his supposed intelligence."
As the manager paled, Kaiba continued speaking. "Instead of using the budget to purchase newer and better equipment and to extend the range of flavours offered, thereby taking full advantage of the existing client base and their good will, Mr Fujigawa's first act was to alienate the shop's clientele by cutting back on the range of ice creams on offer and instead extending into the area of Western-style hot snack foods." The sneer in his voice made it obvious as to his opinion of that idea.
"He then introduced 'fruit juices' and raised the prices to cover the costs associated with that. Since even a novice can detect that they have more alcohol in them than fruit, obviously at least part of that price increase was to cover whatever bribes he is paying to allow this shop to sell alcohol-based products without the required licence." Kaiba's eyes flashed and his voice was little more than a growl as he pinned the helpless manager with his icy stare.
"I... I... No, sir! It is perfectly legal to sell them. The alcoholic content in them is below the limit that a license is required." Mr Fujigawa swallowed hard and sent a pleading look to the head waitress.
Kaiba also shot the older woman a look. "Is that true?" His voice demanded an honest answer.
She nodded. "Yes, sir." A calculating look came into her eyes. "Mr Fujigawa gave us orders to water down the stronger liqueurs, but we mainly use cheap ones that are already below the legal limit."
"I... I never! I..." The manager glared at the woman.
"Silence!" Kaiba's sharp tone cut through the man's denials like a hot knife through butter. "In that case, it seems to me that this place should be turning even more of a profit than has been reported." His voice was now as smooth as silk, almost a purr. The manager shuddered, turning several shades paler.
Kaiba looked around at the waitresses, noting with disgust how all of them appeared to be enjoying seeing the manager squirm. "When I put Mr Fujigawa in charge of this place, I trusted him to provide me with honest, accurate reports of the state of the customer relations. According to him, the customers are completely satisfied with the level of service they are receiving." The waitresses all preened, but again, Kaiba wasn't finished. "Something else he has apparently been less than honest with me about."
As all the waitresses either went pale or gaped like fishes, Kaiba continued his tirade. "I have been hearing rumours over the past month. Rumours about children and teenagers being treated so rudely by staff here that they have decided to take their business elsewhere. At first, I put it down to one of my competitors spreading lies in an underhanded attempt to ruin this business venture. However, last night, I learned of an incident that happened here yesterday. An associate of mine witnessed the entire farce."
He glared at them all. "A young woman ordered something so simple that even a trained monkey could have filled her order satisfactorily. Instead, one of you tried to charge her an exorbitant amount of money for something else entirely. My associate mentioned that they doubted the girl was even old enough to be sold something with alcoholic content." Kaiba noticed one of the blonde waitresses go pale and knew a moment of satisfaction that his barb had hit its intended target.
"The customer realised a mistake had been made and notified the waitress accordingly, before payment was made. The waitress took the offending item away... and then proceeded to ignore the customer, rather than fill her order correctly. I am also told that the other waitresses also ignored her."
Kaiba's eyes flashed as he glared at each of the fidgeting waitresses in turn. "For a company linked to Kaiba Corp., this is unacceptable."
His voice was quiet and anyone who knew him would have known it was nothing short of foolishness to interrupt him at that moment. But the head waitress didn't know him at all.
"Sir, I remember the girl. She phrased her order in such a way that the waitress was confused by it and when she realised what the girl wanted, she told her she couldn't sell it to her. The girl persisted until I had to tell her myself. She wanted a Junior Sweetness. They're sold only to children. That's why it's on the children's menu." She gestured to the board behind the counter.
Kaiba didn't even bother looking at it. Instead, he gave the older woman a glare so icy it was a wonder she didn't start shivering on the spot. "My associate told me otherwise and frankly, I believe them far more than I believe you. But more importantly, even if your preposterous story was true, there is no reason why it could not have been sold to her. There is nothing, either on the poster that advertises it in the window of this store, or on that board, that states that the items on the so-called 'children's menu' cannot be purchased by adults. Indeed..." Kaiba's eyes narrowed, "I have found it is usually the adults who pay for their children's meals."
From the deep tide of colour that flooded the woman's cheeks, as well as the way the other waitresses all looked down at their shoes and fidgeted nervously, Kaiba knew he had been right. The nonsense about it being only sold to children had just been a convenient way of humiliating Téa.
He looked around at the waitresses and scowled. "I see I have been far too lenient with this store. Mr Fujigawa was highly recommended to me, so I allowed him to utilise his own judgement and kept my personal involvement to a minimum. That shall change. Considering how incompetent he is, it seems I shall have to look into his dealings with the one who recommended him for this post." He said it on a whim but when it caused the manager to pale, Kaiba made a mental note to go through with it.
Turning, Kaiba strode towards the door. He opened it and paused in the doorway, looking back at the shocked employees. Sneering, he ignored them all and focused on the pale and shaking manager. "Fujigawa, go and get the account books and bring them out to my car. I have no wish to remain in this farce of a shop any longer." With that, he turned and left the building with a dramatic swirl of his coat.
Within half an hour, after Kaiba had confirmed his suspicions that Fujigawa was skimming a portion of the shop's profits off into his own pocket, Sweeties was officially placed under new management.
A week later, Téa slipped into a chair at one of the small tables in the newest hit shop in Domino City.
Sweeties now offered over a hundred flavours of ice cream, each one more delicious than the last, as well as a range of other sweet treats, including chocolates and milkshakes. But the treat sitting on the table in front of Téa was her favourite one of all.
She dipped her spoon into the ice cream sitting in the little plastic cup, then slipped it into her mouth, closing her eyes as she made a soft sound of enjoyment. A soft chuckle from the chair opposite hers made her blush slightly. She opened her eyes and smiled happily at her date.
"You know, Seto, although I'm glad you stopped that nasty man from stealing from you, I must admit I'm even happier you put someone who loves ice cream in his place. This shop is so much nicer now."
Kaiba smiled back and nodded. "Yes, it was a sound business decision. Profits are up by a good twenty percent already." He chuckled as Téa sighed and pouted at him. "Let me be smug about it for a little while at least. Considering it is the first good move I have made since acquiring this shop." He sighed and shook his head, wincing at the thought about what had happened.
"Well, it all worked out fine in the end." Téa smiled. "I'm glad my experience proved helpful to you."
The brunette teen nodded, reaching across the table and catching the hand that wasn't currently holding an ice cream laden spoon. "As am I. If you had not called me that night, I might not have discovered the discrepancies in the shop's accounts for months." He smiled as Téa glared at him. "Not to mention that you and I might not have discovered our mutual liking for ice cream."
Téa blushed deeply and gave him a shy smile. She ate another bite of her creamy treat, watching him from beneath her lashes. As she slowly licked the ice cream off her lips, she thought she heard him make a small sound of enjoyment. "Mmm... This is so good. But Seto, I thought you told me that first night that you didn't like ice cream?"
"I generally do not care for it much, no. However..." Kaiba smiled and half stood so he could lean across the table. He kissed her softly, then sat down again, smiling smugly as he watched her blush. "I rather enjoy kissing you when you have been eating it. You taste even sweeter than usual."
Téa blushed and smiled at him. "You know, when I came here last week, all I wanted was this." She pointed with her spoon at the little dish of ice cream in front of her. "But now..." She leaned forward. Kaiba smiled and leaned in to meet her. "All I want... is you."