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YGO CoP 2: A New Dawn

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It was the dead of midnight in the Valley of the Kings. The silence was so great it nearly matched the darkness in the ancient stone cliffs that slumbered, unwavering, with their secrets. The ancient pharaohs who slept there since time immemorial were beyond the world of light above them, beyond the busy potters and masons who sold their handiwork to tourists for their daily bread, beyond the incessant trade of the small villages nearby, beyond even the rise of modern Cairo in the last two centuries. The shades of the pharaohs lived in the earth itself, in the geological time of millions of years.     
Or so they had thought. The pharaohs of the deep past, convinced of their immortality and the irrevocable legacy of their rights and traditions, were evicted from their tombs by robbers and archeologists. Even the most ancient and sacred things of this world lost their power to living humans who, restlessly, brutally, inexorably, carried the fiery torch of life. Life flowed forever onward as the Nile always had and always will, indifferent to the vainglories of one species. Now it was an age of darkness, of people reaching out blindly for their sustenance, not unlike the scorpions of the desert night, but how much electricity there was in the air!
The general of the Egyptian army, Muhammad Heishin Mubarak, contemplated all of these thoughts on his journey to the great valley. He did not so much budge from the occasionally bumpy ride of his army jeep. The only lights in the dark valley were the headlights from the jeep, and the only sound the patient rumbling of the jeep’s engine as the jeep trailed through the vast dessert’s sand and rocks. Near the tomb of Seti I, the driver and lieutenant in the army signaled to Heishin that they arrived, and so Heishin got off.
Near the entrance, a tall and monstrously fat man and a pale young woman with long dark hair patiently waited for him as vipers do before striking at their prey. The strange couple was surrounded by unsavory characters in dark cloaks, people Heishin recognized as Ghouls, the vast crime syndicate that used Duel Monsters as their main racket.
Heishin greeted the large and fat man, who went by the name of Gernand, and shook his hand. Heishin was tall and muscled, hardened by years in the army, but even the vast Gernand with his mighty hands could break him like a twig. With the introductions out of the way, they went to business and discussed their terms.
Heishin, hungering for the glory we wanted, replaced contemplation with impatience. “I want to clean the corruption of Egypt and expunge the decadent West once and for all. Give me the power so I may rule Egypt as mightily as a pharaoh and forge her into a great caliphate. In the future I may unite all the Middle East so the princes of an unborn age may take part in a new world.”
The small and fair woman tried to suppress a few laughs but failed, chocking a snort. Heishin glared at her. The small creature was not amusing. Something about her, the way the torch lights illuminated her face in the darkness, casting her dark eyes into a glowing hue of red, made her look familiar to the snakes and other desert predators of the night. He wished he could strike her in the head the way he would finish off any other venomous predator.
Gernand was quick to admonish her with a stern rebuke. Then, he delivered his argument to Heishin. “If you examine my proposal closely you will see that you have every good reason to accept my turns. My apprentice and I will generously provide you with the Ghouls that constitute the majority of criminals in Egypt. They not only bolster over several thousand members but they rule Egypt’s black market, holding an enormous supplies of weapons and drugs. Not only will they strengthen your army aboveground, general, but they will give you access to the underground, with all of the wealth of Dis at your command. You will control Egypt at all levels.”
Hieshin was about to speak up but Gernand interrupted him. “What do you owe me? Nothing! All you need do is let the Ghouls do their business as usual. Turn a blind eye to their crimes – and why should you not? Their crimes profit you. – and all will be well. With the Ghouls by your side the Egyptian President’s corrupt regime will fall under your superior strength. You will rule Egypt as a new caliphate, as a new pharaoh, and Egypt will enjoy an era as peace and prosperity she has not been privileged to in the last three thousand years.”   
Heishin knew the terms already, but he still needed time to think them through. He sat on a dark stone near the valley cliff. It seemed so clear! Ultimate power was in his grasp! And yet…
“You hesitate. You exercise caution in spite of your ambitions. Let me explain to you the frustration and weakness you will forever be privy to if you do not accept the terms to my most liberal proposal.”
But before Gernand could finish the pale, small woman spoke for the first time. “Don’t nag him, master. You’ll make him cooperate even less. He needs more to convince him.”
Heishin rubbed his long, braided beard. “There’s more?”
The woman gestured for him to come close, a faint smile caressed her face. “Follow me into the tomb. Alone.”
Heishin’s soldiers, their suspicions aroused, cocked their guns only slightly higher, but the body language was obvious. Heishin waved his hand and his solder’s fell at ease, but their faces still showed their nervousness. He followed the woman into the tomb, alone, carrying only a pistol on his hip in case something happened. Gernand did not join them. Deep inside the tomb the woman gestured to a narrow corridor winding downward into the earth. Heishin recognized it as Corridor K. It was too small for Gernand.
With only their torches to guide them, they descended downward. The torches with their faint red light only revealed the bottomless hole ahead, and the air was boiling. Heishin had good reason to hesitate. The Ghouls spanned the whole globe, yes, but ever since Yugi defeated Malik at Battle City the Ghouls fractured into national syndicates. He knew the boss of the Egyptian Ghouls, but Gernand and his apprentice weren’t them. Who were these people? It was like they had a different agenda. For a moment the gravel beneath his heavy wake gave way. He slipped down the corridor a meter and gripped the stone wall for dear life. A torrent of gravel and rocks fell on foot, breaking it, but he shrugged it off.
They reached the very bottom of the one hundred and ninety four meter drop. It was a dead end, as Heishin knew. No secret burial chamber. But then the woman pushed hard on the wall It opened! The door was very small just above the floor. The woman easily slithered through it, but Heishin barely made it through, choking on the dust beneath him. Then they walked through a narrow dark corridor for about three hundred meters and a door that was thankfully larger.
Heishin couldn’t believe it! It was one of the lost Ozymandias Tombs, or so they are called! They’re the stuff of legend like Atlantis! But he could not deny his eyes. The floor and walls were entirely made of sparkling emeralds, and carved within the walls were reliefs of twelve colossal beasts. Despite the miracles he saw, Heishin made sure his stern, hooked face was unmoving.         
The woman gave him the same sweet smile as before, so sweet as to be almost maternal. “All of this forbidden power will be yours. Use it to secure your future. Use it to secure the future of your son. Give him what only you as his father can give.”   
“My son…” Heishin grew up in the Egyptian wilderness, shooting desert foxes and rabbits to stave off hunger. He climbed through the ranks of Egyptian government and sired a son. But he knew that any political turmoil could take all that away from him and his son. He wanted Hassan, Prince Hassan, to be the Prince of Egypt.
“I accept.”
The woman offered him her white arm. “Take my hand and I will give you the powers of darkness. The monsters of the Dark Games will be at your command.”  
Heishin grabbed it, and his lower arm burst into flames. None of the hard life and army discipline he endured prepared him for this! He winced but then finally gave in and screamed in pain. He doubled down, collapsing on the floor while the woman kept his hand locked to hers in a superhuman grip. While his arm burned his blood boiled in his veins, pricking him a thousand times as if every cell was a hornet. He was bitten by a cobra! No, worse than that!
When the bristling, fiery pain finally passed away, his arm was burned black, and a scaly claw replaced his hand. The forbidden treasure of the ancient sorcerers was finally his.

Yugioh! Children of Prometheus

A New Dawn

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Before I got my eye put out

I liked as well to see --

As other Creatures, that have Eyes

And know no other way --


But were it told to me -- Today --

That I might have the sky

For mine -- I tell you that my Heart

Would split, for size of me --


The Meadows -- mine --

The Mountains -- mine --

All Forests -- Stintless Stars --

As much of Noon as I could take

Between my finite eyes --


The Motions of the Dipping Birds --

The Morning's Amber Road --

For mine -- to look at when I liked --

The News would strike me dead --


So safer -- guess -- with just my soul

Upon the Window pane --

Where other Creatures put their eyes --

Incautious -- of the Sun –

-Emily Dickinson





Duel 1 – When serpents arrive they strike fear and fear dies 


Heartbeat. Beat… Beat…. Beat…


The pulse of life. I am in absolute darkness: no sight, no smell, no taste, no touch. Only sound in the Nun, the limitless ocean where all things that are yet to form are hidden. In the chaos there is only a gentle, rhythmic ebb.


Beat… Beat… Beat…


The beat grows faster, faster, furiously, into a roar. I can feel something breaking inside. Intricate coils, infinite loops, swim from the void… a huge black serpent! Terrifying! Fire in its eyes! The Devil seizes me in its coils and devours me. I lie dormant as an egg, darkness within darkness. I break free of my own coils, myself shaped as a snake. I erupt from the serpent and chase it to oblivion.


The serpent breaks away into the nothing. Dissolution. Three black serpents take its place. The dark dragons intersect each other, swim to and fro each other and grind beside each other. The waters divide into three terraces. I sink to the very bottom. The snakes bite each other’s tails and swim around the void as one loop. They spin around with such great energy. The waves engulf me. I writhe in the dark waters in dismal despair.


The snakes break their train with force. They align with the terraces, still clinging to each other’s tails. A ladder. The Nun settles, the formless takes shape, solidifies. I can walk on it. I climb each serpent. From each winding stairway I see writing breathed into the walls, breathed by each serpent. The pictures come alive, speak to me as I ascend the celestial staircase.


I see the distilled character of each red-eyed black snake. The eldest twines in luscious coils, her soul black as the Nun itself, her sly eyes grinning with the hunger of a she-wolf. The middle, fiery, her scales blazing as a furnace, a fierce determination in her piercing eyes. The youngest, fine and solemn, her eyes rich and sad. The walls speak of darkness, an endless pit, an endless labyrinth, the Nun itself, but pulses with a sudden life. A sudden potential. A volcano erupts from the earth! A blazing fire! A striking serpent, her quick and fiery bite as lighting. Majestic towers fall to the ground. Convolute temples reduced to ash. From the ashes, lotuses rise, and open. Blue angels awaken and take flight to the stars.        


I tread on shallow black water on top of the tower. In the distance I see a huge isle. Its buildings blazing, the burning Sodom sits atop land barely held aloft the crashing wavse. The serpents dance and sing wildly as three women, naked as the day star. Their singing at once beautiful and terrifying. I can see their contours, their hair, their faces. Their dark hair. Their red eyes. Their dances, gate, gestures, movements serpentine. High above the burning Sodom I see a singly bright light, a blue star far away. 


The eldest woman once more becomes a serpent. She jealously wraps her coils around the other two and eats them. I see the egg inside her, the serpents in darkness within darkness. The serpent’s stomach bulges and the two serpents break free of their coils. Two against one they fight, and the eldest serpent is chased into oblivion. The middle serpent caresses the youngest with tender affection. Binds to her in love. And too she sinks into oblivion. The youngest serpent rises up to the star, a coiling ladder. I see in the distance the Field of Reeds, a celestial realm of millions of years. I take the first step.         


The earth shook as if struck by a mighty thunder. Hassan, rudely awoken, fell off the bench he used as makeshift bed and smacked head first to the floor. He was reasonably well-built – well, for a “womanly scholar” as his father called him – but the impact still hurt him. He had no time to even rub the bump on his head. The President of Egypt, a kindly but old man way past his prime, jostled him out of his dizziness.


His face and eyes were flooded with panic. “We must leave right now, Hassan! Heishin is attacking the Mugamma! We don’t have any time!”


Father!? Hassan didn’t believe it but it was true! Soldiers loyal to the President flanked the main gate outside of the government office complex, standing their ground as best they could, but clearly losing. It was twilight, almost nightfall, so Hassan could see little. But he could hear his father and feel the terrible new might he wielding.


Heishin, flanked by his own soldiers and Ghouls, thrust his fist triumphantly in the air. “Taste the forbidden power of darkness!!!” And he thrust what looked like a golden crook at them like a commanding scepter.        


Hassan could see only vaguely what looked like the outline of a colossal beast in the distance. He played Duel Monsters only casually but… was that Gate Guardian? He didn’t have any time to ponder it any further. A savage fount of wind and water struck the main gate and the unfortunate loyal soldiers broke like twigs under the deluge. With all his obstacles easily disposed of, Heishin and his army triumphantly marched inside.


Hassan had no time, not to even save one book. He took the old Presidents arm and they both ran through the corridors, hoping to get to a back door as soon as they could. No such chance. Before they knew it Heishin and his soldiers had already disposed of the rest of the guards, and already Heishin towered over them, blocking their path. Heishin looked calm and chic, almost to the point of appearing smug, but Hassan could see the restless greedy fire in his eyes.


“So good to see you again, President Sadat.” He spoke as if he was ordering dinner, not usurping the Egyptian government and killing everyone who stood in his path. “Hassan, son, it is time we claimed our rightful place in history. Join me as my co-ruler and heir of the new world we will create.”  


“Usurp the government!?” The President sputtered in disbelief. “You’ll throw the country into chaos! Are you mad!?”


“Mad? Me? I don’t think so. The supreme power, the powers of darkness lost for eons, is mine. I can easily dispatch you and claim Egypt as my own.”


Hassan noticed his father’s right forearm was blackened as if burned in a fire and his hand like a dragon’s claw. “Father, your hand…” At last he pieced it all together. “You can’t mean the magic passed down to Ancient Egypt?” The golden crook, he reasoned, was just for show, to make him even look even more powerful and intimidating than he already was.


“You finally found something useful in those books of yours, boy. Yes, that power. Will you now come by my side?”


“You don’t know what you’re doing father. The dark power is extremely dangerous. Whoever you bargained with is clearly up to something you don’t know about. Whatever it is, it must be very sinister. You got more than you bargained for. I’ll never join you!”


Heishin lost his patience and his temper. “You stupid boy! You were always weak and cowardly! I should have known better than have your mother raise you while I campaigned in Kuwait! It was she who softened you turned you into a womanly scholar! You have no strength to fight a battle or lead an army, but I will change that now!”


Hassan had enough. It was the last time his father insulted him. He lunged at his father, trying to bulldoze over him so he and the President could make their escape. Heishin easily caught his son off guard and smashed his gut with one swift fist. Hassan gagged from the sheer shock and pain from the assault. Before he could register anything else let alone react in any way he found himself face-first on the floor. His skull blazed with pain. He just caught sight of the butt of Heishin’s rifle.


“Stupid boy, you waste your time! You lack the power to defeat me! JOIN ME IMMEDIATELY or I will imprison you in the darkest dungeon of this land! Do you understand me!?”


Hassan may not have been a good fighter but he wasn’t weak. He inherited his father’s hardiness and in a moment he was back on his feet. Suddenly, the President intervened. He stood between him and Heishin as his shield. “You are like a son to me, Hassan. Don’t give in to the temptations of this vile creature. I’ll hold him off. Use you’re time to escape. Don’t think! Just do it!”


The President could say no more. Heishin already struck him with the butt of his rifle. The President’s old body couldn’t take the assault. He yelped and crumpled to the floor. Silence. Hassan saw his father step over the body of the President, brandishing his weapon at him. He glanced around the corridor in fear for Heishin’s soldiers and Ghouls were closing in.


There was only one option. In desperation Hassan jumped out the window. He didn’t know if he would survive and somehow escape or if he was falling to death. He left it to chance. Among the shattering glass ringing in his ears he heard his father cry out his name. 

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: From YGO CoP 1 I wanted to tackle serious social issues such as racial and sexual inequality. I know how contentious these topics are but I swore to touch on all the issues I care about in my work.


Duel 2 - Wine doesn't drown demons. It invites them to dance at the party. 




Maya leaned on the grand piano in the practice room, her hand on her mouth in thought as she watched Clarence struggle to play. The poor boy was even more gauche with his composition than with his playing. Music is often said to be a language and while he could write sentences he didn’t know how to put them together in a meaningful paragraph. He would start an idea and just break it off without any justification. He was trying so hard to show his skill though, whizzing through scales and arpeggios but tripping every once in a while.


She put her private judgments aside. Clarence looked up to her. His eyes shone with an eager, naïve, and expectant light. “Well, how did I do?”


He was going to be disappointed. Maya was too irritated and worried to be tactful. Her patience was worn out by months of problems, but she still tried to be didactic in her response. “What did it say?”


Clarence blinked. “What?” He asked blankly. It took him a while to figure it out. “I don’t know… Was I supposed to say something? It sounded good, right?”


Maya shook her head and took his seat in front of the piano. Did he not learn anything? “You’re playing is fine. However, the technical skills in your composition are meaningless because it doesn’t say anything. You need to have an idea and real emotion behind it, but even that is not enough. You need to control the language of the music to sustain an idea and direct it somewhere.”


She would let her own folly instruct him. She played the last movement of a sonata she wrote during her teens. It was so virtuosic and dynamic it easily outstripped everything Clarence wrote, only magnified by Maya’s fiery but poised playing. But nothing. A few lights flashed. A few times a window opened into a higher realm but they quickly shut. “Where did I go with my idea? What did I say?”


Clarence remained silent, so she then played the final movement of the Waldstein sonata at a leisurely pace. She showed how Beethoven presented a unique idea, a dawning sunlight and the feelings of hope that came with it. She emphasized the few contrasting ideas that followed, but maintained how Beethoven sustained the main idea. Then, at the Presto part at the end… She let go! She bottled all the energy before, coiling it into a tight wire, and let it spring in a soaring and magnificent finish. “Where did Beethoven go with his idea? What did he say?”


Clarence’s face gradually darkened the whole time. He gave up in frustration. “I don’t see the point. Why are you forcing me to write stupid Classical music in the first place! No one writes dead white man’s music anymore except an oreo like you.” His anger turned to resignation. “It’s impossible. I’m never going to make it in the music industry. You know what it’s like. Black people don’t get hired or promoted as much. And the only way we can become mainstream is if we play into a racist gansta’ stereotype, a ‘lifestyle’ made by white people for white people.”


Maya didn’t apologize but the look in her eyes said everything. “I was too harsh. Let’s sit down on the floor.” So they did, leaning against the wall. “I struggled and still struggle the same way in dueling.” She shook her head and told him everything. She remembered how hard it was for her to win her first Nationals against the former champion Matthew four years ago. But even the best duelists don’t always win the prize money. Hence why Maya composed, hence why she needed a manager, but even with music Maya needed to curtail herself, not write music she truly wanted to write but ghostwrite pop songs instead. Her sponsor gave her less money than to other duelists and hence less resources to keep up with the metagame and live only by dueling. That entailed needing to support herself in other ways, which left even less time for dueling. Being an outspoken antimeta duelist didn’t exactly help either.      


Clarence took some folded posters from his music binder and handed them to his teacher. “I watch your duels a lot. I think you’re an awesome duelist. Last year you donated to the King College Prep High School and lectured about how anti-intellectual America was and how badly it needed more educated people and public intellectuals. Then you completely devastated the Fox News sponsored duelists at the finals and exposed that to the whole world. That was great.”


Maya unfolded the posters. Many duelists modeled as a part of their career, both to make money and advertise themselves, and Maya was no exception. But she decided in each shoot exactly what she wanted to say. The first poster was her most popular. She was completely nude in a forest, wrapping a python around her like a scarf, her body vibrant, caught in the middle of motion. In the second poster she posed in her usual metal costume of a black tank top emblazoned with a band name and a black skirt with red lacings while holding a skull with her hands covered by black netted gloves. It was all to advertise a special Halloween tournament two years ago. In the third, she was precariously balanced on a small boat on a river, wearing only an Ancient Egyptian headdress and an old fishnet, aiming at the water with a spear as if ready to attack an unseen animal lurking below the surface.  


The other posters had a similar theme. Other duelists, especially the women, posed soullessly, their bodies “perfected” with a price tag put on them, like a Mercedes in a car magazine They were less lively than still life, their eyes pretty but blank. Their bodies didn’t show anything true about them, nothing of the blood that boiled in their veins or the fire that burned in their hearts.


The young woman who looked back at Maya in her posters was very different. Her wiry body vibrated with coiled energy. Her shoulder-length black hair of untamed, serpentine locks blended well with her brown face. Her features were broad and full, made livelier by the dark red lipstick and black eye shadow she often wore. Maya looked a long time into the woman’s piercing and narrow brown eyes. She wondered if the firebird who blazed in the posters really was her. She looked so powerful, like she could shake the earth and make its volcanoes erupt if she wanted to. Maya didn’t often feel that way, but was good at pretending otherwise.


Maya’s phone rang and she answered. Clarence didn’t know whom she was talking to, but he could see her eyes brighten and her hawkish features soften. She smiled and giggled like she was a teenage girl talking to her BFF about each other’s boyfriends. She hung up. “An old friend is meeting me at a party I don’t want to go to. My life is less terrible. Don’t forget to do your homework.”


Clarence was still curious. “By the way, why is your full name Marina Bozovic? Sounds Russian.”


“My dad is a Serbian immigrant. My mom was a Nubian Egyptian.” Maya replied.




The Duel Monsters National Championship Gala was another of those “work parties” Maya had to attend. And she hated them. All of them. Dueling was a lot like professional football and basketball, a ridiculous spectator sport owned by rich people to amuse themselves and cow the masses. It wasn’t the path of a warrior, as Yugi so often said. It was a business. It was reality TV. It was the news. Yugi was so innocent he never fell into the dark side of the dueling world. But other old school duelists, like Mai Kujaku, did and knew first hand how vicious it was.


Corporate sponsors and duelist managers were everywhere, easily recognizable in their buttoned-up suits that cost a thousand dollars. In essence they were sleazy used car salesmen who pretended they were Bill Gates. The “great duelists” themselves were hardly any better. Most wore extravagant or gaudy costumes like Hollywood and music industry celebrities. Whenever Maya was bored in these events, which she almost always was, she would amuse herself by picking out the Kim Kardashians, the Kanye Wests, the Jessica Simpsons, the Tom Cruises…


Maya found Jolene, her friend since high school, and they embraced with open hearts, glad to see each other after so many years. Jolene was a small and spunky woman with dirty blond hair and sharp, green cat-like eyes that peeped through green horn-rimmed glasses. “I’m so glad you got back your National Champion title last year! I hope things are going better for you!”


Maya kissed her dear friend on the cheek. “Thank you so much for coming cher! Things are getting a little better!” And she meant it. But the problems still hounded her and wouldn’t even stop at her grave. One problem, a banker whose son was one of the duelist celebrities, just came around the corner. “Hide!” Maya cried frantically and they both dove behind a large fountain.


It was best if Jolene didn’t know the sordid story. To duel she needed to buy cards, so she needed to borrow money, and so she needed to keep up with the game when new cards came out, so she needed to borrow money. And the cycle went on, interest lumping together into a big hideous pile Maya never dared laid eyes on. The ugly truth was no amount of tournament winning could pay the debts off. To be a pro you needed the financial backing privilege gave you. No amount of hard work and tournament winning would help you.


The two women reintegrated themselves back into the crowd. One of the “hip          “ corporate sponsors, distinguished only by his sunglasses and greasy beard, a sort of David de Rothschild, took the burden of delivering the announcements. And a burden it was, from his pathetic attempt at safe jokes to his self-congratulatory tone to the long role call of all the “brilliant innovators” who sponsored the party. It wasn’t necessary. Maya could tell who they all were by the corporate logos that infected every stadium she dueled in.


The announcements reached closure, and the room darkened. The gaudy duelists all danced to, as Clarence would guess it, gansta’ rap. The self-important corporate sponsors were more reserved. They knew not to make a fool of themselves. That was the duelists’ job. Tomorrow Maya would duel against Akira Ryu, the World Champion himself, in a spectator match to begin the Nationals. But only Akira was invited to the podium. Maya was only mentioned briefly.


As the party dragged on, Maya took Jolene on a tour of sorts around the dueling world, mocking the more pretentious duelists they passed. Maya’s sharp eye caught a woman of fair skin, pale hair, and deep blue eyes. The woman icily acknowledged Maya before gliding out of sight in a way she thought dignified. “Purity Sue over there is Maria Law, the British Champion. She thinks she’s an angel sent by God to tell everyone how to duel. She is completely oblivious of how annoying she is and should go die in a fire.”


They passed a man whose fashion was so retro he stuck out like a sore thumb, even among the crew of celebrity duelists. “The guy with a fedora is Garret Gould, Canadian Champion. His dueling is as bad as his piano playing but he can’t take a hint from anyone.  He thinks he’s a genius conservative with Asperger’s but in reality he’s just an idiot with an inflated ego.”


They passed a tall, beefy man, slightly overweight. His face was gregarious and shady at the same time. “That’s Mathias Krueger. He’s so American he makes Bandit Keith and Ben Affleck look Canadian. Ironically he was born in Canada. He thinks he’s the biggest alpha male of all time but he’s actually a good duelist who believes in challenging himself to the limits. He’s pretty cool and eats everything in sight.”


He embraced a buxom, red-haired woman. “That’s Merida Morgana, Irish Champion. She has a really nice rack. I really want drink with her while we listen to Camelot and play Castelvania.”


At last Maya revealed to Jolene the star of the freak show. “Have a front row seat. This is Akira Ryu himself, Japanese and World Champion. The Japanese chose a fifteen-year-old bishi to be their champion because they can’t stand pubic hair. With each passing year the World Champions get younger and younger. Everyone I showed you has their spot because of their privileged background. Maria comes from a family of lawyers. Garret’s father owns a bra-manufacturing company (I’m not kidding). And Akira’s dad is a senior business advisor for KaibaCorp.”


Jolene needed a while to take it all in. Thinks really didn’t change. Or did they? Maya seemed to have lost her shyness from four years earlier. “It’s a bit shallow and mean how much you hate and judge all these people. For someone who fights for equality, you showed a lot of prejudice.”


“They deserve to be judged harshly. Whatever I say about them they say about me. Even worse, they go so far as to slander and try to ruin me in other ways. ‘High society’ has the values of Mean Girls, which they think is Twilight, which they compare to Macbeth. If you heard how many times show hosts told me I ‘talked white’ you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.”


Jolene got the point. “Is everyone your bitter enemy?”


Maya smiled dryly, sadly, in resignation. “Yes.”


“The dueling world really destroys the game. It was so much better when we would duel each other just for fun in detention. The teacher wouldn’t even show up.”


“I totally agree. But I have no choice. I’m in a cycle I can’t leave.”


Jolene rested her hand on Maya’s shoulder. “Hey, you always have a choice.”


The snotty boy Akira, who called himself World Champion, and Maria the angel showed up. Akira cocked his head and looked up at Maya quizzically. “So this is the American Champion you told me about, Maria.” He stroked his chin, puzzling out this strange antimeta duelist. “She never once used the three great decks, but she still manages to win.”


Maria escorted Akira away to whisper to his ear. “She just doesn’t get it.” She seemed oblivious Maya was still practically right in front of her. “She’s the most offensive person I’ve ever known, and the most stubborn. She’s so loud and gross. Just no! She ruins the game for everyone. She wrecked Lightsworns. Will she ruin Burning Abyss and Qliphort now?”


“Dignity and subtlety at its finest.” Maya commented.


Akira took a glass of champagne from a butler. It was really funny watching the fifteen-year-old act like a sleazy tycoon or Playboy publisher. It made Maya’s old rival, Matthew, look downright tolerable by comparison. “You’ll be an intriguing opponent.” Akira clearly found their match to be an amusement. “You really like to stick it to the man, lead the people, right? Let’s see how that turns out.” He bowed in feign politeness and took Maria away with him.     


He was certainly amusing, Maya thought. The little man thought he was Caesar but he really was Ptolemy XIII. In a fair fight he would be kicked aside by the grown ups, which is what Maya planned to do if they actually were in a tournament together. The thought of crushing the little turd under her heel delighted her.  


Maya and Jolene took some champagne together. Maya preferred red wine to be classy or Texas moonshine for a rougher, outdoorsy experience, but this had to do. The dueling world hardly changed since Maya became a pro. It even seemed to have gotten worse. She dug herself her own grave. Her strengths became curses that made most of the dueling world reject her. Four years ago she only had one Matthew. Now she had more than five.


Even her music was in a dead end like dueling. She was pushing classical boundaries and infusing different genres to create a unique style. She was a very competent jazz writer. But she had the same problems her student Clarence did. She wasn’t rich, wasn’t backed up by a manager, and the music industry didn’t want a black woman who was actually educated and talented. She was growing in power, energy, nuance, discipline… but nobody cared.


After a few drinks she felt vaguely relaxed and happy. Jolene looked like a grinning idiot, which was how Maya imagined she must have looked. She took more to drink, which she knew was a mistake. Going from tipsy to drunk meant falling from a swimming pool into a chasm. Anything to make the demons vanish! The demons came all the same. They sprang up from her bubbly champagne glass as if it was a hellish cauldron and danced around her, glittering, in tune to the generic party rap music. Strangely enough, the demons didn’t bother her. Her vision was distorted, she felt vaguely dizzy, and everything sounded muffled like she was underwater.  She was close enough to touch the demons but they were just out of her reach.


Jolene and she laughed together about something that wasn’t funny and for no reason. They stumbled out of the rich gala party to find a local club where there would be better company. People like them who made the same mistakes they did. Their long night was better wasted there. As for her duel tomorrow, Maya wished she didn’t care. 

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Duel 3 - One shot blown. A lifetime opens.




The crowd inside the stadium simmered as a boiling cauldron, their expectations bubbling higher with each passing second. They stared down at the empty arena beneath them as if the two great duelists already waged their war for the supreme reputation. Already they cheered for their future combatants, divided into camps of die-hard fans locked against each other as two opposing armies. They waved their crude signs and number one gloves as if they could send missiles to obliterate the opposing team.


For Maya waiting just outside the arena, it was boring. The audience had simple expectations. They wanted something big and loud, a duel lasting between five to twenty minutes so it looked like a real struggle. The crowd would guzzle down their corn dogs and beer and slug at each other when things got really out of hand. Maya had satisfied them with a spectacle of death a million times already. And all this over children’s trading card game.


Could be worse. Could’ve been about a bunch of sweaty, road-rage beef-heads having a public orgy. They did it because they needed to fumble over some pigskin. It had something to do with playing a children’s game also.


Maya’s head throbbed in pain. It felt like a migraine but she knew it really wasn’t. She had woken up on top of Jolene in her cheap apartment. Some random guy slumbered under their bed. Everyone looked like they were dead, and incriminating evidence of Maya’s deeds were everywhere. The guy’s body was riddled with whiplashes and bites so hard they had drawn blood. Jolene’s body was less savaged but was smeared with red lipstick everywhere. Maya herself looked horrifying, her makeup smeared and blurred all over her face so much she liked the Joker from the Dark Knight.


A sudden sick urge had overwhelmed Maya and before she knew it she threw up all over the random guy. She whispered a soft, meek apology, but he snored on. My God! The time! She quickly god dressed and could only wash some of the makeup off. She found her duel disk, suspiciously placed somewhere else than when she last remembered it, but she didn’t have time to consider it.


Maximus, the familiar tournament commentator, short and stout, flashing a rich mop if dyed golden hair, brandished a special silver trophy just for the occasion. “Today, we hold the premier match to the AMERICAN DUEL MONSTERS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, the gala for glory, the appetizer to whet you’re appetites!” The crowd swerved in a lecherous frenzy. “On the left, we have AKIRA RYU! JAPANESE NATIONAL CHAMPION AND CURRENT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!!! And who has he graciously stooped down to duel with his generosity? NONE OTHER THAN THE AMERICAN NATIONAL CHAMPION MARINA BOZOVIC!!!!!!!”


Maya and Akira finally entered the stage together, shuffled each other’s decks, and took their stances opposing each other. The formalities and bombastic titles were finally over.




Akira: 4000 || Maya: 4000


AKIRA: “Even now I regret stooping this low to duel against you. You probably won’t satisfy me even as a curiosity. I activate Qliphort Scout and Qliphort Monolith!” Two cylinderous beams of light, pure and immaculate, descend from the sky. Inside them float two similar monsters opposing each other, a long, thin machine that looked like a tall hermit crab’s shell, and another machine shaped like a monolith. “I pay 800 Life Points to use Scout’s pendulum effect: I search for Laser Qlip and activate it.” (LP: 4000 à 3200) The whole field takes on a sickly, purple-pink hue from the spell.


“Scout has a Pendulum Scale of 9 and Monolith has a pendulum scale of 1, so I can summon all monsters between those levels! PENDULUM SUMMON!!” Lines crisscross in the sky in the shape of a multisided star. A celestial gatewats opens! Spirits pour forth and take shape into a train of husk-like machines: Qliphot Carrier, Qliphort Helix, Qliphort Stealth, and Qliphort Shell.


But Akira is nowhere near done yet. I tribute Stealth and Shell to summon Qliphort Disk!” Two of the alien machines return to their celestial source, not the graveyard, their place taken by a saucer-shaped machine. “And because I tribute summoned Disk, I special summon two Qliphort Carriers from my deck.” And surely enough two new machines appear. “Now I tribute two carriers and Helix to summon Apoqliphort Towers, which I can due because of my field spell!” His three machines ascend far above. Now a gargantuan, imposing monster with four towering legs loomed ahead.


“I use Towers’ effect. Throw away one monster from your hand.” Maya does so. “As my turn ends I use Monolith’s pendulum effect to draw five cards! Take my advice, ‘Maya’. Don’t fight against the system. You might as well play along with it.”


MAYA: “Thanks for the useless advice.” Pegasus must be running out of ideas to rip off of Evangelion. Qliphorts are as tough as they are generic in this metagame. Qliphort Tower is especially bad. It can only be destroyed by battle. And Akira has five more Qliphorts in his extra deck, which he would summon next turn. She faced these gamebreaker monstrosities before. It will be difficult but she has a plan. “I summon Unizombie!”


Nothing! The monster doesn’t appear! She slaps the card on the duel disk again! Nothing! She tries again, and again, smacking the duel disk she’s almost hitting it. It couldn’t be broken! The crowd boos and jeers at her. Even her “fans”, who just waved their sloppy signs for her a few minutes ago, don’t bother to hide their derision.        


Akira can barely contain a smug grin of satisfaction. “Forgot to fix your duel disk? Sounds like a bold strategy to me. I knew you had tricks up your sleeve but I had no idea you’d do this.” He keeps shuffling his hand, making a very loud and obnoxious slip – slip – slip sound. Most duelists do this. They think it makes them look like a pro but it really makes them look like douche bags. To Maya it always sounds like jacking off, and in the end that’s all it amounts to.


The fire inside Maya stars to cook at a higher pressure, her suspicions aroused to paranoia. “You did this! You tampered with my duel disk while I was out you cheat!! I swear I will crucify you upside down over the Chicago Skyline Bridge!”


Akira merely laughs at her threats. The crowd now mocks her in crude chants and throws food at her, especially her former fans. Maya, feeling only impotent, drops her head low in shame. The crowd hits her with a few corndogs and a box of cheesy nachos. One guy on a front row seat hits her head with a beer bottle. A serious mistake.




Duel over. Maya clenched her fists. She seized the silver trophy and pelted it at the offender, striking him on the head and knocking him out cold. The crowd instantly changed its tune from mockery to panic. People fled the arena in droves, throwing each other under and stumbling on top of one another.


Akira was already on his cell phone. “HELP! HELP! Things are getting out of hand! Send the cops over right now!”


That was soon, a little too soon. But Maya had no time to ponder the situation. Akira already disappeared, replaced by a ring of cops tightening their grip on her. Maya cursed. “Cops! Again! What is this, a pigsty!?” She tried to break through but the cops hit her with their nightsticks and before she knew it she was pinned to the floor, handcuffed.




Maya had no choice but to slump on the wall of the jail cell. The adrenaline was gone. But the pain wasn’t. Her head still felt bruised and cut from the beer bottle. She was at least thankful no glass got into her eyes. But there were few blessings to count. If Maya paid for her bail she would be completely broke. That one banker at the party would breath down her neck worse than a dragon and would make sure within all his power to have her locked up for good. She didn’t want to become a statistic, but it seemed she had no other choice.


Either way the guard couldn’t care less. He just lounged on his chair, cross-legged, his feet on the desk, reading a newspaper while sipping a cup of coffee. His potbelly protruded from his body like a swollen abscess. He wasn’t smug or cruel like Akira was so much as apathetic, which was even worse. At least spite was a passion.  


The cop flipped through his newspaper. He echoed her worries. “I hope you got friends to help you out, or you’ll be stuck here for a long time. Not like you can pay for anything anyway. Well, that’s what you get for going crazy like Mike Tyson at the stadium. Problem is, I don’t think you’re a superstar with an army of lawyers like Mike Tyson, are you? Bet you’re on drugs all the same.”


“Correction, the pig in a wig is smug.”


“What was that?” The cop had enough of her but then the door slammed open and a man threw a briefcase full of cash on the cop’s lap. He was modest in height and well built, with a short, well-groomed beard and mustache that complemented a serious face. “My name is Hassan. Get in the car. I’ll explain everything there.”




For the next few minutes Hassan delivered what seemed more like the exposition of an outlandish fanfic than anything that happened in the real world. Maya’s head swam at all the news being doused at her at once. Her world was shot. “You want me to save Egypt from you’re father and the Ghouls. And you think I’m the one for the job because… you dreamt about me.”


Hassan nodded. “You are one of the three serpents. Forgive me for prying into your personal life, but I know you battled against the Ghouls before. You wanted to research crime in the inner city for your undergraduate thesis, but wound up in the middle of two Ghoul gangs fighting for turf. You even befriended the leader of one gang… before he was killed. Point is, you already dug deep into the Ghouls as a whole, but you stopped. I hear rumors the next World Championship is taking place in Egypt and you need the money. You can kill two birds with one stone.”


Maya was in no mood to hear about this closed case, or to open old wounds. She still could smell the gang leader’s entrails and feel her soaked hands push them back into his body as he lay dying. “No! One, I’m not going to the World Championship! I’m not good enough! Two, there’s no way I can stop the Ghouls! If Yugi couldn’t do it what makes you think I could?”


Hassan reached the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. “What choice do you have? I believe in Fate, Maya, and I know dreams say something deeply important.” He took out two suitcases for he packed all of Maya’s things and handed her a one-way ticket to Iceland. “May Horus protect you on your journey. May he vindicate the righteous and annihilate the wicked.”


“If you honestly think a cosmic force is parochial enough to privilege a small tribe of apes on a small dust ball in a small suburb of the universe, then you, sir, are lost.” But Maya wasn’t oblivious to Hassan’s generosity, so she grudgingly thanked him. She thought of taking a cab right back to the city as soon as he left… but then what?


Jolene greeted her, but after that they kept looking at each other awkwardly. Jolene didn’t say anything but the embarrassed red flush on her cheeks and the look in her eyes said everything. Two people accompanied Jolene. One was JC, a tall and corpulent man, sporting a bristling black goatee and thick glasses. Maya, glad to break the spell, greeted him. He, in turn, paid his grudging respect. The other person… she was a small and slim woman with long, black hair and porcelain features, doll-like. Jiao Yi.


Hassan wasn’t going to leave either. “If I can’t convince you, then she will.”


Maya was sore enough but Jiao smiled sweetly and offered her seafood sushi. Maya was starving! She ate her morsel gratefully and so her irritation was pacified a bit. Jiao offered that they all sit at a nearby Japanese restaurant. Maya’s flight wasn’t until another four hours.


Jiao showed Maya an interesting painting of an ancient, ruined castle deep in the woods. Between Jolene and Maya, Jolene was the painter, but Maya could tell the brush strokes were thick and broad, and of dark colors, to create the impression of something untamed and obscure at the same time. “You painted this?”


“Yes, with my feet.” Jiao even playfully took her foot out of her slipper to wiggle her toes. They indeed were especially dexterous. Jiao seemed to have read Maya’s mind because she then said, “There was a time in my life where I felt completely free yet safe in the same way. I felt a raw, primeval feeling, and at home in the world.”


Maya needed to change the subject. “I appreciate your favors but cut to chase. What is your argument?”


Jiao chuckled lightly. “Oh yes, arguments, to ingratiate the rationales of irrational animals. But fine. Here is the most obvious.” She took Maya to the third floor of the restaurant and pointed to the dark horizon. “Look over there.”


Maya saw the stadium where she had her humiliating duel just half a day ago. It shone brightly like a green lighthouse but in doing so allowed her to see the projects not too far off. A Ghoul gang used one of the abandoned buildings as a home base. Then it was raided by the rival gang, and the leader Maya joined sides with died in the attack. “It reminds me that the dueling world… didn’t change at all.” She bit down her bitter disappointment. “Four years later, it’s still all the same. My dueling didn’t make any of their lives better.”


“And I’m sure you know why.” Jiao was sympathetic but damning all the same.


“Because I played within ‘the system’. The dueling world is run by ‘The Man’ as it were. I wanted to help the ‘littleman’ but just to exist I needed to follow ‘The Man’s’ rules. The rules rigged, so it’s impossible to actually do anything. The worst thing is that even the people who are screwed over the most either don’t know about or don’t care. Their spirits are so crushed they can only look for a narcotic, like reality TV, the Superbowl, or dueling.” Maya glared at the stadium far away with burning envy and hatred. “If only I could just burn the whole damn world to the ground!”


Jiao looked out to the horizon as Maya did. “Well, you could do the next best thing. If you win the World Championship you’ll get about three million dollars prize money. Even more important you’ll get the power to change the system. I mean, let’s be honest here, you’ll still have to navigate through the corporations, especially KaibaCorp or Industrial Illusions, but it’s better than nothing. Or perhaps you’d rather go to jail.”


“There’s one more thing. The funny thing about the Ghouls is that after I got to a certain point I just went up against a wall. Separate bosses run big Ghoul syndicates, or that’s how it appears.” Maya mused. “But beyond there seems to be a person, or persons, who have control over the bosses behind closed doors. Heishin is the boss of the Ghouls in Egypt right now, but I’m sure he’s dealing with someone else. Question is: who are these people and what are they up to?”


“Would you like to know?” Jiao prodded.


Maya at last conceded. “Fine. I’m going. Hassan gave me a big present and he doesn’t seem like a shady guy. He’s either naïve or desperate to the point of being stupid. I’ll give him that. The World Championship is my last shot as a pro.”


“You’ll meet Yukio, you’re old friend, in Iceland. Hassan, Jolene, JC, and I will stay here. We’ll be you and Yukio’s base, your line of support. In Iceland you’ll also meet Team Stella, who you’ve worked with in the past before…”


“And there I’ll register for the World Championship. I’m pretty sure America banned me from the tournament scene by now. But… answer me, Jiao. Why do you even care? I know what Hassan gets out of this, but what about you?”


“Because I recognize a worthy creative spirit when I see one and I want to see it nurtured.” Jiao’s reply was plain and simple. “And frankly, I’m sick of ‘the system’ too.”     

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Duel 4 - If you look under the couch and behind the portrait you find a gold coin.




Yukio Fujiwara quietly sipped his coffee in his lodgings. It was ten o’clock, reasonably late for normal people but not for him. He didn’t like to get up until two in the morning. His room in Stella’s communal house testified to his lifestyle. An electric guitar and a few amps were cuddled beside him like kittens where he woke up (which wasn’t his bed). After he took his last sip he once more dug through his landfill of old clothes underneath a Bob Marley poster. He couldn’t find it.


“Looking for this?” He followed the voice out of his room. Maya sat at a small, comely wooden table, looking out the window. She just arrived last afternoon. The morning dawn colored the Iceland suburb a soft gold. Some of those precious rays flowed through the window, illuminating the red highlights in her black locks and giving her skin a warm bronze glow. She only wore a home shirt and underwear.


She tossed at him a small plastic bag full of herbs crushed into green-brown balls. They gave an intense smell. “Don’t worry. I didn’t use any, but I know you can’t sleep well unless you get baked every night. I want you to be awake for a change. I haven’t seen you in so long.”


“Hmm… thanks?” He scratched his shaggy black hair and felt the stubble growing around his soul patch. He was too lazy to shave. Not even a giant quadruple-bladed electric shaver that could shave off the hair around an alpha male orangutan’s anus could make him shave. To be honest, he found Maya’s little theft right under his nose a blessing in disguise. He hadn’t seen her in ages either.


He stared into her eyes. The woman was a tiger but she was calm. She wouldn’t attack him. As she looked at him her eyes weren’t sharp or savage but were steadfast, warm. “Is this dream?” He murmured at last.   


“Is it?” She mirrored his question felicitously. “Do dreams feel this real?”


“They do. Its like the dreams Sam Lowry had. He flies through the white and blue skies, in a lost world free of the city, and somewhere on the golden horizon is his angel. But that moment is too impossible to happen. That’s the only hint I have.”


She leaned towards him, her eyes still steadfast. “This isn’t a dream.”


“Not like Brazil?”


“No. Much better.” She slowly but inexorably leaned forward to kiss him, but Yukio pulled away at the last moment.


“I’m sorry, Maya. I found another woman after Jolene.”




They agreed it was time to get dressed and went to the living room below. All of Team Stella waited for them. The eponymous member, Stella herself, brightly greeted them, as did the rest of the team. Stella was the spunky pale one with a prominent nose and her hair dyed a bright bubblegum pink. Poppy was blond, with thick glasses, had a nurturing plumpness. Luca was especially small and had electric blue eyes. Willow wore her hair in dreadlocks, stashed under a beanie. Dahlia had a stout body and examined people with sharp eyes under two thick, arched eyebrows.


Maya nudged him, her mouth spread in a naughty grin. “So you’re the rooster of this hen pen, huh.”


Yukio blinked at first but it finally came on. “My God no you little pervert! Does everything have to be about sex with you, you lecherous spotted hyena! You know I go to bed with Stella!” All the women in the room giggled uncontrollably. Yukio’s face was as red as his hair was black.


 Maya clapped her hands together. “Let’s get to work. We need to contact base. Jolene can hack the Internets to leak info about the World Championship. Then we’ll complain how much the meta sucks.”


Stella popped a can of soda. “Sounds like a plan.”


June 12, 2009


Maya, Yukio, and Team Stella are on one end of cyberspace. Jiao, Jolene, JC, and Hassan are on the other.


MAYA: “I hope no one can spy on us.”


JIAO: “Don’t worry you’re noodle. Jolene made sure it’s private and she’ll delete all evidence of this conversation as soon as it’s over.”


MAYA: “Jolene, can you get any info on the World Championship before it’s broadcasted?”


JOLENE: “I actually did that. I hacked into Industrial Illusions. I didn’t hack into KaibaCorp though. It’s too risky. Yes, the World Championship will take place in Egypt. It’ll be like Battle City. You collect something similar to Locator Cards, which you use to get to the finals. There are eight finalists.”


STELLA: “Sounds like the veterans are trying to bring back the glory days.” She crumples the soda can and throws it out.


MAYA: “And the prize money?”


JOLENE: “I don’t know, but it should be big. That’s all I know. Sorry.”


JIAO: She’s in the background but everyone can see she’s painting another picture with her feet. “Something tells me, Maya, that you’re zombie swarm deck won’t do well in the tournament. I mean, look at what happened between you and Akira.”


MAYA: “He obviously cheated.”


JIAO: “Yaaaaa…. But…” She wags her big toe at Maya like it was a finger.


MAYA: If anyone could give the thinks-they’re-cute-and-quirky-but-really-very-obnoxious award, Jiao would get it. But it wasn’t the time to be angry. “We know that Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Qliphorts completely rule the meta now. But there’s more. Back in the day we had many great generic cards like chaos monsters, Yata, and Raigeki that could work in any deck. But now they’re either banned or ineffective. New cards are situational and only exist to help certain archetypes. In other words, Pegasus and Kaiba use archetypes and the ban list to strictly control what decks and which duelists are on top. Certain archetypes are boosted with cards carefully designed to only support them. Custom decks are left to die.”


STELLA: “So how do we beat the system? We, Team Stella, always try something different. I run Yang Zing myself. It’s all partly because of you since you inspired us to look for new things in this game. We’re invited to the World Championship but I doubt we’ll even make to the finals. At least we’re not has-beens who used to win championships with tier 1 decks but can’t get over the fact the game moved on without them. Deedee Chua, the ‘duel master’, still uses Dragon Rulers and wants to be taken seriously. He’s almost as pathetic as ‘Bandit’ Kieth, and as egotistical as him to match.


MAYA: “Time for some life hacks. What we need to figure out is what exactly do they control to keep their top three decks in place. In other words, what are they keeping out? Skill Drain doesn’t work because Qlophorts do just fine without effects and Burning Abyss and Shaddolls use so many effects in the graveyard. Banishing monsters will frustrate all three archetypes, but Macrocosmos and Dimensional Fissure are limited to one. Soul Drain can negate effects in the graveyard, and it’s also limited. And Banisher or Radiance is a weak and slow monster. I’m sure that’s all a coincidence. Bouncing only works a bit unless we bounce back to the deck…”


STELLA: “So we play banish and bounce decks?”


MAYA: “We also need to use control. We need to negate monster effects from outside the field and prevent our opponents from swarming and searching. Thunder King Rai-Oh is also limited. Again, just a coincidence. Or you can try to outrace your opponent. Perhaps we should do both. All the while we need to conserve as many cards as possible and have strong ATK while we’re at it.”


STELLA: “So we need generic cards or archetypes that banish, bounce, and control your opponent’s cards. But most are limited on the ban list.”


MAYA: “I know.” She buries her hands in her thick, curly hair. “If only we could magically change the ban list. – Wait! Jolene, can you hack into I2 and change the ban list? Be subtle so no one will notice. You can unlimit a few cards, just a few so it’s hard to notice until it’s too late, and don’t unban anything.”


JOLENE: “I can even make it look like someone from within the company did it, and make the change just before the tournament starts. My oldest cousin works at I2. He would make a good plant.”


YUKIO: “Guys, isn’t all this cheating?”


MAYA: “Pegasus and Kaiba are cheating this whole time. Matthew cheated with all of his power when he fought us. Akira cheated so I couldn’t even duel him. By their standards we’re being downright fair.”


YUKIO: “Speaking of life hacks, know this. Shady, sinister behaviors are slippery slopes down to hell. People aren’t chess pieces. They’re unpredictable and things way too often get out of control.”


MAYA: “Tell that to Pegasus and Kaiba.”


JIAO: “So I guess we’re done.” She dabs her toes on the canvas in whatever weird experiment she’s involved in. “Ah! Perfect!”


MAYA: “The session’s over. I promise I’ll be careful, Jolene.”


JIAO: “One more thing. It’s in your best interest to make a new team. It’s nice to have comrades in Battle Royale reality TV style stunts. Happy hunting.”



Maya and Yukio took it upon themselves to find their last teammate. Stella rent Yukio her car so Yukio and Maya could drive out of the town of Selfoss and into the small town Laugardælir, partly to enjoy the beautiful scenery and partly to find their third duelist. You may ask, why look in such a small town? Well, let me tell you. The great chess champion, Bobby Fischer, spent his final years in Reykjavik and was buried on the grounds of Laugardælir church. Since Fischer’s death duelists built an active community in Reykjavik, hosting many tournaments and many free for all dueling parties that spanned entire parts of the city. 


But more importantly, Laugardælir became a shrine of sorts, drawing great duelists and chess players all over the world, even if just temporarily, where they created small elite clubs. The membership was never permanent as duelists whisked in and out during their visits but someone good was already there. Even Seto Kaiba paid respects to the great master’s grave. If you want to find great things it is best to look at places you wouldn’t usually expect. 


Maya set a pair of roses on top of the Fischer’s grave. The tombstone’s marble was still fresh and the flowers on the grave were new and colorful. They visited the church, a small, hushed, sacred place, before they took off to a café. It was ok to be leisurely. Stella told them that it was best not to look for great duelists. Rather, great duelists would come to them.  


Yukio sipped his warm, delicious coffee, thinking for a long time about what he wanted to say to Maya and how he wanted to say it. He needed to get this out of the way. “Jolene told me about what you did with her and that guy that one night. What you did was really problematic. You did BDSM when you were all drunk. It was a really foolish and dangerous thing to do. Jolene could’ve seriously gotten hurt. You know what that tells me? That you’ve lost respect for yourself as well as other people.” 


Maya took her time to process his harsh words. Yukio watched Maya closely, almost like a guard dog. He saw the usual anger flare in her eyes her lips twist downward, features he saw the moment he first met her, but nothing else. He then saw hurt and remorse creep into her eyes. “I’m very sorry. I threw myself in the alcohol because I was cornered and didn’t know what to do. The World Championship is my last plan. If I lose, I’ll forever be an outlaw. I’m not making an excuse for what I did. I promise I’ll be nicer, at least to my friends.”


Yukio pushed his phone to her across the small table. “I remember you when you protected Jolene against the Crusaders and even against JC himself. I want to see that you again. You need to apologize to someone.”


Maya dialed the phone. After Jolene on the other side asked who it was, Maya said, “Jolene, I’m sorry about that one night. It was very reckless and selfish of me and I could’ve seriously hurt you. You didn’t deserve it. I’m very sorry.”


“It’s alright. I totally forgot about it. But thanks for apologizing. You’re a real friend.” Jolene said. 


Maya knew Jolene was lying.


Maya and Yukio noticed people leaving the café, gathering in a ring. They soon found out why. A duel just started. On the right stood a young man who wore a decent suit, which he ruined by popping up the collar, wearing a baseball cap on its side, and wearing a gaudy gold watch. On the right stood a teenage girl with a black flat cap and studded jacket, complemented by her dark red hair, which she wore in a French braid, and contrasted by her rather pale skin. Maya and Yukio recognized the young man as Deedee Chua, the “duel master” himself. They figured out the girl’s name from his banter: Sophia. 


Deedee: 4000 || Sophia: 4000


DEEDEE’S TURN: “My deck’s just craaaaaaazzzzyyyy! Oh my, this opening hand is super sexy! I activate Gold Sarchophagus to banish Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls.” A giant gold box opens, allowing a large holographic card to be placed inside it. “I discard Steam, Dragon Ruler of Droplets and Wyvern to summon another Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls from my deck.” A large but thin ice blue dragon flies beside him. “Since I discarded Eclipse Wyvern I banish a dragon from my deck. I banish Wyvern and Steam from my graveyard to summon Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos!” To contrast his thin and ascetic icy blue dragon, a fat and fiery red dragon appears beside it.


“Not done yet. Since Wyvern is banished, I add a dragon to my hand. I overlay Tidal and Blaster to Xyz Summon Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack.” The two dragons collapse into comets of different colors and enter what looks like a black hole. But it apparently is a wormhole to another universe because an absolutely huge fighter aircraft flies out, surrounded by two lights that revolve around it like electrons. “I detach Blaster,” One of the “electrons” vanishes inside Dracossack, “and summon two Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens.” Two small jets split away from the mother ship. “And tribute them both to summon Light and Darkness Dragon.” They shatter into pieces and a majestic dragon, half white and half black, replaces them. “And I set a card. Try to beat this! Dragon Rulers are still Tier 1 and you know it!”


SOPHIA’S TURN: “Dragon Rulers are strong and you have a pretty strong field right now. But LDD can be beat, even in one turn. Please don’t take what I say too harshly, but your dueling seems rather solipsistic. It’s like you’re just playing against yourself.”


“She’ll probably use a chain to beat it?” Yukio comments to Maya from the sidelines.


“Or she’ll drain its ATK to kill it in battle the old fashioned way.” Maya mused.


“Oh yeah?” Deedee smirks, compulsively shuffling his hand as loudly as possible. “Prove it! I’m the Duel Master K for a reason!” 


“Fine then. I discard a card to summon Swap Frog.” A yellow horned toad hops into play. “My Nimble Angler now activates and I choose to activate Swap Frog’s other effect.”


“And I activate LDD!” Deedee’s dragon pushes an aura of light outward as if it was flexing a muscle. The wave of light hits Swap Frog, paralyzing it briefly. “Sure it loses 500 ATK and DEF but it’s a small price to pay to control your every move.” (LDD ATK 2800 à 2300) “I activate Swap Frog’s other effect, to bounce a monster back to my hand.” But that was as far as she got for LDD negated her Swap Frog again. (LDD ATK 2300 à 1800)


Sophia is unfazed. “Angler still goes through. I summon Nimble Sunfish and Nimble Manta from my deck.” True to form, a sunfish and manta appear. “I activate Swap Frogs last effect.” To which Deedee again interrupts her and negates its effect. “I summon Genex Undine,” A strange cyborg with a water tank for a stomach appears. “And activate its effect.” Once, more LDD negates. (LDD ATK 1800 à 1300)  


Deedee is clearly amused. “Forget about LDD’s effect already? Girl, do you even know how to play this game? You duel worse than my little sister! You must be one of those fake geek girls. ‘Like oh my God, who’s Bruce Wayne? I’m a huge Batman fan!’ Or how’s this? ‘I’m such a nerd! I read all five Harry Potter books!’ I mean, you got some nice blowjob lips but you’re no Sasha Grey.”


Maya smacks her palm to her face. “Maybe he should shut up and buy an anime body pillow before I put him in a real body bag.” Douchebags come in all races, creeds, and nationalities.


Sophia just ignores the insult. Honestly, Yukio finds that level of maturity from a teenager frightening. Anyway, Sophia continues. “I overlay Swap Frog and Sunfish to xyz summon Ghostrick Socuteboss.” Sophia’s monsters fall into the wormhole, which then bursts in energy. A sleepy-headed girl with bat wings and in lingerie pajamas flies out accompanied by two orbiting spheres of her own.  “Socuteboss, attack LDD!” Sophia commands, and Socuteboss casts her spell. Legions of bats from the netherworld swarm and consume LDD.


Deedee grimaces at the death of his once mighty dragon. Sophia activated all those monster effects to weaken LDD so it could be destroyed. (Deedee LP 4000 à 3900) “I activate LDD’s other ability. I nuke all my monsters to bring back a dragon from my graveyard.” Draccosack vaporizes in a field of flames and Deedee’s trusty Blaster returns.


“I activate Socuteboss’s effect, destroying your monster and voiding your monster card zone so it can’t be used anymore.”


“That’s where you’re wrong! I activate Fiendish Chain!” His trap springs, and iron chains lock Socuteboss in their fetters. “Not exactly loli hentai but almost as good.”


Sophia sighs. Even her patience is strained at this point. “Can you stop being gross for one minute? I set two cards.” And as she ended her turn, Blaster vanishes back to Deedee’s hand per its effect.


DEEDEE’S TURN: “So one turn passes for Gold Sarcophagus. Next turn, Tidal is all mine. I activate Lightning, Dragon Ruler of Drafts from my hand. I discard it and Redox to special summon Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms from my deck. But don’t blink. I banish it to special summon Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon and use its effect to bring back Blaster from my graveyard.” Storms gather and dark clouds form into a furious grey dragon, only to vanish and be replaced by a sinister dragon made of black steel, which is then accompanied by the familiar fiery red dragon.


Sophia springs her trap. “Ojama Trio!” Three circus freaks, yellow, green, and black, infest Deedee’s field, wearing only red tights. Deedee clenches his nose to protect himself from the awful smell caused by their constant farting. “You’re field is full, so you can’t summon any monsters.”


Deedee curses, annoyed. “No problem. I can’t swarm the field but you’ll still suffer. Blaster, roast Socuteboss!” Blaster launches a ball of fire at Socuteboss, who explodes into bits from the blast. (Sophia LP 4000 à 2600) “And REDM, destroy Undine!” REDM projects a fiery projectile of its own, blowing Undine up. (Sophia LP 2600 à 1000) She winces from the attacks but keeps her cool. Deedee concludes his turn and his Blaster once more returns to his hand.


SOPHIA’S TURN: “Alright, I got everything I need. I activate my trap Xyz Reborn. Socuteboss revives and this trap attaches to her as a Xyz Material.” Socuteboss revives, with one new orb revolving around her. “I Normal Summon Swap Frog and mill Nimble Angler.” With her monster sent to the Graveyard, another Nimble Sunfish and Nimble Manta appear on her field. “I overlay Swap Frog and Sunfish to Xyz Summon my second Ghostrick Socuteboss and my other Sunfish and Manta to summon my third Ghostrick Socuteboss.” Her four monsters vanish in two worm holes and two more Socuteboss are formed. 


“I activate the effects of all three! Destroy REDMD and two Ojama Tokens!” The three Socuteboss three black holes to appear, which both consume REDMD and the two Tokens and stay so no monster can be on those zones. Deedee also loses Life Points from the two Tokens. (Deedee LP 3900 à 3600 à 3300) “Socuteboss number one, destroy the last Ojama Token, and my two other, attack him directly!” The first Socuteboss obliterates the last Token with her swarm of bats (Deedee LP 3300 à 3000) while the other two torment Deedee himself with their own legions of dark creatures. (Deedee LP 3000 à 1600 à 200) “And I activate Ground Collapse.” Deedee’s remaining two Monster Card Zones are crushed by two warp fields. 


Maya gazes at Sophia as if she was in love with her and sighs fondly. “Really brings back the good old days, Yukio, back when I swarmed the field with WATER monsters myself. Even Deedee’s juvenile, abusive comments make me feel warm inside. Back then guys like him were all I had to worry about.”


Deedee looks anything but calm and nostalgic. “This is impossible! Nimbles and Ghostricks? What a n00b! I use Dragon Rulers! I can’t lose to you!” He screams in anger and throws his duel disk on the ground, scattering his cards everywhere. “grape THIS GAME! I’M OUTTA’ HERE!” And he stomped away in a huff.  


Deedee: 200 (rage quit) || Sophia: 1000


Now the duel was over, the crowd scattered from the scene, but Yukio noticed that they still chattered among themselves. During the duel they whispered to each other, commenting on both player’s decks and strategy and even making critiques and postulating their own ideas, which they kept doing even as they dispersed. “Why didn’t Deedee play Fiendish Chain sooner? Some “master duelist” he is!” – “Because Fiendish Chain would be chained by LDD.” – “Why didn’t Sophia play Ground Collapse and Ojama trio during her first turn? She could’ve iced Deedee back then?” – “Toying with him? Didn’t draw Ground Collapse yet? I don’t know.”


Maya and Yukio approached the victor. They shook her hand and introduced themselves. “Приятно познакомиться.” Sophia greeted back, shaking Maya’s hand, and then Yukio’s. Sophia had small hands with thin palms, and long, bony fingers, her nails painted black. They looked like a witch’s hands as much as Maya’s hands looked like spiders. He was surprised by how strong Sophia’s grip was.


“Можете ли говорите српски?” Maya asked, to which Sophia replied bashfully. “Sorry, no. I can’t make out enough Serbian. I know some Russians who can but I’m not one of them.”         


“We thought you’re duel was really great.” Yukio complimented her. “You show a lot of strength and originality. The World Championship is approaching and we’re making a team. We need one more member. Will you join us?”


Sophia analyzed them for a minute, her dark, slanted eyes soft but proping at the same time. “If I recall, you are Marina Bozovic and Yukio Fujiwara. Maya, you used antimeta zomies since 2005, and I remember you, Yukio, using Masked Heroes for the 2005 Nationals. How interesting! I was looking for a team myself. I accept.”


Yukio nudged Maya gently. “She’s approachable, polite, and kicks butt. See, you can be a great duelist without being belligerent.” To that Maya laughed, palmed Yukio’s face, and jokingly shoved him aside.


Maya saw Sophia wore a black shirt with the picture of the monster Necroface on it. “I’ve got an idea for a team name. Team… Dead Baby Humor!” 


Yukio laughed awkwardly. “That’s a little too dark, don’t you think?”


“How does Dutch Baby Oven sound?”


“You may want to tone it down a bit.”


“Alright, alright.”


“Hmm…” Sophia puckered her lips and put her finger on them inquisitively. “I have a Tumblr called Baby Blast Furnace. Sounds good?”


Yukio groaned and waved his hand at them despairingly. “What’s wrong with you people? If you like dead babies so much why don’t you join Planned Parenthood. But whatever, I’ll accept the name. Forget I said anything about you two being different.”


“So we got a team! YAY!” Maya and Sophia jumped with joy. They dragged Yukio away by the arms. “Speaking of dead babies maybe we should shop at Hot Topic for the lulz.”


“Hot Topic? In Iceland?” Yukio groaned again. “Why don’t you buy a fake dog turd at Spencer’s Gifts while you’re at it.”


Oh we will!”    

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We're perched headlong

on the edge of boredom

We're reaching for death

on the end of a candle

We're trying for something

That's already found us

~Jim Morrison


Duel 5 - What keys unlock the door of darkness?




Matthew Howard Carter grimaced as he tried to decipher the pages upon pages of documents of classified information stacked on his desk, his face twisted into a scowl. He strained his eyes for days on end trying to decipher them. With their small printed text and black censor strips they looked more like hieroglyphs than any form of English. He at least could read hieroglyphs. Grandfather was one of the only hundred or so people in the world that could and taught him since he was ten.  


Grandfather was the reason he dug himself into so much research. Poor grandfather was brutally murdered when he was only fifteen. He never saw his body at the time of murder but could only imagine the anguish, pain, and betrayal on his once noble features. He saw his grandfather laid in his coffin for the last time, draped in palm leaves, face noble and serene.


Matthew felt the frustration seep into his nerves again. He hired the best agents he could with father’s considerable wealth to dig up everything they could. Still, nothing. Father used the family fortune to drift away from curating Egyptian artifacts to make a company for intellectual property and children’s software. He replaced high culture and history with lawyers and brokers, men of antiquity with children of modernity. To make things even worse, father had no intention of leaving his position of CEO of the company anytime soon.  


Matthew had no power. He could recall his duel with Maya four years ago like it was yesterday, the bitterness of his loss still stinging his lips. He remembered every word she told him, “Oh, you think he was a saint among mere mortals, but he was not an innocent man. I dug up quite a lot of filth about him. To say your old man had a lot of unsavory dealings with the Ghouls is an understatement. He controlled a big chunk of the Ghouls in America to the point where he had a partnership with the boss. He had to. How else would he have driven his rivals out of business and preserve your family wealth?”


The words still shocked him, their bitter impact still flaring him up with wrathful indignation. “Silence your LYING TONGUE, witch!!!” He shouted to the empty darkness. But if she was obviously lying why did he spend years researching grandfather’s history? The classified files stacked in front of him didn’t lie.


“Matthew, please come to bed. It’s late. You’re ruining your health.” His fiancé, Alexis Burkeheart, draped in a white bathrobe, leaned wearily against the wall. She looked the worse for wear. Her black hair, usually sleek, was a tangled mess. Her icy blue eyes were drowsy and red with blood vessels.


Matthew looked at his own slightly bulging stomach. His skin had decayed from a solid tan to a wispy pail. His weight had suffered as well. “I will once I get to the bottom of this mystery. Grandfather did control the gang of Ghouls in New York, the biggest and most powerful American gang. But get this. The Ghouls seem to be serving someone higher up the food chain. Sometimes the bosses seem to get orders from someone but no one knows who.”


Alexis was in no mood to listen to another dreary speculation about who the Ghouls served. “I’m going to bed.”


“Do whatever you want. Just leave me in my solitude.” Matthew growled as Alexis stormed off. Matthew didn’t mind her leaving. Better than being hen-pecked by an uppity woman. His frustration swelled inside him until it finally climaxed. He shouted in the air, “I would sell my soul to the Devil to find out who the Ghouls serve and why!”




What was that? Matthew’s blood froze into ice. That was way too soon to be a coincidence.       




“Butler! Butler! Open the door!” Matthew called. He forgot the butler was asleep this late. “Alexis! Get the door!” No answer.  




Matthew had no choice but to open the door himself. He dressed up in a brown bathrobe as brown as his scruffy hair and eyes. Working up the courage, he went to the darkness downstairs and opened the door.


Two complete strangers came in without hesitation. One of them was a man monstrously huge, made even more intimidating by his large black coat. The other was a woman, small and porcelain, hardly over five feet tall. The huge man shook Matthew’s hand with his own hand, which looked big enough to crush his skull. “Good evening and a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Carter. I am Gernand and I know everything about your grandfather.”


“Matthew? Who are they? – Don’t let them in! I don’t trust them!” Alexis just started going down the stairs but recoiled right after. Matthew didn’t heed her warning. Finally someone had all the answers. He let the strangers in to the drawing room, over a cold hearth.


The woman glanced around, noticing the paintings of Matthew’s ancestors, the small iron gates around the hearth, the furniture carved from rare and comely wood. “Is this your vacation house?”


Gernand waved his hand at the woman dismissively. He wouldn’t be bothered by such trifles. “I will now tell everything about your grandfather. Ten years ago, while in Egypt he discovered an artifact more devastating than all the Millennium Items combined, in fact, the very book consulted by those dark, shrewd priests of the Amenhotep Dynasty to murder the treacherous grave robbers in their own village and infuse their flesh into gold to create the them.”


“Grandfather discovered the Millennium Tome!?” Matthew couldn’t believe his ears. “According to Egyptian myth it was penned by none other than the goddess Isis herself. It is the oldest, most fundamental surviving text of magic in the world.”


“Indeed it is. You certainly did your homework.” The woman affirmed, smiling gently.


“Your grandfather was wise to not display the oime in public.” Gernand continued. “Instead he kept it in a vault deep in his mansion, which is, I believe, this very house.” He must have noticed a restless light shine in Matthew’s eyes for he then said, “Do not be naïve and reckless, boy, the Tome is long gone from this home. As you probably know by now, he controlled the New York Ghouls but the boss on top, resentful at serving the old man and rapacious for the latent powers of the Tome, sent a gang to murder your grandfather in cold blood. Your grandfather, with his acute intuition and wisdom, sent the Tome to Pegasus J. Crawford, the very creator of Duel Monsters, shortly before his murder.”


The floor under Matthew’s feet started to whirl behind him and Matthew clasped on to a coffee table to keep himself standing. It was too much information to process in one moment. He gave himself a few minutes to breath until the shock died down a bit. “Is Maya a Ghoul? She raided grandfather’s tomb.”


“Oh no, my dear boy. The girl is uncongenial and has a small criminal record, but she could never be that foul. A Ghoul raided your grandfather’s tomb beforehand, sent by the boss to find the Tome, unaware that Pegasus really possessed it. He only found a precious case of your grandfather’s Duel Monsters cards. The Ghoul, annoyed not finding the Tome, dumped your grandfather’s body down the well out of spite. As the Ghoul was making his escape with his consolation booty, a policeman caught him. They pierced each other with bullets. The Ghoul, his hand and body shot, dropped the case in the well before fleeing while the policeman, also wounded, tried to reach a hospital. Both criminal and officer quickly died from their wounds.”


Alexis listened to Gernand’s story the whole time. Now she came downstairs and pulled Matthew up, who was still recoiling from the devastating news. “You know the truth. Now we can finally put this behind us. Please Matthew. Let’s go to bed.”


But Gernand wasn’t finished yet. “I have an offer, boy. Do you not wish to avenge your grandfather’s death? Do you not wish to discover the Millennium Tome, broaden your knowledge of Egypt and her mysterious people, and master magic so secret only a handful of men in all of history learned it?”


“Tell me now!” Matthew demanded, his voice shaking from the shock but still authoritative. His burning desire for vengeance was in his eyes. No one could deny it.


The smug grin on Gernand’s big lips was awful to look at. “Very well I shall. The 2009 World Championship starts in a week from now. Due to your prestigious reputation you probably received an invitation. Both you and Alexis will participate and win your ways to the finals. Pegasus is a vain and flamboyant man, self-absorbed, a nostalgic child, forever bonded to the game he created and the gaming culture that spawned out of it. He wouldn’t miss a chance to see the greatest tournament since Duelist Kingdom and Battle City unfold without him.


Not even we could find the location of the World Championship finals. However, we can ascertain that Pegasus will probably host the finals near Pegasus Island if not at Pegasus Island itself. The finals will be your chance to sneak into Pegasus Island and take the Millennium Tome. His defenses will be low. He will be distracted while he entertains the entire dueling world.”


“And what if the finals aren’t near Pegasus Island?” Matthew asked.


“Then we will have to find another way. In either case, we will compensate you for your time handsomely. And why shouldn’t you participate? Do you not want to reclaim your honor, your ‘duelist’s pride’ as they call it? Ever since your swarthy, prickly friend humiliated you in front of the world, you have hardly dueled, at most winning a few prestigious regionals. Meanwhile, your rival has only grown stronger over time, more audacious and impudent to the idiot governors of the culture that shackles her.”   


Alexis took Matthew’s arm forcefully and tried to escort him to bed. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Gernand. We’ll think about it. There’s the door.”


But Matthew wrenched himself free from her clutches. “I accept, Gernand. I will do anything to avenge grandfather’s death!”


Alexis instantly put her hand on Matthew’s mouth as if by doing so she could take back his words. “No! You have no idea who these people are!”


The woman approached Matthew and placed her palm on his heart. “You have a powerful Ka burning inside of you. I needed to lend Ka to a lowly man like Heishin, but you have a dragon of your own crying to be set free. Most people need to train hard to fully realize their Ka. We don’t have time for that, so I can release him prematurely. However, you will be bound to me by a pact, which you can release by fully training your Ka.”


A Ka, as Matthew knew, was a spirit monster that people of antiquity willed into being through magic. A Ka sprang from the unfathomable depths of the Ba, or soul, the well that is the life force of each person. As such, the Ka reflected your nature, whether as a good spirit or evil monster, at least as far as the Egyptian texts go. A modern philosopher would probably call it your creative spirit. Matthew’s Ka was…


“Horus the Black Flame Dragon, take flight from the blackest part of your heart! May you rise with the rising sun on the horizon! May you come forth by day, by every day, wearing a crown of white!”


Matthew burst as a being of light, flames erupting out of him as if coming out of some primeval fountain. He felt a powerful force pushing beneath him pushing him upward as if he was caught in a huge warm updraft. His chest expanded, light and fire shooting out of him, his crown growing infinitely skyward, crowned by light and fire. Somewhere, deep inside him, he was a fiery bird, a fledgling just escaping the nest, flying through a dark cave to the light at the end.


Matthew came down to earth and observed the room around him. None of the priceless furniture was damaged, as Gernand cast his own spell to protect them. His chest hurt, blackened by a burn the shape of the woman’s hand. Alexis clung on to him, almost wanting his protection. He could see why. Dozens of sinister men shrouded in black cowls surrounded them. At last he knew who the Ghouls answered to.


Gernand was completely content. “Do not be upset, boy. I didn’t order for the execution of your grandfather. His death was a sad and unnecessary loss caused by a lowly, greedy boss who couldn’t even fulfill his base, selfish appetite. You should be pleased to know that I dispatched him in the quickest and most brutal way possible. Now, boy, look on your army and become a man. Every thief, bootlegger, cheater, liar, drug dealer, and trafficker in New York and Egypt falls under your command. Fighting your way to the World Championship finals should be easy with such a barbarous legion.”


Matthew was at a loss for words for the third time. The light and fire in his heart evaporated, leaving only darkness and ashes. Grandfather’s murderers were the men Matthew now commanded, and he couldn’t back out. Dread, shame, and despair flashed inside of him so quickly and strongly he couldn’t even process it. He couldn’t even scream.   

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Duel 6 - Waiting builds pain... but upon release...!




Only three days remained before the World Championship would begin, when the greatest of all competitions, the grandest theater of war, would ruthlessly commence. Every duelist knew in his gut all too well the gravity of fate, anticipating the far off coliseum where the goddess victory would smile on one man and bestow upon him absolute glory. What did Seto Kaiba and Pegasus J. Crawford do, the colossi, the leader and father of Duel Monsters? They played golf while settling a few business deals with some important guests.


That was how Pegasus described it. Kaiba didn’t play golf, nor would he ever bother to learn. Such a “sport”, if you could call it that, was an insult to any true duelist. No competition, no crucible to test your worth, no enemy to stare down as you match your skills against his, as you collide your fighting spirit with his. Golf was a “sport” that glorified nothingness and ennui, displaying vanity and sophistication as something “charming” when it was mere weakness.


“Oh, dear Kaiba-boy, please join us to play some golf with us. It’s quite refreshing, really. Oh, look!” Pegasus pointed at Takeshi Uchiyamada, the chairman of Toyota. He struck the golf ball with his club, sending it whizzing more than half way to Hole #6. “Look at him go! My dear Uchiyamada, you are a natural!” 


“Save your flattery to yourself.” Kaiba couldn’t believe Pegasus, the very creator of Duel Monsters, would stoop this low, wearing short shorts while trafficking with car and oil companies. 


Kaiba was a tall and thin man over six feet, with a long, angular face, his features often contorted into a scowl. A combed mass of brown hair crowned his brow and shadowed his piercing, ice blue eyes.  Combined with his tall, angular body and his proclivity for wearing white, his features made him look dark yet august at the same time. 


Pegasus was a bit different. He was only a couple of inches shorter than Kaiba yet had the mature frame of an adult Kaiba never fully received, and none of it interfered with his disarming debonair charm and grace. Kaiba knew better. He knew that behind the silly, foppish recluse, with his long, white hair, frilly red coat, and ridiculous mannerisms, lurked a serious and sinister man. He had enough painful memories from dealing with him.


Kaiba scanned every golfer and assistant around him, analyzing them so as to sort them out as allies or enemies. Before the business meeting he memorized a list that was as formal and tedious as it looked:


Ken Kobayashi, CEO of Mitsubishi 

Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota 

Rex. W. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobile 

Marvin E. Odum, president of Shell 

David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain 

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister 

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.


None of those weasels deserved a name, let alone a tedious title to memorize, but boring tasks like shaking hands with every variety of sewer rat was something even Kaiba had to do. They wanted to extend their influence in the dueling world, to exchange stocks, shares, and bonds with KaibaCorp and Industrial Illusions. At the same time they sponsored their fair share of duelists, owning them the same way George Bush owned the Texas Rangers. It was sickening.     


Kaiba made up his mind. He approached Uchuyamada and Kobayashi, the owners of Toyota and Mitsubishi respectively, and settled some trivial matters. He pushed his own demands for the stock trade just enough to get what he wanted while not dissuading them too much. Both businessmen objected but after a little heckling Kaiba got what he wanted. Yes, Kaiba had to heckle people, as if he was dealing with a peasant Egyptian selling cheap merchandize. Even to admit that to himself was a painful sign of weakness.


After David Cameron finally claimed hole #12 (his golfing was as terrible as his politics, Kaiba observed) the business party took turns on a laptop. They scrolled through all the different duelists they sponsored, each a special protégé they bet their money on winning the Championship. Tournaments were just another investment. Dueling itself was just another investment. For this reason alone Kaiba never sponsored a duelist. 


Pegasus must have had a keen sense of smell since he could apparently sniff out Kaiba’s mood as if it was a stench. It did make up for his missing left eye. “Don’t be a grumpy bear, Kaiba-boy. Why don’t you check out the youthful protégées of the new generation?”


Uchuyamada and Kobayashi pointed to a picture of a 15 year old boy with artificial blond hair, gelled into spikes. Otherwise, the boy wore a suit that made him look as if he was groomed for success from birth. “Akira Ryu is the current World Champion.” The businessmen eagerly pointed out. “He graduated really early from the best Duel Academy in the world, one right from the coast of Japan.”


Kaiba scanned the image of Ryu. The boy thought he was lion, a king of the beasts, when in truth he was merely a house cat, spoiled by doting owners, petulant, weak, sheltered, never let beyond the house. He never dueled in any uncomfortable situation, one where his pride was truly on the line. This made sense, as Kaiba knew wealthy families sponsored Duel Academies to groom their children to be champions from an early age. There was only one King of the Beasts, and that was Kaiba himself.


Kaiba glanced at a few more faces. The short man with dyed, flaming blond-red hair was Maximus, an arena commenter who would participate in the World Championship. He had no sponsor. Come to think of it, he was pretty mysterious. Kaiba knew nothing about him. Micheal Gould, the Canadian Champion, was a different story. He thoroughly belonged to Exxon Mobile and Shell. He looked classy enough with his suit and fedora, though Kaiba suspected he was just another weasel underneath. 


Stella and her team were an interesting lot, a progressive group of “deviant” duelists who played outside the metagame. They had a strong feminist streak to them, which Kaiba found interesting. They were like a pack of lionesses, completely sufficient for their own sustenance. He passed a similar Judgment to Indira Misra, the Indian Champion. Her sponsorship came from scholarships and government grants. 


He found Marina Bozovic, the swarthy, dark-haired woman with narrow eyes. She was a strange one, an upstart who came out of nowhere, took Matthew’s Nationals title from him, and kept it her own for four years. She, this serpent, wasn’t just a “deviant” duelist like Stella was. It was like she was trying to strike at the heart of the very dueling world, to transform the very game itself… 


“Well isn’t that a colorful character?” Pegasus interjected, disturbing Kaiba’s thoughts. “She seems to have a lot of potential, though I would cut that mane of hers, in both the literal and not-so-literal sense.”


Kaiba folded his arms. “She’s just another dreg, one of those dirty anarchist vegans who disrupt civil society when they’re not too stoned to groom themselves properly. She’s a wondering lone wolf, a rebel without a cause, but like all wolves she is murderous, hungering for the chance to devour her prey. Be glad she didn’t find herself a pack to join yet.” 


“Oh dear. Do you like any duelist, Kaiba-boy?”


“Don’t get me wrong, Pegasus, the game stagnated ever since Yugi and I retired some eight years ago. We’ve seen the same boring cards and the same boring duelists. I’m glad there’s greater diversity and new blood entering the game, especially at this speed.” Kaiba smirked in a smug, boastful, self-satisfied way, a trademark of his personality. “Even if some duelists are unsavory, if they’re strong and do the game justice with their skill I will at least acknowledge them as duelists.”   


And finally, Maria. Kaiba’s heart softened, even at gazing at a mere picture of her. Her pale skin, fair hair, and deep blue eyes penetrated him, while her voice rang inside him, like a very old memory he barely remembered but knew in his heart was important. It was too pitiful how she was chained to David Cameron and the Bank of England. 


“Maria”, Kaiba thought. It was like he had spoken her name instead. Just before Kaiba’s boring meeting with Pegasus he got to see her one last time. Maria would soon return to England to prepare herself for the World Championship, rally up her team and everything. He wanted to take her under his wing as her sponsor so badly, but he couldn’t. He wanted her to learn and grow on her own and become as good as he was. He affectionately caressed her hair with his fingers before laying his palm on her cheek. “Promise me you’ll be careful.” He said. She nodded.


“Oh, and my protégé, Sophia, is participating in the World Championship. You know the story, Kaiba-boy. I take orphans around the world and raise them to be great gamers and businessmen. Don’t worry, I’m a benevolent father figure, unlike your father.” 


Kaiba clenched his hand into a fist. His cruel stepfather cast a long shadow in his life. No matter how much Gozaboro had shaped him he would never look back. He looked to the light of the future, not to the darkness of the past. “I predict the winner of this tournament will be the duelist who breaks the most barriers and faces death to make the ultimate sacrifice.”  


It was now Pegasus’s turn to take on hole #18. He gave his club a hearty swing, nearly tripping over his feet. His ball sailed across the sky in a long arc…


And landed in a pool of water.


“OHHHH NOOOOOO!!” Pegasus cried in playful exaggeration. “I’ve never been the sporting type. Crockets, will you please be a dear and retrieve my ball for me?”


Crockets, a weary, grey-haired man with a mustache, his eyes always covered in shades, hesitated. It looked like it was the worst day of his life.


“Yes, you, Crockets, please get my ball.” Pegasus demanded. 


Crockets reluctantly wallowed in the pond, wetting his fine suit in the dirty water. He presented his master with the object that caused him such discomfort. Kaiba smirked quietly from a distance. He wasn’t above gloating at other people’s misery, not by a long shot.


Pegasus bounced in joy. “Thank you so much! Wonderful!”    




“Hey guys, I’m home!” Stella placed a few groceries and a computer program on the common room table. “I got you guys some one of those accelerated learning programs! You know, so we can speak Arabic for our trip to Egypt!” 


She found Maya and Yukio playing music together. Maya took the lead on the piano while Yukio supplemented whatever she played on the guitar. The music they wove together was beautiful, except “beautiful” was a way too generic description. Sometimes Maya and Yukio were indeed graceful and lofty. At other times they were dark and dramatic or bouncy and quirky, taking the risk of making the music “ugly” to fulfill some other definition of beauty. The music seemed to be an interesting combination of classical and jazz. Maya had a penchant of using sharp dissonances and chromatics, making the music more poignant. Perhaps, Stella thought, magic was a better way of describing the music. It created something out of nothing, or to put it more accurately, brought something down to Earth that didn’t belong there.


“Hey, Maya.” She gently poked Maya, who didn’t pay attention. Something in Maya’s eyes was not human or earthly. Was she alright? “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Yukio warned, but Stella didn’t listen. She poked Maya again. 


Maya jumped out of her seat so suddenly and violently the piano crashed an ugly dissonance and bench toppled over to the floor. She looked completely bewildered, like a frightened animal, and like a frightened animal she looked like she was about to strike Stella! But she must have noticed Stella’s horror and confusion and came back to Earth. “I- I’m sorry! I didn’t see you! Are you OK?”


Stella’s bright pink eyes shone fiercely, first in anger, then in laughter. She too looked like she was about to get into a big fight but soon laughed it off. “I’m fine! I just came back from the store!” 


Maya grew red with embarrassment. “I didn’t mean to frighten or bother you. This kind of thing just happens.”


“No, no. It’s fine. I understand. Yukio lives with me after all.” Stella noticed a notebook near the piano. “What’s this?”


“The music I’m working on, twenty five variations on Salieri’s march. You know, the one from Amadeus. What you just heard were some fantasies on it. I want to build a better piano. The grand piano we use hasn’t changed much since the 1870s. The notes on a concert grand are sterile compared to a period instrument, where each note has a warm tang and the different registers suggest different orchestral sounds. I want to make the grand piano even bigger, but more importantly bring back all the different orchestral sounds, even add more pedals to give the player more options. That’s a very brief description of what I want to do.”


“Well, good luck with that.” Stella gave Maya and Yukio the computer program. “We can all learn a bit of Arabic with Rosetta Stone.”


“In just a week? Challenge accepted, I guess.” Maya pointed to two brand new passports on the table. “Yukio and I got Icelandic passports earlier today, and we have a guest.”


“Hi!” A woman standing only at five feet and four inches, with hair and lips as dark red as her skin was white, greeted Stella. She pulled a golden card out of her purse. “Did any of you guys get an entry card, for the World Championships?”


“Yeah, of course.” Stella, Maya, and Yukio produced entry cards of their own. “They each have pictures of the Millennium Items on them.” Indeed, this was fact. Stella’s card depicted the Millennium Rod, Yukio’s depicted the Millennium Puzzle, while both Maya’s and Sophia’s depicted the Millennium Ring. 


“You guys formed a team?” Stella asked. “Ours it Outbound Flight. What is yours?”


Maya winked at Stella and high-fived Sophia. “Team Baby Blast Furnace.” (Yukio crossed his arms in a huff. “Not my idea. Never was.”)


“Guys, look at the time.” Maya pointed to the clock. “It’s 8pm. Kaiba and Pegasus will announce the World Championship on any time now.” All the people of Outbound Flight and Baby Blast Furnace gathered around the TV.






“GREETINGS EVERYONE! I AM MAXIMUUUUS!” The short man with flaming hair booms, followed by a cheering audience track. “To my left and right are none other than PEGASUS J. CRAWFORD and SETO KAIBA, the designer and leader of the dueling world themselves! All three of us welcome you to the YUGIOH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2009, the 13TH BATTLE CITY!”


A familiar and very excitable tune called Passionate Duelist plays in the background. It was so pervasive on television it could be called the Yugioh Theme. A montage of different duels happening in all sorts of different places around the world flashed quickly behind him. Usually they were duels of previous world champions, each flashing their favorite deck archetypes and monsters while pummeling tough opponents, all the way from Yugi Moto to Akira Ryu.


Maximus brandishes his new duel disk. “This tournament is gonna’ be BIG! The BIGGEST tournament in over a decade! Perfect to take this game into A GREAT RENAISSANCE! We invented new GENERATION 3 DUEL DISK to commemorate the event. They look just like before except no clumsy separate slots for Monster and Spell Cards. Just a single, black board you place all cards on. But don’t worry, because these new duel disks are extra light and small so its main body doesn’t intrude on the board like in previous models. To balance against the board more of the main body is closer to you. The Graveyard is parallel to the Deck and behind it. To banish a card, simply put in the Graveyard face down. The Extra Deck is a small slot just on top of the Graveyard. The Deck will shuffle automatically before your duel and if you need to search a card, the duel disk will just pop the card out for you. SIMPLE! EASY! FUN! AWESOME!”


Pegasus took center stage, his hair as bouncy as his mood. “Let it be known around the world that the name of the game has been officially changed to Yugioh, in honor of the first World Champion and King of Games himself! Version one, running from 1993 to 1996, was called Magic and Wizards. Version two, running from 1996 to 2009, was called Duel Monsters. Version three, Yugioh, is the game we have now. As expected, we changed the rules slightly to make things even more exciting! Read your guidebook that came with your Entry Card for more details!” The montage changes to a series of simple CGI figures and cards for the purposes of illustration.


·      Players start the duel with 8000 Life Points

·      Monsters cannot be Normal Summoned face up in Defense Mode. They must be Set.

·      Each player’s Graveyard and Banished Zone are open knowledge to all players. You must even show cards you discard.

·      If you activate a Field Spell Card while your opponent controls a Field Spell Card, both become active. Both effects apply.


The montage changes to rapid images of Egyptian monuments. “For our 13th World Championship, we will be hosting the tournament in none other than Egypt! Is there a better way to get duelists to connect with their dueling spirit than fighting where the shadow games originated? Not just Cairo, but the entire nation is your battleground! Participants will have twelve days to gather all the Millennium Item cards, and make it back to Cairo to make it to the finals. Even better, a revolution is broiling in Egypt as we speak. Some political turbulence is just what we need to spice things up a bit! If you’re easily bored though, don’t you worry! The finalists will be absconded from Egypt to an undisclosed location, and I guarantee you you’ll love the change of scenery.”


It is now Kaiba’s turn. He always looked the same. He hadn’t changed a bit since Battle City. Same dramatic white trench coat. Same uncompromising pride. Same scowl. The montage once more changes to simple CGI figures, cards, and maps to illustrate the new roles. “All right listen up because I’ll only say this once.  Each duelist worthy enough to participate in my tournament received one Millennium Item card. You’ll need seven to reach the finals but each card must be different. For instance, you can’t make it to the finals with seven Millennium Eye Cards. You must ante at least one Millennium Item Card per duel and forfeit them to the winner if you lose. If you win a Millennium Item Card with the same name as another one in your collection that’s too bad. Be smarter the next time you choose to duel someone.”


Maximus resumes his role as head commentator he is best known for. “But all is not lost. Each Millennium Item Card has a special power you can activate by putting it on the duel disk while not dueling. What special power does each card have? YOU will have to find out! But there is a catch. NO ONE can enter the tournament alone. Duelists MUST compete in teams of at least two players, and each team can only start out with one Millennium Item Card. Use a black light on the back of your card to reveal a secret code. Log on the registration page of duelingnetwork.com with your secrt code to register your team.”


Maximus and Pegasus shout together, “GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY DUELING!” Fireworks explode everywhere in the TV as sugary, victorious music wraps up the announcements. A very bland voice spoke so quickly it is impossible to understand. “sponsoderedbykaibacorpindustrialillusionsexxonmobiletoyoya




“I guess that settles it.” Stella said. “We‘ll prepare our decks and everything.”


“Hmm… I’m thinking about the new rules.” Maya brooded. “We now have 8000 Life Points. The new advantages we have are that we can plan bigger combos and more farsighted strategies. The disadvantage is that once the power creep sets in people’s decks will be so broken, so powerful and fast, having 8000 Life Points won’t mean anything anymore. Furthermore, because we’ll be dueling in an entire country, duelists will be scattered everywhere. Duels will be scarcer and carry more weight. We’ll have to take much more time to plan our duels.”


Yukio nodded silently. “We’ll need to adapt, and quickly.”


Maya gave her final thoughts. “Honestly, people make this game into such a reality TV show. A duelist is like a star from Jackass, American Idol, or the Jerry Springer, grabbing their fifteen minutes of fame only to thrown away. I expected a little more foresight from Kaiba and Pegasus. What were those fools thinking, putting people in Egypt, a country torn apart by war and revolution? Are people’s lives just cheap entertainment to them, to pass away the ennui of being a corporate billionaire? You want a spectacle of death, you idiots? You’ll get one! I’m coming after you both! Before the decade is over I’ll take both of your lives!”   

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Public service announcement: I'm not dead. I'm writing term papers. I have to take duel choreography to a whole new level. 

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My school stuff is finally done. I'm choreographing the next duel (finally). So for no, enjoy Leather Pants.


Jolene plays as Marik. Maya plays as Bakura.



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Duel 7 - Setting foot on the black soil 




Kaiba entered the Control Center in depths of the KaibaCorp building, a room as sanitized as a laboratory. Rows of female workers almost looking exactly the same, sat rigidly in front of a computer for each. With a sharp command to his drones Kaiba materialized a giant screen in front of him. With each computer connected to all KaibaCorp satellites, which  provided a substantial portion of the world’s Internet service and all data of Yugioh, the Control Center was a window from which Kaiba could gaze at any part of the world he wished.


Kaiba knew this all too well. He aimed his gaze at Egypt from a bird’s eye view, registering each city the competitors arrived in, then zoomed in to Cairo. He snapped his fingers, disrupting each cable TV in all of Egypt to show his face, and announced, “Duelists, welcome to the 13th Battle City…”


Every duelist in the country stops and listens. Maria and Team A Capella put their hands together, “To win prestige and honor for the dueling world.” Michael and Team Homburg said in unison, “To win the title and prize money.” Akira and Team Gundam God Sayans shouted, “To keep Japan number one, where dueling should be!”


“…for the next twelve days the trials you will face ahead of you will be unlike anything you have ever faced. You won’t be merely competing in a tournament but will have your character as a duelist probed to its core…”


Stella and her companions gave each other the signal, “To win to take the game in an awesome new direction.” Mathias and his teammates bumped elbows with each other, “To win to save this world from a grave evil force.” Matthew and Alexis wait in the shadows with the Ghouls, “To win for vengeance.”


“Don’t think you will walk away from this tournament untested. Only those with the strongest willpower, those who cull their weaknesses as readily as they cull other duelists, those ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for their duelist’s pride, can hope to win.”


Maya glances at Yukio and Sophia, but speaks only to herself. “Will we win? Kaiba mentioned before how our character will be tested and how we’ll need to make the ultimate sacrifice. Is he boasting as usual or is there a deeper meaning? Who are the people behind the Ghouls? Why are they interested in this tournament? Even if I win, can I make my life relatively normal again? Will I be able to take my creative path where I want it to go?”




DAY 1 : 9:30 AM : CAIRO


Yukio cracked his knuckles, ready for a fight. “All right! It’s time to take some Ghouls out. When we’re done they’ll be hung by their own hamstrings.”


“We will make them suffer. We will punish them so hard they won’t ever be a threat again.” Maya wholeheartedly agreed with Yukio’s fierce passions and eagerness since she felt them herself. “But since we’re dealing with criminals as well as top level duelists we have to play smart. We’ll sit and wait, examine our competition first, then pick a target.” Maya already had an idea who was the weakest link to take out, and it was Michael Gould.


Maria and the rest of her team took off from the Hilton Cairo Hotel, reasonably confidant in their skill and superiority. Whatever was out there, they would win as they always won.


Cairo was nothing like the ancient civilization it laid claim to. The entire city was incessantly noisy as a jackhammer and clouded in polluting fog. Every street was narrow and dangerous, overflowing with small cars and bicyclists. Maria and company only drifted away slightly from the main roads before they were surrounded by a gang of men in black. They tried to escape, but the rogues blocked them on all sides.


One of them took off his cowl, distinguishing himself as leader of the group. He was a middle-aged man with neck-length graying hair, a long nose, beady eyes, and wide lips always stuck in a smug grin. “Perhaps you are unaware but the Ghouls are taking over this tournament. You may call me Seeker and you are my first pray.”


Maria was caught completely by surprise. She knew Ghouls sometimes snuck in lesser tournaments, but a complete sabotage of a world championship? Either way, she didn’t care. A criminal was a criminal. She stood up to him, brandishing her duel disk. “You, scums, who pray on innocent duelists, who take cards duelists earned with their sweat, blood, and tears, I will never forgive you! Prepare to lose!”


Seeker’s didn’t faze his grin, not an inch. “Spoken like a true self-righteous hypocrite.”  


Maria: 8000 || Seeker: 8000


MARIA’S TURN: “I know what you’re planning, Ghoul. Everyone knows your loss against the King of Games. You’re planning to summon Exodia, but I will defeat you before you can bring him out. Exodia decks aren’t even viable these days, anyway. I activate Foolish Burial. I mill Shaddoll Squamata, which lets me mill Shaddoll Falco. Since Falco was sent to the Graveyard, I revive him facedown. I activate Dragon Shrine, milling Rabidragon and White Stone of Legend, and by White Stone’s effect, I add Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my deck to my hand.”


“Blue-Eyes White Dragon? But only Kaiba has those!” Seeker remarks, his beady eyes wide open in surprise.


“Surprised, card thief? Seto may have three but I have the fourth and last one. It was torn in half before, but now it’s mended back together. I summon Maiden With Eyes of Blue.” A fair and serene girl, with white hair longer than Maria’s, graces the two duelists. “I equip her with Wander Wand, which lets me Summon my Blue-Eyes from my hand since my Maiden was targeted.” Her Maiden waves her new wand, and the legendary White Dragon shoots off from the fountain of light. It flies above the alley for a moment to roar and spread its wings above the city before flying down again.


“Think I’m done? Think again! My Maiden is also a Tuner, and I tune her and Blue-Eyes to Synchro Summon Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon!” The Maiden becomes one green ring and the White Dragon transforms into eight stars, which align with the ring and explode in a fountain of light. A large, silver dragon, even larger than the White Dragon emerges. “I activate Silver’s Cry. Welcome back, Blue-Eyes.” The White Dragon revives. “I banish Rabidragon and Shaddoll Falco from my grave to summon Black Luster Soldier.” A soul of light and soul of darkness fly from the graveyard and merge together, forging into the shape of a knight in black and gold armor. “And finally, I set three facedown cards.”


SEEKER’S TURN:  He doesn’t look fazed at all. He still leers at Maria with his hungry eyes. He grins as a Cheshire cat, salivating at his prey, confidant he will win at any rate. “An impressive first move for a conventional duelist. I doubt you ever faced a duelist outside the sanctioned and protected tournament scene. I hunt down kids like you for breakfast. I summon Mokey Mokey.” A small, square being with wings flies into play. It looks like a marshmallow, except with small stubs for limbs and narrow eyes that are always closed.


Maria’s eyes widen in disbelief. There’s no way he’s playing with this deck against her! It has to be a joke!


Seeker seems to have registered her shock, for he says, “Relax. I won’t use something easy like Human Wave Tactics or Mokey Mokey Smackdown. I’ll play something much worse, but first allow me to get rid of your pesky backrow. I equip Black Luster Soldier with Darkworld Shackles.”


“I don’t think so. I activate Forbidden Lance and target my Soldier.” The Soldier’s sword is replaced by a white lance, which drains his strength. “He may lose 800 ATK but he’s free of card effects.”


“Oh, you naïve little grasshopper. I don’t care about your Soldier. I activate Release Restraint Wave. I get rid of Darkworld Shackles and all your spells and traps are destroyed.” Seeker’s shackles shatter, but they release a devastating wave of heat that incinerates Maria’s facedown cards that aren’t monsters. “I equip Mokey Mokey with two Amulets of Ambition and equip your Blue-Eyes with Ultra High Score.” Seeker’s fairy puts on itself two imposing gold amulets with eyes on them white the White Dragon has a bomb showing arcade scores branded in its scales.


“Amulet of Ambition makes my monster stronger by multiples of 500 for the difference in Levels between your Blue-Eyes and my Mokey Mokey. Ultra High Score makes your monster’s Level 12, and you lose multiples of 400 Life Points for the same difference in Levels between our monsters. Let’s do the math, shall we. Mokey Mokey gains 5500 ATK for each Amulet, giving it 11000 ATK total, which minus Blue-Eyes’ ATK is 9000 damage. Then, Ultra High Score does 4400 damage. You know what that means?”


All Maria can say is a silent “No.” She lost her first duel in the tournament!


“Mokey Mokey, attack Blue-Eyes White Dragon! Win the duel for me!” Seeker commands. Mokey Mokey dives at the White Dragon in full speed, its Amulets coloring it in blazing yellow like some golden meteor. It smashes straight into the White Dragon, causing the bomb to detonate, blowing up the entire alley in a fierce firestorm.


Maria: 0 || Seeker: 8000


Gleeful with victory, Seeker grinned so widely almost all of his teeth were showing. “Since you lost the duel you know what that means. You and your team will pay the price with your Millennium Item Card and your decks.” The gang of black-cloaked men pounced on the surrounded duelists, beating them helpless. Seeker held up the fourth Blue-Eyes White Dragon as if it was a gem of incomparable rarity and beauty. One of the rarest cards in the entire game was his!




“No!” Kaiba couldn’t believe his eyes. Maria lost the duel and was kicked out of the tournament? It must have been a lie! But true it was. To think that a duelist wielding the proud Blue-Eyes White Dragon could lose against a Ghoul! His heart blackened in deep shame and his face revealed as much. She couldn’t be unworthy!


A wireless phone rang. Kaiba picked it up. It was Pegasus. “Less than hour in the tournament and Maria is eliminated. I know it must hurt, Kaiba-boy, but you must let it pass. You can’t be shouldn’t be swayed by nepotism.”


Kaiba looked like he was about to kill Pegasus, albeit Pegasus was unable to see his death glare, let alone be intimidated by it. “Shut up.” Kaiba growled, and slammed the phone on the receiver. For a moment he was about to go to Egypt himself to help her. A battle waged in his heart over whether to intervene and cheat the rules or let the tournament run its course without her. As much as he felt for her, he chose the latter.  



“Do you have any idea where Michael Gould is? I’ve tried searching for him but it seems KaibaCorp isn’t disclosing any of our locations on line.” Maya dug her fingers into her black curly hair as she often did when frustrated or trying to solve a problem.


Sophia, usually quiet, suggested that, “Kaiba and Pegasus made a lot of preparations so no one could cheat their way through. They want to make sure we can’t cut any corners.”


“I expected as much.” Maya admitted, mumbling under her breath in a way that sounded more like growling. “We have to come up with a new scheme.”


Yukio, who suggested the team look for duelists the old fashioned way only for Maya to chastise him, was eager to take a dig at her. “Right, you’re schemes are as effective as Malik’s from Yugioh the Abridged Series. A chessmaster you ain’t.”


“Funny. I always thought I was the Bakura of the evil duo. By that, I mean Jolene and I. You don’t make the cut.”


“I didn’t know there was a cut with you guys. What is there, some kind of evil counsel of doom? Do you need to get an evil high score on an evil exam to join the evil clubhouse to be evil enough?”


“Yukio, you’re as evil as a Catholic high school girl giving her first blow job. You think you’re Sid Vicious with a soul patch but you’re really Jack Black.”


Sophia had enough of their prattling. “Please, guys, get a room. Maybe if you play card games for a while you’ll cool down.”


“You’re mom plays card games, and in Hell!” Maya and Yukio rebuked Sophia together.


“If you keep ripping off Little Kuriboh he’ll have to sue you. But guys, seriously, look.” Sophia pointed at a group of duelists hobbling past them. They were Maria and her teammates. They clearly looked the worse for wear, their clothes torn and skin bruised and bleeding, as if a mob beat them up. They’re eyes were dull with the look of defeat.


Yukio rushed to grab Maria by the shoulders as if she’d fall down any moment now. Maya approached her immediately afterward. “Who did this to you?”


Maria confirmed Maya’s suspicions when she said feebly, “The Ghouls are back. His name is Seeker.”


“I know you two aren’t exactly nice to each other but you’ve got to help her.” Yukio said.


“Exactly! And I know how to!” Maya seized the Millennium Puzzle Card and put it on her duel disk. “The power of the Millennium Puzzle Card is to grand any wish you want but it has to be to help someone.” The holographs on her duel disk projected a holographic Millennium Puzzle, larger than life. “Puzzle, please show me where the Ghoul named Seeker is. He assaulted my rival and I want to get her deck back for her.”


Maria then pleaded to the Puzzle, “Show us the way so Maya can get my deck back for me.” The eye of the Puzzle glowed with light and projected a vision. In the vision they saw the Ghouls harassing a couple of duelists near the Cairo Museum. Now everyone knew where to go.


As they took a taxi, Maya realized the Ghouls were bolder than before. According to Maria, they ganged up on her team in an alley, far away from the public eye. Now, according to the Puzzle, they dared attack in the shadow of a museum. They were becoming arrogant and may just bite off more than they could chew. Yukio called the museum immediately just in case the Ghouls didn’t keep their word.


Maya, Maria, and their teams arrived just in time to see the Ghoul named Seeker deal a finishing blow to two duelists at once. He took their Millennium Item Cards and decks with glee, eager to capture more spoils of war. But it hardly satisfied him. He just beat “Insector” Haga and “Dinosaur” Ryusaki, two washed up has-beens who were nothing but the laughing stock of the entire dueling world. He wondered if Kaiba and Pegasus let them in the tournament as a joke.


“You, Seeker!” Maya suddenly declared in a startling, piercing voice. “I challenge you to a duel! I wager my team’s Millennium Item Card and our decks! But if you lose, you return everything you took back to us!”


Seeker clearly looked amused. “What’s this? My prey willingly comes to be captured in my net? Very well then, I accept you’re challenge. You go first.”


“No. I demand a coin toss.” Maya called on a neutral crowd member to toss a coin for them. She called tails and Seeker called heads. The coin landed on tails, so Maya chose Seeker to go first.


He seemed not to mind. “Humph! It makes no difference to me.”


“You’re probably the Ghoul equivalent of a capo with an army of foot soldiers. You’re an experienced criminal with an Swiss army knife of dirty tricks up your sleeve.” There was another reason, which Maya didn’t state. If she went first, it gave Seeker an opportunity to kill her in one turn.  


Seeker’s ugly grin was as steady as ever. “Maybe, but why should your band of comrades trust you any less than me? I looked at your records, Marina Bozovic. You have been guilty of petty crimes since your adolescence, including theft, vandalism, usage of illegal drugs, and contumacy. You think because you weren’t put in prison nobody knows, but we Ghouls always know. What true difference lies between you and I besides experience and magnitude?”


Maya admitted she didn’t have an answer to his challenge. Even if she did she wasn’t in the mood to engage in a debate right now. “Fine, I am a criminal, if you insist. But I warn you. In a duel between thieves there is no mercy or decency. You’re as good as dead.”


“So we have a philosopher as well as a criminal amongst us. What an odd combination, but all the more entertainment for me. Let’s duel!”


Seeker: 8000 || Maya: 8000


SEEKER’S TURN: “I activate One for One. I discard a card to Summon Mokey Mokey from my Deck.” His stoic, marshmallow-shaped fairy appears as it did last duel. “Surprised to see me play such unusual cards? You think that just because you figured out how to play against the meta that we Ghouls didn’t do the same? We’re not dumb enough to actually play with the same decks pros, or rather prey, do in the tournament scene. You may have a good learning curve but it’s time for the fish to leave the water.”


Maya is unaffected, or at least appears unaffected. “Weren’t you the first guy to lose in Battle City? Granted, you lost against Yugi himself, but don’t exactly have any bragging rights, least of all to lecture to me. You’re as dense and smug as JC himself. You make a perfect first opponent, really.”


“You’ll pay for your insolence. I equip Mokey Mokey with Amulet of Ambition,” The fairy sports an ominous gold amulet with a piercing eye in the middle. “And I set two cards facedown.”


MAYA’S TURN: She evaluates the duel so far. To his credit, he does use an interesting deck, but she doesn’t know anything about it. She has to test the waters, to make him think what she plays this turn is all there is to her when she has more in store. “I summon Rescue Rabbit and use his effect. I banish it to summon two Spinodon from my deck.” A white and gray rabbit wearing a hard had appears only to disappear, replaced by two ferocious dinosaurs of fiery temperament. “Now I overlay them both to Xyz Summon Evolzar Laggia.” The two Spinodons fly into a black hole as beams of energy, which then bursts into light. The light clears, revealing a leprous dragon circled by rings of fire. 


“An Evolzar deck. Interesting choice.” Seeker observes, but not for long for Maya has no patience for his conceits. 


“Laggia, destroy Mokey Mokey immediately!” The dinosaur-like dragon fires a pillar of flame at the fairy.


“I activate Swords at Dawn, and I target the Ultra High Score I discarded last turn.”


Maya is all too prepared for a response, so she responds in kind. “I detach two Materials from Laggia to negate and destroy your card.” The two flames that circled Laggia leapt from it to the quick-play spell card. 


“Not bad.” Seeker admits, “But not good enough. I activate Power Frame.” A steel cube constructs itself around Mokey Mokey, protecting it. Laggia continues its onslaught, first combusting Seeker’s quick-play spell in particles, then firing a cannon of flame, eager to hit its target. But the attack merely bounces off, and Mokey Mokey’s ATK rises to 2700. 


Maya gruffly acknowledges his decent plays. If she is to win she must commit to more unorthodox strategies. She realizes that this applies to the whole tournament, not only this duel. She may have a two-card advantage, but that is no reason to relax. She never faced this kind of duelist before. “I set two cards facedown. You’re move. You’re at a disadvantage. Make it count.”  

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Duel 8 - Gunbound Fight!




Seeker: 8000 || Maya: 8000


Seeker’s Turn: “I’m a bit disappointed. Going by your reputation, I thought you’d pull a strategy a little more interesting than Evolzars. Granted, it’s not a dime a dozen like Shaddolls, but really?”


“Good.” Maya says to herself. “Let him think that for now.”


Maria, who stands on the sidelines, cannot take the tension anymore. “Please, Maya, beat him and get the Blue-Eyes White Dragon card back.”


Maya is slightly irritated that her train of thought is disturbed but keeps herself restrained. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it back for you. But for what? So you can go back to your passive aggressive and holier-than-thou attitude? I hate it to break it to you, but you’re no “Maiden With Eyes of Blue”. You’re more of a high school alpha b**** who thinks she’s a purity sue.”


“I’d love to hear you two argue but we have a duel to conclude.” Seeker interrupts. “Now if you excuse me, I’ll proceed to turn the tables on you as I have always planned. I activate my set card, Release Restraint Wave. I destroy Amulet of Ambition to destroy all your face-down spells and traps.”


“No!” Maya says in shock as Mokey Mokey’s eerie amulet vaporizes into a thundercloud, which strikes and destroys Maya’s set cards. She had Solemn Warning and Dimensional Prison face down. How would she protect herself now?


Seeker seems to have read her mind, for he says, “There’s absolutely nothing you can to prevent my onslaught. I activate Mage Power to increase Mokey Mokey’s ATK by 500. Now, my creature, destroy Laggia!” Mokey Mokey, glowing with a red aura from Seeker’s latest spell, crashes into Laggia as meteor. (Maya LP 8000 à 7200) “What will you do now? The field advantage is mine!”


Maya’s Turn: “He is right.” Maya thinks. “He does have the advantage now. I have to use less conventional strategies to beat him. Evolzar’s are an interesting strategy, but also fairly well known. I need to pull of something he wouldn’t expect. Let’s see… what can I exploit?” She examines her opponent’s field and has an idea. “His biggest weakness is relying too much on equip cards to power up a weak monster. He concentrates his energy on one target. Yes, it is a pretty tough target, but if I can get rid of it, his options are drastically reduced.”


Maya draws her next card. She can’t do anything this turn.


Seeker, unable to help himself, chuckles loudly and rudely, his lips spread wide in his characteristic smug grin. “Can’t play anything this turn? There is absolutely nothing you can do to deny my victory. I am unbeatable now just as I was unbeatable with Exodia in the past.”


Was.” Maya shoots back. “I set a card facedown.”


Seeker’s Turn: “For a loudmouth you don’t have much recourse, do you. You’re wide open for a direct attack!” Suddenly, his grin is turned upside down, for he noticed Maya had a clever smirk of her own. “What’s so funny?”


“Oh, nothing. You sure seem overconfident. How do you know I don’t have a deadly trap that’ll turn the game around next turn? You’re as dense and smug as JC himself. You make a perfect first opponent, really.”


“I’ll cut that smirk off your face with my next attack. I summon a second Mokey Mokey.” A second marshmallow-shaped fairy joins its twin. They look exactly the same, as if they were mass-produced. “Attack her directly, my monsters!” Both Mokey Mokeys crash into her. The first one, weak without any equip cards, bumps into her with little force, but the second one strikes at her so hard as to knock her down. (Maya LP 7200 à 3700) 


Maya’s Turn: Just as she looks at her newly drawn card, she figures out a way to make Seeker’s very ace monster work against him. She only needs one turn to set things up. “I activate Fossil Dig, adding a Dinosaur-Type monster from my Deck to my hand and summon Nanosaur #1!” A velociraptor with superhuman intelligence and fiery orange skin, equipped with two rocket launchers on its back, pounces into play. “When Nanosaur is Normal Summoned, I can banish a weak monster from my deck. Next, I flip my facedown: Macrocosmos. From now on cards are banished instead of going to the Graveyard. Nanosaur, destroy the weaker Mokey Mokey!” Nanosaur fires two rockets from the launcher, blasting the fairy to ashes. (Seeker LP 8000 à 6600)


Seeker’s Turn: “Ha! A futile gesture at best! I summon Mystic Piper and sacrifice it. Yes, it’s banished instead of going to the Graveyard, but I still get its effect.” A piper in gaudy clothes prances on stage, plays his tune, and vanishes. Seeker draws his first card, a Level 1 monster, so he draws another card. “Mokey Mokey, finish off that annoying raptor.” Mokey Mokey crashes into Nanosaur in its usual style. (Maya LP 3200 à 2200)


“Nanosaur is banished, which triggers its effect. I can take the card I banished by its effect, Tour Guide from the Underworld, and add it to my hand.”


Seeker remains unfazed, just like when he beat Maria. “Going for another Evolzar? That won’t help you a bit.”


Maya’s Turn: “My turn!” She pauses a while, almost as if she drew something bad. Even Maria, wanting nothing more than to win back her Blue-Eyes, becomes pessimistic. “You should accept your defeat. Face it, Maya, decks and archetypes are meant to be a certain way. Dinosaur-Type monsters are by nature slow beasts with dumb muscle. You use dinosaurs win with brute strength. No amount of imaginative antimeta dueling will change that.”


Maya’s only response is to give Maria a twinkle of a smile. Though her lips seemed benign her eyes gleamed with a tiny fire of mischief. “You’re wrong. I summon Tour Guide from the Underworld and use her effect summon a low level Fiend-Type.” A humanoid woman with red hair dressed as a train attendant appears in play, as does Scarm, Malbranche of the Burning Abyss, a black-winged fiend with monstrous red claws. “I overlay the two to Xyz Summon Leviair the Sea Dragon.” The two fiends vanish a black hole, which bursts in light, summoning a mythic sea dragon capable of breathing fire. “I detach a Material to bring back Rescue Rabbit.” The sea dragon uses its fiery breath of life to bring back Maya’s old Rabbit with its characteristic hard hat.


“Still trying to summon Evolzars? That won’t work. Nothing can stop me.” Seeker scoffs.


“Oh really! I banish Rescue Rabbit to Special Summon two Zsa Zsim from my Deck.” The rabbit disappears again to be replaced by two feathered, swift-legged dinosaurs. “I overlay both Zsa Zsims to Xyz Summon Lightning Chidori.” The two dinosaurs fall into a new black hole, giving rise to a spirit bird made of lightning. “And I detach 1 Material to bounce Mokey Mokey to the top of your deck.” To Seeker’s horror, the chidori shocks Mokey Mokey, making it disintegrate into a few sparks that then leap on the top of Seeker’s deck holder. 


“Your Mokey Mokey was powerful monster but now he is nothing more than a dead draw. You’re very ace monster is now a liability. Levaiar, attack him directly!” The sea serpent delivers a different dose of flame, now destructive, to burn its opponent. (Seeker LP 6600 à 4800) “Lightning Chidori, now its your turn!” 


“Hold on! I activate Rainbow Kuriboh from my hand.” Seeker’s bright, multicolored little creature flies around Chidori, wrapping a rainbow rope around the creature, binding it still. “Your attack is stopped in its tracks.”


“What a waste. I set two cards facedown and end my turn.”


Seeker’s Turn: He draws his Mokey Mokey, except now it can’t do anything. His blood rushes through him in anxiety, but he still has some confidence. He still has one trick left up his sleeve. “I summon Kurivolt.” Another tiny, cute creature, this time colored black like a battery and containing the electrical potential of one, appears. “I detach 1 Material from your Lightning Chidori to summon another Kurivolt, and then use its effect to detach 1 Material from your Levaiar to summon another Kurivolt.” With his spoken word, the orbs of light surrounding Maya’s monsters fade and two more battery-like creatures appear.


“I overlay all three Kurivolts to Xyz Summon Lion Heart!” All three creatures disappear in a black hole to make way for an armored warrior with a glorious gold mane. Lion Heart, attack Chidori!” The lion-mane warrior pounces at the chidori, which shoots lightning bolts back in an epic struggle. “I detach a Material so you’ll take all the battle damage!” Seeker shouts amid the chaotic noise, his monster losing an orb in the process. 


The field explodes in a brilliant dance of blue electric bolts, but only for a few seconds at most. When the field clears, Seeker only sees his monster groan in agony as its shocked and burned body crumbles into ashes. “What? How did this happen? What did you do?”


In the distance he sees the trick Maya pulled up her sleeve. “When you monster attacked, I activated Breakthrough Skill, negating its effect. It dies and you lose Life Points.”


Seeker, once smug as content as a Cheshire cat, can only express morbid horror. (Seeker LP 4800 à 3000)


Maya’s Turn: “You like overkills, don’t you? Let me show to one of my own. Since I control two monsters, I Special Summon Quetzalcoatlus,.” A pterosaur so huge it held an imposing presence despite its size diminished by the holographic systems to fit inside the field soared up into the sky. “With its summoning, I activate my set Inferno Reckless Summon. I summon two more Quetzalcoatlus.” The ground broke beneath them as if the gates of Hell themselves were opening, unleashing two more giant pterosaurs. 


“You chose to have a duel between thieves. I will show no mercy. All my monsters, finish him off!” The dimensional sea dragon Levaiair fired another destructive breath at Seeker while the three Quetzalcoatlus swooped just above him, driving him down to the ground with the force of their wingbeats. 


Seeker: 0 || Maya: 2200


The duel was just over but already Maya was on his throat. “Give Team A Capella, Haga, and Ryuzaki their decks backs immediately!” 


Seeker pulled himself up shamefully from the ground but still had the nerve to grin in his usual conceited way. “Sorry, dear. You fought well, but there is no way I’m giving you the spoils of the hunt. We’re out of here. Ghouls, retreat!”


None of the Ghouls made it very far for the security force of the Cairo museum seized them. Seeker made a hopeless dash for an exit but one of guards hit him in the stomach making him collapse like a rag doll.


Maya jumped on him. She took her duel disk off her arm and jammed it on his throat. Now she was literally on his throat. “Tell me who are your bosses? Why are you in Egypt? What are you trying to get? I want answers!”


Seeker tried to laugh it off but the force Maya put on his throat forced him to gag. “I’m not telling anything. You can’t make me talk.”


Maya added on to the pressure, pushing the duel disk’s blade deeper. He was almost suffocating and bleeding. “Ready to talk now?”


“A-Alright!” Seeker could barely hack out the words. Maya lifted the pressure just enough so he could talk. “We’re just a bunch of fragments around the world. Heishin just commands us Egypt Ghouls. We want to sabotage this tournament and take the ultimate rare cards.”


Maya put the pressure back on his throat. “Not good enough. Heishin is just a pawn. Who does he work for and what do the Ghouls really want?”


“I-I can’t breath! I’m gonna’ die! I gonna’ die! ALRIGHT! I’ll tell everything!” Maya let up the pressure again. “Heishin made a deal with some guy named Gernand. So did a rich kid called Matthew. Both of them exchanged their loyalty to him to be bosses of the Ghouls.”


“Good! Keep talking! Who is Gernand and what does he want?”


Seeker no longer wanted to cooperate. He reached for his pocked knife and slashed through Maya’s dark gray dress, cutting her left thigh. Maya cried out in pain. She didn’t think at this point. She only reacted. She smashed Seeker’s face with her duel disk, scattering a few of his teeth from his mouth. It took two Cairo museum guards to get her off of him.


Maya managed to grab a walkie-talkie from Seeker’s hip as she was forced away from him. She then turned it on. Someone on the other side of the line asked for Seeker’s status. Maya instantly knew who it was. “Matthew Carter, it’s your old friend, Maya. I’m in on your game. I’m going to kill you.”


A guard confiscated the walkie-talkie, then gave all of Seeker’s Millennium Item Cards and Decks to Maya and her team. They had received orders from Heishin not to interfere with tournament participants except only in the most extreme cases. Since Maya defeated a Ghoul, who they were on the lookout to arrest anyway, Maya was entitled to all the spoils. Even a corrupt dictator like Heishin needed to pretend to be honorable in public, with no association with crime syndicates whatsoever.   


Maya handed Maria and her team back their decks and Millennium Item Card, and did the same for Haga and Ryuzaki. Maria couldn’t understand the decision. “Why are helping me? You hate me.”


“Yes, but you lost unfairly, in a way. I actually want to duel you in the finals. And, to be honest, I actually like you a bit. We could have been acquaintances, maybe even friends, if our situations were different.” 


“Yeah, ‘friends’.” Haga joked to his friend, Ryuzaki, who joined in on the fun by saying, “You think we should a camera in their bedroom to see what happens?”


Maria’s pale cheeks boiled red. “OH MY GOD YOU PERVS! I can’t believe Kaiba let the Two Stooges into this tournament!” 


Haga and Ryuzaki, dubbed the Two Stooges throughout the dueling world, were a laughingstock. Long ago in the distant past, they were national champions of Japan and formidable in their own right, but after repeatedly failing one big tournament after another, they degenerated into everyone’s favorite punching bag. Sponsors let them into prestigious tournaments only to laugh at them losing horribly.


They definitely looked like laughingstocks. Haga was a snotty, bug-eyed man who looked perpetually fifteen years old. The fact that he wore grotesquely large eyeglasses, a long-sleeved puke-green shirt, and wore his hair in a Beatle’s Haircut only solidified his status as the world’s biggest dork. Ryuzaki was hardly any better, wearing a dirty green jacket and a red beany cap that both looked centuries old. 


“Speaking of getting a room, how long have you two been living together, eight years now?” Maya asked Haga in a mocking tone. “Maria and I have it for each other? Girl, you and Ryuzaki are the Will and Grace of Yugioh.”


Yukio laughed a bit. Even Haga and Ryuzaki chuckled, even though they were the butt of the joke. Sophia gazed at everyone attentively but kept quite. Apparently, she had a gentler sense of humor.


“But seriously, aren’t Malik and Bakura Will and Grace?” Yukio said. 


Maya playfully threw her hands in the air. “Why not both?” 


Rolling her eyes, Maria disappeared with her team. Haga and Ryuzaki ran off to a hotel where it would be safe. Maya presented Yukio and Sophia with her spoils, the Millennium Ring Card. Two down, five more to go.

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Duel 9 - Maya on the move




Team Baby Blast Furnace spent the rest of the day looking to duel Michael and Team Homburg, but with no results. During their search, Yukio decided to rent a car, if you could even call it that. – It was a rickety metal box made in the 80s with no air conditioning for the summer heat. After all, most teams fled Cairo ever since the Ghouls crashed the party and they weren’t going to catch themselves. –  Resolving to find duelists in Memphis further south, they went to bed.


Except Maya. She went to Michael’s Internet channel on the Dueling Network, trying to figure out where he could be, something she tried to figure out all day. She knew Michael was Canada’s top duelist who, unlike Duel Academy rich kids, had at least some skill. Rex. W. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobile, sponsored his team. He had a heroine addiction, which was embarrassingly exposed, but he went to rehab, only to get back into it. 


Maya took her deck out and got to work on it. It was innovative but a lot of progress still needed to be made. Michael used Shaddolls, an archtype of monsters that relied on being sent to the Graveyard for their effects and making powerful fusion monsters. So now Maya tweaked her deck in such a way to cripple such a deck. Long ago she made the realization that deck building was creative like writing music was. 


In college she taught Clarence that great music, no matter what genre, had an extra oomph to it on a technical and emotional level. Bad music was repetitive, boring, slow, and had a weak effect. Bad decks were the same way. Good decks quickly brought out strong cards but they had a certain depth to them. Good duelists didn’t use a one-dimensional strategy. They had many plans, making it difficult for an opponent to read them. But there were only so many strategies a duelist could cram into forty cards. Even when she fought against Matthew and his cronies she had to keep tweaking her deck between duels to match the situation.


Thankfully, Michael was one-dimensional, two-dimensional at most. As for his addiction, it was all too possible for a man with his money to relapse. If he did, then she knew where he might find him, and she didn’t need to waste the Millennium Ring Card’s powers to find him. Maya counted on her pessimism about Michael and the human race that night.


She quietly got ready for the encounter as to not disturb Yukio and Sophia. She covered her shirt and jeans with a long black dress, and then used a black piece of cloth to shroud her face with a makeshift niqab. A woman in an Egyptian city needed to be cautious when alone, especially at night. She would do this alone, so Yukio and Sophia would be safe. She looked back at them both. They looked like cute little animals when sleeping, especially Sophia. She looked like a little baby bat.


She approached a cab driver at the hotel entrance. “Take me to the City of the Dead.”


The cab driver raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure? Drug dealers and junkies crawl all over the place a night.”


But Maya promised to pay him double the amount if he took her there and stayed until she came back. The City of the Dead was in essence a huge cemetery over six kilometers long, stacked with tombs and mausoleums on almost every street. Some people, living people, actually lived there, whether forced into slums or wanting to honor their ancestors. It was also a notorious habitat for dealers and addicts.


Not too far away, Michael too looked for someone to duel. Any idiot desperate enough to wander into the necropolis made himself an easy target. His back and legs ached, reminding him of the terrible cramps he used to have. Anxiety squeezed his head and chest as if in a vice and half. He exchanged money with a man in the corner, receiving what looked like a few black rocks. He desperately wanted to go home.


No such chance. He came across a woman shrouded in a black niqab. He jumped a bit, yelling at her for startling him. The woman tore off her niqab, revealing a familiar person with a swarthy face, narrow eyes, and curly black hair. “Maya, what are you doing here?”


Maya glanced at the bag of black “rocks” in Michael’s hand. “So you went back to being a celebrity junkie. How pathetic.”


“You think this is funny, picking on a drug addict?” Michael’s usually calm and soft voice escalated quickly to a surprisingly loud yell. “You might as well kick a crippled kid you disgusting bitch.”


“You’re no innocent victim, Michael. Before rehab you leaked emails and personal information about Team Stella and other teams you didn’t like because they had more diversity in them. You passed the information like bait to Internet hate groups and upper-class teams to try to shut them down. You did this all out of spite while jacking yourself with a needle.”


“You slander me with lies with zero evidence, typical of a progressive. Team Homburg is elite. We have the best fashion, the most women, and the best decks.” Michael then began ranting. “Forcing ‘enfranchised’ women and minorities on top will turn the dueling world into nothing but a comfort zone, driving away harsh reality and competition for a ‘safe space’ of mass non-threatening conformity for ego-damaged millennials who think trendy hipster glasses will cure them of the emptiness of their souls.”


Maya only laughed at him with contempt. “Save your whining monologues for Reddit, you self-pitying prick Your federal offense is well-documented. Why you’re not in prison right now is beyond me.” Maya had enough of this petty repartee. She learned a long time ago not to argue with unreasonable people. “So are you going to duel me or not, tough guy? We both ante one Item Card.”


Michael agreed to her request, eager to put the arrogant upstart in her place.


Maya: 8000 || Michael: 8000


Maya’s Turn: “I Summon Nanosaur #1.” The fiery velociraptor carrying two rocket launchers on its back materializes. “And I’ll use its effect. I banish Rescue Rabbit from my Deck. Then I’ll set two cards. Let’s see what the leader of Team Fedora Rangers can do.”


Micheal’s Turn: Before Michael can even think up of an attack plan Maya interrupts him.


“I activate Macrocosmos and Vanity’s Emptiness!” Maya declares.


Michael’s jaw drops. He knows he is screwed. Now all his Shaddoll monsters will be banished, so he can’t use their effects! And he can’t Special Summon any monsters, so any plan to make a powerful Fusion Monster was gone! He needs to work around Maya, and fast. At least he can get rid of Vanity’s Emptiness this turn. 


“I Summon Shaddoll Dragon!” Michael declares, and a black puppet shaped as a dragon appears with his command. “Dragon, attack Nanosaur!” The dragon’s eyes shine in a gaze deathly enough to kill Nanosaur on the spot. Maya grimaces as her Vanity’s Emptiness trap disintegrates from its own effect and she quickly adds the banished Rescue Rabbit to her hand accordingly. (Maya LP: 8000 à 7800) Michael concludes, “I set a card.”


Maya’s Turn: Now it is time to crank up the pressure. She knows that if she summons bigger monsters it will pressure Michael to summon his big monsters. In the process he will banish many of his Shaddolls, wasting them. “I summon Rescue Rabbit, and banish it to Summon two Spinodon from my Deck.” The familiar rabbit wearing a hard hat hops into play, only to vaporize. The smoke released from the act transforms into two fiery dinosaurs. “I overlay my Spinodons to Xyz Summon Evolzar Laggia.” A pale, volcanic dragon with wings replaces the two dinosaurs.


Maya hates Michael and people like him, reserving only scorn and contempt for them. Her anger always boiled, but she often corked it because it often had no appropriate outlet. Now was a proper time to open the cork a little bit. Maya clenched her first. “TAKE THIS! Laggia, burn Shaddoll Dragon to dust!” Laggia launches a pillar of flame from its mouth.


“Not so fast!” Michael reacts. “I activate my set El Shaddoll Fusion!”


“Not quite! I detach two Material for Laggia’s effect! Laggia, negate and destroy El Shaddoll Fusion!” The two fiery orbs surrounding Laggia detach their orbits and smash into Michael’s card. Laggia resumes its fiery brigade, incinerating Shaddoll Dragon. (Michael LP: 8000 à 7500) 


Maya gives a restrained cackle, happy with the torment she is giving. “Haven’t you had enough punishment yet, you amateur?” 


“I’ve been a champion at dueling long before you picked up a structure deck! I’d show respect if I were you!”


“And you were inept all this time. You simply bought expensive cards no one else could get and netdecked your way to the top. Too bad times are quickly changing. All cards are becoming commoner and cheaper. The so-called elite no longer own this game.” Maya sets a card. Michael used El Shaddoll Fusion to get past Laggia’s effect. Next turn, he will probably make a big attack to what advantage he can. That is why Maya waits, saving her big attack for the moment.


Michael’s Turn: All right! Maya took his bait. Laggia is no longer an issue. If only he could get rid of Macrocosmos. “I activate Galaxy Cyclone! Destroy her face down card!” A cloud of stardust appears and gathers force into a devastating whirlwind.


But it is to no use. Maya flips her face down card, another Macrocosmos, and the whirlwind harmlessly blows over.


“Wait! Macrocosmos is limite to one per Deck!”


“Not anymore. They changed the ban list just before the tournament began.” Maya explained.


“B- But why would they do that!?”


“Maybe to, I don’t know, make the competition a little more interesting.”


Michael doesn’t believe a word Maya says. She must have done something. “I Summon Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress, and use her effect to destroy one of your Macrocosmos.” A woman clothed in a robe as white as her hair is black appears through a square portal of light. She kneels to defend herself, firing a beam of light from her staff, destroying Maya’s card. “I activate Shadoll Fusion, and since you have an monster from your Extra Deck out I can fuse monsters from my Deck. I banish Raiden Lightsworn Assailnt and Shaddoll Beast to Fusion Summon El Shaddoll Construct!” Michael’s two monsters, one of light and one of darkness, blend together into a dark mist, and out from it emerges a doll of a woman, with pale skin and violet armor.


“Construct, attack Laggia!” The woman doll grows a net of strings from her hands and clings onto Laggia with them. Laggia cracks and implodes from the inside out. “You’re lucky you don’t take any damage from Construct’s effect. I set two cards.”


Maya’s Turn: She reaches inside to her heart and opens the cork of her volcano more, progressively building her fierceness and rage. If she doesn’t kill him this turn, she will still gain a decisive advantage. “I Summon Zsa Zsu.” A lithe, bird-like dinosaur with exotic plumage gracefully lands to the ground. “And I return her to my hand to Special Summon Fierce Ptera.” Her dinosaur disappears, replaced by a more hostile one, a pterosaur bearing its teeth. “Since Fierce Pterra is Special Summoned, I can Special Summon another dinosaur from my hand. Welcome back, Zsa Zsu.” The exotic dinosaur reappears, but now with another of its kind. “Since Zsa Zsu is Special Summoned, I can Summon another one from my Deck.”


“I overlay both Zsa Zsu to Xyz Summon Volcanoraptor!” The two Zsa Zsu’s collapse into a black hole, and a velociraptor covered in flames hops out of it. “I detach one Zsa Zsu to Summon Quetzalcoatlus from my Deck!” One orb leaps from Volcanoraptor, blossoming into a flaming portal where Quetzalcoatlus swoops. “With her summoning I immediately activate Infernal Reckless Summon!” Two more Quetzalcoatlus appear. Thankfully, Michael can Summon monsters of his own, so he Summons another Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress


I overlay two of my Quetzalcoarlus!” The two pterosaurs descend into a black hole, “Arise, Stella Ptera!” which turns inside out into a white hole, ejecting an even bigger pterosaur. “I detach 1 Quetzalcoatlus! Stella Pterra, bounce Construct and Lyla back to the hand!” The huge pterosaur beats its mighty wings, creating a deadly gust.


Michael isn’t ready to give up. “I activate El Shaddoll Fusion! I fuse my Construct and Lyla to Fusion Summon another El Shaddoll Construct!” Michael’s two monsters meld together, creating another woman doll. 


“Not a bad play, but it’s not enough to save you. I activate the effect of my remaining Quetzalcoatlus!” The lesser pterosaur beats its own wings, bouncing Maya’s Volcanoraptor and Michael’s construct back to the Extra Deck. “Volcanoraptor is removed from the field, so I Special Summon a banished Quetzalcoatlus. I overlay two Quetzalcoatlus to Xyz Summon Galaxy-Eyes Tachyon Dragon!” Both pterosaurs dissolve away, birthing a mighty black dragon that radiated with an intergalactic dark aura.


“I overlay Tachyon to Xyz Summon Full-Armored Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon!” Tachyon falls into a black hole, giving rise to an even stronger dragon. Michael is appalled at the very sight of it. “I detach a Quetzalcoatlus! Galaxy-Eyes, destroy Lyla!” The interstellar dragon spreads its photon-emitting wings, concentrating the light into a deadly wave, vaporizing Lyla into ash. 


Michael gulps loudly.       


“TAKE THIS! Fierce Ptera, direct attack!” The small pterosaur savagely bites Michael’s neck. Even though it was just a hologram he feared for his life at that moment. (Michael LP: 7500 à 6700) “Stella Ptera, direct attack!” The larger pterosaur slaps Michael’s body with the fierce gusts of its wings, throwing Michael off his feat. (Michael LP 6700 à 3900) “Photon Dragon, attack for game!”


“I-I activate Dimensional Prison!” Michael stammers, scurrying back to his feet. The interstellar dragon fires a laser of pure photons from its mouth only to be swallowed by a forbidding vortex. The vortex sucks the dragon within it, which tries to fly away but in vain. Its gone.


Maya burns even brighter inside with the sudden halt in her plans, but she restrains herself relatively enough. “So you bought yourself one more turn.” Her voice is still sharp, her words still cut like a dagger. “Make it count.”


Micheal’s Turn:  “I activate Upstart Goblin!” Michael puts his hand on his Deck, almost as if to surrender. “Please let me make a god draw.” He drew a card. (Maya LP: 7500 à 8500) “YES! I activate Raigeki!” Three bots of lightning descent from the sky, killing Maya’s three monsters! Michael wipes his forehead in a sigh of relieve, even though the midnight is cool. 


Maya’s Turn: She feels a mixture of frustration and excitement. Though she didn’t like Michael killing her OTK, she did enjoy the challenge he gave her, however slight. 


“I’m afraid it will all come to an end. I activate Fossil Dig, adding a Dinosaur to my hand. I Summon Tyranno Infinity!” A small but deadly tyrannosaurus rex appears, glowing with an aura not of this world. Maya gives a small smile with a hint of deviousness. “Tyranno gains 1000 ATK for each of my banished dinosaurs. Hmm, let’s see, I have Nanosaur, two Spinodon, Laggia, Fierce Ptera, two Zsa Zsu, three Quetzalcoatlus, and Stella Pterra. That makes it’s attack…”


Michael gasps, “IT’S OVER 9000!!!”


Maya laughed, a laugh both hearty and wicked at the same time. “YES!!! 11000!!! Tyranno Infinity, attack for game!” The fierce tyrannosaurus rammed Michael with his head, ramming him on the walls of a tomb. Michael’s body skids down to the floor, broken in defeat.


Maya: 8500 || Michael: 0


Maya stood over Michael, who slouched and rubbed his head and back in pain. “You know the rules. Give me your Item Card.”


Micheal could only moan a few feeble words. “No, I’m eliminated…”


Maya’s expression became pitiless and forbidding. She had almost no sympathy for him, and she only had a few hours left for sleep. 


Michael sighed, perhaps giving the longest and most pathetic sign in his life. Team Homburgs are men of their word, even to someone like you.” He handed Maya a Millennium Rod Card. “No leave me alone.”


Three cards in one day (technically two days, but whatever). A good start, but Maya had one more thing to do. She quickly seized Michael’s bag of black tar heroine. 


“Give it back. I’ll have withdrawal symptoms.” Michael pleaded. 


“You’ll survive. As much as hate your guts, not even you deserve to die like this.” She threw the bag of heroine on top of a building. Michael impulsively scampered on the building wall as if he could actually climb to the roof. No such chance. “You’ll thank me later.” These were Maya’s final words for the night. Her only regret was paying the taxi driver such a high fee. At least it was with her own money, sparing Yukio and Sophia.      




Heishin contemplated his burned, scaly black hand, the hand the mysterious woman gave to him several months ago. He loved the powers of darkness he now wielded with effortless authority and the fear it inspired in everyone’s hearts, but he had a certain anxiety. He didn’t trust either Gernand or his apprentice, wondering what they really wanted and what role he played in their schemes. They gave him the powers of darkness, but what price did he pay?


He was deeply dissatisfied with the Ghouls’ attack today. They smacked quite a lot of duelists around no doubt, but more duelists resisted them than he anticipated. Some teams were too strong. They needed to be liquefied if the Ghouls were to rule Egypt with an iron fist. All of these thoughts prevented him from sleeping. He imagined his ancestors to be the mighty pharaohs of old, especially the resurgent military kings of the New Kingdom, who restored their homeland to its golden era. He would do the same for Egypt in the twenty first century, for Allah, for Egypt, and, most importantly, for his son.


A soldier saluted to him. “Sir, the Ghoul commander is on the line.”    


Hiehsin picked up the phone. It was the boy named Matthew, appointed by Gernand and his apprentice for a similar purpose. He heard Matthew say, “I discovered all the teams that gave us the hardest time in our raid of Cairo.”


“Excellent. Locate them and eliminate them all. If necessary, prepare a massive attack. Tear this land apart if you have to.”


Hieshin returned to his contemplation, looking out at the moon through the window his son jumped out of to escape him.   

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Quick update: I'm not dead. I've had many grad school obligations.  I just finished choreographing the next duel. So, yay!

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Duel 10 - Counter - counter!



DAY 2 : 11:26 AM : GIZA


June 1, 2009


JOLENE: “Hey, dude! What’s up?”


YUKIO: “We’re off to a good start. We won two Item Cards yesterday. We’re making our way down to the Giza plateau. We might as well tour Egypt while we’re at it.”


HASSAN: Joins the network in the New Yorker Hotel. “Please take this Tournament very seriously. You still have four more Item Cards to win. My father already scourged Cairo with the Ghouls. Who knows what other cities he will strike. Look out for his armies, find duelists and beat them.”


YUKIO: “Dude, do you ever let up? If you want to solve this country’s problems why don’t you do it yourself?”


JOLENE: “Don’t worry, Hassan. They’ll disinfect Egypt with iodine as far as you’re concerned.”


YUKIO: Hands the iPhone to Sophia, who sitting on the front passenger seat. As they all speak, Yukio drives the team’s small, cheap car down the Egyptian country. The road is the only thing other than sand in the barren rock and desert land around them, like a Nile River of sorts, except the road is unlike the Nile. It is narrow, treacherously winding, and even broken in a few places. Yukio once accidentally drove through a pothole. The sudden jolts made Sophia bite her large lips hard, causing them to bleed a bit.


SOPHIA: “Hey guys!” Sophia gives Jolene a friendly little wave before wiping the sweat dripping on her forehead. The car was a moving stove from Hell. “How are things back at home?”


JOLENE: “Things are OK. JC is putting back together another Team Dark Duelists but made out of the poor and minorities who use rogue decks. Kind of like how we were like in ye olde days.”


JIAO: Suddenly appears from nowhere. “How has your dueling been, my free spirits? Did you pwn anyone at a children’s card game?”


YUKIO: “We won two Item Cards. We now have three.”


JIAO: She looks perceptively at them all through the camera iPhone and sees Maya sleeping at the back seat. “You mean Maya won two Item Cards.” Yukio’s cheeks almost flush with embarrassment, making him silent. Sophia nods. “It’s not fair having Maya do all the work. You guys gotta’ catch up.”


YUKIO: Glances at Maya for a second, but a second was all he needed. She sprawled herself out all over like she was sleeping in a messy college dorm, something she was very familiar with at this point, as if the molten heat didn’t exist. Was she drooling? “We’ll get it done. Sophia and me will duel next. Bye, Jolene, Hassan. May God be less.”




Sophia too glanced at Maya, or the slob that used to be her, and couldn’t help but giggle. “Awww, she looks like she needs a break.”


Without any more conversation the mood dragged back to the way it was before, stifling and silent. They had only thirty minutes left before they reached the Pyramids and the Sphinx at the Giza plateau, but thirty minutes felt like one hour too many.


Yukio and Maya both still had no idea who Sophia really was, so he took it upon himself to ferret something out of her. “We still don’t know too much about you.” He said. “Yes, we know you’re Russian, Pegasus adopted you, and you took accelerated programs under his guidance, basically becoming one of his prodigies. But you never mentioned anything else, not even when we were partying and playing games with Stella and her friends. We don’t know who you’re parents are, or you’re first birthday or when you first kissed a boy, if you know what I mean.”


Sophia ignored Yukio. She put her hand on her cheek and simply stared out emptily at the desert beyond, which seemed to span into infinity. Yukio could tell by the glint in her eyes and the look in her face it wasn’t pleasant. The despondency on her face hinted certain passivity, as if she accepted all the melancholy things around her as natural and inevitable.


“I’m sorry I asked.” Yukio said with sincerity and sadness. “I was too curious.”


Sophia smiled sweetly yet sorrowfully. “Sorry for what? Asking?”


“Um, yes.” He decided to drop it. It didn’t happen. Neither Yukio nor Sophia knew that Maya woke up and had been secretly observing their interaction for the last few minutes.


The Pyramids crept over the horizon. At first they merely popped up like little molehills but as the team drove closer and closer they bore witness to their true size. It is said there was never a person who, on first seeing the Pyramids, did not have their breath taken away. Our protagonists were no exception. They lost their breath in an instant; astonished the Pyramids were this huge. No wonder they endured for over four thousand years. They were indestructible. They were as much a part of the earth as mountains.


The team parked near a tourists’ bus and blended with the crowd, which wasn’t as easy as they thought. Most of the tourists were old couples who saved money for years on end just to visit this lost land. The tour guide, a short and stout man with sunglasses and curly black hair, directed everyone with a funny orange glove with a smiley face on it. “Mashi mashi!” He would call out and everyone would follow him.


The tourists first stopped by the Sphinx, a monument as serene and immovable as the Pyramids themselves, eternally staring at the horizon, paying no heed to the ants crawling over it that would die in a blink of an eye. It gazed at something far beyond this world, far beyond the horizon itself, perhaps even somewhere beyond the stars.


“Oh my God guys! I can’t believe it’s you!”


The team turned their head and, to their wonderful astonishment, found Stella and her team loitering around the Sphinx. They jumped for joy at the sign of each other and gave each other many hugs and kisses before divulging what they did for the last two days. Maya, still tired and wiping her eyes, gurgled how she got two Item Cards. Stella in turn brandished her Item Cards, a total of five! Mostly she and Willow got them.


The friends goofed off for a while, posing for group shots, taking silly selfies with the Sphinx. (Stella pretended to kiss it. Maya pretended to accidentally break off its nose. Yukio pretended to give it a mustache.) Their irreverence grew tiring after a while, so they blended with the old tourists once more. Mr. Mashi-Mashi Guy took them inside the pyramids. Everyone bumbled into each other as they climbed through the dark, dank, narrow tunnels into the burial chamber, a small chamber holding only the Pharoah Khufu’s barren sarcophagus. It was underwhelming.


They tried to climb the Pyramids but the guards wouldn’t let them. Maya, always sporting yet devious, saw an opportunity. “How about we duel for the right to climb the Pyramid.” She suggested. “The loser has to distract the guards so we can do it.”


“We? Aren’t you presumptive!” Stella joked in mock offense. “I saw what you did there! Guess it’s time beat that arrogance out of you. I accept you’re challenge.”


“Oh come on, Maya.” Yukio whined. “You’ve been dueling for us all the time. Give us a chance.”


“I was just going to. I just gave Stella a suggestion. I didn’t actually challenge her. Look who’s being presumptive?” Maya winked at Stella, making sure she got the barb.


“Even better, let’s make a two way duel.” Stella suggested. “Willow will be my team mate.” She then turned her attention to Sophia. “You ready for a fierce beatdown, little one?”


Sophia looked a little nervous but she choked it down and accepted the offer.


Stella, Willow took position while Yukio and Stella did the same. Poppey, Luca, Dahlia, and few other people, duelists and non-duelists alike, gathered around to be an audience. Maya sat on a stray pyramid stone, cross-legged, indulging on a box of baklava, clearly amused. She announced, “The battle of the century begins! Cards will be dropped! Fingers will be cut! Life Points will be lost! Grown ups will rage quit like children! Who will win a children’s card game? Find out fifty episodes later!“    


Team Stella: 16000 || Team Baby Blast Furnace: 16000


STELLA’S TURN: “Since I can’t attack this turn, I’ll set up the board instead. It’s time to test them and see if they live up to their hype.” She says to herself. Out loud, she says. “I’ll set a monster and two face downs.”


 WILLOW’S TURN: “I activate Black Whirlwind and summon Blackwing – Kris the Crack of Dawn.” A black-feathered bird-folk with red robes swoops into play, shortly accompanied by, “I summon Blackwing – Gale the Whirldwind.” A small bird with red crests on its head and shoulders takes the other Blackwing’s side. “I set a face down card. Go ahead.”


YUKIO’S TURN: “Alright, I got a strategy. I summon Summoner Monk.” A wizard in oriental robes materializes. “And I use his effect, discarding a card to summon Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades from the Deck.” Now a monster representing Yukio’s true character appears, a mighty armored warrior carrying so many swords they seemed to fan out from its back like steel wings. “Now its effect. I discard a Heroic monster to summon Heroic Challenger – Extra Sword from my Deck.” Thousand Blades throws its sword in the air and shouts a warrior’s call. Another warrior, slight of frame and carrying two swords to big for its body, answers and joins its side.


“I use them as Materials to Xyz Summon Blade Armor Ninja.” The two warriors collapse into two small stars and fall into a black whole, which turns into a white hole. A ninja dexterously wielding two swords jumps from the blazing white portal. The usual. “Ninja gets an extra 1000 ATK from Extra Sword, and I detach a Material so it can attack twice.” Ninja absorbs one of the stars orbiding it into its body. “Here it comes, 3200 ATK! Armor Ninja, kill Blackwing Gale!”


Armor Ninja seemingly disappears, zipping left and right at blinding speed, closing in on its target. Willow springs her trap, “I activate Black Sonic!” Both her Blackwings form a ring together and cast it at Armor Ninja in a windstorm. He vanishes without a trace. “Now he’s banished. You’re plan’s finished.”


“On the contrary. It was my plan the whole time. I cleared the field a bit for Sophia.” He smirks. “Sophia, take it away.”


SOPHIA’S TURN: She draws her card but pauses. She hasn’t been at too many tournaments, least of all a World Championship as grandiose as this one is. Stella and Willow already seemed so tough. She resolves to make a move. “I activate Fortune Occult Connection, so I can –“


“I spring MistakeNo one can add cards from their Deck to their hand.”


“ – add a Fortune Lady to my hand… Hmm…” Sophia feels a cold pit in her stomach, but steels her resolve. She will carry on her strategy. “I summon Fortune Lady Light.” A fair witch with short golden hair aparates. She wields a wooden staff with an amber stone floating in the hook at the end. Her yellow dress is very loose and open, revealing a black leather undergarments and high heeled boots.


Stella is a little shocked at such a play. Even this surpises her. “Ah, Fortune Ladies. Interesting archetype but they are obsolete. They’re just too slow and too reliant on Lady Light to get their combos off. Believe me, I tried. Playing Fortune Ladies is a noble cause, but a lost one. Lady Dark is too weak in today’s metagame.”


“I’m not going into Lady Dark.” Sophia says plainly, but it is enough to make Stella widen her eyes a bit. “I activate Blessing Fortune, banishing Lady Light to summon 2 Fortune Fairy Tokens.” Lady Light disappears in a rain of autumn flowers, replaced by two tiny innocent fairies. “And as you know, when Lady Light leaves the field, I can summon any Fortune Lady from my Deck. So I summon Fortune Lady Aeter!” In a display of rainbow light a new Fortune Lady appears, similar in dress to Lady Light but draped in transparent robes and wielding a bigger staff.


“Lady Aeter, turn Gale into fried chicken.” And Lady Aeter blasted it with a torrent of fiery light. “Now for Lady Aeter’s effect. I banish it to summon Fortune Lady Water and Fortune Lady Fire from my Deck!” Aeter vanishes in a flash of light as she came and out of that same light aparate two Fortune Ladies radically different in appearance and character. Lady Water adorns herself in flowing blue robes and wears her long hair in a similar way. Lady Fire’s wears her red skirt short and sharp, and wears her red locks in one long braid the same way Sophia herself does. Sophia continues, “With Lady Water summoned, I draw 2 cards. With Lady Fire summoned, I destroy Kris and you lose the same damage as its ATK.” Lady Fire chants, almost shouts, her spell, crashing a meteor at the last Blackwing. Both Stella and Willow shield themselves from the fiery blast. (Team Stella LP 16000 à 14900)


“Now the battle is over, I equip Lady Fire with Wonder Wand, and tribute both to draw 2 cards.” Lady Fire’s staff is replaced by a big, awkward wand, but only momentarily as they both vanish. “I set a card facedown and activate Dimensional Fissure. Your turn.” Yukio gives Sophia a thumbs up, feeling only pride for her.


STELLA’S TURN: This was all very unexpected. She needed to come up with a plan. “Willow, I’ve got an idea. We’ve got to take Sophia out. She’s the weakest link. She uses an archetype so obsolete even rogue duelists like us can’t salvage it.”


Willow’s sullen face only casts doubt over Stella’s ideas. “I’m not sure about that. Sophia just shocked us with new amazing support cards.”


“Yes, but whatever new support cards she has it probably won’t help her out too much. Yukio’s Heroics are much more dangerous.” She said to Sophia and Yukio, “No offense to you. It’s the best strategy. Nothing personal.”


Maya listens to this little exchange with amusement, licking the sweet baklava sugar from her fingers, saying to herself. “That was your first mistake, Stella, and it won’t be your last.” She remembers how hard Stella tried to build a Fortune Lady deck last year, only to give up after she lost a Regional Tournament with it. “Your disappointment and envy is influencing her judgment. Hopefully, Yukio and Sophia will take advantage of it and Sophia won’t be afraid to unleash her power.”


“It’s time to attack!” Stella barks. “I activate Mystical Space Typhoon!” A cyclone crackling with lightning blows away Sophia’s Dimensional Fissure. “Now my next card, Dark Hole!” A black hole pops up from the space-time fabric, ready to suck every monster in.


“I chain with Revolution Fortune!” Sophia quickly counters. “I banish a Fortune Lady on my field to search another one in my Deck, but I can bring it back next Standby Phase.” With her words, Lady Water vaporizes into mist just before it falls into the black hole’s event horizon.


“That’s cute, but it won’t stop me. Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing activates and I activate my set trap Yang Zing Creation! Now I can summon two Yang Zings from my Deck.” Stella registers the horror on Sophia and Yukio’s faces. “That’s right! Yang Zings, the best floaters out there rivaled only by Qliphorts. Now, I summon Jiaotu, Darkness of the Yang Zing and Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing.” Two oriental dragons slither gracefully above in the sky and descend on the field. Both have the faces, fur, and claws of tigers. One is small and golden in color, the other darker and fiercer. “I activate Wyrm Rejuvination. I return a Wyrm monster from my Graveyard to my hand a draw 1 card.


“Now for Jiaotu’s effect. I discard 2 Yang Zings in my hand to summon Zefraniu, Secret of the Yang Zing and Taoti, Shadow of the Yang Zing from my Deck.” Jiaotu the dark wyrm vomits a torrent of black flames. Two more oriental dragons heed the signal and appear. One of them shines like a jewel, the other one is brutish and with black scales. “Since I sent Zang Yun, Fortune of Yang Zing to the Graveyard by card effect, I draw 1 card – nice! It’s a monster – I summon it, Bi’an, Earth of the Yang Zing!” A small snake-like dragon crawls out of the ground and joins its group.


At this point a few duelists decide to drop in the crowd. Literally, drop, as in flump unceremoniously on the sand right next to Maya. They look like they’re enjoying a day at the beach, not participating in a daunting, unprecedented tournament. Maya instantly recognizes these colorful characters as Mathias, Maximus, and Mina. Mathias gives everyone a hello as big as his heart, to Maya, to Poppy, Lua, and Dahlia, and to the duelists. “TEAM BUFFALO CHICKEN IS IN THE HOUSE!” They all shout “Hello!” back just as gregariously. Though Maya is happy to see them she feels some exasperation too. She knows how wild they can be, even for her. Especially Mathias. He has as much zest as Robin Williams2. This is going to be a long day…


Stella is in now way done with her turn. “I tune Jiaotu and Zefraniu to synchro summon Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing!” Jiaotu disintegrates into two green rings and Zefraniu dissolves into six stars. The six stars align within the two rings and shine as a beam of light, which fades to reveal a large, tiger-faced dragon. “I use its effect, bouncing Yukio and Sophia’s face downs.”


As Baxia draws its wings up in the air, Yukio counters with his trap. “Call of the Haunted, to revive Thousand Blades!” Black mist creeps from the ground and forms into the familiar warrior. Neverthless, Baxia brings its wings down, the massive wave blowing away the two cards like sand. Thankfully, Thousand Blades survives.


“I now tune Chiwen, Bi’an, and Taoti, to syncrho summon Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier!” Chiwen becomes a ring and the other two dra            gons stars that align with each other. A bright column forms, which summons the legendary Trishula. “Uh-Oh, the nefarious Trishula. That’s not good.” Mathias comments. “Tell me about it.” Maya grumbles. She tries to enjoy her baklava but now it tastes bitter.


Stella sets her eyes dead on Yukio as a bird of prey does. “I use Trishula’s effect, banishing Thousand Blades, a card in your hand, and Extra Sword.” Yukio’s three cards vanish from the game without a trace. “Who knows how many nasty Xyz monsters you made with Extra Sword. Now we crippled you, the stronger duelist, we can attack the weakest link. “Baxia, attack Sophia directly!”


The dragon shoots its breath at Sophia, who shields herself with her arms in self-defense. “Defend her, Summoner Monk!” Yukio commands, and with it his monk jumps in between Sophia and the dragon, dying. “Maybe you should attack me before shamefully attacking a player you think is weaker than you are!”


Stella curses herself. She forgot he still had his Monk out. “Whatever. Trishula, attack Sophia directly!” With a beat of its wings, Trishula strikes Sophia with the harshes blizzard. Sophia protects her body with what little she can, the cold cutting into her bones. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 16000 à 13300) “Take it away, Willow.”


WILLOW’S TURN: Her face is grim yet full of determination. “I’ll continue Stella’s assault. I summon Blackwing – Blizzard of the Far North, and use its effect to revive Kris.” A small white bird lands in play, followed by the dark birdman. “I use Black Whirlwind to get – oh, wait! – Stella’s Mistake stops me. Very well, I special summon Blackwing – Bora the Spear and Blackwing – Gale the Whirlwind.” A birdman with a spiraled lance and a large red face and a black bird with a red crest on its head flock the field.


“Xyz time! I tune Blizzard and Kris to synchro summon Blackwing – Nothung the Starlight, and use its effect!” The two birds synch with its other the usual way to summon a large birdman wielding a huge sword. The new monster shoots lightning from its sword, striking Sophia. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 13300 à 12500) “I tune Bora and Gale to summon Blacking Armor Master!” Her two remaining birds vanish, allowing a new black-feathered warrior to appear, this one cast in black iron armor.


“Get ready! Nothung, Armor Master, attack Sophia directly! Both avian warriors strike her down, Nothung with his sword, Armor Master with his claws. Yukio cries out for Sophia in pain and anger The blow hits Sophia so hard she yelps from the pain and is nearly thrown off her feet, but she stays sturdy. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 12500 à 8400)


The external pressure doesn’t Sophia so much but the internal pressure does. What chance did she have against so experienced and skilled duelists? What worth did she have as a person next to the, next to anybody? She felt as if a black weight was sitting on her shoulders, and a black mist shrouding her. She felt so low even the desert noon looked dark. Her awful feelings eroded some space inside her. Overwhelmed, she collapsed on one knee.   

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Duel 11 - A Future Duelist



Mathias, Maximus, and Mina, the top duelists who call themselves Team Buffalo Chicken, analyze the field. The duel still rages strong among our competitors. Stella and Willow have gained a big advantage while Yukio and Sophia are still recoiling from the attack.


Maximus is way too used to being a duel commentator, jabbering even when there is no large audience. “Things don’t look good for Baby Blast Furnace, both in moral and advantage. If they’re going to get control of the game again they need a real pep talk right now. They need to steel their nerves and get ready for the long fight ahead. Can they keep their concentration and endurance up to keep running to the light at the end of the tunnel? Can they win this marathon?”


Mathias, a firm believer in human strength and courage, replies, “The situation isn‘t ideal but not irreversible. It’s still anybody’s game.” He stretches an open hand to Maya, eager to clasp something from her. “Can I have some baklava? I didn’t eat all day and I’m STARVING!”


Maya licks her fingers, savoring the sweet taste and the fact that it’s all hers and hers alone even more so. “No.” Her nonchalant reply hides her worrying. She trains her sharp eyes on the psychological reality of the match, especially on Sophia.


Yukio runs to comfort Sophia, who is so despondent she is dead still. Yukio shakes her. She has to get up and keep dueling! Sophia shakes her head over and over again. “I can’t anymore. There’s nothing I can do. I’m too weak to do anything.”


Boiled to indignation, Yukio stands up and roars to Stella and Willow across the field. “How dare you pick on a less experienced duelist, especially one who uses a deck more original than yours! And you call yourselves rogue duelists! You shame every great, creative, and independent duelist out there!”


Stella doesn’t seem to care while Willow seethes resentfully from the rebuke.


Maya decides it’s enough. She approaches to and kneels by Sophia herself, offering her bottled water and the last pieces of baklava. Sophia thanks her and fills herself, gradually becoming more animated. Maya declares to everyone imperiously, “Sophia is far from the weakest link. She’s in fact the strongest duelist of us all, stronger than Stella and Willow, stronger than Yukio and me, stronger than Maximus.”


She says to Willow, “In fact, you’re the weakest link and you need to be smacked for using Blackwings. All Blackwings should die in a fire alongside all Nekroz and Qliphorts.” She says to Stella, “Nothing wrong with being competitive, even envious, but Sophia will beat you and show why she’s a better duelist.”


“How could you let such dirty tricks slide?” Yukio challenges Maya with indignation, Maya responds, “Punching below the belt happens all the time in competitive play. Even friends do it to each other.” She kneels next to Sophia, telling her. “Pro dueling is full of unsavory people. You have to learn how to cope with them. When you do, you will realize that subverting and overcoming them does much more than self-righteous indignation ever will.”


Yukio wants to object but he gives up. Sophia nods, taking Maya’s words to heart, and gets up. “Stella, Willow, I will beat you both. You may not have been able to use a great Fortune Lady deck but I do.”


Stella accepts Sophia’s challenge. “Bring it! Show me what you got.”


“More like ‘show us what we got.’” Yukio adds. “We’re a team, Sophia, and we must have confidence in each other. Only teamwork between us will beat them.” He gives Sophia a thumbs up, and she reciprocates.


Maximus provides further commentary to his imagined stadium audience. “We just saw Maya and Yukio coach Sophia – she’s a little green, a new player – and we’re back into the game. This is how great teamwork works outside the duel now let’s see how they take great teamwork inside the duel.”


“Maximus,” Mathias reminds his comrade gently, in a low and soft voice, before suddenly shouting comically. “SHUT UP AND LET THEM PLAY THE DAMN GAME!”


Team Stella: 13100 || Team Baby Blast Furnace: 8400


YUKIO’S TURN: “I summon Heroic Challenger – Double Lance, and use its effect to revive a Double Lance in my Graveyard.” A warrior in white armor, a white knight of sorts, arrives to battle, as does its twin. “You made a big mistake not banishing my Double Lance, Stella. You were too scared of my Extra Sword and Inferno Reckless Summon combo. I overlay both Double Lances to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia!’ The white knights disappear, replaced by a new warrior, armored in high-tech white armor, wielding a broad sword. “I overlay Utopia to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia One.” The warrior from the future collapses into an atom orbiting a new warrior, completely in white and shining with blinding intensity. “I discard a Rank-Up Spell from my hand and overlay Utopia One to Xyz Summon Number S0: Hope Zexal!” Utopia One vanishes and a new warrior with long, flaming red hair leaps from the black hole, brilliant with power, surrounded by four orbiting atoms.


Stella gasps in surprise, “Oh God, that gives it…”


“4000 ATK. Hope Zexal, strike the weakest link, crush Nothung!” Nothung and Zexal meet head on. It is no contest. Nothung’s blade breaks under Zexal’s as copper, and Nothung falls soon afterward. (Team Stella LP 14900 à 13300) “Take it away Sophia.”


SOPHIA’S TURN: “Let’s go! I activate Fortune’s Future, returning Lady Aeter to my Graveyard to draw 2 cards.” All right! She drew the 2 cards she needed! She play tested her new cards a few times but never used them in a serious duel. Here is the real test, for her deck and for her character. “I activate Fortune Lady Pendulum Nova and Fortune Lady Pendulum Destiny in my Pendulum Zones.” Two monster illuminate themselves high in the air on the far right and left sides of Sophia’s field, one a spunky woman with pink hair and sci-fi blaster guns, the other a sorceress with three faces, one of a young girl, the other a middle-aged woman, the last a crone.


“I activate Lady Destiny, discarding a card to return Lady Aeter and Lady Water from my Graveyard to my hand. Now I’ll Pendulum Summon them.” An elaborate hexagram shape carves itself in flames high above the duelists, opening a portal where the two Fortune Ladies flooded out. “I activate Lady Water, draw 2 cards. I summon Fortune Lady Wind.” A Fortune Lady in thin green cloth and with green hair materializes. “And since I Normal Summoned her, I can destroy 3 Spells or Traps you control.” Lady Wind summons a gust of storming winds, obliterating Black Whirlwind, Mistake, and Yang Zing Creation.


A beat of sweat drops down Stella’s cheek and it isn’t because of the Egyptian heat. In fact she feels downright cold. She and Willow are losing control fast! Sophia, unsatisfied so far, still has a lot more to do. “Lady Aeter, shatter Baxia!” Aeter burns the dragon Baxia to ashes with her wand of light. “I activate Lady Aeter, banishing her to summon Fortune Lady Dark and another Fortune Lady Fire.” The fiery Fortune Lady appears again, but with different company, a Fortune Lady draped in long black robes. “Fire’s effect activates, destroying Trishula and taking 2700 Life Points.”


“I Special Summon Chiwen from my Graveyard with it’s effect.” Stella manages to grapple her defenses in time, but it amounts to little. Lady Fire obliterates the ice dragon Trishula and scatters its ashes at Stella and Willow’s faces. (Team Stella LP 13200 à 10500)


Yukio pumps his fist in the air so hard as if he could hit a cloud with it. “YOOHOO! YOU GET HER SOPHIA!”


“Guess she’s not the weakest link, huh!” Maya hollers from the sidelines.


The whole of Team Stella, not just Stella and Willow herself look worried. Worse is to come. “Lady Dark, destroy Chiwen!” Stella almost shouts “No!” on seeing on her mistake. Lady Dark strikes Chiwen with a thunderstorm of dark lightning. “And with Lady Dark’s effect I summon a Lady Fire from my Graveyard, and use her effect to destroy Blackwing Armor Master.” The first fiery lady returns, blowing away Armor Master. (Team Stella LP 10500 à 8000) “Both Lady Fires, Lady Water, Lady Wind, attack Willow directly!” All Fortune Ladies strike Willow with their spells of burning fire, drowning water, cutting wind, and corroding darkness. Willow teeters on her feet, almost about to fall, but holds her composure. (Team Stella LP 8000 à 5100)


Still not finished, Sophia concludes, “I overlay both Lady Fires to Xyz Summon Gachi Gachi Gantetsu.” The fiery Fortune Ladies collapse into a black hole to form a crouching, muscular sumo wrestler. “I Special Summon Fortune Lady Mist from my hand, and tune her with Lady Wind to Synchro Summon Herald of Rainbow Light.” Lady Mist aligns with Lady Wind and spherical angel with wings emerges from the white light that ensued. Sophia gasps in relief. “Whew! That was one long turn!”


STELLA’S TURN: Just after Stella draws her card, Yukio shouts. “Don’t get any ideas.” I detach a Material to activate Zexal’s effect!” One of Zexal’s orbiting atoms disappears, and Zexal sends a wave of light from its sword crashing down on Stella and Willow’s field. “You can’t activate any cards this turn.”


Stella’s eyes look dead, the fiery light she had just a turn before gone out. “I set a card face down. Turn over.”


WILLOW’S TURN: The sullen Willow ponders her situation while nursing her grievances from Yukio and Maya’s rebukes. She’ll show them who is the real weakest link is! But what could she do? She drew Mirror Force but Sophia’s Herald is a major problem. “Stella, I have a plan for a comeback. I trust you to know what to do when the time is right. Act first before I do. Let’s work as a team too. I set a card facedown.”


Stella gives Willow a thumbs up.


“Both teams are showing teamwork and support.” Maximus commentates again. “It’s a very endearing and empowering thing to see. It is something this game sorely needs more.”


YUKIO’S TURN: “Sophia, we can’t let our guard down. Who knows what they’re planning. Watch my back. I’ll move in to attack. Zexal, attack Willow directly!”


“I’ll protect her with Breakthrough Skill.” Stella interjects. “Now who’s the bad sportsman? Either way, Zexal has 0 ATK now.”


“Not true. I chain Herald’s effect to negate and destroy Breakthrough Skill.” With Sophia’s words, the Herald and Stella’s trap scatter as illuminated debris.


Yukio commands Zexal to attack again, and it obliges, hitting Willow hard with its blade. (Team Stella LP 5100 à 2100) “I set a card face down.” Yukio ends.


SOPHIA’S TURN: “My turn to attack! All Fortune Ladies, go!”


The Fortune Ladies swarm at Willow again, but she is ready this them. Now it is Willow’s turn to trap them. “I activate Mirror Force!” Their attacks hit a barrier that looks like a mirror without frame, which ricochets all their attacks right back at them. Sophia’s confidence almost deflates. They were so close! But now is not the time to give up. “I set a card face down.”


STELLA’S TURN: “I activate Yang Zing Path. I return Pulao, Jiaotu, and Taotie to my Deck and draw 2. I activate Soul Charge to bring back Baxia and Trishual.” Stella winces as her chest lights up and her two monsters break out to come back to the field. (Team Stella LP 2100 à 100) “I summon another Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing.” A small yellow dragon flies to the stage. “I overlay Chiwen and Baxia to Synchro Summon Chaofeng, Phantom of the Yang Zing.” Chiwen becomes a single green ring while Baxia becomes eight stars. They align and from their energy of white light form a huge, snake-like dragon with emerald scales and a bird’s beak.


WILLOW’S TURN: “I activate Silver Lining. I return two Blackwings to my hand but I can only summon Blackwing monsters this turn. I summon my old Bora and Gale the Whirlwind. I overlay both to Synchro Summon Blackwing Tamer – Obsidian Hawk Joe.” Four stars align with three green rings to bring forth an Indian man adorned in a flamboyant red-feathered headdress. “And I use its effect to bring back Nothung.” Hawk Joe chants and dances to an ancient, natural-sounding tune. The black-winged birdman wielding its large black sword springs up from the ground, or rather some place far below the ground.


‘I activate Nothung to inflict 800 damage to Sophia.” Nothumg plucks a razor sharp obsidian feather from its wings and hurls it at Sophia. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 8000 à 7200) “Hawk Joe, attack Fortune Lady Water.” The Blackwing Tamer breaks Lady Water’s back with its bare hands. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 7200 à 5800) “I end my turn.”


YUKIO’S TURN: “I set a card facedown. Take it away, Sophia.”


SOPHIA’S TURN: “I activate Instant Fusion, paying 1000 Life Points to summon any Level 4 or lower Fusion Monster. I call forth Elder God Noden!” A sealed can opens. The compressed gases within it escape and crystalize into Nordic god with a blue armor and a trident. . (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 5800 à 4800) “With Noden’s effect, I revive Herald from my Graveyard.” Noden strikes the ground with his trident as if it were a tuning fork, sounding out the ground beneath. The underworld answers, brining Herald back to the plane of the living. “I overlay them to Xyz Summon Outer God Nyaria!”


“What!” Stella shouts in disbelief. She’s not the only one shocked. Maya’s and Yukio’s eyes widen, Mina’s jaw drops, and Maximus leans over in wraps interest. On Sophia’s field both Elder God and Herald merge into the void. What crawls out is so strange as to be terrifying. What shape is it even? It looks like a convoluted mass of tentacles with innumerable mouths all over its body.


“I then overlay Nyaria itself to Xyz Summon Outer God Azathoth!” The utterly disturbing, completely unclassifiable thing collapses into a worm hole itself, giving the space needed for an even odder thing to emerge. This new god of the netherworld doesn’t even resemble a writhing ball of tentacles. It is some murky, morphing thing suspended in the air above everyone. “I detach a Material to use its effect. I destroy all cards in Stella and Willow’s field!” Something comes from the dark mass above, briefly morphing into two large claws and a glowing red eye. The eye shines bright with a fiendish, uncanny brilliance. The whole field before Stella and Willow burns as if on the surface of the sun, their monsters collapsing under extreme gravity and heat.


“For the final attack, Azathoth, attack them directly!’ The outer god creates more hands out of its lack of a body, each forming a ball of black flames. All of its hands shoot at Stella and Willow. They shield themselves from the consuming maelstrom, but the game is over.         


Team Stella: 0 || Team Baby Blast Furnace: 4800


Maximus clapped his hands together, jumping up and down in excitement. “Nice dueling! That was an amazing game! I say that to all of you!”


Mathias heartily slapped Yukio and Sophia on the bag with such force it scared them a bit. “You both dueled with courage and teamwork. You didn’t give up until the end. That is how you found your way to turn the situation around.”


Stella, completely beaten for now, tentatively extended her hand to her opponents. “Hope there are no hard feelings. Good game.”


Yukio took her hand firmly. “None taken.” He gestured Sophia to shake Stella’s hand but Sophia hesitated. “Come on, don’t be shy.” Yukio insisted. “You just won for us a huge match.” Sophia clasped Stella’s hand and said good game. Stella was surprised how strong Sophia’s grip was, coming from such a narrow palm and boney fingers.


Stella gave Yukio and Sophia two Item Cards, a Millennium Rod and Millennium Scales, for all of their troubles. Stella was about to make good on her promise to help them climb the Great Pyramid but Mathias, Maximus, and Mina had enough. They were all fired up and ready to duel!

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Question to my readers: do you think any of my characters are Mary Sues are in danger of becoming Mary Sues?









Stella and her team?


Respond as honestly as you can. I will appreciate your honesty and not take any offense.

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m just going to address Mina as Ivy from now on. Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy are main characters imported from spectre2300’s Path of Virtue series. Spectre and I are friends who import each other’s characters in our fanfiction.


Duel 12 – Battle Couples And A Couple Of Lessons




“YOU THINK TODAY’S OVER!” Mathias shouted in his dramatic, over-the-top way, “WE CALL DIBS ON DUELING THE WINNERS!”


Maya immediately stood up. The duel fired her up too. “I’ll take the challenge. Yukio and Sophia are worn out but I’m fresh.” This was a blatant lie as she was still tired from dueling in the City of the Dead last night.


“Agreed, but only on one condition.” Maximus added. “We’ll duel you guys in a tag team. But this time we ante only one Item Card. I don’t want to completely soil your victory, and we have only one Item Card anyway.”


Maya was about to make the nine thousandth sarcastic remark of her life when she stopped in her tracks in her mind. “ – wait, how did you not get any Item Cards?”


Maximus and Ivy blushed a burning red in complete embarrassment and pointed at Mathias. He swiftly turned around, booming, “All I wanted was some buffalo chicken pizza! Was that too much to ask?”


Maya made a facepalm more massive than the Pyramids behind her. “Buffalo chicken pizza… In Egypt…” No wonder they didn’t get any Item Cards. “Absolutely halal.”


“Now before you go about making Internet memes from 2015 in 2009 to sound edgy just to become outdated by the time this book is published, we, Team Buffalo Chicken, will decide who goes first.” Maximus quipped.


“What are you talking about?”


“You’ll understand later, Maya. Then everything will make sense.” Maximus rejoined his comrades to decide who would duel. ”ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS! ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS! Damnit! That doesn’t work!” They found another method and Mathias conceded the duel to Maximus and Ivy, grumbling about not being able to duel without his proper fuel.”


Yukio stretched himself on the sand before joining Maya by her side. “I’ll duel with you instead of Sophia. It’s better than way.” Maya didn’t plan on making Sophia her partner anyway. The poor kid just had the duel of her life. She needed a nap for all Maya knew.


The same crowd from last duel stayed put, hungry for yet another duel. Maximus and Ivy loaded their own unique duel disks. They were shaped like Christian crosses when folded but when unbuckled the sides assembled into a board to put cards on. Maximus bellowed, ‘LET’S ROCK!”


Team Baby Blast Furnace: 16000 || Team Buffalo Chicken 16000


YUKIO’S TURN: “Here goes nothing!” Yukio is itching for a fight already, but as his blood boils in passion something dark and cold knocks on the door behind him. The old spectre of guilt seeps through the door. The old boiler room of the family restaurant becomes painfully visible again. Yukio also feels a different pressure right in front of him. Maximus and Ivy are one of the best duelists ever. He needs to play something big and strong! Now!


“I Summon Summoner Monk.” The heavily robed Taoist priest appears and crouches down in Defense Position due to its effect.


Ivy, tight as a coil, watching every twitch Yukio makes, springs into action. “Perfect, I discard Maxx “C” from my hand. Each time you Special Summon a monster, I draw a card. Will you complete your combo and take the Maxx “C” challenge?”


“Don’t do it, Yukio!” Maya warns, thrusting her palm in his direction for emphasis. “You’ll give them the tools to beat us!”


But Yukio desperately wanted to chase away the dark cloud inside of him. The light of creative freedom was the only way. “For Summoner Monk’s effect, I discard a Spell andSummon Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades!” A warrior in iron armor straddling over a dozen swords on its back heeds the call. “I activate Thousand Blades, discarding a Heroic monster to Summon Heroic Challenger – Extra Swords, and with his summoning I activate Inferno Reckless Summon to Summon two more from my Deck.” A lightweight warrior with barely any armor, wielding two light swords, appears, joined by two exact copies.


“I overlay all my warriors to Xyz Summon Number 86: Heroic Champion Rhongomyniad!” His heroic warriors collapse and join together into a dance of light, bringing forth a mighty new warrior wielding a huge sword and shielded in white armor. It’s ATK shoots from its original 1500 to 6000 from its own effect and all the Extra Swords overlaid to bring it out. “Rhongomyniad has four Xyz Materials, you and Ivy can’t Summon anything next turn.”


MAYA’S TURN: Maya eyes Maximus and Ivy with suspicion. Sure they are a bunch of fun guys who call themselves Team Buffalo Chicken but don’t they also go by another name: The Saints? They sound too much like Matthew’s own former team, the Shining Crusaders. Are they affiliated with him? Do they have his same self-righteous hypocrisy and his need to turn the game into only one way of dueling? Maya had been a pro for only four years and already she met enough people who wanted to the turn the game into a hegemonic hive mind for one lifetime.


Her father – a shadowy form of him, a petty disgusting creature – crawls into her brain. The world looks darker and she feels awful. The petty creature whispers into her ear how she unworthy, abnormal, defective. The volcano inside her boils again, building pressure under the surface. Unfortunely, her hand gives her little opportunity to vent her frustration.


“I Summon Spinodon and set 3 cards facedown.” The orange-colored, fiery dinosaur stomps its feet to announce its presence. “You’re move, Maximus.”


MAXIMUS’ TURN: Right after Maximus draws, Maya springs her trap. “Macrocosmos!” She shouts.


Now it’s Yukio’s turn to protest. “No! I need monsters in my Graveyard. You’re disrupting my strategy.”


“Disrupting their strategy is more important. It probably hurts them a lot more.” Maya reasons back.


Ivy can’t help herself so she seizes the opportunity to crack a joke. “Uh-oh! Is there trouble in paradise!? Are the married couple fighting?”


Maximus heartily laughs at the joke and carries out his turn. “I set a monster and three cards facedown. You go, love.” He passes the turn to Ivy.


IVY’S TURN: “Alright, not much I can do. I set a monster and three cards.”


Yukio detaches Extra Sword from Rhongomyniad, but it is banshed.


YUKIO’S TURN: “Rhongomyniad, slice and dice Maximus’ facedown!” Yukio orders. His swordsman throws his huge sword at the card, slicing it and the monster underneath it, what looked like Kagemusha of the Six Samurai. OK, Maximus is running a Six Samurai deck. Nothing Rhongomyniad can’t handle. “I end my turn.”


MAYA’S TURN: Maya’s hand is nothing impressive. The whole Dino Rabbit + Spinodon combo seems to clog the deck up. The normal monsters were making her deck slow. “I summon Zsa Zsu.” The colorful ancestor of birds leaps into play, with an ATK of 1600. “Zsa Zsu, attack her facedown!”


As the lithe dinosaur leaps to pounce on its target, Ivy springs her trap. “I activate Sinister Shadow Games and Mysterical Space Typhoon.” The typhoon comes first, sweeping away Maya’s Macro Cosmos. With Ivy’s cards safe from the banished zone, she can safely send her Shaddolls to the Graveyard, where they thrive. She sends Shadoll Dragon to the Graveyard ands flips Shadoll Squamata face-up. “Squamata goes first, destroying Spinodon and Dragon goes next, destroying your face-down.” She snaps her fingers with a fatal finality. “Pop! Pop!” And both of Maya’s cards are gone.


“More Shaddolls. Great.” Maya says, half in frustration and half in jest.


“You won’t get anywhere with that angry sarcastic attitude young lady.” Ivy chastises, wagging her finger playfully.


“Are you kidding me? Angry sarcasm was my first language. I learned Serbian, English, Nonchalant Cool As*hole, Pig Latin, and Internet Speak long afterward. It worked in high school and college, both in and out the dueling arena.”


“Let’s see it work in this duel. You can’t reject and attack your way out of everything.”


Maya sees Ivy’s remark as a challenge. She accepts. “I’ll show you! I activate Kaiser Coliseum. I end my turn.”


MAXIMUS’ TURN: “AWW YEAH!!! I’ve always wanted to pull this combo!” He shouts in glee. “Let’s go! Yukio, you’re not the only one who runs bada*s Utopias! I do too! I activate two Six Samurai United, one from my field and one from my hand!” The two continuous spell cards materialize, glowing with a neon-colored energy. “I summon The Six Samurai – Zanji.” A strikingly red-armored cyborg samurai appears, ready for battle, as two neon orb form and float above his United cards, one each. “I Special Summon Legendary Six Samurai Kizan because of his effect.” A new cyborg samurai, this one in black and green, marches into play, and two more orbs appear. “With two counters, I can send both United cards to the Graveyard and draw two each.” With that, he draws four cards.


Yukio is impressed by Maximus’ plays. “You want to swarm the field as desperately as a college freshman wants to get laid.”


“That was a pretty funny joke, but not quite. Yukio, you swarmed the field too quickly, like you wanted to take the game right away. You need to be more patient than that. I don’t know why you did it. You maybe wanted to flashy, were scared of me and Ivy, or you wanted to take something off of your mind.”


Yukio swiftly shakes his head as soon as he heard “take something off your mind”, confirming Maximus’ suspicions. His dead father reappears from the shadows of his mind and the fight they had in the restaurant boiler room all those years ago. If only he didn’t shout and leave his father he may be alive… The last thing he did was curse his father and slam the door behind him… What a terrible thing to do…


Maybe Maximus and Ivy do not know what’s going on, but Maya does. The winter after Maya, Yukio, Jolene, and JC graduated high school, Yukio told his father, straight up, he wanted to go to Borough of Manhattan Community College and become a musician. His father violently rejected it. Yukio needed to look after the family restaurant and since he was an only child no one else could do it. And how would he afford to live as a musician? Yukio cursed his father and left. Later that night the boiler room exploded, killing his father. Now Yukio only has his mom left, the same way Maya only has her dad left.


She needs to get Yukio and the duel back on track. If Maximus wanted to play mind games he went too far. “Hey you! Wannabe warrior therapist!” Maya shouts at Maximus. “If you want to pretend to understand people go to college and university for four plus years! Get back to the duel, Dime Store Freud!”   


Yukio snaps out of it, his concentration back where it should be.


“Oh you really are a special case, Ms. Prickly.” Maximus addresses to Maya. “Am I right, Ivy? Anyway,” he now addresses Yukio. “Back to the duel! Now things can really kick into motion. I activate Xyz Change Tactics. I overlay Zanji and Kizan to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia.” The two samurais disappear into a black hole, building the bridge for Utopia to cross over, and Utopia arrived. “Each time I Xyz Summon a Utopia monster, I pay 500 Life Points and draw a card.”


“This is only the beginning, folks. I overlay Utopia to Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Limited Barian’s Force, overlaying Utopia Ray to Summons Number C39: Utopia Ray V, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Down-Magic Numeron Fall to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia again, and draw 1. I Xyz Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, to overlay Utopia Ray to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia Beyond, and draw 1.” Maximus’ latest monster looks similar to the rest of the Utopia crew, except with more advanced black and white space armor and with huge nanotech gold metal wings resting on its shoulders. It is a sight to behold!


Maya is as impressed as Yukio is, but she and Yukio have a duel to win. “That’s a pretty neat combo but I have to stop it in its tracks. Bottomless Trap Hole!” A tunnel that appears endlessly deep, full of lost ghosts, gapes open right underneath Utopia Beyond. “I activate My Body As A Shield.” Maximus counters quickly, losing 1500 Life Points in the process. The tunnel to the infinite abyss below closes as quickly as it opened. Maya releases her tongue from the roof of her mouth, creating the “Tch!” sound familiar in disappointed duelists.


As hard as it seems to believe it, Maximus still has a long way to go with his turn. “I activate Rank-Down-Magic Numeron Fall to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia again, and draw 1. I Xyz Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, to overlay Utopia Ray to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia Beyond, and draw 1.” Utopia Beyond fires a futuristic gun at Yukio and Maya’s monsters, zapping them both.  Rhongomyniad easily deflects the shock, but Zsa Zsu is hit very hard. “And finally – yes! – I play Stoic Challenge! Utopia Beyond has no less than 10 Xyz Materials!” The space warrior sparks and glows with golden, divine power, its ATK soaring to 9000!”


“AWWWW YEAAAAHH!!!” Maximus almost jumps up and down in glee. He even tries to do it but the Egyptian sand gives way and he almost falls on his face. “Now, Yukio, it is time to talk to my monster. Prepare for some electroshock therapy! Utopia Beyond, slay Yukio’s Rhongomyniad!” Maximus’ and Yukio’s two monsters, their two wills clash violently! They jousted, crashing into each other as medieval knights in the old days, and Yukio’s monster falls to the ground and shatter. Yukio feels the devastating shock of the attack, falling on the sand, receiving the doubled damage from Stoic Challenge. (Baby Blast Furnace LP: 16000 – 6000 = 10000)


Maximus finally concludes his turn, “I set three cards and end my turn.” Stoic Challenge vanishes from the field, taking Utopia Beyond with it. He has no monsters on his field. (Buffalo Chicken LP 10000)


IVY’S TURN: Ivy points her finger at Maya. “Now to deal with you, young lady!”


“You’d better deal with me!” Maya parries back. “Maximus would have won the duel if he attacked my Zsa Zsu. I was defenseless.” Maya has a hunch why Maximus spared her.”


“Yes, you were, but as you said when you claimed the American Nationals, it’s not about winning. It’s about sending a message. Maximus sent a message to Yukio. Now I will send my message to you, Ms. Prickly.”


She ponders her next move but it doesn’t take long as she is done in a few seconds. “I activate Spell-Shattering Arrow.” A brilliant arrow shoots from her card, piercing through Maya’s face-up Kaiser Coliseum and to her heart. Maya gasped, clutched her chest tightly for dear life. (Baby Blast Furnace 10000 à 9500) “You’ve got to be kidding me!”


“You’re not the only antimeta duelist around town. Antimeta is great, especially yours, but it’s not enough. Your antimeta is too obvious. You treat your opponents the same way you treated your opponents in the past who ran Chaos Control, Dark Armed Dragon, and Monarchs. But duelists around the world are different. It’s not America in 2005 anymore. You’re still angry and contemptuous towards the same people, and that ironically blinds you from opposing the ‘system’ in better ways.”


Maya remembers all the times her father demeaned and hit her. She remembers when he called her “defective” because she couldn’t talk until she was three and asked a doctor if she was “insane” because she imagined and played too vividly as a small child. And there were the bruises, when he threw his anger and anxieties at her and mother, and she would cover up the bruises at school the next day. She held the smoldering anger in her until it hurt. She stole money from other children and sometimes even hit them.  


Sometimes, she played the piano and composed her earliest music, releasing some of the pent up steam. She would join the boys and take on their challenges. But sometimes that wasn’t enough and she would explode. She once got expelled and father hit her very hard. Mother died shortly after the family moved to America. Maya wished ever since she could have somehow protected mother from dying as mother always protected her from father’s angry words and fists. She felt so helpless… but how could she stop an enraged man over six feet tall let alone lung cancer…


America was so different from Serbia. Whenever she earned As at school, got into a top college, composed great music, and climbed her way up the dueling world some prick assumed she got ahead through some quota or another. A few times police nearly arrested her for things she didn’t do. When she was assaulted twice, once in high school and once in college, the administrators told her it was her fault. The message to her was always clear. “You are an intrinsically inferior human being and unworthy of dignity.”


And who told her this message the most? The first person she often thought about was Matthew. People like Matthew: vicious, smug hypocrites, absorbed in their “superiority”, who tried to destroy anyone who was different because of their fear, ignorance, and resentment. They embodied an entire way of life that Maya reviled to its very core. To her the metagame isn’t just a way people played Yugioh. It is a way people lived.


All of these troublesome thoughts and associations flood Maya’s mind in an instant. She has seen them so often before. She is that familiar with all of them. To make things worse, Ivy is far from done with her turn.


“I Summon Denko Sekka!” Ivy declares as a samurai in electric blue armor takes its stance. “And I banish Squamata from my Grave to Summon White Dragon Wyverbuster.” An apparition of Ivy’s doll lizard evaporates and a blue dragon emerges from the smoke.


Maya can’t help but make a tongue-in-cheek remark. “Denko would’ve been much more useful last turn, huh.”


“You’re the one who is in trouble, not me.” Ivy retorts. “Denko, turn that ancient chicken Zsa Zsu into nice Thanksgiving dinner.” The samurai easily kills the dinosaur. Off with its head! “And Wyverbuster, attack Maya directly!” The blue dragon vomits a torrent of white light from its mouth, hitting Maya squarely in the chest.


Yukio has been waiting all turn to use Thousand Blades’ effect and now was the time. “Since my partner took damage, I resurrect Thousand Blades from the Graveyard.” And sure enough, Yukio’s multi-sword wielding warrior returns.


“I set two cards. You’re turn.” Ivy concludes. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 9500 à 6000)


YUKIO’S TURN: “Having two Double Lance in my hand isn’t so great.” Yukio thinks to himself. “But I’ll have to manage.” To Maya he says, “So far we didn’t cooperate. Now we need to work together if we want to take back the game. We have to put aside our issues to win.” Maya silently agrees.


“’kay, I Summon Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd.” A tall knight in dark robes and with a long sword appears. “I overlay Thousand Blades and Assault Halberd to Xyz Summon Blade Armor Ninja.” His two warriors make way for a new one: a dark-armored ninja with two huge daggers. “I detach Thousand Blades so Armor Ninja can attack twice.” One of the ninja’s electron-like orbs, so often seen with Xyz monsters, absorbs itself into the body. “Ninja, take out Ivy’s monsters!” Armor Ninja deftly throws its two daggers at the dragon and samurai, swiftly eliminating them. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9500 à 9000) “I set a card. Turn end.”


MAYA’S TURN: “I may have only one card left but I can still do a lot of damage. You’ll be surprised how much I can do.”


 “I never doubted either of your skills. It’s you beyond the game that is the problem.” Maximus says to both to Yukio and Maya.


“I activate Instant Fusion, paying 1000 Life Points to Summon Elder God Noden.” What looks like a ramen can opens, releasing its smoke. The fog congests into a Poseidon-like deity wielding a triton and driving a chariot. “And it can bring back a monster from my Graveyard. Welcome back, Spinodon!” The red and orange frilled dinosaur reappears. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 7700 à 6700) Now I overlay them to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia and overlay it to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia the Lightning.” The space warrior emerges from the collapsed void before upgrading a more heavily armored version of itself.


“Utopia Prime, attack Maximus and Ivy directly!” Maya declares, and her space warrior zooms to the opponent’s field, striking both squarely in the torso. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9000 à 6500)


“Oof!” Maximus gasps for air. “That was a strong attack.” Maya also stopped him from triggering his traps during battle because of her monster’s effect. “But on your Main Phase 2 I activate Xyz Reborn, I bring back my own Utopia and my trap becomes an Xyz Material!” Maximus’ own space warrior returns. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9000 à 6500)


“Thanks for the compliment, but it wasn’t needed. I end my turn.”


MAXIMUS’ TURN: “Now it’s my turn to Summon my own Number S39: Utopia the Lightning!” Maximus’ monster gets its own upgrade. “And I Summon Legendary Six Samurai Kageki, and with its effect I Summon Kagemusha of the Six Samurai from my hand.” Two new samurais, one green-armored, staunch, and barrel-chested, and the other red-armored, small, and thin take the field in arms. “I tune Kageki and Kagemusha to Synchro Summon Legendary Six Samurai – Shi En.” His two samurais got on the same wavelength, merging to form a mighty red samurai of high rank.


Yukio senses in the instant what Maximus wants to do. He wants to suicide his Utopia into Maya’s! “I activate Breakthrough Skill!” It is his only chance to do so. “Utopia’s effect is negated.” And surely it was. Utopia seems to wince under a cramp as its body briefly glows a malevolent red.


“It’s not it’s gonna’ help anyway.” Maximus sees the confusion on Yukio’s face so he clarifies, “Both mine and Maya’s Utopias stop each other from using our effects.  Sorry kiddo, but no cigar.” He commands, “Shi En, butcher Armored Ninja!” Yukio’s ninja tries to resist but it’s futile. The august red samurai is too quick, slashing through its torso. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 6500 à 6200)


“Since we took damage I resurrect Thousand Blades.” Yukio interjects, and his warrior once more returns.


Maximus doesn’t pay attention. His sights are on Maya alone. “You ready, Ms. Prickly!” Maximus calls to Maya. “I’m going to give your space ranger the ride of his life! Utopia, attack!”


“Analyze this, Dime Store Freud!” Maya shoots back. “Utopia, attack!” Their monsters charge straight for each other. They smash together, exploding in a terrific atomic blast that almost knocks everyone off their feet, even the spectators! Everyone coughs from the Egyptian sand, since the two Utopias almost created a desert storm when they clashed into each other.


Maximus says, “I set a card. Ivy, their field is clear. Take it away!”


IVY’S TURN: Ivy winks at Maximus and gives him a thumbs-up. “With pleasure. I Summon Madolche Mewfueille, which lets me Summon Madolche Anjelly.” A small cat appears followed by a girl with a cute pink dress and candy in her hair. “I tribute Anjelly to Summon Madolche Hootcake from my Deck.” The girl disappears, replaced by an owl clasping a candy cane in its beak. “I use Hootcake to banish Anjelly from my Graveyard to Summon Madolche Messagelato and use its effect to add Madolche Chateau to my hand.” A youthful mailman in nostalgic formal attire arrives. The new Kaiba Corp. duel disk ejects a card from Ivy’s deck to her hand, something all the new duel disks do.


“I activate Madolche Chateau.” The spell card transports all the duelists and spectators into a rich candy land, far away from the ancient, barren Egyptian dessert. A massive ginger bread mansion looms in the background. “All my Madolches gain 500 ATK and DEF, and if any of them are to return to my Deck they go to my hand instead. “Moving on, I activate Instant Fusion to Special Summon Fusionist.” Ivy’s sealed ramen can pops open. Smoke spreads on her field and then condenses to form a black cat with wings and menacing red eyes. (Buffalo Chicken LP 6500 à 5500)


“I overlay Mewfeuille and Fusionist to Xyz Summon M-X-Saber Invoker.” The two beasts collapse to summon a swordsman with long red hair from another dimension. “And I use its effect to Summon another Madolche Messagelato and use its effect to add Madolche ticket to my hand.” Another mailman reports for duty and Ivy searches for another card.


Maya and Yukio both know they are probably done for this turn. The ice cold, stinging feeling of disappointment already sets in. But some hope stubbornly shines. Can they survive the turn and somehow turn things around?


Not a chance! “I activate Madolche Ticket.” Ivy says, “When a Madolche monster is returned to my Deck or hand I can add a Madolche monster from my Graveyard to my hand. That’s not all: If I control a Madolche monster, I can even Special Summon it. I overlay both Messagelatos to Xyz Summon Queen Tiaramisu.” The two mailmen jump into a newly formed void, which then disappears with the arrival of her Most Delicious Majesty, a queen in a dark gown with hair so luxuriant it looked edible. “I detach a Xyz Material to bounce you’re face-down card, Maya, and your Thousand Blades, Yukio.” The two cards return to their respective duelists’ hands.


“With Madolche Ticket I Summon Madolche Cruffsant.” A small, adorable lapdog with a tiny top hat hops into play. “I overlay Hootcake and Cruffsant to Xyz Summon Leviair the Sea Dragon, which I use to bring back my banished Madolche Anjelly.” The dimensional seadragon glides into play and with its breath opens a wormhole allowing Anjelly to return. “I tribute Anjelly again to Summon Madolche Messagelato from my Deck again.” The girl disappears replaced by Ivy’s third candy land mailman. Ivy searched for her final card: Madolche Lesson.


“Good game, Yukio, Maya. You two fought well but it’s over. Attack, my monsters!” Invoker slashes at Yukio and Maya, Leviair burns them, Messagelato throws a present box at them, which explodes, and the queen Tiaramisu casts a rainbow beam of light at them from her scepter. The collective strike ends the duel.


Team Baby Blast Furnace: 0 || Team Buffalo Chicken: 5500


The spectating crowd clapped loudly, cheering for all duelists, both winners and losers, just as they did for the last duel. Yukio and Maya knew they were outclassed by duelists far older and more experienced than they were. They humbly accepted the applause.


Maximus and Ivy shook Yukio and Maya’s hands. “That was a great duel. You both dueled with exceptional skill.” Matthew congratulated them with warmth and appreciation.


“Your dueling was just awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Yukio admitted, while Maya said. “We have a lot of new strategies to learn. We’ll rebuild our decks so to become stronger than ever.” Yukio and Maya really started to appreciate Maximus and Ivy for their courtesy and kindness. Dueling was so often a cutthroat battle with cynical rivals who would do anything to win. But Maximus and Ivy actually made dueling fun and a positive experience again.


Yukio and Maya surrendered their Millennium Item Card, the Rod Card. New had four Item Cards left: the Puzzle Card they started out with, the Ring Card and Key Card Maya won, and the Key Card Sophia and Yukio won. They were more than halfway done but still had a long way to go. They reckoned things would especially get tough in the later stages of the tournament when few duelists would remain.


Mathias complained of his growling stomach and intruded from the audience. “I loved this duel and I’m really happy for you guys but can we get a pizza somewhere. We’re STAAAAARRRVIIIIIIIIIIIING!” Maximus, and Ivy laughed, Yukio shrugged, while Maya covered her face in pretend embarrassment.


Sophia took out a black shutter camera for she was very fond of photography and captured everything from the moment: Mathias’ bawdy laugh, Yukio’s puffed mouth, rolling eyes, and shrug, Maya’s laugh glittering behind the feigned embarrassment. They were frozen in time into timelessness, and Sophia loved that.

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Duel 13 - Circus of Dreams




Mokuba Kaiba raced through the halls of Kaiba mansion, desperate to find his older brother, Seto. He just received word from Pegasus, who urgently needed to talk to Seto. He knew how much his older brother despised Pegasus but the situation was dire. The fate of both of their companies and the very Yugioh game itself depended on it.


Mobuka opened the door to Seto’s study, a room he retired to if he still needed to work outside the CEO’s office, which was often. Seto, dressed in an immaculately white business suit he so often wore these days, stood idly, his hands behind his back, looking out the window. Mokuba saw the reflection of his brother’s face on the window: stony, silent, brooding.


Seto spent the entire night thinking about the metagame: what it was, what it is now, and where it was going. As he looked at the sunrise he thought the very game itself was dying, or at least the form of it he lived and dueled by for most of his life to this point. The game was transforming to something very new.


In the past the game had a kind of mystique about it, based on a duelist’s spirit. Back then it had a lot more to do with owning powerful and rare cards, and having the riches to buy them. If you had such cards you were a better duelist. Seto never thought of it as a bad thing. For some reason he even thought being lucky or wealthy enough to have rare and powerful cards somehow meant you had a greater duelist’s spirit. It somehow meant Fate had chosen you as a superior human being.


But now that spirit didn’t exist anymore, and neither did Fate. Cards became so much cheaper and mass marketed almost everyone could get powerful cards. Powerful cards were like plastic chess sets. They no longer really mattered. It all boiled down to who was smarter and who could more inventively use the resources everyone collectively had. Even a low level duelist with low level monsters could kill a god card merely by being smart enough and using the right strategy.


Seto nostalgically looked at his three Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards. Back in the day they were one of the strongest cards, putting fear and dread in all duelists. Now, so many other cards were manufactured that hit the 3000 ATK threshold that were better.  The spirit and pride of dueling vanished. Duel monsters became chess pieces to be manipulated, simple trading cards to gamble with, or just tools to push a higher goal that was bigger than the game itself.


Mobuka interrupted his musings, “Pegasus wants to meet with you tomorrow. It’s about the World Championship. It’s really important.” Mokuba stood by his brother, both of their bodies reflected by the window. Mokuba dramatically contrasted his brother. He was of medium height and child-like while his brother was tall and imposing. His hair was a messy jet black, recently trimmed, while his brother’s hair was brown and precisely cut. His deep blue eyes were wide and open while his brother’s were cold, piercing, and narrow.


He could see the grimace in his brother’s face just by mentioning Pegasus’s name. Seto silently told Mokuba, by some mutual understanding between them, that he heeded the call. In the afternoon he took a private jet all the way to Pegasus’s castle, tucked away in an island near Japan in the middle of the ocean.


“Why HELLO THERE, Kaiba-boy!” Pegasus greeted Seto Kaiba in a false, booming, jolly voice. He reclined in a expensive chair made of Italian silk, gesturing to a small table with a complete tea set, like he was a little girl hosting a tea party. “How goes business in the city? Did you shout down a few employees? Make any important telephone calls? Fire anyone?”  


“None.” Kaiba noticed the mocking sarcasm that so often inflected Pegasus’s speech and he didn’t like it. Kaiba hated sarcasm, even though he sometimes indulged in it himself. “At least I’m not Michael Jackson stuck in Neverland. Let’s get down to business. I refuse to stay here for long.”


“Ooh! Scathing, angry, and impatient as ever, Kaiba-boy. You never change.” Pegasus took a moment to sip his tea.


“I don’t have the luxury to change.” Kaiba said.


“Or the capacity.” Pegasus countered. “Let’s get down and dirty, Kaiba-boy. I’m sure a no-nonsense man like you appreciate that. Anyway,” He suddenly became serious and opened a laptop. On it was the database of every duelist who entered the World Championship. Kaibacorp and I2 satellites in space watched their every move and every duel. “As you know, the Ghouls struck Cairo yesterday, eliminating many duelists. They retreated for now but I’m sure they’ll be back to cause more damage.”


Kaiba was losing even more patience. Did he fly all the way over here just for this? “The Ghouls are pests. They cause trouble but can’t do any real damage. They haven’t caused much trouble since they dispersed after the first Battle City.”


“Yes, but don’t you think they’re coming back together to form a real threat? I have a few leads to what they may want. Matthew Carter was the American National Champion for many years but lost his title in 2005. Since then he stopped going to tournaments, behaved erratically, and disappeared a few months ago. I suspect his activities, so I hired private investigators. They traced him to the Ghouls and even found information of his motives.”


Pegasus produced a small recording device and hit “Play”. The tape inside was damaged for it was nearly destroyed in an explosion, so Kaiba could only make out a few words. Apparently, a detective was interrogating a Ghoul. “Do you… any information… on Matthew…? – Another guy said… listened… Matthew… Book of Isis… Tournament… in Egypt… revenge… says Pegasus did it… avenge his grandfather… Please let me go!”


Book of Isis? Kaiba sat in shock for a moment, but his shock soon gave way to his usual incredulity on hearing anything about Egyptian mysticism. “So Matthew’s a dork who wants an old book. Big deal.”


“The detective in the recording died soon after! His college found the damaged tape on his corpse! Please take this seriously, Kaiba!” Pegasus was now visibly agitated. All the fun and games were over. “Matthew’s grandfather gave me the Book of Isis for safekeeping but the Ghouls soon murdered him! Now Matthew leads the Ghouls and thinks I’m the one who murdered his grandfather! And he’s after my book!”


Kaiba snorted. He enjoyed seeing Pegasus drop his silly act, especially if it meant watching Pegasus squirm in his $1,000 Salvatore white shoes. “The Ghouls are in Egypt but the book is with you, isn’t it? This shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”


Pegasus cast his eyes down, visibly sad and worried. “Sadly, no. It would be foolish and risky to actually carry it around my person. So I had it reburied in Egypt, buried in the deepest, darkest tomb, that no one could find it, not even Ghouls. It was the safest place I could think of. My hunch seems to have been right. The Ghouls didn’t find the book in Egypt, so they spent years cracking into every museum and government vault they could, but in vain. Now, finally, they’re back in Egypt and want to kill me.”


Kaiba didn’t know what to tell Pegasus. How could they deal with Ghouls? They were massive corporate heads but not part of governments, so they didn’t control any armies. The United Nations was plodding and incompetent in dealing with the revolution that exploded in Egypt, as with everything.


Pegasus had an idea, for he said, “Kaiba, since you run Duel Academies you could create some kind of army of trained duelists. Not from the students themselves of course, but professionals based there. I could even send my best protégés.”


Kaiba carefully pondered Pegasus’s words and responded, “It is a plan. I’ll assemble a special duelist task force to take out those Ghoul vermin once and for all. I’ll even contact the Egyptian government so my duelists can work with them. I expect you to hold your end of the bargain, Pegasus, and send your own duelists.”


“Yes, of course…”


“Then business is settled. Good day to you.” Kaiba swiftly stood up, cordial but cold, and left Pegasus to his worries.   




DAY 2 : 5:26PM : ASSIUT


Team Baby Blast Furnace bade farewell to Team Stella and joined Team Buffalo Chicken to form a party of travelers. Sadly, there wasn’t any time left to have Sophia climb Khufu’s Pyramid. Yukio didn’t want to climb the Pyramid, seeing himself as unworthy of it after losing, and Sophia didn’t want to go it alone.


They traveled to the city of Assiut to spend the night, a modest city in the middle of Egypt. The streetlights lit the city’s universities, mosques, and hotels, making them stand out against the lonely, starless, dark sky. Mathias bawled how hungry he was, desperate to find a pizzeria in Egypt, so they searched everywhere they could for one.


The city crawled with militia, as Heishin wanted to cement his control of the land, which meant putting down any counter revolutionary insurgents. At one point Maya, Yukio, and Sophia lost their way and saw such a ghastly sight tucked back in a small street alley. A platoon of soldiers brought a three blindfolded men, throwing them in front of the platoon’s lieutenant. They spoke entirely in Arabic so our protagonists couldn’t understand them. But they could understand the body language. The soldiers tortured the men, beating them, hitting them with their guns, and breaking their fingers. The men finally snapped and seemed to confess something while pleading for their lives. The lieutenant shouted an order and the soldiers shot the men dead in their heads, leaving their bodies in the alley.


Sophia clasped her mouth in horror, almost in tears at the sight of murder. Maya and Yukio could only gaze at the sight, shocked and disturbed, but only briefly. Sophia nearly whelped out loud, but it was enough to make Maya and Yukio panic, fearing the soldiers would see them. They grabbed Sophia’s mouth and hand and fled as quickly as they could, hoping they wouldn’t be followed.


They met Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy in one of the main streets of the city. “Woah, you guys OK? You look like you saw someone got murdered.” Maximus said.


Maya, Yukio, and Sophia looked at each other and nonverbally decided it was best not to talk about it.


Both teams found a pizzeria in the more westernized part of town and Mathias finally got his fresh massive load of buffalo chicken pizza. Everyone else chowed down on the same dish, almost like Mathias was their leader. The pizza was very strong and filling. It made everyone much happier.


“You guys can’t be a bunch of counterculture rebel duelists with an empty stomach?” Mathias joked to the gang. “Better?


Maya, Yukio, and Sophia nodded. “Better.”


In good spirits, Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy told Maya, Yukio, and Sophia of their many stories and exploits. They hailed from California as the Saints, a secretive group of top class duelists who offset their opponents with unusual decks. They loved to challenge arrogant champions like Matthew and kick them to the curb to show how much they really sucked. They even made one former world champion cry.


“Ah, dueling to live by.” Maya commented before taking a bite of tasty pizza.


They told of their heroic deeds: stopping Set and his gang of Eternal Hunters, putting down the renegade Shinobi, a former Saint who let his resentment and arrogance corrupt him to darkness. They defeated Venom, Set’s understudy, and sealed the demon Loki back where he came from. When the Furies descended on the dueling world, the Saints took the mantle again and defeated them, gaining Ivy as a new member along the way. Finally, they defeated the monk Apep who masterminded all prior events.


“So what about you guys?” Ivy asked. She was usually the quiet one.


Maya and Yukio laughed awkwardly. Compared to the mighty deeds of these Saints their resumes were rather small. Still, they told their story. Originally, Maya and Yukio were part of Team Dark Duelists with JC as their leader. They defeated Matthew’s cronies who wanted to monopolize the metagame for their power-hungry and ideological ends. Then JC betrayed them for the sake of power and turned Team Dark Duelists into another corporate contracted team. It was up to Maya to wreck Matthew in the 2005 Nationals, which she did with extreme prejudice.


“I take it you’re new to the gang?” Ivy asked Sophia, who was also a quiet one.


“I just joined them before this tournament started. Before that Pegasus took me in to be one of his protégés. In Iceland I met Maya and Yukio. They seem like pretty nice guys.”


“You were taken in by Pegasus? That means you’re probably an orphan. Poor thing…”


Sophia said nothing to Ivy in return.   


“How old are you guys? You seem pretty young.” Maximus asked the group.


Our team answered back. Maya was 22, Yukio was 23, while Sophia was 17.


“You’re only 17, Sophia? YOU’RE A BABY!”  Mathias exclaimed as if he saw a cut puppy.


Sophia blushed. She hid her hands inside her sleeves and then used her sleeves to hide her face. She was embarrassed but also liked getting the warmth and attention.


At this point everyone was stuffed and the waiters cleared the table. Mathias proposed a little fun game where everyone put down each other’s favorite card on the table and talk about their futures. “Where will you go in life once the tournament is over?”


Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy, produced their cards: Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8, Swordswoman Crusader LV7, and Dual Vapor Dragon. They all said they planned on going back to California after the tournament and keep being the Saints.


It was now Maya’s, Sophia’s, and Yukio’s turn. Yukio went first. He put down his favorite card: Number 39: Utopia. “This card represents to me hope, fighting spirit, and infinite possibilities. I duel professionally and try to get a band off the ground, but my main job is middle management. If we win this tournament I’ll use the winnings to get my band off the ground. I don’t want to duel forever. I want to be a rock musician and a comedian. I hope that happens one day.” He was about to mention returning back to his family to apologize to his mother, but he didn’t. He vowed to himself he would do that.


Sophia put down her card: Fortune Lady Light. “I like her because she is innocent and pure. She is a sage who sees far and wide. She is strong but graceful. Even when angry or scared or against the odds, she never loses her will or hope. After the tournament I want to complete my schooling under Pegasus. I want to study Russian Literature and Photography either in Russia or in America. I want to become a photojournalist, to show what’s happening in the world, to make people think, and to make them better people.”


It was Maya’s turn, but she didn’t know what card to pick. She admitted she didn’t know what her favorite card was. Her thoughts about her future were as nebulous. She thought it was best to figure things out peace by peace, so she started with how she got here. “After I won the Nationals in 2005, I went to the University of Chicago to get degrees in Urban Studies and Music. I succeeded but I couldn’t go to the graduation ceremony. I worked odd jobs and tried to make ends meet as a pro duelist, but it wasn’t easy. I didn’t use any heat for the winter.” She was even homeless, living in a shelter for a few weeks.


Maya paused for a minute, thinking of where to go now. “I don’t want to be a concert pianist and I don’t feel I can make money composing. I was thinking of even joining Yukio’s band. But at the same time I have an obligation to fix American society and help people. I could be an activist or anthropologist, maybe both. I have two doors to my future, but they’re shut, not open. I don’t feel hope.”


“Why not?” Yukio asked gently.


“I compose mostly classical music, music people don’t pay for anymore. My music is clever but I don’t let my feelings through, writing what I really want to write about. I’m thinking of ways to write music in new ways, to integrate classical music in a new style, to put together musical forms in new ways to tell a story, and find ways to put my feelings onto paper. I wish I could do the last step, but there is…” She knew the answer but didn’t say it. It was a wall in her heart. If she let it open, she would be naked, and a river of pain would flow in. It would be chaotic and horrible.


“As an activist, I would always fight a war against the ‘system’ or whatever you want to call it. Once the ‘system’ is destroyed I won’t have anything left to do. I need to fight the ‘system’. I want to win and fight like I want to win, but at the same time I don’t want to actually win even though I really want to win, if that makes any sense.”


Yukio offered his explanation, “You always need to be the rebel. You define yourself not by what you actually like but what you hate, and then mold yourself to oppose what you hate. But if you actually win and what you advocate becomes a trend then you’ll need to fight against the very trend you started. When you want to be an activist you care more about this need you have than actual people needing help.”


“Yeah, that’s true…” Maya had no choice but to admit it.


Sophia decided to overcome her shyness and chime in with her own thoughts. “I do some music myself. I’m an alto singer. There is a quote from Mozart that basically says, ‘Genius doesn’t come from complexity or a fancy imagination but from love.’ You don’t have love, but most people don’t anyway. Love isn’t an infatuation you instantly get and have forever. Love is something that grows. It is a way of maturing and appreciating things and learning how to live. Love is something you learn.”


Maya widened her eyes ever so slightly but it said everything. It was a revelation. But Maya then denied it. “I don’t feel so optimistic about things. I have so much weight on me, the crushing burden, my forehead and chest feel crushed and sometimes feel I can’t breath. I wish I could just take the burden off but I can’t and I wouldn’t want to even if I could, because I have to. And is it even worth it? People can’t change even if they want to. The world will always be a brutal place and people will always be self-deluding hypocrites. It is rational to see life as the farce that it is and maybe just take your own life to spare yourself the pain of living. What is irrational? Hope.”


A dismal silence set in. It lasted for several minutes and definitely threatened to kill lively spirit from earlier. “Sorry for killing the mood. I’m 22 and already I’m forced to become a philosopher.”


“Well, that was edgy.” Maximus said jokingly, breaking the silence. “You may want to join Linkin Park or maybe Black Sabbath if that is not edgy enough for you.”


Maya joined in on the joke. “Black Sabbath is a pussy band. You need to know your bands more. Ask Yukio.” She mockingly sang one of Linkin Park’s best songs, grabbing an imaginary microphone. “CRAAAAAWLING IIIN MY SKIIIIIN! THESE WOOOUUNDS THEY WIIIIILL NOT HEEEAAAAL! FEEEAAR IS HOOOOW I FAAAAAAALL!” She couldn’t do it anymore and broke down with a hearty laugh and everyone joined in.     


Team Buffalo Chicken and Team Baby Blast Furnace crashed in the Partner Tut Hotel and wished each other a good night. The room had only two beds so Maya and Yukio slept together while Sophia slept in the next bed. Sophia drifted to sleep first, Yukio second, but Maya stayed awake for a little while longer.


She couldn’t help but think about the three blindfolded men, executed, shot in the back of the head. In truth it stayed on her mind during the entire pizza dinner but it wasn’t so noticeable. Now, in the most lonely, terrifying minutes of the day, where you are alone with only your thoughts, the men’s deaths consumed her.


It was the second time she saw someone die. The first was her mother, succumbing to lung cancer in a hospital when Maya was ten. She and father put warm blankets and pillows on mother and held her hands to comfort her as she made the final journey. Mother was stoic and happy in her final moments, never once confused. Father asked for mother’s forgiveness for the times he hit her and yelled at her and mother forgave him. Mother then asked Maya’s forgiveness for not being strong enough to pursue her dreams and for not protecting Maya enough. Maya said there was no need for forgiveness for no offense was given. Maya watched her mother’s death rattle and saw the light leave her mother’s eyes.


What did it mean to die? Sometimes she thought death was a precious relief from the pain of living. It was sweeter than going to bed at last after a very long day. At other times she was scared of it, scared of not existing, scared of losing consciousness forever, scared of the infinite blackness. Or did your entire life unfold at your last moment and you floated in the sea of your memories forever? In either case, was there a moment of judgment where your whole life appears before you and all answers revealed themselves? Were you a good person? Did you do the right things? Did you live your life well?


How do you face your final moment? It was almost like you had to spend your whole life preparing for it. It seemed that you not only needed to know how to live but also know how to die.


As Maya slipped into the darkness of sleep, she envied people who didn’t dream. She often did, and they were always strange places. Sometimes they were merely disturbing, sometimes nightmares, but never pleasant. Strange lands… Like how she wrote music… Like dreams…

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Duel 14 - Pack Attack!!
Twilight happened twice per day, every day, just before the sun rose and just after the sun set. It was something so common yet felt so rare and precious. This was how Maya saw it, now wide-awake at five AM. She was always an early bird, even when she went to bed late, dead tired. Her body seemed to have a mind of its own.
But whatever. She turned on a small reading lamp and read the small black book Jiao gave her four years ago. The book was a lot like the horizon and the city of Assiut she saw for she was on the balcony: wide-open, infinite, uplifting and awesome but unknown and dangerous at the same time. Perhaps this was what “great thinkers” were, brave explorers who wouldn’t shrink from anything whether sailing to the icy poles or climbing inside infernal volcanoes.
According to Jiao, Bakura wrote the small black book, but at this point it could be called Maya’s book too. She wrote hundreds of her own notes on the pages and even talked to the book. The ghost of Bakura that lurked in the pages would answer her questions or make a comment, and she would respond in kind.

BAKURA: Still worried about your future. It’s a big, big world out there after all.
MAYA: Of course. Even two college degrees are hard to find a job these days. I don’t feel capable of compromising myself with my music to fit modern tastes that I don’t like. I don’t know if I can ever succeed in becoming a professor. And as an activist, will the world change at all?
BAKURA: You hid something from Mathias and his group, didn’t you? You flirted with other paths, more exciting and dangerous paths. Why not go into crime? Selling heroine and cocaine will cure your troubles and you are smart enough to avoid arrest. Worried about illicit money? Laundering does wonders with that and you’re hands will be relatively clean.
MAYA: No. It’s wrong. I don’t want to ruin people’s lives.
BAKURA: Really? Down this old path of conventional morals again? You are a stubborn fool. Your virtues are really vices. I will fanatically stress it again: Name me a single human act that was ever universally condemned in all human history. You can’t. Even the most sordid acts from murder to rape to genocide have been not only tolerated in other areas of the world but celebrated. You studied anthropology in college diligently. It’s more than easy for me to draw examples from your mind…   
MAYA: You don’t need to tell me. Even “my” culture celebrates murder and rape while pretending to otherwise. I’m well aware of our moral hypocrisies.
BAKURA: I’m sure you are. The very leaders of “your” nation dictate our moral creeds: free trade, merit, equal opportunity, equality before the law, no undue aggression, but they violate their own principles all the time. Their “free market” is aided and protected from collapse by the government, the wealthy inherit their fortunes, dirty bankers are excused from their crimes while the desperate poor turn to crime and are punished for it.
Why do you follow morals that are not even respected by your rulers? By doing so you fall into their trap and do what they want. No one has ever got their way in the world through good deeds. People achieve their goals and rise above their peers through sinister behavior and luck. Why play by the rules when the rules don’t even exist in the first place? Well, they really exist but are enforced on everyone else but a select few. As someone who studied political philosophy, anthropology, and urban studies, you know that understanding this is true enlightenment.
There are no rules except the fake ones the powerful in society create to herd in their flock. Why shouldn’t you commit crime when the very CEOs who sponsored the tournament you’re in right now commit it on a daily basis? All of the hardships and unfairness of your life and the lives of your friends boil down to the moral hypocrisies I described above. You all feel the same desperation, insecurity, and anger without truly knowing why. You know you’re playing a game that has been rigged by cheats before you were even born. You have every right to have hatred and want revenge. It is foolish to restrain yourself for such stupid reasons.
MAYA: I’m not interested in wheedling through your sophistries, Mickey Mouse de Sade. You’re very right what Pegasus, Kaiba, and “our” world leaders do, but I don’t want to sink to their level. Killing out of cruelty will debase me on every level: intellectual, creative, and spiritual. You don’t need conventional morals to figure that out.
And please stop trying to tempt me to the dark side, Darth Bakura. It’s not working. Seriously, you’re like, “I can feel your anger. Let you’re hate flow through you. I can feel it swelling. Yessss… Growing bigger and bigger… - Oh sheet! Sorry, that was my dick the entire time. Never mind! Never mind! I get off on this sheet! Don’t judge me!”    
BAKURA: Laugh at me all you want, but you know I helped you grow. You once held a twisted mirror you thought you’re true reflection, with shards given to you by a society that hates you for who you are in every level: you’re beliefs, your race, your gender. For the longest time you thought that was who you really were but I helped you shatter that mirror.
I gave you the strength to no longer give credence to the words of rich liars like Matthew and thus no longer show obeisance to their absurd laws. I showed you how every major part of the society you live, comes from an amoral struggle, and how every belief its people have are delusions created from that war. You refuse to truly let yourself free, to put your desires in the center, but instead you follow chimeras. Your values of fairness, aesthetics, reason, social justice are as false as Yahweh, or Allah, or the lies tyrants like Matthew and JC say.
MAYA: No, it was never you. It was me all along. You’re just a figment of my imagination, a dark part of me. I helped myself the entire time. The struggle was mine from the beginning. The enemy I fight is myself. The doctrines I followed in Jiao’s book are only doctrines at the end of the day. They helped set me free but they can also trap me in a selfish and destructive life. If only I knew how to find a balance somewhere or find a way through…
A very small noise startled Maya and she quickly jerked her head to see what it was. Yukio had just woken up and set his laptop on the hotel room’s small circular table. Oh. Maya put the small black book away and sat next to Yukio. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Yukio touched her gently and smiled at just the right time, just when the sun was breaking through, announcing the morning with its golden rays. Just as darkness banishes the light the specter inside Maya’s head dissipated. Maya looked at Yukio, then Sophia, and found tender feelings in her heart for them. Yukio was so brave, noble, strong, incorruptible and Sophia so beautiful, sweet, sensitive, sinless…
Maya huddled on Yukio. “Whatcha’ doin’?’
“Boring sheet. Checking my emails, checking on our friends back home, tweaking my deck, getting ready for my morning wank.”
“Shut up!” Maya punched him and laughed as hard as she could while suppressing it at the same time so she wouldn’t accidentally wake Sophia up. Yukio pretended to block her mock-punches, laughing back. After all, laughter is contagious. Yukio put his hand on Maya’s thigh and for about an hour they sat close together, randomly surfing the web for funny pictures.
Sophia woke up and rubbed her eyes. She looked like hell. Not even her dark red hair, soft dark eyes, and full lips could save her. But she didn’t mind. She snuck a few pictures with her camera. Everyone was only wearing a shirt and underwear.
Heishin cracked his knuckles and formed a pyramid with his elbows and fists. He sat behind the desk of his office, eying the two people in front of him. One was a young man with tan skin and brown hair, his short and strong body covered by the black cloak typical of the Ghouls. The other person was the petite young woman he saw before, Gernand’s apprentice.
Heishin’s mind was once again on his son, Hassan. He wondered where was he and how to retrieve him back to the homeland, which is what he did everyday. Using his soldier’s discipline, he effortlessly returned himself to the moment at hand.
He cleared his throat and said, “I am generally in favor this tournament. All the duelists coming here and media attention brings tourism back into full swing. This helps my country a lot. I need to repair the damage from the revolution and help my people. The Ghouls, they also build the economic back of Egypt. But now we have a conflict.”
Matthew eyed the small woman by his side. Her very presence made him feel uncomfortable. “What is the conflict of interests?”
“The conflict is with your master, Gernand. I want stability in my country, for the tournament to peacefully run its course, and to find my missing son.  If Ghouls keep attacking the tournament it will cause more chaos and unrest and I don’t want any of that.”
“Be honest.” The woman said. “Tourism may give you a bit more money the Ghouls we united under your charge build the backbone of Egypt more than tourism ever can, and they will continue to do so long after the tournament goes away. We’re the real force that keeps you in power and you know it.”
“Perhaps,” Heishin had to admit it. “But I know you and Gernand have an ulterior motive behind all this. You want something from the tournament. I don’t know what it is but know this. I am the authority here.”
Matthew then spoke, “I have a plan of action. The Ghouls will attack key major cities tonight. They will leave out Cairo and Alexandria while going after cities deeper inland like Assiut, Luxor, and Aswan. Duelists have spread out throughout Egypt since the tournament began and there won’t be as much media attention there. You know the drill. The Ghouls attack, then you bring in your army and pretend to stop us. Rinse, lather, repeat.”
“You don’t need to tell me how to use a military.” Heishin snapped in anger and stress. “I own both the Egyptian militia and the Ghouls. I know how to use both to keep Egypt relatively peaceful. I am against this plan. I refuse to have it done. The chain of command begins at my desk. I tell the Ghouls what to do. Do you understand?”
The woman countered, “Sorry, but you don’t head the Ghouls. Gernand does, and you’d better remember it.”
“I don’t care about your obese, decadent master. This is my country! In this land, I am commander!”
Heishin would have gone further but his blackened hand, his claw, felt like it was burning uncontrollably. He tried to lift his arms up but couldn’t and collapsed on the ground behind his desk. It was as if his claw weighed hundreds of pounds. Before he fell down he saw that the woman had only lifted a single finger.
This small woman kneeled over this large, mighty man and looked down on him as if he was the lowly scarab beetle. “My master’s word is the last word. Remember that.”
“You won’t humiliate me and take away my dignity!” Heishin vehemently spat what he could while under the extreme pain. “I am not a slave! I am a man!”
“Man is but a worm.” The woman said matter-of-factly. She stood up and left for the door. “Matthew, proceed with your plan.”
Matthew followed her and the office door shut. The devilish pain tearing Heishin’s arm apart ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving Heishin on the floor wheezing, gasping for air.
“Ghouls, report!” Matthew commanded, reclining back on a large, golden-coated chair near total darkness. During the reign of Malik Ishtar, the Ghouls carved out an abandoned tomb in the Valley of the Kings, turning it and the landscape into their base of operations. When Malik fell during the first Battle City, the Ghouls dispersed and the base fell into disarray. But now that they were drawing together once more, their base once again became active and it was just now revitalizing.
Matthew enjoyed his privileged, golden seat, and let it sink in that he was now the king of the world’s greatest crime syndicate, and sat on the same chair as the immortal duelist Malik himself. Except he wasn’t. The mysterious Gernand and the young woman who imprinted him with the magic of the gods were the true masters.
The hand-sized charred mark on Matthew’s chest burned. Matthew winced and clutched it. He imaged the great dragon spirit, Horus the Black Flame Dragon, looming over him so vividly he almost hallucinated. Horus called his name from somewhere deep in his heart, a power that was inside him his entire life, waiting until the right moment to awaken…
“Master?” One of the anonymous Ghouls asked.
Matthew shook his head violently, trying to bring himself back to the here and now. “Report again.”
The Ghouls told him of their tactical situation. They were poised to attack the cities of Assiut, Luxor, and Aswan. As Matthew looked at the Ghouls more closely he realized for the first time how sinister they really were. It wasn’t just their ominous black cloaks. Each Ghoul wore a cheap mask. Some were classic black ski mass while some were more elaborate, whether because they looked like Halloween masks, or because plain masks were decorated with red and blue paint, making them look like monstrous clowns. The plain white masks were the most unsettling at all. They were so expressionless and looked like death at the same time.
“Did you capture the prisoner?”
“Yeah.” One of the Ghouls wearing a plain white mask answered. Each mask the Ghouls wore had a vocabulator that distorted their voice by lowering the pitch. It was the final touch in making them absolutely disturbing.
“Bring him in!”
The Ghoul disappeared but soon returned, along with two other Ghouls, very high in rank. One of them was tall and lean yet brutish while the other was short and plump yet surprisingly fast and agile. They even wore complimentary masks that were elaborately decorated as if they were celebrating a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, the former’s black and red, the latter’s white and blue. They were a strange pair, a Laurel and Hardy of sorts, but their comical appearance belied their fearsome powers and their brutality.
“Report, Umbra and Lumis!”
Lumis, the short, fat man with the white mask, was all too happy to chime in. “We caught the little boy easily by surprise! He was a tough cookie but as predictable as a bull in a china shop, I tell you! A simple Mask of Restrict blew him over like a stack of cards!’
“That’s right.” Umbra, the tall, lean man with the black mask, was softer spoken than his partner but gloated no less at their victory. “I present you with Japan’s National ‘Champion’!” He kicked the prisoner in front of Matthew and removed the prisoner’s mask, exposing the bruised and bloodied face of a boy barely fifteen years old.
“Akira Ryu.” Matthew spoke to the prisoner with distain. “Japan has really lowered its standards if it’s picking little boys for champions. At least I had to enforce my privileged position in America.” To the Ghouls, he said, “Well done. Now I want you to use Akira to draw out Team Baby Blast Furnace. Isolate the duelist named Marina Bozovic and defeat her. Kill her if necessary. If she dies, our mission to ransack all duelists for what they’re worth and find the Book of Isis will be much easier.”        
“Y-you won’t get away with this, you bastards.” Akira stuttered, utterly terrified yet trying his best to mask his fear for the sake of his pride. “You Ghouls are the sc-scum of the earth, with no d-d-duelist’s honor.”
Lumis smacked Akira’s head with his duel disk, planting his face on the ground. “You’re actually dumb enough to believe that sheet! ‘Duelist’s honor’ is nothing more than a marketing catchphrase to sell children’s trading cards to stupid, bug-eyed little brats like you! Kids these days, I tell you!”
Lumis was about to smack Akira in the head again but Matthew quickly raised his hand. “Do not harm him!” And Lumis stopped instantly. “You want this kid to beat Marina, right? Stop manhandling him like a sack of meat. He is a strong and competent duelist in the end of the day.”
“Now listen up, all of you: Umbra, Lumis, Akira. I’ll only say this once. Maya is a cunning and inventive duelist, but see past that. At heart she is a blood knight. She loves a challenge, loves to tackle the difficult and dangerous and come out on top, loves to solve the toughest problems with brilliant solutions. And the challenges that give her the biggest kick are ones that let her overthrow a perceived injustice and convention. She is a deeply angry, unstable person and has a score to settle with Akira. Use those fact to your advantage.”    
“Got it! Got it!” Lumis nodded enthusiastically.
“I’m not done yet!” Matthew interrupted. “Akira, you can use our card treasury to upgrade your deck. I suggest you make it into Turbo Towers. Lumis, Umbra, stack his deck before the duel to make sure he wins. Don’t take any chances. And Akira,” Matthew knelt before the kneeling, frightened man, lifting his face so he could look Matthew in the eye. “If you defeat Maya, we will set you free and never bother you again. You have my word. I’m giving you every advantage I can to set you free.”
Akira had no choice but to silently nod to Matthew’s terms.
“Ghouls, you are dismissed! You are free to use any means at your disposal.”
Umbra tossed two metal collars in the air that looked like medieval torture devices. “We haven’t played with these toys in a long time. This is going to be fun.” Matthew couldn’t see his face but his voice was so thick with smugness, even through the vocabulator, it was almost unbearable.
Umbra, Lumis, and Akira obeyed their master and silently left.
DAY 3 : 3:31 PM : ASSIUT
Maya, Yukio, and Sophia spent too much of the day already sightseeing but they now regretted it. Many duelists flooded the city, so much so they saw a duel every half an hour, but no one wanted to challenge them. Word got around about their duels with Team Stella and Team Buffalo Chicken, and so no one wanted anything to do with them. Most teams declined their challenges entirely and some even fled upon seeing them. They were becoming one lonely group of duelists very, very fast, and they only had four Millennium Item cards.
Funny. Being lonely in a crowd of strangers was global.
“Come on! These cowards are going to have to challenge us sometime!” Maya was as exhausted as she was annoyed.
“I couldn’t agree more, honestly.” Yukio jugged down an entire bottle of water.
They were so desperate for a duel Sophia even suggested they go to a marketplace. Maybe they would find a team obscure enough to duel them. And so they went, and what a terrible trip it was. At every angle poor marketers who were desperate to sell their cheap knock-offs harassed them from every angle.
“Come get alabaster souvenir! No hassle! No hassle!” A storeowner with shady sunglasses shouted from the corner. It goes without saying his “alabaster” trinkets of Egyptian cats and pharaohs were fakes. “Come on! Buy my cloths! Only five dollars! No hassle!” Another storeowner, with a smile on his face and fraud in his heart, hassled from another corner, flashing one of his dresses, which he decorated with beads so fake it would shame even Mardi Gras party animals. When our protagonists hurried away, uninterested, he shouted after them, “Come on, man! You won’t get this stuff anywhere else!”
One seller kept trying to wheedle Sophia to buy a beautiful scarf. “You Russian? You can wear lovely scarf over your head or on your neck. Only five dollars!” Sophia wanted to say no, but couldn’t. Her shyness and politeness prevented her. “How about three dollars? Three dollars good?” He then said, “You are so beautiful! If you marry me I’ll give you ten thousand camels!” Sophia, laughing, beamed a smile as bright as the rising sun. Exasperated, she finally satisfied him and Maya came out of nowhere to yank her away, admonishing the seller as if he was some creep.
- From nowhere a small, swift, dark-skinned man swiped Maya’s duel disk clean from her hand! He unlocked the duel disk from her arm and took it so swiftly she couldn’t react on time! Maya, Yukio, and Sophia instinctively ran after the thief without thinking twice!
They twisted and turned through the narrow, winding streets and alleys between stores. Sophia tried keeping up with them but fell in exhaustion. “Guys! Wait up!” A dark-cloaked, masked man leering at Sophia from the shadows took advantage of her fatigue. He swiftly leapt from the shade and grabbed her…  
Maya and Yukio kept losing the thief in the alleyways, made even worse by the fact they were carrying backpacks with them, yet for some reason always somehow caught up to him. “Is it me – huff! – or does he want us to follow him?” Yukio gasped during a brief moment of respite.
“He’s leading us into – huff! – a trap but we have no choice.” Maya said in between wheezes.
Yukio nodded and they went after the thief again. Maya couldn’t lose her deck! She couldn’t afford to lose the tournament! She would be broke with nowhere to go! Her fear and desperation sped her heels. She launched her body and crashed into the thief. She wrenched her duel disk free from his grasp and smacked him on the head with it for her troubles.
The thief grabbed his head and limped away, moaning in pain – then a small, fat man wearing a black cloak and a white mask flashed out of nowhere, running so quickly his feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. He threw two metal collars at Maya and Yukio and they locked into place on their necks. Maya and Yukio desperately tried to wrench the devices off their necks but it was useless.
The man brandished a switch from his cloak. “Notice the tiny counter on your collars? It is a bomb! If I press this switch at any time your heads will go KABLOOIE! But there is a way out! Maya must defeat a rival! Right now, the bombs on your necks are set to explode at 5:30 PM exact! Meet your rival and me at 5:00PM exact by the Meer Necropolis at the west side! You have one hour! Got it?” And he vanished with his blinding speed.
Maya and Yukio were left stunned, as if frozen. They were now in a game to the death. Their hearts raced inside them, beating so violently they felt they could erupt from their chests any second now, but they were powerless to do anything. Though the sun hit the dessert with sweltering heat, Maya and Yukio felt deathly cold.
Yukio broke the silence with a small thought, which became a small word. “Sophia…”
Maya looked around. She was nowhere to be seen! She only saw more black robed men running everywhere. She heard the whirring sounds of holographic summoning and the clashes and yells of dueling. The Ghouls had struck again.
Maya trembled with rage. “I’ll kill them…” She screamed. “I’LL KILL THEM!” She slammed her fists unto the street until they bled.
Yukio grabbed her and shook her until she calmed down. “Sophia has to stay strong! We don’t have any other choice right now!”
They concocted a plan to find the Ghouls and beat them. Yukio sprung his duel disk into action and slapped the Millennium Puzzle Card. “Show us who stopped dueling since the morning!” The holographic Millennium Puzzle materialized and projected from its eye about a dozen images.
“Akira!” Maya deduced. “They wouldn’t challenge me with anything les than a National Champion!” She opened her bag, taking out a few cards.
“What are you doing?” Yukio said. We have to go.
“We talked about how we always carry a lot of cards, antimeta or otherwise, that we tech in so we can beat our opponents. You know, having a hundred card side deck of sorts? Akira uses Qliphorts and knowing how staid and snobbish he is I doubt he’ll change. I need to retool my deck, actually, rebuild it. I know how to make it better.”
“We don’t have time!” Yukio shouted angrily at her.
“I know!” Maya shot back. Her anger was still near the blowing point. “We’ll do it while running! Well, try to!”
And they headed off, somewhere between a walk and run, forced to multitask under the incredible pressure the Ghouls imposed on them. But Maya felt exhilaration too. What an incredible challenge it was! What an adventure! They were getting closer to helping Hassan liberate Egypt from the Ghouls!  
She wasn’t alone. Yukio felt the same feelings. It was time to burn away villainy with the blazing torch of heroism! In front of him was a real wild ride far better than concert he ever performed or any high he ever chased!

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People sometimes like to do astrology with their Yugioh for fun and I occasionally do the same. However, I use Sidereal and Vedic astrology instead of the usual zodiac most westerners are familiar with. Basically, Sidereal and Vedic astrology takes into account how the constellations change their position in the sky over the millennia because of the earth’s wobble. You may have seen this in the news, of how most people (including myself) are “pushed back” a sign.


I always wanted to write my own Gospel of Truth. The original was a handbook released in Japan and France. It had extensive bios of all the Yugioh characters at the time like those of Yugi, Joey, and Kaiba. It included information like their age, height, weight, date of birth, and foods they loved to eat. I want to do the same soon. It won’t be now, though. For now I’ll just list character’s birthdays and stuff.


It’s especially fitting to use Sidereal astrology for Yugioh because sidereal astrology, the original astrology of the western world, was developed in ancient Egypt. If you want more background info on where zodiac signs are in the present day, I have links. The meanings of Sidereal and Vedic zodiac signs are different than those from the tropical zodiac.


A brief overview of Sidereal signs:



Brief overview of Vedic signs and their differences with Tropical western signs:



My own post, with both abridged descriptions at the start of the thread and extensive descriptions later in:




Two more posts ahead: the first post dealing with original Yugioh characters from Duel Monsters to 5Ds. The second post deals with my own characters and characters from my friend Spectre2300. Characters by Spectre2300 have an inverted exclamation (¡) after their names. 

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Birthdays of YGO characters from Duel Monsters to 5Ds.


Taurus: Yugi Moto (4 June)


Gemini: Mokuba Kaiba (7 July), Yusei Fudo (7 July)


Cancer: Weevil Underwood (21 July), Chazz Princeton (3 August), Akiza Izinski (16 August)


Leo: Atem/Dark Yugi (26 July ~1300 BC)*, Tea Gardner (18 August), Jaden Yuki (28 August), Rex Goodwin (21 August, in anime and manga), Crow Hogan (September 6)


Virgo: Solomon Moto (4 October), Pegasus (8 October), Cyrus Truesdale (25 September)


Libra: Seto Kaiba (25 October), Zane Truesdale (1 November), Kalin Kessler (November 1)


Scorpio: Akefia/Dark Bakura (25 October ~1300 BC)**, Mai Valentine (20 November), Serenity Wheeler (20 November), Roman Goodwin (14 December, in anime)***


Sagittarius: Marik Ishtar (23 December), Rex Raptor (29 December), Aster Phoenix (19 December), Jack Atlas (11 January), Roman Goodwin (14 December, in manga)


Capricorn: Joey Wheeler (25 January)


Aquarius: Mako Tsunami (1 March)


Pisces: Ishizu Ishtar (5 April), Esper Roba (1 April)


Aries: Tristan Taylor (19 April), Alexis Rhodes (5 May)


*Atem was born over 3000 years ago, so the constellations were in drastically different positions back then. When Atem was born the Sun passed through the sign Leo from about July 6 – August 6. At around 300 AD, Leo was from about July 21 – August 21. And today in 2015 AD, Leo is from about August 16 – September 16.


Leos from classical antiquity include Alexander the Great (22 July) and Augustus Caesar (1 August). Atem’s modern Leo counterparts include Louis XIV (5 September), Johann von Goethe (28 August), H.P. Lovecraft (22 August), and Michael Jackson (29 August).  


**Dark Bakura or “Akefia” was born over 3000 years ago, so the constellations were in drastically different positions back then. When Akefia was born the Sun passed through the sign Scorpio from about October 6 – November 6. At around 300 AD, Scorpio was from about October 22 – November 22. And today in 2015 AD, Scorpio is from about November 16 – December 16.


Scorpios from classical antiquity include Agrippina the Younger (6 or 7 November) and Emperor Tiberius (16 November). Akefia’s modern Scorpio counterparts include John Milton (9 December), Empress Dowager Cixi (November 29), Jim Morrison (8 December), and Marina Abramovic (30 November).


***In the manga, Roman Goodwin was born in 14 December during the Inca Empire, which is around the 14th century. This would make him a Sagittarius, and not a Scorpio due to the constellations changing positions over the centuries. In the anime, Roman Goodwin was born in 14 December in the 21st century, making him Scorpio.

YGO characters from my own Children of Prometheus series and Spectre2300’s Path of Virtue series. Characters by Spectre2300 have two inverted exclamation points (¡¡) after their names.


Taurus: Yukio Fujiwara (23 May), Mathew Carter (14 June), Alexis Burkeheart (5 June), Stella (14 June), Gernand (2 June)


Gemini: Luca (22 June), Mathias (19 June)¡¡


Cancer: Willow (23 July)


Leo: Jolene Summers (13 September), Akira Ryo (28 August), Sir Carter (30 August)


Virgo: Michael Gould (16 October), Percy Gould (18 September), Maximus (18 September)¡¡


Libra: Alexander Božović (17 October), Alice (31 October)


Scorpio: Maya Božović (15 December), Sharbat Massri-Božović (19 November), Jiao Yi (11 December), Sophia Petrova (10 December), Dahlia (20 November)


Sagittarius: Hassan Mubarak (18 December), Indira Misra (27 December)


Capricorn: Tamás Jeszenszky (27 January)


Aquarius: Jeffrey Cade (20 February), Maria Wight (19 February), Ivy Morrigan (27 February)¡¡  


Pisces: Ivana Czernstić (11 April)


Aries: Heishin Mubarak (4 May), Poppey (22 April), Hannibal Merrick (20 April)

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I always wished I could illustrate my characters. Sadly, I can't draw to save my life but, thankfully, I can use Bitstrips. It's an app that allows you to create cartoon avatars. I illustrated them in ways to really show their unique characters. Behold, the three main characters of YGO COP 2. ^_^
























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